Wednesdays

Lone Dark Ember is an interesting story, but hard to right for. I need to get into a certain mindset for it, and it’s a somewhat depressive mood to put myself in. I have plans for it, sure, but it’s not something I’m wanting to dedicate every Wednesday to do, it takes some out of me.

 

So, Lone Dark Ember is going to be written ‘sporadically’. Whenever I feel like I can write it without getting into too much of a funk. Wednesdays is going to now be “Whatever Wednesdays” and I’ll write shorter, somewhat random, stories for that.

 

Wednesdays in October will be for a haunted house story with a twist.

After that, it’ll be Whatever Wednesdays for awhile. Eventually, I may do Western Wednesdays, a western saga I’m considering. Maybe. But for now, it’ll be Whatever Wednesdays and whichever stories I feel like writing then.

Explanation of Absences

So some of you may notice I don’t post a story every day, even though I do my very best to. And here’s why:

 

I suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, and sometimes I just can’t stay awake long enough to do a story, or even start one.

I suffer also from somewhat frequent near migraine level headaches.

 

Sometimes those go together, rendering me bedbound for longer than I intend. I just want to assure any current and future reader that if I do not do an installment, it’s not because of writer’s block, or lack of desire, or running out of time, or anything like that. The only reason I’ll miss writing a story for that day is because of being rendered unable to do so due to health reasons.

NPC43: Enter Your Name 6

Eris crossed the bridge and stepped upon new land! She looked around the new land, which looked very wooded, then up to the still and cloudless sky. She also noticed there’s no sun up there, for the first time in her life. Not knowing the importance of that, she just inhaled air that also did not exist, because it felt like the right thing to do, then gave another look about. She had to figure out where to go!

Neither south or west were options, for the west was the bridge she just crossed. The south barely existed, the bridge coming near the southern coast, some water splitting this land from the castle town she used to exist in. That left east or north.

She could not see a proper destination in mind either direction. As she just went east to cross the bridge, and there was a town in the north on the other side of the bridge, she figured to head to the north again. Perhaps she could find another town.

Eris took two steps before meeting a new monster to fight, a giant scorpion. How interesting! With her new iron axe and chainmail armor, she felt invincible. Or at least, definitely worthy enough to take this down. Eris swung her iron axe, biting deep into the giant scorpion’s armor. Sadly for her, it did not expire from that single attack.

Instead, it stung an exposed spot on her with its heavy stinger and poisoned her!

Eris pulled her iron axe out and took another swung, killing the giant scorpion with the second strike. Once the combat was complete, she took one of her two antidote herbs out and used it, curing the poison.

Eris moved northwards several more steps, only to have another giant scorpion appear before her. This combat played out much like the first, her taking two swings to kill it, and it poisoning her. After combat, she used her second and last antidote herb to cure the poison.

Eris continued northwards several more steps, only to face off against a third giant scorpion! Apparently this part of the continent is the home of giant scorpions. They must live in the forest here, for it’s been all trees in this area. She took two swings once again, and once again got poisoned for the effort.

And she was all out of antidote herbs now.

Eris took another few steps, hoping to catch sight of a town. With each step she took, she lost a hit point. Each loss of hit points stung her, causing her to see small flashes of light before her eyes, as if the world itself was telling her she was poisoned, or the poison worked from where she was stung to her eyes quickly. It definitely hurt her each step she took.

She had a new least favorite monster to face off against. Even the drakeys do not bother her as much as giant scorpions and their poison does. That poison feels like the drakey fireballs, only inflicted upon herself for each step she took. Staying still caused no pain. In fact, after a few more steps, she stayed still and just stood, doing nothing, for several long moments. There was absolutely no pain at all.

Just when she walked. And she had to walk to get to her destination.

Another several steps and she met up with another giant scorpion. With a grimace, she hefted up her iron axe and slashed into it. This one, like the others, stung her with its elongated stinger and injected poison into her.

But when she took a step, she still only lost a single hit point. It still hurt. But the additional injections of the poison did not compound the damage or pain. Once poisoned, it seems, it can’t get much worse. It was just a simple fact of being poisoned or not.

It still hurt, though! And Eris kept losing hit points with every step northwards. Another giant scorpion. A critical hit tore it apart in one shot. A few more steps and she met yet another giant scorpion. It took two strikes and she got stung yet again to defeat this one also.

Eris took a few more steps north and…found nothing. There was a coastline up there and naught else. This part of the continent was empty of towns, no civilization of any kind, however minor, existed here. She had to go east! The Reincarnated Heroine moved to the east, and hugged the eastern coast as she went back south, trying to find where to go next.

Losing hit points every step.

After she got low enough on them, she cast her Heal spell to give herself some more, but it did nothing to stop the poison. Every single step still hurt her. She got to another bridge, crossing over to the east again, and walked over it onto yet another landmass.

This one was also almost all wooded, but with a mountain range off in the distance to the south. Knowing mountains are impassable, she decided to move to the north. Eris moved one step east for every two steps north, taking hit point damage from the poison each step. And every few steps she took she faced off against yet another giant scorpion.

The Reincarnated Heroine Eris leveled up in her journey, but it did nothing to heal her hit points or cure her poison. She remained wounded and hurting. She did grow more powerful, her attacks doing more damage to each giant scorpion, but still requiring two strikes to kill each she met. But the gold was good, they all dropped a nice amount of gold coins.

Eris continued on, continued to cast her Heal spell to recover her hit points, and searched for a town. She must find refuge soon! Eris kept going further north, kept slaying giant scorpions, kept getting stung and kept feeling the painful poison course through her body when she walked.

And she reached the northern coast, with no sign of a town. Nothing but more woods and some more mountains, now to the southeast of her. And she was out of magic points with which to cast her healing spells and had no more regular herbs to help. Eris walked to the east, losing hit points each step. She met another giant scorpion.

And fled.

She did not feel pleased about that, it felt like there was a poison in her stomach. It felt that she failed herself. How can a hero of destiny flee? Especially from a mere giant scorpion, of which she killed at least a dozen of its kind before? But what must be must be.

Eris found the east coast of this part of the land, and no town. She cursed darkly and moved south. After she went south a bit, she remembered the mountains she passed that now lay to the west. Without any other idea on where to go, Eris gave a shrug and went west again, hoping that the mountains were just in a small range and there was not a huge chain that blocked her from her journey.

Luckiyl for her, she saw a town in the distance! She ran to it, wincing in pain with the poison that flashed through her form. And a giant scorpion came to stand in front of her! She ran from it, also.

After a few more steps, she was close. Another step…and she ran into another giant scorpion! Curse these filthy arachnids! She tried to flee. It only blocked her path! Eris spat darkly at it and tried to flee again, only curse when it kept blocking her path.

Fight or flight. A tough choice. She looked at her iron axe, then the town she was trying to reach. She looked at the iron axe again, then the town once more. To slay or to flee.

Eris gave a short grunt of disgust then used her heavy iron axe once more, striking deep into the giant scorpion. She felt its stinger hit her and inject poison into her again, but the second hit destroyed the enemy, leaving her path clear.

Eris took a few more steps, watching her hit points drop with each one. Three…two….one….

And Eris’ sight went dark as she took one more step when she had but one hit point left.

It seemed like an eternity had passed before she took a deep breath and looked around. She made it into town! Eris took a few steps oen way, then another, noticing that she was still poisoned but that the damage did not hurt her inside of a town! She was quite happy at this and quickly went to the item vendor to buy an antidote herb to cure herself.

Then, she ran into the inn to heal all her hit points and magic points again. She felt refreshed when she woke up the next morning, which happened to be the same day as the day that just ended. She was still confused about that. Eris walked around again, buying a few torches and an equal number of both regular and antidote herbs from the item vendor.

The town sported a hot spring, which she did not go into. It also had an armor and weapon vendor, each with powerful new items!

And she didn’t have enough gold to buy any of it yet. Eris gave a growl of frustration as she was three gold pieces short of a new weapon and could not negotiate a discount.

“Give me a discount for this!”

“Welcome to the weapon shop! Please let me know what you want to buy!”

“I want this, just give me a small discount!”

“Welcome to the weapon shop! Please let me know what you want to buy!”

“Look, to buffoon, I got a powerful iron axe capable of cleaving your head off…”

“Welcome to the weapon shop! Please let me know what you want to buy!”

“You don’t even know how to use one of those! In fact, I know if you sell me one of them, you’ll still have an infinite amount of them laying around!”

“Welcome to the weapon shop! Please let me know what you want to buy!”

“If you don’t give me a tiny discount,” she cajoled, “I shall find your wife and fornicate with her.”

“Welcome to the weapon shop! Please let me know what you want to buy!”

“In the streets, where everyone can watch!”

“Welcome to the weapon shop! Please let me know what you want to buy!”

“Blasted jackass. I’ll be back, you tin hearted tyrant, and you’ll have your gold. And I’ll have my new weapon and several revenge fantasies played out. You hear me?”

“Please come again.”

Eris growled and she kicked at the store front, “I just said I was…hell with you!”

Eris grumbled a bit as she walked about the town. She talked to a few other villagers, trying to find where the armor store owner’s wife lived. But the town had no actual houses or residences, just people walking around or standing behind storefronts in tiny stores.

She hated this place, even if it did save her from death by poison. There was a wrongness about it. She considered a bath in the hot springs but decided against it.

The last townsperson she met and talked to gave her some worthwhile information, “Someone saw a dragon dragging a princess into a cave in the mountains to the south.”

“A dragon dragging huh?”

“Someone saw a dragon draggin….”

Eris shouted over the townsperson even as they kept talking, “Oh shut up you mindless jerk! I will eviscerate you for your brainlessness!” Eris took her frustration out on the townsperson by hefting her iron axe and swinging it several times through the townsperson’s very form.

Each swing just passed through the townsperson’s body without effect. They did not interact with one another at all. It was like the axe was an illusion or the townsperson was a ghost. Or that they existed on different planes of reality. The townsperson continued to exist. Such as it was.

Eris, however, had a quest to complete. A cave to the south had the castle’s princess she could rescue. She took a step out of town…

…and ran into a giant scorpion again. She got poisoned once more in this fight.

On the bright side, she got enough gold pieces now to buy her new weapon. She went right back into town, used an antidote herb, bought a replacement, bought her new weapon, sold her old iron axe, then tried to cleave the weapon vendor’s skull with the new sword.

It didn’t work. But mentally it gave Eris satisfaction. So she chopped through his head, ineffectively, a few more times.

She had a quest, alright, but then thought about the inns. Each time she slept at one, she slept through the night and woke up the next morning only to find it was still the same day. The days did not pass. Time did not actually pass.

Which means the princess could sit in the cave forever and never know it.

Eris had a quest, sure. She’ll get to it. But for now she had a goal. Earn enough gold to buy every single equipment upgrade here, slaughter enough giant scorpions to satiate her growing vengeance desire, and gain some more experience points.

It took awhile, and five more levels, but Eris left town keeping her iron shield from the last town prior, but the rest of her equipment was fully upgraded, shining bright and new. And she learned the spell not only to cure herself of poison, but to cast light in the darkness.

Eris felt confident once more. Now, there was a dragon to slay!

Gold Fox: Thunderwave 2

Gold Fox strolled into her handler’s office after cleaning up from her exercises earlier in the day. She now wore a powder blue half top with straps about the neck and a skirt that was effectively a pair of long loinclothes, made of silk, attached by a strong chain. She wore a pair of strappy high heels in the same color as her top. Besides her communications ring, she wore a pair of bracelets on each wrist and a bangle on her left bicep, as well as a necklace of silver. Her long red hair was done up in her favorite foxtail style and her pointed ears had small silver rings at the lobe and a pair of silver, runed ear cuffs near the tips.

“Ah, good to see you, Gold Fox.”

Fox gave a bow of her head, “Sir. Always pleasant.” She moved with a saunter to the chair on the other side of her handler’s desk, crossing right ankle over left as she sat, “I take it my next mission includes that scenario I’ve been playing through for the past two days, yes?”

The old man who had a slightly sibilant S sound to his pronunciations said, “Yes. It’s a bit delicate. We believe the man in question, like I mentioned prior, has information. Information that is dangerous to DRAGON. Frankly, I believe he is a double agent with WYRM.”

“Can I ask what the information is?”

“Sure, you can ask.” The elder human then paused and frowned, “But I can’t tell you. It is sensitive. I trust you, Fox. If I ask you not to look at the papers, simply to retrieve them and return them, will you do it?”

“I can do my very best to do so, yes, sir.”

The human reclined in his chair some and gave a nod, “Alright, I can accept that. In the scenarios, you were tasked with obtaining the documents without being seen. This is still imperative in the mission. The others do not matter, especially if you kill them. But you may not kill him and you may not be seen by him.”

“Can I ask why not?” Fox asked as she leaned to the right in her chair.

“He’s on the DRAGON Council, frankly.”

“That could put a crimp on things.”

The gentleman took a sip of his drink he had  on his desk and gave a nod, “Indeed. And he knows who you are. If you’re caught, he’ll know that he’s been exposed and will worm out.”

“But won’t he notice the documents gone, sir?”

“Eventually, yes,” said the gentleman as he gave another sip, “but not, ideally, before you can get the documents here and we can have him arrested and put him on trial before the other Directors.”

“And the papers?”

“Most likely, most ideally at least,” said the man as he finished his drink, “they will give us information on who is part of his coterie and maybe even which other Directors are double agents. If nothing else, it should give us information on a few of the WYRM bases out there, or their current objectives.”

Gold Fox moved to lean towards the left and gave a nod of her head, “Alright, so snatch and grab, can’t be seen. Can he see through illusions?”

“If you’re thinking of using an illusion to mask yourself, I’d advise against it. All Director level members of DRAGON can detect when an illusion is being used. He’d be suspicious of you.”

“Alright, so no personal illusions. Who’s my backup then?”

“Gold Fox…you’re on your own this time.”

Gold Fox leaned forward with a frown, “Why’s that?”

“The Steam Elf teammate of yours…with the long name…Puissant…something.”

“Iteration D is what I call her. Or D, or ItD.”

The gentleman gave a nod of his head, “Yes, Iteration D works. Her repairs are still ongoing. We’ve reattached her left arm, after that Silver Reaper tore it off, but still need to work out the fine repairs and reconnections. In addition, she wants some new modifications.”

“I can understand that.”

“No-Face, well…” the older man gave a deep sigh, “I don’t know how you do it, but we can’t find her. We don’t know where she is, or even what she looks like right now. We can’t communicate with her, either. She’s off the board for us.”

“Yes, she is elusive alright. If I can recruit her for the mission, how much of this information can I tell her?”

“Ideally, nothing. The less that know about this information, the better. But I can understand what happens in he field.”

Gold Fox gave a short nod, “Right. And Lady Thundercaster?”

“She has not been seen for the past three days. She is also not answering her communication ring.”

“Yeah, I noticed that, too.” Gold Fox leaned back, crossing her arms over her chest and gave a soft frown, “Wonder where she’s been. She hasn’t been answering my calls, either. Wonder if it’s something I said.”

The handler gave a little shrug, “Anyway, while we’re at it, we’re giving some upgrades to your Airship, the Ultima. We’ll be sending you to your destination in a chartered sea boat. Less connection to you anyway. Have you met WJ yet?”

“I think once, sir.”

The gentleman gave a nod, “Very well. See to it you meet him again, yes? In between repairs on Iteration D, he’s been tinkering with a few items that could help you on your mission. He’s invented this ingenious gadget that allows you to store visual information into it, then process it with chemicals to make photographic renditions thereof.”

“Oh, the camera, sir?”

The gentleman gave a cough and a soft frown, “Yes, well, maybe! But he managed to miniaturize it. It can now fit in one’s pocket.”

“All men say that.”

“I don’t get it.”

Gold Fox gave a shrug as she stood up, “It sounded better inside my head. Is there anything else I should know?”

“We’ve a contact at a local diner. She’s another half-elf like you. She’ll have a tattoo on her right cheek, under her eye. She can provide you with local information and some additional gear. She’ll also let you know any local players or news and provide your entrance into the compound.”

“Is there a passcode, sir?”

“Yes, tell her you came to buy the Thunderwave.”

Gold Fox gave a tilt of her head and a curious quirk of a brow, “The huge yacht?” She gave a grin, “Could I actually buy it?”

The handler gave a huff and chortled a bit, coughing slightly, “Ah, well. Ahem. It’s not…I mean…” He rubbed his balding head, “Look, if you absolutely must buy it to preserve your cover, expense it. But you should know…”

“I’d look good sunning on it in my offtime!” Gold Fox gave a happy squeal and ran out the office. She gave a girlish giggle as she did.

The man held a hand over his heart and gave it a soft massage, giving a few sighs and moans, “She’s going to be the death of me.”

Gold Fox strolled down the hallways with a laugh. She had no real intention of buying the Thunderwave, though it would be a nice bonus. She just enjoyed seeing her boss flustered and speechless.

She arrived in the repair bay while Iteration D was off in a bunk and asleep. She gave a wave to her sleeping companion but said nothing. She walked on over to WJ, tapping the grandfather like gentleman with the wild hair on the shoulder, “Hey, pops. I hear you got some toys for me?”

“Yes, I know of your fondness for toys.” He gave a bit of a pause and considered, “Actually, I don’t. You tend to rely on your magic and weapons so far, don’t you?”

“Indeed, they served me well enough so far.”

The grandfatherly gentleman had wild hair that went from grey to white long ago, but only thinned and not went bald. He nodded his head a few times, “I have this imaging device that…”

“A camera.”

“But it’s….”

“Pocket sized.” She tapped her outfit, “I don’t have pockets in this, though.”

The gentleman gave a grin, “Ah!” He held out a purse, “Here you go. Problem solved.”

“Oh, thank you. Does it do anything itself?”

“Yes, in fact,” the gentleman pointed to the latch, “It holds things.”

Gold Fox just gave a dead stare at the inventor.

The inventor gave a laugh, “The latch is actually pull off. The gold trim at the top of the purse here can come off.”

“What’s the use of getting rid of the gold to me?”

The inventor gave a short laugh, “Gold Fox, getting rid of gold. Hah. Ah. What was…oh. If you pull the trim off then the latches, there’s a three second counter before chemicals inside react and give a bright blinding flash, good for about ten meters or so. Also, if you snap the purse strings here, a sleep dart will fire out of the bottom of the purse here.”

“Like so?”

WJ flinched a bit then tsked, “Don’t tease me like that, please. At my age, I get enough naps. Let’s see, what else…oh, do you like high heels?”

“I don’t hate them, exactly.”

“Good enough for me. Over here we got high heels.”

“Yes, I see that.”

WJ pointed to them, “The right one has lockpicks hidden in its heel, the left has sleeping powder in its heel. They’re breakaway.”

“Somehow I think that’s a metaphor for when I break a date.”

WJ gave a shrug, “Let’s not force a pun here.That’s all I got for you for now.”

“Thank you.” Gold Fox took the items, putting the camera in the purse and holding the heels with her left hand, “Tell me…have you field tested these yourself?”

WJ harrumphed loudly then turned away.

Gold Fox was on a boat sailing to the tropical island destination soon after, and would arrive early the next day. That was the plan. When the sun was coming up, the boat suddenly exploded, forming a giant fireball one nautical mile out of port, the destroyed wooden planks becoming debris in the churning waves.

Gold Fox: Thunderwave 1

She pivoted upon her left heel as her right leg was whipped about her body in a sweeping kick that turned into an upwards arcing high roundhouse kick. Her long red hair, tied up in her favorite foxtail style, lashed about trailing after that kicking leg like crimson silk. Her arms were extended outwards, and like a scything windmill, her Fangs, the specialized long knives of hers she loves, cut into the lower thighs of three enemies. Her kicking foot tripped up another two and sent a third flying backwards to land hard against a wall.

She then used the momentum of her upraised leg to kick herself up into the air, her foot continuing its arc of hostility as it crashed its heel hard into the heads of the trio of enemies she just cut the thighs of. And to insure the two she footswept were out of combat, she planted her feet into the chest of the last person she kicked and kicked off of him, launching herself at the two opposite that were falling downwards to the ground. She dug her Fangs in deep into each one as she went right past the pair, landing in a somersault before coming to a stop in a deep crouch with her Fangs upraised and crossed in front of her, her eyes darting about warily to make sure no new combatants were entering this room and that the prior six were indeed out of the fight.

The woman with the dark golden skin then stood up. She was in an outfit that made combat movements much easier to perform. A black halter top kept her impressive bust restrained, a pair of tight shorts clad about her hips, and simple martial arts slippers adorned her feet. She wore no jewelry, sans her ever present communications ring. The espionage agent for the DRAGON organization slid her Fangs into the built in sheaths of the shorts at her hips, then began to stalk about the room again.

The room itself was large and beautiful. Decorated with ornate designs and beautiful moulding, it had alcoves for bookshelves and inset walls to house paintings. The hardwood floor was engraved in runes, and Gold Fox took a few moments to study them to insure not a single one of them had been inscribed with trapping or alarm spells. She then quietly kept stalking the room.

The only three pieces of furniture in the room was a large piano, a daybed sofa, and a huge desk. The half-elf crept forward slowly and carefully, her elongated ears twitching and ever alert for the sounds of newcomers. While not as long or as sensitive as a typical elf’s, they were certainly more perceptive to sound than those of a human.

Gold Fox casually looked over the large piano as she passed near it, studying it for traps or hidden assailants. The sofa was also studied, but was obviously unoccupied. The desk was her destination, and it was certainly large enough to be able to house traps. The front of it, however, was a simple and unadorned wooden face. That, in itself, may have been somewhat suspicious considering the ornately decorated nature of the rest of the room, but considering the size of the desk, it was not unexpected. Decorating the entire front panel in any way would have likely cost as much as the rest of the desk itself. The spy’s keen golden eyes scanned over for barely perceptible cracks in the wood that would be the tell-tale marks of traps, but found none.

The desk itself was well organized, with papers and envelopes in built-in shelves, pens placed in lines into special holders. An old fashioned inkwell and quill pen was offset from the pens. A small communication panel lay embedded into the desk in the opposite area from the pens. A large and plush chair set behind the desk, pulled under to await for an occupant.

When Gold Fox got around to the other side, she noticed that there was four drawers built into the desk. They were all locked up, and Gold Fox could only assume that they were trapped. As she crouched down to examine the drawers, she noticed that the top drawers on each side did indeed have a small hole to the side of the keyhole that would be able to eject out fine needles. The bottom two drawers gave the faint stench of sulfur, denoting explosive powder.

What Gold Fox had come for was undoubtably in one of those four drawers. Which one, she knew not, and which traps were still undiscovered, she also knew not. To complicate matters, her small set of thiefing tools did not have the right instruments to defeat the powder trap. She did notice that the handle on the bottom right drawer had its brass coloring worn down a bit more than the rest, so the spy figured that was the most likely place that housed the documents she wanted. She crouched down low to study this drawer more, then look about the desk to see if there were any clues as to the location of the keys.

After almost a minute of this her ears twitched as she heard someone coming down the hallway. She quickly scampered off to hide underneath of the large piano, quietly holding her breath and patiently waiting for the newcomer to open the large and well decorated wooden doors painted in white and gold and stride confidently into the room and towards the desk.

Out of the entire building complex, this was the one person she could not kill. Her mission was to steal certain documents from this particular person without them knowing those same documents were stolen or by whom. As to the six bodies that were laying about the floor after she defeated them earlier?

Those were the easiest parts of the mission. The target’s guards were all magical constructs that vanished in a puff of black smoke once defeated. Why the target person did not notice the lack of their presence was also simple: the powerful never notice the hired help. Or, the summoned guards, in this case. They just assumed they were wherever they were supposed to be.

Gold Fox noticed that the keys to the desk were never in this room. They were on a keychain that was attached to the belt of the one person she’s not supposed to get near. That proved an obstacle. She studied the keychain intently, though. She narrowed her eyes and focused her golden eyes at the key the man selected, studying it. She used a small spyglass housed in the sheath of the dagger at her left hip to do her best to examine how the combs of the key was designed. Later, she could try to mold some wax into that shape to open the drawer.

As she hoped, he did open the drawer she was most interested in. Then, an idea sparked in her mind and she gave a playful grin. The half-elf spy waited for the documents to come out, and the man begin to peruse them across his desktop. Then she used her illusionary powers and made the sounds of explosions seem to emanate from the yard across the complex. Then she made the illusionary sounds of heavy footfalls running down the hall and a husky man’s voice shouting, “Boss, get to safety!”

Gold Fox waited to see how her handiwork went. As she hoped, the man did get up and start to move away from the desk, leaving the documents upon the desk. Unfortunately for her, the man did not go to the door to leave the room, or even a secret safe room here, but he instead moved with a lumbering, but not very slow, speed towards the windows.

As he did so, Gold Fox used her simple chicancery to muffle the soft sounds of her quiet footfalls so she was able to move with stealth, all but inaudible to anyone, even when she ran. Which is what she did when the man passed her. She made it to the side of the desk before her started to turn around again. But she did hear his heavy footfalls on the hard floor as he started back to the desk.

Gold Fox needed to get the documents quickly, but still couldn’t be seen, and he was obviously looking right at the desk as he walked towards it. She quickly reached a hand into the open drawer, unseen, and grabbed something from it. Then she tossed it to the other side of the desk, letting what looked like a snowglobe roll across the floor. The man diverted his path to the rolling bauble, giving Fox enough time to quickly grab the documents and run off into one of the shadowed book alcoves without being detected.

The man put the bauble back in the desk drawer when he returned to the desk. Then, seeing that his papers were not on the desktop, he figured that he put them back in the drawer also. He shut and locked it, tucking the keychain back into his pocket, and walked out of the room.

Once she was alone again, she used her magical powers to send the documents into Away, an otherdimensional pocket of sorts that could hold various items. Typically small and handheld things for her, such as the documents, spy gear, thief tools, Away also holds either her Fangs or her dual magical pistol crossbows, whichever she was not currently using. Sometimes weightier and larger objects were stored there, like her one teammate’s metallic left arm when it was detached by an enemy and before it could be repaired.

Then, to insure that, should she be caught, there’d be something obvious for people to spot when searching her, she tore off several pages of the blank papers on the desktop, folded them up a number of times, and stuffed them into the back of her shorts, resting against her left hindquarters, giving the unmistakable bump of folded paper to her shorts.

Then she quickly ran towards the window, her long red hair streaming behind her. She popped the window open, gripped the upper sill, and hauled herself up in a half arc to the roof’s edge. She reached down to close the hinged window again, then began to quickly walk in a crouched position across the rooftop to the spot she was supposed to exfiltrate from.

As she skulked about the rooftop, she began to hear the alarmed voices of guards shouting to one another across the yard. She crouched behind a gargoyle and began to strip. Her combat clothing allowed her to use all her agility in combat while providing some armor, the some armor part weighed her down, especially if it got wet. And as she was about to take a plunge….

Once nude, the spy wrote a short note on a piece of paper and stuffed it into the gargoyle’s mouth. Then she sent her Fangs, her holsters with some small spy tools, and her clothing and shoes into Away. Then she tapped her communication ring to play her theme song and took a graceful dive from high up the cliff face that the mansion was housed on, diving deep into the water.

When she surfaced, it was in a pool, and the cliff, the house, even the people therein vanished in a puff of vapor. They were all illusions themselves. She was now, and always had been, in a secret training facility known only to her, her handler, and her team, running a simulation. From an actual door strode an elderly balding gentleman, her handler. The person who gave her and her team the missions. Who was their link between DRAGON’s Council of Directors and her, who was himself secretly one of the Directors on said council.

After surfacing, Gold Fox used her illusionary powers to cast an illusion of clothing about her nude form. She made what looked like a summer dress to clad herself in. She knew, however, a secret about her handler, namely that he could see through the illusion. But she also knew that he’d know that there was an illusion that he’d be seeing through, and so he’d think that she cast the illusion on the assumption he can’t see through the illusion. Because even though she knew he could see through the illusion, she did not want him to know she knew that he had that ability.

Sometimes the best illusion she could use was making others think they had an advantage on her, to assume what she wanted them to assume.

NPC43: Enter Your Name 5

Eris slew another slime, her teeth gritted and her lips sneered in disgust. When that was done, she knelt over the puddle that was it and offered it peace wherever it is now. This was the twelvth time she did this. By now, it not only saddened her to do this, but cut her very soul. She was completely disgusted by the slaughter of slimes.

She had explored southwards of the town, only to find the landmass ended soon after, impassable mountains blocking the southern path and a deep, wide river blocking access to the island she can see but not reach. Slimes were all she fought there.

Knowing that she fought a drakey to the north of the town, she journeyed that direction. Drakeys she had no problem killing, that fireball hurt her, and one of them was the one really responsible for her first death. It was not something she thrilled in doing, but seemed much better than slaying more slimes. Given the choice between the two…

Suddenly, a slime appeared. Eris cursed her luck and tried to shoo the slime away, “Tsk. Begone. I don’t want to harm you. Go, live your life. Be with your family. Just begone.” The slime did not move. It just sat, staring at her, with the same happy smile that every single other slime ever appearing before her had.

Eris rose her sword again, sighing darkly. Then she noticed something near the ground below. Attack. Cast. Item. Flee. She knew attacking meant using her copper sword and slicing through the slime, killing it. She knew cast meant she could use spells, which she has not yet learned. She also knew items meant she could use herbs to heal herself, or antidote herbs to cure poison. But she never selected flee before and had no idea what that was. She studied the word a bit, then ran a hand in her long purple hair to look for a flea. She found none, however, and thinking that was the cost of using flee, started to raise her sword again.

Then paused. What if a flea is not a requisite to flee? She gave it some thought, then lowered her sword. Eris moved that cursor she saw before her eyes to Flee and selected that as her command.

Then, she ran away. She ran back to where she was just prior to meeting this slime, and the most recent encounter with a slime was ended. She looked around but could not find the slime, but knew that she left it without killing it.

Eris felt content. Not quite happy, but content. It was a warm glow that grew in Eris’ heart, like a blanket placed upon you while resting near a fireplace. Her heart, growing cold and hard as stone, skipped a beat in joy and she had a soft curl of her lips in a gentle smile. Now she knew that she did not have to continue the genocide of the slime people.

Eris continued north, running into another drakey. This vile, ironically smiling winged beast she dispatched with an eagerness she later regretted. Forlornly, later she noted the joy she felt in dispatching her hated enemy, for she knew that drakeys also had a right to live, but she lost no sleep over it when she went back to an inn later. Eris took out several more drakey, continuing vaguely northwards with side treks west and east. And eventually, she found a cave just to the northwest of the town in a small desert.

Eris walked about the cave entrance some, killing another two drakey while doing so. She checked herself, noticing her hit points were running low. She ran back to town, killing another three drakey and running away from seven slimes.

Eris slept at the inn, sleeping the night away, awakening in the morning on the same day she entered the inn. She took a moment to look at the sky, frowning. It was always the same day, and always the same cloudless but dark sky. Something was wrong. She knew time should be passing, yet it never did.

Our heroine gave a slight shrug and chalked it up to the work of the evil one that the Reincarnated Hero, whom she now was, was tasked to slay. Then she ran off to the cave again, running from six more slimes and killing three more drakeys.

When she entered the cave, it was dark. A darkness that eliminated not just light, but almost did away with the concept of light. A depraved darkness that clawed its way into one’s mind and left a heart cold.

Eris ran back out of the cave, panting. She took a few deep breaths and some moments just standing at the cave’s entrance to calm down. Once she was composed again, she drew in a deep breath, gripped her copper sword, and went down once more into the cave.

The darkness was still there. Even though the cave entrance is right here, with the light of it hitting the entrance itself, there was no light inside the cave. Eris took a few deep breaths again, then moved two steps. She bumped into a wall, which hurt but did not drain any of her HP away. The heroine just rubbed her nose gently. She then recalled.

Torches!

She grabbed and lit one of the. torches. It cast enough light that she could see two steps in all four directions. It was enough to offer relief to the woman, as well as navigation. She moved with quick steps through the cave, finding one dead end or another, but mapping the complex out in her mind.

She found no enemies in this maze of a cave, luckily for her. She had no intention of fighting any slimes and no desire to fight more drakeys down in this dark pit. After a few dead ends, she managed to find the stairs, descending even deeper into the cave.

She was thankful that, again, no monsters blocked her path. After bumping about a bit more, she found the secret of the cave. A grave lay here, where the first hero, the legendary hero, who saved the world the first time long ago, lay buried.

By the grave lay a tablet. As she reached to pick it up, the torch blew out, extinguished. Even shrouded fully in the darkness, she was able to read it clearly. And thus she did, “To my future reincarnation, I, Lotrick, greet you. Knowing you will need them in the future, I took my three magical treasures and gave them to three great mystics. Find them, and you can defeat the nemesis of your time!”

Eris looked at the tablet through the darkness and read it again. It repeated the same words, and did so a third time. She found it odd that she could read so clearly when it was so dark.

Eris lit the other torch she had. Determinedly, she stalked out of the cave complex, following the path she used to arrive here, in reverse. Her torch went out after moving through most of the upper floor again, and she had no others to light. She felt a rush of panic hit her, but took a deep breath and pushed it back down.

The mark of a hero is in doing what you’re afraid of doing.

Also, she memorized the pathway out, and walked even in the dark through it as if it was bright as can be, not bumping into anything on the way out.

Eris basked in the not-quite sunlight that was the daylight of her world, smiling gently, happy at arriving once more to the overland. Then, she set off to the north, having no reason to return to the town to the south.

She went northwards, killing off several more drakey, until she bumped up against the shore, the wide ocean beyond her. Unable to continue northwards and unwilling to go south, she had a choice between east or west, and chose to travel to the west.

The drakeys were joined by catmages, who also used magic fireballs to hurt her. This was getting aggravating! The pain of the fire seared into her nerves, and by the time she stoped being harmed by one, she felt another fireball hit her. Gleefully and with abandon, she slashed her sword deep into the  body of every catmage and drakey she ran across.

It started to take its toll on her. Her hit points got lower and lower. She knew going back south would prove as risky as continuing on, so ate her herbs to recover some hit points and pushed onwards. Ever onwards, ever more damage, ever more herbs eaten.

Then, finally, the next town came into sight. She stalked ever closer to it, only to have yet another catmage jump in her path and toss a fireball at her. She killed it, but only had two hit points left and no way to heal!

Feeling frightened once more, Eris judged the distance to her destination. She stepped carefully forward. Ever carefully. She was wary of her surroundings and kept watching for enemies.

With one step away, a drakey appeared! She cried out in frustration, fearing she was going to die again if he cast his fireball at her. And she knew it would take two strikes of her copper sword to kill this drakey.

Eris gave a deep frown and meditated for a time about her impending death. The drakey politely stayed still and patient, awaiting the dance of combat, just watching what Eris did. Then with resignation she raised her sword, starting the attack, knowing the drakey’s counterattack would prove fatal, and that fleeing may not work, the drakey may be able to pursue her.

She raised her sword to make the slash. If she was going down, it was on her terms, fighting, doing all she could to harm her enemy. And if she died, maybe the wounded drakey would meet some other enemy that would destroy it.

She swung….and scored a critical hit! The drakey was destroyed in one hit!

Eris felt euphoria, not just from knowing she was not dead, but because she gained a new level! She got more hit points, magic points, statistics, increased in power and capacity.

And she learned her first spell. Heal.

She cast it several times until she had no MP left and most of her HP back. Then she walked the one step it took to get into the town.

SHe ran right to the inn and recovered all her HP and MP. Feeling better, she traveled about town. She found the weapons and armor merchants, but stocked up on a few herbs, just in case. Yes, she could use Heal on herself, but if her magic points ever ran out, she could not cast her spell. Staying alive was of paramount importance to her.

She found a more powerful weapon in the iron axe, for 560 gold pieces, and more powerful armor in the chainmail, for 300 golds. But found a very interesting item called Iron Shield which cost 800 gold. Eris was short of being able to find the chainmail, and gave a deep sigh.

She walked around town, talking to a few people. One told her the name of the town…again and again and again. She gave a deep frown at this, harkening back to her days where she could only do the exact same thing.

After this person walked in front of her path a few times too many, she punched him. He kept trying to walk into a wall forever after that.

The only other villager told her that he heard that the dragon who kidnapped the princess was in a cave to the east. How useful! Then he added, “But I do not think someone of your power can beat him.” How useless! She punched him, too.

Eris then recalled her ‘master plan’. Killing enough monsters meant the dropping of more and more gold pieces. She ran out of town to slaughter numerous catmages and drakeys. When her hit points got low again, she used Heal on herself.

Five levels later, countless nights spent at the inn waking up at the same day as it ever and always was, and untold dead catmages and drakeys later, she wielded an iron axe, wore a set of chainmail, and held an iron shield. She was also restocked on herbs.

Now she felt confident enough to try a journey to the east. She followed the coastline of the north to the east, dipping down south when the coast went southwards, and crossed a bridge, journeying now into a place she never saw before in her life.

This was adventure.

Gold Fox: Flashbang 5

Gold Fox tossed the entirety of both her crossbows into Away with a grimace. It was clear they would not be able to help her. Lady Thundercaster jumped gracefully off of the catwalk near Fox and ran out with her into the street. Iteration D followed soon after with heavy footfalls and a well regulated pace.

It was Iteration D who asked, “What now?”

Gold Fox paused and tilted her head. She had a skill known in the ancient tongue as ‘Therdylwhyt’, which basically means ‘full awareness of the surroundings’. Paying a bit extra attention to her surroundings and she could gain information normal people would ignore. One skilled in it could sense people in the area, upcoming weather, animals nearby, the magical ambiance of the surroundings. They could also detect enchantments in their vicinity and sense invisible beings. In a social setting, a practitioner could pick up another person’s basic character, honor, and intentions. While some people are more skilled in certain aspects of it than others, everyone who has the gift of this skill shares one thing in common: they all know what’s happening in their home no matter where they are.

Thus, Gold Fox knew that, at home, her pet dog was having a nap and missing her. That the weather will turn to rain six hours from now. And that of the three gunships in the harbor, two are on skeletal crew and the last has barely anyone in it. It seems due to repairs being made to it.

She also detected a group of humans coming up from the side street, and No-Face staying behind in the warehouse.

Gold Fox pointed in the direction of the humans and gave a hand signal to Iteration D warning about their approach. The Steam Elf looked around quickly before running off around the other corner of the warehouse, but watched the two half-elf ladies to see what her teammates were going to do so she could back them up.

Rather rudely, one of the men in the lead blurted out, “My my, if it ain’t a bunch of Empties!”

Another then said, “They may be Refuse, but they’re pretty. ‘Ow about we ‘ave some fun with these things?”

Empties. Refuse. Before the war, when Humanity and Elfkind were friends and allies, half-elf children were seen as a sign of cooperation and commitment to each other. That two distinct people could come together to make children that are the best parts of each parent species. Now, after the war, half-elfs were seen as disgusting aberrations, reminding each side of the hated enemy’s existence.

Empties was a derogatory name both sides used for half-elfs. Thinking that a half-elf had no soul, for they can’t have a human’s soul and can’t half an elf’s soul, the two people though a half-elf’s spirit was empty. This neglects the fact a half-elf can have a half-elf soul, a mingling of the two parent species. Of course, racism has no logic, and that term stuck.

Refuse was human exclusive racist slang against a half-elf. In olden times, there was a caste system, and the bottom rung of such was for people who buried the dead, cleaned the trash, took care of excrement, and other unpleasant tasks. A half-elf was, in the view of most humans, below that now long gone cast, for even a bottom rung sometimes has a bottom rung. Further, many a time was a half-elf hired for a job such as working on a trash barge or incinerator, of laying in sewer lines, and then the humans who hired them killed off their half-elf employees and made them a part of the job, literally. They became refuse to people that used to be their parents. In some cases, those words were very much true, and many tragic tales of children once loved by their parents were slain or thrown onto the street just because of their half-elf blood and the viccissitudes of political thinking.

A pretty half-elf, like Gold Fox and Lady Thundercaster, could often, in human lands, find ‘kind hearts’ to take care of them, for a price. Fox and Lady Thundercaster never allowed such to happen, however, the price to their dignity was always too high. It’s partly how they learned to fight.

Out of the two, Gold Fox could restraint herself, some. She did twitch her fingers and consider summoning her Fangs from Away, but thought differently. Her Fangs were powerful twin long knives, and the feel of sinking them into the flesh of the ignorant was always something that lay dormant in her mind.

Lady Thundercaster, however, often gave in to her feelings. Further, she still held her pistols. Her response was laughter.

Laughter, and the percussive blasts of said pistols as she fired into the crowd of human men.

While that was happening, Gold Fox stepped aside and kept studying the surroundings, formulating a plan. Iteration D, for her part, looked away. She was not fond of bloodshed, even if the blood is from human racists. Gold Fox always thought her companion an odd Steam Elf due to that, as most Elfs, much less a Steam Elf, who are chosen and remade because of their dedication and fanaticism, would have no compunction in slaying a human.

No-Face, meanwhile, remained in the factory, concentrating. The Silver Reaper was regaining its feet slowly, and she stayed to concentrate and watch it. Then, she stretched a bit and began to shift herself again.

Once the gunfire died down, Lady Thundercaster asked, “Well?”

“Happy now?”

“No, but I’m not unhappy. And I shot to wound, not kill. They’ll live.”

Gold Fox turned her head slowly to look across the harbor again, her hair up in its fox tail blowing softly in the gentle breeze, “Hmmm. For today, maybe. But wounded and unable to work, their medical bills piling up, they’ll go deep in debt and starve to death. You did them no favors.”

“Eh, they deserve it. Besides, I didn’t kill them today. Now, come on, plan?”

Gold Fox pointed to the almost empty ship, “Ever want to fire a ship cannon?”

Lady Thundercaster gave a grin, but before she could react verbally, she felt a strong hand grabbing the back of her tank top. She saw Iteration D’s other hand grab the back of Gold Fox’s top, and lift the two up. Then the Steam Elf’s powerful legs hissed in pneumatic joy as she jumped high into the air, spanning the distance across the harbor to the ship in one bound, landing with another hiss and as much grace as an armored elf could. The trio then began to run around the ship to find the munitions and firing center and if the ship was still able to launch an attack.

Two Original Silver Reapers launched out of the factory in a violent crashing sound, their impact into the walls destabilizing the building. It crashed down upon itself in a heap and a loud grating of metal on metal, collapsing on top of two straggling and wounded humans that were trying to crawl away from where they just been shot.

Both Silver Reapers stared at one another and appraised the other. Then they ran at full speed towards one another, swinging their right arms in mighty right crosses against one another. The brunt of the impact was so tremendous that each flew back a city block from one another and the shockwave destroyed the windows of four other factories.

Gold Fox found a single shell to fire, and asked Iteration D to help her carry it towards the cannons to fire it. As the Steam Elf was doing that, a group of five human marines came upon the group. The entire armed guard of the ship, the other four people Fox sensed just here for repairs, began to fire upon the duo.

Iteration D was unfazed by this small arms fire, her armor too great for this to even bother her. As for Gold Fox…

Before they could even blink, Gold Fox was leaping acrobatically in the air and arcing gracefully to the marines, her body spinning as she moved. She wrapped her legs around the head of one marine and used her momentum to twist him in a way she desired. His back snapped and his neck twisted, the human dying quickly. As she used him to arrest her speed, she flung her arms out and pinwheeled them about, slicing her Fangs across the necks of two others.

The two still living humans backed away slowly, pointing their own thundercaster rifles at Gold Fox, who held the dead corpse of the marine she landed upon as a shield. They cursed at her and called her an ’empty bitch’, and found their rewards for such temerity. Gold Fox pointed her Fangs at them and fired the blades at the pair, each long blade biting deep into the chest of each marine. As they fell dead, she sent her Fangs back into Away, blades and all. When she’d summon them again, they’d be whole once more, as normal.

Iteration D had finished loading the shell and tapped on the hull of the ship to communicate so to Lady Thundercaster.

“Can I fire now?” said Lady Thundercaster into the communication ring.

“What of No-Face?”

“She’s in a standstill with the Reaper. She’s holding her own, but she hasn’t had time to attenuate to this form, so even half dead, it’s a pretty even fight.”

Gold Fox looked out of a porthole and tossed an illusion towards No-Face to signal her to retreat, then said, “How’s the city?”

“If those two kept at it, it would be wrecked!”

No-Face gave one last heavy punch to the Original Silver Reaper, then jumped away and shifted into her flying reptile form. Lady Thundercaster fired the ship’s cannon, the powerful and enchanted shell flying right into the Original Silver Reaper that masqueraded, until recently, as Baron Heinzglauf.

Two days passed…

Gold Fox, as team leader, was the one to meet with their handler. It was she who would take the missions and accept the blame. She sat in the office of said handler, who had been reading the mission report with a deep sigh. He looked up at her again, sighing once more.

“Sir,” she began, “I’d like to point out that we had no idea that such a magically enhanced shell existed. No information on it…”

“I’m aware,” said the man. He was and older gentleman, in his late sixties. His head was nearly bald, but where he was devoid of hair there, he was enriched in it across his arms and chest, and he unfortunately never wore enough of a shirt to cover that up. He crossed his arms over his chest and asked, “However, did getting information on this weapon really require taking out twenty three city blocks?”

“It was an Original Silver Reaper, sir.”

Their handler was a human, one of the few kind ones left around. He was old enough to remember the days when Elfkind and Humanity were not mere allies, but actual friends, and wished for those days again. He sighed once more, “I’m aware. I also note that such a thing did not exist in this world, how did you…?”

Gold Fox gave a shrug and a soft smile, “We all have our secrets, sir.” And while she did, and each member of her team did, she knew that her handler did as well. And she knew only one person in DRAGON knew her handler’s secrets.

Meanwhile, in another office, in another espionage agency, another pair are holding another meeting.

“Pardon, Number One,” said the underling in this meaning.

Number One was a human of middle height and advanced age, approximately the same amount of years graced his brow as did Gold Fox’s handler. He, however, was completely bald, and dressed in a smart grey suit. He had a fluffy white feline in his lap, wearing a golden collar, which he stroked obsessively. He asked, tersely, “Report?”

“It is our operation with Baron Heinzglauf and his replacement.”

“The Original Silver Reaper, yes, a triumph that was to obtain.”

The underling gave a soft sigh, “I’m sorry to report, sir, but he has been destroyed.”

“Indeed?”

“Yes, sir,” said the underling, “Further, a DRAGON team seems to have used our new sunfire enchanted naval shell to do so.”

“Indeed…”

The underling looked a bit nervous, “What shall we do, sir?”

“We have the double agents in DRAGON still, yes? Our PSEUDODRAGONS?”

“Of course!” said the underling happily.

“Very well. Activate PSEUDEODRAGON Agent 17, tell her to kill whomsoever had the gall to thwart this plan.”

-GOLD FOX WILL RETURN IN: THUNDERWAVE-

NPC43: Enter Your Name 4

Eris knew nothing. She did not even know knowing nothing. Nothing just was, nothing became her existence, her existence became nothing. There was nothing, but conversely, saying that implies something. Not even nothing had nothing and was not even a ‘was’. No existence whatsoever existed.

Eris was dead. And she no longer existed.

There was nothing for Eris. There was no time. There was no thought. There was no concept of self or being. She had nothing, she was nothing, she was not even a was. Nothing subsumed her very being and replaced anything that she was with…nothing.

There was a great dark void, but darkness implies a light. This was darkness compounded by darkness, an all pervasive and invasive darkness that forbade the very existence of light.

Just like it forbade the existence of Eris.

“Welcome back. You have lost half your gold. You have 1 XP to gain before earning your next level.”

Eris looked around, unabashedly confused. Where was she? What is she doing here? Where was here? She looked about in a slow circle, slowly taking it all in. The king’s throne room. And before her, the king. And next to the king’s throne, the empty throne for the princess yet to be rescued.

She patted her chest a bit, then gave a long exhale before inhaling deeply. She was breathing again. And thinking again. And was herself again. She had a sense of self and understanding of her place in the world. She asked the king what happened, but he gave no pertinent information. So she just ran down the stairs and out.

So that was death. That was terrifying. She had no idea how much time passed, for, to her, time itself did not even exist. One moment she did not exist, for what felt like an eternity, and then suddenly she exists once more. It was startling and frightening and objectively and fully terrifying.

It was not like the times when Reincarnated Heo DICK left the world and the world paused. Time still seemed to pass, somehow, then, even if she was stuck in stasis. This was…nothing.

Eris ran down the stairs and right to the Item Vendor. She shouted at him, “Give me all the healing herbs…what, antidotal herbs? What do they do?” She studied what it did, finding they cured one of poison. And she knew what poison did, so she bought two of those, then all the healing herbs she could.

No way did she intend to ever lose all her HP ever again. Even if she carried nothing but herbs. She would insure her own safety above all else.

She studied the merchant’s list of wares a bit curiously, looking at the torch. She examined it a bit, then remembered something about finding a tablet in a nearby, and dark, cave. She looked back at her stash of herbs, then the torch, frowning darkly. Eris hopped from one foot to the other, thinking.

Finally, she sold back two herbs with a sigh and bought two torches, just in case.

She then walked over to where she was originally coded to pace at, and stayed there. She sat down on the side of the road, and let her eyes travel over the five by five area she randomly walked and did not leave for seemingly forever.

Life was simpler then, when she did not have life. When she was just meant to pace and greet. There was something then that she had lost. She gained her intellect, her existence, but she lost something. There was something missing, a piece of her that could not be regained.

She thought it over. What did she give up for her to gain life? What had been taken away from her, or perhaps rather removed, that was given away just so she could exist? She considered this a time, glancing from the area she was pacing at to the gateway leading out into the world.

That’s what she lost. That’s what happened to her.

Ignorance.

She lost her ignorance of the world, forced to give it up to have the right to live within it.

Eris stood up with a sigh and a frown, running a hand in her long purple hair, the brown skinned woman adjusting her armor and copper sword a bit. Well, knowing that she had a place in this world, and that losing this world means losing herself, perhaps to a fate worse than death, motivated Eris.

Luckily, she knew there was no time limit. She could take things at her own pace. The tablet will be recovered, the princess will be rescued from the dragon, and the evil demon that is threatening the world will be defeated!

In her own time.

Eris looked back into the town that was her home, giving a little sigh. She took a soft breath then took a step out, leaving it for the bigger world beyond. She traversed into the wide world, full of danger and new experiences.

And experience points, whatever they were. She knew she kept gaining them, but did not know what they were.

Eris headed north, carefully. She tried to keep her eyes peeled for oncoming monsters, but it was useless. No matter how careful she was, they would just suddenly pop in front of her, randomly, without warning, when she moved forward. Sure, not everr step, but she did kill seventy some slimes in the same fashion, just having them suddenly appear from nowhere before her. The drakey did too, for that matter. Nothing was there before her, then suddenly she had to fight something.

Eris’ forward motion was suddenly stopped, even as she was thinking, by the appearance of another slime! It looked exactly identical to each of the other six dozen or so she slaughtered gleefully in the past. It stayed perfectly still, giving its somewhat creepy smile at Eris, waiting for her to select her commands.

Eris was about to select ‘Attack’, then…then she had a flashback to her own death. She held her copper sword up, waiting. She lowered her head in thought, her eyes shut. Did she not just condemn seventy some other slimes and a drakey to the same non-existence she just felt? Was there slime children growing up with dreams of being slime adults, only to be slain? Maybe these slimes really are seeking revenge.

Or…or maybe…she only ever saw one. The same one. The identically same one. One at a time, and that single one was always this one. Always the very same, identical one.

Did slimes instantly reincarnate? Is there just this one slime, coming back again and again and again, only to die at the hands of her vicious copper blade repeatedly? What about the drakey? Did that also reincarnate, just so it could meet her once again, only to be slain once more? Do they feel that state of non-existence before they return? Or are they as ignorant as she was, before, and they just exist without knowing it?

She lifted her sword up higher, frowning. She stared into its innocent eyes and smiling features, then growled, “What have you to smile about, slime?”

They slime, it kept waiting, smiling, watching. It just stood there before her, its doom impending, yet its smile ever present and not fading.

“Have you nothing to save for yourself? Can you do nothing?”

The slime kept smiling.

“I am about to kill you, you know. I am about to end your life.”

The slime jumped a bit, and kept on smiling.

“You’re about to be cleaved through with this sword and turned into a puddle of goo. I’ll…somehow…gain gold pieces and these ‘experience points’ from your death.”

The slime, it smiled.

“Is your life worth two gold pieces and one experience point? Is there nothing else for you?”

And still, the slime smiled.

Eris gave a growl of frustration, “Damn slime! Your life should matters as much to you as mine does to me! Say something! BE something!”

The slime simply smiled.

Eris gave a loud roar and turned her head away, cleaving the slime in twain. She had killed yet again.

Eris felt something. She gained two gold pieces and one experience point. The King said she gains ‘a level’ when she got one more of those. She felt power welling up inside of her, her hit points growing! Her strength increasing! Her defense going up! she had greater magic and more magic points!  She had grown in power, becoming a better fighter!

A better killer.

Her tears sprinkled over the goo that was the slime.

Eris felt the power grow in her. But she felt her heart empty.

Lone Dark Ember: Like Tears Not Falling

LIKE TEARS NOT FALLING

Into the silent office came the sound of a knocking before someone entered, asking, “You Decon?”

“That’s what it says on the door. Decon’s Detective Agency.”

“Yes, well,” says the alien who looks like a caterpillar crossed with an elephant, taking all  the ugly bits from each, “Anybody could be in here, so it’s not like that sign matters much.”

A derisive snort came from the reclining humanoid with two pairs of antenna sticking from his head and purple skin. He also has a third eye, presently closed, his other two only half so, “Ain’t no one in the universe, however small it may be left, that wants to be in here.” The detective glanced towards an empty bottle of alcohol that was dripping condensation like it was crying, “Not even me. What do you want?”

“I need to hire you.”

“Figured that. What for?”

The centiphant being demured a bit, “I was warned about your gruff demeanor, but told you’re the best.”

“Two things. I get paid for solving problems not making friends. And I’m the best because there’s no other detective out there. Now what do you want?”

“What is your specialty?”

“Haven’t got one.”

The centiphant alien asked, “What do you do?”

“Most days, I tend to sit around, wishing I had more to drink and less starlight shining in my eyes. But if you mean professionally, I used to do the whole spying on couples thing to prove an affair. Marriage hasn’t been in vogue for millenia, so that’s not bringing me in any money. I used to find lost pets, that was rewarding. but no one loses pets anymore. Got to figure out why sometime. Most of the time I get hired to find clue of a person’s past.”

“How’s that?”

“Well, we’re all unaging immortal right? So, what happens to a person when they live a few millenia? Or a few million years? Sometimes their mind can’t remember everything, and sometimes they shut down and get amnesia. And sometimes I get some of those people coming in, wondering who they used to be. Sometimes they thank me.”

“But typically not?”

“No, typically not.”

The centiphant asked, “What about murder?”

The three eyed being shook his head, “Never dabbled in it myself.”

The centiphant didn’t know how to take that response at first, so asked, “Are you meaning that…?”

“I’ve never killed anyone, though I been sorely tempted at times. And I’ve never had to solve such a case. No one’s ever been murdered, near as I can tell.”

The centiphant sighed softly, “There has been now. My son.”

The three eyes being gave a nod, sitting up, “Now, when you say son…”

The centiphant nodded, “Adopted, yes. He was a nice kid. Had his own set of troubles, sure, but everyone does. Troubling times, after all.”

“Indeed.”

“What can I tell you to help you start?”

The three eyed alien detective sat up and tapped his empty bottle of alcohol, sighing, “Like tears not falling.”

“Pardon?”

“How the liquid on the bottle looks. Like tears that do not fall. Did you have a good cry yourself?”

“Of course,” said the centiphant, indignantly, “I was even contemplating…I was despondent, my son was the only person I cared about in a long time. When he was gone, not only did I feel alone, but like something was torn out from the future.”

“Why do you say that?”

“He was a gifted poet, my son was. Very skilled. Had a bright future. I mean, I know money doesn’t mean anything now, but the fame and recognition.”

“Hmm, interesting. Did he write anything else?”

The centiphant sat his upper, elephantine half against his centipedal half, he had a seat that he carried with him always, “You mean like newspaper articles, opinion pieces, such like that?”

“I mean such like that.”

“As far as I know, no. His only skill was in poetry. He tried to write a few other pieces, but they paled in comparison to his poetry. That was his skill.”

The detective gave a nod and tapped his chin, “Any enemies? Debts?”

“How can you owe debts when money’s gone?”

“Debts of favors, for one. Debts of honor.”

The centiphant took his moment to tap his chin and gave a shrug, “Not that I know of. He only had a few people he talked to besides me. Maybe half a dozen or so. He was quite shy. Took him almost a full rotation of the sphere before he opened up to me and told me his name.”

“Shy, huh? So we have a shy poet who had not very many people in his life. Who was mudered. Can I ask when?”

“Almost a month back, now.”

How was it done? And how do you know it was murder?”

The centiphant gave a shrug, “One can’t put a knife in their own back, right?”

The detective gave a nod, “Typically, no. He was not triple jointed, right?”

“Never showed such an ability in my presence, no.”

“Alright,” the three eyed detective then asked, “Why did it take you so long to get to me?”

“Because until a day ago, I didn’t even know a detective still existed!”

The detective gave a short nod, “Understandable. Knife in the back, poet, shy, small circle of friends. I need two things to start me off, that’s the knife and a list of his friends. I also need you to take me to where you found him as soon as you can.”

“I can take you now.”

Decon nodded, “In a moment, then. I’d further require access to your domicile. In particular where he lived and his personal effects. And any locations he may have visited when not at home that you know of.”

“Doable, I’ll give you his keypass in to the house, you can go in and out whenever you want. As to where he’d go, the only place I can think of is that one old abandoned library.”

“There’s a few, which one?”

“Oh, right, sadly.There’s one about seven blocks from our house, that one. He’d visit it somewhat regularly.”

Decon asked, “It was abandoned, what did he see in it? There wasn’t any reading material left there, right?”

The centiphant shook his head, “Not that I know of. May have been. But I visited him once or twice there, took him lunch. I certainly never saw much, myself.”

Decon nodded, “Anything else you can think of? Has there been any changes to his personal life lately? Spurned lover? Found something of importance? Anything at all?”

“No lover, unless he took one in secret. He did come home with a book one day, which he was working on restoring, but it was a slow project and he wasn’t very skilled at it.”

Decon grabbed an energy pistol from a low drawer and made sure it was fully charged and ready. Then he lid it away into a holster and doffed a wide brimmed hat before tossing an overcoat on. Even so far in the future, certain fashions never go out for certain people, “Your dime, lead on.”

The centiphant began to backpedal on its many short legs until it got into the hallway, then it was able to move forward again. He lead Decon down the hallway and down the two flights of stairs and out. He asked, “It’s fourteen blocks away to my place, and from there another six.”

“Six blocks from your home…but seven blocks to the library. Was he coming or going from there?’

The centiphant shrugged, “Neither. Library was to the east, he was laying down to the west.”

Decon gave a short nod of his head, walking alongside the much faster centiphant, “Nothing in that direction he typically went to?”

“Not that far away, at least. We’d have food out often, but they all came from places closer to home. He didn’t care to travel far.”

“I see,” noted Decon, “But what about you?”

“Oh,” stated the centiphant, “I’ve traveled from one antipode to the other and all places in between. I seen much of this sphere. My legs are pretty quickly and don’t tire.”

Decon nodded, “I see. Good to know. Tell me though, how’d you find him?”

“Huh? What do you mean?”

“When you first met, how did you find him, and when he was murdered, how did you find his body?”

Gold Fox: Flashbang 4

Gold Fox set the two tommy crossbows against her legs as she crouched behind heavy machinery, and tied her hair up in a foxtail, a ponytail variant that goes up high before coming back down. Lady Thundercaster would likely tease her again that such a hair style does not make her any faster, but Fox sometimes feels it does. At the least, it will keep her hair out of her eyes, which is going to be important in a moment when she uses her crossbows at full auto. They’ll recoil and shake her torso and head. They’re effective, but annoying. Against an Original Silver Reaper, she hopes that they’ll be effective enough.

Gold Fox stood up after adjusting her long hair, holding her modified crossbows, hopping from one foot to the other. It was not out of impatience, she was testing something. When a person sends to Away items, their weight will still interact with the caster, albeit it at a fraction of their normal weight. Iteration D’s left arm was pretty heavy, heavy enough to slow down Fox’s speed almost ten percent from its maximum. Not ideal for someone whose fighting style is hit and run and utilizing her great agility, but should not be deadly.

Hopefully.

Lady Thundercaster stayed on the catwalk above the smelting pit, watching it, waiting to see if the Silver Reaper was defeated or forthcoming.  No-Face had taken to her flying reptile form, floating near the ceiling in cicles over the pit. And Iteration D was crouching down, her right hand crossed over her body to have small extendable tools from her right forearm give quick and effective field repairs to the damaged shoulder area of her left arm.

For awhile, nothing happened. Gold Fox even poked her head around the machinery she was crouched behind and gave a quizzical look to Lady Thundercaster, who just shrugged in response. The group continued to wait.

And they continued to wait.

And they heard people of the city starting to return to their lives and normal activities in the distance.

And they waited some more.

Then Gold Fox heard in her communicator ring Lady T say, “Awfully rude of him.”

“What, to not die in an undeniable explosion, or keeping us waiting to kill him for good?

The group waited long enough for Iteration D to have a back panel unfurl and extend out her explosive ballista, mounted over her shoulder. She also was able to mount one of her arcanoblasters on her right forearm, and retract her right hand to replace it with a diamond tipped circular sawblade. She also completed the slow process of having her body armor itself up. It took awhile to complete these tasks, but she had the time to become as powerful as she can be without access to her left arm.

And still the group waited.

They waited long enough to hear one of the still functional warehouses nearby to populate again with workers and the machinery there to hum back to life. Lady T noted, “Naval armor,” in the ring to Gold Fox.

Gold Fox knew from that, that the warehouse in question was one that manufactured armoring for naval warships. Most of the warehouses nearby would likely be focused on naval manufacturing of one sort or another. The armor plating, the munitions, the guns, even important yet non-combative parts such as the doors and bunks. She considered a bit before asking Lady T, “Any complete plating?”

“Only some, it seems they only recently restarted using that place.”

“Why?”

Lady Thundercaster gave a short shrug, “Lightning damage, from the looks of it.”

Gold Fox asked the obvious follow up, “Anything you saw in these factories or warehouses that can be of help?”

“If you can mount a ship’s cannon over your shoulder, perhaps. But D can’t even do that.” Lady Thundercaster asked a follow up of her own, “You don’t think he’s dead, do you?”

Gold Fox took a moment to cast a small spell before answering, “No.” It was an illusionary spy, and she used it to scout out the area. She saw laborers slowly making their way back to their workplaces and used the spy to scout out surreptitiously several local buildings, but found nothing of interest. She sent it higher up above the buildings to do a quick scan of the area, only to find a few gunships in the port and one half done in a drydock. Then she cancelled the illusionary spy and waited some more.

And the group continued to wait a bit more.

They went on alert when shards of lead flew out of the pit, splintered and shattered apart by force. The Silver Reaper then jumped out of the pit, landing in a crouch and scanning the area.

The newly freed Silver Reaper gave a short scan and took two quick steps forward, molten lead dripping off of its body as it lurched forward to attack the first member of the group is spotted.

No-Face and Iteration D did not move. This is a practiced stratagem of the group, the two heavy hitters stayed still. Against most beings, this would be confusing, but against an Original Silver Reaper, where each individual member of the team was weak in comparison to it, it had not noticed anything awry.

Individually. But teamwork compounds their individual strengths exponentially.

Fox launched the initial attack, right as the Reaper was moving towards D. She ran out from cover, firing her twin tommy crossbows at full automatic speed. The two large drums did not hold the ammo, but magically summoned it in place. She was able to fire fifty bolts a second from each crossbow, without stopping, setting the magical bolts to whichever element that would most aid her. It was a weapon unparalleled and would be a major factor in battlefields if they were able to be mass produced.

The only two in existence belonged to her. And they were throwing ice bolts at such speed that even a blizzard would be jealous. A hundred bolts of ice slamming each second into the Reaper was not enough to destroy it, but it was enough to slow it down. The cumulative effect froze the target.

Iteration D, the target that the Reaper intended to take out first, for her part, stayed still.

Lady Thundercaster then began to issue her death cackles again as she fired shot after shot of magical fire at the Silver Reaper, slamming hard into its ice frozen form and heating it up. As Gold Fox’s ice bolts never let up, the Silver Reaper simultaneously froze and burnt.

The temperature differences were enough to cause its otherwise nearly impenetrable and invulnerable metal shell to crack in places. The team heard a lattice of crackings fracture its way in stress lines across the Reaper’s joints. But the two half-elfs kept pouring it on.

Finally, they heard a major crack rip through the Reaper’s chest, and the two stopped firing, going under cover.

Iteration D, who had long been building up energy in pistons in her legs, suddenly released such in a pneumatic hiss of steam and she was launched at speed right at the Reaper. She fired her explosive ballista and two shots of her arcanoblaster, aiming for a stress fracture in its chest, then gave a wicked slash with her diamond tipped sawblade at the wounded spot as she crashed into the Reaper and past it, landing with as much grace as a heavily armored and metallic elf can land.

The Silver Reaper was knocked backwards and to its knees, and had but a two inch by two inch gap in its armor destroyed.

It was enough. No-Face flew down from her position in her flying reptile form, aiming at it. She instantly shifted herself into the ignoble but ever resillient form of a cockroach and wriggled herself into the casing of the Silver Reaper.

After suffering so much trauma in a short amount of time, the Silver Reaper took several moments to repair itself. The three others who had inflicted said damage had come together near a wall, just in case.

The Silver Reaper stood upright again and snapped its head around quickly, scanning the area. It locked on to the trio off in a corner and started to stalk towards the group with hard, heavy footfalls, the metallic soles of its feet stomping cracks into the floor of the warehouse.

The group readied their weaponry again, but did not fire. Not while No-Face was inside the enemy.

It stomped closer, but the group had nowhere to go, and did not want to potentially injure their own teammate.

Each footfall sounded like the drumbeat of doom approaching, a clanging of the bell of destiny.

Then it stopped and shuddered. It shook in a bizarre and grim fashion, inhuman but still humanly shaped, hissing in a deep and electronic voice. Then it fell onto the floor.

No-Face had torn herself out of the chest of the Silver Reaper, quickly growing from cockroach size to that of her war e’phant form, which shattered the chest armor of the Reapaer apart.

The group saw that the Silver Reaper had, in its torn apart chest cavity, its heart missing. They were about to congratulate No-Face, when all four noticed a peculiarity.

The Original Silver Reaper had a second heart!