Although Spratt was remiss to admit such a thing, he was prone to extreme claustrophobia.
Five Weeks Earlier…
Late Night Scare
The wind rattled the windows something terrible, filling the house with a chattering chorus. Anne held the candle out before her as if it were an impenetrable shield. The professor often chastised her overly cautious nature, but she had heard stories. Her mother always said ‘there is truth even in the wildest of tales’. She liked to think her mother was telling a truth as well, even if it was a small one.
I landed squarely on my feet before throwing a few darts at the creature, only for them to bounce off like pebbles. Disappointed, I tossed a few smoke bombs his way while I reached for my swords. Nothing too remarkable about them, really. A standard issued gladius in my right and a spatha in my left. A little unbalanced, I know, but for some reason, it always seemed to work for me. This odd quirk of mine would earn me the distinction of being called ‘Tristan the Hefty Lefty.’
Dim gas-light cast an un-natural glow upon the dark, cobbled streets, diffused by the thin fog that had settled down for the evening; a veil that refused to be parted. With a dedicated pace Godfrey Wolesley made his way down the street, his coat pulled close around him. Normally, nights like this were perfect for conducting business, but tonight he preferred a practice of a different kind. The clic-clak-clic-clak of his heels echoing on the cobbles carried into the air. To someone else, he must seem a specter, a distant presence ever moving but always there, just around the corner. The mere thought brought a thin, cruel smile to his lips.
When Spratt came to there was no telling how long he’d been unconscious. Terror overcame him for a moment upon the realization he was wrapped tightly in Nedra’s cloak and being carried like a sack of potatoes. Spratt couldn’t be certain, but the feeling of weightlessness led him to believe Nedra had made her way to the rooftops of Garvin, where she was leaping from one building to the next.
No matter; the shadows have a habit of coming out at night, and my training has always taught me that the shadows are to be embraced, not feared. But there were ‘good’ shadows and ‘bad’ shadows, and given my newly acquainted company, I was not entirely sure which one was which.
Over the next few hours, Winter felt like a cop tracking a suspect with old-fashioned legwork. She usually didn’t like to delegate authority but was relieved to rely on Kafira to lead the way. Her leadership since arriving in Taru wasn’t exactly the stuff of legends like the Charge of the Light Brigade. It was more like the reality of that charge—a dismal failure.
Biggs decided the best thing about life in the cell was that he was no longer hungry. He looked down at the disgusting concoction one last time and was satisfied with just one bite. He couldn’t imagine eating again anytime soon. If he ever got home, he promised to find a way to get this repulsive recipe in print and sold off as the next hot weight loss routine. He tossed the bowl of misery into the corner where it came to a rest in a pile with several earlier dishes. It was incredible the muck hadn’t changed consistency over the past couple of days. More disheartening, the large cockroach-like creatures that shared the cell found the slop less appetizing than he did. Biggs figured if a roach wouldn’t eat something, he should steer clear with extreme prejudice.
Initially, Spratt had considered it his responsibility that they had lost all of their gear. Then he thought about it some more and decided there was plenty of fault to go around. They were highly trained members of the Army, yet they allowed a swarm of giants to surround them. Spratt wasn’t even willing to take all the blame for failing to get their things back from the giants. Seriously, who sends a guy that worked at Medieval Times into a sword fight? It was like asking a person that sings in the shower to front a rock band.
As Mary Winter lay on the ground there wasn’t any pain, yet she was certainly on the brink of death. The assault on Damon Rudolph’s compound had been a disaster, but the details of how he turned the tables were hazy. During her twenty years in the Army she’d gone into many missions doubting the sanity of her superior officers, but this mission was too hastily thrown together. Rudolph was a megalomaniac attempting to establish a kingdom within the United States. They knew his militia was well armed; they were prepared for that. The vortex he activated that soundlessly pulled them off their feet into darkness — that was unlike anything she’d ever seen in the world.