Tuesday, March 4, 2008



English cannon fire ripped the air. The choking smoke roiled across the marshy field. The icy, stinging rain came down in fits and starts. A hundred highlanders--maybe more--lay dead on the sodden ground, their ranks naked and exposed to the withering fire of the English guns. The erratic fire from the handful of Scottish cannon offered little cover for their own, and little threat to the English. And still they stood their ground, neither charging nor retreating.

Parric watched, dumbfounded. He'd heard tales of the battle over and over again, but until this moment, he hadn't realized that this "Bonnie Prince Charlie" Flavius went on about had intentionally lost. But that was the only explanation for the carnage he was witnessing, unless... The possibility that these highlanders were afflicted with a type of mass insanity had never occurred to him before, either, but it did explain a great many things about Flavius.

Parric hovered high above the battlefield, hidden inside a dimensional pocket. Watching. Waiting. Already he'd located seventeen Nexial gaps within a five mile radius. Granted, six of those were deep within the crust of the planet below him, but when it came right down to it, a gap was a gap.

Parric scanned the massed highlanders again, trying to spot Flavius. Parric had arrived earlier this time, hopefully early enough to avoid the moironteau entirely. The downside was that he didn't actually know where Flavius would be at this point. Past experience had demonstrated that a mortally wounded, near-death Flavius invariably proved more docile and far less likely to engage in any chopping off of wings, not to mention other, more negative, behaviors.

Parric perked up. Some signal had gone out--the massed highlanders seemed to tense, them let out a thunderous roar as one. The din was deafening. In fits and starts, they began their charge.

Parric knew what happened next. Knew where Flavius was going, where he'd be. Cautiously, Parric extended his antennae.

No sign of the moironteau.

That didn't mean it wasn't out there, lying in wait like some interdimensional trap door spider, ready to spring its trap.

There was no time like the present. Besides, if he got Flavius now, he wouldn't have to bother Crafting his wounds back together.

Parric uncoiled, slipping out of his shelter. Immediately gravity noticed him, asserting its hold. Deliberately, almost casually, Parric spread his double pair of wings. They vanished in a blur of motion. A moment before he struck the ground, Parric leveled off and shot toward the charging highlanders.

He reached them in an instant, plunging through banks of smoke and darting this way and that to avoid collision with any number of wildly screaming men. Ahead, Parric spotted Flavius.

Flavius MacDuff was unmistakable in his mud-splattered kilt, his red-brown hair and beard bedraggled and forlorn. In one hand he waved his old, notched sword and in the other he held his shield. He charged with the rest of the Scots, fighting to keep his footing as those on his left crowded into his rank to avoid a bog of standing water.

Parric was on him in an instant. Flavius turned a split second before Parric reached him, his eyes going wide before he was plucked from the ground like the day's berry harvest.

Parric snatched Flavius with his hindmost wings, wrapping him up and holding him immobile. Flavius spewed forth a flood of unintelligible curses, muffled by the constraining wings. Flavius' sword, fortunately, was also immobilized by Parric's grip.

"Stop fighting me, you idiot," Parric muttered as Flavius' thrashing made his flightpath weave drunkenly. "You're not liking falling, I guarantee!"

Parric banked right, making for the nearest Nexial gap. He began to Craft a Wedging, then abandoned the effort. The gap was already blocked. Quickly he pulled up, breaking away from the gap just as the moironteau appeared from out of nowhere. The moironteau's teeth slashed the air where Parric had been a moment earlier.

The moironteau lunged after Parric, crushing the charging highlanders underfoot. The monstrous apparition proved too much for the haggard Scots--the left flank faltered, then scattered. The moironteau took no notice of the humans. Instead, it flung itself after Parric, four of its footheads straining forward, mouths gaping.

Unlike their first encounter, Parric was ready. A subtle flick of his antennae Crafted prismatic distortions over the moironteau's multitude of eyes.

The results were as instantaneous as they were spectacular. Suddenly faced with visual dissonance as each eye processed light forty, ninety or one hundred and eighty degrees off its normal focal plane, the legs caromed wildly trying to reconcile what it saw with reality. It tripped, tumbled and crashed violently into the bog.

Parric allowed himself a private smile. Knowicent's background on the moironteau had proven accurate, after all. With that many simple eyes, it didn't take much Crafting at all to upset the creature's complex visual processing.

"Taking that back to your master," Parric shouted.

Parric made for the next closest gap, in the heart of the English line. The foot soldiers stared dumbfounded as Parric shot past overhead, the officers anchored in place, open mouthed. Quickly Parric began Crafting a Wedging for the looming gap, when unexpectedly the gap opened on its own.

A moironteau launched itself through the opening. Then another. And another.



Unknown said...

Great...but how long to the next one...I'm waiting

Jayme Lynn Blaschke said...

Sorry to leave you hanging, Clark. I'm shooting for a return on March 24 or thereabouts.

Unknown said...

OK jayme i'll just hang out ;>}

Jayme Lynn Blaschke said...

My apologies, Clark. I'd intended to post on Monday but a number of things have conspired to delay the next installment. But part 9 is coming. I promise.