After quickly disappearing around a dark corner of a deserted alleyway, Alicia used Transposition to return to the Inn premises, eyes closed, leaning against its chimneys billowing out smoke. She was in fully focused information gathering. Rosalia had gone out recently and naturally the Araneae entrusted with keeping tabs on her secretly followed after her. Apparently Rosalia went out to a small library located inside a scriptorium1Literally meaning “Place for writing” in Latin. of a nearby church to read. As churches served more purpose than just a place of worship - in case of most towns also being a health care service provider - their libraries often had various documents and other literature. Rosalia, despite not being a particularly bookish person, was still bored being cooped up in an inn room and the act of browsing through the contents of these texts provided her with a distraction.
All of this was normal so far. Until a number of suspicious people started scouring the town. This would not have been a problem if not for the fact that one of them evidently recognized Rosalia, followed her back to the inn from a distance and notified their comrades who were now converging in on the place. They were obviously up to no good, but luckily, it appeared that not all of them were combattants. As Alicia examined all the information and reports she received from her Araneae and compared the actions of these men to each other she noticed few discrepancies. They were too slow to communicate but most of them seemed to have simply backed away and left, spare a few.
Although their behaviour was puzzling it made sense when she understood that these men acted in much the similar way how she managed her information network. Even if they seemed primitive without the powerful telepathic communication shared with her Kindred. She identified most of them to be some sort of informants and moles, most likely part of a greater organization.
‘If it’s anything that’s not already being exploited by the guild then it’s probably illegal. Some sort of syndicate then…? Let me guess… hits, shakedowns, contraband smuggling, tax evasion, illegal slave trade and all that smooth jazz. Seems like someone doesn't want our princess to see her father again… haaaa… I was starting to like the town too. We could bounce but… someone should be coming for her… Well someone other than cutthroats with daggers dipped in poison…’
Only a few suspicious men remained loitering around the inn premises, seemingly staying behind to keep watch on Rosalia. For now they wouldn’t act in plain sight it seemed.
‘Waiting for nightfall or an opportunity before they make a move… that buys me some time… I should let Rosalia know what’s happening in the meantime, just not everything… This inn, albeit temporary, is still my territory. While I’m not against sharing an establishment… These little helpers of mine aren’t as gregarious, especially with humans that are clearly stepping on all the wrong places…’
- “Deal with them carefully and discreetly. Take them alive if you can, I’ve no need for corpses.”
With their objectives clearly dictated, the araneae lurking in the darkness of alleyways and corners sprung into action. Having to steer clear of these walking ‘pests, and watch them go back and forth right in their sight were infuriatingly provocative for the araneae. It was as if lambs, oblivious to the dangers of a resting pride of lions, kept prancing in front of them playing without a care. Even without the need to feed the araneae were by nature, predators.
Their hunting instincts of identifying prey from a threat, gifted to them by evolution kept asking them over and over again why they weren’t taking such a free prize. Yet the loyalty imprinted to the very essence of their beings prevented them from acting out in a way that would inconvenience their mother who was masquerading as one them and thus suppressed their natural urge. They explored and observed this food-rich biome because she required them to, they waited because that’s what she would have wanted of them. Still small twinges of the cravings persisted. And now having been given the orders which generously provided them with the opportunity to sate their lust for hunt, they wouldn’t squander it nor would they disappoint their mother, their god, who wove them into existence.
As Alicia stepped into the inn in the most natural manner as she could, trying to make it seem like she returned back in a conventional method, the Araneae captured the would-be assassins one by one, abducting the individuals without company and fell upon the groups in sync. Their sudden disappearances witnessed only by the inanimate stone bricks in the walls. Those of them who blended in with the everyday citizens took some time to pick out as some of them needed to take on their smaller, hex crawler form to sneak their way into their clothes and undergarments to then bite them to incapacitate their ability to walk.
Rosalia welcomed her back when Alicia returned, quizzical of her early return. Under a made up pretext, Alicia advised her to stay in the inn and try to avoid going out as much as possible, offering to go out on errands for her to those ends. Although unconvinced Rosalia agreed anyway. Until the araneae summoned her to some abandoned buildings at the edge of the town, she entertained some small talk with Rosalia before she set out again. This time with more density of guards for her as well as setting up a perimeter of tripwire net to cover a more extensive area.
‘Maybe that guy was onto something trying to sell me bodyguards… Well I basically picked up a feral cat… too late to cry over spilt milk…’
The village folk tired of their tiny world, charmed by the tall tales that come out of towns, driven by either ambition, desperation, or wanderlust set out on a road staking everything on their grandiose aspirations of a new better life. More often than not they fell prey to the ruthlessness of the cities, consumed by them. These crumbling ruins of a district were once their shelter, now a grim reminder, a graveyard of broken dreams and sometimes of their owners. Many of these men played a part in the creation of places like this, directly or not. They were webbed, hung and cocooned to various walls and ceilings inside one of the cellars of these abandoned buildings, only half conscious, venom yet to wear off. Small rays of light filtered through the rickety floorboards supported by decrepit beams provided some illumination.
- ‘You guys caught a lot of them… well done. Hey wait a minute some of them are upside down! They’ll die before I get anything! Quick! Get them down something.’
- ‘NO! Don’t just cut the line they’ll break their necks from a fall like that!’
- ‘Yeesh you guys have no mercy…’
‘Hopefully no brain damage… hoo boy I have my work cutout for me… Let’s get this started…’
Many towns were built with or above an already existing underground aqueducts, cistern reservoirs and wells. These long, narrow tunnels carried water from nearby mountains, springs and rivers to supply towns and cities with fresh water. These systems were hidden as much as they could for various reasons. Armies sieging a city could poison the supply making defense hellish, small critters could find their way in spreading diseases or die contaminating the water. In consideration of problems like these these waterways were purposefully built with winding tunnels with dead ends, hidden passages and more. Over time these tunnels that deliver precious waters, supplying the wells and fountains of the city whose the people take for granted are forgotten over generations. Their only proof of existence were ancient maps and blueprints of the city passed down from the previous line of nobles, tucked under the dusty collection of the ruling lords.
With decades of neglect and disrepair, some of the bricks lining the walls of the tunnels erode away to reveal unintended entry into the systems. Decent men had no business within them, the scum and villainy of society however found them a suitable hideaway, establishing themselves as the literal underworld of cities. The crown was bestirren with action, more so than the usual after someone set a hefty forward bounty on some woman. It wasn't often that the crown received a bounty on someone’s head. Getting away with murder wasn’t easy and they asked a fortune for their service, especially if they didn’t know a lick about who it was. And even with their extortionate prices someone still placed an advance payment for their death along with a small slip containing the description about the target.
It would take time for any of them to move into action but the client added that they will double their initial payment to the man who brought proof of her death before the next morning. With that newcomers and hardened veterans alike set out, tempted by the dewy offer. It was a slow start due to mismatching information about her attire but eventually they found a person matching the descriptions provided and luckily she didn’t appear to be going anywhere for a while. The eager freshblood amongst them tried to go straight for the target but failed to get a chance, some even blowing their cover and being pursued by the guards. With how cautious the target was, it would need a proper planning and delicate approach if any of them wanted to succeed. Here the struggles caused by infighting enticed by the lucrative pay further hampered their chance of success.
- ‘And while they were figuring out how to out-dupe the guy next to them and get to Rosalia, we came in and interrupted the whole affair. Seems like this is the most we’ll get out of them just by probing… We shouldn’t dawdle here any longer than necessary, I doubt it’s the last of them to come after our figuratively blooded friend… Time to guide their thoughts to what I want.’
Tearing one of the dazed men out of the group;
｢ Liquorgenesis ｣
Alicia condensed the dank air and using her magical energy supply more, created a pool of water that flooded the basement up to her ankles and…
｢ Likurokinesis ｣
…slowly stirring until it garnered enough torque to smash through the flimsy floorboards in a torrential upspurt, forcefully splashing the stuck men with shivering waters, waking them up in the process. Without the floorboards sunlight poured in . Beset by sudden and violent awakening, confusion and terror brought about by their bounds combined with the difficulty breathing through the silk, they all started grunting and groaning, and fought against their restraints.
Two loud claps momentarily pulled their attention away from the frightening circumstance to the woman standing in the middle of the room.
- “I’m sure you all have questions for me like; ‘Where am I?’ ‘Who are you?’ ‘What is happening?’ so let’s begin with those.”
Alicia spoke through the rain water and wooden chunks falling back down into the broken cellar ceiling.
- “You are at the edge of the town in an abandoned district. That means no one’s coming for you and no one is close enough to hear your screams, so save your breath you’ll need it later, trust me. As for who I am, that does not matter for the time being.
So what is happening, really, I ought to do everyone a favor and just feed you my Familiars but you have something that I want. There is-”
- “You mad whore free us!”
- “Sure thing.”
Seemingly out of thin air the woman drew out a blade and cut the rogue who was stuck to the wall free of his bonds. Not expecting the bizarre action the man fell down on all his fours. A shoe struck his head down before he could rise up straight, throwing him face first into the pooling waters. Despite the fact that he was crippled by the lingering venom, the man had significant strength in him, grasping at her legs to move it away yet he was unable to free himself from her soles. And as he continued to fight, water inevitably entered his airways causing him to burble. His struggles slowed down in several minutes and in another minute he was lying motionless on the surface of the water and at that moment Alicia finally stepped off the man.
- “Anyone else want to be ‘free?’ I can send you after him, he kindly requested ‘us’ after all. Come on, show of hands… err I suppose some of you can’t. Then… say aye? No… Let’s do it like this, make a sound once, for yes, and more than once, for no. If you don’t make a sound, then I’ll guess it’s just one of those tacit approval kind of situations.”
As soon as she had said that last line she was met with a clamorous series of muffled and desperate murmurs.
- “Quiet, quiet… before I was rudely interrupted.-
Alicia kicked the man lying in the water rightside up, as if making an example of, stomped on his stomach and played it off as she did it out of spite. In reality she stomped on him to have his body choke out the water in lungs to prevent drowning with particularly violent application of CPR assisted with magic.
- I was about to get to the last tidbits of details. I only need one of you to give me what I want, whether you all make it out alive or not is up to you.
Before I get to that I need to ask you all something. Feel anything… different about your bodies? Throbbing pain? Weakness in your limbs? Tiredness? Good, that’s the poison I’ve injected in all of you… In about two hours from now, every one of you will die from it.”
Pulling out the waterskin that was given to her by the Troll tribe from the void vault she showed it to the men, shaking it side to side to make sloshing sounds to prove that there’s something in it. She had little use for it for herself but she carried it around to look ‘normal’ to Rosalia and anyone else that might be watching her by taking a sip every now and then.
- “Worry not I have the antidote right here. The poison will only worsen so until you take the antidote and you’ll lose consciousness in an hour before you die. Therefore realistically you all have one hour. You can have it, there’s enough in it for everyone. If you give me what I want. Remember any dilly dallying only means you’re chipping away at your own very limited time. Are we all on the same page now?”
Nods of approval quickly followed.
‘If only you guys have been this cooperative from the start… Oh well… but what do I do with them afterwards…?
Leaving them here is fine, the webbings will naturally degrade over time, fast enough that they won’t starve to death… probably… I could do some science with Domination. Having my very own band of assassins does sound tempting… even if there’s little practical use for them but they could be my ticket into their organization… that’s an interesting proposition if I can wrest control. Another straightforward approach is just feeding them to my Araneae and I don’t think anyone will miss them. Them being missing might be a good deterrent for the Crown - or whatever they called themselves - from making future moves against Rosalia…’
Live and Let live. (Spare)New Management. (Recruit)Lambs to the Slaughter. (Slay)Any/Author's pick.Total voters: 109 · This poll was closed on Apr 9, 2021 12:20 PM.46