With all the magic and the fire of guns, the corridors of the lab and even the tunnel leading out were warm and filled with smoke. Therefore, once I set paw outside of the tunnel the night’s cool and clear air was such a stark contrast.
Outside there was something that appeared to be serenity—no sounds of violence, or any sounds that were misplaced in the tranquil jungle. However, that calm was a lie.
I still held Dumm in my claws like a burlap sack. He showed little signs of life apart from the whimpering moan every now and then. Thornfang paced back and forth beside me, obviously tense. Looking around I saw many of the krewe members, obviously too shocked to speak. Most of them were not used to combat, although even the most veteran soldier’s morale can be shattered when they are the victim of a surprise attack, as I knew all too well.
Still, somethings were of immediate importance.
“Dumm needs a medic,” I said.
Although I spoke softly, my voice still seemed to cleave the very air in two, and many of the asura acted like my voice brought them back from a faraway place.
One of the asura stood up and waddled towards me.
“Lay him down,” he said, his voice quavering slightly.
He examined Dumm intently, with a collection of “hmm’s” and grunts. Slowly, he placed his hands on the shoulder and a blue light wrapped around his hands and the wound.
Deciding that it was best to leave him to it, I sought out Glix.
“We need to get out of here,” I said, keeping my voice as calm as I could. “The Inquest are still inside the lab, and will come looking for us, I think.”
Glix scraped his throat. “Yes, I suppose you are correct.”
I patiently waited for Glix to continue, but the loss of some of his krewe members, not to mention his entire lab, seemed to thrown the otherwise resolute leader off his game.
“Where to?” I asked.
“Ah, yes. Hmm. Well…”
“How about Rata Sum?” Kaya said, after silently making her way to us.
I had to claw it to her; she knew how to move silently.
“Rata Sum?” Glix answered as in a haze.
“Indeed,” she said. “We have lost a part of our krewe and our whole lab. As such, in order to regain either of those, we need to return to Rata Sum. Or, well…” she seemed to be in doubt. “Regardless, Rata Sum is the best location of weigh all options.”
“That’s true…” Glix said. “Allright then,” he nodded, “to Rata Sum it is.”
While Glix started to address the rest of the krewe, I walked over to Dumm and his healer.
“Is he better?” I asked against better judgment.
“No,” the asura answered. “He is stable though. However, my magic is not strong enough to heal him fully, we need to bring him to the city. The only problem is moving him.”
“I could carry him.”
“Technically, yes, but I doubt that such a course of action would be wise. He needs to be moved as stable as possible.”
“Then what about a stretcher? We could fabricate one of those easily enough.”
For a few seconds the asura stared at me, unblinking.
“Ah, hmm, yes. I forgot all about those.”
The walk from the lab to the city was long and arduous. Nobody was talking, part from exhaustion, part from fear and part from grief. I could not talk to Kaya, as she lead the procession with Glix whereas I was guarding the rear with Thornfang.
In front of me were two asura carrying the stretcher on which Dumm lay, who every so often gave a weak sing of life, but nothing more than that. I wished that I could help them carry it, but the difference I height would be so great that Dumm would be in danger of slipping off.
After many, long hours the sun was high in the sky as we arrived at Rata Sum. Sadly enough, I was far too tired to truly appreciate it. Once we were inside, Kaya came to me.
“Yea?” I replied with a voice dry from thirst and worry.
“Most of us well be staying at our college, but Glix and I have decided to stay at one of the inns.”
“I want to see Dumm to the healers, actually.”
“I figured as much,” she said with a wan smile. “But ask any of the guards and they might point you in the right direction.”
“Eh, well, they can be a bit uncooperative at times.”
“I see. I might see you later, then.”
Seeing Dumm off went smooth enough, and even the guard I spoke to must have been in a good mood, because he pointed me straight to the place I had to be. Stepping inside, I quickly saw Kaya and Glix sitting at a table, so I decided to join them. Kaya greeted me with a quick smile, but Glix just kept staring at his tankard.
Several minutes passed without any of speaking. I thought about what I should do next. Ever since leaving Ascalon, I have been in quite a few adventures, but somehow they all seem to end poorly and covered in blood.
Rationally, I knew that in each case the situation would have been worse if I hadn’t been around, but a part of me still thought that the situations were my fault to begin with. When running from the only place I ever called home, I had decided to stay alone but fate kept messing that up for me.
Almost I wished that the charr had gods, or that I believed in the six the mice cling to so I could swear at them and damn each and every one of them. But, I did not have that luxury. I am a charr, live is what we make of it, and it seemed that I had made a mess of it.
A sudden nudge from Thornfang against my claw broke my pondering. I glanced over and saw him staring intently at me. As if he knew what I was thinking. I placed my claw on his head and slowly ruffed the leaves he was covered in.
“So,” I said, scraping my throat and returning my attention to the two asura at the table, “what now?”
“What now?” Glix scoffed. “What now? I’ve just lost my research, my lab and a part of my krewe! What do you expect me to do, just carry on like it nothing?”
“You are not the only one who lost all that,” Kaya said pointedly.
Glix appeared to be taken aback by that; a red blush creeping up his cheeks.
Staring at the table, he said, “Sorry, you are right.”
“Also,” I added, remembering why I was carrying a bag around, “your research might not be lost completely.”
I placed the bag on the table with a heave ‘thunk,’ and both Kaya and Glix perched forward. I shoved it across the table to Glix, who opened it gingerly. Once he did, his eyes grew wide.
“But, this is… how did you… when… what?”
“Now you mention it,” Kaya interjected, almost standing on her stool just to get a look inside the bag, “where did you go? You suddenly came bursting through the Inquest ranks from behind.”
“When I first heard some odd noises, I went straight to the workshop.”
“This is amazing!” Glix said, finally regaining some of his enthusiasm. “With this I can easily continue my research!”
“Why did you go through all that trouble?” Kay spoke softly.
“Well, the power core of that thing was paid for with a high price, so I couldn’t let it go to waste.”
Kaya snickered. “You think more like an asura with each passing day!”
“I’m… not sure how to feel about that,” I replied darkly.
“Actually,” Glix interjected ponderously, “has either of you seen Marn?”
I cringed inside from the name alone, but judging from their faces it was not just internally.
“You know where he is?” Kaya said.
“Yea, he’s, well… dead.”
“So he was killed by the Inquest too, then,” Glix said with a sigh.
“Not exactly, no…”
“What do you mean?”
“Remember that I went to the workshop straight away?”
“Yes,” both asura replied.
“Well, I was not the only one. Marn came in shortly after me.”
“So, he was trying to save the project too!” Glix said with a thoughtful nod.
For a few second I pondered whether I should tell him the truth or not.
“What happened?” Kaya asked.
Well, now I had no choice.
“He was leading the Inquest to the cannon. Considering how the Inquest listened to him, I think he might have been a spy all along.”
Glix’s jaw dropped.
“Well, that does not really surprise me,” Kaya said sadly.
“How can you say that?” Glix exclaimed.
Kaya just replied with a shrug.
“Are you absolutely sure, Kumara?” Glix said, leaving forward and fixing his large eyes on mine.
“Yes. He tried to take it from me by killing me until his end.”
The krewe leader slumped back into his chair, his eyes unfocussed. Kaya and I exchanged glances, but there was little we could do against the harsh truth laid out before us.
A few minutes passed in total silence, until Glix finally scraped his throat.
“Well, that does explain where he got the funding for my project so quickly.”
“Indeed it does,” Kaya nodded in agreement.
I was not sure what they were talking about, so I just kept silent.
“Now I will have to find a new sponsor,” Glix said with a deep sigh.
“Not after a good rest, though,” Kaya said. “Nobody will fund you if you look so tired.”
Glix rolled his eyes, but did not protest.
“I think we should all get some rest,” I said suppressing a yawn.
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.
Marn: An asuran krewe member who hates Kumara and proved to be a member of the Inquest.
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.