ChaosMature

 

The Captain spared a look towards the Ivory Tower. He felt guilty having taken the time to attend the fireworks display while so many other Watchmen continued to patrol the city, many of them working a double shift going into the night. Things would be easier after the first day; with all of the extra manpower he'd gotten from the city's military and Her Ladyship's personal guard he could afford to let some tired Watchmen take time to recuperate. He couldn't help but feel he should have at least checked in one more time before leaving for the estate, just to be sure. 

Despite all that he tried to tell himself not to worry. He had his crystal, after all. If there was a problem they could get in touch with him at a moment's notice. The Watch could survive without him looking over it's shoulder for one night. 

"Are you listening?" Her Ladyship asked. The Captain blinked and realized that while he knew she'd said something, he hadn't really paid attention to what that something had been. 

"What?" He asked, trying to dredge from his memory what it was she'd said. She'd asked a question, he vaguely remembered. Unfortunately, his memory was not up to the task. "Apologies, my lady," he said. "I'm afraid I wasn't listening."

"I thought not," she told him. "So tell me, what is it that has your undivided attention if not a Prince of Marsten?" 

"Work," he admitted. "I was thinking about the Watch, and taking the night off when I should be there in case something goes wrong."

"Such dedication," Her Ladyship replied. "It's the thing I admire most about you, dear Captain." The two of them made their way through the crowd that had gathered at her estate, all of them eager to see the upcoming fireworks display. Given that she was putting on the show, and that it was her estate, Her Ladyship had a front row seat for the show. She'd arranged for the Captain to join her, and it was her personal invitation that had drawn him away from the Tower. 

"I was asking what you thought of the fair so far," she continued. "It's marvelous, isn't it?"

"It's quite impressive," he agreed. "Especially Heady." 

"Ah," she smiled and nodded knowingly. "There is something about flight, isn't there? It took my breath away the first time Bee took me aloft. That was before he'd finished the Headwind, of course. You should have seen the prototype! It was the most dangerously unsafe, rickety, cobbled together thing I'd ever seen!"

"Why in the world would you get into something like that?" The Captain asked, alarmed to learn that Her Ladyship had willingly put her life in danger.

"Well, I only did it after Bee got in it himself. If he was willing to risk his life in that death trap I certainly wasn't going to look the coward."

"Bravado?" he raised his eyebrows. That certainly wasn't a move he would have expected from Her Ladyship. "My lady, half the inventors here are certifiably insane. Any number of them would sit on a pile of gunpowder and tell you in all seriousness that setting it off would propel them to the moon. That they're willing to do so doesn't make me particularly inclined to join them." 

"You're far more a realist than any of them," she told him. "It suits you well for the job you do. But it's a dismal quality in an inventor; it doesn't lend to innovation or invention. Some times you have to take a risk and believe that something crazy will work, if you could just believe in it hard enough." 

"I think I'll very happily leave the believing of crazy things to others," The Captain said dryly. It was then that several men began moving through the crowd announcing that the show was about to begin. The two joined the rest of the onlookers in turning their eyes to the sky, eagerly awaiting the first bursts of color. Before that happened, however, a pronounced glow against the city's skyline drew The Captain's notice. Was there a building on fire? No, it wasn't the right color. Instead of orange it looked... green?

"What is that?" he muttered. He'd thought it was low enough not to draw attention, but it seemed Her Ladyships ears missed nothing.

"What's what?" she asked just as quietly, though she didn't take her eyes from the sky.

"There's some sort of glow off in that direction," he pointed towards it. "It's bright enough to be a fire, but the color is off."

"Probably something to do with the fireworks," she said distractedly, drawing an excited breath as the first salvo went racing into the sky with a loud and angry hiss. 

"No..." he said slowly, leaning forward and squinting as he tried to focus on the glow. Something was wrong about it, he thought. Something about the way it was moving... 

The fireworks began popping above, scattering colored light on the crowd below. They "ooh-ed" and cheered and clapped happily. 

Wait, it was moving? He watched it for a little while longer, convincing himself that he wasn't just seeing things. "It's coming this way," The Captain warned, rising to his feet in alarm. The words were no sooner out of his mouth than a tendril of green light shot past overhead, passing through the second round of fireworks as they erupted overhead. Some of the crowd mistook it for part of the show and cheered all the louder. Others, like The Captain, turned to follow it's path. He found himself looking back at the Ivory Tower, tendrils of green energy like the one passing overhead winding around it. Storm clouds were brewing above the tower, rotating in place like nothing he'd ever seen. 

Her Ladyship also turned to look. "Oh no," she said. "Captain... is that what I think it is?"

"The Summoner," The Captain confirmed grimly. "Somehow Noman's gotten free. Damn it." The crowd had grown silent as more and more people saw the Tower, fireworks forgotten. He pulled his crystal from the pouch on his belt and snapped out the words that would activate it.

"Mercer!" he said urgently, "We have a situation at the Tower, if you hadn't already noticed. Get as many men as you can and head for the Red Manor." He paused, waiting for Mercer's response. "Mercer?" he tried again, wondering why his lieutenant wasn't answering. Any potential response was cut short by the deafening crack-boom of thunder as a bolt of lightning lashed out from the clouds above the Tower. The noise from the first strike hadn't faded before a second bolt of lightning erupted from the clouds, and a third, and a fourth in rapid succession. Dozens of lightning bolts rained down on Marsten, striking targets the width and breadth of the city. 

One of the lightning bolts arced over Her Ladyship's estate, forking into two. One fork struck the roof of her mansion. The majority of it's destructive force was captured by a lightning rod, which melted under the unusually intense assault. The second fork struck near the fireworks, setting them off in a riotous explosion of colors. Errant rockets shot out at every angle and the crowd panicked. Someone jostled The Captain's arm, knocking the crystal onto the well manicured grass where it was kicked along by fleeing spectators. He quickly lost sight of the small orb, but knew better than to go after it. He had more immediate concerns right now. 

"My lady!" he shouted above the sound of another roll of thunder, "Take your guards and get to a carriage!" 

"What?" she demanded. "And go where?"

"As far away from that as possible," he said, gesturing back to the Ivory Tower.

"What will you do?" she asked.

"Somebody has to stop Noman."

"That's what the army is for," she told him.

"The Ivory Tower belongs to the Watch," The Captain protested. "It's our responsibility."

"You have bigger responsibilities," she told him harshly. "This city, these people, they trust the Watch to keep them safe. That's what you need to do. Keep the city under control. Let the army handle the Tower."

The Captain knew she was right, but that didn't mean he liked it. "Fine," he said. "But they'd better see to it quickly." 

*******************************

Hatchet was several blocks away from the Ivory Tower. His pace was brisk; the fireworks show was set to begin soon and he didn't want to be late. As it was he would be lucky to arrive on time. He was, perhaps, halfway there when he saw it. He turned a corner, intending to take a side street shortcut, and suddenly knew that he was not alone. He did a quick survey of the street, but saw no one else. Still, the feeling persisted, and he knew better than to ignore it. 

He slowed his pace to a leisurely stroll and carefully swept his gaze up one side of the street and down the other. There were few lamps here and plenty of darkness for people to hide. Off to his right he saw a shadow move. He focussed his eyes on it, hoping to get a better look at whoever lurked there. He saw two green points of light flash in the darkness and froze. His hand immediately went to the crystal pouch on his belt, but his fingers found it empty. He remembered he'd left it in his room back at the Tower when he'd gone off duty. He also remembered his sword and rifle were with the crystal and stifled the urge to curse under his breath, afraid the demon would hear. How it had gone without noticing him was a mystery, but he would rather not tempt fate.

Which left him with the question of what to do. He couldn't call for backup, but he couldn't very well leave the creature to whatever it's goals were. Then again, he couldn't exactly stop it. He watched as it slithered up the street ahead of him, eventually turning down another side street. Without hesitation he started after it. He'd figure out what to do when the time came. 

The demon led him through a winding maze of side streets, constantly avoiding places where there might be people to see it. Despite it's indirect route there was no mistaking it's destination - they were headed back to the Tower. The demon approached the Tower's walls from the East, where there were no gates or major streets. In a flash it was up and over the walls, leaving Hatchet behind. Now he did curse aloud; there was no way he could jump the wall, and climbing them was an equally improbable task. 

The main gate was the only way he could possibly follow. He broke into a run, following the wall around and hoping he could pick up the creature's tail again but knowing it was probably no use. He barreled through the open main gates at a dead run, only to draw up short as he saw the Tower erupt in a brilliant green glow. Tendrils of green energy shot past overhead, wrapping themselves around it and climbing towards the top. "Noman," he growled darkly. Either the Summoner had somehow gotten out or he had an accomplice. 

He started running again, the demon forgotten. His new destination was the Tower's magical holding cells. If Noman was still there he was going to have a lot to answer for. 

The End

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