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Aquila IX – The Occupied Town

    The crew gripped the side of Loki’s sled as they sped across the Gulf of Heimneif, thrown about whenever the blades went over one of the round bumps in the ice.  Loki tried to stay near the shore to prevent any chance of breaking through.  Within an hour Loki had turned the art of avoiding the obstructions into a game.  The craft was slow to turn but he could avoid most of the obstacles, though sometimes he still hit one that threatened to overturn the entire sleigh.  

   Bookworm regretted her decision when the vehicle almost overturned the first time, but she gave it a chance to prove itself.  Now that Loki had gotten used to steering the craft the threat had diminished.  With Doctor Falcon already found the captain was hoping to reach Wuldram Shores, get clear instructions to Aquila IX, discover what had happened to the scientists, and return home.

  Beryl clung to the side of the sleigh and tightened their grip every time they went airborne for a brief moment.  They begged them to stop for lunch which the others agreed to readily.  They took shelter near a rocky, frozen gully beach and marveled at the progress they had made.  Cutting across the gulf had saved them over a day hiking already.

  Wright prepared everyone a decent meal, but it was missing fruits and vegetables.  He had run out of beans and Loki had been reduced to oatmeal since last night.  Tepic tried to offer him vole cheese again, but Loki vehemently refused.

  Yang was becoming excited as he had started to recognize the landscape.  “I remember now!  I fished in this little gully years ago!  We are only a few knots from our destination!”  Bookworm excitedly asked him how soon until they arrived.  “I would estimate less than two or three hours from here!”

  The ecstatic group returned to the sleigh and started on their journey again with thoughts of fresh supplies, apples, and hotel rooms.  Loki and Tepic let out a loud ha-rumble when Yang shouted,  “Be prepared to turn right past those rocks!  This is it, Wuldram Shores!” 

    Loki began turning early and the township was finally in sight.  The village could almost fit into Babbage Square and the Canals.  The city rested on a slope and surrounded by a large stone wall.  Even the smallest building was nearly four stories tall made from either brick or stone with snow covered rooftops.  In the distance they could see a church dedicated to the Builder in a surprising state of disrepair.   Oddly, chimneys that should have been smoking were dormant and there was very little evidence of light or fires burning to keep homes warm.

  Cheer drained from the companions as they realized that some of the homes had collapsed, and steam powered mobile cannons patrolled the streets.  Armed men in uniform coats looked small compared to the buildings, but they were heavily armed.  A strange flag bearing four triangles connected with a circle flew over the docks as cannons were moving into position.  A finely dressed bearded captain in an extravagant coat and hat watched them from the pier with a smile, as if he had been expecting the travelers.  At his order they opened fire.

  Loki steered the sleigh hard right, but it hit several bumps that caused them to leap and bound wildly.  The cannons broke the ice behind them, causing water and shards to shower the companions as the floor started to crack under them.  The bearded captain had the cannoniers repositioning to fire around the sleigh.  They did not have to aim to send the companions to an icy grave.  

  The second round sent the sleigh crashing to its side.  As the sleigh skid towards land Avariel and Mr. Wright seated next to were ejected by the crash.  Beryl tightened their grip shouting in terror while the supplies tumbled to the ground.

  Bookworm ordered everyone to abandon the vehicle.  They saved their own packs before leaping away and running for shore, trying not to stumble on the slippery terrain.  Wright had to scoop up his own sack moments before the boiler exploded as the cannons hit their mark.  Splinters and ice shards were not as dangerous as the liquid billowing forth, nor the ice cracking below them as their stores went to the bottom of the sea.  The team retreated out of view into a wooded area outside the town  walls.   Wright and Avariel forced to wade through hip-deep frigid water to escape as the attack covered them with frozen waves filled with broken ice.

  At the docks, the man in the extravagant coat laughed as the freezing figures escaped.  He took a swig of rum before he ordered a pursuit.  Even twenty minutes wet in this temperature would force them to surrender or freeze to death.  Either one was fine with him.


   “I thought you said they wouldn’t attack!?”  Bookworm whispered to Yang as they hid under a small alcove.  They would be discovered shortly, but it was the best cover they could manage on short notice.  

 “Those were not men from Wuldram Shores nor was that the city’s standard!” Yang struggled to say through chattering teeth.  He pulled his blanket tighter around himself to fight the chill.  “I do not know who they are, but they are not natives!”

 Loki lowered his head in shame, “Shoulda tol’ me tere would be an army ‘ere!  I coulda turned off a mile back and coulda snuck if yer said!”  

 “We didn’t know, Loki,” Bookworm said miserably wishing they had approached the city more discreetly.  

  “We knew someone blew up the train tracks,”  Mariah corrected her bitterly.  “We just didn’t know who or why.”

  Tepic mused for a moment before he came to his own conclusion, “Maybe they’s sore cause them numpty scientists sent sumfin nasty like spiders to them too!”

  “It may have been before that.  We lost wireless telegraph contact with Dr. Gammis just before Christmas,”  Avariel added as she went through her memories.

   “We can worry about reasons or fault later!  They won’t matter if we catch hypothermia or pneumonia!  We need to get somewhere warm and dry off now, especially Mr. Wright!” Beryl whispered harshly with a glance back to the wolf keeping watch while he shivered.  He was trying to hide any weakness from the team.

  “I’m open to suggestions,”  Bookworm said with bitter patience as she placed her hands under her arms, attempting to warm them.

  “We sneak inside this moment, or we surrender.”  To Beryl, their medical needs outweighed any other concerns including escape.  “We don’t have time to think or discuss it, every second matters!”

  Bookworm grimaced but she knew Beryl was correct.  They had to reach a safe shelter before they worried about what enemy they were facing.  She turned to Yang, “Where could we possibly go, Mr. Moreau.”

  Yang considered for a few moments, ”There is a back entrance to the Church.  The Builders are no allies of invaders.”

  Bookworm nodded, feeling relief now they had a destination and hope.  “Then that is where we will go.”  

   “Errr…so ter be clear, we’s lost our food an supplies ter the bottom of a frozen ocean we cames sledding across,” Tepic began, his tiny form shaking in the arctic wind.  “We’s freezin’ ter death in the middle of a forest filled with killer bunnies an’ monsters, while an army conquered the town we was hopin’ ter get help from.  Now, we has ter sneak inter the town that tried ter blow us up an hope we ain’t walkin’ inter a trap?”  At Bookworm’s nod Tepic looked to Loki excitedly,  “Cor!  Never expected this trip were gonna be this excitin’!  Hate ter be that army when our heroes here really get goin’!”

  The others seemed much less excited by their chances as they followed Yang Moreau into the open, hoping he and Wright could help them avoid patrols.

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  1. Ramblingal Ramblingal February 5, 2016

    Nu! Not the killer bunnehs! EEp!

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