No Promised Victory (Kamon Lionward)

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No Promised Victory (Kamon Lionward)
Date of Cutscene: 04 January 2015
Location: Odin, the Iron Desolation
Synopsis: Victory Day comes and goes, and Odin rises up against its children.
Cast of Characters: Kamon Lionward

Odin was never terribly impressive from above. The view of the jagged, metallic landscape was almost uniform, save for the rising spires of the settlement in the heart of the plate. Everyone who ever came to it from the outside would say the same thing: it looked dangerous, as harsh and unforgiving as the people it forged. The clamor on the approach was another remarkable point, the endless grind and clash of metal on metal carrying far into the sky. The sound was endless, day in and day out.

Silence was a comfort that came once a year.

"Cutting it awfully close, aren't you?" A young woman pushed off the carved and etched wall of the airship dock. Garbed in metallic grey and charcoal, her hair was the most remarkable thing about her: dyed and styled to resemble a burning flame. She snatched up the enormous stave next to her, displaying her impatience with her actions and words both.

Kamon adjusted his pack, shrugging a shoulder. The red robe from the celebration had been shed; his armor, the same bright color, stood out among the greys. "It isn't like I wasn't going to make it," he said. He started towards the exit at a brisk walk, casually deflecting an 'accidental' swipe of the stave from the flame-haired girl on the way. "We'd better get to it. The Day is almost over. Which sector?"

She didn't respond. She just gave him a hard look, shaking her head and matching pace. Kamon slowed on their way out of the dock, falling into step next to her. "Lisse." He glanced at her, his tone a touch wary. "What's the problem?"

"You," Lisse said brusquely. "Everything about you. Your attitude, your stance, your being here. You're walking like you're not afraid of anything. Like you own the place. Talking like you're going to be giving the orders. You go away to that school," she spat, "come back once a year, and think --"

Kamon cut her off. It took effort to keep his voice cool and his attitude collected. "It's not like that. I'm just trying to make peace with what we've got to do, here. It's like great grandfather said --"

His interruption is mirrored. "Don't you quote him at me," Lisse snapped. "At least I stayed, like he'd have wanted. What's a few tricks with a sword to real dedication, Parivir?"

Kamon didn't have anything to say to that. He looked away. Lisse's expression changed, her furious countenance changing abruptly to reflect surprise and regret. It was long minutes of traversing the otherwise-deserted dock before either of them said anything at all.

"Sector Seven," she finally said, voice low. "Western limits. Folly's organizing. We should go."

They went.

-- ~ --

"Healer! We've got wounded!"

The cry fell on nearly deafened ears. The Odynari who sounded it found herself beset by monsters in an instant, attacked by twisted metallic Nightmares that could spring hundreds of feet in a single bound. With their singular, downward-swept forelimb ending in a jagged point, they'd been grimly compared to Dragoons in function. It made their sudden leaps that much more dangerous.

The first was struck out of the air before it ever reached her. An enormous metallic shaft split one of the leapers in half, shattering its spine and sending it tumbling in two different pieces down across the landscape. Lisse didn't bother lining up a second shot; the other, shouting girl spun on nimble feet and swung her mirror-bright glaive across the path of the two others, cutting a violet tear in the air that warped space and threw off their descent. They landed hard on the torn grey ground.

Blue light formed and flared, flash-freezing their legs to the ground. The wounded Black Mage held his mythril-capped rod in one unsteady hand and held his insides in with the other, building the ice formations around the creatures in fast-forward. His hand drooped, and they began to free themselves -- only to be struck dead when the White Mage and his vanguard arrived, the sprinting Parivir's sword proving sharp enough to part steel.

"Divines, Lionward, your timing is something." The woman with the glaive hustled over, letting out a sharp whistle and waving in a group of heavily-armored Templars hot on the heels of Kamon and the White Mage. "Two wounded, one dead, right there," Folly continued, pointing with her free hand at a divot in the jagged, irregular landscape. "Take one of the Templars along with you and the mage. Bring them all up. Lisse can cover you."

"Why..." The Black Mage, his life no longer imperiled by his injuries, managed to speak. His voice was a touch fearful, but largely incredulous. "Why the dead? Just gonna -- get us killed."

Kamon looked down at him. The injured Odynari's style of dress and speech bore heavy Ifriti influences. A borrowed blade, he thought. He opened his mouth to say something reassuring, but Folly cut him off, all business as she scanned the horizon. "We're not leaving them anything to work with if we can help it. Come on; faster Lionward and the others gets your squaddies, the longer you get to sit around."

A horn sounded. Heads turned towards the source in the south, straining to hear the tones. Kamon caught it first. "Sector Six is calling for backup," he said. "They're under the mag-storm, right? Lisse, can you call it in to the outriders? Their comms must be out."

Folly nodded in approval. Lisse scowled at the apparent order, but hurried to obey. Kamon didn't have time to wait to see the result; he'd have to trust they could make it. He had his own task to carry out, and the battle wasn't nearly through.

The only breaks in the fighting were the ones they made.

-- ~ --

They slid into cover with practiced dives. Two men were already resting inside it, one clad in grey leather and another in chain and scrap iron. The first wore a bloodied bandage looped around one eye like a badge of pride. They both nodded to the three as they arrived, and kept low in the smooth trench. It looked more like a cresting wave of metal than a dug-out pit.

"Yo." The man in the leathers looked to the trio, speaking as he assessed their measure. "Anders, Thief. This is Mock, Geomancer." The scrap-armored man nodding fractionally, keeping his hands pressed to the inside walls of the trench. He bore a look of concentration. The three introduced themselves quickly.

"Folly, Spellblade."

"Lisse, Sniper."

"Kamon, Parivir."

Anders nodded to each in turn, quirking a brow in Kamon's direction. "A Lionward, huh? Guess you're all over. Gyle's handling things over in Sector Two on the inner side. Me an' Mock just came from there. I thought you," he asked, looking to Folly, "were running the show in Outer Five?" Kamon flinched when his father's name came up. Lisse looked momentarily incensed. Anders didn't spot either.

"Was," Folly said, "'til Six blew the horn yesterday. We're checking in with the scout groups to see if anything's made it over since. You're the relay, right?"

"'s'right." Anders bobbed his head in a nod. "Expecting a Ninja team to show any second now. We've got guys on the flanks --" He gestured with his fingers in either direction, "-- ready for aerials. Mock's got the groundpounders watched, for the next push." Anders rapped a metal-plated knuckle against the trench wall. Mock made an irritated noise, drawing a laugh from the Thief. "Sorry, chief. Anything yet?"

Mock spoke, his voice a low, gravelly sound, harsh and tense. "Nothing."

"Huh! They must be doin' their jobs. Glad we got some experienced folk down here this year. Last time --"

"No." Mock's voice cut in like a knife. "I have nothing. There's nothing moving."

Anders paused, his expression going from light and jovial to something darker. Fear crept up his spine. He opened his mouth to speak.

The attack came before the first word left him. Spikes rained from the sky, dropping into the trench and spraying the far side with metal shards. The occupants pulled in, making themselves smaller targets even as the black metal ricocheted within the confines of their cramped bastion. The sound was deafening and distracting. It was all over in seconds, the vast majority of the metal filling the bottom of the trench to their sides.

"I thought you said we had cover on the flanks?!" Lisse's voice was the first thing they heard when it had passed. "What the fuck was that?! What the fuck happened to those Fusiliers?!" Kamon said something, but it was too quiet; Lisse didn't hear it. She grabbed the stave of her bow, stringing the enormous weapon in a quick motion. She started to raise it, scanning the trench.

"Healer." Kamon's voice, louder this time. "Healer!"

Lisse turned, followed Kamon's eyes. Folly lay on the bottom of the trench, black spines stitched up her right arm and across her chest. They stopped at her collarbone. She spasmed, convulsed, blood welling up. The exposed skin around the wounds started to blacken and burn. She tried to cough, but it came out a wet noise as she struggled for breath.

"Poison spines. Fray me," Anders cursed. "Metallicore. Mock --" Lisse pushed past him, drawing the last capsule off her belt. She pulled it apart, crushing a ball in one side into powder with one hand and tearing Folly's coat with the other. She dumped the powder across the blackening wounds, then broke the seal on the liquid cap and added it to the mix. It started to smoke. The black color halted, started to recede.

"South side, north side," Mock said suddenly. His fingers were pressed hard against the trench wall. "Patterns... leapers, hounds. Lots. In the trench. Must've ambushed the Fusiliers." He anticipated the question before it was asked. "Just us."

"How long until the Ninja show?" Kamon stood in the trench, hunched over and searching the pouches at his belt. He didn't have any medical supplies. Instead, he pulled out small boxes with what looked like stuck wind-up keys sticking out, holding them in one hand and priming them with a little MP from the other. "Minutes, you said?"

"'bout that." Knives practically materialized between Anders' fingers. "They should be fresh. Just gotta not die 'til then. Easy, right?"

Kamon flung the boxes to either side. They slid in the trench, several splitting open on the bounce and deploying trip-wires across the length. The few others had a barely-perceptible glow from the side near Kamon, a light letting him know they were set. Gifts from a friend that were about to come in handy, Kamon thought.

The metallicore winged overhead, the part-leonine, part-scorpion and part-avian construct starting to grow new spines. Lisse raised her bow, taking up a position between the Parivir and the Thief, favoring one leg over the other. The Geomancer didn't move, but the tops of the trenches seemed to boil, plates of steel jutting up from the landscape to form a short, crude canopy.

"Yeah." Kamon managed to conceal the tension in his voice. "Easy."

-- ~ --

Kamon was tired. He was worn down after days of constant, nearly-unceasing fighting. He was injured, his arm bandaged from a deep bite and his legs treated for burns from hot metal. Too little to justify expending more healing now, too much to be useful on the line. He'd have a few scars later, but there would be a later.

Not for some.

"How many more," he asked, unable to keep the weariness wholly out of his voice. He looked to the other three, all falling in the same category as him. Dross, they called them. Something extra. Something unwanted, when they needed pure steel. There was no room for weakness in these days. They found some use for them, but it was a duty no one wanted.

"This side's clear. We can bring them in and unload." One of the other three jumped in the front of the truck. The two others threw rock-paper-scissors to see who got the other seat. Kamon didn't bother. He had volunteered to sit in the back, a position the others thought he was stupid to take willingly. It put him in with the cargo.

With the bodies.

He started to limp towards the side of the truck. A hand touched his shoulder, stopping him and drawing him out of his deep, dark mood. He turned, and for the first time in nearly a year, he came face to face with his father.

"Kamon." Gyle was like an older mirror of the young man, as would be expected. His hair was white to Kamon's iron-grey, his eyes almost pitch to his son's rust. He wore loose-fitting robes, carried a curved sword. Gyle didn't have any of the wounds his son did.

Kamon was silent for a few tumultuous seconds before he said anything. "Dad. You didn't come to dinner last week." A hint of accusation colored his tone. He'd heard him promise he'd be there, before he went to Odin. Nearly a full twelve days of intense battle, and their family always tried to get together for a meal before any of them went.

"I had to be here." There was a hint of a pause. It was enough hesitation to note, not enough for Kamon to call him on. "I'm sorry."

"Yeah." Quick, short. Enough to keep the emotion out. Most of it.

"You shouldn't be here, Kamon."

Kamon lifted his bandaged arm, gestured at his legs. "Only fit for dross duty."

"I meant," Gyle said, a note of gentle admonishment in his voice, "you should be back at school. Not here, in Junkyard. Someone else can do this. You've done more than enough." He paused for a moment. "You..."

The younger Lionward let his arm drop back to his side. He sounded defensive, angry even. "'You' what?"

Gyle smiled. The expression was sad. "You're so much like your mother."

Kamon lapsed into silence. It was no comfort.

"Go." Gyle tugged on his gloves. "I'll finish this. You should be able to make today's ship. Let your friends know you're alright. They'll be worried."

Kamon took a step back; turned, nearly stumbled. He started walking stiffly towards the entrance to the city proper. Goodbyes weren't something you said in a time like this. Gyle turned the other way, looking at the cargo, frowning as he closed the hatch to the bed. He did not let his gaze linger on the contents overly long. He did not want to recognize the blackened occupant with the hair like flame.

-- ~ --

The airship rose, moving away from Junkyard. There was no silence this time. The clamor came from below this time, the sounds of the sons and daughters of the First Blade fighting and dying in an endless battle. The individual notes blended together from this distance, growing to make the remarkable cacophony of the Iron Desolation. It would be impossible to know what was happening from up here, unless you'd been told.

He knew. They all did. Yet knowledge and noise was not enough to stave off true and utter exhaustion.

Kamon slept, but he did not dream.