OUR HEROES: Tira Wolfsdaughter Hank Woodman Gilead Haiku Odsdottir Persia

42. Blitz

ver the next several days, since no tribute is forthcoming, Tallon is subjected to regular bombardments. Every 2-3 days, the ship flies overhead, dropping things upon the helpless city. The citizens watch as the military tries any number of defenses. Warhawks are sent up initially. These are golem birds designed mostly as couriers, but also as long-distance attackers. The Sky Pirates respond by flying higher. This limits the amount the golems can be directed, as well as puts a strain upon the ley lines. With every few attacks, the warhawks must be re-enhanced.

Nevertheless, the higher altitude of the raiders decreases their accuracy. A balloon designed by Grandmistress Dakota is sent up, bearing a military lineman to direct the warhawks with greater accuracy. The pirates respond by including shooting it down. Hank witnesses something extraordinary at this event. The balloon pilot falls from a great altitude, studying the ground carefully. At the last possible instant he gestures and hits the ground no harder than if he had jumped from a second story window. He has witnessed a rare and difficult adept devotion that deadens anima. The lineman cancelled his own inertia just before the point of impact. In related news, there is a persistent rumor that the General has caught a missile in his bare hands. Indeed, despite the repetitive shelling of the city, General Hannon retains unusual popularity. It is possible that some have seen Ningan as weak and his reforms as reducing the city's defensibility or fighting spirit.

Indeed, Hannon has placed the city under martial law, enforcing a curfew and increasing security at all city gates.

For some reason this has confused Persia, who feels during one of the initial attacks, that she must alert the town guard, despite the rather obvious sounds of explosions and screaming. Fortunately, the local constabulary knows her well enough to merely throw her in jail overnight to "teach her the meaning of Martial Law". She is warned that the general penalty for curfew violation is summary execution. They are deadly serious.

Gilead has received an unforeseen invitation. Apparently, as part of his education and training at the Hall of Art he agreed to serve in the army should the need arise. Many of the classes he took were officer and military training. His number has been called and he is sent to boot camp at a training facility near the picket called Fort Grisham. The training is arduous but swift. To his great surprise, he is assigned the rank of Corporal. He had expected at least Lieutenant, given his experience and training. He figures it must be some kind of wartime mix-up and takes the plate he is given.

Tira has continued to study the Circlet with Cho. She relives another moment from her past, the time she first met the Rivermaster. Intentionally, she alters a small occurrence and drops the Lumina he gave her upon that occasion. She later interviews him and innocently brings up the incident. He does not remember her change. These events apparently are not true time travel. She cannot alter the past. At the same time, more than her own past appears to be accessible. Could it be that the Circlet can relive moments from the past of any that have touched it? This has dangerous implications, since this group includes people such as the Archon, Arthur the self-styled Demon King and possibly Gitche Manito himself! She and Cho approach the artifact with utmost caution.

They discover a few other things about the artifact. Any damage sustained in a vision is visited upon those experiencing it. There is no item in Cho's office that could have broken Gilead's nose. The teacher did a thorough search with her Psychometry and verified this. Also, the Circlet cannot be used but once every week or so. The reasons behind this are a mystery.

The city continues to endure under the bombardment. Besides the round balls of iron, the ship drops animal carcasses that have succumbed to disease. The worst attack is when they risk a low fight and drop firebombs. Though they had tried such attacks in the past, usually they have delivered them from so high up that the bombs extinguish before impact, or they miss flammable structures. This time they successfully pepper the Shambles with incendiaries. The citizens and soldiers manning bucket brigades and spirit pumps are unable to keep up and the blaze gets out of control. The night is long and horrible, the worst fire since the Night of Small Fires laid low the Beast Quarter twenty years ago. Dawn shows only huge clouds of black smoke rising from a large swath of the West Hill. The smoldering continues for days.

However, it seems that someone has had enough. The following day, a barge is set adrift in the harbor with a bonfire upon it. This was the pre-arranged signal for surrender. Though many protest, just as many are tired of the death and destruction, the suffering and pain, and are willing to pay what seems to be a pittance compared to what could be lost.