“Rien!” I call out, though he is only a few feet away. He looks over.
“You did well tonight,” he smiles.
“I’m not done yet,” I say. “I placed the bombs with Mýldir. I don’t know what happened to him, but I can light the bombs myself. Not the incendiaries, but all of the smash bombs. The last ones are only a few blocks from here. If you can spare a torch, I can finish the job.”
He nods abruptly and orders one of his enforcers to hand me a torch. “The other groups made it out without you singing on the way, so I suppose this one can as well. Do you need a guard to go with you? I can spare maybe one.”
I shake my head as I back up.
“They are needed to help with the evacuation. I’ll be faster alone.”
I see Enturi start to follow me. “No,” I tell him. “You go with Rien. If some humans have already gotten through, he will need your talent to deal with them. Get these elves out of Elftown. I’ll see you across the bridge.” Without waiting for an answer, I turn and run down a side street. I have to double back a bit to catch the last splash bomb, which we placed in a little empty shack under the wall.
The ward bosses did their work efficiently. I neither see nor hear any elves in the dark neighborhood as I run through the wet streets from house to house. I am not naïve enough to believe that everyone was given the orders and that everyone followed orders, but so far I see no signs to the contrary.
I’m opening the door of a second-floor apartment in one of the better tenements I’ve seen, standing solidly between two more decrepit structures on Smelter Way, when I hear the first voice since leaving the others.
“Hey!” The voice is sharp but coarse. Human. “What’re you doin’ up here? Who are you, scum?”
I turn. Down the hallway, half out of one of the other doors, is a groggy looking half-dressed human. His facial tattoos reveal him as one of the nameless, the humans convicted of serious crime and dumped in Elftown to survive or die.
“I’m burning this building down, human,” I snarl. “You’d best be getting out of here.”
“You aren’t doing slime, elf,” he replies, just as belligerently. “Who sent you? Lainath doesn’t take to kindly to the refuse of other bosses thievin’ in his ward or burning down the homes of his enforcers.” He steps out into the hall, tall, broad, hairy and muscular, torso covered in scars. “Maybe I should take you to him right now. I bet he’d love to hear you whine before he kills you.”
So. He’s an enforcer for Lainath. Apparently only Lainath’s elven enforcers got the message of the escape.
“Lainath knows, you moron,” I bite back. “Who do you think sent me?” I shift my torch to my off hand and pull out my short sword. With ruined blade. Damn it. “Lainath is gone, along with every other elf in Elftown. Escaped under the wall. I’m the last one here and I’m burning the place down. I’m not going anywhere with you. But if I were you, I wouldn’t worry about me too much. I’d be more concerned about why Lainath took all of his elven enforcers with him but left you to burn and die.”
I spit in his direction.
“I guess you were only good enough to serve him in this dump. Not good enough to save for outside.”
The nameless human’s eyes narrow with rage and he charges, screaming in fury. More berserker than swashbuckler, this one. That makes it easy. I feint one way and dodge the other, bringing the pommel of my splintered sword down on the back of his neck. He goes down, hard. I kick him, but he doesn’t move. I toss my broken blade aside and pull out my sickle, watching him carefully. He’s still breathing.
I figure I’ll give the guy a better chance than Lainath did. I don’t know why. Setting aside the torch and slipping my sickle back into my belt, I pull his heavy form down the wooden stairs and out into the middle of the street, dropping him in the wet mud under the pounding rain. Breathing heavily, I return to the second floor, light the oil, and shatter the pot. The building goes up in flames as I move on to the next place.
I don’t remember all of the places where Mýldir left the oil pots, so I miss a few places. I don’t even know how to ignite the incendiary bombs. I leave them alone. I suppose I could break the pots and light the oil, but I’m no alchemist. If Mýldir put something extra in the oil, then I could end up burned alive. I prefer to be burned up after I am dead.
As I get closer to Gate Way, I can see the houses burning on both sides of the street. Mýldir got this far, at least.
Which means –