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A note from Selkie

 

Ravensdagger stitched an Elain plushie! Top left! IT'S SO CUTE!

You should go read his stuff. It's good. Cinnamon Bun, Stray Cat Strut, and dozens more! https://www.royalroad.com/profile/147338/fictions

 

A challenge for my readers - can you identify the rest of the characters Raven's made?

Rostellio was bound, beaten, but not broken. He was hung up, the mighty angel, the agent of the God of Light captured and imprisoned.

 

He was a toy. Displayed, as a warning, a threat, a statement of power. Used, in an ironic twist he was sure was deliberate, as a chandelier, in the lair of Lun’Kat.

 

Oh, she hadn’t been the one who’d captured and bound him. No, that had been Alendras, who seemed to have a hobby of capturing angels that descended, spitting in the face of the gods.

 

Daring them to come after him.

 

And they dared.

 

“Lun’Kat! I’ve come for you!” An old dullahan roared, dropping from the entrance to the lair to land on the floor. An advantage of angels was they understood every language, perceiving the intent behind the words moreso than the words themselves.

 

Rostellio had Vision, an aspect leftover from his mortal life, before he became an angel in the service of Raito. It let him see.

 

It let him see both Lun’Kat lazily lounging in her bed, and an illusionary Lun’Kat bursting forth with a roar of flames. She continued to laze about as her illusions fought the dullahan, forcing the fight into a special chamber she had just for the purpose of fighting pompous, weak, foolish challengers.

 

They didn’t have a chance. It didn’t stop Lun’Kat from toying with her food, from deriving pleasure and entertainment from the perverse game of cat and mouse that she played with suicidal intruders.

 

The [Paladin] fought bravely. Fought valiantly. He was in service to Raito as well, and Rostellio knew the truth. He was at the end of his life. He’d asked for one last mission, one last service he could perform for Raito before his death. For his death.

 

Raito sent him here, to remind Rostellio that he’d not forgotten about him. The god knew where his angel was, and wanted to help.

 

Raito wasn’t able to directly free Rostellio. Not without an expenditure of power too great, without needing to directly fight Lun’Kat in her own lair. It was a fight not even a Tier 2 god, the god of Light himself, wanted to take.

 

Alendras’s bindings were thorough, and he’d had millenia of experience capturing angels and luring gods into epic confrontations. The gods had eventually learned when, and how, they could interfere without the blowback.

 

There were reasons the gods didn’t want to expend too much of their power. Rostellio wasn’t in the know, but they always looked upwards, looked out, when discussing it.

 

Still, Rostellio’s Vision let him watch the entire fight, let him examine the illusions. Lun’Kat had over 40 different layers of illusions, so when one broke another one was there and ready, able to give false hope that the [Paladin] was getting somewhere. She even allowed “herself” to take injuries, making the poor dullahan think he was getting somewhere.

 

That he had a chance.

 

A week they “fought”, the occasional mirthful chuckle coming from Lun’Kat as she cruelly crushed his hopes again and again, letting one badly-injured illusion “break”, only to show a fresh, hale, and healthy “Lun’Kat” behind it.

 

Then she got bored, and with a thought, a massive eruption of dragonfire ended the fight in an instant, vaporizing the dullahan and all traces and evidence that he’d ever existed. Something she’d been able to do from the start, but where was the fun in that?

 

Where was the break in the monotony?

 

No, the dullahan had provided her with a week of entertainment, soon to be forgotten.

 

Rostellio could do nothing but weep quietly at his fellow devotee’s loss. Maybe one day he’d find the man as an angel, and be able to give him his thanks.

 

Thanks for the hope he’d given him.

 

Thanks for the message he’d received - he was not forgotten. He was not abandoned.

 


 

Rostellio’s Vision meant, even if he wanted to, he wasn’t able to close his eyes to the horrors and tragedies he was forced to bear witness to. Some were cruel, like the nameless [Paladin]. Others?

 

Well. Lun’Kat’s mate had come to visit, entering from the magic portal that linked their two domains together. There’d be a new clutch of eggs, more terrible dragons to wreak havoc on the world.

 


 

Lun’Kat would vanish for a time, occasionally coming back with some trinket or another, to be carefully placed in her ever-growing collection, to be never looked at again. She’d occasionally redecorate, rearranging where everything went, old treasures dusted off to be seen again, ancient triumphs revisited.

 

Apart from the main entrance and exit to her lair, where Lun’Kat regularly flew in and out of, she had a half-dozen other ways in. Rostellio’s Vision let him see all of them. There was the shimmering mirror-portal, linked to her mate’s lair. There was a crack, leading to the Below Levels. A small Spatial leak twisted and distorted space, nothing having ever gone or come through it. Rostellio would’ve thought it unknown to Lun’Kat, had it not been given its own chamber and protections. Another portal led to the ocean, creating a pool that Lun’Kat could bathe in if she wanted to, some sea life occasionally managed to work its way through now and then. A fishman had once challenged her, to the same toying results as the rest. More, scattered about, some natural cracks in the gigantic recesses of her lair, other just straight portals to different places.

 

She hadn’t reshuffled things in some time, nesting protectively over her eggs. She was still protecting them when dozens - no, hundreds - of dwarves burst into her chambers, taking the entrance from the Below Levels.

 

Lun’Kat reared back, as the dwarves started firing off thousands of skills indiscriminately, items in her collection breaking and smashing.

 

Lun’Kat knew when to play with her food, and when to bring down the unholy wrath of a dragon. A single blast of Pyronox-aspected dragonflame, and nearly the entire army was wiped out.

 

She made some unhappy, keening noises as she shifted through some part of her broken collection, fixing them and putting them right. Rostellio had been hanging out long enough that he could get some idea of her mood, could read her somewhat. She started off mad, and as she cleaned up, slowly became furious.

 

Then wrathful.

 

Placing her eggs in a dozen protective wards, hidden by innumerable illusions, she turned invisible - to mortal eyes, not angelic ones - and flew out of the lair in a rage.

 

Rostellio couldn’t see that far, but he could feel it. Even with the distances involved, the skill and power of those involved shook the earth. He watched a cauldron slowly teeter, praying to Raito that it wouldn’t fall. That she wouldn’t become madder, and take it out on him.

 

He screamed more than the fairies did, and so, was more entertaining.

 

She came back after a night and a day of furious battle, flying awkwardly as a wing was broken, deep cuts marred her entire body, and every exhalation tainted with wisps of poison. Every drop of her blood sizzled and burned the ground where it landed, and she protectively grabbed her eggs, curled up into a pile of old conquests, and fell into a deep, healing sleep.

 

Rostellio wanted to rage and curse. He wanted to tell Raito that now was the time. He needed to tell Raito that this was his chance, his way to strike down Lun’Kat, and free Rostellio once and for all.

 

The connection had been severed ages ago, when Rostellio had been first captured.

 


 

Lun’Kat had been slowly healing, when a new intruder showed up. This one was laughable, coming in from the Below Levels again. She had layered all sorts of spells that she surely thought were good on her, to hide and protect her.

 

Ha!

 

The [Thief] was terrible. Not only did her invisibility skill have massive holes in it, but she wasn’t even taking care with the air she displaced! Her every movement caused subtle currents to flow through the air, practically screaming “SOMEONE IS HERE!” She didn’t occlude sound, instead being a sink for it, which was almost worse than no anti-sound skills. Her footsteps sent tiny tremors through the floor. Her heat still radiated off of her.

 

She spent minutes knocking on the flimsy “look at me” illusion, practically ringing the doorbell repeatedly before managing to “break in”.

 

All in all, it was amateur hour as the [Thief] slowly crept into the lair, then started sneaking around like all thieves would.

 

Rostellio didn’t like thieves much. He did try to flare some angelfire at her, to give her a warning, but the restraints were too much.

 

She deserves her fate. He settled back, not about to shed tears for this latest idiot.

 

Lun’Kat was sadly back in a good mood. She was going to torment this [Thief], slowly let her do… whatever… and pile on the pain. Oh, it was a slow, cruel process, playing with her food in a different way. Of course, the big reveal, the hope crushing, would only occur at the end.

 

As she crossed the lair, her eyes kept wandering, greedily drinking up all the treasures she could see. Rostellio wondered what she’d go for first. The scrolls that could teach teleportation to even a novice? The potion that granted Immortality? The mystical metals, each with strange and unusual properties? Something else?

 

No, the [Thief] was petty and small-minded, going for the gold, silver, weapons and armor that Lun’Kat was currently sleeping on. The worst items in the lot, that only a fool would go for.

 

And she… just stood there. Looking up at Lun’Kat. Barely moving, studying her. Then something happened, something changed that Rostellio only caught because of Vision.

 

She was healing Lun’Kat!

 

If Rostellio could’ve moved, if he’d been drinking, he would’ve done a spit take.

 

It wasn’t a gigantic heal out of legends, no, merely a small, modest fix. Rostellio wanted to kick and scream, to rage against the unfairness of it all. Instead of a slayer, instead of Raito being able to seize the moment and free him, some idiot was fixing Lun’Kat up! Didn’t she know how dangerous dragons were?! Why would she do such a thing!?

 

She practically stomped over to the pillars, trying to grab some mana. After a brief moment of Lun’Kat keeping a tight lock on it, she relented, allowing the trespasser to take some mana.

 

The [Healer-Thief] stomped back to Lun’Kat, healing her again, and again. Then the moons were out of sight, and Rostellio let a cruel smile play over his face as he saw Lun’Kat deliberately shift, terrifying the poor thief.

 

She was still playing with her food. Still a cat, with a mouse in her eyes.

 

Rostellio wanted to bash his head against a rock as he saw the [Healer-Thief] enter the fruit grove, merrily thinking herself clever as she “avoided” everything in there. Nevermind that everything could sense her, that elementals rarely used sight to see. She was so naive, so out of her depth, so ignorant in the ways of the world that she somehow thought she was succeeding! She thought the elementals didn’t note her passing, that a dryad somehow didn’t know every leaf and fruit present in her grove.

 

Rostellio didn’t know what was worse. That she was healing Lun’Kat, or that she was so terribly ignorant of the world.

 

Lun’Kat kept playing with her newest toy, this one vaguely different from others. One thing she did do was move her tail, putting it in a position where the healer would be able to use her skills for a longer timeframe, speeding up her healing process. If that’s what the healer wanted to keep doing. Rostellio was convinced that was part of why she gave intruders a chance - maybe one would surprise and entertain her, longer than most.

 

The… Rostellio was forced to admit, [Healer] - continued to behave oddly. She circled around the lair between healing sessions, just looking at things. Never touching. Spending an hour staring longingly at some of the fruit trees. Wandering the library, like she was hunting for some scroll of forbidden knowledge.

 

Also, what sort of hare-brained idiot could only heal under sunlight and moonlight? And how horribly unbalanced were her stats that she could blow through her entire mana pool in two seconds? Honestly, that was just a bad build. Rostellio wanted to be freed, so if nothing else he could descend to whatever mudhole this healer had crawled out of and properly educate them. Balanced stats! It was all about balanced stats! Not this “ooh look at me I can heal for two seconds and that’s it” nonsense that this healer was running around with. By level 600 or thereabouts, you’d think this healer would’ve figured it out.

 

Rostellio couldn’t see levels, but he had Vision of how much mana was being thrown around, and what their physical stats were by how they moved, and so could effectively estimate where someone landed level-wise as a result. Give or take a half-dozen levels and class quality.

 

Yet, it was effective. Rostellio had to privately admit - not that he had anyone to share his thoughts with - that having so much power, when there was nigh-infinite mana surrounding her - was more effective than any other build for the specific task of healing Lun’Kat. What demented god had she prayed to, to get this [Cleric] sent to her in her time of need? Who even had such a creature faithful to them, able to find her lair?

 

The [Thief] grew bolder the longer she stayed, sleeping in the lair like it was her own, perusing through the aisles of the library like she owned it. The whole time she was careful not to touch anything besides the fruits, some water, and the Arcanite. Lun’Kat tolerated it, playing with her in a different way. Letting her get comfortable, before the big reveal, before the hammer drop.

 

Before she’d cast the poor healer into the depths of despair. Rostellio felt his emotions changing, starting to pity her. She thought she was getting out of this alive. She didn’t realize that she was being allowed to get her hopes up, so that Lun’Kat could dash them all the harder.

 

Finally, one of the last healing sessions occurred, Lun’Kat wrinkling her nose in pain as the bones snapped into place. However, she kept the facade up, Rostellio only noting what happened due to long involuntary familiarity with his jailor.

 

Another session, and Vision showed that everything was perfectly healthy with Lun’Kat, that she’d been entirely restored.

 

Then, Lun’Kat started to play. She moved twice - once was her illusionary body, wandering around, the other was her real one. The real one safely stashed her eggs inside her nest, as she curled up protectively on them. No risk would ever be taken with them.

 

The fake placed illusionary eggs in a brazier, lighting it with fire. She then made a big show of eating and drinking, before going to sleep, enjoying the terrified look on the healer’s face, as she thought her doom had come.

 

Idiot. She was just being played with. Lun’Kat was letting her feel some fear, only to take it away, which would make crushing it in a moment all the sweeter.

 

Lun’Kat’s illusion overlapped with the real thing, going to a “sound sleep”, the better to see what the healer did next, with no supervision.

 

The healer seemed to recognize that it was time to leave. The lure of money, of wealth, was too much for her to resist, and she reached out, grabbing an item from Lun’Kat’s possession.

 

That… was an interesting pick, not that it’d matter. The [Thief] had glorious wings of Radiant light erupt from her back, as she flew away at top speed, trying to escape Lun’Kat’s wrath.

 

It would be impossible. Lun’Kat was going to let her get some distance, then smack her down. The further she allowed her to get, the harder the smack, the worse the metaphorical and literal fall.

 

She went further… and further… and further…

 

Rostellio looked down, at Lun’Kat, who had one eye open, narrowed slightly, tracking the escaping healer. She glanced at her collection, and saw that it was almost entirely still intact. The healer had gotten lucky, and stolen something that Lun’Kat had nearly a dozen of.

 

The dragon let out a snort of flames from her nose, then closed her eyes.

 

Rostellio could’ve been knocked over by one of his feathers, if he’d had any range of motion. The only thing he could think of was Lun’Kat considered it a “fair trade”, which according to anyone but her, was anything terribly unbalanced in her favor.

 

Still.

 

She let her go?!

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Selkie

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