The Red Hand Part 16


by Shane Migliavacca

The Red Hand Part Sixteen The Lizard Patrol



I’m riding on Ninth’s back as he climbs out of the pit. Seventh is above us, carrying Maebh on his back. Tenth is below us. I’m probably holding Ninth a lot tighter than is comfortable for him, but he’s not complaining. I keep my eyes closed. The feeling of being weightless and falling suddenly grips me. I hold him even tighter, if that’s possible. When we reach the top I jump off his back, just happy to be on solid ground again. The area we come up in is a large courtyard. It’s surrounded by large buildings. I wonder if this was some kind of social area back then. The ever encroaching desert sands have been kinder to this part of the city. Less of it seems buried than where I ended up last time I was here.

Seventh sends Tenth out to scout around before we leave the cover the buildings provide. I decide to thank Ninth for the ride up. “Thanks. Hope I wasn’t holding on too tight.”

He looks at me. “You were not.”

I’ve made up my mind to get to know him better. Maybe because of the crazy situation we’re in. I want to know the people who are looking out for me. I feel guilty maybe, having people putting themselves in danger because of me. Or maybe I’m just really nosy.

“Feeling better after getting bit and webbed up down there?”

“No. I’m displeased that I was taken out like some helpless hatchling. I feel like a fool.” He laughs. “Praise Isr for you and Tenth. Next time it will be me saving you.”

“Next giant spider is all yours.” I say.

This makes him laugh harder. “I look forward to it.”

Tenth returns. She tells us the coast is clear. We head out in the same formation we used in the tunnels. As we pass through an alley between two of the buildings a strong wind kicks up. Throwing sand about and dropping visibility. On the plus side it’ll be harder for them to see us as well. We slowly creep down a hazy street. Clouds of sand swirl around us like fog. The wind picks up in strength. A little further down the street Seventh takes us down another alley. This one is built up with sand drifts. This reminds me of walking through snowbanks back home. My foot sinks down in one up to my knee. I trip. Tenth comes up behind me, helping me up.

“Step easy little sister.” She says.

It’s so easy for them, going over the sand. Of course they’ve had who knows how long to adapt to the desert sands. Maebh appears very skilled at making her way over the sands too. Of course she’s been here for years. My boots are filled with the crap after that. I lean against one of the buildings and empty my boots out.

I see the others stop at the end of the alley. They look back at me and Tenth.

“Come Serena, they are waiting.” Tenth says.

“I know. My boots are filled.”

I pull them back on and we move up. I try to keep to the shallow parts of the drifts when possible. After about a minute we reach the others.

“Sorry guys.” I say.

Nobody responds.

“We will move to the alleyway across from us.” Seventh tells us.

As we make our way closer to the center of the city the same sounds of work I heard before grow louder. We leave the alley onto another street. It looms up behind some of the buildings. What we’ve come here for. Through the clouds of sand we see a large pyramid. Not like the kind associated with Egypt. This one looks more like the kind the Mayan built. Something stands atop the pyramid. From here it’s hard to make out. But it looks like a two pronged tower. Seventh says we should move closer to get a better look at it.

After a few minutes going the street he signals for us to stop. Maebh pulls out her spyglass. She says we should be close enough to make it out better. She studies it for a few minutes and then hands the spyglass to Seventh.

“What is it?” I ask her.

“I’m not quite sure. But would hazard a guess at it being a weapon.”

“Like a giant death ray?” I say.

“A weapon? To what end?” says Ninth.

“To wipe us out.” Tenth says.

Seventh hands Maebh the spyglass. “We need to inform The Reint.”

“Why would they make a weapon just to take out you guys?” I say.

Maebh backs me up. “Serena is correct. This thing’s purpose is for something worse. But as Seventh mentioned. The Reint must be informed. I fear whatever this thing’s purpose, your people are a risk.”

“We don’t know how far along this weapon is?” Ninth says.

Seventh thinks for a moment. He looks back towards the structure. He then turns to Tenth. “You’re the fastest here little sister. Bring The Reint news of what we’ve found here.”

I can see Tenth hesitate. She doesn’t want to leave, but her brother outranks her. “Yes sir.” She responds.

“The rest of us will stay and recon the area and keep watch over this weapon.”

I share a quick glance with Tenth as she gets ready to leave. A nagging feeling pulls at me. I feel like I need to do something before she leaves. That it’ll be too late if I don’t.

“I’ll go with her.” I say.

“No.” Seventh says. “You’ll only slow her down.”

Well shit. No candy coating with him.

Tenth reaches under her cloak. She pulls out my sword.

“You may need this, sister. Forgot I had it. I meant to give it back earlier.”

“Thanks.” I take it, clipping it on to my belt.

She leaves. I want to say more. Tell her this feeling of dread clawing at me, tell her goodbye. There’s something else too. These other feelings I’m having about Tenth, ones I’m not sure of yet. I don’t say anything. I just watch as she disappears down the street. Swallowed up by the billowing sands.

“Don’t worry.” says Ninth. “She’ll be fine.”

“Hope so.” Wish I believed him.

“It is us you should worry about.” He says.

Great. That really doesn’t make me feel any better about this. Seventh moves us out. Down another street to avoid a patrol of lizards he noticed. We take cover behind a large sculpture waiting for the patrol of five blue lizard warriors to pass us by. After they’re gone we move on down the street.

The closer we move to the center of the city, the closer we get to that thing, the air gets heavier. It feels like trying to breathe water into your lungs. The sound of working becomes almost a melody. A bang there, a clang there. I start to time my movements to its song.

Seventh and Maebh stop to peer at the thing again through the spyglass. We’re close enough now to see them working on the tower. They crawl across it like ants on a leaf. All the work appears to be centered on this tower. The pyramid underneath it appears old.

“Is that pyramid under that thing part of the city?” I ask.

“It is was the great temple of Isr. The same one where Nirzai served as a priestess.” Ninth answers. “They desecrate it with that.”

I look down the street, the way we came. Coming towards us is another patrol.

“We’ve got company.” I blurt out.

It’s too late. They’ve seen us. I hear them call out.

Seventh and Ninth leap up and before I know it the four of us a rushing down another alley. As we reach the end the patrol reaches the entrance. We make it to the street just in time to stumble into another patrol. By the way they react I think we surprised them. With the other group coming up the alley behind us and these guys in front, we’ve got nowhere to go.

Seventh and Ninth pull out their own swords. Similar to mine. I do likewise. Maebh has her staff. I notice the blue lizards have just regular swords. I guess this is going to be a fight.

Surrounded we go back to back. With me and Maebh facing the five coming from the alley. Is this the bad feeling I had before?

I don’t have a chance to ponder it as the first of them rushes us. I just have to remember my training. The first one is a large male, a deep scar across his forehead. He swings his sword at me and instinctively the sword lights up in my hands. The blade lashing out and cutting off the hand holding the sword. This shocks me and I stand there gawking at the lizard man holding his stump and the severed hand flopping around on the ground. I don’t even see the next one coming at me, but the old woman does. She uses her staff in a flurry of motion taking the warrior’s feet out from under him and then smashing him in the face before he can get up. Damn! She did that with only one hand. If I had any doubts about how well the old woman could handle herself, they’ve all but disappeared in a few quick movements.   

“Thanks.” I mutter.

The one whose hand I cut off, stumbles off. Back down the alley. Behind us I can hear Seventh and Ninth fighting the others. I want to turn and see how they’re doing. But I can’t risk it. Not with three more of them still coming. I feel the sword sapping my energy. I’m still drained from facing Nirzai in the tunnels. Maybe sensing this, Maebh steps between me and the three remaining blue lizards. She smacks the first one in the chest and forehead with her staff before knocking him to the ground. The second one, a female jumps over her fallen comrades, holding what looks like a baton. The two of them trade blows. Each blocking the others attack. Before the last of the three can join in that fight I step in. He looks me over twirling a small ax in his hand.

“I don’t want to kill you.” I say.

“Good. You make it easy for me.” He says.

With his other hand he pulls a dagger from his belt. He closes the gap between us in a quick leap. Slicing at me with the dagger. I narrowly avoid getting sliced. He tries to catch me with the ax in his other hand, swinging into my dodge, but I was expecting that and go low. Leaving him with only air.

Realizing he’s open he flips backwards. I grab one of the fallen warrior’s swords from the ground. Letting the crystal fade out. The real kind of sword will have to do for now. It’s heavy, hope I can manage it.

The wind gusts grow stronger making the sand clouds dancing around us thicker. I can barely see the ax lizard as he comes at me again. Holding the ax above his head. I swing the sword at his lower half. As I feared it’s heavy and my swing is slow. Leaving me open and giving him time to dodge. He throws the dagger at me as I try to recover. It catches the top of my shoulder. Glancing off the bone and giving me a nice cut. I swear as pain spreads through my shoulder. As I fall back he leaps into the air twisting around. He flips over my head, coming down behind me and kicking me in the back. Sending me falling face first to the ground. I drop the sword as I try to cushion my fall. I roll over quick onto my back. The ax lizard laughing at me. Around me I can see the others holding their own against the blue lizards. But me? I’m lying on my ass. My shoulder throbbing from the dagger wound.

“You’re like a pathetic hatchling.” He says. “One that would never make it from its egg. You can’t even swing a sword.”

This bastard…Son of a bitch must die! I stand. Anger and embarrassment fueling me. I’m weaponless except for the crystal sword hilt on my belt. Do I have enough left to use it? He twirls the ax in his hand. He smiles. Keep on laughing shithead. I charge at him. He readies his ax for a killing blow. Bastard probably thinks I’ve lost my mind. Truthfully I think I have. Halfway there I pull the sword hilt from my belt. I give it my last bit of strength. A faint blade appears. Enough I hope. Too late for him to react I swing. Cutting of his ax hand and then his head in one upward motion. His head now free from his shoulders tumbles off in to the air.

His headless body falls to the ground twitching just as I hit the ground. My last ounce of energy gone. I blackout as the battle continues around me.


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