Much as the Victorians would never have envisioned the coming of the Martians, none outside of the Timecasters had any notion of what was impending; and the Flux knew this. They planned accordingly, for this was a war of proxies. In their eyes, they imagined that the Temporians were much as they were; a parasite, a symbiote attached to a larger entity. So as the Immortal Empire hosted the Ascendancy, the logic went, so worked the Temporians through the Dark City Imperium. In their eyes, this was akin to a brush war, though a brush war that was rapidly escalating into something else. With their name spreading in the galactic far east, the Ascendancy felt an increasing calling to a more compelling sort of action; it was only through the petitions of Dassus, who himself was urged on by the hopes and fears of the Union of World’s emperor, that had prevented Dorin from conducting a suicidal charge of extermination across an unaware galaxy.
With Dorin’s—oh. Apologies. You haven’t gotten that far yet. It is poor form on my part to spoil the story before you live through it. Before she lives through it. For a soul so driven as hers, she deserves your pity. In her eyes, she is a rag doll trying to be an iron lady, and she is rapidly seeing herself fall into league with the Czar Nicholas IIs and the Tojo Hidekis, and she is feeling her own purpose slipping through her fingers. Shaw will not be kind in his benevolence to her, though even he will not see the full scale repercussions of his choice until—
I talk too much, and much is unsaid. My work of late has been…complicated. Strange turns of course are natural enough and expectable for ministers of fate, but this has been…particularly peculiar. Our paths naturally wind about and converge in strange and fluid ways, but of late all things seem strangely fortuitous. Even death, in turn, seems to have been to my benefit.
I could hear them. The first sense to return to me was my hearing, and I could hear them talking. Slowly I open my eyes, and…oh. I can’t see. It burns a little, the movement of my eyelids over the torn and bloodied pulp that was once eyes. I can see, in a sense; a mash of reds and purples, but nothing more than that. I’m blind. I repeat the phrase to myself a few times before I am calm again; blindness is only a setback. I can still defeat—
And then I remember. Being chased through the cemetery after a night in hell, watching the dead rise and the soldiers come and having my eyes torn out by that despicable chaw. He probably thinks he can use that mask, the irony there will be delicious, but Shaw…
…and I remember preparing to fight him. Shaw. He came. He was there, he was there and I could at long last end this long and grueling quest. I’ve shoved a god into the corners of my mind, been hunted across vast distances of space, buried myself alive and had my eyes torn from me upon rising. I would accept all of that, if I could only end that monster earlier…
…and then someone-one of his cultists most likely-strikes me from behind, and then blackness.
I can hear them talking, and gently I try and move. He’s restrained me. I’m lying on my back, and as I gently test the strength of whatever it is holding me down. I feel the straps on my skin (leather, well worn leather I think. How antiquated…) and I only test them the slightest; I cannot see my captors, but I can see the flow of the world around me…
…and it flows strangely. I am looking at the rivers of time that we all swim through, and here…here it is nonsensical. If time is a flowing liquid as most chronologically sensitive races see it, here it is a vortex; it is like being within a wave that is cresting, or being beneath the surface of a stormy sea. It moves in rushed pulses, emanating from somewhere deep…
…and then there’s pain.
“Gods be damned, it’s in deep,” Chassovo murmurs, as he moves the instrument deeper into the wound. The bullet in his quarry’s leg had embedded itself in the bone, and his surgical apron is spattered ever so lightly with her blood. Leo watches her arms twist briefly against the straps of the surgical gurney. He hears her hiss loudly, and strange words begin to spew from the maimed woman’s mouth. She is dirty, in her torn funeral garments and with her bloodstained face, and her mouth contorts slightly as the air hisses through her teeth and her lips with a fury restrained primarily by those weathered leather straps.
“Sure we can’t sedate her?” Leo asks pensively as he watches her nails dig into the palms of her hands. She hasn’t said a word since the cemetery, but the noises she’s making make it evident enough that she’s in a great deal of pain. The bullet wound in her leg was purple and caked with dark shades of red, yet strangely as he watches it is darkening, before crumbling in a very minute yet methodical manner into grey dust.
“I am not sure that would be wise,” Chassovo murmurs as he pauses from his probing of the wound. “She has an awful lot of strange things flowing in that blood of hers.” With his free hand, he scrapes at a fleck of blood on the surgical apron, which is rapidly turning grey. The life is coming out of it, he thinks to himself with moderate amusement, before glancing back at Leo. “We wouldn’t want to kill her after having gone to such considerable efforts to prevent her death.”
I could go on there for some time as to what I’ve been doing. For at the same time as the timecaster was cutting into my leg, I am elsewhere, working with a diligence properly reserved for the mad ones. Echo proves to be right in that light at least. I am a mad one, from a certain angle. I am madly dedicated. Mad altogether, I would not think so; a mad woman does not make as much sense as I do, does she?
…how would I know?
After the incident at the graveyard, Echo returned to the Drake capital tired and aggravated. He had decided he would meet up with his band at the local bar before returning to Gernot and the others. He needed to cheer up, relax, and enjoy himself. Certainly not listen to Gernot's painful voice berate him. As he walked into the dimly lit bar, past the drakes and humans getting drunk and celebrating personal victories, he saw that his friends had already gotten a booth and were waiting for him, and this brought a smile to the sound drake's muzzle as he walked over and engaged in their ongoing conversation, taking a seat next to his cousin, Tone, who was listening to Do argue with Re over who would win in a fight. The two brothers seemed ready to test out their theories right there.
The night moved quickly. He drank a bit, and then a bit more, and he tried to laugh on occasion as the situation merited. Echo told the story of the day, and entertained his friends thus, but halfway through he realized he wanted to stop: he was still thinking about it. Sure, describing Kane's arm being torn off was rather entertaining, but he still had to think about the thing as a whole, and it wasn't as fun in hindsight. In fact, he wondered slightly about just what had gone down. Still, the conversation held an almost trivial tone to it, as if it were just a tall tale being woven for the sake of the night; a story, a fable if it ever were one, of evil deeds done and heroisms and strange goings on in dark and deserted cemeteries.
He talked about Necrosis and of the dead coming back to battle their attackers, and about how their quarry had spoken specifically to him in a language he'd never taken the time to learn, and why yes, he'd have another, and they roared with laughter at the thing as a whole. Never mind the eerie, Echo thought; the eerie is gone. The eerie is no more. There is no eerie here.
Upstairs, a window had been left open; be it through fate or design is not fully relevant here, though if you suspect the later, you have the right mind for these sorts of things. Through the dark, a bird of the night flew in silently, and settled into the rafters. With keen ears, it assessed the clinking of glasses, and the roars of the band, and the sounds of dozens of lives going on beneath its small, taloned feet.
Some lives it paid more attention to than others.
After he removed the bullet from my leg, Chassovo and Leo had stood silently aside, outside of my earshot. Some sort of dampening was employed, I think; when I skipped back to watch the incident from outside that present perspective, it was only then that I fully appreciated the gesture they made to me. Perhaps I should have been more amicable towards them.
“So these Flux can’t be remembered?” Leo asked quizzically, and Chassovo tapped his bony fingers uneasily against a segment of his ship’s control console; not with intent to issue a command, but out of a simple restlessness that originates in the uneasy certainty that coincidences were happening.
“They’re absurdly frightened of being remembered.” Chassovo answered as he watched the eyeless woman carefully testing the straps. “If he’d made them a little more balanced, we wouldn’t be fighting these wars.” He frowned as only a skeleton can at his own words. It had been hundreds of years even from his perspective since that cold day in Antarctica. He had at one point often wondered what had become of the Commodore after that day, for he had never seen the man again; he fled Earth with Tanya after that bloody day, and the two had vanished into the black.
“He? Who’s he?” Leo inquired. Chassovo glanced at the drake for a moment before looking back at the blinded woman on the bed.
The realization that the man I’d fought, the man I escaped from, was none other than the Chaw’Sah’Voh of our mythology was a strange instance in my life. The coincidences of our origins continue to double back on us, almost as if time itself found the game amusing. A man is mistaken for a god, and two dead men become angels and demons. The Khamood’Urr, the Chaw’Sah’Voh, and the Chaw’Haust.
I must learn more about Chaw’Sah’Voh. Our legends tell of him as a cunning monster of good intents, whose deception of the Khamood’Urr lead to his fleeing to the stars after the battle with Chaw’Haust. Our legends are, for the most part, accurate; overblown, perhaps, but accurate.
Garren’s flagship was destroyed quite effectively by the Immortal Empire’s fleet at Varandal. This was recorded history. Capitol’s leader never had his body recovered, for I buried him; it was only kindness, and he deserved more than he was given by fate and by those who pulled his strings.
When I visited him, he was about to be swallowed in flames. This sort of an undeniable fate was for him, to put it more mildly than is accurate, utterly unappealing. So when the explosions of consoles and the last second rushings of personnel and the glare of flames rising abruptly ceased, he did not waste his reprieve. Not in his eyes at least. Not in mine either, as I didn’t have them properly. The bird saw for me though.
I watched then from the back of the bridge as Garren rapidly reassessed the situation. The flames now give steady and unflickering light, and his crewmembers were all motionless, some in midair on account of explosions that would in the next instant would grow to swallow all things before they themselves would be snuffed out by the vacuum outside. Watching Garren come to terms with his death was dryly humerous, though I felt pity all the same; he executed an officer of his who would have been incinerated in the next instant for having the gall to freeze in mid air in the middle of a battle.
And then he tried to shoot me.
As Echo talked, he was forgetting, too-the night's details were beginning to slip. In part, this was alcohol; on another part, this was genetics. From his perspective, he had been gone but thirty minutes from the cemetery, and the memories he had about me were beginning to fall apart. This didn't trouble him too terribly, as he had become used to forgetting about the bald woman with his constant hunting. In fact, he looked forward to it: she had been a strange and unsettling creature, and he was glad to be without her now, whoever she was.
A hologram like waiter's menu materialized before him asking if he required another refill but he had enough to drink and motioned it away, laughing as Do told a story about a human stagehand and a faulty electrical system.
Above all, the owl sat silently. The place was loud, far louder than its temperament would have normally lead it to settle into such a place, but then again its motivations were hardly normal. It had a sort of strange itch in the back of its mind that it couldn't groom out, and for reasons beyond its understanding this place alleviated that discomfort.
As the night continued, Echo forgot most everything; he, as he was proud to attest, partied hard. That alone could have made him forget many things, and perhaps if the bald woman had been more mere mortal than she was, he might have forgotten her yet again without intervention on his part. But as the night closed around everything, the owl sat above all, and it waited. The bar would close soon.
And when it would, I would be waiting.
After some time I lay still on that gurney. It was silent now, though from a latter perspective I realize they were with me the whole time; but I felt alone there, trapped on that table inside the chaw’s timeship, I hurt rather badly, and I could not see; my leg ached dully now though I did not understand that this dullness was better than the sharp cutting pain the bullet would have given me had it remained. I was not thinking as clearly as I should have…
…but then again, on the plus side I didn’t have a god stuck in my head anymore. Silver linings, I suppose, have to be forged at high temperatures.
As I lay there, I was thinking intensely about so many things. Even after so long of explaining to you how I think, I doubt I have done a fair picture of it. I watch the time thrust and rush all around me inside this ship and it seems like pounding surf or the roar of the aurora a planet’s pole; but it is none of these things. I am thinking about history. I am thinking about my future, about your futures, and how to bring all of these futures into careful and judicious alignment.
I am also thinking about escape. My temporal gauntlet had been thoughtfully tied down quite well while I was unconscious; the plates that spin about it tightly pressed to the table. I cautiously will the device to action, in small steps, and I can feel the straps stretching taught in response to the irresistible force I summon into it.
Outside, though I do not know this, Chaw’Sah’Voh and his companion are watching.
It was almost morning when the bar finally started to close and the more nocturnal guests were forced to leave, both out of drunken exhaustion and the angry drake bar owner who had set her arms aflame in irritation preparing to strike whoever's tail wasn’t out the door in the next five minutes. Echo and his friends had left the bar laughing as the owner literally kicked a human teenager out on his face into the mud, passed out from drinking drake ale.
His vision was minorly blurred by this point, but it would not hinder him all too terribly-drakes had a knack for alcohol. It simply wasn't as potent for them as it was for smaller simian species, much to Echo's private chagrin. Even still, it gave him a certain pleasure, in that it gave him an excuse. Civility wasn't something he hung to with any great attentiveness, but after a few drinks he had the excuse he didn't even really need for his behavior.
He was not, of course, thinking this as he tapped the human's shoulder with his foot again, sending him a few inches further into the murk. He looked up with a grin and then—
--and then he wanted to pause, because it blurred a little. This was the alcohol, of course, but when he had finished pausing, she was still there, standing under a streetlight. It was dark still; morning was young, and day was hours away.
She was across the street. It was a busy one, too; cars and rickshaws moved across it with moderate frequency at this hour, but even still there were long breaks where he could see quite clearly the far side. He starred awkwardly at her for a moment, not quite sure if he knew the face or not, especially when viewed in its present state, but before he could summon up the faculty to identify the figure, something brushed past his head, and he flinched as it flew out into the street, landing on her arm.
Then she turned, and began to vanish again into the dark. She was going around the corner, and he continued to pause in confusion at the sight; he still could not quite...place...the face...
Garren had looked on with astonishment as I halted his bullet’s flight towards my head in midair. He was evidently not fond of gentle reminders of mortality.
“That was rude.” I say gently, as he looks back at me with bewilderment, the gun still smoking in his hand. I reach out and gently pluck the bullet from its frozen moment, and extend my hand towards him with the bullet as an offering in it.
“Who the hell are you?!” He spews. He is hiding fear with fury, defying mortality with a malice. The poor man is doing everything he can to deny the obvious. The bodies frozen mid-air; the flames licking ad infinity at the skin and metal; time was twisted so that he and I were the only breathing parties.
“You fought nobly, you know,” I lie gently. There is no nobility in conflict, not since men and swords were replaced by muskets. Perhaps it was earlier than that. Perhaps nobility was lost when clubs replaced rocks, or FSEMCES replaced temporal shearing. “The battle is over though, Garren. Nobility does not ensure victory.” He is beginning to shake now, having realized what this all was.
“…wh-why are you here then?” He stammers awkwardly, panic beginning to encroach upon the forced appearance of ferocity he is trying to wear. “…are you here to rescue me?”
The owl on my shoulder fluffs its wings as I frown.
“I’m afraid not.”
His progress was slow, but as he turned around the corner, he saw her shape moving smoothly down into the darkness, and he followed. He didn't know quite why he was following her, or really who she was, but there was a strange sense of familiarity here, and he followed on that notion as if it were a good one. She moved quickly past the streetlights, and as he followed he saw a rickshaw slow to a halt near her; it was one of the more modern ones, with the robotic carriers hissing softly as they kept their servos spun up to speed. And yet, as she approached it, she slowed, and then turned back towards him for a moment.
Her face was bruised and dirty; he suspected it was blood. In that instant, he began to recognize her and realized where he'd seen her before, though it hardly came back all at once. It was more of a feeling of a memory than a memory at all, but he felt something odd, something decidedly odd, as he focused on her face. A white, stained cloth was wrapped over her eyes like a blindfold, and in its folds there were mild stains and strange shapes that hinted at uneasiness in the face as a whole.
She remained there, paused for a moment, as if she were looking right back at him, and then turned and began climbing into the rickshaw.
Echo calmly but cautiously approached the rickshaw and the woman as she climbed in, closing the gap between them as quickly as he possibly could, he could tell she was waiting for him through her motions and he wanted to know why, or, according to his own mind, remember why.
She was indeed waiting for him, and she sat on the opposite side of the rickshaw as Echo came to a stop just outside the rickshaw. She was still in the gown she had been wearing when they had found her, though this had not as yet been made evident to Echo; but it was torn now, damaged in the scuffle and the battle and the tearing out of eyes. She was dirty, and perhaps the only clean thing on her was the white cloth over her eyes.
She was looking straight ahead at the far seat as Echo considered the situation, while the owl on her arm worked its way towards her shoulder with its eyes ever trained on him.
"Tell me when you remember." She said flatly, not so much with impatience as simply a tired tone.
“So she’s the thief.” Leo marveled quietly, watching her patiently begin working away at the straps with the single panel from her gauntlet that she had managed to maneuver free of its restraints. Now she is broken; eyeless, blood covered, soiled and dirty, with a carefully stitched wound on her leg where Kane had hours earlier shot her for the sake of amusement. “I don’t know how she’d manage to steal anything again given the shape she’s in now.”
Chassovo watches with muted fascination as the strap on her hand is cut. She’s going to free herself within the next two minutes, he muses silently, before tilting his skull towards Leo.
“She seems to be doing well enough given the circumstances.” He quips dryly, as Leo begins to move towards her. Chassovo though stretches out a hand, pausing his friend and provoking a look of confusion from the drake towards the timecaster. “What, are we letting her get loose?” He looks almost hurt by the notion, especially after all the effort that had gone into recovering her safely from the cemetery. “She’s going to get free and then it’s going to be a pain in the—“
“Yes.” Chassovo says simply, as she reaches over and begins blindly working on the latch on her other hand. “She’ll be free soon enough—“
“And why the hell do we want that?” Leo retorted indignantly, unheard by me within the confines of the silenced portion of the room.
“Because that’s the only way she’s going to begin to understand we’re not against her. We already had to have you clonk her over the head,” Chassovo notes as the other hand comes free, and the straps on the torso are addressed. More plates are becoming free now, and they hesitate cautiously around her as she works viciously to free herself from those leather constraints. “And then I strapped her to a table and operated on her leg. She doesn’t understand a word of this, so from her perspective I imagine she thinks we’re the same fight she suffered through earlier.”
Garren’s health was strange. I had finally begun to coax him to speak on the matters I had come to address when he gasped abruptly, and then the man convulsed. When I say convulsed, I mean twisted; the muscles in his body wracked his bones and sinews in angles reminiscent of old films about demonic possession. The dead dictator howled, screaming in agony, and…
…and I admit that sympathy got the better of me. I reach out and gently cradle him, my fingertips against the skin on his scalp, and with concentration I begin snipping and cutting into the neural pathways of his mind. It is destructive for him, I confess; if I did it long enough, he would be just as much a vegetable as Sloane had become. And we talked longer.
His failures I said nothing of. When a man is at death’s door, his shortcomings cast long shadows that must be cast aside. Oh, I felt the wicked echoes of cruel intents, I do confess that much. Having the god of chaos jammed into your skull evidently takes more than a few days to wear off. But compassion won out here, for the first time in Garren’s life perhaps, and for hours we talked about life. I showed him his childhood, and we revisited the joys, those few precious joys…
Garren’s life had never been a happy one.
Echo stood next to the cart and looked at her silently, his memory slowly but surely returning, as everything became clear he turned his attention to the owl, leaning on the rickshaw with his head through the door.
"What’s with the owl?"
She turned her head towards him with an upsettingly condescending sort of sneer on it. He'd seen that look before many times, and while he found it familiar on Nagaetros' face, it was unusual to see it on hers. He realized now that in his own strange way, that face had become hers through his efforts; there were little bits of Nagaetros left in her even after she'd deposited his hopes to parts unknown.
"She's my pet." I reply coolly. There was a new feature to me now, a part that had not been so evident before my ordeal in the cemetery. I imagine that he could almost taste the reservations melting off of me, and it was an equally pleasing and unpleasant thing. Nagaetros would be pleased, when he was back to being himself again, that Echo had succeeded so well in his purpose; but at the same time, he found it increasingly unnerving to see such malice, even when held in check.
I nodded slightly towards the seat opposite herself.
"I think you should get in." I suggested, as the owl abruptly fluffed its feathers and settled into place on her shoulder.
Echo shrugged and climbed into the rickshaw, folding his ears back to allow him to sit up straight.
"Ok... so you have a pet owl now....I guess you don’t get tired of the word 'who'...good for you."
Slowly motors closed the curtains, and with a melodic motion the rickshaw gradually began its journey. The woman opposite him seemed tempted to laugh at the humor in Echo's blunt jest, but refrained. She held her head still for a moment as if she were looking Echo over quite thoroughly, before a slight shrug seemed to bleed out of her body.
She was thinking back a ways, to the casino ship. She remembered what she had said to Echo before he-or she, she wasn't entirely confident of that matter anymore-had blown the window out and sent so many spiraling into space. She had sworn she would come after him for those deaths, and this promise was not lost on her now; but more importantly she had promised to do so after Shaw was taken care of. She hoped Echo hadn't kept much of the memory, and truth be told, odds were he hadn't.
"I'm going to be direct with you, Echo." She said bluntly after a brief pause. "To be anything less would be wasting both of our time and I think we've both had a rather long day. I don't think I have the patience for delicacy at this point."
"Uh-huh, you’re telling me. It’s not easy dodging fire from both allies and enemies. At least you didn’t have to see what happened. It’s not fun watching soldiers literally rip themselves apart" Echo replied staring at the bird and shifting uncomfortably in his seat.
She sat upright for the briefest of moments, appreciating her growing freedom. In spite of the comprehension of how he would act, how she would likely respond, Chassovo still felt nervous to a small extent as he watched her rapidly hack through the remaining straps with the gauntlet’s plates. She rolls silently off the gurney, landing with an umph and a hiss of painfull air leaving her lungs, before she is crouched besides it, looking out with nonexistent eyes.
Slowly, Chassovo reaches out, taps a console, and reveals himself and his companion.
I still remember that moment well. For perhaps ten feet around the gurney, a field had been in place, trapping the sounds and what lay beyond. At that instant, my perception increased; I could still see the pulsing writhing mass of time itself being sucked in and drawn out of the apparatuses that the Temporian used to power his ship. I would later learn that he refered to her as the Tempest. The name fit; she was all storm and fury pounding against the surf of reality.
And then I see two faint timelines, quite close in proximity, almost obscured by the writhing force of fates being doubled over upon themselves. Two blurred forms stand, and I stand, and I hesitated.
The bald woman tensed slightly at the joke. She considered telling Echo that she had tried to remove him from the scenario before the attacks took place, but opted not to: Necrosis probably hadn't told him about her interest in that case.
"I have Nagaetros' hopes in a place you'll never reach it. You want them back. You have access to Chaw'Hast," she said, giving Shaw a begrudging honorific as she did so, "and I want him more dead than he is at present."
“So you want old Shaw, for the hopes of Nagaetros himself in return?" Echo replied with a chuckle. "That’s quite the offer... I don’t know. Personally, I’d love to sell that bone-head out, but ...it's still a pricey request. Nagaetros wouldn’t very much like that."
Again, the slow shrug bled out of her. She wondered, as she tended to wonder, about the sincerity of the chuckle.
"Nagaetros won't very much like anything if he stays like he is. There are many uses for a dead god, you know." Slowly a hand reached up, and she stroked the owl's head. "For one, if he sleeps forever, then you rule in his stead. No more...second fiddle..." she faded out softly as the owl looked back at her, and a small, possibly sincere smile flittered across her face.
"Hmmm...." a wicked smile crosses the sound drake's mouth at the thought but quickly disappeared. “But what of the others? They would obviously be suspicious of my rise to power...Vulcan and Gernot are almost more loyal than those damned dogs of his, of all the people Naga has recruited, they would never accept it. They would continue to search for their 'true master'."
She paused her stroking of the bird for a moment as if she were contemplating the matter, when it had really been done well before then.
"Then heal him, and take the credit. I am not particular if he lives or dies. Either way, you'll profit. That matter is for your mind to sort through. But before any of that happens, I must have my share of the deal."
Echo smiled again. "Then we have a deal... but there's still a problem that's out of both of our control..."
The word was whispered. It was a frightful word from him, and it passed through parched lips like a desert breeze moving amongst the palm fronds. He repeats it, and the pain begins to return; more nerves are clipped, but I realize that whoever this Sotek is he is occupying the body of Garren. More precisely, he is trying to get back into his mind; I have cut him out of it temporarily, but he crawls back in like water into a tidepool.
And the tide is coming in.
“Can you…save me…” Garren whispers. He has talked long, his mind wandering as nerves are cut, interspersed with bolts of pain from his unseen assailant. I see through the owl’s eyes on my shoulder the sweat on his brow glistening in the frozen firelight, and I pause and realize all at once what I must do.
It is the only right thing anyone could do, really.
“Yes,” I whisper, and then I lean in and embrace him as I snap his neck.
The bald woman, the blind woman, the bloodied woman pauses as she rises to her feet. She is looking with sightless eyes right at them, fingers twitching like cats’ tails, and slowly Chassovo reaches elsewhere on the console.
Leo can imagine what she’s thinking. She is more animal than man now, more fury than poise or grace. In her weathered funeral robes, she is a spectre trying to return to her own side of the divide between the living and the dead. She is the spirit pulled out by a séance, considering throwing the china, making the table levitate, or doing worse than that—anything to return to the grave.
“Stand…very…still…” Chassovo says gently, slowly, under his breath. His skeletal hand is slowly moving across the console towards another trigger, another implement for altering the scenario. He too is treating her like an animal, and his wisdom is evident here. She has little sanity left to offer at this hour, but she pauses, staring right at them with half-present eyes and almost beginning to bare her teeth in a snarl.
“…you know…” Leo says slowly, as Chassovo gently begins to bring his hand down on the button to open the door to reality.
“…I don’t think she cares for us much…”
Echo hesitated at the thought.
" Naga's deal with Shaw doesn’t keep him on a very tight leash like the rest of us, he could be anywhere at any time, I have no clue where he is or what he's up to and I can’t control him...I could keep you informed but I won’t be able to do much else..."
I shook my head briefly at this and sighed softly. "You underestimate both of us." I said it with a moderate degree of sincerity. "I have the utmost faith in your capabilities for this situation. When the time comes, you'll be prepared for what needs to be done. Afterwards," I added as the rickshaw came to a stop, "you'll decide what you want to become of your boss, and I'll oblige you in that." I turned my head back and called out to the machine directing the rickshaw. "We won't need to stop here," I commanded softly, and the machine carried on into the night.
Incidentally, I had been prepared to drop him in the central chamber of a very unfriendly church. Silver, gold, holy water…would have at least made us slightly closer to even in terms of grievances to each other.
"Fine, I’ll see what I can do" Echo replied flatly as the rickshaw continued on its journey, adjusting himself so the spiked covering his body were in more comfortable positions. “But there's never been a 'time drake' before."
Her attention seemed to pique at the phrase, and for a moment it seemed like she and the bird were one creature peering with great interest at their guest. "I've been studying him longer than you've had breath. He is a fascinating creature, isn't he?"
Echo leaned back and sighed. "You could say that. But personally I don’t like it this at all. Unique cases like him often attract unwanted attention...like you, only crazier..."
She felt a twinge of disappointment at the simplicity of his attitude. "At least you appreciate my sanity then." She murmured softly, before the rickshaw slowed to a halt. "Once Shaw is dealt with, you'll have the hopes, and I'll be out of your circles well enough."
“That’s good to hear, the sooner the better. But who said I thought you were sane?" Echo replied as he sat back up.
She felt he was baiting her, in his own little way. Echo was the sort of character who would go out of his way to express his indifference to things, simply so that he could convince others he didn't care one way or the other. It was evident enough from his interactions with Shaw (she was much less interested in Echo than Shaw, but Echo remained present for several of Shaw's visits to Nagaetros' court) that at some core level he explicitly disliked people he felt thought they were above him, or that at some level HE thought were above him.
"You did." She answered softly as the motors began withdrawing the rickshaw's curtains. "I admit you didn't outright say it, but it's obvious anyway. You wouldn't have gotten within arm’s reach of me if you thought I was crazy. I can smell it on you, you know." The owl yawned slowly, and she nodded her bandaged head towards the parting curtain.
"New day, Echo. Make the most of it."
I sucked the blood out of Garren’s body. No, don’t look at me like that. Really now. Really. Do I seem like a monster…
…we’ll pretend it’s a rhetorical question then…
…I, I myself, I didn’t do that. I brought machines in to do that. Do you know the value of a royal’s blood? It’s priceless, generally speaking. Thousands will fight and die for sake of bloodlines; children are executed, locked in towers if their blood is too close, or too far away, for the liking of others. Blood is livelihood just as much as it is the liquid of life itself. It has so many uses…
…oh, don’t look at me like that!
The door opening was like watching white light pour into a dark room. I turned my head towards it, then back at the two unmoving figures.
They were letting me leave.
The gauntlets spun slowly, lazily, in false ease, and I gingerly took a step towards the exit. While I was facing them, it was just a convenience; I was looking in all directions, trying to see any form through the churning maelstrom of time that wrapped and wipped its way around me. I anticipated trickery, ambush, betrayal out of any corner. This was too easy. Too simple. Shaw was toying with me.
And I was tempted to call out to Chaw’Haust, urging him to try and strike me down. Truth be told, at that moment, he probably could have without any real difficulty. But I didn’t.
I slowly raced out into reality.