Book II - Chapter 21

Chapter 21

 

Snake Report

 

This could not get worse.

I don’t know whether to blame Imra for this, or if she just brought about the inevitable. Either way, it’s as if someone dropped a match onto a bucket of gasoline.

Things here have effectively erupted.

DODGE!

Was that a fucking lightning bolt that just missed us? I don’t even know.

COVER! FIND COVER! GET INTO AN ALLEY!

No clue if Imra can hear me, but I’ve cranked my mental shouting to 11. I hope she’s at least able to get the gist of it. If not the words, the message behind the words.

We’re moving in the right direction, at least-

DUCK!

God damn it! Was that a fireball? I didn’t shoot that.

It’s total chaos here.

“ORDER!”

Behind us, past the crowd Imra just fought through, there’s a flashing light.

It’s bright.

Some sort of skill? An ability? I think it’s a sword, but the weapon is glowing, raised up like a beacon.

“ORDER!”

It’s the one wearing the armor, shouting over the crowd.

“ORDER, OR LIGHT TAKE YOU! THIS IS YOUR FINAL WARNING!”

Spears, halberds, they’re all doing the same.

Trying to fend off the masses, intimidate them into compliance.

It’s not working.

People are still pushing.

“SHIELDS UP! SPEARS READY” The armored man is shouting commands now, not stopping. “STAY BACK, IF YOU WANT TO LIVE! YOU UNDERSTAND?”

Those people they’re trying to fend off, maybe the one’s in the front are scared. I bet they are- I bet they want nothing to do with what’s about to happen, but the hundreds of people behind them don’t care.

With bodies too thickly packed together, it might as well be a wave.

BANG

Overhead, something’s just lit up the scene.

From the back, way back, behind the soldiers, it’s taken to the air. Whistling like a firework and an almost lazy sort of speed: a flare of some kind.

Rising, up and up…

CRASH

It burst.

Everything’s illuminated now. As if a whole stadium of floodlights just switched on, it’s showing the entire scene.

Hundreds of gaunt, hungry, angry faces, all looking in the same direction.

“ORDER! I WILL HAVE ORDER!”

Under their command, they’ve grouped up, but the soldiers are looking more nervous by the second. They’ve got some men scrambling with their bows, and a couple with staffs, back by the caravan of goods. Nocking arrows, trying to draw, maybe getting spells ready-

It’s too late.

The crowd is surging.

“HOLD THEM BACK!”

Bloodied and angry, raging and fearful: it’s chaos.

They’re simultaneously charging and fleeing in a stampede. To the front of the pack, the soldiers are trying to hold them back with shields and spears.

Weapons are moving, magic is flying, cutting people down left and right- but the spears are getting stuck. Wedged and trapped in the unlucky victims. For all the people trying to escape, a dozen people behind them are still rushing forward.

They’re not going to stop.

“ARCHERS! LOOSE!” The commander of the group is weighing in on the melee now. That glowing sword of there is swinging down, cutting into the masses. “MAGES, LOOSE!”

Behind him, several men with bows are firing indiscriminately. Two men with staffs are throwing crude looking fireballs into the sea of bodies. One even comes our way, forcing Imra to pull back behind the stone corner of the building, farther into the alley.

“HOLD THEM BACK!” The commander is shouting, louder. “HOLD THE LINE!”

It doesn’t make a difference.

It’s not a matter of discipline.

The Soldiers formed their lines immediately, and from the quick glimpse I had of them up close, I know they’re not pushovers. Falling in beside one another to level their shields and resist, they’re lashing back out with wicked precision.

Peeking back out at the violence, from where we’re standing, I can tell this is already over.

This isn’t a fight you can win with skill.

They’re being heaved backward by a mad rush of bodies. Shoved ruthlessly back, not by skill or tactical advantage, but by weight. Shove until they’ve back among the cargo- tripping and falling over crates and half-unloaded supplies while the archers fire off their arrows in a blind panic.

“ORDER! ORDER!“

The commander, for all his bluster and glowing sword, is quickly disappearing from eyesight.

“HOLD! HOLD THE BLOODLY LINE YOU BASTARDS-”

He’s being bowled over by the stampede, as more people are coming out of the alleys: people with rusted swords, axes, and knives.

Maybe they’ve just been waiting for a good chance.

“Agggg-“

One of those arrows from the back of the caravan just found its way in front of us, taking someone through the eye, and sending them rolling down into the canal beside the street.

More folks with weapons have showed up from the side streets, though. Some aren’t even bothering with the mad rush, and have settled for attacking people who are just breaking free of the crowds. Stealing what they can in the confusion, before running off.

There’s one mage still standing, on top of the wagon to the far back. He’s just blasting fire spells at this point. One after the next, like he’s some sort of machine-gun.

The wagon’s tipping, and he’s still shooting.

The soldiers by the cargo are still fighting, but I don’t think they’re going to last much longer.

This is not good.

I’ve seen enough.

We gotta go.

I have no idea where to, but we really need to leave.

Any place but here seems to be the overall sentiment. People are already shoving past us down the side street, running for directions where there isn’t a crowd.

Imra’s picked up on this.

We’re moving.

At this point, I’m not even bothering to hide. If a random person in this mess thinks they seen a monster riding on someone’s shoulder, nobody is going to believe them. Things are too crazy for me to be ducked under Imra’s cloak.

Left… right, left again…

Where are we going… I don’t know this place at all, but I would've thought the pattern should have weaved us back towards a main road.

There were some people in front of us, but they’ve practically vanished. Ducking into buildings, slamming doors behind them.

Shoot.

I don’t know where we are.

Imra’s slowing down.

Collect our bearings.

We’re out of the mess, temporarily.

Somewhere behind us, the noise is echoing off the walls of buildings. Sound distorted, crashes and screams, all mixing up. I can’t even really pinpoint exactly where its coming from.

Overhead, more of those flares are rising. First one, then two… three… four…

Signals?

That would make sense.

They’re mostly in the sky, behind us. We must be moving ahead of whatever response is coming… ah. The ships I saw earlier are moving.

Slow, but steady, they’re drifting towards the illuminated orbs in the sky, banking a turn. Whatever they’re doing, I doubt we want to be around for.

Where the hell do we go, though? If we could get back to the main road, I swear that would make a huge difference. Instead of these side streets and weird alleys cropped up between these rundown buildings.

Wait.

I just heard something.

Footsteps? Dragging a bit, but someone else is here.

To our right…

BANG

Another flare has gone up, overhead this time. Bright enough to reveal the whole alley, from top down. It gives off a pinprick glare, like a discolored lightning strike- only it doesn’t fade away.

Imra-

“I see them, Great One.”

Standing, only a little ways down the alley, they’re staring right at us.

Just one person. Tall, lanky, bloodied up… more than a little bit, actually… really hurt. Gash on their head, their neck, arms…

Wounded from the riots?

Maybe.

They’ve got a knife, though.

“Graa…”

They’re saying something.

Asking for help?

I don’t understand them.

“Graaaa…”

It’s not a language barrier, I don’t think.

Maybe they’re so badly hurt they can’t speak properly?

I could probably try and [Heal] them…

“Graaaaaaaaaaa...”

You alright, buddy?

“Grrrrrraa…”

You don’t sound so good.

“Grrrrrrraaaaaaa…“

The flare just went out.

Dark again.

Hmm.

Is it just me, or are they moving towards us?

“GRAAAAAAA-“

Oh.

You have got to be fucking kidding me.