“Let’s explore a little before we get the whole company,” Dor urged. “Maybe not a lot, but let’s at least tell them what we’re looking at.”
“Besides,” Amalie added, then paused, hummed for a moment, and said again, her voice a half-octave lower and more reasonable sounding, “besides, Karida, maybe there are food supplies here, if it’s a settlement?”
Their logic was sound, and the older members of the company wouldn’t accuse Dor of being flighty, a dreamer, the way they liked to with Karida. “All right,” she agreed. “I think we can look a little bit further before we go back. But if we run into anything dangerous…”
“We know the drill, Kara.” Dor rolled his eyes, and followed her around the corner of the building. “Do you think anyone’s still living there? Or anything?”
“We’ve never seen a city this intact. It’s hard to tell.” That was the safe answer. Inside, she was trying not to bounce up and down: a city! We found a real city! And there’s a real sky-trapper, two of them! This will be The Story! This will be My Story! Reluctantly, as Amalie hummed behind her, she amended Our Story.
The next building had the bottom parts of its walls intact, as well as a full foundation, and part of a floor. Karida spent a moment staring at it, at the sheered-off nature of the structure, tracing the line down. “There really were dragons,” she murmured, “or something huge. They knocked off,” she drew a line in the air with her hand.
Amalie hummed again. “The monster’s claw was cutting still…”
“…through the years and through the houses?” Dor offered.
“Doesn’t scan right. The monster’s claw had cut through time, through… cut through years, through the city’s long-shed tears.”
“That doesn’t mean anything,” Dor complained. Karida, who did not sing, kept quiet. Amalie would get the song right.
It was up to her to get the now of it proper, so they had a song to sing and a throat to sing it with. She stepped into the basement, carefully dancing down the stairs. In smaller settlements, they had found food – but they had also found monsters, demons, feral humans, and sometimes just corpses. Lots of people, she thought, hadn’t made it out in time. Centuries later, they were still entombed, rotting slowly away in their homes.
“It must have been horrible,” Amalie whispered. “When the monsters flew.”
“They still fly,” Dor countered. “They just aren’t as many.”
“I’ve never seen one.”
“With luck,” Karida interrupted, “you never will. They’re not nice things.” She was stretching her senses ahead of her, feeling out the space. There were three rooms down here, some old metal things, a small puddle of water and… “Dor,” she warned.
He nodded, and gestured Amalie back to look-out position, before drawing his two wakizashi and following Karida down the stairs. “Do you know?” he asked tersely.
“Not yet.” Her senses told her life, and general size, but that was it. Something the size of a human could be a bear, or a monster, or a person. She stepped into the dark, holding her staff in front of her.
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