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626 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
What's up, Heresy, I thought I'd do something different from The New Word(taking a little break :p) and what better than to show you what I've been working on since I last posted Numbered Days on here :). I am only putting up the first Chapter, but here you are, enjoy!

Milioka, Irothis: The Province of Nithall
Spring 2080

“Whoa, girl, Sei!” The intimidating Mastiff writhed and frothed against Warden Detective Reiko Matsuo’s heavy chain of linked steel. Savage barking woke up half the forest, all stemming from Reiko’s panicked beast. Alpha team and the civilian volunteers hiding on their flanks would be exposed if things kept up. The snow capped Uridene Basin plummeted into an ill chill that set her lungs afire. Movement of the nocturnal birds in the canopy. A serene quiet brought by the lack of animals. Shadows darting through the underbrush. Someone was watching their progress, preparing themselves to shed blood.

There was only one move left to execute.

Reiko whispered under her misty breathe, her hand stroking Sei’s unkempt fur. “Go, Sei, go! Get ‘em girl!” The chain fell from her torn and red stained gloves.

The Mastiff bolted in a beeline into the wild thickets, her steel chain rattling in the underbrush. Sei vanished for long moments, Reiko pinned herself behind a Cherry Oak surrounding the desiccated ruin of a dozen outlying buildings scattered around the woods. She pulled out a silver plated pistol tucked into her spare holster, and then attached a laser sight onto the weapon. Fingers brushed over the clips clumped together in her ammunition belt, five in total.

Reiko whispered into the communication bead on the hem of her neck collar. “Alpha, don’t reveal light sources and prime and ready weapons. Keep your eyes peeled. Kanaya, keep civilian teams toward the rear. Understood?”

A heavy voice relayed through the channel. “Copy that, Warden Detective.”

Detective. What an irony, Reiko thought on a pulse.

“All eyes,” Reiko whispered in a hushed tone. “follow Sei’s trail. I repeat, follow Sei’s trail.”

Reiko leaned out from behind her Cherry Oak in time to see her War Dog burst from the thicket surrounding their position, deeper into the white and green of a small clearing, just beyond reach of the nearest houses infested by moss and vine. Nothing disturbed the natural quiet, save one rattling chain. She breathed, Sei neared the village proper. The forty-five caliber pistol in her grip came level with her left eye in the same moment something abruptly darted into her dog, barrelling her over like roadkill. The Mastiff leapt back on her feet in an instant and automatic fire, marked by a display of muzzle flashes erupted from either flank of her motley crew. A wizened Elk collapsed into the underbrush with a pitiful death scream.

“Kanaya,” Uncaring whether the enemy were listening, Reiko shouted into her link. “Get those civilians to ho-”

Heavy thumps of gunfire, punctuated by their split-second intervals answered back from several thickets surrounding the old village. The civilian teams immediately burst their radio silence, overwhelmed by raving men already injured and others trying to put on a brave show. Several repeated weapon discharges on Alpha’s flanks immediately went quiet.

Mikoto’s voice came next, absent of consciousness.. “Warden Detective, permission to engage?”

The Warden Detective gestured a hand signal. “Alpha engage!”

Reiko never held a warrior’s voice, but her friends always said she possessed a heart of one. Alpha, however, was filled with bloodlusting daredevils and killers, breaking their silence with a thunderous cry. Pressure on the civilians immediately slackened, but the damage had been done. Moonlight shone on crimson splattered treelines and the few stragglers breaking their cover.

Reiko leaned away from her Cherry Oak, firing several times into the far center thicket. A piercing cry was her reward, she squeezed the trigger six more times. A weapon discharge flew wide and a death wail effectively cut itself short. Several invisible assailants traced her line of fire, firing short burst in her direction. Bullet impacts slammed into the oak beside her, one punched into her silver scaled vest around her midriff. The force sent her spinning into the earth, face first into the snow laden grass. Incoming fire continued their attempts to find a mark on her, but found purchase only in the surrounding earth.

Kanaya’s voice entered her ear. “The Detective is down, fire team one suppressing fire! Suppressing fire!”

A lethal salvo interrupted the enemy firing lanes, punching through the center in a relentless barrage that literally scythed through the wild grass. Reiko observed the assaulted patch of earth while clambering to her feet. An ill wind swept through the area… nothing stirred.

Kanayan always had his sight on her on the battlefield, no matter the situation. “Fire team two, on the right flank! Fire team one, left flank! Advance!”

Ten Alpha members emerged from their cover, breaking into two groups as they charged down the high hills. Suppressing fire from two machine gun emplacements set in two random buildings attempted to halt them. Alpha glinted in the moonlight, but they moved like shadows wherever night fell. The guns chattered incessantly, but a lack of return fire made their progress in killing any of her Wardens an impossible task.

Alpha disappeared for several minutes on the forest floor, the MG nests tapered off after another minute of blind fire. Reiko was already up and moving before anyone could notice her. She weaved through the Cherry Oak grove, into grass that came up to the midriff. An off beaten path ran around the clearing she sent her Mastiff through, just long enough to get her into the first building without drawing any attention.

Urgent shouts followed the lull in the fighting, uncertain about what they could kill.

“Death,” A shadow detached from the darkness several feet from Sarah. The night split apart under a torrent of yellowish light and whizzing bullets, forcing her to leap into behind a clutch of rocks. “to all tyrants!” The deafening barrage persisted, Reiko checked her clip by instinct, and then half rose, half leaned into the open.

The laser sight instantly picked out a torn, ragged vest, and she pressed hard on the trigger. The hunk of metal thundered, Reiko squinted from the glare, and found its mark twice. She heard a yelp, her assailant crumbling where he stood, she must’ve hit a previous impact crater. Her eagle eyes swept the environment for other hidden ambushes, and revealed nothing.

Reiko darted toward the neutralized shadow in the bushes, pistol sight dancing along its crawling form. “Don’t move!”

A nearby firefight resumed once again in earnest, all manner of cries echoing through the forest. The mysterious ambusher she had shot was a muscled oaf, painted in tattoos and his own blood, pouring from an impacted rib. “By Seanna, herself, you’re a damn good sh-”

“Sorry.” Reiko levelled her crosshair between the criminal’s eyes, and squeezed the trigger. Hot liquid splashed onto her clothes underneath her armor, the victim unmoving in a dark pool, colored black. She breathed into her channel. “Alpha, what’s your progress?”

“Reiko,” Mikoto replied. “The two pronged assault is wavering, Yosuke and Hinata are K.I.A. I repeat, K.I.A.”

The Warden Detective quipped. “MGs kill them?”


“I’m coming up on the left flank,” Reiko resumed her sprint toward the abandoned settlement. “hopefully behind the ene-”

Kanaya suddenly bursted from the underbrush, nearly tackling her in a blur of motion. He pulled up short instead, nodding to her. “We’ll arrive behind enemy lines, keep them busy, Alpha.” He placed a hand on the impact marked on her lower rib cage. “Injured?”

“No,” The Warden replied. “Nothing I can’t handle.”

“Good,” Her second in command followed her deathly stare toward the corpse leaking vital fluids around his boots. “I’m not keen on losing anyone else tonight. Come on, quietly.”

Kanaya did not need to tell her twice, brushing past to assume the lead, the abandoned settlement rapidly coming into view. She followed the path from one flank, surrounded by large crimson ferns and more Cherry Oaks. Her old friend took the other side, both of them striding into a mossy cobblestone road like leaping shadows. The road passed by half a dozen crumbling buildings, all rusted metal and dusty brown brickwork. One of the MGs were practically firing in her ear, with just a wall between Kanaya and herself and the weapon’s crew.

Reiko threw herself against the side wall of the MG nest, her gaze picking out a sturdy door mere inches away. Kanaya hissed under his breath, grabbing her attention, and shook his head gravely. He motioned with hand gestures to look for another route, preferably on higher ground. She inclined her head in agreement, and then wheeled around the corner of the house.

Massive trees had taken root around the village complex, their canopies effectively blotted out any trace of moonlight, keeping them hidden. Unfortunately, the rest of the ruin was similarly marred in shadow. The Warden Detective kept a hand over her laser crosshair and kept to the low fences and half toppled walls. Kanaya and her left the building behind them, arriving toward a two story store of some sort. The fire escape tucked inside an alley did not escape her notice.

“Kanaya,” Reiko breathed, pointing a finger down the alleyway. “Fire escape.”

Kanaya smirked confidently. “Alright, just remember-”

Reiko finished the thought. “Move only under the cover of fire.” She darted toward the alleyway, Kanaya at her back.

Rapid flashes that weren’t lightning lit the forest like an explosion of fireworks. The continuous discharges of the machine guns painted both Wardens in blinding light, but were still concealed in the alleyway. Kanaya insisted on going first, scaling the first story stairs under the barrage of gunfire. He waited, Reiko slipped beside him a moment later. A distinct wail of pain, different from the chorus of orders and vicious shouting of fighting men, rung out. The machine gun one building away stopped immediately, silenced.
The firescape groaned beneath their combined weight, long enough for Kanaya to curse under his breath, and then for Reiko to sweep either alley entrance. The nest begun chattering again, nearly immediately, and their cover resumed once more. Kanaya urged her up the second flight, his assault rifle tracking back and forth in timed intervals. The market stood close enough to the occupied building that Reiko leaned over and shattered a square in a windowsill. Kanaya reappeared behind her, just in time for her to unlock the window and push it out of the way.

“Careful,” Her old friend mentioned, Reiko rolled into a room covered in absolute darkness. “Someone may have heard us.”

She still kept a hand over her laser sight, but her iron sights remained fixed in front of her as she crept forward. Kanaya slipped inside, rolling to his feet, and then rushed to join her. Follow the left wall, he whispered. Reiko kept to one side of the room, her knuckles around the grip feeling the rust on the metallic surface. One foot after the other, she continued, until she bumped into Kanaya around an empty hole.

Kanaya took a ponderous step through, an abrupt burst of fire forcing him back inside the room...

626 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Chapter I​

Reiko Matsuo glanced curiously in Kanaya’s direction, a deck of tarot cards shuffling in a blur between her pale hands. She wrinkled her nose at his shameless grin as she did every time both of them began to sense an impending loss. Of course, the loss had to be hers each time. Kanaye seemed to be beginning to think it would be the way of things for some time to come. He should have decided to throw in the towel on a rookie like her. Then he would have an air of grace and humility about him for doing it, but such a day was probably farther off than Sirius itself.

The deck randomizes in her deft hands. Should she layout the pattern to determine her fate for the next year? Reiko suddenly threw the tarot deck in his face instead. The deck smashed into a plethora of thick cards to rain down all over him. Her cursing was far louder than his choked laughter. “Ni’halia just damn my luck! All of it, right now for playing such a con!”

“Don’t be like that, Reiko!” Kanaye feigned a sympathetic look and tone, “I’m sorry for being what I am,” before laughter overtook him again. “You’ll never improve with that kind of attitude. Another round?”

“Yes. Another. Round!!!” Flustered and quick-tempered as ever, Reiko flipped the Meyaph board off the table with a clattering crash of pieces. Kanaye suddenly stiffened in mild shock, but quickly relaxed after she threw his money on the table. “Gods. Let’s get out of this place. Any jobs come up recently?”

“Been far too many weeks since you’ve said that.” Kanaye replied in his slight, refined drawl. He imperceptibly eyed a shelf empty of liquor since his last seven visits. “And yes, I think a nightly patrol would do us both some good.”

A slender woman with a sapphire tipped cigarette peered into her bathroom mirror with a oceanic stare. The sterile lighting made her pale skin shimmer, picking out the sallow tinge that once dominated her ancestor’s appearance centuries ago. She quickly spun around in a large belted silver jacket pulled over her t-shirt and pleated black skirt. Flinging bangs partially concealing her forehead, a gentle hand tested a lengthy brunette ponytail that completed the hairstyle. She nearly knocked away the twenty-two caliber pistol on the bathroom sink with her sudden movement.

“Goddess-be-damned.” Reiko swore under her breath and snatched the weapon up, checking both safety and clip. One week and she still had not used it, but if her family motto was anything to go by then that could change in a second. What would she do if something did happen without notice or warning? The answer was obvious, but without training to scream it all out to her, perhaps it would not have made much difference. Training is what separates the wolves from the lions, after all.

“Come on, Reiko, tonight will end before we even step out!”

Then Kanaye and she took off into the chilly winter taiga. She holstered her weapon behind the folds of her jacket and hoped tonight would be like any other night.

The moment Reiko emerged from her quaint little cabin forged with metal and brown brickwork, she could already feel winter’s chill breath icing her veins. Small cabins like her own rose out of the stormy winds for a couple of miles in any direction. The scent of chimney smoke in the air was as utterly alien as the winter wonderland she found herself trapped in. Milioka: another backwater beyond the steppes, surrounded by the sprawl of brood forests. It would be another day before Ludranna would show up through the winter veil, even mounted on vehicles.

Her cabin door shut with an audible “clack.” Reiko hit the button on her keychain and the locks slammed into place. She twirled around Kanaye’s tall and handsome form, jogging the rest of the way to the Shadowclad. Her pride and joy, built with well-rounded steel, lacking sharp angles and covered in a stark obsidian coating. She was the perfect vehicle for traversing the hinterlands.

Kanaye was already gathering up a couple of armaments from the weapon shed. He came through the doors, all geared up in his thick wool coat the color of storm clouds. He held an assault rifle in one hand and a much smaller pistol in the other, both in the standard black color.

Reiko realized then, when his shadow fell over her, just how much the snowy backdrop suited him.

His hair was an ear-length, coal-black shock, draped in a loose white leopard’s skin. The color of frozen water could nearly match his pallid skin tone, quite form fitting over his muscle structure. A hollow cheeked, angular face leaned toward her, his large eyes, a dark shade of jade, regarded her sternly. Loose, black nylon pants wrapped tight with a leather belt off set the black and blue stripes on his t-shirt. A storm grey trench coat covered him from neck to boots. Quite a feat given Kanaye’s height.

He pointed toward Shadowclad. “Going to fall into a fit of slumber, are we, sleeping beauty? The color is already draining from your face. Come on, we’ll meet the others in the usual place.”

She wrinkled her nose behind him, softening with a sigh of resignation. Chill winds were already making her lungs sore, Reiko cursed under shallow breathing and pulled open the Shadowclad’s front door.

“What are the weapons for?” She slipped into the driver’s seat and hit another button on her key chain. Shadowclad had a roar on her. “No one’s going to be in the woods today.”

Kanaye did not flinch from the question, addressing her while he stashed away both of the guns. He carefully hid the pistol in the glove compartment and the rifle underneath the back seat. “There’s always someone in the woods. Or worse, some hound that’s going to sniff out our trail. There’s nothing wrong with being too careful, now is there?”

“Who?” Shadowclad’s wheels heaved up snow and lurched into a steady drive on shoveled and well-salted streets. She made an emphasis to arch her brow, turned her jeep quickly off the trails and onto the main road.

Kanaye brushed off her stare with the usual “bah” and dismissive waving. “Just about anyone we could possibly expect. It’s all a matter of where one chooses to look and what he sees.”

626 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
I will add the other three/fourths tomorrow :D.

626 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks Dave :grin:.

A waning crescent moon had been guiding Jesairis Aitan Sil along the off beaten paths running through the forests. The ill change of weather had deprived him of that even, and now only a rapidly vanishing animal trail would be his salvation from this part of the wood. The haunting howls of the Uridenian Wolves spurred him on through the darkness. His ebony form, lean and dark in the savage winter, weaved through a labyrinth of evergreens and northern foliage. The freezing winter seeped into the nooks and crevices of his cloudy wolf fur cloak and boots. He kept the garments tight around his wool leggings and shirt. Thoughts of finding shelter kept his mind off the flickering shadows darting across the underbrush. He knew from their soft barks and harsh panting that they were younger members of a wolf pack, play chasing him. The Uridenian Wolves rarely hunted humans.

The endless depths of cold would likely kill him before any sharp claws could tear him open. He needed to be swifter, but he needed every single bit of supplies weighing him down inside his leather backpack. If worse came down to irritating worse, he would have to find a high tree to rest in, with many branches to hold his backpack. He would just have to deal with endless pelting by sleet and snow. However, he did not wish to run into any organized vigilante bands infesting these parts of the wood. Faint voices trailed through the roar of the storm. Taking cover behind a clutch of high rocks, he stayed hidden from the pair of voices coming no farther than 10 clicks away.

“What did the others do with those stragglers we found stranded on the Serpent Trail?” Jesairis could discern a man’s voice, seasoned and boastful, addressing a nameless friend.

A series of indiscernible words came echoing across the snow, followed by the male’s quick response.

“The hell did they expect? They’re not one of ours, might as well be one of those idiot-bandits! Speaking of which, I saw a vehicle pass through earlier today, wasn’t marked or branded, and it was avoiding our patrols judging from the trail it was taking. I swear to god, if we weren’t so short-handed… just letting all this money walk through us like a ghost-- a wailing siren!”

The muffled voice of his partner suddenly came back much louder, but still unclear. An uneasy quiet suddenly fell over the three of them, except for the playful calling of the wolf pups from the underbrush. They were exceptionally loud and directly at Jesairis’ back. They would give him away if he did not reposition soon.

By the time he sprang up from his hiding place, the soft trampling of boots on the forest floor were creeping forward in his general direction. The rock may have been more of an obvious spot than he realized. He felt into the folds of his heavy clothing, pulling a silver plated pistol from the gray fabric. Fifty-caliber. Armor-piercing. Probably overkill, but he was better off being safer rather than slaughtered on a whim.

He edged away from the rocks with quiet steps, backing away into a sloping drop that would lead him off a small cliff of dirt and stone. He kept one eye over his shoulder at all times. It scanned the fog for any emerging beings while he descended the slope. The immature yelps of the wolf pups quickly shifted to a far more nerve rattling barking. Whoever those people were, they were stumbling too close to the pack that had been following his trail.

Convinced he had distanced himself enough, Jesairis turned to the next path in front of him: a thick field of snow topped Liche Birch trees. He pulled up short between the two of the cumbersome things, staring down the barrel of a revolver close enough to hold him directly at gunpoint. The woman was dressed in a large belted silver jacket and a long pleated black skirt. The legs underneath the clothing were shielded with fur boots that came up to her kneecap. She did not look like the typical vigilante nor bandit, and her colors did not click with any names that came to mind. She lacked physique as well, all lithe and serious, but a gun held at the head was a lethal weapon still.

Her voice was muffled by her heavy breaths. “Lower the gun - and slowly, good sir. Or I’ll put a hole through your eye and directly through the back of your skull.”

She’s not tough, not like a bandit or native thug. Yet her form and stance, they suggested a hidden ability lying within the exterior. One miscalculation would earn a bullet directly to the brain. Try to negotiate your way out of this.

A knowing grin crept on Jesairis’ frost-covered lips. He poised his stance in spite of the revolver now level with his eyelid telling him not to. The stranger appeared to want to lash out at him for that. Yet her hands remained on the weapon. She did not know what he was capable of combat wise. That was his only advantage. “I’m not looking for trouble miss. No one is here to take anything from you. Not your life. Not your money. Not whatever touched your mind to bring you into the middle of this blizzard. Remove your gun and we’ll go our separate ways.”

The stranger lifted her head in interest. She nodded absently. “That’s a shame then. You seem a reasonable sort, sir. So I appeal to your senses before you find yourself stranded out here, dying of frostbite that will no doubt fester in the wounds I’ll put in your legs and chest.”

Jesairis needed to test her limit. He fell back on one leg in a feline crouch, his much larger pistol coming round to take aim at her midriff. The masked woman immediately spotted the pre-emptive attack. She suddenly crossed the distance between them with a split second roll into his guard. The smaller side arm pressed into the flesh underneath his chin while he was still executing his movement. He stamped his feet into the snow, grinding his movement to a halt. That knowing grin scrubbed from his expression, much to the satisfaction of the mysterious armed assailant. A resigned sigh came through gritted teeth. “What the hell do you want?”

He heard the gunman sniff irritably. “Your answer: are you going to lower the gun, or are you going to press the matter further? Because I am done with being patient.”

“Easy.” Jesairis slowly moved the weapon away from her, holding it loosely by the handle. She inclined her head toward the woodland floor and he felt the cold steel fall from his fingers.

“Good choice, my man, now on your knees, no sudden moves or you’ll be on the ground in your own blood. That’s it, that’s very good…”

“Shit.” Jesairis cursed beneath his misty breath, while the lady propped both of his hands on top of his head.

She yelled out across the distance. “Kanaye! I’ve caught our guest! Move yourself!”

Jesairis listened for the man he heard earlier. Kanaye. That was only one name. It had to be just the two of them, if he was lucky.

The butt of her revolver suddenly smacked into his skull. “Don’t move your head! Don’t look around! Keep your eyes,” She pointed to a squirrel's burrow, “in front of you! I already see you’re trying to weasel your way out.”

Heavy, branch-snapping footfalls steadily approached, until it was practically ringing in Jesairis’ ears. The footwork stopped and an armored grip suddenly had a cleft of his hair between the fingers, jerking him around from behind. “Who the hell is this? A Rynithian? … Here?” Kanaye’s clothing was normal, like the girl’s, but had an Insignia emblazoned on his storm gray trench coat. The symbol was a silver moon, shattered and cracked with a vermillion sun peaking around its gaping wound. He could not recognize the icon. He spoke again in a slight drawl, his refined speech not hiding the threatening intent in his voice. “Who are you? And why of all places are you in the most hostile woods in the Uridene?”

Jesairis did not feel much fear, to his own surprise. Nervous calm steeled his voice. “It still belongs to the country, doesn’t it? I’m certain I’m not the only one to wander our own ancestral paths.”

The intimidating male offered him a cruel smile in return. “Haha. If you consider these animal trails anything resembling ancestral then you’re as blind as you are coy and stupid. That aside, why would a Rynithian find anything in northern Irothis of historical lineage?”

Jesairis visibly cringed at Kanaye’s uninformed blabbering. He considered his verbal options for a moment, with an impolite grin that seemed to evoke some emotion from the woman. “... If it’s not obvious enough, then I’ll spell it out for you. I am Jesairis Sil. I was born here and have every right to walk this place without some dipshit’s weapon in my face, just waiting to take my things.”

“Uh huh.” Kanaye was inwardly laughing at him, Jesairis could tell that much. His facial features remained stoic despite himself and looked to his partner. He quickly slung the long rifle in his gloved grip across his back, his icy green eyes falling from Jesairis onto his backpack. “Get a look at this one, will you? Is all of this for you?”

Jesairis merely exchanged penetrating stares with Kanaye’s mysterious comrade while the former began his rummaging. The clatter of a day’s worth of food, extra skins, and a suspicious amount of military grade weapons falling on hardened snow disturbed the serene quiet around them. Kanaye’s sharp whistle was answer enough. They had truly hit a payday if weapons were the goal of all of this.

“Your things?” Kanaye picked up a heavy looking pistol and quickly cocked and loaded the thing. His other acquaintances flinched after several discharges into the underbrush, followed by a blur of scattering movement. “All of these guns are high quality and seeing military use. Illegal too. He could get up to ten years since he never fired a shot. Yet there is enough for evidence and prosecution. Not even a survivalist would need any of these.”

“What’s wrong?” Kanaye caught sight of Jesairis’ cringing and stepped around to come face to face with him. His grip was yanking violently on his cloak, pulling him into the vapors of his sore breathing. “You don’t like me very much!?”

“Kanaye!” The lady intervened with a hand between them, delivering a slight kick to Kanaye’s bent thigh that made him fall over. “Calm down. Matsuo. Reiko Dai Matsuo for your information, Jesairis. I advise you stop being smart, and I don’t mean knowledgable. Understand?”

Jesairis bit back defiance. “Of course.” He finally managed, nodding his head. Her violet eyes bore down on him hard, but he remained motionless. They continued trading their stares until Kanaye finally emerged from the deepening field of white.

Kanaye seethed at him, glancing back toward his friend, Reiko, with an obvious gawk. “Did you really just tell this imbecile your name?”

“Gods, does it even matter, Kanaye?” Her laughter was like a pleasant perfume, soothing to the ears instead of the nose. A firm hand from her on Jesairis’ shoulder motioned him to rise, albeit slowly. He felt his hands pulled from his head and behind his back for Reiko to tie a reckless binding of rope around his wrists. “Pick up those weapons, my blood’s beginning to ice over.”

The ignorant fool Kanaye immediately set about collecting Jesairis’ weaponry, gesturing for him to follow. Reiko took the lead, revolver hovering around her cheek while she scanned the horizon for unfamiliar shadows. The cries of trailing wolves died in the howling winds and they set off in the direction of where the two mysterious brigands had appeared.

“The snow has gotten heavy.” Jesairis nearly lost his footing on an upward slope. “Do you even know where you’re going anymore? Where are we going by the way?”

Reiko glanced more than a little ruefully over her shoulder. One quick glance around picked out no roads or visible trails to take them back home. Kanaye scowled beneath his breath, but remained cool-headed, or so he looked. The pair of bandits whispered amongst themselves in the mounting chill. They began observing the layout of the forest in closer detail.

Jesairis watched their movements curiously, before resigning with a heavy sigh. “You aren’t from these parts of Irothis. That’s becoming quite clear.”

“Wonderful.” Kanaye gestured to the wilderness with wide open arms before throwing his weapon down at his feet. He turned around to glare a stream of daggers at his charge. “But that aside, not being from ‘these parts’ doesn’t matter much, does it? Considering our ride,” He pointed toward the outline of something black against the green and white of the woods. “is just over there.”

626 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
The fireplace crackled and snapped. The flames licked the wood, spread and spread until the backwash of heat was forming beads of sweat on Uyeda’s skin. He still felt like a lump of ice slowly melted away in his chest. The sensation of heat and cold made the veteran brigand feel sluggish. On the frontier, that was the last thing anyone would want to be. Good enough for him none of the patrols needed him until another several days. He unloaded his shotgun, a decade old semi-automatic that could blow a crater in just about anything, and then threw it aside beside the fire.

The loud clatter that followed had Yutaka snapping up from his sleep on a bottom bunk bed. He was a young man, an unproven whelp, reaching for his ballistic vest and assault rifle until he caught Uyeda in his stare. The old veteran sat by the flames in his usual fatigues. Yutaka glanced around, trying not to look confused, slowly relaxing back into his bunk. “Are you shitting me, Uyeda?”

Uyeda snickered in laughter, poking aimlessly at the fire blazing pleasantly beneath a chimney. “You do realize we’re supposed to be guarding the young heir’s cargo? Not sleeping on our asses until she gets here. She could walk in at any moment. If she caught you sleeping, you’d be as damned as those bastards locked in the cellar.”

Yutaka shrugged. The paling in his face proved satisfying enough. He revealed a torso naked from the waist up, climbing out of bed. Uyeda noted a couple of bullet wounds that pockmarked the younger recruit’s skin. “Anyone come in today?”

“No. We have more than enough already, if you ask me.”

Uyeda caught Yutaka’s glance toward the basement door hidden away in the floor of the guardhouse. He gave a sharp whistle, pointed to the rows of keys hanging from the wall. “Go feed them while you’re up. If you’re not going to keep watch then that’s all your job. Feeding them.”

“Shit.” He heard Yutaka mutter.

The guardhouse door slammed open with a sound like thunder. The violent winds of the storm pushed it back and forth until the hinges screamed. He jumped to his feet, drawing an old revolver the same moment Reiko came stumbling into the small prison. “Majesty.” She barreled past him, nearly shouldering him into the brown brick cabin wall to escape the cold. Kanaye entered and walked in the opposite direction toward Yutaka. He drug a large sack and a strange man cloaked in winter gear behind him. A Rynithian. The Goddess surprised every night and morning.

Yutaka shoved the door closed behind them. Uyeda heaved with relief and holstered his weapon. “Death won’t be taking us tonight, now will it, Yutaka?” He looked to Reiko and embraced her in a bear hug. “Good catch? Didn’t think anyone was foolish enough to walk the roads of all days. Going to tell me who the hell this is?”

Reiko broke away from her old friend, who looked surprisingly well, considering he had been dealing with the cargo for the better part of a week. She took in the three rectangle-cut tables moved into the recesses along the room. Used dinner plates, another with playing cards and alcohol, and the final buried under sprawled hand written documents. Only Yutaka and Uyeda remained topside to greet them. Good, the cargo was being prepped then. “He can introduce himself, can’t he?”

Jesairis quickly clambered up to his feet despite his bound hands. Kanaye appeared to be resisting the urge to shove him back down onto the floor. He looked each of his captors and their friends in the eye. He took in the sight of their weapons and the howling from an open trap door leading somewhere dank and dark. “What the hell is this?”

Uyeda looked Jesairis over, patted him down, and continued with his inspection. “What is he?”

Kanaye stepped around them toward the fire. “No idea. He didn’t tell us. Does it matter?”

Uyeda tried not to look annoyed. “You know his name at least?”

Reiko pushed Jesairis in the direction of the trap door. “Jesairis Sil. I’ll write it down for you. Yutaka! Help me get him downstairs.”

The warmth of the fireplace receded with each step further into the cellar. Small oil lamps hanging on the walls revealed dry stone, flanked by large cells on either wall. There were people locked behind them, or skeletons and corpses of people. Jesairis could only make out the outlines. Reiko had her revolver pressed against his back and Yutaka held his binds, leading him through the small dungeon. There were other guards pacing back and forth through the hall, steel batons and assault rifles in their hands. They wore no helmets or masks, just their faces, which regarded him joyfully.

Reiko gestured to one of them. The gate to a cell threw itself open and Jesairis was shoved in. “Take off his bindings.” She ordered. “I would speak to him for a moment.”

The guard did as obeyed and unwrapped the binds round the half-Rynithian’s wrists. They packed him into an empty cell. The bars slammed shut in front of him, Reiko already leaning against the cold iron with a look of faint interest. Her words came out cold as if this time was the tenth. “You know where we’re taking you?”

Jesairis wheezed a laugh through a disbelieving breath. “I don’t know where ‘this’ is.”

Reiko shrugged. She accepted an apple from one of the guards. “When you do, you’ll be in a new world entirely. Perhaps we’ll meet again someday, Jesairis Sil. Don’t get yourself killed trying to be the better man.” She melded into the under dark like an apparition.
The Fifth Route
Uridene Province

The world suddenly quaked in absolute darkness. Linked chains forged with steel rattled and shook with their bodies in an irritating cascade of noise. It had taken the better part of six hours to sleep without being disturbed. It was a strange thing, imprisonment in darkness. Surrounded by people wearing everything not of value on their backs the day they vanished. He could not sleep behind the iron bars of a lightless cell. Contemplation had become his only friend. None of the others in his situation even cared about the fates of their new brothers in arms. One way or another, they would be brothers. Either they would rot away in some prison together on the end of the world or strike down rocks and stones in the mines. Metals and precious stones: things that made the world turn…

Rancorous clashes of a steel baton on a piece of metal snapped Jesairis’ gaze into full alertness. He awoke to a massive enclosed space occupied with hundreds of seats and narrow lanes. Chairs filled with random faces dressed in all manner of winter attire. Masked soldiers armed to the teeth patrolled the aisles. The noise naturally left a slight tremor in his limbs. Reiko loomed over him like a silent killer, the baton in her grip lowered to her side away from the seat she had struck. Her appearance transformed into another aspect in contrast with last night. Like he had when his freedom and rights were stripped like discarded items belonging to no one.

Reiko wore a heavy silver-scaled ballistic vest covering her body from midriff to collar, complemented with groin, knee, shoulder, and greave guards that made her look like a living tank. Beneath the vest were clothes crafted from purple cloth on the upper body and ordinary white-gray camouflage fatigues for leggings The material appeared flexible despite the weight and quality protection. With a semi vindictive look in her eyes, she leaned down to inspect Jesairis.

Reiko glanced in one of her comrade’s direction. “He’s still with us, it seems, Warden.” She pointed an accusing index finger into Jesairis’ chest. “I thought you… had broken yourself in that dark cell we had you in down in the cellar.”

Jesairis’s head rolled back onto the headrest, effectively blocking out the sheer number of eyes staring at him. “I would have,” he answered wearily. “if I knew you would have thrown me back out into the forest. Never a time like an urgent one to get it back together and continue life as usual.”

Reiko cracked a smile. “Your joke is in bad taste. You would be nothing more than a frozen mannequin had I not lent you an… extension of our hospitality. Our medic had to tend to you twice in one day. Do you have an illness Mr. Sil?”

Jesairis hefted his shoulders in a light shrug. “I’m certain having no food and water after a journey into the Uridene had nothing to do with it whatsoever.” He exchanged serious stares with his captor. “No I don’t.”

“Don’t get me wrong, Jesairis,” Reiko nudged him in the shoulder with her baton. “I am glad you’re still alive. You did not try to be the better man. Now you are saved by your own actions. Just keep it that way no matter what happens. Who knows, after some adjustment, maybe you’ll like your new life?” She erected herself and began walking briskly toward the rear of the barge. “This won’t be a long journey, Sil. It’ll end before you even know when to feel dread.”

A female prisoner sharing his cuffs abruptly clears her throat. She is exotic in origin. Possessing a heavily brown tone of beige mixed with bronze that is not Rynithian and definitely not Irothan. Her eyes are large obsidian stones staring through him with the brilliance borne from knowledge, not experience or horrible tragedy. Her lips are in between thick and thin and her ears are small. Her hair is a lustrous obsidian sheen that falls down her back and chest. She is dressed in a vermillion dress written with strange patterns of gold and jade symbols that form an intricate collage. There is a golden earring made with two thick loops with an emerald gem filling the center. Inside the gem is a yellow marking in a language he cannot recognize. Her voice is warm and languid.

The strange woman spoke lazily, as if the summer sun was beating on her hair. “I remember these lands well. Belissean has always been the haven of cruelty and troubles unending.” Her stern look still holds Jesairis’ cool hazel eyes with a broad grin. “Great minds must think alike for people like you and I. I see our intentions must align toward a similar goal.” She paused for a moment to regard him more thoroughly. “Your name is Jesairis?”

“Sil,” Jesairis quipped. “Jesairis Sil is the name.” His cold, exhausted demeanor brightened beside her. “I didn’t catch your name?”

The woman answered with a genuine smirk. She drew out the pronunciation purposefully. “Siroun Tumanyan, from the rivers and valleys of the heartland: Hailadon.” Her left eye blinked teasingly. “I would extend a hand for the pleasure of the company, but our cuffs deny us even that.”

Hailadon: the land of long rivers and winding valleys. Her people worshiped under the sun that shines most on their parts of the far-flung continent of Tarium. One of the triumvirate of Goddesses, Hinariath, forged the ancient nation with sword and flame. Religion has progressed further since those times, but her name still exists in reverence. It had been a nation of barbarians in times before the first war, now it stands a near impregnable empire absorbing much of Tarium’s central mass. The northern and western border they share with Irothis had been disputed on and off through the decades.

Siroun folded her arm as if an act of pride, soothed laughter bubbling in her chest. “Quite a predicament we find ourselves in. I hope to make the best of whatever happens in Ludranna.” She pointed beyond a compact window filtering in light over her features.

Jesairis leaned forward as much as he could in his chains, staring past an observing Siroun joining him for the view. The mountainous region within the Uridene Province thickened with an icy mist by the time the convoy had crossed onto the Fifth Route. He immediately recognized the hidden Fifth Route road never travelled on. Never meant for visible travel. One other path led toward the outskirts of Ludranna much like this one. Together they weaved through expansive hillsides and across riverbeds until they vanished without a trace. There were three more leading out towards the steppes without as much as a water source or game during the winter.

The first Blanche towers and skyscrapers loomed over the fog as if some passage into an alternate world. Blinking bright red lights from the radio towers and passing aerial flights seemed to be guiding their direction. The untamed wild of the Uridene scaled back with every mile gained on the metropolis in the horizon. The last remnants of tree lines disappeared in favor of open grasslands capped in snow. The few remaining strides came at the Fifth Route’s end on the Sinnuin River. The convoy never deigned to halt at the checkpoint crossing. The bridge was secured for their arrival.

The inevitable question flashed in his thoughts. “You know where they’re taking us?”

Her hand noticeably flipped from knuckles to palm. He did not pretend to know the gesture, chances were it was something akin to an agreement. “I believe I know where they intend to take us, Mr. Sil. It is weird, coming so close to a perfect fit in someone else’s puzzle. They must think their planning very, very clever. It’s also frustrating being kept in the dark from your kidnapper’s intentions. But with all the fair treatment and non-violence accompanying this merry band, I suppose I can tolerate being unable to voice my complaints. I hope for a little retribution on our captors.” Siroun lifted her chin at Jesairis, indicating Ms. Matsuo toward the rear of the barge. “How about you, Jesairis? Would you look forward to a little bloodshed?”

The Half-Rynithian grunted unfavorably. He tested his chains with a few shakes of his fists. “Anything like that is probably pointless now, unless you wanted to die by example that is.”

Now it was Siroun’s turn to scoff at his remarks. “Then I don’t look forward to your vision of what the future entails to the unjust.”

A knowing grin crept up on his lips, the kind of grin that surfaces when you found cause to confide in someone. “I never said I didn’t believe in karma. If that is what you’re asking. I too think I won’t be staying here so long that I’ll figure out whatever these brigands have in store for us.”

“Interesting,” The Halodite did not realize that Jesairis noticed the sideward glare curiously sizing him up. She clucked her tongue, black pupils glazed over with contemplation in the span of loud exhale. Siroun was considering confiding something in him. “You are aware they are royal military, right? If you intend to escape, I would not think someone could do so alone. My line of thinking says you will end up leaning on someone else should you gather the courage to do such a rash thing. Who knows, huh? I look forward to any interesting breaks toward wherever we’re going.”

You’ve done this before. Jesairis mentally noted. How many times? I guess it’s just a luck of the draw that I happen to be sitting next to you. The Gods do favor small mercies.

Kanaye’s voice suddenly blasted from a speaker horn, creating commotion wherever he aimed it. “Welcome! Citizens of the Uridene to Ludranna city and the Third Ludranna Precinct! Gather your belongings if you possess any, disembarkation will commence shortly.”

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
This is the end of the Chapter, advice or comments welcome, thanks for reading :D.
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