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PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, '12, 6:31 am
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Chapter Seven: Honor

"No. Your brother didn't send us," Ayn said. "It's a long story."

"Well, I've got time. Who are you people?"

"We're your rescuers, that's what we are. I'm Sari, and the guy with the blue hair over there is Ayn, the prince of Landen." Sari knelt by the cell door, taking a small toolkit from her travel pack. "Those two over there are Mieu and Wren."

"Landen? Then that makes you Orakian," Alair realized. "And a prince, too. You're not just going to transfer me from one royal boudoir to another, are you?"

"No, nothing like that at all," Ayn replied. "We're trying to stop a war."

"So Ryan sent for you?" Alair smiled. "That's good, but I wish he-"

Sari shook her head. "We never met a Ryan. I'd say we're working in everyone's interests." Shoving a talon-shaped lockpick into the door's lock, she continued, "I need a spare couple hands. Lift by the hinges while I turn this."

Alair nodded, lifting the barred door where Sari had indicated. The brown-haired woman turned the lockpick, then screamed in frustration seconds later- the pick tensed, then broke off in the lock. "Damn it! What kind of backwards locks do they use in Divisia?!" she shouted.

"Princess Sari, if you don't mind, perhaps I can be of assistance," Wren told her. "Please back away from Lady Alair's cell."

Sari nodded, retrieving her remaining lockpicks before standing next to Ayn. "Lady Alair, please lie down away from the door." He waited only a second before leveling his rifle at the lock. Wordlessly, he fired, again and again, the repeated buddow echoing through the small cellblock, stopping only when Wren switched a new ammo pack into his rifle.

The door creaked, its lock critically damaged by thirty laconia-jacketed bullets, before Sari found the nerve to push it open. "Well, there we go," she said. "Should have thought about that lockpick instead."

"No kidding," Alair told her. She left the cell, then over to the property lockers, where she retrieved a curved, sharpened boomerang, along with a steel-lined robe. "Now, then. We have an Orakian prince, his two robots, and a princess who acts like a mercenary. I'll ask you again: What brings you here?"

"I already told you, Alair," Ayn said. "We want to talk your brother out of starting a war."

"And your intentions?" Alair demanded. "Do you want to kill my brother?"

Sari's knuckles whitened as she clenched her fists, almost bringing them towards her daggers, almost shouting, "Nothing would give me more satisfaction than to saw off Lune la Dahlia's head after what he's done!" Her arm trembled- both Ayn and Mieu saw it- before she relaxed. "...I don't know," Sari finally said. "He's responsible for killing my parents. I can't let that just go unanswered."

"Alair, please," Ayn said, taking a step towards her. "Bring us to your brother. Let us talk. That's all we want- just to talk with him."

Alair hesitated for a second, then lowered her boomerang. "All right," she said. "I can get you guys to Dahlia, but it'll be a bit of a hike. We'd have to go to Aerone."

"Nothing wrong with a hike," Mieu suddenly said. "But, umm... I can hear a lot of those Dreidons and Smashers coming this way, and there's a few soldiers coming, too. There another way out of here?"

"Of course- we can keep along this corridor; that leads to a spot just outside the castle. We can disappear into Divisia easily." Slipping the robe around her body, Alair added, "Well? Shall we?"

Ayn could only nod, watching as the lime-haired princess slipped past himself and Sari. Once she was sure Alair was a safe distance away, Sari whispered, "I'm not liking this, Ayn."

"Sari, I don't think she's leading us into an ambush."

"Is she? She's Lune's brother, and she's offering to take us to Dahlia- straight into the lion's den," Sari countered. "If that doesn't scream 'Hey, I'm an ambush!' then I don't know what does."

Ayn was about to say something to Sari, chiefly to ask her just why she thought Alair was going to turn on them, when he heard Alair returning. "Alair, is something wrong?" he asked her.

"Yes. Yes, there is- something major. You didn't happen to find a small pendant shaped like Laya's crest, did you?"

Ayn and Sari both shook their heads, while Mieu said, "Nope. No jewelry of any kind, Miss Alair. Sorry."

"Is it important to you?" Ayn asked.

"It's the key to the fastest way to Aerone... damn. Damn!" Alair sighed, then added, "We'll have to take the long way, then."

"What the hell do you mean, 'the long way?'" Sari asked as the group began to follow Alair. "How far could it possibly be?"

"According to my files, Princess Sari, we would have to cover quite a distance. We must venture through the Great Aridian Desert, then through the Frozen Realm of Frigidia, before making our return to Elysium," Wren replied. "The journey may take several weeks."

"I don't know if we have weeks," Ayn replied. "But if it's the best way to get to Aerone, then we don't have a choice."

"Oh, before we leave, I have a request. There's a cavern to the west of here," Alair said. "There's... there's someone I know there who may help us."

"Someone? Like a hermit?" Sari wondered.

"No, Sari. His name's Ryan. This is going to sound silly, but... he wants to reunite Orakians and Layans." The lime-haired princess smiled. "He and my brother fought often because of this."

"So he used to be a general?" Ayn asked.

"A minor follower. Ryan and I... we are betrothed."

"Oooh, I love romances, My Prince! And this Ryan guy sounds like he can help out against Lune, too!" Mieu added. "How far away is this cave?"

"About two days' journey- not far, in the long run. Can we stop by and visit?" Alair asked.

Sari looked to Ayn, who nodded. "Looks like we've got a plan, then," Sari told her. And anyone who hates Lune is all right, if you asked me.

-=-=-

For what had to have been the hundredth time that day, Rhys mused upon the irony before him and his army: A majority of Landen and Satera's war machines had been destroyed during their initial incursion on Orakian territory the fortnight before, and despite an admirable attempt to get them serviced, his machinists had warned him that it would be at least two months before Landen would have a standing army again.

His replacement army, six hundred and twenty armed and armored men and women on equally-armored horses, was small comfort to Rhys, but a part of him wished for the aid of some Killsats or Chirpbots.

"Lord Rhys? What are your orders?"

Rhys looked to the green-haired woman who rode up next to him, concern and apprehension on her face. "General Espoir," he started. "I know Layan monsters tend to stay away from the forests and mountains- they can travel faster that way. Our best strategy is to force them into a bottleneck. There's a path in the Blue Lake Woods that would work."

"I know that path," Espoir replied. "We can ride six abreast, even with the horses barded. Everyone in our back ranks would be stuck using needle guns and bolt guns, though."

"And longspears for everyone past the first few rows of men," Rhys added. "Not an ideal situation, but we'll have to make the very best of it." He then turned towards the assembled knights. "Everyone, form up behind us, six abreast. Back ten ranks, get out rifles. Front five, ready your swords. Those in the middle, spears or needle guns. Sorry for the lack of energy shielding, everyone-"

"They understand completely, Lord Rhys. Laya's biomonsters won't wait for us to repair our army, after all," Espoir said, her voice grim. "And we certainly won't be waiting for the Layans to breed more biomonsters when we finally take the attack to them-"

The remainder of Espoir's boast were drowned out by a hellish roar; a roar Rhys gauged to be somewhere between a horse being slaughtered and the low bass drone of a tuba. Only a second passed before the noise was repeated- hundreds of times, if Rhys and his general were correct.

"What the hell is that?" "I've never heard a monster make that sound before..." "Some new breed of monster?"

As the Knights of the Forests murmured among themselves, the sky grew dark. Hundreds of red star shapes suddenly blocked the blue sky, emitting the terrible roar as they descended upon the nights.

"What the $%@# are those?!" Espoir wondered aloud, maneuvering her horse as she readied her rifle. "Open fire!"

"Everyone with a melee weapon, switch to your sidearms!" Rhys ordered. As he drew his needle pistol, he cursed to himself- he had spent most of his life training with two-handed swords like the one strapped to his back. I should have spent a bit more time firing one of these, he thought. As the air filled with the thwip! and pshwa! of needle guns and bolt rifles firing, he took aim at the center of one of the star-shaped creatures. Rhys squeezed the trigger-

-never knowing if his aim was true, as he felt something plow into him from behind, tearing him from his horse. He was suddenly facing his army from four inches off the ground, a massive weight on his chest and stomach. Rhys tilted his head to look at what had knocked him down, then raised his arms in time to deflect a flurry of claws. Wait, what?! This is a monster?! he thought as he knocked the creature off himself. She looks almost human!

The biomonster indeed looked almost human- blonde-haired, green-eyed, very attractive, with scant purple armor to emphasize her appeal and agility. The catlike ears on the top of her head, along with the razor-sharp claws protruding from her fingers, betrayed her monstrous heritage. "Heya, princeling!" she called to Rhys. "You're supposed to be dead."

"You can speak. Fluently, too," Rhys said. He reached for his sword, quickly finding himself knocked back to the ground with one swift leaping kick from the cat-like woman.

"Nope! Can't have you doing that! XD"

"Are you a monster, then? Or a Layan?"

The catwoman shrugged. "I dunno. King Lune said I was kinda both, but Queen Thea kinda said I was, umm... what was it she said?" She frowned as she tried to remember. "Oh, yeah! I was 'like my @$&! sisterlings, barely sentient genetic garbage not fit to clean a Dahlian toilet,' and the only reason she was allowing me to stay alive was because I can kill four people in three seconds with my claws!"

Her words only led Rhys to more questions, despite the battle raging about them. Queen Thea? Dahlia? Sisterlings? Just what, exactly, is going on here? he thought. He was about to reach for his sword again when the catwoman stepped on his wrist. "Nuh-uh," she said. "That ain't proper-like. >_<"

"Get off me."

"Can't do that, Lord Rhys! Look what my fellow Catwomen and our Novas are doing to your army! >=D"

Rhys looked past the blonde. It was not encouraging: The star monsters were, when they weren't screaming, whirling like throwing stars, cutting down knights. When they weren't doing that, they were sending out bolts of lightning from their central jewels. One unfortunate Knight of the Forests was unlucky enough to be caught in the blast, an agonized cry dying in his throat as his armor was fused into a solid piece of metal by the intense blue bolt. Thick black smoke poured from the armor's eye slit as it fell to the ground with a thud.

Just to make things worse, there were about twenty other Catwomen besides the leader. They followed the same strategy: Make a great leap at a knight, send him tumbling from his horse, pry his armor apart with their claws, then use the claws to rend the chests and necks exposed. The horses left riderless were either cut apart by the Novas or captured by the Catwomen for use as springboards for their leaps.

"Fun, huh?!" the Catwoman teased. "Sorry we gotta kill your army to the man- some of 'em are giving us quite a fight. Too bad they're gonna lose! XD" She then leaped off of Rhys's wrist, straddling him in a swift motion. She cupped Rhys's chin with her hands, tilting his head towards her forcefully. "But... ya know, you're handsome as the devil."

Rhys started to squirm out of the she-creature's pin, but was quickly finding that a losing prospect. "Eeee! He thinks he can escape!" The Catwoman smirked, licking Rhys's lips. "I think I'm gonna take you back to Dahlia," she added. "Besides being a nice hostage, I think... hmmm. Yes." A blush crept across her cheeks. "I think King Lune's gonna promote me if he finds out whether humans and biomonsters can breed true. ^_^"

"Wh-what?!"

"You heard me. Besides, look at me! I'm agile, I'm lithe- certainly better than that queen of-"

"Hngraaaaah~!"

The stock of a bolt rifle slammed into the Catwoman's face, tearing her away from Rhys. As she tried to leap back to her feet, the rifle's stock met her head again. The rifle's owner then quickly span the rifle around. Rhys could barely see the sharpened hunting knife attached to the barrel's underside before it plunged into the Catwoman's chest several times. After delivering one last stomp to her torso to verify the biomonster was as dead as she looked, Rhys's rescuer looked to him, concern on her face.

"Thanks for the save, Espoir," Rhys managed, rising to his feet.

"My privilege, Lord Rhys!" Espoir loaded a fresh bolt clip into her rifle, then continued, "We have to retreat into the forest, Sire. It should provide cover from the Novas and their lightning."

"And the trees can probably stop those catgirls from leaping at us... men! To the forests!" Rhys urged. "We live up to our order's name!"

-=-=-

Ryan did not want to abandon his friend, especially under the circumstances that had forced him to. I can't believe he actually pulled rank on me, he groused, as he winged across the breadth of Draconia. We could use the reuniters... if Lune hasn't found them. If they're still alive, with all this talk of monsters rampaging and robots on the loose.

It would be about a day or two before he would be across the Aridian Desert, then to Elysium and his companions. Ryan doubted that, even with his draconic strength, Lyle would be able to hold out that long. But he knew he had to try. Confident $@#%.

In silence, Ryan flew across Draconia, unsure as to whether Lyle was still living- determined to get help in his fight...

...unknowing of what twist fate would soon deliver unto him.
-=-=-
(What kind of reunion will there be at Rebel Cave? Will Rhys and his knights be able to fend off the monster attack? And who is Ayn Landen's true foe- Lune la Dahlia, mastermind of the attack on Satera and Landen, or Siren, commander of the renegade machine army?)
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