You Know Too Much
Lorican had returned to the smithy after the evening meal, knowing it
would be quiet. His Master would be off to bed, and the apprentices
enjoying their free time with their friends in the hold, so he'd be able
to work on his own projects in peace. Since he'd returned from his last
journey and caught up with his work, he'd been spending more and more
evenings here on his own. If nothing else, he'd brought back enough
ideas to keep him busy for months. He wished he had the drawings he'd
left at the Weyr, but until he found a way to retrieve them, he could
work from memory.
This evening, he planned to work on the hold's flamethrower. He'd
sketched the improvements to the design he'd seen at the Weyr as best he
could recall them, but first he planned to check it over and ensure it
was in good working order, a job which needed doing anyway. Once that
was done, he could make a start on forging a new filling mechanism.
He crouched down beside the heavy apparatus and carefully removed the
agenothree tank, placing it to one side well away from the forge fire.
Then he began to disassemble it, placing each piece on the work bench or
the anvil for inspection and cleaning. Soon, he was absorbed in his work
and oblivious to the gathering dark outside.
The footsteps into the smithy were light, unheard over the clatter of
equipment and metal as Lorican worked. Dark eyes followed him as the
figure moved into the gathering shadows a glint of the fading light
reflecting across the dull gleam of metal. Once he was distracted and
absorbed, the lithe figure moved quickly, silent feet padding forward.
The gleam of metal flashed as a heavy metal rod was lifted and brought
down towards the back of Lorican's neck.
It was an over-tightened fastening on one of the flamethrower's spray
tubes that saved him. After struggling with it for a moment, Lorican
remembered that he had some pliers in a tool box on a shelf and twisted
slightly to reach up for them, so the blow fell on his shoulder blade
rather than his vulnerable neck. He gasped as agony shot down his back
and instinctively pushed away from the bench, nearly losing his footing
as he turned to face the intruder. "What - who..."
Cold malice glittered in the dark eyes as the metal rod was swiftly
drawn back to strike again, aiming at Lorican's head. The slim, muscular
woman clad in a drudge's garment said nothing in response, giving her
target no answer to respond to. She also struck out with a swift kick,
attempting to keep him off balance as much as possible.
He managed to duck and felt the breath of air on his cheek as the rod
whistled past, barely a finger's width from his head, but the kick
connected solidly, sending him staggering into a rack of tools which
clattered to the floor around him. Winded, Lorican stared at her, hardly
able to believe what he was seeing. He was so stunned by the fact that
he'd been attacked by a woman that he didn't even think to call for
help, much less defend himself.
He glanced at the door, but she was already in his path, so he backed
further into the smithy, trying to put the big anvil between them. "What
do you want?" Even as he spoke, he had a horrible feeling he already knew.
When she finally spoke, her voice was surprisingly musical and sweet.
It was the voice of a kindly aunt or a loving sister, not the voice
expected from a person attempting to deal death to another. "You know
too much." She gave a soft 'tsk' of her tongue. "It's a pity really."
The malice in her eyes never wavered as she kept Lorican in her direct
line of sight. She moved closer, picking up a jug of cleaner that had
been placed on a shelf; her ease and familiarity with the surroundings
made it clear that she was well acquainted with the area. She opened
it, and always watching him, began to pour it over shelves and tables.
Her grin widened as she stepped back several paces, then tossed the
jug towards the forge fire.
The jug smashed, spilling the remaining contents over the coals, and the
fire leapt up with a roar, sparks flying and catching wherever the
liquid had fallen. One shelf near the door, stacked with papers and
hides, caught immediately and began to burn, the flames licking the
wooden beams that supported the roof. Lorican was forced away from the
forge by the intense heat, blinking as the acrid smoke stung his eyes.
He cast a panicked glance at the flamethrower tank. It was next to his
work bench, which was already alight.
"We've got to get out!" His gaze flickered between the woman and the
door, his only route to safety. "There's agenothree in here. The whole
place could go up!"
That brought a tinkling laugh. "What _we_?" She backed up close to the
entrance, looked at the blaze, then stepped out. "You come out, and
I'll be waiting for you. Either way, you'll die, but I'll be sure to
make sure you die slowly and in agony. Your choice, Smith." She blew a
kiss and darted out into the shadows of the evening to wait.
He watched her go, terror-stricken, trying desperately to see a way out.
There was no other exit, the windows too small and high for him to
escape. He could wait, shelter under the work bench and hope that
someone from the hold would see the fire and raise the alarm - but there
was the tank of agenothree, which would shortly turn the smithy into an
inferno of flame and poisonous fumes. He might only have minutes.
The heat was becoming intolerable, and he could hardly breathe for the
thickening clouds of smoke. Whatever awaited him outside, he couldn't
stay here and burn.
Lorican crouched down beside the scattered tools and reached for a
poker, then jerked his hand away with a curse as the hot metal blistered
his palm. Could he use gloves? He wasn't sure where they were. Near the
forge, most likely. Instead, he chose the largest, heaviest hammer he
could find, scrabbling around in the flame-lit darkness. He tried not to
think about what it would be like to hit another person - a woman - with it.
**This is no time for chivalry. It's her or me.** He gripped the hammer,
the smooth wood reassuring in his hand, and cautiously peered out into
The fire had already drawn attention and shouts of alarm rang out in
the darkness. People emerged from doorways, calling for aid. The woman
hidden in the shadows grimaced; despite her outward demeanor, a sick,
growing sense of urgency and unease curdled in her stomach. She _had_
to complete this job. Her eyes studied the entrance and the moment his
head appeared, she crouched. The voices were becoming louder; she
wouldn't have time to make it look like an accident now. She hissed
silently through her teeth. If only he hadn't turned at that last
moment and she hadn't been so concerned about blood spattering her.
She should have used her knife in the first place!
That thought upon her, she quickly drew the blade from sheath at her
calf. Before people could get closer, she made her attempt, bolting
towards Lorican from out of the shadows, knife gleaming in her hand.
He caught the movement out of the corner of his eye and barely managed
to recoil into the burning smithy, the sharp blade tearing through his
shirt and scoring a hot line across his chest rather than ending up
buried in his heart. Lorican swung the hammer wildly and missed, but at
least managed to prevent the woman from following up on her attack.
"Get away from me! People are coming..." The heat seared his back, the
work bench by the tank now fully ablaze. Outside, he thought he could
hear the Holder shouting for a bucket chain. "I'm not going to tell anyone!"
Dark eyes flicked to the approaching crowd of people and a dark curse
spilled from her mouth, her sweet voice making the words sound even
more vile. Her eyes swung back to Lorican, frustration, and
surprisingly dread, was evident. She melted back into the shadows, but
before she disappeared completely, the knife was flung through the air
directly at his chest.
He felt the impact as though someone had punched him hard, and stumbled
back, his eyes stinging with the gritty smoke that now filled the
smithy. For a moment, he wondered at the look he'd seen in her eyes, but
then with a crack, the bench split down the middle and collapsed,
sending a shower of sparks over the flamethrower tank. Panic sent him
diving for the door, heedless of whether the woman was still waiting
outside, but he managed only a few steps before his legs gave way and he
fell to his knees, choking.
Raising his head, he saw figures running towards him, and raised both
hands to ward them off. "No! Keep back! There's..."
Then, with an ear-splitting boom, the tank finally exploded, sending a
huge gout of flame roaring up into the night sky as the roof of the
smithy buckled and collapsed in on itself. Lorican felt a red-hot
stinging sensation all over his exposed skin as a cloud of vapor and
hot ash engulfed him, and he heard nothing more except a ringing in his
ears and the sound of his breath rasping in his throat. He screwed his
eyes shut and tried to drag himself away from the burning building, but
barely managed a few paces before the fumes overcame him and he
collapsed into darkness.
Last updated on the November 22nd 2020