Previously: The plan to smuggle Blackie, and Kitty, in the city works. Somewhat. There is a small problem getting Blackie inside of the building. Skipping can solve it. Meanwhile, Nadec gets to hear more about how her job as a red knight worked technically. Or rather, magically.
Read all the previous chapters here.
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Water enveloped Nadec. The dress she wore entangled her, making it hard to swim. The need to breathe in became stronger. She swirled her arms around her, trying to gather the skirt. Her legs kicked harder as they were somewhat freed. Panic was about to engulf her when she broke the surface. She took a deep breath and sputtered as she sank again. The skirt opened up around her as she let it go, struggling to use her arms in an attempt to aid her already burning legs.
When one of her hands hit a solid edge, she turned and clung to it. Before she could wipe her eyes, a hot liquid slammed over her, accompanied by a terrible roar. It stung her closed eyes and smelled vile, as putrid as… as the spit of an alpaca. Like bile made of grass.
‘Apologies,’ the weak voice of Blackie in her head.
Nausea curled Nadec’s stomach in a knot. She swallowed repeatedly. Keeping on hand on the edge, she ducked under water. Her other hand pushed the water above her head away. She hoped that would give her a somewhat clean area to emerge from. She broke the surface again, wiped her face, and opened her eyes. Her vision was blurred. The sting was awful. The smell was worse.
The dress was too heavy. She couldn’t lift herself out of the water. Her arms protested, her leg muscles seized up. Darkness. A tightness around her chest. She left the water. The tightness disappeared and the faint light of the lantern was back. A dark looming figure towered above her.
‘Clean I. Hold.’
The feel of Blackie’s tongue licking her was something Nadec hoped she’d never have to experience again. At least she wasn’t naked this time. For a moment she didn’t have the strength to do anything but let it happen. When Blackie jostled her enough to turn her around, she got to her hand and knees.
‘Alright, enough already, enough.’
Blackie stopped licking her. She didn’t stop licking in general though; she continued to clean up the ground. Nadec purposely didn’t look at it. Her stomach was still unsure about the smell surrounding her. She crawled a little out of the way, and sat down with a sigh. Kitty nuzzled her.
‘You mis-aimed by a meter. You had the area for Blackie right, but forgot to count yourself in. Don’t worry, you’ll get better. The dragon will get better at handling it too. Here, this one wanted to jump in after you.’
Was that everything Kridec had to say? Nadec almost drowned and got vomited on by a dragon, and she commented on the Skipping? Weird, weird woman. Definitely family. She was holding Kitty’s leash.
‘Do you think this stupid dress is salvageable? If I hadn’t been wearing it there wouldn’t have been an issue for me in the water, but still, it would be a shame to see it go to waste. It must’ve been expensive.’
‘Oh, don’t worry about that. This was an old one, it doesn’t matter. I’ve put enough coins in your purses to commission several new ones. Melia knows to take you to my tailor tomorrow. What? What’s wrong?’
Nadec’s eyes widened. She jumped up, failed, fell over, but straight away tried again, slower this time. She frantically searched for the skirt’s pocket hole on the right side. Balls, I hope I didn’t lose it. When she found the slit, she shoved her hand in, opening and closing her fingers wide to get through the wet fabric. There it was. She brought her hand back out, holding the piece of the statue. The blue and pink strata were more vibrant because of the wetness.
‘That—where did you find that?’ Kridec’s hand shook as she outstretched it towards the piece.
‘We found a statue, a part of it. I’m not sure why I didn’t leave it in my room for the night, it just felt right to take it along.’
‘You found a part? Which part of the statue did you find? Which part?’
‘The asses. I mean, the middle. You know, hips and male and female body parts and all.’
‘The Bottoms. You’ve found the Bottoms.’ Kridec sounded on the verge of laughter or hysterical tears. Perhaps both. ‘ Did you have your halberd? Did it react?’
‘It did. It got hot. What did it mean? It’s made by the Statue, isn’t it? Wyny told me it was called the Statue of the Originals. But because it was too powerful, they somehow divided it in parts and dispersed those.’
Nadec’s aunt blinked. She absently wiped away the tears which had jumped on her cheeks.
‘It’s close to the truth, but not complete. I was always certain the halberd was a PPW. I knew I was right. Can you bring me there? You’ve been there, so you could skip back.’
‘Now?’ Nadec barked a laugh at the incredulity of the request.
Her aunt snorted. Nadec snorted in reply, surprised at the unexpected sound.
‘Of course not. I’ll come back tomorrow around noon. I’d suggest you take Blackie along too. You could probably leave her there, it should be safe, if it’s far enough.’ The dancing light of the lantern cast a dramatic shadow on her questioning face. ‘There truly is no reason to keep her locked up in this building. I’m embarrassed I hadn’t thought about the solution your Skipping could bring.’
Blackie sniffed. Both Nadec and kridec jumped.
‘She doesn’t want to stay away from me, she wants to stay here.’ Nadec was astonished at Blackie’s attachment. It was a pleasant sort of amazement. She was glad the large beast wanted to stick around. ‘She doesn’t like the thought of Skipping several times a day to eat and everything else, but she likes it better than being stuck in here with her own waste. I’m sure the sickness after Skipping will improve after a while.’ She said that last mostly for Blackie. ‘You should probably get going, before the guard wakes up. Can you help me undress?’
Turning her back towards Kridec, she began unlacing the strings of her skirt she could reach.
‘You don’t think I’m going to walk through the city with this wet dress, and take it into my room to stink out the whole place, do you? No, get this thing off me. You’ll just have to place a temporary Need on me like you did with Blackie. I have to go with you to the gates to close them again, remember?’
Silence was the only answer she received, and a tugging at the back of her dress. Undressing fortunately didn’t take as long as dressing. It still took a decent amount of time, enough for Nadec and Kridec to feel the pressure of time. When Nadec prepared to also remove her undergarment, Kridec stopped her and announced she wouldn’t be able to use her Need on Nadec. She had used her limit today, if she used more, she would fall in a spontaneous and unwakeable sleep.
She almost took it all off anyway, but then decided to leave it on; for now. She made sure Blackie was going to be alright. The black beast had already curled herself up in a donut—it looked empty without Kitty in the middle. They would be able to maintain their mental connection from a distance, which was a comfort. She walked Kitty toward Blackie for a last head butt, and out they went.
They ran. Kridec’s breathing grew heavy after only a few streets, but she persevered. She didn’t stop at the gates. A quick goodbye yell at Nadec who didn’t pause before slamming the gates shut. Heaving the beams back in place was more difficult than removing them—it was a two-man job for sure. She managed it at the same time she heard clanging from above. She stayed against the wall, sneaking the opposite side from where the other two guards where coming from.
She got lost several times before finding her inn. To be certain, she checked the sign. The original dragon. That was it. Kridec claimed it was one of the inns most loyal to the Ichau family. Nadec wasn’t certain what to think of the name. It certainly felt fitting.
She retreated across the street, to an alleyway. The location of her room was in front of her, on the second level. She removed her under garments; she did not want to bring them in her room, the acid smell would be impossible to remove. Only then did she remember to have a look around for other people.
Kitty hissed at the same time, emphasising Nadec’s idiocy. A scruff-looking man straightened from where he’d been lying, too close. The light of the single lantern on the front door of the inn didn’t reach far enough to see the fellow’s face. It was obvious he was up to no good.
‘Very kind of you to undress, girl,’ he cackled in a high-pitched voice.
‘I am no girl.’ Nadec kicked out with her left foot, hitting him right in the stomach. He doubled over, bringing his face in perfect placement for her knee. He fell backwards.
‘Come Kitty.’ She scooped him up, putting him on her shoulders. ‘You better be gone from this alleyway by tomorrow, creep.’ She turned around, bent through her knees, going through the motions of Skipping, focusing her destination in her mind and view. A shuffling behind her warned of the man attempting to jump her again. ‘Gross.’ The last letters of the word sounded like a hiss coming from empty air.