"A’ight Damien, if there’s ever gonna be a time to act, it’s now.”
Xavier spoke quietly into the earpiece embedded in his right ear before he took a sip from the glass of water, placed on a small wood table. Once he had swallowed a sufficient amount of the cool liquid, he turned back to the large gathered crowd of faces standing in one giant group in front of the stage. He approached the microphone once more and the crowd grew excited with each step closer, anticipating his speaking. "You have really been a lovely crowd an’all but we only got time for one more song. Usually I’d try to whip out some new stuff for ya…” A woman screamed from the back of the crowd in excitement, clearly thinking he was alluding to something else. He flashed a playful grin before he continued. "But it seems y’all have been putting in requests for the first track. And who am I to disappoint you guys? So here it is again… Unholy.”
The bass and drummer started out the song with the vocals before the rest of the instruments kicked in. Xavier grinned as he took hold of the microphone and began to sing the lyrics to his song.
"A lucky, lucky girl
She got married to a boy like you
She'd kick you out if she ever, ever knew
'Bout all the - you tell me that you do
Dirty, dirty boy
You know everyone is talking on the scene
I hear them whispering 'bout the places that you've been
And how you don't know how to keep your business clean
Mummy don't know daddy's getting hot
At the body shop, doing something unholy
He's sat back while she's dropping it, she be popping it
Yeah, she put it down slowly
Oh-ee-oh-ee-oh, he left his kids at
Ho-ee-oh-ee-ome, so he can get that
Mummy don't know daddy's getting hot
At the body shop, doing something unholy.”
Several floors up from the music hall, another man was putting on a different kind of performance. He was a young man wearing black goggles with red, shining lenses. His outfit was a mixture of buckles and belts over leather, with pockets lined with different magical devices. Xavier’s voice crackled in from the ear piece in his ear and he waved off the man’s words dismissively. “Yeah, yeah, I’m working on it. I’m almost through.” What he was almost through was a heavy metal vault, located in an office that the man had broken into. He was kneeling in front of it, a beam of high intensity flame erupting from his finger as he slowly drew an opening in the thick metal. He heard the music start up and hummed to himself, gently tapping his foot on the floor to the beat as he finished up carving. With a loud clang, which was thankfully muted from the music, the hole Damien had carved clattered to the floor. Sitting inside was a statue of what could only be described as some kind of feminine imp. Her skin was black with light teal and strange runic-looking tattoos around her legs, arms and pointed ears. A stone mark half-covered her face, with bright orange hair flowing out the back. She wore a mischievous grin and her eye, the only one that could be seen through the hole in the mask, seemed alive with playfulness.
Damien reached in and pulled the statue through the hole, staring at it in… disappointment. “Well that’s ugly. All this work for this?” he asked as he turned the statue about in his hand, looking at it from all angles. Then he shrugged. “Jewel is jewel, I guess.” With that he thrust the statue in the bag slung over his shoulder and pulled the string tight. “All good here,” he spoke into the ear piece as he walked to the door and opened it, turning the semi-melted knob.
As he came out of the room, two guards were just crossing into the hallway down the way from him. “Hey!” One of them called out, reaching for his magical firearm.
“Oh shit!” Damien cursed as he quickly dashed back into the room and slammed the door. “Shit, shit, shit,” he mumbled as he activated his fiery beam once more and aimed it at the door knob. He pressed his body against the door as he hastily melted the metal of the door together, hoping to seal it temporarily to buy him time to… think of something. A thud against the door nearly undid all the work he had done so he focused a bit more of his magic into the beam. “Ow DAMNIT!” A voice cried from the other side of the door; someone had tried to open the door via the handle and had probably gotten a right burn for his efforts. Damien would have laughed were he not in full panic mode.
Luckily he had melted enough of the metal to seal the door, for now. Pulling away from the door, the guards bashed against it, the wood starting to splinter. “Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit,” Damien cursed as he looked around wildly. What the hell was he supposed to do? His eyes fell on the windows and he raced over to them. It was a straight fall four stories to the ground… but there was a rope hanging from some construction scaffolding on the building across. It was at least two stories down. He’d need to get a running jump and hope that it was anchored but… it was better than staying. “Shiiiiiiit,” he cursed one last time, taking one more look at the door as it began to give way and then raced, full speed, at the window. He covered his face with his arms as he shattered the glass and let out a yowl as he began to fall.
But he had gotten enough speed to get him close enough to the rope. And with the gloves he had on, he’d be able to keep his hands from being shredded. As he came upon it, he reached out and grabbed it, hollering in joy and relief… only for the force of his fall to catch up and bounce him upwards, still holding the rope. He went crashing through the scaffolding , slamming through flimsy wooden boards one after the other until he hit the roof of the building. “Ow, everything is ow, so much pain,” he wheezed. But he couldn’t sit and linger in pain as a magic bullet whizzed by next to him, hitting the roof and forcing him to his feet. “Hey, hey, hey!” he yelled as he raced towards the other side of the roof, leaping off the edge to the next building and continuing to run. The bullets whizzed by but never managed to hit him and soon enough he was beyond their range, the guards groaning angrily as they went for their communication devices to relay what had happened.
A few hours later, Xavier and his drummer approached a boulder in a clearing, right next to a bubbling brook. The Confidence International guildmaster took a look around as the other man approached the rock and tapped it thrice. The enchantment activated and opened up the hole in the stone, revealing the imp statue. “All this for this ugly thing?” he asked, turning about and holding up the statue for Xavier to see.
"That’s what the client wants. Apparently it’s some magical relic, s’pposed to have some strange magic. It doesn’t activate for everyone though so…” Xavier shrugged. "All I know’s his jewel is good. Guess Damien came through after all. Bag it and let’s scram.”
The drummer nodded and started to put the statue in his bag. But the sound of a gunshot broke the silence and the other man fell to the ground dead, a fresh bullet wound right through his forehead. Xavier dropped down defensively and then scrambled over to the drummer to find him dead and started to reach for the statue while getting up to run. “Don’t move.” He froze at the voice, closing his eyes and sighing softly. Slowly he turned his gaze to look up at a tall, pale white man. He knew him immediately; the owner of the music hall that they had just performed at and robbed. He was an imposing man, with thinning black hair and gaunt, blue eyes. And he looked even more imposing with how angry he was. “I should have known better than to give any kind of chance to street rat scum like you,” the man hissed as two guards flanked him, guns already drawn.
"Mister Rozanov,” Xavier said, holding his hands up. "Funny story; a friend of mine was bragging about holding up some place and when I heard all the deets, sounded an awful lot like your place. So I told him that he needed to drop off whatever he stole so I could return it. I didn’t want him to do you dirty like that.”
“Do I look like an idiot, Mister Winters? Do you think I wouldn’t assume it was you and your filthy friends that used a performance to get in? I’ve been on alert ever since I heard that the black market wanted my precious statue. Now pick it up!” he hissed, pointing at the statue.
Xavier glanced down at the statue and then, slowly, took it in his hand. The man summoned him to approach and the Confidence International guildmaster got to his feet and slowly walked in front of him, holding out the statue for the man. "A’ight. Here’s the statue. Just take it and let’s… go our own ways, yeah? No need for this to get any more violent.”
“I wholeheartedly disagree. I need to make an example of you in case any other thieves think they can outwit me!” The man snarled as he took hold of the other side of the statue. He reached back with his other hand and the guard slid his firearm into his hand. The owner brought the gun up and pointed it directly at Xavier’s forehead, grinning.
In the instant that he heard the gunshot, Xavier’s life flashed before his eyes. His time on Rhaegar, growing up among the other poor but having a semi-charmed life in spite of it all. The rising of the rebellion and standing with his father, their new leader, against the oppressive rule of the Ashdyn Empire. The sight of his father dying in his arms, as their forces were being slaughtered after Bacchus du Wolff had failed to provide assistance. His rise to power and his angry, iron-clad rule over the planet. Vandrad and the rebellion he wrought, bringing an end to his empire and watching him fall to his death. And so many other memories he barely spent time thinking about. Perhaps he should have been thankful that he hadn’t felt any pain, his life over in an instant. But there was so much more he wanted to do, to accomplish…
It was oddly… silent. He’d instinctively closed his eyes when he saw the man’s finger tighten to pull the trigger. Slowly, very slowly, he opened his eyes, unwilling to look, as if that would delay the truth of his fate. As the chocolate orbs were fully realized, he found himself staring at what seemed to be a hellscape An ominous red glow covered the entirety of the sight before him, including the moon that was half-crested over the horizon. Jagged, rising peaks rose from hillsides off in the distance. More sharp peaks seemed to pen in sharp, ill-formed tree limbs and vines that seemed to act as a canopy to a horribly dense forest. The air smelled thick and acidic, almost wanting to make his lungs heave and choke in a coughing fit.
It wasn’t what he imagined Hell was. But he knew if he was going anywhere, it was there. Yet before the dread of what awaited him for eternity began to sink in, he heard a soft, almost sweet voice. “Hello Xavier,” it greeted him from behind, causing him to whirl around. There, standing before him, was a tall, elegant looking woman. In fact, she looked like a grown up version of the imp statue they had been contracted to steal. The mask was gone, revealing her mature, beautiful face and allowing her orange hair to flow down over her shoulders fully. An intricately crafted robe hung off her shoulders and a similar skirt around her waist. The same strange symbols were on her arms and legs, glowing bright in the crimson light. She smiled evenly at him. “I’ve been waiting a long time to meet you. Welcome to the Dreadlands.”
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