Hello readers –
I’m back from the move, please enjoy chapter 73!
Leliana’s hair blustered and snapped into her eyes in the icy winds fleeing the floating city. She reflexively swiped the hair, making a mental note to shave later.
Reality brought her back to her senses.
The mountainous ship was so vast it felt like she were already being crushed beneath its weight, even at this range. The sunlight hit it like a sparkling diamond being lowered slowly into an abyss, only that abyss was its own shadow. Night fell on the open fields beneath as it slid silently toward Gungrave. This was… It was them. These were the bastards that had been invading her mind this whole time. There was no mistaking that mental signature. Like sandpaper against her brain.
Despite its mind-boggling proportions, Leliana felt most of them congregated closer to the middle. There was a big, thick field of something weird around the outsides of the ship, but the ones she hated were straight in the center. She wasn’t fully familiar with this new power yet. She didn’t even like it. For now, though, she was content to let it guide her to those bastards that wouldn’t leave her alone. She glared up at them, doing her damnedest to broadcast the thought of her kicking their asses.
Wait, wasn’t she in a fight? Where’d these stupid scientists go? The navy had vanished. After some looking around, she found them half a mile away huddled around a bizarre flagship, smokestacks going wild as they piled all in on the fires. She wanted to laugh in victory, but the laugh died on her lips whien the huge ship’s hull flashed blue and white, colored by the intense beams flashing out from the unknown ship. One of the smaller, wooden airships went up like a candle, its crew all parachuting to the ground.
There’s no way she was telling the truth. She couldn’t have…
If Lilith been right about them, what else had she not been lying about?
Leliana snapped her mouth shut. No point gawking.
“Hey!” She drifted between the unconscious crew, slapping and shaking to get somebody to wake up. At least half the crew sported new bruises before she got one. A scrawny girl with an outfit matching Lilith’s white smock. The woman was defiant for about nine seconds before the screaming light-show to the North sent her into a panic.
“Gods!” She scrambled for the driver’s den.
“Ah-ah,” Leliana snatched her back.
“What are you doing,” The woman demanded, “the Azure Sky has descended! We need to-”
Leliana picked her up roughly, rearing back. To her credit, the woman did not flinch. “No, we don’t. You need to set this piece of junk down. I will be leaving with my friends.”
“Your friends are irrelevant if the world ends.”
“The world’s end is irrelevant if you end first.”
The woman puffed out her chest. For a minute, Leliana thought she might have to follow through on idle threats. Then the woman deflated. “Fine.”
Leliana stalked up and down the spacious driver’s quarters with the scientist at the wheel, marveling at the range of view the ship offered the helmsman through a thick, amber-colored material that was mostly translucent. It felt like glass, but gummy. When they got closer to the ground, she was happy to see her friends still waiting for her. She was not happy to see the monks. “Those scat eating-”
She flew to the floor as the ship ran aground, dust and debris scattering everywhere. Her driver fled without another word.
Leliana knelt on the warm wood, breathing rhythmically to cool her boiling blood. The planks were smooth beneath her fingertips, and she used the texture to ground herself. The the look of horror on her friends’ faces if she ripped the woman in half was the only thing preventing her from doing just that.
Suddenly, two tiny arms were wrapped around her neck. “Leli! You’re okay! I was worried you’d been baked inside that tiny prison Lilith made for you and then dropped a bomb all over you! I’m about ready to go give that woman a piece of my mind. Even I wouldn’t go THAT far what was she-”
A cool, soft hand touched her other shoulder, and Karina smiled down over her still-chattering sister. “Hey you.”
Leliana smiled back. “Hey. I was hoping you two would show up.” Footsteps clunked up the deck toward them and the smile turned into a scowl. “What are they doing here?”
“We’ve come to ensure your safety, per our bargain.” Protector Atreides voiced from behind her.
“Damn your bargain, and damn you.” Leliana whirled, fists raised.
“Girl.” Before she had a chance to get worked up, another voice soothed her ears. “You have much cause for anger. Yet, the enemy for which you were imprisoned lies yon. Will you turn your back on them to spite us?” Vea slid into the narrow doorway, arms crossed.
She’d never realized how cathartic it was to just be pissed off about something, and how infuriating it was to keep having her anger redirected. But Vea was right. These bastards had betrayed her days ago, but those sparkly slag suckers in the sky were the literal bane of her existence. She considered her options.
On one hand, the monks would beat her for sure, but she could punch them. Right in their damn mouths.
On the other hand, did the inhabitants of the Azure Sky even have mouths? Could she break them? If Lilith wasn’t some lying scat-monger, they were probably like her. Could be interesting to fight someone like that. She chewed on a fingernail…
Then blinked. She’d been furious moments ago, now she was wondering about alien physiology? What the scat? Another minute ticked by before she realized the two monks were emitting an ocean of passive tranquility, and she was drowning in it. Gods damn them.
“You two really like this all the time?”
They looked questioningly at each other, but said nothing.
“Whatever. Teena, you have any idea how to take that thing down?”
“Take it DOWN what are you CRAZY that thing is amazing!” Teena said. “Let’s go take it apart or,” gasp “maybe they’ll let me DRIVE IT!” She bounced up the stairs two at a time, a smiling Karina in tow. “Think of how long it would even take to build that thing I bet they were working on it for a hundred years!”
Leliana moved to follow them up, but ran smack into Antros on his way down.
“Hey kid. Good to see ya in one piece.”
“Why the hells are you here?” She asked with a smirk.
Antros laughed. “Every time I turn my back, you try to get yourself killed. Figured I should stick around a few days after that war ended. Yep, there we go. Invasion.”
“That’s not my fault!” She punched him lightly.
“Right, neither was the civilization of slime zombies, huh? So what are you thinking about this one. I go left, you go right?”
She laughed and stared at the massive thing. “Maybe.”
Front this vantage point, she heard city bells from Gungrave. They watched in fascination as black smoke billowed and the city began to reorganize itself using the rail system. The Gungrave navy clustered above the North gate, and the cannons were already hammering a steady rhythm.
She jumped as she realized Carkus and Zimi were staring at her from next to the boiler. Usual attire, as always – naked.
“Hey.” Carkus said.
“H-hey,” she replied.
“Cold out here.”
She shook her head and ran after Teena, interrupting whatever the engineer had been saying. “Hey! You think you can drive this thing and get me on top of that thing?”
“Hell yes I could!” Teena didn’t miss a beat. “This baby’s got some power, it almost picked up my Titanic Teena and it was so cool you should’ve heard the -”
Leliana glanced to Karina a bit guiltily. “That fine?”
Karina’s flushed cheeks turned a shade darker. “Doesn’t really matter, her mind’s made up. Look,” Karina gestured. Teena was working the boiler and staring at the sky with wonder.
“Looks like we’re off to kick some ass, then.” Leliana started back inside, but looked around and changed her mind. “Hey Carkus, you want to help me toss these bastards overboard?” She tossed an unconscious man over the railing for emphasis.
Carkus and Zimi perked up.
“Loser buys the meat?”
“You’re on,” she smiled, then tossed another over.
Chaos reigned for thirty seconds as the three sprinted u and down the deck, grabbing shirts and ankles and whatever else before hurling the poor scientists free of the ship.
“Fifty!” Carkus finally declared.
“There weren’t even fifty to begin with!”
“You must have miscounted.”
They started hashing out terms and logistics of the contest briefly before Leliana caught site of Lilith’s ship in the corner of her eye. What is she doing?
Lilith shot a bright, white jet of light South over the mountains.
Blinking furiously, Leliana opened her eyes in time to witness a thin sliver of darkness stretch slowly out of the floating city, shattering Lilith’s favorite ship to pieces. The tiny figure of Lilith fell, opening a parachute a few moments later.
Damn. Leliana cursed as the science fleet converged to aid their mistress.
The flying city was closing in incredibly fast for something so big. Its shadow nearly brushed Gungrave’s walls. She didn’t know what they had in store, but it was never a good idea to let your enemy reposition uncontested.
“Teena! You ready to go?”
They shot into the sky without another word, miraculously managing to keep upright as Teena pushed the power to max.
The mood turned somber as they streaked toward certain death. Multicolored beams of light streaked non-stop from the ‘prow’ of the enormous vessel, leaving a wake of fire and destruction as they passed. Leliana set her jaw with determination. We’re coming for you, she found herself thinking at them.
She was suddenly enshrouded in bright blue. Not just her, the entire ship was awash in the blue light. She panicked, trying to figure out what it was doing to her ship. Then then light was gone. In its place towered three humanesque creatures, each a deep blue hue with a thick black mane framing their very hair-free face.
They did, in fact, have mouths.
The three were smiling as they materialized. One look at Leliana wiped the smiles from their faces, and then she was fighting for her life.