Collection: Elysian//Age of Youth
Chronicled By: Valhel
Preceded By: Chupacabra
The canister cracked onto the ground with a startling clank, and Pandora jolted out of her sleep, pointing a blaster out at the shadows. Before her Mercury lay dazed, the fuel can split open and leaking a few feet from his bloodied head. Slowly she turned, surveying the surrounding rock, even as her mind raced to guess her unseen attacker.
“Mercury?” Pandora hesitantly stood to make her way to her friend, “Are you still here?”
Mercury groaned in response and clutched his forehead, “Shi...”
“Save it.” hushed Pandora as she knelt to check his head, “You’re gonna be alright.”
“No...” sputtered Merc, “ship...”
Pandora looked up to see a small aircraft on the horizon, nearly close enough to attempt a signal, but only just nearly.
A rattled Mercury then shakily grabbed Pandora’s wrist and pointed her weapon toward the back of the cliff, “There!”
In an instant someone rushed out from the shadows but before Pandora could focus her aim she was knocked to the ground, lost hold of her stackshot, and barley managed to keep herself from tumbling over the edge of the precipice.
Towering over her stood a cloaked man clad head to toe in armor.
“Watch out!” yelled Mercury as he slammed the dripping fuel can against the Wolf’s back with a useless clank.
Struggling to rise, Pandora wheezed, “Little late, buddy.”
“You’re coming with me.” growled the hunter.
Feigning weakness, and gritting past the pain, Pandora positioned herself to retaliate, “I like the poncho.”
Pandora leapt up, catching the Wolf by the jaw of his helm, and threw her weight toward the ground again, slamming both into the rock. The Wolf recovered and swung his rifle, scraping Pandora’s brow and dropping her again.
The Wolf rose to his feet, “Enough.”
He pulled back to kick her down, but as he did so Pandora grabbed hold of the Wolf’s boot and drew out his own dagger. She struck a glancing blow across the plated greave that illuminated their grim silhouettes with a flash of amber sparks, igniting the puddle of fuel below.
Pandora scrambled back toward Mercury and the Wolf staggered to the cliff’s edge. As the blaze roared it separated the Wolf from his quarry, “Drop the weapon!” he shouted.
Sliding the knife away from her Pandora taunted her old nemesis, “All these years. Do you think this will be the time you finally catch me?”
“What are you doing?”, muttered Mercury, hands already up.
Pandora smirked, “Poncho...”
The Wolf strode through the flames to recover his dagger, never taking his eye or weapon off of Pandora.
He stooped down and sheathed the dagger again, “Where is your helmet?”
Pandora watched as flames flickered to life across the Wolf’s fuel-soaked poncho, “Safe.” she deflected.
Suddenly the Wolf caught on to the distraction, and turned for the briefest of moments to extinguish the fire on his clothing. In that same instant Pandora lunged for her blaster, but the Wolf was too quick. He tore the poncho from his armor and threw it directly at Pandora, firing a blast into the stone a few inches from her outstretched hand. Pandora recoiled and the Wolf kicked her weapon back toward the flames.
“Enough of this!” he roared, “I’ve tracked you through ages, your tricks are old. Your lies, tiresome. Surrender and face judgement, face responsibility for all the hurt you’ve caused.”
For a second Pandora genuinely considered the outcome of giving in. Of returning to Roanoak and being sealed away from all of her schemes and enemies, but one final plot outweighed the rest. The tired fear in her eyes retreated again behind her resolve. One final plot.
Pandora spun through her options, she attempted to manipulate the flow of time but her connection to the helm was strained. Then she noticed Mercury had vanished, and the ground shook with the thunderous approach of a skyship’s engine.
A floodlight beamed across the cliff side, surprising the Wolf. And with the light Mercury sprung over Pandora, slashing at the Wolf with his newly acquired sword.
“It’s ours, get on board!” yelled Merc over the sound of the engines.
The Wolf fumbled only one step before parrying Mercury’s next few strikes with his shotgun. In almost a panic, Pandora turned back to collect their belongings and the shard of mirror. In the glint of the ship’s pilot dome she spied Lacea’s confused expression. The skyship whirled about, Lacea angling the craft for her companions to board.
But between the flashes of metal and the ringing of Mercury’s sword, the Wolf was able to fire a blast at the ship’s cockpit.
Lacea veered the ship away, as the dome had not yet been repaired and was in no shape to absorb bullets.
Having collected the shard Pandora turned to plan her escape. Lacea swung the craft about to the farthest ledge, this time protecting herself from the assailant. Mercury continued to hold his own, the unpracticed mimicry of his attacks confused and harassed the Wolf, who was holding his own much better but was unable to substantially strike back. Seeing a window, Pandora sprinted forth, sliding below a desperate swing from the Wolf’s blaster, and tumbling up toward the ship.
As the Wolf swung about, missing Pandora by a few inches he dropped low and with lightning strength threw his dagger at Mercury. A shrill clang echoed off the stony spires as Mercury only barely managed to deflect the blade and lost grip of his own.
Seizing this moment, the Wolf twisted about and grabbed hold of Pandora’s foot just as she was beginning to spring back up.
Pandora kicked and wrestled herself free but vulnerable.
In a moment just as fast Mercury leapt to engage the Wolf yet again, but the hunter had regained his edge and with an iron resolve caught the blade in his armored hand.
Pandora and Mercury froze.
The Wolf again leveled his blaster upon his quarry, “Pretending to make friends again?”
Pandora remained unflinching, the words were meant to sting, but it was the thought that they did not that troubled her.
Mercury then attempted to pull the sword free but the Wolf instead twisted the sword under his arm and forced Mercury’s ill-placed stance to the ground.
“Who is he?” teased the Wolf, “What lie did you sell him?”
“He is a friend.” spat Pandora.
Mercury gave an unnoticed sigh, hoping for a little more status than that.
“No. That’s not the Pandora I know. You see exploitations, not people.” muttered the Wolf. “Just like the rest of us, he is little more than a means to an end for you.”
Pandora glared, “Everything ends.”
Taking advantage of Pandora and Merc being on the ground Lacea barreled the skyship forward and swung it’s bow about into the Wolf, the hunter narrowly catching the rocky ledge as he tumbled over the side. Swooping back over and around Lacea struggled to maintain control of the craft, only just leveling the topside deck with the cliff opposite of the Wolf. Pandora and Mercury wasted no time in leaping atop the ship to escape.
“Thanks for joining the fun!” laughed Pandora.
“I was feeling left out.” shouted Lacea through the damaged glass.
Pandora turned and began to swing herself over and down into the transport hold when a shot glanced off the side of the ship. The Wolf had lifted himself back up and was pressing another attack. Startled, Lacea attempted to pull away from the spires but the motion caused Pandora to slip and strike her head on the interior deck. Mercury clumsily braced himself as the ship jolted, and the Wolf lunged out, firmly landing upon the bow.
Lacea steadied the craft, not wanting to cause Mercury to fall, and in a panic guided the craft toward their hideout. Regaining his balance Mercury readied his sword. The Wolf shook his head and charged at the swordsman, bringing his shotgun down like a hammer. But Mercury swept up with a desperate fury, and slicing the weapon in two.
The Wolf staggered for a moment. Mercury, having found new courage to match his brazen defense, readied himself again. Casting the pieces of his weapon overboard the Wolf raised his fists, “She’s a villain, kid.”
“Who does that make you?” shouted Mercury.
Approaching uncomfortably close, the Wolf hooked his hand down with force and a hidden blade slid from the gauntlet. Mercury stepped back and kicked off of the dorsal vein of the ship, exchanging a glancing swipe across the swords.
Below, Lacea’s voice crackled over the comm, “Pandora, are you there? Respond!”
Hearing no reply Lacea helplessly watched the Wolf patiently gain a crushing edge over her friend. She picked up the comm piece again, but replaced it immediately, her concern flashing to determination. The engines of the ship bellowed as Lacea accelerated and brought their course to a level altitude over the barren sands. Reaching over she threw a lever forward, and as the sound of sticking gears wound to a frenzy, Lacea released the helm.
The chill of the metal floor slowly crept up Pandora’s face as she regained consciousness. Her eyes fluttered in a daze as Lacea climbed down the access ladder, “Pandora!”
Lacea rushed to Pandora’s side and turned her over, frantically tapping her shoulder, “C’mon, wake up!”
Pandora blinked but remained incoherent. Lacea then raised Pandora up and leaned her back down, and Pandora’s thoughts began to come together again, “Merc?” she stammered.
“Up top with your buddy. Ship’s on auto.” sighed Lacea.
Pandora cradled her bruised head and struggled to rise, “Get us close to the dunes.”
Lacea hesitated and nodded, banishing her questions in favor of action, “Descent imminent.”
Still fighting to regain her bearing, Pandora heaved herself up to the top of the cargo door, clutching her stackshot in her left hand. The blurry figures of Mercury and the Wolf came into focus against the wind. Lacea resumed control of the craft and steadily brought the ship lower, soaring only a few meters above the sands.
Clutching the weapon, Pandora strained to line up a shot, a mistimed blast could all too easily strike Mercury. Head still swimming and strength waning, Pandora gave up on the perfect shot and began firing toward the Wolf in a wide but distracting hail of bolts. One of the blasts glanced off of the Wolf’s shoulders forcing him to refocus on the prize.
The hunter retracted his blade and charged an unprepared Mercury, casting him to the deck. Mercury choked on his own breath too shocked to rise.
“Stay put.” snarled the Wolf before he swung down into the hold.
Pandora’s stackshot rang out with more blasts but the Wolf swept aside, maneuvering himself closer to the starboard-mounted turbines and regulator panels, making Pandora hesitant to continue her attack. Once again struggling to aim, Pandora parried the Wolf’s blade while trying to line up another shot. The Wolf cut right, and then, catching Pandora’s weapon in his hands, forced the blaster up toward the top deck. Two shots rang before Pandora realized she may be firing on Mercury above.
“We granted you pardon. All your sins.” muttered the Wolf, “We forgave you.”
Pandora glared into the armored helm of the Wolf, “You reminded me of what I was, of who you thought I still am. That is not forgiveness.”
The skycraft lurched low and a flash of steel blazed silver in the moonlight. Spinning about, the Wolf deflected Mercury’s attack with his gauntlet. Pandora then drew her weapon, still in the Wolf’s grasp, close to her chest and dove toward the floor pulling the Wolf down after her. Tumbling over Pandora, the Wolf looked up for a moment before being struck across the helm.
The Wolf, save for breathing, remained motionless. Pandora shuffled back up and leveled a clear shot at the Wolf while Mercury stood ready to strike again.
The Wolf wearily drew himself to his knees, “It’s only a matter of time, Pandora.” he sighed.
Pandora raised her eyebrows and nodded, “Maybe next time.” And with a shove she pushed the Wolf out onto the sandy dunes below.
Mercury’s eyes widened again, the entire event becoming reality and not just a blur. Pandora slumped down onto the floor, half relieved and the other half burdened.
“Was that a bounty hunter?” Mercury asked Mercury, sword still readied to strike, “No wonder we can’t find work, we’re terrible if you can just hire that guy.”
Pandora’s sullen demeanor cracked into a slight smile, “I thought we were pretty good.”
Mercury shrugged, missing the intent.
“What’s happening?!” garbled Lacea’s voice over the com, “Who just fell out of our ship?”
To Be Continued...
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