Celta Thursday, Heart Fate Cut Scene
Stomping of feet, crunching of branches, ahead of her.
She scuttled, then stopped at the sound of voices, put her hand over her mouth to quiet her ragged breathing. "–That pidyn-suckin' fliggerin' sonofa-blerk Winterberry. I wish that grychomp had eaten his bare ass. Swaggerin' inta our gatehouse an' tellin' us to walk – walk! – to Northgate lookin' for some stup of a lil' girl who got herself lost. I was just ready to sink my teeth into a cinnamon glazed doughround. Ya see how Winterberry looked down that arrogant nose at us?"
"Sloegin, I thought he said 'patrol.' Patrol between here and Northgate."
Lahsin was caught in an awkward crouch. The door in the wall was just two meters from her. She could see it now, a small, square door. If only she was there! Branches had formed a thicket around the door, but byeond were much thinner. She could see the colors of the Eastgate guardsmen's uniforms. If she could see them, they could see her . . . .
"Patrol," Sloegin snorted. "That's walkin' our asses off this whole quarter a' the city! Ya think he went ta Southgate an' Northgate? No. He only came ta us and we're the only ones doin' this search. Fliggerin' Cave of the Dark Goddess, I try'n stay outta his way, an' this happens. I only got 'leven more months afor I can pull a nicely pension and hire on private somewheres for more pay and a cushier life. Fliggerin' Winterberry, grychomp meat."
"I heard that on ancient Earthen, the guards patrolled in gliders," the second man said.
The first smacked the second on the head, snorted, "Gliders? My ass. Gliders are for more important things than findin' a little girl-wife." He smacked his lips. "The old man liked her young 'n tender."
"Those FirstFamilies are weird. Always said so."
They were coming closer and closer. Lahsin used precious Flair to fashion a no-see-me shieldspell around herself, wondered if it worked. She'd only heard of the new no-see-me spells and had practiced crafting this one by herself. It demanded considerable Flair, so she slowly straightened, leaned against the wall.
"Did you hear somethin'?" the second guard asked.
There was silence except for their breathing.
"Getting cold, snow's comin' t'day or t'morra." More boot stamping. "My feet are cold. I never got no celtaroon boots. No more nice paved path, we gotta go in there? Nothin' but big plants 'long there. Pro'bly got big thorns."
Another snort from the first one. "You afraid'a that shadow beast they talking about? Might be a grychomp."
"A grychomp in the city? How could that happen? Couldn't come over the walls, through the gates." A small hesitation. "Too bad, their fur and teeth sell for good gilt." His shoulders straightened. "Aint no shadow beast, some big tomcat, mebbe. Don' believe nothin' 'bout no big beast at all."
"Yeah. This trashy bit runs quite a way 'long the wall and the backs a those buildins."
"Mostly deserted, those buildins. Don' know what might be livin' innor 'round 'em."
Lahsin couldn't keep the spellshield up, she could feel it slipping, but the door was shrouded by tall bushes and set deeply into the wall. She put on a burst of speed and fell into the dark corner where door and brick met.
"That was def'nitely a sound." One said louder. "The beast mebby?"
"Thought you said you did believe in the beast."
"Changin' my mind. Should we 'vestigate?" He sounded nervous but determined.
Fumbling, Lahsin found the door handle, pressed the thumb latch. Nothing happened. Oh, Lady and Lord, oh, please, please, please, she prayed mentally, sensing the strong shields – more like forcefields – set in the walls, fiddling with them. She'd always been good with shields. Lady and Lord, please, I need in--
"Guess we better look down there, 'least til it narrows."
"Them plants are too high, too wild."
I need in now! Tears streaked down her face. She breathed through her mouth. Lady and Lord, in!
The door opened and she plunged into a tangle of bushes.
"Nothin'. Nothin's here," the second man said loudly.
Lahsin watched with wide eyes as the door swung silently shut. On the back was a plaque that caught the sun and read, "BalmHeal." She slumped in relief.
There came thrashing beyond the door, crackling of bush branches. More swearing.
"You said the guards used to patrol in gliders?"
"On Earthen, yeah."
"I gotta guy at Northgate. Owes me a favor. Might be able to wangle the gate glider."
"Yeah? Yeah? Can't go no further. Sure looks like a place where that shadow beast might lurk. Look, gotta rip in my coat sleeve. Nasty plants."
"Yeah, you're a reg'lar sophisticated city boy."
Lahsin wasn't taking any chances. She ran down a twisting path showing patches of stone underneath the overgrown groundcover. Through a couple of tall, maze-like hedgerows, in, in, in.