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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

3.3.18.2. Desert Rose on the Roiling Sea


Sheena Mekh'ta the Corsair with Ish'kandr the Efreet
Made with www.tektek.org Dream Avatar



Some time back, on the rolling waters of Tirnamare Sea, East of Quelnir Island, Gerain du Villiers, a man of his fifties with trimmed, curved mustache in contrast of his short, black hair and long face. The Admiral of the Allied Fleets just sent an owl flying with his letter, requesting help. The enemy fleet is about ten nautical miles away from the flagship and is coming closer... and closer.

Cannons are blasting, ships are exchanging shots, sinking each other. The Parthenian napalm cannons*) and the Arcadian and Escudian intrepid cannoneers has sunk more ships than any other battle they have fought so far.

However, the enemy ships keep on coming and coming, all of them, big and small, full of undead and fierce Sylvanian barbarian pirates. Soon enough, the might of many takes the upper hand. The Sylvanians break through the barricade formation, ramming and boarding enemy ships like a swarm of locusts. Many good men succumb to this mindless, fearless savagery, victim to the Boiling Blood raging wildly from the barbarians’ withins.

Their numbers seem limitlsee, and Admiral du Villiers mutters, ‘So, this is what the gate of hell looks like.’

‘Admiral, Sir! They’re breaking through and are targeting our flagship! What must we do?’ A Lieutenant asks in panic. Seeing that the Admiral doesn’t answer, he shouts louder, ‘Sir, please!’

Gerain still doesn’t answer. Looks like he’s thinking hard, observing enemy movements. Suddenly, a gleam of hope reflects from his eyes. He shouts at once, ‘Signal all ships! We use Kraken’s Mouth Formation! NOW!!’

Using flags, the signal spreads throughout the fleet. The Kraken’s Mouth Formation, fortunately, is a commonly known tactic and have been used two times in Aurelian naval battle history. Never again it’ll be used in wars between Aurelian Nations. And more fortunately, it’s still applicable for the enemies who are not familiar with this formation, in this case, the Dark Forces.

(* Napalm cannons: Cannons that have three nozzles and cannonball slots each, shortening the intervals of shots, making them quicker and more lethal. Another Parthenian invention.

So, instead of engaging the enemy, the Allied Fleets just try to sail away, evading the barbarian-undead ships while they can, spreading to all directions like a blooming sunflower. The enemy boards and overruns a few unlucky ships, missing the escaping ones altogether.

The escaping ships spread on, luring more enemies into their formation with the Arcadian flagship as bait. The ships maneuver quickly into desired positions and shoot their cannons to lure the enemies to come to them. More and more Sylvanian and barbarian ships come into the formation and get stacked in the middle under heavy, constant and speedy bombardments from the superior enemy artillery.

To complete the formation, the ships must close the enemy entrance like a kraken’s mouth swallowing its prey whole. Alas! The rear enemy ships have anticipated their movements as this is quite an obsolete tactic. The enemies force their way back into the entrance and push forward to break the barrier and target the flagship.

The crew and officers aboard Admiral Gerain’s flagship are overwhelmed and panicked now. The Lieutenant even reports, ‘Sir! The Kraken’s Mouth formation won’t close! The enemies have seen through our tactic and are targeting our flagship! They’re going to board us any moment now! We’re doomed!’

Gerain scolds him as response, ‘I won’t allow that talk, Lieutenant! We’re going to fight to the death and you only weakened our troops’ morale! Say such thing again, and I’ll have your head severed right now!’

‘Pardon me, Sir. I... I was just panicked. What must we do?’

The forty-five years old Admiral sighs, ‘Ah, if only we had more ships... Too bad the North Fleet is gone to battle the Loreans, the ones who should’ve been our allies,’ and mutters to himself. ‘And now we can only fight our hardest and hope more reinforcements will come.’

A shout comes, ‘Enemies on board! The skeletons are attacking!’

Not only skeletons; zombies, ghouls and a few ghosts also join them in this raid. The ship wizards have a hard time banishing the ghosts, the rapidly flying supernatural beings only magic and magical weapons can hurt. The ghosts have no form, only consist of energy. So, like in previous battles they slaughtered stealthily, fearlessly, mercilessly.

The second ship full of barbarians gets alongside the flagship and swinging on ropes. The brute berserkers bring mayhem on board. It’s only a matter of time before the flagship is overrun. To complete the ruin, more ships move closer to attack the Arcadian flagship. Before any of those ships can reach the target, suddenly a rain of cannonballs blasts them.

Hearing those shots, the Arcadian Admiral quickly slashes through a zombie, turns around and sees ships of different sails – not uniformed – and a white skull-and-bones on a black flag on each of those ships.

The rogue party-wreckers.
The sea scavengers.
The jolly looters – or in short, pirates!

About three hundred pirate ships are coming from every direction. From the ship types, they come from all over the region: Buccaneers from Lore, Arcadia, Borgia and Escudia; Corsairs from Meshallah and Abed Bal-Hani, even the Privateers*) – all except the barbaric pirates who are among the Dark Side.

(* Privateers: Pirates who are sanctioned to rob as long as they rob ships from kingdoms hostile to the kingdom who gave them the Letter of Marque (Political Privacy Permit)

This is odd. Theoretically speaking, the pirates should choose the Dark Side instead. However, the situation doesn’t allow anyone to be too rational and theoretical. The Alliance doesn’t have any choice but to embrace the help and think about the consequences of this unlikely ally’s actions later.

A pirate ship goes next to the Arcadian flagship, and Monsieur du Villiers recognizes it instantly.

What? It’s Le Partizane! It was stolen in Vochaux last year. So, the culprit must be here, too!

Well, as we can all guess, here comes the culprit, swinging by the rope and boarding the flagship. The tall, tanned young woman is practically dancing, running her twin scimitars through the undead and barbarians. Her long, ponytailed dark hair swivels from side to side, adding beauty and gracefulness into her lethal moves.

‘Sheena Mekh’ta!’ Gerain shouts as he goes near the woman. ‘Aren’t you afraid of being caught, coming to the owners of the ship you’ve stolen?’

Before answering that, Sheena leaps with a spin and beheads a barbarian with her skill, Scorpion Tail. She lands near the Admiral and fights side-by-side with him, talking,

‘Well, I don’t plan to be caught here and now. I’m thinking more to payback.’
‘What do you mean by that?’
‘I’m paying the price of the ship I stole with a favor and hope our help will suffice.’

Gerain is still unconvinced. ‘Any help is welcome. However, judging from the side you’re on, you’re supposed to help the Sylvanians. So, how come you’re helping us?’

‘Sylvanians? The Hell Traitor’s dogs? Helping them? Pah! If they should disrupt the balance and reach their goal, there will be no more left to loot on, and that’ll be bad for business, no?’

Gerain chooses not to answer that. He just doubles his strength and fights more fiercely – and that’s enough to express his opinion about Sheena’s intentions – whether it’s real or not. Better fight as hard as you can, he thinks, don’t let the pirates claim the deeds necessary to become privateers. Vadis forbid!

The biggest part of the pirates’ squad is concentrated on the ‘mouth’ of the formation. It’s quite simple, really. If the food is too large to swallow, you need a bigger mouth (or in this case, a whole lot of ships). The pirates fill the gaps in, and together with the Allied Fleets put a tremendous pressure upon the enemy. There’s no escape. The Dark Fleet is jumbling haphazardly like a mashed pancake, blocking each other’s movements, becoming sitting ducks for the cannoneers.

Half an hour later, Gerain and his crew, with the help of the pirates wipe all enemies out of the flagship. Before they can do anything else, a big, black ship, larger than the Arcadian flagship or any ship battling here comes in top speed. Its sails are black and half-torn, with rows of gigantic oars on each side rolling rapidly. A galley it is, with two hundred or so slaves rowing this behemoth. From the trail of its coming, that ship has broken through a row of ships from the same side, sacrificing them as the last resort.

Sheena shouts, ‘Be on guard! The barbarian flagship is attacking us!’

‘I can see that,’ says Gerain. ‘Looks like it’s going to ram us! CREW! Brace yourselves!’

The enemy flagship darts on, with four ships alongside it, covering it from the heavy bombardment and intercept the five Alliance ships aiding their flagship. The enemy flagship slides safely through, and....

CRAASSSHHH!!!

The gigantic, drill-like spike on the bow of the barbarian flagship rams into the Arcadian ship starboard! The people on board gets a more violent shock than an earthquake, even a few of them are thrown overboard. The aftershock comes in form of hefty barbarians, boarding the ship with great leaps instead of ropes. Many undead, goblins and orcs also join them, hungry for blood.

More and more soldiers and pirates from other ships also plunge into action. Now the battle goes evenly matched: skills versus brute strength in a ship of limited space.

Excels greatly in skills, Sheena Mekh’ta kills her enemies in that great crowd like making shish-kebabs. She swings on ropes, climbs rope nets and fights equally well. She runs her scimitar through a goblin, swings down, beheads a barbarian who just killed the Arcadian Lieutenant, does a somersault and splits a ghoul’s head vertically, and lands smoothly like a perfect gymnast.

Soon, she stumbles upon a purple-bearded, large and very hefty barbarian with two pairs of enormous horns on his helmet. His purple, long hair is waving like ocean tide, adding up to the undeniable charisma and power of the King of Barbaric Pirates, Bahl’zegdûr.

Bahl spots the Corsair Queen too and shouts, ‘Sheena Mekh’ta! Are you the one who stirred the pirates against our own brethren? Did you do that to grab the ‘Pirate King’ title from my hands? Why do you hinder us?’

Sheena puts one finger up, saying, ‘One answer: because you and your alliance to the Dark Forces are endangering our business! If the Dark Forces fulfill their goals, we will turn from ‘pirates’ to ‘scavengers’, scraping onto the remains of their scourge!’

‘Good thinking, corsair. But the Sylvanians have promised me Merida to rule upon. At last, we pirates will have a kingdom of our own, expanding beyond the icy cold lands of Fordia and Bjordan! Don’t you like that, Sheena? Get back to your true nature, join us and crush these rabbles into the abyss!’

‘Quite tempting, mate, but not good enough. You sealed that alliance without consulting us first, and the Pirate Lords prefer my thoughts over your greed and ambition! Oh, yes, sooner or later you will destroy all rival pirates and one more thing, the Pirate Lords have sentenced you to death, and seeing that I’m fighting you now, I’ll be your executioner!’

Enraged, Bahl’zegdûr charges towards Sheena, shouting, ‘So come on! Take my head – if you can!’ He swings his enormous, pillar-like club vertically, misses Sheena altogether and breaks the deck floor! Using that momentum, the corsair leaps and thrusts multiple times with a high-speed, high-tech combo of Sandstorm Skirmish.

The attack targets the barbarian’s fatal points from unpredictable – almost impossible – angles: armpit, throat, ear, eyes, mouth and all possible weak points. It only hits the armpit, thigh and belly and inflicts light wounds, thanks to the barbarian’s tough skin. Groaning in pain, he swings his left arm and the back of it hits Sheena who somersaults down to his back, targeting the back of his neck.

BAMM! The Bladedancer is knocked back and runs into three combatants: a soldier and two skeletons. The skeletons are shattered, and a sharp piece of broken bone comes into Sheena’s shoulder. She suffers more damage than the barbarian, coughing out a bit of blood.

This brute is strong, all right, but I didn’t expect him to be THIS strong! He must’ve been reinforced with dark aura or sorts. Hmm, looks like I must use tactics...

Thinking so, Sheena gets up on her feet again and strikes a defensive stance. The barbarian just stares at her serious face and taunts, ‘Ho-ho, you still want more spanking, eh, lassie? GYAHAHAHA!! Just face it, girl! There’s no way you can beat me with such measly strength! No way in hell! Here, I give you one more chance: Give up and I’ll spare your life. Join me, and I’ll give you all the riches and pleasure of the world, just as you’ve always wanted!’

To this, Sheena responds, ‘Well, you know I love gold and diamonds over anything in this world. But, know one thing: I hate everything that is given to me freely. I’d rather earn it and live free than to be like you, the Dark’s lap dog with powers you got as a gift, not through sweat, blood and lots of effort. You have violated the Pirates’ Code by being to greedy and submissive to other forces, so the Lords are all here to make sure that you pay for it!

So, here’s my offer. Join us and beat the hell out of these hell hobos, and I’ll persuade the Pirate Lords to cancel your death sentence and pardon you!’

Sheena’s words trigger Bahl’s reaction, ‘WHAT?? So you all conspired to overthrow ME? To hell with your offer! I’ll make you ALL pay for your treachery! HRAAAH!!!’

Determined to take revenge to all, Bahl attacks most brutally, killing adversaries and allies alike. All-out offense, minimum defense. Sheena’s eyes gleam on seeing this golden opportunity and strikes with Firestorm Fervor. Her scimitars are blazing red. The first strike determines the success of the entire combo, so it must hit. The barbarian lifts his club high and swings it down to crush Sheena into the ship. Again, Sheena leaps aside and lands the first blow on Bahl’s waist.

And then, it’s unstoppable. For human eyes, it’s just like seven rings of fire encircling the target from different angles like a ball of firestorm. Actually, it’s Sheena moving extra fast with impossible moves that take ordinary humans fifty years of practice.

Nevertheless, with high level of firepower, she leaves deeps cuts all over the barbarian’s body. Just as she’s about to land the eighth blow into Bahl’s heart, the Pirate King explodes his aura! The blow sends Sheena flying like a kite with a broken string, hurting her insides. Nevertheless, she still lands smoothly and makes a stance.

Just then, Bahl the barbarian unleashes his finishing move, Crumbling Pillars of Heaven. This is actually a single strike with a domino effect. The energy flow is like a pillar falling into another, and another, with the strength multiplied at each impact. So, the farther the target, the more powerful the blow will be.

Sheena is far enough to deal with four times the attack strength, and she tries to suppress that with her skill, Phoenix Wings as defense. Her scimitars move like a shielding pair of fiery wings and absorbs seventy percent of the pillar attack. The remaining thirty percent hits Sheena! Miraculously, she is still standing, supporting on her two reliable partners – the Dancing Scimitars.

Her stamina is down, and so is her opponent’s. So, she decides to end this fight by pumping her aura to the max. Bahl also thinks the same thing, but his aura explosion and last move make him pump slower than Sheena. Bahl can only turn to defensive when Sheena moves in place, swiftly and gracefully, dancing the Dance of the Lost Souls. It’s a dance to guide the lost souls to the afterlife, another thing the Death Angel Azrael does besides peeling the souls off the dead and bring them to be judged.

Hey, lo, where are her swords? Is Sheena out of her mind, dancing in front of her enemies, with her swords missing? Well, use your imagination. She is actually using her mind to send her scimitars flying towards the target, hitting it from angles more complicated than Firestorm Fervor. The scimitars are as though dancing on their own, with own eyes, own minds, selecting targets with their own will.

Actually, it’s Sheena’s mind that become one with her scimitars – a level attained by depriving oneself entirely from love and emotional ties, amplified with rage, emptiness and loneliness – only the sword that matters in this world – and none other. Her past misfortune of her lover’s death, assassinated by her own family who arranged her marriage to another man; The death of her conscience after she killed all people present in her wedding day after finding out the killers, all molded into her becoming the sword itself. Becoming one mind and three bodies working together like hands and feet. A level attained months after her losing fight with Hernan y Parvaez on the Dewblossom, after continuous practice of parting her mind and emotions.

Bahl’zegdûr, on the other hand, should feel honored of being the first to experience this combo – and to his misfortune – without the moves to counter this skill. He just parries a few hits and absorbs the rest. Strange, the hits are like rain falling on his body, showering every inch of it. He somehow feels fresh instead of pain, feeling that he is being caressed instead of being chopped into pieces. His mouth curls up a smile, his eyes are shut, as though he’s enjoying it: the shower, the dance and the entire show package.

His defense is all down, and the shower keeps on going until it comes to an abrupt end. It snaps Bahl back to reality, wondering: Is the show over already? He should’ve asked for an encore, but look, the performer already takes a bow, and the swords are back on her hands, ending the show. After a short while, Bahl looks around and sounds of battle bring him back completely. Sheena, his opponent, is now kneeling and vomiting blood – she is dangerously low on mana. He looks at himself. The deep burn-cuts are not painful anymore, and his body is all okay – no additional wound whatsoever.

Dragging his club to finish Sheena off, Bahl the Pirate King shouts, ‘HAHAHA!!! Haven’t I told you so? Your measly strength doesn’t affect me at all! Look, I don’t feel the pain anymore, all fresh and happy! It’s such a waste, really, to waste such a beautiful desert rose, a great blade dancer like you, but for the greater good, I’ll send you to entertain the Sodomos in hell!’

To this, Sheena responds coolly, ‘You really don’t understand, eh, you big oaf? The only reason why you don’t feel anything is because you’re already dead!’

‘Really? Don’t make fun of me, lassie because it’s not fu...’

Suddenly, all the horrible feelings come flooding into his brain. Pain, terror, hurt, hopeless... certain death. Next, his body starts exploding like a burst balloon, with blood spraying everywhere like water from a broken down dam. The wounds he thought nonexistent are actually inner cuts that directly destroyed his nerves first before spreading outside – a reverse effect from ordinary wounds. The peaceful, show-time effect was actually a mind diversion to prevent the enemy from attacking the source of the dancing blades – the dancer who launched that skill. Bahl’zegdûr finally realizes that, but it’s too late. In the commotion of battle and his own deathly scream, he can still hear Sheena saying,

‘What a pity. The Sodomos knows you aided his traitorous hellspawn – I wonder what he’ll do to you next...’

And he feels no more – all is blank. Shut down. Broken, like his body.

Sheena sighs with relief. She feels so numb and painful – a brief check – and thank goodness, none of her assets, her limbs is lost. She’s heavily wounded from the accumulation of this fight and before and no permanent damage. The effect of her victory over the Barbary Pirate King immediately spreads all over the ship. The barbarians, upon their leader’s death, lost their purpose of this battle and flee, jumping into the water whatsoever, perhaps to inform their colleagues in other ships. Some of them, who are actually fanatics to the Great Bahl’zegdûr along with some undead attack Sheena in revenge. Anticipating all this, Admiral Gerain du Villiers, some soldiers and pirates move in to protect the heroic corsair.

With thankful eyes, the Admiral signals Sheena with his chin to move back to a safer spot – the Admiral’s room, perhaps. She has done enough fighting for today. Sheena understands and moves away, and suddenly... A whisper comes to her.

Very well done, Sheena Mekh’ta. What an impressive display of skills you’ve shown me just now. Looks like I’ve found the right one at last.

Sheena is snapped. I just played with someone else’s mind and prevailed – and now someone is trying to play with mine? Who said that? Is that you, Admiral?

She stares at the Admiral and the man in question is still fighting. No way he would split his concentration and talk to her through telepathy at the risk of his life and the entire fleet. So, who was it?

‘He’ would be a proper say to that, young one. The whisper comes again. Open your mind, and I shall reveal myself to you. Say the words – An Ish’kandr Aschi!

As a person who doesn’t rely on logic alone in this magical world of Eternia, Sheena says clearly, ‘An Ish’kandr Aschi!’

Suddenly, smoke comes from nowhere. And then, from inside a smoke a figure comes out. It’s blurred and unclear at first, and gradually turning into an all-red, manly form. Sheena then sees his hair appearing right in the middle part of his head like fire on a torch, his thick, fiery eyebrows, gleaming yellow eyes without pupils, pointy red ears with two black earrings on each, long, sharp nose, strange-shaped set of mustache and beard forming the wings and tail of a swallow, all-red torso with black fire-like tattoos all over his body. The most amazing thing about him is... he has no legs! Instead, a tail of fire hangs down from his groin and hips, enabling him to float on the ground (and perhaps fly, like all others of his kind). Plus, fire begins to flicker throughout his muscular body. Now fully apparates, the supernatural being talks,

‘Perhaps you have heard of my kind back in Meshallah, and if you have – here’s the real thing. I am Ish’kandr the Fire Efreet, in spirit.’

Sheena is surprised to hear that. ‘In spirit? That means... You’re a ghost?’

‘Perhaps, but for us genies, it’s not necessarily so. We, of course have been mortal. Some of us get ‘upgraded’ to our spirit form when we die, and the others just ‘move on’ to the afterlife if we preserve our human habits and renounce our genie powers. By the way, do you prefer we move to a lonelier place? I have lots of things to tell you so we can understand each other.’

‘I don’t think that’ll be possible,’ answers Sheena. ‘You see, we’re in a middle of a sea battle here, and we can’t actually talk until we win this.’

‘Oh, perhaps we can talk while fighting,’ says Ish’kandr, burning a ghoul to crisp.

‘Shoot on,’ Sheena looks quite impressed.

‘So, have you heard about me or my kind?’

‘Well, I’ve learned loads about genies, efreeti and marids in the History of the Middle East, and this is the first time I meet the actual one. Now, it’s my turn. How did you die?’

‘I was assigned to guard one of Vadis’ Arsenal, the Armor of Righteousness in Castoria when a man named Alexis killed me to get that treasure. That beast! I was just a guard, not an enemy! You cannot just kill every one who fights you! I was a repentant being, and I was just doing my job, that’s all! Even if I used violence, all you have to do is to defeat me, not to kill me straightaway!’

‘I quite agree with that – although I see your appearance is intimidating enough...’

‘...To make all my opponents want to kill me. Yes, I think looks can kill.’ Ish’kandr is not very pleased to hear Sheena’s answer, though he must admit there’s a point to it. He suppresses his outburst by scorching a goblin to death. ‘Well, anyway, I was sainted to my spirit genie form, and that murderer got what he deserved. I prevented him to get the Sword of Justice, using the sword’s power to hurt him. He was disqualified, and ended up dead thereafter.’

‘That taught him not to mess up with an efreet, especially those who are on the same side as him,’ says Sheena, nodding in agreement and killing an orc at the same time. ‘So, what are you planning now? Why did you say that you chose me?’

‘Because, my soul has been wandering for some time. I always came and help the light side in battles, but alas! Castoria was lost and I didn’t find anyone powerful enough and compatible enough with me to become my master. I wandered around the region, searching for battles and heroes. Merida, Hail’varan, Freidle, Handelburg, Ballax, and finally, here in Tirnamare, I found you.

Now it’s your decision. Will you – or will you not – accept this battered, ancient soul and work together, be partners until death do us part?’

Sheena scowls, ‘Now you make it sound like a marriage proposal. Don’t you see that I have become one with my swords?’

‘With my powers, that can be arranged. You don’t have to be too attached with your swords to control them with your mind,’ says Ish’kandr, swatting a ghost into a spirit like getting rid of an annoying bug. ‘So, is anything else bugging you?’

‘Hmm... Yeah, a bit. I think I need my partner to look... not too intimidating. Perhaps if you grow your hair to the full extent of your head, get rid of your freaky mustache and beard, and make your face look younger – about my age, I think I’ll be comfortable working with you.’

Ish’kandr answers, ‘For you, babe, anything.’

The fiery hair on the efreet’s head instantly grow to the full extent like since his servitude in Mount Urzaghi – except now he has no horns. His beard and mustache burn out and vanish. The age lines on his face disappear, with tougher, younger blood-red skin like devils. Now his face looks young and more handsome than ever. He chooses to keep the tattoos on his body, though, and it’s all enough for Sheena.

The corsair says, ‘Very well, I accept your offer. But, one more thing...’
Suddenly she punches Ish’kandr on his belly! The efreet feels no pain, but he protests anyway, ‘Hey, what’s that for?’

‘... Don’t call me ‘babe’. Got it?’ Sheena’s voice sounds intimidating.
‘Got it,’ answers the efreet with a sigh.

==oOo==


With this new ally, Ish’kandr the Efreet, the tide of battle quickly turns in favor of the Allied and Pirate Fleets. Communicating perfectly with Sheena Mekh’ta, the efreet sweeps through enemies like wildfire, burns and destroys the Dark Fleet warships with such great speed that no arrow can hit him.

By the time Iris, the riders and the Airship Aurora come, the battle is almost over. The pirates – not wishing to get a ‘privateer’ status, apparently – have gone away like fleeing. Ish’kandr and Sheena have gone away too, leaving the Allied Fleets to finish up the leftovers and take all the credit. At least they have fulfilled their original mission: executing the traitorous Pirate King and Sheena’s payback for the stolen Le Partizane (now the Dewblossom).

The Light Side’s victory is now complete, and the heroes go back to Hail’varan and then to Myrcalia, breathing freely at last...
However, it’s far from over...




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