Mors Funebris Chapter 2 Part 8
“Ummm. Hello?” came the sound of a newcomer’s voice that echoed hollowly in Arawn’s apartment. Sighing, Arawn turned his head to take in this new person that Tia had invited in. His already severe look deepened, when he saw whom it was that had entered.
It was a Unicorn.
To his eyes, she appeared to be yet another variant of the Centaur Mamono. Instead of the usual heavy musculature of every other Centaurus he’d encountered thus far, this particular one appeared to be more….frail, almost delicate in her form.
Giving her a quick once over, Arawn noted that she was roughly of his height with a round face, and that she had long flowing straw-colored hair that flowed down her back nearly to her withers.
Keeping his expression neutral, Arawn found himself admiring her womanly curves that were somewhat hidden by a conservative outfit that managed to be a size too small around her bust.
He also grumpily noted that upon her entering his apartment, her face changed from one of a guarded nervousness to a delighted interest upon seeing him. She eagerly clopped all the way into his rooms.
“Why, HELLO THERE!” she stated breathlessly, while cracking a slight smile that lay beneath a pair of ocean-blue eyes.
“Let’s get this over with.” He replied testily as he pushed himself to stand shakily upright as he folded his arms.
“What’s your name?” she cooed not noticing his body language, but before Arawn could open his mouth to answer, she started up again.
“My name is Periwinkle.” The Unicorn stated eagerly as she boldly laid a hand upon his shoulder. As soon as she made contact, her hesitant smile widened intensely into a feral grin.
“Are you married?” she asked him directly. To which gave her a curt negative shaking of his head in response.
“What a coincidence! Neither am I!” She cheerfully informed him, as her grip on his shoulder tightened.
Not making eye contact, Arawn started to lean himself back away from her invasion of his personal space. But as soon as he tried, Periwinkle immediately tightened her grip on him still further and then gently, yet resolutely, pulled him closer to forestall any retreat he may have had in mind.
As he looked over the Unicorn’s shoulder, Arawn noted that Tia was staring with an open-mouthed surprise at the uncharacteristic forwardness of a normally demure Unicorn.
“Ahem!” came the sound of another voice in that moment. All heads in the room turned to see the source: General Scathach. It was apparent that she was not in the least bit amused by the display in front of her. The base commander then interposed a bluish colored hand between Arawn and the Unicorn, forcing her to take several clopping steps away from him. The General then placed herself between the two.
“Periwinkle,” the Dullahan grimaced, mild anger tinging her voice, “You are supposed to heal him, not to initiate a courtship.” Scathach hissed through her teeth, looking at the Unicorn straight in the eyes.
“Errrrrm,” Periwinkle frowned quietly back in frustrated disappointment, her shoulders and the rest of her drooping in response. “Yes General, I will obey.” She pouted, as she turned her attention back to the still waiting Arawn. When she did, Arawn was the only one to see a momentary lust filled leer she gave him. Arawn gulped involuntarily.
“Proceed with the healing!” General Scathach commanded icily in that moment.
To his credit, and to Tia’s further astonishment, Arawn chose to tolerate the overly bold Unicorn’s blandishments as she began visually ‘inspecting’ him for a few seconds. She then stepped back and started speaking while pressing both of her hands onto her mouth.
“Oh, you poor dear, you’ve been through the mill haven’t you?” Periwinkle stated concernedly, her long blonde hair shaking in the air, as she looked him over with her hungry eyes.
“Don’t you worry about a thing my succulent virgin!” she continued happily. Tia had to bite back a chuckle when she saw Arawn roll his eyes then.
“Just let me heal you and I promise that you’ll be right as rain!” Periwinkle stated, eager to impress him. After finishing that sentence, Arawn noted that her eyes looked him over speculatively for just a second or three too long. Finally, she then clopped forward to Arawn a couple of steps and raised her hands and started ‘inspecting’ his wounds physically. Though he got the impression that she seemed more interested in certain parts of his anatomy than others. After a couple of long minutes, she seemed to be satisfied and then clopped back.
It was at that point that both the General and Tia had to squint their eyes as the Unicorn’s purification magic initiated, as her horn began to glow with an intense achromatic light. She then lightly tapped her horn’s tip upon Arawn’s forehead and looked at him expectantly.
Everyone else in that room then noticed that Periwinkle’s eager smile, froze when no change was evident with Arawn’s condition. Glacially slow that Unicorn’s smile began to melt. Within a few seconds, a look of utter incredulity appeared upon her countenance.
“I,” she began breathlessly, “I don’t,…I don’t understand!” she yelped in dismay as she clip clopped her way back from Arawn several steps. Once she was at arm’s length from him, she stopped and looked at his injured form over once more.
“Why aren’t you healing?” she stated with her lower lip quivering.
“Never mind that!” General Scathach interposed then. “Just proceed until he IS HEALED!” she stated coldly, her attention shifting between Periwinkle and Arawn. Every time she looked at Arawn, Tia noticed that the Dullahan scowl got fiercer. Despite the lack of progress, the now disconsolate Unicorn did her best to obey. Once more as before, she summoned her purification magic, and tried again. Unfortunately, that too failed. The General compelled her to try again, and then again, and again. Finally, after her seventh attempt, she yelled out in frustration.
“IMPOSSIBLE!” she wailed, holding her hands defensively to her bust and looking as if she were ready to cry. “You should at the very least be getting your healthy color back! But, YOU’RE NOT! How can this be?!” she demanded in distressed confusion.
“It is not your fault.” Arawn replied finally, “Instead, it is something so powerful, that not even all of the Unicorns in existence could have an effect upon.” Arawn stated back to her, shaking his head sadly. “I appreciate your efforts upon my behalf Periwinkle, but as I have already stated to the General here,” he indicated the looming Dullahan who glared back at him, “ultimately there is only one course of action that will succeed in my healing.” He finished.
In the end, the General ordered Periwinkle to leave Arawn’s apartment. Unfortunately by that time, she was in such a state of frustration and personal hurt, that she refused to obey.
“Please! Let me stay!” she had shouted at the last, “I wish to at least get to know him better!” she implored the General. To Periwinkle’s consternation, the Scathach had to resort to dragging the Unicorn out Arawn’s apartment door. This resulted in her hooves leaving behind a number of furrows in the wooden floor as she tried her best to forcefully make her way back to him. Alas, it was accompanied by a loud performance involving much in the way of wailing and shedding of tears. During that display, both Arawn and General Scathach exchanged a number of severe glares.
To Tia’s eye, the General was both frustrated and yet somewhat embarrassed by the Unicorn’s outrageous display of theatrics. Whereas Arawn’s glares conveyed an accusation of the General being a sadistic Martinet. It was only after the sounds of the Unicorn’s lamentations had faded into silence out in the hallway, that Arawn chose to speak.
“Now that! Was a colossal waste of time!” he growled tiredly as he allowed himself to relax and wobbly sit down. Tia found herself wanting to slap him for his callousness.
A couple of weeks later, it was one of those typical sunny mornings during the dry season in Cynosure, that Arawn received the call that changed the course of history for not only the world of the Great Maou, but also of another similar one.
That call started when Arawn was in the midst of a rather enjoyable dream that involved he and his beloved Shoggoth: Takana. Just as things were about to become ‘interesting’, was when he found himself unpleasantly awakened by the sound of someone shouting.
“Arawn?! WAKE UP” Arawn’s mentor shouted forcibly into his face. She was one of the few Jumping Spider Arachne currently enlisted in the Great Maou’s Army, and she was also currently Arawn’s Mentor and Instructor in all things cultural. The reason being that he was one of the few Travelers who had come to the Great Maou’s world, and as such he was mostly unfamiliar with the local needs and mores.
It was an assignment that she found to be more of a challenge than she had expected, particularly with him as he’d demonstrated an almost willful thick-headedness. In her opinion. This morning she’d been tasked with getting him to an unexpected appointment with the General.
“ARAWN! WILL YOU WAKE UP ALREADY!” she demanded shrilly, as she reached out a zebra-patterned furry hand to his shoulder and shook him roughly.
“I am awake Tia!” Arawn shouted up back at her indignantly. “I have been for several seconds now! What is so damned important that you felt the need to invade my rooms!?” he demanded back.
“I wouldn’t have needed to, if you’d answered your door!” Tia shot back, as she scuttled backwards away from him then, giving him his space. She was satisfied that she now had him awake and somewhat moving.
“You and I have been summoned to a meeting with General Scathach, and we need to get moving NOW!” she ordered him, as he frowned back up at her. Finally, he nodded reluctantly that he had heard her words as he began to slowly, yet steadily, move himself out of bed.
Even though he was angry enough to move out of bed unassisted. It still took him several tries just to roll to the side and place his feet upon the floor. From her vantage point from across the bedroom, she observed that Arawn’s ‘Automaton’ Incident wounds had progressed only slightly in their healing, and thus he was still somewhat crippled. This despite the previous healing attempt by that Unicorn that General Scathach had had arranged to be brought.
Thinking about that incident, Tia hid a frown behind one of her hands, while she waited for Arawn to finish getting up and dressed. Idly she thought she Arawn’s pet ‘Ghost-Cat’: Pickles; walk through a wall, take one look at her, and then run back the way it came.
A half-hour later found Arawn standing outside the General’s office door, and yet he was somehow dressed appropriately. Tia stood alongside him, doing her best to ignore him while she chatted with the General’s current adjutant: a red pelted Ratatoskr.
“What’s this all about, Beryl?” Tia implored her. To which Beryl, simply shook her blood-red head, and shrugged her shoulders in response.
“Sorry Tia!” she whispered back, after glancing over her shoulder looking at the General’s door. “There are some things that the General forbids me to speak about to anyone. This is one!” she smiled back. Observing her over Tia’s shoulder, Arawn noted that her two front teeth stuck out below her lips when she closed her mouth.
Arawn was about to speak, but that was the moment that the General’s door opened. Glancing to view who it was that had opened the door, Arawn was left speechless by the person now standing in front of him.
“Aeshma?!” he yelped in stunned surprise, which grabbed Tia’s attention. Turning her head around, she noted that the person he addressed was a red-headed curly haired Succubus who stood about 1.5 meters tall and was dressed in a revealing black business dress. When ‘Aeshma’ heard him speak, she looked up at him, crossed her arms and spread out her wings while she remained firmly in the doorway.
“Hello again Arawn, it’s been awhile!” she smiled saucily at him. “AND!” she continued with her eyes flaring, “I’m still waiting for your first report!” she stated meaningfully while pointedly looking up into his eyes.
“My apologies for the delay, I have been rather preoccupied.” He replied softly, and to Tia’s utter delight he sounded abashed, almost embarrassed.
“Aeshma was my ‘personal assistant’ when I first arrived in this world,” Arawn explained when he saw Tia’s questioning look. She found that she was grateful for that knowledge, but more she wanted to know what those reports he had to write were all about.
Before Arawn’s former personal assistant could ask anything else, the sound of General Scathach clearing her throat wafted out from behind her. A momentary look of shock crossed her face, and then she motioned to Arawn and Tia to have them enter. Once they had done so, Arawn noted that General Scathach had once again chosen to refrain from sitting behind her desk and had instead chosen to remain standing.
“Remain silent!” Scathach ordered after Tia and Arawn had positioned themselves in front of her desk. As Tia and Arawn glanced awkwardly at each other, the General held up what appeared to be an ordinary crystal desk-paperweight. Tapping it once lightly with a gauntlented finger, it began to glow with an azure light. Focusing her black eyes for several long moments, the General seemed to be seeing something that none other could. After a second or two, she seemed satisfied with what she saw.
“You may speak.” She stated succinctly. But she didn’t direct this to either Arawn or Tia. No, she said this to Aeshma who was standing on the far end of the General’s desk, near a pile of books.
“Corporal Tia,” Aeshma began speaking, her entire mien now a professional one. “Yokai Arawn, what we are all about to discuss will not leave this room.” She stated flatly. “If you make any attempt to discuss these matters outside these walls, I will know.”
“And you will be punished accordingly.” The General interjected dourly then. Tia and Arawn nodded their acknowledgement of the strictures, and both found themselves silently intrigued by it all.
“Arawn,” Aeshma began finally, addressing him directly, “according to Director Maki, one of the things that you’ve claimed in your Magical knowledge, is the ability to create Gateways between universes; is such true?” she asked him.
“It is true that I have mentioned that.” He answered her guardedly, nodding. “And yes, in times past I have in fact formed such gateways. I did so as a matter of course during my attempts at fleeing my Covenant. Which in the end, obviously proved to be futile.” He finished, raising an eyebrow at Aeshma.
“Were those Gates temporary or permanent?”
“Strictly temporary, due to the inherent danger of forming permanent ones.” He replied, glancing once over at Corporal Tia. She seemed to remain silent taking everything he had to say without question.
“But could you create a permanent one?” Arawn looked at her in surprise when she asked that.
“Why do you ask?” he asked Aeshma suspiciously, his eyes narrowing.
“Just answer her questions Arawn.” The General ordered him coldly. Arawn shot her an annoyed look, which she ignored.
“Yes, theoretically.” He nodded. “I suppose I could do that, if such proved necessary. BUT!” He interjected, raising a finger just as Aeshma opened her mouth to reply. She frowned momentarily at his impertinence, and then she nodded at him. He continued.
“Even a temporary Gateway between Universes requires an extraordinary amount of Mana. A permanent one much more so!” he warned.
“How much?” Aeshma asked him archly. Arawn paused in surprise when she asked. He then silently took in her seriousness, and then cocked his head in thought. Running a number of quick calculations in his mind via Quintus, he soon came out with an answer.
“In order for me to answer that, precisely,” he emphasized. “I would have to refer to a unit of energy that is not normally associated with Mana. Which is to say: Joules.”
“Very well then.” Scathach interjected again, “Proceed.”
“If the two universes were already in close approximation-Brane wise, then therefore the amount of energy needed to first create, and then solidify the passage, would be roughly….” Arawn screwed up his eyes and thought. “I would say about forty-two Gigajoules of energy.” He finished, and then noted the stupefied looks his answer had left upon the trio of Mamono before him. Arawn cleared his throat.
“Ahem!” he began. “To give you all a notion of that amount of energy such would require; if every incubus in every kingdom….’donated’ his Spirit Energy to me at the same moment in time.” Arawn paused and grimaced. “That ultimate yield in terms of Mana would be roughly in the range of one hundred thousand joules, or the equivalent of ten million Mana points, or Ejacs, as they are often referred to.”
“Ah!” Aeshma exclaimed then, “Now I begin to understand.” She smiled. “What would that mean in terms of stored Demonic Energy?”
“You mean something akin to the Dark Energy spheres; that both Dark Elementals and some Lilim sit astride?” he asked. Aeshma nodded.
“Since I have not personally inspected one of those, I can only speculate as to their yield. Even so, to create such a Gateway woul, in my estimate, require at least a hundred twenty such Spheres.” Aeshma’s face fell at that news.
“There are not that many in existence!” she admitted, blowing her breath out in frustration.
“I thought not! After all such levels of power, if even slightly mishandled, would result in the leveling of a major city such as Royal Makai for instance. So, as you can see Director Aeshma.” Arawn continued, “Creating a gateway is something that would be prohibitively expensive in terms of Demonic Energy, or for that matter, the sum total of energy that that nefarious Chief God has at her command.”
“How much energy do you think could be produced, by say….?” General Scathach interposed then. Arawn turned his head to her.
“A thermonuclear warhead?” she asked him sweetly, all of her teeth gleaming in her office’s light. Arawn opened his mouth to reply, and then every part of him froze when he realized which words the General had just uttered. Arawn then blinked several times with his mouth open in shocked silence, almost as if he had misheard what the General had spoken.
“What!” he began slowly, turning and facing the General squarely. “Did you just say?!” he demanded.
“A Thermonuclear Warhead.” She repeated, grinning at seeing Arawn disconcerted for once. What happened then, surprised even her. Arawn partially collapsed to the floor. At which point Tia rushed up to assist him, but he waved her off.
“GREAT MAKER!” Arawn shouted then. “How do you,…? Where on this planet,…? What,…?! When,…?!” he spoke rapidly while quivering with outrage, not finishing a single sentence the entire while. Finally, he stopped asking questions, and then forced himself to stand upright, while hyperventilating fearfully.
Aeshma noted with a frown that the General seemed to be enjoying Arawn’s discomfort. Setting her lips into a thin line, she chose to come to his rescue and laid a comforting hand on his shoulder. His head slowly pivoted on his neck as he looked directly at her.
“You have access to a thermonuclear warhead!?” he demanded, after several sharp inhalations.
“Yes!” she began hesitantly, and then she stopped. “Well no, not exactly. Or that is to say, it is almost within our grasp.”
“Our grasp?” he demanded, “I take it that you are referring to the Great Maou?” he demanded. Aeshma nodded. Arawn sighed. “Has it been anywhere near the grasp of the Order?”
“It was almost, but we’ve managed to extract it from them. Well, sort of.” She added quietly.
“Sort of? What is that supposed to mean?!” Arawn half yelled, his eyes flaring.
“We have the weapon, but what we don’t have are they ‘keys’ to its safe use.”
“There is nothing ‘safe’ when it comes to such weapons!” he barked rapidly. “Keys to prevent an accidental detonation?” he asked and paused to catch his breath. Aeshama nodded.
“Well that is something at least. But-even-so!” he yelled again, causing Aeshma to wince. “Even without its safeguard ‘keys’, that thing is still a danger to all and sundry! Do you think that a blood-curse is dangerous?! Just having such an item lying about, its mere existence poses a grave threat to anyone or anything living within kilometers of it!”
“Then that is something that you will need to discuss with the Great Maou!” Aeshma shot back then, which made Arawn pause. Licking his lips, he decided to ask the general a question.
“I take it then, that I am to be reassigned?” he asked, turning to face his Commanding Officer, who glowered back at him.
“Temporarily, yes!” she replied, “But only after you’ve been properly healed.” She hissed. She then noticed Arawn open his mouth and cut him off with a gesture.
“YES!” she barked, “I am fully aware of what you desire: Your Dark Chaos Healing Spell!” she breathed. “In this circumstance, I am forced to allow it. But, I will only do so if you under close supervision and a clearly assigned set of circumstances. Now, how quickly would it take you to prepare for it, and how soon afterwards would you be ready to travel to Royal Makai?”
“If I could begin right now this instance, I could invoke the spell within a half-hour. I would be ready to fight, and then be at my full mana levels within an hour or two.” He shot back. The General then leaned forward and stared coldly into his face. He stared unblinkingly back.
“Very well then.” She stated reluctantly, “Proceed.”
Forty-five minutes later at the spot that Scathach had deemed appropriate; the middle of Fort Eequor’s Parade Grounds, was Arawn, Corporal Tia, and Aeshma. Tia stood off a short distance to give Arawn and Aeshma a moment of much desired privacy. He was sitting lotus position on the ground dressed solely in a loincloth. While Aeshma stood at her full height alongside him.
“I’m sorry that it had to come to this Arawn.” She apologized down to him. Arawn smiled back up at her as best he could manage.
“Do not be.” He replied while shaking his head, “These circumstances are beyond both your control and mine.”
“Even so, I still feel a bit guilty about forcing you to resort to have to the Yama,…the Yama,…” she tried hesitantly for a moment, and then gave up with a sigh. “THAT ancient spell. The Great Maou told me what it is, and what it costs you.” She stated apprehensively with her lips pressed together. Arawn smiled sadly up at her in that moment.
“Then you are aware of what the process entails?”
“Yes.” She said quietly not looking at him then. “She told me that it can be a horrifying event to witness up close.” She finished, closing her eyes and repressing a shudder. Arawn noted her reaction.
“Indeed it is, I request that you go ahead and join the General in her observations over yonder. And yes, I am quite firm in that.” He instructed her. Aeshma held his gaze for a long moment, looking gratefully at him yet also guiltily as well. She moved off.
Forcing himself to breath calmly, Arawn then began his mental preparations.
‘My not-brothers, most of you know what is coming. Has anyone instructed Secundus as to what he can expect in this coming ordeal? (1)’ Arawn asked.
‘Affirmative.’ Quintus answered, ‘I have. (5)’ he whispered mentally.
‘What is the big deal?!’ Secundus yelped then, ‘It is painful, I get that. We have endured pain before. I fail to see the need for all of this drama! (2)’
‘Say that again after it is done. (1)’ Arawn/Primus replied, while the remainder of his not-brothers chose to remain silent.
‘Fine! Whatever! (2) Secundus shot back in an annoyed mental tone. At which point Arawn calmed his rapidly beating heart as best he could. He drew in a breath to commence the vocalizations necessary to begin that Archaic spell. But then, Tia interrupted.
“Arawn?” she asked him quietly, Arawn opened his eyes to look up at her, grateful for the temporary respite. He’d been so involved in preparations, that he’d not noticed her approaching.
“Yes?” he replied with a small smile.
“I overheard you and Aeshma talking,…?” she replied, leaving her sentence hanging. Arawn smiled ruefully and began to explain.
“The Yamanaraka Invocation will heal me, yes.” He paused as he observed Tia shudder when he mentioned its title. “But, it will be an extraordinarily gruesome thing for anyone to have to observe. It would probably be best if you simply joined Aeshma and,…”
“No.” Tia interrupted then. Arawn looked up at her and gave her a questioning look.
“Will it be painful for you?” she asked, biting her lip. Arawn nodded.
“Then I will stay, and even hold your hand. If you will allow it.” She stated nervously. Arawn got a perplexed look on his face.
“Because,” she stammered and then swallowed slowly. “I am your mentor, and it is both my duty and my honor to stand with you in all things. You are my responsibility after all.” She said quietly. Arawn opened his mouth to reply, but he was interrupted once more.
“Besides, you got badly hurt saving my life back during the Jenny Incident. I can do nothing less for you.” She whispered as she held out a hand. After a moment of staring, Arawn reached out and took it.
“Thank you.” He said quietly, breathing in a deep breath. “But if at any point you desire to leave then do so, I will not upbraid you afterwards.” He finished as he and Tia nodded once together. And without further ado he began.
“Ancienav Lorduk Ro Chaouk!” he intoned forcefully, steeling himself for the task ahead. When he finished the first sentence, Tia found herself clutching fearfully at his hand. She had no idea why those words affected her so! All she knew was that they were….hateful to a part of her deep down.
“Aavavend Avo Mausan Prayeruk!” he continued, in response Tia grimaced hard enough to cause her to involuntarily extend her venom teeth. When she felt her fur fluttering, she looked up and noticed that a cold wind had appeared out of seemingly nowhere. Looking about left and right, she also noticed that the sunlight seemed to dim, yet there weren’t any clouds in the sky.
“Chaouk Guth Paimon Jiak Demense Avhaav Jiak Be Nauk-Formun!” he breathed quietly, yet somehow those words of his echoed in her ears. This caused her to loosen her grip slightly. Tia caught herself before she let go fully.
‘Stop it Tia!’ she admonished herself. ‘It can’t be that bad!’ All too soon she would see how wrong she was. For it was then in that moment that the wind both kicked up to a strong breeze and the sound of thunder crackled noisily overhead.
Alarmed, she looked overhead and was dismayed to see a ring of dark storm clouds beginning to form, circling around the parade field. After a quick glance and an estimation, Tia concluded and then stared down at Arawn. She did, because it was evident that he was the apex of that sudden storm. For a second, and only a second, Tia felt the desire to let go of Arawn’s hand and scuttle herself to safety.
Seeing him looking back at her. She set her jaw and gripped his hand tightly, determined to see it through to the end. He smiled one last time, and then he closed his eyes as he lay down onto the grass.
“Nauk-Maku Alnej!” he screamed, finishing the last of the Chaos Invocation.
The effects were instantaneous as Tia felt him arch himself in response to an unseen force. Tia’s hackles were raised as she tasted the ozone like tang that accompanied the thunder that now started to crackle continuously overhead.
Suddenly, she gasped in shock when Arawn’s grip on her hand tightened to an almost steel like tightness. Looking up from his grip, she saw the forbidden Ancient Healing Magic begin its work. It rapidly disgusted her in ways she couldn’t have imagined. Arawn began to violently convulse as his body rapidly started to shift and change, lumps began to form underneath his skin, and then they began to migrate all about as if there were kittens playing underneath a blanket.
Tia shuddered when she began to hear his bones creaking, breaking and splintering. Then his skin began to tear in long cuts all along the length of his arms and legs. When it did, it then began to curl away exposing the wet red muscle underneath. She saw the inside parts of him that no one outside of a necromancer should have. This and many other evil things she witnessed, all the while steadfastly holding onto his hand through the entirety.
“Arawn.” Tia almost managed to say once in horror. But she couldn’t. It took every ounce of her courage to continue to maintain her grip. Instead she chose to bear a silent witness to his undoubtedly agonizing ordeal. Tia bit back a cry of dismay when she realized that through it all, Arawn had not uttered so much as a single small moan.
All this in the first few minutes the process continued. Until finally. It seemed to stop and Arawn appeared whole and unmarked. He collapsed then from his convulsions, breathing and sweating heavily.
“Arawn,” Tia began, “Is it over?” she asked, pulling his hand lightly to herself. Arawn then slowly opened his tear-filled eyes and turned his head to face her. What he said then, frightened her beyond measure.
“No. It is not. It has only just begun.” He whispered hoarsely, and then he convulsed again. This time much more severely as the previous set of tormenting forming and reforming of his body, continued in their depredations upon his person. It seemed somehow much more brutal to Tia the second time around.
It was worse the third time, and worse still the fourth. Midway during the fifth time was the point that Arawn began screaming uncontrollably. His howls mimicked the sound of the lightning-less thunder that continued to crackled unendingly overhead. Through it all Tia never once let go of him.
Finally, it stopped after Tia had lost count of the reformings. She knew that it had, because that was when both the sudden storm overhead ceased, and the absent sun returned to its former glory. Looking up, she couldn’t see any sign that there had even been a storm in the first place.
‘It didn’t rain. So why are my cheeks wet?’ she asked herself as she raised her free hand to check. ‘Oh! They’re wet with my tears.’ She concluded, yet she was not surprised that she had been unaware of her crying.
Looking back down at Arawn, she could see that he seemed complete once more. His previously blackened and withered arm now appeared new with not the least sign of damage. Even his hair had grown back out to the length that she’d first seen him with.
He opened his eyes and Tia locked her gaze with his. What she saw then in the depths of his soul left her in a momentary despair. For just an instant, she saw how old he was and how much pain he had endured through the countless centuries of his existence. His hand fell and thumped to ground like so much dead meat when she let go then.
Reaching out to him automatically, she did the only thing that seemed appropriate. She picked him up by his shoulders and then pulled him to herself and held him tightly. It was then that she realized that both he and her were crying.
“WHO?!” she demanded into his ear, quivering with her grief. “WHY?!” she sobbed in frustration.
“No one. No one should ever have to go through that!” she stated as firmly as she could manage, suppressing an empathic sob. “Not even the Chief God warrants that kind of retribution! What did you do Arawn? Who did you anger to cause them to punish you like that?!” he pulled away from her and stared back.
“The Lords of Law, Tia. They did this to me.” He whispered morosely, as he blinked in an ancient helplessness.
“My Commander’s orders.” He stated, and nothing more. Tia’s eyes widened in realization that that was all he was going to say.
“That’s it?” she demanded in outrage. Arawn nodded.
“That is all Tia. The Lords of Law do not take kindly to being defied. Even inadvertently.” He gasped, licked his lips and then swallowed. “My crime was so much worse than anyone else who accidentally failed them. I chose to defy them, willingly.”
“So, what happened when you did that?”
“A civilized world lived.”
“What?!” she began.
“It would take too long to explain Tia. But suffice it to say that the Lords wanted that world dead. I fought against them, and I won. But not for long. They recommitted themselves, and in a short time they went ahead and destroyed that world after they had captured me.” Tia stared back, not comprehending his story.
“Tell me why!” she almost screamed at him.
“Another time, Tia. I must now work on recharging my Mana levels.” He stated as he shakily pulled himself away from her. At first she refused to let him go, but in the end she did.
An hour later, he stood up and declared himself ready for whatever plans the Great Maou had in mind for him. Tia was astonished to see the look of guilt that lay upon General’s Scathach’s face then as she approached the pair.
Unbeknownst to every one upon the surface of the Parade grounds deep underground and a short lateral distance away, there occurred another development. It involved those two Order Priests who had been conniving together to create a level of political outrage that they could turn to their advantage. Or, that was what Father Hakon’s impression had been.
Father Heilar on the other hand, had actually been on a slightly different route: he’d spent most of his life tracking down a particularly powerful artifact that outwardly resembled a human sword. It was only a couple of years ago that he’d found it, and a few weeks previous that he’d finally found a safe way to access it.
Well, relatively safe that is. For when he had managed to touch it with his own fingers- it had chosen to meld itself with him. Which had what could only be described by Father Hakon, as a disastrous effect. At least as far as Heilar was concerned.
For Father Heilar had ended up as a statue, frozen in the act of grasping that eldritch blade. From all appearances, Heilar continued to look as he did before. Just with the addition of three intricately carved runes collected into a group, that repeated themselves endlessly over his entire body.
There, deep underneath Fort Eequor’s Teleportation platform in that eerily lit ‘Artifact-Cave’, Father Hakon had devoted himself to contemplating his every free moment to finding a way to turn Heilar’s predicament to his own advantage.
Which was ironic considering that it had been Hakon’s thirst for power in years long past, that Heilar had taken advantage of. But that is a story for another time.
While Father Hakon was sitting at a rough wooden table, he chose to ignore the sound of the sudden continuous thunder that wended its way down numerous cave cracks and fault-lines, down deep into the Artifact chamber.
He did this in an effort to block all distractions that might have interfered with his self-appointed task. Which consisted of his attempting once more, the transcribing of these mysterious runes that decorated Heilar’s body.
For a reason that he had yet to fathom, Hakon had been unable to successfully copy so much as a single rune, and have it remain intact for longer than a few seconds. These efforts at duplication were to see if any of his contacts in the Order, had had any notion of what they might. After all, it would be much easier to describe said rune if one had an example of it on display. Once he had successfully copied said runes, he felt it’d be a lot easier to exploit them without being caught.
“All right, carefully.” Father Hakon spoke aloud to himself as he bent over the table in his self-appointed task. There in front of him lay a stack of papers ready to be inscribed upon. Alongside them lay a harpy feather quill, and a small pot of ink.
Taking a long squinting look at the frozen form of Father Heilar, Hakon tried to memorize the runes upon his senior partner’s body, and then he picked up the quill, dipped it lightly into the ink pot, and then began to reproduce as carefully as he could manage, the first rune. It took him the better part of a minute.
“First one complete.” Hakon whispered after a few seconds to no one present, as he absentmindedly wiped his nose with his free hand. He smiled when he noted that the rune didn’t so much as shimmer, as it had done in the past.
He then repeated the process for the second archaic rune, and this time scratched his nose. Looking up at the still frozen Order Priest, he then took in a cleansing breath and began to transcribe the third and last rune.
When he had completed that one, he was delighted to see that all of his preparations and spell work research had paid off. For what he had been expecting to happen, did not. The paper stayed intact for the better part of a minute!
Alas! His elation was short-lived. For no sooner than the ink was dry, than the paper in which he’d written the runes upon, began to brown.
“No, no, no, NO!” Hakon yelled out, punctuating his mounting frustration by slamming his fist down upon the table. Despite his audible negations, the paper upon which he’d been writing upon began to shimmer and then as much he hoped wouldn’t happen- it disintegrated with a flash of light and an audible crackling sound.
Throwing himself away from that flash and crackle, Hakon was enraged to find that all of his efforts to prevent the inevitable disintegration of the rune-paper had come to naught.
“Chief-God Damnit! Not AGAIN!” he hissed in his ire. Calming himself with a number of breaths, Hakon looked over the table and then became aware of something out of the ordinary. Looking up with a frown at the continuous thunder that had been echoing for some time, he heaved out a great frustrated sigh.
“Well, at least this time it didn’t take out half of the damned table!” he observed with a scowl, as the last sound of the thundering ceased.
“Perhaps you are going at it the wrong way.” Came the sound of a raspy, yet familiar voice. Jumping to his feet in surprise at the unexpected voice, Hakon looked sharply left and right in the Cave.
“Who said that!?” he demanded. “If you are a robber come to steal from me, you’ll find that you probably have more money than I do!” he shouted, looking about through the empty cavern. But try as he might, he couldn’t see any sign of any other person.
“Father Hakon.” Came that voice again. Hakon heard it clearly this time and jerked his head and focused himself on the source. He was left speechless when he realized who it was.
“Well, don’t stand there with your mouth open, Hakon. Assist me.” Heilar whispered and then smiled for the first time in several weeks. At first all Hakon could do, was blink in dismay.
But soon he began to fearfully obey everything his altered Master ordered him to do.
“There must be some mistake.” Arawn stated sourly as he gazed upon the contents of the room that had been assigned to him and Corporal Helvetia, deep within the Great Maou’s castle.
“What’s wrong with it?” Aeshma asked as she stepped beside him and looked over the huge canopy bed that took over much of the room.
“There is only the one bed.” Arawn replied sourly. At which point Aeshma looked over at him with a perplexed look on her face. Behind them both, the sound of Tia’s tarsi claws upon the wooden floor of the room, made a light staccato as she entered.
“I call top bunk!” Tia called out cheerfully. Arawn lowered his head and sighed.
“There is no top bunk, Mentor.” Arawn stated, “This is a canopy bed.”
“So?” she replied as she stepped alongside Aeshma and him. “It still looks comfortable. Oh? There’s just a cloth up there? I can reinforce it with my silk.” Tia judged, looking upwards with a speculative smile on her face. She then Jumped deftly up and over Arawn’s and Aeshma’s head and landed upon the cloth overlay, with barely a whisper of sound made upon impact.
‘Oh my, that will make it easier to sleep will it not? (2)’ Secundus remarked dryly then.
‘How do you figure that? (1)’ Arawn asked, unsure of what Secundus was referring to.
‘A fifty kilo Spider-Girl Mamono perched within a couple of meters over your head, with only spider silk and some dusty old cloth separating the two of you. That is most reassuring. (2)’ Secundus replied, Arawn glanced momentarily up the cloth overhead with a thoughtful look.
“Aeshma, I do not suppose that there are any other rooms available? Perhaps one with at least two beds?” he asked.
“I apologize for the accommodations Arawn.” Aeshma smiled back at him, hiding a giggle behind a hand. “But you have to remember that the concept of sleeping alone is an alien concept to every citizen of Royal Makai.” She paused and thought about it, “Also, space is at a premium right now. This evening the Great Maou is holding a party in which she is announcing the recognition of another one of her granddaughters.”
“Oh? Another one? I would like to extend to the Great Maou my congratulations then.”
“You’ll have the chance to do so at the party. You’re invited after all.”
“What about me? Can I come too?” Tia piped up hopefully.
“Of course, you’re invited too.” Aeshma replied. “As Arawn’s mentor you’ll be needed to be on hand to keep him safe, and others safe from him.” She replied, which made Tia chuckle thoughtfully. Arawn merely responded by giving them both a roll of his eyes.
Both Arawn and Tia arrived early to the party, as is the habit of military personnel anywhere in the Multiverse. Since they were both early, naturally neither the Great Maou, or her husband the Royal Consort were in evidence. But there was a sizable crowd of Mamono nobility already in evidence, and no small amount of food for all to partake of.
To Tia and Aeshma’s surprise and delight, Arawn behaved as the penultimate-gentleman the entire while, greeting everyone he met with a reserved charm and grace. With both Aeshma’s and Tia’s help, he was able to fend off most of the sexual proposals that were directed his way. Arawn soon discovered that some of them were more determined to obtain him, than others. The courtiers from the Centaur-Plains of the Northern Continent for instance, required the intervention of a pair of Ogre guards to untie him from their ensnaring bolas.
After a while, all present within the banquet hall turned to the sound of a booming voice coming from a rather petite Blue Oni Mistress of Ceremonies. She announced that the Great Maou was ‘ready to receive’ the audience within her throne room. Every single person there, then made their way inwards and took their time to individually bow before the Great Maou.
Just before it was his turn to do the same, Arawn was intrigued by the pomp and circumstance of the situation. Looking carefully, he was able to make a momentary eye contact with the Royal Consort as he stood silently alongside his Queen who sat regally upon her throne. In that moment, both Arawn and he made a swift and silent nod of acknowledgement.
“I must say, Black is definitely his color.” Arawn overheard Tia compliment admiringly alongside him, referring to the Corrupted Hero, now husband to the Great Maou. To which Arawn merely smiled by way of reply. There seemed to be a momentary delay, and then all went silent as the doors to the throne room opened, and an unusual looking pair of folks entered. A Tiara adorned Cheshire, and an anachronistic seeming human male.
‘A Cheshire?’ Arawn mentally whispered in surprise. ‘A Cheshire is the Great Maou’s granddaughter? I would not have expected this! (1)’
‘It can only be she, Primus! She resonates with the Great Maou’s Demonic Dweomer!’ Quintus replied. ‘Though I would direct your attention to the human male who standing alongside her! I am getting some most unusual readings from him! (5)’ Quintus said excitedly.
‘What sort of readings? (1)’ Arawn demanded, curious.
‘Give me a few minutes, I will have a report for you then. (5)’ Quintus replied tersely. Arawn/Primus would have demanded more, but that was when he was distracted.
“Please come forward and state your full name and lineage for everyone in the room.” The Great Maou requested regally. Arawn paid closer attention then at the display before him. As soon as the Great Maou finished speaking, the Cheshire seemed to hesitate and then reached out with one of her paws and took the hand of the human male alongside her for reassurance. They then both took a step forward, and the Cheshire began to speak.
“I am Princess Romilia Smith de’ Cor’Meum. Daughter to the Queen of Hearts, Misrelda de’ Cor’dibus and the Human, Eric Smith… of the place called Earth.”
“Earth!” Arawn gasped quietly in surprise, as did many of the surrounding Mamono courtiers.
‘A descendant of a denizen from one of the Earth-Shadows? This is decidedly most intriguing! I wonder how he managed to get here!? (1)’
‘There are manifold ways, though I would imagine that it is the male alongside her who has ownership of that Thermo-nuclear warhead, at least judging by the ambient amount of alpha, beta, gamma, and zeta radiation all around him. (5)’ Quintus pointed out.
‘A valid point. This, should prove to be an interesting conversation. (1)’ Arawn replied.
The Cheshire Princess then turned her head to the human male standing alongside her and offered a large, mischievous grin to her erstwhile husband, who seemed to return it after a moment’s hesitation. The Princess then continued speaking with a heartfelt smile.
”Let it also be known,” the Princess continued, “that the man next to me is Donnie, also of Earth. Prince and Hero to Wonderland as well as my husband and my love.”
Everyone in the room, including the Maou and her husband turned their eyes to peer speculatively at Donnie, who seemed upset with being the center of attention.
“We recognize and welcome you, daughter of my daughter,” The Maou said, smiling warmly at her granddaughter. Then, she turned and addressed her grandson-in-law.
“We also welcome you, Traveler and bid you both to enjoy our hospitality.” Arawn noted that there was a lot that the Great Maou didn’t say in that sentence.
“Now then, with introductions out of the way, you have in your possession something I badly want… I badly need… Donnie.” She said, looking predatorily over at the young male standing before her.
”If it’s the cheat codes to Donkey Kong, I’m taking those to my grave.” Donnie replied with a humorous tone. Arawn found that he had to force back an admiring smile at the human male’s insouciance. The Maou looked blankly at her target, but that look turned into minor leer when she saw the Princess Romie bumping into him with the side of her hip meaningfully.
“The activation of the device.” The Great Maou continued after a moment’s pause. Which caused a shocked look to appear on Donnie’s face. Arawn noted that that look of shock rapidly turned into humiliation.
”Why?” Donnie asked simply, defiantly. The Great Maou’s face froze in response and she began to speak dangerously soft.
“Why? Because you were correct when you once uttered a very true statement. I can’t solve the problem of Mamono birthing male child. That avenue was forever closed to me by The Chief God herself when I made the Great Change. I sought an end to an endless war. No more slaughtering, no more battles, no more bloodshed, just peace and love. A mixing of our two kinds as one, where we would live happily ever after. But that didn’t work out quite the way I was hoping for.” The Great Maou said in a distracted manner, but then she snapped her attention back to Donnie.
“Your world is different isn’t it, though? Your kind embraced technology over magic and that is where the key to Mamono survival lies.” She said intently.
“I want to use the weapon to open a permanent gateway between our two worlds. Your scientists and geneticists hold the key for Mamono to birth human male children.” Her words shocked Arawn to his core.
‘How in the name of the Great Maker is she even aware of such technologies?! (1)’ Arawn demanded. But before Quintus could reply with an excuse, Donnie began to laugh. It began with a chuckle but it rapidly took on a near hysterical level. Everyone else present continued to stare at the Earth-human as he continued in his mirth, but soon he appeared to try and get himself under a semblance of control. Arawn decided to move himself between a pair of Centaurs in order to get a better vantage point of the young male. But they proved reluctant to allow him.
”This… this isn’t funny to anyone else but me huh?” Arawn heard the male ask out loud. “No… I guess I would be the only one to think so.” He continued desultorily.
“You doubt that I would be adept at diplomacy and negotiating with your leaders?” The Great Maou replied icily.
“The whole: rape first ask questions later bit, calls that into question, yeah. Sure, that might work here, but not over there. Look, doesn’t the fact that there is such a thing as a nuke spark any kind of warning signs?
‘A valid point! (1)’ Arawn allowed, as a number of the chamber guards started to nervously stir themselves from one foot, or hoof, to another.
“So what? You think you’re just going to go take a merry old stroll across the dimensional street? Knock on Earth’s door, maybe holding a fresh-baked apple pie in your hands and say ‘Hi neighbor, was wondering if you could help me with a small problem?’ Is that it?” Donnie stated, as he obviously fought against the laughter that threatened to spill over once more. Then his face hardened.
“My people don’t even like each other. We discriminate and hate and kill because of religion, of nationality, of gender, of the color of a person’s GOD DAMN SKIN!” He shouted, which caused the guards to stir even more.
Arawn finally managed a spot in which the view the human male. It was then that he noticed that Donnie’s Cheshire princess-wife was trying to calm him down. But he wasn’t having any of it.
“You will start a war you cannot hope to win Maou.” He continued, “Your people will DIE when missiles and bombs and bullets hit them, your Superman of a husband over there will DIE when he gets pumped full of depleted uranium rounds by Special Forces, you will DIE when a god damn nuke, bigger than the one I have, blows this whole place to hell. There is no scenario where we all end-up sitting around a fire singing kumbaya, Maou.” He stated sarcastically. Through it all the Great Maou remained stoic, only giving a slight sigh of annoyance when he was done.
“Are you quite done with your dramatics?” She asked in a bored tone, “I’m a quite a few years older than you, young man. You’re going to have to trust me that things will not come to that.” Arawn noted easily that she was nearing the limits of her patience.
“Trust you? You basically admitted that you and the Chief Holy whats-her-tits fucked this world over and now you want me to trust you to take a ride over to my side of the yard to get help? Someone, please tell me why is it that every single voice in my head is screaming no?” Donnie laughed bitterly.
“Your psychological conditions are not my problem.” She replied angrily.
“You’re right, they’re not. But the fact that I have the key to Big Boy is.” He retorted caustically.
“If you want to use him, you’re gonna need it.” He snarled menacingly.
“My patience with you is wearing thin, child. Give the key to me.” She growled, her eyes turning red.
‘Red Alert! The Great Maou is drawing upon her vast power source. I am reading Demonic Energy levels far superior to anything we have yet encountered! (5)’ Quintus warned.
‘Stand by to intervene. (1)’ Arawn replied, warning his not-brothers to get ready.
“Well. That makes two of us, Grandma. The answer is still no- Earths closed. I am not going to endanger my home planet to fix your fuck up.” Donnie replied with finality.
‘Such a silver-tongued devil! (2)’ Secundus commented dryly, as the Great Maou motioned for the two nearest guards, a pair of oversized Red Onis to apprehend Donnie. Arawn didn’t feel the need to reply as they took a firm hold of him and dragged the poor male away.
‘Oh, he had such a promising future as a diplomat! (2)’ Secundus cheekily added. With that, the festivities seemed to be over for the evening, as Princess Romie practically threw herself onto the throne to supplicate her grandparents.
‘Well that seems to be the end of this party. Any idea of where Helvetia got herself off to? (1)’ Arawn asked.
‘The last I saw of her, she was in a deep conversation with one of the Royal Makai Musketeers. I would suggest that it would be best to return to our room, and not wait up for her. (5)’ Quintus replied.
‘Fair enough. (1)’ Arawn shot back as he made his way to the exit, doing his best to avoid making eye contact with any of the now disgruntled courtiers. He hoped to take advantage of their distraction to make a successful getaway without being propositioned.
He nearly made it out the door before he needed to duck underneath another artfully thrown bola.