Saturday, December 20, 2008

Autumla and Luke

August 26th, 2006.

A skiff cuts through the waves, spray shooting out from the prow. Its sails flap magnificently in the wind. At the stern stands a woman, handling the wheel with a kind of calm competence; occasionally she turns to look at the north sky, towards which the ship rushes. Dark clouds gather there, milling and combining; the waves are rough beneath them.

"How goes it, warmth of my heart?" asks the other occupant of the ship. He is emplaced amidships, beneath a sort of pavillion erected to repel the spray and damp that are the eternal companions of the sailor. His hands are busy upon keyboard and mouse, performing arcane manipulations upon the laptop before him; a blue cable runs outwards from the laptop, connecting to a tall antenna at the ship's prow. A headset is snug upon the man's face, the microphone swung away so that he might speak to the ship's pilot; normally he would speak to it constantly, in strange, incomprehensible utterances. He wears a beanie upon his head, to keep away the cold of the day.

"Well enough," the woman responds. "Danger is coming, though. The clouds are dark ahead before the shore we seek; I fear attack."

"I will aid you so soon as I may," the man says, "but they press upon me; the raid is soon to begin, and all men must be ready to do their part. I cannot desert my people in their hour of need."

"Well it may be so, but remember this: should I fall here, should our task fail and our voyage founder, you may have cause to regret this choice."

The man nods, resolute. "This I will remember, but I fear not: your courage and skill are second to none. I will have faith in your efforts, and you in mine; together we cannot fail." The headset-microphone swung down again.

"I may only hope you are correct," the woman says under her breath, locking the wheel in place and moving to adjust the trim of the sails.

The raid begins. Autumla - for so the man is known - was rigid with concentration, eyes flicking back and forth upon the screen. His hands are steady, triggering macros as he had trained himself to do; no-one could accuse him of failing in the tasks assigned to him. But do not think him unemotional: he cries out in triumph at moments of victory. "Ha!" he says now. "Take that, giant two-headed fire-dog thing!"

Then the creatures attack.

They crawl over the sides of the skiff, emerging from the waves without warning. They are small in size, half the woman's height, but the weapons they bear in their three-fingered hands were brutal and deadly in appearance; their mouths bristle with sharpened teeth. They gibber war-cries as they come, but the woman is unintimidated. Four of their number she slays with the pistol she draws from her belt; then, pistol emptied, she opens the supplies locker (next to the mast), which she had stocked for such contingencies. One murloc falls backwards into the waves, transfixed by a long spear. That spear's mate the woman places within her hand, and with it wreaks dreadful slaughter upon the remainder of the creatures.

"Yes!" cries Autumla, fingers at rest for a moment. "Ha, ha! Take that, big floating-rocks guy! See how you like my shadow magics!"

The last of the green creatures falls to the deck of the sliff, clubbed by the butt of the woman's spear. She picks the body up with one hand and hurls it into the ever-more-turbulent seas, there to join its many fallen brethren. Then, ichor-stained hair blowing in the ever-stronger wind, she reloads her pistol from the magazines in the supply locker and walks back to the ship's wheel. There is a hard storm coming, and she wishes to be prepared.

Autumla and his comrades rejoice: another triumph, harder won than any of those which came before it. They loot the treasures given unto them, readying themselves for the final battle. "Yeah, you'd better meekly surrender, fire-elemental-middle-managment!" laughs Autumla. "Better not make any trouble about my stapler, either!"

Then comes another assault; crude war-galleys, manned by blue-skinned men with tusks protruding from their jaws. They laugh and jeer, whirling axes and spears in the air. The woman ignores their crude jibes, focuing her efforts on sailing. At wheel and hawser she plies her trade, keeping sails full even when the black storm-winds threaten to tear them asunder, steadying the rudder against waves that seek to tear the wheel from her hands. The skiff speeds forward, outdistancing the pursuit.

Autumla curses. "Magma blast! There goes the left-center healer... this is not looking good."

Shore comes close; the woman's skilled hands work the rudder, bringing them to the cove that was their destination. They round the headland, entering the sheltered waters within; and there waits another galley, laden with blue-skinned warriors. They hoot and holler as they sight the skiff; it is too late to turn back, for in the time it would take to reverse their course, the galley would set upon them. The woman instead prepares herself; locking down the wheel, loading magazines of pistol-ammo onto her belt, and readying a spear in her off-hand. She spares one last glance for the man beneath the canopy, still busy upon his computer.

"I'd prefer not to be purged by fire, if that's all right with you..." Autumla suggests to his foe. Laughter comes in from his headset.

A terrible ripping and tearing shakes the skiff as it collides with the galley, nearly interrupting the man's concentration. Blue-skinned berzerkers rush off the side of the ship, frothing at the mouth; the first two that come fall to accurate pistol-shots, tumbling into the brine. The third throws a javelin at the woman, forcing her to step-aside, and allowing the warriors time to board. As they rush towards her, the woman fires one last shot, cripping a leg; then she switches weapons, leaving her pistol in her left hand for an opportune moment, and steps into the fray.

"Nearly there, nearly there..." Autumla mutters under his breath.

The blue warriors fight brutally; in their philosophy is no room for mercy or pity. The woman is their superior, though, in skill and endurance; she leaves their blood all across the deck, save where the man still sits, busy with his laptop. Covered in cuts and abrasions, she struggles with the blue warriors' chieftain, intent upon the need to finish the fight before the other galleys return; but he is strong and terrible, and they both fall at last to the deck. He wheezes, gasps, and is no more; she persists some little while longer. "Luke," she says in little more than a gasp. "Luke..."

Luke arises at last from the laptop, looking about him like a man risen from a deep slumber. The triumph upon his face - fresh from the victory over the fire-lord - fades into despair. "No." he says, quietly but with increasing intensity. "No. No. No! Tiffany!" He runs to her side, cradling her unbreathing body in his arms. "What do I do?" he asks despairingly. "She's not breathing! No, no, no..."

"Heimlich manuever, idiot!" the voices on his headset respond.

Luke starts - but he does as the voices command. (A virtue, yes?) He puffs and breathes and struggles - and Tiffany breathes again. "We made it," he says at last, relieved. "We made it."

The skiff glides smoothly onto the beach, safe from the ravages of the storm.


Calvacadeofcats said...

alas so many hot womons so litle time

Cavalcadeofcats said...

Ah, ah, ever such a Zhang!