Voyages of the Cerberus 104: Den of Saboteurs

“Keep watch,” Lucy said. “I’ll take the scans.”

“Sure,” Farah said. She took her post while Lucy climbed over the portable railing that had been thrown up to mark the zone as an investigation site.

It didn’t take long for zoilun authorities to hurry over.

“Lucy,” Farah called. “They’re coming over.”

“Try chatting with them,” Lucy said.

“Excuse me,” One said. “You can’t be in there.”

“Oh,” Farah said. “Sorry, we’re  not from around here and we just wanted to look around. Are  you peace keepers?”

“Ma’am, your friend is going to have to get out of there,” the officer insisted. His companion moved towards Lucy.

“Hey, that’s a crime zone!” she said. She moved to grab Lucy.

“Quiet!” Lucy ordered. “I’m almost done with my investigation here.” Her voice was imperious and commanding.

The zoilun officer stepped back, startled. “The akumillian voice,” her partner muttered. “You still have to leave.”

Lucy stood up. “All right, I got what I needed. Let’s go.”

Farah hurried to follow her, nodding at the authorities.

“Please tell me you found something and we didn’t create a scene for nothing,” Farah said.

“Who do you think you’re talking to?” Lucy asked, smirking. “Of course I found something.”

“Really?”  Farah asked. “Something they missed?”

“Something they have no way of knowing,” Lucy corrected. “The bomb’s composition was odd, inefficient. If the maker has access to certain materials, materials any akumillian could get from home, they could’ve caused more destruction.”

“Are you talking about Dodonlium?” Farah asked.

Lucy nodded. “From the traces I found, the bomb was made up of elements that can be readily found on Earth.”

“You think it was the alliance?” Farah asked.

“It would make sense,” Lucy said. “They are close to all out war with Akumil. They’d love to see Gauriel Prime turned into a battle zone.”

“So we tell the zoiluns,” Farah said. “They’ll understand.”

“Perhaps,” Lucy said. “But I’d like to contact Mestofilius first. See if we can find the real saboteurs.”


“Done with your call?” Farah asked.

Lucy nodded. “According to Mestofilius, the only ship that’s left planet since the bombing has been our own shuttle.”

“Which means they’re still on the planet!” Farah declared. “We just have to find them.”

“Tell me,” Lucy said. “If you were sent to try and sow discord like this, how would you try to escape?”

“Well, you wouldn’t want to leave on an akumillian craft,” Farah said. “I guess I’d try to hitch a ride with off-worlders.”

“Precisely,” Lucy said. “Right now, that means us.”

“You think they’ll contact the Cerberus?” Farah asked.

“No,” Lucy answered. “I think they’ll know who we are and won’t trust us. Plus our ship is still in orbit and they’d be noticed if they approached the shuttle. They’ll wait until someone else shows up.”

“Well, we can always alert the akumillian authorities to keep watch,” Farah suggested.

“Or we can catch them,” Lucy said. “We know they’ll be somewhere where they can monitor space port activity in secret.  Which narrows down our options considerably.”

“You probably already have a map of the area,” Farah said.

“Had it loaded to my hand held,” Lucy said. “Cursory glance suggests three likely areas.”

“Then let’s roll!” Farah exclaimed.


“Nothing,” Lucy muttered. She and Farah had just finished checking the third place. “I don’t understand. Where could they be hiding?” She brought up the map and studied it, closely. Her yellow eyes wide open.

“Can I see?” Farah asked.

“I don’t think you’ll notice anything I missed,” Lucy said.

“But would it hurt to let me try?” Farah asked.

“Knock yourself out,” Lucy said. She handed the hand held to Farah.

“Maybe they’re in the mountain,” Farah suggested. “It has caves and it’s overlooking the port.”

“Not a chance,” Lucy said. “Any equipment they had would be readily detected.”

“Not if they’re using a  battery-powered heating unit and observing traffic with a telescope or high-powered binoculars,” Farah argued.

“But they wouldn’t be able to look up information on the ships and their crews,” Lucy said.

“Maybe they don’t have to,” Farah suggested. “Maybe they’re waiting for someone specific.”

Lucy scratched her chin. “Why didn’t I consider that?” She reached up and gently tapped Farah’s shoulder. “Let’s check it out.”


“Four of them,” Lucy said. “You shoot the sentry, I’ll toss  in a smoke bomb. After that, I’ll run in. You wait out here and take fire at any who try to escape.”

“Understood,” Farah agreed. She took aim.

“Go,” Lucy whispered.

Farah fired, hitting the mark directly in the forehead. Lucy ran in under the cover of the smoke. Farah could hear blaster fire and a rush. She watched and waited. Then, everything went silent. Lucy walked out, dragging a woman who was quite short for a human, but still a bit taller than Lucy.

“We need a survivor to answer questions,” Lucy explained. “You tie her up. I’ll contact Mestofilius to come and get her. And then this little mission will be over.”

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The Grand Pilgrimage 47: Poseidon

“What should we do?” Serena wondered. “There’s still no sign of her.”

“I wouldn’t worry,” Sylvie said. “She may be a lech and weak to a pretty face, but she’s also got her abnormal  strength and the skill to use it. I wouldn’t put it past her to sleep with this thief girl, but I doubt she’s going to be beaten by her. Try and sleep  for tonight. Chances are that she’ll  show up tomorrow and be ready to go. Whether she got the coin she set out to or not.”

“But what if…” Serena began. Sylvie held her and up.

“Peace, Serena,” she said. “If Inés doesn’t come back, I promise you that we’ll stay here until we find her. I’ll personally contact the Temple and have them send an investigation team if I have to. For now, just don’t worry and get some rest. You’ll need the energy if she does come back. Okay?”

“I guess,” Serena agreed. She lied down and closed her eyes, but she didn’t sleep well.


In the morning, Sylvie went to retrieve the pegasi while Serena paced nervously around the temple.

“You said we wouldn’t leave without her,” Serena reminded her.

“I remember,” Sylvie said. “But I do fully expect her to show up before we’re ready to go.”

“Considering your history with her, you have a lot of faith in her,” Serena said.

Sylvie shrugged. “She may not be a friend, but I know her capabilities and I can’t honestly deny how extensive they are. I guess I just have confidence in her as a warrior.”

“Hey, Ladies!” Inés called out. She was hurrying towards  them. “We ready to head for Frinma?”

“Inés!” Serena called. She ran over and hugged her, tightly.

“You shouldn’t have stayed out so long!” Sylvie scolded. “Serena was worried sick about you.”

“Sorry,” Inés said. “I was helping a noble thief and then she had way more stamina than I expected.”

“Of course,” Sylvie muttered. “About what I’d expect from you.”

“Hey, I’ve been living the dream,” Inés said. “Travelling all over. Fighting injustice and making love to cute ladies wherever I go!”

“And just how did you get the coin to pay for us to take a ship?” Sylvie asked. “I trust you remembered our deal and didn’t break any of your vows.”

“Course I didn’t,” Inés stated. “Ashley paid me to help bring her murderous brother down. The stuff that happened after… it was kind of spur of the moment and amazing but it was just us women and the coin wasn’t for that. So there were no vows broken.”

“Fair enough,” Sylvie said. “Help me finish the preparations and we can go.”

“How far is it to Frinma?” Serena asked. She kept a tight grip on Inés’ arm.

“About a day and a half of travel,” Sylvie answered.

“Then it’ll be a week by boat to reach the mountains around Drahaven,” Inés added. “If we’re lucky, we should be able to fly the girls  over them and it’ll take basically no time to get into the city proper.”

“But if the weather around the mountains is bad we’ll have to go over the mountains,” Sylvie said. “And it’ll  take days.”

“I don’t really mind either way,” Serena said. “I mean, I’ve had a lot of fun travelling with you two. I can’t believe the journey’s going to end so soon.”

“Well, we do have the return trip,” Inés said. “Should take about as long.”

“I know,” Serena said. “It’s just… you two are going to be full-fledged warrior priestesses and I’ll still be an initiate. I can’t help but wonder how often I’ll get to see  you after we get back.”

Inés hugged her,. “Girl, you’ll see me all the time. Every time I get back from a trip and visit all my ladies at the temple. In between excursions. Whenever it’s time to groom Dusk and Blitz. They are pegasi, after all. The temple will want to keep them together in the stables.”

“So, I’ll see you too, Sylvie?” Serena asked.

Sylvie scratched her head. “Inés is right about our mounts,” she said. “And I’ll make it a point to visit you sometimes. If you really want to see me.”

“I do!” Serena declared. “Thank you.”

“Let’s go!” Inés declared. “I hope you can handle giving our feathered friends cover again.”

“Of course I can,” Sylvie said. “I’ve had time enough to rest. I can certainly handle things for a day and a half.”


The three had to hire a rather large boat. Certainly one big enough to comfortably carry them, Dusk, Blitz & Demure.

During the second day of their journey by boat, things took an odd turn. Out of nowhere, the sea turned violent. Black clouds came from nowhere. The waves grew rough. The three priestesses moved to console their mounts.

“Do storms often spring up out of nowhere like this?” Serena asked, practically shouting to be heard.

“No!” Sylvie cried. “Not without any warning. Not natural ones.”

“Gods preserve us!” one of the sailors shouted. the crew dropped to the deck, prostrating themselves.

Inés, Sylvie and Serena followed their gaze. An ornate chariot, emerging from the waters. Pulled by hippocampuses. Inside the chariot was a tall, regal figure. He was well over two hundred twenty centimetres tall, carrying a trident and carrying a trident in his right hand. He wore a crown of coral and had long, dark hair with a flowing beard.

“Poseidon,” Sylvie whispered.

“What could he want?” Serena asked. She hadn’t heard Sylvie, but she knew very well who she was looking at.

“Could he be mad because we killed his nephew?” Sylvie wondered, the idea bringing a chill to her spine.

“If he is then I’ll take the blame,” Inés said. She grabbed her staff.

“Do not provoke him!” Sylvie screamed.

“I won’t,” Inés agreed. “But if he does attack, you two get out of here. I’ll hold him off.”

Sylvie didn’t have time to argue the point. Poseidon, God of the oceans, rivers, seas. One of the three great Gods of Olympus, had pulled alongside them.

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Voyages of the Cerberus 103: The Zoilun City

The Cerberus’ shuttle descended towards Gauriel Prime. Lucy and Farah sat, waiting.

“Is something bothering you?” Lucy asked.

“Not really,” Farah answered.

“Is that so?” Lucy wondered. “You’ve been uneasy since I picked you up from the bridge. Could it be that you dislike me?”

“It’s not that at all!” Farah declared. “I like you and everyone else on the ship. Truly.”

“But…” Lucy pressed.

“Well,” Farah began. “It’s just… I don’t know  if I’m the best choice to help you. I mean, Kat is smarter than me. Leon is a more skilled fighter. Yuri can process things much more quickly. But you decided to bring me along.”

“They have their talents and you have yours,” Lucy said. “Right now, I need yours.”

“Oh, I see,” Farah said.

“You will,” Lucy said.  “At least when you have some time to think about it.”

“We’re at the drop off point for you two,” Leon reported. “I’m taking her down.”

“I’ll contact you when you need to pick us back up,” Lucy said. “I’m not anticipating too much trouble, but be ready to come as quickly as you can, should things go badly.”

“You can count on me,” Leon said. “Just be careful out there.”

He landed the shuttle. Lucy and Farah hastily disembarked. Farah glanced back as  the shuttle took off, heading for the hospital.

“If Mestofilius is correct, then you may have to do the bulk of the talking,” Lucy said. “Be ready.”

“Because they’ll think you suspect them?” Farah asked.

Lucy shook her head. “No. Because if someone’s trying to fuel a conflict between us and the zoiluns, then they’ll have done something to them and made us look responsible. Or we can expect them to do so shortly.”

“Oh, I get it,” Farah said. “If they’ve acted against the zoiluns already, then they may be hesitant to listen to you. But what should I say?”

“Just use your peace keeping training,” Lucy said. “The crime is the government office explosion. The people you’re questioning are potential witnesses. It’s as simple as that.”


The pair travelled underground. The path to the zoilun city was dimly lit. Farah could barely see. She glanced at Lucy, who didn’t seem bothered. Then again, Lucy also rarely opened her eyes.

The zoilun city was full of buildings that were built attached to the walls and hanging from the ceiling, connected together through an intricate system of pathways supported and elevated onto pillars. The zoiluns themselves were humanoid, but also insect-like. They had pincers, compound eyes, four legs, hardened shells and antennae.

Lucy and Farah passed several. The zoiluns regarded them with looks of curiosity, possibly even suspicion, as they scurried around.

“What do you think?” Lucy asked.

“They’re giving us space,” Farah answered. “I can’t tell whether they’re concerned about us or not, though. They don’t really have a facial structure I’m used to.”

Lucy nodded. “We’ll head to the city hub. I’ll stand back and you can go talk to a few merchants and whatnot. After you’ve done that, you can tell me if you think they’re wary of me.”


“It looks like that’s the last of the bombing victims,” the nurse stated. “Thanks for your help.”

“It’s no trouble,” Paul said. “I am a doctor, after all. Is there anything else you need help with?”

“Well, we do have a bunch of patients who had their appointments delayed by all of our doctors getting pulled for emergencies,” he answered. “They aren’t emergency cases, but it is going to take a lot of time  to get caught up.”

“Then I’ll help out,” Paul said. “I’m sure your doctors are exhausted.”

“Are you sure?” the nurse asked. “Your friends might need your help unloading supplies. I believe they’re here with the fourth load.”

“They’ll be fine,” Paul said. “I’m not exactly the most helpful with physical labour anyway.”

“If you’re sure,” he said.


“Well?” Lucy asked.

“It seems like they had an incident six days ago,” Farah answered. “Evidence suggests akumillian terrorists, but it’s pretty circumstantial and there’s a lot of argument over whether they should give your people the benefit of the doubt or not. None of them knew that there was a bombing topside, until I mentioned it.”

“Hmmmm,” Lucy muttered. “Did you find out where their incident happened?”

“The High Counsel building,” Farah answered. “About twelve kilometres north of here.”

“I knew you wouldn’t disappoint me,” Lucy said. “You are terribly charismatic, you know.”

“Am I?” Farah wondered.

“Surely you’ve noticed,” Lucy said. “Even Leon and Grace took to you quickly and they don’t like most people.”

“I don’t think that’s true,” Farah said. “I mean, they took to Yuri quickly too.”

“Yuri had advantages,” Lucy said. “She’s a mechanical marvel and she saved your lives. Come on. We’re going to the Counsel building.”

“Think we’ll find something they missed?” Farah asked. “I’m sure  they’ve gone over the evidence  pretty thoroughly.”

“I’m sure  they have,” Lucy said. “But there’s a big difference between anyone else being on the case and me being on it.”

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The Grand Pilgrimage 46: Brother Against Sister

“Inés, you don’t have to do this,” Ashley whispered. “I can win them over given time. There’s no reason for you to risk giving my brother your loyalty.”

“Maybe not,” Inés said. “But I agreed to see things through with you. If this is how you’re going to handle it, I’ll believe in you. So, go out  there and beat him down.”

Sebastian and his entourage led them to a gathering place. Several of his guards moved off. Soon, the thieves gathered, ready to enjoy the spectacle.

“Ladies, Gentlemen,” Sebastian said. “My wayward sister and I will settle our differences today. Though it pains me to do so. Leadership of our dear father’s guild rests on this match. ”

“Spare me the false pity,” Ashley said. “Let’s get this over with.”

“Of course, Sis,” Sebastian said. He tossed the scroll to Inés. “Hold on to that. I’ll want it back when this is over.”

Sebastian readied his daggers. Ashley her bagh nakh. Sebastian’s men brought ropes to create a make-shift ring. They proceeded to line it with leech stones.

“No magic to save you here,” Sebastian whispered. “Feel like giving up now?”

Ashley shook her head. “I don’t need magic to  beat you, Brother.”

He shook his head. “How sad. I always was your superior with a blade. Yet you would throw your life away so easily? Well, I tried. Let’s get this started.”

Sebastian and Ashley circled one another. Sizing one another up. Sebastian acted first, rapidly slashing at Ashley’s chest. Her bagh nakh came up in response, catching the blade between the claws. He quickly withdrew the dagger, stabbing with his second. She slashed at it, pushing it aside. She swung around, moving her other bagh nakh for his neck. He responded by diving to the ground, rolling forward and jumping up, his daggers slashing for her throat. She retreated, leaping backwards and landing nimbly on her feet.

Inés watched the whole exchange without giving any sign of emotion. She was trying to judge which one was more skilled. Trying to anticipate how things might end. The thieves around her were having varied reactions. Some were horrified, an elderly man near her in particular. Others seemed fascinating. Some had started a betting pool.

Sebastian tried to follow up on his attack, rushing forward with his daggers flashing. Ashley moved quickly, deflecting the blows with skilful twists of her bagh nakh. He lunged forward, leading with his right. Ashley moved to the side and slashed. He twisted , bringing his daggers up to defend himself. The weapons clashed and sparks flew. His dagger moved up to counter attack. Her bagh nakh moved to intercept.

The two pulled away, circling one another and breathing heavily. Sebastian acted first again. His right dagger moved forward, almost sluggishly compared to his previous moments. A feint, Inés realised. Ashley moved to block the swing. A mistake. He smirked and his left dagger slashed. She pulled back, blood dripping from the left side off her face.

“Looks like  it’s my win, Sis!” He declared.

Sebastian pressed the attack. Ashley ducked and rolled forward. One bagh nakh turning his jabs aside. The other slashed deeply across his chest. He moved back in surprise and pain. The moment of hesitation was all she needed. She lunged, her bagh nakh slashing his throat open.

He dropped. Inés hurried into the makeshift ring. Ashley’s face had been sliced open down from her forehead, across her eye and into her cheek.

“Come on,” Inés said. “We have to get you to a cleric.”

“I’ll do it,” the elderly man stepped forward. “Hurry, bring her away from the leech stones.”

“Uncle Jason,” Ashley said. Her voice was shaky.

Inés helped her over to him.

“I can’t save that eye,” Jason observed. “But I can keep you from losing more blood.” He  glanced into the ring. “Nothing I can do for him, I’m afraid.”


“Sylvie!” Serena looked frantic when she returned to the temple. “Has Inés come back?”

“I thought you two were together,” Sylvie said. “You’d better tell me why you’re worried.”


“Here,” Ashley tossed Inés a pouch of coins. “It’s everything I promised you.”

“Thank you,” Inés said. “But what about you? Can you really keep them in line?”

“With the support of my father’s friends,” Ashley answered. “Now that the truth about Sebastian has come out.” She turned away from Inés. “I’ll show you the way out.”

“Wait a moment,” Inés said. “Maybe you could give me a little tour of your chambers. After all, my friends and I aren’t leaving Malachi until tomorrow morning. We’ve got nearly a full day yet.”

Ashley’s hand moved up to her eye-patch. Her fingers moving along the scar. “You don’t have to try to make me feel better,” she said. “I know that I look terrible.”

“Believe me,” Inés said. “There’s nothing about you that looks terrible.” She moved forward and gently kissed Ashley’s forehead, right where the scar began. “It might look a little odd, to be honest. But you’re still a sexy woman. Scar, patch and all.”

“Is that so?” Ashley asked. She gave Inés a confident smile. “Just don’t expect me to to go easy on you. I’ve had plenty of time to recover my stamina.”

“Wouldn’t have it any other way,” Inés said.

“And you’d better come see me whenever you travel through here,” Ashley added.

“I look forward to seeing how your code improves things around here,” Inés said.

“Then it’s a deal,” Ashley said. “Come on, my room’s this way.” She took Inés’ hand and the two moved down the guild’s corridors together.

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Voyages of the Cerberus 102: Gauriel Prime

“There it is,” Allison said. “Gauriel Prime. Time to make some credits for delivering cargo.”

“At least it’s easy,” Farah said. “We’ve had way too much stress lately.”

“Think we’ll be caught in some weird shenanigans like a wormhole that takes us back in time?” Allison asked.

“I don’t know if that actually happens,” Kat stated.

“It does all the time in stories,” Allison said. “And then they have to stay inconspicuous until they can find a way back so that they don’t alter the time line.”

“I’d think the more advanced diseases they’d inevitably carry would alter the time line regardless of what they did,” Kat said.

“Wow, you are no fun at all,” Allison said. “I bring up a neat little hypothetical and you just go and take the piss out of it.”

“Sorry,” Kat said. She grabbed her hand held. “Leon, get ready to make the delivery. I’ll clear  the shuttle for departure in five minutes, maybe a little less.”

“Acknowledged,” Leon’s voice said.


“Strap it in carefully,” Paul instructed. “And  keep the craft very stable. There’s a lot of delicate equipment here.”

“I know,” Leon said. “I’ve been with you long enough to know how to handle medical equipment.”

“My cursory research indicates that Gauriel Prime is a heavily industrialised world,” Yuri stated. “The settlers inadvertently  drove seventeen distinct species of plant and animal to extinction before conservation laws took effect.”

“A sadly typical story for the earliest habitable worlds that were settled by more advanced species than they hosted,” Paul said. “Although Gauriel Prime is somewhat different in that it had a highly advanced species already. The Zoiluns. They were simply over-looked due to their subterranean nature.”

“Was there a conflict when the akumillian settlers discovered this other species?” Yuri asked.

“Some skirmishes,” Leon answered. “But the groups met and drafted a treaty. The groups have been at peace since.”

“It’s part of why the conservation laws were drafted,” Paul explained.  “The Zoiluns didn’t care about the settlers building on the surface since their own contact with it was limited. They were, however, understandably upset that their planet’s diversity was being compromised.”

“I do not understand,” Yuri  stated. “If they do not frequent the surface, then why does the  diversity of surface life matter to them?”

“I dunno,” Leon shrugged.

“It’s largely cultural,” Paul stated. “The Zoiluns used to have a superstition that their dead reincarnated as surface animals and they developed a deep respect for those creatures as a result. That respect persisted even when they discarded those superstitions and their interest became scientific.”

“Fascinating,” Yuri muttered. “I have noticed that some human cultural traits are tied to old superstitions as well.”

“Perhaps,” Paul said. “There are times when old ideas prove beneficial even when they’re based on superstition.”

“We’re cleared for landing at the hospital’s shuttle pad,” Leon said. “I’m going  in. Gently, I promise.”

The shuttle landed and the three began working to unload the medical supplies. Two hospital workers assisted them.

“Sorry we can’t help much,” One said. “We’re a bit under-staffed and everyone else is taking care of patients.”

“Under-staffed,” Paul asked. “Do you have many patients waiting?”

“More than we should,” he admitted.

“Then you four take care  of this,” Paul said. “I’ll render assistance.”

“You don’t…” the second worker began.

“He knows,” Leon said. “But he’ll do it any way.”

“I hate  to ask,” the first worker said. “But is he certified for akumillian medicine?”

“are  you saying that he’s not good enough to help your lousy hospital?” Leon demanded.

“Becoming agitated is not helpful,” Yuri scolded. She turned to the worker. “The Cerberus is an akumillian ship. The doctor is fully qualified to aid both humans and akumillians.”


“We’ve finished unloading the first load of cargo,” Leon reported. “Yuri and I are returning for the second batch.”

“And where is Paul?” Kat asked.

“Helping out at the hospital,” Leon said. “I guess there was an accident and they’re short-handed.”

“Figures,” Kat muttered. “All right. Let me know when you’re ready to take the second load down.”

“What’s wrong with Paul helping?” Farah asked.

“Probably regulations or some shit,” Allison said.

“It’s  not that,” Kat stated. “It’s just risky for our shuttle team to split up like that.”

“You think he’s in danger?” Farah asked.

“Probably not,” Kat answered. “But I’d prefer to know for certain.”


“We’re going to have to do a graft,” Paul said. “Get some artificial skin. I’ll get her ready.”

“Understood,” the akumillian nurse said. “I just hope we still have enough.”

“How did all these people get burned?” Paul wondered.


“Ophelia, we have an incoming message for you,” Kat reported.

“Patch it through to my quarters,” Ophelia ordered.

Her viewing screen lit up. A smiling akumillian man appeared. “Cerberus Captain,” he greeted. “We’ve heard so much about you.”

“And I know who you are,” Lucy interjected. “Mestofilius, head of Gauriel Prime’s Intelligence Agency.”

“Oh,” Mestofilius said. “And you must be Luciverianna. I see your time among humans hasn’t dulled your intelligence gathering skills.”

“Not at all,” Lucy said. “I assume you’re calling us for a job?”

“Quite right,” Mestofilius said. “There was an unfortunate incident at one of our offices recently. An explosion. Right now our people are being treated at the hospital you’re so graciously delivering supplies to. I believe your doctor has even lent his talents to mitigating the situation.”

“And you don’t know who did it,” Lucy said.

“Evidence suggests a Zoilun faction,” Mestofilius said.

“So, what is our job?” Ophelia asked.

“There’s something wrong with the evidence,” Lucy guessed.

“Very good,” Mestofilius nodded approvingly. “It’s too neat. Too… blatant. If they truly wanted to strike at us without claiming responsibility they would have almost certainly covered their tracks better.”

“So you do want us to investigate,” Ophelia said.

“Correct,” Mestofilius answered. “It’s my belief that the true perpetrators want to ignite trouble betwixt us and the Zoiluns. That’s why our offices will pay you handsomely to head into their caverns and investigate.”

“I thought they weren’t guilty,” Ophelia said.

“Yes but if someone is trying to cause a conflict they’ll also target the Zoiluns and make it look like our people are responsible,” Lucy said.

“Just so,” Mestofilius said. “Will you take the job?”

“I’ll go down with Yuri and Leon,” Lucy said. “I’d like to take Farah along as well.”

“All right,” Ophelia said. “I’ll go to the bridge with Kat and Allison.”

“I look forward to hearing your results,” Mestofilius said.


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The Grand Pilgrimage 45: The Thieves Guild

Ashley put a finger to her lips and gestured towards an alleyway. She moved close to Inés and whispered directly into her ear. “One of the entrances into the guild is through there. Stay close to me and stay quiet. There will be sentries.”

Inés nodded and winked.

Ashley took Inés’ hand and hurriedly did some gestures. Her voice was barely audible as she chanted. “Of the darkness we were born. Into the darkness we are sworn. From the darkness we will emerge. Our enemies to purge. Shadow walk.”

Inés felt a tingle as a mist swirled around the two of them. Inés watched as her feet vanished. After a very short time, she could feel Ashley’s hand, but couldn’t see anything of her.

She allowed Ashley to direct her into the alley. Inés didn’t notice the sentries until they were really close. They were hidden in the shadows. Ashley tugged her hand, hard. Inés looked in the direction she was pulling. Leech stones were set up around the entrance.

Ashley pulled her hand again.  This time in the direction of one of the sentries. Inés squeezed her hand and Ashley let her go.

Her staff slammed against the back of the woman’s head, knocking her unconscious. She turned to the second sentry. Ashley’s bagh nakh were sticking through his throat and he was coughing up blood.

The pair hurried inside. The leech stones glowed as they entered and Ashley’s spell was broken.

“This way,” Ashley whispered. “It won’t take them long to find out we’re here.”

The guild was a network of tunnels with branching paths and a confusing layout. Inés followed Ashley’s lead, knowing that she’d have a rotten time trying to find her way out without the young thief’s help.


Serena contemplated going to the city’s guard. Sure, it was a small amount of money, but she was worried that Inés might get in trouble for dealing with it herself.

Then again, the damage was already done. If she said anything, she might get Inés in trouble for sure. And how much trouble could one petty thief cause anyway?

She was passing by some guardsmen when she noticed something. They were putting up wanted posters.

“That girl!” she cried.

“You saw her?” one of the guards asked.

“Where was she?” the other demanded.

“Oh, she was back at the marketplace,” Serena answered. “Is she really dangerous?”

“One of the worst thieves in the city,” the first guard answered. “Suspected in several murders too.”

“Oh no,” Serena said. She bolted back towards the marketplace.


“The main chamber is ahead,” Ashley whispered. “We’ll have to deal with my brother’s goons.”

“Just leave it to me,” Inés stated.

“You may be strong,” Ashley said. “But I’m a bit worried that we haven’t run into anyone aside from the sentries.”

The two crept into the main chamber. There was no sign of anyone. That was when steel bars rose from the ground, trapping them.

“Sis, sis, sis,” A reproaching voice rang out. “Haven’t I always warned you not to be so complacent? Wasn’t it obvious I’d do some redecorating?”

A young man stepped forward, followed by a dozen men. Like Ashley, he had yellow eyes, dark hair and pale skin. His hair was grown long and tied into a ponytail.

Inés examined the bars. They’d been adorned with Leech Stones.

“Sebastian,” Ashley spat the name out. “You’d slaughter all your kin?”

“If I have to,” Sebastian said. “You don’t understand, little sis. Just like our father didn’t understand. Our guild needs must be strong to  survive. We can’t show mercy. Do you really think the authorities care about some ‘code of honour?’ No, they’ll chase us down and bring us in given the chance. Code or no.”

“That doesn’t matter!” Ashley declared. “The code isn’t there for the authorities. It’s there to guide us. To keep us from becoming cold. You should understand that.”

“Pretty little words, but wasted,” Sebastian said. “Our father’s staunchest followers are elsewhere at the moment. The leech stones have your void magic sealed. You and your little friend are helpless. You have two choices. Perish or fall in line.”

“Three choices,” Inés countered. She swung her staff with all her might, the bars caved outward. A second swing tore them apart.

Inés stepped out of the cage. “Okay, which of your goons wants to face my staff first?”

Several of Sebastian’s people stepped back. He drew a  pair of daggers. “Don’t panic!” he commanded. There are only two of them.”

“I’d wager mine is worth more than a dozen of yours,” Ashley said.

“Maybe,” Sebastian admitted. “But even if you can beat me, they won’t accept you as their leader. Our poor father dies  of illness and you would claim his position after being known as a traitor?” He shook his head.

“We both know he didn’t die of illness,” Ashley said. “But you are right. If I were to kill you here and now, they wouldn’t accept me.” She pointed at him. “I challenge you to a duel of succession. One on one, in front of the entire guild.”

“And what’s my incentive to take you up on that?” Sebastian asked.

“Because you stand a better chance against me than you and your little friends stand against her,” Ashley said. “And, if I get killed, she has no reason to fight you any more.”

Sebastian scratched his chin. He turned to look at his men. “Fine,” he agreed. “As much as it pains me to kill you, I’ll accept your challenge but I have another condition.” He pulled out a scroll and wrote a message. “If I lose, you get this scroll. My confession, if you will. But if I win that friend of yours swears fealty to me.”

“I can’t make her…” Ashley began.

Inés put an arm on her shoulder. “You need that to convince your guild, right?” she whispered. Then, she spoke more loudly.  “I’ll agree to the condition but if I see any of your people try to interfere, I’ll step in.”


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Voyages of the Cerberus 101: Charges

“We’ve got a long distance transmission,” Farah reported. “From an Alliance ship.” She was on the bridge with Ophelia and Lucy.

“What could they want?” Lucy wondered. “Do they know we brought down their secret weapon?”

“Only one way to be sure,” Ophelia said. “Patch it through.”

A thin moustachioed man was on the screen. “Captain Wesker?”

“You’re talking to her,” Ophelia said. “What does the Alliance want with me?”

He cleared his throat. “Consider yourself officially served. I’ve sent all relevant documents. You would be wise to peruse them.” The transmission cut.

Ophelia looked over the files. “Farah, take a break and send Kat in to cover for you.”

“Sure,” Farah said. “But what is this all about?”

“Later, Farah,” Ophelia said. “Just send her in, quickly.”


Farah went right to Engineering and recounted the events to Grace. “Do you think they know how the old Cerberus got destroyed?” Farah asked.

Grace shrugged. “Maybe.”

“You don’t seem worried,” Farah observed.

“I’m not,” Grace stated. “Even if they’re summoning us to answer for something or another, we’re technically an Akumillian ship. There’s no extradition treaty. Worst case scenario, we stay out of Alliance space. They’re just putting on airs of authority.”

“I suppose,” Farah said.

“Everyone,” Ophelia’s voice rang out. “Please come to the Conference room.”


Farah and Grace were the first to arrive. Ophelia and Lucy were in place. Kat was looking distractedly into the distance.

They waited for everyone to arrive.

“We just got a transmission from the Alliance,” Ophelia explained. “They want us to turn Kat over to them or they’re threatening to come after us.”

“Wait, this isn’t about the last mission?” Grace asked.

“It’s a power play,” Lucy said. “There’s nothing for them to use to prove that we were behind their little toy’s destruction. So, they’ll try to get a hold of Kat and they’ll put her under the latest interrogation techniques to use her against us.”

“Naturally, we won’t be doing as they ask,” Ophelia said. “But we should be on alert.”

“Hold on,” Grace said. “You said they can’t nail us on the whole mission due to the lack of proof. What exactly do they have on Kat?”

“Grace, drop it,” Paul said. “You don’t need to know.”

“Oh, that’s a surprise,” Lucy stated. “Paul, when did you find out?”

“I suspected since the first time I gave her a physical,” Paul answered.

“Wait, I’m confused,” Leon said. “What’s all this have to do with telling the Alliance to shove their demands in their collective ass?”

“Can we stay on point please?” Grace demanded.

“I think it’s fair for us to know where our troubles come from,” Allison agreed.

“It doesn’t even matter,” Leon said. “Even if we could turn her in, which we can’t, she’s one of us. We don’t abandon our own.”

“It’s the principle of the thing,” Grace insisted.

Kat sighed. “They claim to have new evidence that I murdered Scott Theris.” She sighed. “And proof that I was an enforcer for the Ze’el family.”

“Angela’s first husband?” Farah asked.

“Those Mafioso we gathered evidence to bring down?” Leon added. “They’re just  making shit up!”

“Maybe,” Kat said. “Excuse me.” She rose from her seat and left the conference room.

“All right,” Lucy said. “Let’s all get back to work. We’ve got medical supplies to deliver, you know.”


“I don’t get it,” Leon muttered. “Why didn’t she just say that the Alliance has nothing? They couldn’t, right?”

“I won’t claim to know why she said maybe,” Paul said. “Although I have my suspicions.” He clapped Leon’s shoulder. “Just keep believing in her.”


“I thought you erased her name from those records,” Ophelia said.

“I did,” Lucy stated. “Completely and irreversibly.”

“So, they are bluffing,” Ophelia said.

“Or they have a witness,” Lucy said. “Although I suspect that it’s been long enough that there aren’t many left who knew her personally and it’s been long enough that she might not be recognisable.” She sighed. “I’ll go find and talk with her.”

“I’ll get Allison and Yuri to help on the bridge,” Ophelia said.


“Kat,” Lucy said. “Are you going to let me in or do I override your lock?”

“Fine, come in,” Kat said. Lucy walked in, the door shutting behind her.

“You don’t have to be this bothered,” Lucy said.

“Don’t I?” Kat asked. “We’re going to come under fire because of my past. My colleagues… my friends… you guys could be killed. Because of me.”

“Don’t flatter yourself,” Lucy said. “You’re just the most convenient excuse. “If it wasn’t you, they’d open a case of treason against Paul or a case of negligence against Grace.”

“It’s not the same,” Kat said. “Paul and Grace are innocent.”

“Grace is,” Lucy agreed. “Technically speaking, Paul isn’t. They’d just have to air some of their own dirty secrets to press charges against him.”

“Do you think they would, for this?” Kat asked.

Lucy shrugged. “They’d probably go for Grace. They wouldn’t have to prove a case against her. They just need enough to bring her in for questioning.”

“Even so…” Kat began.

“Shush,” Lucy interrupted. “Listen to me for a moment. Your past may not be spotless. Ophelia and I knew that when we approached you. I guess Paul also managed to figure it out. You know what, that doesn’t matter. Since you came aboard you’ve been a valued member of this crew. There’s no one aboard you haven’t saved at some point. Right now, Leon, Farah, Grace, Allison and Yuri are a bit taken aback, but I’d wager good credits that all of them still care for you. Still consider you a valued friend and comrade. Right now, we’re in this mess because of our altercation with their new toy and we’ll all have to get through it together. Right now, we all need you to be strong and on top of things. You’re a smart woman, think about that for a while.”

Lucy turned and left Kat alone in her Quarters.


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The Grand Pilgrimage 44: The Thief of Malachi

The desert kingdom was vast, built around an oasis. A massive gate surrounded it.  The sentries stopped them and they were approached by a yellow-scaled reptilian feralial.

“Namess, occupationss and purpose?” He demanded.

“I’m Sylvie, these are Serena and Inés,” Sylvie answered. “Were Warrior priestesses in service to Athena and we wish to pass through on a pilgrimage.”

He looked them over. His forked tongue tasted the air. “I know that you priestessess enjoy taking matter into your own handss,” he said. “But be warned, we do not tolerate vigilantism very well. Please, report any troubless you encounter to the nearest member of the militia. If they fail to take your concernss seriously, tell them that Gabriel D’Morti, captain of the fifth division, promised you aid.”

“Do your people often ignore reports of crimes?” Inés asked.

Gabriel glared. “We are in a transition. Our empresss has instituted reformss since taking the throne. Unfortunately, not all our soldierss have been quick to respond. But it iss only a matter of time. Believe me on that.”

“Of course, of course,” Sylvie said. “Can we enter the city?”

“Certainly,” Gabriel said. He nodded to his subordinates and they allowed the priestesses and their pegasi to pass.


“All right,” Inés said. “I  think we should stay a couple days so that Sylvie can recover from using so much magic.”

“You’re only saying that because you want time to earn money to reach Drahaven by boat,” Sylvie said.

“True,” Inés admitted. “But do you really want to go through the desert, constantly using magic to try and keep us cool?”

“You did look really tired on the way here,” Serena said. “And that’s after our meeting with Mr Ryufan gave you the chance to recover.”

“And we probably won’t run into anyone else who has a handy underground shelter like that,” Inés added. “Do you really want to go through that just to prove a point?”

“Fine,” Sylvie sighed. “I’ll give you a couple days but only a couple of days.”


They found refuge for themselves and their mounts at the temple of Hermes. Sylvie stayed to rest while Serena and Inés headed for the marketplace.

“Do you have a plan to get enough money for transport?” Serena asked.

“Not particularly,”  Inés said.

“Then what are we looking for?” Serena inquired.

“I figure I’ll know  when I see it,” Inés said. she checked her pouch. “We’re about a  hundredth of the way there.”

“How much would it cost to charter a ship?” Serena asked.

“Probably three hundred coins,” Inés said.

A young woman with black hair bumped into Inés. “Sorry, Miss.” she said.

“Oh, don’t worry about it,” Inés said.

She and Serena continued on their way. “She was kind of cute,” Inés muttered.

“Did you drop your pouch?” Serena asked.

“No I…” Inés reached for it. “That girl… She’s a thief!”

“Should we tell the guards?” Serena asked.

“I’ll get it back myself,” Inés said. “Wouldn’t wanna bother them for three coins. Go back to the temple and stay with Sylvie. I’ll return when I’m finished with this.”

She ran, heading in the direction she’d seen the girl.

“Hey, she said, addressing a middle-aged merchant. “Did you see a girl around here. Dark hair, about a hundred seventy centimetres, strangely pale, yellow eyes?”

“Why are you looking for her?”  he asked.

“I thought she was cute, wanted to talk to her,” Inés answered.

“Went down the alley,” he said. “Probably don’t want to follow. Some bruisers went after her.”

“I’ll take my chances,” Inés said.

She went down the alley. After a short time, she heard the sounds of a struggle. She moved quickly.

The girl was surrounded, bloody bagh nakh strapped to her hands. One man was down, five holes in the side  of his head.

Another was holding her face, blood running down the front of it. Three more were surrounding her, swords out. They were closing in.

Inés slammed one of them in the back of her head with her staff. “Hey, ganging up is cowardly,” she said. “Back off.”

The thief took advantage of their surprise and bolted. Inés knocked the two thugs out with two quick strikes and followed.

The thief was quick on her feet and limber, moving nimbly through small spaces. But Inés managed to keep her in sight. Finally, she managed to corner her. The girl turned with her bagh nakh to face Inés.

“You know,” Inés said. “I only have three coins in that pouch. You might as well return it. And, while you’re at it, why don’t you tell me why those goons were after you. Maybe I can help.”

The girl hesitated, sizing Inés up. Then she smiled and tossed the pouch. Inés caught it without looking away from the girl.

“Smart,” Inés said. “So, what’s your name?”

“And why is a priestess so interested in a thief?” the girl asked.

“Because those three were going to kill you,” Inés said. “I doubt it was just because you’re a thief and I figure it would be a waste of a cute girl to see that happen.”

The girl smirked. “You seem more astute than I’d given you credit for, but I doubt you’ll help me when you know the story.”

“Try me,” Inés said. “At the very least, it couldn’t hurt.”

“Fine,” she said. “My name is Ashley Grameigh. My father was in charge of Malachi’s great thieves guild. Then, he took sick and died. At least, that’s what we were led to believe. I discovered the truth. He’d been poisoned.”

“Someone wanted his position,” Inés observed.

“Precisely,” Ashley said. “My elder brother. When I found out, he accused me of being a traitor and now, his people are out to deal with me. You should stay out of it. There are a lot of them.”

“Then why are you sticking around and picking pockets?” Inés asked.

“I need money,” Ashley answered. “I’m going to get enough to hire some mercenaries, break through my brother’s goons, reveal the truth and take over the guild for myself.”

“You aren’t going to run away?”

“I refuse!” Ashley declared. “I won’t let the guild my father worked so hard to build fall to my brother’s dishonour. I won’t let its legacy be tarnished.”

“Tarnished how?” Inés asked.

“Believe it or not, my father was an honourable thief,” Ashley said. “Under his leadership, the guild only took from those with excess. Under my brother, they’ll steal the last coin from a dying old woman. They’ve truly become scum!”

“I see,” Inés said. “And how much did you need for mercenaries?”

Ashley scoffed. “Unless you’re hiding a lot more, you can’t help.”

“No, I can’t,” Inés said. “But I could help you  for, say three hundred. You can pay  me after we deal with your brother.”

“After  we…” Ashley was incredulous. “Are you suggesting that the two of us handle it alone?”

“Pretty much,” Inés said. She winked at Ashley. “Don’t worry, I’m stronger than I look.”

“You can’t be that strong,” Ashley stated.

“I killed Scotius,” Inés said. “Although you might not know who he is.”

“Scot… the right wanker who was a son of Zeus?” Ashley asked.

“Oh, good,” Inés said. “You’ve heard of him.”

“Is that really true?” Ashley asked. “You really beat a half-God?”

“Absolutely,”  Inés reassured her. “Just tell me the plan and put yourself in my hands.”

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Voyages of the Cerberus 100: The New Cerberus

Leon, Paul and Kat were waiting when Farah and Grace arrived.

“Get everything you needed?” Grace asked.

“It should be enough,” Paul said. “Although we aren’t as well stocked as I would prefer.”

“Engineering stuff is the same way,” Grace said. “I’ll feel a lot better when we have more backup supplies.”

“Can’t be helped,” Kat said. “We had a lot to replace.”

“It’s not like we even need stethoscopes or wrenches in triplicate,” Allison added.

“When did you get here?” Grace asked.

“Twenty seven years and some months ago,” Allison answered. “That’s when everything got better for the universe.”

“We did not intend to approach stealthily,” Yuri said. “I apologise if we startled you.”

“I wasn’t startled,” Grace said.

“Were the stores okay with you guys taking the babies in?” Allison asked, reaching over to pet the Baron.

“They didn’t complain,” Grace said.

“We had a couple clerks comment that they were better behaved than small children,” Farah added.

“And cuter,” Grace said.

“One nice old guy even had treats,” Farah said.

“Well, they are super cute,” Allison said. “Hey, Kat, did you get anything good to eat?”

“Staples and rations,” Kat answered. “We  probably won’t have a well stocked pantry until after our first mission in the new ship.”

“Great,” Allison muttered. “I love the taste of peanuts and cardboard that all rations seem to share.”

“Isn’t it nice to see you blabbing away again,” Grace stated. “And here I was hoping you might be becoming quiet.”

Allison grinned and winked. “Never fear, that won’t happen. And you know you love it. After all, you wouldn’t have anyone to snipe at if I went all  quiet and wouldn’t that be dull?”

They heard a loud clap behind them and turned. Lucy and Ophelia were approaching.

“Everyone, thank you for your hard work in preparing everything,” Ophelia said. “I really appreciate it. Lucy and I spoke with our bureaucratic contact and we got the new ship. Follow us, please.”

The group quickly followed Ophelia and Lucy. There were whispers as they moved around various ships, speculations as to which one they were going to board. Finally, Ophelia and Lucy stopped.

“Here it is,” Ophelia said. “The Cerberus Mark II. It’s the same ship type, but two models newer.”

“We figured that would give Grace less upgrading to do,” Lucy joked.

“More like I’ll have new and exciting bugs to work around,” Grace said.

“But how?” Farah asked. “didn’t you guys say that we should expect a smaller, less advanced ship?”

“Was the job’s payment better than we anticipated?” Kat wondered.

Ophelia and Lucy glanced at one another.

“Not quite,” Ophelia answered. “We just found a way to make some extra credits.”

“You didn’t sell Elijah’s stash, did you?” Allison asked.

“Of course not,” Lucy said.

“Actually,” Paul said. “Akumillians don’t have the physiology for that to be viable. For them, taking in the smoke of those plants would have no physical or physiological benefits.”

“In any case,” Ophelia continued. “This ship will be our new home. It’s a bit bigger. But the bridge is a lot more compact. Personal quarters, medical and engineering are all given more space.”

“What, did they figure out a ship that three people can pilot didn’t need a huge bridge?” Allison asked.

“Something like that.” Lucy answered. “We have the same number of Quarters as before. So do be so good as to keep your current rooming situations. Although if Yuri wants her own quarters and Farah decides to room with Grace, we won’t complain.”

Farah looked to Grace, her face flushing. “I… I don’t think I’m ready,” she stammered.

“Fair enough,” Ophelia said.

“Yeah,” Allison stated. “After all, not everybody can become a couple and immediately start rooming together like Paul and Leon did.”

“Hey, we knew each other for, like, two years before we started sharing a room,” Leon protested.

“And you were romantically involved for all of two weeks at that point,” Grace said.

“We do have one more surprise for all of you,” Ophelia said. “Follow us on board.”

She moved to the console and hurriedly opened the Bay doors. The crew went inside. Four fighters and a shuttle were waiting.

“Seriously, what  illegal and immoral things have you made us accomplices to?” Allison asked. “How did you afford all of these?”

“It would help ease our minds to know,” Paul stated.

Ophelia shrugged. “We sold the schematics to that flying fortress.”

“Oh. is that all,” Leon said.

“Was that  prudent?” Paul wondered. “They’ll build weapons of their own based on it.”

“No, they’ll build better,” Lucy said. “Plus develop some counter-measures.”

“Does that bother you?” Ophelia asked.

Paul nodded. “I worry that there’ll be a major arms race and a lot of people will be consumed by it.”

“And what would happen if there wasn’t a race?” Lucy questioned. “Would the side with superior weapons just leave the other in peace?”

“Hate to disagree with you M,love,” Leon said. “But Lucy’s right. If the Alliance has a measurable superior arsenal, they’ll steam-roll Akumil. They sure as hell didn’t build that thing to give piggyback rides to orphans.”

“Wow, Leon,” Allison said. “That was a really awkward turn of phrase.”

“That aside,” Ophelia said. “We do have a new mission. Something nice, simple and peaceful. we’re going to fly to the independent colony on Gauriel Prime and deliver some medical supplies.”

“We thought it would be a good mission to get used to the peculiarities of the Mark II,” Lucy added. “It’ll also give Grace a chance  to tinker with everything.”

“Sounds good to me,” Grace said. “Let’s go.”

“Wait,” Ophelia said. “Before we do I have to ask, does anyone want out? I mean, we were almost killed and I’d hate to drag you all along without giving you the chance to air your grievances.”

There was silence for a time. “Seems like we’re all still good,” Allison said. “Come on guys. To adventure and glory!”

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The Grand Pilgrimage 43: Inés’ Curiosity

“Hey,” Inés said. She was sitting with Michael. “How many draconians survived?”

“I am the only one,” Michael answered.

“Then how did you know about that shelter?” Inés asked. “You couldn’t have been that old when they died.”

“I was not even hatched yet,” Michael stated. “I knew about the shelter as I know everything else about my people. We have a collective memory.”

“I’m sorry, what?” Inés asked.

Michael sighed. “As we are developing within our eggs, the knowledge and experiences of the prior generations are transmitted to us. After we hatch, those memories activate. We are temporarily immobilised as our brains  process the information. After that, we become fully cognisant of everything our species knows. Everything they have ever known.”

Inés whistled. “Sure beats reading dusty old books.” She glanced at him. “So, why were you at the Academy? If you know everything that your fellows knew, then you should have known spells too, right?”

“There is a disconnect between knowing the theory of how something works, be it a spell or a combat technique and being able to competently execute it,” Michael said. “It is true that I  knew how the spells I needed worked, in theory. It was, however, necessary for me to train my body to utilise that knowledge properly. Just as  I am now doing with combat manoeuvres.”

Inés laughed. “Wow, I did not expect you to  be this forward with me. I thought for sure you’d give me the run around by now.”

“You are bound to keep anything I share with you to yourself. Ergo, it is safe for me to answer your questions” Michael explained.

“Safe, huh?” Inés muttered. “Then tell me, what did happen to the draconians? Popular story says Apollo wiped them out, but your survival kind of ruins that. Plus, I kind of have trouble accepting the idea that the Gods are cruel enough to wipe out an entire species. Adults, children, ba… eggs.”

“It was, indeed, no immortal that slew my people,” Michael said. “But I will not make the error of telling you who did. Does that sate your curiosity?”

“Not quite,” Inés said. “I have two more questions. One, why would it be  a mistake to tell me? And two, how did a mortal wipe out an entire species?”

Michael didn’t hesitate. “It would be an error because you would take it upon yourself to see the culprit punished. As to how, it was less difficult than you may imagine. My  people were highly pacifistic. We also practised stringent population control. As to never have a higher populace than we could properly sustain. If that is all…”

“Wait a moment!” Inés demanded. “What would be wrong with me punishing the culprit? You do want justice, don’t you?”

Michael gazed out at the horizon. Inés waited to hear his answer, becoming more and more aware of the uncomfortable heat. She was starting to wonder if he was going to say anything when he started speaking again. His voice was quiet, thoughtful.

“It was against the draconians that his crimes were committed. It is by a draconian that they should be avenged. Besides, it is not justice I seek. It is vengeance.” His fist clenched. “His life, I will take. Everything he has built, I will disassemble. I will completely and utterly end him.”

“If you fail?”

“Then Illyana will reveal the truth,” Michael answered. He spread his wings. “Fare thee well. It is unlikely that  we  will meet again.” Before Inés could speak further, he was soaring.


She returned to the shelter shortly after. Serena was brushing Dusk. Sylvie had laid her bedroll out on top of one of the beds and was sleeping  peacefully.

“H…” Serena glanced back at Sylvie. “How did it go,” she whispered.

“I won,” Inés said, keeping her voice low.

“Just like you thought, then,” Serena whispered.

“Not quite,” Inés stated. “He was better than I thought. It was actually an enjoyable match.”

“Oh, that’s good,” Serena said. “Will he be back soon?”

Inés shook her head. “He had to continue his own journey.” She glanced over at Sylvie. “Hey, let me teach you how to build a little shrine to ask for the safety of a wanderer.”

She and Serena gathered some materials and Inés rummaged through her bag for some incense. They lit it.

“And now,” Inés instructed. “We ask Athena to guide and safeguard him. So that he might complete his task and return safely.”

While Serena prayed, Inés watched the smoke. “May you find what you seek,” she muttered.

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