The slug. Aran was looking behind them, where the slug-thing was still screaming on the salt. I feel bad for it.
Nikol swallowed a It wants to eat us and then a Well, for fuck’s sake, come on, and then, for good measure a Are you fucking kidding me?
What the hell was she supposed to say to that?
She stared at Aran while she considered those options and a few others and then, finally, decided to dump it back in his lap.
“What can you do for it that doesn’t endanger us?”
He closed his eyes. “I might be able to tell it to go up the building. But it might follow us, then. I don’t think I can turn the salt back to stone without getting closer, and — I hear shouting.”
She should never have asked him to go into the thing’s mind. Minds. “How about you send it up the building and then turn the bit immediately before this bridge into salt. That way it can’t follow us but it’s not, well, dying.”
“Okay.” He looked – she couldn’t tell. Relieved, maybe. Confused, maybe? He muttered a series of Workings either way; after a moment, the screaming stopped.
“It’s hurt. But it’s still alive. And confused. The ground has never hurt it before. I think it’s sorting out going up the building.” His voice cracked a little. “There’s less brains now.”
“More shouting, though. We should hurry. You good to go?”
“Yeah.” He wouldn’t look right at her.
“Let’s go, then.” She clucked to Strongfoot and urged him forward on the bridge.
Aran and Calm-Face — and his cat – followed. She thought, perhaps, they were far enough away that they could just lose the people in the maze of buildings, but left and then right, left and right again and there were still angry shouts coming closer and closer.
“Where are we headed?” Aran sounded like he was coming back to himself. Nikol spared him a glance; he still looked a bit ashen.
“Hopefully, out, without running into anything else.” The shouts seemed even closer. She hissed. “We’re going to have to run. Come on. Hold on, kitty,” she murmured. “Come on, Aran. They’re pissed.”
She would be too, if someone had led a giant slug through her camp. Didn’t mean she didn’t want to get out of their way, and fast. They rode, the horses not needing much urging to go for it, hooves pounding on the pavement. They came to an old traffic barrier; Strongfoot jumped it like a champ, landing soundly with a thump as Calm-Face landed nearby.
There were still shouts audible. If anything, they seemed like they were coming closer. Closer? She heard a couple engines and swore. That was just cheating.
Now she was looking for routes that the horses could handle better than machines, routes where they could leave a mess in their wake that didn’t look like a trail – removing two bolts in a bridge that was almost rusted through already, once; letting a rusted-out car roll into the road in another case. They took left and right turns, looped backwards, and did everything they could to shake the shouting pursuit.
Twice, they thought they’d lost them, only to hear the shouts again. A third time, they paused, and heard nothing. When Nikol sent her senses out, she could only feel a few people nearby.
They were nearly out of the city and the sun was rising. Every bit of her that she hadn’t healed properly was aching, and she thought she’d reopened a couple wounds.
She twisted to look behind her; neither of them were leaving a blood trail. She sipped water from the canteen, pressed it into Aran’s hands, and sent her senses out in front of them.
“I don’t have anything yet, but I can only feel out about a mile,” she muttered. “Let’s head that way,” she gestured. “Seems like the city clears up the fastest in that direction.” She yawned. “Shit.”
“Shit,” Aran agreed. “Come on, we can find someplace to camp.” He clucked to his horse and coaxed him into a decent amble, Strongfoot following alongside.
Nikol let herself doze and let him lead, sending her senses out sleepily again and again. “Not that way,” she mumbled, when her senses found a crowd just a couple hundred feet ahead of where they were.
“Left is gonna take us right back where we were. Right?”
“Right?” She shook herself awake and sent out her senses again. It was like trying to peer through molasses. “Ah. Yes. Right should be good.”
“What is up with you? You’re like the walking dead.” He frowned at her. “Do you need something? Sunlight, food, alcohol?”
“Energy,” she admitted ruefully. “I strained that a little too much.”
He said nothing for a few minutes – as they headed right, as far as she could tell, away from the large group of people. Then he snorted.
“So I could run away and you couldn’t sense me.”Want more?