Part 8: Jennifer
"I see a scout," Jennifer said. "Want me to take the shot?" Some grunt, probably a new recruit, looked out at the town with a hand over his eyes to shield them from the overhead sun. His cruel leaders hadn't even given him binoculars. "I bet he thinks he's well hidden too. Shame,"
"Does he see us?" Connor asked.
"How the hell should I know? He sees the town, that's for sure. I doubt he sees anything specific though." Her right hand tensed and her index finger curled around the trigger, anticipating the chance to shoot this newbie down.
"Leave him. We don't want the attack to start before the others are ready."
Jennifer snorted. "You're no fun."
"And you're a psychopath."
"Sticks and stones, big bro. Rifle rounds, though..."
"How's it looking up there?" Someone shouted.
"Lots of ducks, but the wolves haven't popped up yet," Jennifer replied.
"The attack hasn't started, Uncle Xavier," Connor called back down.
Jennifer sighed and set her rifle down, stepping over to the edge of the roof. "Have you guys finished setting up yet?" From here, Jennifer could see most of the tiny village. Only a few dozen houses and a larger town hall were crowded in this area; most of the town's area was dedicated to the surrounding farmland.
"Just about. Everyone except the village elder has evacuated, the traps are set, and everyone is finishing up reinforcing their positions as we speak."
"What's the deal with the elder?"
Xavier shrugged, adjusting the shoulder strap that held his crossbow. "Says he has a duty to the village to stay."
"Whatever, it's his funeral. The report said there's close to two-hundred soldiers on their way here. Even picking them off at a distance, it'll make the close quarter fighting difficult with so many."
"Did you ever hear back from the Assassins?" Connor asked.
Xavier rolled his eyes. "Lotta *** kissing, but no answers. We're the 'best of the best,' they say. Wouldn't want anyone else taking care of this important of a job."
"I'm telling you, we shouldn't have brought the whole family. What if they bring siege weaponry? They could wipe out all of us!" Connor exclaimed.
"What, against a little town like this? Doubtful. More likely, once your sister starts picking them off, they'll soil themselves and run away. Easy paycheck."
"I hope you're right."
Something caught Jennifer's attention at the edge of vision. "Finally! Some bloody action!" She laid back down on the roof and looked down the scope of her rifle. There, at the edge of the trees, she saw several men emerging. "Lock and load, boys, the playground bullies have arrived!"
"Stations, everyone!" Xavier barked. "Jen, fire at will."
"You got it," she replied. She scanned the front line of fighters. "Pretty well armed for such a small fighting force," Jennifer thought. Heavy armor, lots of weapons, supply wagons, everything a growing army needs to stomp a town on the way to wiping out some assassins. "Shoot the ugly one in the front? Nah, too easy. Pop a wheel off a wagon? More of an annoyance at this point. Hmm, maybe there's an officer in that next row. Or the one... behind it. Or..."
Jennifer lifted her eye away from the scope. "Connor," she whispered, "what in the hell is that?"
Connor slowly lowered his own pair of binoculars. "Xavier," he said slowly, "the report said how many soldiers?"
"Two-hundred, two-fifty, tops. Why?"
"Come on Jennifer." Connor and Jennifer dropped down off the roof and approached Xavier, who was busy loading a bolt into his crossbow. "Where's that elder?"
"What are you doing? If we're going to fight this off, we have to start picking them off..."
"Where is the damn elder Xavier?"
Xavier paused. "Town Hall."
Connor and Jennifer pushed past Xavier and slammed open the door to the hall. "What the hell kind of game are you playing geezer?" Jennifer shouted.
The man must have been more than ninety years old, leaning on a cane for support. "My duty," he replied sternly.
"That report you gave us was faulty!" Connor shouted. Jennifer heard Xavier come in behind him. "Two-hundred? More like Two-thousand! Three, maybe!"
"What?" Xavier shouted. "We can't deal with that; we don't have enough ammo, time, resources... anything!"
The old man's eyes darkened. "There is more at stake here than you realize. I did what I had to, as did the guild."
Jennifer kicked over one of the tables in the hall, sending a vase to the floor with a crash. "I knew we shouldn't have trusted those backstabbers!"
Xavier turned to Connor. "Go round everyone up and sound the retreat. Double time!"
Before Connor could even move, someone appeared at the door to the hall. "Xavier!" Phillip shouted, a waver in his voice. "W-w-we... we saw something, and sent some scouts to check it out..." he stopped. Phillip was good at what he did, but he was the screw-up of the family and a bit of a coward. Thankfully, Jennifer didn't have to call him anything closer than a second-cousin.
"Spit it out, man!" Xavier shouted.
"Forces to match the one in the north! To the east, south, and west!" Phillip cried.
A chill fell over the room. "This village will become our grave, then," the elder whispered.
Jennifer pulled up her rifle and shot the cane out from the man's hand, sending him sprawling to the ground. "You old *******!" She shouted, "I'll kill you!"
Connor wrapped his arms around Jennifer, holding her as he dragged her out of the Town Hall.
"You've killed us all you stupid old man!"
"Shut up Jen!" Connor shouted, throwing her to the ground. "Xavier, what's the plan?"
Xavier pinched the bridge of his nose, an old habit of his. "We fight. What else?"
"And we die," Jennifer said, dusting herself off and picking up her rifle as she stood. "A few dozen of us up against eight to twelve-thousand of them. We don't have a prayer."
"We do, if we break the rules," Xavier muttered.
Connor and Jennifer froze, stealing a glance at each other. "The God's Eye?" Connor whispered. "You know what that means... not just for us, but for the family."
"I know, but there isn't any other choice."
Phillip was visibly shaking. "Xavier... I... I don't want to die!"
Xavier shook his head. "Hopefully it won't come to that. This town is all the cover we've got, so the bulk of our forces will stay here. We won't all use the God's Eye if we don't have to, we'll activate them a few at a time, hopefully that will save a few of us. But just in case... Phillip, how was the concentration of troops to the south-east?"
Phillip shifted uneasily. "Hard to say, that's where the forest is thickest, so we didn't get a good look there. If I would guess, not too heavy."
"If we all go, they'll notice for sure and collapse in on us, but if only a few go... they might make it through."
"So, who goes?" Connor asked.
Xavier frowned. "Phillip, Jennifer, you two will go."
Phillip seemed to sigh in relief, but Jennifer stood up angrily. "I can fight! Don't send me away with this loser; send Connor instead! I won't run while you get slaughtered here!"
Xavier glared at her. "Jennifer, we don't have time to argue this. You have a family. Go to them; protect them. Jack and Roy are the future of this family, and you have to make sure they're taken care of."
Jennifer gnashed her teeth. "Connor...?"
"Go, sis." He smiled. "I'll kill twice as many just for you."
Jennifer grabbed Connor's hands, pulling him close one last time. "Don't you die. I forbid it."
Connor kissed his sister's forehead once more and hummed a few notes from her favorite song before pulling away. "Go."
Jennifer slapped Phillip on the shoulder. "You heard the man," she said, trying to keep her voice steady. "We have our orders."
"The brush in that part of the forest was thicker than any I had ever seen, which was probably why we never saw them coming. I took an arrow to my calf out of nowhere and collapsed. I think Phillip ran off at first and someone jumped on top of me and tried to finish me with their knife. In the struggle he broke it on a rock and jammed what was left into my eye. It was at that point that Phillip reappeared. His eyes... he had trigged the God's Eye. Foolish... he could have made it out, but... but I owe my life to him. He found his courage there in our darkest hour. At first he tried to pull me up by my hand, but he wasn't used to his new strength and so..." Jennifer touched her right hand where her middle three fingers were missing. "He carried me a long ways, and managed to get me to the next town. By then I was nearly unconscious, but I heard his last words before he died: 'Please, save her.'
"The town didn't have a proper doctor, but they had a medicine man. He had to amputate my leg below the knee because of how badly it had gotten infected and it took me most of a month before I could even move around. While I was there, I managed to learn a few things about what had happened: The Assassins had some sensitive documents and artifacts hidden in that village, which was why such a large force attacked. I never found out whether or not those force managed to recover what they were looking for, but there were no survivors on our side, save myself. The assassins knew what it meant to put a Falcion against the wall, and they counted on us using The God's Eye to save their precious crap. A plan fit for those cowards.
"A full year after that I was able to leave and made my way back to Terragnus only to find that Roy had left home and my husband Nigel had died. Jack was there alone despite how young he was. He didn't even recognize me at first; he tried to offer me some food, thinking I was a beggar. Nigel raised him well, no thanks to me.
"I... considered not telling him who I was and leaving him be, but he deserved to know. Sparing you all the details, I revealed my identity and we had a long talk about how I wasn't really a traveling salesperson and what had happened. Jack took it pretty well, all things considered. Roy was long gone and I had no chance of catching up with him in my state, so Jack and I began working on this hideout in secret in case of emergencies. It took many years just to build the basic structure and then... well, a group of Vladimorians caught wind that Roy and Jack were the last living Falcions. Knowing which of the two was best at killing, they went after Jack. That selfless little... he sensed something wrong and left me up here. By the time I had managed to slowly get down the ladder?nearly killing myself in the process?they had already captured Jack. You know what happened from there. They blackmailed Roy, he chose to save the princess, Jack was killed, and Roy was exiled. I stayed at our home on the edge of town for the next five years, wallowing in my own grief. No one bothered showing up to the house until five years after Roy's exile. That's when I woke up to some five year-old brat rooting through the house looking for money and food. Leon should be familiar with this part, because after he told me his sob story about how he was an orphan with not a second of education and nothing but the clothes on his back, I took him under my wing. We moved back into this hideout and slowly finished it over the years. From here, I kept watch over Roy; I saw that he had met Cassandra, and I saw him leave her so he could finish what he had started with Vladimar. I saw him die, I saw Cassandra die, but most importantly, I saw you live, Adriana. So I left that message on Roy's grave hoping that one day you'd come to this old crippled body."
Adriana's focus on her was quite impressive; probably the most focused that Jennifer had ever seen her. "And now you know my story."
Striker slowly raised his hand. "Uh, Miss Falcion?"
Jennifer rolled her eye. "You're not in school Manuel, nor do I believe you ever have been."
"Right... well, how did you see everything that happened to Roy and Adriana if you were here this whole time?"
"Ah, yes. That. Well, I should probably show you. Leon, take them up to the observation level and then bring me up."
Leon nodded. "You two, don't touch anything in the armory; I'm in the middle of sorting everything. Oh, and if either of you snatch anything from the kitchen I'll kick you off the top of the tree."
"Someone got hostile," Striker muttered.
Jennifer laughed. "Never did get around to teaching him manners." Jennifer pushed herself up from her chair and tucked her rifle under her arm so that the muzzle touched the ground. The stock of the rifle had been refitted so it was more padded and comfortable.
Adriana paused at its sight. "That's... an appropriate crutch for an ex-sniper."
"Ex? Watch your tongue; don't you remember who saved you?" Jennifer smirked.
Leon led the two up a ladder near the trunk of the tree while Jennifer waited on the other side of the trunk. She felt the phantom itch over her right eyepatch again and touched it reflexively. "I'm getting too old for this," she said to herself. "Ironic, I know. I used to think I was so damned immortal; untouchable. Best sniper in the world. If only that little girl could see what she would become, maybe it would have ended differently..."
She heard a bell ring and stepped on the platform that now lay next to her, ringing the bell herself this time. The platform slowly began rising up through each level of the tree. Past the kitchen, then the living quarters, general storage, and the armory, each room getting smaller as the tree tapered off. Finally, the platform reached its destination; the highest point on the tree that they had felt comfortable building on. A little over five hundred feet up the tree; this level was a mere thirty feet in diameter. A waterproof dome overhead made sure that no rain fell to this level, and the branches had been trimmed to hang about eighteen inches above this level's floor. On one side of the room, a rather comfortable cushion lay on the ground right in front of an enormous lockbox.
"So what is this, your sniper's nest?" Adriana asked.
"Precisely," Jennifer replied. She gestured to the cushion. "The floor on this level rotates. See that handle over there? It's slow, but it can spin three-hundred sixty degrees. I lie on that cushion there, and I watch the world."
"Hold on," Striker said. "You don't mean for us to believe that you saw, with your own eyes everything that has happened these past decades, do you?"
Jennifer smiled. "Has Adriana told you about the levels of the Emerald Eye?"
"Well, yes," Striker replied. "Roy talked something about it too. The base level eye is what allows a Falcion to see in the dark, predict projectile paths, see the wind, and all that jazz. It has some nasty side effects like headaches and temporary blindness, but if you can get past it, you can use The Eye at will."
"Right, and Roy tried to master it, unsuccessfully I might add, by separating his mind into two halves and using the one which would be a better fighter: the instinctive side of the mind," Jennifer said. "I tried the same technique to similar effect."
"Right," Striker said, "and beyond that, the eye can enter the God's Eye, where their physical abilities are elevated to that of a God. Unfortunately, there's no way to turn it off and the exertion eventually kills the user."
"Very good," Jennifer said. "However, you missed a step. Adriana?"
Adriana ran a hand through her hair thoughtfully. "Well, there's a middle stage. Stage two, if you will. A Falcion who masters the first stage might proceed to a more powerful, personalized version of The Eye. Because of that inferior technique, it had been a couple generations since the last Falcion managed to awaken their 'hidden eye,' but... well, remember back when we were fighting those guys? How I made some of those shots without even looking?" Adriana closed her eyes tight and seemed to flinch, as if in pain. When she opened her eyes again, her iris appeared like it had cracked in half and slid slightly off-center. Smaller cracks ran through the rest of her eyes. "I call this the Fractured Eye. It allows me to see in three hundred and sixty degrees at all time. However, beyond fifty yards, my vision begins to get pretty blurry."
Jennifer smiled. "The Fractured Eye... an excellent name. As a Falcion becomes a true master of the eye, it may awaken new abilities specific for the user."
"Why didn't I ever see Roy using one of those special eyes?" Striker asked.
"Well, as I mentioned, Roy took a newer and ineffective method of mastering the eye as most of us did at that time. We believed that by cutting off our emotions, we would become more efficient warriors. While it worked in the short-term, none of us were capable of accessing this 'True Eye.' I imagine Adriana's research led her to an older, superior method of mastery."
Adriana nodded. "A Falcion from centuries ago, Olaf Falcion, wrote that only by knowing yourself could you unleash this true power. By cutting themselves off from a core part of who they were, this newer generation made it impossible to access this eye."
"But as I laid in the hut of the medicine man, trying to keep myself from crying, I had my breakthrough moment. I let myself feel the sorrow that I needed to feel... and then this woke within me." Jennifer closed her eye, and opened it again slowly. She could see Striker jump in surprise at her eye: the iris had grown to cover most of her eye, and the pupil had shrunken to the size of a grain of sand. "This is the Far Eye."
"So... with that you can see great distances, I assume?" Adriana asked. "I supposed that's how you've been watching everything?"
Jennifer nodded. "The power of this eye is potent; it can bend the light as I look at it, allowing me to see past where the curvature of the planet would allow. With it... I can see to any corner of the planet. With enough focus, I can even see inside buildings and underground. The drawback, and all the eyes have those, as you know, is that it becomes much harder to see things close to me while the eye is active."
"That's incredible..." Striker said. "Wait, you've been spying on people for all these years then?"
Jennifer smiled. "Something like that. I can't hear that far, of course, but I've learned to read lips rather well, so I know plenty of dirty little secrets. When necessary... I can intervene, to a point." Jennifer gestured to Leon who opened the lockbox. Inside, an enormous, beautiful rifle was held upright with several chains and an intricate lever system. Leon turned several cranks and moved the chains around, slowly lowering the rifle until it lay on a small mount next to the cushion parallel with the floor.
"What... what the hell is that!?" Striker asked.
"That's my Divine Intervention," Jennifer replied.
"Sometimes, there's a problem that I need to resolve... forcefully. This lets me achieve that. I try not to use it too much because of how much attention it attracts, but I can't doubt the results it brings."
Adriana knelt down to examine the rifle closer, but Striker seemed about ready to explode. "So that's it? You sit up here passing judgement down on whoever you think deserves it?"
Jennifer grunted. "You sit up here long enough, looking out over the world and watching the best and worst humanity has to offer, and you develop something of a god complex. These rounds are pretty heavy and can cause a lot of damage even if they don't hit their target, so I don't need to kill anyone... usually."
"But the size of this gun... you could tear someone in half with a round from this!"
"I need to be able to shoot far enough to make a difference with this thing, no? I need lots of power to get lots of range."
Striker was about to say something else when Adriana spoke up. "This scope... it's crooked."
"Good eye. With my... condition, I needed to have this particular weapon special ordered." Jennifer held up her right hand to show the missing fingers. "I used to shoot right handed, you know. It took some time to get used to shooting with my left hand, but shooting left handed without a left eye was impossible, even with the Emerald Eye. Thus, the scope. It was a hell of a project, from what I understand. Making a rifle that heavy with as many special features as I required with my condition... I had to requisition the best gunsmith in the world."
"The... best?" Adriana ran her hand along the barrel, her fingers instinctively drawn to the maker's mark at the base. "But that's... how..."
"I couldn't trust this project to just anyone, you know. At first, I contacted a man named Lawrence Nickle, and he informed me that what I wanted was impossible. His apprentice, however, unbeknownst to him, had already surpassed him. So when Cassandra Reinhart offered to make the weapon, I knew I couldn't turn her down."
Adriana began laughing. "Mom mentioned this stupid thing! She said it was the biggest pain to make, and every few weeks a note would come along asking for something else to be added or changed... oh man, I think she wanted to shoot you with this thing by the end of it."
"I wouldn't blame her; I was pretty particular about this. Jack didn't have much fun getting this up here, that's for sure. But we can talk about this in detail later, what I really wanted to speak to you about was the eye and those people who were looking for you and I."
Adriana nodded. "Who are they?"
Jennifer sighed. "I'm not entirely sure. Whoever their leader is has great magical skill and has protected their base of operations from any sort of scrying. Even the eye can't pierce this magic; it's very potent." Jennifer pushed a branch aside and looked down towards Terragnus. "I know that they're based somewhere near that town, but I..." Her voice trailed off.
"What is it?"
"You need to go. Quickly."
"What?" Adriana stepped up. "We just got here! I have so much I need to..."
"The town is under attack right now. That group is down there... along with the woman I believe is leading them."
"Teya's down there," Striker whispered. "Eva and Johan too! Are they okay?"
"Alive, but it looks like they've been captured. Don't waste any more time. It's impossible to tell what they have planned, but it can't be good. I'll provide you covering fire from up here. Leon, you're going with them."
"Master! If that group is on the move, I need to stay here and protect you! Besides, the gun isn't in position. The nest needs to be rotated into proper position..."
"That wasn't a request; it was an order, boy! Everyone needs to help to take this group down, no exceptions. These bones still have some strength in them; I'll get this gun in place myself, so get moving, now!" Jennifer shouted.
Leon gnashed his teeth. "Fine, you stubborn old bat! Stay here and die of a heart attack for all I care!" He disappeared down into the trunk.
"And good luck, Leon."
"Go to hell!" Came the response. Adriana and Striker exchanged a glance before following him down the hidden ladder in the trunk.
Adriana paused at the top of the ladder.
"Promise me you will not use the God's Eye."
Adriana's eyes widened.
"I know that you know how to access it! We can discuss the details later, but please, promise me!"
"I... promise." Adriana said.
"Good. Now go!"
« Last edited by imaloony8.0 on Aug 28th 2016 »
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