Chapter 31: Kent and Siren and Such
As she moved, Alexandre’s brain began to swim. Her vision pulsed with her heartbeat as she staggered down the major street and away from the prison. She was used to walking in similar conditions, and her stagger seemed more a stroll to the passers-by. Alex wanted to stop and ask someone a question or two or five, but she could barely see them and her brain wasn’t function right, and she was feeling asocial; perhaps even a little violently antisocial.
I just have to make it to Lilllith’s place. Please God. Don’t let me fall again.
“No, run! Run! We’ll meet at the tower over there! Just go, we have to split up!” Kent yelled to Siren.
He dashed into the alley on the right. Siren rummaged in his pocket. Nothing! Except—he threw pocket sand into the eyes of the nearest guard (at least he thought it was a guard) and then turned right around and ran. His eyes searched for an alley, an escape, anything.
After a bit of ducking and weaving and dodging, Siren realized that this whole escaping business was going to be a fairly easy task. The Lussa City was cluttered full of people and oddly placed buildings, and the guards (or whatever) didn’t seem to like running very much.
In less than fifteen minutes, they had lost their pursuers and reunited at the tower. Kent marveled. He had never seen such a thing before.
“Wow, I don’t even know what this is!”
Siren frowned, looking at the Prince. “It’s obviously a tower. We have a belltower near the academy in the kingdom; this isn’t that different.”
“Nonetheless, the changes are important. Look at those metal beams running horizontally.” He pointed and mused.
Kent and Siren had become separated from the group thanks to an ambush. It was clever; they had expected to be safe on the Underside, but instead were attacked by a group of nameless mercenaries. No doubt they had been sent by the opposing nobles they had seen watching them fight the Hundred-Percent Riley.
The encounter wasn’t deadly, but it led to a thorough fracturing of the group. It was Senica and then Col who had first started running. Kent followed, but got caught in combat. His two-handed did not allow him the agility necessary to move past anyone, so he was stuck. After that, everything got stupid because the rest of the party figured that fleeing was the plan. With Chloe and Lilllith gone, there were no natural leaders left, and so their unity unravelled.
Kent took up a position defending Siren, who had already taken several blows from iron bars. He lanced one of Siren’s opponents in the side and then cut across the back of another. It got their attention.
Kent felt powerless to defend Senica, who was far off by now, climbing the hill with Col that led towards the City. During his melee, he called to Astore who he knew, being a Solune Agent, could weave through skirmishes like this with ease.
He said, “Astore! Follow Senica and the boy and make sure they make it to—” He wasn’t sure where.
“The City’s castle!” Siren shouted, his breathing hoarse from beatings.
“No way!” Astore called, “There are five of these guys—”
Kent beat one senseless with an upward jerk of his pommel. “Four! Hurry, before we lose sight of them past that ridge.”
Astore beat the skull of his opponent with the side of his lungeblade. “Three;—fine! You better make it to the Castle!”
The small Riley ducked past the other Lussa mercenary trying to stop him, struck him superficially from behind, and then launched himself forward with his right leg. He was thrust fourteen cubits ahead in a mere moment—using the same horizontal leap he had tried to use on Lilllith during the arena fight—and then he broke into a striding run.
Kent, now positioned between Siren and the three leftover mercenaries, smiled with zeal. “I’ll show you the capabilities of a Solune Prince!”
There was a standoff for a few moments, and Kent took the opportunity to whisper behind him. “Just watch my flank, man. And hook your forefinger into that ring above the guard so you have more control over the weapon. Jeez.” Siren obliged and tested the weight, satisfied with how easy using the awkward sword suddenly felt. It must have come across as threatening, because the mercenaries took up a new formation.
Two came at Kent to trap him while the third rounded the Prince to strike at the weaker foe behind. Kent unfortunately ended up binding with one, which meant that he couldn’t stop anyone else for the moment. Siren was cornered: the hole with the horde of Riley on the other end was to his right, the third man in front, Kent sword binding to his left, and behind him the other Lussa that Kent had been unable to keep back.
Siren’s mind took a hit of adrenaline, and he played the trickster. He feinted at the one in front of him, and then pivoted on his right and beat the neck of the man behind, swinging his sword across like a hammer. He didn’t hit anything major, as despite all his effort he was still fairly weak, but he opened a wound and the Lussa mercenary screamed in pain.
Kent remembered the rest of the battle going by fairly quickly, and then, out of breath, they moved up the ridge and saw the other three far ahead, moving toward the city. Kent tried to call out for a long time, but eventually gave up. It was a little frustrating, watching part of their group entering the city in the distance without looking back once.
Kent and Siren briefly rested, and then went to the city themselves. They searched for anyone else from their group, and for the castle for hours. They needed a new plan.
“I suppose we’ll have to ask for directions,” Kent said.
“It’s too bad the buildings in this area are so tall and close together, or I assume we would have been able to see it.” Siren said.
Kent shrugged and then asked a guard, who in turn asked them for identification. A long discussion ensued in which the officer had to explain what exactly that meant, followed by Kent stating that where he came from such papers were not required or even issued. The guard became agitated, and when Kent brilliantly pointed to the crown around his neck, instead of acknowledging that he was foreign royalty, blew some sort of whistle and declared that they were under arrest. And so, they were chased like criminals.
“What do you think this is?”
Siren shrugged. “No idea, but there are stairs on it. It isn’t gated off or anything, so we could probably go check it out if we wanted.”
They went up what seemed to be a low metal tower. At the top was more unusual architecture: two very thick metal rods supported by a third all in a row, moving off to their left above the street. They ended abruptly at the tower, but Siren noticed that they, completely disconnected, appeared to continue at ground level.
“I wonder what all this is for,” said Kent.
“Look,” Siren pointed down, leaning on a guard rail.
The rails on the ground were rumbling. Shortly after, a card came flying down from their right, slowing down due to the slope, and stopping at the bottom of the tower. Two men reached out from the cart and started twisting a winch on the side of the rails.
“Oh, looks like they’re coming up. Look, that section of the rail is lifting with their cart. I wonder how strong you have to be to twist the winch to bring it all up…”
Kent said, “Huh, it looks like the cart is attached to the rods, and they slide…or turn.”
The cart was short for the track it was on, though it was large enough to fit at least twice its current capacity. It had a strong steel lower section, and a framed cover. When the cart reached the top platform, they noticed that there was a third person inside, a woman.
She called out, “Not in service! You’ll have to wait for the next one.”
The cart, and section of rails it was attached to, boomed into place.
Kent said, “What is this?”
“This is the Rail Transport System.” The women opened a door in the side of the car and came out to shake their hands.
Senica had tried to do the exact same thing to him when they had first met, and he had had no idea what she was trying to do to him. She ended up teaching him, so now Kent was prepared.
“I am Avvarace. I own the rail system.”
She tried to shake Siren’s hand, but the Solune had never done such a thing, and so was apprehensive. She continued.
“You must be from the Djeb. This is for public transport. We recently partnered with the government, so the fares are free—even for foreigners, though I don’t know if that will last.”
“Public transport,” mumbled Siren.
Kent said, “Will this take us to the castle?”
Avvarace gave him a funny look. “There’s no castle here…oh! You mean the palace, don’t you! Yes, there is a route that goes there. I will have to stop there at some point. Right now though, we’re taking this cart to be scrapped or rebuilt, so it’s going to the end of the line.”
“Uh…great,” Siren mumbled.
“Oh, I apologize, I never gave you a chance to introduce yourselves. You have names, I assume?”
“I am Kent Rhye, third Prince of the Solune.”
“I’m Anselm Siren.”
Avvarace said, “Prince, you say?” Of the Rhye family? I have heard the name, but they aren’t very important here…why would you say prince?”
“We responded to Ryan’s distress call…” Kent felt a little disheartened. His family name had never been spoken of in such a way, not to his face.
“Oh! You are the guests! Ryann did tell me of your coming! If that is so, I must take you to the castle!” She went to go back into the railcar and then stopped. “Hang on, how should I know you’re telling the truth? Ah, I know, do you have your identification papers?”
“A trap!” said Siren.
“Don’t mind him, ah,” Kent started to sweat. Were they going to have to run again? And from someone who had seemed so helpful? “We don’t have papers. The Solune don’t have such a concept.”
“Oh. Well…I can’t just bring anyone to the palace you understand.” Avvarace frowned.
“Of course not! Look here.” Kent pointed to the golden band around his neck. “This is a crown.” He unclasped it and reclasped it over his forehead. “And the pinwheel is our national symbol. Come, isn’t this enough?”
Avvarice frowned, and then breathed in. “Well, I don’t know. I’m no official. You can take it up with the guard.” She stepped back into the car and looked back at them expectantly.
“Oh, the castle guard. Of course!” Kent followed her. “Come on Siren, we’re set!”
“What, get onto that?” Siren surveyed the odd vehicle.
Avvarice regained her former energy. She said, “You can walk if you want, but it would take you an hour to get there from here. On transit, it’s less than half that. Hurry, boy! The next cart should be coming soon.”
Siren looked at Kent. He felt obliged to follow. Avvarice pulled a lever and they were off.
This is the first chapter I’ve actually typed in about two months. Though, we’re still going through things I have handwritten, so I still haven’t written anything new in a long time (for this novel anyway). As with the previous, a few things were added and fixed (though not quite as much.)