Moments passed unmarked and uncounted in the wake of Azvida’s passing. Solonn shook as he huddled against the grieving steelix in a futile effort to comfort both his father and himself, his eyes closed, ragged breaths hissing through his teeth. He felt something slightly rough-textured light upon his back, which startled him slightly, but then he realized that it was only Oth’s hand. Opening his eyes, he turned and saw that it had laid its other hand upon Grosh, embracing both him and Solonn insofar as it could.
<I should inspect the others who have fallen,> the claydol finally spoke up, its mindvoice subdued. <Some of them may require medical attention… if I can transport them, I will do so.>
Solonn only nodded in agreement, unable to reach words. As the rest of the temple seemed to slowly reemerge unto his senses, he could hear the lamentations of others of his own kind, survivors facing loss or potentially impending loss of their own. He hoped dearly that as few of them as possible would share an experience like his own.
Oth parted from the group and began to move toward one of the other fallen glalie, but then stopped. <Someone is here…>
There was an especially loud, resounding crack
. Without even so much as a chance to wonder what could possibly have hit it, the claydol fell to the floor—and in the same instant, Grosh did likewise, his head dropping heavily to the ground, very nearly landing on the glalie at his side. A cry of shock escaped Solonn, and he immediately looked to his father and his friend in turn, staring agape in disbelief at their sudden fall and fearing for their lives. Thankfully, Grosh was still breathing, his exhalations forming glowing clouds of warmth in the surrounding cold. Oth, however, was not breathing… but then again, Solonn remembered, it never did such. There was still its rather low but nonetheless present body heat to confirm its survival—an ice-type blast of lethal power would have left it thoroughly frozen.
The moment that he was sure that both of them were still alive, Solonn sought whomever had struck them down, suddenly awash in adrenaline and ready to fight back in the event that the attack on the temple had resumed. He swiftly found nine glalie at the entrance, seemingly newly arrived and wearing expressions that tried but failed to conceal horror at the scene that they’d found.
“Please remain calm,” one of them addressed the survivors, attempting to sound comforting and commanding at the same time despite the tremor that she couldn’t quite keep out of her voice. “No further harm will come to you. You all need to come with us before the Council of Authority for questioning and further aid and instructions.”
Any retaliation that Solonn might have had in store for the new arrivals faltered as he realized just what was going on: they were of the Security Guild, and they had undoubtedly come to investigate the commotion that had occurred here. With horror, he also realized why they had brought Grosh and Oth down, what they must have thought upon finding such strange creatures at a scene of carnage and destruction…
“No, you’ve got it all wrong!” he croaked out. “These two had nothing to do with this!”
The guild members regarded him with doubt, and most of them cast looks at the one who had spoken before. “Secure them and get ready to move them out,” their spokeswoman and apparent leader instructed her squad, nodding toward those gathered at her right. The six there nodded back in acknowledgment and moved in silent unison toward where Grosh and Oth lay unconscious.
“Leave them alone!” Solonn shouted, intercepting the approaching guild members. “What in the gods’ names is wrong with you?! I told you, they didn’t do this
The approaching glalie made no response to him, gliding around him and splitting into two groups to surround Grosh and Oth separately. Unable to watch idly as they set upon his father and friend, he brought a piercing, white blaze to his eyes. With a hiss of fury, he set off a sheer cold blast in their midst, a warning shot.
No sooner had the elemental discharge been loosed than another one just like it was unleashed—but not of his making. He gave a shout of surprise as the blast went off so close to him that he could feel the shockwave of its birth explode against his back. He turned in an instant to face its source and saw the guild leader there, holding a hard stare upon him.
“Sir, I’m going to ask you not to interfere, and I’m not going to ask you again,” she warned Solonn tensely, her tone telling that she wasn’t bluffing. “You’ll have a chance to speak with the council later, and they can determine the validity of your claims, but first we’re required to subdue all potential threats. If you wish to present yourself as a potential threat, then I’m afraid we will
have to respond accordingly.”
Solonn only stared in mute, pained outrage at the leader for a moment, unable to believe his ears. Whatever was or was not required of the guild personnel, he was sure that they held a mistrust for unfamiliar species and that that in turn made it all the easier and more convenient for them to believe that Grosh and Oth must surely have contributed to the desecration of the temple and the loss of life there.
With a tremendous effort, Solonn just barely managed to suppress an urge to try and knock out the leader in one blast, just aware enough through the haze of all that he was feeling at the time that doing so would get him knocked out by the rest of her squad. “Listen,” he pleaded with her. “There are people here who might need help, and you just attacked the only person who can give it to them. You’ve got to give it a chance to help them!”
The guild leader held his gaze, her brow knitting, a frown that he couldn’t quite interpret forming on her face. She remained silent for a moment’s deliberation. “I’m sorry,” she finally said, “but letting them awaken is not a risk that we can take right now.”
“There’s no risk! They didn’t do this
!” Solonn cast a hopeful, pleading glance around him at the survivors of the attack on the temple, who had witnessed what had truly happened and could thus back up his claims… and the conflict on their faces couldn’t have been plainer. Come on,
he urged them silently, tell them!
For a fleeting moment, a couple among their number seemed to be considering coming forward, their brows drawn together as they debated their next actions… but to his dismay, none of them spoke up.
“Come on,” the guild leader instructed them quietly. “The council needs to speak with you.”
The survivors made for the exit, some moving more hesitantly than others and throwing glances back at people left lying behind, then waited there to be led away. With a bitter disappointment, feeling that he was defeated for the time being and despising that notion very deeply, Solonn turned away from them to face the guild leader once more, giving her a smoldering, reproachful glare. His attention then shifted toward the guild members who then proceeded to apprehend Grosh and Oth; he wanted to make damned sure that they did no further harm to them.
Oth was pushed up onto the head of one of the guild members, held between her horns. Another of the guild members generated a pillar of ice on which he lifted up Oth’s hands, which had become separated from their owner without its telekinesis active to hold them at its sides, and then deposited them on top of his head; he had apparently correctly guessed that the hands could function while detached and had apparently incorrectly assumed that they could do so while their owner was unconscious. Four of the remaining members of the squad positioned themselves around Grosh, two to each side of his neck, behind his massive head. The six guild members then secured the prisoners (and detached parts thereof) to their bodies with ice, shifted the shattered ice on the floor underneath them into a smooth, even surface on which to more easily drag the steelix, and began moving toward the exit. Solonn worked very mindfully to protect Oth and Grosh, particularly the former, from the coldness of their captors’ bodies as they were carried along.
“All right then,” their leader said, turning toward the survivors at the exit. “Everyone line up behind me and follow me out in an orderly fashion.”
The survivors did as they were told, and grudgingly, miserably, Solonn did likewise. As he followed them into the corridor beyond, he looked back one last time into the ruined temple, the place where Azvida, Jeneth, and gods only knew how many others had drawn their last breaths. He held that anguished gaze upon that place until the guild members carrying Grosh and Oth reached the exit, blocking his view behind and forcing him to move on. His heart ached terribly with the thought that innocent people were being punished for those deaths—he knew that neither Jeneth nor Azvida would have wanted this, and he doubted that the other victims would have wanted the punishment to fall upon the wrong people, either.
The only hope now for things to be set right in his eyes, or as right as they could be after something so terrible had happened, was if the council could be convinced of the innocence of his father and his friend. Silently, he prayed for a chance that the wrong done unto them would be undone.
* * *