Anacrusis

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Of The Fire Eater (And Being A Tool)

Of The Fire Eater (and being a tool)



The river lay still and clouded, but on the other side a wheel was slowly turning even though it pivoted a foot above the Blackwater. The river was so smooth (like polished obsidian) that you couldn’t even tell if it was moving or not, and this deeply concerned Tripphire. The depth of her concern paled in comparison to the depth of the Blackwater.

They had no hope of swimming through it with such heavy armour. Well, they had no hope of swimming through it anyways, but they didn’t know that.

“Lets walk.” Said Kry, the blaze suspended above his head lighting the mist around them. “If this is a civilisation, there should be a bridge not too far up the riverbank.”

“No.” Said the Lieutenant staring thoughtfully into the soil “No, not crafty enough.”

“What?”

"Adrien!" She barked, “How hard is your head!?”

“It’s a rock!” Giggled Adrien.

The Lieutenant turned on her heel and went back to her intensive thinking.

“Look,” Said Kry “If we-”

“Shut up!”

“But Lieutenant I-”

Tripphire cut him off for the last time: “Alright listen!” She cracked a knucle and exhaled sharply, “My grandfather happens to be a giant who specialises in joinery, but you’re by far the biggest tool I have ever been around!”

Kry shut up - the whole place seemed to get slightly dimmer.

Tripphire was formulating a plan to build a bridge across, and muttered under her breath:

“Head like a rock…. Rock beats…. Paper? I think it was paper, um… Trees… Essentially big rolls of paper. Right? RIGHT!” She shouted that last word to her whole squad. “everyone out of the way, this tree here’s coming down! You, you loaf-munching numbskull! Do you want to make yourself useful?”

Adrien nodded and trembled.

He was ordered to move twenty paces back, giving him a good running shot at the tree. And indeed it was a good running shot - he ran faster than anyone would have expected, like a fishing net full of squashed grapes in a wind tunnel. (What sort of adequate fishing net is able to contain squashed grapes I have no idea, but you get the point.)

He tripped not two meters away from the tree, on a bramble bush vine that lay dead at his feet. All was still well for Tripphire’s plan, though, as his head broke the thick tree with a dry cracking sound.

It fell onto the land with only a few empty branches stretching into the water. Everyone was ordered to lift the trunk, and Irig who waited by the bank stood and helped to feed it across the stretch of murky liquid. (Adrien was completely unharmed, by the way.)

And finally it was ready to cross, according to Tripphire’s own plan. “Quite a good bridge if I do say so my self,” She said, “and I say so!”

Kry grumbled, and was the first to cross the unstable bridge that swayed as he walked across it. There was little to no branches on the tree until about halfway over which made it super dangerous and stuff but to the Lieutenant’s simultaneous smug satisfaction and dissapointment, Kry made it across just fine. The rest of the crew crossed before Adrien. Tripphire first - and lets just say that the experience was an atrocious, undignifying mess - McKraken second - his wooden leg threatened to reattach itself to the tree - and ’Zurei last - She lost both her nerve and glasses when the tree buckled suddenly, but she caught herself. That could not be said for her specs though, which soundlessly sank into the apparitional Blackwater.

The trunk creaked and lowered into the freezing cold as Adrien tiptoed across about as gracefully as a two-legged bus, and at the halfway point it even began to creak - but Adrien came from a long line of circus performers, it was in his blood. He was no acrobat though, and had he been in the circus himself many say he would be nothing more than something for the cruel audience to laugh or throw rotten fruit at. He wasn’t wise enough to be an elephant either. Poor Adrien. He’ll show them all one day, I’m sure.

Once everyone was over, Tripphire turned smugly to Kry and said nothing. She looked away again swiftly, after he decided to stare back.

The Archer stood around blindly and tried to make out the house in the mist. She couldn’t see a thing!

Kry then offered to retrieve ’Zurei’s glasses, which could have been mistaken for a kind, gentlemanly act, but in reality he was just a bit angry and felt like he had a point to prove. He had to put this foolish, ill excuse of a Lieutenant back in her place, even though her official place was as his boss.

“No no, it’s ok! I’ll buy new glasses!”

But Kry had already taken off his armour and was in the motion of diving into the water. Whilst mid-air, flames sprouted from out of his arms - so hot that they singed Adrien’s belly hair and burnt crusts on ’Zurei’s eyes, blinding her further. As soon as he hit the river engulfed him, the fire disappeared without a sound, just like the glasses.

That was the last they ever saw him. Nobody was really that bothered, honestly, perhaps just a little unsettled.

But what really terrified them as they stared at the lack of bubbles rising from the water’s surface was the terrifying slender seven-foot-three old lady that suddenly and sinisterly stalked through the five. Her cloak a dark gray and her hair a jagged hurricane, it would have been a lot scarier had she not been wearing the green crocodile slippers and shabbily knitted beanie. She held an empty wooden pale in one hand and a broom-looking staff in the other. Its bristles were held solidly closed around something with a sturdy metal ring - what was inside could never seem to be identified, but Tripphire got the feeling that she didn’t want to know anyways.

“Alrigh’ ye scantly shiny bunch!” She croaked as she dripped the pail into the river and collected a bucket of rippling abyss.

“You what?” Tripphire said, standing quite far away.

The Witch stood and examined the group with wise old eyes so filled with life it almost made the wrinkles on the rest of her face disappear.

“State jyar occupation, soldiers.” She said.

Tripphire consulted ’Zurei about the long ‘O’ word in that sentence, and proudly said:

“We’re on a mission!”

“What’s jyar objective?” The Witch smiled.

’Zurei and her Lieutenant shared another quiet whisper.

“That’s uhm…” Began Tripphire, and ’Zurei whispered one final thing to her.“...Classified!” She finished.

The Witch seemed to contemplate this.

“... yyyyaaach, fair enough.” She shrugged, splashing a little water out of the pail. It looked clear now, not murky like how it was before. The mist was settling into a low fog, which even the Lieutenant was now able to see over. Irig was still shrouded though.“Would ’djah like to come inside?”

“Yes, I demand you let us inside!”

“Oh, dere’s no need for that. See, I already made the offer!” The Witch smiled thinly.

“Well I demand you let us upturn your furniture!” Tripphire said, trying to get above this witch on at least a mental standpoint.

“Your buddy ain’t comin’ back, ye know.” The Witch stated with menacing undertones. Tripphire inhaled in preparation to retaliate, but then she noticed the implications and intent behind that statement and continued to shut up.

And the stars watched as they all walked into the cosy mill-house - all except ’Zurei, who walked blindly straight into the wall. The last living tree south of the Blackwater lay sprawled across the river, as if in a last-ditch attempt to crawl into the living world beyond, where birds sang and leaves were green and fleshy, and the Hero was now not without a villain, however lousy.

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