Continued from Chapter Five: Part Three...
Digger whipped his sword to guard. He pointed it first to his left, backing away in case the enemy showed himself. The laughter sounded from his right then, however, and louder. He turned to face it. “Gods, how many?”
“There are few left in the world,” Silk said. His voice sounded serene. Twig looked at his face. Silk still smiled, looking toward the one standing in the flames of the barracks. “One is too many.”
“What are they?” Digger asked.
“They are Scarpy,” Silk said. “You know of Tetch Slander and the Scarpy. These are they. They came for me, just as you predicted that they would.”
Twig wondered what Silk’s crime really was. The Holy Assassins—the Scarpy—the classiest killers hunted Silk. When he found his own footing, Twig wondered if perhaps he would want Silk’s scalp too.
“Gods preserve us,” Digger said. He kept his voice strong and gripped his sword in both hands.
“Hold fast—here he comes,” Silk said. He brought his own sword to be on guard. The Scarpy in the barracks leapt out. Remnants of flame clinging to the oils of his skin, he began running the hundred yards from the barracks toward them. Silk and Digger stood to wait for the Scarpy. Twig had no such patience. Darting first sideways, and partly concealed in the dark—though he knew that the Scarpy could see heat—Twig ran toward the hot Scarpy. The Scarpy’s body generated the campfire heat Twig had been feeling. All Scarpy had blue and hairless bodies, tightened with muscle. This specimen, naked from the fire, stared with its glowing eyes straight at big Silk. The Scarpy had his head lowered, the small horns in his forehead pointed at Silk like a charging bull. Sparks dribbled like spittle from between his pointed teeth.
He ignored Twig. Until the last second, the Scarpy stayed intent on Silk. Somehow, Twig’s quiet charge in the dark shadows passed the Scarpy’s notice. Twig was not sure why. He pressed his advantage, however. Coming at an angle, Twig planted a foot in front of the Scarpy’s. The Scarpy gave a bestial scream that morphed to an obscenity. The Scarpy began to fall. In the middle of the Scarpy’s dive, Twig rotated to knee the Scarpy in the chest. He shoved the heavy body of the Scarpy gracelessly sideways. The Scarpy fell into a jagged hole in the bars of the near bear pit. A scream like a burning hawk escaped him as his side was pierced by several of the jagged ends of the bars on his way to the bones of the bears. A belch of fire lit the pit when he hit the floor.
“Do you think he’s dazed?” Digger said, running up to Twig.
“You can thank the man, boy,” Silk scolded.
“He will not keep for long,” Twig said. “We should run.”
“It’s a bit hard to run from them,” Silk said.
“It is harder to fight them,” Twig said.
“Damn it,” Silk said. He hocked and spat. “I always tried to keep on the same side as them during the War.”
“That is prudent,” Twig said. At the sight of the Scarpy going down, the laughs of the other Scarpy in the Gorge changed to howls and insults. Probably the insults were witty and profane. The thick Scarpy accent obscured what they said exactly. The voices all approached. “This gorge is fitted with explosives. If they are triggered it will cause a cave-in. The Scarpy will be crushed.”
“But probably not killed,” Silk said.
“They may be killed,” Twig said.
“How can we help?” Digger asked.
Twig looked at the young man’s face. He had urgency to do in his eyes. Impotency made him nervous. They would merely get in the way, however. The mechanism was supposed to be triggered by three people, but only Twig knew where the three triggers were.
“Run if you want to live,” Twig said. Digger looked uncomfortable at the command. “Give me your bow and a knife.” Twig took his cloak off and traded it for Silk’s bow and quiver of arrows.
“You’re in for a flailing if this goes otherwise than you say it will, boy,” Silk said. He took the cloak and handed over the bow, however, and produced a knife from somewhere. “Come on, lad. Let’s leave him to his arena.” Silk turned and jogged back to the zigzagging road up the wall of the Gorge.
Twig turned his back to them. He slung the quiver of arrows onto his back, tightened its strap. The knife he stuck under some of the straps on his leather sleeve. The snowy ground stretched flat from him. The building where the bears had been bred stood to the right—the stable to the left. Behind the breeding building the wall of the gorge loomed up, sheer and straight. Ancient mining equipment clung to its face, dirtying the clean stone. Among the catwalks and cranes hanging on the wall a series of cleverly placed charges, based on the Scarpy design, could be triggered to make the whole stone face crumble and bury the Gorge in stone. There were three triggers. Three Zombies were meant to light them at the same time. They were hidden.
Motion caught his eye. He looked toward the breeding building. Someone jumped from the roof. Orange-glowing eyes stared at him. A second Scarpy, walking toward him. A third ran around the stable, his eyes visible in the shadows.
“Well, cold one, we know what to look for now,” the lead Scarpy said.
Twig swung his foot back and drew an arrow. He looked at the wall of the Gorge, recalling the triggering process. It should take three people. Now he looked at it, he wondered if he might have thought of a way to do it by himself. The idea seemed ludicrous, though. He had no idea how to execute it.
He would need some rags.
Continued on December 21...