Ch. 17.3 – Ekaida

Clara, forgive me, Ekaida mourned. I’ll make this right, I swear. She struggled to rise, failed. Somehow. The mighty Elder Dragon fought straps made from her own Anima, a straitjacket and hobble formed from Travis’ programming and her own majestas. Trapped in the body of a mere human, the restraints were almost irrelevant. *West!* Ekaida roared through the Vision. *Release me now, and I might not eat your heart!*

*This is foolishness, my beautiful dragon,* Travis replied, one of his black-armored puppets striding towards her. *You bound yourself to forbid harming any incarnation of my Vision, before we sealed our contract. Besides, didn’t I give you the bliss you sought? Haven’t I struck at the Schism? Isn’t that what you wanted?* The Prime used a Vision arrow to point out the crowd of newsies, still reporting excitedly on the battle. Purity West’s publicity stunt made that possible, she admitted.

No. Ekaida shook off West’s soothing tone. *You betrayed me,* she shot back, thrashing furiously. *You tricked me into betraying myself! I would have given you treasures beyond counting, an empire to satisfy even your hunger! Why?*

The implacable blank stare of the masked puppet matched Travis’ merciless Vision perfectly. *Because I can count higher than you think, and empires are for fools. I will have destiny itself. Fate shouldn’t exist,* he seethed, and Ekaida shuddered at the raw hate she felt through the link, *but since it does, it will be mine!*

*I will never serve you again,* Ekaida retorted. *No bargain sealed through Vision manipulation can bind the Majestic, and no pleasure is worth your venom.* She relented, giving up on vengeance for the moment, and her body uncoiled into freedom. The Daimani forced West out of her mind using techniques ancient when humanity was young, and sought the Alliance agents’ Vision.

Rose’s mind leaped to Ekaida’s, relief and welcome palpable through the union. *Elder! Are you all right?*

Ekaida nodded, restoring her wings, tail, and armor. *I cannot fight West or his avatars directly, but I can oppose him in other ways.* She scanned Maracanã Stadium with speed born of vast experience. A familiar chaos, the Daimani realized. No one controls this skirmish, but Travis only needs a fraction of it. Seeking the Weaver, she found the little Taylor retreating from the second armored puppet. Ekaida turned to help, but was forced to stop before her body betrayed her again. *Bastion! Your Weaver needs her knight!* she sent, looking for a target to vent her frustration on.

*Thank you, Ekaida,* the Bastion replied. The Weaver’s champion flew unsteadily towards West’s. He’s been through a great deal, Ekaida noted, grimacing. My own efforts not least among them. She turned to devour a Tranquility Sanction agent, only to find West’s mind directing that woman as well. Maker! Is he in all of them? Reaching out with a blend of Vision and Anima, Ekaida looked for targets to vent her wrath against, allowing her to train ordinary senses on the Weaver.

The Weave itself tore, an Adaptation of Blaze and Rift carving into Sara’s bracelet. Ekaida gasped and took a step to help, only stopping when her own scales fused her legs together. Damn it! A quick hop back freed her, and the Daimani watched with powerless fury. The Weaver gasped and stumbled, forced to one knee by a pulse of Blaze from West’s puppet. He grabbed the human by her hair, hauling Taylor back to her feet. “Time to go,” he growled, and that would have been the end of it, had Victor’s power not blocked his attempted Rift escape.

*Dunn! The Captain needs help,* Ekaida sent desperately, circling the Weaver as closely as she dared. *West has your student.*

*Busy,* Dunn replied. Ekaida saw fragments of Rose’s liberation of her in the human warrior’s mind, collected from the team’s shared Vision. *I know Clara was extraordinary, but she’s gone. You need to let her go, and do something.*

Ekaida opened her mind to the Ghost Dragon. *My Clara is always with me. She’s not the problem.* Molly’s cursing was as inventive as ever. *This is the heart of West’s ritual. With one stroke, he will write the supremacy of greed and entitlement into the place where the Schism once was.*

Before Molly could reply, Bastion reached the knave in black. He stopped the puppet’s attempted flight with a flicker of Blaze. “You’re beaten, West,” the Captain declared, sapphire glory crackling around his fists. “Skeptic’s down. Ekaida’s with us, and your army is dwindling by the second. Let Night Weaver go, and this doesn’t have to hurt.” In spite of the situation, Ekaida smiled. Night Weaver? The woman has some élan after all. Sara held onto the puppet’s wrist with both hands, bracing herself.

“If we’re going to indulge in theatrics, ‘Captain Bastion,’ call me Prime Regnant,” the puppet declared. Through her wards, Ekaida felt West smile from inside the blimp. “As for victory, it seems already mine.” He shifted his grip, and Sara winced. “We fight over this creature like the prize she is, and the Majestic power here will ensure that forever remains her fate.”

“She’s not a prize,” Bastion whispered, his voice gaining strength with each word. Even the Quadrum are mesmerized by this moment, Ekaida noted distantly, realizing the battle had slowed to a near-halt. “She’ll never be the object you so desperately want to turn her into. Weaver is a hero, one who has made countless sacrifices. I’m not here to ‘take her’ from you.” With a flick of his wrist, the Captain’s sword of rainbow power exploded to life in his hand. “I am here to set her free, you travesty, and if that means parting your hair down to your navel – I’m okay with that!”

“You are exhausted, and I will most likely crush you. The whole world will know the fairy tale for a lie.” ‘Regnant’ chuckled. “And if you succeed by some miracle? Then your precious Weaver is reduced to a figure of helpless distress, and the world soaked in stereotypes a lackwit could exploit. So charge to the rescue, Weaver’s knight. Either way, you damn the one you would save.”

Oh crap. Ekaida’s entire body tensed. West had this worked out from the beginning. Even if he loses, he wins. The Daimani’s Vision caught Taylor’s majestas wound festering in the toxic environment of Travis’ Vision, radiating across the field. Just as she decided to defy her bargain, captivity be damned, Ekaida saw something else.

Bastion’s free hand twitched with subtle Weaving energies, an impossible presence cradled within them. The Weaver’s stolen power! He must have claimed it from the Skeptic somehow. Again she circled the confrontation, placing herself between the trio and an enterprising Quadrum sniper. Yet if he simply patches Taylor with it, she will never heal properly, not with West’s narrative poisoning Majesty itself.

Jaw dropping at the captain’s smile, Ekaida stared as he aimed his blade at Regnant’s helmet. “Good point. I’ve got one too.” The sword exploded in sound and fury, overwhelming West with every Majestic element. The puppet dropped Sara, recoiling. For one instant, the Vision Prime was blind. In that moment, Ekaida watched Bastion slide the length of torn majestas to Sara, place his own threads of Weaving in her hand, and let go.

West’s counterstroke was predictable. Shafts of thorn-laden fury lanced through Bastion, tearing at his spirit. Vicious, cold privilege crushed the Blaze Prime’s defiance, driving him to his knees. Travis brought all his merciless, self-absorbed Vision supremacy to bear on the knight, driving fear, pain, and despair through him like bolts. “Braggart! Fool! Did you think I could be overcome with a light show? ME?”

Forgotten by her erstwhile captor, Sara gaped for the briefest of moments, then Wove her stolen wonder back into herself. Ekaida grinned, almost exactly like a shark. Good boy.

While Weaver regained her footing, Regnant stalked towards his victim. “You ridiculous comic-art caricature,” he hissed. Bastion was all but paralyzed. “I don’t know what pathetic trick you thought you had, but it failed.”

“Aut-ib!” Sara cried, fingers darting through the air. Ancient Egyptian. Joy of the Heart. Very nice, Ekaida observed, watching Taylor’s Weaving restore Bastion, shielding him from West’s assault. All five Majestic Elements danced to her Conduction. The broken bracelet flew back to her wrist, whole once more. Regnant whirled to face the Weaver, then recoiled. “Bastion did what he always does,” Sara retorted, her smile downright predatory. “The right thing. He gave me the chance to reclaim my power, stolen by your retrograde pack of bigots.” She held out her hands, and the Union Majestic flowed as she wished. “Your crap narrative’s a train wreck, Travesty. You’re next.”

Behind Ekaida, the Quadrum agent moved, skulking towards another sniper perch. The Daimani took a cautious step toward him, then smiled again. They don’t trust West, she realized, and their shields are proof against even a Prime’s Vision. The Queen of Monsters grew, taking dragon form once more. Wise, normally. The Quadrum looked up and screamed. “Nice armor,” Ekaida hissed. She tackled the alien gunman, claws piercing metal seams and tearing. “Let’s see how nice.”

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Written by Peter Flanagan

Peter Flanagan was born in the Bronx, New York, giving him the right to root for the Yankees while making less than six figures. After a long, largely pleasant interregnum in suburban Connecticut, he moved to the Inland Empire, California to be with his wonderful wife and muse, a stepson, and a crazed feline. An occasionally too-avid player of and writer for tabletop roleplaying games, his other passion is metaphysics, which informs most of his fiction.

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