Two moons over, p.33
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       Two Moons Over, p.33

           Levi Shipley
 
strength triple.

  He walked to the sludge where the light was strongest and looked at his arms. There was a long nose to ignore while he watched the pattern of blue and black wrap around his arms. His claws appeared to shine, and the skin of his palms had become hard and rough like pads. He felt the wolf ears on both sides of his skull. He pulled the tail out and held it to his front with his new hands. The thing was fluffy like he had been well groomed, and Cecil laughed. His voice remained the same, but talking with all those fangs was something he’d have to adjust to.

  As he left he clawed the steel arch that Dahzir rested atop two years prior, though now its gleaming color was reduced to a dying rust. Cecil was pleased to see that his claws effortlessly cut through the arch just as Bane Edge would. Then he took his sword and struck the legs. It fell and twisted in a screaming tangle that tumbled to the mouth of the mine. Over the rolls of sand, jackals made ominous cries. Cecil howled in response, and they fell silent.

  He changed back to his human form. His jeans were not made for tails, and he grew very uncomfortable. He wanted to be more familiar with that form, as it was just as much a part of him as his human side. I bet I’ll get some looks buying dogmen pants for myself.

  Fourteen

  From the time he left Redora, a week passed. Cornelius would be expecting Cecil to come back and help run the store. There was an order of potato chips coming in the next day, and that would just be insane to handle without Cecil. But Cornelius would have to get by. Cecil’s landlord would be coming in three months when his advanced bill ran up, and no one would be there to pay for another three if Cecil did not return.

  He shook the thoughts of Redora off for now. That was the place he’d gone to hide, but it was also his home. He had friends there that just might miss him. He had responsibilities, but others would need to worry about them for him. Cecil understood he may never get to go back after the Fraushein break, but that would be fine. The only thing he had of value back there was a set of greaves that no longer fit.

  Protest and Lost

  One

  The capitol came into view the next morning. Cecil saw it from his vantage point on a ridge. From there he saw plenty of foot traffic entering and exiting from the roads. There were checkpoints at every entrance of the city with a dozen Leviathans stationed at each. The buildings made the ones of Mirwa look like doll houses. Skyscrapers reached above the clouds, and Cecil thought it would take a real engineering marvel to keep them from toppling in the wind. Then he noticed just how much color the sun reflected off them. Every large building was made of crystal.

  Above the skyline hovered hundreds of aircraft. The fleet was composed of dozens of fighters, carriers, and bombers. There were several larger ships suspended in air that belonged to generals and other high ranking officers. But a single ship stood out above the rest. One was longer and broader than the largest of the skyscrapers, and made of crystal painted red and black.

  The king’s flagship, the Pheonix, required over five thousand crew members and had enough weapons attached to level Earth if Destursha ever found a way to invade. It was two miles long and dominated the sky. Fifty engines on each side kept it aloft. The front of the ship came to a point. From there it widened for a fifth of the length of the ship. After that it remained square and ended abruptly at the tail, where five colossal jets waited to propel it forward.

  Cecil could not enter the city with a former general’s sword on his back, so he walked down over the ridge on the side opposite the city. Here he was out of view of the rest of the known world. He found a boulder jutting out of the hillside. He drew Bane Edge in both hands and thrust it into the rock’s side. The blade sunk into the unsuspecting wall, and Cecil tugged the hilt to make sure it was secure. He removed his sheath and hung it over the protruding handle of his sword. If anyone found this sword, they would have to have his strength or be King Arthur.

  Two

  He walked to a road, still wearing his odd shirt and covered in dust. Cecil hadn’t showered since the day before he left Mirwa, and he left all his extra clothes at the hotel. He had begun to build up an odor, but he thought most of it was from that purple sludge in the mine. It smelled like death and seemed to be contagious.

  He was patted down and asked to take a bath by a woman who’s every feature but her voice was covered by armor. Cecil was allowed into the capitol and contended with the swarms of people around him. The security check was brief and rushed. He easily could have carried weapons in his boots, though a buster sword would be noticed.

  The buildings were not made of crystal as he had thought. Only the tallest of the skyscrapers had such a luxury. The smaller structures were made of steel and reflective glass. The smallest had not been visible on the ridge, and these were made of stone or brick. The streets were paved with asphalt, but the flow of pedestrians was too heavy to allow vehicles through. Delivery services run by cyclists zigged and zagged through the ocean of people.

  The flagship was still larger than life and loomed over the city. Its shadow cast darkness over half the city. Cecil thought these people were probably used to having it over their heads, but it made him uneasy. It was overhead of Cecil, and he saw its mammoth hull. It might not be solid crystal, but the whole outside is plated with the stuff. From where he stood, Cecil saw row upon row of cannons and machine guns. He saw panels that appeared to be able to slide and expose whatever it hid. They hid even bigger guns, but he’d have to ignore that for now.

  Three

  The Sentinel shined in golden colored crystal. It was a hundred times larger than Cecil remembered the White House being. Though, it wasn’t as tall as the skyscrapers, its wings seemed to go on forever. It was in all far larger than the flagship. There was a fence ten feet tall going around it also made of crystal, though the fence was silver in color. From above the front door on top of a grand balcony was Dahzir’s flag hanging from a pole that doubled the height of the Sentinel.

  Protesters of all sorts were congregated around the building, the organization of which was stunning. Cecil could see one group crying against some new policy. Another formed a band and rallied against the closing of transit near Execution Day. And yet another pleading that the Chrissenians be spared. None interfered with one another despite how close their protesting groups came to one another. There were others as well, but they were on a different side of the Sentinel.

  There were no buildings in any direction around the Sentinel for a radius of a quarter of a mile outside its walls. In a way the place was isolated even though it was in the heart of the city. So the protesters had a good deal of space to use before disturbing anyone. Cecil watched in fascination but kept his distance.

  The door of the Sentinel opened, and Dahzir himself stepped forth. My timing is spot on it would seem. The king walked out of his shining palace clad in armor much like he had worn at the mine, but this showcased his symbol on the chest of the cuirass, two swords crossed behind a skull. Though the symbol was original here, Cecil recognized the pirate’s emblem. On Dahzir’s head was a crown of purest gold embedded with dozens of jewels.

  “Be gone you damned fools!” The king announced. His voice was clear and distinct, though he had no mic to talk into. His words were projected by magic. And Cecil realized he didn’t say anything at all. He only thought it. “If I hear one more murmur there will be hell to pay!” And as he said it, a dozen Leviathans came from the door behind him and stood in front of him at the bottom of the steps that led into the Sentinel.

  Many protesters left a few moments later, having weighed their options. But many stood in place, either from indecision or from their stalwart nature. And there were those who responded in loud voices announcing what they stood for.

  Cecil noticed something strange take place around Dahzir. The air around the king grew dark and seemed to draw toward him. Then it was no longer a seeming, but a certainty. A cloud of darkness enci
rcled the king, like a black hole was eating the light around him. Cecil knew what was happening and willed himself not to make a move.

  Hodge’s hands were bare and came up in front of him by Dahzir’s will. The darkness drew into these hands, and a moment later lightning flew from the tips of his fingers. It sailed crackling over the Leviathans’ heads, passed through the fence, and broke apart so that it might strike as many people as possible. Smoke rose, and the air smelled like a storm and burning hair. A loud shock came after this just like it would with real lightning. And after that came crying.

  Four

  Eleven people died instantly, and another fifteen died within seconds. One died after half a minute from terror. The rest were hurt and/or terrified. The ones that could run ran. The ones that could crawl crawled. The protesters that had been on the other side disappeared, and it was only Cecil and the wounded.

  Now Dahzir spoke, and Cecil had to listen carefully to hear it. “If they are still lying about in twenty minutes, go out and treat them all like dead bodies.” And the king returned to his castle followed by his faithful knights. The door shut behind them with a loud bang.

  Cecil walked up to the group of people who’d been struck. Most
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