Part one of a three part series, not really steampunk (Revision 4)
A house engulfed in large orange and yellow flames burns and crackles. The smoke rises far into the sky, the armor of a dozen soldiers glistens. A crazed look seized a young woman’s face, who falls to the ground in disbelief. Tears cloud her eyes, and anger clouds her judgment. She felt sorrow, and her body fell limp. Her family would never again see the light of day…
“The winding hills of the country and the fresh air of the sea, Italia has it all! The cities prosper, and the farms grow more prosperous. We lived in peace and tranquility, far from the dystopia of the outside world. It was like a fairy tale that would never end, we all thought that at one point. Of course, that was just too good to be true. Why else would I be sitting here, selling you this criminal information? Suppression is the sole duty of the nation’s army, and the king…” Rick paused to take a breath as soldiers entered the log built tavern. Rick pulled his white hood up and looked down.
“That was too close, you should watch your surroundings better.” whispered Rick in the black trench coat.
“Yeah, you’ the best information bloke we know!” whispered another man in a brown trench coat. He replaced the previous half-wit of the group, who also didn’t know his own name.
“You dimwit, he’s the only information broker we know! All the others were burnt to death along with their families.” said Ed in the red trench coat.
Rick leaned into the table as he began, “You know I was part of the special forces for the king, so let’s cut to the chase. I’ll tell you how to get inside the bank at Port City, if you tell me what you know about the death of the last information broker. This is–”
“Don’t speak so very loud! Hey, hey, where are you going?!” said the man in the black trench coat.
“Anyway, it looks like you’ve been found.” whispered Rick as he walked away.
Ed stood up, knocking his chair over as he screamed, “Come back here! What are you talking about? We aren’t the information brokers here!”
An armed soldier drew his sword, “Red coat, your death has been warranted for your acts against the king! Tell us what you know about this alleged information broker you were talking about, or your loved ones will burn.”
“That young man over there, the one with the–” he paused, shaking, as he noticed Rick was long gone, “No! No, no, no, no, no! I, he, please, please spare me; I didn’t do anything against the king! Please, listen to me! I–”
A soldier stabbed Ed, and let him drop to the ground. Two other soldiers picked up the lifeless body and began to walk towards the door. The bar quickly continued with its usual babble, as if nothing had even happened. The wooden table was quickly returned to its place, and the chairs neatly pushed in. The bar went back to serving drinks from the many multi colored bottles of alcohol and tea.
Outside, the two soldiers dropped the body into a bush and took off their helmets. Rick appeared behind them and dropped his white hood. The moonlight glistened on the damp tree leaves, the wooden tavern’s smoke stack full of black billowing clouds, emptying into the empty sky. Italian forests were most peaceful at night.
“You were almost caught, Rick. If it wasn’t for that ‘red coat’, you would have been dead!” said Erickson. Erickson was a former servant to the king that Rick had bribed for his own gain. He tended to speak quickly, and was often misheard.
“I wanted to make sure you guys could handle seeing death, before death struck me. Got that, Tench?” said Rick.
“I got it, I got it.” whispered Tench, who was also a former servant to the king that Rick had bribed. He always spoke softly, and never looked a person in the eyes. He always talked about his sister, at least, when Rick got him to actually speak.
“Find anything new, Erickson?”
“The village north of here, the soldiers got word that one of the last public rebels had his house burned to the ground.”
“Was it empty, at least?” Rick spoke as he took a step forward.
“Everyone was fast asleep, but his adopted daughter was out getting him a gift—”
“So she’s still alive? Where is she?!” screamed Rick as the soldiers in the bar walked out.
“Oh, and now our time’s up.” whispered Tench, his eyes looking at the ground.
“Punctual, as usual, Tench.” spoke Rick, with a soft voice.
The soldiers drew their swords, as the General in front of them grabbed his crossbow. Rick still stood facing away from the soldiers, standing straight up with his arms crossed.
“Rick, a bounty has been put out for your crimes against the king. Two million gold for you alive, and 50 million for your head.” spoke the General.
“I know I have a pretty face, General, but is it worth leaving my body behind? My life alone must be worth far more than 50 million gold by now.” Rick spun around.
“We may have worked together in the war, but that was then. This, this is now. Just because we were special forces doesn’t mean we have special rights.” the general shot both Erickson and Tench in the head. Rick stood still.
“I just bought them too, how rude of you, General. Just look at you, no special rights got you the highest military position.” Rick spoke with a monotone voice.
“They were dead long before you bribed them!” said one of the soldiers.
“True, they were almost caught for helping the king get more foreign wives! We wouldn’t want that news to spread, would we?” Rick smiled and bowed.
“You didn’t, you wouldn’t dare!” screamed the General.
“Put it on my tab, you have a minute to talk to your captors about it.” said Rick, as he slowly walked backwards into the forest.
“Rick, you should have just stayed with us…” began the General.
“I don’t deal with rats, but I’ll see you again in Port City!” as Rick continued to walk in reverse.
“Get back here!” screamed the General, as national soldiers encircled them.
The General and Rick were best friends during the War of 1200. Italy, a land full of nothing but dense forests, was made up of separate provinces. A few months before the war, a man declared himself king in the water province containing Port City, and in 1200 compiled a group of three talented people. These three soldiers were forced to be in the Special Forces Division, or SFD for short, and alongside Rick and the General, was a woman. Her name was Ignorance, and at the end of the war she was said to have died from blunt force to the ground. With the king stating Ignorance was dead, the special forces group was disbanded and kept under heavy watch.
Rick was running through the forest with his hood up, heading north to the village of which Erickson spoke. He quickly reached a bridge that crossed a large stream; it was smoking, so it had been burnt down not too long ago.
So they burnt down the bridge, what purpose does that serve? thought Rick.
A loose piece of the railing still stood on the left side of the small bridge. Rick took a few steps back before dashing, and then jumped onto the railing with one foot. He quickly launched himself forward off the smoldering bridge, and landed on the other side.
They made bridges for a reason! Who would want to walk through water?!
Rick kept moving north, his acute sense of direction leading the way, until he found a young woman lying in an open part of the forest. A wolf’s howl was heard in the distance.
“Excuse me,” began Rick “Are you okay? Why are you all the way out here?”
The young woman rose slowly, a large butcher knife in her right hand.
“Miss…?” whispered Rick.
The darkness blanketed the surroundings, dark green foliage flowing in the wind. The young woman turned to face Rick, but her face was still looking at the ground, and long black hair shrouded her face.
“Are you… are you, one of them?” whispered the young woman.
“Could you please go into more detail?” spoke Rick with a partial smile.
“Shut up!” shouted the woman as she hurled the knife at Rick.
Rick ducked as the knife stuck into the tree that stood behind him, and he felt an unusually warm stream of liquid roll down the back of his head.
“I’m not! I am not one of, them! I prom—” shouted Rick.
“Shut up!” screamed the woman.
“Crap.” Rick rose as he spoke in a whisper.
The woman screamed even louder as she rushed towards Rick. He grabbed the knife by the blade that was behind him. She got closer, and closer, until Rick finally pulled the knife out of the tree and knocked her to the ground with a blunt blow to the head. His hand appeared to be unscathed from grabbing the wrong end of the knife, and no blood appeared to drip from the his strong grip.
Rick noticed that her face looked familiar when she was rushing towards him.
“Your mother died in the war, right? Her name was Ignorance. I still don’t believe that was her real name. I was the youngest knight then, she was only a few years older than me too. I heard you were her overworked sister from her distant grandmother.”
“Who… are you…?” whispered the woman, her eyes clouded with confusion and chaos.
“Call me Rick; I’m your mother’s close friend. The last one she ever had.”
“My mother… she… she didn’t have any… friends…”
“I suppose that’s because she was far too ignorant at times. She had two friends, to be exact. Your name is…”
“Bliss.” Rick repeated her at a small delay.
“You look unbelievably like your mother.”
Bliss’ eyes were no longer clouded, and the sun began to rise over the mountains in the distance. The forest was green, and the sounds of wildlife brought the place alive. The white clouds flew gently in the sky above.
“I, well…” Bliss stumbled on her words.
“Is it really that much of a compliment? Enough!”
“Enough of what?” chuckled Bliss, showing a partial smile.
“You can help me avenge Ignorance, for good.” Rick spoke in a serious tone.
“Avenge…Ignorance?” whispered Bliss.
“Yes! Let’s get to Port City today, and put an end this tragedy.”
Rick began to head in what he thought was east.
Rick kept walking as he spoke, “’Sup?”
“You see, that’s west.” began Bliss as Rick turned, still walking “Isn’t Port City to the east?”
Rick continued to walk past Bliss as he spoke, “I knew that, just making sure you weren’t still insane.”
Bliss smiled and stood up. She began to follow Rick as they headed for Port City. Rick had been planning to attack the king since he first met Ignorance. When the special forces group was disbanded, Rick’s plan to overtake the king began. He slowly built up an underground network of information, which was labeled as the “Brotherhood of Brokers” by the king. Each member was hunted down, and their family was burned alive with or without any strong evidence. The king was to be in Port City to form a treaty with a country from overseas.
The air was salty in the dark basement of the Port City building. A few crates were piled in the corner of the room. The walls, like much of Port City, were made of a special type of limestone. The limestone came from a nation far to the south of Italy, and it was known to all of Italy as the greatest insulator. The temperature outside of Port City was blistering, even the butterflies were sweating.
“Rick, it’s really cold in here.” whispered Bliss.
“Port City is always at a nice and cool 40 degrees. That’s why I never stepped foot in the city unless I was ordered to do so by the king himself.” whispered Rick.
“You listened to the kings orders at one point?” asked Bliss.
Rick and Bliss were in a building on the edge of the city, waiting for the clear to move to the ports in the city. Guards were scattered throughout the city, each group taking shifts to keep a thorough search going.
“Not many people can touch me with a blade, I’m guessing you have some fighting experience?” said Rick.
“Not that I know of, it just seemed… natural.” whispered Bliss.
She looks so similar to Ignorance, but she hasn’t feint ignorance yet. The king also declared Ignorance dead, not that he would ever lie… I need to know the truth.
“Hey, Bliss.” said Rick.
Bliss was in a trance, as if she was deep in thought.
Rick gritted his teeth,“Hey, dumb–”
The wooden door swung open, letting in a bright light.
“Rick, it’s time.” whispered a masked man.
“Get ready to fight, Bliss.” said Rick.
“I’m not sure I–” Bliss was cut short by a hard slap to the back of her head.
“What the hell, Rick?!” screamed Bliss.
Rick quickly got up and headed for the door, “A fly.”
She didn’t say what Ignorance would usually snap back with, I must be over thinking things.
Rick put up his white hood and sprinted down the alley.
“Hey! Stop, wait, listen, Rick! I’m not ready for this at all!” screamed Bliss as she ran after Rick.
Rick had stopped at the end of the alley, the sunlight reflecting off of the plain white limestone. The air was less salty, and the sky was clear. Bliss had caught up to Rick as a few masked persons in black clothes were sprinting across the rooftops. Rick and Bliss stood at the corner of the alley.
“Who are they?” began Bliss, “Part of the brotherhood?”
“They named themselves personas, hence their lack of skin. Bliss, I’m gambling all I have on this one chance, so I’d really appreciate it if you gave me all of your support.”
“I’m too young to gamble.”
“You,” Rick gritted his teeth, “suck.”
Bliss smiled and closed her eyes, clapping her hands together.
So cute! Rick smiled.
Bliss immediately stopped smiling and punched Rick in the face.
“Not the face! Why would you do that? My face is worth a pretty penny.” screamed Rick.
“I felt as if my life was in danger.” Bliss said in a monotone voice.
Did I speak out loud?! Rick smacked his face with his right hand. Wrong hand, that one is the fake one!
Bliss noticed Rick was in pain, “Are you okay, did I hit you too hard?”
Rick looked Bliss in the face and smacked his face with his right hand again.
Rick looked around and suddenly sprint down the street, “We need to get to the port before the next shift of guards appear!”
Bliss followed Rick, and drew her short dagger. A persona on the rooftops threw a pair of long swords down to Rick as he was still sprinting downhill. Catching them, he quickly unsheathed the swords. Bliss was not far behind, and they quickly reached the large port where the luxurious wooden ship was just dropping the anchor.
“It’s time!” said Rick.
The personas encircled the ship and the king, all the guards within the city had been disposed of, and the king was cornered once again.
“King! This time you didn’t have a spy to warn you!” screamed Rick.
The king did not move, so Rick rose his left sword and the ship went up in flames. The vicious red flames quickly turned yellow, and then an odd blue light flowed over the large ship.
Everyone within range of the flowing blue light were reduced to bones, all except the king.
“Rick, what is that?” said Bliss.
“That… that is what happens when you add two and two to get five.”
“Rick!” screamed Bliss.
“Alright! So I miscalculated a little.” whispered Rick.
“A little? Your one chance is gone! What do we do now?”
“Over? It’s only just begun. The final battle… it’s like a dream come true.”
To be continued…