A Heritage of Power 4: Jerik's Story 4:
The Dying City
by Fur and Fantasy
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file
"I really hate having to come back here," Melinda murmured as she and Connor walked through the busy streets of Kareptis, one of the largest settlements remaining in the Blight.
"You and me both." Connor muttered as he watched everything suspiciously.
The noises and smells of the wasteland city were all about them. Merchants hawked their wares, scrawny animals raised for food and bits and pieces of creatures slain in the wastes, preserved and brought back by the hunters. The people here were a sturdy sort; where somebody from outside the Blight could barely stomach hell hound if they were starving, the natives of Kareptis coveted it as a delicacy if it could be brought back before it spoiled. The local decor reflected the tastes of those who cultivated it.
Once-grand buildings extended into the sky, held together by slowly degrading spells crafted back in the days before the Blight had even existed. Patches of razor-grass grew from spots where people either hadn't bothered to cut it, or wanted it as an extra security system. All about them, there was a general air of decadence and decay that struck to the heart of the society that had ruled here for centuries ... if you could call it a society yet.
Young street-urchins, mostly reptiles of various species, hustled about. One of them bumped into Melinda accidentally ... or so it seemed. Only when the mage tapped her staff irritably did the child pause, turn around, and surreptitiously return her coin pouch to her pocket.
She pulled it out and slipped it into her robes, where it was a bit more safely stowed.
"Why couldn't he have crashed in the land of the living?" She murmured quietly to herself, Connor close enough to hear her.
"Because one seriously warped bit of magic brought him." He shrugged, then bared his teeth and growled at another child that got a bit too close.
"They're not all sneak-thieves, love," Melinda murmured as they continued. "Just most of them."
"Ah, sir and Madame, perhaps the two of you are looking for something?" One of the merchants they passed by called out to them. "Fine goods, made right here by only the greatest craftsmen of our lands."
"No, thank you," the mage said, shaking her head without sparing him a look.
"Then perhaps you would be interested in ... ah ... imported goods, hmm?"
That caught her attention, and she turned to look back at the scrawny Bearded Dragon, his dull grey scales marking him as a Plague survivor.
"Are you still a carrier?" She asked him bluntly.
"Oh no, Madame," the merchant said easily. "I assure you, these are from the last outbreak, two triple-eclipses past."
Ten years ... if he was still alive, he certainly wasn't a carrier anymore. Still ....
"You won't object if I make sure of that then," the mage said, gripping Pyre and casting a spell to see if he was diseased in any way. Most of the illnesses that plagued the Blight were unique to the reptiles, but the ones that could spread to mammals, like the Grey Plague, were especially nasty. The ruby finial of Pyre flared bright red though; he was clean. "All right, what are these 'imported goods' you have?"
"Come this way, honored guests, and I will show you my wares. My name is Kelar," the Bearded Dragon offered, turning and walking back into the alley behind his stall after lifting a shelf to let them through. Melinda hesitated; it wasn't usually wise to go following Kareptan merchants into unknown alleys, but he might have the chair Jerik had mentioned ....
"I'm ready," Connor assured her quietly.
"Thank you," she nodded, heading down the alley, Connor shortly behind her. Her nose was working overtime as much as it could as they made their way back through the alley, following Kelar. He led them out of the other end of the alley, and to a nearby warehouse. Melinda followed him in, growing increasingly uneasy as they walked into the dimly lit building.
"My goods are stored in the back," Kelar explained. "Sad that it is, but these days we merchants must rent our storage by paces, not by buildings. Still, I make sure my wares are in good shape, very good shape for customers from outside the Blight. Discerning buyers, yes? You want the best your money can buy."
Melinda made a mental note to bathe after dealing with Kelar; she'd need a good long soak to get rid of the grease. She was sure that Connor would want one just as badly.
"Yes, we do," she said. "However, we're looking for something very particular."
"Oh, most of my foreign customers are," Kelar chuckled, his grey tail swishing back and forth. "Something very particular ... something for friends or family, sometimes. Sometimes they even find what they wanted, though it can be hard here. It is difficult to import my goods here."
Just then, they rounded another stall, and Melinda stiffened. This was not the sort of importer they were looking for.
"Slaver." Connor whispered, nearly as surprised as she was. There were nearly a dozen people in various states of dress or undress, most of them mammals from outside the Blight. To Kelar's credit, they were in good shape; well fed, clean, and they looked healthy. They also tended to look either terrified, or like they were hoping dearly that the Collies would take them away.
"These weren't what we were talking about," Melinda said sharply. "You said you had imported goods."
"Slaves are goods," Kelar said, seemingly mystified. "And they are imported; I find them in the Blight, rescue them, bring them back - they are mine to sell. If you are not interested, it is not my fault Madame."
"No, it isn't," Melinda sighed, shaking her head slightly. "We are looking for something that was 'imported' from the wastes near here; an unusual chair that a friend of ours was transporting, and lost in a hell hound attack."
"Ah, you are looking for the scavengers!" Kelar said brightly, perking up. "I could tell you where to go; it would be no great problem. You leave this warehouse, and go back through the alley we came through. Then, two blocks down the main road, near the house of Lady Purif, you will find the scavengers. They live in the small house outside her grounds; they found something like what you were looking for, though they may have sold it by now. If they have not, tell them Kelar sent you, hmm?"
"I'll do that," Melinda said, glancing over the slaves again, almost wishing she could find evidence that they'd been mistreated. Kelar was perfectly within his rights to sell them, but she didn't like the possibility that they'd be sold to somebody in the city, forced to spend the rest of their lives in the Blight ... and there was no way she could purchase all of them.
One though ... she knew the tortured, hateful look of a mage in an anti-magic collar. A beautiful feline female, her pelt a mixture of stark white and bright orange, and older than either Collie, was also in a muzzle and irons. Clearly she'd been a lot of trouble before he got her contained, and likely was still quite dangerous.
"We may be back again later," she informed Kelar. Tempting as it was to make the purchase now, they had to take care of their mission first. "Come on, Connor."
"Yes, love." He nodded and turned away without a second look at any of them. He could tell she'd seen something in the feline, and it was hard for him to turn away from an Afghan bitch not even in her teens yet.
"How much do we have?" She asked him silently as they left, fingers flying in their private sign language.
"Twenty gold slips," he answered the same way. "Plus three and a half of our own."
"We're coming back later," she informed him silently. "Have to bargain hard, but we can get at least one of them out of here, back to family."
They made their way out through the alley, keeping an eye out for any attacks that might come, then turned towards the scavenger's shack, following Kelar's directions.
Once they were there, Melinda rapped on the door of the shack, hoping it was the right one. Two beady eyes looked up out of the small window near the door, glowing bright red in the darkness inside, before a panel of the door slid open.
"What you want?" A raspy voice asked inside.
"We're looking to purchase some salvage," Melinda explained. "We were told by Kelar that you might have what we're after."
"In that case, come in," the voice rasped, the panel sliding shut and the door opening. "Never be too careful here; Lady Purif sends people to make us go sometimes."
"We're not working for Lady Purif, believe me," Melinda said dryly, following the short, robed creature down into underground tunnels beneath the building. She touched Pyre's finial, a red light glowing from the gem at the staff's tip, giving the two Collies enough to see by, and make sure they were still behind their 'host.' A slender, red-scaled tail was the only part of him they could see; the scavengers around here were almost fanatical about not letting anybody see them on business.
"So, what you looking for?" The little Lizard asked them.
"A large, heavy chair; made mostly of metal. It was lost in transport when its old owner was attacked by hell hounds."
"Ah, you retrieve it for him, hmmm?"
"Something like that," Melinda nodded. "Have you found it?"
"Yes, yes - we find it days ago. A little scorched and banged up, but we fixed it good. Strange chair though; don't know what it sits on, no legs."
"It is part of a larger item," Melinda said smoothly.
"Ah, that explains the plug on the bottom," the Scavenger mused. "So ... this larger item ... it doesn't work without chair?"
"It works just fine without it, but the owner would prefer it with," Melinda explained. She had no idea if it was true or not, but it hardly mattered. The ship had disintegrated, and she knew the Scavenger was just looking for an excuse to jack up the price.
"Oh," the Scavenger said, clearly a little disappointed. "The controls made us think it maybe was more important."
"It makes it easier to use, but not impossible to use without," the Collie shrugged. She was definitely going to want to take a look at this later, with Jerik to guide them. It sounded fascinating.
They entered a larger subterranean chamber, various bits and pieces of things that had been found and repaired to one level or another. The chair was near the center of the room, clearly still being worked over by two more of the Scavengers that scattered when they entered the room.
"That looks like the item," Melinda confirmed. "How much are you asking for it?"
"How much you offer?" The Scavenger countered.
"Three slips, and another two for your trouble repairing it," Melinda offered. It was practically pure profit to the Scavengers, even if she was willing to go higher for it. Still, best not to appear too eager.
"We have worked on this for days!" The Scavenger wailed. "Ten and ten! We deserve at least that much!"
"You only deserve at least that much if you can convince me to pay twenty gold slips for a chair of silver, let alone that one," Melinda growled. "Five and three."
"Five and seven; we have hatchlings to feed!"
Melinda smirked mentally. He'd shown his hand, dropping the first price so quickly. They wanted money, they wanted it fast, and he'd just been gambling that she might be out of her mind with the first price.
"Five and five; you'll feed your hatchlings and yourselves for days on that, unless you gamble it away."
"Five and five," the Scavenger agreed, faking disappointment.
"Connor, if you could pay the man, I'll prepare our purchase for transport," Melinda said, moving to the chair, casting a spell to shrink it down small enough they could pack it.
Her Defender nodded and carefully pulled the gold slips from an inside purse without giving a hint of how much it really contained. The Scavenger had the gold in his hand before the chair was miniaturized.
Melinda lifted the chair and put it into Connor's pack of holding before the two of them turned to leave.
"Good doing business with you," Melinda said as they headed out, the Scavenger counting his small coins and conferring with his partners about how to divvy it up.
"Now, let's get back to Kelar and see how much we can bargain him down on those slaves," she murmured once they were out of the Scavenger's earshot. "You want to get the Afghan girl out of there?"
"You know I do." He whispered back. "That young ... even if she doesn't have kin left, she's got a lot of potential to have a life."
"Agreed," she nodded quietly. "The other's a mage, I'm sure of it. Not anybody I know, but I'm not about to leave a fellow mage here."
"The Academy will have no issues having their funds used for it, either." He nodded as they climbed up out of the tunnels and left the shack, making their way back to Kelar's stall.
"Welcome back. I take it the Scavengers had what you were looking for?" The reptile greeted them, clearly pleased to see them back and not angry.
"They did," Melinda nodded. "Thank you for your help. We have a bit more left than we'd expected; we'd like to take a look at your special goods again, if you don't object."
"Of course not, Madame." Kelar nodded agreeably and lead them back. "If you would come with me. Did you have duties in mind for them to fill?"
"A housekeeper for the two of us; possibly to become a pet in a few years, once we settle down a bit more. Preferably somebody young, with that in mind. And possibly a tutor; I have a young cousin with some magical talent, and little time to train her myself," the Collie lied, coming up with two 'job descriptions' that might include the two they were looking for.
"Do you have a gender or species preference for the young one?" He continued as the light dimmed in the ally. "I have several that will do nicely. There is also a mage of some kind. At least I assume that is what she is given her reaction when she woke up here."
"Female or canine, preferably," Melinda said easily. "No preferences for fertility; we can deal with that ourselves if we wish. And would you be referring to the Cat who was so heavily restrained? I believe I recognized an anti-magic collar on her, among other things."
"Yes," he nodded. "You are not likely to have nearly the trouble she is here. She doesn't even speak trade. She probably speaks Mage though, and you can control her without such obvious means. Her kind are not something I know how to deal with much." He admitted quietly.
That was putting things mildly.
"Even so, it would hardly do to have my cousin's tutor require physical restraint," Melinda said somewhat dismissively as they entered the building. "Still, let's take a look at what you have to offer, and how much you're asking."
This time, both Collies really did look over his goods more carefully. It simply would not do to have him think they were set on the two they intended to buy.
"Brya, come here." Kelar ordered firmly, a tone that was enough to get the girl to move and come forward. She was trembling, but they could see the hope in her eyes that they'd take her away from here and how uncomfortable she still was in the skimpy clothes she was in. "She is a few years to breeding age, but if her mother is any indication, she'll have a good tits and a fine body when she's grown into it.
"She is pretty." Connor nodded as he gave her a critical looking over and ran his hand threw her long, silky fur. He kept the touch impartial enough not to humiliate her much, but the run across her belly and down her exposed back was enough to convince her seller that he really did find her attractive despite her lack of maturity. "Afghans are reasonably good workers, usually."
"You own her mother too?" Melinda asked, looking Brya over. She had fairly good muscle tone too; if the Academy balked at the amount of the money they spent, they might just be interested in her as a potential Defender, though she was a little late for the usual starting age. "Or knew her?"
"I saw her body when I rescued this one." Kelar explained simply. "Pity too. She was very pretty."
"Yes, a pity," Melinda mused, hiding the twinge of pain she felt inside for Brya. "Can you speak, girl?" She asked her.
"Yes, Ma'am." Brya nodded.
"Good," Melinda nodded. "What about the other one? The mage?" She asked, turning back to the slaver.
"She can speak, Madam." He answered a bit fervently. "She just has not said any words I know."
"We'll want to see what sort of condition she is in, and have the muzzle removed at least long enough to see if there are any languages we have in common," she said matter-of-factly.
Kelar nodded. Despite his reluctance to free the Cat even that much, he knew all along that he'd have to. He cautiously got her by the scruff with a quick motion and unstrapped the metal and leather muzzle, careful to get his hand out of the way before she could bite it, not that that kept her from trying.
"Do you understand what I'm saying?" Melinda asked, first in Canid, then Felarin, not sure what languages Kelar knew beyond Common and Reptan.
It earned her a bit of a look from the bound Cat. "Keeno Scyress."
Melinda cast a brief translation spell on herself, so she could speak the Cat's language. What was she now; a living magnet for people from places nobody knew the language of?
"Do you understand me now?" She asked in the mage's tongue.
"Yes," she nodded and settled quickly. "I am Scyress Death-Mage, a Keeper of The Gate. Please get this thing off me." She tipped her head to show the anti-magic collar a bit better.
"I can't now," Melinda said. "You're still officially the Dragon's. I'll get you out of here though, trust me."
"How can I help?" Scyress asked softly, her manner a touch submissive.
"Help me convince him he'd be lucky to be rid of you," Melinda said with a hint of a smirk, reaching up to run a finger along Scyress' cheek, flashing a sign to Connor not to respond to what was about to happen. "Snap at me; I think you can figure out what to do from there."
She got a half-wink and Scyress made a sharp lunge forward and to one side that would have removed Melinda's hand if she didn't know it was coming and moved in time.
"Hey!" Connor yelled and made a threatening step forward.
Melinda stepped back with a growl.
"You've got a dangerous little bitch here," she muttered, tapping her staff and making the tip glow as she 'cast' a spell.
"Act like you were just subdued," she told Scyress in between real words of magic that didn't mean a thing when strung together, counting on Kelar not to question whether or not it was a real spell.
"You expect me to use this to train my cousin?" She scolded Kelar as Scyress sank down and acted like she had been heavily sedated. It wasn't a hard thing for her to remember what it was like. "You'd be lucky to sell her to a brothel as a pleasure slave, even if she was sedated like that all the time. One time the spell lapsed, and she'd maim whoever had her."
"She knows magic; you should be able to make up her price in new spells." Kelar pointed out hopefully. "She's good for something, even if it's not much. A gift to an enemy, perhaps?"
"That I might be able to use her for," Melinda muttered. "So how much are you asking for them?"
Kelar considered the pair of slaves. The bitch he knew could fetch a top price just about anywhere, but she was at least two or three years of upkeep before she'd be of use to many buyers. It was nearly worth giving the Cat away just to be rid of her.
"Fifteen gold slips for the pair." He began. "That's half off on the Cat."
"And full price for the pup," Melinda pointed out. "You'll have to keep her for at least a year and a half before she's really worth that much, and you know it. Eleven for the both of them; you'll save that much not having to feed the pup until she's grown and not having to put the bitch of a Cat down when you can't sell her." She was pretty sure it was at the low end of his price range, but she also knew full well that she wasn't going to talk him any lower.
"Thirteen. I'm nearly giving the Cat away. You actually have use of her."
"Eleven gold slips, and three silver. I might have use of her, but not as a slave."
The Bearded Dragon shifted, debating whether a couple more silver was really worth the possibility of ticking off a mage and loosing the sale.
"Eleven gold, five silver." He countered, determined to get that much.
"Fine," Melinda said, faking a certain level of disgust and pulling her coin pouch out. "You'd best hope that Cat's mood improves though, or you'll have a hard time finding mages willing to buy from you in the future."
Connor nodded and handed her ten gold slips from the Academy and one of their own without a word, though he kept a careful eye on both their new slaves. They were his responsibility to protect now. She would always come first, even before himself, but it was his duty to see to all in the group.
She pulled out her personal coin pouch, removing the extra silver coins and handing them over to Kelar.
"Remove their shackles and have them leashed for us," she told him. "We've got a long walk back into civilization, and we'll have to get more supplies. Do they have any clothes beyond what they're wearing?"
"The pup had traveling clothes; the Cat was wearing light leather armor and some kind of robes." Kelar nodded as he released Brya and quickly secured a leather collar to her and snapped a leash to it. "They're probably magical."
Melinda glared at him with a clear message; she wasn't about to go paying extra for the personal effects of her new belongings.
"They are in the back of my shop." He surrendered without much effort and kept a wary eye on Scyress as he took her significantly more complex shackles off.
"We'll wait for them then," she said simply as he left to fetch them.
"Madam Mage," a powerfully built Lion spoke up with all the respect due her rank and training. "May I ask you something?"
"What is it?" She asked softly, dropping her stern, irritated manner now that it wasn't necessary anymore.
"Would you see to it that my family knows I am here? I am Rorkan. My brother is Lord Jersyn of Kalindia. I can offer you nothing, but my kin will pay you well for your trouble in letting them know where I am."
"I'll see to it," she promised him
"Thank you, Madam Mage." He bowed to her.
She nodded and got back into character as Kelar returned with the clothes and a handful of other items, including a mage staff of intertwined black and white crystal with a blood red crystal on top. She and Connor dressed their new purchases for travel, though they were both capable of doing most of it. Scyress' did most of her own dressing, her armor and robes flowed around her, bringing her an instant appearance of power and control. Melinda removed the collar around Scyress' neck, quietly praying the mage wouldn't do anything stupid just now, and returned it to Kelar.
"Good day to you," she said gruffly, turning to leave with Brya and Scyress behind them. While both were acting suitably subdued, it was hard to miss that both were very happy to be out of there and headed out of the Blight.
Several hours later, Melinda and Connor had led their new 'slaves' out of Kareptis and to a reasonably safe place to rest. Camp was set, and they were sitting around the fire while some of their rations heated up.
"So, where are the two of your from, before Kelar got his claws in you?" Melinda asked Brya and Scyress.
"Mysaphia." Brya answered softly. "We were traveling with a small caravan to visit kin in Alsaondria when the storm hit. I was hiding in the fabric, I don't know what happened, but everyone was dead by the time he found it. My family isn't wealthy, Ma'am, but I'm sure they will find a way to pay you back."
"Don't worry too much about it, Brya," Melinda reassured her. "We just wanted to get you out of there, honestly."
Scyress settled back into her robes, her crystalline staff in the crook of her arm. She looked much more comfortable than she should have given the rocky ground. "I was fighting an elder lich by the name of Kelimonidous." She gratefully accepted the warm rations and ate between sentences.
"Well, we think he's an elder lich. He might be a dracolich, and from the portal he tossed me threw, he could even be a demilich. Tough bugger at any rate. He's killed six Death Mages in the last seven centuries that we know about, seven including me, since I'll be counted as dead as this point by the Order. I landed here mostly dead and completely worn out from the battle. Kelar got me in that collar before I could recover enough to take care of myself."
"What Order, and what are Death Mages where you come from?" Melinda asked her. "Around here, there are a few different meanings, most of them somewhat worrisome."
Scyress smiled slightly in understanding. "A Death Mage is a Necromancer that has focused on keeping dead things dead and returning the undead to the dead. Mostly we hunt and destroy undead. Creatures like liches, vampires, skeletons, zombies, ghouls and mohrgs are the usual fair, though we will also hunt more traditional Necromancers if they become troublesome.
"My Order is called The Keepers of Death's Gate, as we send things back through it when they come back from the dead and try to stop them from coming back in the first place. Many people have us to oversee burial ceremonies, to help ensure their loved ones stay in their graves. Quite a few Lords also have us see that criminals stay down as well."
"An honorable profession," Melinda nodded respectfully. "You probably won't have any problem finding work around here. Usually, people who call themselves Death Mages on Herath are doing quite the opposite of what you do. The local equivalent would be called a taltos in most cities I've visited."
"Taltos?" Scyress repeated the title carefully, wanting to be sure she was saying it correctly.
"Yes," Melinda nodded.
"Are there any Orders or organizations for them?" Scyress asked evenly.
"Not that I'm aware of off-hand," Melinda admitted. "At least not outside the usual Mage organizations. They don't really gather too much. But you'd do well to start out at the Academy; they'll probably be happy enough to learn about how you work with magic, take down some of your spells if you're willing to share."
"I'm willing, if they are." She nodded easily. "What are the rules regarding the training of a new mage?"
"At the Academy?" Melinda asked. "And do you mean training one yourself, or being trained?"
"Relating to anyone who has the authority to object to me training someone in my ways." She elaborated. "I have the experience to pass on magical ways and hunting methods to a student. It sounds like you have enough undead that I should train a few hunters."
"Nobody, really," Melinda admitted a little sheepishly. "We're not like some of the Guilds out there. There are too many independent mages to make it possible, let alone practical. The general rule of thumb is that if you're good enough to train a student, you're free to do so if you can find one to train. The Academy tries to put a little more quality control into the process, but the worst they can do is deny a mage resources as punishment."
"Would they be likely to object to my training of a student?" She cocked her head at the younger canine.
"Unless your training includes demon summoning, animating the dead, or creating new brands of monsters, not likely," Melinda said easily. "And from the sound of it, you do quite the opposite."
Scyress nodded. "One of the last stages of training does usually include how to animate the dead to better understand the process you are breaking the enchantment of and on. We usually stick to an animal, though occasionally someone volunteers their body after death. It is an advantage to understand what you are fighting."
"There may be some who object, but I doubt it would be a serious problem unless it was something you did often," Melinda said. "The rules against spells of the Left Hand aren't like laws, but those who practice those skills regularly find themselves under careful scrutiny, and occasionally on the receiving end of lynch mob if they're not careful about it in public. We've had some bad experiences with people animating the dead on a large scale."
"It's never on a large scale," Scyress shook her head sharply. "A Death Mage will rarely have animated more bodies than they have had students, plus one in their own training to show they know what they are fighting, no more. Such lessons are always done in a safe location far from people in case it goes wrong. Normally, a teacher would have two or three colleagues there to take care of anything like that. It is not a skill we practice often, or like. It is simply deemed necessary."
"I don't see you having any problems then," Melinda reassured her. "Not on a large scale anyways."
"Good," she relaxed a bit more. "Would you mind telling me more of this Academy?"
"Not at all," Melinda smiled, starting her own meal as she started to explain the history of the school she'd spent half her life in.
A Heritage of Power 4: Jerik's Story 4: The Dying City
Het Level is Low Slash Level is Femslash Level is None Herm Level is None
29 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Finished
Written April 1, 2005 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Karl Wolfemann
Setting: Herath, Star Wars (Furry)
Primary Races: Canine, Feline, Kat, Reptile
Contents: Furry. Het (M/F).
Blurb: Melinda and Connor go hunting for Jerik's ejection chair in the Blight capitol city of Kareptis and find a great deal more than they ever expected.
Disclaimer: All things taken directly from the sources listed under 'Fandoms' belong to the owners of those shows. No harm is intended and we're definitely not making any money. Now, the things we created are ours, and if you see 'Non-FanFic' up there, it's probably all ours.
Page Hit Count from July 7, 2007