Paladin (series)

harblador May 4th, 2015 (edited) 2,729 Never
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  1. Contents                                        line    comments
  2. Rescue                                          12      suffering
  3. Care                                            50      literal healing
  4. Breakthrough                                    92      figurative healing
  5. Desire                                          130     lechery
  6. Disgrace                                        168     vigilantism
  7. Exile                                           214     black magic [END]
  8. CASE Archives                                   252     epilogue: quite a bit later
  10.    ***   ***   ***
  12.         Rescue
  14. The stench of death looms strong in a dark room. Two dessicated carcasses hang from the ceiling, suspended by chains attached to their arms partially above, partially inside pits in the floor. A third man barely clings to life between them. This has been his home for years now, and it shows - his muscles are atrophied, his arms fester with countless cuts from the chains. He stares into the gloom, lost in a state of emptiness.
  16. He barely notices a beautiful, horned woman wrap her arms around him. Her tail whips the air behind her as her hand massages his worn-down penis. It quickly hardens - a conditioned reflex, nothing more, as he has long since ceased to enjoy it. He stares into the darkness behind her in silence as she maneuvers her genitals onto him. With a wet slurp she envelops him.
  18. The woman leers at her helpless victim, delighted with his sorry state. She pushes and pulls at him with her arms to pump his penis in and out of her, enjoying the act more as an act of sadism than sexually. After some minutes he grunts, barely audibly - still staring, and ejaculates inside her. The woman moans, almost seductively to normal ears, but to the man it is only an insult.
  22. "So, boy, how long will you keep feeding me, hmm?" She whispers in his ear, her voice dripping with honey and malice. "You have such vitality, I'm surprised you've survived this long." Her tail traces the curves of his other ear as she speaks. She slowly grinds herself into his flaccid member. "Well, that's why you're so delicious, isn't it? It'll almost be a shame to suck you dry..."
  24. The woman's pause for effect is suddenly broken by the sound of shattering wood. One of the planks boarding the windows shatters, letting in a blinding ray of daylight. The woman barely has enough time to pull her still-dripping hole off him before a hissing, sparking orb is tossed in through the broken plank. It bounces once before exploding into an inferno of blinding light.
  26. The disoriented woman reels, falling on her knees with the shock of the blast, blinded by the light. She can only hear the door to her hideout shatter with another blast, almost simultaneous with the first. The din of the sounds and lights barely subsides before a tall figure strides us to her. The backlit shadow winds a sword behind its shoulder, twisting its hips and arms. She lifts her claw to defend herself, but the shadow steps forward, bringing the sword crashing down with a silver flash, interlocking metal plates sliding and turning as an entire body comes together to strike at her.
  30. Pain. Pain in her fingers. Pain in her neck. Pain in her chest. Why is this happening? Pain is something the slaves feel, not demons like her. No. Is she dying? She turns her head to look down, only to find the sword protruding from between her breasts. Black blood drips onto the floor, hissing as it burns away at the sandstone. How is this happening? She was supposed to live forever... That's what all these worthless dicks died for...
  32. The demon looks up at her faceless foe, lifting her now mangled hand up to it. Nothing. No magic, no claws. Tears of pain well in her eyes as the shadow takes one hand off the hilt, dropping a lather glove onto the floor. Long, slender fingers extend to grasp her skull, the palm blocking her sight. Suddenly a light seems to grow inside the hand, first only a slight glow, then brighter and brighter until it burns her eyes. She yelps in terror.
  34. Her scream of pain and terror is cut short by the collapsing structure of the pile of ash and bones that was only moments ago a demon. The sword falls free as the flesh it was buried in burns away, and the armored shadow sheathes it with a practised movement. It looks around, seemingly certain that the battle is finished. It is clear at first clance that the two men are dead, and the shadow steps to the only living among them.
  38. "G-Gian!?" The paladin almost screams in shocked realization. "Is it really you?" He feels soft hair press onto his gaunt cheek as the armored figure embraces him. "I thought you were dead! Oh god, I never thought I'd see you again!" Gian's eyes slowly come to focus in the newly bright room, stained with blood, semen, and dark magic. He strains to look the paladin in the eye.
  40. "Ah... Mistress is too cruel~" The paladin recoils in shock at his croaking voice. "Today Mistress is Vittoria, again? Ahn..." The paladin's face contorts into a mask of pain as she realizes what's going on. "This is a new Vittoria, Mistress? Scarred? An adult? This time she's a heroine come to rescue me..." Suddenly his eyes glaze over again, his shoulders slump. "No, Mistress. I won't fall for it again. I will never be saved..."
  42. "Gian?! Gian! No! It's me! Hold on...!" Vittoria scrambles to open the chains around his dessicated arms. Gian almost falls into the pit below him, his slack form only held up by her steel-covered arms. He feels so light, barely like a human being at all. Vittoria almost whispers, half to herself, her voice filled with newfound desperation: "Please live, Gian! I'll get you to the temple! Just a few minutes more!" She cradles his fragile body in her arms as she desperately carries him out, into the blinding light he hasn't seen in years.
  48.    ***   ***   ***
  50.         Care
  52. Bandages stained with blood and pus litter the floor. The stench of death intermingles with those of herbs and smoke, and that of sewage drifting from the open window. The sunlight filters through overcast skies, lighting the dark, wooden floor only barely more brightly than the brickwork walls. A young woman sits beside a bed, washing her hands with lye in a wooden bucket.
  54. Vittoria's face is drawn to a terse expression of worry. The scar across her jaw throbs, as it often does under stress. The dull ache, or even the memory of the sharp pain of demonic claws rending her delicate skin, doesn't come close to the pain of her anxiety. For now, everything is done - Gian's wounds are dressed and his bandages changed. It seems certain that he will live, but in what state?
  56. He has barely spoken a word to her in the last three days. Even when he does, he calls her Mistress. How disgusting. Vittoria shudders and performs a sign of blessing as she remembers burning that worthless Succubus to dust. What had it done to him? Had the same creature taken him all those years ago? She feels nauseous at the thought - that godless abomination holding him all these years, while she thought she had lost him forever.
  60. "I'm sorry, Gian..." Her clenched fists press into the leather hose covering her thighs. Her shoulders quiver as she fights back tears. "I'm sorry it took so long...!" He does not respond. As before, he lies silent, staring at the ceiling. The silence lets Vittoria fall further into her thoughts, or perhaps despair. She can only hope he will someday return to her from whatever mental refuge that monster has driven him into.
  62. Vittoria wipes away the tears welling in her eyes. She just has to keep at it. His body can be healed, and perhaps he will recover mentally afterwards. She sighs as she extends her hands to gently grasp his left forearm, the bandages already beginning to grow red. A faint blue light shimmers from between her fingers as she works to heal the wounds. Suddenly she snaps away from her trance. A groan.
  64. Gian's eyes move - he looks her in the eye. Vittoria's grey eyes shimmer with hope as she meets her gaze. Slowly his lips move. "Mistress is so devious... How does She keep up this illusion for so long, I wonder?" Vittoria's lips purse with disappointment. "It feels so good, Mistress... Is this a new way of milking...?" She trembles as she listens to his words. Why won't he believe her? What had that, that whore done to poison his mind?
  68. "I am so full, Mistress!" Vittoria stares at him as he squirms on the bed. What does that even mean? It feels so painful to not understand him like they always had. She sighs and begins to stand up. She should get some lunch already. Suddenly she freezes - his thing is standing up. Is that what it means? He is ready to be violated by that vile thing? Why now? Did she somehow set it off?
  70. "Gian... I'm not that monster, please believe me!" Gian continues to squirm, now almost trash, on the bed. "Gian, stop! You'll tear your wounds!" He doesn't stop. He moans and groans as his penis flops in the air. Vittoria falls onto him in an attempt to restrain him, but he continues to struggle, groaning like a zombie. She scrables to grasp him securely enough to keep him still.
  72. Suddenly, wish a slight moan, he flops still like a dead fish. Vittoria sighs in relief, her long, freely flowing hair settling onto his fragile chest. Suddenly she realizes what happened - her slender yet calloused hand is wrapped around his shaft. "...Gian?! What... Why?! Do you want to get violated!?" Tears well in her eyes as she realizes how damaged Gian has become.
  76. She has to calm him down. It's for his good, even if it's dirty. There's no other way. Vittoria clumsily strokes his shaft with her hand as she rests her head on his chest. It's so different now, nothing like she remembers from the cold mountain brook so many years before. It's so... Red! It throbs in her grasp, as if alive. What should she even do with it? Is she doing it right?
  78. Gian softly moans as she pumps the skin back and forth over his head. Suddenly she hears a barely audible whisper: "Mistress has become a better actress? Last time Vittoria-Mistress was too good..." She says nothing. It's not like his mumbling is directed at her, anyway. He always talks to himself, or maybe that fetid pile of charred bones she dumped in the harbor. It somehow feels less painful to just ignore it.
  80. Finally he shudders under her, his hips twitch as if possessed, and a sticky white fluid shoots out of him and all over Vittoria's hand. This is semen? She realizes she had grown to adulthood without seeing it fresh. Monster dens were always stained all over with it, but like this? Guilt washes over her, this is utterly against her vows. She scrambles to her feet, holding her sticky hand well away from herself until she plunges it into the lye-water.
  84. Gian fell asleep as soon as he came. Vittoria sits in the mess hall, an untouched plate in front of her. This is all so wrong. Her vows, will she have to keep breaking them to keep him calm? He has to survive. Gian is the most important thing. Vittoria's stomach grows cold at the thought of betraying her god and order. No matter. She will do whatever it takes to save him.
  90.    ***   ***   ***
  92.         Breakthrough
  94. Amber sunlight mixes with candles in a holy library. Vittoria sits in front of a veritable mountain of books, each tome of demonology heavy enough to kill a man with. A cold hatred fuels her, a hatred for the monster that took him away from her - but also hatred at herself. What was wrong with her? How could Gian keep mistaking her for that beast after weeks? Can't he see how much it hurts her? What must she do to make him see?
  96. So far there has been no answer. No spell or prayer to make him see. God only knows how long the creature's bouts of disguise and misdiection have been. Can she wait it out? Will he slowly realize that this is no fiendish plot to torment him? Despair fills Vittoria as she imagines months or years of being rejected as the enemy by Gian. She sits back in her chair. Partially to take a break, partially afraid of staining the ancient book with tears.
  98. As the final rays of sunlight fall through the tiny pieces of glass held by lead, Vittoria perks up. Her tired eyes sharpen as she jumps forward in her seat, straining to focus on the faint handwriting. Her breath grows rapid as she mouths out the words. As a manifestation of lust and debauchery, the Succubus' transformations and illusions have a limitation. Vittoria springs to action, letting the chair fall behind her as she runs towards her cell.
  102. The door bursts open to reveal Gian lying, as he always does, motionless in her bed. She collects herself as she closes the door beind her, leaving them in relative peace. With pursed lips Vittoria strides to the head of her bed and bends over to kiss his forehead. Her long, silver hair grazes his cheek as she does. As if clockwork, Gian opens his eyes and becomes erect. "Ahn... Mistress is still Vittoria? So persistent, Mistress!"
  104. "No, Gian. I AM the real Vittoria and now I know how to prove it to you." She straightens her back. Her woollen jacket is opened and pulled off in one smooth movement, revealing a plain linen shirt and trousers hidden underneath. With another twist of her wrists and a pace, Vittoria has left her trousers behind as well. Only the stiff linen shirt hanging from her bound bust hides her body from him. Muscular shins and shapely thighs peek from under the hem and between the slits of her shirt.
  106. "Mistress won't fool me. Never again." Resignation rings in both Gian's words and tone. It cuts Vittoria like a knife. "You are the only one fooling you here, Gian. Shut up." Vittoria gathers her hem as she climbs onto the bed. She bends down to kiss Gian again, this time on the cheek. "Just watch." The sight of his pulsating member twitching in the cool air gives her an almost familiar feeling, faintly remembered from years before. She pivots on her knees to bring it to her entrance.
  110. The rigid penis stands at Vittoria's lips, pulsating in tune with his circulation. She swallows as she prepares to vault the wall inside her head. Shivers run down her spine as she kneels on the treshold of betraying every ideal she has strived to follow these many years. She shouldn't. She knows she will regret it with the very next breath. She must. If this won't convince him, nothing will.
  112. Suddenly her powerful, meaty thighs strike her heels. A muffled grunt rings through the cell as Vittoria's already partially torn hymen bursts under the weight of her own body. Her shoulders tense with the sensation of penetration - as well as the shame of betrayal. Her head swims with the conflicting emotions. Slowly she regains her senses, and rises to her knees. The moment of truth has arrived.
  114. Vittoria crawls forward on all fours, aiming her hips over Gian's face. She lowers her big, powerful hips to his face with a slow, but deliberate thrust. Her stomach knots with dreadful anticipation as her lips touch his, staining him with a trickle of fresh blood. Slowly it filters through and into his mouth, then his tongue. A familiar, metallic sensation fills his mouth. Suddenly the usually docile wreck of a man begins to trash and mumble, muffled by Vittoria's hips.
  118. Her wet flesh leaves behind a lingering strand of fluid as she lifts her crotch off his face. She desperately hopes this fit is not just his usual desperation to orgasm as she climbs off the bed and spins to face Gian. His face is filled with emotion for the first time since the rescue, but his words are an indistinct, hurried mess. Vittoria kneels at the bedside to bring her ear closer to him. Slowly the she realizes that two words repeat over and over. "I'm sorry."
  120. In an instant Vittoria's arms shoot around his head and shoulders. Her lips quiver as she pulls him into a desperate embrace. She strokes his still gaunt cheeks as she whispers to him: "It's alright, Gian. It's over. It's over..." Gian weakly flails on the bed, trying to reach her with his dessicated arms to no effect. Slowly he calms down as her rough hands continue to stroke his cheek. Instead, he begins to sob. First softly, then with more and more force.
  122. Vittoria cradles Gian's head with one hand, holding him against her linen-clad shoulder. Finally. Finally she got through to him. Her soft hair cushions their heads, brushing against his cheek with every jerking sob. "Vittoria...!" Gian's halting words are spaced by halting sobs. "She wore your face, Vitta!" She knows. His ramblings made that much clear. "It hurt so much! She looked just like you did..." Vittoria continues to comfort him, until a final whisper freezes her blood. "I love you."
  128.    ***   ***   ***
  130.         Desire
  132. Love. That's what he said, that's what has rattled around in her skull these last two weeks. Love. It's what she always wanted to hear, but now...? Solemn vows are indissoluble. Even if she wanted to be with him, it would be impossible. If she wanted? No. She does want - needs. The torrent of thoughts races around Vittoria's minds even as burning lights shoot out of her eyes and mouth of the Succubus in her chokehold.
  134. Slowly her palm burns its way to to the skull of the demon, and her flesh disappears as dust in the wind. Vittoria barely flinches as the alley suddenly grows dark again. The charred bones fall onto the naked hips of a young man, silently crying from behind his fingers, his wedding band still glimmering in the dying light. His penis is suddenly left twitching in the cold night air of the back alleys.
  136. Vittoria stands up, fixes her breastplate, and walks away. Love. What should she do? There's no answer. With every step the sobs of the rape victim grow fainter, replaced by the clack of her hobnails on the muddy flagstones. She doesn't even think about the poor man as she makes her beeline to the convent. Neither man nor god has punished her so far, but what if...? Gian is on the way to recovery - there's no way to frame staying with him as for the good cause.
  140. Another day, another sunrise. Vittoria awakens to the first golden rays of the sun, but something is wrong. It seems as if the bed is subtly swaying under her. She looks to her side to find Gian lying on his side, facing away, with a strand of her hair disappearing behind his face. His right arm seems to subtly twitch in rhythm with the bed - Vittoria stares at the back of his head in confusion. Is it what she thinks it is...?
  142. She carefully pushes herself up with one arm, only to find her silver hair coiled around Gian's fingers, held up to her nose. Well, that's something. Gian breathes heavily, sniffing her hair as he strokes his penis with his still weak arm. What should she do? She has no idea. It somehow feels warm inside to see him this way, but is it real love? Maybe it's just the Succubus' disgusting influence. Vittoria silently lowers herself back to the bed.
  144. Gian continues to masturbate for some minutes as she lies, listening, thinking. Did he love her before he was taken? Does he love an idea of her? Is it actually just demonic lust? With every ripple of the bed she feels herself moisten more and more. Finally he stops. Vittoria can smell the semen spurt out, the smell burnt to her nose after so many encounters. She closes her eyes and pretends to sleep as Gian stands up and washes his hands.
  148. The forenoon passes without incident. Vittoria drudges through her clerical duties with no real conviction - hour after after dull hour of paperwork. Her mind races without pause for the entire shift. She can't do it. She must do it. Finally it is time for lunch, only instead Vittoria rushes, almost runs, to her cell. The door slams open to reveal Gian hobbling along the wall, learning to walk after such a long time. He looks at her in surprise.
  150. "Gian." He perks at the authority dripping from her voice. "I know what you did this morning." Gian's blood drains from his face as he strains to remain upright. "I-i... I'm sorry, Vitta...! I just..." He leans to the wall for support as his newly found world seems to crash around him. Vittoria's stern mask is broken as she swallows. "Please lie down on the bed, Gian." She wheels around the bed as he does, undoing her clothes all the while.
  152. "Vitta, what are you...?" She sits on the bedside, looking away. "You said you love me..." She gathers her thoughts for a moment before continuing: "...Since when?" Gian looks up at her, sitting, deliberately looking away, wrapping and unwrapping her hair around her fingers as she waits. "Since the boar." That's a relief. It's not some ghost of a frail childhood crush that he wants. She spins on the bed to face him, stroking the scar on her jaw across her breast. Her face seems more gentle than ever since the rescue.
  156. Vittoria straddles Gian's frail body, once again only clad in her linen undershirt. She opens her hairbun to let her silver hair fall over her shoulders and onto his chest. Faintly pink lips tremble as she pulls Gian's trousers down to let his rigid penis flop out into the free air. She gently guides it to her opening and lowers herself onto it. It feels so wrong, but also so right - it's what she has dreamed of for years.
  158. Her anxiety keeps Vittoria from really enjoying the sensation as she clumsily grinds herself on him. Slowly her pace picks up, the fear of gods and priests pushed away by the childhood love straddled under her. Gian runs his hands along her powerful hips as she rides him, her rather quite large breasts swaying in the air above him. Every frenzied thrust brings them both closer to orgasm, until he is brought over the edge.
  160. It burns. It feels like both fire and lightning coursing through her abdomen. Something is wrong, it's not supposed to hurt at the end! Vittoria screams as she falls on Gian, squirming as if poisoned. Her head swims with the pain, and with questions: Is it divine punishment for her sin? Is he somehow tainted with the Succubus' unholy magic? Vittoria opens her eyes to see Gian staring right into her eyes in fear and desperation.
  166.    ***   ***   ***
  168.         Disgrace
  170. A young woman's screams of terror ring through the night at a dockside alley, muffled by a heavy wooden door under a hanging innsign. Suddenly the door swings open and a band of sailors bursts out, half carrying, half dragging a slender, squealing and sobbing woman. The faint light from inside glimmers in her face, revealing one massive eye in the middle of her face. The frail girl, her bodice barely rising with her bust, can't be long, if at all, into marriageable age.
  172. The sailors drag her around the building and into a dark alley, followed by an even younger boy desperately trying to make them stop. His tears and useless punches do nothing to sway the sailors, and a sudden kick sends him reeling. The girl is brutally slammed into the wall, then thrown onto an empty cargo crate. Her massive eye throws tears in the air as her skull painfully bounces off the brick wall. One sailor grabs the stunned boy into a wrestler's hold and wheels him around to watch.
  174. Two of the sailors pin her down as she squirms and yelps in fear, as a fourth pulls out his knife and begins to cut the girl's dress open. Her bodice falls loose first, followed by her shirt, revealing tiny breasts bound with long strips of linen. The sailor laughs as her roughly gropes her chest before pulling up her long skirt. He licks his lips as he pulls his trousers down just as he slaps his turgid member onto the girl's uncovered pubic mound, both the boy and the girl scream in surprise and alarm.
  178. The three sailors watch in stunned silence as their mate falls to his knees, his dick swinging in the air, his head rolling down the alley to his left. An armored woman stands behind the former sailor, bringing her sword back to bear even as the stump in front of her continues to soil the crate underneath the girl. The girl, now covered from face to anus in a fine mist of blood, falls silent in shock and confusion.
  180. Suddenly the two sailors holding her spring to action - knives flash in the gloom as they attack the woman simultaneously. Their practised street brawl charge falls short as one stops in his tracks, his guts first burning with pain, then chilled by air rushing where it has never gone before. A sharp kick drops him off his now weak legs and onto the frigid flagstones, clutching at the gaping wound just below his navel.
  182. The second sailor yells out in glee as he almost reaches the woman. His joy soon turns out to be premature, as a heavy bronze knob strikes his eye. Blinded and reeling from the blow, he fails to see the woman step out of his way. Instead of his knife slashing the tender flesh of her neck, the pommel of her sword smashes his head again and again. He screams in pain as his thick skull is hammered against the anvil of the wall now in front of him. The final sound of his life is a crack, seemingly from inside his own head.
  186. The woman spins to face the final sailor, only to find him long gone. Two dead men and a third, dying, lie in the alley, the boy's head pressed into the shocked girl's chest. It feels so good. Memories of the convent, now forever closed to her, race through Vittoria's mind - she was sworn to defend humanity from monsters...? It seems so hypocritical. These men were the real monsters, not that frightened little girl, ugly and abominable as she might be. They deserved to die, just like all those demons. It felt so good when they did.
  188. "Are you alright?" She can't seem to find the right tone - aftercare was never her strong point. The young pair seems to nod. "Do you live at this inn?" They nod again. "Go inside and wash yourselves. Lock every door and stay together, alright?" They nod but don't budge. Vittoria gives them a little push to send them on their way. Finally they scamper back through the door, still hanging open. The only sound in the alley is the gurgling of the dying sailor.
  190. "Gian! Come!" He hobbles from behind the corner, hugging the wall for support. Vittoria squats to clean her sword on the shirt of the first to die before putting it away. "Do you think I... Did the right thing?" He leans on the bloodstained crate and strokes her hair. "I just don't want anyone else to go through the same thing..." Gian hugs her hard, metal-clad body softly as he kisses her lips, salty with sweat. "That's good enough for me."
  194. Vittoria's desire, barely hidden at the best of times, rises to surface with the gentle kiss. She feels herself moisten under her armor, even in this bloodstained alley. "Gian..." Her voice feels like honey to him. "Do you want to... Do it...?" He does, of course. After years spent bathing in Succubus magic, he is almost addicted to it. They exchange a soft kiss before Vittoria bends over the very same crate the poor girl had been splayed on. The sight of her tassets sliding up her big butt drives Gian over the edge.
  196. With one hand, Vittoria loosens her trousers and makes enough of an opening for Gian to enter. Still humping the leather pulled tight over her buttocks, he wraps one arm around her hips as he fumbles with the other to guide himself into her. Finally Vittoria's gentle warmth envelops him, and he bends over onto her back, his arms wrapped around her. The hard metal dampens his hug considerably, but Vittoria can still feel the old love pulse into her with every gentle thrust.
  198. It feels so good, even better than the killing had. Gian's touch is gentle, just as she had always imagined, not the frenzied copulation she had feared the Succubus would have tainted him with. Her mind overflows with the words she couldn't say - would things have turned out differently if she had? Tears of both regret and joy well in her eyes as she concentrates on the soft pressure on her hips and back, and the gentle thrusts inside her.
  200. A deep breath turns into a drawn-out moan as Vittoria feels her first orgasm, bent over and taken from behind in a blood-soaked alley, surrounded by rapidly cooling corpses of her own making. She writhes in bliss for what seems like an eternity, until Gian also reaches completion, spraying his seed deep inside her. It seems to tingle, no longer the sharp burning of their first time, but somehow charged none the less. It is as if something is churning and boiling in her stomach, where her magic used to gather.
  204. Gian pulls out of her, panting, and she spins to face him. She wraps her powerful arms around him, pressing his frail body to her boat-shaped breastplate. "I'm sorry it took so long to find you..." Her scarred jaw rests on his shoulder as she whispers to him. "If I had known you were alive, I would have come straight away." She pauses to gather the courage to say the most important thing, but Gian cuts her off. "I'm sorry too, it's my fault you've falled from grace..."
  206. That's not true. He can't blame himself. "No, Gian. I always loved you! I wish I had the courage to say it before, and you would have never gone to the lake..." It's all her fault. All the suffering and pain both of them have gone through. The maelstrom inside her stomach churns with her guilt. "Don't say that! We're safe and together now, aren't we?" She can barely feel his hug tighten around her breastplate. "Everything will be fine as long as we're together..." His words let loose a torrent inside her.
  212.    ***   ***   ***
  214.         Exile
  216. Something surges inside Vittoria. It flows from inside her, from her diaphram, through her shoulders and into her arms. It swirls around in her hands as she hugs Gian. She can see a red glow growing behind his back. "Gian, there's something wrong! Get away from me!" Her panicked voice rings through the alley as she pushes Gian aside. The frail man falls to his ass onto the headless corpse below them with a thud. They both watch in horror as Vittoria's hands burn red.
  218. Vittoria leans onto the blood-stained crate just as the power within overflows. The energy chars the wood in front of her shocked eyes - the material darkens and bursts into flame, bathing the alley in the light of red energy and orange flames. Gian watches, equally stunned, as her power dims and finally sputters out. The silent alley, now lit only by the burning crate, grows darker as Vittoria stumbles backwards.
  220. "W-what was that?" Gian mutters in shock. "I don't know! It just came out!" Vittoria stares at her calloused hands in shock. Everything seems normal, now. It felt almost like her now lost divine power, only somehow different. Her mind immediately jumps to if she could control it, use it for good. What is this thing, where did it come from? "Be careful, Gian... I just don't know what's going on..." Suddenly the reality of an excommunicated woman on the run in a burning alley full of corpses hits her. They have to go.
  224. Vittoria leads Gian away along the docks as the fire rises. The flames are spreading, from the blood-stained crate to the others, carelessly strewn across the alley. Someone will be along to investigate, most likely sooner than later. She runs into another dark alley, only to find the fourth sailor with some friends. Judging by the grins they want a fight. Shit. "Gian, get back. I'll take care of this."
  226. There's a dozen of them. That must be just about the rest of the crew. Vittoria draws her sword and winds it over her shoulder, waiting for the goons to make the first move. A handful of men fan around her with their knives out, obviously unwilling to have a fair fight. They glance at each other, but most of all at the fourth sailor. A ringleader? This should be easy. She just has to make an example of him. But how? Just lopping his head off won't do the trick.
  228. The power. It felt like her divine power, didn't it? Vittoria switches posture to intimidate the sailors as she tries to get to grips with it. Just let it out, like normal. Slowly... "So, boys, is this little rapist the only reason you're here?" Her glove grows warms already. "Would you stay to fight, I wonder, if he was out of the picture?" Her grin grows wider and wider as the leather around her skin begins to sizzle.
  232. Suddenly Vittoria lunges at the fourth sailor, taking her left hand off the hilt as the blade pivots through the air over her head. The fourth sailor braces himself to defend as the others stride forward to attack her. The sword swings through the air towards the leader - the man jerks his knife to intercept just as her glove bursts into flames on the opposite side. The other sailors abort their attack in panic, scrambling to change directions as the dark alley is lit by the flames.
  234. It feels so good, so right, to destroy him. The smell of burning flesh fills the air, wafting through the alley. The fourth sailor screams in pain as his flesh melts away, until finally a blackened, scorched skull cracks against the flagstones. The rest of the men have either ran away or cower next to the walls, shaking in terror. A thought occurs: "So, boys, you are sailors, are you not? Are you by any chance heading east...?" Vittoria pulls the charred remains of her glove off as she looks one of them in the eye.
  236. The sailors' only answer is a whimper. She continues. "You see, I'm on my way to, say... Gubla, and if a crew were to carry me and my friend here over, I would be very grateful." She dramatically sheathes her till clean sword, loudly banging the crossguard to the wooden mouth of the scabbard for effect before she continues. "That is, I might forgive them for certain past... Transgressions." She steps to the bearded man who seems like he would now be in charge. "You'd like that, wouldn't you." The man winces, silently crying, as she softly strokes his beard.
  240. The wet breeze blows her open hair. It feels so weird, it must be her first time travelling with untied hair. Gone as well is the armor, the leather and steel all around her - instead linen and wool flap in the wind. It feels so light, almost as light as her heart. The only pressure on her is on her hand. Gian stands next to her, shivering as the boat crashes through wave after another, spraying cold water all over him.
  242. Vittoria pulls him to her, pressing him between the bulwark and herself. She leans onto him, hugging her tight, as the speaks with a mischievous grin. "Are you cold, Gian? Do you want me to heat you up?" Without waiting for an answer, she snakes a hand under his clothes. She allows the energy to flow inside her and out of her palm, heating the air inside his clothes. Gian shivers with pleasure from her touch, both the gentle touch of her left arm and the warmth from her right.
  244. "We can look forward to a week or two onboard if the winds stay in our favor." Vittoria stares over the stern towards the southeast - their destination. Once they get to port, it's just a matter of crossing the mountains to the east. That makes it all seem so easy and safe, doesn't it? She knows it won't be. She wraps her arms around Gian as if it were the last time. "We're going to make it, Vitta. You rescued me already, you can rescue the both of us." He strokes her scarred jaw with his fuzzy cheek.
  250.    ***   ***   ***
  252.         CASE Archives
  254.         | Good news, J! For once nothing is going horribly wrong, at least not yet. As you know, the local royals aren't exactly open about their family history. This seems like something we can take advantage of.  -Q.
  256. R E S T R I C T E D
  257. SECTION 01 OF 01 GIGHTI 710620TRBGGH
  260. This assignment pertains to possible information about the history of the TARABUL ROYAL FAMILY to be uncovered during an upcoming historical conference at GIGHTI UNIVERSITY.
  264. From 11-12-13th October 1272, The Anubis-Institute  and The Department of Cross-Cultural and Desert Regional Studies (CDRS) will jointly host the VII Desert Dynastic History Group (DDHG) conference at the University of Gighti.
  266. In conjunction with the conference, participating scholars are allowed to access the National Archives of Tarabul, provided that their pre-screened research plans are deemed to be of sufficient scientific interest. Participants who wish to access the Archives are to provide abstracts by 11th July 1271. All applicants will be notified by 10th October 1271. Access to the Archives will be granted for 6 months between 11th October 1271 and 11th February 1272.
  267.         | You might notice the deadline's 3 weeks from now. Don't worry, we've had some actual historians write up an abstract for you already. Why not have one of them do the whole job then, you might ask? Well, we need someone with embassy credentials to keep the guards off your back, and I don't think many academics want to get caught snooping in a place like this. Oh, did I mention it might actually be dangerous as well as boring as all hell? Sucks to be you after all, agent!
  269. You are to make full use of the archival access. Topics of interest include:
  270. 1. Early history of the ibn Yahya dynasty
  271. 2. Circumstances concerning the founder of the dynasty
  272. 3. Any individuals of special interest in the dynasty
  273.         | "Special interest" means sex criminals or something to that effect. There's obviously some skeletons in that closet, why else would they keep everything under lock, key and sword? We're looking for anything we can use to undermine the position of the royal family if they want to oppose us at any point in the future. A rapist in the family tree would be ideal, given how hard they lean on morality to justify their rule.
  275. All archive time is to be used for official purposes. A presentation unrelated to your assignment in the Archives will be prepared for you. A preparatory archival course will be provided before the assignment. Any necessary presentation aids will be provided during the conference.H███
  276.         | That means you'll spend the next month learning how to sit in a chilly underground cavern reading ancient manuscripts written in really funny letters and a foreign language. There's gonna be a real presentation for you to give at the conference, and we'll have an earphone full of actual historian to help you answer any questions. The academic shit is under control.
  282. R E S T R I C T E D
  283. SECTION 01 OF 01 GIGHTI 720215TRBGGH
  286. This report pertains to information about the history of the TARABUL ROYAL FAMILY uncovered during the historical conference at GIGHTI UNIVERSITY.
  289. An investigation into the National Archives is now completed. The assigment must be considered a partial failure, as nothing of immediate political interest was uncovered. Topics of interest 1 and 2 were successfully investigated, but nothing fitting topic 3 was found. If any unquestionably politically useful individuals exist, they are not referenced in the Archives. Any political use to us comes from topic 1.
  291. Topic of interest 2:
  292. Sayyid YAHYA himself was found to be a possible immigrant. He is described as a "sworn enemy of the decadent infidels" across the Western Sea, and he and his wife seem to suddenly appear out of thin air in Gighti in late 649. It seems likely that the founding pair were some sort of rebels or criminals who wanted to lay low in the desert. However, YAHYA quickly became known as a zealous firebrand. Tarabulian commentators believe that either his wife or a close relative had been subject to the sort of sexual slavery he preached most strongly against.
  294. The man's personal history is muddled: he is decribed variously as an ascetic mystic or as a rampaging holy warrior. The traditional explanation is that the sources describing him as a frail saintly figure even as a young man have a confused chronology, and he only became weak with old age. This doesn't seem right, as the oldest manuscripts across the board describe him as a wispy priest. Perhaps a captain or personal enforcer has been conflated with the preacher himself? Possibly early documents downplay the physical to emphasize the spiritual? Let the real academics work it out, there's nothing we can do with it.
  296. Really, none of this is useful to us: Tarabul is not particularly anti-immigrationist, and in any case this is all ancient history by now. Even if we could connect Sayyid YAHYA with some Western criminal, the Tarabulians would most likely take it as hostile propaganda, or write it in as the first chapter of their national hero's struggle against depravity.
  298. Topic of interest 1:
  299. Information about the first century of the dynasty is contradictory. Sayyid YAHYA's wife is in several sources described as a Monster, but the senior branch of the dynasty consists of only Humans. Even better, Sayyid YAHYA had Human daughters. Unfortunately, there is no mention or even speculation of a second wife or a mistress. We can't prove either way if the wife was actually a Human or if YAHYA cheated on her, and we know which one the locals would believe.
  300.         | Honestly, even if we managed to prove she was a Monster, they'd proclaim her some sort of magical Monster saint who can birth Humans before they'd even entertain the possibility of infidelity. This is just as useless as the last part. -Q.
  302. There is also a source of possible political unstability. A number of the lesser noble houses of the nation claim descent from mixed-marriage cadet branches, but the main line has remained fully Human until the current Sultan married an Anubis. Many older commentators have seen having a Monster monarch as undesireable, as the throne would most likely be locked to one species for quite some time. The Human monarchy has been seen as a neutral mediator between the native Monster species. The throne will likely revert to a Human cadet branch after Sultan MANSUR's death.
  304. Recommendations:
  305. The more powerful heirs of Human cadet branches should be groomed towards our positions. MANSUR is at worst someone who we can work with, and we shouldn't let him be replaced with a hard-liner. We should strive to help the political careers of those possible heirs friendly to our interests.J████
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