His home. A dome made from bricks. Deep red bricks baked until they were steel. Laid down in rows by him and his brothers. Overlapping rows melded with mortar. Walls so thick they last thousands of years.
A woman. His wife? A form without name. A form wrapped in silk, blue silk weaved at home. Children. Unnamed. Surrounded by bricks. Surrounded by bricks but left unprotected.
The bird man. An angel. Green skin and black hair. The black mantled form of an Angel of Death. Walks through his town. Walks through his walls. Walks through his bricks and then pierces her heart.
Dried mud flaked off Glig’s wrist as he turned it, testing its strength. It felt okay. The twenty or so hours of fitful, nightmared sleep spent covered in kobold pepper must have done something right.
Glig stared up at the huge mesa, bathed in the pink and orange light of the setting sun. He could see the tiny entrances dotting its surface, tunnels leading down into the formicary. Mahani had told him that nothing ever went in and came out again except kobolds. That’s probably why the three of them were still out here, sweating in this cage surrounded by gravel. The kobolds were trying to decide whether they could torture and kill them without starting a war.
Mahani was a nomad by birth, even though she had been raised in Houndsworth and probably hadn’t even seen the prairies since she was a toddler. But the kobolds didn’t know that. To them, she might as well be the high priest’s daughter or something. They were being careful. And as Mahani had reminded Glig many times during the torture portion of her kobold lecture series, Kobold’s could be very, very patient. Of course, in this situation, starting a war with some nomad tribe was probably the least of the kobolds’ concerns.
Glig looked at the birdman across the cage from him. Or, whatever it was. It was tall like a birdman, green like a birdman, and had the black eyes of a birdman. But that’s where it stopped. This thing was only a birdman in the way a truffle dog was a wolf. Soft teeth, passive. Some sort of runt or something. Glig felt sorry for it. Honestly, it seemed more afraid of him than he was of it. Guarded, defensive. He had no idea why Mahani was being so hard on the thing. It was just like them, trapped here, waiting for bloodthirsty kobolds to decide if they could hurt it more without incurring the wrath of Heaven. Or in Glig’s case, some kind of Demonic All-Lord or something. According to Mahani, kobolds once worshipped demons.
The argument that had broken out among the kobolds upon seeing Glig unburned by oil hadn’t ended, but only spread around the hunting posts, plunder yards, and gravel dumps outside Mad Mesa, gaining volume and passion and dividing the kobolds into roughly two sides. At least, that’s what it looked like from inside the cage. Even now, as the sun set behind them, and kobolds scurried around preparing for nightfall, trying to make use of the dwindling sun, Glig could see some of them collecting together in a cluster near the burrow entrances to watch a kobold torture-master with a large neck-frill argue with a white-scaled, pink-eyed kobold shaman.
As the argument spooled out, more and more kobolds were drawn in, until nearly the entire surface workforce was gathered on the far east side of the gravel pile fifty yards away. Even the scrapmaster was distracted, and had drifted from his pile of plunder to get a better look at what was going on.
“This is our chance,” said Chael, in distinctly accented trade tongue. “If we’re gonna try this, we better do it now.”
“Right,” agreed Mahani, coldly. “Glig, you ready?”
Glig pulled his gaze away from the shaman, and stepped up beside them. “Breep.”
Together, the three of them placed their hands on the wooden bars. Then, on Glig’s count, they rocked the entire the cage over onto its side, and started rolling themselves toward the pile of scrap.
I have a newborn baby. Her name is Billie. Baby Billie wants more than anything in the world for her dad to be a famous author. Right, Billie? I said, RIGHT, BILLIE? Okay, I guess Billie wants more than anything in the world to sleep. But still. Click the heart, tell a friend, leave a comment. It means a lot to me. :)