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The Way of the Blue [Lantern OC]

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by AverusBlack, May 2, 2021.

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  1. Threadmarks: Why do I hear boss music? - 04
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    "Time to go, I think." Creating an ablative shield wall in front of us, Elise opens fire to stop their forces from zerg rushing us as Zack, Ren and Kuri make for the rover. Kuri doesn't even try to keep up, she just jumps on Ren and climbs her to ride her like a backpack as Ren books it. Both Ren and Zack are firing back, at some point Ren seems to have given him her backup handgun and the totally-not-a-taser.

    When the black knight charges us again Elise focus fires on him while I begin firing the damaged 'plates' of the shield forward, creating new ones behind to replace them as I use them like mobile battering rams to knock their forces back and create obstructions while we make for the rover. When he charges us again Elise meets him head-on in full construct armor, the impact sending everyone but our group flying as the shield I'm making takes the brunt of the pressure wave. While they're scrambling to their feet the others are getting into the rover and Ren is getting ready to tear ass out of here so I focus on defense and synchronize.

    "Synchronization complete." / "Synchronization complete."

    Elise slams the black knight with a rover construct used as a fist, sending him flying backwards and forcing the black knight to drive his weapon into the ground to stop his backward momentum. He just keeps coming though, bracing against Elise's offense and slowly making headway, but we're not interested in holding a standing position. With the rover on the move, both of us pull back and he moves to give chase.

    We've kicked over a hornets nest. Getting a little height I can see their forces spread out in front of us and they're moving like a wave of pissed off infantry. Elise forms a plasma cannon construct next to me while I start sniping their artillery arrows out of the air and opens fire.

    "Alert! High energy drain. Charge is falling rapidly."

    The ring dims my vision from the blinding arc of light that the cannon creates and whole sections of their army vanish in suns fire as she makes a sweeping wave across the front of their forces chasing us, literally setting them on fire and igniting the grass, clothes and just about anything else it can. It's a nasty thing, turning an anti-vehicle weapon on a crowd but I can question their combat experience after we're not being chased by a murderous army wailing for our blood.

    It has the effect she seemed to want though, the wave behind the now-immolated infantry most definitely hesitates to charge into and through the barbecue their 'friends' are having. That leaves us free to deal with the black knight, whose got his wings back and simply flies above it, firing a bow and arrows he's picked up someplace. My suspicions are confirmed a moment later when we let one sail past us and it explodes violently at hitting the ground.

    Fuck.

    "Elise, what the fuck is this guys deal?!"

    "I don't know! Ring says he carries genkit genetic markers but it's not like he's stopping to have a chat!"

    "Do we want to change that?"

    "Yes! They'll think twice about charging the town immediately after that plasma blast and I want to know how the fuck a genkit ends up fighting for purists, goddammit!"

    Doable. The black knight is swinging sideways in a wide arc around us, firing those stupid damned arrows and I've had just about enough of that. Elise and I take off from near the rover together, charging him and forcing him to abandon the bow in favor of recreating his melee weapons as we rapidly close range.

    Ring, I want to know everything about that suit you can tell me.

    This fighter appears to be the source of the detected nanotech infection, however the nanites seem to be limited to the armor and his body. Physiological scans run through the hole in his armor suggest a high probability match for being a genkit with a 0.002% genetic divergence from the group currently staying in Durjak.

    How the hell do we even fight this guy?

    An electromagnetic pulse will interfere with the nanites ability to network commands long enough for this ring to take control.

    A wh-? "Elise, do you know how to make an electromagnetic pulse? I don't!"

    "Yeah, keep him busy!"

    Easier said than done. Ring, take control of my reflexes. I'm a support who's being forced to tank a DPS, help me out here.

    You may yet wish to reconsider Mason's offer to teach you, then.

    It does as I ask though, a shield and spear construct forming as the black knight charges me. It's a feint though. As he bears the distance down he throws his weapon at me and I transition, the ring forming a railgun and firing at him from above, sending him flying into the ground. I slam down on top of him a second later to pin him in place as Elise fires.

    The effect it has on him is immediate. The armor screams, making a noise like metal sheets smashing and rubbing against each other as it comes apart in tendrils and waves, undulating around him as he screams right along with it. The man underneath it is a feline - a tiger, I think - and the armor shifting apart reveals what looks like an artificial ribcage surrounding his lower abdomen and chest.

    Ring, get it.

    Cables of blue light hit the cage underneath and the ring gets to work corrupting the nanites control protocols. Fascinatingly complicated, I can't even begin to try to understand. I get a full scan though and after a few seconds of screaming insanity Elise turns it off, the armor reforming around him as the ring pulls back.

    The man isn't moving but that's hardly surprising. It looked like it was agonizing and that probably took any fight left in him right out. With the rover making distance behind us and their army a mess in front of us, Elise picks up the mysterious man and turns back towards Durjak.

    I follow a moment later, wondering what the hell we're going to do about the rest of the malevolent human ocean on the horizon.
     
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  2. mastermenthe

    mastermenthe Mint Thistle

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    Yay, the black king's trump card is neutralized!
     
  3. AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    preier and mastermenthe like this.
  4. Threadmarks: Why do I hear boss music? - 05
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    I'm not dead, honestly.

    I rent rooms irl. One of those people who has to look up to see the poverty line, I don't have enough to find a place of my own, so I'm always stuck with roommates. Right now I'm stuck with the roommates from hell and I'm trying to find a room to rent and a landlord to rent to me under my particular financial circumstances. I'm super pressed for time, needing to find a place by the end of July or I'll have nowhere to go, so this is the main reason I seem to have vanished off the face of the planet. This story isn't done and I haven't burnt out so much as I am under an incredible amount of stress and my entire day is spent calling people and traveling the city, then being half-dead when I get home.

    The story will go on.




    Elise was right about them hesitating to swarm us after her stunt with the plasma beam. I half expected them to roll the city immediately but they didn't. Instead, they seem to be changing formations, moving people around, repositioning.

    Doing that takes time though, so I'm with Elise in the makeshift medical clinic the genkits have set up. With so few of them medically trained compared to the size of the group they've got humans and one notably (confusingly) handsome elf boy helping out as nurses while the genkits train them in on-the-job experience. They don't know enough to really deal with this tiger in the black armor so they're hanging well back trying to look like they're not staring as they pretend to be keeping busy.

    The two genkit doctors are standing around the prisoner, one of them wearing Elise's ring to make medical equipment constructs that they simply lack here. I'm keeping off to the side as they examine him.

    "Where do you think he came from?"

    "I really have no idea. Our government back home keeps very good records of genkits around the world, even the ones who don't have citizenship. We're the foremost experts on our own physiology and gene structures so all the doctors for genkits are genkits, and more than a few humans come to us, too. He could be an undeclared birth or something but... I just can't explain it."

    "He's not quite the same as your group, is he? The ring said he has a mild variance. Not exact."

    "You think he's from some other parallel that has genkits?"

    "Why not? We've seen examples of that. How many different kinds of elves have we seen now? Or humans? Skal versus genkit."

    "Skal are much shorter than us and still have digitigrade legs. The only reason they can walk upright is their tails."

    "Sure but how much difference is that going to make to a human who doesn't know you? Or the elves or dwarves or whatever? Furry people are furry people. So we've seen a bunch of different species and different examples of those species, stuff we've never seen before at all. When this is over it might be a good idea to take a short vacation on one of the other worlds to see what fun surprises await us out there, just in case."

    "What about him? In the short term?"

    "Well, I couldn't get that thing out of him. Not safely, anyways. It felt almost like a computer but not quite? The ring started corrupting things in the nanites collective memory and it started some kind of cascading process, that's why he isn't responding. They're resetting or something."

    The medics nod to her and the one wearing the green ring takes it off, Elise calling it over to herself and slipping it back on. "I want to talk to him."

    "I figured you would." I head over towards the black knight, circling him a little and looking him over. "Ring, wake this guy up but keep him immobile."

    "Understood."

    A blue filament finds its way into his armor, touching his neck and stimulating his brain directly. Then it blocks the signal down his spine as he snaps awake, taking a deep breath and looking around wildly.

    "Where am I?"

    I step into his field of view. "Hello again. You're in Durjak."

    He blinks, then squints at me. "I... remember you. There was another, a green girl, wasn't there?"

    "Behind you, yes."

    "Why aren't I dead?"

    "Not really in the business of arbitrary killing."

    "No offense, but I'm pretty sure you vaporized several thousand people at least with that wide beam of yours. While impressive, you're not really convincing me that you're just that good, so why not try again?"

    "We want information from you and answers to why you're like me despite the fact you're working for purist scum. We also want to know how to stop that army from rolling over us and fully expect you to co-operate."

    He nods. "Yeah, that sounds a little more like it. Okay, so why am I not trying to kill you right now?"

    I shake my head. "What are you talking about?"

    "I can't move and frankly, fighting you isn't something I really care about. If you can capture me - thank you for that, by the way - and not kill me, then immobilize me enough for us to have a nice little conversation with everything but a cup of tea, then you probably know more than you're letting on about this fucking armor I'm wearing. It compelled me to attack you back there and I don't feel a burning need to do that now, so why."

    Elise is looking thoughtful, out of his line of sight. I hmm quietly at him, then nod. "I destroyed the software controlling your nanites."

    "You what the what my what?"

    "Your armor isn't a solid object. That's why it heals, reshapes itself. It's made up of billions of little machines we call nanites. Nanites can be programmed, given instructions, made intelligent enough to think, even. If there's enough of them. These ones are all throughout your body and in your brain, messing with you in ways we don't fully understand. I couldn't remove them so I destroyed their ability to propogate commands. The ring couldn't just completely own the system so it settled for blocking any commands that get sent. The controlling software - the programming - can't do anything, it's just stuck in a permanent loop of eating its own tail forever."

    "I'm... free?"

    "You weren't before?"

    "No! This armor has been a prison since I put it on! The black king -"

    "Who?"

    "My adopted father. He leads the human army from the home city using magic like the kind that makes my armor."

    "Did he make your armor? It uses techniques vaguely like what our rings can do."

    "I've seen other artifacts do things like what you can do, but nothing like what you can do. They're all... lesser. A staff that heals, this armor, a sword made of blood that strengthens you... I know of a few like this. But we've never encountered fighters like you. I think you took us by surprise but it's... fuzzy. I wasn't entirely in control."

    "If we let you move, will you work with us?"

    "For getting my own free will back? Yes. You're the first example of people I've seen who have anything like a chance at stopping them." He gets a serious look on his face, then takes a deep breath and exhales slowly. "My name is Aetius."

    "That isn't a genkit name."

    "No. It was given to me by my father. He calls himself Caeser."
     
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  5. Doccer

    Doccer Not too sore, are you?

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    Oh man you have my sympathy. Thank you for taking the time to make this story.
     
  6. Assblaster5000

    Assblaster5000 Not too sore, are you?

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    Ah fuck, knew there was something I was forgetting about that I had to do.

    But I completely agree, thanks for making this banger of a story despite your current situation Averus, it's absolutely fantastic, and if you need to take a break for any reason then don't worry about "keeping us waiting" or any nonsense like that, yeah? You keep yourself going as best you can and worry about any of this stuff second.

    And, for what it's worth from a stranger on the internet, I hope things get better.
     
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  7. Threadmarks: Why do I hear boss music? - 06
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    "-Here, and here. They're amassing that way to bring the archers just behind their infantry." I'm standing just in the gates if town at the guard tower that gives access to the upper walls with Mason, Aetius and Zack. With Elise patrolling around to gather intel, it's on us to formulate a strategy. "See these guys? They're magic users, conscripts from places they've rolled over. They'll have all kinds of tricks I won't know about, I think they're trying to use the archers to keep them protected while they do things long-range."

    Mason grumbles. "So what's keeping them from doing that now?"

    "Logistics. How much do you know about magic?"

    "Enough to know it's dangerous."

    "If you got the spells, you need the power. Most mages use their own spirit well or whatever you wanna call it. But if you need something big and don't have a hundred mages to power it and lack a certain level of principles, you can kill something and use its death to fuel the spell. Something big? Kill lots of things." Aetius looks grim. "They'll get ready, set things up, drag prisoners from around the army there and then ritually murder them to attack you."

    "Why the fuck were you ever involved in people like this?" Zack sounds incredulous. "Why would you help us now?"

    Aetius hangs his head and sighs. "I'm different. I was an oddity at first, one of the first non-humans they ever met. They found me when I was very young and Caeser's eldest daughter took a liking to me, calling me and..." He trails off. "She called me little brother. Growing up, it was just how things were, but looking back I can see they just kept me around to indulge her."

    "Why did you trail off?" Mason's giving him an odd look.

    "I used to have a brother." He says it quietly. "Please don't ask any more for now."

    Mason nods at him slowly and I tap the table. "I hope you'll understand if we don't brief you on everything we can do."

    Aetius shakes his head slowly. "No, I get it. Look, I know you don't know me. It's fine. I was put in this position because people I trusted manipulated me, thinking to use me once I put this on." He taps his chest with a clinking noise. "They thought I'd be rejected, see? Then I wasn't, so Caeser decided he wanted to make sure of me. You got me out of that. I was going to spend the rest of my life being used like a tool. Short of a suicide mission, I'm all in. You do what you need to to decide I mean it." He folds his arms across his chest.

    I look at him. "Aetius?" Show me his depth.

    "Yeah? Whoa, your eyes are glowing symbols."

    I blink. That's new to me. "I think you do mean it. So for now, I'd like you to stay. You'll be with Elise and I when we stand on the walls and have your chance then to prove just how willing to fight you are."

    He nods. "That's fair. Thank you."

    I turn to look at Mason. "With the genkits mechs we can form an artillery line. Once we're done here I'll start fabricating kinetic ammunition for them but apparently their energy weapons are good for most of a day on their own before they need to spend some time in the sun to rebuild battery power. We want to avoid that so they'll be using a mix and shifting fire any time something starts resisting one type over another. Aetius, do you know how they're doing that thing with the arrows?"

    "Sygaldry. They have fletchers and mages who bind magic directly to ribbons wound around the arrows. Bound spells."

    "You know any of that?"

    "No, my education was... different." He shakes his head.

    I give him a look but I can tell from his body language he's uncomfortable. "Okay. If it was up to you, how would you stop this?"

    "Entirely up to me? Kill the entire command structure, kill the overseers, destroy every control crystal you can find. The problem is that they're spread out across all of that, not in a single place. There's no way to just get them together and wipe them all out at once."

    "Control crystals?" Zack tilts his head at that.

    "Yeah. The slaves collars are bound the same way as the arrows and they inscribe the spells into crystals that can be worn as jewelry. Your personal slave gets bound by their collar and has to do what you say, can't run off, that kind of thing. I was told it was a 'mark of service' as a child." He looks like he just ate something repugnant. "I was in my mid-teens when I figured it out because one of the servant girls wanted to 'break me in' before someone unwilling was told to do it."

    I take a deep breath and exhale slowly. "So what's the best way to make them stop in the short term?"

    "You already know. The same thing you did to make them hesitate to attack you right away. Kill them." He emphasizes it, lashing his tail side to side. "You don't want to kill the slaves and conscripts, I can tell. That's fine. I actually admire your restraint, but I want you to really listen to me when I tell you that they'll murder every man, woman and child in this town if you let them whether they want to or not. The unwilling ones don't get to say no."

    "Why force it so hard, though?" I shake my head. "I don't get it. Why try to conquer the continent at all?"

    "Caeser named himself for some great human hero who conquered lands and founded a great empire. He sees himself as the reincarnation of the original, that its his destiny to rule the world. Anyone who disagrees gets forced so hard because he figures in a few generations, no one will be left who really remembers anything but his rule. He's lived a long time and thinks he's immortal."

    "Oh we'll be putting that to the test, me fine cully." Mason smiles in a vicious kind of way. "I bet he'll sing a fine song with his head on the walls."

    "Down, boy." I wave gently at Mason and he grunts, looking amused. "Ideally, I don't want to kill thousands of people to stop this."

    "Yeah, well, you're going to have to get over that, Ainsley." Aetius shakes his head. "Because you're not getting out of this without a lot of blood being spilled one way or the other. Look, being pacifist and diplomatic is good. It's great." He nods. "It gets you far. Sometimes though, people just don't fucking care. They talk or act a certain way and then it turns out to all be a mask and you never knew them at all." He looks almost haunted, but his focus is on me. "Fighting isn't something you do when you're in the mood. Fighting happens when someone else is in the mood."

    "You're going to be killing people you know out there." Zack is looking him over as he says it.

    "I don't have any friends out there anymore."
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2021
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  8. Threadmarks: Why do I hear boss music? - 07
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    Sitting up on the top of a ridge with a widened slope down into the valley below and the mountain hanging behind it, Durjak is in a pretty good position for defense from the ground. I'm floating just above the wall where Elise is sitting and Aetius is standing next to Zack, who's gotten himself a suit of genkit style armor. It would seem somebody has been playing with the new guys toys while I've been out and about keeping busy and Ren didn't seem to have a problem with outfitting him in their stuff, which a few of the genkits seemed surprised by.

    "It'll begin soon." Aetius speaks up, looking out at the tiny sea of lights going out in front of us. "Dimming the lanterns, putting out torches, killing fires. They're going to try launching it tonight. If we're going to stop it, we need to act now."

    "I don't like this." I sigh. "Killing isn't something I ever imagined myself doing like this."

    "You haven't seen the things I've seen."

    "Talking about it isn't going to get us anywhere. Ainsley, Aetius, you two stay with me. Ainsley and I work best together."

    "And if I go rogue you also have the best chance at stopping me together." Aetius manages to sound amused. "Makes sense."

    "Zack, you're going to co-ordinate with our people on the ground. You have the vantage point up here so if you see anyone in trouble, you're going to arrange for their relief."

    "I can do that. You got those things Ren talked about?"

    "Yes. The case is a little further down the wall. You ever used a grenade before?"

    "No. Yes. Ren showed me."

    "It's pretty simple. Keep moving, keep dropping them. Lets go."

    Aetius manifests his wings and takes off as Elise and I head up into the air. "We're going to strike at these mages first?"

    "No. I mean, we could, but you want to save the conscripts so we should target their commanders instead. Most of those mages are drafted. If we can kill their overseer and destroy his control crystal, we can free the whole group at once and bring most of them over to our side."

    "And the ones who aren't?"

    "Just do your glowy-eye thing, you'll work it out."

    As we approach their lines the clouds above us suddenly part, pushed away from a center point above their army. Moonlight blocked by the cloud cover appears and suddenly their force is arrayed in silver below us, spread out down the entire ridge, moonlight glinting off metal where it's not dinged enough to dim the shine. With the rings lighting us up we make perfect targets and I have just enough time to realize they can shoot at us when their front line explodes.

    The blast is a glimmer of light passing across them like a wave from one of the genkit mechs, followed by violent explosions a microsecond later, tearing their vanguard apart. The mechs begin to move in and the archers come into play but the explosive arrows are shrugged off by the mechs, the kinetic force effecting them and damaging the armor but not really stopping them. Not enough to stop them from opening with another salvo and removing the archers within firing range from existence.

    I hate this.

    Aetius swoops and we follow him, down towards the back of their lines where concentric circles of defenses have been set up. As we approach, Elise is knocked from the air, slamming down into the ground as gravity suddenly increases for her and her alone, somebody on the ground targeting her. She dips before she rises again, using the ring to compensate and following Aetius down. Where Aetius swoops and slashes, Elise opts for simply slamming into the ground with a wave of green pressure exploding outwards and sending the mages flying. While Aetius charges through their lines looking for the overseer I start to heal the fallen mages, pulling them from the air where Elise is sending them flying, breaking their ability to concentrate by doing short transitions and ping-ponging around the crowd much like I did with the first group I met here on Terra. Aaah, the memories.

    As I catch the mages I paralyze them, heal them and then start stacking them on the ground behind us as I go while at the same time manifesting construct walls and barriers around us to stop the defensive forces arrayed around this part of the line from turning around and attacking inwards to stop our disruption. I can see moments of hesitation where they try to stop themselves, then jerk as they're pushed ahead or Elise gets to them or they're cut down by Aetius and I'm forced to concentrate on putting them back together before it becomes terminal.

    Aetius rises from the back of the line and comes slamming down next to me holding a fat little man with no shirt, no teeth and no apparent appreciation for the finer points of personal hygiene. He's squirming in a way that reminds me of a maggot as Aetius holds him down and tears a necklace off him, tossing it towards me. Ring, scan.

    Got it. Some of the symbols match spell components used by Navra in our first combat encounter.

    Interesting. Maybe she encountered these guys at some point.

    I pick the necklace up and have the ring tear it apart, the control spells breaking violently. When the crystal shatters, it does so in a way that probably would have left me with a face full of glassy shards if not for my environmental shield. As it stands they ping off me harmlessly and every mage around us drops bonelessly to the ground as the attacks on my outer barriers suddenly increase from 'steady' to 'frantic'.

    "I've heard it said that paybacks bitch, you disgusting excuse for a sentient. I guess she's in heat tonight, because fuck you."

    And then he rips the overseers throat out. If not for the ring, I'm pretty sure I'd feel sick. I do feel sick, but it's entirely emotional, not physical.

    I think I'm going to need to have a talk with this boy.

    The forces outside concentrate fire on one of my barriers, turning everything against it and shattering it. When I replace the barrier they start alternating between some kind of reality distorting cutting effect and pure kinetic force. I think something is punching the barrier, actually.

    It appears to be a female human working in conjunction with an arcane effect being cast by the human girls combat partner.

    Right, that's... not what we're here to deal with. "Elise!"

    She appears in front of me in a green flicker, waves of green light oscillating over her like sunlight glimmering through a body of water to clear off the blood. She immediately begins collecting the mages with me while Aetius flicks his hand at the ground, making a disgusted noise as he drops the carcass to the ground. "This will trigger some kind of counter attack. They may try swarming the city outright, or sending their elites to deal with us personally."

    "Then we'll deal with them next. For now, lets get out of here. How many of their mages is this?"

    "Not nearly all of them, but this should be everybody who has a magic style that isn't from Red Sword territory."

    "Then lets get the fuck out of here and get ready for their next step."
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2021
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  9. mastermenthe

    mastermenthe Mint Thistle

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    Those control crystals make up a network that goes all the way to The Black King.
    If he intends to order the use of a hidden superweapon, he should do so soon.
    I fully suspect the million strong army is wired up as a thaumological bomb, a massive override command to sacrifice them all for some array to activate.
     
  10. Threadmarks: Why do I hear boss music? - 08
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    "The left flank is being overrun!" We're up on the southern wall facing the slope leading down to the bottom of the ridge. They've funneled up the slope and have the town surrounded on the only accessible ground route, which would be a problem if some of us couldn't fly. We've been parrying attacks for nearly an hour as they try to scale the wall, forcing us to split up over and over to bolster Durjak's defenders. I've run out of charge once already healing people.

    After we lost the second mech we pulled back, moving the others up the ridge with the rings and placing them at the foot of the mountain itself. Their legs make it possible to cling to the uneven sloped surfaces and they've been working as artillery ever since. The second mech wasn't completely destroyed but once it was critically disabled they set it to self-destruct and bugged out, barely making it close enough to me to pull them out of the attackers swarming them.

    Unfortunately, the exploding mech also put a hole in the wall. Above which is where we are now with Elise turning them into meat paste while I hastily enact repairs.

    Alert! 15% charge remaining.

    "Elise, I need a moment but the walls done. Go handle the left." She doesn't wait to acknowledge me, just vanishes in a flicker of green as the humans wielding genkit rifles swarm up to defend the section of wall she was covering. A couple of them give sloppy salutes or nods to me as they pass by.

    Dropping down into the town I pull the battery out of subspace, holding my ring up to it.

    "In darkest day, with dauntless might.
    Face down despair, continue to fight.
    Stand tall against the blackest night,
    You will not fall for hope burns bright!"

    Ring charge at 100%.

    That's what I like to hear. Once I pocket the battery again I take off from the ground just in time for Elise's head to appear above my ring.

    "Ainsley, they've g-UGH!"

    The transmission cuts out and I steel myself mentally as I have the ring plot a course towards her position and go. I arc up over the wall, disabling my flight aura and turning midair as I drop down towards the attackers, then suddenly kick it back in and have the ring fling me across the battlefield at mach 1. The ensuing sonic boom directly above their heads...

    That was probably nasty but after almost six hours of this fucking shit I have lost the capacity to give a fuck. I just want them gone.

    Hitting the ground I let myself slide sideways like a surfer towards Elise, who's trying to shield herself from the hammer blows of a girl with a mace almost as large as she is. She's swinging it like it weighs nothing at all, which it might not, because it's glowing red. Not a normal mace, in other words. She's hammering on Elise like it's a rolled up newspaper but it's clearly hitting her shield as though it weighs half a ton and no. I don't think so.

    When I slam into the girl she goes flying sideways, strikes the ground with her hammer and springs back at me like the momentum went on vacation or something. Expecting her to keep going it catches me off guard and forces me to dart upwards, the girl passing below me and the hammer passing through the space I was just in. As I tilt my head back I hope to catch a glimpse as I look 'down' at her while I flip over. At the epogee of the flip time seems to slow down and I can see her clearly. It's a human girl with bloodshot eyes and a maniacal look to her, unhinged. She looks furious, the aura around the mace looking like it's burning in the few seconds that I'm looking at her. Then time speeds up against suddenly and she's flying past me, leaving me landing lightly on my feet with one hand pointed at her.

    When she charges me again the wall construct I smash into her is shattered, leaving me backpedaling and kiting her while she chases me down, swinging the hammer wildly at me. It's forcing me to jink and dodge frantically and when I look to Elise for relief I find she's being swarmed with attackers and this girl is all over me and fuckfuckfuckfuck.

    Oh. Fuck.

    For a half second my environmental shield cuts out and the hammer girl smashes my legs out from under me. There isn't any pain, not at first, the injury is too traumatic for my body to really register it immediately. The shape of me is suddenly just wrong and I'm falling forward in a way I shouldn't be as the environmental shield kicks in and the ring immediately begins repairing me, the hard static tingling of massive pain being masked by the ring covering most of my lower body as she takes another swing at me and I'm forced to create a shield dome around myself which cracks immediately.

    I'm trying to control it but I can feel the first stirrings of panic, which is something because it's been hours and I never began to feel overwhelmed like this. The shield is cracking more and I'm trying to reknit it with blue light but the strikes are so fast all I'm doing is forestalling the inevitable here. They just keep fucking coming! Everytime we wipe them out there's just more, like trying to climb out of an antlion pit.

    There's a pause between strikes and I quickly reknit the shield just in time for a strike harder than any of the others to hit it, breaking the shield instantly and sending pain bolting up my arm from the feedback. The hammer girl is panting, bleeding from her nose and...

    Is looking upwards?

    I chance it and look in the direction she's looking, only to see three pinpoints of colored light. No, no way. They left.

    Alert. Rage detected. Fear detected. Avarice detected.

    I have just enough time to turn to look at hammer girl before blarghbeghblehgblefuck. I'm sent flying from the hammer strike towards Elise, who catches me midair as the ring heals me back up. Hammer girl is charging me again but she's intercepted by a wave of liquid red light and begins to scream as it melts through her, leaving her staggering and twitching violently as it dissolves her alive. Vara lowers down next to her and picks the hammer up, looking it over.

    "Hmph. This is using red light, like a proto-ring."

    "You can play with your new toy later, Vara." Nemesis has his arms folded as he lands next to me and Elise. "Hello again. Surprised to see us?"

    I nods. "Just a little. Not that I'm unappreciative, but...?"

    "You're an investment." Mina shrugs. She's changed outfits, wearing loose black robes with orange highlights now. "Be stupid to let you just get overrun."

    "That and I sort of owe you one." Nemesis shrugs. "After this, we're even. Now, if you'll excuse me." He turns to face the attackers who look unsure of what to do about us now that hammer girl was... dealt with. They seem a bit reluctant. "Savvy, boys and girls. You know full well you can't hurt me. But I can hurt you." The yellow constructs lunge out and begin grabbing attackers as Nemesis casually strolls towards them, the constructs...

    I can just about ignore the frantic screaming and wet tearing noises, but only with the ring helping me.

    Turning to Elise I begin healing her up as Mina and Vara look over the hammer. "How many more are like this in this group?"

    "We don't know. Aetius might. He said he'd seen weapons like this before."

    "Who's Aetius?"
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2021
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  11. mastermenthe

    mastermenthe Mint Thistle

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    I wonder if OL wants a million strong army full of neat toys?

    Also I have the impression the Black King may be a Twilight Ring wielder. I can definitely see him having used it in short bursts over the decades or centuries of his life to craft these neat toys trying to master the Twilight Ring, but the curse of the Twilight Ring is that it's unstable enough to disintegrate the wielder if you use it too long without bullshit conceptual hax protecting your existence.

    To clarify I'm referring to the original incarnation of the Twilight Power Ring, not the new incarnation used by "First Lantern Volthoom", I cannot find the wiki article for it, but it existed as a cobbled together forged prototype of the collective spectrum of rings, it was always at full charge, but would begin to slowly overcharge the user to disintegration from passive bleed effects as soon as its protective ring box was opened. Honestly, the more I think on it, the more I think the power bleed was probably meant to refer to direct exposure to The Bleed, as its identical in effects.

    (I may be confusing some things with The Phantom Power Ring)
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2021
  12. AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    Neat idea, but I've never heard of either of those before. I'm far from an expert on DC, it's most of why I chose not to base this story in it
     
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  13. Threadmarks: Why do I hear boss music? - 09
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    "Well, looks like they're holding back." Emil is standing on the wall with Mina and I holding a pair of binoculars, looking out as the sun rises. "What did that guy do to them, anyways?"

    "Don't ask." I can't help but sound weary. It's been a very long night for Elise and I and she's already in bed. I didn't like the idea of leaving Mina, Vara and Nemesis to have free run of the place while both of us were unready so I sent her off to sleep while I kept an eye on them, but they seem to be behaving so far. "I don't really want to think about it."

    "Hmmm. Like that, is it?"

    "Nem hasn't got a lot of charms, but what he does in his own niche he does really well." Mina nods. "You think the pretty boy is right?"

    "Why do you keep calling Aetius that?"

    "Because he's pretty, obviously. Have you seen his markings? I wouldn't mind finding out how far they go."

    Emil is chuckling quietly. "You'd fit in back home. Lots of us are like that, no subtly." He puts the binoculars down and sits on the wall, sighing quietly. "I hope he's right. If they decide to pull back and give us a break, I won't complain."

    "I don't get it, Mina." I shake my head while saying it. "How did none of you ever come across these before?"

    "You mean the glow artifacts?" I nod at her. "I dunno. It's an interesting question. Nemesis and Vara haven't spent a lot of time on this particular world, they focused on the one you call Psyche. I really like that name, by the way." She nods. "Kinda ominous. When the orange ring came to my city, it got trampled in the showdown between him and Vara. Vara being who she is, she didn't really stick around to help or anything and being who we are, she wasn't inclined to try. Vara killed whatever the first orange guy called himself and we fought both of them at the same time."

    "Your people have weapons that could give lightsmiths trouble?" Emil sounds surprised.

    "Pretty amazing what you can do when you mix magic and technology, you know. As demonstrated." She makes a gesture at the army outside the walls. "You think they have siege engines or anything?"

    "I fucking hope not." Emil grunts. "If we're lucky, they'll try to starve us out. But I don't think we'll be that lucky."

    "No?"

    "No. If it was me..." He looks thoughtful. "I bet they're sitting around right now wondering what to do about us. If they really are pax humana then they're imperialistic and empires don't like resistance. They need to grow, to expand, to always have a campaign on the horizon or an enemy at the gates. They won't just up and walk away from this, they'll feel a need to win here, win absolutely, so nobody will ever question whether they can be fought."

    "Overwhelming force, you think?" I tilt my head at him a little.

    "No, that's the problem, they tried that and it didn't work. They pulled out their esoteric weapons and that didn't work either. Instead they lost outright and now we own them. They're in a worse position than when they started."

    I rub the bridge of my nose. "Okay, well, what then?"

    "They're going to sit outside these walls and wait, but only for now. If they're not leaving it's because they think they can still come out ahead in this. I suspect they're calling for reinforcements or something like that. Probably sending word to this black king that Aetius mentioned."

    "Heh. Bit cliche, isn't it? That name."

    "Yeah. How much you wanna bet he's got an artifact, too?"

    "Ooh, I hope so." Mina rubs her hands together, overacting the greedy merchant. "Frankly, they're fascinating. I'm not much of a scientist or anything but Nem's totally losing his shit over it."

    "I should probably go make sure those two aren't causing any trouble. You two behave, yeah?"

    "Yep."

    "Only if I get to borrow Emil later." Mina grins saucily and I transition across town to the castle.

    Appearing in the bottom part of the castle I find Nemesis and Vara in the lab I helped them set up, a workspace for while he's here. I can always convert it later. In the meantime he's fabricated several devices I don't recognize at all. "Nemesis, what is all this crap?"

    "A year ago I found the partial remains of a spacecraft. Just a medical shuttle but it had some really interesting sensor technology I was able to adapt." He's using a construct HUD to display the data coming from the scanners rather than trying to fabricate a computer terminal. Maybe he just doesn't have any good processor examples or something?

    "That's what this is, sensors? Ah, hello Vara."

    "Ainsley." She glowers at me from just to my left and slightly behind me, sitting in a chair tilted against the wall. "What the hell do you people do for fun around here? I'm fucking bored. If I have to listen to this fuckhead prattle on any more about how cool he thinks this hammer is, I'm going to explode."

    "Literally or figuratively?"

    "Yes."

    "Well, I don't really have a good answer for you, because most of us are a little... preoccupied." I nod. "What do you usually do for fun?"

    "I fight things. Not much of a lack for that on Psyche."

    "Some of the genkits who didn't get to see any fighting are getting restless, maybe some wrestling or sparring would help?"

    She hmms at that idea, nods and then gets up and storms out of the room, prompting Nemesis to glance at her as she goes. "Thank you. She was beginning to get snappy with me. This hammer." He points at it. "It's not the same kind of technology as the rings."

    I can't help but blink in surprise. "It's not?"

    "No. I think it was built by some kind of precursor race. Carbon dating is useless in this place because there's no good baseline but the materials are completely different. This is like we collected an example of a computerized music player when both of us constantly work with supercomputers. They're kind of the same, they're in the same sort of territory, but it's vastly inferior to what we get out of the rings. If I had to guess, I'd say they were created by people on the same general path. Maybe the same species at a different point in time. When you reach a certain level of advanced technology, your stuff starts to look really different than your old stuff."

    "So what does that mean for us in the short term, you think?" I pick the hammer up and -

    I fucking hate all of you. Every time you ever looked down on me, stole from me, took from me. Every injustice and unfairness and I will lay you all to waste for it.

    - immediately drop it again, shaking myself out. "Buh."

    "Yes, it's rather overwhelming, isn't it?" He nods. "I got hit with the same thing when I picked it up. My ring doesn't like that hammer. Vara seems to like it but it's her color, after all. A shame Aetius can't remove that armor."

    "Why? It tried to mind control him."

    "It also utilizes the green light. If blue and green can synchronize in the way I've seen you do, then are you telling me you couldn't make use of a suit of armor that gives you that kind of versatility? Ainsley my dear boy, you really must think of the big picture. With these artifacts, we could perhaps make additional tools to augment the rings, or empower our agents with them the way these Red Swords tried to." He looks thoughtful. "It's a shame they're so bent on world domination, really. I could use minions with that kind of innovative attitude."

    "...Right. Anything we can make practical use of in the short term?"

    "No, not really. Not unless you don't mind just slaughtering them all, that's still an option."

    "No. No, it isn't."
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2021
  14. mastermenthe

    mastermenthe Mint Thistle

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    Hey, there's always reprogramming them all to believe in a better way if your only issue is meat death instead of ego death.

    Edit: why the fuck does color=blue produce purple???
     
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  15. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    Because of the black background. Try COLOR=#0040ff
     
  16. AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    #3366ff is the blue I use for this story :D I always found the other one to be a bit dark, personally
     
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  17. mastermenthe

    mastermenthe Mint Thistle

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    Blue Blue BLUE
    Thank you!
    Edit: what tye fuck that was a copy paste of that code why did the other one work‽?! And why are interrobangs unsupported‽‽‽

    Blue Blue BLUE
    Thank you!
     
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  18. AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    So, good news - I'm not dead and not homeless.

    Bad news - It's a stay of execution, I've just wrangled (sort of forced, actually) another month to keep looking for a place to move to.

    The other bad news is I've been distracted irl long enough I'm starting to feel like I'm losing the thread of this story. I want to keep writing and will probably finish up this arc when I can for the sake of symmetry, but may put this story on pause after to write something else on this site. Will that be the end of WOTB permanently? No, probably not. I've just got things nagging at me I'd like to write out that don't involve WOTB at all. But I'd also like to return to it ultimately and keep expanding on what I've written so far.

    I'm considering doing something Star Wars related, a series of short stories disconnected from each other. Highlights from the jedi archives of the exploits of past jedi that never made it into canon, that sort of thing. I'll have to think on it. Getting locked into a long-term story that goes on and on is stressing me out a little on top of a hot mess I'm dealing with offline, basically. I enjoy the writing but it's really hard to focus on coming up with new, consistent ideas when you're constantly one notch down from flipping shit. Short stories would let me reach the bottom of the pool without feeling like I'm drowning on the way back up, I think. In the meantime I've got to keep looking and goddamn if I'm not absolutely weary of doing that by now.
     
  19. Assblaster5000

    Assblaster5000 Not too sore, are you?

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    Perfectly understandable, you do your best with IRL stuff and don't worry about us, ya' hear? We'll be right there whenever you post something new, so you just do your best to take it easy and get things sorted.
     
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  20. Threadmarks: Why do I hear boss music? - 10
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    When I get to the area where we've stashed the liberated mages, shamans and elementalists the impression I get is a strange mix of misery and relief. Passing into the checkpoint where our guards are keeping an eye on them I can see people straighten up as my ring uplifts them by proximity and eases their suffering a little, insofar as it goes in their own heads. Instead of dwelling on what they've been through, I can see the blue light exposure lifting their spirits.

    I'm getting respectful, appraising looks as I approach Kuri, who's been down here tending to them. There's a few Skal in the group and she's got them wrangled and helping her, so when I approach she breaks off to come over and talk to me, waving. "Hi, Ainsley. I've been waiting for you to come down here."

    "You have?"

    "Yeah. There's a couple people here who really want to talk to you. How are things going on the walls?"

    "Quiet, for now. They seem to just be waiting. Any problems down here?"

    "A couple, but they sort of took care of it for it and it didn't last long. A few loyalists got scooped up with the group, people who genuinely tried to buy into the Red Swords crap. Once these guys started coming around we had to separate them from the group to keep the rest from killing them, but not before they got hurt a bit. They're off in the guardhouse right now."

    "Good. If they're not seriously hurt I'm not sure I'll bother healing them up, might do them some good to ruminate on how they got to that point. I'll see about it when I talk to them later. Who wants to talk to me?"

    "This way." She turns and bobs along ahead of me, tail bouncing as she walks. The whole area is essentially a large animal pen, hastily erected and not particularly stable, but the group have all sort of migrated towards the fencing and left the middle clear for others to walk back and forth. Making our way through the crowd isn't very difficult at all.

    She leads me over to a couple of humans, one of them missing an arm at the elbow. Both of them are old, early sixties perhaps. Sitting on a large crate, wearing basic homespun clothes, they're dressed like peasants or travelers but something about the poise with which they're sitting suggests an underlying dignity and self-assurance that isn't usually present in common townsfolk. It might just be due to them being magic users, though.

    "Hello. Kuri said you wanted to speak with me?"

    The old woman nods to Kuri, patting her shoulder with her one hand. "Thank you, Kurishalia." She turns her attention to me as Kuri takes off to go wrangle the other Skal, who seem to be waiting for direction from her. "We wished to speak with you about that ring of yours. Would you be kind enough to demonstrate one of your constructions for us?"

    I generate an image of Elise the first day I met her, grinning and bobbing all over the place. I've seen a lot more of her serious side since then but that first impression is always something that's stuck with me and it shines through any time she feels at ease or safe. "What about them?"

    "It is the same." The old man nods, speaking quietly as the woman pipes up to explain. "We were archmages, once. We've encountered this before but in a different form, yours is... far more sophisticated."

    "Do either of you have names?"

    The old man chuckles. "Another life. I'm Lekken."

    "I am Mariposa."

    I blink. "I recognize that word, it means butterfly." They look at me in surprise, then each other. "Sorry, I'm sidetracking you."

    "Yes, we... hm." Lekken taps his chin. "We saw the orange one with you, they have a ring like yours?" I nod. "We've been discussing it. The wards that they use to bind their slaves are sympathetic in nature, bound to the control crystals the overseers carry. Mari noticed you targeted the control crystal first." I nod again. "We want to corrupt them instead."

    "I'm sorry, what?"

    "Each control crystal is linked to the wards on the overseers which is linked to a control crystal held by their overseers, on and on up the chain of command. The links are sympathetic and each control crystal is grown in the same place, from the same sample, like clones or duplicates."

    "How do you know so much about them?"

    Mari chuckles ruefully. "We designed them. They were for keeping animals, originally. Keeping herd animals is easy as a shepherd if you can just compel them to obey you." She looks sad. "Not our life's work, not by a long shot, but our laboratories are gone, our houses gone, our books gone. All our notes and studies. The crystals are our sole remaining creation, now."

    I look down at the floor and nod. "How did you mean you wanted to corrupt them, exactly?"

    "We were made to study some of the light artifacts to learn their secrets. One of them was the original collar of binding which we used to forge the first slave version of the control crystal. If your ring user can do as much as you can, its possible she can manipulate the touch of orange on the spells somehow, mess with them. It might allow you to undermine the entire control scheme, even. It depends on how well she can use it."

    "We want to see it destroyed." Lekken nods. "But to subvert the whole system, you need the master crystal, the first one. That is held by the Black King himself. Otherwise, you would be forced to hunt down his generals and subvert them individually. If you can find the general leading this army you can probably cause enough chaos to stop the attack here entirely, but..."

    I sigh. "But I'll be releasing hundreds of thousands of people into the countryside after a bloody slaughter when they turn on their masters."

    "Yes."

    "You ever feel like there are no good choices?"

    They both nod slowly. "Welcome to the world, boy."
     
  21. 1eragon33

    1eragon33 Getting sticky.

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    great chapter OP. And their right sometime their are no right answers only choices.
     
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  22. AngelicKnight.

    AngelicKnight. Lewd demon of negotiable affection

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    This feels almost like the start of a tutorial mission explaining the regional conquering mechanics.


    I LOVE IT!
     
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  23. jokarun

    jokarun Making the rounds.

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    I do love finding hidden gems like this. I do seriously like the story. Couldn't put it down once I started.
     
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  24. AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    Cool. I'm glad people are enjoying it. :)

    I don't plan to really stop writing it completely so much as I'd like to work on the Star Wars short stories when I'm not feeling the mode for WOTB, and work on WOTB when I'm not feeling Star Wars-ey. So pretty soon I'll be starting a second project here and though I might not be updating either every day or anything, I do want to continuously work on one of them at some point or another rather than let myself stop writing. Keep an eye out, I plan to begin it within the next week :)
     
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  25. Threadmarks: Why do I hear boss music? - 11
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    "The blood weapon." Mariposa is standing with Lekken, Vara, Elise, Nemesis, Mina and I out on the open veranda of my residences. "How did you change its shape? With your ring?"

    Vara has remade the red hammer into a rather large axe, holding it head-down against the floor with one hand on the handle of it. She hasn't let go of it since Nemesis finished poking around at it. "It fucking knows better than to defy me is how."

    That particular answer seems to take Mariposa by surprise, causing her to blink a couple times. "...Alright. Well, it's a demonstration of something important. The artifacts are not bound to their shapes, but to roles. The axe is always a type of weapon, Aetius's armor is always some kind of defense and offense mix and the collar is always some kind of compulsion. They tend to take themes. The weapon is always a melee weapon, the armor is always some kind of armor, the collar is always some kind of jewelry."

    "The collar itself is bound to the person who has ownership of it. That can only be passed willingly or if the owner is dead, in which case it will imprint the first person to touch it as the new owner. We first became aware of the collar when it was presented to us but as we understand it, it has been used to... realign problematic people in the past. In short, it marks a victim, rewiring their desires to what the user wants."

    I can see Mina tilt her head slightly to the side, looking thoughtful. "I maaaay have some knowledge of how that works. Maybe."

    "You can mind control people?" Elise looks rather displeased about that.

    "Well, it's not as fun when I do that. Feels like cheating. Making people want me the old fashioned way is far more fun." She beams at that, clicking her hips side to side once. "But in all seriousness, if I did that the other orange light users would come for me. I could get away with it outside of home but if I don't practice, what's the point? Besides, I have most of what I want anyways."

    "Aaah, but if you're familiar with it, you could undo it?"

    "Oh, probably. I think..." She frowns. "The cessation of wanting? I'm not sure what to want to make it happen, if I should want direct control, to cleanse them, to not want it at all... I've never tried doing it myself. The only people I've ever branded were ones we were going to kill anyways, so they were free target practice for trying new things out. That's how I got my first construct slaves."

    Mariposa frowns and Lekken straightens up. "What are construct slaves?" They're looking at Mina with a measure of glowering distaste at the mention of slavery.

    "Somebody subsumed by the orange light until it consumes them inside and out and binds them forever to me." She's trying to sweep the floor with her tail, I think. Rather chipper considering the subject. "It's a bit distasteful, you get to know everything about them. I don't do that now unless I need to."

    Elise is giving her the kind of look that industrial grade lasers are made of so I speak up before that ignites. "Can we please get back on track?"

    Lekken nods. "Yes. When we created the control crystals, we adapted the sygaldry to use the orange light sigil as a binding to tie the collar sympathetically to the master control crystal. Subverting either the crystal or the collar itself would allow you to undo the whole schema entirely."

    "Or take it for myself."

    I look over at Mina. "No, you can't have a huge slave army."

    "Aww, but Ainsleeeeeyyyyy it'd be so coooool. I could have handmaidens and a palanquin and hot boys to do funny poses everytime I walk into a room."

    "No."

    "Pretty please with panties on top?"

    "No."

    "Darn." She pouts dramatically for a few seconds, then writes it off. "So where's the collar and the master key thing whatever?"

    "Ah. Now that's where things get interesting." She nods. "Both are kept by the Black King. The collar and the Demons Mask are what lets him control so much through indirect means. The collar allows him to mind control those who don't submit and it's impossible to stand against somebody you cannot look at. The mask induces mind-numbing terror in any who look directly at it."

    "So we have to kill a guy we can't look at, who mind controls people. How bad can that be?"

    Lekken clears his throat. "That depends on the quality of your bowel control."

    Mina is giving him a sideways, wary look while Elise snickers and Nemesis smiles in a way I don't really like. "Why, fear you say?" He spreads his hands, chuckling. "My time to shine."

    "Heh, that'll be a fuckin' first." Vara slings the axe across her left shoulder casually, despite its size.

    "Oh, you know how I am, Vara. I do love a good dramatic flair and besting a terrible king with his own power does sound like something I'd do for funsies."

    "I know. I remember the Deathsingers."

    "Bit out of tune these days. So, this sounds like a job for Mina and I. Or will it be all of us, hm?"

    "All of us." Elise speaks up and nods. "Ainsley as support, you and Mina as offense. Vara..." She takes one look at Vara, who's glowering at her and silently daring Elise to try and give her orders. "...Eh, you'll figure out your new toy, probably."

    That makes Vara hmph and look at Elise with only slightly less irritation. I raise a finger. "Aren't we all forgetting something? We have no idea where this black king actually is."

    "You don't need to." Lekken chuckles. "He'll come to you. Don't you realize what you've done? By rescuing us, you've cored his best magic users. If he doesn't get us back somehow, he can't make new crystals. We're the only ones who know how."

    "And we plan to keep it that way, thank you very much." Mariposa nods.

    "Then the only thing we can do for now is wait?" Mina makes a face. "I hate waiting. I'm going to go steal Emil and kill some time."

    Elise rolls her eyes as Mina slinks out of the room and I sigh. "At least we won't have to wait long."

    "Well, I hope not. The suspense is killing me."

    "We're not that lucky."
     
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  26. Threadmarks: The Black King - 01
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    When the light shines on Durjak in the morning, it burns the fog away. The lack of pollution in the air from any source save campfire smoke leaves it crisp and smelling like the greenery surrounding the area with a tinge of wood, which stretches east and west along the foot of the mountain, above and below the ridge Durjak rests on. It's early and I'm up on the walls, watching. Just taking it all in. The deep breath before the plunge, as an old gray man once said.

    Along the slope downwards into the valley and beyond it is the Red Sword Army, arrayed out before the walls in formation, but not battle formation. I can see out at the back of their army a caravan. Their people are parting like a school of fish around a predator but the caravan doesn't appear to be in a hurry, which suits me just fine. The longer they take, the longer we get to rest. The smoke from campfires uncounted is blowing away from town but enough of it is swirling back to us to smell it anyways. With the wind traveling east it's no bother to the town like it was overnight but it does obscure the sights a little.

    As I watch, the caravan sends forward heralds or... something like that. They're yelling, probably something like 'get out of the way!'.

    "Make way for your masters!". They appear to be carrying whips as well.

    Mm. Delightful. Destroying these people as an institution is going to create a huge number of problems in the long run, I can see it already.

    Carrion birds, mostly crows, are circling above the army as the caravan slowly inches its way closer. Soon enough the others make their way up to the wall, joining me one by one. Mina is the first to arrive, hugging me from behind and resting her chin on my shoulder as she does it.

    "They don't seem to be in much of a hurry, do they?"

    "No, they don't. Good morning, Mina. Why are you wrapped around me?"

    "You're warm and you smell good and I'm going to have a very long day. Don't worry, I won't desecrate you." She actually kisses just below my ear, rumbling quietly. I can hear it with her so close to me. "Not yet. Just bracing myself for the day."

    "Better not let Elise catch you bracing yourself." I can't help but let the amusement leak into my voice as I say it. There's no denying having a beautiful woman pressed against me is really nice, but priorities. Priorities.

    "Mmhm. That pesky willpower of yours. Does your girlfriend know she's rubbing off on you?"

    "Bit of a mutual contamination, I suppose."

    "Ooh, corrupting her?"

    "No, but I'm working on him. It's ongoing." Elise is walking up behind us, glancing at Mina and... not getting angry? I think the confusion on my face is visible but neither of them is saying anything about it and this doesn't seem like a good time to ask what's going on there. "Is that them?"

    "That's them." I nod. Mina is tracing little circles on my chest and somehow I can feel it through the light armor I'm wearing. Cheater. "You think it's the man himself down there?"

    "Sure, why not? These people are bronze-to-iron age with a bit of everything else thrown in. We've got pikemen who are a threat to us. It's insane. They should be getting slaughtered wholesale at every turn and we're really hurting them but nowhere near the level of asskicking they ought to be taking."

    "Ooh, are those the sweet sounds of anxiety I hear?" Nemesis and Vara have come to a stop just above us. Vara isn't saying anything, just staring out at the Red Swords in a way that reminds me of a komodo dragon staring at a goat tied to a post.

    "No, just a sort of indignified bewilderment. This planet is bullshit."

    "Oh my dear, I know it. It's not even just this planet. So far as I can tell, the whole solar system is like this. Buckle up, buttercup, you're in for a riiiide~." He chuckles quietly. "Or maybe they are. You weren't too bad with that ring when you first got it, I'm fascinated to see what you can make it do now."

    Elise closes her eyes and sighs quietly, then opens them again. "Do you want to wait for them or get down there and get this over with?"

    I glance up at Nemesis, who's managing to look smugly self-satisfied with his arms folded across his chest, hovering with his feet relaxed like a Dragonball Z character. He's flaring his environmental shield to have a sort of flame effect intentionally, which only adds to the mental image. Then something occurs to me.

    Theatre. I've seen Elise do it, leverage psychology against people. I'm watching Nemesis do it right now and he doesn't even realize it, making himself stand out in a way that might suggest to anyone who doesn't know us that he's special, somehow. He's using the same color as their leader, maybe that's it, but he's obviously acting.

    The illusion of strength where you're weak, the illusion of weakness at your strengths, acting to portray yourself as being more powerful than you really are... a cultivated sense of omnipotence to make people more afraid of him, but it works. If fear is all these people ever know, maybe it's time to take a page out of the book of my rivals.

    I step out of Mina's arms and off the edge of the building to drop, letting myself land more heavily than I would otherwise and produce a loud thump. A moment later the others follow suit, Mina and Nemesis gliding down lightly instead. Vara hits the ground and charges forward, stopping just short of their line and visibly panting in an effort to stop herself from tearing them apart. As I follow up behind her I raise a hand, letting nonsense construct markings light up the chakra lines of my body, blue sigils glowing at their points in front of my body.

    "Peace, Vara." I'm hoping she's used to working with Nemesis enough to play along.

    "Slaughtering them with their own weapon, Ainsley. They're right here." She huffs, actually bellowing red flames for a moment.

    "Peace, Vara."

    She glances at me and I nod. She nods back slowly and the soldiers she was sort of looming in front of visibly relax, only for Nemesis to suddenly be in front of them, four times his own size as he manifests a massive... creature... thing contruct. Bits of insect molded to reptile and mammal by skin grafts of screaming faces with torn leather wings and a mouth surrounding Nemesis, the soldiers scrambling back to get away from us now as we pass around his construct and walk towards their lines, which are quickly trying to shrink back from us. Their masters don't like that though, screaming from the back as the whip behind them and the enemies in front of them form a hammer and anvil and soon the formations of foot soldiers around us just want to get away as the construct Nemesis is using to surround himself half slides, half pulls itself forward while making noises that... I'm not even sure how to describe.

    Where the fuck does he come up with this stuff? The fucking guy is on my side and I still don't like being anywhere near it. No wonder Vara roasts him all the time.

    "Ainsley?" Elise is speaking quietly while I'm pointedly not stopping Nemesis from terrorizing the cavemen. "This is a change of pace for you."

    "Does your world have a Sun Tzu, Elise?"

    I see her smile faintly in the corner of my vision. "Yes. Yes, it does. Okay. We'll see where you're going with this."
     
  27. Threadmarks: The Black King - 02
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    Although we've been strolling casually and making small talk for almost ten minutes, they've stopped trying to get anywhere near us and have broken off. Nemesis seemed a bit sad his antics weren't having the same effect but he was pretty well pleased with himself. The foot soldiers and archers have pulled back now, a flow of people moving south around the caravan which is flipping the fuck out that their people are actually retreating away from the town, away from us. I don't think most of them even know why, they just see people panicking to move and panic along with them, figuring they'll find out why they're freaking out after not being dead. Sound advice in a planet where... well...

    This place and all. So I can't blame them too much.

    The heralds of the caravan are now ahead of us, arrayed out in front of it as their overseers struggle to regain order. We've completely ruined whatever grand, flashy entrance they had planned. They know it, we know it and the only reason we're not laughing about it now is that we got it out of our system on the way in here. Right now we all look the way we want to look, the impression we want to give. My constructs only reinforce my presentation as a kind of monk-slash-priest, Nemesis playing the terrifying general, Vara the berserker, Elise being the soldier, Mina being... Well, I mean, she's a cat girl in BDSM gear with construct soldiers marching behind her. I'm not sure what to call that.

    I'm sure she'd tell me if I asked though.

    We stop about fifty meters out, just out of comfortable conversation range. Then we wait.

    It takes about five minutes. They're a bit stubborn about it at first, figuring we'll close the gap or are waiting for something, perhaps. Then they finally get it and approach us instead. The one in front doesn't look too happy about it, a grizzled old man.

    "You dare come befo-"

    Construct weapons are suddenly pointed at him from all sides around me as the blue glow around me intensifies. I open my hands to him. "Come now, I'm sure we can all have a civil conversation if we try. That bullish nonsense hasn't worked for you up until now and it's not going to work now, so why don't we skip all that and have a chat, shall we?"

    The lead herald is looking at us, weighing us. He turns away, taking his mount and heading back towards the caravan, saying nothing more and leaving dust behind. I nod knowingly, glancing at the others as they diffuse their constructs. "Thank you. Just play along with me for now."

    "Mmhm." Mina almost purrs it, making herself a construct couch and lounging on it in a way that can only be called 'showing off'. Soon enough others begin to approach us, these ones looking more courtly. Robes, fancy grooming, jewelry. Talking heads. Their negotiators, probably.

    I lift my hand and spread my fingers, making a show of fabricating a conference table and chairs, enough for us all. I don't tell anybody to sit and none of them do, Nemesis preferring to hover ominously instead. Their people sit down when I do, despite the others not following along with me and leaving their seats empty.

    "Hiya boys." I smile winsomely, tapping the table with my fingertips. "Not having such a great week, hm?"

    The first one to speak is a young man in gray robes with red trim, pulling his seat up to the table with as much dignity as he can get from molded stone which turns out to be far heavier than he expected. After the second try he gives it up as a bad job and settles for sitting forward a little. Alas for his back. "No." He says it pointedly. "We are the upper council, the civilian government to the Black King and administrators to his territories."

    I lean back in my chair, taking a deep breath. "What, we don't warrant a conversation with the old boy himself?"

    "Logistics makes that difficult."

    "Doesn't have to be." I smile again. "Tell us where he is and we can go meet up with him, have a talk."

    The young man isn't smiling back. "I think not. Suffice to say he is safe but currently indisposed to show up to a meeting he did not know about, plan or endorse. A king does not just walk to the front lines and have a casual chat with his enemies, you fool."

    I mimic surprise, looking at Elise. She shrugs eloquently and looks at Nemesis, who snorts. "You mean you panicked about us destroying you and he's afraid to show up here and deal with us."

    "I mean what I said. What are you?"

    "Snips and snails and puppy dogs tails, little girl."

    "I am not a girl."

    "Haha, yes you aaaare." Nemesis is smiling.

    "No, I'm not." Their speaker is getting a little pissy about it and Nemesis lands on the table, walking across it towards him. The boy pales a little but stays in place as Nem pats him on the head, leaning in a bit.

    "Yes. You. Are." Then he gets back up and walks across the table towards us.

    I make a point of not making a big thing of it, drumming on the table with my fingertips. "...You sure I can't just talk to your manager? This sort of seems like the kind of thing where you take it right to the top for me, or take it in the bottom from him." I gesture at Nemesis, who wiggles his fingers in a little dainty wave and smiles.

    The boy gets up and walks away from the table as one of the others opens his mouth, only for construct clamps to appear on them.

    "Yes. You. Are. Go find us your adult, you're all useless." Nemesis yanks them out of their chairs with the construct tendrils, leaving them scrambling to their feet to collect themselves and crawl back to their masters. Nemesis just sighs beside us.

    "It's so hard to find good help these days, don't you think?"
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2021
  28. AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    Surprise, I'm not dead! I'm secretly a black lantern, come to resurrect the story for nefarious purposes.

    But no seriously I'm going to begin updating again
     
  29. Threadmarks: The Black King - Interlude (The Genkit Child)
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    For Abeba, life was a wonder. She'd been released from the exowomb almost two full years before on this day. Her mentality and personality was on par for a human child four times her age and she looked far older as well. A human might mistake her for a five or six year old. She was sharper than that though and learning all the time, taking information in like a bussard collector. She flat out just did not forget things, a newer genetic innovation which was incorporated into the latest batch of clone variants. It helped her to learn quickly and the highly developed empathy, group cohesion and social opportunities lent itself to refining her maturity to temper her accelerated growth.

    The group home provided so many opportunities it was almost mind-boggling. She'd accompanied masters and journeymen on many different parts of the cities maintenance runs already, learning to tinker with and recognize lots of the various systems. She liked machines. Her best friend Isala was into woodworking in much the same way and sometimes spent time down in the artisans courtyard, talking to the sculptors and carpenters at work and experimenting with them watching over her. Such as it was with all of the children. When they expressed interest in things they were never told no, you're too young. Instead, those with experience were sent to spent time with them. Not a lot of time, a day out of the week perhaps, but time to start honing those interests while young, at the knee of a master who may one day grow into a mentor.

    Her time in the education program took less than one might assume. That came with the perfect recall, she always aced the tests, every time. Always getting it right, always knowing the right thing to say, it developed in her a kind of adolescent arrogance. Time spent with the masters was valuable, both because it was their time and because it could be the vital moment when one learns a crucial skill or hears the right bit of advice. But some days she convinced herself she knew better, which is how she found herself wandering the city instead of being down on the maintenance route she was supposed to be visiting today. She'd been there before and had decided it wasn't going to be anything new, so why bother?

    Instead she found herself wandering through the entertainment district, losing herself in the crowd. The district itself, a massive mile long shaft in the rock going downwards with hanging platforms strung at various levels, was impossible to really walk through. With no single path to pass through and being forced to double back in places, she mostly just wandered aimlessly through the vast forest of restaurant stalls and small personal sellers, people socializing or eating together. A group doing tai chi, another running circles around the edges of the district as a track run. So easy to just wander forever and drink it all in, so much data input.

    Walking to the edge of the platform she looked out to the holowalls around the edges of the district, projecting clear skies and rolling clouds. Birdsong being played over the sound of the crowd. Minor things to help them forget they were forever under a mountain, cut off from the sky. She sat down, watching the images, letting her mind wander.

    "...'re sure though?" The voice was faint and she didn't really listen at first, despite hearing it. Not her conversation and she had her own thoughts to dwell on.

    "I'm sure. We have to tell the elder council."

    "What do you think they'll do? Something of this magnitude...!"

    "Quiet! We're still out in public, don't forget." That caught her attention and her ears swiveled to listen better.

    "Right, right." ... "We have to convince them somehow. Have to find some way to make them see reason."

    "You say that like our leaders have a history of leading us awry or something."

    "I know, I know. I'm worried that they'll be reluctant to use the gate again."

    "We know the last group made it through. Hell, we've done crazier things to survive as a species."

    "I just don't want... thing again..." The voices were moving away from her now.


    Hmm. She was pretty sure she wasn't supposed to hear any of that. Wondering what that was about a gateway she waited a few minutes, then got up and started back towards the hanging bridges leading to the edges of the districts walls where she could find a car to bring her back to the residences.

    She was pretty sure the two voices were Liara. Only a Liara would walk around talking about stuff like that out in the open. The scientific branch of the genkit government had a reputation for living in their own heads and losing sight of practical concerns and applications to their ideas. Popular fiction sometimes portrayed some well-meaning Liara to try something radical and accidentally blow a hole in the universe or something. Only it sounds like those two actually did something like that.


    As she hopped into the transport car an older woman followed her in. That happened sometimes when two people were headed to the same general area. The woman in front of her was also a canid but she didn't pay the lady much mind until she began to speak.

    "You know, sometimes when we're alone by ourselves, we hear things we were meant to not hear." She glances at the woman, who was looking out the window and pointedly not at her. "Sometimes important things. A well meaning person might say something to somebody about it and cause a problem without intending to. Sometimes big problems, you know?"

    "No."

    "Yeah." She said it wistfully. "That's okay, you're still pretty young. A clever girl could find herself benefiting from things, if she knows how to spell discretion." The woman smiled as the car came to a slow, halting and opening. Once it did she got up, stepping out of the car and leaving Abeba there.

    Huh.

    So that's what adult stuff is like.
     
  30. AngelicKnight.

    AngelicKnight. Lewd demon of negotiable affection

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    Firstly yay you live!

    Secondly Yay Mina is best girl.

    Thirdly that poor army must be terrifed. Do they attack the monsters before them or do they get lashed within an inch of their life by their masters behind them.



    Also a look into the other side of the gate, seems the Genkits are brewing up some interesting kiddlets.





    Also random thought, does this evil empire sell slaves? Or just claim them.
     
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