Alchemical Marriage, part 7

Friday, January 9, 2009 - 12:11 PM

The holidays ate my brain. We resume our normal programming now.

Dhunas was hard ground, a wide bowl of rocky earth with some liberally unmapped forest smeared across it. Hillman tribes ranged through the area, bitter and vigilant, and Erich had even heard rumors of a troll nest somewhere in the caves there.

He hoped that the grotto he'd chosen to hide in wasn't occupied.

Orders were orders, and orders had been to march for Dhunas, a move to outflank the enemy. What happened was an ambush in the early morning by a raging patchwork of Kesran soldiers and mercenary hillmen. A hard fight, not unexpected.

But it was the sudden bombardment from hidden guns that tore the heart out of the camp, scattering blood and flesh with whirling shards of metal. During Erich's headlong dash into the woods, he'd spotted the red tree livery of the Cyragrim, and he knew then where the Kesrans had gotten all the artillery.

Echoes crawled through the gnarled trees nearby, flat incoherent noises that let him know the conflict wasn't quite over yet. On occasion he heard an odd wailing cry that made his bones cold, but he had no idea what it was. Breathing deeply, he willed his heart slower and took quick stock of his injuries while keeping half an eye on the forest. There was nothing serious, grazes and cuts, and the burning pain in his shoulder had just been from impact. The sword hadn't gotten through his armor. The bruise would stiffen and slow his left arm, but nothing was broken.

He considered his options. Certainly others will have escaped and run east to warn their allies what happened, and he should regroup as well. He didn't know Dhunas hardly at all, but he knew that if the enemy force had followed through with the ambush, he'd have to sneak through them to get where he needed to be.

Best to hide for now, and wait, he thought.

The wailing sound erupted much closer, this time, and he focused immediately, peering out at the dim gray woods. Some motion caught his eye, and he saw a single figure sprinting, a pack slung over one shoulder.

Dark things cascaded after the fugitive, low to the ground, tumbling over the roots.

Drawing his pistol, he locked his mind on an incantation, merging the patterns in his mind with the sounds his mouth shaped, and leveled his arm. He felt the thrumming of the spell as it burrowed into the bullet.

“Dodge left!”

The figure did so immediately, and Erich fired. The bullet streaked from the pistol in a thin line of blue light, striking one of the low-slung creatures, which made a wet choked sound. The spell discharged immediately, and the shuddering blast from the bullet ripped out of the creature with a dull, powerful thud, hammering the other beasts near it.

They tumbled. One of them rolled awkwardly and charged at him. The others twitched, and were still.

Erich focused, quickly loading his pistol again, but the bark of another pistol preceded him, dropping the creature. He caught a brief glimpse of something like a long-bodied boar, with long sharp tusks and spreading paws instead of hooves.


He glanced over at the fugitive, whose grey smock had been torn, showing simple leather armor beneath. She looked back at him with clear blue eyes, face mostly covered by a scarf though her wide-brimmed hat was long since gone, leaving her fair hair hanging in a braid.

His heart stopped for a moment.

“Well met again, sir,” said Brigantia. “We should away from here; others will have heard the pistol fire.”

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