Hm, I can’t really think of a cool intro. I guess I’ll get right to the chapter and save my commentary for afterward. After all, if I’m going to use up a lot of time I might as well use it thinking about the actual story––not some blog intro. Oh, wait, here’s a picture taken out of context from Tales of Xillia 2; I still have enough time to waste on that!
11 – Beast
Mean a Whittler walked from the open gate of the castle. The clouds were purple beneath their feet, swirling beneath the glass. Ahead the thin, yellow eddies marked the boundary of Beebee’s angle. The purple clouds dipped beneath them and back up the other side.
Whittler had shed her smock for jeans and a tunic top with X-shaped ornaments weighing down the long sides.
“Beebee told me she escaped to this place a long time ago,” Whittler said. “Her and the rest of her siblings.”
“Escaped? From one of the other worlds?” Mean asked.
Whittler kept walking ahead: the small house where Shirka let Mean escape from was visible there.
“She says it was below these clouds,” she replied. “A place where they all grew up. But it wasn’t a planet; she has trouble describing it to me. I don’t think she wants to remember what they went through. They were all trained–not as an artisan takes an apprentice, no. As the oxen is yolked to the plow.”
Mean walked at a pace slower than Whittler, at her side. “Do you still have animals do the work where you’re from?” Whittler shot a look back, scratching at the scar on her neck.
“Out of all the worlds, Beebee’s is probably the least developed. In ways of technical knowledge and in wisdom. Even magic is something that is mostly unknown.”
“Is that why you left?” Mean asked. “Sorry if I’m asking too many questions.”
“I’d be worried if you weren’t asking questions. Especially in a place like this. And no, it isn’t why I left. I exiled myself.”
Mean opened her mouth and shut it again.
“It was because I killed people,” Whittler went on.
“Oh,” Mean uttered. She swallowed, feeling her throat dry.
“A natural response,” Whittler said. “I take it you haven’t killed anyone?”
Mean took in a breath, still walking at Whittler’s back. “Well,” she began, swallowing again. “I did try to once. He was trying to kill us, though. My friends.”
Whittler clasped her hands. “So you had to fight back. I wish my story was like that.”
“What do you mean?” Vornis asked. “Who are you talking about?”
“She was made before these planets of ours even existed,” Slaberdashia said. “She was always telling us: it was her right to command us.” She spread her arms wide and stretched to full height, blocking the faint sun and smiling down at where Vornis stood. The bones and ornaments in the long hairs at her arms clattered in the breeze.
“But we made a choice,” Slaberdashia hissed. “And I’m going to give you the same one: join me or escape.”
Tyle whispered from the side of the van where he, Tekcer, and Cots were hiding. “Choose to escape!”
“It’s not like that;” Slaberdashia said, “you have to be able to take your freedom if you want it. Just like we did. If you can’t then you’ll go back to Arsiling with me. You’ll make a fine addition to my pack.”
Vornis traced his clawed finger along the edge of the vein spike at his side. “I’m not helping you take over planets or whatever it is you do.”
“She’ll have to kill us,” Cots affirmed to Tyle. “I’ve been my own boss my whole life. I did wash dishes over at Tilly’s, but that was–“
“Quiet!” Slaberdashia barked. “I don’t want you cowards! Only the strong one.”
“So is that the deal?” Vornis asked. “If I go with you then they go free?”
Slaberdashia winced and her lip curled to reveal her black teeth. “Deals. Trickery. Bribes–that is how my siblings do things. But my gift is my own; it makes things so simple.”
She lifted a long finger to the side of her helmet, pressing a button. “Clance. Are you there?”
Tyle and Tecker tilted their heads to listen. They both flinched as a voice rang out from the air.
“Yes, what is it? Did you find the vehicle?”
“I did,” Slaberdashia said. “They’re no threat. But I did find one that I want. He’s standing right in front of me; fill him up.”
“Oh, so we both found one today? Getting one from that prison was a longshot, but I never thought you would find anyone worthwhile over there.”
“What?” Vornis asked. “Mean was going to a prison today. Hey, who is this?”
Tyle poked Cots. “What’s happening?” The aged man folded his arms.
“He got his magic back somehow. He went from nothing to full.”
“He’s all yours now,” Clance said. “And just an update: I’ve almost taken half of the planet. Several hostile forces are approaching, but they’re still far off. Tell me when you’re done; I’ll need you to be ready.”
“Hey, answer me!” Vornis shouted at the air. “What are you doing to the planet? Don’t tell me this effect is worldwide?”
Slaberdashia zipped her long finger through the air. For a brief moment a colored plane intersected Vornis’ head. He ceased talking, staggering back. With a clatter of his scales, he wobbled upright again. He blinked.
“My big brother can cut brains,” Slaberdashia said. “Right down the middle. I can do it too, but not like he does. It’s all in your head, what I did. I separated you from those inhibitions and complex moralities. You are just another animal now. Another being that is slave to instinct. And that will make you my slave.” She beckoned to the Enpo. “Encircle!”
Slaberdashia’s pack leapt from the woods: they fanned out across the road, blocking the way up to the bar and hedging in the van from the back. Vornis watched them, twisting his head to and fro. His eyes caught Tyle and the rest. With still lips and wide, white eyes he moved on to the Enpo and back to Slaberdashia.
“His mind’s gone weird,” Cots said. Vornis let the sword hilt slip from his fingers and clank to the pavement. “Like he’s had too much to drink, but worse.”
Slaberdashia bent her knee low and thrust with both hands; Vornis sprang to the side, slipping away. He hit the road with both hands and pushed off, bounding to the row of Enpo. Their white fur bristled out at his approach. He snarled at them and they bared their teeth.
“They won’t let you leave, little pup!” Slaberdashia laughed. “You need to be trained!” She picked the fallen sword up with two fingers and flung it into the trees. She took heavy strides toward him and he faced her. Vornis bobbed down, touched the pavement, and leapt at her neck.
Her forearm went up and he collided with it, his scales rattling. Vornis coiled his arms around her wrist and held on. She tilted backwards to hold herself steady; with her other hand she reached for his dangling legs. He dropped in an instant, taking hold of the spike at his side. He swung it back and the opposite one responded: whirling around to catch Slaberdashia’s knee. Her massive leg buckled and her foot slipped sideways. Vornis circled around as she dropped on her backside; her elbows kept her head from hitting the ground. Vornis took her long locks of hair and yanked her neck to him. Both of his arms fit around her thick neck and he squeezed, his bicep at her throat.
“Hah!” Slaberdashia choked out. She reached for him and he snapped his teeth at her, leaving a thin gash on her finger. She beat her fist on the road and growled. Writhing to the side, she unhooked a canister that was affixed to her body armor. She lifted it, pointed a nozzle at Vornis’ face, and pinched the trigger that curved across the canister’s side. A jet of blue gas blasted Vornis’ gray hair back; he squeezed his eyes shut and howled. With a jerk he let Slaberdashia go, scampering back and clanging into the grill of Tyle’s van.
Slaberdashia released the trigger and the stream of gas halted. She rolled away from the cloud before letting in a long gasp.
“You’re better than I thought,” she said. Her palm slapped the pavement and she rose to her feet. She swept her long hair back behind her shoulders. Vornis was stumbling over to the side of the road as Tyle and the rest moved to the rear of the van to clear the drifting blue smoke.
Slaberdashia fixed the gas canister to her body armor again. Vornis snorted, gave his head a quick shake, and charged at her. She bent a long leg and struck with an open palm; it took both of Vornis’ arms to bash her hand aside. He sped past her arm and aimed his long thorn at the exposed side of her belly. Slaberdashia planted her hand on the road and pushed off from the ground with her feet, somersaulting out of reach. Vornis was left in the middle of the road as Slaberdashia rolled to the forest’s edge. Her feet found the trunks of two large trees and she pushed off, sending her large body flying back the way it had came. The leaves in the trees swayed from the force, and Slaberdashia twisted around in mid-air, landing on the road with all fours. Vornis spun and she snapped at his left shoulder with her mouth, catching it in her jaws.
She worked her sharp teeth into the scales on his upper chest and back. Vornis swung his right arm at her face, his blow deflected by the spattered visor. He tried his knee next, ramming it into the flesh of her neck. She let out a harsh rasp and her breath hissed past her teeth and into his face.
Vornis readied his leg for another kick; Slaberdashia tossed him aside with a jerk of her head.
He twisted to land on his feet and a scale fell from his shoulder as he skidded to a halt. His hand snapped to catch it and he whipped it away backhanded in a blink: Slaberdashia flinched as it split her visor.
The scale remained embedded there: sticking out from the glass near where her right eye should be. Cracks radiated out from the impact.
“Doesn’t this feel good?” Slaberdashia asked. Vornis rushed her and she sprung straight up from the road. He glimpsed her long-limbed form against the hazy red sky. With a crash and a grin she brought her feet down upon him with a stomp.
Tyle coughed, blinking, as dust flew his way. Peering out from the side of the van, he saw Slaberdashia step off Vornis’ back. The beast sputtered, crawling away from her. Only one of his spines was still attached to his torso; the other had snapped off and lay on the road.
“Vornis!” Tyle called out. The Enpo surrounding the area leapt side-to-side, bobbing their pointed muzzles.
“Your words can’t reach him,” Slaberdashia said. “And when instinct is all that you have, a desperate situation leaves you only three choices.”
Vornis took the vein spike into his hands, using it to stand once more. As soon as he rose to his feet he flung it at her. It shattered against her chest armor.
“You have already tried to flee. You have already tried to kill your attacker.” She brushed some reddish flecks from her arm. “There is only one path left to you: only one thing that ensures your survival.”
Vornis roared at Slaberdashia. The Enpo in the trees along the side of the road froze.
“Submit!” Slaberdashia demanded, knocking him down again with her fist. He slid across the road, his scales screeching against the asphalt. He came to rest at the front of Tyle’s van, panting through his thin lips. The shadow of Slaberdashia loomed over him again through the haze and he snarled. Vornis reached for the van’s bumper and used it to rise; Slaberdashia swatted him flat again with her palm.
“Submit!” she shouted. Vornis struck the road on his back again, yelping. His eyes were wide and his teeth were bared at her. Slaberdashia rose her arm and brought it back down on his chest with a smack. Tyle, Tecker, and Cots looked at each other and at the Enpo all around them. The wolves were dipping their heads and glancing at the ground. Some whined and backed away.
“Is that what you did to these creatures!?” Tecker spat out. “You beat them until they obeyed you!?”
“They all learn their place,” Slaberdashia said. Vornis’ limbs were sprawled out and his chest rising and falling with every breath, yet his eyes stayed on her. Slaberdashia licked her teeth. She loomed over him, lifting her arm to striking position again.
“Stay down, man!” Tyle whispered.
Vornis sniffed. He bent his back and began to sit up.
Slaberdashia brought her palm down; Vornis twisted sideways. His remaining thorn pierced her palm, exiting out the back of her hand. She let out a scream that sent the Enpo’s fur bristling.
“You–! Little–! Beast–!” she exclaimed. Her long, clawed fingers dug into his body. With the thorn still poking through her she lifted him into the air.
“You submit! You naughty thing!” she said, ramming him into the street. With a shout she put all her weight on him, mashing him down. His arms and legs thrashed and he gnashed his teeth at her. The scale in Slaberdashia’s visor slid out from where it was stuck. She glared down at him with a watering eye: its iris green and its pupil a dark slit. Vornis’ struggling slowed. His gaze began to waver. With a staggered sigh his limbs went limp. His eyes stared off at the trees and the Enpo waiting there. They began to creep forward. Slaberdashia eased off her grip.
Vornis made no move as her fingers released him. The massive hand lifted, trailing dark blood on his body and spike. Slaberdashia hissed as she pulled free from the tip.
“There. Finally,” Slaberdashia huffed. She cradled her hand and took a step away from him. The Enpo were silent as Vornis’ heavy breath went on. He got up with a groan, his eyes cast down at the street.
“There is one last thing,” Slaberdashia said. She peered around the side of the van at Tyle and the others. “I can’t have him thinking that cowards go free. All of you will need to die.”
“Hey, wait!” Tyle protested. “You said you wouldn’t do that!”
Slaberdashia leaned in his direction. “I can’t kill you. But my pets aren’t under such restrictions.” She simpered with a feigned curtsy.
“I told you,” Cots muttered at Tyle. “Maybe next time you’ll listen.”
“There won’t be a next time! Hey–!” Tyle shouted at Vornis. “You need to snap out of it!”
The beast turned, his eyes unfocused. He looked in Tyle’s direction, his mouth slightly ajar.
“Fight her spell or whatever!” Tyle said. “If you can get shot by a cannon you can beat this! Just–!”
Vornis turned his back on Slaberdashia, wiggling both his eyebrows at Tyle. He kept his face still and made a slow movement toward the remaining spike at his side. He tapped it with his finger.
Slaberdashia looked at her bleeding hand, lifting her arm.
“Hm?” she inquired, scratching at the long hair hanging from it. “What is this?”
As she withdrew her fingers she trailed a ropy, reddish ooze. “What is this!?” she repeated, giving her massive arm a hard shake. The skulls and bones adorning her hair were laced with the reddish stuff, and it twisted and spread, weaving itself further in.
“Alright, guys, it’s time to stop standing around,” Vornis told Tyle, Cots, and Tecker. “The real fight starts now.”
Quick First Draft Notes:
“Beast” is what I called this one. I’ve probably been playing too many “Tales of” games since “beast” is the name of an attack that pops up in all of them. Every single battle Lloyd or someone is shouting “BEAST!” or “PHOTON!”
Maybe I should have my characters yell out the names of their attacks. I should get thinking about what they would be called for the upcoming Capcom game Abandonment Party 3 Fighter 2 Turbo.
“Mean and Whittler walk somewhere“
Yeah, I have no idea where they’re going. I also changed Whittler’s appearance again. I may slick her hair down too. Make her bangs look like daggers or something. If you’re wondering why I’m unsure about these details, it’s because I wasn’t even sure if she was going to appear in person. I can’t waste time pondering details like that when I have pointless game photos to take.
“Slaberdashia vs Vornis“
Woo! Yes! Finallly, a personal fight!
And it almost didn’t happen! See, when I first started planning the story I knew I didn’t want Vornis to go along with Dark to Arsiling: he was just going to stay behind. After all, most of the conflicts so far have been cerebral and I figured there wouldn’t be any chance to do anything with a mostly physical character like Vornis.
But what fun is it if every foe is the same? I think it’s interesting when the group of antagonists have one in their ranks that differs from the others. In Final Fantasy IV we had the four fiends: the first three tried every dirty trick in the book to kill off the heroes. Then the fourth, Rubicant, surprises you by healing your wounds to make it a fair fight!
So that’s why I came up with Slaberdashia; to mix things up a little. She still has a way to influence minds, but she also has the power to back it up. It’s fun to try out different things, too: Slaberdashia is so much larger than Vornis so I want to come up with interesting ways for them to interact. I think some of the stuff works, like when Vornis has to use both of his arms to deflect one of hers.
Bouncing off tree trunks may be a bit too silly, though.