Finding Gratitude, Part 10

Darkling

Nahc looked down at Lana.

“So, what do you think?”

Lana thought there must be some mistake. Nahc had led them through the night, and finally stopped this morning at… a wall. Easily a hundred feet high, built out of stone. It was cracked in some places, but held firm. It jutted one way and another, before making a sharp right turn and leading off into the distance.

The walls loomed up out of slum houses and decrepit shops. The shops followed the one road, a cracked mess of cobblestones and dirt. Nahc landed on the ground, and motioned Lana to follow.

“Come on, we have to check in.”

People stared at Lana. She could feel their gaze on her. She wanted to fly up and away, somewhere to hide again. But they had seen her, they would know that she was there.

Guards. There were guards at the entrance. A small, iron gate led into the other section of city, guarded by a troll and a human. The troll was thin, a woman, and half-asleep. Her human counterpart was a bit overweight, though that may have been an illusion caused by the blonde mustache that hung down below his chin. At this early hour, neither of them looked happy to be there. They had most likely spent the night having to deal with all sorts of trespassers and delinquents.

Nahc’s presence brought them awake with a start. The troll groaned, and kicked the dirt.

“Nahc, you’re supposed to be inside. You know the mayor imposed a curfew.”

“I know, I know…” Nahc made a point of scuffing his claws in the dirt. “But the night was just so clear, and it had been raining all week, my wings were just begging to be used.”

“Mmhmm.” The human looked over Lana. “And what’s her excuse?”

“Who, Wing?” Nahc pulled Lana close. “Wing’s new. Just came in to Gratitude, she don’t know nothing about this place and how backwards awesome we are.”

“This true?” The human asked.

Lana nodded. What he said was true… kind of.

The human pointed behind him towards the wall. “You, and everyone like you, stays behind the wall come sunset. You don’t, you risk your own hide. Got it?”

“Yes, sir.” She mumbled.

The troll woman rolled her eyes. “We’re just looking out for you, kid. The Waste Beasts aren’t exactly popular right now, especially after the Sewer Uprising.”

Nahc looked at her with narrowed eyes. “The Reza have always been looked down on in Gratitude. Don’t need to sugarcoat it with some sewage and call it protection.”

The troll’s hand snaked out and grabbed the birdboy by the feathered neck. She looked him down, and grunted.

“You keep finding ways to break curfew, Nahc,” she muttered. “There are some out here who would look at one of you Beasts, floating up in the sky, as a great opportunity to vent some frustrations. Suddenly we have a species war on our hands, started with the roasting of some crow that flew too far from home.

“Stop making our jobs crap, and maybe we might be able to do more than just lock you all up at night to keep the crazies out.”

She let go abruptly.

Nahc didn’t fall. He floated down, and walked between them with his head held high.

“The crazies get everywhere,” He muttered.

He winked at Lana as she followed him in. “But the sky’s ours.”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder

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