He shook the image from his head which was becoming increasingly lighter each passing second he traversed the smoke-filled atmosphere. Fiearius didn’t know what he was looking for exactly. Gordon? Garbin? In retrospect, he thought, as he vaulted over a burning support that had fallen in his path, he should have asked for a few more clues for where to look. Fortunately, it turned out he didn’t need them.
Suddenly, he became aware of a noise amidst the crackle of flame, the creaking of wood and his own footsteps. It was barely audible, but distinctly human.
Fiearius froze at once, losing at least one of the noises to try and hone in on the new one. He peered through the thick clouds of smoke, holding his arm over his mouth and blinking back the water that was filling his red eyes. His head turned one way. Then the other. He could still hear the cries, drowned out as they were, but he couldn’t see their source. He couldn’t see anything.
And then, by some cruel miracle, another wall came down.
Fiearius braced himself as the shockwave of dust and debris came roaring at him, but in the instants that followed, a cold gust of wind from outside blew in through the gaping hole, clearing the air. Just for a moment. But a moment was all he needed.
“Hang on!” he shouted to the figured huddled in a ball in the crumbling hallway as he bolted towards him. The young man seemed fine, just paralyzed in fear, until Fiearius got close enough to see what the problem was. A support had fallen on his arm, pinning him to the ground with its weight.
“Thank God!” the man cried when he saw Fiearius hovering over him. “I was trying to get out when–”
“Save your breath, kid,” Fiearius warned him as he eyed his obstacle. He didn’t have much time. This room was likely to come down any minute, with two more stories of apartments on top of it.
“Alright, count of three then you make a run straight out that opening,” Fiearius ordered, pointing to the most recent hole in the building. It was blocked by a pile of debris, but the flames there had died down in the cool air. It could be scaled. The young man nodded in obedience and Fiearius readied himself. “One. Two. Three!”
Fiearius seized the pillar which seared his palms immediately and yanked it with all of his strength. The boy’s arm pulled free and in a flash he was on his feet and tumbling towards the exit.
Fiearius dropped the pillar with a thump on the blackened ground and, ignoring the pain burning his hands, turned to the way out himself.
But then it happened: just as he staggered the first steps toward freedom, a tremendous crash overhead made Fiearius jump sideways for the floor, throwing his arms over his head as debris and wooden beams rained down on him. The crash seemed endless, like a freight train, and dust filled his nostrils and eyes and mouth.
He could feel searing painful cuts on his back and neck, and something hard was digging into his leg, but he seemed alright enough. At last the crashing settled. Dust swirled in the air like fog. Surely it was over.
But then, he tried to push himself up, and a yell of pain ripped through his throat. He chanced a look over his shoulder and saw more wooden beams that weighed like a mountain of concrete on his back and legs.
Well, fuck, he thought. He was trapped.
Gritting his teeth, tasting blood in his mouth, he tried again and found his arms shaking with effort. He sucked in a gasp of breath, but it was full of dust and smoke and made him choke. What now? Unfortunately, as was so often the case lately, when his life was seeming to come to its long-delayed close, his mind went to the most unhelpful place of all: what would the headlines say? ‘Rogue Verdant crushed to death while saving helpless in burning building’?
Better than last week’s ‘Admiral Soliveré gets shot in the back of the head by a Society intern because he forgot to close a door’.
Just as he was shaking the thoughts from his head and trying instead to focus on a way out of this, a noise reached his ears. Heavy footsteps, coming his way. Someone was kicking aside the debris. The weight on his back became lighter and lighter until finally, Fiearius was able to turn his head and see his savior. Ready and willing to scold Leta for coming after him, he squinted through the smoke and saw, with a bolt of shock, it wasn’t Leta, but the lumbering figure of Dez shoving the debris off his legs.
“Come on,” he heard Dez shour through the roar of flames. “This place is coming down, we need to move.” He held out his hand and Fiearius, feeling confused but willing to live another day suddenly, seized it and pulled himself to his feet. Stumbling slightly, he followed Dez through the smoky din. He, at least, seemed to know where he was going.
“Not that I’m complaining,” Fiearus coughed, “but showing up at the last minute is getting to be a bit of a habit for you, huh?”
Pushing aside fallen beams, stepping over spurts of flames, they finally found clean, fresh air. They stumbled over a collapsed outer wall and out in the grass, twenty feet away from the building, Fiearius sank to a crouch. He could feel blood running down his neck and soot coating his face as he gasped for breath that wasn’t laden with burnt remains.
Dez stood over him. “Are you alright?”
“Been better,” Fiearius growled, his voice hoarse. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“Tracking Varisian,” Dez answered.
Fiearius looked up at him, a frown crossing his face. If Dez knew Ophelia was coming here… “Coulda warned me, y’know…”
Dez lifted one arm in a half shrug. “She was headed to the middle of nowhere and you’re supposed to be on Vescent. How was I supposed to know you needed warning?”
Fiearius could barely think, his mind was a fog. But then it hit him: why he wasn’t on Vescent. He’d come to get information from Ren. Information about the Councillors. Which was part of a plan to kill the Councillors. Which Dez couldn’t know about.
“You gotta get outta here.”
It wasn’t so much a matter of trust that made the idea of Dez knowing his plans so unappealing. Over the years, Fiearius had somehow ended up recultivating a lot of the trust that had once been lost between them. There was still bad blood, that would never go away, but he knew by now that Dez’s intentions, at the very least, were in line with his own. No, this wasn’t a matter of trust, it was a matter of — though it killed Fiearius to recognize it –politics.
If Dez knew that Fiearius was intending to personally assassinate the very heads of the Society, he would want a part of it. And why wouldn’t he? His hatred was just as strong and as far as assassinations went, none were so successful as those that both Fiearius and Desophyles had embarked on together. Fiearius would actually be glad for the help, in truth. But it wasn’t going to happen. It couldn’t happen. Leta was right. Carthis, and thus much of the span, saw Desophyles Cordova as a terrorist. Fiearius couldn’t risk what would happen when some upstart reporter got a shot of the two of them together standing over the dead body of their enemy.