NaNoWriMo 2019 Chapter 14
Disclaimer: This is a NaNoWriMo attempt where quantity trumps quality. This will also be a long piece, so if you’re looking for a quick read, I recommend checking out a different category like Short Stories.
~Chapter 14 Backyard Emergency~
Fletcher does have some ideas, so he gets to stay back and guild sit while the others go out hunting.
Like their previous training session, Fletcher begins with leading them through some warm up exercises in the backyard. Then, after their muscles are suitably loose, he picks up a practice knife, while she takes up her shield.
“This time, I’ll be on the offensive,” Fletcher says as he points his knife to her.
She nods and steadies the shield before her. “Ready.”
Fletcher steps forward and to the side and tries to stab her where her small shield does not cover. She moves her feet and shifts to block the stab.
Fletcher shifts as well. His knife seeks out another unguarded area. The brown-haired man goes slow, so it’s not difficult for her to block that too. But she doesn’t let her guard down. The slow stabs are just Fletcher testing her defences for any holes. She keeps her arms firm but relaxed and rocks on her feet, ready to shift in any direction if she needs to when Fletcher gets serious.
Fletcher flashes out of sight. She feels him before she sees him, and her body shifts immediately so that Fletcher’s practice knife hits her shield. She tilts her shield to deflect Fletcher’s knife and continues the motion to pivot into him. Her shield follows her momentum as she drives it into his side.
Fletcher dashes forward and around her. His left hand grabs her shield as he passes and pulls it, taking advantage of her momentum to force her to overextend. Her legs run to keep up with her shield and she takes the chance to ram Fletcher in the chest with her shoulder.
“Stop,” Fletcher says.
She holds back her shield and jumps back to disengage. Fletcher remains frozen in position.
“If this was a real fight, you would have driven yourself right into my knife,” Fletcher says and waves his knife for emphasis. She recalls the last few moments and stops herself at the part where she rams her shoulder at Fletcher’s chest. The knife is at the perfect spot to gut her side. One flick of his wrist, and Fletcher can easily cut her open.
“Ah,” she says.
“Still, you put up a good fight. You chained your moves and have a good sense of where to position your shield. Footwork is agile too. You’re definitely more comfortable with a shield than a knife,” Fletcher comments.
She smiles. “Thank you.”
“Let’s try again. And try not to skewer yourself on my knife,” Fletcher says with a wry smile.
Her cheeks heat up. She raises her shield and shifts into a half crouch.
“I will try.”
Fletcher shoots forward. She blinks, and his blade is already pressed against her neck. If the blade had a real edge, she will already be dead.
Belatedly, she pushes the blade off her neck with her shield. Fletcher gives her an amused smiled.
“A bit late for that, isn’t it?” he teases.
“At least I tried,” she says.
“I’ll go slower. But don’t get comfortable,” Fletcher says. He raises his knife again, and she does the same with her shield.
They continue to spar. Fletcher is undeniably better than her, but he adjusts so that she can at least last a few exchanges instead of getting ‘killed’ right away.
Winning is out of the question, so she focuses on defending each session for as long as possible. She practices to be economical with her movements, to turn Fletcher’s strength against him, take advantage of any openings, to create her own openings, to keep going even when her shield feels double its weight and her limbs shake from exhaustion.
“I think that’s enough. Let’s end here for today,” Fletcher says.
She sinks gratefully to the ground and let her shield drop beside her with a soft thud. Fletcher isn’t tired, but he sits to join her on the ground.
“May I?” Fletcher asks and motions at her shield.
“Sure.” She lets the shield slip fully off her arm.
For a time, they sit beside each other in silence. Well, Fletcher sits. She lies flat on her back, arms stretched out at her sides as she stares up at the sky.
“What is your emph?” she asks.
Fletcher stretches out his arm to reveal a green crest on the palm of his right hand.
She stares at the palm with wide eyes.
“Your body is your emph?”
Her throat makes a strangled gasp.
“It’s not as scary as you think,” Fletcher rushes to assure her. “My ability is to copy other people’s emph by touching them. This is just a mark on my palm. Nothing inside. Touch it.”
She sits up and prods the green crest. Nothing happens. She doesn’t feel anything under his skin. It’s just a normal hand with a magical tattoo.
Her shoulders relax as she releases a breath.
“I’m thinking of copying your emph to find out what your hidden ability is. May I?” he asks.
“Let’s see what you can do,” Fletcher says and presses his palm to her cracked purple crest.
Immediately, he jerks. His eyes widen, then dim and fall shut as he collapses on his back. The shield rolls away from his lax hand.
She shakes his shoulders, but his head only lolls at her efforts. She presses her fingers to his neck, looking for his pulse point. She finds it, slow but strong against her fingertips.
He’s alive. Good. He’s also unconscious. Not good. She needs to call for help. She doesn’t have a phone. Does Fletcher have a phone? Wait. Most hunters use their emphs as their phone. If she remembers right, Fletcher might be one of those hunters who don’t have a phone. She should try to use his emph to call for help?
Her hand overs over his right palm.
Fletcher is unconscious because he tried to use his ability on her cracked crest. Is it safe for her to use his emph now? What if it ends up knocking her out too? She should try and find a phone.
She jumps to her feet and starts for the door.
But she doesn’t remember seeing a phone in the guild hall. Does Shatterstrike have a phone?
She steps towards Fletcher.
Neighbours. The neighbours might have a phone. Or know how to contact the others.
She turns to the door.
But she’ll have to leave Fletcher out here alone. That’s not safe.
She sways, back and forth between Fletcher and the back door, caught between too many choices and concerns.
She’ll bring him into the house first, she finally decides. The living room sofa would be safer than out here. She’ll decide what her next step will be after that.
She burrows her arms beneath his back and heave Fletcher upright against herself. She shifts so that her back is to him and drape his arms over her shoulders.
It takes her four tries to roll them both over so that he is on her back and she can rise to her feet. But her hair catches on something, and it pulls her off balance. She lurches to the side and both of them crash back to the ground.
She takes a few moments to catch her breath.
Bringing Fletcher into the guild hall might not be an option after all.
New plan. She’s going to look for some neighbours.
She goes around from the back of the guild hall, keeping the unconscious Fletcher in her sight as much as possible while she scans the street for anyone who can help her, but she can’t find a single soul. She knows that the guild hall is set further out from the heart of the city, but how can the streets be empty in broad daylight?
Just as she is about to turn back to Fletcher, she spots a movement out the corner of her eye.
She charges at the man before he can get away.
The man startles, but doesn’t run away. Good. Saves her the trouble of chasing him down.
“My friend collapsed in our backyard. Do you have a phone?” she asks.
“I do,” the man says and pulls out his phone. She starts to reach for it, then remembers Fletcher, who is still alone in the backyard.
“Come with me.”
She turns and heads back around the guild hall, checking over her shoulder from time to time to make sure the stranger hasn’t run away.
Fletcher is still unconscious on the ground when she returns. She immediately drops to her knees by Fletcher’s side and presses her fingers against his neck. It thumps reassuringly against her fingers.
She turns to the man, who already has his phone out and hands it to her. She takes the phone.
She doesn’t know what Julia’s number is. She doesn’t know anyone’s number. Who can she call?
She stares helplessly down at the phone.
“What’s wrong?” the man asks.
“I don’t know anyone’s number,” she says.
“You can contact your guild leader with your emphatic weapon,” the man says.
“My emphatic weapon is damaged,” she says and waves a hand at the fallen shield. “And I’m not from this guild. But Fletcher is.”
“What guild are you from? Or your friend. I can find a number from the guild directory.”
“Fletcher is from Shatterstrike.”
The man gestures for his phone. She returns it to him and watches him make a search on his phone.
She should know things like this too, but she doesn’t. This time, she managed to find a stranger who can help, but next time, the gaps in her memory could get her in trouble. But she doesn’t know what she doesn’t know until she needs to know.
A song calls from inside the guild hall. She exchanges looks with the man, who has his phone pressed to his ear. She rises to her feet and follows the sound to the phone at their entrance hall. She picks it up from its cradle and taps the glowing icon (this she remembers), then she lifts it to her ear.
“Ah. It’s me. So it is the landline for Shatterstrike after all,” she hears the stranger on the other side of the phone.
“Yeah. I’m putting it back.”
She sets the phone back on the cradle and heads back out to the backyard. Fletcher still lies unconscious on the ground, though he has been shifted while she was gone to lay on his side.
“Was that the only number?” she asks.
“Yes for Shatterstrike. It makes sense. You don’t want your phone to ring when you’re hunting,” the stranger says.
It makes sense, but it also means that they can’t contact the other guild members.
“What about your guild?” the stranger asks.
“I don’t remember my guild,” she says.
She digs her finger into her hair as she paces. This isn’t a normal injury. This is an emph-related injury. Are hospitals equipped for emph-related injuries? She can’t remember. Or maybe she wasn’t injured much in the past and didn’t need to.”
“I’ll call the guild committee. They can send someone over to see what’s wrong with him,” the man suggests.
“There’s no need to call anyone.”
She looks up to see the best sight she has ever seen. Shatterstrike approaches them, Corvus in the lead.
“We’ll take it from here.”
~End Chapter 14~
Continue the story in Chapter 15.
Chapter word count: 1911
Total word count: 23458