A/N: This post is in connection with Project Pull; for more info, see my profile.
Thanks to my lovely reviewers; Messy Ink, Mbali97, Angelmail and k8yx- especially k8yx, for taking the time to review several chapters at once :) Thanks, guys!
Chapter 35- Fire
A small twinge of pain, and then… nothingness. The silvery astral thread that held the universal and her companion together gradually began to slacken and unravel at the base. Raincolt's ears twitched, and the soft white hairs of his coat stiffened almost simultaneously. He didn't need any clearer signal than that- his companion was in danger, and her condition was worsening with every passing minute. He didn't have a moment to lose.
With a sharp, well-placed kick of his hind legs, the rusty bolt on the door behind him loosened. A second kick unlocked it completely. A few pegasi and unicorns in the surrounding stalls lifted their heads curiously at the sound, but retreated to the far corner of their stall after Raincolt sent out a mental warning, the urgent thought piercing through any other wisps of conversation like a dagger through silk.
Stand back. With a final kick, the well-worn wooden door splintered along the hinges, and fell from the door frame. Its descent was muffled slightly by the cushion of dried straw scattered across the floor, but the anticipated crash was still startling. One of the braver pegasus foals slipped out through a loose board in its stall to examine the proceedings. Raincolt barely spared it a passing glance as he galloped out of the stable, leaving the other equines eyeing the remainder of the door in bewilderment.
The unicorn relied on instinct rather than senses as he followed the loosened thread that tied him to Aisling, as blind as Theseus in the labyrinth other than the overwhelming need to find his companion. He hesitated, but only momentarily, as he reached the outskirts of Hescombe; he could tell that she wasn't far away. He really didn't care who saw him, as long as his companion was all right.
Smoke continued to billow from the windows of the Cony's house, but it had slowed to a lazier pace, reminiscent of a chimney in the countryside on a cold winter evening. The front door didn't put up any resistance; charred completely black, it crumbled at the slightest touch. Raincolt desperately hoped that he was not already too late; the house looked like it had been hit by a bomb.
'Aisling?' he called. 'Companion, where are you?' He felt out for her presence; a faint, almost indiscernible line was coming from the direction of the kitchen. It would be safe to communicate at such a distance, without posing a harm to her in her weakened state.
'Companion, where are you?' he repeated, a tone of panic beginning to show through his thoughts. A different mental voice greeted him than the one that he had been expecting; a smooth, flowing tone which poured into his mind.
"She's in here. Hurry; I can't hold them off much longer." Flames were already licking the edges of the corridor. Raincolt had no choice but to follow the instructions of the voice, regardless of the fact that it was possibly a trap. The kitchen door was already ajar, so he pushed it open with his nose cautiously. He could feel the heat of the fire emanating from the room. It seemed almost impossible that anything could survive in there.
The sight that met him was infinitely better than what he had dreaded, but his companion was still in no condition to exit the house on her own. Several gashes and cuts marred her face and neck, and the material of her jumper had been singed off completely; a nasty burn was visible through the remaining shreds of the sleeves.
It was only due to the fact that one of the pipes had burst from being exposed to the pressure of the flames that Aisling was otherwise unharmed. She lay in a puddle of water, surrounded by flames which the water sprite sitting by her side would not allow to touch her.
'Take her; quickly. I'll make sure that they won't harm you." With a start, Raincolt realized that the water sprite was using Aisling as a medium with which to communicate with him. She was still conscious- but only barely.
"Aisling. Wake up." He nudged her gently, trying to ignore the fire-imps flickering around them menacingly. He wouldn't be able to put her on his back by himself, and the water sprite, due to her translucency, would be no use in assisting her. He touched his horn to her forehead, and sent a temporary jolt of energy through her.
Aisling's eyes opened immediately, the dazed look in them quickly replaced with panic.
"Where's Nick?" she asked, looking around the kitchen wildly. "We need to go get help." Her voice was already beginning to soften, and she struggled to keep her eyelids open.
'We'll worry about him later,' Raincolt stated bluntly. 'We need to get you out of here first.'
Aisling scrambled onto his back clumsily, twisting her fingers in his mane to keep herself awake. The unicorn inclined his head to the water sprite in thanks, before bolting from the ruins of the house. It was not a moment too soon; seconds after they had passed through the doorway, the framework collapsed in on itself, blocking off the corridor. The water sprite sank into a grate and disappeared, leaving the fire imps hissing and crackling in fury behind them.
Once they were a safe distance from the village border, Raincolt slowed and stopped to allow Aisling to dismount. She slid from his back listlessly and sank into the soft heather that dotted the grounds of the moors, and Raincolt touched his horn to the cuts, bruises and burns that marred her skin until they had faded almost completely. She struggled to stand up, using her companion as support.
"Is there anybody still at the Masterson's?" she asked, urgency placing a staccato emphasis on each word.
'Yes, I believe so. They'll want to hear about the house. I wouldn't be surprised if it's part of the chain of arson that Kulevro was involved in a few weeks ago.'
"That's just the thing, Raincolt," Aisling whispered. "Kulevro was involved. And he's got Nick."