What’s Good Inside: Chapter Twenty Of “The Crystal Ship”

We’re trapped. The river is at our backs. A steady stream of enemies are almost on top of us. I look at Sara. “Get the refugees across and to safety. Now.”

She looks at me. I can tell she is appalled at leaving me. “We can’t leave you. You can’t fight them all yourself.”

I look at her. “Just do as I ask. Get them to safety. I will keep them at bay long enough for you to do so. Besides. I have faced greater odds on my own.”

She realizes she can’t win. “Ok. But we will go just far enough to be out of their sight and wait for you.”

I look away. “Fine. But I am going to have to destroy the ferry-line. Can’t afford to allow them to get control of that.”

She bows her head. “How will you get across?”

I look back at her. “Don’t worry about me. I have ways most do not know about.” She looks up and I wink.

She smiles. “Alright.”

I look back toward the advancing column of enemies. “Get started. I want most of them across. If not all. At least, by the time those arrive.” I point to the approaching line.

She begins to walk away. “I hope you know what you are doing.”

I turn away. “Trust me.”

Alright, People!” She is now in command. “Let’s start to load up! Time to cross!”

***

I have chosen a spot nearly a mile from the ferry. On top of a hill so I can keep watch on both the evacuation and the advancing enemy. She has most of the refugees across when the line reaches me. My swords are already drawn and I am in defense stance. My eyes closed.

I hear the whistle of the first sword as it swings toward me. I move swiftly. Cat-like. An agile blur of motion. Almost unperceivable to my enemy. nearly half of them are cut down before they even have a chance to adjust to my swift advance. I dance my way through their ranks.

One hundred well-armed vampire soldiers. Now nothing but a pile of bodies. Headless bodies. Even for them, I moved too quick.

But they are only the advance scout. I see another regiment. No two. Four. All closing fast.

I look back and see Sara unloading the last refugees. She gives the all clear and leads the last group out of sight. With a thought, I destroy the ferry. I watch it as it sinks to the bottom of the river. The rod and cable turn to dust and blow away.

I turn my thoughts loose upon the approaching units. I harvest their thoughts for as much intel as I can get. Then I turn their brains into liquid. then I dance into their midst and cut their heads off. Not that it matters. They were already dead.

I make my retreat. There are more on their way. But I do not have time to fight. I must rejoin Sara and the rest. I loosen my cloak and spread my wings. I fly to the other side of the river.

A few miles away, I find the refugees and their guardian angels. Sara hugs me upon seeing me. the rest shake my hands.

I look at them. “We do not have much time. The enemy is already to the river. There is no longer a ferry. I had to destroy it. Any other refugees will have to go south into the swamps. If they aren’t caught and enslaved.

“Those to the north will have headed for Canada if they were smart. If not, then they headed into the wastes. And there isn’t anything there except death.”

One of the refugees looks at me. “Why Canada?”

I look at him and smile. “Two reasons. The colder weather and the Firstlings. That is their territory. No Fallen has ever entered there and returned. At least not since the war began.”

Sara appears. “Don’t you think we ought to get moving?”

I smile at her. “Yes. Let’s get going.”

***

By nightfall, we are miles from the enemy lines. A farmer is good enough to allow us shelter from the night in his barn. And has even brought us food. He pulls me outside. “I think what you are doing is amazing. I mean, you are putting your life on the line to save those from the east. My neighbors and I are going to supply you with food and shelter for the night as our way of thanking you for your deed.”

I look at him. “Thank you. You do not know what this means to us. and especially our charges. They have been travelling for days, maybe weeks. Some have not had any rest for the majority of their journey. We will only be here for the night, so do not worry about us taking much. Here.” I remove my haversack and take out a couple bundles of jerky and chicory. “Something to repay you and your neighbors. I can always get more. But kindness deserves kindness.”

He takes it. “Thank you kindly, Ma’am. It has been a while since we had anything even reminiscent of coffee in these parts. And the jerky will come in handy in times of hardship. Or even when we want to save on what we have.”

I smile understandingly. “You’re welcome.”

He turns and walks back to his house. After he vanishes into the dark, I turn and go back into the barn. I take in the view of the refugees enjoying the first real meal they have had for days. I smile in satisfaction.

Sara brings me my portion. She smiles as she hands it to me. “Even though you don’t need it. Hero.

I blush. “I am no hero. I only did what needed to be done. I took a calculated risk. And bought you enough time to get the refugees safely across the river. And away.’

She hugs me again and walks away. I watch her go. She doesn’t realize that she was the real hero in this. But I am not about to tell her. I need her to remain humble.

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