Here is my fourth story illustrated from The Modern Realms, and we finally get to the dragons.
As always, feedback and questions can be directed in the comment's below, or my tumblr or deviantart. All characters and world concepts are copyright Jack Harvey (I.E me). Most of all I hope you continue to enjoy my stuff.
An Emilia Krekanyo Story
By Jack Harvey
Emilia always was nervous at this point. She'd been at the job for two weeks already but still got a case of the nerves when she knocked at the door. That moment between the knock and the opening. Once the door was open sure, she just had to rely on her script, sell the products. The worst that could happen was that they'd say no, and she'd move right along.
No, that wasn't quite true. The worst that could happen would be that most of them would say no. That she'd end the day with little to show and her daughters would have been deprived of her attention yet again. She hadn't wanted to work, but Jonathan, her husband, had insisted it was necessary. Wages were being cut at the factory, the old Ichabod Nickson was being edged out of the market by Masterforge Steel and Composites Limited, and it's bright young (for a dwarf) upstart Rune Masterfoge. “Never go into business against the dwarfs”, Jonathan had been gratefully advised by his boss. “And most definitely never go into business against a woman.”
So here she was, working door to door because her husband couldn't get the shifts. Letting her children be supervised by Suzi, her next door neighbor, who couldn't keep a cigarette out of her mouth for two minutes. Waiting nervously as if some terrible creature was dwelt in the breach. Scarred that it would open, even more scared that it would remain closed.
Finally the door did open, and a pleasant faced young woman greeted her.
“Hello,” she beamed expectantly, Seemingly more used to this than Emilia was.
“Good afternoon,” Emilia smiled back. “I'm here representing Axon cosmetics. I wonder if you would be interested in any of our make up, or maybe some of the fabulous perfumes we have on offer?”
The bullets spattered against against the rocky surface Emilia was using for cover. Gravel and dust blasted into her face. Dirt blackened her already dark skin. She closed her eyes tight, leaving herself open for ambush as she did. Mikkelson shouted something, and she opened her eyes again, lugging up the unfamiliar rifle. They'd switched from bolt action to automatic over two months ago, but she still couldn't get the feel of the weapon, and they were notably unreliable.
“Another five coming from the left!” Mikkelson shouted, sliding beside her. “Remember that we're not here to kill. We only need to buy time to let Winters finish the job.” When Mikkelson spoke to Emilia, he patronized her a little, talked down to her, because she was a woman. Well it wasn't just that, he treated Winters well enough, but that was because Winters kept her hair short, dressed like a tomboy, she was treated like one of the men. Emilia hadn't let go of her feminine side just yet.
The routine was supposed to be simple. Approach Vahandra, the great dragon, with care, and painlessly inject the creature with a non toxic solution. If poachers were to harvest the old one for it's blood, they wouldn't be able to hide. The solution contained an invisible die that would seep through the dragon's pores, that couldn't be washed off, and glowed when it came into contact with human flesh. It was an old DPS tactic, and had been used to prosecute over one hundred illegal poachers and hunters over the last two decades.
Yes, the Draconic Preservation Society. So proud they looked in their combat gear and white smocks emblazoned with the burning fist. Emilia hadn't been here long, but she struggled to remember what life was like before she had joined.
Yet there was no time for glory. Glory was for soldiers and politicians. The only reward a DPS member sought was seeing those majestic beasts take flight for one more day.
This time though, the poachers had second guessed them. Mikkelson didn't know who they were working for, but they'd grown tired of being hunted down and decided to take the fight to the DPS.
Emilia began to fire. She didn't want to kill anybody. She didn't join for that. The poachers had given her little choice, however, and she wasn't about to let them take down another one of the aeons aged beasts.
“As you can see. Axon caters for all the major brands from the continent, as well as having an Avalonian selection for the more budget focused individual.” Amilia prided herself on the phrasing of that last comment. It made it sound so much more sophisticated than referring to it as the cheap stuff made down the road. “And it's all at a lower price than your regular high street retailer.”
“Well that looks wonderful,” said the young woman, who had introduced herself as Mrs Rathbone. “I'm not sure though. My husband says that by buying direct from these companies, people will be putting the high street out of business.”
This was a tricky one. Mrs Rathbone was right of course, and Emilia knew all too well the first hand affects of economic competition. Yet she needed the money, she didn't have the time nor the circumstance to care about the bigger picture. So what if Axon put the high street stores out of business? Emilia only cared about keeping food on the table and the mortgage paid for one more month.
“Well they do say that, but you must consider your own finances first Mrs Rathbone. A lady has to keep herself beautiful for her husband, whilst keeping the family fed also. You wouldn't want to end up in a situation where you'd have to choose between one or the other would you?”
Calculations resolved themselves in Mrs Rathbone's brain for a moment. Emilia prayed silently that her bogus logic would sound like sense.
“Well in that case,” said Mrs Rathbone pulling out a pencil, despite the fact Emilia already had one ready. “I'll take the mascara and...
Emilia fired once, twice. No hits, but she was just trying to scare the poachers for now. They only needed to finish up with Vahandra, and the beast could defend itself. That was if it didn't turn on them too of course, Dragons could be notoriously adolescent in mood.
The poachers were slowing now. They mostly wielded crude shotguns and aged submachine guns, meaning that their accuracy was patchy at best. Dragon poachers tended to spend most of their budget on ordinance, heat seeking missiles and hydrolic harpoons. Emilia pressed her attack before they could formulate a response. She fired a third time, a forth.
The rifle jammed. She dropped it to her knee, smacked it about a couple of times and returned to fire.
She cursed under her breath. She missed her old Enfield. They were slower than the new automatics, antiquated, but they did the job. These new weapons had been forced on them by their superiors. Most likely as a symbolic gesture to the millionaire philanthropists. Visual proof that their donations were being put to good use. Alas, no good deed goes unpunished, the rifles were a liability at the best of times.
“Shit, fuck, bugger, tits!” Emilia reamed off. She pulled out the magazine and tapped it hard three times against her blue helmet. She shook it to make sure any dust or grime wasn't clogging the rounds and slammed it back into place. Relived, she began firing again, but most of the poachers were ignoring her and Mikkelson now. They must have realised that Winters was up to something, and charged deeper into the caverns up a mountain of rusted old coins that made up part of the Dragon's hoard.
Emilia had to stop herself sighing in frustration when the door opened. The homeowner was an elf. Not that Emilia had anything against elves mind you, but they were a tough sell when it came to cosmetics. Elves were naturally beautiful, even the men, and though they tended to be very vain, it was not through disguising their flaws.
Emilia ran through her script, and the woman nodded and paid great attention to what she was saying. She made a little small talk with Emilia. She had a friendly smile all the while, and asked a few question about the products that were on sale. For a second, Emilia genuinely thought that the elf would buy something, but in the end just accepted a brochure and said she'd think about it. Not a complete fail, she might decide to buy something later by direct sales, and Emilia would get a cut of the capital, but she was probably just being polite.
The next door was a scruffy, overweight man who Emilia had apparently awoken from slumber. He insisted that he worked the night shift and that he was not unemployed, despite the fact that Emilia did not ask. Never the less he was unmarried and unaccounted for, so there was little interest in Axon's products for him.
Approaching the next house on the street, Emilia noticed a ragged cat looking out the window at her. It might have been her imagination, or her own feelings of entrapment, but she could have sworn that the creature was silently begging for rescue. The windows were fogged up with grime, and the front garden a mess of mud and weeds.
She knocked at the door, and an older woman greeted her quickly. She had a cigarette in her mouth, immediately reminding Emilia of Suzi supervising her children right this moment. Maybe the woman wasn't as old as she thought, maybe her cavernous face was down to the ravages of nicotine and drink.
“Good afternoon, I'm here representing Axon cosmetics. I wonder if you would be interested in any of our make up, or maybe some of the fabulous perfumes we have on offer.” Blah blah blah Emilia thought, and no doubt the woman did too, as she ran through her script. The woman accepted the brochure, cigarette still in hand, ashes burning little specs into the pages.
“An' you use these products do you, duck?” the woman asked.
“I do.” Emilia nodded and smiled. “I can personally guarantee their quality.”
“Well that don't do a lotta' good for me do it? I'm not a Golden Lander.”
Emilia bit her tongue. She wanted to tell the lady about how she was a third generation Avalonian. That she'd never set foot on the southern continent. That wasn't quite what the lady was saying though was it? Emilia's skin was dark, and hers was pale. It was a reasonable enough question, but it caught her off guard. Emilia was smart though. Smart and quick.
“Actually our brochure has a skin tone chart at the back. Do you see.” The woman turned the pages over with her yellow stained fingers. “Each foundation has a rating, one though to twelve. Also, a D1 for those specifically tailored for dark elves.” The charts were never really as useful as Emilia made out, but felt there was no harm in exaggerating her own expertise.
“Fucking fruits.” The woman said, unprompted. “You don't want to be selling anything to their kind.”
Emilia glanced over at the cat at the window. Fear radiated from it's frayed hide. Emilia could stand cruelty between people, just, but she could never stand cruelty to animals. If it wasn't for the fact that she needed the money, she'd have grabbed the brochure out of the womans hand and left this instant.
“Put me down for some of that foundation, duck. The seventy five.”
It was the Orc that charged at her. Somehow it was always Orcs that found themselves associating with undesirables, but they were never the ones calling the shots. For some reason his comrades had left him with only a rusted old battle axe, or maybe he had chosen it himself. Either way, Emilia and Mikkelson marched carefully forward, metal crunching between their feet. Emilia made a mental note to maybe grab something pretty from the dragon's horde to give to her daughters next time she saw them. They both popped off rounds at the warrior as he got nearer.
“Don't restrain yourself,” Mikkelson said again in that same patronizing tone, “If you get the chance to put them down, do it. We're in a life or death situation here.”
Their enemy was armed only with an axe, and he was still about one twenty yards away. Emilia fired a few more rounds, one of which hit the Orc in the leg. Mikkelson took the opportunity to hit him with two in the chest and the Orc fell to the ground.
Emilia shook her head, just slightly.
“Hey,” Mikkelson put a hand on her shoulder, “Keep it together, we've got to stop them getting to Winters.”
Members of the DPS were not soldiers, they had no real rank or discipline. They were just a bunch of volunteers with some basic training and guns in their hands. In the end that was all they needed to be. The poachers they fought, mostly, were desperate poor men drawn to the hunting of dragons to make ends meet, or street level thugs trying to make names for themselves. The two sides were more similar than they liked to admit.
Mikkelson stepped over on of their own fallen brethren, a halfling named Goldie Jambottom, a farmer's son. He had taken a round through the cheek. Now he was with Saxon Bumblebee, god of the Halflings.
More gunshot sounds came from the caves above, as Emilia and Mikkelson struggled to run up the mound of coins. Once upon a time this would have been an adventurer's dream, now it was a conservationist's nightmare.
Emilia had been demoralized by the previous homeowner, despite the fact she had, in fact, secured a sale. She longed for the end of the road when she could call it a day, go home and see her children again.
She knocked on the door, and was a little taken aback to find that a short goblin creature, dressed in an apron, greeted her. For a moment she thought it was maybe some kind of servant, a cleaner maybe.
“Wot?” the creature said in a voice that sounded like an old crone. It's large eyes squinted past it's long arched nose. Her eyes, Emilia reminded herself. The goblin was a woman after all.
Emilia smiled and started her speech once again. It was unusual to find a goblin owning a home this side of the city, many lived in poverty, but then again, she reminded herself, it wasn't impossible to climb beyond that with the right state of mind.
“Make up?” the goblin said, a slight grin across her face. “You think that'd be a good idea.”
Emilia didn't know what to say. A goblin's face was about as far as conventionally attractive as one could get. Putting make up on would be like trying to stop a fire with a tablespoon of water. Then Emilia kicked herself, she was in no position to judge. The last thing she wanted was to be compared to the horrible woman next door.
“Our products are designed to appeal to a wide range of customers. I'm sure there's something we have that would catch you eye.”
A couple of goblin children ran into the hallway, they were nothing but bony legs and arms. “What's the human lady want mummy?” one said. “Chocolates, Chocolates,” chanted the other, pulling on the mothers apron.
“Bugger off you two, go back in the room,” she waved them off, “Go back to playing with your toys.”
“Lovely children,” Emilia said, half lying, “I have two just like them.”
“How much cheaper?” the goblin woman asked.
“How much cheaper is this stuff compared to the high street.” the woman pointed at the brochure?”
“Oh,” Emilia jumped, being brought back down, “Well if you order from me today, you can get as much as twenty five to thirty percent off retail price.”
She nodded, and thought about it. “Fuck it, put me down for a bottle of Flannel Number 5”
Emilia was short of breath. For a second she though Mikkelson was going to scold her for slowing down, but he was too. Reaching the top of the mound of coins, they were dismayed to see another one, just as high, reaching further into the caves. Winters was nowhere to be seen.
“Shit, Krekanyo, down.” Mikkelson shouted, as they noticed the other three poachers they were exchanging bullets with earlier. The two of them dived behind a wooden chest as bullets bounced off coins and old candlesticks.
Mikkelson popped up, fired. His gun jammed, but he tried again. Still nothing, the men were getting closer. Emilia reached over to help. “Here,” she said, reaching for the magazine, but Mikkelson, in his arrogance, pulled the trigger again. The rifle backfired, it's mechanism shattered and a fragment of metal flew past Emilia's cheek, slicing into her flesh. Mikkelson put his arm over his eyes, possibly blinded.
Emilia threw her rifle to the ground in frustration. Shouting in rage, she pulled two pistols out of her back holsters and turned towards the poachers. She got all the way up, making an easy target out of herself, but before the poachers could take advantage she blazed away with the pistols. Every shot rang true, and the attackers all dropped to the floor, scattering coins beneath their bodies. It was over sooner than they realised.
“Not bad,” Mikkelson coughed, “for a girl.”
Emilia smiled, thoughts longing for her husband, and helped Mikkelson to his feet.
“I can only hope Sarah managed to hold them off on her end.” Emilia whispered, mouth dry with dirt.
Prophetically, they heard a rapid crunching above them. “Heyyyy!!!” came a gravelly, but clearly femininity shout.
“Speak of the devils,” said Mikkelson.
“Get fucking moving, big red's all done and she's pissed as all hell.” Winters came sliding down the pile of coins at break neck speed, her shortish hair blown back straight. Emilia thought she should keep it that way.
The three of them ran and began to slide down the next slope of coins, as they heard an incandescent roar from behind them. Emilia looked back briefly, to see the majestic dragon spread it's wings and glide out of the cavern. Words could not describe the creatures, their wings shimmered purples and greens, their scales like chrome and oil.
Vahandra flew out of the cave, towards the encampment of poachers that had decided to stay back and defend their jeeps. They tried to ready their rocket launcher, but Goldie had already sabotaged it earlier. The dragon gasped, though it was more of a scream, readying to release it's fiery breath. She could bet they knew they were fucked. Moment's later, nothing remained but the fiery husk of the vehicles, and Vahandra flew off towards the horizon.
“Yes, yeah, boom, boom, fucking boom, boom, boom, boom.” Winters chanted as she and Mikkelson fist bumped. Emilia was in a daze though, on the way down she had snagged a small locket. She held it in her hand and examined it. The pictures inside were faded, but she felt it would be a nice trinket to put a photo of her daughters in. The wound in her cheek stung, and she leaned back and looked into the sky.
Another sale. Emilia couldn't complain. One more house and the day was done, she could count her gains and losses later. She knocked at the door and was greeted by a friendly looking older woman. She smiled.
“Good afternoon, I'm here representing Axon cosmetics. I wonder if you would be interested in any of our make up...”
Halfway through her speech, a group of five of six friendly looking dogs came running to their masters feet, yapping in greeting to Emilia. She couldn't help herself, and started laughing.
“Oh, I'm sorry. It's been such a long day. Your dogs are so adorable.”
The woman picked up two of them, a poodle and a whippet, “I love my babies,” she said. “I love all animals. I would have more if I could fit them in the house.”
“I adore them too,” Emilia said, “I can't stand cruelty. I couldn't believe what I saw in that woman's window up the street.”
“Mrs Chatnow is a savage,” the woman nodded in agreement. She took a better look at Emilia, “But oh, my dear, you look exhausted. Have you been on your feet all day?”
“Five hours,” Emilia said honestly.
“Oh do come in, take the weight off your feet, let me make you a cuppa,” the woman said, putting the dogs back down, they yapped happily in unison as Emilia didn't stand on ceremony.
“Emily is the name,”
“Oh our names are so similar, how about that?” Emily said as she shut the door behind her.
Emilia looked at a nearby table in the hallway. It was littered with framed pictures of dogs, along with a leaflet for some kind of animal charity or other. Emilia picked it up. Emily returned with a cup of tea.
“No thank you.”
Emily noticed that Emilia had picked up the leaflet. “My husband and I are active contributors to the fight against animal cruelty. You wouldn't even begin to imagine the things going on around the realms. Do you donate?”
“I've always wanted to,” Emilia said, “but I'd never really found time to think about it.”
“It is a rewarding use of ones life my dear.” She put her hand on Emilia's arm. “Come into the living room and I'll tell you all about it.”
Copyright Jack Harvey 2014