Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Day Six-Seventy-Two: Losses

We revisited the dragons today, as suggested.

We did not get a conclusion regarding Traveller.

Nor did we find Traveller. Or Libby.

In fact, all we found when we returned to the Valley of Thorns was a whooooole lotta trouble.

Oh, my son. My brave boy. I feel your pain.

For the last... oh, week or so... the sky dwarf population has been restless. According to Evan they're usually quite content to remain in their mint tree groves, only bothering anyone dumb enough to come poking around where they're not wanted, so for large contingents of the things to roam freely... for no discernible purpose... confusing. And not cool at all, considering how painful a sky dwarf encounter can be.

Imagine our horror, then, when we set out for the Valley of Thorns... and got attacked by a legion of sky dwarves maybe halfway there.

Fynn heard them first. He's found the sky dwarves absolutely fascinating since we got here, particularly their apparent love of the colour green, and whenever he's not focused on finding his mom (which, I'll admit, isn't too often) he's made a point to read Evan's research notes regarding sky dwarves. I guess I'm not surprised he recognized their telltale buzzing from almost a mile away, and prompted us to respond accordingly.

"That couldn't be them," Evan insisted, shaking his head. "Sky dwarves wouldn't come out this far. They fear the dragons! Besides, there are no groves 'round here, and I don't think - "

I cut the big man off. "Can it. I think he's right. Everybody doubletime it. Logan? Can you go scout and make it back to us?"

"Right." Logan flicked me a salute. Turning around, he bounded in the direction of the buzzing at an abnormal pace, tearing nimbly through a field of tangerine roses. 

"I'm not sure I'm okay with this," Jeffrey murmured, watching his son go. "His mother would kill us both if she'd seen that."

"Good thing she ain't here, then." I waved the party forward. "Move. Move!"

Logan wasn't gone long. Three minutes later he caught up to us as we were emerging from the roses, his warning caught behind an exhalation of breath. His wide eyes gave us all the warning we needed - 

- and when we followed his outstretched finger, back the way he'd come, we spotted the dark, advancing forms of a group of sky dwarves. Fifteen, maybe twenty at most.

My pace didn't slow, but I felt a little better. "Well that's not so bad."

Logan gritted his teeth, urging us forward. "That's... that's not all of them. Go go go go!"

Our brisk trot turned into a run. The buzzing behind us increased in pitch and intensity. The air thrummed, and my ears burned. Evan, the only one who remained skeptical of Logan's warnings, gasped loudly enough that I could hear him over the approaching din. I spared a quick look back to ensure that he was following us -

- but all I saw was a cloud. A massive, blanketing cloud. It blocked the sky, enshrouded the sun, cast a shadow upon us all. It was a shadow of purple and red, of venomous eyes and spears, of carnage and murder and just plain ill intent. It was, as far as I could tell, every fucking sky dwarf in the world, all pointed right at us. They rushed forward at an incredible speed, outpacing all but Logan - and he bravely remained with the pack, despite the danger.

Then came the spears.

The average sky dwarf spear is, as far as I can tell, about three feet long. They're made of ragged wood, and tipped with a small, stone, barbed point. Though pretty poor by normal standards, a sky dwarf's spear can still kill if it's pointed in the right direction and thrust with enough force.

Imagine a few thousand of these spears raining down at you. Just imagine.

Most of the spears fell short, slicing up the landscape in our wake harmlessly. A few, thrown by over-zealous sky dwarves, managed to zip over our shoulders and clatter against the rocks ahead of us. We hopped and skipped over these, and I was dimly aware of Grylock stooping to grab one. I wondered how a crappy spear could outdo his poisonheart dagger, but there wasn't enough computing power in my brain to think about it too much.

The rest of the spears... well, the rest came right at us. When you're facing hundreds of projectiles, it's inevitable that a few will land on target. In this case, a 'few' was about three dozen.

I knew we were done for. I knew it. Yet I didn't turn back. And because I didn't turn back, because I kept my eyes on the prize, the distant Valley of Thorns, I missed the moment when Antonio, hulking, powerful Antonio, picked up my son. I missed the muttered incantations issuing from Fynn's lips. I missed the glint of light brown that suddenly erupted out of my back, apparently manifesting as a beetle's shell. And, gods be praised, I missed the spear that sought to skewer my lower spine, the spear that bounced harmlessly away thanks to my son's magic.

What I did not miss was the scream. A man's scream. Yet even then, I kept my eyes on the Valley of Thorns.

At some point, the sky dwarves gave up. They fell short, either confused by Fynn's spells or drawn to the smell of flesh. We safely arrived at the Valley of Thorns and stooped beneath a huge crop of vines. The sky dwarves remained an indistinct cloud in the distance, hovering angrily over a single spot.

"Wh... wh... what happened?" I gasped, only then realizing how out of breath I was. "Is... ach... is everybody okay...?"

Everyone else was too out of breath to say anything. Only Antonio, fit Antonio, had a voice. He set my son gently down on the clouds. "Ze not-zo-little vun here zaved uz. Your myzticalz are potent, Vynn."

Fynn shook his head. He was crying, his thin body wracked with sobs. I couldn't figure out why... until I took a head count.

"Grylock, Logan, Jeffrey, Antonio, Fynn, me." I counted six; my finger counted seven. It hovered in place, shaky, expecting to find that last body. It failed. "... oh."

Fynn pounded the ground with fists far too big for his age. He pounded, and wept, and pounded again. "I'm... I'm so sorry... dad... I... I wasn't strong... wasn't strong enough... Antonio... he made it easier... lifted... but... it was too hard... I couldn't... too many..."

Six hovering beetle shells, set on some ethereal timer I will never see, winked out of existence behind our backs. 

We're hiding in the thorns. The sky dwarves flew over us about an hour ago, and so far as we can tell, they're attacking the Valley of Thorns. A number of dragons in a variety of shapes have come to the Valley since then; judging by the enormous roars and the occasional gusts of heat on the wind, there's an attack underway. I wouldn't have thought it would last for several hours, but it has. No idea what's going on... 


Thanks, Evan. You were very nice to a bunch of strangers. I'm so sorry.


Dragomir the Wanderer


  1. You're becoming a Killer, Matt...a dyed in the wool, stone, cold killer...

    1. Oh, I always was. I was just waiting for the story to move past the halfway point before characters really started to get the axe.