“Arrows,” Vrendel said, watching the buildings and roads pull together like wet, unfinished ceramics.
“Arrows? What are you talking about, you big lump?” Bow was curled up next to Vrendel’s armor like a blue-eyed moth. Something phantasmal was moving within the city, pushing its mortar and fortifications up like a centered ocean wave. The feral giant roared a few blocks away. It was moving towards the apex of twisting stone. A familiar and hateful smell had drawn the feral giant into the fold. Normally the sea of wolves snarling about the alleyways would have made the lumbering monster weary, but whatever was making the city roll over itself was also attracting the giant’s footsteps, which sounded like lost thunder amongst the clatters of dancing mortar.
“Arrows, Bow. Give the darkness ahead some arrows.” He pointed down the fluidic road where the torchlights were popping up and down like strung together embers. He could see a figure standing amongst the maelstrom of moving brick. He though it looked like the figure from before who had led them into the Iron Citadel, but the city was full of moving parts and it made it hard to focus on any one thing. Still Vrendel was surprised Bow didn’t see it herself, especially with her killing eyes that breathed like a gift from Freya.
“I don’t see anything down there, Vren. Besides, you think this is the best time to start shooting arrows around all wild-like? We’ve got to meet up with Fraka back at the Iron Citadel. The giant’s coming this way.” She was kneeling close to the ground, trying to steady her body like a pale statue.
“Shut up, and just fire the arrows. That’s what you do. You kill from a distance. Now fire the goddamn arrows!” Vrendel said. He grabbed Bow’s body and sat her up, pointing her shoulders down the road like a kid who didn’t want to walk to school.
The view was like a long twisting tunnel in front of them. It looked like the back of a dragon heaving up and down. On the edges of the roads the lights still gleamed, powered by their spectral energies. Whoever was twisting the city back and forth like ribbons was clearly trying to get the hunters’ attention. Bow fired the arrows with a methodic twang into the night.
The string pinched hollow in the gloom, matching the target’s lack of echo.
Vrendel watched the shadows in the alleys behind them for wolves, but nothing stirred or stalked them. Even the wolves, in the heat and bloodlust of Fimbul, were too terrified to walk onto the streets as they twisted themselves apart. The groan and crackle of flowing mortar was so loud Vrendel doubted they would even have heard a pack of wolves snarling right behind his feet. After the fourth arrow, Bow sighed and stomped her foot.
“See? Nothing’s happened. I can’t see while the ground is jumping up and down like it is,” Bow said. Suddenly Vrendel grabbed her by the waist and curled over like a crushed ant. Four arrows, the exact black-quivered darts Bow had just released into the gloom, sped over their heads like blind bats. They clattered against a twisting building behind them like sideways ice.
“What was that?” Bow asked, pulling herself over Vrendel’s armored mountain of a shoulder and staring back into the darkness.
“It’s like you shot into a reflection or something,” Vrendel said. He was watching the shadows behind them. They seemed to be growing beneath the bashful light of the seizing world. Reality was being unraveled along its shadowy seams. They were stuck in a haunted and empty city with the Iron Citadel as their only safe structure. Now, they couldn’t even run towards it without wobbling about like town drunks.
“Vren- Vrendel, someone’s coming,” Bow said, tapping his arm urgently. She quickly floated an arrow onto her bowstring and pushed her boots into the ground for footing.
“Yeah, yeah, I know; it’s what I saw earlier,” Vrendel said.
The shape was hard to discern amongst the darkness and moving concrete. It was tall, bigger than Vrendel, and it was covered in a type of fabric that almost changed colors in the deepness. It was a figure, the form of a man walking. It was coming towards the hunters, but wasn’t making any progress down the road. It was like a giant scrap of cloth stuck hanging on a clothesline.
“Stop. Stop, and I won’t put an arrow through your eye,” Bow said. She squinted through the darkness.
The creature smiled at them, though the two hunters couldn’t see it. The city stopped moving up and down. It levelled out like a frozen pond. The footsteps of the feral giant echoed just a little ways down the street. Vrendel could finally completely focus on the person standing in front of him. It was the red-cloaked man from before. Vrendel wanted the man’s features to become more apparent to him, but it was far too dark.
He could hear children laughing amongst the darkness like little lost bells. He could hear rapid footsteps running as the figure faced them. Something was unreal about the sounds coming from the cloaked man. Something unnatural was being brewed by his shape.
“How does he know?” Vrendel stammered. He tried to grip the mace tightly with his right hand. More children laughed in the empty city.
“How does he know what?” Bow, asked, confused.
“How could he know? How could he possibly know?”
If you haven’t read Chains yet, you can find it here. Also, if you are looking for a specific part: Chains: Part One – The Black Ends. Chains: Part Two – Ugaba. Chains: Part Three – Frigga. Chains: Part Four – The Red Figure. Chains: Part Five – The Iron Citadel. Chains: Part Six – Fraka. Chains: Part Seven – The Feral. Chains: Part Eight – Lantern Light. Chains: Part Nine – Between Nightmares. Chains: Part 10 – Leap.