[Writing] Emily - Chapter 6 (5th Nov 2019)

Started by Tapewolf, August 27, 2019, 08:51:04 AM

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It's about time for a new story.  Most of the characters here will be new, since it was written to exercise a new character.
I have the plot outlined, and future sections are half-written so we're probably looking at about 3 or 4 chapters.  (EDIT: six!)

This is another adventuring story, so it will contain violence.  Chronologically, I thought it might be interesting to try something new, so rather than true medieval (Heads You Lose) or future-retro (The Bounty Project), I'm aiming for a Victorian/Steampunk theme.  We shall see if that was a good idea or not.

Thanks to Sofox for proof-reading!

Chapter 1

"Dibs on 'er platemail," the bandit said, forcing the snow leopard into a kneeling position as his colleague as his colleague held her down with a boot on her back.
Emily Stormhunter closed her eyes and gritted her teeth as they grabbed her long red hair, and moments later the sword struck home.  It should have decapitated her.

"A demon!" the bandit gasped, appalled.

"Don't be daft," the other replied.  "What'd a demon need all that fancy armour for?!  It's a protection ward.  Hand it over, miss... there's more painful deaths than beheading.  An' for a treasure like that... we might even turn you loose!  Minus your armour."

Emily sighed.  "It is on my left wrist," she said dully.  "It cost a fortune, but money is worth nothing if you are dead."

"True, that," the bandit grinned, removing her captive's gauntlet, and exposing a small wristband with a gold plate.  Inlaid on this was a flattened gem that glowed faintly with mystic energies.

"Cor," he said, slipping it on his wrist.  He took a moment to admire it, before turning to his companion.  "Let's check it works!"

The other bandit drew his sword.  Moments later his friend's head plopped onto the ground, a look of terminal shock in his eyes.  The surviving bandit spun around angrily, but Emily was faster.  The ropes binding her hands had snapped and hung loosely at her wrists.

"You were right," she grinned toothily, slapping an arm on his back.  "I am a demon.  That little bauble just tells me the time."  Her smile faded into one of regret.  "But alas, I have to ensure my little secret is kept unknown.  I am terribly sorry..."  She snapped his neck with clinical precision, and relieved the headless bandit of the device.

* * *

Sandy gestured to the others, giving point.  She was a lean red setter, wearing a dark, tight leather outfit that helped her blend into the shadows while scouting.  Evans came next, a white horse in platemail.  Beside him was Samson, a buff cheetah hybrid, with a remarkably low provision of spots.  He was dressed in brown adventuring leathers and steel paldrons, a katana strapped to his back.

"We should be getting close now," Sandy hissed.

"When I catch up with her, I shall have strong words for our paladin," Samson growled, and strode towards the clearing.  As he did so, the floor caved in, causing the cheetah to drop several feet into a pit that had clearly been freshly-dug.  Before he or the others could react, the bandits were upon them.  Sandy went down next, the red setter tackled and pinned to the ground by her assailant.  Evans the stallion was grabbed by the hair, a dagger at his throat.  When Samson looked up, two crossbows were aimed at his head.

"I recognise 'em," the moose said.  "They took Charlie.  Strung him up in the square!"

"Cut their throats!" the weasel sneered.  "I wanna see some blood!"

"Glad to oblige," Emily said, and her broadsword flashed out.  The weasel gaped in horror as the moose's head was lopped off, his body crumpling to the ground in a fountain of blood.

"Stormy!" Evans yelled.  "Where in damnation have you been?!"

"Shut it," the lizard snarled, giving him a warning poke in the neck for his pains.

The two archers covering Samson glanced around at the sound of commotion, and the cheetah took advantage, grabbing the man's leg and pulling him into the pit too.  The remaining archer quickly snapped back to the pit, but was unable to fire with his comrade blocking the shot.  As she peered into the gloom, there was a snap and a bolt materialised in her forehead.  She gurgled and tumbled into the pit as well.  Samson knocked out the survivor and relieved them both of their weapons.

Emily stood in front of the weasel and the two surviving bandits, her sword still wet from the moose's beheading.  Evans and Sandy were still held hostage.   The weasel snarled and leapt at the armoured snow-leopard, shortsword drawn and aimed at her throat.  Emily sighed and batted him away in mid-leap.  She only used one hand, but the force was enough to snap the weasel's neck, and he fell lifeless to the ground, a look of shock on his dead face.
The horse and dog gaped in astonishment and disbelief and one of the bandits fled, abandoning Sandy.  But the lizard holding Evans doubled down.

"Keep away!" he yelled.  "Get back... or your friend dies!"

"Just let him go," Emily cajoled.  "You are outnumbered.  Release him, and I shall let you walk away."

"If he dies," Sandy added, brandishing the weasel's sword, "We do not have to kill you quickly."  Emily glowered at her.

Samson marched towards them, crossbow in hand.  The lizard panicked and slashed at the stallion's throat.  Samson fired and the bandit went down with a bolt in his chest.  He screamed in pain, but it was quickly cut off as Samson finished him off with a katana.

Emily grimmaced slightly as she knelt to examine Evans, who sat there, clutching his bloodied throat.

"How is Evans?" Sandy asked anxiously.  "Can we aid him?"

"Do not fret, it is not so bad," Emily said, and her hand glowed, sealing the cut.  "It was just a warning stroke, I fancy... He is merely in shock.  He shall be fine, I am sure of it."

Samson came over shortly and began cleaning his sword.  "Two of the villains got away," he announced.  "I have buried the rest, and bagged their heads.  It was a good haul...  Too bad about the survivors, we should have had a fine bonus for bringing in a live bandit."

"Would they really have strung him up?"  Emily asked, concerned.  "I did not think they did that here."

"Usually it is death by the guillotine," Sandy said.  "But that is not our concern.  If the Thane wanted to make an example of 'Charlie' or whoever it was, what is that to us?  Mayhap the guillotine was out of service..."

"I want to be sure they are treated humanely," Emily said.  "Even criminals deserve some compassion."

"So, we spare them having their head chopped off in the forest, only to take them back to town... to get their head chopped off." Samson said, rolling his eyes.

"That is what adventuring is about," Evans said, sitting up.

"But at least the guillotine is quick," Emily yawned.  "Anyway, can we make camp?  I could use a rest after all that excitement, and we can take the heads back to town tomorrow."

* * *

"It is clear that she is not a Being," Evans said, glancing at the red-haired snow leopard with malice and fear.  "Reflexes and strength like that are not natural, especially for a lady!"

"Indeed," Samson said.  "This 'Emily Stormhunter', or whatever her real name is... she is assuredly a Demon!  It is only a matter of time before she kills us all!"

"Her service record is most examplary," Sandy protested.

"Exactly!" Evans growled.  "It is too good.  And too long!  She is biding her time... toying with us, until one day we shall wake up eaten!"

"I say we should end it now," Samson said, drawing his katana.  "One little chop, and it's all over...  She need never wake up."

"Do not be a fool, Samson!"  Sandy snapped urgently. "What if she is actually a succubus?!  She may be feigning sleep, and reading your thoughts right now!  She could gut you like a fish the moment you got close, and it would be self-defence!  She would be within her rights to do that!"

"What rights?  She is a monster!"

"Look!  You cannot just go around lopping your guildmates' heads off!  And what if you are wrong?  What if she is just a regular Being with a load of expensive enchantments?!  You would be hanged in the square as a warning to all!"

Samson hesitated, and sheathed his blade, but his hand did not leave the hilt.

"You seem remarkably concerned for the wellbeing of a Demon," he remarked, eyes narrowing.  "Is there something you are not telling us...?"

"No.  But if there was, you are hardly encouraging me to reveal it," Sandy snarled.  "Listen... we do not even know that she is a Demon.  But if she is, she seems quite content to kill bandits and other blackguards rather than innocents, and I wish to keep things that way.  I would have her fighting on my side, not fighting against me."


"No!  You shall wake her!  She has saved our lives back there... If you want her to stop saving yours, then by all means proceed with this folly!"

"Sandy is right," Evans said reluctantly, gazing at the sleeping figure of the snow leopard, curled up in her armour.  "I do not like it, but if Emily has taken the oath and you kill her... We shall end up executing you!
Yes, if she does go bad, I shall gladly aid you in taking her down.  But she has to make the first move."

"If it makes you happier, I shall sit watch tonight," Sandy said.  "Both for bandits, and for... her."

"Thanks," Samson said.  "I appreciate that.  And listen... if she does get you in the night, we shall avenge you."

"And if she did, whose fault would that be?"  Sandy said.  "If I had good reason to suspect my friends had gone mad and were plotting to kill me behind my back, I might try to make the first move."

Emily stirred, muttered something incomprehensible about cheese, and rolled over.  The other three adventurers watched nervously, and continued in low voices.

"I do think we should be honest about this," Sandy sighed.  "Approach her directly."

"She is a powder keg waiting to go off," Samson said.  "As long as she does not know, we should be safe.  Confronting her... if she finds out we have guessed her secret, that could be the match that makes her explode."

"If we keep on muttering like this, she will wake up for sure," Evans pointed out.  "I say we get to bed, and hope we are all still here in the morning."

* * *

Emily yawned and sat up.  Evans was kneeling close to her with an anxious expresssion.

"How are you feeling, Stormy...?" he asked.

"Great, thanks!  Though I did have this strange dream... I dreamed that you were arguing about whether to kill me."  She smiled toothily.  "At least, I hope it was a dream.  I should hate to think I was in with a bunch of backstabbing traitors!"

"Yes, we were," Sandy put in angrily, hands on her hips.  Samson and Evans stared at her, appalled.

"Emily deserves the truth," Sandy continued, glowering at them.

"Well, thanks for being honest, at least," the leopard sighed. "I hope you grow out of this childish folly soon... adventuring groups are built on trust, and without that, people die.  I can take care of myself, so it is more likely to be one of you."

"You must surely admit that your record is... unusual for a Being." Samson said cautiously.

The snow leopard put her hands on her hips with a clang.  "Do you think our commander failed to do a background check on me?" she asked, rolling her eyes.  "Anyway, let us get some food.  I am famished!"

Samson watched cautiously as Emily and Sandy unpacked their provisions.  As he did, Evans laid a hand on his shoulder.  "Emily does have a point," he said quietly, "We should check with the commander before we attempt anything rash."

"Assuming she lets us get home alive, that is," Samson retorted grimly.

J.P. Morris, Chief Engineer DMFA Radio Project * IT-HE * D-T-E


I really like the opening with the watch enchantment. That's a good trick! Emily's great, and I'm looking forward to reading more of her!


Quote from: Merlin on August 28, 2019, 03:13:57 AM
I really like the opening with the watch enchantment. That's a good trick! Emily's great, and I'm looking forward to reading more of her!

Thanks!  I'll try to get the next chapter up in about 2 weeks, but we'll see how things go.

J.P. Morris, Chief Engineer DMFA Radio Project * IT-HE * D-T-E


Nice trick, yes.

I'd say it takes some serious paranoia to want to kill someone who hasn't harmed any innocents that you know of based on a suspicion that they might want to kill you later. Some people are like that, but they're dangerously insane.
~~ Gabi a.k.a. Gliynn Starseed, APF ~~
Thanks to Silver for the yappities, and to everyone for being so great!
(12:28:12) llearch: Gabi is equal-opportunity friendly

Aurum Lupus

Love it! I can't wait to read the next chapter.
Sincerely Aurum Lupus


Quote from: Aurum Lupus on September 05, 2019, 04:18:03 PM
Love it! I can't wait to read the next chapter.

Thanks.  The next chapter is being proof-read at the moment, and chapter 3 is about halfway done.  Looks like my earlier estimate was off and we might be looking at 5-6 chapters, we'll see.

J.P. Morris, Chief Engineer DMFA Radio Project * IT-HE * D-T-E


Sweet! What time does this story take place in relation to your other stories?

Aurum Lupus

Quote from: Jonah21 on September 06, 2019, 09:49:59 PM
Sweet! What time does this story take place in relation to your other stories?
I would like to know too.
Sincerely Aurum Lupus


Quote from: Jonah21 on September 06, 2019, 09:49:59 PM
Sweet! What time does this story take place in relation to your other stories?

I thought it would be fun to do something set before DMFA, but after the medieval era ones.  I was playing a DarkMod mission recently and decided that Victoriana might make a nice change.

One of the family heirlooms I've somehow ended up with is a historical fiction piece by Ainsworth written in the 1840s, so I've been using that as a guide for the language.  This is particularly evident in the next chapter.
You may notice that Emily occasionally drops the cant and contracts words as she's from a demon city where they talk in a more modern dialect.  This usually happens when she's under pressure.

Interestingly, while "Tower of London" (1841) drops most of the contractions, Ainsworth does occasionally use "dont" and "wont".  Dracula (1897) uses "I'm" "She's" etc, which Ainsworth does not.

J.P. Morris, Chief Engineer DMFA Radio Project * IT-HE * D-T-E


No feedback from my proof-reader, so I'm assuming it's all good. 

Chapter 2

"Tell me, Stormy," Evans asked, as they ate.  "What is your opinion of Demons?  Have you had many run-ins with them?"

"I have worked with them in the past," Emily shrugged.  "They can be fine fellows, if they are not too bloodthirsty."

"You willingly worked with monsters?"  Samson said, raising an eyebrow.  "I thought you were going to tell us how many such fiends you have slain!"

"The question was, 'What is my opinion of them?'" Emily corrected him.  "And I think they can be fine fellows, but it does depend on the Demon.
Some Demons are fellows of quality, others be villains and murderers.  I have even met a demon who is squeamish."

"Really!" Evans said, with a particularly equine snort.

"Forsooth.  But since you ask, I have vanquished Demons in the field, and executed the death penalty upon several more in various towns and cities.
Yet in spite, I should not think to tar all Demons as monsters, any more than I should say all Beings are free from sin.  Beings... Demons... Succubi... Gryphons... They are just people... every one is different."

"Demons are not people!" Samson replied vehemently.

Emily stopped eating and grinned crazily at the cheetah.  "Ohh!  So that is what ails you?  You are prejudiced and worried I that may be a Demon?"

"In truth you have done extraordinary things yesterday eve," Evans admitted.  "It has made some of us nervous.  Incubi and succubi often pretend to be Beings, so that they can get close to their prey and devour their souls."

"Poppycock and balderdash," Emily scoffed, taking a large bite out of her rations.  "If you were scared of being decapitated just because you happened to have wings, you would hide them too, I guarantee it.
Listen, I have lived in a Demon city for a while," Emily said.  "Aagar.  I have worked alongside Beings and Creatures.  You have seen me cast spells, that should not be a surprise.
People are people... if someone commits a capital crime, I lop their head off.  What race they are does not factor into it."


"Look," Emily sighed, "If a Creature wishes to pretend to be a Being, or a Being wishes to pretend to be a Creature, that is their own business and I for one would not seek to pry into it.  If you feel that you must, I suggest you ask our Commander when we get back."

"Race matters very much," Evans said.  "The law depends on it.  A Being killing a Being is murder.  A Being killing a Demon is self-defence."

"That depends entirely on the jurisdiction," Emily said.  "Some of the heads I chopped off in Aagar were Beings who lived by that code.  Those poor fools... still, I made their deaths as painless as I could.
Consider.  You are so keen to talk about how Beings get rights and Demons should not," Emily said, pointing at the bloodied sack of bandit heads.  "But what of them?  They were Beings... and they are now very dead."

"That is different," Samson said.  "They were but bandits".

"Does banditry mean someone is no longer a Being?" Emily asked innocently.

"No, but it does mean they are outlaws!  Outlaws are outside the law, by definition - and they forfeit the protections and rights that those laws grant!  It is part of the social contract.  If you break it, then you must suffer the consequences.  Even if that means losing your head.  Not only that, but King Vargaz has offered a substantial bonus for ridding the province of such villains!  That is why we are out here, instead of our usual territory."

"Perhaps, but even bandits... They are still people," Emily said sadly.  "Just using them for target practice, it just does not seem... right to me."

"Maybe she is not a Demon," Evans murmured to Samson.  "They are not known for their bleeding hearts, especially not over a handful of failed criminals..."
"Or maybe that is merely what she wants you to think," Samson replied.

"I heard that," Emily said.  Evans looked away guiltily.

Emily sighed, and looked from the horse to the cheetah.  Sandy had edged away and was trying her best to ignore the proceedings.

"Mayhap we should confront the matter head on," Emily proposed.  "Lest it continue to gnaw at us and jeopardise our mission."

"Very well," Samson agreed.

"And for the sake of argument, let us suppose that I am a demon."  Evans looked nervous.  Emily rolled her eyes.

"Very well.. Let us start over.  Suppose I was a Gryphon, or a Phoenix?  They are Creatures too, yet Beings get along with them.  Would you still be fearful of me then?"

"No.  But that is because Gryphons and Phoenixes tend not to go on killing sprees so much," Evans pointed out.

"You say that as if Beings are immune to it," Emily said.  "Demons, especially berserk ones, are respectably rare.  Furthermore, observe that it is mostly Beings we are doing justice upon."

"Yes, but-"

"And what of that fellow in Andovia, who ran amok with the infinity crossbow?"  Emily persisted.  "Or the ice-blast killer?  None of those were Creatures!  Clearly Beings are just as capable of going on a rampage as a Demon is."

"And where do you sit, Emily?" Evans asked.  "Are you for or against demonkind?"

"Neither.  Demon creed is flawed, full of petty foolishness and glorifying violence.  Yet Beings have much to gain from an alliance with Demons, and for them to reject it outright is foolhardy."

"'THEM!'"  Samson moaned, reaching for his sword.  "It is true!  She is a Creature... a Demon!"

Emily sank her face into a gauntleted hand for a moment, and then her expression hardened.

"Whatever I may be, Samson, must I remind you I have taken the Guild's oath?  If you take leave of your senses and murder me in some needless racist fit, you will face the wrath of the guild, and they shall not be merciful."

"Aye, but with your horned head held before them, it will be proof that you falsely and maliciously infiltrated-"

"Not all demons have horns," Emily said softly.  Samson blinked.

"You would surely have found out eventually," she sighed.  "But I had hoped it would take longer..."

"So you admit it!" Evans said, appalled.  "Why do you hide your wings?  Why deceive us by this pretence that you are a Being?"

"Why, for the same reason that 'Cubi do it," Emily said.  "In sooth, my wings would scare innocent people, much as the very thought of them upsets you now.
"We are adventurers pledged to serve the greater good - how can we do this, when we are at each other's throats, or you are fretting constantly that I may may rip your heads off and eat them or suchlike?
How can I devote myself to my duty, when I also have to watch that I am not murdered in my sleep by my supposed allies?"
"Yet, if I pose as a Being, none will even suspect to the contrary, and things go so much more smoothly."

"You are a succubus?!" Samson shrieked, appalled.  His sword flashed out, but so did Emily's arm.  Samson screamed with pain as his wrist bent the wrong way with a horrible popping sound.

"You... you have broken my wrist!" he wailed.  "You shall pay for this villainy!"

"I have saved your life," Emily said peevishly.  "Show some gratitude.  If you had killed me, you should be getting a broken neck, with the entire guild watching their erstwhile companion pay for his infamy."

"Now what are we to do?!" Evans snarled.  "Laying aside whose blame this was, we now have a maimed comrade, and should we bring him back to base like this, disrepute shall fall on all of our heads!"

"Bring him to me," Emily said, examining Samson's dropped katana closely, and twirling it in her hand.

"No!" Evans yelped.  "This must not be!  Emily... Think on what you have just said yourself!  You can not do this!"

The snow leopard laughed, and the sword vanished in a flash of magical light.  "Peace, Evans!  Think you that I was about to end his suffering?!" she chuckled, "Fret not!  I shall restore Samson's sword to him later, after he has promised to behave himself.  Now bring him hence, and I shall attend to his wrist."

"No... Don't let her..." Samson moaned.  Evans reluctantly forced his injured comrade towards the waiting snow leopard.

Emily's gauntlet glowed yellow as she laid a hand upon the afflicted limb.  Gently she stroked his arm, gradually working her way towards the break.  Her other hand steadied him as she clamped it firmly around his wrist.  A minute later, Samson was flexing his wrist, astonished.

"It shall be stiff for a few days," she advised.  "I should go easy on it, just to be careful.  But that is better than it being broken!"

"How did you do that?" the cheetah demanded.  "That was no normal healing spell!"

"Alas, as we have now established, I am a powerful magical creature," Emily reminded him.  "Thus, I can cast powerful healing spells, too.  I may not need them for myself much, but they are most useful in the field.
And to answer your earlier question, no.  I am not a succubus.  My sister is, and my father is 'Cubi.  And this may be why my attitudes are a little eccentric for a Demon.
"I would have told you eventually," she added, "But I wanted to observe you first, to determine the best way to reveal my secret."

"I will own that you do not act like a Demon," Evans admitted.  "But why should a Demon think to help Beings at all?" he added, suspiciously.

"Why, for the very reason a pet cat brings you dead animals," Emily smiled.  "Because they think you too helpless to fend for yourself."

"And what happens now?" Evans asked, hand on the hilt of his sword, as he watched Emily cautiously.  "Do you mean to kill us all for uncovering your dark secret?"

"In truth, I did kill the last person who realised," Emily admitted.  "But he was also an enemy.  So long as we aren't enemies, all is well and good.  And if I meant you ill, I should have started with the injured Samson."

"Fine words," Evans said, drawing his longsword.  "But I no longer believe you, Demon.  Now, perhaps you can spare us a few more words... truthful this time!"

"I truly thought we were getting past this idiocy," Emily sighed, exasperated.  "What ails you now?  What more do you wish to be told?"

"Only this," Evans said, entering a fighting stance.  "Explain why I should let you live, now that you have murdered Sandy."

J.P. Morris, Chief Engineer DMFA Radio Project * IT-HE * D-T-E

Aurum Lupus

Sincerely Aurum Lupus



I am really, really enjoying the victorian-era speech patterns everybody has. It flows really well!


Quote from: Tapewolf on September 10, 2019, 04:21:30 AM
"And what of that fellow in Andovia, who ran amok with the infinity crossbow?"  Emily persisted.  "Or the ice-blast killer?  None of those were Creatures!  Clearly Beings are just as capable of going on a rampage as a Demon is."

please tell me when we adapt this as a comic I can make this a furry Iolo

he hit me in the back with the triple crossbow too many times for it be accidental


Quote from: Merlin on September 11, 2019, 04:37:03 AM
please tell me when we adapt this as a comic I can make this a furry Iolo
he hit me in the back with the triple crossbow too many times for it be accidental

He is good at doing that, yes...

J.P. Morris, Chief Engineer DMFA Radio Project * IT-HE * D-T-E



Chapter 3

Emily stared at Evans as if the horse was insane.

"Sandy?  Murdered...?  What fresh madness is this?!" she demanded.

Evans pointed at a pool of blood, and the snow leopard knelt to inspect it.

"You did this!" Samson snarled, brandishing a sword that they had looted from one of the bandits.  His right hand was still unsteady, but his left made up for the injury.  He brought the blade down onto Emily's neck, but it failed to go through.

"CEASE THIS TOMFOOLISHNESS!" Emily roared, pushing him over.

"Dash it all, Samson... Are you so tired of life that you would risk the short drop?"  Emily asked, rubbing the back of her neck.  "Doing murder upon your comrades is a fine mess all round.  You might kill me, but our commander will kill you too, slowly and most publicly.  Nobody will win then, least of all you... and the fact that you shall die a long, painful death is of no comfort to me whatsoever."

"Then tell us what you have done with Sandy!" Evans demanded.

"Nothing!"  Emily insisted.  "Of all of you, she is the most tolerant, the one who defended me in your arguing.  She is the one I had planned to tell first!  Why should I harm her?"

"Then what evil have you wrought upon her, Demon?!"

"I don't expect you to love me as a Demon, but grant me at least the courtesy afforded to a fellow guild member!" Emily snapped.  "You have been watching me the whole time!  No...  I find it more likely that she was taken by bandits, while the rest of us were distracted with my assuaging your foolish fears.  There is not a fatal amount of blood here... and we do not know for certain it is even hers!  And look, tracks!  Nay, she has been captured, I am sure of it."

"Emily is right," Samson conceded reluctantly.  "We are not thinking this through.  Sandy may yet live.  And if it indeed be bandits, a share of blame falls upon us too."

"Come," Emily said.  "We must rescue her."

"And if she's dead...?"

"Then her killers shall learn why it is best to keep Demons on your side," Emily grinned evilly.

"How shall we do this?"  Evans asked.

"I think it best we split up once we have sighted their base," Samson said.  "Normally we should have Sandy reconnoitre such a place, but since her rescue is our objective we shall have to make do as best we can.  Apart, we are like to make less noise than three warriors together, and we shall cover more ground in our search that way."

*  *  *

Emily wore a look of deep satisfaction as she cleaned the blood from her longsword and armour.  Three decapitated bandits lay at her feet, and she quickly secreted their heads in a nearby bush.
"I shall be back for you later," she told them.

As her back was turned, she caught a rustling sound behind her and spun around, sword at the ready.  A Lap was scrabbling at a tree, trying desperately to climb into it.  Glancing back he saw Emily watching him and let out a wail of terror.  Emily seized the deerlike creature's long tail and pulled him back down.

"Now I have you, caitiff!" she exclaimed triumphantly, seizing one of his long ears and raising her sword as if to strike off his head.

"Spare me!" the Lap begged pathetically.  "I surrender!"

"Hmm... I think I might," Emily said, sheathing her sword.  "Tell all, not least where the captives are held, and mayhap you shall live to see the morrow..."

"Emily, what in damnation are you doing...?" Evans snapped, stomping towards them and staring at the bandit with a look of distaste.  "Samson has found where Sandy is like to be kept and wishes our aid, so cease playing with your food, and finish it!"  He raised his sword and aimed at the bandit's neck.

"NO!" the snow leopard hissed, and pushed him over with a clang.

The stallion rolled and picked himself up, teeth bared.  "Emily, I trust you have a convincing explanation for this!" he snarled.  "You know the penalty for going rogue..."

"My, if knocking someone over counts as going rogue, what will they do to those who plot to murder their comrades in their sleep?"  Emily smiled sweetly.  Evans hesitated.

"Fine," he said.  "Now, will you please explain why you are protecting this bandit, which is the precise opposite of what we were sent here to do...?"

"Gods," the paladin laughed.  "Such a black-and-white viewpoint!  If I am not working against the bandits, I must be working for them?  Do be sensible!
You know my feelings on this, Evans... We are treating bandits as a homogeneous mass of evil that must be eradicated, and that is simply not true!
Most of them have come at us swords drawn.  Those are fair game, we hack off their heads and redeem them for valuable cash prizes.  Even were they not outlaws, it should count as self-defence in a court of law."

"But this one did not.  He was hiding, and I wish to know why.  I know what it means to be hunted... to have people try to kill you for deeds you are innocent of..."

"Does it matter?" Evans asked uneasily.  "He is an outlaw still, and should pay the death penalty."

"Your head says 'yes', yet your heart says 'no'," Emily smiled knowingly.  "Firstly, we are paid to slay bandits.  Naught has been said of any penalty for failing to slay bandits... so if I wish to let one go because I feel sorry for them, or because we need to rush back and aid Sandy, that means only that we forfeit a payment for one head, is that not so?"

"...This is so," Evans admitted.

"Second, I would be sure he truly is an outlaw.  If he is in truth a prisoner, chopping off his head might cost you yours.  Measure seven times, cut once, it is said."

"Forsooth," Evans agreed.

"Lastly, what we're doing is at best, a crude way of approaching the problem.  See, Evans, it is as if we are constantly pruning a hedge, only for the branches to grow back again.
"But the branches we chop down are people like us!  Your discomfort at this topic tells me that you try to forget this fact overmuch.  Remember what you are truly doing!  In any other circumstance we should be publicly guillotined as mass-murderers!"

"What, then, do you propose?"

"I would know why there are so many bandits... peradventure we can find the source of the problem, and solve it at its root.  No more bandits, the province becomes a safer place, is that not so?"

"I guess so..." Evans said uneasily.

"You fear to lose a nice, fat, source of income," Emily admonished.  "Surely you see the hypocrisy in this...?  Beings are so scared of rampaging Demons, yet are happy to slaughter one another for money!  Make your minds up, for heaven's sake!"

"Am I being lectured on morality by a Demon?"  Evans asked, smiling.  The captive bandit gave a muffled yelp of terror.

"Perhaps.  But the point of this is, I wish to interrogate this one.  I promise to be brief.  Maybe, I shall release him too, if he is not dangerous and promises to go far, far away.  And if he is a danger to us, or will not cooperate... Then we shall use the first plan; Twist off his head, and exchange it for valuable cash prizes," she flashed a toothy smile at the trembling bandit.

"Very well," Evans sighed.  "Then let us get on with this.  Samson shall not wait forever."

"So!  How long have you been a bandit?" Emily began.

"I'm not really a bandit at all..." the Lap whimpered.

"Then you have a very odd choice of companions," Emily remarked.

"You do not understand!" he wailed.  "Many folk here have lost their livelihoods!  Evicted from their farms, left homeless!  They must eat, so they become bandits, else watch their children starve to death!"

"This is still no excuse for murder," Evans said, hefting his sword.

"Hold, Evans!" Emily warned him.  "I shall push you harder next time."

The horse snorted indignantly, but lowered his weapon.

"Mark you, what Evans says is true," the snow leopard continued, eyes narrowing.  "Poverty does not justify the murder of passing strangers."

"I did no such deed!" the terrified figure whined.  "Some are angered at their misfortunes, and see it their right to take from others they feel have wronged them.  Me...  I am a desk clerk.  They offered protection and shelter in exchange for my services..."

"Tush!" Evans scoffed.  "What should bandits need with a clerk?  You lie, and your attempts to evade the headsman's justice are pathetic."

"It is true!" the bandit insisted frantically.  Scrabbling in the pockets of his tatty clothing, he produced a small card, frayed slightly at the edges.  "I was late of the accountancy guild, while I could pay their fees still!"
Evans took the card and studied it in a gauntleted hand.  There was a tintype photograph of the Lap to the side of the card, his hair and fur neatly groomed, the portrait obviously taken in better days.

"I worked for one of the farms before it went to smash," the Lap continued, taking the card back from the armoured stallion.  "Until it was seized, I did manage their stock and their accounts.  It so happens this skill is just as useful in banditry.  They need someone to appraise the loot, and to meet with the fence..."

"You are their broker," Emily surmised.  "It makes sense, all this boodle is of no use unless it can be fenced off or traded."

"Then, if we make him shorter by a head, we shall cripple their whole operation!" Evans exclaimed, lifting his claymore eagerly.

"They would soon find another accountant fallen on hard times," Emily said tiredly, batting the sword away with a flick of her gauntlet.  "Also, it is murder that cost his fellows their heads.  Handling stolen goods, even robbery with violence, such crimes are not capital in this realm."

"How about this?" she asked.  "Come with us, inform on your fellow bandits and you shall surely be given a nice cosy cell, with food and water.  Verily, that must be better than living in a forest..."

"No!  I dare not!" he quailed.

"Soon your friends shall be dead," Evans said.  "You need not fear their wrath!"

"It is not their wrath I fear," the bandit whimpered.  "It is the one who ordered the lands be seized in the first place!  The Thane!"

"Fuck," Emily said, causing a gasp of outrage from her peer.

J.P. Morris, Chief Engineer DMFA Radio Project * IT-HE * D-T-E


Maybe it's the flowery speech, but Emily strikes me as more of an Angel than a Demon.


Move over Emily, lap bandit accountant is my new favourite character


Quote from: Jonah21 on September 23, 2019, 09:38:31 PM
Maybe it's the flowery speech, but Emily strikes me as more of an Angel than a Demon.

Victoriana + the fact that my writing process is dialogue-based = lots of flowery speech.

Quote from: Merlin on September 24, 2019, 04:00:27 AM
Move over Emily, lap bandit accountant is my new favourite character

And for those of you wondering what a lap is:  http://projectfuturecomic.com/stuff/things/lap_facts.jpg

J.P. Morris, Chief Engineer DMFA Radio Project * IT-HE * D-T-E


Chapter 4

The clearing was scattered with tents and a few crude shelters.  In one of these shacks, Sandy was tied to a chair.  Two heavy-set bandits stood close by, armed with clubs, while the leader interrogated her.

"You, sir, are a hobbledehoy, and your mother was a slattern," Sandy spat.

"I'm asking you nicely," the German Shepherd said, ignoring the slur.  "How many of you are there?"

"A hundred," the red setter retorted.  Her captor smiled.

"Then they'll hardly notice if we make that ninety-nine," he pointed out.  "Listen, miss, your fine friends murdered ten people last night, and a lot of my friends want blood.  If you tell us what we're up against, I'll go easy on you.  If not... well, there's plenty of blood in you!  So, what's it gonna..."

His voice trailed away.  The two enforcers turned to look at him, and then glanced out the window to see what he was staring at.  A severed head lay in the middle of the clearing.  As they watched, a second head tumbled across the short grass and came to rest nearby.

"Find them!  Get them!" the German Shepherd screamed.  His men drew their swords, and ran outside to confront the intruders.

"And now, miss... you better tell us how many people are in your gang, or we'll roll your head back to whoever's doing that!"

"Excuse me, sir..." the lap said, entering the shack with a nervous expression.

"Not now, Albert," the dog snapped.  "We're under attack, and..."

"It's about that," Albert insisted.  "The attackers are..."

As he spoke, the shack rose into the air around them, the wooden frame lifting away from the packed earth ground.  The bandit leader stared in incomprehension, before turning to see Emily, who was standing behind him, holding the makeshift structure high above her head.

"I'm in a good mood," she said.  "Run along now, or I shall drop this shack on your head."

"You mean to let this villain live?!"  Sandy protested.  "Surely, we should take him as a prize!  The headsman will give the townsfolk a fine spectacle, of that I am sure!"

"There is more to this than you suspect," Emily said.  "I have no love for bandits, but even so, I would give him one last chance in light of what we have learned this morn."

"Please, miss, just put the building down," the bandit leader said, backing away slowly.  "Everybody just stay calm, and no-one needs to get hurt..."

"You were a lawman before all this started, weren't you?"  Emily sighed.

"Yes.  And gods willing I'll be one again."

"You shall see the law from the other side," Samson said.  "Surrender and face the Thane's justice!"

"Enough," Emily snapped.  "I wish a truce.  We shall take Sandy, and leave them be, at least for the present.  I am not convinced these bandits are all they seem."

"I shall go.  Promise me only one thing," the leader said, "That if you truly care about justice, you shall look long and hard at your Thane."

"We shall," Emily assured him.  "But if it turns out your men be false, we shall raze this place to the ground, and take you all alive, to pay for your deeds at the guillotine."

*  *  *

"Explain to me again, why we should burgle the Thane, risking public decapitation over a cotterie of bandits," Samson said hotly.  "Is this new mission some insane Demon plot of yours, to get the rest of us killed, and ensure your secret remains hidden...?"

"Samson, I am your fellow adventurer!  You can't blame all your problems on me like some deranged conspiracy theory!"  Emily snapped.
"Listen now!  We've uncovered what seems like to be a scam by the Thane," she added.  "He has had us slaughter many people for his own gain, citizens who need never have died had he not ruined the farming economy and stolen their lands to line his own pockets!  WE KILLED THOSE PEOPLE.  That makes us his ACCOMPLICES!  We must find proof, and report it to the King, or more shall die!"

"More bandits shall die, you mean," Evans said.

"I want to stop them becoming bandits in the first place!"  Emily said.  "Is that so terrible a thing?!"

"I still fear that you are somehow in league with them," Sandy said.  "But I agree, we must know the truth about these bandits.  If the Thane be false, we cannot side with him still, else when his deeds are called to account, we shall all dance beside him 'neath the gallows-tree."

"How now, Sandy?" the snow leopard asked.  "Are you fit to come with us?"

"Aye, they have not harmed me much," the dog replied.  "Other bandits should not have been so merciful.  It may be that their leader spoke truth of being a lawman.  I thank you again for the rescue."

"Think nothing of it," Emily said.  "Removing his shack around him was fun.  I have not done a trick like that for some years!"

"So it is true, then," Sandy said.  "You truly are a Demon?"

"I knew some of you would react poorly to such a revelation," Emily said.  "It was my plan to get to know you all well before letting you in on this, that I should be better able to break the news to you."

"Tell us then, about your rampage," Sandy inquired.  "If you have any dark secrets left to tell, that is like to be the worst of it."

"My rampage?"  Emily said, eyes misting over.

"It was in Larkwood... The ground ran red with the blood of my foes!  That does tend to happen when you carry out a mass beheading..."
Samson stepped back, hand clutching tight on the hilt of his blade.
"You committed a massacre?!" he demanded.  "In Archfordshire?!  And you expect us to trust you still?!  I suspect now that you are in league with those bandits... sent to spy on us!  Why should we not bring your head back to their King...?"

Emily just laughed.  "Do not be silly," she said.  "Those killings were all completely above board!"

"This I doubt," Samson said coldly.

"They were bandits," Emily said patiently.  "Brigands.  I made an example of them for the King.  He ordered their heads be stacked in Archford square, that all may see the reward for such wicked deeds.  The crime rate in the Larkwood area dropped for years afterwards!"

"Your rampage was... bandits." Evans said, as if struggling with the concept.

"They called themselves the Larks," Emily shrugged.  "A particularly low sort of ruffian.  Not like the unfortunates we met today.  The Larks had been robbing for about five years, and had recently stepped up from robbery to murder.  When they held up a nobleman and raped him, the King decided that their fun should end.  He sent guards in..."

"Ah, and you among them?" Evans asked.

"Alas, no.  I was an adventurer then, as now.  And as for the guards, the Larks got them all.  They left a message thanking the King for all the nice weapons and armour, and asking could he send some more, please?  Instead, he sentenced them to death in absentia, and put up a bounty.  I decided to try my luck.
"The plan was to just seize one or two of them, and take them back for the bounty and execution.  But... let us say, I got a bit carried away.  Only the leader was left alive in the end... and then I ended him.  In the capital.  I decapitated him," Emily sniggered.

"I thought the purpose of a rampage was to demonstrate one's might by stirring up trouble among Beings, and living to tell the tale," Evans said, with an expression somewhere between confusion and skepticism.

"And that is just what I did," Emily rejoined.  "I stormed into their camp all on my own, and violently dispatched several dozen bandits.  I got to let off steam, killed a bunch of people, and to cap it all, I got paid!  They held a banquet in my honour!"

"How did other Demons view this?" Sandy asked, curiously.

"My parents were pleased.  As I said, it did check all the boxes for a rampage.  But it is true that, behind my back, other Demons were a bit puzzled and wondered if I might be soft for Beings.  Which, to be fair, I am."

"What?!" Samson exclaimed.

"Forsooth.  I am not morally oblivious like many other demons.  You Beings, with your shorter lives, with so many other races far more powerful than you are... you have the whole world arrayed against you, and yet, despite all that, you do not merely accept your lot, you fight back!  And I think that is wonderful!  That is why I am out here helping you, instead of devouring your brains or whatever you think I am apt to do to you."

"All this makes a fine tale," Evans said, "But today's events do not bear it out.  This day we slew a number of bandits, but let far more go, at your own insistence!"

"Well, should you visit Archford, look beneath the clock-tower.  There you shall find a plaque in my honour," Emily said.

"But you fail to understand," she continued.  "There was a big difference.  Today we beheaded a number of farm-hands... an act for which I hope you feel suitably proud."

Evans looked at the ground.

"The Larks were not destitute farm-boys," the snow-leopard persisted.  "They killed a squad of guards, who had been sent in to arrest them.  Those fine men and women were only doing their job, and the Larks murdered every last one of them!"

"Demons like murder," Samson replied curtly.  "What is the real reason?"  Evans put a warning hand on his friend's shoulder.

"You don't get it!" Emily huffed.  "It's... Being a Demon isn't just about killing people, it's all about power.  Strength!  It is about being tough enough that you don't have to do what the rest of the world wants.  Killing a group of people is just a quick and easy way to prove that."

"And how is that different from what the Larks did?  From what you say, they were outlaws who gave not a single fig how others looked on their way of life."

"Torture," Emily spat.  "That's the difference.  Demons don't usually go in for weird stuff like that.  You Beings... some of you are real sick cookies, as they say in my homeland.  Had these bandits here tortured Sandy... I should have shown them far less mercy.

"The Larks... they strung up their captives in the outskirts of the forest, one by one, and watched like it was some kind of picnic," the snow leopard said, looking genuinely angry.  "Do you know how long it takes to suffer death by hanging?  How painful it is to die that way?  If there is one thing I cannot abide, it is cruelty.  I heard those bandits discussing it, reminiscing about how they pointed and laughed as their victims slowly died in terrible pain, while they made the others watch before their own turn came!
"I was positively enraged, and I took out my anger upon them.  Nobody deserved to suffer like that, tortured to death, and I made sure they could never do that again. The fact that it stopped my mother nagging about when I was going to do a rampage... that was an added bonus."

"I fear we shall regret this," Samson said, "But if we are agreed on this madness, we had best prepare."

J.P. Morris, Chief Engineer DMFA Radio Project * IT-HE * D-T-E


Emily threatening to drop a house on somebody like she's Dorothy taking out the wicked witch of the east... outstanding


Chapter 5

Emily wore the overalls of a worker as she crawled through the coal chute.  Crouching in the entrance, she made sure she was alone before standing up and dusting herself off.  A large boiler stood next to her, and beside that a reciprocating engine was reciprocating to itself.  Beside that, a large dynamo hummed with obvious power.

What Beings think of next? Emily marvelled to herself, looking at the electric lamp above her head.  Light from steam!

Noting the cables on the ceiling and wall, she located the switch by the door, and flicked it experimentally a few times.

Enough fun, she thought, there's work to do.

Opening the door to the boiler room a crack, she glanced around and after a few minutes, a guard came by, in full platemail adorned with the Thane's crest.

"Help!" she cried, stepping out into the basement corridor.  "There's an intruder!  Come quick!"

"What's the trouble, miss?" the guard asked.

"Over there!" Emily said, pointing at a stack of boxes.  "I saw someone!  He's got a bow!"  The guard took a step towards it, and then collapsed as Emily stunned him with a blast of magic.

A few minutes later, the guard was wearing the overalls, and Emily his armour.

You're lucky, she thought wryly, carefully hiding the unconscious guard behind the boxes.  Other demons would stuff you into that boiler.

*  *  *

Ah shit, Emily thought, as she walked down the upstairs corridor.  Coming towards her was a fox dressed in finery, an obvious man of quality.  Thane Dewar himself.
Emily mentally shrugged, and flipped him a quick salute.  The fox walked past, then stopped and turned around.

"Hold.  I do not recognise you," he said, eyeing the snow-leopard suspiciously.  "Tell me... What is the password?"

"Dunno what you mean, guv!"  Emily said innocently.  "I weren't given no password... I'm just a perfectly normal guard, guarding your perfectly normal brains..."

The Thane backed away hastily with an expression of horror, and then rolled with surprising agility.   "GUARDS!" he yelled, "GUARDS!  INTRUDER!"

Emily leapt with even more surprising agility and clapped her gauntleted hand around his muzzle.

"I did not want to do this," she hissed.  "But it shall make things quicker."  the fox froze, eyes wide and expecting death.  Instead, the armoured snow leopard dragged her victim into a nearby store cupboard and flicked on the electric light, barring the door shut.

"What is the meaning of this jiggery-pokery?!" the Thane demanded furiously.  "Do you even know who I am?!"

Emily brandished a notepad and a fountain pen.  "Indeed, my lord!  I am such a huge admirer of yours," she gushed eagerly.  "It is so great to finally meet you!  Could you sign this for me, please?"

Thane Dewar batted the paper aside. "Simpleton!  Do you think my guards will not find me?!" he snarled.  "You shall lose your head for this, you rogue!"

"For assault?" Emily said, "Even a Thane needs a better reason than that, and I am legally entitled to appeal to the King.
"Your Thaneness," she said, retrieving the notepad, "In truth, I am an investigative journalist, and I should greatly appreciate it if you could answer a few questions."

"Very well," the fox sighed.  "Ask your questions.  The guards shall be here soon, and you shall be punished then for this impudence."

"What should you say has been your greatest achievement in office?"  Emily asked, eagerly.

"Well, I am particularly pleased with the urban renewal programme," Dewar said, tugging at his lapels.  "We have invested considerable sums into redeveloping rookeries and other like places of ill-repute.  Slums have been replaced with affordable housing, and crime rates have fallen dramatically."

"Capital," Emily blurted, scrawling shorthand in the notebook.  "Now, some of our readers are a little concerned about the recent decline in the farming sector.  What should you say to them...?"

"I think the losses in agriculture are overstated," Dewar began, slipping fully into PR mode.  "It is true that that sector of the economy has been hit hard, but losses there must be balanced against growth in other areas, such as property development.  Yes, some individual farms are struggling, but frankly, those are long overdue for modernisation... after all, we live in an industrial age now!  I should rather say that we are seeing more of a consolidation in that sector, and after some short-term pains we shall once again have a thriving agricultural sector containing fewer, larger farms, with steam-power providing far more mechanisation."

"What of the people who are currently working the fields?" Emily asked earnestly.  "Will there be state aid for the displaced farm workers?"

"We are certainly looking into it," the fox smiled.

"There seems to have been a large increase in the number of bandits lately," Emily said.  "Do you think there is a connection with the losses in the farming industry?"

"It is not unusual for the unemployed to turn to crime," Dewar admitted.  "But correlation does not equal causation.  The reason we have brought in more adventurers is because of an increase of violent robberies.  Does that sound like farmers to you?"

"Indeed not," Emily bubbled.  "Though I understand the King has been providing his Thanes incentives for reductions in bandit numbers.  What are your thoughts on this?"

"Well," Thane Dewar began.  At that moment the door burst inwards and two guards arrived, grabbing Emily firmly.  She sighed but did not resist.

"You took your time," Dewar said.  "This besotted young fool has trespassed, impersonated one of my guards, and manhandled me.  Take her to the cells.  I shall question her later, before she is turned over to the magistrates."

"Very good, milord," the guard said, and led Emily away.

The Thane watched them go with a look of satisfaction, and then hesitated.  "By the way," he called.  "What is the password?"

"Humbugs," Samson said instantly.

"Ah," Dewar replied, and squeezed one of the buttons on his shirt.  An alarm bell sounded, and shortly afterwards there was a cry of dismay from downstairs.  "GUARDS!  HELP!  TO ME!" they yelled.

"I fancy they have found the real guards," Evans grinned.  "Let us quit this place with all due haste!"

"I trust you did not hurt them overmuch..." Emily said worriedly.

*  *  *

Thane Dewar ran.  The intruders were escaping, but he was more concerned for his own safety, and headed towards the panic room in his study.
He rushed into the room and then froze.  A red setter in black leathers was rifling through his safe, stuffing documents in one of his own attache cases.  Tiptoeing back out while she was preoccupied, the Thane gestured frantically to one of the guard captains trailing him in the corridor.

"Got you," the badger snarled, grabbing the thief in an arm-lock.  Two more guards appeared and quickly took hold of her.

"I see, the Thane said.  "So those other imbeciles were but a distraction.  Well... as I told your friend, assaulting a Thane is an offence punishable by jail.
"However, stealing state secrets... is not," the vulpine smiled cruelly.  "That is treason, and I shall look forward to seeing you in the guillotine!  Ah, yes... it is always such a relief, to see my problems fall away into a wicker basket... each thud another worry that shall trouble me no more."

"You are sick," Sandy snarled.

"Perhaps, but I am also in charge," the Thane retorted.

"What are your instructions, milord?" the captain asked.

"She shall be tried on the morrow," the Thane decided.  "The execution shall be later that day, and I want it announced as soon as the trial is ended."

"I shall arrange it at once, milord," the badger said.

"Oh, and what is the password?" the Thane asked, eyes narrowing.

"Perenials," the badger replied instantly.

"Finally," the fox smiled, relieved.  "Take her away, and see to it that this case is held in the evidence chamber."

*  *  *

The tavern was a standard affair, sponsored in part by the adventuring guild.  Men and women in plate and leather armour drank and exchanged tales of their deeds or studied maps and papers, planning their next mission.  Others would watch and occasionally visit tables, soliciting aid or recruiting others to join their group.

"Sandy is late," Samson said.  "Nine this morning, we agreed."

"Is there some other tavern she has gone to in error?" Evans pondered.

"Lads," the barman called.  "News from the Thane's men...  There's to be an execution tonight!  Another brigand will face justice in the square at four this eve."  A hubbub of excited voices erupted from the other adventurers.

"You don't think she was caught?" Samson asked, looking worried.  "That can't be her, surely?!"

"Nay," Emily said, confidently.  "Capital crimes have a trial and an appeal to the king.  There has not been time for such.  Besides, it sounds that brigands are regularly despatched here.  Still... it should be a fine thing to watch while we wait for Sandy!" she added excitably.

Evans looked at the snow leopard with a puzzled expression.  "Emily, I fear I shall never understand you.  Yesterday you urged us to show leniency to bandits, and the mere threat of hanging them has oft raised your hackles," he said.  "Yet you now seem positively thrilled at the prospect of witnessing a public execution.  Pray, explain this discrepancy!"

"I quite enjoy executions," Emily said.  "As you know, my kind enjoys violence, and second-hand violence is better than none at all.  But I do want it to be over quickly.  It is torture I find abhorrent."

"You see, it is about my sister," the snow leopard sighed.  "When we were young, we would oft go to watch the executions in the square.  For bored teenagers it made fine entertainment.  But when she grew older... she became an empath.
"There was a hanging," Emily continued sadly.  "A murderer was put to justice.  The crowd cheered as he danced his final jig, but Liz... she was mortified.  She sobbed so that some in the crowd did think she knew the condemned, and heckled her.
"Afterward she told me that she had heard the man's thoughts, felt his pain as he died.  Had he faced beheading, or even a long drop hanging, it should not have been so bad.  But alas, she had to feel this man suffer and die for near a quarter of an hour."

"This, then, is why you mislike slow deaths?" Samson said.  "For your sister's sake?"

"Aye, she opened my eyes to the cruelty.  She studies now, at the Succubus and Incubus Academy, and they have taught her to shield herself from the pain of others.  But knowing it happens at all has tainted the experience for both of us."

"It has oft been said that 'Cubi are monsters," Samson said.  "Perhaps this is a half-truth."

"People are people," Emily said.  "Some do good, others evil... and most do both.  Not all Creatures are the same, any more than all Beings are bandits."

"Lads," the barman called again.  "There may be a second execution tonight!  An enemy spy has been caught by the Thane!"

J.P. Morris, Chief Engineer DMFA Radio Project * IT-HE * D-T-E


Hmm, I wonder... Is her sister anybody we've seen before?


J.P. Morris, Chief Engineer DMFA Radio Project * IT-HE * D-T-E



Quote from: Jonah21 on October 23, 2019, 12:08:33 PM
Professor Jevex?

Yes.  Partly it's because the original concept art for Emily was a hybrid of her and Illiath, but it also made for a more interesting backstory.

J.P. Morris, Chief Engineer DMFA Radio Project * IT-HE * D-T-E


Quote from: Tapewolf on October 23, 2019, 12:11:38 PM
Quote from: Jonah21 on October 23, 2019, 12:08:33 PM
Professor Jevex?

Yes.  Partly it's because the original concept art for Emily was a hybrid of her and Illiath, but it also made for a more interesting backstory.

Hah, I never would've guessed! I was expecting someone with the same hair color.


Emily is great, but you need EVEN MORE snow leopard characters :3

edit: wait should that be 'but' or 'and'


This one ran close to the wire, so apologies of parts if it seem rushed.  As and when it gets made into a comic, I might be able to smooth some of the rough edges out a little.
Thanks for reading!
P.S. 5th of November is an auspicious date for a story about treason.

Chapter 6

So this is what the bounties I turned in must have felt, Sandy thought, staring at the wall of the cell.  At least they got a proper trial...

Her thoughts were interrupted by a metallic sound.  Guards.  Platemail.  Keys in a lock.  Shortly afterwards, the Thane's face between the bars.

"I have telegraphed the King," he said.  "I'm afraid he has declined to hear your appeal.  You will therefore be executed by beheading in one hour's time.  Here is paper, should you wish to write your final testimony."

"Maybe you should write yours," Sandy said.  "This trial was a sham, and you know it.  Watch my execution carefully, milord.  Because it will be your turn one day."

"Bold words from one who shall soon have a pole stuck through their brain," the fox retorted, and left.

*  *  *

"I had this idea for a concession stand," Emily beamed, as they stowed their swords and made their way through the gathering crowd.  "Decapitated Coffee, Execution-style noodles, Chicken in a casket...  Didn't take off as well as I had hoped."

"Now is not the time!" Evans hissed.  "They shall soon chop off our friend's head and you are doing naught but banter about it!"

"Way to look suspicious," Emily hissed back.  Something brushed her arm and she glanced back to find herself facing two guards.
"That's them," he said.  The bracer snapped magnetically around her platemailed wrist, and her wings blossomed out behind her, to gasps of horror from the nearby crowd.

"I am glad you got my invitation," Thane Dewar said, walking out from an alleyway.  "I shall sleep more soundly knowing that the four of you are piked in the square."

"How did you know what I was?"  Emily sighed.

"You are not the only ones hunting bandits.  Some of your fellow adventurers brought one back alive, and before his beheading, he told interesting tales about a snow leopard Demon.  But with these bracers, you shall be just as dead as your friends.  Guards... take them.  I shall deal with the other one first."

"Yes, milord," one of the guards said, and marched them to the scaffold to watch as the first prisoner was led to the guillotine.

"Well," Emily smiled sadly, "It looks like you were right after all.  I have killed you.  I'm truly sorry about that."

"It was for a noble cause," Samson said.  "Besides, adventurers rarely live to a ripe old age...  Though I had hoped for a more noble death."

The Thane cleared his throat, and the crowd fell silence.  "For the crimes of brigandage and murder, the sentence is death by beheading, to take place immediately," he intoned.  "May the gods have mercy upon your soul."

The unfortunate coyote was breathing heavily as they slid him into position, gazing down into the wicker basket that would soon contain his head.  They could hear him faintly murmuring a prayer as the executioner dropped the lunette.  Moments later the blade was released too, slicing cleanly through the grey-furred neck and his head plopped into the waiting basket.  His tail spasmed once and then his body went limp, the limbs shuddering slightly.

"Who wishes to go next?" The Thane asked cheerily, as the headless corpse was rolled into an open coffin and the head held high before the crowd.  "Are there any volunteers?"

"I volunteer," Emily said sadly.  "This was all my idea, I got my friends killed, and I should pay the price.  Just... just make my death spectacular, okay?"

"Denied," the fox said evilly.  "You shall die last, that you may witness the extent of your failure.  Also, I fear lest your Demon neck should damage the guillotine.  No!  Guards... execute the thief first."

"Farewell, Stormy," the red setter said, as she was marched to the guillotine.  "This was my fault, really..."

"Wait for us," the snow leopard replied.  "We shall surely join you soon."

Shortly afterwards the dog was face-down on the board, staring into the basket, still wet with the coyote's spilled lifeblood.  The sawdust had been replaced, but there were still ominous splashes of red as a grim reminder of what had happened there.  She was numbly aware of the Thane's speech coming to a close, and her pulse had quickened like the unfortunate coyote before her.  The lunette snapped down around her neck, and she closed her eyes, waiting for the end.

"Hold it, hold it!  Just what is going on here...?" demanded an imperious voice.  Thane Dewar froze, and spun around.  A maned wolf in royal garb stared down at him impatiently, flanked by several men and women in platemail adorned with the royal crest.

"Your majesty," the Thane fawned, "This is an unexpected pleasure!  We are just carrying out the execution of some petty criminals..."

"Oh no you're not," the King snapped.  "Firstly, petty crimes are not punishable by death.  Secondly, you described this as treason, I believe...?  That is a most serious accusation."

"Aye, majesty," the badger guard said.

"Right.  Guard... untie her and lower the blade.  This young lady is reprieved, pending further investigation."

"But..." Dewar started, shifting uncomfortably.

"I am king.  People tell me things... And what they have told me is quite disconcerting.  I am glad we got here before you did anything irreversible, as I wish to question the accused myself."

"Yes, majesty," Dewar said.

"But first I wish to question you, Thane Dewar.  Leaving aside various procedural issues with the far-too-speedy trial, I demand to know why I was not informed about this treason!  As your king, I have a natural interest in plots against me!  And the right of appeal?  Even the hopeless cases always invoke it, after all, they have nothing to lose."

"He said you had rejected the appeal!" Sandy yelled, her voice slightly muffled by the fact that she was still staring face-down into a basket.

The maned wolf looked at Dewar coldly.  "...I see," he said.  "Bring the prisoners here.  I will question them now."

Sandy was removed from the guillotine and paraded before the king, wrists still bound behind her back.  Evans, Samson and Emily were prodded into following.

"Now.  Treason is a serious business," the king said.  "If it has truly taken place... well, we shall see.  It is within my power to commute the death sentence... if you are convincing enough."

"We stole from the Thane," Sandy said.  "I was the one who removed the documents, the others did act as a distraction."

"State secrets!" Thane Dewar said eagerly.  "You see?!  That is an act of war!"

"Forsooth," the King said.  "Such treason definitely merits public decapitation!  Happily, you prevented it from occurring, by recovering the stolen documents before they could be passed on to a foreign power."

The Thane blinked and his mouth closed.

"I deem this attempted treason," the King continued, "Specifically, espionage.  This carries a sentence of twenty years, and there may be a prisoner exchange with their homeland."

"Majesty, we were not passing the documents to a foreign power," Emily said.  "We were going to pass them to you."

Now it was the king's turn to blink in confusion.  "What?" he exclaimed.  "Why?"

"We are concerned that the Thane may be abusing his position, so we went looking for proof."

"You have these documents as evidence," the King informed the badger.  "Bring them here.  I shall review them."

"But they contain state secrets!" Dewar yelped.

"I am the state," the King snapped irritably.  "Either way, these papers are evidence of the accused's guilt."

"But they have already been tried and found guilty!" the Thane protested.

"Only the thief has actually been tried, your majesty," the badger pointed out nervously.

"For a crime that did not successfully take place," the King said pointedly.  "And she wanted to appeal to me, yet, for some odd reason that message never got through.  So I may as well review her sentence now.  Show me the evidence, Dewar.  You do want me to find them guilty, don't you?"

"Yes, majesty," the Thane sighed.  The badger hurried off, returning a few minutes later with the briefcase.

* * *

"Hmm," the king said, studing the papers.  "Were you even stealing the correct documents?  These are just receipts and memos about banditry.  Were they really worth risking the guillotine to procure?  In fact, I do not accept that these are state secrets in the first place!  Surely this is petty theft!"

"Majesty, you have given local administrators a financial incentive to cut bandit numbers, is that not so?" Emily said.  "A bonus for each bandit slain?"

"This is true," the King said.  "What of it?"

"Where I grew up we had a problem with rats, Majesty," Samson said.  "There was a bounty for each rat killed.  So people started to breed them."

The King looked at the documents again, and his face fell.  "Shit," he said.

"This accusation is foolishness!" Dewar snarled.  "One does not breed bandits!"

"Forsooth," Emily said.  "But you can make lots of them very quickly, by driving the local economy to smash.  Peradventure, you could impoverish farmers, who still use traditional techniques here?  Masses of workers instantly homeless?  Turning desperate?"

"...who then get slaughtered in vast numbers by adventurers, with a bonus to the Thane for each one," Sandy said bitterly.  "And we helped kill them!  We wanted to stop further pointless deaths, your Majesty.  That is why I burgled the Thane."

"But those jobs were doomed anyway," the Thane said.  "Mechanical harvesters and steam tractors are the future!  Peasants are not!"

The king made a deep growling sound in his throat.

"Thane Dewar, that was an admission of guilt.  You have conspired to defraud your king, and massacre hundreds of citizens to whom you had a duty of care," the King said.  "Further, you abused your powers to try and execute those uncovering it without following due process.  If anything I have seen this day is treason, that is."

"You.  Emily, isn't it?  The hero of Larkwood?" the King said, turning to the snow leopard.  "Guards, release her.  I trust she shall do what must be done."

"No..." the fox whispered, as they bound his wrists.

"I'm sorry," Emily replied quietly, as she raised the blade.

* * *

There was a soft thud as the Thane's head came to rest.

All my problems fall into a wicker basket, he thought, and died.

Emily sighed as the vulpine head was lifted up by the hair and held high before the stunned crowd.  "Such a waste of potential," she said sadly.

"I do not do this lightly," the king sighed.  "Publicly executing one of my own officials is a serious business indeed... But his own words and deeds had sealed his fate.  The realm must look after its citizens, and I expect my officials to serve them, not plot their deaths as Thane Dewar has done.
"An example had to be made... I must be sure the people know I have their best interests at heart, lest they dethrone me.  I haven't held this realm for three centuries by ignoring my citizens' woes!"

Samson blinked rapidly at this revelation, but Emily interrupted before he could react.  "Thane Dewar did have one thing right, though, Majesty," she said.  "Progress is marching on."

"Indeed," the King said.  "Farming cannot stay this labour-intensive forever and still remain competitive.  But that needs must change as a generational thing, not as an economic disaster afflicting an entire province."

The King studied Emily critically.  "I need a new Thane now.  Any volunteers?"

"Thanks Majesty," Emily said, "But I'd rather not.  The adventuring gig is fun, and besides, people think you've gone soft if you didn't seize control with a violent dethronement."

"Technically you did," the King said, pointing at Thane Dewar's headless corpse.  "But I understand.  I miss pulling the heads off brigands too, sometimes..." he added wistfully.

"The King... is a Demon?!" Evans hissed.

"Most realms have a Creature patron," the King said, making Evans jump.

"Majesty, does your offer extend to us?"  Sandy asked.  "And should there be training for one who accepts it?"

"Assuredly," the King said.  "The late Thane did have advisors to aid him, after all."

"You?"  Samson exclaimed.  "A scout turned Thane?"

"I think she should do well," Emily said.  "She is clever, well-read and showed compassion, not least risking her head for the sake of others to do what is right.  Also, she alone did not try to murder me once my true nature was exposed."

"These are all important points," the King said.  "Creatures are permitted in my realm, and I would not have them persecuted."

"But what of our adventuring group?"  Evans inquired.

"As Samson said, adventurers rarely live to old age," Sandy said.  "On this mission alone I have been captured, assailed and faced beheading more times that I care to recall.  I should like to quit while I am ahead, and not headless."

"That did not work out so for the last Thane," Samson remarked, gesturing at the vulpine's sightless head.

"So long as you respect your people and your king, such a fate need not reoccur," the King reassured her.  "Do you accept?  I should not wish to pick someone at random!"

* * *

"How went the mission?" the commander asked as they entered the guild-house.  "And pray tell, where is Sandy?"

"She remains in Wayford.  Here are her card and sword," Emily said, placing them upon the armoured German Shepherd's desk.

"I shall inform her next of kin," the commander sighed.

"Nay, commander, she is not dead," Emily amended.  "She has quit the guild.  The King of Archford himself has made her a better offer.  Here is a note of commendation for our service in ousting a corrupt official."

"Glad am I to hear it," the commander said.  "It would grieve me were she to have died in service."

"Commander," Evans said.  "With regret I must inform you that Emily Stormhunter is not a Being.  She is a Demon in disguise!"

"Oh dear," the commander replied sadly.  "This is ill news."

"Be reasonable, commander!"  Samson protested.  "Demon or not, she has been a valued member of our group.  Her actions and abilities have saved Sandy and countless citizens on whom the Thane was preying!"

"You misunderstand," the commander said, standing up with a metallic clank.  "You would surely have found out eventually, but we had hoped it would take longer."

"You knew?!"  Evans exclaimed, appalled.

"Told you so," Emily remarked casually.

"Forsooth.  I wanted Emily to observe you first, to help determine the best way to reveal my secret.  If you wish to transfer in light of this revelation, I shall write you a fine reference."

"It cannot be!" Evans cried, as Commander Erich touched a chain around his neck.  A pair of black leathery wings appeared behind his back.


J.P. Morris, Chief Engineer DMFA Radio Project * IT-HE * D-T-E


Erich? As in, Erich Taun? I seem to recall you having a character named "Erich" from before.

I think Ben would like Emily, at least more than he likes Mary. Hmm, I have to wonder how Emily and Mary would get along...