“This way, quickly,” Gwydion urges, leading the Bunnies down a narrow alley.
“Hey, where’re we goin’, exactly?” Cherry asks.
“Somewhere safe,” Alma states by way of answer. “Well, safer.”
“And where’s that?” Cherry insists.
“If you want to live, then as far away from here as possible,” Gwydion intervenes.
Alma moves ahead of them, her heightened senses, attuned to souls as well as sound and sight, guiding the group through the complex web of crisscrossing alleys, pointing out any possible ambushes. They have managed to avoid two so far.
“There!” she whispers, pointing at a side alley. “There’s someone in that alley. I can see them moving towards us.”
“Well… We can go this way, then,” Gwydion suggests, turning quickly into an alley just opposite.
They all follow him without question, feet moving as swiftly and silently as biology and physics will allow.
“The little one!” Sage suddenly cries, driving them all to a halt. “Where is she?”
Their senses stretched even further in a panic, gods and Bunnies search the dark alleys for the absent young Bunny.
“There!” Kori announces, pointing to where Alma had spotted the Dukaine ambush. “In that alley.”
“She’s running straight into the jaws of the enemy,” Gwydion notes, running alongside Alma. She wishes the Bunnies wouldn’t run so fast that they are always four or five step ahead of both gods.
By the time Alma and Gwydion get to the alley, all six Bunnies are already lining in front of their ambushing enemy, thankfully no more than half a dozen mortal thugs, currently holding the crushing advantage of having the young unnamed Bunny, terrified and kicking wildly, in their keep. The gods make a point of walking between the Bunnies and their foes.
“Let her go!” Alma orders the thugs, echoed by several cries of “Yeah, let her go, you no good meanies!” and “You hurt her, we hurt you!” from her Bunnies.
The leader of the little Dukaine group, a burly fellow missing his left eye and ear, dressed in a leather jacket embroidered with too many skull-and-bones motifs, snorts and adjusts his hold on his captive to evade her attempts to bite him.
“Now, why would we do that?” he grunts.
“Because the lady is asking nicely,” Gwydion growls menacingly, taking a step forward and unsheathing his short sword, again unleashing the magical spell encasing the blade in a searing, golden light.
The Dukaine thug snorts again and orders his men to stand ready to fight.
Alma draws her sword as well. “Fine, then.”
In the darkness of the alley, she doesn’t notice the crossbow bolt being fired. But, suddenly, there it is, sticking out of the man’s Adam’s apple, its metallic tip glistening in the whatever light is left as the night consumes the day. For a moment he stands there, unmoving. And then he falls, slowly and gurgling, first to his knees and then face forward on the ground, releasing the female Bunny, who runs straight to Alma and past her, into Sage’s arms.
“Don’t you just hate it when people say ‘no’ after you asked nicely?” a familiar voice rings somewhere behind and above the now very nervous-looking ambushers.
Drawing on her specialized senses and extremely honed, owl-like nightvision, Alma spots its source, little more than a slightly darker shadow of a female form among the shadows of a makeshift balcony. Guessing the smile on the woman’s face, Alma smiles as well.
“And why are you here?” she asks, seemingly forgetting all about her enemies, currently trying very hard to be forgotten.
“Consider it an investment,” Saira replies, her crossbow suddenly cocking again with a very loud click. “One of those ‘enemy of my enemy’ kind of things.”
“Who is the lady?” Gwydion inquires, unwilling to break eye contact with his foes.
“Saira,” Alma whispers to him. “The one who stole the Pearl from the Dukaines and returned it to our guardianship.”
“A friend, then,” Gwydion surmises.
“Let’s not jump to conclusions there,” Saira cuts him off. “I’m only here for the ‘All the Dukaines you can kill’ buffet. Speaking of which...”
Another bolt flies and one more Dukaine falls. Alma and Gwydion attack, swift, silent and efficient, years of martial training kicking in, and soon the rest of their unfortunate ambushers fall dead, except for one, who manages to flee down a side alley. Saira’s bolts take care of that.
“We need to move. We’re exposed here,” Gwydion states, looking around.
“Wait,” the goddess asks of him. Turning to the balcony, where Saira’s shadow still looms. she beckons, “Saira, we could use your help. We need to get to a portal as quickly as possible. You know all the paths...”
Saira doesn’t respond for a minute but her shadow disappears from the balcony, only to reappear closeby, at ground level. A few more steps, and the shadow becomes the actual body of the woman.
“What do you need me for?” she queries, now standing just two or three paces away from the gods. “You’re gods, can’t you just...fly there?”
“No,” Alma replies.
“Summon some winged beast?” Saira suggests.
“We had one but he’s currently busy elsewhere,” Gwydion retorts, eyebrow raised.
“Uhh… teleport, then?” Saira asks, gesturing vaguely with her hands. “Magic yourselves away?”
Alma shakes her head. “I can’t move so many at once.”
Saira sighs. “You know, you two leave a lot to be desired as gods go,” she says, conversationally. “No flying, no beasts, no fancy disappearing acts–”
“Well, we’re hardly gods of transportation, are we?” Gwydion cuts her off with mild impatience as he sheaths his blade.
“And you all wonder why people are going for that ‘One god for everything’ deal…” the woman mutters, stepping between the gods and moving back to where gods and Bunnies had come from. “Anyway, I guess you’re walking. Here, come this way.”
Gwydion approaches the youngest of the Bunnies, currently held safely in Sage’s protective arms and gently takes her hand. “You are coming with me, little flower.”
Slowly, with a little help from Alma and Sage, the young Bunny perches herself on Gwydion’s back, wrapping her slender arms and legs tightly around him. After some balance adjustments, the god finally finds a comfortable position for her and sets off to follow Saira, Alma moving at a fast pace by his side. Ahead of them, the other Bunnies run to join Saira, their powerful legs making it easy to keep up with the athletic woman.
“So… who’re you?” Cherry asks her.
“I’m Saira and I’ll be your group scout for today,” Saira announces in a cheerful tone. “Boy, you lot run fast!”
“We’re Bunnies,” Kori says proudly. “Built to run.”
“We can run faster if you want!” Chime offers eagerly.
“Chime, no!” Sage warns. “We stay together.”
“Say, that’s a lovely pointy trinket ye got there!” Merri comments, pointing at Saira’s crossbow. “Ah’m Merri, by the way.”
“Has anyone ever tol’ you that you got amazin’ legs?” Cherry flirts.
“Uuhh… sure!” Saira nods wildly. “I hear that all the time.” She turns mid-run to urge Alma and Gwydion on. “Hey, you two! This way!”
The gods follow at the rear, Gwydion holding a young and scared Bunny who keeps hugging his neck way too tightly and nuzzling fiercely into his shoulder, Alma fighting back a headache that has her groaning softly.
“Are you all right?” Gwydion asks her.
“I can’t keep soul-scanning much longer,” the goddess explains, her senses still stretched to improve her nightvision. “It is draining me.”
Gwydion exhales deeply. “Hopefully, your young friend will find us a shortcut.”