Ch 15 Kruhl

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The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 15 Pt 1
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The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 15 pt 2

The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 15 Pt 1

AEGIS Seal

Official Report
3412 Abby Ln
Tondzaosha, Idaho

“God, just look at you, Andy!” Brian stared at his elder sibling, eyes wide with apparent shock, his cheeks still glistening with tears and a slight quiver in his voice. “You’re so…. feminine.”

Amy batted a stray bit of hair away from her face, regarded her brother between pursed lips. “Please don’t call me that, it’s Amelia now.”

“Right,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck. “I’m sorry, I always figured you must have transitioned, but I mean seeing you like this is another thing entirely.”

Amelia bit her lip and forced a smile on her face. “Just stick with the right name and pronouns and we’ll be fine.”

“Of course.” Brian nodded, and pulled away, eyes taking in his surroundings for the first time, eyes somehow growing wider when he took in Serena still standing nearby. “Wh-where are we?”

“Somewhere safe,” Amy answered, rising to her feet.

Serena rushed forward, enfolding her eldest son in her arms. Brian stiffened, but soon returned the gesture. When mother and son broke away, Brian slipped from the side of the bed. He wobbled on his feet, but braced himself on the nightstand to the right of the bedside.

Serena wrapped her hands around his shoulder to provide support. “Your muscles may have atrophied, maybe you should lay back down.”

Brian clenched his jaw and shook his head. His eyelids slid closed and he took a deep breath. It was almost as if someone flicked a switch. His back straightened and he stood, frame rigid. When his eyes opened again, he released the air from his lungs and stepped forward. He moved with no sign of frailty or the least bit of trouble.

“What? You don’t think Amelia’s the only exemplar in the family, do you?” He asked, gazing about the room, taking in the shocked expressions of his sibling and mother. His eyes briefly scanned over the sleeping form of Kruhl, but he only pressed his lips together and sighed.

Amelia furrowed her brows and folded her arms over her chest. “Ashley, the person who found you, said she tracked you down through the AEGIS database. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s Psionic Strength?”

“Yeah,” he confirmed. “That’s what the representative from AEGIS figured too.”

“Psionic strength?” Serena arched an eyebrow. “That’s not an ability I’ve ever heard of.”

“You’ve heard of telekinesis, right?” Amelia asked. “That’s more or less what it is, Brian’s just using it to strengthen himself.”

“Except, that seems to be all I can do,” he pursed his lips and frowned. “I mean I tried the other stuff, but it just doesn’t come.”

“What about you? Last time I checked your retrocognizance doesn’t let you enter people’s minds.” His gaze fixed on the agent, a frown creasing his mouth.

“I was exposed to something,” she said, meeting her brother’s gaze. “It happens sometimes to AEGIS personnel.”

“So you’ve got freaky mind powers now and you work for AEGIS?” He asked eyebrows disappearing into his bangs.

“Yes, to both, but it’s not just mind reading. I’m faster, stronger, I can levitate things, and before Ashley found me I’d just gotten done healing a gaping stab wound in our friend’s abdomen.” She nodded toward Kruhl without actually looking at her.

“Holy shit,” Brian blinked. “Sounds like you—”

Brian jumped, craning his neck around to glance across the room. Amelia followed his gaze and locked gazes with Kruhl. The once-king was sitting up and had slipped her feet over the bedside. Her sleepy gaze took in her surroundings with a dull, dispassionate stare. She glanced down at her abdomen, then back up at the agent and pressed her lips together in a tight frown.

“How?” She asked, peering back down at her uninjured belly, fingers tracing over the fabric of her oversized nightgown.

“It’s a long story,“ Amy glanced around and shook her head. “I think it’s time we all sat down and had a long chat.”

“Well,” Ashley said, slipping into the living room with a lengthy sigh. “I have contacted AEGIS, they’re mobilizing a unit out of Salt Lake and they should be here within five hours.”

Amy nodded, but didn’t say a word. Instead, she clasped both hands and closed her eyes. Salt Lake was a good two and half hour drive from Tondzaosha, five hours was more than reasonable considering the preparations they would need to make. In fact, it was much sooner than she’d expected.

“Thank God,” Amy said and leaned back into the sofa before glancing back at her younger sibling. Brian, though he pretended otherwise, was still very weak, he’d scarfed down the turkey sandwich and tater bites their mother had prepared for them and kept sneaking cursory glances at Amy’s half-finished sandwich.

Both Amelia and Serena attempted to usher him back to bed, but he’d outright refused. With his abilities, there wasn’t much they could do to keep him in bed without calling upon her own considerable powers.

Amelia sighed and grabbed the plate and set it down on the coffee table between them. “Here, have at it.”

Brian barely blinked before snatching up the sandwich and crammed half of it into his mouth.

“I would have made you another sandwich, Brian.” Serena swooped in to retrieve the now empty plate.

Brian shrugged, a sheepish grin spreading across his features. “Eh, why waste good food?”

Serena rolled her eyes and slipped out of the room, only to return a moment later standing in the doorway.

“Ugh, so,” Brian asked. “AEGIS, huh? I guess they pay pretty good money.”

Amy smiled and nodded. “I do all right for myself. It helps to be the youngest Special Agent in Charge in AEGIS history.”

He met her gaze, but didn’t answer. His mouth parted as if to speak, but he soon clenched his mouth shut again.

Amy pursed her lips, but didn’t press him. She knew her brother was having a hard time knowing what to say. Hell, she was pretty much in the same boat. After they’d had their little powwow about Leoffa things had gotten a fair bit more awkward.

“I’m sorry,” she said at last.

“For what?” He blinked.

“Leoffa went after you because of me, if I hadn’t—”

“Hey, no, no, no,” he rose to his feet, nearly tipping over before he lurched forward and slipped onto the couch beside her. “People do nasty shit all the time, what Leoffa did to me is on her and only her. Don’t go blaming yourself.”

Amy ground her teeth. “I should have been there, Brian. I always assumed it was better if I put my past behind me, but if I’d kept in contact, she wouldn’t have been able to pull one over on me or at the very least I would have gotten to you sooner.”

“It’s possible,” he agreed. “But you had no way of knowing what would happen.”

“Don’t you think you’re being hard on yourself, Amy?” Ashley asked, seating herself on the opposite her friend. “What that woman did to your brother was terrible, but you can’t blame yourself.

“We need to figure out our next move. She gave you twenty-four hours to get out of town. She must have something big planned.”

Amy glanced at her brother, brows furrowed in concentration. She worried for him. She wasn’t sure they had expelled the shadow of Leoffa from his mind, and he had no recollection of ever being captured by the sorceress. Even his memories of what she did to him, while within his mind, were fuzzy.

“I have a theory,” the agent said after several long moments of reflection. “I think Odalrik wanted me for a reason. It’s possible she was after my retrocognizance. I had the sense that she was looking for something and if Leoffa has it…”

“Okay, say you’re right. What would she have been looking for that would be so important?” Ashley asked, arching an eyebrow.

“I could think of one thing,” Kruhl said from the corner, her yellow cat’s eyes gleaming in the darkness. “It would explain almost everything.”

“Before Reesha banished Odalrik, he was rumored to possess a gemstone imbued with incredible power, called the Crystal of Ban-Sher’i. I ordered his keep searched after we defeated him, but none of my people could ever find it. If he had it on his person when he came to this world, it’s possible Leoffa stole it from him. Only a magic-wielder with a powerful foci like a staff could make use of it. If Leoffa possessed it, and she had no staff with which to wield it…”

“Perhaps she could not use it,” Amelia nodded, a few more puzzle pieces clicking into place. The staff Leoffa had wielded within Brian’s mind had been no more real than the sorceress herself. The only time Amelia had seen her with an actual staff was after she had defeated Odalrik. It was very possible she had not possessed one until then.

“Is there any reason you didn’t mention this until now?”

Kruhl shrugged. “I never believed it existed.”

“And if it exists?” Serena asked from the doorway. “How dangerous is it?”

Kruhl’s lips curled into a sneer. “All I know is that Odalrik was said to fear its power.”

“Oh, hell, I do not like the sound of that at all,” Ashley said with a drawn-out groan. “So Leoffa may or may not have this magical crystal, and nobody knows what the goddamned thing can do. How does this help us?” Ashley eyed the siblings and then Kruhl.

Amelia leaned back in her seat, hands running through her long locks. “It doesn’t… at least not yet.”

The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 15 pt 2

AEGIS Seal

Official Report
Tondzaosha Police Station
Tondzaosha, Idaho

Kruhl glanced down at herself and swallowed. For the first time since her transformation, she wore clothes that fit, but she wouldn’t say she liked them. They displayed her body in ways that made her cheeks feel as if they were aflame.

She tugged at the thick fabric which hugged her breasts and sank her teeth into her lower lip. The short sleeveless tunic, Serena had called a vest, was a soft shade of pink, and made of a material that might have been some kind of leather.

Six metal-lined holes, called grommets, adorned the front, and a string made of the same fabric as the tunic was woven through them. It ended about two-thirds of the way down the front of the garment, leaving a fair bit of her abdomen exposed. The bottom of the vest ended just above her navel.

Her black belt, thicker but of the same material as the vest, sported an over-sized metal buckle, fastened through a double set of metal eyelets. Though the former warrior king could not fathom why, the grommets ringed the entire length of the belt.

The tight-fitting ‘jeans’ were almost as bad as the vest. Overall, Kruhl did not find them too cumbersome for day to day use, but they would limit her range of motion in combat. Gaping tears exposed the flesh around both of her knees and portions of her upper legs. She had supposed the garment was damaged when Serena had first handed it over to her, but much to her consternation, the Van den Broeke matriarch revealed that it was, in fact, intended to be that way.

She wore black boots which came up to her mid-calf. They sported several buckles with no discernible purpose. She scowled and peered down her shirt, though her chest was now enshrouded in what she now knew was called a brassiere, the undergarment was visible even from her vantage point and she could see the crack between her breasts protruding beneath the vest.

She felt ridiculous, but as she peered down at her form, she realized that there was a certain visual appeal to her ensemble. She swallowed and turned away, shaking her head and growling under her breath. You are Kruhl, Son of Wurdan, she reminded herself, you will not succumb to the allure of this flesh. You are not some simpering doe-eyed human girl, you are a warrior of great renown.

Though she moved towards the door with quick steps, both fists clenched at her side, she experienced an unexpected pang of regret just before slipping out of the room.

Agent van den Broeke found her in the hallway just a moment later. The taller woman flattened her lips and folded her arms over her breasts. “We need to talk.”

Kruhl nodded, regarding Amy with gleaming cat’s eyes. “Yes, we do.”

Amelia held her hand out, directing the shorter woman toward the room she’d just vacated. Kruhl released a weary sigh and spun around on the balls of her feet, before popping the door back open and stepping inside. The agent followed her in and closed it behind her.

Kruhl studied the eldest Van den Broeke sibling for several long moments, before slipping atop a bed. When she was seated, she turned her eyes on Amelia once more. The agent did not take a seat, instead she kept her arms tucked over her chest and regarded the once-king between narrowed eyes.

“Listen Kruhl, I don’t know exactly how to say this, but while I realize you have a bigger stake than any of us in this, I think maybe it would be best if you sat this one out.”

Kruhl blinked, but did not speak. Instead, she rocked her head back and forth, a scowl creasing her delicate features. When at last she spoke, it was in a quiet, halting tone. “That would seem the wisest course of action.”

Her stomach lurched and the tiny woman cupped her face with both hands, tears streaking her face. She was pathetic, a sad shell of her former self. She was weak and entirely useless on the battlefield. Her father would weep to see his son in such a state. Still, despite everything, she had assumed she would fight alongside the agent when they at last faced off against Leoffa. It seemed… wrong.

She glanced up at the agent, eyes burning with fire even as tears soaked her cheeks. “No! I must be there, I must see this through to the end. I would never be able to live with myself, if I did not.”

“Look, I understand, but—”

“But Nothing!” Kruhl howled, leaping to her feet. “You do not understand! With Leoffa at her full might, she may very well be as powerful as Odalrik and even were she not, she has both the power of the crystal and Waldere at her disposal. With them she is far more dangerous.”

Amy regarded the other woman, hands on her hips in a severe, almost chastising posture. “I don’t really understand what you think you can—”

“There is still a chance that I can win back the loyalty of the sword.” Kruhl locked gazes with her. “It has the power to dispel most forms of magic, it may mean the difference between victory and defeat.”

“Okay,” Amelia said, leaning back against the wall. “There’s nothing to stop anyone else from trying, is there?”

“No,” Kruhl admitted. “But the sword knows me, I may still hold some sway over it. It gives me a better chance than most.”

“You speak about that thing as if it were a conscious, reasoning being,” Amy said, her voice taking on a musing, almost sing-song quality.

“It does not think.” Kruhl shook her head. “Not in any way I have ever been able to determine. It’s magic resonates with those who wield it. It’s capable of distinguishing the traits for which its creator’s sought for those who would come to wield it, nothing more.”

“You realize what you’re asking me, right? If you fail, you will become a liability. We can’t afford for Leoffa to take advantage of that.”

“I know,” Kruhl spoke, her words intersected by a sob. “But you cannot ask me to sit idly by. Leoffa, is a monster, at least, partially of my making, I cannot allow her to wreak havoc upon this world without at least trying to stop her.”

Amy nodded and released a long sigh. “Okay, good enough. Be ready, the team from Salt Lake will be here soon.”

The agent turned to leave and Kruhl threw a hand out, rushing after her. “Wait!”

Amy spun back around and pressed her lips together, but Kruhl spoke before she could say anything.

“I asked you a few days ago, if you would give me a new name. Have you pondered upon it?”

Amy sighed and licked her lips. “With everything that has happened, I haven’t really given it a lot of thought, but one stuck out. Alexandra, it’s the feminine form of Alexander, one of our history’s greatest conquerors.”

“Alexandra,” the tiny blond repeated the moniker. “It sounds like the name of a warrior. Thank you, it will suffice.”

Amy placed a hand on either of the second woman’s slender shoulders. “If we come out of this alive, we’ll see about assigning you a transition specialist. I won’t lie to you, adapting to life here, will not be a walk in the park, but AEGIS has some experience helping people adapt to transformed bodies. We’ll help you in whatever way we can.”

Alexandra quivered, craning her neck down to peer at one of the agent’s hands, before peering back up to meet the agent’s gaze. “Is it not your people’s custom to have multiple names?”

Amy nodded. “There’s an entire process involved in creating a new identity. There are a whole slew of records that AEGIS will have to fabricate across a number of government agencies. Not to mention all the paperwork involved. It’s a complicated process. Let’s just focus on what’s ahead of us and we’ll figure everything out later.”

“Very well,” Alexandra nodded and bit her lip.

The once-king believed her when she claimed it was complicated, if for no other reason than she’d understood almost nothing of what she said. The agent smiled, released the other woman’s shoulders and shuffled toward the door. “I know it’s been difficult, but I understand what it’s like living life in the wrong body, I’m always happy to talk if you want a sympathetic shoulder to cry on.”

She exited the room and Alexandra cocked her head and wondered, how could a shoulder be sympathetic?

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