Elmar and Bashoon led the way to Anful’s cottage while a small crowd of people and a horse-drawn carriage followed. Everyone was masked and kept their distance during the journey. As they went through a forest, the wind rustled, making the hair on Bashoon’s neck stand on end. “Ensign?” asked Elmar.
“I always figured forests from the Under-realm were creepy at night,” muttered Bashoon. “You know, because of the ghosts and dangerous animals that usually live in them. This, however? I don’t know what dangers lie behind any of the trees!”
“We DO have dangerous animals here, such as bears, wolves, and cougars.”
“Cougars? Here in the Over-realm?”
“During the War of the Realms, Mid-realm soldiers brought them to try and kill any forest dwelling people.”
“Did the Over-realm bring any dangerous animals to the other Realms?”
“Why, yes. My ancestors were instrumental in introducing bears to Under-realm forests. That’s actually the reason why Anful’s family hates mine.”
“Because they were against setting bears on people?”
“No, they believed the bears were best suited for the Mid-realm.”
“…You mean you guys hate each other because of a disagreement where bears should have been introduced?”
“I didn’t say that our feud is logical.”
“That was something your ancestors did, though! Why do you guys continue it now?!”
“…You know, I never really got a straight answer on that subject.”
“Then maybe now’s a good time to discuss ending it.”
“That’s up to the heads of our families. Regretfully, for both sides, they wish to continue the feud. If I may sound like a Goblin for a minute, it’s cutting into any chance of true profit.”
“‘Feuds fuel poverty’.”
“Sir, I hate to interrupt,” called a female Troll, “but can we please focus?”
“It’s quite all right, Lieutenant,” assured Elmar. “We can afford a little chat.” That was when things went wrong. Someone fired magic blasts and spooked the horses, knocking their riders off, Elmar and Bashoon included. The supplies were saved, thankfully, but the horses weren’t coming back.
“Who’s the wise guy?!” demanded Bashoon.
“Take it easy, Ensign,” advised Elmar.
“Well excuse me for being a little annoyed after someone used us for target practice!”
“I’m sure there’s an explanation. “Let’s get to the carriage and…”
“SIR!” called the Troll Lieutenant. “The carriage’s gone!”
“G…Gone, Ma’am?” gulped Bashoon.
“Yes, Ensign, gone!” confirmed the Troll. “So’s Tulmek!”
“We need to get help here!” declared Elmar. “Ensign, Lieutenant, there’s a cottage south of here, about six mebs away! Get there and raise the alarm!”
“Come on, Ensign!” urged the Troll. Before the two could go anywhere, the Troll was knocked off her feet by a magic blast.
“Lieutenant?!” yelped Bashoon.
“Leave her!” snarled a voice. While more magic blasts distracted the group, the voice’s owner stepped from the shadows. It was a cowled Minotaur woman with red eyes with only the pupils to discern any shape to them. “It’s not fully safe yet,” growled the Minotaur, “but when this gel-pox pandemic is over, we WILL settle our affairs…Cadet Barmek!” Bashoon gasped as she recognized the Minotaur!
“ROOSHEE?!” yelped Arsha once Bashoon had brought the Troll to the cottage and raised the Endeavor over a video call.
“It was her!” replied Bashoon. “She was responsible!”
“I don’t know, but she must have done something to the carriage! I’m sure of it!”
“This is bad! She’s supposed to be in prison!”
“I think she must have taken advantage of that mass breakout after the Over-Union festival.”
“What is the status of the rest of the group?”
“From what Elmar told me on the way, the supplies reached their destination.”
“I hope Lieutenant Tulmek’s all right; I’m supposed to be officiating his wedding next month.”
I’m pleased to say that Arsha DID get her wish…somewhat. Tulmek was found alive but broken. Just like last time, the smoldering wreckage of the carriage was in a forested clearing. Tulmek would be found wandering a churchyard about a por north, babbling all the while and smashing in the stained-glass windows. Unfortunately, Tulmek was out of his mind, his sanity utterly destroyed by the ordeal he went through, the specifics of which would never be known as Tulmek would spend the rest of his life as a gibbering wreck in an institution. When Bashoon provided a statement to the local investigators, the case was reopened. Unfortunately, given that vaccine progress was still a month out, Realmfleet couldn’t send its own investigators to assist in the matter. In fairness, they couldn’t risk an outbreak of artificial gel-pox across the Realms, but it was still frustrating to hear the news, especially for Marshii. She was stressed out as she had to fix up Elmar on top of assisting in vaccine research. His recovery took longer than usual, lasting a good half a month before he was released. When he was, Arsha, her lovers, her senior staff, Endea, and Bashoon met in the conference room. “All right,” began Arsha, “Rooshee’s most likely going after us because of what happened in Vorkath. Everyone, we need a solution to put her back into prison.”
“Bashoon,” recalled Denstra, “you said that Rooshee’s eyes were red with just the pupils.”
“I did,” confirmed Bashoon.
“That’s not something a Minotaur usually does,” muttered Gorfanth. “‘When a Minotaur’s eyes are red, all sense of decency is dead’.”
“Meaning?” asked Marshii.
“Whenever our eyes are red,” explained Gorfanth, “that’s a good indication that we’re in a feral state. Our higher brain functions just shut off and we fall onto our animalistic tendencies. Yes, we even go THAT far whenever we’re feral. Thankfully, such cases are rare. Rarer still are cases where a Minotaur purposefully goes that far because they’re still in control. Usually, the way to tell the difference is to see if their eyes are totally red or if there’s a pupil in them. Bashoon, you said that you could see a pupil and that she could speak, yes?”
“That’s right,” confirmed Bashoon.
“Then Rooshee’s in a much more dangerous state for all of us. She’s still capable of reasoning.”
“And that plus animal instincts make for a dangerous combination,” shuddered Arsha. “I think we can safely believe that revenge is on her mind.”
“That actually gives us time to prepare,” piped up Bashoon. All eyes were on her at that point. “She’s only going for ranged attacks, not willing to get up close and catch gel-pox. She said to me that she would settle her problem with me after this pandemic is over.”
“Then we need to be trained for her,” declared Arsha. “I want all crewmembers to prepare to fight a Minotaur that’s controlling their feral state. Gorfanth, I know you’re not a member of this crew…”
“I can give pointers on how to fight a Minotaur,” interrupted Gorfanth. “Feral though she is, she’s still got the same weaknesses as us.”
“Then I need you to advise…” Arsha was interrupted by a lieutenant bursting into the conference room.
“Captain! News just reached us!” yelped the Lieutenant. “Rooshee’s accompanied by Androashius Ganshar!”
“Androashius Ganshar?” repeated Bashoon. “As in, Dr. Ganshar, Jansha’s mom?”
“The same!” replied the Lieutenant.
“Great, two ladies out for revenge,” muttered Thangred.
“Why the carriages?” Rooshee asked Dr. Ganshar when they reconvened at
“Cut off transport, supplies dry up,” replied Dr. Ganshar.
“So, what, we destroy every carriage to send a message?”
“We need to create a new ground for my experiments.”
“What experiments? Vaccine-related ones?”
“Don’t be absurd. I’m a roboticist, not a chemist.”
“You know, ever since we broke out, you’ve always had cryptic remarks for my questions! For once, answer straight!”
“If science isn’t straight, why should my responses be? Now, we must lay low until the vaccine is completed.”
“Elves!” Rooshee stomped out of the lab.
“Minotaurs,” grunted Dr. Ganshar as she continued her work.
Remsu was in front of a full-length mirror, examining her backside and wishing she had wings and a tail again. Because the tail isn’t thick enough to be used as a weapon and the wings only carry a Succubus or Incubus over a short distance, most Lust Demons use them as mana stores. Remove them and the Lust Demon is forever weakened. There were methods of restoring them, but it would take a lot of mana and years of study of the particular subject. Even then, the Lust Demon with new wings and a tail would need a severe mana transfusion to get them back to full power. She released a sad sigh before her mood turned angry, recalling the events that resulted in them being chopped off. The man she was once with had robbed her of them and promptly executed for it. The damage was still done and Remsu still felt like she was violated in the worst way possible. That incident was what prompted her to believe killing is the only way to deal with crime. She was so wrapped up in her thoughts, she didn’t notice someone approach. “You know Cy’s doing everything in her power to regenerate them,” assured a voice. Remsu gasped before she saw Tensam standing in the door.
“I know,” she sighed as she rubbed her arm sadly. “The pain just burns so much.” Tensam entered the room and approached Remsu. Remsu leaned into his chest and hugged him as Tensam wrapped his arms around her in reassurance. They stayed like that for a good minute before they heard a woman clear their throat. They turned to see Femfaf standing in the door.
“I don’t wish to interrupt,” she began, “but Dr. Borg has all the mana needed to restore your missing ligaments and return you to full power.”
“What?! Already?!” yelped Remsu. “Where’d she…?!”
“I have massive mana stores,” replied Femfaf. “It was easy for me to donate what I could.”
“Well…thank you!” breathed Remsu.
“The procedure’s ready when you are.”
“On my way!” Remsu escaped Tensam’s embrace and practically ran to the operating room.
“Femfaf, have you been rewarded yet?” asked Tensam.
“Just earned a seat on your wife’s council,” replied Femfaf.
“A perfect reward. We could use you.”
“I aim to please.”