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Serf's Up (To Walk the Path 17)

 

 

 

 

Serf’s Up (To Walk the Path 17)

 

By Paul Smith.

 

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Serf’s Up (To Walk the Path 17)

Paul Smith

Copyright 2014 Paul Smith

Shakespir Edition.

 

This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to people, places or events is purely coincidental, and bears no malicious intent.

 

ISBN: 9781311107800

 

For more information on my work, and to keep up to date with new releases please follow me on Twitter @tattooloverboi or check out one of my galleries:

 

Gallery: http://gladefaun.deviantart.com/

 

Shakespir: [+ http://www.Shakespir.com/profile/view/starofthemorning+]

 

Blog: http://paulsmithauthor.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

 

 

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‘Everything’s going to be alright’

 

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Author’s note:

To Walk the Path is the final instalment in my cyber-fantasy series The Star Plague Journals. Anyone who enjoys this chapter and wants to keep up to date on future releases (or who fancies trying some of my other work) should check out my galleries on Shakespir or DeviantART:

 

gladefaun.deviantart.com

Shakespir.com/profile/view/starofthemorning

 

Thank you.

17: Serf’s Up.

 

Timo stood on the sandbar, watching as the last of the ships pulled in to way anchor. There were six in all, which hardly seemed enough to storm a city, but then he reminded himself that a good portion of their forces were already in the capital.

Clarissa stood at his side, her hand raised against the midday sun. She’d helped him with his make-up this morning and he was determined not to smudge it as he lifted his own hand to carefully brush wind-induced tears from his cheeks. For all that it was cold (freezing would be a more apt word, Ikari had suggested) it was a glorious day, the sky overhead a vast open tract of blue that seemed to go on forever. Clouds scudded sedately past, their leading edges shot through with gold as they coasted towards the southern horizon, moving away from some storm front coming down from the north.

About them, the stretch of sand was a hive of activity as people bustled too and fro making preparations for the final assault on the capital. A trapdoor in the sand had been uncovered, leading into a surprisingly vast cellar that caused a few raised eyebrows until Ikari explained that it was seferikally sealed. The sandbar was only accessible at low tide, meaning they had just a few hours here before the rising water would force them to move on. But it was long enough for their purpose. Certainly long enough for those assembled to divvy up equipment ready for the oncoming confrontation.

Chief amongst that equipment of course was the cache of serf boards Grifarne had looted from the ruins on Inan. It was these that would (they hoped) give them the edge in the coming battle, lending them a small but highly manoeuvrable aerial force that ought to be able to outflank the Imperial Tor and give the Myson a run for their money. There was of course the thorny issue of the Maw: debate was still rife on the subject, particularly given that the Ichthian’s intelligence network had been able to gain nothing on what the Drakes intentioned to do when the Orphans finally made their move. Any communication between the League and the Maw must be going on behind some very secure doors as there had not been a whisper, not even a peep, to hint at the dragon’s intentions when the shit hit the fan.

Speaking of dragons… He pointed, pushing the wolf’s snout further back out of the way (to muttered protest from Black Claw’s ghost) to gaze up at the firmament overhead. “There, I see him…!”

Clarissa strained, squinting against the glare, one hand holding the tangled mass of her hair out of the way as she gazed upwards, the lapels of her long coat slapping against her legs. “I… yes! I see them now.”

Them…?

As if their words had been a cue others along the stretch of sand raised their own eyes to the sky, heads cocked against the glare of the sun. Timo squinted and realised that yes, there was another Drake up there, gliding at Tusonc’s side. His hide was such a pale blue as to almost perfectly match the sky. It was only the glint of the sun off his flank that gave away his presence. Clarissa’s companion Pantallion had quit the beach that morning claiming a conflict of territory as his reasons. It was a classic display of the ridged code of honour that usually bound the Drake behaviour. He and the Soone scion had bade Pan farewell with equanimity, but Timo was very conscious of the fact that those not aware of the ace up Galairel’s sleeve felt it left them dangerously unmatched against the Imperials.

It was a situation that could not be helped, without tipping their hand.

Activity stilled across the beach as the dragons banked overhead, loosing height at what looked like an alarming rate as they dove towards the sandbar, Tusonc’s companion letting loose a bellow that could be mistaken for nothing other than joy. Timo found he was grinning, turned to meet Clarissa’s odd look with a raised eyebrow. She shrugged, smiling at his enthusiasm. He had the distinct feeling she’d have reached out to ruffle his hair if he wasn’t taller than her. He touched his warrior’s tail self consciously, reassuring himself it was still intact. The wind had pulled most of his fringe loose and he’d eventually resigned himself to the fact there was little he could do about that, settling for shoving it behind his ears every now and then. It was part of the reason he’d worn the wolf, quite aside from Grifarne’s suggestion that it’d be good for people to see him thus attired.

“You will be a rallying point in the coming fight,” the Skuigr had reminded him. “It’ll help for them to get used to seeing those ears sticking up above the crowd.”

He’d yet to actually use the cloak in front of anyone. They’d decided some things were best saved for the main event.

The dragons were coming in fast, using the momentum they’d gained in their dive to ride low over the waves. Timo grinned, watching as expectant faces slowly turned to cautious question and then looks of panic as the dragons showed no sign of stopping.

Almost as one the crowd ducked as the Drakes swept overhead, talons easily five or six feet above head height (though he granted it felt closer as they tore by). Timo alone had remained resolutely standing; even Grifarne had ducked and was now climbing sheepishly to his feet with the rest of the assembled. He noticed Timo’s attention and stuck his tongue out. Timo grinned back, before raising his eyes to peer out across the waves once more as the dragon’s banked to head back in at a more sedate pace.

Show offs.

I believe the phrase is ‘making an entrance’?

The vocal chorus was unfamiliar, a collection of tenor notes with a couple of sopranos thrown into the mix, at least one of whom seemed to be lagging behind the rest. It made for an odd but not unpleasant mixture, like an under practiced church choir whose descant couldn’t decide whether she should be call or response. Timo quite liked it. Certainly it was a refreshing change from Tusonc’s fatherly rumble, or Kirigama’s slightly leftfield jocularity.

He felt a momentary stab of sadness at the thought of his former friend, but recovered himself quickly, glancing about surreptitiously as he dashed tears from his eyes that could as easily have been caused by the oncoming wind.

He was a staunch comrade. We all share your loss.

Timo nodded his thanks, certain the Drake would be able to pick out the gesture with his excellent eyesight as he came in to land before the assembled, claws descending into the surf to kick up a respectable wave that set the ships rocking at anchor and drenched those unlucky enough to be stood on that side of the shore. There was a certain amount of swearing, but the majority of it was good natured, and died quickly when Tusonc offered to dry out anyone who felt they needed it.

Timo stepped forwards with Clarissa, spotting Ikari, Grifarne and the assembled captains also making a beeline for the dragons as their various lieutenants began cajoling everyone else back to work. Tusonc came forward, his neck craning out over the beach as Timo approached with raised hand to greet the senior Drake with genuine warmth. Though it was long the beach was narrow, which left the dragon with his feet still firmly planted in the surf, the surrounding waters choppy against his midnight hide.

“I’d offer to try and clear a space for you,” Timo said, gesturing at the sands to either side, “but I’m afraid I don’t think we have the room.”

Tusonc huffed appreciatively. We are fine. Wet sand is actually good for the hide.

Speak for yourself old man.

Timo grinned, glancing guiltily at Tusonc as he schooled his features, but the head of the Wind Chasers cocked his head slightly to offer Timo a surprisingly human wink. He sighed. “I suppose it’s not like you’re likely to get cold.”

Guess I can stoke up the furnace.

Man and Drake turned to regard the pale dragon, who puffed out his chest, the chromatophores there taking on a fiery hue as he split his lips in a grin that revealed the banked flames lurking behind his clenched teeth. Timo rolled his eyes at the muffled gasps from those still surreptitiously watching, sharing a look with Tusonc.

May I present my erstwhile partner in crime, the Chimara Michka. Fondly known as the Joker to his friends… This last was delivered as if through gritted teeth, an impressive sound coming from a dragon.

“Michka, well met.” The Drake turned his head to vomit fire briefly into the sea (generating an impressive cloud of steam) before lowering his muzzle to accept Timo’s hand.

It’s good to finally meet Kir’s old friend. Well met, Little Wolf.

Timo grinned, glancing at the others to see whether the Drake had shared his words. Judging from the smirk on Ikari’s face he had.

“Nice to finally meet someone else who shares my sense of flair,” Enrico announced, surprising everyone by being the first of the assembled to step forwards to greet the newcomers. Timo eyed the man’s easy poise suspiciously. Either he’s drunk, or he’s done this before, he decided. With Enrico, it could just as easily be either, regardless of the fact it was barely past midday.

The others came forward in ones and twos to exchange greetings. Though all were polite there was an undercurrent of anger to the assembled, one that Timo was pleased to see mirrored in the raised hackles of the Drakes. News of what had happened in Kharpal had reached the fleet as they made land fall, prompting an emergency session of the gathered captains and Ichthians. Only the unexpected arrival of Mikael’s bird in his cache had stopped them from launching a response. Any sort of decision making had (thankfully) been taken out of his hands since they set sail. He was just an asset now, to be deployed like the rest of the fleet where the Efljos and his people saw fit. The fact he disagreed with those who’d spoken out about going against the established plan, citing the need to respond to the Imperial’s crass act of provocation, wouldn’t mean anything if the assembled heads decided to issue orders to that effect.

Thankfully his words had had the desired effect, though he could tell not all at that table had been pleased to hear them. There were a number of the reforged particularly who’d felt his testimony lacked weight. He’d been forced to drag the message itself out, gifting his Sight to any of the assembled who were Blind so that they might witness the veracity of his words.

“But surely this merits some sort of response?!” one man demanded, rising from his seat. Timo realised he recognised him as the man at arms from the doorway in Mestrarl on the night of the reforging. Their eyes met for a moment, Timo looking away at the judgement he found there.

“Yes,” Lyse Soltais had turned withering eyes on the newly made Wraethi, “and that’s precisely what we’ll deliver this evening when we take the Senate out of League hands.”

“But what of our brothers and sisters in Kharpal?” the man protested.

“I believe that’s why the boy’s been asked to go and visit the Queen,” Naria cut in, glancing at Lyse who nodded in agreement. “Or did you fancy stepping into the dragon’s lair yourself?”

That seemed to shut him up, though Timo could tell he didn’t like it. He took his seat once more, but it was with an ill grace. Timo glanced at Naria and Lyse, receiving a grim wink from the former and a nod from the later. “Go,” Lyse advised, calling “…report to me on your return!” after his retreating back as he quit the room. He’d wasted little time, stepping directly from the ship’s corridor into the mouth of the cavern Praesus had dug for herself beneath the ruined roof of the old Grove’s commons. It was only as he started out down the glassy slope, sending a wisp ahead to announce his presence, that he realised what a vote of confidence that parting remark had been.

Formalities done, the majority of those gathered returned to their tasks, leaving Lyse to hash out the details of what the Drakes needed to know. Timo took the opportunity to study the new comer, marvelling at the almost glassy sheen of his armour. Where Tusonc resembled a night sky covered in drifting stars, Michka’s hide had been crafted to render him all but invisible on a clear day, though as he’d just demonstrated the skin between his heavier plates could apparently flare through deep shades of yellow to fiery red. The scaling around his hackles and chest was, if anything, even more feathery than that of Tusonc, and Timo had marked the subtle difference in silhouette between the two during their flyby. He resolved to approach the Drake about it, when they weren’t about to go to war.

“So you will convey Timo in to the city?”

Tusonc raised his chin: the Drake equivalent of a nod. You have the harness Kirigama gave you?

Timo nodded, gesturing towards the ship. “It’s with my things.”

We will fit it before you leave with the tide.

Let me carry the wolf, please…?

Everyone turned to regard Michka, who was mugging eagerness like a begging hound. Timo stifled a giggle, glancing at Lyse to find a rare smile on her face. Tusonc looked heavenward before turning his regard to Timo, who studiously schooled his features.

You’d be happy with this arrangement?

Timo tried for a nonchalant shrug. Judged from Ikari’s poorly schooled expression that he didn’t quite pull it off. “I think we’ll get along.”

Hmm, yes. I somehow thought you might say that… Tusonc turned to Lyse, who nodded her agreement, shooting Timo the sort of look his mother would offer before reminding him to behave whilst they attended church. Very well, it is decided. Tusonc cast his gaze over them before looking out to where their contingent of board riders had paused in their practice to watch the gathering nervously. His attention came back to them, centring on Lyse. A word in private?

She nodded, dismissing the others as she and the dragon walked off a little way down the beach. Timo turned to Michka and gestured towards the ship before heading off to find the complex harness that would allow him to ride at the Drake’s shoulder. About him activity resumed with renewed vigour as the various captains made ready to leave.

 

As dusk settled in the ships finally weighed anchor, setting sail for the coast and the parking swarm off the shore of Incarnate. Timo joined the rest of the shock troopers making final preparations on the deck of the Run. Overhead, Tusonc and Michka turned lazy circles against the reddening skies. A hand on his shoulder made him turn and he smiled at the Nym who stood behind him.

“I need to go and inform Deliana things are moving.”

Timo nodded, offering both hands for a wrist clasp that turned into an embrace.

“See you on the other side kiddo.”

“Sure thing partner.”

Ikari’s lips quirked crookedly as the he stepped back. Raising one hand for the evenor, he lofted the other in farewell before vanishing from the deck in a whip-crack of blue/white light.

Timo sighed, turning back to the view.

Time to put on your rebel face.


Serf's Up (To Walk the Path 17)

The Orphans prepare for war in this, the seventeenth chapter of 'To Walk the Path'.

  • ISBN: 9781311107800
  • Author: Paul Smith
  • Published: 2016-07-15 14:40:08
  • Words: 2790
Serf's Up (To Walk the Path 17) Serf's Up (To Walk the Path 17)