The feed from this security camera was now showing the state of Vega. Armed and armored soldiers were filing into position. The Militia was armed and funded by the Alliance, and they had armor and state of the art weapons and war machines backing them up. They looked excellent as the men and women moved forward and secured their position in the city square. Tank cannons aimed, rifles were locked and commanders barked their orders.
The city was walled. Like most frontier cities the walls kept the populace safe on new worlds to avoid attrition by local flora and fauna. Judging by the way the civilians were cowering behind the military, the city was crowded, bursting with the population from the country townships and communities. The Camera staticked over.
Things drew silent, when suddenly the faint chattering of gunfire erupted in the distance. It was then the gate that this camera was watching was blasted open causing the Camera to shake. The soldier’s all began firing in unison. A barrage of automatic weapons, cannons and explosions engulfed the gate. Yet it did not matter. They came rushing through the torrent as if it were rain.
The Atraxians surged through the breach. Unlike their opposition they were not well drilled, or funded. Hulking savages, clad in thick battered plates of metal that were forced to fit around their massive muscular forms. They held thick heavy combat shields that turned the rifle fire off of them, and they stomped through through into the courtyard.
The camera broadcast it all, a river of metal, and green bellowing, and crashing into the city defenders. Most of them were not even armed with rifles, but carried only crude metal cudgels, and they laughed at the efforts of the Local militia to stop them. They set about the milita, and the civilians alike. It was not so much a battle as it was a slaughter. Before long the courtyard was strewn with corpses, and blood. The Atraxian surge soon devolved into the hulking brutish humanoids fighting the people of the city, to fighting each other over their corpses.
“What are we doing?” The Page said with a yawn looking up at Creature as he stood gathering their things. Creature grabbed the child who wore little more than a thin shift. She was clutching a stuffed animal and struggling not to dose off.
Creature just hummed. “Eh, going on vacation…” He paused and looked up at the new footage. “Nope. Fuck no.” He said puffing on his cigarette.
Mona sat up looking at the TV as well. “Is that a scary movie? I don’t like scary movies.”
Creature didn’t even look at his ward, he simply shut the tv off. “Yea, I never cared for them either. That’s why we are going on a vacation.”
OOC: Pad if you desire to RP and convince Creature not to leave. If not, he will leave, and Kowloon will be destroyed.
A half-smoked cigar slowly drew a tower of thin smoke from an ashtray next to him. His rifle laid up next to it with his revolver sitting quietly in its holster. His boots were beginning to fade from their new sheen, the Lorani dirt digging into the leather. Dallas' five o'clock shadow a blueish-black somber shade on the veteran marshal's face. There was no patrol to be done, the Black Army was sitting on their own for now. It was just another Lucarin morning.
"♫ No place is so dear to my childhood, as the little brown church in the vale...♫"
Lukina lingered on a rooftop nearby. The past few months had pulled her from Piyapon to the stars and back home to Liang before depositing her back in the province. She was the Herald of the Lady and her duty was to her and her whims. The half-elf knight was finally sent back to Lorani province to keep an eye on Azalea company and mind its Lord, Creature, who needed someone to keep him on task.
Her mind was on the news reports, some new xeno menace was coming. The Herald could sense something was off, if she had been a full-blooded elf, she suspected that she would be able to read it and understand the disturbance in the air. Trouble as it were, was on the wind and in the morrow of her bones, she knew that they were going to get hit. The song more somberly drifted to her and she glanced downward. She couldn't see the singer but she knew who it was.
The ruby haired half-elf landed lightly on the ground in front of the marshall's office and smoothed her ruffled hair as her evergreen eyes moved to Dallas. "Don't you have work or something?" Her armor shifted softly over her clothing as she straightened, the sheen of the black was muted in the morning light.
Dallas continued strumming the tune but spoke out as if he wasn't. "We haven't gotten any dispatches, all's quiet on our front." He listened to himself strum for a moment before adding on to the end, "And I've fed my plant, Dave can nearly eat anything."
After reaching what sounded like a decent ending, Dallas sat his aging guitar down on the table next to his rifle. "Though I have a feeling that you ain't coming here just to talk to me..." He may look like he was clueless and ignorant to the worlds around him, but Dallas had always read the newspaper.
"You saw it then? The massacre on Omega?" Lukina crossed the porch and stood near him. "I also have the feeling the Lord is leaving. The air feels off." she folded her arms in front of her, making the plates of her armor clink despite the sound dampening that was put in place for her stealth missions.
"We don't have a military-like Omega, but Omega didn't have our stubborn tenacity and will to live. The Atraxians are nothing but a plague to me, and should we have to glass them before they get to us, we'd be making a statement." Dallas looked up towards one of the stars, a star that was of Alliance space.
"Tai Pen is strong, the Alliance is strong... I know the former is an annexing amalgamation of hell and the other is humanity lost without a true calling. The Atraxians massacre, there is a reason for it but we do not know why."
Dallas picked up the cigar from the table's ashtray and took a small drag and spoke past it. "But what would I know, I'm just a Kowloon Marshal."
"Hopeful is how you sound. I take it therapy is going well? I heard you had a couple of pregnancy scares?" She smiled gently, her expression softening as she shifted the subject, though her concern for the situation was still heavy on her mind.
"Some people put money ahead of their minds sometimes, coming up with convoluted actions and plans to kill me. The last one got a face full of fiddles, some industrial hand-cuffs, and a transfer to super-max. Besides that, everything's been fine."
"It's an interesting way to be wanted. I don't think it's a healthy way to meet women," Lukina commented gently. "I'll have to ask Jenn what she named that molesting vine I gave her but, I think we should go find Creature and see what we can do. We have to talk battle plans with Sidurra too."
Dallas stood up and strained his voice a bit as he did so, "Yeah. Let's go find the face of hitting things." Taking his rifle by its leather strap and tossing it over his shoulder, Dallas walked off the porch, taking the time to blow a small cloud of smoke off of his left side while walking up to Lukina's left.
The pair would eventually come to the estate that The Gartagen Lord had been thrust into since his induction as a Lord of Kowloon. The battles against the black army had been stressful, but the Omega massacre was something else entirely.
The page came stumbling outside and was holding a pile of her toys in her tiny arms. The mountain of various dolls, trinkets and action figures hid her face as she stumbled blindly towards McGoo. The mountainous avian animal paid her approach no mind. The bags that sat on its sides were bursting with items, riches and other items belonging to the Page and her sire.
The Surly large black bird that was missing feathers on the entire right side of its body stood, patiently preening its feathers. When Dallas and Lukina approached, the animal tensed, and its smokey black feathers raised. It let out a loud "KAAAAW!" at Dallas, and maneuvered itself in between to block off their approach to Mona.
"Oh! Who is it?" She called out pausing and turning, still unable to see the duo. "I'd come to say hi, but I'm kind of busy."
"It's me, Luki and Dallas. Where are you going, Mona?" Lukina replied gently as she stared at the black kirikuu warily before she smiled at the bird. "McGoo, it looks like some of your features are growing back. They look shiny."
The Bird bristled at Lukina's voice, and it shifted its head so that the side of it's battered mange ridden face was eyeing Dallas The Pupils of the animal dilated wide, then sharply closed in. Mona seemed undisturbed by the dominant motions of the curmudgeonly steed.
Mona simply puts the things she was carrying down. She huffed catching her breath and began petting McGoo. "Well, Poppa said we are going on vacation, and he told me to pack up all of our things that matter."
Dallas looked at the bird calmly, treating it like a horse that he had on his family's ranch, skittish and dominant. He looked to Mona as she spoke, finishing his cigar and pressing it into the dirt with his left boot. Once she mentioned vacation, he turned to look at Lukina with all of his concern in his eyes.
He turned back and tried his very very best to sound warm and sincere without fucking up, "Do you know where Creature is, I'm not sure about Lukina but I would like to... wish him well on his trip."
"I think you deserve a vacation, Mona. Is he inside?" Lukina replied brightly to Mona as she tried to sense where Creature was. His life force was unique in the city, he burned brightly enough that even a half-elf like her could follow him beyond the normal tracking methods. She only knew one other that energy flowed that strongly from but she never really had to track that particular man down. "Oh! I got some more star candy from Liang when I was there last, would you like some, Miss Mona?"
Mona nodded and eagerly advanced to receive the candy. In the time Lukina had encountered the small unknown alien child, she had watched her come from being emaciated and small, to strong and vibrant. Mona's curly black hair was no longer stringy and dead, but thick, and full. The thick locks looking to consume her heart-shaped face and almond eyes in the blink of an eye. The little girl wore a simple tea colored gown and shoes on her feet which showed her legs and arms which were beginning to have muscle definition. Long hours of Creature drilling her in how to fight had honed her tiny body.
As for her mind, the girl was no longer shy and skittish, but friendly and warm. Though she could become quite stern if pressed. Old elf stories indicate that centuries ago, the highborn elves would send their scions to the Gartagens for tutelage. One glance at Mona gave an idea of how those scions looked when they returned home."Yep. He is inside gathering more of his stuff, and then we are leaving!" Mona said sounding excited as she awaited her tribute.
Lukina would indeed sense the font of energy that emanated from Creature. He was as Mona stated Lurking inside of the governor's mansion. Hurridly moving around it.
The elven knight produced a large bag of candy from one of her pouches and deposited it into Mona's eagerly waiting hands. "We'll go in to talk to him then." She smiled warmly at the little girl and fixed her evergreen eyes on Dallas, nodding towards the mansion. "Let's go talk to the Lord, Cowboy," Lukina suggested softly.
A man would approach from down the path, his hands in his pockets as the wind lightly caused the fur lining protruding from his jacket. Whisper wore his usual boots, jeans, leather jacket with fur lining, and a black shirt underneath. His face was neutral as his misty grey eyes scanned the mansion, the scars that marked his skin would be apparent to all, and his black hair wavered in the breeze. He'd come here in order to ask if the heavy infantry needed to do anything specific to prepare. In truth, he volunteered, as he'd seen the reports from Omega. It brought back memories of his past when his village suffered the same fate. He wanted to know what they would do about it.
He drew closer to the building and those gathered outside.
Rorik on his approach would see both Dallas and Lukina standing in front of a savage looking black Kirikuu. A little girl reaches out and took a bag from Lukina. The dark headed alien child began looking through the bag and finding her loot was all in order. "Yep, he is probably inside gathering his things."
Dallas nodded to Mona then to Lukina before walking towards the building with his concern beginning to manifest on his face once he knew Mona couldn't see it. Once he stopped at the door, he looked at Lukina as if saying, 'here goes' and then knocked twice on the door.
The half-elven knight was garbed in matte black armor over soft black clothing that made her fair skin and her ruby hair stand out in stark contrast. She heard Whisper's approach and turned to look at him. "Morning to you. I assume that you too have business with the Lord de Rochun? To give fair warning, that Kirikuu," she pointed with a slender gloved hand to the 12 ft tall, black and mostly feathered warbird. "Is crazy and will bite you.. among other things." The bird had seen better days but despite its scars and missing feathers still had sharp, powerful talons and a massive beak that came to a sharp point.
Lukina's ears twitched as she watched Dallas move away towards the door. It would be better to not mention their concern in front of the levy but, there wasn't much hope for it. She lowered her hand. "The Marshall is just about to bring the more pressing situation to the Lord's attention." She didn't like the tension in the air.
Whisper said nothing, only slowly glancing at the bird before returning his gaze to the woman who greeted him. He gave a slight nod, but nothing much else.
With the lack of response, Dallas knocked twice again. "Creature? It's Dallas, you in there m'lord?" His accent twanged the 'lord' part of his sentence around slightly, showing either that he was tired or uneasy.
Rorik would found the bird was in fact eyeing him up rather maliciously. It was advancing slowly and with purpose. Mona grabbed the Animal's reigns and rugged them. "No." She said suckling on one of the candies that had been given to her. "No eating the soldiers." She said sternly.
The Massive animal did not resist but still eyed Rorik with intent. It clapped it's razor sharp beak in anticipation.
Dallas opening the door would hear a crash. On opening it he would see Creature in full garb ran-sacking the office frantically. "Shit shit shit. Where did I put it? Shiiiiiieeet!"
Creature squatted over a fallen bookshelf and was tossing statues, books, and trinkets about. He then suddenly paused. "McClosky. I'm not doing fucking appointments right now. Come back tomorrow."
Lukina was at Dallas's shoulder, peeking from behind the taller man. "She wasn't kidding, was she?" She took a couple steps back and nudged Dallas forward into the room. "I guess, we should go talk about this. Go in."
Dallas stepped forwards, "I have Lukina here too, you okay?" Dallas didn't get too close, but stopped at about two arm lengths away and watched him with concern and curiosity. "Where are you going on vacation?"
He might regret his words, but if any times he'd have to fight Creature, he wasn't about to let him run and hide now.
"Paradise colonies." Creature lied, going back to his digging and pilfering. He sounded distant and short. Truth be told he simply wished he had gotten hammered and wandered off, but then he would have to come back for Mona. By that time this place would be a war zone, and he would likely have to fight his way out. He paused and eyed up the pair. Half-elf, and Human.
"What's up? Wanna get knighted or some shit?" Creature said shifting a slit-eyed glare back at Dallas' from over his shoulder.
Dallas didn't seem to shift his glance at all, "I know why you're leaving, our own nets have been going wild. We're ordered with keeping the peace through nearly any means. We never get to do this, we only do this when we need to dig in. It was the same back in the Alliance. I know shit's about to get fucking shittier here, but what about the Company? What about them?"
"I'm just going on Vacation." Creature said flatly. "I dunno what you are psycho-babbling about."
"We need to prepare for the coming storm," Lukina replied softly as she slipped into the room. She watched Creature curiously. His energy was all over the room, she wasn't sure how to read it as anything except... perhaps panic or... gross. "That's some fortified packing for vacation. I never figured that Kirikuu as a pack horse."
"You're the figurehead of a Company of people who face odds greater than desired. These people will falter if you leave, we don't have a fallback this time. We can't go anywhere. Taipan won't send aid unless they feel threatened, it's up to us." Dallas had taken somewhat of a half-step forward towards Creature. He moved his eyes to Lukina for a moment before looking back.
The half-elf raised an eyebrow at Dallas, unsure of this particular tact he was taking. She remained by the door, taking in the full extent of the rummaging that had occurred. She adjusted the strap of her rifle against her pauldron. "Sidhurra said that she hadn't heard anything from you and she was requesting your orders."
"Well, she is the war leader. Order's are maintain our hold on the province. But yea. I kinda wanna make sure I got everything before I get out of here. Why is Tai Pan sending me aid for my vacation Dallas?" Creature said shrugging, continuing to feign ignorance of the situation. "I'm just going away for a few...days....uhhhh months."
Dallas shook his head in disappointment, "Yeah, fine. We'll line ourselves up like it's fucking World War One and just die. Maybe I'll just haunt your ass as you walk through the fucking gravestones of everyone on this rock. I intend to defend, hell maybe this time I won't get fucking speared."
"What the Marshall means, is that while Sidhurra is the Knight Commander, it does not strike confidence in the heart of the Army to see their Lord pack his bags and go on vacation, when he has bled and sweat beside them up until this point," Lukina interjected finally, seeing the noose tightening around The Marshall's neck once more. If it was tangible, she'd jerk the rope back, but it wasn't so she had to settle. "We saw what happened last time, Sidhurra is a good general but we still need the provincial Lord's confidence in us. We have faith in you, so please have faith in us."
Creature finally rose up sliding a pack of pills into his leather satchel. "Yea, that's all well and good but fighting Atraxians is suicide. I mean we took our army up against a bunch of busted ass PMC's and well...they broke and ran. Those barbarians are a whole different story." The Creature said nodding sagely. "Frankly, we'd need Garts. Unless you know a Gart to help fight Atraxians, I dunno. And before you try to say we can do it. Only one military force that has gone up against Atraxians has actually won. The other either haven't or have gotten their asses kicked...and then eaten..."
"You are a Gart." Lukina intoned.
"Shut up." Creature said. "You know what I meant!"
"So you and Mona leave on vacation and I get to stay and get eaten? That's pretty cold, Creature. I guess, when you come back, you'll plant the trees for us... but will you consider them Blood Trees or Ghost Pines?" Lukina replied softly, her hand found the hilt of her Zweihander.
Whisper made sure to sidestep the bird on his way to the door, stepping in behind the pair. The Lord frantically packing and running, inwardly disgusted him, but he did not show it.
"Lord, or no lord there are those who will stay and fight, even if ordered to go," Whisper said finally have spoken for once, his voice gruff, deep, and with a slight gravelly tone.
"And I count myself among them."
Creature grimaced under his facial wrappings. Shaming him into fighting only seemed to annoy him. "Ugh." He responded after sucking in air and forcing out of his lungs for a few seconds. "I just know about Atraxians okay. We can sit here and talk about fighting all fucking day. But this is the sport. They will come at us in their thousands. This isn't a small brush fire fucking fight. Plus if you had been keeping up with the vids, in recent history, nobody has stopped them. The Atraxians come, kill everything, take whatever isn't bolted to the floor, and then they move on."
Creature leered down at Whisper as he rasped his words, then shifted back to Dallas. The men were being men again. "Okay. I'll fucking stay. If you can give me a decent plan of defense."
"I have two ideas for defense, both could work together though the first one is better suited." Dallas began, turning to look out the window and pointed at the outer line of buildings. "We build a wall, a outer and inner bailey made of absolutely everything pressed together with concrete and rebar. We turn Lucarin into a fortress built for a king."
"...what's the second option?" Lukina asked softly, uncertain of what he was going to say.
"We get every ship, transport, and thing with wheels and seats, rig the city to blow up with the city's fusion generators, and lure as many hostiles inside ground zero as possible." Dallas' expression was very grim and dark, but sincere as he turned back to Creature, "It wouldn't be pretty, but sometimes it's all that is ever left."
"....what fusion generators? Can we not blow up the city?" Lukina pressed a hand to her forehead. "I'll call around. Someone should still be alive out there."
"Yeah, I like plan A better. I have some old Merc contacts I can dig through as well. As for defences......maybe something more archaic. Flaming tar motes, wood Pike rows and other obstacles. Slow them down just enough to light them up with heavy weapons fire. Turn it into the ancient siege of the Normandy beach.", Whisper said adding hopefully something useful. He would be damned if he was going to fail saving this place. Given his own history, which could be reread like a history book across his body in the scars that covered him. Oh this was personal, and he was not weak now like he was as a child.
"That is a great fucking idea Dallas!" Creature exclaimed. "If we blow up the city there won't be anything or anybody left! No reason to defend it!" He waggled his arms about mimicking an explosion. "Then we can roast those little white puff balls over the fire!"
Lukina noticed the air change first.
The half-elf was more used to it than the others; she spent more time around the dark-haired woman who stepped from the hallway into the looted room without bothering to knock. More fanfare should have accompanied this, that aura seemed to say, but the woman herself seemed surprisingly mundane - at least, as mundane as Bhelith of Arleigh could be.
The Lord Empress, dressed for riding with her hair bound back, carrying her staff, dark with ash burn and bound around with bits of white-gold horn and deep-black stone, still managed to seem as though she were unhurried. She gave Lukina a signifigant look, holding her for a moment in her golden gaze as she passed the staff to her other hand. She settled its butt onto the well-crafted flooring and looked to Creature.
The horn on the end made a little click sound.
Dallas knew the familiar voice, turning his head and seeming to go white for a moment. He quietly turned and gave a deep bow without saying a word. He'd never think she'd come to Creature, maybe a courier but not the Lord Empress.
Of course had Dallas' known this was not the first time Bhelith had come to Creature, he'd realize he had shared a battle field with her twice. Creature bowed his head to the Lord Empress. The Gartagen had not expected The Empress to actually show up so soon, which meant that that little news broadcast had made its impact. "Empress." Creature said delivering a stiff bow. "We were just discussion a battle plan.
"This is the first Atraxian incursion in what....ten years? No one has been able to stop them. My people did but that was what...two thousand years ago. Static defense won't work. Those savages will hit every world in this region, burn the cities, eat the people and move on to the next one. The only way we stop them is if we mobilize every man woman and child....then charge head first into the main Atraxian gathering and take out the leader. No matter what it is gonna be a blood bath." Creature was pacing at this point.
Bhelith didn't pace. She watched him go back and forth for a few moments before she settled her staff against her shoulder, and her other hand on the pommel of her family's horn-handled sword, buckled onto her hip almost as an afterthought.
Lukina bowed and placed her right hand over her heart in greeting to her lord.
"If only you had the ancient power of your people," Bhelith presented, significantly. Her slow, measured tone gave it emphasis.
Creature inhaled. "If only." Creature said exhaling. "Legions of my people. Exo armors, armor clad soldiers, swords and spears that could level a mountain. That is what we would need. But I don't think my people will be sending down their ancient armies and fleets to help deal with our problems. The Gartagens already living here don't want much to do with you. Kind fucked up considering Gor Gozan was a place of culture and tolerance." Creature said referencing the communities of green skinned Gartagens that loitered in the region. Insular, stubborn. They did not react well to being asked questions about the lost hold.
"I have some leads to pursue, my Lady," Lukina rose once more and watched Bhelith respectfully for a moment. She knew there were better ones to follow if the Empress wished her to go.
"Go on." Bhelith glanced to Lukina, and then back, though she watched Creature as though she weren't quite sure whether he would be running or not. She waited for Lukina, however.
"I worked with some Gartagen military forces before. I can make a round of calls to see who is still alive and willing to help fight," the half-elf replied simply. "Would weapons of Gartagen make be effective?"
Creature's amber eyes drifted over to Lukina. She still had hope and fire in her to try. Creature felt a pang of sadness, because he knew all those who were in the Gozan conflict had died, or simply returned back to Gartagen space. The high command likely would not send those forces back out to confront another Atraxian incursion. "Gartagen weaponry could help, but we shouldn't turn down anything we can get our hands on. Truthfully, if you want to stop the Atraxians, we need to be mobilizing and landing on the world where they are striking next. The good news is, they will focus where the fighting is heaviest. The bad news is that means any military forces will have to deal with more and more of them as they surge the fuck in."
Creature eyed Whisper for a moment. Rorik was brave enough, but bravery was something they had alot of. By the looks of him, Kamilla had really laid into her new crew of power armor soldiers. They had initially come in looking like a bunch of ruffians, Rorik looked like her was cut from wood now. "Footman Whisper. Mr. Mother Fucker. Are you hungry to fight?"
The Lord Empress picked an armchair, well used by the manse's occupants, and idly kicked one of the unfolded books away from its feet. She sat with the staff across her knees and listened to the small, impromptu war council, seeming quite content to do so despite the odd situation.
Lukina slipped out of the room to make her calls.
"Yes m'lord I am. I have personal reasons guiding me in this. Not just my duty. Where there is a threat to the people, there is a battle to be won. I will gladly face the tide even if it means failure. What our enemy has in strength and numbers, we outclass them in. Intelligence. If we put our minds together we have a chance.", Whisper answered. He did not do so with enthusiasm, no he was no fool, he knew defeat was a strong possibility. But his eyes held a rock solid determination, his words unfaltering, spoken calmly as if reading off another routine report. His face was kept neutral, but inside he burned with a fire.
"We can win, but I know defeat is possible. There is no sugar coating here."
Creature huffed. "Well, we have morale." Creature sighed. His cynicism would simply cause morale to falter. "Yea. We are smarter. You got that shit right. None of the people present had fought the Atraxians. Not a full migration. Creature him self had seen Gor Gozan, but that was not even a full Migration. "Rorik, I'm placing you on as my new squire. Keep up the hard ass shit and I'll see you knighted. Kamilla won't like it, but we will need more knights."
"I got the bugout bags, Creature!" a familiar voice spoke up. Warm, friendly and even manly, the speaker sounded like any other average human in Kowloon, however, there was nothing to actually 'hear'. No, the voice was too clear for something like a noise, and they all simply Felt where it came from. The moment anyone looked, they would be able to tell that simply wasn't a 'person' at all. Hard shelled like a bug, a myriad of tentacles flowed out from under the armored thing like a gown, all coiled and clutching a series of military ruck packs. Its set of four eyes glanced back and forward over them all, faint glimpses of its whites the only thing letting them know it was doing so. "O-oh, sorry, I'm interrupting something," Bob realized. "I'll go wait outside," the Sutākame turned to leave.
For a member of a species known to be particularly terrifying, it did not live up to expectations.
Creature shifted a glare at Bob. "You should probably come bow to the Empress, you freggin monster." Creature crossed his arms across his chest and huffed again. "Kinda rude Bob. Saying something then scurrying off like that."
The Empress in question arched dark eyebrows and folded one thigh-booted leg over the other, but didn't move further.
"E-empress?!" the alien creature stuttered in their minds. Though it initially looked like a singular carapace without so much as a gap between the plates, its eyes lifted up and out with the surrounding shell, revealing how the chitin overlapped to practically conceal its head. The moment it did so, soft neck stretching out, Bob instantly resembled his namesake, a turtle. Frantically bobbing its head up and down, the xeno might as well have kowtowed to Bhelith. "Your highness!"
Terrifying indeed. She didn't seem impressed, but the unasked-for genuflections weren't out of place. She acknowledged him with a motion of her fingers.
Dallas stood up from his bow, moving a hand to brush at the stubble at his chin. He had been neglecting to shave by the feel of it. Dallas sighed to himself quietly, "I do not wish to blow up the city, I live here too. I am just saying that if it comes to it that no matter what... never mind, ignore that plan."
Dallas shifted his footing again. "The wall plan can be feasible with the current construction equipment lended from Tai Pan as well as what we have Alliance wise: Instacrete, Astral Steel, and plenty of rock to brick our way up." Dallas turned towards the Lord Empress, "Your Majesty, I forgot to ask, if there is something you wish to add you may."
He knew that he had neglected to ask Bhelith, and he felt that would hurt him in the end. He also knew he was a Marshal, nothing close to a fortress contractor.
She smiled. It was the wicked, half-cocked smile of someone who already knew the answer, and she relayed it in a voice as smooth as any Tai Pen monarch. She had rode all this way to confront an errant Lordling with the knowledge, and now that she was here and it appeared as though he had already been talked out of fleeing, her job became easier. The ebon monarch stretched out a bit further in the chair, every bit like a recumbent lion.
"Lord Rochon is correct. We will need the armory his people left behind, to arm the soldiers we will be raising to fight against the Atraxians." She paused, let that sink in, and then continued, "After having proved yourselves retaking this province, I would like to ask that you assist me in breaking into Gor Gozen. You, particularly."
Her attention shifted to Creature du Rochon. "That is, if you are willing to forgo your vacation?"
Creature paused as Bhelith spoke. He was actually speechless. Treasure hunters, adventurers, pirates, historians, all had sought out the key to Gor Gozan. Even expeditions of the local Gartagens had tried. There were numerous entrances, but nobody had figured out how to even get into it. "Uh. I mean. But. The place is sealed and nobody has been able to get up in its guts." Creature pointed to one of the discarded books that lay on the carpet next to the chair Bhelith was seated in. If the others looked, they would see it.
The book was large, roughly a foot tall and three inches thick. Gilded edges for pages, and a leather-bound hard back cover. The title was emblazoned in bronze elvish script and read "The Gozan Deep - By Finubar The Fair." On the back was a simple poem
To delve down into the deep
The blood of the ruler you should seek
They alone hold the key
To open the doors to this keep
Translated Gozani scrip found near the sealed entrances.
Creature reached into his armor and pulled pout his pack of cigarettes. He pulled one of the little white stick out gingerly with his claws, and placed it in his mouth.
The cigarette was lit and he took an exaggerated draw off of it. "I'll help, but its kind of a tall order. Chances are that the Atraxians are heading towards it too. Gozan is on Uveg or something. They like energy, and wanna fuck it side ways. Plus no one actually knows how to get into it."
The Empress drummed her fingers on her staff, watching Creature and waiting for someone to state the obvious. It seemed obvious to her, anyway.
Lukina returned after a few minutes with a two other large blue guests in tow.
Creature broke the silence, his amber eyes drifted over to the other two guests who came in with Lukina. One, was an armed and armored Gartagen man that stood as tall as Creature, though he was twice as wide. The Gartman's arms were as large Lukina's waist. Next to him stood a lovely young Gartagen girl that stood only an inch or two taller than Lukina, and she was dressed in a jacket, denim pants and boots. The pair of Gartagens instantly locked their eyes on to Creature as he paced around speaking. "Yer..alive.." The burly Gartaman uttered with a soft exhale. The young woman looked up at the titanic male, wanting to ask what he meant.
"Fine, I'll state the fucking obvious. That book right there was written by some elf guy a few years back. He wanted to go into the hold and reawaken it or what ever. He even had a whole clan of Gozani Gartagens with him, but none of the doors would open. No passwords worked, even the secret entrances were supposedly sealed. They only clue they have on the back is that dumb ass poem. Which Finubar the Fucked speculated that if he could get one from the Emperor's bloodline, the gates to Gor Gozan would open."
Creature puffed on his Cigarette again. "He asked the Gartagen Emperor Corillo to come and give it a shot. Corillo laughed him out of the Imperial Palace. Anyway poor Finubar apparently gave up all hope of ever entering Gor Gozan, got fired from his job, and became begger or some shit."
'I also have more intel from an old contact about the Atraxian movements," Lukina commented. "That was all the help the Sub-commander could provide me... Gozan was a hard time for us... I doubt even the Lady Bloodtree could sway more assistance."
"Forgive my interruption my Lord and lady, but perhaps may I chance a guess. Someone of the royal blood line is needed, and you are here for Lord Rochon specifically. Am I wrong to believe that you believe he carries this blood?", Whisper asked from the back of the room. He had noticed the book, but could not read elven so he had not thought much about it, but when it's contents were explained. Well Whisper had a suspicion, and was willing to risk looking like a fool to at least receive an answer. His misty grey eyes watched and waited.
Creature gave Rorik several blinks as he processed what the young man had just said to him. For Gartagens the Royal bloodline was something extremely specific. When speaking of Royalty you were talking of the Sharanu line of emperors; the group of people who could trace their blood lines directly back to Shara. It was a small group and one Creature most certainly was not a member of. "Yes Rorik, I am of the Sharan royal family. Fuck off. I am so far removed from the Royal family of the Shara system you are batshit insane for even considering it."
Creature eyed the other two Gartagens in the room. "Lukina. Did you visit my home world on your lunch break or something?"
"The Empress sent them to see the Lady Empress Arliegh. Laima favors our cause for the moment, Saule willing... the fire will continue to burn for us, they were on the way to Soran Nast but they seemed to have strayed into our province at an auspicious time... I had just finished talking to the Sub-commander that pulled the Uial Lug out of Gozan," Lukina commented softly, attaching the hilt of her zweihander back onto her belt. "My Queen, I present, Ujia Bronzi. Hand of the Empress. Champion of the Imperial city. And his sire."
Bhelith smoothly performed the mental gymnastics to not point out that 'sire' meant something different in Gartagen.
"Welcome to my country," she said, expansively, motioning to the too-used bookshelves, which seemed to have been resorted far too often, with the book-keeper's particular sense of category.
She then cleared her throat to address Whisper, her voice tending away from humor into more regular amusement. Her voice was rich with it. Possibly, the thought of Creature in Gartagen royal finery had painted a picture worth a joke. "No, Lord Rochon is not a royal. However, in this case, he will do - and these two as well, perhaps. My herald is not incorrect. You come at an auspicious time."
As Bronzi spoke Creature took a very long exaggerated draw of his Cigarette. The cherry of the cigarette flared brightly and Creature was suddenly in Bronzi’s face circling around him like a panther. Yet he remained silent. Bhelith had seen Gartagen interact, and this invasion of personal space was quite typical between Gartagens. Bronzi followed him by turning his head.
“Empress Vishta sends her apologies. She wanted ta send ya half da fleet, but the high council of advisors voted her down. So she sent meh. Symbolic, but uhhh.”
Sura was eyeing Creature. “My Lord Empress, we hear in an advisory capacity….we.” Creature grabbed Sura’s tail.. “Uh! What are you doing?”
Creature smiled using his eyes, though he did let Sura snap her tail from his hand. “Inspecting my niece. Uh. Yea Empress, This is my older brother and his daughter.” Creature said planting his hands on his hips. “You got fat.” Creature said eyeing Bronzi.
Bronzi grunted back at Creature. “Ya got ugly. Thought you were dead. Why ain't yer tried to find meh.”
Creature sighed. “We didn’t part on good terms dick head. Anyway. We can sort that shit out later.” Creature then snapped his fingers and turned his head to address Rorik. "Kamilla told me a little about you. If you go getting all emotional with my neice here, i'll chop your balls off. Not fucking kidding. You come say hey or something."
Sura clutched her tail in her hands and watched her new uncle speak to his new squire. "Uh..."
"It's okay, he is my squire now, so I gotta give him shit." Creature added touching Sura on the shoulder.
Lukina watched the Gartagens interact for a moment before she looked to Bhelith for a moment, uncertain of what was normal. She returned her gaze back to the family union. "Uija Bronzi, this is Lord Creature du Rochon of the Lorani province and leader of the Azalea Free Company."
Creature bowed as Lukina introduced him. "I guess that makes you both Du Rochon's too. Royalty! I love it. Empress. I mean, I uh...don't understand, what do you mean by I'll do?"
"If I had to guess, you'll be able to get us into Gor Gozan since it doesn't care about how politically distant you are from the throne," the floating thing began, rubbing the chin of its turtle-like head with a tentacle. For their sanity, it was using the voicebox it tended to wear. "It's just a gene-lock, right? It's not like Gor Gozan is keeping up with the news about who's popular. You're related, so that's all that matters," it pointed out to them. Though the bulk of the things lived in a rogue hermit state, the Sutākame were still some of the most coveted engineers and scientists around. Bob's resume was likely more lengthy than he let on.
Whisper cleared his throat before speaking, "I assure you my Lord I do not have such intentions. Hello, I am Whisper, newly squired to Lord Du Rochon." He said his expression neutral, but an eyebrow was raised as the fact of his distant relation to gartagen royalty was mentioned.
Bhelith had reached down to pluck the Gor Gozan book up from where it had lain discarded beside the armchair. The brown leather tome seemed no darker than her hand, and her mood beat both colors for brilliance. She cracked the book, leafed the pages, closed the book, and set it aside immediately; she had her own copy, of course, and the festivities in front of her were far more interesting.
She coiled a finger around a dark bang, leaning into the armchair and watching them, open-armed so to speak.
"Yes," Bhelith reaffirmed to Bob. "Though, it has more to do with your subspecies than any connection to your empress. The place is guarded by your people's automata, and when we reach the vault, you and I shall be able to open it."
She stopped toying with her hair. Some of it had fallen over her brows, where the jewel of the Lord Empress shone green-gold from its place upon her rich, dark skin. It glittered almost as much as her eyes did. It certainly complimented them. She paused only a moment before she continued, her voice as sultry, as though it were some light-hearted court conversation as opposed to the fate of a country.
"As for transportation," she rolled on with her rolling murr, "I have commissioned a ship that should measure us well against the Atraxians, at least until we land."
She glanced around the room to the gathered, as though she were counting heads, or judging faces. Bhelith had been with them for some of their battles, though they hadn't known it - Creature had known, and Lukina had known, but few of the others might have had the opportunity to guess. She might have recognized some of them, or not, but she took stock of them one at a time.
Then, she asked, "Well? Are there more questions?" Hearing Bhelith finish, the floating tentacle monster reared up its turtle-like head and looked about at the others. Seeing that nobody else was asking quite yet, it tentatively raised a single tentacle as its four eyes settled on the elf.
"So...no bugout bags?" Coiling the limb around its mouth like a fist, they heard a distinctive cough. "I could just grab more ammo and less food," it offered.
The Monarch's golden eyes narrowed slightly but creased at the edge as she smiled in a predatory way.
"Oh," she said, whimsically, "I should think that you shall need both."
"Should I see if the Azalea Ember will join us, my Lady? Arianne specializes in healing," Lukina inquired of her mistress."Or will we be enough?" She asked her second question softly, uncertain of Bhelith's plans for this outing.
"I'd ask Kamilla about that one. Her people are her people." Creature said waving his maimed hand. "Specifically that's the power armor team. Which we only have a few of the armors and even few who can drive them."
The entire defense of (Insert name of world) was by Creature’s reckoning was hectic. Azalea company had been mobilized, but so had the Shield, and every other military outfit in Kowloon. All the might and power of Kowloon was converging on this one humble world in order to save it. Azalea company was being thrust into the thick of the fighting with Kamilla and Sidurra at the head. Creature, was accompanying the Empress and her entourage to Gor Gozan. Truth be told, Creature at this point would much rather be with his troops. Yet, the Empress was no fool. She seemed to think Gor Gozan held the key to victory...as did he...and his brother.
Creature sat on a rocky outcropping overlooking the modest camp site. AA thick vibrant green bush contrasted with the ocher coloring of the canyon. Tents, servants, and vehicles formed into a loose defensive circle. Clutched Finubar’s tome, but had not cracked the book open. He sat his haunches atop a boulder and leered like a gargoyle down at his brother.
Bronzi with his pretty daughter, fancy title….was chatting away with Mona. The Big Gartagen was standing and talking to the girl, while she practiced her sword play. The girl with her thick curly black hair did not break her stances as she practiced with his tiny two-handed blade. It irritated Creature to no end. The book was tossed to the ground. Creature soon found he was holding his Deliverance rifle and considering it. A lumpen pile of dirt loomed over the encampment.
"Uh, remember what happened last time you used that on an impulse," Bob reminded Creature. What had happened with the Crimson Corsairs was an ugly thing from all the snippets they each heard. Some talked more than others, naturally, but Creature seemed to be one particularly upset. Nevermind that it was a success. Technically. "Maybe a rock or something?" the floating tentacle monster offered with a long, thick limb.
Lukina sat quietly watching Creature and Bronzi interacting. The hair on the back of her neck stood on end as the Azalea Ember, Arianne, lingered nearby, despite the woman having dawned an Ijoma suit to regulate her body temperature and reduce the chances of her hurting someone by bumping into them. The half-elf shook off the strange feeling, she was not used to being so close to one of Saule's chosen. "Why are you looking at your brother like that, Creature?"
The half-elf was toying with the elaborate hilt of her retracted zweihander. She could sense the energy pulsing inside the blade and the Heartstones embedded into it but she did not know how to actually activate its full potential.
Arianne settled on a chair next to Lukina and was going through a datapad. Her eyes glowed as she scanned the e-book she was reading, holding the device carefully in her gloved hands. Her short red hair was pulled back from her face with braids on either side. The light panels on her Ijoma suit glowed softly red along her arms and sides against the off white in the colors of Azalea Company. She hadn't said much since she joined them, a shy smile here and a soft word of greeting there were all the woman had offered. She hummed softly to herself.
Dallas had assembled what deputies he could as well as some of the other Marshals that he could find and convince to follow him. He had about four in his posse, modest at best. Dallas himself was in an unholy mix of his armored duster, his Alliance Police armor from his pre-bounty days, and of course his Starson hat. On his back was his custom lever-action sitting calmly in a leather sheath. His revolver idled quietly in its belt holster.
He puffed at a cigar akin to some ancient general and growled to himself. His posse was just about out of uniform, the golden stars the only real sign that they were Marshals instead of brigands or thugs. They conversed among themselves, all seeming to orbit around Dallas not out of need, but out of fear of what could be outside.
Creature didn't break his gaze from Bronzi. When Bob spoke to him the Gartagen's tail thrashed wildly as he was spoken to. Creature had always been pretty transparent with his emotions. He wore his mind on his sleeve and was pretty unapologetic about this aspect of his personality. The others seemed to hide from their emotions, afraid those emotions would be used against them or...whatever. Creature seemed to embrace them. Bob elicited no response from the curmudgeonly Gartagen lord, Lukina, however, was a bit more direct. "I'm considering taking my rifle and blowing his head off. Why?" he said snapping his head around to look at the lithe redheaded Lukina.
"I would rather you not murder your brother who is here representing the Gargaten Empress and working with our Empress to protect Kowloon from Atraxians... and in front of your niece. Why are you thinking about killing him? I'm not Jenn but I can listen," Lukina replied as she idly twirled the black and gold zweihander hilt in her right hand. She watched them curiously, her gaze drifted to Dallas and the other Marshalls for a moment and considered having them intervene before her logic got the better of her. He'd just shot Dallas again and Bronzi. She returned her attention more fully to the Gartagens. "I personally, did not miss this planet."
"It's Gartagen stuff." Creature said applying some breath to the short statement. "He wouldn't listen to me." Creature added shortly after. "By our laws, it is my right." he snorted. Creature waggled his fingers for his rifle. "We uhh...were out in the frontier, He was in command, made a bad call. I saw the bad call. We argued, I issued a challenge for command and lost. We were the only two who made it back." Lukina would then see Creature's amber eyes looking dull, almost pained.
"One of my few regrets. If I had killed my brother, some good people'd still be alive. A bunch of people I sure wish were here right now." Creature said. He then suddenly thrashed his tail, smacking his rifle off of its rest and sending it tumbling across the gravely ground. "But that isn't how it is, he is here and they are fucking dead!" He said lashing out in sudden anger. Creature's raspy voice was sharp, and reverberated throughout the ravine they were camping in. This caused the burly Gartagen man below, and his daughter to suddenly snap their heads up.
"Well. Um. Can't we all just. Get along?" The Sutākame hesitantly offered. Bob seemed to be out of his depth for a moment, unsure about how to deal with this turn of events. Retracting its head back into its shell, it looked the part of menacing monster again as it took shelter. "I get how shitty that was, but do we really want to be one man down? I heard how that went last time," the tentacle monster pointed out, head bobbing up from its shell again.
"Ano, I know I was asked to come along as the medic but I would prefer if the Lord did not need my assistance so soon... I know you are a well of energy but... I would rather not need to draw from anyone right now to bring someone back. Please, Lord Du Rochon, do not resort to violence," the ember medic looked up from her e-book with a soft frown. Her glowing cyan eyes appraised the Gartagens.
Lukina looked to Arianne, surprised that the Ember chose to speak up. "It would be better to settle business when not in other business, Creature. We have enough enemies without breeding more from within our group."
Dallas was watching, though was very cautious. He was debating on saying something but decided to hold his tongue unless absolutely necessary. The last time he used it in a situation like this, people died and not in a good way. Nevertheless, Dallas seemed to be ready if shit decided to hit the fan.
Creature waved his hand as if to dismiss the thought. "It's fine. I said I was considering it. Dallas, why are you being quiet? Usually, you can't shut the fuck up. I put eight rounds into you and you were still running your hick ass mouth. What happened? Did that monster plant bite the tip of your dick off?" As creature spoke, the soft crackle of pebbles whispered beneath the ambient hiss of the wind in the canyon.
Dallas spoke from behind his cigar, "Speaking Freely, Creature? This is going to get absolutely fucked if all you do is squabble over a bunch of shit that isn't relevant at this time. I would feel much easier if you didn't threaten to kill some of those who are helping us."
The redheads considered them both. Lukina shrugged while Arianne seemed content with the concession to non-violence. Arianne watched the sutakame wearily; though she knew he was an ally, she was uncertain of him and his alien energy.
"Oh. Crisis averted then," Bob remarked, seemingly too worn out to be glad that Creature wasn't going to kill somebody for no reason. Dallas and Creature were going at it again, but, that wasn't anything abnormal it felt. Settling down again, its lengthy limbs adjusted the white polymer armor it wore. However, its gaze soon crossed Arianne's, and as though sensing her hesitancy, peeped its head out from its shell just a bit. "What's on your mind?" Bob asked.
Arianne looked back up at the sutakame and appraised its energy. "I don't understand, you don't have the same feeling as a human or something that was human. You're distinct... even a zhanshi that was human still has some... residue... or is it because you mingle energy with so many that makes you different?"
"Don't have the same feeling as a human?" the floating mass of chitinous shell and tentacles asked, bewildered. "Ouch. I was a human once you know!" it pointed a lengthy limb at the young woman. Scratching the top of its somewhat turtle-like head, Bob sighed. "I guess that's to be expected though. Genetically compatible with humans or not, nothing's the same after getting gene modded into becoming one of them," the thing admitted. Looking off into the distance in thought, Bob looked morose, or as morose as a chitin faced space turtle could, but something else came to mind. Looking at Arianne again, it asked, "Uh, what do I feel like then?"
"It's hard to describe. I remember seeing a jellyfish once, it bobbed in the water and glowed dimly until it joined other jellyfish in a cloud. It was... alien. As Embers we are taught to not touch others or we draw their life from them, and we have to at times, to save them... when we do this, it can leave a part of us with them and those people feel different. It's like they are missing a piece of their soul. You feel fractured and pieced together," Arianne thoughtfully replied.
Chilly air drafted through the dry dusty canyon. It felt like a kind of cleansing. A dusty round clutch of rocks were visible The area filled with a gust of fresh air as if the planet it self-was breathing a sigh of relief. As the companions bantered some robed figures moved about the makeshift camp below.
Creature smirked from under his kiffeyeh at Dallas. "Oh, the fact that we are on this planet means we are wholly fucked. " Creature then moved over and calmly picked up his rifle. "You pinkies have never fought Atraxians, have you?"
Creature then suddenly snapped his rifle and fired it seemingly at Dallas. CRACK!
Rorik up until this point had been silently listening to conversations, "To be frank I hardly know any of you.....! What the!?"
Acting on years of instinct he ducked to the nearest cover. Whatever the hell was going on, he needed to be aware, and prepared. His eyes looking about, he unholstered his sidearm.
It came close but whizzed by the Marshal's left ear causing it to ring and silence. He'd gotten used to being shot at by the Lord, enough times that he'd learned there would be no sense flinching if he wanted him dead. Even so, his left hand tensed around his belt but not at any weapon.
"I've at least heard stories of them, watched enough of the recording of the recent attacks." Dallas's voice was calm enough, with the hint of desperation floating around as well.
Lukina rose from her seat and drew the large revolver from its holster at her side, it was modeled from the ancient gunsmiths of Earth, more specifically, it resembled a Taurus Raging Judge. She moved in front of Arianne and waited, uncertain of Creature's intention.
Arianne dropped her datapad and rose as well, peeking from behind the half-elf at the growing chaos. "This is going to be a long.. run, isn't it?" She softly bit her lower lip as she waited for what strange occurrence would happen next. She knew the energy cells on her suit were charged and she had eaten a large number of her calories for the day already.. with any luck, she wouldn't have to worry about exceeding her limits.
Creature actually wasn't aiming at Dallas, Rather he was aiming behind him. It was a snapshot fired from the hip. The round had streaked by Dallas, but all eyes were on Creature. A quick glance behind would reveal a robed figure had come out from behind a boulder, and Creature had put a fifty caliber round into it. The bullet struck the filthy robe, causing the hem of the tattered cloth to dance around the iron sod boots of the figure beneath them. the figure had been inch forward, sneaking while the other's had been chatting away. The sudden shot caused it to go stumbling back.
Arianne who was facing the figure along with Creature would see it stumble, but not fall. The figure then suddenly opened the robes revealing a greasy, rusty heavy machine gun in a pair of hands that were the size of large hams. Green blood trickled down the massive chest of the being and dribbled across the rocky floor. The alien blood on the ground seemed to glow as it touched the rocky ground having some kind of Iridescence.
That rusty rifle came up, the metal stock pressed against the bulging muscular green flesh, and the ape-like face of the beast smiled, revealing a mouth full of thick, long yellow fangs. "SURPRIZE HUMIES!" A deep guttural voice cried out, reverberating throughout the canyon. A clawed thick sausage like finger then squeezed the trigger. The ugly heavy machine gun then belched out a stream of thick bullets at the companions as they spoke. The belt-fed weapon sucked down a stripe of bullets and began speckling spent shell casing out to the right of the monster, He then swept the weapon from left to right."
"KOMMANDO BOYYYYZZZZZ ATTAKK!! GEMME DER TEEF! I WANTZ DA TEEF!" A deeper thunderous voice cried out from the north side of the Canyon.
From far below, in the center of the camp, came an answering call from a horn.
It was high and shrill, and it cut through the sudden clamor of the surprise attack like the piercing of a whistle. Then it sounded low, as though it were the lowing of some great beast, and that sound resonated within their chests like the strumming of harp strings. The sound cut through their surprise like a knife through butter, and for a moment, panic seemed impossible. It felt as though they were being called to a hunt, that the foxes were in front of them if they would only chase the things to the ground.
Lukina knew the sound; it was the war-horn of Arleigh, calling for battle.
It sounded again. The sounds of violence, of yelled orders, filled the gap it left.
Lukina was grateful to be wearing her armor as the bullets bit into her instead of Arianne, she didn't have time to stealth. "We're wide open." She winced. She needed to get to cover but Arianne was behind her. "Ari, get to cover!" She braced her hands and returned fire.
Arianne dropped to a crouch on reflex and the thunder of gunfire, and raised her hands in front of her, her eyes and her suit blazed intensely cerulean as she pulled from the energy cells to shield the small group in the glimmering blue ring of fire to absorb some of the gunfire. The shield would hold for only a few seconds, and they needed to move.
(Arianne Specific) Arianne's shield formed. Blue energy streaming from her body and her suit, and for a second the shield held, and the hundreds of heavy bullets pattered against the magical barrier causing it to ripple and crackle. Perhaps it was the surprise of the attack or the hurried nature of Arianne's spell being put into effect, but the shield collapsed with a thunderous release of energy all around them. Rocks and dust flew, but the bullets peppered the area.
"I DON'T HAVE TEETH!" Though initially surprised, it soon bellowed out its own war cry through the little electronic voicebox it carried. The stark white clad mass of shell and tentacles brought its guns to bear as the big bore rounds lodged into the super-polymer plates like someone throwing marbles at clay. However, a pair of roars replied to the green skin gun's belches in turn. Having ditched its quartet of cheap FALs and G3s, the Sutākame opted for something slightly less cheap; wrapping its tentacles around the weapons and aiming down the sights with eyeball ended limbs, the twin MG-3s blazed away as a stream of hot brass sprayed onto the floor.
Despite having ascended to the stars and figuring how to make laser guns, death by lead poisoning and nostalgia remained timeless.
Dallas dove once he heard the Atraxian's voice, unsheathing his rifle as soon as he hit dirt behind a rock while the rest of the Marshals did the same. One Marshal seemed to stand to face away, facing no one in particular before coughing blood and falling down onto his face, his many holes allowing the dirt to turn dark quickly.
The leading Marshal raised his rifle towards the Atraxian from cover and let loose two consecutive rounds before diving down again, not even checking to see if they hit.
Whispers reaction had been right in hindsight as rounds ricocheted off the rock he crouched behind. Holstering his CZ97, and switching to his Galil, whisper propped the barrel over the top of the rock to steady his aim. Taking aim at the ugly bastard spraying rounds, whisper began firing in short bursts, aiming for the head.
The marshal dove and would feel an intense punch strike his chest, but his armor held. The stinging and blunt force of the heavy Atraxian bullet left Dallas feeling like he had just been hit by a car.
Bob felt the spray of bullets stream across his carapace. The turtle's body turned back some of the rounds causing them to ricochet in all directions. Bob, however, would feel some pain as a few of the bullets has breached his hide. The hurried return fire from Dallas and Bob was inaccurate, Bob struck the Atraxian once, but the stern muscular being stood, and the round denting the square metal plate that was strapped to its chest. Dallas' first shot missed, the second, however, hit the Atraxian right in his face. The Atraxian's cheek split open, it's right eye fell out of its face and onto the rocky canyon floor.
"Beeeeeh! I'M GUNNA FUK YER EYEHOLE HUMEE!" The Atraxian wailed. Dallas and Bob soon found the wounded Atraxian stepped forward, and aiming at them. That heavy machine gun belching out a steady stream of bullets down on them. It was then Rorik's shots fired. A shot went low and hit him in the chest plate. Then another went high, smashing its helmet.
For Lukina, danger dropped down from above. CRUNCH! Heavy metal plated boots smashed into the rocky canyon floor. Lukina would see a hulking green figure. Mouth filled with dull yellow teeth that were clenched shut held back a low guttural growl. Lukina had seen big men her whole life. Bronzi himself dwarfed Creature, but this Atraxian before her would have looked down on Bronzi. The worst part of it was Lukina smelled this thing. The Atraxian had a pungent odor resembling that of spoiled milk and rotten flesh. Clad in armor that was clearly made of scrapped metal beaten to fit its green hulking form, the Atraxian held a battered hunk of metal with a thick metal nob at the end in a wide, blindingly fast strike at her with his right hand. His left hand had thick heavy tower shield, similarly crafted. The Atraxian finished his strike at Lukina by suddenly flinging his back in a downward motion at Arianne.
The second strike of the club smashed a nearby rock rather than Arianne's head. "Eyes up, gurl!" Creature said having jerked Arianne away by one of her suit's straps, just barely. The girl would have felt the cold of the metal weapon touch the tip of her nose. "Shouldn't your fucking boyfriend be doing this?" Creature said avoiding snarling Rorik's name. Flinging Arianne out of the way Creature turned his back to the Atraxian who had dropped down.
"GWHAAAAAA!!!" A deep bellowing voice boomed. Another Atraxian came thundering towards Arianne and Creature. "Gemme dat boomy fing!! WE CAN STIKK ERE IN DA BOOM GUNZ!"
"AYE LADZ! DEY GOTZ A BOOMY GUHRL! DA BOSS NEEDS ER FER DA BIG GUNZ!"
Creature had his heavy double handed sword out, But as that Atraxian rushed, Arianne would see the Gartagen cursing it. Smacking it desperately. "Work, come on mother fucker woooork!" He said from behind clenched teeth.
Arianne saw the tangled threads and didn't have the time to pull them free. She channeled her energy into Creature's sword, as she moved back behind Creature. "Please work, Miss Sword!" The blue energy coiled around the alien blade and its wielder.
"Yes yes yes yes!" Creature said loudly as the energy flowed through him and into his blade. The alien weapon suddenly hummed, and then its lights flickered on. It buzzed and popped. Then the blade hissed and buzzed. "I have the poooweeer!" Creature said suddenly taking the plow stance. Creature's head snapped to Arianne. "It's sexy right? The sword I mean? No really, thanks!" Creature said sounding cheerful as he hopped into a run directly at the Atraxian that was intent on snatching Arianne up.
Lukina swung her sword upwards with her right hand to push the Atraxian back. The blade's length deployed instantly as she slid her BFR back to her hip with her left. She only knew a few pieces of magic that would be useful in close combat and she didn't have time for too many of them. She grunted with effort as she tried to muscle the length of the zweihander between her, the Atraxian and Arianne as she growled a prayer for speed. Her pulse raced from the frenzy of the sudden melee but she knew her spell had failed and she'd have to try again once her hands were intent on her sword. "Don't let them grab Ari!"
Dallas' wind was knocked out of him and it took him a moment to regain it. He moved his rifle up again at a slightly different angle to fire two more shots before ducking down and moving under suppression to another rock nearby.
Arianne's cheeks flushed pink at Creature's comment. "It needs new batteries!" She pulled back behind the Gartman and focused, reversing the polarity of the energy field around her into a small bubble shield. "...I don't have a weapon... I don't want to power their guns..."
CLINK! The shield wielding Atraxian sent his shield into Lukina's sword, but held his ground "OY! GOTZ DIS ONE!" He exclaimed as he sent a quick powerful flick of his spiked club right into Lukina's face. CRACK! The bluntness of the weapon proved to be more of a danger. A sword or spear would have been turned back by armor, yet the crude nature of Atraxian armaments meant that armor or no armor, those struck by their blows would always feel the raw force of the race.
Arianne's shield pulsed around her. The Atraxian was rushing them both, yet the Gartagen had not met him. Creature narrowed his amber eyes down at her. "Then stop hiding and fight them." rasped. Arianne would see the Gartagen was holding his Sheshka out for her to take, Hilt first. "Take this sword and be your own hero!"
Rorik's shots both hit true. PING! CLANK! The crude battered metal strapped to the Atraxian's flesh shuddered and caved in. Green blood streaked down from the fresh wounds. Dallas' shot hit the tall broad alien in his tree trunk like thigh. Yet the Atraxian grinned a mouth full of teeth at them,. The Alien then stepped forward. Rorik who had bounced down felt the rock he was using as cover shudder. The deafening squeal of metal striking the cover created the scent of ozone, but he was otherwise safe. The stream of fire soon.... CLICKCLICKCLICKCLICK!
"SOD OFF! IM ALL OUTTA SHOOTEH FINGS! DAS O'RIOGHT! I GOTZ ME FROM SCRAPPA!" The Atraxian bellowed, his deep gutteral voice almost as loud as hid now empty machine gun. The Atraxian reached to his belt and pulled out a large round ball. He bit into it with his thick fangs and chucked it at Dallas' position.
"SIT TIGHT HUMEES I GOTTA RELOAD!!!!" The Atraxian announced. Then the ball exploded. Rorik and Bob were peppered with shrapnel, rocks, and dust. Dallas who had cover felt the full force of the explosion.
A sharp, short screech of surprise came tearing out of Bob's beak as he was wounded, red blood oozing from the bullet holes as tentacles cut away by shrapnel writhed on the floor.
"Oh, fucking gee whiz! I forgot this wasn't a rifle!" Holding the two GPMGs tentacle-around-bore, eye ended lengths firmly wrapped around the stocks and triggers as it aimed down sights. Squeezing hard, twin roars came to life as it put the first green-skins cover under a storm of hot lead, the red tracers further guided in by its main set of eyes. At the same time, it flew fast; the Sutākame quickly moved, rapidly changing the angle of its metal storm as it moved to flank, shrinking the cover literally and figuratively. "Come out, come out!" the little voicebox around the floating tentacle monsters neck squawked.
Meanwhile behind a rock, Dallas' ears were bleeding. He couldn't hear shit except for angry mumbling and thuds. Despite not hearing anything, Dallas popped out of cover again and dumped all of the remaining rounds in the Ranger's magazine before dropping down and attempting to reload.
As he couldn't really hear himself, his words were awkwardly muffled and slurred. "AH FUCK MY EARS ARE FUCKING BLEEDING! WHAT THE FUCK! I CAN HERE MY OWN VOICE! FUCK!"
He was fucking deaf.
Arianna took the Sheska in her hand. She was not a melee fighter, the handle was awkward in her hand but it was better than nothing. Her Iljoma suit chirped at her to alert her of the suit's energy levels- she had taken the suit's cells down 40 percent. She frowned and moved into more of a fighting stance as Kamilla had been drilling all of the heavy infantry teams with. She focused and redirected the flow of her energy output to the sheska- bathing the large blade in blue fire. The Ember drew up to a defensive stance alongside Creature, the blade felt large and heavy in her hands. "I can follow your lead," she said finally.
The Atraxian's shield deflected Lukina's large blade downward and collapsed her bind. he skin of her forehead split under the force of the club and blood trickled down the half-elf's face. She flipped her blade around and swung the heavy sword like a pole axe, forcing the cross-guard downward as she moved to avoid the Atraxian's club. Her evergreen eyes narrowed as she focused on the word that was ringing in her mind for her spell, "Cпешить," she hissed as she braced for the responding shield block holding the flat of her blade firmly in her armored hands as she directed the momentum and weight of the blade.
The Atraxian lifted his shield arm allowing Lukina's sword in unimpeded. The Blade of the double hander connected. Lukina felt the sword bite into his armor, and pierce past the flesh. But that toothy face smiled at her. He dropped his arm right back down halting her recovery. Green blood pursed out and dribbled down her exposed blade. He then brought his club down across her face.
Lukina's focus on the spell was intense. For a moment, her vision was not of this hulking Atraxian. She saw everything. A look into the empyrean. To her, everything seemed like magic. Magic was in everything. The calm amber well of Creature danced and burned like a hot sun, confident and somehow tranquil. Next to it was a smaller well of energy that waxed and waned. Then the eb and flow of the magic streamed on her, and time seemed to slow down. Almost to a standstill. Her spell of speed had worked extremely well. So well, she saw a form approach her. In the miasma flowing around her, a feminine form advanced on her, wading through the now slow magic engulfed world around her. The curvy figure was clad in nothing but vitoria - a Gartagen fabric she had gotten used to seeing. A blue taloned hand reached out a caressed Lukina's face and the woman smiled down at her. "Return the king to his throne. Your people have always had my blessing."
"NAH NAH NE BOO BOO YOUS CANT FIND MEH!" A rumbling voice called out from above and to the west of bob. Another Atraxian had popped up from the rocks. In his mitts was a crudely fashioned rocket launcher. Calling it a rocket launcher was giving it too much credit. It was more of a rusty pipe with a bulbous explosive crammed into it. The rocket fired and shot out and streak down intersecting Bob's path of attack. KABOOOM! "HUR HUR HUR! CATCH MEH IF YA CAN STINK BUG!" The Atraxian bellowed hopping to the safety of another rocky outcropping, shoving another Rokkit into his rusty pipe.
Bob's stream of bullets arced our and cut through the smoke. The Atraxian was struck multiple times, his armor dinting breaking and being streamed with fresh blood. "GAAAAH! DAT HURT!" The Atraxian bellowed as he slapped a fresh belt of ammunition into his machine gun. He attempted to step forward, but his leg gave way and the Atraxian toppled over. With Jack and Dallas hugging their cover, the battered Atraxian Cover flopped over onto his belly and deployed the Bipod of his gun.
Creature's sword buzzed as it moved through the air filling giving off the scent of ozone. He nodded to Arianne. "I'll keep him busy, get behind him and stab him in the back." He rasped, suddenly raising his voice and rushing to counter Charge the Atraxian. CLANK! CLUMP! CRUNK!
Creature and the Atraxian mead headlong and Creature proceeded to send strike after expert strike into the Monster's heavy shield. The Atraxian to its credit was only stunned by the brazen counter attack for a moment and the duo began exchanging blows. Creature using the reach of his weapon to his advantage, and a speed that seemed to let him wield that large sword like it was a feather. Conversely the strength and toughness of the Atraxian meant the large green beast was sternly taking the beating and throwing a few strikes back. Creature, however, was not sloppy, but nor was his form beautiful and artsy. Creature's form of fighting was utilitarian, brutal, and intended to do damage. Strike after strike from Creature landed, battering the Atraxian sword, sending hot green blood splashing onto the rocks. Yet the monster refused to fall under such a sustained attack. "ARI! Now!" Creature commanded.
From the looks of it, Creature likely would pick this monster apart, unfortunately they didn't have time for that.
Arianne hurried on Creature's order and slipped around to the back of the Atraxian and thrust the flaming sheska into the alien's back with all of her weight. It lacked the refinement or honor of the Starfall's instruction, but it was better to live than to fight fair against monsters that didn't care or fall by normal means. She felt the strong pull of energy in Lukina's direction but was focused on the fight. Her heart's pounding resounded in her ears beyond the din of the gunfire and explosions, her body felt hot despite the cooling of the Iljoma suit.
Arianne's strike connected, the blade biting into the Atraxian's armored back. The Atraxian stood up straight, and let out a surprised 'AY! IZ GU-" VWAAAAP! A small break in the guard was all Creature needed. That heavy alien sword came up and caught the Atraxian from the hip, and sliced him nearly in half up to its collarbone. The beast spun around to Arianne along with its Viscera that drenched the Ember girl. The Atraxian stumbled forward. "BOOMY GURL!" Creature then brought the sword back down and across taking the Atraxian's head from its shoulders. The (Headless) Atraxian then shambled forward and fell down over Arianne.
Arianne paled as she retreated backward from the Atraxian and finally had to shove the body away, fiery sheska still in hand. She felt disgusting and was now coated in hot, green gore. She was shaking as she retreated back to Creature's side. "Are you ok?"
The air felt heavy and the world sounded distant, the gunfire and the shouting thumped a rhythm conducted by the Song. Everyone was an instrument in the symphony and bound together by it. Lukina blinked up at the Gartagen woman, "The king. Who is the king?" She asked quietly as the moment of impact between her head and the club crawled by.
The half-elf felt the shockwave of the blow hanging in the air above her. It thumbed through her skin and worsened the wound. Blood poured down her face, her temples throbbed but in less than half a heartbeat, she had moved away from the club before it fully brained her but it dragged across her forehead. She felt as if her soul was on fire as she surged behind the Atraxian and slammed her zweihander's crossguard, still reversed with as much force as she could muster at the back of the hulking alien's skull.
Dallas edged out of cover, peering around as blood-drenched his ears. "ARE THEY DEAD YET? I CAN'T HEAR SHIT!" He was beginning to get disorientated and seemed to have a hard time judging how he was moving or not moving. He seemed to be leaning a bit too much to one side. The rest of the Marshal's posse seemed to have fled the scene. It was probably better for their health anyway.
As a single eye glanced over at the human, the always-nice Sutākame snapped.
"DAMNIT DALLAS!" its psionic voice angrily boomed in their minds. "HELP PEOPLE FOR ONCE!" Flipping another eyeball ended tentacle around, it saw the RPG gunner and quickly dodged, flying through the air like an armored spaghetti monster. Rushing the wounded Atraxian, Bob's tentacles pulled out its hard-won war glaive and began cleaving away while firing short controlled bursts with one machinegewehr at point blank. The other MG-3, it snapped around, and with only one eyeball ended length looking down the sights, let off staccato notes of fire to suppress.
The Sutākame might have been able to fight multiple opponents at once, but not forever.
Rorik took a moment to shake off his disorientation from the blasts concussive wave. When he was steady again, he rocked in a fresh magazine and took aim again, once again using the rock to steady. But given the Atraxians closer position, he fired with longer bursts.
Rorik broke his silence as he did so, "Dallas! Pop that son of a bitch, we need to put him down now."
Bob dodged just in the nick of time and the rokkit missed, going further into the position of his companions. The rokkit struck a dirty, dry tree three or four meters away from Lukina and her Atraxian. The explosive detonated, and it was loud and large. Creature wanted to tease Ari, but he saw that rokkit miss Bob. The Gartagen said, "Feeling great!" And tackled Arianne to the ground and shielded her from the blast.
Lukina felt a measure of success. Her strike against the Atraxian hit him with such force spittle and teef flew out onto her face, and she felt his inhuman strength wax. All the good it did. She likely could have freed her weapon from him had the Rokkit explosion not done it for her. They weren't in the blast zone, but the force of the attack lifted Lukina and the Atraxian off of their feet and sent them flying on to the canyon floor. Both of them were peppered with rocks and shrapnel. The Atraxian himself was bleeding, and riddled with tiny painful wounds from the explosion, and began to shakily come back to his feet.
"EHEHEHEH!" The Atraxian that fired the rokkit exclaimed as Bob fired up at him. Rocks flew apart, but the Atraxian kept moving, hopping across the stones, and moving very easily. He was peppered a few times from the MG-3, and left a trail of oily green blood in his wake, though the stern green alien hardly reacted. Eventually, it vanished behind a large boulder and focused on reloading its ramshackle rokkit launcher. "OY! YA MISSED MEEEEEH! YA FAT OL BEETLE!"
All of Rorik's shots connected with the Atraxian on the ground. Chunks of the monster flew off, but the machine gun fire kept streaming down range. Checking up rocks and boulders and whittling them down to pebbles. All to keep it pinned. It was Bob's other rifle that finished it. A lucky shot, that caught the Atraxian right in-between its beady yellow eyes. "GAAAAH!"
The Machine gun pulled and a stream of fire swept down range raking the area near Rorik and Dallas.
Several heavy rounds hit his cover, splashing him in the face with rocks and dust. Dallas finished reloading his weapon and his senses returned to him. Now it was time to - a fist-sized hole was all Dallas could see. Something had punched through his armor. The rifle, his belly, his hands were all crimson red. Fear swept over Dallas, then a cold feeling of doom, as well as a draining sensation. Each time heart pulsed, blood streamed out his abdomen. Dallas soon found his legs refusing to respond to him. He just wanted to...lay....down......................
He was tired... so very tired...
Dallas told himself he had to continue, and though his legs began to fail him and the bionic arms and hand began to twitch and toggle with his lightened heart rate, he didn't want to give in, not yet.
He had one thing that would help. It was not supposed to be used like this but it was worth a shot. He was pale when he broke cover, forced up by his left elbow as his bionics worked overtime. His lips were slick with blood as he lined up his sights on the hulking Atraxian and curled a finger around the Ranger's trigger.
It was almost as if the weapon was set to automatic, shot after shot rang out in an echo. *BANG* *BANG* *BANG* *BANG* *BANG* *BANG* *BANG* *BANG* *BANG* *BANG* CLICK! With the weapon completely empty in the span of a second and a half. Smoke rose from the barrel as the Marshal fell onto his back, leaned up against the rock with blood trailing where he had been.
He dropped the rifle by his side, his bionics beginning to fail him. He coughed blood and his eyes went wide. He wasn't looking at anything before his body began to shut down to attempt to survive. He blinked a few times as if in disbelief. He spoke weakly before falling into the darkness.
"Val? Is that you?"
Arianne let out a squeak of protest as Creature sheltered her from the blast. The world was a mess of energy. Some fires were burning lower than others. She felt one particular energy start to slip. "Oh no! I'm going to need your help, Lord Rochon! Please, help me save the Marshall!!" She started to scramble over to the fallen Marshall. She knew how much energy she had and sensed how much Creature had.. it would be enough if he was willing.
Lukina's world was ringing. Everything was being destroyed around her in slow motion. Her focus was too intently on the Atraxian and she was hit by the shockwave, splitting some of her armor and cutting into her. She tightened the grip on her zweihander as she rolled back up from the ground. Her opponent was not dead yet. The field felt wrong.
The half-elf turned her head to see Dallas fall, a hole in the middle of him. Her eyes widened in dismay, "I'm not looking for an oath. It's more... a warning, it seems the path beside me is filled with bullet holes and blood. My shadow does not fair much better." The memory of her conversation with Dallas after the Glasseye incident flashed through her mind. No. No. No. Panic gripped her mind as she flipped the large sword around and shoved it as hard and as fast as she could into the fallen Atraxian's head. Everything ached, pain punctuated her movements but the battle was not over. "Gods, let me be enough to save... the people I care about."
"WHY DO YOU MAKE ME SO ANGRY?!" the alien's little voicebox yelled at the dying man. Even as his lifeblood left the human as he pathetically died, the normally peaceable Sutākame was aggravated beyond anything they had seen it before. Green blood splattered across the ground as bullets hit home. "SHE'S EVEN WORSE OFF THAN DEAD NOW!" Having struck down one Atraxian, the floating monstrosity snapped about on its axis like an auto-turret and let off several short bursts at the rokkiter. Quickly sliding through the air, it rapidly backed off to give itself plenty of standoff room from the RPG as it furiously worked the angles to either outflank the taunting green skin or force it into the open where others could light it up.
Lukina's blade scraped off of the metal face mask, diverting the weapon into the bare grimy green skin at the base of his neck. The sword pierced deep striking heartily into the Atraxian's spine, causing the monster's legs to go limp. The Atraxian dropped to the ground sliding off of Lukina's sword with a sickening growl.
Bullets peppered the rocky ridge that was the Canyon wall. The Rokkiter bobbing and weaving. "DEY GOT US! LETZ LEG IT LADZ!" The Rokkiter cried out rushing out of the combat zone.
Creature slid off of Arianne, his gloved hands coming off of her face. She'd look up and see slick dark crimson blood dripping down onto her suit from Creature's own fine blue flesh. Amidst the cloth wrappings, he kept around his face was a shard of rock that had struck him during the Explosion. Creature collected his sword and rose to his feet speaking "Yeah uh, whatever help...I'm not a medic or anything...." The Gartagen turned to see Dallas had fallen over on his side and was laying in a growing pool of blood.
"Shit!" The Gartagen said abandoning Arianne. Creature fumbled around, touching and patting Dallas. "Somebody finally nailed you eh fucker?" Creature said hovering over Dallas' fallen form. "I uh...am not good at death speeches. But that's a big hole in your chest. I guess...I just wanted you to know..." Creature then slapped Dallas. "Don't fade. This is fucking important." He growled coming nose to nose with Dallas.
Dallas in his death throws would then see his brass belt buckle in Creature's prosthetic hand. The buckle read "DON'T MESS WITH NEW TEXAS" being waved in his face."This is mine now. I'd been trying to steal it from you for months! Don't worry. You can have my old one." Creature then took the belt buckle, and ran his belt through it, then secured the object. He left the old battered Sharani belt clasp on Dallas' on unfastened belt and pants. "Good luck fucker. Sorry, you had to go down like this...."
Arianne glared at Creature as she settled beside the broken and blooded form of Dallas. She grabbed Creature's arm. "I need your permission, to use your energy to funnel it into Dallas to save his life."
Lukina was a blur of movement as she twisted the zweihander in the green monstrosity's neck and kicked the Atraxian. She moved away from her opponent and moved to where the trio had gathered by Dallas.
"Lukina!" Creature said. "We gotta ask it fucking questions!" He said flashing his good hand up at her. "Plus Dallas is dying, and I stole his belt buckle...finally!" Creature then locked eyes with Arianne. "Uh, wat? But, he is dying. Like he wanted this. Plus I got his belt buckled now and he won't ever....fine. You have my permission. If you save him, don't come crying to me when all he does is write you bad poetry and New Texas music."
"I'm sure there is one around here that is still in the process of not dying," Lukina replied as she looked at the Ember.
"Yea, be we don't have time for that. You know that was just an advance team. More are coming." Creature said calmly. "Gurl, you gotta slow that shit down, they can't tell you important things if you just kill them. And judging by the fact your front teeth are missing, it might pay to think like that. Kinda cute though." Creature snarked.
"I know, Lord Du Rochon but, I need to channel my energy to save him but it's not going to be enough. Your energy hasn't dipped at all this fight," Arianne remarked as she placed her other hand on Dallas.
Creature turned to Arianne. "What does that mean? I don't understand it. Fucking moonspeak. My energy?"
"There isn't much time. I can explain it as I try to save him," Arianne let go of Creature's arm and offered her free hand. "I need the help or I'll die too."
Lukina's eyes narrowed at Creature and she dismissed the comment. "I know that. There are more of them with the Lady. I can still see their energy bleeding out. I can offer some help to Arianne.. I don't have the amount of Creature but I can lessen the load."
Creature took the glove off of his hand. Arianne saw Creature's blue taloned hand stretched out for her to take. "This isn't going to hurt, is it? Yeah, but the Empress sure as shit isn't going to let them live." She took Creature's hand in her gloved one and smiled weakly.
"I'll try to take the brunt of it so the pain doesn't bleed into you too," Arianne replied gently as Lukina placed her hand on top of Arianne's over Dallas. Warmth spread through them as Arianne wove her energy through theirs, tying together the threads of the Word that connected them even here on Gor Gozan. She said an unintelligible prayer to the Goddesses of Fate, to Mara, the goddess of Death, to Saule, her goddess of the Sun for the power to bring Dallas back to life with theirs.
The Ember's eyes blazed as she drew energy from Creature and Lukina, using her Ijoma suit to regulate the absorption of their life energy and transfer it into Dallas. The warmth spread over Dallas's fallen form as it reached out to his. A chill brushed against Arianne that she suspected was Mara's influence. She accepted the warning and the pain that came with it as she opened herself to Dallas's remnants of life. The nerves in his body were still in shock and everything was screaming in sharp, white, searing pain. She felt his fear keenly, the grief, the loneliness...
Lukina was uncertain. Her body felt numb as energy was siphoned from her towards Dallas. The pain she had been ignoring of her own wounds coiled around her as she fought herself to remain still. She kept her eyes fixed on Dallas. "If you are a Goddess, please help us save him," she murmured to the Gartagen phantom that lingered in her vision of the other realm. "If you give me your name, I will pray to you as well.. if you are the only one willing to answer me, I want to thank you."
Arianne felt Lukina vanish as if something had eclipsed her- not Lukina's physical form but rather the half-elf's energy. "Energy is such a poor term to describe what it is your sense." The feminine voice said to Lukina. "I have heard your prayers. Many times and I decided it was time to give you and your kind an answer to them. The Gonhirrum know me as Galva. The gods you pray too will not answer you now. Just know you are being heard."
Lukina did not see the speaker, rather she felt the strong, effeminate and gentle voice as it resonated all around her, inside of her. Very effeminate, though not motherly. "The little one you desire...to have his cycle reset?? Is he a warrior?" Galva asked.
"He is, Galva," came the half-elf's soft response. "He's looking for the right path to go down. He was just unfortunate to have followed after mine."
"What do you offer in exchange?" Galva's voice reverberated.
"What do you need me to do?"
"What do you offer in exchange?" Galva repeated in the same disembodied tone.
"I have my life."
"A life for a life. So it is," Galva said. "Keep your sword steady, young one." The energy of the diety that enshrouded Lukina slipped from her shoulders and faded away, she senses that the bargin was struck. Lukina felt no different than before, save...that her sense of smell seemed sharper.
Lukina's hand gripped her zweihander more tightly with her free hand. "Yes."
The collected energies coiled around Arianne's small form, the light panels on the Ijoma shone like beacons on a darkened shore as she pushed the sparking, rolling bundle of energy down into Dallas. It's not time yet. Please live, Dallas McClosky.
Dallas's wound began to knit together, the bleeding ceased, and the magical forces Arianne pulled from herself and Creature began to work through the man's spirit but his energy was not restoring, perhaps, it was too late and his light had faded. Suddenly, Arianne saw Dallas's spirit flare up like a great blazing fire on a cold night. His fresh wound disappeared... as did his old wounds. The bio-netics in Dallas's body were pushed from his eyes, torso, arms and in their stead, the glowing magical forces focused, restoring Dallas's body and his spirit. It took over an hour but the man was whole once again.
In his hour of recovery, Dallas' mind was on many subjects. He felt his life flash before his eyes before reversing quite quickly as if someone had changed their mind. He felt pains in his head and arms, something he hadn't felt in years. Everything was warm and bright, and he didn't know what it meant.
Once he came to, he noticed two things: he could feel things he used to not be able to feel, and his pants were really loose. His memory was blurry, as he thought he saw people long dead and some fresh in his mind. After a moment it came to him as the belt that was on him was much much lighter than his.
Dallas took a sharp intake of breath and sat up quickly, "GAH! FUCK! Christ... what the... why am I alive? Why can I feel my arms and eyes? What the fuck happened? I thought I was dying." Needless to say, he was very confused and somewhat disorientated.
Arianne sat beside Dallas pale and covered in sweat. Lukina sat on the opposite side of Dallas, looking similarly pale and fatigued, though the ruby haired half-elf was covered in drying crimson and emerald blood. The light in the Ember's eyes was dim, the process of transference was demanding and exhausting.
It was Lukina that spoke in a soft exhausted tone, "You died. We brought you back." Everything hurt. She had dosed herself with the technological solution to intense pain, narcotics, but she was still rattled. The stench of the battlefield and dust was horrific. Atraxians stank alive, dead, it was only worse.
"Why do my arms hurt? They ain't supposed to..." It was only at this point did Dallas see the bloodied cybernetic arms next to him and the two ocular units next to them. He recognized the parts, the individual repairs made to them. Dallas was curious, he awkwardly took his right hand and pinched his left arm. He felt it, he hadn't felt his arms in at least eight years. He blinked astonished, "Why do I have my arms back?" He was staring at them as if they were alien, almost unhealthily so. He'd grown so used to the abilities of his cybernetics, it was alien to him.
"Because magic," Bob replied, rolling its set of eyes. "I hope you don't complain about that." As the fighting quickly died down, the floating monstrosity came back to their side, its cheap, stark white armor in various levels of disrepair. Like a languid flurry, the many tentacles smoothly moved, opening the feed tray before brushing aside the remaining links while simultaneously bringing the new belt of ammo over. Tucking the first bulletin, the tentacled 'space turtle' closed up the weapon. Looking away from the New Texan, it glanced over all the others. "Is everyone other than him, ok? Are you really missing your front teeth, Lukina?" Bob asked, sounding genuinely worried.
"I'm just rattled. I... don't know. It feels like something is wrong," Lukina replied running her tongue precariously over her teeth. They felt intact, just loose from the force of the strike. It was nothing a quikheal pack wouldn't help. She didn't particularly enjoy the taste of her own blood but the Atraxian blood tasted fouler. The stench from the organs on the Ember medic was putrid. She set her jaw, this new enhanced sense of smell was a curse at the moment. "What of the Lady?"
Creature felt Arianne's touch, and that was about it. His energy was drawn into her with some resistance surprisingly enough. The Sharani blood or something in it...the energy was less like a stream of water and more akin to a thick stubborn sap. But it was filling, bountiful and full. For everything she took from Creature, more seemed to replace it. The Gartagen's energy seemed to intensify at Arianne's touch.
Creature opened his eyes after silently waiting. He stood up and turned in full view of Dallas who would see his "DON'T MESS WITH NEW TEXAS" Belt buckle now festooned to Creature's own belt. He looked around to hear Dallas' voice, then Bob, Lukina. Arianne was okay. Rorik was getting himself together but found his left foot was smeared across the canyon floor. A bullet had struck the young man and he did not even know it. Creature looked at Arianne. "Is it over? Dallas is running his mouth again....So it worked?"
Creature's Amber eye's shifted to Lukina as she asked her question. "I'm sure the Empress has taken care of her side of things. Plus Bronzi is with her, everything is probably A the fuck O-Kay." He said standing up and gripping his sword.
Before Lukina had a chance to respond, however, she felt something enter her abdomen. Large sharp stabbing pain engulfed her body and it would cause her to double over. She felt like she had just been stabbed. Looking down Lukina would see...nothing. No wound, blood or weapon...only pain, and the taste of blood in the throat. It was becoming harder to breathe.
Creature tilted his head at Lukina. His prosthetic hand reached out. "Uh, Lukes, you aren't looking so good..."
Lukina pressed her hands against the blood soaked dirt. She was drowning, struggling for breath. "No." The pain intensified and panicked coiled around her like a tightening serpent. Her fingers clawed at the ground trying to regain control of her senses, the pommel of her zweihander was barely out of reach. Copper filled her mouth as she wheezed. Tears welled up in her eyes. A low, whine of pain managed to escape her lips.
The half-elf's body felt heavy, alien. She remembered this feeling too well. It was too fresh in her mind when she tied herself to Creature. She was dying. She tried to speak but only managed to cough up blood. "We're dying." Her hands lost some of their strength as she slid forward onto the ground.
Arianne nodded at Creature and stumbled around Dallas to reach Lukina. "I... I don't understand." She knelt beside the knight and held her hands over the woman's body, almost afraid to touch her. "Her... it's.. I don't.." A chill crept into Arianne as she appraised Lukina's energy signature. The Gartman was a endless bonfire but Lukina... it didn't make sense. She saw strange figments of threads coiled around Lukina's body but she did not understand what they were.
The cliff wall shook. Arianne would see a massive green stump of an arm slam onto the Canyon floor, then a big green hidious face with green blood slopped around the toothless maw grimaced at her. Staraxia stabbed his sword into the dirt and hefted his bulk up. Dark crimson blood soaked his blade and he looked around the battered camp. "OY. I GUESS DA LADS LEGGED IT." The Big Atraxian said. "I'M FIXIN ON CUTTIN' FREW YEW LOT!" He growled
Creature rushed forward with his sword at the ready, Bob by his side. "Not a chance, mother fucker! Ari! What's up with Lukina!?" Creature snarled, his tail flicking. "Fuckin' stank ass Atraxians." Creature added spitting on the ground shortly after.
"I don't know! I'm not familiar with what I'm seeing, her aura is wrong!" Arianne replied. She winced at the bellow. She was conflicted.
"If she's stable, just get her out of here!" the Sutākame called out, its head stretched out like a turtle's to look back at them. Bringing its glaive to the ready, it retracted like its namesake and locked with the rest of its chitinnous body and poly-armor plated form. Guns head at the ready, its beady eyes sized up the hulking form, its coils of tentacles tensing and loosening like a person would with the grip of their gun.
The Ember medic made a face and looked at Dallas and pointed at him, "MARSHALL, I need you to get the Lady Petrora to safety!" She rose to her feet, "I need more time to figure out what is wrong. I don't understand the problem!"
From the dark a black clad hand whipped like a viper, the matte form of a weapon glimpsed before it bore upon Staraxia's ugly green head, and the trigger pulled. At this range it wasn't a question of hitting or missing, Creature saw the Atraxian's head suddenly sprung a slim metal bolt from the weapon, now clearly a small crossbow.
Staraxia's eyes crossed. The arrow vibraited in the aliens forhead. Staraxia fell backwards and off of the cliff. a few seconds later there was a soft metallic thump. Creature raged. 'WHAT THE SHIT!? I HAD THAT ASSHOLE!"
"Sou ded ta'las cunt, 'til 'e stabbd 'er." The black crossbow replied, before it came down to the side of its owner who slowly seemed to unfade from the dark. Dark clothes bluring the outline of what might have been five and a half feet of lean body and a pair of large glowing eyes dimly reflecting the light of the camp as the owner looked up at the rest of the crew from watching the atraxian go off the cliff.
"Damnit Dundee Dude, its probably not dead yet!" its all-too-human sounding voice whined. Poking its head out to look back at them, the floating tentacle monster momentarily looked like its namesake again. "Couldn't you just have given it an arrow in the knee instead?" Bob asked. "It'll probably just come back even angrier than before now," it sighed. Unhappy with the turn of events. Retracting its neck, the head locked with its shell again as it carefully scanned the area.
"T'at almos' always gets 'um. Built like brickshit houses, these cunts." The sneaky black cloaked figure replied dryly. The crossbow slipped from view for a second and returned with a new bolt loaded and ready for action before slipping back into the robes. The head tilted slightly at the rest of the group, looking at them.
"Wuzant one youse dead a moment ago?" The crossbow wielding newcomer asked, their voice always seemed to reach a high pitch at the end of each sentence, but their cheery tones spoke of a familiarity with the group that seemed friendly, but unnerving.
"Yeaaaah...." the tentacle monster sighed again, disappointed. "At least we don't have to go on a quest to bring back his soul or something though," Bob admitted.
Dallas got up, slinging his rifle on his shoulder tightly and holstering his revolver before moving to attempt to pick Lukina up. "I'm sorry if this hurts." Putting his arms under her legs and under her back, he lifted her up after a little bit of a grunt as he got used to his arms not being mechanical. He shifted her into a fireman carry in his left shoulder and looked to Creature. "I want my buckle back you asshole!"
He gave a somewhat odd grin before beginning a jog towards the rear of the battle line deeper into the town. They had set up a medical station somewhere, if he couldn't get to a hospital he could use the medical equipment at the Marshal's office.
The dark stranger turned as Dallas got up and grunted in an amused and impressed fashion, witnessing Dallas go from necrotic to altheltic within a minute. Large eyes visibly blinking from under what might have been a hat or hood. Still the figure stubornly remained a blurry outline.
Dallas trotting with Lukina found his arms and back starting to ache. He also found that the last town they had visited was no where in sight. They were firmly out in a set of craggy bad lands. Dallas would, found his mind clearing. Medical tent! They had a medical tent. Turning and moving east Dallas would look down to see the main encampment was---- in utter shambles.
Dead soldiers and Atraxians were strewn about all over it. The medical tent was utterly collapsed, and the remaining troops of Azalea, the shield, and deputies were scurrying about, tending to the wounded and dead. Below Dallas would see the female Gartagen rendering aid to the Empress, and the big Gartagen moving around directing the troops to form up a defensive perimeter while camp followers got the camp into account.
Creature lit a cigarette and puffed on it, sizing up the new coming bow man. He gave a breif nod to the man. Now wasn't the time to question help even if it was likely the self serving kind. Resting his right for arm on his knee Creature rested on his haunches. He looked at Lukina, Bob, Dallas. The Empress. His brother, Daughter, Thaddeus.
He let out a sigh. "It's my goddamned belt buckle, McClosky. You died. I dunno where in the blue hell you think you are taking Lukina. Nearest hospital is two hundred clicks that away." Creature said pointing west with his prosthetic hand.
Sneak returned the nod "I see ya in a waking dream." he greeted the well wrapped gartagen. Looking around in interest as the camp started reoganizing itself into some semblence of military capability.
The one called Dallas seemed to have picked a direction and run off with the wounded to nowhere, Sneak noted with interest that the pink-skins pants stayed on while running despite the loss of belt buckle. Perhaps it was purely asthetic. The Creature one seemed more intelligent as the leader of the group, perhaps the strong scent from those of his kind had some pheramone effect on the others.
The smell of camp life was churned into the air, causing Sneak to sniffle and give a soft high pitch sneeze.
"Set Lukina down by the Empress, Dallas, so they can both get triage." Popping its head up and out, stretching out its neck, the feared alien looked about, taking in the scene. "This is bad. The camp being overrun is one thing, but the Empress?" The floating mass drifted down and over to the Gartagens and the dark skinned elf in a hurry. "What happened? Is there anything I can do?" it asked. Though it wasn't human in any sense of the word, it was clear what was on its mind. Bob hoped there was something, anything it could do to not feel so powerless.
Dallas seemed to hesitate for a moment, as if taking it all in before seeming to lose all emotion from his face. He gently placed Lukina down next to the the Empress. If anyone expected him to say anything about something, he didn't. He looked down at his waist, his pistol belt fallen from him somewhere between the old line and the camp. He looked in what was his free hand to see that the revolver he carried had been drawn at some point. He shoved it in a pocket before walking off to what was the edge of the camp, staring out across the horizon.
The Empress herself was sitting upright on the triage bed, to the apparent consternation of her attendant, Sura. She had one of Staraxia's swords settled across her lap, and seemed to be ignoring the work of the small spidery medical bot that had busied itself stitching her back together.
She was half naked, but that wasn't the interesting part; her eyes were glowing faintly, as was the gem upon her forehead. She stirred when Lukina came near, drumming her fingers over the blade of the scimitar that had previously embedded itself in her gut, and looked to the small troupe of soldiers who had streamed in from their recent conflict on the front lines. She didn't comment, not right then, only accepted their presence - except in one case.
The Lord Empress stared at Dallas's back for a brief few moments before scanning the damage Lukina had sustained. It seemed as though more injury had been done to her than to Bhelith, though the Empress's rich, dark skin had paled somewhat from the blood loss. She did not look as though someone had just stuck a sword in her, despite evidence. Her legs were soaked in blood; her stomach, until recently, must have been open. The smudged patina of blood covered her chin and the front of her chest, where it had spattered beneath the armor, though Sura had clearly done her best to clean the monarch.
It was only after a few of them had streamed in that she spat blood to clear her mouth, sat back, and ordered, in a voice only a little diminished, "Explain."
"S-sh-she started bleeding!" Bob began, withering under Bhelith's gaze. It was extremely rare to see a Sutākame, let alone one that wasn't trying to kill them. But, it felt horrifying to see one cower, because cowering was the only way to describe what the hard shelled creature of horrors was doing. It caused the elf to lean forward slightly, which elicited a bit of a wince - some of her posture, then, made more sense. The outside of her gut might be healed, but the inside still pained her if she tested it. Bob continued. "One moment, she was standing there, the next, she dropped her sword and fell over bleeding from her belly," it explained. Though Bob was hurt, dried trickles of red blood oozing out of the holes, it didn't seem to mind about itself.
"Ah," replied Bhelith, seeming unsurprised, if a little uncomforable. "I see. That is not what I meant. Another power on the field interfered. I-..."
Arianne came to Bhelith's side shortly after Dallas reached her with Lukina. She knelt beside her Empress and frowned. A pallor had set across her own features from the strain of restoring Dallas but the strength of the glow strips on her Ijoma suit indicated that her energy cells were full. The glow of her eyes were dulled by empathic pain. "My Lady, I do not understand what is happening. Will you accept me so that I may restore you?" She looked up at the gem and lowered her gaze to Bhelith's molten gold eyes. She pursed her lips together uncertain of what she was sensing.
Sneak peered between the shoulders of the gathering around the false-empress, whom now ruled upon her raised cot, upright and bare. The signs of critical wounding upon her face and torso now closed without scar. Sneaks eyes wandered as the recently returned to life Dallas brought in the long-ear who had spontaneously keeled over of severe wounds, strangely in the same places which Bhelith had so recently been wounded also.
Sneak thought this interesting, and decided to document this. Taking out his instant-portrait device, holding it up to his eye, letting it focus, and shuttering the device. It was near silent, however the bright flash was a clear give-away.
Bhelith gave the picture-taking Bu Qui a dubious, even disapproving look, before dismissing him out of hand, seemingly as a curiosity. Of course it registered that someone was taking pictures of her, but it didn't seem to matter. What were a few pictures in the grand scheme of things? A noble elf didn't deign to respond to a paparazzi.
Sneak stared at the Empress for a few seconds more, and then turned to the more pale of the two elves who had spontaneously keeled over with apparent severe injury, however the only sign of injury was the blood upon her lips and her clear immobilization. Holding up the shutterer and taking a second picture.
It seemed strange to the observer, but the eyes of the Ember and the Elf almost seemed like facet-cut gems, gold and blue. The Ember, concerned, radiated power, and the Elf's metallic hue glittered in the light like old coinage. She had not yet finished shaking down the floating turtle for information, but the enemy lay dead on the field and there would be time.
To Arianne, only a few feet away, the monarch said, "Are you asking to lend me your Word, child, or are you offering to use it on our behalf?"
Arianne considered the question. "I need to feel how much of me that you need. It's easier for me to make the decision if I can touch you." She offered a reassuring smile. "Old customs are hard to let go of but this is one, I am not ready to break. May I?"
Bhelith set the sword aside, her blood having begun to dry and stain it already in an ugly pattern, and looked back to the Ember. She spared a glance for the others watching, but like the camera-wielding crossbowman, Bhelith appeared to decide, by posture, that their presence and attention were permissible.
Beneath that appearance of perfect composure, anyone with any understanding of the monarch would realize that her honor and her pride wouldn't allow her to dismiss them. It would have meant admitting she were injured, whatever the truth of the matter was.
With a soft nod, Arianne placed a gloved hand on Bhelith's shoulder and opened herself to the Empress's energy. She wanted to understand what was needed of her and to better understand the strangeness of the situation. Bhelith had said, "on our behalf". It spread from her hand and rolled over her body until it completely enveloped her in a soft golden light.
This world was not the same as Jord or Liang but as with all living planets, there was a interconnected web of life that emanated from everything on it that touched the universe around them to sustain life. Arianne was raised to call this web, the Word, but as she wrapped herself in Bhelith's tapestry of life energy the Ember felt pulled in multiple directions. She was felt drawn to Lukina and then spread further out to people she couldn't quite see but she knew was there.
The Word rolled over her and filled her with warmth, the different threads resonated with a different color of light that both felt and sounded different. "I think I understand now." Arianne commented as she felt the sympathetic pains between the Empress and her Herald. "I am enough to help you, if you will accept this Fire and be restored."
"Yes. Do as you will." Bhelith nodded to her, and then looked up to Creature and the others.
"I take it the enemy are all dead." She paused significantly. The gunfire had died off, the screaming had as well, and now the camp stirred around them all like a poked beehive. Other injured were being bussed in and around, though they avoided this particular tent. "I see that McClosky is alive."
Bhelith would see Creature leering down at her from his perch. Cigarette in his hand, and still as a statue. The Empress had seen Gartagens strike this pose; a very common pose to the species. He sat on his haunches still as a statue with his elbows resting on his knees. They often did this when observing and considering what to do about a problem - usually in the deserts of their world when deciding to go after food. Creature's Amber eyes were slits and locked onto Bhelith's own. Internally Creature knew he and the Empress would likely be speaking soon.
Bronzi who had stood over Bhelith in silence as a kind of honor Guard looked up at his brother. "Hrm." said looking back at the empress. "Tha enemy got dead, Empress." Bronzi said not taking his eyes off of Creature. "I dunno who McClosky is, but I reckon he made it. Most of yer troops did. Who ever trained em trained em gewd."
The unknown firgure hanging around in the tent between men and soldiers busily kept taking pictographs, this time sans the intruding flash. The glow of the suit Arianne wore was enough to pick up in the lenses. To the few keeping an eye on them, they remained stubbornly indistinct even in the relatively well-lit tent, their cloak shifting silently around them.
"Yes, they retreated," the tiny voicebox Bob carried spoke up. As the floating monstrosity removed its composite helmet with a pair of its coiling limbs, another rubbed the bottom of its chin as its head extended out, looking about like its namesake. "I don't know how the others did, but I don't think we're in shape to chase the greenies," the Sutākame thoughtfully observed. Looking down at Lukina again, yet another lengthy limb pointed at her, it asked, "Will she be alright? What happened? Would you know?" the man turned monster spoke, almost pleading.
Arianne glanced up to Bhelith and nodded. "This will take some time to weave back together. Saule's light will warm and restore you." She closed her eyes as she focused on the feeling of the tapestry of the Word that overlaid the Empress. She felt where the threads had been severed. She reached through their shared connection of her fire and wove new threads of power to repair the damaged tapestry that was Bhelith's body. Sweat beaded on the Ember's brow as she transferred her energy to Bhelith. She vaguely understood that there were Laima's threads that sometimes bound different souls together.
The red string of fate is what the ancient Japanese believed in- the invisible thread that would lead you to your one true love. Arianne had read about it in her books but she felt it was only partly correct. Energy wove rough the fabric of the universe. She was taught that it was called the Word and on Liang, it was called the Song. The blood of the universe and runs through the veins so that life in all of its forms could exist. The Word connected everyone together in some way. As she was able to share her life with others, she knew that other beings could do it to- it was just harder.
Transference was her life's purpose as an Ember, one of the chosen of Saule. Arianne believed in the healing light of love that came from Saule's power and it had given her hope in the darkest hours of her captivity amongst the Black Army. A black thread of pain bled through her connection to Bhelith - it was a memory of the Black Army tainting her power and taking away her control. The anger swelled up for a moment but was gone, over taken by the desire for penance by saving whom she could in the wake of those darker months of captivity. Her hope and love of life outweighed the darkness of her fire and she let those emotions fill Bhelith as she worked to mend her body. The soul, was another matter beyond her control.
Bhelith had been about to answer Bob; what she might have said momentarily passed as she glanced to the Ember. Creature, examining her from his crouch on high, was momentarily spared the Monarch's speculation; she did motion for one of his cigarettes, though, or at least that's what she seemed to point at. Creature paused, and fumbled with his hands around his leather belt before coming up with a fresh pack of Menthol "Koolies!" brand Cigarettes. He soon hopped down from his perch and began his approach to the Empress.
Arianne found that, rather than flinching away from her, Bhelith instead reached up to touch her hand. It felt like a channel had been opened, and her power, the welling power of her blood and her being, had found an outlet through a cracking dam. Her soul was in her eyes, and in the gently glowing gem settled in her forehead. It seemed, for a moment, like the eyes would never leave her, and in a sense they didn't. Some part of her worked to ease Arianne's magic passing into the yawning well that had suddenly opened up for it, but physically the last Lady of Arleigh looked back to the others.
To Bob, she answered, "Yes, and no. A being of considerable power interfered with me on the battlefield today and I expect with her as well. I wish to know how, and why, before venturing into Gor Gozen." Cigarette in hand, she snapped her fingers a few times, produced a little white flame, and lit. She breathed out, examined the little white roll, and then observed, "I had expected tobacco."
Arianne felt the pull of another thread much further away. She didn't understand it. It didn't matter at the moment as her power built up and flowed into the space that had opened for it. Little by little, the energy spilled over and fortified the new threads that the Ember wove back in to reconnect the broken tissue, severed nerves and blood loss- the broken reality. The damage was extensive. "I am glad, this was not done by Maraium," she murmured softly. "This might scar."
"Another will not bother me."
Lukina remained still and curled up on her side on the cot. She was in agony as the Ember worked her craft on the Empress. She was not in the mood to speak as she closed her eyes and waited. Before it quite felt as though Bhelith were fully restored, when Arianne felt as though she might be doing very little at all, Bhelith released her hand and motioned her towards Lukina.
Arianne opened her eyes and looked to Lukina, shifting her position to the other side of Bhelith's cot so that she knelt between them. "Lady Lukina, please nod if you will allow me to help you."
The half-elf grimaced as she looked up at the Ember healer and nodded, wincing again as Arianne placed her hand lightly on Lukina's shoulder. The damage was odd, but she felt the cord that connected these people. It was strong, she heard a distant promise of commitment through the Word. The damage Arianne saw within Lukina was different, they weren't necessarily cut. Something was missing.
The Ember recalled that Lukina had offered her assistance to restore Dallas but something happened. It was different, just another oddity of the day but it was more significant than that. It was if a leyline had opened for a moment and disappeared once more. Arianne had felt it through the battle. She wondered as she redirected her energy, regulating the flow through the Ijoma suit into Lukina. There were strange concentrations within the lady knight, artificial and real ties of power, threads woven less strongly that connected her to some of the others present.
Is it a result of trying to bridge the gap between technology and magic?
The pain Lukina felt lessened as the fire spread over her and stabilized her tangible reality. Comfort and reassurance filled her and flowed over her. There was a sense of resonance between the half-elf and the Ember, a mutual desire for penance for the things they've done and the future they wished to create for those that survived.
Lukina took a deep breath as her lungs filled with air and the blood was redirected back to its proper place within her body. "Thank you," she finally managed, the bitter taste of copper lingered in her mouth but she was alive. They were alive. Her eyes darted up to the golden pools of Bhelith's. "Galva was here."
"Galva?" Creature rasped as he approached, lighting a cigarette, puffing on it and then handing it to Bhelith. "The Goddess Galva?" Creature said sounding as if he getting offended. Though it was Bronzi who came to Lukina's aid. "Galva. The goddess of protection and Wisdom. Also named fer a gas Giant in our home system. Uh...not many worship her these days. But I aint seen no god grace da battle field..." He grumbled.
Sura who was cleaning up around Bhelith stood up, as if finally paying attention. "Hardly anybody says her name.....Who told you that name?" Sura asked, finally locking her eyes on to Lukina.
Lukina didn't look at Sura, it still hurt to move. Her eyes shifted from Bhelith again as she resettled on the cot. "Pretty blue Gart woman wearing a vithria... she said that was her name." She answered simply. The half-elf only knew fragments of Gartagen culture. The world had slowed to a crawl.
Arianne moved her hand from Lukina and sighed, wiping her forehead. "That'll keep you alive. I still need to tend to the others but you both should live... and be able to fight." Her stomach growled at her in protest. "I'll go grab my protein packs and make the rest of the rounds, Empress Arleigh, can you recover under your own powers or do you still require assistance? I can push but I will need to recoop before I try again. My Ijoma is having a hard time keeping up."
Kowloon's Empress ashed her borrowed cigarette and settled an elbow on her knee. She still winced slightly - the scar on her stomach, pale with new flesh, still seemed to pain her a bit. However, she nodded and dismissed Arianne with a motion. "Thank you for your kindness," she said, and the smile was more than flattery, however small it was.
Her expression seemed wan, otherwise, and she glanced from Dallas to Lukina, from Lukina to the Gartagens in the immediate area. She looked for somewhere to set the cigarette so that she could grab the body-hugging compression shirt that went beneath her armor; it had already begun to knit back together beside her, as though Arianne's ministrations had been for it as well. Her armor had begun to come back together. Whether that was magic, or some sort of meta-material, who could know that didn't ask?
The sound of furious sentcilling was present in whatever silence was made during the moment, the cloaked figure having taken out a notepad and begun writing in intelligible alien script with great intensity. Since the manikin and the other kinds did not seem to care of his presence, Sneak was taking every advantage in gathering information.
All this talk of goddesses seemed fanciful to Sneak, but perhaps the gods of these people were more personal than those of his own kind. Of whom they spoke, Sneak wondered if such a being had been the source of the detectable musk his four nostrils had smelt upon his arrival chasing the Atraxian. The cigarette the blue-skin was inhaling covered his scent enough that Sneak could not be sure. If it was not, then gartagen goddesses had a very strong smell.
Dallas, still standing out away from everyone, sat down on the dirt with a blank expression on his face. He was still pale as a ghost, his mind still getting over himself being dead. He was in a slight sweat, but he was at least conscious and not dying anymore.
Into the speculatively reflective silence, Bhelith spoke.
"Galva," she repeated quietly. When she didn't find a place to set the smoke, she took another draw off of it, ashed, and examined the cherry. That didn't hold her attention for long, so she ruefully glanced over to Creature. Gods, goddesses, magic; Bhelith didn't seem excited by it. If anything, she seemed annoyed. "I believe her. If this is the true Gar Gozen ruin, I suppose that we are about to complete a prophecy. If I were an errant god, I would be interested. I do not think she can interfere further, though."
The last few words were in a lower tone, as though she were speaking to herself. She might have been, at that, halfways.
Gods. Creature was crawling in his skin as he listened to the subject being broached as if they had just crossed a river, or finished a game. Lukina's constant prayers and religious rituals managed to garner curiosity from him, but little more than that. Even in a world where people could push and pull things with their minds or invoke energies into magic arrows that exploded, the idea of all powerful deities was something he did not understand nor did he care to. They were not here, he still had to swing his sword to stop bullets, spells and psionics from killing him. Creature eyed Sneak as he moved about them, almost like a rat. Lying and maintaining a respectful lip on his skepticism. "I don't see any gods here. If you hear from Galva again, let her know we need an extra spear or two on this expedition." Creature said with a sharp thrash of his tail.
"Even my own peoples' gods are limited. We do not even speak their language anymore."
The elfess hesitated a moment, as though debating the wisdom of sharing any real information about gods, or god-like beings, at all. "In my experience, gods, or the beings that masquerade as them, are rarely helpful. The last time I heard from a god, and saw their hand, they were poisoning my people and sending us to be slaughtered by the Tai Pan." Her fingers played, for a moment, over the fresh scar on her stomach. "If she interferes again, I will try to shield us. I can make no promises."
Her gold eyes shifted to him, again, along with a rakish half-smile. "The Atraxians likely have reinforcements coming. We shall have to move quickly, we will not have the ability to defend the planet for long. Are all the preparations made, otherwise?"
Sura was moving around on the outskirts of the conversation seeming rather tense. She was scowling and eyeing the conversation, but not interjecting any further. Bronzi's eyes were firmly on his daughter who desired to say something, and soon Creature's own amber eyes were burning a hole in her head. "Yes Empress, even if they aren't made I gave orders to start moving." He then addressed Sura. "Biiiitch, you got something you wanna add?"
Sura turned away. "No. It isn't really my place."
"Speak," came the order, though it seemed conversational, from Bhelith. "Every person standing here has a place. Even the alien with the camera. I do hope I get copies of those pictures? The Chancellor does so enjoy contriving up ways to see me naked, I think he might enjoy them."
Sneak stopped taking pictures. He glanced to the 'camera', the pictoshutterer, uncertain if that was what she meant. He looked back up. That is what she meant. His eyes sidled sideways and he decided she did not need the other photos, mostly of grass, trees, weeds. The enemy encampment, if such a mobile shanty town could be called that.
"I think that request is vague and unconvincing..." Sneak replied.
He tucked the camera into his cloak as eyes in the room turned to him. Feeling the weight as some very heavily armed and armored individuals standing around the false-empress turn their attention to him. He took a few steps towards the back of the crowd.
However, Sneak would have to disappear pretty soon, faster than whatever shadowy figure was watching him from the tent. Called forth, the broad and towering black robed form strode forward, and with just a few steps, stood before the odd man. Reaching its arm out at Sneak, a clawed, black plated hand protruded out from under the sleeve, palm up, gently beckoning.
The two robed forms stared at each other, both somehow cloaked in shadow despite the well lit tent. Two very large eyes staring up at the figure over a broad snout. A clawed hand reaching up into the chest pocket of the cloak where the camera had been placed earlier, other hand not visible until as the hand pulled back.
The second hand became visible, but only for a spilt second as sand erupted up towards the robed figure towards his eyes. With the same motion the smaller robed figure took off, slipping around other members of the crowd low and fleet of foot. Leaping up against centre pole of the tent and jumping from it, swinging from the horizontal pole and out the door of the tent.
Despite this brazen attack, the ominous figure remained where it was, hand falling to its side. "I was made to suffer," the Prydainian's helmeted baritone remarked. Quietly departing, it went to seek out the fleeing man and his camera. Naturally, the other occupants of the tent ignored this entire exchange as they carried on their conversation.
“I...uh...I am not a priest. I only read books as a child. So...my understanding is not professional. I just want to caution you with what I am about to say.” Sura said as she knelt down and began packing her medical bot back into her backpack.
“But Gartagen religion is centered around four deities. Shara - The Father, Gartagen - the life giver or mother. Galva, the guardian, and Gamjie. Galva like Shara is a god of warriors, though Shara is more...anger and raged based. Galva is honorable and about protecting those weaker. She is also the goddess of wisdom, and inquiry. If you claim you saw Galva...then she is not a being of evil...if she is interested she has a good reason...of the dieties...she is the only Sharani Diety who is not slumbering...."
The monarch offered the rest of the cigarette back to Creature. When he took it he stuck it in his mouth and drew on it causing the cherry to illuminate even brighter. She picked up her shirt and pulled it on over her head and she worked it down over her toned shoulders, over her breasts, and finally she tugged it down over her stomach and her abdomen until it touched its partner, the leggings she wore of the same material. It clung to her, smooth and black and, somehow, a little too well. The Empress was an Artificer. Her gear was a part of her, in a way, and it showed.
"I will be happy enough if we act honorably on our own merit," Bhelith observed, settling her booted feet on the tamped-down grass where they had made their camp. She picked the sword that had impaled her from the bed as she spoke, sliding it into a borrowed scabbard that seemed to fit it roughly. "Gods, too, have free will. I do not know what drives them, not with certainty, and who can?"
Creature spat. "Eh. I think we should worry about what's in front of us."
"Well said," Bhelith agreed, buckling on the sword and reaching her for her curiass and cloak. She motioned to Sura to help her, as Lukina was still abed. When her hands were free, she began to tie her hair back again, binding back the voluminous, dark mass. "Make your preparations. When my Herald is able to walk again, we will go."
Having floated quietly for the past few moments, Bob simply watched in silence, helmet in hand. It was difficult to tell if there was something on the human-turned-tentacle-monster's mind, given there was no expression on its face. Turtles couldn't frown or smile after all. However, with how its quartet of eyes flicked from one person to the next, it was clearly paying attention. Raising a tentacle up like a child in kindergarten, it offered, "I jumped through a lot of hoops to get the DNA I needed for this, and I gotta say I'm thinking along Bhelith's lines here," the once-man began from the little voicebox around its neck. "I don't think the real Sutākame like Gods and Goddesses either, since I got a tongue lashing for saying 'Thank God' and all that."
Stretching its tortoise-like head out and about to look at them all, Bob added, "If anyone gets any prophetic visions to retake the holy land or do something really specific, let the rest of us know first." It then looked at the New Texan. "Especially you Dallas!" it pointed a tentacle at the man.
Dallas didn't seem to respond, it didn't seem like he heard. It was a fair bit of time before he finally seemed to come back to reality. The Marshal stood up, fixed his equipment to his pockets and duster and silently walked to the group and avoided all glances. He wasn't just quiet, he was damn near silent. His much less decorated belt that held up his pants was still there, though without the decorated pistol belt, Dallas was keeping his revolver in his right pants pocket behind his duster.
He adjusted his Starson hat, lowering it in the front somewhat before looking to Bhelith, then Lukina, then Creature and finally at nothing, looking straight ahead and slightly down as well.
Lukina needed a few more moments to recover. She moved slowed as she moved herself to a sitting position. Her evergreen eyes drifted to Dallas for a moment and then back to Bhelith. "She said to return the King to his throne," she added softly in elvish as she looked for her sword. "She appeared when I harnessed the Word earlier," she added, still addressing Bhelith in Elven. She pushed her ruby hair from her face and glanced over to Bob and Dallas, speaking in Trade again. "My sword? Do one of you have it?"
Bhelith stared off into the distance - towards the actual entrance to Gor Gozen - with a direct, serious look. Her intensity felt palpable and radiated. When she did speak, the sound rolled out of her throat like a rolling purr, if tigers could purr - the tone carried a hint of danger to it. It was a dark mood, to touch only if necessary, and preferably with a long stick.
"We shall have to refrain from using magic directly, then, the two of us. I believe our medic is safe," she said, referring to the Ember still lingering nearby, "but while we are within Gor Gozen we should not risk any more surprises. Whether meaning well, or not..."
Her attention drifted over Sura, still helping her into her armor. With a wry smile, that half smile she had worn just a little earlier, the Duchess of Kowloon acquiesced,"...and she may mean well. But she nearly killed me, and almost killed my Herald. We cannot take such risks again."
Outside, in the chill of the dark night Sneak scurried between tents furtively as he listened for any sign of pursuit or alarm other than the loud thuding of armored feet from the dark figure walking with purpose out of the tent.
Sneaks eyes wandered as he wondered if he'd forgotten something and then reached under his elbow, holding a battered but bejeweled sword in its scabbard which had been clumsily looped into his belt. Ah yes, now he remembered. After the recently dead one picked up the dying one they had left behind a weapon, which in the dark had been missed by the rest of their comrades. Sneak had picked it up intending to give it back, but, well.
He turned to look over his shoulder, tucked the sword back into his belt and continued sneaking through the disturbed camp. He'd give it back later. Maybe they wouldn't mind if he borrowed it for a while...
Lukina nodded as straightened. She winced but she decided that she would live. There was much to contemplate without toying with goddesses of other peoples. "Yes, my Lady. I should have enough mundane means of fighting to cover the gap. The enemy knows we are here and they were meaning to take you and Arianne." She added after a long moment.
"Dallas, do you have enough of your wits about you to rejoin the fight? We can explain what happened after we're clear of this place, just... be more careful." Her eyes moved over to Bob and Creature again. "Bob, Creature, are you both okay?"
For a good, long moment, the floating monstrosity that was Bob remained silent in thought.
"Uh, I thought someone else picked up the sword?" the tentacled alien replied. "I think I'm fine though - the Sutākame told me we have redundant organs, so there's a few spares in here," he remarked. "But seriously, didn't one of you guys pick up the sword?" Bob asked, spinning around in the air to look at the rest of them. "It's really hard to miss. You know, it's all fancy and magical looking?" Sticking its neck out, the turtle-like head bobbed about. It was nearly impossible to read Bob's expression, however, the tentacle rubbing its chin gave a pretty good impression of what was on its mind.