124: Nam

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Before the battle Rogan told her to get out if things went sour. “Your daughter still needs you,” he had growled, and her gut twisted at hearing that.

He fought dirty when he dragged the kid into the equation, and he knew it. She’d snapped, “In Alyrhia she would considered an adult!”…

…but of course, that meant nothing to him. For a Parhan, sixteen was still six years away from adulthood, and by Chaldan law the age of adulthood had been twenty. Neither of his cultures allowed him to accept such a low age as sixteen.

Truth to tell, she could say her baby was an ‘adult’, but Rogan knew damned well she could never make herself believe it, either. She could barely accept it of her grown sons, who both had teenaged daughters of their own.

Thus, he’d extracted an agreement from her, with Jack weighing in on his side of it… but the two men didn’t know that the escape path she was planning happened to pass over a certain beast’s back and through the throat of a certain vixen. She’d been calculating and recalculating her attack path since the wall fell. The instant that her last barrier warned of failure, she would make her dash through the middle of the field. With luck, it would give her companions their own shot at survival.

Through Ecoue’s eyes she watched the remaining Ilidi beasts now working their way around the perimeter, to follow the three now inside. Ooe’s eyes showed the Gireidil party proceeding at top speed, but still more than a minute out. Their scouts had arrived, but one Ilidi beast could keep those smaller weapons at bay.

Nam toyed briefly with playing Althem’s game. She had the advantage of being able to see over the wall, thanks to Ecoue, and could therefore target the beasts which were still out there. She possessed nothing like the same kinetic abilities as Althem, though. She could only manage a single rock at a time, and doubted she could approach even remotely the hypersonic speeds that Althem produced.

Another coordinated volley slammed into her barrier. It held this time, thanks to a little tuning on her part. She anchored it into the bedrock below, of course, so the forces wouldn’t be transferring to her, but even so, she felt shaken. For a moment, she thought something was going wrong, but then she recognized that their two sides were combining to output sufficient energy to make the ground shake.

The first of the reinforcements arrived for the Ilidi, four more beasts appearing at the breach. Althem delivered her most withering volley yet, sixteen stones in four fast waves. One of the beasts actually crumpled to the ground before it was through the hole. That made at total of two taken out so far, with a corpse to partly block the breach.

If her count was right, though, that meant nine beasts remained. They had to do better than this, if they were to hold out for another minute. The remainder had injuries, but all fought on.

Nam searched in the clearing dust for the girl, spotted her rolling on the ground, thrown from her mount in the volley. She came up with her clothes now in even worse disarray, hurling a blast, then grabbing for her blouse as she discovered her belt was gone and her bosom was on full display.

Meanwhile, Jack’s mysterious cat stomped back and forth and hissed dangerously at the beasts.

Nam knew it could not be a real cat spirit. A Maryahdil creation would have begun life as a living cat, which would act more… prudent. Cats were not known for madly aggressive behavior in the face of unbeatable odds. Harrying superior force to the limit of their agility, certainly, but this one actually looked like it was prepared to go nose to nose against beasts a thousand times its own weight.

Once again, the beasts threw a coordinated volley into Nam’s barriers, but this time six beasts fired rather than three. She braced herself to begin her run, and prayed Rogan and Jack would find some alternate way to survive.

As the blow landed and her barrier dissolved, Jack’s cat screamed and charged. Over its head, a withering hail of energy passed, at power levels she would have considered beyond human control. The torrent poured from Jack’s outstretched arm, blasted easily through the opposing barriers, then the living armor of one beast, the one the cat had charged, literally burnt to cinders as it stood, leaving it a dead, blazing corpse.

The heat from so much fuel burning all at once struck her like an ocean wave.

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She recognized, as her shock passed, that she was well past her appointed time to make good her escape. But, this was not what Rogan meant by ‘going sour’. She hastily composed new barriers during the gift of extra time the cat had bought her.

The cat, ears flattened against its skull, wheeled on the next warbeast and announced its anger again. Jack, eyes wide, flux aura burning like a sun, turned toward the same beast, and Nam watched in astonishment as the cat let lose its warcry and another withering blast hurled forth with similar effect. She coughed as hideous billows of oily smoke now choked the battlefield.

She could see it from the body language. It was impossible, but it was clear that somehow, the cat was initiating the attacks that were spilling forth from Jack. All the guardsman was doing was aiming for the beast. The two were somehow coordinating this attack.

The remaining beasts panicked, wheeling to make their escape. They thundered back out the breach as the girl projected her powerful but crude flame-barrier to cover their retreat. Her expression going in had been one of wild battle fervor. It was now one of stark terror, but Nam awarded her full marks as a commander for covering the retreat of her troops against the threat.

The last beast passed the breach, and the girl turned and ran after it, using a kinetic speed boost. She maintained the screen behind her as she fled.

The cat marched back and forth as it watched the departured, pacing like an agitated field commander. The madness she had just witnessed remained unexplained, no matter how long she stared

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