[Story] The Epsilon Project - Final Chapter (2013/06/29)

Started by Tapewolf, January 18, 2012, 03:46:41 PM

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Oh, I see. And is there a reason why the word 'for' has been replaced by 'fur'? Because the phrase "cash fur cheques" doesn't seem to make any sense.
~~ 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


Quote from: Gabi on April 08, 2012, 01:52:50 PM
Oh, I see. And is there a reason why the word 'for' has been replaced by 'fur'? Because the phrase "cash fur cheques" doesn't seem to make any sense.
It's a pun

(credit: Gabi)


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


Chapter 8

Nick stood, gazing out across the smoking ruins of a destroyed city.  Though bodies of slain 'Cubi lay scattered amidst them, corpses dead with weapons still in their hands, others still living marched on, kneeling in reverence before a torn and burned mural of the Lady.
Judiciaries cloaked entirely in shadow like the ones who had executed him stood watching the living, ever-vigilant for signs of blasphemy against the Lady and the voices she heard in her head.

There was a booming cry of outrage, but he ignored it.  

"Why...?" the voice screamed.  "I destroyed you, heretic!  Blasphemer!  Abomination!  Why do you return to haunt me?  How can you haunt me when your very soul itself has been shredded apart and burned into ashes?"

"I think I'm asleep," Nick said.  "I'm still here, and it must be because the execution was all in my head, or maybe it was all in your head.  You may be my Leader, but you're mad, so far gone that you can't even tell what's real and what isn't.  Harla'Keth was razed long centuries before I was born... and none of your faithful remain."

"Why...?" the Lady's voice sobbed again, echoing through the blackness.  "All my faithful were taken from me... all that remain are heretics, abominations in the eyes of the Gods!  Why should they be allowed to live on, wallowing in sin and wickedness when my poor, pious children were left to die..."

"By you," Nick said, and he suddenly knew that it was true, could see the end of Harla'Keth in his Leader's own broken mind.  "With all your powers, you could have saved them, but you didn't!" anger flared inside him from some unknown source.  "You fled, abandoning the clan who served you and in some cases even loved you.  It was your own cowardice and control freakery that slew them... you helped the Kamei'Sin kill them!"

There was a cry of rage and anguish.

"Leave my mind, heathen scum!  You are but a figment of my imagination!  I stop thinking you!" she screamed, and it all disappeared.  Nick lay in his bed and wept, for he had seen all the atrocities that the Red Queen had ordered.

* * *

Sydney fumbled with the biscuit, promptly snapping it in half.  For all that, the marshmallow refused to stick to the biscuit, and squished itself into the fur of his fingers instead.  He swore loudly.

"Should have kept it in longer," Sheila opined, flames dancing across her bosom, reflected in the shiny leather top which had become something of a trademark in the way she dressed.  "Here, you might find this useful..." she uttered a string of incomprehensible syllables, which Sydney repeated aloud.  Nothing happened.

"You got the last bit backwards," she said, and repeated them again.  This time he felt a tingling in his fingers, and the squashed marshmallow somehow detached itself from his fur, floating just a millimetre away yet firmly in his grasp.  He tried to spread it on the remains of the biscuit, but it had cooled and hardened so he just ate them separately.

"Handy," he said between bites.  "Where'd you find that spell?"

"I told you I read a lot," she smiled.  "Anyway, where's Richard?"

"He's gone for some more twigs," Syd informed her.
The Border collie rolled her eyes.  "Probably on the phone to his girlfriend or whatever," she opined.

"Hmm.  Maybe..." Syd muttered, and seizing a marshmallow, thrust it into the flames with his bare hands, concentrating on the power that made him element-resistant.  Combined with Sheila's spell he was able to smear the molten treat on a biscuit, which he handed over to the Border.

As he began to toast his own, Richard's phone rang from the top pocket of his satchel.  Startled, Syd lost concentration and quickly withdrew his hand from the flames with a yelp of pain.  The marshmallow tumbled into the raging heart of the fire, leaving him to watch dolefully as it bubbled and melted away.

"Heh," Sheila said with a chuckle as she lifted the phone away from its holster, "...do you think we should answer it...?" she stopped, and began to laugh out loud.  Around another fire some yards away, Daniel and Mike glanced around with a start, Mike promptly losing his own marshmallow to the greedy tongues of flame as well.  The griffin gave Sheila an evil scowl and scrabbled for some replacements.  Another student, a puma, wandered in the rough direction of the stream, clutching an empty canteen and glancing at Sheila with vague puzzlement as she went past.

"What's so funny?" Syd demanded, spreading his latest attempt on a biscuit and eating it.

"It's not his girlfriend at all," she giggled, holding the phone up so Syd could see it.  The word 'Mom' had appeared on the screen.

"Guess he's more of a stay-at-home kid than I thought," she smirked, putting the sleek device back where she'd found it.  "Not that that's a bad thing, of course," she added in a more sober tone.  "Family ties are important, and I'd say he's younger than we are, anyway.  Probably about 21."

"So," Syd said after a short pause, "What about your family?  Do you get on with them?"

"I can't say it's that exciting," Sheila confessed.  "But yes, I do.  I miss them a bit, but really it's just like I'm at university again.  As you should know, Illiath's is run like a university anyway - it breaks up around the solstices, so I'll visit them then.  But yeah, anyway.
"My parents told me I was 'Cubi when I was about 15.  I studied at Fairwater University until I was 22, then worked as a librarian for a while.  They threw a surprise party for me when my head-wings came in... apparently they had the cake hidden in stasis since I was about 20.
"As for my parents... Mum's a wolf, she's about 320 and she works in HR for the Clan.  Dad's a Border too, about 400 and he's the Clan's Technical Director.  That's about it, unless you want the nitty-gritty details like who I was friends with at school, or..."

"What in the world..?" Syd jumped as Richard suddenly dumped several kilos of brushwood in a nearby space.

"I got the twigs," he replied.

"We don't need that many, just a couple!"

"But the fire..." Richard protested.

"We have enough logs for that," Syd said, gesturing at a pile of them.  "What I wanted was twigs for toasting the marshmallows on.  Green ones so they won't burn easily..."

"Aw shit," Richard snarled and his head-wings drooped.

"Nevermind, I'm sure we can find a use for them," Sheila soothed.  "Anyway, your mother tried to call while you were out."  Richard whirled around as if electrified and snatched up the phone, running out of earshot.  He was soon back.

"Crap," he said, "Out of power.  Anyway, what were you talking about just now?"

"Well, I'm sure she knows you're safe," Syd put in.  "And we were discussing our families, actually."


Sheila shrugged and began to recap what she'd told Syd.  "But that's about the size of it," she said.

"Hmm," Richard said.  "You like Beings an awful lot for someone raised by 'Cubi,"  Sheila's head-wings fluttered slightly but she remained calm and impassive.  "Ketonia Clan is run as a corporation," she said primly, "And the vast majority of our customers are Beings.  At the risk of putting it too simplistically, the first rule of running a successful business is this:  You don't eat your customers.  You treat them nice and you get along with them so they're happy and they want to give you their money.  If you eat them, they stop being customers and start being enemies."

"Point," Richard admitted.

"How about you, Richard?" Syd put in.  "What do your parents do?  How do you get on with them?"

"Oh, right.  Mom runs the Brain Museum," Richard replied.

"I beg your pardon?"  Syd's wings fanned out slightly.

"I figured most clans had them," the white jackal shrugged.  "Well, when someone from our clan makes a kill, they're supposed to put the head into stasis and send it to her so it can be properly catalogued and ope..." he broke off, looking concerned.  "What's wrong with her...?"

Sheila didn't even look away from the fire as the puma dashed past, sobbing and hugging the canteen tightly against her chest as the contents slopped about.  Even Mike and Daniel had edged away to the far side of their campfire, head-wings fanned out in alarm.  The atmosphere had become dank with a horror and disgust that Richard seemed unable to detect.

"As I may have mentioned," the Border said icily, staring into the flames, "Members of the 'Cubi race are very sensitive emotionally.  Your psycho upbringing has clearly upset them."

"Okay, okay," Richard said, raising his hands as if to ward Sheila away.

"What about your father?" Syd prompted.

"He's kind of the black sheep of the family," Richard admitted, looking kind of sheepish himself.  Syd radiated a short burst of panic.

"He comes from another clan, I mean," the jackal said hastily, spotting his expression.  "One that was traditionally an enemy.  He's a renegade, but not all members of Fa'Rana trust him."

"Fa'Rana, hmm?" Sheila said, jotting down a memo to look up the jackal's clan.  "Do you get on with him?" Sheila asked.  "Is he loyal to your mother's clan?"

"Oh yeah, I trust him," he replied.  "He's got the right attitude.  I got to admit, Mom can be a bit distant sometimes, but Dad was always there for me, thick or thin.  When I was a puppy he told me so many stories of the golden ages, how things were before the Dragon wars, tales of bravery carried out by Jyraneth's Raiders, and the deeds of Johan Cross.  He taught me to hunt and how to use my wing-tentacles to... well, nevermind that.  He's also a lawyer."

Syd and Sheila looked at each other unhappily, but said nothing.

"Yeah, he defended me in court," Richard said.  "At Dresburg.  Okay, so I still got the rope and all, but thanks to him, it was only two death sentences instead of fifteen.  He also helps Mom run the... the Museum when she's away on business.  He's taking care of it now, actually."

"Oh?  What business is she doing?" the Border asked.

"Oh gods," Sydney muttered, "I bet she's getting more brains for the..."

"Nonono.  Sometimes our chief sends her out on special projects.  The Museum's what she does when she's off-duty, but I'm probably not supposed to tell anyone that..." he looked worried for a moment.

"We won't tell," Syd promised.  "One 'Cubi to another." Sheila nodded in agreement, and Richard looked rather touched.

"Thanks.  I guess it's your turn now," he said brightly, nodding at Sydney.

"Oh yes," Syd replied.  "My... turn."

"Hey," Sheila said.  "It can't be worse than... well, Richard's."  The jackal tried hard to suppress a grin.

"Very well," Sydney told them, "It's something like this..."

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


Looks like the Queen is still in the denial stage of grief.


Here goes nothing!

Also I'm surprised (and happy) that there was only 1 scene change....
But I miss Daryl

(credit: Gabi)


Quote from: Ignuus66 on April 21, 2012, 02:44:18 AM
Here goes nothing!

Also I'm surprised (and happy) that there was only 1 scene change....
But I miss Daryl

Since I'm currently halfway through writing chapter 24, I'm thinking I might run chapter 9 next week for a change to get the Syd spoilers out of the way.  That chapter also has Daryil in it.

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


Quote from: Tapewolf on April 21, 2012, 08:28:21 AM
That chapter also has Daryil in it.

"Insanity is not a condition, it's a way of life" (quoting amber) Should be my Daryl's Motto

(credit: Gabi)


That was quite an interesting and informative chapter.
~~ 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


"My god! It's filled with brains!"

That's actually an interesting story. The Red Queen is madder then ever and we learn Richard's mom runs a museum filled with brains. That brain thing seems rather eccentric  method of keeping score of kills.

I wonder if anyone who goes in there has asked to see Abby Normal's brain yet? :P

Still very informative of Richard's clan.
I perfer my spam cooked on a skillet.


Quote from: joshofspam on April 21, 2012, 10:04:06 PM
Still very informative of Richard's clan.
Still want to know why he seems to have a grudge with clan Daryl... Maybe it's an offshoot clan from the clan who's leader Daryl murdered?

(credit: Gabi)


Quote from: Ignuus66 on April 22, 2012, 01:38:59 AM
Still want to know why he seems to have a grudge with clan Daryl... Maybe it's an offshoot clan from the clan who's leader Daryl murdered?

That'll come out in about 5 chapters.

P.S. it's Daryil, Da-Rill

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


Quote from: Tapewolf on April 22, 2012, 08:44:54 AM
That'll come out in about 5 chapters.

P.S. it's Daryil, Da-Rill
Oh you- You are evil and you know it, baiting me like that  :<

Also yeah, that was a typo of a sort, and as spell check doesn't work on names, I didn't notice it...

(credit: Gabi)


Okay, here's the bonus update, to get the secret of Syd's heritage out the way.  I'm sure many of you have guessed already, especially after seeing the picture of him.  I will update as normal next weekend, but after that it's back to the original, fortnightly schedule.

P.S. The core of this chapter was written on a train to Barrow-in-Furness, around the 22nd of December

Chapter 9

Linda was trembling as she entered his room.  "Wh... what's the matter, mum?" Syd asked her, a cold panic sinking into his gut.  Some of the panic was hers, picked up by some metaphysical antenna and re-experienced by Syd's own nervous system.  It was an ability he had, even though he didn't know it at the time.

"Sydney," she said slowly, "Do you remember what I told you...?  About your father?"

"He was a demon, you said.  He died before I was born."

"Yes,  but now..." her voice guttered away into silence... she looked at him helplessly as if the thoughts in her mind were too fragile, too ineffable to translate into something as coarse as spoken language.

"What are you getting at?" Syd said, now thoroughly unnerved and rather tense.  "You think I'm a demon?  With these wings, it's not exactly a surprise.  If the town exiles me when I come into my heritage, well, it's something I've had a lot of time to prepare for.  Don't worry about me."

"No, you don't understand!  He is back.  Returned from the very grave itself...  He... he wants to see you!"

"Lin," a male voice said from the landing.  His mother stiffened and with half an apology, she left the room.  Frightened, Syd pressed an ear to the door, and caught snatches of heated conversation.

"...you made your feelings quite clear then!" the man was saying.

"What was I supposed to do?!  Demons seduce young maidens and then murder them once they have had their way with them!  Everyone knows this!"

"Nonsense.  We would have brought him up together.  I'd have protected you both with my life.  You could have had everything and you threw it all away!  Look," he said, tiredly, "I don't like this either, but it's best for him.  At the end of the day this has to be his choice, but without proper training and guidance, they'll hang him too!"

Syd shrank back and sat in the nearest chair, his pulse racing slightly as the handle turned and the figure entered.  He was a Doberman pinscher, in jeans and an armless top chosen so as to show off two muscular arms.  Down his back were a large pair of dark leathery wings, so dark that they seemed black until the light hit them in a certain way, revealing a dark brown tint.  Sydney recognised them immediately, of course - he saw wings just like these each time he looked in a mirror.

"Hi Sydney," the Doberman said, smiling but with a certain amount of strain showing behind it.  "I'm Dorcan.  We've met before, but you wouldn't remember it.  I'm sorry, I really should have tried harder to visit you more often, but... well, my kind aren't exactly welcome in this town."

"I know," Sydney said.  "I heard some of what you were saying to mum.  It's true, isn't it?  The town will drive me out when I turn 25.  I've been preparing for that, I can leave whenever I have to."

"Yeah, they probably would, but that's not why I'm here.  Look, Sydney, this may sound an odd question, but do you know what you are?"

"Demon, right?  That's what mother said, anyway.  That I take after you."

"That's half-right," the Doberman said, "But there's something she probably didn't know about me.  She certainly doesn't know the whole story."  He paused and stared into Sydney's eyes.  As he did so, a smaller pair of wings appeared on his head.  Syd drew back, fascinated.

"You're an incubus," he said.  Dorcan smiled at him.

"Actually, I'm not," he replied, "But you are."

"That's crazy," Syd protested.  "If I'm 'Cubi, one of my parents must be, and you've got the head-wings, so it must be you, surely?  If mum was the 'Cubi, she wouldn't have had you killed... and if you're not 'Cubi, what are you?"

"Sydney, I have a lot to tell you, and we might not have much time.  I don't expect all of this to sink in immediately.  At some point you will meet my family, and then we can go over it all again in as much detail as you need."

The young fox nodded.

"To answer your question, I was an incubus.  I was still alive when you were conceived.  Your mother is a regular Being.  She betrayed me and had me executed on a trumped-up charge.  They say I raped her," he said bitterly.

Syd's vulpine features became a perfect picture of disgust and horror.  "D-did you?  You're saying you raped my mother?!  And I'm... I'm the result?"

Dorcan's headwings fanned out alarmingly.  "No, no, no!  We were... okay, maybe I used my 'Cubi charms to seduce her, and... I can't exactly say you were entirely a planned pregnancy, but that happens a lot with 'Cubi.  And at the time... I wanted to marry her, I really did.  I wanted to have children by her.  We were due to be engaged, but then...
"Well, I thought I could trust her, and I let slip I was an incubus.  The following morning I was arrested and hanged at noon.  They didn't even give me a fucking trial!
"Your mother tried to stop the hanging when she realised it wasn't just going to be banishment or some kind of probation... I'll give her that.  But all the same, it's left the relationship between us, well, strained."

The fox stared at his father, a mixture of emotions welling up inside of him.  "I... she didn't say...   All these years I thought you were... I couldn't know..."

"Yeah," Dorcan said.  "I bet you didn't get any of my letters or presents either, right?"

"...no," he said.  Dorcan's face screwed up and it looked like he was going to cry for a few seconds, though no tears came.  He muttered something under his breath, and mastered himself.

"The... The thing is, Sydney, you're 23, right?  In a very short time you're likely to get your head-wings.  Like mine.  At that point, you'll start to come into your powers, and that will be a very dangerous time for you.
"Since you won't yet know how to conceal them, you will be easily recognised as a 'Cubi, and you'll start to experience emotions more and more profoundly.  That, if nothing else, is something you have to learn to control before you get yourself into trouble.  I don't want you to swing too, whatever Linda may..."

"She's still my mother!" Syd snapped.  Dorcan raised both hands in a gesture of acceptance and contrition.

"You're right of course," the Doberman said.  "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that.  But you must understand, she had me killed!  That moment, when my neck broke, I lost everything... powers most Beings would kill for, gone forever!" his face screwed up slightly and he was silent for a while.  "I hope you can forgive me if my attitude towards her is somewhat... coloured," he said at last.

"I... I get that," Syd said.  "But if you don't mind, there is one thing I still don't understand.  If you aren't an incubus after your death, what are you now?  Some kind of ghost...?"

"I'm a robot," Dorcan said.  "Following my death, I was saved by Niall, who trapped my soul because he felt that execution without trial was a gross miscarriage of justice.  I have one or two minor powers, simple emotional sensors and the ability to conceal my wings.  I am of course grateful for a second chance at life, but all the same, I lost a lot that day."

"What about me?" Syd asked, trembling.  "You said that the headwings will be dangerous to me.  You came to warn me or offer advice for that time?"

"Both, really.  We got a bit sidetracked.  I should have got to the point more quickly, saved the whys and wherefores until later.  See, most 'Cubi clans use a training school of some kind to teach their young the essential survival skills. 
"I came here to talk to you about that, to give you the prospectuses for a couple of the bigger schools, SAIA, Krishnov's, ISIS...  But it's a big commitment."

"What kind of 'big' are we talking about, here?  How long does it usually take to learn the basics?"

"About two hundred years," Dorcan said.  "SAIA used to be completely isolated and students would stay within its confines for three or four centuries, maybe with an occasional visit outside for family reasons.  It's still a bit like that, but less strict.  The others are more like a regular university where you can go home at weekends and the solstice breaks."

"So I'd still be able to visit mum?"  Syd asked.

"Yes, but... it might not be wise."

"...Because the town won't let me..."

"Yeah," Dorcan said.  "Unless things have changed here, they'd hang you for the smallest excuse, just because you're a..."

"Not anymore," Sydney said.  Dorcan's face lit up.  "Really?  You mean they've finally grown out of their anti-Creature..." his face fell as he saw that Sydney was looking at the floor.

"They don't hang Creatures anymore.  Not after one of them got away... actually, it was probably you."

"What do they do instead, Sydney?" Dorcan asked, stony-faced.

"Decapitation.  In public, of course," Sydney said in a small voice.  "When hanging didn't work on you, they wanted something more... permanent... so that... so they can make absolutely sure... I'm dead..."  Syd burst into tears, burying his face in his father's shirt.  "They sh-shoot the head afterwards..." he sobbed.

Dorcan stroked the young fox's hair, doing the best he could to comfort the youth, but his own hands were trembling and he could feel an icy sinking sensation in his guts - quite forgetting that he had only a fusion plant in his abdomen.  And then his hand touched something odd in the young man's hair... something that was moving, unfolding like a flower blooming in time-lapse photography.  It was his son's head-wings.

"Oh fuck," he whispered.

* * *

Daryil walked down the street, dressed in one of his more goth-looking outfits.  His wings were out, and that was one of the reasons he had gone unmolested.  For an ordinary mortal, going out in Grunmore with expensive or sexy clothes was an open invitation to be mugged or raped, but Daryil was more than a match for anyone of that ilk.  Earlier, someone too dim to recognise a Creature had pointed a gun at him, and that gun was now a strange flat object where the metal had run molten across the pavement and later cooled.  I probably should have done something more spectacular, Daryil thought, but he was pressed for time.  They should be waking up about now, he mused.

Now he was in the centre of town, what passed for a shopping area in the poverty-stricken district.  Impressively, the place was filled with a hubbub of people, and Daryil smiled as he opened his mind and sampled their emotions.  Yes, good... Arnold's was drawing people from Parbury itself and beyond... and that would help increase the coffers of his fledgeling government.

There were a number of shielded minds in the mix as well, Daryil noted - usually that meant 'Cubi.  Some of them were the enforcers he'd placed to keep the peace in the area, a mix of warriors of his own clan like Nigel, and hires from other clans and races too.  He liked being an equal-opportunities employer and besides, sometimes an outside perspective could be very valuable.

The queue stretched out across the street and folded back, filled with punters eager for the taste of porridge.  Arnold's Cafe now boasted an unprecedented variety of spices and condiments to flavour an otherwise boring and unremarkable dish and it had somehow become big, very big.

Daryil had provided temporary hands from his Clan and other allies to help serve the throng until new hires could be arranged.  All were volunteers and it was easy to see why - the emotions provided by the crowd were a treat for empaths, almost as delicious as the porridge itself.

"How's it going, Arnold?" he asked, entering the cafe through the back, staff only.

"I can't believe it, my Lord," the bear said.  "For the last five years trade has been dropping off and now... it's like everyone's making up for it.  And now I'm worried that I won't be able to cope..."

"I'm looking into more premises and staff," Daryil reassured him.  "That Cash-Fur-Cheques place will do, once planning permission has gone through.  It has to go anyway."

"What about those who need its services, my Lord?  Not everyone here has a bank account..." he asked, and then quailed slightly as Daryil frowned.

"You're right, perhaps it is too soon for that," the incubus replied, and his voice became bitter.  "But you don't know how big a cut they've been taking!  I will not have parasites like that in my town!  If that means I have to cash their cheques myself at cost, then so be it.  Maybe I can contract it out to the Bank of Ketonia..."

"How long do you think this boom will last, my Lord?" he queried.

"Just 'Daryil' will be fine," the fox said.  "You can call me 'Dar' if we've... actually I'm not sure you're my type."


"Never mind.   I think that we can keep the thing going for a while.  It's not like I plan to over-expand here.  But what we'll do next is home delivery."

"Delivery...?  But it will go cold, my... Daryil."

"I'll summon some warp-acis, they will handle delivery.  And talking of cold, we're going to want some freezers in place for when the weather gets hotter."


"Porridge ice-cream," Daryil said simply.  "Actually, once we have the warp-acis in place we can probably sell them in the southern hemisphere right now.   Yeah... if we do that we will need the extra capacity so we can handle separate time zones. Maybe this one should sell the hot porridge and Cash-Fur-Cheques should sell the frozen ones?  Anyway, we'll see how it goes."  Daryil planted a kiss on his cheek and went upstairs.

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


Well at least Dorcan was there when Syd got head wings, or it could have ended with a chop  :mowwink ... To be fair I sort of guessed Syd was Dorcan's son from chapter 1 .
I'm sort of surprised it was Lin who ratted Dorcan out, and I'm even more surprised she allowed nothing to reach Syd...
I thought that Lin would have known Dorcan was a incubus not a demon, due to the fact that he DID shapeshift his wings away, though maybe she thought it was a patch...

Also now I have a image of Daryl in a mankini  :erk ... I need bleach...

Nice chapter overall, sorry for not reading it at first.

(credit: Gabi)


Quote from: Ignuus66 on April 30, 2012, 06:23:04 AM
Well at least Dorcan was there when Syd got head wings, or it could have ended with a chop  :mowwink ... To be fair I sort of guessed Syd was Dorcan's son from chapter 1 .

One of my proofreaders was all 'Woah.' when that came out, but that said, it's not something I took enormous pains to conceal.  The pictures in particular make it a bit of a giveaway :3

QuoteI thought that Lin would have known Dorcan was a incubus not a demon, due to the fact that he DID shapeshift his wings away, though maybe she thought it was a patch...

Depends - 'Cubi are rather rare and owing to persecution from the wars, they have tended to keep themselves hidden.  IIRC DMFA in the present-day has a population of approximately 30'000 individuals and it's possible that might take another dip the way things are heading in the current storyline.
In the Project Future/Epsilon era the numbers have recovered somewhat, say 40-50k, but they're still rare and backwards places like Mundesberg probably still don't know much about them.

QuoteNice chapter overall, sorry for not reading it at first.
Well, next time I'll know not to break with the usual schedule :3

Daryil's porridge shop was fun to design.

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


You can make a new scedual... 7 chapters a week maybe? :3
(I'm joking)

Out of curiosity how many proofreaders do you have? (I haven't seen a single spelling/grammar error yet)

(credit: Gabi)


Quote from: Ignuus66 on April 30, 2012, 07:54:59 AM
You can make a new scedual... 7 chapters a week maybe? :3
(I'm joking)

Out of curiosity how many proofreaders do you have? (I haven't seen a single spelling/grammar error yet)

Even I missed that Daniel changed from a wolf into a Doberman after chapter 1 (I fixed it the other day), so it's not infallible.  I have two people looking at it on a regular basis, and a couple of others who are interested but too busy.  Sunblink is one of those, but I've been sending her the fragments and chapters which feature Keaton to get her input and so forth.

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


Quote from: Ignuus66 on April 30, 2012, 06:23:04 AM

Also now I have a image of Daryl in a mankini  :erk ... I need bleach...

And then you see an image of that on the net. You'll need more than bleach to help you then


Just a quick reminder: the first part of Syd's backstory ran last weekend, breaking the normal update schedule.  If you missed chapter 9, go back and read that now.

Chapter 10

"Sydney," Dorcan said crisply, "You said you were planning to run away in case the town turned hostile on you.  How long will it take you to pack?"

"What, now?"  Syd's face was damp with tears.

"This shithole of a town is no place for you," the Doberman said.  "From what you're saying, they'll lynch you on sight now that your head-wings have come in and I'm damned if anyone is gonna cut off my son's head.  I'd kill them all first," he snarled.  The young fox stared at him, horror mingling with his fear and grief and the shock of all he'd just learned as he felt the leathery protrusions on the back of his head.

"We can loan you some clothes," Dorcan continued, "But if you have any favourites or prized possessions you want to bring, pack those now, we're going to have to leave at once.  We can pick up the rest later.  Oh, and use a rucksack, not a suitcase.  How long will it take?"

"Not long," Syd admitted, panic setting in.  "But where are we going?  I haven't chosen a school yet!  I haven't had time!"

"The new term doesn't start for a few months yet," Dorcan said.  "Unless you want to go to SAIA, but they say it's not the same as it was when I was a kid.  I'm going to take you to my grandparents, they'll be happy to house us there until you're ready to go to the school."

"Can't you teach me to hide them?"

"No," Dorcan said.  "I can't remember how.  My new brain... it doesn't have the faculties to do it, and what I'm doing to hide my headwings as a robot is completely different to normal 'Cubi shapeshifting."

"How can you forget something like..."

"If you lost your eyes and went blind, you'd still remember what things looked like," Dorcan said.  "But if you lost the visual centre in your brain you wouldn't.  I've lost the shapeshifting centre, so I can't remember how it was done and I can't teach you.  But my grandparents can."

"Why your grandparents?"  Sydney asked, packing some of his more treasured clothes, some leathers and a rather ancient laptop into a battered rucksack.  Last of all, he put on a scabbard containing a longsword, cheap and factory-made but servicable.  A memento of an earlier life... "Did... did something happen to your real parents?"

"They're on holiday," Dorcan said.  "Doing a motorcycle tour of Valmorath.  And yeah, they'll be delighted to meet you, but I do have to take you to my grandparents at some point anyway, it's a clan duty."

"A duty?"

"Yeah, one of the bylaws of our clan.  See, my grandparents?  They rule our clan..." he frowned, glancing at the computer.  "Where did that come from?!  I didn't think they allowed those here."

"I got it at university.  And no, I'm not supposed to have brought it back with me," the fox admitted nervously.  "That alone would get me flogged if they found out... and now that I'm an adult... You're right, I have to leave this place, I'm not safe here.  But what about my mother?"

Dorcan froze.  "What about your mother?"

"She's coming with us, right?"

"Nah, she's a Being, she should be safe enough here.  Like I said, you can visit her at solstice, once you've learned some basic concealment."

"That's not what I meant."

"No, Syd," Dorcan was starting to lose patience.  "She's not coming.  There's nothing between us now.  I... Look, it's not like I hate her - I mean, she seems to have done well enough bringing you up and I'm very grateful for that, but I don't want her to be a part of my life anymore!  Every time I look at her, it reminds me of how she betrayed me to my death!  You think I want that?!"

He screwed up his eyes and sighed.  "Look, Syd, it wouldn't be fair on her either.  We can't just uproot her and place her with a group of powerful, dangerous Creatures who blame her for what happened to me!  Fuck, Mum would go ballistic if they ever met!  She's already killed the hangman..."

Syd looked frantic.  "It's not that either!  It's the town... when they realise I've gone... Oh my gods... 'Aiding and abetting a Demon...'  They'll stick her head on a pike in the square!" he wailed.

"Oh gods," Dorcan groaned, his wings fanning out with horror.  Just then, the front door was kicked down.

"Where is the Demon?!" an amplified voice demanded.  "We know it went in here!  Hand it over now, or face the consequences!"

* * *

The meeting had been called hastily, and that set everyone on edge.  Everyone except The Professor, who as usual seemed rather unflappable.

Lady Finch arrived last, pocketing her mobile with a look of annoyance that erupted into full-fledged anger when she took her place at the board-room table.

"I am sure you all know why we are here," she said icily.

"Um," someone said, and one of Lady Finch's wing-tentacles lashed out at him, a blur of red.  With surprising speed, The Professor intercepted it in mid-air and held the vicious thing firmly in one hand.
"That will do," he said quietly, and the wolf succubus looked contrite for a moment as the tentacle went limp and retracted back into the body of her leathery wings.  "Johan isn't responsible for any of this... mess."

"I'm sorry, my lord," she said after a moment, but the raccoon waved her quiet.

"For the benefit of those who have buried their heads in the sand," he said, glancing sharply at the feline incubus who had invoked the succubus' wrath, "Daryil has made yet another move against us.  His investment in Arnold's Cafe has done something which we could not possibly have forseen..."

"Porridge!" the she-wolf screamed as if it was the vilest insult she could conceive of.

"Specifically, he has somehow made his porridge into a luxury item that everyone wants, but is well within their budget," The Professor concluded.  "It's like a cult, and it's spread far beyond Grunmore district."

"That means an influx of spending," Johan said.  "He means to spark an economic revival in Grunmore," the feline added, earning a grudging look of respect from the lady.  "It's probably just the tip of an iceberg."

"We could open a rival store," someone suggested.  "Find an old bakery, set up proxies from the clan disguised as Beings.  We could put cocaine in the porridge - get people hooked, and we can drive up the price afterwards once Daryil's out of business.  And if it's discovered we could probably taint Daryil by reputation.  Say we have the proxies masquerade as Daryil members..."

Lady Finch was still seething.  "No," she said.  "It's personal now.  Daryil is doing this deliberately to drive us away from Grunmore, this dead spot on the map where no-one dares to go, where we could conduct the Project undisturbed."

"What do you propose?" The Professor asked.

"I want to hit Daryil hard, and fast.  First, we have to close his porridge shop now, one way or another.  But more than that, we have to strike at him.  We must kidnap his son!  We know where he is and we've discussed it endlessly, but nothing has actually been done.  I want that plan put into action immediately!"

"Any objections?" The Professor said, glancing around the room.  "Personally I have misgivings, but unless someone can point out a fatal flaw..."

The Professor abstained, and one or two voted against it, but there was a clear majority.

"Then let's do it," he said.

* * *

"Right," Dorcan said, and took off his shirt, revealing a muscular build that put Sydney's to shame.  "Wait here for seven seconds," he told the fox, "then follow.  I'll try not to hurt you, but you must struggle and fight back when I grab you.  Keep the rucksack on you all times, or it won't make the journey."  So saying, he turned and left the room.

"Which Demon do you want first?!" Dorcan bellowed, running down the stairs.  "Am I Demon enough for you?!"

Syd fingered the straps on his rucksack, sweating with terror at the sounds of violence coming from the living room, and then ran headlong down the stairs.

"What the hell's..." he faltered.  Dorcan was looking around the room and locked eyes with the fox, an expression of cruel delight on his features.  "You're coming with me!" he yelled and grabbed the fox, who yelled and struggled.  "Mum...!"  Dorcan held him firmly and destroyed a nearby armchair with a single kick.  Sydney caught one last look at his mother, nursing a fresh cut on her cheek.  Then everything disappeared.

Sydney found himself standing in another living room, with pink walls and a lush red carpet.  It was early evening, so they had clearly jumped a long way.
On one wall was an inked portrait of some bizarre mythos inside what appeared to be some kind of library.  He felt Dorcan's tight grip come loose, and stared at the Doberman with a boiling morass of conflicting emotions.  Anger won.

"You hit..." he snarled, but Dorcan waved him quiet.  Although he could shed no tears, the Doberman was obviously crying, and Syd's feelings did yet another loop-the-loop.  "I had to," Dorcan said.  "Didn't want to... tried not to hurt her too much... but it's still... it hurts."

"You wanted them to think it was a kidnap," Sydney said softly.

"Yes," Dorcan sobbed.  "It's what you said... if they thought she had made some kind of deal with me, they'd execute her.  I had to look like a Demon gone rogue.   And I'm sorry... I don't know if she can forgive me for that.  Or you, come to that.  But I'll... I'll send her some money... make sure she can afford a good retirement.  And when... when you next see her, I want you to tell her I'm sorry..."

"I will," the fox promised.  At that moment, the door opened and a seductively-dressed husky walked in - the first person Sydney had ever met who flaunted the fact that she was a succubus.  She looked a year or two older than Syd, were it not for the way she moved.  That, and there was something indefinable in her eyes, something that hinted darkly at the things she had seen and done in her long, long life.  The succubus halted, her headwings drooped slightly as she took in the scene and Dorcan's obvious misery.

"Welcome to the clan, Sydney," she said.  "I'm Julei.  We weren't expecting you so soon... I take it things didn't go so well?"

"Could have been better," Dorcan sighed.  "I hit my ex and trashed up her living room."

"Could have been worse," the succubus countered, and drew out a wing-tentacle for emphasis, banishing the little jackal-head at the end and coiling the tentacle into a loop about six inches across.  Sydney watched it with fascination.

"Once upon a time, a 'Cubi divorcing a Being usually meant divorcing the Being's head from their body," she continued and the tentacle made a constricting motion in the air, jumping and turning itself inside-out, edges sharp as razors.
Syd drew back suddenly in terror as he realised what it meant - if the tentacle had been around someone's neck, their head would have been popped off like a dandelion.  Julei glanced around at him, with a guilty expression.  "Oh shit, I'm so sorry..."

"D-did you actually do that to someone...?" Syd asked, with a certain amount of nausea.  Julei looked at the floor.  "A long time ago," she admitted.  "I used to be an assassin... I did that and far worse things besides."  The husky looked distressed for a moment and then her expression softened as if she'd just made up her mind about something.

"How old do you think I am...?" she asked him.  "You can be completely honest, I won't take offence."

"That's a trick question," the fox said.  "Creatures tend to have their age freeze in their twenties, and 'Cubi can shapeshift."

"They can, yes.  But I haven't," Julei said.  "I would not deceive my kin, not even to feed my own vanity.  What you're seeing now is how I truly look."

"Well, I don't know, but at a guess... Five hundred?  Three hundred?"

"More like three thousand," she said.  "But I could still pass for 23, and that's unusual.  Most 'Cubi who made it this far would start to show their age by now, and most Demons or Angels would be dead at half my age.
"Sydney, I don't look as young as I do because of some moisturising shampoo, whatever the adverts may claim their products can do.  I paid a high price for my continued youth, in blood and souls."

"Souls..." the young incubus looked horrified.

"Yes, I know," she sighed.  "It's horrible, but I felt it was best you heard it from me.  See, there was a time when 'Cubi were quite the savage race, and unfortunately our former clan never really got over that phase until they were destroyed."  The succubus closed her eyes and was quiet for a few moments.

"If it makes you feel any better, we broke away from them because we got sick of it... all the killings and soul sacrifices that our Queen demanded from us.  And yes, I have used my wings to collect the heads of more victims than I'd care to remember, and all those old skills are still down there, buried away...
"And sometimes they do still come in handy," she continued, "Like when we needed to take down one of the trees out back.  But I promise you, I haven't killed anyone except in self-defence for at least six centuries."  Sydney relaxed a bit and when she was satisfied that he'd be okay, the succubus turned back to the Doberman.

"Dorcan, you know I trust you," she said, "But all the same, we should send someone around to make sure Linda's okay.  Just in case you hit her harder than you realised."

"Be careful," Dorcan warned, "Because while we're on the subject of lopping off heads, Mundesburg does that to Creatures, now.  On sight."

"Then I'll ask Daryil," she decided.  "He likes you, Dorcan."

"They won't know what hit them," the Doberman grinned.

"Okay, Syd," the husky said, beckoning to the fox with a friendly expression.  "Let me show you your bedroom.  You've just had a series of nasty shocks and a lot to take in.  Sleep if you can, it will do you good.
"Tomorrow, when you've had a chance to absorb it all, I'll show you around the place.  And we can start talking about our clan and your new powers.  You have a lot to catch up on..."

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


Let the excrement hit the air circulatory machine, they're going ahead with the kidnapping. Poor Syd so much happening in so little time. It must be hard to keep up.   


Encore! Encore!
Also I'm curios how Daryl managed to make porridge a delicacy.. I mean it does taste great, but it's not exactly rare, or hard to make, but I guess with Daryl, everything is possible! 
Great chapter all around.

(credit: Gabi)


I knew I'd forgotten something last night.  I was away most of today so couldn't check my calendar.

Anyway, here's chapter 11...

Chapter 11

Sydney had been staring into the campfire as he told his tale, and now he looked up at Sheila for a reaction.  Instead, the Border gestured 'Shhh' and pointed at Richard, who was lying curled up on the ground.
"Awww," Syd whispered.  "You know, for a murderous psychopath, he looks kinda cute when he's asleep."

Using levitation spells to avoid disturbing him, they floated the sleeping jackal into the tent and carefully tucked him into a sleeping bag.  The fox paused, staring at Richard's shiny arm-length gloves and wondering whether he could quickly remove them, but Sheila tapped him on the shoulder and they headed back to the campfire.

"Clearly he's still more Being than he'd care to admit," she said.  "Like I say, I'd guess he's about 21.  Now I dunno about you, but I can get by on one night's sleep a week, and soon I won't even need that much.  My parents were a little frustrated before I went to Illiath's - I think they used to get up to all kinds of kinky stuff while I was off in the Land of Nod, and when I started staying up all night reading..."

"Yeah," Syd agreed.  "I thought it was insomnia at first, but I realised that it wasn't actually affecting me for days and days.  That and the symbol on my leg... I should have put it together more quickly."  He cast a glance back at the tent.  "I still think we could have snuck a look at his right hand."

"Better not," Sheila said.  "He was really uptight about it in the class.  I think the idea actually frightened him.  If he suddenly woke up, or guessed what you'd done... Trust me, you don't want to see a hissy-fit thrown by an angry, scared young incubus who thinks it's okay to kill people."

"You know, sometimes I wonder if he is an incubus..." Syd pondered.

"Whatever do you mean?" Sheila demanded, her head-wings fanning out slightly.

"Well, it's just... he hasn't really done much.  I haven't seen him cast any spells, or bring out his wing-tentacles or even seen his clan-mark.  And he seems to be completely incapable of reading emotions."

"Hmm.  What about Falkirk's class on element-resistance?" the succubus asked, considering the matter curiously.

"He wouldn't go beyond the fan-heaters.  We only have his word that he actually felt colder."

"True... but what do you think he is, if he's not 'Cubi?"

"Remember, my father is an android," Sydney pointed out.  "He can hide his wings magically, and I wouldn't have known if he hadn't told me, they're that good these days.  If Richard is some kind of plant..."

"He's probably just too young.  The powers don't come in immediately.  We'll see, though - if he is an android it's going to be pretty embarrassing for him in the shapeshifting class."

"True," Syd muttered.

"So what did happen when you met your ancestors?" Sheila said, changing the subject.  "What are they like?"

"My grandparents were pretty cool.  Big into motorbikes," he said.  "But I only met them for a week or so."

"Fair enough," the Border said.  "What about your great-grandparents?  Didn't you say they ruled the clan, or something?"

"Mordrith and Julei, yes," he replied, hoping that Sheila would forget all this by the time she was able to get onto Worldnet and look any of them up.  So far none of this had gone into her notebook.

"...But Mordrith was away on business for most of the time, we only met briefly before I went to school.  He didn't have time to formally induct me into the clan.  There is a ceremony that clan members go through when they are of age, but it takes a few days to do.  We're going to do it over the summer break, I think," he said.

"And Julei?"

"She kind of reminds me of you," Syd said, and the tips of his ears went pink.  "But kind of evil.  They were in hiding for a long time, and even now they have Daryil's protection, she tends to wear formal Being clothes with something more succubus-like underneath."  Sheila cackled with amusement at this for a few moments.

"'Cubi like tight clothing," she said.  "We tend to like shiny things, too.  Most of us develop an outfit that's easy to form from our fur and wings, in case we're caught short without our clothes for some reason and it works best if the outfit is form-fitting and skimpy.  That and well, it's always fun to look sexy."  She made her predatory face for a second and then, with a more normal expression, appraised Syd critically for a few moments.  "You know, if you still have those leathers from home, you should put them on.  I think it'd suit you well."

Shortly afterwards, Sheila drifted away to talk to one of the other girls, leaving Syd sitting bored around in front of their campfire.  For want of anything better to do, he made his way back to their tent, and following Richard's example, slept.

* * *

Daryil was at the Jayhawk Arctic Facility when the call came in.

"Ah, Nigel," he beamed.  "How's things going at Grunmore?  Actually, I need to pick your brains for a minute.  I've been looking into plans for expansion for the next phase of the project... we need to pick some other innocuous and cheap food produced in Grunmore and promote it as a lifestyle accessory.
"I'm thinking about that mush you get when you leave the cereal in the bowl for too long... we could even come up with a trademark name for it.  But we probably want something else, maybe interestingly-flavoured mashed potato...  Blancmange sandwiches... no, flapjack!  That'll do.
"See, my plan is to open up a chain of strip clubs, which serve the stuff as a staple.  That way, we can associate flapjack with sex and promote it as a forbidden delight..."

"Uh, Dar," Nigel said, and the fox noticed then that his head-wings were drooping.

"Nigel... is something wrong?" he asked slowly.

"It's Arnold.  He's been murdered."

Daryil stared at Nigel speechlessly for a few moments.  Then his face and headwings twisted into a visage of fury that Nigel had never seen on his Leader's face before, and it terrified him.

"I... we were too late," he bleated.  "Gibson heard the shot and by then..."

"A sniper?" the fox snapped.

"Yes, my lord."

"I'll be over right away.  I want full access to all CCTV footage.  I'll file a request for a new body for Arnold, but that's likely to take months.  In the meantime, find someone to take over Arnold's role, a Demon if you can, they're hard to kill and able to defend themselves.  Actually, make sure all the customer-facing folks are Demon or Angel, if you can - I don't want to lose any of my Children or anyone else for that matter.
"Have security boosted around the shop.  I will not let a bunch of crackheads with guns threaten my town."

"Yes, Dar.  We've already put in some defences, a slow-field against bullets, shutters on the windows and so forth."

"Very good.  And Nigel... I want to know who's behind this.  I want that sniper, and I will get whoever put them up to it."

"M-my Lord," the German Shepherd started.

"Yes, my child?"

"What... what will you do to them?"

"No-one kills my allies," Daryil said.  "I don't like killing, and I don't do this lightly, but I think this crime calls for... neuron spallation."

"Neutron spallation...?" the dog said, blankly.  "You mean... Like when you shoot a beam of protons at mercury...?  Oh, you mean to irradiate them..."

"Neuron spallation," Daryil corrected him.  "Brain cells.  It'll be messy, but unfortunately... well, you can't make an egg without breaking a few omlettes.  Sometimes you just have to make a strong example to your enemies."

"Sometimes, yes," Nigel said.  "But for the investigation... do you have any idea why someone would do this?"

"Probably to make an example to me," Daryil said.  "I would guess that the organised crime faction in Grunmore is starting to come out of the woodwork, wouldn't you say?"

"Makes sense," Nigel admitted.  "Though for all I know, Arnold owed money to someone."

Daryil signed off the wallscreen and created an avatar of himself to send to Grunmore.  The rest of him started to fill out the forms for a resurrection, and as he did so, he began to wonder what name he should use for the porridge franchise now their frontman was dead.

* * *

When Sydney had been younger he wanted to be an adventurer, like many other young men in towns or cities without a Creature patron.  And as with many other young men he gave up on the dream a few years later, and went off to the nearby city to study business or electronics or particle physics, but not before the basic training had given him a respectable physique.

Now he stood on the shore of a beach, not remembering quite how he got there nor really caring.  It was not important.  He found he was wearing the leather jeans and jacket from his home, and there were a number of coconuts rolling into the sea.  They had fallen off before they were ripe and he had to gather up as many as he could and stick them back on the tree...

The jackal laughed and the sky grew black.  It was filled with brightly glowing stars, and each star was a soul that the Lady had claimed...

He was in a broken city filled with shadows and in the centre of the square, he found a black-backed jackal, not much younger than he was, probably about 22.  He had leathery wings like Sydney's, but black and yellow fur - almost like Keaton's - and his eyes were full of fear.  He hadn't yet noticed Syd because of the Lady.
She stood before the youth, her back to Syd.  She was a golden jackal, dark grey leathery wings adorned her head, back and hips.  When she spoke, her voice was rage.

"Why do you keep returning?!" she thundered.  "Abomination... your kind is all I have fought to destroy... our clan, our race must be kept pure!"

"I... I can't help it!" the youth protested.  "I don't want to bother you... I don't know why I keep coming here... I don't want to keep coming here, believe me!"

"You will never come here again," she said, "This time I shall end your evil taint forever..."  Syd had drawn closer and the incubus had seen him.  Their eyes met for a second, and the Tri-wing suddenly realised there was another intruder behind her.  She spun around and upon seeing Syd, gave an incredible cry.  She spake without words, and her voice was thunder, and the firmament was cleft.

"Another half-breed!?!" she screamed, when able to speak.  "Who dare...  How...  Huh..."

The Lady vanished in mid-sentence, and the city began to fade away, merely a fleeting memory of a memory without her there to sustain it.  The younger 'Cubi remained, but his features became unstable, a distorted echo in Syd's memory.  For a moment he became Keaton Jyraneth and then Syd was alone again, staring at the ocean which was now seething with fallen coconuts.

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


First contact! Heh, Somehow I was expecting that. Still, I have to wonder is that keaton's kid? because if no, there is another remaining member of Jyraneth that the Ja'fell (or Keaton) is not aware of.

(credit: Gabi)


I'm actually finding how Daryil runs a pretty tight ship and doesn't allow people to walk all over him very enjoyable. The added amounts of eccentric personality make him a very likable character as well... I hope they Tapes includes Daryil's little trip to check on Syd's mom, that should be a interesting trip if Daryil's usual antics are anything to judge by.
I perfer my spam cooked on a skillet.


Quote from: joshofspam on May 20, 2012, 12:50:15 AM
I hope they Tapes includes Daryil's little trip to check on Syd's mom, that should be a interesting trip if Daryil's usual antics are anything to judge by.

That was a month or so prior to present-day, but it is referred to a couple of times.

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


Chapter 12

Somewhere in her great fastness below the ruined city, the Lady twitched and sunk back into her long coma.  And far outside her reach, Sydney twitched slightly in time with her as the link was broken and his dreams took their natural course once more.

And then suddenly he awoke with a scream as someone shook him, his leathery wings flapping viciously in a panic reflex and sending the bedsheet soaring through the air to land across Richard.  To his surprise, Syd realised he was seeing Sheila and the now-stirring Richard even before he turned his head, and the feeling was most disconcerting.

"You scared the hell out of me," he said groggily, and his voice trailed away.  The Border collie looked rather scared, and she was staring at something just behind him.

Cautiously, Syd looked around and as he did so he was dimly aware that he could see his own head turning, and that was even more disturbing.  He found himself staring at a small jackal head on the end of a tentacle sprouting from his wings, its eyes glowing white and its mouth filled with happy rows of teeth.

"Woah," he said, and the tentacles folded back into his wings.  "Sorry if I startled you, but you did wake..."

"Tentacle-heads," Sheila whimpered.  "You've got tentacle-heads!  How can you have tentacle-heads?  You said you came from a minor clan!"

"Well," Syd said awkwardly, "Our Leader is still alive.  But she hasn't been seen for about eight centuries.  Even then, I don't think she ever left the city much.  And most of the clan died so I say that makes us a minor clan, tri-winged Leader or no..."

"Eight centuries..." Sheila was saying, and she backed away, trying unsuccessfully to stop herself from radiating horror.  "You're a Jyraneth."

She spoke the words quietly, her voice subdued as though Syd had just been sentenced to death.  The fox couldn't bring himself to look in her direction.

"Cool!" Richard said, eyes shining.  "And you can still sleep, right?  Have you tried communing with her?"

Sydney's wings fanned out.  "Gods, no!" he squawked.  "Why would I want to have a maniac like her in my head?!  She would want to destroy me if she even knew I existed!"  His expression became concerned as he remembered the dream.  "Though I think she might do now... I may have met her, or perhaps it was just a dream...  I need to ask Mordrith about this... does anyone have a phone?  Only the guards were allowed them in Mundesberg..."

Richard's elation faded and he frowned slightly.  "Bit squeamish for a Jyraneth, aren't you?  And... they never let their members get a Being pregnant..."

"Richard," the Border spat, "Shut up.  Let me handle this."  The white jackal shrugged and tucked himself back into bed.

Sydney stared at the succubus for three seconds and then ran out of the tent as fast as he could.

* * *

Nicholaus stumbled through the woods.  It was still a little dark and stopping to sleep had been a risk, and in some ways foolish, but he still needed it... he was not yet old enough to do without sleep entirely.  Or, he realised belatedly, food.  He hadn't eaten the whole day, and worse, on the run there were no emotions to feed on...

He saw some lights in the distance and headed towards those.  Flames, by the look, and an electric torch.  Probably travellers.  He could smell bacon frying... perhaps he could scrounge some food from them...

He ran into the figure when he least expected it.  He was a Doberman pinscher, and an incubus.  "Who are..." Nick started, but then his eyes fell on the Creature's clan mark, halfway down his arm.  It was the Kamei'Sin mark, and he knew from his reading that they were the deadliest enemies of the Jyraneth.

"P-please... don't kill me..." he whimpered, and fainted dead away.

Nick drifted gradually back into consciousness.  And that in itself was something... he hadn't expected to awake at all.  But then he realised that his wrists were bound.

They're gonna execute me, he realised, horrified.  They want me awake... they want me to know, they want me to feel it...

"How are you feeling?" the Doberman asked.  Nick stared at him, eyes wide with terror.  "Don't kill me..." he begged.  The Doberman looked rather taken aback.

"Should I...?" he asked.  Nick looked completely bewildered.

"You're Kamei'Sin..."

"I am, yeah.  Daniel Kamei'Sin.  Named after the great hero Ti'Fiona.  I should probably take you to the Professor..."

Nick glanced down at his wrists.  "No, no!" he said.  "Whatever you want, I don't know it... I've never met any of my Clan..."

One of Daniel's wings formed into a blade.  Nick screamed.

"Shit, I'm really not doing well here," Daniel said.  "I was just going to cut your binds.  If you promise not to turn violent, I mean..."

"I promise... just let me go..."

Daniel carefully sliced the rope with his wing, just as a particularly scruffy figure entered through the tent flap.

"Really, Daniel..." professor Falkirk said.  "What is going on in here?  Why did you tie him up?  I don't think he's into that."

"He's a Jyraneth," Daniel protested.  "The maniac clan!  I didn't think he'd be safe!"

"Well, it scared the piss out of him.  He thought you wanted to torture him to death!"

"He was acting a bit odd," Daniel admitted, "But look at him!  He's got to be Keaton's child, and you know what she's like!"

"Leave it to me," the professor sighed, and offered the starving jackal some rations as Daniel left the tent, in a tangible cloud of embarrassment.

"So," he said.  "May I ask who you are, and how you came to be in such an unhappy state?"

"I'm Nicholaus Worthing," the jackal said.  "I'm running away.  Who are you people?"

"Running away is not usually the best answer," Falkirk said.  "And you needn't worry, we're not some kind of Kamei'Sin encampment.  You were just unlucky to run into Daniel first.  We're from Iliath's 'Cubi school, or ISIS if you prefer it.  We're on a field trip, and I am of Daryil's clan.
"So... what seems to be your problem?  If it's trouble with your parents, they're probably really worried sick for you by now."

"Maybe they are," Nick said.  "I left them a note, and I didn't want to go, but I had to leave... I'm not safe."

"We might be able to arrange a safe-house for you if you need it, or a fair trial if you have some kind of problem with the law."

"I'm on the run from my Leader," Nick said shakily.  The poodle blinked rapidly.
"Well, that does make things a bit more complicated," he said.  "Though... not that I doubt your sincerity, but most people think Jyraneth died when her realm fell eight centuries ago..?"

"I met her in my dreams," Nick said.  "Three times, now!  She called me an abomination, she tried to kill me..."

"If she really wanted you to be dead, I imagine you would be by now," the professor said.  "However, this is rather disturbing news..."

"There's another one!" Daniel screamed, running back into the tent.  "They're after me!"

* * *

"Syd," Sheila barked sharply.  The fox just stood there, staring at the ground.

"Yes," he said, slowly.  "Biologically, I am a Jyraneth.  I'm not proud of it, but it's not something I can help, exactly.  I know we committed atrocities... if half of the stories I've heard are true..." he was starting to tear up.

"Sydney," the Border said, approaching him slowly, "Jyraneth Clan made enemies of my great-grandparents..."

"I told you, I can't help what my ancestors did before they rebelled against our psychotic leader!  But I can understand... why you wouldn't want to be friends anymore."

"Syd, listen.  I said that I was going to judge you by what you do, not what your forebears did."

"That worked out well, didn't it...?  Now you know what I am and..."

"I haven't changed my mind," she said.  Syd laid his head on her shoulder and wept.

"Sydney?" Professor Falkirk said.  "I realise this is a bad time, but... can you come with me, please?"

Sheila looked alarmed.  "Must he?"

"Yes, I think we will need his... expertise.  You may come too if you feel he needs moral support.  And yes, Syd, you can dress first."

Back in the tent, Sydney rummaged through his suitcase for the clothes he had in mind, the jacket and pants that he had brought.  "It's always fun to look sexy," he muttered to himself and put them on.

Somehow Richard managed to sneak into Daniel's tent along with Sheila, Sydney and the professor himself.  Nick looked up nervously at the crowd, and then froze.  Sydney froze as well, as soon as he laid eyes on Nick.

"He...  You were in my dream..." he babbled, and the professor looked particularly disturbed.

"Who else was in the dream, Sydney?"

"A jackal," the fox said nervously.  "Female.  Tri-winged... I think she was the Lady Jyraneth..."

"She was going to kill me," Nick said.  "She tried before, and then he came... And she freaked out..."

"She was trying to say something, but she vanished in mid-sentence, and then I was back on the beach," Sydney said, the words sounding stupid to his ears.

"Where were you before?" the professor asked.  "When you saw Her, I mean?  Where did the meeting take place?"

"In a ruined city," Sydney replied.  "I guess it was probably Harla'Keth, but I've never seen it so I don't really know.  Please, sir, how did you know about this?"

"I didn't.  But Daniel saw your clan mark and panicked, and I thought it would be handy if I had another J... another person of Nick's heritage to compare against."

"Who is he?  Why is he here?  He's not one of the student body..."

"Nick here is a young Jyraneth who never knew his 'Cubi parent.  He has been brought up as a Being, but he believes that Jyraneth is returning, and that she wants him dead as an abomination.  So he was running away, and fortunately for him, he ran straight into us.
"Sydney, if your mother truly is a Being, the Lady might want you dead too, as well as your relatives.  One would hope that she's aware her clan is decimated and she is in too fragile a position to afford any further pogroms, but she has a reputation for sheer insanity so we can't bank on that."

"Most of us are shielded from her," Sydney said.  "I would be too, but my clan father didn't have time to complete the ritual before I was sent here..."

"Yes, we shall have to get in touch with Mordrith," professor Falkirk said.  "Firstly, if he doesn't know about Jyraneth, he must be told.  But just as importantly, we need to know if he is willing to accept Nick here into his clan.  He, or more likely Daryil, may be able to provide protection for his parents."

Richard made a face as Daryil's name was mentioned, but the professor ignored him.  Sydney was puzzled, however and glanced up at Professor Falkirk as if to say "How do you know all this...?"

"I'm of Daryil's clan," he explained.  "I know about our alliance with the Ja'Fell clan.  And I know that you're a Ja'Fell member, I've seen your record with the school.  What I didn't know was that you weren't officially confirmed yet."

"Why all the fuss about Jyraneth, anyway?" Richard asked.  "How's she different from Daryil?  Both clans are run by an insane tri-wing who have their followers carry out their every will..."

"The difference is," the professor explained patiently, "That Daryil has a few basic, common-sense rules and leaves the rest up to his clan.  He stays on good terms with his children so that they want to obey him, and will willingly carry out any favours he wants done as a friend.  Jyraneth, on the other hand, ruled by fear and anyone who annoyed her in any way would be executed and their soul destroyed on charge of treason or heresy.  Any questions?"

But before anyone could answer, a sloth burst into the tent dressed in the typical garb of a professor from Illiath's.  This new professor had obviously been running and was out of breath.  "Professor Falkirk!" he gasped.

"This had better be important, Professor Shreve," the poodle said irritably.  "We have a tricky political problem thrust into our hands..."

"Forget all that," Shreve said.  "The school has fallen!"

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


OOOh cliffhanger  :U

Also I'm wondering how a school filled with cubi can fall.... If dragons are not on Furrae anymore, that is. Fae attack ?  :mowwink

(credit: Gabi)


Didn't the Fae leave as well for their own reasons?


Cubi are far from invincible. We can speculate all we want, but we won't know for sure what happened until Tape posts again. In any case, interesting dynamics between Syd and Sheila, and Nick and Dan!
~~ 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