Mors Funebris Ch. 1 P 7

 

 

Sculpture by Hajime Sorayama

Mors Funebris Chapter 1 Part 7

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“What of Arawn?” Tia asked as levelly as she could. Which wasn’t much. Andra smiled sadly at Tia, as she got to her feet.

“I don’t know Tia. I have no idea about what we could do to try and rescue him. I’m sorry for misjudging him Tia. I was wrong in thinking that he was a waste of breath.” She closed her eyes for several seconds, trying to think of something to appropriate to say. Finally, she opened her eyes when she thought she had it.

“In the end, he proved his worth. He chose to accept the death that was meant for you.”

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Tia remained for over an hour in the spot she’d been ‘castled’ to by Arawn, waiting for Command to mount a rescue for him. She told herself several times that it was overdue for her to move, but she just couldn’t make herself shift away.

Yet to her annoyance, after a time that wasn’t nearly long enough to her, she was asked to move along by the Platform Sergeant in charge.

“Corporal, we need you to move!” the Green-eyed Lamia Sergeant almost growled at Tia. But when Tia meaningfully settled herself down, the Lamia changed her tactics.

“Please move.” She asked in a nicer tone, as she continued to insist on shooing Tia away.

“Why?” Tia demanded as she got up, feeling a surge of defiance well up.

“Because you’re in the way! We need to catch up with the transport of goods that were delayed by your ward, Arawn.” The Lamia stated in a cold and logical voice. Finally looking around herself, Tia noted sitting spot had caused a number of relief troops to find an alternate route around her.

“Fine.” Tia replied, equally coldly, getting her tarsi firmly set underneath her.

‘Why is that,’ Tia silently complained as grumpy frown crossed her furry face. ‘Command is dragging their feet to mount a rescue, but I have to move?’ Tia thought uncharitably, as there seemed to be a complete lack of concern towards Arawn’s loss.

Even as exhausted as she was with the events of the last day, Tia found herself unwilling to simply go home and rest. Instead, she meandered her way over to one of the, more out of the way corners of the Pavilion. There, she settled her spider-body down into a semi-comfortable stance, with her knees sticking up at roughly eye level.

Once she had found herself a stable position in which to continue her vigil, she kept herself almost perfectly still to await some sign of, or change in, Arawn’s status. Her species, the Jumping Spider Arachne, were among the elite when it came to ‘Waiting-Patiently’, after all.

As she did, she began to go over in her mind the events that had lead her here. Her ward, Arawn, had teleported in early morning yesterday and had managed to create a fault in the Teleportation system. A fault that Winnie the Gremlin had tried to fix, and as a result she’d somehow ended up trapped in another dimension, being brutally assaulted by Tentacle-Things.

Tia shook herself in exasperation as she recounted what came next: Winnie’s plight only became apparent, after Tia had ‘shared’ some of her memories with Arawn, in some non-magical process/ability he had. During that mental-bridge of memory sharing, they’d been interrupted. The shock of which, allowed Arawn to detect Winnie. How, Tia had no idea.

As a result of that, Winnie had been successfully rescued. But that rescue turned sour, when Tia had very nearly ended up taking Winnie’s place. But at the last second, Arawn had used the last of his Mana reserves and exchanged Tia for himself.

‘Thus, he was the one who ended up trapped.’ She thought grimly, with her jaw quivering just a mite. ‘Surely such valor would warrant a rescue?’ Tia asked herself.

Occasionally, she got the urge to groom herself with her finger/claws. But every time she extended her arms to begin, her enthusiasm for it swiftly evaporated. The last time she did, she stopped as if frozen in place, as an undesirable thought scampered across her mind.

‘Accept the death meant for me?’ she pondered Ardra’s words once more, with her arms still reaching out to her thorax. It was the self-same thought that had bound across her mind’s eye countless times in the hours since.

‘Why does that sound so damnably familiar?!’ she raged silently, as she bared her pointed teeth in frustration, hugging her arms to herself.

‘He can’t be dead.’ She thought, ‘He mustn’t!’ she decided with finality, as she fought to suppress that first morsel of grief that threatened to Pounce upon her.

She found herself looking yet again to the spot where the Portal that Arawn and Jinks had opened, and saw nothing, still. There was not even a hint of a flux in the air that would indicate the first sign of its reappearing.

‘He’s a Majin, surely he must’ve created a method of escape by now?’ she thought forlornly, still staring while drawing her legs closer in.

Sighing, she dropped her gaze back down to the Pavilion floor. After a few minutes of staring at nothing, she began to idly observe her fellow Porter Techs, and the other troops around her. Which was easy for her to do, considering the number of eyes that wrapped around her skull.

Quietly, she took note of her fellow Porters who were on duty. A couple of them were working the transports to and from Royal Makai. While others, were managing the shipment of Troops and supplies to Alizhaar and the needy trolls therein.

‘Routine things, being done by routine people.’ She thought to herself with a frustrated sigh. Blinking languidly, Corporal Tia followed first one individual Porter-Tech with her eyes as they meandered around the Platform, and then another.

As the hours sluggishly increased in number, Tia remained steadfast in her vigil, determined to be there when he found a way to return. All the while she ignored her increasing hunger pangs and suppressed her thirst as only a predator could do.

Slowly, her fatigue and her stress overcame her enthusiasm, and before she became aware of it, she’d fallen asleep. The only outward sign that she’d done so, was the catlike-purring that Jumping Spiders make when they snore. To anyone who wasn’t familiar with that brand of Mamono, she seemingly remained crouched in readiness to pounce upon someone or something, All the while staring blankly at nothing, as if she were on guard-duty.

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During her sleep, she dreamed.

At one point she dreamt that she was in the forests of the Ironbark district of Kumari Kandam. Those were the forests that surrounded her childhood home. Which itself, lay several weeks journey to the south and west of Cynosure.

In this memory-dream, she was taking part in a hunting party that was stalking prey for her Colony’s communal larder. That had been a particularly productive one. Most of the party, had managed to pounce upon at least one large beast each. She dimly remembered that only a couple of them returned home unladen with a silk wrapped prize.

Tia smiled happily as she looked over her own catch, which was a mid-sized pronghorn antelope. Oh, how she enjoyed the thrill of stalking her prey! And the joy of injecting her poison once she had successfully pounced it! It was near indescribable!

‘It feels like Victory!’ she decided in her dream remembrance.

Eventually, her dreams began to turn to an odder variety. Instead of one of the numerous joyful hunting parties, she found herself skulking about in a vast cavern that felt and smelled odd. This one wasn’t a lava cave like her childhood home. Oh no, this one was taller, wider, and seemed positively ancient.

Darkness shrouded the vista around her. Somehow in this unusual dream, she ‘knew’ that there were unseen creatures in the inkiness surrounding her. But she didn’t feel afraid of them. Jumpers, were afraid of only a handful of creatures, and the ones they were didn’t normally inhabit caves.

Dimly at first, but at an ever-increasing rate, she began to hear those creatures. After the first few cries, she realized what they were. Cats.

There dozens of them there. Yet, unlike the stray cats of the city and their mindless caterwauling, Tia realized that she could understand what these cats were saying!

There! Over to the right! There was a gray tabby sitting upon the stony floor next to a collection of what appeared to be pile of armor. Tia stepped over closer to him so as to listen.

‘Hello, little one.’ Tia dream-thought to it, ‘What’s wrong?’

‘Home! Can’t find home!’ it mewed to itself. ‘Not nice here. Food? Where are my litter mates?’ the small cat cried looking at nothing, ignoring her all the while.

Tia crouched down and reached out a hand to try and give the poor little kitty a reassuring head pat. But, all she got for her troubles, was an outraged hiss when she made contact. The grey tabby, almost a kitten, swiped at her hand with its paw, then bound off into the darkness, outraged.

Though Tia knew that she wasn’t physically harmed, as she drew herself up to her full height, she felt somewhat hurt by the cats’ actions.

‘Still, I’d be hard pressed to be in a good mood if I were left alone in this place.’ Tia thought, as she continued to look around and listen to the other cats. Slowly, her eyes became used to the gloom.

Over there, there was something that appeared to be a human lying prone on the ground, yet it looked off. Cautiously Tia stepped closer and then stopped, finding herself disgusted by the sight.

At first glance, it appeared to be the body of a dead human seemingly ripped apart. Her disgust began to disappear once she got a better look. She discovered that instead of a body, it was some sort of statue that had been shattered, at an unknown amount of time ago.

‘Wait!’ She realized as she picked up a portion ‘No, this isn’t a statue! It’s some sort of Magi-Tech Automaton. I remember reading about them in a dispatch from Royal Makai!’ Tia remembered, blepping slightly as she tried to recall what exactly that dispatch had demanded. She didn’t get far, as her train of thought became derailed when she felt someone’s hand on her shoulder.

‘WHAT!’ she gasped, turning around and slapping away that hand, ‘Who?!’ She demanded, feeling her fear response take over as the sound of her hearts started pounding in her ears. When she saw who it was who touched her, she was shocked.

It was Arawn, his clothing was in tatters and he seemed to be trying to say something to her. At first, she couldn’t understand him. She saw that his mouth moved as if her were shouting, but his voice came out on the level of a whisper. She leaned over as she tried her best to listen.

‘Mentor!’ he shouted quietly, ‘I have been attempting to make contact with  you! I have need of your assistance!’ he demanded, as he took ahold of one of her arms.

‘Wait Arawn! Are you all right? How did you get out?’ She demanded then, trying to pull herself away from his grasp. But he wouldn’t let go of her. She felt it was good to see him, but there was something about the current situation that seemed off to her. What he said next, caused her to flinch in revulsion.

‘I did not get out! I am still on the far side, Mentor!’ he stated to her in his faraway voice.

‘But how? Then how can I see you in the here and now?’ she demanded, agitated.

‘We are both in a dream state Tia!’ Arawn shouted in that faraway voice, but now it seemed like he was getting farther away.

“TIA!!” came another, clearer, voice.

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“TIA!” barked a soft, yet insistently annoying voice that disturbed Tia from her slumber. Tia jumped slightly backwards as she awoke, instantly at alert and raising her arms in defense. Rapidly, she began blinking all of her eyes furiously in an effort to clear the cobwebs of her interrupted sleep.

But she wasn’t under attack, instead she saw that there was only Dark Sergeant Ardra, a Salamander. She was standing a short distance away, and she was doing something that was completely out of character for her.

She was smiling indulgently. It wasn’t much, just a slight raising of the corners of her mouth, but they did so just enough to cause her red scaly ears to rise up a millimeter.

Clearing the last bit of sleep from her eyes, Tia found herself so fascinated by this unusual event, that she didn’t hear what Ardra was saying to her at first.

“Sergeant?” Tia blinked blearily, shaking her head. “I’m sorry, what?”

“I said,” Sergeant Ardra stated patiently with a sigh, “It’s time for you to go home Corporal.” Ardra closed her eyes as she sighed deeply. Opening them again and fixing Tia with a stern expression she continued.

“Your loyalty to your ward is admirable Tia. But, you’ve been asleep for the better part of several hours. It’s time for you to go home and get some rest.”

“But, I,..!” Tia began.

“No buts!” Ardra said loudly enough to cut off more of Tia’s protests. All the while, she held a stern hand out in negation. Tia had to bite her tongue to keep from arguing with her Supervisor.

“There’s been no change in Arawn’s status Tia.” Ardra explained patiently, then she sighed once more. Licking her lips, she began again.

“Command has been briefed on what you and Arawn did to retrieve Winnie. Be assured that they’re still working on a plan to rescue him.” Ardra explained, not quite meeting Tia’s eyes.

Tia remained silent as she listened to Ardra continue talking for several more minutes. But, she noticed the difference between what she was saying, and what she wasn’t. The more Ardra talked, the more anger Tia felt rising within her. Finally, she had had enough.

“In other words,” Tia interrupted Ardra coldly, “none of you have any idea what to do to mount an effective rescue. Do you?” she demanded, attempting to stare the Salamander down. Silent, Sergeant Ardra wouldn’t meet her gaze then.

“Do YOU!?” she demanded again, more fiercely. Finally, Ardra faced her full on. But the resolution on her face, gave Tia all the answer she needed.

“No, we don’t.” Ardra replied shaking her head, confirming Tia’s fears. Tia turned and made to get up and go then. But stopped when she felt Ardra’s claws upon her shoulder.

“Even our most powerful Majin has no idea what to make of what happened to him, or Winnie. But consider this, from what I’ve read about him, Tia. He is both resourceful and a survivor. After all, Winnie survived,…wherever she went to, for over a day.”

“Majin Arawn, has been there for less than that! He may yet surprise us all.” Ardra whispered so low that Tia shouldn’t have heard. Yet Tia somehow did hear her over the din of the near constant teleportation and techs.

“Perhaps.” Tia replied in a mutter, disgusted. Standing up, she began thinking of the little time she’d spent in his company thus far, and that recent dream she’d had of him just now.

‘Was it just a dream?’ she pondered, as she turned and left the Pavilion.

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Later, after paralyzing and then eating an unremarkable meal at the Mess Hall, Tia went to her quarters to try and get herself some much-needed rest. But, try as she might, rest eluded her as she found herself waking up shortly every time she fell asleep.

Frustrated after only managing to sleep for ten minutes the last time, she gave up trying. Corporal Tia then padded her eight spider legs over to Arawn’s quarters. For some unknown reason, she felt an almost uncontrollable urge to do so then.

Tia detested invading someone else’s privacy. But, technically speaking, she was still in charge of Arawn, and she still held a number of reservations concerning his behavior. Thus, she had kept in reserve one security feature, that she shouldn’t have had held onto. What she should’ve done after giving Arawn access to his apartment, was eliminate her own Dweomer-pattern from the door’s security-lock.

Every apartment on Fort Eequor, was supposed to be accessed by only a select number of people. Such as the occupant, or anyone else they deemed appropriate, like an Ajama-Maid, or a trusted friend.
Base security could gain access of course, but even such as they would need a good reason to demand it. The Fort’s rules treated any casual invasion of a Mamono’s privacy, harshly. Tia had been well aware of this, when she decided to not eliminate her own Dweomer.

‘Always make an escape route.’ She had determined in the here and now. ‘Even if you need to escape in! I will deal with the consequences for this, later.’ She thought, as she entered her now inappropriate Cantrip/Access to his apartment’s front door. Looking left and right one last time, she noted that none of the other occupants of his building were about.

She had her hand on the door access panel all set to open, when one last chilling thought came to her.

‘He’s a Majin, he may have set up some kind of protective ward.’ She recalled, hesitating for a second more.
Then, she felt something out of the ordinary, as an unbidden thought occurred to her mind. ‘UNLOCK!’ the errant thought said, seemingly without her input.

Drawing back for a second, Tia felt herself puzzled.

‘Where did that come from?’ she asked herself, blinking in surprise. ‘It’s like I’ve been programmed. Just WHY am I here again? I can’t help him from here!’ she thought nervously.

‘Enough!’ Tia berated herself suddenly, quelling her nervousness, ‘If there is a chance I can help him, I must take it!’ she thought in an effort to steel herself. She then placed a hand onto the access panel. But this time, instead of a thrill of fear when she touched it, she felt,…calm.

Emboldened, she pressed upon the door until it had opened fully. After waiting a second, she padded herself into the apartment fully and closed the door behind her.

Cautiously, she looked around and waited for something, anything, to occur.

“Wards?” she spoke aloud with a nervous quiver. But nothing came. Deep down, she felt silly about her actions. Somehow, she knew that such traps were there, but they’d been rendered safe.

Tia then began to take note of everything around her in Arawn’s apartment. There was still much in the way of clutter. But there were also signs of a nascent organization.

‘He has a long way to go before the place is properly tidy,’ she surmised with a smile lighting up her face, ‘Perhaps I should assign an Ajama-Maid to him?’ she idly mused, looking around.

She felt torn momentarily. Part of her wanted to do what she came here for, while another part wanted to explore all of the wondrous sights that surrounded her. As she cast greedy eyes upon the shelves that surrounded her then, she felt an almost overwhelming urge to inspect the treasures she saw lying all about.

There were Books and Scrolls and Treatises of Magic, all of which sat haphazardly piled about. There were mechanical devices, tools, and shaped hunks of metal, crystal, wood, and other materials that she couldn’t identify. They all lay in strewn about in piles here and there. The only items missing, were some dribbly candles and a stuffed crocodile carcass hanging from the ceiling.

‘There are enough gizmos here to make a Gremlin wet with desire!’ Tia chuckled to herself, then her face froze as she remembered Winnie, and then Arawn. Guiltily, she began to try and remember what her motivation was for coming here.

Then she recalled that almost overpowering urge that led her here. Acting on instinct, she decided to let it navigate her. Closing her eyes, she surrendered herself to it.

After a few more seconds, she found herself starting to walk about seemingly at random. But instead of opening her eyes and spoiling the moment, she forced herself to allow it free reign.

Finally, slowly, she came to a stop. Opening her eyes at last, she found herself looking up at that strange shield-like object that Arawn had sported upon his back for much of the previous day.

She recalled that the logo etched upon the shield; eight black arrows expanding from the center, was supposed to be an ancient symbol of Chaos.  Looking at it, it seemed important to her for some unknown reason.

‘A Dimensional Access, he had said.’ Tia thought, as she stared at the shield. ‘But why is it important now?’ she asked, as she continued musing over the thought. Slowly, she felt a yawn begin to overcome her. She fought it at first. But the longer she continued to stare at the shield, the more insistent the need to yawn became.

Until finally, she realized that her much desired restful sleep had begun to overwhelm her. Giving in, she allowed all of her eyes to close, and so she began to dream once more.

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In that dream, Tia found herself walking down a corridor. This corridor was one that seemed to be paneled with some kind of unusual wood. But it wasn’t a corridor she’d ever encountered before.

Looking about, she noticed that there appeared to be numerous languages written in glowing letters on the walls. Instead of trying to read those words, she found herself fascinated instead by the floor covering. This was due to her tarsi claws catching slightly on the fine weaving, every time she took a step.

‘Odd, I’ve never seen such a long rug before.’ She thought to herself. ‘It’s like it never ends.’ She smiled to herself.

‘Wait! It has no ends!’ she gaped in awe as she turned her head to the left and right, standing in the middle of the corridor. Hesitating in her examination of the unusual rug, she noticed an opening along one wall. Upon seeing it, she felt the urge to enter, so she did.

Inside, she discovered what appeared to be a Bar, or some kind of Tavern, she wasn’t sure which. Yet strangely, there weren’t any other customers. There wasn’t anyone there at all, with the exception of the Barkeep.

She, appeared to be a mere human in form, and she was busying herself in the self-appointed task of keeping the glasses and bar top cleaned.

Tia approached her, wishing to ask some questions. But when she came close to the blonde-haired woman, she froze. Even though the human woman looked up and smiled at Tia when she got near, that smile didn’t go near her eyes.

Instead, those blazingly blue eyes looked back at Tia with a deep and abiding loathing. Tia decided that it would be best if she kept herself as far away from the barkeep as she could manage.

Tia felt the female’s eyes boring solidly into her back as she moved away, which gave her a chill.  She also got the impression that the woman wanted to lash out at her. But, had held barely held herself back.

‘Where am I?’ she asked aloud, hearing her voice echo in the nearly deserted Bar. Then, Tia made the mistake of looking up. What she saw up there, frightened her enough to make her lay down an anchoring line of silk.

Up there, above and through what seemed like an endless pane of glass lay Stars. Vertigo threatened to overwhelm her as she stared out at what appeared to be an endless void, filled with countless points of light. There were far more stars overhead then, that she’d ever recalled seeing before! Some pulsed, others were steady, all shone with a brilliance that left her reeling!

In amongst those stars, were a number of metallic spires that held what appeared to be a collection of strange looking massive objects that were attached to the spires, like fruit to trees.

‘Ships.’ She realized somehow. ‘But they looking nothing like any ship I’ve ever seen!’

Then, with a rapid intake of breath, she saw what she’d thought was a mountain at first, peeping over the edge of the glass. But then she realized that it was some kind of moon! But what a moon it was!

Tia then held up a hand at arm’s length to judge its size. Even then her hand covered only a small portion of it. ‘Immense’, was the only word she could come up with to describe that lone Moon.

But it wasn’t silvery-gray like the Moon she’d known since her childhood. No, this moon was covered in massive swirls and bands of color; greens, yellows, browns, greys. It was like the moon was covered by an artist’s spilled palette of paint and hues of all colors, constantly mixing!

‘What is this place!?’ she demanded of no one. She jumped when she heard an answer.

‘This place is something called a Spaceport.’ Came the sound of Arawn’s voice. Turning her head, Tia saw him standing nearby. Frowning, she turned her head to look at him, annoyed that she had neither heard nor felt his approach.

‘Wait.’ She stated silently then, contemplating. ‘This is another dream isn’t it?’ Tia asked in realization, turning and facing him full on. Arawn remained silent as Tia examined him with her eyes, she felt that there was something ‘off’ about him.

After a moment, Tia finally noticed what had been bothering her. Instead of his usual togs, he was now wearing a full body uniform that was giving off an unusual shine. It also seemed to be covered with pockets, but,…

‘Yes Mentor. You are in fact dreaming.’ He stated then, interrupting her thoughts.

‘But I normally only dream of places I’ve been to, and I’ve never been to any place that looked like this!’ Tia exclaimed excitedly, gesturing upwards at that weird moon over them both. Arawn followed her gaze and smiled for a second and then faced her once more.

“No, you have not.’ Arawn smiled, ‘But I have.’

‘That doesn’t make any sense!’ Tia replied irately. ‘How can I be dreaming your mem,…?’ she demanded, then she stopped, as a thoughtful look crossed her face.

‘The Mental-Bridge?’ she asked quietly, focusing her eyes on him with a frown. Arawn nodded at her.

‘You are a quick study, Mentor.’ He replied, still smiling.

‘You told me that that Mental-Bridge wouldn’t have any repercussions.’ She stated accusingly.

‘Actually, I stated that it was highly unlikely that it would, if we were careful, remember? But even as careful as we were, it wasn’t enough.’ Arawn replied, looking apologetic. Tia smacked her lips thoughtfully. ‘Apparently.’ He finished.

‘Sergeant Ardra’s interruption?’ she said finally. Arawn gave a non-smile and nodded.

‘I am afraid so, Mentor. Like it or not, we now have a permanent mental link. Which is just as well, under the circumstances.’

‘What circumstances?’ she demanded archly.

‘Think back Tia, has there been anything out of the ordinary recently?’ Tia couldn’t think of anything at first, then with an ever-increasing look of surprise blooming in her face, she began to remember.

‘Wait!’ she gasped, ‘Arawn are you still trapped?’ she demanded, panting a little.

‘Yes Tia, I am.’ He began, grinning humorlessly. ‘I am still trapped on the far side of,…well,…from wherever it is that we rescued Winnie. How is she by the way?’ he asked, concernedly.

‘She’s fine!’ Tia waved a hand dismissively, ‘According to reports she’s physically exhausted, but the Medics expect her to make a full recovery. What about you? I don’t understand! How can you be there, and yet you can communicate HERE!’ she demanded exasperatedly, quivering with confusion. Arawn raised both his hands in an effort to explain.

‘Please try to calm yourself Tia!’ he stated patiently. ‘If you do not, then you will wake up, and we will have to have this conversation yet again.’

‘Wake up again?! What do you mean Again?’ she demanded shrilly. To which Arawn crossed his arms and looked expectantly at her with an annoyed expression. After a second or three, she got the point and managed to calm herself with some effort. He then asked her something curious.

‘Before we continue in this conversation, have you seen any other persons here?’ he asked. Tia nodded and then told him about the blonde-haired human female.

‘Her again! Faex!’ Arawn replied, grimacing while moving about and looking about for her.

‘What?’ Tia asked, wondering what the fuss was about.

‘Because technically in this dream, it should only be you and I present.’ he explained with a frustrated look on his face, looking underneath a nearby cloth covered table. Tia moved over and laid a hand on his shoulder with a questioning look. Arawn sighed, and then stood up.

‘What we are sharing right now, isn’t a ‘normal’ dream. It is one called a: Dream-Sending. It is a crude, yet effective method of communication across planes of reality, or universes.’ He explained while motioning with his hands, searching the room with his eyes. Tia kept silent, trying to take all of his words in.

‘Unfortunately, it is also unsecure. As such, it is easy for others to insinuate their way in.’ Arawn continued, baring his teeth in frustration, while opening a number of nearby doors and cabinets. ‘Which has already occurred several times in the last few hours, I say ‘AGAIN’ because that blonde-haired person has managed to interrupt our previous Dream Sending conversations several times.’

‘Who is she?’ Tia demanded. Arawn paused in his search and looked at her full on.

‘An agent of the Order.’ He replied, with a sour look on his face. ‘Either an Order Angel, or the Chief God herself.’

‘The Chief God?’ Tia asked skeptically, trying to keep from laughing with the ludicrousness of the thought.

‘She and I have a history of sorts. It is not a good one.’ He said off handedly, gritting his teeth in frustration.

‘Why would she be interested in us?’ Tia asked, cocking her head with an indulgent smile. Arawn ignored it.

‘She is still at war with the Great Maou, is she not? Furthermore, she is apparently interested in something that is located in Cynosure. What, I do not know.’ Tia kept silent as she watched him grimace with frustration, then he took a few calming breaths.

‘Be that as it may, we will have to take the chance that she can eavesdrop upon our conversation.’ He said, returning his attention to her.

‘Now.’ He began, holding up both hands with both index fingers pointing up, ‘To answer all of your questions, AGAIN. We have had this conversation several times already. Please trust me on this. Every time thus far, you have been woken up prematurely by that Order Agent, and in so doing, you have forgotten everything we discussed, with one exception. Luckily, your urge to seek out my Shield, was not.’

‘What is it that I’ve forgotten?’ she asked, confused.

‘That I need your help, Mentor. I cannot get out of that place that I am trapped in without your help.’ He continued, holding a hand out to forestall her next set of questions.

‘Now, to begin to answer all of your questions once more. You were kind enough to share your memories with me. Unfortunately, your memories are easy for you to be woken up from. This place,’ he gestured to everything around them both, ‘this Spaceport, is one of my more favored memories, and much more difficult for you and I to be disturbed.’ He went on to explain.

‘A spaceport is comparable to Cynosure, in that there are numerous ships always coming and going. But, instead of ships that sail the seas of a single world, these ships are those that sail in between the stars.’ Arawn stopped when he noticed Tia’s skeptical look. ‘Please, no more questions. Just try to accept this.’

With an effort, Tia suppressed her curiosity and silenced them all but for one.

‘Wait!’ she demanded. ‘Just one question! What!’ she asked, pointing, ‘Is That?!’ Arawn followed where she was pointing to and grinned. Tia, looking at it too, felt a surge of emotions that weren’t her own, Pride, Joy, Contentment, all of them welled up at the sight of one of those oddly shaped metallic ‘ships’ overhead.

‘That Mentor,’ he continued as he turned back to her. ‘Is my ship. The one that I commanded many centuries ago. She was called, ‘The Reaper’s Edge.’ A war prize you might say.’

‘A war prize? In what war?’ Tia demanded, forgetting her one question limit. Arawn sighed patiently.

‘In the war for the control of the Solomani Rim.’ He replied, ‘Yes, I know, that does not make any sense. However, if I may get back to my original point?’ he asked. Tia felt herself brimming over with curiosity about ‘his’ ship.

‘I know that you are filled with many, many, more questions Tia, but we are both under a time limit. I cannot maintain this line of communication much longer.’ Arawn sighed.

‘I promise that I will answer every question you have, later. But right now, I need you to focus.’ With great reluctance, Tia eventually nodded and quieted herself.

‘Thank you.’ Arawn replied, his relief palpable. ‘To begin again, this is a Dream-Sending, and it is costing me much in the way of the mana reserves that I have left to initiate, let alone to maintain. I do not know what I will do, if this comes to naught. So, I need you to listen and listen closely.’

Slowly, and with much patience, Arawn began to inform her of what he needed her to do once she awoke. Once he had finished, she found herself aghast, and outraged.

 ‘Arawn!’ Tia shouted in that deserted bar, loud enough to hear her own voice echo, and certainly loud enough for the now hidden barkeep to hear her. ‘You want me to access the root core commands of the Teleportation Platform to SHUT IT DOWN?!! That is forbidden! If I get caught doing such a thing, I could be court-martialed, quite possibly executed! How can you ask me to do that!?’ she demanded. Arawn remained abashedly silent for a moment.

Unseen by either of them the Chief God. and it had indeed been her, had overheard Arawn’s instructions. When she realized the full implications of what he proposed, she smiled a triumphant smile.

‘If there were another way of freeing me,’ he began once more, ‘I would follow that lead, Mentor. Sadly, I do not know of any other way.’ He shook his head sadly.

 ‘I apologize for asking this of you, and yes, you are free to refuse. But keep in mind that if you do not, there is the very real chance that I will remain there in that desolate spot, trapped. Possibly forever.’

‘I need your help Tia, please.’ Arawn asked, extending a hand out to her. Tia closed her eyes at the sight of it, wishing that he’d not have asked such a great thing of her.

‘Tia, I am not alone.’ He began once more, interrupting the silence. ‘There are others trapped here in this place, they too desire escape.’

‘Who are they?’ she demanded, keeping her eyes screwed shut.

‘The city cats. Remember back at the Inn of the Prancing Cadaver? You mentioned that someone had been making all of the city cats disappear? They are all here too in this place. They wish to go home.’ He replied, his voice piercing its way through her doubts. Tia opened her eyes, and when she did the ‘Spaceport’ was gone. Looking about, she saw that she and Arawn were standing in that darkened cave again.

All about her, were those Automaton parts littering the floor. In amongst those parts were cats, dozens of them. Most of them seemed listless or sleepy.

With that Dream-Sense, she knew that they were all hungry enough to be on the verge of succumbing to starvation. She felt a desire to help them. But what Arawn suggested, was dangerous, outrageous even! Tia turned her eyes to face Arawn and his outstretched hand once more.

‘You said that you wished that you had treated them better.’ Arawn stated, holding out a hand beseechingly to her. ‘Now is your chance to redeem yourself.’ Even then, Tia wouldn’t meet his eyes. Sighing silently, Arawn changed tactics.

‘You expressed a desire to be a Majin did you not?’ he asked her, grimly.

‘Are you saying that you have the ability to turn me into a Majin now?’ Tia demanded archly, watching his reaction closely. Arawn sighed, and began to nod, then shook his head.

‘No Tia. I do not know of any way to instill that ability into someone who does not already have it.’

‘Then why bring it up?’ she asked with her eyes burning fiercely, felling hurt that he would. He began to answer by pointing a finger to his head.

‘True Majin, are not Majin because they have a panoply of memorized spells at their beck and call, like a child with a bag of marbles.’ Arawn stated, then paused while reflecting. After a moment’s consideration he continued, as he made a fist of one hand and placed it on his chest.

‘They are Majin because they take chances, Tia. Fortune favors the Bold.’

Tia stared at him for several more seconds, expecting him to continue speaking. But he didn’t. Finally, Tia realized that he had said everything that he was going to. Turning away from him in that dream-state, she realized that she had already made her decision about what she was going to do.

Setting her mouth into a thin hard line, she turned to Arawn and opened her mouth to reply.

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“Father Heilar?” Father Hakon called out guardedly into the ‘Sword-Chamber’. The very chamber that lay so far beneath the Teleportation Platform of the hated Mamono military base.

“Are you there?!” Hakon finished. He couldn’t quite see the center of that weird chamber, and waited breathlessly for a moment, hoping that he wouldn’t receive an answer. That hope was in vain.

“What is it?!” demanded an echoing voice, it came from one of the two remaining Order priests in Cynosure.

‘Damn.’ Hakon thought with an audible sigh.

“What do you want? Speak!” Heilar ordered acerbically. Hakon stiffened himself in response, and then strode forward into the chamber resolutely.

“I have come to inquire about your status Father Heilar. Your Parishioners are worried about you!” Hakon lied, as he walked around one particularly large stalagmite. One that hadn’t yet been cleared away by the volunteers.

“You missed your last,…” Hakon continued, then stopped when he finally caught sight of his cohort in theological crime.

What he saw there, left him dumbfounded. Father Heilar was standing in front of that Arcane Artifact that he and Heilar had wasted twenty years of their lives searching for. Only to find it out of reach once they did, there in the caverns underneath Cynosure.

“Father Heilar? What are you doing? Have you finally gone mad?” Hakon exclaimed, aghast at the sight of his Mentor and Warden. Stepping closer, he was finally able to see clearly now what had startled him so.

Heilar was standing dangerously close to the Sword and its invisible protective field. He was as close as any living thing dared without being ‘evaporated’, like so many of the city cats he and Heilar had tossed into it.

“Mad?!” Heilar chuckled then, the sound of that muted laughter from his Mentor sending a shiver up Hakon’s spine. Swallowing his fear, he stepped close enough to Heilar, so as to be able to push him into the sword’s protective field.

‘Just one shove.’ Hakon thought, sorely tempted, lifting his arms in preparation.

“Perhaps I am, Father Hakon. Perhaps I am.” Heilar replied suddenly, turning his head over his shoulder to match his gaze with Hakon’s. Seeing it, Hakon hesitated.

“What’s stopping you Hakon?” Heilar smiled, “I may be mad, but I’m not a fool. I know what you’re thinking. Just one accidental push, and you’d be the single remaining Priest here. Well go ahead then!” Heilar dared.

“But if you do, then you’ll never know why I’m doing this.” Heilar hissed, turning his attention back to the Sword Artifact.

Hakon didn’t want to ask, but yet, another small part of him did. For a moment, there was a war within him. A war fought between the part that wanted to shove Heilar into the field, and the part that wanted to know why he had left himself so vulnerable. In a trice, he made his decision.

“Why?” he asked aloud, forcibly moving his arms to his sides. Heilar chuckled again, hard enough to cause his grey head hair to shimmy.

“Why?” Heilar echoed, “Because the Chief God has finally answered my prayers Hakon!” he shouted vehemently! “SHE spoke with me, personally!”

“Did she now?” Hakon asked skeptically, his mouth curling into a smirk.

“Yes Hakon, SHE did!” Heilar answered derisively. “Oh, ye of little faith! I know that you never really believed in HER, not like I do!” Heilar sneered unseen at Hakon then. But Hakon recognized the contempt in Heilar’s tone. After all, he’d heard it for the last twenty years, since before his son died by Heilar’s hand.

“SHE came to me in a dream, Hakon. In the appearance of a Barkeep.” Hakon’s first instinct was to roll his eyes at that bit of news. Which he did.

“A Barkeep?” Hakon asked, somehow managing to keep the sarcasm out of his voice.

‘I doubt that the record of this Revelation, will find its way into the official accounts.’ Hakon thought, suppressing his laughter. Heilar continued on as if he hadn’t heard his compadre.

“SHE thanked me for my devotion and perseverance! And because of that, I was to be given a Golden Opportunity to prove myself to HER once and for all!” Heilar then began to shout in his enthusiasm, ignoring Hakon entirely.

“SHE ordered me to go this Sword Chamber and stand ready!” Heilar continued, unmindful of his fellow priest’s amusement.

“Soon, QUITE SOON! THE HOUR WILL BE UPON US, AND I WILL BE ABLE TO GRASP THE SWORD THAT IS BEFORE ME WITH IMPUNITY!” Heilar half screamed/half yelled. Hakon had to step back then, covering his ears. The chamber in which he and Heilar stood within was quite resonant, and Hakon’s screaming was causing his ears to ache.

“I have only to be patient Hakon!” Heilar spoke again, thankfully at a normal tone, “I will have but one chance to grasp the Sword, and when I do I will have the Fate of the World within my grasp!” Finally, Hakon had had enough of this tripe. Silently, he turned around and strode from the Sword Chamber, his boot heels striking a steady tempo as he returned from whence he came.

‘I have my answer, Father Heilar has indeed gone stark raving mad! I need not but do nothing but wait! Heilar will become so tired in his monitoring, that he’ll stumble into that protective field on his own!’ Hakon thought, shaking his head as he finally exited the Chamber.

‘A few hours at most, and I’ll be free of him at last!’ he realized, a smile of satisfaction appearing on his face.

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Many hours later, Tia reported back to the Teleportation Platform, eager to take on a duty shift. Thankfully, after that ‘Dream-Sending’ she and Arawn had shared, she had managed a long and restful sleep.

“Why are you here, Corporal?” frowned Sergeant Falco, a Duck-Hawk Harpy, and the Dark Sergeant currently in charge of the Platforms. “Aren’t you supposed to be mentoring an officer recruit right now?” Falco asked, her neck feathers flaring out with suspicion.

“Normally yes, but that one is unavailable right now.” Tia answered as evenly as she could, “I’m not one to idly stand about wasting my time, so I thought I’d come over and lend a hand in the catching up.”  Tia replied calmly and staring at Falco in the eye. Sgt. Falco stared back for several seconds, seemingly waiting to see if Tia wavered in her resolve. Finally, Falco blinked first and turned away, accepting Tia’s assertion at face value.

Without hesitating, Tia took her assigned duty station for the day. Ironically, she found herself at the Platform that Arawn had ‘ported’ in just a couple of days ago, #8. Cheerfully, she began the mundane routine of Teleporting in and out people, supplies, and personal goods.  All the while, she kept one eye out for Falco, and anyone else who Tia suspected might be surveilling her.

It was well that she’d decided to do so, as it became quite clear to her that at least half dozen individuals were, in fact monitoring her.

‘Platform #9’s tech, isn’t as busy as she ought to be.’ Tia noticed with one of her side eyes. ‘She keeps looking in my direction.’ Pausing momentarily and shifting herself around, she took note of something else.

‘Guards. Why are there guards being stationed here, now?’ She asked herself coldly. ‘Why it’s almost as if they expect me to do something untoward.’ She grimaced to herself, professionally tapping away at the console’s countless sigils, icons, buttons, and levers. ‘Which I do.’

‘Patient, I have to be patient. If I’m to pull this off, I will need time to enact what Arawn told me last night in my dreams.’ Tia startled herself as she realized she was chuckling under her breath.

‘Have I finally met the man of my dreams?’ she smiled, amused at her joke. That happy smile of hers, made everyone who was keeping an eye on her, visibly relax, which Tia took note of. Even so, she still took the time to exercise caution, and continued to efficiently do her job for several hours in an effort to waylay any concerns.

Over time, she noticed that the number of personnel watching her dropped off, as they had other more important duties to attend to. But, like a predator, Sergeant Falco kept most of her hawk-like attention focused on Corporal Tia.

Despite that, Tia began to surreptitiously put in a number of commands and access codes into a subroutine that she ‘knew’ would begin to allow her access. Doing such would activate that particular desired Shutdown Command of the Teleportation Platform core.

Finally, after several nerve-wracking hours of secretive input, she knew it was ready. She stopped and stood staring at what she had wrought, scared at the enormity of the betrayal of her oath to the Great Maou, and to those she served with at the Fort.

All she had to do was activate the ‘lynch-pin’ lever, then speak the three words of the Chthonic language that Arawn had patiently made her memorize over and over.

A sudden movement behind her, made Tia gasp aloud. Someone had managed to sneak up behind her in the one blind spot she’d had!

‘Maybe they won’t see it!’ she thought in rampant fear, feeling her hearts begin a rapid tempo as she covered the Deep Command Sigil with one of her hands.

“What is this?” came the voice of Dark Sergeant Ardra, as she reached around Tia and gently, yet firmly removed Tia’s hand from where it lay, revealing the Sigil it’d been vainly hiding. In her left side rearmost eye, Tia saw Ardra’s frown deepen fiercely when she saw it.

“Corporal.” Ardra spoke a single word then, in a tone that somehow managed to convey a fathomless well of disappointment.

“Why?” Dark Sergeant Ardra demanded then, squinting at Tia with a hurt betrayal.

“What about Arawn’s rescue?” Tia demanded, turning her head. When she and Ardra’s eyes met in that moment, Ardra looked away. Tia had her answer then. For whatever reason, Tia knew there was to be no rescue effort.

Emboldened, Tia made her choice. She immediately reached out to the activating lever, then flipped it. The Deep Command Sigil brightened considerably in response, ready for voice activation.

“TIA!” Ardra shouted then, loudly enough to garner the attention of all nearby. “STANDOWN!” she ordered. Tia made her defiance known with her next reply.

“KLAATU!” Tia shouted, giving the first Chthonic Activation word. Down on the console the Sigil changed color and gave out a tone to indicate the first step of its full activation. Tia drew in her next breath to say the next word.

But before she could, she was hit alongside the temple by Ardra’s balled fist, knocking her to the ground. There, she espied Ardra attempting to erase and deactivate the Sigil. Tia knew she couldn’t allow that.

“BARADA!” Tia shouted again. As before, she heard the tone of the Sigil’s second activation. Now, she only needed to say one word more.

“NO!” Ardra shouted then, raising one of her clawed feet to impact itself on Tia’s face full on. In that timeless moment, Tia committed to her choice.

“NIKTO!” she screamed, just as Ardra’s foot came down, crunching forcefully upon her face. Tia felt several somethings give away in her skull, while feeling a number of sharp pains flare up in response. As she felt herself collapse, she heard that deeply satisfying tone of the Sigil’s final activation.

“What have you done?!” Ardra demanded with a scream then, as every other Porter Platform in the Pavilion, began to shut itself down. Tia, dazed, found herself unable to answer.

 Instead, she reached a hand up to her face and felt an unusual wetness streaming from her nose. Pulling her fingers back, she took note that her fingertips were now colored blue. Blue with her copper-based blood, it was getting all over her.

‘Oh my, that’ll take forever to get out of my fur.’ She thought to herself in confusion, her predicament forgotten.

Suddenly, she found herself hauled upright, and forced to look around her as Ardra held her by her head hair.

“Look what’ve you done Tia!” Ardra roared, “What have you done!?” she demanded shrilly, her eyes blazing furiously into some of Tia’s.

Looking about, Tia realized fearfully, that she may have done something irrevocable. Instead of a freed Arawn as she had expected, she saw a massive cyclone that began to form in and around the Pavilion ceiling. Off in the distance, she heard the alarm bell ringing. She remembered why then.

The Cyclone continued to noisily rage as it expanded into a massive whirlpool that somehow extended itself upwards, beyond the level of the rafters of the Pavilion, yet it didn’t intersect with them. Tia felt a sense of forced perspective as she stared upwards into that yawning void that formed in the center of the cyclone overhead.

Dimly, she became aware of lightning like discharges that rumbled around the circumference of the cyclone’s edges. For a second, Tia thought she saw movement within the darkness that raged overhead. But that sight was cut off, when the cyclone narrowed a portion of itself down into a minor whirlwind, that touched itself upon the larger central platform.

It touched the surface of the floor for only a second, and then it retracted. But as it retracted, Tia, and everyone else still present there in the Pavilion, became aware of two things: 1) Arawn appeared where the whirlwind tip had been.

To Tia’s eye, he seemed much the worse for wear, seeing that his clothing was torn and shredded, and patches of his exposed skin were covered in a clear greenish-slime like substance that dripped off of him, and 2) he was seemingly surrounded and supported by that evil undulating mass of odd-looking tentacles that had held Winnie captive!

But unlike her, Tia noted that Arawn was not being penetrated, nor restrained?

Looking exhausted himself, he stepped away from the mass of tentacles that continued to swarm itself around his torso and limbs. Reluctantly, it let go of him as he resolutely advanced himself away them, walking towards Tia with a grim look set on his face. As he cleared the last of their embrace, every last tentacle retracted itself up into the Cyclone overhead.

At the moment, Tia wasn’t sure if she was happy or afraid to see him then. A dozen steps he advanced lurchingly. Looking about her, Tia noticed that she had several other people surrounding her, equally in shock.

Glancing over her shoulder, she was started to see Colonel Alenoth had appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. Catching her eye momentarily, the Colonel glowered at Tia, promising much in the way of punishment.

Turning her attention back to Arawn, she noted that he had stopped and stood on the other side of the console that Tia stood in front of.

He appeared to be carrying something in his left hand, that made her eyes water to look at. Which he then set down upon the floor alongside him. Raising his right hand, he clenched it into a fist and placed it over his bared toned chest. He then spoke.

“Yokai Basic Annwyfn Arawn, reporting to duty,” Arawn stated tiredly, yet somehow managing to convey several degrees of sarcasm, “Surprised Colonel?” He finished, but before the outraged Centaur Officer could respond, he spoke once more.

“I appreciate all of your efforts to mount a rescue effort upon my behalf.” He hissed, glowering at both Ardra and Alenoth, his tone conveying his knowledge that they’d not lifted so much as a claw or a hoof to do.

“Why are you here?” Colonel Alenoth demanded then, in her usual imperious tones. Arawn focused his gaze on her. “To exact retribution?” she continued. Arawn smiled in response.

“No.” he replied, simply. “I am not. In fact, I have returned as part of the Army duties that I’ve been assigned” he began.

“You’ve not even begun your basic training!” Alenoth shouted at him then, outraged. “No one has given you any duties.” Arawn waited patiently for her to finish her tirade. It didn’t take long.

“Actually, I have Colonel. By the one we both serve.” He said quietly, wearily. Alenoth bared her teeth in frustration at his words.

“If such be true, then you would also have a set of code phrases to indicate such. I highly doubt you do!” Alenoth sneered at him then her eyes narrowing.

Arawn’s reply was a small, yet smug smile. He stepped forward to Alenoth, who refused to give a millimeter as he approached her. Arawn tilted his head and stood up on his toes, so as to speak into one of her ears.

Alenoth grimaced as if she had tasted something awful in her hay, then. But, she bent herself at the waist, and allowed Arawn to whisper into one of her ears.

At first, Tia noticed, that her expression was one of barely restrained fury. But that soon passed as Arawn spoke four words into her ear.

Suddenly, Alenoth’s eyes grew round in consternation, and she clopped herself back away from him with a jerk. She seemed to be in shock at his words in that moment, her mouth left hanging open in surprise. Tia then saw something she never expected to see on Colonel Alenoth’s face, she staring at him with something akin to a grudging respect.

Arawn stepped away from her and attempted to insert himself over to a Platform control console.

“No!” Ardra shouted realizing his intent, as she raised an arm and interposed herself in an effort to prevent him. But, she stopped when Alenoth spoke.

“Stand down Sergeant.” Colonel Alenoth ordered her quietly, making herself heard over the roar of the Cyclone. “Allow him full access to all that he might do.” The colonel’s order left Ardra speechless, but she obeyed her Commanding Officer.

Smiling slightly, while ignoring Ardra’s furious look, Arawn moved to stand at the controls and looked them over for a moment, studying. He reached out to manipulate a lever, and then stopped. He tapped himself lightly on the forehead in recrimination.

“Mentor,” he began, turning to face Tia, “I just realized that I do not have a security access code. If you would be so kind as to provide yours?” Even after all she’d been through, Tia hesitated. But, after a quick glance, she closed her eyes and stood next to him.

“What are you doing?” she asked, curious.

“Keeping a promise.” He replied cryptically still smiling, as the sound of massive cyclone continued overhead. Tia sighed in annoyance. But she did as he asked.

“Thank you.” He stated, once she finished entering hers. His hands started to flow over the control console quickly, but not so fast that Tia couldn’t keep up. What he did then, surprised her enough to leave her gaping.

“Arawn! Technically that’s not possible to do an Invert-Teleport!’ she protested, Arawn just gave her a half-smile by way of reply, not slowing down for an instant. Finally, he came around to being nearly complete, but held short.

“I leave it up to you Mentor. Would you care for the honors?” he asked, indicating the switch. Tia stared at him, wondering what his game was. But, after only a moment’s hesitation, she then she reached over and flipped that switch. The effect was immediate.

Overhead that continuous cyclone, started to drop down numerous mini-whirlwinds hither and yon. Every time the tip of one of those whirlwinds impacted the platform floor it disappeared, leaving a very surprised cat in its place.

Soon, dozens of cats appeared upon the Pavilion floor, much to the consternation of everyone present.  After a second or three, nearly every cat there in the Pavilion, started to run out into the greensward that surrounded the Teleportation Platform. Then they continued off to parts unknown once they realized they’d been freed, screeching and yowling merrily all the while.

Both Ardra and Alenoth, along with every other Porter Tech, found themselves shocked into speechlessness at this unusual sight. Tia, found herself just taking it into stride.

“Patience please.” He requested, attempting to make himself heard over the caterwauling of the dozens of retreating cats. “I will explain everything shortly, just standby for a moment.” He continued, as he bent over the platform’s control console once more.

“What are you doing?” Tia demanded, looking over his shoulder.

“The cats,” he began, “are only part of the promise that I made.”

“What is the rest?”

“For lack of a better term: Housecleaning.” Arawn replied, activating a sequence similar to the previous one. As before, dozens of whirlwinds descended from the overhead cyclone and impacted the Pavilion floor.

This time, instead of cats, there appeared many dozens, then eventually hundreds, of what appeared to be parts of Armor upon the Pavilion floor. Shields, greaves, bracers, and the like.

There were many gasps of surprise when Tia, and the others around her recognized what some of these items actually were.

Automatons, many were scattered into their constituent parts, yet there were several that seemed to be intact. To Tia’s eye, she noted that many of those parts appeared to be peppered with blast marks and/or partially melted. It was a Magi-Tech’s wet dream come true!

Silently, Arawn staggered his way out from behind the console, and then ambled his way towards the center of the massive Cyclone. None of those around him dared to interfere. Idly kicking at a part or two along the way to clear a path, he didn’t seem to be in any particular hurry.

Finally, he reached the apex of the Cyclone and raised his head and his hands upwards. He spoke then.

“All right Missy!” he shouted upwards to no-one visible in the raging winds above him. “I have kept my end of the bargain, now you keep yours!” he continued expectantly. He was soon answered.

Once more from above, the queer-seeming tentacles descended. This time, instead of lashing out at Arawn, or anyone else, they gently stroked Arawn in something akin to a loving caress.

Arawn then continued for several moments to interact with the ‘naughty’ tentacles, in what appeared to be something akin to a sexual manner.

Tia found herself shocked beyond comprehension, when she realized that the Tentacle-Things that had molested Winnie the Gremlin to within an inch of her life, were now seemingly ‘flirting’ with Arawn!

After a few more seconds of ‘Tentacle-Petting’ between the two, one of the armored tentacles separated itself from the main mass, then lengthened itself out towards the eye-watering ‘something’ that Arawn had placed upon the ground mere minutes before. Once it made contact with it, a number of lights switched on within, giving it an eerie glow. Noticing it, Arawn smiled broadly.

Tia felt an immense relief, when the tentacle thing retracted itself backwards to join its fellows. Looking to her left and right, Tia noticed that everyone else seemed to be similarly relieved.

One by one, the Tentacles began to flow themselves up towards the Cyclone overhead. But before they disappeared entirely, one lone stray tentacle took the time to ‘goose’ Arawn.

That action, left him with an outraged look that made Tia giggle, Arawn then shook a finger at the saucy tentacle as it made its retreat. Once that lone tentacle disappeared into the overhead void, the Cyclone began to retract and dissipate of its own accord.

Within a few more seconds, it had disappeared utterly, leaving a near naked Arawn standing upon the floor of Pavilion, surrounded by numerous Automaton parts, and the occasional lazier than normal stray cat. Arawn then turned and addressed Tia and her surrounding crowd of Mamono then.

“Well Colonel,” Arawn called out with more than a hint of sarcasm tinging his voice. “I believe that I am overdue for a stint in the Brig!” he smiled cheekily.

Colonel Alenoth found herself all too happy to oblige.

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