Monday, January 7, 2019

Eternally Bound: Epilogue

Eternally Bound: Epilogue
----- Incarceration -----

Like numerous times before, Demitra's emerald eyes stared at the swirling fuchsia and azure clouds above, their rhythmic movement like a waltz upon the wind.  She lazily floated in silvery sparkling waters, having no direction or particular place to be as an eternity passed.  Gradually, the woman made her way to the shoreline and pulled herself from the water.  Her bare breasts were almost completely dry until she stood upright, reoriented herself and wrung her hair.  Trails of the glittery water traveled along her shapely nude figure and Demitra couldn't help but laugh.  "If Paige and Ember were here…"

Her voice seemed to echo off walls that were not present, as if the large landscape was an illusion in a small room.  A pouty expression came from Demitra's thick lips in a slight frown.  Every time she found herself lost within the illusion, something seemed to enjoy snapping her back to the reality that this land was not the freedom it presented; rather, it was a prison.  She had spent the beginning of her time exploring and searching for a way out, but after a lifetime of attempts to free herself from the entrapment of her vessel, Demitra reluctantly consigned to her fate.  Yet, whenever she relaxed her shoulders and tried to find enjoyment from the situation, her vessel seemed to relish in reminding her that it was, indeed, fake.

Having dried, the Elonian waved her hand in front of her producing a small amount of attire, which promptly formed around her body.  It was a trick she'd learned before her Djinn transformation and one which reminded her of who she was before.

The shoreline consisted of rocky formations stacked in unnatural ways which grew from a ground made almost entirely of coins and jewels and trinkets.  It was on a small hill of treasure Demitra rested, her back against a chest as she absently ran her fingers through the silver and gold.

"Perhaps it would not be such a travesty if this were an oasis on the shores of the desert," the woman said, closing her eyes and imagining the dunes of Amnoon.  Demitra could almost feel that sand beneath her fingertips... Then she actually did.  A bewildered glance down found the very sands from her mind, and further still, the entire landscape had changed to reflect her thoughts of the oasis.  Full lips joyfully laughed - the first time she had done so since her arrival.

"Well this is certainly an improvement!"  She giggled then paused a moment as a thought occurred.  Did the vessel respond to her whim, or was it simply an attempt to keep her docile within its walls? She stood upright a moment, pondering aloud in her solitary.

"If my very desire is created by my thoughts, then I shall concentrate on my loves."  Her voice was resolute and purposeful, but after much time had passed, nothing appeared.  She looked down at the sand beneath her bare feet and wiggled her toes, playfully squishing it between them and reminded herself that the new change in scenery was more than enough to remain optimistic.   She shut her eyes for a moment, enjoying the warmth and humidity from the water.

As if to disturb her resolve, a small flake of cold landed on the woman's nose. She opened her eyes, crossing the emeralds to stare at the snowflake confusedly.

Another came, followed by another, and another still, until there was a small stream of wistfully dancing snow descending upon her.  She held her hand out to catch a few and giggled as the cold poked her skin. She held both arms aloft slightly twirling and laughing at the strange absurdity and thrilling fun of snow in the desert.

Above her, the ever-present shifting clouds had changed hue, from their normally blue and purple motif to a white mist intermixed with a frosty blue.  Demitra paused, staring into the spiral in an attempt to ascertain the source of the perplexing weather.  She could barely make out a red and white striped object along with what appeared to be a pine with various colored lights upon it.  A few more shapes were blurred in the background, but it took little imagination to realize the shapes were people.

Demitra's eyes widened as she gasped at the epiphany: it was Wintersday!  The scene answered her as the ringing of  Wintersday choir bells could be heard, and Demitra's excitement seemed to echo the cheer.  She was already on the move, climbing a sand dune to get closer to the mysterious portal, glancing up to it as she ascended.

Had she caused this portal to appear? Was this somehow linked to her longing heart? Questions flooded the Elonian's mind, but she suddenly, abruptly stopped as the image shifted focus to a puffy-haired, mocha colored woman.

"Paige?" Demitra's voice was a whisper; a whimper of awe and wonder and elatment.

Paige paused, seemed to look around with a puzzled expression.

Demitra gasped.  "Can you... Can you hear my voice, Lady Page Dejarin, daughter of the Dejarin line?"

A hand was brought to Paige's mouth. "D-Demi?" she whispered in disbelief.

"I am here, love!  Can you hear me?" Demitra desperately called out.  Tears of glittery silver trailed down her cheeks.

Paige echoed the tears, with tears of her own. She didn't answer back, obviously unable to hear, but she lifted Demitra's  bracers and cradled them, softly sobbing as the portal faded away.

Demitra held on to the image, watching until the sky returned to its normal appearance. She rolled over and collapsed defeatedly onto the slope, sliding down the sands for a moment.  She wanted to cry, she wanted to scream, she wanted to curse the Djinn and their very existence!

But to do so would be to curse her own self, as she was now one of them.

And that's when Demitra Naja Nyimah, okht to the Djinn and newly empowered Jinniyah, had an idea...

Warning: NSFW image

[The End...???]

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Search for Lexxie: Part 1

The Search for Lexxie: Part 1
----- Nalla's Journal Entry: Accompaniment -----

Nalla's Journal Entry:
Day Twenty, the Search for Lexxie continues…

A great preoccupation occurs when one loses something, or in my case, someone.  Lexxie, my sister has been missing now for approximately twenty-five days, and… there's a hole in my heart.

I've decided to keep this manual journal in effort to separate myself from distractions asuran tech irrevocably contains.  Why lose myself in the annoyance of technology that refuses to turn on… (If Lexxie were with me, it would be a different story; she's an absolute prodigy with this stuff!)

And then, I find my mind wondering if I even conveyed just how proud I am at her accomplishments.  The young woman has been through so much through the incident, and has seen past her disabilities and prospered!  She's been sought after by charr and humans alike to fix their machinations and contraptions.  And while my very special Lexx may have issues speaking clearly, she communicates through her masterful work accomplishments.  If… (When!) I see her again, I shall tell her this.  It's my absolute hope this group I have chosen to travel with can assist in this goal.

And it is beyond fortuitous I found them.  House Dejarin, as I came to know, was to set out on a pilgrimage to Elona - the very place I had traced Lexxie's steps back to.  Thus, I was most appreciative to have found the house during an open-invite party which they hosted.  There I met a curious woman wearing a top-hat named Six, who I immediately found relatable as she reminded me of Lexxie's awkwardness.  Something seems to have happened to the girl in the past, and while I've only just met her, I feel compelled to help her adjust to overcome her social awkwardness.  (Again, this is probably because I am projecting Lexxie's condition onto her, but the similarities are there.)

Several of my kin were present, and I did enjoy speaking with them; sharing stories of the other races and giggling.  It reminded me of my old krewe… before Kievaa's meddling.

Having learned of their journey, and the fact that this was a farewell party hosted a week before they were to leave for Elona, I immediately requested an audience with the Lady of the House.


That's when I met Paige Dejarin.

I… I hesitate to write my initial impressions by the woman… (After all first impressions can change as one gets to know a person.)  But, I will say that she… Well, I am simply in awe of her.  There is little to wonder why she holds such position, given the grace and elegance she projects.  She is kind, generous, and completely approachable - something I was definitely nervous to do.

Lexx gave me the honorary title of Protector; thus, I pledged my loyalty to be Paige's protector on the journey.  The woman ceremoniously knighted me, and… well, my cheeks darken just remembering the gesture.

The journey was a bit bumpy - I actually prefer travel via airship, as we did so many times in the Pact.  We did, however, land in Amnoon without incident, and while we were met with little fanfare, I could see the wide-eyed expressions on those who've never seen the desert before and an understanding acknowledgement from those who had.  Paige, whether she'd been here before or not, had the most amazed expression: her hazel eyes were as large as they could be and sparkled with such infectious enthusiasm, I felt as though I could easily forget the plight which brings me here.

And maybe that's what I need, yes?  A bit of enthusiasm.  A bit of adventure through the eyes of someone so completely and amazingly supportive, she will help me find my dear sister.

After all, I wouldn't feel this excited otherwise, right?


Is there someone else making me feel such a way?

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Once a Thief: Part 5

Once a Thief: Part 5
----- Glow -----

Note: This story may contain sexual situations, strong language, images, etc...
Intended for mature audiences only.  Reader discretion is advised.

Stability.  Something Tressa rarely had in her life.  The Black Rose often thought of such relationships as vines which hold one down and keep one from blossoming on their own accord.  She felt this oppression with the Pale Tree, the Nightmare Court and the militaristic organization known as the Pact.  And, in all honesty, Tressa did not desire to exceed expectations, rise through the ranks or lead.  The sylvari left such organizations behind her, and had prospered; flowering into a much-sought-after clandestine assassin.  Yet, after having found her way to the eclectic partnerships of Barrox and Plopp, she understood that such roots could take place, yet still allow the moonlight to reach one's petals.

Then there were the petals of the pink-haired woman.

After their deaths, Tressa had watched Kimura; watched her grieve at the loss, and work toward picking herself back up.  While the Black Rose was reluctant to leave the contract game, Kimura had successfully lobbied for the couple to attempt a change, and thus far, the sylvari had to admit to herself that it didn't seem like a bad deal.  House Dejarin would call upon their unique skills whenever needed and pay them both quite a bit for doing so.  For the first time, the assassin had the stability of a career, along with the stability of a friendship that she found herself longing to explore.

Kimura giggled.  She couldn't help it.  It was the first time in a long while she hadn't been on assignment, or being chased, or drinking her depression away.  And, she had direction now: Paige had agreed to her terms, and the duo would now be working for the woman.  She stepped onto the beach, barefooted, threw her boots to the side.  "The sun!  The salt air!  And, just look how clear this water is, Tressa!  Isn't this great?"

Tressa tried not to frown too much.  "A bit… bright," she said shielding her eyes as she glanced around.  "But, I do like the flora; a bit sparse, but grand petals."

"I thought you sylvari liked the sun?  Don't you guys like… eat, or grow, or… well, get some kind of from the sun?"  Kimura said as she unfastened the straps of her arm-length gloves.

"I am a midnight blossom.  I awoke from the Dream in the darkest of nights," Tressa exclaimed dryly, as if the answer was complete.

Kimura rubbed her neck a minute awkwardly.  "Ah, okay. So, I didn't know that.  I suppose it makes sense."

A thorny eyebrow was raised.  "You didn't?"

"No, I didn't."  Kimura said then scrunched her face at a thought.  "You know… all the time we have known each other, we really rarely ever spoke."

"I said… enough," Tressa said inadvertently winking.

Kimura sighed looking out onto the dancing water.  "Well, for us to be practically strangers, I'm really glad we're both here now."

Tressa took a stepped off the stairs leading to the beach, walking a bit uneasily on the loose sand and came to stand beside the thief.  "We stopped being strangers, Kimura, the moment we lost our garden."

A moment of silence was had, followed by a long exhale before Kimura nodded.  "Aye.  We did."  She looked to Tressa with a grin.  "Well, what are we doing here?  We're here honoring the memory of our… garden.  Come on, let's go swimming.  I see some huts on the path down here we can change in.

After a few minutes of changing in their respective huts, the women emerged.  Kimura had  a small yellow micro bikini which showed off the young woman's shapely and toned form.  Tressa, awkwardly looked down at the small petals she'd grown to cover her privates.  The leaves consisted of a red leather-like surface to make a small skirt, complete with black dots upon it.  Her bio-luminescent glow was so vivid it was seen even in the brightness of the setting sun.

Kimura was unsure if the sylvari was pulsating red from embarrassed excitement or if she'd simply forgotten to suppress it.  In either case, the look completed the ensemble.  She looked a bit longer than she'd meant to, then realizing her stare, quickly looked to the water.  "This place is amazing.  The views are so lovely.  I hear up on the island there's a lot of Karka.  Maybe we can go have a bit of fun when we're done here."  She paused, hearing nothing further from the sylvari and glanced back to see Tressa staring unbashful at the woman's body.  She flushed a pink hue.

"You are very… bright."

Kimura's voice cracked.  "I… um… I don't get much sun, okay?  Something about being a cat burglar will do that."

Tressa grinned a red smile.  "Not an issue with me, actually."

Both women laughed at the joke, happy for the distraction of the otherwise awkward moment.  Kimura quickly ran down the beach, diving into the water.  She surfaced, pulling back her white and pink locks, brushing stray strands and water from her face with a large smile.  "Well?  What are you waiting for?  Get that leafy arse in here!"

Tressa tilted her head for a moment, trying to understand the statement.  She landed on deciding the playful banter was not meant as an insult and did as instructed.  She dove - a bit unceremoniously - into the lagoon, surfacing and shaking her fonds.

Kimura giggled.  "See?  I told you: You didn't know what you were missing!  Everyone needs time to unwind every now and then!  Nothing wrong with letting your guard down every once in a while.  You know… have some fun!"

"I have had very little time for such things.  Time in the Nightmare Court was… Well, there was little time for recreation.  It was virtually non-existent."

The woman's teeth were brought to her bottom lip for a moment, unsure if she should ask, but when Tressa tilted her head, Kimura finally did so.  "You mentioned your time with the Court.  I guess… I was wondering how you got there…"

The Black Rose sighed, leaned back to let the water enter her leafy ears.  "As its name implies, I suppose."

After a long pause, Kimura's brow furrowed with a sorrow that she'd brought the topic up.  She apologized, sunk down, letting the waterline to her nostrils, staring lime-green eyes at Tressa, worried she'd gone too far in her question.

Tressa turned upright, watched Kimura intently, decided on something unsaid.  After a moment, she blinked her yellow orbs and pulsated a golden glow.  "What is it you would like to know?"

Kimura surfaced and shook her head slightly.  "Nothing in particular.  I… I just wanted to know more about you is all, that is… if you want me to know."

The Black Rose turned her attention to the setting sun, with its last few remaining rays bouncing off the ripples of the surface.  She took in a breath (even if she didn't necessarily need to), then nodded.  "I sprouted in the moonlight; moonlight blossoming, as it were.  And, it was with great scrutiny I arrived under the Pale Tree's ever watching gaze.  Most children of the Pale Tree experience the Inner Dream as an enlightenment… A realization of how they fit into Tyria.  Memories of the outside from those that came before, show them the world they will awaken into and how they shall perceive it.  Yet, I was pulled from the beauty of the Dream and into that of nightmare.  As all saplings do, I looked to the first mother for guidance."

"It's hard to imagine," Tressa said in awe.  "The concept seems so different to me; I suppose to humans it is."

"Most humans cannot possibly comprehend what the Dream is to sylvari."

"I imagine not.  But please, continue," Kimura ducked into the water again, her eyes fixed upon Tressa.

"I sought council and guidance, wishing to understand my experience.  My questions, however, were ignored by the Pale Mother, whom threw me into a regiment of training; an attempt to thwart any dark ambitions."  A vibrant red pulsated from her as she laid back, floating in the water staring into the awakening night sky.

Kimura mimicked the sylvari's posture, floating on her back to stare at the stars, her small bosom appearing and disappearing in the chill of the coming night.

"The result… Well, it pushed me further away from her philosophies and the Dream; into that of the Nightmare Court."  Another red pulse came from the woman.

Kimura turned her head to look directly at Tressa's face as she floated up beside her.  "You know, that always amazes me; your colors.  How your skin glows like that."

"My skin is of midnight; my glow is of blood."

Kimura giggled.  "Well, that's one way to see it, but… I've just never seen it quite like that before on anyone.  I mean, I don't have a lot of experience or interactions with sylvari.  Believe it or not," the woman laughed, "not many of them buy flowers.  Wonder why?"

Tressa suddenly and unexpectedly laughed at the joke, the first time the pink-haired woman had heard the sylvari truly laugh.  Her eyes widened for a moment, surprised how joyous it seemed and returned the laughter herself.

"You seem… different, Kimura."

Considering, Kimura nodded.  "I dunno.  I feel different.  You know, I had plans.  We had plans.  Barrox, Plopp, and me and you…"  She sighed as she waved the water with an arm.  "But now, I don't know what will happen.  Part of me is scared, but part of me feels… free.  Like we're on the paths in front of us and they are endless.  It's… well, it's rather exciting I suppose.  And, I'm the one who chooses, you know?  Not just going along for the ride."

"This is your first taste of freedom then?"

Kimura inhaled a bit of water than streamed it out, giggling at Tressa's confusion at the gesture.  "I've always been free, but I was a part of something much bigger; something I really had no control over: a plan that wasn't my own.  But now… Now, possibilities…"

Tressa smiled greatly as she returned her eyes to the stars.  "The moonlight bathes us.  Who knows what purpose it has.  Why not enjoy the simple pleasure it brings, and not worry about tomorrow?"

"Yes!" Kimura exclaimed.  "The future is ours!  And, the night is ours!"  She playfully splashed the sylvari.

The woman blinked at the gesture, then returned it, heavy handedly making a wave crash upon Kimura.  The pink hair woman flailed a moment, grabbing onto Tressa's shoulder.  Where she touched, a fluid red glowed from beneath the sylvari's bark.

"So, what are your thoughts about the future?" Kimura asked, pulling her hand hand slowly from the contact watching the glow as is shadowed her fingers.

"I have not thought of the future in quite a while.  The Nightmare Court… the Pact, they all had long-term plans.  Me?  I am simply happy to bloom one night at a time."

"What about the path directly in front of us?  The Dejarin woman and her group…  Do you think it's worth trying?  I mean, I know I need this more than you, but…"

Tressa watched in bewildered curiosity at her body's glow reacted without her command.  "What I believe," she began without looking away from the phenomenon, "is that you are happy to be employed by her.  Stability, as it were.  And, me?  Well… Evolution, yes?"

The rippling water forced Kimura closer.  She cleared her throat, tried to speak as business-like as possible, despite their proximity.  "Look, the moment you tell me it's not right for you, I walk too, okay?  I meant it when I said we should stick together.  We are all we have when it comes down to it, right?  Besides, Barrox and Plopp would have wanted that.  Yes?" Kimura said, playfully impersonating the sylvari's tone and inflection.

Tressa's yellow orbs fixated on the woman's lime-greens.  "I know this, Kimura.  This is why I have not returned to the shadows.  There is… There seems to be something else that retains me."

"Oh really?  And what's that?" Kimura asked with a coy grin.  Before the sylvari could answer, Kimura giggled, turned and dove into the water's depths.

Tressa followed and the couple explored much more than just the underwater landscape together.  On the surface, between the ripples, a soft red glow could be seen from an interaction deep in the depths of Southsun Cove; an interaction which Tressa's body longed for, before the Black Rose, herself, ever knew.

[To be Continued...]

  Next  (Coming soon...)


Thursday, December 6, 2018

Eternally Bound: Aftermath Ember

Eternally Bound: Aftermath
----- Ember: Cold Embers -----
(written by Ember)

Ember wrapped her arms around Shiera… or number 15 as she was now called, and gathered all of her magic. The monster Kieva has warped her to be more of a copy of Ember than anyone has before. Her magic, her weapon, even her words were a copy of her, as she was trapped in a suit like the one she had to wear before. Ember didn’t have time to find an asura to tear the suit apart, so she aimed to overload the suit like she had done before. All of her energy went into the woman in her grasp…. And as the suit was overloaded, she was knocked back with an explosion.

 Shiera crashed against the barrier behind her, unconscious. Between the two combatants, pieces of the sword of ice… Valandra’s vessel were scattered. Ember overdid it, and she was harshly reminded by the sounds of agony that came from Valandra.

Ember winced as she heard the cry, but her eyes were now locked on the Asura before her. The only thing that stood between her former captor and her flames was a small barrier… the same one between her and her two djinn loves. Ember ignored the fighting around her. She ignored the cries of pain from her soldiers. She ignored the cries for help from those hacking the barriers. She gave a wicked grin, and slowly started running her sword over the barrier in front of the asura.

Kieva was starting to look worried. Like a trapped skrit, she started to pace back and forth, only with Ember to match her with a predatory like gaze. “I told you I would get you..”

Kieva looked up at Ember, and grinned. “Look what you did, you fire bookah! You are going to have to choose between your loved ones…. Which one will it be?” the barrier drops, and before Ember can pounce, the asura grabs Shiera and teleports away.

Ember let out a roar of frustration as her quarry escaped. She looked up to the two women, to see them fuse back into one. Demitra stood before her, and spoke with Valandra’s voice.

Ember looked to Paige. “We need to bind Valandra to something else! I broke her vessel!”

 Paige looked lost. “She’s a being of Ice, we can’t bind her to our items, its too much of an opposite! We need something that won’t reject her!”

Ember paused. She couldn’t think of anything…. Until her adventures with Valandra played in her mind. Turns out, Kieva was the source of the way to save her. “Use me…” she said softly. Paige was about to protest, but the look she received from Ember silenced her.

 “Go touch her then...and I’ll start..” Paige said softly. Ember walked up to Valandra, who was using Demitra’s voice until this moment.

 “I’ve… always loved you.” Valandra said softly.

Ember placed her hand against Valandra’s cheek, their eyes meeting. “And I you… always.”

Paige finished the ritual, and with a blast of icy wind, Ember was knocked out of the lab, crying out to Paige as the building collapsed.  She suddenly screamed in agony, as her armor, which had been superheated during her battle, now burned her with a pain that she never felt before. Only one thought was in her head.

“Get… get the armor off! Its…. its hot!” she cried. Her comrades, in their confusion quickly helped pull her from her armor, and the young woman staggered away, feeling nauseous. Something was wrong, but she couldn’t quite place it.

Ember reached a tree and started to vomit. Instead of it being the contents of her stomach, flame and substances like lava poured from her. Her jet black hair started to turn white, and the white streak matched the color of the sky as she passed out again.

---Three days later---

Ember awoke inside of a tent set up to help those injured around the ruins of House Dejarin. She looked around inside the tent to see everything was covered in white snow. She stepped out of her tent, grabbing a cloak by instinct, only to find that not only was she not cold, she was overheating. She stood in a small slip of a night gown, and looked around. People were still mourning, Cinder watched Ember with wary eyes, but still watched over her partner.

Ember waved to her raptor and staggered over to the water to wash her face…. The face she saw, however did not look like how she was used. Besides the color of her hair, her eyes were now a brilliant blue, a very, very familiar blue.

 “What…. Happened to me?”

Ember you fool…. A voice echoed in her head. It was the usual tone she was used to from Valandra, but perhaps, it may have been a tad grateful… but that may have been just her imagination…

---In the ruins of the Estate---
In the rubble that was once Ember’s room, the heat refused to die down, even after the flames have been put out. Underneath the remains of a wall, stood Ember’s staff, marked with Drakenfist and filled with not just Ember’s fire, but the fire from every head of the Drakenfist clan for generations. Next to it, sat Ember’s old dagger, blade of fire not activated. The items seemed to pulse with power, ready to give their power to whomever was found worthy… when the time was right.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Eternally Bound: Aftermath Six

Eternally Bound: Aftermath
----- Six: Captive -----
(written by Bampot00/Six)

Six screamed aloud in her own head, knowing what was about to transpire. It was the same every night.

Six didn't see Harid's weapon until it was too late. The blow smashed the side of her head, sending a shower of sparks, asuran tech and broken glass from her head-up-display on her helmet.

She wiped the blood away that began to trickle down her forehead and turned to face Harid.

Once again she screamed for Harid to run, to no avail.

The expression on Harid's face went from rage to one of recognition, then softened. Like a puppet on strings, she raised her hand toward the man she cared deeply for, watching as his eyes widened.

"Harid!!! Run!!!" she yelled, a bystander in her own vision. No one seemed to listen to her.

A blast of white hot plasma exploded from her hand, striking Harid on the arm and shoulder as he turned to try and deflect the blast. His scream filled the air, along with the unmistakable scent of burning flesh.

Six awoke with a gasp, sitting upright on her cot. Sweat poured from her brow, as a shiver ran through her body, something she never experienced before. It took her a moment to realize where she was, as it did each night.

She was alone in a small cell, barely clad. The metal floor and walls hummed with a faint vibration. Moonlight spilled in through the solitary, barred window. Realization quickly washed over her.

She was back with Lennk. Outside this cell, she was no more than a puppet, unable to defy his simplest of commands. Being as cruel as he is intelligent, Lennk and his new partner left her mind intact while under his control, leaving her with the knowledge of the things he made her do. Like kill and hurt her friends. People like Harid.

Every evening she was returned to this cell, stripped out of the asuran tech suit they made her wear, and stripped of her elemental abilities. In here, she had free will, and time. Time to reflect on her situation. A most cruel and unusual punishment indeed.

Six sat up and took a few short steps to the barred window, looking out over a sea of clouds, wishing the airship Lennk had procured would take her back home...

Eternally Bound: Aftermath Paige

Eternally Bound: Aftermath
----- Paige: Daughter of the Sea -----
(written by Harid/Paige/TheDejarins)

OOC note: To start...this was an emotional event. The ending of Eternally Bound has irrevocably changed House Dejarin. Where it goes from here, what it means and what it will do now...I don't know. Wine was it's legacy, so Paige will find some way to keep it, but they won't be able to live the way they were or where they were any longer. This story is my reaction to the events.


Paige Dejarin hated closing her eyes.

Even as ash swept up along the winds battered her tear streaked face and made her eyes burn, it was still less pain than what she felt when her eyes were shut. Each time she allowed darkness to replace the horror before her, she heard the voices in her mind...a 'gift' from her mother perhaps.

The former speaker of the dead...apparently Paige took on Vivian's gifts more keenly than anyone could guess. The ghosts respected her with silence as she gazed upon the carnage before her, but when her eyes shut...

Run go and fetch the lion guard
Dear Gods no. Dwaya help us
Where is the lady? Where is her father!

Paige opened her eyes and wrapped her cloak tighter around herself. Though the chill she felt in her bones wasn't from the wind that drew the acrid stench of burned flesh and ruined grapes to her nose. Nor was it from the moonlight that provided no succor in this blasted landscape that was once her home. It was once Six's home as well...but now she was gone a possession of the monster.

It was the chill of knowing that she failed hundreds who relied upon her.

Each step she took left her feet crunching down on the remains of wood, the corpses of plants, and memories that were now lost to time. Each step brought her closer the the center of it all, where she knew that the magic had originated from. Each step...was terrible.

But then, Paige saw it.

In the center of it all was the last thing she expected to see.

She fell to her knees, as jagged chunks of charcoal tore through her robes leaving gashes of black across her mocha knees. The smell was worse here and the ash was dangerously close to filling her throat. But she found something that she knew must not be left here for scavengers and thieves to retrieve.

It was a puzzle box. One that was given to her on her fifth birthday. the one puzzle that Paige had never solved. It was magically enchanted to resist flame and water because the gift giver wanted Paige to never be without a puzzle. The box itself was clutched in a bony hand that Paige implicitly knew belonged to none other than Sebastian.

Paige wanted to curse the old man for trying to rescue such an object...but she couldn't bring herself to chide the dead.

Especially when she felt a ghostly hand upon her shoulder.

Paige shut her eyes so that her old butler could speak to her.

She expected shouts of range. She expected condemnations. She expected pity.

But he said nothing...yet said everything.

Paige kept her eyes shut and let her soul guide her to pressing buttons, twisting shapes, and twisting knobs on the puzzle box. It was as if her father, her butler, her lovers, and one hundred and sixty-seven names that also mattered to her spoke through her. As each name crossed from her mind to her heart, she felt more ghosts approach her and rest their hands upon her shoulders, her cheeks, her hair...

And they all said nothing.

It wasn't until Paige heard a click from the box that she finally opened her eyes...and just like that the ghosts departed and the air felt warmer...as if they had fulfilled their purpose and could move on to the mists.

She gazed upon the object and didn't know what to think of it...until the meaning of the gift jumped to mind. She arched her back and gazed at the moon as she parted her lips and laughed and laughed and cried. She brought the object close to her breast leaving the solved puzzle box aside.

It was a map of the ocean and nothing more.

When Paige finally stopped laughing the answer was as clear as day to her. The ghosts may have forgiven and moved on, but the monster had to be put down and the answer lied in the sea.

"Father..." Paige finally said, "It's time that I become a daughter of the sea as you always wanted."

Eternally Bound: Part 22

Eternally Bound: Part 22
----- Decision -----

For a moment, time stood still.  The hum of the shield generator stopped, the chimes of the mystical syphon Kievaa had left was the only sound in the lab.  Paige stared with large liquid hazel eyes at the screens, shocked and utterly appalled at what she was witnessing, the sheer horror of the evil asura's plan finally becoming clear.  She couldn't speak, couldn't move.  She couldn't even bring her hand to cover her gasping mouth.  If possible, the noble would have cursed at the monster, sworn vengeance.

As it was, Ember let loose a sting of obscenities that still seemed to fall short.  She roared in rage and anguish.

The manor, the estate, the vineyards and the wineries… everything was gone.  Paige's heart sank at the sight of the wreckage.  Her bottom lip trembled as a single tear ran down her mocha cheek.  It was followed by another… and another… and another.  Her knees were weak and she fell upon them sobbing into her hands.

A chuckle came from the monitor, but it wasn't Lennk.  Instead, two black buns followed by narrow green eyes overlapped Lennk.  Keivaa grunted as she bumped her way into the picture.  "Oh good!  I thought I'd missed it!  You haven't made a decision yet?  Well, better get a move on it, indeed, fire-bookah; if you don’t, both will succumb to my machination."

"Oh, we can make this much more interesting," Lennk laughed as he pressed a button off-screen.  A beep came from inside the lab as an asuran time indicator sparked to life on the center console.  "Now you all have an additional incentive to complete the task at hand.  Nothing like working under a time-clock!"

Kievaa laughed.  "Micromanagement, indeed!"  The asura's laughter echoed over the burning husk of the Dejarin mansion, as the main section of the house crumbled to the ground from the inferno.

Ember immediately scrabbled to pick up the pieces of the ice sword, ignoring the cuts sustained when doing so.  She frantically glanced up at the fluctuating visage of Demitra and Valandra.  "H-hold on, love!  I'm… I'm going to fix this!  I…  Just hold on!"

Sylas mirrored Ember's statements to Harid.  "Just hold on, sir.  I'll… I'll get you out of here."  She picked the man up as best she could, hoisting his good arm over her neck as they slowly began moving toward the exit.  Harid was barely conscious, stone eyes fixated on the burning pyre that was once the estate he'd poured so much of himself into.  The pain from this horrifying image was more so than his own burned shoulder and arm.

"Oh, yes, Harid; you may want to go get that checked.  Looks pretty painful!" Lennk sneered.  "Or you can just stay here and let the explosion finish the job!"

"Shut your mouth!" Paige growled through her gritting teeth.  "You will pay dearly for all you've done."  She clenched her fists, slammed them into the dirt for leverage to stand, then looked at her frantic captain and father.  "Lucia, get father to the healers!  Ember: there's no use; we won't be able to get the artifact assembled in time!  We must find another way to-"

"Indeed!  Please, come up with another plan.  There's so much time for you to-"  Kievaa was cut short as Ember threw her sword into the main monitor console.  All others filled with static, then promptly blinked off.

"Gods damned asura!" Ember cursed.  She quickly dumped the collected shards into her side-pouch, promptly came to stand beside Paige at the pedistal and the guantlets suspended upon it.  The second of the third tendrils disconnected as the cylinder below beeped.  Only one tube remained.  "What the fu-" Ember bent down and retrieved what the asura had referred to as a battery.  The contents within swirled with intermixing purple and blue smoke.  "Looks important," she said, eyeing it a moment before handing it to Paige, who was admittedly more versed in asuran tech.

Paige raised an eyebrow at the cylinder before her voice cracked.  "It's draining them.  I… I think it's killing them.  I… I don't know if we can disconnect the hoses without…"

"Kievaa said it would kill one of them.  Maybe both if we just take the gauntlets and run.  Without her artifact intact, we can't bind Valandra to it…"

"And if we can't bind her to it…" Paige's analytical mind struggled to remain in control against her breaking heart.

Both suspended Djinn's voices bounced and echoed from one to the other.  "Cannot… both… exist… outside… bound to… one object…"

Paige and Ember both gasped in unison at the realization; the noble finally uttering the words, "If we don't separate them, we lose them both."

A ghostly echo, like a distant voice in an infinite cave whispered to Paige.  Her eyes lit up at Demitra's voice.  "You, Lady Paige Dejarin, daughter of the Dejarin line, are strong, confident, and you are inquisitive beyond compare.  These qualities are those which beckon those to follow you.  You have shown me trust, understanding, and compassion...  Being strong is not the easy path, but I believe-"  Demitra's voice went lower, turned into the icy hiss of Valandra, "since I had the Djiin's essence inside me, I was also bound to the gauntlets in the exchange of power.  If we are to find my artifact-"

Ember was coming to her own conclusions.  "We gotta find something to bind her to!  I… I messed up.  I destroyed her vessel… I…"

Paige exhaled softly.  For the first time since the shock her homestead's destruction, she was calm.  She silently thanked Demitra for it; then also had to do the same to Valandra, who sparked an idea.  "Exchange of power… Inside her…"

"What?" Ember shook her head in confused frustration.

Paige gestured to the momentary visage of Valandra within the blue mist and snow.  "Her!  Valandra bound a Djinn inside her.  It's the reason she was forced into Demitra's vessel when she tried to release her, remember?"

Ember grunted.  "Yeah.  I was there.  I remember.  But still, how does that help-"

"I… I think we can separate Valandra from Demi's bracers if we bind her to a person!"

"Cannot… hold on… much… longer…" The Djinns echoed.

"Bind her then… to me," Ember said with resolute confidence.

"I… I don't know what it'll do to you, Ember.  It may be all for nothing.  But, I hope - no, I believe - that it will work.  I have my scepter to aide me with the spells I've researched; it's very similar to the spell used when I first called Demitra, and I've been practicing.  And, since you've had a connection already with Valandra, I think it will act as a focus-"

"Paige, shush!  I trust you; always have.  I… I just can't lose them.  Just tell me what to do."  Ember said, her voice weary.

"Stand next to her, in her cloud and I'll start," Paige said, already going through the ritual, fighting to remember it precisely through the aches in her heart for both Demitra and Ember, and the overwhelming hurt for the estate, as well as for her father's health.

Ember pulled herself onto the platform, stared directly at the shifting image that was her wife and Valandra, both frozen in an agony unimaginable.  "Ice queen, I don't know if you can hear me, but I'm going to try to save you; probably not in the way either of us expected, and… I'm sorry about this."  She turned and gave a nod to Paige, who'd already begun the spell.

Shadows formed around the woman's feet writing an intricate pattern which erupted in sand billowing around her, clothes flapping from the force.  Through the dust storm, she called out to Ember.  "For this to work, you'll need to make contact with her.  When you see Valandra as a Djinn, reach out and touch her!"

Ember did as instructed, placing her hand on the four armed being that was Valandra's Djinn form.  Instantly, her hand froze and ice began to creep up her arm faster than her heated core could melt it.  She looked back a bit worriedly to Paige.  "Better make this fast!"

Paige began to chant, intoning the ancient words of the Djinn's native language.  "By the sands of Tyria, the soil of Elona; the heart of a Sunspear's descendant calls upon you.  Ancient elemental beings; I beseech you: Bind this Djinn to her new vessel.  Bind her so that two lives may be saved.  Bind Valandra Okht Thaljia to Ember Naja Drakenfist and welcome Ember as one of your own!"

Valandra screamed in torment and anguish as shards of ice pierced her skin, from the inside out.  Winds spiraled around the couple, swirling the clouds of mist, frost and snow into a frenzied blizzard.  Lightning sparked within the spiral, as if riding the waves of wind and ice.  Ember felt as though her very fiery lifeforce was being stretched apart and deconstructed.  She fought the pain for as long as she could before finally screaming.

The spellcaster tried her best to ignore the cries, continuing with the binding.

A look of desperation came from the ice queen as she moved, slowly and painfully, tilting her head down to look at Ember's red eyes.  "I have… never… stopped… loving… you…" Valandra managed to get out, a single icy tear rolling down her cheek.

Ember mirrored the ice queen's movement.  "And… I… never stopped… loving you…" She said, an inherited tear of ice sliding down her own cheek.

Suddenly Valandra wailed, her entire body exploding as ice, electricity, and wind, a torrential wintery storm mix when engulfed Ember's small body, lifting her high off the platform.  She levitated a moment before slamming into the ground with a loud boom.  The storm seemed to freeze a moment, suspended above the woman's body, until it plunged into her, imploding.

While she wanted to check on her captain, Paige was already at Demitra's side.  "My love, I think we did it.  I think it worked…"

Demitra was still suspended within her cloud of purple and white smoke.  She forced herself to stare with emerald eyes at the puffy-haired mocha woman and smiled thick full lips as tears of glitter streamed down her face.  "I shall love you forever," her voice reverberated like the vibration of her touch, a whisper to Paige's ear just as she had heard the woman's words through the conflict.

"It's okay… We just have to get out of-"

Paige's expression was sorrowed confusion as Demitra faded into the smoke, which promptly went back into the bracers, her vessel.  The gloves fell from the apparatus, landed unceremoniously and haphazardly in the dirt of the floor.  "No!" she screamed, sliding over to the gloves, cradling them.  "We had you!  It was supposed to free you!  What… What can I do now?  How will I…"

Valandra's voice called out, but to Paige's shock Ember was the source.  She was at the exit, barely able to stand.  Her hands were smoking with mist and fog as she beckoned.  "It's going to blow!  We'll figure it out, but we gotta get out of here!"

Paige glanced up at the countdown, saw there were only seconds left and rushed to the doorway… But it was too late.  The lab detonated, an explosion rupturing the walls, collapsing the roof and shattering everything contained within.

Ember was blown from the eruption.  She landed hard, sliding on the ground as if it were a frozen lake.  She managed to stop herself, looked back at the collapsing building.  "Paige!" she cried.  Then the realization hit that Paige had been holding her wife's bracers.  "Demi!  No!  Not like this!"

Haird echoed the woman's grief, screaming and yelling at Sylas to release him - even if the man couldn't do much of anything, given the severity of his injuries.  "Daughter!"  He cried out in a wail only available to those grieving parents who'd lost their children.  A few minutes of struggling with Sylas dropped the man to his knees, on the verge of breaking down at the loss of his daughter.  Lucia held him, taking care not to agitate his wound.

A soft stirring of the stand behind them gave way to a ring within the topsoil, the sand in the middle of the circle like a pool of quicksand.  With a thud, Paige was spit out from it.  She landed on her shoulder, then rolled over, both arms grasped tightly onto Demitra's gauntlets.  "I… I made it," she said, barely able to get the words out before Harid was on top of her, in an embrace the hadn't had in quite some time.

Ember raised an eyebrow at her hands, seeing the gloves smoke and sizzle.  The effect became louder, until all of her armor was burning her skin.  "The armor… It… It burns!  Get… Get it off me!  Help!"  She flailed about, attempting to strip off the increasingly hot armor.  Paige assisted Lucia Sylas as they helped the captain out of the armor, quickly undoing the straps, buckles, and bindings.  Harid moved his gaze from the woman, stared at the smoldering wreckage.

"We… We worked so hard.  The legal battles, tilling the land, learning how to be a fucking noble… and… it's just gone.  All gone," Harid mumbled.

The last piece of the armor was off, leaving Ember covered in only her underclothes, which clung unforgiving to her like frozen sweat.  She was coughing and groaning and holding on to Paige.  She looked disoriented and nauseous, but was able to sit up of her own accord.

Paige pulled away from the woman's grasp after she was stable, then stood beside her father and fixed her gaze upon the burning pyre.  "The manor… the people.  I don't know how many are dead… and…"  She choked up, looked down at the gauntlets she hadn't once sat down.  "Demitra's gone… She's gone again!  My heart…"  She took in a breath in an attempt to calm herself, but it failed.  Paige let out a loud anguishing, woeful scream - a scream borne of heartbreak, grief, and agony.

Harid put his good arm around his daughter's shoulder.  "I can't cry for the lost.  Haven't cried since I lost your mother, but I thought I lost you back there.  But you're here… We're here!  And, we will rebuild Paige."

Tears rolled down the woman's face, but she didn't sob.  "We… I… have lost a lot, but no, I won't give up.  If I do, then they would win.  If… If I have to personally write letters to each family we have lost, I will (until my fingers bleed, if I must)."

"And we'll be with you till the end, Lady Paige," Lucia Sylas offered with a weary smile.

Paige's eyebrows wrinkled with a seriousness to the woman.  "Thank you… Thank you for saving him, Lucia."

Ember had made her way to a nearby tree, leaning on it heavily.  Without warning, she upturned her stomach, spewing vile blackness from her gut.  From where her hand touched the bark, a frost formed, slowly encasing the base of the tree.

They all glanced back to Ember with concern, and Paige actually smiled, in spite of the horrendous circumstance as her friend gave her a weak thumbs up.  "Well… We'll need to find some place to stay.  Most of the house funds were secured in a bank.  Not all… but enough, I think; both here and in Elona.  The… The survivors will be taken care of, and those lost… I'll see to it each and every family gets a share, even if it bankrupts us.  Tomorrow I'll tour the manner; I need to see what's been lost."

Ember stood upright, having finished emptying her stomach.  Her skin was still as pale as it had been, and her hair now contained a blue streak which glistened with an icy sheen in the sunlight.  She raised an eyebrow as she wiped her mouth with a frigid hand.  "What?" she asked at the group's stare, blinking back eyes of sapphire.

[The End...???]

Paige, Daughter of the Sea
Six, Captive
Ember: Coming Soon

Epilogue: Coming Soon

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Eternally Bound: Part 21

Eternally Bound: Part 21
----- Confrontation -----

Despite their deficiency with Harid's injury and Paige still recovering from the blood pact she had given Ember, the small group skillfully encroached upon the lab which Shiera was seen fleeing to.

Harid halted at the edge of a slope , surveying the situation. A large group of golems marched around the entrance of the lab

He glanced to his daughter, saw her trepidation, then nudged her.  "Game plan?" he asked encouragingly.  While the young woman had mastered rallying the troops and coming up with strategy beforehand, she seemed lost, undoubtedly worried and anxious with horrors her overactive imagination about what they may see in the lab as they got closer.

"I... Uh..." Paige took a deep staggered breath.  She was still weak from the previous encounter, and only had just begun to move of her own accord.  After a pause and a deep breath, she spoke with words directly from her thoughts.  "We don't know if Kievaa is in there, if Lennk is in there, and if any Numbers are in there; but I would say that we held our own against one already.  I think the reason it wasn't a flawless operation is because we were taken by surprise and really didn't work together.  Let's face whatever we find in there as a cohesive unit, like we did with the champion golem."

"I'm new under your lead, milady, but I shall follow you; you have my pistols!" Sylas pledged.

Paige smiled at the woman's enthusiasm, reminding her of her own youthful spirit, which felt so very far from this moment.  "Your pistols won't be needed; I will personally guard you.  What I need from you, Sylas, is those skills as an engineer.  I knew Lennk and Kievaa will be expecting us now.  There's going to be defense systems in the lab ahead.  I need you to disable them."  A quick glance at the ready troops which had made it around the golems before the firewall solidified the woman's resolve.  "My father and the rest of you will be needed to destroy the hordes of automatons; these golems are bigger than the ones we just fought; I'm going to need you all to keep them off of me and Sylas."

"And what of me?" Ember asked as she strolled up.  Her armor was back to its normal tone; her hair resumed its previous black with a white streak.  "If you think I'm going to fight golems while my loves are in there being experimented on…"

"Oh no, Ember.  I don't want you to fall back; I want you in there with us stopping Kievaa.  Fifteen has probably already recovered.  We need you to fight her, and not hold back.  I have faith that you will control yourself as not to fry us all in the process!"

Ember raised an eyebrow, never stopped watching the golems pacing in front of the lab's entrance.  "Shiera.  That's her name.  Fifteen is Shiera.  We've met before, back when Valandra took me."

"Then maybe we can reason with her; make her see-"

"I tried it that way.  She was… she was absent, like she'd been blanked out."  Ember paused a moment, a terrible thought occurring to her.  "What if… Kievaa's done that to them?"

Paige exhaled a disheartened sigh.  "Valandra and Demitra are powerful.  Let's hope powerful enough to resist Kievaa.  First chance I get, I'll grab the bracers and the sword and use the sands to portal out.  Keep Fifteen… Shiera… occupied long enough for me to rescue them.  Okay, captain?"

Much to Paige's chagrin, Ember nodded absently.  The noble hoped she'd gotten through to the headstrong woman.  With such a critical juncture, she couldn't afford for Ember to go off half-cocked.  But, to her captain's credit, she hadn't raced down fool heartedly, and seemed to be receptive to her orders, if not preoccupied.  If, however, Ember had tried diplomacy when she fought Shiera, then Paige had to acknowledge the woman's progress, and was humbled that her example may have been the cause of it.

"My soldiers can go first; make an opening for you all."  Harid spoke up once he was certain his daughter had finished.  After a nod came from her, he called forth his group leading them down the incline yelling loudly, "For House Dejarin!"

Swords, axes, and gunfire echoed in the lab as Paige, Ember and Sylas made their way through the corridor created by the troops and arrived within.  What they saw within shocked the women to their core.

The small asura, Kievaa, stood in front of a pedestal with a soft glowing pink and green mystical flame under it.  The top of the platform seemingly smoked with the same colored balls of energy.  Within, floated gauntlets, smoke billowing from them in both directions.  On the left was a cloud of purple and white smoke, along with sand which intermixed and separated as it flowed around the form of Demitra.  The right cloud of mist mirrored the other, only instead of purple it was blue and frosty snows along with the white smoke, flowing around Valandra.  Kievaa hummed as she pressed a button on the panel beside the central pedestal.  At once, both women screamed in agony as they began to fluctuate, changing into their Djinn forms, then returning to normal, before swapping places with the other and repeating the cycle.  "Won't be long now!" Kievaa giggled.

Paige covered her mouth, unable to speak at the atrociousness.

"Let them go!" Ember wailed as she leapt toward the asura, her fist of fire ready to strike; her flame sword ready to impale.  Merely feet from Kievaa, Ember slammed into an invisible wall which sent her flying backward.  She landed in the lab floor with a resounding crash.  "Dammit!" she yelled, hoping back to her feet.  The invisible wall fluctuated a hexagonal pattern of orange energy before it disappeared again.

"I've seen this kind of shield tech!" Sylas said, tapping Paige's shoulder.  "Get me over there, and I'll see what I can do to bring it down," she said in low tones, gestured to a small console at the base of where the shield emanated.

Paige snapped out of her shock at the woman's touch.  "Then come on; we got a job to do!  We gotta save them, both!"

Kievaa raised her hand as if swatting a fly.  "Fifteen Omega, take care of these pesky bookah; especially that damned fire-bookah!"

At her command emerged Fifteen Omega, Shiera.  The woman's helm remained off, her eyes now covered by a visor with a glowing red central eyepiece, the same Ember had seen her wear during their first encounter.

"Stay out of this, Shiera," Ember warned, but her words died as she saw the weapon the woman carried.  "Valandra's sword!" she exclaimed.

Fifteen held up the blue sword of cold flames, which crackled like ice.  She tilted her head up at it, as if taking in the power it contained.

Kievaa groaned.  "Would you stop showing off and just kill her already?"

Without hesitation, Shiera jumped, landing in front of the fire mage, her sword on a downward slope to Ember's chest.  So fast was the action, Ember barely had time to get her own magical artifact up to block it.  Red and blue energy shot outward as the swords clashed a loud boom shaking the walls of the facility.

Sylas huffed in frustration as she fought against the rumbles created by it.  Paige erected a wall of sand to shield them from the blast, her attention both at the fight transpiring and at assisting Sylas as much as possible.  To say it was difficult for her to not focus Demitra and Valandra was an understatement.  The woman's logic, however, helped her stick to the plan: disable the tech, grab Demi's gauntlets.

Ember roared as she used heat to propel her, forcing Fifteen back.  She roared and pounced in an attempt to gain the upper hand, but her efforts were squashed by the woman, as she took the full blunt of an electrified fist. "Hand over the damned sword!" Ember screamed as her flaming fist slammed into the Fifteen's side, where her ax had penetrated.  Shiera hunched over, but brought her sword up, slashing Ember's armor, instantly forming a layer of ice upon her breastplate.  Ember roared as she lifted her hand, send a half-solidified, half-lava rock at the Number.  "Damn it; I promised to free you and I still will!  But you gotta stop fighting me before I kill you!"

"Kill you," came the ghostly echo of the woman's voice.  A sudden blast of air shoved Ember back.  She lost her footing, fell and slid on the lab's floor.  Before she knew it, Shiera was on top of her, sword again clashing with Ember's own.  The shockwave sent out from the artifacts hit the shield, illuminating the area in an orange glow.

Paige was almost knocked down from the impact upon her own magic.  "I don't know how much longer I can hold this," she confessed.

Sylas nodded.  "I'm trying.  There doesn't seem to be a way to completely overwrite it.  I'm going to have to do it sequentially to keep it from reactivating as I go."

"Sometimes the best way to go about solving a maze is to trace the walls, but that doesn't mean you can't run while doing it!  Try to hurry your efforts, Sylas, please," she encouraged, but a look to Ember with Fifteen on top worried her.  Ember was pinned, struggling to defend against the Number's sheer power.  "Ember!  Do it… Unleash!"

The words hit the woman's ears and a quick glance to Paige confirmed it: to win this fight, she would have to go nova.  She quickly wrapped her arms around Shiera, pulling her into an embrace with their swords still locked between them.  The amount of power from the cross, almost too much to bear.  She channeled and gathered her magic, her entire body was glowing embers as she ignited with the fires of a dragon.  She shouted from the power, shouted for her lovers, shouted for having let the damned asura escape; she shouted for Paige and the house she had grown to love and for all those friends lost during the war.  She shouted and went nova.

The force of an explosion with the power of the sun and made of primal heat was directed and channeled into the flame sword.  The artifact glowed to a vibrant white, then released itself completely and utterly onto the sword of ice and the woman wielding it in a detonation that would have leveled the entire complex had it not been focused by the fire mage.  At once, Shiera was sent hurling backward, the front of her suit on fire and exploding from the blast.  She flew to the barrier behind her, her visor-less head impacting it loudly as her neck craned forward and cracked.  She fell, lifeless onto the floor.

In her wake, were shards of Valandra's decimated sword, her vessel shattered.

Paige regained her footing, surveyed the outcome, and immediately welled up at the sight.  Valandra's artifact - the very thing they needed to separate her from Demitra - was destroyed.  "Wh-What have we done?" she gasped.

Her words were echoed by a frustrated asura.  "Damn it!  I'm going to have to completely revive her again!  Stupid fire bookah!"

Lennk's voice came from the shield generator.  "Shields seventy-four percent."  A monitor fizzled on.  "Looks like your little pet failed, Kievaa.  You want to see what my ingenuity has achieved?  Let's make this more fun, shall we?"  Laughter continued as the monitor shut off.

Behind the group, tucked away by the entrance, was a cylindrical tub filled with robotic machined arms used for constructing.  A female, dressed in the same form-fitting asura tech suit Shiera and Ember had once been in, stepped out as the door of the equipment when it opened with a hiss.  The outfit matched the same red lava-like lines as Fifteen's, yet this one had bits of blue, purple, and brown swirling within, the diamond ocular device on the helmet mixing and fluctuating between the colors.  Neither hand held a weapon, but the clenched fists practically vibrated with energies, shifting from one element to the next.

Kievaa folded her arms, unconcerned with the shield buzzing that it was down another ten percent.  "Well?  Go on, Lennk's pet, show me why you're so damned special," she scoffed at the newcomer.

Paige's eyes grew wide.  "It's another Number!"

Obeying commands, the Number was in the air, held aloft by wind as lightning crackled around her.  The multicolored diamond pierced through Ember's cooling armor, found the heartbeat of the small woman, and dove toward it, with a fist of electricity.

"Ember!  Move!" came the voice of Harid.  He leapt in front of the fire mage, holding a magically enchanted shield which repelled the Number backwards.  The woman's feet hit the ground, and almost instantly, the flooring and gravel beneath began to break apart in a low rumble.  Earth rose, was sent flying from her to Harid, who hunkered down, braving the pelting.  Without letting up, the woman slammed into his shield, sending sprays of fire and rock from the collision.  The blast ignited something in the lab which promptly exploded, downing several of the man's soldiers.

A deep and thick growl came from Harid as he stood upright and used his shield to upper-cut the Number.  She staggered backward only for a moment, then sent a rock-encased fist at the shield, shattering its magical barrier upon the strike.  Harid struggled to keep his footing, then used the momentum of the impact to spin around and send a fist hurling at the woman's helmet.  The blow connected hard with pieces of asura tech flying from it.  Then it was returned by the Number's own punch.  Again and again each blow landed, only to be matched by the other combatant.

Paige took a few steps toward the fight, pulling her scepter, worried her father was getting hit far too often.  Between blows, Harid manage to hold out his hand, silently commanding Paige to halt her advance.

"I need a second set of hands here for this one, milady," implored Sylas, still busily navigating through the mess of pathways in the magitech shield emitter.  Paige reluctantly turned from her father to assist.

A ping came from the panel with Lennk's metallic voice.  "Shields forty-seven percent."

Kievaa wobbled over to where Paige and the engineer continued about their business, pressed another button on the console beside them with a wink, then hummed purposefully loud as she came to stand at a machine by the pedestal.  "Extraction process commencing," Kievaa's voice buzzed from it as small robotic tentacles attached themselves to the suspended bracers.

Both Djinn screamed in agony saying in unison, "Killing us... separating from... vessel..."

Ember winced at the cry, but her eyes were locked onto the asura before her; the only thing standing between her, her Djinn lovers, and her former captor was a diminishing shield.  The small woman picked herself up, took a few steps closer to the barrier.  She ignored the fighting around her, ignored the cries of pain from various soldiers fighting golems outside the facility, ignored Harid and his chivalrous act.  Her eyes, her focus, everything she was, stared at Kievaa.  She began to pace, running her sword along the barrier causing a constant stream of sizzling sparks.  "I told you I would find you.  And I'm going to kill you, you little piece of-"

Kievaa laughed maniacally, turned to adjust her machine.  One tentacle had detached itself  from the bracers, having siphoned as much energy as it could.  She glanced back to Ember, who was still pacing, scowling, and spitting at the forcefield.  "Almost time," the asura said in sing-song.

"Almost time for you to die," Ember retorted.

Harid and the Number momentarily broke their standoff.  The man wiped blood from his mouth, observed the crushed helmet the occupant wore.  "Bet you can't see in that thing, can you?" he taunted.  His goal had been the same advice he'd given Ember when she first battled Fifteen: remove the helm; expose the flesh underneath.

"Visual acuity compromised; seek replacement-"  A hiss came from the visor as the Number reached up and unlatched it from her armor, pulled it off and tossed it to the ground.

The man's eyes grew wide.  Standing before him was a young woman, her head shaved, her face bloodied from his own fists.  His heart stopped at the sight and he could barely utter the name of the recognizable girl he had rescued long ago.  "S-S-Six?"  As the words left his lips, so did the man's resolve.  Six raised her arms outward, as if to embrace the man.  He took a few steps forward, his brow furrowed in confusion, when suddenly he was propelled forward from a spell she'd casted behind him.  Six caught Harid by the throat and squeezed, as winds lifted them both off the ground.  The man struggled within Six's strong grasp, choking and gasping for air.  He clawed at the glove, kicked wildly to free himself.

Paige was in shock, her attention now squarely focused on her father's predicament.  She was paralyzed with fear, couldn't break herself from the worry that enthralled her.  Her father was a strong man, but had been through a lot of battles; he'd gotten older, slower, and softer - especially when it came to Six.  Six had been like the sister she never had to Paige, and was practically adopted by her father.  She couldn't help but think that the man was incapable of fighting her.

To her horror, Harid's hesitation cost him dearly.  Like a puppet on strings, Six raised her hand to the man she cared so deeply for and unleashed a torrent of white-hot superheated plasma which smothered his shoulder and arm.  The man gritted his teeth, tried to mask the pain, but finally let out a wail of agony as his flesh boiled and the unmistakable stench of burnt flesh permeated the air.

Paige screamed, "Father!"  Fighting through tears, she clasped her scepter and torch together, again calling upon the necrotic spell she'd weaved earlier.  As expected, putrid remains of bone and flesh crawled their way out of the ground, solidifying in several masses of morbid monstrosities.  "Attack!" Paige yelled.  At once, they obeyed galloping to Six.  Most were taken out by the mere heat of the site; one got through and leaped at her head, promptly bursting in a violent explosion.  Had it not dazed Six and caused her to drop the man, she would have killed Harid.

"Shield stabilized at twenty-two percent.  Deploy repair drones to maintain cohesion."

"Arg!"  Sylas groaned.  "The next sequence is asuran.  I can't tell which comes next," she admitted, attempting to ascertain the complex symbols.  She sighed, looked up at Paige.  "Milady, the console changed languages!  Please tell me you read asuran?"

Paige reluctantly looked away from her father and down at the engineer, then nodded and squatted to observe the monitor.  She had a hard time not fearing for her father and was chewing on her lip, but she resolved to stay on task, not daring to look away from the flowing asuran script dancing across the screen.  After a few minutes, she started inputting commands.  Within seconds a lowkey omnipresent hum began to fade.

"Shield levels at fifteen percent.  Cohesion power generators have failed; seek immediate repair of-"

"Barrier's almost down, you vile bitch; when it is, I'm going to gut you… nice and slow."  Ember barked, then flashed a crooked smile.  "But remember, we care," she mocked.

Kievaa grinned wickedly.  "Oh please!  I'll be long gone before then.  The extraction may not have been at full capacity, but there's plenty of time to do so later.  Too bad this means you'll not get to see either again." The asura reached to the guantlets to retrieve them, was sent back with an electric shock.  She cradled her numb hand, then attempted reaching for them again, with her opposite hand.  She was met with a more powerful shock.   Kievaa cursed and shook her hand.

Ember laughed out loud.  "Looks like they refuse to be taken again."

The asura bent down to detach a small glowing cylinder from the base of the platform, from where the detached tentacle-hose led.  Inside the small vile was a mixture of purple, and blue smoke.  She shoved it into her satchel, then turned and shrugged at Ember.  "You really are an idiot, indeed, fire-bookah!  If you'd just let me finish the procedure, both Djinn would be separated - under my control, to be sure - but both could co-exist.  You all think you're the heroes; you think you have the upper hand," she said as she strolled toward Shiera's corpse.  "But now look at what you've done," she gestured to the line of shard which was once Valandra's artifact.  "You idiotic, insignificant fire-bookah, instead of saving them both, you've doomed one."  She paused a moment, tapping her chin in thought.  "Well, then, I guess that means you're going to get one back, but the question is which will you choose?  Which will you kill?  Your lover or your wannabe lover?"

The rage inside Ember would have exploded, had her magic not been still recovering from the previous blast.  "I'm going to kill you first, and you'll die screaming."

"Shield levels critical; barrier at ten percent."

"Almost got it," Paige yelled.  "I'm on the final sequence."

Sylas had made her way to Harid, began dragging the downed man away from Six, pelting the Number with magical bullets.  Six made no further move, as if the puppet was told to stay put.  The puppet master, as it were, took cue and came on the multitude of displays scattered around the lab.

"Ah!  Well, well, well; not just one Dejarins, but two!" Lennk's voice boomed, echoing in the complex.  "And, here I thought this would be boring!"

The asura's voice pierced the veil of sleep which threatened to take Harid.  It was like an arrow that instantly woke him.  He sat up with assistance from Sylas, peered at the nearest monitor.  "Release Six!" he bellowed.

Lennk chuckled wildly.  "Release her?  Harid, my dear boy, she never was out of my control.  My claws are dug in so deep, she can never divorce herself from me.  Now, Six, be a dear, and end him.  Sorry Harid, hate for it to end this way, but you had your chance."

Six raised her hand for the killing blow, about to deliver a plasma blast fused with electric magma.  She pointed her charged up palm to Harid and Sylas to unleash the full blast, when a skeletal hand grasped onto her arm, pulling it from its target.  Six turned to see a large bone minion holding her.  On command from its master, the corpse promptly exploded, encasing Six in toxic gas.  She staggered backward, crashing into a screen with Lennk's scowling face.

Paige let out a pent-up scream.  "Get away from him, Six!"

A voice arose from the magitech armor.  "Filtration system deactivated; seek replacement helmet for respiratory cohesion."

Kievaa's voice came from the suit, but it was Lennk who was yelling from the monitors.  "Six, dammit, get back here so we can get to work on a more sustainable suit.  Retreat now!  Kievaa, get the damned batteries."

Kievaa looked up at the monitor.  "Yes, my love.  I have one; these damned fookah interrupted the-"

Lennk let out a disingenuously annoyed sigh, which loudly drowned the asura's response.

"Shield levels critical; collapse imminent.  Barrier at four percent."

Kievaa bent down, opening a small compartment upon Shiera's disabled armor.  She flipped a small switch which made the entire outfit glow.  At once both the corpse and the asura began to fluctuate and glow the same vibrant red.  Ember had seen this technology before: when she was in the suit, within the lava; Kievaa had used the same technology to teleport her out.

"No!  Dammit!" Ember yelled, striking the weakening barrier.  It rippled and cracked, but remained solid.  "You won't get away!  I'll hunt you!  I'll kill you!  I'll…"

"Good luck with the choice; I shall enjoy watching you make it, and seeing which one you decide to kill," Kievaa's voice echoed until both her and the corpse vanished.

Six took one last look at Harid, a sorrowful and unbelievably hurt buried deep in her eyes.  She pressed a button upon the suit, then faded from the lab.

"Shields deactivated, have a nice day."

Paige let an exasperated breath at Lennk's automated voice, then turned to the live asura on the monitor.  "You see Lennk?  I've been trained by the very best, and I'm… I'm smarter than you!"  The woman wasn't used to boasting or taunting, but for all the monster had put her family through, the words spewed from her like water from a leaking pipe.

Lennk chuckled.  "Smarter?  Oh, dear child, I think not.  Let's look at the current predicament, hmm?  Your father is nearly dead, I have my Six Alpha, and you have… Well, why not see for yourself?"  He stepped back, folding his arms with a wicked grin.  Several of the Twelve surrounded him.  Behind the asura, a roaring blaze, along with several explosions within the inferno that was the mansion and vineyard of House Dejarin.

Lennk leaned into the monitor, sneering.  "Now, who is the smart one, child?"

[To be Concluded...]