- June 19, 2022
Raydorn: The War in the Black (Chapter 25)
“Evil is beautiful, far too often.”
Malum Chum, 448 A.C.A.
Malum couldn’t quite tell if he was haunting old stomping grounds or they were haunting him. As he ran across the rooftops, lit by nothing but the moon’s light, he found himself trying to follow his old routes. He had to be careful not to run into the chimneys and buildings that weren’t there last time he was in Sicaron. He tried to change course, but found himself looping back to his old roots.
Who said you should go back home?
Sicaron’s architecture hadn’t changed much, but its population expanded. There’s so little space anywhere compared to when he was last in the city. There used to be gaps and spaces he’d have to jump between the neighboring buildings but not anymore.
One thing hasn’t changed though.
The skyline remained the same. It would have been difficult to change. Even though there were more buildings on the ground, they weren’t any taller, and even if they were, they wouldn’t match the Silver Spires.
The Silver Spires reached above the clouds, but the average building was two stories. It was an injustice that at some point we had all the resources, technology, and wealth, then used it all to build things meant for so few.
Pride was the only thing these Spires were good for, Malum thought to himself as he headed towards the Dynastan’s tower.
As he came closer, it began to rain, and as it did, the raindrops only amplified the moonlight shining off of it.
As he came up close, and looked up at the tower, he found he couldn’t see the top. The Silver Spires were an affront to humanity, but they were awe inspiring. Evil is beautiful, far too often.
Malum made his way to the edge, slowly crawling over the peak of a building’s roof, to pear over at the Spire’s gates.
There were four-story walls that looked over the buildings surrounding the Silver Spire. Malum’s black cloak would have let him hide from the spotlights, but he didn’t have to. To the Spire’s east, buildings were on the hill, the one place someone could look into the Spire’s grounds. One couldn’t make the jump and get in without falling to their deaths, but they could look.
Malum still laid flat on his stomach as he peered over. The home to the Dynastan was also home to his target, the archmage, Hùnxiě.
Never had the displeasure of meeting the man, but anyone who learns what my shadows know, knows too much. Let alone what they may say of the Black Legion’s location, what they may say about the man behind this mask can’t be allowed.
If nothing else, I owe my shadow some kind of freedom… somehow.
Malum looked at the gates where people would enter. They would slide into the wall through some kind of mechanism to let processions through, but otherwise individuals had to show ID. There was no scaling the walls, and the walls had no opening.
I could try coming in from the top, but then I’d be lost inside. Not to mention I have no way of getting in. If I could find some kind of way in without suspicion, I could get out the same way. More than anything, I need some way to get in and out multiple times, to scope out the place. Just once would be better than nothing.
Malum looked around the circumference looking for a weak spot, but his eyes could not find it.
“Ah, it may smell, but it also pays to truck through the mud and shit,” Malum told himself before he set himself to look around the wall for a weakness.
He would not find one.
Malum had made it back to the docks as dusk was coming, having spent a whole night looking for a weakness in the Silver Spire’s walls, and then all day making it back.
When no one was on the ship, Malum groaned, then trekked a little ways to the brothel. When he was there, she found Lucy’s crew drinking the night away, and one Andelyn Stella already in the arms of another woman, as drunk men leered and cheered on their advances.
Andelyn was either too drunk to notice, or too drunk to care, the girl whose lips she was kissing was used to it as long as she got paid.
Malum was invisible as he walked through the place, despite lumbering like a huge oaf in his soaking wet cloak. He walked all the way to where Lucy sat at the bar, dressed down to barely more than her skivvies and pants, sipping from a mug. Her eyes only followed Malum as sat next to her, slumping in his seat, and letting his head rest on the wooden countertop.
“They haven’t cleaned that counter all day with us here,” she warned him.
“Uh,” he groaned.
As if I didn’t already need thirty showers.
He was distracted by the sound of men bemoaning and complaining about Andy taking her lady of the night to a private room. Perverts, all of them, I’m surrounded by them.
He looked out of the corner of his eye as he watched Andy give the sailors the finger before following the prostitute into her room. How many addictions does this woman have?
Malum turned to Lucy and asked a better question. “Hold on, how does she have any money left?”
Lucy shrugged and sipped her own beer. “I don’t know, maybe she’s so good they give her a discount.” Malum’s head stood still so she could feel his stare.
She only chuckled and set her beer down to ask him, “I know, only in her dreams. What did you find out?”
Malum turned his head to the countertop.
“As far as I can tell, it’s impregnable, unless you have wings, but I’m not entirely sure a bird wouldn’t be shot down unless it came down from the clouds.”
“What about a water entry?” Lucy suggested.
“Couldn’t find it. If there’s one, it would be through the sewer system, and even back when I used to live here, I couldn’t remember all the paths… assuming you could weren’t killed by the nasty Feng that live down there.”
“I thought Feng were a delicacy?”
Malum chuckled. “Maybe long before we were born. We built Sicaron over their habitat and they survive in the sewers. They’re poisonous to eat now.”
“So that’s it? No way in to save your guy?” Lucy asked as she poked at him as if he appeared dead.
Malum grunted at her in response.
“Well, sucks to suck,” to which Malum looked at her again to glare. She outstretched her arms to give him the biggest shrug. “What do you want me to say?! I sail, I don’t break into anything besides liquor cabinets and the hearts of weak men. I thought you brought Andy along because she’s a noblewoman who knows Susanna’s customs. Why aren’t you trying to find a way in that way?”
Malum made a sound near identical to the whine of a dog. “I’d rather not get in that way…” The thoughts of dealing with a Regalic struck Malum with a guilt-ridden silence.
Lucy, on the other hand, rolled her eyes at him, and gestured to him with the question, “Who cares what you want, you need to save your guy don’t you?”
Malum waved down the bartender as he retorted, “Don’t patronize me.”
Before she took her sip, she muttered, “As if there were much to patronize.”
Malum stopped mid sentence and to turn and glare for a moment. “It’s not that simple,” he tried to explain after asking for a beer. As the bartender made it for him, he explained that, “They’re checking people’s faces at the gate, so even if we got an invitation, they’re matching people’s faces to these…” Malum twiddled his fingers as he tried to think of how to explain the ID technology they seemed to have. “They’re paintings but not… they’re so real.”
He didn’t understand that they magnetized cards and only magnetized cards could let someone in.
He tucked himself away in his arms as he struggled to drink with taking off his mask. His inner confusion over how unrecognizable his old home was made speaking even harder. “I knew they were working on this technology but…”
Malum stopped as he noticed Lucy staring at him. “You know I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Ugh, it’s only around the Silver Spires, those blights on the city’s skyline are always filled with the most advanced technology Susanna has. It’s unreal, they have this way to take an image of people’s face, and it copies them onto paper perfectly. If people match, they get to go in.”
Lucy chuckled at his description of their technology. “Okay, sounds like they got magic.”
“Actually… they claim its science.”
Lucy waved her arms in front of her to assure him, “I believe you, it just sounds like magic.”
Malum thought to himself, Maybe you shouldn’t.
He admitted out loud, “Well, I have no idea how to get past it without trying to fight my way through, you know-”
“Like me?” Lucy interjected.
“Like an idiot, yes.”
“Fuck you, why don’t you try to get an invitation to this contest? Or better yet… no, no…”
“What?” Malum asked, his head popping up like a dog who was just offered food. “What are you thinking?”
“Hmm?” Lucy mumbled, “No, I actually didn’t have an idea, I lost my train of thought.”
Are you fucking…
“Solicki’s nuts…” he cursed out loud, “I’m surrounded by idiots.”
“Idiots? I won’t tell you what we’re going to do then.”
Malum turned around as Andy came and sat down next to him with sweat-shined cheeks, and a shirt she’s barely finished buttoning.
Malum started, “Shouldn’t you be with…” but caught himself before he made a mistake. “Actually I don’t care, I don’t supposed you showered before coming down here?”
Andy turned towards him with an arch of her brow and a twisting smirk of her lips to taunt him. “Does the smell of someone who fucks more than you bother you?”
After his pause that let everyone know how sick he was of them, he was monotone as he said, “I am celibate without my wife.”
“You got to get over her,” Lucy groaned, “it’s been years.”
“I’m going to ignore you and pretend you didn’t say that.”
“Can I get to my point now?” Andy asked them.
“No, please shut up,” Malum said as she struggled some more to drink without revealing the face under his mask. Andy and Lucy remained quiet as they listened to him gulp down beer like he was… well, human, taking his shut up to heart. When he finished, taking note of the silence, he looked between them and commented, “Nobody say I have no sense of humor.”
Andy said, “Making jokes isn’t enough to have a sense of humor.”
Lucy agreed, “Yeah, you need to be funny too.”
“Eh, fuck you too, what’s your idea, Andelyn?”
Andy clasped her hands together, rubbing them together. “I think its rather simple. With the Solistan we have the perfect in. We find the Regalics who don’t block foreign traders,” gesturing to herself, “from entering their parts of town, and sell you as a champion to whoever needs one. That gets us in multiple times, letting us scope the place out and give us the chance to break your man out of prison.”
This sounds strangely familiar to what Lucy almost said. They must be passing around their singular brain cell.
Malum prodded at the idea by asking, “What if they all have champions?”
Andy smirked even more before she said, “Champions are temporary, broken bones last longer.”
“Heh, I assume I’d be doing the bone-breaking?”
“What? You gotta let me have some of the fun?” Andy joked before realizing that Malum didn’t say no. “Wait, are you agreeing its a good plan?”
“Good plan? No, but I am agreeing to it,” which caused both women to twist their heads in their own manner to stare at him. “Listen, I just spent a few hours trudging through mud, I’m tired, I hate my life at the moment, and I don’t have a better idea.”
“Now you’ve got me all depressed.
Malum and Andy had left the bar/brothel earlier at Malum’s request, but Lucy had stayed behind a little while longer.
Why would I go? I’m not a part of their little quest, I just drive the boat, kind of.
After a while though, being the lone woman amongst a bunch of drunken and whorish sailors was enough to grate on even the foulest soul’s nerves. Lucy left for the docks, taking a long way towards her ship.
It was late into the night, into the next day even, but Sicaron was not the Golden Plateau. Many were stumbling home drunk, or looking for a reason to not go home at all. It should have been easy to follow someone without sticking out.
Wow, do I have bad stalkers.
She noticed the cloaked man stalking outside the bar as soon as she walked out, and it was easy to notice how he followed her as soon as she started walking.
As if I could be so…
As soon as Lucy had begun to talk to herself, she was feeling what could be described as loose in the head. Thanks to her abilities as a beastmaster, particularly with her link to an octopus, she flooded toxins out of her system rather quickly. A buzz was hard to keep up, so she knew the fogginess around her head wasn’t normal.
Must have paid the bartender, or poisoned enough drinks to get to me. So a bit more capable than I expected, she thought to herself as she stumbled a bit, feeling her muscles get heavier. She managed a look behind her, noticed her follower moving faster. Think quick Lucy baby.
Lucy stumbled forward, seeing her ship only a few docked ships away, but knew she wouldn’t make it in time. She moved towards some crates and tried to slip behind them as her follower became followers, and broke out into a run.
They made a ruckus as the stalker in the cloak proved to not be alone, and both came around the corner of crates to find…
“<Nothing?>” the stalked said as the first came up beside him. They spoke a language not native to Susanna, nor its neighbors as they looked around and saw nothing but a drop to the lower docks and then the quiet water.
“<Did she go into the sea?>” one asked the other, but the second only responded by shaking his head.
“<The water would be rippling, and we didn’t even hear the sound of her hitting the wood, but…>” he trailed off as he continued to look around. “<There is nothing, no sign of her, I can’t comprehend it.>”
The first turned away for a moment to reach under his domino mask and rub his eyes. He told his co-conspirator, “<I… I don’t understand, I knew we should have learned more about her magic, how are we supposed to…>”
He turned back just as a tentacle wrapped around his co-conspirator’s neck, and broke it as it pulled him back over the edge.
The stalker looked at the empty space where a man should be and gawked at the awful sound he heard. He looked and muttered the mans name, “Batu?”
“Nope,” Lucy said right as her tentacle came up and punched the man in the nose. It sent him flying back across the ground, stunned as she pulled herself over the ledging, buttoning her shirt back up as her camouflaging skin turned back to normal.
The man was groggy on the ground as Lucy walked up to him. “Little fun fact, did you octopuses can disappear into their environment with their camouflage? Well? Do ya?!” She yelled her last word as she took a swift kick of her boot to his balls.
He gasped for air and let out a pathetic groan.
“No? I’m guessing you also you didn’t know that, while not immune to poison, can flush it out a lot better than a person can.” Lucy knelt down as she taunted her stalker as she lifted him by the collar of his shirt, and proceeded to drag him towards the alley.
People were already trying to steer clear of them after the tentacle appeared out of nowhere, but Lucy failed to notice how deeply alone they were as she threw him against the alley wall. She chuckled as he bounced off it and into a trashcan, causing ill-smelling garbage to waft all over him.
As the man stumbled to get up, he stopped as the shadow of a woman cast over him, a shadow that spread tentacles like an eldritch horror of his nightmares. He couldn’t see the all the textures without the moonlight that didn’t reach the alley. He only received glimpses of her glistening tentacles as they stretched from out her back and under her shirt.
Something he likely found most undoing to his psyche, was how her voice became laid over that of a second blubbering voice that repeated her every word.
“Okay, I know this is probably some race thing-” the pirate tried to say menacingly, but her masked stalker interrupted her.
“<No,>” he said, in his native tongue that she heard for the first time. It stopped her cold, it was like a dream to hear such words again, but not necessarily a pleasant one. When he took down his hood, and she could just barely see his brown skin tone, she had enough to confirm it.
What’s a man from Endica doing here in Susanna, across the world, following me?
“Okay,” she said, before coughing, trying to speak in a tongue that she hadn’t in spoken in for years. “<Then if you want to rob me, I promise, I got nothing you could want but pain.>”
The way her attacker groaned and began to stand back to his feet, tall against her, told her that her grasp on her native language was not what it once was.
“<You have nothing we want.>”
“<Then what the fuck are you doing, because I could be sleeping right now?>”
The man slowly removed a sack from his bag, which Lucy paid no mind. What could he have in it? Salt?
“<We’re here for you,>” he said, as he dipped his fingers carefully into it, eyeing the tentacles that swayed back and forth behind her.
Neither had begun to tell just how much neither took the other seriously.
Lucy most of all.
She shrugged and taunted him, her mind already made up, “<What, did I kill your dad while on the job? I’m a mercenary, he would have killed me, nothing personal.>”
“<Lucilla Indu Nero,>” he said with salivating teeth, “<do you ever shut up?>”
The pirate’s tentacles stopped casually swaying, and stood poised.
“<How do you know that name?>” she asked.
“<It’s hard to forget the name of your slaver.>”
Then he threw what was in that sack of his, but Lucy didn’t flinch. She stood her ground up until it hit her, self-assured that she would bat him soon afterward. When it touched her, she knew by the smell and the feeling of her moisture being sucked right out of her tentacles, that it could only be one thing.
“Fuck!” she cursed, devolving to Rayne, “Did you just throw fucking salt at me?!”
“We did,” he said, and she finally began to notice all the “we’s” he’d been dropping.
But not before she turned around right as more people in cloaks and masks threw salt at her.
“FUCK!” she screamed, making this shrill noise as she heard the moisture of her tentacles just evaporating, being absorbed by the salt.
It’s common knowledge not to throw salt on one’s eye. Pure salt may taste good and break flavor to tasteless foods, but when in contact with liquids, it drained it for all its worth. There’s a reason salt has been used to clear snow.
Adding even a bit of salt to the eye would be an excruitating experience. It’s where your eye waters, as if the moisture is trying to escape a vacuum that’s pulling the contents of the eye into one focal point. Of course, one bit of salt wouldn’t do much even to your eye, which should remove the spec with all the tears.
But dozens and dozens of little salt pebbles?
Atop skin that couldn’t blink it away?
Lucy was being drained away.
Her body’s natural moisture was fighting to get to the tentacles that were shriveling up, unable to go back into her body. She was falling to her knees, her cries of pain turning into silent screams as she felt literal limbs lose their weight in stones.
“Stop! STOP!” she cried to them as her attackers just drenched her in the same salt people put on their food, and when they were done, they kicked her while she was down.
They kicked her skins, they kicked her head, and they kicked her in the stomach. They proceeded to stomp on her back while she lay helpless in that cold alley. These people in masks didn’t stop even as her tentacles snapped off and she was on the verge of passing out in a puddle of her own piss and blood.
When they did stop sharing their hate with her, as she was fading into unconsciousness, one leaned down to whisper in her ear as he shackled her.
“<It’s time for you to get what you deserve, and Krera’s hammer will not save you.>”