Disclaimer: I don't own Artix Entertainment. Lizzie and Rayne are owned by Dark-Angel-874. Maria, Natalya and Richard are property of me. And don't you forget that.
Come Hell or High Water
"Rayne? When will WE get married?" Lizzie asked Rayne, the broad grin on her face growing, defying physics completely.
Rayne's mouth hung open for a minute, trying to hold onto her composure for as long as humanly possible, but the moment she saw Lizzie's puppy dog eyes, she lost her cool. She blushed and started stammering out nonsense words.
Lizzie shared a look with Aria and Trip, and everyone burst out with frenzied laughter. Rayne's cheeks flared beet red as she tried to hide her face from her friends. Lizzie held on to Rayne even harder, almost pulling her girlfriend into a headlock.
"Well, I think it's high time we all went to bed." Trip yawned, streaching. "Long day tomorrow. Captain Krieger wants us to clean the tower top-to-bottom again."
"Ah, no. You're kidding me?" Maria asked, disappointment tarnishing her face. "Last time we did that crap, it took us three weeks to clear the girls dormitories."
"Where the hell you come from?" Lizzie asked, jumping as Maria just appeared behind her, Natalya and Serras stepping from the shadows.
"Yea, it was one of the only times the guys were cleaner!" Serras muttered, cracking her knuckles. "Well, it can't be helped, so let us head to bed. I'm beat harder then when Maria did it."
"That's pretty beat, Serras. And by the way, I'm a vampire. I know Walk the Abyss." Maria muttered. The group all parted and when they're separate ways. Maria, Natalya, Serras, Rayne, Trip, and Lizzie all walked towards the Guardian Tower, poor Warlic left to clean up his shop.
-The Next Morning-
The Guardian Tower was, in actually, three separate spires. A taller, more dominate center tower flanked by two smaller, less prominent towers. The center tower was where everyone lived in the day. It was where the mess hall, briefing room, and situation room, not to mention all the recreational facilities, were located. The two smaller towers were the dorms. The East Wing was the male dorms, and the West, the female. Now, Artix wanted to make sure no one who was not supposed to be in the female dorms wasn't, so he had Warlic enchant the bridge which lead to the the West Wing to expel, rather violently, might I add, anyone off of the bridge where a Y chromosome was detected, preventing any and all men from entrance. Women, who did not have a Y chromosome, were safe. Warlic didn't much understand this way of singling out a specific gender, but thankfully, he knew a Drakel who knew a considerable amount. He couldn't help but think how powerful science and magic could be together if used properly...
Anyway... the sun rose over Lore, much like it had done in the mornings past, only a little more in the now, less in the past-tense. The roosters crowed in the back ground, Maria's natural alarm clock.
More on the Guardian Tower. The dorms were divided into twelve separate floors, one floor for each level of seniority. The new recruits got the ground level, the trainees the first floor, on and on until Grand Marshals, who got top floor. Maria was one of the lucky ones. She had been promoted to Grand Marshall not too long ago, along with Natalya, Serras and Lizzie. Lizzie is an interesting person... she was one of the few people to wrangle the Void Dragon several years ago, and was promoted for it. Anyway, Maria was usually awoken by two separate, however equally important variables. First, the roosters. The roosters didn't really wake her up, yet re-activate her senses after the night's reprieve. Usually she was awoken by the smell of breakfast cooking in the kitchen. (One advantage of being a Grand Marshal, is you get your own kitchen.) Lizzie was usually up several hours earlier to make all the Marshals and Grand Marshals breakfast (She didn't know what Natalya meant by "You don't have to make enough to feed an army, you know".) on the floor below. However, this morning, Maria was woken by a sharp kick to the side.
"Itai..." She muttered, jarred awake from the sign of aggression. She rolled over and exhaled rather vigorously. "Go away."
"Maria. Get up. We've got a problem." Came Natalya's voice, drowning out the sounds of Maria's dream (A rather kinky scene, too much to describe here. Just put your mind in the gutter, you can probably imagine what she was thinking about.)
"Yer damn right we do. It's called you wakin' my hide up. It's too early to get up now... I don't smell breakfast."
"Neither did I. That's why I'm up. You do know what time it is, right?"
"Not really. Don't care much, either." Maria responded, trying to bury her head in the pillow.
"It's four in the afternoon. We hardcore overslept. Get up." She muttered. Maria shot up.
"What the- FOUR?!" She shouted. "How the hell did that happen? Usually, Lizzie wakes me up making breakfast."
"Yea, well, that's the kicker. When I got up at eleven, Lizzie wasn't even here."
"Define 'wasn't even here'." Maria muttered.
"Were you not paying attention?" Natalya asked.
"Not really. Are you mad?"
"Yes! Listen. Lizzie; is gone. No longer breathing the same air as us. Far out of sight. Smiling upon us from a distant location. Is. Not. Here." Natalya stated. "Did you get it now?"
"Yea, kinda. It means I'm going to have to make breakfast from now on, doesn't it?" Natalya smacked her sister across the head. "Itai!" She squealed. "Hey, can't take a joke, Natalya, geeze. I know, I know. It means we're gonna have to find someone to fill her bed, right?" Again, Natalya whacked Maria across the head. "Itai!.." She squeaked again, holding her head. "Good Energy Lord, Natalya, you're gonna give me an epic migrain. Let me guess. We have to run and..." Maria saw Natalya's hand twitch towards the side of her head. "Goandfindher!" She recovered quickly. Drakonnan lowered her hand. "Ha. Got it that time. Where do we start?"
"Lizzie?!" Rayne called from down the hall.
"Ah, shit..." Natalya muttered. She had been hoping to avoid telling Rayne what had happened until after it was over. But, as they all say. The best laid plans fail something fierce.
"LIZZIE! Where are you!?" She shouted again, bursting into the bed room. "Lizzie?!" She looked around. "Hey! You've got bigger beds then us! That's not fair! And have you seen Lizzie?" She asked Maria.
"No, we haven't." The X-Guardian responded. Rayne had, by some miracle, cleared the ten or so feet between them, grabbed Maria by the scruff of her shirt and pulled her really close, giving her a death stare.
"We're going to look for her. Now." She droned, all emotion drained from her face.
"Can't we have breakfast first?" Maria asked innocently. Rayne gave her a sharp jerk on the collar, and a very low, loud growl, a sign of dissatisfaction. "Right then, let's go." She uttered quickly. Rayne let her drop. 'All I want is something to freakin' eat...' she thought.
Stepping out into the afternoon light was particuarly discomforting to Natalya. Something lingered in the air, an unidentifiable source which lingered in the back of her mind, neither dissapating, nor making itself wholly known. With no face to give this mysterious fear, she dismissed it instantly.
"So, where do we start?" Maria questioned, shielding her eyes from the fading sun. There was an uncertain tone to Rayne's voice as she spoke.
"We got to Lizzie's favorite places. Resturaunts, fields..." Rayne muttered.
"Brothels." Maria finished. Rayne looked at her. "What? You're saying that's just me?" She asked. Natalya sighed and shook her head. Rayne just growled in protest and rolled her eyes.
"We make for Graenemor." She muttered, walking down the north road out of Battleon, towards the Crossroads of Lore.
"Maria! Funny meeting you here?" A voice called from the bushes. Maria spun around to see who the voice belonged to. It was a woman a little younger then her, donned in Guardian Plate Armor, the body of which was midnight black, with red trim and a black cape whipping behind her. Her long silver hair hiding her face.
"Orta. Wow, what are the odds? How long has it been?" Maria asked, a smile crossing her face. She approached her fellow Guardian with open arms, intending on giving her a friendly hug.
"Too long, my dear. Far too long. How have you been?" The woman called Orta received Maria's hug and smiled at her old friend.
"I've been good. Damn good. And... wow. Let me say you look... fantastic..." She spoke. Orta smiled. "Now, I know you don't like me saying this but... damn if only you were a l-"
"Can we stick to the task at hand, Despair?" Rayne interrupted her.
"Ah, hell. Listen, I've got some errands to run... babysitting, that kinda thing. Hey, are you going to be in Battleon long?"
"Sadly, no. I have to move out tomorrow morning. Military stuff. But, if you're done by then, stop by. I'm staying with Aria until then. Just stop by, I'd love to chat." She finished. The two friends hugged, waved and went they're separate ways. Before Orta went too far, Maria shouted towards her.
"Oh, before I forget, have you seen a woman about her height," She pointed to Rayne. "Only smiles a little more, and with a better sense of humor, and a far better sense of fashion?" Rayne backhanded her in the side.
"Uh, come to think of it, yea. Kinda reddish hair. Drowningly beautiful green eyes?" Maria nodded to this. "Yea, I did see her. She was headed towards the Dragonspine Mountains with this creepy dude. As they passed me, she seemed to look at me with this... sad face. Almost like she was saying... help me..." She muttered.
"And you didn't help her?!" Rayne shouted, pouncing on Orta, grabbing her armor, shaking the Medic violently. "Who just let's someone in need walk by like that, you pathetic little worm of a child!" She shouted.
"Rayne Anasi! Stop that right now!" Maria commanded in her 'I'm bigger then you, so listen up and listen well' voice. Rayne stopped, released Orta and dropped.
"Leave. If she's alive, then you're forgiven. If I find her dead, I will not rest until your hide hangs in my drawing room." She droned. Orta simply stood, dusted herself off, and walked away, after smiling to Maria.
"We make headway for the Dragonspine Mountains. I'll lead. Rayne, behind me." Maria commanded again.
When they arrived at the base of Mount Fjiord, the same, unidentifiable source in the back of her mind from earlier, only this time stronger and more noticable, but still unknown. Almost like she was in the presence of someone she knows... or knew. Her concentration was broken as a huge purple creature dropped behind her. As a reactionary move, she ignighted a fireball in her hand and flung it. Cyrus, the purple thing behind her, dodged it.
"Holy Devourer, Cyrus! Don't freakin' sneak up on my like that! You're gonna give me a freakin' heart attack." Cyrus did not immedeatly respond, but instead pointed to the peak of Mount Blaze, Mount Fjiord's sister peak, and uttered:
"What?" Rayne asked.
"That man you are looking for. With the girl you seek. They reside up on Mount Blaze." Cyrus spoke.
"Wha the... who the hell be stealin' the sista's home! Oh, someone's gonna get ass-raped." Natalya cursed. Mount Blaze was her home when she was Drakonnan, and she was very protective of it.
"I believe you shall find it in better shape then when you left it, Young Miss. Despair."
"Hey... I'm freakin' twenty-nine. I'm not all that young." She responded.
"When you can boast five hundred years under your belt, young one, then you may say you are old enough." Cyrus chuckled, taking to the skies.
"I really freakin' hate it when he talks in freakin' riddles. Well, to the top of Mount Blaze, I guess." Rayne muttered.
"I hate mountain climbing..." Natalya breathed, grabbing hold of a rock outcropping.
The top of the mountain could not have come soon enough. They came to the top to see a cave entrance with an eerie red glow emanating from within.
"So, whaddaya all say to a five minute break, then we break in, eh?" Rayne asked, taking a seat on a nearby rock. The foreboding sense of danger had now revealed itself somewhat. Natalya was certain that whatever she was feeling, it was not good. Something within her mind burned like an unending flame. Something powerful. And the only two things strong enough to keep a fire that hot for that long was hate, and Nerfkittens, and those two seemed to go hand-in-hand.
"Hey girls... I've got something to say." Natalya spoke.
"Sure things sis, fire away."
"I have a feeling I'm about to have one serious case of deja vu, here. And I'm not liking where it's going." She uttered, looking at the cave entrance.
"We're not really here to listen to your grievances, Natalya, but to save a friend." Rayne stood, dusted herself off and stretched. "Come on. Let's go." She finished, walking towards the cave.
It was dark. But not visually dark. The cave gave off a cool, however ominous red glow coming from deeper within. Situated right behind a blind corner was a large, oaken set of double doors. Maria gave the handle a quick, sharp kick, dislodging the lock and allowing the door to swing free. Across the open portal, a huge figure stood with it's back turned. Red flames lapped off the figure's head and fizzled above. A cape made of fire-red velvet blew in the scorching air.
"Hello, Natalya." An eerily familiar voice droned. "Long time, no see." The figure turned around. It was a face both Maria and Natalya knew all too well. Drakonnan. "Come into my parlor, have a seat, said the spider to the flies." He chuckled. Maria and Natalya entered cautiously, however, some kind of barrier prevented Rayne from entering. "Terribly sorry about that, my dear Wasp, but I can't have you interfering with my plans. It's simply unacceptable."
"Spider? Flies? Wasp? What the hell are you babbling about?" Natalya spoke. Maria reached over and pinched her sister. "Hey! What was that for?"
"Well, last time we met Drakonnan, it was you. I was making sure it wasn't you."
"How cute. Do you know how long it's been, Natalya? How long I have waited for this day? How long I have had for my hatred for you to fester into something corpereal? DO YOU?" He shouted.
"Seven and a half years, Richard. It's been a while." Natalya smiled, placing her hand on her hip.
"Exactly. Seven and a half long, painful, quiet years. You left me here. You left me to die! While you went off and became a sister! What about the time we spent together?! Huh? Was that nothing to you? Without me, you would've withered long ago! I was your shoulder to cry on, your arm when you were weak, your strength when you were tired." He stopped and laughed some. "I honestly thought we had a future together, you and I. And not just what we had, not just Drakonnan and her man-servant. I thought we had a future together, one we could share until our last breath. All you had to do was kill her! THAT'S IT! If you only had done what you were supposed to, we wouldn't be having the conversation. We'd be happily married by now, but no! You chose the sister you never knew, over me. A mistake. A mistake I'll make sure you never make again. A MISTAKE NO ONE! WILL EVER! MAKE AGAIN!" He shouted.
"This guy's a freakin' nut job." Maria muttered.
"Insanity is but the first step to genius! Oft times is the mad man turn into the genius. This is one of those times. It pains me to have to do this, Natalya, really it does. I liked you. Hell... I loved you, and this is how you treat me? As a servant? A PEON!?" He chuckled, only this time, out of spite. "Is that how you treat her? Another slave?" He threw his hand in Maria's direction. "You're pathetic! Weak! And I've out grown you. I suppose you would like to know what I'm going to do. Well, I still have enough feelings for you to tell you. First, I'll kill that abomination you call a sister. Slowly. Painfully. Then, I'll kill the Wasp. Quickly. I have no quarrel with her, so she gets the easy death. Then, I will turn the tables! I shall make you, my slave! I will be the master, and you will be the servant! And then, when it's old, and I've had my fun. I'll kill you. First, I'll take your arm. Then, maybe you're leg. And, if I'm in a good mood, or if you're extra nice, I'll take your head. But, my dear, that will only be the beginning. You'll be lucky you're dead once you realize what I'm going to do to you then."
"He's one sick puppy." Natalya told Maria. "I always knew he was fascinated with me, but I thought it was only professional. I never realized how deep it went. And to tell you the truth, it's disturbing."
"Of course..." Richard continued, turning to the side. "You wouldn't know my predicament. You've never loved someone so fiercely, with such a fire, the you'd die for them, you'd follow them to the end of Lore and back! The kind of person you're afraid to tell your feelings to, just because you think they may reject you. You wouldn't know anything about that." He droned.
"Yes I do. I admit. Maria does some pretty stupid stuff. I know that, but you know what? I respect her decision, and nine times outta ten, I go with her."
"I DON'T CARE ABOUT MARIA!" He shouted, silencing her with a swipe of his hand. "I don't care about that whore of sister of yours! This is only between you and I. She's just collateral damage.
"One thing I don't understand. What do you need with Lizzie?"
"Ah, yes. Lizzie. She is an interesting creature. So... delicate. So... docile. It's a pity she has to sacrifice her powers to me."
"Why is that such a pity? What do you care?" Maria shouted.
"It's a pity, because she must die from it." Richard replied. Rayne stopped dead. Something struck her like a twenty pound hammer.
"Oh, hell no. That's a very, VERY bad idea, Richard." Maria responded, glancing at Rayne. "She's unstable, man. A loose cannon."
"What do I care? She's behind that shield." As he said this, Rayne gave the shield a good, very hard kick. It just flinched and returned. She continued kicking it.
"It's a shield, man. Like every other shield in this world, it will only last so long before. And, if it gets put under much more pressure," Rayne kicked it again. "It." Another kick. "Will." Another good, solid hit. "Give." Another. "Out." The last kick, the shield fizzled, sputtered and died.
"Do you care to repeat your plan for Lizzie, 'Richard'?" Rayne announced, stepping properly into the room.
"She will die. And what do you intend on doing about it, little girl?" Richard replied. Rayne scowled.
"This." She reached to her side and pulled her signature weapon, a small, pistol-like weapon Vince made for her three years ago, pointed it at Richard, and fired three times. The first shot caught him in the leg, the second in the shoulder, and the third across the side of his head. He clasped hold of his leg and collapsed to his knees, the side of his helmet shattered, his shoulder useless. Rayne holstered her gun, walked past the crippled Drakonnan to a small corner when Lizzie was suspended inside a blue light.
"I wouldn't touch her if I were you. Could set off the reaction."
"What reaction." Rayne asked, walking back over to him, pressing the gun to his head.
"One little inconsistency in the power flow, and poof. We all go up like the fourth of july." He started laughing.
"Well. How about we test that theory, hum?" Rayne stated, walking back over to Lizzie, reaching her hand in and yanking the unconcious girl free. She waited some time before speaking. "Whoops. No boom. Let's leave this maggot." She muttered, walking past again. Maria, Natalya and Rayne, Lizzie in her arms, made for the door.
"NO!" Richard shouted. He stood up, Rayne's gun in his hands. Rayne cursed for not feeling him steal it. "I won't let you leave here with my sacrifice! I need her to become complete! You all will die here!" He shouted, leveling the gun at Rayne. "And if I can't have her. No one can!" He fired twice, the first shot going wide, the second shot striking Lizzie, piercing through her and hitting Rayne in the heart. The force of the blast sent Rayne staggering backwards
Rayne slumped over, a look of saddened pain on her face. Maria's brain shut off. All thought ended, her instincts firing up. She instantly jumped into the air, landed on Richard's shoulders with her knees, and gave a quick, vigorous twist counter-clockwise, snapping his neck. After jumping off, she ran to help Rayne.
"Lizzie!" Rayne shouted, crawling towards the still unconcious Lizzie, a thick trail of blood following behind. She felt Maria's hands on her back.
"Rayne, stop moving! You're gonna die if you keep moving!" She shouted, trying to stop her.
"Forget about me, help Lizzie!" She retorted, still crawling towards her fallen lover.
"Natalya's helping Lizzie! Let me help you!"
"Gotta... gotta... gotta help Lizzie... I messed up... I know... But I won't let that happen again... gotta help... Lizzie." She muttered before collapsing.
"Stay with me, Rayne! Stay with me!!"
It is said that every time a bell rings, an angel get it's wings. It is also said that if someone survives death with the aid of another, the survivor is bound into their savior's service until either of the two parties dies. Again, it is said that if you are firm in your beliefs, if you wish hard enough, you can disbelieve in your own death. You can actually stop yourself from dying if you belief you cannot die. While this situation has not been proven, what happened next is a very good argument towards its conformation.
The sun rose over Battleon the next day, and a dull silence fell over the town as they awaited the condition of Rayne and Lizzie. Lizzie was the better off of the two. The wound was only superficial, no organs damaged. Rayne, however, had a broken heart. Literaly. The bullet passed through her heart, a blow that would have been, to any normal man or woman, a fatal hit. However, by some miracle of nature, Rayne survived. If just bearly.
"Maria?" Rayne muttered upon her recovery. Maria was sitting on her bedside, clutching her arm and stroking her hair, like a mother does when her daughter is ill. "What..."
"Hey, beautiful. You're awake. How do you feel?" Maria cooed, looking at her eyes.
"Like udder crap. Is that normal?" She groaned. Maria laughed and smiled, continuing to stroke her hair.
"Yea, coming back from the brink of death does kind of have that effect on you. Can I get you something to eat?"
"How's Lizzie?" She asked.
"I'm better. Don't worry about me, I need to worry about you." Lizzie spoke, her head appearing from the head of Rayne's bed. She leaned down and gave her lover a kiss on the lips. "I heard about your heroic rescue. I'm happy you came for me."
"I would never leave you."
"Yea, now that you're at least speaking semi-coherently, can I ask a question?"
"Yea, sure why not."
"Just before you passed out, you mentioned something about messing up, and how you'll never let it happen again. What did you mean?"
"I ment... a couple of days ago, I meant to... take an opportunity, and I froze. I didn't take it. I know this is the worst possible time to do this, but... Lizzie..." She reached into her pocket and took out a small, square velvet box. "Will you be my bride?" She asked, opening it. Lizzie didn't even think about it.
"BOOYAKA!" Maria and two other voiced called in unison. "I knew it! I knew it! I knew it!" The three voices chanted. Rayne managed to lift her head up enough to see Maria, her sister and a man in Drakonnan's armor, minus the helmet, dancing around in a circle.
"What the hell? I thought Maria killed you!"
"Pusha!" The man called Richard smiled. "That was just a dummy. A hallucination."
"To put it simply, Rayne..." Natalya started. "WE FOOLED YOU!" Everyone shouted.
"What... but... but... Drakonnan... and the gun... and the PAIN!"
"Enchanted Paintballs." Natalya smiled. "They hurt like a mother, but they're completely harmless. They just simulated going through her and your heart. Maria then just cast a sleeping spell on you. It was all a scam. Just to get you too together. And it worked. BOOYAKA!"
"Enchanted Paintballs? But... but.. the blood... and the shield! And the... Uhhhh..."
"Oh, the blood was real. Just... not yours. They're not called 'paintballs' for no reason." Maria smiled. Rayne's face was that of anger, hatred and a slight bit of envy.
"Maria... Come hell, or high water... I will get your hide BACK for this, ten times over! I SWEAR THAT TO YOU! Oh, I've got a headache."