I ended up staying home again yesterday but struggled with the will to write. I have to get over this crud because it is making me feel like doing nothing. As a result my progress in NaNoWriMo feels like it has crept to a halt. I am sitting at roughly 35,701 but I feel like I am behind the pace, or at the very least have lost whatever lead I had coming into the game. Right now is the most picky stuff as well, I am trying to join up all the disparate threads into one narrative to set up for the final actions.
Here is the story at hand currently… remember super raw super unedited.
- Shadowed Stone
- Little Giant Girl
- Birthday Wishes
- The Gifts
- The Incursion
- The Watch
- Rough Landing
- Dragon Bone
- People of the Storm
- The Lady
- Cambridge Beneath
- Prisoner of War
- Parting the Veil
- People of the Earth
- The Pack
- Brittagus Escape
- The Lightskimmer
- The Nightlords
20 – Hagengarde
The skyship had been a far more pleasant place than she would have expected initially. While the captain seemed gruff, she had eased over time the longer that Pico and Berrol were on board. In fact she had taken while a shining to the little Berrol who she was now teaching about the main steering complex. Pico was happy to see him smiling since he spent the first day on board sobbing over his father. Astanax had not made it out with them, and it was uncertain whether or not he actually would. While normally not the motherly type… Pico made adjustments for the little guy and tried her best to watch after him.
She sat down in the underbelly of the skyship and in this rare moment of private sifted through her pack. There in a small grey box sat her escape plan. She had done fresh calculations and was still completely uncertain that it would actually have the desired effect. Normally in test firings the analytic weapons had no effect on human flesh, but she had no idea what it would do to magic flesh. She also did not know if it would push her back into her own world… or if it would create a tear in the ward further complicating the problem. She knew one thing, she could not leave without Berrol and she was certain the grenade would not be safe for him.
As she stepped out onto the deck she noticed a landmass dead ahead that was growing larger as they moved towards it. She could see a near endless coastline and surmised that this had to be the eastern coastline of the United States, or what passed for that here in this world. As they moved closer she could see little settlements dotting the coastline. They appeared to be moving towards the largest of these clusters. She thought to herself that this must be Hagengarde, the place that Karrek urged her to go. The valkore were rumored to be dragon hunters, so she hoped they would be able to get her a piece of the dragon bone she needed for analysis.
As effortlessly as it had moved across the sea Pico was not prepared for the sudden lurch as the ship crossed onto the shoreline. It glided its way along the coast until it reached a pier of sorts jutting out into the air. On deck there was a flurry of activity as men grabbed hold of the deck with some sort of a wench, using it to tow them slowly into a resting position. They deployed the same gangplank they had used before, but it felt far more ominous crossing a gap to this floating pier. She was thankful she was not prone to vertigo, because this certainly would have triggered it. Much to her surprise Berrol seemed completely unphased by it, and bounded down the plank and onto the stone pier waving for her to come on. She crossed very slowly and deliberately but made it fine, taking the little boys hand into hers and heading into town.
Hagengarde was absolutely nothing like she expected. After seeing the harsh majesty of Brittagus, she was expecting all of this world to look something like that. The Valkore on the other hand, while masters of the sky seemed to be significantly primitive in other ways. While the city was every bit the bustling metropolis that Brittagus was, it instead was made up mostly of these lodge like buildings. Each was made out of wood or something that looked similar, with bits of bone and metal to embellish. It all gave her the feeling of a holywood “wild west” town but with significantly nordic influence. The people looked similar to her, but much more stout and sturdy. Even Barret who apparently was slight for a Valkore, looked like a bodybuilder.
As she crossed the town something struck out of the landscape. To the left and up a rise was a longer version of these lodges. In place of a wood exterior was a bleached white surface held together with rivets of black iron. If she was not entirely mistaken the building appeared to be made primarily of dragon bone. She made her way across the streets and up the rise until she was standing next to the building. Reaching out her hand she ran it over the smooth exterior. It looked almost exactly like the ward she had seen. It was joined in the same manner with the same iron craftsmanship. It struck her… did the wards initially come from the Valkore?
As she was examining the exterior the door to the lodge flew open and a man was standing in the threshold preparing to exit. She lept back taking shielding Berrol behind her, she recognized that face entirely too well. It was one of the men at the farm house event, the one who had spoken to Aimes, with blazing red hair. She didn’t know what this meant or why he was here, especially after taking a full strike of the analytical weapons. She didn’t know if she and Berrol were in danger, as she looked him over assessing the threat he certainly did not seem dangerous. The commotion had caught his attention and he was now staring blankly at her, quick Pico think of something to say.
“ugh… Hi, you startled me” fumbled Pico. The man looked her over for a moment before relaxing slightly. “Torgos is out currently with the chief huntsman, if you needed him.” the man returned “I was just going out myself to get something to eat. I am sure if you check back later he will be here.” Pico thought to herself, he seemed friendly enough and he certainly had no idea who she was. “Actually I came over here because this lodge appears to be made of dragon bone. Do you know anything about it?” she said pointing idly at the exterior she had been examining. “Huh, come to think of it yeah, I guess it is bone… I had not really noticed. I am not from around here.” Bemel replied sensing something odd about the woman.
Pico had always favored honesty when possible, she made a horrible liar. Even though every bone in her body told her not to, she found herself replying to the man. “I’m not from around here either, I am not even from this world.” With that the man gave her a curious look and then a sudden wave of realization washed over him. “You are from the mortal realm aren’t you? You have the smell about you. At first all I could sense was the mage colony, but now I see an underlying smell of humanity. What brings you to Hagengarde? Better yet… how exactly did you get here? You don’t seem like a halfkin.” Bemel replied curiously. He opened the door to the lodge and offered Pico entrance, thinking that while they were talking they might as well be comfortable.
Pico thanked him and she and Berrol entered taking up seats in the main room. “It’s a long story… I came here through a stable gateway underneath what you would call Brittagus.” She explained about Berrol and Astanax. She spoke about Karrek and the Inquisition, and why exactly she had to escape. She spoke of the Order of Merlin and how Berrol represented the last of that line. She had no idea why all of it came pouring out, especially to a stranger and a potentially dangerous one at that. She talked about how she had sworn to protect Berrol, and make sure he was safe. All the while Bemel simply sat there listening, not showing much emotion.
When she had finished he simply said “You are with the organization they call the ‘watch’ are you not?” Of all the things she was expecting out of his mouth that had been the furthest from it. How exactly did he know about the ward watch? There was no real reason to deny it since he had obviously made that leap himself. “Yes… I’m Pico, Pico Cosgrove one of the engineers responsible for the analytic weapons.” With that she could sense anger rising in him, maybe she had shared a bit too much there. “So you are the one that built the weapons they attacked us with? Do you currently have those weapons here? Are there more of you?” Pico shook her head slowly “It is just me, and no I don’t really have anything like that… we couldn’t risk using them again.” She let out a deep sigh “The wards are falling, and those weapons damaged them significantly.”
Bemel looked shocked for a moment and then a wave of understanding passed over him. “How long have they been weakening?” She told him about the slow and steady decay over the last hundred years, and how the weapons damaged it significantly more. She had thought the weapons would be their salvation, but instead it only seemed to hasten their demise. “We have not been able to repair the wards, nor have we even come close to creating our own synthetic one.” She rifled in her pack and produced the leather bound tome she had taken from the undercroft. “But with this book I might be able to finally create one, I simply need a sample of dragon bone to analyze when I get back home.” A sinking feeling settled into her stomach as she thought “If I get back home”.
Bemel looked very serious for a moment “You’ve picked a rather inconvenient moment to come here. Were it another time I could have potentially helped you get back to your world. Now however we are preparing for war.” Pico gasped audibly, were they going to invade her world as retaliation for the strike against them at the farm house? She remained silent as the man continued “Centuries ago the forces of winter rebelled against the natural order of the seasons, and claimed the northlands as their own. In an attempt to halt their progress we created a barrier, much like your wards. It too is failing, and the mean to use the power of our captured queen to destroy the barrier.”
“The Valkore were nearly driven to a point of extinction by the Trogjan, the ‘things’ that attacked us at the farm house. We are planning a strike on Fort Kraken on the other side of the wall, hoping that we can disrupt the forces long enough for someone to get inside and rescue the queen. Without her power they will not be able to bring down the wall.” Pico thought for a moment, then summoned her courage. “If I help you, can you get me back home safely?” she asked the man. “I can, but how could you help us?” mused Bemel. Pico rifled through her pack and produced the small grey box holding it out carefully in front of her.
“This is a prototype weapon, I brought it with me… as an escape plan. I am not really certain how it will work in this world. But I think it will destroy anything magical in the area of the blast.” Bemel looked at the box Pico was holding and shrunk back in his seat a bit. He had felt the sting of those weapons and remembered the bomb they had dropped that caused the pack of Orts to simply disappear. “The skyships could get someone close enough to the fort to drop the bomb. It should take out a fair number of enemy troops.” Pico said carefully placing the box back inside her pack. However unlikely this alliance was, Bemel thought that maybe the watch had just given them a fighting chance. They would take Fort Kraken, and free the queen.