- August 29, 2021
Raydorn: The War in the Black (Chapter 5)
“Smart bitch power hour starts now.”
– Andelyn Stella, 448 A.C.A.
“You’ll never be a Stormguard.”
As Andy struggled along the stadium’s walls, she thought she heard her father’s failed apology piercing through her ears.
In reality, she heard the sound of two Krones who had caught her drunk and alone. Two soldiers of the Kronish Empire, the largest to walk the earth.
And they knew what she wasn’t. “You’re no Stormguard,” one said before turning to the other.
“Why kill her? Why waste such a pretty face?”
Ugh, Andy groaned, her thoughts still cloudy, and her head still struggling to stay above water. She had her hand to her forehead as one man sheathed his sword in his approach of her. Oh good, he’s that stupid. Andy looked between her fingers as she mocked helplessness.
The one on the right seems to be controlling every breath, but he’s not sweating… armor too tight? Probably swings his arms like a duck.
The other can’t even remember to keep a hand on the pommel, and based on the distinct lack of a bulge over his crouch, he forwent the recommended cup.
When the unarmed Kronish soldier went to grab her, she grabbed both of his arms and pulled him into her knee. It should not be hard to imagine where her knee was aiming, but she went too high and got him where the pelvis met his abdomen.
No matter. It allowed her to grab his sword but let him punch her across the face. She stumbled a bit, swaying the flask on her belt.
The man yelled at her, “You wicked bitch!” as Andelyn Stella rubbed her cheek.
“Huh,” she said as the unarmed man came at her, “I barely felt it.”
The man took a swing, assuming her drunk and inept, despite all proof to the contrary. She sidestepped him, and with a leg out, and sent him onto his stomach. She knelt and plunged his own sword into his back before he could say a word.
“Your armor’s pretty shit,” she told the other man, who waddled and quaked in his boots. She watched him step back as the black and gold didn’t quite match the red coloring of his eyes.
She stood up, twirling the gladius blade she took off the now dead Krone. “Your armor is too heavy and has too much girth, it’s why you need your swords to be so cheap and light.” She swung the sword with quick and effective slashes, showing that alcohol did little to numb her skill. “Worse than that, it gives no protection from the pointy end, what’s the point of it?” She stuck her finger on the point of the sword drawing a bit of blood that she put in her mouth for a bit. “I think my skin is tougher than your armor.”
“How are you… but you’re-”
“Oh, well, that’s fair.”
Andy stepped towards him and he swung his sword at her. She pulled back her stomach, appearing rather less than warrior-like doing so. Then the Krone fell forward with his sword, and Andy brought the handle of her gladius to his neck. She pulled and shoved him around her until he went nose-first into the wall. He grabbed his nose and screamed out in pain as it began to bleed.
He stopped making noise soon after that.
As the second Krone’s body slid to the floor, Andy thought to herself, Don’t be fooled, they can’t all possibly be this incompetent. And you’re still a bit tipsy.
But I am experienced fighting drunk, that should balance it out. Quintus would be so disappointed, but Harry would be proud so it all evens out.
Andy started making her way through the outer walls, going up and down the stairs to avoid patrols. The third time she had to sneak past a platoon of Susannan soldiers who were also looking for Black Legion members.
She had to think to herself, Whose side are we on? Were the Stormguard actually coming to help us? That would be really bad.
Her worries were put to the rest though when Rayne soldiers came looking for her people all the same. That time she hid by laying atop another dead body. When they had all walked past, Andy sat up and found herself looking down at a legionnaire caught all alone. She’s patched up just about everyone in the Black Legion, one would think she’d forget their faces, but no.
Saraxia… she came from Endica like Lucy. She once tried to tell me she’d rather die from infection than deal with the needle and stitches. Funnily enough, she said it a bunch of times. Figured she’d quit merc work if she really meant it.
Saraxia’s eyes were half-open, and Andy moved her head to the side so she was looking away.
Andy felt more motivated to make her way to the top floor, where the important people always stay. Before she stepped out of the door, she heard a lot of footsteps and stayed there with her ear against it. When the footsteps were going away from her, she peeked out and saw more people dressed in the clothes of the warlock’s acolytes.
Andy made a break to follow. She struggled with her sluggish footsteps to both be quiet but also keep up. When she heard a succession of little gas explosions, Andy stopped in her tracks.
Without her moving the hall felt silent, but as her ears adjusted, she could hear the sounds of swords clanging against each other, and magic explosions. Then heard something akin to, “Malum, look out!”
Andy listened a bit closer to the sounds and found herself moving towards the wall. She came at it too fast and banged the side of her head on the stone.
“Ow,” she complained before she told herself, “Andy, you dumb bitch, stop hurting yourself.”
She pressed her ear to the wall and listened, slowly moving along it as the sound of fighting got louder and louder until the clanging gave her a headache.
“Whelp, this is as good a place as any.”
Andy took out her sword and with both hands on it, and stabbed it into the wall. She felt a sharp pain in her left hand and found a cut across her palm from where she grabbed the blade.
“Dumb bitch Andy strikes again,” she told herself as she took out the handkerchief Malum gave her earlier and her flask.
She could hear the yelling and screaming grow worse and worse as she stuffs the handkerchief into the top of the flask, and fished out another match.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck, hurry Andy,” she told herself as she struggled to light a match against the flask before realizing the flask wouldn’t create the fiction she needed. “The dumb bitch energy is taking over right now,” she insulted herself yet again as she swiped the match across the stone wall and brought the flame to the handkerchief. “Smart bitch power hour starts now.” The handkerchief caught fire faster than she expected.
Malum’s got some cheap handkerchiefs.
Andy put the soon-to-be highly explosive, moonshine-fueled Molotov on top of the sword, close to the wall, lit by explosive crystals.
Then she made a break for it.
She just got outside the range of the explosion when it went-
Andy struggled to her feet, feeling a burning sensation on her back. She slowly arched up and smelled smoke to go along with it. She looked over her shoulder and saw that her armor was on fire.
“Aaahh!” she screamed, going from dazed to completely active and terrified.
She rolled back and forth on the ground to put out the flames, flailing her arms around as she screamed to the high Empyrean, even after the flames were out.
She only stopped when a large figure appeared from the smoke and called her name. “Andelyn?”
Halfway through an awkward roll, Andy found herself being stared at by Quintus, struck with a peculiar look on his face.
She shrugged her arms and said, “Surprise! I’ve come to save you!” She finally noticed both Jack and Astrid on both of his shoulders, though Astrid was banging her arms against his back.
As Malum and Lucy followed him through the smoke, Andy saw they were both injured. Lucy still held her arm while Malum held his side.
Quintus took his hand off Jack for a moment to start batting away the smoke.
“You’ll take forever,” Lucy said as she brought out her tentacle arm and batted the smoke away.
Andy’s makeshift bomb didn’t just blow a hole into the warlock’s hold, it blew a hole to the outside, five stories up.
“Fuck, Andy, what the hell did you do?!” Lucy yelled at her as she brought out two more tentacle arms from the slits on the back of her jacket. She wrapped one around Andy to bring her closer.
Don’t think horny thoughts, don’t think horny thoughts, Andy thought to herself as Lucy held her close. Andy could feel the suction cups seep their… hopefully water… into her armor, and knew wholeheartedly, The horny thoughts have taken over.
Then she looked outside and horrified thoughts followed.
It finally made sense to Andy, soldiers from Raydorn, Krone, and Susanna were all attacking the Black Legion. All around the coliseum-like structure, they could see their friends being slaughtered by sheer numbers.
All who wore the Legion’s void of colors found themselves opposed by a temporary truce between the nations at war. Each of the leaders watched from high above, as assassins were stripped of their cloaks and their masks, medics slain in their retreat, soldiers overcome by spears and swords, and ships set aflame.
“Where do we go?” Astrid asked, having stopped fighting Quintus to see the destruction.
They turned back to see the Aurora Knight, his sword in one hand as the other laid limp at his side, a bone jutting out of it.
“We fight with our people,” Quintus said before jumping off the side and falling several stories.
“Fuck that, I’m taking a boat!” Lucy shouted as she jumped after Quintus, carrying Andy down with her.
Malum alone stayed as the Aurora Knight readied his blade at him. Andy looked back at the opening, waiting for the assassin to follow, wondering what keeps him. He must be wondering if he’ll ever have another chance at Kion.
Before Andy could have another thought, Malum’s black cloak came out, led by his mask. Fucking Valhall.
Andy felt Lucy’s tentacle squeeze around as the pirate warned her, “You’re gonna get sick, warning you now!”
Lucy began slapping tentacle after tentacle on the wall, peeling the last one off as the other came on, slowing and controlling her descent. It seemed to be working, but Andy could hardly tell as she kept spinning as Lucy twisted them back and forth.
She barely saw how Astrid hung to Quintus’s neck, and how he slowed their descent by digging his fingers into the wall.
Andy did notice how Lucy stared at him as if she was waiting for something.
Then they hit the ground, one after the other. Lucy managed to land with a soft pat, Andy’s world spinning faster than they were actually moving.
Quintus leaped off the wall with a stomp and a slam, leaving a bit of an impact crater in the ground.
Malum leaped off the wall towards a tent and cart, falling through it, using the fruit as his cushion.
Quintus put down Astrid and Jack to help Malum, as Lucy released Andy, and then the three of them collectively hurled.
Whelp, even the mere idea of tentacles has been ruined for me, Andy admitted to herself
Before Lucy could walk away, Andy grabbed her shapeshifting arm. Andy told her, “I had our people get your boat ready? Do you know where it is?”
“Two things,” Lucy said, holding up two fingers, “it’s a ship, not a boat, and yes, you beautiful quick-thinker, let’s go!”
Lucy picked Andy up by the arm to bring her to her feet, but Andy was able to run herself after a few steps, as was Jack and Malum after they were helped to their feet.
Lucy called to Quintus that they could head to her ship, and pointed in the only direction where there was no fire. Quintus nodded his head and started paving the way.
He grabbed a wood post that made up a tent and its conjoined cart, then ripped it out to start bashing people out of the way in pairs. Their group quickly formed ranks behind him, with Andy and Jack taking up the rear.
Channeling a bear could really give a beast-man that much strength? Andy thought of Quintus.
Andy watched Jack look around, and gripped his shoulder to keep him moving.
“Hey!” he shouted.
“Listen, no bullshit, I know you’re tired from using your Iligsia but we need to fucking move,” she told him.
“I know, I know, I just…” Jack tried to get out, but running and talking were taking too much out of him. His Iligsia is of the Wind, and as ironic as it may sound, it tended to take his breath away.
Andy put her usual ribbing aside, to put his arm over her shoulder and take some of the weight off his legs.
As they kept pace, Jack muttered to himself at the horror of it all. “I can’t believe they betrayed us, they feared us so much that they’d rather kill us all.”
“We can take it as a compliment later, you have to focus now, Starshield.”
Jack looked out at the people around them. He trained most of the Black Legion that lined the ground. They learned how to fight from him, and it meant nothing against the overwhelming odds.
It must truly kill him.
Andy looked out, among some of the Black Legion who still held out, and the legionnaires who laid dead surrounded by bodies.
They needed a truce to wipe us out, but they won’t succeed.
To those still left, Andy shouted, “Black Legion! Retreat this way!” and continued to call that as stragglers joined their ranks, following Quintus and the others they recognized.
Andy could hear more commotion as they continued on. The Black Legion should be on its last legs yet the battle should no signs of slowing. The clanging of swords, roars, and the blasts of Iligsia only grew louder and louder. Andy realized that the soldiers of Gronina were ignoring them, that they had come to fight each other. No truce can truly last, and this one didn’t make it to the morning.
“There!” Lucy called as she pointed to the few legion ships not burning in the lake harbor.
At the sound of that, Malum unsheathed his sword and raced forward. He ran up Quintus’s back to leap over the heads of their enemies and start cutting them down faster. Lucy followed his lead and unsheathed her sword, and turned her injured arm into an octopus’s tentacle with a pain-filled scream.
Those two joined Quintus in clearing a path to the ship, but Astrid stayed back. She passed her ax to her left and got under Jack’s left arm to help Andy carry him faster.
Together, they didn’t lose a shred of momentum as they moved to the ships being defended by living legionnaires.
“Hear the storm!” Astrid called out, despite the sky being quite clear on this terrible day.
In return, she heard the chants of more than two dozen people carrying mad weapons, beating the three nations away from the ships, alongside what remained of Jack’s youngest recruits.
As crossbowmen of Susanna tried to ready flaming arrows for the legion’s sails, arrows came from the shadows to cut them down.
Malum was quick to call out to, “Sigma!” as he ran ahead of his group to leap onto the side of the boat.
He quickly climbed up, pulled over the side by his own assassins, and soon after boarding planks were coming down to meet them.
We can’t waste any more time, Andy knew so she shouted to the ships, “Depart! Depart now!” even as she and Astrid were still hauling Jack onto the ship.
“Hey! This is my ship!” Lucy yelled at Andy as she whipped her arm against a dozen enemy soldiers.
“Not the time,” Quintus told Lucy as he ran up to one of their three ships being kept in port. The enemy tied ropes to their bolts and tried to pull the ship in port. Quintus alone pushed, with sweat dripping down his face, and did so against the strength of a dozen men. The men fell over as the mid-size schooner moved to join Lucy’s frigate and the brig already opening their sails to head down the river.
Lucy yelled at Quintus, “What do we do now?!” looking around and finding her and Quintus surrounded after their legionnaires escape.
Quintus looked to her, utterly baffled. “What do you think? We fucking swim!” he shouts before grabbing her and leaping off the high pier into the water.
Before the enemy could come at them with crossbows, Lucy brought out the tentacles from her back and turned her legs into tentacles too to push her and Quintus after their ships.
On Lucy’s ship, Astrid rejoined with her fellow followers of Lapis, and Jack was handed to the few soldiers that remained. Andy noticed quickly that it was their younger recruits, the ones given the shitty job of watching their ships while the elders partied.
Hazing saved their life, the only time that’s ever saved someone.
Andy worked quickly, running to the sailing master as their sails came down. She asked the sailing master, “How fast can these ships get us down the river?”
The sailing master told her, “We’re between two mountains, going upwind, the schooner’s no faster than a snail! The rowers will be on us in no time!”
Andy looked out and saw that men were already rowing after them, with Susanna in particular, taking the lead on their large steam-powered paddle boats.
“Hrrgh!” Andy growled to herself.
No wind? she thought to herself as she looked back at Jack and his soldiers trying to stay out of the crew’s way. No problem.
Andy quickly jumped onto the deck and ran to Jack’s recruits. “How many of you have Iligsias?!” she yelled at them. About half a dozen raised their hands. “How many of you have the Wind?” About half of that show their hands.
Jack looked up at Andy bewildered. “What are you thinking?”
“The sailing master says we don’t got any wind on this river, we’ll make some.”
“One might be enough for the small boat and maybe the brig, but this is a frigate.”
“We make do with what we have,” Andy said as she gestured the three ex-Stormguard of the Wind to separate. She took two aside and pointed them towards the schooner and brig ships pulling up in front of the frigate, using the bigger ship for protection. “Get yourself over there, and blow into their sails. Let the schooner go first!”
When they hesitate, the drill sergeant comes out and Andy screams, “Now maggots!”
They both quickly ran to the front, and shot their arms to the ground, and blasted off with unsteady tornadoes of wind.
“They’re not going to get there before the paddleboats are on us,” Jack said as he pulled himself back to his feet.
Andy turned to the other three with Iligsia, and assumed, “You all have the Lightning?” The three nod their heads.
Andy pointed towards the ships heading their way, getting ready to board. “You should have been blasting them yesterday!” These three didn’t hesitate to hurry to the back of the ship.
A boarding hook already found its place hooked into the ship’s railing.
Andy looked over at Astrid and pointed her there. “Have your cult keep them off our ship!”
Astrid raised her ax, proclaiming, “We’re not a cult!”
“All religions are cults, now fucking get to it! Now!” Andy screamed which sent a bolt through Astrid and her followers.
“You heard the lady,” Astrid said as they went to work, running to the hooks that kept appearing on the port side.
It’s was just as well that the sound of Lightning fired off the back of the ship. Less would be boarding their frigate, and Astrid was about to cut the last line when a large black hand came and ripped the hook off.
Astrid, like a curious cat, quickly looked overboard, just before Quintus pulled himself and Lucy over the railing.
“About time you joined us, we’re dead in the water!” Astrid yelled at them.
As she huffed and puffed on the ground, Lucy gave Astrid the coldest stare. “No fucking shit, we’re on a river! We had to row most of the way here!”
“Captain!” the sailing master shouted from the wheel. “The Nymphus and Thassus have set sail ahead of us!”
“What the fuck? How?!” Lucy yelled out.
Andy barely acknowledged Lucy and Quintus before she turned to the last legionnaire with an Iligsia of the Wind, and told him to, “Get blowing, they have their space ahead of us, time for us to go.”
The recruit ran to stand just below and in front of the sailing master. He began making flowing motions with his hand, then inward as he collected the Wind.
Jack stood up to his feet, saying, “He’s going to need help,” and started limping over.
The recruit was still summoning what he could of the Wind when Jack came over. Jack joined him in the flowing motions, but in one cycle, Jack did what took his recruit twenty paces of build-up to do.
Andy turned to everyone on the boat and told them all to, “Brace!”
Together, Jack and the kid let loose a turbine that threatened to blow the frigate out of the water.
“Be careful with Lappy!” Lucy screamed as she clung to her ship.
The S.S. Lappy went sailing down the river, the wind current they created being so powerful, they picked up Nymphus and Thassus to carry the three ships down the river.
Everyone hung so tightly to whatever they could as the sailing master thanked the gods that the river flowed without bending. Andy peeked through one eye down at her knuckles and saw them turn white as they strained to hang on.
When the ship’s bow finally came down into the water again, the slam sent many people tumbling, and Andy rolled along with them.
Slowly, the ship’s speed came under control, with the winds carrying them at a healthy speed down the river. The crew got to work, maintaining their speed and comfortability, while everyone else finally stopped.
Now that they had stopped, they had the chance to think, and as they thought, they had nothing but ill thoughts to think about.
This is it, Andy thought and realized, three ships, and everyone on them, how much more can be left? How many are gone?
We don’t even have Harry. I… left him.
She looked out at the familiar faces, their captains and leaders all slowly coming to the same realization. They told her as they failed to meet her eye, or by how they slumped in place.
For all intents and purposes, they were the Black Legion.