Thursday, November 30, 2017
Flash Fiction #279 -- Dusty & Friends/24
Dusty believed this was the best answer, but she found it challenging to ride forward in the mass of men and hope they reached the boat before the orcs saw her. She held tight to the bag with Blue and hoped she got him into the craft, even if she didn't make it. Fox would still see him to safety.
Dusty looked up at the castle and felt a wave of desperation that almost made her break down and cry. She just wanted to get home!
"Ready?" Fox asked. He dared to touch her arm, winning a look of shock from the oh-so-proper commander. "You can do this, Dusty. You're almost home."
They reached the edge of the bridge. There seemed to have been some problem with the owner of the boat and Dusty watched one soldier escort him off while the man complained. Dusty didn't like to see the craft taken from him, but they needed the boat. She could almost hear his shouts even over the orcs as they tried to move up on the bridge.
Rolad ordered his men to move. Dusty looked frantically at the canal. If they didn't have the person who owned the boat, how could they --
But the two soldiers were rowing it toward the bridge, and in a moment it would be in place. She had no more time to worry about it.
Fox went over the edge and dropped into the boat. Then he held up his hands. "Quick, Dusty!"
The orcs were getting frantic. They'd break through at any moment. Dusty wanted to let Blue down first, but instead, Rolad lifted her up and over the edge in one quick move, dropping her into Fox's waiting arms. It must have hurt him, but he caught her and put her down. By then the others were rowing as fast and hard as they could.
Fox and Dusty sat down.
The orcs were trying to shove their way through the line of soldiers and Dusty had to look away. People were going to die. It was her fault! She should have come up with a better answer. She should have --
She held Blue close and fought to get control again. Her mind went over everything she'd done. Dusty knew that she had done the best she could. Could anyone else have taken Blue from the Orcs? They wouldn't have even understood him!
"We're almost there, Blue," she told him through the opening. He looked up at her, frightened, probably by the sound of the orcs not far away. "We have good soldiers to protect us. We'll be to the castle soon!"
Telling him so made her feel better, too. She finally looked up at Fox. He'd been watching behind them with a scowl, but he focused on her and gave a nod.
"A couple orcs have broken through," he said. Dusty glanced back and felt a quick beat of her heart. "We'll get you as close to the Royal Road as possible and then you must run straight for the castle. Really run."
"Why don't they quit?" Dusty asked as she put the strap to Dusty's bag over her head and shoulder. "They must know --"
"They are beyond rational thought," Fox replied. "If they are thinking anything at all, it's that they'll need Blue for protection from the dragons. I don't think they've even worked that out. They just know they're losing and they've worked themselves up into a rage."
One of the soldiers who were rowing grunted agreement. They were both panting by now, and any pause in their work let the boat drift back toward the orcs again. Fox volunteered to take over for one of them, but they both shook their heads.
"Get her to the castle," the one on the right gasped, and they began rowing all the harder.
They made it all the way to the warehouse district -- a circle, Dusty thought. This was where everything had begun in that little square where another caravan had started to load up. It was not quite as far as she would have liked to be, but she let Fox swing her out onto the dock.
"Thank you," Dusty said to the two exhausted men. "I won't forget."
Then she and Fox darted up into the crowd of people who were already agitated, hearing the sound of the orc battle far too close.
"Clear out!" Fox yelled. "Get to cover! Spread the word!"
"Orcs!" a woman cried in dismay.
Dusty looked back to see three orcs had made it all the way to the dock. One didn't make it any farther, though. The two men who had rowed up the canal caught his legs in a net and pulled him into the water. He sank so fast he almost pulled the boat down with him.
"Two left," she said and began to sprint up the clear path.
At first, people cleared out of the way, but as they moved higher up the incline, it was apparent that people didn't know what was happening and began to come out to see. Neither she nor Fox had the breath left to warn them away, so she had to hope that they got wise as soon as they saw the real trouble.
Someone tried to stop her, but Fox, still in uniform, dissuaded the man. Dusty feared that if Fox hadn't been with her, she would not have made it this far.
The castle was no more than a mile away, but her legs had grown heavy, and she finally had to grab hold of a tall, thin tree before she fell. Fox had gone two steps more before he looked back and gave her a nod.
"I'm sorry," she gasped. "I need --"
"Rest. The soldiers are holding them back. We can't stay long, though."
She could hear the sound of enraged orcs and far too close. If she didn't move, they might still be caught!