Mors Funebris Ch. 2 P 2

 Clockwork Girl by ArtofSyo

Mors Funebris Chapter 2 Part 2

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“Hello,….Jinks?! Anyone?” Arawn guardedly called out through the doorway of the Research and Recovery’s anteroom. For a moment he held his breath, when he heard the slight echo of his strange sounding voice resounding back from within the long windowless storage room. Coming to a halt, he quieted himself further so he could hear any replies from someone nearby. Yet, he was met only with a deafening silence.

As he stood there in the doorway, he first looked warily around the confines of the room and its shelf laden walls. Turning his head slowly, he sadly took note of every one of the nearly two dozen hip-high tables that stood within those mute walls, and the heaps of morbid items that lay atop each.

Those stacks of semi-intact Automaton parts adorning those tabletops, were all that remained of the original battalion of hundreds of feminine Bio-mechanoids. Unfortunately, the vast majority of those troops had been blasted or ripped apart to the point of uselessness. All destroyed in a battle waged inside the Chthon’s realm countless years previous. If such were a possibility, any casual passerby might’ve deemed the room to be a crypt dedicated to that ancient tragedy.

Arawn slowly became aware that his hands had started to shake in response to the ghastly sight that he beheld. Then, he began to notice that his breathing had started to become ragged. His pulse started to race as he was overwhelmed by the sudden flood of anxiety that threatened to dissolve his control.

‘What,…is happening,… to me?’ he demanded fearfully, as his heart began to hurt, as it pounded like a hammer against the inside of his sternum. His eyes unfocused as he felt the room around him began to twirl. Then, an implacable deluge of long buried memories, began to rise up and drown his conscious mind.

His first action was to swallow the bile that arose in his throat, then he gaspingly tried to repress the series of whole-body shudders that had appeared out of nowhere. But, ultimately that repression effort failed as his knees weakened, causing him to stumble forward nosily into a crouch upon the wooden floor of the anteroom.

‘The bodies of innocents littering the landscape all around me. Men, women, and Great Maker, Children,…CHILDREN!’ he agonized, staring weakly at nothing as his body began to convulse in a dire remembrance of events long past. Then his present mind was lost as the triggered memories within him, surged like a tsunami and overwhelmed his identity.

—————————————————————————————————-

‘Arawn, are you malfunctioning?!’ demanded the red-faced, black-clad leader of the Annwyfn 47th Regiment, in that long forgotten village square.

‘Wha,…what? Yes, Captain!’ Cadet Arawn replied vaguely, turning his head up to answer his leader from his crouching position.

Arawn then recognized what held in both hands: a recently deceased human infant, its arms and legs weakly flopping in the breeze. He had literally stumbled across the child.

His tears fell in an endless number from his eyes then. ‘I mean No! I,… This is wrong!’ he had replied on that long ago battlefield, a battlefield that lay on a world that no longer existed. He winced finally, when the overpowering stench of the infant’s rapidly corrupting body reached his nose. 

‘What is the nature of your complaint!?’ shouted the frustrated battle-leader, screaming into Arawn’s face with an indignant outrage.

‘This!’ Arawn replied, while holding up the infant, panting fiercely and nodding futilely at all of the bodies around them both. ‘We! We killed them! We did this! These,… these people are not our enemy! They are innocents! Why did they have to die?!’ That much younger Arawn wailed.

‘Arawn!’ the nameless Captain sneeringly shouted once more, ‘Was there a power surge in your maturation chamber when you were being grown?’ he had boomed into Arawn’s face. ‘This is irrelevant!’ There is no such thing as an Innocent on the field of battle! If they had been innocent, they would have been removed from battle before-hand!’  the Annwyfn captain replied as he callously knocked that infant out of Arawn’s hands.

Arawn felt his soul break, when he saw that child’s body hit the ground, then roll and split apart in a manner akin to an overstuffed rag-doll. For countless millennia afterwards, Arawn could never countenance the sight of a child’s doll again.

—————————————————————————————————-

‘That had been someone’s child.’ Arawn remembered. ‘Yet, that child and her parent’s bodies lay twisted and contorted from their agonized death throes, their lives prematurely ended! All because of an indifference displayed by those who were supposed to be protecting them! My people, the Annwyfn.’ he recounted, blinking away more recent tears, as his mind began to refocus on the immediate here and now.

“These before me are Automatons.” He reminded himself aloud suddenly, with just a hint of trembling remorse in his voice, while keeping his eyes closed.
“These are the relics.” He spoke hoarsely through a dry mouth, “of an ancient war. These are not the bodies of innocent humans!” he gasped haltingly, as he forced his thoughts to a course that allowed his shaking to slow and finally, to cease.

‘Now they lie here in their constituent parts, awaiting an impersonal classification. Treated as if they are things, instead of the sentients they had been crafted to be.’ He mused, as he forced himself to stand upright, and then to open his eyes and bear mute witness to the sight that awaited him.
As before, several dozen parts of youngish-seeming battle maidens adorned the tops of those tables. Still, they lay scattered around like a massive set of heavily worn puzzle pieces, waiting to be reassembled.

 ‘All of them ripped, or blasted apart like toys in a giant’s game of tug-of-war. All left to die crippled and broken, the scant awareness they had been afforded, announcing to them the inevitable arrival of their Final-Dark.’ Arawn mourned, licking his overly dry lips.
Undoubtedly, all of them were aware they had been left to expire alone and forgotten in a realm far from their creation. They were degraded, to be used as something expendable, easily replaced. This, is the vileness that is humanity. They all take years to finely craft individuals, and then they casually cast them aside like they were debris.’ Thusly in that vein, Arawn thoughts continued to flow until the better part of an hour later, he somehow finally managed to regain his normal equanimity.

When he had finished composing himself, he turned and looked around. There, immediately to his right was a spare desk with an assortment of casually stacked heads. At a first glance, they all appeared to belong to a number of young human women. Only the bio-metallic tubes and linkages sticking out of their necks and other spots, along with the near perfect vertical grooves in their cheeks revealed the truth of their artificial creation.
Most of those heads there held a placid expression on their countenance, sightlessly peering out through half-lidded eyes and disheveled platinum tresses, staring at nothing. Though, he noted that a few of the faces in that stack, held the hint of one intense emotion: Rage.

‘Were they angry at their untimely fate, or was it a relic of their battle fury?’ Arawn asked rhetorically, staring at them. He didn’t receive nor did he expect an answer. Arawn’s gaze lingered upon that table for only a moment longer and then he tore it away, silently noting that none of them had moved from their respective positions since the evening before.

Quietly and swiftly, he commenced his assigned task of tabulating the contents of this and the other tables. It took him only a few short minutes to complete that near-mindless chore. But it felt much longer to him, all due to the ancient guilt that those mechanical-feminine bodies continued to conjure from the depths of his soul.

 ‘All parts accounted for. None are missing nor are there any sudden additions.’ He decided coldly, forcing himself to relax. ‘Thus, it is highly unlikely I will be subjected to any sudden surprises this morning.’ He determined.

Any viewers to that scene of him standing there alone, would’ve questioned his callous indifference to such a grisly sight. But, time had taught him the futility of openly displaying any form of grief.

‘Primus? (2)’ Secundus asked suddenly, jarring Arawn from his silent reverie.

‘Yes? (1)’ Arawn asked distractedly, while staring off into the distance.

‘I do not have access to your core memories. What is the significance of these,….what were they called again,….Automatons, was it? (2)’ Secundus asked, Arawn blinked and turned his eyes towards the nearest pile of same.

‘Automatons, yes. In truth that title is an acronym.’ Arawn/Primus instructed sharply, as he began to recite from memory. ‘It stands for: Auto-Mobile Allisomorphic Transdimensional Organic Nubile Synthezoids. (1)’.

‘What is that supposed to mean? (2)’ Secundus asked, puzzled.

‘It means that these self-motivated combat androids, were capable of packing a vast amount of weaponry inside a petite frame, all which could be repositioned into a variety of forms. (1)’

‘Why did they include the term: nubile? (2)’

‘Because of each unit’s passive/non-battle mode. In that mode, each unit was eventually required to adopt the form of a young and nubile human female. (2)’ Arawn instructed neutrally.

‘But why require that? (2)’ Secundus asked with a curiosity befitting a child.

‘For manifold reasons, but chiefly due to the fact that those who commanded them, felt uncomfortable with their fearsome battle-form. Someone somewhere, decided to program them with a more pleasing countenance for them to adopt, when they were not in combat. Over time, such a form proved efficacious to their functioning undercover, which inevitably led to their adoption of a decidedly ‘un-lethal’ and much more genial set of behaviors. (1)’

‘Which were? (2)’ Secundus asked, fascinated. Arawn mentally cast a wry look towards his not-brother and silently sighed.

‘To act as a Pleasure-bot. (1)’ Primus finished, smiling mirthlessly.

‘What!?’ Secundus exclaimed, outraged. ‘That is outrageous! Modifying a weapon of war into a tool for sexual pleasuring? That is disgusting! Not to mention dangerous! What was keeping the Automatons collective from revolting for such base treatment? (2)’

‘Nothing more than the standard protocols they were originally programmed with. As I recall, in time they did revolt. Which led to their eventual discontinuation. (1)’ Arawn remembered, his face falling.

‘There is nothing quite like the revolt of any kind of slave, to inspire a collective improvement in societal behavior. (5)’ Quintus added smugly.

‘Aaaahh!’ Secundus yelped, horrified. ‘I should very much hope so! Though I shudder to think what happened to those who were caught in mid-coitus! (2)’

‘Pray you never have to find out. (5)’

‘Speaking of coitus,’ Arawn began, as he began to slowly meander his way to the center table. That table, alone amongst the rest, held the parts of but a single and largely intact Automaton. Once there, he stopped and contemplated that lone unit. ‘I still do not feel comfortable with the thought of taking that Gremlin for a lover. (1)’ he stated unhappily.

‘Jinks!’ Quintus stated, forcefully enough to cause Arawn to stumble against the table, and then reach out to steady himself. ‘Her name is JINKS!’ Quintus shouted indignantly, causing his other not-brothers to wince. ‘She has a name and I would appreciate your extending her the courtesy of using it! (5)’ Quintus all but growled then.

“All right! All right! I apologize for my seeming indifference!” Arawn began, speaking aloud while catching his breath. After a second, he stood upright and resumed his contemplation of the center table, careful to not jar it again.

Soon, he cast ‘Mage-sight’ upon himself, and looked down at the nearly complete unit that lay before him, its torso-armor spread open so that its innards were left casually exposed in their vulnerability.
Out of the other remaining Automatons, it was the only one that was pristine enough for him to appreciate its ‘pleasure-form’. Only the opened chest cavity, and the furrows that ran lengthwise down its arms and footless-legs, gave any hint to its innate lethality. Absent mindedly, Arawn noticed that this unit’s feminine armor/casing had been cast with an ivory-like coloration. The result of which left it with an aged, yet refined appearance. Lowering his eyes to the unit’s groin-plate, he took note of its designation: λ/Ε-Ν²-Y.

“Jenny.” He read aloud in a neutral tone.

Arawn kept his face solidly frozen as he pondered that name. His face a mask that matched an Automaton’s; one that hid many a turbulent thought.

Suddenly, Arawn reached out and picked up the Jenny unit’s memory core that had been sitting innocently next to the Unit’s cranium. When he felt the cold weightiness of it in his hand, he automatically tightened his fist around it.

‘What are you doing?! (5)’ Quintus demanded shrilly.

‘Just one squeeze and it ends, Quintus. This is the only remaining intact memory core, out of them all! (1)’

‘Such would not be a wise course of action Primus! Not even counting the breaking of our Oath to the Great Maou, there is also the matter of Dame Zrihea. Have you forgotten our promise to her? (5)’ Quintus pointed out, causing Arawn’s grip to loosen a mite. He felt the blood draining from his face, while he remembered his last set of dealings with her.

That Satyros Dream-Sender, had been most adamant about the importance of his presence there at Cynosure in general, and for being there for Corporal Helvetia in particular. Arawn sighed as he relaxed his grip upon the memory core some more, but he didn’t place it back upon the table where it belonged.

‘It appears that I need to point out to you.’ Quintus began again. ‘That if you do destroy that core, we will likely be drummed out of service at the very least, imprisoned at Royal Makai at the worst.’ Quintus paused, as he began to whisper telepathically, ‘Where we would be left vulnerable to Belphegor’s machinations. Need I remind you, of whom she desires to obtain by hook or by crook? (5)’ Quintus paused for dramatic effect, as Arawn felt his throat clench.

‘Primus, who is that?’ Quintus asked and waited. When no reply was forthcoming, he continued. ‘Answer me! (5)’ Quintus heatedly demanded then. Arawn held a far-away look in his eyes for several seconds before he replied.

‘Me. (1)’ Arawn frowned, as he finally and gently lay that one remaining intact memory core back onto the table.

‘But, could we not have as easily worked to influence Jinks; without the ‘need’ to engage her in sex? (1)’ Arawn tried to point out, but Quintus wasn’t having any of it.

‘She approached you, remember? (5)’ Quintus shot back sourly.

‘Yes, I do. She did so several times as I recall. What of it? (1)’

‘As I pointed out to you last night, just before you handed me control over ‘our’ body. Thank you again, by the way. (5)’ Quintus replied cheerfully, Primus clenched his eyes shut as Quintus continued.

‘If we are to attempt to help guide and influence her, in her stated intention to reactivate one of the units, I felt that she would be much more inclined to listen to us, if we were her lover. That, as opposed to her automatically rejecting the counsel of someone who had rejected her blandishments. (5)’ Quintus pointed out.

‘Still, I am not comfortable with the thought of toying with her feel,… (1)’ Primus began, but was interrupted.

‘Primus!’ Quintus spoke sharply. ‘It is not ‘toying’, as well you know! Do not attempt to fool yourself! Tell me what you are truly uncomfortable with. (5)’ Quintus observed shrewdly. Arawn/Primus found that he had to pause for a short while before he could answer honestly.

‘Truly, I am not comfortable with the notion of allowing such an advanced technological killing machine to fall into the hands of the Great Maou! (1)’

‘What is there to be worried about, Primus? Are you concerned that the λ/Ε-Ν²-Y unit here,’ Quintus waved Arawn’s hands at the Automaton before them, ‘may prove to be a danger? (5)’

‘Yes! You and I both, are well aware of the fact that all of the Automatons were programmed to destroy any inimical non-humans. What do you think will happen if this Jenny unit is activated within the confines of Royal Makai?’ Arawn demanded. ‘The results could very well be catastrophic for the Great Maou! (1)’ he answered.

‘All the more reason for us to assist Jinks in the here and now!’ Quintus countered. ‘The Great Maou has called out for any and all artifacts to be utilized in her war with the Chief God! These Automatons are the very kind of artifact she has called out for! (5)’

‘What guarantee do we have, that an activated Automaton will not go on a killing spree? (1)’

‘Have you so little faith in the Great Maou’s influence? (5)’

‘What do you mean? (1)’ Arawn demanded, confused.

‘She has already managed to positively influence nearly all of this world’s Monsters and Demons. Where before, those who once were a horde of ravening monsters. Their entire existence was to devour human flesh and blood.  Now instead, the Great Maou’s work has caused them all to seek out a far more pleasurable use for humans! Even those last remaining Lords of Chaos have become subject to her domination! (5)’ Quintus pointed out.

‘Mind-flayers, Arawn! Atlach-Nacha! Even Nyarlothotep herself has bowed to her supremacy! If such other-worldly creatures as the Shoggoth can be influen,…!’ Quintus began, then stopped. ‘Wait! What was that? I felt a surge of mental pain when I mentioned Shoggoth, did I not? (5)’

‘Yes. (1)’ Arawn admitted, feeling his grief rise to the fore, as he looked around for a seat to settle himself upon. Alas, there were none available.

‘You feel as if you betrayed Takana’s memory by engaging Jinks in sex. Do you not? (5)’ Quintus deduced.

‘Yes. Yes, I do. (1)’ Arawn answered miserably, mentally avoiding Quintus’s gaze. Quintus sighed in exasperation.

‘Well, let us all be honest now. Primus. Not all of us desired Takana for a mate. There, I said it! (5)’

‘What?!’ Arawn yelped in surprise. ‘I had no idea! Why did not any of you say something before now? (1)’

‘Mostly because you were happy, and since we are all connected, we all felt that happiness. But, we have drifted apart enough over the millennia, that Tertius, Quartus, and I, would have preferred a different kind of mate. Assuming that we would ever have had the opportunity to make such a choice. (5)’

‘Who would you have preferred? (1)’ Arawn asked, genuinely curious as he set his grief aside momentarily.

‘I would have preferred a Mind-Flayer.’ Tertius injected with a mental grin. ‘A fellow telepath! (3)’

‘That stands to reason. What of you Quartus? (1)’ Arawn asked, pushing aside his hurt.

‘Someone well versed in the Martial Arts! (4)’ he replied.

‘A Kunoichi perhaps?’ Arawn asked. Quartus nodded. ‘I am given to understand that they are well-versed in the Marital Arts as well. (1)’ Primus snarked. Quartus grimaced by way of reply at Primus’ pun.

‘Let me guess Quintus, you would prefer a Gremlin? (1)’

‘Correct on one! (5)’ he replied with a salacious mental grin.

‘How serendipitous for you then.’ Primus replied indulgently. ‘What of you Secundus? (1)’ Arawn queried.

‘I am not sure!’ Secundus replied, as all of his remaining not-brothers turned their collective awareness to him. ‘If I had to make a choice, then I would say a Spider-Girl. (2)’

‘A Spider-Girl? (1)’ Primus asked dubiously then, surprised.

‘Well yes.’ He admitted, ‘But not Helvetia! One of the bigger, not so hairy ones!’ Secundus quickly added. ‘I have discovered that I have a predilection for well-formed legs.’ He smiled. ‘Does this make me a ‘leg-man’? (2)’ he asked in curiosity.

‘Possibly.’ Arawn replied. ‘Thank you all for your honesty, you have given me much to think about in the days ahead. I must meditate upon this information. Silence please. (1)’ Arawn asked, and was obeyed.

Arawn then tried to relax and began his meditation of the room, and its collection of Automatons parts. He had much more to contemplate now, what with his not-brother’s revelations. But he didn’t have long to do so, for all too soon he was disturbed from his reverie when an unusual sound caught his ear. Arawn jerked his head up and looked around, immediately on high alert.

‘The hour of the Hunt approaches. Everyone scan for intruders! (1)’, he ordered mentally. Quintus didn’t waste time with an immediate reply, but Arawn could feel him and his fellow not-brothers performing their assigned actions.

Arawn chose to remain silent as he turned his head left and right. Carefully he crouched down onto one knee to peer underneath the tables.

‘No indication of any distortions in the Visual Spectra. (1)’, Primus reported.

‘No fluctuations in the local Magical Dweomer. (2)’, Secundus reported.

‘No significant disturbances in the ambient Psionic background. (3)’, Tertius reported.

‘Negative indications in the nearby Ki-flow. (4)’, Quartus reported.

‘Nothing untoward has been detected. There is nothing out of place, nor are there any detectable variances in the placement of the Automaton parts, at least since we departed yesterday evening. I fear that we are simply too jumpy. (5)’ Quintus replied.

“We are alone.” Arawn stated, relaxing himself with a relieved sigh.

“Not quite.” Corporal Tia replied as she placed a furry hand on Arawn’s shoulder. His reaction was immediate and dramatic. With a yelp of surprise, he leaped to one side and stumbled noisily into an adjoining table, managing to overturn it. This resulted in the table’s entire contents spilling over onto the floor of room with a resounding series of crashes. Tia couldn’t help but laugh at him in that moment.

“WHERE DID YOU,…?! HOW DID YOU,…?!”  Arawn demanded with a cross tone in between panting breaths. Tia noted then that he had raised both of his hands defensively, as he faced her in something akin to an unarmed combat crouch. Instead of replying, she chose to cover her amused smile with one of her fur covered hands.

“This is NOT Funny!” he barked with annoyance, his lips turning into furious frown. Tia raised her own hands then in a gesture of supplication- both palms out, fingers spread.

“Hey, hey, hey, relax Arawn. I’m on your side, remember?” Tia replied in a soothing tone, as she bowed her head apologetically.

“Are you?!” he demanded a little too harshly. Tia snapped her head back up and glared at him with a slight show of her venom teeth.

“Yes. I. Am.” She enunciated crisply. For a second, both Arawn and Tia stared resentfully back at each other. Finally, Arawn backed off first. With a lick of his lips, he slowly stood up and relaxed his stance.

“My apologies Mentor.” He replied with a sigh. “That was an unfair accusation on my part.” He admitted. Tia felt her fur relax in response, as she sniffed once lightly.

“I’m sorry too, Arawn.” She replied with a raised eyebrow. “I guess I shouldn’t have snuck up on you like that.” She frowned gently, as if teased by an odd thought.

“Thank you.” He replied, with a small smile forming across his lips. “How did you manage that feat? I was on high alert, and you just,…’ he began but stopped when Tia raised a hand to silence him.

“Let’s discuss that later. Right now, we have work to do.” She instructed. “The Lieutenant and I spoke a bit longer concerning her plans, after you’d left the mess hall last night.” She began as she moved closer to him.

“Why don’t we go ahead and clean up the parts you spilled, and I’ll give you the details of what Jinks wants to have done today.” Arawn merely nodded his head by way of reply, then moved over to reposition the table he’d knocked over, giving off a soft curse when the table proved to be recalcitrant. Together, the two of them remained silent as they began to pick up the parts from the floor, and carefully returned them to the table top. Finally, Tia spoke first.

 “So, what Jinks wants,” She began, breathing long through her nostrils, “is to have you assist in the inspection of all of the Automaton parts, and pick out the ones that you deem are the most intact for possible repair.” She continued, as she picked up one leg and gave it a once-over before placing it on the table.

“Why is that? Is she truly planning on attempting to reassemble one of the Automatons?” he asked, with a nervous tinge in his voice.

“Yes, she is.” Tia sniffed, then got another odd look on her face, “I know, I know, what you’re going to say next, Arawn.” She replied, as she held out to him, another one of the lower legs to arrange properly.

“It’s probably not a good idea. But, she’s a Gremlin after all. If she doesn’t put it together here, now. Some other Gremlin will at Royal Makai.” She mused, as she leaned over to him and surreptitiously ‘sniffed’ him when he turned away. Arawn did notice her that time, but didn’t comment.

Finally, they finished with the spilled table, and they both began their respective tasks, to select the most intact part available.

“Ah!” he replied with a smile after a moment. “I believe I understand your reasoning.” Tia looked at him questioningly. “Royal Makai doesn’t have me there.”

“Oh come on!” she scoffed with a roll of all of her eyes, “That doesn’t sound the least bit conceited to you does it? What makes you an expert on Automatons?” she laughed, hard enough to make her head fur shake.

“I do not claim to be one, Mentor. But I have had dealings with such Bio-mechanoids before.” He replied smugly.

“They were built to be implacable killing machines, and I have been around them in ages past. As near as I could ascertain from the Chthon I was imprisoned with. These particular Automatons appeared in her pocket realm, intent on destroying anything and anyone on sight- including her. Even that Chthon had difficulties with their subduing” He began, Tia widened all of her eyes in surprise.

“Thus, their last instructions before they were deactivated and destroyed, was to attack. I surmise that such instructions could very well still remain within their memories, and could remain their sole impetus once one of them is reactivated.”

“Perhaps you should tell Jinks that.” Tia pointed out.

“I intend to,after she arrives. Until then, I wanted to go over a few things with you.”

“Such as?”

“The rules of the Hunt. What I can expect fully, now that it has begun in earnest. But first, I am very curious as to how did you manage to sneak up on me like that.” Arawn huffed. Tia smiled at first.

“I will not apologize for sneaking up on you Arawn.” She grinned. “But, when I saw how intently you were staring at everything, I couldn’t help but have a little bit of fun.”

“Do you see me laughing, Mentor?” he replied, with a slight huff.

“No,” she replied, “I don’t. But then, I did enjoy myself, seeing how far you jumped then.” She replied with a smile. Arawn frowned back, as he picked up a retrieving tweezer from the room’s tool box.

“So, how did you manage to sneak up on me?” Arawn demanded directly. Quickly, Tia stuck her hand into his face and flicked his nose with a finger, which caused him to jump back. Glaring at her, Arawn lifted the tweezer to emphasize his anger, But, by then he noticed that that tweezer had disappeared.

“What?” he muttered, looking around himself and the nearby tabletops.

“Ahem.” Tia replied clearing her throat meaningfully, as she sniffed him once more. Arawn looked up and then he gaped when he saw her holding the tweezer that he’d had held just a moment ago.

“How?” he demanded, his jaw hanging.

“Well, part of your problem Arawn, is that you became so focused on my fist, that I was able to become part of your background.”

“My background?” Arawn asked annoyed, yet still intrigued.

“Yes,” Tia replied, nodding. “It’s the primary hunting technique every Jumping-Spider is taught, once she decides to start participating in hunts. You,” she began by pointing at him, “were so focused with your attention on one object,” she held up her finger that she had flicked his nose with, “that I was able to slip in, and become part of your world’s assumed background.” She replied

“I fail to see how such could allow you to be so stealthy. I was on full alert, waiting for someone, anyone, to jump out at me.”

“Exactly.” She replied, as if this explained everything. “You were expecting a full frontal assault, like that Hellhound did with you yesterday. Yes?” Tia instructed. Arawn nodded patiently.

“You obviously weren’t expecting an assault from something that you deemed a non-threat, like the background.” Arawn’s scrunched up his eyebrows thoughtfully, as he glanced over at her and then gave everything around him a soft touch with his eyes.

“Better.” She smiled approvingly when she him doing it. “Continue in that manner, and you’ll eventually get it.”

“I once compared notes with a Kunoichi,” Tia spoke absentmindedly, as she turned and moved over to another set of Automaton parts, looking at each in turn.
“What they do and my kind do, are a lot alike. Yet, it’s both complicated, and not. When I first entered this room, I noticed that you were standing alone in thought. So, I ‘allowed’ myself to become part of your background, and became unobtrusive during your inspection. Your eyes even passed over me a couple of times, without once catching sight of me. By the way, do you always talk to yourself?” She asked with a smile. Arawn’s eyes widened in surprise when she said that.

‘She is correct, Primus. I just checked our memories, and she was there. But for some reason, she did not seem important then. (5)’.

“When your eyes passed over me, was when I knew that I’d successfully became your background.” She continued, as she passed near him on her way to the center of the room. Arawn noted that she was carrying an Automaton hand that looked almost pristine, it’s furrowed fingers showing only a hint of scorch marks. When she passed him by, she hesitantly sniffed at him once more.

“Mentor.” He stated finally. “Why do you keep sniffing at me?” he asked. “I did bathe this morning before coming over. Do I smell off in some untoward manner?” Tia stopped, and then turned herself around using all eight of her legs.

“Not exactly.” She replied, giving him a thoughtful look with her main eyes, while tapping at her mouth with one finger. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear that you’ve been engaging in sex with a Mamono.”

“Well, I was engaging in sex with my beloved just a few weeks ago, before the,…the,…”, he began. But found that he couldn’t finish.

“That’s not what I meant.” Tia replied, putting her hands on her hips.
“You do not reek of anyone, or anything, that bears a Shoggoth’s psychic scent. Far from it. In fact, that’s the source of my greatest suspicion concerning your claim that you had taken one to mate. By rights, you should be positively reeking of Shoggoth. Yet, you don’t.” she frowned.
“Not even in the faintest.”  She added quietly, as she stood and stared intently at him. Arawn opened his mouth to begin an explanation, but was interrupted.

“In fact, you do smell slightly of another kind of Mamono. Yet you didn’t yesterday when you excused yourself from the dinner meal.” She tilted her head, and squinted at him with a thoughtful look, just as she stepped in close enoughto  kiss him, but didn’t. Instead she took an extraordinarily long time to breathe in the air around his head and neck. Arawn could see her nostrils flare when she did.

“I,” he began. Tia held a hand up to silence him again. He stopped.

“Odd. This is very, very, odd.” She stated to herself, as she stopped her smelling, then turned her front-most eyes to lock gazes with his.

“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that you did in fact have sex with a Mamono. But her scent is so faint on you, that it seems like it’s been at least a month since your last encounter. But that’s impossible. You didn’t smell like that at all for the last few days. This is strange.” She frowned to the point of almost being a pout.

“I don’t care for oddities, Ara,…” she began with a slight growl in her voice. But stopped when…

“Good Morning you two!” said Lieutenant Jinks in a surprisingly cheery voice as she bounced into the room, dressed this time in a brown leather bikini that barely held onto her spare frame. On her legs she wore a set of ass-less chaps that held many a pocket. Over her shoulders she wore a shiny black leather duster, unfastened in the front.

 “Are you two having a counseling session?” she demanded with a toothy smile that nearly reached her cat-like ears that perched atop her A-line bob haircut. “If you are, I can step out until you’re finished. Oh you’re not?” she asked energetically, almost giggling when Tia shook her head, who then tried to say something.

“Oh, no worries then!” Jinks interrupted, waving her hands around dismissively. “Corporal?” she asked, Tia nodded her head. “Did you inform Arawn of my plans, concerning a reassembly?” she asked. Tia nodded her head in preparation to reply, but as she did Jinks interrupted her once more.

“Good! Good!” she barked, while fidgeting happily, twirling a finger in her lime-green hair. “Well! There’s no time to waste! Let’s get started!” she stated firmly, clapping her hands twice with emphasis, before turning away and heading over to one of the other tables to inspect some of the parts that lay there.

‘Hmmmm.’ Arawn thought, ‘Not once did she ever look at me directly.’ He mused. Turning back to his task, he noticed that Tia was shifting her attention between him and Jinks, looking speculatively at each in turn.

“We’ll continue this discussion soon.” Tia replied, after looking at him for a second too long. She then ambled her way over to Jinks, her tarsi claws tapping a light staccato on the hardwood floors.

Arawn noted with a slight nervousness, as Jinks looked at Tia and began speaking with her.  That nervousness of his, evaporated once he noted that they both appeared to be keeping their conversation professional. He then chose to ignore them both, and instead focused on his assigned task.

‘Well, that went better than I expected.’ Quintus remarked. “I was half expecting Jinks to make an open display of our ‘Beneficial-Friendship,’ (5).

‘Agreed. It is good sign that she has not made any territorial displays. Such maturity from her will make working easier in the long run. (1)’, Arawn replied with relief evident in his mental tone.

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“Lieutenant.” Tia spoke concernedly to Jinks a few minutes later. “Are you sure that it is a wise course of action, to be working towards the reactivation of an Automaton? That’s assuming, that there are even enough parts to accomplish a proper rebuild.”  

“Look Corporal, didn’t we discuss this last night after Arawn had left?!” Jinks replied, just a little sharply in Tia’s estimation. “Everything should be fine!”

“But what about the timetable?” Tia asked.

“What about it?” Jinks demanded, confused.

“As I understand it, Makai has decreed that any and all Automaton parts be shipped to them at the first opportunity. It’ll take only a day or two more to finish categorizing the parts we have, and assign them numbers. What you’re proposing could take several weeks, if not months.”

“And?” Jinks demanded, determinedly not looking at Tia.

“Well, if I had to hazard a guess, I’d almost say that you’re deliberately trying to delay their shipment.”

“Well, yes.” Jinks replied absentmindedly, nodding her head as she inspected an abdominal transducer, a magnifying glass affixed over one eye. Tia was about to say something more, when Jinks’ eyes widened when she realized what she’d just admitted to.

“Hear me out, hear me out!” Jinks demanded, as she turned her attention to Tia. Who then shut her mouth.

“Look, we both know what those bumblers at Makai are going to do with an Automaton, once they get their claws into one, yes?” Jinks asked quickly, nervously.

“Put one together.” Jinks replied, answering her own question while shaking a hand jerkily with emphasis.
“Right, right?” she replied. Tia was starting to find herself hard pressed to keep up with her commanding officer, Jinks being so excited this morning.
“Alright, alright! I know what you’re going to say, what if the Automaton turns on and it turns out be a baddie, yes?” Jinks stated in a rush.

“Yes, that is a point that Arawn and I,..” Tia began once more.

“ARAWN!” Jinks whispered excitedly, her eyes alight and an eager grin appearing across her face.
“Yes, yes, yes!” she continued, jumping slightly with every syllable. “Exactly Tia! He’s so knowledgeable about them! He’s a valuable resource that we’ve got here! One that Makai doesn’t have, and probably shouldn’t!” Jinks stated giddily. Tia found herself growing more introspective the longer Jinks carried on.

“Uh Lieutenant.” Tia began, Jinks looked over happily at her. “You seem to be chock full of,…”Tia hesitated for a moment as she began to realize the implications of her words, “energy this morning. I have to ask. Did you get laid last night?” Tia asked, a smile finally forming on her own face.

“Oh, is it that obvious?!” Jinks squealed for a second, then glanced over at Arawn nervously. He didn’t seem to be paying attention to them.

“Yes, I did! I was soooo overdue, and it was soooooo much fun!” Tia found herself reflecting Jinks evident enjoyment of her recent memories.

“So who was it?” Tia demanded with a grin. “Is it someone I’ve met?”  Jinks eyes widened in alarm then, as she forced herself to not look at Arawn.

“Probably, but I’d prefer to keep quiet about if for now, if you don’t mind. He stated that he wanted to keep things professional and for just one night!” Jinks replied as she leaned over conspiratorially to Tia and whispered in her ear. Tia smiled and nodded. But, just as she began to lean back, she breathed in deeply and got a perplexed look on her face.

‘I can smell him on her, whoever he is.’ She thought. ‘He scents so strongly that I’ve smelled him before, and recently too.’ She decided. Then her face froze in realization. Slowly, she turned her head over and stared at Arawn’s back.

‘Impossible!’ she thought in abject surprise. ‘That scent smells just like he does, and yet, and yet,…’ she thought confusedly, trying to reconcile her thoughts with what her senses had told her. She then looked down at Jinks, who had turned her attention back to the Automaton parts before her. Tia came to a decision, and then she walked casually over to Arawn.

“Arawn!” Tia stated loudly enough then to catch his attention, and then lightly touched his shoulder. Out of one of her side eyes, Tia noted that she suddenly had Jinks attention as well. Tia noted with a silent glee, that Jinks’ hands had tightened her grip fiercely on the part she held, when Tia had touched Arawn.

“Yes Mentor?” he asked politely, ignoring Jinks’ sudden quivering.

“You mentioned earlier that you wished to discuss what I knew concerning the roles and rules of Scathach’s Hunt?” she asked. Arawn nodded.
“How do you feel about our meeting together about it tonight, after sundown?” Tia asked in as an innocent tone as she could manage. Arawn frowned thoughtfully.

“I suppose that could work.” He nodded. “Where would be a good spot?” he asked.

“I’m thinking that we could discuss it in more depth, at say,….ohhhh,” Tia pretended to think about it for second, all of her eyes raised up to their upper left corner, “my apartment?” she asked sweetly. Tia suppressed a smile when she noticed Jinks’s eyes widen furiously in that moment.

‘Gotcha!’ she smiled inwardly. ‘One night, eh?’ she thought, as Jinks started marching her way over towards Tia with an angry look in her eyes.

“Corporal!” Jinks hissed vehemently. Jinks was about to say more. But, she was prevented, when there came a furious knocking at the outer anteroom door.

Everyone there turned their heads to look at the double-wide metal emblazoned oak door. Arawn, being the least senior there, decided that he should be the one to answer it. Particularly, since Tia and Jinks seemed to be more interested in glaring silently at each other for some unknown reason.  Approaching the door warily, he fully expected a Marriage-minded Mamono to be there on the other side, despite the fact that the ‘Hunt’ wasn’t due to officially begin for at least several more minutes.

When he finished drawing the door wide, his eyes widened when he discovered a Human male standing there. This human’s also widened at the sight of Arawn as well. To Arawn, the newcomer appeared to be of Cynosure stock; Tall, lanky, with sun darkened skin, yet with a set of mismatching blue eyes that was married to a shock of blonde hair tied into a topknot.
Additionally, the stranger wore a light-colored shirt that was covered with a leather-like doublet, adorned with a metal shield over his heart. His pants went to his knees, and his legs were covered with hose, metal greaves covering his shins that lay atop a pair of cloth/leather boots.

“Greetings Stranger.” The newcomer stated in a melodious voice, staring at Arawn with a raised eyebrow and a rapt expression. “My name is Yrile, I am a member of the Cynosure City-Guard.” He stated, as he raised a hand and touched his shaved chin with two fingers by way of greeting. “Who are you?” he asked gently, letting his hand fall to his side.

“My name is Arawn.” Arawn stated back, mirroring Yrile’s gesture, who seemed pleased by it. “I am in the Great Maou’s Army. How may I help you?”

“I have been requested to seek out the one known as, Corporal Helvetia. Is she available?” Yrile asked softly, his face betraying no malice. Arawn opened his mouth to inquire further, but he felt confused as to what his appropriate course of action was supposed to be.

“I’m here!” yelped Tia then, as she tapped one of her legs lightly on the floor.

“Ah Yrile! It’s good to see you again!” Tia stated, smiling when she saw who it was. Yrile smiled back, as he bowed his head in acknowledgement.

“What brings you to brighten up my day?” she asked, which caused him to grimace momentarily. Sighing, he continued.

“My apologies, Corporal.” He began, emphasizing Tia’s rank. Tia caught his drift.

“You’re here on business.” She stated flatly before he could continue. Yrile smiled as politely as he could, nodding.

“What is it about?” she asked cautiously, her stance on guard.

“My apologies for having to be the one to bear this. But I come on behalf of the one known as Ikiniz.” He stated. Arawn noticed that Tia’s attitude changed when Yrile spoke. Where before Tia’s face had a beaming smile, her face darkened into a frown at the sound of that name.

“Ikiniz.” She stated flatly, looking as if that one word was enough to make her spit. “What does he want?” She hissed, pursing her lips.

“He wishes to speak with you.”

“I do not wish to speak to him, now or ever!” Tia shouted vehemently, all of her eyes flaring furiously.

‘Ikiniz, Ikiniz, why does that name sound so familiar?’ Arawn thought, while listening in.

‘He is the one that we cast a curse upon, remember?’’ Quintus informed him then. ‘Just after we got inebriated on that Moonwine at the Prancing Cadaver. (5)’

‘Ah yes. Now I do.’ Arawn replied, feeling a little nervous about the current set of circumstances. ‘In retrospect that may not have been the best course of action. (1)’.

“Corporal, if you would please, indulge me in this. Ikiniz was most adamant about the necessity of his meeting with you.” Yrile replied, as he strained out a smile as best he could.

“What does he want?!” Tia demanded with overflowing disgust in her voice, as she hunkered down and formed her hands into claws. Yrile’s face blanched when he saw her do it.

“From what he tells me, he wishes to apologize for his actions.” He replied in a hurry. That reply got Tia off guard.

“Apologize?” she asked in a soft tone, surprised enough to stand up and straighten out her hands. “Why?” she asked suspiciously, her eyes narrowing.

“I do not know for sure why, Corporal. He didn’t confide his motivations to me, but he did tell of his ‘childish actions in the Prancing Cadaver’, his words.” Tia found herself surprised.

“All right. I suppose that I should at least be willing to meet and hear what he has to say.” She replied guardedly through narrowed eyes. “Where and when?”

“At the Gazebo, within the hour.” Yrile replied. “Are you willing?” he pressed. Tia thought about it for several seconds.

“Yes.” She replied, finally. “I am. But more out of curiosity, than anything else. Apologize you said?” she asked. Yrile nodded his head enthusiastically.

“Very well then. I will meet him there at the top of the hour.” She replied neutrally. “He’d better make it good.” She glowered.

“I can give you the highest reassurances, that he will be on his best behavior, and I quote: ‘He does not wish to incur any more of your wrath.’ End quote.” Yrile bowed to Tia, who bowed in return, and then he took his leave.

“What!” Tia began with a small shout after she’d closed the door behind her. “In the Seven Hells was all that about?! Incur any more of my wrath? What is that supposed to mean?” she asked confusedly of no one, her eyes darting about.

‘I have an idea.’ Arawn began, recalling that curse.

‘But it would be best if we did not say anything right now. It could be something else entirely. (5)’

‘Oh yes it could very well be something else!’ Secundus interjected then. ‘And if I were a rug, I would be a magic carpet! (2)’

“Well no matter. This has definitely got me intrigued.” Tia stated as she turned her attention to Jinks and Arawn in turn.

“What is the Gazebo, Mentor?” Arawn asked.

“It is a neutral spot located on the northern edge of Fort Eequor, Arawn. It sits on the border between the Fort, and the City Guard’s domain. It is a place that the Mamono and the citizens of Cynosure, can meet and discuss ways to work out some of the inevitable problems that arise between us. If you stay at Fort Eequor long enough, you’ll eventually end up visiting there anyways. Probably to act as a guard.”

“More than likely, this will take me awhile to take care of. So, do you think you two can get along, long enough without me here to chaperone?” she asked with a slightly leering smile. Both Jinks and Arawn nodded absentmindedly, not looking at each other. Tia’s smile turned to one of triumph when she saw that.

“Right, I’ll leave you two to it. Have fun! Oh and Arawn?” Arawn looked at Tia straight on. “Don’t forget, the top of the hour is when the Hunt officially begins for the day. Stay cautious, just because your love-candidate from yesterday was so blatant, doesn’t mean that today’s will be equally obvious.” Arawn nodded and smiled his thanks to her. Tia nodded smartly back as she left, closing and latching the door behind her.

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At first everything was on the up and up. Arawn continued with his inspection of each Automaton piece, judging for the least damaged item in amongst every table’s collection of like items. Occasionally, he’d take the one he decided upon, and carry it over to the center table and drop it off. Jinks, for the most part largely ignored him when he did, just barely acknowledging his presence.

Yet, every single time that Arawn turned his back to her, he felt that he could feel her eyes boring into his back. Finally, after the fifth occurrence, he asked Quintus to check up on it. He did.

‘Primus, you wanted me to alert you concerning Jinks? (5)’ Quintus asked.

‘Yes, is she staring at us? (1)’ Arawn/Primus asked, trying to not look as if he was aware of her.

‘Uhhh, you might say that. Turn around, NOW! (5)’ Quintus demanded. Arawn obeyed immediately and bumped into Jinks.

“Oh!” she yelped in surprise as she jumped back. “You almost knocked me over!” she smiled. They just stood staring at each other expectantly for several moments. Finally,..

“Uh yes, Lieutenant? Is there something you need?” Arawn asked nervously as Jinks stepped up closer to him. He took a step back.

“Helvetia’s not here right now, Arawn. Call me by my given name.” she ordered him sultrily, as she took another step closer to him, this time to his left.

Arawn automatically stepped to his right, to give her some space. But Jinks wasn’t having any of that. She then took another step straight forward. Whereupon Arawn attempted another step. But, he discovered that he couldn’t when he felt his back bump into a solid object. Looking over his shoulder, he discovered that it was a rather annoying support pillar, that had appeared out of nowhere behind him.

“Lieutenant,…”Arawn began, but stopped when Jinks drew in a breath and glared through her eyebrows at him. “Ahem, excuse me, Jinks.” He began once more. Jinks relaxed and smiled then. “We discussed this late last night.”

 “And part of this morning.” Jinks whispered huskily, while she began licking her lips slowly. Spontaneously, she reached up a hand to him and placed it firmly on his kilt’s hem as she kneeled in front of him. Without another word, she reached up into the space behind his sporran.

‘Quintus! You started this! Fix this! (1)’ Arawn demanded silently then. Quintus took over.

“Uh yes, this morning as well.” Arawn/Quintus stated nervously, his voice going up an octave, as her hand began to explore under his kilt, and then she fumbled around for a moment until she caught ahold of her intended prize: his stirring manhood. With a surprised yelp, he snatched her arm at the wrist and tried to pull it away from him. She resisted him firmly with a frown.

“Maou Damn It Arawn!” she hissed fiercely, “I’m hungry!”

“Then get something to eat at the mess hall, or one of the food carts!’ he replied.

“THAT is not what I’m hungry for!” she half-growled, looking up at him from her kneeling position, while breathing in through her teeth as she cocked her cat-like ears well forward.

“You KNOW what I want! I want your Essence! It tastes so delicious, it does!” she growled, as she suddenly twisted her arm out of his grasp and unbuckled his belt in a flash. But before he could react, she had somehow managed to get his now solidly erect penis into her mouth, and halfway down her throat.

Arawn/Quintus found himself unable to do anything other than just experience the joy of the moment.

‘The sweet, sweet moment…’ he- didn’t think. Instead he found himself almost drowning in the tidal wave of carnal pleasure that Jinks’ mouth afforded him. For some odd reason, Quintus found that something was starting to distract him from his pleasure, something annoying.

‘Quintus! (1)’ Primus yelled.

‘Meh. (5)’ Quintus somehow managed to reply after several moments.

‘QUINTUS! (1)’ Primus yelled again, much louder.

‘wha, what? (5)’ Quintus replied distractedly then, barely.

‘This is NOT what I had in mind when I ordered you to FIX THIS!’ Arawn/Primus snarled. ‘Attend properly or I will do something we will all regret, NOW! (1)’ Primus ordered.  Quintus gulped mentally, and then proceeded to find within himself the resolve to do what needed to be done.

He then caught ahold of Jinks’ wrists and forcefully pinched them, hard.

“Hey! That hurts!” she whined as she drew back from the end of his penis, his glans just barely encompassed by her lips, but she didn’t let go.
“I didn’t know you were into the kinky stuff!” she mumbled around his glans-end then. “If you want, you can go ahead and tie me up!” she mumbled/suggested, looking speculatively at a nearby coil of rope.

“Now, is not the best time for that!” he replied hoarsely, his eyes regretful. “Look! We both know that the Hunt will begin in a few minutes. Yes?” he demanded hotly. Jinks nodded reluctantly his penis bobbing along with, after she thought about it for a few seconds.

“Then, if I am lacking any Essence, ergo any of my Mana, then it could very well turn out that I may end up lacking just enough,…’ he emphasized, looking straight into Jinks’ eyes, “Just enough to have me unable to fight off the next Marriage-Minded Mamono.” Jinks began to pout then, as she closed her eyes in frustration.

“Ooooohhhh, stop making sense!” she huffed, shaking her head back and forth before looking up at him with a hungry/pouty look, as she reluctantly, very, very, reluctantly, let go of him and stood up.

Finally, she allowed her arms to fall to her sides. In response Arawn refastened his kilt buckle, and they just stood facing each other for several moments in frustrated silence. Well, her frustration, mostly.

“Yes. I enjoyed myself immensely last night too.” Quintus admitted. “But, if you wish to continue,…” he began, but they were both interrupted by a knock on the main door.

“I’ll get it.” Jinks replied, as she reluctantly made her way over to the door. “You stay here. You’re right,” she frowned with a sigh. “I don’t want to lose my access to you and your Energy, just yet. I am finding myself almost addicted to its taste and quantity.” She smiled over her shoulder, as she reached out to the door. Arawn/Primus smiled back, relieved. As soon as Jinks opened the door, a voice called out.

“Lieutenant Jinks?” demanded a curt feminine voice. Arawn found himself drawn to take a look. When he had moved around enough, he saw a tall looking woman standing in the door frame. She seemed human enough to his eyes, what with her round human ears peeking through her long red hair, that had part of it tied back into a pony tail. At that moment, Arawn couldn’t see much more of her than that. Being as Jinks was standing in between him and her.

‘No aura of magic about her person, other than what is contained in her satchel. (2)’ Secundus reported telepathically to Arawn.

“Yes, I am.” Jinks replied, looking up at the woman. “How may I help you?” she stated coolly. The woman then lifted up the aforementioned satchel over one shoulder, and then opened it, finally pulling out a wax-sealed scroll.

“I’ve a message that needs delivery to you alone, Lieutenant. Will you accept?” the woman replied coldly, looking down at Jinks with a seemingly bored expression. Jinks reached out a hand towards the scroll, but the woman backed off, preventing the transfer.

“I will need you to identify yourself properly, before I can release it to you, assuming that you are in fact Lieutenant Jinks.” The woman replied, with a hint of a sneer in her voice, her entire attention on the Gremlin in front of her.

“I am Lieutenant Jinks!” Jinks replied hotly. “What do I have to do to prove it?” she demanded. The human woman waited for a second in thought, then she reached into her satchel once more. After a few more seconds of rooting around in it with an annoyed expression, the woman’s face lit up momentarily in triumph as she pulled out a small brown square-like stone, then presented it to Jinks.

“I will need you to provide a thumb print. It is currently keyed to you and you alone.” She replied, looking down her nose at the Gremlin. JInks glared back at the human woman, but she took ahold of that stone, and placed her right thumb to its ventral surface. When she did, it glowed for a second, and then the block turned a greenish hue. For the first time, the human woman smiled.

“So you are then! My apologies Lieutenant. I take my job as a courier seriously.” She replied, as she handed that scroll over to Jinks and waited. Jinks hesitated.

“Thank you!” she replied. Taking the scroll and breaking the seal. “Is there anything else?” she asked archly, looking up as the Courier-woman remained unmoving.

“Could you help me please?” the Courier attempted to form a smile, and failed. “I am also looking for someone else. Someone who is also supposed to be here in this building.”

“Who is it?” Jinks asked absentmindedly, as she unrolled the scroll.

“I am supposed to deliver a package to an individual known as: Annwyfyn Arawn. Do you know of this woman?”  Both Arawn and Jinks, smiled when they heard that. If the courier took offense at those smiles, she gave no indication. Arawn, found himself relieved enough to relax from his paranoia.

“I am Annwyfn Arawn.” He stated clearly. The courier looked up at him dubiously, her eyes dulling.

“You.” She stated, with a sneer starting to form on her lips. “Are supposed to be,….Annwyfny Arawn?” she asked skeptically.

“Yes, I am.” He replied, feeling reassured by her reaction. He noticed that she seemed so disgusted with him then, that he took a step closer to her as a test of her resolve. Any doubt he might’ve had concerning her dissipated, once she took a hurried step back away from him in response.

“I am not going to bite you.” He replied, trying to not sound so cheerful about such a notion. The courier then openly sneered at him.

“So you claim, Incubus!” she hissed, clearly disgusted at the thought of being in the same room with him.

“I am not an Incubus.” He replied, dryly. The courier kept her disdainful look, and didn’t reply.

“Oh Arawn!” Jinks called then, reading her scroll. “I’m being called away for a bit.” She stated as she glanced up. “This is a missive from General Scathach. She wishes to,” Jinks began as she looked over at the Courier speculatively, who caught Jinks’ look and spoke.

“I am bonded to not share any information that I overhear, Lieutenant. I would not have lasted for as long as I have, if I were a gossip.” She stated flatly. Jinks nodded with relief as she returned her attention to Arawn.

“The General wishes me to report to her immediately! The wax seal she used, indicates that I depart immediately upon receiving this message.” Jinks stated solemnly, as she held up the opened letter in one hand. The Courier nodded then.

“That is what I was told as well.” She replied. “But could you tarry a moment despite?” she began, almost with a pleading look.” I do not wish to be left alone with this,….one.” she stated coldly, nodding but not looking at Arawn.

“I’m sorry.” Jinks replied, “But, the Generals’ orders are quite clear and I am compelled to obey! If you like, I can go and try to find someone else to escort you, or perhaps you could come back later?” she began. The courier shook her head.

“Nevermind!” she huffed with exasperation. “The sooner I can get this started, the sooner I can get away from this one!” she replied with her lips in a thin hard line.

“We should be fine, Lieutenant. Go ahead and leave.” Arawn nodded. Jinks nodded once and as she turned to do so, the sound of the Fort’s bell-tower ringing out the ninth hour echoed through the building’s halls.

“The Hunt officially begins, Arawn. Mind yourself!” Jinks warned as she turned and left, closing the door behind her. The Courier watched intently as she did, shivering almost desperately as the door clicked shut. Slowly, reluctantly, she turned herself around and glared at Arawn.

“Stay where you are, Incubus! I’ll not have any more truck than is necessary, with your kind!” she frowned as she lay her satchel upon a nearby empty table. She then positioned that table in between herself and Arawn.

“I told you before that I am not,…” Arawn began again, but then stopped as the Courier spat at his feet by way of reply, silencing him. Arawn glared angrily at her insult as his hands formed into fists.
She ignored him when she finally pulled a wooden rectangular box out of her satchel and placed it atop the table. After that, she then manipulated the green stone ‘identifier’ by drumming her fingers atop it in a pattern that Arawn couldn’t quite make out.

Arawn thought about offering to help her with it, but decided against. Finally, after several abortive attempts, the green stone turned brown. When it had, she all but flung it at him. Silently, Arawn caught it, then fixed his own thumb to it, and with a short amount of time the stone turned green once more.

“Satisfied?” he asked as handed the stone to the Courier. She took ahold of it reluctantly and inspected it carefully. Afterwards, she placed it next to her satchel and made a big show of wiping her hands carefully with a handkerchief.

‘Prissy much?’ he thought silently. Keeping her attention focused solely on Arawn, the Courier then slid the rectangular wooden box towards him. But instead of leaving immediately, she waited.

“Are you not going to leave?” he asked. She shook her head.

“No, this delivery is a specialized one.” She hissed, “I was tasked with the requirement that I remain, until you have opened the box in my presence. Only after you’ve acknowledged that you have received its contents, am I allowed to depart.”

“Well, what is it then?” Arawn asked, suddenly suspicious. The Courier rolled her eyes at him.

“Open it and find out, you moron!” she yelled acerbically. “Or not! I have five minutes in which to wait. If you don’t open it in that amount of time, then I’m free to go!” she replied, blowing out her breath impatiently, while crossing her arms and staring off to one side, staring intently at the wall clock.

‘That seems to be in character.’ Arawn decided, as he casually opened the wooden box. It turned out to be easier than he expected as it was a simple affair of sliding back the lid. What he saw within, surprised him to speechlessness.

Down there, carefully wrapped in velvet was a Chocolate Dildo.

“What?!” he demanded, raising his eyes to the Courier. Who, by now wasn’t frowning anymore. No, this time she was smiling a very satisfied grin.

“Hello Arawn.” She replied sultrily as she held up the ‘identifier stone’. With a slight grunt she broke it into two pieces. When she did, Secundus spoke.

‘I have detected an enormous surge of Dark-Energy! It is coming from that ‘Courier!’ (2) he cried shrilly!

 The erstwhile courier then made an unusual gesture, one that looked familiar to Arawn. He then heard the sound of the room’s cabinets, and every single door therein close, and latch themselves firmly shut.

“Not an Incubus. YET!” She purred as she made another gesture, this time with both hands. Arawn felt a sinking sensation, as that two-handed gesture of hers caused her plain courier outfit to change into the purple robes of a Dark Mage.

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