2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foothold

This is a sequel to The Window below.

The lights of Calgary shine like incandescent jewels below, while the other stars –the ‘real’ stars– glisten above. The cool breeze makes the drapes billow inwards, one side wrapping seductively around the post of the elegant lamp. I wish I could be out on the balcony feeling the caress of the night air, but I believe my guardian would kill me herself if I tried a fool stunt like that.

She puts her hand on my shoulder and I feel her soft flesh as she glides silently by me. This year I’m following her lead and forgoing the clothing. Nothing lasts when the hurricane starts anyway. I glance over at the clock when it buzzes and clicks. The red LED’s show eleven twenty-three P.M. If that’s accurate the show begins in less than a minute.

Fylax begins her song soft and low. The words are similar to Ancient Greek, but a form which has not been made by any lips but hers in eons. Her skin begins to shine and the brass of her spear reflects an otherworldly light.

The window frame begins to emit a phosphorescent glow. Normally I would never spend a night like this beside a window this large, but tonight we need it. It has been seventeen years, to the minute, since my mother brought the Seed of Atlantis into the modern world, and it is time for that Seed to fully germinate.

The lights of the Stampede City fade, washed out by the silvery-white glow of the Moonlight City. The gateway is open: the zephyrs of ten thousand years gallop into the room like wild horses, whipping and tearing at everything present. Electrical devices scream, flare, and go dark.

The demons can figure time just as well as we can; two of them dash for the window as soon as it opens, baring their flesh-stained teeth as they race toward us. Fylax flicks her slender arms and the spear describes a deadly arc, separating two heads from bodies. The heads hit the carpet with a dull thud and explode into foul vapour.

Fylax turns to me; her song continues even without her to sing it.

“Are you certain of this, Mistress Elfida?”

“I am. It is time to start reclaiming the city.”

“As you will.”

She raises the spear to let me pass, though not before dispatching another fell shadow. I step forward onto the balcony, knowing that if I fail the spear will find me before I’m allowed back into the modern world.

A dragon-shadow rises before me, its huge eyes glowing yellow like the sun and claws as long as my forearm dripping blood. While I am unclothed it is not until this moment that I feel naked.

It speaks to me in the old tongue. “A mortal Atlantean. This is a wonder not seen in ages. How did you come to be, mortal?”

I answer in English. “None of your damn business, lizard. I’m here to reclaim what’s mine.” They’re not exactly the formal Words of Challenge, but the message is clear enough.

It blinks. Twice. I begin shaping the spell.

“What do you offer for the return of the Foundered Continent, Mortal? How do you plan to bargain with us for this land?”

“I offer you nothing. I’m here to take.”

“Ho ho! It shall be sport, then!”

He rises up so I can see his full shadowy glory. A hundred feet of winged serpent, six legs bristling with claws, plates so heavily armoured that no weapon of Atlantis can penetrate them. I feel a tiny shred of doubt but push it down. I have to do this or I’m dead; it’s as simple as that.

He actually waits while I finish forming my weapon. His eyes narrow as he stares at it, then he bursts out in laughter to shake the world.

“That is your weapon? It’s so tiny! How do you expect to hurt one such as me with it?”

“Like this.” I raise it and pull the trigger. There is a thunderous boom and his chestplate is starred, cracked, and holed. His eyes widen.

“What manner of sorcery?”

“This is a Smith and Wesson Model 500 revolver. It has a muzzle energy of over three thousand foot-pounds. I broke my arm the first time I fired one. Guess what’s going to break this time.”

My arm jolts again as the second 50-caliber armour-piercing round penetrates his chest. The dragon roars and swirls into motion. He’s already hurting, but this is going way too slow. Only three rounds left, and I don’t think he’ll pause while I conjure up more. I wait while he flies a tight circle to bring himself back into attack position.

The next shot goes wide and I duck as his claws bisect the air where my head had been a fraction of a second before. He coils on himself and dives straight at me.

Bad move. My fourth shot nails him right between the eyes, and the fifth follows a second later. His body feels like a wash of thin dust as it strikes me in mid-disintegration. His soul crystal, the egg-sized diamond that’s my real goal, drops neatly into my sore hand.

I whisper my name into the crystal. It means ‘hope’ in Atlantean, you know? In a flash of silver light this part of the city is mine. I smile as I watched the puffs of smoke from demons who hadn’t been quick enough about fleeing.

I look back at Fylax in the hotel room.

“That’s one.”

“That’s enough, Mistress. You will be able to expand your work at the next conjunction.”

She smiles and holds out a hand as I step back through the hotel window.