Never, Ever Piss Off The Nendrai [19 Hispis 4385]
Vae heard Quendry screaming. She hissed, "And what are your friends doing to my primes? The now I excuse myself from being your hostage!"
The Cani Pirate holding Vae said, "Quiet, little girl." Then Vae curled her tailtip around his staff, ringing her bell, and teleported herself and the staff to Quendry. The council room erupted in a hideous melee, with five angry and rushed pirates assaulting six or seven assorted wrongfolk. The wrongfolk didn't have much of a chance. In a moment, some of us were broken, and some fled. The five pirates took what money they could (mostly from Zascalle's body), and started to rampage down the corridor rather haphazardly. Duncan's Glory's onagers knocked another candle off of Strayway.
Vae appeared in the nursery, still a young and nude Orren girl, twirling the crow-staff in one hand. "Not a thing like this you must do to my primes!" she proclaimed, and then burst into giggles from the pleasure of having gotten something from a prime.
"What is with these people? First the shoggy tells us no, then the bug-scromper tells us no, and now the flippin' little girl tells us no. You need to learn to say 'yes'," said Brindled Woman. "You 'specially," she said to Arfaen.
Vae twirled her stolen staff in a delicate lemniscate, laughing a laugh like tiny golden bells rung by a fairy, enlivened rather than distracted by her forced pleasure. She hooked out Brindled Woman's lungs, some Locador sleight allowing the crow's beak to avoid the Cani's flesh and bones and armor.
Brindled Woman stared at Vae in fear and pain, her eyes pleading. Vae chirped, "Yes! The yes I say to you! You can have them back!" She twirled the staff backwards, and flipped Brindled Woman's lungs into her face. Brindled Woman did not seem to be terribly grateful for their return. She did lose consciousness, for which I imagine she was grateful. She did not regain it.
Mellilot took the opportunity to scuttle over and slap her bound Heal the Awful Wound on Grinwipey. Wipey poked up his eyestalks and moaned a bit. "Sorry as the dashitzie, couldn't do much for you."
Vae smiled quite sweetly at the other two pirates. "The menu for brunchtime murderings is a choice for you! The we have a very fine conversion of the heart and circulatory system to a nest of stinging wasps, served on a bed of arugula and accompanied by a light whipping by a peri armed with nettles. The or we have a slow and elegant disembowelling accompanied by a sweet sherry gravy, always a classic, and but not to be considered meagre, no matter how familiar it becomes. The and finally, as today's special, we could turn your fingers, tongues, and genitalia into unfriendly and slightly poisonous serpents, who are only under your control with your full concentration. The protracted death, which may appeal to those who find life so sweet that they want to suck it down to the last drop. And Sir Brindled Man, which will it be?"
Brindled Man, not quite understanding the situation, started to strangle Quendry. "Drop that staff damn quick, girl, or the kids all die."
Vae flicked her tail once, twice, thrice. The children's fur became furious masses of lashing animated iron quills, each quill tipped with corrosive flames. They struck at the pirates, again and again in a rain of vicious burning pricks. The pirates had no real choice but to drop the children. The children, perhaps more upset than the pirates, fled to Arfaen and Mellilot; Vae let her spells lapse before they attacked the women.
"But why did you do that, Vae?", I asked her later.
"The I wanted the pirates to let go of them in a hurry," Vae explained patiently.
"But why didn't you teleport them away, O mistress of Locador powers beyond nearly anyone I know?" I asked.
"Not a bit did I think of it!" she admitted. "The bit of a fury I was in, I fear me."
(I fear you too, Vae my friend. Indeed I fear you.)
"The very wise choice you have made, Brindled Man," said Vae in a silky-sweet voice. "The fingers you use for murder, and this shows that your fingers should ne'er be yours again." She touched him, and gave him many serpents to wrestle with.
"And for you, Maceimel -- the disembowelling, I believe?" He tried his very best to kill her with his mace. Space and time bowed in obedience to her tail: the first blow of his mace removed half his belly; the second opened his chest; and there was no strength in him for a third. Vae took his mace from him and trickled her scalpel-clawed fingers in his entrails.
Maceimel moaned "Sprex!" and teleported back to Duncan's Glory. Vae produced a round doorway in nothingness, reached through, and dragged him back. Three pirates, one of them a very burned Rassimel being tended by the other two, expressed an assortment of displeasures and alarms. Vae continued to vivisect him jauntily as the children wailed.
(Grinwipey quite mercifully broke Brindled Man's skull with his clubs while Vae was distracted, if I understand what Grinwipey said properly.)
"How could you do that in front of the puppies?" Arfaen asked later.
"The good I thought it would do them, to see such a revenge," Vae said.
"But they're puppies!" Arfaen yelped.
"I'm not a puppy anymore, and I'm glad I didn't have to watch," I said.
"Not so well do I understand. Always a joy it was for me to see my mother torture an enemy!" said Vae. She looked at Arfaen's face. "Not the same way it is for Cani or Rassimel puppies, then?"
"Not in the slightest! They'll be puking up nightmares for months!" barked Arfaen.
"As they would if they had seen us raped," added Mellilot. "So thank you once again for saving us."
"Yes ... thank you," said Arfaen, who was rather less certain. She has endured considerable time with unwanted lovers -- albeit friendly spouses, which I suspect is a rather different matter. I do not know whether it is a difference of degree or kind though; I hope I never understand perfectly. She could have endured this too, I think.
"The sorrow is on me for doing it in an unsuitable manner, though," said Vae, and two daggers of glass and blood trickled from the corners of her eyes.
Boots thumped in the corridor outside. A pirate barked, "That sounds like Brindled Man screaming in there!", and kicked open the unlocked door.
"Oh, no! More pirates, Mommies!" wailed Quendry.
"The Brindleds!" wailed Oonanau. The Cani Pirate who had been holding Vae tried to grab her again. She was having none of it, though, and teleported him three hundred miles in the sky, to fall or rescue himself as best he could. Other Rassimel became a small wooden rocking-horse, just Quendry's size. Cheerful Orren got two steps away down the corridor before she became a bright red rubber ball with blue stars painted on the side. The Khtsoyis and Grinwipey traded insults, or, perhaps, taught each other insults.
"You were much nicer to that batch than the others," I noted afterwards.
"The they had been much nicer," said Vae. "The Cani Pirate even petted me once or twice while he hostaged me. The year can pass to the next year between times a prime will do that!"
"Fly, you fools! This is an enemy beyond you all!" barked Oonanau, or words to that effect. She grabbed Cani Pirate's staff, which Vae had dropped, and said "Sprex!" so that her bound spell took her to Duncan's Glory.
"Pleasure droppin' in on you like this. Look m'up if y're ever in town, Wipey," said the Khtsoyis pirate, and sprexed off as well.
Vae screamed in rage. "The staff, the crow staff! The crow staff is my staff! The Cani Pirate I took it from!" She leapt through her round doorway to Duncan's Glory, whirling her stolen mace. Two pirates got in her way -- in the sense of not getting out of her way quickly enough -- and she disposed of them, one getting knocked off deck with the mace, the other by transformation into a short curving roadway to Oonanau.
Oonanau, being a sensible sort of sorceress, took the instant to teleport to the Dossimar city gate and bolt through.
"The crow staff, the crow staff that is mine!" howled Vae. "The Orren has taken my crow staff into the city!" She could not retrieve it through the city walls, so she set to work getting revenge.
"Why did you want the crow staff? It was all bloody and lungy!" asked Feralan rather afterwards.
"The things I get from primes are hard things for me to give up quickly," said Vae.
"Oh.... I don't have a crow staff. I'll give you a cup with a pelican drawn on the side!" said Feralan.
"The please, the please!" moaned Vae.
Zascalle took Feralan aside after he had given her the cup, and told him that giving presents to the nendrai was not always a good thing.
Windigar and Drogimargue and Me
Drogimargue, hearing a commotion from inside the skyboat, kicked Windigar in the belly and ran inside. He found a roomful of incapacitated and dead wrongfolk, and no pirates; he roared to find his companions.
Windigar picked himself up and prodded at his insignia, hoping to get Vae's attention. Vae was beyond any interruption at that point. I, however, was looking for clues about what was going on; I noticed, and arrowported over, and got a few essential hints.
So Windigar and I and the re-seven-winged burning thing rushed into the council room. The burning thing politely distracted Drogimargue, where by 'politely distracted' I mean 'attempted to grill alive', which is quite polite under the circumstances. Drogimargue fought back moderately effectively for a bit, and then decided to sprex off. I fluttered to the wrongfolk and used most of my remaining cley on several advanced healing spells.
Resurrection is only generally possible within a few minutes of death -- a variable few minutes depending on how quickly the spirit of decedent gives up and returns to the relevant creator god. Dancing in the Garden of Statues is an excellent way to arrange to resurrect a half-dozen people all at the same time, since the time I spend in the garden doesn't count towards the limit of resurrection.
Then we followed the footsteps, and the advice of the furniture, and came to the parlor with the children and the civilians and the dead pirates and the door to Duncan's Glory.
A dozen or so pirates surrounded Vae on the deck of Duncan's Glory, including Drogimargue the Nendrai-Slayer. They were terribly outnumbered by Vae. And by Vae's elementals. She had turned a wind into a seven-headed lightning bear, and Drogimargue's sword into a mushroom with a poisonous gaze, and someone else's forearm into a spiky Locador demon. Vae was mostly ignoring the pirates, except when they somehow got a spell or a sword within six feet of her, at which point she produced another elemental to interfere with them. They were not her concern.
The pirates were not fighting Vae out of personal fear, or professional obligation. They were fighting her out of civic duty.
I joined the pirate's cause when I saw what was going on, of course.
Vae was ripping up vast tracts of countryside. She'd demarcate an area of some twenty or thirty acres of fields or countryside. She'd carefully transport all the people and animals in it into the nearest village, for she is a tidy monster. (And by "tidy" I mean "happy to fill villages with all manner of beasts and pests and vermin."). Then she would arrange for the direction "up" to mean "towards the city of Dossimar, and with a force a dozen times as great as usual", rather than its usual meaning of "upwards". Everything in the region would fall heavily towards the city. First the loose things, fallen logs and ponds. Next the weakly-affixed things: houses and trees, plants and buried logs and loose soil. Finally the rest of it: all the soil down to the world-wood.
The avalanches could not actually break the Dossimar city walls. But the enchanted sphere rang like a bell struck by Tenmen's hammer; it squashed to a hideously oblate spheroid, and then rebounded. The towers and homes on the edge of the city were cast down and ruined.
And by this time there was quite a dike around Dossimar: soil and detritus piled high. The gates of Dossimar were buried; and the moraines draped on the walls loomed far above the tallest buildings of the city.
"Vae, Vae!" I called to her. "Please don't destroy the city!"
"Of course I will destroy the city!" she snarled. "The sorceress in the city Took. My. Crow. Staff!"
I know this mood. I have seen it before, though never with quite so much devastation. "I'll bake you a cupcake if you come back to Strayway."
Vae grinned excitedly at me. "And with chocolate frosting?"
She jumped up and down once or twice. "Let's go!" Then she stopped and looked at the city, as if seeing her handiwork for the first time. "The bribe you're offering me. And did I do another wicked thing this time?"
"We'll discuss that when we're back on Strayway," I said.
"The meaning of that phrase is 'yes, and a most extravagantly wicked thing', is it not, Sythyry?" Drogimargue rammed a blazing metal-tipped spear through her heart. She rather absentmindedly teleported the spear to me; the wound wasn't serious enough for her to bother with. "And if it is so terrible, can I still have the cupcake?"
"Come back home, and you can have the cupcake."
She dispersed her elementals, took a crossbow bolt through one eye, and came home. I insisted on healing her, because I know from a century and more that it is very, very, very important never to piss the nendrai off.
As I did, the shots of two ballistas and three flame-onagers wrecked various bits of Strayway. Windigar used the replacement quick-escape device then, and took us a dozen or two miles out of range of ballistas and flame-onagers.
I baked for her, and healed people while we waited for the cupcaked cooked. I was more or less out of cley, but we are a very friendly ship, and many people gifted me with cley and embraces. [Transferring cley to someone else requires a close hug. -bb] Most of them wanted bound Heal the Awful Wounds, and, for those who had enough cley today, resurrection spells as well. Tomorrow, I will spread bound defenses around even more.
|Deaths and other injuries||None that stuck.||Brindled Woman, Brindled Man, Maceimel; we did not see fit to resurrect them. Several temporary deaths on Duncan's Glory, but I'm sure none of those stuck. Presumably Cani Pirate survived as well. Unknown numbers of innocent victims from the smashing of the city: perhaps none, perhaps many.|
|Money||Lost a few thousand lozens||Gained a few thousand lozens|
|Booty||A magic mace, a magic spear, a sparkling dagger, a sparkling shield; various equipment from the captives that we haven't sorted out.||Nothing to speak of, though Vae still complains that they Stole. Her. Crow. Staff.|
|Captives||Three lost pirates; Other Rassimel; Cheerful Orren||None|
|Other Damage||Two candles and a great deal of architectural damage of Strayway||Dozens of acres of forest and farmland ruined past all repair; moraines of debris and dirt surrounding the city.|
I suppose we won on points. Unless we (Vae) killed a lot of people we (Vae) didn't intend to in the city, which presumably counts against us.
It didn't feel like a victory in the slightest.
Me. This sort of thing is precisely what I've spent the last 124 years trying to keep from happening. Vae wrecking the countryside and assaulting a city, that is.
Us. We are demoralized and scared. Vae and I took pains to put up three scores very loud and blatant magical defenses: huge buzzy spells that cradle the ship as a sea urchin's spines and shell cradles it. A dozen exceedingly menacing elementals circle us constantly now, glaring outwards with the faces of legendary devils, their limbs and wings abristle with weapons. Not everyone finds this comforting: it is very much short of city walls. I have promised that, as soon as we can find an otherwise safe place, I will defend Strayway with out-and-out city walls. They won't be Vheshrame's walls, but they'll probably be better than Dossimar's. (Note to self: tracking down that Glory of Hren Tzen in Heleshario is more important than ever.)
The Children. The children were beside themselves with horrors. (And some of the adults too; as soon as I write this, I am going to go where nobody can see me and indulge in an episode of the utter shrieking fantods at Phaniet.) The families with children were discussing what to do next: whether Strayway is safe enough for them, or whether they should ask to get off at the next city, or beg to go home to Vheshrame. If the latter, I will indulge them, and do my wall-working in the safety of Castle Wrong.
Strayway. I no longer have a beautiful, flamboyant, and spectacular sky-yacht. I have a half-ruined sky-yacht that will need massive repairs before it is completely safe to live in, much less impress people with.
The Fourth Group of Pirates. All dead, and not in nice ways either. Which does not distress me greatly: however it was that Brindled Woman had affan in ... whatever she had affan in ... she cannot have come by it in any decent way.
The Captive Pirates: Currently transformed into harmless objects. The best plans are (a) to deliver them to the Sky Pilot's Guild for justice, or (b) to forget about them and leave them transformed. (a) is particularly cruel, as the Sky Pilot's Guild does not greatly approve of sky piracy. (b) is particularly vengeful, as they will not be reincarnated normally until the harmless objects are destroyed, which may be some long while. It depends on the character of the Sky Pilot's Guild in the next port.
The Other Pirates: I don't imagine that they will be quite so eager to attack the next ship, having had such a terrible loss on this one. Nor do I imagine that Dossimar will be quite so willing to encourage them, having had such a destruction due to them. (We didn't ask many questions of our captives, but we think that the city condones the pirates to some extent -- as far as I can tell, they impose smaller tolls on trading ships, but the pirates decided on their own that a rich prime's yacht could be soaked for more.)
Vae: Any hope she has of being recognized as a decent and civilized monster any decade soon are ruined. She nearly destroyed a city -- not out of justice, as might have been acceptable, but out of anger at someone stealing from her. She cried herself to sleep, with me listening and wiping the blood from her face tonight, and I expect, for several more nights.
My Warriors: Yerenthax, Rheng, and Wipey are not feeling terribly proud of how well they fared when outnumbered and surprised by pirates. The fact that they mostly weren't equipped -- Yerenthax was fighting with a knife and no armor against enemies with swords and chainmail -- doesn't count for much. Also most of them are recovering from being dead.
Dossimar Mene: They lost about a square mile of arable land, and what remains to them is clawed through and through with vast canyons reaching to world-wood. The city is nearly buried: though its walls have kept the dirt out, it will be quite hard to get in and out without flying or teleporting until a vast quantity of soil has been moved back to the canyons. I don't know about damage to people or the city.
City Walls: For all that I'm planning to protect Strayway with the best walls I can manage in the space of a few months ... city walls are not the absolute defenses everyone is taught they are. To be sure, Dossimar's walls didn't let a bit of Vae's dirtstorm into the city. They couldn't have stopped her from burying it in soil altogether. Cities are safe from direct intrusions, of course ... but a clever and terrible monster has other assaults.
The Winners (on technicalities)
Vae: Vae has managed to acquire one small sliver of sanity. She took pains not to kill innocent people and animals in the countryside. This is not at all natural to a berserk nendrai. It is a pitiful triumph, but retaining any measure of personality and morality in that state is remarkable.
Drogimargue: Few indeed the heroes who can boast of surviving two furious nendrai.
Sky Pilot's Guild: One nest of sky pirates substantially weakened.
If anything like this happens again before we're properly (which is to say 'insanely') defended, (1) Wake the wizard up! (2) Take every measure to get far away quickly! (3) Negotiate payment without letting pirates on board! (4) Warriors get their armor and weapons at the first hint of danger! (5) Try not to piss the nendrai off!
[This is darker than my usual in Sythyry's Vacation, and darker than I expect to be in the future as well. The story jumped on me, though -- inspired in part by some of the comments in the inistella arc -- and I had to write it. I'll be back to the usual style, albeit with somewhat shaken characters, next episode. -bb]