It’s been eight days judging by the cycle of Feylf. Somehow Teegan and Rohan aren’t at Kirtin-in-the-Sky. They also aren’t on the road they expected to be on, some kind of rockfall blocked it and somehow Rohan convinced her that they should go on a path a bit to the west and across a valley. Prior to that rockfall they’d picked up a glassblower also on her way to Kirtin-in-the-Sky for the same service.
Now, they’d missed their reporting date. Runoffs power raging streams and rivers as they try to pick their way north. Little Estrella’s pigeon could get a message back to either her tiny village, EVEN SMALLER THAN KORLOTT, or to Kirtin-in-the-Sky, but the glassblower is scared. They aren’t along known routes, no pigeons or coursehounds have been seen in days.
Teegan isn’t willing to admit that she’s lost. Rohan insists that he knows if they “just find headwaters of Crinth they’ll be fine.” She doesn’t know to believe that he actually knows or if he’s adopted a war story as truth. The River Crinth divides the Confederation from Azsel. It rips through the edge of the Keltann Slope. If he’s right, and over that ridge or the next one, or the next one? they could catch up to the rest of their Year and Serve.
She doesn’t have any ideas. That pigeon, Chechu, will not be leaving Estrella’s shoulder. Ha-Lim is a better scout in this terrain than stupid little Alleway. Being 11 months older than these two is turning into a curse. Young enough she serves in the same year, but old enough she’s “in charge” of a glassblower and a goatherd.
Rough rocks and scrub pine are their other companions. Food continues to run low. They find some berries once-in-a-while, but something has to happen.
Now there are dark clouds in the sky and they’ll be three to the one leaky tent. It’s been a miserable trip and why would she listen to Rohan again, about anything?
Another cold damp night, but she has Ha-Lim. He is warm, even while wet. She lays against him, because his soul is warm. She needs the comfort of a partner, rather than dependents.
In the morning they have plenty of water, but little food.
Trudging through the mud will not be fun. They crest a ridge and see the River Crinth, the whole valley. They also see a sky of green and hail with winds and some sickening funnel cloud down on the plains of Crinth.
There are sparks and lights flying across the river. It’s bewildering.
A pack of dogs circle a hut. These are warhounds, not service dogs. Getting a count is improbable. There are also three halflings with them, again around the hut. The idiots aren’t going in, and there is a hail, in Summer. This isn’t a storm for anything but hunkering down.
“Hey, can we get in there?,” Rohan shouts, “It’s chilly and we can all share.”
A sharp whistle and two of those huge hounds flank a grizzly old halfling, probably the leader.
“The hut and everything in it is ours. Go away children. Go away, now.”
Teegan snickers. This old halfling is trying to boss Rohan and that’s never worked. Except the man hears the laugh, and a different sharp whistle sends those two dogs towards Teegan. Ha-Lim prepares to charge them.
“Are you blind? We’ll die out here in this crazy weather,” Rohan is livid. “There’s lightning and hail and a tornado. We need shelter.”
A dazzling spray of light showers from Rohan’s hands. The dogs stop moving, bewildered and unable to see. Their companion is also blinded.
“Kill them, or capture. I don’t care. Get Piyu too,” the leader shouts with his hands rubbing his eyes.
Ha-Lim rams right through one of those warhounds. It is knocked cold.
As the other dogs and halflings turn to face the kids the door to the hut collapses. A large boot sticking out into it for a moment. A club smashes down onto an unfortunate hound. A grey dog bursts out from the door as well. It pounces onto one of the black and brown beasts.
Estrella ducks behind some scrub. This is exactly why she didn’t want to go to war.
Three of the six opposing dogs are down and out. Two more are blinded. One of the halflings is blind as well. The other two point their drawn short swords at the three children of Kirtin.
“Do you surrender?” Master Kellamon Scoques Lady Harsop steps from the hut. A whip and Bastos at his side. That whip disarms one of the hunters.
Estrella shouts yes. The leader of these hunters screams “No.”
A bit drunk on this unknown power Rohan screams “then die.” Three missiles of light and force shoot from his hands. The blinded dogs both take one, the leader the other. Rohan’s pike is lying on the ground now. This arcane power shooting forth is intoxicating. And the human child disappears.
Piyu clubs one of those swordsman with that board from the floor of the hut. It splits in half over the woman’s head. Rohan throws her hammer at a dog trying to take out Ha-Lim. The children, the escaped slave and the Master are dominant.
“Now?” Master Scoques asks.
“Yes.” Two swords drop, with a soft whistle that calls the remaining dog back to the hunters.
“Then leave. Leave forever. Piyu is free. Tell the Ranch that you never found us. Because if I return and point out that you were trying to take me, you are dead. You have no shelter from the storm. You do not deserve it.”
As they walk away Piyu calls to his heron, who swoops down and plucks the eyes from the leader. Piyu follows that up with a giant rock into the little halfling’s back. That leader is crushed under the weight of a stone that a nine-plus foot mammoth of a kin can hurl.
The other sprints off towards a tornado and a war fought between things that can control fire and lightning, kind of like what Rohan just did. Rohan is still gone.
Master Scoques takes charge. “Find that boy.” He points to Teegan. “Behind the bush, get over here so we know everyone is safe. And Piyu, you’ve just made our future. It’s not one I wanted, but it’s one I’m willing to take.”
Teegan is confused. How can she find Rohan. He did that thing and poof. Stupid little Alleway is sitting, as he does when he wants a treat. But the terrier looks up and then sniffs in circles, and then looks up at the same spot and then circles. This act is repeated a few more times.
“Alleway come!” He does not. He stares at a space about 5 feet up in the air, and then leaps up. Rohan pops into sight, right there, with his damn dog in his hands.
Raucous laughter comes from the teen. “I did that! I did that! I think I can do it again!”
“Boy, you will not. We’re all in quite a bit of trouble now,” Kellamon is used to leadership. “As soon as this storm passes we need to go. Two hunters died at our hands. I won’t be accepted in Crinth. Piyu cannot go back to Azsel and our Ranch. You three are clearly not where you are supposed to be, so you’re coming.”
This slaver’s speech is correct, yet disturbing. While Kirtin and Azsel are at war, there is little that can help the three teens away from their society. Rohan is partially to blame, and if Azsel demands him there are those in Kirtin that would turn him over rather than start a hot war.
“We shall, but where,” she decides for all three.
At the same time Rohan chuckles, “I go where I want.”
Estrella is calm, cowardly and absolutely fascinated by what Rohan has done. It is beyond the powers she’s seen in her little village. This thing can be used to hold the Slope, or free slaves, or whatever. She’ll follow Rohan, because he has power, if not authority.
“If you come with us, boy, you will be a free man. If not, you will be at the whim of those hunters’ family. We’re going to Sheljar. It does not allow recapture. Piyu will be free. You will be free. The girls will be free. And I’ll be able tell my family I’m alive, but gone.”
“Young lady, it should be about two weeks journey through these mountains to the west. Fani and Piyu can find us fish. It will be hard, but we’ll live.”
Piyu nods his head and enters the shed. “Come, come. This storm will be over soon.” A small cloud above his head disappears and three of the moons appear in their phases. The Dragon is hinted by a dark splotch.
When the teens enter the hut, it is quite crowded. A ram, a terrier, a pigeon, a heron, a warhound, a goliath, a halfling and the human teens isn’t much space in this outbuilding. But it is warm. Kellamon has food. There are introductions broken up by thunder and the scream of fierce winds, maybe even screams from the battle down along Crinth. It doesn’t stop with the storm, but accelerates and worsens.