A/N: Short, I know. Sorry. Back in school and crazy busy. Thanks for reading. I disown and all and everything. Reviews and love.
Glimmer, one hand buried in the shoulder of Katniss' robe, studied the crowds, then abruptly lunged into them, dragging Katniss behind her.
Incoherently furious, Katniss cried her objections and beat at Glimmer's hand and arm, but Glimmer ignored her struggle as best she could, and dragged Katniss deeper and deeper into the press.
She prayed to whichever gods that were listening that the Trojan swordsmen would soon put a stop to the slaughter. Glimmer also wondered for the gods sake where was Peeta? Where Cato had gone to? And when would they return?
Because when she closed her eyes she saw something that made her retch.
She knew they did it; she saw them somewhere dark and misted and leading the death into the streets.
So she dove deeper into the crowd. Intent on the gate and the ships.
Peeta worked quickly and methodically, the sounds of the chaos outside sifting through the guardhouse and down to its sub-chamber. Cato watched a shadow, a swirling cloud of black smog, but thinner than that, but more than a shadow follow after Peeta. He groaned aloud, then turned his face aside once more, a hand over his eyes, wishing he'd not been so foolhardy to look at what he knew would be there.
A destructive trap, indeed.
"Courage, Cato," Peeta muttered as, finally, his back aching with having to walk doubled over, he reached the foot of the steps. He painted the pitch up to the foot of the first step, then stood up, wincing as he straightened his back. "We must get out of here," he said. "Now!"
Together, they climbed. Both shouted at the single warrior remaining in the guardhouse to flee, then they burst into the street. And instantly stopped, unable to move for the press of the crowds that fought to pass through the narrow gate opening in the walls.
"Gods!" Cato muttered. "I had not thought it would get this injurious!"
Peeta didn't even bother to reply. He placed one hand on Cato's shoulder, then gave a great heave, pushing him along the wall of the guardhouse and away from its door. With his other hand, Peeta grabbed at the warrior who'd followed them out, pulling him to safety as well.
There had not been an instant to spare. Blackness seethed out the doorway and instantly poured upward, as if seeking the light. It combined with the smoke of the fires, acting upon it as would cold water poured on red-hot metal. There was a crack, followed almost immediately by a hissing and spitting so violent that the crowds forgot their desperate need to push and shove, and instead crouched down, hands over their heads.
Then, stunningly, the blackness and smoke overhead disappeared, leaving nothing but uncorrupted blue sky above them. There was a stillness as, for a time, no one dared to move, then, from far away, came a faint shout. "The fires have gone out! The fires have gone out!"
Cato, lowering his hands from his head, looked at Peeta, and frowned.
"There is great danger," said Peeta, standing. "We must get our people out. Now! There is no time to waste." He shouldered his way into the now rising and murmuring people in the streets. "Trojans, hear me," he shouted, his voice carrying far back into the city. "This city is doomed. Run, run, run for the bay and the ships!"
There was another long, still moment, then a sudden surge of movement as people once again grabbed at the hands of children, and at the baskets and packs tied to their backs, and hurried toward the gate.
"Quick, but calm," Peeta shouted, and amazingly, people seemed to heed him, for there was no more pushing and shoving, nor was there undue panic, although faces were tight with anxiety. "Quick, but calm. If we hurry we will be safe, we will be safe!" And the Trojans, composed but hurried, poured in an ever-increasing stream through the gates of the city and ran down the road toward the beach.
Peeta strode into the street, moving several paces away from Cato, shouting encouragement and urging people ever forward. Cato was about to follow him, when he stopped, stunned. While people were now more relaxed, and moving quickly and far more efficiently through the streets toward the gate than they had previously been, not all people were moving.
Stranded here and there were still islands of people, sometimes composed of a single person, sometimes of a group of three or four or more. About them parted and flowed the stream of Trojans on their way to the gates and escape.
"Who…?" Cato murmured, then stopped, knowing the answer.
This I do for all Trojans, but I leave the Dorians — and all kin who ally with them — to their fate, Peeta had said as he murdered (once again) his father, and now Cato knew what it meant. The Trojans were free to go, free of the trap that Peeta had released to settle on Mesopotamia, but the Dorians, and presumably the swordsmen that Katniss had hired to kill the Trojans (kin allied with the Dorians), seemed as if they were stuck, their feet mired into the street paving. Their faces were frantic, wreathed in horror, yet their gaping mouths gave forth no sound.
"Cato!" Peeta shouted. "I could use your aid!"
And Cato blinked, gathered himself, and pushed into the flowing throng to help as best he could.
Glimmer yanked Katniss along as fast as possible, but the bitch was proving more than difficult. For every pace Glimmer managed to force her down the street toward the gates, she dragged Glimmer several paces sideways.
She kept calling out for her sister, her voice frantic, and nothing Glimmer could do would deflect her from her purpose. "Stupid girl!" Glimmer shouted at her. "Can you not see you will die if you linger? Your sister, wheresoever she be, is doomed, along with all your kin! Look! Look! See their feet sink deeper into the stone?"
Glimmer was not sure what kind of magic Peeta had worked, but it was proving cruelly effective. All about him Dorians swayed in hopeless efforts to free their feet from the stone paving that held them fast. She even saw one man, one of Katniss' hired swords by the look of him, so desperate that he held his sword up high, then swung it down in a frightful arc, cutting through both his legs at the ankles. He roared in agony, falling over and dropping his sword, but almost immediately tried to struggle forward, dragging himself by his hands. His efforts were useless. As soon as he had fallen over, his hip had sunk into the stone paving, and he was stuck as fast as previously. The man's roar turned into a horrific, high-pitched squeal as he struggled desperately against the grip of the stone, his lower legs spraying blood over whoever came within three paces of him.
As Glimmer watched the spray of crimson, one hand still buried in the shoulder of Katniss' gown, the man thankfully fell senseless to the ground, and Trojans, seeking whichever was the quickest way forward, stepped uncaring over him.
Then a man cried out, and pointed, and Glimmer jerked her eyes in the direction the man had indicated. To the right, and perhaps some eight or nine paces before Glimmer, stood the wall of a substantial house. It rose windowless and smooth some twelve paces into the air. Yet now its smoothness had been adulterated, for cracks spread from the ground upward, like fast-flowing rivulets of water. The cracks were as wide as the palm of a man's hand, and they were filled with gray, as if all the smoke that had disappeared from the sky had been drawn into their depths.
There were several more shouts, and Glimmer jerked her gaze about. Cracks were spreading up every wall she could see. The city was disintegrating. To her left, Katniss gave another lurch, trying to escape her, still crying for her sister. "Curse you, Katniss!" Glimmer cried out, her fear and frustration combining into a fury that gave her enough strength to pull the struggling body close and to deliver her a stinging slap across her cheek.
"Do you see your sword friends there, mired in the stone? Do you see your fellow Dorians, dying in the streets? Do you understand, can you understand, that their deaths are on your conscience? Can you? If you had let all be, if you had merely allowed my people to walk out those gates and sail away, none of this would have been necessary! You are death incarnate, Katniss. Hades' daughter indeed."
Katniss reeled away from Glimmer, and would have fallen save that the seer still had tight hold of her gown. One of her hands raised to her reddened cheek, then struck out at Glimmer. The seer merely ripped her to the side and the blow missed. "Come!" Glimmer said, and pulled Katniss forward at a stumbling and, thankfully for the moment, unresisting trot down the street.
Every few paces they had to dodge another Dorian man or woman or even, horribly, a child, mired in the stone. Without exception the trapped Dorians twisted and turned, tried frantically to escape, their faces ravaged with despair, their hands held out for aid from those streaming past them.
None helped them.
Every so often Glimmer glanced at Katniss, and saw that her face was white (save for that cheek), and her eyes wide and appalled at the scene about her. Glimmer hoped she felt some measure of guilt.
They managed to travel relatively unimpeded through the city to a point only some hundred paces from the gates. Around them the buildings were crisscrossed with wide cracks that seethed with gray; the buildings groaned, and some of them trembled, as if they knew their doom was upon them.
Glimmer, although still anxious, was beginning to foster some small hope that she and Katniss, and all other Trojans about them, were close to escape when, suddenly, Katniss once more lunged to the side, managing to finally pull herself from Glimmer's grasp.
Cursing, she managed to push through the crowds of escaping Trojans about them to see Katniss wrapping her arms around the figure of a small girl, who she knew was Primrose. The sister was standing by what at first Glimmer thought was a statue attached to one of the buildings. Then she realized Primrose's hands were twisted in her hair, and she was screaming, and that the statue was no statue at all, but Pandrasus, their father and king, more than half fused into the wall of a building.
Katniss was crying out in angry and fear and desperation, moving to claw at the cement around her sister's ankles. Primrose was ignorant, and reached for her father. Just before Katniss touched either, Glimmer lunged forward and grabbed the end of her braid, managing to pull her back from both.
"You witless girl!" Glimmer cried. "Touch them and you risk being dragged into that cement as well!"
Pandrasus, his eyes wide and staring, was straining one of his arms toward his daughter, Primrose, who had begun writhing and sobbing, on her knees, tearing at the ground that encased her legs, but his arm was caught fast from elbow to shoulder, and all Pandrasus could do was waggle his hand helplessly at his daughter. He tried to speak, but all that issued from his mouth was a moan…
…and dust, as if the mortar from the wall embedded in his back had been forced out his throat in his desperate efforts to speak. "He is dead. She is soon. Leave them," Glimmer said.
"Prim!" Katniss surged forward, reaching out to the girl again, and Glimmer had to wrap both his arms tightly about her and physically wrench her away.
She swiveled her eyes in the direction of the shout and felt a surge of relief. Peeta and Cato were pushing through the crowd toward them. "I can't get her away from her family!" Glimmer said as the two men reached her.
Both Peeta and Cato stared at Pandrasus, still straining hopelessly toward his daughter, then at Katniss fighting tooth and nail in Glimmer's arms, who gave no sign that she realized her husband was at her side.
Cato's gaze went from father to daughter to sister. "How is it she can still walk?" Cato said, indicating to Katniss, and he wrapped a fist around her arm, helping Glimmer keep the thrashing young woman still.
"Her child is Trojan," Peeta said, "and her legs are needed to carry it from this tomb. That is all that has saved her. Glimmer, give her to Cato and myself. We can drag her away, and you look exhausted."
Glimmer exhaled gratefully as Peeta moved to take Katniss from her. But Katniss struggled, worse, and she struck out a hand that cracked against Peeta's face. The man did not flinch, or blink, and Katniss' grip fell to his shoulders and shook him and curled her nails tight in his skin. Her face was a mask of anguish and outrage and fever. "Free her! Free her! Or I do not go! Your son and I die here with Primrose, or you free her!"
Peeta face was emotionless. "I can not."
"Yes! You can! You must!" Primrose was sobbing then, and the sound seemed to cause Katniss physical pain, her chest heaving. Katniss turned away from Peeta, taking two steps toward the sinking blonde girl, and whipped back around, tear-stained cheeks flaming. "Do this. Do this for me, Peeta. The.." her eyes rolled slightly, in her frustration, her conflict and she was at him again, leaping over the distant and grasping him around the shoulders, pushing him slightly. "Peeta! The kind one, the one who visits me some nights, can't you hear me? Do this for me. That Peeta. Not this brute!"
Glimmer and Cato shared uncertain glances and Peeta shoved his wife off of him.
"She has lost her wits," he spat. "Cato, take her to the ship. I already cannot stand the sight of her." Peeta turned abruptly and began to walk away, Glimmer moving reluctantly after.
Cato grasped Katniss' elbow when she lurched after the Trojan king. She sank instead, to the ground, shouting at his back, "You useless coward! You murdering goat of a man! Curse you! Damn you in the sights of every god who can hear the shrieks of my people!" Her chest began to shake with slow and strong sobs. "I will hate you forever!"
And he stilled, his stiff back to them.
Glimmer took a glance at his face and felt pity for Katniss; the anger she saw there frightened even her.
In an attempt to soothe Peeta, Glimmer laid a hand on his arm, but recoiled when he swiveled around.
Peeta marched back toward Cato and Katniss, his face raved. Katniss did not recoil. She rose higher on her knees, gray eyes on fire, waiting for the blow and waiting to grasp the knife shining at her from Cato's nearby boot.
But the blows never came.
Peeta shoved right passed the two, reached Primrose, grasped her under an arm and pulled her from the pavement in one fluid movement, as though the solid surface was nothing more than water. He dragged the princess ungraciously toward Katniss and threw the girl into the young woman's chest. They fell over on each other; but it did not matter, because they clung to each other and Katniss kissed every piece of Prim's sweet face.
"Follow," Peeta snarled at every gawking one of them.
Katniss flung her eyes up to meet his gaze and hardened at the sight of the pits of black fire that were his. Tightening her hold on Primrose, fingers curling into the grimy dress, both aided each other to their feet. Prim leaned heavily into her sister and Katniss did not mind the extra weight.
Slowly, they followed.