Steel and Steam
Posted 07 June 2011 - 05:46 PM
Selena was right, that spear did look like something she would have used. Not that Chik kept tabs on the other woman's actual weaponry, so she'd take the fool's word for it. Keep it down, you look rabid. And that smallish female armor…well, she wouldn't have been entirely surprised if she'd worn it at some point. Or at least part of it. Not that it was entirely uncommon for soldiers from the Labyrinth to piece together functional scraps from various wardrobes of the fallen on the battlefield, but some of the other stuff in the room barely made sense. This was clearly the home of a collector, but not so much a learned historian.
"What's the matter?" Helith called out to her across a long table of under-glass paper scraps, reading the disgruntled lines in her brow.
Chik shook her head, desperately trying to place her finger on it. "Well…some of these pieces are all wrong. Like these - " she waved a hand at two stands that each held upright a sword and shield to display as mated pairs. "The shield on the left is from a particular group of soldiers in the Hall of Heroes, the faint gold filigree and green flakes still on it give that away," then a hand went to the matching sword, "But the green on this sword's hilt is a different shade. And look at the leaves and winged entities carved into it."
"I assumed those were guardian war angels?" the Duke explained, finding himself walking over to inspect the metallurgy for himself.
"You would," the redhead responded, prodding the hilt with no interest in respecting an ancient valuable. "They're fairies. This is from Kakariko Village, no question about it." She then turned to the next set of weaponry. "Both of these items are from the Desert Palace, but entirely different time periods. You can tell by the style they were made in. The shield is broader, heavier, and ultimately weaker, meant for mass use by soldiers, whilst the sword is slimmer and far more delicate…yet created with care, folded many times over to become strong despite its smaller structure. It is easily centuries older, from when the Gerudo Fortress existed there. They were probably buried in the same tomb as family heirlooms, but otherwise have nothing in common."
"Is that..everything?" the man inquired, his eyebrows raised in surprise at how much one person could recognize in such old items.
"Well, of course some of the pages you have laid down on the table are entirely out of order, but that can almost be forgiven. What I really don't understand, though…something…" Chik stopped, staring at the opposite wall in gawking awe. It made sense, finally. "All this time, I've felt something was missing, something's wrong. I hope you've been hiding it from us because you wanted to test our knowledge, because otherwise I'd be forced to get very angry at being played with."
The petite woman jumped forward, against all reason reaching forward to grab at the starched collar around Helith's ascot and pull him cleanly off the floor for a moment. "Where is the door to your hidden room?"
The Duke coughed from a couple seconds of being choked, but managed to nod his head toward a plain section of wall next to a tall bookcase, and was quickly dropped back to his feet and abandoned. Chikara rushed in that direction, and rather than search for a secret doorway, slid through the wall itself like wind through leaves.
Coughing still to clear his throat, Helith followed shortly behind, pulling at an ordinary volume in the middle of a matching collection, to which the wall gave a thump of recognition as the locking mechanism was released. Then he was forced to look on in horror at the madwoman, her great spork already as long as a trident and red as a branding iron, being used to smash at the thick glass case surrounding a open tome on a sturdy stone table in the center of the vault. Chik screamed obscenities in the common tongue and in some language much older, hurling her weapon at the guarded item until the reinforced covering began to crack and give way.
"Blasphemous book, destroy it!" the redhead howled, even as Helith reached for the enchanted cuff around his wrist, momentarily jumping into high-speed action to twist her arm back and free the weapon. He pulled the still fuming woman away and managed to turn her around, gripping both her shoulders and pushing her back against the glass as she continued to scream nonsense at the top of her lungs.
"I never could have dreamed…" Helith whispered to himself, watching in awe as Chik attempted to release herself, but could not, even her voice becoming weaker by the second. "The old writings make you sound so different. Taller, more…" he looked down at her slim body, "…more of you. But you fell right into every trap I had the servants set ahead for me. Every mix-up of military gear, the obvious Labyrinth items…"
"But I never expected you to find my more precious souvenirs," he continued, staring at the damaged station and the thick book it held, then back up to the pained expression on Chikara's face. "However did you know I own one of the books of Diel, your majesty? Not nearly as powerful as the older tablets, but I suppose you wouldn't have gotten this close if it were."
Not expecting any real response, he turned instead to Selena and stared her down with a twinkle in his eyes to match the smirk on his face, "You were no better at pretending, Lady Selena. Exactly as described by traveler's logs, and went straight to the spear. Don't look so insulted, I had already planned to compare fingerprints on your dinner glass and hope something matched. You two and your rash behavior just made things much easier for me."
"Meaning that it would be good for national interests to have you turned in to the authorities, to be imprisoned or perhaps used as pawns for international peace or war," Helith stated the generally obvious, while at the same time finally pulling Chik away from the case. He gave her a gentle shove back toward Selena and Eliana, continuing with an exaggerated yawn, "But you've been beyond entertaining, and now it's far past my bedtime. I trust that you know the way out, your majesties. I have a nondescript horse carriage waiting to take you home, and I expect your lips will be sealed until we next meet."
Posted 08 June 2011 - 08:12 AM
On the one hand, Selena felt as if she should kill the duke in order to keep their identities a secret. On the other, pretending she was someone else was not enjoyable in the least. She was not some sort of faceless spy meant to blend in with a crowd for lengthy periods of time - she was Selena Nadir, the legendary military leader and near-immortal warrior. She could suppress it for a time, but at the end of the day she couldn't hide her true nature. She was someone who fed off of attention and her own ego. She wanted praise and respect from her allies, and she wanted her enemies to tremble in fear before her. There was no way to avoid becoming a symbol of power for too long.
Selena slithered forward - dangerous and graceful at the same time - and lashed out like a cobra striking a dimwitted rabbit. She slammed Helith against the back wall with a wild look in her eyes. When she opened her mouth, it was almost like a smile. "I'm impressed with your knowledge of the west, but you've made your own existence far less secure than it was a moment ago. You should know from your studies that Chikara and I have claimed the lives of countless nobles. Even ones who thought that they were very clever. Wealth and status does nothing to help you in a fight of muscle and magic. We'll stay silent, but remember that you have far more at stake if you reveal our little secret. We take pleasure in murder."
Helith was silent for a brief moment, initially looking as if he'd kicked a hornet's nest far too hard, but his expression soon melted into a pleasant smile. "A gentleman never kisses and tells, milady. I wouldn't dream of ruining this relationship with honesty. I have faith that you'll give this nation a much-needed change."
With that, Helith straightened his collar and left the room. The three women were left in awkward silence, and Selena waited until he was far out of earshot before looking over at her companion.
"I'm going to assume you didn't enjoy his taste in fiction. Remember, it could be worse. Could have been the Book of Vet."
* * * * *
In true Labyrinth fashion, they were going to fall asleep with the dawn. By the time they returned to their run-down hotel, the sun had begun to rise over the distant mountains, bathing everything in a soft shade of pink. Selena supposed that she was fine with it. They needed rest before their airship adventure, after all, and laying low when the 'respectable' members of society were most active was a beneficial thing. The sun bounced off the metal shell of those airships. Escaping at night would be far more convenient.
"You got caught," Eliana piped up as they ascended the stairs to their hotel room.
"I thought you were some sort of legendary--"
"I said shut up."
"You two can't even--"
"Yeah, well, you fell asleep just before a gang shootout," Selena said.
"I'm a small child."
"No excuse! And this wasn't my fault! Blame the whore who tried to kill a book with a giant spork! Sort of a unique weapon!"
They finished marching up the steps and entered the small hotel room. Selena immediately kicked off her boots and began to disrobe. She pulled on lighter weight sleeping garments - an oversized shirt and a pair of shorts - and climbed into bed with the hope that the world would righted when she woke back up. Couldn't let herself sleep too heavily. Helith seemed to be genuine in his promises, but she'd have to keep an ear out for assassins just in case. And, fully blaming Chikara and her obvious display of spork-wielding for their loss of cover, Selena slid to the far corner of the bed and stole all the blankets for herself. She rolled so that her back faced the other woman.
"You can sleep on the floor."
Posted 08 June 2011 - 03:40 PM
"That book." Chikara couldn't even begin to explain why she had gone primal, destroying every last shred of secrecy they had in favor of attempting to destroy the tome's case and burn it to a crisp with her burning weapon. But she definitely recognized the aura that thing released, a faint shadow though it might be in comparison to the other works of Diel. "It was like the sword, back at that battle." She couldn't even remember who wielded it at this point, or why. "And the slab that we fought over in Olimandias, during the last battle. In that building that Keel couldn't enter, when you stabbed me. It's bad magic. I don't know what it is, but it's bad."
Shivering in spite of the morning sunlight, she stood up again and calmly made for the door. "Rest, I promise not to make trouble while I'm gone this time. Just need to retrieve real clothing." The redhead stared down at the plain robe she wore, then further down at her bare feet. She was getting too old for this, and looked pathetic for it. "And weaponry. I lost my pistol on the streets, and…"
Chik released a low, animal growl, stiffening her entire body for a moment until the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. She clenched a white-knuckled fist, but managed to refrain from putting a hole through the wall. "That bastard still has my spork! I hope he tries to use it, and burns his hand off!"
She slammed the door behind her, rushing down the stairs and slamming her hand into the bell at the front desk. The innkeeper leaned back in their chair from behind the open door in the back room, to stare sideways at Chikara, unimpressed. "Did you retrieve the package I asked for last night?" the redhead inquired in an exasperated tone, referring to the money handed over that she had claimed was for 'turndown service' to Selena the night before.
"Oh yes, ma'am, one moment and I'll get it for you," the innkeeper responded in a tired tone that hinted heavily at being hung over from the evening's festivities.
The woman began to rise, but Chik quickly raised her hand in objection. "I'll retrieve it on my way back in. I just have a few errands to run." She began to walk away, then stopped to ask, "Where is the nearest tailor, and do they offer pants suits?"
The nearest taylor, as it would turn out, was right down the street. And…incredibly unique in their business practices. She had barely sat herself down to read the morning paper in an armchair at the front when the shop's manager stepped out from the back, saw her, and immediately shouted for both his assistants to finish whatever they were doing to help him.
Soon Chikara had been shuffled away to a back room, a glass of wine and a plate of grapes set near her fingertips, and she found herself being methodically stripped by one of the frilly-dressed girls while the storeowner himself measured far more details of her body than the woman felt comfortable with. She would be fine with any pre-made dress around her size, the redhead had explained, but the tailor refused to listen. "For you, I build the suit on your body. Perfect fit," he explained, before insisting she eat more grapes.
Before she had the opportunity to wonder where the second assistant had run off to, frilly-girl number two had rejoined them with two large boxes in hand. One held a fresh pair of patent leather boots that she insisted on lacing up to Chikara's knees, and the other held an emerald green satin hat accented with a bird made out of feathers and beads.
"Oh, no no," Chik held out her hand, trying to keep her calm despite the building frustration and confusion that this day was continuing to pile on her. "I wanted my outfit to be red, not green."
All three individuals stopped dead in their tracks, staring at the woman in horror as if a terrible mistake had been made. "You are Lady Chikara, who helped fight and win against that terrible Yarek fiend last night, correct?"
"Well, yes…" she responded quietly, not at all excited by his line of questioning. Yes, she had seen an article about the event in the paper, but in the half minute she'd gotten to glance at it, neither her photo nor name had appeared.
The shopkeeper released a sigh of relief, satisfied at knowing he was dealing with the right person. "Then you know that Lord Torrin passed on your request for a green dress." Chikara would have recoiled in horror if it didn't mean being stuck by a dozen pins holding her corset in place. Oh, there was that familiar desire to throw up that only men were capable of inducing in her, the redhead thought as the tailor continued, "He insisted on paying for the entire shop to be closed to all customers but yourself, and bought out entire rolls of quality fabric for you and your sister to have a full wardrobe if you so desire. Will she be joining us shortly?"
The disgusting fool! She was not surprised that he'd pay attention to where they were staying, but to anticipate her motions and do this? Dammit, she could not wait until that airship was stolen and they were out of this bizarre, hellish city.
Four hours. Four hellish, miserable hours before she could return to the inn, kicking in the bedroom door and tossing a large pile of boxes and shopping bags to the far corner of the floor while muttering harshly to nobody in particular. "He's going to pay. I'm going to find him in the middle of the night, stab him, tear out his heart, force him to eat the thing, then strangle him with his own entrails!"
Chik released an incoherent scream, stomping the floor with one of her new boots. At least the pants were leather, and therefore a decent shade of reddish brown. The satin suit jacket, however…belch. "Goes well with my hair, my ASS," she actually spat on the thinly worn area rug, tensing up yet again in disgust. "The outfit's bad enough. But then he bought matching jewelry, a full breakfast at the most prestigious flower-and-lace-covered hellhole in the city - and a manicure! What the hell am I supposed to do with rose oil and nail polish?!"
"And to top it all off," she continued to rant, pointing toward the outside window, "A carriage to carry all of the shit for me, and keep taking me further and further into the bowels of this awful city! I just wanted a suit, then to come home! But I would have had to cause an international incident by slaughtering half of Vatenbaer before that wish could come true!"
"At least…it came." Diving head-first into the pile of bow-adorned boxes, Chikara came back up with a plain brown-paper package no longer than her forearm, gleefully waving it around and repeating, "It came, it came."
She shoved Selena's feet aside and set the package down at the end of the bed, tearing it open and visibly swooning. "Black market guns, enough ammo to unload on an entire battalion, and they're all ours! We'll get that airship, all to ourselves, and then never have to return to this terrible place ever again!"
Posted 09 June 2011 - 09:49 AM
And then there was Chik, ranting and raving about so-- MORE clothes? Sweet mother of Lazu, how many garments did one person need?
That still wasn't enough to rouse Selena from her partial slumber, nor was it enough to get her to genuinely listen to any word that Chikara was saying, and she continued to lay in bed as if nothing were wrong. Even when Chikara moved her legs, Selena remained perfectly still. Did not care. Not one single fuck. She was comfortable, and that was all that mattered. She could look at that woman's damned shoe collection some other time.
Selena rolled over onto her stomach and groaned. "Why are you so loud? Can't you see that I'm still sleeping? I don't care if you bought more of those eastern fire-stick things. Not my fault you wigged out and lost that stupid spork. Nonsensical weapon anyway..."
Slowly, Chikara's rant translated itself back into Selena's half-conscious brain.
"For someone who looked like he was going to vomit when you got all flirty with him - which I can fully understand - he sure seems to like you." Selena stretched out but found that her legs were blocked by the box at the end of the bed. Whiny groan. "...Now get your damn weapons off my bed. You are ruining my morning."
Posted 14 June 2011 - 11:24 PM
She blew out of the side of her mouth, attempting to force away a loose ringlet from the up-do that had been forced upon her during the last arduous hours. "Just let me pack up some guns in my attire and I'll let you two lazy good-for-nothings sleep. But I've got better things to do: there's a major loading dock armed to the teeth with a beehive of military, all 100% more knowledgeable about how to pilot an airship than we, and I can't see them not trying to chase us down if we even manage to get that thing in the air. We need some education and a fair amount of pre-arranged espionage."
Chik went to work attaching an obviously oversized blunderbuss into a belt around her back -- which she assumed would be confiscated on sight -- then tucked a more discreet pistol behind her suit jacket, and another into her right boot, allowing the left to hide a hunting knife. Very little extra ammo, for there would be little time to reload when the real fun began. Besides, in the end the weapons would likely end up being more for show than function, if she was forced to use her magical prowess at the same level as the night before.
Speaking of which, she might still want to work on building up that energy level. "I'm still hungry after that damned ten-course tidbit breakfast I had forced down my throat this morning. I sympathized with the foie gras. Get yourself up with plenty of time, because you won't be seeing me again until the airship."
Posted 17 June 2011 - 10:38 AM
After the hungry hobbit departed, Selena dragged herself out of bed and meandered down to the hotel's shared bath. It was filthy and run down, but Selena had a long history of bathing in ditches and other less than pristine bodies of water while on campaign. It was difficult to offend her senses. She got the ordeal with quickly, retreated back upstairs, and pulled on the same clothes as the previous night. Passed the smell test, so still good. Once that was complete, she hoisted a still-slumbering Eliana over her shoulder and braced herself for the rebellious kicks and punches that promptly followed the rude awakening. Not minding the pint-sized bruiser's rage, she went back downstairs and threw Eliana into the bath. Served her right for being caught unaware! Selena may have been lounging about, but she always paid attention to what was going on. ....Usually.
Eliana marched back upstairs after half an hour, her hair still dripping wet. She glared daggers at the other woman.
"I hate you."
Selena tossed her fresh clothing and allowed the girl to dress while she examined the firearms that Chikara had left for her. Most were discreet pistols due to the nature of their 'operation,' but Selena was pleased to see additional rounds for her procured shotgun... or whatever it was called. She'd only used it a few times, but she had grown somewhat fond of it. Still not as good as her traditional weaponry. The Kanagida was going with her, whether the local military approved of it or not. She did question the spear's continued effectiveness in a land where ranged weaponry was dominant, but how could she part with it? It wasn't fair. How had one of the most effective weapon classes in Verden become so.... vulnerable in the east? She'd find a way. It was part of her.
"If I give you a gun, you have to promise not to shoot me. Or Chikara. But there's some leeway when it comes to her. I'll survive being shot, you know. And I'll be very angry after the fact. Do we have an agreement?"
Eliana snarled, but nodded.
Selena handed the younger girl one of the leftover pistols and - to the best of her limited knowledge - instructed her on how to use it. Once that was done, there was nothing left to do but wait for their date with airship destiny.
* * * *
The three of them were taken by train to a large 'airport' on the western edge of town. It seemed like miles of paved surface going in every direction with airships of all shapes and sizes tied down in neat rows. Large silver ships like the one they'd seen earlier, small ships with only a few crew members, and strange canvas and wood craft fitted with two wings and a propeller. Planes, Selena thought she'd heard from one of the airport technicians. Airships and planes.
They were being guided around by an older officer, who pointed out all sorts of interesting (if irrelevant) things about the history of the airport and its efforts to keep Virrat safe from their western rivals. This airship had done this, this attack plane squadron had done that - all of it enthralling if not for the fact that Selena was focused on only one thing.
"Is that the one we'll be touring?"
The officer followed Selena's gaze to one of the larger silver airships docked across the way. "Yes, that's it. Beautiful, isn't she?"
"I'll happily take you aboard, but you'll have to leave your weapons at the boarding platform. Protocol, you know."
Selena smiled. "Of course."
So, how 'bout we just start shooting when we get up to the boarding station? Good plan? Yes, good plan. I make good plans and destroy things is always a good idea. I'm not giving up the spear.
Posted 27 June 2011 - 05:55 PM
Chikara smiled widely, nodding along with Selena in following with the military and police's interpretation that she was the weaker sister who needed to be cared for. "This is so exciting, it already makes me a little faint! The ship's captain - it flies in the air, but he's still called a captain, right?"
The officer gave a polite 'yes' in return, and the redhead quickly continued, "We're so very appreciative of the captain for allowing us the pleasure of coming onto his ship. These big ol' weapons are so heavy that we'd probably just get tired out by them halfway through the day, so leaving them behind is all fine by me." She pointed at the blunderbuss strapped to her shoulder, but made no indication of letting him know of the hidden accessories in her boot and under her coat jacket. "We have all these strapping men to guard us, after all. It's just, you understand, we've had to be so on defense - country girls in the big city and all. They're more for any potential thugs to think we're a threat before they try to take off with our traveling cash."
"However," she turned to wave and point at Selena's prized weapon with a delighted giggle. "This isn't ours at all. Well, not for long, anyway. We're just so grateful that we planned on presenting it as a gift to the captain himself. It's simply ceremonial as you can see: pretty sturdy if you want spar a couple steps, but otherwise worthless in the modern age. It comes from the far, far west beyond the sea, I was told, so we thought it'd be a great symbol of Virrat's future - the new's power over the old. Flying around the world to conquer all, strong and steadfast!"
Chik bit her lip, turning to finally stare back at their touring officer with huge, sad eyes. "Of course, you could take it and show the captain yourself…but it just wouldn't mean as much, you know? I just want to see his face. My niece especially has been so excited."
"Yes…yes, quite!" the officer nodded, pulling a handkerchief out from his pocket to wipe down his slightly quivering brow. A quick glance at Eliana, who was putting on the best exaggerated pouty face that Chikara had taught her, melted whatever walls he might have had left. As they arrived at the docking station, he quickly whispered instructions to the younger men guarding the walkway that included much pointing between the ladies, Eliana especially, and Selena's shimmering spear.
"Ladies?" the men in charge promptly began asking for the weapons at their hips, along with anything else that stuck out far enough to be obvious, but were gentlemanly - and naïve - enough to not bother patting any of the three down. Most importantly of all, they only asked to inspect the spear to make sure that it didn't pose an actual threat before handing it back to Selena without a care.
Like candy from a baby. Chik smiled at Selena and Eliana with that creepily sweet grin of hers. "I'm so excited to meet the captain - ooh, and can we see how the ship is operated? Does it use a wheel like a normal ship or -"
She blanched, stopping dead in her boots as if the ghost of Veteran himself had appeared on the scene.
"Oh, wonderful! You've finally come!" There he was, dressed in black pinstripe with an emerald satin tie and matching ribbon lining his shellacked top hat. Duke Helith Torrin himself, practically skipping down the dock from atop the ship's deck to meet up with them. And besides his usual pompous slicked back hair and unnervingly pleasant smile, wearing attire specifically meant to match the color and material of Chikara's handpicked dresscoat. The bastard.
For an instant, the redhead's face matched her brilliant hair, though whether her expression was one of utter embarrassment or everlasting outrage was hard for even her companions to tell. "Helith. Darling." She briskly stepped toward him, blocking the man from bothering her companions with what little breadth her small stature could afford, and practically forced the man to kiss her gloved hand. "I had no idea whatsoever that you were going to be here."
Chik sharply turned to the others, calling out between clenched teeth, "Go on ahead, girls, have fun! I'll catch up after having a short chat with our beloved Duke."
"Shall we?" she grabbed Helith's hand with a vice grip, tugging him along back up the ship's dock harshly enough to give him the idea that his shoulder would be tugged from its socket if he declined.
"So I went out for a quick bite to eat this morning and a change of clothes, and realized that my entire day had already been planned out for me without a word of forewarning! Imagine that!" Chikara pushed them both through a small crowd of excited young sailors - if that's still what they were called on this thing - until she found a recessed section of wall half-covered in levers and buttons for them to talk with an inch of privacy.
"Of course! It was the least I could do after causing you so much trauma last night," Helith explained, in his ever-familiar self-serving tone. He was far more convinced that it was the right thing to do than she was. "I had not a wink of sleep last night, reading through the police report then communicating by telegram with all the right people to ensure that your attire was fully taken care of, that you would be well-fed to prevent any more anemic spells-"
The man found himself abruptly disrupted by the sharp sting of a slap across the face, so unnaturally hard that it knocked him back a step. "You know full well who I am, how dangerous Selena and I are, and that I do not trust you, let alone like you! Yet you keep playing with fire, seeing how much you can get away with because you know that I'd rather push the limits of my patience with you than risk that turning you into a soiled spot on the floor might blow my cover. What do you want?!"
The Duke only continued to smile, pressing his hand against the red fingertip impression on his cheekbone. "Part of me wanted to see if I could persuade you not to attempt to steal this ship, a plan that was clear as daylight to me. You're not wrong in saying how well I know you. But how was I ever to know that my father's bedtime stories when I was a young lad - his legends of the fairies and orcs, Heroes and Sages, and my favorite of all, the thieving, murderous Mercenary Queen and her endless underground maze…would ever become a reality? How could part of me not want to simply see you again? And Lady Selena, of course, two legends that I've only imagined in my wildest dreams. Although I always thought the stories exaggerated about your height…"
Chikara scoffed, turning away with her hands thrown up in contempt. "The jig will be up as soon as we've slaughtered the crew and gotten on our way. There's no way that Selena and I will be able to hide our identities after that. If you can promise to shut up and leave the ship on your own, I'll be willing to spare your life this once. And let me remind you, it's only because killing you is more trouble than it's worth."
"No, Lady Chikara, I don't think that you understand what I-"
"You're the only one who doesn't understand what's going on here!" The petite woman snapped back around to glare at him with an accusing pointed finger, jabbing it into the man's shoulder as she shouted in a tone that risked being heard by plenty of nearby crew, "I never asked for your help, and certainly not your praise. Last night I was flaunting myself like a common whore and you only looked frightened, now you can't shut up about me being your hero. I don't know what you want, other than to test my patience."
The man grew silent for a time, intent on allowing Chikara the time to release her fumes before responding in an even, almost rehearsed tone, "Last night your group were an unknown to me, full of mystery and understandably to be regarded as a threat. After obliterating half of a major crime syndicate in one evening, I had to determine whether your future intentions included destruction of the ruling powers of Virrat, or simple unbridled and unplanned chaos. Having learned of your identity, and frankly, your disinterest in causing me personal harm, I've concluded that this is a matter of fate, and that neither of us should disregard our good fortune by means of killing one another off."
He smirked, daring to step forward and place a hand on her shoulder. Patience still thin, Chikara wasn't sure why she was letting him get away with it, but she still was intrigued about where he was going with this ramble. Helith placed his other hand on her opposite shoulder, his dark eyes starring with uncomfortable intensity. "Two people like us, meeting like this could be no coincidence. For you, with a history of centuries of powerful rule, to be found by perhaps the only man of power in this nation who knows and understands your past, and has no intention of turning you in? It feels like I've stepped into one of my childhood fairy tales."
"Do you have any intention of overthrowing myself?" He asked, changing the pace of the conversation so quickly that Chik wasn't sure where his train of thought was coming from. "Let alone parliament or the King?"
"I don't even know what parliament means," the redhead responded bluntly. "And I'd rather not ever have to see another king in my lifetime. Whoever he is, let him keep his castle and servants, I prefer an ounce of freedom for once."
This spurred the worst possible reaction from the Duke, and the one that Chikara was most afraid of happening. He used his grip to pull her forward, kissing her with ferocious excitement until another slap to the face brought him back to his senses. It didn't stop him from sounding any less excited, unfortunately. "How I love your…spitfire! Alright, here's the plan. You go on ahead with your little hostile takeover, just try not to destroy too many ships in the process. While I've invested myself into technology on the ground, my older brother…well, let's just say that he has quite a grip on the airship market. Most of the ships you've seen at port today were made through private contractors hired by the military, and this one is no exception. Just get out of the city in one piece, and within two days time I promise that the hunt will be called off and the ship will be permanently classified as lost revenue."
Well, if that didn't sound suspiciously easy. "And what do you want from me?" Chik replied with no hesitation. "Because if you think I'm going to be indebted to you, I'm sure we'll have no problem flying this thing off into the sunset. I can't think of any reason why you should be allowed to see my pretty little 'spitfire' face again."
"Because you know what I have to offer." Helith let go of the woman, turning to glance down toward the docks below. "Technology beyond your wildest dreams, and a library filled to the brim with your histories, legends, and magic, let alone that tome you seemed so intent on destroying. All I ask is that you use your little teleporting spell to stop on by my estate some time in the next several days. You're a mercenary in need of financial support and munitions, and I'm a politician searching for an under-the-table, silent way to be rid of the scum of the nation - keeping in mind that Yarek's men are only the fat you've skimmed off to the surface of that sour glass of milk."
He took Chikara's hand one last time, kissing it before he promptly made his way around the corner and back toward the dock. "Don't have too much fun, I'll expect you soon!"
That man unnerved the hell out of her, but he'd strategically made his escape before she could think to ask him any more interrogating questions. Helith was far too good at insisting upon things going toward his benefit, but yet again, she couldn't very well say 'no' at this stage in the game. Still, if they could literally get away with murder thanks to his support…
And another thing, what nonsense was he going on about teleporting? Chikara had seen Keel traveling so unnaturally in the past, and…supposed that she might have the ability as well, being an avatar of Lazu and all. But how would Helith know that, with only legends and hearsay to fuel his Western obsession? What madness had she been responsible for in these last two, infuriatingly brain-fogged years?
Selena, I'm heading your way, Chik called out, taking a deep breath from a passing breeze to clear her mind. Carry on as planned, but we have a lot to discuss when this is finished.
Posted 29 June 2011 - 09:30 PM
Selena swatted Eliana's hand away from a lever next to the airship's boarding ramp. Granted, Selena herself had a hidden desire to push every button and pull every lever to find out what kind of chaos she could create, but that was human nature. Even a member of the Labyrinth needed to know when to repress the urge to give into primal wishes, though, and Eliana needed to restrain herself. Probably would have sent a cargo crane flying into a hangar window or launched some sort of rocket into the blue sky above.
She looked back to check on her companion and carefully watched Chikara's interactions with Helith. Such a peculiar man. Her nerves didn't appreciate the fact that she was somewhat removed from the whole situation. The duke had spent most of his time talking with Chikara. She knew his motivations and his personality quirks. Selena had been left to play catch-up from the moment he forced his way into their unholy eastern vacation. If Selena didn't know how his mind worked, and if she didn't know exactly what she was dealing with, then it would be all the more difficult to knife him in the back when the time came. Or spot his knife in the dark, if he were that stupidly ambitious. Didn't like him.
The officers that had kindly escorted the two girls to the boarding ramp waited for Chikara to return before progressing any further. Selena said nothing - mentally or verbally - when Chikara came to stand beside her. Instead, she allowed her designated guide to take the lead. He waved them up the ramp.
"Well, ladies, your chariot awaits! Please proceed up to the first deck of the gondola."
Not quite sure what a gondola was, but assuming it was the structure that looked important, Selena went up the ramp and entered a small room. It was a simple. Perhaps some kind of emergency station. Fire extinguishers were lined along the wall, along with a proper hose and medical kits. Everything was cramped - making full use of what space was available. She had to keep in mind that it was designed for a crew of at least twenty. Things would be a lot easier with just herself and Chikara. Maybe a few mercs to keep things running smoothly, because Selena had no grasp of mechanical nonsense and she was damn sure that Chikara would be even worse off.
"This is our emergency center and boarding area. The right path leads toward the rear end of the airship - which we refer to as 'aft' like a naval ship. The radio room and crew cabins are down that way. At the very end of the ship are stations for our rear machine gunners and bombardiers, along with an ammunition room for each."
"I would like to see that end of the ship very much," Selena said with a grin.
"Of course, of course! And on the forward end of the airship, we have our operations room, which is where we navigate and coordinate other activities. At the very front of the ship is our helm. There are always two pilots on duty for safety reasons. The captain actually spends more time in the operations room due to the nature of his duties."
Selena remained in her happy place. "Okay, yes, I want to see that stuff too."
"Why don't we start with the back and work our way up?"
"Yes, yes, let's do that," Selena nearly panted. When the officer led the way, Selena grabbed Chik by the arm and began to drag her down the main corridor of the airship.
* * * *
The gunner stations were nose-bleedingly dangerous glass bubbles fixed to the far end of the airship. Bombardiers, on the other hand, were safely nestled in the ship's interior and were responsible for accurately dropping explosive devices from a small set of bomb bay doors. An ammunition room containing a stockpile of bombs and machine gun rounds was enough to send Selena into a state of ecstasy. Reluctantly leaving the 'explodey boom-boom' section of the ship behind, they were led through the very plain crew quarters - mostly cramped bunks - and a room full of radio equipment and their operators. Devices that allowed people to communicate a great distance apart? How? Not magic, surely. But...
The officer explained it - something to do with waves - but Selena still didn't understand. Needed to find a science book of some sort to make sense of it, but that came down to finding one in a language she clearly understood.
Then it was up to the operations room, which was an extremely busy place full of crewmen doing this and that. Answering messages, examining maps, analyzing prior mission data to determine enemy positions, keeping tabs of the ship's inventory - so much stuff!
Last, but not least, they entered the helm at the front of the ship. There were so many controls - levers and wheels and buttons and - oh, god, push them all! Both Selena and Eliana gave into the urge to rush forward and touch everything, but Selena caught herself and the last moment and then grabbed Eliana by the scruff of the neck in order to prevent total catastrophe. The two helmsmen waved to their pretty female guests, and a tall uniformed man turned around to reveal all sorts of medals and decorations. Had to be the captain.
"I see you've been given the initial tour," he said. "Welcome aboard the Mercurial. I'm Captain Torvin, and it's a pleasure to have such unexpected heroes request a visit. The Virratian Air Corps is always happy to receive public attention. Not as impressive from the ground, though. Would you like to see her in action?"
Selena's eyes nearly glistened. "Up?"
The captain pointed to the ceiling. "We go up. If you want, anyway."
Want and then kill! Kill and take the ship! Throw people overboard and fly away into oblivi-- okay, time to calm down. Before she did something they would all regret in the long run.
Posted 06 September 2011 - 07:36 PM
How do you want to pull this off? Chikara silently asked in an uncharacteristic show of allowing Selena the reign of command. Sure, she enjoyed the idea of being a sky pirate as much as anyone, but Lena had been the first and most insistent in starting the mission. Chikara was decidedly distracted anyway, and knew it. Best to just be the brawn this time around and let her daughter figure out the details.
Fifty men aboard, and I can give you the exact locations of each, she added after a short minute of double-checking the number of living entities she sensed in the flying machine's belly. It might be best to hold the captain hostage for a short while to use as leverage while we gain control of the bridge; I believe they have some sort of communications device to other ships that we might want to take out. The grunt workers may be worth keeping around, too, it won't be hard to tell which ones would give up their mother for a chance at fame and fortune.
"Boy, this is so delightfully exciting!" Chik giggled aloud, pulling in close to the unsuspecting captain and wrapping a delicate arm around his waist - all the more comfortable a position for how short she was. "How I'd love to be in command of my own ship…but I could never even dream of how to control it!" Thus far, that comment was at least fairly truthful.
Posted 10 October 2011 - 05:18 PM
Another man smiled and joined in the conversation. "I'm the ship's chief navigator. A large number of these dials and gauges up here are for telling me where to go. Magnetic compass, heading indicator, altitude indicator, speedometer..."
"Let's demonstrate them all in action," said the captain. He sat in a leather seat fixed to the center of the bridge. "We've gotten clearance already, so let's prepare for takeoff. What do you say, ladies?"
Selena smiled. "Ready and able!"
"Cut the lines and fire up the engines," said the captain.
A communications officer on the far right of the bridge ordered all hands to their stations and relayed the captain's orders. Within minutes, the steel cables holding the zeppelin in place had been blown, which allowed the great machine to hover in the air like a whale would cut through the ocean. There was a soft hum as the engines began to turn and gain speed, propelling the ship forward. The officer operating the elevator pitched the nose of the airship up, beginning a gentle ascent into the blue sky above.
It was a strange sensation - rapidly pulling away from the ground for the first time. Selena had only ever experienced great heights by climbing onto things she had no business climbing on, or when she was on a forced march deep within the mountains. It wasn't the same. There was always earth and rock below. Here, there was nothing, no tethers and no safety nets, and it was exhilarating. It was like being a bird! Except, in a giant metal things with guns and bombs.
Selena paid close attention to the activities of the crew - every little procedure, and the effects of every strategic move to a wheel or other control device. It wasn't going to be pretty once she got in charge, and it would take a while for her to learn everything, but it was doable. She saw the methods behind the madness.
I can totally almost not kill us if I get behind the wheels of this thing.
After an hour of flight - achieving a cruising altitude of one thousand feet - Selena decided that it was time to act. They were heading south, back toward the ocean, so it would be an ideal escape route. If she took out the communication equipment, then the military couldn't be sure of why the ship wasn't responsive. Two women couldn't possibly take an airship over, and a vessel that wasn't obviously hostile wasn't something to be immediately destroyed. They could soar off into the unknown, then come back to pillage and plunder.
I am formulating a plan.
They had to take the helm first. If they could retain control of the ship's heart, then they had potential authority over the rest of the crew. Officers weren't likely to defect, but underpaid and overworked grunts might be lured to their side with the promise of loot. The radio room would follow. Couldn't have them call for help. Chikara and Selena would have to move quickly to prevent widespread alarm.
Once the radio operators were silenced, they could give their ultimate to the lesser members of the crew - join or die. The battle would progress as necessary from there.
Okay! Take out everyone in this room as quickly and silently as you can. Keeping a hostage may take up too much time. I know where the control lock is, so that will keep all the wheels in place until I come back to pilot again. Should be fine. Once we take out everyone here, we immediately backtrack to the radio room and eliminate the officers in there. We then get on the horn, give the crew our ultimatum, and fight as needed from that point on. And for the love of god, don't use any fire or lightning magic inside a machine that's full of compressed gas.
Selena turned to the captain. "You're fond of flying, aren't you?"
"Well, yes, of course."
"Good. Then you'll be happy to ascend."
Selena struck as quickly and violently as a scorpion, withdrawing her trusty dagger from her boot and slamming it into the captain's neck. She then took up her spear, which had been away from her side for far too long, and lanced the lead helmsmen. The good thing about machine crews! They didn't wear any armor! It was like cutting through soft, blood-filled butter.
She saw the navigator go for his pistol, and, as she pulled her spear back out of the helmsman's body, she trusted that Chik would be ready to strike him down.
Posted 06 November 2011 - 09:57 PM
But that moment of seeing the world as a blur was a minor handicap for Chikara, compared to the shock of fear and and adrenaline that she could feel coursing through her victim's veins. Their wide-eyed expressions were more satisfying on her stomach than the dainty pastries and cordials in all the frivolous shops of Virrat. Moreover, the sunlight that she so loathed only caused her skin to look more ghastly and her hair closer to the tone of fresh blood, the only assets she had to physically look intimidating, whilst stuck in this silk and satin façade.
No elemental magic, Selena had insisted out of necessity for their own safety. Well, that took so much of the destructive fun out of things. That reasoning even assumed that her molten spark might be too dangerous to use.
Chikara stood perfectly still, but for gently raising her lace-gloved hand a few inches from her side. She faced the navigator who sought to shoot Selena down, but made no attempt to stop him from firing his pistol. Instead, she watched with a stoic expression as the bullet ripped through the air, flying to meet the brunette shield maiden's exposed face. Her finger twitched, just barely, as she watched the small metal orb reach within inches of turning her companion's skull into a ripe, split melon, and then finally it stopped, quivering in place for a moment before backtracking its course. The bullet went back the direction it had come from, taking care to move only a few inches to the side to ensure that it would miss re-entering the pistol and instead slice right through the man's ribcage. Shocked, the navigator dropped the gun as his body collapsed, gurgling blood instead of any sounds of protest as he watched the redhead retrieve the weapon and immediately use it remedy several of his crew mates of the age-old problem of not having enough holes in one's skull.
In an instant the bridge was silent again, but for the gentle creak of wind against wood around them.
Chikara's eyes, only now beginning to adjust to the harsh light of noontime, wandered back over to Selena, and still the woman did not move. "In the radio room, you will find a woman named Lieutenant Danva Marishe, serial number 01025R3. Remember this, because she will be the only one in the room who you can easily imitate when calling into headquarters to request an SOS. The ship has a history of leaking hydrogen near the rudder, so this ship's 'crash' into the ocean will be tragic…but believable."
Not bothering to elaborate as to how she knew this information, Chikara began to slowly sink into her floor shadows like quicksand. "You can finish up with the deck crew, while I deal with those below. Radioing our ultimatums is simply too…impersonal for my liking. Don't bother calling for help unless you absolutely need it."
"And you." Chik glanced hard and long at Eliana, almost looking like she was ready to chastise the girl who had already wandered over to the abandoned control panel and begun to touch the golden knobs and brass buttons. "Think you can keep an eye on our bearings until Selena takes the helm again? If she knows what she's doing, the ship should practically fly itself until we are able to regroup, but you can keep a lookout for military ships."
The small, blonde girl had already begun to seek out the captain's chair, which she dragged with a screech of metal against metal over to the center of the console, then sat down on her knees to have a better view. "All clear."
The redhead, chest deep already in the floor, nodded and gave a final threat of "Not unless you absolutely need me," before dropping down completely to the level below.
She had landed in a storage room, filled with stacks of aluminum and fabric sheets, which she only assumed were used for repairs to the buoyant sections of the ship. Good, appearing in secret was ideal. Moreover for allowing her the opportunity to rush to a corner of the room and retch into a wooden crate, sick beyond all belief from the rocking of the manmade behemoth. She hated being in that damned ship when they escaped to Virrat, and this airship wasn't much better. At least not while her mind was opened up to trying to pinpoint every mind onboard. A wave of temporary anxiety had washed through the inner rooms of hull when the ship had rocked lightly to the side, a consequence of the navigation crew hastily putting the machinery into autopilot before their failed attempt to take down the invading ladies.
Now that they assumed everything was working well again, Chikara could finally strike.
From her small room, filled with darkness and the scent of gall, she reached out to touch the souls in the boiler and mechanical rooms, the kitchen, even a sentry who was equally ill on the toilet. Many of the men were easy - drifters by nature who preferred the open sky to the obligations of a grounded job in an office or factory in the city, loners who had few family or other earthly ties. Others did have families who they seldom saw, and who barely got by with their military stipends. Without a word, she easily implanted into them the idea that less reputable means of money-making were for the betterment of their family.
Of course there were a handful of loyalists to the king, through and through. Some were embittered by the realization that despite all their efforts, they would never reach officer rank. One came to the conclusion, after months of having ignored the signs, that his crewmate had been bedding his wife when away on leave. He made short work of the perpetrator, then took a long walk off an even shorter balcony.
While the woman behind the madness lay in wait, a black widow who allowed her prey to lead themselves into webs of uncertainty and malcontent, she already was building her crew. She knew which men would be worth keeping, which would prove assets in the future either as longstanding soldiers or unquestioning pawns. The only dilemma that she had to be careful about was to ensure that while her own poisonous thoughts perforated their minds, that their own uncertainties and raging didn't seep back through and affect her own calm. How tempting it was, too, to let herself succumb to the emotions and desires of mortal men, worries over wealth, health, and love that she had largely outgrown centuries beforehand. Chikara worried for a moment that the telepathic madness that was devouring their minds might have a negative influence on Eliana, but she knew that Selena would be fine. Compared to the insanity that plagued the old homelands and had made the Labyrinth so frightening but so successful, this would be no more than an insect buzzing in her ear.
She couldn't speak for Selena, but Chik found the idea of piracy to be an entertaining hobby more than a necessary career. Within several minutes, though, those of the crew who had not killed themselves or one another were now as ripe to pick as fruit from a tree. Although they couldn't quite understand why, the men all knew that they belonged to a new crew with a new purpose, and each and every one of them was eager to begin on a voyage that did not yet have a purpose or a foreseeable end.
Satisfied with her job well done, what with having taken over the majority of the ship without lifting more than a single finger, the woman finally opened up the metal hatch door to enter into the main lower corridor. Most of the newfound faithful stayed diligent in their job posts, but a handful had come out to greet her, to see the face of their new first mate, as she decided her role should be. Selena would find more satisfaction as a bloodthirsty captain. Besides, this would give Chikara the option leading from the background while keeping her identity hidden for a little longer, in case the Koridaians were still seeking her out.
"Your ladyship," a couple of men said in unison, dressed in the khaki jumpsuits of engineers. Each one reached out to take her arms, unaware of why they knew she was ready to collapse after the use of so much mental and emotional energy.
"Thank you, boys," Chikara murmured in a low tone, wiping her hair back and away from her sweating forehead. Another man closed up the storage room door behind her, coated with heavy copper that had been buffed to a gleam, and she managed to catch her reflection in it before the men began to help her down the hallway and to her new quarters. Even with everything in the door taking on an orange hue, she could see that something was off.
She forced herself to stand on her own two feet, gently pushing back the growing entourage of adoring mauraders-to-be. Chik glanced inside of the small private room that she would call her own - surely not as large or luxurious as the captain's quarters, but it was clean and well stocked with life's essentials.
A buzz sounded in her ear, and she realized with a start that one of the men had asked if there was anything further that she needed. "Oh, hmm. First, we need to be rid of the last dissenters who would threaten us on the ship." She couldn't let Selena see her in this condition, but that was easily enough remedied. "Then, tell the chefs that tonight we will have a banquet! And be sure that only the finest meats and wines are served, for all of us to partake in!"
The men gave a lengthy cheer, starting off back down the hall to their respective posts or else to help in the eradication of the remaining loyalists to the king. All but one. A languid looking fellow, tall and gangly, had realized that the redheaded woman had captured his hand as if with lace-gloved claws, and she easily pulled him forward to join her in the bedroom. Dinner would still be a ways off, after all, and she was so very hungry. He had no family, no badges of merit...and simply would not be missed.
Posted 09 November 2011 - 05:25 PM
The earlier gunshot would have alarmed the crew members in neighboring compartments, so Selena didn't have time to waste. She retrieved her weapons and made for the operations room. She approached the door just as it began to open, so Selena slammed it as hard as she could, smacking it into the officer's face and sending him falling to the floor. Once she crossed the threshold, she had only had a second to size up the situation and take the appropriate course of action. There was the officer that had been knocked to the floor. Two more officers were on alert and standing next to their planning tables, but these gentlemen were not armed.
With a wave of Selena's hand, she sent all the documents and maps on the tables flying into the air with a burst of telekinesis. With the officers temporarily blinded by the mess, Selena raced forward with her inhuman speed and slammed the tip of the Kanagida into one officer's neck. Twisting, she yanked the weapon back out and jammed the other end into the second man's stomach, knocking the wind out of him. When he was doubled over, she flipped her weapon back around and finished him off. The only one that remained was the one who had hit the ground upon her entrance, and he was trying to crawl into the radio room while clinging onto to the only sliver of consciousness that remained. She walked up, slammed the heel of her boot into his spine, then pierced his torso with her spear. Clear.
Next came the all-important radio room.
They had to know something was up, but they didn't know the nature of the emergency yet, so nothing could have been transmitted back to base. She needed to move quickly to ensure that didn't change. There were four communication officers here - two still seated in metal chairs while the other two were standing to investigate the commotion. Falling back on her telekinesis, Selena pulled all four chairs toward her as hard as she could. The people who had been seated were tossed to the floor while the standing pair was hit roughly by the flying furniture, knocking them over. She canceled her telekinetic field just before the chairs reached her, and they dropped to the floor like heavy weights.
She slammed her spear down onto the nearest one, then lanced one of his friends that was attempting to get back up. To her dismay, the spear became lodged in his ribcage. While she could have pulled it out with enough force, cracking bone if necessary, she found it easier to switch back to her dagger for the last two. She grappled with one, pinning his arms behind his back, and then slashed his neck. The last was the lone female - that Danva woman that Chik mentioned. She attempted to throw a punch, but Selena dodged out of the way and countered by thrusting the dagger up through her lower jaw, skewering her head. Selena withdrew the blade, cleaned it, and returned it to her boot. Okay. Now... to make that call.
Selena sat down at the woman's station and fiddled with the settings - realizing that everything had been configured for a call back to base. They must have been preparing. Well, on with it, then.
"This is the Mercurial," Selena said in her best professional voice. "We are declaring a state of emergency. Please respond."
"This is Rhothgard Air Station. Please confirm your identity."
"Lieutenant Danva Marishe, serial number 01025R3."
"We have a major hydrogen leak in the aft tanks. We are rapidly losing altitude. With our current estimations, we will crash roughly ten kilometers south of the coast. We request immediate maritime assistance."
"Understood. Dispatching now."
Selena knocked over a cabinet and pretended to lurch forward. "Rapidly losing stability, I can't--!"
With that, she unplugged a cable and ended the conversation. Good enough. With that out of the way, she could get the airship above the clouds and on a new heading - far away from the prying eyes of the Virratian Air Service. On her way back to the helm, however, Selena felt a familiar buzzing in her head. A good fight - that's what she wanted. Turn around, put the guns on a target and blow it to pieces! Then again, a good time in bed would be just as appreciated! No, wait, she knew what this was. It was an environment of chaos, just like in the Labyrinth or any place infested by Lazu's power. Chik. Chik was brainwashing the remaining crew! Selena could sense that her companion was becoming severely drained of energy, but there was no mental cries for help, so she must have gotten everything secure.
Upon returning to the helm, Selena grabbed the captain's microphone and made a shipwide announcement. "This is your new, much better looking captain. If you've decided to stay aboard, then I happily welcome you to the family! My companion and I have unrivaled experience in raiding and pillaging. If you fight well, I can guarantee that you'll have more money than you know what to do with by the end of the year. Treasures, good food, even better booze, and all the sins of the flesh you've always wanted but never dared try to take! You've started the best chapter of your little lives!"
Selena plopped into a leather-padded seat and kicked her legs up onto the control panel. The ship was hers! She should celebrate. With wine and a raid.
Now, whenever you finish up with... whatever it is you're doing down there, return to the helm.
Posted 10 November 2011 - 11:54 PM
Nikola finally stepped off the train, it was a long ride from the coast to the capital. Vatenbaer hadn't changed any since his trip to Salledo. Crime syndicates practically ran the city, though, at least he could work in his lab without being disturbed by the officials, something he couldn't say for Vildmark.
Nikola causally made his way through town, stopping to grab a cup of tea and the newspaper before heading back to the lab. Sitting down at the small outdoor cafe, Nikola began to sip on his tea and opened up the paper. The front article caught his attention, for once. Virrat's flagship crashed into the ocean while transporting two foreign heroes. Nikola began to turn the page but stopped, and took a closer look at the photograph of the foreign 'heroes' and crew.
"Where have I seen you two before..." Nikola murmured to himself as looked at the two women. Then it hit him like a ton of bricks. His eyes raged with fury as he recognized the pair. Nikola stood to leave, crushing the porcelain tea cup in his hand without realizing it. "How did those Labyrinth whores, get here?!" Nikola yelled to himself as he stormed down the street. "Those two will wreak more havoc on this land than their idiotic civil war will. Sank into the ocean? Bloody hell it did, it's only a matter of time before they return..." Nikola knew he could not try and reason with the authorities on the matter, since they and the rest of the general population considered him mad, the very same reason why none of the commoners paid him any mind when he went on ravings such as these.
Nikola entered a tall brick building, and made his way up the stairs to the top floor. There he inserted his key into the door's lock and entered the room. The room had many blackboards and papers, filled with all sorts of number, symbols, and calculations. Various tubes, cords, and metal parts and pieces were scattered on tables and desks throughout the room. Nikola walked to the back of the room, angrily ranting to himself all the way. He opened another door to a much smaller room, only with a desk and a cot. Nikola sat down at the desk and thought to himself. "Decisions, decisions..." Nikola said lowly to himself.
Posted 31 December 2011 - 05:25 PM
The woman sat on the edge of the bed in the small cabin that she had called her own, not even for a minute regretting her silent choice to allow her younger companion the right to be called captain, and to thus allow her all the majesty that came with the title. She could have the larger room, the padded chair, the helm, and the adoration of all the simpering crew members that Chikara had bent to their will. The redhead wasn't necessarily tired of the role of 'all powerful leader', not in the sense of the word that suggested that she was weary of all it stood for. But she did need the chance to rest her mind, and perhaps even her soul, and those few months of sitting in a cramped boat during their escape from the Old World just weren't long enough.
She needed more time to think, to figure out what had happened to her under Lazu's indomitable control. Maybe this would be a good chance to reinvent herself and become someone else, especially given the need to hide their existence from those who might still be trying to chase her down and keep her as their 'almighty' holy queen.
Or maybe Chik was just going through a midlife crisis. Could those still happen to the nearly immortal?
Her eyes needed no lit candle to see the scene in front of her, and even the small glazed porthole window on the back wall that faced the outside was unnecessary. Centuries of subterranean life and the innumerable blessings of Lazu had given she and her kin the eyesight of an owl and the sense to recognize nearby warm bodies like a snake. She had no doubt that the second animal was the one she more closely admired, although it was questionable whether she was imbued with any of the wisdom of the first.
Within this room, there most certainly were no warm bodies, least of all her own. There was, however, a pile of ash on the floor that still smoked gently from the warm embers within, featureless and altogether unidentifiable as the late sailor Thomas…or Tim…or was it Thorm? Oh, it didn't matter, he was dead and long gone. It felt good to feast on mortal blood, bone, and spirit after so long, and Chikara had been so famished that she hadn't even bothered to have her way with him physically first.
No, even that wasn't quite right. She just…hadn't felt the need. The woman had been convinced that with her flair for sexual tension, that would be the first thing she tried to obtain once they were off the boat. But the only man she'd even tried to flirt with was that obnoxious Duke, the thought of whom frustrated and heated her soul until - no, no, best not to let herself get pent up over a single man, just because he had the nerve to not give in to her advances. There were millions more fish in the Virrat sea. Maybe the next time she had the chance, she would torture and kill him just to prove a point.
Give me a few more minutes, I just need to finish dressing.
Chikara was already dressed, had been, had never taken off so much as a lace glove. But she was hardly presentable. The shadows had not yet withdrawn.
These shadows, you see, were not made by the absence of sunlight, not in the traditional sense. Instead, they were the blotting out of light or any other form of energy from this small, dim room, stolen away by the same being that had devastated every last cell from the hapless, helpless sailor. Chikara had been very, very hungry.
She knew that she was an unstoppable force, and he had certainly been no immovable object. Nothing under the sun or moon had been able to stop her, and in the grand scheme of things, that final battle in the ruins of the Labyrinth had only momentarily slowed her down. And that was in a realm where magic was well loved and understood, and her own powers and weaknesses were known by many. There were no such known threats here in this nation of science and mechanical devices. Yes…definitely better to let Selena take the reigns of control, let the girl assume power and leadership. Otherwise, giving that position to Chikara would only let the black fires of Lazu's power and her own insatiable hunger grow into a raging firestorm, taking out this whole continent in one fell swoop with nary a way to stop her. Hopefully Selena couldn't sense the madness that had grown wild in this room, or at least not find it any stranger than the ordinary insanity of Lazu that they had grown to love in their home in the Labyrinth years ago.
She stood, staring at herself from the other side of a small and dusty mirror soldered to the iron wall. The black shadows had begun to withdraw like so many feather-delicate tentacles, twisting and writhing down the walls and away from the window like a terrible stain working in reverse. Light had begun to shine jarringly into the room again, yards upon yards of blackness becoming paler; like slithering adders they hide themselves underneath Chik's petticoats until all that was left was her own real, human shadow.
The woman gasped for air, like a newborn surfacing into the world of oxygen for the first time, as though until this point she had been able to breathe through the umbilical cord of all those shadows. Then, finally, she stood upon her own feet in those clacking heeled boots that the women of this nation found so popular (not that she was one to complain about gaining a few inches from the ground), and for half a minute practiced her best wicked smile in the mirror. Now was the time to celebrate, not to contemplate how dangerous she was and whether to use that power to tear the heavens and earth asunder.
Within a few minutes, the redhead was rushing up the staircase outside the main control room, holding tight to her skirts with one hand to keep them out of her way as she sprinted up two stairs at a time. "Captain Lena!" she shouted, her other hand holding tight to the necks of two wine bottles and a corkscrew. "You'd better not have started the festivities without me!"
She pushed her first hand against the top of Eliana's head, rubbing her hair around to the girl's obvious annoyance, then kicked aside a dead body so that she could take his slightly-bloodied seat. "The kitchen is already working hard to prepare our feast. So. What is the next course of action? Where do we go from here?"
Posted 14 January 2012 - 10:10 PM
When Chikara came bearing wine, sitting in the co-pilot's chair next to her, Selena happily reached over and took the nearest one. She did the honors of opening both bottles, knowing that her companions was... less than coordinated outside of battle and always had trouble removing the cork. Glasses? Well, she didn't see any, and, frankly, neither woman was really civilized enough to need them. Selena took a swig straight out of the bottle. Ah, good girl! She'd chosen a sweet one.
"Forget about the destination for a minute! What do you think of the view? Gorgeous, isn't it?" She paused. "I'm a person of extremes, I suppose -- I'm happy below the ground or above it, but never treading it. Only if there's a good fight."
She took another long swig of wine and sighed.
"It's a good thing you actually listened to me during those late-night booty calls to Snowpeak. Isn't this so much better than being locked up in some ivory tower? We can raid and pillage again. We don't have to live by anyone else's rules, and we don't have to make ourselves look like valiant heroes in order to lead our nations. This is where we need to be. We are unbound forces of nature."
Selena rested her chin against the top of the bottle. "It was a close call, you know. There were so many plans in motion that it took luck and quick thinking to get out of there. I had to systematically destroy the other avatars in order to purge Lazu from you, but all the heroes were ready to rip off your head. The window of opportunity to escape was very slim. But I'm glad you were exorcised, so to speak. It's better this way. Not that Lazu didn't have his benefits..."
She leaned over, and, with a playful look on her face, nipped Chikara's neck just beneath the ear.
"...but I didn't hear any complaints from you about such things, either. Regardless, I'm glad we're back to being proper villains again."
"Do you care what I think?" Eliana asked.
Selena grabbed the captain's hat and placed it over her own head, slightly messing up her already wild locks of wavy brown hair. She hated hats - never even wore a helmet in battle - but it seemed right to kick off their first voyage in style. Where to? Well, there were countless villages in the world. Should they stay in Virrat or Vildmark, running the risk of getting into a fight with other airships, or should they go back to Verden and assault the unsuspecting survivors of the cataclysm? Oh, no, it was too soon to go back home. They needed to forge their own path for a while. She examined one of the maps pinned to the wall.
"How about we head up to the northern half of Komitaa? Less people up there, so fewer law enforcement agents to worry about. As much as I like giant battles, I'd rather not get involved in a multi-airship dogfight while I'm still learning how to fly in a straight line." She smiled. "Figuring out how to land is going to be fun."
Posted 14 January 2012 - 11:57 PM
Then the bottle was thrust back to her lips. Ahh, mother's milk.
Selena was right, of course. She didn't need to live by anyone's rules but her own. Or, if she really felt the need to follow someone else so that she needn't worry her pretty little head about the consequences, she could just do whatever Captain Lena suggested for the time being. Well, to a point, at least. If the brunette started ordering her around in the bedroom, that would be a whole different matter...
"Northern half of the continent sounds fine by me," she finally passively responded, glancing out the window into the great endless expanse of bright, fresh air. Blech, that would take more getting used to than she was sure she could endure. "Just not too far. Not back to the homelands." It went without saying, as to why Chikara wanted nothing to do with Koridai and Calatia. They were wanted women now in both sides of the world, but at least over here there were people who didn't know what they were dealing with. In Koridai they might want her as a figurehead, and Calatia they wanted her as an effigy. Opposite for Selena, of course. Koridai wanted to roast the war maiden on a spit, and Calatia probably still revered her as their great protector against the evils of Lazu.
Chikara dropped her thoroughly drained bottle to the floor with a thud, leaning so far back into her seat that she slid forward with a lazy sigh. "I still want to be within easy distance to…" she thought about it, how weird the word sounded. "To teleport back to the capital if need be. The Duke made some pretty strong claims about offering us military and financial assistance, if we're willing to in turn use our might against a few enemies of the state. Nothing keeps our pockets lined like government-sponsored terrorism."
"And besides, if there is one thing we've learned from one another," the redhead sat up again on the edge of her seat, cocking a pointed finger at Selena as though she were mocking shooting the other woman with a pistol, "Keep your friends close. But keep your enemies closer."
At the high velocity that the women were traveling, still so new to airship travel that they were thus far unaware that this kind of speed was probably taking decades off the ship's lifespan, Vatenbaer was already hundreds of miles away and completely oblivious as to their grand plans. There had been the initial mayday, and the military's immediate requests for backup to set up a rescue and salvage.
Almost immediately afterward, they were then informed that nearby passenger ships had already assisted in a full rescue, and that the southern branch of the air force and navy had successfully begun medical assistance. The ship was a complete loss, sunk to the depths of the sea. Investigations would be brief, as per the Duke's orders.
A comb briefly dipped into a mixture of wax and dark oil that was popular amongst the more well-to-do men of Virrat, flicking any extra residue off before being used to slick back and perfectly part the black hair of Duke Helith Torrin, acting head of the most technologically advanced city in the known world, under the parliament and the king himself.
It had been a long day, between leading the non-existent rescue mission, approving plans for the ground-breaking of a new university of alchemy, and preparing documents for parliament regarding the halting of a proposed dam on the Vildmark border due to tensions between the treaties of the two nations. Business as usual.
"She may not come," Jiles spoke from a few feet away, holding a warm towel for after the Duke had finished combing and shaving. "Least of all today, after her grand triumph in the skies."
"Oh, I by no means expect her until late evening," the man responded as he reached for the towel and pressed it against his pallid neck, admiring himself in the tall bedroom mirror. "But she has no choice but to come. She is far too curious, far too concerned about whether I am yet friend or foe."
"And how does one trap a god?" the greying butler and confidante asked candidly, never afraid to state his opinion to the government leader. He had helped to care for that cocky man since he was a toddler; there was no doubt that they had probably enjoyed more personal conversations during Helith's youth than he'd shared with his own father, rest his soul. "Especially after all the unnecessary effort you made at refusing her advances? After a decade of taking full advantage of your title as most eligible bachelor in Virrat, I would hardly think that now would be the time for you to act gentlemanly, behaving as though you were considerate of a woman's chastity."
"She's no ordinary woman, old friend," Helith responded without missing a beat, focusing his attention solely on a freshly pressed silk tie that needed fitting around his neck. "This is no different from hunting a wild cat in the jungle, with nothing but a dagger and your wits to keep you alive. I've studied her for years, yet even the best of books are inevitably just tall tales and legends made to make her either sound more hallowed or more worthy of everlasting fear. I cannot trust her for a minute…not yet at least."
"The queen of the Labyrinth, goddess of Koridai, avatar of Lazu," Helith continued, finishing the knot of his tie then neatly smoothing it out before securing it to his dress suit with an understated golden pin. "She's dangerous at best. But if we can secure her, either as a weapon or as a research subject? The world could be ours, Jiles! The war against the Mark would be over in days, peace under the rule of an iron fist would quickly turn into an amiable relationship of prosperity all the way across to the ocean! And perhaps…just perhaps I may find myself as king of a new unified nation - or even a unified world - before the dust has yet settled."
Posted 15 January 2012 - 05:21 PM
They took a crash-course (almost literally) in the art of rappelling from an airship in flight. It was the standard assault practice of the military. Hover the airship above the objective, providing aerial gun support should things go wrong on the ground, then have soldiers rappel down from the bomb bay for a quick attack.
Having played with the flight controls on their trip north - much to the annoyance of the crew's stomachs - Selena had come to learn how to do basic airship maneuvers. Putting it into a hover fifty feet above the town? Well... it was doable. She began a steady descent starting ten minutes out, gradually reaching the treetops as she came to the outskirts of Raldyn. She slowed the zeppelin to a dead stop and, using the autopilot, she locked its position in place.
"All gunners to your stations! Assault team, prepare for deployment," she announced. She pointed a finger to Eliana. "While we're gone, you're responsible for keeping this thing from crashing."
"This is a terrible idea."
"Would you rather I put Chik in charge of all the shiny buttons?"
"There you go, then."
Selena met Chik and the other members of the brainwashed assault team in the bomb bay when she had finished getting her gear on. She was dressed in a black skin-tight leather suit and matching harness - which also had a nice sheath for her trusty dagger and various straps to hold down extra ammunition. Her newfound sawed-off shotgun was strapped to her thigh and, because she was never going to abandon it, her spear was coming along for the ride. Leather boots with far too many straps adorned her feet and a pair of tinted goggles shielded her eyes from the wind slicing into the bomb bay. She struck a pose.
"Well, how do I look?"
Posted 20 February 2012 - 04:42 PM
She had found little need for changes in attire, unlike the catsuit-adorned brunette. She still wore her laced up, corset-style top with its frilly skirt, which had been sufficiently torn up the side all the way to her waist to afford full flexibility of her legs. She herself had found a decent pair of tight fabric pants to wear with her heeled boots laced over them. The suit jacket had been ditched, as it was just a nuisance both in its shape and in its ability to constantly remind her of the annoying Duke. But her main change, the game-winning ticket from this point forward, was a thick pair of machinists goggles that she had claimed from the engine room. She currently wore them over her forehead, lifting her red curls out of the way, but the moment they got back into that incessantly bright sunshine she would be popping them back over her face. And depending on how deep she needed to delve into her reserves of Lazu's life-giving (and taking) energy…well, that shouldn't be of too much concern. She'd had a decent meal, after all, and was ready and raring to get back to the one thing they were best at: war.
The woman slid her hands slowly down the lengths of her chest and torso, resting them lightly on the lightweight belt around her waist. A single loaded pistol on her right side, and a dagger on her left. She had no sword, no whip, most importantly no magic-filled spork. She'd get her precious toy back soon enough, there was no doubt about that.
"Selena." The petite warrior closed her eyes as she spoke, her eyelids fluttering lightly as though almost in a dream-state. "I'm going to focus my energies on the minds of Raldyn's men and women, to weed out aggression, so to speak. Just like what I did with our lovely crew here. Except this time, those who are itching to fight won't be turning on each other, they'll be going after us like rabid dogs. Anyone who runs or hides won't be worth fighting…and for Lazu's sake, don't touch the children. Not unless you plan on letting Eliana lead her own kiddie brigade."
Maybe Chikara sounded like she was going soft, insisting in so many words that they spare the innocents. She couldn't be sure of how much damage had been done in those last two years under the guise of Goddess, but Eliana had taken no hesitation in reminding her that the young girl was, in fact, the sole survivor from a village that Chik had leveled. "That type of violence and destruction is…unnecessary," she thought out loud. "Plus an obvious waste of energy and resources. Armory and bank are at the center of the town if you want to focus on looting, otherwise most of the civilians live too modestly for us to spend all day and night rummaging through their floorboards and jewelry boxes."
She flicked her hand to the side absently, and one of their new soldiers rushed over to a large panel on the wall. He smashed his hand against a large red button, then slowly began to pull on a lever next to it. Immediately the floor shuttered, looking from her unexperienced view like it was cracking at the seams as the bay door began to lower. Chikara began to walk forward as the crack quickly began to enlarge enough for a man to walk through.
And if Selena hadn't noticed it yet, she would have by now - Chik was not, and had no intention of, wearing any type of harness. "Wish me luck," she said with a wild grin before changing her pace to a full run and jumping off the metal ramp and into wild open air.
Fifty feet? Not enough to kill her, necessarily. Maybe if she landed on her head, otherwise it was certainly enough to break her legs. The redhead thought on this for a second as she hung in the sky, just before gravity caught up and threw her tumbling toward the unforgiving earth below.
But she had figured that there was only one way to get herself back up to speed with her own powers, and an adrenaline rush always helped. In the blink of an eye she went from falling wildly, to completely disappearing mid-air, to appearing again on the ground with an awkward summersault. Her hair was disheveled and there were more than a couple of leaves to pick out from it, but otherwise none the worse for wear - except for being a little sick to her stomach.
Teleporting. She could definitely do this. Focus on not physically being solid, just like when walking through walls or allowing bullets to pass through her unscathed, except force yourself to return to a physical state in a different location. Easier to do when she could see where she wanted to land, no doubt, so making a trip all the way to Vatenbaer would be no easy endeavor.
The woman took a deep breath, still excited from her attempt at not-dying, then looked up at the sky. No airship. Oh, wait, there it was…a few hundred feet off. Well, shit. Then that meant…
She looked around more at ground level. About a dozen men and a couple of larger women surrounding her, all with a miscellaneous weapons - guns, machete, a couple of shovels. Well, these were hardly trained fighters, for what it was worth, but it certainly meant that the town was already on high alert for the attack. Being so close to the border, maybe they were used to the occasional raid…though unlikely anything of this proportion.
Come on down, Chik mentally thought out to Selena. The welcoming committee's waiting for us!
Posted 31 March 2012 - 12:41 AM
She slid down from the bay doors of the airship and landed roughly beside a group of angry townsfolk that had been agitated by Chikara's powers. Well, nothing wrong with that. It still wouldn't be much of a challenge. With a primal shout, Selena sent a telekinetic shock wave out around her, knocking her opponents to the ground. Selena fired her shotgun at a man armed with a hefty two-handed axe and removed the greater part of his face. Another attempted to stand up, and she kicked him in the jaw as hard as she could, knocking him out cold. A wave of dark flame took care of the rest.
"Form up - we're hitting the bank and weaponsmiths!"
The Virratian strike team used very different tactics than she was used to. Guns were their primary weapons - not long-range tools to wear down an opponent, then put away when the real fighting started. They fired wave after wave of bullets into the untrained civilians. Very disciplined, very precise, very quick to reload - muscle memory. While the townspeople fired back with their own lackluster firearms - which Selena had to block with telekinetic barriers on multiple occasions - they could not hold a candle to a trained fighting team. It would take getting used to, but she wouldn't mind this.
She let the others take care of the bank - money was nice, but it was of little interest to her compared with weaponry. She made her way to the nicest weapon shop and proceed to rifle through the collection. Some nice rifles, a few designer melee weapons - special emphasis on sabers used for mounted combat. Most of it looked ceremonial. She took a wide varieties of samples with her, and was content to let the others loot what they pleased.
A house-call was in order after that. She kicked down the doors of one of the larger residences and disappeared for some time. When she returned, she was draped in stolen clothes, had a satchel full of various gadgets that she probably just found amusing due to her limited exposure to technology, and various other oddities. Her pockets jingled when she walked. When another peasant took aim at her with a large revolver, she juggled her newfound belongings in order to lift up her shotgun and fired off a shot into his belly. Awkward thing, but she'd get used to it.
A shame, really. Not much of a fight at all. They didn't seem used to magic, and they lacked the training to properly fight with their weapons. Untrained melee combats were less dangerous, perhaps - lots of flailing about - but the distance between opponents made it feel more dull. She'd have to take great care to get up in their personal space next time. They didn't seem to enjoy it!
She paused when she heard a radio in the neighboring house's window.
"Reports from the capital indicate that the Duke of Vatenbaer has made a public announcement supporting a ceasefire between our glorious nation and Vildmark, stating that he has no wish to see his people placed in further danger due to the sins of the past, insisting that more glorious days lay ahead. This stance is in strong opposition to the government's foreign policy, and his sudden deviation from the norm is sure to create a political uproar in the coming days."
Well, that sounded unusual. Not her problem, though. No need to mention anything to Chik - she'd just grow more curious and paranoid. Already too fixated on suspicious foreigners for her own good. Just keep raiding, just keep raiding... Oh, shit. That damn mental link. How was she supposed to think in private without Chik being able to pick up on her minor thoughts? She frowned. Well, hopefully she was too busy to pick up on it.
Posted 09 July 2012 - 11:06 AM
Nikola quit tinkering with random items in his lab for a moment once he heard the radio.
"Reports from the capital indicate that the Duke of Vatenbaer has made a public announcement supporting a ceasefire between our glorious nation and Vildmark, stating that he has no wish to see his people placed in further danger due to the sins of the past, insisting that more glorious days lay ahead. This stance is in strong opposition to the government's foreign policy, and his sudden deviation from the norm is sure to create a political uproar in the coming days."
Nikola raised an eyebrow at the report. "That is certainly... unexpected." He said to himself. Nikola had expected the civil war between Virrat and Vildmark to last a great deal of time, the union of the two was nothing less of completely unexpected. "No matter." He continued. "Even if they are united, they still don't realize how much a threat those two..." Foot steps could be heard coming up the stairs. No one ever comes up to his floor. Whispering voices could be heard outside his door. Nikola loaded and readied his pistols for whomever stood outside his door.
After a few moments of silence the door was busted down and a small group of men rushed into his lab. Nikola fired the first shot, straight into the first man's head, causing the other three to stumble over his collapsing body. A shot from his second pistol hit the rifleman's chest. As the other two got back up to their feet, Nikola unsheathed his thin sword and ran it through one of the men, and used his body as a meatshield from the other man's pistol shot. Pushing the third corpse onto the last of the four men, Nikola grabbed his handheld capacitor from the lab table and proceeded to shock the last man into submission.
"Who sent you!" Nikola demanded. He stopped shocking the man for a moment so he could answer. "We were ordered to track you down, the Counselor's orders. We were only sent to bring you back, not to kill you I swear!" Nikola shocked the man again. "How did you find me!" The man cried out in agony. "We were ordered to watch you, incase you escaped from Salledo. From there we followed you back to here!" Nikola walked away from the broken man. He knew too much. Nikola quickly loaded his pistol and shot him before he even realized what was about to happen. Nikola gathered up the few belongings he had that he couldn't easily replace, save for the lab equipment, it would have to be left. After all of that commotion, he would have to disappear. He was sure a few more men were already heading back to Salledo to inform them of his whereabouts.
After he had everything, he light a Bunsen burner on one of his lab tables, and then opened up a gas valve on the other side of the room. Nikola climbed out the window and quickly made his way down the fire escape on the side of the building. As he walked away from the building, he could see Vatenbaar authorities arriving at the building, just in time to see the top floor explode, with flames shooting out of the windows.
Nikola only knew of one place in Virrat he could turn to for assistance in catching and destroying the Labyrinth queens, a place that he also despised, though it would have to do... for now.