Friday, October 23, 2015

Chaos in the Streets (version 1)

This is a prequel (and a companion piece) to this scene. Most likely, neither of them will be included in the finished work -- at least, not in their current forms, and that's assuming the work ever actually gets finished. If it does, I promise you will be the first to know.

Snow spoke a quick, sharp phrase and gestured, hauling Blaze back a good five paces to land abruptly beside her. He caught his balance, the bloodied club still in his hand, and looked around for new enemies. A dying beast, its carapace white even in the relative darkness, lay thrashing on the street back where Blaze had broken it. Slender, bony legs with tips like daggers thrashed against the cobbles, and the claw-tipped tail lashed back and forth. Snow gestured upward.

Overhead, a diamond-shaped shadow drifted past them, rotating slowly. Shimmering black dust fell from the corners, drifting across the width of the street, but Snow had done something to keep it from reaching them; it gathered in a circle around them, instead. "Kill it?" asked Blaze, lifting his empty hand.

"Leave it," said Snow. "Shelter first, battle later."

Blaze was half again her height and easily three times her weight, but he lowered his arm and nodded. "What is that thing?"

"Burn me if I know," answered Snow.

"That way," said Blaze, as the floating diamond moved on and the last of the shimmering dust settled. He gestured, and Snow moved with him, a pale shadow in the darkened street. There were other people here, still standing, but they seemed dazed and nearly unconscious; that drift of dust had done something to them. He was momentarily thankful for the thickness of his leather boots, but he intended to strip them off as soon as they arrived indoors; the gods alone knew what that dust might be doing to them. They hurried down the street, past the others who had been caught outdoors, heading for the hostelry as quickly as they could manage.

Something flapped past them, and Snow threw up a burst of light that flared above and behind them. The flying thing, whatever it was, shrieked and veered and crashed into one of the high brick walls that surrounded the street on either side. A low susurrus went through the people who stood blankly in the street, and raised the hairs on Blaze's neck.

The hostelry was still ahead, and might still be safe. They rounded a corner, and found that the people here were starting to move again. One of them threw himself at Blaze; but Blaze was larger and stronger than the people of this city, and knew how to invoke further strength with gestures instead of words; when his fist connected, it broke ribs and sent his attacker stumbling back into two others. Snow threw a burst of fire into the face of another attacker, who wheeled back wailing with arms upraised.

They ran, pulling up their matching gray robes so they wouldn't trip.

Snow raised her hand and spoke the guide words, forcing them out between gasping breaths, and for a moment the street brightened nearly to daylight. Blaze had been aware of... not pursuit, exactly, but a general movement among the people in the street to follow them. Now they fell back, the people in the street, and Snow and Blaze crashed into the door of the hostelry.

It was locked.

Snow leaned into it, muttering under her breath and lifting a hand as she explored; Blaze turned to face the ones approaching them.

They were slow and clumsy, at least for now; they moved like people dazed or in shock, not like warriors or even particularly determined enemies. He shoved them back into each other, or hit them with the club when he had no other choice. A moment later, Snow reached up to the collar of his robe and hauled him backwards through the door.

The door slammed shut behind them, and Blaze lifted the heavy wooden bar and slid it into place. He stopped, with his shoulder resting against the door, and then slowly turned to look at the hallways behind him.

Snow had her hands half-upraised, and was just lowering them. They were inside a mid-sized room, with an empty desk across from them, and a single hallway leading further back inside. Brother Shadow was standing in the hallway, watching them both. "You made it..." he said. "Where is Somber?"

Blaze exchanged a glance with Snow. "We don't know," he said. "Out in the city."

"You don't know?" asked Shadow. He sounded as if the admission offended him.

"One of the local girls collected him," Snow said. "He went with her and her friends. We were on our way back here. And then..."

"Something went wrong with the world," finished Blaze. "We didn't have time to look for him. We were lucky to make it back."

Something began to pound on the door behind him, slowly but steadily increasing in force.

"I see," said Brother Shadow. He came forward, and Blaze put a hand on the bar, feeling it shiver as whatever was outside rammed against the door.

"Pull the bar and step back," said Brother Shadow. "Once I'm outside, you guard this door and let nothing in. Not until I return, or Sister Azure sends someone to relieve you."

Blaze hesitated. "Are you sure you don't want us with you?"

"I was charged with protecting you," Shadow answered. "You stay here."

Blaze pulled the bar, and Shadow stepped out in a burst of light so bright that night itself seemed to draw back. A moment later, the door swung closed as if on its own, and Blaze dropped the bar into place. Snow stood looking at him, almost blank with shock. "Somber's still out there," she said quietly.

"Shadow will find him," Blaze said, with more conviction than he felt. On his own, he would have gone to look; but he wanted Snow safe more than anything else in the world, and that meant both of them staying here.

"We don't have any choice, do we?" she asked.

"Sure we do," he answered cheerfully. "We could go back, sacrificing the safety of everyone in this building and likely ourselves as well, to look for him."

Snow folded herself down to sit on the floor. "Yes," she said. "That's exactly what I meant."

And Blaze, who knew that already, went to put his arm around her.


  1. "Pull the bar and step back," said Brother Shadow. "Once I'm outside, you guard this door and let nothing in. Not until I return, or Sister Azure sends someone to believe you."

    Should that be "relieve"?

    1. Yes, yes it should. ::sigh:: And I just re-read the piece this morning, but apparently I still missed that one. Thanks!


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