111 A Journey's Beginning · 1
he ringed world of Icarus, it’s scarred surface watched over by two moons and ancient, derelict cities drifting with the clouds encased in silver ovoids taller than mountains. The cities belonged to a believed long gone race known as the Foreigners, yet their legacy razed the Face of Icarus time after time again never allowing mankind to reach beyond a magically fueled steam age. What hints of greater technology there were was salvaged from the ancients who once fought the Foreigners as equals in technology, but were felled by the dark god Lucifalz. In the current age the name Lucifalz was attached to trees of Light that sporadically showed up in the most unexpected of places distorting the world around them. They were the source of the peoples’ loss of faith in the dominant religion and also the main source of work of those who still served the Cardinal Church. Distrusted as the Cardinal Church had become, they were still the only ones who could with regular success save those infected by the monsters born of Foreigner cities from becoming monsters themselves. These saved men and women would go on to be tasked with defending the world from monsters and would be known as Sa·B·ers. In their new lives they would wander the Face of Icarus becoming mercenaries and adventurers both to give their life more meaning than that of living weapons. One particular trio of adventuring Sa·B·ers was trying to fulfill their individual desires, grouped together by their overlapping needs.
Late Autumn ~ Approaching noon, mostly sunny, breezy and cool
The three who shared an end of the bar had their backs turned to the dirt main road for the most part. The centaur maid with a strawberry shoal coat and blond hair tied into a ponytail could not use the barstools and stood with her side against the bar. The spirit was only twice the length of a person’s thumb and swam about through the air excitedly. The young nāti man with dark fur, eyes, and beak however at least managed to turn his back to the main road and train station but seemed to be in a foul temper regardless. Dressed in leather boots over jeans with a shirt and waistcoat all under a green long coat, he seemed more important in the group than the others. The staff leaning against the bar beside him made him appear under armed compared to the rifle on the back of the ruddy skinned centaur who was dressed in a red denim jacket over a white button up shirt. The spirit appeared the most harmless in her nakedness, but her magical nature assured she was probably the most dangerous. To the bartender though, they looked like a group of adventurers and that meant a chance to maybe deal in more than drink and spirits.
“I didn’t happen to see you three get off the train. Might there be a tale or two that has drawn you out to these parts?”
“Perhaps Master Bartender, or perhaps we are keeping our ears out for just that.”
The centaur maid turned her reddish brown eyes onto the bartender and he became aware for the first time that her ears tapered into points and that from the right side of her head a horn about half the length of her forearm grew out to a downward tapered point. A horn of that ilk was unnatural for a centaur and it became apparent that she was a Sa·B·er. Before the bartender could say more however the young nāti man threw his arms up before slamming them onto the bar. With a fury in his dark eyes, he turned a glare onto the centaur and pushed himself up as he berated her.
“Master⁈ Master⁈ Can you not stop yourself from addressing everyone you meet as master⁈”
“Forgive me Master, but I did spend nearly a decade as a sister of the Cardinal Church. Such habits born of my time in Service to Her Eminence are hard to be rid of.”
“Wait! Did you just say that you used to be a nun?”
“She did. The both of them are Sa·B·ers and adventurers now though.”
The bartender’s interruption was the result of their surprise, but the cheerful voice of the mermaid answering him surprised him just as much. Almost forgetting what had startled him so from the others, the bartender turned their eyes onto the tiny spirit. She had fair, light skin under a mane of long brown hair with the messiest of bangs that failed to hide her massive sea gem green eyes. Her fish half shared the color of her eyes and she spun about in a circle under the bartender’s muddled expression of numerous emotions. The naïve smile she offered him helped him sort out his emotions and he found his way back to the terror that had come from his surprise initially.
“Sa·B·ers and adventurers, and a former nun amongst you…”
“Don’t be so undiscerning you slack jawed fool, both of us are former members of the Cardinal Church! Though as a former Pilgrim of Lady Ateaeldre, I still believe in restoring her gift of life to the Face of Icarus.”
“What horrible timing, what absolutely horrible timing…”
“Is there something we should know about Master Bartender?”
Though it earned her a foul look from the nāti, the centaur again addressed the bartender with the title ‘Master’. The bartender was not concerned for the title one way or another as they were more in disbelief of the centaur’s apparent ignorance.
“You’ve got to be pulling my leg. When I saw you were Sa·B·ers I thought maybe you were here on your way for Crone’s Peak to join the Red Army in their dragon hunt. But when you said you were with the Cardinal Church…”
“How about you try not to trail off and actually say what’s on your mind. Though at this point I doubt I need you too.”
A mighty harrumph escaped the nāti as he pulled himself away from the bar and eyed the patrons of the bar who were leaning on the wood rail of the accompanying wooden boardwalk that linked the buildings on one side of the main street. They all seemed to be eying the actions of townsfolk who were seeking shelter within saloon doored business. All around the T-road town deadbolts were being thrown and windows and shutters pulled shut. Snipers took up positions on roof tops with bolt action rifles while numerous men and maids both took up hiding spots armed with revolvers and any number of knives, swords and other melee weaponry. Every single one of them were obviously bounty hunters and there was an apprehension that filled the air as they waited for their target to appear. Then the shrill whistle of the train sounded as the steam engine began to pull out of the train station with its cargo in tow. The train’s whistle deafened the slamming of the roll down aluminum shutters of the bar, but the nāti youth was more distracted by the twenty five meter tall, potbellied, machine in the shape of an adult man who was made of mechanized armor.
“Pah! Is that a Dolmen⁈ A bit much if you ask me, or wait…”
Narrowing his eyes, the nāti spied gleaming on the left breast of the piloted humanoid machine known as a Dolmen, a sheriff’s star. His arms flew up in disbelief when he realized that the mech belonged to the local law enforcement and he turned around to exclaim his thoughts.
“Do you see that⁈ This backwater excuse for a town actually has a Dolmen, and the model used by the Cardinal Church! How far we have traveled from friendly lands!”
“Do you think she’ll be alright Master?”
Stepping away from the shuttered bar, the centaur maid eyed the various bounty hunters who seemed to overflow the town. Armed to the teeth and waiting for the opportunity when they could strike, it seemed as though they were anticipating taking on a one-man army. Out of all the men and maids waiting for their target, a man of the chimeric races, which included centaurs, who had a wolf’s head which he wore a cattleman hat upon and a duster over his traveling clothes was looking at a pocket watch. Tilting his hat back, he spied up at the midday sun and then double checked his watch. With a sudden shout, he called out to all of the other bounty hunters.
“Everyone get ready! It’s nigh high noon and that means the Adventurer’s Hall will be dismissing for lunch. The snipers will pick her off when she comes out and–!”
- Hold it you damn bounty man! I won’t have you people shooting into a crowd of people and causing a panic! –
The wolfman was cut off by the external speakers of the Dolmen as it stood up and the sheriff interrupted none too pleased by what he was hearing. Running his hand down his snout, the wolfman tried again.
“Right! Change of plans! The snipers won’t shoot her when she comes out, everyone will instead fire their sidearms into the air to–!”
- And let bullets rain down on the town⁈ -
Again, the sheriff interrupted and made the wolfman run his hand down his face. Not surprisingly the waiting bounty hunters were growing impatient as noon was nearly upon them and no one seemed to have a plan yet. Sensing the malcontent of his fellows and knowing he was out of time, the wolfman shouted out his final attempt as the bells of the church that now served as the Adventurer Hall began to toll for noon.
“I DON’T CARE ANY MORE‼ JUST WING IT AND DON’T MESS UP OR RILE UP THE SHERIFF‼”
A cheer rose up from the bounty hunters followed by the centaur maid who joined the nāti youth and spirit at the now closed bar at the inn sighing as she pressed her fingers into her forehead.
“These people astound me.”
“Really? They don’t seem very special to me.”
Behind the centaur maid, the spirit’s voice seemed unimpressed. Though it was obviously the same voice as the spirit, it most assuredly did not belong to the spirit as the voice became muffled with food shoved into the mouth from which it originated from. Stunned, both the nāti and the centaur who called him master turned around slowly to see where it had originated from. Sure enough, it was not the spirit who spoke, but rather a human, or icaran as classical humans were known as on Icarus, who could have passed for her double. She obviously was too large to be as she was an icaran maid of some fifteen springs and while not short, was definitely not tall but otherwise properly human sized. She was shoving bread in her mouth from a paper bag and had a cruciform sword slung over her shoulder by the scabbard strap. Despite her age she was agreeably endowed and had curves in all of the right places but was too thin to make any use of them. Of course, her figure was on display for all to see as it was as she wore nothing save a suit of chainmail that near fit her like her own skin from her jaw down until it reached her hips and became more like well fitted tights. Her appearance on the wooden sidewalk of conjoined patios though did not go unnoticed and nearly every bounty hunter in the city shouted out at once.
“There she is! The Chainmaid!”
“She’s by the station!”
For all of their shouting though, only the shout of the nāti youth mattered as it rose up in rage and shook the whole town.
“YOU COLOSSAL IDIOT‼ DID IT EVEN OCCUR TO YOU THAT YOU HAVE A BOUNTY ON YOUR HEAD??!!”