Post Tue Dec 13, 2005 7:34 pm

Savant's Blood: Hecate's Bounty -- Chapter 10

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Mother is so very picky, I am surprised
when she likes something. I was stunned
when she chose Dorian as an apprentice. Then
I got to know the woman, and now we party
together. Mother mentioned Wren and I wondered...
would I get to play with this toy too?<BR>
<DIV ALIGN="RIGHT"><font style="font-size:12pt">—Dominique Ariok</DIV>
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<div align="center"><font style="font-family: Times New Roman; font-size: 18pt;">Chapter 10<BR>
<font style="font-family: Times New Roman; font-size: 16pt;">Penalty on the Play</div>
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Surrounded by leafy foliage, hidden in the shadows between two buildings, Wren tried again to struggle against her captor. The effort availed her nothing, the person knew holds and how to brace. On top of that, she was enormously strong, tugging at the arm locked around her throat was like struggling against a steel collar. The mint smell was strong, and she felt the woman’s heavy breath in her ear. Wren felt the lady’s powerful heart beating against her back. Around them clashes continued to happen. Any moment now, the both of them would be discovered.

<Now don’t be stubborn,> the woman’s thought rolled into her mind, heavy and not at all unpleasant. The woman’s lips came next to Wren’s ear. She spoke in low breathy whisper that sent trembles down her spine. “You wouldn’t want me to have to bite you.”

Wren stiffened. Bite? Mother? Smell? Wren realized then that ‘team ariok’ was indeed related to Gabriella. Why did it surprise her that the daughter was a vampire too? It made perfect sense!

<Do—not—bite me,> she thought back.

<I haven’t heard you concede yet,> she said in Wren’s mind.

Wren drew a breath. <Isn’t there a penalty for players—biting—one another?>

<Not yet,> she responded. <Concede, Cuteness. Don’t make me cut you.>

Cuteness? <I won’t give my gem to your team. That witch Dorian abandoned me.>

<Yes. It was a mistake too. You want that avatar dead? Fine. I’m not afraid of Mishaka or Aarlen. Call no contest please.> Wren felt the woman’s lips on her ear something sharp pressed into her earlobe. She struggled to move but still couldn’t wrench away. <If I have to ask you again, it will be unpleasant.>

Not afraid of Aarlen? Who was this woman? Even Gabriella thought twice about crossing Sindra and Drucilla. What point was there waiting to get cut? Either way she would end up on their team.

“Moderator,” she said in a low voice, mumbling through the fingers still over her mouth. “I—”

The woman holding her let out a grunt, and bent backward, hands shuddering.

“Hi Dom,” another pleasant female voice, this time familiar. “You know that’s my girl you’re trying to snack on?”

“Desiray!” Wren let out in a voice that she was forced to keep quiet.

“Des!?” the woman responded in a cheerful voice that still sounded dark and syrupy. “How nice to have your breasts—” She let out a grunt, and squirmed. “—and knife pressed against my back. Oooh, you know I love it when you’re rough.”

“In your dreams, Dominique. Call ‘no contest’ please.”

“Sweetling, you are indeed in my dreams. You have the most—pardon the pun—succulent neck I have ever seen. Sorry to say it, but calling a ‘no contest’ might be a trifle premature at this moment.”

Wren rolled her eyes. “Someone has to let go or concede or we’re all going to get caught!”

Desiray’s voice dropped to a growl. “Dom, I’m giving you until three to call out, before I take a nice long strip out of your backside.”

“Desiray, you say the sweetest things!” Dominique laughed.

“Onnnuh—!” The guildmistress’ word stretched out into a surprised gurgle.

There was the smack of lips kissing flesh. “Darling! Miss me? I think you’re the one who needs to concede.”

Desiray growled.

“Dori Dear,” Dominique said in her throaty sweet tones. “Nice of you to show.”

“My pleasure. It isn’t easy to sneak up on Desiray. She’s such a suspicious nit.”

The guildmistress growled again.

“These bushes are getting very crowded,” Wren said. “So far, nobody is any closer to conceding!”

“Indeed,” Dominique said. “However, if Desiray wants to rub against me all day, I’ll welcome the diversion.”

“Dom, I can’t believe you sometimes,” Desiray grumbled.

Dorian sighed. “Des, give up. I don’t want to thump you.”

The mage made a squeaking sound and gasped.

“Excuse the grip, Lady Dorian,” a deep voice said. “I do seem to have the advantage however.”

“Bert—!” Dorian coughed. “Where—?”

“Lady Desiray has been working with me on my stealth technique. Marvelous is it not? It seems it is you who must concede.”

“That’s telling her, Trammy,” Desiray cheered.

Wren sighed. “This is ridiculous!”

“Welcome to our orgy, Sir Bertram,” Dominique chuckled.

“Pardon?” the paladin let out in a startled voice.

**K-1,** the moderator’s voice rang in all their heads. There was a pause, then a deep rolling laugh. **Team Tarrantil, team Ariok, and proxy Idundaughter. Bonus for highlight worthy play. Scores for all teams updated. Clash time exceeded. All teams must disengage. Judges to clash observance, ten count to clear.**

“Ah, she is no fun,” Dominique muttered, letting go of Wren.

Heart pounding, she launched upright, leaped out of the bushes and plunged down the street. She didn’t even look back to see what the others were doing. She shouldered around several pedestrians and leaped over an over-turned fruit cart. Fear gave her feet wings and she ran at top speed. She’d come within a hair of being caught and giving up her one-and-only real bargaining piece to get assistance for her family. Cassandra had promised to help in return for the gem, but they’d been separated and she had no idea if they would be able to meet again before she reached the post.

Behind her, she heard metal clashing. A glance back revealed the silhouettes of figures moving fast.

People with double or triple her top footspeed. She pulled Vectra from its sheath on her side. She might be needing it soon to keep from getting caught. She angled south toward Ivaneth’s east gate.

She skidded in a tight turn around an old brick building and jumped a stone fence. Dogs barked at her and piles of dead tree leaves swept from a nearby yard exploded under her boots. She turned and ran down a market avenue crowded with vendors and shoppers. She tried without success to push across to the opposite side, the people were simply packed too tight in the narrow confines. If she pried her way in, she’d get tangled up and be vulnerable.

Running up the tow spars of unhorsed cart, she hopped stepwise up unto the pinnacle of the crated produce stacked in back, then launched herself over the throng.

Startled cries went up as she hurtled over the heads of the patrons jammed shoulder-to-shoulder in the street. Heart beating fast and body tingling, she flipped herself to land on her feet in the clear spot between two stalls on the far side. She dodged into a nearby alley leaving the sound of impressed applause in her wake.

Wren reminded herself that she owed Vera another hug for the physical training and lessons. Those four scoredays of intense workouts had made an impressive difference.

Zigzagging through spaces between buildings, she kept her eyes on the city ramparts, looking to catch sight of the pennons that would mark the barbican and a way to exit the city.

The deep resonating tones of the moderator rang in her ears and mind. **To all players: final play begins. Scores may now be posted. Players are reminded to observe clash rules and obey judge instructions. For the remainder of the game, teleport requests are now limited to two grid sectors.**

Finally, she could make a last dash to get out of this insanity.

Swinging around a fence post she leaned into a full stride down a shadowy alley between two tall tenement buildings. Wren stumbled three steps in and skidded to a stop as a figure seemed to melt out of the darkest patches of the building. The silhouette shimmered, ultra-white teeth bared in a grin that seemed to solidify before the rest of the willowy dark-haired woman dressed in smoke gray leather. She blinked gold eyes at Wren, the lines of her slender face were reminiscent of Gabriella, the edges more rounded and less severe than the Dragon Queen’s.

She spoke in that dark syrupy voice. “Was this trip really necessary?”

Damn it. Wren didn’t answer except with her daggers. She threw Vectra and after it Quicklick, yanking and throwing in one motion.

Dominique didn’t even flinch. Her hand flashed out and plucked the first hissing blade out of the air. In a boneless sway like the writhing of a snake she twisted to evade the other knife which tinged and sparked off the cobbles behind her.

She straightened, rolled her shoulders, and canted her head to one side. The woman brought the blade up and sniffed the hilt. She raised an eyebrow at Wren. “Sure you don’t want to join our team. Cassandra is too much of a prissy girl to shed the blood necessary to get to Mishaka. Me, I don’t think I have to explain that a little spilled crimson isn’t a problem.”

Lords she was fast, at least as quick as Terra if not more so.

“I—”

Wren never got a chance to finish her thought as another much larger figure rose behind Dominique. With that same sinewy speed, the daughter of the Dragon Queen snaked out of the path of a glowing blade that exploded into the cobbles. She responded with a lightning fast elbow and back-knuckle, leaping up into a spinning round-kick the made the air snap with its speed.

The attacker blocked the initial strikes, but apparently wasn’t ready to deal with the woman’s amazing flexibility, and was knocked careening into the wall.

“Moderator!” Dominique yelled. “Kill-strike foul!” She yanked a glowing weapon from its sheath on her side with a peel of ringing metal. She dodged as the other person rallied and swung again, slashing through the bricks of the wall and lighting up the alley with sparks.

In the brief flash, Wren recognized the attacker was Drucilla. Instinct made her dive. She felt fingers scrape across her back as she lunged forward.

She hit her hands, cartwheeled, and bounded toward the nearest wall. Savant power a fierce buzz in the back of her head, she went up the vertical surface at a run. Wren heard a snarl and flipped backward off the wall as she sensed Sindra leap at her.

The huge elder rebounded and came at Wren in an instant. As the woman came at her, she realized she’d run out of places to go. If she turned her back she was dead for sure. The further end of the alley was a meat grinder of flashing steel as Dominique and Drucilla fought with whirlwind speed.

Just as the Sindra’s fingers were nearing her throat, Wren focused all of her will and rolled backward.

“Gaea!” she yelled.

The D’klace’s powerful hands clamped around Wren’s neck. She however was not nearly as off balance as Wren had counted on. Sindra went nowhere, and Wren lost any leverage she might have had.

“I don’t think so,” Sindra growled. “Now a reckoning.”

Wren writhed as the woman’s hands tightened.

Drawing all her energy into herself, Wren jabbed a full focus punch right into the spot beneath Sindra’s ribs that Vera told her paralyzed opponents. Her fist smacked hard against cloth and skin with a meaty whack.

Sindra growled. Her silver eyes narrowed, and the lines of her angular face pulled into a scowl.

Wren swallowed, she would have had more effect on a scalebark tree.

As the elder squeezed, Wren wondered why her savant power didn’t kick in. Despite, all her willing, it wasn’t happening.

The world started shading brown and gray.

Something shimmered behind Sindra. Wren saw only a hand flash out and grab the woman’s long black hair and yank. The attack obviously hurt because Sindra snarled and whirled a punch at the intruder.

The blow went true and whacked another, even bigger, lady in the face.

The attack rocked the newcomer back a step and she made a deep animalistic growl that made the bricks tremble. The woman shook her head, making thick silver-white bangs brush the smooth surface of her pale skin. She flipped back a cloak a feathers, cocked, and fired a punch that caught Sindra square. Wren side-stepped as the black-haired woman was smashed back against the wall so hard the bricks cracked and bowed inward.

The D’klace gasped, leaned forward to counter-attack and froze. Her fists dropped and her already pale skin turned the color of milk. Her silver eyes widened and her jaw dropped.

“Ukk—” Sindra stammered. “Ma—ma—mother!”

The battle in the other half of the alley stopped instantly. Drucilla halted in mid-swing and dropped her weapon with clang. She gripped her chest as though her heart had stopped.

Wren had never imagined the D’klace twins looking scared, but they looked terrified right now.

Spike heeled white boots clacking on the cobbles, the woman in the feather-cloak stepped forward until she was almost nose-to-nose with Sindra. She tangled a jeweled hand in the elder’s dark hair and pulled until the lady winced. “Is it my imagination, Sindra, or did you just strike me? I just know you can’t be stupid enough to make such a mistake.”

“Uh—uh,” Sindra sputtered.

“Shut up. Rhetorical question.” She drew a breath, raised an eyebrow, and looked toward the other twin. She pointed and made a hooked ‘come-here’ gesture with her finger.

The other D’klace scrambled to stand next to Sindra.

She leaned close to Drucilla. “Kill strike foul?” Putting her hands behind her back, she turned an icy stare on Sindra. “Attacking a player I personally gave amnesty to?” She made another low growl that made the bricks tremble. “I am grievously disappointed—and very annoyed.”

Sindra swayed back looking almost ready to faint.

“You two!” Aarlen snapped. “You.” She pointed at Wren, and hooked a thumb over her shoulder. “Go that way. Dominique—” her voice dropped, and her lip curled. “Shadow travel is not explicitly forbidden in the rules. It is however, hairs from cheating.” She pointed out the opposite end of the alley. “Two sectors and a twenty count. Go.”

Her silver eyes fixed on Wren. “Did you suddenly go deaf? MOVE. I don’t wish to be disturbed while I discuss some game rules with my daughters.”

Wren didn’t hesitate, but took off running. The last sight she had was of Sindra on her knees.

Somehow, she didn’t think she’d be bothered by the twins again for the rest of the game.