Part 21: The Shattering

This is Deepholm. It is a place, deep beneath the surface of Azeroth, deep beneath the seas. It is the home of creatures made from stone, moving about with alien expressions on their unmoving faces. There are newcomers here. Soft, squelching creatures made of flesh, or grown from spores. The stone-mother is Queen Therazane, and she is troubled. A little way away from her Throne, there is an area of pain. A red, burning area where there is suffering in ways unimaginable to creatures made of stuff that neither burns nor bleeds. Rivers, seas of magma have flowed from one end of this place to the other while this creature suffered, growing in anger, growing in strength. And now, there are tremors. The force held back will not be held for much longer. Soon it will break free. Queen Therazane ponders slowly. None of her scouts have returned. Sending her stronger servants might be seen as a sign of aggression. Does she care? Maybe. Maybe not. It is always better to take care of problems when they are still small. Perhaps she has left it too late. She considers her children. Are they strong enough to contain the threat? Most likely. Not certainly.

Therazane ponders.


Captain Andral Fairbreeze watched the soldiers of Caer Bannog, and their hunter friends, come on board for the last time. Lieutenant Smith walked up, with a bottle in his hand. It was a good bottle of Darnassian Green wine. Captain Andral never touched the stuff, but Freja and Filyen were both quite partial to it, so it would find a good home. He turned round to find Mr. Cullan standing behind him. They shook hands.

“It just occurred to me, Captain. I knew an Elf named Fairbreeze in Gilneas. Would you happen to be related?”

“I have a brother,” said Captain Andral. “He is a Druid healer, but I haven’t seen him for a long time. Did he help you with your… problem?”

“Now that you mention it, I can see the family resemblance, Sir. He helped me contain certain… urges.”

“You are a Worgen,” said the Captain. “I recognise the signs, and also Freja told me. Thank you for defending my crew.”

“I am very glad that Miss Filyen will be alright, Sir. Thank you for all your efforts.”

“And you, Mr. Cullan. Elune a’dore.”

X

Hieronimo went below decks, to find Filyen lying in her hammock, staring up at the ceiling. She smiled at Hieronimo.

“Hi.”

“Miss. We, um… we’re leaving. How are ye?”

Filyen sighed. “Just milking out my sick leave.” She looked out of the door, where the sun was shining brightly. “I should be out there. Everybody’s working hard and I’m just lying here.”

Hieronimo sneered. “What are ye daft woman? Ye’ve had a bleedin’ sword stuck all the way through ye! Ye shouldn’t be skippin’ up the rigging!”

Filyen laughed. “Everybody keeps saying that! I’m fine. Mira healed me. She’s amazing. I’m glad Breladon has her for company.”

“As long as I live, I’ll never understand that.”

“What’s there not to understand? I love him. He loves me. He loves her too. I wouldn’t want him to be alone with no one to hold on to.”

Hieronimo slowly reached out, put her hand on Filyen’s arm. Filyen looked at it, then back to Hieronimo. Hieronimo, not quite knowing what to do, patted her arm a few times.

“Keep yer ‘ands to yerself,” said Filyen, with a smile.

Hieronimo looked at the floor. “I’m sorry for snappin’ at ye. I shouldn’t have.”

“You shot that miserable bastard who ran me through. Saved my life. You can snap at me a few times for that. Friends?”

Hieronimo looked up at Filyen, suddenly feeling happier than she’d felt in a long time.

“Friends,” she said.

X

Filyen and Hieronimo came out onto the deck to find everyone on the middle deck, shaking hands, hugging, reluctant to leave. Filyen was greeted with cheers, and she blushed. She found her hugs in fierce demand. Selena stood aside a bit. She looked at Smitty, just as he was looking at her. She smiled at him, and he looked away. Selena growled to herself, then noticed Kuryon standing near the stairs to the bridge. She grinned.

“Oh Mr. Swellrider?”

“Yes, My Lady?”

Selena stood on the second step of the stairs. “Could you come here a moment?”

“Certainly,” said Kuryon.

Selena wrapped her arms round his neck, closed her eyes and kissed him. This went on for quite a while, until everyone stared at the two. Selena slowly opened her eyes, and smiled at a rather stunned Kuryon.

“Thank you, Mr. Swellrider. That was very nice.”

Selena walked off, and Kuryon looked at Sandra Pike. “Um. What just happened?”

Sandra grinned. “I think Her Ladyship just snogged the Lights out of you to show the Lt. that she can snog other men if she wants.”

“Oh,” said Kuryon. “Uh… You’re not going to, are you?”

“Rather suck face with the Undead,” said Sandra, happily. She walked over to him, and punched him in the ribs. “Take care of yourself, will you? I can’t always be there to poke the pirates for you.”

“We’re going to be playing ferry here for ages. It’ll be boring, but the memory of your face will keep my heart aflame.”

X

Aviana’s Wingbeat slowly pulled away from the dock. People on the dock waved, and watched the sail disappear into the distance. They turned round to the portal, and through. Their ferry would arrive the next morning. Time for a final, epic piss-up at Saelienne’s.


“Come on. Try again. I know you can do it.”

Nix looked up at Interalia. “That was before bloody Orcs pounded my hands with a mallet.”

“You got heals. Stop complaining.”

“Heals keep you from dying. See how small this is?”

“Words are still coming out of your mouth. Less talking. More lock making.”

Nix sighed, and picked up one of his pincers. He tried to fit two parts together. As soon as the two parts came together, his hand started to shake, and the small bit of metal skittered away across the table. He dropped the pincers.

Damn!”

Interalia picked up the pincers and handed them back to Nix, wordlessly. Try again. Nix took a deep breath, closed his eyes a moment, and picked up the part again. He adjusted his magnifying glasses, bent over the lock. His knuckles turned white, and the part broke in the pincers.

Sit jou kop in die koei se kont en wag tot die bul jou kom holnaai!

Nix raised his arm to sweep all this damned junk off the table, but Interalia grabbed his wrist.

“Nix. Honestly. You can do this.” She grinned. “There’s nothing wrong with your fingers. I can tell.”

“Your tits are bigger than these parts. Also, I don’t use pincers on them.”

Interalia laughed. “Wanna know what the real difference is? When we take our clothes off, you pay attention.” She took Nix’ hand between hers, and gently squeezed it. “When you try to put a lock together, you go all ‘Oshitoshit they broke my hands I can’t do this’. And that’s bollocks, but you believe it, and that’s the end of it.”

“Huh.”

Interalia pushed her thumbs into Nix’ palm, loosening up the muscles.

“You’re the best. You’re going to make those locks the gods cannot pick, I know you are.” Interalia smiled at Nix. “And then, I’ll bloody well pick the things.”

Nix stared into Interalia’s eyes. Then, he leant over the table and kissed her because after that, it was impossible not to.

“Can I ask you something? Can I be on my own for a bit? I want to rave and rant and whinge a bit. You still think I’m badass.”

“Don’t remind me. Rowr.” She laughed, put her hand on Nix’ cheek. Then, she got up and walked out of the shop, leaving Nix on his own. The door closed behind her.

Nix took a deep breath, meaning to yell his head off. He held his breath a moment, let it out. After a few moments, he raised his fists and tried again. He dropped his hands by his side. He’d just feel stupid if he did yell. He marvelled at the change that had come over him. Like prodding a sore tooth, he thought of himself, strapped to the table, the Orc with the glowing iron, the smell of his burning flesh… Nothing. He raised his hand. Looked at it. Steady as a rock. He hadn’t forgotten, and he was certain that his time in the torture chamber would continue to give him nightmares till the day he died. So what was it? He probed his mind, and found… anger. Anger at the world, that had allowed this to happen to him. But it wasn’t a blind rage. It was a cold, hard anger. Nix pulled back the stool, sat down on it.

“You tried to kill Nix Shutfast, you varknaaiers,” he said, quietly. He picked up his tools. “That’ll take more than you’ve got.”

X

Nix watched Interalia sleeping. Her eyelids were moving, and one of her hands was underneath her pillow. Rogues don’t sleep easy. He gently put a hand on her leg. Interalia tensed up, looked at him and relaxed. Without a word, Nix pulled a small box from his pocket, and put it on the bedside table. Interalia looked up at him, and he couldn’t help grinning.

“For me?”

Nix nodded. Interalia picked up her lockpicks, and went to work, eyes on the wall, mind inside the lock, forming a picture.

“I’ve never actually seen you at work,” said Nix.

“If you’re hoping that I can’t do it with you looking at my fingers, fat chance,” said Interalia. “I can do this by night or day, even when Orcs are banging on the other door. Nerves happen to other people.”

“Do it in one minute and I’ll do that thing you wanted me to,” said Nix.

“You’re on.”

“Take longer, and you do it to me.”

“Not a problem.”

Interalia put away one of her picks, picked up another. She pushed it into the lock.

“How much time left?”

“Thirty seconds. Twenty-nine… Twenty-eight…”

“You’re counting in base twelve? Tea break,” said Interalia. She put a little more pressure on, pulled, and…

“Oo, baby baby.” She held up the open lockbox. “This one was about as good as the second one after you first got to the Castle.”

“Yeah,” said Nix. “I don’t trust myself with the micro-tumblers.”

Interalia looked into his eyes, expectantly.

“Yet,” said Nix.

“Good boy,” said Interalia. “You owe me favours.”

Nix laughed. “Oh damn. What was that thing you wanted me to do again?”

Interalia grinned. She pulled Nix on top of her.

“Don’t remember. Think of something good.”

X

Interalia stopped hugging the in-door latrine. Of course the Steambenders had one, and very useful it was, too. She took a shivering breath, wiping her mouth. Well, that was certainty right there.

“Thank you Gods,” she whispered. “Thank you for pissing on me again.”

So that was the next nine months planned. Get the hell out of here, pick up her stash of gold, work her way to Northshire Abbey, drop the kid, offer it up for adoption at the abbey, and then, she’d be her own woman again. Nobody the wiser. Time to get moving again. She walked back into the bedroom. It would be a shame. She kind of liked the Steambenders. Even Lenna had only threatened fiery death on her once, and that was just to stop Interalia calling her Mama Fwoosh. Oh well. Couldn’t be helped. She found her armour in the dark and pulled it on. Gods, she was going to have to get maternity armour. That was going to be fun. She didn’t look at Nix as she left the room, but she could hear his breath. Sleeping like a log, lucky git. She ought to wake him up and tell him she was going. She wasn’t going to. If she did, she wouldn’t be able to leave. She came to the door. Her hand was on the door knob. Come on. You know you have to. Just open it. Walk through. Then, she made the crucial mistake and looked over her shoulder. Nobody was standing behind her. Bieslook, the young adopted daughter of the family, would have been worst, innocently asking where she was going.

Interalia bowed her head. Come on. Open the stupid door. Walk out. Do it.

Now.

Now, damn you!

X

She walked back into the room, quieter than a mouse. Nix snorted, turned over in bed, and looked at her.

“Hey! Where are you going?”

Interalia pulled at the straps to her leather armour.

“Nowhere. I’m going nowhere.”


Deepholm. The unknown, hidden place. Home of the creatures of stone. This is where he had slept for eons, suffered for an age of this world. Regained his strength. His enemies had defeated him, cast him into the deep. It was by the last drop of malice that he had survived, every breath an utterance of spite, a promise of vengeance. Now, he was strong again. Slaves had worked for him ceaselessly, driven on by the whips of the slave-drivers, and the burning fear of Him. The Master. The only person who mattered. They had forged his armour of steel, magic, malice and hatred of all things living. It was time. Huge hammers pounded on his armour. Fires heated the spikes on it, on the inside, for this armour was meant to be nailed to its wearer. He roared as the plates were pushed, glowing red, into his skin, into his flesh. It was a torment that would stay with him, not until he died, but forever. Death had visited him once. It would not dare to visit him again. The large hammers struck home, securing his armour in place. Finally. He stood up, scattering the rickety structures all round him that the slaves had built to work on him. Slaves fell screaming to their death, but he took no notice. They mattered no more than ants, now that their work was done. He spread his wings, and the whole of Azeroth shivered. Buildings crumbled. Seas convulsed, churned in tidal waves that destroyed cities. It was time. With a roar that deafened all those near him, and killed of fright all that could hear, he leapt into the air, broke the thin crust of rock above him and emerged into the light of Azeroth. All of Azeroth’s dwellers would, from that moment on, have a new name for fear, torment, despair.

Deathwing.


Dorian Graycloud pulled up a crate to the helm of Aviana’s Wingbeat, and sat down on it. As passengers went, this last lot hadn’t been too bad, but you could have too much of a good thing. Young Filyen had broken her curfew and was sitting on the fo’c’sle, washing her clothes in a bucket of seawater. The captain had made himself comfortable leaning against the railing and Kuryon and Freja were in the kitchen, preparing a lunch of brown beans and bacon. They’d just dropped off one of these blue people at Auberdine, loaded their ill-fated cargo onto one of the big Stormwind square riggers and picked up a cargo of, of all things, bananas, to go back to Rut’theran Village. After that, they would once more be at the disposal of the fine folk of the Darkshore Admiralty. Freja was experimenting with rum and bananas for dessert. The experiment was fairly simple. Slice bananas, put in a crockpot, cover with rum. Dorian thought about getting his concertina, and practicing that sad song the poor Human had sung for them, as a kind of tribute. Perhaps not just now.

Filyen held her shirt up to the sun, checking for marks. There weren’t any, and she spread it out on the foredeck to dry. On a day as hot as this one, that was a matter of minutes. She walked to the bow, and holding on to the forestay, she looked to see if the World-tree Teldrassil was in sight already. She frowned. Far, far in the distance, a piece of sea and sky was a different colour from the rest. Orange. Almost yellow. She pulled herself up onto the fo’c’sle, to see better. Filyen had the best eyesight of all on board Aviana’s Wingbeat, but this time, she couldn’t believe what she saw. Something on the horizon was burning. What was there at sea that could burn so brightly that she could see it even a dozen miles away, against the bright light of the Sun?

“Captain?”

“What is it, Sailor?”

“Can you see that light? On the port bow, to the North.”

Captain Andral climbed on top of the railing, balancing.

“I see what you mean. I’ll have a better look, hold on.”

The Captain jumped back onto the bridge, turned to his albatross form, then leapt into the air. With powerful wingbeats, he gained altitude, then held his wings still, and soared. Filyen and Dorian watched him go. About a half-mile away, the captain made a sharp turn, swept his wings back and dived down as though he wanted to smash himself to bits on the deck. At the last moment, he pulled out of his dive, changed back to his Elf form in mid air and landed on his feet on the deck.

“All hands on deck!”

Filyen turned her eyes North. She frowned. There was something wrong with the shape of the sea. The… horizon… was… too high.

Elune save us.

Dorian Graycloud had seen it, too. A monstrous wave was rushing towards them. He looked at the Captain.

“We can’t outrun that. It’s too sodding big to outrun.”

“No use. If that gets to the shallows, it’ll curl over and drop us on our heads. It’s still a big mountain now. We meet it head on. Due North, Mr. Swellrider! Everyone else, trim the sail! We’re going to have to squeeze every last bit of speed out of the old girl!”

Aviana’s Wingbeat, her sail trimmed tight, leapt over the waves. Neptulon had granted that the winds were in their favour, coming almost dead straight abeam. Great sprays of salt water flew over the railing, splashing down on the crew. They were watching the sail with the obsession of those who knew their lives depended on their speed. The slightest change in its shape was seen, acted upon. Fly, fly Aviana!

Captain Andral had taken over at the helm. His eyes were fixed on the horizon, on the wave, growing, growing. He held on to his ship with more than his arms on the helm, his bare feet on the white planks of the bridge. His ears caught the rushing of the wind in Aviana’s sail, the creaking of her boards, the splash of her bow in the waves, until he knew, knew in his very bones that Aviana’s Wingbeat was giving her all, and not even the Gods themselves could make her sail faster. Fly Aviana, fly!

Knowing nothing more could be done, Captain Andral raised his voice in song. He knew only one song for an occasion as this, and not a sailor alive would have chosen another. All those on board heard, and joined their voices.

X

Elune our Mother, strong to save,

Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,

Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep

Its own appointed limits keep;

Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,

For those in peril on the sea!

X

Filyen was the first to see it, tiny ripples over the larger waves, rushing towards them, that could only mean one thing… She turned round and yelled.

“Loose sheets! Big swell of wind coming!”

They released the sheets that kept the sail down, and just had time to raise the yard-arm till it pointed straight forward. The gust of wind hit them straight on, whipping up the sea in a spray that hit as hard as a wall. Filyen, up on the Fo’c’sle, caught the full blast and was thrown back like a rag doll. She turned over once in mid-air, then fell to the midships deck, on her hands and feet, wondering what just happened, and realising, startled, that she was still alive. The shock wave passed, and Aviana’s Wingbeat lay still in the water. Her sail flapped in the wind with a deafening noise. The captain’s voice boomed over the decks.

“Trim the sail! We’re not done yet!”

The crew looked at each other, shook themselves, jumped to the ropes. Aviana’s Wingbeat picked up speed again, hurtling over the waves, towards the wall of water now clearly visible before them. Travelling with frightening speed, the monster wave reached them, started to lift them up, slow them down. Captain Andral pulled the helm towards him, and Aviana’s Wingbeat turned to leeward. They let out the sail, and she climbed, climbed slowly to the crest of the wave, slowing down. Everyone’s eyes were fixed on the crest of the wave, with the fine spray being blown up by the strong Eastern wind.

Please, Aviana. Please!

Still, Aviana’s Wingbeat climbed higher, slower. They would have jumped overboard and pushed if it helped. They were now almost parallel to the wave, to port was a frightening deep valley, the Sea opening its mouth to swallow them whole. To starboard, the crest of this mountain of water.

The captain knew first, when the pressure against the helm fell away, and Aviana’s rudder hung free in the air. Kuryon let the sail out a tiny bit more, and Aviana’s Wingbeat teetered on the edge of a knife, between salvation and destruction. They had given their all. No crew on Azeroth could have done more, and not many would have survived. The bow of their ship dipped down, and they slid down. Behind the wave. Captain Andral ran his hand over the helm, and tears flowed freely down his cheeks.

“Thank you, girl. Thank you.”

Filyen came running up the stairs to the bridge, and looked behind the ship. Her face was pale as a sheet, and her breath came in gasps. Her hands were on the railing, white-knuckled. She took a deep breath, then screamed, screamed at the top of her voice.

Captain!


Selena walked over the pleasant soft grass of Darnassus, heading west. Joseph was walking next to her. He’d asked her if she wanted a walk, which she did. She tried to read his face. Was this going to be the talk that said, please stop bothering me, or… or not? They were walking side by side, quite close, but Selena thought that trying to take his hand would be pushing her luck. The trees parted, and Selena held her breath. She could see all the way down. Well, they were out of solid ground, so she assumed that they had arrived. She turned towards him, gave him a wavering smile.

“Am I going to like this talk, Lieutenant?”

Smitty sighed. “Honestly, I cannot say.”

Selena’s voice trembled. “Damn it, Joseph. Will you just say it and get it over with? I told you once. I don’t need to say it again, do I?”

Smitty didn’t answer. He was staring out over the sea. Selena looked to see what he was looking at, and took a short breath. Out, far away over the sea, flew a massive dragon, made of fire and steel and darkness. They watched it open its mouth, and roar. Selena counted in her head. One… Two… Three… Four… Five… The sound hit them, and Selena screamed. She held on to Smitty, pressed her head into his chest and closed her eyes. When she opened them again, Joseph’s arms were round her, but he wasn’t looking at her. It was a clear day, and they could see all the way across the narrow strait, all the way to Auberdine. Selena’s breath stuck in her throat. Auberdine was gone. Buildings were lying in ruins, burning. A streak of blackened earth ran from the shore to deep into the forest. Selena looked up at Smitty.

“Joseph,” she said, “I love you. I want to say that now, just in case I can’t say it later.”

Smitty put his hand on her hair, held her.

“As long as I have breath in me, I will not allow anything to happen to you.”


Nægling stood at the entrance to one of the tree-dwellings in the Cenarion Enclave. Cullan was stocking up on poisons, from one of the tall, purple-skinned Night-elf women. Nægling looked at her. Tall. Daggers. Light leather armour, so fast. Poison user, obviously. Leg strike first to slow her down, Stay at sword’s length, wear her down with stabs. No swings, she’d have time to move in. Crusader strikes and holy shock to taste. About half a minute, depending on how much pain she could take. Cullan was smiling at her. Nægling laughed quietly. That was another way, of course. He put the small vials in his pockets. A tiny part of Nægling’s mind braced itself as he turned his back on the Elf.

“Do you have what you need?”

“I do,” said Cullan. “Would you like to find a cup of tea somewhere?”

My treat,” said Nægling. “I’m afraid I have to insist.”

“I assure you, Sister,” said Cullan, “These poisons are for external use only. Ingestion would be fatal, but not quickly enough to avoid mutually assured destruction.”

They looked at each other, grinned.

Cullan opened his mouth to say something. But then the world exploded in noise. An animal roar, amplified to unreal, monstrous proportions. He crouched, hands over his ears. The Change came upon him, fast. Cuchullainn’s blue eyes looked at Nægling.

“Who has such a voice of death?”

Nægling took her hand away from her sword.

“Shall we find out?”

Side by side, they ran. Cuchullainn leapt over the edge, onto one of the branches of the World-tree Teldrassil. An endless void was below him. He turned round, held out his hand to Nægling, and she took it, joined him on the branch. With a magnificent disregard for the endless drop below, Cuchullainn ran along the tree-branch until he found a place where he could see. Nægling joined him, and together they stared. Cuchullainn bowed his head. Sadness was not an emotion the Beast liked to deal with, and no amount of anger he could muster up was enough for this. He changed back.

“Those poor people,” said Cullan. “I cannot see how anyone could have survived that.”

Nægling slowly ran her fingers over her cheek. “What could have done such a thing? It must have been one of the Great Dragons.”

“A Dragon? Do they really exist?”

“I’m afraid so,” said Nægling. “Though I have never seen one, and on the whole I would have preferred to see a good Dragon first.”

“I understand.”

Nægling took a deep breath. “If this is a Dragon, then it won’t come alone. They always manage to gather followers to themselves. Unsavoury lickspittles, as a rule. I foresee much work for those of us who follow the path of the Light.”

“I fear you may be right,” said Cullan. “I find it most… most distressing.”

Nægling’s fist shot out, and caught Cullan in the ribs. There was a sound like a rush of air. She looked up at Cuchullainn’s massive head, and her eyes shone.

“Enemies. Slaughter. Bloodshed. We must protect our pack,” said Cuchullainn. He breathed in the sea air, and grinned at Nægling. “It will be glorious.”


“We need to talk.”

Interalia felt a wave of nausea come up, though whether it was because of… or because she had just said something only the soppiest of the soppy bints would ever say, she didn’t know. She swallowed, hard.

“Go on,” said Nix. “Talk.”

Interalia looked round the room. Griggin was sitting in his chair reading a leather-bound grimoire of Warlock related subjects. Lenna was knitting a sweater for Bieslook. Trixie was re-winding the leather on the grip of her new two-hander. Bieslook was in bed asleep.

“Not here. Alone. Let’s go somewhere. Let’s go to the park.”

“I don’t want to go to the park. What is it?”

Interalia’s eyes bored into Nix’.

“Look Nix. How many girls have ever told you that they wanted to talk?”

“Including Mum… one. And that was eight months before Trixie arrived.”

Interalia managed to keep her face straight. She took a deep, deep breath, waited for her voice to become reliable again and put her hand on his thigh. She gave him what she had come to think of as That Look.

“I. Would like. To have you. To myself….” Here, she gently moved her hand in slow circles. “For a half hour or so.”

“I hate the park.”

Interalia scowled, and pulled out the big guns.

“Want any in the next three months or so? Then get your coat on.”

Nix gave her a weary look, and got up. They walked in the direction of the park. Interalia stared straight ahead, wondering how she was going to say it. “Congrats Nix! You’re going to be…” No, no. “Do you remember what we did… in the castle, in the bathroom? Well…” Yechh! “Nix. I’m…” Oh Gods. She glanced at Nix, who was walking next to her, staring straight ahead with a gruff expression on his face, hands in his pockets. She couldn’t keep him in the dark. He had to know. More people would find out, but he, specially, had to be the first to know. Well, the second. Stupid git for not figuring it out for himself.

“Well, here’s your park,” said Nix. “So what is it that… Holy Crap!”

Interalia frowned. “I hadn’t gotten to that part yet.”

Nix grabbed Interalia’s shoulder and turned her round. Something was wrong with the sky. Three quarters of the sky should not be taken up by a fireball.

Run!”

Gnomes, short though they are, have a surprising turn of speed when they really want to. And by the rampaging Titans, did they want to! Their boots were smoking by the time they ran through the exit to the park. They emerged from the archway at full throttle, and in a wonderful display of synchronised diving, jumped into the canal. Nix grabbed Interalia’s arm and pulled her under the bridge. They looked at each other, took a deep breath, and dived.

X

Above the water, the night turned to day.

X

Interalia stayed under, to the disturbing sound of rocks falling into the water, until she thought her lungs would burst. Then, she kicked, and fought her way to the surface. The air tasted of sulphur. Damn it. This shouldn’t happen to a woman in her position. She closed her eyes, bared her teeth, and screamed at herself. Someone grabbed her shoulder, and she turned round.

“Dammit Nix! There’s no need for all this! If you didn’t want to go to the sodding park, we bloody well could have gone somewhere else!”

Nix screamed. “A bloody Dragon has just taken out the whole bloody park! The. Whole. Gods-damned. PARK! We could have gotten ourselves killed! What was so bloody important that we needed to go to that Light-bereft place?”

Interalia took a slow, deep breath, raised her arms above her head, and splashed them down in the water, screaming.

“I’m PREGNANT! You’re going to be a DADDY!

She grabbed Nix by his collar and pulled him back up.

“Keep swimming!”

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