The Durants: Part IX


“Stand down, Rakowsky.” Orsin’s large fist caught Rakowsky’s, stopping its path toward Bionca’s face. “Our priority is to escape back to our village. Let them be.”

The slender man glared and wrested his limb back. “Whatever you say, boss.” He shouldered his way past Drake, who yet refused to look at his son. Gaia’s saddened, dulled eyes met with Oscar’s. His were no longer wide-eyed and starry as they had been only a few short months ago; now they were passionless and devoid.

Mina cleared her throat. “You are going to Vaslera, yes?”

Orsin gazed at her stoically, his expression revealing nothing. “What makes you assume that?”

“I have heard whispers of you.” She faced the woman. “You are Dr. Paget’s child, are you not?” Beside her, her twin inhaled sharply, repeating the name under her breath.

Her face contorting into an infuriated grimace, she spat “That man’s no father to me! He abandoned me after mom died. He probably doesn’t even remember I exist!”  She ground her teeth. Orsin laid his hand gently upon her shoulder.

“Sure you’re not just trying to sell people to the guilds for him to experiment on?” Bitterness sharpened Gaia’s voice. “That’s what you Vaslerans have always done.”

“Cool off, lady. The times have changed.” Rakowsky rolled his eyes.

Turning to her sister, Mina began, “Gaia, I realize you have been hurt. However, the Volarchy has been sending Vaslerans into the guilds as well for the past several years. This pair began a resistance movement.” She waved her hand toward Paget and Orsin. “Let us accompany you to Vaslera. I believe it would be a balm for several of my sister’s many wounds.”

The revolutionaries stared at each other. Paget’s burning eyes found Mina’s and she nodded tersely. “Make yourself useful. We may run into trouble after we get out of here.” She spun on her heel. The ungainly octet groped its way through the darkness, searching for a way to re-enter what they hoped would be light.

“Come this way,” Mina commanded. She led them to a grate and pushed part of it forward to reveal a ladder. “This will lead to surface outside the city walls.” One by one, they clambered up. The farther they ascended, the thicker the air became; eventually it caused Bionca to suffer an extended cough fit. Drake pulled her up after him onto the grassy fields around Taesh. Ash still clouded the sky.

“This way.” Orsin began trudging to the northeast. He left large, muddy footprints in his wake. The others followed single file.

Three hours later, the earth began to tremble beneath their feet. All but Oscar and Rakowsky looked at the nearby volcano in alarm.

“Run, NOW!” Orsin boomed at his companions. Though their feet were weary, they sprinted as long as they could. As they paused to catch their breath, the first spurts of lava erupted from the peak. Bionca stood transfixed. The red-orange of the molten rock against the dark grey of the ash was mesmerizingly terrifying. Once again, Drake dragged her behind him. They began to climb a hill, hoping the lava wouldn’t be able to reach them.

From the top, they watched a shallow, fiery moat form. “Well this’ll set us back just a couple minutes. Might as well enjoy the show.” Rakowsky sat down and held his head with his hands. He whistled off-key.

Ending on a particularly shrill note, the slinky man stood up and began walking down the hill. “Don’t worry. It should be cooled enough to walk on now. Just don’t step on the thick parts.” Rakowsky rattled off behind him. The air was sweltering.

“Are we sure we can trust him?” Gaia whispered anxiously to her sister.

The man smirked. “Lady,” he started. “One of my past jobs involved taking loads of lava samples. Probably the least violent job I ever had.” His eyes narrowed in haughty amusement. “Look, almost home free!”

Next to him, Oscar spun suddenly, a flicker of awareness passing over his face. Rakowsky jumped aside, but lost his balance and fell near the advancing edge of the lava. He looked down in shock. The molten rock flattened like a cushion, then ignited on the man’s leg. He remained motionless until Orsin dragged him up. His shin and knee were charred through their thin layers of fat and gave off the sickening scent of burnt flesh.

Rakowsky looked down impassively at his injury. “Let’s get to Vaslera quickly. This’ll need to be amputated.” Orsin carried him on his back as the travelers trudged on.

Though the sun was still masked by ash, it became obvious that it had set. Sighing, Orsin suggested they camp for the night and tied a spare shirt around Rakowsky’s burnt limb. Soon, soft snores rose into the air, though two remained awake.

Bionca peered at her family’s sword. It was packed snugly into a revolutionary’s bag. She grabbed it and padded over to the burnt man’s form lying far from the others, holding both the sword and her breath. Sweat beaded on her forehead as she reached the man.

“Come to cut your losses?” Rakowsky whispered at the woman, a wry smirk tugging at his thin lips.

“It’s no more than you deserve,” she responded savagely.

He rolled over to look at his assailant. “You’re right. Go ahead. Avenge your fallen comrades.” She swallowed nervously, her knuckles whitening on the sword’s hilt. He felt its tip upon his chest. “If it wasn’t for me, they’d both still be alive,” he taunted.

Tears welled in Bionca’s eyes and she fell down. “Don’t you regret it at all?”

“I’ve killed too many to feel regret anymore. I’m just a heartless bastard who got your daddy killed.” The woman’s brows knit together, a tear slipping down her cheek. “Now do it!”

Faltering, she pulled back slightly before Rakowsky snatched her hand. She resisted, but his pull was insistent. The blade sunk into his heart. “There. Now you’re a killer too….”


Brittany Teodorski


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