Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Hakaar - Chronicle 41.1 - A Strong Finish Last


Our rattling Landframe limped to a stop inside of its designated space then sighed to a stop. I hurriedly pulled the activation plunger on the engine, quieting the reaction. I glanced over my shoulder to a pale and wide eyed Floki in the pilot's seat. His face was slicked with sweat and he seemed to be just catching his breath. Turning a bit further, I could see he'd let the steering grips drop to the floor. They had made angry red grooves in his hands and his gaze dropped absently as a rubbed the blood back into them.

"You've got this, then?" I said in a rush.

"Yeah." He said quietly, not looking up from his hands.

I peeled back from the alchemical reaction chamber I had been hunched over for the entire race, keeping it in place regardless of the damage to the Landframe itself. Straightening my back sent shocks of pain around my rib cage and up my back. The Crugg boy's term for what I had done as an improvised engineer, a humper, was very different from what he had done so elegantly as a true Alchemical Engineer. It didn't matter. We finished the race, even if dead last. Finishing was all that mattered to me.

But, more importantly, Sig and Danin had finished first. And Silah and I had an enormous bet at incredible odds sitting back at Fentons. She was there, babysitting this nestegg. And I fully intended to make sure they made good on the bet. Within moments I jumped from the Engineer's seat of the beaten Landframe and began to bolt down the street. The pit Engineers dove to the side with shouts, peering at the ragged Landframe waiting for an explosion from the alchemical chamber that never came.

The road was still mostly clear as the citizens began to emerge from behind the barriers and spilling over the streets. Rounding on Fenton's, I felt my bond with Silah take hold and it made me catch my breath. She felt it, too. She was holding her place in the front of the line. She glanced around and lifted her head so I could see her. She was bent like an animal protecting her young, hands on the table with elbows poised to strike with a strength that belied her size. At least one had already taken a blow as a man limped away gasping, clutching at his ribs.

I began to press in and the half-orc bouncer eyed me with a plea. He had been friendly just earlier, giving a smile and nod when we made the bet.

"A little help?" He said, sounding overwhelmed.

My body was still vibrating from the rattling Landframe and a fierce excitement was already rushing through me. We began to muscle order into the onslaught winners and losers.

After some bloodied noses and a few cracked ribs later, I moved to Silah's side and she called out to the bookie.

"Silah on car seven finishing first."

A few eyes peered at her. She wore her simple white dress, but it looked fantastic on her. And, as much as those around her gripped, groped, grappled, she stood firm. Giving a threatening look around her ever so often and swinging an sharp elbow when things got out of hand.

I recognized that glare. She had given it to me many times before.

I saw the bookie's eyes follow his finger down the list and stopping on her name. As he moved his finger along the line, his eyes bulged slightly and he looked at her closely.

"I'm going to need to verify that this is you." He looked at her crosswise and tried to figure out how he'd determine who she was.

This delay prompted a snarl from Silah. Her lips curled back and she began to lean into a serious tongue-lashing. Another voice interjected as she was about to unleash her fury.

"It's her, man. Give it to them." The half-orc's gruff voice bellowed over the now slightly calmer crowd. "I recognize them from earlier."

The man looked stunned, but moved back to the counting tables pulling one, then two, then three, then four, and finally five bags from the stacks. He almost said the winnings out loud, but the clunking sound turned enough heads. I grabbed three and of the bags and Silah took the remaining two.

The half-orc shook his head with a smile, but said nothing. As I moved past him I fished out a handful of gold coins from the thousands that I had just won.

He backed away at first, hands up, but seeing everything was in order, I shoved the gold laden hand into a pocket.

"I may be coming into some land, soon. You should join me." I whispered, leaning in.

I patted him on the shoulder as I passed and moved through the crowds.

I looked about at Silah. A wide smile spread across her face until her lips parted showing her pearlescent teeth. Her honey brown eyes glanced up to me as she effortlessly lifted the bags with thousands of coins in them. I nodded, my own grin matching hers.

Ah, satisfaction.

"You have a coronation to go to, right?" Silah said, seeming to suddenly remember.

I looked ahead and saw the crowds began to gather.

"This would look bad, wouldn't it?" I asked, looking at the sacks of gold and knowing the answer. "And I don't think I have enough pockets."

She smirked and stacked her bags in my folded arms. She took the strings from each of them, and, one bag at a time, began making them into an improvised belt. She lifted her dress just enough, tying it around her bare waist. She let the dress drop and it almost appeared like she wore a slightly lumpy petticoat. She tightened the dress around her waist with a cinch and she immediately appeared regal and ready to stand by my side during my knighting.

I nodded with another smile and offered my arm to her and we moved through the crowds together.

(Get to know Akeron.)