Strange Cosmology is now available! If you can pick it up, I’d immensely appreciate it! It’s only 2.99 USD on the US market! Thank you to everyone who has helped make the book’s launch so successful!
Also, it’s been awhile since we checked in on Tythel – you can refresh yourself here.
The distant droning was growing louder. Tythel was perched in a tree, high enough to see over the walls of Karjon’s valley. She squinted in the direction the sound was coming from. She could barely make out the shape against a cloud, a small cluster of black specs. Tythel leapt out of the tree and landed next to Eupeheme and Tellias. “They’re almost here.”
“How many?” Tellias asked anxiously.
Tythel shrugged. “I can’t say for certain. At least one carrying a couple people, and two other shapes in the air. The other two are moving pretty fast.”
“Skimmers?” Eupheme asked.
“Most likely,” Tythel said.
“Why not stay up there longer and make sure-” Tellias started to say, then he caught himself halfway through the question and shook his head. “You do that, and they’ll be able to see you.”
“They’re going to go up the mountain first,” Eupheme said. “Looking for the entrance to the lair. Are you sure they won’t find it, Tythel?”
Tythel nodded again, this time more definitively. “I melted it shut with a sunstone before I left. They’ll find a place where the rock was molten if they really look, and they might figure that was the entrance. Would their Umbrist be able to get in?”
Eupheme considered for a moment. “Probably, but I don’t see why they would. Unless they assume you entombed yourself, which seems pretty unlikely. Besides, I imagine there are other spots of molten stone. Unless they know it’s hollow behind…”
“Alright.” Tythel took a deep breath. “Then we’ve got another hour until they get here. Probably half that time for the Skimmers. Give it an hour while they look for the entrance, and then they’ll come into the valley. Tellias, did you find it?”
Tellias grimaced and handed Tythel a sack. The sack struggled and kicked and hissed. “It’s not particularly happy. Thank the light for this armor.”
Tythel’s nictitating membranes flashed at the thought. “I’m just glad it didn’t stick.” She took the sack gingerly, making sure that it didn’t open. The thing inside froze the moment Tythel’s hand closed around the bag. Poor thing smells dragon. Probably scared out of its mind. “You didn’t hurt it, did you?”
Tellias rolled his eyes. “Light, Tythel. What do you think I am? No, I didn’t hurt it. I just…how did you know it would be here?”
“Lots of small animal gather near dragon lairs. We scare away larger predators, and they’re usually not large enough to be worthwhile meal. Especially not…” Tythel gestured towards the sack. When they got truly desperate, a dragon or an aeromane might swoop down on a small mammal. It had to be pretty bad to get to that point – they were usually prey for wolves or cats, and those kind of predators avoided dragon territory.
And any animal, no matter how great a predator and no matter how desperately hungry they were, would think twice before hunting one of them. “I’ll finish setting up this part.”
“Are you sure that will work?” Eupheme asked.
Tythel shrugged. “From what you’ve both said, it sounds like the Alohym have the same senses we do. They avoid coarse fabrics, they keep the streets free of waste, they avoid things we find unpleasant. If we’re right about how that suit works…it’s worth the chance.”
“I just don’t know how you expect to be able to aim it,” Tellias said.
“You’ve never seen one of these in action. They make their more terrestrial cousins seem…tame by comparison. Trust me – you only escaped the worst of it because it through you were some kind of mobile rock in that thing.”
“Lovely,” Tellias said, clearly meaning anything but.
A silence fell over the group. After a moment, Eupheme broke it. “I guess we should get into position?” she asked.
The words hung in the air, and Tellias grimaced. “Yeah. I guess it’s now, isn’t it?”
“It is.” Tythel looked up in the direction where the flyers were coming from. Now that they were getting closer, she could hear the rumble of the Skimmer’s organic engines. “If we don’t-”
“We will,” Eupheme said, firmly. “We’re getting back to the resistance, so save it for later.”
“No.” The word came out more harshly than Tythel had intended, and she winced at the sound of her own point. “Eupheme, Tellias, let me say this. I think we’re getting back. I think everything is going to be okay. I think we’re going to survive.” The lies came off her lips easily, but one thing she’d learned watching soldiers was that these were the lies they always told each other, no matter how untrue they seemed. “But if we don’t, I’m not…I’m not missing my chance to say goodbye. So, if we don’t…the past month with you two has been wonderful. Thank you both. For everything.”
“Thank me again, on the other side,” Eupheme said, but she smiled with the word. “That goes both ways, though.”
“Likewise,” Tellias said. “On both points.” He gave Tythel a serious look. “I mean it. Sorry for getting…sorry for sulking.”
Tythel made a dismissive gesture. “I’ve already forgotten.”
He gave her an awkward grin and turned to lumber off, his arcplate whirring. Eupheme gave Tythel a quick salute and stepped into a shadow before vanishing. They had their roles. Tythel had hers. She grabbed a boulder, larger than either of the others could have lifted, and placed it over the end of the sack. “You’ll be okay,” Tythel said to the creature inside. “Even if we need to use you, you’re not going to be hurt.” As soon as she stepped away, it startled to scrabble against the thick burlap again. It would be able to tear through in a day or two, long before it was in danger.
And it was good to know they had the option. If things got desperate.
Tythel looked one more time at the Drakebloom, nodded to herself, and started climbing.
It was time to wait. They had a plan, they’d made preparation, and they were facing off against foes vastly superior to them.
At this point, only Light and Shadow knew what would happen.
I’m on BookBub now. If you could give me a follow, I’d appreciate it. And if you’ve already ready your copy of Strange Cosmology, early reviews would be hugely appreciated!