The Second Sun Part 2
Chapter 14: The Potato Has Teeth
Location: The Governor's Fortress
Date: September 7, 197 A.S.
I'm in a bathroom. It's rather dim: there are four bulbs above the mirror, but only one of them works. I'm sitting on the seat of a toilet. Three other people are "with" me, I can sense them, but looking around, the bathroom is empty. But I can hear them laughing. Wicked, cruel laughter. Finally it ceases, and I wake up.
Now I'm walking up a set of stairs. Not the sort you find in dreams, the endless kind, but something you'd see in a middle-class house. There's a mirror on the side, and Freddy Kruger pops out. I jump back, falling down the stairs, then get up and push him back in. My father is at the top, so's the rest of my family. He tells me not to worry about imaginary killers. They have a real one being dealt with in the room on my side. So I walk to my bedroom and sit on the bed. My sister is near me, when the killer bursts in.
The killer is the boogieman. Weird: a purple skinned crazy looking person with a slit in his stomach where teeth show. No lips. It looks like it was drawn on. He goes after my sis but I hit him. He turns to me and says he wants to kill my fists. I kick him and now he says he wants to kill my feet. I hit him again...
Ugh... I'm dreaming surreal dreams about nightmares. That's the last time I get into a drinking contest with Val and GG. It's not good for me.
At that, I have a pounding headache. I'm grateful for the silence, mainly because any sound would feel like 21 cannon salute three inches from my head.
At least today's my free day. At least the Fortress has some running water. Which is good. Very good. Shower. Use the insanely strong soap they provide. I think it's made out of lye. Scrub a layer off my skin probably.
Get out. Dry off. God my hair's a mess. I need a brush. And a comb. I reach into the cabinet to find them. Not there. Guh. Where is it? Oh. On the ground. Reach down to get it. GAH! Knock it under the sink cabinet. Reach in and grab it.
"YOW!" Ow... my own shouts hurt! Something just bit me! Curse as I pull out the brush and my arm.
There is a potato on my hand. Why is there a potato on my hand? Pull it off. Crud, it's not budging. Screw my hair. I have to see Weilla about this.
Surprisingly sober now, I dress quickly and head out, making my way to the infirmary. Weiila would be there now. Too long for my tastes, considering how weird I look with a potato attached to my fingers.
Finally, I reach the infirmary. It's weird. It felt like it took an hour, even though the infirmary's like a five-minute walk from my room. I knock with my unbitten arm, and a man opens the door. "Oh hello."
I raise my eyebrow. "Uhm... hello. Who are you?"
I can hear Weiila shout behind the man. "Poke, let him in! Hey Wesley!"
Poke moves out of the way as I poke my head into the infirmary. "Weiila, I have a question to ask you."
Weiila stands up from the patient she was treating, turning to me. "Shoot."
"Do potatoes have teeth?"
She looks at me like I'm a loony. So does Poke. "Last time I checked, they had eyes. Why do you ask?"
I show her my hand. "The potato has teeth. And it's not letting go."
She blinks as she looks over the potato, pulling back the skin of my hand a bit. I wince in pain as she does so. "Wow. This one does have teeth."
I nod. "And I want it off. It's not letting go."
Poke leans in to look. "Maybe a new mutation?"
Weiila shrugs and stands up. "Oh, sorry, Wesley. I forgot to introduce you two. This is my brother Poke. Poke, this is my friend Wesley."
"I have to wonder what sort of parents you two had." Poke laughed, Weiila just rolled her eyes. "But pleased to meet you under the circumstances." I extend my free hand to Poke.
He shakes it. "Thanks. So... why is there a potato on your hand?"
"That's what I'd like to know. And I'd like to know why it's still there."
Weiila kneels to examine the bite again, carefully looking over the wound. "So, what were you doing when the potato bit you?"
"I was trying to get my brush. I knocked it under the sink. And it's what I pulled out. I tried pulling it off, but it just won't budge."
Weilla took hold of my arm firmly, looking over at her brother. "Poke, could you pull the potato off of his hand?"
"Sure." He looks like he's trying his best not to laugh. I'll give him that. And then he pulls on the potato with a very sharp tug.
"YEOOOW! WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!?!?!"
Weiila sighs as Poke nearly takes a chunk out of my hand. "Poke, don't pull on it, try opening it." Poke nods and grips both ends of the potato, pulling on each end as if he was breaking a stick.
We watch for five minutes as he keeps pulling. And pulling. And pulling. Finally he pants and lets go. "It's not getting off of him. Not without a grenade on it."
I look up at Poke. "As sure as I am of Weiila's ability to heal me, I don't think attaching a grenade to my hand is a very good idea."
Weiila nodded. "Neither do I." She frowns, standing up. "Well, the bite's pretty deep, but it's not bleeding. That's kind of strange. Maybe Wert can help us figure out what it is. Poke, he's probably in the cafeteria right now, could you go get him?"
Poke nodded. "I'm on it." He walks out of the infirmary. At least he holds his laughter until he thinks I'm out of earshot.
Man I'm tired. Outside of feeling sober, it's like I never slept at all. I close my eyes, just wishing I could go to sleep.
"Tired?" Weiila looks at me concerned.
"Better believe it."
She chuckled. "I told you not to spend all night with Val and GG, you know that, right?"
I nod. "Yeah, yeah. But I got plenty of sleep. I think. What time is it?"
She looks up at the clock. "Noon."
"I got nine hours sleep. Not too bad. I'm just...."
"Maybe. I dunno. I'm too tired to think, I have a headache, and I just want to go to sleep."
She nodded and puts a healing spell into me. Instantly I feel better. Hangover and tiredness gone. "Thanks hon."
Shortly afterwards, Poke comes in with Wert, GG, and Perc.
"A potato attacked you, Wes?" Wert looks close to laughter.
GG doesn't even bother. "You mean... this... is the guy that the Children are afraid of? Victim... of... a big... bad potato?" He could only manage it while he was breathless on the floor. Smartass.
Perc is the only one who looks concerned. "You say the potato attacked you while your hand was under the sink?"
Perc just paled. Something's up. "Weiila, could you keep him under observation and keep him healed?"
Weiila looked at Perc, puzzled. "Why?"
"That thing will kill him."
THAT shut everyone up. I just stared. "The potato's going to kill me?"
Perc looked at Wert. "Remember that trip I took to the Crater?"
Wert nodded, confused. "Sure. But why?"
"I've seen these things on the Glass Plains. They hide in dark places, waiting for something to step in to where they hide, and they latch on. I believe they feed on the life of what they bite. I've seen them wither large animals in the course of hours."
That didn't sound good. Poke just blinked. "Attack of the Killer Potatoes?" I nearly smacked him right then and there. Everyone just stared at him.
Wert stared at the potato. "So we kill it. Now."
Perc shook his head. "No. Killing it will kill the host. The only way to get rid of it before it kills him is to either let it get it's fill, where it'll drop naturally, or to pull it off."
GG bit his lip. "How hungry is it?"
Perc stared at the potato for a second. "Very hungry."
I looked down at the potato, motionless. "I guess it explains why I'm getting tired quickly."
Perc nodded. "Whatever you do, don't let Wesley fall asleep. If he falls asleep, he's dead."
Oh yay. I love sleeping. This is NOT what I need. GG spoke up. "Can you pull it off, Perc?"
He nodded. "I can try. I probably cannot though, these mutants are very strong." But he put his hands on the potato and started pulling.
Wow. I could feel the teeth pulling out a bit, and he only seemed to be straining a bit. It wasn't enough though so he started to put everything he had into it. It was impressive actually. He was seriously straining, almost as if he was putting more than his strength into it. I could feel the potato loosening...
Then he gasped and let go, panting. The teeth latched back on with a painful SNAP! "OW!!!!"
Perc was sweating pretty heavily, and almost gasping from the exertion. "No. I am not strong enough."
GG looked thoughtful. "We could cut off the hand."
I stared at him. "That's the hand I use to... uhm.. write with!"
Weiila blinked. "You're right-handed."
GG blinked and laughed. "I'm sure."
Just great. Just bloody great. Now I'm stuck with the leech from hell until it's finished eating, and I have no idea how long that is. I must have looked pissed, because Weiila just put her hand on my shoulder. "Don't worry, we won't let you die."
"If I die when I go to sleep, what's stopping me from passing out after a few days?"
"I think I might have another way, but it'll be until tomorrow. Is that alright?"
I nod. "Better than losing the hand I guess."
Perc looked thoughtful. "You might have to."
Great. Just great.
By now, word had spread that a potato that would eventually kill me had attacked me. Some people openly pointed and laughed. Jerks. Some felt pity for me, some comforted me. It was rather interesting to see someone's reactions.
Of course, after punching the seventh jackass to laugh at me, they stopped laughing. Openly at least.
I had Weiila and Darla with me at all times. Whenever I got tired, they healed me. Once I nearly nodded off, while Weiila had to take a break. When I slumped over, Darla woke me up with a spell and healed me pronto. It was weird. One moment I'd be pretty energetic, the next I wanted to sleep, the next I was energetic again.
It wasn't fun. I didn't like this roller coaster. Someone get me the hell off.
At least my friends were some help. A lot of help. Weilla flatly refused to let me leave the infirmary after about the tenth time I was drained.
So I got meals in bed. Which was nice. The circumstances weren't, but I got catered to. And hey, Weiila insisted on accompanying me to the bathroom. But maybe I just like showing off. Especially for Weiila.
So despite the potato, life was pretty good. Shame it had to happen on my free day. I was hoping to go out.
Darla went to bed at about midnight, so I got to spend the night relatively alone with Weiila. It was nice just talking to her all night, but it got considerably less enjoyable once it started getting very late, and we both started pretty much screaming for sleep. But we had to keep each other up.
Probably the weirdest thing that happened was when I was staring at the potato, listening to Weiila, when it opened a pair of red eyes at me. "Uh... Weiila?"
She looked up at me, yawning. "What?"
"The potato's staring at me."
She groaned. "I know potatoes have eyes, but still..."
"This one has a pair of red eyes. And it's staring at me." I raised an eyebrow as she leaned in for a closer look.
"Wow. The potato is staring at you." She blinked, rubbing her eyes. "Creepy..."
"Make it stop..." It closed it's eyes then. Wow. Nice killer potato.
But finally. FINALLY, blessed morning came. Soon Perc would be back, and hopefully he would have a way to get this stupid spud off of my hand.
Still it seemed like forever. Even though Darla came back, with another healer, a guy named Marco, Weiila refused to leave. I even told her to get to bed.
At about ten, Perc came, and with all people, PC. I had to wonder as I looked at them blearily. "What's up?"
Perc sighed. "Well, I haven't found a way to get it off of you..."
"Shit. That's not good. I want to go to sleep..."
"So do I..." Weiila whimpered in the chair next to my bed.
Perc frowned. "You didn't let me finish. PC said he knows how to get it off of you."
PC smirked, looking over the potato. "GG's paying. But I've dealt with these things before. You just simply have to know what they're afraid of."
I stared at PC. "What the hell would potatoes be scared of?"
PC just leaned in close to my hand and grinned. "Just watch." Then he turned to the potato and simply said, "Get off of his hand or I'll be having potato salad for lunch."
Then the weirdest thing happened. The potato opened it's eyes and looked up at PC. All he did was lick his lips and continue, "You look delicious."
That was it. The potato stiffened and let go of my hand, and started hopping away and off the bed. It didn't get too far until Perc crushed it under his boot. It splattered in a rather unpotatoish way.
I made a face. "Ugh. Waiter, these mashed potatoes are bad."
PC got up and grinned. "Very bad, but now you know how to deal with them when they pop up. I'll be going now." PC smirked and left the infirmary as I stared at my hand and the bloody remains of the potato.
I could only say one thing: "This has been the most retarded experience of my life."
Weiila nodded as she dealt with the bite marks on my hand. "Agreed. I don't want to do that again."
Perc nodded and smiled. "Well, it seems that you can keep your hand. Trillian needs me at the Library, so I'll be leaving myself. Good night, both of you."
"No problem." I looked at Weiila as Perc closed the door behind him. "So what should we do..."
She was asleep. It looks like she made her choice. And hey, I liked it.
So I went to sleep. Fortunately, I didn't have any dreams about nightmares.
Chapter 15: Of Memory and Assassin
Location: The Grand Temple of the Sun
Date: September 8, 184 A.S.
Shalcar drummed his fingers on the table. Now he was getting annoyed.
All he managed to do was annoy the Dreamer. Added to that was the disturbing fact that he was inclined to agree with the Dreamer: That was the most retarded plot he had ever seen.
Next time, he mused irritably, I don't send a spy with a vegetable fascination. It had been one of his spies that planted the Hemsku in the Dreamer's bathroom.
He thought for a bit. It would do to perhaps sacrifice one of his spies to kill him. After all, their loyalty was money. They were no different than the unbelievers outside of being more useful.
Still, what must be done, must be done. Thus the order was sent: Try again, and don't use the potato this time.
I stood alone in a plain. It was rather beautiful actually. Blue skies, with a set of wispy clouds against the sun. I always loved that effect, it always got me to dreaming.
I could feel the wind around me, blowing lightly. Just light enough to stir the grass around my feet. The plain looked like it was well cared for, strangely enough. Perc would love it.
In the distance is a palace. It looks like something out of Arabian fantasy novel. It is, to put it simply, huge. I had to wonder what was inside it.
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it made for interesting situations. What would you do? I approached it.
"There isn't much in there, you know."
I turned to the side, and on a stump of a tree sat a robed man. Judging from the tone of voice, anyway. I couldn't be sure. The robe was very loose and hid his features. The hood hid his face, but I got the distinct feeling that something else was hiding it even more. "What do you mean?"
"Exactly what I said. There isn't much in the palace. Not yet anyway?"
I looked at the man quizzically. "Not much? Why so?"
He shrugged. "You don't have much to put in there yet?"
Now I was confused. "What do you mean by that?"
He waved a hand dismissively at the palace. "Memoria. Your realm. But you haven't lived long enough to put much in it. You will though."
Now I got confused. "My realm? I don't understand..."
He chuckled. "I don't expect you to understand. But you will. Given time, you will. You'll understand everything soon enough. And you might not find it so bad."
I was just getting more confused. "What so bad?"
The man suddenly faded away. I could hear his voice in the wind.
Location: The Governor's Fortress
Date: September 18, 194 A.S.
I shook my head as I cleared the sleep out of my head. I'm back to having strange dreams. But it's like one of those dreams that you would swear were real, and you weren't sure you were still dreaming when you woke up.
So it took me a minute to get stock of my surroundings. Once I got my head straight, I went to make myself presentable. This time I made sure my brush was on the sink. I didn't need another one of those hell-spawned potatoes.
Now in some sort of decent shape, I went to the cafeteria to soothe my growling tummy. I quickly gathered my food and sat down, trying to tune out the conversation. One was catching my ear though, through proximity and loudness.
"Hey I was thinking..." A heavyset man was talking to a rather smallish man across their table.
"That's a new one Biggs. What were you thinking about?"
"Well Wedge, what if we were like puppets of some guy..."
That's a new one. Wedge just looked at him. "I don't see any strings.”
Biggs shook his head. "No, like we were just being manipulated into doing things, just for people's entertainment. Right now."
Wedge looked thoughtful. "That's deep." I just sighed, shook my head and continued eating.
Once if was finished, I quickly finished and put my dishes out for washing. And as I turned to leave, someone started screaming. I quickly ran to the source of the trouble, people were gathering. "What's going on?"
"They're... they're dead!"
"Biggs and Wedge!" I made my way to the front. Biggs was leaning face forward, blood all over the table. Wedge was laying on the floor, as if he had fell off.
I pushed Biggs a bit and saw he had a bit of metal out of his left eye. "What the hell happened?"
"Wedge told this joke, and Biggs started laughing, banging his head into the table. He then screamed... I think he jammed his spork into his eye. Wedge must have fallen over and cracked his head open..."
"Uhhhhh..." I think I'll let Weiila handle this.
I was walking down the hallway to the infirmary. Weiila wanted me to wait there, since there wasn't anything I could do for Biggs and Wedge. Not much anyone can do with them, really, but that must have been a rather stupid way to die.
Is it me or has the IQ of life dropped by about 80 percent? At that, where the hell did they get a spork?
Some things are best left unexplained I guess.
In any case, my first lessons for today was with Weiila. Next would be Nessa. Then lunch, and then I'd get to spend some time with Wert and GG. I feel like I'm in high school again. A high school for magic wielding soldiers, yes, but high school all the same.
Soon I was at the infirmary. Now to wait.
Location: The Grand Temple of the Sun
Shalcar was trying hard to resist the urge to bang his head into the table where the Book of the Sun lay.
At this moment, he was failing miserably.
"Uhm.. Grand Maester, that can't be good for you."
Shalcar looked up and growled, "Then tell me how someone can kill themselves with a spork?"
"Well it WAS an accident, sir."
Shalcar felt the urge to head butt the table again. His head was sore enough already, so he just decided to rub his forehead with his fingertips. "By the Sun, how can I have such incompetents as spies? First Biggs tries to kill him with the Hemsku, then he kills himself with an EATING UNTENSIL!"
"I'm wondering how he got the spork, Grand Maester."
Shalcar shook his head. "No matter now. They were idiots. Tell me, are our other agents still alive?"
"As far as I know, Your Excellency."
Shalcar nodded. "I am not one for such distasteful acts, but perhaps..."
The Maester nodded. "Another of our agents believes she has a plan."
"What would be that plan?"
"Get his allies away from him so he's unprotected. And then..."
Shalcar shook his head. "What makes you think he won't see through that? But it is worth an attempt I suppose..."
"I'll send the order, Grand Maester." The Maester turned and left, leaving Shalcar rubbing his sore forehead.
I sat back, watching Nessa calmly. We were progressing into more advanced magic now. How to mix magical elements to create a desired effect and how to leave "charges" as Nessa called them: A specific effect centered on an object that would trigger when a specific situation came up. Think of it like a magic trap: through this, you could cause, say a gravity shift when someone opened a book you didn't want touched. Nessa showed that to me actually.
Do you know how much fun falling into the ceiling is? Not very much at all.
But a very useful ability: this was how magic traps were created.
Very useful indeed. I wonder... "Nessa, how many charges can be placed on an object?"
She looked thoughtful. "Theoretically, an infinite number of effects can. But there's a limit depending on your skill, and if you exceed that limit, the object could randomly discharge or refuse to discharge. It depends really, why do you ask?"
I grinned. "I was thinking a complete gravity shift, along with an alarm loud enough to wake me up."
She looked perplexed. "Why?"
I frowned. "Someone has been dumping water in my bed while I sleep. It's getting annoying. I was thinking of charging a bed sheet and surrounding my bed with it. Maybe place a third charge to make the sheet keep whoever touches it pinned..."
"Ah." She nodded. "That could be done... each of the effects would be rather simple..."
I raised an eyebrow. "Even the gravity shift?"
Nessa nodded. "Once you figure out HOW to manipulate gravity, it's actually one of the easiest things to manipulate. You don't see it in battle much, mainly because it takes a little while to cast and no one has found a way to have the spell discriminate between ally and enemy. Better to just throw a fireball you can shape."
"So could you trap like three bed sheets? It should be enough."
She nodded. "Shouldn't take much longer than 20 minutes. I'll make this your lesson. I'll have to show how to attune traps though..."
"You wouldn't want to trip your own trap, would you?"
"Point." So she showed me how to create magic trap, or started to, using the sheets as an example. It was actually rather interesting, watching how spells had to be subtly changed to allow the object to be charged. Another interesting thought was that specific charges could be attuned to different people.
Oh yes, this would be useful.
Lunchtime. Rice, some veggies, and some chicken. Outside of the blood being mopped up, everything was good. Almost.
"Poke, if you say that again, I'm going to hurt you." Hearing the "I want Chicken Tonight!" song gets grating. WHERE does he learn this stuff? He never seems to pin down where he learned it.
So it was me, Poke, GG, and Weiila today. A nice setup. GG is asking for more from Poke. He's just laughing about it all. I'm talking to Weiila. "Weiila, how does he know some of this stuff? I'd expect Perc to know this?"
She shrugged. "I don't know. Might have something to do with his alternate personality."
Ah yes. Moranath. The first time that psychotic showed up (Poke claimed it was a demon, and so did Moranath), Weiila clubbed him over the head with a chair before Moranath could do too much damage... Well let's just say pandemonium reigned for a little bit. It explained why everyone kept their distance from him though.
Wert was coming this way, and we all turned to face him. "What's up Wert?"
Wert shook his head. "Got a distress call in old Manhattan. I want all hands for this one. If you're done..."
Weiila nodded. "We're done." She looked at GG, as if he would challenge her statement. GG just nodded.
"Alright. Sorry Wes, but your lessons will have to be put on hold for today."
I frowned. "Why not just take me along?"
Wert shook his head. "You know what the Governor said."
I sighed and nodded. "Suppose I'll take a nap then. I could use one..."
"You do that." With that, Wert, GG and Weiila left, leaving me and Poke alone. Poke had finished his lunch, so he made his good-byes and left on some business of his own. Ah well. Time for a nap.
The man slipped from a door, after carefully assuring himself that the corridor was empty. The mark would be in the room across from him.
He didn't know why his employer wanted this man dead so much but hey, it paid quite a bit. And money was good any day.
He quickly scurried across the hallway, opening the door as silently as he could, and closing it behind him. Fortunately, the distraction was set up, so no one was around to help the mark.
He made his way to the bed, as silently as he could. The mark was asleep, so this should be easy. Even the strongest mage was vulnerable when asleep.
Nothing could stop him now...
Oh MAN that hurts my ears! I covered my ears, wishing that I could sleep for a little while longer. Then I remembered why that sound was going off, so I rolled out of bed and to my feet. "Gotcha now you little punk...."
Who the hell was he? I didn't know him. "Who the hell are you?" I looked over at the guy on the ceiling, pinned by the sheet. He didn't' seem to have any water... although the dagger was a bit more worrisome.
Poke barged in covering his ears. "What the hell is going on here? This hurts!"
I pointed up, looking over the guy. "That's what I'd like to know. What exactly are you doing here?"
He kept his mouth shut, and I had to wonder. "Poke, could you get Zero?"
Poke nodded and rushed out as I silenced the alarm. "Okay, let's try this again. Who are you, and why are you here?"
He managed to wriggle his arm free, and keeping silent, tried to throw the knife at me. I rolled out of the way quickly and spoke a few words. The small lightning bolt was not unlike a stun gun, and it quickly put him out for a little bit.
So all there was to do now was to wait. I sat down, watching the man, for a few minutes. Shortly afterwards, Poke returned with Zero. "What's so important here that..."
I pointed up. He followed my finger and blinked. "Explain."
"I set a trap around my bed. Someone was dumping water in it while I was asleep. And well.. This guy tripped it."
"Your point?" He growled. "That's not something to bother me with."
"No, but that is." I pointed at the ground. "He threw the knife he was carrying at me. I hit him with a lightning bolt, and well... he's out for a little bit."
He raised an eyebrow. "Think he was trying to kill you?"
I shrugged and looked at the knife. "Well, I could be just paranoid, but it looks like that to me."
Zero frowned. "Hmmm have to interrogate him. Nessa didn't notice any Children in the Fortress..."
"Oooh! Oooh! Can I?" Zero and I turned to Poke.
"No, you can't. You're not going to question him, you're just going to fry him!" Poke's eyes suddenly turned normal to red. It was kinda surreal. I grabbed another charged sheet, ready to throw it. It was apparent that Poke and Moranath were talking.
"I'll be gentle..." Red to normal.
"You don't know HOW to be gentle."
"If you don't..."
Zero rolled his eyes. Poke just countered "Go on, say it. Zero and Wesley are here."
I suppose Moranath decided to shut up, since the exchange stopped. Zero just sighed. "I'll contact Zam. Right now..." Zero called out to a pair of guards in another room, and I dispelled the gravity spell so they could take him away.
Needless to say, the interrogation went very quickly. We even got a few names of other Children spies. It was a rather ingenious tack, hiring spies, seeing as how Nessa was quite effective at finding them.
I was pretty lucky though. If I hadn't set that trap, he would have probably succeeded. Hey, it didn't get what I really wanted, but I can't say it wasn't bad either.
By the way, someone was still putting water in my bed. I think it was GG. Since everyone now knows I set a trap around my bed, I'll have to find another way to stop them. Meh, at least I'm alive.
That or magically lock my door. Weiila suggested it, and in retrospect, it was the obvious thing to do.
At that, when Wert and company returned, they were NOT happy. They were not happy at the false alarm, or the assassin. But it wasn't their fault, another spy had set it up.
Both spies have a new occupation: rotting corpses. I doubt they liked it, but it's not like they have a choice now. Hey, if you're going to spy, you know the risks. One would think money is not worth quite *that* much.
Still, it made for a nice story and warning.
((Oi. I can't take it any farther than this methinks....))
Chapter 16: The Glass Plains
Location: The Governor's Fortress
Date: September 14, 194 A.S.
Zero frowned, tapping his fingers against the desk. "I know you don't like this Perc, but you know the terms of the Pax Americana."
Percival sighed, slumping against the chair. "As I am aware. I witnessed it."
Zero nodded. "Exactly. And you're the only one we have with any real experience in the Glass Plains. So we need you to lead a team to investigate the matter."
A report had come in just yesterday, claiming that Chicago had suffered attacks from a strange creature, almost as tall as some of the smaller buildings there.
"I've traversed the Plains once. Think the Children are involved?"
Zero nodded. "I wouldn't put it past them. In any case, I want you to assemble a recon team. Might need some power, but I suggest you stay out of combat. If this though is as powerful as suggested, we'll probably have to send an evac team."
Perc nodded. "I understand. I'll be back with my selections by nightfall."
A few hours later, Percival returned with his team, not without some raised eyebrows from Zero. "Weiila I can understand... even if you're taking my best healer. But Ryuujin and Wesley? Why? And who's he?" Zero looked over at a rather youngish boy with red hair.
"Well it took some convincing from ClothHat, but..."
Ryuujin rolled his eyes. "Meaning ClothHat is going to see his coffers expand."
Zero narrowed his eyes, but let Perc continue.
"Ryuujin's the best hunter here besides Wertigon. But Wertigon GG, and Nessa are too important here. This kid is a friend of Ryuujin's. His name is Ressu."
Ressu looked up at Zero. "Hello..."
Ryujinn picked up from where Perc left off. "His technical skill should be useful, and he's pretty good in a fight."
Zero nodded. "Now why Wesley?"
Wesley looked over at Percival, as curious for an answer as the Governor was.
Perc just smiled wanly. "He needs to know what he's fighting."
So that's how I got my first trip out of New Brooklyn. Zero gave us the details before we were about to leave.
"Okay. There will be a coach waiting for you when you are ready to leave, so make your good-byes and get any equipment and supplies you may need before you go. The coaches have enough fuel to go to the Glass Plains and back."
Perc nodded. "The coaches couldn't handle the Glass Plains."
"Exactly. So you'll be on foot the majority of the trip. It's only maybe a hundred miles across, and maybe two hundred to the Chicago. Nessa has been kind enough to furnish these talismans," Zero held up five amulets, "that will do double duty: They'll let you move faster and will keep you from tiring quickly. You should make good time there."
We each took a talisman, looping them over our necks. Strangely, I felt energized. Would have been useful earlier.
"Alright. Wesley, you know the comm spell?"
I nodded to Zero. "Yes Governor. Nessa taught it to me a few days ago."
He nodded. "Alright. Once you get there, observe the situation. Don't fight unless you have to. No excuses. Not on the Glass Plains, nor in Chicago. If Chicago needs to be evacuated, we'll send an evac team as soon as we can, and they'll pick you up. Of course, since the Glass Plains are considered holy to the Children, if they find you, you'll probably be attacked, so stay out of sight of any humans, got that? ESPECIALLY with Wesley. He'll be exposed and a perfect target."
We all nodded. "Good. I don't want the extraction team to return with bodies, got that? Dismissed."
"I have one question, sir." I spoke up.
Zero looked at me and nodded, "What is it Wesley?"
I pursed my lips. "Just a point of curiosity, but who will be leading the extraction team?"
Zero frowned. "TD. Sampo just finished work on an old airship and has been testing it. It should stay in the air long enough to get you out. Any evacuations will have to be done on the ground."
All of us stared at him. He sighed. "TD's the only one we know who knows how to fly one of those damn things. Sampo's learning, but I'm not sure he can keep it in the air long enough."
Ryuujin just looked at Zero incredulously. "You mean to tell me the only one who can fly that thing is the only one in New Brooklyn who can't hold a coherent thought in his head for FIVE MINUTES?"
Zero shook his head. "Unfortunately, yes. But according to Sampo, TD has been quite coherent and lucid when flying. Longer than he usually is. He seems to enjoy it."
I nodded, "He could have been a pilot before the Second Sun. But still, does anyone get this sense of overwhelming doom?"
Zero frowned. "It's all we have. Hopefully he'll do, and if not, you can get back here safely. Now get moving. If Chicago is being ravaged, I want survivors. Got that?"
"Yes Governor!" We all said, and turned to leave.
So that's how we got to crossing the Glass Plains.
The Glass Plains were called that, because apparently when the Second Sun exploded, it left a large patch of glass on the face of the planet. It might have been smooth and unbroken once, but time took it's toll. It was still smooth in many places, but in some places it was broken, making for very risky crossings. Otherwise it was mostly covered in dirt and dust, a few plants growing here and there. It was not unlike a desert, but with more rain.
Perc suggested sunglasses, which I was thankful for, because the glare from exposed glass could be nothing less than blinding. Water was a pretty good idea of course, and apparently some very tough mutations wandered around here, so weapons were mandatory.
I shook the blood of the last mutation from my claws. Arrows and dagger cuts peppered it, along with some nasty dents, courtesy of Perc's mace. Our combat strategy was actually pretty simple: Perc and Ressu would engage the mutant directly while Ryuujin sent arrows carefully into the fray. I would join them a few minutes later, after a barrage of spells, and Weiila would hang back, performing healing spells as needed.
Perc tended to be very conservative about his abilities. Apparently, restoring his abilities meant time meditating on ground he considered holy, and the Glass Plains was "as unholy as you can get".
Perc was a rather interesting person. I remember that I felt sorry for TD earlier, with his condition, but I realized Perc was even worse off. For all of his gallantry and optimism, it was somewhat a mask. He was like that honestly, but it hid a deeply bitter man. I couldn't blame him. He was a naturist, and his abilities reflected that, requiring meditation in a natural setting to replenish. But he loved nature above almost all else. And seeing what the Second Sun did firsthand, and living through it...
It was the kind of bitterness that could drive a man to do some very disturbing things. One hoped though that his sense of honor and compassion would hold out against it.
That said, we got along pretty well. Once the mutant was killed, we set up camp to rest. We made good distance, but it was time to eat and sleep. Weiila and I would have first watch, then Perc would relieve Weiila after four hours, Ressu would relieve me four hours later, and it alternated like that. It worked.
Ryuujin and Ressu were the only ones I didn't know well. Ressu was a mystery to me. He looked young. Probably just a little older than my youngest brother, but he looked like he had seen much more than his appearances suggested. I saw that a lot in this world... it was kind of sad. I believed kids should be kids... another problem to take up to the Second Sun, I suppose. But I couldn't' blame it for this. But then the Glass Plains and the deaths of billions of people were at the hands of the second Sun. There was enough to be angry about. But I digress.
Ryuujin seemed to have an "trusted older brother" relationship with Ressu, although it was obvious that they were not related. I was thankful for both of them though. Ressu had the materials to build quite a few interesting weapons in his pack, and often picked up various mutant parts at Ryuujin's suggestion, which made for more interesting weapons.
Ryuujin, for his part, was another excellent addition. Apparently his knowledge of mutants was second only to Wertigon, and he was a professional mutant hunter in ClothHat's group. He was an excellent archer and swordsman, which was definitely a help.
I still wonder where they get so many swords, but I digress again.
Ryuujin liked the opportunity to study the mutants in the Glass Plains, seeing as very few came here. Of course, mutants that have had the crap beaten out of them make for poor subjects, but Ryuujin was more interested in the combat aspects anyway. He was poring over the corpse, a bloody gray skinned thing with several eyes, no nose, and one huge mouth. It was a huge, muscled thing.
Perc was laying back, letting Weiila tend to his wounds. It nailed him a couple of times: for a big hulking thing, it was FAST. And I mean fast. I saw Perc move at speeds most humans couldn't take: an application of his spiritual power. I was wondering where the hell the blue pill was, and yet the mutant still got him.
Once Weiila got done, she and Ressu started on dinner. Simple fare, designed for travel. I busied myself setting up the rest of the camp, and keeping the fire burning (without wood mind you).
Once we ate, it was time to turn in for the night. As mentioned, Weiila and I took first watch. We didn't do much, just talked and kept an eye out for anything moving. A simple spell of hers allowed us excellent low light vision. Not that there was much to see though. We also kept huddled together: it got cold in the Glass Plains at night. I just found myself wishing for my sleeping bag, although it was nice.
Four hours later, Perc replaced Weiila. He wasn't as much fun to cuddle up with as Weiila. Not that we did, actually, but he was at least interesting to talk to. And then finally Ressu was up. FINALLY. I could get myself warm and go to sleep.
I knelt down on the path. I could see the palace in the distance, but I didn't bother approaching.
Looking around, I recognized this as the place I dreamt before. The stump was nearby again, and again the robed man sat there, as if patiently waiting for me. "Welcome back."
I looked at him. "Who are you?"
The hood fluttered a bit as he shrugged, but didn't fall away. "You'll find out soon enough. But for now, consider me the Keeper of Memoria."
The Keeper of Memoria? "Uhm... why?"
The man shrugged again. "Nothing to worry about now. I came to give you some advice for when you wake up."
"And that would be?"
He stood and looked out over to the palace. "In two days time you'll meet with a powerful new ally. That is, if you can do a favor for her." He started laughing. Uproariously.
"What the hell is so funny?"
He calmed down a bit, sitting back down and chuckling. "Let's just say you have one hell of a favor to perform. Oh and do yourself a favor and don't make fun of her name, alright?"
I just nodded. I wanted out of here as soon as possible. I turned to leave when I heard the Keeper call out. "Oh, and..."
"Take the north path, alright? You'll regret it if you don't."
I nodded and left.
I shook my head to clear the sleep out of my head. Dawn had broken and it seemed the Ryuujin was on watch alone now.
I had arms all over me. Weiila slept next to me on her side, I pushed her limp arm off my chest. Then I removed Perc's hand from... a personal area and poked him. "Yo Fearless Leader. Wake up!"
Ryuujin's head lifted as Perc grumbled. "Whaz?" The others quickly started to wake up as I kept poking Perc.
"First, it's dawn. Second, you sleep somewhere else. You had your hand on my crotch you dolt."
"I WHAT?" Ryuujin and Ressu just cracked up. Weiila laughed softly as she rubbed her eyes.
"You had your hand where it didn't belong. If you want to be like that, you sleep somewhere else. There's no couch handy."
Perc made a face and looked at the offending appendage. "No way to wash it too."
Weiila nodded. "Yeah, we need our water."
Ressu looked out over the horizon. "Is it just me, or shouldn't we be traveling by night? It's going to get hot again it looks like." They days out here were indeed scorchers...
Perc shook his head. "Most of the monsters are diurnal, strangely enough. You'd think that they would be nocturnal..."
"Well mutations are never normal I guess..."
"Less broken glass to miss and fall on too."
I nodded. "That's true. And I'm hungry. When do we eat?"
Perc fished around in his pack for our morning provisions: some bread and beef jerky. Once we finished that, we cleared the camp and started west again.
Chapter 17: The Beast
Location: The Glass Plains
Date: September 19, 194 A.S.
"Alright everyone, we can rest a little."
THANK GOD. I quickly knelt down and started to pick the glass shards out of my butt. "Ow...."
Perc looked at me as he started to pull lunch out of his pack. "You must be careful, Wesley, the glass can be slippery, especially if there's only a little dust on it."
"I think I learned that lesson thanks. Uhm... anyone want to help?"
Everyone looked at me like I was insane. "Fine. Gimme a mirror."
Perc looked over to Weiila. "Could you help him please?" She grumbled about always having to look at someone's ass, but at least she complied. When Weiila wasn't looking, I grinned at Perc and gave him the thumbs up.
All four of us started laughing as Weiila looked up from her examination. "What's so funny?"
She looked at me dangerously. "Tell me."
Ever heard of "The Look"? That look a woman can give a man that can make him wet himself and do whatever she tells him to? That's how she looked at me.
I gulped and looked around. Perc seemed to be busy with his pack... he was pulling out a lot more than we needed. Ryuujin was keeping a strict lookout. Ressu seemed to be fiddling with a new toy of his.
"Uhm guys... help? Please?" They ignored me. Some friends they are.
"Wesley, tell me. Now."
I whimpered. "Uhmmmmm... After you're done pulling sharp objects out of my butt."
"I'll SHOVE them there if you don't tell me!"
"Uhm... It's kinda hard to explain..."
Ressu grinned. "He likes you looking at his ass. He had one hell of a grin on his face..."
Weiila looked blankly at Ressu for a second. I just hoped that I'd have the time to kill Ressu before Weiila killed me.
"Oh. Okay. Men... really!" She laughed and went back to pulling the glass out of my skin, maybe a little more painfully then she should have.
Still, it was fun, if somewhat stinging. Once the glass was out, she applied her magic and I could sit without wincing. With that, I sat down and set up the fire to cook our lunch. A little while later, we were happily munching. Perc away from us, while Ressu and Ryuujin talked.
"You have a cute butt." Weiila laughed as she bit spooned a bit of her soup into her mouth.
I laughed and kept myself from blushing. "Why, thank you. I already knew that, but it's nice to have it confirmed."
Perc looked up at us, laughing slightly. "Will I have a... cute butt if I fall on some glass?"
Weiila eyed him critically. "No need for the glass, you can just show me now."
Ressu looked up at Weiila. "We're eating here!"
I nodded, smirking. "I wanna keep my meal down, thanks."
Perc just shook his head. "Well thank you too."
Once the meal was finished, we stayed at camp for a few more minutes before starting up. It had been like this for the past two days since my dream. If the Keeper was correct, we should be arriving in Chicago shortly. We could already see Lake Michigan and the end of the Glass Desert. It was a lot larger than I would have thought...
Soon though, we arrived at a gorge. I blinked in disbelief. "Uhm... Why is this gorge here?" It was about a quarter mile deep, and stretched as far as the eye could see.
Perc shrugged. "One of the canyons leading from the Crater. Chicago shouldn't be too far away. The gorge is the fastest and safest way through. But..."
Perc frowned. "I think this is one of the places called the 'Gate to the Crater'. The Children use it to go to the Crater of the Second Sun for their most holy ceremonies. We COULD take the north path..." He pointed to ledge on the north edge of the gorge. "But it looks pretty unstable..."
Ryuujin frowned. "Let's go south. I doubt the Children are coming..." Ressu and Weiila nodded.
Then something hit me. "Let's go north."
Ryuujin blinked. "Why?"
"Well... I don't know how to explain it, but I think we should go north."
Perc nodded. "Probably wise. They may not be coming, but I'd rather not risk it. But it would delay our arrival by a night..."
I sighed. "Well I see your point, but I'd rather not risk the Children... I say we go north."
Ryuujin frowned. "The monster could attack over the night..."
"If the Children find us, we won't get there."
Ryuujin nodded, looking over the gorge. "That's true..."
Perc looked at the ledge. "North then?"
Each one of us nodded in turn as he scanned the gorge. "Alright. Have to be careful though. It gets narrow in some places..."
So we made our way over the ledge. It was dangerous in some places, but in general, wide enough to walk through. There were a few open spaces where we could rest and we made use of them. We were at the third resting point when Ressu tapped my shoulder and pointed in the gorge. There seemed to be a procession down below. Perc growled slightly as he handed me a pair of binoculars. "Children."
Looking through them, I could see the double sun on the robes of the leaders. The one in the front had a gold double sun on his chest. "Nessa told me that the double sun shows their rank. Silver for Maester, gold for High Maesters, and a gold double sun in a pair of hands for the Grand Maester. A High Maester's leading that procession. Not to mention a few mutations in the group."
Indeed, some mutations were walking alongside them, not unlike the gray thing we fought a few days ago. "Probably for protection..." Ryuujin muttered as we backed away against the wall of the gorge. "They shouldn't be able to spot us up here. Good thing we didn't go into the canyon, or..."
I nodded and held my heart still. There were too many Children to reasonably fight, and the gorge didn't make for a good place to escape. Regret it indeed.
After about a half hour, the Children were past us without trouble, and out of sight. Night was coming though, so we set out until we got to the fourth open area, where we set up camp.
Once dawn broke, we set out again. We made good time, probably owing to the fact that we didn't want to see any more Children. But we didn't see any more through the gorge. After the seventh rest stop, we left the gorge, and we could see Chicago in the distance.
"Finally!" Weiila panted, smiling as she looked over the distant cityscape. "Let's go."
There were no arguments as we walked to Chicago, and into the city. Ressu smiled a bit. "Still the same..."
Perc looked at Ressu. "You've been here before?"
Ressu nodded. "I'll take you to the Mayor's headquarters. It's not too far..."
Suddenly we heard a whooshing overhead, and we all looked up to see... a DRAGON? "What the hell is that?"
It certainly looked like a dragon, a giant, black, winged reptile with fire streaming from it's nostrils. It must have heard us because it looked down.... and I SWORE it grinned as it turned around and dove for us.
"TAKE COVER!" Perc shouted, as we dove into a nearby building, fire streaming behind us. The ground shook as it landed and it approached our hiding place. We went deeper inside, Ressu muttering "That wasn't here when I left..."
The dragon snorted breathing a spout of fire through the doorway, but we were too far inside for it to hit us. It sent another breath inside, harder, but still, not close enough. I could hear it snort as it took wing, flapping up.
"Think it's gone?" Ryuujin gasped. "I've never seen anything like that before!"
I blinked in return. "The Second Sun made dragons too? What the..."
BOOM! The building shook, as if something hit it. Then it shook again. Realization dawned quickly upon us. "It's trying to bring down the building. Let's GO!"
Between facing death in a collapsing four story, or running for out lives, the latter seemed the better option, and we tore out of there like bats out of hell. The dragon was hovering just above, swatting powerful tail. It was watching the doorway as we ran out and let loose a gout of fire as we crossed it.
I was the last to leave, and the one closest as the fireball exploded behind me. I could feel myself flying through the air, and then I hit the ground. Everything went black.
Owwwwww... my head. Why do I always seem to be waking up with a migraine? I need some aspirin.
"Hmmm you seem well."
Who was that? A feminine voice, but one I did not recognize. I sat there with my eyes closed, trying to recall what happened...
"Here, drink this, it might help." A bowl was thrust into my hands, and I quickly put it to my lips, drinking deeply from it. The pain subsided almost instantly, and I opened my eyes.
What seemed to be a rather lovely and sparsely dressed young woman was standing in front of me. The location I couldn't recognize, but it seemed to be a cave dimly lit by glowing rocks spaced about every twenty feet. "What... what happened?"
The woman smiled slightly. "You took a pretty hard hit. I took you back here while you were unconscious."
The dragon attack went through my mind, and instantly I had to wonder. "What... what happened to the others?"
The woman chuckled. "They're safe. Probably worried about you. I left as soon as I had you."
"What are you talking about?"
The woman grinned. "This may come as a shock to you..." She stepped backwards until she was about forty feet away, and started to grow.
I goggled in disbelief as the woman's skin turned scaly and black, her face elongating into a snout, while a tail and a pair of wings erupted from behind her. A minute later, she stood before me as a fully-grown dragon.
The dragon that attacked us. I just blinked and fought hard not to faint. The dragon just smiled, the same feminine voice leaving her mouth. "Surprised? I'm not... it has been a long time since a human has seen one of my kind... and have not been the dragon's latest meal. I find it interesting that you recognized me for what I was. Most assume me to be a mutation."
"You're not a mutant???"
The dragon chuckled softly. "I am a descendant of what humans have called dinosaurs." I looked at her strangely. "Don't be surprised, after all, you are what you eat."
I blinked and realized what she was insinuating. "Then I'm your lunch?"
The dragon smirked. "Actually... no. I took you because you seem to have something that interests me..."
I blinked, shaking a bit. "I don't have anything. Just supplies for traveling..."
The dragon smirked. "Not on your person, no. Inside of you. I can sense... something about you. You might be useful to me."
"Uhm... I can?"
The dragon nodded. "But pardon my manners, I have not introduced myself. I am Alleyekhrah..."
"You're named after an allergy medicine?" I tried not to laugh.
Alleyekhrah frowned. "I have not heard that joke in a long time... not since the Earth Star appeared... What you call the Second Sun. Make fun of my name again and I will have no qualms about eating you."
Alleyekhrah smirked dragonishly and continued. "As I said, I am Alleyekhrah, daughter of Charash and Molor, granddaughter of Osiris and Isis. And you are?"
"Wesly Collins..." I looked up at her, still shaking.
"I see my true form unnerves you. If it makes it easier, I will return to a human form..." A minute later, the scantily clad young woman stood in front of me, approaching. "So tell me, why did you come to Chicago?"
"Uhm... the Governor of New Brooklyn heard reports of attacks by a giant beast and wanted us to learn the situation... Thought it might be mutations controlled by the Children."
She snorted derisively. "I ally myself to no power, be it Earth Star or it's followers, nor any other unless I deem fit. So I am willing to bet that you would like my attacks to stop."
"Well..." I nodded. "Would be nice."
She nodded and smiled. "I do need to eat, but I believe we can come to an agreement. I believe as humans say it, if you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours."
I raised an eyebrow, standing up. "And that would be?"
She looked away and sighed. "My kind is dying. There were few of us before the Earth Star arrived, and the Earth Star killed many more. I have not seen one of my own kind in two centuries. I have a vested interest in keeping my line alive as well. It is a perfect time to be a dragon. We lived very well centuries before all of your technological progress and humans disbelieved in us."
"So you want me to find you company?" My eyebrow raised further.
"No, more than that." Alleyekhrah grinned, something more akin to her draconic grin. "I require a mate."
Chapter 18: The Mate
"Uhhhhh..." I just stared at Alleyekhrah dumbfounded.
She just smirked. "What's wrong?"
"Uhm..." I looked at the ground and laughed nervously. "You're beautiful and all, but I'm a man. You're a hundred-foot long engine of destruction. I don't think it'd work out."
She laughed uproariously. "You are quite cute for a human, yes. But I don't seek a human mate. I seek a dragon."
"Oh." Yay. I get to play cupid for a dragon. "I'll do my best... but I'm not sure..."
She nodded and frowned. "There aren't many of us anymore, I wonder if I'm the last..."
I nodded. "I'll do my best to find a mate for you, and you'll stop attacking Chicago?"
She nodded. "Precisely."
I thought for a moment. "Or better yet, I find a mate for you and you relocate to say... Neo D.C."
She grinned a bit. "Where there is ample prey that you would like to be eliminated. Very wise and devious. Very well, I'll make my home somewhere near Neo D.C."
"Thanks. Uhm... how am I supposed to tell you I've found someone suitable?"
She nodded and knelt over a rock, standing up to present a glittering orange stone. "This is a Fire Opal, a jewel signifying my specific line. Present it to any dragon, and they'll recognize you as my friend, and if you hold it to your chest, you may speak to me telepathically."
I took the Fire Opal. "Thank you."
She smiled. "Good luck in finding me a good mate. If you wish to leave, the cave is quite straightforward." She pointed to the passage behind her. I waved to her and then started to walk down the passage, and soon I was greeted by sunlight.
The Mayor of Chicago sighed as he looked at Weiila. "I'm sorry, there's nothing I can do. Once the mutant takes someone... they're gone."
"NOTHING?" Weiila shrieked.
Perc placed a hand on her shoulder. "I'm sure if they could do anything, they would have already..."
The Mayor nodded. "I understand Zero's concern and willingness to help us leave, but there's no way we're going to leave. Not to a dragon. We need military assistance, not evacuation."
Perc nodded. "I'll tell the Governor that, but we have our hands full with the Children. I'm not sure there would be any soldiers to spare..."
The Mayor frowned and sighed, stroking his mustache. "I understand." He didn't sound very happy though.
"Wait a minute!" Weiila held up her hand for silence, and closed her eyes as if in concentration.
"What's up?" Ryuujin asked.
Weiila grinned. "Wesley's alive!" She grabbed a piece of paper and a pencil, and quickly wrote down several directions. "He says he's on the old Navy Base."
The Mayor nodded. "I'll send a few people to retrieve him.. but how did he survive the mutant?"
I nodded. "So that's the story."
The Mayor frowned. "So the mutant wants a mate? You want MORE of those things around?"
I held up a finger. "Not mutant. Dragon. Been around since before the Second Sun, she claims. And she is quite willing to relocate once she has a mate."
"But until then...."
"Either more people get eaten or you leave enough food out for her so she doesn't eat anyone. Dragons get hungry too."
"We can't produce enough to support something that size!"
I shrugged. "Well it's the best thing I can suggest than to have your populace as lunch."
He sighed and nodded. "Very well. Is there any way I can meet with this dragon?"
"I'm talking to her right now." I exposed the Fire Opal against my chest, "She said she's quite willing to make temporary arrangements. In fact, she said she quite likes the idea."
"I'm thinking dragons and tribute." I had to laugh. I drew a laugh from Perc, but everyone else was mystified. "A joke. Anyways..."
Once the Mayor and Alleyekhrah hammered out an agreement over how much and where, I went to contact Zero and give him the news.
"Are you SERIOUS?!?!" I heard Nessa's voice in my ear.
I sent my reply back. "Very serious." I could almost hear her delight.
"I've heard about dragons from Val! I'd love to meet one! Maybe have one for a pet!"
"This isn't something you can keep in a house, Nessa. A Hangar, maybe, but not a house." I laughed.
"Awwwwwww. Anyway, Zero said he's sending the team now, they should be here by tomorrow. Then we can discuss the 'mate' situation."
"Wait, hold on a second. Nessa, you said you heard of dragons from Val?"
"Yeah. She said one protected the village where she grew up."
"Hmmm... when we get back, I want to have a nice long talk with Val. See if she's right. The sooner I get this done, the sooner we can get Alleyekhrah out of there... and into let's say... Neo D.C.?"
I heard Nessa laugh over her connection. "The Governor said he really likes the sound of that!"
"I'm sure he does." I laughed. "Wes out."
I looked up at the sky. It was clear at least, and our ears were straining for some sort of sound signifying TD's approach. "Does anyone else have a bad feeling about this?"
Ressu looked at me. "TD's going to take us home with a vehicle that supposed to fly us a mile over the Glass Plains."
Weiila laughed. "Nope. Nothing wrong at all."
Perc nodded. "The wind stinks of bad omens..."
I just grinned. "And the black wind blows."
"Nothing." And I returned to looking over the sky.
Perc must have been augmenting his senses, because he was the first to locate TD's approach. "I hear something... kind of a... fast swapping sound." He pointed in the distance, and Ryuujin strained to listen.
"Yeah I got it. That's strange. Think it's TD?"
Now I could notice it. Which kinda shocked me. "Are you telling me Sampo refurbished a helicopter?"
They all looked at me. "What's that?"
"Just watch." Five minutes later, we all scattered, covering our ears as the helicopter touched down. The rotors slowed to a stop, then TD leaned out. "You coming on or what?"
We all looked at TD nervously, kinda like none of us wanted to be the first onboard. Could you blame us? Ryuujin had a point when he said TD couldn't hold a coherent thought for more than five seconds. This just seemed to annoy him a bit. "C'mon. I don't have all day! Let's get going!"
Well we had to bite the bullet. I stepped on, and TD handed me a pair of ear protectors and a facemask. "It's gonna get loud in here for a few minutes, better put these on," he said tersely to each of us. He was obviously itching to get back into the air. "Buckle your seat belts, it's going to be a wild ride."
I cast the comm spell, and made everyone in the chopper the recipient. "That's what I'm afraid of. My first flight and the pilot's borderline insane."
Everyone laughed, but TD just tapped the side of his protectors, motioning for me to remove them for a second. "I could always just drop you off in the middle of the Crater. Say from a mile up?"
"It'd probably be safer." He just shook his head, muttering, and we put our ear protectors back on as he put the helicopter into motion. A few minutes later, he tapped the protectors, telling us we could remove them. It still was somewhat loud, but it wasn't like a percussion orchestra in the brain.
Perc looked nervous as he looked out the window. I just looked at him, probably just as nervous. "Scared of flying?"
"No, I'm not particularly afraid of flying. I'm afraid of flying with TD."
Ressu, Weiila and Ryuujin were peering out the windows as well, but with much less nervousness. They seemed more interested in the fact that we were high over the Plains. Ryuujin pointed down and shouted, "Look! Aren't those Children?"
Perc and I peered out of the window as we flew over what seemed to be a small streak of white. Looking through a pair of binoculars, I could see it as a group of white robed people. "Looks like it Ryuujin. Does this thing have missiles, TD?"
He looked back at me and snickered. "I wish."
Ressu grinned. "Want to see how far your spells can go Wes?"
Perc looked at us sharply. "No. We don't want to attract attention."
Suddenly a fireball streaked by the chopper, maybe twenty feet past my window. "Uhm... I think they noticed us."
"We have two options, Perc." I heard TD call out. "We can go after them and hope they don't hit something important, or I can take this thing higher and take evasive action."
Perc nodded. "Take us higher."
Ressu grumbled. "Can't we at least drop a couple firebombs on them?"
TD took us higher and turned the chopper, and soon the Children were out of sight. Probably going to give a nice report to their superiors. A few minutes later, Weiila pointed out the window. "Is that the Crater?"
I looked out the window and blinked. A deep depression was just... there. In the middle of the earth, and stretched out for miles, as if someone had just taken a bite out of the planet. Perc just nodded. "Yes Weiila, that's the Crater of the Second Sun."
I could only blink. That was where I used to live? That's where I spent two years of my life? My family, my friends, how few they had been? All... gone?
That was the sum of my life before I woke up in the Fortress. A crater. A crater surrounded by a desert of glass. Would I have survived? Did any of my family survive? Most of my family, immediate and extended, lived where the crater was.
All of it gone, like it had never existed.
All of it... Then I saw a large blob of white. More Children were gathering in the Crater. I heard Ryuujin tell Ressu, "I think that explains the processions. Think this is the beginning of a mass celebration. Nessa said it lasts for a week or so, until the day after the anniversary of the Coming."
They were celebrating the destruction of everything I knew... everything I loved. On top of that, they were celebrating the death of most of humanity. I heard Perc mutter behind me, "That is absolutely disgusting..."
I could feel my blood chill. I could only nod mutely as I stared out at the white in the center of the Crater, before it vanished out of my sight. Perc was right when he told me what I was supposed to be fighting.
And if anything, now, I wanted to tear it and it's followers apart with my bare hands.
Chapter 19: Val's Story
Date: September 25, 194 A.S.
Location: Governor's Fortress
Zero growled at Wertigon, slamming his fist into the desk. "You have ten seconds to give me a reason not to kill you, Wert."
Wert sighed. "You didn't see him, Governor. If you did, you'd do the same thing. You ever see a mage THAT pissed off and ready to roast you if you said no?"
"I believe my orders were that Wesley was not to see combat without my prior approval. Especially so soon after he returned."
Wertigon laughed mirthlessly. "You tell him that when he's threatening to shove a fireball up your ass. You saw what he did at the Library. I sure as hell wasn't going to stop him. At least the Dhroma nest cleared out in record time."
Nessa nodded, looking up. "Very few casualties too, especially considering the Dhroma. If that man isn't the Dreamer, I don't know what is."
Zero raised an eyebrow. "Why?"
GG spoke up now. "He went off by himself."
"HE WHAT? Has he been examined?"
"Weiila's examining him right now, sir. But you have to understand. I tried to stop him. He just threw me away like I was a piece of paper and ran into the nest. When we saw him again, he was just torching them left and right. He was pretty easy to track."
Wert nodded. "All of the charred bodies. He passed out a few minutes after we found him... by then it was easy to cover him and easy to clear out the nest. It was one of the smaller nests I've seen, but..."
Zero blinked, astonished. "Wesley cleared out a Dhroma nest by himself?!?!?!"
GG laughed. "Well, no, not by himself, but he did take out a majority of it. Darla did a preliminary examination and said that he was alright though, although Weiila's checking up on him now."
At that, Weiila entered, shaking her head and mumbling, "I'm going to kill him. When he wakes up, I'm going to kill him and find his soul and kill him again."
Zero looked over at Weiila, tapping his fingers on the desk. "What's the prognosis?"
"Nothing too bad. He wasn't violated or anything. I'd say he's dehydrated, suffering from vitamin deficiency, and very, very tired. He'll be out for a few hours, and then I want him eating and in bed for at least a day. THAT WAS SO STUPID OF HIM!" She shouted the last part loudly enough for Zero to jump out of the seat.
GG winced and shut his ears. "You might want to say that louder, I'm not sure all the Children heard you."
"Sorry. But it was!" She grumbled, slightly defensive.
Wert shook his head and sighed. "Anyway, what's done is done."
Zero nodded, tapping his fingers on the desk. "Val's not going to be happy about it. But..."
Weiila nodded. "I'll have to wait a day. I guess I can't blame him though. He was supposed to live there before PC picked him up... And when I saw the Crater, I wanted to kill something too."
"I know. His reaction wasn't surprising, although rather foolish. I'll talk to him about that when he wakes up. I'll contact Val and ask her to come around tomorrow. The rest of you, dismissed."
Date: September 26, 194 A.S.
I was still rubbing my head when I met with Val late that day. This time, though, I could remember what I did at least. I don't know why, but I could remember it clearly.
If I could pull stuff like that reliably, I'd go to Neo D.C. and clear it out myself. Or maybe not. But take a large chunk of it with me, at the very least.
But having help would be nice. So that's why we were in the Governor's Office: Val, Zero, Weiila, Perc and me. Her story was interesting.
Val looked over the globe thoughtfully. "I used to live in Germany, about here."
I peered in close. "The Black Forest?" I didn't know much of what I was talking about, but it was worth a jab.
Val nodded. "Yes. My family ruled a rather large village on the outskirts. The dragon himself lived within."
Perc nodded. "Tell us about the dragon."
Val looked over at Perc. "My grandparents looked for a safe place to settle after their town was overrun by raiders. They happened upon the dragon. If I recall their story, they made a deal with the dragon: If the dragon allowed them to settle, and they gave him regular tributes, he would protect the settlement from raiders. He agreed. Over time, he became a part of society himself. You didn't see him as a dragon much, more often as a young man. I've seen him as a dragon, when I was little..."
"I see." I looked at Val thoughtfully. "But..."
Val sighed. "That's just it. But." She shook her head. "The dragon was prone to absences of about a month or so every year. He was predictable about when he left, se we had time to prepare. That and he always warned us. Well... an old enemy of my family took advantage of that and stormed the village."
"Why would anyone do that?" Weiila frowned.
I shrugged. "Do what people do I guess. To conquer."
Val shook her head. "I don't think so. While I don't know if my home remains or not, they were looking for something. My brother and I escaped, but we always had someone on us. Everywhere we went to was attacked. I think Khan thought we had what he was looking for. No idea what it was though... I eventually got on a ship and headed here. Nobody in Europe would accept us. Everyone was terrified of him."
I nodded. "Figures. offhand... what was the dragon's name?" I had the Fire Opal to my chest, and Alleyekhrah had posed that question.
Val looked thoughtful for a moment, twiddling with a strand of her hair. "Umm... Bahamut, I think."
I held my head as Alleyekhrah's squeal of delight pounded on my brain. I quickly sent a message to her: What the hell's with you?
Bahamut? BAHAMUT? He would be a fine mate! But I haven't heard about him in a long time...
Calm down, woman. You sound like a 12-year old at an N'Sync concert!
"What's with you, Wes?" Val looked at me, confused.
I mentally tried to push away Alleyekhrah's happiness before it wore on my head. "Let's just say our friend has heard of Bahamut and is rather happy."
Zero nodded. "Meaning that she will go herself?"
I sent the question to Alleyekhrah. "Nope. I still have to go and make contact." I sighed.
"Figures. Well she'll have to wait a bit. I'm not going to send anyone out for a few days. Sampo is refueling the airship, and he said that he'll have one with a longer range finished soon. TD's been giving him suggestions on how to repair it."
"That's fair." Weiila nodded. "We could use the rest."
Zero nodded in return. "Since you're the one who has to contact him Wes, you'll need to go. I want you to assemble a team for my approval... I'll talk to ClothHat about letting Val come with you, she could probably guide you and help make things easier. I expect you to have your team within three days. Got that?"
Shalcar looked thoughtful as he listened to the Maester's report. "So they're planning to go to Europe?"
The Maester nodded. "And if they're successful..."
"Explains the attacks in Chicago at least. Very well." Shalcar smiled. "It will not be as good as finishing off the Dreamer ourselves, but I should contact an old friend..."
Chapter 20: Goin' Overseas
Date: September 31, 194 A.S.
Location: Governor's Fortress
"This is my team, Governor: Weiila, Val, Perc and TD."
Zero nodded a bit. "Fair enough. I can understand TD, Val, and Weiila. Why Percival though?"
Perc bowed slightly. "I originally come from Britain. It would be nice to see it again..."
Zero nodded again. "I understand. You'll be making a stop in London then? Take Trillian along, I want her in London to witness the Pax Atlantica. Take Jamie too: he's the best at this sort of stuff, and I can't leave."
I thought a moment. "Wasn't there supposed to be a delegation from London?"
Zero nodded. "Yeah, but they haven't arrived. Jamie and Trillian can keep track and set things up. I want that treaty."
Val sighed. "If Khan hasn't gotten to London first."
"That could be trouble, yes. Any other major settlements that might want in on this?"
Val thought for a moment. "Berlin, no. That's the Khan's stronghold. There's Marseilles, but... That could have fallen too. I'm not sure."
Zero tapped his fingers. "Very well. Get to London, and drop Jaime and Trillian off there. The rest of you, go see about Bahamut. Perc, send the message to Trillian that I want her on that airship. Val, go talk to Jaime. I want you all ready for flight in two days."
I raised a hand. "Uhm... TD might be good with a helicopter, but how do we know he's good with an airplane? A chopper won't take us that far, I think."
"A what? TD said he can fly anything with wings, and from Chicago, I don't have any reason to doubt him. I think he should be fine. Get your supplies, and make your goodbyes..."
Zero rolled his eyes. "Dismissed."
So that's how we ended up on an old plane, two hours into our flight. Sampo did a good job actually: it was nicely done, and well equipped for our journey.
Not that I wasn't nervous. TD was the pilot after all, but he did concentrate best when he was flying. It worked very well.
Jaime was busy hitting on Trillian and Weiila. It was rather interesting to watch. He tried... oh yes, he tried. Both of them just laughed it off. I figure they were enjoying his attention, but not quite enough to actually be interested. "Jaime, will you stop trying to get them to join you in the Mile-High Club? You sound silly."
Perc rolled his eyes and Trillian laughed. Weiila raised an eyebrow. "Mile-High Club? What's that?"
I grinned and winked at her playfully. "I'm not saying, but I'll be happy to help you find out."
She got that dangerous look again. "Tell me."
Perc just smirked. "You brought this on yourself, Wesley."
Trillian laughed again as she whispered in Weiila's ear. Her eyes widened and she laughed slightly. "Oh really now. You sound even sillier."
Jaime shook his head. "A guy has to try. Here's a tip, Wesley: leave this to the professionals."
"I don't see you batting a thousand." That got a confused expression from everyone, except Perc, who was trying not to laugh.
Things progressed like this for another couple of ours. Just general bullshitting, trying not to worry about the fact that we were miles above a massive body of water. It was interspersed with the occasional comment and warning from TD. His warning was welcome: especially after the nasty bout of turbulence we had on the fifth hour of our flight. Otherwise, it was rather boring. Man I wish I had a Game Boy or something.
"Val, I have a question."
I looked up. Perc was talking to Val now. Weiila was dosing off in her seat, Trillian probing over some books she brought with her, and Jaime going over some notes for the meeting in London.
"You said you have a brother, Val... but you came to New Brooklyn alone. What.. happened to him?"
Val sighed and looked out of the window. "Lost him. It wasn't long before I came here. I booked passage with an acquaintance of my family... a pirate really, and one not too friendly with Khan. But someone told Khan, and we were attacked. I lost track of him while I was trying to fight them off..."
Val nodded, and kept her eyes on the window. "Yeah. I thought he was on the ship when I boarded... but he wasn't, and when I found out, it was too late to go back. The captain wouldn't let me go back." She laughed bitterly, "Probably a good idea, but..."
He nodded a bit. "You're reminded about it. You hope to find him then?"
"Yes. I hope he's alright..." She fell silent for a bit. "I could have done more, I suppose. But it's too late now."
I let them talk a little bit, before I laid back. I didn't pay much attention to anything, and eventually I just fell asleep.
When I opened my eyes, the lush plains of Memoria greeted me. I wondered if I would be dreaming of this place a lot. Most of my dreams lately ended up with small glimpses of this place.
The stump, however, was empty this time. Scanning the horizon, I just found... grass, grass and more grass. A few trees too. The castle was still off in the distance... Well, what would you do? Nothing to do here, so I started on the walk to the castle.
Strangely enough, for the distance, it passed remarkably quick. I didn't even notice the time passing. I got the feeling that time was no concern here. Before I knew it, I was standing in front of the gates. I looked around for a way to open them....
"Ever tried pushing?"
I turned to the right. The Keeper was sitting casually against the wall, still in his robes. I still had no idea who he was. "Uhm... hi."
The Keeper nodded slightly. "So you made it here. That's the first step. That's good... very good. But things are going to get very bad."
I looked confused. "How so?"
The Keeper shrugged. "Let's just say the fuel Sampo made isn't exactly jet fuel."
"The plane's going to CRASH?" I stepped back, blinking.
"That's what I said." He looked at me and laughed at the expression on my face. "Oh don't worry. You'll all survive, providing Weiila's quick with the shield-spell. You'll all wish you hadn't though."
I raised an eyebrow and sat down. "Why?"
"It hurts anyway. A lot."
I nodded, thinking. "I would imagine." I kept quiet for a little bit after that before the Keeper spoke.
"Don't worry about it. You'll all live. But you have an extended stay in Europe ahead... Zero won't be happy about it, so make sure to contact him as soon as you wake up, alright?"
"Uhm... ok. Why can't we just find a ship to head back?"
The Keeper shook his head. "Who said anything about 'we'?" You fall into the ocean a few miles out. Try keeping together under those conditions."
I face palmed, sighing. "Oh shit. Does this mean we have to find each other?"
A nod. "Yup. Before others do."
"And all I wanted to do was to sic a dragon on Neo D.C...." I grumbled a bit, wondering how to deal with this.
"You will, soon enough. If you still remember the compass spell Weiila taught you, I suggest you go northeast."
I nodded. "Who will I find there?"
The Keeper shrugged again. "No one from the plane. But say hi to Gab for me, ok?"
"Uh.. wha?" Then everything became white.
"Will... you... wake... up... ALREADY?!?!"
I got up with a start. "Wha?" I looked up at Val. "What's up."
"The airship's going down, that's what!"
"Wow. That was quick." I blinked and shook my head. Okay. Now I could feel it. We weren't in a nosedive yet, but we were going own quickly.
"TD, get your ass in here!" I heard Weiila call out. Jaime and Trillian were near her. Her features were distorted, as if a bubble had former around her.
"Can't! If I could just... get this... " I heard him grunting, "Straightened out, we might make land!"
No we won't, I thought to myself quickly. "How far are we?" Perc and Val made their way into the Weiila's shield now.
"Ten miles south-southeast. Will.. you... get STRAIGHT?"
That was it. "TD, are you insane? Give it up and come on!" Val this time.
I guess TD relented, because he made his way out of the cockpit and quickly entered the shield, sitting down and buckling himself in. "Uhm... I think you all should do the same." He looked at us as I entered the shield, following TD's lead. We all buckled in. Hey anything that would let us live through this."
Trillian looked out the window. "We're getting close!" TD grabbed her. "Not so close to the window! Now brace!"
We all braced as well as we could, and five seconds later, we hit the water...
Chapter 21: The Old World
Ugh... ow ow. Ow ow ow. Where am I?
Looking up, I took stock of my surroundings. I was on a beach. It was pretty clear out, on the ground and in the sky. Nice and sunny.
Not that it helped me much. Now that my vision was somewhat straight, I took stock of my injuries. Nothing too bad. a few scratches, a gash that looked like it stopped bleeding a while ago. Explains my bit of weakness. Nothing a nice bit of healing magic can't fix. I was lucky it wasn't worse.
Once healed, I took stock of what I had. My claws were still with me, in the knapsack I strapped to my back before the crash. No food: most of the rations I had were soaked and inedible. I dumped my knapsack for a better look.
What I had effectively was limited to a soaked sleeping bag, a canteen, my claws, and the energy amulet from the Crater trip, a couple cans of beans and veggies, and a broken compass. Now I know why the Keeper suggested the compass spell. Most noticeable of my missing items was the Fire Opal.
This didn't shape out well. I needed that to contact Allyekhrah. I had no way to contact anyone... wait. I cast the comm spell. trying to reach Nessa's ear. Nothing. Damn. These things have impressive range, but I suppose I wasn't quite so good as to try a Trans-Atlantic communiqué.
I tried contacting the others, and gave them a short message that I was alive. I wouldn't be able to hear from them (Even Weiila, who was never particularly good with it), but it would ease their worries.
But first business. I can't find the others or Bahamut if I'm dead. I rinse off what I could salvage. It would make it all a lot heavier for a while, but it would be useful. Salt water isn't the best for drinking, so I tasted the canteen before I dumped it. It was full of salt water. I'd have to find fresh water somehow. I wish I knew how to make freshwater out of salt water. I knew there was a way, but for the life of me I couldn't figure out how.
With my stuff rinsed off and a bit dry, I cast the compass spell. It was really a simple spell that allowed an extended sense of direction. Northeast would be following the coast a bit, until the beach curved away. So I set off.
Rassle. Rassle. Rassle. Rassle.
The sand stopped whispering under the pair of sturdy boots since they suddenly stopped trampling the tiny stones. The salty breeze of the ocean lazily pushed at the ragged, brown cape to let its hem caress the boots in tune with the sound of the waves.
A straw set between two rows of yellowish teeth thoughtfully bobbed up and down as the man moved forwards again.
Before the Second Sun, eye-color ranged between green, blue, gray and brown. Red irises had only been possible by lenses, and even then a pure hue such as this one would have been tricky to achieve. But there were no lenses here.
Therefore, two black holes set in a round ocean of crimson crystals each now scanned the ground before the owner of the eyes. Or rather, what laid on the ground.
Barely dried sand almost covered a pale face, still reddish after it had been scraped against the ground while the woman crawled onto shore. The sand filled the mess of a tangled net of dark hair that spread out beside the heavy, tilted head. The loose ground claimed the brown-gray tunic and the matching skirt, aided by the salt water, which pasted the cloth to her body. It seemed that she had tried to brush some of it off as her right hand laid over her stomach with a trail of cleaner tunic above it.
Dressed simply, like a common traveler. Wouldn't cause any raised eyebrows on the road. But the ocean was far from the normal travel routes.
The sand whispered as the man bent down and pulled one of the small pouches from the dark belt around the woman's waist. No money there, but...
Turning the small bag inside out he found a soaked ball of black, crumbled leaves.
The smell was almost covered by the salt water, but there was still a faint scent of antidote medicine.
However, it didn't smell exactly like the antidotes he knew by heart.
A healer, but she seemed to have some secrets.
He shrugged. Not really his business. He had better things to do than play detective.
Swiftly, Valerius Malevolus slung his found over his shoulder. She grunted in protest but didn't quite make it out of the world of the unconscious. Just as well. Protests irritated him.
"Fifty, that's my last bid!"
Voices... world fuzzy...
"You should be able to get the double."
"Only if she's a real deal. I won't go above fifty before I'm sure that she's a healer."
"I don't have time to wait until she wakes up and can prove it."
"Good. Then you deal with fifty gold."
"No is no, Malevolus!"
The argument seemed to really be heating up. Though the silent listener couldn't really understand what it was all about. Some part of her told her that it would be very wise to shut up, but another part was screaming for an explanation and more importantly water. Her tongue was practically ripping itself apart.
"Nghh..." somehow crawled between her lips.
"She's awake," the voice called Malevolus stated with mild triumph.
A bony hand pushed at her forehead and she tried to focus her misty eyes. She had a feeling that she was sitting in a chair, but she wasn't sure.
There was only a pale blur.
"What is your name, woman?" the rough bidding voice demanded.
The voice sent chills down her spine and pure survival instincts fought to make her speak, to make her brain work well enough to piece the broken puzzle together.
It didn't work well. After two failed attempts to speak out her name and the only result being a hoarse croaking, the voice in the background spoke up.
"She might need water."
"Yes!!" the desperate brain silently cried.
"Oh fine, fine..." the rough voice impatiently snarled.
Her head fell as the hand moved away. Moments later she was pushed up again, and a cool, rounded surface pressed against her lips. Greedily she gulped down the heavenly clear liquid as it washed over her tongue, smoothening the dry ache that covered the tender skin of her mouth.
Too soon the water stopped running between her lips, the glass ripped away mercilessly.
"Now speak up!"
Her sight cleared and she stared up at a bony, pale face. The eyes struck at her heart with their chilly, unfriendly interest.
She swallowed nervously, brain racing in the attempts to recall just what had happened.
She froze as she realized what that sound was, connected to the tight, heavy sensation around her wrists.
'Oh, no... oh no...'
"Where...?" she croaked before she could stop herself.
The room seemed to be small and dark, void of decoration and most furniture. But she wasn't sure. All she saw were those merciless eyes that with impatient greed regarded her.
"Are you a healer?" their voice demanded.
Survival instincts kicked in again, screaming at her to not anger this person if she liked her skin intact.
"Y-yes," she managed to hiss.
Before she had time to blink, metal flashed before her and she cried out in surprised pain as a blade sliced down her bare arm to the shackle. Automatically she called out to her healing powers and a frail stream of healing light flowed from her good fingertips, crossing the distance above her knees and to the wound, which slowly closed.
The eyes watched this with content.
"What... why did you do that?" she croaked, though somewhere well aware of that.
The eyes were even worse when smug.
He turned to the other man.
"Fine, Malevolus," the eyes said, "seventy gold pieces."
Weiila's fingers curled around the chains and constricted until she shook, her own eyes wide open and staring at the dark cloth covering her legs.
She didn't need to hear the next bit of information aimed at her.
"Welcome to the slave market, young lady. Healers are hard to find these days, so you'll surely give us a good prize."
At first, there was nothing but a gloomy, watery and rolling haze. Then his vision began to clear. The sea was calm, fortunately. The sky rich with stars, like a bejeweled black veil, complemented with perfectly round pearly-white moon, gleaming above him. There was no sign of life or the wreck of an aeroplane: the ocean had swallowed them.
Percival forgot his own peril for a moment and turned his mind towards his former companions. Thinking quickly, he decided to communicate with ocean spirits in the hope that they might have information of his companions. He dove under the surface, closed his eyes and relaxed himself. The sound of the ocean slowly disappeared from his ears, fading until he heard the whispers of the ocean spirits, free and chaotic, flowing like a wild current through his consciousness. He heard of a metallic bird crashing into some fierce currents many kilometers west of Portugal. He heard that they had perceived his own affinity with the natural world and were bearing him upon their backs towards his homeland: England. The spirits had seen others who had also fallen from the sky with the metallic bird, but had not seen what had become of them.
He came out of his trance, and the roar of the ocean came thundering back into his ears. He remained relaxed floating on his back, let his eyes drink in the glimmering heavens and his ears the gentle currents. His eyes remained closed. He spent a few minutes discerning his position, attuning his mind to the position of the stars and the flow of the current. By that he determined that he was at present in the Bay of Biscay, some kilometers from the mouth the Garonne River.
He then took leave of the ocean spirits, thanking them for their deed and wishing them well. Then, summoning his strength, he began to swim eastwards. At first, he simply glided through the waves with a simple front crawl. Then, slowly but surely, he gathered speed, and began to draw on the power of his spirit. Soon he was weaving like a hammer-headed needle in and out of the waves in a dolphin-like stroke, but traveling far faster than any dolphin could. It was strenuous, but wonderful at the same time, to travel at such speeds and the memories of Percival's vivacious childhood, from before the coming of the Second Sun, came soaring back into his soul. And the ocean spirits were drawn to his passionate swim and chased him, consumed with their wild and child-like energy.
Then, beginning only as a faint twinkle, he caught sight of a warm orange light-warm compared with the cool star and moonlight. Then another…and another, until the lights of Le Verdon-sur-Mer, a town at the mouth of the Garonne River, appeared before him. Then he shut his eyes and let his spirit guide his swim into the waters of the Garonne.
Percival found himself on a beach. The port city of Bordeaux was very close (he had swum up the mouth of the Garonne), but about a kilometer to the south. The sky had become grey and all but the brightest stars still shone in the sky. He shivered with cold. His skin felt wrinkled and tired, and his face sagged. His stomach ached with emptiness. He arose, and found himself naked and covered with sand. His muscles ached as well, which he discovered as he arose. Fortunately, there was a small stream of clean, fresh water, which flowed into the brackish river not far from his location, whither he proceeded and washed himself. As he rinsed the sand from his mouth, he felt something round and smooth, but hard under his tongue, which he had not noticed previously. Spitting out what he thought was a stone, he was amazed to see a small brilliantly white pearl in his wrinkled hand. It was smooth and beautiful to the touch, but it pulsed with the fury of the ocean spirits, which had borne and chased him during the night. Obviously, it was a token of their friendship. He kept the pearl tightly clenched in his hand.
Percival waded upstream into an area with sedges and rushes, and rested on a secluded bank amidst the buzz of dragonflies. He proceeded into the peace and quiet to do some Yoga so that he might replenish his spirit. It was not easy to expel the wistful thought of his friends and the crash of the aeroplane, but he eventually succeeded and entered another trance.
It was well past noon when Percival awoke, but his spirit was refreshed. His skin and appearance had also become smooth, as if the stream's water had washed away the wrinkles left by the ocean, and he felt clean and fresh. Unfortunately, his stomach was quaking with hunger. Bordeaux was a friendly town-Percival had visited it many times-yet he did not have much of a mind to wander into town naked. In the end, however, he can no other choice but to enter the town anyhow. He sat in thought for a little while, recalling his French, and then set off.
Needless, to say, walking through the streets of Bordeaux proved less unpleasant than Percival had thought. For the most part, the people just stared at him; only a few howled comments. Unfortunately, Percival's French was good enough that he understood what most of these meant. The city police asked him a few questions, but otherwise just told him to get some clothes.
But Percival knew a young couple on the eastern outskirts of Bordeaux, named Gérard and Florence Charpentier, with whom he had stayed during a previous visit. He found their small but comfortable home and was pleased to be asked to stay, despite his risqué appearance. The Charpentiers gave him fresh clothes and then they caught up on each other's lives. Since Percival had far more to relate, he allowed his hosts the courtesy of going first, and they had little to say save that they had continued to live simply but comfortably, Gérard was still a docker, Florence was still an herbalist and she was three months pregnant with their first child. Then Percival, after congratulating the couple, began, and a bottle of St. Émilion (a kind of red wine), and a meal of ratatouille (a vegetable stew), green salad, pain d'épines with warmed chèvre (a kind of bread with goat cheese) and côtelettes de mouton à l'estragon (mutton chops with tarragon) was set on the table as dinner (Florence did not drink, of course). The Charpentiers knew how to entertain a guest. Telling his tale helped him be courteous at the table and gainsaid the pangs of his hunger the speed and manner of eating which they would have preferred.
When Percival had finished, his hosts did their best to comfort him, and refrained from unleashing a flood of questions. With a dreary face, he retired early and slept long and hard, fortunately without any interruptions and nightmares.
The following day, he was greeted with a warm sunrise, which breathed living color back into the countryside and the farms, and above all the vineyards. Even the Second Sun had failed to destroy the grapes (and the wines) of France.
Over the course of the morning, still uneasy, he asked Florence (Gérard went to work) more about the area. He learnt that the townsfolk were anxious about activities of the Children, who had been sighted around Toulouse and the upper Garonne. Amongst them was a prodigious sorceress known as Angélique la Belladone (Angelica the Deadly Nightshade), beautiful but terribly cruel. There were rumors spreading of a powerful magical weapon being developed by the Children, and although Paris had commissioned an investigation into the rumors, nothing had been found as of yet. There was also worry about the slave trade in Spain and whether the predators would begin to seek prey north of the Pyrenees. Apparently, some inhabitants of the Côte d'Azur had already fallen victim to slavers in the Mediterranean.
But he could hardly shake the memory of his friends from his mind. The chances that most had perished were very high. TD had survived of course, and he was quite sure that Wesley had as well. But his spirits were low for the others. Despite that, he thought that those who had survived would most likely make their way towards the Black Forest and try to regroup there rather than wander around the continent looking for each other.
The following day, Percival, with a fresh set of clothes, victuals and traveling gear, set out eastward. He promised to repay his hosts, and they refused him at first, saying that he was denying them the courtesy of housing him. After a debate of several minutes, however, Percival impressed firmly into the minds of the Charpentiers that he would repay them someday and they knew as well as he did that he was a man of his word.
And so, Percival set out. He returned back down the Garonne whither it met another river, the Dordogne, which did not flow south as the Garonne did. It was also very unsafe to travel towards Angélique and the Children alone in Toulouse. By way of Périgieux, Limoges, Clermont-Ferrand, he hoped to reach Lyons, whence he could travel north up the Saône and then north-east up the Doubs and by way of Mâcon, Besançon and Belfort, he could reach Freiburg and the Black Forest, where he hoped that he would find a familiar face.
If a person would find themselves on a particular beach in Portugal, they would have probably heard someone screaming obscenities in between mouthfuls of sand.
"Stupid old plane. Stupid substandard fuel. Stupid Second Sun."
This was shouted at the top of the lungs of a soaked and bedraggled man dressed in, of all things, a stained business suit.
TD sighed as he looked out over the ocean, spitting the last of the sand out of his mouth. Goes with the business I guess. Wonder who's alive. He stood up rather unsteadily, looking over the beach and water for any sign of bodies. We ere pretty far from land. The currents could have taken them anywhere.
But first thing's first. He could find them eventually, if his alternate "personality" didn't get in the way. But without any sort of supplies... well he needed it now.
Over time, TD had actually practiced switching between personalities. Reasserting himself was difficult at best, and he could perhaps retain control for a short time at most. He could have certainly used psychiatric help and medicines that were readily available two centuries ago.
But for now, all he could do was deal with it.
Five minutes later, TD ran away from the beach at a surprising speed, his animalistic alternate "personality" having taken over. After all, it was the best for finding food and water.
It was approximately two hours before TD got a hold of himself. But he didn't feel thirsty or hungry anymore, so that aspect of survival was taken care of. Now to find civilization, he thought to himself.
Spending time alone in wilderness (urban or otherwise) tends to sharpen one's senses. Add that to TD's already powerful senses as a ghoul, and what his alternate personality had taught him, you couldn't find an animal anywhere that could pick up scents as well as TD could. From his nose alone he could detect the scent of civilization approximately a mile west. So he ran.
About ten minutes later, he was walking through the middle of town, unsure of what to do. He was alone, had no idea where he was, or where to go. I think everyone will be going to the Black Forest... but how do I get there?
First stop. Ask for directions. One building in particular looked like a tavern. Somewhere where a lot of people would gather. It looked like a good bet. He quickly entered the tavern.
His appearance, remarkably different from the others in the tavern, drew stares as he walked over to the bar. "Excuse me, sir, but where am I?" The bartender only looked at him blankly, so TD asked again. Another blank stare.
Fortunately an older man next to TD seemed to understand. "You speak English, yes? Must be a foreigner..."
TD nodded. "You could say that. My... ship wrecked and well..."
The man nodded. "Ah. Used to be a sailor in my youth. I understand. You are in Viana do Castelo."
"I never heard of it... which country?"
The old man laughed, amused. "Portugal."
TD must have looked shocked, because the old man laughed again. What the hell am I doing in Portugal? We were going to England... He shook his head. "I see. Thank you your help."
The old sailor nodded as TD turned to leave. "Oh, before you leave, I should warn you. The slavers have been rather active... The got poor Beatriz... She was such a sweet girl too. If you ever find her, tell her Adelberto said hello and hopes she is well. I hope she can get away..."
TD nodded. "Thank you, sir. If I find her, I'll see if I can help." TD quickly left, wondering what to do next....
Hey, Kit! Quick, look what I found!
Renna, if this is another seashell of yours- HOLY SHIT! Who is she?!
I don't know, but she looks pretty bad! What should we do?!
Let's take her back to the Sanctuary, Father will know what to do. I hope.
How long ago did that happen? A minute, an hour, a day?
Ugh... Few things are as annoying as hearing an important discussion in a state of semi-consciousness.
But being dropped on the ground in a state of semi-consciousness qualifies, I think.
"Dammit, Renna, I told you to be careful with her!"
"I was being careful! She just slipped."
"Yeah, right. That's your excuse for everything."
"Yes it is!"
"For the love of God," I croak, "please shut up."
"Hey, Kit, she's waking up!"
"Well, duh! I can see that!"
Resisting the desire to scream at them, I slowly open my eyes to see just where I was.
My eyes were still weak, but I could tell two things about the area: I was in a room, and it was a BIG room. It seemed to be almost two stories tall, and about half the length of the Tower back in Neo-Brooklyn.
"Hey, are you okay, ma'am?"
I turn my head to look at who was addressing me. It was a girl, about 11 or 12 in a skirt and blouse of the same dull brown. Her hair was tied up in a ponytail, and was nervously twirling it around her finger. She spoke with an odd accent, but I couldn't quite place it.
"Fine. Where... am I?" My voice sounded really hoarse. I must be sick. Figures.
"You're in the Sanctuary," she chirps. "I'm Renna, and I helped carry you here!" She exclaims proudly.
"And I'm Kitabel, her brother," I hear the other voice say. I look even farther left to see a young man, about 17, look at me with more than a passing interest. It figures a horny teenager and his annoying sister'd save me.
"Val." it hurts to speak, so I try to keep it minimum. "Where... others?"
They both frown. "You were the only one on the beach," Kitabel said sadly. "What happened?"
"Ship... crashed. Heading... England."
"Well, you're lucky, then. Welcome to Ireland, Val, just a stone's throw away from England," Kit says with a smile. My grim look sobers him up soon, though.
"Need to go... Black Forest..." I croak out, trying to get into an upright sitting position. "Wesley... Bahamut... Khan..."
"Sorry, ma'am," Renna pushes gently against me, pushing me back to the soft carpeted floor. "But you need to rest. The Father will look at you later. Until then, try to sleep."
I wanted to argue, to start heading out immediately. But sleep sounded so good...
I got out of my bed, reluctantly. She's not in bed...She doesn't normally wake up before me? Where could she be? I searched the house briefly, not there. Jake lives next door, is he attempting...something I wouldn't approve...with her?
I raced outside, and looked through the door hole of Jake's door. Surely enough, I saw him talking to her. I have to do something about this!
I knocked on the door, and they ignored me; it's like they didn't hear me. I struggled to open the locked door by force; no response from them again. Then I remembered...there's a door linking our houses together! I hurried back inside my house, to the door, and tried to open it.
YES, it's unlocked! I ran in and raced to the front of the house, through the living room, down the hall, past the kitchen, whilst ignoring the protests from his parents for setting foot in their house. Jake's family never liked me, and Jake never really did either. Past the kitchen, I turned left at the end of the hall to reach the small corridor that showed the front door. There they were.
"Haley!" I cried, and sped up to her and hugged her.
"Umm." A noise escaped her mouth.
"What's the problem, my love?"
"You're hugging me?"
"Jamie, you know we can never be together. You know it's true..."
I unburied my face from her shoulder and looked up to the sad expression on her face. I know it's true, too, but I don't want to believe that so easily...do I really have to live with that? I let go of Haley and looked to Jake. Instead of his normally condescending stare, I saw actual sympathy in his eyes. I know he hadn't done anything dishonest to me.
"What I can do for you is this," she said, as she opened her long arms outward, "Hold me in your arms, one last time, and hold on, as long as you can."
What was I to do? This is Haley we're talking about. I love her more than anything. I felt the tears roll down my face...How long has it been since I cried? I reached out my arms and pulled her to me. This might be the last embrace I'll ever allow myself to enjoy. Her soft skin, her beautiful voice, her inebriating smell. Just thinking about this made me hold her tighter, and tighter...until; suddenly I felt excruciating pain in my arms and chest.
"Ahhhh!!! Ow ow OWWW!"
I shook left and immediately felt pain all over my body, as suddenly, the light blue walls and green carpet, and all the expensive furniture INSTANTLY turned into a blue sky, holding up the bright sun. Sand now sparsely covered my entire body, and the sound of the waves calmed me at my left.
"Aw shit. Aw fuck. It was a dream. Just a dream..."
Have you ever maxed out your arms, AND your legs, without stretching before OR after? Well, I'm not dumb enough to try it either, but I imagine it would HAVE to feel something like this. My arms and chest are so sore, I can barely move them. My legs are sore, from my knees, all the way up to my ass. I can't even flex my damn ass muscles! They're sore too! HOW does that happen? ...Of course, I then remember how I got here...
"Crashed. Where am I, anyways?"
It didn't matter at this point anyways, I guess. My entire body was sore. I didn't want to move. I didn't feel like I'd ever want to move ever again. I can't tell if I had any serious wounds, but I didn't wanna know either. I didn't care about anything now; any physical activity was too much for me. All I wanted to do was think. And, what else to think about, but...
I've never had a dream that felt so real before. I haven't even thought about Haley or Jake in years. Haley was a girl I used to love when I was but a teen, and Jake, was something of a rival; we were diametrically opposed. He was a rude man...full of strength, and full of arrogance. Haley ended up with Jake so long ago, but I never knew if they had married, or what even became of the two. I was immature back then, and never spoke to them again. If only that dream had ever happened... was it a vision or something? Will I see her again? Was that a glimpse of what could have been? I don't get it. It never happened, and as I think about it, a lot of the occurrences in the dream were false or ridiculous. How DID I look through a door hole from the outside anyways? There certainly was no door connecting our houses together...But most importantly...I didn't really know what Haley meant. Jamie, you know we can never be together. You know it's true. I thought about what she said, and what it could have meant for a long time, to no avail. It's too bad. I wish I knew...even if it was all fake, I wish I knew. What can I say? You never really get OVER an old love; you just put your feelings aside, as best as possible. Isn't that so true? Now I wonder if I'll ever see her again...
Enough, though. I have more important things to worry about. Where AM I, first off? How long had I been unconscious? Do I still have enough equipment to survive? Where is everyone else, and most importantly, what weighed on my mind; what course of action to take? I'm here to oversee the Pax Atlantica, and make sure the ceremony goes off without a hitch, but...I have no idea if the rest of the gang is alright. I know Trilley's headed my way, but, what of the others? This is a lot to think about...I'm damned if I look for them, and damned if I don't. If I report back to Zero saying that I didn't arrive at the delegation, OR that I disregarded the well-being of the rest of the crew, I'm gonna get it real good. The others were headed to that forest in Germany...could they be contacted? Ugh, I would check my equipment right now if I could move a muscle without DYING. I guess I'll take a short nap, and hope that I feel up to moving when I wake...
Ahh, sleep is good. I woke up at dusk with my mind cleared; no dream or anything. Not that it would have been bad...the seconds I got to hold Haley were real enough, I coulda been content for the rest of my life like that...
Whatever. I'd also received a message from Wes during my sleep, alerting me he was ok. So I know that at least our "secret weapon" is alive, heheh. Speaking of which, I have the Comm spell too. It came in handy, me being the reliable repository of information that I am back at HQ. Should I contact everyone right now, too? Hmm...Think I'll wait. I don't wanna let everyone know I'm alive when I'm in the middle of nowhere. *I* won't exactly survive without civilization.
I tried moving, still pretty damn sore, but I could move. To get up without feeling a bunch of pain, I rolled over on my stomach, got on my hands and knees, and slowly pushed myself up. It still hurt a lot, but it worked. Now, to check my stuff...
Searching my pack that wound up a few feet away...I saw that the food rations were still good; thank the lordo that I landed on shore. My guitar has broken strings...They were all broken at the bottom, so I can still use the slack from the top to retune them...And my dagger was still in good condition. I retuned my guitar, ate up, and equipped myself properly.
Thinking about my predicament earlier today, the plan of action was obvious: I had to make sure everyone was all right, AND get to England on time. But how much time has passed? I used a compass spell, and it turns out, I'm on a western shore...so that at least narrows down what COUNTRY it could be...I wanted to stay along the shoreline. It seemed like the smart thing to do, and at least then, I didn't have to worry about dehydrating. Hmm. But, the others, how to start? I'd received word from Wes, but I wouldn't know about anyone else. I don't know if anyone else knows that spell. If they did, and didn't contact me...I could only imagine what's happened. In that case, I better make haste.
I followed the shoreline south...and just after the sun went down, I reached a town called Vigo. And uh, guessing by the fact that they spoke Castillian Spanish, I figured out pretty easy I was in Spain. Lucky for me, I am an intermediate in the ways of Latin language! Fluent in English and Spanish, and I can understand Portuguese a bit. French and Italian, I'm in the dark about. I can read a few words based off similarity to Spanish, and that's it. Let's hope I don't have to go through there. Anyways, I went to a bar and checked me out a map. Apparently Vigo is on the shore of Spain, right next to the northern border of Portugal. So, that's that. We all probably landed in Spain and Portugal.
Well, I went outside and did the only thing I could to make money for a night: Play my guitar. Man, Latin guitar sure does rake in the money and women! So, after I had the money for drinks and an inn (AND after I had my share of flirting!), I headed on back to an inn for the night. Before I clocked out, I asked around about a ship falling from the sky. There were some witnesses, news reported it falling to the south about a day ago. Man oh man, I got shot waaaay far out. The rest of them are probably in Portugal. So now, at least I knew that if I wanted to find them, I should go south.
Back up in my room, I used the comm spell and told everyone I could get a hold of that I was ok...I couldn't get a hold of Percy or Val, though. Too far away, maybe? Yeah, that has to be it. Neither of them would die easily. If I survived, there's no way they died. Well, knowing that everyone was at least alive, I had to just find them now...Be sure to go south, Jamie...Gotta hurry...Delegation...Mmm...Haley...see her again...
After letting her thoughts recollect for a while, she opened her eyes and squinted to see the sun shining brilliantly like a diamond nestled in feathery white clouds in the deep blue sky. She got the immediate sense that she was floating, which she found to be ridiculous, because that's not the sort of thing she usually did.
Trillian craned her neck to look around and a jolt of pain shot through her shoulder. “Ouch!” She clutched her shoulder to find that a sharp metal splinter about the size of a steak knife had lodged itself there. Sitting up dizzily from blood loss, she saw that she WAS floating…on a tabletop in the ocean, about 40 yards away from shore. Her red dress was slightly scorched now, but she would tend to that later.
She swept her stringy black hair from her face and gritted her teeth as she pulled the metal splinter out her shoulder. She tossed the metal shard aside and good amount of blood immediately trickled out of the wound. She sat looking at her bloody hand, trembling in shock for a moment, and then uttered a spell of healing. A warm, dim light emanated from the damaged nerves and broken skin as the wound sealed itself until finally there was only a small patch of new skin to show where it had been. She patted her tattered jacket and felt that her pocket spell book was still intact, thankfully; looking down for a moment at the table, a terrible thought struck her.
“Oh god, the plane. Where…where is everyone?” Her eyes widened and she looked around for someone…anyone…but other than pieces of wreckage, she saw nothing but the sea and shore. A bit of flat wood paneling started to bob by in the water, so she grabbed it and started to paddle her way to shore. As she sat down on the sandy beach to drain the water from her boots, she stopped to look at the sea. She had never seen so much water before in her life; she had seen small lakes and rivers before, but here it seemed to engulf the whole earth. She felt a lump form in her throat…what if no one else had survived the crash? Her eyes started to well up. Oh, suck it up, she told herself, …if I survived, surely someone else survived as well. She sighed and looked up to the shoreline.
She noticed a curious glinting on the shore up ahead of her, so she ran up to see what it was exactly. There, partially buried in the wet sand, was a small oblong black box with a chain shoulder strap. She washed the sand off of it and opened it up to a set of two daggers and six throwing knives. Oh, good, she thought, …the daggers are still with me. A waterlogged canvas bag lay nearby, so she figured that might come in handy, too. She slung the case over her shoulder and headed inland, down a dirt pathway. By the looks of the drying fishing nets hanging on low-lying branches at the opening of the forest and the hoof prints embedded in the soft dirt, this would probably be the best way to go.
She walked for a while though the forest, picked some berries she knew weren't poisonous or hallucinogenic along the way, ate some, and saved the rest in the canvas bag for later. She stopped, sitting on a log to rest her feet for a moment when she noticed out of the corner of her eye that a shadow was moving noiselessly through the trees. She yawned and stretched her arms, letting one hand casually fall over her weapons case. About two seconds later, something shoved her violently to the ground, knocking the wind out of her. She looked up and saw a person…if you could call it a person, it looked more like giant lizard in a dark uniform of some sort. It seemed to be saying something through strange clicking noises with its throat. Whatever it was, it certainly wasn't a friendly greeting, because the lizard was brandishing two wicked looking swords, and striding right towards her.
“Wait! Please! I don't know what you want, but I mean no harm!” She pleaded, holding up her arms to shield herself. The creature didn't relent; it sliced her arm deeply and bashed her head against the hilt of one of the swords.
She regained her senses in a moment and staggered onto her feet, holding her wounded arm. Her green eyes flashed and narrowed. “Alright, you asked for it,” she growled. She whispered an incantation, and as she did so, she outstretched her unwounded arm with her hand opened, and chanted. As she did so, an unearthly swirl of darkness formed around the palm of her hand…the swirl morphed into a rather large black orb that seemed to bend the space around it. The lizard creature charged, hissing loudly. She pulled back, then shoved the concentration of energy at her attacker. The orb hit the creature in mid-leap, swallowed it whole, and then imploded on itself. She sank down to the forest floor, exhausted. The wound in her arm burned terribly, meaning probably that the swords were tipped in poison. She tried the heal spell again, but she was too weakened to make it work completely. She tore a piece of her jacket off and wound it tightly around her arm to cut off the circulation to help stop the bleeding and spread of the poison, whatever it was.
She wearily picked her things up, and continued down the pathway, until she finally came upon what looked like the edge of a village. There were some people standing in front of a tavern, drinking and talking. They stopped and looked at her, curiously. Then all of a sudden everything blurred over…her sense of hearing fizzled and things sounded as if she were underwater. She staggered, slumped to the ground and fell into unconsciousness.
It was past nightfall when I heard Jamie's message in my head. Alright, that's good. One more person alive, it put the hope in me that everyone would live.
Well it would if I didn't know everyone already did, according to the Keeper. The fact that Jamie mentioned that he seemed to be in Spain gave my a rough indication of where I was. Probably in Spain myself.
GOD I wish I could remember my high school Spanish classes.
Still, I pressed northeast. I needed to find a town as soon as I could. Survival skills weren't exactly my forte. Well I'd give out another message once I was safe. If I made it.
It was about an hour before I saw some trace of human life. By now I had entered a forest. Not sure of the size, but forests at night are creepy, and I couldn't afford to sleep. Not now. I kept a small fire spell going so I had the light to see, and I kept my claws on. I wasn't going to risk it in here.
Well after about a hour, I started to hear faint crackling noises. It sounded like something was burning... and if something was burning, it could be a campfire. Campfires meant human beings. I hope. Heading toward the source of the noise...
It looks like I was in luck. Two blond men were sitting around a campfire. One looked like an adult, the other looked like he was in his mid-teens. The younger was stoking the fire, and I could see sausages impaled on the prongs of a fork the larger man was carrying.
Oh MAN did those smell good.
Not stopping to check if they were any danger, I made a little noise to gather their attention. My stomach was doing the thinking for me now. Both men looked up at me and I held up my hands to show I was unarmed... They both eyed my claws. I forgot about those. I took them off and stowed them away as the larger man nodded. "Hola."
Well I was going to take another jab. Why not? "Uhm.. Hello, I don't speak Spanish..."
The older man nodded. "I see. You don't sound like you're from around here. Come a long way?"
I nodded. "Yeah. Could say that."
The younger man nodded. "Sit down then. You're welcome in our camp."
Thank God they were friendly. I smiled and bowed to each of them in thanks and sat down. Whew. At least it was warmer.
The older man nodded, holding out his hand. "My name is Alexander, and this is my friend Gabriel." Gabriel? Hmmm... I wondered to myself.
"My name is Wesley, and thank you for your hospitality. I... didn't think I'd be running into anyone here."
Gabriel chuckled. "If you were a day later, you wouldn't have. We're wanderers, us. Not a place in Europe we haven't seen." He took some of the sausages that Alexander offered him.
Alexander then offered a few sausages to me. I gratefully took them, brightening up. "Really? Perhaps then... well I don't know..."
Alexander bit into a sausage, chewed and swallowed. "What's wrong?"
Should I tell them? Oh what the hell. I started to tell them my story. It was probably far-fetched, but hey, this whole world was far-fetched. About being sent here to find a dragon, the delegation to London, and so on...
Alexander's brow furrowed when I mentioned London. "London, eh? Good luck. The Khan sacked it not a month ago. We saw it with our own eyes. The city is a wasteland."
OH FUCK! I winced and sighed. "Hold on a second, I need to send a little message."
I quickly notified the others. Trillian and Jamie in particular. Alexander nodded while I whispered my message about five times. Once I was done, Alexander nodded. "Now about this dragon..."
I nodded, finishing my sausages. "Well I met a dragon in Chicago and she agreed to stop her attacks on the condition that I find her a mate. I'm hoping to find the others so we can go to the Black Forest."
They both stared at me when I said "Black Forest." Why, I don't know. But I felt I had to clarify. "Well a friend told me one called Bahamut lived there and well..."
Gabriel stammered. "Wh-wh-where d-d-did you hear this from?"
I looked at him puzzled. "A woman named Val. She was with us and..."
"Valerie Robyn von Lesser?"
I blinked. "I never heard her full name. All I know is that she came here to guide us to the Black Forest and find her..." then it hit me.
Alexander nodded, smiling slightly. "So she's alive. This is her brother, Gabriel David von Lesser."
Chapter 22: The Next Day...
Weiila sighed and leaned back against the wall. With her were about five other men and women, talking amongst themselves in a language she couldn't understand. From her experience with Jamie though, she could at least recognize it as Spanish. Lot of good that does me, she thought to herself, sighing.
Some of them seemed to be wounded when she was brought here, and her ethics as a healer prevented her from denying them aid. So they looked at her with a sort of awe and respect, even though they didn't understand a word she said. Most of them anyway.
A Portuguese woman sat not too far away from her, sighing and muttering to herself in Spanish. She was the only one who seemed to understand Weiila, and had translated for her.
"How do I get into these messes?" Weiila muttered aloud, drawing a look from the woman.
The woman just sighed and shrugged. "Can't help it, perhaps. Some of us are just unlucky. How did you get caught?"
Weiila shrugged herself. "I was coming here with some friends and our..." She thought for a moment about the fact that she was in an airship, "Ship crashed. Next thing I know, they're haggling over me and they took me here..."
The woman nodded. "The slavers came to our town and just took us. Killed anyone who resisted. They killed my brothers..." The woman sighed and shook her head. "Most people don't though. They just run. The slavers are supported by Khan."
Weiila raised an eyebrow. "Who is Khan?"
"A warlord from Germany. He's just been taking over everywhere. Germany, Northern France, Spain... The only real resistance is what's left of France. Too many people, they are afraid of him. He's very powerful... What's wrong?"
Weiila looked up as Wesley's message resounded in her head. "Weiila, this is Wes! London has been destroyed by Khan. If you find Jamie and Trillian and they haven't gotten this message, don't let them go to London!"
She just blinked and smiled once the message was complete. "One of my friends. He's alive and well but..."
The woman tilted her head to the side in confusion. "But none of your friends are here..."
Weilla nodded. "He's a mage. He sent his message with magic."
The woman looked alarmed. "He's a mage?! Khan mustn't find out! Magic is illegal unless he allows it and his soldiers will kill any illegal mages on sight!"
Weiila blinked. This didn't bode well for Wesley. Especially with his tendency to use magic. "I see. Then what about me?"
The woman shook her head. "Healers are safe I think, if they can't use any other magic. Not sure. Healers are usually taken as slaves for Khan and his henchmen..."
Nice. I get to meet Khan personally. This is not good. Weiila frowned. "I see. I never heard your name..."
The woman tired her best to smile. "I am Beatriz. I am from Viana do Castelo. And you?"
Weiila nodded and tried to smile herself. "I'm Weiila. I'm from New Brooklyn, in North America."
Beatriz nodded. "You've come a long way. You brought friends with you... If your friends come for you, will you take me with you?"
Weiila smiled and nodded. "I will. And the others too."
Beatriz smiled happily. "Oh thank you. I hope they come soon..."
Weiila sighed again. "Yeah... I don't have a way of contacting them. I only know healing magic..."
Beatriz slumped against the wall. "All we can do is wait then..."
Wertigon jolted upright in his bed and opened his eyes. "Just another goddamn nightmare..." he thought, drawing a deep breath. He looked to the other side of the bed, empty since several years back. His memory called up the image of her face, radiant with beauty and serenity. He still missed her, despite it having been so long since he had lost her. "Despite my best efforts, I couldn't save her..." He fingered the medallion hanging around his neck, his only memento of her. It had brought him luck so far, he could only hope that it would still do so in the future.
He climbed out of his bed and into the bathroom to shave. Once there he took a look out the window - The sky was clear, just with the faintest trace of clouds in the distance, and the sun was slowly rising over the horizon. It seemed to be a good day to hunt, but first he had to do some maintenance on the ADS. He sighed. More routine work, yet he couldn't say it wasn't a welcome break from killing monsters. Lately he'd just started to grow tired of all the killing - Maybe he was growing old? He sighed and put the razor-sharp knife to his cheek.
Once in the basement, Wertigon walked up to the terminal and logged on. As he waited for the login scripts to handle his requests, he absentmindedly fingered the bird-like shape on his sword. It was an ancient bird they had told him, a bird that had existed before the Second Sun itself. Not much was known about it, and why it had ended up on his father's sword, he didn't know. He did know, however, that in the old days it was called a Penguin, and that it somehow was a symbol for freedom. The sword itself was mighty enough to chop through stone, and it could even repel black magic. It was truly a work of art.
As soon as the login scripts had done their part, Wertigon went to work. It was hard work, especially since the machine was erratic and required a whole lot of knowledge. Not many knew how to operate it, he knew, but he was one of the few who did, and he was also one of the best at it. A fact he took quite some pride in. After a while he lost track on the time, and just worked on tirelessly until he heard footsteps behind him. He quickly spun around, his hand on the hilt of his sword, before he recognized it was Nessa.
"Hey," he greeted her.
"Good afternoon, Sir!" she replied.
"Yes Sir, the current time is 14:27."
"Well shit. I ran into a few problems on this," Wertigon replied, pointing at the terminal.
"I understand, Sir." she replied.
"What are you doing down here?" he asked her.
"Well, since you didn't show up at lunch, I figured you were here, and I just thought I should bring you some," Nessa explained, and gave him a tray with some food on.
"... Thank you," Wertigon replied, and smiled. His stomach gave out a loud grumble. "I've just been so busy I forgot about it." He gave a friendly laugh.
"How is the maintenance going, Sir?" Nessa asked.
"It's going all right, I guess," he replied. "Half an hour more, and I should be done with it. All I have to do now is to start this thing and wait for it to finish." he pressed a few buttons and then diverted his attention to his food. Nessa just stayed quiet and let him finish.
"Amah... That was just what I needed. Once again, thanks!" Wertigon said, leaning backwards.
"Sir..." Nessa began, hesitantly.
"Yes?" Wertigon said.
"It's not as if I want to be rude, sir, but... What is it with that medallion you're wearing?" she asked, slightly embarrassed for asking such a personal question.
"Medallion? Oh, you mean my pendant?" Wertigon answered, and took out his pendant. "What about it?"
"Yes... I mean, it's none of my business, but I've seen you whisper prayers to it every time we're going out to battle. What's with that?"
"It's my lucky charm," Wertigon replied, winking at Nessa.
"Who gave you it?" she asked, curious.
"My wife," Wertigon replied, feeling a slight stab of pain as he mentioned it.
"You had a wife? I wasn't even aware you'd ever been married," Nessa said. "Oh, I mean..."
"It's all right, I take no offence." Wertigon assured her.
Nessa leaned slightly forward. "So what happened to her?"
"She died... A Dhroma took her." Wertigon said, with bitterness in his voice.
"Back when Washington was overrun," he answered her.
"Oh, I-I'm sorry!" She said, startled.
"No, don't be. Even if you were there, there was nothing you could've done in either case. I remember that moment as if it was yesterday..." Wertigon said.
"What happened?" Nessa replied.
"Me and my wife knew there was no way that the city would last, so we tried to escape." Wertigon began, then stopped. "Actually, this is a long story, so if you don't have the time..."
"No, no, please go on!" Nessa asked him.
"Right, you better sit down in that case. Anyhow, as I was saying..."
They were making their way down a ruined street. His wife, burdened by her unborn child, was right behind him. They both knew that if they didn't escape, either the Children or the monsters would kill them.
"S.. Stop, I need to catch my breath!" she yelled.
"We must go on, if they catch us we're done for!" Wertigon replied.
"I know, I know, just give me a couple of minutes," she asked him.
"... All right. But then we have to keep moving, ya hear?" Wertigon said.
"We're almost out, just a couple more miles now... Then when all of this is over, we'll settle as a regular family somewhere. Okay?" He told her, then let her rest for a little while. Once she felt better, they headed out again, rounded a corner, and there were a few tharoxes. It looked like they were already starting to establish a colony around here.
Wertigon drew his blade and told his wife to stay behind him; Tharox were not that hard to kill with a blade, but they were still dangerous. He raised his sword and charged. He did not know how many monsters he had slain today; neither did he care. All he cared about was getting his wife to somewhere safe.
A scream behind him made him look back. Wertigon swore profoundly, and rushed to help his wife, whom had been entangled with a Dhroma. He saw it as if it was in slow motion when the Dhroma stuck it's tentacle into his wife and pumped her full with eggs. He was too late. He cried in rage and thrust his sword deep into the Dhroma's body, killing it.
"No... No, this isn't happening!" Wertigon cried, picking up his wife's body. "Damn it! Rebecca!"
She opened her eyes and tried to smile at him. "My love... You know what you has to do."
"No... NO! Damn it, no! There has to be a cure!" he said, anguish covering his voice.
"There is none, you know that. Please, kill me... I don't want to live when they hatch out of my body..."
"Rebecca..." Wertigon sobbed.
"Kill me... Now..." She whispered, her whole body in agony.
Wertigon nodded, kissed her and whispered "I love you...", then raised his sword and thrust it deep into her heart.
"Thank you... My love..." She said with a smile on her face, then died. Tears streamed down Wertigon's face.
"So... Couldn't save her, could you?" He heard a voice behind him saying. He spun around and saw a person dressed completely in white.
"Who are you?" Wertigon asked, his rage barely containable. He wanted to kill like he'd never killed before.
"There are some people whom call me Shalcar... Yet you, you should recognize the grand maester when you see him!" he replied.
"... Grand... Maester? Then it's YOU who is behind all this!" Wertigon felt his rage threatening to almost overwhelm him.
"Yes, I'm the one responsible for your loved one's death. Was it something else you wanted, worms? If not, would you be so kind as to step out of my way?"
Those words were just too much for Wertigon to take. He charged against Shalcar, the only thing that could still his bloodlust. Shalcar raised an eyebrow.
"You dare attack me?" he said, and threw a fireball at Wertigon. Wertigon saw it coming, however, and reflected it with his sword. Shalcar only had time to get a surprised look on his face before Wertigon was on top of him, yet he managed to dodge the first blow with relative ease. He threw another fireball, yet Wertigon blocked that too. The battle went on like that, with dodging and blocking, both sides causing injuries yet neither winning. Then...
"You're good, boy..." Shalcar said, standing up.
"DIE!" Wertigon screamed, rushing towards Shalcar, his sword raised.
"Yet you're not good enough!" Shalcar said, dodged Wertigon's sword and at the same time sending a jolt of lightning down Wertigon's body, knocking him to the ground.
"You're not worthy of my attention anymore," Shalcar said, with scorn in his voice. "I'll just let the monsters finish you."
Wertigon felt his consciousness dwindle. He was only barely aware when Weiila and Zero found him and dragged him away to safety. Everything darkened by then...
Nessa sat on the floor opposite to Wertigon, and as his final words had died out she felt a great sorrow for this man. So many bad things had happened him, yet he refused to give up.
"How do you stand it?" she asked him.
"Stand what?" He asked back.
"... You know, life. All that pain. It can't be easy." She explained.
"Yes... Not a day goes by without me thinking of just leaping off from the roof of this building. Yet I cannot." He replied.
"Why not?" She asked.
"It just feels as if I'm letting them win if I do," he answered her. "I got saved, they underestimated my friends. Quitting now would just be wrong. Also, it'd feel like I'm betraying her..."
Nessa nodded. Now that she had an idea of what he must've been going through, it was hard not looking on him differently. Wertigon went up and finished the tasks at the terminal, then logged off.
"Well, it's getting late. I think we better get back upstairs, no?" Wertigon flashed a smile at Nessa.
"Oh... Yes, Sir!" She replied.
They walked from the basement and went up to the roof, where the sun just was setting. A whole day wasted... Yet tomorrow would be another day.
Trillian groaned and rubbed her eyes. Or would have anyway, it hurt too much. Her body felt like one big mass of screaming flesh.
She opened her eyes to see a young man dash out of the room she was in. She wondered for a moment what was going on, then the memories came rushing back.
They didn't last long as an older, matronly woman entered, holding a wet cloth and a tray. She spoke in a language that Trillian couldn't understand, but seemed to be doing so gently. Not an enemy, then, she thought to herself.
The woman seemed confused about Trillian's lack of reply, so she decided to speak up. "I'm sorry, I only speak English..."
The old woman nodded before speaking again. "I see. It is a good thing, I am an innkeeper, then. I pick up a few things. Now don't move... you need your rest."
Trillian nodded a bit. "Was poisoned..."
The woman nodded. "Yes. I saw the bite. Menai bite... there's a colony nearby... they don't like newcomers. I've already given the antidote."
"Is that why I hurt so much?"
"Yes. The antidote is very painful, and... well it is best to rest for a while. You will be in pain for a few days... you'll need more though."
Trillian's brain kicked in and she just shook her head. "Save it for someone who needs it. Don't' worry about me, I can take care of it... Although... could you get me a bedpan?"
Her caretaker looked confused, but acquiesced, leaving and returning in short order, positioning Trillian under the shallow pan.
It took longer than normal to work out the spell from her lips, probably because she was in so much pain, and her mind was slightly foggy. But as soon as the final word escaped her lips, she felt a gush between her legs as the venom and antidote were expunged from her body via the spell. The woman watched Trillian, startled she took away the rather pungent mixture of urine and poisons. "You are a healer?"
Trillian shook her head as she felt the pain subside quickly. "Not too bad. Mostly I'm a mage..."
The woman paled considerably, but nodded. "I give you some advice then... don't use magic with others around. It will get you killed."
"The Khan's men. They're around. We get a lot of the Khan's men lately, I don't know why. But the Khan... he ordered every mage killed. If you use magic, you get killed."
Trillian nodded. "I see."
The woman nodded. "My daughter is one as well. She's left for Madrid. You can learn Magic there and it's safe from the Khan. Mages keep him out. You should go there once you've rested..."
She nodded again. "Thank you... could I get something to eat?"
The old woman nodded and laughed. "This is on the house. Most people don't eat and sleep here for free."
"I'll think of a way to pay you back."
The old woman sighed. "There is a way... You could send a message to my daughter Isabela. She is the mage. Tell her mother misses her and hopes she is well."
"I will." Trillian smiled as the woman bustled out of the room. I wonder if I'll find the others in Madrid...
After the initial shock wore off about Gabriel, I quickly managed to shake my head free of said shock. "You're Val's brother?"
Gabriel nodded grimly. 'Yes. Has.. has she been well?"
I sighed. "Yes. I'm sure she's alive, at least, but I don't know where she is..."
Alexander looked at me thoughtfully. "How do you know she is alive?"
How do you explain to someone that someone in a dream world has given you? I decided not to try. "I'm just... sure of it. She's a tough girl. I've seen her fight and take more pain than most men can handle. A tiny little plane wreck won't do a damn thing to her." I chewed on my sausage thoughtfully. Damn these were good.
Gabriel nodded. "Then we have hope. I only pray she doesn't go to London. The Khan wants her. Badly. Like he wants me."
I looked thoughtful. "Why would he want you two so badly?"
Gabriel reached behind him and laid a spear at his feet. It looked to be made of ivory... but it was startlingly white, eight feet long, and tipped with a wicked metal head. He only said one word: "Armageddon."
Alexander picked up from where Gabriel left off. "A holy, monster slaying spear. It's powers are rumored to be many and the story behind it... well it's a long one. It was in Bahamut's possession before he gave it to Gabriel. Khan wants it... he thought Valerie and Gabriel had it. No... it was given to Bahamut."
Gabriel looked at Alexander, then nodded. "Bahamut kept it for me. I have no idea why Khan would want Armageddon, except for one thing..."
I nodded. "Power. A potent weapon in his hands..."
Alexander nodded. "Exactly. From the stories I've heard, with it he could finally control Europe. Only some cities oppose him now.. those with a strong mage presence. It's why Khan hates mages so much. He can't win against them. With the spear though... it's a mage slayer as well."
"Lovely. Keep it away from me then. I'm a mage." I laughed.
Gabirel brightened a little. "Good. We could use a mage."
I nodded. "Well if you want, I can join you guys, but I need to find the others and get to the Black Forest. If Bahamut is still there..."
Alexander nodded. "Bahamut should be. Bahamut doesn't fear Khan, and Khan knows it. Been after Bahamut for years..."
I nodded. "Have to find him first. Hopefully he'll agree to my terms."
Alexander laughed and winked. "Why shouldn't he? There aren't many dragons in the world, I doubt he's been with a female for years. He should love the idea. Don't think he'd move though unless... Well he'd probably want the Khan taken out first, but you'll have to talk to him. Dragons don't do anything for free..."
I sighed. "As I have learned."
Gabriel nodded as he prodded the fire. "We should get some sleep. We'll have to get moving early if we want to stay ahead of the Khan's men." Gabriel looked at me apologetically. "You found us at a bad time. One of his allies, Angélique la Belladone, is around, probably to buy a few more slaves. She's a mage herself, but with Khan... doesn't matter anyway, we need to get moving, so we should sleep now."
I nodded as I freed by bedroll from my back, laying down. I was tired, so I drifted off quickly....
The galley cut through the water with the ease of a sharp knife through butter. The ship was quite lucky to have the winds with them. It DID have a sort of an engine, but fuel was a commodity that was at best tricky to obtain, considering the ship and her crew.
It was a beauty though. The ship was roughly 100 feet from bow to stern, and the crew of 200 took very good care of it. Their captain practically loved it like a child.
Speaking of the captain, the first mate scurried down through the door into the captain's quarters. The first thing you noticed about him is that he was a HUGE man. An active life at sea gave him a nice bronze hue, along with muscles many people would envy.
And he was still intimidated by the woman poring over sea charts, and making notes on a pad. "Captain, we're nearing land. We should arrive in a half hour."
The woman looked up and nodded. "Aye. Then you all have leave, but I expect you all to return in three days. and I DON'T want a repeat of what happened last time we were in Gollen. Understood, Bruxley?"
"Good. I'll be meeting with the Father shortly. Behave yourselves, got it?"
Bruxley saluted and turned out of the room, leaving the captain to tap her fingers on the desk. With the last raid, and Khan said to be still in London, she didn't want to draw attention to herself. But they were pirates and mercenaries. How else did you expect them to behave?
Val shook her head, yawning. Then she stopped. For some reason her neck was sore, and it took her a few minutes to recall why. She winced the pain away, however, and sat up to take a good look at her surroundings.
They were simple, to put it conservatively. A single window, along with a mattress, desk and chair. The room was fairly small, made of stone. For a second she thought she was in a cell, then she looked at the slightly ajar door.
Standing up, she haltingly walked to the door, opening it slightly, trying to stay quiet. A moot point, since the door made a very loud creak. A gasp sounded from the next room and she could see a elderly man standing up as he looked at her. "Ah, you're awake!"
Val looked around the room. The old man seemed to be the only one in there, but you never knew... Meanwhile, the man chided her. "You should be in bed. You need your rest?"
She looked warily at him. "Don't have time... I have to get to England."
The man shook his head. "You're pretty beat up, and we don't have any healers in Sanctuary. And get something to eat. But I suppose if you are already up... we were getting worried about you. You were asleep for two days.
Two days?, Val thought to herself. Out loud, she only said "I can take care of myself."
"Nonsense!" The man gestured to a pot on the table he was next to. " He had the look of a man who wouldn't be swayed even if the world was ending, so Val decided to just give up, and soon seated herself at the table.
Val and the older man ate silently for a while, with Val just too tired to talk, and the old man seeming to respect that. She didn't realize how hungry she was until the old man chuckled, "it's been a while since you ate, looks like. That's your fourth bowl."
She looked up, surprised and shook her head to get the cobwebs out of them. She wasn't really paying attention, and she chided herself for it. "Yes, it has..."
The man smiled paternally. "By the way, I am Father Rackard. Welcome to Sanctuary."
Val raised an eyebrow. "Sanctuary?"
Father Rackard nodded. "Sanctuary is a monastery, near Gollen." He pointed to his right, and she looked out the window he pointed at to see a village perhaps a mile away.
Val nodded as she turned back to Father Rackard. "I'm Val..." She stopped before she could start in on her first name. She had no idea how far Khan's influence stretched. "Just Val." She thought for another moment. "How did I get here?"
Father Rackard chuckled. "So you're Val, hmm? My grandchildren found you and brought you here. I'm the best healer around here. I fixed you up a bit after you passed out again. So how did you get here? Shipwreck?"
Val shrugged. "Could say that. Ship wrecked. Lost my friends, and well..."
A nod followed reply. "I understand. Kit and Ren didn't find anyone with you though..."
Val frowned. She was certain a few of them at least survived. Knowing who though was the problem. Her train of thought was interrupted when Renna stepped into the room, bowing respectfully to get grandfather. "Father, you have a visitor."
He nodded a bit. "Excuse me Val, but I was expecting someone right now." He stood up and left the room.
Val was rather grateful for the silence and laid her head on the table. Okay, I'm in Ireland. Near a village called Gollen. Like that's going to help. I must be near the shore though. Maybe I can figure out how to get to Germany from here...
She heard voices in the other room. She recognized Father Rackard's voice, along with Kitabel and Renna's voices. They seemed excited. There was a woman's voice, and it seemed familiar.
Then it clicked, and she couldn't dash out of the room fast enough.
The pirate captain nodded. "Thanks Father. I got this message for Robin. He should be able to take back London, if he's careful. I went through hell getting these, so make sure they reach him alright."
"Ah, thank you. I'm sure he'll be happy to receive these." Father Raddick smiled. "Stay for dinner? It's been a while since you've been here..."
"Well if it isn't the toughest bitch in the seven seas!"
The captain looked up and blinked. Once. Twice. A moment passed before recognition shone in her eyes. "VALERIE?!?!"
Val stepped forward and hugged the captain tightly. "It's been a while, Fae."
Faetan hugged Val back for a moment before pulling away from her. "Hey, aren't you supposed to be in America?"
Val nodded. "Yes, but had to come back. Besides, you couldn't keep me away no matter what you did."
Father Rackard looked surprised. "You know her, Faetan?"
Fae nodded. "She's an old friend. We go way back..."
He only smiled. "I see. So would it be safe to..."
Fae grinned. "I don't know. Are you working for Khan now?"
Val only laughed. "If I did, I'd kill myself. Speaking of Khan... did he find... Gabriel?"
Fae shook her head. "Khan's been hunting you two for years, Val. If he found him, we would have heard about it. You know how the man is. But I never got any word about him either.. Sorry, mate."
Val sighed. "Well at least Khan didn't get him..."
Fae nodded. "Yeah." Then she turned to Father Raddick. "I'm sorry Father, but I'll have to pass, we have a lot to talk about."
Father Raddick nodded. "It's quite alright Faetan. Robin should have his next job for you if you stay around."
"I plan on it. Let's go Val?"
Val nodded. "Where though?"
Fae shrugged. "There's this nice little tavern at the edge of the village... bet I can still drink you under the table." She grinned in challenge.
Val just snorted. "I kept drinking long after you passed out. You're on!"
With that challenge, the two friends left for Gollen.
Percival absentmindedly fingered the amulet around his neck. It surprised him that he still had it, but he wasn't one to complain. After all, it helped him reach Périgieux that much faster.
As he reached the outskirts of the town though he quickly realized that something was wrong. The town seemed empty, almost deserted. Occasionally he caught a glimpse of person, through a doorway or window, but they were quickly out of sight.
He blinked. This isn't the town he remembered. It was small, maybe two hundred people at most. But it was a very lively town. But then, that was over fifty years ago...
Perc stopped, turning back to face the one that called out to him. The man was about his size, with a small handgun at his hip. He wasn't one to argue with the authorities, so he just held his hands up to show he was unarmed. "How may I help you, sir?"
The man sized him up quickly and barked, "Who are you and what are you doing here?"
A few thoughts ran through Percival's mind. Mainly the wisdom of using his real name. Well, honesty is the best policy, and no one knows me, so... "Percival Rhyndon, sir. I am just traveling through town..."
"Drop your pack!"
Perc blinked, and hesitated for a moment, then put down his pack as the guard's hand neared the gun. The guard motioned him away, and he stepped back as the guard rifled through it, raising his eyebrows. "You don't have a weapon."
Perc shook his head. "Lost mine. Do I need one?"
The guard eyed him appraisingly, and then looked like he'd give him the benefit of the doubt. "These are dangerous parts, my friend. Bandits have been attacking this town. Marquis Bedeau has issued a decree that all townspeople are to remain in their homes and all travelers are to avoid this area until the crisis has passed."
"Oh... I had not heard." Perc shook his head.
The guard nodded. "You seem to be alright. But you should be careful, and get a weapon. Maybe I could find one in the armory for you, if you're going to pass through."
Perc smiled. "Thank you sir, your kindness is appreciated."
Perc repacked his backpack, and followed the guard, who led him to a small, stone building, apparently under heavy guard. Perc though just walked through with a nod.
After a moment of looking the guard asked, "See anything you like. There aren't many, but..." There were some guns... it wasn't like he used guns much, however.
But there was one thing of interest: a long handled, flanged mace. It looked very nice indeed. "This will be fine. I don't have any money though..."
The guard shrugged. "Consider it a gift. If you're brave enough to walk through this area without a weapon, with all the bandits and slavers around, then you deserve it. Who knows?"
"Thank you kindly." Perc bowed and smiled. "I think I might stay for the night... do you know anywhere I could lodge?"
The guard nodded. "Sure. There's an inn up the street. I'm sure Anton will let you get away with doing some of the work there for a night. Tell him David sent you."
"Thank you again." Reaching out, he shook the guard's hand, and left the armory. Indeed, Anton was quite happy to have a customer at this time, even if Perc had no money. After all, there would always be dishes to be washed, and rooms to clean.
Thus Perc went to bed at perhaps 10 o'clock at night, only to be awoken in the night by quite a few screams.
TD dashed through the trees of the forest, hearing the laughter of the men nearby. They weren't getting any closer, but they weren't getting any more distant, but then they were on horseback.
Didn't it figure that the night he arrived in Viana do Castelo, slavers would attack it. Again. The old man who had helped him was now dead, slain while trying to escape. It seemed that the slavers just wanted more people. Or wanted nothing more to destroy. It didn't matter.
What did matter is that they were on his tail. And while he could keep pace with the horses, they ultimately had more stamina than him. He'd have to shake them.
He heard the cock of a pistol behind him, and leapt to the side just as the bullet passed through his previous location. He cursed the trees for not being thick enough to make horses impractical. But they were thick enough to...
An idea formed in his head.
You learn a thing or two from outrunning Children and bandits in an urban setting. TD paused only for a moment and jumped maybe fifteen feet straight up. If he had the time to recall it, he probably would have laughed about performing stunts out of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Reaching out he grabbed a relatively low branch and changed his vertical momentum into horizontal.
Straight into a tree. A swift kick, and he flipped away from the tree, even higher over the slavers' shouts of surprise.
And of course, what comes up, has to come down. The lead horseman couldn't stop fast enough...
One man down. The blood seeping from his skull into the ground indicated that he wouldn't be moving again. TD just rolled off of him as the horse dashed off in a fright. Five more to go.
The shock quickly wore off and they leveled their firearms at TD, but he was already dashing into the trees again. And again, they gave chase.
Until they realized he seemed to have vanished... They looked around, startled. The surprise lasted only for a moment, when a stone whipped out of the bushes, thrown with incredible accuracy and the strength only a ghoul could have. Another horseman down.
They turned toward where the stone was flung from, only to see TD's back to them, running away. This time they wouldn't lose him.
Which, when you think about it, was precisely what he wanted. After all, he could hear what they couldn't. So he just kept running toward the shrill cawing heard in the distance. He figured he could make it.
One of the perks of being a ghoul was that mutations generally couldn't generally sense them until they were practically in arm's reach. They didn't seem to pick up any scent, their eyes strangely slid past them, and while they certainly could hear them, the most common reaction was confusion as they couldn't place the sound to any specific location. It was a strange, but useful ability.
That said, he pushed himself a little more, jumping from side to side each time he heard the click of a gun behind him. He was starting to tire....
"CAWWW! CAWWW! CAWWW!"
Razorbeaks, like many birds of prey, had very good hearing. Not to mention very good sight. And four horsemen thundering about 300 feet away had to be very noticeable. To mention the Razorbeak, it was called that because it's beak was literally as sharp as a razor. It hunted by diving and spearing and slashing with it's beak. They also were surprisingly social, staying together in rather large flocks, which was unusual for birds of prey.
It should also be mentioned that they're also fiercely territorial, and really don't mind attacking (or eating) larger creatures that stumbled into their territory.
Which would be the ghoul they could not easily perceive... and the slavers they could. And as a group they dived.
TD just kept running as he could hear the screams of surprise and pain from the men and horses, and chuckled to himself as he left them and the Razorbeaks behind.
Jamie smiled as he walked away from the village. Some cash jingled in his pockets, and his backpack filled with supplies, he began the trek south. A few people who loved his performance begged to follow him, but he knew his mission: it was best to go alone.
Still, groupies are nice, he thought to himself, amused.
So south he went, alone. Fortunately the trip was relatively uneventful, for a day and a night. Perhaps there will be more information in the next village...
Jamie jumped in surprise, turning to the side to see a young man holding a bow to him. While it may not be a gun, the arrow still looked lethal. Jamie raised his hands to show he had no weapons. "What's wrong, sir?"
The man eyed him warily. Jamie did his best not to appear dangerous. He didn't need to provoke the archer. "You don't look like a slaver..."
Jamie blinked. "A slaver? No.. I'm just a travelling musician."
The archer nodded, but didn't lower his bow. "Where from... and where are you going?"
Jamie thought for a moment, recalling his memory of the Spain and Portugal. "Vigo. I'm going to Viana do Castelo."
The archer raised his eyebrows. "Viana do Castelo was attacked by slavers. Nothing there anymore. Maybe a few people."
Jamie blinked. "I see... I was wondering. Did you see something fall from the sky a few days ago?"
The archer blinked and lowered his bow. "You come from the aeroplane? There was another guy from one in Viana do Castelo. He lured the slavers away, took them east. Only reason why there are any people left now..."
Jamie grinned. JACKPOT! "Did he say his name?"
The archer nodded. "Guy called himself... TeeDee. It was only last night... Is he a friend of yours?"
Last night.. I must not be very far! "Yes. How far is Viana do Castelo?"
The archer pointed down the road. "Follow the road. It's about ten kilometers farther. If you hurry, you might catch your friend." The archer grinned for a moment. "Your friend, TD, he saved my life. I'll give you my horse, hopefully you'll catch up with him."
Jamie smiled and held his hand out to the archer. "Thank you. My name is Jamie by the way... if you meet anyone asking for me or TD, be sure to send them my way."
"No problem. I am Helder. If you ask anyone in Viana do Castelo about me, they might be happy to help. Good luck!" Helder whistled, and a chestnut mare trotted out of the undergrowth to stand by his side. Helder spoke a few words to her before prompting Jamie to get on.
After making thier goodbyes, Jamie rode off down the road...
Screaming. That's the first noise Percival heard when he woke up. Indeed, it was a particularly high-pitched shriek that startled him awake.
He almost conisdered it a dream and went back to sleep. Trillian didn't tend to scream in her sleep... unless she started sleepwalking and fell down the stairs again.
The first thought in his head was to get Trillian back to bed. Then the second thought was that Trillian wasn't in bed. Then his final thought was the reaffirming of the fact that he wasn't in his bed, but in another bed in France, and that Trillian was either dead or somewhere in Europe.
Then why is someone screaming? Percival wondered as his exhausted brain tried to catch up.
Another scream. This one jolted him awake and kicked his brain into overdrive. Percival rushed to the window...
People on horseback were riding around in the street, chasing others. A building was on fire. More screaming, shouts, and some laughter for some reason. Bodies in the street.
Percival finally made the diagnosis. The town was under attack.
"I don't have anything else!" The panicked French sounded like Anton's...
"Holding out on us, old man?" The course, angry French didn't sound like anyone he knew...
So he did the only thing a decent man could do in such conditions: he picked up his mace and started downstairs to check things out.
Anton was backed in a corner, standing in front of two children... His grandchildren, if I recall.
And forcing them into that corner, four large men, each with blades pointed at Anton... except for the speaker, who had a pistol levelled at Anton's head. "You better not be holding out on us. Your little brats won't like it." The pistol pointed at the oldest of the two boys, who tried to hide farther behind his grandfather.
"I gave you all I had! I odn't have anything more!" Anton whimpered, trying even harder to keep his grnadchildren behind him.
"LIAR!" The gunman grabbed Anton by the neck and threw him out of the way, then grabbed the oldest child. "Give us everything you have or the other brat dies. This bitch gets it for lying to us!"
No time to delay, have to... WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! ...stop them!
The interruption of the thought was caused by Percival calling upon his spiritual power to enter another definition of speed altogether: the sort of speed that is almost impossible to follow. By the time the thought was finished, the gunman was on the ground, having taken two blows to the chest and head each.
But, amazingly, he was still alive, and getting up groggily... "What the fuck was that?!?!"
Percival faced the five men, and now that he had stopped moving, they could focus on him. "Leave them alone, and go."
The gunman laughed as he finished clambering to his feet. "You have guts, boy. I like you."
Percival nodded. "If you like me, then leave them alone."
The gunman smirked. "I said I like you, boy. I didn't say I liked you that much." The gunman waved his hand dismissively. "Kill hi... WHAT?"
Again, Percival disappeared, and the swordsmen fell, one after another, one blow each. And unlike the gunman, they stayed down. "This is my final warning. Leave. Now."
The gunman laughed softly. "You're not some boy are you? I'm impressed. Finally, a decent fight."
Percival shook his head. "You're no match for me."
The gunman smirked. "Only unawares, boy. Try me again." The gunman holstered his gun, drawing a pair of daggers from his waist. "Name's Edgard. Only polite to duel with someone whose name you know, is it not?"
Percival nodded, allowing that small grace. "I am Percival. And this ends NOW." And he dissapeared again.
Edgard smirked and quickly knelt down, thrusting his foot out and sweeping it to the side. One moment, Percival was rushing from the side, then next, he was rolling into the wall. "Not so easy, am I Percival?"
Perc rolled to the side, away from the dagger that would have been in his skull had he waited a moment longer. From there, he leapt to his feet, assuming a defensive stance. "Perhaps not..."
"Good." Edgard smirked and snapped his free fingers, and his dagger pulled free from the wall and soared back into his hand. As soon as it reached his hand, he stepped forward to stab at Perc's stomach.
Perc sidestepped quickly, only to be rewarded with a cut across his torso from the other dagger. Edgard laughed again as he stepped back, wincing. "Doesn't matter how fast you are, Percival. I'm like you, a ghoul. And I see you move, before you do."
He can see the future? Then how am I supposed to stop him... Percival focused for a moment. The cut was minor at least... "I can heal, at least." As his hand traced over the wound, it sealed shut.
Edgard nodded. "But what good is healing when you're dead?"
"What good is seeing the future when you're dead?" Perc grinned and assumed a defensive stance.
Edgard laughed. "We'll see." And he charged again.
Perc stepped to the side with all the speed he could muster, although he didn't expect to get away... The dagger that ended up in his side was proof of that. He winced and grabbed at Edgard's wrist, but the dagger was gone, as Edgar spun around.
And almost tripped over the body of one of his fallen comrades. Edgard regained his balance as Percival dealt with the dagger wound. So he can only predict what I'll do, but he can't account for other things... I wonder. Maybe I could lead him into the trap.
Then let us set up the trap.
Percival blinked. He didn't just hear the voice... no, voices in his head. He shook his head, then twisted to the side as Edgard lunged again, turning what would have been a fatal blow into a rather painful scratch.
Come to the fountain. Take your foe there.
I'm hearing things... What can I lose? He shrugged inwardly and then backed away, turning into a full on run.
"Oh? Running away now? Nothing wrong with admitting you are outmatched Percival, but I cannot let you get away!" Edgard sprang after Percival, as he dashed out into the street.
Where is that fountain... oh. The fountain was in front of the inn. It was a beauty, really. Perhaps like a wishing fountain, intricately carved. That was the lest of Percival's thoughts as he whipped around to face Edgard again. "I don't run away. I just prefer something more... open."
Edgard nodded. "We end this here then. In front of my men. You defeat me, they trouble this village no more. I defeat you, and it's mine. Agreed?" Something in the back of Edgard's mind tingled though. What is he up to...
"Agreed." Percival nodded as they reassumed combat stances. Percival backe dup a step as Edgard threw one dagger, than the other.
It's very difficult to parry a pair of flying daggers with a mace. It requires a speed and coordination that few have. But Perc had it, or at least could augment it. "Nice try, Edgard."
Edgard summoned his daggers to his hands and smirked. "You are lucky Percival. But your luck can't hold out!" He threw the daggers again.
Percival moved his mace to block them, and as the second dagger flew away from his mace, he doubled over and fell back into the fountain, courtesy of Edgard's flying tackle. Edgard had managed also to wrench the mace from Perc's grip, tossing it aside before his daggers returned. "You lose Percival. If you surrender, I will let you live."
Percival stared at the daggers at his throat and shook his head. "I cannot surrender."
"An honorable man then. Too few of those nowadays, perhaps. But there will be one less. Good-bye." Edgard lifted the dagger for the last thrust...
Something flared with heat in Percival's pocket, and before he had time to register it and figure out why, the fountain ERUPTED.
Far more water than the fountain could hold blasted the two combatants out of the fountain, spashing down onto the ground and forming... women? Those are the sea nymphs! But how... Then Percival understood.
The women had now surrounded the surprised Edgard. He swung aorund... maybe twenty or thirty had formed a tight circle around him. And then the first one leapt.
Edgard thrust his dagger out, sending the slim blade into the nymph's throat. the nymph quickly dissolved into a puddle of water that soaked him and pooled around his feet.
Another nymph came. And then another. One by one, they moved to attack, only to dissolve at the twin blades, and let the pool become larger. Percival watched, impressed, as Edgard disatched each one of them before thier blows could land. But why don't they come at him at once?
Edgard blinked as the final nymphy fell into the pool, liquid now. "How did you..." Edgard then nodded. "You are a summoner, are you not?"
Perc shook his head.
"Then how did those monsters come...?"
The flare in Perc's pocket returned to his mind, and he thrust his hand in, withdrawing the pearl the sea nymphs had left. Could it be...
"No! NO!" Percival looked up suddenly at Edgard. So that's why they didn't attack at once... Several nymphs had risen halfway up from the pool of water, taking hold of Edgard and dragging him into the pool... which now looked more like a very deep water hole. Percival quickly got to his feet, dashing over to the pool.
Edgard had finally submerged, looking on in horror as they dragged him downwards into the depths... only to stop as Percival held out his hand. "You are defeated Edgard. I ask for your surrender."
Edgard's look of horror turned into a smile and he shook his head. Percival could not make out the words he mouthed as he finally disappeared into the depths, and the pool started to drain.
And then, after an eternal moment, the pool was gone. Percival heard splashing behind him, and turned to see one of the nymphs that had taken his foe. "Thank you... I suppose."
The nymph smiled slightly and tossed the blue hair out of her eyes. "It is no problem to us, noble Percival. You are our friend. And we will protect our friends. Keep our gift with you always, so we may assist you again." The nymph started to dive into the fountain, when she rose again. "Your enemy, Edgard... He said he could not surrender, and that you were indeed a lucky man. And he has asked, before the tides had taken him..." She tossed Edgard's daggers toward Percival, who easily caught them, "That you are to have these, and to tell his men to leave this town be. Good bye, noble Percival. We shall meet again."
The nymph slipped into the fountain's waters, and after a moment, it looked as if nothing had happened, save for the blades Perc slid into his pocket.
Rest in peace, Edgard... Percival then turned to deal with the rest of the bandits.
"M'lady! I have a message for you from Périgieux!" A man gasped as he faced the woman on the throne, who looked over him in annoyance.
"Make it quick then, I am about to depart with my latest acquisitions!"
The messenger nodded. "One of the Corps gave me this message. Apparently a few days ago, bandits attacked Périgieux again!"
The woman sighed. "Are they asking for assistance again? I have said that I do not have soldiers to spare..."
"No, m'lady! They said it had been dealt with. A man, a ghoul they say, fought them off."
The woman raised an eyebrow, her interest piqued. "Oh really? Who is this man?"
"They call him Percival Rhyndon, m'lady. They gave me an image of him..." The man drew a circle in the air, which became a rather nice poartrait of Percival in profile.
The woman stared. "But... how? I thought..." She quickly regained her composure. "Very well. I want this... Percival Rhyndon found. Send an emmisary to him. Tell him that Lady Angélique Bellemont wishes to... congratulate him personally. Make sure to tell him that no harm is to come to him. And if I found so much a scratch on his head, I will be using the offender for my next experiment."
The messenger nodded and turned around, dashing out of the room. Angélique smiled slightly. "It has been such a long time, Percival..."
One of the "acquisitions" could not understand a word the messenger or Angélique said. But from the tone of Angélique's last statement seemed to insinuate that he would be meeting Angélique safely.
Weiila smiled to herself, and then to Beatriz. We might just have a way out after all....