wackjob thirsty reach for water
leave the glass in pieces
back onto the train that wanders
off the beaten track
forged by lepers’ hands
The creature that tumbled out the window earlier still writhes upon the stone. It reaches fruitlessly for the gang’s ankles nearby. With a nudge of her foot, Shyan rolls the thing away to rest harmlessly on its rotten stomach. Fassn lands beside them easily enough. A man-thing above tries its luck with the twisted sheet, but lacks the dexterity necessary to grip it, and it falls the full storey. Some of its dumb compatriots look on from the broken window.
The sun is coming up, the morning mists recede. The castle seems somehow hazy, indistinct, contrasting strongly with the lighthouse. It’s crisp, with hard outlines against the grey sky. For Abia, it positively thrums with arcane energy though its top is dark and still.
“My road is almost over,” laments Berstuun, but he makes no move to leave.
“Afraid so,” Shyan replies. She looks to the lighthouse.
“You’re useless, you know that?” Shyan says to Berstuun. She climbs the sheet first, dropping to the ground from almost the halfway point, landing easily and rising without effort. She holds out her arms. “Bombs away,” she calls up.
Fassn nods and, grinning, says to Berstuun, “Old Ajralan, may you have your fill,” and tosses him out the window. His gaunt frame makes this pretty easy and soon he’s sailing through the misty, early-morning sky.
Cang is next down the rope. He’s quick, but Berstuun’s falling form is quicker. Cang leaves a slick trail of blood from his wounded hand, but is otherwise unharmed. The noise of the creatures above is deadened, and the day seems almost serene, save for the wailing of the old man, tumbling through the air.
Shyan catches him, mostly, but she’s knocked to the ground. Berstuun, at least, doesn’t break bones upon the cobblestones. He rolls onto his back amongst the shattered glass, breathing heavily, as Shyan scrambles to her feet.
Fassn holds the man-things back while Abia descends the rope. She’s careful about it, slowly working her way down. Fassn, meanwhile, growls and grumbles at the creatures about Old Ajralan. When one of their extended arms comes near him, he grabs and bites it, dragging a juicy chunk of blue-grey flesh away from the forearm. The creature seems undisturbed, and Fassn chews thoughtfully for a moment before descending the rope.
Of course, all the doors in the corridor are locked. Their handles are hot to the touch. Shyan plants a square kick or two on a likely candidate. It splinters, cracks, gives. Inside, a forgotten guest room, layered with dust, cobwebs, the decay of ages. Importantly, sheets.
Abia holds the grumbling creatures away with her frigid fingers. She hears in her head the complaints of Ulxurix, both annoyed and amused at this display of arcanery. Fassn, meanwhile, pinches fabrics and licks dust, while wheeling around enough to make Berstuun look seasick.
Cang and Shyan get to work fashioning a rope of a bedsheet. They twist it until it’s densely knotted. With a tug they test its tensile strength, then heave it out the broken window. It’s long enough to climb down.
“What about me?” asks Berstuun, finally. “I never learned how to climb.”
Fassn reaches for him but it’s Berstuun that lays a hand. His eyes meet Cang’s, and for an instant there’s a connection there, a recognition of the lich’s foul powers. Berstuun, grunting with the effort of grabbing Cang from over Fassn’s shoulder, lets a bit of purple light leak through his teeth. Cang sees it, his heart hammering. He feels that his own teeth are purple, too.
Shyan grabs Fassn, heaves him back into the corridor. Abia stands facing the slack-jawed creatures, her hand aloft. It sparkles with an icy blue flame, a gentle distortion of reality’s field. Nothing appears abnormal about it at all. The creatures fear it and won’t go nearer.
Ulxurix’s voice booms through the castle. “Get them, you jibbering fools. You won’t like it if I have to come down there myself.” This sends the things into a scurry of unco-ordinated behaviour. They bump into one another. One tumbles out the window.
Cang massages his bloody palms, says, “Perhaps we could try another way.”
Cang leaps at the window, feet first, his small form a perfect horizontal line, headed for the glass.
Shyan, Abia and Fassn duck back away from the impending shatter, but the groaning man-things are oblivious.
The cracking of the pane rends the air, deafens those with ears to hear it. The creatures are insensate: either they lack the capacity to hear, or their grumbling noises are enough to drown out the prodigious noise. Their flesh catches shards, though, pieces of glass bursting free of their moorings as Cang sails out into the damp air.
The sun’s still below the horizon, but it paints the sky a cool, crisp grey, with the promise of golden light to come.
Cang reaches for the windowsill, turning in the air like a cat, his hips and shoulders in rolling counterpoint. He’s only a storey up, but it’s a storey more than he’d like to fall. His fingertips find purchase, but his bodyweight slams him back into the side of the building, and he dangles, looking up for help.