The Durants: Part VIII


“Come this way,” Gaia murmured into Drake’s ear. “We need to get out of here.” The pair slipped away as surreptitiously as they could with their chains. Gaia led them down a maze of alleyways before they stopped near a sewer grate. She had been worried about being seen, but the only people they encountered littered the streets with their dead or dying forms. “Let’s get these off, get Brion and Bionca, then get out of here.”

“Where, exactly, are we gonna get these off?” Drake whispered shrilly, pulling up the woman’s hand by their joined links.

“We’re going to my old house….” she trailed off.

“Lead the way. I’m sick o’ these diggin’ inna my skin.”

She nodded and dislodged the grate. They slipped into the labyrinth of tunnels, their labored breath occasionally punctured by the metallic clang of their chains. Some of the passages had been blocked. Shafts of light appeared where debris had punctured through.

“So,” Drake started. “This is a lovely walk to your home. Parents liked the stench o’ sh-”

“Yeah, they were very mistrustful and paranoid,” she interrupted. “They didn’t want to give up all the information the Volarchy demands. They even hid my sister’s existence so she wouldn’t get sent to the guilds. Food was tight ‘cuz of that, but we managed.” She came to a stop in front of a seemingly-innocuous stretch of wall. “I’m not sure that anyone’s been here since….before my parents were….” Gaia groped clumsily through her chains to find a hidden keypad. The wall quietly melted away after she punched in a flurry of digits and she dragged her companion inside before the wall re-materialized behind them.

“Gaia, this is incredible!” Drake exclaimed. His eyes poured over the dwelling crammed with machines. “We’ll be outta these in no time!”

“Use this,” a gruff voice replied. Across the floor slid an electric saw.

Reflexively, Gaia picked it up and set it against the man’s bonds before processing that there was another voice, coupled with soft sobbing from another room. “Mina? Is that you?”

Her sister stepped into the dim light of the main room. “Hello Gaia. I was hoping you would make your way here.”

“How long have you been here? Do you know if Brion and Bionca are still in the keep?”

Mina averted her steely gaze. “Your daughter is here. Your husband is…no longer with us.”

She felt as if she had been struck by a boulder and had the wind knocked out of her. Forgetting her chains, she tripped into the other room, dragging Drake along. Bionca was curled into the fetal position. Sobs shook through her. Her mother crawled toward her, tears clouding her vision. “Bionca…my little queen…I’m here now.”

Beside them, Drake hung his head in his hands. Beneath them, the ground began to shiver. Mina clambered up a ladder tucked into the corner and disappeared for the duration of the tremors. They never fully subsided, but once they had weakened, the woman returned. “The air is full of ash. There is no light. This is a good opportunity to leave,” she rattled off hollowly.

Wet trails still running down her cheeks, Gaia shook her head. “No, Mina. I won’t leave until I’ve seen my husband laid to rest.” Her sister’s eyes narrowed before she disappeared into a dark corner.


“Here.” Mina threw a crumpled ball of paper at Gaia’s feet six days later. She picked it up and read “The funeral of the Volarch’s dear son, Brion Taesh, will be held in front of Taesh Keep.”

Gaia looked up to her twin, a wry, bitter smile scarring her face. “We won’t even be able to see him from the back.”

“No, we will not. Do we truly need to…” she reconsidered and sighed heavily. “We cannot stay long. We need to leave while the ash clouds persist. Gather everything now.”

Drake and Gaia nodded solemnly and began to pack food and survival essentials. Bionca gingerly picked up the mangled announcement. Her brows furrowed at the unfamiliar name beside her father’s. She stuffed it into an inner pocket of her robe then began to help.

Momentarily, they stepped through the false wall. Mina looked back at her niece. “In case you ever need to return here, use this sequence” She punched in a code, making sure Bionca was paying attention. “Follow me,” the woman barked. She turned with a flourish of her robe. Gaia stared wistfully before following. In the back, Bionca scribbled four numbers down.

They reached the service just as the Volarch put a torch to Brion’s pyre. For a split second, it seemed a single ray of sun fought through the ash to illuminate the dead man’s face.

“My son,” the Volarch began, “was a daring ambassador for our great city. I am deeply grieved that fate saw fit to separate us so soon after being reunited. We are not safe from this series of disasters plaguing our lands. The fallen star took my son. The eruptions have clouded our sun. Our crops will fail. Food will be scarce.” The gathered mass fidgeted nervously, panic starting to grip them. The guards near the back peered into the crowd apprehensively and one seemed to recognize one or more of the Durants. She held up a small communicator.

“We need to leave now,” Mina hissed. The quartet fell back into the shadows of the sewer system as they heard the Volarch promise to acquire food from the surrounding villages. They bolted as fast as they could to the one exit Mina knew would not be guarded.

Halfway there, they crashed into another quartet. Limbs flailed as all parties attempted to regain their bearings. Once they were parted, Bionca found herself face-to-face with Dr. Carlton’s killer. “Oh, how fun,” he sneered. “The mice found their way out of the trap only to jump in the jaws of the cats. Let’s play some more.” His palm reached toward Bionca’s face.


Brittany Teodorski


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