The Last Draconian 83: Trapped in the Palace

First Chapter

Previous Chapter

Lynai Elfblood

Callie and I didn’t have any problems reaching the palace. Being carried in her arms wasn’t a bad feeling. I felt safe and secure, even though I knew we were very much in hostile territory.

Maybe that’s what it means to be in love? Having a sense of security even in a bad situation. I didn’t have time to dwell on that, though. Because we were going into a dangerous situation and we both needed to stay alert.

I looked around for any sign of Michael and the others. It was taking them a long time. Then again, they had to go through the alleys. So, it would naturally take them somewhat longer, right?

“Lyn, there!” Callie’s whisper was harsh and earnest. I followed her gesture. A young looking troll guard seemed to be looking directly at us. He bolted and hurried inside the palace.

“Damn,” I muttered. “We can’t let him raise the alarm.”

Callie and I dropped to the ground and hurried after him. I readied an arrow. Luckily for us, he wasn’t making much noise.

He was running up the steps into the throne room when we got inside. I fired. My arrow went right through his throat and he went down.

“Nice shot,” Callie whispered.

“Thanks,” I whispered back. “Let’s grab the body and get out of here before anyone else notices and we lose the element of surprise.”

We moved forward carefully, silently, not wanting to alert however many guards were around.

We had almost reached the body when a loud thump came from behind. We turned The door had been sealed by a massive root coming up through the ground.

“Princess, it’s been a long time.” The voice came from the throne room. I was starting to shake. I knew that voice far too well. Larick.

Callie and I turned towards him. He was sitting in the throne casually, with a stave in his right hand. He had an intent gaze fixed on us.

“I hadn’t intended to slay your entire family,” he continued. “But I suppose your little brother can carry the line, assuming the trolls storming Het Wald don’t end him.”

“You won’t lay a hand on her!” Callie cried. She leapt forward faster than my eyes could follow, only to be stopped in her tracks by a magic circle.

“I took precautions against your ilk, Vampire,” Larick said. “Now, Goron’s Gaze!” He snapped his fingers and Callie was changed into stone in the blink of an eye.

“Callie!” I cried.

“Your vampire lives, you know,” Larick said. “Although she won’t for long in that state.” He rose from the throne and raised two fingers. “She’ll revert should I choose to break the spell or should I perish. Unfortunately for you, I plan on leaving her like this. Now tell me, coddled Princess, will you fight for her life or squeeze your way out and save yourself? You know you can’t defeat me, I trust. And I can promise you, Princess, you’re three other friends will not arrive in time to make any difference on the outcome.”

I quickly notched several arrows and fired. Larick gestured and vines came down from the ceiling, swatting them away.

“Very well then,” Larick stated. “The die is cast. Let our fated duel commence.”

I couldn’t suppress a shiver. He’d been prepared for Callie and me. He’d even fixed things so she wouldn’t be able to help me. There was no way he didn’t have a plan to beat me. Still, I had to fight. Not just because of what he’d done to my family, to my people but because Callie’s life was on the line.

I’d be damned if I let him take her away from me too. I reached for another couple arrows.

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Voyages of the Cerberus 196: Flanking

“So, how do we handle this?” Bridget wondered. “Do we rush them, try to sneak around them and take them from behind, what?”

“I don’t think we can sneak up on them,” Ophelia said. “They’ve seen us and we don’t have stealth suits. Yuri?”

“I do not see a viable method for a sneak attack,” Yuri agreed.

“That’s what I thought,” Ophelia stated. “Our best chance is to take cover here and fire when we see them try to move in. It wouldn’t be a great position in a real battle, but it’s pretty viable here.”

“Why wouldn’t it work in a normal battle?” Bridget wondered.

“Because they’d toss a bunch of plasma grenades our way,” Ophelia answered. “But in this game the worst we can expect is a smoke grenade. But I don’t think they’ll use one.”

“It would make our escape far more viable,” Yuri said, answering Bridget’s question before she could ask it.

“Yuri, I want you to pay attention to what’s behind us,” Ophelia said. “The other two in their unit could be sneaking up from behind.”

“They could also be out of the game,” Bridget suggested.

“I know,” Ophelia said. “But we have to assume the worst case scenario.”

They waited, looking for any sign of their opponents moving. “What are they up to?” Bridget wondered.

“They’re either waiting for us to move, or waiting for their comrades to flank us,” Ophelia said.

They waited for nearly an hour, neither side making a move. They both waited.

“So, how do we break the stale mate if we’re both waiting?” Bridget wondered.

“Under ordinary circumstances you would both call for reinforcements,” Yuri stated. “Adapting to the circumstances with an unusual tactic is also an option.”

“An unusual tactic, huh?” Ophelia muttered. “In this environment, and with this equipment, I don’t know if that’s an option. Reinforcements though…” She grabbed her hand held.

“Farah, we’re pinned right now. We need you to come in carefully and start firing at them from behind. Don’t worry about accuracy, just fire rapidly. We want them to think there’s more than one person back there.”

“Give me as much detail as you can,” Farah said. “I’m on my way.”

Ophelia gave her the numbers and a rough description of where the enemy was in the forest.

“Yuri, how long will it take her?” Ophelia asked.

“Assuming she left the base when she said she was on the way, she will be in range of the enemy in approximately six minutes and twenty two seconds.”

Ophelia nodded. “When she’s about a minute away, start firing. Don’t get in the open, we just want to draw their attention.”

“Acknowledged,” Yuri stated.

“Bridget, once she starts follow her lead,” Ophelia said. “Once Farah has their attention, the three of us move in. If we’re lucky, we should be able to finish their group without much trouble.”

It didn’t take long for Farah to arrive. She played her part perfectly, standing back and firing at the other group quickly.

Yuri led the charge, taking the front while Bridget and Ophelia followed. Their opponents weren’t prepared to fight on two sides and two went down quickly.

The remaining two stood their ground, sensing that they wouldn’t be able to escape. The third went down. The fourth fired at the approaching trio, her careful shot managed to hit just before she went down.

“Yuri, are you okay?” Ophelia asked.

“My systems are undamaged,” Yuri stated. “I am fully insulated against that level of stun bolt. However, I believe the rules require me to return to the ship. I apologise. It seems that I will be unable to help you detect the stealth unit.”

“It’s fine,” Ophelia sighed. “We’ll figure something out.”

Yuri nodded and headed off.

“Down to half strength already,” Ophelia muttered. “That’s not good at all.”

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The Last Draconian 82: Larick’s Trap

Previous Chapter

Joseph watched as his soldiers, led by Selene, made their way forward. The elves were falling back to the main city.

“Selene!” he cried out. “Follow them closely, but let them retreat.”

“I know,” she said. “You’re thinking we can use them to get close to the gates so that the tree dwelling scum can’t fire a bunch of areas or big spells, right?”

Joseph nodded. The first step was to establish their position. The second step was to actually go in.

“Then let me organise the assault, if you don’t mind, Highness,” Selene said.

“Of course,” Joseph agreed. “My apologies for interrupting.”

He wanted to step forward and lead the troops personally. But he couldn’t. He had sworn to stay back. And Larick had been right. He was no longer a soldier, General or otherwise.

He leaned back and watched. He would trust Selene.

*****

Michael Ryufan

The trip through the tunnels was surprisingly uneventful. We found a spot to set up camp, ate and slept in shifts. There was no action taken against us.

I fully expected that to change when we arrived at Relna itself, or neared its border.

Callie arranged for a carriage driven by a ghoul to take us close. Callie waved the driver back after we had exited and we continued on our path.

The border itself did not appear secure. We crossed into Relna without incident. Callie and Lynai were having a pleasant chat, all things considered. Tynan and Gabriel were also speaking, albeit more quietly.

It was unnerving. It had all been far too simple. The ease of our incursion into hostile territory seemed to confirm my hypothesis. We were walking into a trap.

I was not concerned for my companions. I had seen enough death in my long memories to be detached from such irrelevant emotions. However, I needed to survive this situation in order to avenge my people. It would also be helpful to present a living Lynai to her people.

We continued our approach through the night and into the next morning.

“The capital is about twenty kilometres ahead,” Tynan stated.

“We shouldn’t try to get there in one burst,” Callie said.

Lynai nodded. “We’ll set up camp off of the road and continue when night falls.”

It was the correct decision. We would have the best chance at sneaking into the capital under cover of night. Furthermore, Callie would be at her optimal fighting strength.

Once again, we slept in shifts. I did not sleep properly when it came my turn to leave the watch. I was anticipating some movement from the city. I expected the Magi to strike when we became somewhat vulnerable.

The attack did not come.

That night, we began moving again. We were relatively silent, although none of us expected that to do us much good. Not against an adversary with Apollo’s gift.

In spite of that, we managed to get right outside of the capital without incident.

“The palace is near the centre,” Tynan whispered.

Lynai nodded. “I’m surprised we’ve gotten this close without any problems, to be honest,” she said. “So, how do we approach?”

“They’ll have archers set up in the towers,” Gabriel pointed out. “I wouldn’t suggest flying.” His gaze went directly to me.

“I could get to the rooftops with one other person,” Callie said. “And I’m confident we wouldn’t be seen. But getting up there with all of you is out of the question.”

“Then we split up,” Tynan stated. “Gabe and I will lead Michael there through the alleys. You two can go from above.”

“Is that prudent?” I questioned. “Remember, our opponent has Apollo’s gift. He may be relying on us dividing our forces.”

“He could have just as easily foreseen us going as a group,” Gabriel pointed out. “And we’ll be less noticeable in smaller teams.”

Lynai appeared to be deep in thought. “I don’t think we can let what he may have seen determine what we do,” she said. “I’ve met Larick. He’s a careful, very guarded man. If he’s got a trap waiting for us, it’ll be one that’ll work no matter which way we approach. I say we split up, for now. If you find yourself in trouble, fall back to Strecner as fast as you can. We’ll do the same. Good luck, all of you.”

Callie lifted Lynai with ease. “Then let’s go,” she said. She carried Lynai up to the nearest roof with ease.

“This way,” Tynan beckoned.

We went through the dimly lit back alleys as silently as we could manage. We were making good time and nearing the palace when metal gates slammed across the alley’s egresses. Troll soldiers approached from both sides. I looked up, there were more waiting on the roof, looking down.

I counted twenty six in total. Tynan grabbed his battle axe. Gabriel and I drew our swords. We were caught. Our only chance of escape was to fight our way out. A very slim chance indeed.

Next Chapter

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Voyages of the Cerberus 195: Encounter with the Stealth Unit

Ophelia and Bridget got through their sleeping shift without any problems. Ophelia had shifted a little bit and her arm had ended up wrapped around Bridget’s stomach.

The two women stretched. “Farah, you’re up,” Ophelia said. “Yuri, take over monitoring for her.”

“Acknowledged,” Yuri stated.

“Bridget, did you sleep okay?” Ophelia asked.

“Not really,” Bridget answered.

“Because of the arm thing?” Ophelia asked.

“No, that was fine,” Bridget said. “It was just the excitement.”

“I see,” Ophelia said. “Truth be told, we’ve all been doing this so long I kind of forgot just how much the anticipation can get to a newbie.”

“Sorry,” Bridget said.

“No need to apologise,” Ophelia said. “Truth be told, that exuberance is refreshing. But if you’re really tired you can try sleeping again. Yuri and I can handle things.”

“No, thank you,” Bridget said. “I’ll be fine.”

*****

Farah was three quarters of the way through her four hour sleeping shift when Bridget nudged her awake.

“What’s wrong?” Farah asked. She looked over at the computer they were using. Yuri was focused on the screen and Ophelia was looking over her shoulder.

“We’ve got something,” Ophelia said, not actually looking over.

Farah hurriedly rose and joined them.

“It is an attempted remote access,” Yuri stated. “If you can interfere with their signal, I can take the hand held and track them.”

“All right,” Farah said. They switched spots quickly. “Whoever’s trying to access this data is good. I don’t know how long I can keep them out.”

“I will only need a couple of minutes,” Yuri stated. “Ten at most.”

“Bridget, we’re going with her,” Ophelia said. “Stay close to me and be very careful.”

“Got it!” Bridget declared. She seemed excited by the prospect of going in.

The trio exited the base and Yuri wasted no time in following the signal from her hand held.

She eventually stopped in the middle of the woods, gesturing for Ophelia and Bridget to be careful going forward.

Ophelia nodded, reaching an arm out to stop Bridget. They moved carefully and as silently as they could manage.

Yuri took them up to a small clearing that looked to be empty.

“There,” Yuri stated, pointing. Ophelia glanced over, seeing nothing but she fired her laser pistol any way. It hit a solid mark. A Rizand officer in a stealth suit came into view, twitching on the ground.

“There are more!” Yuri cried out. “They are retreating.” The trio began firing.

Ophelia knew she was shooting randomly. She was confident that Bridget was too. Yuri was taking greater care and managed to hit a second member of the stealth team. Her eyes darted as she tried to locate another.

“I do not believe we will hit another at this juncture,” Yuri stated. “They have escaped.”

“How did you even see them?” Bridget wondered.

“My visual acuity is superior to a human’s by a significant margin,” Yuri answered. “I was able to pick up on the minor distortion their stealth suits cause.”

“Then we need to figure out a way for the rest of us to do that,” Ophelia said. “Otherwise, we aren’t going to stand much chance against the stealth unit.”

“I will attempt to find a method to compensate for your limitations,” Yuri said. “Once we are safely back at the base.”

“If anyone else had said that, I’d think they were being arrogant,” Ophelia said. “But I know you’re just stating the facts.”

Yuri’s head cocked to the side. “Get down!” she demanded, pulling Ophelia and Bridget to the ground. Stun bolts flew over their heads.

“It appears we have attracted attention,” Yuri stated.

Ophelia looked into the woods. There appeared to be four of them.

“It is the unit that was pursuing Lucy,” Yuri stated.

“And they’re between us and the base,” Ophelia muttered. “Guess we’ve got to bring them down.”

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Plans For This Year

This year, I thought I’d do something a bit different and start out by talking about where we’re going with the stories and such.

So, let’s start with a story I completed: Grand Pilgrimage. With this one, I’ve actually started editing it, nothing major just some minor changes that I think make it hold together better or explain things a bit better.

I’ve also changed the title. A co-worker pointed out that “Grand Pilgrimage” sounds like the title of a religious story to a native English speaker. So, the new title is tentatively Athena’s Wellspring.

I plan to publish it properly on certain outlets like Amazon once I’ve finished going through everything. I may also commission one of the many talented artists out there to do some “cover” art for the store page. Right now, I’ve edited up to the point where they’ve gotten their pegasi and they’re arriving at Wolfgang’s Inn.

For Voyages of the Cerberus, right now I have a couple more ideas for scenarios for the crew to go through. But I may very well end up putting it on Hiatus again and giving you more case files for Detective Hildegard Elizabeta Müller. I may also trade off between the two, giving a VoC scenario, then a case file. Since I do enjoy the detective working supernatural cases with her witch girlfriend.

The Last Draconian should be finished this year. We’re drawing towards a close for the Larick plot line pretty soon and there are other events to unravel, but I doubt it’s a year’s worth. And I do plan on editing and properly publishing that after it’s complete as well. After that, I do have another fantasy story idea I’d like to write. All I’ll say in advance is that it’s going to be more than a little gay. You know, like every story I’ve written on here.

My final big plan for this year is to write monthly short stories and post them on one Sunday or Saturday every month. They might be further Omicron Squad stories or they might be stand alone stories. I’ve even thought about tying them into the reviews I write and basically posting fan fiction based around how I think a particular work would have been improved, but I decided against that. At most, I might make something original that’s the same genre but it won’t be actually using established characters or anything like that.

So, those are the basic, broad strokes plans for the year. If there are any questions or ideas you all would like to see me do, leave a comment. If I get enough questions I’ll take some time and put them into a post. Otherwise, I’ll just answer them individually. And a big thank you to everyone who supported me last year and those who are supporting me this year. I appreciate you all.

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The Last Draconian 81: Into the Tunnels

Previous Chapter

Lynai Elfblood

“Here you are, Dears!” Heidi declared, handing me a large covered basket. “I’ve made you all a nice, nutritious lunch for your journey.”

“Thank you,” I said. “We appreciate it.” I looked over at Tynan. “Are you going to be okay?”

“I’m fine,” Tynan answered. “Nothing’s broken and the bleeding’s stopped.”

“In that case, we can move on,” I said, feeling relieved that everybody was okay.

“We do not have much choice either way,” Michael stated. “If we do not leave swiftly, there is a great chance reinforcements will arrive.”

I knew he was just reminding me of the stakes but it still rubbed me the wrong way. I chose to ignore it, not wanting to start a fight. I turned to our hosts. “Thank you again, for everything.”

“Take care,” Wolfgang said.

“Come see us again on your way home,” Heidi added. We waved goodbye and moved into the tunnel.

*****

Larick helped Joseph with his preparations. His plans required that the new king be well on his way before the threat arrived.

“Be well, Highness,” he said, bowing. “And be mindful of your vow.”

Joseph nodded and rode for the battle lines. Larick felt a great sense of relief.

Soon, they would come. Two would engage him in combat personally. He already knew how it would end. It was all decided. Secure in his knowledge, he felt a great sense of calm.

He returned to the throne room. He had a few more tasks to complete before the fated encounter.

*****

Michael Ryufan

The tunnel was rather cramped, barely large enough for two of us to walk side by side. It also lacked height. I would not be able to take flight if anything troublesome happened.

The whole situation with Larick was disconcerting. He had Apollo’s gift quite strongly and yet he had taken insufficient measures to deal with our small group. There was also no sign that he had taken measures to block our escape.

I considered the possibility that the strength of his foresight had waned However, it was more probable that he had factored in our victory over his sentries and had prepared a more substantial threat.

Perhaps he would allow us to enter the capital, entrap us and surround us with a contingent of soldiers. It was possible that they were waiting outside of the tunnel itself to blast us all with magic. I would have to be vigilant about always having an escape route planned.

One thing I was certain of, he had not betrayed his people without a plan. Every action we knew of that he had performed had been very deliberate.

If I could decipher what it was all leading to, I could find a way to counter his purpose.

The biggest difficulty in predicting the motive’s of one such as him was that he could gaze into possible futures, find the one he wanted and then take the actions necessary to construct it. We could not view those futures. We simply had to try and predict the likely outcome of his actions.

The secondary difficulty was that we did not know the full extent of what he had done. As such, we were trying to predict his purpose with incomplete information.

“Michael?” I glanced forward at Lynai. She seemed concerned.

“Is there something you require?” I inquired.

“You looked a little out of it,” she stated. “Are you feeling okay?”

“I am well,” I answered. “I was simply thinking. That is all.”

“Well, let me know if there’s anything you want to talk about,” she said.

“I will do so,” I promised. Her concern was puzzling.

Had I not caused her great distress not long ago?

Whatever her motives were, they were irrelevant. If I could not solve the purpose behind Larick’s actions, I was confident that she could not either. There was also the possibility that, should I solve it, it would be to my benefit to not disclose that knowledge to my temporary companions.

Next Chapter

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Voyages of the Cerberus 194: Lucy Returns to the Cerberus

Yuri returned safely to the group. “Where’s Lucy?” Ophelia asked.

“She believed that I was a more important player in the team than her so she stayed behind to buy me time.” Yuri answered. “I do not know if she will be returning. I do not believe her chances are favourable.”

Ophelia sighed. “That’s very like her. She either takes games like this way too seriously or takes the first opportunity to get out of them.”

“I do not know if both of us could have escaped given the circumstances,” Yuri stated.

“Perhaps not,” Ophelia said. “Either way, the four of us are at a disadvantage. The stealth team probably has all their members still.”

“Does it really matter?” Bridget asked. “Even if they beat us, we just go back to the ship and go about our business, right?”

“In the long term, it doesn’t matter,” Ophelia said. “You’re right about that. But as professionals, we have to take the game seriously and try to win. Not because it’s worth more money if we do, but because we took a job. And our job is to do our utmost to win.”

“It would be unseemly to simply surrender,” Yuri agreed.

“You guys are amazing!” Bridget declared. “I wouldn’t have even thought of that.”

“Well, you came here to learn about this life,” Ophelia said, patting Bridget on the back. “Consider this an important lesson.”

“We do have two big advantages,” Farah said. “The first is, if we’re right, their team has to come to us. As long as I can catch them in the act when they do, that’ll give us a chance at them. The second is Yuri’s advanced reflexes.”

“True,” Ophelia said. “We just have to hope that we don’t get attacked by any other teams while we wait.”

“We should consider establishing a sleep schedule,” Yuri stated. “If it takes as long as anticipated, you three will require rest.”

“You have a point,” Ophelia said. “Bridget, try to take a nap. We’ll wake you in four hours or the moment we have some trouble. Whichever comes first. After that, Farah can sleep. Then I will.”

“It may be advisable for you and Bridget to sleep at the same time,” Yuri suggested. “The longer we are left waiting, the higher probability an attack becomes.”

“She has a point,” Farah agreed. “And we can wake two of you as easily as one.”

“All right,” Ophelia agreed. “Come on, Bridget. We’ll have a nap back to back. Just don’t try to snuggle me in your sleep. My wife would be furious.”

“I won’t,” Bridget said. “I’ve been told I keep very still in my sleep.”

“That’s good,” Ophelia said. “I’m not sure whether I do or not. Either Lucy or I does.”

“Should I stop you if you start moving?” Yuri asked.

“Don’t worry about it,” Ophelia said. “I wasn’t being serious any way.”

*****

Lucy returned to the ship. She was feeling quite a bit better after picking herself up and walking it off.

She opened up the Cerberus and slipped inside. The first thing she noticed was a swinging sound. Her yellow eyes opened slightly. Kat was swinging a sword around in the hangar.

“Do I even want to know?” Lucy asked.

Kat jumped, dropping the blade. “You’re out too?”

“That much is obvious,” Lucy stated. “But the reason behind what you’re doing isn’t.”

Kat picked up the shamshir and sighed. “The pacifican leader of that group we destroyed challenged me to a duel. I had to accept to keep him from breaking into the Cerberus and causing a bunch of trouble here.”

Lucy scratched her head. “I suppose taking off and dropping any of them who managed to hang on wasn’t an option?”

“Not if we wanted to be there for you guys. You know as well as I do that they would have either given chase or waited for us.”

“Our weapons might be better,” Lucy said. “So, what’s your plan to win this duel?”

“Grace is going to help me cheat,” Kat answered. “And I’m practising to give myself more of an advantage.”

“Then I’ll grab one for myself and help you practice,” Lucy said. “I promise not to hurt you, much.”

“Gee, that’s comforting,” Kat stated, rolling her eyes.

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The Last Draconian 80: Larick’s Prediction

Previous Chapter

Larick approached the throne. “Your majesty, I would speak with you.”

Joseph eyed him, suspicion filling his eyes. “What are you plotting now, Magi?”

“You wound me, Highness,” Larick said. “But I will give you the facts. The future is about to be decided. The war is approaching its turning point.”

“And what is going to happen exactly?” Joseph asked, leaning close.

“I will tell you in private,” Larick said, glancing at the guards.

“Very well,” Joseph said. “Guards, stand outside. I will speak with my advisor in private.”

The guards bowed and left the throne room. Larick watched them go and turned back to Joseph. “There are two possible futures,” he said, holding up two fingers. “The first is that your advancing army will break through into Het Wald and bring you victory.”

“A most desirable outcome,” Joseph stated.

“Indeed,” Larick said. “The second option is that a small unit will breach our defences, slaying those who guard the throne and forcing our surrender.”

“And what is your advice exactly?” Joseph asked. “Do we withdraw some of our soldiers?”

“It will do no good,” Larick said. “My advice is simple. You, Oh mighty King, will ride to the back of the battle line. From there, you will either oversee our victory or be in a position to negotiate with the Royal One should we be defeated.”

“Would I not serve Relna better safeguarding my throne?” Joseph questioned. “And will I not be in grave danger should I go?”

Larick sighed. “With all due respect, Majesty, if I fall defending the throne, then there will be little your presence could have accomplished. Your being here in that contingency will simply place you in fatal danger. I can also promise you that you will not perish, should you remain in the rear. I warn you, however, no matter how tempting it may be do not advance or participate in the battle.” He grabbed Joseph by the shoulders. “Vow to me right now that you will not enter the battle.”

Joseph thought for a moment. He was having trouble trusting the Magi after what had happened to the former king. But still, he seemed so earnest. “Very well,” Joseph conceded. “I will do as you ask. You have my word.”

Larick relaxed. “Then all will be well.”

*****

Lynai Elfblood

I spent that morning looking after Callie. I kept the Inn room dark, using only a couple candles for light and took my meals inside.

There were a few times I wondered if I was being overly clingy but she had been hurt pretty badly and there would be plenty of time for us to have time apart when we were both healthy.

I’m not sure when it happened, but I did fall asleep at one point. I dreamt of my father and brothers. We were all together hunting boar. It was a pleasant diversion.

I woke up with Callie stroking my hair. “Shhh,” she whispered. At first I didn’t know why she was being so soothing. Then I noticed the tears in my eyes. I hurriedly brushed them away.

“Bad dream?” she asked.

I shook my head. “It was actually a great dream. It’s just…”

“Your family?” Somehow, she was always in tune with what I was thinking.

I nodded. “I saw them all, alive and happy. I guess it just made me realise…”

I couldn’t finish the thought. Callie hugged me tightly. “We’ll find him and we’ll make him pay for what he’s done.”

“For sure,” I said. I looked her over as well as I could in the dimly lit room. “Are you feeling better?”

“Much,” she answered. “Thank you for looking after me.”

“Well, you’d have done the same for me,” I said. “We’ll be leaving when the sun goes down. So, try to get some rest before then.”

I moved to the window and glanced out for just a moment. We probably had an hour or two of daylight left.

I shut the window and covered it back up.

Callie hugged me from behind. “I’m not really tired any more,” she whispered, blowing gently on my ear. “But I can think of something I’d like to do to relax. If it’s okay by you.”

“You still need to recover,” I stated, trying to stay firm.

“Perhaps,” Callie said, pulling away from me. “But we are going into a hazardous situation and I’d rather risk my life without any real regrets.”

I thought about it for a moment. It was true that I wanted to make love to her. Just the thought of it was more than a little arousing. “If we both survive,” I said “I’ll lie with you as carnally as you like. So, make sure you don’t die on me.”

“You sure know how to give a girl a strong incentive,” she said. “All right. I’ll go back to sleep. You should probably get some as well, since we’ll be travelling all night.” She pat the bed beside her.

I laid down next to her, took her hand in mine and drifted back off into sleep.

Next Chapter

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Voyages of the Cerberus 193: Lucy in a Pinch

“It appears to be an opposing unit,” Yuri whispered. The pair observed from the complex’s security monitor as the group entered the complex.

“That’s bad for us,” Lucy stated. “We’re outnumbered three to one. Do you think we can sneak out another way?”

“I have seen no indication that these complexes possess secondary exits,” Yuri said. “It is probable that we will be forced to fight our way out.”

Lucy sighed. “Normally, I’d trust in your mechanical strength in that regard. But if you get hit, you’re out according to the rules. Even if it’s something you could easily shrug off under any normal circumstance.”

“Then what do you suggest?” Yuri queried.

Lucy glanced at the approaching unit. “You stay hidden here. I’ll draw their attention. I want you to use that opening to escape. Head back to Ophelia and the others. I’ll give these guys the run around and join you later. Or I’ll get hit and be out of the match.

“Would you not stand a better chance at remaining hidden and escape due to your diminutive stature?” Yuri argued. “Should I not be the decoy?”

Lucy shook her head. “You’re a stronger player for our team than I am. You escape first. Consider it an order.”

Lucy moved into the corridor, deliberately kicking some stones and making some noise as she went. The opposing unit rushed over, and began opening fire as she fled deeper inside.

They pursued, as expected. Lucy just hoped that Yuri could return to the others safely.

*****

Grace wouldn’t admit it, but she was having a great time. Tinkering with the Cerberus and her systems was great, but modifying old, primitive tools to incorporate modern technology was a real joy.

The real challenge was getting the work done without making it obvious. The pacificans would definitely do some research into human swords and they would know roughly what to expect from their appearance.

She briefly considered the ethics of deliberately sabotaging one of the parties in a one on one duel. Was it right to go to these lengths?

“Bugger that,” she muttered, dismissing the thought. Ultimately, what mattered was that Kat was her friend and she’d do whatever was necessary to protect her friends.

*****

Kat took a practice swing. She’d never used a sword before and her movements were stiff and clunky.

She’d expected it to be simpler. All the holo vids she’d seen with swordplay had made it look so simple. They moved forward and easily moved from one swing to the next. They even moved easily from attacking to defending.

She wondered how long they practiced their choreography to be able to move like that.

Difficult or not, she had to be able to do it and she had to do it competently. Her opponent wasn’t going to go easy on her and he was undoubtedly going to try to severely injure or even kill her.

Why had she even mentioned swords as an option? Why hadn’t she just said duels were fought with pistols? She knew how to use a pistol and she knew how to do it very well.

But that was all a matter of hindsight and it was too late to change things now. She gave the sword some more swings.

She just had to get in plenty of practice and be at her best for the actual event.

*****

Lucy was running out of complex, rapidly. She ducked into a storage room and readied her pistol. If she was lucky, they wouldn’t have seen her and she could get past them.

She waited silently as they approached. They stopped outside of the door.

Lucy cursed and prepared herself. The door was kicked down and the unit entered, opening fire.

She shot back, scrambling behind crates. One of their unit went down.

They split into two, moving around to flank her. She continued firing. Another fell. That was when she was hit in the chest. The stun bolts were more painful than she’d expected.

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The Last Draconian 79: Respite at the Inns

Previous Chapter

Michael Ryufan

Interference from the lupine feralials was unexpected. Irrational as well. If the trolls had been more alert and their rearguard had been quicker to respond, we would not have achieved victory and they would have fallen with us.

More accurately, they would have fallen with Lynai, Gabriel, Tynan and Callie. I am confident that I could have escaped after creating some confusion.

“Thank you for coming to our rescue again,” Lynai said. “Things looked a little tricky before you showed up.”

“Don’t worry about a thing, Dear,” the female wolf answered.

“We just saw it as a chance to get them away from our home,” the male added. “They’ve been causing all sorts of problems. Even threatened our family if we didn’t cooperate. What were you doing fighting them anyway?”

“We needed to get through,” Lynai explained. “We’re on our way to Relna to try and end the war. Callie said the Inn had a tunnel we could use.” She glanced nervously at the vampire. “Will she be okay?”

“She’ll recover,” the female said. “Don’t you worry. Those vampires can recover pretty well. So long as they have fresh blood, that is.”

“This is the friend you had me take the draconian to, isn’t it?” the male asked. He turned to me. “You all right now?”

“I have recovered,” I answered.

“That’s good then,” he said.

“You all should rest hear until tomorrow night,” the female suggested. “Give her and your bull friend a chance to rest a bit.” She turned her attention to the lizard. “I’m Heidi Esarosa and my mate is Wolfgang. You and your companion are?”

“I’m Gabriel and that’s Tynan,” Gabriel said, shaking her hand.

“Is it prudent to wait for an entire day?” I questioned. “Their superiors will certainly find out something is amiss.”

“I shouldn’t worry about that,” Heidi stated. “They check in every eight hours and they just checked in thirty minutes before you started your fight.”

“Plus it takes a full day to get here from Relna,”Gabriel pointed out. “We’ll be gone before their reinforcements arrive.”

“What will you two do?” Lynai asked. There was a peculiar amount of concern in her voice.

“We’ll burn the bodies and tell them we heard the sounds of fighting and saw an elf and her companions flee,” Wolfgang answered. “It’s not even a lie.”

“Don’t worry, we won’t tell them about the tunnel,” Heidi said. “Now come along. We’ll find you some rooms and I’ll bring you all a nice meal.”

“We’ll take four rooms, then,” Lynai said. She began reaching for her coin pouch.

“Three rooms,” Gabriel said. “I’ll look after Tynan.”

“I won’t hear of it,” Heidi said, waving her hand. “Trust us, you’ve already done plenty getting rid of those horrid soldiers.”

“But there’ll be another unit coming back,” Lynai said. “let us pay the room fee.”

“Consider it paid by the trolls,” Wolfgang said. “Trust me, I won’t burn anything valuable while I’m taking care of the bodies.”

“You heard him,” Heidi said. “I’ll be back with your meal shortly.”

*****

Michael Ryufan

“So, you two were both at Wicadia’s Academy as children?” Aiko asked.

We had adjourned to the Inn and were engaged

“That is correct,” I confirmed.

“Is that why you two got to be such good friends?” Aiko continued with her queries.

“It is certainly a factor,” I stated. “However, I was largely drawn to Illyana as a companion because it was my belief that she would not discover I am a draconian.”

“He was wrong,” Illyana said. “I figured it all out pretty easily.”

“I will know not to under-estimate you in the future,” I said.

“So, Michael, what’s her fiance like?” Aiko asked. “Everything she tells me makes her sound like a totally flawless paragon of all things bright and noble.”

“Sylvie Fortunio is a very disciplined, strict type of person,” I answered. She does not have the time or patience for socialising with most people. Illyana has ever been an exception. When we were studying with the priestesses in training, Sylvie doted on her. Some might even say to excess.”

“It wasn’t like that,” Illyana protested. “We just hit it off is all.”

“Why do you suppose she got so close with Illy?” Aiko wondered.

“Given what I observed of Sylvie, there are two possibilities,” I stated. “The first is that she viewed Illyana as vulnerable and took it upon herself to look out for her. The second is that she saw Illyana’s familial bond with the Academy’s headmistress and decided that befriending her would be a source of prestige. In either case, her fondness was amplified until it reached a point of romantic interest.”

“Sylvie wouldn’t use someone for their status!” Illyana protested.

“I do not know her as intimately as you, so I will take your word for it,” I conceded.

“Well, guess we know what it was then,” Aiko laughed.

“At least I am not the only one who under-estimated her,” I joked. I glanced at the door. “It is getting late. We should all retire.”

“We can stay up a bit later,” Aiko said. “We don’t have a match tomorrow.”

“No, but we do have to get some training in,” I stated. “We will attempt that combined attack you thought up.”

“All right,” Aiko sighed. “Good night.”

“And pleasant dreams to both of you,” I said, excusing myself.

Next Chapter

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