Alexia leapt from her warm plush bed and bolted for the door swinging it open wildly she charged down the hall past here other two roommates to Chelsey’s room and pounded on the door. It swung open after a while with an angry disheveled looking Chelsey standing in the gap. Her hair was a mess and her flannel pajamas were not yet straightened out. In a flash of violet eyes in the early morning grey Chelsey hit the floor, being too groggy to dodge a flying tackle.
“I get to go home for a whole month! I get to see mommy and daddy and the crows!” Chelsey squirmed in the wake of the unexpected and crushing love.
“The what? Crows? What?” Chelsey pushed the ecstatic Alexia off of her. “I get it you’re happy, sheesh!” Alexia danced and smiled while her eyes glinted violet in the darkness of early morning, and jade green in the glistening golden light of the rising sun that shown through the fluffy curtains in Chelsey’s bedroom.
“Alexia, sweetie… You know it’s like… a mortal sin to wake people up before the sun is fully up right?” Chelsey rubbed the crusts of deep sleep from her eyes and yawned. Opening her eyes she jumped with fright as Alexia had appeared silently in front of her face without warning.
“It’s a holiday!” She giggled.
“yes, yes, I know. Go back to bed now.” Chelsey patted Alexia on the head and laid back down on the floor too exhausted to stand. Alexia dropped on her friends stomach with a heavy flop.
“aren’t you going to go home?” Chelsey bit her lip and held her breath. She placed her arm over her eyes for a moment to give herself time to gain composure and steady her voice. She looked up from the floor at the happy alliance card on her bedside table. It had been sent to her from her parents who were busy in another city and wouldn’t be back for at least two months. Just another full cred-chip with holiday allowance and some extra for ‘love’.
“No, I’m gunna stay here so I can get some other studies done. You know how bad I am at math and you’re not much better, so I have to find someone to help me study.” Alexia frowned.
“Aren’t your mom and dad going to miss you?” Chelsey held her breath again,
“Lexi, I’m really tired. Will you please go away? I’m really happy for you but…” She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, her voice wavered as she spoke again “I’m… not feeling very well this morning.” her breath was heavy and filled with pain and Alexia cringed.
“I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to make you mad at me again. I just…” She sighed an laid her head gently on Chelsey’s chest. Hugging her tightly she listened to Chelsey’s pained heart before speaking again. “Come home with me, my family would love to meet you. I’ve told them all about you and they’d be so happy to meet my first school friend!” holding back a sob she stayed still and silent for a long while. Alexia got back up on her feet and began slowly backing out of Chelsey’s room, afraid she had made her friend mad again. “I’m sorry…”
“No, Lexi… I’m so sorry for being such a party pooper but I can’t go with you. I’d really like to but…” There was a long silence as she couldn’t hold her tears back any longer. They streamed silently down her perfect cheeks and Chelsey kept her arm held over her eyes. She felt a pair of arms rap around her once again, gentle and loving, like the embrace she had always wanted from her mother and father. The embrace she always wanted to feel with Marcus or some of the others.
“you have nothing to apologize to me for Chelsey. I’m the weird one remember.” She giggled and stood up. Chelsey held back another sob. It felt so good to be held it was almost more than she could bare. Alexia began to close the door quietly behind her.
“Lexi, thank you…”
“Everything, letting me move in with you and your roommates… being so nice to me all the time, when I’m so bitchy with you.” Alexia blinked a few times in bewilderment.
“I was too annoying for the roommate that was assigned to this room. So, no need to thank me.” She looked down at her feet. “and… You’d do the same for me if I needed you right? So, it’s not a big deal.” A long silence turned into the door finally being closed. Once Chelsey was sure she was alone. She curled into a ball and cried her heart out into a nearby stuffed animal.
Alexia stood quietly outside the door listening and wishing she could do something. She finally showered and dressed quickly, having packed the night before she flung her once small suitcase into the air and caught it with a watery hand from the kitchen sink. She giggled and sent the giant hand back up the water faucet. Skipping to the front door she swung it open to a hallway lit by a torch representing each element. The Darkness torch was the most interesting, reminding her of some of the night clubs she had gone to with Chelsey, colors and white cloths glowed in the strange light, the earth torch was a weird glowing florescent crystal. The water was a floating ball of water with a gorgeous, flowing beta fish swimming in it, only, the fish was made of pure multi-colored light. People had been known to steal the fish from time to time. Alexia being the guiltiest repeat offender of that offence. Though, no faculty ever really cared as the fish would reappear in a few hours. The fish would never last longer than thirty minutes outside of the torch. Chelsey and her had managed to figure out enough magical enhancements to keep the fish alive for a full two hours. It swam all around their dorm house fluttering and swishing this way and that in the open air. Letting out a cute bout of bubbles every now and then. That was one of their secrets though, and they would always steel a fish on the weekends and try to get it to last longer if they had no other plans for the night.
Alexia smiled remembering those nights, she would miss Chelsey but everything else about this place felt like a prison to her. The major commons area that all dorms connected to was bustling, grades had been released and posted and everyone competing for top marks was up and fighting to check the official school listings. The whole school was grumbling about how typical it was for Chelsey to be at the top of the glamour and charm departments and yet never seem to care about it. Others cheered as they had made top marks in one class or another. Though once Alexia entered the room everyone fell silent and stared. She stopped, and her smile faded.
“he…Hello…. Everyone, what’s going on?” she stuttered and looked around at all the bitter angry faces.
“Make way everyone Queen Lexi-con Brown Noser coming through!” She held her breath as people parted out of her way, to the board. ‘Alexia Thornchime, Department Grade Rankings: 1st in Healing, 1st in Light, 1st in Water, 1st in potions, 1st in Channeling, 2nd in Charm, 2nd in Glamour, and 1st in overall academic achievement.’ She smiled, her other, non magic classes were excellent, only her math and science were terrible but even so she was thrilled!
Ranking board listings of overall academic achievement:
1st- Alexia Thornchime
2nd- Chelsey Fanecloud
3rd- Dillon Pingleton
4th- Lacey Fletcher
5th- Marcus Blackforge
The list continued on “Yay, mommas’ gunna be so happy!” She clapped her hands and did a little dance as everyone rolled their eyes in disgust.
“Hey, Lexi… Nice job but take it easy next semester not everyone can handle the mental stress involved with multi classing. It’s admirable what you’re attempting but lesser people will just burn themselves out.” Said a dingy brown-haired boy who looked like absolute havoc had befallen his wardrobe. Mismatched socks and greasy clumped hair were adorned with multi thousand-dollar silk and linen dress robes that looked as if they had been slept in repeatedly.
“Oh, hey Dillon!” She smiled widely and waved at him. “Did you see? I made first in over all can you believe it!!? Dillon rolled his eyes,
“Yeah, I saw, and no I can’t.” he said with a venomous tone.
“I know right, it didn’t feel like I had worked that hard! Really weird huh?” Dillon clenched his teeth as his fists balled in rage.
“If you knew what was good for you, you’d take a break before you burn yourself out. A farm girl like you can’t keep this up forever.”
“I could probably keep this up until I graduate… but if I burn out I suppose I could join smoke department with you and take a break from all my other stuff right?” She giggled, and his face flushed. The crowed watching hissed with giggles and laughter. ‘Former number 1’ said some, ‘so much for the Pingleton record of 1st place every generation.’ Mocked others. Some hissed, ‘that’s what sucking faculty dick gets you. Too bad for Dillon!’ she blinked a few times and smiled.
“Well, have a good holiday Dillon, I’ll see you in a month! Have lots of fun!” She skipped off and ran down the stairs of the dorm staircase. Dillon looked back to the board to see 1st in over all, Filipe Means Jr. He growled and stormed off through the jeering crowds. Rudely pushing his way through he tuggedat his matted mop of hair. ‘Who the hell was this new brat? Its bad enough the listing are filled with bad jokes but this!’ Dillon huffed and slammed his fist into a pile of books someone was holding. The pile of books and papers went clattering to the floor and he continued storming off as if he hadn’t noticed or hadn’t the time to care. ‘He waltzes on into the school and he is place upon the top of the charts for nothing? For existing?’ Dillon fumed and hissed violently under his breath. ‘Who the hell is this little shit?’
The building from the outside looked like a normal apartment complex, normal for C.U.S. However, it was ten times the size once inside. Thanks to rare magic not taught at the school, magic called dimensional magic, the schools buildings could accommodate tens of thousands and only take up three city blocks in all. That was with all the space devoted to art and gardens. She headed to the train station and road the line out to the city gates where an armored troop carrier meant for taxying people to and fro awaited her. She waved a clear glassy card in front of a scanner as she boarded, and the scanner beeped and spoke.
“Thank you Thornchime, twelve month pass holder, have a safe journey with us today.” She giggled and found a seat among the haggard and bearded vagabonds and ex-soldiers looking to start a new life else were. They all looked at her as if she were a fresh piece of meat dangled in front of wolves, but she seemed to not notice as her light perfume filled the air. The buss depo was crowded and smelly but one of her favorite places in the city, because whenever she was at the buss depo it meant she was leaving the nasty city!
The APC took off and rumbled out of the giant domed city. A flock of crows loomed overhead as the sun came up and the whole world light up in a fiery blaze of light. The mornings outside of the dome were unparalleled! And everyone gasped as they stared out of the fibrotic windows to see the H.D. sun rise. Alexia leaned back in her seat and exhaled as she felt the wait of the world lift from her shoulders. She was not alone in that moment as everyone in the APC exhaled in relief for one reason or another. They were all free from the oppressive dome!
The long ride back to her family’s farm house made her anxious, the giant figure of the dome loomed over the transport casting a very long shadow over the land. To the eastern skyline Alexia could see a large building her father had called a prison were lots of bad people were sent during the last war. It always made her uncomfortable and she couldn’t wait for her father to come and pick her up! The world outside the 1200-meter-tall dome was fresh, crisp, icy and wide open. It was so nice to breathe deeply of air that wasn’t filtered, compressed and scrubbed. The soft gentle clouds floated calmly by bringing with them the scent of moisture sure to come. The world was bright and cheerful in comparison to the dim metallic grey of everything in the city, the colors out hear were natural and not painted. Even the winter grey of frost was a shockingly more vibrant color. Best of all, the cool full embrace of the wide-open blue sky! Something so foreign to her now after months of imprisonment in a super city of fourteen million! There were no hissing burst vents from hover craft making her ears ring, the lights were natural and not the nauseating L.E.D. or florescent of the city.
Alexia had been dropped off by a military escort and was now waiting at a refugee center known as the ghetto. It was dirty, dangerous and a cesspool of debauchery, addiction, and gambling. Were sell sword warriors and bounty hunters could be found by the armored personnel carrier load. But it was wide open to nature and far freer with less laws and restriction than the dome. Citizens could own and use military grade weapons and vehicles out here if it wasn’t Consortium military issue. Outside the walls no one had any business not carrying a weapon of some kind, in the dome no one but military had any business with weapons of any kind. That’s just how it worked, freedom comes with its sacrifices and with less military protection, that meant being far more open to raids from demons, bandits, undead, alien creatures of all kinds, and the worst forces of all! The slavers of the Atlantian Empire, and the Eastern Legion would sometimes make raids on any civilization human or not! Resources were too few to wall the entirety of the territory so only the cities themselves were walled, everything on the outskirts was considered free lands of the Consortium, were martial law was as good as the word of god himself! So, if you wanted to be free, stay away from the military. Life was much easier if you defended yourself! The Consortium of United States ruled over their one portion of the North America like mad dogs with the eastern and western boardering empires in a constant state of choking tension that would cause piano strings to snap! Alexia never felt safe in the ghetto, but then again, she never really felt safe in the dome either.
She heard a hiss, then someone coughing a muffled version of her name. She looked around to see a strange man and woman dressed as nomadic travelers. The woman chattered away in a foreign language as the man looked to be blind. Alexia skipped over to them and they walked a few feet apart as if they were strangers. The man dropped a package and the woman walked into the nearest ladies’ room. Alexia picked up the parcel nonchalantly and fallowed her mother into the restroom. There they quickly changed Alexia into the same type of nomadic clothing. Alexia’s mother chanted something and made some hand gestures over a nearest stall door, pushing it open they stared at, not a toilet, but the street a few city blocks down from where they were now. Alexia quickly stepped through it, not asking any questions at all. She had been through this type of thing before every time they went to the city to collect that rare herb her mother treasures so much they would always have to dress up and sneak around. They both walked smoothly out of a coffee shop door as if just coming out after having lunch. Immediately they were joined by the nomadic man they left behind and together as a family they carried on.
As they walked down the street a man with glowing red and green eyes brushed past Alexia and her mother. Alexia’s mother and father jolted to action! A ten-foot ball of fire appeared over the mans’ head waiting to be dropped, held at bay by Alexia’s mother who’s outstretched hands shook with the force of her spell. Alexia’s father however, had taken a different approach holding a very large, almost oversized gun at the man’s head in one hand and a signal jamming beacon flashed on in his other. Alexia removed a tracking beacon from her cloak that the man had placed and as the fire ball fizzled her mother took back her coin purse.
“what were you planning on doing with this homing beacon?”
“come on man, it’s nothing personal.” Alexia’s father clicked the safety off and the gun hummed as it charged and chambered a ball barring. “Wooh! Come on now, you don’t wanna do that!”
“What were you going to do with the beacon?” Alexia’s father repeated slowly.
“Roadside assistance man, proactive roadside assistance that’s all.” He smiled a phony smile and he placed his finger on the trigger and began to slowly squeeze.
“Woah Woah Woah! Come on, how could you live with yourself if you killed a man?”
“Easily, it’s nothing personal right?” the two men stood motionless for a moment before a vibrating blade came out of the cyborgs wrist and he lunged at Alexia’s father. In a flash there was a bang and the borg dropped.
Six holes appeared in his chest and one in his head. Alexia’s father dropped his clip and loaded another. He checked in a few directions before placing is gun back in his shoulder holster. He then crouched down and dug through the blood-soaked pockets of the borgs’ camo vest and pulled out a wallet with two cred chips and an I.D. card that cycled through three different I.D.s, all were free-booter mercenary identities. There was a tattoo on his wrist which told a different story, a red gryphon piercing a naked pinup girl with its claws.
“Oh he’s with the Red Aviators. Damn sex slavers!” He rummaged through the lower pockets quickly, emptying the contents onto the dirt road. There was a blue metal lighter, rusty and the flint didn’t spark, but he cracked it open and dumped out lighter fluid with three large diamonds inside. A bottle of chloroform, a pistol with tranquilizer rounds and a broad iron ring with a sapphire blue bird set into it. His heart stopped, and his blood ran cold, “how did they get this ring?” he whispered in horror under his breath. Holding the ring he could still see his father’s smiling face in his military dress whites with his busy mustache and furrowed shaggy brows. That was the last he had seen of his father before his father disowned him for marrying his beloved Gale Song Thornchime. General Blue-Jay Jackson, the great iron wall of the C.U.S. Holder of the northern front of Lone Star City during the twelve years siege.
“Jay, Honey… Don’t worry about it lets go sweetie.” Alexia’s mother skipped over to her husband and tugged at his shoulder. He slid the ring into his pocket before she could notice it and regained his stoic face.
“That’s the third one in two months, something is going on!” Alexia’s father spat and held his two beautiful girls close for a moment before they started walking again. He was not only the best shot Alexia had ever seen, but he was also the quickest on the trigger! Always able to fire the contents of the clip accurately, fast enough to make it sound like one shot. He could even do that trick with multiple targets at once! This wasn’t the first time she had seen death, at age five she had witnessed her father battling a group of humans lead by a demon. Some of the neighbors were killed but not her father, her father was the best, and her mother was so amazing! Alexia just wished she could become half the mage her mother was!
The journey went smoothly from there, once outside the ghettos’ outer wall her mother opened a portal and they hopped to a few places her mother called power nexuses before going home. Her mother always said that hopping all over places of power like that prevented others from fallowing the rift scars, so they were safe to go home without monsters finding them. The home front smelled so sweet, a fragrance lost to Alexia for so long. Even with a thin layer of snow on the ground the scent of fresh crisp wild flowers and sharp pine and aspen trees was almost over whelming. The air was untainted by man, the air and land felt healthy and happy. Alexia felt so good, being home was a much-needed recharge from the cage she had been living in. she grew up with her father always saying,
‘Alexia, you can live your whole life behind the walls of those mega cities and remain ignorant of the world from birth to death, safe from the dangers that lurk outside. Or you can leave the safety of the walls and truly live a life worth living, regardless of how short or long it may be I’ll take the life that is lived vibrantly!’ looking up at her scared father it was plane to see in his eyes how vibrant a life he and his wife lead. They were both so happy together and happily adventured and explored together. Her mother was so, sometimes nauseatingly, affectionate with him and he with her. She couldn’t imagine a family life any different, everyone should have an amazing mother and father like hers!
Alexia looked around the homestead, the harvested and plowed field awaited the coming season of planting, the bee hives her mother kept near the house buzzed even now with a jittering working pace. Her mother kept flowers and a warm air bubble around each of the hives year-round to produce more honey than was thought possible. The happy bees buzzed recklessly, frantic by the coming storm they felt approaching. They would not be affected by the snow to come but bees will always work hard and prepare for the worst. Crows often frequented their house, and a decade long war had continued even while Alexia was at school. Her mother collected shiny knickknacks and placed them around the house, the crows too, collect shiny knickknacks to decorate their homes. The war was currently a stalemate with weekly raids on each other’s homes ending in a strange display of ‘one up’ trophies. She had gained an edge for a while with the discovery of superglue and power tape. But realizing that they could no longer abscond with her trinkets they took to pooping on everything and laughing as she cleaned up every mess left behind. Through it all she had always managed to keep a friendly relationship with the crows and because of that, they had a record of warning their household of approaching danger.
Today the crows seemed calm, and happy! All were welcoming one of their flock back from here extended leave. One of the many large obsidian colored birds flew down to touch down and leap off of Alexia’s shoulder, leaving a pretty red ribbon in her hair as it flew away. Alexia giggled and waved at the flying bird shouting out, “You are wonderful pretty friend I’ve missed you all very much!” they called back and fluttered into the nearby trees.
“Hey, that’s one of my ribbons!” Her mother reached for the ribbon only to have her hand playfully smacked away.
“No it’s mine, it was stolen from you fair and square and now it’s mine!” she stuck her tongue out
“Oh, I can feel it!” She said with a sly smile
“You’ve been slacking on your channeling!” Alexia’s eyes narrowed “They may give the city simpletons a month off to celebrate the founding of the C.U.S. alliance but here you still have to channel!”
“But! That’s not fair, I’ve been working so hard with my studies and everything!”
“Yes, and you get a break from learning spells and reading books! All you have to do is channel with your mamma!” He mother said in an overly excited tone, she gave a wink and her little button nose wrinkled causing Alexia to giggle. They played and tickled one another as the father stood watch, ever vigilant his scarred face a visual of the two sides to his coin. The happy and loving family man, and the haunted warrior waiting for the storms of his past to catch up.
“Blue-Jay Thornchime, or should I say Blue-Jay Jackson! The retired C.U.S. sniper best known as Mr. Sphenoid the butterfly catcher. I’ve found you at last!” A large crow fluttered and came to a rest on the shoulder of a dark hooded figure with piercing blue eyes. He was standing out in the distance of a shadowy thicket of trees watching the happy family as they played.
“It is them isn’t it Treptoe?”
“Yes my lord, I have given Blue-Jay Jacksons daughter the cursed ribbon you requested. What do you desire I do next my lord?” the bird crowed in reply as the hooded figure reached out a gliding graceful hand to the bird and began stroking the large crows folded wings.
“Go forth and find our runaways, I care not for the boy at the moment bring me the knight! You and he shall do a very special job for me very soon. That girl will be a wondrous tool.” He plucked an inky black feather from the birds wing and sent the cawing bird into the blue grey skies before he himself dissolved into the shadows of the forest like a mass of migrating spiders. The unaware family continued in their happy bliss, Blue-Jay smiled and looked back at his wife,
“Alexia, Gale time for dinner come on, the Horton’s are fixing up something for a welcome home meal for us at their house let’s get going!” Blue-Jay shrugged off the feeling of being watched. Alexia hopped into the rumble car and her parents started the brass and copper plated hovercycle. The gears whirled and the bike chugged for a moment then the engine hummed and the jets kicked in as they began floating. Gale kissed her Husband on the cheek and he smiled back at his two beautiful girls. Winking at Alexia he flicked down his goggles and away they went with a jolt and a rumbling crackle of jet fire. With the two girls laughing the whole way.
Days passed in the cold, every morning was a painful one with Julius’ fingers and toes blackened by the nights frost. A half an hour spent by the fire, which he could now make, was enough for his body to regenerate. Sluffing off the dead, frostbitten flesh wasn’t a problem it was re-growing the new living tissue, that was agony!
Unfortunately, since the discovery of Julius’ regenerative capabilities Beleaguer had taken to using Julius as his morning workout punching back. Julius was learning very little in the realm of combat other than how to roll with punches, kicks and falls. Which made Beleaguer even happier. A punching bag that doesn’t go down is a better workout, a punching bag that fights back is even better! Black and blue and sore all over, Julius plopped down on the cold hard ground. Writhing in pain was all he could manage to do after a morning workout, he wanted to cry but if he cried he could only imagine what fait might befall him at the hands of his captor.
“Hit me coward!” Screamed Beleaguer as he broke Julius’ jaw with a lightning fast elbow. Julius stumbled and got back up. Pushing back he charged in again and again.
“boy, get your ass up off the ground and go find fuel for the fire!” Julius moaned and staggered to his feet.
“I can’t keep healing if I don’t eat Beleaguer!”
“That’s fine boy, you’re worth feeding now, I’ll be back shortly.” Julius rolled his eyes as Beleaguer trotted off to go looking for more meat. Julius took a long and much needed drink from his canteen before he too headed out to go and find more burnable wood for their little camp fire. Beleaguer refused to have a fire at night because it interfered with his ability to see at night, not to mention every supernatural predator for ten miles would come sniffing around if they saw a camp fire. To animals a camp fire means danger; to supernatural predators, a camp fire means buffet! Though with all the horror stories Beleaguer enjoyed telling it was difficult to distinguish what was actually true and what was him being mean and nasty.
Sir Beleaguer prowled the frozen terrane like a wild animal on the hunt, low and slow he tracked silently and stocked his prey. Two rabbits danced in fresh patches of snow hopping about and playing with one another in the glistening late morning sun. He took aim with fingers pointing like a gun and took a deep breath as he prepared to fire a bolt of energy to stun the rabbits. ‘Caw caw’ a large crow dove through the space between hunter and prey scaring away the happy rabbits.
“Damn bird get outta here!” he waved his hands at the bird who laughed and came to a rest on the ground a ways off. Another crow came to rest beside the first, then another then dozens of them landed around the startled knight.
“Demon, I know you’re here!” he hissed through gritted teeth
“I don’t want to die!” Cried one crow in a mocking manner, “no please don’t!”
“Hahaha! Die!” another retorted, over and over from all directions the birds cried back and forth mocking each other as well as mocking Beleaguer.
“Show yourself you coward!” Beleaguer shouted as he pulled from the ambient light of the air a thick bastard blade that hissed in the cold. “Show yourself so I can kill you!”
“now that’s no way to inspire cooperation is it?” a deep rumbling voice echoed from all the crows at once. Beleaguer pointed a finger and tendril bolts of lightning came from his fingers striking a group of birds with a bright flash. The small number of birds burst into flames and cried. Group after group he began burning them all, fluttering, cawing, pecking chaos ensued and as Beleaguer turned to fry a group of crows behind himself he came face to face with a dark hooded figure. Towering two feet higher than Beleaguer himself the man looked down at the mad dog with a calm and unshaken demeanor. Without hesitation he plunged his blade of light into the giant’s chest and it laughed.
Taking a deep breath, the giant exhaled and forcefully pushed the blade from his body without even the use of his hands. Beleaguer stumbled back with the force of the expulsion and dashed for the giant again. Stabbing, slashing, chopping he lived up to his reputable name as he leveled one attack after another, though, with little effect.
“are you quite finished?” Beleaguer roared and charged in again only to have his sword shattered by a massive black blade pulled from Beleaguers own shadow. The blade was the same size and width of Beleaguers own body, there was no strait edge to the sword only serrated saw points like the jaw of a shark with teeth still intact.
“I’m sure at this point in time you are wondering three things: 1) what is he? 2) I know I’m not that weak how could this be? And 3) How did he find me?” the giant lowered the gigantic butcher knife like cleaver and pointed down at Beleaguers shoulder which was now exposed and bleeding slightly. He started to pull another sword from the air only to feel the hilt of that blade shatter even before its completion.
“Fool, I want you’re full and undivided attention if you’d please.” Beleaguer grimaced at the pain coming from the shattered bones in his wrist. “You were once a member of the Ghost Army, I care little for why you left only that you are the first turncoat in Skyland history! In more than three hundred years there has never been a traitor!”
“So, what of it?” Beleaguers susurrus voice was rattled with pain.
“You feel as though before your prison time you could have stood against me, yes?” Beleaguer nodded his head and remained silent. “It’s not because you’re rusty, you never thought that your marks of heritage would be your undoing, did you?” Beleaguer looked to his exposed shoulders with sudden shock.
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“You’re birth marks as a soldier and citizen still remain even though you have been stricken from the rights and privileges. The one thing that remains is the curse befitting a traitor. To wither away into nothingness as punishment.” The giant placed a clawed finger against his hooded temple, “Your mind is fogging, and your memories are dissolving away, yes? Memories like, your first love, your best friends, even your own Skyland given name.” Beleaguer winced at the giant’s words.
“struck a chord have I? You from day one were unable to disclose confidential and secret information, now it’s getting worse is it not? How much longer will you be able to hold it together Sir Beleaguer?” he said in a mocking tone
“At your current rate, within six months you will be in a state of irreversible dementia. Mentally crippled and driven mad, unless you have help.”
“You speak only lies demon! How could you know so much about all this?”
“Because my old master could read that rune magic tattooed on you. He’s had time to capture and study specimens though, your old leaders really are remarkable. There is nothing magically that can be done for you…” Beleaguer bolted for the giant who sidestepped the knights attack and dug his clawed hand into Beleaguers side.
“I’d rather die then, so fight me to the death!”
“No, you fool, the only way to preserve what’s left of YOU is to remove the marks and the limbs that they hold. The catch is if you use cybernetic replacements you will lose all magical abilities because you completely remove your natural channeling flows from you limbs stunting your magic forever. There are very few powers that can duplicate Twilights magical wooden implants which, like a tree, maintain a natural energy flow similar to the human channeling network. But, Twilight wont help you, they won’t ever help you! Will they? They are after all… very close allies with Skyland, which leaves you with one option… Me.”
“what do you want?” Beleaguer said in total defeat.
“Rumor has it you were childhood friends with a certain crowned prince of Skyland yes?” Beleaguer looked puzzled but nodded his head ‘yes’
“I think so… Why?”
“good, all I need you to do is come out of hiding and work out in the open for my master and I, draw out the champion prince who will certainly come for you himself. You will be payed fairly and given the best possible magical and technological goods.” Beleaguers eyes widened as he looked into the hooded figures face, the creature pulled his hand from the knight’s side and he dropped to the ground limply, the giant snapped his fingers and Beleaguers wounds healed in an instant. Your first job is to turn the brat in to M.E.R.C.A. agents in the city Resolute then take this I.D. badge and report to Don Refi’Cul in Resolute Central district. He dropped a bag that jangled on the ground, followed by a clear plastic card with strange circuitry encoded in it. Beleaguer rose to his feel slowly keeping his eyes on the giant,
“Treptoe’Phantecleese, the butcher of the Abyss and right hand of the greater evil of the blue.” With that he bowed and faded into shadows, the shadows scattered across the ground like birds in flight and a murder of black crows took to the air. Off in the distance they cawed and vanished as Beleaguer counted out five pure one-ounce gold coins and a gem encrusted golden wrist band for each wrist.
The snow crunched beneath Julius’ feet as he hopped off the trampled snow of trails he and Beleaguer had made over the past few days. All the burnable material was running out and he wanted to look for dry patches of woods just off the beaten path. As he searched the silence was split by a loud growl and deep throated snuffling. Julius’ eyes grew wide and he dropped low to the ground uncertain of what was sniffing about.
‘A bear? Wear wolf? Or worse, a demon!’ he thought as he wedged himself deep into the snow and tried to hide. It wasn’t long before the creature came into view, it was a ten foot long green mold caked creature. Its body was covered in crusty oozing peach-fuzz hair with a thick boil ridden grey hide. Its body was long and sleek like a fish with five grotesque, clawed gorilla arms jutting out of various places of its torso. It had a baboon like rear end and its head was small, too small. The face was lacking eyes and ears, but it had a long snout with enormous nostrils and strange tendrils dangled from its snout. A very large mouth lined with rows and rows of flat horse teeth was the creatures most prominent feature, spanning from shoulder to shoulder if smiled at the boy and coagulated rotten drool dripped from its drooping jouals. Other than its ratty, moldy mullet like main which hung around the creature’s face and crawled with maggots the creature was a perfect specimen of raw muscle.
“Me, smell something but it not what me was hoping for!” The creature whined in a deep flat tone “Me wanted human flesh not half bread! Me smell, human flesh somewhere!” Julius held back a yelp as the creature came snuffling over to his hiding spot.
“Me can smell you half meat pig, even if you were ten feet under snow me smell you.” The creature lunged for Julius and caught him before he could get away. Julius screamed, and the beast laughed as he held Julius by his leg right over the nasty, stinking maw.
“Me not s’posed to eat half meat pig yet, me wait until man meat pig comes.”
“what are you?”
“Me Hag-Mole name ees… uhm… forgot name, so name no matter!” it shook Julius vigorously in frustration
“Why… do you… call me… a… a… a half meat pi… i… ig?”
“Cause you ees half meat pig, half not.”
“So… I’m half… human? What’s… the… other half?” The creature paused for a moment sniffed each of the boy’s armpits before speaking again.
“Me no sure what half ees meat pig and what one ees other… maybe this half?” He turned Julius right then left, then right side up to sniff his butt as if the creature were a dog greeting another. Julius had a momentary feeling of relief as the blood drained from his swelling face before he squirmed, never before feeling more uncomfortable than now as a nose pressed in strange places. “No, me not know what half ees what. You weird Meat pig, you full meat pig… full Gold Blood.” Julius gagged as he was brought up close to the creature’s body. The creature balanced on one hand and passed Julius off between the other four as it contemplated the situation for what seemed to Julius like an eternity before it finally, coming to a conclusion spoke with a whimper of desperation.
“Me need to taste you to know for sure. Me eat lots of stuff tongue knows what ees what.” Julius screamed as the fist that gripped him closed the distance to the giant maw of painfully dull teeth.
“NO no no no!” he screamed