It’s been over a year since these moments occurred. Due to how the campaign went on an unexpected hiatus, these e-mail interactions/RP never got posted. I recently found them in my e-mail and though I doubt we’ll ever revisit this campaign as it is, I though they deserved to be formatted and posted anyway.
"So, that guy who um, went and merged with the city….uh, he’s your dad?"
"Yes. But not so much like that guy in the gas mask is your father."
"Oh. Oooh. Do you think it hurts when you merge with a whole city?"
"Do you miss your mom?"
"I never knew my mother. They call her The Cosmic Forge."
"I never knew my mom either…but they call her the Alien Elder Vagina God."
"Pass the pipe."
"Oh, my bad." The winged man handed over the big blown-glass piece. "Sherlock is pretty awesome."
"Totally. I gotta get one of these. Your dad seems kewl."
"Yeah, he’s alright. I’ve only known him for a few weeks. He cares about me a lot though."
"I think my Dad cares about me. It’s tough to tell. He seems to care about…well, everything."
"Ugh, I know what you mean. How old are you?"
"I’m in my second-stage on the path to Enlightenment. The third-stage is a complete union with the Megaverse and the Fourth and Fifth stages are total integration with the Multiverse. In a way, even though I’m a couple hundred-thousand years old, I’m really only a teenager."
"Why did they pick you to save this whole…thing," he said with a wave of his wing.
The giant bald alien smiled. "I don’t know. But there’s something special in each and every one of us that makes us unique. I’m just along for the ride. My philosophy is to seek out adventure and to live as rich and full-bodied an experience as I can…while doing some good along the way."
"That sounds pretty crazy. Have you had a lot of adventures?"
"Not really. I’ve been asleep for thousands of years."
Meanwhile, near the J.F.C. building.
"You look concerned, Sakura."
"Yeah, I’m still a little uncomfortable about this whole… thing. My sisters and I aren’t from around here and… I dunno."
"Your mind is in directly conflict with what your eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and fingers tell you."
"Um, yeah… maybe? I guess you could say that Kiku. I came here because of an accident with an experiment that ended up making me the way I am now. Where I came from, we were fighting a war against alien invaders. Now… well, whatever. I hope you don’t take it personally that I don’t trust anything that’s an inanimate object that can just… speak inside my mind – even if it can take on a physical body whenever it wants. All this stuff is just… I dunno. I guess part of me just wants to go home but I’m afraid there won’t be a home left to return to. I don’t know why I’m here and I’m just trying to do the right thing but I have no clue what that is. It’s just…"
"Yeah. I guess… yeah, it is."
She decided to change the subject. "Tell me, have you ever fought a dragon before?"
"I saw you do some very interesting things the other night."
"I was flying far overhead while Zeela reconnoitered – and I saw what you did. I think we are similar in a way. I think I could teach you something about the metal you can conjure."
"My Sister is busy right now, but I think I could take a little break from keeping tabs on the… God of Last-"
"Don’t say it," Kiku giggled. "It makes me laugh every time I hear it."
"All right then. Bring it on."
In the span of a few heartbeats Kiku’s form grew, transforming as it did into the shape of a gigantic, winged red dragon. She flashed a playful smile at Sakura, revealing row after impressive row of massive pointy, gnashing teeth. Her wings beat powerfully a few times, creating a wind that forced Sakura to brace herself in order to avoid being blown away. The now draconic Kiku ascended several stories into the air in mere moments.
"Consider it brought!" the dragon roared from 80 feet above. And then Kiku’s very scales began to literally harden and coalesce right before Sakura’s eyes into a chromatic silver. Once she was finished she looked like a living, breathing, life-sized silver dragon statue.
"This aughta be interesting…" Sakura muttered as two silver knives materialized in her hands and she sprang into action.
At the private residence of Lillian, the Japanese Demigod patron to Asuna.
"Asuna, your loyalty to the clan… and to the pantheon will not go unnoticed – or unrewarded. You have done your job well and for that I wish to thank you with these gifts."
"Thank you, my lady."
The beautiful demigoddess pulled out a cylindrical case that appeared to be made from starched, calcified bone.She ran her fingers along the top edge of the case and the enclosure magically disappeared revealing a rolled up parchment inside.
"This is a map of the desert. There is an evil Pharaoh who rules over this land and it is very dangerous. This map will lead you to a secret cave where a skilled mentalist and cave-dweller once provided healing for the mind’s eye. Our information indicates that, while he was slain gruesomely by this Pharaoh’s minions, he has left behind a hidden cache of armaments that will prove invaluable to the clan."
"Mistress, I am grateful for the honor you bestow on me. I will not disappoint you or the elders."
"Asuna, do be careful. This cache has been searched for by Splugorth and Bounty Hunters and even the Pharaoh himself. The clan seeks only the ethereal mind-blade. Any other riches or treasures you find will be yours to dispense with personally. Do this and bring great honor and prestige to your legacy."
"But mistress, if so many others have looked for it… how do you know that they failed? And if they haven’t failed, how do you know that the mind-blade is still there?"
"Asuna, dearest, your questions please me. You are the brightest of your class and the most deadly of your fellow former students. Along with the map I will give you a necklace that will allow you to see the unseen and find things that would hide in the space between worlds. I entrust this precious tool of the clan to you for this mission."
"I am forever in your debt, my lady."
"Come Asuna, lay with me, and accept your final reward…"
fade to black.
A conversation in the private chambers of James, the God of Last Resorts, the King of New Sea.
"These sheets are disgusting."
"This is your rotation. Quit complaining."
"Before The Fall I was waited on hand and foot – I had servants serving my servants! My Father was…"
"I don’t give a good goddamn who your father was. Take the sheets off the bed and fetch me fresh linens."
"They’re so grosss! What do they do here anyway? This isn’t normal. This isn’t like passionate sex and lovemaking – it’s… fucking barbaric!"
"They’re Greeks. Get over it Ish – just because you were the daughter of a goddess of passion doesn’t mean you’re any better than the rest of us. The God of Last Resorts is the great equalizer."
"Cock of Last Resorts more like it. Look at these… stains! This looks like…"
"Don’t say it… don’t you dare say it or I’m going to vomit."
"Ugh…Greeks are so GROSS!"
"Ish! Hush your mouth. If you don’t like your station you’re free to leave the protection of his city. Or you can stuff a sock in it and swallow your pride like the rest of us. Take pride in all that you do – no matter how small or meaningful the task."
"Do you think Ninkasi made it?"
"The Goddess of Beer?"
"Does she count as a real goddess?"
"Why don’t you ask her followers?"
"Point taken. But still, I hope she’s safe… healthy… out there somewhere."
"The major gods were hit the hardest. There is still hope."
"Hope for Beer? My dear there will always be hope. Have you been to the tavern lately? They don’t need Ninkasi’s help. Speaking of the tavern… there was a young man the other night."
"Ish," the older woman admonished in a chiding voice.
"What? I didn’t DO anything."
"Oh fine!" the young woman threw her hands up in the air in frustration. "I feel like I’m in prison! And I haven’t even had the sex I’m planning to have with a minor… yet."
Meanwhile, in the working office James had adopted in the J.F.C. building, a different conversation was about to occur.
Two quick knocks at the door was a blessed interruption to the banal drudgery of running a city in which James currently found himself mired.
"What?" James asked in a slightly annoyed tone.
A muffled voice from the other side of the door said, "My lord, there are some people here to see you."
"Send them in. They can announce themselves."
In walked an old black man with a straw hat and suspenders. He was accompanied by four others. The first James noticed was a startlingly beautiful young blond woman. Next to her was a young man, slight of build and with a defiant sneer on his face. Behind them was a thin, wiry, plain-looking man who was balding despite not looking very old. Lastly was a stocky, burly man wearing a green sweater who walked with a slight limp and leaned against the bald man.
They all looked familiar. James thought he might have recognized the black man and maybe… the kid, but it had been a while… different clothing, different climate. The girl? She was cute but she kinda looked like a younger version of Tes . The bald man… wait, that guy looked like one of the refugees they picked up in Antarctica… at least that was how it had been described to James by the survivors. Gods! He wished he had been there! He should have been there. The man with the limp? Who knew?
The servant who ushered them closed the door and left.
"So, who are you and what do you want?" James impatiently asked.
The old black man grinned. "Well, I like a man who’s on about his business. My name is Magnus Ver Magnusson and I believe we have already met."
"Holy shit," James thought as a flood of recognition finally hit him. "This was the guy we met in mother fucking Russia."
James looked around again at Magnus and and the others.
"Well here’s faces I never thought I would see again. The mouthy kid from the warlords palace and our guide through Russia. This is an intresting morning"
James recalled the earlier fight with his wife over their living quarters. Clym was many things.. humble was not one of them.
"So… what can I help you with?"
James secretly clutched at the Dragon’s Eye gem he kept under his desk.
Even the dragon’s eye was silver! Sakura was truly amazed. This creature didn’t seem to just cover herself in silver, but actually became it! Yet she could still fly and was quicker than Sakura expected. But not so quick that she couldn’t nimbly dodge the Dragon’s attacks. Her own counter attacks though were falling somewhat short. Of course, she was holding back, and the dragon could tell.
"What is this? C’mon, show me what you got girl!" The dragon known as Kiku shouted as she flew past. She angled herself to try and smash her wing into Sakura.
"You couldn’t handle me!" Sakura taunted back at her as she twisted out of the way. She tried to slice into the silver wing but to no avail – she barely did more than nick it. With a flourish Sakura rolled away and came up with four throwing knives. She focused kinetic energy into them and tossed them at the dragon as it was turning around. The dragon tried to swat them away with her tail but the knives were more powerful than she expected, and they stuck into the metal.
"That’s more like it!" From high in the sky Kiku spread her wings and they began to glow a brilliant, white holy light. Twin beams of energy shot down towards Sakura from them. Sakura hesitated for just an instant. "Beautiful…" she thought to herself at the energy coming towards her. Then the energy slammed into and through her. Though painful, it seemed weird as if… as if the energy was trying not to hurt her? It was an odd feeling but it lasted only a moment, then it was gone. Looking around, it seemed as if the area was still empty. "Good," Sakura thought. "Maybe it’s time to ramp up my game after all."
From up in the sky the dragon seemed strangely pleased that the energy didn’t hurt Sakura as much as it could have. It told Kiku a lot about the her. With a playful roar she dove down at the purple-haired girl again. She prepared herself for Sakura to try another quick dodge but instead noticed that she looked as if she was… bracing herself? Kiku laughed and edged out a bit more speed from her metal frame. Yes, the girl was interesting indeed.
No one’s form changed or looked any different while James held the Dragon’s Eye gem. Magnus stepped forward with a broad smile and an easy demeanor. "I am Magnus ver Magnusson and I represent these people. We number… very few… in this world, but there are more of us each day. The "Earth" we are from – the one we remember – it is similar to this one in many ways. I’m not sure where our home city of Century Station would be on one of these maps but I’d love to delve into the logistics of our appearances here," he indicated the entire group with a sweep of his hand, "at your leisure…" He paused for a second to consider his next words.
The kid with the sneer stepped forward angrily. "My name is Pact. You killed my father – prepare to die!"
"Easy kid," Magnus warned. "This is the God of Last Resorts. We are here at his mercy."
"God?" He spit. "He wasn’t no god when we saw him last time. In fact, the coward killed my brother AND my father. I know it was him… or him and his friends. Oh! Poor Buddy!" The kid looked like he was about 18, or maybe a little older. He had a twisted look on his face, all screwed up, that made Magnus step toward him warily. The bald man and his friend with the limp, leaning on him, stood stock still and watched the situation unfold. The young woman began to cry, softly, but said nothing.
"Ah, God of Last Resorts, er… King James? Well, I’m not quite sure what to call you… but we’ve come seeking asylum. We, and others like us, are lost here. Almost all of us want to go home. We don’t know where home is. We have… um, powers, that are not normally found in human-beings. At least not wherever ‘here’ is. Where we come from it is not unusual to manifest powers like we have. We are called ‘heroes.’ And Jimmy Jay here, well, his powers are very impressive."
"I SAID…" the young man growled through clenched teeth. "MY… NAME… ISssss… PACT!" And he began to claw at the air and tear the very fabric of reality. It was unlike anything James had ever seen, though it seemed reminiscent to something that Pall Mall once did a VERY VERY long time ago… Just without all the ceremony, incantations, chanting, and ritual the mad Sowki used at the time.
Kiku’s gaze bored into the purple-haired woman as she embraced the free-fall of gravity. Soaring through the skies was amazing but hurtling, plummeting toward the earth was something entirely different. The metallic folds of her wings screamed as wind tore through gaps in the metal. The sound was a little unnerving but Kiku’s mind was giddy with freedom. This would be her only attack for the next few seconds but with her giant wing span and the certainty of knocking her opponent down it was worth the gamble. The ground rushed up at her as she entered the final form of her Wing Gliding Sweep Attack. She also knew she’d be forgoing her chance to act defensively but that hardly mattered at this point. Kiku was committed to the diving maneuver. She roared with fury and excitement and CHALLENGE!
James sat calmly and looked from face to face, then to Pact. "Word of advice… don’t finish summoning what ever you are. Think of where you are. You are in my house, in my city. Attack me here and you will not walk out with your life. I would rather not hurt you. As for your brother and father… I’m sorry. I’ve done horrible things in my past and I’m sure I’ll do much more in the future. Now if we could calm down…"
James looked now at Magnus. "Magnus if you are peaceful and chip in you are more then welcome here"
Pact broke his concentration. Mentally, he couldn’t quite process what he had just heard. Had this… god just apologized? No, it couldn’t be. The man he had met in Russia had been an arrogant asshole and engaged in the wanton destruction that was synonymous with his station.
"I accept your apology," the young man said sullenly. The magical energies that had begun to coalesce around his hands withered away in wisps of faded blue ley aura.
Magnus used the opportunity to chime in. "Yes, well, we intend to be peaceful. We ARE humans… and we don’t expect any preferential treatment. We intend to abide by the same laws that all other citizens obey – be they man or alien or god. However, it’s not citizenship I’m after. We’re ALL after… the chance to go home. I don’t have any illusions. ‘HOME’ was pretty bleak when last we saw it – all of us at different times – but if there’s a chance we could return than each of us, to a man, would take it. At the very least, however, we need to know what happened. Why are we here? What happened to our loved ones and homes and families? We are lost, and we don’t know where else to turn for guidance. Each of us has skills to avail yourself of. If you have need you may call on any one of us into your service. Roll call for the roster."
The ragtag group stepped into line and looked straight ahead. Magnus stepped forward first and announced, "I am Magnus ver Magnus, I can call the powers of gravity and magnetism at my whim. I’m a veteran of the first Third Winter War, fighting on the side of the Finns."
The young man, stepped forward with a slight sheepish grin. "I am Pact. I am the Master of Minions. I can call otherworldly beings and command them – right now I have three in my permanent employ but I can call another four minors and three majors."
The young woman opposite him stepped forward and smiled. "I’m Stopwatch. I can do all kinds of nifty things that alter time." She seemed calm, self-possessed, and proud. She couldn’t have been older than 22.
The balding man stepped forward with the man who was leaning on him for support. "I’m Carbon. I really can’t do anything by myself. My talent relies on being near other people with talents… and using them. This here is my friend, Sting. Used to be in a band but he don’t like to talk about it. He don’t talk much about anything… but he’s good in a fight. Can scrap with the best of ‘em. Got a whole mess o’ critters livin’ right insight o’ him."
Magnus bowed and thanked James for his kindness and for remembering their plight.
Respite, finally. Their trek had been long. The little one had taken it particularly rough. Compared to the Citadel of the Lord of Hell Rifts Earth was the Garden. Little Treasure. Born of love between her and her oldest friend… her closest companion. Trent Logan – the only person in this world who had loved her unconditionally… or as close to it as could be. The silence was pensive… thought-provoking but so out-of-place. Normally, she’d have paced, agitated, scanning the room for threats, stalking about the confines of this prison like a caged predator.Jescha was a tigress. She had been trained in arcane lethality with an assassin’s mastery of magic. She had called comets in a storm and meteors from the sky to smite her enemies. She had fought alongside J.F.C. with Trent, and banished a giant tentacle-beast monster and traveled… impossibly… back in time, and fought off humanity’s alien and d-bee would-be oppressors. She distinguished only friend from foe. And now she was a mother. Fuck. Her breast ached. She wasn’t cut out for this. It was bad enough when she had to worry about Treasure’s father. It was difficult enough when she had to look out for J.F.C. rather than only herself… her mission… and her loyalty to the Vanguard and Mankind. Motherhood was something alien. It was as different from her as she was from a filthy Dabbuk – as opposite her as a Grackletooth. She owed her life to a man – the father of her child – and he was more than a sympathizer to these… encroachers. They came to OUR planet, took OUR jobs, work for OUR food, and expect to be treated with equality.
Jescha reeled… from far away. Those were the thoughts most pervasive… and they were the ideologies of another woman… a younger, brasher, more hot-headed woman. Those patriotic philosophies were drifting further from her with each passing day. Treasure was not a normal baby human boy. Instinct told her to defend him. He was of her body… her blood. Instinct told her to hide him and protect him. They would not understand. Her superiors, the Human Patriots, the Vanguard, the Coalition States – they would not understand. There would be no place in this world for her son. There would be no place in HER world for Trent’s son. Not unless she left her world far behind. Could she do that? Abandon everything she knew… everything she held dear… everything that defied Trent’s philosophy. She and he had never seen eye-to-eye but they had set aside their differences to travel together, in the company of J.F.C., for the good of the Megaverse. Their paths had aligned and their purposes had coincided… for not the first time in their lives… and it had felt good. It had felt REALLY good. It had felt like home, fighting by his side – more like watching his back and making sure he didn’t get into too much trouble.
She smiled. Watching the baby’s tiny chest rising and falling with each breath was mesmerizing. She remembered back to that time Trent had…
Jescha whipped her head around, the words of a spell already spilling out of her lips. She had been taken unawares – lack of sleep and breastfeeding at all odd hours had made her very loopy. No more than a second later a shimmering shield materialized around the tiny sleeping body. She had to crane her neck upwards momentarily while the gigantic form of a 40ft woman shrank to more manageable size. It seemed corporeal. And not. Her hackles were raised. Jescha knew this being, though her initial reaction was warranted, as the Ancient Rune Artifact, Dominator-female.
"Veritas," Jescha scowled and prepared to hurl herself at the woman. She found her hand unconsciously reaching for the dagger she kept in her bodice and a gout of flame was only a moment from her lips.
"I did not mean to alarm you, child. Please forgive the intrusion." The giant being – now human-sized – spoke softly and she carried a very large staff made entirely of dark red wood. It knew instantly that it wasn’t welcome and smiled sorrowfully and began to back out of the room slowly. This… alien-thing… wait, it had spoken.
"I thought you couldn’t speak," she whispered so as to not wake Roderick.
The Dominator giantess stopped her retreat and bowed humbly. "I have taken a vow of silence, yes, and I have not broken it." Jescha vaguely registered that she had been communicating telepathically. Wait…what? Her head was so foggy. She needed SLEEP! She dared not sleep around these strangers. Where was Kagome? Or was it Raiko who was supposed to be watching her? Hmm… one of them was watching J.F.C.‘s vault of stuff. One was keeping tabs on the God… she couldn’t help but giggle.
"It is a silly name, isn’t it?"
"Please don’t read my thoughts," Jescha said aloud perhaps a little nastier than she meant it.
"Forgive me. I had only approached thinking you might want… or need some company."
"I’m fine. I would rather be alone." The unspoken thoughts came unbidden to her mind. She desperately wanted company! But she’d rather drown in a fucking bathtub than entertain some giant magical mind-reading sentient staff thing… as her "company."
The Bar-aldack Kelder-gest female retreated without another word. She smiled full of sorrow, knowing well what it was like to be a new mother. She looked back at the baby in the makeshift crib and smiled warmly before retreating out of the room. Jescha watched her go and finally breathed deeply, agitatedly. She felt a slight pang for how rudely she had responded to the… alien. She sat back down on the bed next to baby Treasure. She was just so tired. She held her head in her hands and began to cry. Trent would want her to be strong. Trent would want her to be a part of this… movement. He would want this for his son. And if there was any way… any way at all that she could be a part of the effort to rescue him, then she had to do it. These people meant well. They had gathered here… for some reason. And they were furthering Trent’s cause… while trying to spring him from an infernal prison. The thoughts were coming quicker now. They were too disjointed. She wasn’t thinking clearly. She had been rude… to an alien. What. the. fuck. Everrrrrrrr…
Sleep came quickly.
"I think this is my best one yet, Lytsong ," Trent announced with finality.
"It does look nice ma-, er, Trent," the sword responded in his head while the image of the sword’s spirit, a Dwarven Woman in armor, stood next to him in his mind’s eye. "Though I must confess, the arcane arts are not my specialty."
Trent stood back and admired his handiwork. He had spent the last few hours laying out the symbols in an ornate, intricate way. He had never gotten so artistic in his magic before, but he felt the desire to experiment here. He was confident all the required elements were there in the circle, just now they were ornately decorated and greatly expanded in scope. He felt this one in particular deserved some artistic flair.
His cottage and a large swath of land around it were all encompassed in the magic circle he had drawn. Looking from the patterns and symbols in the circle to the woods beyond his small dwelling, Trent caught sight of some movement beyond the trees and scowled. He had tolerated the first few voyeurs he had noticed – after all, Sahtalus had told him he would be watched. But as the days wore on it seemed his not-so-secret audience grew in size, and it made him uncomfortable. "Don’t these creatures have a war to be fighting, or something?" Trent wondered for not the first time.
But no matter. If they wanted something to look at, he would give them something to stare at – if they dared.
Trent walked to the edge of the circle he had just completed. He knelt down once he reached the edge and reached a hand out to touch it. Closing his eyes to concentrate allowed him to better hear the rustling sounds that came from the forest on this windless day. He could also hear the Deevil watchers milling about, whispering to each other in uncertain tones over what this unusual circle was. With an effort of will he channeled some of the clean, pure energy within himself into the circle. The symbols within lit up in a cascading effect reaching out from the spot he touched along the circle in both directions. The symbols almost seemed to pop up out of the circle in 3D as they lit up, creating an impressively dazzling display.
Looking into the forest as the circle activated Trent could see figures suddenly moving with little stealth or subterfuge. They shielded their eyes from the circle in sudden horror, or just turned and ran away. Trent chuckled – it was exactly what he expected. The superior circle of protection would be impossible for the lesser of these creatures to even look at. And judging by the reactions it seemed most of these spectators were of the ‘lesser’ variety.
"Won’t Sahtalus be upset that you did this to his watchers?" Lytsong carefully asked. When it came to talking about Sahtalus Lytsong was always carefully guarded. She was still having some trouble recalling and talking about the events that happened during the initial days they were held captive in Sahtalus’ stronghold.
"I doubt it," Trent responded casually. "None of these pests were subtle or competent. They aren’t his spies. One of them is that bird in the tree about 50 feet over there, and I haven’t seen the other one in a couple of days but I’m sure it’ll be back eventually." Trent nonchalantly looked over at the bird he referred to and it just cocked its head quizzically at him, as if it hadn’t been the same bird on the same branch for the last week, always watching him. Trent winked at it and turned his attention back to Lytsong.
"Now that the idle spectators are out of the way, let’s get back to our experiment," Trent announced. "I have a good feeling about today." He walked towards the center of the clearing where the sword, Lytsong, sat propped against a tree stump. The protection circle glowed silently and comfortingly all around him.
A silver wall appeared in between Sakura and Kiku as the dragon dove down towards her. Kiku was surprised but, armored as she was, burst right through it. Sakura was blown back by the exploding wall as Kiku’s mass and momentum shattered it. Kiku began to ascend again but Sakura recovered fast! She sprang back up and ran after the dragon, leaping into the air in order to land on the dragon’s tail. Where, thankfully, there were knife handles embedded to allow her to grab and hold on.
Kiku thrashed her tail wildly to try and shake Sakura, but the woman’s grip was solid. So instead Kiku used her own powers to grow silver around Sakura’s hands, forcing her to stay attached. Then Kiku angled her flightpath in order to graze the tops of the ruined buildings from Old Seattle around the J.F.C. building. Carefully she dipped her tail down in order to drag Sakura through the buildings.
Sakura braced herself as best she could as her forced passage through them demolished the buildings. The whole time she worked to free her hands, using the collisions as a means to weaken the encasement. Kiku laughed. "Don’t fall off now!" She shouted at Sakura.
One by one the buildings around the JFC building began to shudder and collapse as the dragon and her passenger overstressed the already weakened and compromised structures. The noise was deafening and the ground shuddered as the concrete and steel finally gave way to gravity and time.
Angrily Sakura ripped free of the silver bonds that trapped her. "What if there were people in those buildings?!" She shouted at Kiku. "Goddammit, this isn’t fun anymore!"
"There wasn’t anyone in them, I would’ve sensed them," Kiku replied honestly. "You should be more concerned about yourself!" With that Kiku whipped her tail and sent the distracted Sakura flying towards the JFC building, right through the window of James’ new room.
James had dismissed the visitors and gone back to the work on his desk. "Paper work paper work and more paper work," he thought to himself. Other then the brief visit by magnus and his crew, that was how his day was going.
"What the… why do they need a toilet on a roof!" James sighed. These petitions where supposed to be screened before they got to him.
"Remind me again why i wanted to become king?" James said to no one in particular.
It was at that moment that a purple haired girl came crashing through his window and into his desk.
"I would say I’m surprised but im not… Hello Sakura… Care to explain why my desk is now wrecked and there appears to be a silver dragon about to come into my office?"
The metamorphosis took only a few seconds but Kiku swooped downward in an attempt to land… far less gracefully than her passenger. Her landing was going to be very dangerous! She buffeted her massive metallic wings in an attempt to slow her descent but it didn’t do much. As a massive, ancient dragon her weight was measured in TONS of muscle and sinew and furious anger. Now cover that thing in metal and ask it to stop on a dime; it wasn’t happening. She was coming in hot and had to transform BEFORE she destroyed half the JFC building in the process. The gigantic draconic form begun to melt away but not before the silver scales and plates peeled back, a few silver daggers falling away from the tail, to reveal a young Asian woman beneath the frightening exterior. She was mid-metamorphosis when she crashed through what was left of the window, behind Sakura, and took the rest of the window frame and wall with it. She hit the floor of James’s office with a THUD and rolled with the impact – now mostly human – trying to bounce back up but not quite catching her balance. Wobbily she stood and steadied herself grinning fiercely at the purple-haired woman.
"That was fun!" she giggled… but cut herself off mid-sentence and cocked her head.
Sakura arched an eyebrow.
"Jat, I knew you couldn’t resist," Kiku said to a blond woman coming into the room. "You’re a sucker for a good brawl."
Sakura recognized the blond woman as one of the many recent arrivals to the J.F.C. building. She hadn’t been very social since her arrival but then Sakura hadn’t gone out of her way to make the introductions either. Sakura gave a quick, apologetic glance to James and warily backed up toward a corner in order to keep both Kiku and Jatarri in her sight.
Sakura’s brain was processing the situation so quickly that it almost seemed like slow-motion. Kiku crouched in an almost awkward stance, ready to continue the battle. To Sakura’s trained eye she looked like her fighting form and martial arts style were better suited to… um, having a few thousand pounds weight advantage over her opponent. Which Sakura knew could happen at a moment’s notice. Meanwhile the blond woman, Jatarri, upon closer inspection seemed like the far more dangerous combatant. She was leisurely readied in a stance that was unfamiliar to Sakura, but it had notes of an Eastern marial-art form meditative in posture but with very quick striking opportunities. Were they gearing up to continue the fight? The blond woman winked at her as if to say, "Oh, it’s on."
"We’re dragons. You didn’t think we would fight fairly, did you?" Kiku teased.
So, two versus one was it? Sakura readied herself, unworried. She knew she could even the odds at a moments notice, if she needed to.
"ENOUGH!!!!" James shouted at the three of them. "If you all keep up this childish behavior I will have you arrested and thrown in jail! This is my office, not a sparring ring! And as much as I would gladly fight you all I have work to do! Sakura and Jat please leave. I need to have words with Kiku."
"Ma- Trent. Within this circle I feel somewhat safe from intrusion. I’m impressed you were able to erect such a barrier here… within the belly of the beast."
"The ‘belly of the beast’ – I like that expression, Lytsong. Even here, levels above the citadel, it does still feel like we’re still inside Grim, doesn’t it?"
"That monster is everywhere. It’s a constant pressure on my mind… a weight on my shoulders, even when we don’t have his attention. What you have done is incredible."
"I know," Trent said without a hint of humility. "I’m rather impressed – it came out much nicer than I expected. Creating something like this, experimenting with my magic like this… At least if I’m stuck here for a year I’m going to make as much productive use of this time as possible."
"Walk with me for a moment."
Trent knew what that meant but it was weird how she said it. He looked out at the Dark Forest. This cottage in the woods had been their home for a few months already. Lytsong had been his only companion. He trusted her implicitly, perhaps as much or more than anyone else he knew. He hadn’t gotten this far by ignoring his intuition and… possibly also his paranoia. He took a calming breath and smiled at the Dyvalian denizens who had stuck around, hiding behind trees or rocks and peeking out occasionally. They couldn’t stand the sight of his Circle but they could tolerate it for a few moments, no more than that. It took a few moments of concentration for the spells to come to mind but they were cast with practiced ease and it was rewarding to look on Lytsong, all four and a half feet of her.
"We are as safe now as we probably can ever be in this Hell. You haven’t been the same since we got that letter. What do you want to say to me?"
Lytsong was beautiful. She wasn’t quite Trent’s type but that never seemed to matter. She had appealed to him on a different level – one of confidence and friendship and trust. One of companionship and camaraderie – not mutual attraction. She had gravitated, naturally, toward the fashion of her ancient time and age when she had actual clothing to don for a physical body. Her appearance was usually one of casual formality. She was regal in her mannerisms and her upbringing. She could make a frock look formal. She enjoyed the robes of station and usually took to wearing reds with gold – inlaid or with highlights. Now, however, she wore a suit of armor. She was dressed for battle. Her face was a guarded mask of tension. She actually held a weapon, a spear, and a shield. She looked like a short, ancient Amazon Shield-Maiden… or a tiny Valkyrie. There were splashes of red and gold to accent her armor but completely gone was all semblance of casual formality. Lytsong was going to war.
"I do not pretend to understand the nuances of the arcane. If you say we are as safe here as we can be then that will suffice."
Trent let her continue and tried not to show his impatience. He knew rushing her would do no good, and may even get her to shut down again. Whatever this was she had to say, Trent could tell it was important to her and she was very worried about talking about it. Still, it wasn’t like her to meander around something like this.
"There was something more to that letter than it first appeared. And the next two things I say to you will have dire repercussions. You need to hear them and you need to hear them now."
"Lytsong the suspense is killing me," Trent finally said to her.
"You’re a master of all things temporal. Suspense should be the LAST thing that kills you… Master."
"Time Immemorial! C’mon Lytsong!"
"First, what I could not say to you before about what happened to me while you were… out-of-time: Sahtalus attempted to rip my soul and consciousness out of this sword. He wanted to use me to spy on you but I am firmly implanted in this blade; they were unsuccessful. At Grim’s suggestion they tried to implant a second soul within the weapon so that you might be fooled; but I fended them off. As their time ran short Grim took my blade INTO himself and… tainted me with his essence. He is like a foul, mutating disease that feeds and grows and can lay dormant or expand rapidly. His is a chaotic, vile… presence… or magic… or…"
"Wait, Grim’s essence is in the sword?" All this time since they were there, the true threat lie within one he thought was his greatest ally. Of course, how very Dyvelian. This was almost too much for Trent to process… almost. But he was already thinking of how to deal with it. How to Purge it.
"There is a dormant taint on the sword. I have suppressed it but I do not know what power it gives him over me or the blade or even the ability to see and hear what we are now saying."
"Why did you keep this from me? Why tell me now?"
"I was worried that by telling you or acting differently or doing anything to tip Grim off would draw his attention or to force their hand prematurely. I don’t know what they plan to do but I feel Grim Mortis all the time. Every time a citadel or tower is cast through time and through the dimensions he extends himself and expands – only to contract, later – and consolidate. He is some kind of magical… mutation. Like a cancer. It scares me."
"There’s more to this…" Trent was very perceptive and he had known Lytsong for quite some time now. The pieces of the puzzle were slowly arranging themselves and fitting into place but not quickly enough. Maybe a purge wasn’t what was needed – if this let her feel Grim’s actions, then maybe it would be useful to keep the suppressed essence?
"That cryptic letter – there was something else in it. A plan… instructions. And allies. You don’t have much longer before the Minion War reaches critical mass and Sahtalus makes his move. Regardless of who’s calling the shots – Sahtalus or Grim – Sahtalus’s plan was a very good one. Grim will probably follow through with it. He wants Modeus badly – and that book. It’s more valuable than we may have realized… and we already thought it was basically the most valuable book in existence. Personally, and this is just conjecture, I think it will provide some insights into Grim and the Tome of Dark Genesis – and the fact that Grim wants it so badly is now something that he can’t hide. Sahtalus, is a Master Schemer – perhaps he has already planned for this. The Eye of Sahtalus sees everything, right? If he didn’t seem so off his game I might think that was true."
"Lytsong, slow down." He hadn’t seen here like this before… maybe a little bit when she had first returned from the interrogation with Sahtalus. Was something wrong? Was this Grim’s influence? Suddenly he reconsidered the Purge.
"I’m sorry. I think we are in grave danger. No. I think YOU are in grave danger. You are being used like a pawn to get the Omega Book; we already knew that. We knew that your year of prison – captured here in Hell – would culminate in that final mission – in return for the promise that your wife and progeny will live out their lives unmolested. I have my suspicions about Grim’s intentions and I think he will attempt to subvert or intervene in Sahtalus’s plan when he thinks he no longer needs the Lord of Dyval."
Trent recalled that conversation with Sahtalus, and their deal. Lytsong was greatly summarizing it – his year in Dyval was protecting a lot more people than just Jescha and their child. All his allies, and even some of his enemies, would be freed from involvement in Dyval plots. "Lytsong, you haven’t really told me anything I don’t already know. Take some time to collect your thoughts. I’m not going anywhere." That letter had seemed a little strange – a little convenient – and it had given him something that he hadn’t quite felt in a long time. Hope. There were people out there who cared about him – people who cared about his mission and his beliefs and exposing Chaos for what it was. He had deciphered some of it but it mostly seemed far-fetched and distracting, like a ploy from an enemy to keep him off-balance. He didn’t like where Lytsong was going with all this and he wished she’d just spit it out already. But he held his tongue because he respected her and knew this was very difficult for her.
Lytsong spoke back up again. "If we are being watched or eavesdropped – this is the part that matters most. Can you do anything more than this circle?"
Trent smiled. "I have a few ideas we can explore, but some of the best ideas I can think of will require more rsearch. Maybe it’s time we took advantage of the hospitality offered to us and traveled to that library I’ve heard of?" Trent grabbed the sword and sheathed it onto his back. He went inside to begin to put together what he would need to travel. What was it his brother used to like to say? "Now is the time for action." It was, Trent agreed. Playtime, vacation time was over. He had some work to do.