The music coming from the gates of the compound was surprisingly loud given the size of the speaker Angus had taken with him. It could be heard clearly from the roof the team was perched on. It was a song that none of them had ever heard before and as they listened, they decided it was actually quite silly. It did have the intended effect though, the daemons were all swarming toward the noise. As of yet, none of them had attacked the speaker, so the tune continued.
From where they were standing, they could see all manner of creatures heading in the direction of the gate. There were several types of large cats, a few varieties of dogs and even a bear and a raccoon. They were all oversized compared to their non-daemonic counterparts, but that was normal.
The music had been playing for only a minute or so and already there had to be fifteen or twenty daemons circling the weird object emitting noises they didn’t understand. Along the edge, there seemed to be a fight starting between a puma and a wolf. Lethen wondered exactly how the Russians were going to get them all back into their cages, and how many they would lose from them killing each other, but they’d gotten them into the cages in the first place, so they must have their methods. It likely had something to do with the nets and prods they’d seen in Selenduma.
The thought of the town to the south made him wonder whether the families down there had made it to safety. Their plan to leave town was for the best, but Gregor had told them that Nestor had sent men down there to investigate his claims. It was a good sign that they hadn’t been heard from again, but who knew what that meant for the populace.
He shook his head to clear the thoughts. They would find out soon enough and he needed to focus on the here and now.
“Hey, are you guys almost ready to go?” Angus called up, his voice coming from the fenced in yard that abutted the temple grounds. “As much as I’d love to watch the explosion and see the daemons swarm their former masters, we should probably get out of here before the beasts decide that the speaker over there is food. If they kill the music, they’re not likely to stay over there for much longer. We need to be out of here before that happens.”
“I’ll go get Gregor.” Marnie told the sensei before heading back inside for their new friend.
Lethen looked over at the daemons that were still inside the wall surrounding the datsun. Although the noise had drawn them toward it, without something visible to chase, they kept a respectful distance from the wall. It seemed that the monk truly did know what he was talking about.
Marnie returned quickly with both the monk and Gregor. The latter seemed very concerned about the height. He looked down at Angus and turned away from the ledge. He was still weak from being tortured. A few words passed between him and the monk.
“He doesn’t think he can get down from here,” the holy man said. “He has a problem with heights and can’t jump that far. You may have been trained for things like this, but he hasn’t. He says that he will stay here and make it home later.”
Angus shook his head. “If we leave him here and they find him, they will kill him. Plus, I promised his wife I would bring him home. We can get him down without him having to jump it.” He turned to his team. “Lethen, get a rope from one of the packs and tie it off up there somewhere. Throw the other end to me.”
Lethen did as he was told and got one end securely fastened to the edge of the lower of the tiered roofs above. Once the loose end was in Angus’s hands, he stepped back several places and pulled it taught. After a few test tugs, he decided it was secure enough.
“Now,” the sensei said, “you will all use it as a zip line. Prolier will go first and show Gregor how it’s done. Then our friend will follow with the rest of the team behind him. One at a time please and I want Angel down last. He will watch the area around us and let us know if anything screwy is happening. Let’s move.”
Prolier handed Gregor a belt and showed him to slide down the rope using it. Prolier made it look easy, but the Russian didn’t seem convinced. He spoke again to the monk, who was acting as translator.
“He still doesn’t think he can do it. He really thinks he’d be better off just hiding out here.”
“Tell him to get on the rope and make it quick. The music has already lasted longer than I thought it would. I expected the first daemon who got there to attack it. They must be pretty confused by it, but all it takes is one to get bold and there will no longer be anything holding them there. We go now.”
The monk talked to Gregor who obviously recognized the tone of Angus’s voice, even though the words themselves were alien to him. He shuffled forward and put the belt around the rope as Prolier had shown him. As he stepped up the ledge, he was visibly shaking. The monk said something in Russian and Gregor nodded before stepping off the side and flying down the rope.
Renala looked at the monk. “What did you tell him?”
“I told him it would be okay and to hold on like his life depended on it, because it probably does.”
Next was Renala’s turn and she found that she couldn’t reach the rope. Luckily all she had to do was swing her belt over and catch the other end, so she was sliding down to the others before long. After her was Marnie. Just before Lethen started his descent, the music stopped suddenly. He turned to look at Angel for answers.
“The raccoon finally got bold enough to investigate,” the sniper said. “It looks like he picked it up and took a big bite. He jumped back about five feet when he did though, I’m guessing he just discovered that the speaker gives the same kind of jolt that the fences around their pens do. None of the others have dared go near it.”
“C’mon guys,” Angus called. “It won’t take them long to lose interest in it now that it’s silent. We need to keep this thing moving. We should already be behind the wall where the trains are stored.”
Lethen turned back and hopped off the ledge, skimming his way quickly to where the others waited. Angel was only a few seconds behind him.
“Do you want your rope?” The monk called down. “It seems like a good quality one.”
“If you have a need for it, keep it.” Angus replied. We each carry a similar one and we’re done here. Thank you for all your help. Maybe one day we’ll come back and visit.”
“If you do, please make it as visitors and not invaders. If Gregor hadn’t been with you and injured, I likely wouldn’t have allowed you entry, but you did help to clear the people from the streets. Perhaps we can get through this without any casualties.”
Angus smiled and started walking away. “At least not any civilian ones anyway,” he muttered to the group as they walked to the other side of the yard and began hopping over.
Once they were out in the open Angel came up beside the sensei. “I think your plan will work as well as you’d hoped. It took a few minutes, but eventually to people inside the compound started coming out to see if they could figure out where the noise was coming from. Probably twenty of them were milling about in the courtyard before I came down. They seemed just as confused as the daemons about the source of the music.”
“Good, the more of them that are in the open when that door blows, the quicker the daemons will swarm through and make a meal out of those ass holes. I don’t feel bad for any of them.”
Renala slowed down a bit after hearing that, but soon got over her aversion and kept moving. She may have felt bad about what Angus was doing to the Russians, but she knew that survival trumped remorse. The music was no longer going and the daemons would soon find somewhere else to play.
The wall around the train yard loomed before them. It would be their hiding place until they heard the boom, which Angus assured them would be soon, but he no longer had his watch so he couldn’t be sure exactly when. They found the gate, but it was chained closed, not that something like a chain would prove a huge obstacle for people equipped with daemon weapons. Prolier dug with claw into the links and twisted until they snapped off with a metallic clang.
They rushed inside, closing the gate behind them.
They sat with their backs to the gate, making sure nothing could creep in behind them. They had no way of knowing how long the pack of daemons would lurk in front of the compound and Angus doubted that Angel would be able to see. Despite the power of his scope, there were just too many obstacles in the way. They would have to sit and hope that when the bomb went off, they would be safe to run to the boats.
That was something else that was bothering Angus. The monk had told them about small fishing boats just to their east, but how small were they? There were seven of them and a little canoe wasn’t gonna cut it. They would need something that could seat all of them as standing in a little boat was never a good idea unless they all wanted to end up in the water. If the wind that was whipping them on their run to the train yard was anything to go by, he’d bet the water was very cold. If they fell in, they were unlikely to make it back onto dry land. The only reason Angel and Lethen had made it when they went into the river was because they got them out quickly and got them dry. If something happened in the middle of the lake, they would be boned.
“Sensei,” Renala whispered, “you might want to see this.”
Angus looked at his student and saw her hand pointing up to the roof of one of the nearby trains. As he followed the line of her arm he saw something that made his pulse quicken. There was a massive snowy owl perched on the edge, staring at them.
“That’s the biggest owl I’ve ever seen.” She said. “I know that it’s colder up here so their plumage has to be thicker, but I didn’t know owls even got that big. It’s gotta be almost as tall as me.”
Angus knew why she’d never seen an owl that big. “Normal owls don’t get that big. It seems that our Russian friends have branched out and are now breeding avian daemons too. We can only hope that it sees us as too big to consider prey. I’ve fought wild daemons a few times in the past, but never one that could fly.”
Suddenly, the explosion they had all been waiting for shattered the quiet.
The team opened the gate and raced east, toward the water. As they neared the small dock they could hear shouts and screams coming from behind them. Luckily there was a boat of suitable size resting at the edge of the pier. As they boarded, Angus looked back toward the town and noticed something in the air. The owl was following them.
* * * * *