A Throne For Crows (Part 38

Boss had, at one point or another, met five Queen’s guards. She had been travelling for a few decades, and had seen their armies in both quiet repose and active warfare.

She had even fought one, briefly, in a battle that had stolen her freedom and left her a husk, enslaved, and if she were honest, prepared to die one of the worst deaths she could face.

But she’d never directly stood in the way of one before.

Trellis spoke, and the world melted and swam like thick honey. Around her, the drones bucked and heaved as the world shook and shattered.

But Boss couldn’t hear more than a muffled murmur. Even that was halfway enough to send her fleeing, but-

But she was in heavy armor, and this was what she had always wanted. To taste the flesh of the gods, to pry her jaws shut around those who had stolen their fire. So she took a step forward instead, axe cradled firmly in her hands like a shield.

Trellis stood shorter than the warden, some five feet and a spattering of spare inches, and if it weren’t for the bullet proof vest across her chest, she wore nothing besides thin scraps of clothes in a bizarre mockery of a USEC uniform.

Boss took another step forward.

Around her stood a mass of Crows, their eyes dark as pitch, and they opened fire upon her. The bullets pinged off at first, and then, with the Queen’s guard adjusting their aim, they took off gouges of steel instead. She felt the impact. She really did.

And then the adrenaline hit her, and her teeth parted into a massive grin, and she roared out in challenge, barrelling forward into their mass.

Her axe came up, and then it came down, scattering a half dozen crows before the swing was completed. But Trellis smoothly ducked under the blow and reached forward with her hands and gently tapped the metal plating.

Boss kept moving forward, and Trellis smoothly swam past her as her momentum carried her forward.

Inundate.” 

The metal turned warm, then hot, and then Boss slammed into another room and tore at it. Molten metal hissed and sizzled across her fur and then at her skin, and she howled in misery, but there was an active battle outside and her heart was up, her blood was up, and her adrenaline was still squealing and-

Her armor fell off in great greedy chunks, torn off of her body and discarded like a second skin. The molten patch from where the Queens’ guard had touched spread, eating metal what flesh Boss had lost to the transaction.

She growled, deep in her throat. First encounter and the Guard had already gotten one over her. Fine.

Fine.

Gunshots came down the hallway, and Boss perked her ears up and picked up a desk from the office space. Then she turned the corner and threw it at Trellis’s back. 

The Guard was already turning to face her, and though the desk sailed true through the air, she reached out, a breathy whisper on her lips obliterated by gunfire and hasty retreat of the Crows around her, and tapped the center.

Inundate.” 

And the desk melted around her, and the chunks scattered the rest of her entourage. Boss glowered at her. She was armorless, against a creature boasting an unknown amount of weapons and weaponized commands.

It was hardly a fair battle, but that’d make the ballads sung about her all the sweeter!

Trellis turned, drew a gun off of a scattered bird, and shot three bullets down the hall. Quen dove out from behind a door, and Boss lunged to take advantage of the distraction.

She sidestepped Boss, and Boss kept right on going, plucking Quen off of the ground and throwing out her legs so her claws would stop her from skidding across the tiled floor.

“You are aware that this is a useless stand,” Trellis asked, quirking an eyebrow. It almost looked human. “I have precognition and can melt anything you throw at me.”

Boss’s ears perked up. In the distance, the gunshots were slowing.

“You’re just wasting your lives here.” Trellis said. “Don’t you think you should join the winning side?”

“What’s the matter?” Boss asked. “Out of hypnotism?”

Quen drew his gun and took a potshot at the guard from just over Boss’s head. It made her ears ache, but the ringing was better than being enslaved again.

“No,” Trellis said, laughing. “I just find it amusing that after signing yourself on with us you’re suddenly against us. Whatever could have turned you so quickly?”

Boss’s eyes dilated at the distant memory of electrocution and pain, and being trapped in a fetid stinking place in the ground and being told what to kill and what to hunt. She huffed, leaning forward and falling onto all fours, and ran at her again.

Trellis dropped the gun from her delicate human fingers and then twirled like a dancer to the side again, gently reaching out to touch the edge of Boss’s axe as it swam by. “Inundate.”

And then Boss threw the molten mess at her. Trellis’s smile wavered for only a second, and she rolled to the side, hot metal flashing and burning against the tiled floors, and Boss was already whirling around, kicking off of the wall to afford a tight turn, and lunged at the dancer.

Quen’s talons dug into her skin to keep him attached. He better be worth the effort.

Trellis’s eyes remained fixed on Boss’s the entire movement. Boss brought her fists up high, carried by her momentum, and brought them down where Trellis had been a second before, but she was already moving, hands outstretched, words on her lips.

Quen opened fire, and Trellis hopped back, nimbly avoiding the automatic spray, and then she slapped her hands on the wall and a bloom of molten heat blossoms from the delicate touch of her fingers and then it stumbled into a pyroclastic outflow, a great pouring of heat.

And then the Queen’s Guard dove through the hole.

Her fingertips pressed against the next wall, and she dove through that as well. Boss growled, staring at the molten heat. She hesitated, taking a step forward, and growled, smashing her first into the wall next to the burning opening.

“She’s getting away,” Quen said. “Shouldn’t we-”

“No,” Boss grunted, turning away. Quen leaned in and peered into the layers of holes into other rooms.

“No? But-”

“We lost,” Boss said. “She’s far more mobile than we are, and she knows what we’re going to do.”

“So you’re just giving up?” Quen asked.

Boss’s eyes snapped wide open and she snarled, turning on her companion in an instant. “Giving up would be dying, you feathered sack of flesh. We’re not giving up, we’re just not chasing. In case you didn’t notice, there’s a war on right now! There’s dozens of places we can help.”

“Just not here, against the single most important person in the entire battle.”

Boss flared her snout and huffed, turning away again. “We serve no purpose dead. I want to sink my claws into her neck like nothing I’ve ever wanted before in this life. But we serve no purpose dead.”

Quen’s eyes closed. He sighed. “You’re right. How are we supposed to beat something like that?”

Boss looked down at the burn on her thigh, half melted skin exposing the bare muscle. Her adrenaline starting to fade already, she whined at the pain sliding up her flank.

“Stupid question,” Boss growled. “Not everything has a counter. Not one we can make, at any rate.” She caught her breath, feeling the weary nature of the last frenzied day of fighting creeping up on her, and then fingers touched her hand. She looked down. “So we hope one of the others can. That’s what Crows are good for. Perhaps our good doctor has a spell she can cast.

Quen squeezed her fingers. “Come on. We have to meet back up with the warden. We bought her minutes at most.”

“And took out the controlled Crows,” Boss said, eyeing their ranks. Their birds were still scrambled, confused, hopping about mindlessly. They avoided the burning bits of metal that were still cooling on the floor, warking and cawing pointlessly at nothing at all.

“There’s just one question,” Quen said.

“Oh?” Boss asked.

“The Warden went that way,” Quen said, pointing back the way they’d come. “And Trellis went…?”

Boss tilted her head, and stared through the openings. The Guard had burned a path straight through the exact opposite way. “Where’s she going?”

——

‘The Bonding Amulet’

Danger level: 2 (Item is safe to store long term without special needs, but is capable of irreversible paradigm shifts in exposed victims, see USECCT (United States Extranormal Containment Classification Team) meeting #387a,  4-30-2035, and thus should be kept locked when not in use.)

Emanation type: 

Knowledge

Sentience:

N/A (item is incapable of taking appropriate tests)

Storage:

Lockbox on floor 3, unmarked container (see your administrative staff for location)

PPE Requirements: 

Non-organic gloves that meet extranormal chemical safety handling requirements (see Hamilton 2045, Safety In All the Right Places for more information) and USEC standard chemical coats are to be worn. Goggles are not required, but recommended, due to the possibility of contamination from microscopic amounts of ocular fluid. More protection may be worn as deemed necessary, as this only describes the minimum requirements. See attached MSDS for more information.

Item is a Class 2 (direct contact with particulants and metaphysical attachments) contact hazard, and the protocol for dealing with exposure is listed below:

If skin contact is made, do not attempt to seek help. Contact incident command and then, instead, self-isolate for forty-five (45) minutes after loudly announcing to everyone that you have made contact with the item. If the item’s effects persist for longer, longer isolation periods are to be decided by Incident Command (IC). If item does not desist, contact an administrator. At all times, personnel are urged to remain calm.

Testing Protocol:

One (1) person is to move the item at any time, with guards and other personnel at least twenty (20) meters away. Failure to maintain distance will result in an employee hearing to determine intent, with punishments ranging from expulsion from company employment to internment in prisoner facilities. This is not an exclusive list, Administrative personnel retain full rights and decisions as to punishment.

Item is to be placed inside of a marked room confirmed with IC, and testing individuals and items are to be arranged according to mutually prearranged guidelines, which should be printed out and placed in sight of all involved with testing. Failure to do so represents a serious breach in protocol.

Description of Item:

Item is a ‘princess’ style necklace (18 inches) with a large jet stone one (1) inch in diameter set in silver. The item has remained above room temperature, and IC is to he alerted if at any time thermal sensors indicate this has changed. The item bears markings consistent with suspected records of creation, placing it solidly resting in the historical continuum. (For further reading, Morgan and Morgan et al, 2036. Time and Tide, a History of European Mystical and Lord derived Interactions, is available for those of appropriate clearance.)

On touch ‘The Bonding Amulet’ undergoes an ‘Ideal State’ (a term used in the original papers) which causes a complex shift in information to occur, bridging species barriers and individual mental barriers. All individuals touching ‘The Bonding Amulet’ become aware of each other individual’s thoughts. As this represents a security hazard, no individual with greater than Epsilon clearance is to be used in testing.

History:

‘The Bonding Amulet’ is an artifact of the cult of knowledge, a short lived underground movement that reached widespread appeal during the ‘Enlightenment’. Historical records indicate that this was created at Descartes’ ( a copy of Aylie and Brodford et al, 2039, Historical Persons of Interest is available for those of appropriate clearance) will and his specification in order to prove that animals and others have thoughts.

Descartes used this item in various attempts to prove sentience in a wide variety of animals including humans, but was unable to reproduce the item for scientific research due to a critical shortage of a key material known as Ichor, which was in ready supply before the 16th century, but afterwards became scarce due to an as of yet unknown reason. 

Object was reclaimed from a corpse in an unmarked grave, possessing no less than the bones of three (3) separate human beings. DNA testing proved inconclusive.

After repeated use, or a single long term use of over sixty (60) minutes, the Amulet’s secondary effects will activate. Any being or set of beings that use the Amulet’s effects for more than three (3) hours will have their metaphysical identity shifted to match that of the group instead of the individual. The intelligence of this new gestalt is directly proportional to the intelligence of the beings used to create it, as is the new form. 

Long term exposure to the Amulet is deemed too hazardous (see the minutes for USBEE [United States Bureau for Extranormal Ethics] meeting 2-4-19 14:20-16:35 for more informatation) for human testing, and animal testing is scheduled to derive uses for the item while in our custody.

Update 2/2/2023: USBEE has issued a desistance order upon proof (see Edwards and Williams et al 2022, A Brief Catalog of Item #24938, attached, available for those of appropriate clearance) that animals bonded by this item pass rudimentary tests for sapience. No testing is to be done with this object at this time due to the threat to sapient life.

Update 7/4/2045: During a routine inspection it came to USECAL’s (United States Extranormal Containment in Alabama) attention that this Item was missing. Foul play is suspected, but cannot be confirmed due to the ongoing security crisis in USECAL (See Gregor and Morden 2043, Statistical Modeling of Risk Dense Areas in Infosecurity among USEC Sites). A cooperative effort between USECGA (United States Extranormal Containment in Georgia) and USECAL has resulted in the creation of a team of agents and investigators (Codenamed Sparrow Hawk) assembled to scour local occult activity for signs of increased intelligence and coordination in cells.

Update 9/5/2047: As part of the ongoing efforts to stop the current Dissolution class apocalypse, this item has been tagged of interest for use in cross item experimentation in Project Undying Talos.

Please see Dr. Williams for more information.