Friday, March 27, 2009



Captain Pacal and his men stared after Flavius, blood splattered and breathing deeply. The wounded groaned and cried from the floor.

“What are you standing around for?” Empress Malinche snapped her fingers and pointed through the shattered window. “After them.”

Pacal nodded and leapt through the shattered window, his squad following after.

Flavius looked up from where he’d fallen and rolled, getting tangled in a thick mass of spiny vines in the process. The drop from the window was only a bit higher than he could reach, but the ropey vegetation that’d cushioned his landing were even better at digging into the skin.

As the militia were finding out first hand.

Flavius tried to stand only to find a vine had managed to wrap around his thigh, holding him down. Every time he moved, the hairy spines gouged a little deeper into his flesh.

“Goddamnit,” he muttered, sawing at it with Memory. The vine parted, but not before giving a fierce constriction. “Yeow!”

He leapt up and kicked his leg free. He found Acaona a short distance away, held fast by a knot of the vines. Flavius could see now they were definitely moving, and not as a result of Acaona’s struggles.

“Lassie, what kind of garden have we landed in?” Flavius demanded as he hacked away at the tendrils coiling around her.

“I don’t know. The gardens along the secure wing are off-limits,” she answered as he pulled her to her feet. The gray-green vines extended perhaps half a stone’s throw from the building, but ran the length of the entire wing. The vegetative mass undulated menacingly in the starlight. “Whatever it is, I think we’ve woken it up.”

A blast of green cuayab fire illuminated the night as a militiaman scoured the ground around him. “Damn bloodnettles are everywhere!” he shouted. “Shit! One’s on my leg!”

“What’d you expect, frothwai blooms? This is the secure wing, you idiot,” another grumbled.

“They’re bloodnettles,” Acaona offered, wincing as Flavius tugged the last tendril from her back. A needlepoint trail of blood blistered up.

“Thanks, but I got that much,” he answered, slashing Memory at a grasping vine. “Can ya burn us a path out of here while I hold off our friends?”

“I dropped the cuayab.”

“Of course ya did. Well, let’s find it.” Flavius turned in time to parry a blow from Captain Pacal. Sparks flew as Memory took another deep bite out of the cuayab. Pacal feinted and jabbed, catching Flavius square in the midsection where the cuayab’s caged fire burned through his shirt into his belly. Flavius backpedaled, his feet sarling among the bloodnettles.

Pacal pressed his sudden advantage, jabbing to keep Flavius off-balance, then raining overhead blows upon him. Flavius warded off the attack with Memory, the sword taking bigger and bigger bites from the cuayab.

Abruptly, the cuayab stuck.

Cage broken and split, braided staff spitting fire from a dozen fissures, the cuayab had embedded mid-blade on Memory, stuck fast. Arms throbbing, Flavius pulled Memory back, jerking the cuayab from Pacal’s hands.

“I’ve just about had my fill of ya,” Flavius said, raising his sword.

Three militiamen charged before Flavius could strike Pacal. Cursing, Flavius swung Memory in broad, deadly strokes. Now unconfined by the narrow apartment, Memory’s reach was a good foot better than the cuayabs, and he pressed his advantage. The impaled cuayab was like a lead weight on the sword, though. It also proved to be a convenient target for the militia, who chose to block at it rather than Memory directly lest their cuayabs end up impaled as well. With every crunching blow, the mangled cuayab spouted more spark and flame.

The bloodnettles continued grasping at his ankles.

“Flavius! I’ve found it!” Acaona shouted, loosing a well-aimed emerald burst at a knot bloodnettles reaching for her legs.

“Brilliant! Burn us a path out of this gorse patch!”

Two militia swung their cuayabs simultaneously. Flavius blocked them, but the shock proved too much for the battered cuayab. The cage broke away completely. Fire erupted from the open end uncontrollably.

“Fall back!” ordered Captain Pacal. “All militia fall back and take cover! The cuayab’s going to blow.”

“These things explode?” Flavius asked accusingly of Acaona.

“How should I know?” Acaona shot back. “I’m Sajal, not militia!”

The fire and smoke belching from the cuayab wreathed Memory in a swirling inferno. Flavius’ hands blistered.

“Come on, Memory, let’s be rid of this faggot, eh?” Flavius whispered. He swung the sword at arm’s length, once, twice, then abruptly pulled back at the apex of the arc. The cuayab slid neatly off the end of the sword.

The spitting missile sailed over the scattering militia and through the shattered apartment window. The window where Empress Malinche, Papantzin and the two militia bodyguards had gathered to watch the melee.


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