Mors Funebris Chapter 1, Part 1 – Meet –
The warm wind that blew in from the sea east of Cynosure held a sickly-sweet tang of decaying plant that prickled Corporal Tia’s sense of smell.
‘Barnacle-Goose, it smells like rotting Barnacle-goose.’ Tia thought to herself, while she stood staring without seeing out over Fort Eequor’s Teleportation complex. Demon Army personnel were moving about there, loading, unloading, and standing clear of the occasional purple flash of light that indicated a teleportation was in progress.
‘I wish I could’ve gotten more sleep last night.’ She thought, as she felt a yawn sneaking its way into the back of her mouth. ‘But I just couldn’t sleep what with the preparations.’ Raising a fur coated hand to cover her mouth, she forced back that yawn.
‘It seems like forever that I’ve been waiting for her to arrive. Even though it has only been a few weeks. Oh, WHY does this Majin Arawn make me so nervous?’ she thought, as she listened to her hearts hammering away. ‘I’ve been in battle! And I wasn’t this uneasy, then!’ She chided herself.
‘All right, I’m at the Teleportation platform before her arrival time; check.’ Tia thought to herself in an attempt to calm herself down, absentmindedly tapping a leg claw onto the stone floor underneath her, again.
‘Tap, Tap, Tap’. As she did so, she also began to groom herself, for what seemed like the umpteenth time that morning.
‘Aaaaah,’ she quietly groaned, as she felt the sharpness of her finger claws on her skin underneath her fur. ‘There’s nothing like a good grooming to calm my nerves. I just wish I could find someone who could do it as well as Dasss (father).’ Tap-Tap-Tap.
‘All right, I’ve got married quarters set aside for her and her husband; check.’ Tap-Tap-Tap. She brushed her head fur with her finger-claws, carefully avoiding her side eyes, then reached down to straighten out her Bandolier-tool belt, again.
‘I’ve scheduled a few days off with Sergeant Andra, so that I can give Arawn the time necessary for her to get signed in, and acquainted with the Fort; check.’ Tap-Tap-Tap. She combed out her back fur, twisting deftly around to get to the hard to reach spots, also again.
I’m missing something. I must be missing something!’ Tia thought to herself nervously, going over her mental checklist once more. Yet, she still could not dispel the notion that she had overlooked something important. TapTapTapTap!
But such is the nature of a Jumping Spider-Mamono. Outgoing, nervous, and well… ‘jumpy’.
While she’d been distressing herself since arriving at the Teleportation Pagoda just after midnight, Tia hadn’t been aware that she’d also been getting on the nerves of Sub-Corporal Jenna, the on-duty Porter Tech for the Fort Makai-In/Out Porter platform (#8) for the night.
‘Go away Tia! Take a break already!’ Jenna the Manticore, mentally groused to herself. ‘I need to take care of realigning the compensators. I can’t do that delicate process if you’re distracting me with your tap-tap-tapping!’
Gripping the platform console tightly with her paws and somehow managing to keep her bulbous tail from lashing about. Jenna, decided that she had just about enough of listening to Helvetia clicking one of her eight spider leg tips endlessly on the stone floor.
While the sound of it had started out as unobtrusive as a first day recruit. In the last half-hour it had graduated, with honors, to a gut churning level of obnoxious distraction. Which is something that every Teleportation Technician seeks to avoid at any cost. Teleportation of well…anything, is a dangerous business at even the best of times.
‘If she won’t stop that tapping, I’ll…’ Jenna thought to herself desperately. ‘I’ll,.. I don’t know what! Maybe even get up enough gumption to say something to her?’
Jenna tried swiveling her ears away from Tia once more, but it proved just as useless as her first dozen attempts.
‘Would one of my tail darts settle her down?’ Jenna mused wickedly. ‘No, I’d better not. Sergeant Andra would have my hide if I did that.’ She decided. Then she remembered something, and smiled.
“Tia!” She cried out with fake cheerfulness, over the noise of the other nearby Teleportation Pavilion platforms and their personnel. She spoke loudly enough to momentarily gain the attention of a few of the Red Oni cargo-handlers.
But, it had the desired effect of making Tia stop her incessant tapping. Tia turned her heard over to look, focusing her main eyes on Jenna.
“I’ve got a box of chocolates lying about. Would you be a dear and bring it over?” Jenna asked in a mildly-wheedling tone, looking over her shoulder and her bulbous tail.
“Chocolate?” Tia asked interested, her train of thought now derailed.
“Yes, Tia. I’ve got it sitting in the supplies closet next to the cooling manifold.” Jenna smiled at Tia, hoping that she’d take the hint. ‘The cost of a box of chocolate is a small price to pay to get her stop that infernal noise!’, Jenna decided.
“I’ll share.” Jenna added.
With that, Helvetia eagerly scurried over to the nearest supplies closet to begin her search for her favorite snack. Jenna heaved a sigh of relief and was able to relax enough to resume her maintenance.
Now that she wasn’t being distracted anymore, Jenna was able to complete her task by the time Tia had returned with the small white cardboard snack box.
As luck would have it, that was when a light started to flash on Jenna’s console. Turning her attention to it and its notification runes, she stated, while looking up at her.
“Tia! I’m getting a call in from Royal Makai, they’re sending over a person instead of cargo this time! I’ve a hunch it could be who you’ve been waiting for!” Distracted from the search and capture of her chocolatey prey, Tia reluctantly sat the box down onto the control console’s berm and moved to stand behind Jenna.
With a glance over her shoulder at Tia, Jenna did a quick scan of her environs. ‘Safety First’ she thought to herself automatically. The many hours of training she’d undergone to safely operate a Teleportation platform, did not go to waste.
“STAND CLEAR!” Jenna shouted. There wasn’t anyone on or in the platform’s danger zone. But, the last thing she wanted or needed, was to have someone teleport inside someone else. Tia, already out of the way, shifted back a step or two unconsciously.
After one last visual check, Jenna then tapped the ‘acknowledged’ rune-knurl that sent an automatic ’all-clear/safe to send’ message to the outgoing teleportation platform at Royal Makai. Within a few seconds another notification light started flashing on her console.
“Royal Makai has started sending their package.” Jenna spoke softly, yet firmly, out loud. This was more for Tia’s benefit than hers. ‘Grrrr.’ Jenna groused to herself for the necessity.
“Package transiting, Dweomer stable….Oh no!’ Jenna said, horrified. Which got Tia’s immediate attention.
“What’s wrong?” she demanded, as she jumped to stand alongside Jenna at the console.
“I’m getting some kind of interference in the teleportation process!” Jenna hissed. “Our incomer’s matrix is destabilizing! Back me up Tia, NOW!” She ordered.
Tia, despite being senior in rank to Jenna, immediately complied. Protocol demanded that such things as rank be set aside in case of an emergency. Tia set herself at the backup controller position and let her training take over.
“She’s not quite here yet, Jenna! Try sending her back.” Tia stated as calmly as she could manage. She didn’t know what the problem was, but she’d had experience in these kinds of matters before.
A bright flash of purple light interrupted that train of thought.
‘Too Late!’ both Jenna and Tia thought in unison, the incoming person had already started to materialize. A vague outline of a humanoid had started to appear on the platform in front of them. The air in the immediate vicinity of the platform began swirling and blowing furiously with near gale-force winds. Which had the immediate effect of mussing the hair or fur of both porter techs.
“Shards!” Tia cried aloud, as she hit the console with one fur covered hand angrily. “Status!” she demanded, taking control of the situation. After a moment’s hesitation, Jenna spoke.
“The morphic resonance beam is being destabilized from within!” she cried, “It’s like there’s magical interference from the person being teleported!” Jenna shouted, as she began hyperventilating fearfully.
‘What to do, what to do?’ Tia calmly thought to herself, now that she was in her element. ‘Training never covered this possibility! Interference from within? Is this person suicidal?’ Tia mused. ‘No matter! You’re not dying today!’ She thought firmly, then frowned as her hands began to flash across the platform’s control furiously.
“What are you doing Tia?!” Jenna shouted, as she witnessed what Tia was attempting.
“Reversing the polarity of the Neutral Flow!” Tia spoke out of the side of her mouth, as she continued to tap and twist wildly away at the knobs and knurls.
“But you can’t!” Jenna began, jerking in surprise.
“I just did!” Tia said, hitting the ‘execute’ command-knurl, and looking up at her portation-ward. Where a moment before, the purple tinged outline of a person had begun to fade and distort. Something else occurred: the outline began to firm up and solidify.
Tia held her breath in fearful anticipation. Then, with a snap and one final flash from a knurl, the outline filled out into the shape of a two-legged humanoid. The gale force winds immediately ceased.
This person then staggered, then fell to her knees. Tia sighed in relief and began to breath once more. She then heard the person on the platform speak in a surprisingly low voice.
“Secundus, calm yourself!” Said the low-sounding voice.
“KLAATU BARADA NECKTIE!” said the same voice once more. Yet for an instant, Tia got the impression that it was someone else who had spoken then, despite the fact that there was only one person in evidence.
“I said CALM YOURSELF! NOW!” shouted the first (?) voice again, just before the low-voice choked and then the sound of vomiting started. Tia noted that the newcomer collapsed further, till she was using her hands to keep from impacting the floor.
“That was close!” Jenna spoke then, as she started to shiver uncontrollably from her adrenaline surge. Tia chose to keep her attention on the newcomer. Something seemed off to her about the situation. She just couldn’t figure out what.
Taking in this person from Makai, Tia took note that this newcomer was a two-legs like so many of the others she’d encountered before.
This one, had long black hair braided down her back, and wore a light brown tunic with a skirt-like set of clothing over her thighs. She had knee high boots, and a round silverish metal shield on her back, along with a black leather satchel over one shoulder.
That satchel bag was now resting on the ground, alongside her. Thankfully it was now out of reach of the widening pool of vomit that she was painfully producing. The smell of that vomit, overrode the permeating scent of rotten barnacle-goose. Which was an improvement.
‘The poor dear, she’s been through a lot. It’s not every day, someone lives through a Teleportation accident.’ Tia decided.
“Jenna, get Medical! I’ll go and see to our guest.” Tia commanded. Jenna, for her part, meekly nodded and went off in search of the Medic on duty. Surprisingly enough, such emergencies tended to happen all too often here at Fort Eequor.
Carefully stepping around the console, Tia quickly came to the still-heaving stranger and spoke.
“Are you all right honey?” After a moment’s pause the newcomer spoke, her head still facing the ground.
“I will be fine momentarily. I apologize for my mess that I have created. Please allow me the opportunity to clean it up.” The stranger spoke then, still in that oddly low-voice for a woman. There was something about the way she said it, that tickled at Tia’s memory.
That tickling ceased, when the newcomer lifted her head and blearily faced Tia. Tia gasped in shock when she discovered that the ‘she’ was in fact a ‘he’.
“Who are you?” he asked haltingly, as he shakily rolled back onto his heels while wiping his face with one hand.
“I,I, I… I am Corporal Helvetia.” She stammered, confused.
‘A lone un-escorted male? Madness!’ She thought.
“Corporal Helvetia?” He stated, looking at her furry black and white striped coating that covered her from the crown of her head, all the way down to the tips of her eight legs. “Then you are the one I am supposed to report to.”
“Report to? Who are you?” Tia asked, backing away slightly as he began to stand up.
“I am Annwyfn Arawn. Are you not the one who is supposed be my mentor?” He whispered in a shaky voice that shook Tia to her core. This Arawn began to wobbly stand up.
“There must be some mistake!” Tia cried, shocked. “I was under the impression that Arawn was a female Majin.”
“Uhh, Tia!” Jenna called out then, garnering Tia’s attention, “I’ve got the Medic!” she said indicating the tall Incubus standing next to her with a Medical bag over a shoulder. He then walked over to the platform.
“Which one of you was the one in transit?” The Army Medic asked, his gaze shifting between Arawn and Tia. Simultaneously, Tia pointed her arm at Arawn, and Arawn weakly raised one of his arms.
“All right! Let’s get you off of the platform for starters, there should be a bench over here. Right this way!” He stated, gently grasping Arawn by that one arm and attempting to direct him to the bench in question. Arawn waved him off.
“There is no need for that! I am fine!” Arawn stated, annoyed, as he haltingly walked towards the bench in question. Or tried to. Instead, his legs folded underneath him after taking the third step. The Medic, quick on his feet, took a firm hold of Arawn and attempted once more to guide him to the bench.
“I SAID I am Just Fine!” Arawn yelled, pulling away with his eyes blazing, as he tried to wrest his arm from the Medic’s grasp.
“ARAWN!” Tia shouted then. “This is not how we do things in the Maou’s Army!” she continued, every head turning to take her in. “As your Mentor, I hereby Order you to submit to Medical.” Arawn paused, his sudden indignation nipped in the bud.
‘Well, she certainly has the Voice of Command down pat.’ He admitted to himself then.
‘Indeed, Primus! I get the feeling she is not someone to be trifled with. (5)’ Quintus commented back. Outwardly he spoke.
“Very well then,…Mentor. I will do as you command.” Arawn replied, panting slightly. He stopped fighting and allowed the Medic to guide him to the bench. Tia glowered down at him silently.
‘Oh, she…HE is going to be a pain in the spinnerets!’ she mused to herself, crossing her arms as she stepped her way off of the platform. She nodded to Jenna and directed her to continue with her job. Jenna did so.
“Majin, is it?” The Medic asked Arawn, who nodded. “Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Luge, I’m a Medic and one of the chief nurses at Fort Eequor’s Infirmary.” Arawn, pursed his lips at that. “Who are you?” Luge asked.
“Arawn, my name is Arawn.” He responded, seeming about to ask a question as he sat on the bench. Luge nodded, staring intently at him.
“Where are you?” Luge interjected, before Arawn could ask his question. Arawn raised an eyebrow at Luge for a second, then the light of realization washed over his face.
“I believe that I am in the Teleportation Platform Pavilion, based at Fort Eequor, inside the city of Cynosure.” Arawn replied with an honest smile. “I understand what you’re getting at Medic Luge.”
Luge returned that smile with one of his own, nodding. Tia looked between the two perplexed, not understanding the exchange.
Arawn took the time to look at this Medic. A cursory viewing indicated that Luge appeared to be a human male of just under two meters in height. He was well-muscled, with a light build, brown hair, black eyes, yet there was no evidence of a tan. He was dressed in what appeared to be a variation of the Medic-Togs that Arawn had seen at Fort Makai.
But, a quick scan with Second-Sight, dispelled the human male notion immediately. He was a full Incubus, and had been for some time, if his flaming aura be any indication. Curiously, Arawn also noted the distinct indications of Psi-tendrils emanating from his head. There was something…off…about them.
“What is the Date?” Luge asked then, shaking him from his reverie.
“It should be the Twenty Eighth day, of the Ninth Month, Three Hundred fifty-ninth year of the Eequor dynasty/Cynosure reckoning.” Arawn replied.
“Correct.” Luge replied. “If you understand why I’m asking these silly questions, then you probably understand the need for them as well.” Arawn nodded without a word. Tia, did not. But she kept her silence.
Within a few minutes, Luge completed his set of Teleportation Psychosis tests and declared Arawn to indeed be ‘Just Fine’.
“But!” he stated with a finality. “I still want you to check in with the infirmary for further tests later on anyways.” Luge finished in a tone that would brook no denial. Arawn locked eyes with him for a second, and then nodded once.
“It’s just as well, Luge. Since I have to take him to the Infirmary anyways.” Tia added then.
“Why is that, Tia?”
“He is the one that I’ve been talking about for the last few weeks.” She spoke, sparing a chilly glance towards Arawn. Arawn, returned the look stolidly.
“He, Tia?” Luge asked, smiling. “I was under the impr…” he began.
“YES YES, I KNOW!” Tia interrupted. “I thought that HE was a she, my mistake!” She replied, blushing blue underneath her facial fur. “Stop laughing!” she said embarrassed, as Luge and Jenna started doing just that.
“All right, Tia, I’ll leave you two ‘Ladies’ to get acquainted!” Luge said chuckling, picking up his medic bag as he went back to his post on the other side of the Porter Pavilion. Arawn kept silent, looking bemusedly at his back as he departed. He then turned his attention to Tia.
“Not a word out of you!” Tia said angrily, raising her voice while she pointed a striped finger at him. Arawn sat back, surprised at her vehemence, and complied.
After a moment of silence in which she managed to calm herself, Tia then asked. “Do you have any further luggage?” Arawn shook his head while lifting his black leather satchel. Tia looked him up and over with an odd look.
“Just that? A shield on your back and one satchel?” Arawn nodded slightly with a smile: ‘yes’.
“Nothing more?” she demanded. Arawn shook his head ‘no’, slightly closing his twinkling eyes.
“What about your mate? Surely she’d send you ahead with some of her belongings?” At that, Arawn’s smile vanished from his face as he stiffened and looked away to stare at nothing. Tia noticed his reaction and asked.
“Arawn? Is something the matter?” He glared at her angrily for a second, then his gaze softened, and nodded.
“What’s wrong? Did something happen?” Tia asked and waited. Until after a few seconds, she waved her hands in a circular motion to get him to talk. Arawn, seeing her do so, pointed at her with one finger, and then pointed to his closed mouth. After a moment’s confusion, Tia got the point.
“Go ahead and speak!” she ordered. “I didn’t mean for you to be ..oh forget it!” She exclaimed, exasperated. After a few more seconds she asked.
“No, there will be no more luggage arriving. It is just me, and what I have on me.” He said quietly, looking at the ground. “I would prefer to not discuss what ‘happened’ concerning my mate, if you do not mind.” He finished with a deep cleansing sigh. Tia stared at him for a moment longer and replied.
“So, when will your mate be arriving then?” she persisted.
“SHE. Will not be arriving!” Arawn replied testily. Before she could continue, he continued.
“She, will NOT BE ARRIVING! Not now, not ever! NOW IF YOU WOULD PLEASE, DROP THIS!” he half yelled, half hissed with his eyes blazing and his body quivering angrily.
“Annwyfn Arawn! I am your Mentor and I am giving you a Direct Order to tell me what happened with your mate!” Tia nearly shouted, her eyes starting to blaze red with her fury.
She waited a few seconds, but Arawn refused to answer. Instead he just kept quivering, not looking at her with his nostrils flaring with his heavy breathing.
Tia lowered herself to stare at him with her face centimeters away from his. She locked her two main, blue eyes with his, brown ones, and spoke in a controlled manner, heavily laden with anger.
“Majin Arawn, I am not letting you out of this Pagoda until I have a clear and concise answer from you.” She began. “I am tasked not only with your safety, but also with insuring the safety AND the security of everyone else on this base, FROM YOU if necessary.” She bared the tips of her venom teeth, then continued after making sure he saw them.
“If you will not answer my questions, I will send your human fundament BACK to Royal Makai or wherever the hell it is you came from! Do I make myself clear?” she demanded.
At that moment, all Arawn could see in his mind’s eye was his beloved Takana damaged and quiescent like a puddle of purple gelatin, lying in that bowl he last saw her in. He looked back up at Tia, resentfully.
“Yes.” He hissed.
Deep down, Tia was sorry for the pain she was causing him then. But, she had a job to do. That job was to protect everyone on base from any threat that she came across. Whether it came from without, or within, didn’t matter to her. And by Maou, she wasn’t going to let someone’s feelings get in the way of her job. Particularly, this human’s…
“Now, WHERE IS YOUR MATE?” she asked coldly, not blinking.
“She is in the Royal Makai Medical Institute, being treated.”
“Being treated for WHAT?!”
“A life-threatening condition.”
“Did you give her this ‘life-threatening’ condition?”
“Yes, I mean NO! No, I do not know!” he cried, tears welling in his eyes.
“What do you mean you don’t know?
“I do not KNOW!” He shouted. “I do not know how I was harming her. I just know, NOW! Now, when it was nearly too late! If I had known earlier I would have left her sooner!”
“You left her?” Tia said, her eyes flaring in indignation.
“Yes, to keep her alive.” He panted slowly. “Somehow our two natures…clashed. She took the brunt of it. The one who discovered the problem, Gallandia… discovered the problem. Nearly before it was too late.”
“Why did you leave your own mate?” Tia demanded incredulous.
“I LEFT HER! TO KEEP HER ALIVE!” he shouted, while tears streamed down his face.
He turned away from her gaze. Tia stood back away and up, lost in thought. The she sighed. Arawn noticed and spoke.
“Satisfied?” he said vehemently, staring at her through his eyebrows, his fists clenching and unclenching.
“Yes,” she said, feeling slightly guilty, and disappointed. Mostly at herself.
“I need some fresh air.” Arawn demanded suddenly. Standing up, he pushed past Tia and went outside. He continued on till he could see the apex of the Pagoda-like building that covered the dozen or so Teleportation platforms. Thankfully, Tia left him alone long enough to allow him to regain his composure.
After a couple of minutes of silently chanting his calming mantra, he looked around for her.
After a few seconds, he saw ‘Zrihea’s Choice’ of a Mentor facing away from him with her arms folded, next to a low stone wall a short distance away across the commons. He walked across the grass to stand next to her, taking care to avoid stepping on any part of her furry legs.
‘She has quite the wide stance. Smaller than most Arachne, and a most interesting pattern of black, white, and I daresay, deep brown fur stripes.’ He mused.
Tia, continued to stare out at the city with her two main (blue) eyes. Judging by the way she was quivering and the way she was keeping her arms folded, he could see that she was upset.
She didn’t ignore Arawn, she couldn’t, not now. After all, what with her side eyes she could peruse almost all the way around her. It was the rare person or creature that could successfully sneak up on a Jumping Spider Mamono!
But she did choose to not acknowledge him beyond a quick glance. After a few seconds of not seeing the city that lay beneath, Arawn chose to speak.
“So, what now?” he began. But as he started, a sharp crack resounded in the air behind them both. Snapping both their heads around simultaneously they both peered back at the Pagoda.
“What?” Arawn asked. Tia turned and started forwards to the platforms. Arawn began to follow, Tia noticed and held up a hand.
“No!” she shouted, “Stay Here!” she ordered as she began to run to where the sound had originated. After she turned a corner and was lost from Arawn’s sight, another sharp crack accompanied by a flash of light came again from with the Pagoda’s walls. Arawn didn’t hesitate this time, he swiftly ran after her.
Inside, he saw his Mentor, along with Jenna the Manticore working at the console of the platform he had recently vacated. The teleportation platform was active, but instead of the usual purplish light that emanated from the platform stage, there was now a rainbow of colors pulsing from the floor and streaming to the overhead ceiling and back again to the floor.
“What happened?” Tia demanded over the roar of the air streaming around the room, and the alarm klaxons.
“I don’t know Tia! The teleporter didn’t want to work, so I just restarted it.” Jenna replied nervously.
“Did you run a diagnostic?” Tia asked.
“There was no time for that! I’m already behind schedule because of the delay caused by your Ward!” Jenna acerbically replied.
‘Faex!’ Arawn thought to himself then. ‘Why did Secundus have to wake up during the teleportation?’
‘I am at a loss for this Primus! I have no explanation as to why he did that. I thought that he would have continued in his slumber through the transition. (5)’ Quintus explained.
‘I am sorry!’ Secundus interjected. ‘I just woke up and thought that we were under attack!’ (2)’
‘Fine, whatever! What did .. (1)’ Arawn demanded, but then the streaming colors of light changed and coalesced into a meter-wide sphere of prismatic energy.
Just then, he noticed that a third individual had joined Tia and Jenna while he had been distracted with his not-brother conversation. The newcomer appeared to be a Salamander who wore the Maou-standard insignia of a Sergeant. She seemed to have taken charge of the situation. Once or twice she glanced at Arawn, but paid him no mind.
Then with a loud sizzling sound, the meter-wide sphere of prismatic energy that floated in the center of the Teleportation platform- Vanished. When it left, it took all of the power that made the platform function, along with it causing darkness to surround this section of the Pagoda. This darkness was pierced by the light of the fire on the Salamander’s tail tip, and some ambient light filtering in from the other parts of the Pavilion. After several failed tries by the trio of Mamono to restart the platform, the Salamander spoke loudly and clearly.
“What the FUCK just happened here?!” she shouted to no one in particular. Tia and Jenna were silent, trying to figure it out as well.
“Uhhhmmm.” Arawn began nervously. All three nearby Mamono turned their heads slowly to look at him in the dark. Slowly, the Salamanderps fire started to flare.
Tia’s confusion, changed to one of outrage when she recognized the speaker. She was about to say something when the Salamander started first.
“Who the Fuck are you, and what are you doing here?” The Sergeant/Salamander demanded then. But, before Arawn could answer, Tia piped up.
“He’s the new recruit who just came in from Makai.” She said, glaring murder at him, “And I distinctly remember ordering him to STAY OUTSIDE a few seconds ago!”
The Salamander closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose, and took a couple of calming breaths before she continued talking. Finally, she spoke.
“You!” she said sharply, pointing to Arawn. “Out.” she said pointing to the way he came. Arawn hesitated for a second, trying to speak. “NOW!” the Salamander ordered loudly. Arawn turned and exited quickly, then returned to the spot he was at previously, near the wall.
‘That, did not turn out well.’ Arawn said to himself. Thankfully, his not-brothers chose to remain silent then. Arawn sensed Secundus shifting around nervously, somewhere.
While waiting for his inevitable dressing down that he felt he was about to (rightly) receive, Arawn started looking at everything around him.
He appeared to be standing atop a ridge of limestone that stretched to the north, and curved slightly to the east. At the far north easterly point he could make out what appeared to be a grand palace.
‘Probably Doge Eequor’s Palace.’ He mused.
Turning around, he took note of the defense fortifications that lay at the edge of the ridge cliff. Here and there, an odd-looking building or two surrounded him in the local area. Turning, he viewed the Pagoda that covered the Teleportation platforms he had exited from.
It had curling cornices, and a stacked architecture of flowing lines. It seemed as if some giant had taken a stack of decreasingly sized highly ornate blocks and placed them atop one another. Its look contrasted sharply with the more utilitarian construction of the other nearby buildings.
Here and there, were a number of Mamono walking, clip-clopping, and slithering about on their own errands. One or two of them looked at him curiously, but never approached.
Turning around and walking towards a low stone wall, Arawn finally began to notice the city that lay spread out before him in the early morning light. He noted what appeared to be a flock of some strange looking birds playing tag with a flock of normal birds. Then with a slap to his forehead, he realized that the strange looking birds were Harpies.
‘I had no idea they were capable of such aerial acrobatics!’ he thought, surprised.
The local time appeared to be somewhere just before sunrise, due to the bank of clouds on the easterly horizon. He could already smell a hundred thousand different scents wafting in from the city and the ocean that lay beyond.
He found himself fascinated by this city. There, in the burgeoning light, he could see many dozens, if not hundreds, of ship masts sitting and bobbing in one of several harbors. Hundreds of city blocks spread out in all directions before him.
Listening carefully, he could hear the sound of waves slapping in the distance, slightly masking the sound of a city waking up.
There was something….familiar, about this place!
‘Déjà vu! (1)’ he said then to Quintus.
‘I get it too Primus! I do not understand this! As far as I can tell, we have NEVER been to this city before! Yet, I feel that we have! (5)’ Quintus stated, awestruck
‘Add this to the list of unusual events. (1)’ Arawn/Primus said.
‘Uh, Primus, we have a guest. Behind us. (5)’ Quintus prompted.
‘I think I can guess. Time to take the medicine. (1)’ Arawn said, turning around. Sure enough, there standing behind him stood Corporal Tia with her arms folded, and looking perturbed.
‘Goodness, how can someone with so many legs move so silently? (1)’
‘Well she IS a hunter after all. (5)’
“Majin Arawn,” Tia began slowly, uncrossing her arms. “You have been on Fort Eequor for less than half an hour, and already you have managed to embarrass me several ways, up to and including insubordination, disobeying direct orders, and now possible,… sabotage?” Tia’s voice, already high in pitch, took on an especially high note at her last word. While she raised her hands into hook like claws, seemingly eager to strangle someone, anyone, within reach.
“Sabotage?” Arawn asked indignantly, his eyes flaring.
“The Teleportation platform in which you just now ported in on, is not working for the first time in several decades. You began to say something a few minutes ago, after Sergeant Andra demanded an explanation. Now, explain yourself.” Tia said patiently, as she stepped close enough to put her face centimeters away from his. Arawn, stared back and slightly down at her, without once blinking.
“I have had difficulties involving teleportation of every sort, for my entire existence. This is on record.” He began. Tia got a thoughtful look on her face and leaned back away from him. Arawn continued.
“Something out of the ordinary, occurred during the transition. I do not know what, precisely.” He said with a shudder, blinking his eyes momentarily.
“What I do know, is that in my sudden fear reaction…” Arawn sighed. “I…uh… may have invoked an uncommon form of Magic.” He finished quickly.
“What kind of, ‘uncommon’ Magic?” Tia asked quietly, skeptically, as she leaned forward.
‘Yes, what kind of Magic Secundus? (1)’ Arawn prompted then.
‘Uuuuhhhh, I think it may have been…I am not really sure about it….(2)’ he began.
“I’m waiting Majin Arawn!” Tia hissed.
“Uuuuhhhh, I think it may have been…I am not really sure about it…” Arawn said in an effort to stall.
‘Spit it out NOW, Secundus! (1)’ Arawn flared.
‘Chthonic. (2)’ Secundus mentally spoke as quietly as he could.
“Chthonic.” Arawn stated out loud. Then his eyes flared, Privately, ‘CHTHONIC?! Are you out of your mind?! (1)’
‘Uuuuh, how am I supposed to answer that? (2)’
‘Nevermind! We will discuss this later! (1)’
“And what exactly is ‘Thonic’ Magic, Majin Arawn? Is it Demonic? A form of Order Magic, Elemental, Fairy?” Tia asked, ticking off the few that she knew of.
“None of those actually. Chthonic Magic predates all of them.” Arawn corrected, slightly annoyed at her mispronunciation. Tia looked both surprised and perplexed, then slowly the look on her face changed to one of extreme skepticism, with a side order of mild anger.
“What is ‘Chthonic’ then.” Tia asked politely. Her anger starting to rise far enough for her to involuntarily extend her venom teeth.
“It is not a ‘what’ it is more of a who.” He began. “Well, for lack of a better term, ‘What’ couldl do as well, now that I think about…” Arawn stopped, realizing that he was going off on a tangent. He cleared his throat.
“Chthons, were a ‘race’ of hyper-dimensional sentients who existed long before humans, monsters, and the Fey came about.” He began. “It has been bandied about in some circles that they had a ‘hand’, or equivalent, in the creation of all of the habitable worlds that have ever existed. In one form or another.” Looking up, Arawn noticed that Tia just stood there with her mouth open, seemingly dumbfounded. He chose to press on.
“According to the best estimates, the last of the Chthons of this world, left approximately five hundred million years ago.” Arawn finished. Tia didn’t say anything for a moment or three. Until finally.
“And how is that YOU learned their Magic?” she inquired with an extreme patience.
“I, was tutored in it, by one of their number just before, he…she…” he began, “it…departed for planes unknown.”
“But you said that the last of them departed, what? How many millions of years ago?”
“Five hundred million.” Arawn said, flatly. There was a deadly silence, before Tia continued.
“Are you claiming that you are five hundred million years old?” Tia demanded then.
“No. I am not.” He began, then noticed Tia breathing in deeply as if to scream. “I am much older. I take it that you have not read my personnel records then?” Tia stopped breathing in and froze, staring coldly.
“No, I haven’t. Not in their entirety.” Tia admitted. “How old are you claiming to be then, Arawn?” she asked evenly. Arawn thought about it for a second, then answered.
“For lack of a better term: Ancient.”
Tia felt her blood boil at this, insulting prevarication. There was NO WAY she was going to let him get away with this…this…then she stopped fuming.
For some reason, that word he said: ‘Ancient’ tickled a part of her memory again. A part of her memory that had been stimulated before, just a little while ago by something else he’d said. But she couldn’t remember what, now.
Tia didn’t know why, but she felt herself calming down just before she continued to speak.
“Fine, whatever. This time, STAY HERE! I’m going to report what you said to my immediate superior.” She said quietly, then went inside the Pagoda. Arawn, chose to stay behind quietly. After a few minutes, he heard the sound of her tarsi claws clicking slightly on the limestone block pathway as she stepped past him.
“Follow me!” she ordered.
“Where are we going?” Arawn asked, trying to keep up with her.
“My supervisor decided that your ‘Chthonic Magic’ didn’t do any worthwhile damage. So, I still have to get you checked in at Headquarters. Hopefully before you manage to accidentally destroy the city.” She replied with an annoyed glance back at him. “Then off to the Infirmary!”
Arawn followed his mentor down the winding limestone walkway that led down the side of ‘Pagoda-Hill’ as it was known by the locals. Porter Hill by the Mamono, because the teleportation platforms were located atop of it. He tried to keep as close as he could to her. But, seemingly every time he caught up to her, she’d glance over to him and suddenly lurch a good six to seven meters away and forward.
The first couple times he assumed that she was attempting to ‘jump the line’ of the oncoming Mamono who were walking, and/or hauling items up and down the hill. But to his growing chagrin, the last time there wasn’t any other people nearby when she did so.
Arawn started running, and this time quickly caught up to her. “Hey!” he shouted. “Wait up!” Tia ignored him, as she once more jumped ahead.
‘Very well then, Corporal.’ He thought to himself stopping. ‘Secundus, I want a particular spell. Do you think you can handle it? (1)’ he ordered. After receiving an affirmation from Secundus, he continued running down the side of the hill rapidly.
This time, he caught up to her at a switchback. As before she glanced at him and tensed her hind legs in preparation, which Arawn caught sight of.
‘Not this time!’ he thought to himself. ‘Secundus! (1)’ Tia jumped, and Arawn mentally invoked a minor Jumping spell.
The effect of which resulted in Tia not jumping alone, but with her Ward matching her leap over the heads of the Mamono below. The result of this, surprised her immensely. But, it also had the effect of shaking her out of her snit-fit.
After a few seconds, Arawn haltingly came down to her at the next switchback. There, the Annwyfn and the Spider-Girl chose to glower at each other, arms crossed for several seconds.
““Why are you doing this?” Arawn demanded. “Are you the same Spider Girl who drug out a painful confession from me, a few minutes ago?”
Tia sighed as she looked at him. He thought he could see a hint of guilt in her face then. “I was disappointed.”
Tia glanced around. “Hold on!” She said. “We’re getting in the way of everyone else on the climbing path. Here! Let’s move to the wall.” She ordered, as she stepped up onto the low stone wall guarding the cliff wall.
Which was just as well, as the many Mamono and a couple of humans, were getting annoyed at the Tia/Arawn bottleneck. Climbing up and over, Arawn joined her to sit on the stones that were still chill from the night time air.
She, chose to collect her legs in a tight bunch, clutching the stones of the wall top with her feet. He, eventually found a semi-comfortable spot. After a few seconds of silence and listening to the mumbled curses of the crowd behind them, they resumed their conversation.
“Why are you disappointed, Mentor?” Arawn prompted. After a few seconds of sidelong glances Tia replied.
“It’ll sound stupid.”
“Perhaps it will, perhaps it will not.” He tendered neutrally. Closing her eyes and sighing, she spoke.
“I thought that you,…” she began, “were supposed to be a female.” She finished quietly, her shoulders drooping. Arawn looked back over at her confused.
“Why would my gender be a disappointment to you?”
“Because I want to get promoted to Sergeant.”
“I do not follow the connection.” Arawn said perplexed.
“In order for me to get my promotion. I have to either, A) be married, B) have children, or C) Mentor someone.”
“I take it therefore, that you are not married, nor do you have children?” Arawn asked.
“No.” she said simply, not looking at him. Arawn wanted to ask more, but decided instead to follow the Mentor line.
“So why is it important that I have to be a female?” Tia turned to look at him.
“Because mentoring a male is, unique. I’ve never heard of a male becoming an officer before.” Tia jerked her gaze away from him, then started talking again.
“A SINGLE male becoming an officer, that is.” She said turning her head to look at him directly. “I’ve only heard of female officers in the Demon Lord’s Army. Hardly ever a male one that I’m aware of, and even then it was only a rumor.”
“Particularly an unmarried male officer.” Arawn injected.
“Yes.” Tia nodded. “For the obvious reason.”
“Indeed. Almost an oxymoron.” Tia jerked her head and looked at him indignantly.
“Did you just call me a Moron!?” Tia hissed as her normally blue eyes started to flare red in anger, turning to loom over him.
“OXY-Moron! It is a turn of phrase to describe a contradiction! Not an insult meant for you.” Arawn replied as evenly as he could, attempting to match her ability to loom.
After a few seconds, the red in her eyes started to fade away.
“Oh, all right.” She conceded. “But I am so going to look that word up in a dictionary. Once I find one.” She finished, settling herself down to a less-threatening position next to him.
“You don’t seem to intimidate easily.” Tia stated with a cock of her head.
“So, any other reason my gender would be a disappointment to you?” Arawn said, trying to divert her.
“I’m disappointed because I think that you’re meant as a joke.”
“A joke, yes. A joke at my expense!”
“The chances of a lone-single-male getting to be an officer is next to nothing.” Tia explained.
“I think I begin to understand where you are coming from now.”
“Yes, and it doesn’t help that you seem to be so…I don’t know…” she stopped speaking after looking at him, frowning.
“Speak freely.” Arawn prompted. Tia waited for a second, then resumed.
“Idiotic, unfriendly, hostile.” She spoke, waiting for him to deny it. Arawn did fume for a second or three. But then.
“I am, yes.” He admitted, with a sigh. Which surprised Tia.
“Thank you. I’ve never encountered someone who would admit to all that before.” She said curious.
“Less Idiocy, hostility, and un-friendliness would be a necessity if I would work and serve alongside Mamono in this Army.” Arawn concluded. Tia just nodded.
“Well then. Would you be willing to…Mentor me in all that?” He asked with a twinkle in his eye. Tia frowned at him, almost growling at his …pun?
“Well it may be quite the long-shot for me getting to be an Officer in the Maou’s Army. BUT!” he stated. “Just imagine what kind of prestige you would get, if I did?” he added simply.
Tia thought about it for a second, with her lips pursed.
“Well, maybe it’s worth a try.” She conceded.
“So, shall we both work together for our mutual goals, then?”
“Yes, maybe, I don’t know.” Tia said reluctantly. “I am still a bit disappointed.”
“Because you do seem to be an insufferable, officious, prick.” She tossed out in an effort to rile him. Arawn stiffened and glared at her. She, held her place and glared back.
“Yes, I can see where you might get that notion.” He replied after a moment. She smiled triumphantly, her teeth showing.
“But then, most of the human males that I’ve come into contact with, are pricks.” She continued. Arawn chuffed.
“What would I have to do, to prove to you that I am not?”
“There is a way you could demonstrate to me, that you’re earnest.” She offered.
“Chocolate.” Tia said simply.
“What is: Chocolate?” He inquired, twisting his face. Tia smiled, eager to take advantage of the situation.
“It’s something that human males in Cynosure, purchase females to ‘apologize’ for their … being a prick.”
“Interesting. A local custom? Is this chocolate a kind of flower?” Arawn asked. “Because that tends to be the preferred ‘male-apology’ item from most of the places I have visited.”
Tia turned her head away and grinned to herself. ‘Oh, I’ve almost got him.’ She thought to herself. ‘Just a little bit more, and I’ll pounce.’
“No, it isn’t. But it is made from a plant.” She replied. “But it is something I like to sample every now and again.”
“Well tell you what then, Corporal Tia. As a token of my word and my determination. I am willing to purchase you as much chocolate as you can carry.” Tia, still facing away from him, thought to herself one word.
‘Pounced!’ she grinned to herself evilly. ‘This Arawn is about to learn just how much a Spider can carry.’
“Follow me then.” She said with a neutral smile. Arawn, unknowing smiled back.
A short time later, the only thing Arawn had to say was:
“GREAT MAKER! What is this place?” he asked staring at the storefront in front of him, incredulous.
“It’s a place called Needful-Things-Candy-Shoppe. Since it’s on base, it’s quite popular with all of the Mamono. Particularly the Zipangese Raiju. They all seem to have quite the sweet-tooth.” Tia explained while hovering next to him, trying to edge him inside without being too obvious about it.
“They sell many delicious candies here, including my personal favorite form of candy, chocolate.” Arawn raised his head and breathed in the scents of candy. Out of the usual scents emitted by a city filled with humans, monsters, and animals. Which usually consisted of shit, wood-smoke, and sweat-laden bodies; there was also the delightful and intriguing smells and scents that wafted out of the opened door to the ‘Shoppe’.
‘These ‘Candies’ smell utterly enjoyable!’ Arawn thought to himself.
‘Well stop stalling Primus! Let us go in, and find out why they smell so nice! (5)’ Quintus sniped at him urgently.
Arawn shook himself and took note of Corporal Tia’s body language, then allowed himself to be led inside.
Within a short amount of time, Arawn found that he quite enjoyed this panoply of utterly empty calories available on display. The smiling shop owner introduced herself as ‘The Honorable Lady Dibbler Nodo-Katto. She was a Mamono that he had not encountered before. He wanted to ask her specie, but he didn’t know how to do so without being impolite.
She was a human-seeming young lady, but she also had the characteristic furry Mamono-ears perched atop her head, and for some unknown reason she chose to adorn the crown of her hair, with a large leaf. For reasons unknown, she sported what appeared to be a dark patch of mildly tanned skin that covered her eyes.
Her eyes had given Arawn a bit of a chill. When he closed the door behind Tia, he felt that they made a swift calculation, and seemingly cold judgment of him, before she smiled pleasantly.
When she turned as she bustled about her modestly large establishment, he noted that she did indeed have a banded tail, as he suspected upon first entering.
Additionally, her lower legs were covered from her ankles to just above her knees with a light-brown colored pair of furry socks (?) that matched the color of her head hair. It seemed as if her socks testi-clinged to her skin.
She wore an efficient ensemble of clothing that conveyed a sense of modesty, yet allowed her free movement. Simultaneously, the jacket decorations suggested a moderate degree of wealth without being overbearing. She introduced herself as Lady Dibbler Nodo-Katto.
Though he tried not to take advantage of her generosity, the Honorable Lady Dibbler was quite willing to allow him and Tia, a free first sampling of anything they desired to try.
“So, what do you like Corporal?” he asked Tia.
“This one!” She said, holding up a sample of something labeled: ‘Toad-Crunch’. He took the offered sample and bit into it, and began to chew. Nodding his head in approval at the richness of the flavors, he spoke.
“I have to admit, this ‘chocolate’ is indeed quite delicious” Then, he decided that it was quite a bit more-crunchy than he expected. He then stopped chewing, to reach up and pull out what appeared to be a small white bone out of his mouth.
“Uhh, why is there a bone left in this?” he asked patiently. Tia laughed and replied.
“Well silly, it wouldn’t be crunchy if they took the bones out of the toad, now would it?” she chuckled as she popped her own ‘free sample’ into her mouth.
“No, I suppose not.” He replied, trying not to think what else was contained inside his mouth right then. Idly, Arawn began to pay closer attention to the selections of chocolate and candies on display, and began listing the names and prices of them all.
‘Anthrax Ripple, Oh, that sounds intriguing… Cherry-bomb Fondue, a bit pricey… Ram’s Bladder Cup,…hmmph. Devil-Bug cluster, not too bad… Rinaata’s S.E. Sweets, oh my! Quite expensive!… Spring-surprise…no. Chocolate Salty Ba…Oh Great Maker! What is THAT scent?’ Arawn thought to himself in surprise, as a stray odor found its way to his nose.
He stood up, with a look appearing on his face that diverted Tia from her ‘free-sample’ depredation rampage. Much to the Lady Nodo-Katto’s evident relief.
Arawn tracked the intriguing scent over to a small pile of boxes that were labeled ‘Discards’.
“What are these?” he asked eagerly, reaching for and opening one of the boxes.
“Oh! You will not be wanting those Honorable Sir! They are stale because no one wants any of them! I am about to throw them out.” Lady Nodo-Katto said smoothly, as she watched Arawn stick his nose into the box and inhale deeply. She was about to try and take the box away from him, but stopped when she observed the look of pure bliss wash over his face.
‘Anise! These smell like Anise!’ Arawn thought to himself.
‘Indeed, they do Primus. Quickly! Taste one! (5)’ Quintus demanded. Arawn/Primus was quick to comply. When he did so, he stopped chewing after a couple of bites.
‘Takana. They taste and smell just like Takana did.’ Arawn thought to himself sadly then.
“What are these called?!” he demanded suddenly.
“Black-Sword Licorice.” The dark eye-banded Mamono said hopefully, sensing a significant increase in her profit margins for the day.
“Arawn. Are you, all right? You’re crying.” Tia said openmouthed, spellbound.
“Am I?” He said, reaching up and wiping away his tears. “So, I am. No matter!” He then turned to the merchant.
“I will take your entire stock of this: Black-Sword Licorice!” he stated excitedly.
“But, I have almost twenty-three kilos of …” she began.
“FINE! FINE! I will take it all!” he exclaimed. The shop keeper was shocked and appalled, but also quite pleased. This was turning out to be her best profitable day in some time!
Tia, surprised by his actions. So much so, that she forgot to pick out any more chocolates. As it was, she was carrying a modest amount of a mere forty kilos.
Arawn, for his part, was so happy with his selection of candies that he didn’t even make a squeak of protest at the price the shopkeeper quoted for everything.
Tia, suddenly bothered by her conscience, started haggling for the price of sixty-three kilos of candy on Arawn’s behalf. The two of them settled, after a lengthy battle of words, upon a price of one half gold for each kilo of confectionary. Tia had tried to get the shop keeper to lower her price from there, but Lady Dibbler Nodo-Katto wouldn’t budge, stating.
“I am practically committing seppuku at these prices!” she replied indignantly, putting on a good show.
Inwardly, the Gyobu-Danuki was nigh on as close to a profit-orgasm, as she could’ve managed without her husband being within arm’s reach.
Arawn kept his word to Tia, and paid the bill in full. Tia was dumbfounded by his willing compliance.
‘He didn’t bat so much as an eyelash about the steep price! What is it about that nasty tasting stuff that he likes so much?’ she pondered to herself as they both stepped outside the door.
Behind them, Lady Dibbler chose to lock the door and switched her ‘OPEN’ sign over to ‘CLOSED’, and then went searching for her husband. She was determined to not waste this profit-orgasm on herself alone. As it turned out, Mr. Dibbler eventually found himself rather pleasantly exhausted later, much later, that night.
“Uhhhmm, Arawn?” Tia prompted, as she staggered slightly under her load of chocolates.
“Yes Mentor?” He replied absentmindedly, savoring the sweet richness of his treasure.
“I’m thinking that instead of checking you into Headquarters immediately. I thought that it’d be a better idea to show you to your quarters first.”
“Whatever you say, Mentor. I will follow your lead.” He replied cheerily. It was the first bit of something approaching happiness, that he had felt in a long time.
“Oh, and Tia?” He stopped and asked suddenly. Tia eventually lumbered to a stop and looked back at him questioningly. “Thank you for showing me the place. You have done me a great service.” He smiled over at her.
Tia, looking at him, smiled hesitantly back. She noticed that he was crying again. But she didn’t want to point it out. He wasn’t grumpy anymore, and for some reason she didn’t want to spoil the moment for him.
Finally, after a couple of hours, Sub-Corporal Jenna and Sergeant Andra managed to reroute some Mana/power to the defunct console from one of the other platforms. As such, they were able to get the number 8 platform operational again.
While Jenna waited for the infernal diagnostics to complete, she decided that she was going to go ahead and eat those chocolates she had had Helvetia retrieve. But, try as she might, she couldn’t locate them. Tia was the obvious choice, but Jenna distinctly remembered seeing her place the box onto the console’s berm. But never saw them again after that.
“Where are my chocolates?” she asked out loud to no one.