Episode 11:  Escape

The door rattled.

Rorkai dragged Noshee by the arm over to an oval door on the floor by the back wall. “Get out. Now.”

Noshee nodded and said, “Help me.” His wings shook from the possible prospect of dueling. “I do not know my way around.”

“I can’t,” Rorkai said. “Nothing would satisfy the Eldens more than unseating me. Your Warlord wouldn’t be happy. Not after making the five-day flight to help me gain warlordship.” He reached down and opened the oval door. No one was below.

Again, someone beat against the front door of the top floor infirmary. “Warlord Rorkai. Are you in there?”

“Here,” Rorkai called out.

“At least send someone to help me,” Noshee pleaded.

"Too risky." Rorkai yanked the linen bandages around Noshee’s chest.

Noshee had no choice but to tighten his wings against his back. He dropped through the door to the room below. The oval door slammed shut. His wings popped open, softening his landing.

Sounds of taloned feet clicked across the ceiling. A muffled creak of a door opening added to the gloominess of the room.

Pressed against the back wall, a similar wooden table that held Haiwee held another Harton. The spicy stink of the dead pierced his nostrils. Cupping his nose, Noshee walked over. On the inner left forearm was a tattoo of a broadsword with the words ‘To Serve Genai’ along the blade. It was a soldier.

Four bite marks in a line puckered the skin behind the left ear. He was the one in the catacombs that stole the used syringe. His wings bound with twine, body stiff by death’s grip, throat ripped out—just like Haiwee. Was he the one who attacked Noshee and killed Haiwee?

Voices dribbled from above. Noshee recognized Chusee’s voice. She was the head researcher who sent him on this insane excursion to study the Harton eater, Graywolf. Rorkai spoke back, but Noshee couldn’t make out the words.

According to Rorkai there was a fourth in the catacombs.

Not only did Noshee have to venture out to an unfamiliar province, but if he flew into this fourth person, he wouldn’t know it.

Or would he?

He grunted. “Here we go.” He examined the soldier’s body. Tattoos covered most of the cold skin. Most were insignificant except for those on the hilt of the broadsword. Three black ‘C’s in ancient calligraphy were tattooed in a line. He was a high-ranking Pack leader, on the verge of becoming a Legionnaire—a captain. No wonder Rorkai was upset. Legionnaires were hard to come by, able to command a swarm of a thousand warriors.

He leaned the body on its side and searched. Searched the obvious places to insert a syringe. No marks indicated this soldier found the syringe Noshee tossed. So there was a fourth. And if Noshee flew into him, or her, he’d know by the bruise the syringe or the sikya spider bite left. But he’d have at most a day before that bruise disappeared.

The door handle above cranked opened. Noshee rushed to the front door. It was locked!

The oval door above squeaked open.

Why would a door to a dead man’s room be locked? Noshee frantically searched, unable to find the locking mechanism. They weren’t common in the provinces.

“Noshee?”

Noshee looked back. It was Chusee! Before she said another word, Noshee wrenched the window open and dove into the canopy. Chusee’s voice chased after him.

He flapped his wings as fast as strength allowed.

Genaian warriors flowed out the window.

Noshee swerved around trees of Nashoba Forest, hoping to lose them. His wings pounded the air. He could hear the air exploding under the pursuing warriors’ wings. They hunted Noshee’s scent.

No.

They hunted the intense herbal smell of his linen wraps. He pulled at his chest, dove and carved close to a massive tree. Weight of onrushing air bulged the membranes of his wings. He shoved a balled linen into the greenery. Then he swung the opposite way and hurled another balled linen to the forest floor.

Sounds of wings surrounded him.

He pumped his wings hard. Noshee unraveled the bandages from his head. He went from tree to tree like a needle bird and hooked linen strips on ragged branches.

He plunged down and away, and hooked his claws onto a tree trunk. Hidden below the canopy Noshee pressed against the huge trunk. His wings shrank.

Genaian warriors swirled above.

Choose your poison: Should Noshee bolt or wait?

57% of the readers chose to wait.