Chevalier reached for the ring of Blue Moon, but before he could grab it, two of the grynaith leapt forward and seized his arms. He struggled against them, but his arms were as frozen as if they’d been buried in concrete. Needless to say, his efforts to free himself were in vain. He lifted his right leg and slammed his foot down into one of the grynaith’s knees, recoiling at the jolt of pain that surged through his foot. The creature’s scaly flesh was hard as stone and his target laughed. In response, the grynaith gave him a shake that caused Chevalier to fear that his shoulder was about to be ripped free from its socket.
The shortest grynaith, Charlottia, stepped forward and neatly sliced the strap of Selene’s bag with a clawed forefinger. She caught the satchel before it hit the ground, and when the little space dragon tried to scurry away, she snatched Selene by the tail and held her up.
“Look at this mess you’ve gotten us into,” Selene cried as she wriggled with all of her strength to free herself from Charlottia’s claws. The grynaith’s grip was too tight though and she pulled Selene to her chest over the blue dragon’s protest.
“Look, love. See how shiny her scales are? Isn’t she beautiful?” Charlottia asked the big grynaith.
The big grynaith nodded and smiled. A monstrous thing, that, but well-befitting a monster. “It is as you said, my heart. A real space dragon. However, I did not expect her to be so small. Are you sure that the client will want to buy such a little creature?”
Charlottia spun once. “Of course, darling. Of course. She’s small now but will grow over time. The client is sure to know that. We’ll get paid so much that we’ll be free of this awful life. Free from performing for fools and praying that they throw us a few dirty coins. Free to go back home! With this money, we’ll be heroes!”
“They will not welcome us,” said one of the grynaith holding Chevalier’s arms. “Let alone welcome us as heroes or any other such nonsense.The council has long memories; they will not forgive our sins so easily. Even if we return with ships overflowing with coin they will be loathe to accept us.”
Charlottia raised herself up to her full height. “Do you dare to tell me about the way things work, Urlus? I don’t remember you challenging me for leadership. Have you decided to do so?”
There was a threat in her voice, a promise of swift violence should her companion say “Yes”. Chevalier shivered at the sound, at the way she cocked her head to the side and smiled, and at the fact that none of the others seemed inclined to step in and de-escalate.
The grynaith, Urlus, shifted, and the strain on Chevalier’s left shoulder momentarily lessened.
“No, of course not. However, I don’t need to challenge you to tell you that your idea has flaws, do I? Surely you all can see that there are some problems with the idea of walking up to the council and telling them ‘Oops, sorry about all that stuff we did, here’s some money to fix it!’ Right?”
None of the grynaith spoke for some time as they weighed their fellow’s words. Chevalier struggled and strained in the grip of his captors, but he could not break their vice-like grips.
Finally Charlottia spoke. “Fool though you are, Urlus, you raise a fair point. I will think on your words. However, I still believe that the council’s greed means that they will welcome us with open arms if we can grease their palms with enough gold. Even if they don’t, it costs us nothing to try.”
Selene nipped at Charlottia’s fingers and the dancer-turned-monster flicked her with the same. Selene whimpered and fell slack, unconscious from the force of the blow.
“Don’t take her,” Chevalier pleaded. “She’s my friend and my companion. I have money that I can give you for her. You just talked about how you need money and I can give you some. Please. Don’t.”
“I doubt that you have as much as we’d receive for selling her,” Charlottia said. When Chevalier scowled and looked away she nodded. “As I thought. Though I wish we parted under different circumstances, I do not regret my actions here. But, I don’t ever want to see you again. If we meet elsewhere out in the Empty, I will kill you without hesitation. Farewell, traveler.”
She turned and walked away. Selene’s body swung back and forth like a pendulum in her grasp. Most of the other grynaith followed her, but the two holding Chevalier remained firmly in place. As the group disappeared around the corner of the hallway, Chevalier turned to the one who had spoken up against Charlottia.
“Urlus, was it? Let me go, I beg you.”
“So that you can chase after our leader and get killed? Then have to face my leader’s wrath for letting you escape? No, we will not do that. We do not want to cause trouble for ourselves.”
“By not letting me go you’re making a huge bit of trouble for yourselves. I swear upon every star and planet in the Empty, by the scales of every dead space dragon, and to every demigod wandering the cosmos that I’ll chase you bastards to the end of the galaxy to get Selene back. And trust me, when I find you, I’ll leave you all fucking corpses.”
Urlus smiled. Or at least, Chevalier thought it was a smile. It was hard to be sure, given how thin the monster’s mouth was shaped. “You’re welcome to try, human. Unless you have some sort of secret weapon, you have no chance. We hold you like a parent does a child, and you are similarly unable to break free.”
Chevalier was about to respond, but before he could he heard a familiar sound that was more than welcome: clank, clang, hiss. Clank, clang, hiss. CLANK, CLANG, HISS.
He grinned as a massive shadow struck the other grynaith and sent it flying. Chevalier swung his newly-freed arm back and punched Urlus in the face as Kellen straightened back up and swung his massive hand into Urlus’ gut. The strength of the monster’s stomach was no match for the chillsword’s armored gauntlet and like his companion, Urlus flew off into the wall, where he crumpled with a diminutive sigh.
Kellen saw Selene’s empty bag on the ground and shook his head.
“You really went and did it now,” Kellen said as Chevalier rolled his shoulders and winced at the way they tingled. “I tried to warn you that the grynaith could be trouble, but you weren’t thinking. At least, not with your brain.”
“I know, I know. Beat me up about it later,” said Chevalier. He started running down the hallway. “We need to get Selene back and then we can talk about my shortcomings.”
Kellen clanked along behind him, and as they ran Chevalier reached over to the ring of Blue Moon, twisted it on his finger and called to his boon. Part of him feared that the creature inside the ring would strike and render him useless. Without Selene to protect his mind if it appeared, there was more than a little risk of things going bad. Chevalier weighed this against the stark reality that without the armor of blue moon he had no chance of rescuing Selene and decided to roll the dice, so to speak.
Thankfully, no whispering invaded his thoughts as he balled his fists together and then thrust his arms out to his sides. He felt the familiar warmth of the ring’s light covering his body, but when the effect ended, his armor felt wrong. Like, it still fit and he could move alright, but it was heavier than he was used to and made strange noises as he ran down a corridor that felt like it’d never end. He was heading toward the bowels of the ship now, and there were no traces of Charlottia and her gang up ahead. Apparently, in addition to being strong and durable, grynaith were fast in their monster forms.
The world had turned the comforting shade of gray-blue that he expected it to with his helmet on, but Chevalier couldn’t see the webby threads of the currents that he’d been hoping for.
Kellen caught up to him soon after, the jets in his legs aglow as he maneuvered his heavy armor through the halls. “What happened to your armor? It looks wrong.”
Chevalier looked down and saw that the chillsword was right. It turned out that the strange sensation he’d felt hadn’t been all in his head. Instead of the sleek plates and mesh armor that he’d gotten used to during his time as Blue Moon Chevalier, he found himself wearing armor made of heavy plates. It was bulbous and square, and it was a slightly darker blue than his normal kit. More, it looked old, though Chevalier couldn’t say for sure how old it was.
He reached into his mental scabbard and withdrew the sword of Blue Moon. It was different too, a simple weapon with a blue hued blade, an unadorned grip and hilt that he didn’t recognize. It was light and well balanced, but there was no doubt that it was a different weapon. It fit with the armor in terms of its appearance and styling and Chevalier hoped that it would be tough enough to do the work needed ahead. Urlus had made a good point about how big the difference between the grynaith and humans were, and while he would have normally had faith in his boon’s ability to even the playing field, the capabilities of this new armor and weapon were a mystery.
He slung the sword over his left shoulder and felt it lock into place. Despite the alien nature of the weapon and the holster, Chevalier felt a bit more confident.
Hopefully the blade wouldn’t shatter on the first blow.
If he focused hard, Chevalier could vaguely sense Selene. The dragon’s presence in his mind was dim and growing dimmer with every step, but Chevalier could still faintly get a sense of the direction Charlottia was taking her. The details were less important than the general idea, and the general idea in this case was down. The grynaith were taking Selene down into the deepest reaches of the whale ship. Perhaps they had a ship stored down near the cargo bays, or the maintenance hangar, or a dozen other places that Chevalier wouldn’t have time to check. He hoped that Selene would wake up sooner rather than later, because then she’d be easier to track.
The hallways were long, narrow, and sparsely decorated. That was unsurprising, as these hallways were unlikely to ever be traversed by anyone but staff and the Aguelot Empire was not keen on wasting effort and energy on aesthetics where they were unnecessary. In a way, Chevalier was grateful for their dedication to efficiency. It made it easier for him to see that the hallways in front of him were empty and that he had not caught up to Charlottia and her gang yet. That spurred him on to greater speed and provided fuel against the first twinges of fatigue that were working their way through his limbs.
Luckily, all of the doors that he’d come across so far had been unlocked. While he had no doubt that Kellen could smash open all but the most persistent blast door without issue, he’d prefer to avoid the attention such an act would undoubtedly attract. He pushed one open and found himself standing at the top of a long diagonal lift ramp that led deeper into the ferry’s guts. From here, things would probably get a lot more restricted.
Activating the lift required a key card, but the shaft was open and Chevalier looked at Kellen. The chillsword didn’t hesitate, but took a running leap and jumped off the platform into the darkness below. His jets fired evenly as he slowly descended and before long he had vanished into the darkness.
“Show off,” Chevalier muttered as he looked down into the shadows below. Normally, he could have just ridden a current down the shaft and been fine, but he still couldn’t see them through this unfamiliar helmet’s visor and didn’t know how to grab them without seeing them first.
What he could see, though, was a series of plates and crevices that he could use to clamber down. Or at least, he prayed that was the case. Taking a deep breath, Chevalier got a running start and jumped into the chasm. He fell down faster than he moved forward, but he made it to the other wall well before the bottom and grabbed a jutting ridge.
He winced at the impact as he slammed into the wall and lost his grip. He started falling again, but kept his wits about him and managed to catch the next plated ridge after only a few more feet of distance. His shoulders protested the weight, but his grip didn’t give out and that was what he was more worried about.
Once he was sure that he was safe, Chevalier let go of the wall and let himself fall to the far side of the shaft. He hit the ground hard but the armor absorbed the impact and then he was back to running in an attempt to catch up with Kellen. The chillsword had stopped at the end of the shaft and looked back at him. Chevalier would have yelled for him to keep chasing the grynaith but he didn’t think he could make himself loud enough to be heard that far and so waved his hands in the universal gesture for “Get Going!”
Kellen got the message because he turned and sprinted through the next door. Chevalier’s breath was catching in his chest now, and his legs were starting to feel more than a little heavy. He forced himself to keep running, chastising himself for having gotten into this situation in the first place.
“If you weren’t stupefied by a pretty face and whispered innuendo you wouldn’t be having to run right now,” he told himself. “Stupid, stupid, stupid!”
Anger flashed through him and momentarily staved off his fatigue, but it was a bright flame that wasn’t meant to last and when it faded Chevalier could feel his motivation flagging. It was frustrating, because he knew that the armor had to have some gifts from the boon, but he had no idea what they were or how to use them. This wasn’t the time to find out, either.
Finally, he reached the end of the lift shaft and pushed through the door. Kellen was nowhere to be seen, and Chevalier swore.
Worse, his sense of Selene was also getting weaker. The distance between them was growing, and she still hadn’t woken up.
He looked around. The room he was in was a wide, circular space with plenty of staircases and little machines that probably didn’t do much by themselves but did plenty in total. It was hot in the room, and every now and then there was a hiss of steam.
Chevalier spotted the next door. It was down what looked like more than twenty flights of stairs, at the bottom of the room.
To say that he was not in the mood for climbing stairs would be putting it far too lightly. He had no patience for it, detested the thought of it, and was going to be damned if he did it. Lucky stars, his anger was building now, fueled by circumstance rather than his own self-stoking, and he unfastened the sword from its sling and set to work cutting away the supports on his level of the catwalk.
The blade made quick work of thin pieces of steel, and there was an angry metallic groan as the catwalk fell, with the back going before the front. Chevalier braced himself as it slammed down into the level beneath it, and as soon as his footing was secure he cut down the next one.
This process was repeated over and over again until he found himself on the ground, where he returned his sword to his back and ran towards the door. He felt a bit better. He wasn’t sure if cutting the catwalks down had been faster or slower than not, but there was definitely more spring in his step as he resumed his chase.
There was an intersection up ahead. Chevalier wouldn’t have known which way to go had it not been for three massive punch holes in the steel that formed a crude arrow pointing right. Good old Kellen.
Then, something happened that caused Chevalier to grin.
Hurry up you fool!
Selene’s thought voice popped into his skull. With it, her presence grew much stronger to his mind’s eye and he redoubled his efforts. Selene was at the bottom of the ship, basically. Near the garbage hatch.
I’m coming. He told her. Just hang tight a little longer.
That’s the plan, but be quick about it. I can see a ship in the distance, and it looks like its heading this way.