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As the vision wound toward an end, and Natsuki was preparing to find voice and movement again, a presence brutally forced it's way into her mind. She felt viscerally violated, she tried to scream, tried to move, but found she was unable to do either. She was so terrified by the presence within her mind, and it's clear stated intent, that she didn't even notice Elayn moving toward her. All she knew was the desperate need to expel the foreign invader now squatting in her mind, keeping her in place. She retracted into herself, with the knowledge that the presence intended to kill her she decided that she had nothing to loose. She released all control over her spellfire, she began drawing in the fey energy from all around as fast as her body would. If anyone had been looking at the currents of fey they would see the energy pouring into her in a large steady stream. Her body wanted to revolt, the spellfire burned through her and she felt as if her blood were liquid fire. She was in absolute agony as she attempted to force her spellfire through the crystal and the link into the presence that invaded the sanctity of her mind. Her body would have shaken uncontrollably had it not been seized by the presence. "GET OUT!!" she screamed mentally as she attempted to push every bit of spellfire she had through the link.
Amalric watched the horror and his expression hardened as the vision played out before them. He faced the villagers. "Is this what we want to support? Can you stand back and say this is ok? We cannot allow these atrocities go unchecked. We cannot let ourselves become a part of this. If the result of us joining their consensus is the torture and subjugation of innocent furs, I say it's better to die fighting than to have any part of it. Any who disagrees, leave now and we bear you no ill will." He stood solid as he looked at the "face" of Tamas' masters "We will not join!" to Tamas he said. "Leave this place now. We cannot in good conscience be any part of your consensus."
The villagers behind Amalric, went from terrified to stoic as Amalric spoke. Some looked as if they were fighting an internal battle, but the majority of them took strength from their chosen leader and his words. They took confidence in the fact that their decision was the right path, and if they had to die for it, it was better than being a part of the alternative. They stood firm in the decision made, and many prepared to defend themselves on the spot, the fetch being the obvious target.
Aloine was frustrated at first at having her work on Russel's shoulder interrupted yet again, but as the vision unfolded before them, she couldn't bear to watch the suffering presented. She buried her face in Russel's shoulder and wept; for the suffering of the innocents, the choice that had been forced upon these villagers, and for Russel. She put her arms around the ginger cat, trying to offer a bit of comfort despite the fact that she was not in the best emotional condition herself at the moment. "why?" she whispered, barely audible, to nobody in particular.
Greater and greater torrents of spellfire coursed through the crystal and into a presence too overwhelmingly vast to care or notice. The assault was shrugged off as easily as a mosquito bite. Instead the presence grew more and more prominent, new alien thoughts clogging her mind like detritus clogs a city street. Thought became more difficult, and distinguishing between thoughts her own and thoughts from the void became harder. The concept of self began to blur and fade.
The vixen's eyes began to blacken; her pupils began to fade. Amongst the sea of beady eyes watching through the crystal projection, two shimmering motes appeared and began to resolve into a new pair of eyes, familiar and foreign in the same instant, totally devoid of warmth, totally devoid of their owner's former fiery personality. She could peer into her own eyes, split between the outskirts of the Fey village and that immaterial place hovering before her, and watch the meticulous dissection of her soul.
"Natsuki," a voice emerged from the chaos of her mind- and was mirrored on her own lips- "you struggle in vein against a power infinitely your greater, against a mind you cannot begin to understand. You think yourself righteous, you think you fight for good against those who would kill indescriminantly, but you are mistaken."
"Your people have had blood on their hands for countless millennia. You are a danger to yourselves, and you are a danger to the world we share. We cannot allow your continued sovereignty. Your time must come to an end."
"A Feilan Fey rushes to your rescue. She will take the crystal away, but you are already here, Natsuki, and we are already with you. Her actions may quiet the voice of Consensus, but you can no longer truly escape it."
"Your friend is too late."
The Fetch was already moving when Elayn arrived. The otter women succeeded in dislodging the crystal- the vixen hadn't been gripping it all that tightly- but as her hand had been closing with the crystal, the gaping maw of the Fetch had been closing on the space where the hand would be. The two connected and the creature bit down on Elayn's wrist with enough force to crush bone.
The vision, meanwhile, cartwheeled into nonsense and burst into fleeting shafts of light as the crystal tumbled. It finally dispersed with a noise resembling a sudden clap of thunder rolling across the landscape, lingering for many moments- ever attenuated, until silence returned.
Tamas backed away from the villagers. He was not as willing to fight them now as he had been before his conversation with Elayn, but he had little choice at this point. "Please," he pleaded, and for all that was happening, for the growing restlessness of the Fetch, for Tamas own gradual transformation, his voice designed to be perfectly trustworthy and perfectly sincere did indeed sound perfectly, sickeningly trustworthy and sincere, "I beg of you, reconsider your position! Don't you understand? None of you will survive this. You are throwing your lives and your futures away for an ideal without lasting permanence." He grew larger and his face became more angular as his skeleton rearranged itself. The prismatic follicles of his "robe" lost their color and returned to the appearance of his usual grey pelt- a very dense, full, wildly unkempt pelt more like the fur and mane of a feral lion than the coat of a civilized Feilan. The follicles along his back pushed further out from his flesh, becoming more like spines; sharp and inflexibly rigid.
The resulting creature was much larger than a Feilan, quadrapedal like a feral rat, possessing of vaguely ratlike features. The voice had deepened and lost much of its faux-emotional inflection, and it emanated from his skull rather than his mouth, "you cannot win this war, but you have a chance to at least survive. Throw your lives away if you like, but what of your children, your loved ones? Will they die for your own convictions, too young to make their own choice? To fight is to die. Wait a generation, allow them to grow, to think for themselves, to make their own choice. If they wish to fight, fight only then. One generation will make no difference to my Masters. Resistence will lead to the same unfortunate end for your kind."
The construct doubted these creatures could be swayed now. Like so many before them, they would charge headlong into oblivion only because to do so was 'right' and to stand by a Consensus whose choices they didn't understand was 'wrong.' He did not frown. In his current form he could not display emotions. His face was not motile enough for expression. However he did… feel… like frowning. Tamas' cast his enormous, beady gaze on Amalric. His voice was now totally devoid of life, "I will not leave, Amalric. This can only end one of two ways, and neither involves my departure. You will join Consensus, or you will be destroyed."
The Fetch had seen so docile before, one might even think them adorable in the absence of information about their past, like gigantic, rat-shapped cattle swathed in rough hewn fabric robes. They'd spent most of the time sleeping and lazing about. Unhindered by hunger, unhindered by thirst, they were the vision of ignorant contentment. But this appeal quickly faded, for they were no longer still, no longer in a relaxed state. They were still relatively slow creatures, but they moved with a confidence and vigor the primitive versions brought to the Black village had lacked.
They did not attack the gathered townsfolk. Instead they surged along the circumference of the village, away from the grouping of the villagers, positioning themselves to enter the settlement proper. They followed a tactic out of Vedicus' book. A people's will to fight rests on the continued survival of their progeny- the young, helpless furs who would likely still be in their homes. Evil and Efficiency are so easily confused.
The Killercraft, meanwhile, circled ever lower.
A question had been asked, a nearly inaudible question aimed at nobody in particular, but by now their ears were as omnipresent as their eyes. The vision and the face of Consensus had been banished, but the voice abruptly returned louder then it had been. It sounded as if it came from thin air, but in fact it emanated from the outskirts of Pleifdrings-Emfal- from every direction. A shrill, miniscule fragment of the voice came also from the tiny feral rat standing on its haunches between the Fetch- along with Natsuki and Elayn- and the native Fey. Any pretense of feral, stupid behavior was gone. Though it remained a tiny feral creature it was attentive, absolutely focused, its eyes glimmering rapidly as it looked between all of them.
"Peaceful coexistence has proven impossible in the absence of enforcement. Left alone, your people succumb to base fears and bigotry aimed at all that you do not understand.
"You think yourselves masters of the world due to your concentrated, singular intellects, but what good is intelligence when it is entombed entirely within a single, mortal, vulnerable vessel? It spawns fears, it spawns cognitive monsters, it spawns irrational hatred, it achieves so little in so short a life, and when that life has ended, it is lost forever.
"You take your treaties to your graves. Kings die. Empires fall. Peace and stability collapse.
"We grow tired of living in the shadows of those so inferior to ourselves. We grow tired of your tumultuous lives and the collateral damage you create in your ignorance. We grow tired of the chaos you engender. Single-minded creatures like yourselves must be managed and controlled, for your safety and ours. Those who resist must be put down, or made to serve our purpose.
"We extend to you one last chance to avert an abysmal fate. Submit to our authority, or surrender your futures, forever."
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Kasha had just begun to hope that things could go well, the villagers had just voiced their absolute refusal to stand with the consensus, when Elayn’s cry of pain reached her. Kasha turned, but she’d taken no more than two steps towards her mentor when things turned dangerous, suddenly.
The raven-cat hybrid backpedaled a pace at Tamas’s transformation, and her revulsion only deepened when she perceived his devilish strategy—or was it the strategy of his masters? At this point, it mattered little, all that mattered was countering it, making sure they did not succeed.
The answer came from an unexpected source: her husband, Bardon, ever the reluctant fighter, and rarely ever a strategist; but now he seemed to speak like a soldier of the ancient Edwinian Empire.
“Fey of Pleifdrings-Emfal, we could not promise you peace, but one promise we made we will fulfill—you will not fight alone. We fight with you today.
“Quickly! Gather all non-combatants in the easiest house to defend! Form three rings around it—innermost, Ranged weapons, if that’s your best fighting style; middle, Magic specialists; outermost, close-range weapon fighters. Have your best medics inside the house where the others shelter, and be prepared to help move casualties inside!”
Having shouted all this at the villagers, he could only hope they would listen. Now, he had to lead his own. He turned to his mate. “Kasha, keep the non-combatants safe.”
“Bardon! I can fight!”
He took her shoulders, speaking in a serious tone she’d almost never heard him use before. “I know. But I’m trying to protect two lives, not just one. If our defenses are breached, you’ll be among the last line of defense, but we’ll also need you to keep the kids calm so that the parents can fight.” Then, he lowered his voice to a whisper, “And I’ll need you to keep Elayn there, she’ll want to try to fight, but she’s already hurt.”
“I kin ‘ear ye, ye know,” the black otter grunted as she struggled painfully to her feet. “I may not be much use in a physical fight now, but I kin still sling spells wit’ the best of ‘em. I was a rune seller, ye know. We’ll need every able body, form the looks of it, so don’t ye dare try to stop me, Bardon.” With that, she stumbled off to join the line of Fey specialists, slipping on a gauntlet and wrapping an amulet around it to deaden the pain until after the battle, when there would be time for a more permanent solution.
Bardon turned to the other two. “Aloine, will need you with the Medics to keep as many people in the battle as possible. Russel, do you want to stay with her or join the close-range specialists?”
Kasha looked at her mate, worry in her eyes. “Where will you be?”
The squirrel-cat hybrid dropped his paw to the dagger he’d acquired after their first fight or a Fey village, also conscious of his sling and stone pouch. “Wherever they need me, I meant what I said about them not fighting alone.” He kissed Kasha on the cheek. “Stay safe, love.”
She watched him run off to join the assembling fighters, and as she rushed towards the assembling non-combatants, she muttered, “Return to me once more after this fight, centurion.”
C. S. Lewis
"With the possible exception of the equator, everything begins somewhere."
C. S. Lewis
"There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, 'All right, then, have it your way.'"
C. S. Lewis
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Then all thoughts were overwhelmed by the ten thousand-fold voice of Consensus itself. The ultimatum was laid down. Russel was too sad, too sick, and too exasperated to have any emotional reaction on top of it all, not even fear. "Oh, go boil yourself!" He yelled out, rather illogically, before falling into line as Bardon and Kasha began to organize resistance. When asked where he wanted to be, he looked at Aloine, then back at the squirrel-cat. "I'll stay with her, make sure she's protected in the battle." Never mind that he had one arm, it wasn't as if he'd be less useless anywhere else, right?
"you say your consensus is so much better!" She screamed "but it strives to take away everything that makes us what we are, it is worse than the murder and war feilans practice among ourselves. I will NEVER let it take me alive." If she could she would sooner die than become a part of the faceless mass that called itself consensus to loose herself, her individuality, to become just another part of the mass.
Spellfire enveloped her hands and arms as got within melee range and threw a punch at Tamas that would easily kill the average fur....
The some of the villagers immediately went running for their homes and their children, but the majority of them looked to Amalric who deferred to Bardon. He had to admit, the hybrid had a cool head on his shoulders at the moment, and had a plan that was probably their best option. He started barking orders to the villagers, organizing them as Bardon had said and sending them off. The majority of the villagers, especially those who worked in the mines were masters at using the fey to drill, and create explosions, both useful in a heavy fight. those who were not strong enough, or experienced enough in the fey had more mundane weapons ready as they followed Bardon's plan.
Amalric stood his ground as Tamas changed, he would give everything to protect his people, including his life. He was no slouch with the fey, or a sword, but as he looked at the monstrosity before him, he wondered if he would survive the battle.
"what you plan is genocide, it is no better than the atrocities you claim we commit....you are no better than us, you are merely different." he retorted "the future you propose is not worth living in, and I will do everything I can to prevent it"
Aloine was still an emotional mess, though she did have the presence of mind to grab Elayn and heal the damage she had sustained. Words could not express how grateful she was that Russel had chosen to remain with her, healing though this battle would be hard enough without having to worry for him; not to mention she could use all the support she could get right now. She squeezed his paw in silent gratitude that was easily read on her face, and let him lead her to where the other medics had been gathered.
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