Thoraday, 15th of Snowmelt, 3830 AR

Duchy of Keldor



            “—gods, it’s not that goddamned hard!” Veyd jammed a finger at the tablet. “You are bribing this guy with one thousand gray, this guy for two thousand, you are giving a gift to this guy’s daughter on her birthday, a necklace of surpassing grace and beauty and all that crap, you are giving a gift of champagne, red champagne that would be best to be Vycastrian Red if readily available but don’t ever go below fifty gray per bottle, to this asshole, this lady is top priority, very fancy, she requires diamonds or emeralds, not rubies, not ever rubies, she thinks red are an old woman color—”
            “She’s ninety,” said Carol blandly, staring down at Veyd from an adult height of five foot ten.
            Veyd rubbed the bridge of her nose in irritation. “Not if you want her to continue with being the Order’s friend, she’s not!” she replied and then she pointed at the list again. “This guy owes money, five hundred thousand gray in the Bank of Talayne alone, so don’t bring up money in any form and hint, but don’t give because he’s a piece of shit, at giving him money, this guy is a piece of shit but you had best not even give him a dirty look because he’s very, very, sensitive, this girl is a smoking hot lesbian but if you give even give her husband a rubbernecked look she will oddly go bat shit cat crazy with jealously and are you listening to me, Carol?”
            “How the hell do you remember all this, Brenda?”
            “Don’t call me Brenda and it’s a skill that comes after years of dealing with court politics,” said Veyd. “It’s like how actors can memorize lines but forget them the instant they no longer need them. Look, if it’s too hard, you just pretend you’re young, helpless and still play with dolls.”
            “You play with dolls.”
            “Action figures are not dolls.” She pointed a finger at her head. “Train your fucking brain, Carol! You’re Order of the Bird!”
            “You should be Order of the Bird too and why can’t you do it? You’ve grown much sexier in that last month.”
            It was true but that wasn’t the problem. The problem with what Carol was saying was, “Because I’m still thirteen bimbo and, believe it or not, most of these men think that’s too young.”
            “Or perhaps just your mistress.”
            That was also true. Alia, Mistress of the Rodent Branch of the Order of the Three, accurately deduced Veyd would use her youth and beauty to get allies and get free of them.
            That, and various other fears in losing her expert financier, enticed Alia to put an explosive collar around her neck disguised as a neck ornament to match her dress.
            Carol was admittedly a better match for the job of courting aristocrats physically. She was tall, statuesque, with a great figure, larger than average breasts that could be shown off to dazzling effect, long, flowing dark hair, vibrant emerald green eyes, and a face that looked far more innocent than she was. That last was more important than one would think.
            Now if only she could remember what was on that stupid list.
            “Look, can you just be my little sister for one night and whisper the answer to everything I need?”
            “Absolutely not!” replied Veyd. “Little sisters are cock blockers and deal breakers as far as men as considered and, besides, I’m her daughter for the night.” She jerked a thumb back at the Alia who was staring at them from across the airship deck watching them getting ready impatiently. As head of the Rodent division of the Order of Three she was called Mother Rabbit, gods only knew why, and Veyd was forbidden under any circumstances from ever using her real name. She only knew it because she was extremely sneaky which seemed to be the pretext reason she was being forced into the Rodent division of the order. “You get paid the big money, you’re the big shot with your peacock bird face, and you got huge boobs so now you got to go out there, smile like a bimbo, thrust your knockers forward, and get these simpering yahoos and fops to bend for the Order!”
            Veyd felt the neck collar for a second, imagining it exploding her around the neck as she raced for sweet, sweet freedom, and then went over to the mirror and examined her face.
            “You know they’ll never blow you up,” said Carol. “You’re running half the Order.”
            “I do know that.” It was also why she couldn’t leave.
            “And you can pass for older and if you were a Bird it could be you.”
            “I’m not making those decisions,” she replied and looked at the stranger in the mirror.
            Bodies without spirits matured slowly for some reason but, once in there, she made for lost time. She had deeply feminine features, breasts and hips that were almost womanly and still growing, making her one of those girls who could pass for sixteen or seventeen if she tried.
            She had also grown several inches and, after the solid two weeks of hard work, her body was a solid, sculpted masterpiece of natural grace and fitness. She had a natural gymnastic-level physical ability combined with her original training in her last life allowed her to walk on a rope, swing up bars, and various other things somewhat easily. Her hair, once properly tended, went down to the small of her back in deep red curls and she wore teal lipstick that matched her eyes.
            She was wearing a tight, but not showy, dress of dark teal, also matching her eyes, tight around her waist and chest with no sleeves, tightening at her waist and then spreading out like an upside down flower down to her ankles. Her makeup did make her look older but she was too short for that to full illusion and, evidently, had a very childlike personality which she got from being herself.
            At least my maturity finally matches, she thought and added, “I hate weddings so much.” She turned around and faced her mistress. “So, Mother Rabbit.”
            “So, Daughter Rabbit,” she replied.
            Alia, who was a beautiful woman in her early fifties in a matching white version of Veyd’s dress who could pass for thirties with enough makeup, moved a finger along Veyd’s face admiringly. She looked at Veyd like she was a china doll she could dress up and play with which, point of fact, she had been doing for the last two weeks.
            “You know, I think this would be better suited for a more experienced—”
            “Don’t you try humility on me,” Alia stated and she grabbed her face with both hands. “You’ve got to be here to help your sister in case something goes even slightly wrong. Now put on your mask and come with me into this horrible atrocity of a wedding.” She smiled at her at something like maternal love that didn’t quite touch her eyes. “You are to be an exemplar of feminine grace.”
            “Yes, of course. I have so much experience in that.”
            “Brenda, nothing will go wrong. You understand?” She kissed on her on the forehead in a way that sparked of warning and looked into deep her eyes with a darkening expression. “Nothing will go wrong.”
            “Of course nothing will!” Veyd replied with wide eyes. “The bride is a sex starved nymphomaniac and the groom is a self-deluded homosexual who goes berserk when someone even looks at his bride wrong. I see no problems here. None at all.”

*          *          *

            It was like hell itself it was so awful.
            They came down out of the airship on the projected solid red holographic platform, dropping seven of their number down, and Veyd walked along the boring long entry with the others wearing a pristine white rabbit mask that matched Alia’s.
            That itself was a problem as, evidently, she was an intellectual that should have been part of the Birds but Alia would not give her up and made her one of the Rodents, the sneakier section of them, based on Veyd’s sneaky history. It worked but the Birds complained and Veyd was strapped with a collar that would explode if she went toward the Birds or the exit.
            Alia held Veyd’s hand as they walked along the line.
            “Don’t you do anything,” she told Veyd for the hundredth time as they walked toward Hillkeep Castle.
            It was located in the Franko Mountains in the southeast section of Keldor, a former kingdom now part of Doran’s south western side under the rulership of the Gray Queen. The only thing revealed by their masks was their mouths hence the lipstick she wore.
            Everyone either thought they were a joke or they murdering psychopaths. Veyd came to believe they were both but never voiced that out loud because they were also obscenely sensitive.
            They went right passed the scanners, all of them except Veyd fully armed, and entered the great hall.
            “You know,” Veyd told Alia, “For a homosexual wedding this place seriously blows. Even the colors aren’t fabulous—”
            Alia squeezed her hand tightly. “Quiet, you.”
            “Okay, I will,” she lied.
            “Don’t make me break your legs.”
            “Ha, ha, funny.” She wasn’t joking by that expression. “Oh. Okay then.”
            “That’s a good girl.”
            “I sure am,” she replied awkwardly and thought, I’m so screwed. Carol was right in how valuable she was but that did not mean they couldn’t hurt her. She had, within those two weeks, increased their income ten times, some by helping ensnare new connections with lords and ladies and such but mostly by finding members of the Birds division who were abusing their privilege in the various already existing incomes.
            Alia’s removal of them was a bloodbath of lopped off hands in great piles outside their old castle. If Veyd was one of the Birds herself the Bird Mother would have been able to control the punishment of the crimes but Alia had ambitions to the top and a merciless aggression to the Bird division who had been, for generations, the only Master of the Three, the leader of their organization, who was yet to be chosen.
            It either made Veyd extremely valuable to the Birds or someone they deeply wanted to kill and she did not which for sure.
            So screwed, she thoguth.
            “Do not humiliate us,” Alia told her severely.
            “Oh I won’t,” she replied and looked over the weakest wedding she had ever seen. “I really don’t think I’m the one to humiliate anyone here.”
            The dais was filled some somber, serious, people under lengths of pink in the color of the Keldor Duchy and the symbol of the “M” up above in stained glass, the Marathir female bloodline that only Queen Elliah VI, exiled on Walrus 5, could claim. To Veyd, everyone who wasn’t wearing gray looked like they wanted to kill themselves.
            Those in gray were uniformed men in the gray-black of the Gray Queen, with their double gray armbands with the black crow over red and the symbol on a shaped version in onyx on their hate: the symbol of the Gray Queen. They looked equally miserable but wanted to kill others instead of themselves.
            Everyone entering was staring like it was a funeral, everyone walking, slowly, passed the scanner at the entrance to greet the miserable suicidal bride in bright white and the grinning, incredibly homosexual-in-denial groom in his black-gray uniform, then to eat the endless food of average to low quality, like fast food low quality. The guests ate, drank heavily, and looked around like someone was about to be executed.
            “Everyone just looks so happy!” said Veyd and winced as her hand was squeezed. “Forgot you were holding onto that.”  She looked up at her. “I’m thirteen,” she told her. “You’re going to have let go before people think I’m an idiot.”
            “You be good, little girl,” she told her and then let go.
            Absolutely not, she thought and wandered off. She pretended to look up at the pretty dresses for about ten minutes, her hands behind her back, her face all cute and girly and then went to the bar when Alia was distracted by some aristocrat.
            She quickly snapped her fingers three times to get the bartender’s attention. “Hit me with Back Troll Slider, double shot, on the rocks.”
            “You know this isn’t a free bar,” said the big man with a mustache and a suit with suspenders and a bowtie.
            “You are fucking with me, sir and that is not kind.” She made a thumb back to the other gays that were more depressed than anyone else, but still pretty well dressed in cooperation with stereotype, huddling together and whispering. “That asshole is the cousin of a former duke. The groom is the son of an actual duke. The bride is the cousin of a duke.” She frowned in thought. “They’re all the same duke, I think.”
            He shrugged. “Not a free bar.”
            “What kind of aristocratic wedding doesn’t have a free bar?” she asked. “A fucking mechanic at his wedding could afford a free bar!” She saw someone sliding yellow discs, each worth twenty gray, across the table, each worth ten gray, and a different hard drink, a Wardenian Blast Monkey, came down and then she saw who was drinking it.
            “There is something painfully familiar about you,” said Baribald Brotaine. He was much older than when Veyd last saw him, his handsome face become lined in the way the very miserable were, his hair mostly gone and gray, his orange Corvian eyes sunk in and staring at a world perceived to have turned on him.
            “I’m wearing a mask so I probably remind you of every Order girl you’ve ever met.”
            “No, it’s not that. Definitely not that. It’s that annoying personality.” His eyes stared into hers. “And that shit eating grin.”
            “Oh you flatter me, Lord Baribald. How’s the family? The wife?”
            “Unsatisfied,” Desmea Brotain said as she took his drink and drank it. She was an alcoholic and Veyd’s sole hope for making this party something entertaining. “You know who this is, little girl?”
            “No, tell me!” She said with a huge smile.
            “Oh he was once going places!” cried the woman. She was overweight, miserable looking, her hair hanging up above her head almost like a peacock, and her dress bright silver and clinging to her ample body because it was clearly too small and she was clearly in denial about her looks. When Veyd had last seen her she had been an actual supermodel, the kind that filled aristocrat magazines showing off fashion and class with models who were required to be highborn as an unsubtle method of showing off looks in order to find husbands and wives. “His brother had the whole world on a string, the favor of the true queen—” several faces turned in unison and Baribald winced “—but nooooo he got greedy and threw his life away! He threw away the one man who was making worth his own feces!”
            “Wipe that grin of your face!” Baribald commanded.
            “No can do!” He looked offended and that made Veyd think there was a remaining possibility, however crazy and farfetched as it was, that she was somehow rather annoying. “Can I get a drink?”
            Desmea tossed some random colored discs down onto the table, pointed at the bartender and said, “Get this girl a drink!”
            “Back Troll Slider, double shot, on the rocks.” The drink came down, blue with a bright pink umbrella, and Veyd took a hold of it both hands. “Excel—”
            Alia pulled the drink away with wide offended eyes. “You can’t drink that! It’ll affect your beauty and you’re thirteen!”
            “Whatever you say, Mother Buzzkill—” Fingers grabbed her ear and pulled her away. “Ow, ow, ow,” she said as she pulled into a corner and given a long, angry gesture about the importance of the Order, of appearances, of many other things and was promised grounding of a vicious, near permanent nature.
            After that things went quiet for a while.
            That party was actually worse than Veyd thought. The damn pink everywhere was getting to her, the walls and huge windows displaying the endless bright blue sky of Corvo, the dance hall before the dais was filled with people all moving mechanically in a pre-wedding ball, but no one was doing anything fun. No joking, no singing, no magical illusionist act, no dancing that was mechanical and boring, basically everything being done through various blank motions.
            “Alcohol is all that can save this party—”
            “No—” Alia’s eyes hardened and continued speaking gutturally through her teeth “—drinking.” She frowned at Carol who looked worriedly at Veyd. “You stay away from Carol. You are not of the Bird.”
            “Is that why I’m wearing a rabbit mask?” She opened her bottle, put it to her mouth, and Alia yanked it from her hand. She smelled it, frowning, and then handed it back. “It’s not vodka this time even though vodka is all that can save this party.
            “I’m going to lock you into your room until the year is out,” she said seriously.
            Veyd felt her heart sink because it was the first month of spring and that meant eleven more months. “That, Mother Rabbit, would be a rash decision.” She turned from Mother Rabbit and looked at the dais to the future bride who looked like she wanted to hang herself from the rafters. “Seriously, a rash—” Mother Rabbit was frowning at her “—fine.”
            She turned and looked at the bride.
            Lady Abigail Ellenwood was about to marry a man with the ludicrously hilarious name of Martin Spazgow and her father, a reputed scumbag, had no problem forcing his daughter into marriage with a known homosexual psychotic to make a connection to the wondrous Spazgows who, believe it or not, were the most powerful and influential family in Keldor.
            It was mostly due to their sycophantic servitude of the Gray Queen.
            Veyd put walked up to the dais like a proper lady mumbling, “You can’t drink. You’re thirteen. It’s not ladylike. You’ll get drunk and embarrass us. Wah, wah, wah. Boo hoo hoo. Grounded forever.” She curtsied low before Lady Ellenwood. “The Order and I wish you the greatest of happiness in your marriage and your family. May you have many children and live long and full lives.”
            “Thank you,” she said bitterly.
            “You are most welcome.” She curtsied lower, turned around, and saw Brotain was staring at her again. She grinned at him and walked on passed Alia who approached Lady Abigail afterward.
            That was the only interesting moment in the afternoon while Veyd was stuck with Mother Rabbit for following six hours until the wedding ceremony was to begin. It was dark when the time was to arrive, the night sky turning those big oval windows into the Corvian starlit sky, and the priest had not yet arrived.
            They were to be married out there in front of the great statue of Talia, the goddess of the sun, somewhat queerly at night. It was like that everywhere in Talayne and Veyd thought it made no goddamn sense but Veyd shrugged that off easily because she was no priest.
            Veyd recalled the last time she had been to a gay party she had been male, twenty one, and so drunk she, then a he, ended up bed with a smoking hot lesbian who was rather less than happy about that.
            It was an amazing party, everyone out of their mind drunk and singing and dancing and partying. Alan Veyd considered himself lucky it was an actual female he ended up with because he had been irresponsibly drunk and some of those guys were pretty messed up people completely willing to take advantage of a dumb drunk idiot.
            The lesbian in question was so upset that she knocked his two front teeth out when Veyd had jokingly replied to her lamentation with, “Perhaps this is a bad time to suggest you get a pregnancy test.”
            “Who was the man who did this?” his doctor had asked.
            “Her name was Joanne and it was so worth it,” Alan Veyd replied with a laugh. She had apologized later and ended up working for him as his secretary while he was in the slammer.
            Veyd managed to sneak up to a different bartender when Mother Rabbit was distracted by the former duke while they all waited for the priest. “This party sucks. Back Troll Slider—”
            “Can’t do it.”
            “What are you, a cop? Hit me with booze and quickly! I need this party started!” She gestured behind her. “Even the DJ looks bored.”
            “No, your grandmother threatened me with castration and I draw the line there. Also, the DJ is bored because he was led to believe this would be a better party.”
            “Yeah, I can see that,” said Veyd who knew the DJ was the boyfriend one of the groomsmen. They were probably only there for the grooms older brother who was also gay but one of the openly, adventurous fun gays and at least one of the bartenders, the DJ, and several others were his friends. Evidently, he was the absolute opposite spectrum of homosexual than Martin was: the fun, partying, live life to the gayest personality. He was just short of what people sometimes called “flaming” or so Veyd was told.
            Veyd looked down as a blue Quinn Cola was pushed toward her.
            “A can? Seriously?”
            “I don’t want her jumping to wrong conclusions. The Order of the Three frightens me.”
            “Fine.” She opened it up, took a drink, and began looking around for unwatched rum.
            She found none as no one was happy enough to not drink their alcohol and found a group of kids her age, most of them unaware of the disaster around them, all dancing.
            Veyd finished her drink, tossed it onto a servant’s platter, and looked cute and cuddly and waited for a boy to ask her to dance. It didn’t take long and his name was Stan or Bran or Wran or something weird, an attractive boy with dark hair, and she danced with him for a while until she heard a “What the fuck?” erupt from the entrance.
            She turned with everyone and her eyes grew wide and hopeful behind her mask.
            Lord Mathew Parris, handsome, dashing, one of like thirty to fifty, had thrown open the door violently and stumbled in drunk. Every Parris named their son Matthew or their daughter Mara so who the hell knew which one of thirty to fifty he was.
            “She’s miiiiine!” cried Matthew. “You can’t have her, Spazgow!”
            “Yes!” cried Veyd. “Yes, thank you, gods in the heavens! You did not let me down!”
            “I knew you would come, Mato!” cried Lady Ellenwood with a happy cry.
            “Mato?” asked Veyd with a stupefied voice and expression.
            “Oh you think you can just walk into my wedding and steal my loving bride!” cried Martin. “We’re about to married!”
            “Not any time soon! I’ll stole the priest’s engine block!”
            “The whole engine block?” asked Veyd out loud. “Seems a bit of an overkill, but okay.”
            “You don’t love her!” cried Mato, his long, luxurious locks of sex-guy hair hanging down over his eyes. “I know! I know you don’t love her!”
            “What do you know?” he cried and he pulled out his flipsword, also known as a spinblade, the blade unrolling in his hand to reveal a longsword.
            “Well—” Mato looked confused “—you’re—” his eyes went wide “—gay!”
            “What? Me?” He actual looked confused. “Homosexual gay?” I’m not gay!” Ninety percent of the people in the room, including all the groomsmen and bridesmaids, darted their eyes around uncomfortably.
            Veyd leaned over and whispered to her dancing partner, “I think the two dozen male lovers he had would be surprised to hear that.” She giggled happily for a moment.
            “Good gods, Martin,” said his older brother Keith and he rubbed the bridge of his nose. Keith Spazgow looked unbelievably tired. “Seriously, do we have to do this? You are totally gay!”
            “You’re not gay if you’re not the receiver!”
            Keith let out a loud, long groan of misery and tiredness. “I hate you so much, Martin, I can’t even begin to start.”
            Veyd was so happy she was hopping up and down and clapping. “Oh this is so awesome! Punch him in the face Tomato and carry your bride into the rising sun! Adventure, adventure, adventure!”
            “Seriously, this is literally retarded.” Keith looked so tired it was amazing he could stand. “Mato, just take the girl and go. I can’t handle this. I can’t. This is crazy. This is insane.” He shrugged. “I got nothing. This is just—crazy.”
            “You can’t have my woman!” cried Martin and Keith groaned again.
            “She’s miiiiiine!” moaned Mato on his feet and he pulled out his blade. It was a forceblade, a knight’s weapon from Quarran, forming a solid mostly transparent holographic sword from a plain black handle. “I love this woman and she is miiiiiine!”
            “You can’t—” an idea crossed his mind “—did you have sex with my fiancé.”
            “Who hasn’t?” cried someone.
            Veyd burst out laughing so hard she thought she was going to die. “I love this fucking Walrus!” she cried. “I love him so much!” She almost fell over she was laughing so hard.
            “You fucked my wife!” Martin screamed. “How dare you fuck my wife!” He suddenly stabbed the man with his blade.
            “Holy shit!” cried Veyd suddenly and the whole room let out a gasp.
            “Good fucking gods!” cried Keith.
            Abigail Ellenwood screamed and everyone else stared like a chimp who had just discovered fire or porn.
            “Die, you fucker!” cried Martin and he started to stab him repeatedly. “Die, die, die, die, die!”
            Blood burst out everywhere, onto everything, Martin screaming incoherently at the end and women screaming into the air, Lady Ellenwood most of all, as he repeatedly impaled her lover.
            It was at that point, that exact point, when everyone in the room realized they hated everyone else. Anti-gay people VS gay, pro Gray Queen vs Pro True Queen, knight VS peasant, servant VS master and any number of assholes who just wanted to cause mindless destruction and havoc in the cluster fuck that followed that was a murder fest.
            Veyd blinked once and everything changed.
            Everyone went at each other like two rhinos charging. No one was supposed to have any weapons but everyone did, because the table was full of knives, no one can legally search a nobleman, and, of course, forceblades and spinblades and daggers and even some guns would slip by the scanners.
            Veyd ducked, rolled, and was under a table as the bullets, lasers and blades went flying.
            Mato Parris’s head landed in front of her a second later, the sound of screaming everywhere.
            Then someone’s hand landed beside it and a huge splattering of blood followed from some artery in someone’s leg as they stumbled by sending it right into her face. It slipped right off of her where it touched without a mark or smeer because her dress was enchanted to repel anything from it and its wearer.
            Veyd scrambled backward, found the small trap door to under the dais hidden by the table, and dropped down. She lifted her head up a moment later and saw bodies everywhere beyond the table and not just stupid men trying prove themselves or fight for some dumb idea but women and children too.
            “Fuck me!” She saw some guy pull out a grenade who looked like a servant as he being stabbed by several of the gray imperial men. “Fuck me running!” She ducked down, covered her ears just after she heard the cry.
            “For the True Queeeeeeeen—” There was an explosion and her ears were suddenly filled with that ear piercing sound.
            “Oh fuck this!” She rushed across the lower dais where they kept mostly folded chairs and tables opened the other trap door on the other side and saw entrance to the great hall had burst open. She crawled over several dead bodies, grabbed an empty bottle, and threw it at a window.
            The window shattered into a thousand pieces revealing the open night sky with a yellow glow on the left toward the entrance.
            The survivors in the room were not gray, they were knights and lords who had leapt from the grenade, but the men who came in were gray. They decided what they saw were enemies instantaneously and rushed at them with their blades. They almost all hit htier targets, impaling their blades into them like pikes at a full on charge.
            Alia and Carol were nowhere to be seen, either among the dead bodies, or back flipped their way out of the wedding with their trained assassin skills.
            Veyd had some of that training but not a lot. They wanted her as their financier, not someone capable of escaping them, so natural grace or not she was not even at the first level of their secret training.
            She climbed up out of the window and almost fell off a cliff that down half a hundred feet to a slope to a lot more. She felt her vision blur in shock and quickly caught onto the wall to her right of the window toward the back of the castle.
            She looked to the left and saw the battle had found its way to the people on the outside, the lower classmen who were celebrating the wedding in the fields outside. There were explosions and screams and violence and fire, lots of fire, setting the hundreds of tents all blazing.
            She heard something behind her, turned, and saw someone caught on fire.
            “Faggot!” cried a man who had thrown a flaming cocktail onto a groomsmen and then suddenly a hole appeared in his head.
            “Bigot!” cried one of the groomsmen holding a revolver.
            Suddenly a blade went through his back and a man in gray appeared holding a sword. “Die—”
            That man’s head was suddenly rolling. “—you fucker!” finished his killer, yet another groomsman.
            Veyd turned to move down the ledge toward the back when hands gripped her from behind and yanked her back in. “You did this!” snarled a voice. She broke loose for a second but was shoved into the wall from the back before she could do anything else. She grunted in a shocking amount of pain, was turned around, and felt hands wrap around her neck.
            She looked up into the face of a dark haired, dark eyed, non-Corvian man in gray.
            “Nice new body, Alan,” he snarled and squeezed. Veyd was being lifted up, her face turning red, then blue, then purple. Her eyes were glazing over and she thought if he squeezed any harder he would break her neck. “The queen is very angry at you!” She did something then that she had hid from the Order, something she was going to practice deeply upon as soon she was free. She cast a spell, a flame spell, and his arms burned but not enough to make him stop. Actually, all it did was make him angrier as his eyes narrow in concentrated rage and his hands tightened. “You should have been more careful with the Order’s finances! Now we’ve found you and you get to die a second time, you little—”
            Something metal went down between them and she dropped down.
            The man looked down and shrieked almost like a girl. Her savior would have killed him, an older aristocrat in a pink suit, but he was suddenly shot in the back.
            Veyd pulled off the strangler’s hands and tossed them down. She watched him stumbling off away in terror and pain in an almost sheer sense of panic, spinning around mindless as he went, blood splurting from his wounds.
            Veyd grabbed a nearby full bottle of wine, clambered up onto the ledge again, and crawled past the window down the ledge halfway toward the back trying to breathe. “I was wrong,” she gasped. “This is a fucking party!” She cast a healing spell over her neck, felt her breathing ease up, and then popped the wine bottle with a parlor trick spell Alan Veyd had sometimes, usually unsuccessfully, used to impress girls. “That sure escalated fast.”
            She took a drink, gagged then put the bottle down. Her new body had no strong tolerance for alcohol yet and it made her feel very light headed.
            There was an explosion in the room, a powerful one, and every window toward the front shattered as they shot out fire and she herself would have fallen off if but for the fact she was on her hands and knees. “Son of a bitch!” she cried and then watched her bottle fall off the edge. “Shit pants.”
            She took a deep breath, wiped her forehead, and stood up and moved easily to the end of the castle and looked down the Franko Mountains. Thousands of feet laid before her, thousands to the ground at the bottom of the mountain, and a pair of duel railing-like lines leading down to a hundred foot tall statue to the maker of Hillkeep Castle in the center of the hill connected to her and to the ground as some form or artistic design theme.
            She took off the collar she had disabled last week, both destroyer and finder of its wearer, tossed it away, and then went sliding down.
            “Wee-oh shit!” she lost her balance, found her legs split as she went down, and hit one of the ornate bumps in the rail pelvis first. “Oh, good, gods!” She had not noticed those before she started sliding and leaned up against it. “I am so glad I am not a man anymore.”
            She took a deep breath, forced herself up, and then cast an air spell. It made her a dizzy a bit, she had no solid experience with that sort of magic in that body, and then went sliding on down but slower. The air pressed up against her as she went sliding down like she was on a skateboard, her right side covered in bright green color that left lines behind her left as if she was sliding through smoke.
            It took her nearly a half of an hour, recasting that spell multiple times before it wore off, stopping several times, and casting another spell, an earth spell, to grip onto the sides of the statue and clamber around it which took nearly twenty minutes of the time.
            Alan Veyd had graduated as a magician under Allayne Forne but he had not been a particularly good caster. He had been more been enchantment, specifically, teleportation, but at the time her interest was in ritual magic due to the need of using that to break the curse. As it was, chronolation was his most desired field, the school of movement spells, but they were touchier spells and she did not want to screw up and end up dying.
            Elementalism, the school of elements, was easier and safer.
            By the time she had gotten several thousand miles to the bottom she was barely able to stand. The more advancement one gained in casting the less energy it required to do so ending with a mastery in some sub school which would give unlimited usage to the entire school with no energy cost to casting any spell within along with various power-like abilities.
            Veyd was nowhere near that point.
            She fell to her hands and knees and almost passed out there at the bottom. She forced herself up by sheer will, turned to the castle, and felt her vision blurring with dizziness.
            “Did I actually come from all the way up there?”
            It looked tiny, a little toy castle burning in the night sky, completely engulfed in fire. Above, there were several airships with the Gray Queen’s symbol, the black raven over gray, and the Order as well, all white, with the three faces of a rabbit, wolf and owl on its side.
            Veyd turned and ran into one of the thick great woods of Keldor where she would be lost for two days but completely free of the Order of Three and the Gray Queen.
            At least for the moment.


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