It was a fairly dim day down in the Underlands of Myllenor, although that was like saying a large body of water is quite wet. There were the thin grates up in the ceiling yet they seemed to have been designed with the express purpose of letting air in, but keeping as much light as possible out. Probably so the city council could charge extra rates from the citizens of Underlands by having most of the light come from those expensive gas lamps they kept installing everywhere, Tak-Thar mused.
Not that he really considered that his problem, he lived out in District 012, a place best described he thought as somewhere so shady even the occasional gas lamp seemed to be fighting a losing battle against the shadows that hung off every surface. Probably because they were too frightened of illuminating what hid in those areas.
He shrugged, or made a movement as similar to that as you could while being a gigantic Spider-Ant, to anyone else they would see the upper two, large spiked appendages splay outwards in a twisted mockery of such an expression.
The place had its own benefits, a lack of law enforcement meant that those more dangerous of fighting rings could thrive down there, the unsanctioned underdark too. Such a place was thriving with its own sort of life and energy, one perfect for an Agurian of his size and strength. The phrase - give an Agurian an enemy to fight and they’ll be your friend for life seemed to ring most true here. Yes there were gangs and violence between them on an almost daily basis but the comradery between them was one like a close-knit family. Not to mention the pits were amazing for finding mates, he’d met his after watching her tear a rival gang trooper in half, what a lovely sight that had been.
Truth be told he much prefered the darker pits of District 012 than the cleaner, more well kept and open streets of 04. It sure was nicer by the general definition here, but out there, they were more free to be themselves, go with their “Primal” urges as it were. Sometimes he wondered if he should move on out there, mingle with the others that lived there, see the sights.
Although anything would be considered a sight to the one he was currently seeing, comprised of mostly brick walls rushing past the exterior of the train, with the occasional glimpse of sidestreet and then the main roads beyond. All in all, not the most interesting of sights, but still it was better than seeing the one inside Big Nym’s furnace.
“Stopping at District 04, central platform!” The voice of a fairly dissintered elf blared over the loudspeaker.
Tak-Thar looked up then swung his four eyes outward to face the incoming platform, he could already her the low level chattering, both literally and figuratively of the crowd outside. Soon he’d be out there and completing his task, then he could retreat back to the safety of the darker pits of outer districts.
Putting one appendage out onto the platform he could already feel the difference through the feelers in his legs, the ground was more smooth, less cracked in random places and more in a proper grid layout. It was weird and he felt odd standing on it, back down in District 012 he could tell exactly where he stood simply through the differences in ground material, here everything was too samey and he didn’t like it.
Still he had his orders and he was going to carry them out, it wasn’t like there was any way he could shirk these either, bodies just don’t around disappearing by themselves and he had nowhere near the appetite to clean all of it up.
Not that it was a bad walk per say, just a short tram ride on the silver line was it? He checked the instructions once more, yes it was the silver line. Two stops, down Valium street then onto Solaris Boulevard, just a quick ten minute journey.
He could have walked, in fact he’d taken much longer strolls back at home, but here he just wanted to be in and out. He’d just hand the ticket over and hop on the back and sure enough, nine minutes he was there, stepping off as the tram trundled on off further down Solaris boulevard down towards the banking sector.
Looking around fervently he took one look around before heading slightly further up the street towards a gigantic building which seemed to forcefully be pushing the buildings next to it away in a bid to expand outwards. It even reached up to the concrete ceiling above where it stretched on into the Groundlands then Skylands above.
As he stepped up to the door it was almost impossible to notice the uniformed Agurians and elves which stood sharply to attention around the exterior of the structure. None of them appeared armed, but that was a front, he knew from experience each was concealing a small handgun somewhere about their person.
Even considering where he came from these were not a group he ever wanted to mess with, each one having far more training than the simple fights and gang wars could provide him. Keeping his gaze firmly locked on the door he pushed the outer doors open and was greeted with the familiar sight of exuberant decadence, crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling far above, each desk within the hall protected by finely gilded bars. Guards in their sharp uniforms patrolling the ground and many walkways above. Even the grand staircase lived up to its word, the finest and painstakingly decorated carpets lining its bannisters, each individually decorated.
He knew the clark he had been ordered to speak to, a large bulky Agurian languishing in an empty booth waiting for a new customer, that person just happening to be Tak-Thar. As he approached he could already recognise the face of Big Nym, one of undertakers running the Underlands sector of Liari and co undertakers.
“Ahh! Tak-Thar, my favourite soldier of the grey-hounds! What brings you to our humble establishment today, had another raid?” As the beast of an Agurian opened its mouth Tak-Thar saw the familiar set of golden mandibles which if shone with a torch would glitter like a minature disco, not that anyone would want to try that, usually if they did they’d soon find themselves attempting to navigate the inside of a furnace.
“Yeah, we got hit with another one, gave em as good as we got mind you.”
“Oh I don’t doubt you did! Very tough lot you are, but excellent customers. I’ve had many a job from other gangs because of you!”
Tak-Thar nodded slowly, it was a routine that he was all too familiar with, the little round of niceties before they got down to business. His boss called it diplomacy, he just called it pointless.
“So how’s the mate, still tearing people in half? Good good!”
“I’m sure she will be sending a few your way soon.”
Big Nym laughed, a rough sound, which always sounded closer to a large number of saucepans being battered together rather than the one it was supposed to be imitating. “I’m sure she will, now about this business, how many bodies ya got?”
“About 16, 9 of ours, 7 of theirs”
“Well, well well, that must have been a right old fight eh? Getting to work on rebuilding already eh?” As he spoke the undertaker leaned forward slowly, An appendage reaching into the carefully crafted suit he wore, “Well for such a good customer, would you like a nice sample of our latest? We have the finest Spirit and Bliss.”
The Agurian’s mandibles chattered together excitedly, it had been a while since he’d had either and the internal craving for both had grown, yet it had also been too long since he’d been in the pits, something that Spirit was certain to solve. “It’ll be Spirit for me.”
“Wanting to impress the mate eh? Well don’t you worry, I’ll have an extra special case sent right up for you, now run along and tell your boss the job will be 800 Dacha, make sure to have it ready when our team arrives.”
Then that was it, he was free to head back to District 012, back to the darkness where he belonged. Tak-Thar breathed a sigh of relief and skittered happily on his way, completely unaware of the wars going on outside of the Dominion.
Up above in the totally different city of Thalor was a flurry of far more political activity, most of which was centered on The Senate House, the seat of government with Lieria. White smoke billowed from the central dome indicating that the session currently in order was not merely a normal one where small and petty matters were argued for days on end, but one that concerned the entire future of the Dominion.
Of course every citizen with a radio and most of the ones without knew the reason for this: the civil war that had erupted across the Imperial heartlands, fought by two of the sons of the old and now deceased emperor, the fact that three of the Imperial dominions had rebelled and chaos was spreading throughout the empire.
Throughout the streets there was not so much an atmosphere of fear or even tension at the news, but more one of excitement and anticipation. While those up in the Skylands cursed this news as something that brought confusion and disruptions to trade routes, but one thing was certain in the hearts in the hearts and minds of the people, Lieria was going to go to war.
Within the centre of the Senate house, two radically different debates were currently going on, the first inside the general assembly chambers resembled more a 14 way skirmish than it did any reasonable debate or sense of coherence, although that was more due to the fact that most were waiting for the Elected Council to finish debating
Inside the Council room 9 elves sat around a round table engaged in a heated, but eerily calm debate. This was after all something that not one of them were willing to descend into argument when if something was to be done it was to be done quickly.
“I refuse to pick a side in this, we should be turning our guns outwards, not inwards at our own allies!”
“You say that they’re our allies, but have you not considered, Ecruir is a hardline supremacist! We cannot allow someone like that to be ruling the Imperium! So much of our benefits come from the trade and openness we have fostered over these last few years! So much of our businesses thrive from the current setup!”
“As much as I hate to admit it Vulwyn here has a point, while we may not see eye to eye on many matters, Lieria has been growing under the current ruling, a man such as Ecruir would be disastrous for our nation.”
“Well I for one -”
“I present the motion that the Council votes to support Olarth in the civil war.”
Eight heads turned to face the single most controversial figure in Lierin politics, someone who’d just gone and done the thing that they were all dancing around actually doing.
A single dissenting voice spoke up, it all seemed to quick for them, the opposing side was gaining momentum and that was never something they wanted. “Surely it is a bit too early for that, we can’t just jump straight to it can we…?”
“I second that motion!”
Aimon stared at Zentha gratefully, his eyes expressing a silent thank you at the speed in which she’d recovered and pushed forwards towards their current shared goal. Both knew that an edge if maintained during a debate was crucial for not giving the opposition time to think and speak, especially when that time usually included making alliances and deals.
Inianlos was the next to speak up, as the oldest and most venerable member of the council he was the one expected to lead into the new parts of sessions, acting practically as the defacto chair. “Well then, with a seconded motion we now move into the next phase, each member of the council shall have no more than five minutes to put forward their arguments for this meeting.” He slowly leant forward and reached into the pot infront of him, taking great care to rummage around before producing a single slip of paper. “Our first speaker will be Kidhel Quilen of the Military Front.”
The slightly aged elf looked around before standing up in his chair. His single violet eye surveying the assembled council before him with that calculating glare he was so well known for, before softening into warm gratefulness. “I am thankful that I was the one chosen to speak first for I have many thing to address to you here, however the most important of which is that no matter the decision here Lieria is going to have to militarise.”
He paused letting out a deep sigh before continuing. “I know in the past I have been accused of pursuing a military agenda to the detriment of this nation, on occasion by different members of this council and I do admit that sometimes in the past I may have been hasty in some of my judgements like damning democracy for being a weak and inefficient system, especially since the current crisis could only have been caused by such a system as the one the Imperium operates under. Yet here I say that declining to increase our military is inviting a disaster, if we choose to support a side in the civil war shall we rely only on the Auxila and the Blood Red Dogs? If any of you can seriously sit there and tell me that you think that this will cut it then you are asking for another nation to attack us!”
The assembled members looked at each other, a few remained silent, but a few still spoke up muttering words of agreement, in particular Ayrae and Vulven who spoke up properly to share their agreement. “If Lieria is to join this war, we need to be prepared! That means we need an army. One more than just the Blood Red Dogs. Our people will listen, after all this is the fight that our blood calls for!”
“As always Vulven you’re way of fire and brutality carries with it its own harsh beauty, I couldn’t agree more, the people deserve a right to defend themselves!”
Gingerly and with the care someone might take when handling a newly born child Kidhel produced a small file on which was written, Special Order: 36 the remilitarisation of Lieria. Then with with a look of soft satisfaction placed it upon the table face up.
“You do realise that by issuing a special order we will have to wait a week before deciding something again?”
Kidhel nodded, his single eye staring emphatically at Inianlos, the path to retake Lierins power to defend itself under its own strength was one he’d striven for all his life and now in this moment he was going to see it come to fruition.
In the bunker underneath the central city fort that housed the Lierin’s elite forces known simply as the Blood Red Dogs, several candidates were undergoing the final test. The last and most brutal of the many exams to prove oneself worth of joining the Blood Red Dogs.
The small metal door, barely wide enough for an Agurian to step through and just as tall slid slowly back to reveal a large circular chamber, for those entering it took a few seconds for their eyes to adjust to the fog and the smoke, but once they did the pair saw:
A blasted landscape, fires licked hungrily away at the twisted and blackened stumps of what were unmistakably the ruins of Lierin towers, broken segments of bridge lay scattered about the street and a corpse, too realistic to have been a fake lying half crushed under one segment. Their torso severed at the waistline in what had clearly been a slow and angonising struggle to try and save whatever remained of their shattered husk. .
In those seconds the difference in reactions was startling, the first, an Agurian immediately began looking for cover, a wall to at least hide place behind them. If they were to face the enemy they’d do it from the front, clearly whatever this test was it was a last stand of some sort and they were going to face it from the front.
The other: A small horned elf of around 32 years had an almost manic sparkle in her eyes, one that seemed to both translate, fear, adrenaline and above all else, excitement. She had trained for this for so long and she was ready to slaughter anything that was coming. With movements that jittered with excitement she grabbed a flask from her belt and downed the sickly sweet liquid inside.
Her smile began to grow as the drug began to take its effects, seeming into her nervous system, pulling on primal desires, chaos, bloodlust and above all her warriors spirit. Down here she was going to face whatever monsters were part of this last test and she was going to crush them all, as brutally as she could.
A screeching cry, rang out from the walls, bouncing around the walls, distorting and twisting until it seemed like the very stone itself was yelling a battlecry at them.
Eletha spun several times, each time she thought she’d pinpointed the new source of the sound and each time her eyes failed to see any movements, it was still moving, charging around out of sight.
“COME AND GET ME YA FAKING PANSIES!” She roared out the challenge, her lungs feeling like they were bursting were sheer animal ferocity.
Her bellowed challenge did not go unheeded and the screech echoed it back, yet this time she was more certain of its direction, it wasn’t just one but many, all coming from every direction all at on -
Alvis-Thar discharged his rifle, watching in satisfaction as the first of the beasts slumped back down out of side, its head missing the part where the brain usually should have been stored.
Two more appeared, this time charging out from where the shattered bridge lay strewn across the road, their fangs dispersing small flecks of gore as they charged. Each of the creatures sported two pairs of eyes, all of which were being trained right on Eletha,
Crack! One went down, the internal organs in its brain rupturing as the bullet smashed through its skull and tore through the soft tissue inside. Crack! She’d spun her gun over just in time to score a glancing blow on its side, wounding, but not killing the creature. Yet even with this abomination bearing down on her, she stood her ground, before twisting downwards at the last moment, jamming the rifle but against the ground.
The two collided with a crunch, a sickening howl of pain exploding forth from the creature as it impaled itself on the bayonet, the force of the charge driving it deeper into its underbelly. The writing agonised spasms of a beast desperately trying to paw a spear from its body was only silenced when with an almost gleeful delight Eletha rammed her knife down into its forehead.
The skin on the palm of her right had almost been ripped away the force of the collision, yet still the fingers tightened once more around the hilt of the knife, forcefully wrenching the blade free from the fragments of bone that could have once have been called a skull.
Behind her the sound of more rifle fire proved to her at least for now, Alvis was doing his job, so long as the rifle kept sounding she didn’t need to watch her back, not that it would have mattered much too anyway.
Taking one look at the shards of rifle remaining she turned away, it was no use even sparing extra thoughts on what was now useless to her. Seeing no other option she drew another knife and spun around once more, doing her best to figure out any place where the next attacker was going to come from.
Her answer was not a long time coming as within moments another creature had burst forth through a wall and brought its appendages down swiftly towards her arms. She only managed to just about throw herself out of the way with a few scratches, small dots of blood pricking their way up through the skin where sharp blades had barely scratched the surface.
Up a blade came, the elf using her momentum to flow into a counterattack. A moment later the creature was hemorrhaging gore from where her knife severed through one of the creatures limbs.
Startled it reared backwards in pain, teeth desperately biting on the thin air between them as if it could somehow reach and destroy its adversary.
One of the daggers lodged itself within the creatures skull, thrown with enough accuracy to reach its mark.
Smiling at a job well done Eletha turned to face any new threats -
She could feel her bones snapping under its bite, the teeth severing the flesh and yet the drug flowing through her veins dulled the pain, she felt it tore free, the sensation of something missing that should have been vital to her.
Her left arm swung round still holding a blade and jammed it forcefully into the creatures eye, holding the blade there, not letting the creature squirm itself away from her grip. Then with as much ferocity as she could muster she lowered her head and rammed forward into its face.
There was a moment of resistance then she broke through, slamming her horns through the beasts forehead. She didn’t even bother checking to see if the thing was dead before repeating the move again and again. Only when she could only feel a mushy pulp beneath her charges did she slow down and take stock of her surroundings.
Her right arm was gone from the elbow.
The realisation hit her like a brick, slamming into her and pushing her down to the group. “FUCK!” She screamed out loud before toppling over backwards, her body half buried in corpses.
A few hours later she blearily opened her eyes for a few seconds, glancing around to see a few figures bending over her in an unknown location.
“You think she’ll be good for our little additions?”
“She has the needed requirements, if this fails and she dies then so be it.”
“How long will rehab take?”
“We don’t know, she’s strong so perhaps shorter than me…”
“Well we’ll see.”
Her eyes clouded back over again and she slipped back into unconsciousness.
Back up above Lieria was preparing for war.