Chapter 62: The fray

Hello readers,

Chapter 62 of Lead Heart is UP! Please enjoy it,

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Leliana’s lungs burned as she choked in the thick cloud of concrete powder. The familiar copper tang of blood filled her mouth. The thrum from the weird beam of light died down as the wall dissolved to dust. Another wave of light enveloped her before she escaped, this one blue. She snapped to the floor feeling like she’d gained a thousand pounds, the light itself felt like swimming through an ocean of slime and stinging ants at the same time.

“You. Bitch…”

She crawled a few inches, using pockmarks in the street to pull herself. Then there was an explosion and the blue beam wavered to the side, and the steel pipe it hit suddenly drooped to the ground. By the time Lilith refocused, Leliana was two streets away.

“MADAM LILITH.” Leliana heard a tinny loudspeaker flagging the woman even from this far away. “DESIST YOUR ASSAULT ON THE CITY OF GUNGRAVE OR WE WILL BE FORCED TO RESTRAIN YOU.” She turned, just for a second, curious what the old bag was going to do. She hadn’t even turned fully around before the shiny vessel bounced off of a big, 2-story building behind Leliana.

“Scat, she doesn’t know when to quit!”

Leliana kicked the door of the building out of its foundation and sprinted inside. She entered a well-ventilated room with a score of men milling around a pond of molten metal. She never slowed as she cleared the scorched air over the glowing pool and busted through the large loading-bay doors on the other side. The cries of surprise turned to panic as the roof to their workshop dissolved scattering the workers.

The alley behind the building split two directions; a huge driveway for loading vehicles, and another, smaller path only about a meter across leading left. She used both hands to help launch herself down the narrow corridor and hoped she’d be hard to spot. It worked. Kind of.

She made it nearly a dozen city blocks, shoving people to the ground and smashing handcarts threatening to slow her down, before Lilith popped out of the street ahead of her. Leliana’s legs burned, and the polluted air was wearing her out a lot faster than she’d anticipated. Maybe it was an effect of the weird light? A streak of green blazed by as she ducked, rolling behind a shop next to her. On legs of putty, Leliana jumped between two buildings until she could snatch a slate tile from the rooftop. She slung the plate, then another, and another. Each bounced harmlessly off of a shimmering bubble protecting the vessel. “Dammit.” She collapsed under the slimy blue beam again.

Mind whirling, she took survey of her situation, suddenly realizing… This roof, these tiles. Was she in the Poors? Memories of the short-lived revolution flooded her mind. These people couldn’t afford having their belongings zapped out of existence. They could scarcely afford belongings. She needed to get the hells out of-

Where were Teena and Karina?

“Leliana you scat-eating coward.” She growled. Smiling faces bubbled into her mind unbidden, a buff little engineer and her scrawny older sister, with flaming hair and sideways smirk. Hadn’t she promised herself never to make Teena cry again? Leliana’s face was hot, the pounding in her ears louder than the screaming sirens of the warships tailing Lilith. She couldn’t just…leave them. But what if she were caught?

…What kind of life could she lead outside of prison if she were willing to abandon the only friends she’d ever had?

This time when the warships interrupted the beam of light, Leliana had a purpose.

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Two three-eyed red skulls with thirteen black teeth gazed over the battlefield from the mouth of Blind Man’s pass. A whistling wind muffled the sounds of their comrade’s fight with Gungrave, but wasn’t powerful enough to overcome the smell of so much devastation. Gib’s feet thrummed as the catapult loosed a boulder thrice the size of his head.

“Look alive, mate. Trouble on the slopes.” The Speaker pointed to the five, three-meter tall mechanical suits blasting out of their pods in front of the refugees.

Gib hefted the boulder he held into the bowl of the catapult and dropped to the ground. “Alas, fair Bristol.” He adopted his best theater voice. “Mine family has need of me far below, and so far below I go!” He galloped a handful of steps before a firm hand gripped him by shoulder. The Speaker.

“D’you think I’d let a fellow eyes out on the field of glory to soak it up for hisself, lad? Let’s take the beasts together!”

“That’s the spirit!” Bristol boomed his bone-shaking laugh and kicked the chocks holding his empty wagon in place. “Take the wheels, gents, and ride for your lives!”

Gib’s mind spun, it’d been a long time since he’d done anything so reckless. Yet he was glad to submerge back into his reckless youth if but for a moment. He and the Speaker clasped hands with Bristol once more and jumped into the box-on-wheels.

They picked up speed immediately, wind whooshing by as the uneven ground rattled the teeth in their heads. The Speaker was crying battle hymns to the sky that Gib had long forgotten, though he couldn’t help but feel his blood race as they picked up speed. Refugees fleeing uphill threw themselves out of the way as the two barreled passed at breakneck speeds until it was just Jovi, surprise in her eyes as she whirled to watch them go.

“ONWARD, FAIR PARTNER!” He called to her.

And then it was go-time.

Gib threw himself to the back of the cart while the Speaker threw himself at the front. The result was the overturning of the vehicle, flinging Gib like they’d flung so many rocks from the top of the hill just minutes before. He fought the force of the wind to bring his arms and legs to bear before he smashed into one of the metal suits terrorizing their small force of unarmed travelers. The suit hit the ground hard, steam pipes exploding at the shoulders as the limbs fell limp. The soldier inside struggled to free himself, but his four partners all pivoted to target Gib after the sudden assault.

He leapt into the air between two of them, forcing a cease-fire lest they hit each other, and then zigzagged toward the one on the left. The Speaker ran up behind the other, and Gib could only hope its aim would be distracted before he got shot in the back. “TO LIVE IS TO DIE.” He boomed.

“TO DIE IS TO LIVE!” The Speaker answered.

The battlefield was chaos. The wall cannons gouged a trench between the main force and the small battalion of metal suits, but they also separated Gib and the Speaker from most of their reinforcements. He crawled up the back of the three-meter suit looking for a weak point when his head exploded in fiery pain, and a small galaxy of stars filled his vision. He flew through the air and barely rolled to a stop when a small crater erupted out of the soil just a meter from his head. He lay dazed, staring into the sky at a blue star circling over head. His head was light, he couldn’t move a muscle. The star grew bigger. And bigger. Finally, it took the shape of a winged lizard standing over him.

“Get UP!” The gravelly voice commanded.

Tears welled in his eyes. His time had come. “Am I to feast with the gods?”

A white-haired face peeked out from behind the lizard’s confused face. “What?! Stop saying stupid crap and get your ass on your feet!”

Reality crashed back down around him. “Master Carkus! You have my thanks!” He was on his feet and sprinting unsteadily back into the fray in seconds. Several talented defenders were now locked in the struggle alongside the Speaker by now. Oscar, a young man with skin like stone, was hurling himself through the cockpit of the second armored suit to be felled and ripped the pilot brutally out of the harness. Then the Speaker was next to Gib, towing the cart.

“Master Gib, let’s show that one why he’s mistaken in his position by the trench, shall we?” The stout man nodded at a pilot standing too close to the cannon-fire, shooting with abandon into the crowd of defenders.

“Let’s!” Gib agreed.

Using the cart, first for cover, then as a battering ram, they charged the soldier in the armor and sent the machine flying to the bottom of the pit. They backpedaled out of the danger zone, waiting for the next shot.

But it didn’t come.

Sounds of fighting dwindled as the fighters realized whatever had been going on with the wall had been fixed. Gib’s heart fluttered briefly. He saluted the wall.

“Godspeed, lady Valkyries.”

Author: keyboardcouple

A couple who write and learn in front of their keyboards.

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