Simply Encredible

In a time where technology was widely believed to be a type of witchcraft, in an age where Ronisgald stood in fear of invasion from the mysterious elves of Ircandesta, the strange beast-men of Longshore, and the enigmatic inhabitants of Rimstak, a lone heroine with a tragic past rose from obscurity to restore Truth and Justice to a country in desperate need.

Wielding the tools of her trade, she fought the corruption of the church, stood fast against those who would harm the innocent, and defiantly faced the darkest of forces to protect those lucky enough to be her friends.

This is the tale of Excelsia Encredible.

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6. An Encredible Return

The years passed over the kingdom of Greiarch.  The city continued to grow beyond the wall.  Farms, villages, even other walled cities gradually crossed the wide expanse of land.  The people of the country continued to whisper of their neighbors in Rimstak and Idesta.  Occasionally, someone would claim to see one of the beast-men of Longshore, but such tales were dismissed as superstition.

On the very outskirts of the kingdom was a small hamlet known as Marienna Chateau.  It was a small farming village, the chief export being trabi grain and milk.  The town wasn't particularly noteworthy, other than being the settlement nearest the Rimstakken strand.  Most of the residents had never even seen a Rimstakken before, but that didn't stop them from whispering about their mysterious neighbors to the west when the suns set and the occasional flicker of light shot through the western sky.

For the most part, however, Marienna Chateau was a good town.  It was a place where kids played in the fields and adults commented on the shape of clouds.  Politics, religion; none of that truly mattered to them.  They were content with their lives, with the usual exception here and there.

At sunset, many of the adults of the town filed into the local tavern, 'The Hopping Crow'.  It was supposedly named for the original owner's pet, a blackbird with an injured wing who was known to hop around the inn begging for scraps.  Both the owner and the bird were long dead, and the current owner had no such pet.  Nevertheless, the air of the inn was filled with much of the same laughter as it had been back in the day. 

It was a typical evening at the Hopping Crow.  The bar was filled with farmers and animal herders looking to get a little relaxation at the end of their day.  The ale on tap was watered down and the food wasn't exactly the best, but it was more than welcomed by the workers who helped support the town.

The seats by the fire were the most popular, as that was where Old Mother Tanya sat.  Once a bard known throughout Greiarch, those days Tanya simply told stories of her adventures across the kingdom.  Her tales didn't just entice adults either; children who came with their parents huddled around the old lady, some even sitting on the floor just for the chance to hear her tell of the strange places and people she had seen in her youthful wanderings, and this evening was no different.

As most people finished their meals and settled in for another tale, Old Mother Tanya rocked in her chair, musing, "What shall I tell you today?  Perhaps you'd like to hear the story about the Elf, the Raven, and the Well?"

"You told us that last week!" said a precocious young girl with butter-blonde hair. 

"Did I?" Tanya said, feigning surprise in her voice as she hid her smile.  "Well, how about the tale of how Unas of the Silver and Jade and his defeat of the Dragon of Arganor?"

"He threw a rock at it!"  A boy said, making a face. 

"So he did." The old lady sighed and asked, "Well then, young ones; what would you care to hear about?"

"How about Rimstak?" Asked a voice in the crowd, prompting a few curious looks for the speaker.

"Rimstak, eh?  Well, I don't know ... I wouldn't want to frighten the children."

The children immediately began pleading with her, much more interested now that she had hinted her tale was scary.

Chuckling, she held up her hands to stay the din of the children.  "All right, all right, my young ones.  It's true that in my youth, my path took me to Rimstak, and to the Cleftan Region Beyond, where it can be raining in one moment, only to be as dry as a desert in the next.  Some believe the region to be entrapped in a massive enchantment that constantly makes the weather so unpredictable ... but I'm getting ahead of myself.  I was speaking of Rimstak, wasn't I?"

She paused as a woman in a dark red cloak entered the pub.  Though mostly obscured by her cloak, a few locks of red hair were visible, having escaped her hood.  Once the door was shut and the woman was seated, she raised a glove-covered arm towards the barkeep, asking, “A pint, if you please.”

“Of course, miss.”

As the barkeep poured a glass for the stranger, Old Mother Tanya continued her tale.

"Thirty years ago, my path led me away from Ronisgald and into the deserts of Rimstak.  The deserts stretched in every direction, as far as my eyes could see, yet even in such a barren place, all manner of strange creatures existed.  Fish that swim beneath the sand as though it were water, birds that stand taller than Farmer Stevens that cannot fly, but run so fast they are little more than a blur.  Strange green plants covered in spines as fine as Goodwife Shanna's needles.  As I traveled, however, I believed I saw a lake of water ahead.  I walked towards it for three days, only to discover it was an illusion."

The children sucked in their breath as one.  The little girl from before asked, "A witch cast a spell on you?"

"I do not know, child.  All I know was that I was now lost in the desert, and had no water to drink.  I walked for a what felt like days, occasionally seeing another lake or pond, only to discover they too were not there.  Finally, I collapsed, and darkness claimed my vision."

All of the children stared at her with wide eyes as she paused to take a drink.  The bartender walked over and filled her glass; he too was listening intently to her tale.

"While I was unconscious, I dreamt that I was in a magnificent city of metal that was in constant motion.  Castles moved about as though on carts, yet there were no horses.  There were people whose bodies were made of steel and iron, and beings made of nothing but light.  All these wanders I saw in my mind's eye as I slept."

"Was it a dream?" One boy asked.

Old Tanya smiled and said, "Perhaps.  I awoke on the edge of the desert, not far from here and no worse for wear. While resting, I met my dear departed Rahnna, Creator guide her soul."

"But you said you were lost!" The little girl insisted.  "If you were near the town ..."

"... Someone must've brought me there?" Tanya asked, her eyes twinkling in the firelight.  "Indeed.  Perhaps I was lucky; perhaps I was nearly out of the desert before I collapsed ... or perhaps one of those who lived in the great metal city brought me to safety.  I suppose I'll never know."

More tales were to follow, tales of ancient heroes and amusing asides to her quests, and some stories that were all in her head.  All were enthralling, and as the hour grew late, everyone left the bar satisfied both mentally and physically, and were ready for a full night's rest.

Old Lady Tanya hobbled along the road to her house on the edge of town.  The innkeeper always offered her a room, but she preferred the comfort of her home to the trappings of the inn.  She encountered a few townsfolk who were also returning home; most wished her a good evening, and received the same from her.  Unbeknownst to her, however, another figure trailed behind her, watching from the shadows in silence.

Tanya reached her home, only to discover two men in red robes waiting at her door.

One of them nodded at the other before stepping forward and asking, "Are you the one known as Old Lady Tanya?"

"I'm sorry, good Brothers." She said kindly, "But an old woman needs her rest.  Surely this can wait until morning."

"Would you delay your salvation so readily?" The man countered.

A frown crossed Tanya's wizened face.  "I have attended church services for the past thirty-five years, brother."

"A snake may lie in the same bed as the chicks." The man quoted.  "Appearances of devoutness are not proof of enlightenment."

"So I am seeing." She replied, narrowing her eyes at the man.

The priest was startled by the edge in her voice.  Quickly recomposing himself, the priest said, "It has come to the attention of the church that you acquired a great deal of land after the passing of your lady-wife.  Perhaps if you gave some of this land to the church, the Cardinal would be assured of your devotion."

"And how much land would you deem acceptable to affirm my faith?" She asked, her hand clutching the handle of her walking stick tightly.

"A mere fifteen acres." He said, waving a hand aside as though it were nothing.  "After all, you are certainly in no shape to bring that land to it's potential."

"Which is why I've lent the land to those in need; they work the land and earn a reasonable living.  I ask for nothing in return, of course.  If I were to give the land to the church, what would become of these people?"

"The church would use your land to help spread the words of the Creator.  Perhaps in doing so, he will find a way to help these people grow closer to him."

"Without income, these people will only grow closer to the grave."

The priest spread his hands, saying, "You must have faith, sister."

"I do have faith, young man.  I have faith in this community, and our willingness to help out those who are less fortunate.  We give our food to those in need, we lend our beds to those who are without them.  I have seen the other cities, seen their poor and hungry neglected while the church lives in luxury.  Frankly, if that's the compassion we can expect from the church, perhaps we are better without."

She started to hobbled towards her door, only for the lead priest to shove her hard enough to make her fall to the ground.  She cried out in pain as she hit the dirt, her walking stick clattering against the stones around her garden.

"Then it is with heavy heart that I must inform you that you have been accused of witchcraft.  You will be brought to the Church in Yevon, where we will determine whether or not your soul has been claimed by Nocturnes."

He snapped his fingers.  The other priest nodded, and moved his torch towards Tanya's thatch roof.

"No!  That's my home!" She cried out, struggling to rise to her feet.  The priest kicked her down, saying loudly, "Be silent, demon!  All your land will be remanded to the authority of the church until such time as we determine your guilt or innocence!"

Tanya watched in horror as the torch moved towards her home, towards everything she ever owned.

A strange sound ran through the air, like the sizzle of sausage on a hot pan.  A moment later, a burst of light shot through the darkness, hitting the torch and making the priest drop it to the cobblestones with a yelp.

The priests and Old Lady Tanya turned to see the young woman from the bar emerge from the shadows.  Her cloak was pulled back, revealing that strange metal armor.  The light metal plating exposed her joints and mid-riff, yet a strange shimmering air covered her tanned skin.  A mask of metal covered her face, but left her long red hair flowing over her shoulders and down her back.  She bore a staff in her gloved right hand with what looked like a massive three-pronged tuning fork.

"My, my, my." She said, her voice amused.  "If only I had a picture of this.  Oh, right."

A flash made the priests jerk back.  The woman held up a small grey box, on which the miniature picture of the priests standing over the fallen woman was faintly visible.

"That's great; this picture will make headlines, I'm sure of it, provided this backwards country even has a damn news service."  She raised her hands, saying, "Corruption in the Church!  Two priests caught assaulting defenseless old woman.  It’ll be perfectly scandelous."

"She's a ..." one of the priests said, only to be interrupted by the mysterious woman.

"A witch?  A sorcerer?  A enchantress?  Nope.  She's just another victim of the church."  She paused and amended.  "She was about to be another victim of the church.  Good thing I came along."

"Only a witch would come to the aid of another of her kind!  You will be burned at the stake for this interference!" The lead priests shouted, his face red.  "We are agents of the Creator, instruments of his will!"

"You are agents of a corrupt religion filled with old men who enjoy power too much.” The woman snapped.  “The Creator teaches compassion, understanding, and kindness; concepts lost on the hierarchy of the Celestial Church long ago."

"Blasphemy!"

"Blasphemy?" The mysterious woman warrior pointed her staff at the accusing priest.  "Blasphemy is denying the true word of the Creator.  Blasphemy is saying that following the path of light is the only way, when the Creator's Word states that all paths are necessary, light, balance, chaos, or void.  Blasphemy is accusing innocents of witchcraft so you can have more land, more money ... more power."

"That is enough!" The priests both drew swords, Lady Tanya forgotten.  The mysterious woman dashed toward them in a blur of motion. Before they could react, she planted the glowing end of her staff against the back of one of the priests.  The glowing end let off a crackle of electricity that quickly leapt across the priests body and zapped him unconscious.  The other priest took a swing at her, but she nimbly leapt away, her thin body flipping easily out of reach of the priest's sword.  Her armor didn’t appear to encumber her in the slightest.

The priest swung his weapon again and again, but each time, the warrioress easily managed to block it with her staff or avoid it altogether.  After sidestepping one blow, she spun past the priest, smacking him in the backside with the butt of her staff.

"Surrender!" The priest hissed through clenched teeth, his face red with embarrassment. 

"Why? I'm just getting started." With a flip of her staff, she sent the priest's sword flying.  Shoving the startled priest back, the warrior took aim with her staff and shot a burst of electricity that caught the priest full in the chest and send him flying back into a tree.  He smashed into the broad trunk of the tree and collapsed to the ground like a sack of potatoes.

"Just getting started." The mysterious warrior repeated, spinning her staff idly in one hand.  The staff shrunk down until it was only a foot long.  Sliding it into a holster hanging from her belt, she walked over to the old lady and knelt down beside her.

Tanya shrank back, her eyes wide.  "P-please ... don't hurt me!"

"Hurt you?" The woman asked, sounding legitimately surprised.  "I just saved you, didn't I?   If I just saved you, why would I want to hurt you?"

Glancing back at the priests, she muttered, "Ah, right.  Nevermind.  Well, I'm not here to hurt you, all right?"

Tanya still seemed frightened of the woman; the foreboding armor and mask didn't exactly help.

Sighing, the woman pulled off her mask, revealing a freckle-dotted pretty face and long red hair.  Faint burn scars were visible on the right side of her face, long since healed.

She smiled kindly at Tanya.  "There.  See?  I'm just a galden, just like you.  Better?"

Tanya looked at her disbelievingly for a moment before taking her hand.  The woman pulled Tanya to her feet and helped her dust off her clothes.

"Thought things mighta changed a little in the last ten years." The strange woman said, sounding annoyed.  "I guess that was just me being all optimistic, but if the church is sanctioning attacks against old women ..."

"I beg your pardon, young lady." Tanya said, finally finding her voice, "But who are you?  Where did you come from?"

"Huh?  Oh, me?  I'm Excelsia Encredible." She replied matter of factly.  "Though if you don't want to bother with all that ... not that I blame you ... just 'Excel' will be fine.  As to where I'm from, well ... let's just say, you saw that in your dream."

"In my dream?  You mean ... “ Tanya’s eyes widened.  “You’ve come from Rimstak?"

"Yep.  Lived there for the last ten years.  From your story, it sounds like one of the sensors on the western array detected your failing life signs and brought you to a healing facility.  I’m kinda surprised you remember anything; they usually administer some hefty amnesiacs before returning people to the border.”

Tanya looked as though she didn't know what to think, not surprising considering her situation.  "Then you are a Rimstakken?"

"I just told you I was galden, didn’t I?  I was born here, in Ronisgald.  How I ended up in Rimstak … well, it’s a bit of a long story.” Excelsia rubbed the back of her head, saying, “Listen, I've had a long day.  I hate to ask, but I don't suppose you’ve got a sofa or something for me to sleep on for the night?"

"Oh!  Of course, young lady.  You save my life and my home and all those people I've let borrow land, and I ask more questions than the Inquisition!" Tanya hobbled over to the door and opened it, saying, "Come in, come in!"

Excelsia started to follow her when one of the priests let out a groan.  As she stared at their bodies, a sly smile crossed her face.  "I'll be back in just a minute."


 
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