Assassin Queen and a World on Fire - Seduction and the Arts of War
Anastasia’s fists stayed clenched; her eyes locked onto the entrance of the coliseum. The fools, so caught up in their lust and lechery that they let an assassin in.
Once upon the stars, the Zudrians were a terrifying superpower, a nation that demanded respect from all in their periphery. Back before the caste system, before inherited titles and accolades, tonight’s infiltration would have been impossible. But every roof, left under the elements long enough, will start to leak. Every boat will begin to let in water. And by the time Anastasia was born, the Zudra of legend had vanished.
The troops who had so kindly volunteered to assist the guard didn’t even bother checking for weapons, for they were so caught up in the tomfoolery of an “exotic Cruvelian female” that they spent all their time ogling and fondling her. The perversion of their overlords had trickled down through the whole empire, soldiers included, leaving common sense in the dust.
His voice was cold and deliberate.
Not a bit of life rested in him.
He exhaled. “You should not have gone through that.”
“No creature should have to,” she answered him, “but this is a war. These things occur.”
“And because they occur there must be a price to pay-“
“Hold your steed, Matthias,” she had to stop Solares from coming out of hiding and destroying the city out of untenable anger, “there will be a price to pay, and in blood. I am angry as well-” She smiled at the neon signs in front of her. “-but our time will be coming in no time.”
The slave auction and its associated party were an elegant event, rivalling the most lavish city halls Anastasia had conquered; bleach white and azure blue tables, drapery hung upon the ridges of floating, sparkling chandeliers, signs commemorating the event, and golden linen glittering the audience seats and twinkling before the eye.
In view as she entered, twin towers, each with a mounted gun pointing at the bottom, scanned incoming guests. Two eagle’s nests and here of all places, but to her relief, this area had fewer guards than the whole planet. Perhaps the Zudrians figured Corona Eternus to be secure enough for the coliseum to not need a whole battalion.
Up ahead and toward the left, another eagle’s nest loomed over the musicians’ raised platform. Anastasia narrowed her eyes, bringing the outline of a gun to her vision. The next sight brought the Zudrian house of horrors before her view; an orange reptile, middle aged with sharp claws, stood chained to a cinder block near the entrance. Beside them, on both sides of incoming guests, were many others, so many that they doubtless had entire families bonded together on display.
The great string instruments held in the hands of the musicians, strummed music for all ears to be serenaded. Their bows moved smoothly, intricate and experienced enough to strike notes just where needed. The symphony echoed its presence to wherever someone stood in the coliseum. As for clothing, it was as expensive as the musicians themselves doubtlessly were; they wore silver dresses, on either males or females, giving them a look that shone but yet failed to exceed the platinum and gold upon the conductor swaying his stick in motion with the beat measures.
With her eyes settling opposite the entrance, Anastasia’s ears were treated to gossiping Zudrian women who skipped across the floor, laughing with one another, and blowing kisses to men young and old. An order existed here, one in which the women submitted before the wealthy Zudrian male bouncers and princes. Too many times did Anastasia see a younger Zudrian female, who typically looked no older than her thirties, flirting with an elder of all people.
She wanted to gag.
Adjacent to her, a small voice spoke, naive and innocent in all. Whipping around, Anastasia prepared to inspect the speaker, question them, and even-
He was small, no older than five years old. His body was so thin that bones peeked out from his collarbone and shoulders. The metal tied to the boy’s ankle linked him to a human male with reddish peach skin and white hair. Through his shackles, it went to another orange skinned reptile, who sat dead to the eyes, and to another.
Anastasia’s heart panged.
“Mommy?” the small boy asked. “Are we going to be together?”
His mother couldn’t say anything; she only curled her lips inwards and tried to smile. “We might, we will always be.”
“But they’re selling us separately.”
“We’ll be together in spirit, baby.” she whispered, leaning over to hug her child. “We’ll be together in spirit…”
Anastasia’s feet advanced toward the imprisoned family without the consent of their owner. Her mind wanted to say something, to do something, to help them. New guests passed by her, glancing at the slaves, and muttering about prices to themselves. Some stopped and eyed a few slaves, and for reasons that caused the Assassin Queen’s bloodthirsty soul to scream.
Nonetheless, when she stopped like this, she looked just like those monsters.
The child staggered back, rattling the chains and whimpering. Hugging his mother’s leg, the young one shrunk away from the white-clad Anastasia. Though she never took children very seriously, hurt was an inescapable feeling during this moment.
“Hey,” Anastasia whispered, squatting down, “hey kid, come here?”
The kid moved away from his mother’s leg, advancing toward the Nashiyegan woman instead. He stood in front of her, eyes filled with apprehension and legs jittering.
Anastasia fought her quivering voice. “You don’t need to be scared, kid. Everything is going to be fine after this, yeah?” She had the kid’s attention, but only a small portion of his tension broke free. “You and your mama are going to be fine… everything is going to be fine.”
Her index finger flexed, summoning a swathe of ink onto her wrist. In bold letters, “Death to All Tyrants” appeared on both wrist and collarbone, depicted above a bloody guillotine. A disappearing tattoo, compliments of the Royal Seven, as some were already referred to as royalty. One of the Seven’s adoptive family members, a human scientist by the name of Krystal, managed to re-engineer these tattoos from a long dead adversary. Though it was initially a present for their septuplet, Anastasia encouraged her to make them available to their revolutionary allies.
The child’s eyes widened, his mother was at a loss for words, and the slaves stared at Anastasia. “I promise, kid, and I promise everyone… There are strong people who stand with you-” Winking at the child, she rose to her feet. “-heroes exist.”
With a flick of the Assassin Queen’s wrist, the tattoos vanished from her body. She then carried on with the infiltration, resolve and confidence broiling within her mind. As she walked past the rest of the agonized and shackled slaves, an emotional pressure cooker combined with adrenaline set her heart alight; she had work to do.
Getting past the nobles wasn’t a difficult task: it was only a matter of getting through all the violating hands that tried touching her. Zudrian culture figured this type of behavior to be normal. No matter how questionable their actions were, if done by a male to a female, it was socially acceptable.
Needless to say, Anastasia considered this aspect of Zudrian “culture” to be a farce, and Solares had made his opinion of it known.
Something or someone seized her attention up ahead. A Zudrian male, with blue skin as soft as a morning sky, ran his hand through his grey hair. He was fabulously dressed, clad in a red robe that flashed his solid chest and collarbone, a sign of egoism if Anastasia had ever seen one. Two females were each in his arms, laughing and flirting with him, fawning over his aged features, and making Anastasia sicker every second.
A text message flew into her vision. The display was colored blue, much like the holographic televisions she would watch with her adoptive siblings, but a symbol of a clenched fist and shattering chains appeared. Retinal computers, an ancient technological wonder used by the long extinct Quatopedipus Empire, better known as the Deathless Empire, and the source of those disappearing tattoos. “Deathless” was a bit of a misnomer, but they liked calling themselves that.
Those bastards were known for two things: technology and stealing souls to be used in horrific inventions. When their senile empire reawakened, they started a war that ravaged Zudra’s fleets enough for Cruvelian commoners to see the cracks in Imperial armor and be forced to take matters into their own hands. They fought without their occupiers’ help, forming a united front that equaled the Deathless Precursors in strength and number. Anastasia and Solares met fighting the Quatopedipan Emperor in his first appearance, and the Royal Seven finished him off at the climax of a decade-long war.
Watcher #5173: Chief Parazonum?
So, he called her something other than “Assassin Queen”. Watcher was better by text than by mouth, she’d have to say.
Anastasia Velos Parazonum: I’m always here, Watcher. Thanks to this technology, I can communicate with you whenever I want.
Watcher #5173: You have a new task.
Anastasia Velos Parazonum: Mind telling me what it is?
Watcher #5173: This device being implanted into the brain means I have to survive your temper, don’t I?
Anastasia Velos Parazonum: I don’t need to hide here. >:)
Watcher #5173: Fabio Incardriss, the one you are kidnapping, has an unprecedented amount of protection around him. High clearance security. He may lead you to something critical if we can figure out where he’s going after this.
Something critical, Anastasia let the thought rest in her head while she quietly wandered the floors. All her eyes had to be on the nobles, heavens forbid a lower caste cross them the wrong way.
Anastasia Velos Parazonum: You have my attention.
Watcher #5173: Delay the abduction and keep watch over him by any and all means necessary instead. Siphon information, let him lead you to places, wherever they may be. But if you encounter hostiles… you know the drill.
She couldn’t fathom doing this, even after all the dirty kills in her life. Not the torture, nor the disposal of unwanted persons, but flirting with that. Anastasia stole her current, itching problem of a dress to seduce and kidnap Incardriss; now, she may have to kiss that thing.
Anastasia would much rather go back to the time where she mailed boxes filled with beheaded generals to Beneventus officials, and the like. Those were the actions that made her the assassin queen and one of Nova Zudra’s most wanted. Then again, this rebellion was far more important to her than that; the past was the past, and now she had to free a bunch of slaves.
The Zudrian ladies’ man, as disgusting as Anastasia believed, was twirling a suitor in rhythm with beating strings. To make matters worse, said suitor had the nerve to blush and giggle into her hand with embarrassment.
Pitiful and nauseating, that was what she was.
Anastasia knew what she had to do, but she hated it. Her brothers and sisters would have to hug her to sleep every night for weeks, for even from this distance, she could tell that simply dancing with Fabio would fill her sleep with nightmares of his body.
Swallowing her raging hatred, Anastasia quietly maneuvered her way around the dancing nobility, letting them pass her when they desired, and forcing a small grin to those who leered at her body. Fabio, as classy as ever, pointed at another noblewoman standing at the long table ahead of him.
Time to move in.
“You know, Lord Incardriss,” a Zudrian lady said, “I would love for you to come to the capital with me, my father would like to meet-”
Anastasia forced herself into a stumble, pushing the noblewoman aside without much of a sweat; lying was a life skill that all creatures needed to learn. Fabio blinked, looking at his downed suitor before glaring at the one responsible for tripping her.
“Oh, how now?” the lord said, looking at her with rebuke. “You incompetent, clumsy, under-casted whore! Do you want to lose your head?”
If Incardriss had a clue who she was, then he would worry about his own head and try to flee; not that it would work. The Iron Hand, Governor of Nova Zudra, would receive yet another head from the enigmatic, most wanted killer Zudra only knew as the Assassin Queen. A pretty, bedazzled head from the Iron Hand’s secret admirer, love was in the galaxy.
The noble’s anger faded as she recovered from her fake stumble and straightened her posture, putting her hands behind her back, thrusting out her chest, and fixing doe eyes on Incardriss and his lovers.
“I apologize my lord, these Nashiyegan feet aren’t as graceful as a Zudrian’s.”
She spoke the dialect that most aristocrats from Zudra spoke, if only to mingle better. “I hope the poor lady isn’t injured. Is there any service you demand from me as reparation?” Her head tilted, deceivingly guilty doe’s eyes fixed dead on his own. The noose tightened around the prey; perfection realized.
His eyes could not help but roam across her figure. His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. And his partners, witness to it all, gave the same shocked, indignant expression throughout that a Nashiyegan had so captured their target.
“I can think of a way to make amends,” he began. Of course, he could. Fabio leaned and yanked her to him, eyes blazing lustful fire. “you are mine.“
When Fabio grabbed her hand, he was rough, but Anastasia would let the Zudrian believe himself to be strong. Wherever those hands ran, she gave the expression of unwavering submission. With the mental fortitude she had honed through dozens of infiltrations, she suppressed the shudder that followed each touch.
As he dragged her onto the dance floor under the appraising gaze of Zudrian males, particularly older ones, she felt like dessert on a stick. As for the women, who were subservient to their male masters, Anastasia received glares full of anger and ire. Despite their higher rank on the racial hierarchy, a lord was choosing a Nashiyegan woman over them, and even the eyes of their own partners were wandering her way. No doubt the Zudrian women couldn’t fathom Anastasia’s appeal—and she enjoyed every second of their misery.
“You must be his new favorite sex toy!” a very loud woman in a tiara barked at her. “If you had any idea what he does to you greyback filth, you wouldn’t be so happy—”
Lord Incardriss’s head turned toward the Zudrian countess, cutting short her rant. “Countess Inia, yelling at those beneath you is unbecoming-” Anastasia silently swallowed, surprised to hear something decent coming from this one. “And trifling with a lord’s property makes you into the dirtiest of whores.” Never mind.
Oh Lord Incardriss, your redemption could only come from the guillotine.
The degenerate was frolicking with her so much that Anastasia may as well have been a literal pet. Fabio flirted with women, told incessant jokes about foreign powers such as the Cordiserian Empire to the west of Nova Zudra, and dragged women by the arm to dance with them.
The Assassin Queen let herself be one of Fabio’s many partners. A masquerade between a silent destroyer and a lustful so-called man. The other women squealed when Fabio swept them off their feet to spin them around.
Anastasia beamed a different kind of smile when Fabio sauntered over to her— not that he could tell the difference. She let him lay his hands on her waist, following the steps of an old Zudrian dance. He raised her up, visibly struggling to do so like the weakling he was.
The Assassin Queen screamed. Many would think it was pleasure, but with the thrill of the hunt filling her, it was more a roar of challenge.
At her mind’s behest, the retinal computer activated once again. This time Anastasia brought up “Crown-0667” in the message selection queue.
Anastasia Velos Parazonum: Good news, Matty, Fabio is right where we want him.
Anastasia Velos Parazonum: I am glad this made you so happy.
Crown-0667: But I am certain, baby sister, that you would much rather mail someone’s head toward the Iron Hand. Perhaps, on the occasion that we find esteemed cattle, we can make off with his head and send greetings to Zudra.
Anastasia Velos Parazonum: Thanks, big brother, this is why I love you. Let’s do that with Fabio when we’re done with him! My birthday is coming soon, it could be your gift for me! XD
Crown-0667: I try my best to spoil you, sister… and this is what I get?
Anastasia Velos Parazonum: I took you to fight space pirates last year for your birthday and I hadn’t trained in months!
Crown-0667: Fine… :/
Anastasia Velos Parazonum: Anyways, the question I came to ask was whether the troops have landed.
Crown-0667: Worry not, Ana, Corona Eternus is teeming with our forces.
Anastasia Velos Parazonum: Cruvelia is united once again…
Crown-0667: This is why I told you to worry not, baby sister. You have armies beside you, so do what you do best.
Despite the pain she underwent to survive this mission, the support of her brother mitigated much of the torment. Anastasia appreciated him more than she imagined him capable of knowing.
Anastasia Velos Parazonum: We need to keep the Zudrians on their toes.
Crown-0667: Why don’t we just use me?
Anastasia Velos Parazonum: Absolutely not!
Crown-0667: In that case, there are other champions like me in our forces. Would you accept one of them?
Anastasia Velos Parazonum: Okay, your excellency, what’s the plan?
Crown-0667: Appetizer before the main course.
Oh, how she hated it when Solares used those metaphors and similes to express his points. Though she understood what he meant, it was annoyingly absurd to refer to himself as the “main course.” The Assassin Queen’s head tensed with irritation.
Nonetheless, his resourcefulness and willingness to help was what made their fraternal tag team so lethal. Even as Anastasia twirled with Incardriss, she forgot the gross situation and got to work.
Anastasia Velos Parazonum: We are using a fake, then; a fake you to come and attack this place.
Crown-0667: Have you any favorites?
Anastasia Velos Parazonum: Send in Delilah, she’s strong and the only person from the Licentian Order that I like.
Crown-0667: I’m part of the Order…
For his size, Incardriss possessed impressive stamina. When he finally hit the refreshments, Anastasia received an opening to continue her discussion.
Anastasia Velos Parazonum: No one is fond of brothers.
Crown-0667: Why do I tolerate you?
Many would be shocked that Anastasia didn’t meet Solares from some bloody fight. Well, she did meet him in a bloody fight, but he wasn’t the enemy.
Anastasia Velos Parazonum: Because if you don’t love your little sisters, they chop your head off.
Crown-0667: I would love to see you try…
She directed her laughing smile at her unwitting partner.
Anastasia was thankful to have a reason to smile, since her stomach was still in knots. If Solares was allowed to call in backup, then something here terrified the rebellion. The military police communications had been shut down and last time she checked; she hadn’t been detected. Yet the Zudrians had proven themselves strong enough to conquer worlds. And they tended to snoop around at the littlest feather drop. Even blind, they were formidable. Had they found something? Were they more prepared for this operation than they seemed?
Sometimes their paranoia worked in their favor, but this time she’d have to control it. The madness of the Zudrian war machine was entirely dependent on the fear that gave it legitimacy. The faux Solares would poke the sleeping monster, then Anastasia would have to whip the beast to go in the direction she needed.
Everything was resting upon her tactical machinations. She had no idea what story the history books would tell. Regardless of what happened, she needed to win this battle, and without costing the rebellion the war.
Anastasia Velos Parazonum: Enough chest puffing, let’s get serious. Let Delilah know that I need a diversionary attack at my location.
Anastasia Velos Parazonum: Thank you.
Fabio approached her once again, decreeing that Anastasia rejoin him in dance. The time spent coordinating had been valuable, but once again she had to multitask. The rest of the mission was out of her control, and as heart-stopping as that could be, she had to go with the flow.
Anastasia Velos Parazonum: Also, Matty? A personal favor?
Crown-0667: What is it?
Anastasia Velos Parazonum: Lay low, keep safe, I’m begging you here. You’re one of the few people that I have left, you can’t die.
Crown-0667: It takes more than a few bullets to kill the Solares.
Anastasia lived for the times in which she could prod Matthias out of the warlike Solares that encased him. Occasionally he felt like two persons in one body: a force of destruction on the outside and a kind soul trapped within. Once upon a time, Solares terrified her, not for her safety, but for the person inside the shroud.
She focused all of her attention on the decadent Zudrian player. The clock was ticking in its obnoxiously loud meter, the Assassin Queen’s heart following along. The dance she shared with her prey was a dance of death.
And only the gods knew who’d take their last breath.