Chapter 5 – Memories left in a Tower

Part 1

 

As Daniel dreamt, he looked at the dead body of the copper Draconian and he remembered how he came to leave the Southernmost Den. With a small part of his revenge taken, he sent a silent prayer to Hel, that she continue look after his companions souls. In that mangled body he came to remember the Selby kinship and how unfair their final moments were.

It was years earlier, when their scheduled training raid was pulled forward unexpectedly. The council of elders hadn’t given a reason for cutting short their preparation time, but they had just assumed that they would be needed back sooner. No-one really worried about it. After all, the council duty was to protect the den; just as theirs was. The Selby kinship was the protectors of the den, second only to the den’s Elite. To some extent they were used to having their actions controlled for the sake of the den.

It wasn’t till after they were almost at their destination that they realised that some of their supplies were left behind in the rush. What was left behind was half their weapons, ammunition and food supplies. For other units, that would be enough to make them have to turn around, but for the Selby kinship that was just an inconvenience. All of the eight senior members either had their own custom weapons or relied on magic, meaning there would still be enough weapons for the juniors. Furthermore, they could still hunt creatures out in the wastes if the supplies ran out.

Ammunition would be a bigger problem, but since everyone in the kinship could use magic and knives, they could just use those once the bullets ran out. It was a principle of the Selby training method to use whatever they had without getting too caught up on the details.

While the seniors wore black and silver riot gear that covered their bodies completely, save for their wings, the juniors had to make do with thick, black, hardened leather clothes. When a junior entered their mature stage and grew wings, they would be awarded their own suit of riot gear. Until then, they just had to avoid getting hit with anything strong or practice using magic to strengthen and shield.

Daniel was one of the people who left his weapon in the supply crate that was left behind, and only had his side arm, a 9mm pistol, to use. He had recently made it to level two, and as a gunner mage, he was reasonably confident that it wouldn’t be a particularly large problem. His class wasn’t common, but it wasn’t rare either. It was fairly well known amongst tower raiders as a reliable ranged attack class. Since it was so well know, the class abilities were well documented and he was reasonable use about what he could get. The first class skill, Basic Spell List [Ranged Attack], seemed incredibly wasteful since he had already learnt them in training.

Daniel’s older cousin, Land, was the leader of the junior group. Despite his tendency towards romantic notions, he was a reliable leader. During the journey, he was the one who noticed the missing supplies as he did a pre-fight readiness check. After discoursing it with the seniors, they ruled that it would be even better training for the juniors to go with light supplies. After hearing that, Land ensured that every one of the six juniors had a weapon.

With only fourteen active members, the Selby kinship was one of the smallest in the Southernmost Den. That wasn’t surprising though, since every member that reached matriarch or patriarch stage was accepted into the council of elders. Only the Elites had that same certainty. No one would complain about favouritism; serving as the den’s shield for upward of a century was more than enough reason to gain respect. The Selby kinship was therefore one of the only ways the lesser coloured variants would ever get onto the council.

John, the current eldest member, was a light blue variant, one of the weakest possible variants whose only breath attack was a sleeping gas. Not only did the gas not effect Elves, Orcs and Demons, it was also completely useless against all but the youngest Draconian. Given that it only affected children, the derogatory name for a light blue variant was a nanny-dragon. Another huge problem with their power was that it was a type of materialisation magic; magic that formed matter out of mana. The problem with that form of magic was that it used far, far more mana then simply adding force.

It was exactly that issue that led to the strange issue where the most powerful magic types, force, anima and electric, were actually the most efficient. It also seemed strange at first, but ice magic used less mana then water magic, as it decreased the amount of energy in the area. It was thought that the energy, in the form of heat, that was in the area of the ice was somehow converted into mana or prana during the formation of the spell, which offset some of the cost associated with creating new water.  When using complicated magic, it was a common technique to bring material to supply the spell rather than needing to make new material. An example would be using sand spears instead of dirt spears. While the spells were very similar, one created dirt with mana, while the other used the sand that covered everything. While there was a noticeable increase in power from the dirt spear, the sand spear was less than a third of the cost.

John managed to counteract the uselessness of his variant through hard work as a mage, and when he reached level 5, he was able to get an improved class; Materialisation Mage. His first class skill actually revealed a spell list that no-one had seen before. With his hard work, in only a few more years, he would be the first light-blue variant to be welcomed onto the council. There was even a stump of a tail starting to grow from his back, the sign that it wouldn’t be much longer. Given his dedicated attitude and friendly nature, there wasn’t a single person amongst their kinship that wasn’t waiting for the day when he could renounce the name Selby and take on the name Southernmost.

Their destination for the training was the Noel Drive Triplets; three towers next to each other, standing tall as the only buildings as far as the eye could see. As their convoy pulled up at the foot of the shortest tower, the tower nicknamed Annabel, John rallied everyone together. Firstly he ensured that everyone knew the plan, the seniors would take control of the ground level then the juniors would go up each floor by themselves. As the amount of experience they would gain would be split between them, it was much slower to gain levels, but the safety benefits well outweighed the gains made by hitting towers solo.

It was at that moment that John had looked out into the distance, towards the way they came, with a worried expression. Seeing their leader pause with such an expression, the group grew quiet. Everyone knew his instincts were good, but they couldn’t see anything in that direction.

With a shrug he continued the preparations, setting out with the ritual radio broadcast.

“We, the Selby Kinship of the Southernmost Den, do challenge the youngest Glass Tower of the Noel Drive Triplets. Tyr, witness our strength and Odin guide our weapons as we go now. Over and signal out”

The way John projected himself on the radio was, quite frankly, entirely more masculine then in person. While many group leaders would delegate saying the will, none in the group would let John do that. His confidence was like a ritual, a blessing from a priest that ensured their safety.

The seniors entered and cleared the room in no time, working like clockwork the large crab like robots inside went down almost effortlessly. As they set to work ensuring the ground was secured and the robots completely savaged, the juniors began their assent. Land checked over his F2000 one more time and switched on its under-barrel light. Seeing it light up brightly he gave a thumbs up to Steven, the groups amateur technician. When Land first found the weapon, it ran on a conventional lithium-ion battery but Steven had managed to convert it to run on crystal charge. It was somewhat rushed but he had just barely able to finish the retrofit before they departed, albeit in exchange for sleeping.

Meeting them in the stairwell were strange and aggressive bats; creatures that could be described as flying black balls of teeth. They were surprised at first but recovered fast enough that no-one was hurt. With the door shut behind them, they made their way up to the first level. While they maintained a serious attitude, Marco, a red variant with a huge battle-axe, couldn’t keep his mouth shut and kept trying to chat up Aika, a dark green sniper. With Land and Aika taking the far back, Steven and Daniel in the middle and Marco and Jess taking the melee, their party was very well balanced. That said, there highest level member was Land, who had recently reached level four. When compared to people outside of the tower system they were like small gods, but to seasoned tower raiders they were still youngsters with much to learn.

Suddenly, they could hear a barrage of gunfire from the ground floor. It was hard to tell from where they were, trapped in a space that caught the roar of bullets and echoed through them like punches, but is sounded like the seniors were taking fire as well as shooting. From their training they knew that if they went back down and opened the door behind the seniors, they could get distracted and killed. Instead they knew the best option would be to continue into the first floor room and provide them with covering fire from above.

As they hurried to open the door, Daniel heard a grinding, whirling sound, like some kind of moving machine. A half a moment later Land tried pushing him back as the sound of rapid gunfire echoed once again in that narrow space. That time, it was clearly not from the ground floor. That time, it was accompanied by a tearing pain that filled his body like nothing he had ever felt.  That time, he fell heavily to the ground as those around him were torn to shreds by the onslaught of metal.

Land’s body pinned him to the floor. He could feel the blood leak out of the exit wound in his back and the wet feeling of Land’s blood dying his skin. From where he lay, he could see though open door, a door that was held open by Jess’s torso, despite Marko’s severed legs trying to shut it. In the room, beyond the gore, was a standard tower controlled turret. They had run those towers several times before and hadn’t ever seen any of those in Annabel. Oddly enough, that turret looked very similar to the turrets that were set around the council’s treasure storage.

As he thought that, he could hear footsteps echoing up the stairs. Hope filled him as he expected his seniors to be coming to save them, but was quickly crushed by the appearance of a different familiar person. A couple days prior, he had turned down the instructions of a copper coloured patriarch with a face that would be best described as a permanent snarl. That same person, who filled all of Daniels instincts with the word scum, was walking slowly towards them with a sneer and a malicious laugh.

That man pulled what looked to be a remote control out of his jacket pocket and with the flash of a small red light, the turret deactivated. Seeing that man, Daniel had remained still and lifeless, but only he had that kind of sense. Aika had somehow also survived, though her left arm was nearly severed, and she called out.

“Please, help us… you have to… help…”

Her struggled words were abruptly cut off as the copper coloured bastard shot her. Not ender her quickly, but first in the legs, then her arm and gut. Only once she had fainted from pain and blood loss did his kill her. All the while he was laughing, like it was the funniest thing in the world. Part of Daniel felt that he would be discovered at any moment, that a fate as bad or worse awaited him.

As the man turned towards him, his phone rang and his attention was diverted from Daniel. Working phones were rare, and only the resources of a large city or a group of dens could maintain a network. For him to have a working phone confirmed Daniel’s fear; that man was there on the council’s orders.

“Yes, their dead.” He replied to the phone, “I checked all the old ones; our soldiers killed them in the lobby. The idiots lowered their guard when the saw we were from the same den. They put up a little fight but our losses were minimal.” After a pause he continued, “Yeah, the younger ones got gutted by the trap. You should see it; I’m almost knee deep in their guts.”

With another creepy chuckle, the copper bustard started to leave. After he was gone, another group of Draconian retrieved the turret and he was left there with the bodies of his kin. Although their weapons were taken, Land’s F2000 was under his body, beside Daniel. By the time the turret was gone, he had fainted lulled by the embrace of sleep and the comfort of numbness. When he woke up, his Fast Healing skill had done its job and he was mostly recovered. The experience was enough that it had levelled up to level two.

Looking around, he was the only thing left in the area. The tower had eaten the bodies of the Selby kinship and all that was left was him and Land’s rifle. Forcing himself numbly to his feet he tried to clear his mind. He couldn’t go back; the leaders, his mother probably included, wanted him dead. Even if he were to go back for Aria, his was a sole survivor, a tail-biter, less respectable then a white variant with crippled legs. However, despite that, he knew that he couldn’t let it rest. His kin would riot in Helheim if he let those bastards get away with it. One day, one day he would return to the Southernmost Den. On that day he would put a bullet through the heart of each and every member of the elder council.

 

With renewed determination, Daniel awoke to find himself resting against Aria in the back seat of their noisy black car. There was a reassuring sound of her soft breathing against his ear and the gentle laughter of Loralei filled him with some joy of his own. She was driving once more, seeming to enjoy herself, as Leah spoke to her with their eggs resting in her lap.

 

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