Friday, February 27, 2015

Day Eight-Twenty-Six: Gran

As Daena distracted the werewolves and Logan and Fynn discussed the limits of the younger boy’s powers, Nagi began to set fires. A lot of them.

She knew the city better than anyone, having spent several months stuck in Foregone. She knew which places to use as hiding spots, which blind corners and alleyways to exploit, which colognes to wear that would mask her presence from the marauding wolves. Better, she knew exactly which buildings were currently ablaze - and which could very easily be set aflame.

Though weakened by months of malnourishment and a lack of physical activity, Nagi darted down hallways with energetic fervour, using her impromptu torch - really just a plank of wood with a swaddled, oiled rag on the end - to set fire to anything that seemed flammable. Drapes, blankets, bales of hay, wooden frames, you name it, she set fire to it. When one building was going up in smoke, she bounded into the next and began the process anew.

One more, she thought each time, springing from window to window, ears and eyes alert for werewolves. Just one more. Then I’m outta here.

Though most of Nagi was absorbed in the practice of firebugging Foregone, an analytical section of her brain considered the absurdity of the situation. Here she was, a practiced, accomplished, damn-near notorious con woman, in the midst of attempting to torch an entire city. Even more, she was doing it to help someone. It was very much not a Nagi sort of thing.

She drove me around, Nagi thought, watching Daena sprint past outside, heading towards one of the sealed gates to the outside world. We’ll call it thanks for that ’n be even.

But it wasn’t just that, and Nagi knew it. It was

gran would’ve wanted it this way, me helpin’ people for a fuckin’ change

more than that. It somehow felt good, for once, to really pursue a noble cause, even if that cause resulted in the deaths of hundreds of innocent people. Because, really, getting rid of the werewolves was a noble goal, and Nagi knew that, too, because the deaths of hundreds could save the lives of thousands. Millions. Billions, if there were that many people on the planet.

But it wasn’t just that, either.

gran always told me to find a nice boy ’n settle down, ’n fuck, her boy’s a nice boy, though he wasn’t quite, y’know, girly enough for me, but helpin’ out a buddy’s mother

Nagi shook her head, clearing the weird thoughts from her mind. She had things to do. Peering out a window, the torch clenched firmly in her hand, she saw Daena swing around mere feet away from the closed gate, no doubt to veer off in another direction and continue the chase. She still had one gate to go, which would give Nagi plenty of time to spread the fires to the north end of Foregone -

“Wait,” Nagi breathed, whispering despite the precisely zero chance that the werewolves outside would hear her. If anything they would pay more attention to the smell of burning cloth wafting out of a nearby apartment, and the smoke trickling into the hallways. “What is that crazy…?”

Daena was not sprinting down a side street. She was, instead, doubling back towards the werewolves, dashing towards them with an enviable burst of speed. Nagi’s throat tightened as the older woman neared the edge of the snarling pack, driving her legs into the ground and leaping straight over the heads of the werewolves. Her boots pinwheeled almost daintily in open air -

- and when Daena landed, crawling up onto a balcony, she stood absolutely still. Save, of course, for a wobble of uncertainty, one that was neatly mirrored in the bewildered expression on the former queen’s face.

“Gods above,” Nagi muttered, almost dropping her torch. “She… her legs… stopped…?”

The werewolves began to climb the building, towards Daena’s balcony. She disappeared into the apartment behind her with a moment’s hesitation, slamming a door shut behind her. The first werewolf onto the balcony ripped the door open again and plunged inside. A horde of the things followed it, engorging the apartment like a furry tide of gushing water.

That look on her face, Nagi thought, lip quivering fearfully. She knew. She knew she was done runnin’. And that… that means…

A dozen possibilities flickered through Nagi’s consciousness at this point. Daena was fucked. Daena would escape. Daena was now stronger than ever. Daena was returned to a normal woman, and would be caught. The next time Nagi saw her, Daena would be a werewolf. The next time Daena saw Nagi, they would both be werewolves. The next time Nagi saw anyone, she would be sinking her lupine jaws into their neck. The numerous possibilities seemed grim and uncertain, and Nagi wasn’t sure which possibility she liked least.

One fact, however, now seemed quite clear to her, a fact bolstered by evidence which she’d gathered with her own eyes and own ears. This fact jolted Nagi into motion without the slightest bit of hesitation, even as her thief’s instincts frantically asked what the hell was wrong with her.

The final gate leading in and out of Foregone, as Nagi expected, remained open. Though clearly used by the werewolves several times in the last day - their frantic stampede left little snow beneath the open portcullis - it looked otherwise pristine, a solitary stone sentinel in a wooden city that was rapidly burning down.

As a rule, Nagi had avoided the gates. She knew the werewolves were at least smart enough to bunk in these locations, waiting for prey to try and flee the city. Such tactics had worked wonderfully during the early days of Foregone’s takeover-by-lycanthrope.

The gate stood open, its portcullis tantalizingly raised. Nagi knew - she knew - that she could leave, if she wanted, and make her way across open country to freedom. Uncertainty, perhaps even death in the cold, but freedom.

The white plains beckoned.

So, too, did the plain wooden door to the right of the portcullis, shoved open and half-buried in snow. 

Gran, you old bitch, you better be proud of me, Nagi thought. Gathering her cloak tight around her, torch at the ready, she slithered towards the doorway -

- and just barely avoided the claws of a pair of werewolves, leaping at her from within a nearby pub. 

Shrieking, Nagi fell back into the doorway, landing hard on a set of frigid stone steps. Despite the pain in her spine she shoved her torch forward, waving it in the faces of the two werewolves and driving them back two paces, before they could rake her with their nails. Using her tail Nagi sprang up three steps, grabbed at the railing inside the doorway, and pulled herself into a half-slouched posture, the torch held warily in front of her.

“Why are you here,” Nagi said to the werewolves, not bothering to hide the quaver in her voice. “Why are you here, why are you here, why aren’t… oh, fuck, oh, gods, why, oh, why…”

The werewolves answered with twin snarls. They stalked Nagi up the stairs and into the guard room at the base of the gate, fanning out once they had space and approaching her on all fours. Slithering backwards, almost collapsing over a chair, Nagi waved the torch between the two wolves to keep them at bay. Her motions were so frantic that she feared she might put the torch out, but she couldn’t help herself.

“Get… get the fuck back,” Nagi insisted, dimly aware that blood was seeping through her ponytail from an unseen wound. She felt lightheaded and a little dizzy. “You… oh, gods, I’m… I’m so… get back!

Another set of stairs, cautiously climbed, led from the guard room to the control chamber for the portcullis. A huge, steel chain wound through the room, connected to a gear system controlled by a wheel that looked impossibly difficult to spin. Nagi half expected to be plunged in darkness, but the room was well-lit by a line of holes in the wall, facing the snowy plains beyond. Nagi’s fevered brain wondered if the werewolves had dug the holes to move to and fro from the city…

… but the bump of cold metal on her backside answered her question, and a quick glance behind her supplied even more information. Information that Nagi, carrying her torch, found more daunting than the presence of the werewolves.

Those same werewolves followed Nagi into the control room, teeth glittering in the cast light of the great outdoors. They seemed content to linger near the doorway, wary of the torch in Nagi’s hand, but clearly aware that they’d cornered their prey. It was, now, simply a matter of waiting her out - or, rather, waiting out the torch. The imagined smiles in their toothy jaws made Nagi shiver.

If I don’t take this gate down, Nagi reminded herself, no one will. That’s a fuckin’ fact.

And if you don’t get outta here now, Nagi’s sense of self-preservation piped up, you’re gonna die.

I think that’s already a foregone conclusion, Nagi replied, grimly chuckling at the reference. I really don’t wanna be a werewolf, you dig me?

I dig, I dig. 

Nagi touched the lid of one of the barrels lining the rear of the room. It was not affixed properly, and when Nagi knocked it aside she spied a massive heap of black powder inside the barrel. Her heart leaped into her throat, because, given that there were cannons in the room, the powder could only be one thing.

The werewolves snarled. They began to move in, regardless of the torch, as though suspecting Nagi’s internal struggle.

Close the gate, Nagi told herself. Her voice sounded suspiciously like that of her gran. Close the gate or you’ll have led the most worthless life ever recorded.

“Oh well,” Nagi said, brushing a tear away from her eye. “At… at least that fuck Traveller… never… got ta… touch me…”

The werewolves leaped. Nagi plunged her torch into the barrel.

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