The Durants Part VII



Shivering, the sleeping woman pulled a ratty sheet tighter around her shrinking frame. She moaned out in fear, visions of a talking throat fueling her dreams. Red stained her eyes as the throat rasped “Be strong,” and she shrunk back. She couldn’t be strong. Had instead felt weak and helpless ever since she watched her first friend callously murdered.

She was roughly shaken awake. “Up, you old maid,” the roadswoman whispered into Bionca’s ear maliciously. A smirk settled onto her delicate features. “It’s time to see what the border officers make of you lot.”

For weeks, the three roadsmen had shoved their prisoners through the snowy landscape. Their chains chafed their ankles, blood often dripping alongside their path.

Once he had awoken, Oscar had gruffly accepted their captors’ deal to earn his freedom through making the others keep in line. Drake refused to look at his son, even now that they were about to enter Taesh. The roadswoman was whispering jabs at him in her girlish voice.

“That’s enough, Paget,” the leader scolded. “We don’t want the officers arresting us now, do we?”

Her smirk only deepening, Paget responded “As my lord commands,” while bowing theatrically. The man scoffed and pushed his cargo toward the border gates.

“Sir, please state your party’s identities and business in Taesh,” a red cloaked officer said, holding up an eye-scanning device to corroborate his answer.

“My name is Edzard Orsin. My partners are Katie Paget and T.J. Rakowsky.” Upon a glower from the man, he added “And Oscar Sullivan. The rest are runaways we found on the road. We are here to sell them into the guilds.”

“I see.” The officer relaxed his arm and peered at the chained prisoners. “Tell me your names.”

Gaia squared her jaw, then answered fiercely, “I am Gaia Durant. This is my husband Brion and daughter Bionca. My friend is Drake Sullivan.”

The scanner beeped as it surveyed Brion’s eyes. “Excuse me. Please wait here,” he said to the roadsmen. They waited nervously; crossing into the city had always been a quick and simple task in the past. This script change was unfamiliar and unwelcome.

“Did they figure out who we are?” Rakowsky hissed.

“How could they have? We’ve been careful, and it was that blondie that set it off.”

“Enough, both of you,” Orsin reprimanded the pair. “Don’t raise their suspicions.”

The officer returned wearing a smug expression. “Mr. Orsin, you may take Mr. Sullivan and Ms. Durant to the guilds. The other two have an audience with the Volarch.” With a nod from Orsin, Rakowsky unlinked mother and daughter. Confusion clouded Bionca’s aquamarine eyes. Gaia looked sadly back at her and her husband, silently saying goodbye, steeling herself for an extended–and perhaps permanent–separation.

Bionca and her father shuffled behind the officer as he led them through a labyrinth under the city. At one point, after removing their shackles, they were shoved into separate rooms and groomed. Their weeks of travel had left its odoriferous mark. Their hands were then cuffed behind their backs.

What seemed to be hours later, they began ascending to the surface. A well-armed and -guarded gate greeted them and let the small party pass without incident. Soon, they found themselves in an elaborate building and facing a large door. The red-cloaked man murmured into a device on the wall. The door swung open before them and the man ushered them inside before retreating.

Next to her, she felt Brion tense. He inhaled sharply before taking a cautious step forward. In the center of the room stood a man in an ornate gown and headdress. His hair was even lighter than Brion’s, and wrinkles stood in stark relief as he smiled warmly at the pair.

“My son. You’ve finally come back to me, though I admit under different circumstances than I expected!” He beamed.

“Father.” Brion inclined his head stiffly. His daughter peered at him expectantly. “Bionca, this is your grandfather.”

The side of the Volarch’s mouth twitched. “Ah, I see you and the Durant girl did stay together after all.” He looked his granddaughter over. “I feared the skin affliction would come to pass from the union of our families.”

“My skin is not a problem, thank you very much,” the girl spat, glaring.

“Oho, and what pluck she has! Just as her grandmother did. A pity she had to die.”

“You had them killed!” Brion shouted, rage pulsating through his scar.

A forlorn frown smoothed the rest of the Volarch’s features. “They lied about the number of their children, and their daughter refused to cooperate. It was a regrettable, though necessary, choice. They had to be made an example, else anarchy would descend upon this city.”

The door slammed open. “Volarch Taesh,” a different red-cloaked officer began. “There are reports of a bright object heading for the city as we speak. What would you have us do?”

Taesh’s brow furrowed and he sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Evacuate the citizens from high-risk areas. Make sure our food stocks can last.” He dismissed the officer, though he stood still, swallowing nervously. “What else?”

“Sir, the object is heading for the center of the city. We don’t have much time.”

Brion grabbed his daughter and shouldered through the doorway. Behind her, Bionca could hear her grandfather shouting “Make sure my son is safe!” Panic spread through everyone in the building and she began coughing. They had nearly reached the labyrinth when the impact occurred. Bionca felt herself tossed around like a child’s toy. Sounds of collapsing structures filled her ears and the skies became visible. Tremors crawled up her spine. She looked to the maze’s doorway and her breath caught in her throat.

“Daddy?” She took a couple steps toward the body trapped under the fallen tunnels. A dark liquid was slithering across the floor. She fell beside her father and shook him. “Daddy, get up!” She began to cry, the tears splashing onto his face. His eyes stared back at her, their fire forever extinguished. “Daddy, please!” she begged through the coughs wracking her.

“Get up, girl.” A woman’s harsh voice grated against her ears. She felt her arm grabbed. “He’s gone. We have to find your mother.” Bionca’s head swiveled, dazed, to lock eyes with her aunt for the first time in over a decade. Mina pulled her niece up and closed Brion’s eyes. “The Volarch’s men will be here soon. Gaia needs us now.” She dragged the shell-shocked Bionca away from her father’s corpse.


Brittany Teodorski


Next Chapter

Previous Chapter


Similar Posts