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Day 40

Lanternon2 Feb 1st, 2016 999 Never
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  1. Day 40
  2.  
  3. I pull back my hood, and the footsteps behind me stop with an audible gasp.  They'd been very quiet for a good ten seconds before the thing had started to sprint.  I turn to look at what I discover is an older holstaur, staring at me with wide, startled eyes.  It must be thirty years old.  For a second, I think my expression mirrored its own.
  4.  
  5. “What were you doing,” I finally ask.  It jumps at the suddenness of it and glances around, as though I were asking someone else that question.
  6. It ums and ahs, finally, as it begins searching for some explanation.  I don't need one, though; the fading redness of its face is explanation enough. There's a pneumatic hiss, followed by the thing hissing in pain as it clutches its arm.  It looks at the tuft of red sticking out of it.  “I'm issuing you a summary exile, ma'am, for the attempted rape of a paladin of Megalos.”  I tuck the pistol-like device back into my coat as I continue, “You have been tagged, and now have twenty-four hours to gather your belongings and make your way to a gate.  After that point, you will be found and you will be forcefully taken.  Any men accompanying you will be thoroughly inspected for coercion, magical or mundane.”  I take a breath, refilling my lungs after that little spiel.
  7.  
  8. “But it's a full moon,” it protests as it finally finds its voice again.
  9. “You know, that's what the last twelve women said.  I still don't know why.”
  10. “I couldn't help it.”
  11. I smile at it.  “Well, then I couldn't help what I did.”  My voice finds a slightly happier tone as a thought strikes me: “It's in no way due to your weak will or malignancy, and no one's to blame.  Isn't that great?”  It looks back down to its arm as it begins pulling out the syringe.  “There's a way that you could stay that I've been thinking of, though,” I begin.  It looks up at me, hopefully.  “If you gouge that thing out of yourself, or just cut off your arm, then I guess you'd be free to stay, now wouldn't you?”  I smile at bit more as the things eyes somehow manage to open even wider.  “Have a good day, ma'am.”
  12.  
  13. I wonder how many other monsters manage to hit thirty without finding a husband as I turn and walk off, continuing my duties.  My phone tells me that I've another six hours before sunrise.  My thoughts are slightly distracted by the sobbing, but the sound fades quickly.
  14.  
  15. ---
  16.  
  17. “Hey, I just wanted to talk,” the cat-thing says as it backs slowly away, arms lifted in a placating gesture.
  18. “Oh,” I start, advancing so that our relative distance remains the same.  “Well in that case, let's talk.  I want to hear this conversation you want to hold with a paladin under a full moon.”  It's eyes dart over me, and then away to one of the walls of the alley.  “Don't run.  You could outrun my sword, but not my gun.”  It freezes in place at that.  I try not to laugh at the thing's foolishness, but I don't succeed.  The thing jumps slightly at the pneumatic hiss, but doesn't seem to notice the impact of the dart.  “I'm issuing you a summary exile, miss, for the attempted rape of a paladin of Megalos.  You have been tagged, and now have twenty-four hours to gather your belongings and make your way to a gate.  After that point, you will be found and you will be forcefully taken.  Any men accompanying you will be thoroughly inspected for coercion, magical or mundane.”
  19.  
  20. By the end of my spiel it had found and quickly pulled out the tuft of red from its midsection.  “That won't help; the tag went in the second it hit.  The only way to get it out now would be to gouge it out of there.”  It stares at me in shock, its slitted eyes shining back the little light of the streetlamp some thirty feet away.  
  21. Its voice shakes as it asks “And if I did, what would happen then?”
  22. I smile at it as the gears turn in its head.  “Well, I guess you'd be free to stay, now wouldn't you?”
  23.  
  24. I leave it to think on that.  There's only one sob from this one; it's more experienced in manipulating others' emotions.  That won't save it now, though.
  25.  
  26. I pull out my phone and hit the green button before it can ring a second time.  “Sir?”
  27. “How goes the morning, Vic?  Haven't heard a peep from you all day.”  The autocrat's voice seems tired, but upbeat.  It's good to know that he's happy about something.
  28. “Been busy, sir.”
  29. “Oh?  What's your count tonight?”
  30. “Eighteen, and I think it's technically morning now.”  I almost don't get to finish that as a whistle comes out over the tinny speaker.
  31. “Eighteen?  Damn, they must smell something they like.  Everyone else is reporting lower numbers than usual; I guess they must be goin' after the pretty one.”
  32. “Well sir, I can't say I'm pleased that I suit their tastes.”
  33. Another hearty laugh.  “Well, I for one, am.  It's good to have you around, Vic.  Shame you decided on your order already.  You would've made a fine heartbreaker.”
  34. I wait a moment, thinking.  “Thank you, sir.”  There isn't anything more to say.  
  35. “Well, I'll let you get back to work.  Wouldn't want my star paladin of the evening held up.  Happy hunting.”
  36. “And you, sir.”  The phone lights up again, letting me know that the call is over.
  37.  
  38. I set off, wondering about the decisions I've made.  My thoughts turn to the Order of the Twisted Knife.  If the autocrat thought so, then I really might've been a good heartbreaker.  What is it I've done that would mark me as a Reclaimant, aside from the seal on the armor that sits unused in my closet?
  39.  
  40. I set myself back on the road.  I'm too busy to really consider this tonight.
  41.  
  42. ---
  43.  
  44. I continue to stare down the alley, certain that I saw something.  It's like the shadows moved.  With the first step forward there's another, much greater flash of movement and then I feel myself bodily yanked forward and twisted around.  A single second of confusion is all that was required for me to feel my entire body bound as I stare up at a sliver of a starry night sky, and then the naked upper body of what should rightfully be a beautiful human, but which I know is not.  My hood slips back from my head, and its eyes dart to my neck.  I smile at her then, even as her pale hair slowly shifts to drape over us.  “Good morning, miss.  How fares it?”
  45. I feel its hold begin to release as I watch the starlight reflect off of the moving scales of its once again moving body.  “I, uh,” it begins with all the eloquence that I've become used to these things having.  “Sorry, I thought you were my husband.”  It smiles a placating smile down at me as its grotesquely elongated lower body shifts to put me back on my feet.
  46. “Wow.  What are the odds that my spirit energy would exactly match his?”  She laughs a small, nervous laugh at that, as though he hadn't thought that I knew how monsters picked their hapless food sources from a crowd.  “Don't worry, you don't have to answer that.  A mage told me in school.  The odds are exactly one in infinity, to one against.”
  47.  
  48. It doesn't get the chance to react before the hissing shot interrupts our conversation.  It freezes in place, staring at the red tuft sticking out from its chest.  “I'm issuing you a summary exile, miss, for the attempted rape of a paladin of Megalos.  You have been tagged, and now have twenty-four hours to gather your belongings and make your way to a gate.  After that point, you will be found and you will be forcefully taken.  Any men accompanying you will be thoroughly inspected for coercion, magical or mundane.” It gingerly touches its chest as I talk, offering the first tentative tugs on the syringe before pulling it out.
  49. It turns back to look at me once I'm done.  “What's going to happen to me?”
  50. “Well, with luck you'll live a comfortable and contented life out in the wilds.”  Its eyes unfocus again as they turn back toward the ground.  “Of course,” I begin, and wait for its eyes to turn back up to me, “if you could get that chip out, you'd be able to stay.  You might need to amputate in order to do so, though.”  
  51.  
  52. I wait for it to react, but it doesn't.  Its eyes simply stare somewhere past me as its expression grows slowly more relaxed.  Not the reaction I was expecting, but somehow gratifying all the same.  I turn and leave as it busies itself with what appears to be a pile of clothes nearby, and then the only sound is from my footsteps.
  53.  
  54. “Mom?”  The thing's voice cracks, then breaks as it answers back “Y'eah, it's m-.”
  55. I'm looking at it as it bends over.  The only light is from its phone, and yet there's a shimmering, colorful display on the alley wall.  The light twists into beautiful pattern in a half-dozen colors for a single instant, and then it disappears as the droplet of water it had passed through falls to the ground.  
  56.  
  57. “I'm sorry,” she whispers into the phone.
  58.  
  59. “I'm sorry.”
  60.  
  61. ---
  62.  
  63. “Hey there.”  I turn to the thing sauntering toward me.  The slightest light of dawn is just starting to turn the world that early morning grey-blue, but I can make out the humanoid shape of it.  What I can make out far more easily is the faint, purple glow behind its eyes.  “Come here.”  I do, quickly turning and walking toward it.  The thing half-laughs at this, but at this distance I can see that it's breathing too hard and too deeply to really laugh.  A pair of wings stretch out from its lower back, twitching slightly as it smiles up at me.  Its eyes stare into mine as it takes a deep breath and asks “Well, won't you do what you want with me?”  I hesitate a moment before reaching out and cupping its cheeks, slowly pulling it closer.  It lets out a breathy sigh.  “Mmm, a romantic?  Well, I guess this is fine to start.”
  64. I pull hard, and the world flashes briefly white as the crack echoes down the street.
  65.  
  66. I pull out the dart gun and point it down at the curled up figure as it clutches its head.  The pneumatic hiss seems to go ignored by the thing.  I put the gun away and begin massaging my own forehead as I begin my spiel.  “I'm issuing you a summary exile, miss, for the attempted rape of a paladin of Megalos.  You have been tagged, and now have twenty-four hours to gather your belongings and make your way to a gate.  After that point, you will be found and you will be forcefully taken.  Any men accompanying you will be thoroughly inspected for coercion, magical or mundane.”
  67. Amidst the constant whimpering that began shortly after I started talking, I make out the word “How?”
  68. I smile down at the idiot.  “If you don't know how your own magic works, then all the better for any men you meet in the future.”
  69.  
  70. I turn and start to walk off before I hear it cry out for me to stop.  I do so, and turn back to the pitiful little thing.  It's staring up at me from the ground now.  “Isn't there something I can do?  Some way I could stay?”
  71. “Well,” I begin.  
  72.  
  73. It's still staring at me.  There's hope in its eyes.
  74.  
  75. I take a breath to answer, and to banish the colorful motes from my vision.  “No, I'm afraid not.”
  76.  
  77. I turn and I head off, back to the hall.  Morning has come.
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