I turned around to look at the little overhang again. I shoved the bodies into the brush where I knew predators would come for them soon, while burying their broken equipment. As for the camp itself, I only hastily covered that up, to give of the impression that the Inquest had left themselves and hid their own camp.
As a scout in my warband, fighting the Flame Legion and later the humans had tought me that deception was key. Making an enemy camp suddenly disappear was suspicious. Commanders would wait longer with investigating a missing squad if they thought them on the road, as they could simply have gotten lost or taken the long road around.
Now, I wanted to catch up and Kaya and Dumm as soon as possible, although They are likely to arrive at the lab before I did.
I was about two thirds of the way to the lab when I heard the telltale sound of the dolyak. I quickly caught up and saw Kaya and Dumm walking at a painfully slow pace.
Kaya looked up and said, “Oh, done already?”
“Done already?” I said bewildered. “I took quite some time! Why are you walking so slow?”
“Are we?” she replied.
Only then did I notice the hollow look in her eyes, devoid of life. She was not smiling.
“Are you okay?” I asked, placing my claw on her head, as I could not reach her shoulder without stooping.
“Not really,” she said with a sigh. “But it had to be done. They stole our supplies, we would have starved. It had to be done.”
It sounded more like a mantra, as if she was trying to convince herself.
“You are right,” I said.
Looking over to Dumm, he was silent. He looked much worse than Kaya did.
Then, the simple truth hit me.
They were not trained in a fahrar.
Unlike me, their skills were not taught with combat as their main purpose. They did not fight each other until they bled, just to hone their skill. By the Khan-Ur’s claw, I doubt they fight each other at all!
Although this revelation was useful, it did not help the current situation. I knew nothing I could say to help them. If they were charr, I would have congratulated them on a good battle, and praised the way they dispatched of their foes, but I doubted that would help these asura. Actually, I was rather sure it would not.
A couple of silent minutes later, we arrived at the entrance of the lab and headed down the long staircase. Surely, the heavy footfall of the dolyak would alert the krewe of our return.
Upon entering the lab’s large hexagonal hub we saw all the krewe members gathered there, staring at us in anticipation. Many worried faces split into wide grins as soon as they saw the dolyak laden with food and supplies. Some of them clapped—calmly— quite a few gave a stiff bow and a couple gave a modest whoop.
To be honest, I expected a more… warm welcome. Then again, these are asura. Still, compared to the feast I saw after defeating the grawl, this was a world apart, although I was not sure which I preferred.
Glix slowly stepped up to us and looked at the dolyak’s burden. Then he looked each of us in the eyes for a while; first Kaya, then Dumm and finally me.
“Thank you!” he said, breaking into a wide smile.
“Goo-ood Morning!” Kaya said, her smile back on her face.
I squinted as she turned on some weird light mechanism, its brightness still took me off-guard. Thornfang got up quickly from the other side of the room and sniffed her hand. He had not been happy to be left here while I was out two days ago, and as such, had been ignoring me whenever he could.
“What is it?” I said gruffly, unhappy to be awoken.
“Glix wants to see you.”
“Again?” I said with a sigh, rolling my eyes.
For some reason, Kaya burst into an uncontrollable fit of laughter. It took a little while before it had any use to further the conversation.
“What’s so funny?” I said in a half-growl.
“You didn’t do that when you first came here!”
I was confused. “Do… what?”
“Roll your eyes!”
It hit me that I immediately felt the urge to roll them again, and I realized she was right.
“Whatever! Why does Glix want to see me?”
“I was not given such information,” Kaya said with a smile and a shrug. “I’m just the messenger.”
“You called?” I said as I walked into the lower parts of the lab.
Never before had I gone here, but Kaya told me that Glix wanted to meet me here specifically. Quite a few krewe members were walking around, fidgeting with this, fine-tuning that or looking at consoles. In the middle of the room was something any charr would recognize: a cannon. Or, something that resembled one, as it was little more than a large barrel floating above a platform.
Typical asuran technology.
I tore my eyes off the device and unto the small creature, which was looking at me with some scrutiny.
“I see that you arrived,” he continued, shifting his focus to the device.
“Hard to miss.”
“Very true, my tall feline friend.”
“So, why did you call me, and why here? This place used to be off-limits for me.”
“As you might know by now,” the asura said, putting on a ponderous frown, “we asura have… fierce competition between one another. We rarely shy from stealing a good idea when we can. Therefore, we were hesitant to allow you access to our main project.”
“Even though I helped in its construction?”
“Yes. I do not expect a charr to understand to what lengths we can go when it comes to the field of science.”
“If only you guys showed as much determination when fighting,” I said, rolling my eyes.
“Ha!” Glix snorted. “You got me there!”
I gave him a toothy grin before I asked, “So why now?”
“Well…” he said, tapping his chin with one of his chubby fingers. “You have proven more than useful.”
“More than useful?”
“Ah,” was all I knew to say. I scraped my throat. “So, does that mean I’m part of the krewe now?”
“Yes, I suppose it does. Who would have thought it possible, an asuran krewe with a charr member!”
A few minutes of silence passed between us, where we both stared at the activity around the device.
“So, what are we building here?”
“Did you fail to deduce its purpose?”
“I would say it’s an asura’s idea of a cannon.”
“Quite right,” Glix said with a smile.
“The charr field armored tanks, why are you designing a cannon?”
“Oh, we are well aware of the cannons of the charr. Such crude devices; blasting orbs of metal. Although I cannot deny their effectiveness, the would do little against the bigger minions of the Elder Dragons.”
“Lieutenants, to be precise. Large, nasty creatures. Balls of metal would do little more than scratch them. No, what we are trying to build here is a cannon that utilizes the power of magical energy, and focusses it into a beam.”
“Sounds devastating!” I said gleeful.
“Indeed,” Glix replied with a sigh.
“You hit a snatch, didn’t you?”
“I did,” he said with a wide wave of his hand, his frustration palpable on his face. “Even when I used most of my mental capacity for it, I could not think of a plausible solution!”
“Well, what is the problem?”
Glix looked at me for a second, obviously doubting if telling me had any use.
“The power source,” he concluded his thoughts. “We cannot make the cannon condense the energy enough for it to become an actual beam! We tried just about every power crystal known to the asura!”
“So you thought of every plausible solution?” I pondered.
Granted, this was far beyond me, but maybe I could provoke some thought in him.
“What about implausible solutions?”
Glix hesitated for a while.
“Maybe we can obtain sufficient power if we… no, it’s impossible.”
“What is impossible?”
“Maybe if we somehow used the dragon’s power we could achieve our goal. But there is no safe way to do that! Not without wiping out the whole krewe!”
“I’ll be right back!” I told Glix, storming off.
I knew it was a long shot, but maybe, just maybe I could help. Storming into my room I rummaged my packs while Thornfang was battling his curiosity. Finally I caught hold of the linen-wrapped strongbox and dashed back to the workshop. There, Glix was staring at me in surprise.
“Where did you run off to?”
“I went to fetch this,” I said, holding the box out to him. “Maybe it can be of help?”
Glix cautiously accepted the box and removed the cloth. Once he opened the steel strongbox, fiery orange light washed over his face and in shock he dropped the box.
“Hot!” he yelped, but then his eyes widened as realization dawned. “That, that…” he stuttered, “is a piece of a Destroyer!”
As if an inaudible command was given, everybody in the workshop froze and the silence was deafening. All eyes were on us.
“Kumara, how did you get this?” Glix said, eying the box that had fallen shut on the floor.
“I fought a couple of destroyers for it.”
“You fought Destroyers?” he said, with his mouth open wide.
“Why did you never tell us?”
I looked away from everybody’s scrutinizing eyes.
“It was not a good time. So, will that sliver help you?”
The krewe leader grinned so widely that for an instant I feared that his jaw might get dislodged.
List Of Recurring Entities:
The following is a list of characters—apart from Kumara and Thornfang—who have made an appearance before this part, sorted by order of appearance. With all the different stories on CoT, I understand it is hard to keep track of all the characters.
Kaya: An asura member of the krewe who, apart from always carrying a smile, seems to like Kumara.
Dumm: An asura member of Glix’s krewe, who was the first of said krewe to meet Kumara.
Glix: The asura that leads the krewe that Kumara currently finds himself with.