Flaky Pastry Fan Fiction Contest Entry: Purifier Over Zazabul

The setting was perfect.

Heaven Mist fountain cascaded down like a wedding cake bedded in frothing pools of rainbow. Beyond Central Park sprawled in crisp greenery. The light smell of roses kissed the air. The whoosh of traffic was muted and the chirps of songbirds took up a soft chorus on this most bright and wonderful day.

All that it needed. . . ah there she was.

It is said that all Elves are beautiful but that stereotype did Josette injustice. She was radiant. Slim, tall, pale, delicate. Her shining blond hair was like a curtain of gold. Her blue eyes were expressive, compassionate. Even in a simple white and pink summer dress she walked through the world like a bodhisattva of mercy.

When she smiled Erik's heart skipped a beat.

"Hello Erik." Her voice was as uplifting as the first robin of spring.

Erik swallowed hard steeling his courage. He was a young man with a short, well groomed crop of red hair. His ears were slightly curved. He had a slim, trim build and wore a clean white business shirt and neat beige trousers.

Josette giggled musically. "You're blushing. I love that, it makes your freckles stand out."

"Thanks, I think." Erik cracked a smile and hoped to God he sounded casual.

The Elf maid sat down beside him. "You have something to ask?"

Erik drew a breath and avoided eye contact else he'd lose his words and his nerve. "Yes. Spring break starts tomorrow. I know you're staying here. You know I won't be going home to see either side of my family so I was wondering. . ."

"Yes?" It could be wishful thinking but Erik thought he heard a hint of anxious hope in her tone.

"If you wouldn't mind taking a cruise with me on the Eris? I used my life savings and got two tickets, we'll have to leave tomorrow. I understand. . ."

"Oh Eric!" Suddenly she enveloped him in a hug. Eric turned questioningly and found himself at the start of a very long, passionate kiss. He was lost to the world.

As Erik was whisked away in glorious passion a pair of greedy yellow eyes regarded the two tickets sticking out from his back pocket. A work gloved hand reached over and yoink!


* * * * *

The setting was perfect.

Door locked. Curtains closed. Comfortable chair. Reading desk with light on. Open book. No classes to get in the way of studying. Zintiel off looking for work. Things would be nice and quite. Four hours of reading, then a pleasant visit with Mr. Neighbor. Yes, things were juust right. . 

"Take a look!" 

"Aaaah!"

 

Nitrine's voice stabbed into Marelle's calm like a live wire. The cat person (not girl, person) fell off her chair and onto her back. Her roommate stared down at her with a fanged grin and two heart shaped tickets jutting out of her fist.

 

Normally Marelle would be more reserved but at this moment she screamed "What?"

 

"These. . ." Nitrine waved the cardboard stubs at her "are passage to the Eris for two. Wanna come?"

 

By this point Marelle regained her footing and was dusting off her conservative skirt. Queries such as 'How did you get into my room?' were useless with the Goblin so she just jumped straight to her answer "I'm curious where you got those. As for if I'd want to go; yes but you have lover's tickets, not general admission."

 

Nitrine's grin got wider. "I know. So, you coming?"


Marelle's ears went flat, "We're not lovers."

"But we're roommates isn't that close enough. Pleeease?"

"Don't you have a boyfriend?"

"Oh yeah, what's his name." For second Nitrine thought about it, then "Naaah, he'd want to spend time with me and I just want to see the sights and the cute butts."

Marelle sighed, silently counted to ten and then added "What about your family?"

"What about them?"

"The letters. You put them in the trash. They're having a reunion in Zazabul."

"I can see them later. Besides I like my family somewhere between I never write home and I don't want to see them all killed in a city wide massacre. Besides. . . Grandpa Smelly is there. . ." Nitrine shivered in horror.

The cat scholar drew in a breath and rose to her lecture posture, "Now Nitrine I know that family commitments can be . . ."

The Goblin recoiled, she'd have to think fast. Then a sudden idea hit her and she yelled "Wait!"

Marelle shook her head, "Look. . ."

"You read my mail!"

"I really don't think. . ."

"That's a federal offense!"

"I...what?"

**********

"Mrs. and Mrs. Glirtshinknocker?" Loyd was dressed in a blue, gold rimmed uniform and a piff helmet. He held in his white-gloved hands two passports and two red tickets. He regarded the two girls before him on the boarding plank with a raised eyebrow.

One was a short green thing with yellow eyes, green hair and a grin that was a little bit too wide. She wore a smart black dress, nice shoes and held slim clutch purse.

The other was a dark skinned woman with white hair. She was wearing half moon glasses, a tasteful white skirt and blouse. She was also carrying two heavy suitcases, wore a heavy camping backpack and had a medium sized trunk balanced on her head. Where those cat ears flattened underneath? She was struggling to stand under all that weight; it was a wonder she made it this far.

Loyd nearly flinched with the goblin spoke. "Yeeees. We're very progressive. Got married in Los Angeles you know. Same sex, different species, we broke all the barriers. He he heee."

Loyd wasn't buying it but then he heard a low growl from the cat. "Nitrine, can we just find our room please?"

That level of frustration and hate all in one question? Yep. Married.

He handed the goblin two pink cellphones and gave the usual spiel. "These are complimentary, you can talk to each other across the ship or across the world. Come on board."

 


**********

The Eris was a 20 deck white skyship the size of a city block. It was built to resemble it's ocean going brethren with the addition of two swooping wings. Installed in these were enormous propellers which, combined with smaller ones scattered around the ship, gave the Eris speed and lift.

Marelle couldn't remember ever having felt this wonderful. A refreshing dip in the indoor pool. A steam bath.
A professional massage. Discovering a fascinating history text on airships in one of the many shops. Now relaxing on an impossibly comfortable lawn chair, in her modest one-piece white swimsuit, wrapped in a towel, with a cool drink at hand. Marelle could relax, read and if she wished could watch the clouds roll under her. That was only 3 hours into the cruise. She already liked this, she could grow to love it. Still there was just one thing that was nagging . . .

"Marelle! They have a water park, an adult water park. Wanna come?"

Nitrine was wearing a yellow bikini which made her look like a lime flavored goblin.

"Hey! Someone get the midget off deck!" A muscular sunbather shouted.

"Shaddup!" Laughter filled the air. Nitrine chose to ignore it and turned back to the cat-person. "Any ways, adult water park let's go."

Marelle laid her book on her lap. "Sorry, not interested."

"Suit yourself."

"Uh Nitrine?"

"Yeees?"

Marelle ears perked quizzically, how to phrase this. . ."I was thinking. . . our tickets. . . you didn't. . . I mean you bought them from a reputable source right?"

Nitrine rolled her eyes. "Hey it's me. I do everything legit."

Suddenly Marelle's eyes went wide and her ears folded back.

"What's with that look? It's not like I'm a pirate or. . " a shadow fell over them both. The sunbathers scurried off their blankets and fled for safety. Nitrine turned around. . . "something?"

The black ship hung in the air like a giant wasp. It had the body of a destroyer but it's stern curved into a bulbous stinger. It's wings swept down at a harsh angle. It had cannons on deck leveled towards the Eris. The tip of it's stinger lance crackled with held lightning. The Jolly Rodger flew from the top of its bridge.

To say a voice boomed from it would be misleading. It was loud  enough to be heard by all but also bouncy and sweet. "Hello. I'm Captain Kayrn Klieo and this is my ship the RS Salvatore. I'm really sorry about this but we're going to have to loot you now. Please be nice and surrender. If you do I promise no one will get hurt; otherwise you're all going to die. Don't worry though, if that happens we'll send flowers and our condolences to your family, maybe even a few fruit-baskets. I'm waiting for word from your captain. He has 30 seconds to reply." The message ended with a giggle.

**********

Half an hour later the passengers and crew were rounded up on main deck. The staff were all dressed in blue, gold rimmed uniforms with white gloves. They were port side and the passengers on starboard. The pirate's first mate was talking with the Eris' captain.

The first mate was a huge, green and had fangs. He was bald with red eyes. Well one red eye, his right was taken by a jagged scar that crossed half his face. He wore battered steam punk plate and was armed with an axe and shotgun.

The captain was a gnome who had to stand on three boxes, steadied by his crew, in order to shout at his captor. He screamed about moral standards, outrage and other such rot. The pirate took this with some bewilderment, more than likely because no gnome had never yelled at him before. The Half-Orc appeared to be having an internal debate on how best to rebut the captain's arguments; fist, buckshot or axe.

Where the captain was furious and the staff stoic the passengers were subdued. Lovers, and family huddled together. All rich debutantes who had everything to lose and were terrified. What could bring them to their knees?

The bulk of the pirates were Drow. Black skinned Elves who wore tight leather armor and dual-wielded weapons of various sorts. To make things worse these Drow had jungle cats at their beck and call. Tigers, lions, pumas all roamed the ship freely sniffing out and ripping out any remaining heroes.

Marelle frowned. "This isn't right."

"You're telling me." Nitrine whined. "I finally get on board the Eris, it gets robbed and I'm not the one doing the robbing! Why gods, oh why do you hate meee?"

"No," Marelle ignored her friend's plea to the heavens and peered at their captors, "these pirates all look the same. Could they be clones? Also Drow have a weakness to sunlight but it doesn't seem to bother this lot. Why all the cats? This is most curious."

"Maybe you could stop analyzing them and start analyzing a way out of this? They're stealing our stuff." Nitrine said dryly.

"Hmm... no way out of this that I can think of. The good news is I don't think they'll resort to violence as long as we don't. . ."

"HEY!" Nitrine spotted one of the pirates lugging a large trunk with the words 'This belongs to Nitrine' burned into the wood.

"That's mine! You better put it back. I have a really strong friend named Zintiel and she'll totally kick your ass if you mess with me. If you don't want her to gun for ya leave my things alone!"

A second later they were surrounded in a circle of bright, steel points.

Marelle slapped her forehead, ". . . do anything stupid."

**********

The bridge of the Salvatore was small, dark and tidy. Tinted windows on the bow wall put it in a state of perpetual twilight. There were two main consoles near these. Seated at them were two Drow officers. Both beauties, both identical, their long hair braided in exactly the same way. They were dressed in matching grey navel uniforms complete with comfortable loafers. One monitoring the decks from her beeping, clicking station, the other kept her eye on a small holo-display of the retreating Eris; she kept cross hairs on it even as it vanished into the clouds.

The hum of the Salvatore's engines droned quietly in the background.

Marelle and Nitrine were marched around the bridge under the watch of the Half-Orc first mate and two Drow pirates armed with dual scimitars. Their cats, a tiger and a lion, stayed right outside the door.

Oddly the prisoners had been given time to change. Nitrine was in her usual boots, jeans and a black t with a green heart. Just for good measure she also wore her tool belt. Marelle was in her blue school jacket, high collar blouse, blue skirt, socks and sensible brown shoes.

At Marelle's suggestion they both kept the complimentary pink cell phones in their pockets.

They were marched around a black, skull embedded throne. They stood on a Wookie fur rug complete with bandoleer.

On the throne was a Drow woman with her white hair in a cute page cut. She wore a red leather jacket and dress combo with matching tall leather boots. This uniform was cut like something a stewardess would wear only accented with the scull and crossbones on the lapels and belt buckle. She was holding a dainty kitten tea cup and saucer. She took a deep sip before regarding her prisoners with her mischievous lavender eyes.

"Hi I'm Karyn." She said with pep. "You must be Nitrine and Marelle. I'm sooo glad to meet you. My men tell me you know Zintiel. So do I, isn't that great? Could you tell me if you're friends of hers? Please don't lie or I'll have you flogged and fed to the cats." Then with a musing look at Marelle "Well maybe not you. That'd probably be cannibalism but I'm sure I can think of something equally unpleasant."

"I'm a cat person, not a cat." Marelle corrected.

"Don't care." Klieo chimed.

Nitrine had her 'I'm going to die. . . as usual' poker face on. "Question. What's with all the lookalikes?" She gestured at the dual dual-wielding guards beside her.

"Oh, two or three decades ago young Drow in the Underworld were caught up in the ranger fad. Before you knew it every male was wielding two swords and had a pet cat. You couldn't throw a spider without hitting one. Well, the Ancient Terrible Ones got tired of them so instigated a purge. I thought that was really mean so I took on the survivors. They're very loyal and very good fighters."

Nitrine nodded towards the girls at the consoles. "And those?"

"They're twins silly."

The officers both raised eyebrows at the Goblin.

"Now stop stalling, how do you know Zintiel?"

"She's our roommate." Answered Marelle.

"I see and does that make you friends or enemies?" Despite the captain's perky tone her words were seasoned with a touch of menace.

The cat scholar responded right away with a hint of prideful defiance. "We're friends. I don't always agree with Zintiel and she's a rather. . . dangerous individual and I've only known her a short time but after everything we've been through it'd be an injustice claim we didn't know her or are on bad terms."

Karyn stared down Marelle's defiance for a moment and abruptly responded with a smile. "Okies. We can't go around ransoming or killing Zintiel's friends can we?"

There was some grumbling on the bridge. The first mate rolled his eyes.

"I'm really sorry about this but I won't be able to drop you off back home. The local authorities don't like me very much I'm afraid. So we'll bring you to Zazabul, charter a nicer ship and send you packing that way. Until then you're our special honored guests. Matthias" she spoke to her first mate "see them to the comfy brig."

********

"If you need anything ring." Matthias rumbled and then slammed the steel door in the girl's faces. A second later a lock clunked.

The comfy brig was a large and spacious. At the far end of the room was a king-sized bed with an overstuffed mattress and a duckie themed pillow and blanket set. The walls were wallpapered white with pink stripes. They were standing on fluffy white carpet. There was also a dresser, a mirror, an armoire and a Hello Kitty bar fridge. It was well lit thanks to a crystal lamp The hum of the Salvatore's engine cut out as soon as the door shut so it was eerily quiet.

Their luggage was tucked right beside the bed. Nitrine's chest had been tampered with; there was a new message on it scrawled in blood, "Whyyyy?"

Marelle immediately sat down on the mattress and pulled out the skyship book form her carry-on. "That went well."

"Whatever." Nitrine was already crouched by the door and pulling out a small blowtorch.

"What are you doing?"

"What do ya mean? They locked us in." Nitrine pulled on a pair of tinted goggles, lit the torch and with a hiss started melting an area near where the lock would be.

"Won't that get us in trouble?"

Nitrine turned off the torch, pulled out her picks, lifted her goggles and started to play with something in the hole she made. "We're already in trouble. Remember? Pirates?"

"They said they'd let us go. I don't think it's a good idea to provoke them." Marelle gave her best scolding glare over her open book.

"Saying and doing are two different things. Now shush, I need to concentrate."

The Goblin grinned when she was rewarded by a small click. She swung open the door. Standing before her was the Half-Orc. "I heard a hissing so I thought I'd stay and check to see if you were well." he commented dryly.

"Oh hi." Nitrine's grin stretched into a nervous smile. "I'm a little peckish so I thought I'd just nip down to the galley.

Marelle lifted her tome to separate her from this nonsense.

"I see." rumbled the pirate. "The bell's there." He pointed to  a small silver bell on an end-table beside the door.

"Oh, gotchya." Nitrine chuckled and ringed it.

She froze when when something roared and sizzled behind her. The pirate cursed and covered his eyes, Marelle shrieked.

The Goblin spun around to see that half the brig had been sliced in two. The stench and sight of molten iron brought the term 'laser' to her mind. Marelle's half of the room fell backwards into the sky. Marelle was reaching out for the melted floor but already was too far away.

Years of working with machines kicked in. The Goblin grabbed the side of the door. The Salvatore had been hovering stationary but a moment later it kicked into full speed. Mattias had rolled away from the door. The contents of the room were sucked out. Nitrine's strangled cry was cut off  by a thunderous rush of wind. She got one final glimpse her terrified friend plummeting towards what seemed to be some sort of fortification 30 meters below.

Nitrine squeezed her eyes shut and tried to reach the door way with her other hand. She wasn't going to. . . Suddenly a large green hand grabbed Nitrine's arm hand heaved her beyond the sliced brig with incredible strength.


*****

Sweaty, smelly, plated Orc chest. Not a thing Nitrine would willingly be crushed into but given the circumstances this wasn't so bad. The first mate had a death grip on one of the railings that could be found everywhere on any airship. The wisdom of putting them even below decks was never clearer than this moment.

After what seemed like an eternity the roaring wind died down. At once a horrible clunking-rattling din ensued from the direction of engineering.

"You can let go of me now."

The Half-Orc complied and they both rose to their feet.

"Your engine's shot. I better take a look." the Goblin pulled out her trusty wrench.

Mattias looked out the brig door into the blue and white heavens. "You're friend....I'm sorry."

Nitrine glanced back at where the comfy bring used to be. After a moment of stark consideration she said. "No problem, she's a cat she'll land on her feet. Now lets get this puppy repaired so we can go get her."

*****

Even while falling to a screaming halt in her vacation Marelle's mind was still clockwork. It was strange, time seemed to slow down, the rush of wind in her ears became a little less and the cat-person experienced these the next few moments in acute detail and with all due contemplation. 

What hit them had to have been a powerful laser. The 'abdomen' of the Salvatore had been sliced clean off, whoever had done this had hoped to cripple the pirates.

Nitrine was both holding the door frame and reaching out to her.  This seemed stupid but Nitrine did the right thing, after all the next logical step for the pirates would be to flee and they did. Two rockets on the end of the Salvatore's wings glowed to life and with a boom it vanished into the clouds.

What was funny was that Nitrine looked more scared than Marelle should be. Of course the cat-person wouldn't die but what would come next would hurt and take a long time to recover. In the meantime Marelle would miss all of them, her classmates, her roommates, Mr. Neighbor.

Then she was on the ground and unharmed to boot. While her brain had been lost in melancholy her body reacted. At the last moment she had flipped to make a perfect, tip toe crouched landing on the torn hull of the Salvatore.

Marelle blinked in amazement and then her ears drooped and she scowled. Right, she's a cat girl. She only cursed for a second though, ultimately follow through with a stereotype was a small price to pay for being alive and well. Her ears perked up and she looked around.

Marelle and this chunk of pirate ship had landed in the courtyard of a large fortress. It was built of gray stone with a 20 meter wall around it. The fortress itself was a seven story block building with four towers at each corner. At the top of the towers were modern cannons on turrets made of steel. The clouds beyond them were moving too quickly to be natural. The cat scholar surmised that the fortress must be flying in pursuit of the pirates. She dusted off her skyship book and tried to cross reference the craft she was on. However, her research was interrupted by the stomp of many booted feet tromping towards her.

She turned and saw a trope of armored soldiers. They wore bronze plate was forged to look at home in a serial Sci-Fi movie rather than a magic flying castle. They carried rifles and had sabers strapped to their sides. Their helmets were visored with tinted red glass. One of them was incredibly tall.

"You there." A gruff voice from echoed from within the helmet of the lead solider. "Step down from the wreckage, slowly."

All of them had their guns aimed at Marelle. Except for the tall one who stood silently in the back with his arms crossed.

"Alright sir, I'm coming down." She raised her hands and slowly climbed off of the wreckage. This was actually very impressive feat of balance, Marelle made a mental note to berate herself for again living up to type but only after people were done pointing weapons at her.

"What do you think Jenkins?" The head solider asked.

The fellow to his left answered, "She could be a Rakshasa sir."

"I'm not at. . " Marelle tried to say but another interrupted her.

"Unlikely. A Cat Oni maybe?"

"No, "she continued, "I'm. . ."

"She could be a cat girl, that kind of looks like a school girl uniform."

"Hey!"

"You're all wrong." A familiar voice sounded behind her. Somehow the tall one had left the back of the group and had appeared beside the cat-person without anyone noticing. The solider pulled off her helmet and shook out her long purple hair with orange bangs. She put her arm around her friend.

"This is a Marelle, everyone knows that." Zintiel's grin was sweet and manic.

**********

The walk to the engine room was more of a climb. The Salvatore's flight path wasn't smooth, at times lost altitude with stomach rising alacrity only to come to a sudden halt. The internal railings again served their purpose to help keep balance. Not everyone was lucky though and Nitrine and Matthias had to step over a stunned Drow and his jungle cat on their long journey. As they got closer to their destination the random ka-chunking grew louder and black, chocking smoke became thick.

All this was the least of Nitrine's worries. The terrified look on Marelle's face as she was in free fall. . . the Goblin shook her head. She had to get that out of her mind.

"Hey!" she shouted over the sounds of the failing skyship. "What's the story with your captain and Zintiel anyways?"

"You want to know that now?" Matthias bellowed.

Nitrine shrugged. The Half-Orc saw the heavy downcast expression on her face, he'd seen that look many times; mourning. She didn't believe her friend survived at all. With one swift motion the first mate picked Nitrine up with one arm.

"Wha?"

"Simmer down. You'll be able to hear me better this way and we'll make better progress to boot. As for the captain and Zintiel. . ."

**********

15 years ago.

As skyships go the Deadlus was slightly larger than the Eris. It looked like an enormous WWII bomber with three sets of wings. Gun ports were scattered both top and bottom. It was painted red. It had two large horns curved out on either side of the cockpit. Aerodynamically it was stupid but it struck the right impression. It had a bull skull and crossbones emblazoned on the side.

A younger looking Matthias stood near the brig. Lacking the steam punk plate he was bare chested wearing brown cargo pants and barefoot. Less scars, both eyes intact. Still muscular though. He also sported a purple mohawk. He leaned causally beside a wrought iron door looking bored.

Karyn 'the Black Wolf' sauntered down the hallway towards him. "Matthiiiias how's my new toy? You haven't broken her I hope."

What she wore left little to the imagination. It could be termed 'leather armor' but it hugged her figure, laced up in the back and had an oval holes in the midrif. She also wore stilettoed thigh hugging boots. A red banana showed her to be a pirate. She carried a whip.

The Half-Orc shrugged, "Not really into Elves so she's all yours. Captain Crete told me to remind you no permanent damage. The chick's royalty and her family's paying the ransom as long as she isn't harmed."

The Drow dominatrix grunted and hung her her whip on her belt. "Too bad. Still I should be able to get her to scream out anything she knows about her pop's treasure without permanent harm." Matthias swore he saw fangs somewhere in her grin.

"Well don't work too hard. I got 500 on her lasting 20 minutes."

Karyn cackled. "20 minutes? Ha! If I go to work on her that long it'll break her mind. Still. . ." she reached up and scratched Matthias on the chin, he froze as if a scorpion had landed on him. "for you I'll take my time."

Matthias quickly opened the door. Chained to the wall by her wrists was a tall pale Elf with black makeup. She gave the Drow a wide smile. "Hi! This'll be fun."

Karyn raised an eyebrow and then smirked. "For me hon." She stepped in and the Half-Orc shut the door behind her.

Three hours later Matthias was on the comm in a panic... "No captain, they haven't come out yet. I know....it's never taken...no the cell's soundproof I can't hear what's going on. . .look we'll hose out the remains of the princess and try to find a double...NO! I'm not interrupting Karyn...yes you can throw me overboard but I'm going nowhere near the inside of that room when she's been doing THAT for hours. There are some things even I can't stomach...Do YOU want to go in there? Thought not." He then crushed his comm in his fist. Then he jumped when the door suddenly opened.

There was something different about the Drow torturer; a thoughtful, somewhat terrified look about her. Karyn suddenly noticed Matthias standing there and snapped out of what ever internal horror that plagued her.

"Oh Matthias, you've been waiting out here for so long. I'm really, really sorry about that. It's just that Zintiel and I talked about so many. . . things."

"What. . "

She put a gentle hand on his chest and placed a finger on his lips, "Shush. I promise I'll make it up to you. You're so kind, gentle and loyal you deserve to be first mate. I'll have a talk with the captain. Get yourself something nice to drink while you wait I'll only be a moment." With a sweet smile she turned and rushed down the hallway.

Matthias watched her go with stark amazement. The pale elf leaned on his shoulder casually. "What a nice woman. I'm sure she'll go far."

**********

The door to the engine room was open and black smoke bellowed out. The sound of the screeching, failing machinery was so loud that the Matthias had to shout even though he was holding Nitrine.

"After that Karyn quit and started up her own pirate group. We've plundered the skies ever since."

"There's one thing I don't get!" Nitrine yelled. "If Zintiel broke her and made her all nice and stuff why do you follow her?"

"Cause she's even more scary now!" Mattias hollered. "That 'cute leather outfit' she wears? It's the remnants of our former captain."

Nitrine turned a lighter shade of green, that'd get Marelle off her mind for a while at least.

**********

Marelle sat at a small, round dining room table. Before her on a silver plate was hot cabbage and roast beef. A crystal goblet with wine sat beside it. On either side of her plate was all the silverware that fine etiquette required.

Behind her were two armored guards standing at attention silently with their rifles at their side.

The room was a large, bright den. It had massive windows port side that filtered in the unobstructed sunlight. On the walls were well polished war trophies. A gleaming axe. A shield with a golden sword emblazoned on it. The head of a dragon who looked like he was related to a certain landlord the cat-person knew.

Also sitting at the table was a warrior in gleaming plate. His features were chiseled like roman general. His black hair was in a buzz cut. He had already shoveled his meal away and now took dainty sips from his wine. He was preoccupied reading a brown leather tome. In fine black calligraphy on the cover was stenciled 'Monsignor's Manuel'.

Zintiel had left her in the care of the guards who radioed in to their captain; the man she was dining with now. Immediately he had requested for her to meet in his mess. Once there he had ordered her to sit and wait while he consulted his holy book. Not wanting to push her luck further Marelle did just that. It had been an awkward, long meal; much of which she didn't touch.

Finally the armored man slapped the pages of his book shut and reverently hung it on a clasp on his belt. He regarded Marelle with some bemusement. "I must say, I've never met anyone like you before." His voice was deep and rumbling but his tone pleasant.

"If I may ask who are you and what kind of book is that?"

The Captain chuckled. "Of course. Where are my manners? My men have already told me your name is Marelle. I am Minimus Maximus the Captain of the PWN Purifier. You are welcome on my ship.

As for this" he held up his book "this is what I live my life by. It's a magical text that details all the races and nations in existence. It has their physical make up, culture, what they treasure and general attitude. I was trying to find out what you are but you don't seem to be in here. I've been enjoying the challenge of trying to figure you out."

"Well," Marelle mused about the best way to frame this, "what I am is. . . I'm afraid I don't want to say. I'm sorry."

That captain grinned pleasantly at that. "Oh it's quite alright. I've already determined everything I need to know about you."

"Oh?"

"Yes. First of all, from your dress I would surmise that you are a scholar not a pirate. In fact I approve of your modesty, two many young ladies these days dress as trollops."

"Oh, thank you." Marelle smiled.

"Secondly you surrendered right away when confronted with authority. You followed my orders when I asked that you sit and remain quiet. You are well mannered and eloquent. This leads me to believe that you are a lawful person."

Marelle giggled little nervously at that; reading Nitrine's mail and agreeing to forge her way onto a luxury yacht fresh on her mind. "Well, for the most part I try to behave myself."

"Thirdly you are friends with an Elf. Not a Drow, they don't count, a true Elf. This leads me to believe you are good and kind for they will not abide evil."

"For the most part, yes." Her tone was a little nervous, Zintiel wasn't your average Elf by any stretch of the imagination.

"You're too modest, again the sign of a good person. You and I are alike. It's rare to find someone who respects the rule of law and has a desire to help others. My men, and even your Elf friend for that matter, are decent folk but also a little too neutral or chaotic for my tastes. They have their place but it's good to have someone I can confide in."

"I'm honored you feel that way Sir Maximus. Though I am a little worried about my friend, she was on board the pirate ship I fell out of."

"Ah, you mean the RS Salvatore? We've been tracking those Drow scum for days. As you can see we almost had them unfortunately we didn't account for their boosters. They've lost for the time being I'm afraid but I vow to bring their ship down and recover your friend alive. Please tell me about her and I'll inform my men."

Marelle was just about to do that when the wall comm beeped.

"My apologies, just a moment please.

Yes?"

"Captain we're nearing Zazabul." The voice buzzed.

The captain smiled as if this was an unexpected gift, "Ah that damnable Klieo must have landed there to lick her wounds. I'm coming to the bridge." He stood up.

"Sir? My friend?"

Maximus dropped his bib on the table and patted the cat scholar on the head. "No worries I'm sure your friend will be easy to spot, it's not as if she's a Goblin or anything." he chuckled.

"But. . "

Maximus unclasped Monsignor's Manuel and put it into Marelle's hands. She looked shocked, as if he had just handed her a diamond.

"Yes, you understand how important that book is to me. Go ahead and read it while you wait. Don't worry about losing it or accidental destroying it, it's quite invulnerable and I can summon it back to me at will. Enjoy."

**********

The Salvatore's bridge shook violently. Those who were not seated found themselves crashing into walls. The bridge officers worked their stations frantically.

"Captain, we're losing altitude at 0.4 meters a second."

"All repair crews busy reinforcing the hull."

While her pirates panicked Klieo was merely perplexed. "I see and who's tending the engine?"

"Mattias reports that Goblin's working on it." The bridge bunny sounded less than impressed.

Klieo smiled though. "Good. Zintiel always picks interesting friends. I'm certain she's very talented and doing her very best. As soon as a work crew can be spared send one down to help her."

**********
Nitrine pulled one wire from the engine and jammed it into a circuit quickly letting go as it cracked to life. She then rushed to the other side of the smokey, roaring, clunking engine room.

"What can I do to help."

"Stay outta my way!" Nitrine rushed around the Half-Orc and checked a few of the meters frowning. A short distance away a valve burst spewing steam everywhere.

"Crap!"

The Goblin scampered to the other side of the room, stuck her head and half her body down an access port and quickly wrenched off a specific bolt. She then tore out of it to recheck one of the valves.

"Double Crap!"

**********

Being on the bridge was like being in an Earthquake now.

"Captain, the Engines are failing!"

The other officer screamed as the sky spun around the bow windows showed nothing but wooded ground.

Klieo wore a small pout. "Helm please don't yell. You're upsetting me. Just try to pull up."

**********

Even though the ship suddenly lurched Nirtine wasn't phased, the wall before her simply became the new floor. One that Matthias crashed into with a nasty sounding thump. Nitrine bit her lip and hooked her wrench on a stuck leaver and pulled with all her might.

**********

The ship lurched again and ground flipped back into sky.

Karyn smiled.

"Yay! We're alive. Good work helm now I won't have to be a meanie and flay your skin off in afterlife." she giggled. "But could someone find me the dumb dumb who was supposed to be on watch and missed the huge flying castle that ambushed us? He deserves  a hug with a fleshrot spell."

**********

Monsieur's Manuel was fascinating. Marelle skimmed through it and found entries on every race and culture she could think of. The Kitsune, the Elves, the Ogres, the Dwarves, the Trolls, the Cannibal Bounce Bears and so on. Each chapter was broken up into each races' subraces. Each one had details on its physiology, history, culture, . . .

What's XP?

The cat scholar flipped back to glossary.

XP: The short form of Experience Points. These are a measure merit a true believer attains when he sacrifices the heathen on our holy god's alter of carnage.

Marelle blinked. She flipped through the tome more carefully. Each of the races was given a rating on whether they were good, neutral or evil. Each were also given a detailed entry on what kind of riches they possessed from common family heirlooms to how much their organs could be fetched on the black market.

She closed the book with a shocked expression on her face.

**********

Nitrine dusted off her hands, not that she needed to since she was wearing gloves; just a force of habit. The engine still made an unhealthy clunking sound but it was much muted. The Goblin felt her stomach rise slightly which meant the Salvatore was in the process of landing. Her work here. . .

"Yipe!" she nearly tripped over Half-Orc. Matthias had hit hard and was out like a light. The Goblin was just about to sneak out to make her get away. . .

"The captain ordered us to report to you.."

The techs before her wore gray spider silk jumpsuits that hugged their perfect bodies Their tool belts hung on their slim waists. They were two well toned pretty boys and a fine lady with bright blue eyes.

Nitrine gawked and she remembered how hawt Drow were.

"Um...is there anything else you need done here?" One of the cuties asked.

Nitrine snapped out of it. "Oh...yeah right! Lots to do. The Engine may look safe but were still in danger. You two bend down over there, and you...I'll need you to hold that gasket with your foot and reach for that pressure valve just like so..."

**********

"Oh wow! Look at that!"

Gernot pointed his green clawed finger up at the sky. Emerging out of the clouds was an austere flying fortress. It was too far away to make out much but the Orc child did spot large cannons rolling out from ports in it's rocky foundation.

The sounds of the marketplace died down as everyone watched the skyship slowly grow in size. Then murmuring, then panicked chatter. Gernot's mother scooped him up and ran for the denser streets. The Zazabul garrison began to flood out just in time to see a black flag with a skull wielding a sword in its teeth hoisted from the flying castle's highest roof.

**********

Zintiel leaned casually against one of the outer parapets watching the city of Zazabul sprawl out underneath her. It was a metropolis of stone buildings raising up at most five or six stories. It was an iron age affair; ox carts instead of cars, sackcloth and cotton instead of denim. It was on top of a massive hill and thickly walled to boot. Not that it's balistas or catapults had any chance against the Purifier's cannons.

A retort of deafening thunder opened up underneath her as the flying fortress fired its first volley. One of the towers of the Orc castle blew apart, Zintiel squinted and she could see little green bodies falling away. She sniffed the smell of sulfur and grinned. Easy job, much pay. She liked very much.

"Zintiel! There you are!" The cat girl sounded out of sorts.

When she saw the tower fall Marelle dropped her book in horrified astonishment.

"Heh. Fun isn't it?"

"Fun?" The high pitched strain on her friend's voice caused Elf's ear to twitch.

"They just killed 20 people."

Zintel shrugged and watched while little green guard rushed the fresh ruins in a desperate attempt to find survivors. "They're only Orcs. Happens all the time. They're Karmic cannon fodder or something like that."

"Just take a look at this!" The cat scholar had picked up Monsignor's Manual and shoved it into the Elf's hands.

She skimmed through it as the cannons fired again and demolished the market place.

"Oh my god. They're killing children."

Zintiel snorted. "This book's funny."

Marelle snatched it from her and threw it over the side. "Funny? You think genocide is funny?"

The Elf raised an eyebrow. "Wow. You tossed a book. You must be upset."

"I'm furious!" she let out a shriek when the cannons fired again sending a cascade of stone and broken bodies flying.

"Okay...you do know they'd eat you if they had the chance?"

"I-I don't care...this isn't right. You don't just go murdering people because you think they're evil."

"Yeah. . ." Zintiel peered over the side and watched terrified crowds scurrying for cover "guess Nitrine's folks are somewhere there too." She didn't sound too worried.

"Oh no." Marelle watched the burning city with a look of hopeless desperation. Her wide expressive eyes, her full slightly parted lips, the way her chest heaved when she hyperventilated, her little hands gripping the the wall with all her puny might.

Zintiel had to admit, Marelle was kinda cute. "You know. . ." she droned  "I don't need this job. I could easily get rent money by stealing from the ship's coffers. Of course we would end up sabotaging this raid along the way. . . If that's okay with you. .  Just saying."

Marelle stared at her friend and after a moment gave her a slight, desperate smile. "Okay. . . I'll call Nitrine, maybe she can help."

**********

"Does she have to stand on me?"

"Can't...hold...out...much...longer!"

"Can I put my clothes on now"

"No It's a fire hazard!" Nitrine barked. "All of you have to stay in that potion, especially Bright Eyes."

"My name is. . ."

"Your name is Bright Eyes! Now hold still, I need to get a special camera to take a picture of the umm. . .harmonic resonations. I know this all seems strange but trust me, you three, being like that is keeping the magnetics in flux. Trust me I'm an Engineer"

"My magnetics are in flux." Matthias just sat there on a bench watching the three Drow with undisguised 'awe'. 

Nitrine nudged him hard.

"Ow...I mean the Goblin knows what she's doing. Carry on."

"Heh. Awesome isn't it?" she whispered in his ear.

"If you don't have a camera I'll get one." the Half-Orc leered and whispered back.

A very unamused voice suddenly cleared her throat behind them.

"Captain!" The Drow and the Half-Orc chimed. Nitrine's pyramid of hawt then collapsed.

"Owwww. . . "

"C-captain I can explain!" Mattias shrieked.

"First mate to your room, now!"

"Yes mam." He slunked away.

"You three please collect your uniforms and hit the showers."

"Yes mam."

"And you. . ."

Klieo suddenly seemed to grow taller. Her lavender eyes narrowed with deadly seriousness. Electricity crackled between her fingers.

"Heh, um...what you thought you saw...I can see how you'd misinterpret that...I can. . ."

"I'm not a dumby doorknocker. You made my techs do embracing, naughty, things. I'm going to have to punish you for that."

Nitrinte gestured to the rest of engineering frantically. "No electricity! You'll short out the engines,  we'll crash!"

"We've landed but still." with a snap of her fingers Klieo was holding two balls of flame.

"Fire's bad too!"

She made a gesture and tendrils of blackest night writhed from the Drow's palms. "Happy?"

Nitrine shrinked back. "No."

"Too bad." Before the captain could launch her spell the theme of the Love Boat played in Nitrine's pocket.

"Oh...that's the phone. I need to get that."

Abruptly Kayrn smiled and folded her hands behind her politely, "You go ahead but no escaping." she said in a singsong voice.

Nitrine took a step or two away from the captain and put the pink heart-shaped phone to her ear. "Hi Marrelle. Glad you're alive, glad you called, what's up?"

"We've got a problem. I'm on board a ship called the PWN Purifier. It's run by mad men, they're going to level city. Are you still with those pirates?"

Nitrine looked over her shoulder and Klieo waved with dark tendril sweetness.

"Ah yeah."

"Good. Zintiel's with me, use their connection with her to convince them to take the Purifier out."

"WHAT? It's not like we're on the best of terms or anything."

Karyn mouthed, "Please hurry up. I still have to kill you."

Nitrine nodded back with a nervous smile.

"I'm sure you can think of something. This is of the utmost importance."

"I don't..."

"They're attacking Zazabul."

"So?"

"Your family's vacationing there."

"...Damn it!"

"I have to go. Bring the Salvatore to Zazabul if you can. Good luck."

"Wait, Marelle...Hello?"

Captain Klieo stepped forward and reached a hand filled with dark magic towards the Goblin. "Times up I'm afraid. Byeeee."

Nirtine tried to step back but ran into wall. She scrambled with her toolbelt to find something anything to...she pulled a tootsie-pop.

"Um...lolli?"

**********

A bronze armored guard flew across the mana flux chamber with a strangled cry and crashed with a solid thud against the wall. His companion drew his sword but not fast enough. Zintiel clocked him one full in the face and he soon landed stunned beside him.

The first guard struggled to his feet and the pale elf hoofed him in the chest, not seeming to mind her foot smashing into plate in the slightest. The force of her kick was enough to rise the prone man to Zintiel's eye level where he got a close up glimpse of her manic grin right before she grabbed him and tossed him out the stain glassed window two stories above in a crescendo of breaking glass and his diminishing screams.

"That will do, I suppose."

The mana flux chamber was a massive stone hall that resembled the inside of a cathedral. Everything was incredibly bright thanks to the sunlight shining through it's many windows and  three enormous glass spheres that floated in the center of the chamber which contained magic colored luminescence; red, green and blue. These spheres swirled around in mid-air atomic helix.

Marelle watched the spheres for a moment and then turned to her book. "This is the ship's power source. If we smash one of the globes it will cause the Purifier to explode destroying everything in a 50 kilometer radius."

Zintiel paused in her act of using the second guard as a magic sphere shattering bat. She frowned, he looked very much relieved.

Marelle kept reading, "However if you knock one of the orbs slightly out of orbit it will cause the ship to loose control."

The pale elf smiled at that in simply tapped the guard's head on the green sphere.

"Ow."

It shifted orbit slightly and the floor started getting more diagonal.

As she slid downwards Marelle kept reading. "It should be noted that if one does this one should throw an softer object into the mix to keep the orbs from smashing together."

Zintiel ripped off the guard's breast plate and gleefly tossed him into the center of the chaotically swirling orbs. He shrieked and then proceeded to be pummeled over and over again like a pinball between magic orbs.

**********

". . . and that's the story."


The captain had finished her lolli and dropped the stick into a waste basket. "So you'd like me to order my ship into combat with the Purifier? Whats the magic word?"

Nitrine rolled her eyes, "Please."

"No."

"What?"

Karyn patted the Goblin on the head. "Sorry sweetie but the Salvatore isn't a match for the meanie Purifier on a good day, let alone when she's missing her poor stern. Without our lightning cannon we wouldn't stand chance." She turned to leave.

"What about Zintiel? You think she'd run?"

The captain paused for a moment. "I love Zintiel to pieces and I'm sure your friend Marelle's a sweetheart but I'm not going to risk the lives of my pirates on an icky suicide mission. So unless you can conjure a ship of the line I'm afraid the answer is no." She stepped out the door.

"Aww shi...." Conjure? Wait a minute." A sly grin grew across Nitrine's face, she closed her eyes stretched out her arms and began to glow.

**********

The battle boiled out into the court yard. Marelle had suggested they hold the Mana Flux Chamber but Zintiel had responded by smashing out of one of the other windows onto a troop of hapless reinforcements. She made quick work of them and was now wielding an iron brazier like a club.

Marelle raced out of the main entrance, was almost caught by another group of soldiers but the pale Elf swung from the rope of a flag pole, caught her swashbuckler style and they landed near the bow wall. Bronze plated warriors fired on mass at the two. Zintiel however muttered a spell that reversed all bullets in her area. Seeing their fire arms were useless they charged and Zintiel dispatched them with monkey style Kung Fu staff works.

The large pile of groaning men before her were trying to rise when Maximus' voice boomed out. "What's going on here?"

The paladin had stepped out from fixing the Mana Flux chamber. He wielded and enormus steel axe and glared murder at Zintiel.

For her part she was braced in a fighting stance the head of her brazier pointing low. Marelle knocked another guard unconscious with Monsignor's Manual right before he could grab his sword. Suddenly the book vanished from her hands to appear in Maximus' outstretched gauntlet.

"This is madness! Elves are a good race. You're not supposed to be reveling in this. . . in this Chaos!"

The pale Elf chuckled darkly, "Oh but I am. It's a 'life style choice'."

"You can't chose that!" the Paladin shrieked. "It's not possible, you have to follow type, the Manuel says so!"

"That text is common trash." Marelle cut in. "Every member of every race has free will. To make such broad sweeps in judgment is folly. Now move your castle away form Zazabul or my friend will do something rather unpleasant with that iron pole and your anatomy."

"This ... I ... wait. . " then the Paladin brightened. "I know you're under a curse. Perhaps an article of alignment change. That must be it." he giggled manically. "I can't believe I didn't see it before. I'll need to strip you and then you'll be fine."

"That's a little fresh for the man of the cloth." Zintiel dropped her weapon and an orb of dark energy appeared between her hands. "Murder ball for you."

"I don't think so. Aura of Order!" Maximus raised his axe and the Seal of Solomon traced itself around Marelle and Zintiel in golden light. The pale Elf screamed and suddenly collapsed. She tried to push herself up but seemed far too weak.

Marelle darted under her arm and helped her friend stand. "What did you do?"

Maximus kept his axe raised and slowly moved forward sweat beading on his forehead. "Your friend's strong." he grunted. "But this spell will hold her until I can kill you and free her from whatever curse you've woven."

"Ugggh." Zintiel couldn't even lift her head. Marelle strained to pull her out of the circle but the guards were already recovering.

"Escape's impossible. Now stand and meet your fate w---aaaagh?"

Suddenly the clouds above burst forth revealing a titantic visage of Nitrine. It was like the truck in Maximum Overdrive except behind it was the Salvatore. The ship itself kept it's basic shape but where there had been a wasp like abdomen before there was instead a swivel mount with 20 different cannons.

**********
Karyn Klieo now had a ship of the line. Her enemy was trapped in the targeting locks of her bridge's tracking systems. She had the Purifier caught completely by surprise yet she was not happy.

"Do it!" Pressed the ship's computer which sounded strangely like a certain Goblin.

"No." the Captain pouted. "I won't say it, it's rude."

"Come on do it!"

"Captain the Purifier's cannons are coming online."

Klieo sighed. "Fine, fire the . . ."

**********

Five years ago a strange little creature in a wrestling mask who typed with boxing gloves answered his email.

"In short Night-Rind, I would have to say that the most bestest ship weapon I can think of is. . ."

**********

"...frekin awesome double-duce cannons." Klieo commanded without much enthusiasm.

*********

Two steel beams on the side of the Salvatore swung forward and stuck out well beyond the Nitrine face battering ram. At their ends were effigies of clenched fists facing palm up with the index fingers extended. A green light sparked form either finger, lightning flashed from them, collided and shot out a laser of epic proportions completely vaporizing the Purifier's main keep.

"Agggh!" Maximus flinched and the glowing holy symbol around Zintiel vanished. She instantly stood up a wicked smile on her face. Again she summoned dark energy from the Chaos Realm.

"Ancient spirits of Arcadia.

Those who were once bound.

Break you chains and dance once more with the wild hunt.

Crush order, erase law, make anew.

I call upon that which would spite Heaven.

Omega Murder Blast!"

"What? Nooooo!" They saw Maximus' panicked expression a second before everything went up in bright radiance.


A moment later everyone was falling. The shell-shocked bronze soldiers, small bits of the Purifier, Zintiel who gave Marelle a little shrug, and Marelle who just had her arms crossed not looking amused at all.

**********

A couple of hours later they met up in Zazabul Airport.

The modified NKA (Nitrine Kicks Ass) Salvatore hovered above them silently thanks to slick anti-grav technology. Karyn had dropped all decorum and was giving Zintiel a hug. Marelle was looking up at the new ship in stark amazement. The Drow bridge bunnies were discussing landing fees with some official looking Orcs in the background and Nitrine appeared to have hang over of a century. Around them rose the thickly clustered store houses of Zazabul. Surrounding them were a large crowd of gobliniods; Orcs, Ogres, Trolls, and Goblins. They were dressed as well-to-do medieval folk and watched at the airship and it's crew in stark amazement.

"I don't understand. How could you reconstruct the Salvatore so quickly?" Marelle asked.

"Owww...keep it down. I think I broke something in my brain."

"Well I have to go sweetie. You can come with if you want. Everyone aboard the Salvatore just adores you."

One of the bridge officer's ears twitched when she heard her Captain say this. She got distracted from the Orc thanks to sheer panic. The official took this opportunity to pick her pocket of the required fees.

"I'd love to really "  Zintiel answered "but I think I'm going to take it easy. It's spring break after all."

"Oh poo."

The officer in the background sighed with relief. "Let's go Captain."

"Yes, yes. Farewell deary till we meet again." Karyn briefly clasped hands with Zintiel and then turned to leave gathering her bridge officers and heading up the landing ramp.

The pale elf nudged Marelle, "Hey, want a drink. My treat."

The cat scholar pulled her attention away from the ship. "Actually yes that would be most welcome."

"I could use one too." Nitrine said. Then she sniffed and terror drained all colour form her face. "Wait...that's. . ."

"NITRINE! Get over here now!"

"Grampa Smelly! Quick hide me!"

It was too late two burly goblins suddenly seized her. . .

"You're coming to the picnic and you'll like it." Cried the voice from the crowd.

"No....guys....help.....haaaaaaaalp!"

As she was dragged into the crowd the Salvatore took off and Zintiel and Marell walked off arm in arm.



By: Christopher Challice

Nitrine, Marelle and Zintiel are copyrighted by Felix Lavallee

I give Felix the right to use any of the other characters in this story in any way he wishes.