If you missed it, book 4 of Small Worlds has wrapped up in serial format. Click here for more information. Book 2 will be out this summer, so now’s a good time to pick up Weird Theology if you’ve been waiting. If you want to dip your toes into Small Worlds for free, check out Rumors, a prequel story
The common room of the Inn was as quiet as a grave. At this hour, it was too early for even the innkeeper to be up and going about his duties, too late for the most drunken lout to still be snoring into a pile of vomit on the tables. The only living thing down here was a mouse, and it twitched its nose as Tythel, Eupheme, and Tellias slipped into the room. It seemed unconcerned for a moment, certain these huge, lumbering oafs would pose no threat to it – then it turned those tiny little eyes towards Tythel.
All living things on Aelith that could smell knew the scent of dragon, and even the beasts that had no fear of humans knew to fear the smell of the greatest hunters that had ever roamed the world.
Tythel wondered if that would change in time. If over the centuries and millennia to come, creatures would lose their fear of that smell. There would be no more dragons roving the sky, and their hunts would be forgotten by men and beast and even Alohym. Dragons would become only legends they would tell their children, a reason for a tingle in the spine at a passing shadow, and then would be forgotten.
No. Tythel thought, tightening her face with resolve. Dragons wouldn’t be forgotten. She would learn Heartflame. One day she would have a daughter or a son herself, the heir to the kingdom…and to Karjon’s legacy. She would teach them the Three Flames, and they would do the same for their children. They would carry the legacy of the dragon throughout history, and although some would forget that dragons truly existed as her father had, it would be part of her family legacy.
For now, however, this mouse had not forgotten, and skittered silently across the hardwood floor away from a smell it knew to fear.
Silently. That was the problem. Tythel bumped against a chair to create a clatter, but it wasn’t enough.
“Eupheme, you’re being too quiet,” Tythel hissed. The whisper was deliberately far too loud. Anyone in nearby rooms would be able to hear her, though not enough to make out the words. It was a careful sound, one she’d considered after the awkward conversation with Tellias.
“Blood and shadow, Tythel, I’m an Umbrist.” Eupheme’s whisper was perfectly pitched to just reach Tythel’s ears, modulated so no one else would have the slightest idea she was even speaking. It wasn’t even really a whisper, barely a breath. “Besides, you two are loud enough for all of us.”
Tythel opened his mouth to object, but the objection died on her lips before it could even pass between her teeth. She wasn’t incorrect about that, especially with Tellias in the arcplate. He hadn’t spoken since she’d laid out the plan, and barely spoken even when she was laying it out for them. He still wasn’t speaking, but the heavy clomp of the arcplates greaves caused the floor to shutter loud enough to draw plenty of their attention on their own.
He’ll be fine, Tythel assured herself. Their discussion had only happened an hour ago. Of course he was still upset. Tythel was still upset.
Tythel reminded herself of the importance of staying focused. The goal was to attract attention, but not too much attention.
Eupheme reached the door, then motioned towards Tythel. “I’d hate to open it too quietly.”
Tythel rolled her eyes and closed the distance. She slid the door open a few digits to glance into the lot. A road lead to it, one covered with hoofprints and the triangle shaped clawprints left behind by Skitters. The woods behind the lot were dark and shivered in the early morning wind, a wind that carried the snorts of horses back to Tythel’s ears. Three Skitters sat out there among the horses. Giving Eupheme a smug smile, she closed the door with exaggerated care. “Ready?”
Tythel stood in front of the door and took a deep breath before kicking it as hard as she could. A thunderclap of sound filled the Inn, and confused shouts began to erupt from above. She could hear shrieks of shock and fury. Eupheme rolled her eyes. “Think we have their attention?” she asked.
“I hope so. Move,” Tythel said by way of response. Tellias nodded, the first sign he’d given that he was anything other than an automaton designed to look like arcplate. Tythel had no time to worry anymore about his feelings. That was something that could be mended later, when the world was safe – or at least when the current crises was dealt with.
For now, what mattered was the feel of the barren dirt lot beneath her feet, the sound pounding in Tythel’s ears with every footstep.
“Someone sing to the guards!” A woman shouted from an upstairs window. Tythel leapt the rest of the distance to land in the cabin of one of the Skitters.
“Move yourselves! We have to get to my father’s lair!” Tythel shouted. Eupheme swung herself up to the cabin of the Skitter, followed by Tellias with a single heave.
“A little bit too obvious, don’t you think?” Tellias muttered.
Tythel was just relieved to have him speaking again. “Even if they think it’s a trap, they have to follow up on the lead,” she muttered, reaching down to pull open one of the panels on the Skitter.
Tellias shoved the gauntlet of his arcplate into the spot Tythel had opened. The energy expelled was more than enough to kickstart the Skitters cells even without the benefit of a key to activate them. The Skitter began to hum to life.
Tythel moved aside to give Eupheme access to the Skitter’s controls. She began to work the levers and start the legs moving.
Not a moment too soon. Tythel could hear the pounding footsteps of guard drawing near, Alohym soldiers that would see their departure. “Go!” she shouted.
Eupheme didn’t need additional encouragement. The Skitter began to veer away across the lot, pulling onto where the dirt road met the pavement.
Tythel turned around for the final nail in the coffin. As they passed the guards that were moving to block the road, Tythel took a deep breath and let loose a torrent of dragonflame. Men shouted and scattered, diving to the ground to evade the impressive heat.
There was no doubt they’d know where she was going now.