When the rains come

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The Avii ships were given no names, they had been so numerous and commonplace for the people of that fallen city. Even with Aviar gone, its inventions endured in the fleet that dispersed over Bruckin, delivering Avii warriors to the conflict wherever they were needed. To Kirya the technology was wondrous and inconceivable, even as she stood on the deck of one of the larger vessels, but to those who had been born above the clouds there was nothing to remark upon.

They were counting on Treydolain's forces being as surprised and stunned as her. Crossing the mountains had been a long and cold affair - though far less difficult that their journey in the opposite direction on foot - spent mostly below-decks, away from the frigid air. Many of the ships discovered in the lower caverns had been of a more traditional design, in terms of having a deck and interior space, than the deceptively simple flying discs. Bringing them back to working order had taken time, finding the hidden exit from the caves had delayed them, and the mountains were not beaten in a hurry, even flying above them in Avii vehicles. As they'd crossed the highest peaks, the great valley had come into view, enormous and oval, stretched out before them in a way she'd never seen before or imagined. It was a clear day and she had been able to see all the way to the mountains on the other side of the ring and even beyond, into a blue haze where the sky met what could only have been ocean. Only at such a height was that vision possible, and only for the briefest time, but it held a promise she intended to keep.

As they had descended they saw the black smoke rising from Bruckin, long before they could see the city itself. Now, as their ship hovered between the towers of Bruckin's upper levels, it was clear that the lower streets had adopted a nightmarish reality, consumed either by fire or clashing groups of fighters. The smoke was lit from below by the orange glow of flame, the winding streets resembling deep cracks in the earth with molten rock flowing up. From the vantage point provided they could see the inhabitants of the city clustered into the northern districts and the raised levels, walkways and platforms ready to burst.

"If the King's army breaks through it will be a massacre," Fenris said, holding the rail at her side.

"I'm no military genius," Kirya said, "but I'm surprised my father is attacking already. It would have been safer and less destructive to have blockaded the city first. They could have taken it with barely a fight."

"Either way, Bruckin would not have stood much of a chance."

She looked sideways at her old mentor. "And now?"

Never one to betray his feelings through overt demonstrations of expressiveness, Fenris smiled thinly. "Now they have a chance. But it will still not be easy."

The observation deck was busy, the railing lined with Avii equipped with scopes who were busy analysing the situation below. The sky was full of other ships, large and small, many of which were depositing the highest trained of the Avii adepts in the streets to join the fight.

"I do hope Tranton is going to be alright," Kirya said. The explorer had leapt aboard a disc and disappeared from view, clearly eager to contribute something to the battle.

"I am fairly certain that man is more than capable of looking after himself," Fenris said, managing to sound both disapproving and respectful.

If the plan was proceeding as intended, Galisai would already have joined forces with the Bruckin city guard, amassed in the central part of the city where the final stand would take place to prevent the Treydolain army from breaching the safe zone. Galisai, Hatch and Stefan had been training and sharpening blades the entire journey, clearly relishing the opportunity to return to their city with a new army in tow.

The army beyond the walls, now intruding into its streets, would only months prior have been her army. Kirya felt a pang of confused regret, alternative paths flashing up before her eyes; imagined escapes from the disaster now facing the valley. She'd questioned over and over whether her presence might have prevented the conflict - still she found it hard to believe that her father would have sanctioned such an atrocity on his own people. A sliver of comfort remained in the thought that it must be Kraisa's work, somehow - what whispers had she been speaking into her father's ear all those years? Kirya had been powerless to stop Kraisa'a total control, after all, even if Tarn had theorised that was due to the blood link between mother and daughter. Then again, men had fallen under the influence of negative forces many time throughout history without there needing to be the involvement of otherworldly powers. She did not yet dare countenance the though that her father might already be dead, or usurped.

One battle at a time.

"The Treydolain forces outnumber Bruckin's six-to-one," she said, striding across the deck to the prow of the ship. "Most of them are still stationed outside in the fields, and they'll keep up the pressure and keep on coming. Even with our arrival, they can wear us down."

"Their supply lines must be cut," Fenris agreed. She was reminded, oddly, of their lessons in the classroom in the palace, or his lectures on the rooftop in the summer months, when his sermons would inevitably give way to heated discussions which they both relished. Neither of them had ever admitted it, but those debates always revealed a compromise that was better than either of their starting positions. Fenris had been the one to instill in her the values she held dear; the ones she had always espoused to her father, even though that seemed to have been for naught.

"I can do that!" Tarn's voice, always eager and enthusiastic even in spite of the situation and recent events, cut through the chill air from across the deck. He bounded up, followed by a squad of Avii fighters, their faces covered in elaborate ink patterns that seemed to Kirya to somehow resemble the architecture of their fallen city. At the sight of him, Kirya felt her spirits lifted.

"How?"

Tarn stood on the edge of the ship, gazing down at the encampment beyond the walls."They're all spread out. We'll come down in the middle, make a big mess, then come back."

Fenris coughed lightly. "It is unlikely to be that simple."

Placing a hand on the old man's shoulder, Tarn smiled. "I know, Fenris. But if we fully understood the parameters of every impossible ambition, nothing would ever be accomplished. Better to be ignorant, and do it anyway."

That had been happening more frequently, ever since Aviar, when the boy that had been Tarn slipped away for a moment, replaced with someone else - older, wiser, calmer. It would be only a flicker, disappearing rapidly again into the complexities of his mind. Kirya worried that one day that serious, grown-up Tarn would appear and stay forever.

"Start with the command tents," Fenris said, pointing. "They won't have been expecting an air attack and will be unprepared. Wipe out their generals and the army will disintegrate from the rear."

Tarn nodded, stepping almost absent-mindedly from the edge of the deck. and drawing a series of startled reactions. He landed immediately on a flying disc which he had seemingly summoned for that precise purpose. It was without pilot and Kirya had to remind herself that, somehow, in ways she couldn't possibly comprehend, Tarn was responsible for powering all of the Aviar fleet. The squad followed him onto the disc.

"Wait," she said, "you're not armed. You have no weapons."

Tarn grinned and waved his hands in a childish manner. "Don't need any!" Then the disc dropped out of sight and whisked them away towards the enemy's line.

The enemy. Her father's army. Formerly her army. Kirya stood upon the deck of a foreign ship - now an invading power - as she brought aid to the citizens of Bruckin, the insurgent city state that had been a thorn in the Tellador's side for decades. Home to the villainous and untrustworthy Lief brothers.

She was living in strange times, and the wheel continued to turn.


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