11

Mar

by thefourpartland

The third installment in a new short story, one of three from the upcoming Splintered Lands: Volume One.

The skiff bumped land, and Ellgis crept from it to peer through the tangled brush. Little stood of the hamlet now, with stumps showing where the huts had once perched. The stench of the swamp clawed at his nostrils, but underneath it he caught decay. Some of the inhabitants had not fled the Knights in time.

A tap on his arm spun him round, but it was only Fryca, come to see what had happened. They watched as birds fluttered across the village, and vermin crawled forth from the wreckage with strange prizes in their teeth.

Satisfied the ruins were empty, the inventors clambered from their hiding place. A short stroll brought them to the door of their hut, which stood erect and undamaged, tucked away in a dell some distance from the ruined homes.

Ellgis glanced about, and waved Fryca back. She snorted, and strode into the building only to come out fuming moments later. “They took everything! Everything!”

“They took it? They didn’t burn it this time?”

She gestured irritably at the doorway, and Ellgis stepped inside. The hut was empty, cleaned of anything remotely mechanical. Only the beds remained, those and the small table and chair at which both had worked for hours upon hours.

Ellgis slumped to the ground. “I had hoped…” His head sunk into his hands.

“We knew the Knights would destroy what we built. At least we have our notes, and plenty of supplies.”

“Supplies? Bah! Nothing ever works right in this swamp. The wood’s too wet, it won’t burn, it’s weak, cords rot and fail, and we can barely perform a third of the experiments we can think up. We should be in another kingdom.”

“You mean one where we can’t hide from the Wheelies? Where we end up hanging? No thanks Ellgis, I’ll take the swamp.”

Clank.

“Go!” Fryca ran for the door, tumbling at the last moment as a mace swung through the air. She rolled to her feet and sprinted toward the skiff. A glance back showed Ellgis on the ground, bleeding slowly. He hadn’t ducked the weapon.

Knights pounded after her, but in their armour they were nowhere near as fleet of foot as she, and she pushed the skiff into the swamp with several feet to spare. A spear sailed past and ploughed into the front of the boat, but she was away, pulling strongly at the oars.

Fryca’s last image of Ellgis was of him bound over a horse, being led away by the Knights of the Broken Wheel. She’d have to see if she could rescue him, the poor fool.

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