6th of Readying 383 ONT, Champion’s Boot: Rikka’s Cot
Doom, doom, DOOM!
The footsteps boomed behind her as Rikka ran fear granting her an unmatched swiftness and blurred the world around her. Yet she could not shake the steeps, could not shake the approaching shadow at her back.
Doom, doom, DOOM!
It was going to catch her. It was going to find her and there was nothing she could do to stop it. But to face it, to try and fight it was to die. So Rikka ran seeking succour where she could. And then she saw it, that very familiar sight of her family’s estate just outside of High Port. The elegant lines and arches making it look more grown than built but she knew it well for she’d spent the majority of her life within kilometers of its foundation. In front stood her parents and she raced towards them. But as she approached they both crossed their arms and the door boomed shut behind them.
Rikka stopped looking at first her mother then her father and the disapproval etched into their faces much as she had left them so many years before. “Be gone from this place and haunt us no more. Your wicked perversion of the Arts has cursed you and we shall not offer you shelter.” Rikka wanted to respond, to deny their words and accuse them of not being open to the diverseness of the Arts but the image began to darken and fade with the approach of the shadow at her back. She fled.
Doom, doom, DOOM!
Her steps led her to a temple, one dedicated to Ymeri and standing on the lowest step was Kaho. She raced forward to the Priestess knowing that she held the favour of the goddess and could aid in the battle against this shadow. Yet the closer she got the less of a priestess Kaho looked. First her clothes shimmered and changed to a drab and worn brown. Then her hair was shorn in half and her bearing shifted to someone afraid and unsure of themselves. Rikka stopped at the base of the step as Kaho turned an accusing eye on her for the other was swollen shut.
“Why did you have to meddle? Did you really think you were saving me? I could’ve atoned for my failure and found peace with Ymeri. And you, YOU could not help but meddle. Because of you I gave into temptation and because of you I am lost. Be gone from this place and haunt me no more.” She drew a wicked looking jade dagger and plunged it into her chest. Rikka fled.
Doom, doom, DOOM!
The crunch of stone and dirt became the tap of boots on stone as the scene changed again on Rikka. Standing in front of the embassy she saw Alyss. Dried left tracks for the corners of her eyes and down her cheeks as she glared at Paprikka. At her feet lay the dead body of Aurellia. “You failed to save my love then spurned the love I offered. You begged for help and again denied me my price and in doing so doomed everyone. His death, her death,” She pointed at the now smouldering body of Aurellia, “Are your sins.”
A tall man stepped from the shadows and embraced Alyss. His Gibson-blue eyes glared out at Rikka. “I paid the price you would not. Be gone from this place and haunt us no more.” As they turned to each other and embraced in a passionate kiss she fled.
Doom, doom, DOOM!
The world shifted as fast as she moved and she felt the planking of the Champion’s Boot beneath her feet. She staggered to a stop met with the entirety of the grim-faced crew. Not one offered her friendship but many offered words she did not want to hear. One by one they walked in line to her as if giving final words to a departed soul. Rikka tried to move but found herself bound in place by the cords of Prancer’s rope arm.
“You could not replace him, no one could. How dare you even try.” Mandy slapped Rikka hard across the cheek and stepped past.
Flitt hopped forward the small panty-caped mouse on his froggy shoulder. “Mousekins says you did not like the gift and are not worthy of the gift and you look at him strangely and he does not like it so you need to go.”
Odd as that was there was no time to dwell on it for Thalion quickly took Flitt’s place. He shook his head with pity in his eyes. “You are not a real elf. A real elf would face that which stalks you with head held high and spear in hand.”
“You tried to steal my phrase. Stupid elf, to anger a god so.” The Stryx tsked and walked past not bothering to look at her. She struggled against her bonds and felt them loosen as Prancer left her to walk with Miriel.
She was then jabbed in the ribs by the surly dwarven first mate. “Can’t tie knots, don’t know yer starboard from yer port. Was a mistake to rescue you girl. Most useless elf I’ve ever met. Good riddance.”
She watch the dwarf hobble away but a gentle hand on her shoulder brought Rikka around and face to face with the Captain. The sadness and pity she saw brought her to tears as did his words. “It is not right. None of this is right but it is what must be. Everything has a price. Be gone from this place and haunt us no more.”
“No,” she whispered. Drawing her blade the ebon edge drinking in the light. Feeling the steady weight of it in her hand she gained confidence. “No!” She repeated straightening her shoulder and standing taller. “NO!” She shouted raising her black blade high in defiance and the world and people around her melted to golden sands.
Doom, doom, DOOM!
The sun shone mercilessly down on her and the sands sucked at her feet with the shaking from the shadow that followed. Rikka scrambled to keep from being pulled under but there was nowhere that was immune to the pulling and the most she could do is keep from being pulled under. Beside her, standing on the shifting sand was the Fey she’d met before. His amused expression annoyed her even as she reached out to him for aid.
“Well this is a fine pickle you find yourself in.” He crouched, a small toy shovel appearing in his hand as he began to dig.
“Help me, please.”
“I think not. You chose to remain insane. I was only trying to help and you threatened me. This is your mess and you can deal with it yourself. Dust to dust and all that.” He tossed the shovelful of sand on her head and laughing disappeared.
Rikka was beginning to tire. The sand was winning and her desperation was growing. Then the entire world shook and she felt it all lifted up. From beyond a giant pane of glass an eye the size of the sun looked down at her. It was difficult to tell but it looked like a giant version of Pan and she was now inside an hourglass. Whether or not she was tiny and he normal sized or he was giant did not change the fact that she was being sucked down through the neck and running out of sand. “Dense is not the right word for what you are, but it is amusing to watch you flail and fall. And I am curious to see how this plays out.”
“I don’t understand and you didn’t help. Why even talk to me if you were not going to help? For a god you did nothing but mock me. Why show me your realm? Why talk to me at all if not to help me?” The sands were all but gone and she scrabbled against the hard glass sides to keep from sliding too far down. “If my life is to be cut short why do you not save it then? You are a god, there is nothing you can’t do.”
Pan did not answer and she began hammering at the glass with her sword. “If you refuse to help then don’t expect me to just give in to whatever is supposed to happen. I will fight with everything I have to live. Even if that means fighting gods.”
“But can you fight fate?” Pan asked and her sword began to writhe in her grip shifting to become an eon serpent that coiled around her wrist and arm before sinking its fangs into her shoulder. Rikka cried out and fell grabbing for the snake’s head as even her sword turned on her. Down she fell through the neck and towards the shadow that waited below. It opened its maw to swallow her whole and she screamed in fear…
A strong hand grabbed her ankle and halted her plunge a few feet from the snapping darkness below. Shaking with fear she looked up and saw a chain of people all linked together holding her from falling. Thalion, Miriel, Horace/Aurellia and even Flitt. She could feel the strength holding her back and relief washed over her even as the dream faded into the early morning light.
Step, turn, step and thrust. Spin, duck and double slice spinning upwards to end balanced on one foot and blade extended skyward. A deep breath signalled the start of the next set of moves with her dropping into a roll and coming out of it into a lunge with a second set of horizontal slices. Each move was timed with the song in her head and mirrored by her sword’s own thrumming rhythm as they battled unseen enemies across the foredeck. Shadows stretched long behind her as the evening sun settled on the horizon dancing in time to her movements. The gentle pitch of the ship and the various obstacles on the deck made perfect obstacles to force her into adjusting her sequences into something that fit combat on board a ship. Perspiration shone on her brow but she was not close to stopping. Her shift was not set to begin for another two hours and she would use that time to train.
It had been a terrible dream. One of haunting portents she dared not think about, not right now. Instead she took solace in the end where she’d been saved and was determined to be found worthy of friends like that. And that meant working hard and doing what she could to be an asset not a hindrance. It would also help to keep the dream or any dreams away if she did not let herself relax and ensured that it was an exhausted sleep that found her every night.
She became the first to volunteer for any extra work and assignments. She was first on shift and first to lend a hand if there was nothing else for her to do. Rikka’s eyes shone with a desperate light as she trained and practiced hard wherever and whenever she could find the space. Early mornings were good near the bow and later a section of the hold where she’d first identified the magical items they’d recovered became a different kind of obstacle course. Through it all she kept smiling, tried her best to remain cheerful and banish the fatigue that began to eat at her.
When it came for her she would be ready and she would show Pan that help or no she would indeed fight whatever fate had in store for her. There was no other choice, right?