Sunday, July 1, 2012

Wither The Vain: Spare Change Part 3

Art Appreciation

I have never been impressed by Wither's winds of change. Be they the will of our creator or not, they are tedious, cryptic, and annoying.

Much like Wither himself.

"What are we looking for once we arrive."

"A warehouse full of weapons."

"I'm not that simple-minded Wither."

"Then stop acting like it."

"What are we supposed to change?"

"The number of casualties after we clean this place out."

I ruffled my feathers, staring forward, beak clenched tight.

I have no doubt he was smirking behind that graying stubble. One eye was dulling. Glaucoma? Cataract maybe? He was no fighter. Just a killer with those hands.

Arturo lagged behind Wither and I only slightly, pausing every few steps to scribble in his notebook. Christoph and Holly followed behind him. Neither of them had spoken a single word to any of us. Insead, they exchanged short, jagged whispers to each other as they stumbled along.

Why did we need a Hell? Since when had we rode with a Hell in tow? Wither was a fool and would get us killed in the end.

He always did.

Which is why he was able to surprise me.

Standing in the middle of the street looking a vast warehouse.
Mysteriously having missed any patrols.
Guided by Wither's hands.

"Hey, Seth, you up to this?"


"You're War. You remember enough to handle this?"

"What information do you have for me to decide?"

He shrugged and pointed at the warehouse.

"Fishmen in there. The Council's paying us for weapons. The only other thing that matters is that we get to handle the leader separately."

"That's all the intel you have?"

"Yup." He had his hands in his pockets, grinning at me. Disgusting.

I closed my eyes and drew in a slow, steady breath.

"There will be guards at the front, the rear, and on the rooftop monitoring all directions. We have somehow slipped past their patrls without running into a single one, so they won't have much for defenses. We'll be assaulting an armory. That's never a clean job, but if you come in from the top, Christoph and Holly from the rear, and myself and Arturo and I from the front, we should be able to box them in nicely."

"Why do I have to assault the front with you?"

"Because I trust you to be quiet and keep out of the way."

That seemed to satisfy him.

Too bad.

"One other thing Arturo."


"We need weapons. I'm recommending simple machine guns, nothing fancy. I don't even give a damn about a name. If wholesale slaughter is what our... commander wants, that's what he'll get."

Arturo stabbed his hand reluctantly and set to writing as Wither opened his mouth to speak.

"Seth, I said nothing about..."

"Stow it Wither. You asked me about this. I'm handling it."

It was his turn to grow quiet and sulk. The words in Arturo's notebook ripped themselves from the page, forming the blueprints for assault rifles. Colors spread across the surfaces of the guns.

"You want I should write up some obedient cannon fodder?"

Wither cut me off this time, but I let it go.

"No. Keep your work non-sentient Arturo, understand?"

Arturo grumbled darkly but did as he was told. Twit.

"Does everyone understand what they're doing? It doesn't get much easier. Crossfire on The Judges inside, cut them to pieces. That's it."

Everyone nodded before slinking off to their positions.

What I wouldn't have given for a team of Columbians in full gear, fresh from a drug lord's estate. All the toys to bring the noise. And yet I was left with an author, a tree, a corpse, and an old man.

"C'mon Arturo, let's move."

I should've stayed a tailor.


Things were going well.

Until we opened the warehouse doors.

They were waiting for us. A full Court of Judges and an Arbiter. The Court wasn't much to look at. Thiry moderately armed Judges from a variety of races. Pirahna, Barracuda, two Manta Rays, and a Nurse Shark. The Arbiter was an octopus. He had six inches on Wither, and every inch of his frame was covered in black leather. Straps with silver buckles held his armor in place, from his boots to his gloves. The frills of his tentacles dangled over his beak, and he held a chloride rifle in his hand.

"We have been expecting you."

The octopus snapped his fingers and Wither was put through a skylight. His gloves were still on. Stupid. Should've been off before he started climbing. He was getting sloppy.

Holly and Christoph also had their hands raised as they were led in at gunpoint.

"A sign of truce with The Council. My people and theirs would prefer not to fight. And understandably so. So, we do The Council this favor, they will leave us unmolested for three weeks. A great deal of time in any war wouldn't you say?"

"Indeed. Three weeks of manuevering freely would be any general's dream."

The octopus nodded.

"My name is Maurice K. Potomar. They refer to me Arbiter Moon."

"The Tidal Champion reserved for us?"

The tentacles dangling from Moon's face wriggling excitedly.

"I should have known. A Sleeper amongst our foes. One of Wu's warriors no less."

I bowed as Wither's jaw fell steadily open, a creaking door on a mausoleum.

"I am Seth WarDreamer. It is my honor to finally meet you Arbiter Moon. Many of our tribesmen fell before your forces."

"As many of our Judges met their end within your tribe's talons. Tell me, Warrior for Wu, what are you doing in the company of these?"

"Educating them on War."

Moon's tentacles wriggled and spasmed with glee, a deep chortle squishing out it's mouth.

"Delightful! I have had to train this menagerie as well."

There was a gleam in Moon's eye. That's it. Ask me Moon. Ask me that question itching in the back of your mind.

"I have been curious Seth WarDreamer."


"As to the extent of your mythic talents. Many Judges cower at your name."

"Is that so?"

"Indeed. I was hoping for... an example."

I bowed once more.

"Always willing to oblige a fellow warrior."

Moon tossed aside his chloride rifle, clapping his hands together.

"Fetch my sword." A pirahna scurried back behind a stack of crates, scrabbling, scrubbling, scratching out of sight.

I turned back to Arturo.

"Rapier. Basket handle. Silver in color with red trim."

Wither was shouting. A rarity that. Lost composure. What a pity.

"What are doing Seth?"

"Teaching you the difference between murder and war."

He wouldn't learn though. He never did.

Typical punk kid.

The pirahna stumbled back into view, lugging a sword four feet in length in his arms. The blade was serrated on both edges and black as my feathers. The handle was inlaid with pearls and pressed volcanic sand.

There was a whirl behind me and a tap on my shoulder.

"Your sword brother."

I held up my rapier and bowed to Moon. He did the same.

We closed to twenty paces of each other as one of his Judges, an eel, carved a circle into the floor around us. We traced the circle with our heels as we spoke the customary passage.

"Blood to steel."

"Blade to flesh."

"Dying breath."

"Die at rest."

"Honor bound."

"No death in vain."

"No quarter given."

"No death in shame."

I cackled with glee. Moon chortled, his tentacles wringing each other in excitement.

Let Wither have his vanity. His death. His empty endings.

Moon and I lunged for each other, blades catching the light.

I still had my pride.

An artist never forgets.

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