“Tits! What are y’all doing here,” exclaimed the peaceguard loudly.
“Quiet,” hissed Soletus.
The three other men behind the guard, faces screwed up, becoming affronted that Soletus would dare order them. The one in the middle had a crossbow and raised it up.
“Put the knife down, lad,” he ordered at a shout.
The drass beast stopped meandering at the edge of Mien’s mind anymore and was coming towards them.
“Soletus,” he said between his teeth.
Soletus shushed the guards again. “Shhh, keep your voice down. Turn around and get out of here. There’s a drass beast around.”
One man, who was holding a bucket and rake, started laughing. “What are you going on about?”
Lyndon made a disgruntled noise in the back of his throat and at the same time Soletus spoke again, losing his patients.
“Above and below, you were born in swamp,” hissed Soletus angrily. “Get moving, dammit! What part of drass beast and shut up don’t you understand?”
Mien could feel it coming faster. “Soletus,” he breathed out.
“What part of this crossbow you don’t understand,” the man retorted.
Soletus ignored and returned to Mien.
“Which way,” his friend asked.
“Our left,” said Mien.
Soletus took Mien by his shoulder and made him face the peaceguards. “You see him. He’s a chanter. He can feel drass beasts. Notice his glowing irises. Now, you can stand here and debate with me or you can start moving,” commanded Soletus as loud as he dared.
“Don’t you order—”
“Move,” repeated Soletus, forcing his words at them.
The peaceguard in front of him shook his head. “What are you trying to pull here…wait a minute. I know your face.”
Then all the blood drained from the man’s face.
“Fellas, do as he say,” he told his companions.
“Why we listening to a stupid tod,” said the one with the crossbow.
“Because that stupid tod is a Sheldmartin that’s why!”
The peaceguard ran up the stairs, fleeing from them. Soletus waved them forward. By the time they made it back to the top of the stairs, Mien felt that the drass beast was right on top of them. The phrase of light spilled from his mouth and to their left from above dropped a skulker that was looked bobcat-like but the size of a panther in the middle of the two groups. The guards scattered, screaming. Mien tossed the hot globe he formed at it. But the cat-like monster sprung out of the way, leaping back over the overgrown hedge way it came from.
“Spread out,” shouted Soletus, but the order was lost in the chaos. The peaceguards went one direction. Lyndon listened, leaving Kiao’s side. While the young woman ran one direction and then the other looking like she didn’t know where to go.
“Kiao, find someplace to hide,” shouted Soletus.
She tried, however, the skulker emerged from the shadows and bounded straight for her. Mien’s blood ran cold as he watched in horror as the drass beast tackled her down. Kiao cried out, screaming as the skulker dug at her back. Lyndon sent Nox over to her. The owl flew into the drass beast’s face talons stretched. Nox flapped his wings while he gouged at the monster’s milky eyes. The monster let out a hollow sounding yowl as it tried to swat the owl from his face.
Mien had another light orb ready as Kiao crawled away and then scrambled to her feet. He wanted to throw it at the skulker’s head. Always the head or neck, was what Nimbus told him. However, Nox was in the way.
“Get Nox out of there,” shouted Soletus to Lyndon.
His cousin didn’t call back the owl until Kiao dove into a dark corner hiding. By then, it was too late. The drass beast swiped a claw and catch one of Nox’s wings. The screech owl let out a cry at the same time Lyndon did. The skulker’s jaws encircled the consort’s body and started shaking the bird. Feathers were flying everywhere. Lyndon dropped to the ground and didn’t move.
Since he fainted, it didn’t matter if Mien hurt Nox or not and he hurled the light, this time striking it in the shoulders. It let out a hollow snarl and charged at him leaving Nox. Mien stood his ground and Khodi galloped past him. The high mountain brown bear slammed the drass beast.
Mien swung his head around to see Soletus walking forward with his knife in his hand, wearing a tight scowl. Unlike, Lyndon, there was no transfer of pain to him if Khodi was scratched, bitten, mauled, or any other terrifying things that could happen to a consort getting too close to a drass beast. Not only that, if Soletus had Khodi out while he was fighting, it numbed the pain from wounds that he received. It made him a valuable fighter and one who could easily be stupid about what he did. However, he didn’t join in with the struggle. He stopped beside of Mien and watched the bear tear at the drass beast.
Mien had seen Khodi fight when he first arrived at the Brotherhood. Then the bear was used more defensively as a distraction. He was also smaller. In front of him presently, the bear was being vicious. Khodi took a large paw and slapped the drass beast in the jaw, sending it to the ground again. He then dove at its neck while it was down and started mimicking what it had done to Nox.
Mien peered up at Soletus. He was the one making suggestions to the consort and fueling him with obviously was his anger. Mien heard a pop and Khodi dropped the skulker. The consort broke its neck. Its eyes were torn, but Mien could still see a bit of white giving them a sinister leer. Mien called up another globe of light, fueled it with all his animosity, and hurled it at the beast’s eyes. It didn’t look at them anymore after that.
“There you didn’t even have to touch it,” said Mien.
“You couldn’t let me stab it at least once,” said Soletus, rubbing his scarred forearm.
Mien glanced down at his blade. “With that whittling knife?”
Soletus looked down at it and sheathed it. “The blade is just a little shorter than my thrust daggers.”
“Wasn’t Khodi killing it enough?”
Soletus started towards Lyndon. “Not satisfying.”
Mien followed him. “By all means, stab it now.”
“It’s smoldering and I don’t feel like getting burned,” said Soletus as he unsummoned Khodi and the consort faded out of existence.
Mien rolled Lyndon on his back.
The young scout was lying on the ground, eyes opened wide. Nox was now a transparent outline. Mien put his hand in front of Lyndon’s nose while pressing his hand on his neck. He was still breathing, but his heart was a bit weak.
“Kiao,” shouted Soletus.
“Lyndon will be okay sooner or later,” said Mien, straightening up and searching for the young woman. He didn’t see her at first, but there was movement from the shadow of a derelict building. He saw the tip of her shoe. The both ran over to where she hid in the doorway. She was leaning against the doorway on the ground, breathing heavily. She craddled her right arm with a scrapped and bruised elbow. Mien didn’t know how responsive she was.
“Come on, Kiao,” said Mien gently. He figured she was in shock or would be going into it soon.
“My back hurts,” she said. “It’s lacerated, felt like that thing was trying to dig out my spine.”
“Did it hit it,” said Mien, growing concerned.
“No. Just a lot of pain and numbness,” she said with her eyelids sinking down.
Soletus patted her cheek. “Stay with us.”
“It’s a bit difficult with toxin running through me.”
“We need to get you out of here,” said Soletus leaning back. “Where did those peaceguards go?”
“They ran away,” said Kiao.
“I could find them. I bet they didn’t get far.”
That jerked Kiao out of shock. “No,” she shrilled and then calmed herself, saying. “No, I wouldn’t trust them. I can stand.”
A freshly birthed fawn had more coordination than Kiao did as she struggled to get to her legs. She had to use the doorway she leaned on to stabilize herself while her legs trembled. Both Mien and Soletus had their arms raised to catch her if she fell. However, she stood up and walk without their help. It left her breathing hard and sweating from exertion, or perhaps it was the wound itself.
Mien was about to stop her from walking ahead of them because of her breast band. However, all he saw on her back was the shredded fabric and her bloodied back.
“No, no,no,” he said to her. “Sit, sit now!”
She lowered herself down to the ground. “Is it that bad,” she asked.
She had several series of long bleeding claw rakes going down her back. They looked to be mostly shallow and not into muscle, or Mien hoped.
“Can I examine you,” he asked.
“It’s not like you can heal it,” she reminded him. “The wound is dirty.”
“I can at least cover it up.”
Soletus crouched next to Mien. “My first suggestion would be to use what’s left of Kiao’s shirt, but…” he hesitated.
Mien gave his friend a sideways glance. Soletus gestured to Kiao with his head and gave him a meaningful look. Mien didn’t know what to tell him as he promised not to tell. He included that in with his friend finding out on his own.
“Why are you two quiet,” she asked.
Soletus crawled in front of Kiao. “Okay, before we go forward, do I need to treat you on need-to-know terms?”
Kiao became stiff.
“Relax,” he said, holding his hands up. “I’m not curious. I want to know nothing. All I want to do is help you.”
Kiao let out a fleeting giggle. “You can help me by giving me your sash. It should be long enough to wrap around my torso, covering up most of my back.”
Soletus did as she asked. “I think that might bring attention to you if wrapped too tight,” he added.
Kiao looked at him with a raised brow.
“In town,” he clarified, handing Mien the sash.
Mien was impressed. The young monk wasn’t getting flustered and red in the face. He was collected.
“Details I’ll figure out later,” she said.
Mien tried to make the most of the long fabric. It wasn’t as wide as he thought. Neither did he have anything to secure the make-shift bandage’s end. He tucked it in the best way he could at Kiao’s side. He kept fumbling and was unable to get the end tucked in as he wanted. Meanwhile, Soletus went back to Lyndon’s side, waiting for him to wake up. Mien glanced up to see him give the tod a shake before settling back down again, concerned.
Kiao then said to Mien. “This is ridiculous. I’ve been here since I was 19 and only one person found out after years. And then in the span of just a few days, two more people find out. Brother Hickory is going to make me live in a glass jar after this.”
“It’s not your fault,” said Mien upset that she was hurt. If the peaceguard listened and had a drop of decency in them, they could’ve shot the thing from moving so fast or killed it. He was certain there was a tao stone arrow loaded in the crossbow. Instead, they ran away like a bunch of cowards.
“But you look like you’re blaming someone. I know that scowl.”
“I’m not mad at you or myself. Just those guards,” he said. “I’m done.”
“Their performance does leave something to be desired,” said Kiao wobbling to her feet again.
“I don’t think you should be walking.”
“I’m not walking, I’m shuffling,” she told him going towards Lyndon’s side.
Mien helped her along and then he heard voices.
“The guards,” he said.
Soletus pulled Lyndon up and threw him across his shoulder. “We’ll go this way,” he said, pointing in a random direction. Mien took Kiao’s hand and pulled her along. She was having trouble keeping up. She would speed up and then slow down as they weaved in and out between buildings. They then come to a brightly lit area where they had to trek through waist high grass. It brought them to the wall. Soletus went over it first and dropped Lyndon before he helped Kiao step over it. Mien climbed over it by himself. He picked up Lyndon again and his cousin cried out.
“Drop me, drop me now!”
Soletus let his cousin go just in time and dodged the scout’s vomit. Lyndon sucked in air before coughing and throwing up again.
“Lyn I hate to rush you, but we need to get going,” said Soletus.
The scout got to his feet just as Kiao’s knees buckled. Mien nearly toppled to the ground from her shift in weight.
Soletus called Khodi back out again. “Get on his back.
Kiao looked at the bear as he lowered his lumbering form down like a trained pony.
“This is not how I’ve envisioned my evening,” she said, climbing on the bear's back and gripped the scruff of his neck. Soletus led the way, following the wall jogging.