Wrannaman Book — 0.1.6

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0.1.6

After the ceremony, the counsel went back to Town Hall to entertain the dignitaries, drink Hikka, and play a few rounds of bones. By the time Eros heard the alarm from their perimeter detection system, he was too late. He dashed out of the building, and grabbed his knife, desperately fighting his way to the front line. The crowd of people stuffed into the streets were all rushing to get out of town, or at least away from the Sikkas. He was swimming upstream. He came upon a Wraith that had made it far into town. It was whipping people with its tail, and stomping over those who had fallen. Eros ran up to it and stuck a knife in its heart, launching the rider to the ground. The soldier got up and grappled with Eros, but was off balance from the fall. The soldier lost. Eros struck once, missing, and a second time, landing the knife in the man’s neck. He pushed through people trying to get out of the city, and encountered more Sikkas. He couldn’t make it through. By the time he did, the Sikkas had retreated. Eros and Wellington stood bloody, shouting, “Kaiya! Arryn!” He knew she wasn’t here. They had come for her. Houses burned around them. Children cried for their parents. Men and women were trying to stop the fires from spreading, still dressed in their tattered finest. The ships had left, but some of their soldiers had been abandoned, left here to die. Wellington and Eros made sure they paid dearly for intruding. Bodies lay lifeless all around them. The black of night against the hot orange.

Wellington was suddenly dizzy. From the blood, from the exhaustion of fighting, from the loss he was almost sure he would have to endure. He took a knee, out of breath. His fine linens smeared with ash. He wasn’t sure his heart could take another lifeless body that looked like his son, only to find out it wasn’t. The process did strange things to his mind. At the flipping of the body, a strange elation while looking at the face of the deceased. It was not his son, but it was someone’s son. Eros circled around him shouting for his daughter, for Arryn, just in the off chance she had escaped. Eros looked at his friend, looked around at this town that had been a sanctuary for so long, and put a hand on Wellington’s shoulder. The fighting was done. “We will find them. And they will be alive.”

A shaking woman walked out of her door to where the men stood in the street. Her beautiful ceremony gown in tatters. She had a grey cloak tightly wrapped around her.

“Wellington, I saw Arryn fighting. With his friends. He was taken. I watched it happen. They were all taken.”

“Thank you mam, thank you.” Wellington said and got to his feet breathing deeply.

“They came for her,” Eros whispered to Wellington, out of earshot of the woman.

She nodded, looked around at the town, paused for a moment at the carnage, and promptly went back inside. Her house had some broken windows, but it was not on fire. She had been lucky. Wellington seemed to be rejuvenated.

“Taken is better than dead,” he said. Eros too was now certain Kaiya was still alive.

“Like I said, we will find them all, and they will be alive,” Eros said mostly to himself.

Eros and Wellington walk slowly back to Wellington’s office at the Town Hall where the members of the Council gathered in the courtyard. All of them smelled of fire and loss. Several council members had already collapsed from exhaustion sitting against dirty pillars or nursing minor wounds. Wellington sat down nearby sipping from a carafe of water. At least something was still clean. It felt like an invasion of personal privacy, their little place in the world, their little alcove. A transgression against their earned security and sanctuary in a world that had regressed.

They met the eyes of the other members of the council who knew with heavy hearts that the group of kids had been taken. They would come up with a plan, perhaps separately, perhaps together, and they would execute. Shim’s mother paced in the courtyard, looking empty from a long night of suffering. She did not have any tears left for the dark hole that bored through her soul. She had forgotten this part of herself, this sturdy resolve in the face of adversity. Like many in the Y, this capability had been happily muted over the years of relative safety and peace. It came back now like an old skill, rusty but functional.

“Alive,” she said, “They’re still alive.”

“Agreed, Marina and we will get them back,” Eros acknowledged.

“Agreed,” she replied.

Eros studied the grim scene and decided the council was not going to be of help to him to get his daughter and her friends back. He pulled Wellington aside.

“Their delay may cost us our children’s lives. I’m going to go find some answers.”

“I’ll go with you.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“I can be of some use. I know the Sikkas in a different way than you do, Eros.”

“I don’t know if we’ll make it back. Where we’re going, the questions we will be asking. They’re not the actions of a man long for this world.”

“If I don’t make it back with my son, I don’t want to come back.”

That was enough. Eros had to know where Wellington stood philosophically on this. It was likely to end in death. In the corner of a room somewhere unglamorous To go asking tough questions in places they shouldn’t was a guaranteed way to disappear and never be found. They peeled away from the rest of the group and made their way down to the disheveled docks. He approached a captain whose ship had suffered little damage during the battle. The ship was already seaworthy.

“Where are you heading, Captain”, Eros asked.

“South to the Arc, then up to Imperial City, with perhaps a few stops along the way,’’ he eyed Eros.

Taking passengers was a quick way to make some cash on a trip where they left with much less than they came with, and without credits to show for it.

“Will you take passengers?”

“We will, 500 credits a head. We leave tonight.”

Eros and Wellington parted ways, agreeing to meet at the ship for their departure. Eros walked back through the city towards city hall. His cart was waiting patiently for him. He used his wrist screen to call the cart to action and begin walking back home with the hum of the engine and the sound of tires for gravel. The journey was a pensive one for him. He raced through the items he had at home that he needed to bring. He flipped through an old contact list, with names he hadn’t thought about in a very long time.

As soon as he left the safety of the city gates, he reached for his wrist screen, and activated a wide household defense. He would have little trouble getting home even if there were errant Trackers hiding in the hills. The long-range perimeter defense killed the power pack quickly. Though it recharged with solar panels, it always drained faster than it could be charged. Of course, he did have a generator that could kick on but fuel was as precious and as hard to come by as uncorroded chips.

When he made it back to his empty home, he didn’t bother going inside. He went straight to the garage. On his workbench, he placed his palm down in the lower left-hand corner. Digital markings appeared on the workbench, and he began scrolling through the menu options. He found his selection and tapped it. A wall on the other end of his garage began turning. Lights billowed out from the flipped wall showing rows and rows of his finest work. His finest weapons. He grabbed an empty vest and a knee-length coat and threw them on the counter. Gently, he put his hand over a few of the weapons, whose purpose wasn’t entirely apparent. As he touched each of them, memories of their creation and use flashed back into the front of his mind. He rested for a moment, both hands on the workbench, catching his breath. He cried then. The photo of his wife was smiling at him. He glanced at it, rubbed the water away, and grabbed several of the smaller items in his arsenal, pulling a few out of a drawers below the shelves. You couldn’t see it dead on, but as the light refracted off the small metal blades and barrels, a small insignia could be seen. It wasn’t overt, it wasn’t flashy, but it was there, embedded in the handle of a gun, shaded onto the blade of a knife. The same symbol Kaiya now had burned into her hand. Two overlapping equilateral triangles. The symbol of the Wrannamen.

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