This work is fiction. The work is presented under fair protection where applicable.
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The figures in the bed slept peacefully. All was quiet save the occasional snort when one or the other’s breathing was interrupted.
Andrew gazed out over the rolling hills. A cool breeze took the edge off the warm sunlight that suffused the environment. It was peaceful. Welcoming.
As he continued looking into the distance he began to feel the heat rise. Slowly the sun on his back got hotter, and hotter, but try as he might he couldn’t turn. The heat grew until it was burning, so painfully burning his back and finally he wrenched his eyes around to see fire, flames engulfing the grasslands around him. Something was approaching, a vaguely humanoid shape wreathed in flames but so horribly inhuman, only holes of dark where its face should have been. He tried to open his mouth, to scream, to yell, he didn’t know but the creature was still coming and he couldn’t move-!
With a start Andrew’s eyes snapped open. His eyes darted around the bedroom for a few seconds before he began to calm, forcing himself to stare at Fu’s peaceful figure beside him. It had just been another dream. He’d had them before, and he’d have them again. Just a nightmare.
Slowly his breathing returned to normal. Just a nightmare. He should get back to sleep.
He lay there for what felt like eternity until he sat up and slid out of bed. He checked the time before pulling on some clothes and quietly pushing out of the room.
There was already some movement this early in the morning but Andrew avoided the early risers, walking out into the pre-dawn light. The damp dew that surrounded him helped offset the burning his nightmare had wrought, and the dark, muted forest around him chased away the thoughts of the featureless plains. This was reality. Not the dream.
He took a deep breath, holding it for a few seconds before releasing and smiling slightly at no particular thing. It had been a few days since Aella and Albia had had their fight, and life had been surprisingly quiet since. He had been making zero progress with his magic, but that wasn’t too surprising, considering how he still didn’t quite understand what had happened back in the training arena, and neither did Daria. He sighed. It would come, he hoped.
Slowly he became aware of someone nearby, finally turning to see the Vampire perched in a nearby tree with a book in hand. She glanced up when he turned towards her and shut the text, allowing it to vanish. “Nightmares again?”
Andrew blew air through his nose. “As usual. Why are you here?”
“I’ve always been more nocturnal. I saw you leave, so I followed.” Daria snorted. “I’ve got a bit more of a reason to keep you alive these days. Didn’t want you wandering off and finding a feral Kuu hasn’t yet.”
“I guess.” Andrew took a deep breath, holding it for a moment before letting it out. “To be honest I was half expecting you to start screaming at me again.”
Daria chuckled softly. “I’m very strict with time. Right now is not your scheduled lesson time, so no screaming. Maybe today we can make some actual progress, instead of just going in circles again. If not,” Daria grinned, “we’ll go with the screaming.”
“Great.” Andrew muttered. “And after I get my ear chewed off I can retreat to whichever loving woman has claimed today.”
Daria shrugged. “I think that’s Constance. I saw the schedule.” She unfolded her legs, stepping out into the air and daintily drifting down to the forest floor. “I’ll see you after breakfast. Don’t wander off and get eaten.”
Andrew watched her vanish before turning back to the rising sun. He stood motionless for half an hour while it drifted above the horizon before finally turning back and heading inside.
“I’m bored. This is boring.” Constance glanced up and brought her rifle to her shoulder, squeezing off a three round burst before dropping it and sighing at the result. “It’s not even fun.”
Andrew blinked, using his spell to zoom in on the Tank Vixxen’s latest target. The dummy had a triangle stitched into its upper chest and he grimaced. “Perfect aim at 500 yards.”
“I know.” Constance brought the rifle to her shoulder again. “I love this gun. I’ve only ever missed a long target once, and that was because she teleported. I got her on the next one.” She sighted, cocking her head slightly as she nestled the receiver under her cheek. “Those ferals were fun, but just as easy as this.”
Andrew watched her round impact, half of the dummy’s head blasting away. “We’re not going to go and pick a fight with the leagues so you can have fun.”
“Figured.” Constance locked her slide open and dropped the empty magazine. “But there’s got to be someone I can shoot.”
“Someone you can kill.”
Constance gave him an even look as she broke out her cleaning kit. “Shoot. If I shoot well, they will die, but I do not just wish to kill. If I wanted that, I would step outside and hunt some ferals. They are easy to kill.”
“So the tournament wasn’t enough for you?” Andrew pulled out his pistol and began checking it before sighting in on a closer target. “It did wonders for Fu. She hasn’t bitched in days.” He pulled the trigger and glared at the result.
“Your sights are still set for a hundred. That target’s only at forty. Hold two under.” Constance waited for him to adjust and the shot rang out, a hole appearing dead between the eyes of the dummy. “Banger, Sir.”
Andrew lowered the pistol in surprise. “Banger? Isn’t that food?”
Constance snickered. “It means good shit to you, you uncultured Capital boy.”
“No, I’m pretty sure it means food.” Andrew grinned right back. “And I’d be Indigo, thank you very much.”
“If you’ve heard one rebel you’ve heard ‘em all.” Constance laughed quietly. “If it’s better for you, your shot was jolly good. Bloody good?” She paused. “Bloody well good?”
“That’s alright Constance, calling it banger is enough for me.” He locked his slide back and snagged a cloth from her kit to clean out the rapidly cooling residue. “So how do you think you can have fun?”
“Well,” she said slowly, “supposedly I think about nothing but fighting and fucking. Since I can’t fight, does that mean I fuck?”
“No, because that’s not ALL you think about.” Andrew gave her a smile when she blinked coquettishly. “Come off it. We are having truly alone time and you’ve already dropped the mask, so be serious.”
Constance smiled back. “But I don’t give two fucks about you, Sir.”
“No, you give quite a few more than that.” Andrew chuckled. “You play the Pokédex entry to a T, but I wouldn’t want a Pokédex entry holding the title of Gunny here. I want my Constance.”
Constance’s smile softened slightly and her eyes grew distant. “Most tamers hate it when their pokegirls talk about their past.”
“Surprise, I’m not most tamers.” Andrew waited a heartbeat before dropping his pistol into its holster. “Need me to grab some drinks?”
Constance blinked and pulled her attention back to him. “I’ve never seen you drink alcohol.”
“I had an abusive father. He wasn’t abusive because he drank, but young me linked the two anyway. I don’t drink because I don’t want to end up like him.” He smiled to dispel Constance’s worried expression. “Doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy something with a woman I’ve chosen to spend my life with. Just means I won’t be sipping the fermented stuff.”
“Then... I’d like that.” Constance gave him a hesitant smile. “This is tradition, isn’t it?”
Andrew chuckled. “Yep. The storyteller gets their drinks for free, courtesy of the listeners. I’ll be back in a few.” He oriented himself and pushed through the hidden doorway back into the main hallway.
Constance waited for the door to close before field stripping her rifle and carefully putting it away in its case. She was in the process of wiggling her light cargo shorts down to her hips when the door opened again and Andrew pushed in, two mugs hooked over his fingers while a number of bottles poked out from a small bag over his arm.
He stopped and the two stood in a frozen tableau before Constance decisively yanked down on her shorts, popping the button open and bringing the fabric down to just above her groin. “I’d rather just take these off.”
“Try to jump me like you did last week and I’ll respond in kind.” Andrew warned, waiting for Constance to finish unzipping her pants and letting them drop to the ground before handing her a mug. “Here. I got you some of the northwestern import stuff.”
Constance blinked and set the mug on the range’s rest. “I’ve heard there was a bit of a brewing operation out that way, but I didn’t think they were available down here. Where’d you get it? Juarez?”
“Surprisingly enough, I got it in Texas. Unsurprisingly, it was through a couple of hoops and steps that boil down to ‘Iain Grey is very well connected’.”
Constance smirked and grabbed one of the bottles. “Not going to argue with that. How’s he doing these days, anyways?”
“Don’t know. Don’t pry. I managed to get this through Carmen, the lady down in El Paso? My regular interaction with Clan Grey these days is “Hope you’re doing well! Here have some ferals, materials, information that we’ve gathered. Please let me know if I’ve paid off my debt!” and that’s that. But to be honest I prefer it this way.” He frowned. “It’s been a while, how did you test on magical potential?”
“‘Good enough’ is the term Daria used.”
“So not very well. There’s something different about Iain these days, what little I see of him. I don’t think you’d notice it.” Constance shook her head silently and let him continue. “Well, there’s a side of me, right? A side that I’ve only started to truly unlock and toy with.”
“I know about that side of you.” Constance carefully poured a full mug and took a sip. “Fuck this is good.”
“Yea. Well.” Andrew frowned. “It’s awakening, or something. But that’s not important, what’s important is that that side of me takes one look at Iain Grey and wants nothing to do with him. It wants to run, to hide, to do whatever it can to keep from getting the attention of whatever it is he is.” Andrew sighed. “It’s like there’s something completely and fundamentally different about him these days, but I don’t know what. And honestly, I don’t care. He’s got his own shit to work through, I’ve got mine. So what. Before I can worry about him I need to worry about me.”
“Speaking of worrying about others.” Constance reached out and firmly pushed him into one of the overstuffed chairs that made up the observational seats. “You were supposed to be getting me a drink because I was going to tell a story.”
Andrew shifted when she collapsed onto his lap, a small drop of liquid splashing onto his hand from the mug she still held. “I did and you are.”
“Then shut up.” Constance twisted up and clicked her teeth at him before grinning. “You want something?”
“One of the bottles is cider, but I don’t need any, no.” Andrew allowed her to snuggle against him and after a moment wrapped his arms around her ribs. “I like this position.”
“It’s pretty nice.” Constance whispered back, her head resting against his shoulder. “I feel like you’re supporting me completely.”
“Because I am.” He replied, letting her process that for a moment. “Story.”
“Story.” She repeated. “Right. So, I wasn’t always Miss Fuck You.”
“Could have fooled me.” Andrew chuckled before yelping when he felt Constance shift her leg and crush one of his balls.
The Tank Vixxen glanced back with a scowl. “Are you going to shut up?”
“Gladly.” Andrew whimpered.
“Good.” Constance turned back around. “Anyway. I was born a Kitsune. I grew up, I evolved, and a year before I would have been rotated out of the starter program and into an auction...” she trailed off. “A year before I was going to be prepared to be thrown to the winds, I was stolen. I can’t even remember how, which means I probably had my pokeball pinched, but the next thing I knew I was being literally thrown into a pit with a feral. I can’t even remember what she was. Maybe it was too long ago.”
Andrew started to ask a question but thought better of it, waiting for Constance to continue. “Anyways, all I remember is being scared, and then pain. So much pain. I don’t know how I survived those first few days, but I did, and... and I think I killed people to do it.” She shivered. “The ones that didn’t fight, or lost a normal match, they... they were drugged, and then thrown to the crowds. I never saw any of them again.”
She paused again, and Andrew could feel her pulse quickening as she relived memories. “I got free after a month. Someone was impressed, and suddenly I wasn’t in the ring anymore. I was on a bed. But the man who had taken me this time, he... he wasn’t... good.” She whimpered. “He was nice, kind of. He fed me. Named me. Kind of.” Her eyes screwed shut as she remembered. “I... I was Phrissy. He was very insistent that I use the Ph. Said it made me exotic. Let him pretend... that I was worth something.” Her breath caught. “He killed people. His harem killed people. And I was supposed to kill people, too. So I did. If I didn’t, he’d kill me. I did my best to let the others actually kill, but there was no avoiding it. So I killed. He gave me a gift one day, a heavy, metallic vest. Said it’d help train me. And then he threw me back in the ring.”
The two sat in pure silence until Constance finally coughed and took a huge gulp of her mug. “I lasted two weeks in that ring before it happened. I was the star fight. The place was packed. I watched at least a dozen girls get torn to pieces in the crowds. I knew that if I lost I’d be next. So, I fought. And I fought. And I fought. By the end of the night I had killed four pokegirls and completely ruined six others. But I wasn’t done. They were supposed to break me. It was the event. The whole point of the thing. So they sent in one of their actual pokegirls, one of the enforcers. I knew her. She knew me. She had her job, and she loved it. And to her, I was just part of the job. But she was also a mistake. Because up to that point, I had fought nobodies. Random Pokegirls. But she was a known member of a harem. And that’s what they were waiting for.”
Andrew blinked and tightened his grip slightly before relaxing, causing Constance to curl up in his lap. “It happened as we started to fight. There was an explosion, and then the door was gone. I’d never seen so many police officers as I did that night, all covered head to toe in armor and guns pointing every direction. There were Pokegirls too, but the one that stood out to me was a Neo-Iczel. Her name’s Anjana. The first thing I remember seeing was her hair, the brilliant blue color flashing in the strobe lights. The next she was flying directly towards me and I was getting hit, hit in the back because I was an idiot and stopped watching my opponent. I don’t even think the bitch knew what was going on; all she knew was that I was supposed to die. But I knew. And I knew what I had to do.”
“You won.” Andrew whispered
“I won. I remember this, remember it perfectly. I turned. She was winding up for another punch, but she was still playing by the rules of the ring. I wasn’t. I was playing for my freedom. I spat fire in her face, burning, melting her eyes and skin until her screams stopped and she could do nothing more than twitch from the pain. Maybe she was dead. By this time Anjana had reached me and was reaching out, I don’t know why. Maybe she was going to cuff me. Maybe she was going to save me. I don’t know. But I knew I wasn’t going to play along. I knew she would scrape me off the floor if she had too. So I changed the rules again.” She smiled. “I did what the piece of shit had wanted. I evolved. And when I did I knew what I could do, what I had to do, to prove I wasn’t an enemy. So I did.” Andrew winced as Constance trailed off before muttering a simple sentence. “And at the end, I surrendered.”
“You surrendered. What happened? You were a known killer. You should have been executed.” Andrew stared off into the distance. “A raid of that size, one pokegirl wouldn’t be needed for evidence.”
“They questioned me. Master Barkley did. Anjana’s Master, and soon to be mine, even if I didn’t know it yet. I was told two things. Anjana had painted me friendly. It’s how I survived the fight. I told him I wouldn’t have minded if I had died. I would have died free. When he told me about how the shitstain that had been raping me took a double tap between the eyes for shooting a cop, I laughed. They asked me why and I said he deserved it; he wasn’t worth the oxygen he used. He seemed to like that. Said he needed someone like me. And so I disappeared from the reports, and appeared in the harem of a Master Sergeant in the BLSF."
“BLSF? I thought you said they were cops.”
“Most of them were. It was a joint operation. There were various nations there, DSA, local police. I got lucky, really. They called me a berserker pokegirl that had been put down, and I was free. It didn’t matter what I had done. All that mattered was that I had a Master and Alpha who cared about me. Who respected me. Anjana was fair, so very fair. She knew what I could do and so she pushed me to do more, to be better, every single day. There were the others, Banti who I would go and cry to when the memories came back, and Taja who had been the rookie before I came along. We were a well-oiled machine. I would start, indiscriminately hitting what I could, and Banti would make sure the civilians were safe. Taja would protect Master Barkley and me with her shield and Anjana would fly wherever I cleared to make sure nothing got back up. I was happy. I was giving back after all of the months of evil I had created. But it couldn’t last. Someone didn’t play along, I was discovered. People knew I existed and what I had done. They just hadn’t figured out where I had gone. So Master Barkley let me go. He stayed with me until Sadie Pokens, making sure I didn’t go feral and knew that he wasn’t abandoning me. He had no choice. We had no choice. We wandered the city together, on that day. Finally I watched as he destroyed my pokeball and waved goodbye. And I went. And you know the rest.”
Andrew nodded. “He gave you your life back.”
“Yes. He did.” Constance took a deep, shuddering breath before releasing it all at once. “I’m glad I found you. You remind me of him. In so many ways.”
Andrew gently began stroking her hair, transitioning to scratching behind her ears when Constance leaned into his touch. “You’re a survivor.” The memory of Grace flashed through his mind and he winced. “You both were.”
Constance frowned. “Hm?”
“That’s why you and Grace got along so well together.” Andrew whispered. “I’m sorry.”
Constance’s ears flicked. “Sorry for what.”
“I didn’t want the two of you fighting together and now she’s-“
“Stop.” Constance pulled her head away and turned so she was glaring at him as she growled softly. “She. Is. Dead.” She spat, her tone cutting deep into the dead air around them. “I remember her every day just as you do but SHE. IS. DEAD.” Her voice slowly rose as she grew more incensed. “YOU DO NOT APOLOGIZE FOR THE DEAD. YOU DO NOT MAKE ALLOWANCES FOR THE DEAD. YOU REMEMBER THEM AS THEY LIVED AND YOU MOVE ON, ANDREW!” She was screaming now, tears soaking her face. “THERE IS NOT A DAY, NOT A SINGLE MOMENT THAT I DON’T WISH SHE WAS HERE! BUT I. MOVE. ON!”
Andrew’s eyes were wide and his mouth worked as he tried to come up with something to say to the sobbing Tank Vixxen. Before he could she was pushing free, taking a few steps away from him as her body shook.
Finally he realized that no words were going to help and he stood, walking towards her and wrapping his arms around her shoulders. As he did Constance turned, almost jumping on him as she buried her face into his chest and continued to cry. Andrew felt his own tears begin to fall but kept silent, clutching her as tightly as he could and trusting her own enhanced strength to keep her safe.
Eventually Constance’s sobs slowed, beginning to be interspersed with hiccups. “I’ve done- done all these things to honor her memory.” She whispered. “I’ve taken her- no, tried to do what she did. Tried to... to be for you what she was, but- I could never replace her.”
Andrew nodded. “I know you have, and no, you can’t. You’re not her, and I don’t want you to ever be her. You are you, and I am very, very happy to have you here with me.”
Constance screwed up her eyes. “Ye-yea.” She let out a barking cough before gently pushing at his arms. “Okay.”
Andrew let go, watching her stagger a few steps before collapsing into a chair. “I hope I haven’t ruined your plans.”
Constance snorted, the callous noise sending her into a coughing fit when she inhaled her own mucous. “No,” she finally managed, “I needed that. We haven’t had time like this in weeks. I needed to get it out.”
Andrew nodded slightly. “I need to find more excuses to give you all this kind of alone time.”
Constance sighed. “I’d like that.” She patted at her red eyes. “This is going to sting all day.”
Andrew chuckled. “Why don’t you go wash up? I won’t go anywhere.”
The ghost of a smile flickered across Constance’s face. “I think we should go wash up together.”
Andrew smiled back. “That sounds perfect.”
The next day had come, and with it, an invitation. Cristina took a deep breath of the fresh air, gazing around the lush forest in wonder. “Thank you for inviting us here, Kuu.”
Camiel mimicked Cristina’s movements. “Yes, I am honored to be your guest.”
Kuu laughed, the bright sound mixing merrily with the sounds of the forest. “And I am honored to share with each of you.” She glanced around, smiling at where Andrew and Albia sat. “All of you.”
Albia was watching Andrew instead of the forest. “I admit. This is a strange thing for me. All I’ve ever known was my mission.”
Camiel sighed and glanced back at the Hunter Splice. “I always knew there was something more about you. It is nice to finally know what.”
Albia grimaced. “I’m sorry, Cami. I was ordered to never let you know.”
Camiel smiled. “There are things I have not shared either, my love.” She looked at Andrew. “Maybe it’s time I did.”
Andrew shrugged. “Everyone has secrets. I’d like to know yours, but I understand if you want to keep them hidden.”
Camiel nodded slightly. “Soon, then.” She took another breath before beaming at the canopy. “For now, this is good.”
Kuu and Andrew shared a chuckle before returning to their own thoughts. Andrew was watching Kuu gently coax growth out of the plants around them when he stiffened. Something had changed.
Camiel straightened a few seconds later, also turning towards where Andrew had begun to stare, her eyes unfocusing. “Something is wrong.”
The blowing breeze was wrong. It did not flow as it should, twisting and stuttering across his face. Something was changing it. Forcing it. It was close.
Andrew turned, doing his best to keep his face in the direction of the flow. Suddenly, he smelled it. Smoke. A pungent smoke that threatened to suffocate him even as he tore his face away and sought fresh air.
Before he could react the flames found him, or perhaps he ran to the flames. The great white tree stood, her leaves beginning to curl from the heat, flames threatening her roots. The fire was unnatural, probing, recoiling, burning the grass but never enough to go out. It licked through the garden, plant by plant falling to the ravenous beast. Andrew tried to run to the tree but halted when a wall of flame sprung up in front of him, pushing him away. He knew that if he could just get to the tree he could stop this. Stop the flames. But they resisted.
A yell from inside the garden drew his attention. Humanoid glows danced beyond the flames, some animated, some static. One was material. Kuu stood tall, her mouth moving soundlessly as she gripped an incorporeal shape next to her. The flames surged over her arms, hungrily tearing at whatever she held. Above her he thought he could recognize a winged figure, frozen in midair.
“Your forest burns.”
Andrew spun to the new voice. Some...thing stood behind him, a barely visible apparition. “What is this? Who are you?” A chill ran down his spine when the light caught the edges of the figure, the barely perceptible vision of his nightmare showing through. As he stood frozen the harsh outlines began to soften, the evil darkness fading until he could almost make out a person standing within the flames.
The specter wavered in the heat. “I was never part of you.” The voice whispered, fading and surging with the flames. “Before anything, I found you. And they killed me. You killed them. Your forest burns, Dewlen. Stop it.”
Andrew felt himself scream; his body unable to move as the flames around them rose and came crashing into him.
Andrew jerked to his feet, his chest heaving. Albia was the closest to him and was the first to respond, grabbing him before he could fall. “What happened!” Andrew’s eyes darted around the clearing, his breathing slowly returning to normal. It had felt so real. He had felt the fire burning his skin. The smoke still clogged his nose.
Kuu ran over. “Andrew, what happened? Are you alright?” She peered into his eyes. “What did you see?”
Andrew clutched at her. “I must have dozed off.” He forced a chuckle out. “I had a nightmare. I’m sorry to have worried you.”
“Someone is about to die.” Andrew felt his hair stand on end at the voice. Camiel’s eyes were staring beyond anything around them, her speech clipped and even. “A great tragedy will unfold.”
“She’s having a premonition.” Albia grumbled. “God I hate when this happens.”
“A premonition?” Andrew whispered.
“It is soon.” Camiel shuddered. “The fire comes.”
Andrew’s blood ran cold when Camiel relaxed, her eyes focusing back on the clearing around them. “I don’t know who.” She whispered, oblivious to the frozen man across from her.
There was silence as the breeze picked up, blowing a now forgotten sweetness through the clearing. Time passed slowly, each person trying to decide what to do. The frozen tableau persisted for a few minutes before the entire forest stilled in unison.
Kuu stiffened at the same time Andrew felt a stabbing pain through his chest, both whirling towards where he had been staring. “NO!” Kuu shrieked, surging to her feet and throwing herself into the treeline. Andrew gasped, clutching at his chest as the pain burned, the flames he had felt now taking root.
“Something’s very wrong.” Cristina gasped, grabbing at him. “Andrew, what happened? Are you alright?”
Andrew’s eyes looked past her, unseeing. In his mind he could see the forest flying past as Kuu raced to the scene of tragedy. The trees around her boiled, an angry motion that pushed her faster and faster until the first sign of smoke could be seen. The sound came next, some crackling of the flames but the screams and sounds of battle were overwhelming. With a start he realized some of the screaming was coming from Kuu, the ElfQueen drawing her bow and unleashing a flurry of arrows into the flames that rose to meet her.
Andrew snapped back to reality and stumbled, pulling free of Cristina and beginning to run. The three pokegirls gave chase, each following the broken path Kuu had torn through her forest in her haste.
Andrew slowed after a few minutes, staring at the smoke ahead. The noises he had heard through Kuu’s ears were gone, replaced by a single, piercing note. Slowly they pushed past the charred trees and onto the battlefield. A dozen elves and evolutions stood silently, and with a start Andrew realized they had been passing pokegirls non-stop, some running with them, some running away. Kuu knelt in the center of the blackened ring, gently cradling a motionless body as she wailed. Andrew could see corpses of what appeared to be draconic pokegirls scattered around, peppered with living arrows and mixed with two other charred elves. Similar injuries could be seen on a handful of the onlookers, one being supported by two others as she clutched at her blackened face.
But even the injured stayed silent in the face of their Queen’s grief. Kuu rocked gently while she held the body, her screams only rising in volume when her anger began to add to them. Around them the number of gathered pokegirls slowly began to grow, a few figures pushing to the front with the rest making way.
Andrew glanced up when the sound of wings cut through Kuu’s noise, a fierce looking Falcongentle swooping in and braking above Kuu’s head. For an instant Andrew saw the scene from his daydream; the winged figure, the dead in Kuu’s arms. The dozens of forms around them. Not a dream. A vision.
Kuu’s wails eventually petered out, though she still clutched the body. The Falcongentle stood silently until Kuu rose, her eyes red and face soaked with her tears. “Mikay,” she rasped, “tend to the survivors.”
Mikay inclined her head, turning to the sky and whistling. More flying forms appeared, swooping down and landing around the clearing, the various pokegirls beginning to treat the injured.
Kuu slowly walked to where Andrew stood, cradling the motionless form in her arms. “There are things that must be addressed.” She croaked, glancing back at where an ElfQueen lay unconscious, surrounded by pieces of the bodies. “But today, she will be honored.”
Andrew nodded slightly. “The garden is open to all your court, Kuu.”
“I know.” She whispered. “Come with me. We dedicate her body to Telpëlass.”
There was silence when she began to walk, a few pokegirls reverently lifting their fallen sisters and following. The procession wound its way through the forest, breaking into the memorial garden after a few minutes. Just like the rest of her forest the great tree stood silently, the usual creaking and movement Telpëlass showed gone as she grieved with Kuu.
Kuu slowly walked to the base of the tree, ignoring the white roots that began breaking the ground around her. Gently she knelt, laying the body on a bed of white that slowly began to sink back into the earth. As the ground began to creep up around the elf Kuu bent forwards, placing her hands on Telpëlass’ roots and gently kissing the elf’s forehead. “Entula a' i' arda.” She murmured, and Andrew somehow could understand what she was saying. “Return to the earth. Be at rest, Sylie, and form the path for your sisters to follow. Join the forest and know we will remember you, always.”
Kuu leaned back as the roots continued to sink, drawing the elf’s body underground. She remained where she was while the others were placed nearby, only raising her hands once they were ready and directing the grasses that covered the ground to grow over the two bodies until all that was left were two small green mounds.
The gathered pokegirls began drifting away until all that were left in the garden were Andrew and Kuu. Even Cristina, Camiel, and Albia had left, recognizing that this was somewhere they did not belong.
Andrew stood silently, waiting patiently for Kuu to make the first move. The seconds stretched into minutes; the minutes into an hour. He estimated it was approaching the second hour when Kuu finally rose, drawing her gaze up into the branches. “She has joined the forest.” She turned to him when Andrew didn’t respond. “She has joined what she died to defend.”
“Her name will be forever honored here.”
Kuu nodded slightly. “I know it will.” She took a shuddering breath. “Camiel saw it coming. I wish I had known enough to stop it.”
Andrew bowed his head. “I saw a vision of it, too. I knew more than she did but I did not speak. I’m sorry.”
Kuu stared at him. “What are you talking about?”
“I saw the flames.” Andrew confessed. “I saw you holding someone, as the flames consumed them. But I thought it would happen here. I would have been wrong.”
“This is not your fault.” Kuu whispered. “If anyone should take the blame it should be me. I failed my subjects. They died because I chose to relax. By my inaction they lost their lives.”
Andrew winced. “You should not be blamed for this. I felt it as clearly as you did, and you reacted instantly.”
Kuu dropped her eyes. “They called for me.” She whispered. “As they died, they called for aid. I was too far away.”
Andrew slowly blinked, surreptitiously touching where the pain had been in his chest. “What did it feel like?”
“Their deaths rent wounds in my heart.” Kuu whispered. “I do not know when they will heal.”
“I... felt them too.”
Kuu nodded. “I thought you might have.” She continued at Andrew’s surprise. “At least, you felt her.” She glanced back to the pristine ground between Telpëlass’ roots. “It is only natural that a god would hear his worshippers.”
Andrew’s mouth popped open. “WHAT?”
Kuu continued staring at where the elf had been buried. “I know you don’t feel that you are anything more than human. But I lived for years, worshipping a being that came to be nothing more than a man. I know well how that felt, and this...” she trailed off, running her hands through her now silver hair, “...this is different. I am different, because of you.” She stared at him, her eyes piercing deeply into his. “I do not understand the language I sang on that night. I do not understand the language I whispered today. I do not understand what Telpëlass calls me, or even what she truly is. Because she has never existed on this world, or my world, until you breathed life into her. I do not understand any of these things, yet they all come from you. Is it not natural to worship the being that grants me with such gifts? To pray and act as his first priestess, and to allow her own subjects to do the same?”
Andrew felt his knees buckle and he was on the ground, staring at her in shock. “This is insane.” He managed to say. “I- I’m not someone to be worshipped!”
Kuu shook her head slightly. “You are.” She whispered. “You are more than what you know. That is a truth I am sure of, as I stand before you. Your power has nurtured this forest, and it has become part of me. Changed me to be your priestess. Your...” she hesitated a moment before speaking again in the strange tongue. “Amandiel.”
“I’ve started to understand the language,” Andrew admitted, “though I don’t know what it is. But I know I’m not some god. I was born a human, and even though since being brought to your world I...”
Kuu gazed at him as he trailed off. “Even what?”
Andrew didn’t respond. Even what? Even though he’d been doing things no other human ever had, he was too stubborn to consider it? If he was only a mage, Daria wouldn’t be having so much trouble understanding him. “I’m not a god.” He said again, more firmly this time, more to convince himself than to convince her. “Gods are defined by more than their worshippers. Even if you and some of the other elves have started worshipping me for some reason, that does not make me a god.”
“Perhaps.” Kuu shook her head. “But I would not call you human. I have told you that you are different these days, that something is changing within you. I felt it before you made me this, and I feel it more strongly now. Beyond being your Pokegirl, beyond the love I have felt for you ever since you saved me and my family from those murderers, there is something more.”
“I don’t know what.” Andrew gently rubbed his eyes, wiping away the tears that had begun to fall. “Was she... was Sylie part of your original court?”
Kuu sighed at the change of topic but nodded. “She was.” She whispered.
“I would like to meet your court some time.” Andrew murmured. “I did not know Sylie, but she obviously was very important to you. If they love... you, as much as you loved her, it would be rude not to at least learn who they are.”
Kuu smiled slightly. “You were going to say something else.”
Andrew snorted. “I only have room in my heart for one sylvan elf, and she is standing before me. Right now I have no plans on changing that.”
Kuu sniffed and nodded. “I understand.” She turned slightly to gaze off into the forest. “Perhaps in a few days, once the forest has begun to heal.”
Andrew bowed his head slightly. “I would enjoy that, Kuu. Thank you.”
Andrew shaded his eyes from the evening sun in a vain attempt at picking out the forms from the shadows. Gradually the clearing in front of him filled, pokegirls popping into focus as they allowed themselves to be seen clearly.
He swept his gaze over the ragtag assortment of pokegirls in front of him. It had been almost a week before Kuu had asked him back to the forest, and so today he finally was meeting the full court. As the numbers continued to swell he felt a growing sense of awe that the serene ElfQueen beside him could lead so many pokegirls.
He already knew two of them, the Falcongentle named Mikay who oversaw the aerial defenses, and the ElfQueen named Ashi who led the scout patrols. Until the incident that had resulted in the reason for this meeting, Ashi had been second in command and just a regular Elf. Now her new title and the new names etched on the memorial stone were all that was left of the three elves the feral Flarebra matron had murdered that day.
Andrew slowed as he cleared the aerial platoons and stopped in front of Ashi. “You’re looking well.”
Only Ashi’s eyes flicked to acknowledge him from her position at attention. “Thank you, sir. I apologize that some squads are not here to greet you, sir.”
Andrew shook his head slightly. “They are on patrol. Don’t be.” He gave her a sad smile. “Sylie trained you well.”
Ashi’s eyes wavered at the mention of the High Elf but she resolutely kept them forwards. “Yes sir.”
He briefly pondered why Kuu had been so accepting of Ashi and the other ElfQueen who was in her court, before deciding that since both had evolved inside the court, instead of outside, she probably didn’t see them as anything more than valuable assets. Still, Ashi was already beginning to mold the scout patrols into a sub court of sorts, something that Andrew wasn’t completely pleased with. It had improved their efficiency tremendously, but he hadn’t asked Kuu how she felt about it yet.
He dragged himself out of his thoughts in front of the next pokegirl. “Name and duty.”
The Golden Elf cleared her throat and Andrew’s eyes shot from where they had been staring directly at her breasts and up to the smirking face. “Lord Andrew. Nayrea, Second Defense. If it gets past Mikay or Razor, I’m there to meet it.”
“I see. You’re rather… tall, for an elf.”
Nayrea’s smirk widened. “I hear that a lot, sir.”
Andrew nodded absently. “Yea.” He peered behind her and took in the higher than average saturation of evolved pokegirls. “You look like you have some power here. Why aren’t you the first line of defense?”
Nayrea jerked her head towards the scarred catgirl beside her. “You’d have to ask Razor, sir. She took who she wanted and I got the rest. They’ve turned themselves into a force worthy of protecting the forest’s Heart.”
Andrew blinked and glanced over. “I see.” He didn’t miss the ripple of pride that swept through Nayrea’s contingent at her words. “Who’s your second?”
Nayrea glanced to her side. “JUNIPER!”
A Gardelfwhor stepped forward and curtsied. “Lady.”
Nayrea returned her gaze forward. “Juniper is my second, sir. She knows the trees better than most of us.”
Andrew nodded. “Understood.” He looked over at Juniper. “Thank you.” He started to turn towards the catgirl before stopping and looking back to Ashi. “Ashi, have you chosen your second yet?”
The ElfQueen winced. “No sir.”
Andrew looked back up the line to where Mikay stood. “Mikay, I haven’t met your second.”
An Avariel stepped forward out of the group of winged pokegirls behind the Falcongentle. “Sir. Hannah, at your service.”
Andrew nodded. “As you were.” He stepped over in front of the catgirl as both pokegirls returned to their groups. “Name and duty.”
Now that he had a good look at her, he could see that she was a Tigress. “Raaayyysoooor.” She hissed. “Furrrsst gaaaahrd.”
Andrew nodded. “Your second?”
A lithe form stepped out of the formation. “Sykra. Please excuse Razor’s impairment, suh. She had her throat cut twice during the war.”
Andrew looked at the new form and frowned. “You’re a Sabretooth.”
The Sabretooth Tigress nodded. “Yessuh.”
Andrew shook his head. “No offense, but your breed didn’t serve in the war, did they?”
Sykra grinned. “Yes suh, I did. They was maybe a dozen of us made before the breeders was destroyed.” She reflexively touched a spot near her left shoulder. “They was more that didn’t. Suh.”
Andrew nodded. “Razor, we have a dedicated healer here. If your throat is damaged, it can be fixed.” He gave the Tigress an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry, I would have offered earlier if I had known.”
Kuu stirred behind him, almost saying something before deciding to stay quiet. The Tigress stared at him for a few moments before slowly nodding her head.
“I’ll have Gale report here later today.” Andrew stepped back and surveyed the whole group again. “Who’s in charge of the fifth group I can see back there?”
The other ElfQueen stepped forwards from within the group. “Naiscia, at your command, sir!” She belted out, holding out an arm to gesture at the dozen pokegirls behind her. “I command the Queen’s Guard when Miss Furia is unable to do so.”
Andrew blinked. “Furia is nearly always indisposed.”
“Yessir.” Naiscia lowered her arm. “I am second only on formality. Sir.”
Andrew frowned, sparing a glance at Kuu. “That doesn’t seem fair to you, Naiscia.”
Naiscia beamed at him. “I don’t mind, sir. I have served Lady Kuu My Queen faithfully from the beginning, sir. In truth, I enjoy the perks of being My Queen’s second in practice, while avoiding the duties of truly being such.”
There was a low ripple of laughter from the pokegirls behind her and Andrew chuckled along. “I don’t blame you, Naiscia.” He looked at the four leaders in front of him. “And how does Naiscia stand compared to you?”
Nayrea spoke up first. “Lady Naiscia speaks for herself, just as we do. My Queen, and only My Queen, speaks for all.”
“So if Kuu ordered you to do something…”
“I would pass on the orders as my own, sir.” Nayrea smiled. “If my orders are incorrect, I will answer to My Queen.”
Andrew had never seen an Elf court before so he had no idea if what she was describing was normal or not, but he couldn’t see any signs of dissent from the nearly hundred pokegirls in front of him. “Thank you, Nayrea.”
Nayrea nodded. “You are welcome, sir.”
“Thank you all for meeting me.” Andrew ran his gaze over the court again, taking care to pick out each individual set of eyes. “Please, I must have interrupted whatever you were doing.”
Kuu laid her hand on his back as the pokegirls began drifting away again. “There will be some who want to meet you personally.”
“That’s why I’m here.” Andrew murmured back. “Are you aware of what Ashi has been doing? And is what Naiscia says true?”
“Naiscia has been my dear friend since I first evolved.” Kuu whispered back. “I trust her with my life. I celebrated when she evolved and rose through my personal ranks, because I knew she would serve me faithfully. Ashi is doing what she is because she has only recently come into her power, and through such a tragedy. I see no harm in allowing her to do as she wishes, and I do not worry because even if she attempts to break free, I am more than capable enough to bring her back. If I am not, Naiscia will assist; and if that fails, I know I have my sisters to help me.”
Andrew kept his eyes towards the dwindling court. “And if she and her followers want to leave?”
Kuu sighed. “Then I will mourn each of them, for no matter how they beg to return, they will have died in my eyes.”
“Hopefully it will not come to that.” Andrew cleared his throat when he saw two pokegirls drifting towards them. “I think I have my first admirers.”
Kuu laughed quietly when Andrew began talking to the twin elves. “Prepare for a long evening.”
He was exhausted.
Furia was curled up beside him, only the Wolf Queen’s twitching nose and occasional yawn betraying the fact that she was still awake. She had been the last of the court to find him that evening, firmly pushing between him and a Lupina that had taken one look at her and immediately vanished. Kuu had only waited long enough to verify there weren’t any others vying for his attention before leaving as well, allowing Furia to drag him back home and into bed.
He had been too tired to do much more than participate and Furia had quickly stopped trying, unhappily curling up and waiting for him to either respond to her advances or fall asleep. So far he was unable to do either.
The Wolf Queen’s eyes popped open. “King?”
“I’m sorry that I’m not able to give you what you need tonight.”
Furia sighed, air blowing across his face. “It ok.”
“It’s not.” Andrew murmured. “It’s not your fault that I wore myself out. If you were Ann, or Lyn, or maybe Cristina, I could have pretended. They’re not as active in bed. But you need more from me than that.”
Furia grinned, her sharp teeth glinting in the light. “Yes.”
“How about this.” Andrew turned and ran a finger along her furred ears. “I can do this much tonight, and tomorrow, I promise I’ll make it right.”
There was a low vibration in Furia’s chest and she nodded slightly. “Please.” She growled happily when he dug in, taking extra care to scratch behind her ears and throughout her hair. “Yesss.”
Her growls skipped between happy and horny as he worked his way around her body, speeding up and skipping areas when he heard her tone becoming more predatory. He knew how she got when she was only thinking of sex, and at that point, it wasn’t going to matter how tired he was.
Eventually Furia’s happy growls began to fade as she drifted off to sleep thanks to the attention. Andrew continued stroking her for a few more minutes before finally pulling his hands away, yawning slightly and allowing himself to doze off as well.
Three figures stood, watching him-
Andrew’s eyes snapped back open and he fought to control his breathing. He was sleeping. He’d managed to rest through the nightmares before. Just because he had one that had seemed prophetic didn’t mean anything. Statistically, it was bound to happen.
He was human. He couldn’t see the future. It was just a dream.
His eyes slowly slid shut again. One figure raised an arm, gesturing at him as its mouth began to move.
Andrew bolted upright, staring into the darkened bedroom. What was going on.
“Do not run, Dewlen.”
Andrew froze when the shadows began to thicken, the figures stepping into the room. “I’m still dreaming.”
The one that was speaking nodded. “In a way, you are. It has been a long time since you have been home, and we are happy to have reached you at last.”
“I have absolutely no idea what’s going on and I’m about to scream.” Andrew stated calmly, almost laughing when he felt his instincts kick in in response to the adrenaline. “I don’t know what you are, but there are dozens of superhumans in this place that would love nothing more than to kill you. Leave.”
The speaker shook its head. “You are sleeping, Dewlen. They can not hear you any more than they can hear us.”
Andrew’s resolve wavered slightly and he shoved at Furia. “Hey.” He began to panic when the Wolf Queen didn’t even stir. “WAKE UP!”
“This is no nightmare.” The speaker interrupted. “Please. Listen.”
Andrew whirled back to it. “Whatever you are I don’t want any. Leave me alone!”
“They have been injured.” Another figure spoke, much quieter than the first. “They are afraid of us.”
The first seemed to frown. “What scares you, Dewlen?”
“The last time I had voices in my head I killed the people I loved.” Andrew hissed. “Obviously you are not just voices in my head, or at least are acting like you aren’t, which is a great fucking change of pace. This time I don’t have to fool myself, I just have to get. You. OUT.”
The figures began murmuring, their voices indistinguishable to Andrew. Finally the speaker nodded. “You are not our Dewlen.”
“I have no god damned clue what a Dewlen is.” Andrew replied with a calmness he did not feel. “I don’t care what you want with this Dewlen, either. I have gotten no answers, and it is time for you to leave.”
“We believed you had returned.” The speaker shook its head. “Still, you are like him. You will-“
“No.” Andrew snapped. “I control my own dreams. Your hold on me is OVER!”
The figures cried out in surprise when the bedroom shattered, Andrew’s eyes shining with silver light. He grimaced when he felt an alien presence grabbing at him, and for an instant the featureless plains began to form; but he pushed back, striding relentlessly towards the rolling hills and lush forests that had always been his escape. As he got closer he felt another presence, and the third, but whatever they were they had lost their control and he burst into the sun.
Andrew glanced down, nodding slightly at his astral form before turning to face the three things behind him.
The humanoid shapes were roiling, the shadows and indistinct edges that had been what defined them blasted away by the sunlight. He watched as the speaker glanced at him before the presence swelled, pushing his own will to a standstill. Slowly the three came into focus until two nude men and a nude woman stood in front of him.
“You are not ours.” The lead man growled, his voice now rasping between a guttural growl and a human. “You have grown beyond him.”
“Welcome to my mind.” Andrew replied. “My name is Andrew, and apparently you are strong enough that I can’t simply force you out. But I do insist we meet on my own terms.”
The man grimaced. “You lie. You could force us out.”
“If I did, I sense it would kill you.” Andrew replied quietly. “And even though you have been rather rude, I don’t think I want to do that.”
The three remained silent until the woman nodded. “Thank you.” She whispered.
Andrew blinked at her tone. It was almost reminiscent of how Kuu spoke, and for a moment he began to get angry before realizing why. She almost whistled with her words, sounding more like a bird than a human. With a start he realized the lead man’s growls had also been nearly animalistic, like a bear or some great cat. “Now I have introduced myself.” He looked around. “Who, or what, are you?”
“If answers are what we must provide, then so be it.” The leader bowed his head. “We are what your people called spiritfolk. I took the name Bjorn when your people arrived across the waves, though the ones who came from the north called me other things.”
“You may call me Eywa.” The woman replied, looking to the third. “And this is Ormar. They do not speak often.”
“It is nice to finally meet each of you.” Andrew replied. “What do you mean by ‘my people’.”
“Humans.” Bjorn replied. “We were once many. Humans came, and for a time we were at peace, until the seas warmed and more began to flock to this land. We went into hiding, still interacting with few, but losing more and more of our territory to the humans. Eventually we had nowhere else to go, until the war came. Humans must have remembered us then because they crafted weapons in our image, using them to cull their own in a terrifying display.”
“You’re talking about Sukebe.”
Bjorn nodded. “That is what they called him.”
“You speak as if you’re thousands of years old.”
Bjorn’s mouth broke into a smile. “A year is nothing to us. If we wished, we would never die.” A shadow crossed his face. “Many lost that wish.”
Andrew nodded. “The ones you interacted with,” he muttered, “the ones you hid with, what did they call themselves?”
“They called themselves many things.” Bjorn replied. “Just as they called us many things. I never cared to remember what.”
“You would know.” Eywa addressed Andrew. “You were one of them - or, I suppose since you are not the Dewlen we know, might have been.”
“The tribes had many names.” Andrew muttered. “And we had many names for you, as well.” He glanced up at the three. “I had always believed you a myth.”
Bjorn chuckled. “We nearly were.”
“Why did you seek me out?” Andrew whispered. “I denounced my mother’s heritage, I left the tribe. There must be others who did not abandon your memory so callously as I did.”
“It is because you abandoned us that we wished to find you again.” Bjorn and Eywa stepped aside as Ormar began to speak, each syllable hissing past his teeth. “When the war came, your line was broken, and many believed it lost. Those who despaired remembered you and some left, traveling and braving the destruction to beg far courts for news on your travels. Many did not return, and once more, you were believed lost. Until you appeared. Suddenly and from nowhere, a gift returning home.”
Andrew glanced at Eywa. “I thought you said he didn’t talk much.”
Eywa laughed quietly. “Ormar does not speak often, but when they do, they have much to say.”
“What are you talking about, ‘my line’.” Andrew raised his hands helplessly. “What’s so special about me? I’m just a human.”
“Your sire was, that is true.” Bjorn rumbled. “But your dam, ah, She was not.”
“She was a proud one.” Bjorn bowed their head. “She upheld her past honorably. She was one of the first to realize our future, and take a human as a mate.”
“She... was a spirit?”
“She was.” Bjorn shifted uncomfortably. “What, did she call herself for you?”
“Jane was more than just any spiritfolk.” Bjorn smiled slightly as he remembered. “Each of us has a natural form we take, with the older and more skilled able to take more. But she... she was the daughter of the one your people called the Great Spirit. We knew her mother - your grandmother - as Hvavena. To the humans she was the creator, but for us, she was more; she was our eldest, our first living memory. She lived until she had passed her legacy to your mother, and so faded from our present. Your mother believed she would one day do the same, but millennia passed, and she had no child. Eventually we all began to fade. She took your father almost in desperation, but the miracle that occurred was incredible.”
“You.” Bjorn nodded. “But you were not destined to stay. You inherited your father’s human spirit, just as you inherited her strength. You left, and soon after, disappeared.”
“On my world I was stolen, ripped away and held hostage in Europe.” Andrew muttered. “I only made it back to this continent recently, and on yet another new world.”
“Your reasons for leaving may be different, but you are still the living child of Hvavena. You carry her power within you.”
“Is that why you have found me?” Andrew’s voice grew sharp. “You believe I have this power, and you want it back?” The hesitance he saw in Bjorn’s face was all he needed. “That is why I disappeared.” Andrew growled. “Others thought I had power and wanted it for themselves. Call it my “human spirit” if you wish, but I do not bow to anyone. No matter who they may be.”
Bjorn looked like they were going to argue for a few moments before nodding. “Very well. Your existence will breath hope into our people, and that is enough for now. We will speak again.”
“Oh, we most certainly will.” Andrew muttered under his breath, watching the three vanish.
Col. Andrew Ranger
(Tech Ops) Maj. Cortney
(Strike) Maj. Aella
(Logistics) Maj. Lyn
(Advisor) Cpt. Nevaeh
(Defense) Cpt. Kuu
(Beta) Cpt. Cristina
(Medic) Cpt. Gale
(Council) Cpt. Rein (Ret.)
Sgt. Yang (Ret.)
Aella – (Hunter) Shinryu – Alpha
Cristina – (Blessed, Fiendish) Ophanim – Beta
Cortney – (Upgraded) Videogirl
Fu – Warvern
Lucina – Shadowcat
Nami – Sharptits
Constance – Tank Vixxen
Gale – Night Nurse
Shamira – Goldina
Nevaeh – (Blessed, Fiendish) G-Splice
Melody – Wet Queen
Ann – Ice Empress
Nova – Blazicunt
Furia – (Fiendish) Wolf Queen
Rein – Myobu
Ishara – Romanticide
Kuu – Elfqueen
Lyn – Archmage
Yang – Nereidame
Daria – Vampire
Camiel – (Paragon) Archangel
Albia – (Hunter) G-Splice