The True Endgame
“With that being done, I am sorry to say that I must depart,” Nell tells them.
“You sure you can’t stay?” Serra asks.
“I don’t want that bastard to get his hands back on you,” Cassiel says.
Nell shakes her head. “I do not wish to return, but I must. The longer I stay here, the higher the chance of being found here and all of you getting in trouble. I doubt that you would be spared of punishment a second time, so for your own good, I must leave,” Nell explains.
Serra and Cassiel look at Fenrir, wanting him to stop her, but he knows that he cannot. “Alright. I’ll get you back here with us soon, alright?” he says.
Nell nods her head and hugs both of the girls before hugging Fenrir, then she goes on to try and hug Bonekraka only to be rejected as he steps away, and she ends her partial hug session with Tabitha. “Thank you all for being so wonderful to me. I truly look forward to when I can stay with you for good,” Nell says with a polite bow before grabbing the cloth that she used to cover her in the crate. She tosses it over herself and carefully walks up the broken stairs.
“I’ll rescue you from him. Promise,” Fenrir says.
“I know you will, my hero.”
With that, they hear Nell step above deck and walk off of The Shoebill.
“I feel like I’m goin’ crazy. Haven’t you all only known each other for like a week? How in the heck are ya all so attached already?” Tabitha asks.
“Shut up. You were acting like you and Fen were best friends for life the moment that he brought you on,” Cassiel calls her out.
While those two start bickering, Fenrir focuses on the feeling that he’s getting. He feels exactly where Nell is. He knows how far away she is, whether she is higher or lower than he is, how fast she is moving, and he can also feel himself growing weaker the farther away she goes.
It only takes a few minutes of her being in the open before he can also sense her distress. Whereas she was walking normally before, now she is being forcibly carried.
But he can also feel something else – something that she didn’t explain.
He can sense exactly how she is feeling, and right now, he feels her hope. He feels her faith in his promise; he feels her belief in him saving her.
Maybe Tabitha is right. Maybe this is all moving quickly with little time had to properly think things over, but that doesn’t matter. No matter how quick it all may be, the only factor that matters is that the feelings he is sensing from Nell are real. He has direct access to her pure, unfiltered heart.
If she truly has this much faith in him then there is no way that he would ever even consider letting her down.
“I’m going out,” Fenrir says.
“Huh? Where?” Cassiel asks.
“We need to get ready for the next round. What we have right now isn’t good enough to win. It’s going to be us against two stupidly tough bastards, and they both reallywant us dead. Tabs,” Fenrir looks at Tabitha, “get this ship in even better shape than she was before the tournament. Do anything you want to her if it means getting an edge over our enemies.”
“Anything?” Tabitha asks as a grin slowly spreads across her face.
“Anything. Bone, Cass,” Fenrir looks at those two now, “I want you to spar until you can’t any longer. We’ve been seriously neglecting training our combat skills, so I want you to boost them up as much as you possibly can before the next round. We’ve got one and a half in-game days to get ready, and we’re going to need every last bit of help that we can get. If you don’t want to spar, go hunt something outside the city. Take Rock with you as well to get her some experience, too.”
Both Bonekraka and Cassiel smile and nod when they see the determined, fiery look in Fenrir’s eyes that they both admire.
“Serra, I know this might sound boring, but I want you to go and watch fish swimming around. If we’re supposed to catch a small serpent in this final round, you’re going to need some great aim with that ballista. We’ve gotten skills before from watching fish swim around that’s been helping us catch them, so get that skill up as much as you can since the ballista will be all yours.”
“Got it,” Serra replies with a thumbs-up.
“Tabs, when Corwin and Olly are back, I want you to tell Olly to get more practice with his magic and to work on that spell he cast earlier. Have Corwin stay with you and help you however you want,” Fenrir says.
“What about you?” Tabitha asks.
“I’m going to get some training in and see if I can’t make my partner open up to me a bit more.” Fenrir climbs up over the broken stairs. “Sorry about this, by the way.”
Tabitha shoots him a quick glare before sighing and returning to working on her new engine.
“I’ll see you all later.”
Fenrir gives Rock a few pats on her head, tells her that she’ll be hanging out with Bonekraka and Cassiel, and then picks up Rod to go off and get some of his own training done.
He makes it halfway down the pier before feeling something sting his heart.
Or rather, he feels Nell’s heart sting.
He doesn’t know what’s happening to her, but he knows that she’s staying still now as a darkness tries to suffocate the feeling of hope within her heart.
“What did I tell you about causing problems for me?” Ull asks. He has placed Nell inside of a cell within his flagship, and she is chained to it by her limbs as well as kept in a dark room away from everybody.
Nell refuses to give him an answer or even to look him in the eyes.
“You are,” Ull pauses for a moment to end his livestream, “really getting on my nerves, you bitch. Do you have any idea how damn annoying it is having to track you down over, and over, and over again? Not to mention that you can apparently control whoever I stick on guard duty. Do you know how annoying it is to try and keep a prisoner when they can just snap their fingers and walk right on out as if it’s nothing? All this time – all this time, I’ve… I’m just, done. I’m done caring about you. My new champion will be your caretaker after this tournament is over.”
“What?” Nell asks, looking up at Ull. She’s never heard Ull even entertain the idea of getting rid of her before.
“You heard me. I like to keep pets, but only those who are fun. You are no fun. You are just an annoying, overly dramatic bitch who has caused nothing but trouble for me ever since you have arrived. I know this might be hard for you to believe, but even I have my limit. We both know that I’m not the right man to break nor tame you, either. That is why I am handing you over to somebody who I believe could once this tournament is over. You were originally just going to be a one-night prize for him, but now you will belong entirely to him.”
Ull turns his livestream back on, walks out of the room, and goes to grab his new champion in waiting.
Nell sees a familiar face when he returns.
Alexander stands next to Ull outside of her cell.
“This is my new champion, Nell – well, he is not my champion yet, but he will be after he kills the wolf in the final round of the tournament,” Ull explains.
“Long time no see,” Alexander says.
“You – did you tell him where I was?” Nell asks Alexander.
“Ah, you mean when you first got taken away from the dog? That wasn’t me. I was planning on telling him about you, though,” Alexander explains.
“You being found aboard that pathetic little ship was just my tracking skills finding you,” Ull adds on.
“So, I hear that you’ve actually been treated pretty well here underneath my king. I can’t promise you that same treatment once you’re transferred to me. You know, it’s not like I can afford to treat you so nicely or anything like that,” Alexander says.
“Do not go into further detail. I do not care what you do with her once she is yours, but I do not want to hear of it,” Ull says.
“I know exactly what type of girl you are, and I know exactly how to train you. I am as good with brats like you as I am with putting down stray mutts. Both you and him will see,” Alexander tells Nell.
A sharp pain takes hold of Nell’s heart. Just from the way that Alexander looks at her is enough to make her feel more sick than she’s ever felt underneath Ull’s ownership. Ull may have been the one to capture her in the first place and has kept her as a toy this entire time, but as much as she may despise him, he has always treated her well. No matter how much she loves her body and would never want to start over, she is not sure that she could truly resist that were it not for how tame belonging to Ull has been.
But Alexander makes her feel different. There is a sick, twisted desire within Alexander’s eyes – the same kind of selfish desire that those whom have tried “rescuing” her before had. He does not care about her; he just wants to use her, and he will abuse every single one of the game’s mechanics that he can to get her to either obey him or quit to let an AI take over that he could force himself onto.
“Ull,” Nell says, looking up at Ull with teary eyes. She wants to ask him not to do this – she wants to beg him to not hand her over to this other man, but before she does, she remembers that she has a hero promised to come and rescue her. She looks into Alexander’s eyes. “You are jealous of him, aren’t you?” Nell asks.
“I do not think that there is a single man who wouldn’t be jealous of a king,” Alexander answers.
“Not him. He is no king, he is just a boy on a power-trip who hates not getting his way. He has not gotten his way with me, so now he is tossing me aside to somebody that he knows I would hate. This is just punishment, and any man who would be jealous of an immature boy like him is not a man,” Nell says, staring into Alexander’s eyes the entire time and treating Ull as if he isn’t even there.
“Watch your tongue, Nehalennia,” Ull says. “Unless you would like to be handed over now instead?”
Nell continues ignoring him. Keeping her attention on Alexander, she says, “You are jealous of my hero – of Fenrir. You wish you could be as well-loved as he is. Everybody who meets him respects him and likes him without him even trying, and you hate him for that. You are the type who has to act out for attention, are you not? While others naturally attract attention whether they want to or not, you are left in the corner forced to constantly try and prove yourself for attention. Your ‘king’ is just an immature child whom cannot handle not getting his way, and you are but a little boy jealous because you are not getting any attention.”
The darkness that began suffocating the hope within her heart lasted for only seconds before she was able to drown it with an overpowering light.
She has kept quiet all this time because she has never wanted to make life harder for herself. She was never punished for trying to escape until recently, but she used to get privileges taken away for speaking up. While trying to escape before was “cute,” now it is just seen as an act of annoying defiance just like speaking up against her captors is now.
“Are you both that speechless from my performance? I am glad to know that those theatre classes are paying off,” Nell says with a bright smile to both of the men glaring at her with rage. They are clearly trying to act calm, trying to ignore her words, but she sees right through their fake expressions. There is only one thing that she does not understand right now, and it is why Ull looks... hurt.
The hope that Fenrir feels coming from Nell is even stronger than before. He was worried for a second, but now he is reminded that he has nothing to worry about. She is staying hopeful and defiant no matter what she may be facing.
Fenrir looks down when he sees a bright glow coming from Rod’s gem.
“Feels like we’re in sync,” Fenrir says. “Let’s get some bonding and training done.”