Patchwork Warriors Part 9

Lots of action and the three central character, Karlyn, Medician Beritt and Trelli are brought together

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

 

Migran had garnered a crumb of comfort when something slammed him into a wall forcing his head upwards and he saw the scuttling backwards clouds.

‘Temporal distort,’ he’d said to himself, with a satisfactorily composed tone, which swiftly evaporated with the thought that he might have been responsible for it.

Migran had made this journey innumerable days of his life. But never in a night made hideous by the scream and crash ordinance, cries of people, rumble of falling buildings, all mingled and made worse by panic and fear. Twice, riotous and armed men had caused him to duck into unfamiliar pathways, three times he had stumbled over litter, which his currently livid imagination turned into fresh assailants.

He was sure it was this way, he was…

Then….

Colliding with a tall, lean man, sword in one hand, and in the other something which flickered a bluish light at a rapid pace.

The lad’s initial urge to scream was stifled by his attention upon the device. Well that was Jordisk and no mistake!

Mietitore’s initial urge run the fellow through and get him out of the way was restrained by the rather evaluating look the man was giving the device, which had quite replaced his original one of abject terror. All was quite silent about the group, as the pace of the movement of the sapphire between gems began to increase, then break out of the central four until it was hurtling back and forth along all ten in an irregular pattern and pace. Whereas Mietitore and his men stared at the thing in annoyed puzzlement, the new arrival’s evaluation turned to one of disbelief. With a sharp oath, and a surprising speed of daring he snatched it from Mietitore and threw the device into the air.

‘Get down! Gonna explode!!’

Since it was he who had been holding it, the mercenary did not see how this could be a trick and took the advice, there followed a very bright light and a sharp crack; the group looked up to see small shards of debris falling in a rather pretty shower of twinkling bright reds and blues.

 

The sudden burst of light and the loud crack shattered the window, Trelli thought herself mighty lucky that the shards of glass had flown past and above; she should have been badly cut. The thought did not hang about very long. Her confused mind was making the connection between the colours from her hands and those in the sky. Something was coming for her, no doubt about it!

Trelli was alternating prayers for guidance with those begging for forgiveness; the rapid recitation of the litanies was having the pleasantly surprising effect of bringing some focus to her swirling mind. The town was under some sort of attack, that was terrible, it also meant there was chaos, but if there was chaos then no one was going to notice someone clutching a blanket over their head scuttling away; she could get out of Prendaelyn and head for orphanage at the Libratery of the Gentle Hope. They would understand. She’d always been a good girl. They would help. Firstly, picking up some bread and light wine as sustenance for the journey, she pulled the thickest blanket about herself in the form of a hooded cloak, grasped the door handle, said one fervent prayer committing her soul unto the Good Lord God, and stepped out.

On the threshold, she said one brief prayer for Migran; it seemed a bit mean not to, and it would be as well to be generous of spirit in such a circumstance as this.

 

Kalyn rushed at the door, but then noticed reflected against the growing fires, the window. With a whoop of glee, she picked up a nearby crate and threw it, clapping her hands as the glass smashed. There was no time to stop and think long plans, the calling was so strong, it was pulling. So, with only the briefest of pauses to kick away the more dangerous edges of glass she hauled in through the window, with a brief cry of ‘Cmon Flaxi!’, which Beritt answered with a coarse affirmation she was following.

‘If I got to sew up a tear in her skinny backside after this,’ being said to herself as she more gingerly negotiated the window frame.

And then a scampering through store rooms, Beritt sourly wishing she could point out to that elidian squirrel she was not only carrying a full medician bag, but this dam’ uncomfortable oculartragen (lightweight..ha!)  AND crossbow, bolt holster and a sword, while Karlyn The Mad had nothing but some sword and a mere back-pack of ‘stuff’.

 

Although the shrieks of the explosions, the crashes, rumbles and thuds were filling up most of her world Trelli could hear something below, in fact whatever it was it was growing closer and more understandable. It was a voice, actually it was two voices, calling back and forth to each other over a little distance.

There were people in the warehouse!

And being stuck stiff half way down a flight of stairs was all the wrong place to be. There again going back up these creaky stairs in any way was going to be heard. But if she just crouched down, low in this dark blanket in this dark place, she might, just might seem to be a shadow or just a corner or something. Heart hammering, she slowly squatted, hands tucked into her armpits and for no good reason, eyes squeezed shut.

 

Beritt finally caught up with Karlyn because the girl had stopped advancing and was looking up and moving in circles, one hand holding a cutlass, the other stuffed into the pocket of her trousers.

‘They’re close,’ she was muttering to herself.

‘Well y’all get in cover,’ hissed Beritt as she lurked behind a woolsack ‘Don’t stand in the open. You’ll either be a target or scare them into something stupid,’.

This caused Karlyn to snigger.

‘Oh Flaxi you do so look like a little urchin, all wide-eyed, hiding and peaking from behind that stuff!’

‘I am not peaking nor hiding!’ came the reply heavy in dignity ‘I am merely taking cover and surveying the terrain,’

Karlyn merely rolled her eyes and waggled her sword in Beritt’s direction

‘You’re all crumbled up and creeping, ‘cas you’re afraid if you stand up you’ll wet your underthings!’  This brought a venomous hissed response

‘Oh yeah! Let’s do discuss bladder failures! This is such an ideal time!! High Holy! If y’all do get a well-deserved crossbow bolt twixt your shoulders, you’re First-Hell bound! And I feel sorry for the whole crew when you get there!’ ‘Cas ya’ll bring a whole new style of stupidity!!’

This outburst prompted a rather stiff-backed confident stance from Karlyn. She raised the cutlass as if an admonishing finger, her expression insufferably superior, her voice ridiculously parlour room prim

‘We are not at home at Little Lady Snippy,’

Before Beritt could educate Karlyn into her own county’s style of insults, threats and further observations on the elidian’s state of mental health, the medician noticed amongst that performance there was a swift tightening on the expression and a glance upwards. Fribbit if the girl wasn’t acting as some sort of lure! With a grudging respect Beritt gave a brief nod; then joined in the performance.

‘Aww Little Hell on you! All this blatherin’ has indeed agitated my innards. I gonna go fer a squirtz! You play hunt the mousies an’ don’t go blamin’ me if y’all get tramsfixated to a wall with a piece of metal!!’ and jerking her head to the left slipped out of sight; her intention to circle in from the flank towards the stairs as indicated by Karlyn. It had been some time since she’d been on formal field training, she hoped she was getting it correct,

Karlyn thought Flaxi should stop pretending she was proper imperial and stick more with her homeland voice; she sounded sweet when she spoke like way.

Meanwhile back to the hunt.

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

 

Trelli could not but help overhear the discourse. To begin with she was obviously being tracked by two women, which was a surprise, though of what sort she was not too sure. Also, they did not appear to be acting the way she had expected ruthless trackers to behave. She was trying her very best to think of the next move. Stuck and hunched was not the most productive. But maybe, just maybe if she stayed ever so still. It was that odd one standing up and waving the sword she had to watch out for.

‘Hello!’

Everything that was Trelli jolted, then seemed to spin; but finally, for her own survival and self-respect then clenched. This episode couldn’t have lasted that long, because when she peered down between her legs and the stairs, a face, topped with a brimmed hat and framed in blonde hair was regarding her, moonlight and unsettling flickering of nearby flames highlighting a light friendly smile, one of those easy-going hengestatian accents.

‘Hello,’ Trelli always felt good manners cost nothing, even when being hunted down ‘Might I ask your business here please? This is the warehouse of my employer,’

They both flinched as another projectile screamed overheard; Trelli felt it was a comfort, Beritt winced, she was a soldier fer frib’s sake!. She ordered herself to be more composed

‘Truth be known. I think it’s you I may be more concerned about. Y’see I’m in the Imperial LifeGuard. Medician Arketre Beritt,’ she doffed her hat ‘I am engaged in seeking out someone who may be distressed by matters outside of their control. You being all hunched up in a blanket seem to fit that description,’

She hoped that little speech was sufficient unto the cause.

To her relief, the figure sunk back with a sigh.

‘Then you’ve not come to torture and burn me?’ Trellis did feel a bit of goose for blurting out that, but all in all she was not inclined to rational thought. The soldier, let out a soft laugh, shaking her head.

‘Good Lord God’s Mercy no!’ she shook the bag at her side ‘Medician, y’see. I heal things. I care for folk,’

‘And if that doesn’t work. You got me to contend with girly,’

Beritt snarled under her breath, just when she was starting to get somewhere there came Karlyn crawling up the stairs like a bad-tempered tomcat.

‘Karlyn I-’

‘I’m with the Custodians see. We got you cornered. Give up now. You’re nicked girly!’

Trelli looked quickly to Beritt. Although the soldier’s scowl was not directed at her; that was small comfort as the nasty with the cold elidian accent crept closer, something in a bag dangling from a string in one hand, a fearsome sword in another.

‘Rein in Karlyn willya!! The girl’s scared out her socks!!’

‘They look secure to me Flaxi!!’

‘Please excuse my associate! When her mother was carrying her, the poor lady was bitten by a rabid squirrel!!’

Humour did not help, Trelli began to back up the stairs, Karlyn advanced.

‘I got her Flaxi. Now you just sit tight. This is my work. I can smell the whichery so strong!! And you! Lurky pants! Stop dithering! Raise your hands and slither down here all controlled,’ Karlyn waved the bag ‘One sly move and you get a mouthful of this, and it,’ she slavered with relish ‘Burns!!’

Trelli didn’t see how she had any options left, the little ‘hengy’ was being nice but down there, while the nasty ‘’lidian was here and getting closer! She had to do something to stop the advance of a mad-head.

Karlyn was not really surprised that the Whychie suddenly pulled off the gloves and waved her hands about, with all sorts of red and blue colours appearing. She was a bit perplexed that the display was soft and rather nice-looking, like one of the festival displays. They should be all thunder and lightning stuff. Must be a trick.

‘Now you just stop there!!’ Trelli tried to imagine the nasty girl was a sort of Migran ‘I got powers!! And you just be careful, or you’ll get them!!’

‘I wouldn’t do that!’ Beritt called up ‘My associate is not inclined to be reasonable! Whatcha name!!’ Beritt hoped that might calm the girl down; there was a bombardment going on; Karlyn was doing her mad-dog act, and here was a girl waving rainbows. ‘And y’all hold still there Karlyn!!’ Using an old barracks term for desperation, Beritt was rollin’ dice!

‘T-Trelli!’ came back the stammering cry ‘An’ you get back ‘lidian! You’ve no business crawling in here frightening people who are bothered enough as it is! Why don’t you leave you friend to help me!’

The colours began to rapidly shift between red and blue, Karlyn was certain she could see sparks dancing between the fingers; this was surely building up to some sort of Whychie attack, and poor little Flaxi would get fried or frazzled if she didn’t act now.

And thus leapt.

At Karlyn’s yell of aggression and Trelli’s responsive of a scream of alarm, Beritt’s reaction was to once more resort to swearing, while without much thought, just notions, pushed a sack of something outwards.

Not that she had been certain the stairs were going to collapse, it just seemed that as Karlyn impacted on Trelli (of the rainbows), the result was going to be a structural failure of some sort. As all shades of red and blue illuminated the descent of two bodies mingling with pieces of wood, her immediate sense of satisfaction was replaced by a feeling that the pair seemed to be falling a bit slower than they should.

But impacting as heavily as expected, in a cloud of whiteness.

‘Oh. Flour,’ Beritt said pleased with her accompanying calmness.

Even if The Fifth Hell was settling upon the town.

Then from the general direction of the girl Trelli there came a near blinding display of the reds and blues.

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

 

Mietitore and his men crouched down in the alley with Migran, regarding him with if not quite respect at least attention.

Migran meanwhile was venting his fear in an explosion of anger which made him feel more masculine in such company.

‘Where the Fourth Hell did you get that damn thing from? That’s the worse locator ever. Overloaded! Tell me you didn’t build it yourself for ferrkit!!’

‘No,’ Mietitore’s men remained silent, that slow and careful way meant he was extemporising and this could be quite the work of art ‘We were sent here on a mission at short notice,’ he shrugged ‘We are just soldiers of the Oaken Throne. We have no knowledge of these devices. Save what we are told,’

He was also resolving to find out from Silc who was responsible for the device, and explain to them, with the aid of a knife to the throat the need to be more precise.

‘It’s blasted well careless, sending men out with those! Err… soldiers of the Oaken Throne??’

‘Yes,’ Mietitore placed his hands heavily upon Migran’s shoulder, you needed to display a certain amount of approachability when entrapping an innocent. ‘Our mission here was to seek out someone displaying a certain amount of independent talent in matter of…I prefer to call it by its old name The Ethereal, although in my own land it’s known as La Rovina,’

‘How pretty,’ Mietitore placed himself between Migran and the men, they were pulling collective faces at the mention of their homeland term for ‘Bane’ ‘It’s not easy working alone. Trying to progress. I meant no harm. Am I in trouble?’

‘Oh no, no. The Oaken Thorne takes a very sophisticated approach. Officially The Jordisk are seen as a group are troublemakers, but,’ he shrugged ‘There are high ranking folk who appreciate those with skill and no malice to the Grand Oaken Throne; naturally we don’t mention it to the Custodians,’ Migran sniggered at the conspiratorial tone.

‘But who are destroying my town?’

‘Ah, they would be mercenaries in the pay of dangerous folk from across the Centrus. There is war-’

‘I knew it! I heard it on my device! They know about Trelli too! We must help her!!’

Mietitore promptly focussed on two words ‘device’ and ‘her’.

 

Custodian Meradat and the rest of the LifeGuard had set off in the wake of the Karlyn and Beritt, pausing to meet up with Norvan and Merryk who having caused some unsettling of groups of pirates had withdrawn. The combined force forged on despatching two groups of reavers, but the resultant delay had them loosing track of the Beritt and Karlyn.

Until the sudden illumination of unusual reds and blues left everyone in no doubt of the direction to take.

 

Mietitore was being the process of smoothing Migran’s nerves with false sympathy and some genuine gratitude, when all attention of this particular huddle was drawn to a brilliance of red and blue issuing forth somewhere nearby.

‘Oh that has to be poor Trelli!’

‘Trelli? Dear Master Migran, who is this Trelli?’

‘She has been introduced to some empathy with The Ethereal! But until now it has been a very minor thing this is… this means she is in dreadful distress! We must go and help!!’

He was a bit surprised by the sudden collective recoil of these previously stalwart men; it was not so much fear he was witnessing as very grave trepidation. There must be something about The Ethereal that highly trained men were warned about.

‘No. No, Master Migran no!’ Mietitore clutched Migran by the shoulder so hard the man winced ‘She is beyond our help,’ Migran made to object or at least ask a question but Mietitore shook him ‘Beyond it I tell you!’ he snapped, then drew in breath again ‘Listen to me! We must get to your house and get your device! I assure you this is vital! Vital!! Show us the way!!’

Migran suffering yet another shock accepted the command, for he could not find any time to think; he supposed the man must know something more than he did and thus obeyed.

Being shoved to the fore, he did not see the men making various signs or clutch at small charms.

 

Beritt was spitting angry; up to her back teeth and more some! She’d  had this all sorted, and then Squirrel-Head had charge in and could have nearly got them all killed. This girl Trelli could have gone off ‘bang’ for all Beritt knew! Going through a whole litany of swear words, she grabbed a stunned Karlyn by the collar of her shirt, and hauled the elidian girl into a sitting position, teeth bared and face to face.

‘Happy-sliding on a stick!! I’ve seen more common sense in a line of arse-holes during worms inspection! You nearly crocked us all into a midden!! I told you we had to take it easy!! What the scraith is the matter with you!’ she shook Karlyn, who bemused by the whole display shut up ‘Now go and do something fribbin’ useful and stand by a door and…. ohhh…. scraithin’ well kill raiders!!’!

Karlyn stood up, brushing flour off of her clothes with pantomime fastidiousness.

‘Hmmph! I will just do that. But don’t blame me, if Little Missy Sparkle Fingers fries your delicates,’

And determined to have the last of the exchange, snatched out and pulled the brim of Beritt’s hat over her eyes, then making much of a casual stride exited, calling out.

‘Watchin’ you Whychie! Don’t you try and kerfluffeg Flaxi there! I’ve recently killed spikie-demonz y’know!!’

Hat back in place Beritt massaged her brows and took comfort from the fact that soon she would meet up with the rest of the file and the custodian, and she would no longer have to make un-medician decisions. Meanwhile. She crouched down next to a very shocked and bothered Trelli, who was engaged on trying to find her gloves.

‘I’m sorry about her, Trelli is it?’ nod. ‘Now, please may I help you with flour dust and any bumps or bruises; cut or scratches. My mad associate did mention a nick?’

‘That’s ‘lidian for being arrested,’ Trelli explained ‘We get them through here. Always talking loud, and although you recognise the words, the meanings are a bit obscure,’ she managed a very faint smile. ‘But what’s going to happen to me?’

‘I’m going insist to clean off the flour dust first,’ Beritt produced a clean linen square and from a long bottle poured out something Trelli could smell as part soap and part wound cleaner; the soldier’s touch was effective but gentle. ‘Can you move arms, hands, legs, feet, toes?’ she asked. Nod. Both women winced again at the sound of flying ordinance, the resulting roar and the dull vibration. ‘Now like I was saying, we’ve been looking for someone, and I’ve found them… you. There will be some more LifeGuard very soon, and we will look after you. You are valuable Trelli,’

‘I’d rather not be. I didn’t start anything. My Master’s son was fooling around with forbidden things, I found out and told him to stop, but he kept on and look what happened to me!!’ she waggled her hands ‘I’d be better off he’d done what sons of households usually do to serving girls!!’

‘Don’t sound too disappointed,’ Beritt tried to jest, it might help, herself too ‘Folk will get the wrong idea,’

‘Can’t be worse than this,’ Trelli countered. ‘And what’s happening to my town?’

Beritt hated it when folk demanded of her an answer to something she had no idea about.

 

CHAPTER THIRTY

 

Karlyn slouched against an alley wall, wiping her nose on her sleeve, when there was no real need to do so. The sight of the town collapsing and burning under frequent detonations was only mildly distracting, she was more inclined to muse upon Flaxi’s fearsome outburst of temper. Didn’t those pale blue eyes threaten to spit out lighten bolts? All so sweetly gentle, or proper, then…..Warrrooomp!! Karlyn pondered on whether that was down to military training or was she naturally ferocious and the soldierly thing had made her more disciplined?

Then Karlyn twitched. Something was coming this way. But she wasn’t too sure.

She peered around the corner, no sign of the rest of the LifeGuard or Meradat. Had they lost each other in the chase? Maybe they were fighting raiders? Satisfied her nose was quite dry she chewed idly on a carrot purloined from the warehouse’s multiplicity of stores. There were folk running this way and that, and in the confusion of flames, drifting smoke and general chaos she couldn’t make out which side they were on. What was the attack about anyhows? She wondered if this was something the town had coming to it and it just so happened when they’d turn up. Thoughts drifting, she glanced back over her shoulder, all seemed cosy and peaceful, no doubt Flaxi was playing at big sister for the little Whychie, who was the one everyone should be shouting at.

A steel pointed touched her neck.

‘’Ullo then. Wot we got here?’

Blaggatinian style of accent; one just midways between Lucher and Elinid. Usual trash not loyal to neither city; she sniffed.

‘’Bout blimpin’ time!’ she snapped at the three men; the youngest, at the back of course promptly exchanging his grin for a slack jawed surprise. ‘Been sat ‘ere abouts freezing off me arse-part. Skritiz, they says, get in that wobbling tawn. Sniff out the treasury an’ wait for the boys! An’ what scraithin’well happens! Some sproggle starts shooting big ‘uns at me! Just what the scraithin’ slidin’ on a stick is goin’ on! An’ wot fribbin’ ship y’ from anyhows!!’

One lumpen shaven head rumbled the word ‘treasury’ in a loving way. The youngster overwhelmed by the rapid flood of complaint piped up ‘Weasel of the Sea’ . The other lumpen, also shaven headed, but with a beard squinted suspiciously at her.

‘No one told us anything ‘bout a treasury. Nor a guide.’ Karlyn pulled a dismissive face.

Thrust out her left arm, the concealed blade slipping into the hand and thence into the man’s throat, ignoring blood spraying over her she ducked into him with her shoulder shoving his quivering body into his companion in shaven skullness, knocking both to the ground. The youngster made to lunge at her, she lashed out with her sword, satisfied with the drag of steel through cloth and skin and his scream. Thus, believing he was currently not a threat, with a yelp of glee, she leapt upon the other, struggling from beneath his dead comrade, she, driving a blade through his skull.

Karlyn rose, aware there was blood and gore in her hair, across her face, on her hands. She smiled making the whole impression ghastly to the lad currently gripping a cut cross his shoulder. She wiped the blade on a dead man’s shirt tucked in sword into her belt and with hands behind her back, she sauntered over to the injured and wide-eyed lad.

‘You’re gonna meet a friend of mine. She’s ever so friendly, and you’re going to tell her everything you know. Or I get to play with you, some more,’ and she made scissor snipping motions with the fingers of her right hand.

 

Face cleaned, hair efficiently brushed and having had a chance to tell her side of the story to the soldier, Trelli felt a slight measure more comfortable and truth be known a little excited, although she wished the latter would go away as it was bound to mess about with her judgement and in this circumstance, she was sure such feelings were dangerous.

Confirmed as a bloodstained Karlyn swaggered in dragging a terrified and wounded fellow.

‘Look what I caught when fishin’’ she chortled ‘I gutted two, they were all too greasy and bulbous to make much conversation, but this one,’ she tweaked his ear ‘Will tell us a goodsome tale….. Wontcha?’

On seeing the dark hunched figure with glowing hands the young raider’s jaw worked, but no sounds came out; he managed to point at her hands though. Before Beritt could make a statement of what she considered common sense and calming effect, Karlyn had grabbed him by his shirt collar her mouth, mostly her teeth to his ear.

‘Yesss little fish. We captured her too,’ she waved her badge of office in his face ‘But if you don’t talk long and proper, we might feed you to Princess Black Cat here. ‘Cas she does love the taste of a man’s-’

Beritt was wincing before Karlyn came out with the next words.

However, there was an interruption.

Up shot Trelli, glowing hands to hips.

‘That’s enough from you! You gutter-scraping ‘lidian-you!! Cat indeed! My skin may not be as milky smooth as yours, but I am not any hang-around tavern Cat!! Don’t you dare sully my maidenly status!!’

Karlyn felt her rousing both women to reveal they had shouty snarly sides, was a task goodly done. It was nice to know you had folk about you with fire. Knew where you stood. None of the sneaky, tweaky, slithery sorts, who’d steal the cold sausage out of your back-pack when you weren’t looking.  She shoved the captive at Flaxi because Karlyn knew the little sweetie was just itching to make his wound all better.

‘Oh, forgive me,’ she oozed at Trelli ‘Where I come from a Cat is a smooth, swift, worker what gets what it wants anyway anywhere. Aren’t you up to that?’

Trelli’s eyes narrowed. Fear and anger can walk close together and breed rage.       As Beritt was all too aware…

‘Ladies,’ Beritt admonishments came parlour polite tones ‘We are in a very difficult situation…. Oh hold still you pest, it’s only a wincy scratch!…. Can you please bear in mind, this town in under attack, we need to…. Shush! it’s a mere cleansing salve, s’posed to sting!……be very calm, find out where my LifeGuard colleagues and Custodian Meradat…..Yep! You heard me right laddy. You’re in a Fourth Hell of trouble….So dear ladies, can you please shut the scraith up! Calm down and go out and look for our colleagues!!’

‘Oooh Lookat the big brave raider fill up his trousers!!  C’mon little Whychie-woo! Let’s do as Oldest Sister tight-pants says an’ go and stand in a doorway hoping the big strong men turn up and rescue us!  We can hold-hands while we tell each other our girly-wishes!’

Naturally, since Trelli could not keep up with, much less make sense of Karlyn’s perspectives, she found herself dragged along, hoping whoever these men might be they might be authorities.

 

The Helmsman sudden stern call for all at their posts to prepare for evasion and possible extraction to the World Physical came as a shock, to do so would expose the Manse to many vigilant and hostile eyes. Just what would cause The Helmsman to take this risk?

There had been a sharp tear of Red and Blue not in the turbulent clouds above, but dashing just above the surface of the sea. Almost possessed of its panic and thus uncertain in which direction to go it sped back and forth with growing rapidity until it suddenly flared into a sapphire burst.

And was gone

‘All concentrate upon the central fifth at the furthest quarter. Observe from your direction for another forthcoming turbulence!’

The Helmsman raised one warning finger, and his hands moved rapidly across his own display, he withdrew the Manse to the very shoreline which comprised marked the borderlines into The World Physical. His attention fixed upon the location where the sapphire eruption had taken place. The Helmsman bade his crew to keep strict observation and hold their composure such an event would not pass without ramifications.

 

CHAPTER THIRTY=ONE

 

The captain of The Weasel of The Sea had had experience of bombarding towns and ones which bombarded back so as he swept in to for his return run he had the craft further out set on a zig-zag tack, which made his craft an even more difficult target. It was no problem really, they were just firing into the town, and no particular part. What caused him concern was a sudden swell which struck the side of his ship causing it to list to starboard, and thus sent the salvo up high arcing down.

Crashing down somewhere in the docks area.

The first thing he did was scan for two other ships in the sliver of pale on the horizon signalling the dawn and was much relieved to see them suffering with the same sea. At least no one could blame him if any of the crews were injured by the fall of shot.

‘Damn funny waters,’ he said to the boson.

‘Very damn funny waters Captain,’

 

Karlyn had looked sideways at Trelli; Trelli had looked sideways at Karlyn. As if walking into a brick wall in a thick elidian fog Karlyn had been suddenly stuck for any words to goad Trelli with. No doubt the sproggle-head was simmering, but Karlyn hadn’t been able to figure out which way the Whychie would jump, and when all was said and done, it didn’t do to upset the prize; she’d only get moaned at by everyone, and in the current she didn’t feel inclined for that. She should be praised for capturing a raider, and finding out the name of one of the raiding ships.

Surrendering to feeling sorry for herself, she sighed in relief, for there moving in a feral way Karlyn could admire came the LifeGuard and of course striding with them as if nothing dare stop him was The Custodian Meradat.  They could turn up and boss Flaxi about and thus smother her inappropriate compassionate tendencies.

‘Oi! Flaxi!!’ she yelled ‘Reinforcements!!’

 

‘I can make out your loopy- err- tildelte- Custodian,’ Norvan said ‘Looks like she has someone with her,’

‘Can you see Beritt?’ Erzns demanded; he was irritated, his eyes were not as sharp as they used to be and what with all this scraithin smoke and dust.

‘Not-’

There came a chorus of shrieking indicating another flight of ordinance, this time the piercing sound did not fly overhead, but began to grow far louder.

Meradat stopped, looked upwards.

‘Lord God!’ he intoned.

 

Karlyn watched the line of men stop, apart from The Custodian, they made to scatter.

 

In a place of firstly thunderous tearing of the senses at the impact of the projectiles upon the building opposite and then the swept by surge of a force let loose.

Karlyn began to turn as if faced by a sudden squall of rain, time was ridiculously slow, as sharp small debris came tearing at them, towards her. The last image she was aware of was the Whychie girl, hands up before her face and in one emphatic scream calling ‘NO!’. All swiftly obscured by The Second Hell’s worth of confusion, added to by the Third Hell of pain, and the Karlyn was lifted off her feet and thrust back down into the warehouse

 

Beritt had just warned the raider not to move unless she said so, when the air was ripped apart by the arrival of ordinance; its hysterical cry, the crashing and roar of the destinations. The power of the impact struck her next as if she had been punched in a tavern brawl; clouds of dust and small debris flooded in, somewhere glass was shattering while bits of the flesh and bones of the warehouse were shredded loose. She made to grab at the raider, but in the storm of destruction and confusion he shook loose and scrambled out of one wrecked window leaving Beritt to spit dust, and curses.

But with no time for any more remorse or anger, Trelli was slumped against the door frame though Beritt could not see Karlyn. She squinted, swore again, poured contents from her water bottle over her face, blinked furiously, blew her nose loudly into a rag, poured some more water into eyes and blinked once more. Now she could see a dust covered prone form, head towards her, mouth open, eyes closed. No movement. The odd thought that it was Not flour this time, then the curious irritation that all her work in cleaning up Trelli was now undone.

‘Oh scraith and shit!!’

Feeling very much that the Fourth Hell had settled on her shoulders, she nonetheless ordered herself to medician duties. She would have to work out just what had happened and what that all meant later on. Scrambling up all of her equipment she scuttled towards the door, now illuminated by dark flame of a nearby explosion. Trelli looked towards her, eyes streaming tears, breath coming in short gasps, managing to point at Karlyn.

‘I’m all dusty again! But I’m not hurting,’ she gasped ‘See to Miss Boney-Bottom,’ the maidservant managed to get to her knees ‘I’m going to go somewhere to be sick,’

‘Take this,’ Beritt passed her a solid long bottle ‘It’s peppermint cordial. When your done up-heaving rinse out your mouth and spit. Do it three times, then take one small swallow. Make you feel better. Going to need you Trelli,’

Trelli snatched the bottle and clambered off over ruins, gasping, praying, retching, sobbing. Her hands throbbing. She was going to keep on asking this until someone gave her a proper answer…Good Lord God! Just what was going on?

Trying to stem her desperation that she’d not lost someone to this night of ruination Beritt forced herself into a deliberate and thorough examination of Karlyn for any breaks or wounds. At least the elidian’s breathing was regular. This was a medician’s night and no mistake. Cleaning and patching. Another time right in the war’s workface too, not at the back where women medicians were usually kept by conservative types who felt women shouldn’t be exposed to the horrors of battle. Well try and deal with a raving threshing soldier after the shock has worn off and the pain is running wild and you may be having to saw off a limb too!

‘Ohh, I died an’ gone to the Good Lord Gawd’s abode an’ he sent me my own angel,’

Karlyn was awake and smiling up at Beritt. Beritt was going to be checking her senses, smiling didn’t count. Lots of men wandered battlefields smiling, before they fell down dead, or started to scream.

‘How many fingers am I holding up Karlyn?’

‘Seventy-five..an’ an ‘arf,’

‘Oh ferr crying out loud!!’

‘Aww you’re fun to tease Flaxi. Your little face goes all so stern and your nose crinkles,’

‘How many scraithin’ fingers!!’

‘How many do you normally use?’

‘Second Hell!! You’re obviously no more crocked than you normally are, Now, sit up and let me clean that head scratch. Midden! You were lucky! Look at all this fribbin’ rubble, and only a head scratch!!’

‘No candles this time?’

‘We got enough damn light from a burning town!’

The two young women looked across to the hillocks of stone, flames spouting out, smokes seeping upwards, beyond more fires raged and buildings toppled.

‘Lawdgawdelpus poor sproggles. Is it always like this Flaxi?’

Back at Parledach then.

‘It’s war Karlyn. What else is there to expect. Now where’s our men gone?’

Karlyn looked with a sympathetic sadness at Beritt then pointed to burning ruins.

‘Whole shattering midden fell right on them Flaxi,’

‘She’s right,’ Trelli added, hoarse but determined to sound upright and sensible as she came crawling back over damage.

Beritt stared, she didn’t quite know what else to do. If there was not so much flame, she’d get over there and pull rocks, stones and timbers away until she found, at least a body. But currently she did not want to see anyone cooked, half-baked, and worse still hanging onto life when there was no point to. She could not be a hero; she could be soldier though. She would obey orders, as expected to. Yes, that was the way to do it. She wiped dust, someone else’ blood and her own dampness from her face.

‘That’s settled that then,’ Hold it together. Look, the girl Trelli was doing it, so would she. Be solid. Be composed. ‘We’re getting you, Trelli, out of here. We’re taking you to where my commanders will decide,’ What? Don’t think. Get on with it ‘How best to help you,’

‘I think my poor squished custodian, might have had other views,’

Beritt bit upon her lip, resolving to be in authority and not raging, screaming, angry.

‘I daresays Karlyn. But look at it this way. I’m the only one hereabouts with a definite string of orders to follow. I’ll try and get that stupid collection of metals glass and gems to work one more time. Then we’ll find us a wagon, see if our horses are in good form, appropriate goods and gear for imperial purposes,’ she paused, wiped her face, and looked about at a town in torment and vanished into the wreckage. There was a pause.

‘About scraithin’ time you, useless construct!! ‘Bout as dependable as a fribbin’ overcooked soggy carrot in a Libratery at lights out!’

Karlyn nudged Trelli

‘I thinks she’d got it sort of working again. An’ an’t she’s a fierce little den-mother?’ another nudge ‘An’ A-ppro-pri-ate means we can steal what we like, ‘cause it’s not stealing if we’re doing for the good of the Oaky,’

She then clapped her hand to her face.

‘Pooooroogah! Wot a pong! Someone’s cracked open a sewer!!’

‘I can only smell peppermints,’ Trelli’d resolved to stick to basic facts. She had concluded, quite correctly, it was the best way to avoid going mad.

 

As Karlyn announced her opinion on what she could smell; The Helmsmen and his crew gasped. A bloated, detritus encrusted shape with writhing long and hooked tentacles had broken the surface at the sapphire point. The Helmsman was about to order an immediate beaching into The World Physical and worry about the consequences later on, but the creature did not notice them, it’s limbs had reached into the places above the surface and seeming to have had them half sawn off began to haul itself out of the waters, thick glistening unhealthy greens and browns revealing a long sneering mouth of many fangs. Slowly, the whole thing began to disappear after the limbs.

‘It’s crawling into the World Physical,’ The Helmsman warned ‘The Zerstorung is coming,’

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