As I sprint across Gate Way, the rain seems less substantial and the heat of the fires to my right and in front of me increases, the flames beating back the downpour of the night. I see with horror the cleverness of Mýldir’s incendiary sequence. The first fires lit were on the same end of the city as Rien’s olive oil warehouse, and now were rapidly approaching the warehouse itself. If there is any oil left in the building, the fires will ignite the oil and turn the warehouse into a fiery inferno, covering up the escape route and preventing any pursuit from the Elftown side.
It is getting harder to breathe with the smoke and the heat. It looks like I might have taken too long to set off the remaining smash bombs. I run as fast as I can, covering my mouth with a bit of my wet cloak. A few blocks from the warehouse, the buildings on the right hand of the street are burning. Two more blocks and the buildings are burning on both sides of the street. As I turn into the alley, I can see that the Foot Stomp tavern wears a crown of flames, which are spreading up the side of the olive oil warehouse.
I run through the alley door, gasping from the smoke and heat and exertion, and into the warehouse. The storage room is filled with smoke as thick as the midday mists and even more noxious. I stumble across the floor, down the stairs, and into the escape tunnel, stopping for a few desperate moments to catch my breath in the cooler air below. The boom of a nearby explosion echoes down the passage. Above and behind me, something falls and hits the main warehouse floor with a crash that makes the tunnel shake. With what feels like the last bit of fear-fueled energy I can muster, I sprint down the passageway.
I do not want to come to the same end as Mýldir.
There is less smoke in the tunnel and it feels refreshingly cool after the searing streets around the warehouse. I feel hope return. I might make it out after all. I stumble through the door under the wall and up the ramp to the chamber inside the wall where I killed Raichon’s apprentice and freed Landor and Ciana’s corpses from the indignities of the scuttlers. There’s no sign of the dead bodies now. Probably piled up in the sea wall with the other corpses so they wouldn’t frighten the escaping elves.
Several huge square cut stones have been removed from the outer wall. I realize with a sense of strangeness that most of the population of Elftown has passed through this small space tonight. And now it’s my turn. From the tunnel behind me I hear the sound of collapse. I will be the last elf out. I pull out my weapon, and slip through the hole in the wall.
It is quiet and dark. The rain falls, but not as strongly as before. From behind me rises the commotion of human discord and the chaotic sounds of unleashed fire. Ahead, toward the bridge, I hear muffled noises, the calling of soldiers and the occasional clink of metal on metal or stone.
But here, all is still. There is no sign of human or elf. No bodies in the streets. I creep between the cottages, a shadow in the dark, moving forward and to the left between the buildings until I am close to the water, the spot where the river flows into the sea.
As I approach the edge of the village, I can see the southern end of the bridge. There is a gate of metal bars blocking access to the bridge. Arrayed in front of the gate are a number of human soldiers, swords shining in the fire-lit night. For a moment, I worry that the humans have retaken the bridge and formed a line to prevent any more elves from escaping across it. Then I see the faint indigo glow above the heads of the soldiers. Scuttlers! Raichon is here, and he has turned the enemy’s corpses into soldiers to defend the bridge. The far end of the gate is attached to the wall of a small tower, perhaps twenty cubits high, with a crenellated top. There is a small postern door at the base of the tower, next to the gate. I can’t see how many elves are in or on the tower, but there must at least be a few. As I watch, I see the top limb of a bow rise above the merlon atop the tower and an arrow is shot high into the air, arcing toward the south.
I follow the direction of the arrow. South of the bridge is a broad open expanse next to the village, a sward of grass through which a battered stone road leads from the bridge along the village and south, most likely to a city gate. A contingent of human guards, a score or so, have set up a defensive bulwark across the road and are firing arrows at the tower.
Every now and then another arrow whizzes out of the tower, returning fire. On one such occasion, one of the humans cries out in pain. Looks like Muilon’s training paid off.
I decide to sneak around to the river side of the last house. Maybe from there I can make a run for the tower. Hopefully whoever is left inside will open the door so I can get in.
As I come around the corner of the cottage, I freeze. At the other end are two crouched figures, watching the tower. I lift my sickle into the air and creep forward.
After a couple paces, I realize the figures are not humans who have crept through the village to offer flanking fire. They are elves. A woman and an elfling. Trapped here outside the tower just like me. I can hear the elfling whimpering.
“Psst,” I hiss. They turn their heads quickly, staring at me with fearful, panicked eyes until they see that I am an elf like them. I move up next to them and stop in recognition.
It is the elven breadseller from the marketplace. And the boy whose finger she chopped off. His hand is wrapped in a cloth dark with dried blood.
“I thought we were the last,” the merchant whispers, her eyes meeting mine. “It took me a while to find him.”