Time for another snippet. 🙂
This is from NOTTE, touching on a pretty major plot-point. Enjoy!
She sort of… skipped, boots barely touching the treacherous ground, keeping on her feet even as I slipped and staggered and relied solely on her grip to keep me on mine.
A cart waited, wooden, drawn by a sort of donkey. Or so I thought.
“What on earth is that?” said the donkey, who had horns, stripes on his legs, and a tuft of mane growing forward over his face to hide his eyes.
“A bargaining chip,” said Mab, and shoved me. “In the wagon. Now, creature.”
I obeyed, whimpering as the dried wood poked my skin, burning, burning me, burning.
“For what? Djaya’sus has whores already,” the donkey said.
“You, my friend, are possessed of a dirty mind,” said Mab, leaping to the front of the wagon, where a small seat had been affixed.
“If we run into any dragons, you’re handling them,” the donkey warned, and off we went.
The cart dug into me. Tiny splinters, merely uncomfortable for the average living being, sent jags of lightning-hot pain through my system, through my buttocks, my hands, my feet. I cried, but not loudly – determined to keep it to myself, to avoid letting them know, letting anyone know, though I did not even know why.
They both ignored me for long enough that even through my tears, I saw the battle.
I saw things I cannot explain.
Thousands of beings on that field, coming together like ants in crawling, tangling destruction. Spells shot through the air as green comets or red fists, as shiny black arrows that glittered in the doom-light so prettily that some victims stood still to see, and so met death surprised.
Above them all swirled the storm. Doom-light, I called it – for there was no sunlight, no sky, only that uncomprehending whirl, gray and flashing purple, thick like smoke and moving like water. All could be seen – but it was not natural light, not from sun or moon or stars or flame, and it turned all it touched pallid.
Above the battlefield, a figure suddenly arose, so large he dwarfed all, and his face was hidden by the terrible clouds. He raised his mighty arm, so slowly, it seemed, bringing down a hammer so bright I could not look upon it, and when it hit –
When it hit, the land jumped, throwing me nearly out of the wagon, throwing the donkey nearly off his hooves, and starting off a series of curses from Mab that seared themselves in my brain, and I will not repeat them.
I cried out; wood bit into me, searing me, robbing me of dignity.
“Dammit!” Mab shouted, and stood on the precarious bench, somehow effortlessly upright as she faced the battle field. “Damn you! How dare you use the last resort! Damn you, Faolin!” Her voice broke. Tears glistened on her cheeks in the doom-light.
“Sorry, May,” said the donkey, softening both her name and his tone.
She made a sound. A hitch in her breath. “Damn him,” she said to herself, and crumpled back onto the bench.
“I can’t believe he did that,” said the donkey, still clopping along, unmoved by the battle to our right, the storm, the giant bones, all of it. Over us arched the rib-cage of a thing I could not imagine, its bones casting strange green shadows on our skin.
“Well, he did,” said Mab, her tone hardened. “He’s going to be sorry.”
“Not in this battle he won’t,” said the donkey, and then twitched his big head in an equine shrug. “Sorry I said that.”
“No, it’s true.” She clenched her fist and sat up straight. “He’s done it. He’s won this battle. They’ll never recover from that.”
Sniffling, I tried to see the battlefield. Its dynamic had indeed changed; so many had died in that strike, so many unmoving and awkward underfoot, so much shock and grief and thoughtless rage. It seemed now the ant-swarm had changed, one enormous colony devouring an enemy foolish enough to challenge.
Mab cursed three more times, each one quieter and harder and more dangerous than the last. Then the only sound was the squeaking, rumbling cart; my tiny cries as wood punished me for existing; and the distant, fading cries of people dying for a thing I did not know.