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.
I flee, screaming
scared of what the next will mean
the next, the next
new fears now, and unashamed
they fester, boil and rot
eggs and other splatter
webbed across the ground
crunchy glass underfoot