122: Rogan

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Once they caught up to her, Nam admitted with unusual contrition that she shouldn’t have dashed ahead, this time. It was so unlike her, in fact, that Rogan found himself struggling to find an appropriate reply.

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They had taken refuge in a villa courtyard. It wasn’t ideal, but it was small enough for Nam’s specters to keep an eye on the entire perimeter, and for he and Althem to have time to pattern a fairly effective barrier around same.

Rogan picked the best high place he could spot for a fire base, and they clambered to the top before Nam recognized it was the family altar for this place. Simultaneous to his hurried work throwing up a defense, he had to convince her they should not relocate. Although neither of them were raised in the Gireidil beliefs, Nam’s Alyrhian religion had a common origin, with enough resemblance for her to think of this heathen platform as sacred.

Fortunately, he carried an ace in the hole, a certain Gireidil priestess named Althem.

<An altar without graves no longer holds any sanctity once the people leave,> she insisted.

With effort, Althem could probably tell Nam herself. Anyone able to communicate by direct voice through the Paeth Giraan had sufficient mental power to hear Althem’s voice. But, the ancient priestess was a bit lazy in her old age. It was easier in her view to pass messages through her host.

“According to Althem,” he stated, and repeated the line.

“But it used to be a place of worship, Rogan! We should have respect!”

“She says, for a lump of rock to have such value for anyone, living or dead, it needs an ongoing presence, living or dead,” he relayed. Then he added for himself, “She’s a priestess of the faith those who lived here held, Nam. Let it go.”

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Rogan briefly wondered what Father Ó Briain might think about him participating in a round of heathen theology like that, but decided not to worry about it. May as well save such things for the confessional.

A cry from Ecoue broke into his thoughts. A moment later, a volley slammed into his barrier on the western wall. He heard Althem’s spirit singing. As a priestess of a martial order, she had trained for this kind of work, and the circumstances had brought her to be willing to play offense this time. Had she legs of her own, she would have raced Nam to be first to wade into the fray.

“Four beasts just came around the neighboring villa,” Nam reported. “They were using it to screen their movements. They’re charging.”

Althem raised a dozen stones into the air from the rubble he made out of a garden structure earlier. Nam prepared to cast barriers, the best use of her skills while the beasts were still at a distance. Her ranged attacks were anti-personnel at the strongest. All her high-powered attacks required direct contact, so she would concentrate instead on intercepting incoming volleys that got through the standing barriers.

Jack’s fool cat ran out to stand between the altar and the wall. Rogan secretly hoped it would get itself fried for getting them in this position in the first place. He thought it a possibility, since the creature seemed to be planning to do single combat versus the monsters on the other side.

Another volley struck the wall, and cracks riddled the side facing them. The wall would never last, he concluded, and began wondering how well their fall-back plan would do. Althem made a quick estimate of the enemy’s position, and raised four of the stones, then propelled them to hypersonic speeds at targets beyond the wall. Thunderclaps and clouds of dust blasted forth from the other side.

“Two hits, some damage,” Nam reported, observing the hits through her eyes above. “The rest were a touch long.”

Althem adjusted and cast the remainder. Massive, angry bellows issued forth along with the damage and noise, but shortly after, another volley from the enemy slammed into the wall. Their next volley would surely shatter the stonework.

Well, perhaps all the work did buy us fifteen seconds or so, Rogan philosophized, as Althem reached for more projectiles.

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