Worms: Apocalypse

Prelude: Mindfire

In Which Drake Acquires a Map.

Posted by GnomeSplosion

4 Planting, 595 CY

Cornelius sat, resting in the lounge lobby of the Midnight Salute, apron slung over the arm of the chair next to him. His brow still beaded with sweat from his recent session with Constance Grace. His pocket now a few gold short from his weekly take at the lab as was his weekly habit, but damn if it didn’t help ease his mind, that girl was worth every piece. He rested his forehead in his hands as he leaned forward, a sign of both physical and emotional exhaustion. Cornelius hadn’t slept right in, well, years.

The alchemist was tired, hungry, angry and just on his way to drunk (the latter two just about as normal as you can get). Readjusting his posture and position in the chair he reached for his flask and took another long draw from its contents, the burn racing like liquid fire into his belly, a familiar heat in his blood. Purple Prose took notice of him but paid him no mind as this was his usual spot for the evening before he either called it a night and went home or passed out. The other girls tittered and moved around the room paying him no mind. He was no bouncer, the Salute had those, but he was harmless to the girls and her guards and known to be rather dangerous to those who would look to harm the former so she had no immediate reason to kick him out yet.

It was also true that the madame of the Midnight Salute felt a little sorry for the man, his lot hadn’t been easy with both parents passed so early and him in the mines before his 15th birthday. Plus she knew how he had helped the Grace sisters since their old man passed. He was troubled to be sure, but not a terrible sort of person. Cornelius Drake could have been considered a hero in a different city in a different time, but instead he was stuck here in Diamond Lake, where you are only a hero if you die that way and Cornelius wasn’t dead.

He closed his eyes hard for a moment and saw fire, heard rumbles, crashes, screams and he opened his eyes again dragging the last of the liquor from his flask. Years later and everything he couldn’t do when that cave-in took those men still filled his mind. He forced the visions back and tried to concentrate on the last hour up in Constance’s room, letting the liquor dull his older memories. They dulled slowly, his head muddled slightly, the sleepy feeling crept in front of his eyes for just a moment, the bliss of alcoholic slumber coming to release him from his own mind. His revelry was broken abruptly by a shriek that shocked him into sobriety, a state he was far from happy with.

A man, dust smeared from the mines and only half dressed now, came staggering, backpedaling from one of the girls rooms. Cornelius watched bleary-eyed for a moment as the man attempted to lunge back into the door and another shriek pierced his brain. The bouncers seemed to be reacting slowly, or was it that Cornelius saw it all moving slowly, he was only sure that he felt his fire rage. The girl in the room pushed the man away and when she emerged from the room Cornelius saw she had a bloody lip and the starting red of bruises on her cheek. Cornelius paid no heed as to who the man was, he didn’t even think about what he was doing and as the man raised his fist at the girl he leapt into furious action.

Bolting toward the man without a word Cornelius swung his arm out with a low right hook, catching the man in the ribs which uttered a wet snap. The man bellowed as he flew a few feet into a pile on the ground and looked up at Cornelius, wincing.

“Stay out of this!” the wounded man snapped at his attacker. “I paid for my privilege and I intend on taking it.”

There was another buzz in the noise, more voices but Cornelius and the man didn’t hear.

“I’m thinkin’ you are abusing the privilege you paid for, I suggest you leave.” Cornelius slurred a little on the first few words. He winced at the man, half to drive the fuzz of alcohol away and half to make the man understand he meant business. The buzz in the back sounded louder, more pronounced: ”...nelius! ... daft ba…”

“I’m going to break you in two if you get in my way, son.” Either alcohol, lust, pride or some combination thereof was clouding the man’s judgment but he carried on, pushing himself up. “Now move.” Apparently the man didn’t hear the words forming from the din in the background ”... of you, get the … OUT!”

“I don’t think I can do that. You come at me or this girl and it’ll be the last thing you do.” Cornelius spoke, evenly and with firm personal authority. The buzz cleared as the haze lessened and both men seemed to hear Purple Prose now.

“Both of you, by the nine hells, take this outside now or I’ll have you both locked away!” Purple Prose shouted, bouncers ready to jump on them, both looking uneasy at the prospect. Cornelius stared into the other man’s eyes with rage and gestured to the door with his head, trying to heed the madame’s warning, keeping his anger in check out of respect for her.

“I’m gonna’ teach you a lesson powder-man.” The man spat at Cornelius and limped out the door holding his side. Cornelius cracked his neck, popped his knuckles and grabbed an ampule out of his apron, stuffed his cigar in his mouth, downed the liquid and followed outside. Behind him Purple Prose and a few other girls went to the aid of the victimized whore while the bouncers went to bar the door to make sure that no one would be making their way inside for the time being.

Upon their egress the other man ambled into the alley and let out a shrill whistle between his fingers, haltingly due to the broken ribs. Cornelius felt fire of a different kind, burn in his muscles, his head hazed a little, his back straining and he felt his skin tighten some. Another man stepped out, apparently waiting outside for the provocateur to leave this place and walked up. “Teach ‘im a lesson,” he barked the order as Cornelius strode toward them.

The bruiser didn’t stand a chance, he landed a couple of blows aiming to put Cornelius out, but fell in two devastating strikes. One to the gut and another to the side of the head and the big man fell, bleeding from his ears. Cornelius’ mind was stuttering a little but he knew what he was after, and he was riding the wave of his Mutagen and it had given him the strength of a giant. The instigator began to scramble away from the bloody fight after realizing his man was in no shape to help. Cornelius stalked after him.

Cornelius, not in the mood for a chase, picked up a stray rock the size of his head and hurled it devastatingly at the mans legs, another wet snap as it connected with his knee and a crunch as he went to the ground on his devastated joint, a wheezing shriek rattled in the air but was throttled by the pain in his chest. The alchemist stalked up, bent down and grabbed the man by the throat and lifted him off his feet and held him from the ground. The man choked out and Cornelius pulled his arm back to deliver another blow when the man coughed out “WAIT!” This caused Cornelius to pause. What on Oerth could this man have to say that he would care to hear. “Stop! No more! I’ll make it worth your while!” The words more mouthed than spoken with a hiss of air.

Cornelius let up on the grip and through gritted teeth rumbled, “What would save you from a beating you earned? Talk fast.”

“Lower me and I’ll tell you. Please!” The man coughed as air moved freely again instead of gasps. “Treasure…” he choked. “Money enough to be set for life in this hell-pit.” He spit blood on the dirt after Cornelius let him on the ground again.

“Where?” Cornelius growled, keeping his mind in focus as the fire of chemicals raced through his muscles, making them ache.

“M… Map,” the man sputtered, drool and blood dripping from his mouth now as he reeled a little from the pain. “Here…” he pointed to his pocket.

Cornelius reached into the man’s pocket and fished out a coin purse and a sheaf of dirty parchment. He took half the gold from the pouch and the map. “Damages for Purple Prose and the girl, you understand?” The broken man nodded and Cornelius turned his back on the man in the ally. “I am understanding that I won’t see you around again.” The man didn’t have to answer, Cornelius was already walking away, pausing at the fallen brute to check for a pulse and then back to the Midnight Salute.

Cornelius left the coin with the bouncers and gathered his things from them, knowing it probably best to leave the Salute to its business now. He figured he had worn out his welcome this night. “Make sure Purple Prose gets this coin for any damages accrued by our encounter.” With that he turned and left. I’ll need to get with Xan to have him hold this for me… Not worth it to keep it in hand right now.

Chapter 0 – Preludes



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