[Story] Heads, you lose (7/7) [Mature]

Started by Tapewolf, March 15, 2014, 11:24:11 AM

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This is a short-ish story I've been working on since December.  Some people in the Project Future forum asked about prior interactions between Keaton and Jakob and I thought it would be interesting to write about them.  It was also an exercise in writing about what Jakob might have done had that BoB been after him instead of Abel.

There are seven chapters in all and unless I forget I will be updating it weekly.  It is way darker than most of my output, so you have been warned.

It could be described as a mashup of Skyrim, the Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones books and the adventuring stuff which Amber has hinted at strongly but for the most part glossed over since a medieval fantasy world tends to be pretty nasty and brutal when you get down to the nitty-gritty.  As such it is particularly dark and as an abnormally high body count.  But then again, the title is a bit of a giveaway.

It is set after Azrael's death, but before Jakob really started to go weird.

Heads, you lose

Chapter 1 - In which Jakob encounters another of his kind

Standing in a shed in a small farming community surrounded by forest wasn't quite how Jakob had planned things, but it was better than getting drenched.

As the rain started to ease off, the wolf glanced out of the door, pondering his next move.  He stared.  Striding down the path without a care in the world was a jackal, her fur an unnaturally bright yellow.  That alone would suggest 'Creature', but she wasn't exactly hiding the large, leathery wings protruding from her back.  A small pair wings likewise sprouted from the back of her head, and she had shapeshifted them into makeshift umbrella to keep the worst of the rain out of her hair.
Jakob rushed out, whistling and gesticulating wildly for her to come over.

The succubus came to an abrupt halt and peered at the shed.  Jakob made his own, feathery back-wings appear for a few seconds and she sauntered towards him.

"Do I know you...?" she demanded, stopping at the doorway with a haughty expression.  "What's all the fuss about?"

"I doubt it.  Hide your wings!" Jakob hissed urgently, tugging the puzzled jackal into the shed.  "They hate our kind here, if they see what you are... oh my gods..."

"I'm Keaton," the succubus shrugged.  "What's the problem, anyway?  They're just Beings.  Why should I care what they think?"

"Because they'll chop your head off," Jakob snapped.

"Not if they're dead," Keaton grinned, and a wing-tentacle came out.  Jakob stepped back.  "No no no... They'll mob you, they'll kill us both!"

"Do you have some kind of problem...?" Keaton asked, looking at the wolf sideways, not quite sure whether to be scornful or worried.  "You ARE 'Cubi, right...?"

"Yes yes yes," Jakob hissed, flashing his headwings briefly once again, an expression of distress on his features.  "But there's so many of them... they'll..."

"Oh!" Keaton said, her attitude changing abruptly in a flash of understanding.  "Don't worry, kid," she said soothingly, flashing a reassuring smile.  "It'll be okay now.  I'll protect you, and when they're dead, I'll teach you how to defend yourself properly in future.  You can do a lot more with your wings than just hiding them.  There's so many wonderful ways you can kill people..."

"No!" Jakob squeaked.  "I don't want to kill people!"

"Why not...?" the succubus retorted indignantly.  "We're 'Cubi, killing Beings and eating souls.. that's what we're about!  Didn't you just say that they'll kill you if they get the chance?"

Jakob edged away from her nervously.

"...Oh.  Pacifist clan, right?"  Keaton said, throwing her head back with a look of disdain as her hair swished gracefully behind her.  With a sigh she arched her back slightly and her wings and headwings folded invisibly into her body.  

"I..." the wolf protested, and then glanced out of the shed to make sure no-one was coming.  "My dad always told me that life is sacred," he finished miserably.  "He wanted me to hold that belief just as he did..."

"Hah!  And where did that get him?" Keaton sneered.  "They chopped his head off, right?"

"Grandfather lost his head, or so I'm told.  But Dad is training to become a professor at SAIA," Jakob retorted.

"Saiya...?  Oh! That's a kind of sword, right??" Keaton asked hopefully, an eager expression on her face.  "One of those really sharp ones you use to-"

"SAIA is the academy I was taught at," Jakob interrupted, slightly confused.  "I thought most clans used it.  As far as I know it's the only one of its kind and it helped save our race during the Dragon Wars because only authorised people can enter through the magical barrier..."

"A 'Cubi Academy?" the succubus started, staring at the wolf with an expression of intensity that unnerved him.

"Uh, yes.  It's run by Fa'Lina, who lost her whole clan during the Wars.  Any clans are welcome to study there so long as they obey her rules.  It's neutral ground and all inter-clan grudges have to be set aside on her territory.  They say it's the largest single gathering of 'Cubi in the world..." Jakob trailed off, looking at the succubus in concern.  "Are you alright?" he asked.

"None of your business," the jackal snapped.

"Okay, okay," Jakob said, backing away with his hands raised.  "Forget I mentioned the Academy."

"No!" Keaton yelped, panicking.  "I mean... it's private... but I have to know... I need to know about the Academy!" she said desperately.

"If you're thinking of attacking it, don't," Jakob warned.  "Within the academy, Fa'Lina is all-powerful, all-knowing and can predict the future."

"No, no!  I...  Aw fuck it," she said despondently and buried her face.  "I lost a lot of people who were very dear to me.  They murdered my dad... my sisters, my family...  most of my clan were massacred... and I... I'm searching for any survivors...  I have to get to the Academy, I have to find out if anyone else is there..."

"Oh.  Oh." Jakob said, and held out a hand to comfort her.  The jackal flinched slightly at first but then relaxed.

"It... it happens," he said.  "It was worse during the Wars but it's still... I understand.  I've lost someone very dear to me myself... I hoped the pain would go away but it hasn't... that's why I'm out here, I was trying to get over it and I wanted a change of scenery.  I wanted to try and find myself, I guess... to see if I'm still the same person since he died..."

Jakob broke off and turned as he felt the presence of another mind approaching.  Keaton stiffened as well and began scanning the shed for something she could use as an impromptu weapon.

"Caught you!", the voice said.  It belonged to a burly feline, toughened by a lifetime of working the soil.  A scythe was gripped tightly in both hands.

"We hang thieves here," the farmer told them.  "But I'm too busy to deal with this shit at the moment.  So just put back anything you've taken and get the hell out of here right now, or you'll be dancing the hempen jig by noon."

"Please, sir, we don't want any trouble," Jakob said quickly.  "I'm sorry if we've been trespassing.  We're not thieves, we were just sheltering from the rain.  We'll go now."

"Very well," the farmer grunted, watching Jakob suspiciously like some kind of bird of prey.  "Be off with you.  But if I find anything missing... I know what you two look like."

As he approached the door, Jakob heard a dull thunk.  He glanced around and gave a yell of horror as the farmer's corpse shuddered and slumped to the ground, red pumping copiously from the space where his head should have been.  Keaton stood behind him, a lazy smile of satisfaction plastered across her face, along with a considerable amount of blood.

"What have you DONE?!" the wolf screamed.

"What..?" Keaton said, glancing at the floor behind her in puzzlement.  "Did I leave something behind?"

"He... He's dead... you've murdered him!" Jakob stammered, pointing at the unfortunate cat's head, which still had a look of surprise upon it as the eyes slowly began to glaze over in death.

"Oh, that!  He was just a Being," Keaton shrugged, wiping her wing-tentacle clean on the dead man's clothes.  "Plenty more where he came from."

"Weren't you listening?!" Jakob shrieked.  "I said I didn't want to kill anyone!"

"And you didn't," the succubus pointed out reasonably.  "I did it for you!"

"But that's not the point!  I don't want him to die at all!  He was just a farmer, he didn't deserve that!" Jakob protested.  Keaton covered her face with both hands.

"Oh for The Lady's sake..." she snarled at last, "Listen, wolf - first you're harping on about how they'll kill us both if they find us.  But now I've prevented that, you're saying he was harmless!  Will you make up your fucking mind?!  They can't both be right, so which is it?"

"That's not the point either!" Jakob cried.  "It's not just a choice of him dying or us dying... don't you get it?!  No-one had to die!  All we had to do was walk out of here while he still thought we were Beings and we'd all still be alive!"

"Pish.  Where's the fun it that?" Keaton asked, jauntily walking out of the shed in Being form.  "Anyway, you'd better get moving before anyone spots the body, or the head.  Otherwise you'll end up the same."

"That's just it!  That's why they always want to kill us!"  Jakob shouted, hurrying after her.  "Because people like you pull shit like that and give our whole kind a bad name!"

* * *

The pair of them walked through the forest, Keaton in the lead with a jaunty step and a smile on her lips while Jakob strode mechanically after her with his shoulders slumped in misery.

"Hey mister... Jakob, wasn't it...?" she called back, "We don't have all day.  We'll have to set up camp soon if you want to sleep or whatever it is you do."

The wolf gave an apathetic grunt, and the jackal stopped in her tracks.  "Wow.  You really are upset about it," Keaton said, glancing at Jakob in wonder.  "I kinda thought you were one of those rage clans who like getting good and angry."

"I've been living in a Creature-run city," Jakob said unhappily.  "Where Beings and Creatures have put aside their differences and work together for the common good."

"Gods, that sounds so dull," Keaton said.  "And it's made you soft and coddled.  Out here, things are different and you'll have to get used to it.  Survival of the fittest, kid.  The strong win.  The weak don't.  Second prize is slavery and oppression, and third prize is death!"

"But it doesn't have to be that way," Jakob said.  "My clan has been trying to foster cooperation between Beings and Creatures..."

"That's like trying to hold back the tide," Keaton scoffed.  "Beings are prey.  And why not?  All life feeds upon death."

"But you're wrong," Jakob said.  "We're in a unique position.  Nothing has to die for us to live, for we can feed on the laughter and joy of others."

"Ugh," Keaton said.  "I remember those... so sickly!  Pain and terror, that's where it's at!"

"You're not a Cyra, are you?"  Jakob asked, suspiciously.

"Who?" Keaton shrugged.

"Nevermind," Jakob grunted.

"So, where are we actually going?" Keaton asked.

"I'm going to the nearest city, and then probably back to Ha'Khun.  What you do is your business."

"I'm coming with you," Keaton said brightly.  "I wanna know more about this SAIA place.  Can we go there?"

"No.  It can only be accessed by magic," the wolf told her.  "They have to invite you - otherwise the Dragons would have destroyed it and everyone inside."

"Dragons...?" Keaton queried.

"You know, the big red things that nearly exterminated our race and countless others?"

"No.  Is SAIA inside Ha'Khun?"

"No, it's not.  And if you're still following me by the time I get back, I have half a mind to have you arrested."

"I knew we were going to get on famously," Keaton smiled.

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


Looking forward to further installments. People with little common knowledge meeting is always fun.
What i cannot create, i do not understand. - Richard P. Feynman
This is DMFA. Where major species don't understand clothing. So innuendo is overlooked for nuendo. .


Quote from: VAE on March 15, 2014, 12:48:09 PM
Looking forward to further installments. People with little common knowledge meeting is always fun.

Thanks.  In a way it would have been nice to have posted the whole thing, but it's about 85K and people are liable to glaze over at the sight of it.

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


Quote from: Tapewolf on March 15, 2014, 12:56:54 PM
Quote from: VAE on March 15, 2014, 12:48:09 PM
Looking forward to further installments. People with little common knowledge meeting is always fun.

Thanks.  In a way it would have been nice to have posted the whole thing, but it's about 85K and people are liable to glaze over at the sight of it.
Heh. My problem tends to be the opposite - I read most of stuff in large chunks which translates to rarely keeping up with regularly posted stuff.
What i cannot create, i do not understand. - Richard P. Feynman
This is DMFA. Where major species don't understand clothing. So innuendo is overlooked for nuendo. .


Quote from: Tapewolf on March 15, 2014, 12:56:54 PM
Quote from: VAE on March 15, 2014, 12:48:09 PM
Looking forward to further installments. People with little common knowledge meeting is always fun.

Thanks.  In a way it would have been nice to have posted the whole thing, but it's about 85K and people are liable to glaze over at the sight of it.

My eyes wouldn't glaze over, but they might be burning by the time I'm done. Entire series of books/stories/episodes/movies/comics in one sitting--that's just how I roll. :B


Thanks to Sunblink and Sofox for their help and additional dialogue.

Chapter 2 - In which things do not go well for Jakob

"Are we there yet...?" Keaton was saying.  "Heh, when we were coming back from a campaign we used to amuse ourselves by counting the number of bodies at the roadside.  You score double if the head was still lying next to it..."

Jakob spun around with a snarl and the succubus ran into him.

"What...?" Keaton said.  "Oh!  You're still cut up over the dead farmer?"

"Every time you open your mouth you say something which makes me want to bring you to justice for killing that poor man," Jakob spat.

"Why?  He was a Being!  You'll have to kill one someday," Keaton pointed out, "So you may as well get used to it now."

"I am a fairly high-ranking official," Jakob said sombrely.  "I'm no stranger to death.  During my tenure I have, with the greatest of regrets, occasionally had to send people to the guillotine..."

"Ooh, we had one of those!" Keaton said, eyes shining.  "The Lady got a kick out of seeing the head come off so we used to get a lot of decapitations.  Slaves, usually.  Personally, my favourites were the axe or a longsword 'cause you got to see more blood that way, but it was still fun to watch them squirm in the guillotine as they released the blade.  Once Sis became executioner she was able to get us front-row space in the crowd..."  

"You're sick," Jakob spat.  "Capital punishment is not entertainment!  It should be a last resort which we use only for the most heinous of crimes!  What happens if you get it wrong?!  How are you going to fix a mistake like that?!"

"'Sick'?"  Keaton snarled, her fur bristling.  "I'm not judging your clan!"

"Yes you are," Jakob retorted.  "You're trying to persuade me to kill innocent people, which is against our clan's creed!"

"Meh meh meh," Keaton mocked.  "It's not like you've killed anyone anyway!  You just get someone else to do it!  Where's the fun in that?  I've been a raider and a gladiator!  I've harvested Beings for their souls, cut their throats, lopped off their heads and generally made them dead with every kind of weapon known to Furrae!  I personally avenged my dad!  I bashed an Angel's brains out with this!" she crowed, waving a large, enchanted mace around.

"And you know what...?" she added, throwing her arms around Jakob and whispering in his ear like they were lovers.  "I enjoyed every fucking minute of it.  So, mister Jakob... what do you say to that?" she finished, eyes blazing as a cruel smile played over her face.

"You need to be put away," Jakob said quietly, pushing her away from him.  "For your own safety, and the safety of others."

Keaton's mouth fell open as if she'd just been slapped.  Then her lips curled into a cold, cruel smile that looked more like a snarl.  The jackal closed her eyes, took a deep breath and banished her wings.  "CREATURE!" she screamed, pointing at Jakob.  "CREATURE!  CREATURE!  HELP!"

"What the hell are you doing?!" Jakob squeaked, unable to believe his ears.  "Stop that!"


"Why are you doing this?!" Jakob hissed, grabbing her by the muzzle in an attempt to silence her.

"Don't you wanna see how well daddy's 'all-life-is-sacred' bullshit stands up to reality?" the yellow jackal asked, grinning at his panic.  "I wanna see what you do when you have a choice between killing and being killed.  Of course, we could escape to that Siar Academy place..."  She whipped around suddenly and the sound of nearby voices wiped the grin clean off her face.

"Oh... shit," she said.  "I didn't think anyone was really going to hear that!"

An arrow thunked into the ground at Jakob's feet, causing him to jump.  His head-wings were missing but his backwings were still visible.  No point in hiding them now, he thought, and held up his hands in a gesture of surrender.

"Keep them up," a voice intoned, ringing with the authority of someone who was used to being obeyed.  Three figures emerged from the cover, adventurers by their dress and the tone of their muscle.  A fox emerged, bow drawn and covering Jakob.  Behind him was an alsatian hound, tall, well-muscled and well-armoured, a shortsword in one hand and a spell prepared in the other.  He moved with a quiet confidence and an air of command that marked him as the leader.  Behind them came a large bear, squat and wide with a glowing broadsword held ready by arms like tree-trunks, thick and round with muscles that only a lifetime of hard work could give to a Being.

Keaton rushed towards them and fell to her knees.  "Help me, help me!" she pleaded, grovelling before the hound.  "He's a Creature!"

"We'll handle this," the dog informed her.  "You just get out of here."   Keaton needed no further telling and vanished into the safety of the trees without another word.

"Is there a problem, sir...?" the wolf enquired.

"Yeah, you," the fox sneered.  He aimed for Jakob's leg and made ready to loose another arrow.  Panicking, Jakob's instinctive defences kicked in, a tentacle sprouting from his wings and morphing into something flat just moments before the arrow slammed into it and bounced harmlessly away.

"Tentacles!" the fox crowed, dropping the bow for a shortsword and advancing upon Jakob.  "We've got it now... It's not just an Angel... it's a bloody incubus!"

"Dammit, I haven't done anything," Jakob snapped, allowing his wings to morph into a defensive posture now his cover was blown.

"We'll see," the dog said.  "Hold off, Bren.  I want to get to the bottom of this."

"Oh what?!" the fox protested.  "For gods sakes, Erich, it's a 'cubi!  It's a monster!  We kill monsters!  Let's just bag its head and go."

"A monster goes around randomly murdering people for no good reason," Jakob retorted.  "Who is trying to do that right now?"

"Cocky little bugger, ain't he?" the bear grinned, raising a large broadsword.  "Want me to shut 'im up?"

"No, Gert.  Not yet," their leader said, eyeing Jakob with a dour expression.  "We're on a major road through the forest that links two cities, one of which is Creature-run.  So maybe our grey friend has a good reason for being here, maybe not.  Either way, I don't want to jump to conclusions.  Let's hear what he has to say first."

"Oh not this again," the fox sighed.  "Look.  Creatures will say anything to escape their fate, and incubi are all deceivers.  Why should we listen to its lies?"

"I keep going over this because it's clearly not sinking in!" the dog snarled.  "Think!  If we kill the wrong one, not only does the real killer get away, but we hand them the perfect alibi on a fucking silver platter!
"Listen, you idiots - we are doing this to bring justice to a lawless world.  That means we punish the guilty.  That's the whole reason people let us run around armed to the teeth!  That's what makes us different from common bandits, so don't you ever forget it or we'll all hang like common bandits!"

"At last," Jakob said, looking pleased.  "Someone with some sense!  Listen, I really don't want any trouble.  I don't even have a problem with adventurers so long as they're not just using it as an excuse to kill people for sport..."

"But Erich... We can't just let it go!  It will kill someone!" the fox protested.

"We don't know that!" the dog snapped.  "He might do, but if we went around killing people for what they might do, you'd be top of the list!"

"Me?" the fox squeaked, taken aback. "Why?"

"Look, Bren, you're a hotheaded swordsman who's always the first to howl for blood every time we go on a mission.  You always carry a blade, even when you go shopping.  It's only a matter of time before you stab some bar patron in a drunken argument.  Should we wait until you've actually done that, or should we just chop your head off right now and save an innocent life?"

"Alright, alright," the fox snapped.  "Fine.  We figure out what it's done first, then kill it."

"Thanks," Jakob said sarcastically.  "What am I supposed to have done, anyway?"

"Murder," the fox sneered.  "The usual 'Cubi trick."

"Ah, you're thinking of Demons," Jakob said.  "Some 'Cubi can be vicious, and yes, our race has done some pretty dick things in the past, but can you honestly say Beings are any better?
"Look, 'Cubi have a vested interest in other people staying alive.  We feed on surplus emotional energy and that doesn't work on the dead.  Every race has its share of psycho killers, but when a 'Cubi kills someone it's usually a bar fight or something that got out of hand."

The fox winced.  "Farmer Smith was found with his head amputated.  Someone matching your description was seen in the area."

Jakob cocked his head sideways, staring pointedly at Gert, whose broadsword was still held in one hand.

"What...?"  Erich said.  "Are you saying we did it...?"

Jakob smiled.  "No better way to cover yourselves, is there?  Bunch of bandits pretending to be adventurers?  Kill the first Creature you meet to get an alibi and a reward at the same time?  'Cubi aren't the only deceivers, as well you know."

"We do have several witnesses who saw you wandering around his land before and after the approximate time of death," Erich pointed out.  "Bluffing us won't work."

Jakob sighed.  "Fine.  But can you blame me?  I don't want to hurt anyone, but I don't want to get hurt either."

"You just tried to trick us," Bren smirked.  "Why should we trust what you say?"

"Okay, the truth, then.  Yes, I was there.  Yes, I saw the poor man get killed.  But I didn't kill him, and I didn't want him to die!"

"Then who did do it?" Bren demanded skeptically.

"You know that jackal girl you just told to run home..?"

"Don't be stupid."

"She is a succubus.  A particularly violent individual.  She murdered him.  I'm not sure why."

"He did it!" the fox crowed.  "I told you!  He's just trying to cover his tracks!"

"It's certainly not looking good for you," the German Shepherd concurred.  "Your story keeps changing and no-one as vibrant as that jackal was mentioned by our eyewitnesses."

"Okay, so I was trying to cover for another member of a persecuted race," Jakob snapped.  "I didn't kill him, Keaton did and she needs help, not decapitation.  That's the gods' honest truth, though I'm not sure I can prove it, and I'm not sure you people care anyway.  But if you kill me over that poor farmer, you'll be making a far bigger mistake than you realise."

"Let's kill 'im anyway," the bear said, raising his sword.  "That tree-stump over there will do.  You pin 'im down, Bren, an' I'll get 'is head off.  We can argue later."

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

llearch n'n'daCorna

Ah, trial by the Blunt Object Brigade. How wonderful. >.<
Thanks for all the images | Unofficial DMFA IRC server
"We found Scientology!" -- The Bad Idea Bears


Quote from: llearch n'n'daCorna on March 21, 2014, 10:05:22 AM
Ah, trial by the Blunt Object Brigade. How wonderful. >.<
Sharp Object Brigade in this case.  But yeah, "What would Jakob do in Abel's place?" was one of the thought experiments that led up to this story.

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


Highlights include Keaton's cry for help including all the keywords from "creature" to "surprise sex" and the adventurers' argument over the merits of preventive execution.
What i cannot create, i do not understand. - Richard P. Feynman
This is DMFA. Where major species don't understand clothing. So innuendo is overlooked for nuendo. .

llearch n'n'daCorna

Quote from: VAE on March 21, 2014, 01:22:59 PM
Highlights include Keaton's cry for help including all the keywords from "creature" to "surprise sex" and the adventurers' argument over the merits of preventive execution.

Obviously Keaton has met that spider. ;-]
Thanks for all the images | Unofficial DMFA IRC server
"We found Scientology!" -- The Bad Idea Bears


Well that was interesting, Keaton brought trouble straight to them.

Seems like Abel's comment about "It seemed like a good idea at the time" is quite relevant here.

Hmmmm...A thought runs through my head of how often a Adventurers guild has been burned down to the ground after Creatures have had enough of being killed on sight by members. It's got to be a dangerous thing to just going around as a group of sociopaths and psychopaths.
I perfer my spam cooked on a skillet.


Chapter 3 - In which things do not go well for anyone with the possible exception of Keaton

"You can't be serious," Jakob said, backing away.  Something hit him in the stomach and he folded up like a flower.  Taking advantage, the fox grabbed hold of his wrists and hair and dragged him roughly towards their makeshift execution block, where Gert already had his sword raised up.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?!" Erich demanded.

"Beheadin' him," the bear smirked.  "Or did you wanna do it yourself?"

"No, Gert," the dog yelled, gesticulating furiously.  "I may be the new face in this group but I am still in command, and I will not have anyone killed until I'm sure they are guilty!"

"You're goin' soft Erich," Gert laughed.  "If you was bein' threatened by 'im, he wouldn't blink!"

"Gert's right," Bren sneered.  "Let's just kill the Creature and be done!"

"Dammit, I didn't ask to be a Creature!" Jakob snapped, pushing himself free and getting to his feet.  "I can't help what I was born as!  I was a farmer too once and I'd still be happily tending that farm if people like you didn't want to cut off my head - just because these stupid wings popped out of it!"

"Spare us the sob story," Erich said, rolling his eyes.  "You're coming back to the guild for interrogation and probably a murder trial."

"Oh no no no," Jakob said, morphing his wings into something more defensive.  "I know that trick!  You'll just murder me the second I drop my guard!  And if I live long enough to stand trial you'll stack the charges with all kinds of shit you've made up to make sure you get an execution out of it!"

"Look, wolf, I really don't want to kill you unless I have a reason to," the dog said, holding his sword in a menacing way.  "But you aren't making this easy.  Things will go better for you if you come with us and try to prove your innocence, but my patience is running out fast.
"You see, son, whatever happens, you are coming with us.  I'd rather you came alive, but we only need to bring your head."

Jakob looked from face to face, looking for a way out.

"So we can chop its head off after all?" Bren asked hopefully, pushing Jakob back towards the stump.

"Jerry will be pissed," Jakob told them.  Erich ignored this and glanced at Gert with a small nod.

"Before you do this," Jakob said pointing at an ornate ring on his middle finger, "Do you know what this is...?"

"We'll check that once you're dead," the bear informed him.  "This'll be fun," he added, raising his sword high in both hands.  He took another step forward, and then fell dead as something pierced his neck, a foolish grin still etched upon his features.

"What have you done?!" Bren shrieked, drawing his own sword.

"That wasn't me either!" Jakob yelled, rolling out of the way as the fox lunged.  He vanished, and reappeared a few feet away.  Erich spun around wildly to find Keaton standing in front of him in full succubus form, a vicious grin on her face.

"I thought you lot would never stop talking," she sang, a tentacle lashing out at the alsatian, who dodged it easily.

"Now will you believe me about the succubus?" Jakob snarled.

"Stop!" Erich roared, his voice ringing with command.  Incredibly, everyone did.

"Aw, but I was having so much fun!"  Keaton said sweetly, and sat down on the tree-stump.

"Your 'fun' has left Gert dead," Erich snapped, checking the body.  "He may not have been very bright, but he was a valued member of my group."

"He was gonna cut Mr. Jakob's head off," Keaton pointed out.  "I can't have that."

"That was only supposed to be a threat," the dog snarled.  "I was going to call him off at the last minute!"

"Serves you right for using a mind-shield, then!" Keaton retorted.

"Erich, Erich!" Bren yelped, glancing back and forth from Keaton to Jakob and finding himself trapped between them.  "Help me!  What do I do?!"

"Drop the sword and step away from her very slowly," Jakob advised him.  "Don't turn your back against her, and if you're very lucky, you might get out of this alive.  I only met her today, but she is crazy.  She's nearly everything you were accusing me of before.  Drop the sword."

"What, so you can stab me in the back?!" the fox snarled.

"Look, you gave me plenty of chances to get violent if I actually wanted to get violent," Jakob retorted.  "Most adventuring groups wouldn't have been so lax.  I think your leader has been testing me."

"And just look where your soft heart has got us now, Erich!" Bren wailed.  "They'll kill us all!"

"You're in the most danger," Jakob said.  "But I'll try to save you if I can.  I keep saying I don't want any trouble.  Now get back!"

"Well, fuck," Keaton said.  "I let you have that kill as a present, and now you're just letting him go!?"

"I don't want any more deaths," Jakob said firmly, and then his voice a wheedling tone as he began to plead with her.  "I don't want you to die either, Keaton... You don't deserve that - you need help, not execution.  Please, Keaton... Come with me to Ha'Khun and I'll see you're taken good care of..."

"Foxy here wants to kill you, sweetie," Keaton laughed, sitting cross-legged on the stump like some kind of evil pixie.  "Just take off his head, it'll be fun!  I mean, he tried to do that to you, right?  I'd do it myself, but one each is fairer, right?"

"What did she mean, 'one each'?" Bren quailed.  "There were three of us..."

"Leave him alone," Jakob coaxed.  "It's not worth it.  He's just a Being."

"Well, if you're not going to kill him," Keaton said, "How about you, Erich?"

"What are you trying to say?" the Alsatian demanded, eyes narrowing.

"Don't do it," Jakob begged.

"Yes, yes," Keaton crowed.  "Bren vs. Erich.  I think Erich will win.  Want a bet, Jakob?"

"Don't do it, Keaton," Jakob said again.

"The battle of the year!"

"I don't want to fight him," Erich said firmly.

"I know that," Keaton sang.  "But he'll certainly want to fight you!  And when you have to kill him it'll be self-defence!"

"Keaton, for the love of the gods, don't do this..." Jakob begged.

"What?  You think I'd attack my group leader?!" Bren exclaimed.  "You're crazy!"

"I bet you will," Keaton said.  "Once you find out he's an incubus too!"

"WHAT?!" the fox squeaked.  His grip loosened on the sword and Jakob knocked it out of his grasp with a wing-tentacle.

"That's not fair," Keaton scolded.  "He deserves a weapon."

"I'm sorry," Jakob sobbed.  "I didn't want any of this.  I wasn't going to tell anyone, not unless you really were going murder me."

"I... appreciate that," Erich said sadly.

"It's true?!" Bren whimpered.

"Yes," the dog said slowly.  "I was brought up as a Being, much as Jakob claims to have been.  But I'm not a Being.  I am Erich of Taun clan, the warrior clan."

"You infiltrated us!" Bren snarled.  Jakob held him back with a wing-tentacle.

"My Clan were warriors too," Keaton told him brightly.  "We were pledged to cleanse the land of Beings, Heretics and basically everyone The Lady didn't like.  What does your lot do?"

Erich grimaced.  "We are Taun's army.  We are the defenders of the 'Cubi race and if ever a new war breaks out, we shall flock to her banner.  In the meantime, we must keep ourselves trained and fit.  We try to keep the other clans from slaughtering one another.  We try to keep the peace where our intervention is needed.
"Most of us become warriors for hire.  Some teach.  Those who have been wicked in our Lady's sight do admin work."

"You protect Beings?!" Keaton laughed.  "That's almost as stupid as protecting Demons!  Why would you ever want to protect something that wants to kill us?"

"What threatens Beings may threaten us too," Erich grumbled.  "In any case, I've seen both sides.  I've seen Creatures run amok and slaughter Beings for sport, and I've seen Beings murder and execute Creatures for no good reason.  I want to strike a balance.  The innocent deserve protection and the wicked should be punished, whatever their race.  That is why I took up arms as an adventurer."

"Are you telling him all this because you're gonna kill him afterwards, or can I do it?"  Keaton asked with a hopeful expression.

"No," Erich said.  "He's my comrade - I'd prefer he remained alive.  But yes, he knows too much for me to risk going back to the guild now.  Even if I denied everything there would still be an investigation.
"I can't risk other 'Cubi or Creatures having their covers blown, not if they're doing no harm.  As for me, I'll have to start over in another guild far away with a different name and face."

"...Or I could just kill him for you," Keaton suggested helpfully.

"And have me return to the guild without my men, after we were sent to investigate a murder by a suspected Creature?!  They'd assume I'd been replaced by the killer!"

"Aw shit, sorry," Keaton said.  "Should've thought of that.  Or, hey!  I can cut out his tongue!"

"Taun would be displeased," Erich said.  "We are not supposed to kill or torture the innocent."

"Can we work something out?"  Jakob said, turning to face Bren.  "Is there something we could do to buy your silence?"

"You want me to sell out!?"  Bren demanded, scandalised.  "I'm a man of integrity!"

"No, you're not," Erich remarked.  "You're an adventurer.  You're scoundrel, a womaniser and you kill people for money.  Do you still claim to be a man of integrity?"

"You're no better, Erich," Bren sneered.  "At least I'm a Being!"

"So you want to play rough?" Erich smiled grimly.  "In Baratah you joined an anti-wing group and as part of your initiation, you attacked a cart-Gryphon who later died of her wounds."

Bren's eyes bugged, and he looked around wildly.  "How... How did you..."

"'Cubi are thought-readers," Erich said.  "And you've given me a lot of dark thoughts to read over the last six months.  I apologise for breaching your privacy in that manner, but it was necessary for my own safety."

"Anyway," the dog continued.  "The point is, you have a death warrant for murdering an innocent Gryphon.  You'd have got the axe for it if you hadn't been so quick on your feet, and there's still a price on your head."

"That's perfect!"  Keaton said, clapping her hands in delight.  "Take him to Baratah!  We get to watch a beheading, they silence him, you get a plausible explanation for why he's missing and to cap it all, we get paid!  Bargain!"

"No...  you can't... please... not my head..." Bren gurgled, staring from face to face with an expression of sheer horror.

"We can," Jakob said grimly, glancing at Keaton.  "And I have to admit it not only solves a lot of problems, but it also gives those poor Gryphons a justice long denied them."

Erich folded his arms and appraised the stricken fox.  "Well, Bren," he said, "Now you understand how Jakob felt when you wanted to kill him out of hand."

"Yes," Bren admitted sullenly.

"Baratah is fifty leagues away," Erich said, "But if you ever even think of blowing my cover, I'll take you straight there."

"I don't like blackmail," Jakob said, "But I think this will work.  You can compromise us, Bren, but we can reveal your dirty little secret.  The only safe strategy is for us all to remain quiet."

"But I wanted to see his head come off!" Keaton protested.  "It's more degrading when it's his own people killing him, and a public execution is always fun."

Jakob stamped on her foot.

"GHHHH," she said, scowling.  "Fine.  If we're not taking him to execution, where are we going instead?"

"First we need to bury Gert," Erich said sadly, hiding his wings.  "Then I need to report his death to my guild master."

Jakob glanced at him nervously.  "What exactly are you going to tell them?" he asked, switching to Being mode himself.

"I will tell them the truth," Erich said.  "Though not all of it.  First, we arrested you.  Keaton attacked us in the forest, and Gert died in the fighting.  We found you innocent of killing Farmer Smith and that Keaton was responsible.  She got away and we let you carry on with your travels.  They don't need to know what you are, Jakob.
"Strictly off the record... Keaton, I am letting your go.  But this is conditional on your seeking mental help and changing your ways.  If you wish to keep living afterwards, I suggest you go somewhere far, far away.  They will send a search party after you, one armed for 'Cubi, and I will not show you this mercy again."

"Thank you," Jakob said, bowing.  "I hope we are able to meet again someday, in more pleasant circumstances.  You will be welcome in Ha'Khun should you decide to visit.  Please give my regards to Jeremiah if you get the chance."

"I will," Erich said, shaking his hand.

"So, Jakob, where are we going next?"  Keaton asked, sidling up to the wolf.  Jakob stiffened.  So did Keaton and Erich.  Bren glanced nervously from face to face, staring at the three 'Cubi who stood frozen as if by some invisible plague.  Only their eyes were moving.

"...I don't think we're going anywhere just yet," Jakob said sadly, raising his hands.

"Smart move," a voice said from the trees.  "Now, hand over the goodies."

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


Goodies? Sounds like bandits. Though it sounds like they expected to be found out like that eventually.

Also, Keaton seems a bit more impulsive and a bit more unhinged in her younger years. It really brings out the point of her cast page mentioning "You wouldn't like her when she's happy." in it.
I perfer my spam cooked on a skillet.


Quote"Most of us become warriors for hire.  Some teach.  Those who have been wicked in our Lady's sight do admin work."

And here's where I cracked up.

Also, attacking a cart-gryphon? That's... like the recruit smacking a calf. I can just about imagine the facepalms at their cabal.
Well, that, or I'm assuming too much about them from my own stuff.
What i cannot create, i do not understand. - Richard P. Feynman
This is DMFA. Where major species don't understand clothing. So innuendo is overlooked for nuendo. .


What exactly is Jerry's position in the Clan, anyway? He certainly seems to be one of the more respected members.


Quote from: CubiKitsune on March 29, 2014, 12:22:48 AM
What exactly is Jerry's position in the Clan, anyway? He certainly seems to be one of the more respected members.

It's more Jakob saying "I've worked out what you are".  By my calculations, Jerry is still just a student at this point, since he'd only have been there about 220 years.  However, they were roomies at SAIA until Jakob graduated, so Jerry would be distressed to hear of Jakob's demise, and yes, he would be very pissed at Erich if Erich had him killed.

In Epsilon, he's a diplomat, albeit often of the gunboat diplomacy kind.  He often tends to end up with the nasty jobs which no-one else will touch.

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


Oops, almost forgot

Chapter 4 - In which the party are accosted by bandits

"Right then," the bandit leader said.  "Turn out your pockets, bags and whatnot."

"Please, sir," Jakob said, "We don't have much wealth on us.  Mostly it's petty cash, a few items of cheap jewellery.  It's not worth your time.  Can't you let us go?"

"Oh no," the kangaroo smirked.  "Your trinkets are just a handy bonus.  The real prize is foxface here - our scout heard what you were saying.  If we take him to Baratah it'll be worth far more than anything you could have in your pockets!"

"Bren is my adventuring companion,"  Erich said mildly, sword in hand.  "Who's going to take him from me?"

"A dozen lads armed to the teeth," the bandit laughed.

"You mean ten," Keaton said, holding up a pair of severed heads with her wing-tentacles.  "Reckon they're worth anything at Baratah...?"

Jakob gave a yell of horror and recoiled.  "Stop doing that!" he whimpered.

"Kill that bitch!" the kangaroo screamed, pointing at Keaton.  He stepped towards Erich, drawing his blade.  A spell took the alsatian in the back and he fell.  Another spell felled Keaton as she turned in surprise.  Jakob looked on appalled, his hands still raised in surrender.

"Should have just given us the fox, you 'tard," the kangaroo spat.  He snapped his fingers and Jakob and Bren soon found blades held at their throats.

"Keep still, you two, or you'll get the same," the bandit leader warned them.  He took a large axe and strode towards the stump where Erich had been left.

"Jerry will be really pissed," Jakob muttered.

Bren closed his eyes as the kangaroo lifted the axe high.  Jakob stared in horror, trying hard to ignore the odd lump in Erich's fur.

He blinked as the blade came down.  Erich twitched slightly and blood began to flow freely.  But the blade hadn't sunk in as deeply as the kangaroo had expected, and he stared down at the prone dog in puzzlement.

"We'll have to try again," he said.  "Oh!  Revive that jackal whore.  I want her to see what she's about to get!  Make her watch this bastard's head come off."

He sat down, sharpening the blood-stained axe with a whetstone as one of his minions cast a spell to revive Keaton.  He looked up suddenly, dropping the axe in surprise as the unfortunate bandit died with a gurgle, twitching grotesquely as his head was skewered by one of Keaton's wing-tentacles.  She took off into the forest before anyone else could react.

Bren made a strange whimpering noise and the kangaroo turned in alarm to see Erich getting unsteadily to his feet.  A broadsword was clasped tightly in both gauntleted hands, and his eyes seemed to be glowing slightly as if with barely-suppressed rage.
The Alsatian suddenly exploded, his wings popping out from a pair of specially-designed plates in the back of his armour, and wrapping around him in a defensive manner.

"That hurt," he said, a wing-tentacle pressing against the wide cut in the back of his neck to stem the flow.

"M-monster..." the kangaroo stuttered.  "You should be dead... bleeding out at least..."

"It's amazing what you can do with wings," Erich said grimly.  "Especially when they're virtually indestructible and can be shapeshifted.  Or concealed beneath the skin.  And now it's my turn," he added, drawing the broadsword up to neck height.

"Help me!" the bandit leader begged.  His men backed off, staring in horror at the enraged incubus.  Jakob exposed his wings as well, shielding himself.  The men guarding him and Bren broke, dropping their swords and taking off into the forest as fast as they could.

The kangaroo stood transfixed, his eyes wide with terror and his mouth slightly agape as if he couldn't believe it was really happening.  Erich swung the blade in a wide arc and the bandit leader's head plopped to the ground, his body jerking and splashing bright blood everywhere in death as the arteries shed their load.

"It didn't have to be this way," the incubus snarled roughly.  "But you had to up the stakes.  You stupid, stupid Being," he finished, and kicked the head into a bush.

"Who's left?" Erich asked, as Keaton returned, a crazy grin on her feature and another pair of heads.  She sat down, attempting to tie their ponytails together to make a bolas.
Jakob and Bren looked around nervously, but the only survivor they could find was a leopard, down on his knees and begging.

"Please," he whimpered, "I'm only the scout... I haven't done anything... let me go..."

"Give me one good reason a piece of scum like you should be allowed to keep his head," Erich said, hefting his broadsword and judging the distance to the feline's neck.

"I needed the money... I had nowhere to go..."

"Let's kill him anyway," Bren said.  "He's a bandit.  If he's caught, he'll die slowly.  Slaying him here and how will be a mercy, quick and clean."

"No," Jakob retorted.  "There's been enough killing for one day!  Just let him go.  He's harmless enough."

"Very well," Erich said, sheathing his blade.  "It's your lucky day, cat.  Take any coins you find on your leader's corpse, and use them wisely.  Find a job or something.  If we meet again and you are still a bandit,  you willl share his fate."

"Thank you, master..." the frightened Being said, and snatching the headless kangaroo's money pouch, he took off into the distance.

"See?" Jakob said.  "Not everything has to end with bloodshed and murder."

"You call this peaceful?" Keaton cackled, gesturing at the heads she'd stacked up by a tree.

"You're sick," Jakob said, staring at her with an expression of disgust and shaking his head.

"Force of habit," Keaton said, turning to Jakob.  "And it'll rub off on you too.  Think... just now you've seen a whole bunch of people die, people who'd have happily killed you if we hadn't stopped it!  What do you think about that?  Feeling less squeamish yet?

"I remember when I was a kid," she continued.  "I was squeamish too.  My brother took me to a pass in the mountains, not too far from where we lived.  We camped out there for an hour or so until some travellers came by.  He blasted them with a fireball spell," she said, and a flicker of doubt crossed her face like a passing cloud.  "It did't kill them, but it maimed them, left them in terrible pain,  But Noah... he just left them there.  He told me that if I wanted their suffering to end, I would have to kill them myself.  It was the first time I had ever killed anyone.  It was hard...  It was hard going.  But it taught me a valuable lesson."

"What lesson?" Jakob snarled.

"Once you've killed enough people it becomes second nature.  And then you can do anything."

"You get trapped in a cycle of killing," Jakob said.  "None of this would have happened, all these people would likely still be alive if you hadn't murdered that farmer!"

"Good point," Keaton said.  "I'll have to remember that trick next time I'm bored."

"You will get yourself killed if you keep thinking that way," Jakob warned.

"They were only Beings," the jackal shrugged.

"Keaton," Jakob said levelly, "You may remember that I mentioned sending criminals to the guillotine.  Did you perhaps stop to wonder what they had done?  What crime it is that would move me, who was brought up to believe all life was sacred, to set that aside and order their lives be ended?"

"Treason?" Keaton asked.  "Are you planning to guillotine more people when you get back?  Can I watch?" she added eagerly.

"Don't tempt me," Jakob retorted darkly.  "Treason is punished harshly, but not with death.  Soul-stealing is, though.  Anyone caught mistreating a soul in any way will forfeit their right to life."

"Does that matter?  I don't do that very much anyway... I can wait until I leave your city, it's no skin off my muzzle," the jackal shrugged, and Jakob gave her a venomous glance in return.

"I have not yet needed to do that," Jakob said.  "So far no-one has dared steal a soul within the city, at least, no-one has ever been caught doing this.  No, there is another crime which will earn you that violent fate.  The last executions were for murders... Racially-motivated murders."

"If a Demon kills a Being because he is 'only a Being', if a Being kills a Demon 'because he's obviously evil', their lives will be ended.   If you kill a Being simply because you consider him to be disposable, then you too will perish beneath the lethal blade, Keaton.  I really, really don't want that to happen, but it can and it will unless you are very, very careful."

"You mean I can't just go out and hunt Beings anymore?!"  Keaton looked aghast.

"Not while you are within the territory of Ha'Khun, no," the wolf told her.

"What about these?!  I saved your gods-damned life!" she snarled.

"That's different.  They were bandits.  We know they were intending to kill us and as far as I'm concerned you acted within the bounds of self-defence," Jakob said.  "I don't like it, but I won't argue with it."

"So all I have to do is start a fight?" Keaton asked shrewdly.  "Then I can murder the whole day through just as long as it counts as self-defence?"

"Now you've told me that, it will be the first thing the judge and jury will assume," Jakob said, shaking his head.

"I hate to interrupt," Erich said, "But Taun is concerned with the wellbeing of the 'Cubi race as a whole.  Before you decide whether Keaton lives or dies... what clan is she?  If it turns out she is from an endangered clan, I must urge you to show lenience to her."

"Jyraneth," Keaton said, with relish.  "May she lead us back to glory..."

Jakob stepped away from her in horror.

"Oh dear," Erich said.  "One of those.  I will have to defer to my Lady.  Wait, Keaton... did you say that Jyraneth is alive?!"

"Yes," Keaton said, glancing around guiltily, and making one of her wing-tentacle heads appear.  "I think she's in hiding.  She... was kind of scary."

"Good at running a cult, bad at running a clan, so they say," Erich said.  "All the same, this complicates matters.  Taun would be displeased if I slay someone from so rare a clan.  But don't think that gives you an excuse to do whatever foul deeds you wish," he added sharply.  "You must still be called to account for your crimes, it only means that I can't execute you.  But have a care, because that only protects you so far.  If you bring our race into disrepute for your crimes, she will consider you an acceptable casualty for the good of our race as a whole.

"It is ever more important that you seek mental help, be it with Jakob or inside SAIA.  But whichever you choose, we have another task ahead of us first... we need to bury the corpses of your victims.  Again.  This is becoming a very depressing habit."

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


Nice trick with the wings under the skin. I had a very similar idea myself, but I never found a place to use it.


Nice trick indeed.
Also, making a bolas out of heads amused me, as did the dialogue. Poor Jakob, trying and failing to be the sane one.
What i cannot create, i do not understand. - Richard P. Feynman
This is DMFA. Where major species don't understand clothing. So innuendo is overlooked for nuendo. .


Chapter 5 - In which the party are accosted yet again

"This should take us back to the main road," Erich said.  "I'll escort you to the edge of Ha'Khun territory."  He had reverted to Being form... Bren obviously had no choice in the matter.  Jakob had likewise concealed all his wings, leaving only Keaton as the only obvious Creature in the group.  It had taken a continuous stream of harassment and threats not to tell her about SAIA just to get her to hide her headwings, and Jakob was in no mood to repeat the ordeal over her back-wings.

"Cool!" Keaton said, pointing at something dark and vaguely furre-like suspended from the trees up ahead.

"Oh no," Jakob said, running towards the tree.  From its branches the bandit scout was gently swaying, a rope around his neck and his wrists bound, booted feet dangling pathetically from stained leather leggings.

"No no no no no," the wolf sobbed, touching the dead leopard gently on the knee, tears forming in his eyes.  "I wanted him to live... he didn't have to die..."

"Shed no tears for scum like that," a voice said.  "You may need them for yourself.  We have plenty more rope."

"A rival group of bandits?"  Erich asked in a detached manner.

"Adventurers," a badger said, slipping out from behind the trees.  "Murcheson under Ti'Ronan.  Agents of justice."

Keaton gave a small gasp and collapsed as a spell struck her from behind.  Erich rushed towards the fallen jackal and examined her briefly.  "Stunned," he said, and scanned around quickly to take in the enemy numbers.

"Yes," the leader said.  "You're surrounded.  And there are archers in the trees.  We shall see some good Justice done here tonight."

"You call this justice?!" Jakob spat, pointing at the hanged feline.  "You didn't even give him a quick death!  You could have snapped his neck with that rope or even beheaded him.  Instead you hoisted him up there and watched him strangle to death."

"Yes.  He was a good dancer," Murcheson said, and a chuckle ran through the group.  Jakob shot a look of pure venom but said nothing more.

"We are adventurers too," Erich said.  "Erich Owen under Crake.  Was this execution really necessary?"

"Oh yes," the badger said, and glanced up at the pathetic corpse twisting slightly in the breeze.  "He was a bandit, an outlaw," the leader continued.  "By living outside the law, he lived outside its protection.  No trial was required, and he will not be missed.  But it's interesting... you see, before justice was done, he told us that his band had been attacked.  By a number of Creatures.  I think he thought we might spare his life," he added, and another chuckle ran through the group.

"The point is, we are duty-bound to protect Beings from those who might attack them."

"By which you mean preemptively attacking innocent travellers?" Jakob seethed.

"It means doing justice to Bandits, Creatures and their allies," the badger told him with a dark smile.  "The she-jackal has wings.  She will die.  The rest of you, even if you aren't Creatures yourselves, are clearly in league with her.  If you were adventurers once, you have since gone bad, so you must die too.  Except for him," he added, pointing at Bren.

"You'll let me go...?" the fox asked hopefully.

"No.  We'll hang the others if they're Beings, or behead them if they're Creatures.  We can take their heads back to the guild in case there's a bounty on any of them."

"But not me...?"

"Don't worry, you won't get the rope.  No.  We'll send your head straight to Baratah.  It's worth a fortune there," he said offhandedly and a figure pinned Bren down and forced him to kneel for execution.

"What makes you think we'll just stand by and let you do that?"  Jakob demanded.

"Hold," the leader said, and Bren gave a sigh of relief.  Then Murcheson turned to face Jakob, a cool expression on his features.  "Wolf," he said, "I have heard your complaining voice once too often.  Samson, hang him."

"This is a very, very bad idea," Jakob told them, as his hands were tied behind his back and the noose tightened around his neck.  "It's going to bite you in the ass in ways you can't even imagine."

"Hollow words," Murcheson told him, and nodded to Samson.

"Before you do this," Jakob began, "Do you know what..." he was silenced with a blow to the muzzle.

The muscular feline gave a great heave on the rope and a cheer went up from the adventurers.  Jakob took a deep breath and then uttered a croak of pain as the noose went taut around his throat and hauled him into the air.  He had entertained thoughts of faking it, but very little faking turned out to be required.  His feet scrabbled instinctively for purchase on the ground that simply wasn't there, kicking in the air, the pain around his throat beyond belief.

Erich took a step towards the stricken wolf but was pushed roughly to the ground, a sword held at his neck to dissuade him from further rash impulses.  For once, even Bren wasn't sneering, a dismayed expression upon his features.

A minute passed, three.  Jakob's kicks had become more and more feeble, until finally his body relaxed.

"Unconscious," the leader pronounced.  "Now, Darius... deal with the fox."

"Heh," Bren laughed nervously.  "No tree stumps here... nothing you can use as a block!"

"Darius doesn't need a block," the badger said, smiling with grim satisfaction.

A polecat stepped forwards, an evil leer painted across his face.  He crouched down in front of Bren, slowly drawing a katana from its sheath, just in front of the terrified fox's widening eyes with a malicious glee as if it was some kind of twisted strip show.  Inch by inch it came, slowly unveiling the razor-sharp steel before his face.

"See that?" he sneered, "It'll go through your vertebrae like a knife through a ripe banana."

"You are sick," Erich commented, as Bren let out a moan of sheer terror.  "If all adventurers were like you, I'd have become a carpenter instead."

"Shut up," the leader said, with a kick.

"I do have a serious question, though," Erich said, his eyes narrowing.  "Why does Bren get the swift mercy of a beheading?  He's a known murderer.  He's done more wickedness than Jakob ever did.  If you truly believe in justice, he should die slowly like his victim did.  He should hang."

"Hmm," the badger said, slowly.  "Yes.  Darius, stop.  We will hang him first."

Darius gave a scowl of disappointment.  "But it's no fun to chop the head off when they're already dead!  I want him to see it coming!"

"Fine.  Samson, hang the fox.  As soon as he passes out, cut him down.  Darius can behead him once he's been revived."

"No, no, no!" Bren whimpered, as he was led to the tree where Jakob was still hung, tongue lolling and his left foot still twitching and spasming occasionally.
Bren gave a gasp of terror as the rope went around his neck, and up he went, struggling and kicking next to Jakob, clawing at his throat in a futile attempt to free the noose as it choked the life-giving air from his lungs.

"Sorry, boss, forgot the wrists," Samson said.

"It's more fun this way," the leader smiled.  Behind them, Erich glanced furtively, and his hand glowed briefly.

"What the fuck happened?!" Keaton said, getting to her feet woozily.  Her tentacles came out as she glanced around, looking for the person responsible.

"What did you do, Jackson..?!  That spell should have lasted for hours!"

"I don't know..."

"Shut up!  Stun her again, quickly!"

This time they had lost the element of surprise and the succubus dodged quickly.  Their attention diverted, Jakob quickly stretched out a wing-tentacle of his own, cutting down Bren, who groggily stood up and climbed the nearest tree.  Jakob shapeshifted.

As Keaton fell again, the badger turned back to the captives and bellowed with rage.  "What happened?!" he demanded.  "Where did the wolf go?!"

"We didn't check he was a Being!" Jackson whined.  "We should have done that, I warned you!  We should have stunned them all first!"

"They deserve to see their fate coming," the badger retorted, and then turned around suddenly as Samson gurgled and collapsed, a crossbow bolt blossoming in his forehead.

"Who did that?!" he demanded.  Silence followed, punctuated by a soft 'thunk' as Jackson also fell stone dead.

"It's the wolf..!  He's doing it!  He's in the tree-" someone said, and then gave a yell as a bolt slammed into their chest.  At that moment a dead archer tumbled from the nearest tree.  Enraged, the badger pointed at it, a wild expression distorting his features.  "He's up there!  Get him!"

"I don't think so," Jakob said, still in the guise of Bren.  Murcheson glanced around, did a double-take and found himself in an arm-lock, courtesy of Erich.  "How did you escape the noose...?" he gurgled, as Keaton climbed up one of the trees.

"Magic," Jakob said, reverting to base form, and wincing slightly as a head fell from Keaton's tree, followed shortly by a generous flow of blood.

"I think there's just the two of you left," the wolf continued.  "Are you going to surrender and face your precious justice, or are we going to have to carry out our own approximation of it here?"

"No deals, monster," the badger spat.

"Noted," Erich said, and glanced back to where Darius lay unconscious on the ground.  "Bren," he called, "Wake up the polecat and see if he wants to surrender."

"Right, you son of a bitch," the fox said, and making sure the other Being's wrists were firmly bound, shook him roughly awake.

"You..!" Darius said.  "What do you want with me...?"

"The real question is what do you want?" Erich called.  "The choice is yours - return home for trial, or be despatched here and now."

"Fuck you," the polecat said.  Bren glanced at Erich, who nodded sadly.  Jakob's face fell and he turned away.

"Remember this bit...?" Bren said, drawing the polecat's own katana from its sheath.  "Like a banana, didn't you say...?"

"No..." Darius whimpered.  "Not like that... not my head... not my head... not my..."  the protestations cut off abruptly as the fox struck off his head with a single, clean stroke.  Bren cleaned the blade on the dead man's shirt, kicking the body over with a savage smile on his face.  "Hypocrite," he sneered.

"Well, I guess that's that," Erich said, turning back to Murcheson.  "All your men are dead.  I repeat my offer.  Do you surrender...?"

The badger suddenly jerked, kicked and twisted himself free from Erich's grasp.  He ran over to where Bren still stood by the polecat's headless corpse, and as the fox turned with a start, plunged a dagger into the unfortunate Being's chin.  Bren gave a small gasp and collapsed lifeless to the ground.

"You shit," Erich said, grabbing the badger with his wing-tentacles and binding his hands behind his back.  "I retract my previous offer," he continued, voice cracking with hatred.  "I could chop you up now, but that's more than you deserve," the Alsatian informed him, marching the badger to the branch where the noose that Jakob had occupied still swung ominously in the breeze.  "Do you have any last words?"

"Enjoy your victory, monster.  My kind will win in the end.  We always do.  There's more of us in this world than all you Creature scum put together.  Your time is over, Demon... it is our world now!  Remember that as we kill you!"

"Perhaps you will," Erich said, adjusting the noose with a wing-tentacle and slipping it over the badger's head.  "Live by sword, and you shall die so...  But it might be another Creature who ends me.  After all, I am an adventurer - one who has not gone rogue.  Perhaps I will live to see a day when Beings and Creatures can live together in peace and die an old, old man."

"Never!" Murcheson vowed.  "There will never be peace with you Creature scum!"

"Goodbye," Erich told him.  He steadied himself to pull hard upon the rope.  Suddenly he felt Jakob grab his arm, tugging and pawing at his hand.

"Don't do this...!" the wolf begged, almost in tears.  "Please... please don't hang him like this... all the killings... I've felt a lifetime of death and pain in one short day... I don't think I can take anymore!  Please... if he has to die, make it quick..."

"Do it, do it, do it!" Keaton chanted excitedly.  "The rope, the rope!"

"I'm sorry, Jakob," Erich said, "If it was only for killing Bren, I might have made his death swift and painless.  But he showed no such mercy to that scout, nor his other victims.  He enjoyed watching them die slowly, so it is only just that he gets the same.  The rope it is."

Jakob walked away, sobbing to himself as the badger was strung up.  Keaton watched, laughing heartily as the legs flailed, occasionally throwing objects at the dying man to liven him up.

Erich did not watch, but instead cut down the scout and began to dig a grave, burying the leopard side-by-side with Bren.  Jakob helped, trying to distract himself from the badger's slow and painful demise.

"You did well, Jakob," the Alsatian hound reassured him.  "A textbook performance from the Faking-your-death classes at SAIA.  The instructor would be pleased.  And I think Bren was, too... after all that happened, after what he tried to do to you, you still stuck out your neck to try and save him."

"I'm sorry," Jakob said.  "He didn't deserve this."

"He was a bit of a rogue," Erich replied with a sad sigh, "And may the gods forgive him for that, and the foolish mistakes of his youth.  But at least no-one will be taking his head to Baratah now."

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


What's up with "Murcheson under Ti'Rona" and "Erich under Crake" anyway? I've never known what that stuff means.


Quote from: CubiKitsune on April 12, 2014, 12:04:09 AM
What's up with "Murcheson under Ti'Rona" and "Erich under Crake" anyway? I've never known what that stuff means.

I believe it's the name of the commander of the adventuring guild they belong to - i.e. their credentials.

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


Wow! When adventurers go bad they aren't any better or worst then Demons.

Probably doesn't make it any easier when their position gives them enough clout to avoid the consequences of their actions.
I perfer my spam cooked on a skillet.


Quote from: joshofspam on April 13, 2014, 04:56:38 PM
Wow! When adventurers go bad they aren't any better or worst then Demons.

I think the business about staring into the abyss applies here.

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

llearch n'n'daCorna

Quote from: Tapewolf on April 13, 2014, 05:04:03 PM
I think the business about staring into the abyss applies here.

When you stare into the Abyss, the Abyss also stares into you.

... which is difficult, given where her eyes are.
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"We found Scientology!" -- The Bad Idea Bears


Early update, because tomorrow is a bank holiday and I'll almost certainly forget as my schedule is thrown.
This was originally going to be the last chapter, but the epilogue grew until it as about the same length, so it ended up as seven chapters.

Chapter 6 - In which things go well for Keaton

"We will have to return to your base now," Jakob said.  Erich shook his head.  "With Keaton?  No way."

"Oh, please," the succubus whined.

"Absolutely not.  They will try and kill you.  And arguably you deserve it."

"I know," Keaton said, flashing an evil grin.  "I could do with a few more heads to hack off.  When they attack me first it'll be self-defence, right?"

Jakob interrupted.  "Tell you what, Keaton... you want to go to SAIA, right?  I'll tell you how to get there, if you promise to go straight there and enroll with the school."

"Deal," the yellow jackal said eagerly.

"Very well," Jakob said.  "You'll need a warp-aci.  Make out a letter to Headmistress Fa'Lina at the Succubus And Incubus Academy and have it delivered.  She should be able to take it from there."

Jakob and Erich turned away, leaving Keaton behind.  She had extruded one wing into a flat surface to press on and was eagerly scribbling out a note on a piece of paper.

I don't need to learn, the jackal thought.  I just need to get inside... just need to see if there are any survivors...

She put her name down as "Tiara Plumkin" of clan Tishwomp, age 22, and gave the scrawled letter to Xianxi.  As she waited for Fa'Lina's response, she sat back and began planning how to bluff her way into the 'Cubi Academy.

Everything dissolved.

A tall, white poodle with pink hair stood, glancing briefly at the crumpled letter as Keaton stood blinking in the sudden daylight.
"Your name is 'Tiara Plumkin'...?" the succubus asked, raising an eyebrow,

"Fuck you," the jackal snarled.  "My mother was a mythos, okay?"

"Charmed, I'm sure," the succubus returned smoothly, extending a pink gloved hand.  "Headmistress Fa'Lina, at your service.  Welcome to the Succubus and Incubus Academy, Katherine."

* * *

"You are not seriously planning to return to my group's headquarters...?" Erich said, face a picture of dismay.

"I will explain it to them," Jakob said.  Erich just stared at him.

"You can't," he said finally.  "With all of us returning and you in tow I might have been able to guarantee your safety, but with just the pair of us?  They'll kill you out of hand, and probably torture me.  They'll behead me in the town square tomorrow, I guarantee it."

"I can explain," Jakob said grimly.  "I will.  They'll listen to reason... even if I have to force them."

* * *

Erich walked in through the door, and promptly collapsed, his armour sounding a deafening clatter as he struck the ground.  Jakob gave a yell and set up some kind of protective field.

On the ground, Erich's headwings appeared and his features shifted slightly, the Alsatian hound becoming more jackal-like before their eyes.

"As I thought," Crake said.  "Bracers.  Take him away.  He'll be beheaded in the town square tomorrow.  Filchard, make sure the ceremonial sword is polished and sharpened.  I want a razor edge."

"Please don't do that," Jakob pleaded, as suppression bracers were clapped around the unconscious jackal's wrists.  "Why does he have to die...?  Erich's done nothing to you."

"Erich Owen is dead," the lynx told him, flatly.  "Murdered and replaced by this... Creature.  Well, he'll face justice for his crimes.  We will make an example of him, in case anyone else thinks they can try the same trick.  The whole town will get to watch his head come off."

"But you've got it all wrong," the wolf insisted.  "Erich isn't dead - not unless you kill him!  The Erich Owen you know never really existed... he was just an alias, a disguise that the real Erich used to avoid scaring you.
"Look, you'd never let someone with wings join your gang, right?  So you didn't leave him an awful lot of choice if he wanted to become an adventurer.  And 'Cubi or not, he's still an adventurer through and through.  Look, just check his adventuring stone... you'll see.  If it's still glowing, he's alive."

"You know far too much about the wiles of this monster," Crake said and Jakob felt a coldness spread through his arms as someone behind him clamped suppression bracers around his wrists.  His wings popped out uncontrollably as his natural magics were shorted out.  The lynx looked him over with a satisfied expression.   "As I thought," he pronounced, "You're one of them too.  I take it Bren is dead?"

"Yes.  Gert too.  Gert was killed fighting an insane succubus, but Bren was murdered by adventurers gone rogue.  That's why I came here, to help report..."

"Kill him," the malamute suggested.  "Erich brought him here so they could kill us together!"

"Yes," Crake agreed.  "Take this monster to the spare room and decapitate him."

"I'm getting fucking sick of this," Jakob snapped.  "This is the fourth time in 24 hours that I've been accosted by idiots wanting to chop my head off.  Seriously, is that all you know?!  'Decapitate the monster?'  When I come bringing vital information?  Are you dense?!  Are you so eager to die...?"

"You Creatures are all the same," the commander said, breaking into a grim smile.  "You come swaggering in as if you owned the place.  Well, we'll soon see if you look so smug when your head lands in a bucket."

"But Erich promised me safe conduct," Jakob protested.  "Are you so keen to break his vow?"

"Erich is dead, wolf.  Whatever vows this impostor may have made to you are null and void.  Jim, take his head off.  The wolf's head," he added quickly, as the malamute eyed the supine jackal.  "Take 'Erich' to the cells.  He deserves to die with suitable pomp and ceremony, but the wolf must be killed now, before he can do any damage."

* * *

The adventurers' guillotine was simple and crude, but it still had many advantages over a sword or axe... it was much less likely to go amiss.  Jakob paused, taking the sight in.  He swallowed involuntarily and found himself recalling the executions he had carried out himself... the guilt and regret he always felt after pulling the lever and taking a life... wondering always how he would feel if it was him waiting for the blade to drop and snuff out his own life... how his grandfather must have felt as he had fallen into the basket, sight fading as the crowd cheered and sang.
If this doesn't work, I'll find out, he thought.  No wonder Dad and Izak refuse to leave the safety of the Academy...  Suddenly a hand grasped him hard, shaking him out of his dark daydream as he was pushed to his knees and forced forward, hands bound behind his back, the moon-shaped hole gaping before him and waiting to receive his grey-furred neck.

"Handy for quick disposals," Jakob commented nonchalantly.  "But why is it indoors?"

"So we can plumb it into the toilets in the next room.  A tap for water, a drain for the blood - Makes it so much easier to wash down."

"That would account for the tiled floor and the slight slope, I guess," Jakob volunteered.

"Indeed.  Now, will those be your final words, monster, or do you have something more sensible to say before justice is done?"

Jakob shook himself briskly, and turned to face the commander, staring him in the eye.

"You can't threaten me, Commander.  You can kill me, but that will reunite me with my mentor," Jakob told him.  "If that is what you wish, so be it.  But before you carry out your perversion of justice, I would like to ask just one last thing."

"Very well.  But make it quick," the lynx said, tapping his fingers against the release lever, as Jakob's head was thrust roughly into the slot.

"Do you know what this is..?" the wolf asked, wiggling his bound hand and turning it so the ring on his finger was visible.

"Tor, check that out," the commander snarled, and a feline henchman went to examine it.  The cat gave a croak of dismay as his eyes took in the seal.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck!  Let him go, boss!" the cat pleaded.  "That ring... it's a trap!  Get him out... we're dead if anything happens to him...!"

"A bomb?!" the lynx boggled, his hand moving away from the release lever.  "Take it off!  Throw it away!"

"NO!" the cat squawked.  "It's a panic button!  He's a goddam noble!  If I take it off... oh gods..."

"That's right," Jakob said sadly, lifting the lunette with his neck and drawing his head back out from under the lethal blade.  "I'd hoped we could settle this amicably, but no, you had to go and try to kill me.  Had to try and kill one of your own men, even!  You tell yourselves that killing Creatures makes people safer, but you don't deserve safety, not the way you treat people!  You're no better than the Creatures you seem to hate and fear so much.  Perhaps this will make you think it through for once.

"Who are you?!" Crake asked, stepping backwards.

"I'm the acting ruler of Ha'Khun, a Creature City just a few leagues from here.  If I lose consciousness or that ring is removed, a squadron of elite Demon troops will teleport in.
"When they see me kneeling before a guillotine, what do you think will happen to you...?   Unless I can stop them, they're liable to execute the lot of you, and anyone else they consider a threat to my safety.  If they find me dead... let's just say they'll set an example."

"An example?!" Tor squeaked.

"I've left it up to them," Jakob shrugged, absently picking at the lock on his cuffs with a hairpin.  "Though they were instructed to display the killers' remains in the main square.  If you're lucky they'll just pike your heads, possibly before they cut them off.  But if they're particularly pissed off, you'll spend a long time dying."

"Ha, you're bluffing," Crake laughed.  "We'll still see your head roll, wolf."

"'Roll'?  Is that a feline expression?"  Jakob asked, quizically.  "Heads can't roll, not unless they have tiny ears and short muzzles."

"You're about to find out if you roll, demon," Crake said.  "Get back under there!".

"No," Jakob said stubbornly.  The bracer he'd been picking at fell off and one of his wings shifted, slowly, painfully, still hampered by the remaining bracer.  It became sharp and moments later slashed through one of the wooden struts holding the blade in the air.  Tor and Crake stepped backwards as the remaining support creaked and finally splintered under the weight of the heavy steel blade, bringing it crashing to the ground.

"I think it's broken," the wolf said innocently.

"Nice trick, Mr. Ruler of Ha'Khun.  But don't think it will save your neck," Crake sneered.  "Tor, give me your broadsword.  Let's make an end to him."

With a sigh of regret, Jakob removed the ring.  Bad things happened.

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

llearch n'n'daCorna

Hrm. You'd think the teleport spell would also have a warning sign somewhere, so the squadron of guards isn't pulled from wherever they happen to be at the time into a war spot.

I can just imagine one of them has taken a moment to go to the little demon's room, when Surprise! You're in a fight! Not exactly the best way to start....
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"We found Scientology!" -- The Bad Idea Bears


Quote from: llearch n'n'daCorna on April 17, 2014, 09:28:53 AM
Hrm. You'd think the teleport spell would also have a warning sign somewhere, so the squadron of guards isn't pulled from wherever they happen to be at the time into a war spot.

I can just imagine one of them has taken a moment to go to the little demon's room, when Surprise! You're in a fight! Not exactly the best way to start....

Personally I'd imagine it worked something like whenever the Ghostbusters got a job or any fire department got a call about a fire. But instead of a fire truck or old fashioned ambulance with weird devices on top of it that they hop into, it's a bunch of portals that exit in several area's around the ring.

Edit: Seems like Fa'lina isn't fooled for a minute with Keaton.
I perfer my spam cooked on a skillet.


I had always wondered what happened to Izak...


Chapter 7 - In which Jakob returns to Ha'Khun

"STOP," Jakob ordered.  The six Demons froze where they were, their captain, a buff Doberman demon, turning to face Jakob.

"No casualties, captain," the wolf insisted.  "Much as they deserve it, I do not wish to have them killed.  After all, they have surrendered," he said, gesturing at the adventurers who stood in a corner, swords thrown to the floor.

"This one hasn't," the doberman said, pointing to Crake, who was lying pinned to the floor, a demon's axe raised above his neck.  He gazed at Jakob, face twisted with loathing.  "He was the one who ordered your head off, Milord.  It is only fitting that he loses his."

"I'd prefer not to.  Actually, just bind his hands," Jakob suggested.  "These oafs have already sparked a diplomatic incident - lopping his head off will only make it uglier.  No, just tie him up, and then we will leave.  His comrades can free him when we are safely back in Ha'Khun."

"I agree, Lord Jakob," Erich said, back in his Alsatian form again, but still a little woozy from the knockout spell.  "His death won't solve anything.  It should be dealt with internally by the guild.  I believe I can take it from here."

"Will you be able to do that, Erich?"  Jakob asked.  "What if they try to execute you again?"

"Head Office have a somewhat more progressive attitude towards Creatures," Erich pointed out.  "If I go to them as someone of Demon blood and say nothing of my 'Cubi nature, they are likely to overlook it as long as I get the job done."

"All the same, I grant you my protection," Jakob said, glancing at the Doberman, who produced a writ for him to sign.  "I name you, Erich Owen Taun, an honorary citizen of Ha'Khun.  Make sure they know this, and that if anything happens to you, they'll be getting an invading army instead of a trade agreement."

"I am honoured," Erich said, accepting the writ with a bow.

"That goes for you lot as well," Jakob said loudly, addressing the adventurers in the corner.  "If anything happens to Erich, if his secret gets spilled, so will your brains."

As Jakob left the building, the Demon captain motioned him aside.  "My Lord," the Doberman said, "Far be it from me to question your strength, but..."

"...why didn't I stop them myself?" Jakob finished, with a sly expression.  The guard bowed his head.

"I could have, yes," Jakob said.  "But there is more to power than brute force, captain.  The true path to dominion is to know when to use force, and when to use politics.  Murdering my way out of the situation would have complicated matters in the long run, jeopardising negotiations for trade agreements.
"And in the end, had I killed them all, they would have known a few brief moments of terror and then gone to the void.  But like this?  This way they will fear me for the rest of their lives.  That is power."

"Very good, my Lord."

"I represent Ha'Khun," Jakob reminded him.  "I direct its armies.  I direct you and other like you.  Should I order it, force overwhelming would be directed upon a town, a city.  That strength may not be all my own, but the strength of us as a whole is far greater and it is mine to command."

"I never thought of it that way," the Demon said, pondering.

* * *

"Welcome back, Lord Cross," the advisor said, bowing as Jakob entered the throne room.

"Thank you," Jakob replied.  "Has there been any news of Lord Page's killers, during my absence?"

"I am afraid not, Milord," the advisor said.  "We have put out word with several adventuring guilds that there is a sizeable bounty if they be brought in alive."

"With a strong emphasis on 'Alive', I trust?" Jakob said, raising an eyebrow.  "Justice must be done here, where the people can see them pay the price for the murder of Ha'Khun's beloved founder."

"I have taken every care," the advisor assured him.  "We are only offering a hundredth part of the bounty if they are slain."

"Good," Jakob said.  "I don't want just their heads.  Heads can be faked, after all."

"It will be done, Milord.  Is there anything else you wish of me?"

"Yes," Jakob said.  "I want you to hold tight."


Jakob launched himself at the advisor, grabbing and pulling him down.  An armed and armoured figure pounced from behind the curtains, tripped over the pair of them and crashed into the ground.  The guards were on him before he could recover, the sword wrested from his grasp and sent skittering across the ground.

Jakob rolled over and picked himself up.  One of the guards had already removed the assassin's helmet, grasping the lynx by the hair, sword raised to strike off the attacker's head.

"Stop!" Jakob barked.  "Do not kill him!"

"But my Lord," the captain protested, "The penalty for assassination is death by beheading."

"He has not actually assassinated me," Jakob pointed out.  "He might simply be a very enthusiastic supporter of mine.  Though frankly I rather doubt it.
"Whatever the case, I wish to speak to him first.  After that, what must be done shall be done.  Only not in here," he added quickly.  "If he must die, do it somewhere else.  I don't want his blood all over my throne."

"Very good, Milord," the guard said, wrenching the armoured lynx around to face Jakob.

"Why did you attack me, Crake...?" Jakob asked sadly.

"Don't you know, monster?!" Crake sneered.  "You're supposed to be the mind-reader!"

"Listening in on people's thoughts isn't considered polite," Jakob informed him.  "And besides, I want the others to hear your reasons for assaulting me.
"What did I do to you that was worth risking your head over?  I never harmed you, Crake... Not even when you tried to guillotine me."  The guard captain bristled at this, his hand twitching slightly as he tried to draw his sword again but thought better of it.

"You took everything from me!" Crake screamed.  "That's what you did!  I was set for life!  I was commander of an adventuring guild hall!  Then you came and ruined it all... took away everything I had!"

"By preventing you from executing innocent men...?" the wolf shook his head.  "That does not speak well of you at all."

"Erich was not innocent and he was not a man!" the lynx snarled.  "He was a monster who had deliberately infiltrated our group for some evil purpose of his own!"

"Yes," Jakob agreed.  "Several evil purposes, actually.  Such wicked deeds as slaying bandits and monsters who threaten Beings or 'Cubi.  Evil sins such as protecting those who can't protect themselves.
"Erich is a man like you, Crake, and one with similar goals.  The difference is that he is more than ten times your age and has more powers.  That's about it.  A hidden past is no reason to lop a man's head off."

"What do you know, demon?" Crake snapped.

"I know that you nearly started a war with Ha'Khun," Jakob said softly.  "We had trade negotiations ongoing, and having me killed would have thrown your homeland into chaos.  I know that your attempts to execute me without trial broke the local laws, and was determined to be a murder attempt by the local jurisdiction.
"I know that for the attempted murder of a visiting head of state you were sentenced to death, and I know that you broke jail to escape, killing three people who tried to stop you."

"They put that monster in my place!  They gave him command... after all that happened..."

"MiLord," the captain interrupted.  "He has tried to murder you... twice, if I understand you correctly.  He must face justice."

"Yes," Jakob sighed.  "It's a hassle, but in the interests of deterring others, I suppose I should send a suitably harsh message and put on some kind of show.  What time is it?" he glanced at the ornate clock upon one wall of the throne room.

"Seven o'clock, near enough," he said to himself and began writing a note which he sealed.

"Crake, in your time you have doubtless hacked the heads off many people.  Did you ever stop to wonder how long the head remains conscious?  Because you're going to find out."

The lynx began to blink rapidly, horror welling in his soul.

"Issue a proclamation at once that he is to be beheaded in the square at noon," Jakob ordered.  "That all may see the fruits of treason.  Take him to the cells, but let him keep his armour - he shall die in it."

The captive feline uttered a low moan.

"Oh yes," Jakob said, smiling unpleasantly.  "Noon.  Near enough that your life is done, yet far enough away that you may dwell upon the impending loss of your pretty little head.  I shall see you at noon.  Guards, remove him."

"Oh,"he added, gesturing to one of the guards with the now-sealed note, "And make sure the jailer reads this letter.  Or you shall both share his fate."

* * *

There were five minutes left until noon and the crowds had thronged in the square.  Some had come early to get the best view, and to watch as the guillotine was prepared, sharpened and tested upon a large fruit.  Dressed in his black trench-coat and leathers, Jakob stood upon the scaffold, surveying the crowd.  Not all were pleased.  Some had clearly come to protest, and a large section of the crowd had set up a chant: "Clemency!  Clemency!"  Jakob had been swayed by this the last time, commuting the sentence just as the victim's neck was being positioned below the terrible device.  This time he merely smiled to himself and made no move to intervene.

A cheer went up as the lynx ascended the steps, his armour gleaming in the sun as he walked stiffly, gauntleted hands bound behind his back and a glassy stare in his eyes as though he was already dead.  Even as he halted before the guillotine and a blindfold wrapped around his head, he uttered not a word, nor did his expression change in any way.  The table was tilted up and then back down, with him now lying upon it.  A silence fell upon the crowd.

Jakob signalled to the guard acting as executioner, and the lunette was snapped into place around the condemned Beings's neck.  At Jakob's touch, the gleaming, vicious blade fell just moments later, the armoured corpse jerking grotesquely as the head was snicked off amid a great splash of red as if something had burst.  Jakob felt a warm glow as the bloodied head plummeted into the casket with a wooden thump amidst a flurry of cheers and booing.

"Justice... is done," he shouted to the crowd.

* * *

"Night has fallen," Jakob informed the Being, who stood before him, head bowed and swaddled in a thick scarf.  "You will leave immediately, and never again return to Ha'Khun.  Present this pass to the guards and speak to no-one else until you have left my lands."

"And do what...?" the Being asked.  "I have no future!  None!"

"Nor did I, once," Jakob said.  "But I made one.  You can too, Benjamin."

"Benjamin...?" the feline queried.

"Crake is dead," Jakob reminded him.  "Half the city watched him die.  Like Erich has before and will surely do again, you must take a new name and begin a new life.  May the gods give you wisdom to live it more sensibly this time."

"Yes, Lord Cross," the lynx said.  "But... what if they find the head...?  It won't stand close examination, surely?  And how did you make my armour walk...?"

"Magic, of course," Jakob retorted.  "I have not lived five hundred years without learning something.  As for the head, it has been cremated," Jakob told him.  "Your armour is being cleaned and will be sold in the market.  Aside from my trusted men, none must ever know you escaped the fate you so richly deserve.  And Benjamin... you have used up all my patience and goodwill in this matter.
"If ever you are so stupid as to return to my realm, I shall consume your very soul.  Now go."

As he watched the frightened feline scuttle off into the night, Jakob smiled to himself, a dark smile of twisted pleasure.

Keaton was right, he decided, Terror is MUCH better than joy.


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