Chapter 28: Walk the Earth Alone.
The Legendary Event was similar to a war, but it is technically to be seen as an invasion. An invasion of giants. They had come over the north wall and directly into Hannibal. They had come because they found the taste of the Solune to be pleasing to the highest degree. This event shocked the nation.
It shocked the nation because we had been expecting them, but we had been expecting something else. We were promised a grand deliverance. But ancient pacts had been fabrication all along, and promises had been perverted.
I had joined the battle back then, mostly to provide moral support to Janna, my sister. I was a year younger when it happened, but far less mature. Nothing worked out like we expected. Five of us, a small outer patrol, got pulled into the centre of the disintegrating city.
History records them as giants, but they were not. They were winged men who fought in white robes. They were the angels, but they were only a head taller than the Solune. But they had blank-looking eyes, and the disgusting teeth of carnivores. They had the strength of four men, but that the Creator we had four men for each one of them.
We kept up with the enemy for a while, staying alive and using the capabilities we had been accepted into the armies for possessing, but then one of them took Janna. She was grappled—she had seen allies fall like this; pulled into the enemy backline, ripped to the ground, and devoured alive—and so I moved. I sprinted past their frontline as she was pulled in, ripping my sword through an angelic ribcage and abandoning it in my pursuit. I was so far from her, but I still extended my fingers. I made my way past my confused enemies and leapt backwards over the ruined landscape and I screamed, with my eyes trained on my sisters determined captor.
And the feelings of my forefathers came over me. I heard the voices of the past. And when the fluids of my eyes began to drain down my face and mix with my tears, it felt so natural. They whispered from the days of my learning…
…Through the faithfulness of the Adonai, he will not be shaken. Your hand is equal to all Your enemies; Your right hand overpowers Your foes. You set them ablaze like a furnace when You show Your presence. Hashem in anger destroys them; fire consumes them. You wipe their offspring from the earth, their issue from among men. For they schemed against You; they laid plans, but could not succeed. For You make them turn back by your swords aimed at their face. Be exalted, oh Hashem, through Your strength; we will sing and chant the praises of Your mighty deeds.
— Account given by Chloe Rhye,
Three months after the opening of the walls.
The Prince annihilated every single one of the giants from the face of her kingdom.
It should here be noted that this was not an uncommon capability. In theory, anyone could learn to use the power of laszor eyes, though perhaps not with the Prince’s degree of aptitude. This is similar in nature to the white-haired adrenaline rush of the northerners, which is accessible to the Riley, and to a lesser extend the Solune as well. While adrenaline comes more naturally to the N’Tariel, laszor eyes comes more naturally to the Solune.
Chloe, it seemed, had a natural talent. Typically, the rays of plasma come only from the eyes, but diving into enemy army had resulted in many wounds and abrasions. Chloe had unintentionally emitted from all of her open wounds.
The laszors chain-reacted with the minerals in the ground and magnified, as if through fission, erupting from the ground across the entire battlefield, firing skyward like house-sized jets of pale yellow light.
It discriminated, leaving Chloe’s people untouched, and inundating the giants in a fury of chemical-like burns until there was nothing left but white bones. But Chloe, out of fear, never developed her laszor eyes afterward, and in fact it is rumoured she never used the ability again.
Now, she stared ahead, in a purposeful daze, and released her eyes.
“Woah,” Alexandre breathed.
The beams hit Riley after Riley as they screamed out of the way, searing flesh like a chemical burn. The enemy were dazzled and confused, and many shrieked in pain and terror.
Alexandre saw that Chloe had opened a clear path, so she took the Solune Prince by the arm and dragged her to the hole. “Just jump!”
Chloe obliged and suddenly they were falling. She stopped the laszor eye emission and tried to fix her vision. Everything was so blurry. So much was happening at once. How do I… With the sensation of breathing in with the eyes, Chloe took back all of her ocular fluids. She blinked and could see clearly once again.
“We made it. Ah…” Her words were lost to the rushing wind. She repeated the words loud enough to be heard. “We made it!”
“Yeah,” Alexandre shouted back, “and now we’re falling. Still, doesn’t look like anyone followed us down.”
Chloe looked up, and then at the walls. They were inside something that was like a cave, or maybe a tunnel, but straight vertical. It looked too smooth to be natural, but how would anyone dig such a thing? Chloe’s gaze fell down below her feet. She couldn’t even see the other side yet.
“So, what was that? A magic? Thermatology?” Alex shouted.
“I thought so. But—what is it?”
“It is, ah, I—” she had to take a breath. “I will explain it when everything isn’t so loud!”
“That’s what you said about your age! When will it finally be later? Does later ever come to the Solune Royalty?” Alexandre waved her arms in an exaggerated and poetic manner.
Chloe smiled, and shouted back, “After our next supper, I will tell you! Not tonight; I am tired.”
Alexandre smiled, accepting and doubting.
The fall took thirty-eight minutes. Halfway into the planet, they splashed through a puddle that was hovering in space. This was where the gravity changed. Afterward, they weren’t falling any more, they were rising, as if launched. Launched by the Overside, by home, to here, the Underside. I almost feel as though only now has my journey begun.
The other end of the tunnel, the end they were rising towards, started to become bright. “It is over there!” Chloe yelled. “We should turn around so that we land…” She ran out of breath.
Alexandre finished for her, “land on our feet, not our head.”
Shortly after fixing their orientation, they broke over to the other side. Chloe was surrounded by grey-blue morning skies, and then she felt under her feet something constructed. It seemed to be a hardened metal landing platform on the edge of the hole.
The landing itself was nothing, they had lost most of their momentum so being shot out on the Underside only brought them about a storey out of the planet.
Chloe’s breathing slowed. She felt calm as they walked forward onto the sand.
Alexandre was not calm. “Where is everyone?”
Chloe saw that they were alone, and in a desert. “I do not know…Ah! The city, look.” The Lussa City was a distance away, up a small cliff.
Then they heard groaning, and saw the one-hundred-percent Riley that had pushed Lilllith down the tunnel.
“That’s a good twenty minute walk. Let’s?”
Chloe gave her a funny look, then lifted and threw the injured Riley back down the hole. Then began their walk.
“Obviously toward the city. But look.” Alexandre pointed. There were footsteps in the sand, but they seemed to be in the process of returning to not being footsteps, as if the sand was slightly alive. “That’s more feet than there’s supposed to be. I assume that they were intercepted around here by the nobles that were watching us during the Riley attack.”
Chloe had too much anxiety to say much more than “Oh.”
Alexandre, perceptive, noticed. She tried to be reassuring. “We’ll follow them, don’t worry, uh, Chloe. There are a lot…some of them are very skilled. Let’s go.”
Chloe nodded like someone half her age, and they went up towards the small cliff face.
The cliff face was neither tall, no steep. It was climbed by the two young women with little effort. This seemed to Chloe to be the explanation as to why the hole had remained unused. This location is quite far from the city, and it is the middle of nowhere; just desert. No resources, no paths, no reason to explore. Though, they should have come upon it at some point… it is not that far away. Maybe it was caved in for a while, and then an earthquake reopened it? She began to wonder how such holes were created in the first place.
As they made their way across the odd desert, Alexandre gazed across the landscape. They walked uphill across strange sands. It seemed, as she looked in to the distance, that beyond the city was another one of these long cliff faces. Past that, another one. It’s almost as if the whole desert is simply a south-facing staircase for extremely large creatures. Oh? “Chloe, look. There.”
Chloe saw them, to the west, towering mountain-tall creatures. They were also walking south, but at an extremely slow place. They looked as if the creator had fashioned the largest of men from the bottom up, but then had stopped at the stomach. They look like…big stone pants, filled in, and just walking about autonomously! How funny.
“They look like a giant pair of legs.” Chloe said, “Do you think they are dangerous?”
“Not at all.”
“I highly doubt it. —Come, move faster, we need to find everyone else—anyway, they’re really far away, and they aren’t headed this way. The city seems entirely unconcerned.”
“That is true. And, what about this sand?”
“Hmm?” Alexandre looked down. She had been right, the sand was trying to get rid of the steps. “I thought that was my eyes or something.
“Is it moving on its own? There’s no wind.”
“I think, very slightly.” Alexandre shook her head. “Look, Prince, you seem to be oblivious, but we’re in an alien landscape, without a guide, and during a time of civil conflict. I don’t know what’s happening Chloe, but Lilllith said they might ambush us, and I so we can assume they were ambushed. They could be off in the distance running still. Or maybe, they lost. Maybe everyone else is done for.
“Look at this damned sand. The footsteps are all gone now! Maybe the others think we’re the dead ones! Maybe this whole trip is ruined, and we’ll have to continue our quest with underground networks, or just give up and head back. This is stupid! I’m do—”
Chloe’s finger pushed on Alexandre’s chin, making the Riley feel extremely awkward. She took a breath to give mind time to compound all her words. “Don’t ever let such thoughts materialize into words. Not around me.” Alexandre blushed. She continued with an element of her father’s royal might. “We are almost there already. We will know for sure once we reach the city and find Lilllith’s house, or the castle. I don’t want to hear your stupid speculation until we see bodies dead or living! It is better be starry-eyed and wrong than pessimistic and always right.”
“Don’t get stuck too far in to the unset future. You will dig yourself into a mental pit.”
Alexandre looked away and tried to remove the pink from her face. The other woman had caused a surge of hormones to rush through her, and she didn’t like it. She tried deep breathing.
“You are right though,” Chloe had switched topics, “the footsteps are all but gone. Look, the city is walled with some sort of metal. It looks like there are two entry points, the one there, to our left, and one on the other side to our right.”
“The one on the right looks busy, full of people. The left, seems to lead to a building…some sort of warehouse perhaps.” Alexandre surveyed the city entries methodically. Her days as a criminal tactician were coming back to her. “There are no gates or anything. The city is wide open. I think we should go to that one. If we’re really on some noble’s hit list, we don’t want more people knowing of our entry or survival than necessary. At least, until we find Lilllith and you become a political pawn—I mean…”
“So to the west then.” Chloe smiled. She wasn’t sure going through this secondary entry point was a good idea, but she wasn’t going to argue. Alexandre seemed to know what she was saying, and her logic was sound. “Ah, let’s go.”
The footprints were completely gone now. They were on their own. The young women turned slightly to the right and headed for the building that protruded slightly from the city.
“What do you think that is?” Chloe asked.
“Looks bad. We’re not going inside. Just walk right past it like it’s an inconsequential hill of stone.” Alexandre replied.
By now they were close enough to peer past the building and inside the city. This warehouse building seemed to be at the end of a large, possibly cross-city street. They could see down it, rows of iron buildings and houses.
“Why is everything here made of metal?” Chloe asked. She was going to add something, but the world when black in deep, sharp pain.
Alexandre was going to inform her that she could answer none of her questions about the city, but the sentences flew out of her mind when someone smashed the back of her head with a steel rod. The four limbs of her body counteracted in one trained motion.
Right foot across, behind the left. Right hand down the waist to her hilt. Left arm behind the head, defensive. Then, her legs twisted and she turned, drawing her sword, with a flick of many muscle groups.
Her mind was barely keeping up as she cut well below the neck of some dark figure. The entire two-step action only took a fraction of a second, and by the end of it Alexandre had blood on her weapon. Everything focused and she realized what was going on.
Here they were, behind a low traffic building in an isolated part of town, just waiting to be ambushed. And she had led Chloe here.
They were enemies of aristocracy; of powerful people who were willing even to challenge the throne of the city. And so, they had sent mercenaries. This is it. This is probably what happened to the others too. And there are six of them. What am I—
You’ve fought back worse.
That was different.
No, the Prince said we don’t extend this sort of thought.
It was different. They were fighting for something they cared about. These fools?
I don’t have time to keep bitching. I have shit to do.
Alexandre rammed her fist into the face of one she had cut. Where is Chloe—Alexandre saw her on the ground. She must have actually been knocked out!
There are five more.
As if all the damn Riley weren’t enough.
She took two steps and smacked someone else with her sword. The other four finally realized that something had gone wrong, and that they were being hacked down one by one.
“She wasn’t subdued, get the target!”
“Oh no,” Alexandre sang satirically. Her sword thrust through the third man’s should her got wedged going through the second set of ribs near his back. Damn it. She wrenched at the man until he passed out from the brutal motions. He let go of his sword and she took it before it hit the ground. It was heavy and poorly made. She immediately disliked it.
“Come, you fools!” She tried to copy Lilllith’s jeering.
Two approached, and she started contending against them with her off hand. When the second one, a woman, nicked her torso, Alexandre shouted, and with the help of her foot, violently ripped her own sword out of the unconscious man’s chest.
But it was too late. She had downed two, and was fighting two, but the rest of them had taken Chloe and were carrying her off as fast as they could. Given that she was over four cubits tall and fairly well muscled, it was more difficult than they seemed to have expected. Alexandre furiously tried to disengage, but the pair she was fighting apparently had training for this exact thing—for trapping and abduction.
Any move Alexandre made with her feet was responded to with a coordinated retaliation of their own stances. Her footwork was awful. She had no recourse. This is going well. She held her sword up and engaged. “Fine. I’ll beat my way through you.”
Alexandre Dirge’s mind was filed with hot sticky rage, which only heightened when she saw Chloe disappear around the building’s outer corner out of sight.
Her fighting got sloppy. She dropped all technique. All that was left of her was aggressive hacking. She started using both her hands; both the weapons simultaneously. She focused only a touch, attempting to bind swords with her enemies as much as possible Eventually, she caught the sword of the man by the hilt. Staring into his eyes with insanity, she pushed his weapon toward his body with her own while simultaneously fending off the woman with her off hand and sound alone. Her sword slowly dug into his shoulder, through his uniform and into flesh.
“Get back!” She screamed, twisting her whole body, ripping the sword from the man and crashing both into the woman simultaneously—shattering the Lussa weapon (and cutting her left hand as a result). She reeled back and slammed again, this time breaking the woman’s blade where it was hit, and cutting right past into her upper arm. She turned around and stomped on the man’s leg, hoping to break it, and then swung her foot forward into the woman’s stomach.
She turned around, and spoke lightly, like her mother. “Follow me, and you’ll die.”
And Alexandre Dirge ran to the edge of the building to find her Prince.
Honestly, I’m not sure if these internal dialogues are working so well. There’s great, interesting potential, but perhaps not so great execution. Something for me to consider for the next draft any way.