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Chapter 4-6

Page history last edited by Anonymoose 10 years, 2 months ago

Ash and smoke swept across the deck, tumbling down from the skies after being thrown into the sky by pillars of smoke scattered about in the field of destruction. All of it was centered around one solitary figure: Rose. Wounded, but unbowed; a small army of mercenaries dispatched around her. But there was something very wrong. The expression on Rose's face was not one I had seen before. It was empty. It had no life to it. Her tail burned brightly, but even amidst the remains of what must have been one hell of a battle, there was no grin on her face, there was no sparkle in her eyes.


I stood there, undaunted. Mostly. I returned the soulless gaze as it stared into me. My heart beat like crazy and I felt like I was being overcome with a cold sweat. It was not an unfamiliar feeling, but it was one that made me sick to my stomach. Sick that I would even feel that all too familiar feeling. A feel of dread. It had been some time since I last felt this feeling. My breathing was heavy, raspy. Regardless, I stepped forward again even as my legs shook.


My feet snapped the smouldering wooden planks as I climbed up the pile of debris. The closer I got, the closer her eyes became and the deeper they penetrated me. Those frightening lifeless eyes. There was no sparkle within them and just their gaze was enough to make my body feel heavy. An oppressing force trying to push me back down as though gravity had suddenly multiplied in magnitude. Until her eyes finally focused on me. Like a nictitating membrane, light spread across her eyes. Faster than I could react Rose, dropped her sword and slid down off her perch of ruin toward me. She collided into me, nearly knocking me over.


     “Laven!” She squealed glowingly.


She wrapped her arms and me and buried her face into my chest. I felt like something was tearing me apart inside. A wash of guilt that swept away my cold sweat and stilled my heart. But when I put my arms around her, I quickly pulled them back because I felt something else that was wet and warm. Two arrows were still jutting out from her back and even one from her left arm. Trickles of hot blood trickling from the wounds and a different kind brand of panic washed over me.


     “Rose! You're wounded.”


     “What? These? This is nothing.” She said with a smile.


     “There are arrows sticking out of you.”


'Again', I wanted to add, but I stopped myself.



“Oh, Chris and Susan. What's up?” Rose said peering over my shoulder at the other two girls behind me.


Those two shook back to reality when their names were called. Rose cocked her head confused by their reactions as though she had forgotten everything that had happened up here. Well, I suppose there are only a few people now who know exactly what happened here. I'd rather let everything that happened here be forgotten, but before we could do that, we'd need to get the hell out of here.


     “Rose, we need to get out of here.”


     “Get out of here? What are talking about?” Rose asked, tilting her head the other way.


     “We got thirty seconds before every mercenary on this boat floods this deck.”


     “All of them?” She said while letting me go to pick up her sword that had finished sliding down the pile of ruin on its own.


     “Yes, all of them.”


     “All in one place?” She said with a smile while brushing off the soot and dust off the blade.


     “Yes, all in one- Rose! Not now, we have to get out of here.”


     “The four of us can take em all. Easy. They attack one at a time, I've had meals harder than these guys.” Rose boasted.


     “Not now Rose.” I turned toward Susan and Chris, “Let's find a lifeboat or something.”


     “Lifeboat?” Rose said wistfully.


Susan and Chris split up to search while I stayed to get it through Rose's thick skull. I grabbed Rose by the shoulders, not that she was going anywhere, but I needed her to focus on me and my words very carefully and actually consider them. Not just let them go in one ear and out the other. I just hope her warpath hadn't burned all the boats all up


     “It isn't just the fight, Rose. It'll turn into a battle of attrition. They got enough magic to keep coming long after we tire. We're not gonna last another hour on this boat at best. No in one piece. We need to leave. Now.”


     “I've fought worse battles with worser odds. Just leave it to me.” She said with a smile.


     “Rose, we don't have time for-” I said irritated I had to start raising my voice to get it through, but then I stopped.


I had been shaking before and I noticed my hands were still shaking, but not the rest of me... Not because of me. Was it... Rose? I felt my hands slacken and Rose threw me off, backing away, refusing to make eye contact. I was at a loss.


     “Laven!” Came Susan's voice from behind.


Chris was circling in the air above and came swooping down and landed beside her. They were both pointing in the direction of a cabin at the edge of the devastation and when I nodded they went around the corner. I looked back at Rose who was still refusing to make eye contact. I was going to say something, but a startling sound came from behind us. At the opening in the deck where the stairs are, I heard an all too familiar cacophony. The Silver Bannermen were finally catching up.


I grabbed hold of Rose's claw and pulled her along forcefully. I heard her protest, but I ignored her. She may be strong, but she was also still light as a regular girl for her height. We ran and followed Susan and Chris who were already waiting at a sizable boat hanging off the side of the barge by rope and pulley. The boat was big enough and it hadn't been damaged or destroyed like others on this side of the barge.It would make pursuit difficult if we jacked this one. It's not like they can alter the heading of this massive ship. That would require direct Imperial orders.


Chris and Susan had already vaulted over the side of the lifeboat and were preparing to release it into the water below. It was just Rose and I still on the barge. I turned around to follow, but a stray arrow shot just wide of my head and into the side of the boat. When I turned around, I saw that one of the Bannermen was calling out to his companions and then getting ready to notch another arrow.


     “You'll never make it.” Rose said.


     “What?” I replied. “Come on Rose, we need to get in now!”


     “You'll be sitting ducks. Fish in a barrel all the way to the bottom...”


     “Rose!” I called out again grabbing her by the shoulder again.


This time Rose didn't just stand there and take it. One of her claws seized me by the scruff of my jerkin. Her grip was frighteningly powerful. With a small explosion of fire from her tail, she mustered the strength to throw me. She bent her knees and put everything into it. I was sent up and over the side of the lifeboat and then fell inside. I was scrambling to right myself and I peeked my head over the life boat.


     “I'll hold them off.” She said looking up at me with a smile. “I can hold em off till this hunk o' wood gets to port. I'll met ya back on dry land.”


     “Rose! Get up here right now.” I ordered, my words seething mad.


I watched as the archer took another shot, but Rose parried it out of the air with her sword, cleaving the shaft in half.


     “Go!” She screamed while spinning around to chop her sword through the rope holding the boat in place.


I felt the lifeboat slowly descend. For the brief moment the lifeboat was at eye level with the deck I saw the archer was joined by another two who all fired their next volley all at once. I tried to jump up and reach out to Rose, but when one of the arrows passed by Rose, I felt a weight press down on me and the color green envelop me. The arrow had been on a direct collision course with my skull, but Chris had leapt up and covered me with her body, sending the arrow deflecting off her wings.


     “Master! Stay down!”


Chris was heavy, her wings an impenetrable fortress to the arrows. But soon I felt the boat rock with the sound of explosions. I heard Susan pant heavily and grunt with the chorus of thunderclaps, her divine energies most likely straining past their limit to reflect a magic barrage all concentrated on this little lifeboat. After all, the ship was long and there was more room than just above us where Rose was guarding the winch to shot at us from. But she was protecting us from the ideal spot to fire down at us like she said, fish in a barrel.


Why was Rose so dead set staying behind? Is this really the way it has to be? 'There are arrows sticking out of you, again'. That thought which went through my head came to me again. Why? Seeing Rose standing there, with arrows sticking out of her, fresh from the river not long after we first met... That image flashed before my eyes. That embrace when she came to her senses and rushed toward me no more than a minute ago. She was... Shaking. Was she shaking then?... In that river. Back in the forest. Even further back before the party at the Duke's. When she seemed worried. What was she worried about? A boat? But she'd rather stay up there. No. Not it's not the boat. Why isn't she here? Where we're going. The lake... The lake!


Where else where she also shaking? Another memory flashes before me. Just a few words. Some very poignant words.


Because. I'm. In love.


No. I wasn't going to let this happen. Not like this. Not ever.


I put every last bit of my strength to stand up. Chris wasn't expecting it and even she was thrown off me and fell backs into the boat. I could hear Susan and Chris protest, warning me, begging me to step back, but that didn't stop me. I could see the side of the barge now, we were already a few meters on our way, arrows and spells were being flung in our direction like stones, but I wasn't afraid. Maybe I had lost my sanity?


Above me I could see the pulley where the ropes were slipping through. Ropes attached the winch up on deck. I climbed up to the highest ground of the lifeboat and I reached out with both hands for a pair of ropes sliding past each other. The pain was instant; a Charley Horse for my palms. Two thick ropes supporting most of the life boat's weight that wanted to keep moving... I wrapped my hands around it and held the two ropes together. It didn't stop right away, so I grabbed on tighter. Through the smell of burning rope and skin, I held on so tight I could hear my own fingers creak even with the sound of battle all around me up above and around me as hell still rained down on me.


Neither Susan nor Chris stepped up to pull me down. If they wanted to, if they felt they had to, they could pull me back with ease. I wouldn't go easily, I'd still hold on till my hands broke and only if my hands broke and went limp at the same time. The longer I held onto the rope, the more slack in it started to accumulate. The more slack that accumulated, the more I was holding up all the weight of the lifeboat on my own. Not just my fingers, but my arms started to creak and my muscles sounding like they were ready to tear. But I refused to let go.


     “Rose,” I screamed as loud as I could. “Rose!”


I held on as tight as I could, but I was only human. I was only human, but I'd break if I had to. If I could hold on for just a few moments longer. I held on tight and a stray arrow found its mark in my left arm. I felt it go right to the bone. I felt it break it. The pain caused my whole left arm to go numb and limp, but I still didn't let go. I gripped tightly with my right hand. Tighter than a human being ever should. I couldn't help but scream when the ropes slid past one another again. Of course they would, they were lubricated in my own blood. Skin was tearing off my palm, but I still grabbed on tight and after about twenty centimeters of slack, the ropes held steady again.


My left arm was hanging at my side; numb and useless. My right arm, stretching up as far as it could go. I could feel my arm ready to pop out of my shoulder at any moment. I refused to let go.


     “Rose!” I screamed again, this time blood curdlingly so. “Rose, I'm right here! Rose!”


The sound of battle above me was starting to fade, only because the pain I was feeling was starting to drown everything else out. The focus and effort I was exerting was deafening everything, even the pain... slightly. A stray ray of purplish white light grazed my face, cutting my cheek like a blade. That wasn't nearly enough to stop me. Even when stray embers from fireballs scorched and burned my skin, it wasn't enough to stop me.


     “Rose! I'm... I'm right here! Come on, Rose!”


I could feel my limit quickly approaching. I felt my hand slip again, coating the ropes in another fresh layer of red paint. I gripped down hard again, but I could feel the delicate bones in my hands reach their limit at last. There's no way I could muster the strength to clench down again. I could feel a wet trickle down my left arm. I could feel a wet trickle down my face as droplets of blood dripped from the rope above me and onto my face. I won't wince words or try to act macho, I felt another more clear liquid stream down my cheeks as well.


     “Rose... I'm... right here.” I said again, but this time I couldn't scream, it was more of a whimper.


There was no way it was loud enough for anyone to hear.


I grit my teeth and continued to hold on. Not for dear life, that didn't matter to me right now. I was holding on for... I'm holding on for... I'm holding on and nothing will stop me; not even myself. Although my body was wracked with pain I looked up and at the edge I saw an object that wasn't an arrow or ball of energy drop. It fell right into the boat. Right on top of Susan who barely managed to catch it. It was long, a little thin, it was... My... no, Rose's sword in its scabbard.


     I looked back up in a panic and screamed with everything I had left in my lungs, “Ro-!”


As I looked up, I saw a pair of claws wrap around the edge of the boat and someone vaulted over the edge. It had to have happened all so fast, but as I watched it, it seemed so very slow. Long red hair and a streak of fire trailing after her, Rose vaulted over the side and entered a free fall. There were a couple more arrows in her back, a new one in her left calve, but she seemed otherwise okay. She reached out with her arms toward me and with my one good arm, I let go of the rope and reached out for her. All the slack I had been accumulating dropped the boat immediately and it entered into its own free fall toward the lake's surface.


Rose had picked up more speed than we had, but there was a brief moment in time while both of us were suspended in the air very close to each other, reaching out for one another. Even though I had no skin left on my palm, I locked fingers with Rose's, the blood drenching her fingers from her arrow wound and the blood of my hand meeting, sticking together. We pulled each other into embrace and held on tightly. There was a second where we were still in free fall pressing our bodies close together before the boat below us crashed into the waves violently. I felt my back smash into the wooden bottom, but luckily neither broke.


I held tightly onto Rose, but nowhere near as tight as she held onto me. Her face buried in my chest.


     “Because.... Because...” She kept repeating quietly to herself.


My left arm was in searing pain, but I willed it to move anyway. I reached up and dropped my hand on the top of her head and patted her, gently stroking her head. I leaned my head forward and rested my forehead against her as well. I kept doing so even as she kept mumbling unintelligibly to herself. I kept doing it till she stopped shaking... At least until she stops shaking so much. Someone whose lifeblood is fire, surrounded by so much water which was so deep... I don't think anyone with a heart would blame her. Least of all me.


Susan regained her balance and got up and went desperately searching for the lifeboats oars, but the look on her face as she looks panicked while staring overboard wasn't a good sign.


     “Chris... Some assistance.”


     “How we're going, we don't need oars.” Chris replied calmly with a cocky tone.


She dug her talons into the sides of the boat as she straddled it at one end and with her mighty wings folded them back and then beat them. A rush of air propelled the small lifeboat forward, skimming over the waves. The arrows, magic missiles and fireballs still came raining down, but they got further and further away. Less and less accurate. After only a few wing beats to pick up some acceleration we were coasting lazily away.


The further we got, the further we got away from the oppressing billows of smoke from the top deck and the white-grey darkness of the smoke and ash was replaced by a cloudless dawn sky, glowing a radiant pink. Susan was sitting, in meditation at one end of the boat, while Chris' wings propelled us onward, her tail in the water acting like a rudder. Rose still clung to me, slightly shaking as the boat rocked back and forth, as water splashed in from the sides and into the boat as it crashed into the subtle waves on the lake surface. But we were both okay. More or less. I'd need some healing for the blood loss, broken bones and missing flesh, but all in all, I was okay.


We gently cruised away from the barge in silence as it carried on its way. Until the barge which was now in the distance threw up a fresh plume of smoke. Soon after a roaring explosion rolled over the waves and over our boat. Following soon after were a series of rough waves that caused Rose to hold onto me even more tightly than before, nearly crushing me now.


As her body pressed more fiercely into my own, I allowed myself to be distracted by her large breasts squishing into my chest. Which you'll have to forgive me for, because I'm in a lot of fucking pain right now and I need every positive thing I can get right now. But even that was interrupted when Rose's thighs pressed up against me and by my right jean pocket, I felt something jab into my skin. Something like a pin and it was enough to cause me to flinch.


It was driving me crazy and I had to fish whatever splinter it was before it drove me insane. I freed my hand and reached into my pocket and finally pulled out what felt like a small pebble. At least it had the texture of one. What I pulled out and held up for my eyes to see was more like a sliver of rock rather than wood. It was thin, sharp on the edges and no bigger than a nail clipping from my pinky finger. It wasn't just any rock, it was blue, translucent and refracted the pink dawn gloriously. I don't know what it was, or where it come from, but it was beautiful.


While I was busying admiring the stone, it turned out the first explosion wasn't the last. Chris, Susan and I watched as another three plumes erupted near and around the waterline of the barge in several places. I quickly slipped the stone back into my pocket and held onto Rose tight. We all had to hold on tight as the massive explosions sent wave after violent wave in our direction, tossing us up, down and nearly flipping us over a few times if Chris hadn't steered and held the whole boat aloft in the air for a couple seconds at a time by beating her wings. We then watched the monster sized barge in the distance, slowly list, crack, break and sink. Finally disappearing beneath the waves in the distance.


We had been one that barge only minutes ago. We didn't even words to say. We watched it happen solemnly, but when silence returned and the waves calmed down. I lamented.


     “They're going to blame that on me too, aren't they?”




Wave after wave crashes upon the shores of lake Anthren, coating the rocky and sometimes sandy beaches with all manner of things. Seaweed, driftwood, but in this case a man. A man cloaked in a wet green cloak, his face obscured by a black woolen mask. A hot spring sun was looming overhead.


The man who had washed up on shore was breathing heavily. Just as well, he was drenched head to toe. If it had been a cold day, or a windy day, he might catch his death of pneumonia. He didn't even have the strength to stand. All he could do was reach out with his hands and pull himself forward; pull himself free from the waves and the chilly lake water. When he finally dragged himself past the tide line, her flipped onto his back and pulled the mask off his head and threw it away.


Hidden underneath was a man with platinum blonde hair with blue eyes. His face distinct, handsome, but not overly so. It was a little too effeminate despite his broad shoulders. Not the kind of face you'd think twice about pounding in  the midst of a drunken bar brawl. He wheezed and coughed up lake water and eventually he mustered the strength to sit upright. To save his life he had to swim most of the way to shore, he was just fortunate enough for the currents to carry him to shore. He could have drowned, easily. After contemplating how close he had come to death, he caught his breath and pulled himself to his feet. He found a piece of drift wood he used as a makeshift walking stick and hobble off the beach and into the forest.


There was no earthly way of knowing, which way this man was going. He didn't have the strength to pull himself over the brush and he might not have the strength or energy to get back on his feet if he crawled. If he fell asleep in the forest as he was... a cougar, bear or wolf may find him. That fear spurred him on at his primal core, but there was something else that caused him to trudge onward.


For another hour he hiked through the woods, half dead. He kept going until he reached a tree. Not just any tree, a very large, very old tree. It had to be over three hundred years at the very least. It was at the base of this tree that the man allowed himself to collapse. He sprawled out on the forest floor and nearly did not awaken again. Soon the chirping of the birds and chitter of the small woodland mammals ceased. His face was in the dirt and leaves, but he could still hear the sound of boots on the ground approach.


     “He's finally arrived.” A lascivious woman's voice cooed


     And he'sss alive?” A voice hissed crackling with a tint of static




The sound of voices stirred the man awake and while he was still sapped of all his strength and laying on the ground looked up. There he saw a woman with tan skin and very, very long white hair, who had sat herself on a nearby stump. She was dressed in violet colored leather, more like a scantily clad dominatrix than a forest ranger. The footsteps he heard were a pair of violet colored, knee high and heeled boots  Resting horizontally on the sides of her head were long elf ears. She was seated now on one of the tree's roots, hunched over, resting her chin in her hands, her elbows resting on her thighs. Her eyes were colored red, droopy, lazy and reserved, but she wore a smile that was... mischievous, sinisterly so. Her whole face was devilishly beautiful and alluring and a distinct shade of rouge tinged her cheeks which almost betrayed some sort of innocence, if only it weren't for that grin.


     “Good afternoon, Jacob.” The dark elf said, greeting the man politely.


     “Where is she?” Jacob spat back, talking mostly into the dirt.


     “Do not be angry, Jacob.” The static voice said calmly. “I'm right here.”


     “Not you, witch! Where is my sister?”


     “Now now, that'sss not how the deal went.”


     “I hand over nothing till she's safe!” Jacob said while rising defiantly to his feet.


The dark elf watched with raised eyebrows, impressed at the feat which must have taken a great deal of willpower, but the other did not change her expression overall.


     “Not a thing till I know my sister will be okay... Viper.”


A small hand mirror had been propped up on a tree branch next to the dark elf and reflected on the steely grey surface was an image. An image of a woman with the lower body of a snake. Her head was adorned with shoulder length brown hair, green snake like eyes, long pointed elven ears drooping from each side of her head, but brown unlike her white skin. She had long sharp fingernails, that might just as well be claws, and from the hips down, a snake's body, the scales an intricate pattern of brown, light green and white. At the end of her tail was a rattle which was waving back and forth gently, sound like a lazy maraca.


     “Your dear poor sssissster'ssss illnesss will be cured, Jacob. We had already bought her more time. Time enough for you to run your errand for usss. I'vvve already done more than we needed to. Now isss your turn to pay back with inetessst. Ssshow me you have ttthe ssstone.”


Jacob watched the two closely while put his hands into his pocket. The two girls watched him with rapt attention. Jacob's stern and defiant negotiating face soon cracked a little. He reached into his other pocket and fished around. Then his eyes shot wide open and he untied his sealed pouches and emptied their contents on the forest floor. He dropped down on all fours to sift through the debris.


     “No.... no no no no. No!” He said in a panic, his hands shaking.


     “Jacob,” Viper said very seriously. “Isss thisss your idea of a joke? You ssshould know that you are not a funny man.”


     “I had it. I had it. I swear I had it. I just misplaced it! I had to pocket it real quick when I got the chance. I wasn't thinking. But I stuffed it... Somewhere safe just before I got off the ship!”


     “We're not here for charity, little man.” The dark elf said, her voice becoming very bored.


Jacob's eyes were wide open. He rested on his knees now, trying to remember. Trying to remember for dear life. In the middle of the forest before two monsters even if only one only there by proxy his life was in danger. His eyes flickered back and forth in their sockets as he desperately tried to remember.


     “I planted the charges like you said and then... when everyone else was running about I swiped the keys and then... no one saw me when I... I...” Jacob's eyes went wide. “I ran into... that guy...”


     “Ja-cob.” The dark elf moaned impatiently.


     “I- I don't have it.” He squirmed under the vicious looks both the monsters gave him. “But I do know who has it! A guy... Ran into him on the way out... Really hard, must have slipped loose. Pickpocket style. Ha ha ha, can't believe a professional like me fell for the basics like that.”


     “Who?” Viper hissed, her eyes glowering like a gorgon's, frightening and nearly turning Jacob to stone.


     Jacob's mind was reeling, he was feeling the pressure, but he eventually coughed it up, “Master... Laven... His name was Laven!”


     Viper's glower turned to surprise, “What did you jussst sssay?”


     “Laven. The guy everyone else was chasing all over the ship. Gave me the distraction I needed to crack my way to the stone. Bought me the time to escape to while everyone tried to stop him from getting away.”


Jacob felt as though everything hadn't been a total failure, all he'd have to do was go and get the stone back, the guy had strange company. It wouldn't be impossible for a man of skills to track him down. Difficult if this Laven kept away from towns and didn't want to be found, but for his sister, he would do anything. Just as he was rebuilding his confidence, Viper started laughing.


The dark elf and Jacob looked on awestruck and a little scared as Viper started slowly, but ended up laughing loud, uncontrollably, manically. Slapping her hand against her snake tail, her rattle rattling loudly.


     “Good. Good. Ttthat will be good enough, Jacob.” Viper said trying not to laugh, but then her voice and expression became very serious, very suddenly. “Your job isss done.”


The expression on Jacob didn't change and asked while still dumbfounded, “What are you saying? What about the deal?”


     “I ssshall sssee to it that your sssissster isss well taken care of.” Viper said with a very twisted smile on her face.


Recovering from a laughing fit couldn't explain that face.


     “No... No! You wouldn't... You can't!”


A terrible thought dawned on Jacob.


     He screamed and scrambled to his feet and charged the two in anger. “You monst-!”


A crack echoed off the trees and the forest went silent. In the dark elf's hand, the handle of a whip. The leather of the whip, lashed out and wrapped around Jacob's neck. Jacob could hardly breath let alone speak. His hand was in his inner cloak pocket, but he had frozen still.


     “Naughty naughty boy.” The dark elf said.


The dark elf gave the handle of the whip a twist and lightning crackled and leapt down the leather until it reached and electrocuted Jacob. His screams sent birds from far and wide from the tree canopies into the skies above. His hand went numb and a short sword hidden away in his cloak fell to the forest floor. When he reached out for it, it snapped back with residual charge that threw his hand back. Steam rose from his body as the shocks continued from the whip and he fell to his knees. All his strength had left his body all at once and he knelt there, near lifeless with a blank defeated look in his eyes.


     “Natasssha... I apologissse for making you look after thisss fool for too long.”


     “Oh no, Viper. It was fun.” Natasha giggled.


     “I need time alone to ttthink.”


     “I'm sure you do.”


     “He'sss yoursss now. Do withhh him what you like.”


     “I had hoped you would say that all along. Very generous of you, Viper. I've always wanted one.”


     “Take a sssabbatical. That'sss an order. You work too hard.”


     “Oh, I'll tell you all about the honeymoon when I'm done. Done breaking him in. Fu fu fu fu. Ha ha ha ha!”


Far away, Viper sat alone in a dark parlor, coiled up in front of a large mirror through which she saw the world reflected in the hand mirror. She closed her eyes, but she could still hear through the mirror. She could hear Natasha berate her captive.


     “Such a lowlife you are.” Natasha's voice was no longer lazy, but fierce and harsh. “How many of your comrades died for your selfish desires? How many of those poor men and women had brothers and sisters too? How many of them had older brothers and sisters that will grieve for them? You spineless cur. Aren't you Bannermen supposed to be like brothers and sisters? A traitor like you you is no better than filth. Treating you like a human is too good for someone as low as you. You're like filthy, dirty pond water. Not even suited to wash my boots. But Natasha still believes in you. Natasha will still love you despite everything. Even if no one would ever forgive you, I will. Yes, only Natasha will, but first you must lick my boot clean like the pond scum you are. Ahhhh~ that face. That face,” She cooed in ecstasy. “I love that defiant face... almost as much...”


The sound of an electrical shock and the man's screaming fills the still air of Viper's parlor.


     “Yes, that face... I LOVE that face most of all! Now lick it. Lick it clean. Yes. Yes that's right, just like that. Fu fu fu fu. HA HA HA HA-”


With a snap of her finger, the image on the mirror vanished and the audio died.


Viper opened her eyes and saw her own reflection looking back at her. She sat there coiled up while she pondered. Vilmheim and Domdracveria had slipped from Imperial and Church hands so quickly and the entire North and the pagans have been emboldened by recent events because of it. With rumors and fears about a looming crisis within the Empire and a possible civil war, everyone else is near panicking. The far north is not a place to keep such a previous stone either A Shard of The Second Tear most of all. Not with the demon realms of Vilmheim and now a Dragon Princess so close.


It was inevitable that they would move it south, but Viper had one upped them this time. Her last plan had failed, but this one had gone perfectly. All it required was the sacrifice of one sleeper agent. She didn't have the stone in her grasp, but it was out of Church hands. The hands it was in, was good enough. She felt that she could recover it at her leisure when she needed it. That was good enough for her. Lake Anthren was thought to be bottomless. Everything on that barge will be presumed lost to the confines of that deep dark lake. And the Empire is down one Colossal Barge. Not something they can replace easily. Even if the Imperial coffers were full. Their ability to defend their northern boarder from the pagan north and the demon realms dotting them would be greatly hindered. Supply lines would be stressed, unmanageable. Further rash crusades sponsored by the Church would be suicide missions. Typhon had won a great victory today, even if it didn't achieve every objective.


But this Laven character, Viper thought to herself. Who exactly is this man? She had met him only briefly before, but was there more to this man than she first thought? Were the rumors true that he turned the tide of the civil war in Domdracveria by himself? Where was he going now? What mayhem would he cause just by being nearby? How could she benefit from it?


     “Lavvven.” Viper hissed. “Coincidence? Or...” She chuckled to herself. “What 'ssstar' above guidesss you?”


Viper continued to chuckle to herself, then broke into laughter in the darkness of her parlor. Her rattle shaking fiercely and filling the still and stagnant air with a foreboding sound.

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