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A World Without End

Game Master pinvendor

Free-form RP in Alternate Earth.


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Dance-oholic Minx

"The lines, this is beautiful. Have you seen anything like it?" Cassie stops her soft vision at the machine and lays a hand upon it's fuselage; for a second she closes her eyes and tries to concentrate. "Oh Ryuko, he's big into the Tech-market. Insider trading with the Rorensons. There was some trouble with the guilds and him supplying faulty equipment." she answers absent-mindedly as it seems she is communing with the vehicle.


Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

Rashida's stomach fills with ice at Cassie's casual statement. "Von Ryuko is an ally of the Rorensons?"

But wait... Taraz said his father was out to rid the world of his presence. This is no problem. This makes sense. Everything is fine.


Dance-oholic Minx

"I heard they shared some of their tech, that Eichorn von Ryuko helped them out of a scandal. When some money went missing, he put up some capital in exchange for various plans." Cassies voice is soft and wistful as she strokes the ornicopter.

She throws a leg over the side so she stands with it bend upon the carapace. "Do you want a lift?" Her eyes dart to the door. "Did you hear that?"


Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

"Hear what, Cassie?" Rashida turns to look towards the doorway.


Male Human Fighter 1

"Is pulse rounds. Rifles. Cannot get them at this distance." Andrezi's finely tuned soldier's instincts had him on the ground in the instant Taraz had spoken and by the time the Lord of Serv-Bots had turned to look, the Cossack held a small Cortex Pistol, which he must have been carrying on him, though where is a mystery. "You recognize? Is Cortex technology. Kill brain cells or some such. Only short range though. Will have to get behind them. Can you survive without dying friend?" Andrezi hisses, tuning the pistol until it's small running lights turn black, signifying a lethal setting. "I will get Pulse Rifle... maybe we ask one of them what is going on eh?" He asks with a flash of teeth in a boyish grin before disappearing around a row of hedges.


Female Helmet Cat

Meowselsworth simply remains quiet, listening to the conversation between the two women, purring at the petting and nuzzling against Rashida's hand lazily. It seems she is on the verge of a catnap, her eyes shut lightly. At the sound from the doorway, though, she is surprised and she starts a bit. "I hear it..."


Stuck in the trap's gear mechanism, it writhed and struggled, unable to heed its mistress' call or imperious clap. By the time it wriggled free, there was no trace of her presence. It began a search pattern, finally exiting the hollow door jamb to drop into a space within a wall below, golden scales dulled with the webs of prior inhabitants and with the dust of years. Its search pattern became increasingly chaotic as planned routes proved impassible. Finally, it detected the life signs of its owner. Sliding from a hole in the wall, it tapped bare feet, demanding attention, and was picked up and wound around a tanned wrist.

"Hello there," the young man said softly, peering at the golden serpent around his wrist. "And just where is your mistress?"


Dance-oholic Minx

"A small popping sound, this way?" Cassie says reluctantly moving from the hanger area to a small door. She pushes open the door to reveal a corridor....

"Do we follow it?" she queries her eyes entranced by the flying machine still.


Female Spirit Dragon

"Happy shinies!" The serpentine body wiggles further out over the railing to nuzzle the brilliant golds. Licking it fondly while the healing humans says something about healing herselfs and then the other humans all vanished. Other than the leaking humans but they was weird. Weirder than most humans, cause most humans keep the red stuffs in. Except when they are being meals. Then they get leaky too. Strange humans. Azure claws scraped against the metal as the small dragon scrambled awkwardly down the side and to the ground. Rubbing against the ship like a big cat. Cooings to her shinies which is very, very special too her. Cause they are her biggest shiny.

Content that it knew how much she loved it, Jeraclya flopped away wings awkwardly balancing her frame. The smell of warm waters drawing her to the spa which she blew a puff of smoke and excitedly squeaked over before stretching her neck out and touching the waters lightly with her muzzle. It was warm! Happily the rest of her head dunked in and thrashed from side to side. Blowing bubbles and fire and increasing the heat temporarily where she was at. She liked bubbles, they tickled noses as they passed. Hearing the odd noises still comings from the human she lifted a dripping head and snorted water from her noses. Shimmery eyes watchings before turning to thin air.

"Yous has strange friends, shimmery water spirits."She sorted to him, stepping forward and squawking in alarms when the ground gave way and she tumbled in a flop and splash into the heated waters. Flailing and flapping wings. "Dragons down! Dragons down!"She dog paddled in circles for moments before rememberings dragons was awesome and could swim. Then she dipped her heads to blow more bubbles and swam in a long line of blue with her tails a rudder and wings opens like sails.

"Dragon boats."


Dance-oholic Minx

Cassie paddles across the pool towards the warmer waters of the splashing dragon. "Hello, Madame Dragon, the water is lovely isn't?"

Her long hair unbound streams out behind her as she dunks her head under the water, bouncing up above the meniscus to expose her shoulders. The glistening water clings to her soft flesh as it eases the throbbing in her shoulders. Cassie watches as the Dragon plays Dragon boats, smiling at the energetic creature as she glomps whilst still remaining her elegance.

Pushing back out of the dragons path, Cassie floats in the warm currents.


Female Spirit Dragon

Large blue eyes, just above the level of the water, turn towards the floating humans. The dragons frills coming up in agreement as she lifts her head to grin toothily.

"Waters is warm. Dragons like warms. Humans look very sillys without their furs."She announced, using her tail to swim closer to the floatings humans and nose them. Poking at the softs that makes humans such easy meats, before stretching out and mimicking the float with her wings on the waters surfaces so she was a flat dragons making bubbles. Slow gliding pushes with tails kept her lazily circlings the humans.


Dance-oholic Minx

Wincing slightly at the dragons nudging, Cassie cannot help but to chuckles softly at the antic's. "I have been called a few things when I am naked, but 'silly' is a first!" she laughs.

Then Cassie suddenly realises she is in a soup, with a large predator circling her..."How about after we have played here, I treat you to some nice food. I'll make it." her voice holding a nervous note as she floats.


Female Spirit Dragon

"But you has no fur. That's why yous in water. Its warm, cause no fur is cold. For furry things. Scales is best. Yes, very best."The head bobs in agreement, only this dunks it unders the water which dragons does not like. So she flails, spinning and scrapping claws against her noses and the waters that filled them. Bad waters. Snorting and creating smoke rings before going backs to her flat floatings. Which is nice. Healer humans may have an ideas here!

"Food?"Instantly perking up she lifts both heads and tails and doggy paddles fasters around the humans who both heals and makes meats! What a useful humans. For a humans.

"I likes the meats. And those little fluffy flower things that is all crunchy, and lots of things. But mostly meats."She flared her frills and swam closer to the humans. Nuzzlings her in passing.

"Healer humans lost her shinies?"Azure eyes swept around for the shiny that slept with the human furs. It was not good loosing shinies. That was disrespect of shinies and then she would take it and show it what happy shinies are happy for. Yes she would!


The island suddenly begins to shift and shudder; the throes are not strong enough to herald an earthquake, but it is sudden, sharp, disconcerting.

From the coral shelf just outside the tide, giants arise.

The monstrosities are disgusting; ragged, sea-soaked, crab-torn grey flesh gapes in places, revealing scrimshawed clockwork internals. Eight of them stand tall, each towering over the trees, water sliding from them; pieces of meat and coral cascade down from the expressionless forms.

Each one opens a toothless, tongueless, gaping maw, and Baron Eichorn Von Ryuko's voice booms simultaneously from all points of the compass, issuing forth from the disgusting creatures.

"DID YOU FOOLS REALLY THINK THAT THOSE FEW PALTRY TRAPS WERE ALL THE PRESENTS I LEFT FOR YOU? DID YOU THINK I COULD NOT SEE YOU, SCURRYING UNDER MY WRATH AS ANTS SCURRY UNDER THE BOOT? DID YOU REALLY THINK YOU ESCAPE ME, ME, WHO SHOT DOWN THAT IDIOT DRAGON?"

The giants begin to slowly, inexorably, grind towards the shore in unison, maws still gaping wide, Ryuko's grating voice still echoing throughout the island.

"RANDOM CHANCE DID NOT BRING YOU TO MY ISLAND, AND YOU DARE TO THINK THAT YOU CAN STOP MY PLANS? YOU PALTRY FEW? YOU THINK DESTROYING MY REPLICAS WILL SOMEHOW HALT THE STORM? YOU THINK YOU CAN ESCAPE YOUR PASTS BY ESCAPING ME?"

His hideous laughter washes over the island, amplified eightfold.

"NONE OF YOU SHALL LEAVE THIS ISLAND ON THAT WONDERFULLY REPAIRED AIRSHIP. THE ONLY THINGS THAT SHALL FLY ARE MY CARBON COPIES! NOW, DO BEHAVE NICELY AND DIE, AS YOU WERE ALWAYS FATED TO DO HERE!"

The mouths of the dead giants clap shut, and, with the grinding of gears, sixteen fists are raised over massive heads.


Dance-oholic Minx

Kicking her way away from the flailing dragon; Cassie floats upon the water. "I don't mind the lack of furs, especially in these waters." a little giggle at the nuzzling which promises to make her unstable. "Hahaha, oh my shineys, it's safe. It's underneath my 'shiny furs' by the waters edge. Plus I always know where it is, I feel it in my..." she puts her hand to her heart.

As the voice booms out, Cassie startled dives for the bottom of the spa. Coming back to the surface she shakes her blushing head, "Merde, you voyuer." she kicks her way over to her pistol.


Dance-oholic Minx

Cassie looks down the corridor; starting slowly amongst the dim emergency lighting. 'Gunfire, I should get away from that! If I protect Miss Massri the better, for me.'

The loud voice Booms out!

'Crap, he will kill me. I must survive, the knowledge I have is too important.' Cassie stops and turns back moving quickly into the hanger.

"Miss Massri, Duchess Meowselsworth, I was wrong the sounds come from outside. Shall we ride the ornithopter? I am sure I can pilot it, luckily we are all slight." Cassie says quickly jumping into the vehicle with a sigh. "You're friends must be out there!"


Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

Rashida stiffens with shock, gazing horrified out the hangar door at the huge creature rising above the treeline, outlined by moonlight and hideous phosphorescence. At Ryuko's booming proclamation, her face grows thunderous and grips Meowselsworth a bit too tightly for comfort. "How did he know the ship was repaired?" she cries furiously, "And what does he mean by 'destroying my replicas' and 'my carbon copies'? Oh, this man is really irking me. I'm positively miffed!"

She rushes with Meowselsworth to the ornithopter and sets the fuzzy noblecat upon the fusilage, then starts as the serpent clinging to her left wrist suddenly vibrates. Raising it to her ear, she listens for a moment, then whispers something urgently to it.

"Cassie, hurry - go find Taraz if you can. I... I cannot leave just now. I have to find him!" Whirling, she dashes back down the corridor into the mansion, listening to the serpent again.


Female Spirit Dragon

"Furless humans must likes the warms waters the."Jeraclya announces, splashings some more while the healer humans splashes too and tells her that the shinies is on the water. And she always knows where it is cause it is in her hearts. The toothy grin coming back outs. That's how dragons felt about their shinies! This healer person knew how to treats a shiny well. She'd have to steal the shiny carefully and laters.

The splashing dragon pauses when the ground rumbles, blinking and looking around curiously. Grounds usually do not rumbles, except for ground fights. Which rumbles and knocks houses down but a ground fight was not supposed to happens. Ground here was happy and relaxed. And then the giants rose from the water around them.

"They are not shiny, not shiny at alls."She announced with a huff, flicking her tails and intending to ignores the creatures. They were not interesting for dragons cause they was not shinies or smell good. Like rotted fishes. The healer humans dove for the shore while the fishy smellers started talking. Loudly. Dragons do not like loud. Loud is not funs. And then she froze. Azure eyes narrowing and swinging towards the voice that had spoken.

"IDIOT dragon?"She demanded on a hiss, a puff of smoke rising. So HE was the ones responsible for shooting her down. Making her hurt and bleeding and very. not. happy. Steam rising further and further as the wings spread open and an annoyed tail lashed. The talking fish smellers continued talking.

"Yap, yap, yap, like squeaky squirrels. Squirrels are for meat."And the annoyed dragon grinned, showing all of her teeth and swelled. Blue mist crackling outward with energy as she shimmered and broke form. Swirling like a thousand blue will-o-wisps in the fog before the massive dragon coalesced at full size. Flames brewing behind grinning teeth as her tail lashed through the air now quite a distance above the ground.

"Come here little squirrel."She growled and lept for the nearest fish smelly in a pounce reminiscent of a cat, with plenty of teeth and claws behind all that extra weight.


Female Helmet Cat

The tiny Duchess lets out a squeak at being squeezed a bit too tightly. She is a bit relieved to be put down, breathing out a feline sigh of relief. "I will keep an eye out, your Holiness..." She looks towards the giants, and her ears fold back. "I just wanted everyone to be alright... Why can I not have that?"


"In the passages below the castle," he rumbled into the golden serpent, "Ryuko's throne slides aside, of course. The whiskers. For our sakes, look. Really, sister, you should learn something of mechanics. Straight, then the first left, third right, second left... yes yes, I'll tell you as you go. Mind your step. Something has exploded down here. And what was that shaking? Really? Interesting. You cannot fight. They care nothing for your judgement. Hurry. Release me."

He stood and stretched, reaching muscular arms towards the ceiling, rotating his head slowly as stif joints cracked. Soon. Soon there will be something to kill. Soon there will be blood.


Dance-oholic Minx

"Get in then Duchess." she says lightly. Pulling back on the choke and depressing a tension driven plunger the over-head, slowly the wings start to move down with a hiss and there's an expulsion of steam at the front of the vehicle. Like a plume of smoke from the nostrils of an angry dragon. The fuselage seems to shine with an internal radiance as if it's coming to life. 'Bio-tech or it's it spirit powered, if that's spirit armour this is a tough bird.'

With a whooosh-clank, whooosh-clank the frequency of the wing movements increases, displacing air and blowing it all around Cassie and Meowselsworth. Cassie blinks rapidly as the dust is blown into her eyes, the vehicle shakily pushes from the ground. First one leg then another as firmly the Frenchwoman grasps the controlling rod pulls the machine into the air. There is a soft hiss and DuSolliers' stomach lurches as they take to the air.

Meowselsworth can stay on or get off?

A grin fixed upon her face the exhilaration of flying this unsteady ship causes a little 'yip' of delight from her lips. It slides through the air through the rough hanger doors, into the night air. Under a practised hand Cassie manage to make it lazily climb out into the dark night sky.

"Merde! Merde! Merde!" she screams above the whistling of the vehicle, as she sees the radiant monstrosities in the distance. Pulling hard on the shaft she swoops the bird away from the giants at the sea. Out of the corner of her eye the blue flashes of pulse rifles are apparent. "Why, I should just escape. But if I can help them." The bird flies toward the combat.


Female Helmet Cat

The Duchess hops in, biting down on whatever safety harness she can in order to stay in place. When she speaks, her mouth doesn't even move, as it is perhaps merely a courtesy for helmet cats to move their mouths while they speak so not to creep people out. After all, felines are not equipped with the proper vocal cords to speak!

"What is it that is even happening down there, Lady DuSollier?" says Meowselsworth.


Dance-oholic Minx

With a spare hand she loops a soft leather strap, lined with a red felt around Duchess Meowelsworth furry waist. "Good thinking, although I don't land on my feet if I fall."

Above the whooshing sound of the vehicle Cassie comments; "It seems like these troopers have got a couple of our friends pinned down."

The vehicle glides down towards the group of men, she reaches down to her thigh scrabbling with her free hand. After what seems like an age she grabs out her pistol and takes a snap shot, it goes well wide as the ornithopter slews to one side. Meowselsworth bounces away pulling the strap taught before Cassie can correct the flight, sliding the cute cat back to safety. "Sorry, I cannot fly this and shoot." she flicks a switch on the pistol. "Here this'll make it a thumb-less operation." she clicks it onto a part of the fuselage to make it a gun, the trigger lengthens with slide clip and becomes trigger-guard-less.

"If you would care to strafe them?" Cassie asks.


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Female Helmet Cat

"Certainly," says Meowselsworth, operating the gun as instructed, all the while accessing data files in order to improve her skills with it.

Captain Stripes von Meowselsworth was an honorable helmet cat, who valiantly fought in the Parisian air force, having signed up for the sole reason of wanting to make jokes about being Purrisian. Stripes had received many badges of commendation for his hard work and skill, up until he crashed and stumbled upon a village full of people who were trying to get rid of a criminal problem. He aided them in identifying the criminals among them, but in the last possible moment, fortunes turned against him, and he perished when the criminal exposed himself just to shoot Stripes in the face before he was ultimately lynched. Fortunately, Stripes was honoured in the proper fashion for a helmet cat, and his memories were passed down to his relatives. One of these was a certain Duchess Meowselsworth II.

In other words, she gives 'em hell.


Gentleman Adventurer

Suitcase in hand, Vorian stands at the edge of the ballroom, watching the chaos unfold through the window. "To think that he had resources like this at his disposal..." he mutters, his grip on the suitcase's handle tightening, "It would seem that I have underestimated you yet again, Von Ryuko. But you have underestimated us as well." Tearing his glance from the grotesque construct, he looks to the airfield, running some rough, hasty calculations. I just might be able to make it... he thinks, grinning wryly, if I run. It was most definitely a risk, but whatever came of his draught expiring would almost certainly be preferable to being ground into paste.

Making his way to the exit, Vorian takes a swig from his flask, larger than the last. Provided he survived long enough to decant more, it not matter how much he used. In theory... He breaks out into a run, praying that the giants would not notice him. The suitcase was not incredibly heavy, but it weighed him down nonetheless, drawing more than one curse from his mouth. The large, intimidating form of the Virago loomed in the distance, gradually becoming even larger as Vorian closed in on it. Coming within just a few hundred feet of it, he sighs with relief when he sees that the loading ramp is still open.

Even better, as he steps onto the metal platform, he notes that an engineer had apparently taken the time to repair the telecom console. Panting, he leans against the hydraulic strut and slams on the button. "Lord Ritter to the bridge, do you read me? Are the weapon systems intact; I repeat, are the weapon systems intact?" For a few moments he hears only static, reminding him that some of the ship's systems were still down. However, as his expression starts to fall, someone responds.

"Lord Ritter? Thank goodness you're safe! The weapons systems are being primed as I speak, but most of them won't have a clear line of sight unless we are off the ground..."

Staring at the closest giant, Vorian shakes his head. "We are not taking any chances. Prepare the main cannon." When it becomes apparent that the captain's next words are ones of protest, he slams on the button once again. "League regulations can get stuffed! Just load the damn gun!"


Dance-oholic Minx

The irate serpent makes Cassie stop in her swimming instincts screaming out that staying still whilst the predator hunts will stop her from being eaten. As Jeracyla takes to the air, she gasps the spray from the spa covers the Frenchwoman and the waves take her off her feet.

Eyes deceiving her as the azure dragon seems to expand as it gains altitude, making a mockery of perspective. Cassies heart beats against her chest, just happy that she is still alive and that the enigmatic dragon had not eaten her or stolen her precious weapon.

Suddenly cold and tired, the night was not over yet! Swiftly she pushes across the spa. Reluctant to give up it's comforting embrace, whilst knowing that she must. Her friends could be injured, or worse, well some already were; however she pushes the melancholic mood away from her.

Climbing the stone steps out of the water, and moving slowly as her limbs regained their strength. Heavy lidded eyes drift across her body glistening in the cold tropical night; "Silly, silly?!" she says in an exasperated tone, knowing how much training and exercise she has done to achieve it. After the moment composing her thoughts, she moves over to the dress.

Picking up Rashida's dress she holds it up to her before pulling the soft Egyptian cotton dress over her head. Wiggling her way into it, she finds that it's tight in some areas whilst slightly loose in others. Fingers brushing down the lines of the dress, as it clings to her damp body; 'Wish I had time, to properly dry my hair...'

Bending over she picks up her beloved pistol and holds it naked in her hands. The cold night air bites, so she slips on a pair of sandals and sets off at a run...


When the giants came, Eldon was in the hall as he had been since Ryuko left. The others had been active, attempting to find someway of escape. He wanted to help, felt he should help. But for too long he had not seen real action. Oh sure, he was on the field, commanding troops. But not on the front lines. Not under threat of death. Not like this.

So while the others worked, he had been working on contingencies, plans in case the ones the others had not worked out, plans in case of unexpected events. Plans like giants encircling the island.

The general looked at them, seeing Vorian head to his ship. A decent idea, but he was certain Ryuko would be prepared in such an event. How would Ryuko act? What could Eldon do to help?

Eldon's gaze turned to his own ship, the Earthfallen Grace. She was a decommissioned warship, almost as old as Eldon. Most of her weapons had been removed, her systems not useable with these newer models. And the attack had taken it's toll. She wouldn't be flying again.

But she was well designed, when they didn't skimp on such things. The outside was a mangled mess, but the interior would have survived that assault. Eldon smiled at the thought. The others had talked about the antiques they brought with them. Eldon had a few himself, though he expected it was of a different variety. He makes his way to the fallen relic.


Dance-oholic Minx

Cassie walks into the ball-room, her silver pistol naked in her hand catching the flickering light in a shining beacon. She peers around the despoiled remnants of the party unsure of where to go or what to do. Cautiously she saunters across the dance-floor, enjoying the feel of the new clean dress against her skin and reliving the nights antics and dances. At one side table she retrieves up her clutch-bag and fan. Flicking the fan open she wafts some cold air across her face, the fine lace untouched and beautiful.

She looks about to see who remained there; "Kimefe get to Rashida's Golden ship now!" she says urgently. Cassie looks to the balcony seeing the giants beyond; her blood runs cold. 'What am I meant to do against them? But I must try!' "Everyone evacuate!" she calls with a trace of panic.

Then with a pounding heart, her thoughts momentarily drift to the balcony and the kiss....Duke Leto and his strong arms.


Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

Dust swirled through the dim blue light produced by the little serpent's eyes. There most certainly had been an explosion down here. The thought of Taraz being in the midst of the concussion that had brought down chunks of the corridor's walls and ceiling made Rashida's knees weak, but her collapse would help nobody. She picked her way gingerly through the fallen stone, kicking herself at the thought of the gaudily ornate chair sliding aside so easily. Of course Taraz had gone that way; he was clever enough to find it. Unlike me, she thought angrily.

The first left, the third right... was this the path Taraz took? "Have you seen anybody else recently?" she muttered to the serpent, frowning in annoyance at the reply. The dusty air bothered her already irritated lungs and she tried not to cough overmuch as she picked her way through the rubble, rolling large chunks aside as best she could and squeezing through openings between the larger piles and the ceiling. So much for a clean dress and new nails.

Finally, she heard a call and spotted a faint blue light down one corridor. Pattering lightly down the hall, she dimly saw a tan, muscular man clad in a linen kilt and sandals, sword bound at his waist. It looked like Gahiji. "'Sister'," the big man rumbled, "Release me." But Von Ryuko had said something about replicas and carbon copies. Was he serious? Or was he simply spreading dissent among the survivors? Still, an explosion might have destroyed any replicas of the aristocrats. Well, there was one way to tell for sure, distasteful as it was. Rashida leaned against the wall and closed her eyes, relaxing, reaching out...


He paced in his cage, watching his soft, weak 'sister' enter her mysterious trance. If she could not tell who and what he was while wide awake, her powers were feebler than he thought. "It is I, Rashida. Let me demonstrate." Her eyes snapped open as he changed and she stepped back involuntarily, then nodded.

"I believe you," she breathed, "But Gahiji, you must use control. The assassins have been routed and only innocents remain, along with whatever monstrosities Von Ryuko has created. You must promise not to harm the nobles here."

He changed back and leaned casually against the wall of the corridor, regarding her through the bars. "Pull the lever, sister. No promises. Can you even tell who is real and who is not? I doubt it, which is why I demonstrated my power. No replica can do that, as you well know. You are in no place to make demands, dear sister. Fail to let me out, and your friends die. Let me out, they may die anyway. You know what we must do, together, you and I."

Amused, he watched her waffle, but her words surprised him. "If they are to die, I will go out and die with them rather than free you to do it. I know you, but you know me. You strike where I say, or you remain here to rot, caged like a starving lion." The unexpected backbone both pleased and annoyed him. The child was growing up, most inconveniently.

"You tempt me to call your bluff," he growled, "But it is not worth it. These people will prove themselves worthy of my ire in the end, and you will be the one to unleash me upon them. I will enjoy it. My word, then. I strike only where you tell me -- among the partygoers, anyway." He nodded in satisfaction as she pulled the lever that lifted the bars, then approached and wrapped his great hands gently around her throat, savoring the brief flash of fear in her eyes. "Would that you were not family, dear sister." Dropping his hands, he bounded off through the dark corridors, not caring if she followed.


Gentleman Adventurer

Within the bowels of the Virago, the sound of roaring machinery echoes through its passages as a single cylindrical slug is extracted from the ship's voluminous ammunition bay. With a hiss of steam, the slug is propelled upwards, where a pair of magnetic rails latch onto it with an electric zap, locking it into position. A steam-powered plunger slams forward, loading the shell into the firing mechanism. As everything locks into place, the loud hum of electric current picks up.

"Primary cannon 'Answerer' has been loaded," an engineer on the bridge says, adjusting frequency knobs on the telecom, "Proceeding to second phase; energizing the firing coils." Having made his way to the observation deck, Vorian nods, all too familiar with the weapon's loading procedures. The Answerer was essentially a massive coilgun, designed to fire solid, high-density metal slugs with immense speed. The rounds contained no explosives; however, because of their large mass, the sheer kinetic force released by the impact far surpassed that of most conventional weapons. It was far from conventional.

But there are far more dangerous things aboard this ship, Vorian reasons to himself. Among the meaningless yet valuable baubles in his collection, there were those that were truly priceless, that transcended the understanding of mere men. Men like him. And he had nearly paid with his life for them. The horror that had lurked in that tomb, that had gripped his leg, that had looked him in his eye and told him that he deserved to die... But fear sometimes brought out the best in humans. Yes... I will give everything back to them... to her, he thinks, looking to the suitcase at his side, but I have business to attend to first.

"The coils are charged! Target locked - we may fire when ready!"

I know of your affliction, Lord Ritter. And I am in possession of your precious cure. All I ask in return is for you to play a little game.

"Fire," Vorian says plainly.

There was a bright, fiery light as the shell erupted from the cannon, a stream of air ignited by friction alone. With a blink, one might miss it. The giant might as well have been at point blank range. Shielding his eyes from the brilliant flare, Vorian watches anxiously, all but certain that the cannon worked...


Dance-oholic Minx

The ornithopter glides through the midnight sky, the regular beat of the wings creating ripples in the fur of the cat and sending Cassie's hair streaming away. A staccato burst from her modified pistol in the expert paws of the Duchess gives the soldiers pause for thought.

The solid silver slugs burst around them, somehow the pistol seems to hold plenty of ammunition; well enough for the frequent bursts. Although, unfortunately there are intervals as it hisses and the fire-arms mechanism cools down, Cassie smiles at the magnificent technology she crafted.

Letting out a squeal of delight, she tries to swoop over the heads of one of the soldiers as Meowselsworth's shot takes him in the back throwing him to the floor and splashing into a pool of mud. The exhilaration of action fills the French-woman's veins as she blinks away the wind-crafted tears from the edges of her eyes.

Focussing her eyes in front of her she sees the Cyclopean form before her, it's pale flesh reflecting in the moon-light. Inexorably it's heavy arm swings down towards the approaching bird. Cassie flicks a switch upon the console and the wings lock, she swoops down....though there is no room between the giants tree-trunk legs. However, that is not her plan! It's to gain the speed that she desperately needs; "Hold on Duchess, this is going to be crazy."

She pulls back upon the shaft as they rocket towards the summoned giant, Meowselsworth peppering it's body with slugs and the bird swoops up the front of the creature. Flying vertically; against the force of gravity, only the extra speed Cassie had crafted stops it from stalling completely and catastrophically.

Rising to the elevation of the giants face: the bird gracefully stops ascending, Cassandra can see the beings dead eyes peering over the prow as it's mouth opens to swallow the vehicle whole. Then, the pull of the earth takes hold and the Ornithopter plummets away from the snapping jaws. Cassies stomach jumps into her throat and she pulls the wings into a roll. As they plummet to the earth the bird completes a roll so it's facing away from the monstrosity. Performing an Immelmann manoeuvre.

However, the ground is coming up very fast before them. The moments stretch as Cassie realises they will crash and die on the island after all. She pulls back on the stick, her muscles protesting and death tears in her eyes. The metal squeals and the sand rushes to meet them; with a groan of effort the bird starts to level out. The fuselage becomes horizontal before it bounces of the sand, slowing it's flight and sending a spray of silicon all around them.

The jolt, went through her spine, causing her vision to black-out for a millisecond. Recovering, she looks behind just in time to see the fist of the giant descent....
With the loss of velocity caused by the collision, Cassie could only hope that it would miss the vehicle. But miss it did. A wave of force from the giants impact with the beach causes the vehicle to wobble but escape intact.

A relieved smile upon her face, Cassie looks across to Meowselsworth. "That was close, too close." she remarks.

.
..
...

A flash in the corner of her eye, and she is thrown forward across the cock-pit. Blinking she turns her head, 'Oh, the soldiers'

The pulse rifle must have just missed, else Cassie would not still have her arm - the arm held onto the control stick. Her other grasping the injured arm. "Duchess Meowselsworth can you take control with your helmet? The frequency is 125.67MHz" Cassie says through gritted teeth, as she looks at her bicep.

"Sorry!" She gets to her feet and bails out of the low flying Ornithopter. Tucking into a tight roll, she is sure that from the amazing flying the helmet-cat has performed that she will be fine.

The tumbling form of the Frenchwoman splashes through the mud of the combat zone, her skirts flapping with the motion. Nearby she can hear the whirr of pulse rifle firing. Cassie lies nearly motionless, he chest rising and falling.


Taut muscles and stiff joints flexed and stretched as he ran through the pitch dark, stomach growling. No time for food, though, when blood was demanded. He easily traced Rashida's scent back to the passage beneath the throne. Though the man was hideous, Gahiji blessed the time he was Von Ryuko's guest, before the falling-out. He pressed one of the corridor stones with just the right pressure, twisting slightly, to reveal the lever that opened the throne from below, then bounded up the stairs, closing the panel behind him and watching with satisfaction as the throne slid back into position. That would keep Rashida out of his hair for a while.

Surveying the ballroom, he saw nobody but the auburn-haired Frenchwoman - Cassandra, was it? - running in through the great outside doors and standing a moment staring at the balcony, pistol in hand. He grinned, and leapt down, a great, tawny cat, shaking his mane as he roared a challenge, then growled the question he must, by law, ask. "Where are the giants? Are there any others whose blood must needs be shed this night? For yours is sacred -- at the moment."


Dance-oholic Minx

Cassie spins around her pistol raised, but not pointed at the creature before her. As she was taught in the tight alleys of her home town; you do not point a weapon at someone unless you wish to use it. She blinks, her long-dark eyelashes taking in and analysing his long sleek form. 'Who is he? And why does he speak so?'

A gust of wind blows from the salty sea, flicking her dark hair across her face with a slap. Cassies gasps slightly as the cold bites straight through the borrowed cotton dress, slightly translucent with the damp. "I am sure there are, however I will not see you take my blood... ever." she smiles.

Looking out of the window to the beach and the dark night beyond; "Giants, you say? I'll lead you to them....if you can keep up." she cheekily adds. Turning her back on Gahiji; a calculated risk, her legs tense. 'I thought myself useless for a moment, but this gives me direction - even if I cannot find the others.'

With a smooth graceful leap Cassie, bounds onto the marble balustrade of the balcony. Standing there for a second, with a challenging flick, she pivots and inverts flipping off the balcony. Her body tumbling to the ground below, she kicks her long legs off the building as she dives forward to change her momentum. Smoothly and well-practised she lands in a roll upon the yielding ground.

Cassie looks back to the balcony where Rashida's brother is; (unknown to Cassandra of course) before setting off for a beach and the giants. The French-womans form flitting through the grounds, dancers legs pounding with long graceful strides. Her lungs hammering against her damaged ribs, the sharp pain forgotten in the moment the chase...


The great cat bares its gleaming fangs at Cassie, whether in snarl or smile, it is impossible to tell. "Warrior's blood, unlike my soft sister? I approve. It tastes better. Lead on, woman."

He leaps from the balcony following long-legged Cassie, landing in a head-over-heels roll, then springing forward to pace her easily in a loping run. He pulls just far enough ahead to tauntingly lash her with his tail tip. Take hold if you care to go faster," he growls, then accelerates towards the nearest towering form.

Dashing onto the beach, he dives between the giant's legs and flips about, paws skidding for purchase in the soft sand, then leaps, cruel claws hooking into the dead flesh of the giant, tearing great gouts of meat free in his climb up the back of the monstrosity. The giant flails fruitlessly at its own back, unable to reach its attacker, then focuses instead on Cassie, bending to grab or smash the noblewoman.

As it descends towards her, a tremendous dual roar shatters the night. The giant howls and grabs at its own head with both hands as a tear appears at one side of its neck. A moment's wrestling, and the head tears free of its moorings, spraying blood and oil across the beach. A lion-headed man clad in a linen kilt stands on the shoulders holding the head aloft, roaring in triumph as he rides the falling monstrosity to the ground. It settles with a crash and he leaps off, still holding the enormous head, muscles bulging with the strain.

Round yellow eyes regard Cassie in the moonlight. "Proper fun!" the creature purrs, "Would you care for a taste of blood? It is not as it should be. Von Ryuko and his vile constructs - faugh!"


Female Helmet Cat

"Well. I am going to die," decides Meowselsworth after Cassie leaps out of the Ornithopter, after all of that impressive flying. The feline's helmet begins to whirr and click, blowing out bits of steam, the useless lights on it flickering on and off as she tries to gain access to the flying machine, which immediately starts to plummet. "Well, great uncle Stripes... they say a helmet cat never truly dies. I didn't know how true that was... let's see what you can do!"

There is a large burst of whistling steam that comes from the little helmet cat's helmet before the Ornithopter, arcs back up into the sky right before plunging Meowselsworth into a fiery death. "YEEEEEHA! Looks like we've got bogies on our all day long! Nice to feel the breeze on my face again, that cyberscape ain't all it's cracked up to be! Why I reme- WAIT. Why am I a girl cat?"

This concern doesn't last long, though, and Captain Stripes von Meowselsworth evaluates the situation, peppering the constructs from on high. "My oh my, little Kittington, is that you? Tried to say hi to your mum in the afterlife, would you believe she tried to kill me? Ha! Always was a scrappy gal!"

Meowselsworth stares down at the clockwork giants while waiting for a response and says, "Ah, right, I'm borrowing your body. You can't answer. Sorry, Kittington, dear. What in bloopin' bejeezers have you got yourself into?"


Female Spirit Dragon

Massive jaws closed down around the fish smelling giant as wings spread and began pumping, claws slashing and leaving gouges that leaked oil and decay before the updraft and magic was enough that the azure dragon lifted herself and the construct off the ground. Lifting higher and higher in powerful beats of wings. Ignoring the struggling creature and the damages it was causing as she got a high enough altitude and tipped, sliding over in a smooth glide and tucked her wings. Their weight plummeted towards the earth at high enough speeds to create a shock wave of sound and then at the last second she spun in a twisting movement that was far to graceful to come from something that size and released. The giant plummeting to the ground and shattering in an explosion of gears and smell as the still moving dragon swept past.

The jaws opened, revealing a burning light from within that was a color even richer blue than the scales and backlite with things that moved beyond this realm. It burst forth at temperatures that seared the air as it passed and sent waves of invisible air dancing in its wake as it slammed into a second giant while Jacerlya swept past at a full graceful glide and back upwards towards the sky that seemed to be reflecting all the colors of her scales in the moonlight as her form shimmered equally in the water she passed over as she gained altitude for her next attack.


Gentleman Adventurer

The hundred-pound slug of depleted uranium rips through the air at ten times the speed of sound, virtually impossible to discern amidst the electric discharge that surrounded it. On impact, the round proceeds to
transfer but a fraction of the immense kinetic energy it contains to the clockwork giant's body, immediately vaporizing the majority of its torso, leaving behind a gaping hole. Barely slowed by the obstruction, the projectile streaks to the horizon, eventually losing enough speed to fall into the ocean. Provided the island was far enough from civilization, collateral damage was not a concern. In theory.

From the observation deck, Vorian watches anxiously as the giant takes a single lumbering step towards its attacker, before tipping over, falling to the ground with an immense thud. Almost immediately after, the giant's body explodes, plagued by innumerable critical system failures. "Target neutralized," a telecom officer reports, met by the numerous cheers of the other staff on the bridge. Vorian grins at the sight of the molten heap of slag, but was all too aware of the reality of the situation.

"How long until we can fire again?" he asks impatiently, wary of the other giants; from their position, they had only had a lock on one of them.

"It will be at least ten minutes, Lord Ritter. If we try to fire again before the systems cool, the whole ship will be destroyed."

Muttering a curse under his breath, Vorian nods, well aware of the coilgun's limitations. The insulation within the cannon could only absorb so much heat - the friction created by the slug simply created far too much to allow for repeated firing. That combined with its outrageous energy demands, it was a wonder that the League had bothered to ban it at all. But it became abundantly clear that he had a bigger problem on his hands.

"We don't have ten minutes."


Dance-oholic Minx

"Your sister, Meows, is a beautiful, majestic woman. And as I said you're not tasting me." she says whilst he leaps from the balcony.

Longs legs pound over the ground, gazelle like whilst the lion over takes her. The metres vanishing under their graceful running strides. Cassie responds to his taunts by flicking a hand to bat away Gahiji's tail; however he moves it and snorts derisively.

Frustration flushes her cheeks as she arrives on the beach, the soft sand yield under her feet. Only then does she realise that she is on the beach with a strange predator before an invulnerable giant. Her eyes glitter, well this would be difficult.

The feline vanishes, as all Cassie can see is a descending fist. She dives to one side, letting off a snapshot into the wrist as it crushes the ground a whisper away from her diving leg. The abrasive sand sticking to her damp form as Cassie flips to her feet ready to meet the next blow.

Not one to waste ammunition, Cassie takes few shots as she relies upon dodgung the mammoth fists. Even a glancing blow would kill, only she pushes herself into a frenzy. Twirling and flicking away from the assault of the giant that seems to move faster than one would expect of it's lumbering bulk. The French-woman's dance is deceptive and seductive, drawing in the attacks so the undead behemoth forgets the feline assailent. Until finally it's head is torn from it's shoulders.

Cassie avoids the spurting ichor, to try and keep herself realtively clean. Looking to the lion-headed man, stood upon the corpse Cassie quirks her eyebrow. Shifting her stance subtly under the appraising glance; "Well done, although the well-muscled body does nothing for me." she lies. "It's your kill, therefore your blood. Though if I may..."

Cassie bends over and places a manicured finger in the oil, her tongue flicks out for just the briefest of tastes. Smelling the remnants; "Castrol, the XS range. It's not that common a lubricant.... which family uses it?" she muses to herself, whilst not taking her eyes from the powerful figure before her.


Insufferable Lout

Taraz shifts. The mitochondria in his cells awaken. Andrezi may or may not see that Taraz becomes a blur of motion, moving faster than anyone should be able.

Shifted Taraz:
The pulse rounds fly towards Taraz almost lazily. He moves between them and around them. Closing the distance, Taraz pulls the rifle out of one of the soldiers' hands easily. He flings it back in the direction of the Russian noble without much force. The rifle still flies at a rather disturbing velocity, but to Taraz's enhanced perception, it appears to merely float as if a feather on the breeze. Taraz then punches the man with a left cross. The blow knocks the man off his feet, and he too floats like a feather flying backward at what would be a terrifying speed. Taraz spins on his heel and connects the back of his boot to the other man's solar plexus launching him up into the air.

Taraz then saw several more men running sooooo slowly through the garden. He began to plan how he could take them out. Too many probably. They would have seen his speed and begun to try and account for it. He hoped Andrezi could get a pulse rifle or other weapon and assist him. Damn. Taraz usually left no one alive to witness this. In this instance, killing Andrezi was not an option. If Eichorn had wanted the Mason dead, then Taraz could not afford to give up the advantage the aristocrat's continued living must (should?) give Taraz.

Suddenly, something else began happening. The soldiers had begun to shout, and their attention was turning from their two airborne comrades. There were things coming out of the water. Taraz slowed himself.

Andrezi sees almost an after image of Taraz as the man moves at inhuman speed. A pulse rifle is suddenly hurtling back, hitting the ground near the secret passage, and then clattering off of the garden wall. Andrezi sees first one soldier then the other knocked backwards at great speed. Concussive cracks indicating the two men had suffered very serious bone-breaking injury as the Taraz-blur moved between them. Suddenly the blur stops and seems to coalesce into Taraz again. His attention drawn to the giant corpse-bots emerging. Andrezi notices a trickle of blood beginning to leak out of Taraz's nose.

Then the booming voice of Baron Eichorn von Ryuko resounds across the island estate.


Dance-oholic Minx

Cassie rolls into the mud her back cracking against a wall, she looks over-head to the wildly flailing Ornithopter, as it shakes and wobbles away. 'Sorry, but I couldn't let my secret out. Von Ryuko and the League would be after you if they found out you know.'

Looking down at her arm that suffered a direct hit from the pulse rifle, it crackles with electricity as the pale flesh has been stripped away to reveal a titanium alloy. Running her fingers gently over the muscle, and slowly the flesh knits together as the nanites do their job.

A burst of pulse fire brings, Cassie back to the present. She turns her head and moves towards the sounds, gently moving through the roses she travels with nary a sound. Before her are some guards, Mercenaries, the insignia upon their lapels she determines imply that the are from Ferrus-Lupus. A highly trained and expensive unit, only available to the elite of League....Von Ryuko must be in cahoots with another Noble family!

Emerging from the bushes behind a soldier, she stabs a blade from her fan deep into his throat. Holding onto the body tightly as it convulses in it's death-throws she lifts it so that it's kicking legs don't disturb anything. Placing the body on the floor, Cassie moves away through the garden quickly.

As she turns around a hedge she comes face-to-face with Taraz....


Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

Rashida swallows hard as her brother changes again and bounds off into the darkness, back the way she had come. She wraps her lost serpent back onto its proper place on her right wrist, blessing Gahiji's distraction as he had mildly threatened her. He would not dare disobey, though he was so much more powerful than she. But he would not be sorry to see her die, as long as it was not at his hands. She would not allow that to happen. Life was too new, and was now far too sweet to lose.

The serpents emitted a dim light, enough for her to see the immediate area. She started slowly after Gahiji, knowing she could not catch him, then realized that he denied seeing Taraz, who must have come this way. Unlike Rashida. Gahiji would be useful against the giants. She would continue to seek Taraz. And if she was not mistaken, there was a thin trickle of fresh air floating down this corridor. Turning her back on her brother, Rashida moves quietly through the underground maze, trying to follow the thread of air.


Dance-oholic Minx

Looking across the dark sand at the lion-headed man, Cassie's eye's widen trying to make use of as much light as possible in case he strikes. Slowly she circles him, knowing his predatory instinct could make her the next target. "So, who are you? No, stupid question, why are you on this island?" her voice soft like the waves lapping at the shore.

Gently she brushes her legs and the sand from them, her long hair forming a serpentine tail down her spine where the end coils in the small spine. Though she never takes her eyes from Gahiji's body, ready for the slightest movement.

In the darkness, this sector of the beach illuminated only by the manor and flashes of pulse-fires to the gardens to the North. Cassie waits for an answer, her damaged arm holding the precious pistol at her hip.


With a grunt, the shadowy man tosses the giant's head a few feet away, where it thuds heavily into the sand. "I can understand your desire to know me better, but is now the time? Suffice to say I was an invited guest, like my sister, but arrived early and had a spat with Von Ryuko. I was an involuntary resident of his basement until recently. Is that sufficient? There is work to do. Plenty of time for dalliance later."

With another flash of white fangs, he is off, running joyously towards the next giant just making its way inland from the beach, dropping to all fours and flowing into the form of a great cat as he runs.


Dance-oholic Minx

Her lips part slightly astonished at his words. "Dalliance.....Dalliance!" she gasps exasperated. 'Who does he think he is. I am not one to be swayed by a nice body....well not often....well...' Blinking as he transforms; Cassie is left with a host of queries.

"Who's his sister? I thought Meowselsworth but now?" Cassie softly muses before realising his lead is once move unassailable. 'Follow him, or not?!'

Then just letting her legs move naturally she starts off across the beach, the damp surface allowing her to run faster even if it is impossible to catch the divine feline. 'Hah, I cannot let 'His Arrogance' solely succeed again.'

Running swiftly, she cracks the barrel; a hiss of steam escapes. Placing soft lips Cassie sucks out the silver bullet from the breech, whilst her free hand takes a small earring from her ear. Carefully she screws the small stud into the tip of the ammunition, before depositing it carefully in the barrel. Whilst running at full tilt she sights the giant and taking a calming breath fires....

It bullet screams through the air; a parabolic arc over the great distance. Then with a thud it hits the putrid eye of the creature, before exploding. A shower of viscera and more unpleasant things rains down onto the sand as the giant becomes a Cyclops.

It raises a hand to the ruins of it's eye and lets out a blood curdling bellow. This spurs Cassie on as she reaches the vicinity moments behind the big cat; a smile playing upon her lips for although she doesn't like harming living things - this isn't a living thing but some abomination.


Insufferable Lout

Taraz had slowed down for a moment. His breathing slightly hard. He had attacked several of the men successfully, but then the ornithopter had flown overhead with an exuberant burst-firing kitty. Knowing this, Taraz had attempted to calm the mitochondria down for a time, letting his body rest close to a hedge. He retrieved the handkerchief from his coat pocket and wiped his slightly bleeding nose.

The ornithopter had dipped below his vision beyond the hedge a moment ago. Taraz hoped that Andrezi had made it out of the wall okay...or perhaps back inside if it had been more dangerous to emerge. Cassie's appearance in front of him was sudden. He couldn't forget what he had seen below...

"Well, Mademoiselle DuSollier," Taraz said with an overly flourishing bow. "What a pleasant surprise. I am afraid however, I cannot give you the pleasure of that private dance of which we once spoke at the moment, but perhaps another time. When there are less dreadful corpse clockwork and gun-toting mercenaries about."


Dance-oholic Minx

"Lord Rorenson?!" her mouth makes a surprised O as she takes in Taraz's form and appearance. "Yes, a private dance. That would be...wonderful." She looks into his eye's as he rises from the bow, a smile crossing her face. 'The Scion of the Rorenson clan! How lucky, he must know a way out of here. And she (I) did meet him at the ball in the mountains last winter....' she quickly searches her memory. 'There's nothing about a tryst, but Cassandra got her information from someone!'

Cassie kiss him on his left cheek, warm flesh rubbing against the evenings stubble; "Let us first dispose of the Ferrus-Lupus; the Brigadier Darkov's troops. Then....well..." She smells his aftershave and pheromones.

'He's elevated hormone levels and there's something else...' she thinks for a second, before crouching down and cautiously moving forward.


Insufferable Lout

Taraz seems to almost flinch from the kiss, but checks it. Such familiarity...perhaps she is in fact Cassie. But I must still be wary until proof can be obtained. A part of Taraz is pained to imagine not being able to trust Cassie, the dance lover.

It had been a surprise to see her here at the ball. He had thought she had gotten what she needed before...why would she have needed von Ryuko's land? Eichorn had truly done everything he could to make the playing field as uneven as possible.

"I suppose then, we should arm ourselves." A couple of dead soldiers lay nearby, the bodies displaying crush injuries of great force.

Taraz picks up one of the soldier's sidearm and offers it to Cassie.


Daughter of Gods. Gods! or possibly of aliens.

The cool trickle of air flows from the passage on the left, but dim light shines ahead, and a distant rhythmic noise sounds from that direction. Left probably led outside, but... the noise did not sound mechanical. Somebody else is down here. Somebody is trapped and unhappy about it. Rashida sighs, torn. She wants out of this dark, dusty maze. But there is no way she can leave another person trapped down here. Besides, it might be...

Shaking her head, she ventures by the dim bioluminescence of her twin serpents down more rubble-clogged hallways. The pounding grows louder, until she reaches a door under which light shines. The pounding stops, and she can hear an animal-like sniffing at the door, followed by an unexpectedly familiar voice. Her fingers fly on the locks, and she looks up at Gahiji's face. "Brother! I thought you left me down here. I think there is a way out back here."

She waves a hand back the way she came, seeing Gahiji smile his unsettling smile - handsome though he was, there was something about him that always made Rashida uneasy. She turns to lead the way back and feels a big hand slide up her shoulder to her throat. "Stop it! It's no longer funny. You dare not harm me, and you know it," she says imperiously, knocking the hand away.

"Gahiji cannot. I have no such prohibition," the voice behind her rumbles as another hand grasps her throat from behind.

Replicas! flashes instantly through Rashida's mind. Shrieking, she twists free and springs away, running desperately, but the man is quick and far stronger than she, and she knows it. Hands lock around her slender throat from behind and jerk her from her feet, holding her dangling off the floor as they squeeze the arteries and windpipe closed. "You have no idea how much he - I - wishes this, beloved sister," a voice growls in her ear as her vision swims and everything begins to grow dark.


As Cassie's shot takes the behemoth's eye, a great leap rockets the huge cat at its chest. The twin impacts unbalance the giant and slowly, so slowly, it staggers and topples back into the sand.

Cassie hears bellowing and snarling from behind the bushes as she pushes through to the beach, and comes upon a scene that would have been horrific were half the fluids and debris not artificial, oils and gears strewing the sand alongside splashes of blood and gobbets of flesh. The great cat looks up at Cassie from its position atop the fallen goliath's chest, then shakes its mane to dislodge some of the gore stuck there. With a roar, it leaps into the surf, letting waves break over it as it cavorts in the water.

The lion-headed man strides from the water a few moments later, spraying water from its mane. It strides straight to Cassie and looks down at her impassively. "So you use your toys well, warrior woman. What can you do with your hands? Are you truly a fighter?" It sniffs the air, then the great nose drops to Cassie's shoulder. "But you are injured. The contest is unfair if you are not at full capacity." A few more sniffs, and a great, hot, rough tongue swipes along Cassie's shoulder joint, heat penetrating and soothing the strained tissues, then proceeds down her side to lave her cracked ribs with healing warmth.

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