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Showing posts from May, 2021

Snakes and trees and leeches, oh my

With the knowledge that the rest of our crew expected to meet us in a town we could not yet reach, I was anxious. They would wait, but for how long before disbursing? What would happen with my belongings? I wouldn’t begrudge their sale, everyone must survive, but I didn’t relish the idea of recruiting nobility to my cause while dressed in clothes a drowned rat would turn his nose to. Prevot, Emeline, explained her plan while she turned the hare she’d caught on a spit above the fire. She had our unblinking attention. “Deeper into the bog. With all the rain, it can be dangerous, but what are a few leeches between friends? We simply have to check ourselves and each other. Snakes are another problem, but this isn’t the hatching season. And of course the untu’ik trees, but,” she hesitated. “we’ll avoid those where we can.” “You don’t sound particularly confident,” Dumas said, frowning. “I’ve never traveled with this many untrained feet,” she explained. “You don’t know what’s safe t

Swamps and bogs are different, y'all

Captain Dumas was not thrilled about my explanation, but agreed to let Prevot, Emeline, guide us south toward the swampland. Only a mile downstream and the ground underfoot was changing. Prevot, Emeline, was following some path that was muddy but passable and I was particularly grateful that we didn’t have horses. I kept Tiago before me so I could catch him. He was surefooted enough, but exhausted beyond measure. The movement kept us from freezing, but it was still hours under a dark and darkening sky before Emeline pulled aside vegetation from a cleverly disguised cave opening and we tromped in. To be inside was a relief. My body still felt the thrum and buzz of the thousands of rain drops it had endured. The hollowed hill was low and narrowed considerably but Prevot insisted we continue on through a winding fissure, nearly invisible in the dark.   I worried about getting trapped underground, but a narrow passage widened into a large space with wooden slats for a floor and crates of

Friend or Foe

Rage and fury fueled the storm through the next day. My people visited the public house to warm themselves and check in and I made sure they left with any spare provisions we could provide. I dutifully worked on my hand-stitching and Captain Dumas and others taught Tiago the finer points of barroom brawling. When I brought out a book to read the owner asked if I had others, and I read aloud for a few hours in the evening. We had hope the storm would blow itself out by the next morning, but had no luck. Dumas was waiting for me in the common room and we shared a grimace. Much longer here and our presence would be a curse more than a blessing, considering the supplies we consumed. We played cards, listened to music and danced, crafted, talked, rested, mended, anything we could think to do, but no one expected it to be necessary outside of the winter months, and we hadn’t been prepared for the long hours. Tiago especially lacked the patience for it and I had to send him to the room more

Make the most

The others arrived after a short wait, everyone patched up and refreshed. TG pushed a wheelchair in for Mathis and he looked it over with a practiced eye, lifting himself into the seat and giving it some experimental rolls. Bitch Queen entered the room with a tablet in hand, swiping around before she set it aside. “Originally, we were going to offer non-disclosure agreements to each of you, but that offer has been revoked. Temporarily. You can still sign one, but until we find out how this enemy found us, we’re going to need to keep everyone where we can find them.” “So now one of us is a mole?” Andromeda asked. “You bring us here without choice, keep us locked up, we get attacked, you bring us here, and…? What? Do we just never get to leave?” “Effective recruiting tactic,” I pointed out. She made a sour face at me. “There are ways to track Instruments,” Mathis pointed out. Bitch Queen nodded. “That’s true, but no one can track Nodes.” Everyone looked at me. “What’s a Node?

Regroup

I wasn’t sure what I was seeing. We were outside. I looked back and saw a hollow tree, still alive, but the trunk was curved in around the gap in its center. As I watched, the technicians carrying the prisoner emerged as though they’d been hiding in its shaded depths like some kind of pagan version of a clown car. There was no indication, that I could see, of a portal on this side. Were we trapped here? Was it single-directional? The boss emerged with her guns in hand and she gestured me along with her chin. I fell into step beside her and we all moved through the trees. “Where are we?” I asked. She looked around. “Uh, New Hampshire?” I stumbled and she glanced at me. “Don’t make me catch you – my hands are full.” “That’s… how many miles is that?” She shrugged. “Probably two thousand or so?” “No one can portal that far.” “Good to know.” “Where are we going?” “There’s a safe house up ahead. Brigit knows the way and they’ll be expecting us after the alarm.” “The alarm

On the importance of art

The decision to wear a somewhat restricting dark blue outfit was one I simultaneously regretted and knew I had to make. It compromised my reach somewhat, assuming I didn’t want to tear the stitches, but I was still attempting to meet with the Viscontessa , and for that I had to be appropriately dressed. The night was pleasantly cool, but I was still boiling with exertion and hoped the dark color would hide my sweat. Captain Dumas had assigned another guard to perform the distraction below and Tiago had claimed a fever starting a few hours ago. He was a natural, I had to admit. Toward the end of our ride, he had begun to complain of nausea and headache and I saw him constantly adjusting his shirt to allow fresher air. He barely touched his dinner and looked truly miserable the entire time, excusing himself early. I explained to the Viscontessa that he had been feeling poorly and she had, as expected, offered her personal maid to assist in his recovery. I hoped he was being spoiled in

Shock and Awful

She turned to study the screens and I read the lines of tension across her shoulders. My earlier confidence started to wane and I stepped back toward the doorframe. June typed and clicked a bit and then pushed back from the desk with a loud swear. In the time it took her to stand, an explosion went off overhead. I blindly grabbed for Andromeda with one hand and Mathis with the other. Screams and shouts and more cursing sounded through the blinding haze of ceiling components. I tried to inhale as little as possible and keep my eyes squinted shut. I heard Andromeda coughing and felt her raise her shirt over her mouth. Mathis was doing the same and I hoped Jin was, too. When the shaking and rattling stopped, I released my grips and pulled my own shirt over my mouth to take a couple of filtered breaths. I still couldn’t see anything, and more disconcerting, I couldn’t hear much. Someone was moving around, but I couldn’t tell who. I didn’t want to give us away too quickly, but I also di

Life and Reputation

Our guard woke us the next morning and I envied Tiago’s fresh energy as he skipped about to dress and prepare. Breakfast was a simple affair with a buffet of various cold meats and fruits and hot beverages. I needed to speak with the Viscontessa , but she had eluded me all evening and it seemed she was doing the same now. After all, if one didn’t speak with the king-to-be, they couldn’t be expected to swear fealty, right? It was bad manners to suggest an activity for your host, but I caught a passing servant and said, “The weather is too beautiful to remain indoors; the boy and I would love a ride across the Viscontessa ’s lands and perhaps a picnic?” He nodded graciously. “I will prepare a set├Čne for the day, and I will see to it your own horses are prepared.” He disappeared into the kitchen and I winked at Tiago. We wandered the gardens and he showed me some of the nooks he’d found with the other children and told me some of their stories and gossip. I recognized that he was l

'Anomalies' meaning...?

TG walked me through and around another half dozen hallways and I decided she was definitely trying to make sure I stayed confused. There was some kind of dot-code like braille on most of the doors, but I didn’t recognize it and couldn’t tell if we were walking in circles. I kept a tight leash on my hand to make sure it didn’t get a mind of its own and grab TG’s in a waffle-grip, though I was sure I wanted to do that at some point. We passed through a lab I recognized and the same people were in the room doing who-knew-what, but there was a kind of tension I hadn’t noticed before. TG must have sensed it because she stopped and went to a computer station to study a screen over someone’s shoulder. I stood awkwardly in the middle of the room before deciding to poke around for myself. “What do we got?” I asked the tech. She looked at me with a squint, but when I didn’t break character, she pointed at the screen and said, “We’ve got a spiked anomaly in the fifth region.” “I’m new; h