Season – Mid Spring 2049
Time – Middle of the Night
Location – Bottoms, Walled Hold
@Parker | @Ember | @Kate | @Fawkes
A roar pierced the air, signifying the hour of the night. Midnight. Aniday stood back as Solai and D'ran prepared themselves in his living room, dressing in their black tunics, black leathers, and black cowls.
"This is just a survey tonight?"
the zultaniterider asked. Solai could tell the question was meant to sooth his own nerves, to confirm his better suspicions, rather than his worst.
D'ran spoke first as Solai secured her belt. "Yes, just a survey. We move tomorrow if everything is clear."
"We have to move tomorrow, regardless,"
the greenrider answered in a huff. Curls bounced as she pulled her belt with a sudden yank, clasping it tight about her hips. The cause did not have any more time left to spare to caution. They had waited long enough, too long, and now they had little time left to afford to something as trivial as a waiting game. Locke had given them the schematics of the the location, as well as the information on the man they dealt with. By tonight, they would secure their knowledge on the number of men, and how they patrolled. They would count the children in the custody of the Derisen Ring, and Solai would count heads so Evora knew how many bolts to bring tomorrow night.
he assured her before turning dark eyes back to Aniday. "We'll be back in a few candlemarks."
"Send Hilt if you need anything,"
the zultaniterider begged of him.
Why the man seemed so torn, Solai did not know, but she remained too focused to ask. Instead, they made their way to his kitchen, and slipped out his window in the dead of night. For the hour trek down to Bottoms, Solai and D'ran remained out of sight. They knew Theria and Locke were stirring trouble on the other side of town, delaying the shipment of the children as long as they could by disrupting Derisen and Ulkirk's other endeavours. How much longer such tactics would work, Solai did not know, but so long as the two slavers did not feel the security required to move their product, they would keep it caged away.
Like felines, the two riders slunk through the shadow, keeping away from the main arteries of Bottoms except when absolutely necessary. Those times they crossed the main streets, they waited until only the dregs of Bottoms could be seen, the kind who would pay neither of them any mind as they passed through. Prostitutes. Dealers. Gang members. Thieves. Druggies. None of the criminals who roamed the streets and alleyways of Bottoms paid any note to them other than to sneer a warning, or catcall to Solai from a distance. Some mistook her for a prostitute about to give D'ran the services he paid for, others considered her a thief to observe curiously in passing. None of them, however, recognised her and D'ran for what they truly were. Emancipators.
It was only when they reached the alley with several patrols that Solai realised they had reached their destination. The building itself towered in comparison to those around it, reaching all the way to the ceiling of the massive cavern. Derisen owned the entirety of monstrous edifice.
But she could not dwell on the stature of the complex. Instead, eyes shot for the patrol. She counted four men, two by the door, and another two who wandered the streets. She sent Scarletto off to check the back of the building and the closes around the edifice itself. Claudius, Solai made sure to leave back in Atricis.
"What do we have Solai?"
D'ran asked as he hid behind a barrel.
Solai hunched behind several wooden boxes as her eyes closed to see through those Scarletto provided her. "Two more in the alleyway behind the building. None in the closes."
"Same as before. Good."
Eyes opened to see D'ran motioning back down the wynd they had travelled down. Step by step, Solai moved back, until they reached the street. There were a few passer bys, but no one of concern as D'ran and Solai walked a little ways up the street and ducked into another wynd. With ease did Solai remember this place, while her fingers ached with dread. She recalled the close by the graffiti painted upon the walls, the stone underfoot, and the single step that she had missed on two previous surveys of the area. This time, she made sure to mind it well as she stepped up it, rather than trip, and walked down a little ways further where they would soon scale to a window above.
"You got this?"
D'ran asked as Solai reached for the small sack she had attached to her belt.
Delicate fingers slipped into the small pouch, only to come out covered in white chalk. Solai covered her hands and patted the excess off before looking at the mismatched wall of cobble and stone. The chalk would help her with her grip as she ascended the wall, granted it was only a very short distance. "Yeah, I've got this,"
she assured him as she stepped into position. Already eyes traced the wall, giving her a path up to the window in question. With a final slip of her fingers to the rope at her belt, just to assure herself she had brought it, Solai motioned to D'ran.
They had done this before, but it was never easy.
The bronzerider lowered his hands down, clasped together, giving her and extra footing. With grace, she used the lift he offered her, only to give a small jump with the lift and scale the wall. Fingers fitted into the nooks of stone as her the soft points of her shoes allowed her to find footing as she climbed. Several times, she had to give herself pause, ff only to calm the muscles that threatened to spasm in her fingers. I've done this before,
she mentally growled to herself. The adrenaline coursing violently through her, Solai forced herself to continue the climb, moving hand by hand and foot by foot, until she finally reached the window ledge. Carefully, she pulled herself up and peered into the dark room. It was a storage room, one that often became so stale that the window was left open to let it breathe (unfortunately, Bottoms's own sour air never granted the room the reprieve its owners clearly sought). Solai paid little mind to the staleness of the storage room as she removed the rope from her belt and tied a lasso for D'ran. Once she threw the thin rope out and down back into the wynd, D'ran reached for it below, and slipped his foot into the lasso provided while hands clutched at the rope. With a heave, Solai hoisted the lithe bronzerider up the wall. Fortunately, for them both, D'ran had never been a heavy man, thus she managed to get him to the window ledge and pull him up the rest of the way.
The building they entered was often vacant at night. They crept through the hallway with not a soul in sight, and when they reached the stairs, they scaled them with not a sound from themselves, or the protest of others. When they reached the rooftop, Solai scanned their surroundings. The rooftops were mostly empty, not a body in sight. As for down below, they could see the guards not far from them. From rooftop to rooftop they leapt, until they came to a bridge built of wooden poles that allowed them to walk across. They were not far now. In her recovery, Solai regarded the building once more. It appeared more like a keep in comparison to flats and homes around it. When eyes scaled the edifice, they reached the unnatural ceiling. Solai could not stop herself from searching for the shimmer of stars. Instead, all they saw was stone. The scatter of flickering fires along the rooftops in the massive cavern gave a faint illumination of the stone that confined Bottoms. It was nearly claustrophobic to Solai. Even back in Atricis, dwellings in stone at least always opened to the Weyr Yards where all could venture. Here, all were destined to live and die without ever seeing the skies.
D'ran warned her. They needed to keep moving, was the unspoken. "You ready?"
She gave a nod of her head, and set off on a run before she leapt from one rooftop to the next. They needed to jump from rooftop to rooftop, making their way back to the lair. As they moved, Solai tried not to gag with every breath she took. The air here smelled offensive, like sewage that had marinaded for centuries. Much like their previous surveys, Solai needed to give herself pause to overcome the stench, but D'ran pressed her to continue. The greenrider tried not to falter, at least not until they reached the final roof that neighboured the towering edifice that merged floor and ceiling together like one massive pillar surrounded by a forest of stalagmites.
D'ran was the first to look over the small ledge afforded to them. "I see Derisen,"
he began after a moment of watching. He slipped back down to meet her at level. Together, they lay as flat as they could along the surface so their heads did not peek up over the short wall. "Ulkirk is in there too,"
he began, "Speaking with Derisen by the looks of it."
"He was there the last two times we visited as well. He must come often during the night to check in."
"Locke is sure going to love that,"
D'ran chuckled nervously. Both green and bronzerider knew full well what Locke had in store for the Justicar. Fortunately for Locke, and unfortunately for Ulkirk, D'ran and Solai's sole concern was for the children they held.
"Anyone else in the room?"
she asked, lifting her head ever so slightly so her whisper could carry to the bronzerider who peaked over the ledge once more.
"Yeah, three guards? No... four."
"Fuck, more than before..."
"Probably because of Locke and Theria,"
While the two were a necessary evil to keep the kids in Bottoms, it also meant Locke and Theria worked too well, and were spooking Derisen and Ulkirk. The extra men likely had to do with the interruptions committed by the wraithrider and greenrider.
"We have to move soon, no later than tomorrow,"
Solai growled. She was unwilling to wait any longer.
he answered back before glancing over the ledge to survey the other floors.
Impatiently, Solai waited, yet still, she waited with her heart clenched about what more D'ran could see. It was enough to get her to peek over the ledge as well, spotting the several stories of windows and movement. The tower was a fortress, and by tomorrow, they would have to penetrate i-
A sharp pain burst suddenly through her low belly, enough to make the greenrider gasp out. When she looked to the source of the hurt, she spotted a bolt that had sprouted up along left side of her belly. Flesh stung deep where the shaft touch, leaving her to catch her breath in recovery; blood seeped, already dampening her tunic and leathers. "D'ran!
she called to him in a sharp whisper. Already, her voice trembled as her body began to succumb to shock.
The bronzerider spotted the injury, and immediately cupped his hands around it, pressing upon it to stop the bleeding... only for a second bolt to fly by his head. "Shit! We need to move!"
Solai moaned as the bronzerider lifted her up, and started in a hard run across the rooftop. Two more bolts hissed passed them just before D'ran leapt off the rooftop over the narrow wynd. He landed in a roll, taking Solai with him., The shaft snapped from the pressure of the movement, the ends grinding within her as the blood continued to ooze hot around the lips of the wound where the bolt protruded, but she was not allowed to stop. Instead, D'ran's arms wrapped around her, pulling her to her feet as they ran across the rooftop and left for the next.
She missed the jump, but managed to catch the ledge with a sweaty hand. Once he landed, D'ran returned to her, grasping the hand to pull her up over the wall. Twice more they were forced to jump, until they reached the wooden bridge. Already, life began to seep from Solai. Her steps had weakened as D'ran dragged her with him, making their way to the thin wooden bridge. "I can't..."
she panted. Already, she felt her body beginning to give.
he encouraged her in determination as he began to cross.
A hand slipped to the wound, settling just beneath the bolt as she crossed with D'ran. Several times, she felt the lure of gravity pull at her, especially as her lips began to go cold and her skin clammy...
"Common, Solai. You can do this. We're almost there."
Though the greenrider listened to D'ran, she did not believe him, not when she recalled all that stood between them and Aniday and Tyreth.
She felt her green, the panic that caused her massive heart to throb, but she dare not utter a sound lest she give evidence to their enemies that Solai had breached Bottoms. Yet Solai continued to feel her worry eat at both of them, the mounting panic that her rider would not reach the surface. Shhhhhh... I'll make it,
she promised her lifemate, even if Tyreth was forced to stay silent.
They reached the other side of the bridge, though Solai buckled under the strain of her injury. Her knees met the stone beneath her, only for her body to crumple.
"I can't... I can't..."
she began, her words sputtering from her with every breath. Though she no longer felt the agony of her wound, she felt the pull of exhaustion forcing her to slow down, begging her to sleep. Eyes closed as the howls of D'ran's desperation became distant memories.