Category Archives: 14.03

Sine Die 14.3

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“Oh man,” Evan said.  “Is that a dragon!?  That was fire in its mouth.”

“That was a dragon,” our satyr said.  “It disappeared.”

It had.  The area where the thing had dwelled was now only shadow, and stirring snow.

The satyr very pointedly looked up, as if expecting the dragon to drop on us from above.

Everyone present took his cue, moving closer to the nearest building, as if it might provide just a bit of cover.  It had the benefit of moving us out of the craggy giant’s field of view.

“How do you deal with a damn dragon?” I asked.

“I’ve played lots of video games,” Evan said.  “Dragons, uh…”

“They aren’t like they are in the video games,” Tiff said.  “Generally speaking, you don’t deal with dragons.  For one thing, they barely exist anymore, for another…”

The satyr, Green Eyes, and the maenad turned to look in the same direction at once.  I didn’t bother to check.  I just moved, which meant I reacted only a fraction of a second after they did.

Peter, Tiff, and Roxanne were just turning to look as the rest of us were moving the opposite direction.  I put my arms out, touching their shoulders, pushing Tiff and Peter.  Roxanne, in front of Peter, was forced to move with.

“Shit!” someone shouted.  “Shit!”

The dragon touched ground behind us.  The neighborhood rattled like it was a dish-laden table and someone had dropped a weight on it.  Windows, wood, cars, all shifting violently in response.  Icicles and piles of snow dropped from the overhangs around shops and stores.

I only caught a glimpse of it, as I passed into the alley.  I was just behind Tiff and Peter, Green Eyes on my back.

I’d expected something sleek.  The silhouette I could make out suggested something like a bear in stature, more like a small building in raw mass.  Broad, thick in build, and draped in looser scaly hide, with enough obvious muscle that my initial thoughts about its ability to fly were banished.  Its eyes glowed, not like Green Eyes’ eyes did, but as if lit with an intensity of their own.  The heat rising off of it pushed away the snowflakes that were frozen in the air.

It was maybe eighty feet away as I passed into the space between two buildings.  The space was narrow enough I could have just barely touched both walls with my fingertips, and was riddled with ventilation and general stuff.  A broom, a bucket of salt and sand, and garbage cans.  The others were ducking under a section of ventilation that had been spewing steam into the alley before it had been frozen in time.

Still running, I only managed to take two steps into the alley before the reptile slammed its bulk against the two buildings, shoving its head into the space.  The flesh was squeezed, drawn back by the pressure, teeth exposed and scraping against the brick and concrete on either side.

It reached one claw inside, head tilting to make room for the limb as it lashed out, clawing in my general direction, five or so feet short of actually making contact.  I felt Green Eyes clutch me tighter, arms around my chest.

I wondered if the damage to the alleyway could be explained away by saying a large truck had backed into the alley before realizing there wasn’t room.

It screeched once more, a loud sound, before clawing at the pavement and ice of the alley floor, digging deep gouges out of it, as if it could somehow make itself fit with enough raw willpower.

I ducked underneath one jutting piece of ventilation, backing away more than I ran, my movements limited by the speed of the people ahead of me.

The little alleyway was lit by an orange-red light from behind me, and I felt a sinking sensation in my gut.

Like thin tendrils of drool, an ignited fluid, molten metal or magma was escaping the corners of the dragon’s mouth.

It drew its head back, almost until it didn’t have a neck.

“Shit!” Peter shouted.

There was no escape route.  No place I could push forward.

Tiff was hopping up a set of stairs at the side of one building, touching a key the length of her forearm to a door.  Roxanne hopped up beside her.  An escape route, or a makeshift shield.  Maybe both.  The maenad, faceless woman and satyr were rounding the corner at the far end of the building.

I was too far back to take either option.

I reversed direction.

Not going for the dragon, but for the section of ventilation I’d just ducked under.

I grabbed a tall recycling bin, and swung it around, a makeshift shield, albeit a plastic one.  I braced it against the vent, my back to the wall.

Being a bogeyman meant I was immune to some human frailties.  My heart didn’t beat, my muscles didn’t ache, my lungs didn’t struggle to pull in air.  When we were hit, all the same, I lost my senses.  Up, down, left, right, backward, forward, my grip on Green Eyes, her grip on me, my ability to understand where I was, it all disappeared.

Disorientation, damage, my hand going to pieces as it collided with a surface.  Fire, as it painted every surface, igniting brick and pools of water.  Removing all traces of winter in this dismal, dark alleyway.

There was only the inferno.

I was on fire.  One arm, part of my chest.  Burning surprisingly well.

Turning over onto my back, aware that I was on fire, I was aware of the dragon’s maw.  In my disorientation, it looked like it was looming directly above me, while I was at the bottom of a deep pit, with walls of flame or smoke on all four sides.  Liquid flame spilled from its mouth, as if it had ignited itself, and it didn’t even care.

One of the four walls surrounding me was sky, I realized, as smoke cleared, and I struggled to get to my feet, to stagger toward that sky despite the lack of appropriate ground underfoot, the way my leg somehow wasn’t moving fast enough, and the way the overly bright flames seemed to claw everything back in the opposite direction, sections of brick wall, glass…

Like the pull of a star.

Green Eyes was screaming.  Others were shouting.

I shook my head, but it did nothing to help.

It was easier to work with my dashed senses than to try to put everything in order.

To get away, I needed to move away from the scaled beast.  That meant moving down.

I staggered more than I ran, not familiar with my surroundings.  I’d been halfway down the alleyway, and now I was at the end of it, surrounded by long licks of fire that looked more like fluorescent lights than anything I’d ever called flame, they were so bright.

The others were on either side of me.  A couple were shouting instructions.

Green Eyes was there.  Struggling with the fact that part of her face, hair, and the end of her tail were on fire.  I suspected that if she hadn’t been riding on my back, my head would be in that condition too.

Her focus was on me, mine on her.  Both of us momentarily more concerned with the fact that the other had been ignited than we were with ourselves.

It felt like such a long distance, to look over my shoulder.  Things had broken in the impact, when I’d been thrown by the initial  hit, and some of those things were part of my neck.  The amount of fire in the dragon’s mouth had increased.  A section of wall had broken away, where it had clawed at the surface.

I reached for Green Eyes, only to realize that my right hand had shattered.  Still there, but not intact enough to grip anything.

My left hand was okay, but the arm and elbow were blazing.  I was careful to hold the fire away from my body.

She reached out to me.  I gripped her hand, and tried to pull her along even as I braced my legs under me to jump, to lunge across the most passable stretch of dragon’s fire.

Aflame, my left leg gave up.  With melted, burning plastic from the bin I’d tried to use as a shield still caking it, the bone and wood simply gave up, bone breaking like chalk, the wood that braced it now essentially gone.

Green Eyes still holding my arm, unaware that I’d just lost my ability to stand, I was pulled down on top of her.

Green Eyes screamed something, but I couldn’t make it out over the roar of fire.

How eerie, to not be afraid, in the midst of all this.  To not be terrified, my face screwed up in panic like Tiff and Roxanne’s were.  Like the maenad’s face was, even.  I was still disoriented, still trying to deal with the world having been one thing in one moment, and holocaust and ruin in the next.

Metal.  Sections of ventilation duct, or dumpster.  I couldn’t tell.  It burned too, and edges had turned molten.

I grabbed it, and I slid it over toward the others.

Peter shouted, “It’s breathing again!”

One working arm, one leg, one screaming, flailing mermaid clutching me.  Maybe being burned by me, or burning me.

I made it two feet, pushed at the metal, kicked at the ground, trying to haul myself and Green Eyes closer.

The maenad reached me, leaning forward, to grip me at the shoulders, fingers hooking at sections of wood.

Peter was there too, a little more ginger in how he reached forward.

The metal served as a brief barrier to the flames on the ground, and when I was pulled, it was akin to a sled, something I could be dragged on.  Not part of the plan, but I wasn’t complaining.  It took all the focus I had to simply hold on to Green Eyes, in hopes that she might be dragged with me.

The fire rushed past.  A spray, a glob, like mucus or paint, covering every surface that wasn’t covered already.  Where there was already fire, it flared, spreading, growing taller.

Much as I’d seen the Dragon looming directly above me, my perceptions skewed, I saw Tiff, the faceless woman, and Peter all standing above me, talking.

“There,” I managed to make out what the maenad was saying.  “Grab it!”

A moment passed.

“Extinguish rune isn’t working…” Tiff said.

“Shit.  What the fuck did you drag us into?”  Peter.  “What the fuck?  Where is it?”

“…I didn’t think it would, but I don’t know what else I could do.”

A male voice further away.  “It moved.  Keep an eye on rooftops!”

“Blake,” Evan said.  “Blakeblakeblake, look.  No going into the light!  Or the dark, or wherever you’re supposed to go!  Blake!”

The satyr appeared, and passed a shovel to the maenad.  Not a snow shovel, but a dirt shovel.  The rusty head was shaped like a spade, connecting to a four or five foot long wood shaft, that was connected to a padded grip, in turn.

The maenad, standing, touched the shovel’s tip to my shoulder.

She stomped on it, hard.

“Damn it.  Tough wood,” she said.  “Move the sweatshirt.”

“Don’t get burned!”  Tiff said.  “Dragonstuff is potent.  I don’t think that fire ever goes out!”

Someone moved my sweatshirt at one shoulder.  The point of the shovel was repositioned.

She stomped again.  Driving metal into and past wood, into the joint of the shoulder.

Leverage applied, the point scraping against bone, deep inside, finding the notch where the socket met the shoulder joint.

Another stomp, to sever.  She tore the cloth of my sweatshirt with her hands, and then kicked the still-burning arm and section of shoulder off to the side of the alley.

“Leg next,” she said.

“Green Eyes,” I said.

She glanced over her shoulder.

She was gritting her teeth as she moved around to my leg.

I saw the faceless woman turn around.  Her back was to me, cigarette held high in one hand, the other in a pocket.  Watching Green Eyes burn?

Tiff was talking, “Um, melted plastic isn’t burning quite as well, so it’s not spreading as much here, but-”

“It’s airborne, somewhere not too far away,” the satyr was saying, eyes skyward. “The dragon is.”

The maenad placed the shovel at my thigh.

I moved my leg, and the shovel slid off, biting pavement between my legs.

She stared down at me, an angry expression on her face.

“Help Green Eyes,” I said.  “Help her now, or I’ll fight you every step of-”

“Don’t finish that sentence,” she cut me off.  “Or I’ll leave you to burn with her.”

I set my teeth.

She replaced the shovel’s blade, then struck it with her heel.  One kick served to break the wood and bone.  It also broke the shovel’s end from the shaft.  The metal had torn, no doubt already fatigued and rusted.

“Mm,” she said.  “Don’t move.”

She bent down over me.

“My-” I started.  I wasn’t even sure how to finish.  How was I even supposed to describe Green Eyes?  My friend?  My mermaid?  I gripped the maenad’s wrist, but my hand had splintered, and had no strength to it.  “Damn it, help her!”

“You might be able to summon her again,” she said, ignoring my grip as she tore a section of burning wood off the side of my chest.  “Bogeymen go back to the abyss when they die.  They can resurface.”

Tiff spoke my thoughts, “That’s not a guarantee, especially for a weaker bogeymen.  When we summoned her in the bathtub-”

“Uh huh,” the maenad said.

“There’s no guarantee the fire will go out if she passes on.  With dragon’s breath, it could burn her spirit, even.”

The maenad ignored Tiff.  “Let go of me, wooden man, or I’ll break this hand off too.”

I released her wrist.

“Don’t let him see,” she said, as she picked up the shovel’s head.  I could see a gleam in her eyes that wasn’t so different from the one I’d seen on the High Priest’s face.

I suddenly wished I hadn’t released her.

I saw flame licking Green Eyes, the tail moving this way and that as she continued to thrash, weaker than before, one hand raised, as if she wanted to clutch her face and couldn’t.

The Satyr stepped between me and Green Eyes.

He didn’t manage to stop me from seeing the maenad put the tip of the shovel against the center of Green Eyes’ forehead.  There was no handle to go with it.  It was only a rigid bit of metal, now.

“Little girl.  Take this.  Hold it steady.  You fuck this up, you only make more hurt, understand?.  And don’t let her touch you.”

“What?”  Roxanne asked.

“Hold.  It.  Steady.”

“Green Eyes,” I said, staring at the Satyr’s hoofed feet, as he impeded my view.

“Blake,” was the reply, from Green Eyes.

With Roxanne holding the shovel’s handle-less end in place, the maenad drove it down with one sharp kick.  I saw the tail move suddenly, flip this way and that, until the maenad moved and stepped on it, to stop the thrashing.  One bit of fin and some hair was still ignited.

The maenad stooped down, and cut the hair and fin away, as if to be safe.  It didn’t matter.  The tail wasn’t moving.

“Aw,” Evan said.  “Awww, and eww, but mostly aww.  Crumbs.”

“We need to go,” the satyr said.  “It’s stalking us.”

“Someone should pick up the wooden man,” the maenad said, “and it won’t be me.  Not after what he did to my sister.  Even if I’ve had my pound of flesh, I don’t trust myself around him, and I don’t trust him.”

Mute, I did what I could to try and rise.

I had only one fully intact limb.  My chest was fairly ruined, too.

I had strength, but no structural integrity, and limited movement.

Still, I crawled over to Green Eyes.

Evan had perched on her tail.  The faceless woman still stood over her.

“Ow,” Green Eyes murmured, as she saw me.  “Oh wow, ow.”

My eyes widened a bit.

She had to twist her head around to see me.  The shovel’s blade had scraped off half her face, the eyeball with it.  Bone was exposed, where there wasn’t ragged meat.

She raised a hand to cover that half of her face.

I reached out and grabbed her hand with my ruined one.  I only had three intact fingers, and in trying to clasp her hand and failing, I only seized her fingers.

I was forced to let go, as Peter moved me, trying to prop me up with one arm at his shoulders, standing with me.

“Lighter than you look,” he said.

“Yeah.”

“Tiff?” he asked.

Tiff reached my other shoulder.

“My face, and my eye,” I heard Green Eyes murmuring.  Not to me.  To the faceless woman, ironically enough. “It wasn’t a very good face, but-”

I saw the faceless woman reach down.  I didn’t want to say anything, out of concern that a moment’s spite could make the faceless woman do worse.

But she didn’t use her ability to knit flesh.

She helped Green Eyes reposition, and I saw how Green Eyes’ hair had been combed down in front of one side of her face.  A curtain of hair so pale it was almost transparent.

She smiled up at me, but it was a little lopsided.

You’re not supposed to be this positive after we’ve both been maimed, I thought.

It took us a moment to find our stride, me supported by two others.

“Dragons are so like they are in video games,” Evan said.

“No,” Tiff said.  “Um, in video games, a guy with a sword can kill a dragon.  Only way that happens here is if a god intervenes, or you’re drawing on some similar degree of power.”

“We’ve got an in with gods, right?

“Not unless someone wants to hike back to the house,” Peter said.

“Not it,” Roxanne said.

“Not it,” Peter responded, without missing a beat.

“None of us are hiking back right now,” I said.

You definitely aren’t,” Evan said.  “You’ve only got one leg.”

“Yes, Evan.  Thank you Evan, for that,” I said.  “Tiff, you know something about dragons?”

“A little bit.  They were a side note in something else I was researching for Rose.  About vestiges, and spirits.  For Evan, and for you two.”

“Explain.”

“Dragons are… they’re sometimes called snags, or recursive loops, or um, shoot, can’t remember the word.”

“Problems,” Peter said.  “Problematic.

“Um.  Sure.  Most are.  Some think dragons are what happens when something feeds into itself.  Every dragon is different, and some are more elemental, or mostly elemental, or spirit, or deific.  Something like a lesser god that worships itself, or an elemental that takes in more than it puts out.  They happen only when the stars align right, and attempts to produce them tends to turn out…”

“Problems,” Peter said, again.  “That’s what this stuff mostly boils down to, right?”

“Um.  Not exactly, I’m not saying you’re wrong, but-”

“I’m right.”

“Yeah,” Tiff said.

“Yeah,” Peter said.

“It went wrong.  So they’re rare and they’re unique and they tend to be feral, not always reptilian, but there’s something to be said for memory and the world remembering the dinosaurs or whatever, so it’s more common, as a given snarl needs to find a reference point, but-”

“How do we stop them?” I interrupted.

“Uh.  You don’t.  Or you don’t easily stop them.”

There was a screech, close by enough that we nearly broke stride and fell, as a group.

Just on the other side of a nearby building.

Tiff’s voice dropped a notch in volume.  “Most Others, they have weak points.  As Blake just evidenced.  He wasn’t even directly hit, and we nearly lost him.  Faerie, you hit them with something  crude, and they can’t deal, on a lot of levels.  Goblins, you hit them with refinement, with cunning ideas and passive means.  But Dragons are different.  Like I said they’re a snarl.”

“Clarify,” I said.  I realized how tense I was, after what had nearly happened to Green Eyes, and added, “Please.”

“There’s no polar opposite.  Most are amalgams of elemental and spirit and animal and nightmares, on top of whatever else.  You have to beat them at their own game.  You get the dragons that are all poison, to the point that one drop of venom can clear out a lake.  Then you have to just out-poison them.  You get the dragons in some areas of the East that are more spirit and elemental, like dragons of the mountains and… it’s like you have to destroy a mountain by hitting it with a bigger mountain.”

“How do you-” I started.  “Nevermind.  You’re saying the only way to kill ol’ firebreath there is hotter fire?”

“No,” she said.  Her voice dropped to be even quieter, as we approached the end of the street.  “There’s another way.  Most are violent, killing machines.  So… if you’re brave enough, you can try the conventional means.  Facing them in battle.  Eventually someone succeeds.  Usually with the backing of some major power.  Usually a god.  Which makes them rare.”

“We totally have a god,” Evan said, “don’t we?”

“Fuck,” I said.  “What about giants?”

“A hell of a lot simpler,” Tiff said.  “Um.  Secluded.  Big.”

“Basically,” the satyr said.

“They still bleed, though?” I asked.

“They’re endangered,” the maenad told me.  “Can’t breed, no gods old or rough-edged enough still around to make more.  Except maybe where you’re from, but any that crop up there still aren’t going to be adventurous enough to move.  Everyone knows it isn’t right to touch a giant.  Or they should know.”

“And if that giant over there comes after us?” I asked.

“Metaphor,” the maenad said.  “One of the last elephants in the world charges you, your life is obviously on the line.  You going to shoot it?”

“I don’t know,” I said.  “I get your point.  I do it, it’s technically okay, but an awful lot of people aren’t going to see things technically.”

“Yes,” she said.

“Got it,” I said.  “Question: how the hell did Johannes get these things, and-”

There was a distant yowl.

Suggesting that we weren’t just dealing with a giant and a dragon.

“-and why are they so damn complicated?”

Everything’s complicated,” Peter said.  “And-”

“Problematic,” Evan joined in, as Peter finished the sentence.

“Johannes has them because he offers a sanctuary,” the maenad said.  “Just like our High Priest does for us, his followers, except Johannes does it for anything that’s willing to play by the rules.  The giants have enemies, just like they have advocates, and even if the advocates vastly outnumber the enemies, there’s people who come after them, and Johannes gives them one more hiding spot, just like this.  The dragon, that’s different.”

“It’s not smart,” Tiff said.  “It’s an animal, almost.”

“Does this animal have a tamer?” I asked.

“Maybe,” Tiff said.

“That’s something, then,” I said.  “But I suspect Johannes will learn from Sandra’s mistake.  He’s not going to expose his throat to any attacks.  Unless we make him…”

I could hear a low rumble.  Close by.

“…Somehow,” I finished, my voice dropping low.

I was in pieces.  I couldn’t fight.

The dragon was close.

It couldn’t be simple.

We collectively drew back as the dragon advanced into an intersection.  Brushing up against an older pickup, the great scaled beast shifted the vehicle out of its parking spot, sending it out into the middle of the road, bumper largely scraped off.

The damn thing looked like it could take on four modern tanks and win.

A hand gripped the back of Peter’s shirt, pulling him back, and me with him.

The satyr.

He raised a finger to his mouth.

The giant, as it turned out, was quiet.  It moved at a plodding pace, but I suspected that in a long-distance race, it would beat a running human being by virtue of sheer stride and endless stamina.

Seven or eight seconds passed as it approached our general position, and then it exhaled, long and heavy.  Hot breath steamed and froze on the giant’s thick facial hair.  Its face looked to be carved out of rock.

There was a sound like a building settling as it turned its head one way, then the other.

Every movement was slow, calculated, as if he considered it all with great care, deciding each in advance, then carrying it out.

He stepped over the pickup, as if it were an afterthought, his head turning as he looked in the direction the dragon had gone, past the intersection one block over, and further down the street.

Bending down, he used one hand to seize the pickup truck the dragon had grazed, and moved it back into position.

He remained where he was, bent over, one hand still on the truck.

I couldn’t make out his face.  Only the back of him, one leg, and a kilt of what looked to be cow hides, threaded into a continuous garment with thongs as thick around as my remaining arm.

I saw his leg tense.

“Balls,” Peter said.

“I don’t see-” Evan started.

“Go!”  I said.

One slow, continuous motion.  Turning counterclockwise, pickup truck still in hand, the other hand settling on the roof of a building for stability.

The giant hurled the pickup truck at us underhand, casting it down the length of the one-way street we were on.

Roxanne shrieked.

The truck was still airborne when she’d finished.  The vehicle hit ground, not far behind us, flipping end over end, unpredictable-

The satyr went over it, as it rolled, leaping.  Green Eyes, low to the ground, simply flopped over, dodging it as it scraped past.  The maenad tackled Tiff and hauled her out of the way.  Peter, overburdened, trying to move too fast, fell, taking me with him.

The truck rolled past.

The faceless woman, further ahead, turned just in time to meet it, as it skidded on its roof, already losing momentum.  She stumbled back, trying to put her hands out to stop it, and then fell.  A moment later, she stood and dusted herself off.

The giant loomed at the far end of the street.

Thu!” the giant called out, his voice echoing much as the bell had.

“Fee fi fo fum,” Peter muttered.

Given free reign, causing devastation that was harder to explain as people woke up.  How would the locals process it all?  The fire, the destroyed vehicles and city property?

War?  Call it an airstrike in the night?  Something else?

They’d leave, the town would plummet into the abyss, and the giant and dragon…

Well, I supposed they were tough enough to work their way free.  Probably.

The dragon reappeared.  Perching on a rooftop, a matter of meters from the giant.

The giant reached up, and dug thick fingers into the dragon’s loose-fitting hide.

“That explains that,” I said.  “The dragon’s master.”

“Almost obvious in retrospect,” Peter said.

Ro!” the giant howled the word.

Attack.

The dragon, still perched on the rooftop, began drooling flame.

I glanced back at the alleyway that still burned.  The fire and smoke had frozen in time.  The effect reasserting itself.

“Shit,” I muttered.

“Yeah,” Peter said.  “Well put.”

I started trying to move, but it was slow.

Peter, in turn, tried to help me stand, but once it was achieved, slower still.  He could help me, but working on his own he couldn’t help me and move quick.

The dragon breathed.

A gobbet of flamestuff.  It moved in an arc, a stream and a spatter trailing behind.  A few dots of fire landed on the giant’s shoulder, and were brushed off.  The fire slammed into the ground in the center of all of us, liquid sloshing out diagonally across the breadth of the street, sidewalk to sidewalk, before colliding with a parked car.  Effectively cutting us off from one another.

“I need wood,” I said, as the flames embraced the parked car.  “I need a body.”

“I would love for you to have a body,” Peter said.  “Would love for me to have a body when all of this is over, too.  My priority, as it happens.  No offense.”

“None taken,” I said.

The dragon leaped.

It didn’t fly so much as it glided.  It used the hot air from the fire for just a little extra lift, but it was too heavy to truly rise with the hot air, as vast as its wingspan was.  Too dense.

It landed on the parked car, and the burning mucus splattered everywhere.

Drooling onto the blazing vehicle, it clawed at the metal, sending flaming scraps in the general direction of Tiff, Roxanne, and the maenad.  The group scattered.

I swear the dragon smiled as it lunged forward.

The maenad broke a store display window just in time for the girls to disappear inside.

The dragon began to gather fire in its mouth to spit again.  I could only hear the distant shouts.

“Leave me,” I said.  “Run.  Take cover.”

Peter dropped me, right in the middle of the street.  He ran.

This is the power Johannes can bring to bear? I wondered.

I twisted around.  One intact leg, one mostly intact arm.

I headed for the nearest store.  Outdoor clothing.  Boots.  I traveled maybe two miles an hour, doing it.

A glacially slow pace, as I was out in the open.  In full view of the giant.  The dragon only just happened to be after moving prey.

Reach forward, pull myself forward another foot or two, toe digging in snow and ice for traction to push myself forward, using my broken hand, or the hard edge of my elbow.  Where the ice was beneath me, it was possible to slide forward, harder to find traction.  Where it was road and snow, the opposite was true.  Never easy.

Reach forward…

The giant lurched forward.  Dark eyes larger than I was now focused on me.

I continued moving, because there was little else I could do.  Peter was already long gone.

Evan distracted the giant.  Flying past, right at eye level.

Again, he did it.

Then he backed off.  He was learning.  Moving over to help the others with the dragon again.

The satyr had a weapon out, and whipped a stone at the giant.  Barely a tap, but it got a moment’s attention, and a moment was apparently a meaningful amount of time to a giant, as ponderous and decisive as the creature was.

I reached the base of the store display, on the far side of the street, and I stabbed the window with the Hyena.

Glass broke, raining down around me.

The giant approached, covering more distance than I had with half a stride.  It bent down.

I crawled through, over broken glass, and into the store.  I tumbled down to the base of the display.

The hand reached through, breaking the display wider.  Fingers scraped.

They touched me, grazed me, and destroyed my already armless shoulder further.  But I was just another piece of wood.

Surrounded with broken wood, dead wood, if not branches, I began putting myself in order.  One splinter in my hand, just to have something approximating a thumb, then a larger piece of wood, a peg leg.

From there, I could move.  I could hobble.

Through the store, out the emergency exit at the side.

Half a block down, to the downtown street.  Old fashioned buildings for stores.  Trees at set distances, leaves gone for the winter.

At the base, broken branches.

Knowing every second counted, I began putting myself together.

Leg first, in case the giant spotted me.

Then…

I thought of the vision the abyss had given me.  A view of my possible future.

I thought of how the dragon had flown.

Not arms.  Wings.

I set to building.

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