Ade Telualla/Into Another World
From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
This story predates the actual VV entry by several months, thus there are a lot of elements repeated here. Overall I'm not proud of this one but it does give some insight into both Ade and MuGan Earth, so it's relevant here.
and to repeat the disclaimer: 'This page has been marked for mature content due to the nature of the society explained in further detail below. This includes gender roles, power plays, health issues, child abandonment among others. Naturally this is not intended to be an ideal world, and as such none of what is written is endorsed by the writer. Furthermore, while there are historic precedences for many of the elements described, none of what is written is intended to reflect any real world culture. MuGan Earth is stuffed up. It's not our Earth. Simple as that really.'
Into Another World
“Stop dawdling and keep up, child!”
Ade Telualla could not help but sneer in response. He had paused to check the surrounding landscape, that ‘being watched’ feeling was too strong to ignore. Of course, try explaining that to an impatient Ring Mistress. Not that Ade would have given the Carnival of Life the time of day anyway, and not just for their annoyingly patronising way of referring to him as a ‘child.’ Then again that has been the most dignified pet name they have used on him yet though that was like saying that being stabbed in the calf muscle last week hurt less than the other times he‘s been wounded with blades.
His feet moved again as he rejoined the procession marching along the beach, the Mediterranean Sea stretching far to the north. Flanking each side of the small group were the Strongmen, five on either side. Despite their massive size and monumental strength, they were broken shells of men, mere pups heeding the commands of their Mistresses. The inside line comprised of the Acrobats. Lithe, narrow femme fatales that they were, they relied on their remarkable dexterity and needlessly barbed weaponry to deliver a cruel end to any that offended the Carnival. In the dead centre, just in front of where Ade was situated, were the Ring Mistresses themselves. Three of them, plus one Ring Daughter in training; a girl of a mere twelve years of age and already she had that insufferable arrogance about her.
A Ring Mistress had no need for weapons as their minds made for a far more effective offensive than any blade or club. The Ring Mistresses are the ones who break the will of physically capable males, forcing them into the demeaning caricatures known as ‘Strongmen.’ With nary a thought they could lock down the minds of others in an excruciatingly painful vice. Being free of any strict physical regimen they were more capable of satiating their vanity. The African Ring Mistresses emulated the local people’s views on beauty and were more heavy-set than their Acrobat sisters. With that said, they were very careful to maintain a proper shape. They were shapely and well-rounded rather than lumpy and ungainly. A phrase Ade was soon to discover would have described the Ring Mistresses perfectly; 'a whole lotta woman.'
Why was Ade, an outsider, part of this self-capable procession? It came down to two words: potential pet. When he had arrived in Alexandria he soon faced yet another of a long line of hurdles thrown into his path by his social status. A hurdle that required him to seek the favour of the Carnival of Life. Since then his uniquely indomitable willpower had caused a ‘cannot have so must have’ mentality to form in the ranks of the Ring Mistresses. None were more focused on trying to break him than Mistress Rehema, the leader of this little mission. He was present officially as a ‘personal guard’ but the simple, unadulterated truth was that Rehema relished in the challenge in dominating him and using such a feat to better her position in the Carnival.
The young girl in front of him, Ring Daughter Ima, lost her footing when those impractable heels on her boots sank into the sand. Ade instinctively caught her as she fell backwards and cursed himself mentally. True, she was but a young one, but she was still a Carnie.
Ima glared up at him in contempt. “Unhand me, Child!” Child? Ade was twice the age she was. Still, he had no problems in letting her go and she dropped to the ground with an undignified thud.
“Do not get used to me following orders, ‘child.’” Ade spoke as he strode leisurely passed the sprawled brat and went back in line with the travelling party. It did not sit well with him that the Carnival were raising this child into something nasty and self-centred. That was why he never wasted a chance to teach the values of gratitude and humility whenever such a chance was presented. Undoubtedly the other Mistresses saw the potential for the Ring Daughter to learn a lesson, though it was more on how never to be caught in a position of weakness.
“You insufferable wretch!” Ima got back onto her feet, shaking with rage. “How dare yo-”
Ade did not bother to slow down or even turn his head as he interrupted her unoriginal rant. “Keep up or else I cannot protect you.” Left with no other choice, Ima jogged back into the procession, muttering curses that a girl her age should not even know.
With the party now marching in relative silence, Ade refocused on that feeling of inquisitive eyes. That instinctive feeling was long gone now, most likely it was just one of the many twisted creatures that traversed the land since the nigh-constant conflict between the Mu and Oranbegan factions reached Africa some centuries ago. Most wars, even holy ones, never lasted more than a hundred years. The Mu and Oranbegans, however, had the gods themselves keeping the hatred well and truly alive and an ever increasing amount of resources as their respective influences spread across the world. Men and Women who had no idea where these warring nations resided were rallying to their causes, fighting any and all brethren under the other’s banner. Magical training was spread along with this influence and in time the atmosphere itself was saturated in the residue of the supernatural forces being focused in truly terrible ways. The landscape, the animals and indeed even a number of people were adversely affected.
Ade was one of those people. He was only six when pale scrawled patterns appeared along his torso and arms and his hair became unnaturally straight; all signs that he was ‘touched.’ In a continent plagued with diseases and mutations created from the driven desire of people wanting to kill other people, he was shunned and cast out into the wilderness. Even at such an age he showed that strength of will that would later develop with his corruption into a truly potent gift. From resisting wounds and mentally commanding them to heal to being able to alter his own perception so that languages and even written words were easily understood despite the lack of tutoring. Even more remarkably, he could project that same change of perception to those he spoke with, removing the barriers of communication. What he was most proud of was what the outcast shaman Wamukota had taught him. How, given time, he could use that willpower to aid others who were ill. It was far from practical during battle, but his own etheric skills had helped many people who only sought out an outcast shaman when they needed their help. Pity gratitude was fleeting whenever any was expressed at all.
One thing Ade was proud of was that he never stole from any villages, nor did he purposely do them wrong. Many of those who were cast out, whether they were ‘touched’ or just criminals and branded as such so no settlement would harbour them, bore violent tendencies towards the normal people and acted on them. Ade did not know what was worse, the fear-driven cruelty of the normal populace or the savagery from the hate-inspired exiles. Not even the Mu and Oranbegan loyalists where that barbaric.
Some years back, Ade spent some time with a merchant caravan that did not fear his abnormalities. From the caravan leader he had learned of a continent to the north, one that was across the ocean. The wagon master did not know any solid details, but Ade was already hoping that maybe in this new land he could finally be a part of society again. To be able to belong again. To have a chance of finding a soul mate. He began his trek northwards, not fully aware where exactly on the massive Africa he currently resided. Not that it really mattered as he relished the chance to discover new lands and societies. He never found one that accepted him, but many fascinated him nevertheless.
In time he made it to the northern coast by way of the Nile. The cradle of civilisation lived up to it’s reputation. Between ample food and significant fortification, it was Ade’s first run in with actual cities. All of them paled in comparison to Alexandria. At long last Ade had reached a trading port with ships that crossed the Mediterranean Sea all the time. He could almost taste the new land. Problem was that his kind, even here, were shunned and despised. Getting food was hard enough, but passage on a ship? Even a foreign one? Virtually impossible. He was allowed into the city by Alexandrian law, but only if he showed his worth to a major faction, in his case it was the Carnival of Life who accepted the responsibility for Ade's time in the city. At the time he knew little about the Carnival, save that they held significant sway in the city and could grant him permission to gain passage to this other continent.
That was over four years ago and Ade was a much wiser man now. He was a plaything for the Carnival and they would not be bored with him until they managed to break him. They had allowed him minor permissions for the deeds he performed for them, but never was he allowed to even place a foot on a ship. True, he could stow away but that would mean that the sailors would meet their end at the next city that the Carnival had a presence in. A fate that Ade could not allow to come to fruition. He had since learned that there was a way to get to this ‘Europe’ by land but the idea of travelling by ship intrigued him immensely. Not to mention that he had fun defying the Carnival’s wishes for him.
One of those permissions granted to him was access to Alexandria’s massive library. The largest outside of any Mu or Oranbegan controlled city in Africa. Mistress Rehema had assumed he couldn’t read so it was meant as a petty parody. Ade’s inquisitive mind used his gift to the fullest and he had devoured all the information he could; from the places in Africa he had not seen to the lands to the east. All of those paled in comparison to any knowledge he had found on Europe. Like Africa, it had been under the influence of the warring mages. The saving grace for the continent though was that the constant feuding and numerous factions allowed for a number of orders and resistances to Mu and Oranbegan loyalists to be formed. The Carnival was one of the more wider-spread orders. What all that meant was that if he ever managed to leave Alexandria he would have to be careful on picking his alliances. The knighthoods were right out of his consideration as they had the tendency to wipe out the ‘unclean’ like himself.
Which lead his mind back to the present. His time had not been wasted. He had learned much, not only on foreign lands and sciences, but on the truths of ‘civilised’ society as well as the nature of the human psyche. Despite the Carnival, he was glad to be in Alexandria. This current errand though worried him slightly. Why where they marching along the beach at this time of night? Furthermore, why was he kept out of the loop entirely? This must be the sort of issue that the Ring Mistresses would prefer to keep a secret. In the gloomy distance, he could see some shapes. As they drew in closer, he recognised them as tents.
The party continued it’s march until they reached the camp. The tents were made from some sort of fabric that Ade had never seen before. As for the campers themselves, they were wearing oddly light green suits that covered their entire bodies. Their heads were encased in a clear box of some type. The whole get up seemed airtight and Ade had to wonder how they could breathe. In their hands they held strange items. They held them in the same way that Ade had seen European sailors carry crossbows. Ring Mistress Rehema held up her hand and the procession stopped. One of the men stepped forward and spoke with her directly.
“I thought we agreed to keep this a discrete meeting. We can’t risk having others find us.”
“Worry not, Mister Raul,” Rehema spoke aloofly to him, despite giving him a title of sorts. A respectful one that a Ring Mistress would normally never give a man. “What I have here is a paltry group. There are reports of Mu loyalists in the area and it would not be right for us ladies to go without an escort.” The language they spoke was Latin. Ade had read some of it in the library, though only certain European orders like the Carnival kept it alive.
“Fair enough, but not all of them can come into the tent.” Raul was on guard with them. Like he expected them to double-cross him. Ade wondered if he knew the Carnival’s treachery well.
“Yes, show us this pretty little portal you told our sister about.” Rehema gestured for the other Mistresses, Ima and Ade to follow her and Raul into one of the tents. Ade could see the blue glow as soon as the tent flap was opened but even then he was amazed at the illuminate opening hidden from prying eyes.
Rehema almost cooed over it before she turned back to Raul. “So you suggested that this queer little door could lead us to sanctuary? Tell us more about it.”
The man kept his odd device in his hands at the ready. It must have been a weapon. “It’s not so simple. Portal Corp in my reality has been traversing to alternate Earths for some time now. What we’ve seen of this particular one is, quite frankly, hideous. With some cooperation from you and any other NGOs available, we can organise an exodus of your people to another reality, one where you can let the fighting powers continue without leaving innocents in their crossfire. Just as we need your cooperation, you undoubtedly need ours.”
Ade had decided that Raul was a smart man. He knew that the best way to keep himself safe from the Carnival was to make himself indispensable. They could not toy with him if he held the key to a greater prize.
Mistress Olabisi was far from convinced that it was such a prize. “We have a good position here, Mister Raul. I hardly see what good could come of upheaving the natural order.” Mistresses Rehema, Tangela and in turn even Ima nodded at that. Olabisi had a point, however selfish it may have been.
Raul groaned and shook his head. He muttered something in a strange language that only Ade with his gift understood. “Why is it that the only constant I see in these worlds is that the Carnival are always arrogant bitches?” He then straightened himself up and began his rebuttle in Latin. By this stage though Ade wasn’t listening. He had that ‘being watched’ feeling again. And this time it was not a curious critter. He stormed out of the tent, ignoring Rehema’s demand that he remain in place. One of the strange men was holding a small box with little lights all over it. His eyes were transfixed on it.
“Hey, Peter! We got incoming. South-south east.”
With that all the suited strangers bore their weapons with alarm, eyes peeled in the direction. There was no sign of intruders, but Ade needed no light box to tell him something was out there.
A flare of light sprung from the darkness and struck one of the Strongmen, knocking it to it’s knees. With whooping war-cries a few score of red-clad Mu loyalists appeared as if from nowhere. A flare and invisibility? There was at least one Mu sorcerer present. The strangers aimed their weapons and they barked into life with a fury. Some of the loyalists fell but they had enchantments protecting them from most of the damage. The Strongmen and Acrobats fanned out, ready to protect the tent with their Mistresses in it with their lives.
Ade grabbed the pole on the edge of the tent and flipped it over. Raul was already ushering the Mistresses into the ethereal gateway for safety. “Child, protect the portal, then follow. I do not want to lose my toy yet.” Rehema commanded him sternly before she stepped, literally, into another world. Cursing loudly, the outcast began to yell out commands to the remaining Carnival fighters. True he had even less standing than the Strongmen, but he knew that in battle the Acrobats would follow his commands in the absence of any others.
On his words they tightened the circle around the portal, taking refuge behind the sandbags that the strangers had set up. Those very same strangers were next through the portal as the fighting intensified. Another Strongman burst into flames. That magic user was a serious threat. Ade commanded Acrobat Uboro to take him out. He knew full well that she prided herself on mage killing. Ade did not get to see how she did it due to the loyalist warriors in his face, but he knew she had done her task when the flare bombardment had stopped.
Driving one of the Iberian falcatas he had bought from a sailor into one loyalist’s chest cavity, he head butted another before driving the hilt of his other blade down into his skull with a sickening crack. The Strongman to his left had taken too many wounds and collapsed to the ground. Ade took his place immediately, driving his wide blades down into the assailant with a double-handed hack. The forth combatant turned to him before a kopesh was raked across the marauder’s back by an ever-deadly Acrobat.
An arrow thudded into his chest. Ade gritted his teeth; not out of pain as his mind had blocked the sensation, but out of irritation. Archers now? They had to make a move and fast.
“Into the portal, all of you!” He yelled at his remaining companions. Most of the Acrobats turned and dashed straight through it, only a few stubborn ones and the Strongmen remained. “Damn you all! Get out of here!” He yelled at them as he gutted one swordsman just as a spiked club struck his back, the point driving deep into his flesh. Uboro came to his assistance. Whether she protected him out of mutual respect or just for Mistress Rehema he would never know.
He turned and tackled her. Dashing for the portal he neatly hurled her through the shimmering doorway. Regardless of her wishes, Ade did not want her to die. He turned around as the last strongman was killed. He was the last one left alive on this side of the portal. Why did he not pass through now? He preferred the total safety of having the portal close itself while he kept them busy rather than dashing through and allowing the attackers to follow. How long will it stay open? He did not know.
The loyalists encircled him, their eyes watching him like vultures, ready to tear his flesh apart. What were they waiting for? Ade did not wonder long as they rushed him all at once. Spinning his blades around, he managed to sever at least some flesh, it wasn't enough to stop a spear from embedding into his left thigh, nor did he stop them from slicing at his back and gouging his right forearm. Still, he fought on like a madman, his weapons spinning around, daring anyone reckless enough to get to close, and many did. One managed to get his blood into Ade’s eyes, blinding him and leaving him stumbling. He felt a blade puncture a lung before something solid met his head. He fell backwards, feeling a shiver pass over his body before everything went black.
A Blur? Did he have that infernal blood still in his eyes? He better wipe it off… Hey! Something was holding his arms down. He wriggled against the pinning force as his mind woke up a little bit more. No, he had died, did he not? So, this is the afterlife? Which religion was right? Did it matter? The gods were all bastards anyway- Wait….. If he was dead, what was that beeping sound? His vision cleared further as Ade’s mind touched back into reality. He wasn’t dead, he was only waking up from a coma of sorts. It has happened once before.
With his vision sufficiently cleared, he took in his surroundings. Panelled roof and walls, all cleaner than could be natural. Bland as a merchant’s daughter too. There was a door… at least he thought it was a door anyway. No handles on it, nor hinges but it’s placement in the room suggested to him that it blocked the way out. He was lying on a bed if one could call it that. It was uncomfortable and it smelled of harsh alchemical materials. His hands were bound to some railings by strange manacles. Massive ones, with more than one sort of lock keeping them shut. Obviously this ‘Portal Corp’ had dealt with some tough sorts in the past. Why did he suspect he was with the strangers? No place on his Earth looked like this. That much he was certain of.
He shifted in his bonds while trying to get a little more comfortable. He was fully awake now and his eyes focused on that thing sticking into his arm. It was a sliver of metal attached to a tube. On the other end of that tube was a clear pouch of liquid hanging from a metal pole. He did not feel as if he had been poisoned, though that grogginess he had felt earlier seemed to be largely chemically induced. Now that his mind had beaten it though he did not feel that grogginess renew itself. This liquid was not a doping agent.
A high-pitched though short lived squawk emanated from an odd box in the corner of the room, one that had an odd pattern of small holes all over it. Then he heard someone clearing his voice.
“Ade Telualla,” It spoke in Latin. “You recovered quicker than I imagined. We thought you would be out of it for at least a week. Those were some serious wounds, my friend.”
Ade tried to speak and only a croak came from his throat. He coughed a few times and tried again. “Use your native tongue, Raul. I can understand it.”
“You can? Those bit- err, Mistresses never told me that you’re a linguist.”
“What they don’t know can only be a good thing, right?” Despite the situation, Ade felt no panic or fear.
He could hear Raul’s amusement in his voice. “At least our version of the Carnival is less likely to talk to us.” The voice grew more serious. “Ade, you are a guest of Portal Corp. Optimally you and your friends would not even be here, but you are, and even my penny-pinching superiors would rather not send anyone back to that world of yours. You will be in quarantine for fourteen days so we can make sure we are not bringing any diseases into our Earth. Afterwards we’ll need you here for another seven as we get you inoculated to any illnesses here that your body is unfamiliar with. Do you understand so far?”
Ade Nodded, he had a million questions, but he let Raul continue. ‘Quarantine’ was a new word, but from the context it was obvious what it meant.
“You are now in Paragon City. It’s a world apart from anything you’ve known, no pun intended. While you are in quarantine, we will try to educate you more on this Earth so you can try to make a life here. Personally from what I’ve seen I think the life of a professional Hero would suit you better. It won’t take long to get the license ready and in time I may be able to arrange a meeting with a Super Group leader for you. Any questions so far?”
“Plenty. First one though would be ‘what are you getting out of this?’ Altruism is a dead art, my friend.”
“Personally? Bugger all save my normal wage. Portal Corp on the other hand are most likely hoping to use you for good press: Ade Telualla, the great Hero saved from a tragic fate and brought to Paragon by the good folks at Portal Corp! Of course you are going to have to be impressive for that to be viable. In any regards if you do become a hero they’ll get a payout from the Paragon City Council that should at least cover most of the expenses. Next question?”
“What about the others? What is to happen with them?” Ade wondered more on this ‘Hero’ idea.
“The Mistresses will remain as we try to arrange some deal with them. Personally I think we should seek out another NGO. I’ve heard there are a number of guilds on your world. Hopefully some aren’t as selfish as these cows. As for the other women? All have elected to stay with their mistresses when the quarantine is over. Anything else?”
“For now, can I get some more sleep, then some books to read?” Ade was still recovering from the wounds he had suffered. True, they were healed but that in itself took a lot out of him.
He felt the bonds on his arms open, freeing him to move. “Of course. Welcome to Paragon, Ade. I hope you enjoy your stay.”