Chapter 3 - Maestoso
For those who are curious about the timing, Britanny’s wedding hasn’t happened yet. I’m stretching how much time has passed between the defeat of the Dynasty of Stars and the wedding scene. So, basically, in comparison to the real Gold Digger storyline, none of the Diggers crew has met Fauntleroy.
Fauntleroy stood in the royal garden, a glass of wine in his hand. There was a dull thump behind him and a small smirk crossed his lips. “So, princess… you showed up much sooner than I expected. Did you not know that your little assassin failed?”
Herb paused in confusion. “What assassin?”
Fauntleroy rolled his eyes as he set the wine down on a nearby table and pushed up his glasses. “Please, you insult my intelligence. Pleading ignorance should be below one of your heritage.” He turned around and held up the strange pen he had taken from Makoto. “Your incompetent little brunette. I’m afraid she failed miserably only a short while ago.”
“Makoto! What have you done with her?”
Fauntleroy smirked at the rage on Herb’s face. “Makoto? Is that what her name was?”
Cold chills ran down Herb’s spine as he repeated, “Was?”
Holding the pen casually in one of his hands, Fauntleroy gripped the end with the other. The sleeves of his shirt stretched as titanic muscles swelled beneath it. Suddenly, there was a sharp ‘ping’ followed by a bright explosion. Herb blinked as he was temporarily blinded and his nose stung from the sharp scent of ozone. When his vision cleared, a slightly charred Fauntleroy stood there smirking. Herb’s gaze fell to where the symbol for Jupiter laid on the ground. An uncontrollable rage seized him as he let loose a guttural scream, “DIE!”
Darkness swirled around her vision as consciousness painfully returned to Makoto. Groaning despite her efforts not to, Makoto slowly picked herself up and took stock of her surroundings. Cold stone was beneath her, and as her vision cleared she saw that the rest of the room was made of the same thing. The design of the metal door mounted in one wall made it quite obvious that she was in a dungeon cell. Considering what had happened right before she was knocked out, Makoto was actually somewhat relieved to find herself alive.
“Uhhhg… how long have I been out?” Makoto looked at her watch, a vague part of her mind being surprised that it was actually still there. “About an hour. Lovely.” Looking down, she wasn’t too surprised to find out that she was back in her civilian form. She stuck her hand in her pocket, but to her horror she found that her transformation pen was gone. In its place was a rolled up note. With trembling hands she open it up and read.
“My dear young girl,
Welcome to my dungeon. I took the liberty of confiscating your two little magical objects, that pen and the cell phone-like device. As long as you do not cause me any more problems and answer any questions I ask, I will keep you alive. Do not try to escape. The door and the walls have been reinforced with dwarven steel. I am sure that you are aware of the magic resisting properties of that particular metal. Sleep well, I shall greet you in the morning.
There was a resounding clang that echoed through the cell as Makoto crumpled the note in her fist and smashed her fist into the door. Tears came to her eyes as pain shot up her arm. Unfortunately, the door was unharmed. “$@#!”
She dropped back a step to launch a powerful kick, but it too had no effect. She would have continued, more to vent frustration than in the hope that she’d do some damage, but she could hear voices coming from behind the door. The thick metal muffled things too much for her to actually make out what was being said, but she did hear what sounded like another door opening and being slammed shut.
Makoto shook her head as she tried to figure out who might have become her fellow inmate. After a few minutes, she grumbled to herself, “Mom and dad are going to kill me if I get out of this.”
“You and me both.”
Makoto screamed as she spun around, planting her back to the door. Her heartbeat thundered in her ears as her eyes went wide until she recognized the person who had spoken. “$#@!# Siofra! Don’t DO that!” She took a moment get her breathing under control. “How did you get in here?”
The redhead pointed towards one of the walls. “The air holes are just big enough for a rat to get through.”
Makoto let out a breath of relief. “That’s good… wait a minute, what are you doing here?!”
“I followed you. I couldn’t let my big sister go off and get in trouble all by herself, could I?”
Makoto groaned. Suddenly an idea came to her. “Hey, can you find my pen? I might be able to knock down that door if I transformed.”
Siofra fell silent with an absolutely miserable look on her face.
“What? What is it?”
“Fauntleroy…” Siofra’s voice was barely above a whisper. “He broke it.”
Blood rushed out of Makoto’s face, turning it a deathly pale white. “Wh-what?”
“I’m sorry sis, when Herb showed up, Fauntleroy broke it to taunt him…”
“He b-broke… HERB? Herb is here?” Siofra nodded slowly. “Where? How? WHY?” Realization dawned on her. “He came to rescue me…”
“Uhm… actually, he didn’t know you were here…”
Makoto blinked, temporarily forgetting the fate of her pen. “Then why?”
“I think he had the same idea you did. You just got it a little earlier than he did. About half an hour after you fought Fauntleroy, Herb showed up by himself and attacked.”
“Uhm… since I’m still in here, I take it Herb lost. Is he okay? Fauntleroy didn’t…”
Siofra shook her head. “He’s in the next cell.”
“That was Herb?”
Siofra nodded. “He’s still unconscious and pretty badly beaten… Makoto… Fauntleroy used the dagger on Herb.”
Cold fear gripped the brunette as her sister’s words sunk in. “Siofra, please tell me you have an antidote.”
“I will have one soon. I’ll give it to him as soon as it’s finished.”
“Siofra, go get…” ‘$#!&… mom and dad can’t help without getting a death sentence themselves…’ “Please go keep an eye on Herb. Let me know when he wakes up, okay?”
Siofra nodded and transformed back into a rat. Just before she disappeared into a hole, she gave one last look over her shoulder at Makoto.
A while passed before anything would happen. Makoto took to practicing a kata, but she just couldn’t concentrate. Losing her ability to become a Senshi had rattled her badly, as had her failure to take down Fauntleroy. Herb’s condition didn’t help the situation either and made the simplest movements almost impossible to perform correctly.
Suddenly the door swung open to reveal the dark-skinned woman. In her hands she was carrying a tray with some food and water. Makoto thought about jumping her for a moment, but she remembered that the lady could turn into a drake. The woman set the tray down near the door and started to leave. “What’s your name?” She asked suddenly.
“Makoto.” She didn’t know why she answered, but she just didn’t feel like trying to be deceptive. “Why?”
The woman just closed the door and left. Makoto stared in a bit of confusion before moving to the tray. She started to eat, but realized that she wasn’t actually hungry yet. She moved the tray aside and tried to figure out an escape plan. Again, she just wasn’t able to concentrate. About half an hour passed when the door opened suddenly.
The dark-skinned woman stood there once again. “What sort of magic do you do?”
Makoto cocked an eyebrow at her. “Why should I tell you?”
“If you can do something useful, Lord Fauntleroy might keep you around.”
Makoto snorted derisively. “Puh-lease… I wouldn’t help that &*$!&# for any reason.”
“What if it would save Herb?”
Makoto paused for a moment before deciding to play it cool. “Feh. What does he matter?”
“If he means nothing to you, then why did he become so violent when Lord Fauntleroy told him you were dead?”
“He… he what?”
“Herb went into a berserk rage when Lord Fauntleroy hinted that he had killed you.” She leaned in to peer closely at Makoto.
“I…” Makoto’s shoulders sagged as she gave in. “I can only do weather magic.”
The woman looked a bit confused. “But that spell you cast earlier. It looked like a dragon and there was no storm.”
“If I had my pen, I could do some lightning spells. Maybe a bit more.”
“The pen that Lord Fauntleroy destroyed?” Makoto couldn’t stop herself from flinching at that. “I see.” Makoto was surprised to see that the woman looked disappointed.
what you wanted to know?”
“No.” The woman turned around to leave, but she stopped before she closed the door. “Is Herb your husband?”
Makoto blushed and fidgeted a bit. “Well, no… I mean, well, not yet… err, no…”
“But if he is not your husband, why did you come here?”
Makoto let out a sigh. “I came here to keep him from doing the exact stupid thing he did.”
“But why? If he is not your husband, then why did you interfere?”
“Because I’m trying to keep Fauntleroy from getting a whole lot of innocent people killed.”
“Wouldn’t it have been better to come with Herb, then, instead of attacking separately?”
“I was trying to… oh, what does it matter? I’m in here, you’re out there, and a lot of good, innocent people are going to get killed for no stupid reason at all!” Makoto felt her chest heaving as her anger built up. “Why do you care, anyways? Just get out of here and go back to destroying peoples’ lives for your ‘Lord Faunty’”
The woman stared at her for a moment longer before leaving. A few moments later, a skittering noise behind her alerted Makoto to Siofra’s return.
“Are you all right, sis?” The redhead asked. “I heard you yelling, what happened?”
“Oh, that drake-girl came in and started asking a bunch of stupid questions.” Makoto fumed for a minute. “How’s Herb?”
“He’s recovering from the effects of the poison. He’ll be fine in a little while.”
Makoto let out a relieved breath. “Good.”
“Do you want me to stay here with you?”
“No, that’s not a good idea. I never know when what’s-her-name will come back. Go keep an eye on Herb, please.”
“All right. Just scrape the wall near that hole if you need me. I’ll hear it.”
A little over an hour passed before the door opened again. “Makoto?”
The brunette couldn’t help but roll her eyes. “No, I’m her evil twin sister. Makoto got bored and skipped out.”
The dark-skinned woman frowned before closing the door. To Makoto’s surprise, she shut herself in. “My name is 6.”
“6? Like the number?”
“What kind of name is 6?”
“It’s the only name a drake is permitted to have.”
Makoto could only stare in confusion at her. Despite the situation, she felt a small measure of sympathy forming for her captor. “What kind of stupid rule is that?”
“It is dragon law.” Makoto noticed that 6 was looking at the ground the entire time, and not at her like she had before. “When a dragon lays eggs, only a few of those will hatch into full dragons. Most will become wurms, drakes, wyverns, or other ‘near dragons’. By our laws, only full dragons may have names or own property.”
“That’s kind of stupid, isn’t it? I mean… that’s like saying someone can’t own anything just because they’re too short.”
“It is dragon law. And there is a reason… only full dragons are… physically capable of having children.” 6 fidgetted some as she spoke softly.
“Why do you follow dragon law so adamantly when you serve a human.”
“Lord Fauntleroy is only human now because of a wizard’s curse. His true form is that of a great dragon.”
“You mean he’s a real dragon?!”
“Yes. And 38 and I are the only two of his fifty wives who continued to serve him when he was cursed.”
“Fifty wives? Wha- huh?”
“Male dragons are allowed to take as many wives as they want, as long as at least one is a full dragon.”
“What use could he possibly find in having that many wives?”
6 seemed somewhat confused at Makoto’s question. “A dragon of Lord Fauntleroy’s former status and power has a large horde. He would need many wives in order to maintain his property.”
“Okay, so?” Things slowly kicked into place. “You’re not wives, you’re slaves.”
6 finally looked straight at her as anger flashed across her face. “We are not slaves!”
“You do everything he tells you to, you have no right to property, you can’t even have children! What do you think a slave is?”
Confusion was plainly written over 6’s face. “But those are the duties of a wife.”
Makoto’s jaw dropped as she stared at her, flabbergasted. “Do you really believe that? A wife is supposed to be a partner and companion, not a servant. Matrimony is a holy union of two people, not the subjugation of one by the other!”
6 continued to look confused as she sought to wrap her mind around such an alien concept.
Makoto shook her head slowly. “Why did you two stay with him, when all the others left?”
“He promised to find a way to make us full dragons. I… I want a family.” 6 began to nibble on the fingers of one of her gloves as she looked back down towards the floor.
Makoto felt a part of her heart go out to the woman before her. She fully understood the powerful urge to create a family. None of her friends or family knew it, but she had always wanted to marry young and start a family. “So that’s why you wanted to know about my magic. You were hoping I knew transformation spells. But tell me, is it worth the cost?”
“I…” 6 fell silent.
Makoto switched lines of attack. “How long has it been since he made that promise?”
“Many years… I’m… not real sure. That’s not a very long time, to a dragon.”
“But he’s not a dragon any more, is he. He’s human, or at least his body is… Have you considered that he might not be able to fulfill his promise? Have you thought of all the other families you’re destroying along the way?”
Turning her head away, 6 closed her eyes.
“The youma, those ‘weird women’ that live here, they’re only hope to ever have children are the Musk. If Fauntleroy’s plan goes through, the Musk will be wiped out and you’ll be sentencing the youma to your fate as well. And will this attack give you what you want? Will it make you full dragons?”
6 remained silent for a while. It looked like she was about to answer when the door suddenly slammed open to reveal an angry woman. “38!?”
“6! Why are you in here talking to this girl? You found out what we needed to know and she’s useless. So quit wasting your time.”
“Come on, Lord Fauntleroy wants us.”
Together the two women left. When the door closed, Makoto cursed. She had felt 6’s resolve weakening. Just a little longer and she probably could have talked her into letting her and Herb go, and maybe even turning on Fauntleroy. Sighing, she sat down in a corner and waited, hoping that 6 would come back.
Outside in the hall, 6 and 38 were walking side by side. “What did you think you were doing in there?”
“38… do you think he’ll really follow through on his promise?”
The raven-haired woman remained silent.
“Do you think that after he gets his revenge on Seer’s Hamlet, that he’ll find a way to make us full dragons, 38?”
“I have a name, you know. It’s Jane.”
“It’s only a name you’ve given yourself.”
“I’m just correcting an oversight by my parents.”
“38, you know only full dragons can have names… or children.”
38 remained silent and 6 dropped the conversation.
Makoto waited for hours, but 6 never came back. Siofra checked up on her a couple of times, but Herb hadn’t woken up yet. Finally, Siofra told her he had come to.
“Would you tell him I’m all right?”
Siofra didn’t respond.
“He doesn’t know about what I am, remember?”
“Oh… damn… I forgot. I know! Could you take this,” she picked up the note that Fauntleroy had given her, “and do something to make him see it? Pretend to eat it or something?”
Siofra nodded and shifted to her rat form. She took the paper into her mouth and stuffed it into the hole in the wall that lead to Herb’s cell. Makoto could hear her struggling for quite some time before finally working free.
Inside of his cell, Herb stared miserably at the wall. ‘I failed… again. And poor Makoto went and got herself killed. Why? WHY?’ He slammed his fist against the wall. He was so wrapped up in his own thoughts that he never heard the sounds of the red-furred rat shoving a crumpled up piece of paper into the room.
Siofra circled around so that she would be in front of him and began nibbling on the corner of the note. Her face wrinkled in disgust at the taste of the parchment, but she continued. After a while, though, she looked up and saw that Herb hadn’t even noticed her. Sighing a bit to herself, she dragged the note closer and resumed eating. Once again, Herb didn’t see her. A bit of annoyance crept into her mind as she climbed up onto his foot and stared up at him. Still he did nothing. She bit down on his ankle, only to let out a small cry of pain as her tooth chipped a bit. Herb’s only response was to shuffle his feet some.
‘I didn’t even break the skin!’ Siofra glared in annoyance for a moment before giving in to her frustration. Using her claws, she climbed her way up his pants leg, across his chest armor, and onto Herb’s shoulder. A rather amusing incredulous look crossed her rodent face when Herb just continued staring at the wall. She rolled up the note like a newspaper, cocked back her arms, and with a swing that would have made Babe Ruth proud, slapped him in the face with her improvised bat.
That got Herb’s attention, and Siofra barely managed to avoid getting thrown across the room by an irate former prince. She dove for cover inside the hole just in time to avoid being roasted by a small ball of ki. Her tail didn’t quite emerge unscathed however, and Makoto was greeted with the site of an angry rat holding up a scorched tail in a very accusing manner.
“Thanks, sis… I owe you one.”
Siofra shifted to her human form and was just about to tell her how much Makoto owed her when a voice came from the hole. “M-Makoto? Is that you?”
“Herb!” Makoto dropped to her knees so she could place her head against the wall. “Are you all right?”
“Yes, I’m fine. Are you? Fauntleroy said… he told me he killed you.”
“No, I just got the crap knocked out of me by 6.”
“The drake. Her name is 6, believe it or not.”
“Oh. Makoto… WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING HERE?”
The brunette pulled her ear away from the wall a bit. “I COULD ASK YOU THE SAME THING, JACKASS!”
“I came here to protect my people!”
“And I came here to protect you!”
“I don’t need your protection, woman! You couldn’t beat me in our fight, and you had your friends with you! What made you think you could beat him?!”
“Why you arrogant, rude, jackass! I happen to have a lot more skill than I’ve shown you so far!”
A derisive snort came from the hole. “It shows. You beat me to the dungeons, at least.”
Makoto smashed her fist into the wall. “Listen, you little prick! I had a poisoned dagger that I planned on using on him. It wouldn’t kill him, but everyone would think he was dead and then you could waltz back in!”
Silence reigned for a moment. “So, that was your dagger? The one Fauntleroy used on me?”
Makoto was grateful that Herb couldn’t see her blush. “Er… yeah.”
“And it was poisoned.” Herb’s voice sounded strangely hollow.
“Oh, don’t worry,” Makoto responded brightly. She failed to see Siofra waving her hands to try and get her attention. “Siofra gave you an antidote.”
A relieved sigh answered her. “Ahh, that’s… wait, your sister is here?”
Makoto glanced at Siofra just in time to see the redhead smack her palm against her forehead and glare at her lightly. “Er… yeah.”
“You brought your sister with you?”
“No, she just followed me. Kinda like you did.”
“Odd. Fauntleroy didn’t mention that he had captured both of you, and this note only mentions you…”
Panic began gripping Makoto as she and Siofra stared at each other. The redhead leaned over to her sister and whispered, “If he figures it out, I am going to give you such a pinch.”
“That doesn’t matter. The important question is: Is she all right?”
Makoto and Siofra let out relieved breaths. “Yeah, she’s fine. She’s in here with me.” Silence fell for a few minutes before Makoto continued. “Herb, why did you come? Even if you won, the Musk would have to execute you and your family.”
“I am the last of my line. I have no cousins, uncles, aunts, or parents. I am the only one who would have been executed.”
“But what about your people?”
“They would have found a new leader.”
“Considering that he beat you before, did you consider the possibility that you would lose again? What about your people then?”
“I left a note to your father asking him to take those of my people who wished to Japan and find a home for them there. I doubt that Fauntleroy would bother with the effort of going that far to retrieve them.” A pregnant pause followed, only to be broken a short while later. “When I feel a bit stronger, I’m going to try smashing through the wall so you can escape.”
“Don’t bother. According to Fauntleroy, the walls have been reinforced with dwarven steel. I don’t think you’re going to be able to break them down.”
“What is this ‘dwarven steel’?”
“It’s a really hard metal from Jade that’s pretty strong physically and just this side of indestructible when it comes to magic or ki attacks.”
“Damn… Makoto… why did you risk it? I know you feel somewhat protective of the youma, thanks to the guilt you feel over the war against Metallia, but to risk death, either in battle or by execution…”
Makoto started to respond, but her mouth clamped shut. She looked at Siofra and began to speak again, only to stop once more. Siofra knelt down next to her and put her arms around her sister’s shoulders. “Mako-chan… tell him. Father always talked about the lost opportunities he had to tell the people he cared for the truth.”
“But I don’t know if I love him or not,” Makoto said quietly enough for her voice not to carry down the hole.
“But you do know you care. Tell him that.”
Makoto paused for some time while she examined her feelings again. When she finally found her courage, she spoke into the hole in the wall. “Herb… I like you. I wanted to help you. I had an idea that I thought I could use to get around your assassin law and keep anyone else from getting killed, so I tried it. I knew no one would let me try it if I told them, so I didn’t tell anyone.”
“You did it… for me?”
“Makoto, I-“ Herb’s voice was cut off by the sound of the door to Makoto’s cell starting to open. A rush of fear ran through her as she turned to look at Siofra. Moments before the door fully opened, only one human girl and a red-furred rat occupied the cell. As 38 stepped inside the cell, Makoto closed her eyes to try to get a handle on her frazzled nerves.
As she looked Makoto up and down the raven-haired woman leaned against the wall near the door. “Sorry to interrupt you two love birds.” At the surprised look on Makoto’s face, she tapped her ear, “We have excellent low-frequency hearing.” Makoto glared at her and the slight smirk the woman wore. “You sure have a silver tongue, you know. You’ve got 6 so confused that Fauntleroy won’t let her out of his sight now.”
Makoto sneered. “It’s nice to see she’s thinking about the consequences. What about you?”
“Me? I don’t want a family.”
Makoto cocked an eyebrow at her. “Then why are you still loyal to Fauntleroy, 38?”
“Call me Jane.”
“Fine. Then why are you still loyal to Fauntleroy, Jane?”
“Why shouldn’t I be?”
“It sounds to me like he’s using you.”
“It sounds to me like you’re trying to use us.”
“Riiiight. You’re just trying to get us to turn on Lord Fauntleroy out of the kindness of your heart.”
Makoto couldn’t find anything to say for a moment. “Actually, if we weren’t enemies, I’d still try and help you understand that you’re in virtual slavery. Fauntleroy treats you as servants, not wives.”
Jane just frowned and remained silent.
“You do know that in human cultures, marriage is a partnership, not a game of dominance.”
“I’ve seen plenty of your wonderful human marriages that were far worse than mine.”
“Some, yes. But others aren’t. Marriage is supposed to be a joint effort between both people, not just one.”
“If… we left Lord Fauntleroy now, there’s nowhere we’d be safe. Any full dragon that came along could claim us as his wives. And if he lived, he could order our destruction for our betrayal.”
Makoto shook her head sadly. “You really have no rights in your society?”
They both fell silent for a while. Finally Makoto spoke up. “Since Herb is part dragon, can’t he… I don’t know… offer you sanctuary or something?”
Jane sighed. “Like he would. We’ve helped strip his kingdom from him. Do you honestly think he’d give us sanctuary? We can’t trust him not to turn us over as soon as we were no longer of use to him, so don’t bother asking. Besides, he’d have to be descended from a great dragon in order for that to be a possibility.” Jane turned her head towards the door with a contemplative look on her face. “Oh, why not… just to satisfy my curiosity.” She walked over to the wall and knocked on it. “How much do you know about dragon society, Herb?”
“Almost nothing. The dragon who is my ancestor refused to speak of such things after becoming a part of the Musk.”
“What was this ancestor’s name?”
“Shen Long. Why?’
Makoto watched the fair-skinned woman’s face pale for a moment. “By the First Egg…” She shook her head a moment later to clear it. After regaining her composure, she turned to Makoto. “There are more people attacking Lord Fauntleroy right now.”
“More?” Makoto’s eyes went wide. “What do they look like?”
“Japanese. One looks a lot like you. Your mother, I suppose.”
“Please! Let me out! I have to save my family!”
“Sorry. No can do. I can’t betray Lord Fauntleroy that way.” Jane opened the door. As she did, Makoto tried to bolt past her only to be clotheslined and knocked her onto her rear. “You know, it’s a pity that dwarven steel is so rare,” Jane commented idly as she looked down on Makoto. “What with the damage that aura mage is doing, we could really use more than just that dagger. It would have been nice to reinforce the walls or something. And that storm outside is making it impossible for the archers to do anything.” With that, 38 slammed the door shut.
Makoto fought back tears as her mind raced, trying to find some way to get out and free her family. If only… “What the hell?”
Herb’s voice came from the hole. “Did she just say that the walls were not reinforced?”
Makoto turned to look at Siofra, who had resumed her human form. “And that there was a storm outside?”
“But why did she…” Realization dawned on the three captives. “There’s no time to waste. Which wall leads to the outside?”
Siofra pointed towards one of the walls. Makoto concentrated, reaching out with her senses to touch on the power surging in the storm outside. Tugging with her will, she called down a barrage of lightning onto the outside wall. A bright series of flashes followed by a deafening explosion rocked the fortress. When the dust cleared, a molten hole led to the outside. Makoto dove through, followed by Siofra. “Where’s Herb?” When her sister pointed out the wall, Makoto called down the thunder and devastated the side of the fortress again.
Makoto smiled fondly as Herb stepped through the debris and dust cloud. As the rain poured down, the Musk warrior’s body shifted and shrank some. The now female Herb tugged at her clothes to help them fit better as she nodded to Siofra and Makoto. “Let’s finish this.”