----Meka: The Streets---- "Ah...they are the crooks who are in charge of the sales. The sort of people who like to think they run the black market, snooping around for people like us to do business with. When I say they're everywhere..."
he scanned the area again, "...I mean it. Fuck up once and they make sure you don't forget it, fuck up twice and you're dead. You probably ran into one of them already."
He sounded as if he resented them. It wasn't surprising, much, that they were the sort who could not leave you out of their sight. The beginnings of an entire organization. The sort who thinks they run a show. He could have very well ran into them once or twice, it was entirely possible. They were the eyes and ears of the black market.
The next question caused his face to turn pale. "Erm, um...I didn't just say that did I? ....Craaap"
he swore as the realization sunk in, in effort to distract himself, the man adjusted the rim of his cap, attempting to answer Leon's question. "Well, it's not like I work with anyone in the business weapon making or anythin-oh crap, I've said too much didn't I?"
Just in time for question right after that too. He put up his hands in surrender, "Alright fine, so I make weapons, and I'm not talking about the mediocre kind. Any good gun in Rathya you can name at the top of your mind...well, I don't like to brag, but usually mine are better. I've always had this...uh...talent for making tools of death, people just tend to...uh...notice. It can get quite foreboding after awhile. Heheheh."
He started chuckling nervously again, really wishing he wasn't out in the open like this. "People also tend to enjoy the metal itself, I've noticed. I mean, I always hated working with minerals that could rust easily, guns don't really perform that well, so I improve on it a bit. Make it stronger and...can we talk about something else?"
His body tensed a bit at the mention of the "schemer". "Other than that?""Alright, I suppose I can get all the help I could get. He calls himself Simon, Khron knows that isn't his real name, but he owns a company that sells machine parts around here. We know, of course, what he really does. And yeah, I bet you'd like to meet him don'tcha? Can't say I can help you there. As for my colleagues...well, they kind of don't want to see my face again...heh. Can't blame them, really.""Anyways, my name is Leaden, after the city. It's.... it's not really a good name."----Meka Restaurant----
"Wait!" Called out a voice. But the voice did not belong to the man who owned the restaurant, but the young man beside him. He wore an apron over loose clothing dyed in blue. His hair, like the restaurant's owner was the color of ebony, and his irises were almost pitch black. "Please forgive my father" he begged Razzim. "Ever since that man started visiting our restaurant--"
"Silence, yourself Khenn. I did not give you permission to speak."
"Father please, let this man come and eat. I'm sure he means us no harm."
"He's right, Vimal" stated the other man, who unlike Khenn, who seemed to be Vimal's son, referred to the restaurant owner informally. "This man could be the only customer we get for a month. Try not to let Snevilen's words bother you." Vimal glared at the man before softening his face. The women stared hopefully at him, and the two children. He looked at Khenn, who was still holding his cutting life.
"Sir, would you consider staying if we gave you a buffet for the price of one small meal?" he offered to Razzim.----THAT NIGHT----
"Dust, just Dust" the captured pirate stared with eyes full of hate at the member of the city guard, who's mask of sympathy made him sick to the stomach. He supposed this day could not get any better, but at least it couldn't get any worse. He already knew what to expect. A cold cell at night, and a rope to wake up to in the morning. Really wasn't all that surprising when you were a pirate, but at least it wasn't The Plank.
"So...Dust..." his interrogator repeated. "You are a member of the Crimson Skull, as I understand."
"Yes, what of it?" Luckily, the pirate was striped of all his weaponry at the moment.
"Well, since you are no doubt a high ranking member of the family..." Dust snarled at this, "...I think you can tell us what your guys were after."
"Don't count on it."
The sounds of chairs scrapping filled the air as the interrogator grabbed hold of the pirate's collar.
"Don't play dumb with me, pirate scum. I know that you know about our secret routes, that's what your precious captain was after wasn't he?"
His query was only met with silence so he gripped harder, "WASN'T HE?"
There was a brief pause before the pirate answered him with a voice dripping in defiance, "Yes, but don't ask me why. I do not know."
Harder he was shaken, "Do not lie, worm."
"I am being honest. You think the captain will tell anyone what plans on doing with those routes, let alone his own men? The Crimson Skull is a crew full of pirates, sir, there is no room for petty loyalties."
The interrogator stared straight into the pirate's eyes, not giving him the luxury of looking away. The man didn't trust his sort as it was. "Forgive me if I can not find the heart to believe you."
"Have a psychic scan me if you need. I do not know anything!"
The pirate was then released from the interrogator's clutches, who turned his back on the dirty dog before him, not caring to look at him in the face. "...I see. If you won't tell me what I need you to know, perhaps I can find someone that will... Strauss!"
The troop called Strauss saluted respectfully. "Sir!"
"Send out word...I want an eye kept on those new arrivals. Every single one of them. They know something that I don't, and I will damn well find out what."
"In the meantime put this piece of trash back in his cell. It will be his head soon."
--------Meanwhile..._Go Back to Sleep_All the little lambs were sound asleep.
All dreaming their little dreams. Dreams of control, of a cause, of adventure.
An adventure in a cold, metallic world. It is not hard to come by.
Tomorrow your adventure will truly begin.
Try not to stray too far from the path. You are guests in the land of the wolves.
Noises can be heard from outside, but do not awaken. They will know if you do. Instead, become lost in your childish fantasies. Right now, it is the only thing you have. Try to ignore the lights shining in your room. They mean you no harm. And do not worry too much about the spider in the ceiling. It is only spinning it's web. Do not have compassion for the fly. Why should you be concerned with such a lowly thing? A wolf is much more terrifying then the spider, you understand. It prowls around at night, looking for it's prey. And it howls at the two moons when it's work is done.
What's that? A monstrous noise coming from outside? Much different from the noises before?
Go back to sleep. Don't worry your pretty little head.
Tomorrow will be another day within the Land of the Wolves.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________----BOOK II – Land of the Wolves----
___________________________________________________________________________________________________"Have you heard the story about the Boy Who Cried Wolf?"
A golden beam of light greeted the sky with like a long lost cousin, scaring away the darkness of the night. The clouds reflected shades of yellow and pink, lazily floating along, without a care in the world. Amongst them, was the ever so determined floating city of Meka. But...there was another.
A floating object, independent of the mechanical wonder, approached ever so slowly, and cautiously. In contrast to Meka's many greys, this one was one big orchestra of color. A city of tents it was, striped little cabins for the weird and extraordinary. Wooden carriages of all shapes and sizes carried within them nomadic groups. From the west they all gazed with hopeful eyes. Up ahead was their audience, and like every year they meant to put on a good show. Perhaps this year will be the show of the century. A show like no other.
The Circus Chroma.
Little children scattered about happily in the streets. It seemed this day belonged to them. Little voices exchanged a single phrase to the young and old, the rich and the poor. All throughout the floating city everyone knew, "The Cloud Carnival has come!" The littlest ones were already at the far western portion of the city, waiting for the gates to open. Such gates were made from iron, patterns full of diamonds and ovals for each negative space, a banner of words marking the top. Beyond the gates the children could see the games, the stalls, and the performers themselves, waiting. From the sides, teenagers leaned against walls or watched from up above, some chattering amongst themselves. The overly rebellious ones played with chipped bits of concrete and metal, mischievously eying the crowd. The daring ones exchanged bets on who was going to jump over the fence separating the foreign thing from the city. Though they would have to somehow jump the gap between the two floating things. Supposedly, the carnival ran on the same form of energy as the city, though it's materials were more mix-matched and unprofessional looking. From up above prowling teens and workers could see that on the inside it was much like a little village, they even had stables for the animals and little makeshift gardens. Each tent followed a relatively similar structure, with one entryway, a large square in the middle where the main room was, and a back room (where the person's idol was placed). Some had small openings in the roof where smoke could escape, though a lot of the tents were absent of smoke at the moment. For the occasion, streamers connected one tent to the other, streamers of different colors and patterns. It seemed as if they were connected to tall columns made from sandstone and marble. There were many columns, and each of them had a different animal carved into the head, signifying a different tribe. The pillar in the center which was the largest had the carnivals owner on it, a ghastly reminder to the tribes who was really in charge here. One wouldn't be able to see what he looked like from afar. But there had been tales about, of how the owner was a monster.
Business around Old Dusk was booming with the arrival of the carnival. Artists of all sorts piled the streets, greeting the nation's new arrival with glee, greeting it in their own special ways; by song, by dance, or by potrayals in art. One such artist sat near a fountain away from everyone else so he could paint the scene around him in peace. He was a pale, frightful thing, who did not like to speak. His paintings, had a strange emotion to them, some claimed they told stories, frightening stories, yet said stories. It was like looking at the life of another, in their eyes. They were so realistic, many who came to peer at them had to look away. A boy with knives waited in the crowd gathered at his gates with his father, looking quite nervous. The father merely grumbled, you can tell he did not want to be here today. At the entrance of the Robot Theatre, a theatre bristling with activity, there were robots greeting children, acting and dancing for them while their masters watched. Some of them even had human-like faces, but you could tell they were just porcelain masks. A stranger in black wearing a mask passed the entrance way by, pushing a small box which played music
when you turned the lever. It did seemed as if it was concentrated entirely on the crowd ahead, waiting patiently for something to happen, something that called for it's attention. But all the while it continued it's warning, which gracefully floated over the ears of the blind. "Let all who hear come and earn nothing" it seemed to say. And perhaps the most important person of all, the son of the emperor himself, a young boy eight years of age surrounded by bodyguards appointed by his father. "When will the gates open?" he asked the guards. "Very soon, young master" one of them answered. The arrogant look in his eye told he would not wait for far longer.
It was a moment of time before the gates would open.
And not a moment too soon, the intercom on the right head of the gate resounded a screech that interrupted the talk amongst the crowd."Ladies and gentlemen I thank you for gathering here today, and bid you welcome."
"It is always an honor to entertain this delightful city year after year. And this year we have something very special. The return of Circus Chroma!"
This announcement, for whatever reason, caused the crowd to cheer. They have heard stories of the Amazing Rio Chroma, and his masterful illusions. Hidden from the crowd a mouse's ears perked up at the familiarity of the name."Yes the master of rainbows himself shall be here to show you the wonders of light, along with his troupe; Zulay, the Fortuno Brothers, Tzila, the beautiful Magenta, and many more to feast upon. And while you're at it, enjoy the rides, the games. Let yourself get lost in the fantasy that awaits you. After all...."
The voice grew dangerously foreboding, "We only come once a year~"
The gate then opened it's arms in a joyful greeting to the excited crowd. No one wasted any time rushing in, wishing to enjoy every second of the wonderful carnival before the end of the weekend. Inside, there was everything you expected a carnival to have: games of chance and skill, food stalls with recipes from all over Rathya and candy to enjoy, a large carousal where decorated mares with horns galloped around in a circle, a giant Ferris Wheel that threatened to touch the heavens themselves, a ominousness looking house of mirrors, a haunting train ride, plus that large red ten near the center. The street performers that flooded a place ranged from men on stilts, clowns with balloons, firebreathers and eaters, jugglers, and men in masks. Masks could even be bought from stalls, mostly Xephamorian, but also Icilee styled. Those who sold them were obviously skilled maskmakers, dressed in rich clothing to signify their importance in society. Some awaited by the gates, selling their goods to the citizens of Meka right away, along with other goods. The smell of fresh food was about, daring each person to spend their hard earned money on fat. Amongst the festivities, the Stranger walked, not paying anyone any mind. It continued his song into the carnival, and fellow masked men gazed in greeting. It did not hail them. A young child passed it by, ordering the guard to buy him a balloon from the balloon salesman. The salesman grinned and handed the boy a red balloon. "A gift, for the Empire." The boy with knives and his father wandered aimlessly, stopping to watch a man swallow a sword. The father had a grave look on his face. And the artist, he stayed behind, content with drawing the empty scene around him.
Welcome children, to the new day.
"Crimson Skull Leader Crimson With Embarrassment" by Radonna Sunshine, Meka Tribune wrote:
Captain Admon, the name many have come to fear, the terror of the skies who would paint the world in shades of red. Now, it is his own face that is painted in red thanks to the combined efforts of individuals who were attacked by the infamous Crimson Skull earlier this morning. Leon Borren of the Borren Trading Company tells us that the "coward", as he called him, escaped after being "taught a lesson", as pictured above. It seems our diabolical friend has lost more than an arm and a leg, but his pride as well as he flees the seen looking awfully defeated and hopeless. It is clear that he will not be bothering anyone again. What he was after still remains a mystery, but according to Mr. Borren it could very well have been an attempted robbery.
A lone pirate has been captured at the scene of the crime, assumed to be a member of Admon's crew. He could be one of our only hopes to discover the pirate captain's motives. A high-class English tutor named Landgrave B. Slater claimed to have helped capture him, along with his companion Miss Kharrighan Loreley. As he describes it Kharrghan was attacked first, before he swooped in to save her. In his own words, "We are but humble citizens making our respective commutes to the great city! I know not where they are, but at least we have one of them in possession now. I think that is as great a deed as any man can do." Mr. Slater seems confident that as a high-class tutor, there is a lesser chance that the pirates would be out for revenge. We can only hope he is right. Last night, the city guard interrogated the captured pirate, word is not yet out whether there is an understanding of the pirate's motives, but the chief of the city guard, Viktor Kass, seems to agree with Mr. Borren that it was only a mere robbery.
Thankfully, the captain of the Sahana, the airship attacked, and his crew are safe and sound with their family. All of them are grateful to their passengers that they are still alive. Captain Oscar Fritz describes to us the events: "It was just a normal work day for me, we were on course to Meka and on schedule, everything was fine. Then we got this strange message on the telegram, and the power suddenly cuts out and we get another weapon. Naturally, I am worried, my crew is up in the upper levels in pitch darkness, who knows what could've happened." Out of his own dutiful instinct the captain goes to investigate, but hears an explosion coming from the axial corridor. One of the passengers meets him underneath the site of the explosion who informed Captain Fritz of two pirates that were responsible for the explosion, both of which are presumed dead. The passenger also informs him of another good Samaritan who helped aide in the rescue of his crew. "My one regret is that I never had a chance to thank him." The identities of both men remain unknown, but surely the entire crew of the Sohana continue to remain in their debt.
The Sohana on the other hand, sadly did not make it, and it is now a ruined shell of it's former self. It has been estimated that a new airship will possibly cost the MATC airlines 2,087 talors to build. Still awaiting word on the city guard's
-CONTINUED ON A2 IN COVER STORY-