Leliana’s vision swam dizzyingly, and her stomach flipped upside down in protest. Still, she couldn’t tear her eyes from the distant scene of the hovering airships descending into the mountain pass up the steep slope.
The first vessel down was one she was familiar with, Adolade, though she’d never seen it in action. She’d been required in her cell anytime something exciting happened back in that place. She watched in irritable fascination as the ship’s propellers revved, audible even from this far away. The deep throated roar of the engines screamed at the influx of creatures, blowing all but the sturdiest tumbling end over end. It probably ate through fuel like crazy, she guessed, but it was a damn fine monster sweeper.
The second-through-fifth airships swooped in under the blistering winds of the Adolade to deliver their payload – another prison, just for her. “Oh good,” she seethed, “it’s like getting all tucked in at home by my best friends.” She didn’t miss the guilty looks from the monks, but she didn’t care. If she’d been let out of the cage right now, she’d kick all their asses before leaving this dump to its doom.
They were apparently all Leliana’d out after the hate she’d been spewing all afternoon, as none of them breathed a word back.
“Brothers,” Atreides called to his people, “you all remember your places? Good. Let us go.”
Leliana gripped the bag she’d been provided with white-knuckled fury. More to keep her from reaching out to strangle one of them than anything else. The thick leather straps felt good as they dug into her palm, and she breathed deeply as the steel box was hefted. Most of the brothers moved in a V-formation in front of her, wrestling with the howling ocean of oozing beasts clamoring for a piece of her. Maybe if I rip out that one’s throat, the rest will be distracted and ripped into the little pieces of-
Deep breath. In. Out.
Ugh. She’d felt weird ever since before she’d been drugged, and the leftover grogginess wasn’t helping. She wanted some good ol’ fashioned destructive fantasies to play their deaths out in her head like she used to, and some asshole part of her kept jumping in the way with this peaceful slag. She turned her attention to the contents of the sack she’d been given. Might as well figure out what she had while she could, didn’t look like that shell was going to give her much light to read by. A ton of tinned food containers, some skins, probably water, and a sealed pouch full of oiled wicks made up the bulk of the space. She also had a firestarter, a sealed note, A History of Amica and the fall of the Mulica Empire? “Wow can’t wait to dig into this,” she scoffed.
She looked up. That egg-shaped dome loomed in the distance, pulling her ever closer. She hated the way it made her heart race. The snap and snarl of the bewildering horde outside the kennel she called home now swirled around her like a monstrous blanket. The air was so thick with the things that she almost couldn’t even see the sky anymore. She might’ve been impressed by the way the fighters struck the monsters aside, blow for blow, if she didn’t wish for them to get ripped apart so she could see them dead before she died herself.
Sigh. Stupid Lilith. Stupid Brutus. Stupid monks. She’d been so stupid.
She recoiled as a slimy black snout slithered into the cage and nearly took her head off. She wrapped a fist around its disgusting neck and felt briefly satisfied as she separated its head from its body. “Hey, hey!” She cried. “If you’re damning me to a life of prison, can you make sure I’m alive at least!?”
“I am sorry, girl.” Vea gasped. She ripped the arm from what was likely a gorilla once, ramming it into the throat of a lunging crocodilian.
Psh. No she wasn’t. Leliana scraped the gooey ichor off on a bar held by one of the war brothers, catching sight once again of the weird blue tinge her hand had taken on. What the hells did they do to me.
She felt powerful, at least. The sky was more radiant than she remembered, when she caught a glimpse of it. But more, she…felt something. Some murmur of consciousness below the roar of the pitched battle around her. She wanted time to figure out what the hells was going on. “I guess a week of detention will give me time to think,” she laughed bitterly. And all too quickly they arrived.
The egg-shape was harder to see up close; The outer shell was a gigantic circular dome, welded into a single solid sheet of what was probably steel. The cage was gently set onto a wheeled dolly left inside the outer-most blast door upon a set of tracks.
“Leliana, listen,” the Speaker began, rolling the cart deeper into the darkness.
“Choke on it you scat faced whore for a mother.” She growled. A blast of pain lit up inside her head and blurred her vision. She lashed out to hit him, hit anything. When she could see again, she found her fist imprint set into a bent steel bar. Had she always been that strong? They passed through the outer shell into a the next layer, a reddish geometric affair with long and short spikes studded everywhere. The doorway was at least as thick as a few fingers from what she could tell.
Who cares. There was no way she was going to rip enough of the metal out to escape, even if she did feel powerful. More powerful than she’d ever felt, in fact.
The layer inside the spiked metal was a solid concrete box. It was too dark to see how thick it was, but the cries of the monsters outside were hushed to a whisper inside. Guess I’ll just hope they’ve added air holes?
“Right,” the Speaker shrugged. “Fare thee well, lass. I am sorry it had come to this and, fear not, we will not leave until we see you safely do the same.”
“Better hope I don’t see you first.”
The last layer of the cage was a crisscrossed mash of some sort of metal, steel presumably. There was a thicker, softer layer of padding on the inside that she couldn’t make out, but it was damned dark. And quiet. Her heart hammered in time with each door that closed behind the speaker on his way out until the last door slammed shut with a resounding BOOM.
Then she was alone.
Little more than a mile away, two eyes glared as the monks retreated from the mountaintop, closing only long enough to drain the glass of wine in her hand. “Let me be absolutely clear, Gregory,” she scowled and turned on the war room. The usual facade of smooth seductress broken by the twitch of an eye and wavering voice. “If you make a single. Solitary. Move. That undermines my position here-”
“Wait just a damned minute!”
“-And I will end this pathetic quagmire of a polluted hellhole you call home.” She finished. “Your people, vaporized. Your legacy melted and burned to ash. Your precious domains.” She closed her eyes, breathing deeply to regain some semblance of control. Control that snapped into rage the moment the Overseer of Gungrave opened his idiot mouth.
“I’ll damned well do as I see fit to keep myself alive you arrogant b-”
“Don’t you dare shite my bed you little prick,” she snapped. “Not today. The bomb drops in four days, after which we may depart from each others’ lives. You’re free to mess yourself all you like, after that.”
The Overseer looked to his advisors and guards, none of whom so much as twitched. “Fine.” He finally agreed. “You’d better not…Four days? A bomb!?”
“Four days! My heavy lifter is standing by. Once the initial fireball dissipates the creatures will be disintegrated and I will be on my way with my weapon.”
“Overseer Mortimus,” his civil defense engineer cleared his throat nervously.
“Maintain the plan,” he stated. “This changes the time, not the plan. Push everything three days. Tell IC their pet project is mine now, give it to the girl whether she does as promised or not, I don’t care. Two birds with one stone and all that.”
Alone in the dark, inhaling the dank air of the ventilation duct over the meeting, a hidden pair of eyes narrowed.