The Red Hand Part 28
by Shane MIgliavacca
The Red Hand Part Twenty Eight Refugees and Reunions
A few hours after the beast rider’s arrival they showed up. The Reint leading a ragtag group of survivors. The mine would be their new haven. A little over fifty made it out of the two hundred that lived in the those caves. They tell us of a great warship. Hovering in the sky. Bombarding the caves with volley after volley of explosive blasts. After countless barrages, warriors repelled from the warship, attacking the survivors. They fought the invaders the best they could, but they were too numerous and killed most of defenders. Some might have been captured as well, but he didn’t know for certain.
A warship. Just the idea of it is terrifying. A cold chill ran along my spine. Impulsively I look up at the sky. How do we defend against something like that? Just when it looked like we had the advantage. It’s all gone. We’re back to square one. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.
The refugees keep coming. They file by us through the gate. Dirty, broken and battered, but unbeaten. Weary yet definite expressions on their faces. Fire in their eyes. I scan them as they pass by. So far, I’ve only recognized The Reint. The others don’t stand out. There’s somebody in particular I’m looking for. Someone who would stand out. Where’s Maebh?
“Have you see the old woman?” I ask a limping survivor as she passes. She shakes her head. “Do you know if Maebh made it out?” I ask another.
“I don’t know.” He answers.
“They took her.” An older woman, helping along a wounded man says. “Some of the warriors grabbed her. I saw them dragging her along. Then a wall caved in. I don’t know if they made it out or not.”
I sink back against the gate. Looking down at the scarred ground. Not the old woman too. I feel like I’m on the verge of tears when I hear a familiar whimpering noise. I look up to see Wolfie trotting alongside Ninth. Wolfie runs up to me, nearly knocking me down as he licks my face.
“Easy boy. I missed you too.”
Ninth steps away from the procession. He pats Wolfie on the back. “He’s a fine beast. He took down nearly as many warriors as I.”
“Thanks. That’s enough boy.” I manage to get Wolfie to calm down. “How are you?” I ask.
“Alive. Though so many more are not.” He turns his gaze from me, staring off into the distance. A lost look in his eyes. “By Isr how could such horror be permitted.”
For a minute, I don’t say anything. Unsure of what I could say to comfort him. Until finally the question nagging me comes out.
“Did you see Maebh at all?”
“No. Though some say she was taken along with some of the others.”
“Somebody said a wall caved in when they were taking her. You don’t think…” I can’t bring myself to say the rest.
“I have to know.” Because she’s my friend and because she knows where the Red Hand is. If they took her and she’s alive, they might be torturing her for its hiding spot. The thought of that. I wish I could tell Ninth that.
“She’s gone. Either way.”
“I can’t settle for that. I’ve got to go there, look. To know for certain.”
“It’s madness. If she is there…you’d never be able to find her if she’s buried.”
“I know. but I’ve never been sane.”
Now with the refugees added to the population the place is crowded. Many of the warriors start constructing makeshift shelters for our added guests. As they’re doing that I go about making preparations for a journey back to the caves trying to be as discreet as possible. Nasr can’t come with me. I don’t trust him enough yet. I left him in the mess for a while with a guard while I get ready. Telling him I had a few errands to run for Second Gar. I felt a little bad lying to the guard. The only one I have to worry about is Wolfie. After leaving him behind before, I’m worried he’ll raise a ruckus when I go. He seems to have taken a shine to Ninth. Hopefully he’ll be okay when I go. I’ll sneak out after everyone turns in for the night. There won’t be many people about. Only a few guards. I’ll make sure Wolfie and Nasr are both asleep first. Wish I could whip up a potion like the old woman. I’d make a sleep potion for both of them.
I stash a backpack of supplies near the wall. Hiding it behind some rocks. There’s a stone walkway on one section of the wall for guards to use. It leads up to the top of the wall. During the day, there’s a guard up there. At night, it’s too cold so it should be unmanned. I can head up there and make it across the wall to the guard’s booth. That will be the tricky part. I have to sneak past the guards inside by climbing over the roof and then down the stone pillar on the other side.
It feels like forever before night comes. I feel on edge all day waiting. Maybe I should just ask if I should go. Somehow, I doubt they’d let me. Not with the possibly of attack, but I can’t take a chance she’s still there. Somewhere in the caves, buried under some rubble. The old woman who helped me when I first got here. She’s like a grandmother to me. I’ve got to know if they have her. I thought about telling someone about the Red Hand. But the temptation it would be used for evil is even greater now. I’ve got to do this myself.
I’ll follow the path the survivors took. I shouldn’t get lost as long as I keep my head and keep going in the same direction.
I do everything I can think of to make Wolfie tired during the day. I race him around playing. Give him an old stick to chew on, his favorite, and finally feed him some extra portions, including most of my supper. I’m not that hungry anyway. He should sleep like a baby. Next is Nasr. I have to get him settled for the night. I stand guard over him for a while. Sometimes we talk till he falls asleep. Halfway through the night a guard takes over for me. I’m lucky tonight he goes to bed fairly early. We only talk for a little while. Mostly about the warship. He claims to know nothing about it. By the time my shift is over, I’m jumping out of my skin with anticipation. I try not to look like I’m hurrying out as I leave. Usually I’m beat by this time of night. But tonight, I’m too excited.
Instead of heading to the barracks I sneak across the courtyard, passing between two new structures made to house some of the refugees. Really nothing more them shacks. Was the best that could be done. The Reint and Second Gar discussed making something more permit for them. At least until some of them could be sent to one of the other bases. They mentioned something about the mines. But the conditions down there aren’t very hospitable.
I make it to my hidden backpack. Taking maybe a last look back at the place. I won’t miss this place like I do the caves or Maebh’s place. This place just feels like sorrow and despair. Hefting the backpack over my shoulder I start towards the stone walkway.
“Escaping into the night?” The questioning voice cuts through the still evening air, making me jump out of my skin.
Spinning around to see Nasr standing a few feet behind me. “What are you doing here?”
“That’s my question?” He whispers. “Keep your voice down.”
“H-How did you get past your guard?” Lowering my voice as I walk towards Nasr.
“The fool falls asleep every night.”
“Son of a bitch.” Balling my fist in frustration. “What am I going to do with you?”
“Might I suggest I go with you?”
The thought goes through my head. Take him with me or leave him? I waste valuable minutes turning it over in my mind.
“Well, looks like I’m going to have a traveling companion.” I say. Feeling a bit defeated. It’s the only thing I can do. If I leave him he could raise the alarm to be a dick. I’m not going back. And I’m not going to kill him, no matter how much he pisses me off.
Nasr follows me up the walkway. A little over halfway up I stop.
“If your guard falls asleep at night…why haven’t you escaped?”
“I didn’t have anywhere to go.”
“And now?” I ask, wishing he’d escaped into the night.
“Saw you sneaking about tonight, figured I’d follow you. So, where are you going?”
I tell him about wanting my stuff from the caves, I don’t tell him about Maebh. He’s too good about putting two and two together. Maybe I’ll get lucky and he’ll decide to fuck off during the trip and head off to his home.
We proceed in silence the rest of the way up. The wall is just big enough for us the walk across the top. Keeping low to stay out of the guards’ sight. The closer we get to the guards in the booth the harder my heart beats in my chest. It’s not a particularity hot night, but sweat is starting to drip down my forehead.
The guards in the booth are busy talking about how bored they are. Just keep on being bored guys. I step down onto the roof. Don’t make any noise girl.
I crawl along the roof on all fours. It’s made out of wood boards without any type of tiles, slightly slanted. There’s small gaps between the boards. Light shines through from below. Hopefully these guys don’t decide to look up.
I glance back over my shoulder as Nasr quickly lowers himself down onto the roof. Going a bit too fast. The boards creak under his weight. Shit. He stops one foot on the roof, the other clinging to the wall.
The guards below us stop talking. I hold my breath.
“Did you hear anything?” One of them asks.
“Just the wood. You’ll get used to it.” The other answers.
I nearly cough as air rushes back into my lungs. Nasr looks at me, still holding onto the wall. I nod and he lowers himself, slower than before. His clawed foot tentatively touching the wood roof. I reach the stone pillar. Waiting for Nasr still inching across the roof. When he makes it across we start climbing down.
The weathered stone has more than enough cracks and crevices to hold onto. Nasr goes down first. He offers to carry me, but I want to climb down on my own. By the time we reach the desert floor my arms and legs are tired. Would have be so much easier if he’d carried me, but my damn pride gets the better of me.
We rest out of sight of the guards. Behind some rocks.
“We’ll head out in a few minutes.” I rub my sore shoulder.
“As long as you’ve rested enough.”
“I didn’t know you cared.”
“I don’t, but carrying you is not something I’d enjoy.”
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