FREELANCERS #6 - 05/15/23
Lina Ro'Shaer here. Still alive and giving you this month's Bullet Points.
I’d like to extend my warmest thanks to all those who posted jokes and memes during my very trying time trapped in a satellite station with an infestation of huge spacefaring bugs. The Nexus security officer who eventually sauntered over to rescue us informed me I was lucky. Zyldari pheromones typically throw Kaeracoid drones and warriors into a ravenous, uncontrollable frenzy. I wondered why the other survivors discussed sacrificing me to the queen, hoping the chittering mandibles slavering over the doors and windows would stop.
To the panicked insurance salesperson who tried to force me out of the sanctuary, I hope the bite wound I gave you never heals.
But I’m not the only pissed off person in the galaxy.
Intragalactic stock exchanges felt a shock as rumours of an incoming shipment of the rare mineral, aethercyte, would enter the market. Diplomats from the three factions warring over the aethercyte dig hoping to get it all for themselves entered pitched discussions, trying to discover who was heretical enough to sell their holy ore. Investigators isolated the rumour to an executive in the Consortium, who drank too much one night and bragged to his colleagues about a secret connection he had for aethercyte on the inside of the holy war.
It seems after signing a contract with the Validian Church, betraying them to side with the Karanorian Coalition, then betraying them to side with the Sundered Pact, everyone’s favourite mercenary sorceress, Kelvyra Nath, has done it again. A chase ensued when Sundered Pact intelligence tried to bring the freelancer in for questioning. She found no safe skies as the Validians and Karanorians, recognizing the traitorous vessel, both turned their fire on her. Sources report that she almost made it to the edge of the system before interceptors disabled her engines.
All three participants in Aesteria’s War of Faith, a conflict that’s raged uninterrupted for two decades, declared a sudden truce last week. The soldiers on each side now enjoy a much needed respite from the bloody struggle as their leaders deliberate over who gets to punish the mercenary who so gravely offended them.
A lesson for us all that when you gamble, sometimes you lose. And the higher the stakes, the harder the fall. We all like to live exciting, prosperous lives, but be mindful when taking advice encouraging fleeting flights of aimless rebellion under the guise of righteous freedom. Especially when it comes from so-called captains who sit in a cushy station playing with his favourite knife all day.
Just a friendly reminder from an accredited journalist that consequences do, in fact, exist.
The receding blue and purple gases of a Fay nebula glided across the hull of a derelict ship. Wreckage from a great war a thousand years prior, where the people of Aesteria rose up against their Ancient masters, the Alvor. Warships from the Validian Church, Karanorian Coalition, and the Sundered Pact loomed at opposite ends of the Ancient vessel with shields up and weapons trained on each other. As part of the terms of the truce, the warring factions resurrected this ruined ship as neutral ground for their negotiations.
Kelvyra Nath’s dirty bare feet scraped across the ground as two Sundered Pact guards dragged her through the halls. Covered in cuts and bruises while wearing only the remnants of her bloodied undersuit, the human sorceress squinted a black eye. The lights inside the barely functioning ship streamed by as her vision blurred from nausea and pain. They shackled her hands and head with a mineral called severastone. When contacting skin on the correct leylines and chakras, the material numbed a magic user’s ability to connect with the energy of the Great Aether. The fact that the effect came with pain and other unpleasant side effects was a bonus as far as her wardens were concerned.
With only enough power to run the life support systems, a large, multi-limbed insectoid forced the door open ahead of them with a deafening screech. Kelvyra spat out some blood and groaned in agony.
With great effort, she called out to the new figures she could barely make out. “Please tell me one of you saps believes in some tenet of mercy and can give me something for this wretched headache.”
Her response came in the form of a heavy metal boot colliding with her face. The Karanorian PAX warrior, a broad dwarf wearing powered armour adorned with runes and a collection of bones, drew a mace that crackled with energy. “I’ve got your medicine right here, you bloody witch!”
The large insectoid emitted an angry hum, then shoved the furious dwarf. As the Karanorian spat invectives at Kelvyra about all of his kin that she killed, the guards dragged her into a side room and dropped her on the floor. With the Validian knights drawing their weapons and everyone shouting, no one noticed the dwarf kicked the severastone off the sorceress’s head.
Kelvyra’s breath and the fresh blood leaking from her broken nose froze on the frigid floor. She looked toward the door as best she could. Her captors ignored her for the moment as they pointed weapons at each other. Doing her best to crawl deeper into the room, she placed her head on the cold ground, trying to cool some of the pain throbbing inside. The sorceress closed her eyes, focusing to drown out the furious voices arguing about who had the greatest right to torture her.
Perhaps it was their closeness to the receding Fay nebula, or it had been watching her the whole time, but another entity’s voice entered her mind.
“Is it time yet, sorceress?”
Her breath caught in her throat as what should have been a soothing wave of warmth washed over her. A force held back the throbbing pain in her head while the severastone shackling her wrists glowed hot and burned her wrists.
Trying to keep quiet, Kelvyra bit her lip so hard it bled. She knew what hellish realm this entity called home.
The sorceress chuckled and spoke as quietly as she could. “I might be crazy, but I’m not insane. Keep your deals to yourself. This isn’t the end for me.” She turned to survey the cold, dark room for anything she could use to extricate herself from this predicament. She found only a few inert consoles and arches.
The low voice echoed about her mind like strands of fiery silk. “There are no ends. Only new beginnings. The reality you know is but one island adrift in the Endless Ocean. I’ve seen you, sorceress. Open your mind. You’ve spent this existence exploring that which your so-called peers deemed restricted. Heinous. Taboo. Why be held back by cowards keeping you from true power?”
Kelvyra motioned to smash her shackles on a nearby console. A glance toward the guards at the door made her think better of making that much noise. The now heated severastone didn’t seem so hard. She brought the bindings to her bloody mouth and tried to gnaw at them with her teeth. She figured she could buy new teeth after she got out of here.
“Maybe I misread you, sorceress. Will you let your last moments in this realm be marked with submission and agony inflicted by those lesser than you?” The entity couldn’t help but speak of agony with a measure of exultation.
She chuckled and recoiled as her tooth chipped against the hot stone. “Submission? Isn’t that what you’re peddling?”
“Your tongue reduces rich nuance to something so crude. What I offer is partnership. Give and take. I give you freedom, knowledge and power. All unbound. Unrestricted. You give me a conduit and a share of your essence. Only when the time is right. You gain everything you want at the cost of what you value so little. I can grant you all this… Or…”
Kelvyra looked at the negligible progress she made gnawing on her restraints. Her teeth would give out before the severastone did. Her eyes widened as she heard the horrifying sound of the envoys outside finalizing details of an agreement. As her heart pounded in her chest, the sorceress felt the underside of her forearm tingle. Blackened lines etched on top of her skin in a slow, deliberate pattern. The mere sight of it sent shivers coursing through the sorceress’s body. Sweat dripped down her face despite the frigid room.
The envoys wrapped up their discussion. Kelvyra turned away from the door and chomped at her nail. She felt her soul shriek in horror as she used the side of her jagged nail to score her flesh in the same deliberate pattern she saw. The task proved difficult through the blood with a shaking hand. At least the heated severastone burned away the nerves around her wrists allowing her to twist her hand around without any pain. The words of the pact echoed in her head.
Outside, the Karanorian envoy, a tall and elegant snow elf, spoke of this truce being a path to a long-lasting peace. The Validian envoy, clad in angelic vestments in worship of the Celestium, felt a dark chill up their spine. The Validian interrupted to shush the room. Behind the dull hum of the Ancient vessel, a voice whispered words in a dark language. With every verse, the lights dimmed and the walls themselves twisted to join in the foul chorus.
The guards watching the door turned toward the kneeling sorceress. The growing pool of blood around her beaded and slithered about to draw the Infernal sigil on the cold floor.
Realizing what was happening, the Validian envoy shouted to open fire. The lag from the Sundered Pact guards closest to the door translating the envoy’s words and waiting for confirmation from their leader gave Kelvyra just enough time to finish the pact. The bloody wound she gashed into the underside of her forearm flashed with a black flame that cauterized it. A rush of wind in the room turned the severastone shackles to dust.
Kelvyra twisted to her feet as the guards raised their weapons. Her dark, intense eyes burned with a blackened flame that scorched the surrounding skin. The guards opened fire as fast as they could, but the deadly bolts of energy passed through her form as it expanded into mist and reshaped into five distorted copies of herself. The images drew lines in the air that solidified into sharpened spines. Kelvyra extended their hands, and the spines impaled the two guards.
As they fell back, the spines emitted a terrible hissing sound. When the guards’ backs hit the floor, the spines exploded into an eerie mist that whipped around the room. Everyone inside shrieked and fell to the floor as their minds flooded with nightmarish visions.
Kelvyra reformed inside the room and stumbled backward. She clutched her side as one of the guard’s shots made contact through the illusions. She looked up when she heard a raging roar through the cacophony of screams. Due to sheer force of will or the runes on his armour, the Karanorian dwarf clenched his teeth and got back to his feet. Kelvyra raised her hands to the ceiling to conjure a force field at the door.
After slamming into it at a full sprint, the dwarf roared and bashed the force field with his crackling mace. Each impact sent electric shocks surging around the walls inside, causing the lights to flicker. Breathing heavily as she held her injured ribs, Kelvyra limped further inside. As she placed a hand on the archways near the back of the room, her senses felt the latent aethereal attunement within. She knew how to teleport, but lacked the hours needed to properly set up a circle.
As the force field cracked under the enraged dwarf’s relentless strikes, the sorceress touched the mark on her forearm and asked for help from her new partner. The archway flashed to life as clawed hands ripped a hole in reality. She braced as a rush of burning hot wind rushed out of the widening portal.
His voice hoarse from shouting, the dwarf banged a fist on the weakening force field. “Mark my words, witch! No matter what realm you run to, I will find you and I will make you pay for what you’ve done!”
Kelvyra turned and scoffed at the dwarf. “Oh, yeah? Get in line.”
The Validian envoy finally regained their senses enough to act. Their eyes lit up with golden light and a word of power in Celestial banished the dark magic from the room. With the force field gone, the dwarf wound up and hurled the crackling mace toward the witch that killed his friends. Exhaustion finally taking her, Kelvyra fell back into the portal. Multiple clawed hands reached out to pull her in. The tear in reality closed in an instant, then the mace slammed into the back wall of the cold, dark room.
Hope you enjoyed that!
Here's the link to the archive of newsletters in case you missed any.
Talk to you next month. Have a good one!