WARNING: This chapter has violent scenes and crude language that may be
disturbing to some readers. Please use discretion.
Chapter 12 XII "Intrigues"
The clash of metal echoed hollowly in a sharply lit room. A man grunted,
followed by the dry shuffling of quick footsteps across the cemented floor.
Loki danced away as his sparring partner, Musalan, thrust her sword towards him,
catching the thin fabric of his sleeve. He quickly parried, forcing Musalan to
retreat and to rally her forces once again.
Slash, turn, block, parry, thrust, it was a dance with a rhythm few could
understand. Each movement completed in turn would be repeated even faster the
next time, until the dance could no longer be followed except by the dancers
There was another clash, and another grunt. Musalen flicked the tip of her sword
under Loki's and flipped his sword into the air. It fell with a loud obnoxious
jangle to the ground a couple feet away from where they stood.
Musalan stepped back and stared at her companion. "Something bothers you today.
You're distracted and pathetically non-attentive to our sparring." She reached
out and fingered the small tear in Loki's sleeve. "I shouldn't have been able to
wreak your shirt like this." She stopped in surprise. “You’re cut. You’ll need
Loki looked at the small tear and dismissed it. "It's nothing that a needle and
some thread can't fix."
"And if my sword was poisoned?"
"Then I would have died."
"You are too careless."
"Perhaps I choose to be so."
"For what reason?"
Loki stared at his first commander, his green eyes meeting steel gray ones. "So
I can remember the consequences when I am." He absently touched his chest where
the shirt hid the long scar that he bore.
* * * * *
In the privacy of his own room, the man given the name Loki stared at his
reflection in the mirror.
“Who are you?” he asked the man with the tired green eyes. “What is it in your
past that haunts your dreams?”
He picked up the long, curved katana in front of him. Other than the wicked scar
that decorated his chest and the clothes on his body, the sword in his hands was
the only clue he had of his dark, forgotten past.
He ran his fingers lightly over the sheath of the katana. Embroidered on a
cloth-wrapped wooden sheath in muted threads were animals that he knew existed
as fighting disciplines. His fighting disciplines.
An image of a carved wooden twin flashed in Loki’s mind, and eyes twin to his
own stared out of the mirror as if they belonged to another.
Loki slowly fastened the sword to his side and drew on his leather gloves. His
armor was a deep red, the colour of heart’s blood. He met the stranger’s eyes in
the mirror once again and surrounded himself with the sound of silence.
Someday, he promised the stranger, you won’t be able to hide from me any longer.
* * * * *
He walked into the main square where a hundred guymelefs were assembled with
their operators. Close to two thousand men and women gathered where sound echoed
eerily in the underground caverns of the hidden city Pride.
Artificial light flickered across the metal surfaces of the guymelefs’ bodies,
replicas of Zaibach’s design from the Great War. Loki’s people had spent the
last three years scavenging and raiding for parts. Drag energists were slowly
excavated to avoid detection.
Musalen stepped out in front of her chosen guymelef. She affectionately called
it “Vengeance.” She was the most accomplished of the riders and was the key in
training their ragtag army.
Loki moved to meet her, shaking his head as she mockingly patted her machine.
“Muse, you could have a chosen a less...angry name for your guymelef you know,”
he told her with exasperation.
Musalen raised an eyebrow, an amused expression on her face. “I thought it was
appropriate. Somehow I don’t think a name like ‘Fluffy’ would strike fear in the
hearts of my opponents.” She paused and looked up at the towering machine. “I
don’t suppose I could interest you in trying one out again.”
Loki shook his head adamantly. “I prefer to remain outside and not closed up in
a machine. I’ll be more effective on foot.” He shuddered when he remembered his
attempt at using a guymelef. Although he was fascinated with how they worked, he
couldn’t connect with the great machines warriors.
Transferring his power with his sword to a guymelef proved to be too much for
the machine, and it had taken eight long hours to extract Loki from the rubble
that remained from the explosion.
Musalen laughed, “I think it would be better for the guymelefs if we kept you
away from them.” She glanced around the rest of the force gathered. “Is a
Loki frowned, turning the question in his head. “I’ve been told that Asturia had
called a Summit. We know that Merchant Fassa has brought word to Fanelia.”
“How do you know they will come?” Musalen asked.
“They have no choice.” Loki shrugged. “In the end, it doesn’t matter. The
Princess must return to Asturia, and the King knows it. The Summit is another
reason, and so is his conscience.”
Musalen sighed. “What has Raspun said? What are the possibilities?”
“Basram and Fried remained in Fanelia. Merchant Fassa and the Princess have
joined them. There is the highest possibility that if Fanelia goes the rest will
“And the chance Fanelia will not attend the Summit?”
“Less than 1 percent and the odds are still in our favor. There are no countries
remaining that have a standing war guymelef army over 10. The contingent from
Fanelia will have 5 war guymelefs at the most, possibly a detachment of 20 small
melefs. Even then, one of ours is worth ten of any other, with the exception of
“And compared to Basram?” Musalen asked dryly, already knowing the answer.
“Equal, if not better.” Loki accepted the fact with little trepidation.
“However, Basram’s war fleet stands at merely 20. I’m not concerned. And
Escaflowne remains decommissioned last we heard.”
Musalen relaxed slightly. “So, the Dragon sleeps for now. Well, I can trust
Raspun’s numbers of nothing else. The numbers are most compelling.”
“Yes.” Loki shrugged. “But it’s not enough. Numbers will not win this war
alone.” He signaled to his people and the murmuring among them fell silent.
“Where’s the informant?” Musalen waved to the guards behind them. The guard on
the right shoved a ragged man dressed in worn fatigues forward. The soldier
staggered and fell hard to his knees; his tied hands behind him unable to break
Loki studied the tired man in front of him. “Your name is Farell, isn’t it? Why
did you come to us? Why are you so eager to betray your country?”
The man reared back in anger and spat in disgust without thinking. Musalen drew
her sword so sharply, the tip rested at Farell’s Adam’s apple before his spittle
completely left his lips. The sharp scent of urine filled the air as a small
puddle collected between the ragged soldier’s knees.
“I believe,” Musalen commented mildly, “you are capable of explaining without
being so vulgar, soldier.”
Farell slowly swallowed, wincing as the movement pushed the sword tip in a
little further. A small bead of blood trickled down his throat.
Loki surveyed Farell’s current condition with distaste. “I want to know why.”
Loki fingered the hilt of his sword thoughtfully. “Your life may depend on it.”
Farell flicked his eyes nervously from Musalen’s cold gray eyes to Loki’s even
colder green eyes, down to the sword hilt that Loki’s hand rested on, and
cross-eyed at the one resting at his throat.
“Fanelia is no longer my country. She has abandoned me before I have betrayed
her. All over a single white-haired bitch.” Musalen raised an eyebrow and
lightly lifted the sword tip a little higher.
“Girl. A girl. Named Seiki. She looks…she looks…” Farell stopped in surprise and
stared at Loki, his mouth gaping wide as realization dawned on his face. “You
look like her.” he blurted out. “You are the one she seeks!”
Musalen blinked in surprise. Loki ignored both of them. “You have not given me
Farell closed his mouth slowly and scowled. “The King wanted to test the chit.
Make her prove that she was capable of taking care of herself. He had three of
us attack her at the same time. I felt sorry for her because she was so small
and hurt. No one else saw it but me.” Farell sneered. “She was only pretending
and humiliated us. A wolf in sheep’s clothing. I threw my daggers at her, and
for that, my King dismissed me dishonourably.”
He laughed harshly, for a moment forgetting a sword rested at his throat and a
warm puddle sat between his knees. “Years of blood, sweat, and tears to be among
the elite, only to be ruined by a bitch-in-heat the King has the hots for. This
is worth losing honour for? One woman?”
Loki remained quiet as Farell babbled on until he finally fell silent. The men
stood still, watching and waiting for their leader’s decision. Wordlessly, Loki
waved Musalen back. Surprised, she stepped away reluctantly.
With the removal of the sword, Farell closed his eyes briefly and heaved a sigh
of relief. He opened his mouth in order to speak words of gratitude and pledge
his allegiance to this strange new power but stopped short at the sound of steel
rasping. Loki has shifted position, posed in the position identical to the
white-haired bitch in Fanelia.
Identical in every way.
Loki straightened and flicked his contemptuous gave over the informer. “I have
no need for fools and betrayers. You can never trust their loyalty.”
Farell’s puzzled look changed into horrified surprise as his open-mouthed head
slowly slid off his severed neck and fell to the ground with a wet thud. With
his katana, Loki had sliced off Farell’s head faster than anyone could witness
with their eyes.
Musalen watched the Fallen One with a hooded expression. Loki’s gaze had briefly
taken on a chilling, amber sheen, unsettling his commander more than she cared
to imagine. “We could have found out more if you had let him live. More about
the woman in your dreams.”
Loki sucked in a startled breath. Visions of flames flashed in his mind, and he
could smell smoke, burnt flesh, and blood. His nostrils flared and he shook his
head. “This fight is bigger than me. I couldn’t abide his filth to spread among
our people. How can we survive with betrayers in our midst? One mistake, one
fool, would destroy us all.”
He turned to the watchful gathering of men and women, silent witnesses to the
necessary ruthlessness of their chosen leader.
“You know why we’re here and what needs to be done. We leave with the setting of
the sun to our destinations.” He looked around and met the expectant gazes of
the men and women he would fight side by side with.
“Activate your energists. Prepare your gear. The time has come to take back what
is ours. Our Pride.”