Fourth Beats rumbled and Marine scanned Heavy Street for any sign of Eleff. She had hoped the clues in their conversation earlier were enough for them both to rendezvous here. She repeated her silent pleading over and over again that the man in the waistcoat would have gone to the Crescent at Third Beats. Just in case, she had concealed herself in a bore hole over the top of Heavy Street so she could watch for Eleff’s arrival. Kurann should be out of his home by now and over with Ezria and Aysmar at the Cavern.
Marine heard a sound and held herself up to see around the edge of the hole as far as she dared. A slim figure had appeared at one end of the street. It was Eleff. She was wearing training gear and seemed to be jogging. Marine thanked every element she could think of and watched Eleff trot by, looking for all the world like she was just out for some exercise. Marine scanned carefully around - there was no one else there. As Eleff got to half way down the street, she stopped to stretch - carefully bending and flexing her long limbs. Marine gave the street another long look, she tried to sit very still and try to feel if there was anyone else around. She felt, heard and saw absolutely nothing. She slid carefully out of the hole and sprung up to her feet as quietly and carefully as she could, still glancing about her for anyone who might have seen. There was no movement.
She was back in her delivery outfit and so sauntered as casually as she could past Eleff as if she was going to hop the dirt wall into one of the houses on the street and make a delivery.
‘The Cavern.’ She muttered as she passed. Eleff didn’t even flinch - she remained bent in half stretching out the backs of her legs and breathing heavily from the exertion. Marine had to hope she’d heard and she hopped the wall to go and drop the empty package into the post hole. No doubt the home owner would be extremely confused later. Marine dawdled back to the street, pretending to busy herself with paperwork and then whistled as she made her way in the direction of the delivery depot.
Several diversions and a despatching of a delivery outfit later, and Marine entered the Cavern.
The Cavern was a large dugout on the very outskirts of the city. No Tingion would ever admit to going there - it was an old badger sett and it reeked of animal fur and other rotten things. Most Tingions were petrified of badgers, and with good reason, and so the Cavern had been shut off from public access. Most teenagers liked to pretend they had been in the Cavern but no more than one of them had ever made it all the way in. It was a place Ezria had brought them often in their training, but never in their official training. Ezria Talaglashi knew of seemingly infinite ways in and out of the Cavern and Marine had never known them to enter and exit from the same hole.
She slipped in the way she remembered most clearly and lay still, listening for the vibration of footsteps or the gentle trill of voices. It was faint, but she could hear something and she followed the vague sound in the pitch darkness. Eventually, after several terrifying meters of twisting and walking down a tunnel she prayed wasn’t a dead end she emerged into the Cavern and saw Ezria standing with Aysmar, Kurann and Eleff. Her heart bounded. She had succeeded in her mission.
‘Welcome Marine, well done - you have done well today. Thank you.’ Said Ezria as Marine joined them in the little circle. Ezria was holding a small glow lamp and the light flickered across each of their features. It was eerie, but better than the other option of total darkness.
‘Where is Mortglade?’ Asked Marine.
‘She is not here yet. I was just filling these two in on what we are up to. They are keen to help.’
Just then, Marine heard a noise behind her. She saw Ezria’s eyes flick to something moving behind her and she whipped her head around just in time to see the man in the long waistcoat emerging from the closest tunnel. Marine was annoyed at herself for her first thought being relief that he had not appeared from the tunnel she had come through - at least she hadn’t led him there.
She sprang at the man before she had time to think of anything else unhelpful. He bundled to the ground under her full weight. He wasn’t as strong as he looked and Marine began to wrestle his arms into submission. The man kicked out, causing her to wobble as her arms floundered against his. She rolled off the top of him and caught his booted foot in the side of her head. Her vision swam but she focused on trying to climb back on to him, if she could just hold him still the others would be able to subdue him fully. Marine slammed her body back on top him and rained three swift blows to just below his shoulders to try and numb his arms. She felt his arms going weak and she gripped around his body with her legs and torso.
‘I have him!’ She called out, and waited to feel his weight being pulled by other Tingion arms. Nothing came. She held on as best she could - feeling the man wriggling beneath her. She thought she could laughing.
‘I’ll show you I am not to be laughed at.’ She snarled, but then noticed the laughing was not coming from the man beneath her. She looked up to see Ezria, Aysmar, Kurann and Eleff all stood over her laughing. She scrambled backwards off the man and looked down at him.
Lying, crumpled on the floor, with a skewed wig and dishevelled costume, was Mortglade. Also now laughing.
‘Oh fierce Marine, you have defended us so well against Mortglade.’ Ezria laughed. Marine felt the adrenaline from the fight leaving her body, she didn’t know whether to cry from embarassment or join in the laughter. She chose the latter, perhaps she could fit in the former later when she was alone.
‘Mortglade, I’m so sorry - I didn’t know it was you.’ Marine said, offering Mortglade a hand up.
Mortglade shied back, pretending to be afraid of Marine’s hand. ‘It’s quite alright,’ said Mortglade cheerily, rubbing at her arms, ‘It’s my punishment for being late. I worked out that you added the extra root to Eleff’s bundle to signify fourth beats not third, but you through me off with the location. I thought your references to sickles meant the Crescent. By the time I thought back over the conversation and realised you’d said Heavy a few times, you must have been long clear of Heavy Street. I’m getting slow in my old age. I paced around and then decided that I ought to try here - as I believe it’s about the only place in the city that Vanweer would have no idea we would come. So, I am here. Late, and bruised, but I am here. Now what do we do?’
Ezria beckoned them closer. ‘We make a plan.’
What do the team wish they had brought with them on the mission that they do not have?
- A mirror