What happens after the first battle. A new enemy is revealed
|Ethan awoke in a miners shack. Light peeked through cracks in the wall. What happened? Right we fought Rexword, and I found out being a superhero is painful at best. He looked down at his body, not a blemish. He heard snoring coming from nearby.
Mr. Nottle was seated by the fire hands folded in his lap. The top hat covered his eyes. How long had he been out? Ethan swung his legs over the bed and tried to stand. He wobbled a little, and the room spun in lazy circles.
"Okay, feet, you know what to do," Ethan said. He took one step and fell to the floor. The bang was loud enough to get the attention of Constance. The door flew open, and her eyes blazed with fiery anger as she stared at her fallen companion. If looks could kill, Ethan would have died instantly.
"What is your problem?" Ethan asked as he struggled to get up.
Constance's visage changed in an instant. Her lips curled into an intimidating smile, causing Ethan discomfort. A toxic sweetness was in her voice. "Three days, Ethan. You've been out for three days. How do you think I feel?"
Ethan managed to climb back into the barely comfortable bed. He winced in pain, "I don't ever presume to know what is on a woman's mind. How about you tell me how you feel. I am in no mood for guessing games."
Constance put her hands behind her back and trotted over to the bed. Her purplish-black hair bounced off her shoulders, boots clicking against the spruce floor. A slender hand grabbed a book off the table, as she grinned ear to ear. Pain followed that smile as Constance beat Ethan with a book.
"I was terrified. I worried we would need a box instead of a carriage seat, to bring you home. I said back down, and you threw yourself into danger like some swashbuckler. You almost destroyed three futures, four if you count Ms. Reynard. How do I feel? Like putting you in a deep hole and forgetting about you."
It was easy to understand her worry and her anger to a lesser extent. Ethan rolled his eyes and pushed himself into a sitting position. "How is anyone supposed to believe in me if I run away the moment things get tough?"
"How is anyone supposed to believe in you if you are dead?"
The conversation was going nowhere. It was time to switch up tactics. "How are the miners and their families?"
"Nestor gave everyone the day off. They are celebrating for the first time in weeks. The families have been keeping us fed and housed. I don't think I have ever seen a more relieved group of people."
"Do you know what made the celebration possible?" Ethan asked.
Constance crossed her arms, the book still in hand, "We won the fight..."
"Precisely, we won the fight. If I had followed your orders today would be about burying the dead and preparing for round two. You can plan all you want, but once you get people and free will involved, all bets are off. What did you think superheroes did?" Ethan asked.
"Ms. Reynard tried to get me to read those ridiculous comics from your reality. I didn't see how that filth can improve the mind."
"You need to read them. It won't make the pill easier to swallow, but it will help you understand why you swallowed it."
Constance stared at him with a hurt expression, "Fine, but the moment I find a suitable replacement, I am out." She pulled a bottle from the folds of her dress, "Drink up. We still have another Kludde to capture." She slammed the door, waking Mr. Nottle.
Ethan drank the potion. It smelled like battery acid and tasted worse. His body felt warm, and then sharp stabbing pains in his ribs. "Wow, I thought this was supposed to make me feel better."
Mr. Nottle smiled, "Constance seems to think your powers dampen magical effects. The potion should have healed you instantly. Did she bawl you out?"
"She tried to. I told her I did as the superheroes do."
"Indeed, you did."
The pain faded, Ethan clapped his hands, grabbing the armor and mask, "I need something long-range. The battle would have been a little easier if I could have sapped him from a distance."
Mr. Nottle straightened his top hand and suit, "Get ready." He said, placing his hand on the doorknob.
The door squeaked open, and loud cheers almost knocked Silverbolt off his feet. The whole town had come to wish him well. They gave him a loud cheer. Several young women came to meet him personally and giggled before taking off in a group.
The next ten minutes consisted of shaking hands and making small talk. Nestor was the last to see them off. He was clean of soot and grime, as were his clothes. He shook Silverbolts hand, "I can't thank you enough. How are things with the future Mrs.?"
Silverbolt shrugged, "Who knows. She said something about me being in danger, we argued, and she is leaving the team first chance she gets."
"Can I make a suggestion?"
"I'm all ears."
"Ride with the driver. Give her some space. She needs to process."
Ethan nodded, "Will do. Say, do you have any idea where Rexword lived?"
Nestor pulled a map from his back pocket, "People are always asking for directions." He laid the map down on a picnic table, Silverbolt noted it looked like Alberta. "Rexword was staying in the abandoned lumber camp. They got one hut built before the forest spirits convinced them to find their wood elsewhere."
"You must be fresh off the boat. The forest spirits care for the plants and animals. Most are amiable enough, so as long as you are taking what you need. If nature's bounty is abused, nature abuses in kind."
Mr. Nottle got his last, "Vote for me," in. Constance was already brooding in the carriage. Silverbolt was not crazy about being trapped in a confined space with her. He took Nestor's advice and rode with the driver.
Rathmore secret Antechamber
The kludde slithered through the cracks in the door, taking the form of a winged wolf. He bowed before the armored figured. The crimson pupils studied the shadow creature. "Well, did you succeed?"
The kludde kept its head bowed as it spoke, "We have a problem."
A taloned hand fiddled with the pommel of the sword, "What sort of problem?"
"An inherent killed and trapped Rexword in one of those wretched bottles."
The armored figure stepped forward, revealing itself. Midnight black feathers covered the exposed body. Mighty wings of death fluttered behind the cobalt plated armor. A high pitched screeching noise escaped the razor-sharp beak, shining like hematite. "Didn't you think of silencing them?"
The Kludde growled, "Watch it, Valraven..."
The Valraven screeched, waving its talons in an obscure pattern. A bluish-purple glow lit the stones underneath the Kludde. A cage of light rose from the ground. Tiny golden chains bound the demonic lupine. The kludde's fiery blue eyes were wracked with pain.
"Consider this my way of getting the truth, and your punishment for failing. Why weren't you able to silence the inherent?"
The kludde refused to look weak, "Why should I tell you? How about you set me free, and maybe I will share my secret. The information I have you want."
The Valraven studied the evil beast for several seconds. He waved his hand, and the cage vanished. "I grow tired of your presence, now talk."
"The humans called him Silverbolt. I watched Rexword try to silence him. Silverbolt was still capable of using his power."
The Valraven was curious now. He stroked his beak in thought, "I see. Do you have any theories?"
The kludde shook his head, "I don't. I can say Rexword beat the hell out him. The healers in Slatecairn tried to use magic, but it failed. A potion barely saved him."
The Valraven clicked his talons together, "Lets give him a real opponent. Do we still have that Ragland fellow chained up?"
"Good, prepare the room, and we will find Mr. Ragland's true potential."
The lumber camp consisted of one hut and two unfinished buildings. Silverbolt could feel a thousand eyes on him. Maybe it was a primal fear of what lay in the shadows of the tree, or the spirits were watching them.
Silverbolt started moving toward the hut. The element surprise was his. The Kludde wouldn't know what hit it.
"Silverbolt Ms. Reynard wants to speak with us," Constance shouted at the top of her lungs.
"So much for the element of surprise. I might as well be holding a big neon sign now." Silverbolt stomped back over to the carriage. "What is your problem? Are you trying to get us killed? We have no idea who or what is in that shack, and here you are shouting at the top of your lungs, giving away our position. Get your head in the game or stay out of my way."
Constance said nothing but held up the shell, "Ethan, what is going on?" Ms. Reynard's voice asked.
"Ask Constance. I got banged up in the fight pretty bad, but we won."
"He could have died."
"Am I your mother?" Ms. Reynard said in a calm voice.
Ethan and Constance sheepishly said, "No," In unison.
"I see your partnership needs work. Mr. Nottle will take the carriage home. You two will walk back to the estate."
"Send Constance too. She plans on quitting anyway," Ethan said.
"Is this true?"
Constance shot Ethan an angry look, "He wouldn't listen to me..."
"Ethan take a walk I need to speak with Constance alone."
Ethan stomped off towards the hut. What he found inside shocked him. Maps of Slatecairn, schedules, shift changes were pinned to the walls in the tiny sitting area. He found remnants of a potion, a mouthful at best. He put a stopper on the beaker and took it with him.
He noticed the poorly constructed cage in the corner. The awful design included runes etched on each iron bar. Someone or something had left a deep scratch mark across each alien-looking symbol. The bottom of the cage had a message scrawled in some language Ethan didn't understand. All the same, the cage could lead them to the second kludde or at least explain how rexword got his hands on it.
Constance was still talking to Ms. Reynard when Ethan emerged from the hut cage and potion in hand. The conversation had not gone well. Constance was seething with rage, "I am not doing it."
"Okay, then you forfeit this week's pay, as per your contract. I told you the job would have some heartbreaking moments. I was lead to believe you could handle it," Ms. Reynard said in an angry tone.
"Fine, but once we get back to Rathmore, I am out." Constance stomped off and sat on a tree stump, leaving the shell on the seat.
"Ms. Reynard, do you know everything that happened in Slatecairn?"
"I do. You exceeded my expectations. Where are you guys anyway?"
"We are at a lumber camp just south of Slatecairn. Rexword was staying here. I found some of his potions, and an iron cage warded to the nines. He planned each of the murders meticulously."
"I see what of the second kludde?"
Ethan sighed, "It's in the wind. It probably escaped while Rexword in Slatecairn. It scrawled a message into the bottom of the cage. Do you want me to send both items with Nottle for examination?"
Ms. Reynard sounded impressed, "Please do, is there anything else?"
"Constance said something about kludde being born from evil wizards. Could you check around Rathmore and see if any lived there in the past hundred years."
"Maybe we can figure out what it's up to."
"I am not if a kludde retain the memories of their mortal bodies. Since we officially have nothing to go on, I will check with my people." Ms. Reynard promised.
"Thanks, its a long way home we should get started," Ethan said as handed the cage and potion to the driver.
"Can you do a favor for me?"
"Work things out with Constance. She is scared for you, and she has lost so much over the years."
Ethan rolled his eyes, "Fine, but I make no promises."
"Excellent, I will see you in a few days."