Getting the iron of the chains hot enough where Tythel could break them was not a quick task. At least they didn’t burn her hands, even as they went from dark red to bright orange in her grasp. It occurred to Tythel that, even once she was able to break them, she’d have to wait for them to cool down or she’d burn down the building she was in.
Freda and Otis had, undoubtedly, saved her life. Even if they were turning her over the Alohym, they didn’t deserve that.
So when she felt the chains start to give under her tugging, she pulled just enough where the links separated, then folded them back into her hands to cool. She could feel the heat coming off them, but despite them being bright enough where it hurt to look at them, they didn’t burn. Like Karjon and flame. The dragon had never been bothered by it, and now she wasn’t either.
Footsteps approached while the chains were still glowing in her hands, and she shoved them under the covers before whoever entered could see she was holding onto them for dear life.
Silently, she prayed to the Light that they wouldn’t ignite the cloth through her fingers.
It was Freda, who gave her a smile. The smile was accompanied by a crease in her forehead, however, which Tythel made a note of and hoped to one day understand. “Did you need anything dear? More food or water?”
Tythel shook her head. “Thank you. Although I was wondering…” she motioned with her arm, “what’s this needle for?”
Freda let out a sound something like a tsk. “You must have never been sick before!”
“Not really. Almost never, to be honest.”
“Well lucky you.” The forehead crease faded. “It’s a bloodwetter. Puts water in you while you’re unable to drink. They can even get food in you with it by dissolving it in the water first. If we’d had this back in the day…” Freda sighed. “My sister might still be with us.”
“Oh. I’m sorry for your loss.”
Freda made that tsking sound again. “No need to fret, dear. I was younger than you when it happened, about twenty years before the Alohym came with all their wonderous magic.”
Tythel noticed how Freda’s gaze fixated on her face, as if waiting for a reaction. Tythel would have given one, if she could have figured out what Freda was implying. She must want to see if I’m loyal to the Alohym. Maybe they haven’t called him yet? She put a smile on her own face, as unnatural as it felt. “Oh yes, wonderous. We truly are blessed to have them.”
Her heart ached too much to sell the lie. She knew that, even though she couldn’t read what the return of the crease in Freda’s forehead meant. She couldn’t pretend to be happy about them.
“Well,” Freda said, smoothing her dress as she did. “I’ll be off for now. Just shout if you need anything, alright?”
“Thank you again,” Tythel said, glad Freda was leaving. The stench of smoke was beginning to waft to her nose.
As soon as the door clicked shut, Tythel pulled out the chains. They’d gone from orange to a cooler red, and there were black scorch marks on the sheets. Close enough. Freda had given her what she needed to deal with that safely anyway.
The bloodwetter was attached to a jug. Transferring both the chains to one hand, she was able to wheel it over and knock it down into her lap. Some water spilled out, but not so much that it emptied. She fed the hot ends of the chains into it, letting steam rise from the jug in a hissing cloud.
While the chains cooled, she pulled the needle out of her arm. The shackles were still attached to her wrists, a problem she would have to deal with soon, but for now, at least, she was free.
She peered out the window. They were three stories above the ground. Four of the crawling carriages, like what Otis had been controlling when they found her, were sitting outside. None of them were Otis’. Although it had been dark and she had been ill, she was certain that one had been a dark grey, while these were painted a gleaming white. As she watched, a fifth skittered up, this one jet black.
A man got out of it. He had a sword strapped to his back and a cloak and hood on. Freda stepped out as the man did, shaking his hand. “So glad you could make it, Nicandros.”
The man’s voice was thick and deep. “Where is she?”
Nicandros. That’s who they were calling. Who is he? Freda was leading him back into the building, and Tythel’s heart was pounding. It was too high to leave through the window, and now the man was here.
While she was paralyzed by indecision, another vehicle approached. She heard the sound of metal in the sky before she saw it – it was smaller than the ship that had attacked her and Karjon, and flatter. The tentacles were spaced out around the bottom of the vehicle, and as it landed the appendages reached out to touch the ground.
Two humans in suits of armor like Thomah had worn stepped out and took up places on either side of the entrance. Then, she got her first glimpse of one of Those From Above.
It was tall and slender, almost like an insect in that regard. Its head was shaped like a wedge, with three eyes along the side and two in the front. Its number of arms varied depending on if you counted from the shoulders or from the hands, because at the first of its two elbows the arm split into a pair on each side. The legs did the same thing, ending in feet that curved oddly, like sickles. .
She could hear it speak to the soldiers, the same language no being from this world had ever spoken she’d heard come from Thomah’s helmet. It gestured towards the hospital, and the men approached. The skittering god followed.
Tythel broke out into a cold sweat, and a mixture of fear and rage churned in her belly. Nicandros could be a problem, but those two soldiers were back by an actual Alohym. While she didn’t know what it could do, Tythel couldn’t imagine it would give the soldiers weapons and armor that it could not defeat. They wouldn’t have conqured the world if they were that short sighted.
Footsteps were pounding up the stairs, and Otis and Freda were shouting at each other below. Tythel turned and readied herself. It seemed Nicandros wanted to beat his masters to her, and she was ready to take advantage of his haste. She quickly got her pack and secured it to her back, then gathered the broken ends of the chains again into her hands and let them again in dragonfire.
When Nicandros burst through the door, she lashed out with the red-hot chains. Faster than she would have believed possible, his sword – apparently he had drawn it during his charge – lashed out, sending sparks flying where it struck the chains and sending her strikes wild.
The sword had a black blade with an unlight glow around the edge, and Tythel tried to lash out with the chains again. Her strikes were wild, and again Nicandros deflected them. This time he did not use the flat of the blade, but the unlight edge, and the metal was sheared away where it tried to strike him.
“Stop!” he commanded, but Tythel already knew she couldn’t fight this man. Even if she was willing to risk burning down the building, there was no guarantee that blade couldn’t stop dragonfire.
She turned and began to run, and he shouted again, “What the bloody Shadow are you-”
The last word was likely doing, but it was lost in the sound of breaking glass as Tythel dove through the window. Her scaled hide protected her from the shards of glass. “No!” Nicandros shouted.
She landed hard. Her legs screamed in complaint, but they were thankfully strong enough to not buckle or break at the impact. She turned around to see Nicandros gaping after her, and formed her fingers into a circle and hit it against her chest. She didn’t know exactly what the gesture meant, but her books always described it as an act of vulgar defiance.
Nicandros’s face darkened, and then he leapt out of the window after her. Only then did she see he had unlight crystals in his belt attached to small tubes that pointed at the ground, slowing his descent. That’s just not fair, she thought, wondering what else could go wrong.
The answer was not long coming. The two soldiers must have heard the commotion and burst back outside. Tentacles extended from their gauntlets and swivelled to face her with their unlight crystals also glowing.
Tythel called up dragonflame, but as she watched, Nicandros twisted in the air and pulled a sphere off his belt. He threw it towards the soldiers and, when it hit the ground, it exploded in a ball of green lightning. The soldiers both seized up, the unlight fading from their crystals.
“Run, you daft girl!” Nicandros shouted at her.
At that moment the Alohym emerged from the building, and the sky grew darker as it raised its four hands.
No longer sure what was going on, Tythel turned to do exactly what Nicandros suggested.