“Alright…” Van began, mulling over a few things. “I think the first thing we should do is figure out how we're going to tackle going through the tree and differentiate between friend from foe… I have a feeling that not everyone knows what this general Saline has done.”
“Not only that,” Lyn interjected. “I can’t access my soul realm or full power. I don’t know how much help I'll be with my power restrained like this.”
“There's a terminal in the throne room that allows designated personnel to keep access to their soul realms, as well as their other powers. If we can get there, I can lift those restrictions on you, and tell the whole castle of Saline’s betrayal.” Gloria added.
“Great, now what’s the quickest way to the throne room?” Van asked.
“Well, the quickest way might not be the quickest if there's a lot of guards in the way…” Amie said with some thought. “There is a corridor that servants use to get around, that probably has little to no guards so it should be a straight shot to the throne room if not a little out of the way. The only issue is if it’s been corrupted by the red knives or not. Which might block or get in our way…”
“We’ll there's no harm in checking, let's-” Van was then interrupted by an alarm going off and then someone on a speaker.
“This is a warning to all guards, I repeat, this is a warning to all guards.” a harsh voice rang out throughout the tree. “The intruders have abducted our great queen and made off with her! If you see them, apprehend them immediately! You have permission to shoot on sight! Be warned, they have found parasite bugs left in the war room, as well as traces of red knives. Be warned that our great queen could be under control and that the intruders are armed and dangerous! If you find queen Gloria, restrain her! She is not in her right mind! I repeat this is a warning to all guards-”
“What the hell?” Van said, looking up as the message continued. “What are parasite bugs?”
“Another illegal biological weapon,” Amie said, looking incensed. “It’s a type of very small tick that causes brain damage and makes those infected go insane, sometimes victims lose all reason of where they are or what they're doing. To think she would stoop so low…”
“Wait… what does that mean for us?” Van said, then all of a sudden his eyes widened as it felt like several pounds were pushed onto him. He shook a little, almost falling down due to the suddenness of it before shrugging it off. “What the hell!?” he said after he recovered.
“Fuck!” Lyn said, “that bitch must have turned on the defense system!” giving some support to Amie who almost fell to the ground.
“And that means?” Van asked, not happy about all of a sudden feeling heavier.
Amie explained. “That means not only is our access to our soul realm cut off but our powers are restrained even further by the runes inscribed into the tree. Plus, the automated self-defense programs will come online and start attacking anyone not registered or those registered as an enemy.”
“Well… fuck!” was all Van could reply to that. “I guess sneaking around the long way isn’t an option anymore. We’ll have to force our way through and hope that we can get to the throne room before it’s too late.”
“Indeed!” Gloria couldn’t agree more, she didn’t like the thought of sneaking around in her own home, to begin with. And now that she felt the weight of her own security on her shoulders, she really wanted to just bash everything in her way and strangle that bitch Saline for what she’s done. “That bitch will pay for what she’s done! As well as anyone who steps in the way of high queen Viridia!” her words overflowing with pride and self-righteous anger! Her eyes glowing even harsher and the power flowing off her like waves, resisting the effects of the lockdown.
“Just make sure you go easy on the guards,” Amie said with a wince. “We don’t know who is a traitor and who is a loyalist just trying their best to help you.” not wanting her mother to go on a ‘complete’ rampage.
“Do no worry, my daughter…” Gloria said, her eyes narrowing down the hall at her yet to be seen, enemies. “I’ll make sure to save the traitors for later… for now… Saline will face the full brunt of my anger…” then began walking forwards with a slight snarl on her face, having had enough of all this bullshit.
First, she was betrayed and had the red knives used on her. Then she had to crawl in the air ducts for more than half a fucking hour! And then she found out that her daughter really was thrown into the dungeon… Her Dungeon! And she didn’t know about it! On top of that! Her own security programs were going to be used on her!
She had trusted Saline for decades! She had to admit she had a bit of a heavy warmongerish side to her, but her loyalty was uncontested! Except… that was clearly not the case anymore…
Van and everyone paled when they saw the look on Gloria. They quickly realized it would be for all their good health to stay out of her way for the moment as she stomped her way forward. The expression on her face made them almost pity whatever she was going to do to Saline… almost…
As Gloria marched down the hallway, Van and the rest of the group followed at a safe distance, and while security measures started to activate and attack, he sent green off on ahead into the vents to meet up with her sisters just in case things went south. Perhaps some of Ren’s paranoia rubbed off on him.
Not soon after, holes opened up in the side of the walls and out-flowed a bunch of large pill bugs that rolled their way towards Gloria at high speeds with spikes on their backs.
But Gloria simply used her power to bash them aside before they even got close to her. Using her raw power to levitate a few and with a swing of her arms, she sent them hurling back into the walls, creating craters in them as she continued forward.
Then spike beetles emerged, hanging from the ceiling with their shells out, they aimed and started firing their spikes in rapid fashion towards Gloria. Who in return, swatted the spikes out of the air with her power and then used that same power to pull the beetles from the ceiling and smashed them into the ground.
A small horde of bomb mites scurried from small holes on the ground and rushed the group, but with a stomp, a wave of force shot out from Gloria crushing all the mites and making them explode prematurely.
Finally, they got to sections where the way was blocked off by mana barriers that cut off whole sections of the tree and prevented them from going down certain hallways. But that didn’t stop Gloria who simply took something out, perhaps a pendant or small crystal, flashed it towards one of the corners of the barrier, disabling it momentarily.
“Stupid bitch didn’t bother to lock me out…” Gloria muttered her value of her former general dropping even further.
And so she continued paving a way of destruction wherever she went. Soon they met up with some guards that got in their way.
“Halt! In the name of Viridia!” one guard shouted.
“My queen! Please stay where you are! We don’t want to hurt you!” another shouted.
“It’s the intruders! Attack them!” a third continued.
“These fools forget… This. Is. Still. My. Tree…” Gloria raised her hands and the tree responded, the dozens of guards blocking their path suddenly found themselves being attacked by the tree itself. With some effort, she tied them up in branches and made sure to crush some of their bones just in case they somehow got out.
“Damn… I’m glad I'm not her enemy…” Van thought.
“Holy crap! I had no idea she was this tough!” Lyn also thought.
Gloria started to pant a little from the exertion.
“I don’t understand,” Van asked, noticing how tired Gloria was. “If you could control the tree, why do you let it suppress you?”
“Just because I can control the tree, doesn’t mean I know every rune that’s inscribed onto it and which ones are okay to destroy and which aren't. Sure I know a few, but I have no idea what destroying them would do to the whole makeup of the defense systems in place. For all I know, I could make it worse, or make it so that it would take decades to repair.” Gloria explained.
The group then made their way through a few more guards until they stopped right before the throne room, Gloria then literally kicked the throne room doors down and walked in and noticed that most of the refugees were gone and replaced with many guards until her eyes settled on Saline. When she did, she confronted Saline who was on her throne, and frantically typing away at a floating screen. When she looked up and saw Gloria standing across the room from her, her face paled and she began typing faster and yelled out at her few loyal guards to attack.
“It’s over Saline!” Gloria shouted. “Stand down now, and I ‘might’ show leniency for your treachery!” while putting the beat down on the guards attacking her, bringing them to their knees.
Van and Lyn prepared to fight, they might not have any weapons, but at the moment that didn’t matter since they were being attacked. They did their best to defend themselves and use what little power they had available to themselves. Lyn using some sort of martial arts to get the better of her opponents, and Van using what little power he could tap into to tie his opponents up in shadow, even being able to summon about three small shadow wolves to help.
“Treachery!? I’m the treacherous one!?” Saline shouted with anger and derision as she continued her typing. “You're the one that allowed an insect-kin to join our conferences! We fairies are a noble species! Yet you tried to bring in lesser races into our ranks! It would be one thing if we were in charge, but you had to treat them almost as if we are equals! Don’t you understand that’s not the fairy way!”
Gloria’s face hardened. “Are you that lost in fae supremacy to not realize that such thinking is outdated? Come on Saline! I’m far older than you and even ‘I’ know what you are saying is bullshit!” she shouted as she smashed two heads together, flung another over herself and kicked a fourth several feet away, and began to gather her power to tap into her tree once more to end this once and for all.
“Face it, Saline!” Lyn shouted, trying to distract the traitor general. “You were just scared that an insect-kin would take your job away because you knew deep down you lacked the skill to do your job properly!” dodging a spear thrust and grabbing it and twirling it out of her opponent's hands and into hers. “This isn’t about fairy nobles making sure ‘lesser races’ know their place. This was about you feeling threatened when laws were being passed throughout the decades to make the army more equal and meritocratic! You knew you didn’t have the skill to keep your position, and you were so indoctrinated growing up that when things got tough, you hid behind those fucked up ideals just to protect your own ego!”
“Shut up!” Saline shouted, her face turning red with fury. “You have no idea what you're talking about! No idea what I’ve been through! This is for the best of everyone!” she then clicked something on one of the panels in front of her. Soon, the defense programs that they had to deal with in the hallways were now popping up in the throne room, rolling pill bugs, spike throwers, bomb mites, and more.
Gloria then immediately changed the target of her power from Saline, towards the new threats around her. Destroying everything she could that might pose a threat to them before it was too late. A wave of destruction soon followed as a part of the throne room was twisted into knots by her power, preventing most of the defenses from continuing on, but also draining the last of her reserves.
“Mother!” Amie shouted, rushing to Gloria’s aid.
“Not bad, but just as I expected!” Saline sneered, now looking at them with great confidence and some relief now that she finally had full control over the system, or at least most of it. “I knew that there might be a chance that you will be able to make it to the throne room, and now that you are… you're all tuckered out…” looking for all the world like a villain that finally got one over the hero.
She then motioned to some of her guards on her side the throne room and they left through a side door, only to quickly come back with Luna and Anna in tow. “Now… I think it’s time for your unconditional… surrender…” Saline smugly stated. “You wouldn’t want anything to happen to your friends… now would you?” motioning with her hand towards the tied-up Luna and Anna with their mouths covered.
“Also, just to make sure…” Saline then pressed another button on the terminal and the already exhausted Gloria fell to her knees as new weight was put on her and she felt her power suppressed further.
“MOM!” Amie shouted, trying to catch Gloria from falling completely.
“I-i’m okay…” Gloria said, trying to stand up once more but failing and stuck on her knees.
“pff-Hahahaha! For once! Things are going my way!” Saline jeered. “Now I can repair this forest! Make it great again! The way it should have been!”
“You… you monster!” Amie said, now looking up at Saline. “Haven’t you caused enough damage!” she asked with tears in her eyes. “Look at what you’ve done! You’ve betrayed your oath! Killed millions! And destroyed the forest we call our home! All for the sake of your own ego!” her eyes began to glow as she subconsciously tapped into the tree. “Don’t you see there's no saving what you did to our home!”
“Silence!” Saline shouted, feeling a little irked by the glowing eyes of Evergreen. “What would a child that cavorts with the enemy know about anything!” she said with derision. “No! Once we burn away all the corruption, we will set ourselves up as the undisputed ruler of the forest! As the centuries go by and we help it to recover, ‘we’ will decide who stays and goes! And then we can ensure a haven for all fairy kind in the vampire lands! We will-”
“SUPERKICK!!!” a red blur yelled out from above, falling like a comet onto the unsuspecting general.
“OUH!” Saline was sent hurtling from the throne and several feet away to the wide-eyed amazement of everyone in the room all wondering what the hell just happened.
Then a red figure in an extremely tight bodysuit did a pose on the throne and gave the audience a wink, splaying out her hands and moving her hips and legs. “In the name of…” she blinked, trying to come up with something quick. “...My master! I. Shall. Punish. You!” then did a few more poses for good measure.
The guards holding Luna and Anna hostage looked completely baffled and worriedly looked between this new character and they're general, wondering what to do. Only to be hit hard on the back of the head by another blue and green individual, freeing their hostages.
Van’s eyes widened at the opportunity presented to them, pushing away the hows and saving such questions for later. He instead shouted at the red imp to stop posing. “Stop playing around! Quick! Disengaged the alarm! And free us from the restraining runes!”
“Oh… right!” Red said, realizing where she was and turning to the terminal. “Uh… how do I do that?”
“STOP HER!” Saline shouted at her remaining guards, getting up with a fury.
“Oh no, you don’t!” Amie yelled, her eyes glowing even harder. Wood branches started to grow out of wooden flooring and started to attack and hold down the many guards still on Salines side. But because this was not something she was used to, her nose started to bleed and veins started to pop up on her head due to the strain.
Van and Lyn scrambled forwards while Gloria was still trying to stand up and help her daughter, her own eyes glowing and working together to restrain or attack any enemy guards that got in the way.
“EEEK! What do I do! What do I do!” Red panicked, looking at the screen in front of her while trying to duck and dodge attacks that came very narrowly hitting her if not for the last-minute saves of the branches protecting her. “Gods damn it! I don’t read Elvish! Or fae, or whatever this is!”
With a berserker-like rage, Saline charged the stupid imp, bringing out her spear from her soul realm and preparing to skewer the offending idiot right through the heart. If it weren’t for another last-minute save by Gloria and Amie who used the last of their energy to stop her legs in their tracks. Allowing Van and Lyn to get to the terminal in time.
“NOOO!” Saline shouted as Lyn pushed aside the imp and read through all the codes and systems put into place. With a few clicks, she activated an emergency shut down of the defense system, and soon a feeling of freedom flowed through everyone as the restraining runes were deactivated.
“Buy me some time!” Lyn shouted to Van. “this only lasts ten minutes, so I need you to distract them long enough to make this permanent!”
“How much time do you need?” Van asked.
“Just give me five to start with, think you can do that?” Lyn asked, now more focused on the terminal in front of her.
Van turned to look at Saline and the death in her eyes as she roared her anger and broke free from the branches. “I’ll try…”
And the scramble for the throne began…