Seas Beyond Infinity

By Finnigan
Youth awakens at dawn
a strange array this cast
it's been ten-thousand years ago
since we've seen the last
sail the seas beyond infinity

A golden child awakens
following the path in sight
a Huntress stalks the world
seeks an earth of blight
twilight befalls the seventh hour


Gaze upon Varsylian shores
the Anchovi and Fighter in need
taking up civil unrest
emancipate and be freed
the empire winds in the summer day


Transform into beautiful shape
a princess cloaks herself in grey
the Anchovi struggle for steady foot
until she joins the fray
chime the etude of the unrequited


This is a thinly veiled off-shoot of Noir Fabula. May or may not be canon, but who knows what will happen in ten thousand years.
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Finnigan     7y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size20 #ARC 1: NOCHT CITY SHUFFLE#]
[size16 #Lawnchair Daydreaming#]

Frank Dietz was hard of hearing.

“I’m not entirely sure how I got to this point in my life. Mom never really cared for me and died of a broken heart. Sister said it was because of our no good daddy left the ranch when we were just young’uns. We were just kids playin’ in the dirt and then we grew up. We didn’t need no school. We were outstandin’ citizens. Then Elle died last summer due to that plague Doc Roc was talkin’ about. Losin’ her was probably the biggest heartbreak I have ever went through, sheriff. It’s just me now moseyin’ on with life. And well, lIfe is just grand.”

The sheriff closed his files. Frank Dietz strikes again. Annoyed with the bantering rancher, Sheriff Dempsi parted his cigarette from his lips and pointed at the loon. Coughing, he shooed away the smoke and flared his nose.

“Frank, you’re gonna need to talk to the doc about all that. I didn’t bring you in today just to hear you dribble senselessly about your childhood. I’m not the right guy for that job. The person I’m interested in today is Bazmina. You know, Bazmina Hazrah, your supposed betrothed.”

“Well sheriff, I wish I knew where she was too. Now,” Frank began to rise out of his seat, “if you’ll excuse me, I gotta go tend to the chickens and chickadees. My ranch hand is out sick today with a serious case of them phlegms.”

Dempsi halted Frank from going any further and ordered him to sit back down. He thought rather lowly of Frank Dietz and his silly chicken farm. “Frank, when there happens to be a person missing from our small city of Last for past couple of weeks, it tends to be urgent. People start to worry when [i outstanding] people of our town goes missing, yet you don’t seemed phased whatsoever. Your careless attitude about this leads me to suspect that you’ve murdered her in cold blood. You don’t have anything relevant to her recent disappearance, do you?”

“Me?” Shocked, Frank finally woke up from his daydream of lawnchair lounging and sweet mojitos. “I haven’t been touched in weeks, sheriff. No one is readily standin’ by to give me the ole’ one-two.”

“Frank.”

“What?”

“Too much.” Sheriff Dempsi was really the only man in Last qualified for this job. A man maybe not ten years older than Frank was centuries more wiser than the farmer. Everyone was either too senile or drunk to handle the job. He cleared his throat and attempted to ask nicely. “When was the last time you saw Baz?”

“I reckon a fortnight, sheriff. You know how she’s always diggin’ around in Nocht City. She’s one of those runners. Lookin’ for books--heck, who reads anymore, sheriff, honestly--and shiny doodads. All useless in the end. We agree that we do whatever keeps each other happy. We’re a perfectly happy couple.”

Picking up a pen and some scrap paper, Sheriff Dempsi furthered the interrogation. “And this doesn’t bother you anyhow?”

“No sirree. We trust each other. We’re both aware of our professions, sir. I tend to the chickens and she goes off explorin’.” Frank raised an eyebrow and leaned in. “Are you sure you know who Mina is? She’s more than capable. I could tell you the entire story about how she saved me from a bunch of beasts, but I’m sure that I don’t have enough time for that. You would think she would be at a disadvantage with one hand tied behind her back, but good Bazmina pulled through like the champ she is. She is quite the woman. Actually, I reckon I have the time to tell you the tale, so it goes--”

“Ahem. That’s all we have for today, Frank. Maybe another time.”

Gren Dempsi slammed his notes down and escorted the droll Frank out of the shabby office and into the rundown hallways of Last’s sorry excuse for a police department. As they walked across the courtyard, Frank stuck his tongue out to the criminals in their stockades. The criminals, both imprisoned for petty theft, looked at each other and sighed. Frank Dietz visited the department every other week. His visits entailed the mean-mugging of the receptionist, the sad attempts at taunting the inmates, spacing out in the middle of the sheriff’s diatribe, making quips at the expense of the inmates on his way back out, and forgetting which way was home.

Luckily a familiar face awaited the dumbfounded Dietz as he stepped out the doors. Five-foot, two inches, one-hundred sixty-five pounds of muscle and bubble. Eyes ice cold blue and hair black like the night. She had a light tan unlike the sunburnt Frank, and she was a much better dresser than him too, but that was not saying much. Brown knee high boots passed down from her grandfather Luo, beige aviator pants, a yellow tank top, and the leather jacket to round it all up. She swung by to talk about business. Jackie Simms. His partner in crime. Literally. By day, the awfully gruff Frank Dietz tended to his three foot chickens, but by night he was another vagrant on the floating continent.

“Howdy.” He waved with a smile on his face.

“The ‘riff riding your ass again, Frankie?”

They pulled in closer for an embrace meant for equals. Frank had several more inches in height against her.

“Nah, Jackie. Good ole’ Sheriff Dempsi is worried about Mina again.”

Jackie always had a rather coarse voice but she managed to honey her words. “Mina-baby? She’s a grown woman, Frankie. Remember when she saved you from those wasteland monsters? With one arm, nonetheless.”

“That’s what I told the sheriff, Jackie. And he knows this too.”

“The ‘riff wouldn’t bring it up unless he thought there was something wrong, Frankie. You know, it wouldn’t hurt us if we made it downtown.”

“You’re talkin’ outta your ass, Jackie.” Frank started to head home, in the wrong direction of course. When he stepped eastward, the good Jackie redirected him towards the farm. “We are not goin’ to the city. Too dangerous.”

Jackie laughed. “What’s this? I didn’t know that the good ole Frank Dietz was chicken shit. And I know that you know you don’t want the town of Last to know that you a chicken shit. The ‘riff would love to parade you down the streets.”

“Jackie ‘G’damn’ Simms.”

“Frankie-baby ‘Chicken Shit’ Dietz. I don’t want to hear any of it.”

Frank pulled out and lit a cigarette. One drag, two drag, three. He stopped to take a fourth hit and just looked at Jackie. “Mina is more than capable. She don’t need me worryin’.”

Jackie hated when Frank smoked and snatched the cigarette from his lips. Smiling, she flung it to the side and smirked. “Frankie, I understand your plight. You don’t think we can handle the concrete jungle by our lonesome. Hence, you chicken shit.”

“I just think it’s unnecessary. We don’t even know if she’s in the city. Heck, for all we know, she got kidnapped by another town. Desperado is always lookin’ to snatch up the womens.”

“What is wrong with you?” Furious, Jackie stamped her boots. “You’ll go through the entire book of excuses. I don’t get you, Frankie, you say that you love her, but you won’t stick your neck out the door for her? What are you afraid of?”

“I’m not afraid.”

Jackie knocked him straight off his feet with a kick to the chest. She grabbed him by the collar and reeled him in closer. The scrub could only hold his breath as she angrily retaliated.

“Stop lying through your teeth. You said we were supposed to be honest with each other. We’re partners, we’re supposed to know what each other is thinkin’ and feelin’. We’ve been through worse, Frankie, and you know this, man. We ran through the night and a volley of bullets to get to this point. We’ve danced with fire and saw the devil himself. We lost Carlos, Luoco, Mami, Yeng. Hannity, Harmon, Roybal, and Westby. So you’re telling me that we just let Bazzy-baby die? A heart so thoughtless, Frankie. I know you’re wounded, but let me in.”

She tossed him back into the desert and turned to the vastness that surrounded Last and Nocht City. Jackie thought about leaving this floating rock, but she wouldn’t leave without Frank. They were essentially siblings, brought up in the same strife and all. He said he would stay for Bazmina’s work, and while it was true, Frank did not want to move on. He did not want to cut ties with his roots. He said leaving would erase all his history.

“I got angry,” he said. “Frustrated, really. Baz is always gone, and you know how she can keep it cool. Ice cold like a good beer on a hot evenin’. Sometimes I hate that about her. She’s always right and I’m always wrong. Well, I was wrong this time. Really wrong. I stumbled into her place all drunk. She sat there all calm and cool while I begged her to stay. Then I called her out, said that she was fuckin’ her side bitch in the city. Baz never retaliated and sat there in silence; I know she would never cheat on me. I lost it, I lost it all, Jackie. My rage flipped her shanty upside down, and she didn’t do a thing about it except leave the next mornin’. Pride wouldn’t let me admit that I fucked up.”

Jackie lent a hand out and picked up Frank. She was right about before. She and Frank have lived through so much. After the bandit business slowed down, Frank somehow found Baz. Jackie would never admit to it out loud, but her brother Frank has been the happiest fellow since then.

“You’re possibly the biggest sap I’ve ever met, Frankie. Grade A maple.”

“What’s maple?”

“A tree that hasn’t existed in the past thousand years, but that’s irrelevant. I had another side job lined up for us, but it seems like it can wait. We gotta go find your girl, Frankie.” She playfully punched Frank on the arm, but always forgot how dense her punches were. As lanky Frank stumbled away, the bubbly Jackie laughed. “I got your back, bud.”

“Thanks.”

“I mean it, Frankie. You know the motto. ‘We ride together, we die together.’”

“C’mon, that’s the lamest motto ever. Can’t we change it to somethin’ a little more today-ish? Like...uh, hm. ‘Sit back, drink beers, and fuck the rest.’ Yeah, I like that one better. Fuck the rest.”

Jackie shook her head. “You know, if it weren’t for the ‘riff, you’d never get off that farm. Your best friends would be the ladies who lay eggs and the guys who get more tail feather than you.”

“Yeah, yeah. Like I haven’t heard that one before.”

“Anyways, make sure that you get your truck in decent shape before tomorrow morning at 0300. Get your best gear and be ready to pick me up. I do not need to remind you that the anywhere outside of Last is is a free-for-all battlefield. We have done plenty of stupid things in the past, mi amigo, but let’s face it: we’re not city folk. We’re...a new breed of sorts. Not the smartest, but we can definitely put up a darn good fight. The city can be a dangerous place.”

Frank stared off towards Nocht City. The grimacing Mad Moon vigilantly watched from the other side of the city. No matter where you lived on Guten Nocht, Mad Moon and the tallest tower were the two structures you could see. They happened to also be the least of anyone’s concern, especially with the continuous threats of rapists, murderers, and monsters. The moon women and men have always said that there are a thousand ways to die on Nocht. Frank Dietz was one-thousand one on the list.

“The city ain’t never met me.”
Finnigan     7y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Desolate World, Nocht City#]

Sitting in the darkness with dim light to guide, Jackie rudely snatched the carton of cigarettes from Frank’s groggy grip. She crinkled the carton before the starry-eyed goon, and he shrieked in dismay. The morning sun had not shone yet, and Mad Moon’s eerie glow pierced the night.

“Muh, cigarettes.”

“No smoking in the car. Besides, these things will kill you, Frankie.”

Frank Dietz was a rather built fellow, but his habit kept him in check from doing any significant muggings. The last couple of times ended with him punching his way through a crowd of good-doers instead of dashing back to the getaway truck. Since then, Jackie was looking to get him back into shape. She suspected that Bazmina made him gain a few pounds. Frank was strangely content.

“What did you pack for lunch?” Jackie asked Frank as he shut his door closed.

Frank opened up his knapsack. Jackie thought for a second that he would bring something feasible to the table, but her face sank into her palms. Disappointment. Again. The sickly and shapely shells. The saltiness too, she could not forget about that too. She hated the mess that came with all the hard work for such a small reward.

“Peanuts. Really, Frankie? This will not even last you the entire trip to the city. Peanuts are messy too. If you have to eat, we’re pulling over. No peanuts in my truck!”

“Jackie, c’mon. We’re thieves, we thrive in the dirt. We live in Last for pete’s sake. We’re dirty, dusty, grimy, germy people already!” Frank went for a peanut, but Jackie move swifter than him. With her fingertips, she jabbed the peanut to the floor.

“Not in this baby, Frank! Ain’t seen no dirt in here and I don’t plan on it. Anyways, we got everything?”

Frank rolled his eyes and looked back into the bed of the mint colored truck. What an odd and old vehicle. Mint? This was obviously not Jackie’s typical pickup truck. Frank guessed that she was “stylin’” or whatever the local hoodlums hollered when they were acting suave.

“Yeah, shotguns, pistols, rifles, nets. We’re gonna save Mina!”

“Alright, outlaw. We’ll arrive in seven hours. Running an hour or so behind schedule because your clunker over yonder is a piece of crap. I swear, Frankie, where does all your money go to?”

[i ‘Cigarettes and a new life.’]

Frank looked outside the passenger seat’s window. His rundown sloppy jalopy was still smoking at the hood.

“She was a cantankerous fellow. That’s for sure.”

“Right,” Jackie murmured under breath.

They left the farm with haste and headed towards the fading lights of Nocht City. The ghastly horizon stretched for miles and all they could see was vast emptiness. Small colonies of thistle would flank the sides of the road. The eras of the past came long ago, leaving their mark. The sand, dust, and grit followed closely behind. As Guten Nocht grew outwards and to this day continued to expand, the city slowly dwindled in a murmur. A mass exodus, Sheriff Dempsi once mentioned. Doc Roc believes that most lives were lost during a great war and plague.

[i Bazmina wanted to know.] The world was still enshrouded in a black fabric. The books, as if Frank ever picked up one, only spoke of tall tales and shoddy recipes. History was lost with time, lost with the people of all nations’ ignorance. His fiance once hypothesized that the city was to be held accountable for a fragmented past. Frank leaned his head into his window and wondered about Bazmina. Why all these thoughts, why now? Terrified of his own mind, Frank glanced over to the stalwart Jackie before closing his eyes shut.

“Hey princess,” Jackie grabbed Frank by the love handle and pinched down, “We’re approaching the outskirts of town. And you do not wanna miss out on all this.”

Rubbing the grit from eyes and awaking to the bright sun, the cottonmouth outlaw of Last dropped his jaw. Old relics crafted from old brick and stone surrounded them. All the houses and apartment complexes stood half erect. The wild ivy crept alongside claimed the carapaces. Great leafy trees erupted through concrete and swarmed what open plot they could claim. Jackie herself was quite impressed with it all that she pulled over. The city was so vivid and crisp, and the sun kept her vehicle toasty. Color hid within the dead city. It was here all along.

“How have we not been out here, Frankie?” Impressed by it all, Jackie shed a tear at the sight of breathless beauty. “Why didn’t Bazmina tell us about this?”

“That’s the question on my mind. Maybe we can find some food while we’re out here too. The good sheriff will be pleased with us if we brought back somethin’ tasty for him.” Even Frank had to take a brief moment to reflect on the city’s austerity.

Then it all happened all that quick. At first, Jackie looked up and straight forward. She couldn’t believe her own eyes. She fumbled to tap Frank on the chest, and then Frank began to stare through the truck window. He could not believe what, or rather who, he was seeing. There she was, standing in the shade with her wavy black hair flowing with the potent wind. That beautiful brown body and her face.

“Mina!” As he stepped out of the truck, Frank shouted against the wind’s roar. “Mina!”

Emotionless. The tall figure before the glistening mint green truck shrugged off his calls and phased out the roaring gusts. Instead, she turned back for the city and ran. She sprinted down the road faster than Frank had ever seen. The supernatural gait did not stop her lover from pursuing by boot. Frank put his might and luck to the test, yet fell short after a pathetic ten seconds.

Jackie pulled up to the exhausted Frank and opened the passenger door. “Get in loser, we’re pursuing.”

Not even the mint pickup truck was a match for the outrageous speeds. Mina zipped around corners with Jackie on hot pursuit. The back wheels skidded along the miraculously preserved streets. The facetious duo paid no attention to the sun-eclipsing skyscrapers nor the architecture of great magnitude and integrity. Many sleek obelisks in design held the skies up while the smaller sections of the intricate buildings fancied curvature and walls made of steel and glass windows.

“Somethin’ ain’t right, Jackie.” Giving one good rub to his stubbly chin, Frank did not like the unforeseeable outcome.

Jackie shot a glance at Frank. “You don’t think she’s leading us into a trap or anything like that, do ya, Frankie? If your girl does us wrong, she gonna get it. Heck, I’ll be the first to put a shotgun shell into her boob.”

Then, the entire chase led to the mecca of Nocht City. The other buildings stayed rather close to it like the snotty children to their big bosomed mother. Perhaps the smaller skyscrapers were the ones who offered protection to the gleaming tower. People back then must have saw this glorified lighthouse as some beacon of hope. Jackie and Frank hopped out of the car and slowly approached the still figure.

“Mina! What was that? I’m sorry!” Frank yelled although the wind had died down a bit.

“Don’t be,” she remarked emotionlessly. “You’ve done me no harm, Frank. As far as my actions, I do apologize for them.”

Frank slowly approached the turned figure. “Yeah, I’ll say. Ain’t never witness you do that before, Mina, and damn you gave us a good chase. Hey, why don’t you face us. I haven’t seen you in a long ass time.”

“That’s the thing,” Mina’s voice died out along with her shell. Her skin and clothing all broke as if it was the fragile porcelain mice Frank’s late sister collected. Its skin shimmered in the sunlight like pristine dishes. The body puffed up like gaudy fur coats and a white antenna sprung from its head. Freaked out, Frank moved away as the crystalline creature spoke once more. “I’m not Mina.”

Pulling out his revolver, Frank screamed, “Then who the fuck are ya? And where’s Bazmina?”

“I am Lucavi detective Duster. I am no harm to you, but if we don’t act now, Ms. Hazrah might suffer the consequences.”

Keeping a close eye on Duster, Frank cautiously backed away and stood by Jackie’s side. The Mad Moon creature of intelligent design observed as the two fuddled around asked each other what a Lucavi was.

“You do know what a Lucavi is, right?”

“Yeah, yeah. But give us a reminder,” Frank hollered. “We’re not from one of those bourgeoisie communes.”

“I see. The Lucavi are essentially the intelligent beings of Mad Moon first created many millennia ago. We serve as law enforcement and a ruling body in Nocht City. Our goals are to preserve all life in the city and unravel any mysteries and occults that may have been left by those who predate us. Your…[i fiancee] Mina is currently being held captive in the only place the Lucavi cannot enter.”

“Now Duster, how can we trust that you’re telling the truth? This could be one giant elaborate trap to snatch some of us people for tonight’s meal. In that case, the only lick you’ll get is a taste of my shotgun here.”

“Lucavi do not require sustenance. We have adapted through the years and we are one of the few reasons why Nocht City is habitable. Even if the Lucavi needed food to survive, it wouldn’t be that difficult to harvest humans once they step foot into the city. We are more than capable of wrangling humans up as if they were chickens.” Duster tilted his head at Frank. “The only thing we require is human cooperation. This would be an excellent time to cooperate with the Lucavi. Not only does it benefit me, it also benefits the wellbeing of Ms. Hazrah. Ms. Hazrah and I have been working in tandem for several months now. Ms. Hazrah has demonstrated great aptitude for unraveling the mysteries of the city as well as the entirety of Guten Nocht. She poses very good questions that not even the Lucavi can answer. A true human historian. Well, isn’t that an oxymoron.”

“Thanks for the report card, teach, but you ain’t tellin’ me where Mina is.”

“Ms. Hazrah volunteered to recover a parcel from this tower for the Lucavi. She was brave enough to go alone as it is customary that no Lucavi should enter this tower under any circumstances. I owe a great debt to her and I will owe a greater one if you make amends to my tragic flaw. I was unable to fend off an ambush. About a gang of twenty men and women made their way into the tower. From what I can sense, Ms. Hazrah has managed to elude many of her attackers.”

“I don’t like the sound of this, Jackie. This fellow isn’t very promising.” Frank took another good look at Duster. He could not help but wonder what sort of peril awaited them.

“Yeah, I don’t like the idea of two versus twenty myself, but if Mina is in there, what other choice do we have? We’re strapped and this guy seems like our only lead. Nobody in their right mind would be cavorting around as someone else unless they had a good reason.”

“Still, two fending off twenty. Somethin’s gotta give. I don’t think we can negotiate with city thugs.” Frank approached the weird alien man and puffed out his chest. “We’ll go in there and save Mina. But that’s it. No more of this ‘unravelin’ business. Mina’s life is not for sale for some silly treasure.”

Duster’s voice sank and he coldly remarked, “Frank. The parcel that she’s retrieving is crucial to Guten Nocht. I’m afraid you don’t understand.”

“Ya hear that, Frankie. We’re gonna be rich!”

“This ‘silly treasure’ is worth more than her life, yours, and mine. Worth a thousand if it meant saving the lives of a million.”

Jackie shoved the cold mouth of the shotgun barrel to the back of Duster’s head.

“Yet you won’t step into this place. We either have ourselves a bullshitter or a coward.” Frank had enough of this clown’s nonsense.

“I’m afraid it’s more complicated than that. The Lucavi risk more by entering this building. One word: Dormaviri. They’re Nocht’s boogeymen. They once ruled Nocht just like the humans did before and they crave Lucavi. By setting one foot in there, I risk the extinction of humanity.”

“Of course you do. Move on,” Frank ordered. Taking control of Jackie’s shotgun, Frank pressed the barrel further into the back of Duster’s head. “You’re goin’ to help us find Mina. You’re one of those empaths so you should be able to locate her as well as sense all the baddies. We will make sure no boogeyman gets near you, Duster. Help us get to Mina and you won’t get harmed by no one.”

Jackie, still trying to figure out the creepy Duster, pled with him while the three of them walked up the white marble steps to the entrance. “Frankie and I will keep you safe. He just needs reassurance.”

“I completely understand why he’s doing all of this, but I don’t think you understand the gravity of this. If I step in there, the Dormavir will awaken.”

“Yeah, well it’s all fairy tales, Dusty,” grunted Frank.

Jackie opened the front doors and Frank shoved Duster. The glistening Lucavi resisted, but the gruff Frank was stronger. Duster fell in head first and face down while the others followed inside and closed the doors behind. The main floor was rather poorly lit and lifeless except for the black and white checkered floor. Towards the back of the atrium was a wide staircase leading to the next floor. Duster kept his cool, yet was just as cautious as his companions.

“None of them Dormavir punks. Eh Duster, what you say about that? I guess they’re not hungry after all. Just sleepin'.”

Duster’s glowing yellow pupils scanned the room.

“Yeah, I guess.”
Finnigan     7y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Illuminate#]

Jackie and Frank moved to the front of the pack with arms in hand. The air tasted musty like the scent of summer rain embracing the dry earth.

“I can’t pick up Ms. Hazrah from here, Frank. I’m sensing a great disturbance on the 16th floor.”

“Alright, give me them stats.”

Frank and Jackie hugged the edges of the staircase with fingers hot on the trigger.

“Just another heist in the day and the life of Jackie Simms,” Jackie muttered beneath her breath.

Dozens of stick ups and only a handful of them went awry. Granted, the bullet manufacturing mills went out of business thousands of years ago along with bananas and technology. Guns became obsolete and bullets were a godsend in dustbowl of a continent. Towns like Desperado were rich in shells. They had power and authority to raid the weaker satellite villages Outside of Desperado, Jackie Simms and Frank Dietz were the next leading baddies.

“Three bodies on nine, five on eleven, eight on floor sixteen, two on seventeen, three on twenty-one. The five on floor eleven are in sleep mode. Best course of plan: sneaking operation using lethal force on floors nine and eleven. Suspects are armed and dangerous.”

Impressed, Frank gave the aloof Duster a good pat on the back.

Weirded out, Duster raised his brow ridge. “Have I angered you?”


“What?” Frank scratched his head. “Naw man, you did good. Heck, we should take you on more robberies. You’re quite the nifty tool in our arsenal.”

“I’m glad that I can be of assistance to you, Frank.”

Thirty minutes into the whole ordeal and Duster stood alive and well. Knowing quite well he had broken the law of the Lucavi, he had to report back to his fellow clan and provide details on the Tower of Nocht City. For the longest time, the Lucavi believed that their own kind would bring back the second coming of Salvacion. The auxiliary lighting was the only thing that lived in the tower. Not one soul stirred within the walls of the tallest building in all of Guten Nocht.

The crew reached the stairs leading up to floor nine. No one made a noise, even Frank kept his wise-cracking mouth shut for once. Frank hinted that two of the assailants hid in the corners facing the top of the staircase with the distant third ready to alert the above floors. Taking her last deep breath, Jackie signaled to advance. Their quaint steps evolved into thunderous steps, and as simple as counting one, two, three, Jackie and Frank plugged the first two targets. Wrapping around the corner, neither of them had a clear shot of the third target.

Following behind, Duster spat up a couple of black orbs. He threw the two orbs across across the dimly lit room. As they bobbed and zipped across the room, the lustrous black orbs metamorphosed into two flying crystalline buzzsaws. The glinting white discs nimbly danced before sinking their serrated teeth into cloth and flesh. A low groan dissipated into the air.

“This guy has some moves,” Jackie whispered to Frank. “I don’t have a clue as to why he was so scared to come in.”

“The Lucavi are adept warriors as we are diplomats. I’m strictly against murdering other lifeforms.”

Frank inspected the body on the floor. A clean slice right across his chest. “No you’re not. You just sliced Jimmy over here in half.”

The mechanical being coldly expressed himself. “I’m making today’s events the only exception. I am having a hard time expressing...fear? Is that what you humans call it, fear?”

“Yes. And if you ever need to express your fear, you’re allowed to,” Jackie sincerely smiled. She grabbed his hand and gently squeezed it. “We’ll be here for you.”

Duster looked down at his hand and had no idea why humans were so physical. He barely felt her tight grip, yet he was able to memorize every groove, every valley, and hill in her fingers. Strange anatomy.

The next group of invaders stood no chance in their sleep against Frank and Jackie. A quick knifing to the neck and there five bodies rested. Upon further examination of the corpses, Jackie plucked each and every bullet from every pocket and cranny she stuck her fingers in. Frank came across something rarer than the bullets itself. Removing the relic from a worn satchel, he called over Jackie.

“Do you know what this beaut’ is, Jackie?” His eyes glimmered at the well crafted blast from the past. Just the sight of it alone stole his breath. The brass coloring and the ornate decor, Duster swore he heard a small prepubescent girl squeal. “It’s a caster. What’s even better is that it has cartridges. We have struck the jackpot, Jackie! Woo!”

“An art once brought to Guten Nocht as a peace offering between this world and another distant land in The Blue. Magic is rather sparse these days seeing that all, if not most, the ‘magickers’ on Guten Nocht have been eradicated. Spellguns are the remnants of a dead art.”

‘Thanks, Mr. Dictionary,” Frank sniggered and rolled his eyes. Stuffing the shells into his pockets and duffle bag, Frank kissed the old dirty caster. “Well, I’m holding onto this bad boy. It’ll come in great use.”

“Frank, pardon me for interrupting your obsessing, I’m sensing danger on the sixteenth floor. An individual has successful incapacitated five people, but is struggling to keep their ground.”

“It’s Mina!” Frank exclaimed. He was the first to scramble up the stairs and shout back at the other two. “Let’s git goin’!”

Jackie and Duster hightailed it five flights of stairs without stopping and ultimately left Frank behind. Before they could even make onto the sixteenth floor, bullets zipped through the air and the clamor intensified. Bodies were falling over and the sound of rifles stifled the air. Lightning crackled and boots shuffled. The chaos above halted Jackie and Duster, yet the reckless Frank went head first into battle.

Reaching the top of the stairs, Frank scattered the attackers with his shotgun. He rolled into one of the many open rooms surrounding the large hallway. The air smelt of pungent garlic. HIs girlfriend was nearby. The thought of her distracted him long enough for a gunner to rush into the room. Obscured by the shadows, the man repeatedly stomped on Frank and knocked the shells out of his hand and the stale air out of his tired lungs. His vision became enshrouded in spattered blood and darkness.

[i ‘Mina, I’m sorry.’]

[b BANG.]

The thought of dying muffled the noise, but a tall figure tangled it--no--herself with his attacker. The sweet, sweet stench of garlic surged the room. Even though Frank was imagining all the details, the blurry female snapped a humerus and tossed him across the room. She faced another attacker from behind, but her moves were swift and smooth as ever.

“Mina…” he whimpered. “Mina.”

Frank blacked out, but he could hear voices dragging on.

“I didn’t think anyone would come for me. Especially not him. And well, not you two either.”

“Frankie loves you more than you think, Bazzy-B.”

“Duster, you can heal him better than I can. And your parcel: it’s not portable.”

“Leave everything to me. He’ll be patched up faster than a Mad Moon cycle.”

Green. The light that radiated near his stomach was an annoying flash of green. Too bright. Duster’s frail hands emitted this strange yet refreshing aura. On his other side, he was the short and stout Jackie standing next to his beloved Mina. He tried calling out for Mina, but his voice was too weak. The girls were fuddling with an eerie control panel straddling the side of a cylindrical tank.

Duster looked down at Frank and creepily smiled. Frank now knew the reason why people had lips: making any sort of facial gesture without lips would scare children from ever leaving their homes.

“I’m going to do it,” Mina stated. “It’s in a low powered state, but there isn’t enough juice in this entire tower to run this machine. Jackie, I’m gonna need you to step back.”

Amused by the sheer power of Mina, Jackie sat next to Frank and patted him on his shoulder.

“Even when she’s in trouble, Frankie, Bazzy-B is always kicking ass.”

Mina tied back her black curls and rolled up her sleeves. The truest grit of Last, Bazmina Hazrah demonstrated her might. From her fingertips bolts of lightning sprung forth and struck the generator. The proclaimed last magicker of Guten Nocht fueled the machine in seconds. The tank bubbled and the lights within it turned on. A silhouette floated in opaque liquids.

Mina spoke to Duster while clacking away at the console. “I was not expecting [i this], but nonetheless, it’s fascinating. How has it survived all these years without decomposing.”

Indeed, another relic from the past. The one that Duster claimed could alter the fate of humanity and Lucavi-kind alike. Duster removed himself from Frank’s side in favor of the tank and its contents. Just like his counterpart, the strange alien was in awe.

“One of a kind, Ms. Hazrah. A bio-android. Crafted by the greatest minds around the time of Guten Nocht’s Renaissance. We can trace it to this era because of the name attached. Illumina. Though not authorized by the original Illumina, Griff, the greatest minds of Nocht City essentially created life in his image as well as create a living encyclopedia. With his knowledge, Nocht could enter its seventh iteration.”

Starstruck, Mina pressed her hands to the glass tank and took a closer peek. “Do you think he can bring life back to Guten Nocht?”

“I know.”

“And what about magic?”

Duster frowned. “I’m unsure about that, Ms. Hazrah. I don’t know if a scientific mind could dissect the mysteries of magic and have it exist once more on the floating continent. We Lucavi are unsure whether or not magic exists in the Blue.”

Not even the brilliance of his species were aware of the wonders outside of Guten Nocht. Until today, all Lucavi feared two things: entering the Tower of Nocht City and plunging into the Blue. They were rather close to their ancestor, the great Mad Moon, and feared that they would lose themselves to the worldly Blue. If the Lucavi had a concept of religion instilled in their collective and logical mind, Mad Moon we be the closest to their ideal deity.

“We must act quick, Mina.” Without delay, Duster initiated the start up sequence. “I’m afraid that if we stick around here any longer, then we will run into more trouble. In fact, we must leave with Rhys Illumina with much haste for [i she] will arrive after his awakening.”

“I don’t care who she is, we’ll kick her scrawny ass!” exclaimed Frank in the background. Feeling better after his therapy session, he commanded, “Jackie, get me up, we’re suiting up for battle again.”

Mina cracked a faint smile. She wanted to embrace her fiance, but everything was moving too fast. [i ‘Just as soon as things slow down, we have to pick up the pace. I’m sorry Frank. I’m sorry for dragging you into this.’]

“Jackie, I sense that you do not have any problems handling puke and excrement. Would you be kind to carry Mr. Illumina when he awakens. He’ll be quite frail on foot from the atrophy so he’ll need the person with the best balance and strength.”

“Well Doc,” Jackie began to blush and laugh haughtily, “I have been working out. Thank you for noticing.”

“Frank, Ms. Hazrah, and I will surround you, offering the utmost excellence in protecting you.”

The cylinder sounded off. It began to drain its blue gunky water. Knowing what has just happened, Duster skittishly fluttered around and constantly looked up as if something flew around his head. Something or someone was clearly working him up.

“Dormavir still on yer mind, Dusty?” Frank readied his old fashioned revolver and playfully aimed it at Duster. “If yer scared, we’ll take good care of you.”

“I am afraid that our latest challenge is more legitimate than the Dormaviri. She is the Huntress. Her name…”

[b Psssh.][i Rejuvenation process complete.] The lid to the tank popped open and steam fizzled out. Welcome to the world, Rhys Illumina.
Finnigan     7y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Ximena#]

The descent of the Tower of Nocht City was faster than climbing up it. Without worrying about the rest of the goons in the ever-ascending keep, the wily troupe ran around the corners and down the stairs. Lanky Frank slipped, tumbled, and crashed down the stairs on more than one occasion, and Mina was close behind to recover him. He was surrounded by too many fit people. Heck, he felt worse knowing that Jackie could keep up with a dead boy in hand.

Duster emphasized the fact that they absolutely needed to get away from the tower. If his kind could sweat, Duster would pour storms. There was electric in the air and tension so thick that it overloaded his sensory organ. His mind flared up with many other Lucavi. They admonished of [i her] return. The huntress that would start the beginning of the end. Her name ringed within the social groups of the Lucavi. The “Black Witch” as some may call her. The tarantula.

Jackie was the first to reach the ground floor and the first to make her way out with the unconscious boy or at least that’s what she thought. The fair-haired boy, Rhys Illumina as Duster called him, sputtered up leftover blue gunk into her face. Jackie, taken by surprise, was taken back and stood dripping wet in what smelt like rank vinegar and overly ripe citrus. Setting the boy down on his back, Jackie dabbed her face with her sleeves.

He coughed and gasped for air. The bluish hue of his skin simmered into pale pink. Maybe this poor little fellow was human after all. Rhys looked like an alien with his eyes closed. The slight brown tinge in his blond eyebrows prevented the young man from looking like another corpse in a Sunday morning mass. Jackie saw something angelic in the boy, but she stop for such thoughts. Instead, she pulled her jacket off and wrapped it around the boy.

As they rushed down the stairs leading to the tower, the Lucavi froze in the middle of it all as if lightning had rippled through him. In his mind, Duster already knew: he was too late. The clouds were drawn in and the thunder roared. The city quaked and the glass windows chattered. The verdant trees and the winding ivy swayed with the rust-tasting wind. Was he responsible for this? Did he summon the herald of the Dormavir?

Thunder howled and the lightning struck. Duster’s sense of color faded washed out momentarily while the others urged him to budge. Mina’s hazel eyes were the first to spot the malign spider. Clutched to a side of an adjacent building and vigilantly terrorizing the group with her presence, she slowly crawled down, each limb effortlessly stabbing itself into glass and steel alike. Mina readied herself while Frank screamed into Duster’s face.

“Hey, pal!” Frank shook the seemingly empty Duster, “Nocht to Duster, what’s the plan?”

“Run,” he woozily muttered. “Run away as fast as you can. Get Rhys out of here at all costs.”

“Do you think a mere Lucavi cleric can halt Ximena the Huntress,” the mechanical black spider hummed. She crawled to the streets and waited. No one made any sudden moves. “I will feast on your body first, fool.”

Ximena, a wicked beast she was, stood on her hind legs and revealed the only semblance of humanity that she possessed. The flawless black silk that ran from her scalp framed her jagged face. Her acute and boxy nose, her cold sliver lips, harsh glowing green eyes, and the sharp jaw. Her exposed skin was a volatile shade of red violet. Her maker clearly wanted some sort of deranged sex appeal present. Her shoulders were high and well rounded spheres. They connected to her elongated claws, four limbs connected to each sphere. When she stood erect on her powerful legs, she was easily fifteen feet tall, a giantess with such prowess.

“Jackie, you’re gonna make a run for your truck, and you speed on out of here,” Mina made a nudge, “And you hightail it out of here. And don’t look back. Your sole mission right now is to get Rhys out of here. Frank--”

Before she could go any further, the stubborn outlaw with such a gruff attitude butted in.

“Ya don’t need to tell me anythin’ that I don’t already know. You’re goin’ to try to convince me to skidaddle on over back to Last with Jackie. It’s been two weeks since ya looked at me, and now ya want me to just up and leave? It ain’t happenin’.” And then Frank opened his mouth even wider for Ximena to hear. “And this dumb, no-good-fuckhead ain’t gonna git in the way of us. You hear me, ya purple-neck-lunatic bastard?”

“Very well then,” The abomination made from both flesh and metal hummed as she sprawled out her elegant tendrils. Ximena handled herself with great poise. Her masters must’ve been sick in the head. “I will make sure to strip the skin from your flesh and hang you outside of Nocht City. A warning to your kind.”

“Yeah, well fuck you too.” Frank spat and aimed his rifle right between Ximena’s eyes. On point. Locked. Fire. Frank shot first and Ximena covered her face.

Jackie ran for her mint green truck and rapidly buckled a feeble Rhys into the passenger seat. She did was she was told and never once looked back at the battlefield. [i Not today.] Her mission was quite clear: get out with the boy. Don’t look back. Don’t look back. The shots called to her, but she remained focus to the task and started up her truck. In seconds, she sped through the city and looked for her way back to Last.

Relentless, Frank unloaded his rifle rounds at Ximena while Mina stuck close to him and Duster who was preparing himself for the next big attack. Looking to help her fiance, Mina shuffled around in Frank’s dirty duffle bag and pulled out a shotgun. She was an unconventional fighter and did not quite grasp the concept of guns. Instead of just pumping shells into Ximena, Bazmina Hazrah showcased her immaculate superhuman agility and strength. Jumping onto the spiders back, Mina stood high on Ximena’s shoulders before plugging a couple of shells into the flailing witch.

The Black Witch shrugged off what little damage Mina did and grabbed her by the foot with one hand and an arm in the other. As she began pulling at the limbs, Mina cried out in excruciating pain and had no way of freeing herself. She thought it was all over at that point, yet she was lucky. Duster made quick work on Ximena and cleanly severed the arms with his spinning buzzsaws. Good Frank haphazardly mustered what stamina he had left to catch Mina from plummeting to the asphalt. Mina, unable to speak from the realization she was almost torn apart, simply smiled. Frank faintly smiled and held her close.

Ignoring the humans, the enraged huntress charged the Lucavi. Duster, still in his efforts, launched pointed crystalline spears from his black floating orbs. They shattered on impact against Ximena’s industrialized armor and had no effect on the giantess. She was well crafted from the finest materials found on Nocht millennia ago, materials not found anywhere else. In secret, the alien blended alloy all originated in the tower which was formerly known as Nocht Central headquarters, and perhaps made by entirely of synthetic materials. That technology would be lost to the rest of the world except for the inhabitants of the Tower of Nocht City. Almost everything that was birthed in that tower eventually made its way to the outside world.

Ximena snatched and squeezed Duster with ease. She did not want to break him. No, that would “squeeze” the fun out of it. The nefarious cyborg flung Duster’s weightless body into the air and held her palms up. She shot obnoxiously bright green orbs of bizarre energy into the sky. Take a few hits from the barrage as he seemingly floated into the air for a while, Duster called on his weapon to shield him. Curtains of same substance as his swords and sawblades formed in front of him and blocked the unforgiving volley of giant tennis balls.

The Lucavi race’s claim to fame was probably being the most versatile of all the races natural to Guten Nocht. They were essentially highly advanced, anthropomorphic stem cells. In one moment, they could connect to each other like nerve cells. They fought like white blood cells, defending a body or attacking a malign foreign agent with limitless ways of execution. Their most enchanting feature was their ability to shrug off attacks and repair not only themselves but others. This is why the Dormavir and their herald hunted the Lucavi.

Ximena sprung into the air with just one jump and crushed the road beneath her. Meeting eye to eye with Duster, she jeered. “Just exactly how many of you Lucavi are left? And have you changed in flavor in the past thousands of years or so?”

Just as cold as ever, Duster responded, “You won’t be alive enough to find out, Ximena.”

Taking the taunt to the ticking core, she spiked Duster’s body back to the earth. The thunder echoed Duster’s descent and crash. Even though he was highly durable, the silver humanoid alien fathomed that he was reaching his limits. Miniscule tidbits of his body chipped off and he felt a chilly gust of air enter his semi-hollow body. He ordered his orbitals to shower thousands of toothpick sized edges towards Ximena. The witch was not amused.

Ximena descended on her weakened prey and readied her fangs for the feast. “Are all Lucavi cocky as you? You’ve done yourself in. It’s time.”

It was time. It just was not her time. The stretched out, asymmetrical feeling Mina let out a howl and released a great thunderbolt from the tips of her fingers. The air crackled and everything smelt burnt. The grandiose blast struck the Black Witch Ximena back into a tall building a block away. Mina had only began her assault. Furiously, she shot bolt after bolt into the side of the building without restraint. After a few minutes of non-stop obliteration, Mina’s knees gave out and she fell to her palms.

Frank patted her on the back and chuckled. “I think you overdid it, Mina.”

“Is she done?”

As if Mina’s words were magical, the menace that was Ximena pulled herself from the rubble. Heavy panting. Frank thought robots did not pant. The metallic wheezing grew louder and louder, yet everyone but Frank was barely conscious enough to realize it.

“I see we have a mutant in our midst,” the Black Witch started off with a muddled laugh but that too grew in intensity. The cackling became almost artificial in tone. “I’ll have two lovely specimens to work on now. Human male, what could you possibly have to top these two?”

“Guts.”

It was a good ole’ fashion showdown. The two approached each other. Mina begged Frank to stay back and said that she could take care of it, but Frank would have none of that. Dumb and wild like the chickens he tended to, he stuck to his guns. In fact, he walked up to Ximena without a hesitation in his bones. He carried his caster right up to her and pointed it to her face.

“You are quite the fool,” she nicked his chin with one of her many sharp talons. Her shapely face cracked a smile as the first drip of blood splattered the ground. “No bullet will be able to penetrate me.”

“When you enter the the Gates at the End of the Valley, tell the doorkeeper that Frank Dietz sent you meet The Maker, ya heifer.”

Pulling the trigger, a ghoulish ethereal aura sputtered from the chamber and a ranging beam of fire launched the hefty and surprised Ximena into the sky. The shot was so potent that it carried her across the city for several hundred yards until the beam decided to sear its way through her breast. The tarantula flew high into the sky consciously for a few seconds before her body gave way to the utter destruction.

Unable to understand what just happened and amazed by the sight of the spell gun’s power, Frank stood with his mouth wide open. Just as shocked, Mina feared the thing that had just saved them all. It was not just the thought of such a powerful weapon existing, it was the fact that such a powerful weapon existing in the hands of someone so careless like Frank. In reality, she did not want to admit to it, but Frank saved her. The very person who she swore to protect came out of the left field and saved her from an otherwise terrifying outcome.

No one would believe that Frank saved the day. It’s Frank after all.
Finnigan     7y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Jackie’s Joyride#]

The ride back to Last was rather quiet for Jackie. Her companion spoke not a whisper nor batted an eye. Wrapped up in what was the finest jacket in all of Nocht, the young man who could not have been physically older than fourteen years slept soundly and without a worry. Born into a world that would never appreciate him for anything else other than another piece of hardware, his first thoughts in the new world terrified him.

A world of darkness forever consuming the city of bright lights and even its brighter citizens. The screams and the shouts echoed through the vast void. The smiling Mad Moon cackled and stirred for eternity. The flesh of the dimming citizens rotted away and the only thing left behind were the skeletons. All of it happened over and over again. The flesh would roll back up onto the frame and in a second it would all melt off. People came as they went, and the Mad Moon continued its hysteria. Insanity. Each cycle of reincarnation stripped away the past, and the skeletons soon forgot life before the starkness.

Then, a goddess all decked in white sang a simple yet saccharine melody. The skeletons came one by one until the line zig-zagged around the gleaming tower. The tower that breached the heavens was built with a trillions of crystals of minute size. Refractions and reflections of blues, pinks, and whites beamed with such energy. The skeletons felt things they have been lost for centuries ago. Hope and Salvation, cornerstones of Guten Nocht, the shining emblems that lit the night, eased the hapless corpses.

The monsters of Mad Moon came to surround the city and the skeletons. Not even the goddess all decked in white could tame the beasts for she was one. She sought aid from the gleaming tower and the bones, but Mad Moon strung its fiber far too rigid. The monsters of all disguises, shapes, and sizes ravaged wide open spaces and skeleton army turned away from the white goddess. The distraught goddess took shelter in the crystal tower where she eventually died of a broken heart. Her demise birthed the age of heroes.

Like the seasons, brave individuals went as they came. As one hero set free the sun, another twisted soul would bring night. Perhaps the skeletons thought that bringing back warmth would resolve the endless violence they inflicted on themselves, but they were fixed on stealing, murdering, and raping what was not theirs. Many sought to take wings and dive into the sky below. It is believed that many of the skeletons did not make the descent alive or if they did, they stood no chance against a might of a cerulean sea. What the heroes and skeletons lost throughout the years was Hope and Salvation.

Only the meek inherited the land. No longer did the shining tower hold its people close. The fragile and the brittle banded together in smaller towns and truly fended for one another. They believed in their own innate might, and while many towns faded into the dust, a great few stood erect as ever. Their houses were not as tall as before, but the skeletons and heroes made the best out of their situation. They substituted the strength of steel for wood and brick. They abandoned the machinery they were accustomed to and thought of only the basics. Food, water, and a hearth.

What the skeletons did not know was that the world around them, both their earth and the sky below, was decaying slowly. The tales of great goddesses and magnificent metropolises crumbled as if the bonds holding the world together were weakening. Fire consumed the unfortunate and immolated the remnants of magicians. The skeletons turned against each other believing that this was a sign from angry gods. Magic was far too dangerous in the hands of mere skeletons. The age of the hero died centuries ago. The fragile bones chanted, “Take only what is necessary, let the fire take the rest.”

The universe did was it was told, and the fire consumed. It took and it took. Mothers. Fathers. Sons. Daughters. Enemies. Friends. Lovers. Strangers. The anger of such clandestine deities hardened the remains of skeletons though it did not invigorate them. Their voices dulled a little duller and they walked a little bit slower. The fear of upsetting the forgotten gods and goddesses proved to be their only motivation. They lived not for themselves, but for the horror of being burned alive. “Take only what is necessary, let the fire take the rest.”

Rhys slowly awoke from his first nightmare since he had been revived. He curled into a ball and pulled Jackie’s jacket over his shoulders. He was not aware that Jackie Simms, his lovely upbeat driver with an awful humming voice, was the same person who carried him downstairs and covered his nude body. Rhys wanted to be somewhere but here. The listless clouds encircled the sky and the loose gravel struck the bottom of the mint green truck. He was dumbstruck.

“Who am I?” he whispered to himself. “Who am I?”

Interested in finding out who Rhys Illumina was, Jackie could not help herself but tune into the young man’s mumbling. He repeated the question “who am I?” continuously. Only the sound of the road and rushing wind returned with an answer. Jackie faintly smiled.

“Your name is Rhys. Rhys Illumina, and you’re a special boy. A very special boy actually. You’re a trending hit in Nocht City. I bet all the girls back in Last will simply adore you. I mean, you have that straw like hair, it would remind anyone outside the city of the farms. Farms are so great.”

[i ‘My name is Rhys. Rhys Illumina. Rhys.’]

She drifted into her own universe and he quickly learned to tune out the incessant banter. HIs limbs pulsated while his throat remained too dry.The arid wasteland parched his entire body; perhaps Rhys was better left alone in his tube. The night terrors told him more than he wanted. This was the state of Guten Nocht: unforgiving, empty, and senseless.

“Why was I created?”

Jackie perked up. The question piqued her interest. “No one really knows why we exist, but we do. Some people think we were put here by gods and goddesses, others believe we have always been here since the beginning of time. I have never made an effort to find out the truth because, well, I don’t think I could ever understand it fully. The pastor doubted his faith in my faith.I make this promise now: I will totally hold your beliefs in high regard.”

“I don’t know what I believe in. All I know now is my name: Rhys Illumina. I don’t know if I believe in gods or goddesses, yet at the same time I am not sure if I believe in nothing.”

Rhys’ voice was rather coarse from the dusty air. Handing him a bottle of water, Jackie smiled at the dumbfounded teenager. He was rather really quiet for kids his age, but genial Jackie felt passionate about connecting to the youth, especially the troubled. Rhys was no exception. After all, Jackie has been in his and many other kids’ position.

Placing her hand on his awkwardly naked thigh, Jackie sweetly and just as awkwardly hummed, “Personally, I believe that we are responsible to make our own way. I mean, we were given some free-will, right? We must be the writers of our destinies. We might not know who you are fully, but that does not change the fact that you have a choice to be who you want to be. Mina and Duster would know more about you than I do, but even what they say doesn’t define you. You’ll do great things as long as you put your mind to it, ya know.”

Rhys took a sip from the bottle and faced forward in the truck. Still weirded out by physical contact, Rhys silenced himself for a bit. He was sure that Jackie Simms was an okay person, but all of this was still new to him. Aside from the name he just found about, Rhys knew how to breathe and question everything.

“Where are we going? I don’t know if I can withstand another moment looking at the same thing over and over.”

“I’m afraid this is all Guten Nocht has to to offer at this moment. Sorry, Rhys. The crusty earth can only handle so many tufts of grass. We got miles to go before we get to Last. I reckon a couple of hours before we make it.”

“Great,” Rhys murmured.

“You like stickball?”

“What? What’s that?”

“You don’t know what stickball is?”

“I don’t know what a lot of things are. I don’t think I know [i your] name.”

“Well, that’s kinda a silly thing to say. I’m sure I introduced myself. Jackie, Jackie Simms,” she said. Driving, she cracked another smile, the good ole’ Jackie Simms grin. “Wow, I feel so embarrassed. I never slip up like this. I swear! I’ll make it up.”

Quizzical Jackie amused Rhys. At first, he did not know how to make of all of it and believed that he was just another stale character in the universe. Rhys feared that he might have been one of those skeletons from his night terrors. Jackie had shed a little more life on human nature. She would go on and on about stickball, and the strangest thing would happen to him. It was not recognizable to anyone at first, and in fact, it was Jackie who pointed it out when she saw it. It started as a small crack in an otherwise impregnable slab of stone.

“And then all the guys would just gang up on Frank because he cheated through the first nine innings of the game. Fists were flying and there was so much blood on that dirt lot. I was not going to jump in anytime soon. Frankie was digging himself a grave the entire time--oh! Is there something wrong?” she asked when she checked up on her silent passenger.

There was nothing wrong except for the fact that Rhys had a decently sized smile on his face. Heck, the sight of teeth was enough to catch the good hearted Jackie off guard.

Rhys snapped out of his happy place and his face grew rather neutral to her question. “What’s wrong?”

“You were just...smiling.” Jackie herself smiled. “It was quite beautiful.”

The smiling was rather contagious because Rhys caught the bug. He smiled so hard that it stung his cheeks. Involuntarily, he let out a giggle. Not only did this frighten him a tad, but Rhys looked to Jackie for advice.

“Jackie, I don’t know what’s happening. This is so strange!” he exclaimed. “Help me.”

Playing around a bit with the naive boy, she profusely remarked, “I think your sick, Rhys! If you laugh too much, you’ll explode.”

“Really? That sounds unpleasant, Jackie. I don’t want to explode. That sounds painful.”

Jackie looked him straight in the eyes and moved in closer. Frightening Rhys just a tad more, she creepily jested, “Oh, you have nothing to fear, Rhys. Smiles and laughter are rather infectious. If one of us explodes, it’s the end of us both. Haha…”

Brewing up the biggest storm since the great flood years ago, Jackie let out a sharp yet low cackle. Rhys covered his mouth with the brown jacket and sunk into his seat even further. This is when he learned that he did not want to die. Well, at least from laughter. Jackie patted her breast and threw her head back laughing uncontrollably; the car swiveled on and off the road. She went all out for this performance. The mint green truck that rolled through the stark evening slowed down and Jackie simmered to a rolling boil.

She slumped over the wheel and fell silent, a rather unusual thing for Jackie to do while on the road. She had died, or at least that is what Rhys thought. He leaned over and observed the driver even closer. Her tied-up black hair obscured her face. She had a slight sour aroma to her, but it was not too overpowering. Actually, Rhys kinda enjoyed it. As he went in to nudge her by the shoulder, Jackie let out a shrill and jumped out of her seat. Again, Rhys could not help himself but jump up and back into the passenger window. He himself released a high-pitched yelp in response.

Jackie’s face twisted and contorted. She crinkled up her nose, pursed and winded her lips. Her eyes went in different directions and her eyebrows snaked vigorously. Jackie tugged at her ears and pulled back her chin, forming many chins as a result. Hair became undone and shook when Jackie rattled her head. Rhys held his breath and closed his eyes. [i It’s just another nightmare. Wake up, wake up, wake up!]

When the the young man “woke up” to the real world, Jackie was back in her seat.

“Good, you can also fear. You’ll be doing a lot of fearing.”

“What?” he asked with hesitation.

Smiling for a final time before reaching Last, Jackie snickered. Unsure what to do or say, he nervously joined in. Like she said, laughter was contagious and she genuinely laughed. Jackie enjoyed this moment with the aloof child, and while the reborn Illumina was readjusting to everything around him, he was slowly warming up. His nervous whimper of a titter matured into a confident guffaw. Rhys Illumina, the boy who was just as dry as the rest of Guten Nocht, had started such a wonderful relationship with the truest of the true Jackie Simms.
Finnigan     7y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Desperado Funk#]

Frank embraced Mina for the longest time. The smell of jasmine scented her hair and the rank smell of garlic lingered in her breath. An combination it was, but it was Mina. She was his home, his sanctuary. Mina and Duster claimed that he shed a tear as soon as the couple embraced, but Frank would fight anyone who said it out loud. Curly haired Mina sank into his hug and accepted all of her giant crybaby boyfriend. She would never outright admit that she missed him.

As the smoke and rubble settled, Mina looked towards Last and remarked, “We better get a move on. It’s gonna be dark real soon and I’m not very fond of Nocht at night. I’m ready for a nice nap.”

Mina lacked the ability to sleep for long periods of time, yet she never felt exhausted from the droughts. Doc Roc and Sheriff Dempsi, both fans of Bazmina Hazrah and her unsurpassable work ethic, claimed she was superhuman, even claimed she was some reincarnation of the white goddess. She thought it was complete rubbish, but never said anything to offend her fans. Mina enjoyed the doctor and the sheriff’s company, but she was always just a little bit different from everyone else.

“Yeah, well I don’t really give a darn about giant robot spider ladies either. The last thing I want to find out is that she survived that last shot.” Frank began to walk in one direction, but Mina quickly stopped him from making a trail. After all, he had no idea where her truck was. She shook her head and sighed.

Of course, Frank’s statement was not going to go unnoticed. Duster declared, “There’s an eighty-seven percent chance that Ximena is still alive. Spellguns are a potent substitute for magic and bullets, but her creators carefully crafted her with the utmost integrity in mind. Every calculation built in her has a purpose, a function. She is the Huntress.”

Frank rolled his eyes. “Great story, pal. Let’s skidaddle, Mina.”

“Duster, what will you do now that we’ve awaken Rhys?” The archaeologist could not just leave her Lucavi friend behind, for she feared that the other Lucavi would not particularly enjoy hearing his heresy. She offered a hand, “Come back to Last and stay with us.”

“What? Mina, we don’t really hafta share, do we?” Frank mumbled. The Lucavi was not one to be trusted. He was white and shiny. What was he hiding beneath all that fluff? Beneath all the excuses, Frank was just another xenophobe. Mina thought it was because he never ventured far enough outside the chicken ranch.

“I have to ensure that Rhys does not fall into the wrong hands and so I must accompany you rightfully. Pray tell Frank, I hope this does not bother you in any way.” Behind the Lucavi’s cold and emotionless face, Mina could have sworn that Duster was smiling. Even if it was a faint glint, she enjoyed that smug bastard’s humor.

“Yeah, yeah,” Frank gruffed. “Mina, where the truck?”

Mina led the way, but had to temporarily stop for Duster. He was broken down from the fight and chipped away with each gust of air. His particles scattered into the air, yet quite a few of them clung to Mina. She held him up as they walked a couple of blocks away from the ominous tower, and right around the corner was her pristine black bull. She had a knack for finding and restoring old things, and this clunker was the fastest ride she has tuned to date.

Lifting the tail gate and escorting Duster to the back, the tough lady stared Frank down and away from the passenger seat. She urged him to sit in the back with Duster and console him throughout the entire ride home. Of course, Frank did what any good fiance would do and reluctantly sat in the back with his fiancee’s best man who also happened to have the conversation skills of a greasy cardboard box.

Within ten minutes, Mina and the gang left the downtown area without any trouble. The roads magically kept themselves clear of any debris, and within Mina’s lifetime, has never seen potholes nor collapsed structures. The city was brimming with magic, magic that she wanted to explore and reveal. As being one of the few magickers left on Guten Nocht, she felt an intense connection to the city and for what its worth. Perhaps she was just another Lucavi living a human dream; Mina did not want to wake up and face reality if that was the truth.

They were on their to Last and had a few hours of daylight left. Duster had left his body in a silky string of mess. His fluffy white coat had unraveled itself and spun around his decaying body. Frank freaked out for the first thirty minutes begging Mina to let him sit up in front, but she was not having any of his whining. Mina had her windows rolled down and an arm out the window. [i Freedom.] Duster’s spindling sputtered a bit on Frank’s side of the truck, and the outlaw cried out for help. The dense thread caught itself on the toe of his boot. The screaming and hollering went unnoticed. Duster was in a deep sleep and Bazmina was enjoying the arid dust rushing through her hair

“Wahhhey!” Frank got on his toes and banged the window behind him. “Mina, I think we have some rough riders coming our way!”

From a far, he could see a line of vehicles, both minute and gargantuan, speeding through the dirt like darts hitting a target. Alerted by the dust storm raging its way towards the truck, Mina snapped out of her joyriding and bit the her bottom lip. There were only a few stupid and possibly a couple dangerous people who would dare roam off the roads and into the deserts like her pursuers.

“We’re not going to shake ‘em off, Frank!” she shouted out the window, “We’re either going to be really nice to them or you’re gonna need to start picking them off.”

“There’s never a dull moment with ya, ain’t that right, Mina?” Frank shouted from the back of the truck.

Duster counted two dozen. Two dozen of Desperado’s gun wielding maniacs followed behind on stunt bikes and other four wheeled contraptions. Desperado, also known as the Scourge of Guten Nocht, reigned around their parts. The Lucavi and the others steered clear of that nefarious parish. One of these foolish rocket pigs traveled ahead of the group and met with Mina face to face.

He was a rather portly fellow with a rust colored beard. Spikes, tons of spikes, adorned his leather jacket and helmet. His teeth were probably the only thing Mina liked about him and that after he opened his filthy mouth. “Ooh baby, where have you been all my life!”

Cool was her motif. No one knew how to be cooler than Bazmina Hazrah. It was quite a feat to watch someone stand toe to toe with her. “You must be new to the welcome wagon, bud. Not even you Desperadoans have the cajones to talk to me like that. The name is Bazmina Hazrah, archaeologist and part time musician. You a fan or something?”

“Haha, I like what I see and I love what I hear, baby.” He made kissy faces towards her, but she slowed down just a tad bit to evade his constantly eyeballing. The salivating dog had one hand on his motorcycle and the other between his legs, most likely touching himself. “Waddya play, eh? Skin flute?”

“I like rock. A little blues, but I’m really feeling the funk.” She gave him the time of day and smiled at him. Frank pressed his face against the window behind her and coldly scowled. He saw that she had one hand on the steering wheel with the other pressing itself on a pistol. [i Be bold, be daring.]

“C’mon baby! Let’s see some tits!”

“I’ll show you a little more than a teet, tot.”

Without so much a warning, she picked up the cold hard pistol and relentlessly shot the front wheel from underneath him. The road pig swiveled and swerved only to foolishly turn his bike over and bury himself in the Nocht wasteland. An act of war signaled the rest of the Desperadoans to rally. Their engines revved in the horizon and fire shot out of their vehicles. Only now did Frank realize he was the first and last line of defense against the raging dust storm.

They had guns and a lot of them too. It was a miracle that Desperado sent out the worst possible shots to this side of the floating continent or else Frank would be grade A swiss cheese. With only the tailgate protecting him, the brave and brash and frightened Frank ducked and cover between every shot. Luckily, Mina was one of the better drivers. Slow and steady, there she went. Frank was able to pick off a few motorcyclists with their obscenely gaudy choppers. Who needed that many exhaust pipes for all those lively flames?

The remaining vehicles, eight was what Frank counted but his math was always slightly off, rolled side to side with Mina. They had a lot more in mind than just eradicating the weak. Their town was notorious for kidnappings and raping what was “rightfully” theirs. Women and children were their usual targets, but a few of them men tailing behind had their eyes set on Frank and his wondrous mug. The Desperadoans threw hooks onto the side of the bed and reeled in closer for the capture. Struggling to keep his sanity intact and his body free of foreign agent, Frank yanked at the ropes in high hopes of catching some of the motorcyclists off balance. The two sides exchanged persistence and bullets, but one side eventually gained the upper hand.

Duster unraveled himself from his slumber and got to work immediately on the noise above. Coughing up a few Lucavi orbs, he used one to remove the restraints on the black truck that was initially slowing down. For his second trick, Duster formed a steady barrier shielding him and his best pal Frank from the fire. His final trick caught everyone by surprise. Tossing the black sphere through the window of the gargantuan flatbed truck, the nodding Mad Moon Duster snapped his silvery fingers. In mere seconds, the black orb exploded into a large ball of crystalline spikes engulfing the entirety of the carriage. The poor fellows in the front flung forward as the spikes dug into the earth.

“I still don’t care for ya, pal!” Frank exclaimed as he picked off more goons hanging from the sides of dune buggies and monster trucks.

“As long as we get through this,” Duster chimed in as all three of his orbs came back to him, “I don’t give a frank.”

Their conversation ran short as Mina and one of the braver idiots from Desperado clashed. Back and forth, the truck jerked to and fro almost sending Frank overboard. The two drivers were locked onto each other, and the passenger from the other truck was wielding a hatchet with Mina’s face written all over it.

“C’mon, my ninja! Ditch the dweebs and have some fagyo with the coolest posse around!” The man with the red and black facepaint nearly tossed his fizzy drink into Mina’s truck. He continued his abrasive tirade, “We can fuck all night long and ponder how things work, my ninjette! C’mon, give good ole’ Papa Thicke a kiss on the prick. Hehe!”

“A most compelling offer. Actually, one of the better ones I’ve heard” she began. Her blood began to boil. His disgustingly sugary drink got her sticky. Mina, the archaeologist and the coolest person to ever step foot in Nocht City, hated being sticky. If she was not driving the truck right now, the strong-willed woman would have beaten the guy senselessly until he became one of Frank’s chicken pies: bruised, raw, and burnt. Luckily, Mina had the ability to do one of those things. “I have a counter-offer.”

Not even a devil possessed such fury like Mina. A stream of continuous yellow lightning connected her and the hatchet wielding maniac. The driver freaked out and tried pulling away, but the link could not be severed. Mina made sure that his skin melted and stuck the cheap interior before she decided launch their truck into the air. Fortunately for Frank and Duster, the truck took out several vehicles. The carnage, the scrap metal, Mina lived for it all. The thrill rarely surfaced in Last, and Frank disapproved of troublemaking unless he was going to gain something out of it.

Between the simple decapitations performed by Duster, the excellency of Frank’s sharpshooting, and Mina’s daunting stunt driving, the three made good work of the fools from Desperado. Most of them were either dead or severely warped from the little excursion. Everyone else who managed to stay on their bikes left with their sad and shaggy tails between their sorry cheeks.

“Hey, I thought you were one of those, waddya call ‘em, pacifiers,” Frank scratched his chin and stuck his revolver back into his pants. “You’re too good at this, ya know, with all the flyin’ blades and daggers. You can fool many of us simple folks, but you can’t pull the wool over my eyes, Duster my pal.”

“These are merely the tools I have replicated from human physicians. Killing is not my primary objective, Frank. I am yet just another medical unit with creative properties.”

“Like fuck you are!” Frank guffawed. “Ain’t no doctor in Last that can do what you can.”

“I am not like most doctors. I am Lucavi. We Lucavi are a--”

Frank interjected, “something about creative and innovative, yeah, yeah. We’ve heard it all before, pal. Look, if you weren’t such a stick in the mud, I’d be okay with you. We’ll have to work on you a bit.”

“But us Lu--”

“But us Lucavi abloo, abloo, abloo!” Frank mocked. “I guess we can take you home with us. You’ll just have to stay in the coop.”

“Frank, cut it out!” Mina exclaimed. Her voice overpowered the rushing air, “Or else you’ll be the one sleeping out with the chickens yourself!”

Frank did not respond, but instead had sprawled in the back of the truck. He was alive for one more night, and that’s all he could really even ask for. Well, sitting in his lawn chair and drinking the day away was the ideal situation. None of that flying robot bitch and crazy stunt driver shit. A nice cold beer and lady to accompany it. Such is life.
Finnigan     7y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Of Magickers and Men#]

Staring aimlessly through his kitchen window at the blackness of night, Frank poured himself a cup of equally dark coffee and heavily sighed. Everyone had made it home safely, and he was settling back to his normal mundane routine. He pondered about the multitude of nights he spent alone and within those nights, the moments he boredly sobbed into his equally dark coffee. He was not cut out for the adventurous life. The world outside of simple Last frightened the gruff chicken rancher. Many of the older folk swear that only misfortune comes to those who overstep their boundaries, yet Lady Luck must have been following Frank closely.

Though Frank was engaged to Ms. Bazmina Hazrah for the longest time, he lived like a bachelor. He was the only living soul that occupied the little house on the eastern edge of Last. The only company Mr. Frank Dietz saw were his overgrown chickens and rarely Mina. Sometimes the disgruntled rancher left his door open for the chickens to freely roam and that would explain the numerous piles of feathers littering the splintered wooden floor. Aside from the occasional “present” left by his flock, Frank was a rather low key kind of guy: a rough patchworked antique couch from Francol, a couple of warped wooden chairs carved out by the sheriff, the carefully crafted cement blocks and leftover planks of wood coffee table, and the awfully knitted curtains left behind by his deceased mother.

Mina entered the shanty shack through Frank’s obnoxiously loud front screen door. Whenever she made an entrance, the room always seemed to brighten up a bit. She swore that it was Frank vividly exaggerating the romanticism because without a doubt, the compliments came rushing in. It was always “I love how you always wear your hair down on one shoulder at night, babe” and “I’ve had to change lightbulbs in this drat house because of yer beauty.” Frank adored her, but he fell off the horse before the race started.

Sweet Mina approached the spacecase Frank, only to reach across him and into the doorless cabinet. Pulling out a mug of decent cleanliness, she poured herself a cup of steaming coffee and simply smiled at the goofball. “Jackie and Duster took Rhys to see Doc Roc. It’s late, I know, but the doc insisted that he wanted to examine Rhys and Duster. Says he’s never seen a Lucavi. Can you believe that? Anyways, Jackie says she’s fine with housing both of them tonight.”

She leaned back on the counter and stared into his glorious blue eyes. He enticed her marvelous golden brown eyes, but it was not enough for her. Mina waited for a response, but all Frank did was stare into her eyes like he did with the the night outside the window above the sink. An awkward silence filled the kitchen.

“Ain’t that convenient for us, Mina,” he awkwardly pulled out of nowhere. Frank slightly frowned and Mina simply turned her head the other way. He took a bitter sip from his bittersweet mug. This cup of coffee, like every cup of coffee preceding it, tasted like utter shit.

Placing a hand on his forearm, Mina asked, “Do you mind if we step outside for a bit and talk?”

Frank’s late sister Elle always said that a loud Frank was a healthy Frank. Mina rubbed his arm, but the rubbing was rather vigorous like smearing away a mess a child would typically make at the dinner table. Finding ways to cheer him up proved to be difficult, but maybe she wasn’t as warm and inviting as she perceived herself to be. Frank with his dumb blue eyes; she disliked the mopey sick puppy look not because it made him utterly pathetic some days, but because she often fell for it.

“I was just thinkin’ the same thing,” he whimpered.

Frank led the way to the front porch, well, if one could call an uneven placement of rotting wood a porch. Reds and yellows, blues and greens, they all hung from the roof and brought a little life to the otherwise dead planet. Leaning from opposite support beams, they faced each other without saying a word. One, or possibly both of them, carried the lingering leeching silence.

Like everyone else in the Dietz clan that lived before him, Frank bit his tongue. Expressing his feelings frustrated him, made him scratch his head and doubt himself. Frank, the proud and sometimes noble fellow who tended to the chickens and taunted prisoners, struggled with his thoughts until he mustered up the words, “I don’t want you goin’ back to the city.”

How typical of typical Frank. Mina crossed her arms and wrinkled her nose. Though she appreciated him speaking up for once, she wished that he could understand her passion. She coldly replied, “Why? It’s my job. It’s what I love.”

The Frank that she was familiar with erupted from his shell. In an outburst, he commanded the porch. “If your job involves you runnin’ around the city and bein’ chased by the itsy bitchy spider, then I don’t want you to leave my side anymore, Mina. Stay on the ranch with me. We can always sell your shack and move in together. We’ll be the star couple raising the fowl together. It’s been what, three, nah, five. Nah that doesn’t seem right either. Maybe it was ten. Ten years that we’ve been engaged and we still haven’t tied the knot. I don’t want to be battlin’ for your affection for the rest of my life, Mina.”

“It’s an eternity to me, Frank. Plus, we don’t have to be conventional. We’re perfect the way we are.” She reached out for Frank, but he shrugged her advances. The usually cool and collective Mina deeply exhaled air into her bangs. “Frank, we’ve made a promise to love each other no matter what the circumstances are. You can’t keep me on this farm, but I will always love you.”

“Please Mina, don’t make me beg for you. I thought I’ve won you over.”

“But you did!” she exclaimed with great enthusiasm and then continued on with a more serious demeanor, “I’m not the kind of woman that wants to settle down and have children just yet.”

Frank began to walk away from Mina, but she followed closely behind. They eventually made their way into the night and away from the farm without saying a single word to each other. Frank was huffing and puffing, and Mina slowly crept behind, illuminating the way. They walked maybe a mile outside of civilization, a mile deep into hazard unknown.

Whipping around, Frank stated it matter-of-factly, “And don’t you think that’s the folly of women? Heck, that’s why this floating desert is dying. You ladyfolk just don’t want children.”

Astonished, Mina put her foot down and sternly pointed in Frank’s direction. “And can you blame us? One in five children will die from diarrhea before age five. Out of those children, one out of sixteen will kidnapped and-or sold into prostitution somewhere in Desperado or even in Tilmarv or Mateen City. A mother can only handle so much sadness, Frank, and I don’t think I could carry that burden on my shoulders. I’m not strong enough for that.”

“Then let’s get out of here.” Frank pointed back at Mina, but not with malign intention. He was not even sure where she or anything else was at night. “Let’s go to the Blue and start a family there.”

“My time is here, Frank. I wouldn’t if I could. The people up here gave up on migrating to the Blue a long time ago, way before your grandparents were still kicking, and maybe even before their great-great-grandparents. You know, the whole ‘Curse of the Fallen Stars’ ordeal. Call me superstitious, but my family has never left Guten Nocht for that reason.”

It was true. Many of the people left in mass exodus were never heard from again after they started their makeshift colonies in the endless sea. Those who somehow managed to make it back to Guten Nocht spoke of savagery in foreign lands ranging from cannibalism to xenophobia. Quite frankly, the immigrants had no idea how to set up a society on their own and died on their own accord. Thus, the curse of the Fallen Stars.

Mina made her way to the dry earth before she decided to rest her body. She looked up at the starry sky. Despite what she wanted to believe, she had to admit that she shared the same stubbornness as the soppy Frank. The the idea of her being worse than Frank infected her mind. She admitted to herself that he gave so much love in the relationship, more than she could ever tolerate or imagine. Bazmina was a rock and she was his rock to perch on.

“Now Mina, you know how much I don’t like gettin’ dirty,” Frank huffed. Thankfully it was too dark outside for him to see, but Mina rolled her eyes at the poultry handler’s nagging.

“Lie with me, Frank.”

Frank caved in and rested his cold bones next to hers. Instead of talking to each other, they fell enamoured with the stars above. Tired and starry-eyed, they had not spoken much about what had happened earlier in their hectic day. Perhaps they figured each other out already and maybe the extended periods of silence was their way of expressing gratitude. Never in this era of solitude did they turn to the other and glance intently. That would make too much sense.

Perhaps the relationship was falling apart due to the distance between them. So far away, but still so near. He watched from his little corner of the world, sometimes spinning in circles, while she danced. She danced with danger a most dangerous dance, like the wonked out whores in steep stilettos carrying broken bottles and empty faith. She became drunk in love with the mysteries of the world. The city intoxicated all who took a sip from its neck.

Placing his head next to her shoulders, Frank wrapped his arms around her waist and scooted in closer. Mina was quite shocked by the sudden movement, but she did not want to fuel any fire or stoke the tension. She sometimes wished she could give up her powers just to be honest with Frank. In reality, she blamed her powers for her passion, for they were keeping her alive in this otherwise unlivable continent. Mina thought that her powers were the reason she could not appreciate him. She outlived most people in her line of profession and the perceived thought of invincibility went to her head.

Bazmina yearned for the simple hearted man’s wide pearly smile. She loved coming home in the afternoons to witness his copper hair gleam in the sunlight and to entangle her curly black hair with his scruffy face. She loved how she stood a few inches taller than him. She loved the intimacy between them and the mixing of her dark clay skin with his faint sunburnt white. She loved how he was the only man who made her skin tingle with electric. He loved all of her despite her constant straddling of work and pleasure.

“Mina.” He called out to her. An hour had passed before Frank halfway woke up and realized that Mina left him momentarily. She had returned with a blanket in hand and placed it over the blissful Frank. Frank remained hidden under his heavy wool blanket and sheepishly grinned. He hated getting dirty yet there he was camping outside and retreated into himself like a child.

Mina, who was walking away from the crime, turned back and returned his call ever so softly. “Frank.”

Another exchange of silence between the two. Upon further listening, Mina heard soft snoring coming from his mouth. [i Go figure.] The Mad Moon had claimed his soul for the night.

“Wherever you go in this long winded world, my heart shall find yours,” she restlessly trailed off into the stars and left her boyfriend at peace.

Frank murmured in his sleep, “And my arms will travel across land and sea and back into your embrace.”
Finnigan     7y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Rebirth Defect#]

The sun rose from Hel to wake up the city and place the glowing Mad Moon to rest. Those glimmering specks that filtered through the black sky called stars simply vanished from existence. The sky placed its rosy fingertips on the black horizon of the floating continent. The first to wake up were the chickens and the small chickadees who chirped a morning etude. [b Wark! Chii-chii-chiii. Chii-chii-chiiii. Chii-chii-kadeee.] A slow rise but still a rise. The rigid earth succumbed to the rising heat. Its cold attitude vanished with the rest of space and time. Not even the darkest dim was able to keep its dense luster. The empress of the day, the sun, reigned over Nocht, just as she promised thousands of years ago.

The ranchers were the second to rise, as always. Seven days a week, there was no rest for their aching bones. With buckets in one hand and a hoe in the other, the farmers plowed their field and tilled their crops until her majesty’s reign subsided. From the rose red mornings to the pale blue evenings, the earth was turned and tended to. [b Chht. Chhht. Chhhht. Psssstsh. Chht. Chht. Chhht.] The tacit code everyone in every city followed. People worked to live and lived to work. Some cities even punished the lazy. The gluttonous were often executed for their presumed incompetence. The governing bodies--so strict, so stringent--believed the act was murder against humanity waiting to happen, but the people were plagued to die horribly from the very beginnings of the the floating island.

Potatoes. If there was a successful farmer in the village, they most likely profited from the potato plant. People were obsessed with the potato and even named Nocht’s fiercest dog breed after it. In fact, the richest potato farmer was also the leading dog breeder in all of Nocht, and the acres of crops were well-protected from any potato thief who foolishly dared to step on her loamy grounds. So much could be done with a potato: fry ‘em, bake ‘em, saute ‘em, mash ‘em. Some farmers took on tomatoes and squash, but the alternative crop to every good farmer’s repertoire was legumes, specifically the peanut. An individual was considered rich if they had a sack of peanuts, but rather poor if all they had were beans.

The menial lives of Nocht trudged through the sandy deserts for millennia and simply had no clue of what stood before them. The dust rarely settled. [b Wrrrrrrrrrrr.] Gusts of wind rolled through. The great buildings and those who built the city marvels were long forgotten to the extremely foreign concept of history. The living were lost to their ignorant ways; forever were they cursed to wander the hollow earth, never knowing who walked before them. Never knowing that a better life hid beneath the ruinous Nocht City. They were all survivors, but only a few of them could really think. Thinking often got people in trouble.

Most people woke up towards noontime when the concrete was at its hottest, but today felt rather off. [b Ssssssss.] As people walked to work in their small time shops, the ground beneath their feet shook. The rolling of the dirt went unnoticed to most people. Those who seemed to pick it up simply ignored it. No one has ever heard of an earthquake. The myriad of extraordinary occurrences fizzled out exponentially throughout the years. The mad minds of yesterday went extinct with their creations. The idea that Guten Nocht was a living creature was absurd. The people knew that someone put it there, but they did not care who they were. Unfortunately, not even the highly intelligent Lucavi were fully aware of the city’s biology and its origin.

The slight shifting caused a few people to lose their minds and the content of their stomachs, but the scarce benign doctors swooped in to save the day. Among the inhabitants of Guten Nocht, perhaps there was five scientists at most, if you could call them scientists. Conspiracy theorists, or at least that’s what their respective mayors called them, interpolated their inordinate views into every meeting. They bantered about how the skies were blue because of magic and that Nocht was going to fall from the sky one day. Their words fell on deaf ears and with good reason too. The very few “scientists” around demanded better compensation. After all, zero out of five scientists came up with an explanation for the rumbling.

A sound so unfamiliar to Guten Nocht whirred. A storm was brewing from the carapaces of the city, but there were no clouds in sight. The sirens blared within Nocht City like the ominous wind haunting its victims, slowly whispering hexes into their ears. A crying ghost admonished its return at last. The people who lived outside of the empty city stopped what they were doing and the first thing they turned to was the tower. From a young age, the people in the smaller cities were always taught to look to the center, the mecca, of Guten Nocht because there were two places where trouble usually started: the bandit city of Desperado and the Tower of Nocht City.

Last, Finchina, and even Loopehr. Desperado, Ikar, Balteuse. Illumina, Phon, Tilmarv. Small Astrid, the City of Mateen, and the secluded Arken Rasthim. From this moment on, those cities had more in common than before. The towns looked to the center. [b Ooooo-oooh-Ooooo-oooh-Ooooo-oooh.] The sirens raised in pitch, then dropped, then repeat. Then repeat. Then repeat. The poltergeist possessed the city. The people heard its meek and futile efforts. Emptily staring towards the tower, the children who were laughing stopped in the midst of their game of cops and robbers. The hopping young girls in floral headscarves dropped their skipping stones. [b Clack-lack.] Grocers stopped the ruffling of brown paper bags. Leaving their dim garage, thick waisted mechanics dropped their wrenches. [b Clank.]

[b Ooooo-oooh-Ooooo-oooh-Ooooo-oooh.] The sirens went on for two hours before phasing out by late afternoon. The Lucavi vigilantly surveyed the unusually boisterous city from the comfort of Mad Moon. Like their home “planet”, the acute citizens of Mad Moon usually hibernated during the day if they did not keep to the shade. During their first amicable encounters with the humans, the Lucavi were responsible for the blinding of hundreds of people. The white coats of the Lucavi reflected the harsh sunlight that ultimately immolated the corneas. For the first couple hundred years, men and women ran in the opposite direction once they’ve laid eyes on distant white hot flashes. Since then, the Lucavi stuck to the night, stayed in the shade, or simply dulled out their gloss.

The city breathed a most foul stench in the growing evening. It all started out slow at first, but the steam erupting from buildings picked up. [b Pst.] It was one factory at first, then two. Before anyone realized what was happening, a little more than a few dozen buildings flipped their switches. A rather thick layer of smog slowly engulfed the undead metropolitan area. [b Ooooo-oooh-Ooooo-oooh-Ooooo-oooh.] The sirens sounded off once more. People of different directions scattered for shelter and watched from the safety of their makeshift houses. Was the racket trying to warn the people of something? Was there a rampage of Suburbia monsters stampeding?

Gears cranked. [b Ck-ck-ck-ck-ck.] The levers swiveled up then down. Flashing red buttons clicked in place. Conveyor belts in Nocht City began to roll. The lines rumbled. [b Errrr!] The clanging of metal sheets clamored, yet there was no one around to operate the machines. Not a single living human soul nor Lucavi was responsible for the sudden revival of all this thunderous machinery. Then, the preternatural force turned on the pumps. [b Guh, guh, guh. Cuh-ch, cuh-ch, cuh-ch, cuh-ch, cuh-ch.] The hydraulics were next to follow.[b Poo-tisss. Poo-tisss. Poo-tisss. Poo-tisss.]

[b Ooooo-oooh-Ooooo-oooh-Ooooo-oooh.] The lights to the city started from the center and then grew outwards towards the perimeter. No one in this age has ever seen the Nocht City fully lit at night. In fact, the Lucavi and their human allies perceived that most of the main generators and power plants that channeled electric into the city ceased about three thousand years ago. It was also theorized that the unspeakably large vermin of Nocht would have chewed through all the wiring in the first four hundred years, yet this unspeakably bizarre series of events was unfolding before their eyes. Lastly, the glorified obelisk of antiquity shone, tying all the strings attached to the resurrection of Nocht City together.

In the same night, Mad Moon rained a platoon of shimmering stars into the city to further investigate the phenomenon at hand. Strangely, the people who lived half a day outside of the city were able to watch this happen through the suffocatingly dense fog. Perhaps the brimming light of the Tower of Nocht City was so potent that the Lucavi’s body simply reflected it. Landing softly in the middle of the city, the silver men and women scattered throughout the city for a thorough search. Clues, anything that could be related to the sudden revival.

[b Pfffff.] Steam erupted from the sewer systems. [b Pfffff!] Nearly every office downtown had a light turned on. The deserted skyscrapers housed the furniture left behind. Desks, chairs, computers, partitions. Everything from the previous era preserved, but by what forces were still unknown. [b Pfffff!] Not a human stirred in the streets. Like their rural counterparts, those who decided to inhabit the urban area scared easily. One was more likely to run into a person between the quaint towns and the epicenter than make conversation with the very few inhabitants of inner-Nocht.

[b Tff. Tff. Tff.] The people dragged their feet from their houses and gathered at their cities halls. Not a single soul stirred away from the their elected officials. Glued and desperate, the called out. They had so many questions, yet none of the answers were provided. The chattering between neighbors caused a nervous tic, but the mayors and governors assured their people that everything was fine. Who would dare come all the way out from the gargantuan city to attack theirs? Surely it was just a few local hooligans celebrating festivities early. As if the sirens were not enough, the people clamored and raised their voices.

Somehow, a few points along the edge of the dusty piece of levitating land erupted in steam as well. Loud creaking noises and monstrous booms set people diverging in all directions. [b Oore. Chhh. Oore. Chhh. Pssss. Pfffff! Boom.] A shockwave knocked people off their feet and cries filled the air. Tears spewed from the eyes of the young as well as the adults. Sharp shrills competed with the chaos lingering at the edges. Some of the townsfolk took up arms. The children, the smallest demographic in Guten Nocht, ran home and boarded up the windows and doors.

Some towns, namely the ones who were always ready for a scuffle such as Loopehr and Illumina. Their sirens screeched and rallied the troops. If anything was going to occur on their watch, they had at least four plans lined up. The heavily militaristic bases benefited the most from the archaeology digs, and with the couple scientists who were competent enough, Loopehr and Illumina salvaged parts for their weapons of war. [b Ch, ch, ch!] Men manned the searchlights pointed in every direction, especially towards the tower’s general path.

Tensions ran high, and while many towns found it appropriate to somehow get into contact with each other, their mutual gathering point was in question. Last sent two runners in opposite directions to get into contact with their neighbors whereas Illumina sent three heavily armored caravans to reach its allies. On the opposite side of Guten Nocht, the largest city, Desperado, suited its people up for the inevitable raping of spoils. Astrid, a name unfitting for its frail state, relied on Loopehr’s forces while Mateen City was perfectly situated behind the Entomozoan-infested Mateen Hill.

Somewhere in the darkness of the wasteland, a magicker was overlooking the glowing city. She did not imagine the seventh iteration of Guten Nocht happening this. Instead, she had hoped for the floral romanticism she read in her novels. Something inside her heart told her that she might have picked up the wrong books.
Finnigan     7y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Law of Lucavi#]

“Sheriff, what is your plan in case the worst happens?” Mina was the first to wake and greet the fleeting foot of Sheriff Dempsi. Handing him a cup of freshly brewed coffee, she sat him down in her living room.

“Well Mina, I would like to know the answers myself. The Mayor is up to her waist in shit right now with the other delegates. Dale reached Illumina this morning and you know how long it is to get there and back. Tina returned this afternoon. Finchina and Last are going to pool together what supplies we can. Running is no easy job, I’m sure you know that. And of course I can’t shake Ms. Callahan off my back. She’s seriously thinking about overthrowing me and running her own personal militia.” Facing all the stress that Guten Nocht had to offer, the good sheriff had to breathe before moving on. Taking out a red handkerchief from the back pocket of his twill pants, the man sweating up a summer rain shower blotted away the salty perspiration. “I just wish I understood why you couldn’t be my deputy.”

“It’s the same reason why you can’t venture off into the city, sheriff. We’re where we’re at because we’re good at what we do. More coffee?”

Sheriff Dempsi had polished his first cup before the last words exchanged hit his lips. He shrugged at Mina’s insight. Really, he could not argue with her. After all, the entire city at this point would happily agree with Mina. Not because what she said was true, but because Last’s citizens were getting rather furious with him. The tensions seemed to die down in the morning, but everyone was still on alert. Only the adults ventured into the street and never did they go alone. They traveled in mobs with weapon in hand.

The next two people to arrive were the goons: Frank and Jackie. The former glowered at the sight of the sheriff. Frank had this preconceived notion that the sheriff was trying to steal Mina away from him. After all, married men in Last were the scourge of the town. If one man cheated on his wife, it was believed that all men cheated on their wife. At least, that’s what Frank’s overactive imagination was telling him. Maybe that is why Mina Hazrah never wanted to get married. Smart girl.

“Ah, I see that the good ole’ ‘riff is at his good ole’ games again, you reckon, Jackie?” Frank guffawed. Jackie did not.

Raising his cup to welcome to the two, sheriff nodded. “Frank, Jackie.”

“Sup ‘riff!” Being rather pleasant to the sheriff than her counterpart, Jackie waved back in enthusiasm. In response to the good nature, Frank shook his head at Jackie.

“Where’s Rhys and Duster?” Mina asked. She knew that her friend Jackie took care of everyone who came across her, but Frank was another case.

Frank scratched his chin. He was not too interested in talking about the burdens named Rhys and Duster. One was a complete mute to Frank’s heinously boisterous jackassery and the other was just as entertaining as licking sandpaper. “The boy is just starin’ at the dirt outside. I think there’s somethin’ awfully off ‘bout him. And Dusty’s watchin’ the kid.”

As Mina came around with cups for her new guests, thick waisted Jackie plopped into an armchair and remarked, “What Frankie is trying to say Mina is that they’ll be in shortly. Rhys-e-sweet needs a li’l air.”

The sheriff was glad that Jackie brought up the subject. Mina came over in her apron and poured another steamy stream of dark bitterness into his mug. Seeing the sheriff’s intrigued face, she stepped back and tapped her foot. Sheriff Dempsi looked up at her and shrugged. Twitching her face in slight frustration, Mina resumed her position back on her couch.

“Now that they’ve been brought into the spotlight Mina, just who exactly are these two fellows you picked up from the city?”

“Trouble,” Frank murmured. “Ain’t nothin’ but trouble.”

“More trouble than you, Frank? That’s gonna be tough to beat,” the sheriff jested. Frank saw this as another poor attempt at trying to sweep his Bazmina off her feet. Of course, the sheriff never knew how much the rancher resented him.

“Duster is an associate of mine. I often work with the Lucavi in Nocht City, and they’re an important asset to revealing Nocht’s biggest mysteries. The boy, Rhys Illumina, whom Doc Roc nearly dropped his jaw for, is wanted. He’s the key to understanding everything. He’s rather fascinating.”

“Mina…” Dempsi trailed off. The words he was hearing rang wrongly with him.

“Sheriff, if you’re thinking that he’s responsible for all of this, you’ve got the wrong idea. Rhys Illumina will pull Guten Nocht from the grave. My word I assure you.”

Frank doubted her words. [i Yeah right.]

“If the boy is going to be staying in this town, he better suit up. We’ll need every helping hand we can get for whatever is lurking out there.” Frank enjoyed that idea, but blunt Dempsi continued, “That goes for the two of you.”

Frank scowled. [i Fuck that shit.]

“Don’t worry, ‘riff, Jackie has it all under control.”

Jackie was too cheeky for everyone in the household. Mina shook her head and giggled under her breath and spry Dempsi scratched his upper lip. No one had a solution to her silliness. Frank was not sure if Jackie was trying to be a schmooze towards the sheriff or if she was dumb enough to indirectly volunteer for the law man’s mob. He feared that Jackie would jump at the opportunity for the electric chair if the Mayor asked for brave souls. She was brave alright, but not too smart in the head some days. Mina saw why Frank and Jackie were such great friends.

The sheriff picked himself up from the comfortable rocker. Duty called and it was time for him to respond to whatever injustices were out there. Namely, Gren Dempsi had to attend to the wife who insisted he was a cheater and an impotent flat-assed deadbeat thug with a gun. He stayed in the marriage for the children and partly because he had no where else to live and divorce was unspeakable.

Walking towards the door, Dempsi bumped into the young man with the blond hair. What an unusual kid. Ugly for sure, blond hair and brown eyes, light skin without ruddy complexion. Sheriff thought the kid would not last a day out in the sun, much less lift a shovel. Rhys excused himself towards Jackie and stood by her side.

Tipping his hat to all the people, Sheriff left off with, “Take care.”

As the door slammed shut, Frank scratched his stubbly chin towards Mina. “What was that all about?”

“It was nothing, Frank.” Mina lead and sat Rhys at the kitchen island and served him the first breakfast plate of the day. Of course, it was well into the evening, but Mina was an expert at breakfast. Possibly only breakfast, but she took pride in breakfast. “Aren’t you hungry, Rhys? I have some chicken and grits for you.”

He stared at his plate and dissected the composition of it. Rhys was not hungry, and if he was, he had no clue how to eat. Looking away and up at Mina, he frowned. His eyes teared up, not understanding the emotion of frustration. Stunned, Bazmina bit her lip. She had no idea how to console him and looked towards Frank and Jackie for advice. Jackie simply nodded and relieved Mina of her duty.

“Watch what I do, okay? It’s simple.” Jackie smiled as she picked up her utensils. She demonstrated by cutting into the chicken and placing it in her mouth. Talking with her mouth full, she mumbled between bites, “Just..make…sure you chew...and swallow..it’s...super easy! Just like that! Next I’ll show you how to use the bathroom!”.

“Where’s my food?” yammered Frank.

“Seeing that I had to buy chicken from my own man, I didn’t think it was necessary for me to cook for you.”

“That’s low, Frankie,” Jackie muttered in the background. “Low.”

Duster was the antepenultimate person to enter the house, and Frank was still trying to adjust to the creepy white robed figure. He was too clean.

“Greetings.”

“Duster! Would you like a plate?” Mina asked.

“Hey! That’s my chicken.” Frank tugged at Mina’s sleeve like a child. She paid no attention to him yet smiled.

“I must apologize for I will not partake in the digestion of large poultry monsters. Instead, I insist that we make arrangements for the near future.” Cold and just as monotone as ever, everything that came out of Duster’s orifice sounded grave.

Mina placed the plate in front of Frank who anxiously slipped to the chair next to Rhys and waited for the food to plop down from the heavens. Before he could sink a fork into the succulent chicken, Mina slapped the utensil out of his filthy hand and onto her glossy wooden floor.

“Wash your hands, Frank.” Smiling, she averted her attention back to Duster. Frank huffed and slinked back to the sink. “What arrangements are we talking about, Duster?”

“I’m afraid that my fate will be cut short. I need you to ensure that Rhys will be kept out of Ximena’s control.”

“That was my initial plan, Duster, but I don’t understand. What--”

Suddenly, the last of Mina’s guests entered the house, and to much of Frank’s dismay, they were of [i his] kind. More Lucavi. The aliens who dressed up all in white and had weird faces filed into the house unannounced. Long legs and creepily stringy arms, these Lucavi hovered over everyone else. Frank, with a forkful of chicken in one hand and a revolver in the other, pointed vehemently at the intruders.

“The fuck y’all think yer doin’ in here. I ain’t sharin’.”

The taller of the two Lucavi bent forwards and nodded. “You can call me, Phyllis.”

“And I am Gladys,” the shorter of the two tall Lucavi added.

Despite the feminine names, these Lucavi possessed rather androgynous voices. Frank was no fan. In fact, his trigger finger was teetering. There was some killing to be done.

“I suppose you’re here for what I’ve done.” Duster stood up front and nodded back to the enforcers. “I knowingly broke one of the very few laws and so I must offer my life to consequence.”

“The regents have decided on your fate: you will face execution or risk life in exile.” Phyllis indignantly prodded Duster in the chest. “Entering the Tower of Nocht City is strictly forbidden. Not only that, but we now face The Huntress.”

Gladys lowered its companion’s lingering digit away from Duster and instead pressed its shiny face into Duster’s. “You are aware she lusts for Lucavi. You’ve endangered our race.”

“I am aware of my actions, and perhaps I was the one who brought back Ximena the Black Witch from her slumber, but the retrieval of the Illumina always yielded this result.” Duster coldly retorted. “Any action requiring the tampering of the Illumina’s stasis pod would have more than likely revived Ximena.”

“Whether or not you were truly responsible for The Huntress’ return, you are however responsible for breaking the law. A Lucavi is only as strong as its will and utmost adherence to the codex. Without those important factors, a Lucavi in question is only as good as a human.” Even the tone of these Lucavi ticked off Jackie and Mina. Frank was just thinking to himself about the smug tone of these aliens. If they were going to act up like this all the time, then he wanted Ximena to “chew ‘em up”. She would be doing a great favor for him. Especially, these two individuals.

“What will happen to Rhys Illumina?” Bazmina changed subject. She felt bad for Duster who was facing the brunt of all this. The two foreign agents of Mad Moon took turns sticking face and finger into his.

“He faces the same fate as our Lucavi officer. Death.” Gladys slowly crept past Duster and twisted its head into Mina’s face. Sniffing her out, Gladys bobbed its head and nodded back to Phyllis. “Also, your aroma is quite pleasing to our sensory organs, Ms. Hazrah.”

“The regents made their well-informed decision once you revived the Illumina. We have realized our error: Rhys Illumina is far too dangerous and is detrimental to the seventh iteration of Guten Nocht.”

“Whaddya mean by seventh iteration of Guten Nocht? Speak human, g’damn.”

“The Lucavi, in their best efforts, have tried to record history. We’ve compiled eras, or long periods of time, which we thought were thematically correct.” Gladys who did not ever consider the personal space of others stuck its face into Frank’s ugly mug. Frank’s nose twitched. “This would be the seventh time Guten Nocht faced a new age.”

“I am sad to inform you that this might become the last of Nocht if the Illumina continues to exist,” Phyllis stated.

“You can’t kill them!” Exclaiming with all her zeal, Mina pushed Gladys back to Phyllis.

“Technically, we could,” the taller one exclaimed.

The shorter tried to stick its face once more into Mina’s, but with sheer force, she shoved it away. The droit Gladys taunted. “Why is that, Ms. Mina Hazrah? He is not of kin. Certainly, this..,[i man] over here is your betrothed. And Lucavi are incapable of understanding the human concept of companionship. Surely bioandroids are the same. I can sense a great conflict.”

“You lay even a spore on them and I’ll cave in your face for you, for both of you. Free of charge. Not even your best medic will be able to bring you back from Hel.” The threats came out, and it took quite a bit to get a rise out of Mina. She clenched her fist tightly and the sparks of lightning were revving up.

“This is a likely feat and possible outcome, Phyllis.”

“Duster will serve his exile, and Rhys will accompany him. Under my supervision.” Mina turned back to Frank and smiled. “Looks like we’re going sooner than I thought.”

Without pointing a finger at anyone, Mina managed to shock the entire room with her words. Speechless, Frank only babbled in response.

“Ms. Hazrah!” Duster did not understand why she showed him such kindness over and over again. It was very rare that Duster expressed anything in a tone outside the normal frigid aloofness.

“Mina, count me in,” Jackie interjected, matching Mina’s zeal. “You’re gonna need an aircraft that gets you down there, and you’re talking to the ace pilot on this side of Nocht.”

Unable to speak more than a few words at a time because of the sudden surprise, Frank snarled at the two uninvited guests, “The boy is ours, Phyl and Glad. Git.”

“Very well. We expect both of them off the continent in two days. Any longer and we will come back to take action.”

“Take heed, Ms. Hazrah, you believe that you’ve won this bout. A Lucavi has never left Guten Nocht since our nation’s birth. You may have compromised a usually quick, usually painless Lucavi death in exchange for something worse. As for the boy, he’s not worth anything in the Blue.”

Gladys and Phyllis disappeared into the dusk before anyone else put in their two cents.

[i ‘I’m the reason for all of this...’]

Though he was initially excited, Frank frowned. This was never part of Mina’s future. She had a profession, a passion, in Nocht that she was inseparable from. In some respects, she loved her career more than him.

[i ‘This is all my fault...’]

Duster stared at all of them. These strangers that he had just met put their lives on the line for someone who was supposedly unable to comprehend companionship. Some of them did not care for him, but they seemingly followed him to the depths of the unknown.

[i ‘If I die, everything will be okay...’]

She took one more glance around the room, displacing faces and bodies, and took one last breath of her humble home. All the memories sank into her dark skin. Mina already missed it all.

[i ‘I don’t think I like grits...’]
Finnigan     7y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Off the Edge#]

Frank, Mina, Duster, and Rhys all stood in front of the shabby tin hangar and watched the buff Jackie Simms fling the gargantuan doors wide open. Since the break of day, the crew that was destined to make its way down to the Blue packed and tied up any loose ends they had to Last and Guten Nocht. Mina, Frank, and Jackie all said their goodbyes to the sheriff, who was both happy and sad to see them all god, and the fanatic Doc Roc. The pilot of the group offered to show the sheriff and the doctor her ship, but they politefully declined. Apparently, Jackie’s airship was something to be in awe about.

Showcasing the goods, Jackie tapped her nose with such excitement and shouted, “Ladies and gents, the Fighter. She’s a charm, just like her mama, and a hefty bounty too. Jackie here hasn’t been up to her regular dietary regimen.”

Frank’s jaw dropped. A functioning aircraft rested before his eyes. He looked through the picture books and none of those ships compared to the might of the Fighter. In fact, the aircraft was completely Nocht in design as far as the exterior. The sleek and silver masterpiece had limited vertical takeoff and landing capabilities. It sacrificed its traditional outdoor deck, the myriad of propellers, and the uncommon blimp portion for a tighter interior and faster sailing.

“How the livin’ fish dick did ya come across this? Yer tellin’ me you ain’t spend a damn dime from all them heists we done on other things?”

At this time, the entire crew had surrounded the airship. Intrigued by the smallest and biggest things attached to the bird, no one really spoke out. Jackie was proud of her work on the ship so far, yet it lacked a couple of desired components. She’d flown a few times for Loopehr at a young age and since then never stopped thinking about flying. It was only recently that she would come across an aircraft to call her own, but it was not until today that she would have the chance to take to the skies once more.

“I’ve been working on her for five years now all on my lonesome. It was originally salvaged between here and Illumina by that old perverted man, ya know Frankie, Mr. Joogoso. Man, that guy had some mad gopher teeth. Anyways, I bought this hangar off the city’s hands after he passed away. They never thought to pry it open and use it for themselves. What a steal, I thought.” Breathing in the walloping dust, Jackie shook her head with excitement. Her baby was going to see some action. She continued, “A certified mechanic will need to check her out once we land in the Blue.”

“Great, now we have to look at expenses once we touch foot in this magical mystery fairytale,” Frank muttered from the opposite side of the ship. Money stayed on his mind, but Frank was often awful at handling money. His personal stash diminished in a few days after he consumed all the alcohol in the county. Jackie joked that the checks disappeared before the ink had a chance to dry. His chickens went unfed for a few days because of these sporadic binges.

The crew gathered up and Mina posed the question, “What are we gonna name the crew?”

“Huh?” Frank scratched his belly.

“Every crew needs to have a name,” Duster interjected. “I don’t have an opinion either way. If we decide on a name now rather than later, we’ll have enough time to pack up your supplies and send ourselves off into exile.”

“Fighter doesn’t work? Usually crews go under the name of their ship,” Jackie suggested.

“Nah, Team Fighter ain’t got that kick. It needs to be rough n' tough.”

“Anchovi, a rough translation of an old Hesperian word that means ‘first in forever.’ I can make a very educated guess and tell you that no one has made a trip down in hundreds, if not thousands, of years.”

“It’s rather fitting considering our fate,” Duster dryly remarked. “Anyways, I will acquaint myself with the aircraft and see if I can do anything to help out Jackie.”

The humans left the rusty hangar in Duster’s protection. Mina’s house was the closest, but it did not take long for her to come back out with a couple of knapsacks in each of her hands. The twill bags carried a few outfits but mostly the essentials such as food, bottled water, and utilities. A couple of pocket knives, blankets, and a few of her favorite handbooks on survival and geography. The places she read about--the rolling knolls of Varsyl hugging its miraculous city, the exuberant Francol, Tsukimoto’s mountain ranges, Kalenos’ duality of the fiery hot volcanoes and stalwart icebergs--all fascinated her.

Next stop, Jackie’s. She dedicated her entire pantry to the majority of her cases and a couple of her personal crates. An irrational yet seemingly charming fear caught her. Though she was the foodie of the group and basically ate anything and everything that she could get her hands on, Jackie ensured that good food would always be a closet away. Of course, she made sure that one of her most prized possessions, her brown leather jacket, was packed away. Jackie was tough on the eyes sometimes, but she wanted to be “tough” in her leather jacket.

Frank was naturally the last person to deal with as well as being the most difficult out of them all. Before he even dealt with his personal belongings, he had to take care of his ranch. No one around would want to take care of his majestic flock of heavy hitting chickens. True, they were a pain to take care of and Frank might have seen Doc Roc far too many times for bandages and stitches.

“I can’t just let them stay in their stables forever. They’ll starve without some TLC.” Frank pressed his face to the wooden post and wire fence. He raised the current six dozen chickens in front of him from the start and he named them all too. Leak, Mead, Mallow, but then the lazy and often uncreative Frank named the last twenty-six or so after the alphabet. K was his favorite, or maybe that one was Chloe. “Jackie, Mina, do you think there’s enough room on the ship for a few of these fellows? They’re family to me. Heck, I bet they’ve never seen chickens these big in the Blue. I bet they don’t even have chickens.”

“If it’s any consolation prize, we might be able to become ranchers down there and make a fortune off them if any future plans fall through,” Mina remarked. One of the big beaked fowls approached the fence and Mina caressed the cream plumage. “Chickens have been known to stay in their herds, so maybe it’s best if you let them go out into the wild.”

“They won’t make it,” Frank quietly sobbed, “They need someone to take care of them.”

Jackie laughed and then patted Frank on the back. “That’s coming from the guy who was nearly picked apart by these beasts. C’mon, you have to pick eight of them. We’ll start a new herd in the Blue. We’ll have plenty of room for them in one of the storage areas. Just wait until you step into the Fighter. She’s beautiful.”

The group squandered some time just admiring Frank’s livestock in the surprisingly mild day. The sun was out yet there was a gentle breeze sweeping through the town of Last. Though there was not much to look at in the first place, they already missed it. They briefly relived the past and let nostalgia take them by surprise. Frank would miss his chickens and his sister Elle the most. Jackie remembered all the fond memories of being a hoodlum with Frank. Mina missed more of the potential rather than the past. Eventually bringing herself back to reality and letting the overglorified chicken tend to other matters, she looked around and did not see Rhys in sight.

“Where’s Rhys?”

“I ain’t seen him since we got out the truck. I thought he was behind us the entire time.”

Mina sprinted around the perimeter of the property while Jackie and Frank searched high and low next to the trucks. Frank broke away from the group and strode right into his shanty house. The living room was empty aside from the countless empty beer cans and raggety fabrics lying around. He jumped over the counter that divided the living room and rustic kitchen but alas, no Rhys. He heard a worrisome Mina frantically yelling out the boy’s name, but there was no response.

Next was the bathroom. Empty. It was not until Frank reached the last room, his quarters, that he started to panic and cry out for attention. Wherever he learned it from, he learned it fast and down to perfection. Rhys had kicked over the chair and fashioned himself a snug noose around his tiny neck. The boy was on his last stretch until Frank jumped onto a chair and shaved away the twine. Damn, the knots were securely fastened and finely woven around the wooden support beams. Hearing the screams from the outside, Jackie scurried in for the assist and propped up Rhys with her broad shoulders. Finally, Frank severed the last bond and caught the barely conscious Rhys in his calloused hands.

“Rhys!” Jackie exclaimed. Frank carried the youngster to his makeshift bed in the corner and let Jackie examine him further. “Can you hear me?”

“I don’t know why I was created.” Rhys sobbed. Tears rolled down his eyes and spilled onto Jackie’s forearms. He was not sure what this feeling was but he wanted to stop. It was too wet and hot for him. If he slept for good, he would not have to feel this ever again. “If I die, all this will stop.”

Intentionally avoiding eye contact with the brat at hand, Frank shouted to a corner of the room. “That don’t give you a damn reason to go and off yerself, kid! Stop running away.”

Like a robot designed to shut down instantaneously, Rhys stopped crying and muddled out, “I’m not running away.”

Mina stopped at the doorway to catch her breath. She had ran nonstop around the estate for quite some time until she decided to look through the house. It was only recently that she had been aware of his existence, but Mina valued Rhys’ life unconditionally. She was steadfast to adopt him into her family and to want to protect his innocence. Reclining right next to him, Mina spoke to him while they both enjoyed the emptiness of Frank’s ceiling.

“You have too much potential for the world in its current state. You can change the world with your mind. I’m not asking for that.” Mina then glanced at Rhys and smiled towards him. She wanted him to open up. “I’m asking for more from you, Rhys. I want you to live your life without persecution. You, like Frank and I, are entitled to the freedom to pursue happiness. You dying won’t solve all of Nocht’s problems, if not create more, but if we had the chance, we could change Nocht ourselves. You’re what Nocht needs right now, but the Lucavi don’t value your potential and they see you as a potential threat. If we can’t make amends in this world, we will look towards the sky below. We might be strangers to one another, but there’s an even stranger connection that binds us all.”

Frank and Jackie slowly excused themselves from the room and began packing all the unnecessary trinkets in the living room. Magical Bazmina Hazrah needed no help from her companions when she managed to make Rhys crack a liliputan guffaw. They had stayed on the bed and slowly talked about their fears.

“No one knows what the future will hold, but we live to see tomorrow.”

“Aren’t you terrified of what’s out there?”

“To be honest, yes, but I don’t let that feeling get to me. I don’t act out of fear.”

She grabbed his hand and squeezed tightly and for the longest time, did not let go.

The rest of the afternoon was spent at Frank’s house collecting more food and whatever ammo he had lying around. He made sure to carry all the magic shells he had found in the Tower of Nocht City in his jacket. Thirteen in total, many the same number. Out of seventy-two chickens, he picked his eight favorite and strung them up on a rickety homemade chariot. The remaining sixty four chickens were allowed to stay behind the enclosed space, but Frank left the gate open. The women drove their trucks with the rest of the goods in the back. Rhys who felt safe now rode with Mina.

After reaching the hangar and meeting up with the stoic Duster, the crew was finally able to enter the aircraft. Even Jackie was astonished with the interior. The Lucavi had spruced the insides, more than what anyone imagined. Entering from the back hatch of the ship, crates were safely secured to the sides with the livestock stalls neatly prepared for its guests. Of course, Duster believed that these stalls were meant for the humans. They made their way up the flanking flight of stairs to the hearth of the ship. It housed the kitchen and pantry with a fairly large wooden rectangular table resting in the middle of it all.

“Is that a chandelier?” Jackie queried. The light fixture gleamed most elegantly. The rhomboid fractals swayed coolly and chimed above the table.

“I left the hangar temporarily to see what humans found most appealing. A pack of crones incessantly mentioned chandeliers and how they never married because there was never a man could craft such a piece of art. I suppose I am marriage material.”

“Hmph,” was all Frank said to it. Frank was impressed.

Between settling everything from furniture to livestock and extending the bathroom breaks for sandwiches, Team Anchovi of the Fighter was a day ahead of the Lucavi’s departure deadline. By the end of it, everyone retreated to their personal quarters for the night. Despite the thick walls, everyone including Frank who had selective hearing suffered through Jackie’s obnoxiously bombastic snoring. Frank was unable to sleep in his room and instead favored the stalls. Duster sat in the cockpit and focused on the vast abyss before him. Mina waited for Rhys to doze before she tiptoed out of his room and made her way to the cargo bay. The boy mellowed throughout the entire night after his suicide attempt and slowly spoke a few words here and there.

“What are you doin’ up?” Frank stirred in the darkness. He knew that it was Mina. She always stepped with confidence yet she failed to keep it quiet. Plus, her robust scent of freshly crushed up garlic always allured him. “Git some sleep, Mina.”

“Have you heard the beast up there? I don’t think I’ll be getting sleep anytime soon. Plus, it’s not my bedtime. I work well into the night.”

Mina sat down on the ramp leading outside. For whatever reason, the backside of the airship was open to the world. Luckily for them the beasts stayed away from these parts of town. Frank shortly joined here and rested his head on her shoulders. He was anxious to start a new chapter in his life, yet at the same time he was going to miss this life. Mina accepted his affections and leaned her head against his and hugged him closer.

“Ya know, I have to thank Dusty and Rhys for all of this. Eh, maybe I’ll go a tad easy on them for a while, but I ain’t gonna get mushy with ‘em.”

“How ironic.”

Mina pulled him closer by the chin and kissed him on the lips. Tangerines. The tangy taste of tangerines lingered on her lips. The electric feeling surged across her skin. The embrace kept them up and awake throughout the brisk night and black night. Of course, none of this night would be complete without neon lights floating in the distance. In fact, Frank was taken back by them. Since when did fireflies glow red? Frank was the first one to get to his feet and realize that the fixed pattern of the lights were awfully threatening. Without saying anything, he fired aimlessly into the crowd of glowing red eyes and struck metal.

Mina retreated into the cargo bay and scampered around for the back floodlights. After a few seconds of fondling the steel walls, she flipped the switch and revealed a squadron of automatons marching toward them. Mere moments after the surprise reveal, Mina looked beyond them and towards Last. The town was set ablaze. The horror was settling in. Nocht was in peril.

It wasn’t long until the gunshots alerted and brought Duster and Jackie towards the back of the airship. Floating above Duster were three of his lovely surgeon tools.

Mina, with the intent of stopping the shock troops, ordered, “Jackie, under no circumstances are you going to let anyone embark the Fighter. You get her running while Frank, Duster, and I will take care of business.”

“It’s begun,” Duster stated. “Ximena is taking it upon herself to enslave Guten Nocht.”

“Did you anticipate all of this?”

Mina shot out streams of lightning into the distance. The crew had enough space between the malignant robots and the ship, but she feared that the pilot did not have enough time to pull the ship outside the hangar. Frank had an easier time dismantling the robots but at a cost. He reloaded his six shooter every time he took one down, and that was if he was lucky enough to strike the same spot on the robot every time.

“On this scale of professionalism, lethality, and urgency: about seventy-eight percent of it. These are rather well forged robots and they’ve been assembled rather recently.” Rhys fired into the crowd a shower of Lucavi spikes. They proved to be ineffective at permanently stopping the herd yet delayed them. “The only factor that caught me by surprise is how fast they were shipped out to the satellite states, but after I was granted exile, I decided to ‘fuck it all’ as you humans put it.”

“Heh, I’m rubbin’ off on ya,” Frank glinted.

[b ~Kzzrt!] It was Jackie’s voice over the intercom.

[b “Give me a few minutes and we should be able to leave soon. VTOL capabilities are currently a no-go. Do what you need to, but be back on the ship in ten minutes.”]

Mina pressed the intercom and responded, “That’s an affirmative.”

The airship’s tailgate rose from the ground a couple of feet as the Fighter gradually backed out of the thundering tin hangar. Frank and Mina hopped off to the side and continuously blasted the robots while Duster threw his discs into the darkness. The rotating blades carved into earth and metal alike and the lightning, furious as ever, made the ground quake with fear. It was simply not enough for the advancing robots. They steadily gained ground yet oddly did not retaliate with lasers or ammunitions.

The Fighter successfully backed out of the hangar and revved up its thrustors. Slowly pulling forward, the airship’s sound lull signaled the couple to make it back on board. Frank hopped up onto the ramp and pulled up Mina who was still intent on fighting the murderous machines off by hand. Her urge to dismantle them up close grew but she held back. The lull of the ship transformed into a roar and the wheels rolled forward with gusto. It was not until this point the robots began to dash for the ship.

Frank ran for the intercom and screamed into the speaker, “Jackie, yer gonna need to move. These psycho bastards are gaining speed on us!”

[b ~Kzzrt!]

[b “She getting to speed, Frankie. You’ll need to close the back door and get yourself situated.”]

Frank turned around to Mina hanging from the hydraulic parts of the ramp.

“Wait, wait are you doing?”

The Fighter was chugging along, but a few of the robots were easily a few feet behind and nicking the ship with their sharp talons. Mina shot a few of them down, but three more took the place of one robot.

“They’re playing with us, Frank.”

“I can pick ‘em all off! Jackie can get this bird into the sky, just give her a few.”

“No, there’s not going to be enough shells to take them out, and they’ll just latch on if we don’t do anything about it. Their intent is to catch Rhys.”

“Ms. Hazrah, then what do you purpose?” Duster looked to Mina and then to Frank. Not even into his exile, the white robed monster man knew he was not going to be a match for the robots. His extensions either bounced off the robots or lodged themselves in the automaton’s advanced alloy.

Mina scraped a few robots from the stern of the speeding ship and as she suspected, they were running faster than the Fighter. The robots went down, but hoards of them popped out of nowhere. One mistake could compromise the entire ship. There was no stopping for a breather. Bazmina charged up and unleashed bolt after bolt of relentless electricity. Frank tried his best to weed out the numbers, but his accuracy fizzled out with the night.

“Frank,” she huffed. Restless Mina glowed with tremendous zeal. A white aura emanated from her pores and her sweat evaporated. Her lover had never seen her this way, for she had always kept her powers on the backburner. She glanced back at Frank and smirked. “We’ll find each other again like we did years ago.”

Speechless and feeble, Frank fell to his knees and watched the angelically burning Bazmina leap out of the flying airship and into a mad frenzy of bloodthirsty constructs. The Fighter lifted off the rumbling earth and flew into the vast blue dawn. Before the back hatch sealed itself, Frank caught his final glimpse of Mina’s glowing figure erupt into an equally devastating and immaculate explosion. The heat from the white explosion brushed across Frank’s ruddy face as if it was one last kiss from the sweet yet oddly cruel Bazmina Hazrah. In that moment, a little piece of Frank Dietz, the outlaw and former chicken rancher of Last, died.
Finnigan     7y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size20 #ARC 2: THE GALHEAD TRADE COMPANY FIASCO#]
[size16 #Holy Varsylian Empire#]

[b Whrrrrrr.] The Fighter, the first of its kind to escape the arid Guten Nocht’s draining clasp, glided through the air. Everywhere Jackie looked, she saw blue. Everything was sky from all sights of the horizon. She pondered for the longest time: does anything exist in this vast openness? Hours went by and the airship sailed without seeing a speck of land. No trees, no grass, not even a desert. Concerned, Jackie flipped the switch to autopilot to find the rest of her crew in the back. She stepped out of the cockpit, walked through the main room where a meek Rhys slowly crept behind, and down the stairs she found Duster standing over a sobbing Frank.

“Frankie,” Jackie called out with much gusto. “I need you right now.”

Duster and Rhys both looked at her as if she was crazy. Afraid, Rhys did not want Jackie to come down here and confront the weeping Frank. HIding behind the robust woman, he just did not have an idea what Frank was going through. Meanwhile, Duster was giving Jackie such a blank stare. If there was one thing about Duster that peeved off Jackie and Frank, it was that his kind were dry in the face. It was the same blank stare every time. The day she saw Duster smile would be the day she’d quit piloting.

“Frankie.”

The soggy hot mess sank into himself a little more. No response.

Slightly ticked, Jackie raised her voice, “Frankie!”

No response.

Rugged as bricks Jackie approached Frank and reeled him in by the shirt. “Dietz. I’m only going to tell you this once and I am not going to repeat myself, so listen. I cannot tell you how distraught I am right now at this very moment. I knew Mina-baby too, we all grew up in the same neighborhood doing the same hoodrat shit we still do today. If any of us could do something about it and save Mina, we would have. We all owe her a debt, but you need to realize that she died for us back on Nocht because she wanted us to live and see the world. You know that she would put herself in the line of fire for all of us. We will not let her sacrifice go to waste. Mina, the kindness of her soul, would not want to see you weep over her. Right now, I need a partner, I need [b my] partner. I’m gonna let you cry for a little bit more, but I can’t be the only one holding this ship together, Frank. And please, for the love of the Maker, [size8 don’t leave me alone with these two.]”

Jackie left the damp Frank in the cargo bay with a smile as she wrangled up Duster and Rhys. She led them back to the cockpit hoping that they would be of some use.

“Alright, if there’s anything that’s on your mind that could potentially help us out, please tell me.”

“My connection with Mad Moon and the Lucavi is slowly fading away. I can only hear the strongest thoughts, but I have no connection with the actual continent itself. We are indeed sinking further into the Blue and away from Guten Nocht. I’m afraid that’s all the use I can be to you now, Jackie.”

Clicking a few buttons and checking her gauges religiously, she muttered, “Alright, that’s better than nothing. We’re on some sort of descent it seems, but it’s not showing up on the altimeter. We’re cruising at 550 knots, yet we’re not seeing a g’damn thing. I don’t get it.”

Sailing aimlessly into the endless sky blue, Jackie pressed her head to the main console and heavily sighed. She felt lost like Frank usually did when he left his house. Jackie tried meditating on finding their way out of the sky, but then there was sudden [b kzzzrt!] The radio burped. A grave man’s voice echoed through the hollow box. Taking this as a sign from her Maker, the captain pulled herself closer hoping for help.

[b “This is Captain Rhoton Gallien of the Holy Varsylian Empire’s vanguard and commander of the F.S. Macahedron. You’re in a strict no-fly zone and your aircraft is clearly unmarked according to the Transcontinental League’s Standards. You are hereby ordered by the Prince and the Regent Queen of Varsylgard to be escorted and to land your aircraft at the Royal Uol’wellian shipyard. You refuse these commands and your ship will be terminated indefinitely. Do I stand clear?”]

An airship of great magnitude flanked each side of The Fighter with their magnificent gallant turrets. Tempered steel hovered in the sky and matched The Fighter in awe, but not in technology. The sheer size alone took Jackie’s breath away. Her golden brown eyes lit up at the sight and her strong heart raced. She took a second to straighten herself out and then responded to the Varsylian captain.

“You’re speaking with Ms. Jackie Simms of The Fighter, ace pilot of Guten Nocht’s Last. If you could kindly escort us to the shipyard, we would be obliged to comply, Captain Rhoton Gallien. Now sugar, how would you like to board our ship, through the front or do you want to come in from the back hatch?” She snickered together and then sighed at the rest of the crew. Brick walls, the both of them.

The third Varsylian aircraft pulled forward from above and led the fleet into a sea of clouds that magically appeared. The machinery was largely foreign to Jackie, no one on Nocht used these materials or crafted in the same fashion. Mixing of materials, how absurd! Wood paneling with steel accents? It was barbaric but it attracted Jackie. The four airships plunged into the thick white and it was minutes before Jackie saw more of the sky.

Rhys pulled himself closer to the front of the cockpit and gasped in amazement. Water. The sparkling seas stretched for days in every direction. Small islands of sand and foliage littered the waters, but the Varsylian airships were not concerned with miniscule isles. They descended and aimed their sterns for the largest mass of land. Their engines roared and the mass amounts of smoke and steam trailed not far behind.

[b “When we arrive at the capital, Ms. Simms, you’ll follow the leading ship to your designated parking lot. I ask that you act with utmost behavior and stand down as we enter from the cargo bay. Do you understand.”]

“Of course, Captain.”

It did not take long for The Fighter to taxi on the Varsylian continent. The landing gear smoothly glided across the the paved landing strip and parked itself at the end of the shipyard. Ships of different caliber and class riddled the rather large and glorified parking lot. Many of them wore flapping wings while only a few sported gargantuan balloons. Still, Jackie’s bird was one of a kind and none of these ships had the luster to win her over.

As Jackie and Rhys headed towards the back of the ship to reconvene with Frank and meet with the stern Captain, Duster weirdly strided alongside them with his fingertips clacking against each other.

“I’m afraid I cannot leave the ship. Or be discovered by these...humans.”

“Why?” Jackie threw on her serious persona. Straightening her jacket and keeping a firm hold on Rhys’ delicate hand, she could not afford to pay much attention to Duster.

“I don’t know if the composition of the Blue will turn me to dust. This is a first for our kind, to leave Nocht, that is. It’s simply not a matter of mind.” Duster’s entire body quivered with his voice and broke through Jackie’s trance. She stopped momentarily to inspect him and he continued, “If there is one request I must ask of you and Frank, it is that I die with the ship. Not out there in the unknown.”

“Suit yourself.”

Jackie continued with her tough woman persona and left him to hide somewhere in the ship. She absolutely hated ignoring a fellow crew member, especially someone that Mina risked her life for, but if she did not get into character, she’d crack under pressure. Upon reaching the cargo bay, Jackie let go of Rhys yet he still followed her as she opened the back hatch. The first thing that hit the both of them was the waft of saccharine floral air.

From the blazing sun, a man in what Jackie would describe as tacky chrome dishware came forth. He wore a velvet red cape and carried his sleek bucket of a helmet in one hand while placing the other on the hilt of his sword.

“I suppose that you are Ms. Jackie Simms of this...ship. I am Captain Rhoton Gallien.”

He advanced up the ramp and stood inches away from Jackie’s body. He was a good foot and a half taller and it was rather awkward staring into his abdomen, yet Jackie ignored the captain and focuses on the man in the funny looking suit directly behind him. There were several dressed up like him; tall hats with a white plume sticking out of the ornate golden emblem and matching blue jumpsuits decorated with tasseled shoulders and golden buttons. The man with the simple face that she gravitated to was the mustached fellow with the cold blue eyes.

The captain, slightly annoyed with Jackie’s wandering eyes, butted in. “This is my first lieutenant, Hollis Westlands.”

Jackie smiled back at the greying captain and cleared her throat.

“Right…” Before anyone knew what was going on, Jackie ignored the captain once more and commented, “Are all you guys in uniforms uptight?”

“Excuse me?”

“You’re rather tight in the pants,” she winked and pointed at Hollis who was now withdrawing into himself.

Standing before a group of uncomfortable men, Captain Rhoton commanded her attention. “Ms. Simms, where is the rest of your crew?”

“Well, my first mate is resting in his quarters right now. This is Rhys, our guest. Treat him with the utmost respect, captain.”

The captain nodded at Rhys, and Rhys feebly nodded back.

“Just the three of you?”

Jackie read the captain’s suspicious face

“Correct.”

“Lieutenant Hollis, conduct an inventory of the ship. I want your men to find strip this place down and make sure they don’t have any hidden persons on their hands. Locate the whereabouts of the first mate. Feel free to utilize lethal force if Ms. Simms and her respected guest do anything out of the ordinary. I require a report to be drafted in t-minus five hours.”

Rhoton Gallien, one of the most well respected men of all of Varsylgard and its domains, returned to his aircraft with a few of the gunmen following suit. Hollis, a man of great honor and not much else, simply nodded at Jackie as he went ahead to search the ship with the rest of the men. Jackie glinted and looked at Rhys.

“You may not appreciate it now, Rhys, but you will in time.”

“What is that?”

“Exploring the unknown. I know that we haven’t exactly become best friends right now, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret of mine: throw yourself into adventure, especially if it’s dangerous. We only have one life to live, Rhys, but that does not mean that we have to hide in a tin can for the rest of our lives like Duster. Make the best of this life. After all, the Maker has a plan for all of us.”

“I don’t know who the Maker is,” Rhys remarked.

“They’re the reason why we exist. They’re the creator of land, sea, and humans. Well...you might be a special case. I guess you’re not exactly human. Anyways,” Jackie clapped her hands and put her arm around Rhys’ shoulders, “I’m gonna do just that. The explore part, see what I can find out from these guys and call it a day.”

Before Jackie slinked away, Rhys called out to her.

“Take me along! I want to go on adventures with you.”

Jackie slapped her knees and cackled. “Oh Rhys, this is a one-woman mission. Like I said, there is no way you would appreciate what I’m going to do. Take care, Rhys-e-sweets.”

Left by himself to occupy his time, Rhys plopped down on the ramp and scanned the seam between the hot asphalt and the lush green grass. At least Varsyl had something to look at. A glimmer of hope sat in the back of his head. Perhaps this was the new and promising beginning everyone was talking about. Rhys was not going to sulk all day in his room nor was he going to hide behind the walls, yet he was not going to run off to “explore” by himself. He would find out what was a Varsyl and why it was holy and what made it an empire.
Finnigan     7y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Gallomancers#]

Frank woke up to the rattling and banging of the metal walls. It took him a few minutes to open his eyes fully and hop out of bed to confront the situation. Whipping open the heavy door to his room and wearing only a tank top and ratty undergarments, Frank bumped into an unfamiliar face. What an ugly mug, he thought. That man with the grotesque bristle he called a mustache and the disheveled brown hair fled the scene with his drab blue uniform clutched to the furry chest. Granted, a jealous Frank judged the fit Varsylian man with the cold blue eyes and Jackie would later on argue that Hollis Westlands was the pineapple to her eye despite the lackluster sex.

Frank stepped into Jackie’s open doorway and stamped his feet. “Who the flyin’ fuck was that, Jackie?”

“Good morning Frankie-baby! I haven’t seen you in a while.” Jackie clutched the brown wool blanket to her thick bosom and grinned. “He’s besides the point. How are you doing?”

“I’m feelin’ a wee bit better than I was yesterday, that’s fer sure.”

His heart still sank every time Mina popped into his head. All the crying Frank did the day before knocked him out, but he welcomed it. His sister Elle had constantly reminded him that there was nothing wrong with crying. She was right; the moment of streaming warm and fuzzy tears was cathartic. Frank had made a promise though, both to Bazmina and Jackie. He was slowly pulling himself up and fixing the broken pieces.

“Hey.” Jackie managed to slip on her white blouse without Frank noticing.

“What?” Frank sullenly asked. He wasn’t completely there, but he was working on it.

“Smile a bit, don’t look so gloom n’ doom.” Jackie led him out of her room happily and continued their conversation on their way to the dining room with such perkiness. Frank had never paid attention to his sister-figure, but he could not help but stare at her built legs and plump behind. Where did it all come from? Like the man who stormed out of the ship, Jackie’s frazzled hair was all over the place like invasive dandelions. She had not noticed it until it swept into Frank’s face and delightfully stated, “After all, we have a big day on our hands.”

Jackie took her seat at the table while Frank pulled out a handful of eggs from the sleek fridge that probably costed more than Frank’s old estate. Though he was not the best at cooking, he thought he had the upper hand between himself and the space case sitting at the table. There was one day where she thought that cooking cereal and eggs together in the same pan was socially acceptable and that was the first and only day that the good doctor from Last would dine with them.

Frank placed a plate of well cooked eggs, sunny side up and a little crisp on the ends. Before Frank could even lift a fork and enjoy the yolks, Jackie opened her mouth, to no surprise.

“I’ve recently come across some information.”

“How?”

“Frank, that’s not important. I’ll tell you at the dinner table tonight.”

Hover just above her egg and plate, she looked up at Frank with a piece of egg in her mouth and devilishly guffawed. The expression was too goofy for him and Frank broke down his tough guy wall for a chuckle. He often relied on her humor to pull him through. According to Frank, Jackie was not a girl; she was just another really cool dude.

As Frank pulled their gunky plates from the table, Jackie resumed her course of action. “There’s a rancher not far from the shipyard who’s looking to buy more cattle. Now he’s not the richest person in the capital, but he’s rather well off.”

“What’s yer point, Jackie?” With concerns ramping up, Frank picked at his nose and crossed his arms.

Jackie took a deep breath before uttering the words, “We sell the chickens off.”

“What? No, we can’t do that. They’re our cash crop! That’s how we’re supposed to make it out here, Jackie! Whaddya thinkin’!”

“We’re not going to find the land necessary to raise chickens. From what I’ve learned, everything is expensive and we’re lucky that we landed here. That young fellow that you terrified on his way out told me that Varsylgard is the hub of the Blue. Ships come in and out, and while the capital is suffering, there’s plenty of jobs to be done. For the right price, of course. Right now, I believe that our best bet is to stay in the area and get ourselves established. Not only will you sell the chickens, you’ll be selling your expertise on raising these big buffoons. You’ll make a hefty coin. This is the kick in the dick in the balls we need right now.”

Frank stared into an empty coffee mug and sighed heavily. Already to a horrible start in this newfangled world, but Jackie’s blueprint to success was better than eventual starvation and poverty. Frank looked back up from the mug and watched Jackie leaving the dining room.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m gonna go register with the air force,” her voice carried through the metal hallways.

“Like Hel you are! Yer gonna go see that guy again!” Frank exclaimed. The guy was ugly, and the thought of Jackie inviting guys to her room was frightening to say the least. Jackie, not a girl but a really cool dude.

“If I do, it won’t be long until I’m back here unsatisfied. After I’m done with registration, I’m gonna scope out the capital and look for work. Maybe we’ll be able to get some honest work down here.” Frank could faintly hear Jackie chuckle to herself. “Honest work!”

“Yeah right.”

Frank headed back to his room only to meet sadness once more. Mina’s duffle bags sat in a corner, probably to be untouched for another twenty years or so. He thought about stowing them away in a closet or at least in a compartment far far away from his quarters. Not now, not ever. Frank turned the other way and refused to look at that corner again until he found out what he wanted to do with her items. He opened one of his bags and dressed himself the way his mother and sister taught him: drab tartan button up shirts and a pair of equally drab slacks. Bazmina and Sheriff Dempsi both suggested one day that he should change up his style, but their efforts were met with bitter snarls and shaking fists.

Making his way down to the cargo bay, Frank stopped. Rather, it was Rhys who stopped Frank.

“I’m going with you,” the boy weakly stated. Noticing his voice tapering off at the end, he reiterated himself strongly. “I’m going with you.”

Blowing air back and forth between his cheeks, Frank scratched his forehead and annoyingly remarked, “Look kid, I appreciate your enthusiasm, but I’m ridin’ solo. Why don’t you hang out with good ole’ Dusty?”

“I don’t want to be locked up in here. Besides, Duster--that’s his name, right?--hides in with the ship. I can’t find him.”

Rhys was rather insistent on getting the okay from Frank. Frank tried going down the steps, but Rhys followed him without stating another word, and before Frank’s boot touched the ground, Rhys jumped ahead and blocked his way. Frank thought about knocking him over with a fist, but the kid knew no better than to mess with a bigger kid.

“Hmph. Fine.”

Sighing, Frank flicked Rhys on the forehead and pushed through the barricade. Rhys stepped back and rubbed his forehead as they both approached the stables. The inner teacher of Frank pointed at the sharp beaked fiery eyed poultry monsters.

“These are chickens. I’m assumin’ since yer like a brick wall or some shit that you don’t know what a chicken is. They roam around usually, eat grain, sometimes lay eggs. Eggs are good--wait, do you even eat? Anyways, usually they’re much smaller than what you see but I come from a long list of ranchers who’ve bred these fellers. We’re like a bonafide clan of pollomancers, whatever the flying fuck that means. We’re known in Last as well as the rest of Guten Nocht as pollomancers. Pfft, sounds all scientific to me. Now, what a chicken does is eat, run, shit, n’ sleep. What we do with chickens is raise ‘em, kill ‘em, pluck ‘em, and eat ‘em. All this gotta be done with love.”

“Love?”

Frank cleared up this throat. How the hell do you explain love to a wad of bubblegum? “Uh...err, affection like friends or family. But not weird affection. I don’t want to see you fuckin’ my chickens, y’hear?”

“No, but I’ll learn. Hopefully.”

Rhys’s retort was not assuring to the chicken rancher. The majority of Frank’s simple-minded time was spent tending to his flock. If anything, he was cautious about the new folk around his pets, especially the young one, but that did not stop Frank from taking his time explaining everything about the chickens. In fact, once he strung six of them up and left two behind in their stables, he felt more comfortable teaching the boy a thing or two about his friends.

Impressed by the docile teenager, Frank allowed Rhys to approach them even closer. The kid was a natural. His livestock never took a liking to Jackie or the sheriff. Rhys petted each of them on the heads before a few strokes to the back of the feathery nape. The usually meek boy initially feared the beasts but soon grew to love them as much as Frank did. The sudden affection vibed well with farmer Frank and decided that maybe it was time for them to find a suitable home for the overgrown chickens. Another terrible departure, but it was what Frank thought was best for both parties.

The ride out of the shipyard was quite the scene. Pilots and passengers from the different ships slowly followed behind the makeshift chariot and all the way to the front gates. While Rhys was amazed with all the different designs and the trail behind, Frank kept a steady hand at moving forward and ignoring the peanut-heads. Speaking of peanuts, Frank craved for some throughout the entire ride. The lush green fields lit up both sets of eyes. Great trees with sturdy trunks and heavy roots lined themselves alongside the stone paved roads.

The man he was looking for was Elbriz of the Engergast Farm. Apparently this rancher was known on this side of the capital for his prized crops and hearty livestock. The man who guarded the front gates of the airport instantaneously gave Frank the answer he needed once he saw the giant cock and his harem of red tailed hens. Granted, Rhys interrupted Frank’s frustration when they turned the wrong way. Frank blamed the man’s directions, yet Rhys picked up on every little detail of the route. It was forever imprinted in him.

A lot of the architecture involved stone. A lot of it, actually. Frank commented on how squatty and fat the houses looked like, but remarked that the lawn looked better than that of Last. The wide open spaces turned into rolling knolls for the cows, pigs, sheep, and smaller chickens to roam free. Out in the fields were the hardworking shepherds and cowboys wrangling up the livestock on horseback. Their mouths were left open once they took a gander in Frank’s direction. Frank smiled back and simply waved at all the men he left in awe.

A good hour and a half later, Rhys directed Frank to the right coordinates. The Engergast Farm was one of the larger estates with its own private road leading the main ranch house. From afar, Frank realized that they had rows upon rows of fruit bearing trees to the right of the house. Frank drove up to the shack that was left of the house and parked. Wanting to surprise this Elbriz fellow, Frank commanded his chickens and Rhys to stay behind the utility shed until he signaled. Frank threw on his best businessman impression, puffed out his chest, and stuck his elbows out as he marched to the front of one of the few wood paneling houses in Varsyl.

Frank’s stamping in the front yard caught the attention of an older man, possibly in his early fifties, and a very young lady in a pink floral cotton dress. The man scratched his scruff and stood at the top of the steps and waited.

“Good mornin’, sir! I am the one and only, Frank Dietz of Guten Nocht. You heard ‘bout us?”

“No,” he started off quietly, almost too quiet for Frank to hear. “Elbriz Frueler. This is my daughter, Luzi. Now say hi Luzi.”

“Hi.”

“Now what do you want, Frank Dietz of Guten Nocht?” Elbriz fixed his spectacles and scratched the thick mess of white wiring he called his hair.

“Now I heard you be a farmer looking to raise more cattle. You know, increase your livestock with variation. Well this breed is exclusively from Guten Nocht, and I promise you this now, ain’t no eyes in the Blue that’s seen these beauts that I have for you.” Frank turned to the shed and shouted, “Rhys! Carry on now!”

“What magnificent beasts are these? Tell me, what witchcraft is this?” His daughter Luzi clasped both hands around his.

Elbriz was amazed at such beasts. The six of them, all standing majestically with breasts pushed out like their owner’s chest. He had to know how these chickens got this way.

“Ain’t no witchcraft, sir. They’re like regular chickens, just a li’l scrappier.”

“I don’t know how to tend to such a beast.”

“That’s where I’ll come in. I’ll give you the lot that you see and in addition to what you pay for them, you’ll pay a nice salary to keep me around and teach ya and your most trusted band of merry men.” Frank looked back at Rhys and winked. He thought he was the coolest guy around because he could wave his livestock around and automatically seal the deal.

“We’ll talk logistics inside. Come. It’s gonna get hot out here soon. Luzi, could you kindly bring out the tomato tonic for our guests. If your slavehand wants to, he can bring the chickens around to the watering hole.”

Elbriz turned for the door, but Frank interrupted his motion with confusion.

“Slavehand?”

Elbriz furled his eyebrows and rubbed his scruff once more. Bobbing his head forward, he took a closer glance at Rhys. “Yeah, that boy on the chariot is your slave, isn’t he?”

“Oh, no! No, not this guy. We’re not into that kinky shit.” Frank signaled Rhys to his side and wrapped his arm around his shoulders. “This guy is practically family.”

“I see.” Elbriz pulled out a handkerchief from his front pocket and blotted away the sweat tears.“They not have slavery up in Guten Nocht?”

“Prostitution, but whores usually ran the town in that case.”

“Don’t know why you’d come to this country then. It seems like they’re snatching up people everyday and there’s more slaves now than ever. Anyways, let’s get you settled in, partner.”
Finnigan     7y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Are You Looking for Freedom?#]

It had been a week since Frank and Rhys routinely visited the Engergast farm. Frank taught Elbriz, his most trusted ranchers, and Rhys the fundamentals of caring for these majestic beasts. Of course, there were a few days where the chickens would take swipes at some of the unworthy men. Rhys was the best at catching on and even began riding one of the hens through the open grassy fields. The boy was a natural according to the gritty Frank and the rustic Elbriz. None of Elbriz’s men dared to hop on and take a chicken for a ride. Rhys would have put them all to shame, especially with his swift riding and unnatural confidence displayed.

It was one afternoon after a long day of training with Elbriz that Jackie broke the news to Frank. Every panel, door, and compartment was opened with wires splayed for the entire shipyard to witness. Stout Jackie, all covered in oil and dirt from all the wonderfully complex and bizarre airship parts, came from the other side of the Fighter waving a dirty rag. Rhys went ahead inside the ship for some water while Frank confronted the worrisome warrior.

“How’s it hangin’, Jackie?” Frank wiped the sweat from his face with the back of his hand and stared at the blue sky. Not a single cloud in sight. Guten Nocht was never this harsh, not even during the summer.

Thinking of helping out her friend, Jackie tried blotting Frank’s dripping face with her dirty rag but only got oil on his face. She cracked a grin but shortly fell into a grave tone. “The Fighter is gonna need a lot of work, Frank. With the budget we have, this ship is not going to be soaring the skies anytime soon. I could show you all the places that need a fixing, but that would take us all the way to dinner.”

“Well shoot Jackie, have you looked at hiring a mechanic? There has to be one in this forsaken trailer park. Next person I see, I’m gonna get some answers.”

“No use, I’ve asked around for quotes and their prices are unreasonable. Heck, they want a fifth of what the Fighter is worth, Frankie. We’ll have to sell everything inside her in order to get her fixed.” This was coming from Jackie, the thief who invested all her money on the ship and the fancy trinkets inside, but never thought of putting away money for a rainy day fund. If she was going to be honest with herself, she would have to admit that food was a large portion of the budget.

“Not a single soul in Varsyl is going to help you get your wings back.” An unfamiliar voice echoed behind Frank. Jackie and Frank turned around to meet a man in a blue jumpsuit. His dark complexion ran rare in the shipyard and as well as the Varsylian capital. His head ran with tightly wound curls of black, yet he lacked any facial hair to complement. Frank guessed that he was around in his mid twenties despite the irksome formality in the man’s step. “People don’t take too kindly to strangers. Especially when they come out of nowhere unannounced.”

“The pot calling the kettle black, ain’t we? Who’re ya?” Frank placed his hand on his revolver, but quickly decided that Jackie’s scowl was even fiercer. Of course, Jackie reverted to a radiant smile in the company of an attractive young lad.

“The name is Antonine Maxwell, but call me Tony.” He stood there with his hands in his pocket and simply nodded towards Frank and Jackie.

“What can we do for you, Tony?” Jackie’s smile grew bigger and whiter. Frank never remembered her being so boy crazy. I guess the fair share of men on Nocht weren’t that spectacular.

“I come before you today with a proposition.”

Before he listened any further, Frank headed for the Fighter’s back hatch. “Ain’t interested.”

“It would benefit us both, immensely.” All sense of his cool attitude broke down in favor of the desperation in his voice.


“Oh yeah?” Frank paused.

“Yeah.”

The man from Guten Nocht continued his stride into the Fighter and signaled for the stranger to follow. Starry-eyed Jackie escorted tall Tony and tried to make conversation.

“How do you Varsylians put up with this heat? C’mon in.”

Often, Frank thought about going back on his words and actions. Team Anchovi had only been in Varsyl for a week and now they were letting door-to-door salespeople roaming around the bowels of their ship.

“Frank, stop your mumbling up there.”

The ship intrigued Tony. None of the designs he saw would ever make it to the Varsylian public, largely because it was not in style or the engineers had no clue how all the fancy technology worked. Tony, on the other hand, indulged himself on the free sights and sounds, but not until he witnessed a white whisper slowly brushing down the hallway.

“Wh-what is that?” The cool began to run off and this brought pleasure to Frank. Tony backed up a little behind Jackie.

“That’s Duster,” Jackie nonchalantly noted.

Confused because he had not seen Duster the entire time since they initially landed, Frank asked, “How didya manage to get Dusty out of the rafters?”

“You were never good at paying attention to detail, Frankie. Duster is always looming around the corner. He’s quiet, but if you’re quick enough, you can see him.” Jackie called for Duster and Rhys as the giant table in the dining area was set for a meeting. Putting out the fine mustards and soft pretzels she so dearly loved from the bakery back home, she offered Tony a plate and munched while the last two members of the crew filed in. “Anyways, since we’re Team Anchovi, we should at least have everyone present for this. That’s Frank, I’m Jackie, that over there is Rhys, and then Duster.”

“Make it snappy, Antoine,” Frank snarled. “I got shit to shuffle.”

“Right.” Tony, who was earnestly trying to win the hearts of these strangers, paused. “For nearly three-hundred years, the continent of Varsylgard has allowed private contractors the freedom to enslave humankind. Under what circumstances has certainly changed throughout the decades, but thousands of Varsylian men and women are currently being denied their Maker-given rights. We hold certain truths to be evident, yet the hypocrite slavers turn the other way for the coin. Currently, the Galhead Trade Company holds a large monopoly in the slave trade and it continues to grow throughout the entire empire.”

“What about the governing body?” Duster creepily stared at Tony. The image of a silver man enshrouded in more silver creeped him out. The thin spindly arms reminded him of large woodland spiders.

“I see that rumor doesn’t spread as far as the heavens. Within these past five years, under the regent rule of the foreign queen Helvetia, slavery has grown exponentially. The population of Varsyl has drastically declined as the Galhead Trade Company continues to ship out lives to the other empires. Exports of human lives are growing, but the large consumer base resides in the capital and plantations.”

“Why?” Rhys squeaked out.

“Now, I’m no politician, but the Holy Varsylian Empire is on its last stretch. It’s life fibers are wearing by the day and there’s only two reasons why Varsyl is still a thing: the Episkopos Maximo, the holiest mortal in the Blue, resides in the capital and Queen Helvetia is the sister to the king of the Dalme empire. From what I hear, the Dalmesian army could conquer the capital in three years tops. In order to cut back on liveable working wages in addition to weeding out competition. In this case, competition can be from rival companies or your next door neighbor. You just have to give the GTC a reason to bag you and they will. They always catch their targets. Those wolves hide in sheep skin.”

“Why would we want to destroy the natural order of things?” Frank was not enthused by Tony’s plea.

“There’s nothing natural about this, Frank.” Duster pointed out.

“Say we do bring down slavery, what does it mean for Varsyl?”

“Varsylians are strong, we’ll manage. What we need now is to free our fellow men and women from the tyrants who incarcerate us. Please, help me, help the people of my country.”

“And what exactly do we get in return?”

“Your ship. I’ll fix it.”

“You know a mechanic, Tony?” Jackie asked, still captivated by the young man and his charisma.

“I am one.” The mechanic crossed arms and leaned back in his chair. “I work in another shipyard just northeast of the capital. Fix big name ships such as the Yang Expressway taxi ships and Lansit’s Magnuze. Search them both up if you want to, but the Magnuze is the craziest ship I’ve tinkered on. The best part about it, I know almost every component to that ship from stern to mast, starboard to port. If I can figure out that ship, I can surely fix this bird in no time.”

“Nope.” Frank looked to the ceiling. His gut wasn’t feeling it.

“What do you mean by ‘nope’, Frankie? This guy can get the Fighter back up into the air.”

Duster added on, “It would be most logical that you aid our friend, Frank. Think of all the benefits you could reap.”

The cynical Frank snidely remarked and retorted, “Yeah, death.”

Jackie, Duster, and Rhys all gave each other looks before glaring back at Frank. Though the latter two were inexperienced in anything short of crazy, Jackie desired the Fighter’s wellbeing. The job searching was futile despite her hardest efforts in wowing a crowd with her strength. Tony was correct. No one in this land trusted foreigners.

“It’s not my problem.”

“Frank, he’s our only chance,” Jackie plead. She hated stooping this low in life, but she was desperate. Though she thought it was a tough job to take on, Jackie not only thought about her ship but also the people they would be helping out. The thought of this happening in a strange and new place actually terrified her. The what-ifs started to roll through? What if they were thrown in jail for a crime they could have fled? What if one of them were captured by hunters and slavers? The thought of losing Frank or Rhys boggled her.

Balling up both hands, Frank slammed them onto the wooden table and hoarsely barked, “Jackie, you said that we had to look for honest work. Now, I ain’t sayin’ that Mr. Maxwell ain’t an honest man--surely no dirty deed dresses for the occasion--but this is borderline terrorism. We’re not terrorists. I can’t risk the lives of the crew just for some radical mechanic with a raging freedom boner.”

“Look, I can see that this situation is pretty delicate and your crew isn’t suited for the job. I understand. I didn’t know people from the “Wild” Nocht were so tame,” Tony taunted.

“Look bud, we’re on a no-trouble diet. Unless you wanna make trouble, you best turn heel now.” He pulled out his revolver and pointed down the table and straight at Tony’s face. Always reckless and looking for trouble himself, the wild card hated to be taunted by young mouths, especially in clown suits.

“Frank!” Jackie exclaimed. “Put the gun down, you’ll break the Fighter even more.”

Tony kept his cool by breathing slowly and removed himself from the dining table. He took a pocket-sized piece of paper and tossed it on the table. “I’m leaving my card on the dining table. Jackie, if Frank ever changes his mind, you’ll know where to find me. It was a pleasure meeting all of you. Take care.”

Without another word from anyone, the man in the blue jumpsuit quietly excused himself from the ship. Frank returned his gun back to its holster while Jackie fumed off into her room. Unable to make any sense of what had just happened, Duster simply focused his gleam towards Rhys. Rhys, disappointed with Frank’s decision, stared back at Duster only to feel a slight eeriness lingering in the room. Surely this meant more adventure for the young encyclopedia, yet even the brick wall Illumina had some sort idea of imminent peril. If giant mechanical spider women existed, who was to tell the young man about human nature?
Finnigan     7y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Rhysyclopedia#]

The white goddess appreared to him once more and she hummed a small tune preventing the edges of his night terror from collapsing on him. Rhys was not sure who she was but she seemed to plague his dreams as much as the awfully grim dreams. Sometimes a man years older than him would appear and nod. He had the same blond hair and brown eyes as he did, but he had scruff. Neither of the two figures in his dreams said anything to him, but they continued to pop out of nowhere throughout the nights in order to protect him. It was tonight that he decided to run away from these pains.

Rhys woke up a little before five in his quarters. He never slept underneath the blankets and one of his biggest ticks was that he never wore socks on the ship. He took pleasure in gliding his petite feet across cold steel grates and floors. Hopping out of bed, he pulled the army green jacket over his shoulders and white tee and zipped on a pair blue jeans. He opened his hatch stealthily and tip-toed all the way down to the cargo bay. The sun had not risen yet. Rhys planned nothing, yet something in his empty stomach told him that he needed to get out of here. He took the only hen Frank kept in the Fighter, Yohilde, and set off for an unexpected journey.

The wind rose through his limp straw colored hair as he sped through the reticent shipyard. This time of day was his favorite shade of blue. Cool, calm, and quiet. A slight chill ran through his body, yet the very same chill invigorated the young man’s spirit like a general’s warcry does to his soldiers. Rhys loved the speed and the air hitting his face. Blades of grass tickled the bottom of his bare feet; the boy packed his shoes in a backpack along with food and water just in case things turned for the worst on his joyride.

He reached the countryside of Varsyl and the Engergast farm in an hour, a record that Frank would never know about. The sun rose on his left side, and Rhys took awe in the radiant artistry as he flew across the grassy plains. The orange glow met the Illumina and greeted him as if they were longtime friends. The warmth enshrouded the golden child, and in return the boy continued to ride. He wiped away at his runny nose and ducked closer to the hen’s neck. He was going to need goggles if he wanted to ride more like this. Perhaps the marketplace was his best bet for the wares.

In another thirty minutes, Rhys reached an end to the exorbitant trading strip. The crowds started off small, but the barefoot lad had a good feeling that this would not last for long. Leading Yohilde by the reins, Rhys observed that the men and women of all heights, weights, colors, ages, and possibly origins came to this part of Varsyl to do their business. Their trades ranged from blacksmiths, basket weavers, and artisans to the vendors who sold poorly made trinkets made in other rundown countries. Their costumes were crafted from the most vibrant colors and their tongues ranged from sharp shrills to torrid poetry.

Yohilde was the star attraction the morning. The big bellied men rallied for Rhys to come closer and sell the feathered beast strutting behind him, but the boy was resilient with his polite silence. Instead, he observed the clothings that seemed to come from other countries. Jolly merchants sold the light and colorful scarfs for cheap. One scarf seller explained that many women adored his clothing because it reminded them of the exotic beasts that usually resided outside of Varsyl. Of course, the idea of gaudy red and yellow pygmy boars intrigued the young man and he was not far from the national zoo either. A young girl who overheard the conversation happened to pull out her picture book to show Rhys of some of the magnificent animals of the Blue. The illustrations had rather subdued colors, but she assured him that they were just as colorful as the scarfs.

Rhys bought a few scarfs for the crew and thought that a little color never hurt the Fighter. He imagined coming in contact with the strange beasts depicted in the picture that the pristine-dress girl gave him. Frank’s chickens still amazed him to this day, but the Blue offered him more than anything else that the crew could find on the ship. Rhys reached a few taverns along his journey where he quickly grabbed a few bites from the servers at the window. The ledges had bowls with food installed, and the aromas enticed both the boy and his hen. Paying for fresh bread and a pungent fish and tomato paste concoction, the salivating Rhys and Yohilde indulged themselves on the warm morsels. Nearby, a woman with a couple of giant blue plastic containers sold water. She bragged that it was the best water within the five kilometer radius. Rhys splurged on a liter before moving on. She wasn’t lying.

The marketplace burst into a giant mass of bodies as the early sun toppled over them all. The chattering from all corners and tents pushed Rhys out of his comfort zone, and the boy became rather reclusive. Before reaching the end of the strip and taking witness to the giant plaza, Rhys removed himself from the crowd and took an alleyway to a quieter setting. Though the stone architecture remained intact, green foliage and ivy crawled up the buildings and trees planted their roots on both sides of the street. Women in paper thin blue body dresses sat at tables laughing about the everyday and old men hollered across the street for peace and solitude, but other than the few banters, this street suited Rhys.

Tying Yohilde’s reins to a tree, the young man who did not tire easily sat at another table straddling the stone paved street. He breathed as he watched time pass him by. He tuned into different conversations and observed gestures of the folk who inhabited the area. The women obscured their entire bodies with their one piece dresses, yet freely expressed themselves with their lavish and well-adorned arms. Their exuberant gesticulations excited Rhys to the point where he had to stop himself from openly mimicking. Many of the younger men, tanned from the hard labor in the sun, wore deep purple pants and bared their chests in public. The women snapped and waved the men off, and Rhys scratched his head in confusion. A man who was watching Rhys approached him from behind and happily explained that the women were interested in the mens’ physiques, yet shooed them off because they were faithful to their husbands. The man who helped him out was named Akerjan Bufidi.

Akerjan Bufidi expressed that Rhys Illumina stood out like a sore thumb and the giant feathery steed was not helping him at all. Though the people on this street did not mind to make a large debacle of his presence, Rhys’ pasty complexion and bizarre light hair turned people away from him. It was also the silence or rather the lack of expression he was giving off. Though this street was usually quiet and without distraction, people took pride in their melodrama and dependency on emotions. Outside of the stone kremlin, the people played to their loud nature as if no one was listening or watching.

Akerjan was a merchant on the street over, but often left his sons to run his textile business. He made it his mission to break Rhys into outer Varsylian customs by introducing him to the rest of the street. The couple of women in blue yelled at Rhys for being quiet like the mice who scampered in the alleyways, but Akerjan Bufidi assured him that he was a foreigner who came from a rather aloof and cold continent. Still, the women continued to yell at Rhys and laugh at his costume. Stiff-panted and dry is what they described it. The women gave him fashion advice, yet Rhys quietly took it in. He was not sure if they were being rude at this point or if they wanted to aid him in his acceptance of Varsyl.

It was not until an old man and some children down the street began to harass the resting Yohilde. The sticky handed and loud mouthed children ruffled up the blazing orange feathers until Rhys raised his voice and hands. The women paid immediate attention to Rhys as he began to scold, or maybe it was inform, the younger looking kids and the older man. Once Rhys began his lecture on the Yohilde and her children, he was not able to stop. Before he knew what was happening, the crowd grew from the children and the old man to the women in the blue garb, Akerjan Bufidi, and several other older folk. It was then where a kid, Akerjan’s youngest son, gifted the storyteller a pair of goggles.

Though the crowd begged Rhys to stay, the golden hair kid excused himself and began his journey back to the shipyard. He nodded to blissful ruddy-faced Akerjan who assured that Rhys will always have a compatriate in the area. The shady trees kept him and his steed well rested and cooled while the crowds from this street and the next sluggishly died out. The day heated up, yet there was a figure slowly trailing behind Rhys and Yohilde. A young girl who was just as inaudible as Rhys clandestinely trotted behind on a white colt. It was Luzi from the farm.

Rhys dismounted at the end of the street and Luzi hopped off her horse in response. Holding the colt by his reins, taciturn Luzi nodded and awkwardly guffawed at Rhys. He was not sure what was going on, but he took a deep breath and avoided any eye contact with her. Girls were strange, especially the younger ones. The boy from desolate Guten Nocht was not confident in his thesis. Were all girls this odd and creepy? Was it just girls who glared this way? Rhys remembered Duster uncomfortably staring at him like this for long periods of time. Maybe it was a local greeting. As a response, he returned her beams with a terribly half-assed glint and wide open eyes. Unfortunately, the furrowing of her brows and biting of her lips stopped Rhys from making anymore boisterous facial expressions.

In an attempt to befriend Luzi, Rhys pulled out his picture book and shared it with the girl who was equally fascinated with animals as he was. Luzi explained that all the animals came from other countries, some of which could be seen in the capital’s colosseum. Though many Varsylians went to the zoo to take joy in the animals, other people wrestled with the blue-ridged nose bears and repelled the voracious tiger striped bats. She said that her father Elbriz thought it was an atrocity to have man fight with beast for sport, but the spectators paid large sums of money for entertainment. Many of the animals were imported by poachers from foreign countries such as Sudra, Bating, and the Ubermens Range.

They spent a large sum of time talking about animals and walking their mounts towards home until Luzi came up with the bright idea of racing. Unable to come up with the most appropriate words for the occasion, he simply jumped onto fiery Yohilde and awaited Luzi to initiate the challenge. He strapped on his goggles that managed to match his army green jacket and petted the firm hen on the hen. They had kilometers to go, but Yohilde had the stamina to run back to the Engergast farm and further. Luzi, whose horse bore no name, hopped onto the zealous creature and readied herself for the long drive home.

[b Go!] Hoof and talon imprinted the soft earth beneath them as they trailed across the vast and open space. Limb to limb, horse and chicken matched in speed with both riders gleaming at the teeth. Not quite a teenager yet, Luzi fiercely raced against Rhys with a steady hand on the leather reins while pointing at him with the other. She had experience racing through the countryside, perhaps even challenging and swindling other kids out of their lunches. Rhys stuck out his tongue in return, learning it from a kid he met earlier in the day. His spirits ran high with the fresh air filling his nostrils.

The race ended in a tie as they reached the road leading to the farm. Rhys went past the road only to slow down and wave goodbye to Luzi who could not help herself but laugh uncontrollably. She waved back before heading back home. Rhys continued the pace all the way back to the shipyard without a care in the world. He had almost forgotten the dim nightmares, but as soon as he recalled them they fleeted with the gorgeous scenery and the waning sun. He enjoyed the sun and learned more about Varsyl on his own than what he would have if he stayed cooped up in the Fighter all day.

Upon his return, Frank brashly waved his hands up and loudly wondered where Rhys disappeared to. Jackie, who was usually carefree about things, rushed over to him and checked to make sure he was intact. His riding ability shocked her. Impressed, Jackie patted him on the head and decided that maybe Rhys was not as vulnerable as she thought. Frank doubted that the boy went far, stating that Rhys was too young to go far with one his chickens. In his mind, there was no way Rhys had the guts to do something so rash. The young Illumina smiled, and as they all moved inside for dinner, he pulled out his picture book.
Finnigan     7y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Foxcatcher#]

Jackie went back on her promise to Frank and the crew. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail and her body was decked all in black. A pilot and a fighter she was, but she moonlit as a thief. Like the vicious alleycats back on Guten Nocht, the slinky Jackie stalked her prey back to its den. She hid in the shadows and avoided the large groups, stuck to the walls like flies on sticky paper and scaled small buildings without a drop of sweat. Surely, a grimy job here and there would not harm anyone.

An apothecary by trade, the man was far from helping his fellow Varsylians. He capitalized on the pain of others for a hefty price and from what she scoped out, a most excellent haggler. Jackie had scoped out the stalking grounds days prior, observing the man and his nasty ways. A foul mouth yammered and patronized the women in worn kerchiefs, and even the apothecary’s boot lodged itself into the pauper’s frail ribcage. Perhaps it was the cruel Varsylian brand of life and perhaps she was going to perpetuate it even more, but Jackie always picked her targets accordingly.

If she was going to be honest about the outskirts of the Varsylian capital, Jackie had to admit that it was rather corrupted and had a smidge suspicion that it was the capital tainting its people wrongfully. The upper crust was slowly dying following the death of their king, and the upbringing of Prince Chelon under the regent queen Helvetia’s rule promised a diminishing future. The capital had seen better days. The marble once used on their governmental buildings were pulled from the city and replaced by ugly sand-colored stone. In fact, the capital was fortified with sand-colored stone walls. Ancient buildings now either existed as part of the walls or were buried by the newer and uglier architecture.

Munifications ran rampant along the walls with watch towers stationed every hundred meters. Not even fifty meters away from the outermost wall, ramparts and wooden stakes littered the front lawn. Apparently, Varsyl had been a constant state of paranoia for the longest time and feared that the other empires would soon capitalize on its weakness. The barbarians, as the Varsylian upper crust called them, came from all parts of the unknown Blue. People were not familiar with the infrequent sacks of the capital nor did anyone outside the walls pay any concern. Only the rich and the elite had been educated on what little past the Varsylians preserved.

Jackie was too smart to hit the capital. The thought about pilfering within those walls pained her. Even in her prime she knew that the guardsmen had a bolt or three dedicated for her broad back. [i ‘Stick to the ponds. Surely a few fish will come my way.’] Confident, she clasped her hands and rubbed them. Her target was going to be like every other job she took on. The greedy apothecary was not from big money nor did he generate enough to warrant enough bodyguards.

It was hours before Jackie decided to start the heist. No one had entered or exited the building within those times, and she found it rather odd that the lights were still on in the midst of the night. Everyone else had blown the wax candles out except for the apothecary. She slyly entered the worn wood paneling house from the only entrance, the front door adorned with broken stained glass. Inside, lit candles and the obnoxiously potent scent of sandalwood incense burned throughout the den. Shelves housed a myriad of glass jars and within those jars a plethora of exotic herbs, spices, and small animal organs. Salamander hearts, turmeric, bat brain, sage. Jackie was thinking this man was more along the lines of a witch, the kind only told to young children.

She searched high and low through the jars, examining all the weird and creepy things she found. In the few seconds that she let her guard down, a man from the dimly lit side of the shop pinched her on the shoulders. She swung her arm backwards but missed as he ducked right into her other arm’s fist. The man stumbled back and shook his face. He was drawing blood.

“Now fork over the gwap, and we won’t have any problems.” Cracking her knuckles, Jackie readied her stance for a beatdown. This was not the way she wanted to go out, but she was foolish enough to let him get the best of her.

The man, significantly older than Jackie, tilted his head back and grumbled. He was not in the best shape, even for an average man. Furious, he yelled, “You punched me! You insolent little insignificant meadow muffin tossing sore!”

“Man, what kind of insult was that?” she quipped.

The man shuffled through his robes until he found a few vials of strange colored juices.

“They should have never let your kind step on this land. Filthy jaundice squints. The Maker will purge you of your sin and cast you into the stoked coals!”

“Whoa, that’s rather harsh.”

Before she could even make a move, the sinister man smashed the glass vials at her feet. The violent stench of mustard and the radiant violet smoke engulfed Jackie’s body. Trying to break free, she accidentally inhaled a whiff of the noxious gas. Panicking and temporarily blinded, Jackie charged through the front door. Well, she took the front door with her when she stumbled through the exit. Glass shattered and Jackie peeled out without a second thought. Running the entire way back to the shipyard, all she thought about is how awful and awry the night went. A simple job went wrong. Frank was going to scold her.

The Fighter’s back hatch was surprisingly open with Frank tending to his chickens. Jackie stumbled outside, appearing worse than she thought. Her legs quivered from the running, but the poison inflamed her muscles. Everything around her started to spin, and the ship’s internal lighting made her queazy.

“I tried…”

“Jackie...Jackie!” Frank averted his attention to Jackie who suddenly fell to the floor. Rushing to her side, he rested her head on his lap and shouted in her face. She vibrated and tried to open her eyes, but she couldn’t utter any words except for “medicine”. “Hey, what’s wrong? Duster! Git over here, it’s Jackie!”

Duster looked down at the situation from the top of the stairs before he came to Frank’s side. The outlaw panicked and the Lucavi pulled in closer to Jackie. He relieved Frank of her and inspected her closer. He placed his spindly hands over her chest and glowed a soft green aura.

“She’s been in contact with a poisonous agent, Frank. Though the compound is not strong enough to outright kill her, there is a chance she’ll end up temporarily or even permanently paralyzed. I’m only able to mitigate the process at the moment.”

“Use yer white man magic!” Frank shouted.

He fumigated, but not because of Duster or even Jackie’s disastrous planning. He wished that he was there to help her out. Maybe if he was there, none of this would happen. He would be here now looking at his friend struggling for her life. Her breathing intensified and her limbs burned up. Jackie’s veins popped out as if they were screaming for attention. Frank turned teary eyed. [i ‘Not again.’]

“I’m afraid to tell you that the distance between here and Mad Moon severely handicaps my arsenal of techniques. Though this is a well put together compound, my abilities would have been able to stabilize Jackie within the first ten minutes of contact. It is with great displeasure to inform you that it will take an exponential amount of time to extract the poisoning.”

Not afraid to hold back his emotions, Frank sniffled and ordered, “I need you to try a little bit harder.”

“You speak as if my output was not at its maximum. I’m insulted.”

Duster paid no attention to Frank’s cries. Jackie was the utmost importance. Though he did not show much emotion himself, the Lucavi frowned internally. He felt a little less useful than normal. he confounded himself to the ship. Maybe he was to blame for all of this too. Maybe if he was around the outcomes would have looked a bit brighter.

“I do have one alternative, but I am afraid that I will not be any service to you in the meantime.”

“Do what you have to do, just save Jackie. I’m gonna find the fucker who did this, even if it takes me the entire night.”

“As you wish.”
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Indie+Flower]
[indie+flower Semald’s Apothecary and Crafts]
[indie+flower South of the marketplace,]
[indie+flower pointed wooden roof, approach from southeast side]

Before he had set off on one of his chickens, Frank quickly picked through Jackie’s pockets for any clues. He sighed. His friend was desperate in the moment to make a few coins. He felt that she doubted his ability to rake in the money with the side-ranching. Frank was hurt, but Jackie was his friend to the end. He never wanted any of this to happen, and maybe she figured him out. Frank wanted all of this to work out without resorting to thievery.

Without anymore thought, Frank hastily rode into the night to find the deadly chemist. It did not take any effort to point him out in the middle of the night. The apothecary struggled to piece the wooden door back to its frame. Frank cautiously stepped forward and called out.

“You poisoned my friend.”

The man, just as sour and pungent as his concoctions, sneered, “Ah, you’re associated with that slant-eyed gapped-toothed twat? She will meet with the Maker to atone for her filth.”

“Watch yer fuckin’ tongue before I straight blast it from yer mouf! I came to negotiate wit ya. I’ll admit, you got her good, but the fun n’ games is all over. I’m offerin’ to pay for the medicine.”

Frank pulled out his money bag, but the apothecary shook his head and refused the payment. He began to chuckle.

“I’m afraid it’s far too late to save your friend. I’ll leave you off with this: no sane apothecary would sell you the antidote, not for all the shit money you possess.” A sharp howl echoed through the air. This brought much delight to the cruel man. In fact, he rubbed his hands together and snickered even further. “Ah, you hear that? Run along, for the dogs of war have come out to play.”

A man from an adjacent roof shot a crossbow bolt right over Frank’s shoulder, barely nicking him in the process. Frank turned around and watched as more grizzly figures peered from the sharp angled roofs. Another shot at Frank’s chicken and caused it to scurry out of his owner’s reach. The chicken sped off out of the neighborhood panicking. The apothecary ghoulishly sneered once more and waved him goodbye. Frank ran.

“Shit, shit, shit, shit.”

He had lost his only rooster and with his rooster was his arsenal. Thinking that being polite and respectful of the Varsylians would work out, the world really screwed Frank. The hunters jumped from the roofs and trailed the same dirt path. Frank was dumb, but he was not dumb enough to get into a scrap with a mob. He turned tight corners and tossed crates in their way, but these hunters rarely slowed down at his poor unsatisfactory attempts.

Frank wound around a corner and clung to the walls. Who were these people? Frank was not in the best shape for running. The daunting man from Guten Nocht was going to need to pick them off slowly and use what little he had. A few seconds of hiding and the men ran around the corner not noticing the stiff body hugging the wall. They splintered off into different directions, but it was the last soul left behind who suffered the fearful wrath of Frank Dietz. Frank snuck up from behind to steal a bolt from the man’s quiver. Without hesitation, he drove the point into the stranger’s ear and punched into the back of the head. Before kicking him to the ground, fearful Frank snagged his crossbow and quiver.

The night was relatively young, yet Frank believed he had been out all night. The moon illuminated his face and the crossbow made him feel secure. Frank wanted to get home, find a way to fix the Fighter, and get the heck out of Varsyl. The people policing the streets made him feel vulnerable like a rat shoved into a tight corner. Panting excessively, he ran the other way without looking back and readied the crossbow for the first person he saw. He turned at every corner he could, not exactly knowing where it lead him. In fact, Frank ran around the block several times before tiring himself out. This city was too busy and same for him; there were no monuments to orient himself.

Frank’s heart raced as the hunters slowly closed in from every corner. They wisened up and let Frank tire himself out. Frank fired the first crossbow bolt which missed its target and instead bounced off a crate. He struggled to reload the crossbow and gave way for the hunters to pounce on their prey. One man struck Frank’s temple while another came from behind and knocked him down A third tossed a twine net over his tiresome body. Struggling only angered the fourth guy who viciously stomped on Frank’s gut. As his breath escaped his lungs and the men hidden in the dark dragged his body, Frank blacked out.
Finnigan     7y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Debilitate#]

Rhys entered the cargo bay from the dining area and witnessed what no man or woman has ever laid eyes upon. Jackie’s bulbous head rested on the seemingly silky body of Duster. Duster’s creepily thin hands cradled her head while he slowly vibrated a hollow tune. The Lucavi’s seamlessly flawless cloak unraveled into hundreds of individual threads that carefully wound itself around Duster and the unconscious Jackie. Interested in this bizarre phenomenon, Rhys climbed down the stairs to get a better sight. Though he had not seen much since his revitalization, it took a lot to impress the young mind.

Without any acknowledgement, Duster stated, “Rhys, I need you watch over my body while I undergo the biokinetic process. It’s extremely important that I am not disturbed at all throughout healing Jackie. If either she or I am harmed in other way, there’s a great possibility that the severing of the links could kill us both.”

Rhys stepped back. Someone on this crew was going to trust Rhys to do something for them? The boy had no idea to defend himself let alone protect others. So many things could have happened, but the “bright” child had the solution from the beginning: stand in the midst of chaos and let it all happen. Stunned at Duster’s trust and brief explanation, Rhys feebly asked with a dry voice, “Have you done this before?”

“In my entire existence, no, but we Lucavi are programmed with this function when we are born by Mad Moon. It requires utmost focus and aptitude.” Duster briefly took his attention away from Jackie’s head and looked at a rather disappointed Rhys. “Young Illumina, why do you stare at me like that?”

Though he rarely had his moments, Rhys grimly reminded his fellow crew member, “There are fates worse than death.”

It must be natural for all kids to think such profound things at such a young age. Granted, Rhys Illumina was not a kid nor was he young, but as far as Frank and Jackie were concerned, he was just another young dumb unfortunate soul to walk the wastelands of Nocht.

“I am well aware.”

Turning away, Duster focused on Jackie’s gourd shaped face. His eyes glowed the same refreshing aura of green like his palms did when he healed bodies. The light traveled from his head through what frail and remaining body left intact and finally the hairlike threads attached to Jackie. His body jerked once and then locked into place before fully zoning out on the world.

In the beginning, there was darkness. Not a single step made a sound nor did Duster vocalize. In the middle of the black void, a single vermilion torii stood behind him. He had seen the structure once in the city before, and questioned the authenticity behind it and its Maker. If Duster could imitate the human expression of laughter, he would in this instance and scoff. The only symbol that mattered to him was Mad Moon. After all, if there were such things as deities, Mad Moon was factual and living proof.

If the humans entered through the structure, then Duster so rightfully did as well. From total annihilation of the stark mind to an ornate temple covered in snow, Duster was rather impressed with the transition. Though the majority of the humans lacked magic, there was some truth to a wise saying, “magic in the mind”. Were all human minds the same or did the interior decorating materialize with the individual? This temple did not exist on Guten Nocht. Snow was rarely a thing, especially at this amount, and the steep rock formations with stairs embedded came from some other land. Guten Nocht had always existed as one giant flat plain.

Duster ascended the stairway and finally reached the top where Jackie sat before a large statue. The figure had several arms sprouting from its clavicles and a face stoic in nature. The sculptor, most likely Jackie, depicted its hair as numerous bulbs with eyes almond shaped.

“Jackie.”

“Duster.” She continued to focus on the statue without turning around to greet her friend.

“We are not on a physical plane, Jackie.”

“I don’t really understand what’s going on right now. You’re gonna have to fill me in if this is not a dream.”

“This is a dream, but I can assure you that I am very much real. The Lucavi learned from a woman a long time on how to link thoughts as a way to heal the mind, body, and soul. The process is quite simple from a Lucavi perspective. First…”

“No, no, no. There’s no need for explanation.” Jackie got up from her position and finally met up with Duster. He sure knew how to tug her strings. The banter was killing her vibe.

“Taina Del Norte, she was the one to teach the Lucavi to be prostitutes of the mind.”

His voice carried beyond the monument and into obscured mountain range. The echoes traveled for seconds before dissipating completely. Duster was right. He proved that he had linked minds with her. If Duster was a figment of her imagination, he would smile and sing obnoxiously silly songs.

“Duster, you really shouldn’t say those kind of things, especially out loud.”

This was her oasis away from the real world. Jackie had prided herself on creating it all by herself with the help of what few books Mina had lent her. The book that inspired her the most about this place was a compilation of illustrations based on the country of Sudra. Mountains and snow, grandiose architecture unfamiliar to the the Nocht eye. Jackie envisioned herself as one of those mountains beautifully depicted in that book. It was one of the few places she required the Fighter to travel to. No exceptions.

“We’re not in our physical bodies right now. No one can hear us when we are here.”

“Now what?” Jackie felt weighted to the ground more than usual. Her shoulders were pressed down by a set of heavy hands and a stinging sensation crawled along her spine. By no means was Jackie slow or sluggish either. She was foolish enough to run all the way home while poisoned. She never felt like this before, not even in her dreams.

“I begin to expunge the poison coursing through your body. Through this process, I am able to excrete the toxins through your pores safely and in an efficient manner. This process must be done before I can do any further major repairs.”

Duster glanced at Jackie who struggled to keep a straight face. The poison was slowly creeping into her mind. He had to act now before she regained consciousness. The scenery shifted like a small quake while the snow froze momentarily. Pebbles and chunks of rock tumbled, but not much else moved. The flames that lit the summit wavered in their cages..

“Do you feel anything?”

“A little lighter, but my chest is heavy.”

“Hm. It’s worse than I imagined. I...I apologize.”

“Wait, what’s going on?”

Jackie was taken back by his tone. By his tone? The entire world around them started to crumble at this idea. Duster changed his tone. Before Duster even recognized that it was all of his own doing, Jackie’s domain fell before their eyes. Every boulder, every rock, every speck of dirt, every molecule separated into its most basic form. The deity died with the rest of the world and left both of them floating aimlessly back into the black abyss.

“This...is not good. This should never happen.”

Jackie looked back at the glowing Lucavi. He was panicking. She asked herself when exactly did he learn that trick. It had to be a dream now. There was no way that Duster had that capability. He lacked humanity. Could the Lucavi learn simple things like fear, anger, happiness, even love? Fear dictated the confused and internally torn empath.

Struggling to get a firm grasp on his shoulders, Jackie stared him in the lifeless eyes and softly spoke, “Duster, breathe.”

“Lucavi don’t need to breathe.” He was trying to make the most sense out of anything right now. The further he tried to distract himself with logic, the more he fell into delirium. The darkness began to break in shards of black glass that refracted what mysterious light. The shards sluggishly flew in every direction, and only the sick Jackie was tough enough to stand through it all. Duster had collapsed into himself, mimicking a somber and sobbing Frank. The emotion was too real for him, and he began to lose touch with himself.

“Breathe, Duster. That’s all you have to do. Breathe,” Jackie continued to say. Her breaths were getting heavier but from no dream. Even she realized that her life was slowly dwindling away. “Breathe.”

Fearful Duster clutched his white cloak and looked up to his shimmering horn. The worst had happen. His antenna was slowly dissolving into the black abyss as he sat there echoing an empty tune. Duster tried piecing himself back together with his alien healing technique, but not even the miraculous green glow of his palms could salvage his horn. Familiar screams zoomed past them both in tandem with the strange black glass. They heard voices, those closest to both of them, shrieking for help. Duster could not help himself and voices got louder in volume and sheer frequency.

“The psychic connection goes both ways. What we’re experiencing right now is a nightmare. This is not real!”

Jackie clutched onto the disappearing Duster and locked arms together. Intensively, she focused her attention on his gleaming deep forest green eyes and even pressed her head against his. Jackie breathed what life she could into his face before he returned the favor. Her waft, sweet and audacious like freshly muddled mint, snapped him back to reality. His breath rang notes of subtle vanilla and even felt like feathers lightly brushing her cheek.

Duster repeatedly inhaled and exhaled until he finally eased up. He realized what had happened and so did Jackie. Jackie smirked at him and patted him on the shoulder. She did not have to say anything to him; his thoughts spoke louder than he ever could.

Suddenly, Jackie clutched her shirt and fell to her knees. The poison worsened. Even her silk hair drooped and sank into her neck. “If I’m not going to make it out of here alive, Duster, I want you take care of my boys like I would.”

“Why are you humans so insistent on doubting my ability? I will not partake in nannying for Frank and Rhys. That’s absurd.”

The world of darkness phased out as Duster regained consciousness. It was rather quick and before Jackie could even say another word, he was back in reality facing her still body. Immediately, her body cranked up its temperature and sweat plopped onto steel. The sweat drenched her clothes completely, head to toe, fingertip to fingertip. as if Jackie Simms plunged into the Blue itself. The white fibers retreated and resewed themselves back to its original composition.

Lastly, Jackie sprung up from her comatose and gasped for air. Her vision was rather blurry, probably because of the sweat. She felt miserable but a cathartic miserable. The worst was over and Jackie fell back into the comfort of Duster’s lap. She refused to move from her spot and said very little. She owed Duster her life, but Duster would happily admit that it was her who did most of the saving. Witnessing worlds crumble before them, Jackie stayed strong for the two of them.

Amazed at what had just happened, Rhys dropped the pipe wrench and knelt before Jackie. A little smile cracked from his mouth, but it was not long before a peculiar visitor ruined the moment. Rhys looked outside and saw Antonine Maxwell with one of the two chickens in hand. He rose to his feet and thought about picking up the heavy wrench. Even Rhys had a rather raw gut feeling about it all. Tony, who had traveled by foot and in the blazing heat, released the feathery steed before unzipping a little bit of his blue jumpsuit.

“Why do you have Macereau?” asked Rhys. He took the large chicken by its reins and quietly patted it into submission.

“I’m afraid I found him wandering back this way. He’d fetch a pretty price on the market, but not even the most thick skinned merchants could get around his talons. I thought you guys would appreciate me bringing him back.” Tony was playing it cool. Perhaps too cool for Team Anchovi. He did not need to assert himself much. Rhys was a frail boy, Duster was a frail Lucavi, and Jackie was just as frail too.

“Where’s Frank?” Rhys continued to pet Macereau on the beak. He regretted not picking up the wrench.

“That is something we’re gonna have to find out together,” he snidely remarked to Rhys. Tony pulled out Frank’s revolver and spun the chamber a couple of times. [b Click-lick.] He loved the sound of a readied revolver.

“If you’ve hurt him, Tony, I’m gonna knock your skull ten ways to Sunday.” Jackie was only able to get a few words out, but they were just as lethal as that revolver that Tony did not know how to use. Also, she lied. Despite Tony Maxwell being the apple to her eyes, Jackie would have killed him right there and then if she knew that he had something to do with Frank’s disappearance.

“You know how I was talking about that one company? Yeah. It’s Frank’s problem.”
Finnigan     7y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Agora#]

His day all started out in a blurry haze. The shade kept parts of his chilled while the early morning began to warm up splotches of his skin. In fact, most of Frank’s clothing had been removed from his body overnight. Denuded by the hunters, the prisoner tried sleeping off the cold and placed his hands down his underwear. All of it was futile. A dark figure from afar approached the iron cage and dumped a large wooden bucket of frigid water over the dozing Frank. Frank popped up out of his skin and shouted in surprise. Today was going to be the longest day of his life. His slavers were going to make sure of that.

Throwing a gritty sponge into the cage, he same shady figure snarled something towards Frank who struggled to open his eyes. Frank took the sponge and the man snidely barked some more and commanded that the filthy and pasty white man clean himself. Unable to contain his anger, blind Frank jumped forward in an attempt to snatch a limb. Instead, the dark skinned figure crushed the skinny fingers with his boots. The man from Guten Nocht yelped in pain before he retreated back into the cage. The slaver prodded his caged property with a long stick and demanded that he listen to orders.

“Look I’m doing time for nothing!”

Frank was finally awake. He basked in the orange sun as he yelled for attention. None of this should have ever happened, yet he found himself in the worst situation possible. Frank was unfamiliar with this part of the bazaar of the Varsylian metropolitan area, but figured that he was somewhere close to the main marketplace. He wished he was back at home with Mina and even the sheriff. The sheriff would have never stripped him down to his skimpies.

“Aren’t we all?” A man with skin dark as milk chocolate but as firm as a tree commented. He sat down in a smaller cage all hunched up. The man was rather grizzly. The scars on his back ran from shoulder to shoulder and all the way down to his thick waist. The unkempt curls glistened in the sun along with his bizarre ice blue eyes.

Frank simply brushed off his attempts of making conversation; he was too relaxed to be in this situation. How could anyone accept this fate? Frank was not going to take it as easy as his fellow captive. Waving his hands outside of his cage, the brash fool called out anyone who was listening, “Eh, ya fuckin’ asshole. Let me out of this cage. Lemme challenge you to mortal combat, mano y mano, pal, no weapons! C’mon baby dick!”

One of the guards accepted Frank’s taunts and marched over to iron cage. Frank stepped back and smirked. The guard opened the cage and stepped away from the entrance in order to let the slave stretch his legs a little. The foreigner with the loud mouth and wet underpants encircled the man before he foolishly decided to take a chance at the legs. Frank dived for the legs, but the armored slave was too quick for him. Eating dirt, the wild white man moved slow enough that the guard’s boot met Frank’s stomach. It was one kick after another. The other slaves pulled in closer from their cages to watch the beatdown in progress. Frank eventually collapsed underneath himself and the wicked slaver who said not a word chained his claim.

“Pfft, let me out of these shackles so I can git rough n’ tough,” Frank weakly muttered. “I’m not done yet.”

The guard gave one more swift kick to the side and dragged the idiot mouth by the chain. The guards, presumably employees of the Galhead Trade Company, locked Frank to one of many wood posts on a large scaffold platform. He faced front and center as if he was going to be the main attraction. The other slaves from the other iron cages filed in and took their position on the now seemingly small platform being outdid by the magnificently gargantuan open space. They were in the market district, but now Frank felt just as lost as ever. The area was enclosed by columns and tiled roofing. On each of the four sides of the agora were openings where the clamorous mobs would stroll through.

“Welcome to the business.” It was the same man locked in the smaller cage. How he managed to get stuffed in the the tiny confinement was a mystery to Frank. The man stood inches taller than Frank, at least a good six inches. He also had muscles strong enough to break through both chain and bar.

Frank simply scoffed him again and waited for this terrible nightmare to cease. Hoping that Duster was not completely useless in his efforts, Frank wondered about Jackie’s state. Looking back at it all, he felt awful that he just left her. He did not blame for the mishap. If he was in the same mindset, he would have done the same exact thing, and he knew that Jackie would do the same for him. Right now, he needed her help more than ever.

As the sun soared the skies, the people of Varsyl and many other foreign lands began to show up. Aparently Frank and the few dozen of other slaves were a popular attraction to the agora. Everyone made an effort to get up and personal with the captives in hopes that it was not their family member or friend being sold for a hefty price. Men and women alike yelled at Frank and the rest of the slaves as if all of them had committed murder. Spit and garbage flung onto the scaffold. Without having any reason for such venomous tongues, the civilians vehemently despised the men and women wearing worn rags as if they were any better. If they were in the wrong places at the wrong times, they would have been the ones staring down in sorrow. Disgusted, these people craved for some sort of justice. Of course, Galhead Trade Company was some warped up idea of justice.

Amidst the boisterous and growing crowd, a woman dressed in flowy white garments made her way to the front. She tossed back her twisted braids and glared exclusively at Frank. If she was a vendor, she was making the worst possible choice. Frank was skin, bones, and the very little muscle compared to the hulking bodies set before him. The crowd saw Frank as an eyesore to the eyes; his skin scalded the loiterers’ eyes. No one but the sepia skinned woman with twist braids and equally blinding white dress paid any attention to him

“You only get one life to live. I’m sure someone has told you that enough times. I wouldn’t be so reckless to the slavers. Give them a good reason and you’ll get the licking of your lifetime and the next.” Frank expected her voice to sound youthful and booming, but her tone was slightly decrepit and raspy, perfect for scolding. She looked as if she was in her prime: there were no signs of saggy anywhere and she had well-toned arms. The woman in white painted her lips a glossy ruby red.

“Heh, you’re too late to tell me that,” he snickered. He wasn’t as peppy as he wanted to sound like. His throat ran rather dry in Varsyl’s summer heat. Frank momentarily closed his eyes as if he was succumbing to slumber, but pulled back and paid further attention to his favorite face of the day.

“You’re decent, but my husband would mind if I brought back home a slave. There’s not much I can do here, but please: stay alive until you’re free and then the real discourse can begin. We’ll meet again.”

Her last cryptic words sat with the speechless Frank. As she walked away, he begged for a name. Not once did she answer his calls. The mysterious woman vanished without hesitation as if she was an ominous spirit admonishing Frank’s impending doom.

“C’mon, c’mon! Do we have any buyers? I have on sale a magnificent worker! He’s pretty much worked every position in the game. Need someone to pick crops or perhaps work in the coal mines? A beast in a man’s skin!” The man in the bright red and white coat exclaimed with such joy to the booming crowd. He worked up his audience. His pace from one end of the scaffold to the other was impeccable. Only the most sinister souls possessed the ability to sell other lives. He worked along the line of slaves and now he passionately pointed his cane in Frank’s sweaty mug. “I know, I know! Not the best catch of the bunch, but I can guarantee those cruel masters that this one hasn’t been broken in. Not yet, of course!”

No one gave Frank the time of day. Most of the people in the crowd commented on how they could throw one punch and break through him. Distraught at the inability to sell even the most worthless one, the auctioneer raised his audience’s esteem with the next best. Frank sighed in relief and then looked at the man to his right. Being picked for last never felt so good to him. The giant of a man nodded and Frank returned the notion.

“Frank. They call me Frank Dietz from Guten Nocht.”

“Well, I’m in the presence of hood royalty.” He snickered. Despites Frank’s rebuffs, the man, who was built like several pickup trucks combined, only returned on good intent. After all, he realized that they were on equal footing despite the different origins. Varsylians thought that the remaining beings of Guten Nocht were savages, but the man was well aware that Varsylians were hypocrites of the bluest kind. “Slavers call me all kinds of names, but you can address me as Jeraia.”

“How long you’ve been here?” If Frank felt as if he was spitting out bursts of sand from his throat. The day needed to end already.

“Ha! Long enough to know that you got off easy, Frank. Plus, I’m wearing pants.”

Envious, Frank’s nose twitched. His skin fried in the sun and Frank honestly hated the way he looked. The human body naked reminded him of the chickens he sold after being plucked and properly butchered. It made him rather sick to the stomach. He always remarked to Mina that no one looked good naked and made sure to linger on the whole “except for you” clause. On the other hand, Jeraia wore pants stitched out of itchy potato sacks. Honestly, how was Frank supposed to know that pants meant something.

The slavers disappeared from the stage and left the hanging bodies to the bustling agora. The laughter, the jeering, the cries for justice: all of it meant for those in chains. Other slaves cried for the Maker to take them from this world as a few bodies disappeared from the stage. Several men and women were just bought to their dismay. Whatever fate lied before them unnerved them. The woman walked shamefully without their tops and begged the merchants and their inexperienced masters for freedom.

“I’m one of the most hated men in this marketplace. I’ve been passed around like a peace pipe. Untameable, according to my ex-masters. A beast in a man’s skin, you heard the man. My last master sold me back to the company because I would not crack under the whip. And of course killing is out of the question.” Sweat off of Jeraia’s face glistened in the harsh sun. If only the sun’s fire could engulf him this instant. It would have been heavensend, especially knowing that the slavers would make no profit off his dead body anymore. “ I wish they would have dealt with me a long time ago, to be honest, Frank. No life like this one is worth living for.”

“Are you angry about all of this?” Frank was running out of things to say. Though it was natural for him to run the conversation to the ground with his gruff attitude and often inane declarations, talking to Jeraia was going to keep his spirits up for a smidge longer. “Because I am.”

Frank did not have to ask him. Jeraia was in his moment and took advantage of his newfangled friend as well. The heat had beaten their heads and the career slave spilt his feelings.

“I’ve been raped by sixteen different women and sixteen children I have had. None of them lived to the age of five. So when people ask me if I’m angry, I tell them no. I’m sick to the gut, Frank. When did lives not matter? They killed children because they didn’t have magic. You’re just as aware as I am that magic is dying, right? It’s like we’re trying to breed magic in this world or something. It cannot be done. I don’t hate these people, I feel sorry for them. They’re sick in the head. I would have been a good father, better than any of these deadbeats who treat us like trash. Kidnappers, all for the sake of keeping the capital a better place. We’re nothing but monetary value to the Prince and his foreign queen mother.”

Jeraia held back the tears and Frank stood there in complete silence. Meanwhile, the Galhead merchants were able to sell another woman. She screamed at the world and teared at her chest with her long fingernails. The merchants and the guards tried to settle her down, but she was adamant about staying on the stage. She beat on her naked chest and voraciously chomped on her own tongue. The good chunk of her tongue fell to the scaffold, and the blood came dripping from her mouth and slobbering chin. Her cries piqued the interests of the crowd as she struggled to snatch an edge from a merchant. The merchant tried to pull away the edge, but the woman’s drive brought her to last option: suicide. She jumped onto the sharp blade of the dagger and led the man’s hands and dagger across her stomach.

Jeraia turned away as the bloodlusted crowd loudly cheered. He solemnly swore, “At least we have it better than women. If you’re a pretty woman, you’ll get raped. Then mutilated. And if your children aren’t to their satisfaction, they’ll rape you again. Then they’ll murder you without a second though. It’s better if you’re ugly. You’re one and done.”

Frank turned his eyes away from the blood scene just as the guards dragged her by the foot down the stairs. Trying to move to a different tone, Frank muttered, “Good ole’ pump n’ dump.”

“Just to think. Someone out there in this Maker-forsaken sea of morbid souls is gonna take us home.” Downtrodden, Jeraia disdainfully watched as the agora died out with the one slave woman. As the sun had set, luck had both their backs. They were not sold off yet.

“And she ain’t even gonna be cute,” chuckled Frank.

“Today seems like a good day to die.”

“Agreed.”

Jeraia picked his head up with what energy he had left and zealously asked, “Wanna fuck up their fun?”

Wanting to high five Jeraia for the good idea, Frank hopped in place and remarked, “Thought you’d never ask, man.”

“Being serious.”

“I am serious. Nothin’ but.”
Finnigan     7y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Jeraia’s Revolt#]

“A few good men stand before us, and that’s all we need to be heard. Our lives have been taken from us from hollow men undeserving of the Maker’s divine right. Now is the time to reclaim what has been stolen from us. We owe our lives to nobody but ourselves and the ones we happily share it with. If we obey the orders of these men, we will die without reason. If we retaliate, there is a good chance that we will die but we will die with dignity and a reason. Let the cowards serve their masters, for we will be the stalwart, the mighty. Let us remind them all that our lives matter, that we will not simply be pushed back by rich hands and disappear into fading backgrounds. Our voices cannot be silenced, for it is the Maker who first armed us with it. My fellow people, we are brethren in our most dire need. Family begets family. Fight for each other so that we may sow the seeds to our future.”

It was a Saturday, the only day when the slavers decided not to put up their wares for sale. It had been a few days for both Jeraia and Frank to get acquainted with each other as well as the few brave souls who dared to revolt against the system in place. The two figures in chains figured that it was the most appropriate time to network and branch out to the undesirable convicts. Many Varsylians observed the holy day except for the branded heathens that came from foreign countries such as Tsukimoto and Bating. Surprise would take Galhead Trade Company. Not even their god would protect them from the rage they had tried to sweep away.

A few dozen stood amongst Jeraia. All bodies of different statures, ages, and gender gathered around in hopes that this man’s might would carry them through the afternoon. They were tired of being herded around like cattle. The few women who decided to side with Jeraia reminisced about their subpar mechant-wife lives. The men beat their chest in high hopes of getting back to their family and their herds while the few princes amongst their ranks simply asked to return to the comforts of their homes. The children, many born in slavery, fought alongside their parents wishing for their freedom as well as their own.

Any other day, the guards would come in to break up the large mobs of people in fear of rebellion, but they simply tuned out the gallant Jeraia and disregarded him as a heretic preacher. Heretic, no, but a preacher, by all means yes. The invigorated people tensed up in this presence. His followers thought he possessed the magical ability to rain fire on his foes like the fierce sea goddesses worshipped thousands of years ago. With a slight chuckle in his tone, he assured them that was not the case.

Before Frank could really settle into place, the plan unfolded before his dull eyes. A couple of men burst into a scuffle with fists flying and dirt rolling off their scarred heels. A few guards immediately reacted and crashed through the pen’s gates. The first two hastily tried prying the guys apart, but it was the last one that was taken by surprise. As Frank kept the gates open for the getaway, the mob ganged up from behind and held him down as Jeraia made the first move. With ease, the mastermind took a firm grasp on the frightened guard’s hilt and drew the blade up to the man’s neck. Without an ounce of mercy flowing through him, the leader of the rebellion slit his throat only to leave the guard to bleed out. Jeraia dispatched the oblivious ones with decisive blows into and up the gut. The men cried out in pain as the mob rushed the slavers and stripped them of their armor and weaponry.

Frank swung the gates wide open and led all the slaves from the holding area to the outside. A man with a live flame on a stick approached the panicking crowd, but Frank bravely tackled him to the dirt. His bag filled with flammable liquid burst from behind and spilled along the stone walls, bales of hay, and a few slaves. The glorified candlestick ignited the fluid as the slaves unassociated with Jeraia scattered in every direction while Jeraia gladly directed his fellow compatriots to the armory. The flames caught the man as well as the heels of the many fleeing. The trails of fire had spread quickly and engulfed the holding area in minutes.

Frank tasked a few to help him knock out the sentries littering the walls. Using the curvature of the keeps and sticking to the walls, they climbed the stairs in small groups. One by one, Frank was able to dodge the crossbow bolts and tackle the men to the stone surfaces. With each punch to the face, Frank felt reenergized. Feeling awfully week the past few days, this was his way of releasing whatever energy he had pent up. He would not allow himself to feel weak any longer, especially to men who hunt in groups and capture innocent men and women. All he wanted to do now is get back home and have a pleasant chicken dinner.

The seasoned slaves handled the crossbows better than their hunter counterparts. The laborious tasks such as pushing carts and hoisting heavy objects up by rope hardened their crackling rough hands. Once the men and women were armed with crossbows, no freed Varsylian within their range was safe. The bodies dropped one after another like flies drowning themselves in white vinegar. The bolts zipped across from one side of the walled facility to the other. Frank watched Jeraia and his group of men from the walls and elevated walkways as his group of fierce warriors tore through what little guards remained on the facility.

Thoughts raced through Frank’s mind. This was rather too easy for an escape. It was as if the administration needed to downsize on loose-end employees. Where were the guys in dark garb who easily tracked him? The outlaw hid behind a wall as several guards ran his way with bolts firing. Between each flying arrow zipping around the corner, Frank couched down and took potshots at the assailants coming his way. The crossbows were rather cruel to their opposition as they never cleaned passed through. The wooden shafts lingered in the limbs and their crying victims hesitated on whether or not they wanted to pull them out. It was rather loathsome spectacle to witness, but Frank simply saw it as war. It was either them or him, and well, he liked himself a whole bunch more than them.

One of the men whom Frank missed came around the corner with a knife plunging for his face. The two men struggle for control of the knife as Frank caught the man and the knife in action. Frank heard more people around the corner, but they were preoccupied from the oncoming volley traveling from the opposite direction. As much as they wanted to help and murder a man responsible for the deaths and invigorating pain of others, they slowly backed away as the rebels pushed forward with great zeal. One of the projectiles put an end to struggling Frank’s strife as it dug itself into the attacker’s neck. Blood spurted from the wound and a whittling groan slipped out. Frank pushed the body up and away as he rejoined the battle at hand.

Frank’s thoughts cursed him. A loud belching horn sounded for help. It roared throughout the facility and even alerted the surrounding neighborhood of an outbreak. As he sluggishly ran across the wall’s walkways, Frank jumped in place and out of his skin as men rolled up with cannons loaded with giant black spheres. His body stalled in a moment of hesitation, but then leaped into a fanatic run again. The cannoneers and their weapons engineered for utter destruction roared. Smoke and fire erupted from their mouths and the cannonballs ripped alongside and through the walled area.

The revolt was taking a turn for the worse. Airships stamped with Galhead’s seal of approval rolled through the sky. Frank could not stop to catch his breath nor could he aim at the gunners who manned the ships’ artillery. The cannonballs continued shredding the stone walls and the airships moved into position. Frank tried killing off the short lives of the sharp squeals and dared not to look back at what remained of his cohort.

From below, Jeraia’s mob geared up with shields and longswords. The majority of the slayers were women furiously screaming and banging on their shields with their blade as if they were naturally born to be on a disparaged battlefield. They sweatily tore through a crowd of charging men and ignored the sword grazes and dirt flung their way. Jeraia lead the suit with several axes swiftly carving into the filthy air, carnal flesh, and light armor alike. Picking up the throwing axes along his conquest, the invincible Jeraia flew through the barrage of cannon fire. At this point, the airships were not going to let up on their assault, and Jeraia decided that the revolt was nothing more than a race to a dead end.

The gigantic holding facility straddled at least half of the marketplace’s stretch only to wrap around a quarter of the adjacent colosseum. It seemed as if fate was leading Jeraia and Frank from one danger to another perilous situation. The thick skinned leader cleared his mind of the negativity and pushed for the exit. While Jeraia’s group squeezed through holding pens and other open areas, Frank and whoever was left on the upper level struggled against the airships. The ground beneath Frank crumbled at every step with each shell or round shot obliterating the path before him.

He was going to have to leave the top of the facility soon if he wanted to leave alive. Frank saw the opportunity to jump into a pile of straw up ahead, but the airships did not let up. It was either sheer dumb luck that every shot missed or the slavers were purposefully delaying their aim. Just as Frank began to thrust his whole body off the wall and into the air, a deafening thunder of a cannonball caught his footing like lightning striking a tree. Frank did not fly as far from the wall as anticipated and turned in the midst of his fall. Clicking the trigger to his crossbow, Frank launched his final bolt that miraculously clipped one of the gunners on the insistently pursuing airship. As Frank crashed into the lofty bed of hay, the rubble from the stone keep crumbled and landed on the convict. Unable to take the pain, the exhausted Frank groaned and fell unconscious.

Frank woke up with his hands tied behind his back and a wooden post that he shared with a bunch of captives. He was not sure where he was, but he only imagined Hel from this point. Captured again. This was not his idea of starting new in a unfamiliar place. To the pillar left of him stood Jeraia who was all bloodied up and beaten in the face. He was just as disappointed as Frank was. He failed his people, especially the few lives that perished throughout the revolt. Though they were responsible for over a hundred lives, the handful of lives on his side that he lost had hit him harder. He did not want their deaths to go in vain.

A man in a deep purple robe stepped down a flight of stairs with heavily armored soldiers following every order of his. He wore a petite and deep purple velvet hat that cupped his crown. He was no elected official of Varsylgard. No, he was too rich to be a part of the dying nation. His empire grew from the Varsylian cattle. He lived as well as the so-called princes and princesses. This man dined with gold and jewel encrusted silverware. He lived like the kings of the old era.

“Killing them will not avenge our fallen employees nor will it set an example to those who attempt to cross the Galhead brand. As the leading company in our business, we must uphold that we do not negotiate with terrorists. They will serve to their last breath as clowns humiliated in front of hundreds.” With the utmost sense of superiority ringing out of his mouth, the Galhead Trade Company owner sniggered. The robed aristocrat spoke out to all his employees angered by what has happened. A lot of them wanted to watch all the convicts bleed out like swine and wanted to kill them right there and then, but they ultimately feared the mogul. The executive then looked at the prisoners with Jeraia in mind. Even though one of Jeraia’s eyes was swollen shut, he saw the executive smirk most foul. “Killing you at this moment would only set you free from the cold harsh truth of this world: filth like you Jeraia the Beast matter not. You will die with no one remembering who you ever were and your body will run most foul when it rots. You will not be able to muscle your way out of this one like you have today. You will suffer in the colosseum by sword and claw as decreed by me! Your opponents will toy with you til the very end, like the rank piece of meat you are. Ah, but do not fear, you will not be alone. Your comrades in this failed revolt will struggle with you. Every single soul bound to a post will die without honor, you hear me? Well, as if any of you had it in the first place.”

A face so evil glinted in the darkness. Only a few torches illuminated what sinister fellow haughtily stood before Frank and Jeraia. Frank studied what he could just in case they ever meet without restraint. There was a bullet back at home waiting for the smug and boisterously loud and flamboyant devil. Just before the slaves were put into even smaller jail cells, Frank and Jeraia were brought to a private cell where the executive ordered his men to disrobe both. The contrast of the bodies fascinated the executive and he fancied the humiliation. Black, tall, and built next to white, short, and thin. His sharp as shrapnel cackle brought shivers to the soldiers and the beaten prisoners.

The fire raged on from the slave cells. The people who straddled the northeast part of Varsyl watched from every angle as the compound burned into a nefarious inferno. People talked and even feared Galhead even further. Word has it that the company did it as a publicity stunt in order to rebuild and expand into the marketplace. Even the shipyard, a couple of pairs of eyes gazed at the mere flicker and the massive plume of dense smoke. The sky suffered with all the smoke rising from the growing cloud of smoke. Alas, beefy Jackie dug her fists into her hips and just knew that magic played no part in all of it. She stood on top of the Fighter with Rhys sticking his head out of the hatch.

Gazing at the distant inferno, Rhys asked, “You don’t think that’s Frank, do you?”

The boy struggled to pull himself onto the top of the ship until he nervously crawled to the pilot’s firm legs. Jackie knew what it all meant the moment she had set eyes on the blaze. An omen from the heavens, the Maker was listening close to her prayers.

“I have no doubt that this is his work. We must leave immediately.”
Finnigan     7y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #The Breakdown#]

The crowd erupted into a loud roar that filled the colosseum with such animosity. The cheers rang of senseless bloodlust and malign nature. The Varsylians lived for the excitement behind the kill like the ravenous beasts seen from across the seas. Hundreds if not thousands of people flocked in droves once they heard the latest and greatest event happening in the capital. Galhead had rented out the colosseum with the power the mighty executive ever knew: the coin. People bowed to the amount of money he amassed and were honestly afraid. The men and women had heard stories of kidnappings happening throughout the night. They slipped through doors like wet snakes and fly through the windows like witches who transfigured into owls.

“In the end, we accomplished nothin’.”

Frank, Jeraia, and the captured convicts trudged in a line of shackles and chains to the main doors to the arena. Adults and children alike anticipated the worst. The youngest of them cried about the lions, tigers, and bears wrangled from the Blue’s plethora of exotic continents. One of the women who did not directly partake in the fierce battles as much as the others offered to throw herself in front of a blade as long as it meant that she would not suffer from molestation and humiliation. Her hands timidly shivered, but it was Jeraia who reassured her. As they waited at the doors, he cupped her frail hands and quietly prayed with her.

“I think making a statement is more than nothing. We proved that we’re not invisible and our voices must be heard. All lives matter. We must accept our fate with open hands now.” Jeraia stood strong for his people and allowed them to lean on him for some pillar of hope. He wore his scars proudly and his sober eyes withstood the dry air and dirt. He tried to be there for them when even they could not be.

“I’m not going out there just to accept death. If they want to kill me, they’re gonna die tryin’,” Frank muttered throughout the blaring crowd’s cheering.

With such surprise, Jeraia whipped his head in his direction and glared. He snickered, “As if killing you would be that hard, my friend.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

“I will not oppose this action. I will not speak for the rest of you, but I’m willing to throw a good punch if it means just a small smidge of a chance to live.

One by one, the people whom the Galhead executive thought as playthings chimed. They rose to the occasion like plants do in the blooming season. They lacked rest, yet they mustered up the strength to stand with their rock. The colosseum security forcefully pushed the chained gang into the open fighting pit where thousands of people vulgarly roared. The obscenities drowned out whatever thoughts that were racing in the captured men and women’s heads. Jeraia and Frank locked eye contact with the leading figure of Galhead. The smug smirk caused Frank’s face to twitch and twist up.

The coordinator of the event removed his signature eggplant purple robe and approached the front of his shaded box. He whimsically grasped the copper microphone’s stand and pulled it to his sickly thin lips. The crowd simmered for a moment in order to listen.

“My fellow Varsylians! It does not matter whether you’re rich or poor, Kaf or Krem, or even if you’re the ruling prince of the country, we are all here today for justice. The handful of people you see in the center of the colosseum are responsible for the deaths of hundreds. Innocents slaughtered like livestock because these barbaric monstrosities believed they deserved better in life. The Galhead Trade Company believes that labor and penance is the only way to cleanse the body and soul of sinister nature! These sinners believed they were above paying for their wicked ways! An eye for an eye, I say. I say we let them die like cattle, just as they did when they sliced the throats of well-being men and women. What do you say?”

The crowd righteously cried out for judgment. The more subtle members of this spectacle felt the uncomfortable warmth they’ve generated.

“Guards, unshackle them. Give the crowd what they want!”

The guards slowly unshackled the group starting with the youngest. Frank and Jeraia were the last two to be unshackled, and before Jeraia could formulate some sort of plan, one of the convicts ran from the group with fists prepared to fly. Profusely yelling towards the officials, he waved his fists into the air.

“Wait, you dumbass! I thought we were sticking together!” Frank screamed out.

Jeraia held Frank from running after him, fearing the unknown of the colosseum. Never in his life had he or anyone in the group ever step foot in the magnificent structure. Rumors flew around about its transforming nature. Some swear that the proctors of the arena had the ability to convert at least half of it into a small lake suited for naval combat. In fact, just as Jeraia kept Frank within his reach the ground rumbled and trap doors opened around the stray prisoner. The dark pits ejected large feral cats into the air and onto the dirt ground they landed. It was too late for the stray cattle to return to the herd; the cats pounced high and low and sunk their sharp canines into his flesh. The maned lions jerked the sharp shrilled and limbed meatbag.

“Everyone stay close to each other!” screamed Jeraia. “If one of us goes down, we bum rush the cats. Keep the kids in the middle of the circle and keep moving. Let’s go!”

Everyone complied with tough Jeraia at the forefront. The two wild felines were content with their latest catch that they simply ignored the pack moving away from them. Another trap door opened but it was larger than the last. The sudden action gave some of the weaker members of the group a scare and they jumped. A giant reptile with an elongated neck, sharp beak, and ridged shell showed up on a platform. It was too slow and easily outmaneuvered by human foot. Jeraia slightly scoffed at the crowd who thought that the lethargic reptile would put up any kind of fight. It snarled and slowly took small strides, but the group could crawl away easily and safely with one leg and an arm.

Gladiators with tridents flanked the circle from the other side with the intent of forcing them towards the giant tortoise. Frank rotated his side facing the armored pugilists before he and several others fearlessly speared and captured one for themselves. The series of stomps and punches to the body put the one body to rest before they equipped themselves short swords and a trident. The other arena fighters diverted from the line to confront Frank, but were met with strong resistance. The group threw one into submission before taking on a second trident wielder and cleanly gutting him from existence.

As he watched the inferior group somehow overcome their obstacles, the head of the slave trading company gritted his teeth and slammed his fists into an armchair just as ornate as his cape. He kept his extravagant box filled with his closest confidants and business partners. They enjoyed the spectacle he put on despite the slaves he despised so much slowly persevering against the odds. Excusing himself to rid the images before him, the Galhead admin got out of his chair only to find two obscure figures in light black cloaks waiting at the door. The guards brandished their swords with the intent to kill the intruders. Smirking, the executive noticed a blade in the figure’s hand. He knew that it was meant for him.

“Speak now or you’re next on the lion’s menu.”

Without saying a word, the man removed his hood and revealed himself to be none other than a stormy Tony. The cutthroat mechanic caught wind of the biggest event to happen since the late Varsylian king’s funeral. If there was any way that the event was linked to the fires, the shortly lived revolt, and Frank Dietz, Tony had to make sure that he was invited to the event.

“I see, so the favorite son of Dyon Maxwell comes back to enact revenge or perhaps buy someone’s freedom.”

“You have no right bringing up my father’s name. I’ve come back with the sole intention of bringing down the Galhead Trade company.I’m here to put an end to your reign, you malignant growth!”

The investors and the confidants all turned to see what brash fool would ever make a statement and laughed. They worried not about their money as much as they did about the match. They commented on how strong the company was and how slavery would always exist as long as there were enough weak-willed fools to fill out the labor ranks. Their tripping on power triggered Tony. In his other hand, he held a pistol and inside that pistol he reserved a bullet just for the executive.

“You’re surrounded by the best men the coin can afford. Presumptuous Maxwell! Your father was filth and so are you!” The executive ordered the men to dispatch the man “crafted of wasted resources” with a flick of a wrist.

“Then allow me to defend myself.”

The guard dogs raised their swords only to be cut down by the second cloaked figure. The whirling mess of fabric and mess cannonballed into the air and behind the guards before she skillfully launched one with a kick and the other with a punch to the face. Flying out of the cloak, Jackie followed up her lightning assault with a flurry of punches simply overwhelming her foes. The swords had dropped a long time ago, and she was unstoppable until she stopped.

Jackie chuckled and taunted Galhead and all its supporters. “You’re all talk. I’ve met teenage pregnant knife-wielding despots with more bang for their buck. You Varsylians have no clue who you’ve tangled with and now you’re about to get stung by the bull’s horns.”

The executive pulled out a pistol of his own and aimed at the woman from Guten Nocht. His attempts at killing her proved futile as Tony grabbed him by the wrist and aimed the gun into the sitting crowd’s direction. The bullet strayed from course and grazed the forearm of one of the screaming madams. Tony pulled out his pistol and the two held each other at such a close range. Dead silence and minimal struggle. The two were equally matched despite the age difference, height, and the color of their skin. At any moment either had the ability to pull their firearm’s trigger.

“Unhand me, you despicable Kaf! May the Maker cast you into the purifying fires!”

Tony simply ignored the fact that he was facing the wrong end of a gun’s barrel and charged at the man with such great strength. The display of tenacity broke through the armchair and sent the two of them tumbling off the box’s white marble carved balcony. Jackie reached for Tony at the last second yet was not able to recover him in time. She jumped after him and managed to land safely on the ground.

“Dammit Tony!”

The colosseum adverted its attention to the three latest newcomers to the game. The once boisterously angry crowd grew silent as Tony and the executive both struggled to get back to their feet. It was hard to breathe, but the fall could not have been more than fifteen feet. Tony clutched his chest and looked around the dusty ground for his pistol. As Jackie held up Tony, the executive tried to yell for help, but the landing took some of his breath as well. Their peripheral vision got better as time passed and the pain in their chests eased up, yet no one made a motion: not Tony, not Galhead, not Jackie, not even the crowd.

Then suddenly, a small voice from the crowd cried out, “Frank!”

“Huh?”

Frank and Jeraia had successfully repelled most of the forces back. The lions did not bother, the turtle was too sluggish to turn around, and the gladiators died out in number. Frank searched the heavy sea of bodies for the origin but was not able to pick out the individual. Instead, the most miraculous gift fell from the sky and in front of the outlaw too. He took up his spellgun and observed his goods. Looking back into the crowd, the fat grin on Frank’s gaunt face caught Rhys’.

“Only two shells? Ya gotta do better next time!” Frank shouted back to the boy he considered a younger sibling. He knew that Jackie would come and rescue him from all this.

Tony limped to the middle of the arena with Jackie as a crutch as Galhead sent a whole squadron of men to retrieve the executive and bring an end to the ludicrous uprising. Unable to keep his cool any longer, he wanted three swords in the back of all that opposed him. The vendors, big name investors, and the executive’s best associates jeered at the slaves and began the chant for their death. The crowd slowly joined in, but Frank sneered and aimed his weapon for their box. He did not hesitate in the obliteration of such wicked souls. A large searing beam of red energy caused his opponents in the arena to hit the floor and even pierced the the colosseum seating. A nice gaping hole replaced what was the executive’s box.

Jeraia supported Tony and the two embraced for the longest time. Weirded out by the sudden action, Jackie stepped back from the dark men and cocked a strange brow at the scene. Jeraia cradled the back of Tony’s head and smiled.

“Good to see that you’re still alive, brother,” Tony squeezed his bigger and older brother and shed a single tear.

“That’s why dad chose to free you instead of me,” Jeraia laughed. He tried to shake the sentimental feelings out of the younger and more handsome brother. After all, the Maxwells were not out of trouble yet.

“You’re brothers?” Frank scratched his head. He had the opportunity to hang out with two of the most level-headed freedom fighters and never did he once make the connection between the two. Given that he had only met Tony once and Jeraia just recently, he stumbled on his words a bit before looking for an exit.“I shoulda seen this comin’. Not because of yer skin or nothin’, just, well fuck, nevermind.”

In mass terror, the people of the gigantic colosseum flocked away. Within minutes, the entire seating area was empty with the sole exception of Rhys Illumina happily watching from the nosebleed section. He waved with one hand while the other fed him what snacks he decided to pick up at the concession stands.

“Kill them all! The Maxwells, the pasty bastard, all of them!” Rubbing what physical and emotional pain he suffered, the executive screamed at his employees. Unable to withstand the Varsylian summer heat and wanting to survive another day, his cowardice and a few guards led out of the colosseum.

“I’m going after him.” Tony stood independent of his brother with both fists closed tightly. “We’ve come so far, we cannot let him escape and let the tyrant continue to rule.”

Placing a calloused hand over the fervorous Tony’s shoulder, Jeraia nodded. “We have a strong sense of duty to our father. Be careful.”

“You will not come?”

Jeraia looked at the remainder of the slaves-turned-convicts. They were worn out from all the strife. Throughout Varsyl, thousands of forced slaves were suffering from their cruel fate. He served the wrong people for far too long and he could only imagine worse has happened to others.

“Only one of us needs to travel down the road to vengeance. We’ve led separate lives, yet we’ve always had the same endgame in mind. Just promise me that it won’t take another fifteen years before we see each other again.”

He felt as if it was his job to a clear a path for his little brother. A sense of family snagged and energized him. Grabbing a sword and trident, Jeraia rallied his troops for one more bout. Frank stood firmly behind the leader. Galhead was the grotesque and decrepit spider on its last legs. The Maxwells waited for the day where the long-lived company would finally collapse.
Finnigan     7y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #The Breakdown, pt. 2#]

Frank readied the ancient spellgun with the second shell. Aiming for the center of the armored crowd, Frank hummed happily a rather off-beat tune. The Galhead tradesmen shook in their metal, some even cowered and threw themselves to the ground before Frank pulled the trigger. Dispelling a grandiose display of lightning and fugue, the second blast crackled from the chamber. The lightning ravaged the men and branched from one body to the other like the thin threads of a weaving spider.

Though the magical prowess of the spellgun impressed Team Anchovi and the Maxwells, Frank fell to his knees. He eviscerated the threat before him but suffered from another ailment. His vision momentarily slipped away and his mouth ran parched. The kickback of the spellgun caught him off guard. His first shot had not sent him to the ground like this. Panting, Frank pushed himself back to his feet and haphazardly dusted himself off. Jeraia worriedly glared at Frank, but the man from Guten Nocht called him out.

“You got a starin’ problem?”

“No. I’m just shocked by the sheer amount of power one weapon has. Can’t say that I’ve ever seen a spellgun in person either.”

“Eh, not so common in these parts of the water?”

“Well, nowhere really. They’re just as rare as magic itself.”

Tony looked past the fried, unconscious, and twitching bodies. Every second they wasted here increased the Galhead executive’s chances of escaping. The gait quickly turned into a full on leap. Never had Tony been so ambitious. His feet took him and his fleeting heart raced. His drive left his brother and Frank speechless.

Watching the young man run the fastest and hardest he’s ever done, Jackie droned, “I’ll go with him.”

Jackie turned to the other Maxwell brother and nodded. Frank was too trigger happy at this point and if he had any of his other weaponry, he would have leveled the entire arena without a problem. Luckily, he was exhausted. Also, despite the recent turn of events he did not vibe well with Tony’s zeal. The outlaw would have claimed that he did not want to claim the mechanic’s thunder. Confident, Jackie’s close combat skills were unparalleled with this group of menfolk. Swords, axes, spears: there was no arsenal that she could not take care personally.

“You don’t happen to fancy my brother, do you?” Jeraia jokingly said. He turned to his brother’s admirer and winked heavily. She was momentarily caught off guard. “I’m just kidding. Now he’s not much of a fighter. It’s the rush of battle that’s turning the gearhead into a master of machismo. I figure that the only reason why your friend Frank is still alive is because he has friends. My blood is safe in your hands. Now go.”

As brave Jeraia and the rest of the freed bodies mobilized to charge Varsyl for the better, Jackie sprinted out of the halls of the colosseum just to try and catch up with the vibrating Tony. He was a tail ahead of her, but she knew exactly where he was going, for Tony was following the destruction that Galhead and his men laid out. Blood splatterings and turned-over fruit carts, turned stone and weeping children. Whatever or whoever was in the way of the fleeing mortal soon found themselves disoriented and distraught. The marketplace cried out of its savior. Frightened by the devil and his men, they prayed to the Maker for a swift justice. Men swung big swords and sometimes the cold steel would find its edge in flesh. Jackie ran with these images cycling through her head.

The fighting spirit of the vengeful Antoine Maxwell was hot on their trail. The velvet capes of the guards were within his reach. All he could think about was the death of Galhead by his own hands. He wondered why he had not done it any sooner. As he reached the other end of the marketplace, he soon realized that he was ahead of himself. The Galhead guards planted their feet on the ground, turned around, and drew their swords out in the open space. Tony stopped before them unarmed and quickly winding down. Sniggering, the man in his robes patronized Tony.

“You decide to chase me and then when it comes to the final fight you choose to bring no weapon? I’m sure you’re aware of it now, but I did not hire a rambunctious pack of prepubescent girls to protect me. My money buys men on the daily, you sniveling Kaf morsel; my coin can purchase a personal militia.”

Trying to look over the hulking figures’ shoulders, Tony addressed from afar. “Fight like a man! If you didn’t have money, none of these guys would stand for you. Shows you how much support you really have.”

“I don’t pay these men to think, Maxwell. Your father squandered his money on freeing the wrong insolent child. When I tell these men to raise their swords, their swords rise without question.”

The men began their advance. With his hands naked, Tony looked around for any object to fend off the attackers. Backing away, Tony felt a swift wind brush up against his side. Like the bolt of lightning that emerged from Frank’s gun, Jackie erupted into one of the swordsman. She showcased such strength and speed in her movements. How she jumped over the man’s shoulder while locking her arm around his head brought fear in everyone’s eyes. Her speed and tight grip slammed the opponent down on his back. The other guards turned their attention to her and point their swords in her direction.

Tossing the fallen soul’s sword to Tony’s feet, Jackie quipped, “the real party can now begin.”

A crossbow bolt zipped in front of brave Jackie’s face. She could feel the fletching of the bolt skim the skin off her nose. Invoking rage, she stepped his way with fists curled up, but before the marksman could reload another bolt into his crossbow and fire it, Tony lopped off his hands in one upward swing.

“The Galhead Trade Company is everywhere. You think that disposing me will end the business?” Simply oblivious to the gore set before him, the cruel executive laughed in Tony’s direction. The sadistic laughter only angered Tony even further. This man had no respect for anyone else’s life. Pleasure and goosebumps ran across the executive’s body.

“No, but it’s a start.” Tony put up his sword with intent to fight through the crowd. This was probably his third or fourth time handling a sword. He did not think they would be so heavy to handle.

The man in the lavish robes tossed his head back and laughed it off. “Ah, but this is where you end.”

Tony and Galhead’s men locked swords. By no means was Tony a fighter. He was granted strength, yet he did not possess the posture and finesse of the average swordsman. Sometimes it was even too much power when he swung the sword. He spun with the sword. The Galhead men hopped back from his attacks with ease and wondered if this fool would succumb their blade or his own. They mocked his sword handling and even jeered his mental health.

“Eh, a Kaf wif’ no magick swings like a complete tard. What use is he?”

“I figure that he would at least die with honor. What a damn shame.”

Tony was very fortunate though to have the hulking Jackie cover for him. She would guard Tony’s back and even then, she flew to the other side. The soldier of the toughened fists engaged the men as if they were men she fancied and engaged in everyday conversation. Every time a sword came her way, she would counter with the same combination: dodge, rotate, sweep, and finish. A sword swung for her head, but she leaned back, encircled her foe, used her gargantuan legs sweep her topy heavy foe, and relentlessly punched him into submission. The Galhead numbers rapidly dwindled without Tony even having to swing his sword a second time. This was Jackie Simms. She was born to pilot ships and fight.

If she could fight all fights, Jackie Simms would. She happily stepped in for her crush, but not because she wanted his affection. No, she always won the hearts of men off this sort of battlefield for another. Life for her was fought on two different fronts: love and war. No, Jackie Simms fought for Tony because she owed him for assisting in getting Frank back to her and she believed in his cause from the very first encounter. She was looking to start a new life, yet found something a little bit more meaningful than just the average day to day nine to five stint.

Finally, there were no guards to stand between the snake and Tony. Jackie swept the floor of all the rubbish and allowed her associate to take the reins. The executive who nervously chuckled began to back away into a run, but the vehement Tony Maxwell effortlessly pushed the older man into the ground face first. As the dust settled, Tony’s boot dug into the man’s gut with the sword pointed at the face. Victory was closer to Tony now than ever. After years of plotting and consistently failing against the Galhead name, he savored this moment. He waited fifteen years, a lifetime to him, to free his brother and father from slavery.

“I yield!” he pled. He threw his arms in front with palms wide open as if that would stop Tony’s rage and blade from coming down on him. Well, surprisingly it worked for a moment.

“Where is my father? Where is Dyon Maxwell? You know, the one whose freedom I tried buying along with Jeraia’s, yet you cruelly denied me their freedom.” Tony lowered his sword down, unable to bring himself to kill this man. He teetered on the idea that he would sell him with the rest of Galhead to neighboring empires as an ironic and poignant statement.

“May the Maker take pity on your soul, filthy Maxwell.” The malign man spat. “Hel will await your soul one day.”

The executive tried scuttle away like a beach crab, but he kept on tripping on his own robes and thusly did not get as far as he exaggerated in his mind. He continued to scoot back only to tear into the velvet eggplant purple robes and dirty the fabric with the dry earth. Within the rising cloud of dirt, something familiar to Tony shone through it all. The Varsylian summer sun pointed out an object on a gaudy golden chain that resonated with Tony’s soul. The peridot pendant was a heirloom of the Maxwell family and passed down from one generation to another.

“Hold it,” Tony dimly spoke. “Where is the owner of that pendant?”

No answer.

“Answer me.”

His prisoner of war was melting from the heat. The sweat trickled down his aged face and his clothes mopped up the drops attracting the dirt to stain the lavish purples. The two remained in place in silence. The Galhead boss pled with his eyes now knowing that if he stalled enough, an airship of his would come by to save him.

“I am willing to pay the price for freedom.” Unable to control his stewing anger any further in the midst of stillness, Tony took his father’s pendant in the left hand as his right hand slipped the tip of the blade into the head of Galhead Trade Company’s chest. He knew that his father had died a some time ago due to unforeseen circumstances, but Tony’s best guess was that his father died in the hands of Galhead. The utter neglect and mistreatment of a human being was enough to justify his action. Vengeance ran full circle. As the final breaths escaped the executive’s dying lungs, strong browed Tony parted ways with a rather vindictive final farewell. “As one life slips from the Maker’s hand, ten-thousand are freed.”

Team Anchovi and the Maxwell brothers lived another day, and the crown tried its best to stay far away from the controversial affair. A herald of Prince Chelon and the empress dowager Helvetia announced the follow day that the empire was no way associated with Galhead Trade Company and would not investigate it any further. In reality, the empress was slowly losing her favor with the other empires. With the slave trading company compromised, her influence was slowly waning. Luckily her future son-in-law was malleable and had some authority.

Captain Rhoton Gallien and Hollis Westlands were dispatched to the Varsylian capital’s slave encampment site to piece together what had happened. The captain, puzzled by the effort of just a few men, strangers nonetheless, scratched his chin as his men rummaged through every empty nook and cranny. Jeraia Maxwell cleaned out the place before Varsyl’s military made the scene. There was not a body in sight nor was there any leftover resources.

“What’s the final say, Westlands?”

“A few of my men and I were able to access Galhead’s data bank. The Galhead Trade Company has a better filing system than the capital, sir. I mean how is it that a slave trading company keeps a cleaner record than we do?” The captain sternly stared at Hollis and tapped his foot. He was not in the mood for the fluff. “With this information, we’re able to find out names, the point of abduction, medical history, and transactions throughout both the Varsylian empire and adjacent empires. These businessmen were shrewd fellows with a good eye for detail. I have retrieved the files for Mr. Frank Dietz of Guten Nocht and Jeraia Maxwell as per request, sir.”

“Ah, good stuff, Westlands.” The captain looked through the files. Jeraia had a hefty case on him, yet he amused the captain. There was a lot of notes regarding negligence and talking back, but Rhoton admired his audacity and work ethic.

“Sir, why did we not interfere with either acts of rebellion? Galhead was responsible for the small boom of wealth in the capital. Should we have protect the best interests of the prince and the regent queen?”

“Prince Chelon and Queen Helvetia have suffered two mighty losses today. With the Maxwell brothers inciting liberty throughout the empire and Galhead slowly crumbling without its figureheads, it’s only a matter of time before the crown resorts to transformation.” Though it troubled his companion, the captain was more than fine with change in the empire. Smarter than the rest, he knew the country was in a decay. The crown was a joke. Stopping himself from fantasizing about his ideal world, Capt. Rhoton Gallien nodded to his subordinate and asked, “Hollis, did you find any clues to [i her]?”

“We did a thorough search of the data bank. Nothing. Looks like another lead gone cold if you ask me, sir.”

“The queen will be devastated by the news.”

“The queen? The prince more like it, captain.”

Pacing around, the captain rubbed his chin harder than before. Surely [i she] did not deserve what cruel fate came her way. “This though, Westlands, isn’t good. [i She] must be scared. She’s been missing for two weeks now.”

“Not to be so succinct with you, sir, but what about Galhead?”

“What of it? It’s a cold case. We’re not to interfere with businesses outside our jurisdiction. If the Maxwells and Frank of Guten Nocht want to start a revolution. Let them do it. It’s none of our business to interfere with the people as long as they bring money to the empire and don’t mess with the crown. As far as I know, they’re not responsible for [i her] disappearance.”

“Right: one man’s been a slave for fifteen years, another just arrived to Varsyl to set free his giant chickens, and the other works for…” Hollis trailed off with the sun setting beyond the marketplace and colosseum.

“What? You don’t think that the magician is responsible, do you? Surely the man with one of the biggest names in Varsyl as well as the Blue has nothing to do with it. The prince would have done something about him sooner if that was the case.”

Captain Gallien called for his people to regroup and sent them on their way home. Before dismissing Hollis himself, all the captain could do was shake his head. Change was for the better, but not if the prince was involved. It was Gallien and Westlands job to investigate the missing person, but if the magician was involved, so was the prince. No one wants to work for the prince. [i No one.]
Finnigan     7y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size20 #ARC 3: RUNNER IN THE NIGHT#]
[size16 #Fighter Returns#]

Months had passed by without a single trouble for team Anchovi, but the same could not be said for the Varsylian capital and its surrounding cities. The fallout of Galhead had invigorated people to join the fight against slavery and the mistreatment of fellow humans. The Maxwells were at the forefront of the sporadic movement, yet Tony Maxwell felt off kilter about the masses. Before the events of the Galhead Trade company fiasco there was very little discourse concerning its downfall. No one until Jackie and the rest of Anchovi dared to go against the malicious slave trade.

Pondering heavily on the thought while standing on a tall ladder parallel to the Fighter, Tony was unsure on whether he inspired revolution in the Varsylians or if they were just opportunistic. In chaotic fashion, people of all origins and ages outside of the palace walls raided Galhead assets and sacked what food and wares they could carry out by hand and cart alike. Jeraia swore that these people were more or less barbaric than the slavers themselves. There was no sense of caring for human life and the elder Maxwell believed that the barbarians thought he pushed for anarchy.

“How’s she doin’?” Frank merrily tipped his floppy hat up and watched Tony twisting cables into each other.

The man from Guten Nocht had gotten back from the farm on a late summer afternoon. According to many Varsylians, summer was an arduous six month affair with the blistering sun and sometimes week-long droughts. Stories of self-sustaining floral springs and brisk autumns were passed down through the generations, yet no one from the area ever experienced these seasons for long, if at all. The more Frank remained in the metropolitan area, the more he realized that Varsyl was only a notch above the hollow Guten Nocht.

Removing the pair of soldering goggles from his eyes, the lean fellow in the sweat drenched tank top and half worn jumpsuit looked back at his comrade and nodded, “Today will be the last day that she’ll be out of commission.”


“It’ll be months before she sees the doctor again, Frankie.” Jackie came around the back of the ship while wiping the grease from her hands. She happily smiled towards his direction right before the the Fighter’s end burst into white smoke. “Oops.”

“Hmph, we’ll see about that.”

Shouting from the other side of the ship, Jackie tended to the Fighter’s whine.

“Where’s Rhys-e-sweet?”

“Engergast. That boy’s been leading those folk in my absence. Give a kid a crash course on chicken handling, he suddenly becomes a know-it-all on gallomancy.”

Frank and Rhys were often not seen in the shipyard. Frank traveled to nearby cities from time to time with Jeraia and tried to play peacekeeper. Wherever Galhead had employees and cells tailor made for slaves, the duo hopped on their steeds to assist the downtrodden. Time was most essential to the two of them as they needed to beat the raiders to the facilities in order to resupply the newly freed with Galhead goods. Day and night, Frank, Jeraia, and the few brave souls who stuck around had ridden from one town to another with justice and liberty in mind.

Frank had only been back in the area this past week and found that he was not needed back on the ship nor Engergast. The young boy Rhys worked passionately with Elbriz and Luzi and their most trusted ranchers. A few of Elbriz’s men shirked away from the giant chickens after a few close encounters with the razor sharp talons, but it was Rhys who bolstered the remaining men’s confidence. He often spent the days, nights, and sometimes even weeks at the farm and shared many meals with the gracious Elbriz. The patron of the land saw Rhys as a friend and even as a son. Rhys and Luzi were inseparable. They often did most of their chores together and sang old Varsylian nursery rhymes.

Growing bored of doing absolutely nothing in the day, Frank wondered about his good friend Jeraia. “Where’s yer brother?”

Tony was too distracted with the Fighter’s wiring that he had not realized his jargon muttering trailed off for minutes at a time. He went another couple of minutes before he realized Frank posed a question. “Probably in Selby. Last message he sent was in Kruftenbourgh, back on plantations. Freed thousands I heard.”

“Makin’ a dent.” Frank sighed. He regretted not being in the fray this time. He regretted coming back home to a bunch of busybodies.

Tony never complained about the long hours between his three jobs. In addition to fixing up merchant ships, he balanced the whole liberation movement and the Fighter’s tuneup most excellently. Of course, there was a moment in the past two months where he had to sit Jackie down and berate her. A lot of the Fighter’s wiring was done wrong and the placement of several components of the ship were misplaced. In the end, Tony struggled at being frustrated with her and the ship because she managed to make it awkward with her incessant gawking. He tried provoking Jackie into an argument, but somehow she was able to sit there in bliss. She took all his pitiful jabs and returned with a gooey sweet grin.

Dinner was often awkward for Tony. Jackie fawned over him. Duster was the only other person who accompanied them to dinner, and Tony quickly learned that Duster had a major staring problem. The mechanic often ate his meals in solitude before he freed Jeraia, but it was the foreign behavior that gave him a bad taste in his mouth. He vowed that he would never visit Guten Nocht if this behavior was the norm. He was grateful for Jackie’s hospitality and her willingness to share food with him. She ate with a queen’s appetite and devoured an average of five Varsylian meals in one sitting.

“Hey, why dontcha come with us?”

“What?” Pausing in his work, Tony turned back around to Frank once more and squinted his eyes.

“I’m gettin’ this feeling that we won’t be around in the area for a long time and we’re gonna need a mechanic. Since yer doin’ such a great job, it’d be nice to keep ya around.” Frank felt awkward in trying to convey his words. Though the rest of his crew accepted Tony without a problem, it was Frank who had a problem with him. Perhaps it was Frank having a problem with Frank. He never entirely thanked Tony for helping out in his release. He struggled to find ways to make it up to him. Besides stealing and fighting, Frank did not have an array of skills or passions he could repay with, and words were not his strong suit.

“My duty resides in Varsyl and despite the fracturing of Galhead, Jeraia and I still have a lot to do.” In some ways, Frank and Tony were almost the same person. They expressed their emotions horribly and could not find the right words. On top of it all, Antonine Maxwell had this notion that he had to play it cool the entire time. Displaying any weakness was social suicide. A calm composure and a solid build was all he needed.

Deep inside, Tony struggled with more than what he could handle. At first, it was Duster who pointed it out to Tony in private. One day, the Lucavi cornered Tony and offered to mend his mind, but the weirded out Varsylian slowly and rudely declined. He pushed past the alien who did not understand boundaries and walked off in disgust. The night terrors started since Jeraia’s abrupt journeys and they grew worse with each passing day since Galhead’s destruction. The next person to approach him was the young Illumina who suggested that none of it was real. As much as Tony wanted to shove the kid and tell him that nothing was wrong, he could not. His pride got in his way.

It was not until Jackie when Tony started to crack. He came across her meditating one day in the cargo bay. She was wearing only her bra and panties and straddled the area between cool interior metal with the lustrously hot ramp. She did not have to say anything that day because she had anticipated it all from the beginning. There were no surprises to her because she too had gone through the same situation as Tony. He was clearly shaken from the encounter outside of the marketplace with the Galhead executive. Rage had taken over him and before he could fully comprehend his actions, the sword skewered the slaver. The red hot rage and guilt had masked his pacifist nature, and as a result he attended church every day for three weeks. He begged for forgiveness with his father’s pendant clutched between his hands.

Tony could have fooled Frank, but one of the most perceptive people in all of Varsyl happened to be on the same ship as Tony. Though she often flirted with Tony on a daily basis, Jackie put her childish antics to the side and aided him through it all. He had never killed until that day, and his thoughts betrayed him as a result. Unable to come up with a reason for not working, Tony caved and broke down in front of her that day. Holding him in her arms, she reassured him that if he wanted to look cool, he had to be cool. Standing him up, she did not want to coddle him like Rhys or any child.

“Hey,” Frank said thus breaking Tony’s daydreaming sequence.

“Yeah?”

Frank struggled before he awkwardly squeaked out, “You work too hard, Tony. Take it easy.”

“Hm.” Before Frank could make it far, Tony chirped, “If you’re gonna stick around in Varsyl, I suggest looking elsewhere for work. The capital’s economy is gonna tank soon, or at least that’s what I’ve heard from a few employees from the Lansit Family.”

Before the end of the day, Tony presented the pair of thieves with an updated Fighter. He boasted that the Fighter would be able to outspeed any Varsylian aircraft flying under the Prince’s guard without breaking a gear. He expected the ship to run smoothly without any tuneups for the next few months, but Frank quipped that it’ll be back in a couple of weeks knowing how rough the crew was. The three took a good moment to realize how amazing the Fighter was. It was one of a kind and had the best of both worlds. Whoever engineered this magnificent piece of work wanted something something strong and able to take a few hits, yet they did not want to sacrifice its agility and responsiveness.

“Are you sure you don’t want to tag along with us, Tony?” Jackie begged, “We need someone like you to balance out our crazies.”

“I already declined Frank’s offer. Plus, I have a few personal issues I need to settle with first before I before I bring on my own crazies.”

Acting silly in front of Tony, Frank, and the setting sun, she daintily placed the back of her hand on her forehead and dramatically sighed. “Oh Tony! We’ll die without you!”

They all laughed.

“So what’s the itinerary?” asked Tony.

“Rhys came back with Elbriz’s suggestion. Llamarr. Wherever the flip that is.”

“A merchant town?”

“Yeah, you know where that is?”

“Southeast coast of the continent. I guess if you’re gonna be looking for a job, there’s your best bet. You might be able to do some good work out there too with Galhead. I would not put it past them if they’re trying to ship out the last of their slaves there.”

“We’ll have to check it out then, Tony. You dining with us tonight?”

“Nah, I’m heading over to the hangars to fix some expressway ships. Also, word of advice: I would not do anything too suspicious as of now. There’s some serious dilemma happening in the palace. I’m guessing that something is missing from the queen’s wardrobe or something. Anyways, don’t give Rhoton a reason to blast you out of the sky.”

“You’re saying that as if I can’t out-maneuver a few missiles.” Jackie laughed, but no one joined her.

Tony shot her such a dirty glance that she immediately stood still. “I wouldn’t risk it.”
Finnigan     7y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Merchant Town Llamarr#]

“No regrets.”

Frank tilted his head up and smiled. Another new start, perhaps with a happy ending waiting for him. The capital was getting too caught up in politics and the decline of the economy. Frank and the Maxwell brothers were spreading around as household names for the revolution. Frank Dietz was not a revolutionary. He confessed that he was not necessarily a great man of words either. He had a knack of getting into trouble and throwing the rest of his crew in the face of danger. A sound and secure future waited for him somewhere in this newfangled Blue.

“What?”

The bubbly pilot scratched her head as she soared through the Varsylian skies. Captain Gallien Rhoton was insistent that she and the rest of Team Anchovi remain in the capital’s metropolitan area for a few more weeks until some more imaginary paperwork came through and grounded them even further. Patience she lacked, and nothing but persistence she had. The grizzled Jackie pulled some strings of her own, namely her favorite romp, Hollis Westlands. The sex was not as stellar as usual, but with the way she vividly described it, Frank might have believed he was there for a very brief moment.

“Uh...nothin’. Just thinkin’ to muhself.”

The rust colored hair quickly grew into a wily catastrophe in the past few months with no curly haired siren to tend to it. There would be no long nails scratching the tender surface of Frank’s scalp as their owner pondered on how to shape the strands of whimsical hair. He smiled at the thought of the both of them laughing, with her caressing him from behind with a pair of scissors in hand. She knew how to cut hair, just like his late sister Elle. Frank unconsciously let a small whimper out which was quickly caught by the rest of the crew, for he was the least perceptive of them all. Jackie simply smirked and let the other two investigate.

“Is everything okay, Frank? You seem distraught,” Duster parked his face up to Frank’s and constantly tilted his head left to right. “Are you getting enough to eat?”

“Whaddya want, Dusty? Yer in my space.”

“Animals usually create some sort of utterance when they’re hungry or need to excrete waste.”

Rhys chuckled from the other side of the cockpit but rapidly piped up when Frank struggled to look over Duster’s body and shoot a dirty look.

“You think somethin’ is funny over there, Chuckles?”

Frank shook his fist. At this point, he was trying to recover his tough guy persona. The thought of her raced through his mind often. He counted in one day sixteen times. He believed that the surreal moments of his dark skinned goddess-companion were her contacting him. The idea of her developing some sort of telepathy did not surprise him. After all, the Maker crafted her to be the most magnificent being. Frank eventually simmered down into a seat.

“Elbriz says that we’ll find a job in Llamarr in no time. I reckon we be transportin’ some goods while we’re there so everybody is gonna have to put in some muscle.”

The idle white mannikin they called Duster quipped, “I do not have muscle fibers, Frank.”

Frank heavily sighed.

“Don’t worry Frankie, I got enough muscle to cover him.” Jackie flexed her biceps and posed for her audience. They threw their hands in an uproar. At least, that’s what she wanted to imagine.

“In fact, she has enough muscle to support the entire crew threefold.”

“Besides the point, ya guys.”

Jackie winked at Duster despite the fact that Duster was incapable of expressing love or any personal connection with another sentient life. the cheeky pilot loudly hummed and smittenly puffed out her chest. She had too much energy and the day was just starting for the crew. They left the shipyard before the crack of dawn in hopes of arriving in Llamarr by high noon. Unknown to the rest of the crew, aside from the astute Duster who might have been in cahoots with Jackie, the Fighter was able to make it to Llamarr by ten in the morning. She purposefully ran the ship a tad slower because she enjoyed the whirring of the engines and the ship’s sharp cutting into the air. Jackie also cherished the very brief moments with the entire crew.

[b kzzzrt.]

“This is Ms. Jackie Simms of The Fighter, ace pilot of Guten Nocht’s Last, breaker of Galhead chains. I’m requesting any open space within the city of Llamarr to taxi my airship.”

[b “Salutations, Ms. Simms. This is air traffic controller Kels Tieren of the Easterian Shipyard. We are unable to accommodate ATL services at the moment, does your airship have necessary measures for an ATS landing?”]

Frank and Rhys looked confused. ATL? ATS? Jackie looked back at the two of them and responded, “Baby, baby. The Fighter is top of the line. She’s straight Jukain. Send me the coordinates and I’ll be down in two shakes of a chicken’s tailfeather.”

Jukain? Not even Kels Tiern of the Easterian Shipyard knew what she talking about. Within the next hour of the last radio transmission, the Fighter approached the town from the waters. Both Frank and Rhys were shocked at the sight set before them. Rhys smiled. This new place gave him a chance to explore more of Varsyl and the Blue. Frank swallowed his saliva and deeply exhaled. Jackie lowered the ship causing it to skim across the waters, and the rest of the crew panicked and clutched onto the nearest solid object.

Waving his hands around in frenzy, Frank hollered, “We’re gonna drown! What the flying fuck are you doing, Jackie? Bring the Fighter back up! Bring it back up!”

Frank tried for the steering wheel, but the stalwart ace elegantly nudged him back into his seat with her knuckles. The pilot turned back to her friend and assured, “Frankie baby, Rhys-e-sweets. No need to cry, the seas have enough salt. The Fighter has naval capabilities.”

“How do you know that?” Frank cried out even further. “There was never enough water for you to try this out on Nocht!”

“Faith.”

“Well fuck faith!”

Jackie pulled up to any empty dock where several men directed her to a complete halt. She shut the Fighter down and was the first person to get up out of her seat. Even Duster who was fearless of everything but black witches and fairy tales dared not to move all too much. In fact, the rocking of the boat kept the Lucavi off his feet for some time. The spindly limbs were not enough to support him through the tumults, and Frank took pleasure in watching the horned silver alien crash into the walls.

It was the first time that the crew of the Fighter opened the side hatch to the outside world. Jackie shoved the heavy door open and lead Frank and Rhys onto the left wing of the ship. As soon as Frank saw where he was, he threw himself back inside and onto the floor. Rhys clung onto Jackie’s leg like a monkey to the thick trunk of a great tree. Jackie thought to herself that she was going to have to carry the entire team on her back. Clumsy cowards, the lot of them. What use were these men? Well, one was a bioandroid with a young boy’s mind, another was an alien, and the last was Frank. Frank was Frank. Frank is always Frank.

“Eugh! There’s so much of it,” Frank muttered from inside the ship. “Not going out there.”

Jackie jested, “Scared, Frankie?”

“We’re supposed to drink water, not the other way around.”

“If it bothers you so much, we can find you an inn and you can always operate from there. I’ll even carry you across the wing if you want.”

She heard a loud grunt from the interior. Frank was not having any of her taunts. Not today at least. Rhys tugged on Jackie’s shirt and she gladly gave him his full attention.

“Can you carry me across?”

“No,” she gleefully responded. “You’re halfway there. We can finish the battle together, but I’m not always gonna be by your side. Frankie over there needs some motivation. If he sees you do it all by yourself, then he’ll be compelled to do it.”

“How did you come to that conclusion?”

Jackie removed her eyes from Rhys and shouted back into the Fighter.

“That’s because Frankie baby is a chicken shit!” She grinned at the child once more and slowly pried him off her body. Whispering to him, she nodded, “Go.”

Removing one leg then the other from hers, Rhys slowly released his vicegrip and started at a sloth’s crawl across the chilly wing’s span. The foamy seawater swished to and fro the Fighter’s sleek body. Somehow the smell of the vast sea enticed the boy for a few moments. The humidity and mist spritzed his face, yet it was not a miserable humidity that the capital sported. Jackie allowed Rhys to take his time and snickered at Frank who was tacitly watching from the inside. The adolescent wobbled to his feet and gradually stepped towards the end where he hurriedly threw himself onto the wooden dock.

Rhys gave the Fighter and Jackie a thumbs up which prompted the stubborn mule inside to sluggishly slither onto the wing. The pilot offered her hand, but gruff Frank had too much pride. Swatting it away, Frank followed in Rhys’ steps and wobbled to his feet. He made the conscious effort and darted across the wing. Before Jackie could make a joke, Frank plummeted next to Rhys who immediately tended to a grounded fool. Jackie, without any effort, hopped down from the wing and lead the way to the exciting world of Llamarr.

Right off the dock, the troupe got their first hand experience. The town had a cooler tone to it, mostly draped in drab greys and blues. Vibrant lime green moss grew on the roofs and ivy vines snaked along what few brick walls the town possessed. Most of the gloomy shanties stood only a floor tall with the obvious inns and taverns being the exception. There were half-hearted attempts at trying to brighten up the place, but the droopy flowering plants sank like the hearts of their owners. The people, mostly men, were either built with muscle from all the heavy lifting of wooden crates or wiry like Duster’s limbs.

“Looks like our kind of crowd, eh Frankie?”

The port town was bustling as always with fishermen hollering prices of their latest wares. The few women who wore dull rags on their heads and resided in the town sold expensive the most vibrant objects in town: tulips. Of course, the asking price was rather high, but they seemed like a hit with the tiny girls in their tiny blue ascots. On the opposite end of the wharf, a few men were duking it out over something irrelevant and menial. Fists flew and a crowd manifested as a result. Brawlers perhaps, Frank was clearly not interested, but Jackie raised a brow.

“I think we could get used to it. Maybe this is our home.”

“Everyone looks...so mean,” Rhys remarked. He hid between his guardians.

“Yeah, Llamarr isn’t just a town for merchants. A merry band of thieves and wot not.” A shifty man picked up on the newest residents to the neighborhood and immediately gravitated into their direction. He wore a shabby torn grey overcoat spoke as sweet as a guilty person could. “I’ve heard they steal from the rich and the poor! There’s a reason why the crown doesn’t deal with us as much. Well, besides the fact that the capital is complete shit. Some rebel rousers did a number on the slave trade. Ever since then, it’s been a train wreck and a half, a mass chain of explosions.”

“Yeah, those were good times.” Frank daydreamed. His mind wandered elsewhere and paid no attention to the scrub.

“Excuse me?” Trying to figure out what was going on and who exactly he was talking to, the burly man cocked his eyebrows at the foreigner and scratched his scruff.

Grabbing onto Frank’s hands, Rhys squeaked, “My brother likes to run his mouth off, don’t mind him!”

The man scoffed the foreigners and began to walk away, but Jackie felt a sinister wind from behind. Halting the man with such great instinct, Jackie slid her palm across his chest and glared. She retrieved a small felt bag that jingled of gold. [i Her] gold. The man who was a head taller held back a stupid grin, but Jackie Simms of Guten Nocht was not amused.

“Ah, I’m sorry. I thought I could help myself to a little tip.”

“I’ll give you a tip: I won’t hurt you too badly, but the next time you cross Team Anchovi will be the last.”

Jackie jumped into the air and spun the heel of her foot into the man’s wide jaw. The thief fell to his knees where Jackie wound her fist for the finishing strike. He flinched. Instead of knocking him out, she withdrew her fist as soon as she put it up and childishly stuck her tongue out. The man scurried to his feet and ran away while muttering obscenities. Team Anchovi was going to thrive in the city of merchants and thieves.
Finnigan     7y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #The Swanky Thief#]

It was towards the end of the day when Rhys met Frank on the corner of the fisherman’s wharf. Frank, Jackie, and Rhys were all granted jobs given they could survive the typical nine to five grind. The pilot and her confidant worked in one of the myriad of warehouses down in the wet wharf. From dragging the large fishy palettes in and out of the store to stacking large wooden crates, the mightiest duo of Team Anchovi often stood above their peers. Lucky Rhys landed a job within the marketplace himself as a stocker. Despite having no sense of taste, the youth successfully sold produce.

“Thanks for helping me out with the groceries.” Carrying the two heavier paper bags by their handles, Rhys smiled up to Frank. He did not mind working and rather found it therapeutic to interact with his surroundings. The clamor of everyday calmed and filled Rhys’ void of a mind. On his break, the boy circled the strip of stores in search for knowledge. Of course, as shy as he was, Rhys only observed and never asked questions. He was obviously still intimidated by the roughnecks of Llamarr.

Frank was less thrilled with his job compared to the somehow eternally blissful Rhys Illumina. No matter how much he tried sleeping the work off, the soft-bodied Frank Dietz struggled on a daily basis. He had put more shoulder into moving boxes than any other thug in the warehouse yet he was unable to make suitable progress. Heck. Frank’s blistered fingers struggled to carry the lightest paper bag. Wincing to the side, Frank painfully chuckled it off. “Heh, no probs, kid.”

Looking around for their third body, Rhys asked, “Where’s Jackie?”

“She always a disappearin’ after work.” Frank let his bag drop to the brick pavement and painfully tried to unclutch his fingers. His supervisors were not too pleased with his work ethic and one even stressed the desire to lash at him with long strips of tanned leather. Pulling out a squatty scarlet sphere from the paper bag, Frank exclaimed, “Hey! Didja know that they have more than almonds in this wet hole? They get actual produce like lettuce and tomatoes. Tomatoes, Rhys!”

Rhys simply observed the sphere in Frank’s hand but said nothing in response.

“I guess you don’t really eat. Huh.”

Rhys nodded. As Frank went to put back the tomato into the brown paper bag, a figure cloaked in navy blue swiftly swooped from behind and firmly clutched the bag in one hand. The lithe character chuckled in a deep and muffled voice. Whoever they were, they stopped several yards away from Frank and Rhys to adjust their bizarrely bright and tasteless yellow floral sash and matching headband.

“What the flyin’ Hel was that?”

“Hi.”

The thief waved. Rhys waved back. Frank scowled at the golden child.

“Look, pal. Gimme back the tomatoes or I’m gonna get rough with ya.” Frank shook his fist at the thief and puffed out his chest as if it added more mass to the massless. The vindictive tone came from his empty stomach. His job refused to give him any lunch breaks and rarely did he ever get to see the day of light during a regular shift. This thief with the smug attitude was the last person he wanted to encounter. Hunger raged.

“Look pops, you’re not going to lay a finger on me.” The witty soul taunted Frank with his lunge stretches and wild gesticulations. “This is couture.”

“I ain’t got time for fashion.”

As if they were truly offended by Frank’s words, the thief in the navy and yellow angrily pulled out the top tomato and aimed right for the lanky man’s scruffy face. Frank, despite his current state, dodged the runny tomato. The thief laughed, “What an injustice!”

“You got quite the arm. My turn.” The outlaw pulled out his revolver and returned the favor by pointing the barrel in the direction of the thief’s face.

Rhys held onto Frank’s wrist and cried out, “Frank!”

“What?” Frank furiously snapped. He tried shaking off Rhys’ grip, but he was far too out of shape to make a difference. Frank lowered down his gun and turned to Rhys. “What is it?”

“I don’t think he poses a real threat,” Rhys stated. He did not want to add another casualty to the natural grey and grim town of Llamarr. “He’s hungry.”

As Frank tried to raise his gun up once more, Rhys pulled it back down and shook his head. The trigger happy ruffian snarled once more, “He took our groceries! I think times like this warrant for a bullet in the kneecap.”

“One of my arms is currently carrying all this delicious food and you still can’t beat me with your bare hands. C’mon pops. Don’t shoot me down like the mangy dog you think I am. Punch me. Faggot.” Whoever this person with high self-esteem and elegance was beneath the disguise, they shared the same foul tongue like every other sailor and fisherman in town.

“He’s right.” Who was Rhys siding with: the thief or poor Frank? It seemed like no matter who was with Frank, they were all out to tear him down. Rhys continued, “You’ve got the advantage even without the gun.”

Chuckling from afar, the thief waved at Rhys once more. “Thanks kid.”

“He’s setting me up for a fool, Rhys.”

Frank clenched his fists and deeply inhaled the salty air. Even he knew when it was time to quit. This thief was gonna wipe him across the floor without a single problem. Exhausted, Frank dismissed the thief and turned away with his head down. He was powerless. He physically could not shake off Rhys who never really posed as an obstacle before. Frank had to retain some sort of integrity, especially in such a rough environment like the shanty Llamarr.

The thief scaled a shack and saluted the boys off. As soon as Frank trailed back home and Rhys waved off his best new friend, the thief hopped from one tin roof to the next. His footing was rather off tonight as the thief sometimes stumbled to stay up. The stranger was used to living on the streets and pilfering from the rest of the city. He had no shame for the city was just as damned as he was. No matter how Llamarr distanced itself from the capital, the merchant city was just as corrupt. Everyone played their respective role in the downfall of the Varsylian empire. The thief perpetuated the suffering and wholeheartedly believed that the continent could not be saved.

Tossing a tomato into the air and catching it, the thief could not help but admire his uniform in the bright moonlight. He strutted down the ridges of the roofs while basking in the moon’s milky rays. No one cared that he was prowling around in the nighttime. Everyone else was either safe asleep behind locked doors or squandering their hard earned time and money at one of the many bars strategically situated throughout the town. As if they all regularly attended church, the roughest and toughest men in Llamarr chimed somber songs. Tales mostly about the Blue and its endless mysteries. In a different time, the sailors and merchants would have been choirboys.

The thief hummed along the rooftops until he came across another figure staring standing in the white moonlight. Just a few houses away, a woman with a thick build adjusted her jacket. Jackie Simms and the perplexing thief locked eyes in the blue night. Jackie, whose blouse was previously bloodied and torn by unforeseeable events, devilishly smirked and laughed at the petty thief. Perhaps she was taken by bloodlust and happened to meet the right, or in the case of the thief: wrong, person. Whoever’s blood it was, Jackie wore it on one of the few white blouses she had.

“Hullo there!” Jackie exclaimed.

“Sorry, but my mother told me not to talk to strangers,” quipped the thief in navy.

“I know exactly who you are.”

‘Yeah?”

Cheekishly, Jackie remarked, “you’re a thief.”

“Yeah, Zatoichi, so is everyone else in this town.”

“Wanna spar?”

“Right now?” The thief was taken back by the queer woman. The thief was not even sure if he could call Jackie Simms a woman. She wasn’t your typical bar wench in this town and she sure was not a madame.

Jackie hopped from roof to another until she could see the whites in her opponent’s eyes. The cool thief stepped back once he got a better understanding of this hulking yet stout figure. All he could think about were the wild boars in the Varsylian forests. Of course, the scoundrel whose voice was deep and grim was foolish enough to engage the beast. Dropping the bag, he rushed Jackie and sent a flurry of punches her way. Punch after punch, the martial artist smacked away each blow without effort. Using only her palm, Jackie pushed her offender back.

Moving a few strands of her jet black hair from her fair, Jackie suavely, almost snobbishly, chuckled, “Your form is sloppy.”

“My form is just fine, thank you very much!”

Clearly offended, the thief came at Jackie a second time, this time throwing some kicks in the mix. Using all the frustration burning into his muscles, the thief swept for beastly Jackie’s feet yet missed by seconds. A mere sleight of hand caught her off guard though as the thief managed to toss a whizzing knife from a well hidden breast pocket. The miniscule blade sank into Jackie’s thick thigh which ultimately caused her to retaliate. Pulling through the stinging of the knife, Jackie jabbed a few times before her novice opponent fellow back on his plush ass.

Getting into the groove of things, Jackie jumped around with her fists ready for a second round. Taunting her opponent in getting up, Jackie patronized and instructed, “If you’re gonna take punches, hands up. You block with your forearms, not your face.”

The thief, falling for the taunt, sprung back up and engaged the frenzied Jackie once more, but again was not able to land a solid hit on her body. Jackie moved so effortlessly against the thief that all she could do by the end of the bout was jeer some more. What she looked for tonight was a worthy opponent, but what she ended up with was child’s play.

“That headband is so gaudy. What are you a teenage girl?”

[size8 “Jackie, is that you?”] a familiar voice echoed from below.

Jackie looked down from the rooftops and saw Frank and Rhys standing there.

[size8 “If that asshat is up there, give ‘em a good kickin’ in the mouth!”] The vindictive voice belonged to Frank. [size8 “And git back my tomatoes!”]

Cracking her knuckles, the brawler approached the shifty thief.

“So you’re messing with our tomatoes?”

[size8 “What does she mean by [b ours], Rhys? Last time I checked, I was the one who paid for them. She best know.”]

“Did your mother ever teach you not to mess with other people’s food?”

[size8 “Like [b MY] food!”]

“Gonna have to give you a whoopin’ my friend.”

[size8 “She better be up there kickin’ his candy ass right now. My feet hurt. I wanna go home.”]

A little too much talk gave the thief the perfect chance to pull out another trick of the thief’s trade. Reaching deep into his dark blue garb, the dastardly rogue pulled out what looked like a small paper mache jawbreaker. With just a flick of a fingernail, a rather short fuse ignited in the milky white night. Stunned, Jackie fumbled into a step back. The thief guffawed behind his mask right before he tossed the ball towards the seasoned yet cocky fighter. Before Jackie could make a move, the thief rolled himself off the opposite side of the rooftop and the paper ball exploded in mid-air.

“Uh-oh.”

From below, Frank and Rhys watched a giant wallop of flame expand in the air with their cohort Jackie Simms flying straight off the roof and into the brick road below. Her hefty body landed with a great thud. Though Frank was not the best at telling the complete truth, he swore that the impact broke more of the brick than it did Jackie’s ego. Rhys and Frank hurriedly ran to her side to make sure she was okay. In fact, Jackie swung back up to a sitting position and coughed a few times before sighing.

“Damn Jackie, he done fucked you up.” Frank was rather blunt despite losing to the same thief just minutes ago.

Team Anchovi, the band of merry losers from Guten Nocht, just could not get a break, but the worst part of it all was that they were down one bag of groceries. Of course, it was the bag Frank was most excited for. He guessed that almonds for breakfast would be a decent substitute to delicious tomatoes. Though Rhys was complacent with the events, both Jackie and Frank vowed for revenge. The thief enthralled Frank’s empty stomach while the thief knowingly caught Jackie at a weak point. They would keep their eyes wide open for the thief in the atrociously disparaging yellow headband and sash.
Finnigan     7y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Mentha#]

“Well, I hope you two are satisfied. It’s wise to avoid fights we cannot win.” The doctor of the Fighter pulled up to Jackie’s face and scoped out her singed skin. Lightly charred like her cooking he remarked.

Sighing heavily at the reminder of her own defeat, Jackie scratched the back of her head. Some of her hair fell out in the front while strands crinkled into a nasty mess from the explosion. In all reality, Jackie was alive and kicking. She only suffered from first degree burns splotched all over her face and arms, and she seldom complained about Duster’s incessant prodding.

“Easier said than done, bud.”

Both of goons of Team Anchovi sat on the lone wooden bench in the cargo bay while Duster twisted and turned. The doctor bobbed his head like the Llamarr owls that frightened both Rhys and Frank at night. Frank hated how they swooped from nowhere and ominously cooed. The myth about owls secretly being witches first originated on Guten Nocht, but Frank and his friends never saw an owl. It was when he reached Varsyl that Frank truly feared the nocturnal hexes.

“That was the worst game of rock-paper-scissors.”

“Yeah, the guy had a bomb. [b Yeouch!]” Jackie shouted. Frank, Rhys, and the pair of chickens jumped as a result.

“Hold still Jackie. Your face requires attention.”

“Heh, that’s a first.”

“Frankie.”

Duster’s fingers started to glow over Jackie’s face. Frank’s face spelt out disgusted as he was the closest and watched as the green bubble peeled off a layer of dead skin. Jackie winced once more and Frank turned away once the progress got worse. The Lucavi worked over the freshly pink and raw layer without budging. Rhys cringed at the sight of bright green light and the unimaginable sound of searing flesh. Beside the doctor, Jackie was the only being who sat still throughout the entire process. She had been through worse, but everyone else just assumed that she was the toughest member of the Anchovi crew.

In mere minutes, Jackie was patched up before everyone’s eyes. Her body was clear of any scrapes, burns, and bruises. She jumped in the air and in place while everyone else simply stared at her. Jabbing a couple of times, the fierce pugilist exclaimed that she could fight a row of guys before punching a few trees. Before anyone could get in another word, she ran up the stairs and shouted as if she conquered her a small country. The steel steps beneath her boots clanged and her rough hands on the railing made an awful noise akin to driving fingernails into a chalkboard. Perhaps Duster was too good at patching people up. A living steroid.

Frank headed up to the cockpit in high hopes of finding some solitude, yet it was the alien dressed in white fluff that squired. Despite the large layout of the Fighter, the rust colored bandit seemed to never find enough alone time. There was no nook, no cranny, that gave him the space he wanted for himself. The evasive Duster was everywhere, and Jackie felt the need to drop in on her friend from time to time. Rhys did not have any friends of his own either so he was always in the main areas of the Fighter. Before he let out a deep exhale, Frank thought about it and stopped himself. Duster would make sure to be apart of it somehow.

The lonely man sat back in a chair and looked through the cockpit’s wide open windows. He could see the dock in front of him as well as the many people who worked here. Placing his feet on top of the console, he zoned out for one moment in high hopes of ignoring the wise cracking Lucavi. [i ‘Just ten minutes. That’s all I need.’] His mind blanked out and Frank closed his eyes. He wanted to remember that smell. that one particular smell that he could not place a finger on. It made him nearly cry. He could not remember how she smelt. Only the stenches of the salty waters and of rancid fish lingered.

Duster lingered as well but not without help of the wooden cane Rhys somehow returned with one day. Walking on an airship floating on water still troubled him. He wanted to leave this ship as well, but he ultimately feared the worst would happen if anyone saw him. The air was poison or at least that is what he convinced himself. His soft pearl shell would crack once it touched the putrid Blue air. Oxygen in the Blue was more abundant which he theorized had more toxins in it that could lead to his unfortunate demise. Death never scared him this much before and it was not until his exile that he started to care about his mortality. He was a mortal. He was just as human as Frank and Jackie were.

Not much longer before the two settled down for a quick siesta, the rough and tough Jackie stomped on through the doors. [i ‘Eight minutes. Damn.’] Frank opened his eyes with great annoyance and glared at Jackie. She retaliated with a friendly smile. Getting mad with her was futile, especially when she was in such a blissful mood as now. He wondered for the longest time on how his best friend could immediately switch from the happiest and luckiest girl in the world to fist throwing meister. Frank wondered if she ever held anything back in their relationship. No one was ever that optimistic to be alive in Last, even Sheriff Dempsi attested to that statement.

Frank approached the glass dome and aimlessly stared through the bustling crowds of Llamarr. Everyone doing their part to make enough money to survive to the next day. The people at first feared the Fighter but they eventually grew to simply ignore its undesirable design. Frank did not care too much for the thick-skinned attitude of the mass. No one was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Where was the honor among thieves? His static glare pierced through the crowd and unintentionally picked up an oddity amongst the crowd. The oddity moved through the crowd. He wore a blue suit with ornate golden buttons. The hat, oh the plumed hat that Frank so much despised, touched the sky with its flat top. Worst of all, the mustache.

“Dammit Jackie, yer boyfriend is coming this way.”

Jackie pressed herself to the window as if she was going to cast herself into the sea.

“Not my boyfriend.”

She watched closely until he passed the cockpit’s peripheral vision and then she started to pace back and forth. Frank jumped to his feet and then rubbed his chin. How could this have happened?

“Tell ‘em to shoo.”

“Alright.” Jackie and Frank rushed out of the cabin and into the dining room. The worst case scenario happened. The youngest member of the Fighter stood in front of the side door with a familiar face standing next to him. “Oh fuck, Rhys what the hell?”

Hollis Westlands stood there in his fancy knee high boots and rifle strapped to his back. He was meaning some serious business. The duo came down to hesitantly greet him and separately they were concocting plans on ejecting him from the ship.

“Frank Dietz,” Hollis gave his utmost attention to him yet was unable to look his clandestine and often lusty lover in her sweet honey eyes. Stiff as ever. “And uh...Jackie Simms.”

“Hollering Hollis,” she smirked.

His back jolted back up. Speechless. “...”

Jackie took the reins and allowed herself to handle the situation. “What brings you onto the Fighter?”

“We were just in the area.” Lying through his teeth, how unlike the honorable Hollis. Jackie thought of him as a sweet young man with a serious demeanor, yet he lacked a backbone to call his own. Captain Rhoton was his master and he was the dog willing to do anything to please those he served. At least she liked his mustache.

Hollis nodded at the two and started to wander the dining room without saying a word. Frank and Jackie closely trailed behind just in case something peeped out between his lips, and this frustrated Frank. With every tiny step he made, the pair of thieves took two tiny steps. When Hollis took a large and deep lunge forward, Jackie and Frank did as well. The strange and unannounced visit shocked the both of them, yet they secretly could not help but slightly blame the other for his sudden appearance. Hollis’ tendency to observe objects in a tight and thorough manner made them nervous.

“Don’t touch that,” Frank sharply commanded to the uniformed man who was interested in simple coffee mug.

Pulling back at the request of the easily annoyed Frank, Hollis turned around and let a small grin out. “Of course.”

Jackie was getting tired of these shenanigans and she stated, “I don’t believe that you were just in the area just for fun. If I recall, you and Captain Rhoton staunchly urged that we stay in the capital. Frankie, can you confirm this?”

“Woman doesn’t lie. She has no reason.” Frank crossed his arms and nodded.

“Now, Frank, the problem doesn’t reside with Jackie. Or the rest the rest of your crew.” Hollis looked around and then stared at Rhys who was looking at him the entire time. A rather poor showing, Hollis thought to himself. What kind of crew was Anchovi? A couple of thieves and a snotty brat did not constitute as a team. He added one, “As you’re very well aware, the capital is in great peril. You and the Maxwells have made quite the muck after the entire Galhead problem. Now it’s not the capital’s duty to indict you.”

“Then what brings you here?” Frank began to tap his feet. He wanted the ugly mug out of here.

“Your departure has left a rather sour note with the royal prince and the queen. Now tell me: you wouldn’t happen to have any secrets on the ship, would you? The crown does not appreciate any secrets its guests might be holding.”

Rolling his eyes, Frank tapped even faster. “Like what?”

“Stolen cargo, perhaps any remnants of Galhead property? Specifically ex-slaves.”

“Can’t say that we’ve made the conscious effort in keeping property that did not belong to us.” Jackie interjected. Aside from what supplies they could scavenge for themselves, Anchovi made sure that the freed men and women of Galhead got their fair share of cloth, food, and coin. The thought of owning another person sickened them, especially Frank after the whole ordeal.

Hollis tossed his head back and nearly lost his hat in the process. “The hilarity! This coming from a den of thieves.”

“Like I said before, the woman doesn’t lie.”

“Then you wouldn’t mind if a few of my men and I search through your ship.”

“Like Hel, you piece of--”

The growling Frank was politely interrupted by tranquil Jackie.

“Frankie-baby.” She nodded to him and continued on with Hollis, “Yeah, we’ll let you search the ship, but if you break my Fighter, be prepared for a bruised keister.”

“Alright, I’ll be back with my--” Hollis stopped in mid-sentence

Hollis’ vanguard stood behind Rhys who was in the same spot when he first let in Hollis. Pestered by this “cute” stint, Frank wondered if he wronged the boy in some shape or form.

“Rhys buddy, yer gonna need to stop letting strangers in.”

“Oh.”

Hollis and his men in matching blue suits and golden ornate buttons scattered throughout the ship. Eight, nine including Hollis, scattered throughout the ship without a word. The rifles they carried had bayonets strapped to the ends and the Varsylian troops used them to pick through everything. Everything. Through cupboards, bedrooms, toilets, everything. Jackie zipped through the Fighter keeping an eye on all of the men in her ship while Rhys bothered Frank.

“What about Duster?” the boy asked.

“If they find him, they can keep him.”

Though he was joking, Rhys took him quite serious. Though cryptic Duster rarely moved around as much as the rest of the crew, he still had a place on the ship. He was always ready to patch someone up if they ever needed it.

“I’m kiddin’ buddy. They’ll probably kill him.”

Frank wished he was completely joking. So did Rhys. In the spur of the moment, Hollis came back and approached Frank with a small object in hand. It was a picture. A particular picture that made Frank very upset once he set eyes on its subject.

“Frank, who exactly is this woman?”

“A memory.” These guys were sure nosy and they were good at seeking out even the most secluded hiding spots. It angered Frank that these men were turning the entire place upside down for someone who never set foot on the ship. They were looking for a slave, but not any slave. This one was very important to the prince and the queen. Out of everything to question him on, Hollis had to pick the most important possession to Frank.

“Hm. Where is she?”

“She ain’t with us. Ain’t gonna tell you much more than that.”

Hollis could hear Frank’s fists tighten. The timid leader of the vanguard slowly backed away in order to reconvene his men back in the dining room and avoid any altercation with the foreigner. Jackie promptly returned with a confused look on her face.

“Frank. I counted ten.”

“Yeah?”

“There was only nine when Rhys opened the door. Did anyone come in?”

“Nah, ain’t no one been through that door since Yer being crazy.”

As the three of them stood in the dining room, the men began to yell at each other in the cargo bay. Soon enough, they ran to see what the deal was about.

“How did you get all the way up there, Jackie?”

Confused, Jackie scratched her head.

“Were you not just down here with us telling us about your day?” Hollis asked. He was just as confused as well. Jackie was just telling him about how many crates she moved in one hour. Thirty-six.

“Sir, maybe we should make our way back upstairs,” a soldier spoke up. He was quite clumsy on his feet and stumbled to and fro on occasion. “There’s nothing down here worth our time.”

The most unusual thing happened. The lights flickered in and out right before they went out completely. A few seconds later, the lights popped back on with everyone in a slightly different position. Put on edge, the soldiers looked at each other in confusion as they felt as if something nudged them out of place in the very brief darkness. A soldier from upstairs came bursting through the doors to the cargo bay and panicked. Hollis swore that the soldier was the very same one who suggested they go back upstairs.

“What is it?” Hollis got the chills out of nowhere. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up as a hauntingly aroma of peppermint stung his nostrils. The sharp scent irritated and forced him upstairs, yet no matter where he went, the scent followed. Before grumbling out of the back of the ship, Hollis turned around and swung at the air. Nothing.

As soon as Hollis and all eight of his men group together, the persistent scent infected the rest. It was unusual for such a benevolent smell to be so volatile. The potent mint overwhelmed them all and their eyes began to water from the sensory overload. Jackie and Frank made sure to back away from the group who struggled to keep their composure. It all started with one soldier who involuntarily bent over and held his stomach. Feeling queazy, he shot for the dining room’s exit. Before the crew’s eyes, one by one the men in blue flew out of the Fighter without saying another word.

The last to leave was Hollis who keeled over in writing pain to the stomach. The sweet toxins overpowered him and without a word, he looked at Jackie and winced. Hollis Westlands, unable to find who he wanted, fled in defeat. As the door closed behind the last Varsylian vanguard member, Duster pried himself from the walls and slowly revealed his figure.

“The most logical route was to drive them out through nonviolent means since violence has not been working out for us. Namely you two. ”

“Wow, way to rub it in,” Jackie chuckled. “You could have died if they found you out.”

“They would had eventually if I did not act.

Rhys quipped, “Duster, if you can make it smell like that whenever you want, why can’t you make Frank’s room smell better?”

Jackie was the only one to laugh out loud, and despite the jab from the young boy, Frank shook his head and quietly chuckled. Team Anchovi was well aware that Hollis and the vanguard would come back for further investigation, but they earned the right to relax for the rest of the day. After all, the humans did not know when would be the next time Duster freshened up the place.
Finnigan     7y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Romp#]

Hollis sprung up from pillow and sheet, only to realize where he laid his hat he had called home. The fuzz face Varsylian soldier patted down his thinning brown hair in high hopes he could make it back to his platoon in a fashionable order. The uniform that all great men were accustomed to disappeared from plain site and were more than likely buried underneath the bunched up chicken down comforter. This was no simple mistake.

Rubbing the tiredness and crusty gunk out of his eyes, the soldier turned to the magnificent beauty who slept beside him. She was unlike any woman he had ever met and he wondered if all women from the floating satellite country were like her. With great disdain in his voice, Hollis meekly remarked, “You know, we need to stop meeting like this.”

“Oh baby. You’re gonna break my heart.” Just as Hollis had popped up, Jackie sprung up to his level and smiled. Despite all the teasing and assertive comments she made towards her lover, the pilot really did enjoy her time. She thought his motives were just a rather shoddy yet viable excuse to get near her. It worked.

“I’m sleeping with a suspect! What’s wrong with me?”

Hollis jumped out of bed and ran his calloused fingers through his baby soft hair. He slowly paced looking for all the articles of clothing Jackie personally disrobed. The dimmed lights illuminated his fair skin and Jackie just thought he looked out of place. After all, he was only wearing underwear and his atrocious half-calf white socks. The Varsylians needed some fashion advice, yet Jackie was strangely attracted to their awkward bodies. She thought to herself that no one really truly looked good naked.

Rushing towards the door without having both legs in the blue slacks, the frantic soldier scurried out of Jackie’s chambers and left her to wallow. She feared that this was male nature, that love was a one act stage play. She observed herself: her breasts, her arms, stomach, waist, thighs, even feet. Jackie knew she was not like most girls. Confident in her martial arts, she often hid her softer side with her mannish figure. Who in the Blue could ever appreciate a woman stuck in a boxy physique? The thoughts faded quickly with a grand sigh.

“Not even a kiss goodbye.”

Jackie was always the first one out of the Fighter for work. It was a bowl of oats with a cup of milk mixed in that started her day. Frank and Rhys would rarely join her this early for breakfast and even then, the boys were too groggy to make conversation. She was an all day, everyday kind of person. Morning, afternoon, night, the bubbly woman’s zeal was unmatched. With a kick in her step, Jackie Simms exited work the same way she entered.

The streets of Llamarr emptied out in the afternoon for everyone’s second break, or as Rhys would put it, the second drink. The bars filled up quickly with clamor and camaraderie. Jackie skipped out on today’s revelries with her coworkers and instead decided to look for a particular man. A merchant by trade, the man she was looking for was quite renowned. His name rang through the rumor mills, and Jackie pledged to find the magnate of the Magnuze. Harvey Lansit.

Some of the menfolk that hurled empty wooden crates across the empty stone lots on their first break hinted that this Lansit would be around the market area looking for particular wares. When Jackie asked what these particular wares were, they shrugged and continued to toss boxes. With no description to go on, intuition and audacity kicked in, two of Jackie’s other best friends. She reveled in the local merchants, yet was unable to get a clear answer from them. [i What do you know about Harvey Lansit? ]

“The man is about eight feet tall with a giant red beard and axe. He’s a fearsome pirate.”

“Yeah, my ex-girlfriend’s sister’s aunt-in-law had an affair with him. Man ended up putting her in the chair for the rest of her life. A real pelvis wrecker.”

“A complete psychopath, has no respect for other men. I heard he stabbed a man five times with five knives without blinking.”

“He was secretly working with Galhead. Go figure, a filthy Mezze working behind the scenes. Boycott the Lansit Family!”

“The Lansits aren’t merchants, they’re world renowned hairdressers.”

“That man robbed my blind grandmother!”

“He’s a real lady lover. Did you already talk to Rolf down the street, Harvey Lansit obliterated his ex-girlfriend’s sister’s aunt-in-law’s skull.”

“Lansit has crabs and not the kind I sell!”

Jackie had to sit down for a while so she could catch her breath from all the ridiculous leads. Llamarr, a town of thieves, merchants, and liars. The coworkers who led her astray would pay for this. she vowed so. The drab gray sky remained in place for a few days, and secretly Jackie was weakened by the lack of sun. She wore a great expression on her face, but the combination of the weather and the lack of interest by the filthy pale skinned men ultimately chipped away. No one else smiled in this town.

By chance, the only other decent human being walked down the stone road with a black cane in hand. The fading smile reversed and grew to the ends of Jackie’s plump face. This man--she pointed--had to be him. After all, the determined Jackie was not going to settle for defeat today and she already harassed everyone else. Jumping to meet this stranger, Jackie clapped her hands together and the surprised stranger jumped back. Angered, the man used the top end of his cane to butt his offender in the stomach.

Rubbing her belly, she brushed it off and continued with her bizarre and freakishly weird grin. “You must be Harvey of the Lansit family. I heard that you need some cargo moved around. They say that you don’t have the toughest crew around and are looking for new hires. I’m easily worth any three men in this town.”

“And you sure look like it too. You’re quite the Patty.” He was clearly intrigued by her cocky comments, but while he was in the presence of such riff-raff, the stranger decided to take a few jabs at his newest victim.

“Who?”

“Ahem, you’re a heifer, deary. You’re nothing but a bunless meat patty,” he snidely stated.

Though he was not as trimmed or built as the rest of Llamarr, the man known as Harvey Lansit was rich in money and his looks. Beneath the pea green bowler hat was a man in his mid to late forties. Dark skin with slight yet rather alluring freckled bags under his eyes. He had a broad nose, but what made the profile was his remarkable cloud he called facial hair. Matching his thick bushy white brows, his beard and mustache possessed the vibrancy of edelweiss as well as the scent of jasmine. Covered in a cloak matching his hat, he wore a rather formal black suit in the dampest parts of the city. His fingers were adorned with thick golden bands and jewel encrusted rings.

Jackie shrinked back a little from the round man. Unallowing him to get to her, she questioned him. “And that’s a bad thing?”

Scoffing, Harvey waved his fingers in her face. “I suppose not. But then again, you would be an eyesore to me and an open market to my men.”

“I don’t follow you.” Her usual approach to annoyance was to punch whatever annoyed her, but Jackie wanted to get on the man’s good side. Caving in his face would do her no favors. He was also Harvey Lansit, a maven in the eyes of Varsylgard, a merchant with vast potency.

“Your [i fish] market.” He pointed to the spot between her legs with his cane. His nose twitched at the mere thought of it. “Surely you’re aware that sodomy is punishable by death in the Varsylian empire, my men are wise to follow that rule. You would be the only thing that’s open for season. You’d be black, blue, and dead after they were done with you.”

“I’m afraid you’re wrong. The only thing beaten will be the faces of your men.” She imagined fighting her way through a corridor of men, pummeling each and everyone’s face into a bloody mess. She lived for a fight.

“One woman against a few hundred Varsylian dogs? You jest. You must be well aware that there are nothing but Varsylian men in this town. Women are a commodity. Llamarr has a history, you know. The story goes that the city was initially found by people of Guten Nocht. The people of the floating continent were thought up throughout the Varsylgard as rapists, thieves, and atheists. The seized whatever they could get their hands on: the land, money, the women of neighboring villages. What you see before you is the one of the last remaining settlements of the moon men.”

“Thanks for the story, bushy tongue,” she laughed. He was not amused.

“Harvey P. Lansit. You’re wanted by Prince Chelon and the Queen Helvetia.” A voice came from the other end of the block. Harvey moved forward to see who had spoken, but it was quite clear who they were by the blue suits and tall plumed shakos.

Standing his ground and tapping his cane on the stone road, Harvey smugly sneered. “As do many people, boy. Speak your nature.”

“Dammit,” Jackie murmured under her breath. Out of all of the soldiers who showed up, Hollis had to be the one to speak. She kept her head low and avoided any sort of eye contact with the Varsylian

“You know this fool?” Harvey asked. He thought about insulting Hollis’ mustache but kept his best comebacks to himself.

“We’ve had some encounters,” she admitted.

“Say no more.” Turning away from Jackie and facing the vanguard on his own, the merchant firmly stood with both hands on top of his cane. “Now you boy, I demand you tell me the nature of this arrest.”

Plainly spelling it out for the merchant, Hollis droned as his merry band of men prepped for a forceful capture. “Suspicion of a kidnapping.”

“Oh, for the Maker’s sake, my family has openly opposed the Galhead dynasty for decades! How dare you accuse me and besmirch my family name! Have you any idea who my father is? Dulon Lansit!” In an uproar, Harvey tapped his cane furious on the wet cobblestone. The curses came out of his mouth one after another in an endless string of violence. Accusing the whole lot of young men as nothing but eye candy for the flamboyant prince and his whoremother, abeit more cryptic in his diction, Harvey steamed.

Taking one glance up to get a glimpse of the situation, Jackie fully noticed something hanging out of Hollis’ pocket.

“That pattern!”

It was the same pattern seen on the headband and sash of the thief she encountered days ago. The eyesoar of the floral on an obnoxious yellow poked out and made Jackie extra wary of the man she spent many nights with. Hollis was playing her as a fool the entire time! She felt so dumb, so stupid that she let Hollis Westlands--Hollering Hollis--of all people manipulate her! Nice guys were few and far between, and a little soap and water revealed the true scum.

“What are you making right now, Patty?” Harvey addressed Jackie as patty because he never really asked for her name, but it was a safe bet that he probably would have forgotten it mere minutes later. The storm brewing in Jackie Simm’s heart acknowledged her fancy counterpart. “I’m guessing that you’re working a dead end job without any education. You couldn’t be making more than a few sterces a day. I’ll pay you two months worth if you get me down the street without having a single imp land a hand on me. Yes?”

“Oh yeah.” Getting in a few stretches, she prepped herself for the one hundred meter dash.

Harvey nefariously smirked, “good.”

“Looks like we go round two!” Before she could finish her words, she ran at full speed down the cobblestone street with the devil possessing her body and soul alike. She was thirsty for blood and anticipated herself as the victor already. She ran through the Varsylian vanguard like they were the short chain-linked fences fancied as hurdles in a child’s self-made track meet. Before their rifles could properly aim at the fiendish Jackie or the pompous Harvey, the devil in woman’s skin gave a sharp crack to their faces. Down and out! Bouncing from one side of the street to the other like a pinball in its extraordinary machine, she laid a beatdown onto her foes before spearing into Hollis Westlands himself.

The struggle began with Hollis’ rifle with each side muttering unintelligible garble. At first, it looked as if Jackie had the upper hand in the situation, but Hollis found himself on top half of the time. It wasn’t until Jackie stole the floral headband that the two broke off from each other temporarily.

“The band!” She shoved the piece of cloth into the air as if she won a prize.

“What?” The soldier in blue was confused by her actions. He usually had no time for women, but somehow he landed the biggest loon in the entire continent. Hollis had to question why he thought Jackie Simms was an option. “What is this all about?”

The feral woman reminded herself of who the man before her was and she tossed her shoulder into him. Pinning him down once more, she chuckled, “You’re gonna have to be better at playing dumb with me, Hollis!”

“You’re getting...on my nerves, Jackie!”

Hollis went for an object in his pocket, but Jackie immediately backed off in fear of it being a bomb. She hopped to her feet and stepped back creating a distance away from the thief who stole her heart. With the headband in hand, she demanded answers. What Hollis returned with only generated more questions. Instead of a bomb, the frustrated leader of the pack who remained on his back pulled out a small luger pistol and shot Ms. Jackie Simms without a single regret.
Finnigan     7y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Silver Sleuth#]

[i “Note to self: I have just read Frank Dietz’s diary. For a man who prides himself on raising chickens and saying the foulest things possible in the presence of human and Lucavi alike, he has exceptionally bizarre handwriting. The humans call it ‘cursive’. Frank has managed to connect letters in one fell swoop of a pen to describe his feelings about a lost lover, who I presume might be…”]

Duster was not clear on what motivated him to snoop around the Fighter. Aside from the occasional injury, the Lucavi possessed no stable career, in or out of the aircraft. The keen individuals he shared space with cleaned up after every meal and for the most part kept their clutter in their separate chambers. He could not describe what he was feeling nor did he realize that he was feeling a sense of boredom. For the first time in his life, he questioned whether or not his kind could display emotions. He emulated persons before, but emotions, tones, faces, and language were far too out there for him.

Frank hid his small and scraggy journal in a hollowed wood portion of his bed frame. Duster had espied one night into the room from a cracked door and watched the secretive outlaw route his feelings onto paper through pen. This was the root of Duster’s curiosity. Frank’s whispering nights gave the camouflaged cretin enough material to study. The rhythm of turning pages and furious writing expressed the unexplainable human feelings. Tears meant almost anything: happiness, anger, grief. Frank was at his realest when he was alone. This alone generated enough interest in Duster.

Frank’s quarters were well kept except for one corner. Two burlap sacks remained untouched for the longest time. They were planning on sharing a room together. Even then, Duster felt a little heavier and if he could, he would have shed a small tear for her. He thought about going through her stuff to rummage through memories, but Frank would have done that already if it would not leave him heartbroken. As soon as Duster made motions towards the corner, a sudden low clamor rung through the steel walls from another part of the ship.

[i “Self: I heard a noise in Jackie’s room. I believe that I will check it out for myself. I will continue to learn about cursive and eventually learn how to integrate myself into human society. So many loops.”] Before leaving to investigate the latest problems of Team Anchovi, Duster stopped momentarily to investigate an edge barely prodding out of a burlap bag. The Lucavi’s childlike fingers wrapped around the object and revealed that it was a small blue book. The title read “365 Jokes for the Clinically Hilarious.” Intrigued, he spoke to himself, [i “What’s this? A book on jokes? What are jokes?”]

Deciding to take the book with him, Duster headed out of Frank’s room in stealth until he stopped right outside of Jackie’s opened door. She always had an open door policy and it was seldom she ever shut it for long. The policy was thrown out the window when Jackie was shot through the shoulder and immediately collapsed from blood loss and shock. The passive observer noticed Frank and Rhys crowding around her bed with excitement.

Jackie finally woke up from her long spell. An entire day passed and the guys were ecstatic to hear the low grunts and rough turning of the toughest member of the Anchovi crew. Duster thought about joining in, but decided to hold off once Frank started to lightly patronize his contemporary.

Shaking his head, Frank let it out without any disappointment, “Jackie, yer just lucky that someone found ya on time and decided to toss ya body at our front door. The good doctor was kind enough to patch ya up.”

What caught Duster, Rhys, and even Jackie off was Frank’s hands. The cold calloused hands found themselves wrapped around Jackie’s. She was nothing short of a sister, and that man loved her as much as he did his only true sister.

[i “Note to self: Jackie Simms has an affinity for mischief that results in self-harm. She has been able to recover steadily over night. I require no gratitude.]

The three inside the bedroom quickly looked up to see where the faint murmur was coming from, yet they were not able to spot the cloaked companion. Jackie then turned her attention to her surroundings. Flowers of all kinds with unspeakable names filled her room. Bright oranges, yellows, and lilacs swarmed around her as if she were kin with them. She envisioned herself as another wildflower basking in the sun in the gargantuan open fields. She gravely preferred that vision than the reality of living in the cloudiest city in Varsyl.

“Where did all these flowers come from?”

“Some weirdo by the name of Harvey Lansit stopped by and his goons and dropped all these vases. There’s nothin’ better than a sunflower to brighten up the mood.”

[i “The man was extraordinarily impeccable. One of utmost ignorance.”]

Jackie ordered Frank to pull one of the many vases up to her face so she could properly get a whiff of what she imagined a greater Varsylian summer. Somewhere out there, there was a place, a small village, or perhaps a large country where it was eternal summer and the flowers managed to thrive the entire year. Though she did not care for his attitude, Jackie appreciated the merchant’s kind gesture. Where did he even find flowers in Llamarr?

“He also left you a note. Want me to read it?”

She nodded. He went on.

“‘Patty, I gotta thank yer meaty collar for takin’ that bullet. It allowed me to escape the prince and queen’s dogs. After all, a busy man does busy work. You just might be an exception to that clause. I’ve entrusted the bumpkin with the rottin’ tooth yer coin. I left a little extra.’ Jackie, this guy sounds like a grade-A dumbass.” Frank had to check all his teeth by tongue to see if any of them were falling out. Nope, all good.

Jackie smiled to the both of them and happily stated, “I can’t say he had the best manners, but maybe it’s just Varsylian etiquette.”

Rhys took out the sack of gold that Harvey entrusted Frank with. It was rather heavy for the boy to hold up, but he managed to gently toss it onto the bed. Opening the drawstring to the bag, Rhys exclaimed, “Look at how much sterces he left Jackie!”

Jackie’s brown eyes even began to turn into a lustrous gold. A wide smile cracked in the midst of it all and a loud cheer erupted from a flaming mouth. Frank jumped back and Rhys’ eyes turned wide at the sharp action.

“My Maker, he promised me two months worth. That’s enough to last me half a year!”

As soon as Jackie made the effort to jump out of bed, Frank held her back by her chest and lulled her excited state back into a pillow.

“Whoa, buddy. You ain’t supposed to be movin’ too much. Doc say you ain’t right.”

“Since when did you listen to Duster?”

From afar, Duster pulled his head back in what he described as slight disgust. Of course, Jackie later added a laugh as if Duster was in the room and apparent.

“Since he been pullin’ his weight ‘round here. Patchin’ us up like we’re ragdolls. Gotta say, he puts the good ole’ Doc Roc to shame.” Frank pulled out a letter and handed it to Jackie. “Oh, and you got one more thing for ya.”

She squinted at the letter and tried to read the name. It was less than stellar as Frank’s writing, but completely legible. Demonstrating a miniscule amount of frustration, she asked, “Who’s it from?”

Dreading the mere thought of that disgusting handlebar mustache and silly clown getup, Frank shuddered out, “Hollis.”

“That fucker shot me! Wait until I get out of here Frankie, he’s gonna wish he finished me off--Yeouch!” The excessive waving of her hands put her in submission. The bullet had exited her body and Duster was able to heal the wound completely, but he was unable to explain why he could not make the pain completely disappear.

“It’s a note. Want me to read it?”

[i “Note to self: I have high suspicions that Jackie is able to read the note due to illiteracy or perhaps atrocious Varsylian slant. I will have to cross-examine the handwritings later.”]

“I don’t care what that letter has to say, Frankie.” She did not care to admit it, but she let it out before she let her discomfort build up. “Hollis is the thief that attack us that one night.”

“Naw! Hollis ain’t shit!”

Jackie had to be misinformed. Frank would not allow Hollis Westlands be the one to best him.

“He had the same headband as the thief. Floral on yellow.”

The two friends pondered on this thought for a few more seconds before Duster decided to come out of hiding. Revealing himself just outside the door and out of everyone’s vision, Duster came in acting as if he had not heard an ounce of information. He paused in the midst of his step and recognized that he was becoming more human than ever. Lying and eavesdropping. He did not feel like a Lucavi. No Lucavi possessed the organs to be so snakey.

“It is most wise that we allow Jackie to recuperate.”

“Oh so nice of ya to join us, Dusty. Alright Rhys, let’s go tend to the chickens.”

As the boys left, Jackie nodded, smiled, and stated, “without you I would have died. We don’t really see each other often so I want to say thanks.”

“Not necessary. A woman once helped me in times most dire to me. When the world was crumbling, she told me all I had to do was breathe. Now close your eyes and let your body recover naturally. I will check up on you later.”

Might surged through the doctor as he strolled out of the living quarters and into the dining area. He stopped before the side hatch and took a deep breath.

[i “Self: I have decided to log in my observations and thoughts throughout the day. If I’m supposed to be a human, I must sample from a greater pool.”]

Death would await Duster any day now, but if he never took one step outside of the Fighter, how would he learn the truth of humans and the world of Blue? Duster believed that his life was on a waning phase. Ever since their departure from Guten Nocht, the agoraphobic alien man lost touch with Mad Moon which was his greatest source of power. The Lucavi thrived on its mystical energies because they were born from it. The true moon men started off as specks of Mad Moon dust with the potential of becoming anything or anyone. Thus, Duster metamorphosed.

With no one watching, the fluffy figure of the alien miraculously warped into a man not much taller than Frank. Duster combined the traits of all the faces he’s ever collected crafting a Varsylian queer enough for all eyes. Frank’s rusty colored hair was mixed in with some bronze undertones and gray highlights in his facial hair. The average Varsylian fellow in drab clothing took one simple breath before examining his entirety. Duster was so certain that his disguise would not hold up so he allotted himself a time limit of two hours. He was not even so sure that he could make it a half hour outside the walls of the steely Fighter.

Opening the hatch, the bumbling man made sure to have his cane nearby. Duster had recently gotten better at standing on his own two feet, but often hugged the wall with his body. Getting off the aircraft helped him regain his footing though. The air was refreshing as it gently caressed his face. The damp air gave Duster shivers, but he embraced all the sensation at once. The fishy smell, he embraced it as well. The clamoring of the rugged men chimed ever so sweetly in his ears and the uneven pavement beneath his shoes somehow made his shoulders ache with joy.

So many faces, yet it troubled him very so. All the faces were very similar. Fair skinned, brownish hue to the body hair, straight small noses and blue eyes. Guten Nocht never had so many clones running around. The Fighter had more diversity than the entire merchant town of Llamarr. Women were nonexistent while men plagued the streets in all different kinds of builds. Traveling through the marketplace, Duster searched for new oddities while maintaining a good eye for detail. In fact, his ability to stare down many men at once freaked them out, regardless if they were frail or boisterous in muscle mass. Duster tried to resist bobbing his head to and from when examining objects.

The gawky fellow paced himself out of the crowded marketplace in search of a more personable setting. Loud, obnoxious drunks were not his subject of choice. He required targets to have some sort of finesse to them. It was not until he made it thirty minutes outside of the fisherman’s wharf that he found the only airport in Llamarr. What caught his eyes the most were the men in blue uniforms with their tall shako hats. He recognized the capital’s best soldiers and espied from a distance.

[i “The Varsylian vanguard. Supposedly they’re the greatest men that Varsylgard has to offer. Note to self: find out why if there’s any symbolism behind the color blue and where they got the large feathers for their hats. I continue.”]

Hiding behind a corner, Duster listened.

“Where’s Lt. Westlands? The Lansits are not going to welcome us with open arms.”

“Don’t worry, we’re just surveying today.”

“Hmph. Fine.”

“You!” One of the men in blue spotted the meek Duster. “Yeah, you over there. State your business.”

He froze in place and wanted to move but couldn’t. The two soldiers surrounded him, silently observing what an old and lame man was doing near the shipyard. They stood tall and confident even though it appeared they were going to beat down on the elderly. Both of the men could have been stand ins for Hollis if he shaved the mustache Frank so despised. Not much variation aside.

“I’m just passing by. I don’t mean any harm.”

“Then be on your way, wherever you’re going!” one yelled. So far, Llamarr was not treating him too kindly.

Duster went ahead into the shipyard anyways. They did not have a clue whether or not he belonged, and if they wanted to stop him? Duster had some preemptive measures set up. According him, Lucavi are innovative. Duster walked away without any problems and left the rifle toting men to ponder on nothing. Wandering through the distant and rather silent neighborhood, the old man enjoyed all the shapes and sizes despite the glaring problems most of them would encounter on their next flight. Some propellers were bent out of shape and many of the ships were on their last legs.

As he wandered around, Duster managed to spot the king of all Varsylian ships: the Magnuze. The Lansits’ flagship that was supposed to end all other competition was the blue ribbon winner of the day. Painted with a deep and rich navy blue, the Magnuze sported golden swirling accents on the cabin, cockpit, and the magnificent blimp portion. Men worked day and night to keep the ship in peak performance which often meant cleaning all four hundred windows in addition to washing the main areas on an hourly basis. One had to be a fool to deny its excellency.

In that moment, the alien realized he was not the only one watching from afar. Duster turned to the roof of a small outpost building and witnessed an onlooker that matched Frank and Jackie’s offender. Sporting only the floral on yellow sash, the thief maintained his focus on the ship with grave intent. Duster scaled the squatty building in one jump and landed with a soft thud that broke the onlooker’s concentration.

“How the flying apeshit did you get up here?” the low voice muttered.

“What a peculiar stance you have for a man.”

It was true. No one in Llamarr had ever tossed their hip to one side with their hands resting on the waist.

“Hmph.”

“And that sweet aroma.”

Snidely remarking, the stranger in the yellow sash matter-of-factly stated, “Cranberry and apple. Any more bright observations, gramps?”

“What’s your relationship with the Magnuze?”

“You’ll have to beat it out of me.”

“Okay.”

Duster regurgitated a black orb and fiercely tossed at the cloaked figure. The orb rapidly transformed into a giant white disc that sawed across the roof, but missed on the account that the thief in the yellow sash dive rolled out of its direction. The Lucavi organ zipped back into Duster’s empty hand and he smiled.

“Still?”

“Yeah, a rain check is in order.”

“It’s okay if you weren’t expecting that. It catches many people off.”

The thief made an effort to escape Duster, but stopped in mid-flight to fend away his attacker. The aging Duster, with the power of youth struggling to find its way in both human flesh and Lucavi ability, crafted a silver sword in which cut the yellow sash and navy cloak vertically between the breast. The thief, exposed and bleeding from the superficial slicing covered the chest with arms wrapped around and immediately ran away from both Duster and the Magnuze. Soon after, Duster’s body began to warp and a silverish hue spread throughout his human disguise.

“Note to self: research more human anatomy. Specifically tumors in the pectoral region in men. Find out what’s an apple and what are cranberries.”

When Duster went down to retrieve the torn sash, a letter that smelled of the thief revealed itself. Intrigued by the countless learning opportunities, the Fighter's doctor had much to learn these next coming days.
Finnigan     7y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Fish#]

“Nope!” Frank exclaimed as he crossed his arms.

It had been a long two hours in the dining room with Jackie Simms and Rhys Illumina pushing for him to get out of his chair. The clock struck eight in the morning and the two instigators were ready for their latest adventure. Dressed in their grungiest yet functional outfits they could find around the fighter, Jackie and Rhys both held a slender rod with nylon wiring stringed up on it. In Jackie’s free hand, she waved a plastic cooler in Frank’s face.

“What do you mean ‘nope’?”

Frank scoffed, “Ain’t never trusted big waters. It just ain’t natural.”

“Quite the contrary, Frank. Humans may have originated from the Blue.” Duster entered the room with a satchel worn over a shoulder. Even he looked ready for this trip.

“Nope.” Frank refused. Despite having the day off, he was not accustomed to leaving the ship for any reason.

“You’re being an ass. Just look at Rhys-e-sweets!” As she went to point towards Rhys, she accidently whipped her young friend on the nose with the tip of the fishing pole.

Frank shrugged. [i ‘Fuck the Blue.’] He shook his head with great disappointment and gravely grunted. Once he had made up his mind, there was no changing it. Stalwart like any boulder, he sank into his seat and sternly glared at the rest of the crew. “Y’all can go if you wanna, but imma stay here. Not gonna be any sort of fun.”

Rhys remarked with such enthusiasm, “Even Duster is going!”

Before long, the entire crew of the Anchovi set themselves for one of the many fishing docks in Llamarr. It would have been a shame to stay inside the Fighter on a less gloomy than normal day. Displeased with Rhys’ taunt, Frank Dietz crossed his arms and huffed the entire walk childishly. No one knew why he was so against fishing; Guten Nocht had no dangerous waters to drown in. Unable to cope with his defeat, he demanded that he at least be responsible for lunch and carrying it. No one fought him for the privilege and allowed him to have his wish granted.

A thirty minute walk to the specific dock that Jackie sought out landed them in a quainter area of the town. A few groups of people scattered across the rather large dock and paid no attention to the latest arrivals. Somehow, the foreign crew was allowed to camp out on the ledge with the greatest view. Parking her bottom on the edge of the dock, Jackie smiled towards the rest of the crew and took off her boots. She was going to enjoy her newfangled unemployment. Why would she not take advantage of the money Harvey allocated to his human bulletproof vest?

“I think I might be sick.” Frank complained from a few feet away. One good look at the rolling waves made him sick to his stomach. The culling of the seagulls made him angry. Though it was a nicer day than it had been for weeks, Frank could not stand the cloudy skies. He even thought he would be better back in the capital.

“You wake up to to the sea, what makes a difference?”

Jackie adjusted a few things to Rhys’ fishing pole before they both decided to cast their lines into the sea. The two of them shared a few giggles before temporarily zoning out to the hypnotizing waves of grey Blue. The entire experience felt more real than working in the warehouses and serving in the marketplace. They did not have to speak to each other because they were at peace.

“I never faced it in the mornin’. Looking into a glass of water makes me queasy.” He plopped his bottom on the splintering pier and huffed some more. Speaking to his friends seemed hopeless to him. The malign sea had taken his friends. The salty tang to the mist stole them from him. A cheap temptress no less, Frank turned his back to the sea.

“Thalassophobia.” The cloaked figure next to Rhys spoke out.

Duster had settled on his disguise the moment he first used it and had fun with different clothing options. Though he was able to morph into a human with clothing, he shortly found out through experimentation that it was easier to morph into human without shaping clothing. The first few days in his new skin alerted the rest of the Fighter. A man most nude roamed the corridors. Frank and Rhys alike did not leave their rooms not because of a strange face but because of Duster’s queer mannerisms. No human bobbed their heads back and forth like an owl, and even the most awkward man knew when to stop staring. Frank was so kind enough to donate a few articles of clothing to the bizarre Duster.

Jackie yanked a few times in high hopes of catching a huge sea bass. It was not even noon and she craved a nice hearty dinner. She added on, “This trip is supposed to be relaxing for all of us. If at anytime you get sick, just face inland.”

Frank set the picnic blanket down on the pier and rested his head. Once he closed his eyes, the sound of the waves swishing beneath him did not bother him as much. Frank imagined all the different things he could be doing right now like reading or eating. Well, his list was short and could be done anywhere. He desperately needed the bedroom to feel better. The covers were what he missed the most. Being wrapped up and cocooned from the rest of the world while reading a nice novel was a rather pleasant thought.

As time passed, Jackie decided her spot was unlucky. She did not mention anything to the rest of the crew and skipped to another location on the dock, leaving an intense Rhys reeling away and Duster placidly rummaging through paperboard. Frank was unable to get an adequate amount of sleep so he mustered enough strength to sit between the two. Neither acknowledged his presence, yet Frank kept his mouth shut and gazed into the water before him.

“You know Rhys, life could be worse. We all walk different walks of life, but we learn to understand people are lookin’ for a reason to live. We find meanin’ in stuff. Right now I’m in a rut.”

The sudden and unexpected dialogue snapped the young man out of his trance.

Setting down his pole, the boy who always stopped whatever he was doing to listen replied, “Why’s that, Frank?”

“I ain’t workin’ towards nothin’. It’s not that I hate jobs, but I hate jobs that don’t mean much to me. ‘Til this day, I think gettin’ in the mix of Galhead was a good thing for me. Ya learn a lot about yerself when yer fightin’ for a cause. Our jobs ain’t indicative to our lives unless we make it that way.”

Silence filled the air. No one knew what to say after that. No one pinned Frank as a philosopher, for Frank never saw a reason to have a real conversation with anyone except his crew. He would confide with Jackie, but Duster and Rhys were essentially strangers to him. Though he had no intentions of listening to Rhys’ problems, if he had any in the first place, Frank wanted to throw out his emotions. Sensitive by the Dietz family nature, the twiggy man rubbed his chin and tossed his head back.

“Do you still think of her?” Rhys wondered.

“Of course. Best thing I never had.” Frank tried to remember her face, but the fishy smell of the dock got to his senses.

“She’d like you.”

“You say that as if I ain’t got a clue who she is.”

“But she doesn’t have a clue. You’ve changed.” Rhys insisted on the last part. He laid back and stared into the clouds. In some respects, he felt like Frank. Lost and looking.

“Hm.” Mimicking Rhys, Frank tried to pick out clouds that reminded him of home. All he picked out was the audacious and out-of-place sculpture he got as a gift. Its face haunted him some nights back in Last. Frank gave himself a pat on the chest for not bringing it down to the Blue.

“For the better. We’ll never be the same person we were yesterday.”

“Good point.”

A voice from afar etched the wrong words into Frank’s ears. Some kind of slur slithered its way towards Frank and motioned for him. Frank could not recall what it was the voice had said, but it was a call, a challenge of sorts. Perhaps manhood. Unable to decline an offer, he jumped to his feet immediately, searched the area for any shifty sailors, and romped himself in that direction.

“Ya got somethin’ to say, eh, punk? Take yer fish lips elsewhere!”

Rhys chortled before he started to bug Duster who was fast at work. The Lucavi in disguise handled several letter which he examined very carefully every couple of seconds. His eyes would scan from the first one, then the second, then the first one again before he checked on the third letter. The doctor of sorts was fascinated by the letters.

“What are you doing over there?” Rhys decided to ask.

“I’m analyzing data that’s recently piqued my interest in human graphology. I’ve taken up a hobby in my free time.” Duster had a knack for talking while paying no attention to the other person trying to have a conversation, yet he was a master at staring people down with his ominously glowing green eyes. Frank suggested to Duster one day that he actually make eye contact with others if he wanted to be believable. It got Duster’s attention. It worked.

“If it doesn’t bother you, would you be able to teach me how to read and write?”

Duster removed himself from the letters. The quizzical middle aged man-face perked up by such a thought.

“You mean you don’t know how to read and write? You’re supposed to be a perfect replication of one of the smartest men of Guten Nocht. Perhaps it’s a malfunction in your brain.”

“I’m broken?” Rhys never thought of it that way. He never understood the concept of who he was or how he was made, but it was always in the backburner in his mind to find out all of the questions. To him, Rhys Illumina was just a normal boy with normal boy problems. Except for the whole traveling around Varsyl without a permanent home. That idea was absurd to most Varsylians.

“Most of us are.” Duster’s human face smiled a little and as a result, creeped Rhys out the slightest. Duster was now human, but his personality was too sterile and blocky like a robot. Sensing a great disturbance, the human Duster toned down his smile to a neutral expression. “I’ll see what I can do.”

Frank and Jackie both came running to the edge of the dock, the former more hesitant on stopping on a dime. Jackie pointed to the sky in awe as all their faces glowed a golden orange.

The infernal balls soared across the skyline from afar and beautifully reflected from Rhys’ rich brown eyes. “What’s that up there?”

“It might be an airship accident,” Jackie stated.

“Great.” Frank was warming up to the Fighter.

Duster shook his human head. “That’s rather a copious amount of fire to be a simple airship.”

“It’s beautiful. Flame raining from the sky.” Rhys was in amazement. Though he was not sure how it began or how it would end, the alarmingly robust scene made the hairs on his forearms stand up.

“Poetic, but yer all clearly insane if you think that is anythin’ but terrifyin’.”

“It’s not like you to be a worrisome. Don’t get soft on me now, Frankie.” Jackie could not keep her eyes off it either. Realizing that it started to rain more fireballs, she suggested that they leave but not right away. The disaster happened miles off the coast. She saw no reason to move with such haste.

“Have you guys even caught anythin’ yet? Fishin’ sucks.” Frank threw his hands into his pockets.

“I’ve had a couple of bites, but I haven’t reeled in yet. This is really fun!” Rhys jumped for joy with the fishing rod in hand. He tried his best to distract himself from the background, but Rhys always found himself staring back into the sky.

“I thought you would have liked it,” Jackie nodded. “I find it very meditative. I could go the entire day on the dock and fish. Too bad all we’ll get out here are small fry.”

“More like fish fry.”

The sky burned for four long days and for four longer nights.
Finnigan     7y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Rhyscyclopedia, pt. 2#]

The fire raining from the sky haunted Rhys’ dreams like the so called beginnings of Guten Nocht did months ago. In his nightmares, a torrent of blazing shrapnel fell from the sky and devastated sea and earth alike. The screams echoed through his mind as he envisioned millions of people fleeing in every direction like birds do in the brisk autumn air. These infernal balls lay waste to every parish, metropolis, and continent the Blue had to offer. Stone crumbled. Emblazoned statues of heroes and monsters returned to the land as pools of precious metals. Had Rhys seen what had happened in a previous life or did he foresaw what was coming?

He had to leave the Fighter for the time being. His fleeting nightmares drove him out of bed and into his everyday getup: decent sized boots, ratty slacks, a white t-shirt, and his olive green jacket he coveted. He often took long strolls throughout the town, but troublesome Rhys desired to get his mind off the dangers of his abstract and often vague dreams. He worried that every spectacle he would come across would somehow come back and haunt him in the worst ways. What was it that he feared so much? Then he thought to himself, [i ‘I fear myself the most.’]

Leaving without leaving a notice for Jackie or Frank, the young man rode one of the giant chickens out of the Fighter from the side hatch. The sun had not risen yet, and very few people strolled through the streets at this time. Llamarr was a terrible place to grow up. The merchant town was cramped, the people were constantly on top of each other struggling to breathe. They were drowning in their own filth as they drank away their sorrows and the drizzling weather. The rain would not pick up for another three hours, or that’s what the admonishing auspice on one of the corners told naive Rhys at least. Regardless, the boy paid the begging fortune teller a coin.

The talons beneath Macereau and Rhys thundered on the stone pavement and throughout the streets as the young lad sped through all the usual spots. Fisherman’s wharf. Check. Shady alleyways. Check. Town gates. Check. The speed and revving of the feathered beast reverberated through the speed demon’s body. The blood pumped through his veins with each stride of the gargantuan chicken. Beneath Rhys’ goggles remained a classic smile: tiny yet effective. Despite his outward appearance of being the young and often foolish child of the group, he craved just as much excitement as Jackie or Frank. Racing was his outlet. Fast. Go faster. Run. Run. Run. The fortuitous Macereau, strong in bone and flesh alike, marathoned around the entire city without stopping. He and his jovial master knew no such thing as tiring out.

The youth escaped its fears just as it decided to halt at an unfamiliar shipyard. Ultimately finding himself in an unfamiliar part of town, a part he might have never taken the wrong turn before, Rhys hopped off of the golden bird. Before he decided to go any further onto the ever dimming dock, he looked back to the rest of dreary Llamarr. Old, grey lifeless; the golden boy and his feathered steed desperately needed to escape it somehow. Anchovi needed to leave. Jackie needed to fly out of the grey waters and find a new place. A place with sunshine preferably. A place with wide open spaces and brand new faces.

Varsylgard was only the beginning for his adventures. Rhys had hoped that Frank and Jackie would soon follow suit and decide to leave this Maker-forsaken town. The town of thieves and merchants, both alike in dignity, stunted his well-being. No one was his age. Everyone spat and pissed in the streets side by side with mutts. The narrow alleyways smelt strongly of urine and in the worst neighborhoods, the corners reeked of molding feces. On one side of the bay, the garbage stemmed from the continent itself to form mounds solid enough to walk on. Flies, gnats, fleas, and the rare mosquito did not bother the men of Llamarr. The rats and roaches scurried in the bustling of the city with man. Nothing was sacred.

Audacious Rhys led the chicken through the rotting docks in search of something new. Of course, the young man was going all the wrong places, yet he was determined to find some sort of meaning to an otherwise miserable environment. His gleaming blond hair poked through the dense fog with the chicken’s mane following suit. The masts of many ships poked out as well to great the two with their white sheets folded. [i A place with wide open spaces and brand new faces.] Excited, Rhys continued to sift through the unknown. The boards beneath him squeaked inconsistently.

Once he was satisfied, the boy stopped. Petting the top of Macereau’s thick beak, Rhys hushed down everything to a standstill. The waters, calm as he, plinked. The crickets hiding on ships chirped from various distances. The humidity creeped on Rhys, but the he refused to take off his jacket. He had not realized how muggy the town could get after its long rainy fits. The sun was not even piercing through the cloud coverage either. The swarthiness of Llamarr was nothing short of a living nightmare.

From afar, a man rang a bell and slowly approached Rhys from behind. His footing was rather heavy, assuring the boy and the steed that the man was indeed from this world and not the next. When he showed up, the rest followed. It was the bald fellow with one eye and a few teeth that slowly phased from the dense fog to meet Rhys up close. His tan wrinkly complexion caught the youngster off guard and sent Rhys backwards onto his bottom. Surrounding him, the gangly troupe of fiendish faces made sure their presence was acknowledged. The leader spoke out.

“Wasst dis? A young lath. Speak.”

“...” Speechless, Rhys sat on his butt with Macereau’s reins in his hands.

“Dith I stutter. Speak boy! A youf dothint make his way over yonder widdout an aim.”

“But I did just that. I wandered here,” the boy gulped nervously.

The crew laughed.

“Den lath, what are ye intentions? Make quick or my men will guth yah.”

Without a thought, Rhys blurted out in the midst of their evil eye. “Take me with you!”

“Yeh not able seaman. Mah fishin’ bessel ist no place for passengers. Not in dist weadder.”

Rising to his feet, Rhys brushed himself off. He was not going to take no for an answer. Being the most persistent he has been while he was in the Blue, Rhys spoke up, “I’m not taking no for an answer. Let me learn. I can do it.”

The boy’s response caught the captain by surprise. He did not have a snappy comeback and the rest of his crew stood there in a muggy silence.

“Fine boy, but don’t drag meh crew down. I warn yeh, the storm will wash the weak ofta my ship. Ye sea cunt of a god Belsa out dere, ye one of dem paedophiles. Fucks de youf outtadem.”

Rhys simply nodded without another word to be added. At full disclosure, he mentally geared himself for the worst. After all, there were worse outcomes than death in this world. For example, living in Llamarr for the rest of one’s life. The seamen filed onto the ship, following closely behind the captain. As each of them passed Rhys, they growled with foaming faces and pierced his skin with bug-eyes. Most of them did not fit the status quo of Llamarr or the rest of Varsylgard. Their heights were off by a bit, many on both extremes. Their hair either bounced in curls, both tight and loose, or draped past the shoulders like silky black curtains. Rhys noted that their skins were incapable of glowing in the moonlight as well as the rest of the town.

Rhys was given the rundown of the ship by one of the “friendlier” members of the Dir Matarang. Bow, port, stern, starboard. Rhys pointed to each of the directions. Forward, aft, inward, outward. The eager-eye captain kept the learning boy in the waist of the ship and observed him closely while the rest of his men swung from mizenmast to the foremast and back. Unable to keep himself in one place for long, Rhys broke his stance to get a closer look at all the action. The hard skinned men tugged on ropes made of the toughest twine. The sweat already poured from their faces before the rain had enough time to properly mask it. Before anything could truly sink into Rhys’ head, the main course, topsails, and jibs opened up.

The captain ordered Rhys and a fellow seaman to remove the anchors from the dock. A squirrely fellow hopped overboard and swung from a large rope attached to the shipyard, so the impressionable young man followed the same path. Before jumping, Rhys hesitated and glared at the murky grey waters below. No one really taught him how to swim. He was also confident in thought that Jackie and Frank had no idea as well. Rhys snapped out of the trance quickly, remembering what his main objective was at this point. [i ‘I can’t mess up now. They’ll leave me to drown or just plain leave me behind.’] In contrast to the monkey like movements of the first guy, the pathetic golden hair child shimmied down the rope. His back almost touched the water as he struggled to get up and remove the anchor.

Rhys ran back up the ramp as soon as possible only to meet up with a guffawing captain. He was amused by the Illumina’s efforts, yet his tardiness was inexcusable. The patchy faced bearded captain scratched his top lip in disappointment and ordered the black sheep of the Dir Matarang to help hoist more of the sails up near the bow. The constant rambling of heavy grunts offput Rhys. The utterances reminded him of Elbriz’s squealing pigs. He had no qualms with swine, but he squirmed for a bit getting used to hearing it from human bodies and even joined just to fit in with the rest of the crowd. Rhys joined in a line of a few men tugging away at another sail. Several times he had to release the rope because it was stung his unworked hands. The men jeered, yet they did not discourage him that easily. Mustering the endurance reserved deep in himself, Rhys rapidly returned with more might than before.

Hollering for the boy to take his place nearby, the captain made it his goal to instill knowledge in the docile Rhys or sometimes the captain would explain how a bunch of wily pirates ended in the slump of Varsyl. Many of them were Mezze, the middle people. The middle people were not Krem nor Kaf. The Mezze were the forgotten races, often depicted by their second-rate citizenship, varying complexions, and utterly poor accessibility to magic. The Krem were Varsylians, Francolians, Dalmetites, Kalenes, the fair skinned aristocrats with rare exceptions to the no-magic-in-the-blood rule. The Kaf kept themselves far away in distant lands with many of the known magickers coming from Nu’bai Katar, the last wonder of the Blue. Where the terms originated, no one in the Varsylian empire could answer that question.

The crew of the Dir Matarang rarely ventured into the city because of their skin and often relied on the very few white-skinned men to go into town and gather necessary food and supplies. In fact, they were pushed specifically into this shipyard as a result of a timeless scuffle that tragically claimed the life of one of their young men. The captain, who finally revealed his name to be Jir Nabuk’naan, second owner of Dir Matarang, swore to keep his men alive to reap the scruples of Varsylian coin. The other empires pushed them into Varsylian territory and the countries not associated with Varsyl led less lavish lives. Despite the decline, the Varsylian lifestyle felt the most liberating.

The ship sailed at full speed into the vast Blue. Rhys ran up to the bow where he experienced a mouth full of seafoam and a decent misting. The salty tang embraced him, and the emptiness of the dead sea allured the strange boy. Lands beyond his imagination existed with a plethora of mysteries waiting to be solved. The people, the culture, the language, all of it: Rhys wanted to know more, embrace it all with an open mind.

Drizzling weather slowly rolled in. The ragtag fishermen assumed their positions and searched the rocking waves for the buoys attached to their nets. With long sticks with hooks attached to the end, they fished around until they snagged a buoy and reeled. Another crew member looped a rope through the metal ring while the third called to all available hands on deck. From starboard, Rhys latched onto a rope to aid his fellow men in their latest endeavors. To them, this was not a menial everyday ordeal. Fishing was their life, a passion even. The fishy men took pride in work, their work. They pulled in the mesh inch at a time, with each time revealing more and more fish.

Slowly becoming one with the Dir Matarang and its crew, the young Anchovi took pride in his accomplishment. It was his first time on a boat and away from Varsyl. The splashing of the sea brine in his face and the flopping of helpless fish energized him. Rhys felt more alive than ever. He started to believe it was his calling. Become a fisherman. The baby hands turned raw and pink like uncooked chicken. The child stared into his hands momentarily, but was not phased by the blood. He embraced the pain.

Of course, no fishing trip would be complete without a special surprise waiting at the very end. Towards the end of the fishing net, the men struggled on its last haul. All the fish onboard were accounted for, yet the net had a little more oomph to it. Rhys tugged alongside the crew, and it was not until every abled man on deck lended a hand that the net came onboard. Caught in the net was something a little more worthwhile. It was a mechanical hand entwined in the net. It was as tall as Rhys himself. All five fingers intact with full articulation. The crew stood back while the captain hesitated from getting any closer. Rhys was the only one who actively approached it with interest. The drowned robot hand seemed far too familiar to him as if he had dreamed it up himself.
Finnigan     7y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Between Two Mysteries#]

Duster, Frank, and Jackie sat around the table for mid morning breakfast. Frank scratched his head and wondered where Rhys had gone off this time, especially on muffin Mondays. Rhys loved muffin Mondays. Though Frank was not as a good cook as he thought he was, his crew managed to survive throughout his gourmand escapades. Jackie sat with her arms folded and Duster continued to analyze all the letters. Between reading the awful joke book and studying penmanship, the Lucavi kept himself busy. His obsession kept him from giving back Jackie’s heartfelt notes.

“This note and Harvey’s share very little in handwriting.” Duster held up the thief’s note and Harvey’s get-well card in the same hand. He went through the three notes--Harvey’s, Hollis’, and the mysterious man’s--a myriad of times with each intention growing stronger. He followed each loop, each strike, each dotting of the “i”. “Also, it would make little sense as to why Harvey would be outside and looking towards his own ship. As for the thief being Hollis. A slim chance. While the soldier has exquisite handwriting, it’s not as florid as this letter nor Frank’s. It has a masculine attribute to it.”

“How’d you figure my handwriting, Dusty?” huffed Frank.

“Just a wild guess,” Duster shrugged. Sleuthing, among his other hobbies, frightened the other two. They held Duster in such high regard because he was aloof and cold like the old automatons stored in the sheriff’s junk shed.

“But the headband, Hollis had the thief’s headband. I know it’s him!” Jackie sighed. She needed to justify her reasoning because she wanted to run into Hollis again and pummel him to his grave.

“There are too many variables to consider when it comes to the headband. When you wafted the letter, did it smell like Hollis?”

“No, but-”

“The letter had the aroma of the thief, so if Hollis does not smell like the letter, then the thief is not Hollis. Simple.”

“That letter was to lure Harvey though, you even said so!”

“Perhaps it is a trap for Harvey, but we are not certain on who is setting it up.”

“It’s our job then to help him before something wrong happens.”

“Guy’s a dickhole.” Frank munched on the muffin vigorously before he guzzled down a glass of milk. After finding out what cranberries were, he immediately went out to the nearest vendor who had them and bought some. They weren’t as tasty as banana nut muffins, but the cranberry apple muffins sufficed.

Jackie put down the muffin before she bit into and cried out, “But he’s rich, Frankie!”

“Beltram shipyard. That’s where you’ll find the Magnuze, but stick to the better parts of town, specifically Lenth’s.”

Lenth’s bar was part of the upper crust street of Llamarr. If they were going to find the most pompous and patronizing fellow in the entire town, Lenth’s was the best bet. No one of Anchovi pinned Duster to be as adventurous as he was. The first few months in the Blue demonstrated his fear for the outer world, and for some unexplained reason, Duster embraced it with open arms in the grimy streets of Llamarr.

“Howdya know all this?”

“Most men follow patterns.” As Jackie and Frank got up from the wooden chairs to chase down Harvey Lansit, Duster halted them for one moment. “Frank.”

“What?”

Duster asked, “Why cannot you trust atoms?”

“Uh..err, what? Why?”

“Because they make up everything.”

Frank and Jackie annoyingly stared at Duster, but not out of disgust but of ignorance. The handful of teachers Last had never taught them of atoms or what they did. A waste of time, but for the most part Duster’s intellect flew over both their heads often. Maybe Rhys would have gotten the joke if he was around.

Jackie and Frank went to the heart of Llamarr and headed for Lenth’s bar. The drizzle had died out on their way, but the chilly morning remained indefinitely. The sun refused to peek through the dense grey clouds as usual, and the soaked stone roads carried small puddles as a result. The streets surrounding Lenth’s carried an empty aura to them, namely because no one could afford such frivolous foodstuffs and debauchery. No one drank the expensive red wines nor dined on fancy herbed chickens. The masses preferred liters of beer and the fattest parts of a swine. Why spend so much for so little when one could binge eat and drink all they want on water and fat? At least that’s what the richest man in Llamarr would argue.

By coincidence, Frank and Jackie ran into the merchant just as he was exiting the restaurant. Today, Harvey decided to ditch the long cloak in favor of simplicity. Dressed in a black suit with matching pants, the businessman marched down the street until he recognized Jackie’s fat cheeks. With great benevolence masked by the indomitable arrogance in his lingering voice, Harvey called out.

“Patty! It’s great to see that you’re on your hooves so soon.”

He could call her anything just as long as she could keep him around as a friend. After all, Harvey’s carefree yet generous attitude with money kept her from working. If she had to, she’d adopt a sycophant to teach her his dastardly ways. Jokes aside, Jackie truly thought Harvey was incapable of being entirely malicious with his words. It had to be part of his his culture surely.

“We have somethin’ that might be of some importance,” Frank nodded.

Familiar with the face, but not recalling where he had seen Frank, Harvey pulled back a little and squinted. He scratched the inside of his ear and rubbed his head. Frank knew who he was when he came strolling inside the Fighter. To say the least, the merchant was not too happy with the ship and its choices of interior design. When he brought his henchmen and the flowers around for Jackie, he was quite critical and almost took pity on the crew. Frank swore he was going to have an emotional breakdown in front of an unconscious Jackie, but Frank nagged that he did not want to wash her sheets of Harvey’s dripping snot and tears.

“Hm? Who’s this again?”

“Frank.”

“You’re no Francolian, and believe me, I’ve seen Francolians. They’re excellent craftsmen. Too bad no one in this damn town has a sense for good furniture. Heck, if Francol and Varsyl did not agree to form such tight bonds, this continent would have suffered.” Harvey went on and on about upholstery and the glorious nation of Francol. Paisley, chevron, orinthian. All these words tossed out, yet no one of the audience grasped his foreign language. It must have been something superfluous because his white as snow eyebrows were bobbing vigorously throughout his unnamed soliloquy. He droned until the little men in blue suits came walking down the streets. “Well damn.”

“Harvey P. Lansit, we’ve got the warrant for your arrest! You’re ordered by the capital to show up before Prince Chelon and the reagent queen Helvetia.” It was Hollis again at the forefront, yelling until the birds came flying out of the alleyways. How convenient.

“I’ll double your last paycheck,” Harvey mentioned to Jackie who seemingly readied herself for the next bout.

“Oh, don’t worry, I’ll gladly accept.” She was bested last time by her ex-lover Hollis Westlands. The thought of him of all men besting her drove her insane. She had gotten better from the last time, but she was explicitly told by Duster not to move around so much. Well, she never listened much in the first place and had kept up her training regimen a secret.

“And you, Weenie?” the merchant asked Jackie’s friend.

“Me? Heh, I was lookin’ to quit my old job. With this money, we ain’t gotta work for quite some time.” Frank was taken back but quickly forgave him. After all, money spoke to these kinds of people. Coin chasers. The downtrodden. The so-called “working class.”

Hollis’ vanguard was not pulling back with the threats either. The muskets lined up side by side and aimed for the trio of besmirched thieves and merchants. Westlands had more than his pride on the line as well. Tasked on finding this mysterious missing person, he had to prove to his prince that the job could be done. Harvey of the Lansit family was not immune to the empire’s grasp, yet he constantly eluded the authorities at every encounter. Hollis told his men to wait for his next orders, and even from afar, Frank heard that he was the only target that could die.

“Alright, let’s not make a mess. No casualties!” Jackie nodded as she moved Harvey into an alley. This was her long awaited redemption.

“I ain’t no kid, Jackie. I’m the best potshot Last ever seen,” Frank remarked and pulled out his revolver. For some reason, he knew that he was not going to be able to leave the ship without bringing his gun, that somewhere out there trouble was waiting for him. Taken back by Hollis’ heartless commands and the furrowing brows the riflemen, Frank had every intention on making them suffer.

“Hollis is mine. Just give me an opening and I’ll take ‘em all out!”

Frank rolled across the street and into the adjacent alleyway just as Hollis signaled for a line of fire. One by one, the sharp crackling rifles set off and trailed down the remote street. Across from Frank’s line of sight, Jackie held Harvey back by the chest as she constantly awaited for her chance to strike. The merchant, unphased by the violence, mumbled obscenities throughout the firing squads empty threats. They had no intentions on killing him right here. The prince and his wicked stepmother would have to bring themselves to Llamarr if they wanted incarceration. Of course, Jackie purposefully cupped her hand over his mouth. He blatantly struggled with silence.

The gaunt man with the rolling revolver took cover behind a large wooden crate where he peeked his head. Nine men, eight of them armed with rifles ready to tear through him. They probably enjoyed the thoughts of bullets tearing through his flesh. They have not had luck thus far on their journey, so why starve the bloodlust any longer. The bullets whizzed around the crate’s corner and the men stepped forward without haste, yet Frank refused to let them take too many steps at a time. Time and money were all the motivation he needed to step out of hiding and fire indiscriminately into the blue crowd. The first round of bullets surprisingly found their targets, each of them digging into a foot or a hand.

The men shot dropped their weapons and fell back in such excruciating pain. Frank’s aim, breath, and accuracy was unparalleled for the most part, and his reload time was impeccable. The bullet cases rained on his boots as the next wave of bullets rapidly found themselves housed in their chamber. Cocking the hammer back, Frank pinned down the remaining men standing except for Hollis and then doubled up. At this point, Hollis pulled out a pistol of his own and fired relentlessly in Frank’s location. The grave attitude bloomed from the often awkward and ugly mustached man, but he refused to go down like the rest of them. He had to upload the law just like his ancestors did, at any cost.

At the same moment, both of the men with pistols finished reloading their guns and personally met the end of the barrel. Beneath the facial hair, Hollis’ face twitched with annoyance. He sought Frank as nothing more than a troublemaker, someone who could not resist the urge to break all the laws and establishments. He could risk it and send the man with the rust colored hair to an early grave but that would be doing Frank a favor. Though he never had any problems with Frank in the past, Hollis suffered from the warped illusion of justice. Without a doubt, Hollis’ ambition drove him to take dire measures.

The swift action of Jackie Simms saved her friend’s life. Without being noticed by either party, the bulky martial artist kicked the gun out of Hollis’ hand and flew onto a nearby roof. Frank pulled back and the fusilier's rage whipped him to face Jackie for the upteenth time. He tried throwing a punch, but the agile duke of combat tossed him over her broad shoulders without a problem. Their undisputable anger matched each other for a succinct moment before Hollis tried reasoning with the straddling Jackie.

“Jackie, huh-ooff!” He knew deep down he deserved each hit. “I didn’t mean to-ooff! Shoot you. I need--ooff! Dammit, I’m trying to apologize, you bastard! Harvey is dangerous!”

Despite all her hits, though he was sure that she was holding back, Hollis managed to fight back and wrestling with her for a while until he ended up on top once more. Frank and Harvey both stepped forward as if they were going to intervene in their serious moment, but pride was too important for Jackie right now.

“I was not going to kill you. I just needed you out of my way.”

Enthralled, Jackie ended the struggle with one good crack to Hollis’ porcelain face. He laid there out cold, and she stood victorious over his body. The smile briefly lasted as another unexpected and terrifying guest stepped into the arena.

“Impossible,” Jackie uttered. She dropped to her knees which also happened to drop into Hollis’ stomach and groin. She could not believe her own eyes.

Frank was just as taken back as Jackie was. Baffled, the two stood there speechless, each trying to find the words to express how ridiculous they felt. Jackie took a good look at Hollis and then back up at the figure dressed in a cool navy garb. She was going to have to apologize to Hollis later for accusing him as the shady thief. Frank readied his gun.

“Harvey Lansit, we have unsettled business.”

“Hey asshole, we have unsettled business. Apple bandit!” hollered Frank. “You owe me some apples.”

“Shut it, dicklips.” The thief with the foul mouth walked through the battlefield littered with Varsylian fusiliers and chuckled lightly behind the muffling mouth mask. “You’re not an easy man to get next to, Harvey. Everyone wants something, but I want something a little more from you. You have something that belongs to me. Take me to it.”

The thief of all people possessed the power to shush the boisterous merchant. Harvey was at a standstill and there was a little more than what he was letting on to his mercenaries.

“The Templar follow me here? I must flee.”

Opening the floor for more questions, Harvey’s shuddering body met up with ice cold glances from all available and conscious figures. The Templar? Unable to keep himself in one spot any further, the nervous man in the fancy black suit avoided the thief at any cost and revealed to have a smoke bomb on hand. His words confused With a sleight of hand, he tossed it to the stone street and evaporated into the dense formation of grey smoke.

The hasty thief ran for Harvey, but was no match for the combined effort of Jackie and Frank’s punch to the solar plexus. He fell to his knees gasping for air, but Frank, who refused to let go of menial vendettas, bopped him unconscious. Confused more than ever on what had just happened, Jackie tossed the covered figure over her shoulders and began her trek back to the fighter. If she and Frank were going to solve the mystery behind the kooky character, they were going to solve it in seclusion. No more helping the rich, no more dealing with Varsylian dogs. From there on, she wafted the scent of apples and cranberries on the walk back home.
Finnigan     7y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Eudoxia#]

“I like to think it’s my finest work.” Frank cheekishly grinned at Jackie and stepped away from the unconscious thief who sat before them. He thought his knots were the best that anyone had seen in Last and swore to the town that not one of his chickens had ever escaped his nooses. In all honesty, the hasty knotwork was not his best.

Jackie slightly chuckled after she sighed and playfully remarked, “Hey, you finally brought use to the crew.”

“Shaddap.”

Jackie placed her hand on Frank’s shoulder and looked him in the eyes. Until today, she had no doubt that the thief in the navy garb and the outrageously gaudy accents were Hollis Westlands. It could all be over in a second with one firm pull of the hood. The mystery was unsolved, but both hesitated on the reveal.

“Who do you think it is?”

“Well it ain’t Hollis. Heh, at least you squared things out.”

Jackie sighed once more before sitting in a chair at the dining table. Frank laughed a bit, revelling in the stray faced fusilier’s utter punishment. Granted, the thought of plugging a bullet into Hollis’ foot or knee cap brought a rather sinister wave to his mug. A rematch was already in talks. Who was the better gunner? Frank placed his bets on himself. A stir in the unconscious body interrupted the idle daydreaming. The thief began to move his legs, and subtle jerks of the body appeared as if he was trying to slip away from the affixed pole.

“Hm?” Frank pulled out his gun and cocked the hammer as if the thief could do anymore harm.

Standing up and making her way next to Frank, Jackie watched as the vagrant opened his sharp olive eyes. The bound thief wriggled a bit before realizing the extent of the situation. The soft grunts and groans escaped the body, and Frank assisted with the excessive nudging with his feet. He pestered the awakened and sore soul until the defeated prisoner lashed out with wily lower limbs and deep huffs.

“You guys are complete assholes. You didn’t have to punch me in the gut so hard.”

Frank pointed and taunted. His inner child broke out in the moment. “You deserved it, you swindler.”

“Do me a favor. Kill yourself.” The thief wiggled a little more. The sharp tongue surprised everyone, but the voice was rather off keen to Jackie. It had lost some of its bass in favor of a lighter tone, but nevertheless it was a tad bit too gloomy.

“Hey, that’s not nice.” The incorrigible childish fiend named Frank Dietz nudged his prisoner with his feet again and stuck out his tongue. He acted rather sour like the apples the thief stole from him. A tart fool.

“Can’t say I was brought up to be nice. But really, do me a favor and take off this mask. I’m a hot sticky pudding mess.” Such sass rose from the masked voice. It was a surprise to the crew Anchovi that he managed stay alive in such a rough neighborhood. No one had a sense of humor around the grey city Llamarr and it seemed as if normal everyday words were ignominious jeers and threats. It was the same way for the most part in the remaining towns of Guten Nocht. The thief was lucky he had so many places to hide in the merchant town, because he would not last a couple of days in such an arid empty village such as Last.

“Hmph. Fine.”

Jackie leaned down to remove the mask, but the figure was struggling too much for her comfort. She backed away slightly and held out her index finger as a warning. If their prisoner tried anything remotely dangerous, Jackie let everyone know that she’d punch a hole through his face without verbal warning. She tried playing the better person out of her and Frank, but like everyone else, rash and spontaneous decisions made her uneasy. The thief from there understood and quitted moving for one moment. Copious amounts of sweat drenched the finely stitched mask. The thief must have been suffering the entire time.

Without anymore delay, Jackie snatched the thief’s mask off the head and revealed more than what anyone on the Fighter imagined. From the constrained space of the mask, a mountain of springy black curls poured forth and obscured the face. Whipping the hair around and squirming just a bit more moved the voluminous waves. Mouths dropped. The well shaped thick black eyebrows framed the sharp olive colored eyes. The slender ridged nose pointed out like an arrow and the full lips filled up her angelic face. She was a beauty beyond belief.

“Well this was out of the Blue.” Suspended by belief, Jackie stood above the prisoner speechless. She did not belong to this town at all with all the rough and wild men. Such a beauty could only be imported through illegal means. No sane woman dared to set foot in Llamarr.

“You’re a girl?” Frank was relieved by the fresh face. From the first time they met, the attraction he had confused him. The bandit made him secretly question his sexuality.

“Yeah, I’d hope you’d take my word, but, well, you’re probably a crazy pervert, murderer, and pedophile like the rest of them.” She was no older than eighteen; she was still maturing into adulthood. How she lived on the streets as a thief was nothing short of a few miracles. Or at least that’s what Jackie and Frank perceived it as. Indeed, the young woman feared for her preservation. She only had to kill a few men to remain pure, and that was because she was forced into small corners. The first few days out in Llamarr were the hardest, she would admit. “I’ve made it this far. I should have known my luck would run out eventually.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! What the heck are you talkin’ ‘bout? Ain’t no one gonna touch you. We just wanna know why you’re doin’ all this shits. Ain’t no rapin’ happenin’.” He held out his hands and reassured her that he was not interested. Frank started to sympathize with her. She was clearly alone on the streets for some time.

Whipping hair out her face again, the struggling teenager looked up to her captors and sternly stared back.

“Survive. All I’m looking to do is make it to the next day.”

Just as soon as he started to feel sorry for her, the hypocrite rudely remarked, “Then git a job. Thiefin’ ain’t gonna get ya nowhere girlie.”

“Frankie, she’s just a girl.” Jackie pulled him to the side and shook her head. In a lot of ways, and Jackie could tell this within the first few minutes of the big reveal, the female vagrant experienced the streets like she did. Settling Frank down, Jackie tried to reason, “She doesn’t have that many options in this town. And who are we to judge? Don’t you know who we are and who we ran with? What we did?”

“Ah, the thief. Came back for that rain check?”

Unexpectedly, the white coated Lucavi Duster entered through a door. The curly haired girl was speechless and scooched up tightly to the pole. Never in her entire life did she ever lay witness to a man white as snow with eyes green as spring. Mystified yet all at the same time familiar with the voice and person, the thief kept her mouth shut. She managed to run into all the wrong people within the past few weeks and they were all somehow related to each other.

“What are you?” she mumbled.

“You won’t have the pleasure of knowing that. Frank, Jackie, release her.”

“What?” Frank was just as speechless and clueless as the teenager.

“It is in your best interest if we release her and immediately leave the approximate area, for she is who Hollis has been tracking down.” Duster returned his gaze to the girl. She was quite crafty, and the entire time she was conscious and able to move, she was working herself out of the rope. He paid no attention to the subtle movements. She was going to get up eventually with or without help because Anchovi was going to let her go willingly. Adding onto his matter-of-factly droning, “Based on what I have gathered, she has been hunting down someone herself.”

“Harvey Lansit,” Jackie pointed out.

“The letter that I’ve recovered from our initial run makes me believe that there was a pre-established relationship between the two.”

“No. Don’t go any further.” Spoken like a real teenager, there was still some innocence within her. She dramatic cried out, “This is social homicide.”

“Well, yes. Fallen for the wrong kind of man. My...acquaintance, your face launched a thousand ships. You’re nothing but trouble, a cloud who cannot be pinned down. I will not ask you for your whole life story, as meaningful and eventful as it might be, but I do require that you at least tell us who you are.” If torturing teenagers was a pastime, his peers would elect Duster as the president of the club. He knew quite well who she was the moment he slashed her down the middle and read her message. “Confess.”

“I refuse!” she jerked forward and cried some more.

“Confess.”

She was at a lost of words. Sinking into her breast and hiding behind the spiraling forest she called hair, she felt helpless. Her identity was her strongest point. Finally, she pulled her head back up and faced the jury. “I am Eudoxia of Dalme, the princess betrothed to the future king of the Holy Empire Varsylgard: Prince Chelon, daughter of the regent queen Helvetia.”

“Yep.” He thought he could not be shocked anymore, but Frank’s jaw dropped further than before. Without making a motion or a face, the astonished and dumbfounded Frank lifelessly muttered to his best friend, “Jackie start up the ship. We’re dumping this like the ‘riff on a Saturday night.”

“You’re all fools.” Eudoxia sadly chuckled, “Don’t you get it, you’re stuck with me.”

“Like hell we are! We’re turning you over to Hollis as soon as he wakes back up.” Jackie was in accordance with her partner. There was no way that she was going to stay on the ship any longer than she had to. She made a move to release teenage Eudoxia from her bonds, but the pugnacious princess flung her feet in the air in defense. Jackie tried swatting the feet away, but Eudoxia emanated quite the aura.

“They’ll kill you. They won’t believe a single word you have to say. Once I’m back into their custody, they’ll execute you by firing squad. I can guarantee that. They’ve probably already accused you of the crime, yes? You’re not an asset anymore once they have me. You’re fish out of water, birds without wings. Dead.”

“Then we’ll leave you,” Jackie tried for another swipe, but Eudoxia flailed vigorously. The pilot feared for her life even more, and sadly there was not much she could do about the princess. Jackie believed that harming her would bring harm tenfold to Anchovi. She retreated.

“I’ll lie. I’ll tell Hollis and Hollis will tell Gallien. Gallien will then tell the prince and my mother all the things you didn’t do. And believe me, I’m convincing. They’ll hunt you down wherever you end up in the Blue. And you’ll die painfully, worse than the first option. It’s the prince we’re speaking about. Cruel, unusual, uncanny, defiant of all basic human rights.” A brat of the highest caliber. She was a demon in disguise. Eudoxia painted the devil’s smirk across her dirt blotched face.

“We gotta kill this bitch.” Frank’s last option. Granted, it was not the best or safest, but it was an option that could be considered. Eudoxia gasped in disgust and teenage angst.

“Huh?” At that moment, Rhys stood at the side hatch and heard Frank’s line. Confused and befuddled by the young woman sitting before him, he walked in and stopped between the two parties. Unamused, he glared at Frank.

“Oh look, my hero.” Eudoxia remembered the young boy from their first encounter and thought he was quite the charmer. Naive, but a charmer. She owed him one, she supposed.

Giving Rhys a thumbs up, Frank somehow managed to turn his downtrodden glare into a positive signal.

“Rhys, gonna have to help clean up. Find some cinderblocks and some rope.”

“Wait, what?” the prisoner belched out. Frank's barbaric methods disgusted her. Eudoxia squirmed and scrunched up her face in utter disbelief.

“You’re taking a perma-plunge.”

“This is insane!” Rhys exclaimed. He had known her for a few minutes, yet he assessed the situation as best as he could. The rest of Anchovi was making mistake.

“What, what?” Eudoxia was surprised with Rhys’ reaction. Maybe there was someone on this ship that was a decent human being. Her heart was beating fast now, and the crazy people on the ship stared her down.

“You can’t kill her!”

Stamping his feet around, Frank pointed into Rhys’ face. The guts in the boy compelled him to push away his finger.

“Rhys, you don’t even know her! She’s a thief!”

Jackie attempted to convince her younger brother.

“And the princess!”

“Thief, princess, whoever. She hasn’t done any wrong!”

“We’re gonna die with her staying alive.” At this point, Jackie threw off her jacket. If Rhys was not going to help Frank dispose of the princess, she was going to get dirty herself. Such thuggish ways of disposing a body really never interested her. Frank and some of the members of their old gang were perfectly fine with cruel methods.

“If I may interject, I believe that all this can be solved,” Eudoxia politely spoke up.

“How?” both Frank and Jackie asked.

“Money, my dynamic pair of numbnuts. If there’s anything that speaks to people like you, it’s coin.” The condescending tone was enough for Jackie to solo the dive job, but the furiously frustrated pilot restrained and allowed Eudoxia to deign. “Harvey probably left the continent without thinking twice, but he did not pay you for your last job. I’ll double what he promised you as long as you meet my conditions. Don’t worry, I don’t have too many.”

“She’s taking us for a ride! If she had all this money, then why was she stealing in the first place? She could have bought all her food herself. Swindler!”

Frank was ready to throw her out. Jackie’s nose twitched and Duster prepped one of his orbs. The tensions ran high in the Fighter and no one was seemingly willing to cool down. Rhys remained in the middle and slowly backed into the princess’s reach. Adamant, he was going to protect as best as he could which was namely just standing in their way.

“It’s hard for a girl to live in this worldly town. There’s only one man who I’m devoted to, and I’m not going to let some fishy fuck grope me before my bedding.” the princess Eudoxia immediately took the risk once she untied the last knot Frank forgot to finish. Swiping Rhys from underneath, she pulled out a knife red hot and put it to his throat. Somehow she managed to pull him and herself back to their feet and faced the rest the furious and armed crew. They weren't as fast as she was and they weren't going to make any more sudden movements. Audacious Eudoxia smirked. “Now, I’m gonna need your complete cooperation or--what’s your name?”

“Rhys.” Rhys was unphased by her threats. He feared for his life in the slightest, but he was not going to give up on her yet. The rest of Anchovi put her in rather terrifying position, and he was going to aid her until the very end. Eudoxia was still redeemable; she fought for herself for so long now. He felt her heart racing through her rough embrace and borderline singeing of her knife.

“Or Rhys here is gonna paint the dining room red.”

A revolver stood from the other side of the room. Frank was most certain that he could plug one right between the eyes and call it a day, but Rhys did not allow that behavior.

“Frank, lower the gun.” Speaking to Eudoxia, Rhys started off with, “Now…”

“Eudoxia, princess of blah, blah…” she badly imitated herself and the endless amount of titles that came with her life.

“Eudoxia, I believe that we can settle to an agreement, but holding threats over their heads will not get what you want. If I die here in your hands, by your hands, you die. None of us will get anywhere. I’m at your mercy, and I want you to know, and them especially, that you have my word: no harm will come to you while you’re on this ship. I will protect you.” He nodded and she slightly pulled away the violently burning blade from his neck. “Let’s agree on one thing though.”

“Go on.”

“This town sucks,” Rhys threw in some humor and surprisingly it worked in favor of everyone.

Jackie nodded in agreement. “Yeah, he’s right.”

“Fuck Llamarr,” muttered gruff Frank. He more than anyone else loathed the awful weather and the borderline slave drivers. He was tired of the indentured servitude and endless days of depression. It reminded him of home, except for the girlfriend and the dry weather.

“Let’s get out of here. You have the money, we have the ship. Both sides win. No one has to get hurt.”

The weight of the world lifted off her shoulders and Eudoxia freed Rhys from knifepoint. The young boy turned around and smiled. Years had passed since the last time she’s seen a sincere face. Immediately she lit up and returned the favor with a serene smile. Rhys then turned around to face the disgruntled side of the ship.

“Rhys, you can’t be serious. She just had a knife to your neck,” Jackie tried to reason with him, but she knew that he made up his mind. She stepped back in defeat once more and looked the other way. Jackie was none too pleased.

Frank huffed, “This girl is a deathwish.”

“She’s one of us, an outcast. We don’t belong to Varsyl. None of us.”

“For a kid that don’t know nothin’, yer smart.”

“You don’t need to be smart to have compassion,” Eudoxia spoke up and defended Rhys right away.

“Hey, you watch it, girlie,” Frank rolled his eyes and huffed even more. Defeated at every end. He was looking for his next big break. He tired from losing arguments and fights, the countless amount of hours of work for nothing, the weather even. He sought a remedy towards all of it.

“I may take a liking to the princess. At least she will keep Frank on his feet,” cracked Duster who followed Jackie and Frank to the cockpit. Though he strongly advised against Eudoxia, Duster had to let her on the ship. Behind Rhys, Duster was the second person they had to think about, for he was the strangest of them all. They were not sure what the Blue would do to him or the rest of the Lucavi. Without his protectors, Duster’s fate would remain a mystery.

“Alright. let’s go.”

Young Rhys smiled once more and led Eudoxia by hand to the front of the ship. She did not know what to make of all of it except that they were forced into an otherwise less favorable situation. While the only companion who enjoyed her company yearned for knowledge, she selfishly searched the vast Blue for unrequited love.

[i 'Harvey Lansit, you're mine.']
Finnigan     6y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size20 #ARC 4: XYIANTHIS COMPLEX#]
[size16 #Truth#]

Accompanied by the friendly youth Rhys, the cloaked princess made her last rounds in all the small crevices and safehouses scattered in the miserably grey city of Llamarr. The frigid rain managed to keep itself contained until the Fighter was sailing over the Blue. It took her several trips back and forth to the ship to finally move in the royalty, but for good reason. Clever Eudoxia made sure to split her dividends in order to maintain her opulence. The bags of money piled up, and directly adjacent to that pile was one of elaborate cloths. It took her weeks to amass such great fabrics, especially in a town dominated by the uncultured and unruly sailors and thieves.

“I was going to make dresses for myself, but then I realized that I’d be marking myself as a target,” she quietly stated as she examined an exquisite soft spring bloom pattern. This was going to be her first dress that she would have crafted, but realized how tough the town was. Under no circumstances did she ever reveal her face or speak the usual tongue. Her olive eyes kept to the slick brick pavement. Eudoxia cracked a small smile for Rhys and continued, “You guys are so drab. Where’s the fun in all this? Here, I’ll make a shirt for you.”

Rhys nodded. Hesitantly, he asked for a favor. “Can you teach me things?”

“Like what?” she scrunched up her face and tossed a blanket of cloth into his lap. “I’m not the greatest at stitching things together...yet.”

“Well if you can teach me to read and write, that would be great.”

“But you’re the most sensible one out of the group,” Eudoxia and Rhys took a quick liking to each other. She quickly scuttled on her shins towards the timid boy and held him by the wrists. Her rather low and sullen voice perked up for the moment and shocked him even more with the enthusiasm. “It would be an honor to teach the first decent peasant outside the walls how to read and write. It’s blasphemy, I know. Royalty and commonfolk affairs do not intermingle.”

Frank and Jackie walked into the dining room and both gave the two kids the strangest look.

“We ain’t gonna be takin’ care of no baby. Both y’all need to be on separate sides of any room at all times.” Frank shook his fingers at the princess and the bio-android. “And girlie, we ain’t no peasants. We can read and write.”

Jackie averted her eyes at Frank’s last statement. The eyes drifted towards the pots and pans.

“I didn’t know that the folk could get an education outside the palace walls,” Eudoxia snidely remarked. “If that’s the case, why haven’t you taught Rhys?”

It was true. Frank never realized that Rhys was illiterate. He simply concerned himself with keeping the boy alive and out of harm’s way. Never did Frank address Rhys’ desires nor needs. Stumped, he bit his bottom lip and skirted around the topic. Looking at the two piles behind Eudoxia and Rhys, he huffed. [i Entitled.]

“Got everything?”

Snarky, just the way Frank despised. “Everything that matters.”

“Where to?” Jackie asked.

Somehow serving the princess was dirtier money than the normal. She had not liked the feeling for it, not one bit. At any moment, she’d expect furious and bloodied nose Hollis Westlands with his flunkies to burst through the doors. The tapping of the feet brought attention to the gruff outlaw and the avant garde princess.

“Sudra.” Pulling herself to her feet, the princess whipped out a map from the pile of cloths and handed it Jackie. The pilot perked up and shifted her eyes in excitement.

Examining the parchment on the wooden table and unable to decipher it, Jackie scratched her forehead and gave Frank a grim look. The typography caught her off guard with all its elusive swirls. She had seen words before but never in such an ornate manner. She stupidly asked, “What’s this?”

“It’s a map, you door licker. It tells you where towns and mountains, rivers and lakes are. I’m taking a guess that you people aren’t from the brightest part of the Blue,” Eudoxia haughtily scoffed and tossed back her black curls. She heavily distorted the idea of working with Anchovi was on par with ruling over an otherwise unruly and dying empire.

“We ain’t from Blue, girlie. We’re from Guten Nocht.” The thought of slapping the prideful princess in the face came to mind. Surely her guards nor the royal prince or queen regent would not have noticed. Frank decided against it because deep in the back of his mind he was paranoid that the princess would savagely eradicate in the end. A monster in a dress he thought. Eudoxia was nothing but a prim monster in disguise.

“You guys are just as slow as the farmers. Bet you guys did a whole lot of nothing up there except munch on sticks and mud.”

“Sure.”

Jackie was tired of the trash talking and quietly removed herself from the situation. If the princess demanded Sudra, the princess would have it in a blink. Eudoxia had the money. At that very moment, money was the only thing on Jackie’s mind. Dropping the sour princess off at the feet of Harvey Lansit was a reward in itself. Jackie took the map with her to the cockpit where she closely examined the crusty paper for a while. She sighed and pushed her chair away from the console. She could pilot an airship and fight her way through the streets, yet something as simple as this bothered her.

Matters turned for the worse for Jackie. Instead of seeing grumpy Frank or even the mousey Rhys step through the hatch, Eudoxia strided in with a boisterous aura. She asserted her confidence in her step and swerved towards the main console. With a rather lecherous scowl, Eudoxia swooped the map and loudly plopped in the co-pilot’s seat. She examined the map herself. The room sat in silence for a few minutes without a single utterance made. The thick tension kept them on the opposite sides of the cockpit. Jackie refused to move from her chair in fear that the teenager would steal it from her. Even the thought of lifting a finger could set the royal brat into motion.

“Look, I know that you don’t trust me,” Eudoxia started off, “but we need to at least to work together in order to get what we want. Now I know more than ever that you guys are thieves just like the rest of Llamarr, but you guys have a lot more than the rest of the litter. You guys have five hundred thousand sterces on board with you. Sure, you can kill me right now, I don’t blame you.”

Jackie whipped her head to face Eudoxia. The young lady sealed the loud aura and showed a rather reserved side.

“But you won’t do that. I know this because you’re not murderers. Get me to Harvey and half of my fortune in yours. That’s worth more than the ship and then some. Granted, Harvey also owes you. Dulon and Rozlibet Lansit are rather keen on paying their off their family debts. So as long as you do what you’re supposed to do, you’re gonna benefit from this. And don’t worry, the princess is going to pull her own weight. Believe me.”

Eudoxia winked. Jackie started the ship off and in minutes the Fighter was leaving the continent of Varsyl for good. Anchovi had spent too much time in a country that was indifferent towards them and may have only made a few friends in the process in exchange for chickens and a little bit of Frank’s time. Mere minutes into the air and the rest of the team felt the weight of the Blue lifted from their shoulders. There was nobody in the skies to enforce rules. Wherever Sudra may be, Jackie had such a pleasant feeling about the promised land that she smiled out of the blue.

Hours passed without seeing any large body of land below. The Blue was dotted with isles, all supposedly claimed by the waning Varsylian empire, yet Eudoxia was not quite sure who or what lived on those small islands. Of course, none of that concerned her or the prince. The blissful ignorance spewed from the princess’ mouth as she bantered about the peasants and all the Mezze peoples causing a ruckus back in the capital. Apparently there were certain customs that “their” people did not follow, but in reality the merchants were too busy to adhere to such archaic Varsylian standards.

Entertaining the crew, Eudoxia babbled about the misdeeds of the everyone else in Varsylgard, no one was spared. She once cruelly jailed a woman for clashing colors and a pack of children were sent to a detention center for observing the Maker in her pathway. Unamused, Jackie and Frank deferred to their own little group and clandestinely berated the silly girl. Rhys and even Duster listened with open ears, yet the latter dismissed it all as rubbish. As the horrible truths of the crown came out, Anchovi’s arrival in Sudra was sooner than expected.

A gargantuan grin ran across Jackie’s tanned face and her eyes fired up more determined than ever. As the fierce Fighter slowed down and prepared to land itself, the princess halted her tales of terror and jumped out of her seat.

“What? No, we need to go to Densch. That’s where we’ll find Harvey. This is not Densch!”

“Harvey can wait.” Jackie smirked and cautiously lowered the Fighter onto the beachfront. The legs and bottom of the sleek ship touched base with the soft Sudra sands and the boys flew out of the cockpit in excitement. Jackie turned to the defeated Eudoxia and remarked, “When you first mentioned Sudra, I knew that we had to come here. I was told that this place exists. Stories were told to me about the Vodhi Temple.”

“We’re not here for sightseeing,” Eudoxia huffed and crossed her arms. “Remember what I said about working together? This is not working together.”

“Live in the moment, princess. We need to stretch our legs anyways. We’ve been cooped up in the ship for quite some time.”

“You suck. Literally.”

Jackie made her way through the ship in victory. The sound of Frank shuffling from room to room and crashing into chairs and pots and pans rang like music to her ears. Rhys ran around the ship gathering supplies and jackets for everyone. The patient Lucavi carried himself towards the cargo holding area and opened the back door as soon as everyone else clustered around. Pressing the button, the hatch opened to an entirely unfamiliar world. The lukewarm sand was squashed between the rock cliffs and foamy Blue. The Fighter was the only ship parked in the area enshrouded in a dense mist, but the mysticism behind Sudra was absolute and concrete.

Gravitating towards the rocky cliffs that hovered over his head, Frank yelled at Rhys. “Don’t go into the water! You’ll get swept up or some shit will eat ya. I ain’t savin’ ya!”

“C’mon guys. We’ve got a long way up.” Jackie started the trek and made her way to the steps carved into the black stone. She had dreamed of this moment and searched for the truth behind all the stories read to her as a young girl.

While Anchovi hiked the stairs, Eudoxia, still dressed in her navy garb, trailed not too far behind. She abhorred the hike and despised Jackie Simms the pilot for going against the original plan. Sour, Eudoxia wanted to headbutt the person directly in front of her, Frank, off the side of the stairs and back into the sand. No one but Rhys, who was obstructed by the gaunt Frank, had shown her complete kindness. Life seemed unfair, that everyone else was out to get her and she would never reach her goals.

The crew reached the top of the tall stairs and were amazed at the mesa. Mountains steeped far into the heavens and stretched across the horizon. Snow! Frank shuddered at the brisk and wet weather. Patches of snow amassed in piles and Rhys testified that the frozen teardrops were falling from the sky. Mosses of all shades of green dotted the dirt land and even coveted the large slabs of stone. A few wooden huts hugged the base of mountain and there were stairs on all fronts that lead to different paths. Sudra took everyone by surprise to say the least. Anchovi already knew that this was going to be better than Varsyl.

“Remember Ms. Callahan, Frank? She’s the one that lead me to search for this place.” Jackie lead the crew around the vicinity before she ultimately decided to take one of the trails leading into the snowy mountains. Frank and Eudoxia continued their struggle for a few more minutes before both mutually and tacitly deciding to stop in place. The leader of the band continued, “There’s a legend about a wandering soul who traveled across the Blue in search of truth. Not the truths of this world, but something a little, what’s the word, somatic. After the decimation of her family from across the seas--Ms. Callahan wasn’t sure where she was from exactly--she found more than the inner-peace she sought. She co-founded a path of life. Anyways, the stories I’ve heard mentioned that she traveled the seas, yet most of the texts have been long erased describing the entire journey. Sudra is the only remnant of that epic. I have to see the Vodhi carved from the mountainside. If they exist, then this story must be true, right?”

“The what?” Frank scratched his head as they scaled the mountains at lofty pace. The sweat beaded on his forehead and the breaths lived shortly. The cold air thinned and the flurries graced his ruddy face.

“We don’t have time for sightseeing,” Eudoxia growled to herself. She gritted her teeth in retaliation and desperately wanted to leave for elsewhere, anywhere.

“Vodhi is the Sudranese equivalent of the Maker.”

Hopping over a few boulders, Jackie pulled the likes of Rhys, Frank, and even Eudoxia through the tight spaces. The slick rock and the dripping cliffs surrounded the traveling troupe for long stretches. The wintergreen wore a thin layer of frost and grew mighty and tall along the path. The path was kept clear, but by whom team Anchovi would never know. The sculptors continued their masterful steps far into chilly mountain range. The mountain movers cut deep into the sable earth and wound around the solitudinous nature. Everything seemed at peace like the wandering traveler Jackie Simms so admired.

Half an hour had gone by before the ornate onyx decor budded from vermillion wooden posts and the earthen roofs constructed into the mountainside. Duster and Jackie seemed unphased by the temperature lowering while the other half struggled to keep their toes and fingers intact. The leader of the expedition gave the princess her jacket and pushed the caravan's limits. The deeper they went, the more the scene evolved. Ropes and poles held up flags of all sizes and curvaceous lanterns lit along the path.

Eager, Jackie picked up the pace, and before she realized what was happening she was running. The others who panted from the lack of water and air trailed behind in a slow jog. Despite not being in the best of shape, Frank was the one who was keeping up with Rhys, then Duster, and finally poor princess Eudoxia slugging behind. The elevation for the most part did not affect the people from Guten Nocht. Eudoxia gave up on a fit and threw herself back onto the ground. It was only around the corner when Rhys realized that she disappeared and as a result went back to retrieve her.

Frank and Duster eventually met up with Jackie towards the end of the slippery winding path where she stood flabbergasted. In the midst of the moment, the snow flurries died out to the grand flames flanking the mountainside shrine of Vodhi, the Sudranese deity. Crafted from the most flawless piece of stone, Vodhi sat at least thirty feet tall with the apex of his head and sharp shapely ears pointing to the sky. The stoic face which glowed from the mystical fires shot reverence into Jackie Simms’ breast and ignited a flame in her heart. Vodhi’s majestic arms, all eight of them, matched in pairs to craft such intricate hand gestures.

“This was apart of your mind, Jackie. Albeit inaccurate, yet the essence was captured.”

Duster’s noise faded into a gargled echo while Vodhi entranced Jackie. She stared at him with great admiration and his ominous scowl seeped the cosmic knowledge into her head.

[i Those who seek Truth may find the path soiled.]
Finnigan     6y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Gunyiki Sleeping Fever#]

“That mountain was cold! Now I know what the guards meant when they say Sudranese shekme.” Eudoxia shuddered at the fresh memory of the Vodhi temple. Thanks to Jackie’s sheer self-centeredness, the rest of Anchovi had to sleep rather closely to each other in one of the smallest quarters any of them had experienced. At one point, Frank was squished up between Jackie and Rhys because the equally self-centered princess demanded more space. Luckily Duster was able to minimize the amount of space he took by shrinking into a tiny luminescent fairy. “Although, I gotta say those huts were cleaner than any hobble I’ve stayed in Varsyl. Ick.”

The group of five hung around in the cockpit and witnessed the world for what it was. After the long journey up into the mountains, Frank swore off anymore detours and agreed with Eudoxia for once. The trip back to the Fighter was not as bad as he thought except for the brief moments where Frank and Rhys slipped on the thin sheets of ice and scared each other. The scenes were breathtaking with mountains spiking far into the sky, but he preferred enjoying it from the Fighter where he could remain warm and relatively safe from frostbite and whatever other dangers. His cheeks long remained ruddy, the same shade of rosy pink as the tip of his nose.

“What is that?”

Rhys moved towards the front of the ship and pointed towards the faint outlines of the ovular objects. As the Fighter approached, the shapes gained their solid outline and the oval shapes gained their lustrous colors of ruby reds and jagged yellows. The city grew from the mountain range below. The thin stalks of Densch bloomed into flowering steel platforms housing the illustrious air balloons, the ships, and neon lit metropolis. A few of the bowl shaped platforms hovered over the rest of the city, barely hanging on by the steam powered fans who dwarfed humans and the heavy usage of balloons. The snow could only embrace the perimeter of the city.

“Finally!” Eudoxia threw her hands into the air and glared at the pilot, “We’ve made it!”

“You sure we din’t fly elsewhere? This don’t look like Sudra. This place is floatin’ like it’s a bootleg Guten Nocht or somethin’.”

“This is Densch. It was a Varsylian principality before the Sudranese took Varsylian technology and fused their influence to make one of the few cloud cities in the Blue. If you thought that Varsylgard had the best airships, you were wrong. Densch and the high families such as the Lansits are responsible for the boom you see today. Marvelous really.” Eudoxia rolled her eyes as if they were supposed to know the entire history of Sudra. The princess’ mean streak started from the moment they got down from the rough mountainside and continued throughout the day.

Jackie radioed the control stations several times, yet there was no one on the other line. No response. Eerie static filled the air. Between the impatience of the snotty princess and the irksome crew members who feared the consequences with aligning themselves with said princess, Jackie found the nearest platform free of ship and buildings. The back hatch opened and the troupe welcomed themselves to the mystical Sudranese city of Densch. Fog obscured most of the platforms and branching paths, and the red warning lights fuzzed. The humid air stuck to their faces and coats, yet there was a bizarre draft frigidly licking their ankles.

“Alright, how do we find Harvey?” nodded Jackie.

Eudoxia tossed her head back and chuckled a little bit. Dressed in an elaborately decorated black dress that paired well with her frizzy jet black hair, the lucrative princess pointed at Jackie and Frank. “That’s where you two come in. You guys have the honor of being my good luck charms when trouble rears its head around the corner, and Harvey often gets himself into trouble. He’s more than likely going to be at Lansit Landing. Where that is in correlation to here, I’m not sure.”

Duster kept his mouth shut for most of the interactions between the team, but this time he could not help but interject. “Do tell, Princess Eudoxia, what is the full extent of your relationship with Harvey?”

Eudoxia pulled her head away from Duster and her face twisted in disgust and annoyance. Her lip quivered and her mouth shot off. “Look white man. I’m not paying you to ask me questions. Heck. I’m not paying you shit.”

“Quite a vile tongue for royalty.” Duster stood there emotionlessly. Amongst the the humans, the concept of respect was rather archaic. In many ways, the princess and the scruffy outlaw shared many undesirable traits.

“Oh, I’m not your average princess, snow white,” she sneered.

Cruel princess led the quest for Harvey and wandered along the broad winding paths that linked the platforms. These paths had no guard rails, but they had lights on the edges. Anchovi finally reached a platform heavily wearing hot pink and lime green signs. A shopping district perhaps, yet it was awfully empty for the late afternoon. Not a single soul stirred on the “floating” island. Not a single lamp or bulb was lit on the strip, and the doors were locked. Some were even barricaded. They traveled to a ghost town where no one knew their names.

“Is it me, or is it too foggy?” Jackie marched right up to the leader and stepped cautiously. Her eyebrows furrowed and the hairs on the back of her neck stiffened. Sweat dripped from her forehead and she removed the famed jacket from her torso.

“That’s just the steam tech. It all has to go somewhere.” Eudoxia’s eyes scanned the sky for any leads as to where Harvey might be. The feeling in her gut fluttered the truth. The Lansit businessman hid somewhere in the steel crafted jungle. It was the only place that offered him a substantial amount of amnesty from the empires.

“That’s why there’s no snowfall.” Rhys stopped to admire the obscured city. The particles of the coral colored mist tingled his skin and face. The simple boy did not concern himself with Eudoxia’s mission, but found great pleasure in exploring the new places. He wanted to know. Knowledge of nothing, anything, and everything was his first priority. The partial humming of the machinery around him resonated with him as if he had been here here before, or perhaps it had reminded him of Guten Nocht’s mechanical complexity.

Frank and Duster kept an eye on Rhys who stood facing up in the fog. Duster eventually broke off from the two to keep up with the competing Eudoxia and Jackie. Frank faintly smiled to himself and felt as if he was doing a decent job at bringing up Rhys Illumina. [i She would have been proud.] The joyous moment was cut short once a fiery object plummeted from a higher perch and smashed into the path’s edge. Rhys jumped out of his trance and Frank ran to his side. The boy, unharmed, latched onto his older brother and dug his face into his armpit. Frank calmly detached and observed where the object briefly touched. Blood.

“Oh fuck,” was all Frank could say once he saw the boisterous streams of flame jet out from afar and above. They were too short to reach Frank and Rhys, but the number of fiery streams steadily increased. Shortly after, Eudoxia and Jackie ran towards Frank’s direction and the flames followed. “What. The. Hell.”

“Get back to the ship!” Jackie screamed.

She pushed the boys in the direction of the Fighter. Frank and Rhys knew that all the wrong things had happened if Jackie Simms, the bravest and boldest of team Anchovi, was fleeing. Duster, who was in breaking out of his human disguise, fled as well with fire closing in on him. A calamity of footsteps followed behind. The Lucavi and the bio-android both caught a glimpse at their assailants. Men in gas masks and heavy duty flamethrowers. Whoever they were, they were light on their feet despite the copious amounts of armor they wore.

Eudoxia threw out there, “I don’t understand what’s going on! This didn’t happen the last time I came here!”

Anchovi was quite a distance away from the ship, yet their stride was strong. The masks and flames multiplied and the soldiers kept up with the pace. It was not until Duster halting that the rest of the troupe broke away from the mere thought of fleeing. Rhys and Jackie desperately wanted to stop for their friend, but they hesitated in slowing down. Duster nodded at them as a way of saying he had everything in control.

“Run first, talk later. I’ll buy you time.”

Silver disks rampaged and tore through armor as Duster valiantly fought for his crew. The remaining members of Anchovi swerved from one platform to another, yet with each intersection more of the pyromaniacs joined in. Frank and the princess furiously panted, and the sweat doused every inch of their body. Their bodies were already on fire; their muscles burned and tensed up in excitement. The next intersection proved rather fatal. Eudoxia and Jackie shot through a blockade crafted by the pyromaniacs, but a searing stream caught Rhys off guard. The golden haired child stumbled off the path and was saved at the last minute by the diving Frank Dietz.

“Gotcha!”

Looking up at Frank whose smile caught him off guard, Rhys bellowed out with legs dangling below, “Frank, don’t let go! I’m scared! I’m scared!”

The marching of the empirical ants got closer, and scrawny Frank was unable to lift Rhys up with ease and gusto. Jackie slid back to Frank’s side only to remove his revolver from his pocket. The brave fighter took a couple of shots at the crowd before igniting a flamethrower’s tank. The reigning fire consumed some of the hollering men in the dense ruby red suits, but their advances continued. Jackie pulled the both of them to their feet and guarded them from the rear.

“There’s more coming, c’mon guys!”

In the final stretch, Frank was unloading the handful of bullets he loosely stored in his crummy pockets into the torrid crowd and it was enough to get the back hatch of the Fighter to open and close. The muscles of the four humans wanted to scream out loud. Eudoxia, Frank, and Rhys collapsed to the floor for a moment, but it was Jackie who stood firm against the outside force’s banging against the ship and the wooshing of the flamethrowers’ hot licks.

Frank sat up and growled at Eudoxia. “You wanna explain what the Hel that was, girlie?”

“How the fuck was I supposed to know that it was grilling season? Don’t yell at me, you doorknob!” Laying the floor of the cargo hold, she kicked at his body in frustration. This was not the Densch she remembered visiting months ago. Eudoxia never heard of any uprising in Sudra, and surely her mother’s confidants would have mentioned something to her.

“Enough!” Jackie commanded. “Are we all okay?”

“Eudoxia! Your clothes!” Rhys pointed to her black gown that was partially incinerated. Char marks covered some of her skin. “Here, I can treat your burns.”

“What burns?” she asked. Eudoxia searched her entire body for any serious burns, yet she could find none present. If anything, she was more angered that one of her dresses that she had made weeks back was ruined.

“The flames skipped off her shoulders as if they were afraid.” In utter amazement, Jackie gasped. Remembering the very first encounter with the manic pyromaniacs, she witnessed the princess taking an entire blast. Her dress evaporated with the mist and fog, yet the flames never really touched her body.

“I..I’m not sure what happened.” Eudoxia sat there just as speechless with most of her upper torso exposed. The fired had not burned her.

Jackie, slammed against the back hatch in anger before heading up the stairs for the cockpit.

“Where you goin’?”

“Gonna contact with some officials and find what the hell is going on out there.” Jackie averted her attention to Eudoxia and sighed. “We might have to delay this mission.”

The princess was none too pleased with the statement. Even if it was raining fireballs, Eudoxia of Dalme would have trekked her way to Lansit’s Landing. Jackie exited the cargo hold with a shaky stride.

Rhys held his hands together and wished for all the fire to disappear. He muttered to himself, “Duster, please be okay.”

The sturdy Fighter rocked for a bit. From above, lithe tiptoeing pittered against the ship’s sleek exterior. The flames and beatings against the Fighter raged on, but the attacks became more dispersed. Frank tried getting up, but he soon fell back on his back and gave up.

“Errgh, Rhys.” Frank dryly pled for help as his fingertips struggled to find a firm grip against the hold’s surface. His pupils dilated and the stomach churned. Something awful was cooking up in his body and he cried for Rhys’ aid. “Rhys, gotta help me.”

Frank turned to his side and spewed up his stomach onto the floor. Rhys rapidly scampered into one of the chicken stalls and retrieved a bottle of water. Forcing the top to Frank’s lips, the boy poured a small amount of water into his mouth before Frank coughed it back up.

Eudoxia stood up perfectly fine and firmly stated, “He’s been afflicted.”

“With what?”

“Not sure, but I wouldn’t get too close to him. Whatever he has is probably the reason why those maniacs are aiming for us. We might be all infected.”

“I’m not leavin him.” Rhys softly slapped Frank’s cheeks and tried pouring more water down his throat. Frank was conscious, but his activity died out as soon as they got back to the ship. He muttered unintelligibly and even teared up, but Rhys continued to cradle his head. “Frank, c’mon, it’s me, Rhys. Stay with me.”

While Rhys took care of Frank, Eudoxia disappeared elsewhere. It was not long before she sounded off on the intercom.

[b “Rhys, this is Eu. Jackie is down and out too...it looks like it’s just the two of us.”]

Rhys’ body shook in fear. The two people who he sought as older siblings were dying before him and there was nothing he could do. Though he tried to look at things on a more positive note--the pyromaniacs’ barrage died out--Rhys could not help but think about Frank and Jackie’s deaths. He was not sure if he had been infected nor if he could die. Tears formed and the hands shook. Water splashed against Frank’s pale face and the vomit seeped into their clothing.

[i ‘It’s gonna be okay. It’s gonna be okay. They’re just resting. It’s gonna be okay.’]
Finnigan     6y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Wandering Star#]

[b “I don’t know who…[i krrsch]...yiki...I repeat, the mass sterilization throughout…[i krrrrsch]...mptoms include excessive sweating--[i ksch], insomnia, vomitting, bloodshot eyes, [i ksch], death. [i Kst]--wait it out. Wait it out. The upper landi...not been infected [i kssssst]... Department of Customs has reported. Full advisory is in effect. A burn to kill ord...been issued.[i Krssssch.] Abajogadra phelmix [i kst]...he lilac daystar. A potential cure for the airbor--[i kssss]. Bherein moun--[i kssss…]"]

“Well, that settles it. We’re going down.” The princess turned around and nodded at the remaining two members of Team Anchovi: Duster and Rhys.

After hours of surfing the countless radio frequencies, Eudoxia was able to gather enough information on the fiery occurrence. A wicked disease had plagued Densch just a few weeks ago and mustered all its strength to wipe out the entire city. The upper platforms were safe for now, but it was those closest to the Bherein mountain range that suffered the greatest. The princess was none too thrilled at what had to be done. After all, her main objective incessantly pecked her in the back of the head and reminded her of her empty handed goal.

Duster was able to get back into the Fighter through the side hatch after he rightfully warded off the vigorous waves of pyromaniacs. The inferno charred away at his pristine white coat, otherwise Duster was normal. The team’s medic sat between Frank and Jackie’s cold and shivering bodies. Some of the convulsions were erratic with limbs occasionally flailing into the air. The shallow breathing frightened Rhys, yet he had no one’s shirt to cling to.

“I can manage the two of them. Rhys. Despite your…[inadequacies], your biomechanical physiology proves to be immune to many, if not all airborne diseases. I would love to test out this theory, but time is crucial. Well, we’ll see if you come back alive, won’t we.”

Rhys nervously gulped and rubbed his forearm. ‘Thanks Duster.”

The kids of the group suited up for their most dangerous mission yet. Rhys wore his pea green jacket and riding goggles as well as gathered a small pack of medical supplies for the unknown below. Eudoxia changed out of her burnt dress for more casual. Putting on a pair of loose harem pants and a tight yellow top, the teenage princess loaded her pockets with all the various gadgets she’s collected through her solo journeys. Before heading out of the side door, fierce Eudoxia snagged Jackie’s beloved leather jacket. The two scouted out for any members of the cleaning crew before making their way towards the edge of the city.

“How are we supposed to get down there?”

“This.” Pulling a braid of what appeared to be royal blue and white yarn, Eudoxia tied one end of the yarn to the anchor set in place on the edge of the platform and nodded. “The Dalmenian Skein.”

How Eudoxia got her hands on such a rare item, nobody will know, yet at the same time, nobody would care. As she tossed the other end over the edge, the Dalmenian Skein unraveled itself into a wool waterfall that plummeted past Rhys’ expectations. The drop below was long too; the tops of the Bherein mountain range was obscured by the thick clouds. The acrophobia settled in, but it was Eudoxia’s words of encouragement that kept him in the game.

“Just keep a tight grip on it. And whatever you do, don’t look down. Look, I know you’re not a bruiser like the rest of the ship, but you’re gonna do great, Rhys.”

Eudoxia was the first to wrap the countless strings around her arms and rappel off Densch as if it was child’s play. Despite the royal standing, the princess had proven herself to Rhys that she was a survivor. On the other hand, the young boy’s knees shook with indecisiveness. He immediately ran the scenarios through his head and psyched himself out in the moment. What if he went for the wool and stumbled off? What if he accidentally untied it thus sending Eudoxia to her doom?

Taking a few deep breaths of the frigid air, Rhys summoned the same courage Jackie would have inspired and tightly squeezed the Dalmenian Skein. Swiveling his body over the edge, he wrapped his legs around the warm wool and shimmied. Not even for a moment did Rhys’ hold on the wool loosen. The world that he left behind grew in size and in some ways, he appreciated it more. From below, Rhys oggled Densch and had no idea how much green thrived on the platforms. From the angle below, it appeared as if the balloons were lifting the entire city up.

“This is all stunning work. A city built on stalks.”

“Alas, if only I was betrothed to a Sudranese prince. What would it have been to be a princess here. The fashion and the people are all just better. Sudra’s people are so exotic with their chocolatey skin tones and chitzy makeup. Colorful and creative, just like Harvey Lansit.” The teenager ‘s head was well into the skies, especially when she mentioned the opulent and equally pretentious Lansit. She stopped in her descent and made an aside, “There’s nothing going on for Prince Chelon, he’s like the coolest person in losertown.”

“You don’t have feelings for the prince?”

“He’s a monster,” she solemnly put it.

“And what about this Harvey?”


“Well...let’s just say that Chelon and my mother aren’t too pleased with him.”

The prince was attractive in the face, yet it was his charms, or lack thereof, that drove Eudoxia out of the capital and into the rest of the world. Utterly cruel to his servants and the animals alike, Prince Chelon of seventeen years of age defined sinister nature. Princess Eudoxia was rather unsure if the prince truly love her or if she was counted as property.

“I ran away for love. [i Fleeting] love. Harvey doesn’t know it, but he’s gonna marry me.”

With their heads in the midst of thick snow clouds, the two came to keep their mouth closed despite how amazed both of them were. Their lips began to chap and the fingers hardly moved if they strayed too far from the yarn.

“Does he love you?” asked Rhys. The wind started to pick up and the chill tickled his ankles. He could only imagine how Eudoxia was holding up in such thin clothing.

“He’s gonna,” she nonchalantly stated. Obsession of a young woman’s heart, a rather bitter poison unsought by all.

“Whaaaa!”

Shocked by her words and the stinging of the cold air, Rhys’ briefly let go of the skein and stomped on Eudoxia’s shoulder. The princess twisted around the rope before stabilizing stance. The air pushed them closer to the stalk, but it was not strong enough to throw Eudoxia into the steel exterior.

“What was that?”

“Sorry, I...lost grip.”

The kids eventually made contact with the bases of the city. Rhys was captivated by the marvel’s mysterious construction in the midst of the jagged mountain tops. The snow piled against the tall metal stalks and graced the peaks with new powder. The founders of Densch leveled the area that was about two miles wide in diameter. The mountaintops staggered up high around Densch, but the city managed to go above and beyond nature’s limits. Stone lain paths branched from the shallow crater in several direction, thus brought confusion to the duo.

“The lilac daystar…” Eudoxia zipped up the leather jacket and pondered.

“Supposedly this will make everything better once we find some.” Rhys examined all the possibilities before making any motion. Five different paths, and only two of them. The blond haired lad snapped his goggles on and breathed into his hands. The warmth urged him to work fast so he could enjoy soup back at base with the rest of his family.

“We don’t even know if it’s growing in season or how to administer it, but if the reports are true, then we have to find some.” Eudoxia shivered for a bit. Pointing to one of the five paths, Eudoxia began to walk. “Let’s go this way and hope we’ll run into some or at least someone who knows where we can find it.”

The snowfall temporarily garnered more support from the heavy clouds from above and the winds gained speed and gusto against the wanderers. Eudoxia was not sure if she would make it through the blizzard in silence so she struck senseless banter.

“What’s your story?”

“Mine?” Rhys wasn’t sure he had a story.

“Yeah, yours. Who do you think I’d be talking to?” Her olive eyes began to flutter and the rushing snowflakes stuck to her face. She admitted to herself that she was not looking at practicality in her outfit. The blistering winter slowed her tremendously, but she trudged through the deep fluffy snow.

“Well, Frank and Jackie and Duster saved me from this giant spider woman. And then we were chased by robots one night and we happened to land in Varsyl. Oh and--” He suddenly remembered the wavy haired woman with dark skin. Rhys wholeheartedly believed in his heart which said that she was very much alive and kicking. He did not want to bring it up to Frank in fear of setting him off onto a rampaging tirade.

“Duster mentioned something about biomechanical. What does that mean?” She needed Rhys to keep herself awake.

“I’m not entirely sure myself to tell you the truth, Eudoxia. I don’t know much of the world and that’s why I asked if you can teach me how to read and write. I’m really good at observing things, but that’s basically it.”

“Call me Eu for short. Eudoxia is too formal.” Eudoxia, who was struggling without saying a word, latched onto the young boy and laid her head onto his. “And I’ll help you, with whatever you need. Reading and writing is gonna be easy.”

It wasn’t long until they trekked out of the dense clouds’ vast reach and met with something rather marvelous that would bring anyone to tears. Eudoxia gasped and clutched her chest as winter blew past her. Spring, both in season and in form, ran across the valley hidden in the heavens. The clear sparkling stream flowed without disturbance. Pastel pink flowers bloomed across the vibrantly yellow-green valley untouched by snow.

“Don’t you ever miss home?” Breathing in the refreshing air and shedding his jacket and goggles, Rhys smiled.

“Never. I love being out here by myself. I can be who I want to be out here, and I don’t need my mother hawking over me. Just look, Rhys, how could I ever miss home when this exists before my eyes? How about you?”

“The Fighter is my home. It’s all I’ve really known. I think I have a really awesome...family.”

The two ran down the hillside to be in the middle of the scene. The flowers brushed against their calves and the children were laughing. Rays of light pierced through the cloud coverage and greeted Rhys and Eudoxia with an open arms. The warmth sank into their skin, their bones. Neither wanted to leave so soon and in the moment they forgot about the lilac daystars. They forgot about Frank, Jackie, and the rest of Dench.

After settling down a bit from the excitement, Eudoxia continued the discourse and pointed out, “You don’t want to get too accustomed to them, Rhys. One of these days you’ll grow to appreciate the solitude that comes with adulthood. Unfortunately, I was born into a family that never granted me that pleasure. The guards always sulked around the corner, and the endless meals with ‘friends’. Let me not forget that. Don’t trust anyone but yourself.”

Discouraged by Eudoxia’s persuasion, Rhys held onto his friends. Scratching his head and finding the right words, the thought of bringing Eudoxia, someone who has recently gotten close to him, into the team rang with him. He sought a situation where he could keep both. “But I can trust Frank and Jackie. They’ve always been there for me. And I trust you too. Sometimes you need friends to lean on.”

“My mother and father were always there for me, but they chose what I wore, who I hung out with, and what I could and couldn’t do. The friends I thought I had were nothing but pawns in the bigger political game. My mother is trying to marry me to her late second husband’s son. Blood and bonds run thin.” Eudoxia frowned and confused Rhys even further with her random jabs.

A lonely cavern opening sat on the other side of the open valley. Large boulders scattered across the duo’s opposite end with remnants of cloth and metal dotting the verdant hill. The materials were obliterated and stained with blood. Eudoxia followed the trail of random bones up to the cavern where something most foul was happening. Rhys urged her to turn back, but the violent shrills that echoed into the peaceful valley and dying strands of flame which wailed caught her attention. Brandishing her dagger, Eudoxia stepped back from the damp cave and waited for trouble to reveal itself.

A higher shrill knocked Rhys onto his bottom and his eyes widened in absolute terror. Two sets of arms peered out of the darkness before the human faced beast revealed itself. Adorned in golden bands and painted by the blood of its victims, the giant stood out of the cave eight feet high. It strung a series of severed heads around its thick neck and trunk. It’s nails, dyed black lacquer, dug into the earth. A demon unfamiliar to the kids took one step forward and laughed at their trembling. With one sniff, it could sense their terror.

“That ain’t human.”

“Eu-Eudoxia, I...can’t move.”

“Rhys, run.” Eudoxia mumbled. “Get back to the ship and save Frank and Jackie.”

[i ‘Are you strong enough to cut down whatever, whoever stands in your path, Eudoxia? Of course not.’]
Finnigan     6y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Rakhosen#]

Letting out a boisterous shout, Eudoxia thrusted her brandished dagger. The blue skinned demon who trumped the princess in height nonchalantly swatted her across the field. With a loud thud, the airborne Eudoxia fell on her back grunting and huffing for air. Rhys cried out to her and as he ran for her, the fierce Rakhosen flung him across the green valley.

“Presumptuous girl,” the Rakhosen growled. It had the same black curly hair as Eudoxia and the same physical features as humans, yet the air around it screamed violently. When the monster grabbed ahold of Rhys, he felt its warmth radiating into his calf and for a brief moment it crawled through his skin. The blood from the severed heads dripped onto the bulbous feet, thus staining what cloth covering its loins.

Eudoxia had never encountered a being like this before. Terrified at the abomination of what she thought as witchcraft, she timidly asked, “You can speak?”

“Humans believe that they’re the only ones to walk this earth and speak in tongues. Roam my realm and your head will join my growing collection.”

He advanced, but it was Rhys who temporarily halted him from moving any further. The young boy tenaciously jabbed the thick skinned gigas with a syringe. Injecting him with what peroxide he had in his medical, Rhys quickly limped away before the gargantuan man punted him in the backside. Rhys flew a few yards before his face dug into the damp earth.

“Rhys!” Crying out for her friend, Eudoxia struggled to get back up, but the monster approached her rather quickly. “You blue bastard!”

The princess rolled underneath the Rakhosen’s grasp and between his dry knees. Her dagger seared through the inner calf once and in the back of the knee twice. The monster yowled as it fell to one knee, but it pushed through the pain and crawled for the enfeebled Eudoxia. Just as the Rakhosen dived, it snatched Eudoxia by the leg. The same warmth Rhys felt wrapped around her limb. Her assailant pulled her leg from underneath and Eudoxia fell into the earth as well as the monstrosity got back to its feet. Pleased with such a pretty figure, the Rakhosen chuckled in excitement and examined her closely.

“You are too pale to be from the clouds. You’ll do well in my collection.”

In its peripheral vision, the blue giant spotted a figure cloaked in white with shimmering gold accents. She appeared in a flash without anyone know who she was and where she was from. The Rakhosen lowered the princess, just barely hovering her over the ground. There was a calm demeanor in her eyes, yet in her left arm she held a long straight blade with the utmost confidence. With her free arm, she pulled back her hood and revealed such dark skin.

“A woman or another demon?” snarked the monster.

“Why don’t we wait and find out on that.”

Eudoxia fell to the ground as the monster jumped forth for the new challenger. The princess, annoyed at both the monster for dropping her without poise and the stranger for her interjection. Her fists tightly wound up and pounded the floor once she got a better look at the new person. The seething anger overtook her as she witnessed the battle unfolding.

[i ‘You!’]

The woman in white’s mastery over the sword was impeccable. She was able to match blow for blow with the Rakhosen’s claws as if she anticipated all of its feral moves. Jumping to the sides and back, the swordswoman sweat not a drop. She swooped under each attack and juked and feinted each step like a summer Varsylian waltz. In such flowing clothing, the stranger put on a show that both Eudoxia and the downed Rhys could enjoy. The light silk flowed through the valley’s breezy air; she was flying before all their eyes. The monster fumbled time to time and struggle to match her agility.

When it was time for her to go on the offensive, the woman in the white wardrobe hopped a few yards back chanting words to herself. Wipping her long braids back, she held her blade and her free hand before her with morale. From the base of her sword, fire erupted and engulfed the steel. Instead of driving the sword directly into the monster, she knelt to the floor with the searing blade at her side. Small particles of earth and grass levitated around her. There was something definitely magical about the stranger, and it only fed into Eudoxia’s frustrations even more. The spellblade sprinted and valley behind her erupted. Dirt, rocks, flowers, and grass flew into the air and she dashed for the Rakhosen. The monster swiped for her, but she juked the other way around and swiped along its ribcage.

The monster fell to its knees once more howling in excruciating pain. The flames from her black sword disappeared and slowly bloomed outside of the Rakhosen’s gaping wound. Trying to shake the flames from the body, it roared and called her out on unfair sorcery. Loud thuds echoed throughout the valley. Its incessant stomping crushed the flora. It’s belt and necklace of bloodied heads fell off as the monster wailed louder than ever. It blindly ran for the stream, but the huntress quickly put an end to its miserably short life. Flying to its shoulder, she ran her blade across its neck and bled the Rakhosen out. The blue gigas fell backwards and sank into the earth. Skin, flesh, and bone withered without a notice at an alarming rate, and only its loincloth and a bag remained.

“Witchcraft at its finest,” the stranger said to herself.

Eudoxia fiercely approached her savior yet couldn’t find the words to say. The stranger acknowledged her presence, but did not say anything before the princess could rambunctiously utter, “You!”

“Out of all the unimaginable places that you could ever be in the Blue, my princess, I find you in the worst of times.” She sheathed her sword and knelt before Eudoxia. The princess despised formalities, especially with people she had no respect for. The woman in white nodded at the princess and got back up.

“You!” Eudoxia screamed, unable to say anything else, “You…”

“Yes, princess?”

Slowly discovering more words from the vernacular, the gaudy princess sneered, “I didn’t ask for your help.”

“Yes, I know that, Princess Eudoxia, but I’m here on the city’s request.” The dark skinned lady noticed the dagger in Eudoxia’s hand. “I see that you kept my gift to you. It means a lot.”

“You know her?” Rhys struggled along to catch up with Eudoxia and the graceful dancer of swords. Nodding in her direction, Rhys was ever so gracious towards her. “Thanks for saving us.”

“Don’t thank her, Rhys.” Eudoxia nearly replicated the same grunt Frank usually did. Rhys held back his laughter, and the princess focused on the still unnamed woman. “You! I have so much to say to you!”

“Oh? Please, tell me what’s on your mind.”

“Why did you leave?”

Without any tell, Eudoxia fell into the lady’s silk and bosom. She sobbed uncontrollably and wrapped her arms around her waist. The lady with the toned arms embraced Eudoxia in returned and rubbed her top of her frizzy head.

Looking back up, Eudoxia demanded. “Answer me!”

“Princess, you were an excellent student, but sometimes we were brought in at the wrong place, time, and standing. Please take my word that I rather enjoyed teaching you my customs and technique,” she remarked sincerely.

“Lies! Why must you speak such tall tales?” Eudoxia backed out of the woman’s reach and shook her head. Sniffling, she violently accused with fingers and words. “You’re disappointed in my inability to use magic! I’m sorry that not all of us can be born a Kaf. I’m sorry I was brought into this world in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with such high standing, Maestra! These are things I cannot control.”

Refusing to add fuel to the fiery Eudoxia, the woman kept cool and held out her hands for Eudoxia. She kept all the hurt inside and instead tried to reason with Eudoxia like an adult. “With such sour tongue, Eudoxia, you believe that I have abandoned you for faults you had no control over. Shallow I am not. The situation I refer to cannot be spoken at this moment. It goes beyond you and me and possibly the entirety of the Blue. A manipulator of man by the name of Kal Ser--”

“The fibbing can stop now, Maestra. I am not a child and I’m not the naive girl you left behind.” Zipping up Jackie’s jacket, she sought comfort in its warmth. “I’m a woman.”

“Hm. I apologize if my words came off as patronizing,” she nodded.

Looking to break up the current heated situation and reminding Eudoxia of their original goal, Rhys chimed in. “Where is this lilac daystar?”

“If my sources are accurate, they should be on the other side. Follow me.”

The group of three traveled without saying much to each other. The stranger led the way, Eudoxia grumpily followed, and poor Rhys limped behind. Namely, the stranger was giving out facts pertaining to the hulking blue man they encountered. The Rakhosen, as legend had put it, was living dark magic that a disenchanted Sudranese sorcerer put together. People feared the Rakhosen and it was first defeated millenia ago by a wandering vagabond. Every couple hundred of years, the Rakhosen would reincarnate from the earth to terrorize the natives of the country. The leader of the group pointed out that the two of them would have died if she did not intervene at the right time. Eudoxia rolled her eyes in return.

Going through the Rakhosen’s cavern, Rhys sped up his walk to be next to Eudoxia. The wet tunnel was lit by torches and decorated in a simple fashion. Beast hides hung from the wall by nails and the Rakhosen fixed a bed on the side. Eudoxia pondered on the question if magic had intelligence and if the monstrous humankind showed empathy. She cut herself off from such thoughts and believed she was thinking too much into the situation of a beast.

Walking out of the tunnel, the three were met by more nature. It was nearly a mirror of the other valley, but with a small glistening pond in the middle of valley dotted with royal purple flowers. A forest of rich pine trees planted their roots on the other side of the valley. Rhys and Eudoxia made their way towards the pond and basked in nature’s glory. Knowing that they’ve found the cure, they picked from the tufts of purple flowers with loud laughter ensuing. The woman took her time to catch up. She smiled in their bliss.

“When you thought you couldn’t get anymore excited,” Eudoxia cheerfully said. She zipped from one patch to another to form a healthy bouquet.

“That’s the beauty of the world, princess. If you step out of the castle walls, you might see more than the tops of angry merchants and soldiers. There are lands to be stepped on and many more undiscovered. Maybe this young boy has done more for you than I have.”

“Believe me, some places aren’t worth an utterance. This though, is...nothing short of real beauty.”

After a brief moment to snack on Rhys’ supplies, the crew of the Anchovi started their journey back to Densch.

The lady called out to them, “We’ll take the Fa Malandi back.”

Grabbing enough flowers to fill up Rhys’ pack and the woman’s long shawl, the trio returned back to the middle of their path and spotted a personal ship parked. It got the stranger places, but Rhys would never exchange it for the Fighter. The crimson and golden balloon and the six propellers managed to lift all three of them into the air. Though shaky, Rhys was amazed with the untouched valleys. He couldn’t wait to tell Frank and Jackie about it all. He couldn’t wait to see them up and causing trouble. Discreetly staring at the lonesome princess, he had to thank her for going out of her way to save people who felt indifferent towards her.

[i ‘This sure beats taking the rope back up.’]

Landing next to the Fighter, the woman allowed the two to disembark with enough lilac daystar to cure the crew several times over. Royalty did not think twice to look back at the Fa Malandi and shrugged off any of Rhys’ enthusiasm.

“Let the petals seep in hot water for five minutes and have them drink from the cup. With all the flowers I’ve collected, Densch shall return to normal in weeks. Please do take care until next time, princess, and forgive me for my absence. Until we meet next time, be well.”

“Wait! What’s your name?” Rhys begged to know the name of the woman. He idolized her prowess and kindness. He thought Eudoxia was lucky to have her as a mentor.

“Excuse me! And princess, were you ashamed of your Maestra?” She teased the princess who was too tired to pay attention. Eudoxia just continued for the Fighter while Rhys stared her down with most admiration. Standing aboard her ship most valiantly, the woman with the amazing arms and deep skin responded, “I am Oe. It was a pleasure meeting you, Rhys. Please take care of Princess Eudoxia.”

[i ‘I am strong, Oe. I don’t need Rhys or you for protection.’]
Finnigan     6y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Gastronaut#]

Frank slammed his fists into the dining table. Frustrated at what luck he and the rest of Anchovi has been having, he stared into the murky brown drink and wished he had some of the spicy milk tea the people of Densch so enjoyed. That had real flavor, but none of the villagers were kind enough to spare him any lately. The kick at the end of every gulp reminded him of home, reminded him of the arid wasteland called Last. Of course, nothing on Guten Nocht could ever replace the daring flavors of Sudra. The people could not afford to spend too much of their resources for something so rich and tasty.

Pushing the cup off disgusting coffee away, Frank’s furrowed eyes caught the attention of Princess Eudoxia and his best friend Jackie. With much annoyance to his voice, he voiced, “Two months and we haven’t been able to get through the front gates.”

Nearly two and a half months since he and Jackie were cured of the Gunyiki Sleeping Fever. Thanks to the brave efforts of Eudoxia and Rhys in tandem with Duster’s stalwart performance of keeping two bodies stabilized, Frank and Jackie recovered faster that the majority of Densch. Within a few days, Frank was able to wobble out of bed and yell vicariously at the younger crew members. At the time, he expressed his inner geriatric. He shook his fist and for a while he had the hardest time hearing anything snarky coming from Eudoxia’s plump lips.

Within two days, Jackie was up and about the ship at the strangest time. She managed to elude even Duster during the nights and rummaged through the pantry for food. The hunger was real. She managed to go through a shelf every night until there were only a few shelves stocked. Neither of the kids dared to step outside because they feared that the flamethrowers still roamed the city as safe measure, yet they hadn’t had the slightest clue as to where all the food was going. Luckily, Jackie came to her sense and ended her manslaughter on the waning cabinets.

“And there’s two more after those,” Jackie sighed.

She stirred around the eggs on her plate. Lifeless. Bland. Grey. Despite owning the stomach that ingested everything in its path, the glutton was unable to cook as well as Eudoxia or even Frank. In all honesty, she relied the rest of the town back on Nocht to keep her well fed. She grilled meat before, but it was usually based on a fluke that it turned out delicious. Frank was completely convinced that the gourmand actually lacked taste buds.

The combined efforts of Eudoxia, Frank, Jackie, and Duster proved to be futile. The infiltration attempts on the Magnuze’s shipyard ended in embarrassment. There were guards stationed around every other post in the perimeter and the iron-wrought gates stretched twice as high as any of the members of Anchovi. The billy clubs pounded some sense even into the arrogant Frank Dietz who was always gung-ho about everything. With persistence, the guards forcefully escorted Eudoxia off the premises and blocked all attempts to see Harvey Lansit. For a good three weeks, the merchant never left the mighty Magnuze.

“Girlie, he knows that you’re in town. He don’t want nothin’ to do with ya.”

“Thanks, mister obvious,” Eudoxia rolled her eyes and flipped her hair into Frank’s space. Despite her best efforts at trying to make amends with the Frank, the two clashed and fought in tiny squabbles. For the most part, the rest of the crew found it entertaining.

Frank pushed back his chair and scrunched up his nose in retaliation. He did not allow himself to snap at the princess. After all, she went through all that trouble to save his sorry behind. At this point in his life, he grew tired of all the “whoopins” he’s received throughout the months. He thought life down here would be better for him. He longed for a winning streak. Heck, he’d go to church more if the streak lasted several seasons at a time.

“I’m just tired of gettin’ mah ass kicked all the time. I want there to be one day where I ain’t bein’ thrown back onto the streets for doin’ absolutely nothin’.”

“We require a new approach to this situation, Eudoxia. The guards have been able to catch us at every angle and entrance,” Duster stated as his eyes continually stared down the silent Rhys. His head would turn both clockwise and counterclockwise like an owl, yet the perturbed Illumina said nothing about it.

“Then what? We already went with the disguise approach. And Lansit Landing? Dulon and Rozlibet are stricter than he is about security. Not even a fly could buzz on through without anyone noticing. We need to keep on trying.” The pessimism exuded from her pores too early into the morning. The princess’ low voice generally brought the thieving couple down.

Duster quickly jerked his head towards Eudoxia’s space. Hovering over her, he sharply remarked, “What we need are new ideas.”

The number of beatings badly bruised his ego too much. He could not suffer through another loss. Frank thought about taking up new hobbies, but then he cycled through them all with very little thought. None of them were too manly, and a lot of them sounded atrociously boring.

“I say we just wait. There’s no use in tryin’ when we’ve tried it all.”

Jackie snapped her fingers. A light bulb must have went off.

“Frankie might be onto something, Euey.”

“Ugh.” She hated that nickname. [i Euey.] It was worse than Frank’s patronizing “girlie”.

“I am?” Frank sat back up in his chair. He liked it when he was right, even if it was his best friend validating him.

“The Lansits own Densch, basically, but the skies? The Fighter owns the skies. Nothing outspeeds my baby.” Jackie chuckled and rubbed her hands together as if she had already done the deed. She reveled in victory all too soon.

Eudoxia then asked, “What if he never leaves? What if Densch is his last stop before he marries some Sudranese princess? Hello, I’m not paying you guys to sit on your asses.”

“Well, until then we’ll just bask in all the fruits the city has to offer. Once the Magnuze takes off though, he’s ours. We’ll be out of the city limits before anyone really notices our disappearance. And you’ll be face to face with him in twenty-four hours guaranteed.” The airhead stood out of her chair with her fists at her hips. She guffawed hysterically like the heroes in the cheaply made Densch comic books she glossed over the other day.

“Pfft.” The princess simply waved off Jackie’s presence like one of her typical peasant handmaidens. She hated when people were more idealistic than she was. Eudoxia saw it as a waste of time. The more she hung around the ship, the more she thought about finding a different band of idiots to boss around.

Shifting into a more serious tone, Jackie leaned over the table and met eye to eye with the sultry eyed princess. With the utmost confidence ever seen in Jackie Simms, she bolstered, “I can land this ship on the Magnuze and I’ll personally deliver you to him.”

Intrigued with Jackie’s moxie, the teenager bit her tongue and a smidge of smile escaped. This was the kind of thinking she took pleasure in. This is who she was looking for.

“I’ll have to take you up on that offer.”

As the girls were flirting with eyes and mouth, Frank threw up in his mouth a little bit and excused himself from the table. He needed to find something to keep himself occupied, but what? He searched high and low on the kitchen side of the ship and saw nothing but pans with burnt eggs. Everyone had a shot at making their own eggs, but only his turned out decent. Jackie’s eggs turned into a burnt mush. Rhys’ were bland and mostly out of the pan. Duster’s eggs ran too runny. Eudoxia gave up halfway when she realized she had more shell in hers than she really wanted. Frank’s were cooked to perfection despite the slight mishap with the salt. Too salty.

After scanning one half of the room, the disgruntled vagrant spotted the heaping pile of fresh vegetables and fruits lying next to the side hatch. “Hmph, while y’all idle ‘round, I’m gonna look at all this produce them happy villagers gave us. Figure I’d do some sort of cookin’ since I’m tired of gettin’ my ass beat.”

The grump mosied to the kitchen area and observed all his tools first. Everything was filthy and unwashed. He had to give it to his crew to maintain the status quo around here. Frank stated several times that messes belong in the private quarters. Despite being a slob sometimes, Frank abhorred a filthy common space. He insisted that someone else cleaned it. He turned around and inspected his potential victims. The girls were too into their conversation and the abnormal amount of sass would only surmount in a rebellion. Rhys was a likely candidate, but he had promised to take care of the chickens right after breakfast.

“Duster!” Frank hoarsely called out, “git over here and clean these damn dishes!”

Duster, who was watching the girls intentively, immediately rose from his seat and floated to Frank’s side. In an attempt to make light of Frank’s gray attitude, the bland voiced Lucavi droned, “Frank, do you want to hear a joke? Why didn’t the melons get married?”

“I don’t give a rat’s ass!” The fumigated dismissed Duster’s attempts.

“No...it’s because--”

Before he could finish the punchline, Frank shoved a scrub brush and a pan into Duster’s hands. Overly dramatic, Frank stormed to the other side of the room and squatted next to the vibrant pile. The choices were endless. The corn came in several different colors ranging from yellow to red to multicolored and blue. The myriad of bean, lentil, and nut baskets intimidated him. Fennel, endive, radicchio. Blue beet, red beet, black and gold. Peaches with and without fuzz. The sweet and sometimes sour pluots rolled away from the pile in varying degrees of color and tanginess. The greens? There were far too many for him to choose.

A new journey awaited the adventurous grump. He took a handful of ingredients: peaches, dandelion greens, raisins, green tomatoes, onion, garlic. He walked over to the kitchen area to plop it all on the pristine counter. Now the knife. Knife. Knife? Where was the knife? Frank shirked at Duster and scowled once he found out the Lucavi’s reflection mesmerized the Lucavi. Without any retaliation, the cook snatched the knife away from him. Duster was dumbfounded for a brief moment in his life, but then resumed cleaning the kitchen area as if nothing happened.

Observing each and every ingredient up close, he hesitated on the cutting them. They were almost too perfect and miraculous to bisect. He admired every groove and contour of each produce. The textures tingled against his rough hands and the faint aromas puckered his bony cheeks. He had to explore even further. The green tomato was his first target. Supple to touch, the ripe tomato smooth skin intrigued him. The knife glided through the flesh and the gushy innards slowly spilled onto the cutting board. Cutting out a sliver, bold Frank took the piece and tossed it into his mouth. The sweetness prolonged the tightness in his weary face. The wetness of the tomato weirded him out at first, but he appreciated the different textures of the outside skin, the gushy parts, and the fleshy “skeleton”.

While Frank spent countless hours in the kitchen, the rest of team Anchovi broke off into their daily activities. Eudoxia spied outside the Magnuze’s home for any signs of movement. Jackie began what maintenance on the Fighter from the outside. Duster roamed the streets for human interaction. Rhys stayed inside and cared for the chicken couple. It was Frank who worked the hardest though, tasting anything and everything that Densch offered him. He had to thank Eudoxia and Rhys for saving the entire city from the disease or else he would not have access to all the expensive foods.

The wrinkled and sunburnt face calmed with every adventure under the knife. Frank had to stop in the middle of it all because he found himself smiling. He vowed that no one should ever catch him smile, especially over food. These indescribable feelings would scare anyone surely. This would be his own secret. After the sampling of basically everything and finding out what flavors he enjoyed the most, Frank moved to the fridge and took out a small cut of beef. He would start from what he knew: chicken stew.

The entire afternoon enveloped in potent smells. Hearty and warm, the savory aroma of the stew allured quite the crowd. Of course, Jackie was the first to sit at the table. Then Rhys. Then Eudoxia. Finally Duster who felt left out in the shadows. Ladling some of his stew into small bowls, Frank handed them out.

“Here, eat this.”

The princess was none too pleased with the peasant dish set before her. It wasn’t specially prepared for her on a silver platter nor did it have all the vibrant colors she enjoyed. Instead, there were chunks of meat, carrot, potato, and bell pepper sitting in a brown sauce. She was appalled.

Pushing back the bowl, she glared at Frank. “What? I’m not eating this. You cooked it.”

“Just eat it.”

Before Jackie took a bite out of her bowl, she snatched Eudoxia’s and happily cheered, “I’ll eat it!”

The masticator devoured the entire contents of the bowl in a few bites. She sat back for a bit and thought about it, a first for the gluttonous pilot. Her eyes lit and she jumped with excitement in her chair.

“Wow! Where did you get this recipe? That was delicious, Frank!”

Frank modestly shied away and explained that it derived from the chicken stews he used to make in Last with the substitution of beef cutlet instead of chicken. Of course, he added more ingredients like the yellow onion and cloves of garlic. After gathering Rhys’ approval of the first dish, Frank brought out the second dish which he observed on the streets. It was rice flavored with such exotic spices with raisins and peach bits peppered in. He served a bowl to everyone except for the finicky princess.

“Wait…” Eudoxia’s stomach rumbled. The waft of warm foods finally intrigued her and she had to take back her thoughts on the peasant food. Swallowing her pride before dinner, she muttered lowly, “Lemme have some.”

Frank smirked and took out a hidden bowl made especially for the princess. She exhaled before dipping her fork into the pilaf. Pulling the fork to her face, she secretly blew onto the forkful and slowly consumed the rice in shame. Eudoxida felt lowly for berating Frank’s ability to cook. In fact, she took great pleasure in the rice dish that it cheered her up.

“[size8 It’s good.]” Eudoxia didn’t want to give in.

“Hm? Did you say somethin’?” Frank chuckled.

“It’s good.”

“Aha!”

“Yeah, yeah,” her sass snapped into place. “You got some skills, Frank, but don’t get too cocky!”

Sparking a playful argument, Frank retorted, “just be glad we’re feedin’ ya!”

“Oh yeah? Well, you got me to thank for that food you’re cooking!”

“Hey, hey, hey, Rhys over here also saved the day. I’m cooking his share of the harvest!”

Frank and Eudoxia went on for the remainder of the delicious supper while the other three could not help but enjoy themselves with such delightful dishes. In the kitchen, Frank found his calling. If he stepped out more, he could get used to Densch.

[i ‘Ain’t no need to pull out my pistol or push no boxes. Is this what it means to be happy?’]
Finnigan     6y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #The Great Magician#]

“Guys!”

The side door to the Fighter swung open. It was Eudoxia with her nails digging deep into her chest. She gasped for some air for a while before saying another word or stepping in. Sweat dripped from her nose. Dirt clung to her feet and pants.

Frank turned around to acknowledge the princess right before he went back to the iron skillet pan. His dish needed more of the strong basil. His lanky shoulders hunched up to his ears. The distractions only grew in number.“Hm? Don’t distract me while I’m cookin’. I think I’m onto somethin’. I know I’m on to somethin’”

“We have to leave now,” she let out. Eudoxia approached Jackie and confidently nodded.

“Now?” Jackie asked. She had taken her attention off of Frank whom she was pestering about lunch. Frank had gotten too much into the vegetables and fruits in his dishes that Jackie demanded more meat. The princess’ plea appeared dire.

“The Magnuze. It’s taken off.”

Jumping for joy, Jackie shouted, “Alright, this has been the excitement we’ve been looking for!”

Frank, Rhys, and to an extent Duster all jolted out of their skin. While Duster simply oggled Jackie, the other two gave a face of great disdain. While Anchovi as a whole took great pleasure in the town, it was the male kind that embraced it the most. Frank searched the streets for new recipes to add to his cooking diary. Anything and everything that the natives of Densch said, he furiously wrote down. Three weeks had passed since he found his true calling, and since then, he made it a mission to try all his suggestions. He had garnered a small cult following as well because of his strange accent and odd interest in Sudranese cuisine. The fellow cooks initially thought he was patronizing their dishes.

Besides cleaning the dirty dishes and maintaining the upkeep of the Fighter, Duster would often wander the platforms in disguise to get a better understanding of Densch culture. He’d even modify his appearance a few shades darker and add a few more colors to his wardrobe. The walking anomaly even weirded out the people of both Varsylian and Sudranese descent. He studied their walk which only reinforced the Lucavi’s head-first strut. He eagerly laughed at the most inappropriate times, but he tried his best to figure it all out. What he learned was that these people with giant hearts easily forgave his queer lifestyle.

Rhys benefitted the most on his solo journeys. Whereas both Frank and Eudoxia failed to teach him how to read and write, the Sudranese scholars gave the boy a chance, a very harsh chance. With Frank and Eudoxia’s obsessions occupying their time, Rhys wound up at a temple who pitied his poor upbringing. The devouts prayed for soul and introduced him to the alphabet, and so Rhys ran with it. They gave him a book of passages pertaining to the Maker, and he studied through the night and day. During the evenings, he would wander through the markets and ask strangers to explain words to him. Like Duster, there was nothing more he wanted than to be human.

Trying to get through the fear of rejection, Rhys squeaked, “Right now though?”

“Now.” Eudoxia nodded.

The rest of Anchovi was not exhilarated as the princess and the pilot. Jackie rallied the crew and spoke the blunt truth. “Look, I know that you guys are just beginning to enjoy yourself in Densch, but we’ve made a deal with Euey. We’re getting paid to help a friend out. The faster that we help her, the faster we will be back here. Plus, Anchovi does not spend enough time in a place to enjoy it. We’re drifters. Now let’s get a movin’.”

Not one body stirred or made a motion for take off that was not Jackie or Eudoxia. Frank shrugged it off, Rhys dug his nose into his book, and Duster stared aimlessly at the females. Disappointed in their attitudes, the women made their way up to the cockpit. On the way, Eudoxia was touched by Jackie. The word “friend” kept on ringing in her head. Were they friends because of money? Or just simply because Eudoxia saved her? She was not wholly convinced that their friendship was legitimate. Even the princess knew that she rubbed against the common folk all the wrong ways.

Within minutes, the ship soared straight into the sky. The boys, the food, and the loose cups on the dining table floated in midair. Rhys quivered at the sudden movement and nervously chuckled. His stomach churned in tandem with Frank’s. The rumbles in their belly roared, yet the two could not help themselves but laugh it off. The Fighter shot off and out of Densch’s sight. Finding a bustling city with good natured people was just too good for Anchovi. Eudoxia’s mission was going to drive them out of any permanent happiness they could ever get their hands on.

The Fighter, also known by the girls as the Sky Hound, sniffed out its target within the first thirty minutes, but Jackie was cautious enough to slowly tail the mighty Magnuze from afar. After assuming that the crew of the Magnuze did not spot the Fighter or had any weapon capabilities on high alert, the pilot drove right above the floating propellers and giant balloon.

“I’m impressed,” Eudoxia jeered. They were actually floating right above the Magnuze. She could not believe it. She felt Harvey Lansit’s presence. She knew he was directing this ship and residing within its metal frame.

“Pfft, child’s play, Euey.” Jackie swiveled her chair to the monitor with four different views. With a joystick and a click of several buttons, the ace pilot shot several wires across the length of the Magnuze. These wires latched onto heavily rotating propellers’ base. With the greatest handling, she eased the sleek aircraft onto the black balloon and parked.

The girls mosied on down to the cargo hold and the rest reluctantly followed. Strapped with eyewear and coats, Anchovi prepared for the chilling blast of the rushing wind. The loud wailing of the sky filled the hold. The giant chickens burrowed deeply into the their mounds of hay to escape.

“Stay here, Rhys-e-sweets. We should be back momentarily. It’s your job to guard the ship and make sure no one but us gets back on.”

Rhys, who was somewhat excited to see the magnificent construct, groaned. He wondered how he was supposed to stop anyone from getting in.

“Just how are we supposed to stay grounded and get inside if these winds are g’darn too powerful?” Frank yelled from the top of his lungs. He thought to himself that maybe they should have figured this all out before opening the doors.

“Magic.”

Eudoxia, who everyone thought was insane at this point, stepped out of the ship without a problem. It was as if her body was protected by an invisible barrier. Her hair was not blown back nor did her attire get torn off. No one from Nocht knew exactly how magic was going to solve all this or what it’s role was in keeping them alive. Jackie shortly followed without hesitation or consequence. Frank nervously looked at Duster who seemed to fix his eyes on him.

“Frank, do you want me to hold your hand?”

The gunman was not amused and stormed off onto the balloon. Duster followed with Rhys looking at the crew with discontent. The back door shut as Anchovi reached the doors leading to the Magnuze’s belly. The doors opened for the uninvited guests and as soon as they walked inside, they sealed away the windy roars. Frank stopped to catch his breath, for he feared that he would be the unlucky one to vanish into the open blue skies.

“This already seems like a bad idea.”

“Shhh, Frank, or else we’re gonna leave you back on the ship with Rhys.”

It wasn’t a bad idea, but he did not want to risk going out there again. In all honesty, he would rather have Rhys take his position if it guaranteed his safety. He continued though; he had a strong feeling that Jackie would never let it go if he turned around. [i Chicken shit.] The short path eventually lead them to the inside of the Magnuze’s balloon. Despite the plump exterior of the Magnuze, the ship was more structured than any of them really knew. The metal frames arched over their heads and beneath their path. The best metalwork resided in the ship and the engineering was impeccable. The belly of the beast quietly ran as if it was not flying through the skies.

On a lower platform, men in blue jumpsuits maintained the ship and inspected every meter. Curious Anchovi noticed that the men guarded a revolving machine. It intensely glowed and the rings spun around the light.

“It’s the same technology found in the Fighter,” Jackie reminded them.

Frank nodded. Jackie one time explained how it all worked, but it went over his head. “One of them magitech cores.”

“Several of them actually.” Duster pointed out the smaller machines that were arranged in a half-circle around the bigger machine. “I’m guessing that’s the reason why this ship can stay up for so long and carry so many people. Despite the shortcomings of humankind, they’ve made an effort to preserve such technology.”

The crew moved away from the machinery and headed towards the biggest room in the ship. Maneuvering through a few corridors and evading any Magnuze personnel, Eudoxia and the merry band entered the center section of the zepplin. The brightly lit area spanned the length of ten Fighters. The walkways lead around the midpoint and to the other side as well as several more magitech cores and giant industrialized fans. At least a hundred people alone were staffed in the epicenter, yet it was by chance that team Anchovi spotted the only one who mattered. Harvey Lansit stood over the rail looking towards the middle of the ship. Hanging right in front of him were giant black canisters hanging a rail.

“Harvey!” Jackie made their presence known with her tense shout.

Dozens of people immediately turned their heads to her direction, but it was Harvey’s that mattered the most. At first he did not recognize the voice, but then he turned around with open arms and gleeful demeanor.

“Patty! And Patty’s friend! And...oh--?” When he locked eyes with the princess, Harvey’s heart and soul sank to the bottom of his feet. He knew that he was in some sort of peril. Distraught, he bitterly snarled at the troupe. “Oh for Maker’s sake, what the Hel is she doing here?”

“We have someone who wants to talk to you.”

Jackie stepped aside so the princess could bask in Harvey’s attention. Eudoxia smirked and then winked at the merchant who was not expecting her to be here.

“That’s the thing, Patty, I don’t want to talk.” He began walking towards the other side of the Magnuze with his employees covering his tracks.

Jackie ascended the stairs with Eudoxia closely following behind. Duster and Frank watched from a few steps behind as the workers clumped around them. Jackie snarled, “We’ve came so far that I won’t take no for an answer.”

The snowy faced merchant sneered and annoyingly guffawed, “And I don’t care!”

The crew members of the Magnuze ganged up on the crew members of the Fighter. Jackie was the first to make a call and struck down anyone who got into her fists’ reach. She pummeled the people behind her, and the princess advanced. Royalty managed to surprise everyone as she went toe to toe with some of the mechanics. Dodging their best efforts to put her into submission, Eudoxia socked a few faces while gaining ground on the fleeing Lansit. She was closer than ever and she was not going to let him escape into a hobble. Unfortunately, the princess’ stride was cut short as a few men gathered around her and threw her to the ground.

“I’ll make sure to execute anyone who continues to get in my way! Mark my word!”

As Anchovi was slowly losing, the Lucavi who managed to intimidate the majority of the workers leapt onto the rails with great dexterity and jumped high into the balloon’s space. Spitting out a lustrous black ball, Duster rained a fence in front of Harvey’s exit. The strange cloak of white landed on the walkway thus blocking his target from moving any further.

“You’re an interesting specimen.” Unlike the rest of his crew, Harvey was quite intrigued by the strange looking being. There was something beyond the physical realm that attracted him to the Lucavi. He believed that there was a magical element to him and that he could feel the same magic that ran through the magitech cores brimming through Duster the Lucavi.

“Likewise.” Duster let out a little smirk.

“This alloy is rather bizarre. Durable yet you’re able to shape it.” Turning away from his captor, Harvey placed a hand over the fence. It felt cool and too sleek to be real. In a brief moment, he was able to think of countless possibilities of the alloy and how much money he could make. Returning to reality, Harvey returned the smirk. “Of man or magic?”

“Mad Moon born and raised.”

“Ah, but nevertheless, you’re no match for the magician.”

The so-called magician reached into pocket hidden inside his purple blazer and pulled out a slender black stick. This object was just as smooth as Duster’s metal, but it was of Blue standards and crafted from wood. He took his time removing the cap from one end revealing a steel nib. It appeared to be a fountain pen, but Harvey Lansit was no fool to fight with ordinary objects. With one quick lash, a ball of fire erupted from the pen and knocked Duster back a few meters. The attack stunned him, not because it frayed him but because it honestly caught him off guard. Harvey, poised with such grace, waved his wand like a conductor and the orchestra. The flames bounced off of Duster, but he was constantly thrown back until the great magician sent him flying with a powerful and invisible force.

Duster flew across the room and smashed into the steel frames above. Jackie, after rampaging through the crowd and freeing the princess, rushed the cackling Lansit. Flame after flame, the bold brawler ducked, rolled, jumped, and swung out of the way. Just as soon as she made it a few arms within reach, the snarky magician rolled his eyes and sent her away with an almighty push. His wand pushed her against the rail and with one more stroke, Jackie flipped over.

From afar, it looked as if he had killed Frank’s best friend. The enraged gunner elbowed a few faces before he took out the ancient spellgun. As soon as he inserted a cartridge, he fired into the Lansit’s direction, but the end results left him stunned. Instead of searing a hole right through the prick of a human being, the fiery beam met with the wand, splitted into tinier streams of magic, and simply went around Harvey’s body. The fragments of Frank’s shot pelted the Duster’s wall, and Harvey managed to redirect the remainder of the attack in an entirely different direction.

“Frankie, we’re not trying to kill him!” Frank ran onto the center walkway and noticed that Jackie was still hanging on by a hand. “Are you trying to kill us too?”

“Didja see that though? That ole’ fart deflected the shot with his li’l stick. A stick, Jackie, this guy ain’t no joke.”

“Four against one is not really a fair game,” Harvey quipped. With unrelenting whipping of the wand, his magic sawed into the silvery barricade.

“I’m guessin’ he missed the part where his lackies are a jumpin’ us,” Frank gruffly remarked as he pulled Jackie back onto the stage.

“Harvey! Wait!” Eudoxia took out her dagger and prepared herself to fight him.

“Oh, but princess, I simply don’t have the time to speak with you. Or ever, really.”

With one last impressive flick, Harvey carved himself an exit. Eudoxia ran for him, yet despite her standing, the Lansit of Densch and the Magnuze fired a volley of volatile magic in her direction. The intimidation halted her, but it was not for long. She continued her advancement through the rain and not one fireball fried a curly black hair.

“Yet you have enough time to throw fireballs at me. Real charming!”

“I don’t understand your obsession! Leave me be!” He hollered for assistance from anyone and everyone who was around. Desperate, he begged even Jackie who was right behind Eudoxia the entire time. Harvey knew that if he harmed the princess in any way, the prince, the mother queen, and the entirety of Varsyl would vow vengeance against him. Why dirty his hands when Anchovi was a possibility. “Patty, I’ll triple what she’s given you.”

“Sorry, bud, but you owe some back pay.” Jackie nodded towards the princess and smiled, “Plus, the princess knows my name.”

With no other option, Harvey Lansit finally shot at Eudoxia, but it was Jackie Simms who embraced the living flame. Jackie’s forearms covered her face from the heat as the flare consumed her. The fighter endured the pain and squatted into the perfect position for Eudoxia’s ascent. The fearless princess ran onto Jackie’s back and launched into the air for the dumbfounded magician. He couldn’t find the words for such swift action nor the response. He muttered beneath his breath right before Eudoxia’s stony fist jabbed him in the throat:

“You’ve won this bout.”

[i Finally foiled.]
Finnigan     6y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Tale of Two Joes#]

The magician heaved for a bit, struggled to catch his breath from Eudoxia’s unexpected attack. She stood in victory over the fallen man who struggled to speak and calm the burning sensation in his throat. She congratulated herself on her own intelligence and knew that the few magickers who existed in this world required a clear voice and fancy handwork. Her obsession with Harvey Lansit was her greatest weapon against him and all others like him.

The Magnuze mechanics and engineers gathered around the scene in order to help out the marvelous Lansit, but the businessman refused any hand lent to him. Instead, he brushed off the dust his black with white pinstripe coat and barked snide remarks at the nearest employee. Aparently the janitor missed the spot. The Magnuze was to be kept clean at all times, especially when he was aboard. Harvey assured everything was fine until he met face to face with Anchovi. His face, partially paralyzed by his temporary defeat, twitched ever so slightly.

“It’s okay. Everyone go back to maintaining the ship. And get that mouthy brain up here to clean this up. Tell him to figure it out.” Harvey walked through Duster’s impenetrable fence and signaled for them to follow. They had made it this far, so he figured he would at least entertain the princess and her lackeys. “My [i guests] and I will retire to my parlor. I wish not to be disturbed unless it’s very important. And I mean important!”

Through a couple of well lit corridors and a thin walkway illuminated by a dozen or so circular windows, Anchovi who were silent the entire time reached the parlor. Frank realized that they were below the balloon, and that there was nothing directly below the humming walkway except for the vast Blue. He closed his eyes and momentarily calmed himself down with a few deep breaths. Jackie was impressed by the architecture and wished that Rhys would have came along with them to enjoy it as well. Harvey, apathetic to their wandering thoughts, snapped them into his lair.

The parlor, decorated with an awful red and pink striped wallpaper, reminded the outlaws from Guten Nocht of Sheriff Dempsi’s bathroom. In fact, Frank argued with Jackie on the side and claimed that it was from the exact same roll. The overpowering scent of the cinnamon and peppermint candies ailed him. There were a few loveseats and armchairs with the same atrocious shades and on one wall sat a table with an assortment of cakes. Jackie salivated.

“Take a seat and make yourself welcomed. After all, you storm into my flying palace.” Retiring into an armchair with a plate of white cake and a fork, the ireful Harvey P. Lansit crossed one leg over the other and opined, “Now, voice your reason for attacking me on my own ship, you wretched band of fools. Just to let you know, I could have had my crew thrown you off the Magnuze if I so called asked for it. A reminder for anyone who thinks they’ve bested me.”

No one spoke after Harvey. Both Frank and Jackie looked over at Eudoxia and wondered what she was thinking. After all, they would have never made it to Sudra and Densch without her. This was her mission, and they all needed closure. Why were they here, chasing after such an affluent man? Eudoxia sat in an armchair opposite to Harvey’s and with her head looking down into her lap. She had what she wanted yet she could not muster up the courage to speak the usually boisterous mind. Fear did not strike her, but it was unbridled emotion. Bliss.

Eudoxia jumped out of her chair and exclaimed with such a burning passion in her heart that matched Harvey’s bruised and fiery throat, “Wed me tonight!”

Frank’s jaw dropped and so did some of the cake in his mouth. If he was not too busy being stunned by the austerity of the filterless princess, he would ask her to repeat. Jackie and even Duster lost their cool. Jackie blamed the teenage hormones surging through her body. Eudoxia was not thinking rationally; her body was playing awful pranks. Surprisingly, Harvey was not moved by her words nor her animated giddiness. In fact, the equal-headed merchant thoughtlessly took a bite out of the slice of cake.

“I’m a lot of things and I’ve been called tons of names throughout my career as a world renowned merchant, but the word ‘suicidal’ never crossed me until now.” Resting back into the wood frame of the armchair, Harvey, with such a stoic face, remarked, “Do you think you’re the first woman to approach me with the same proposition? Of course not. I travel the Blue all the time breaking the hearts of hundreds. You, my deary, are nothing short of ordinary. Though, I will admit though, you carry a hefty price tag. That is the one thing that you have over them. Royalty, a mother and a betrothed with an army and air force at their disposal. Marrying you, Eudoxia of Dalme, is suicidal.”

Eudoxia remained standing up without any convictions while the Harvey got up from his chair to set his his plate back on the small table hosting the delicious cake. Finishing the rest of the creamy icing off his miniscule fork, Harvey pointed the utensil at Eudoxia before nudging her back into her seat. The cold magician devilishly winked at her before returning to his seat with more cake.

“I need a woman who’s strong and well-learned in the world just as I am. She needs to hold a candle to me in all things wordly. Despite your...standing in royalty, you’re far too wild and immature for me. Well, your body is well developed, it’s everything else that isn’t. You run with a pack of untamed wolves who are only using you for the money. Yes, that’s it, a barbarian princess and her pack of wild mutts, and sooner or later you’re gonna realize that they’re gonna bite the hand that feeds them.”

Eudoxia clasped her hands together and begged, an unusual sight for Frank and Jackie to bear witness. Both of them struggled in her pitiful attempts. Her eyes swelled with tears and were ready to let loose on command. “I can be all those things! I can grow up, Harvey. Take me away to another place so we can be at peace.”

Waving his fork and shaking his head, the antagonizing host uglily scoffed his infatuated lover, “Ah, ah, ah, but I’m ever aging, I can’t wait forever for you to grow up.”

Jackie wanted to step in and pummel the man to death, but Duster had to remind her that this was not her battle. The princess Eudoxia had to realize for herself that this monster of a man did not want anything to do with her. The Lucavi did not appreciate Harvey’s approach to the entire rejection, but she needed to hear the truth. Meanwhile, Harvey’s mind began to wander off.

“My grandfather constructed the greatest ship that the Blue has ever lain witness to: the Magnuze. You’ve only seen a fraction of its glory, if I am going to be honest with you. Of course, I’ve given it a different shade than it’s original run and I’ve made several adjustments to the infrastructure and how it's ran. My father, the mastermind Dulon Lansit, negotiated the trade routes within the Varsylian empire and secured an unseen monopoly.” Harvey enjoyed listening to himself a little too much and he was too touchy with his own body. The hedonist collected money with each breath he took and that’s what fueled him: money. “And me? I’m expanding the business to other non-Varsylian affiliated governments across the Blue more than ever. Within the last couple of years of me taking over, my company has commissioned five dozen more trade ships and with a pen stroke I’ll have more influence in five more contries. Do you know the empress of Bating? How about the emperor of Tsukimoto? The jarls of Ymidr? And what about the sovereign nation of Plaestoephron? I’ve met them and on several occasions I shook hands with royalty.”

“I think yer makin’ a bunch of these names up,” Frank huffed.

“Let me tell you the story of how the Lansits came to be. Believe it or not, we never started off as natives of Sudra. We were a little more important to the cosmos. Thousands of years ago we came from the stars, or at least that’s how everyone tells the Lansit saga. A band of mighty men fought against their oppressors and saved their land from a terrific malign being. Some giant chicken man or lizard woman, but that’s besides the point. If it wasn’t for the two Joes, the Elder and the Younger, the people of the aether would have been wiped out completely.”

Frank scratched his head. Even he knew that the bigot was talking about his home. Instead of interrupting Harvey’s inaccurate storytelling, the astute listener simply sat back in his chair and see how full of himself he was.

“The Joes eventually settled down in the troubling Varsylgard where Joe the Elder married a Varsylian princess most beautiful and unseen to the rest of the world. Somehow this stranger was able to swoon the richest maiden of all the Blue. Joe the Younger fell in love with a pugnacious bar wench despite his wonderful affairs with other princesses and lasses. The Elder and the Younger traveled across the Blue with their wives bound to the hips. The two couples’ fates were intertwined as if it was some bizarre Ymidian orgy--believe me, I was invited to one of those and I’m not so much about other guys. Out of nothing, the Joes were able to start the Lansit dynasty. They came from the stars with nothing but a few men, supplies, and the clothes on their backs. It was them who truly civilized the Varsyl as well as the rest of the adjoining countries. Technology and the most basic innovations saved the country, despite any word from Varsylian kings and queens, that you can believe as self-evident truth. Just look at the Magnuze, am I wrong?”

[i ‘Yer so wrong.’]

“The Joes valued family and strong bonds, but the business was booming too quickly. So what did the Elder and Younger Joes do? They got to work with their wives. Between the two families, there was a total of thirty children or so, and that wasn’t including all the bastard children of the Younger. In some sense, he was a wild and reckless soul, but he was a thorough worker. They say that he was the stars’ promised child, but the Blue needed him more. The Elder was a hard working man who had lost everything in his life, but was rather pious to the moon deity. Anyways, I apologize for the tangent.” Harvey thought about where all this was going, but decided to continue. “By a miracle, Joe the Younger’s daughter Ezra fell in love Joe the Elder’s son Spumone. Joe the Elder had some affiliation with naming his children after foods from back home. I’ve tried spumone and let me tell you, you’re not missing a lot. Supposedly it was a peasant dish. Someone in the family had to have sorry taste. Where was I? Oh yeah. With the two families finally joined as one and flying underneath one banner, the Nilats, the name we were known by right before some foolish dyslexic predecessor signed some papers as ‘sir Lansit’, boomed in business and garnered favor with the common people. Of course, the Lansit status elevated and renowned in upper crust circles. The bards tell stories of us.”

[i ‘Haven’t heard shit yet, bud.’]

“Their legacy eventually shifted to Sudranese shores. After the stabilization Varsylgard’s economy and the military reforms hundreds of years later, the Lansits at this point vied for a better lifestyle and looked for opportunities across the Blue. They were not too invested into politics and I guess it just went south between my family and the corrupt Varsylian government and Francolian pontifex. Well, that was what the three Lansit brothers, heir to the entire merchant empire, thought. And rightfully so because without them, Densch would be absolutely nothing without them and their technology. It was the elder two brothers who grew the stalks, but it was the youngest brother who married a Sudranese princess and established the law. The Varsylian cohorts who sought to cleanse the Mezze people invaded and destroy anything Lansit made, but were eventually subdued by the Sudranese that the Lansit brothers embraced. Ever since, the Lansit name has been growing.”

“What’s your point?” Eudoxia tuned out minutes ago. If this was his way to filibuster her feelings, he was doing an awful job of making her forget. The passion ran deep within her heart and coursed through her body.

Harvey’s fat cheeks puckered and his bloom white beard bristled out with joy. He took great joy in heartbreak and gleefully let it all out. “My point is that you’re worthless. You have no claim to Varsylian or Dalmenian throne; I’d gain nothing but more enemies by marrying you, princess. Let me repeat: I gain nothing of value by marrying you.”

She did not think the world was so cruel and cold, yet for the first time ever, Eudoxia was on the other end of rejection. Harvey laughed himself into his chair. His stomach swelled up and his breath left his body as the uncontrollable laughter intensified before their eyes. Even beads of tears formed from the sinister hilarity. Eudoxia felt helpless and her body froze in shame. She had no idea who she was now without any of her confidence, but two champions stepped forth. Both Frank and Jackie eclipsed the simmering pot of heat and tears. By no means was Eudoxia perfect, but even Frank had to step in before he harassed her any further.

[b kzzzrt.] Just as Frank went in straighten Harvey out, the intercom system fuzzed in.

[b “Harvey, we’ve been spotted by Varsylian aircraft. Three unmarked runners…”]

“Damn, not again.” Harvey paced throughout the room without saying a word to anyone else. The sudden turn worried Jackie.

[i Tick. Tick. Tick.]
Finnigan     6y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Battle Aboard the Magnuze#]

Harvey pulled himself together from the endless pace and faced reality. Everything up to this point had been smooth for him: prestigious name, opulence, daunting charm, and the greatest ship that has ever sailed the Blue. He had no one to turn to in this dilemma; Harvey P. Lansit felt vulnerable.

“If you excuse me, I have some business to attend to.”

Adjusting his coat for the tenth time since the call and collecting the calm that invisibly floated nearby, Harvey stiffly marched his body towards the parlor’s door. Jackie, on the other hand, interrupted his stride with a few great stomps. Folding her arms and nodding her hard head, Jackie glared.

“Wait a minute, what about the girl?”

“What about her? She’s not my problem.” Harvey tried to brush off the entire ordeal, but he was not going to get anywhere with the short and stout brick wall standing before him. The arrogance the Maker bestowed upon him fueled Anchovi’s anger.

“And she sure as Hel ain’t ours, bud!” shouted Frank. With much frustration built up in one part of his body, he pointed his finger into Harvey’s direction as if they were knives. Thinking that Eudoxia was bad, Frank had a grand distaste for such smugness. People like Harvey thought they could just throw away anything or anyone. The simple life never fully escaped the man from Guten Nocht. Perhaps Frank realized that even people like the princess had dreams and no one should ever be discredited.

“He said they were Varsylian?” The scorned princess murmured. Everyone in the pink parlor faced her with such surprise. Defeated by the man she fawned over, Eudoxia stepped through the Anchovi crowd and nodded her head at Harvey. She despised his rich brown eyes, but learned the very truth about love. The opposite of affection was not hatred; it was indifference. Eudoxia begged for the Maker to punish her lover the very same way she craved to be at his side. “I’ll go with you.”

Her offer fell flat. Harvey responded with his eyes rolling into his skull and scoffed, “These are not the people you want to get yourself involved with.”

“Capt. Galien will listen to my word, Harvey. I am Princess Eudoxia of Dalme.” She tried to regain the confidence she once had with a stamp of her feet, but she trembled deep inside. Her curls curled tighter and her lips dried up. The colorful palette painted on her face faded away and her chest shrunk.

“I wish it was that simple.” Harvey stepped away from the group and instead focused his attention on what was going on outside the only circular window in his cozy room. The same rich brown eyes Eudoxia cherished closed and imagined fire consuming the Magnuze and then Sudra. He could hear the tiniest zooming of the ships outside. Skipping the dramatics, Harvey solemnly stated, “We’re not dealing with Galien and his hokey pokey troupe of merry men. You getting in the middle of all this would only expedite my demise. Let me be.”

Harvey shuffled across the room to the intercom without interruption and clicked the circular button just below the mesh screen.

“Tell the gunmen to fell them. I’m not in the best of moods today.”

[b “...Roger that.”]

The captain of the ship excused himself without any word. Anchovi dared not to lay a hand on him nor question him directly. Fuming, Frank tapped his feet and kept a good eye on Harvey within the door frame. On the other side of the room, Eudoxia managed to throw herself into an armchair’s cushions. Her teachers told her fairy tales about witches carving out the hearts of fair maidens. Eudoxia had wished that a witch would do her the grateful deed. The little bit of soul that flickered in Eudoxia’s olive eyes died down as she stared aimlessly into the awfully carnation pink carpet.

Attempting to be remotely human, Duster stood next to the chair and lifelessly droned, “Perhaps it’s best if we remain here until the problem is solved, princess.”

Jackie was the next person to attempt to comfort the princess. Kneeling on the opposite side, she tilted her head and spoke in an unintentionally baby voice, “Euey…”

“I’m fine,” the princess huffed. Placing her head into her hands and her elbows onto her knees, she saw Harvey walk down the long corridor through paper thin Frank and wanted to die even more. [i ‘It’s not fair.’]

“Hmph.”

Frank’s irritated throat itched. He had become the most fed up with Harvey and his disgraceful hospitality. Granted, he and his crew did break into the Magnuze without a warning, but the merchant with more money and more problems left them without aim. Brash, impatient, flustered, Frank brandished his revolver and marched out of the parlor.

Jackie hopped to her feet and tried to pull trigger happy Frank back. “Wait, where are you going?”

The untapped power surged through the roughneck. Somehow, Frank shrugged her off.

“I’m gonna figure what’s goin’ on. Git some answers from Lansit.”

“Uh...hmm.” Left speechless by Frank’s sudden motion, Jackie muttered afar to the motionless Eudoxia. “We’ll figure this all out, Euey. I want you two to stick around while I go fetch a few things.”

Jackie caught up to Frank who was steadily marching for the stiff merchant. She thought to herself that there was no way that she was going to miss out on her boisterous pal’s spat. Frank would keep a steady stroll, but it was the Lansit in the clad black shoes that stepped quicker. The clacking on his heels on metal echoed through the stainless corridor. From the corner of their eyes, small bursts of fire collided with the Magnuze. The cabin rattled with the three bodies steadily traversing the walkway. Each of the three individuals fearlessly paced until the intercom buzzed in. Harvey pressed his face to the box.

[b “Sir, turrets two and three have been taken out.”]

“Damn you to Hel…” Turning his head from the speakerbox, Harvey gritted his teeth and slammed his fist into the Magnuze. Frank and Jackie gathered how severe the conflict was from his scrunched up face. Giving the couple a dirty glance, Harvey returned to the reverberating box and with much gusto commanded, “I want all evasive actions in the direction of Tsukimoto until I get to the control room. Have turrets one, four, and five continue their fire. This ship will run to full capacity and get as many men on top for additional support.”

Just as Harvey stepped out of the long stretch for the control room, a whizzing sound from outside pierced his ears like a mechanic working with precise equipment. The cabin rattled as the low noise grew louder and louder, and before the three could properly react, three large drills voraciously spun themselves into the Magnuze. The air rushed through the broken hull and tossed cloth and hair around. The three fell back from the hard impact. Harvey was the first two draw out his weapon, the bizarre fountain pen that acted as his wand. Then, it was Frank who pulled out the dirty spellgun and aimed it at the drills.

Attached to the giant drills where giant rectangular chambers. From these chamber, the doors popped out on the opposite sides. Black boots and uniforms of a dark mustard yellow fashion revealed themselves. The men whose faces matched Frank’s gauntness revealed their broadswords, jumped over their giant capsules, and anticipated the opposition’s fault.

“Heh, who brings a sword to a gunfight?” Frank cheekishly pointed out.

Jackie heard Harvey’s frightful utterance, “The Templar.”

The mere sight of their uniform stunned him from lifting his weapon. Harvey stumbled a few meters back, eventually surpassing Jackie and Frank. He was too busy escaping the consequences that he forgot to offer a reward to Anchovi if they successfully wiped out these Templar people.

“Put the gun away, Frankie. I got this.”

Jackie cracked her knuckles and stared down the six individuals before her. Each a carbon copy of the one in front of them: fair skinned, tall, brown hair, blue eyes, thinning lips, pointy nose. She knew that this was not going to be her most eventful fight, but she braced for the best. Jackie took a few steps forward, yet none of the men in yellow budged. It was not the reaction she had anticipated. They refused to blink or move even the slightest. Perhaps they were going to be a challenge after all. The brawler smiled without conviction and took a wide stance. With one foot forward and the other back, Jackie’s fists faced forward and the grin grew wider.

The first two closest to Jackie approached her first with their blades in front. Taking smooth strides and arcing in front of their target, the men of the Templar courted the bare knuckle fighter and waited for the opportunity to kill. One of them swung his sword down, but the dexterous Jackie caught the blade between her palms. It was the second one who went for the kill and tried to stab her in the gut. The narrow hallway disallowed the Templar from making any large movements, but the unarmed Jackie who built herself for versatility managed to block the strike with the captured blade. Yanking her first opponent in, Jackie drove her first into the solar plexus thusly curling him over. The sword dropped and the flying woman leaped frog over his back. With one mighty roundhouse, Jackie knocked the second into the wall.

The second couple flew past the fallen Templar with swords raised up high. Jackie ducked and rolled past them without a problem and taunted them as well as the third and last couple to approach her. Beyond mad and crazy, unusual aura surrounded the daunting Jackie Simms. Unstoppable and limitless were only a few words that the men of Last ever described her, and soon these uniformed men would know why. In such high spirit, Jackie whipped around the back couple and ran her knuckles multiple times along their backsides before simultaneously finishing them off with a high kick and a punch.

The third pair ominously stared up at the human brick wall as she gloated with both fists on her hips. Brash Jackie was short lived as her opponents from behind took advantage of her. The first one missed the one-shot kill, but it was the second who tagged her. Jackie had jumped to the side to evade the vertical swing, but when she went back to counterattack, the ready Templar swiped across her stomach. The tip made a cut between her diaphragm and belly button. Jackie stumbled back a little with one arm holding in her stomach. Jackie stopped momentarily to make sure the blood was not oozing out of her.

“Can anyone stop her?” Harvey pulled himself next to Frank in admiration for his champion. She had gone this far; Harvey could not fathom her dying at this point. He refused to have a remaining debt to a dead woman.

“You couldn’t if you tried. Fightin’ is what she does n’ what she knows, ya know. That’s like you bein’ a hatch hooch or porch fucker or some shit. It’s what ya do, what you know. Ya ain’t know no better.” Frank confided. He knew once she told him to put down the gun that she would stop them all.

“I have no clue as to which barbaric language you’re speaking in.”

Jackie, feeling weakened by the last attack, charged the last two after a quick breather. The last attack made her smarter, wiser than before. After one swing, Jackie charged her shoulder into the solid body of one of the Templar. Following through, she whipped around her leg and cracked him in the face and sending him into an unconscious slump. The last one, whose blade has carved into Jackie, came in for an attack, but the sagacious brawler made no time for childish jeers. The constant jumping on her feet unsettled her stomach, so with all her fury Jackie, kick after kick, took the knight by surprise and pinned him against one of the circular glass windows. Her might, unmatched by anyone from the Blue, fueled her fiery feet. Her stomps crushed his body into the metal sheeted walls and managed to stuff his body partially through the glass window.

Just as Jackie fell to her knees, eventually succumbing to her wound, three more bodies hopped over the drilling capsules. One of them happily engaged the merchant. This man was the most peculiar of all the Templar. His eyes were a darker shade of blue and the brown hair was sprinkled with ash.

“Ah, Harvey. Looking chipper as always.”

Harvey scowled. He should have made a run for it while he could. “Fenshir.”

“Have we come to a closing deal yet? I know how you Lansits are so busy these days, but I thought I would stop by in the neighborhood and check up on my favorite merchant of death.” There was a little skip to his step. The man Harvey called Fenshir eccentrically motioned for the merchant to come to his side. Agile to say the least, the assumed leader of the Templar had to be trained in elegant court dancing or enjoyed imitating marble statues.

“Just dandy,” was all that came out of the merchant’s mouth. He thought about lifting the pen up, but Fenshir had no problem outspeeding any of his spells. Harvey was quite fond on his hands and would rather keep them.

“I’ll put one between the eyes. And I’ll make it swift for ya too because I ain’t got time for ya, punk.” Frank. Frank was the solution. The spellgun aimed for the newfangled enemy.

[i Boom.]
Finnigan     6y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Battle Aboard the Magnuze, pt. 2#]

[b BOOM.] The searing beam of magic blasted not into Fenshir, but a faithful Templar. His body embraced the fiery blow, but his flesh did not disintegrate. Rather, it exposed sparks and wires from the half-molten man. The cogs, gears, and ticking timepieces struggled in the moment to move, but the automaton dressed Templar froze in its martyrship. Harvey and Anchovi stood there with mouths agape, truly unable to comprehend what had just happened

Frank uttered, “That ain’t human.”

“I’m afraid not.” Harvey went for his pen in order to finish off Fenshir, but he was left immobile. What was this witchcraft? No one within the Varsylian empire’s reach has seen cyborgs in centuries. Automatons sure, but they were an adult’s playtoy.

“Indeed.” The leader of the Templar camp switched up his leading foot and exotically posed for his aggressors. With such a lofty tone, Fenshir sneered at Harvey and his subordinates. “Now, you can see that I’m a very busy man, Harvey. I didn’t give any of them a personality or much of a face, and here you are wasting my time when all I want is one thing. We don’t have to get into detail for the sake of not boring these good honest people. You know, I’d rather you comply with these simple wishes and continue our partnership. It’ll be the simplest transaction you’ve ever made in your bombastic business career.”

“You can’t have it, even if I did.” Harvey pointed the nib of the fountain pen for the stalwart and expressionless Fenshir. “That...[i thing] belongs to the Lansit bloodline. What makes you think that it’s with me?”

Chuckling for just a bit, the aggressor smirked in the midst of danger and the whirring of the air penetrating the ship. Such smokey soft eyes matched his overall dull expression, yet the rest of his body moved rather flamboyantly. “Kal Seraf howls through these hallways. The Xyianthis. Bring it to me.”

“What does he want with some busted up robot. That line hasn’t been great since the 20k PK Red variant.”

Frank looked over at Jackie and scratched his head after his aside. He had no idea that the people of the Blue had robots around. Since his stay within Varsyl and Sudra, he had never lain witness to any functioning robot, let alone a Xyianthis model. Frank and Jackie were familiar with the subservient robots and even begged the mayor and sheriff of Last to adopt a few. They would have made Frank’s juggling of ranching and dozing off more manageable.

Harvey grew tired of their pursuit and stamped his foot in retaliation. He had remorse for all the terrible thoughts that ran through his head, especially when his target was the worst offender to the eyes and ears. Ever since he could remember, Harvey P. Lansit bragged about his family and their flagship, the Magnuze. Up until now, he had been evading the worst people to ever breathe a waft of air in the Blue, but the adrenaline zipping through him toughened him. The words began to spew from his mouth faster than he could think. Spilling like a deluge overtaking a dam, Harvey’s harsh tongue lashed.

“Fenshir, you Varsylian backwoods sword-toting bibliophiliac, you’re not worthy enough to be on the same ship as it, let alone gaze at the Magnuze from afar. All pretenders to a false religion, to any religion. Fuck your inane cult and your repulsive garment. A body bag is the only way to redeem that jaundiced atrocity.”

“Ah. So in your final words you choose to mock me.” The man known as Fenshir was taken back by Harvey’s vehemence at last. Suffering from the sting and looking to avenge a bruised ego, the man clapped his hands twice before sweetly singing to the Templar. “Boys: yah-yah.”

“Give us Xyianthis.” They echoed over and over. Once lifeless, the bodies contorted to all fours however it seemed fit. All their heads fixed in Harvey’s direction.

Jackie moved to the forefront and did not allow one of the creepy mechanicals from completely respawning. Brandishing a Templar sword left behind, she batted one with the flat side into the wall before bisecting it from the bottom to the top. Fenshir was right: same face, same innards. She was surprised at how easy it was to cut into the robots, but in reality she was too strong for her own good, especially with a wound to the stomach. With one wince, the powerful Jackie stumbled and let a small groan out.

“Jackie!” Frank rushed to her side with his revolver covering his behind.

“What?”

“Look at what ya did!” He pointed towards the two halves of the robot and patted her on the back forcefully. “Fuckin’ cool.”

“You think these puppets can scare me?” Harvey chuckled and ran his fingers through the dense white bed of hair.“I’ll show you what it means to quake with fear!”

Aiming right below Fenshir’s feet, Harvey released a magnificently colored explosion that not only sent the leader of the Templar plummeting to his death, but also demolished the majority of the windowed corridor. The floor simultaneously melted and shattered upon its master’s furious request. Shaking and creaking, the Magnuze unwillingly fell to Harvey’s feat of magical prowess, though it did try its best to keep itself composed.. Boisterous air seeped through and eventually broke the once invincible ship. Steel exterior and drilling chambers alike broke off in large chunks, and the charred androids fell through with their limbs helplessly flailing in midair.

“Eh, I think he has ya beat.” Frank quipped while supporting his hefty partner. He hated to admit it but Harvey was slowly growing on the rough gunman, yet he retained his envy. Magic always intrigued Frank, especially growing up and betrothing the strongest magicker in Guten Nocht.

“Hmph.” Harvey moved through the Magnuze without wasting another second on the riff-raff. He vowed to make it to the control before the end of the whole catastrophe. On his way back into the balloon, the intercom rang.

[b kzzzrt.]

[b “Sir! The enemy has breached sectors A4, A7, A8, and B5.”]

[i ‘How is this possible?’] Harvey gritted his teeth and noticed that Frank and Jackie were right behind him. In another room with large circular windows to the outside world, Harvey stewed in the Blue’s sunlight before shaking his head in failure. He felt awfully foolish for shaming the Lansit lineage. His father’s legacy would be forever tarnished if anyone outside of the Magnuze beared witness or rumor of the dilemma. He gathered his thoughts and pulled himself together for the latest round of Templar. Three more cast iron capsules dug into the brave Magnuze’s walls and without a moment to spare for a quick breather, more Templar dressed in mustard yellow arrived.

“Harvey, my patience runs awfully thin these days.” A figure popped out of the smoke and it was the Fenshir fellow unscathed.

Tiring from the rollercoaster of emotions, Harvey stood there without a word to say. He did not know how to respond to Fenshir’s miraculous return. Perhaps the great magician was finally outsmarted by a better magus. Unable to maintain his image for any longer, Harvey tossed his pinstripe coat to the side and cleared out the dust with one flick of his pen. “You fell to your death.”

“Hm, so you thought. Our god has blessed me so to withstand these trials you set before me. Kal Seraf birthed this world and he shall rebirth it once more.”

Six more Templar, each with similar faces rushed forth and aimed for the magician, yet they were not prepared for his battle readiness. Sending a volley of fireballs their way, Harvey encircled the unwelcomed Varsylian scum with a grand ring of fire. Any time a Templar would try to make a move outside of the blazing circle, the magician knocked them back to the middle with a great gust of wind. By no means was he a professional duelist; Lansit was first and foremost the playboy merchant Varsylgard grew to hate and love. In fact, the moment the Fighter stepped foot on the Magnuze was when he learned how to fight the Templar back.

“Urgh…” Jackie fell to a knee as the three of them continued to make it to the control room. Clutching onto her stomach, she feebly pulled herself up with the assistance of Frank’s sleeve.

“Ah! That’s right.” Frank was more preoccupied with the robots pursuing them, but gave enough attention to his friend whose life was slowly waning before him. She was going to make it; Frank was almost too certain of it. “Gonna git you to Dusty...somehow.”

Duster and Eudoxia were still on the other side of the now broken corridor. There was no apparent secondary exit to the parlor, and Jackie, out of the two, felt awfully pessimistic about getting back to them. She pushed away Frank’s help and hopped on her own with the intent of getting back to the top of the Magnuze.

“I have to get to the Fighter.” With Frank hovering right behind her, Jackie sped up her ascension up the stairs. “Rhys is in trouble.”

“Patty! I will accompany you.” The captain of the Magnuze nodded his head. Instead of having a great distaste for Anchovi and the princess, Harvey assisted them not to save Rhys or the Fighter but to ward off the rest of the invaders. He’d be down for one less problem without her if she and his friend would just hop into their aircraft and fall off the face of his ship.

Traversing the entirety of gargantuan Magnuze, the three made it to the top where they soon faced more trouble than ever. On the battlefield, the engineers of the ship took arms against the pestilent Templar. Bodies of both sides splayed across the surface with blood spilt on both sides. In an attempt to control the opposing mass, Harvey muttered under his voice an incantation that brought forth a rushing wave of flames. As the uniformed Templar seemingly writhed in blistering agony, Jackie jerkingly followed the fire wall. Frank followed and noticed that the Magnuze’s technicians were not harmed by Harvey’s tantrum. The Templar were very much affected and to the point where Frank realized that they actually human and not cyborg. Unable to stand the ear-splitting cries, the soft-hearted fellow finished the dirty deed by plugging each and every voice with a bullet.

With two of the anchors missing from the Fighter, Frank called for Jackie’s immediate retreat, but the pilot was adamant on getting back to her ship. The Fighter yearned for its captain to come back. As the back hatch of the Anchovi ship began to open, a third anchor became unhinged from a corner of the Magnuze and ultimately caused the smaller vessel to slowly swivel off the larger. A few inches per second proved to Jackie that it was enough time, but the Fighter’s footing was not as strong as she thought. Frank ran after Jackie, but she gradually ran faster until she threw herself inside. The Fighter finally gained enough momentum to swing off the edge thus causing the fourth and final anchor to let loose. From a distance, Frank, who hesitated on following Jackie completely, watched as his best friend and his younger adopted brother plunged into the vast Blue.

Frank fell forward on his knees and hands. Trying to keep the tears from coming out, he absolutely refused that all of it just happened and slowly moved back up to his feet. Deciding that he had to see if they were still hanging on, the wobbly footed man walked towards the edge in sorrow. The Templar would try to ambush him from afar, but the trainwreck named Frank indiscriminately plugged a bullet into anyone who stepped into his sphere. [i ‘Jackie ain’t dead. Rhys ain’t dead either. She’s the best pilot of all of Guten Nocht.’]

Getting his wish proved to be more counterproductive than he thought. Harvey approached Frank from behind to make sure that he was not going to fall. One of the many things that irked the merchant in the back of his head was owing dead peoples money. The thought was morbid even for Harvey.

“C’mon.”

Harvey tapped Frank on the shoulder, but the man from Guten Nocht could not be bothered. He was patiently waiting for Jackie to spring from nowhere and save the day.

“Look, she’s not coming back anytime soon, sorry to tell you that bud. Right now if you want to live, you’ll help me wipe out the rest of the scum lying around.”

With a firmer grasp on the shoulder this time, Harvey tried to pull up Frank but he soon clashed with fuming retaliation. The mourning Frank swung around and gave a good shove to Harvey. Whipping the revolver from his side, he pointed for the magician’s smug face. Unable to do much against a normal bullet, Harvey tried to reason with Frank rather crudely. “Shoot me and you’ve basically sealed your fate like Patty. C’mon don’t be a punk.”

“Not a punk, just big ole’ asshole.” Frank pulled back on the trigger and a feisty bullet rang past Harvey’s ear, slightly knicking an edge of it in the process. The bullet whizzed across the Magnuze and found its home in the creeping Fenshir’s cranium.

[i ‘Baddaboom. Baddawhut.’]
Finnigan     6y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Battle Aboard the Magnuze, pt. 3#]

“You asshole! Ow!” Harvey fell to his knees and screamed vehemently at Frank. His ears rung from the close encounter with the buzzing bullet, but he turned around and saw the dancing Fenshir dead. A persistent bunch, the Templar. Their leader followed suit.

Frank approached Harvey and lent out his hand. Smirking, Frank tried his best to keep his feelings bottled up inside. After all, the best people in his life were all gone and only the loneliest souls remained. “Yer welcome.”

At first, Harvey slapped away Frank’s hand. He would never stoop so low as to touch riff-raff. The Lansit never stooped so low in the long lasting legacy. Harvey fumbled for a while before sitting back down and huffing in defeat. The entire day taxed his body. Never in his life did he ever work his legs so vigorously. The air was so cold from the outside too that his voice chittered. “I’m rather conflicted on whether or not I tolerate your presence.”

“No use cryin’ over, oh, I don’t know, the bullet that saved your ass,” Frank sneered. He latched onto Harvey’s forearm and yanked him without notice. The two met eye to eye, but the mercantile magician seemed too headstrong in his thoughts. “I’m sure your presence is a present.”

Without another word, the two of them approached Fenshir’s dead body. One absolutely had no idea who he was or what he wanted but was relieved. The other feared for worse. The two looked at each other and nodded. It had to be done. With one great shove off the mighty Magnuze, Fenshir’s skydived for the Blue, but they remained looking down on the world below.

“Alas, Patty tried her best to save such an inferior ship.”

Frank was not sure if Harvey was trying to comfort him or if he was being an unbelievable ass. With a finger on the trigger, Frank calmly pointed the dirty revolver’s barrel towards Harvey’s unscathed ear. “Jackie. Her name is Jackie Simms. The next time you flub it up, you’re gonna bite the bullet.”

He could not follow up with his empty threat. Frank’s heart sank faster than a rock in a pond. He stood on top of the ship for the longest time with Harvey looking out in the opposite direction. “What now?” was the question on both their minds. The Templar continued to crawl through the ship’s innards and everything remotely familiar to Frank was lost somewhere in the infinite sky. The next closest people were the princess most unfamiliar to him and the dry Lucavi.

“Git me back to the princess n’ Dusty.” He sighed, “I can’t afford losing anymore crew members.”

“I agree,” Harvey responded. Some of the men on top of the ship groaned with bleeding gashes whereas the rest died by the blade. The captain of the ship refused to touch any of them. After all, the medical examiner on board needed to do his job. The blood and the guts would ruin his suit and his public standing.

Harvey and Frank entered the iron framed balloon. Surprisingly, the seasoned members of the Magnuze cleaned up the Templar pretty well on their own. With monkey wrenches and screwdrivers pitted against swords, Frank smirked a little at first, but realized once more that the men in mustard yellow suits bled like everyone else. Still fearless in the wake of the enemy, the Templar was mixed in company. Frank had wondered who were the Templar and what were their goals. Were they much different from Harvey or him?

The Magnuze had a group of Templar clustered against a corner, but the stragglers were the ones Harvey focused his frustrations on. With mere flicks on the magical fountain pen, the magician tossed men into and over the iron guard railings. Harvey repeated pushed an unfortunate soldier into the inner wall of the balloon over and over until sword and conscious dropped beneath him. Harvey pestered them all with a downpour of fireballs. The flames grew hotter with each hit and began to flay off cotton and skin alike. Harvey, the supposed merchant of death, slowly made sure the remainders died a repetitive and awfully slow death.

Frank followed him across the main runway, but a sinister wave caused him to turn around at the right moment. One sword swung and another jabbed for the lanky man, but Frank’s uncanny intuition told him to duck and roll away. One bullet, then another was all he needed to put down the sneaky swordsmen. With great precision, the gunman plugged each of the slugs into a forehead, but he could not exactly rejoice. As the dense bodies leaked through the steel grated walkway, the twice-dead Fenshir cracked an unholy sneer, one that caught the attention of Harvey Lansit.

“You just won’t die!” the magician cried out.

One after another, fireballs raged across the long and narrow path. Determined to put the Templar to death and for good, Harvey launched Fenshir and the lead footed martyrs across the stage. He downed them, but he continued to the onslaught. The sweat poured from his skin and his pearl white teeth clenched in fervor. The muscles ached and the knees cried for rest, but Harvey P. Lansit, the renowned magician, fought against his body too. Fenshir and the robots with the half melted exterior got back up. Harvey upped the barrage with fiery concussive blasts. Each whip of the arm brought life to blooming bomb blasts, and he did it in such a rapid order that caused him to blackout momentarily.

His anger should have left no remains of his enemy, but in the case of the light-footed Fenshir, the seemingly unharmed pariah of the occult stepped forth from the inferno. The wardrobe disintegrated and so did his flesh. The robotics and the wicked smiled were the two things that remained. Harvey’s nemesis whom he thought was human all along held his fist toward the gasping magicker. The first slightly sank and from the wrist two darts shot out. Frank shot one in midair while Harvey’s magic barely touched the end of his target. The small dart plunged into his neck.

A metallic voice creaked from Fenshir, “Give me the Xyianthis.”

Harvey immediately succumbed to the poison, so a loud shrill noise erupted from behind. Eudoxia, who was underneath Duster’s transparent cloak and observing from the balloon’s entrance, brandished her fiery dagger and enacted revenge. The edge seared into Fenshir’s spine and melted a good size hole before the automaton turned around. The brash princess accepted that if she could not be with him, she would die in his honor. Fenshir raised his hand for the final blow, but a flowing angel of white glided in front of her and severed both head and arm from the attacker.

Duster plunged his Lucavi sword into the decapitated Fenshir’s head while Eudoxia ran to the fallen Lansit. Harvey shook off the initial hit and pulled himself up before she laid a hand on him. Pushing away the advances, he limped past quiet Frank as if he was going to escape the entire situation. He was out of breath, out of shape, and out of cares. He stared to the other side of the Magnuze and saw that his men had won over the enemy. It was probably his first and last moment he’d ever appreciate their triumphs.

“Do you even know who you’re fighting against?” Eudoxia asked. Harvey irked her with all the avoidance.

Harvey turned back to Eudoxia and Frank and disappointingly shook his head. All this time and he did not even consider Fenshir to be a robot. He was clearly played as a fool. He exasperated, “I thought I did.”

“So what exactly is this?”

Eudoxia pulled out a clunky black sphere the size of a grapefruit and tossed it in her hand. [i Tick. Tick. Tick.] Inspecting it closer, she noticed all the grooves and dibits and the flashing green circle. She thought about cracking it open, but she did not have the time to do so.

“The Xyianthis!” Harvey struggled closer to her and tried snatching it out of her hands, but Eudoxia proved to be more agile than the crooning man. “Princess, I don’t know how you got your hands on it, but you have no clue what that is. Hand it over! Now.”

“Marry me,” she sweetly sang.

Pulling back in disgust, Harvey threw his hands up in the air before stumbling around and shouted, “I should have all you thrown off this ship!”

Frank snatched the ball out of Eudoxia’s hands with ease and inspected it further. The object was definitely older than all their ages combined, but he did not see any importance or value to it. “Wait, this? Nah, this ain’t no Xyianthis. Not even a component to the chassis. That’s just a glorified softball.”

“But it’s not! This encapsulates the will of Lansit. Your [i fiance] can have his throne and crown, that despicable boy, but it’s all empty promises. [i Entitlement]. This sphere is nothing but the truths and ideals of the many men who have fought long and hard through the best of time, through the worst of time. We the Lansit name know perseverance if anything.”

Frank rolled his eyes and tuned the ludicrous fellow at “entitlement.”

[i ‘An aura most familiar emanates from this.’] Duster listened closely to the ticking of the sphere. It was speaking to him in simplistic tongue. The Xyianthis was trying to convey a message this entire time, but the Lucavi was unable to decipher it.

“That’s a very nice story, Harvey, but I think I’ll hold on to it a little longer. You know, until you persevere.”

Eudoxia held her hands for the orb and Frank tossed it to the girl. If he valued it the artefact so much, he’d have to submit to her eventually to get it back. Wrong. Harvey eventually gave up on her silly love games and inspected the room. Fire, corpses, blood, holes. The unexpected ordeal caused him more money than any other botched up delivery.

“We will return to Sudra right away. The Magnuze has sustained enough damage for today. I’m hoping that my chief mechanic will be able to patch her up for the next Tsukimoto trip. This upcoming report is not going to bode well with the shareholders, that’s I can tell you that. The parlor alone will take 1000 kuna to repair. And my couches…”

Harvey splitted from the group and reconvened with his workers. Meanwhile, Eudoxia and Frank both sat down on a flight of stairs for a break. They too were not expecting such rude guests.

“Frank, where’s Jackie?” Eudoxia questioned. She looked around the room, but didn’t see the tough and squatty woman anywhere. If anything, this would have been her scene to shine.

Frank uttered, “I don’t wanna talk ‘bout it.”

“And Rhys? Let’s go back to the Fighter.” Eudoxia spoke with such enthusiasm, but sullen Frank could not muster enough emotion to be surprised. She tried pulling him up with his fingers, but Frank’s heavy heart anchored him to his seat.

“Eu, we ain’t got the flyin’ Fighter no more. Jackie,” His glassy eyes held back the tears. He did not want to appear weak in front of the teenage princess. He had wished he was the teenage princess. Eudoxia only worried about silly men and silly snow white beards. “Jackie tried saving the ship, but it went down with her and Rhys still on board.”

“Oh. Frank,” Eudoxia let go of his bony digits. Her heart sank as well and she plopped down next to him. “I’m so sorry.”

Eudoxia placed her head on Frank’s shoulder and the two of them mourned in undisturbed silence for an hour. Both left friendless and homeless, the two disenchanted souls thought of nothing, yet everything came rushing in.

“Hm?”

The moment of rest was short-lived and an even bigger commotion stormed the Magnuze. Frank subconsciously threw Eudoxia into the camouflaged Duster and hopped to his feet. He looked in their direction and held his index finger to his lips. From the Duster’s shroud, Eudoxia saw as a swarm of men dressed in blue surged the ship. From all sides, these Varsylian officers yelled into their faces and tossed Frank and the crew of the Magnuze to their knees. Armed with rifles and bayonets, the soldiers took complete control of the ship and made way for Captain Gallien’s eventual arrival.

“I don’t have time for a full cavity search of this ship. Lansit is the main priority at the moment,” he sternly remarked.

Two soldiers in blue brought forth a cufflinked Harvey who swore to enact revenge. He too was caught by surprise, but the Sudranese magician was too weak at this point to put up a decent fight. He felt worse compared to an hour ago when Fenshir administered the poison, but he was still coherent. Harvey had tried to get some work done at the front end of the ship, but Varsylgard’s air force arrived and surrounded the Magnuze before it could take any evasive maneuvers.

Eudoxia made a notion to kill Gallien, but Duster heavily detested her rash action, stating that she would only bring more harm to Harvey’s name. The great magician Harvey and a few of his men were hauled off and out of the room. The first thing they were going to do was ship him to the front doors of the Varsylian capital’s palace and have Prince Chelon distastefully disembowel him. The thought ran through her mind, but Duster was sound enough to keep her away.

“Well, this is a surprise.” A dark face turned to his right and stared at the rust colored head two bodies down. It was the machine whisperer that Harvey sometimes spoke highly of.

“Well this day just keeps on gettin’ better, Tony Maxwell. What in the Hel are you doin’ here?”

“I could say the same for you, but I’d rather not get into the grit at the moment. Once we hit Varsylian soil, they’ll mark us down for execution like the boss. We’re all accomplices in Harvey’s ‘very elaborate plan’ to usurp the Prince. You know, all that conspiracy junk.”

“Quiet there or I’ll make you!” one of the soldiers shouted.

“Ain’t seem like we’re gonna get a break anytime soon.” Frank was in luck. Hollis Westlands was nowhere to be found. The fusilier with the ugly mug would have pounded his mouth in with the butt of his rifle.

[i ‘Frank. The princess and I will keep our distance.’]

“Didja say somethin’?” Frank asked Tony.

“No.”

“I told you two to quiet down!” the same soldier barked.

[i ‘Frank. It’s Duster. I’ve established a telepathic link between the two of us.’]

“Hey, where are ya? I don’t see ya anywhere Dusty.”

Tony cocked a brow and wondeed who Frank was aimlessly searching for.

[i ‘Frank, please think before you speak out loud. You’ll compromise what advantage you have left. Princess Eudoxia and I will keep back until we find an opportune time to strike.’]

[i ‘Just mah luck. Gonna be strung up for all the wrong reasons. Gonna die before I ever have young’uns. I’m gonna die in a place that don’t know my name.’]

[i ‘Oh, don’t be so dramatic.’]
Finnigan     6y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size20 #ARC 5: The Exchange of Broken Vows and Dreams#]
[size16 #Lansit Landing#]

[i ‘Now we play the waiting game.’]

[i ‘I hated stick ball growin’ up though.’]

Frank’s eyes scanned the room as if he was going to find the invisible princess and Lucavi. He could tell that these men in blue uniforms were an entirely different caliber than those in the mustard yellow. He appreciated that there was some variation to their facial structures and stature. The lot of them, worn out and weary from the long travels, scattered throughout the balloon and investigated every corner aimlessly. They wore heavy bruised bags beneath their starry eyes and slung the rifles across tender shoulder. Frank smirked at the pitiful group. Was this honestly the best Varsylgard could muster up?

The next ranking member behind Captain Gallien stepped in front of the line and inspected each face. He was just as serious as the captain, with a rougher and colder expression worn on his bony face. After he was done inspecting the pitiful faces of the Magnuze, he turned to his pitiful men and barked, “Take them to the holding brig. Get the cadet steering this thing to avoid Densch at all costs. The last thing I want to run into are rescue parties.”

“Yessir!”

The soldiers saluted. Some headed towards the front of the ship while nudged the prisoners up with the barrel of their rifle. Like a herd of chickens, Frank, Tony, and the rest of the miserable lot stood in one crowded bunch. Frank gravitated towards the mechanic and clung to him by the arm. Unlike Harvey who saw the workers’ lives as expendable, Frank began to plot for an uprising. If no one had to die, he would look toward that option. Their weapons were displaced on the other side of the ship in one massive pile. No spellgun, no revolver. Frank barely fought with his fists and he could not throw a punch as well as Jackie did.

Stuck in the middle with Tony, Frank and his schemes were not going far any time soon. Instead, he found a way to delay his incarceration. The crowd stepped a few inches at a time, so Frank decided to slow it down just a tad. Placing his foot between Tony’s legs, the plotter pushed him forward and towards the outside of the circle. Like standing dominos, the clumsy crowd of people fell onto each other into one cluster of a pile. The men shouted and punched through the orgy, angered by the anonymous person responsible for the tumult. The soldiers barked at the pile until the buzzing intercom interjected.

[b “Lt. Captain Yawalch, fogey inbound and rapidly approaching at 7:30 from below. Requesting Howlitzer support.”]

A few of the soldiers scurried to the top of the Magnuze while the others braced themselves for whatever danger awaited them. Many of them were cowards. Boots trembled, gloves shook.

“Thieving Sudranese!” yelled the ranking official. He commanded his soldiers to pick up the pace and to escort the prisoners quickly to the Magnuze’s holding cell.

Frank was the first among many to get back up. His dull eyes fixed themselves onto the ceiling of the ship as if he knew what was happening. It all happened in rapid order. One harpoon pierced the balloon’s exterior with a second striking another spot. Three seconds passed and a rather boisterous thud became the rancorous scraping along the top. Through walls and the quiet rushing of the air outside, the people inside the mighty Magnuze heard metal violating metal. This enemy ship, whomever it belonged to, shoved the Varsylian Howlitzers off and into the Blue.

[b “Lt. Captain, enemy ship has sideswiped the Howlitzers!”]

The voice on the other side panicked and sounded as if the Varsylian military had already given up. The assault on the Magnuze did not stop there. One of the anchors slowly peeled back the exterior thus slightly exposing the innards to a most violent sound. The Magnuze screamed in pain while one figure slipped through the top.

“Did you all miss me?” Jackie hung from the top with one hand grasping a beam and the other firmly clutching her stomach.

“Jackie flippin’ Simms.”

Frank’s face lit up in her presence. This was the moment he was looking for. The soldiers aimed their rifles up high and took a liking to the strange beast from above. The prisoner from below tackled the nearest fusilier to the ground and removed him from the skirmish. The mechanics and engineers of the Magnuze scattered in all directions. Some ran for the sake of living another day while others dashed for their arsenal. The contest between Varsylian and Densch-aligned raged, but it was the worn out workers of the Magnuze who fought for keeps. They cried out as they turned wrenches and hammers into devastating blows to the head.

Duster revealed himself with the princess closely following. Long silver blades shot through the air and severed the finely crafted rifles. From the other side, Tony took up Frank’s six shooter and held the remaining soldiers captive. The lieutenant captain, defeated, dropped to the ground on his knees and ordered his men to surrender. Some of the men of the Magnuze ordered for their immediate death and stated that it was only fair if their attackers shared the same fate as their leader. The other broken, wounded, and tired folk sided with Tony who demanded they be jailed. Without being told, Duster fenced in the Varsylians with tall and large silver stakes.

“How the Hel are ya still alive?”

Frank and Duster rushed over to Jackie who was slowly diminishing and fading out of this world. She had made her way down the to floor level throughout the fight while seemingly dodging the sparse bullets. Untouchable yet wreckless, Jackie Simms never ceased to stun her crowd with such feats. A fool most of the shipmates would call her, but to Frank she was an inspiration, a muse really.

Jackie fell back on her bottom and laughed off the pain. Duster had cut away at her shirt and his glowing green hands hovered over her giant gash. Wincing just a bit, she pointed up to the top of the Magnuze and remarked, “I gotta tell you Frankie, Rhys is the only reason why the Fighter and I are still in one piece. The boy managed to keep the vessel out of water.”

“We oughta thank ‘em.” Frank rejoiced from the inside. Somewhere in the Blue, his Maker was closely watching. Frank Dietz was not an avid follower, but he knew who to give credit to when all the right things happened. In order to maintain his tough guy persona, Frank would have to skip hugging Rhys. That above everything had to be preserved.

From the corner of her eye Jackie spotted the familiar face in the black jumpsuit. Smiling, she warmly welcomed Tony into the circle. “Well hello there, Tony. I didn’t expect you to be on this ship.”

“Likewise.” Tony sighed. He wasn’t ready for the lovestruck powerhouse: not today, not ever. “Anyways, our best bet is to return to Sudra and seek asylum with the Lansit estate.”

Tony and Frank remained on the Magnuze while Duster and Eudoxia escorted the wounded Jackie back to the fierce Fighter in the air. Eudoxia immediately embraced Rhys with a hardy hug and a kiss to his soft forehead. The princess was reluctant to go back to Densch, especially back to Lansit Landing. Would the masters of the estate allow them in or would they order an execution order against the foreign princess and the captives?

The Magnuze managed to make it back to Densch with very few problems. Somehow the giant powerhouse was able to draw enough magic to keep itself afloat. Lansit Landing resided on one of the taller stalks of the city and happened to have its own platform the Lansit owned airships. The pride and joy that was the Magnuze wobbled on its feet before securing itself to the surface. The Varsylian soldiers, now handcuffed and escorted by the roughest members of the flagship and Duster, marched with heads facing down and tails between their legs. The people of Densch would have to hold a triumph and parade the fallen soldiers as spoils of war.

While the enemy was whisked away into a holding cell, Tony led a few members of the Magnuze and Anchovi to the actual grounds of the Lansit mansion. The winding bridge between the platforms was gilded. The glimmering gold with carmine accents led Anchovi to one of the gates leading to the estate. Eudoxia imagined this moment a little differently. She dreamed of Harvey carrying her through the gates with a dutiful yet oddly charming pageboy announcing their engagement to Dulon and Rozlibet Lansit. In the very end, the lords of Lansit would bless their union and Eudoxia would live her life as happily married.

Somehow, the brilliant minded Antonine Maxwell was able to get Anchovi through all three gates of the estate. Where was he when Eudoxia needed him the most? The estate matured into a gargantuan figure with each lingering step. A palace simply fit for royalty. A red carpet ran down the middle with such an elaborate stone plaza filling the space. Fountains sat on either side of the wide red carpet as did steps to the main floor of Lansit Landing. Red, gold, and black intertwined the enormous building. There were at least two hundred windows on the facade, and that was not counting the wings. Anchovi ascended the steps of the property only to be met with front doors that spanned two stories high.

“I was brought to the wrong kingdom before, but here, here is where I’m destined live out my days,” Eudoxia whispered to herself. “With a husband whose empire will span other empires and crush those who oppose.”

The giant wooden red doors opened for Anchovi. Standing alongside the continuing red carpet were guards dressed in white and black checkerboard print. Armed with halberds, they stood with the utmost confidence. A dozen or so of these guys would have had no problem wiping out the Varsylgard’s best. In the main atrium, a revolving chandelier hovered above their heads with several smaller chandeliers dancing in place. Everything from the armor to the black marble statues and even the gilded railing that led to the throne room shimmered in the intense lighting.

The guards peacefully allowed Tony and the Anchovi to head up to the throne room. Rhys and Jackie commented that they should not touch anything in fear of tainting the regalia. Even the princess Eudoxia felt as if she was too unworthy to be in such a place. Lansit Landing, to be simply put, was an old Dalmenian fairy tale. Such extravagance stole her breath.

Looking towards Frank and Jackie, she nervously nodded at them and snidely muttered, “maybe you guys should stay out here. The Lansit are very particular.”

Frank rolled his eyes. [i ‘Like we all don’t know that.’]

The doors to the throne room opened to a long hall. Arched windows and more of the checkerboard theme ran rampant through the room up until the countless steps that led to the thrones. Tony and Eudoxia led the group to the steps and remained silent. The dominus of Lansit Landing, Dulon Lansit, sat upright and wrapped in red velvet. Bald on top, his beard which spanned farther than his shoulders compensated. To his left, the mistress of Lansit Landing, Rozlibet Lansit, wore a rather plain dress. As if she was bored with her magnificent life, Rozlibet rested her head on her hand. Tony bowed and Eudoxia curtseying. Rhys and Duster followed with Eudoxia reminding the last two that they were in the presence of royalty.

“Rise,” the lord commanded in such a gravely voice. “Such a surprise to see that the lead engineer of the Magnuze is back so soon. And this young dame over here.”

“Eudoxia of Dalme.”

“Ah, betrothed to Prince Chelon of Varsylgard. Oh joy,” the lady of Lansit Landing sarcastically enthused.

“The Magnuze was attacked, first by men in yellow and then the blue uniformed Varsylian military. The latter captured--”

“Silence!” the lord ordered. The roar echoed through the empty hall and shook the windows. “I am well aware of what happened. Lady Rumour is faster than any human tongue. She flies far up high and bears witness as far as her eyes and ears can hear and see. I knew what had happened before you even made your way back to Densch.”

Tony bowed. “I will tend to the Magnuze, my lord and lady.”

“Antonine Maxwell, you are needed elsewhere,” Rozlibet Lansit called out.

It only took the king and queen a few minutes before they realized that Frank and his troupe were present. The queen’s face twitched at their ungodly attire, but the king was clearly interested in what these strange folk could offer.

Dulon nodded his head and pointed his seemingly long fingers at Tony. “You will fetch Harvey for us.”

Rozlibet perked up and added on, “Yes, make sure that our son is alive and in good health.”

“Allow me to accompany him!” Eudoxia interjected. She fell to her knees and bowed to the throne.

“Oh?” Eudoxia piqued the king’s interest. Pulling himself out of the comfort of his throne, Dulon Lansit motioned for the princess to approach him. “Do tell, princess, what importance is Harvey to you? Does he owe you a debt?”

The young princess gulped. “Allow me to marry Harvey!”

The king and the queen tossed themselves back into their red velvet encrusted thrones in shock. At first they were appalled by the informal and insanely backwards proposal, but in a strange turn of events they laughed. The laughter grew like wildfire and Dulon and Rozlibet was unable to calm it.


The king in red had to move a tear or two from his eye before he composed himself. “There’s nothing in the Blue that would satisfy me more than hearing that Helvetia failed at securing a royal heir.”

“A tarnished princess of Dalme she is.” The queen blotted his eyes with a kerchief. “She lives through her only daughter. If she was years younger, she’d bed Prince Chelon.”

Eudoxia tried not to think about it. Cruel Chelon and her aging mother sharing the same bed made her gag out loud.

“Varsylgard is mere moments from politico implosion. The Dalmenian empire will not hold back once their Eudoxia marries our Lansit son. You, m’dear, are the last line of defense for the ailing land of Uol’. Are you willing to put the Varsylian empire out of its misery? Is that something that your heart can bear?”

“My lord, you are quite cruel.” Rozlibet motioned for the princess to approach her now. With a quick eye, she was able to see such pain in Eudoxia, but it was not for her second home. No, the pain Eudoxia felt was unrequited love. Sinisterly grinning, the queen calmly held the princess’ hands into her lap. “Though, I must say that Prince Chelon deserves what’s coming to him.”

The guard on Rozlibet’s left approached the throne with a sheathed sword in hand. The queen released Eudoxia’s hands and signaled for her to take the weapon.

Confused by this gift and unfamiliar with Densch or Lansit values, Eudoxia asked, “What’s this?”

“The brand which will spill the prince’s blood.”

“Eudoxia, kill Chelon and we will bless you with our son.” The king stroked the white clouds around his face and nodded in junction with his wife.

“Mother! Father! What is this?” A voice shouted from the other side of the room. A woman in a flowing purple shroud stormed across the room. She wore disgust on her face. Scrunched up and wrinkled, the ugly sneer’s deep lines moved Anchovi from aside. Seething, she ascended the steps snarled.

The king who seemed to have very little patience greeted the rude woman with a warm smile. “Seville, meet the future sister-in-law.”

The woman who was their daughter, Seville Lansit, was practically foaming from the mouth. No one knew exactly what her problem was, but she had to make sure that the rest of Densch knew how furious she was with her problematic brother. “Let Harvey suffer the consequences, that slag!”

“Tone down the explosive language.”

“Girl, if you value your life, leave now.” Grasping onto Eudoxia’s bony fingers, the Lansit daughter admonished the young fool with great contempt. For a woman who was sheltered from most of Densch and the world, Seville had a strong grip.

Eudoxia pulled away from the deranged woman’s squeeze. She cared not for Seville already and defended her future husband with royal scoff. Eudoxia turned to the guard with the sword sheathed in leather dyed in black. Knowing some of the consequences, Eudoxia took up arms against the Varsylian crown.

“I pray that you know how to use such a tool.” The king smiled.

Eudoxia, forgetting who she was talking to, quipped, “What’s there to know? You stick the pointy end into whoever you want dead.”

“There may be hope for Lansit yet,” chuckled the queen.

“Go with haste, Eudoxia of Dalme.”
Finnigan     6y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Swordplay#]

Tony and Jackie strolled through the dining room for the cargo bay. After situating the Fighter for its inevitable return to the Varsylian empire, the pilot decided that it would be best to enjoy today’s spectator sport. The mechanic who was still trying to get a feel for the Fighter and its strange technology followed Jackie. He’d rather study the ship, but he did not want to seem too invasive of their space. The inside felt industrial and not as homey as some parts of the Magnuze. Though he was no artist himself, Tony Maxwell felt as if there was no color or life within these metal halls. Comfort must have been a luxury for the people on Guten Nocht because even the simplest of ships of the Blue had some sort of home aspect to it.

“Everything suiting to your needs?” Jackie asked on their walk to the back of the ship. Somehow she was able to keep herself contained. She had not bothered to oggle her temporary resident.

The mechanic slightly nodded, but he was none too pleased with his living quarters. He believed that it was far too big compared to the bunkers within the Magnuze. Yes, Tony particularly complained about how it was twice the size of his bed and small walkway combined. What’s worse is that Tony did not share his space with two other mechanics. Even with the duffle bag and toolbox, the room was just as empty as before. The lights were extremely bright and there was not enough buzzing coming from the lights to annoy him. The bookshelf was not needed and the privacy was unheard of. Everything seemed out of place for Tony; the emptiness got to him.

Rhys was sitting on the ledge and watching the scene from below when Jackie and Tony came through the doors. The two newcomers nodded at him and joined in the spectating. Frank sat in a chair between Eudoxia and Duster who were engaging in a mild banter. Tony scratched what scruff he had on his chin and sighed at the mere sight of the Dalmenian princess.

“I can’t imagine having [i her] on board.” Tony feared that his brother might have had been connected with Eudoxia’s disappearance, and he absolutely refused to aid his brother in any way until the whole situation was sorted. Apparently, Tony found Jeraia completely innocent of the ordeal while he himself somehow wound up on the same ship as her.

Jackie placed her chin on her fist and cocked a thick black eyebrow towards him. Intrigued by his worrisome tone, she begged the question, “Why’s that?”

“She’s the prince’s bride-to-be. You don’t think she would sell us out to the queen, do you?”

Tony’s words contorted Jackie’s pudgy face. Outright objecting such a farce thought, she plainly laid it out. “Look, Eu saved our lives. There’s not a single bone in my body that doubts her motives. Who’s to say that you’re not a spy for Varsyl. Weren’t you born and raised in Varsyl? There has to be some of love for your country imbued in you.”

Jackie acknowledged she was not a believer in the princess at first. Like Tony, she was in the same position where she thought the teenager was going to take them for a ride in order to get what she wanted. Whether or not Eudoxia saved her and Frank from death out of selfish reasons was unimportant.

“Yes, but I don’t have an allegiance to the capital. Varsylgard and its governing body allowed whip crackers and touty men to enslave people, innocent or guilty as they may be. Let me remind you that the man we’re going to save allowed all of this to happen. He did not outright endorse slavery within the Varsylian kingdom, but he did not fix it either. Anyone who stands idle in dire times is part of the problem.” The moment went silent, but Tony carried on with his eyes locked on the princess. “Do I work for Harvey Lansit? Yes. Do I respect the man? Hel to the no, Jackie. Varsylgard and the Lansits are two sides of the same coin. Dirty business done by shady men.”

“Why work for a man so corrupt? Why serve the Lansit when you can freely choose your destiny?” Jackie asked. She focused on Eudoxia from above and smiled.

“I figure I might as well just sell my soul to the Goddess of Hel.” Tony rolled his eyes. Shrugging, he went on. “Anyways, I don’t have much going on for me.”

“Except, you know, being one of the better mechanics out there. You can work for anyone, but you choose to limit yourself. Why?”

“Waiting for that next big gig. The Lansits keep my wallet plump. Not going to find a living soul around the Varsylian empire that’ll keep up with my steak and potato binge.” Somehow he was able to crack a joke in the midst of all the serious conversation. Jackie’s stance perplexed him. Out of all the people in the Blue, the people from Guten Nocht defended the princess.

“Ya gonna be ready to use that thing when the time’s come?” Frank smiled underneath the floating lightbulb that crafted such a sinister face. Taking a puff of his cigarette and chuckled.

Eudoxia who decided it would be a great idea to practice in a poofy black dress with golden accents lifted the blade from its sheath. It’s tip sank closer to the ground and might have nicked the dress a bit. Nervously smiling at her opponent, she remarked, “It’s heavier than I thought.”

Duster over tilted his head and wiggled his nose like a hare. With a silver blade in hand, he aimlessly stood in place in confusion. This was not going to be any sparring session.

“Alright, Dusty, let ‘er have it,” Frank said between puffs. Crossing his legs and flicking away the ashes, the outlaw pointed at Eudoxia yet said nothing to her.

“I’ll let you know that I’ve been trained in swordplay. My Maestra is one of the best in the Blue.” Lifting the brand in front of her, Eudoxia prepared herself for Duster, although a bit shaky and in poor form. “Let’s see what you got!”

By no means was Duster a master in fighting at a close range. Like a ape in the wild, he caught the princess off guard with his slow yet devastating overhead swings. The Lucavi silver clashed with steel. The sparks flew in midair as the princess blocked each unexpected hit. Her heels dug into the ground and with each step backwards, she was quickly losing her footing.

“Wah! I wasn’t ready yet!” she shouted out. Eudoxia continued to hold out her sword, but Duster’s ravaging weakened her grip.

Holding off on his next attack, Duster lowered his makeshift blade and twitched his nose. “Princess. I am Duster of the Lucavi, an acquaintance of yours. If I was your enemy, do you think I’d wait for you to be ready? I am not your Maestra, I am your Lucavi.”

The two resumed their stance and Frank officiated round two. Duster immediately took a few steps back and allowed the princess to attack him. Her swipes were impressively fast, yet none of them managed to reach Duster who was constantly sidestepping and running circles around her. The skirt of Eudoxia’s dress shuffled across the cold hard floor in the opposite direction of her steps which caused a delay in her movements. Eventually, Eudoxia held off on her attacking to catch her breath.

“At a distance, you’re a ferocious fighter, but it’s unnecessary. It only takes a couple of pounds of pressure to rip through skin and flesh. Lucavi body, not so much. Use all that potential energy in a more efficient way.”

Eudoxia thrusted forward, but steady-footed Duster slid to the right and landed his blade in front of her face.

“Lunging too far into your attacks will leave you open. You’re prone to death now.”

As Duster went to tilt his head, Eudoxia spun around with the blade heavy in her hand. The metals clashed and sparks illuminated the air. Eudoxia kept on her toes and pushed Duster back until he thought it was appropriate to retaliate. Backed into a wall, Duster parried Eudoxia’s strike with ease and swung relentlessly at her. Eudoxia held her blade up, but her wrist numbed over time. Each strike was as if Duster was adding weight to her foil.

“Your defensive game is impeccable, probably second best on the ship, next to me.” Duster chided Eudoxia, but his patronizing did not stop at her. The likes of Jackie and Frank both shot a glance at the knight dressed in white. “Exactly how long can you keep it up until your opponent exploits a mistake?”

“First, it’s me being too forward,” she sighed. “And now it’s me being too passive.”

Eudoxia brought up her blade in a fit. One strike after another, she pummeled her sword into his without any sort of counter.

“Make.”

She took a step forward with a powerful strike.

“Up.”

Two more steps forward, one step back. The Lucavi steel struck back, but Eudoxia fought back valiantly against his rising tide.

“Your.”

She struggled to speak once she went on the offensive. At first it was another gallop forward, but a few skips back with a handful of grunts sprinkled in the mix..

“Damn.”

Beating Duster back with a few good shots, Eudoxia gained the upper hand and eventually pressed Duster’s back to a wall. The cold interior embracing him caught him off guard. With each jab, she missed his torso and instead pricked the lavishly polished steel walls.

“Mind!”

As she went for a clean blow, Eudoxia jumped to the side in order to block a second blade. Turning around to face a new foe, she realized that one of Duster’s Lucavi balls were floating in midair with a blade attached to it. Taking both Duster and his autonomous floating blade at the same time, the princess gritted her teeth and juggled her foes. With one mighty swipe, she was able to knock both blades out of the air and away for the time being. Gathering the floating black orb and sticking it down his throat, Duster moved away from the wall and kept his distance from a seething teenager.

“You let anger cloud your judgment, princess. Don’t allow your opponent to seep into your head.” Duster taunted, “After all, you’re not too shabby for an amateur.”

“Cheater!” Eudoxia cried out. She had caught her breath and smirked at Duster.

“Agile yet a fiery tongue. Quick but there’s still some improvement to be made. Your opponent will not play fair.”

“Does she honestly think she can win against the prince?” Tony made an aside to Jackie.

At first, his voice simply went over her head. Slow to process what Tony had just said, Jackie aimlessly threw out, “Where she lacks in power, she makes up in drive. Euey is nothing short of a fool, yet she fights for a man who’s scorned her.”

“I say that makes her a fool alone. A big one at that,” Tony raised his brows and checked to see if Jackie agreed. “I don’t think any man is worth death and defamation.”

“Apparently he is.”

“Well, I believe in Eudoxia,” Rhys muttered.

Tony awkwardly joked, “I think I might have to jump off the wrong ship because you’re all clearly insane.”

“You know what they say: if you don’t believe in anything, you’ll fall for everything.” Jackie muttered off into the distance and hoped that Tony would catch the majority of what she said. She was too preoccupied with Eudoxia’s stand.

“Cliche proverb on point.” Tony rolled his eyes. Everyone except for him was an idealist and a sucker for obtuse quotes.“And wait one minute, who said that I don’t believe in anything?”

Rhys turned away from the fight for a minute and looked up at the towering Tony. With such a cold expression plastered on his face, Rhys asked him, “Well, what do you believe in?”

“Uh, well…” Stumped, Tony scratched his head. He wasn’t expecting such a snappy comment from Rhys. He tried putting up a finger, but the answer would not come out of his mouth. “I’ll get back to you on that.”

“You okay, Eu?” Frank asked back on the cargo bay floor.

“C’mon, is that all you got?” Her panting was beginning to lighten up, yet her olive almond shaped eyes remained sharp as ever. She kept a good clutch on the hilt of the gilded foil.

“You’re clearly struggling to stay up, princess. Perhaps you should submit.” Duster pressed her buttons.

[i Princess.] What exactly entails when the word [i princess] is said? Did being born into an affluent political family mean that she could not rise to warrior status?

Eudoxia growled at the fluffy white coated Lucavi. “I’m not a princess.”

“If the dress fits, you might be a princess,” Frank quipped.

Closing her eyes and trying to hold back any outbursts, Eudoxia hummed to herself. She was more than royalty. The sword that she held was an oath that no mere princess could enact on her own. Her eyes begged her to cry, but she would not allow it. Instead, Eudoxia wadded up a large portion of her skirt and held it in front for Duster and Frank to look at. Without a bit of remorse, the fierce warrior hacked off a good chunk of the wad. Bits of expensive silk and lace plopped to the floor while she continued the attack on fashion and her namesake. She was more than just a pretty face and a cute waist.

Stunned, Frank ignored the fact that his cigarette was dropping flaky ashes onto his knees.“Whoa.”

“So you’ve kept your true skills hidden beneath the dress.”

Eudoxia, now wearing a much shorter dress, flew towards Duster with the foil in front. She was able to match the Lucavi hit for hit.

“Tenacity, she’s filled to the brim with it,” Frank chuckled.

“Exactly.” Eudoxia firmly stood her ground with the gilded sword at her side. This was her oath, the promise she made to the Lansit patriarch and matriarch.

Jackie clutched her bosom and sweetly sang in her sugary voice. “Everything she does, she does with passion. Love, hate, fight, sew; she does it with her all.”

“I guess despite her upbringing, she’s been a go-getter from the start.” Tony walked away with his hands behind his head. He got bored of watching royalty relieve themselves of their “troubles”, but he had to admit that the princess-no-more was very different from his initial reactions.

“Precisely, Tony-Tone.” Reminding Tony Maxwell of his origins, she prodded him in the side. Tony jumped into the air and puckered his lips in annoyance towards her. Jackie grinned, “She’ll go through great lengths just to get what she wants. I think we’ve all been there before, right?”

[i ‘I’ll get to be the hero someday, right?’] Rhys looked at all the people surrounding him and could not but help but think he was out of place. Everyone had their place on this ship and Eudoxia was just finding hers. Displaced, he kept his chin on the metal railing and hopelessly sulked in silence.
Finnigan     6y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Inquisitor’s Brigade#]

Fearless Anchovi reached the Varsylian shoreline when the pilot and the mechanic found the lack of ordinary quite bizarre. Jackie stuck her face into the radar and double checked.

“I’m not getting anything on radar.”

The crew had made it back to Varsyl without any opposition. This fact concerned Tony the most. He got out of seat and inspected the field of vision.

“No Macahedron? Pilum? Abracth? Something must be going in the capital.” Tony knew the names of the three biggest warships which resided in Varsyl. Of course, he knew the captains, lieutenant captains, and a handful of engineers. His job while working underneath the Lansit family was to know everything about the opposition as well as maintain the integrity of all Lansit airships.

With his arms crossed and looking at the two in the forefront, Frank noted, “Ain’t this a li’l worrisome.”

Jackie turned to her confidant. “Frankie, what’s the plan? You thinkin’ the shipyard?”

“Nah, I wanna see my damn chickens. Engergast Farm.”

Tony and Jackie both looked at each other and wondered what was going through his head. There was so much time before Harvey’s execution and Frank wanted to see his livestock? Tony mouthed a curse under his breath, but Eudoxia who was usually against Frank’s obnoxious train of thought chimed.

“The shipyards are going to be infested with soldiers. Capt. Gallien is going to make sure that all entryways and exits are safeguarded. I can guarantee you that they’ll be having routine check ups on the hour.”

“Still, it perplexes me as to why we haven’t been stopped. In what we have recorded, Varsyl has one of the best air support of the Blue.” Tony leaned back in his chair and rubbed his chin.

“You all didn’t exactly make it any easier for the palace once you ended the slave trade.” Duster remarked, “I imagine that most of the plantations suffered the biggest hits, especially without the emotional support of the palace.”

“Wow, so much has changed since I’ve been gone.” The young lady in the royal blue dress moved to the forefront to watch the Fighter’s descend into her fatherland. She was never too keen on the world outside of the palace walls unless it was Sudra. She had not cared for all the stories of the savage Mezze people rioting in the streets and corrupting the “better culture” of Varsylgard. “Thanks guys.”

“Says the girl who ran away from home to follow a man who don’t love her.” Frank chuckled.

“I still can’t believe we’re doing this. We should turn her over in exchange for Harvey.”

Tony glared at the dreadful princess with contempt. She returned the favor with a sour face and flashed him an explicit gesture. Essentially, the patriarch and matriarch of the Lansit household sent the two of them on the same mission, yet they could not get past each other’s differences. They both had a great distrust for each other and they’ve not be on the same ship for a couple of days. Tony avoided most confrontation with the princess because he believed that she was enbued with nothing but awful luck. Being right next to her would cause them all death, one way or another.

“It’s a brilliant idea, braniac,” she hissed. Eudoxia now fully turned to Tony and pointed her bony finger in his blank face. “except that the prince and my mother don’t negotiate with kidnappers. The minute that I’m back in Chelon’s hands is when the firing squad will make cheese out of you. You’re not going to make it out alive unless you do what you were told.”

Disgusted with the dark skinned man, Eudoxia stormed off to the back corner of the cockpit and fumed silently. Frank chuckled a little more to himself.

“Euey is right. We’re gonna have to play real smart and real hard with these people if we want to get out alive.” Jackie gave the crew a thumbs up. To her, saving Harvey Lansit was going to be another sporadic and hectic job. Did she enjoy it? Not necessarily, but she thrived in similar situations. Jackie would happily fight for the princess if it meant she could throw a few fists around. Afterall, the brawler owed a great debt to her and Rhys.

Duster droned on, “Save Harvey Lansit.”

“Fuck the prince up,” clapped Frank.

“Marriage.” Eudoxia swooned at the thought.

Tony turned around in his chair and looked at the rest of Anchovi. Did he forsake Dulon Lansit? Did that decrepit patrician send him to perish on familiar soil? Tony shook his head. “It’s not going to be that easy guys.”

“Nothing ever is with us, Tony-Tone.”

Frank had the hardest time directing Jackie to the Engergast farm, but luckily Anchovi stumbled onto its coordinates by mistake. Zooming past the ranch house and towards the middle of the fenced in area, the Fighter simmered its jets and calmly landed amongst the gargantuan chickens. Frank was the first one to run out of the back hatch with Rhys following behind. Behold, the aging Elbriz stood on his back porch with discerning eyes staring into the chicken pen.

“What is going through your mind, Frank? You can’t park here!” he shouted. He seemed in worse condition than before. Elbriz shook a wooden cane with one hand with Luzi squeezing the other. His ranchers readied their rifles for a clean shot, but the old man would not enact violence at such a dire time.

Frank placed a food on the first step and uttered, “We have a favor to ask you.”

Inspecting the bizarre band of characters, Elbriz squinted for a better look. The strange array of faces worried him, but nevertheless he offered his hospitality to Anchovi. “Get inside. We can talk about it in there.”

From the backdoor, Elbriz led his people and Anchovi through a few corridors and kitchen which triggered the princess greatly. The decorations were dusty and too kitschy for her rich taste. Animalistic idols carved from balsawood stood on tables. Eudoxia shrunk away from the craftsmanship and dared not to let anything touch her. Eudoxia scoffed at the soft pastel pink fabrics obscuring the windows.“These wooden floors with those curtains? Ew.”

Duster quietly responded, “Princess, this is not the time to insult a host’s questionable decor.”

“Princess, as in missing princess Eudoxia? Hm,” The old man rubbed his chin. “Please forgive the place. It has seen better days.”

Elbriz’s kind and young daughter led him to his rustic leather armchair where he pondered for a while. He offered them all seats in the morning den where they all patiently waited for Luzi to return with tall glasses of ice water. All Elbriz could think about is how strange the group was. Of course he knew Frank and Rhys, but then the troupe tailored off into obscurity. The dark-faced Tony Maxwell, someone who the old man had heard about by word of mouth, intrigued him. Elbriz felt as if he was in the presence of royalty beyond the princess. Curly hair Eudoxia surprised him the least; somehow the group would not be complete without a smidge of controversy. Then there was Jackie who seemed familiar yet at the same time her bulky frame pushed him back. It was the silver fellow in the white cloak that made Elbriz’s skin crawl. He was the weirdest.

“I cannot house you for long, Frank. I can assure you that an inquisitor will be traveling in this direction.” Elbriz broke the news to Anchovi.

“We’ve put him in peril,” Eudoxia dramatically stated. “He’ll die as an accessory to a crime he didn’t commit.”

“Inquisitor?” Jackie looked to the rest of her crew for answers.

“Knowin’ our luck, he’s some dickbag.” Frank rolled his eyes.

Elbriz shook his head. “The inquisitors will stop at nothing to get what they want.”

“What do they want?” The brawler asked.

“Everything.”

Eudoxia stood up and paced, but it was Frank and Jackie who sprung up with an idea in mind.

“Welp. Board the windows n’ block the front doors. Let’s get a gun in each hand and let’s set up perimeter.”

“What are you doing?” Elbriz did not move from his chair, he couldn’t at the moment. The slight tinge in his feet prevented him from being as proactive as his ranchers and Anchovi.

“Savin’ the farm, Elbriz. We knew that if we’re gonna make it up to the palace, then we’d be bound for a fight.”

“I assure you Frankie and I won’t let you down,” Jackie winked.

Anchovi and the ranch hands got to work in no time. Tony, Frank, and a few men fortified the insides with giant planks of wood nailed across the windows. The men shoved chifferobes and armoires toward the front of the house to block the main entrance and provide enough cover for the sharpest of the sharpshooters. Frank led a handful to the second floor and dispersed them in different rooms. He specifically ordered a few of the men to keep their sights on the Fighter. On the main floor, Tony Maxwell ensured every man with a rifle that was personally inspected by the meticulous mechanic. Though he owed nothing to these men, he figured that arming them well would benefit himself in the long run.

On the outside, Jackie and Duster laid out Lucavi metal for the angled palisade wall. Strong armed and stalwart, Jackie Simms plunged one end of a silvery spike into the ground and not a single man of the Engergast farm matched her might. It didn’t take Duster long before he stopped to catch his breath, if in fact that was what Lucavi did. Exhausted from the strenuous production of the metal, he slightly melted towards the ground. Never had he felt this way before; he could not believe that Lucavi grew exhausted. Every molecule, every atom, groaned. Duster was unable to lift a finger. After Jackie and the rest placed the remaining spikes up, she effortlessly lifted Duster up in one hand and carried him inside.

“You going to be okay?”

The hollow Lucavi slightly nodded. In truth, speaking or the thought of speaking made him wince here and there. The outside wall was incomplete, but it was enough to channel any opposition into a few choking points. Jackie entered from the backdoor and settled Duster into a chair in the kitchen. Surprised to see Elbriz in the same room, she nodded and rushed to the forefront where Frank and Tony resided.

“Everythin’ peachy?”

“Duster’s already feeling it. I think we overworked him.”

“Well shit. The doc is already down n’ we ain’t fightin’ yet.” Frank tossed a shotgun he brought from Guten Nocht into Jackie’s hands. “Other than that?”

“Walls are up and we’re ready to kick ass.” Jackie looked around the room and saw that a few people were missing. “Where’s Rhys? Luzi? Eudoxia?”

“The safest place is the ship. I figure that no one is going to budge the ship anytime soon.” Tony peeped between the boards nailed to the window. Safe. For now.

“Told them kids not to leave the Fighter under no circumstances. If anyone tries to bust through, I told ‘em to hide n’ hide good.”

Frank was so proud, yet Jackie had not mustered enough enthusiasm for his liking. Tony and Jackie remained on the first floor of the ranch house while Frank ran the second floor with gusto. Elbriz closed his eyes and prayed for the longest time. He prayed for his survival as well as his daughter Luzi, but most of all he prayed that the Inquisitor would never step foot in the house. In the fighter, Eudoxia stood in the cargo bay with her hand on the hilt of the Lansit brand. Rhys and Luzi stood at the top of the stairs overlooking Eudoxia. Fearing for their lives, the young children locked hands together.

From a distance, men on such high horses and elaborate armor came across the landing site of the Fighter. Staring onto the onset of Engergast farm, the head of the band, draped in a deep royal blue cloak, halted his men. Their numbers easily doubled the farm’s, and they were quite mobile against their stationary target. “For the crown” they chanted in low hums. Brandished with sword and shield, these men whose helmet obscured their faces, sat valiantly and most majestically on their horses. They waited for the sun to die down. The inquisitor was the only man who wore no shield nor bore no helmet. Throughout the capital’s metropolitan area, the inquisitors led their valiant bands to disrupt the malign bodies plotting against the prince. For the crown the cried out, for the crown.
Finnigan     6y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Apprehension#]

The three young souls all stood in place and anticipated the inevitable battle. The seconds ticked. The minutes accrued. The hours dragged. The bright bulbs hanging over their heads buzzed in unison. The Fighter sat in the middle of the chicken pen, untouched, unscathed. The wait frightened Luzi and bored Eudoxia.The sun had set over the broad horizon and dusk had firmly settled into the land. The stars crowded the sky and pushed and shoved each other the best views. Frank’s chickens retreated to their barn for the night in order to start anew on the next day.

Rhys offered to show Luzi around the ship as she was clearly interested in the architecture of the Fighter. Eyes wandered up and down the walls. she was even surprised to see the couple of chickens Frank did not sell off to her father. She declined the offer and decided that the safest place right now was in the cargo bay. Surely this whole ordeal would blow over. Her father Elbriz would be able to talk himself out of this confusion and save the day. He was one of the dying few wise men outside the Varylian palace walls.

“Ever since they captured the Sudranese magician, the palace had issued an order to hunt down any other magicians and supporters. They said that this foreigner raped the princess and brought her back to tyrants across the Blue. Rhys, I’ve only heard stories of the Blue.”

“It’s...calming.” Rhys was still holding onto her hand, but had not realized how tight his grip was. Relaxing a bit, Rhys finally sat on the edge of the platform and thought about the vast ocean. “It’s rough, but it’s strangely refreshing, the sea foam and mist. I’ve never been in it.”

Luzi followed and sat right next to him. Her eyes fixed on his soft face and remarked, “Oh no, you’re not supposed to go into the Blue. The Maker forbids mortal men from making the plunge. Some say that the goddess that resides in Hel will drag you to her shared damnation.”

“It’s been almost a year now since we’ve been down here, and there are so many questions I have left unanswered. Giant sunken hands, fire raining from the skies, it’s all so strange to me.”

“Fire raining?” Luzi held her hand to her mouth in shock but the lengthy gasp turned into a winding yawn. “It’s been raining fire across the sky for the past couple of days here. You can see it better at night. The merchants down at the market say it’s the Sudranese magician that’s causing these giant shards of flaming metal to fall.”

“Rhys, your girlfriend is a dipshit,” Eudoxia exclaimed without turning her head back. Her eyes kept focus on the rear hatch. Between entertaining the younger kids and guarding, Eudoxia prepared herself for the worst. She felt as if she hopped out of her skin and felt the violent nature of Varsylgard. “Harvey Lansit didn’t seize me and he’s certainly not responsible for the metal falling from the skies.”

Luzi, concerned with the princess’ foul mouth, confided in her friend. “Are you sure she’s the real princess? She’s not really ladylike.”

Rhys returned her comments with a smile. He was not sure how to respond to her question, so he just smiled. He never questioned Eudoxia’s origins, and until now he never considered her to be nothing less than a really good thief. Being alive for nearly a year, Rhys was not sure how princesses and ladies should act. All he knew is that Eudoxia was Eudoxia, no more or no less.

“You sure you want to be so close?” he asked.

“I’m not moving.”

Still draped in her dark royal blue dress, haughty Eudoxia was ready for an encounter. With one hand on the sheath and the other palming the hilt of the blade, the pugnacious princess yearned to prove her battle prowess. She had practiced with Duster around the clock and insisted that they continued their training whenever they had the chance. She had gotten awfully familiar with everything about the sword the Lansits gave to her: its weight, the length, the material of the sheath, the amount of gold encrusted, the miniscule imperfections. She believed that it was an extension of her as all her equipment. Within the dress’ long sleeves, she carried the fiery dagger and Dalmenian Skein.

“They’ll die at the sword before they take me.”

The cold and callous words reverberated throughout the Fighter’s steel hulls, yet no one beckoned to answer. In silence they waited for it all to start. Luzi played with her curly locks of hair. Rhys and Eudoxia kept their attention of the back hatch. They were too far from Elbriz’s ranch house to hear anything significant. The wind had picked up and kicked up some dust, but there was no chaos. The lot of them were not allowed to leave the Fighter until someone from Anchovi or the Engergast establishment called. Frank was confident that someone would come for them in the end, but he did not dare to leave Eudoxia nor Rhys with an alternative plan.

Suddenly, Eudoxia tightly grasped the hilt of her sword and slowly pulled it out of its hilt. Though they did not hear anything or anyone, Luzi jumped out of her skin and Rhys brought up his head. Eudoxia brandished her shining blade and stood vigilantly against the invisible force that haunted her. The Fighter resisted the gust of wind. Whistling and whirring sounded off, but it was the loud pops at the end that finally caught Rhys and Luzi off guard.

The Fighter’s welcomed guest cried out in such a shrill voice, “The gunshots!”

Rhys stood up and helped the crying Luzi to her feet. Pushing her behind him, Rhys looked down at Eudoxia who was firmly rejecting the annoyances. Brave, she kept her stance. The youth with wheat blond hair looked through the rear doors small windows for any traces of an inquisitor or his men. The enemy was unknown, but the guns popping in the distance let him know that danger was nearby.

“Get away from the windows!” Eudoxia shouted.

Rhys led Luzi into the hallway leading to the dining room and left the princess behind. He insisted to himself that they were all safe, the Fighter was impenetrable and no sword or gun was going to piece through its tough hide. All the doors were tightly secured. At least, that’s what Frank told Rhys when they locked them inside. Luzi eventually collapsed to her knees and sobbed into her hands. No matter how many times the boy tried to reassure her safety, she outright denied it.

“Rhys, I’m scared. What if they break through? What if they kill us?”

[i ‘Well, we would be dead.’]

“Don’t think bad thoughts. No one has ever broken into the Fighter before.” He knelt to her level and embraced her. Jackie always hugged Frank when he was feeling down, but for some reason Rhys felt awkward, felt as if he was not doing it right. His hands felt clammy and the arms slightly hovered around her instead of a true embrace. “We’ll be fine.”

“But my father, why’s he not here? Rhys, where’s my father? I need my father, Rhys, where is he?”

The breathing intensified and Rhys’ sad attempt of comforting her only made it worse. She was trapped by him, by the small hallway, by the Fighter. Her skin caught on fire and no matter how hard she scratched at her forearm, the burning sensation never left. Her feet fluctuated between hot and cold flashes and the noises around her muted throughout her episodes. Luzi’s breathing pushed away Rhys and his uncertainty rose. As her hands shook, her peripheral vision darkened and her stomach unexpectedly twisted. Hyperventilating between her fits of screams, Luzi quickly lost everything in the moment.

Luzi finally broke away from Rhys and struggled down the hallway. The screams echoed as she limped for the dining room. Shocked and scared that he might have caused all of this, Rhys tailed her from a distance. Reaching the dining room, he witnessed her tirade fully unleash. She threw chairs from underneath the table in order to hide, but even then that was not enough protection from her. The snot and tears rolled down her face and beneath her shirt. She banged her fists on the table from below and cried for Elbriz. Rhys tried to calm her down, but she spoke unintelligible garble.

In the worst of turns, Rhys threw himself towards her and tried to stop her from her latest rampage: the side hatch. She turned at the heavy door, but the troubled youth begged for her to calm down. A few elbows were tossed his way with one smashing him in his perfect nose. The attack threw him back into the table where he sat in a daze. With few good tugs at the side hatch, the small girl opened the Fighter to the rest of the world. The fresh breeze caressed her face and calmed her anxious soul. Still frantic, she hesitantly took one step onto the wing.

Rhys called out to her. “Luzi, wait!”

She looked back with tears filling her eyes. She was unable to feel remorse for what she had done to Rhys. Her number one priority was getting back to the main house. The night’s dark shroud did not scare her nor did the popping of guns and rifles in the distance. One quick run back home and she would be back in her father’s arms. “I have to go back to my father, Rhys. He’s the only family I have left.”

“Stupid girl!” Eudoxia furiously shouted. Luzi’s cry for help did not go unnoticed. It was always the poor and uneducated that caused trouble. The unbridled emotions of peasant girls displeased the palace and quite frankly everyone in the empire. Eudoxia now understood why fathers threw their daughters at young suitors. “I demand that you get back in here!”

The frantic young soul did not hesitate to step out this time. Unable to comprehend Eudoxia’s fiery tongue and quite frankly not wanting to listen to her, Luzi took a leap out into the open world. The chilly night air brushed against her bare limbs and face. She looked down and saw it was quite a distance for her to jump, but she had to get back to her father. The glinting lights led her to the house. It was one short stretch to run and the lights were on. The flickers of fire lined up slowly approached her and she felt as if her only living family was calling to her. Her ears muted the clanking footsteps of armor and recoiling drawstring of the crossbows. As she closed her eyes and unexpectedly prepared herself for death, a wave of moonlit silver destroyed the flying fiery bolts before her face.

Eudoxia shoulder checked the young miss back into the airship but not without repercussion. The wild child lashed out in retaliation and forcefully shoved the princess back in return. Eudoxia stumbled back yet was unable to recover her footing in time. One foot slipped off, so the rest followed her on the way down. Everything but the sword lost in one action. A loud thud hit the dusty surface below and before anyone had an idea of who was down there, men on horses and on foot surrounded her. Luzi cried to herself and Rhys struggled to get back onto his feet. Wobbling to and fro, he stumbled out onto the wing where he peeked over the edge.

She looked peaceful with her eyes closed and sprawled out in the dress that went well with the night. Eudoxia had lain there without conviction or life. Rhys did not know what to make of the situation and worst of all, he felt helpless in all of it. The semi-circle of torches and lit crossbows surrounded her and conversed. They knew exactly who she was and what this whole ordeal entailed. Rhys was not able to get a good glimpse at any of their faces as they quickly scooped up Eudoxia’s unconscious body and made a retreat. One of the men obscured by the night shot a crossbow bolt into the sky that erupted into a gilded lily.

Rhys immediately took up her sword and returned inside to a soggy girl. She apologized repeatedly and hysterically, but the young man continued his way down to the storage area. Waking up the chickens, he held them by the reins and tucked Eudoxia’s sword behind his belt. He quietly looked at the rear hatch for a moment. She was supposed to stand here and nothing was supposed to happen to her. The Fighter was going to keep everyone safe. Without waiting for a body from either Anchovi or Engergast establishments, vindictiveness and Rhys opened the hatch and set out into the night. The feathery steeds bolted over the fence.

Rhys came to a screeching halt as the other chicken branched off and swung by the house. Trotting next to the house to retrieve the stray chicken, he noticed the bolts driven into the walls. There were helmets laying around, but there weren’t any bodies to go with them. He thought about sticking his head into the house, but he was pressed for time. Then, there was a dull voice who spoke to him in the midst of the mystery.

“She needs our help.”

Leaving everyone’s fate behind, Rhys and the voice which hopped onto the the second chicken glided across the land not necessarily to save Eudoxia from her captors, but to beat them to their destination.
Finnigan     6y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #The Fusilier#]

A tall man with dark skin, a squatty woman with medium complexion, and a gaunt outlaw with a ruddy aura hopped into a black carriage and headed for the city. The horses trotted along and the driver with the weary face worried about living the entire ride. Inside the carriage the individuals sat with dissatisfaction and hangering pains. The long night before kept them awake, meddled with their bones, and pried open their heavy eyelids. Tony had spreaded out on one side of the carriage while Frank scrunched in with the blocky Jackie.

Frank did not bode well with the silence. His shoulders were hunched to his ears and the top of his head scraped the low ceiling. He was thoroughly annoyed with everything at this point. He complained,“We would’ve won, but them tin cans scurried off before I plugged ‘em rightfully so.”

The other two were too quick to dismiss him. Even though everyone in the ranch house survived the night, it all seemed like a defeat. The inquisitor’s brigade was not able to get close enough with their torches and their guns fired inaccurately throughout the crisp night, but Elbriz’s homestead suffered the most injuries.

“You really think that Elbriz will be safe? An inquisitor will be back for him. Maybe not tomorrow, or the next day, but one day.” Tony, always the skeptic and often got on Frank’s nerves, posed this fear to the other two.

“And we’ll be ready, Tony.” Tony liked to play it cool, but Jackie, in her own right, was cooler. She was slicker than the rest, but she never flamboyantly showcased it to her contemporaries. Rubbing her forehead, she added on, “Right now we have bigger issues to solve like the whereabouts of half of our crew.”

This fact did indeed worry Frank and Jackie. They had let Rhys go out on his own before, but they died a little inside knowing that he might be in danger. Never had this gut churning feeling fall upon them. He was their younger brother who was just as bright--if not brighter--as them. He was a glimmer of light. Rhys was the Illumina.

“Elbriz’s young’un ain’t speakin’ sense. She’s sobbin’ harder than a wintered Mad Moon. All I could hear is that Rhys sped off like Hel.”

“You catch any of that?”

Jackied nodded which caused Tony to scratch his chin in annoyance. [i ‘Bound by duty, my ass. I did not sign up to be put in the same space as these imbeciles.’]

“I have a good feeling that we’ll find the princess in the palace.” Surely the inquisition did not kill Eudoxia but rather returned her to the prince. Jackie was almost certain of it.

“That leaves the mysterious Duster to worry about.”

Frank scoffed at Tony’s silly statement. “Ole Dusty can handle himself. The guy can make knives appear out of nowhere and he knows where to find the Fighter. It ain’t goin’ anywhere. Eu and Rhys are who we need to focus on.”

The horses trotted and carried the carriage until they came to a slowing halt. The sandals and slippers of merchants clipped along the street of desert stone, and the voices chattered in the distant background. No one inside the carriage said anything, but Tony peeked through the lavender colored satin curtains and tapped his foot anxiously. The carriage stood in place for a few more minutes before Frank fiercely banged carriage’s wall.

The voice, muffled by the walls of the carriage and outside world, replied, “Psst. This is as far as I can take you guys.”

“The market, really?” Frank scratched his scruff and squinted his eyes at the rest of the passengers. He actually hated having facial hair despite his current appearance, and he rightfully blamed it on current events. His face always itched and he would always scratch his prominent adam’s apple.

“Frank, stop hassling the guy.”

Jackie nudged him towards and out the door for the wilderness that was the Varsylian marketplace. The carriage driver nodded in their direction before returning back to Elbriz’s ranch in ruins. Neither boys really appreciated the culture behind the marketplace as much as Jackie, but they largely attributed that fact to her upbeat attitude and initial trust in others. It was early in the hot noon, and the three began their march towards the palace walls. They traversed amongst the busy crowd looking for options, alternatives, disguises, and makeshift weaponry. They concocted plans on the go and factored in Harvey’s inevitable execution and Eudoxia’s lifeless marriage.

Frank gestured a gun out of his hand and pointed it to the highest point of the royal Varsylian palace. Pretending to fire off a bullet, the squinty eyed Frank mouthed off to his companion, “Jackie, you’ve snooped ‘round the palace. Surely you got somethin’ for us.”

“Those walls are just too high for us to scale without any proper equipment, Frankie. There’s no way that they’re gonna let us in during the day. This ain’t your Last run-of-the-grocer heist. It has dimensions. Lots of them.” Of course, Jackie would have found a way to scale the walls by herself without a lot of equipment, but she honestly believed that Frank and Tony would slow her down.

“Pfft, I ain’t got time for big words like that.”

Tony rolled his eyes. Dulon and Rozlibet owed him. Big time. Instead of shooting down Frank for his incompetence, he ignored everything up until the last bit. The man with the funny accent motioned with his hands flying over the palace. Jackie jumped on the idea right away, but had seconds thoughts herself. If she was driving the ship, it would only leave Frank and Tony to rescue Harvey and Eudoxia. That would never happen or turn out a success.

“Flying above the palace is suicidal. The turrets will ground the Fighter before you even realize what happened,” Tony sharply scoffed.

Frank and Jackie both looked at each other in confusion as he pulled ahead of the group. His looks only brought him along so far before Jackie realized he killed her vibe. Frank had utter respect for his brother Jeraia, but Antonine Maxwell was a stick in the mud. It was already bad enough dealing with Jackie’s bubbliness, Duster’s dry sense of humor, and Eudoxia’s snootiness; Frank did not need Tony’s patronizing. In fact, Varsylgard had a tendency of housing some of the most condescending folk around. They were always tearing down poor Frank Dietz.

Tony continued to walk ahead of the group, yet did not notice the thinning of the crowd. He grumbled to himself about the founding members of Anchovi and cursed the Lansit family. Taking one step too many, the top of Tony’s broad shoulder met with a grazing bullet that sped past him and into a stone wall. Immediately dropping to the dusty earth, Tony groaned and squirmed for cover. Jackie shoved Frank behind a crate before realizing who it was. Lo and behold, Hollis Westlands all dressed in blue, yet he was not the same Hollis as she knew and loved in secrecy.

“The inquisition wants to put me under arrest, Jackie. They know!”

The fusilier pointed his rifle at her, but she did not budge one bit. His uniform, torn and dirtied from the long nights of interrogation and escape, sold her. It was bare and stripped of its merits.

Looking to calm the raging storm before her, Jackie spoke softly to him while occasionally keeping an eye out for Tony. “About what, babyboy? Put down the rifle!”

“About the...you know what! They wanna execute me for treason.”

Frank snatched her and dragged her behind the crate and Tony crawled to the other side of Frank. There the three of them looked at each other for plans.

Frank always knew that the relationship was doomed from the beginning. He pointed to her crotch and blatantly asked, “Can you keep that thing under control?”

She was not disgusted by her friend’s remark. Instead of being chastised by men and women alike, Jackie Simms embraced all of herself and retorted with a sly wink, “What can I say Frankie, this kitty cat drives the boys loco.”

“Mad with rabies, more like it.” Frank looked over the crate but quickly ducked as a bullet nearly tagged him. “Gotta shut ‘em down.”

“Hollis, what will killing us entail?” she shouted from behind the crate. The people of the marketplace had blocked themselves off from the heated scene. Merchants and bakers closed their hatched windows and pulled down the cloth screens. Without all the unneeded distractions, Jackie listened carefully for Hollis’ heavy breathing. She sensed fear in his fleeing mind; he wanted to escape somehow, someway.

“My innocence.”

“Ooh baby, he lost that a long time ago,” Jackie quipped to her boys.

Tony winced as Frank tended to his shoulder. A simple superficial knick to the shoulder, nothing too serious. He honestly believed that he would not be in this situation if Jackie would just learn how to control herself. Venting his frustration, he snarkily asked, “Do you lead all men to their death?”

“Only the ones foolish enough to fall in love.”

This time it was Frank who rolled his eyes at her corny line. He had enough of being pinned down by one mad gunner. Instead of allowing Jackie to lead the negotiations, Frank switched sides with her and pulled out his revolver. While Jackie could senselessly pound in a face with all her might and still be content with herself, Frank decided he was the best suited person for negotiations. Afterall, discussion was best had with a couple of bullets exchanged.

“We ain’t got time ya, ya raggedy ass quack.”

Frank jutted from the covers and took a quick pot shot at Hollis who was constantly on edge. They exchanged fire, but none of the bullets seemed to hit their targets. Hollis and Frank both took cover behind corners diagonally from each other. Their eyes would occasionally meet in the middle as if they were flirting a most dangerous game. Hollis, scratched and beat up, was not going to take any prisoners alive. On the other hand, his opponent was deciding whether or not he was worth a fatal shot. Both men, equal in dignity and skill, awaited the other to fault.

[b Bang.] The first bullet erupted from Frank’s revolver yet managed to miss Hollis who was aiming his rifle. In return, the fusilier with the bushy mustache and tall hat took a shot into the corner and ripped across Frank’s left thigh. Blinded by the crumbling stone and dust, Frank had not expected Hollis’ vengeful follow up. The rifle’s butt smashed into his face and knocked him back, but Frank stood his ground. Bleeding from his nose, Frank charged Hollis and the bayonet sticking from the end of his rifle and tackled the Varsylian into the ground. Frank gave it his all with a few good swings to the face thus evening the amount of blood spewed between the two.

Hollis tossed bony Frank off him, and the both of them fired more bullets as they retreated for opposite ends of the block. The scuffle ended with both of them breathing heavily and bloodied with no serious injuries involved. Towards the end, the two of them tossed their arms to the ground and grimaced toward each other.

“Seems we’re at a stalemate.” Frank huffed and placed his hands on his knees while he tried to catch his fleeting breath. Hollis was probably the second best shot in all of the Blue, only trailing behind Frank. At least, that’s what the ruddy faced man claimed.

Without a doubt, Hollis would not accept defeat, because to accept defeat was to accept his death. Reaching into his uniform’s chest pocket, Hollis pulled his tiny pistol by the handle and aimed it between Frank’s eyes. Unbeknownst to the fusilier, Frank was just as fast, if not faster, to pull out his second arm, the spellgun. Frank smirked and Hollis slightly whimpered.

“You won’t have enough time to pull the trigger and kill me with that sluggish antique piece.” Hollis hesitated on the trigger. A tear or two trickled from his eyes. [i ‘It’s not fair. It’s just not fair.’]

“Both of you stop!” Jackie took this moment to jump to her feet and take action. Closing in on Hollis, she kicked the gun from his grip and threatened him with her intimidatingly wide stature. She wished not to fight him, but if she had to subdue him forcefully, she would. Signaling Frank to stand down, she approach Hollis with a soft voice. “Not in public. They might jail us here and now if we’re not too careful and quick about what we do in the next couple of minutes..”

“What’s the point? We’re all dead men.” Varsyl’s inquisition always had a way of catching their targets. He feared that his days were numbered if he cooperated with them any longer. The lashings and the waterboarding, he could not stand another beating. He even considered taking his own life.

“Hasn’t stopped any of us here, Hollilocks.” Jackie nodded as she slowly approached him. Reeling him in by his skinny hands, she pulled him in for a hug. “Now I know that we don’t have the perfect past and we might have ruined everything for you.”

“Your career, your innocence, your life.”

Jackie glared back at Frank and squinted hard.

“Our relationship is abusive. We fight and make up constantly, but there has to be a point where enough is enough and we put our differences aside. You don’t have to love me for the person that I am, Hollis, I don’t expect you to, but right now all of our lives are dangerous. To go alone is dangerous and to pit one against the other is self-destructive. I care for you, as hard as that is to hear, and there’s nothing more I want to do than to see you tomorrow. Now please, can you help us?”

“How?”

“Get us into the palace.”

“Jackie…” the sullen man pulled away from her and gave her a worrisome look.

“Hollis, we have friends up there who are in danger. We’re Team Anchovi, and we don’t leave anyone behind.”

“They’ve killed my men,” he muttered. He recalled the entire nightmare in a flash. The blood and guts spattering the bright bricks and the bodies dropping like bundles of meat. Their faces were petrified before the bullets flew. His squadron was caught off guard by this so called act of treason. Hollis finally sputtered, “By firing squad.”

“Huh?”

“The inquisition is cleaning out anyone who’s anyway associated with Harvey Lansit. That is, I’m assuming that’s who you’re saving.” Hollis turned away from her gaze and continued, “They died because I brought them onto your ship, and I was seeing the captain who has connections with the Lansit family. Innocent men died because of my actions. I’m a fool!”

“You may live on with this heavy conviction, Hollis, but you owe more to yourself to live on. For them. Live on for them, but don’t turn the other way and let more innocent people die. As much as I detest of that Lansit, he needs to be freed before more people die.”

Jackie picked up Hollis’ gun and rifle and stuck them in each of his hands. Hollis wiped away the dirt and tears from his face and nodded. He would do it for his fallen brothers and blindly attached himself to Anchovi’s goals. Smiling enough to sting her cheeks, Jackie trusted him too much not to shoot them all in the back the moment the set off for the palace. The couple started for the palace while Frank and Tony lingered behind quizzically. Frank turned away in disgust as Jackie rubbed the fusilier’s back. She had the worst taste in men.

“I think you have competition, Frank,” Tony snickered.

Picking up his revolver, Frank turned back to Tony and stated, “Huh? Nah, Jackie ain’t no woman.”

“What?” Shocked, Tony nudged Frank in the shoulder and wanted more clarification. Was Jackie really a man?

“Nah, she’s just a really cool guy.”

Frank caught up to the other two while Tony slowly trudged in amazement. He thought about making a run for it and forgetting Harvey, but he would have to face the wrath of the vast empire and the iron fist Lansit family. The mechanic regretted not staying with the ship, but his fate ultimately rested in the hands of Anchovi.
Finnigan     6y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Storming of the Palace#]

Anchovi carried on towards the palace gates just as they had fixed themselves up. Their brief excursion wearied them out, but headstrong Jackie and Frank were determined to free the princess and her doomed and utter unworthy crush. Tony hesitantly followed not out of his heart but because of duty. He was the only one to think of this daunting task as suicide. The four of them against the royal family’s soldiers? They were practically handing themselves over in exchange for death sentences.

The crew slinked around in the back alleyways and slyly blended into the crowds in order to evade the any inquisitors in the nearby area. Frank noted that he enjoyed avoiding confrontation better than Jackie’s smash and grab technique. The sun was rather mild today and the capital looked greener than Anchovi recollected, yet the merchants and the food vendors were pushier than ever. Jackie missed it all, Frank did despised the hustling of the mass, and Tony would never get caught in such a lowly place. Hollis? He did not have a real opinion of the marketplace either way; he was too busy trying to get his thoughts together.

Reaching the end of the market and hitting the tall stone wall of the royal Varsylian empire’s palace, Jackie scratched her chin and looked to the very top. She had been up this close before, but there was no way she was going to scale in one go and not expect an arrow to the back. The magnificent piece of architecture was built on a steep hill with walls built on the three steepest sides. The fourth side sloped out to the opposite of the city and towards the second main shipyard. The thieves looked at each other and then at Hollis.

“You wouldn’t happen to know any shortcuts into the palace, would you?” Jackie asked the sullen soldier facing down.

“Like hidden passageways?”

“Sewers will work too.”

“I’d prefer if we din’t go through sewers, Jackie.” Frank shuddered at the last time he and his compatriate ran through Last’s reeking sanitary system. Luckily to say, the sheriff never caught the two on one of their bigger heists.

“If I recall, there are several gates installed in the sewers so that no one can enter or escape the palace. It was after prince Uol’ve the fourteenth or seventeenth--I can’t remember how the legend goes--escapes one night to burn half of the city. That was centuries ago.” Hollis paced and tried to remember any other ways into the palace. With great discomfort, he stated, “The only way up there is through the front door. And I can tell you now, it won’t be a pleasant stroll.”

“It never is with you people,” Tony sighed.

They were pressed for time. With each second passing by, the chances of Harvey’s execution loomed near. If Jackie’s assumption was correct, Eudoxia had to be in some sort of trouble as well. Despite her royal upbringing, she was still part of Jackie’s family. Jackie pressed ahead of the boys with such urgency in her bones. With his rifle constantly slapping his back, Hollis chased after her sounding off warnings of the front gates. She was going to get herself killed if she did not stop and listen. He worried for Jackie, but he sometimes he felt he would always trail behind her audacity.

Frank would forever trail behind his better half; he hated to run. Jackie was the bruiser and he was the guy pointing the gun. He claimed he was the brains and she was the brawn. He could read well and talk his way out of a paper bag, but the good gentleman from Guten Nocht would not be able to compile a reasonable resume of accomplishments and skills. His jogging partner to the left, the one and only Antonine Maxwell, hated almost everything that surrounded Jackie and the rest of Anchovi. Running was no exception. Tony kept himself in good shape, but he attributed it to working on airships and lifting heavy things. He never ran with urgency on the Magnuze, especially on the day of its invasion.

The two men finally arrived on the scene two minutes too late. Jackie and Hollis were pinned behind a large stone obelisk at the base of the hill while arrows rained from the tops of the palace walls. The gilded doors opened and a few dozen men armed with swords and shields routed with tenacity. The majority swarmed for Jackie and Hollis while a few perceptive men branched off for Tony and Frank. The two ill-prepared fellows jumped in place, but it was Frank who retaliated without warning.

The revolver sounded off in his hands and tingled up his right arm. Six bullets in two seconds shredded through clothing and skin alike. Two of the rounds managed to tear through a couple people in one go. There the Varsylian sentries dropped in pain. None dead though. Frank felt merciful this time around. After all, these guys were just doing their job. Retreating around rocky edge of the hill, Frank reloaded and rejoined the unarmed Tony. Tony stared at the gunner who was scrounging through his pockets and looking for bullets. With a sense of shock illuminating his face, Frank tilted his eyes up worryingly.

“Din’t bring enough bullets.”

“You’ve got to be shitting me, Frank!” Tony tossed his hands in the air and huffed. He never understood why the Lansits sent an engineer to do a goon’s job. If they wanted their son back, they would have tried harder themselves. The rotten mood had carried from Sudra and up to this point. There were no times for smiles, only disappointment and pending death.

Frank counted the number of bullets he had left in his pockets after the quick reload. Thirteen. Nineteen bullets altogether. He could make it last. He smiled to himself, just very briefly, before he gave a grave scowl back to Tony. He hated the idling. It was almost as if he was compromising the entire rescue mission. Frank bluntly said, “Look bud, why don’t ya pick up a sword and start swingin’ yerself.”

“I,” There was something deeply troubling the engineer, something that had not been brought up since the last time the two of them saw each other. In such a submissive and lowly voice, Tony replied, “I can’t.”

“Seriously?”

“I can’t, okay!” he exclaimed. He held onto his elbows and sunk back into the rocks.

Frank grimaced and looked back at Jackie and Hollis. He was picking off the archers one after another and she was wiping the floor with the sentries’ bodies. She took up a sword and fought with each breath and sweat. She was going places. Then, Frank looked back at Tony who was sulking.

“I had lost control of everything that I knew about myself. I avoid mirrors because I can’t stand to see the reflection of a murderer. The steel, the blood, the plea. I hated it all, I hated that bastard who killed my father and I thought, that in that moment, that I would be finally set free of everything. I thought I did a good thing that day, that getting Galhead would make me a better person, make me gain everything that I knew and everyone I loved, but it didn’t. My father did not come back to me. In that moment that I killed, my first and last kill, I knew that I was just as bad as him. Flesh for flesh, blood for blood. You don’t know what it means to fear yourself.”

Tony shunned away Frank’s comforting hand on his shoulder. The aloof air about him turned him way from the rest of the world. He wanted to be invisible for once and escape the violent nature of the Blue. Back at Engergast farm, Tony had not shot a single bullet at the inquisitor’s brigade. He hated this reality. Tony evoked for freedom, yet he yearned for some control over his life. His insides emptily rattled and a wave of grey skies lethargy weighed him down.

“I ain’t askin’ ya to brutalize ‘em. Just give ‘em a good enough poke.” Frank turned back to the battle unable to calm his acquaintance’s soft mind.

“Duck!” Jackie screamed to Hollis as she swiped away arrow and armor.

Despite Hollis’ best efforts and thinning out the palace’s defense from above, the archers came in droves and made a constant push against Anchovi’s headstrong mistress. Their men would fall to her battle prowess, yet they would get back up and muster enough force to fight again. The fusilier was counting kills whereas the brawler simply knocked them down and hoped they would get back up. Hollis was driven out of his shell and admired her from behind. Her drive was unparalleled, especially compared to Varsylian women.

“Jackie,” The heart of Hollis rumbled a faster than normal. The archers had gone on another offensive with a downpour of arrows raining on their obelisk. In this moment, the mustached rifleman confessed, “I’ve been thinking about it and I was wondering that if we make it out of here alive, I would like to accompany you.”

“First you want us dead and now you want to follow me to the ends of the Blue?” The arrows stopped momentarily and she peeked from around the stone pillar. The archers spotted her and returned with another nasty arrowhead storm. She returned to his face with a smile, but then in her low voice snarkily retorted, “You got some real nerve, Hollilocks, some real balls to think that you can just mosey into my quarters and call it good. If I recall, you shot me! You know, you’re gonna have to make it past Frank and the princess. They won’t take too kindly to having a Varsylian lapdog around. They’ll hound me for eternity, won’t let their guard down until they’ve told me so.”

Hollis felt stupid. Of course she wouldn’t go for a guy like him. He’s hunted Anchovi time to time, even almost killed her in one skirmish. They could be more together, he thought. She was kinetic like electricity surging through hot air. A warm breath to moisten his. He felt something beyond the sexual tension. Jackie Simms freed him, yet she did not want to do anything with him. Or so he thought.

Jackie dropped her sword and grabbed him by the head. She pulled him in for a sloppy yet passionate kiss. “I don’t care though. I’ll carry that burden with me. They’ll get over it.”

She playfully pushed him away and looked around the corner for any incoming arrows. Jackie sprinted for the walls and scaled it with her bare hands. Throwing off her boots, her fingertips clutched the grooves in between the stones and the toes dug into the grit. She was known as the Lizard amongst her peers. She scaled buildings for fun as a kid and honed her skills for heists. Both Frank and Hollis kept a good eye out for her with barrels pointed towards the top. Excellent in control, Jackie climbed up the wall and over to the other side of the gate in a few minutes. She motioned for the rest to approach.

“When I got up there, the archers were all pinned to the floor and knocked out. The keeps were even sealed shut.” Jackie took out a silver shard that she recovered from one of the palace guards.

“Very strange,” Frank itched the tangling rust scruff on his face. “He’s gotta be here somewhere.”

The four of them ascended towards the palace and disarmed the janitors of their swords with ease. Jackie and Hollis stormed through the front tall ornate doors without looking behind, but Frank paused for a bit.

“...?”

Outside of the black iron doors with gilded trimming and ivory wood, the airship mechanic stood in premature defeat. The effort making his way all the way up to these doors from the front gate was pointless. Even if Anchovi saved Harvey and the princess, Tony was no worth to them. Frank angrily tapped his foot.

“I don’t know what I’m doing here. I’m not a fighter.”

“Look kid. I ain’t expectin’ you to be the best out here, but I do require you to try yer best when we need it.”

Jaded, Tony shrugged off Frank’s word. With each second passing, Harvey was facing an execution. As a result, the princess could blow up at any moment and act irrationally. As a result of that, Jackie risked her life for the princess and her ambition. Frank thought about leaving Tony for the others, but despite their differences, he saw something in the mechanic. Lost without a purpose in life, Frank had been in that position and if he was being honest with himself, he was still in that rut.

“You’ll rage like the Blue. A fire that cannot be ousted resides in your chest. We’re all casualties of strife, but what you can’t do is let that rage be pent up in ya. You’ll destroy ya’self if ya ain’t sayin’ nothin’ ‘bout it. I don’t blame ya at all for killin’ that guy. In fact, ain’t no one blamin’ ya.”

“An eye for an eye…” Tony muttered.

“Yeah, yeah, but an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. You can’t forgive a shitbag that’s dead, but you can start with yerself. Look, I ain’t no philosopher, but I know that you loved yer father as he loved ya. Live for today in his honor or whatever, I ain’t gonna tell ya how to live yer life, but ya gotta have a purpose. Don’t be the kid who sits n’ eats glue all day.” Frank looked to catch up with Jackie and Hollis, but remarked, “I won’t put a sword in yer hand and ask ya to kill. It’s not yer purpose.”

“I have a lot to learn about myself, Frank.”

Tony caught up with Frank and even surpassed him in the desperate search for the rest of the party. The wide hallways decorated with expensive vases on rustic pillars and priceless portraits spanned in every direction. He heard footsteps coming from behind. The maids and servants screamed in terror and locked themselves in the myriad of rooms that spanned throughout the hallways. The two of them eventually caught up to Jackie and Hollis only to be surrounded by three groups of the palace’s finest soldiers.

“Gulp.” Tony had wished that he had picked up a sword. Instead, he balled up his fists and asked, “What’s next?”

“Hollis, ya oughtta know where their keepin’ the princess.”

“Fact: I’ve never once had to escort the princess to her room.”

[i ‘Duster. I know you’re here somewhere. If you can lend us a hand, that’d be great.’] Four against a good thirty. The Lucavi’s magic would’ve made this easier for everyone, and even Jackie was feeling the pressure.

“You at least know how to git us to the throne room from here?”

Hollis nodded.

“That’s suicide!” Tony put his fists up and matched eyes with an opposing soldier. He was shorter than Tony, but wore armor and carried a sword. To prove Frank right, the stormy souled mechanic was going to take this particular guy down first.

“Better than just idlin’ ‘round like a herd of chickens.”

“It looks like we’re not going to escape this one without a few scrapes and bruises.”

“Oh, you’re very optimistic.”

“Not now, Tony. Despite good ole’ Jackie’s sense of humor, we ought to be fightin’ these bugged eyed bastards.”

The crowd slowly closed in. Frank pulled out his revolver and spun the chamber. Jackie cracked her knuckles and grinned.

“Well then. Hollis, Tony: welcome to Anchovi 101. In today’s lesson, we’re learning crowd control.”
Finnigan     6y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Prince Chelon#]

Harvey P. Lansit had all the time in the world in his waiting chamber to count the number of black tiles on the floor and to recollect the previous flings. In reality, the waiting chamber was actually the throne room. Harvey’s cross stood in the front and to the left of the gilded throne. The room had no attendants nor did it have much to be desired. The heavy curtains blocked the cooling breeze and afternoon sun from ever seeing the throne. He had all the time in the world to catch up on anything, but Harvey found it more important to count and recount the 432 black tiles and 53 love affairs.

Several servants would come visit to feed and lightly wash the pungent and diminished prisoner. He had to thank whoever for the excellent treatment. Harvey was allowed to keep his clothing except for the random papers stuffed in his pockets and the wand. Most of it was senseless garble The vanguard did very little roughing around with him and at most just jerked him around like a bag of potatoes. He complied with their commands and even tried to charm them with his dashing charisma. It almost worked. [i Almost.]

The magician had been shipped from one building to another until he somehow ended in the same palace as his number one fan and his number one adversary. Eudoxia had no idea where exactly they were keeping Harvey, but in her heart she knew that he was somewhere in the dungeon. The prince was far too busy delegating with his generals to visit. The magician did not care though. These people were possibly the worst examples of Varsyliankind. At this point of his life, Harvey embraced death as an old friend if it meant he could live a life in the afterworld without Chelon and Eudoxia.

Of course, he thought too soon when the throne room’s doors opened. Instead of his daily checkup by the wise old physician, it was a sole figure dressed in radiant gold. Prince Chelon stood roughly the same height as Harvey and carried the same face as the rest of the Varsylian men, yet he managed to be more attractive than the rest. Perhaps it was the affluence, but even a snob such as a Lansit had to admit that there was something compelling about the prince. Maybe it was the straight brown hair that gently grazed his shoulders and the blunt bangs that tickled his well-sculpted brow.

“You ought to bow down to royalty whence you see them. Oh wait.” It was a possibility, but his humor was not too bad for the upper crust. Prince Chelon leaned on his sheathed sword. His red and white broad striped caped rested on the palace floor and the shining armor clinked.

“I’ve rather grown tired of these curtains, Chelon. Pull them back so I can at least gaze upon the capital’s radiant glory.” Harvey rolled his eyes. He wished he had the freedom to scratch his eyebrow, but the prince was adamant about restraining his limbs as far away from the torso as possible. “At least humor me. This cross is quite an atrocious piece to your throne.”

Harvey’s opponent let out a haughty laugh. “I think it’s quite fitting for the future emperor of Varsylgard. It speaks volumes of my character.”

“Yeah, the ascension of a lunatic without a slightest clue on how to accent. You’ll usher in a new era. The people will call it the ‘Era of Barnyards’ because their so-called ruler has the simple mindset of a peasant farmer. An empire in which its palace halls are lain with hay and the ram defecate wherever they roam. Yes, I can see it now, these people who look so highly up to you will cheer your name, ‘Farmer Chelon, Farmer Chelon! Bless us with your goats’ milk!’ Barbarian king.” Harvey had his own sense of humor, but he needed to pass the painstakingly slow seconds and ignore the insatiable itch in his cloudy beard.

“I wouldn’t expect you to understand, Lansit. The Mezze people never had honor or a moral compass. You pray to a false Maker. One of foreign origins far from this part of the Blue that partake in sacrifice and magic. Filthy dark arts are unfit for my reign and the land in which I reign. The inquisitors have gone through a great deal of expelling believers and I’ve been able to publicly execute a handful of witches to boot.” Chelon goaded. “These people came to this country for a reason. Maybe not them exactly, but their kind did. Scavenger rats, looking for any opportunity that comes their way. Bottom feeding until they’re satisfied with their share. Nothing more than second hand citizens. That is why no Mezze shall ever rise to any throne in the Varsylian empire. Once I become king and marry Eudoxia--oh, and I will be marrying her.”

He gave a good looking to Harvey who was too pinned down to shrug his shoulders and brush him away.

“I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t care for the millionth time!”

The prince stood neutral on the entire slave trade and allowed his future mother-in-law to handle that affair. He did though take advantage of Eudoxia’s mysterious disappearance as a way to start the latest witch hunt. Convincing the upper class and legions that witches, under the instruction of Harvey, kidnapped the princess, Chelon was able to initiate a movement killing Mezze colored people. Across the Blue, it was heavily taken as fact that people of not too fair and not too dark skin possessed some knowledge and ability of magic. Though it was widely known that people of Kaf origin had a better chance of being magickers than Mezze or Krem, the folk of Mezze origins grew in alarming numbers.

The prince despised the changes throughout Varsylgard in regards to these people he deemed as lowly. Without a proper king on the throne, the people felt as if laws and culture did not exist. Chelon was going to make it better again with a myriad of reforms and maintain the status quo. The Varsylians frowned upon magic and any use of it in public or in crime was punishable by the noose. In a few more months, the prince would be at the ripe age of 18. Eighteen, the age in which he could marry and inherit the crown legitimately. People will bow and respect him and the masses would tremble to their knees.

Prince Chelon motioned towards the curtains and pulled them back. The sun and the breeze gently flowed and graced the prince with their gifts. Still speaking the annoyed magician, he ambitiously stated, “I’m going to wipe the filth out of my domain.”

“Ha, you act as if I give a shit about plebeians.” Harvey tossed his head back and chuckled. It wasn’t for long though.

“Oh, and we will be taking back Densch as well as the rest of Sudra. Those people owe my ancestors the knowledge and fortitude, and it’s only right if I reclaim that land. That city wouldn’t be standing high in the sky without Varsylian technology.” The prince smirked at the irritated prisoner. “Yes, everyone has made mistakes and my family is no exception. The Uol’wellian dynasty has had some black sheep, heck towards the end of the first king’s reign, he felt ostracized from the entire family. Died believing the good he did was wrong. I’m going to atone for their sins.”

Harvey would rather be struck by lightning and die than witness the capture of Densch. Indeed, the Varsylian military had one of the best air forces in their known Blue, but Densch was hardly an easy target. The city would have to be toppled before it ever gets seized by foreigners. Dulon and Rozlibet had iron wills, and while they were not exactly war mongers, they had an idea on how battles could be won.

“Enough of the history lesson, you insufferable twat.”

“The Mezze people are so violent. Case in point: you.” The prince loved to taunt his stationary target. In some aspects, Eudoxia would have been the perfect wife for him. Closing into Harvey’s twiching face, he nastily smirked and jeered.

“If you detest me so much then, prince, then execute me now,” he never let himself get so worked up before, but that was before he was held captive and restrained. In those other situations, Harvey Lansit was able to bolster his words with fire.

“I would love to and so would my righteous people, but a great ruler I would not be.” Chelon turned away from Harvey and ascended to his throne. Taking a seat on top of the rich red velvet cushion, the malicious prince envisioned himself as rightful ruler. The continents under the capital’s jurisdiction would have to listen to each and every whim he could think. Continuing from the luxurious seat, he remarked, “I’ve never been one to rush hastily into things. People, places, things, events, the seasons: they all take time. Your death is inevitable, but killing you at this moment is far too soon. Your end must come into fruition, but first you’ll bear witness as we burn fellow witches and seize Densch from those tyrants. Once that happens, then your demise will mature and bloom.”

Envy ran through the prince’s veins. He hated everything about Harvey: the color of his skin, the dark circles underneath his eyes, the white hair, the way he dressed, his age, everything. What did Chelon lack that the washed up fool possessed? Eudoxia was rightfully his and betrothed to him from the dowager empress Helvetia. He planned on making the rest of Harvey’s endless days and nights miserable. Perhaps the rest of the Lansit family would burn before Harvey’s eyes. Yes, that would bring great pleasure to the wicked prince. Sadistic to the bone and ruthless, the teenager aspired to turn enemies into ashes.

“I know you’ve been working with that cult. The Templar. Traitors, the lot of them, filth in my eye that needs to be washed. You’re a perilous man and I must uphold the sanctity of my people and my land. Now that I’ve brought attention to this particular subject, tell me who is Fenshir”

Harvey perked up from his static hung slump. Somehow the brat managed to catch the merchant off guard. Harvey turned the other way, but Chelon was quick to remove himself from his throne and force his enemy to look him in the eyes. Furious eyes etched into the magician’s mind. Perhaps there was more than a wicked soul residing within the golden armor.

“If I may ask, how do you know that name? Do I have a shadow on board?”

“I will be asking the questions, Lansit. Don’t let my youthful appearance deceive you. I am wise beyond my years. And as future king, the goodness of the most pious and strong men have taught me what I need to rule.”

“Ooh, so you got yourself a servant creeping on my ship, so fascinating.”

Chelon walked away and tossed up a hand. He may not have Harvey speak anytime soon about Fenshir, but soon enough the magician is going to crack. He returned to the throne and thought of ways to break his prisoner. Then, he leaned forward from the high chair and smiled.

“I may have to keep you alive. You keep me on my feet.”

“I try.” Harvey dryly put it. “Prince Chelon, you’re quite the charming fellow. I’m sure you hear it often from your subjects, concubines, and playmates, but from one filthy Mezze to the reverent royalty I hope you last on the throne forever.”

Unable to keep a straight face, Chelon laughed, “Plea deals won’t work, Lansit. As I’ve previously mentioned, the Mezze have no moral compass. You’d throw your people into the fire if it meant saving your apathetic life. Not far from the truth at all.”

“The majority of those people down there aren’t even from Sudra. I hold no allegiance with them. I can point out the witches to you. I’m truly established in the capital whether or not you want to admit that.”

“Hmmm…” Not one moment was wasted on Harvey’s pitiful attempts. “No.”

In a sudden turn of events, two figures casually approached from the throne’s right. The leading figure carried a sword at her side and wore a face of determination. Her blond companion followed closely behind.

Catching her in his peripheral, Chelon jumped to his feet. “Eudoxia, what are you doing here?”

“Maker be my witness, I challenge Prince Chelon of the Holy Varsylian Empire to a duel.” From a black sleeve, Eudoxia pulled out a letter with the Varsylian insignia pressed pressed on it. With great conviction, her voice boomed, “Consider this to be the divorce before the marriage.”

Unsure whether to cheer or dread the princess, Harvey gulped.
Finnigan     6y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Writ of Woman#]

Tossing the letter onto the seat of the throne, Eudoxia squinted at both men in front of her.

“Oh thank the Maker!”

If Harvey could throw his hands in the air, he would have done so joyfully. He thought maybe perhaps their confrontation would end in a double homicide. She would slide her sword into the prince, and Chelon would rightfully return the favor. The naive girl would free him and ask for his hand in marriage, but he would sneakily vanish into thin air as he did with all the ladies. Or so he thought.

“Shut up,” she snapped. “I’m not doing this for you, Harvey.”

His face melted in disappointment and shock. Unable to accept the truth, he insisted, “Huh? That’s hardly believable.”

“I’ve been doing some thinking with the twelve hours I’ve spent in my room thus far, and I’m telling you that I’m not spending another second in there. This sword,” Eudoxia held it by the sheath in front of her and nodded, “This sword right here was meant to slay the prince on behalf of the Lansit name, a name that I vowed to take. Now I realize that’s not the case anymore. This sword will buy me your honor as a Varsylian noble and man. I, Eudoxia of Dalme, fight for my emancipation. Accept this challenge or have your name be tarnished for the rest of your life.”

“What?”

Something must have driven the princess mad, because now both of her suitors were stupefied by her queer words. Harvey refused to believe that she fell out of love with him; he was a heartbreaker and not the other way around. What was she talking about emancipation? She was no slave. She had maids and servants at her whim that cooked, clean, and cared. All of Varsyl was hers if she wanted. The influence, the power, the money. Eudoxia had nothing to worry about. Prince Chelon, frustrated and confused as to what tirade Eudoxia was going on about, turned to his captive.

“Lansit, you’ve worn my bride-to-be. Corrupted her mind with impetuous winds.”

Harvey didn’t say anything but he tried to shrug. The wooden cross that leaned back a little stretched his limbs out like a giant X.

“Rhys, go untie Harvey.” She nodded to the nervous golden hair friend.

Eudoxia owed him and Duster for freeing her from her quarters. Though she initially wanted to rot away and die, it was Rhys who brought her back to her mission. The furnace in her chest glowed, but it was not the usual infatuation which had been fueling her heart that got her out of bed. The crew of the Fighter could have left another problem behind, but they willingly went through the trouble to retrieve the princess and fulfill her ambition. Anchovi ignited her heart.

“Don’t you dare take a step closer,” the prince commanded Rhys. His hair swayed as he revealed a glimmer of his sword and Rhys stepped back.

“He’s no threat. He has my full attention.” Eudoxia pulled out her sword and tossed the sheath aside. Slowly approaching the wooden cross and the prince, she smirked and place the tip of her sword a foot away from Chelon’s chest. “Come humor me, Chelon.”

Returning the princess’ challenge with a smile, the Varsylian prince stepped away from Harvey and the throne. Eudoxia lead her “dancing partner” to the middle of the room and he brandished sword. A woman had no place handling a sword nor on the battlefield, but the prince who held his honor above everything else thought to humor this notion. Surely, she was going to give a quick rundown of such shoddy skills and laughable sword handling.

Chelon admired the princess’ hardhead and her quirkiness with such womanly and worldly things such as fashion. She was just as ambitious as he was. She took broad strides wearing the flowing jet black dress and all he could imagine was Eudoxia wearing her wedding gown in a few months. He thought about inheriting his empire everytime he looked into her olive eyes.

Eudoxia was the first to strike. Chelon parried her attack with ease. His pearly teeth glinted. His Varsylian sword easily dwarfed the Sudranese metal handled by the princess. The recoil from the attack vibrated through the sword and into the princess’ hands. The brand gifted to her by the Lansits was still heavy on her wrists, and she had wished for more lessons with the furious Duster who was nowhere to be seen at the moment. Eudoxia held back her wince. She forbid herself from showing any weakness to the prince of Varsylgard. Chelon would only use her pain to coddle her even more.

Though they grew up with each other for years, Eudoxia never took an actual liking to Chelon much less her mother’s unconditional love for him too. She hated the way he cut his hair and found his paisley apparel to be the most atrocious thing sewn by woman. He was beautiful like most Varsylian men, but his face and etiquette put him on an entirely different level. Whereas soldiers fought with such brute force, Chelon moved with an elegant twist in his legs, almost too sophisticated for combat. In fact, the dowager queen Helvetia forbade him from picking up a sword years ago, but somehow the prince’s elegance and battle prowess convinced her.

Meanwhile, Eudoxia struck with quick predictable strikes. The sword bounced back and in each moment, the prince waltzed around the princess. He could have killed her if he wanted to, but he wanted to break the princess down and shame her. He had affection for her, but for the wrong reasons. Eudoxia porcelain face framed with the kinky black locks radiated and garnered the attention of men everywhere, yet Chelon looked past the aesthetics. She was his duty. In conquering the Dalmenian princess, he ruled all the Varsylian owned lands.

“Quite the quick study, but I can’t help but scoff at such rudimentary practices.” He chuckled into his hand and pulled back a bit to brush back his flowing brown hair. Checking up on Harvey, he saw that Rhys made no progress on the thick nooses bound to the magician’s limbs. “You hesitate before each strike, Eudoxia.”

Eudoxia’s upper lip twitched.

“Tell me princess, when did you last let your heart truly decide? The nefarious Lansit have truly gained control over you with farse riches and declarations. The Mezze are known for their demonic witchcraft. Open your eyes!” He pointed to Harvey and asserted, “This man is evil and looking to destroy what the Uol’wellian lineage has built! An act of terrorism is an act against me, the empire, and you. He’s selling weapons to heretics.”

“Uh, I haven’t confessed to that yet,” Harvey pointed out. Annoyed, he constantly insulted Rhys who was having no luck on undoing the giant knots. It was so hard to find good hands these days. The kid did not have a bright future, according to the mogul’s quick assessment.

Returning his attention to the princess who was having the hardest time looking him in the eyes, Chelon asked, “Have you’ve always felt this way about me?”

“In a lot of ways, we’re similar. Too similar. As much as I like myself, I couldn’t bear witness to your tyrannical rule. You’re a disaster waiting to happen and these people outside the walls of this golden palace will suffer your untimely wrath. The people you so much despise, the Mezze, aren’t as bad as you think, and this witch hunt is an outrageous excuse for mass murder.” She stood with a great blaze charging her heart and there was fire in her eyes. Sharp like daggers, her eyes pinned down the prince, yet it was her cold words that put a knife in Chelon. “ In all honesty, I’ve grown rather bored of you, and not because I prefer the magician. No, it’s a much recent development, something I found out the moment Rhys freed me. Why live for someone else’s dream? You can choose any other fool to be your queen, but my prince, I will not be that fool. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.”

The words cut him open. Prince Chelon tried to persuade the princess to return to him.

“Your mother though. Her happiness and health is imperative.”

“It’s your kingdom, do whatever you want with her. Hel, marry her instead.”

It was true. The queen Helvetia went out of her way to keep a young Chelon happy. Perhaps it was her duty as the stepmother to protect him or maybe it was because she wanted to live out the rest of her miserable life in comfort, but Eudoxia believed that there was a tighter bond between the two. Chelon took her in as the mother he never had and Helvetia spoiled the son she had always wanted. The dowager empress played his closest confidant and acted as regent until he was ready to ascend to the throne.

Eudoxia’s acted as the bridge between the two. She would bear Chelon’s healthy children and continue both lineages. The mother and daughter never had a close bond, and perhaps if Eudoxia was a boy, Helvetia would act as regent to the Dalmenian throne All of the queen’s attention moved to the prince. She had only groomed Eudoxa to be a fitting wife and mother. The daughter resented her and learned to focus her attentions on other pursuits such as studying under the Maestra Oe.

“You ungrateful shrew!” Chelon broke out, “Speak sense and return to me peacefully.”

“Or else what, Chelon?” she taunted.

“Or I’ll drag you to the altar by your curls.” A sinister wave emanated. “We owe our parents an heir to the Uol’wellian dynasty.”

“I owe no one anything. What I’ve chosen is to be free. To sail the Blue as far as it stretches. With Anchovi.”

Of course, she would have to beat the prince in order to leave.

“Who?” Chelon asked.

“Us!” The throne room’s doors broke open with five bodies tumbling forth with a bang. The rest of Anchovi had been listening for some time without disturbing the battle and waited for the opportune moment to make an entrance. Frank and Jackie brushed themselves off and winked at their tough princess.

“Frank! Jackie!”

Standing behind the two were Hollis, Tony, and Duster who were all in support of the princess’ decision.

Sighing in relief, Harvey quipped, “Finally, the actual help arrived!”

“Nothing more than a band of rubbish thieves!” Chelon, greatly outnumbered by peasants and foreigners, stepped back with his sword drawn in front of him. Surely guards were running to protect him from the menace at hands.

“Eh, n’ yer dead where ya stand, punk!” Frank pointed his revolver in the prince’s direction. One bullet remaining and it had the the snotty prince’s name written all over it. He thought he’d make a good point of planting it right in the kneecap.

Eudoxia motioned him to put down his gun. She nodded and gave the prince a muted glare. “Frank, this is something I must do.”

The clanking of armor and the deep steps of boots approached the room from down the hallway.

“Well, ya oughtta make it quick. I ain’t plannin’ on stayin’ fer longer.”

Duster threw up a barrier and Hollis aimed his rifle down the hallway. Tony and Jackie braced the barrier and charged down the hallway thus knocking heavy soldiers onto their backs. Frank tapped his foot and nodded towards the princess. The final bout. Swords clashed one more time and the prince and the princess became entwined. Chelon’s heavier sword pressed down on the Eudoxia, but she was not ready to submit. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.

Eudoxia broke off the intimate encounter and swiped at the Chelon’s graced head. He ducked and moved around with the reflexes of a mountain cat. Hair and cape alike flowed after him and only once was the princess able to knick a couple hairs. Witnessing a hair falling before him, a furious Chelon erupted and swung his sword with bold strikes. Sparks flung and each time Eudoxia put up an defense, the prince quickly cleaved it down effortlessly. The rage consumed him and before he realized what he had done, the tip of his blade stuck her torso

Immediately snapping out of the trance, Chelon pulled the sword away from her and fell to the marble flooring. He sobbed, “Eudoxia! I-I’m sorry.”

The stinging pain wore off a while, but Eudoxia could not help but wonder why she was still standing. The tip of his blade tore a hole into her lacy black dress, but there were no signs of blood or gore. Inspecting the hole closely, she placed a few fingers on her gut and felt a dry scales running across her body. Freaked out, she jumped in place.

“You’re a witch.” Stunned, Chelon muttered to himself for a bit on the floor.

In the background, Rhys rummaged around his pockets and pulled out Eudoxia’s heated dagger. Realizing she had given him the weapon for protection, Rhys singed the ropes until they were weakened and broke Harvey out of his bonds.

“I’ve haven’t seen that before.” Harvey had watched the entire thing between the prince and the princess unfold. Genuinely, he was curious about Eudoxia’s immunity to impalements, yet he had not the time to ponder about it in the Varsylian palace. Standing on his feet once more, Harvey nodded to Rhys and softly stated, “Boy, send my regards to the princess. She is forever in my debt. And I guess you, despite your shoddy attempts.”

Without access to his pen, the magician muttered a few unintelligible words into the air and in seconds he vanished within a dense cloud of green smoke before Rhys’ eyes.

Ripping away the train to the dress, Eudoxia waited for the prince to get back to his feet. Unable to understand the full extent of Eudoxia, he muttered, “he’s tainted you. You’ve learned dark arts from that pile of horse shit.”

“You’re finished.”

The swords rang, but this time Eudoxia found herself encircling the prince’s fancy footwork. For every step he made, she made three more. A gentle breeze worked with her and it was the prince who was hesitating on his moves. Chelon’s strikes were too slow for the agile Eudoxia and his petty attempts at reeling her in failed horribly. He finally went in for the grab, but the lithe princess glided past his arm and bodychecked him to the floor. All in an instant, prince Chelon of the Holy Varsylian Empire faced the end of her blade.

“You may have bested me in combat, Eudoxia of Dalme, but you won’t leave these palace walls.” He shouted, “None of you will!”

Eudoxia, standing triumphantly above Chelon, suddenly fell ill and started to fall backwards. Luckily, Frank slid underneath her for the save. Prince Chelon tried to get up, but Rhys jumped at the moment to keep him down and held the dagger to his throat.

“Ya okay?” Frank asked?

“I’m a little woozy. I should be fine.”

Frank furrowed his eyebrows. Eudoxia’s body was boiling hot and almost unfathomable to hold.
Finnigan     6y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Farewell, My Queen#]

“You’re stuck. You have nowhere to go, princess,” the prince chuckled with Rhys’ dagger pressed to his throat. She had fought a good fight, but the victory had gone to Chelon.

“Hmph.” Eudoxia would somehow need to lead Anchovi through the labyrinth of hallways and rooms just to avoid some of the armed guards in the palace. She tried getting up, but her legs were feeble from the sudden fever.

“Eu, maybe you should rest a bit. You ain’t feelin’ right.” Frank scratched his head and followed the princess closely behind just in case she needed to fall back. He was hoping that she would have some sort of escape hatch conveniently hidden somewhere nearby.

“I’ve never felt better in my life.” She smirked at Chelon and stuck her tongue on. The prince tried the same, but the heat radiating off the dagger scared him.

Anchovi plotted their escape for seconds before another royal figure interjected. Coming from the entranceway Eudoxia used to get into the throne room, a woman in a royal crimson and white cloak scuttled in with several armed soldiers at her side. Finally, Helvetia, the exiled queen of Dalme and the dowager empress of Varsyl, came into play. She wore her peppered hair up, but it was her halo that retained her dying youth. Reflecting the rays of the sun, the halo made of gold alloy illuminated the room. Her eyes, the same sharp eyes as Eudoxia, pierced the prince and the princess alike.

Chelon cried out, “Queen Helvetia!”

The men lined up behind the queen who was silent the entire time. She expected her daughter to come running into her arms, but Eudoxia carried armfuls of resentment. The princess had not moved her mouth and insisted on returning the queen’s ice cold stare with one colder. She knew how it was going to play out. The witty Eudoxia held her tongue back, for she knew that Chelon would defend Helvetia and Helvetia would coddle Chelon. They were more in love with each other than she ever cared to imagine. Everything that the queen did for Eudoxia was for her future-son-in-law. The callous queen would have none of Eudoxia’s nonsense.

“You owe your mother some respect,” Chelon spoke up. Once the vanguard arrived, Rhys had finally backed away from the prince and towards the rest of Anchovi. Chelon sneered and moved closer his stepmother’s side.

“I don’t owe anything to anyone!” Eudoxia exclaimed. Everyone now relied on her to get out of this situation. Outmanned and outgunned, Eudoxia knew that her mother would be prepared for her “tantrum”.

Retaining the frigid mask, the queen somberly addressed the princess. The composure alienated the people from Guten Nocht and annoyed the princess. “You’ve returned to me, Eudoxia, but you aren’t pleased to see me.”

“I don’t belong here is what I’ve found out on my journeys outside these walls. You’d be surprise what’s happening outside this playpen.”

“No, no my sweet rose. You’re just a girl who’s mind has led her to awful places. You don’t know any better. I would know. I was your age before. Womanhood makes even the strongest of girls irrational. Womanhood plays with our imagination.” The condescending tone gave Anchovi the itches, even Duster. The ice began to melt away from Helvetia’s demeanor and she piled on the insults. “My sweet rose, you’re the most irrational girl I’ve ever met with an untameable drive to match. You’ve had me sick and worried for months on end. At first I thought were you sold into slavery. I had men searching for you in all directions. I’ve even sent people across the Blue to Francol! Then perhaps I thought the heart-snatching witch Lansit seized you for himself. Please, please, imagine: your poor mother in her room, sobbing her eyes out. I thought I was going to go blind.”

Eudoxia wished she would have gone blind. She thought that the queen losing her tongue and teeth was too barbaric of an idea to ponder about. Years of pent up frustration erupted from the heated princess. “Don’t act like you care about me!”

“Where did you go?” her mother cried.

“If you wanted to ask that question, you’ve would have been the first person to see me when your henchmen kidnapped me. Instead you have one of your loyal Varsylian handmaidens check up on me. What a bore!”

“Saved. You were saved, and thank the Maker too. Who knows what the Mezze would have done to you. They would have snatched you eventually and taken you as their whore bride. Look, a mother shouldn’t have to worry about her daughter dying before she does.”

Helvetia played the victim and she played it dramatically well. The men armed with rifles stirred a bit in their focused stance. Eudoxia could feel the thick layer of judgment placed on her. She was swimming in their rich mousse.

“Without a proper marriage between you and the prince, the Varsylian empire is vulnerable to Dalmenian invasion.” Helvetia moved towards the back of firing squad line and took a seat at the throne. Her sore feet pulsated in her slippers and could not allow both emotional and physical pain to take her any longer. “The past forever haunts me, my daughter. Does it not you? Do you not remember what the Dalmenian king did to us when you were just a young girl? Yet, that growing empire that ousted us sympathizes for its lost princess and perhaps that is why our new fatherland still floats. Without you, Varsylgard remains susceptible to the perils of our old home.”

“Perhaps this country needs a wakeup call.” Grim and at the same time oddly enchanting, Eudoxia bluntly told it how it was. Varsyl was considered one of the greatest nations in the known Blue, but had slowly dwindled in riches and influences after a while. Between the slavery and now the persecution of Mezze folk and witches, Eudoxia wanted no part in its cruelly twisted design.

“You should be fortunate that the late king and his son were gracious to us. You owe this country more than you know, and it is your duty to protect these people.”

“My fate doesn’t reside within these walls.”

“Then where will you go when you’ve lost all your will, your beauty, your opulence, and your family?” Helvetia maintained the first three of her list, but she was slowly losing any hope for grandchildren and a daughter.

“Wherever Anchovi goes, my heart will follow.”

Frank wiped away a tear and Duster might have smiled a small smile.

Unsure of who this Anchovi was, the queen beckoned, “Who?”

“Us!” Jackie shouted.

“Her family!” Rhys added on.

“How can you sympathize with these filthy yardworkers, Eudoxia?” She was under the assumption that these were all agents of Harvey Lansit and the Galhead, though they were all responsible for the slavers’ crushing downfall. She quickly glanced over all their faces and half of them were atrocious monsters. Soloing Jackie out, the queen, with the utmost disgust in both meat and bone, chided, “This one is squatty and fat.”

“You hold your tongue!” Hollis pulled forward to defend Jackie who was utterly taken by surprise.

“How dare a fusilier of the vanguard speak to his queen with such a vile manner! Gallien will have you indicted for your unwarranted, barbaric lash.” Angered, she signaled her men to advance on Anchovi.

“You are no queen to me, just a silhouette with heavy pretenses. Go fetch the captain, and I will say the same to him. I have chosen to renounce my faith in this empire in pursuits of other lands.” He turned to Jackie and smiled. He was going to fight for her and follow her to the ends of the Blue.

Chelon snarkily asserted to the princess and her cohorts, “You won’t make it to the front door.”

“Watch us.”

Frank whipped out his caster and pointed to the left side of the advancing firing squad. The men with rifles, instead of fulfilling their duties to the queen, jumped to take cover as a beam of fiery energy tore a hole through the throne room’s walls and stained glass. Stone crumbled and the glass shattered all into small bits of shrapnel. The queen and the prince balked and waited until the dust to see Eudoxia. Anchovi ran towards the new opening in hopes of escaping.

Eudoxia, unable to keep her sharp tongue from dulling, remarked to the prince, “And if you’re lucky, you might make it to your eighteenth.”

“Witches!” he cried out in return. Brandishing his sword and ready to kill them all himself, Chelon slowly stepped their way with a few soldiers armed with swords.

“Eudoxia! If you go out that window--” her mother began to sputter.

“You’ll do absolutely nothing.” With the biggest grin on her face, Eudoxia looked past her mother and took out her sword. Chelon would never place a hand on her ever again. She promised that she would not be locked up in her bedroom as long as she breathed.

“Kill all of them except the princess.” Chelon, determined to bring Eudoxia back from insanity, engaged her in another battle.

“Rhys,” Eudoxia quickly looked back at her friend, “you know what to do.”

Nodding, Rhys took out the second object Eudoxia had gifted him, the Dalmenian Skein. He looked around the empty throne room for an object solid enough to act as an anchor, but it was Duster who provided a dense slab of metal to tie it around. The Lucavi ball harpooned the silvery shard across the room and through the walls until it was secure enough to climb down. Rhys was the first to rappel down the giant drop which happened to be marketplace and then Tony.

Eudoxia, Frank, Jackie, Duster, and Hollis remained on the surface in order to clean up their mess. Duster created a couple of barricades around their exit which ultimately funneled the Varsylian forces into one point. Frank, who was down for a few caster shells and a bullet, threw some punches at the riflemen who dared to interrupt Eudoxia’s squabble with the prince, and Eudoxia did not take a lot of time to lob her ex-fiance across the floor. Satisfied, she was the third to leave the premises.

Jackie’s insatiable appetite for battle got the best of her. The men with swords kept on coming and without a care in the world, Jackie would knock them all down to the ground. Frank urged her to pull back so they could leave, but the Varsylians missed with their rifles, approached her with such confidence, and fueled her love for the battle. The sweat poured by the gallons, yet she made punching and kicking seem so effortless. In her mind, there was no contest, Jackie Simms thought she was the best in all of Varsylgard. No fist, sword, or gun had enough power behind it to stop her.

Of course, the queen thought otherwise. Sickened to see her men beaten by a Mezze and a woman, the high and mighty Helvetia broke her promise. She vowed to never take arms and fight against another; with the influence she had in life, she did not need to fight. The Dalmenians were fierce hunters themselves, even the women took up arms for the hunt. She as an adept tracker, and despite her appearances as a serene sovereign, she was not too shabby with a rifle.

Helvetia casually scuttled to one of the fallen soldiers and gracefully bent down to wrap her fingers along the trigger of a rifle. It was crafted by Francolians, as most Varsylian firearms were. The Varsylians were never the best smiths on this side of the Blue and relied on the Francolians’ craftsmanship. If she had to be honest with herself, the Dalmenians made better guns. Holding the butt of the rifle to her shoulder, she recalibrated the wiggling frontsight and aligned her eye with her target. The woman, the one called Jackie, reminded the foreign queen of the bristled chin boars from back home. Tusks as thick as a child’s forearm and hairs as prickly as stiff pine, the hunt was harking for her inner-huntress.

“Gotcha.”

Duster and Hollis raced against the shot. With one quick windup, Duster pitched a Lucavi ball that steadily morphed into a buzzsaw. Hollis caught Helvetia’s line of sight and rushed for Jackie. The brawler occupied herself with playful taunts to her fallen opponents andt she herself missed everything in that blink. The fusilier shouldered her down onto the marble floor and took the ripping bullet to the chest. A violent violet stained the soft blue of the uniform, and Hollis stood lifeless and with a smile for a moment before falling back. Duster’s buzzsaw was only then able to cleave the rifle into two.

“Hollis!” Jackie screamed. She grabbed him into her lap and she tried to stop the blood from gushing out. She peacefully sobbed, “Hollis, you idiot…”

Duster, who was suspended in shock and devoid of emotion, hollowly droned, “I wasn’t fast enough.”

Sputtering a bit of blood, Hollis last word were, “Your bed just got a smidge colder…”

“Duster!”

Jackie called for the medic, but it was too late. Not even Duster’s green glowing hands had the potency to bring back the dead. He tried to patch Hollis up, but the Lucavi medic only abated in the Blue. Helvetia backed away from the scene and allowed another swarm of soldiers to dispatch the intruders. The queen had lost her daughter, but in her sadistic mind, she did not leave empty-handed. [i A pain for a pain, as all mothers and lovers say.]

“Jackie, we hafta go.” Frank tugged on her arm with one hand while keeping his revolver pointed at whoever was foolish enough to approach.

She muttered, “I’ll kill her.”

Jackie had never expressed such a deep hatred for someone, at least never in front of Frank. Frightful of what might happen next, he desperately brought her around with a stern tone. Frank, who was usually the emotional one in all their misadventures, temporarily pulled her out of an empty state. He did not want to leave Hollis’ dead body behind either, but they were tight on opportunities. “We can’t afford that luxury right now. We’re outnumbered and if we die here, we ain’t ever gettin’ a slice o’ revenge.”

Stretching his abilities thin, exhausted Duster crafted a silky white barrier between them and the growing crowd while Frank and the mourning Jackie descended the stone castle walls. She thought about climbing back up the walls and pummeling them all until her heart’s desire, but Frank was in the way and the worst had begun. As soon as they reached the top of the castle walls, a figure in pinstripe appeared out of a thick green smog. It was the magician, Harvey Lansit, who started the next Varsylian calamity. As if he took all of Jackie’s rage and used it to fuel his magic, grandiose balls of flame encircled the entire palace.

With one flick of his wand, the infernal orbs smashed into the throne room from one side to the other and wicked Harvey ran the fireball several times through. No one could touch him from the top of the keep and everyone within the capital’s radius felt his wrath. Scattering his attacks like the winds, the magnificent feat of magic caught the entire area on fire. He spared no mercy on the rich and the poor, the Krem, the Mezze, the Kaf. Roofs collapsed from the flames. If the crowned was going to tarnish his name for the sake of killing unwanted groups, he was going to follow through.

“She ain’t gettin’ out of that one.”

“The queen was starting to warm up to us,” Duster humorlessly stated.

“Well, all I know is that we are never ever coming back.”

Eudoxia didn’t look back, she had no reason. Helvetia and the prince Chelon could be dead for all she knew and not a single tear would be shed for the likes of them. On the other hand, Jackie witnessed the burning of the palace. She was in awe of how enticing the gargantuan complex burned a radiant gold, but she reassured herself that the giant bonfire would put Hollis’ soul to rest.
Finnigan     6y ago
Crusty Pugnacious Sharp-Tongued Seafaring Weaver of Sunshine and Despair

[size16 #Open Blue#]

With the world staving off the living flames of the vengeful magician, Anchovi met no opposition as they scurried across the marketplace. Taking all the back alleys and hiding behind the corners, each member made it their mission not to attract the inquisition. At one point, Jackie had turned around to watch the palace go up in flames. She was amazed at such raw power. The fiery maelstrom added to Varsyl’s naturally arid climate. The dried up shrubs and bushes that littered the palace’s cliff ignited. A twister crafted from wicked flame tore through stone and men.

By the evening, Anchovi had made their way back to Engergast farm, but the magician’s endless summer had not yet settled down. Anchovi’s feet sweated, even blistered. They could handle it. They wanted to get out of Varsyl as soon as possible. Frank was surprised that no one bothered Elbriz and his property after the whole fiasco with the inquisitors. Perhaps they were just too busy trying to calm down the masses or perhaps they were continuing their crusade against the darker skinned Mezze people.

Elbriz and his ranch hands began the long process of rebuilding. They, like Anchovi, dragged. The heat and the repetitive dragging of garbage and large planks of wood exhausted the worn soles. The governing body and its stretching hands did not need to lift a finger. The ranch hands moved like zombies. Expressionless, limp.

“Look, I’m sorry for all this.” Frank spoke out to Elbriz who remained sitting on his front porch. Last’s outlaw couldn’t get a read from the ranch’s owner.

“Go,” Elbriz nodded, “it’ll be awhile before the farm is up and at ‘em. We’ll bounce back. Now get that flying deathtrap out of here.”

He took it lighter than Frank had initially thought. Frank vowed to one day come back and help in any way possible. After all, Elbriz was one of the very few business partners and friends that resided near the capital. On the other hand, Eudoxia approached the young girl, Luzi, and glared. The princess didn’t hold any contempt against Luzi. In a way, Eudoxia’s hearty hug was a sign of gratitude towards Luzi’s episode. She would have never gain her senses without a little nudge.

Once the crew entered the ship, the bodies hit the floor. Never did it feel better to just give in and relax.
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Tony lay on his back and echoed, “Well now, where do we go?”

Everyone was too busy fighting off the grogginess to respond. Even Duster stewed in silence.

“Let’s get out of this town,” Frank suggested. No one was going to argue otherwise.

“Where then?”

Tony felt as if he owed the people of Varsyl his life. In one moment of his life, he was fighting to free his brother and all the men and women a sinister corporation enslaved, yet in the next he and the rest of Anchovi were teetering on the idea of staying or going. The country was going to be torn by its citizens and the nefarious prince. The unsettling thought of war and death ran through Tony’s mind. By some miracle, Tony vanquished Galhead without droves of men and women suffering by the sword. Perhaps this was one battle he had to sit out.

Eudoxia sat up for a moment and remarked, “Anywhere that doesn’t fly the Varsylian flag. Heck, let’s lay low, there’s no need for us to get into trouble with these shoddy empires. We’re not winning any allies any time soon.”

The crew that rested in a circle all laughed. They had the worst of luck attracting support of any kind. Between committing acts of treason and abdication against the prince and the Varsylian empire, Anchovi wore one big target on their backs. Varsyl was jeopardized and who knew what the Dalmenian empire would do now that their only tie to the waning land was the princess.

Before they could really get up off the steel grate floor, the crew peacefully closed their eyes for just a smidge of rest. It was a few hours after, that Frank woke up. The only ones that were awake were him, Eudoxia, and apparently Jackie. How anyone really slept through the Fighter’s takeoff was a mystery, but lo and behold the Fighter soared through the skies.

Frank carried Rhys to his bedroom and tucked his younger brother into bed and then headed for the kitchen. Surprised to see the princess, Frank rummaged through the cabinets for coffee beans. He grew to dislike coffee, it only reminded him of his past. Frank sat down at the table and handed one mug to the smitten princess.

“I can’t believe yer denyin’ all that royal bullcrap. You sure yer up to it? Like if you run with us, you gotta [i run] with us. No half-assin’.”

“Frank, when have I ever shown a notion that I was half-assing?” It was true. Though Frank was initially never impressed by the princess, Eudoxia had pulled herself through all their wacky misadventures. She took a small sip and big breath before continuing.“I chose love over riches, but I couldn’t be farther from the truth if I tried. What I wanted this entire time was my freedom.”

She liberated herself from a marriage she put no heart into and a self-serving mother. Eudoxia abhorred the palace anyways. The murals on the walls were outdated and Varsylian culture died thousands of years ago. If it was not for Francolian fashion present in Varsylgard, she would have contemplated suicide years ago. Out here, on the Fighter, she could breathe when she wanted to and not be interrogated.

“I trust that you have the best interests in the group.”

“I do. I’ve found more family here than anywhere else in the Blue.”

Frank smiled at the renounced princess before heading off for the cockpit. Immediately, he could tell that there was something awry in Jackie. The air felt cool and a lingering draft prickled his leg hair.

“We had to hightail it out of there if we wanted out. Gallien and his vanguard aren’t going to be all that forgiving.”

Her focus was on the skies. It was the only thing that really cleared her mind.

“I don’t think he’s gonna be a problem. He’s gonna need to figure out how to stop this firestorm.”

“It rages.” She said, “He certainly matches the fortitude of--”

Jackie stopped herself from going on. Frank missed the sweet embrace of his long lost lover.

“Hm.”

Frank wanted to stay by her side just in case she wanted to speak. Instead, he sat in the co-pilot’s chair and stared out the window. The soft whirring of the air tuned with him. There was not much to look outside at except for the occasional wisp of cloud.

“You gonna be okay?”

“Sure.” Her voice was cold like icicles. Then the truth came out, “I wasn’t ready to lose another friend, Frankie.”

“You ain’t kiddin’ me, Jackie. It still pains me to think of all the good folk died before us. Makes you wonder if the Maker is cruelly queer. Takes all the smart ones while they’re young n’ hot while the dumb keep on kickin’.” He stopped to remember all the faces that saved him countless number of times. Each of them so familiar as if they were over last night for a hearty dinner. Frank tried his best not to ride on nostalgia, but today especially the memories came flooding in. “I’ve learned to accept it for what it is.”

Jackie remained in her silent stance. She thought about turning the Fighter around and crashing it at full speed right into the queen. She would have done the same thing Harvey did if she had the aptitude for magic, but she guessed that her fists would be just fine. Jackie would wait for Frank to leave before she slammed her balled up fists onto the console. The thought of losing Hollis troubled her that she had to hide the single tear that rolled down her fat cheek.

Frank finally got up within the next hour to check up on everyone else. He felt for her, understood the toils she was experiencing. Frank nodded and thought about all times Jackie was there for him. It was in her embraces that Frank felt like a child again. “If you need to talk ‘bout it, ya know where to find me.”

Before complacent Frank made his way out of the cockpit, Jackie stopped him with the sound of her voice.

“Thanks, Frankie.”

Not even into the next room, Frank met up with the mechanic and engineer on board, Tony. It was strange seeing the tall and lean fellow approaching the cockpit, but Frank did not want to make much of it.

“What are your plans?”

“Well, I can’t exactly go back to Densch without the prince. Somehow, amongst all this chaos, Harvey is gonna find his way back home. He’s always been resourceful like that. I can’t say that setting a palace on fire is in his regular coursework.Somehow the prince and the queen pushed his buttons beyond their limits. I would even say that he let himself get captured for the sole purpose of setting fire to the palace.”

“I don’t know what kind of man would let himself git captured like that.”

“The kind that strikes at all men’s egos.”

Tony knew that he was going to be unemployed soon, yet he was not going to stay in the Varsylian capital without participating in the inevitable downfall of the country. He actually despised his brother for continuing the efforts against slavery and inequality. The least that Jeraia could have done was spend what little moments together. Displaced from his original homeland of Varysl and presumably banished from the stalks of Densch, Tony felt homeless.

“Look, I ain’t one to be talkin’, but we need a real mechanic. Yeah, yeah, Jackie can do maintenance here and there, but yer ‘sposed to be one of the best ‘round these parts.”

Tony looked at Frank as if he had said something awful, but in reality he was shocked to hear a critical member of the crew to offer a job. He felt awkward around the people of Guten Nocht. With the exception of Rhys, the remaining three were bruisers.“You want someone like me on your ship? I failed my last job and I’ve been nothing but a burden to you all.”

“Look, yer signin’ up to be a mechanic. Killin’ ain’t a requirement.”

“Uhh...sure.”

“And one more thing.”

“Yes?” Tony furrowed his eyebrows and scratched his buzzed head.

“If you’re gonna go in there,” Frank pointed to the cockpit, “please be kind to that woman. Be patient with her if she doesn’t yield a response right away. N’ above all else, you mess with her and she ain’t clockin’ sense into ya, I will. Haha, I’m playin’.”

Punching Tony lightly in the arm, Frank came back to the dining room to see that Duster and Rhys had finally woken up. They had joined Eudoxia at the table, but more was going on.

“What trouble are y’all gettin’ yerself into?”

“Eudoxia is gonna teach me how to read and write!”

“Well, well, ain’t that somethin’.” Frank covered his smile until it faded and then stared at Eudoxia. “What’s the plan?”

“Jackie’s the captain-pilot, don’t ask me,” she cracked.

“No, I wanna know what yer up to.” He wanted her insight on things. Eudoxia and Tony were more than just new members to the troupe, but a gateway to understanding the Blue. Frank and Jackie would gladly follow the two of them wherever as long as it meant there was work and it wasn’t too dangerous. Though Frank simply forgot that they had a few coins too many for comfort.

“Frank Dietz, I made myself very clear.” Stamped to her feet and boldly stated, “Where Anchovi goes, I follow.”

“Yer a pain.”

Frank rolled his eyes and smirked. Playfully, Eudoxia shot back.

“And you’re a louse.”

“Heh.”

“Well, I need to speak with Jackie. We have a lot to cover.” Eudoxia brought her attention back to Rhys quickly and then softly spoke. “We’ll continue the lessons later on. Just focus on the alphabet first and then we’ll learn how to form wonders.”

Duster accompanied Eudoxia into the next room which left Frank with Rhys. The two of them hadn’t really interacted lately, yet something was really bugging the younger of the two. Finally finding the courage to speak up, Rhys muttered just loud enough to get Frank’s attention.

“Um, Frank.”

“Yeah?”

“It’s been awhile since we’ve been in the Blue, and well, I was just...um, nevermind.” Rhys was nervous of rejection, especially from the likes of Frank or anyone on the Fighter for that matter. They were smarter, faster, stronger than he was.

“Nah, mah sister Elle always said, ‘if you start shit, ya best finish it.’ Lemme hear what you gotta say.” Frank invested his time in a seat next to Rhys and scooted towards the table. Compared to the cockpit, the dining room felt like a hot skillet.

“I’ve been alive for a year now, and I still don’t have any idea who I am.”

Rhys gave Frank the saddest face his gentle face would contort into. It really surprised Frank to hear such words come from someone so young. Frank recalled that his first existential crisis happened a few years ago. Kids should not have to worry about adult themes. They should play in the dirt as long as they can.

“Ain’t Duster ever fill you in? Dusty knows lots, has a knack of being a wise guy when he wants to.”

“He thought it wasn’t in his place to divulge that kind of information to me. Says you and Jackie would be the ones to fully tell me who I am.”

Rhys lied. He had never confronted Duster about his existence, especially not as of lately. The Lucavi himself was ironing out a few kinks with his life. Though Jackie did not blame Duster for Hollis’ death, Duster withdrew himself from everyone else. Rhys sensed his fear of failure, thus allowed the white cloaked alien to live in solitude and reflection.

“I must admit that I haven’t been the best brother. Heck, here I am fuckin’ up at it for a second time.” Sometimes he could see a little bit of his sister Elle lit up in Rhys. “Anyways, I’ll let the doc know that he can tell you want you want, but I wanna give you a warnin’ though: whatever Dusty tells you, you ain’t gotta take for the absolute truth. You’ll always be Rhys Illumina. You be who ya wanna be, nothin’ n’ no one else’s word matters but yours. Now, lemme see what she’s teachin’ ya.”

Rummaging through a few books, there was one that Frank recognized. Pulling it out of the pile by the spine, Frank inspected the hardback and quickly flipped through the pages.

“Avant Tarde,” he began to chuckle. “Gustavio Luccino is timeless. Kinda like you. Here, I’ll read it to you...”

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