The tower containing the transfer stage to Gosgun in the grasslands territory called Thantasjein lifted its stony might many hundreds of feet above their heads. That destination sat on the western frontier of Orosjo on the world of Cantaree. Although these same coordinates corresponded to the bottomlands of the Grandwater on Trin, it was far to the west of Cantaree’s cognate waterway, which traced an unusual arcing path to the East Coast and Orosjo’s main city instead of building a delta on the continent’s southern shore in the manner of most other worlds’ cognate rivers.
“I still do not like this,” he told Fionna, whose mount trotted beside his through the empty city. “Gosgun is an over long trip for Meadhbh, all the way to Ban. She would have an ambulance straight from the transfer stage if we brought her to Trin.”
“It’s naught to worry on, Grand-uncle,” Fionna insisted. “When we’re done spinnin’ to Cantaree, Koursh’s folk’ll travel wi’ th’ horses while Simkit and I carry Meadhbh ahead on the air barge. It’ll be a smooth ride, passin’ many a toon wi a clinic, should she need immediate attention.”
Her argument wouldn’t have been enough on its own, but, were he to bring Meadhbh to Parha, he would have to deal with her troubles and Jack’s at the same time. So he bit his tongue as she and several of Koursh’s crew dismounted to enter the tower, to retrieve the air barge that they had kept tucked away in some niche inside.
As the vehicle, not unlike the Imperial Navy’s flat-bottomed landing crafts, emerged from the dark tunnel leading into the tower core, he continued to keep his mouth clamped shut. He watched them load Meadhbh on, and then Simkit. Fionna flew the craft back inside with her and Simkit. Simkit would stay with her at the stage to Cantaree until Fionna brought the rest up and spun them through. He didn’t like the thought of Meadhbh getting out of Aum last, but it was the way the logistics worked out.
Thank heaven, Simkit wasn’t worse injured. Nam’s Maryahdil arts had closed her wounds, driving out the infections that might have left her feverish by now. But Maryahdil arts could only go so far to counteract blood loss. The woman still had a lot of recovering to do.
“My lord,” Koursh stated, “It would be best if you were on your way to the tower for Trin as soon as possible.”
“We’ll leave when Althem tells me Meadhbh is safely through to Cantaree,” he declared, “And not a moment sooner.”
He glanced over at Nam, who was frowning and peering out into the distance.
“What’s the matter?” he asked.
She shushed him with a frown and a wave, which meant she was concentrating on her arts.
It was Jack who answered his question, with his eyes wearing the dark look of a soldier in the field wary of an unseen enemy. Before Rogan even heard his words, he already had a guess what was happening.
“The Gireid scouts tailing us suddenly left,” he stated. “They didn’t just walk away. They bugged out in a hurry.”
The verb was strange, but the meaning was well understood. “A hurry, is it?”
Nam finally answered, “Frankly, they scattered like cockroaches.”
“There’s bigger ones moving up now, from the north. A large group of them,” Jack added.
“Ilidi,” Nam supplied. “So much for the safe passage.”
Rogan turned to Koursh. “Message Fionna. Tell them to speed up the transfer. Things are about to happen.”
In the end, Koursh had a loyalty to Brath House that ran far deeper than what money could buy. Normally a mercenary, the captain momentarily let that allegiance show. “My Lord, if there is a new danger, I should…”
“For the last time, Captain Koursh, it’s Sir Rogan, and I’m paying you to get my retainers safely off this world. If even one member of your group shirks this duty, even one of my retainers, I’ll become almighty angry! Is that clear, Captain?”
Koursh pulled in a breath of defiance, then thought better and released it. With terse tones and a sharp nod, he replied, “All is clear, Sir Rogan.”