Chapter Seven: Spirits

The sound cut through the dawn.  Five long screeches, followed by a short message.

“Unfriendly knocks around the doors, boys. Better saddle up,” Greg’s voice bright, and chipper

It took Annabelle a minute to process what was happening but Nicole was already up, full size, as she pulled her jeans on.

“Fuckin’ Pa.  Stay here,” she said.  “Might be a false one.  Anything happens, over the fence, and to the river.  Follow it until you reach a big bridge with an ornate bottom.  Cathedral Bridge. Wait there.”  As Annabelle watched her friend leave, her whole body pulsed, her fire sputtering a bit as she worked to breath.

Soon as she was gone, the fairy shrank, and waited on top of the container.  The fog killed her vision.  She heard shouts from the garage.  A few loud calls, then utter silence.  Annabelle had felt this type of silence before, so calm was still out of reach.  It was just peace before battle.   She almost felt the violence, as it waited on the air.

Nicole broke through the fog, seeming to appear out of nowhere.  She carried a small battle axe, which she spun easily.  “It’s them,” she confirmed.   “We told them to back off, and calm down, but Pa’s telling us to arm up.  Thinks they might still try a run in, and I agree.  You’re leaving now, Wings.  Follow the river, just a few blocks.   Redbrick garage.  Our guy will meet you there.”

“What? I can’t-.”   She stopped herself, from even fully voicing the thoughts.  Staying out of fear was an act of selfishness far beyond her.  “Thank you, please be safe.”   As she backed off she saw the drake burst through the fog behind the leprechaun.   Nicole turned, but before she could even swing her axe it crashed into her, bouncing the small girl back, and into the steel wall.   She landed in a heap, beneath the fairy.

The drake’s rider urged it forward, and it opened its mouth.  Annabelle could smell its sulfur breath, but all she could do was stare, as it leaned toward the prone leprechaun.

No sound from the old man, just silence, as he sailed down from the top of a stack of cars.   He landed on the rider, dragging the man to the ground.  They fought for a moment until with the grace of a snake the drake turned.   The drake caught the old man around one shoulder with its massive jaws.  A snap and a cry from Greg as the creature slammed him into the ground.

Nicole was back up, she ran forward, and dived onto the creature’s back, then slammed the axe into it’s skull.  It dropped and the rider grabbed at her, clutching a wound in his side.   Nicole spun her axe around and with practiced ease dodged the man’s first swing.

She planted the axe into his shoulder. The soldier fell, and Nicole crushed his skull with a few fast stomps.

“Run, stupid!” Nicole screamed at her.   Blood spattered the girls light green shirt, and her eyes sang with battlelust.

“Your-.”  She stopped to try to call a warning , but the second soldier was too close.  He was a step behind the leprechaun, blade already up, as he broke through the fog.  Nicole spun, then dived toward him, sliding past.  He took a swing, but she was already up, as he turned her axe caught his throat.  She faced the fairy again.

“He’s dead, and it’ll be for nothing, if you don’t GO!”

Annabelle nodded as she launched up, and then glided toward the river.   The fog obscured her vision, and it took a long time to get to the water.   Behind her there were pops.  Gunfire, she knew from the demonstrations she witnessed at Stydran’s market.  She counted herself lucky to never come across the things elsewhere.

As she flew along the riverbank for the first time in her life she hated it.  The speed, and the air in her face.  She wasn’t flying today, she fled, and it didn’t feel like an adventure anymore.

She flew for too long, and was forced to backtrack along the river.  The fog had just begun to lift, and she could barely make out the edges of the buildings.

The only red one was squat, barely as big as a car.  The fairy flew next to it, staying low along the building.  Someone was already inside, she could hear them moving around.  She climbed up on the windowsill, and scraped her hand along the layer of filth.  Annabelle peered in, wholly focused on the source of the sound.

The fairy smelled the drake too late, she moved, but something tugged at her shoulder, as she jumped.   She sailed forward, her body twisting off target, slamming into the building.   She tried to flap, but only one wing caught air, the other just glided too easy.  The fairy knew why, but there was no time to focus on anything other than staying alive.

She grew out of defense, rolling onto her back, as the drake leaned over her.   It’s triangle head leaned in close, the tips of it’s yellow teeth showing, as it pulled its lips back.  It snorted on her, sending a few drops of snot onto her black shirt.  There was no rider, just a bare harness.  One of the creature eyes leaked blood, and it too dripped onto her as their noses almost touched.

It opened it’s jaws, and she tried to prepare the fire, as nerves failed her again.

The roar of the gun nearly deafened her.  It was a long one, with two side-by-side barrels, and both exploded with fire.  Blood landed hot on her face.  She backed up more, as the beast collapsed forward onto the ground.

Annabelle was grateful as she looked up at her savior, but she knew something was wrong as he grabbed her arm.  It was the man from the first night in the garage.  The one with the stinking breath, and the blade to her back.

Annabelle couldn’t hear anything, as the man slammed her into the wall.   Lips against hers, dirty breath pushing into her mouth.  His arm went across her throat, and she felt his hand fumble with her pants.  They dropped down, and she tried to shrink, or call fire, but the air was cut off.  Her heart-ember was already weakened and she could feel it starved of oxygen.  There wasn’t enough of her to power the magic, if she could even focus on it.  Her ember sputtered, and the world darkened.

Another boom, this one more felt than heard, and air returned.   She gasped, and choked on the ground.  A hand grabbed her, and she tried to pull back, but something hit her face hard.  An open palm.   A metal leg came into her view, and she glanced up.   Nicky stood over her, a smoking silver pistol in his hand.

She saw the garage man, Billy, she remembered suddenly next to her.  He was in worse shape than the drake.  His head was a lot smaller, and whatever had it him, had splattered much of it across the lot.

The fairy couldn’t hear his voice, it was too faint, but his tone was clear enough, even if he hadn’t started pulling her toward the garage.   She hitched up her pants, as Nicky dragged her along.   He opened the garage, and shoved her inside.   A large red car sat inside, and he shoved her into it too.  She tried to say something but if her voice worked he gave no sign.  All he did was start the car, and Annabelle couldn’t hear her own words at all.  She felt the vibration of the car, as it started.  It felt a lot deeper than Nicole’s small car.

The tires, scraped, and the car lurched, as he jiggled a stick set into the floor.  He punched the wheel, and his mouth opened but still no words.  They lurched again, and slowly rolled off.

She sat against the door, never taking her eyes off him.  After a while she realized her pants were still undone, so she fixed them, tucking her underwear beneath the waist.  Nicky glanced as she did, and she could almost feel the insult he probably wanted to throw.  His mouth just opened a little though.

They had a few more rough starts, the car seemed unhappy to move after every rest, but after a while they rolled smooth.

***

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