Fort Eden – Chapter 8
“Shattered Glass and Broken Bones” by Chris Kluwe and Edwin McRae
Groaning, Patricia opened her eyes to see Farlan’s face hovering over her, his expression twisted with anxiety. Waves of nausea pounded through her head, and then the pain from her broken body re-established itself in her awareness. She vomited into the dirt, a thin mixture of bile and blood.
Farlan produced a small glass vial from his sporran and tilted it towards her lips.
“Drink, lass. Hurry now.”
Patricia retched again, then weakly opened her lips and let Farlan pour the contents of the vial into her mouth. The cool liquid slid down her throat, thick and viscous, like oily blood. Seconds later, she screamed, hammer-blows of agony punching through her shattered limbs, bones and internal organs reknitting themselves into their proper configurations in a flood of torment like nothing she’d ever felt before.
Mercifully, the pain receded as quickly as it had come, leaving her white-faced and gasping, cold sweat prickling her skin.
“What… what the bloody hell was that, Farlan?”
“The tincture? A right pain in the arse to make, and we’re lucky I had it. Otherwise, you’d be bleeding out onto the street and I’d be cursing myself for a fool.”
Farlan shook his head and took a swig from his flask. “That, I have no idea. I should’ve told you to kill the damn thing, no matter how badly we needed answers.”
Trembling, Patricia pushed herself onto one knee, then unsteadily to her feet.
“Never seen anything like that before. It’s not your fault. I was overconfident.”
Farlan grinned, but it was a pale imitation of joviality.
“We both were, lass, and that was the only healing vial I had. We’ll have to be more cautious going forward. Can you walk?”
Patricia took a couple of halting steps, then nodded. Farlan clapped her on the shoulder, almost driving her to her knees once more.
“Good. It ran off this way, and if I know Luc, he’d have caused it some mischief by now.”
Patricia tottered after Farlan, her boots shuffling unevenly on the hardened dirt. Behind them, a crowd piled out of the Black Bull, gawking at the broken glass and bloodstained street, but they were soon left behind in the fog. Silence draped itself across Patricia’s ears, her mind racing furiously.
“That was something new. It had the reflexes of a Hunter, but the look of a Seeder. And yet, it was no Seeder either. I’m… worried.”
“Your lips to God’s ears, lass. I’ve never heard of anything in the records like what we just saw. Let’s hope Luc fared better than us.”
Patricia fell silent, continuing her shuffling walk. Seconds passed, then minutes, mist-shrouded houses sliding past like grinning skulls, lit only by a few torches that sputtered and spat. A figure materialized out of the gloom, long rifle slung over its shoulder, a motionless body lying before it.
“You still alive?”
“And Patricia too. Truly, a fortunate night.”
Patricia flushed, her head dropping. Just like him to expect me to fail. Like to see anyone else survive getting tossed twenty feet out a window.
“It was touch and go for a moment,” Farlan replied. “Did you manage to kill the beast?”
Luc smiled, laugh lines wrinkling the corners of his eyes.
“Even better. I caught it.”
Patricia felt a twinge of shame and fought to quell it. It doesn’t matter if Luc caught it. All that matters is that it’s caught.
“You’re a bloody wonder, Luc!” Farlan roared. “See, Patricia, I told you… Luc fights in his own way.”
“Yes, well.” Luc waved his hand modestly, “there were only three chokepoints to escape from the hotel, and it was a small matter to lay spike traps along them. Owing to the hour and location, it was unlikely that anyone else would be walking the streets right now.”
His expression turned thoughtful.
“Speaking of which, I need to go disarm those other traps before some poor innocent gets a nasty surprise. Farlan, Patricia, if you wouldn’t mind keeping an eye on the creature?”
“Consider it done,” Farlan grinned.
“Very well, then. I’ll be back shortly.”
Luc strode off into the mist, rifle swinging over his shoulder. Patricia and Farlan hurried over to the downed figure. As they drew closer, Farlan let loose a low whistle.
“Now that’s a fine bloody bear trap.”
Patricia nodded in begrudging admiration. Reggie Hawthorne lay squirming on the ground before them, three separate jaws of metal teeth embedded in his right calf and thigh, and two coils of rope pinning his arms to his sides. His eyes rolled wildly in their sockets while specks of white spittle flew from the corners of his mouth. One free leg beat a maddened tattoo on the stones, and unintelligible words flew from his lips, twisting through the air like maggots. Then his body froze, and his eyes locked on to Patricia.
Patricia kicked him squarely in the teeth. Shattered bits of enamel and blood flew onto the dirt with a wet splat. Reggie snarled and snapped at her, jagged tooth stumps gnashing just shy of her foot, blood dripping down his chin. She leaned down next to him.
“That’s for throwing me out the window,” she said, and then kicked him again in the ribs, her toe landing with a dull crack. Reggie wheezed for air as Farlan came up beside her.
“Easy, lass. We still need to ask him what he knows.”
“He’s a Culler. Ask him whatever you want, just let me know when it’s time to feed him a bullet.”
“Aye, you’ve got reason enough to hate them, but we still need to figure out what’s going on here, Patricia. This lad isn’t acting anything like what we’ve seen before.”
“…I know.” Patricia let her hand rest on her pistol and gazed at Reggie. “I know.”
Farlan looked around at the still empty streets. “We should get moving as soon as Luc is back. The local constabulary are likely to make their appearance soon. They’ll ignore a lot, but this they’ll have to answer.”
“Makes sense. So, where are we going to take him?”
Farlan opened his mouth to answer, but was interrupted by the shrill tweets of a whistle. He looked around and tensed.
“Blast it all. By the sounds of it, we’re not taking him much further than the central gaol.”
Patricia glanced down at the still twitching Reggie, and kicked him once more for good measure. He chattered his teeth at her but she ignored it, listening to the cries as the Fort Eden constabulary closed in.
“The same place you broke me out of?”
Farlan raised his hands in the air as figures with guns and badges materialized out of the gloom.
“That it is, lass. That it is. Hopefully they’ve got short memories.”