Time to blow sh.... stuff up! Blow it up real good too!
Time to blow sh.... stuff up! Blow it up real good too!
Medical Krewechief Simsim had seen troubling cases, but never had she been charged to heal a damaged mind, like the one from the scryer in her care. In all honesty, she had written him off as hopeless; beyond their knowledge to heal, and it had seemed like a fair assessment. All the poor scryer did since returning from the mission that obliterated his rational mind was flail mindlessly (to the point he needed to be restrained out of fear he would harm himself), and babble unintelligibly.
Until today, that is.
The patient abruptly screamed, and Simsim dashed to where the scryer was straining against his restraints, wailing like the damned. The medical officer applied the strongest sedative she could safely administer, but the damaged Asura male was far beyond any mortal agency.
After several minutes of the anguished screams, and the attention of six other Medical Krewemen, the tortured patient went still, and looked like he was starting to drift into the medicated sleep Simsim had hoped upon him.
Then the scryer’s head snapped in her direction, his eyes crazed and feared, and from his lips uttered what Simsim realized was a translation of what she had assumed was the incoherent babble from before.
“Within the depths of Ka’hu’se, dread Bhu’kahuh lies dreaming,
There he has slept for ages,
Within the rock and stone prison of his sons',
Until the fire of mortal man shall heat his throne,
Then by man and god he is to exact vengeance,
In roaring he shall rise and devour the world.”
The scryer’s lower lip trembled frightfully. “It is too late. The end beast comes…”
* * * * *
“I understand this probably isn’t the best time or place to discuss this…”
Devona jerked up from the B.U.B.B.L.E.W.R.A.P. that she had been amusedly been toying with to discover that Coran had pulled away from the final anti-matter device he and Vekk were constructing, wiping his hands clean as he spoke to her.
He had drawn silent, either due to nervousness or waiting for some form of prompt from her. “Go on.” She permitted.
“I want to talk about our wedding.”
Devona hadn’t meant to go rigid at the thought; it was just a little disconcerting… in all the time they had been betrothed, never once had the word “wedding” passed either of their lips; it was one of those things that always seemed so far off that it really didn’t matter.
Coran noted Devona’s reaction, and said glumly, “Yeah… bad time…”
“No… No!” The warrior replied; the second time more forcefully in case the first time wasn’t enough to get his attention. “I just… hadn’t given it much thought.”
Coran sat down across from her, and agreed, “Neither have I, but I think we should. Depending on how you want to be regarded, we might want to consider having our wedding soon… provided we all live long enough to see it, of course.”
Devona blinked. “What do you mean?”
“It’s a quirk of Ascalonian law, regarding marriage of royalty. After the threat of Bhu’khahuh is nullified, I don’t anticipate waiting very long to push for the crown. My father’s degenerating sanity can’t be allowed to maintain leadership very long.”
The warrior felt really uncomfortable listening to this; even from the current crown prince, and even though it was something Coran had alluded to a handful of times in the past. “What does this have to do with me?”
“If I become king, and then we are married; you become queen, no ifs ands or buts. You’d get your own coronation and everything, by the law of Ascalon. Sounds delightful, doesn’t it?”
Devona glowered, as she didn’t feel the sarcasm was appropriate. “No, it doesn’t.”
“Well, if we are married before I become king, you are under no such obligation. The heaviest title you would carry is ‘princess’, and even then, considering I am not actively serving my duties as prince at this time, a case could be made that you wouldn’t even officially have to carry that title, either.”
“That sounds better.”
“So, I think you see why we probably don’t have much time.” Coran noted.
“But… I have no idea how this works!” Devona protested. “I… I… don’t even know what I’m supposed to say at the ceremony!”
Coran chuckled, “I suspect you don’t have to worry about that. Cynn has apparently been planning this event since our reunion. It was actually her questions to me about it that made me realize it was something we should probably address.”
“Of course she has.” The warrior grumbled.
He slid closer to the warrior, and gently pulled the B.U.B.B.L.E.W.R.A.P. from her hands so that he could take them in his own. “I suppose I should be honest… Cynn’s planning is merely the excuse I’m using. I’ve run away from you far too many times, and the time has come for me to stop.”
“It’s also time for you to stop dawdling, and help me finish this damn thing.” Vekk grumped from across the bay.
Devona smiled, and pecked Coran on the cheek. “I’ll tell Cynn to plan for the day after Bhu’khahuh is destroyed. Now, you should get back to work so that there is a day after.”
But even as the headmaster stood, the bay was flooded with a flashing red light, and a siren’s howl from above. Vekk popped his head out of the weapon, and a halfway geared Asuran warrior burst into the laboratory, tripping over his own two feet and crashing painfully to the floor.
The little fighter struggled to his feet before any of the three could reach him, and with panic declared, “Hideous beasts have emerged from the lower caverns. Krewechief Norrit and the First Elite Defense Krewe have already mobilized to support the checkpoint defenses, but early reports suggest numbers beyond what can be repelled. Krewechief Norrit recommends immediate evacuation.”
Coran whipped his head to Vekk, and the Asuran engineer answered the unspoken question, “It’s not finished, and if this movement from our foes means what we think it means, then it won’t be enough to do the job, anyway.”
Coran could feel the clammy terror start to drip down his spine, a sensation he had felt to a much stronger degree once before. With all the willpower he possessed (and perhaps the assistance from divine providence), he fought back the fear. These next hours, and even minutes, were critical, and must be addressed with as level a head as possible.
He could see Devona’s face pale, and knew she felt the presence as well; all the more reason why he had to remain alert. His beloved had faced this nightmare enough.
“Have all Defense Krewes mobilize to assist in the evacuation.” Coran ordered, snatching his communications device from his belt. “Call the First Engineering Krewe to report to this location and help us move this device to the Ascalon exit of the Atal Ra cavern. Set evacuation time to one hour. At that point, have all stages of all blast doors sealed.”
“Anything else, Headmaster?” The soldier queried.
“Yes, you better get to your duty… after you find the rest of your gear.”
The Asuran soldier snapped a salute, and dashed with all the speed his legs could carry him towards whatever destination he had set for himself. As he left, Devona’s guild entered, followed by Yue, Gwen, Grazz and Pyre.
“I take it all this noise and lights are bad?” Cynn asked.
“You feel it as easily as I do, Cynn. Bhu’khahuh has finally broken loose of his prison. You can not let yourself be consumed by terror and despair. The father of the gods is not at full strength, and I have bought us time; not much, but it will be enough if we remain focused and finish the task set ahead of us. We must trust in ourselves and each other that we will find a way.”
“Gods guide us in these dire times.” Mhenlo prayed in a near whisper.
“Now, we must move. You will all help Vekk, Devona and I escort the A.T.O.M. bomb to the Ascalonian exit to the chamber. Preserving this weapon, and Vekk’s life, as he is the only one who could possibly modify the weapon to handle the change in plans, is of utmost priorty, even over our own lives.”
“Pyre and Grazz, you will return to the Charr lands, and oversee a mustering of the Charr in anticipation of a counter-offensive. It’s a slim chance, but we will need every able body you can manage… the end scenario being retaking enough of the cavern to mount the A.T.O.M. bomb into its launch position.”
He regarded the men and women that he had come to think of as his inner circle. “We all know what we have to do. Move out.”
Last edited by chemiclord; 04-04-2009 at 09:30.
Elite Krewechief Norrit always believed that the truest test of a warrior, and the true sum of their greatness, was when they faced certain death. For the First Elite Defense Krewe, that test had now come.
They had not begun well… seven of his men lost in the initial exchange while they blubbered fearfully, allowing five of those damned Bookahs to waltz right by as their Oni and Titan minions began their killing spree, wiping out the entire Second Elite Defense Krewe, and the seven previously mentioned of his.
That ended now, no matter what demon or god was whispering sweet terror in his ear.
“Phalanx, center on me!” Norrit bellowed as ferociously as he could, which being Asuran, sounded more like a kitten trying to roar. “There will be no more cowering, no more running! We are the best, the greatest, and the stoutest of all Asuran warriors!”
“Let this be our finest and greatest moment!” The proud little warrior declared. “Stalwart defensive phalanx stratagem, initiate!”
Quickly falling into ranks, his men dropped their shields, wedging the tips into the ground below, glaive points ready to jut through the small gaps in the shield wall. From his position in the rear, he drug his broad bladed weapon across the last of the five lines in his phalanx, then slipped through to the front, taking the position of honor at the front center of the formation.
“Not another monster will cross that line while one of us still breathes!”
The next wave of creatures emerged in the distance, the gruesome tentacled maws of the Oni, towering elemental Titans, and the near invisible Seer commanders blending into the darkness of the tunnel. The final battle of the First Elite Defense Krewe was soon to be met.
* * * * *
“Let it be known that this transport rig was meant to be run along the initial rail line, where its speed would then overcome any bumps in the road, to use the phrase.” Vekk declared as the assembly pushed the steel framed contraption holding all living things greatest hope towards the tunnel leading to the surface of Ascalon. “This level of very unstable travel could dislodge several important and delicate systems.”
“You’ll get a chance to give it the once over once we’re securely past the blast doors.” Coran replied. “At the moment, getting out in one piece is priorty.”
“Would have been nice to have Grazz and Pyre pushing.” Yue complained. “Us and these Asura just aren’t cutting it.”
“We’ll need two fronts to have a chance of pushing our enemies back long enough to launch the A.T.O.M. bomb.” Coran explained, even as doing so was not kind on his lungs due to the strain he was already undergoing. “That means the Charr have to be mobilized and ready.”
Meanwhile, Yue toppled over when the rig lurched out of her hand, the result of Devona’s lunge. Up until this point the warrior had been quiet, conserving her energy for the labor presented.
“Less chatter. More working.” The warrior grumbled. “We’ll have time to argue when the work is done.”
Yue recovered and retook her position next to Devona, her face now smudged with the red, clay-heavy ground of the Atal Ra cavern. “I hate you.” The assassin hissed.
Devona’s smile could have lit up the cavern on its own. “I know.”
Then the smile abruptly disappeared, and the warrior seemed to freeze. Her sudden lack of push quickly slowed progress, and so noticeably that Coran pulled away, and asked, “Devona, what’s…”
He didn’t need to finish his question… as the answer materialized from the air, pockets of logic-defying shadows that formed into the four armed floating black devils called Seers. They had clearly focused on Devona, looking to exploit what they thought was a weak link.
The Seers weren’t trying to stop the group… merely slow it down long enough for the invading force to catch up.
Coran bit his lower lip, and hoped that the First Elite Defense Krewe could summon their nearly inhuman will to exceed their limits one more time. The hope of all living things depended on it.
“Keep going.” Coran ordered, drawing his spear and shield from his back. “I don’t think I have to remind you how vital it is that you succeed.”
“And where are you going?” Yue demanded, even as she knew exactly.
“I’m not running again.” Coran answered grimly as he completely broke away from the still progressing party. “Even if it costs me my life.”
There was a moment’s hesitation from the remainder of the party… but they all knew their duty, and had all accepted long ago that said duty extended beyond even the concern and bonds of friendship they had formed. The rig jerked forward once more, settling into the fastest yet steadiest rhythm they could manage.
“If we move quickly… maybe we can come back.” Cynn huffed, suddenly finding the will and desire to seriously start applying her strength, for whatever it was worth, as well.
“Of course.” Mhenlo replied with a fake smile. He knew… Cynn knew… there was no way they’d have time. But it helped them for a while to pretend.
* * * * *
As much as she knew this wasn’t real… it didn’t help… caught like a fly in a spider web of illusion, agony, and torment.
The infernal monsters had pulled her limbs out in all directions, stripped of her clothing, holding her helpless over the immaterial ground of the otherwise completely black landscape. She felt dagger sharp teeth sink into her flesh, chewing and tearing, her blood seeping out of the wounds in crimson torrents.
As if that weren’t enough, the fifth Seer had dug into her neck, slurping and ripping from the major arteries and sensitive tissue. The Seers were eating her alive.
Devona managed to turn her head towards her left arm, aghast at the mauled limb, several places stripped clean to the bone. She screamed again when she felt another deep, and otherwise fatal, bite rip into her throat, dooming her to suffer in silence as it ripped away with a triumphant flourish, blood and scraps of flesh dripping from its horrifying maw.
Delicious food… once we have consumed your soul, your body will provide bountiful nourishment…
The warrior had no idea which Seer had spoken, and in truth, she really didn’t care. She wished for death… or insanity… anything to make the pain go away.
The Seer that had ripped out her throat lunged in again, this time towards her chest, only to vanish with a burst of purple flame. The other four stopped, and shared a silent conversation before two others vanished as well while the remaining pair continued their macabre feast.
But that sudden change lit the spark of Devona’s will. Something had happened… something they didn’t like.
* * * * *
Coran hefted his spear to his shoulder, and cocked his arm back. He could feel the electric crackle of the spear head ticking the hair to his front left. Still at a full sprint, he threw the Sslani crafted weapon with enough accuracy to pierce the closest Seer in the neck.
The unholy creature reared back from the blow, hissing violently despite the spear buried in its neck, the weapon vanishing a second later, and giving Coran the opportunity for the killing blow, that throw crashing with a burst of lightning through its fang filled mouth, bursting out the back of its head with a resounding clap of thunder.
As his target collapsed lifelessly, slowly starting to disintegrate, two of its allies pulled away from the circle they had formed about Devona to address the new threat.
Taking care not to make direct eye contact, Coran hefted his spear once more. “If you want the woman that badly, you have to go through me this time.”
* * * * *
Even though their numbers had dwindled by half, Devona found no greater strength to escape the hell she was locked in. Despair again started to set in… hopelessness hooking into her mind when another phantom voice rose from in her ears.
Don’t give up, my child.
It wasn’t the hissing, inhuman sound of the Seers… she knew this voice, she had heard it as a child, and as a woman in the Hall of Heroes. She couldn’t speak, but he seemed to hear her call anyway.
Yes, my baby girl. I’m here. I know you have the strength to fight this. This isn’t real, you know that.
Of course she did, but it clearly wasn’t that simple.
Your love fights for you right now… but he can’t be victorious alone.
Coran… came back? Was he the one who drew the Seers attention?
Indeed. There’s something about the line of Doric that lends them to throwing themselves into harm’s way. Would have figured he was smart enough to avoid that trait.
The fool… how could he…
You know exactly why. And if you don’t want his faith in you lost, I suggest you make these Seers learn painfully the price for messing with the daughter of Mordekai.
But she couldn’t… she had tried…
I know you can… you have always been special… I always knew greatness was in your future, a future that I also know isn’t over yet. I have seen your own line, my daughter, I have seen the future you help create… the greatest heroes of generations to come will hail you as their ancestor, and your place among the highest of the heroes within the Hall. But you must stand now and break these illusionary chains.
* * * * *
It was a lot harder to kill a Seer when they saw it coming.
Coran’s last throw had almost exposed him to a fatal counter, had he not swung his shield to partially block the fireball that had erupted from one of the beast’s outstretched hands. Nonetheless, the Seer’s partner had struck a hit, nothing but a thin line across Coran’s bare right forearm, but enough to inject the virulent toxins that started to sap his strength.
The headmaster ignited the tip of his spear with a finger of flame that momentarily replaced its electric aura, and slapped the metal head against the gash, cauterizing the wound and stunting the flow of poison. Nonetheless, it had done enough to make his limbs feel like they were made of lead… he wasn’t even certain if he could throw his spear again.
Not that he needed to… for as the pair moved in for what they presumed to be the kill, the Seer on the left was jerked violently from its position by a blindingly fast ball of forged steel, snapping its lower left arm at an angle that couldn’t have even been natural for the shadow creature and pounding a momentary dent into its side before the carapace cracked into a burst of black shards.
It crumpled to its knees as the hammer descended again, this time at the crown of its head, the force of the swing and gravity splitting its cranium almost faster than Coran could blink, the hammer continuing through the obliterated skull and imbedding itself halfway into the torso of the swiftly slain Seer.
Devona then ripped her hammer from the victim’s dissolving corpse, and lifted it haughtily into a ready position. The final Seer then whipped about to see its other allies either gone or nearly so… its focus so intent on breaking Coran that it never realized Devona had slipped free of her prison and brought retribution on her captors.
It locked eyes with the warrior, thinking it could at least incapacitate her momentarily to finish off the male, but was astonished when she returned the glare, metaphorically slapping away its mental touch like swatting away an annoying insect.
“Inconceivable.” It hissed out loud. That was not supposed to happen… food was not supposed to have that strength…
“You damnable freaks have already gotten into my head twice.” Devona snarled. “Now, it’s about time I got into yours. And trust me, while my method of doing so might be different… I promise it’s going to be just as painful.”
Bit of an amendment;
This might sound like something it isn't, so I want to qualify it. This isn't a post begging for replies or reviews... but I have noticed the number of replies has dwindled as of late.
So, I ask is anyone really reading this at this point? I'd rather not spend time on something no one is enjoying, so if that's the case, I can move on to other projects I have.
But if even one person is still following, I'll keep going gladly. After all, these sorts of things are for the readers, for you all to enjoy. I already know what happens. :D
you cant stop now O_O
I agree with Cara Dee, you can't leave us on a cliffhanger like this. Finish the dang story O_O. Anyways, love the storyline and I wanna see that bomb go off, critical mass of agorium! Woohoo, big bang much?
Authors Note: With confirmation in hand, I thus continue. I won't need to make another such prompting of that kind again, I assure you.
Norritt was proud of his men and himself. For over one hour, they held their stretch of tunnel without losing an inch, without letting a single monster pass. The broken bodies of Titans and Oni had almost formed two layers on the tunnel floor, to points where Norritt was as tall as a human standing on the remains.
Yes, there was much pride to be had here today. So much that he sent one of his rear guard away… not to necessarily save the young Asura’s life… but so that someone could remember and tell the story of the last stand of the First Elite Defense Krewe… so that someone could tell the world of the greatest Asuran warriors to ever live.
But, there comes a point where even the greatest tire… where even the sturdiest shields splinter, and the sharpest weapons lose their edge. The Krewe reached that point just shy of the two hour mark of the battle.
The lines had dwindled over the course of the battle, at some points only two deep. It was there that their enemies final charge broke through, and once the lines of the phalanx were compromised, the entire Krewe fell quickly.
To the very last man, they fought… until only Norritt was left, surrounded, wounded, and bleeding, his fallen comrades being drug away, presumably to be the “food” the Seers found sustenance in.
You have failed, just as it was a certainty before you were ever born.
The voice of insanity hadn’t spoken in such clear words before, but to Norritt, they were as blustering nonsense as ever. The great old one had no power over him.
The Asuran krewe chief smiled triumphantly, and muttered in a slurred voice, “On the contrary. You monsters can eat my flesh, but you can’t take my spirit, and it angers you all, doesn’t it?”
The tiny warrior charged one final time as his foes closed in, to die a worthy death as a free living being.
* * * * *
“Are we there yet?” Cynn asked between labored huffs of breath.
“No.” Vekk replied. “Not much further though.”
Bhu’khahuh’s forces had not caught up to them, and still were not in sight whenever any of them could spare a glance… however, that would likely soon change. Report from the remaining Forgotten of Atal Ra had reached Vekk that the First Elite Defense Krewe had finally fallen, and so there was no telling how long it would be before the villains would make up the distance.
The Forgotten had declined to join the retreat, not wanting to mingle with either the humans or the Charr. Those few ancient beings had decided their time had come, and would offer one final bit of resistance for the fleeing population… not that they imagined it would be all that much.
Aidan was already plotting their strategy. Now that they were in the tunnel approaching the surface, it would allow his allies to delay their foes more easily and for a longer period of time, hopefully long enough to allow Vekk and the Asura with him to finish pushing the weapon past the blast doors and beyond.
“The invading force has reached the Academy proper.” Vekk’s communications unit declared. “All still living personnel are reported to be in the tunnels; awaiting clearance to initiate blast door closing sequence.”
The blast doors were actually three separate doors with layers of insulating gel that would fill between them and allow the doors to withstand any potential shockwave or fallout from the A.T.O.M. bomb detonation. The process took some time to complete, and so it needed to be started early in order for it to finish in time.
Vekk freed one hand from pushing in order to grab the communicator. “Any report on Headmaster Coran or Ascalon Captain Devona?”
“Negative, Vekk.” Was the reply. “However, if they are among the last to retreat into the tunnel, we haven’t been able to get any confirmations of any specific individuals due to the panic.”
“Understood. Has Acting Headmaster Ouda given clearance to begin the closing sequence?”
Vekk took a deep breath before saying, “Then I am. Begin blast door closing sequence.”
“Affirmative, initiating sequence… 25 minutes until blast doors are closed.”
Vekk hooked the communicator back to his belt, as Aidan asked, “Is that going to be enough time?”
The Asura didn’t offer much confidence, “I’m estimating that’s about how long it will take a largely unfettered, advancing inhuman army to reach the blast doors from the Academy.”
“I see.” The ranger replied then making the orders to the rest of his team. “We have fifteen minutes, then we’re breaking off to provide cover.”
“What about me?” Gwen asked. “I can help.”
“We can’t take too many people or the weapon won’t make it before we run out of time.” Aidan declined.
Even as it was, they did not have terribly good speed. Asura were passing them in their flight rather quickly, the beings growing increasingly panicked in their flight… suggesting Bhu’kahhuh’s minions weren’t too far off.
The pushing group managed to enlist some of the more sane in the retreat to lend what strength they could, but it was still rather slow going to move that sort of weight up against the pull of gravity.
Five minutes later, it was clear they were at the back of the line… none had passed them for some time, most notably not a human pair dressed as a paragon and a warrior. Aidan had little doubt the next sounds they would soon hear would be the hissing and unholy howls of evil incarnate from behind them.
“Mhenlo, Cynn, Eve, Yue… get ready.” Aidan declared grimly. “Break off on my mark.”
And then, a voice they didn’t expect to hear interjected, his voice barely audible from the strain in his words. “Now, now… I don’t think that will be necessary.”
In their shock, the progression momentarily stopped… although that pause did allow Devona and Coran to catch up. The warrior gestured to Mhenlo, and said, “He’s been poisoned… see what you can do while I take your place.”
Which she did; the warrior’s strength providing a noticeable difference in their speed up the incline, joined a half second later by Coran and Mhenlo, the former sufficiently purged of the Seer’s poisonous touch.
“We have about ten minutes before the blast doors close, I’m guessing?” Coran asked, confirmed by Vekk’s nod. “That should be plenty of time.”
“What about the beasts coming from behind?” Aidan asked in curiosity.
“Oh… I have one more surprise waiting for them.” The headmaster said with a smug grin. “In fact, they should be receiving said surprise right… about… now.”
Then the tunnel behind them was filled with the roar of explosives, joined shortly after by the howls and hisses of beasts and monsters. “As Devona and I were pulling back, I happened to notice an unused weapons cache from when the Academy was flushing out the remaining Destroyers. Seemed rather wasteful to leave and not use them.”
“However, that’s not going to be anything more than a small delay, because Coran obviously didn’t want to collapse the tunnel entirely.” Devona replied. “Hopefully it will make them move forward more slowly.”
Instead, the explosion seemed to serve to stop the advancing foes, as silence ruled the rest of the party’s progress. Devona really wasn’t terribly shocked by this development… Bhu’khahuh figured it had already won. Why not let the “food” struggle hopelessly for a little while longer?
Soon, came the literal light at the end of the tunnel… and without much time to spare. The group barely fit the A.T.O.M bomb through the closing doors which closed with a thud, then a hiss.
“Do you honestly think this will hold the father of the gods?” Aidan asked disbelievingly.
“Of course not.” Coran retorted. “But these were made to withstand destructive power incomprehensible by current mortal understanding. They should hold long enough for our purpose. Vekk, what will you need to make the modifications?”
“Not much.” The Asuran engineer said. “I designed the unit specifically in the off-chance that this might happen. The only great concern is that the additional Agroium fuel is still below.”
“One problem at a time, Vekk.” Coran said, holding up his hand, his attention turned towards the north. The Ascalon standard had appeared, bearing royal trim; and there was no telling how their presence would be received by the increasingly demented King Adelbern.
Last edited by chemiclord; 14-05-2009 at 06:42.
I can imagine that adding to the Searings damage won't go over well with other ascalonians huh? "so, we're gonna take this desolate wasteland you call home, completely wipe out an area of 50 some-odd square miles and make the land lethally radioactive for the next couple hundred years so you won't be able to live in it. Sound good?". Ya that'll go over REALLY well.
Astonishingly, all was calm in Ascalon. King Adelbern had arrived with arms wide open, welcoming back his son, and assisting as best as he could with settling the refugees of the now overwhelmed Atal Ra.
Even now, Devona had been granted a room within the “palace” in Ascalon City, part of a suite, with Coran’s room on the other side with just a flimsy sliding door between them. The king himself had explicitly pointed out that fact with a gentle nudge to her side and a wink. Not that the old king knew that Devona and Coran had already been doing exactly that for some time; nor would he have likely figured it out from the deep, embarrassed blush that colored the warrior near scarlet.
Hadn’t it just been less than a week when her guildmates reported that Adelbern was furious with Coran and herself? That he was certain of an impending Charr attack? What had happened to the real Adelbern? Grenth take it… which one was the real Adelbern to begin with?
Maybe Coran was right… perhaps the old king’s mind really was going.
At that point, she heard talking from Coran’s room… which surprised her, as the second voice sounded familiar, but she couldn’t remember from where. Curiosity getting the better of her, she slid open the partition as they were apparently finishing their conversation.
“Thank you, Japphe.” Coran said, taking something she couldn’t clearly see, and sliding it into a pouch at his belt. “I’m amazed any of the cultures survived.”
“Yes, well, I do good work… you should know that, after all, I taught you.” The Medical Krewe Chief answered smugly. “It’s been weakened enough that it should do the trick without having the potential to… oh!”
Japphe had finally caught onto Devona’s presence, and he suddenly clammed up in a very suspicious and guilty fashion. “Well, I suspect your… betrothed wishes to speak to you, so I suppose I shall make my leave. Good day, headmaster.”
The Medical Krewe Chief couldn’t get out of the room fast enough, and it prompted Devona to ask, “What was that all about?”
Coran regarded her cautiously. “The less you know; the better.”
Devona’s eyes narrowed accusingly. “What… is in that thing Japphe gave you?”
“Again, the less you know; the better.”
“That’s not an answer.”
“It’s the best you are going to receive.”
Devona wanted to press the issue when another interruption imposed itself. This time it was a royal attendant, a girl barely out of her teenage years, from Devona’s reckoning.
“Your highness? Your father is ready to see you.”
“Thank you. Inform him I shall be on my way shortly.” Coran replied then said to Devona, “We’ll talk later.”
“Oh, we will, because I am coming with you.” Devona snarled, looping her arm in his quite forcefully. “And don’t think for one moment I won’t break your legs in the hall so you can’t run after this meeting with your father is done.”
She glared at him in challenge the entire way down the hall to the King’s Chambers, and even into the chambers itself, giving King Adelbern disrespectfully little acknowledgement when they were announced.
Yet the old king didn’t seem taken aback, even cheerfully noted, “She has eyes for nothing but you, my son… Mordekai would be so glad to see how well you two have bonded.”
Devona finally broke eye contact from Coran to give Adelbern a fake grin. “I’m sure he would. My relationship with Coran is wonderful. He trusts me with everything, don’t you, love?”
She jabbed him in the side discretely with an elbow, and continued with saccharine sweetness, “There is nothing hidden in our relationship. No secrets… he doesn’t try to hide anything from me, do you, my darling?”
Another jab to his side prompted Coran to smile and with gritted teeth reply, “Absolutely, Devona. How could I possibly hide anything from you?”
Adelbern laughed, interrupting the pair’s thinly veiled argument. “Oh, please stop… the sweetness will rot my teeth! Besides, I suspect there is business that is in urgent need of discussing.”
The king gestured towards the plush velvet chairs forming a circle in the center of his chambers. Devona reluctantly broke her hold on Coran in order to sit down, giving him yet another scathing glare that promised pain if he so much as thought of eluding her after the meeting was done.
“So, my son… while I gathered some details as to your sudden abandonment of the Atal Ra city and academy, I have to admit what I gathered was rather jumbled and I am not entire certain of the sequence of events or the threat whatever it is poses.”
Coran’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “I’m not sure how. Devona’s guild directly reported the nature and imminence of this threat to you several weeks ago.”
Adelbern’s eyes crossed in confusion. “They did? Are you sure about this? Perhaps they didn’t report to me? I’m certain I would remember such a report.”
Devona knew that couldn’t have been true; and almost spoke up in defense of her guildmates, but couldn’t quite work up the courage to try and correct the king. Besides, it was far more important that he was listening now.
The old monarch shrugged, “They very well might have, I suppose. My memory isn’t what it used to be, and I’ve been so concerned with the threat of the Charr… but, I suppose that will have to stand in reserve for the time being, won’t it?”
“Indeed. The forces of Bhu’kahhuh cannot be contained for very long… and our window to defeat this foe is very short. If the demonic army breaks out of the cavern, I’m not sure any force on Tyria could stop it.” Coran explained.
“How long do we have?”
The younger royal shook his head. “That, I am not sure, which makes it all the more imperative that we complete preparations and make our move as quickly as possible.”
“Do you have a plan?”
“Of course I do, father… obviously, the best case would not have involved launching a counter-offensive from Ascalon, but I prepared for this scenario.”
The king leaned back, his features stern. “Your presumption of Ascalonian aid is quite brash, considering the strained relations you and I have.”
Coran was undaunted by the sudden shift in demeanor. “Any issues between the two of us I assumed could be put aside in a time where not just Ascalon, but the whole of the world, is in great peril. Despite our disagreements, you have been a good and wise ruler, decisive in action when necessary. Such necessity is now.”
“Perhaps if your Asuran friends hadn’t dug so deep into the earth…”
“Had it not been the Asurans, it would have been the Charr Shamans and the Seers.” Devona finally interjected, surprising herself by her nerve. “This beast is coming, and was determined to do so regardless of any mortal action.”
Adelbern’s eyebrows lifted as he neutrally regarded Devona. “The captain speaks out of turn.”
“She is right nonetheless.” Coran said in mild rebuke. But his tone subtly softened, and he slowly stood. “However, bickering about who is responsible for what won’t solve anything. Perhaps a drink to calm our senses is in order.”
The king clapped once, and said, “Oh, indeed! My attendant had just brought some tea in nary a few minutes ago. It should still be warm.”
“Brilliant, I shall acquire it immediately.” The prince declared, and took five steps to the table in which the kettle and cups currently resided. Once there, Devona watched him reaching into the pouch on his belt, and remove the small vial of what she now could tell was white powder.
“The Asura have developed a new kind of sweetener, it supposedly enhances the strength of normal sugar.” Coran explained. “Devona and I aren’t terribly fond of it, but perhaps it might suit your palate, father.”
“Oh? Well, I am more than willing to try something new at least once.” Adelbern accepted. With that permission, Coran popped the cork from the vial, and started to pour the contents into the king’s cup.
“Actually, Coran… I would love to try it again.” Devona said, leaning into the back of her chair, “I don’t think I was prepared for the flavor the last time.”
Coran and Devona locked eyes, challenging one another silently. The warrior knew damned well whatever in that vial wasn’t any sweetener, and wasn’t going to let it be fed to the king until she knew exactly what it was.
Then, to her shock, Coran looked away and did indeed pour the remaining half into Devona’s cup, added the sugar, then the tea, and stirred them all together dutifully. “Well, the difference probably won’t be quite as profound this way… but perhaps that’s a good thing.”
He returned to the center of the chambers, handed the king his cup, then held out the other “seasoned” tea to Devona, who for a moment, remained aghast that her betrothed had called her bluff.
“Well, my dear? Are you going to take it?” Coran asked.
“Yes, do, child! It is quite wonderful!” Adelbern chirped, droplets of tea already dribbling down his beard.
Finally, Devona took the cup, and started slowly sipping the beverage… confusion warring with her mind. Had she been wrong? Coran wouldn’t willingly hurt her…
Last edited by chemiclord; 14-05-2009 at 03:15.