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Author's note: if you read the random revelations of emma fallwell, this reveals a bit of turvy's past and previous romance with jackie valkyri. i hope that you all enjoy the drama and the romance as well as the action and vivid imagery.
“War and anger shall reign
The clash of iron can be heard
By blindness you're driven insane
I'm lost in anguish and grief
Sorrow won't wane 'til you die
A shattered body deeply hurt
And darkness will cover the light
It's gone forevermore...”
One could nearly hear the song playing in the background, over the din of yelling and conflict, if they ever cared to imagine it. But who would be crazy enough to imagining the song, Battlefield by Blind Guardian, in the middle of a battle? Sure, Salvador Andrés DeOrtiz, a bounty hunter who also went by the name Topsy Turvy (or just Turvy), reasoned to himself as he clashed with a zombie minion, there isn’t any reason why one couldn’t if they wanted to.
Turvy was about 6’4, 215 lbs., and twenty five years old. His skin was a pleasant golden tan and his eyes were green/grey, like the ocean water. His hair, long and jet black, was respectably tidy and fell to around his waist. Turvy’s legs were long and his arms were muscular, which often aided him in both strength and stamina. Whenever he wasn’t wearing his skull mask, which covered the bottom half of his face, he was actually a very handsome man who only shaved his face every so often, usually giving him a rugged and good-looking appearance. When he did remember to shave, he was still just as impressive in appearance. His usual attire was a white, button up long sleeve shirt tucked into his brown pants paired with a black vest, and a pair of knee-high leather boots with buckles and laces that produced a pretty hefty kick to whatever was in his way. Atop his head was a wide-brimmed hat that cast his face in shadow, usually giving him a mysterious appearance, and a string around that hat which held numerous skull beads that signified the number of people he had brought to justice as a bounty hunter.
The zombie lunged and he kicked it in the face with one heavy boot. It reeled back with a bloodcurdling moan and it fell, only to crawl back toward him again. With a grunt, Turvy found his twin pistols and shot two bullets into its decaying head. Finally, robbed of its will to fight him, it slumped over in re-death. Almost immediately, another one took its place.
This battle was the result of an ages-long feud between two bases practically in the middle of a desert. That desert, long ago, was once a forest abundant with trees and grass and any other flora and fauna one could care to think of. The entire world itself was a post-apocalyptic earth, turned savage by greed and envy. Primitive ways took over after the golden years of knowledge and technology. Now, all the earth was a grim reflection of what it used to be, a hollow husk of its former self. Each and every civilization collapsed and had to practically start from scratch again with the last of the Old World technology. There, the world entered a new medieval time... a new Dark Age period. Here, they rediscovered magic, and combined it with the use of the Old World weaponry and concepts.
And here, in a country now forgotten in the new Dark Ages, the two bases sat obstinately like two starved and wary dogs, waiting for the other to make a move.
That move was made just a few years before. They were often fighting, more often than they weren’t. The breaks between battles were brief and gracious, but unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. The last break they had ended just a few days before and it felt as though they had barely even taken a breath before they were suddenly thrust back out into the battlefield.
Turvy felt his eyes wandering to his companions. Auran the mage was levitating above the chaos of the writhing undead forms, frost bolts flying from his fingertips. As they struck the walking dead, they froze in mid-strike so that Jackie Valkyri, leading their other comrades in battle, could strike them down with ease.
Jackie Valkyri, 5’5 and 120 pounds, was quite small but agile, making her swiftness very useful in battle. She had curly crimson hair that cascaded wildly yet elegantly at the same time down to her shoulderblades, eyes that changed colors depending on her mood, pleasantly-shaped lips that smiled a radiant smile whenever she was ecstatic, and fair, soft skin that practically glowed. That woman normally wore a short-sleeved shirt and long striped fingerless gloves that reached her forearms, a kind of corset worn over top of it, a mini-skirt and mid-thigh length striped stockings, and a pair of worn leather boots that covered her legs to just below her knees. To Turvy, she was the most beautiful woman in the world.
Polyfeus Maximus, the leader of their base, hacked and slashed his way through, his face twisted in a mask of fury and determination. The Oracle herself, who was the co-leader with the job of telling them of her vision, was not present, and instead was hidden away in the base under the protection of guards left behind. She was far too important to be a casualty of war.
But what does that make us? Turvy couldn’t help but think before his more rational thoughts told him, What we do for her is crucial for the sake of our futures. If we are to win, we need her safe... even if we’re risking our own lives out here.
Jackie ululated a battle cry, which, according to a legend about her, was supposed to strike fear into the hearts of her enemies, and whirled about with a kukri (a weapon a bit larger than a dagger, with a curved blade with an inward edge that is sharpened for lethal chopping power) in each hand. She spun with such grace and sureness that it was as though she was in a dance rather than a fight. The blades found their mark and tore easily through muscle and bone, felling several enemies surrounding her. Her eyes, red with the fury of battle, found Turvy’s, and she gave him a small nod to show him she was faring well. He returned that nod in a somewhat perfunctory manner. Things were still tense between them, even months after they separated. But all of that was lost in the heat of battle.
Turvy plowed a path through the hordes of undead and caught a glimpse of Farrow, trying his best to abstain from combat. Suppressing a chuckle, the bounty hunter (literally) kicked the brains out of the nearest zombie.
For as long as he knew Farrow, their guy on the inside of the evil base, he always recognized the man as a kind of pacifist. Every time he was forced to hit a person on their side, he always sent a spark of healing energy to them secretly to make up for it. In the end, the damage he dealt was practically zero.
Farrow was an angel of death made mortal to assist the good base in its battle against Mortigal and his necromancy pets, and a benevolent ally as well. He used his powers of divinity to heal and raise the fallen, which made him a cleric, though he did it for both sides (the evil side with Mortigal, who he pretended to work for them, and the good side, led by Polyfeus Maximus, who he actually worked for.) The cleric, 6’1 and 185 lbs., had long black hair with blue highlights, which fell to down past his shoulderblades, a scar from his left eye to his left cheek, faint stubble on his face, and intensely piercing blue eyes that could almost stare into your soul. His face, as usual, held an expression of grim determination.
Turvy found a kind of rhythm in his hacking and slashing, focusing on lessening the enemy numbers until he would cross paths with one of the important people on Mortigal Light’s side. Mortigal Light. The very name left a bitter taste in the mouths of Turvy’s comrades. Mortigal, the leader of the enemy base, was a necromancer, one who commanded the dead. After spending so much time focusing on necromancy and being among the undead, the man was half-dead himself. Sickness, natural death, and old age could not reach him now. The only way to have him killed, well, meant murdering him yourself. It’s not that they haven’t tried—he was just too clever. He always had back paths and reinforcements; something was constantly up his sleeve.
One of those tricks up his sleeve was in the form of Mystifillian Maximus, Polyfeus Maximus’s evil brother. Whenever Mortigal became wounded from battle, Mystif, with his elemental magic, would dissolve into vapor and take Mortigal with him into safety. If Turvy had a copper for every time the two had escaped his grasp at the very last second, he would be rich enough to buy his own private island…
And then, at that very moment, Mortigal came into view, his eyeless sockets vast voids of emptiness that could either be looking into one’s face or gazing into their souls. The necromancer’s grin came slowly as he spotted Polyfeus, who was taking on a small army of zombies all on his own. With a wave of his arm, the ground trembled violently. Jackie shrieked and curled up into a ball. Polyfeus continued his battle doggedly. Auran’s concentration broke and he fell from the sky, only to have his fall broken by a pile of lifeless zombies. Turvy smacked his elbow into a zombie’s face and held his ground. Farrow looked apprehensively to the barren earth below their feet. As one of the good guys pretending to be one of the bad ones, Farrow was privy to his “master’s” secrets. He knew exactly what was going to happen, and Turvy recognized it was true with a feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach. They were not warned about this at all. Farrow didn’t have the chance to warn them.
Right below Polyfeus, the ground shook and quivered as though a mighty earthquake was splitting the world in two. Thankfully Polyfeus jumped aside in time to avoid being sucked into the giant gaping fissure that formed in that instant. White bone poked through the earth and continued to rise until it revealed itself to be a skull, pieces of earth and dirt raining from its bleached surfaces, its jaws opened in a wrathful screech. The rest of the body followed through—immediately, Turvy reeled back, recognizing it as a…
“A bone giant,” he realized with horror. “Ay, mierda…”
Polyfeus cried out as one of its gargantuan bony hands grasped him and lifted him high into the air, his strong legs kicking as he rose up further and further. Auran shook himself free of a pile of cold unmoving limbs and shivered with a disgusted grimace, then saw the bone giant. The abomination, with Polyfeus in its hold, began to lift its foot up into the air and begin walking. It came down, squishing a few hundred zombies with a Brobdingnagian mass of bone, and the other one prepared to continue in its line. The thing was stepping all over the zombie minions, but it didn’t seem to care.
Jackie screamed a shrill scream. Automatically Salvador sprang into action, his instincts demanding that he find her and protect her from whatever is causing her harm. An ominous shadow loomed overhead as the foot threatened to squish the life out of her.
Well, Turvy couldn’t allow that, now could he?
Completely ignoring the horde of undead pressing against him from all sides, he charged through the crowd like a bull on a rampage in his thorough search for his ex girlfriend. Frozen in terror, she could do nothing but watch as the large incoming object came nearer to her. But Topsy Turvy was there in an instant, tackling her out of the way. However, that one rash move cost him more than he had thought it would. The foot came down with a crunch over his legs and a horrible splintering sound could be heard. Turvy bit back a yell and grit his teeth against the pain, feeling the surge of adrenaline take over and relieve him of some of his agony. Jackie lay on the ground ahead of him, crouched in the dirt, panting and looking pale.
Nearby, the looming figure of Death sighed and his shoulders drooped in disappointment. “OH WELL. AT LEAST THERE’S NEXT TIME,” he muttered to himself in his soft yet echoing voice. He took a handle on his bone scythe and with its wicked blade, he sheared a line through the fabric of space and time to Death’s realm, where souls wailed at them from behind the portal. “WHAT A WASTE OF A PERFECTLY GOOD AFTERNOON…,” the ethereal being grumbled as he clambered inside, sealing the anomaly on the battlefield behind him.
Turvy groaned—the pain was quickly being carried away with the rush of adrenaline that took its place. Jackie, who could see Death before he left, after her dying so many times and being resurrected, panicked. Turvy, who had never died once, remained clueless to Death’s brief presence, and very immobile. Just ahead of him, Jackie crawled over to him to see if he was all right. She winced to see his legs twisted and bent in a broken, tangled mess. “Oh, Sal,” Jackie whispered. “Your legs… they’re all…”
“Twisted? Shattered? Hopelessly broken?”
“Yes,” she whimpered, her lower lip trembling, “that. Those.”
“I know, señorita. I know.”
“I’m sorry…” the woman began to wail softly. Turvy frowned; she was going to cry. He never liked it when she cried. Whenever it happened, it made him feel terrible.
At that moment, a shadow loomed overhead. Literally, a shadow loomed overhead, its eyes like smoldering coals, its gargantuan claws looking as though they were weighing its arms down. Well, they could have if the shadowy form had mass. It tilted its head and narrowed its eyes in sympathy. Immediately, the ex-couple identified the being as Farrow’s shadow, a being that was purely the essence of his divinity.
It walked up close to Jackie and craned its head down to look her in the eyes, a small hiss escaping where its lips should be, if it had any. Her eyes flicked to Turvy’s immobile form, and it turned its head to look at him.
“Take your time,” the bounty hunter mumbled. “I’m in no hurry. It’s not like I’m dying or anything…”
If the shadow could roll its eyes, it would. Carefully, it knelt down and put its large clawed hand on his mangled limbs and it muttered a rasping hiss. Very swiftly, his legs made numerous popping and snapping noises as they rearranged and reformed from their previous useless states. Within moments, he was fully healed and back on his feet like a spring that was released from pressure.
Jackie squealed at his renewed enthusiasm and smacked him on the arm. “Now don’t go doing anything stupid like that again!” she growled at him harshly. “You had me worried for a minute there!”
“What are you talking about, crazy woman?” he asked with a wink. “I always have you worried.”
Jackie huffed and practically shoved him away. “Giant. Polyfeus. Save him. Make it happen. GO.”
At the urging of his comrade he took off at a run, with her behind him. Farrow’s shadow sank into the soil, returning to the mortal angel that was his master. As Jackie and Salvador were running, Auran was quickly at their sides. Rapidly the mage’s chest was heaving with breath. Magic users are not often used to strenuous physical exercise. “H-hey!” he panted at them
“Oh look,” said Turvy. “What calls for this sudden desire of muscles?”
“S-shut… up…!” he wheezed. “You… suh… saw… the, the giant… too!”
“Spit it out. Don’t mean to be rude but we don’t have much time!” replied Jackie urgently.
“Don’t… know much… about bone… giants!”
“Magic… may not work!”
“Then you’re doomed,” Turvy told him bluntly.
“DOOMED!” yelled Turvy over his protest, only to have Jackie push him away so she could speak to Auran.
“But will it at least have a chance of working?” she inquired, jumping over the body of a dismembered zombie.
“Undead… and giants… immune… to some… magic… other t-types… m-m-may work…”
“Huh… huh… here… goes!” Auran breathed back to her.
He stopped running so that his sandaled feet skid into the parched soil, and thrust his hands out, splaying his fingers. A light blue aura surrounded his hands as he bellowed, “aungwey!” Turvy ducked as the bolt of magic flew inches above his head and the bounty hunter riposted with a few choice words. The spell darted across the sky and hit the bone giant’s kneecap… only to bounce back off of it and head back into the same direction. Turvy threw himself off to the side in the nick of time, but Jackie wasn’t so lucky. The rebound blast hit her full on in the chest, forcing her backwards a few feet and dragging into the ground, leaving a path of her repulsion on the earth. Turvy’s heart skipped a beat.
“Ah… Auran…” he spoke warily as he got back up to his feet, eyeing the mage with a death glare, “…what exactly did you hit her with?”
A sheepish look crossed his visage. “Aheh…” he chuckled nervously. “Just a confusion spell… nothing that will do lasting damage… I hope…”
In frustration, he tugged at his hair. “Dios mios, ayudame…”
Auran looked apologetic and cleared his throat. “You tend to Jackie. I’ll, ah, go chase the giant before it does anything too harmful…”
“You better!” spat Turvy, leaping to her aid. Auran prepared his levitation spell and lifted himself high into the sky in pursuit of the massive behemoth.
“Jackie, escúchame,” he pleaded. “Listen to me. You must wake up. Por favor. We can’t stay here too long. Vamos.” She groaned and he lightly patted her cheek and shook her shoulder. “¡Dale! ¡Vamos!”
Oh, he was going to kill Auran good when he’d get the first chance to.
Jackie mumbled something. Whatever it was, it was lost over the ruckus of battle. Turvy frantically attempted to coax her back into consciousness as the war raged on around them. She had to wake up soon, or else they would be attacked, and Jackie was in no state to defend herself.
“It’s muy importante that you wake up…” he told her nervously. “Rapidamente, ¡por favor…!” He gazed at her face, praying (even though he was never religious in his life) that she would hear him and snap to and everything would be perfectly normal as they would leap back into the fray. But unluckily, things aren’t always so simple, especially wherever Turvy is concerned most of the time.
Her eyes finally fluttered open and stared up ahead of her. They were glazed and unfocused, as though she couldn’t quite shake herself back into reality. A little louder, she repeated what she had mumbled before. Turvy had to strain his ears in order to hear her mutter: “Sal…”
“¿Cómo? What? …What? Jackie, I’m here,” he informed her.
In response to his voice, she blinked twice. “Sal,” she reiterated.
“Yes? What? Jackie?”
She leaned up, and to his shock, she clasped him in a tight embrace.
Vaguely unnerved, confused, and admittedly a little bit enamored, he tried to wiggle away from her. What was she doing? However, it seemed he would need a crowbar to break free. Auran wasn’t joking when he said she was hit with a confusion spell. “Jackie, erm, not to ruin the moment, but… this isn’t really the time for a hug…”
“Sal, I need you,” she whispered. “I want you. Stay with me. Forever.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa…” He shook his head. “Jackie. Look. This is the middle of a battlefield. It’s not that I don’t like you, but you said so yourself; you are done with me. Right? …Right?” But she only held onto him even harder than ever.
Unexpectedly, he was reminded of who he was before. He had a sudden recollection of those years he spent as a hitman. Specifically, it was the time right after he met her, and the reason why he gave up being a hitman in the first place, what he sacrificed in his old life…
Salvador Andrés DeOrtiz, before he was the bounty hunter Topsy Turvy, strode with purpose along the corridor of the underground headquarters where his employer lived. His eyes, greenish grey and without joy or mirth, stared at the path he was going to tread. He wore his usual brown work pants and a white sleeveless shirt tucked into them, his heavy boots clomping down onto the floor with deep footfalls. Hanging along his waist were various tools of the trade—weapons, as they were literally. This would be so easy. Even easier than taking down a target.
Swiftly his feet took him around the corner and to the office of his boss, or his jefe, as he liked to call him. Without knocking, he pushed the door open.
Salvador’s boss, a rather scrawny and gaunt-looking man, glanced up from his desk. His murky eyes flickered with interest and curiosity. “Señor DeOrtiz. You’re back soon.”
He jerked his chin up in response. “So I am.”
“Is our little… project… taken care of?” Project—he often used that as a euphemism for his recent hit. It always sounded so innocent whenever he put it that way. But he was tired of hearing it.
Without hesitation, the hitman responded, “no.”
“Are you having troubles with this one, Señor DeOrtiz?”
“Then what is the reason for our premature meeting, Señor DeOrtiz?”
His lips twitched for a moment as though he would have liked to smile. “I wish to speak with you.”
Impatience was clear in the sting of his tone. “Talking is not what I have assigned you to do.”
“I wish to resign.”
Immediately, his jefe’s eyebrows shot up. “Resign?” he parroted.
“Yes. Resign. Ahora.”
Dumbly, his employer gaped at him like a startled fish.
“That means now,” he clarified with a somewhat darker tone than his usual level voice.
“And… what is your reasoning behind this?” asked the man, who finally seemed to have found his voice. In an attempt to look calm and collected, he steepled his fingers on his desk and leaned back in his chair.
“I am no longer fit for this line of work.”
“Are you? Because I think you have exactly what it takes to be the assassin you are. A cold disposition. Endless determination. A kind of savage ruthlessness.”
“I am no longer fit for this kind of work,” Salvador repeated again. A storm was brewing in his eyes.
A long, drawn out sigh escaped the boss’s flared nostrils. “Well. This comes as a surprise to me.” He peered at him carefully. “Aren’t you aware of what happens when a hitman I employ runs away from his work?”
“I have a feeling I know.”
“I send another hitman to take my old hitman down,” he continued. “The next one I make sure is capable of handling my old one. You don’t want that to happen to you, now do you?”
Salvador’s eyes lowered to the ground. Jackie Valkyri. His recent “project”. Almost immediately after encountering her, he was smitten. A hitman should never have his love and work mingle—especially when they are exactly the same thing. Luckily for both him and her, she was cunning enough to escape before he could bring himself to kill her… not that he ever would. But what use would being dead be for his decision to quit his job and track her down again so that he might be with her?
“No,” decided Salvador. A smirk crossed the scrawny boss’s thin lips.
“I thought not. Now be a good little ducky and go—“
“I never said I was finished talking.”
His mouth gaped open in mid-sentence. A series of emotions passed his face and he eventually decided on cold intrigue. “Go on, Salvador. Amuse me with your silly explanations.”
“I’m in love with her.”
“Is that a joke? I didn’t really mean for you to take my dare to amuse me seriously.”
“Well then, let me say it with my serious face.” His expression didn’t alter in the slightest. “I’m in love with her.”
This time the jefe had the nerve to laugh. What a smarmy little idiot, thought Salvador in exasperation.
Ignoring the stupidity of the pathetic man sharing the room with him, he continued, “I’ve been doing nothing but eat, sleep, and kill for the past few years that I’ve worked as your little hitman. Essentially I purged myself of feeling in order to work for you. And do you know what? It worked very well for me. I felt no remorse. Each head I brought back was a new pay day.
“But Jackie made me feel different. She reminded me of my humanity. Those people, not all of them, but some of them, were good. They led honorable lives and had families. And I killed them just on a whim. I knew that she couldn’t change me for who I really am, but she can at least bring me back to how I once was.”
“Interesting,” quipped the employer with a toady little smile that irked the hitman to no end. Consciously and inconspicuously, Salvador’s gauntleted hand went to the side of his belt where his tools were located.
“So I want to find her. I need to talk to her some more, because she made me realize that I’m not as evil as I thought I was. Sí, I have hatred burning white hot in me. But I can use it in other ways than this. I can suppress it, because los dios know that I can never get rid of it completely.”
“Now you’re a brooding, dark, romantic figure?”
“No. I’m a monkey’s uncle.” His boss blinked rapidly. “That was a joke,” Salvador confirmed. He turned his back on him to start walking away, his hand still on his belt where the tool he needed resided.
“You can’t do this,” his boss called after him as he got closer to the door. “I’ll have someone track you down. You’ll be dead before you catch up to her.” But he ignored him. Flustered, the man went on, “that’s a promise, Señor DeOrtiz!”
“Do I make myself clear?” nagged the boss in irritation. He was clutching the edges of his desk so hard his hands glowed white.
“Perfectamente,” responded Salvador without turning around. “Except I can’t let that happen. And you know it too.”
Like a striking cobra, the ex-hitman whipped around and threw the tool he was gripping—a sharp-edged hatchet—through the air in his direction. Time seemed to run in slow motion for the two of them, as both of their lives were about to be changed forever. On the wall, the silhouette of the flying hatchet closed the distance between the men and merged with the silhouette of his former employer’s neck. A wet sputtering noise could be heard throughout the room.
At last, Salvador did turn around. “In all honesty,” he said with the first smile he wore for what seemed like ages, “I should be thanking you. If you hadn’t signed me up with Jackie, I would have never known how good I really was on the inside. As proof, this is the first good deed I have done since before I began working for you.” He inclined his head to one side. “In assigning me to kill Jackie, you have turned my world… topsy-turvy.” He smiled. “Topsy Turvy. I like that.”
The man could only make a gurgling noise at him as he continued in his path to the door. A new spring entered Salvador’s step. For one of the few times he could remember, he felt free and unburdened with the troubles of his life. It’s about time he did something good.
Jackie, he thought to himself, I’m coming.
“Salvador,” pleaded Jackie. “I love you. I always have.”
“No, no, no, no, no…” he quietly begged her. “Snap out of it. You’re not being yourself.”
“What do you mean? All I need is you.”
“You need to wake up from this!”
“But I am awake.”
“Woman, you are loco!” He threw his arms up in the air. Rather violently, he pushed her away from him. Jackie looked as though she might cry.
Turvy made a noise in frustration. “Okay, just stay there. Don’t go anywhere. These zombies will tear you to bits in this state.” He stood up and drew both of his pistols, rapidly firing shots in all directions at any enemy within view and putting bullets in to replace the lost ones. Jackie Valkyri stood up to follow him. Turvy turned and stated sharply, “I thought I told you to stay there.”
“You can’t do this to me,” she insisted. “I know how much you love me. You can’t stay away from me for long.” Looking at her and feeling the way his heart soared, he knew it was true. But it didn’t mean that he couldn’t do what he had to in order to ensure her safety. Instead of rushing to her and holding her tight like every cell of him was crying out to do, he continued to fight for her. She was everything to him. Jackie was there for him, through thick and thin…
Almost through thick and thin, rather, he reminded himself as he fired his pistols again and again and reloaded.
The Oracle, with her beautiful orange-red hair framing her fair face and luminescent green eyes flecked with blue, gave him an all-knowing look. Just a moment before, she called him in to her “office”—a large room that resembled a kind of a throne room, where she mostly sat and spent most of her days—to give him life-altering information. Only when he had requested to hear it before, he had no clue how it would have altered his life.
“My dear Salvador,” she said softly. She never used his nickname of Topsy Turvy. “It is true. You are an illegitimate child of a conquistador and a native Latina. The gods do not lie, and I have seen it from them. That is why your father, from his embarrassment and shame, would never speak to you of your mother.”
Thud. It was as though the words were heavy weights being dropped to the floor. Topsy Turvy shook his head. “No. It can’t be true. There must be a mistake.”
“But there isn’t. You must believe me.” She laid a consoling hand on his shoulder and found that it was shaking. He was kneeling on the ground before her. His eyes, wide and staring, never left the floor.
“Then… if it is true… tell me one thing,” he requested in a near-whisper. She tilted her head in sympathy. “Can you tell me… what you know of my mother…?”
She bit her soft, red lower lip and her eyebrows drew together. Turvy tilted his face up to her with pleading eyes. “Salvador Andrés DeOrtiz,” she began as quietly as he spoke a moment before, “are you sure you want to know this?”
At first, Turvy shook his head no… then nodded a hesitant yes. “I… I need to know. My whole life I never knew, and now I have my chance.”
“Are you aware of how this may affect you?”
“No,” he admitted quietly.
For a while, the Oracle seemed indecisive. “Knowledge can be a dangerous thing, Salvador. I know this, but yet I cannot escape from it, being what I am. If you are sure you want to know, then there is no reason why I shouldn’t tell you this.”
Topsy Turvy nodded, his eyes searching hers.
“Salvador,” she told him with her usual soft yet omnipotent voice, “your mother’s name was Necahual, but she was forced to take a new name when the conquistadors, your own father being one of those thousands of men, invaded. She chose the new name María. In fact, you have her eyes, which were a highly unusual color in not only her society, but also to the conquistadors. Your father, Andrés DeOrtiz, claimed her as his slave. She died… while giving birth to you. Necahual would have named you Tlacelel: ‘greatest of our male heroes’, if your father had allowed her to before she died, but she was told to give you a Spanish name. So she named you Salvador, which matched up the best with the word of her native language. Your name means—“
“I know what it means,” he cut in bitterly. Turvy closed his eyes. The world could have been ending for all he cared. But at that moment in time, nothing seemed to matter. Nothing except that he brought death to the family he never knew just by being alive. By being born.
“Now you know… but don’t say I didn’t warn you,” she informed him, concern in her gentle eyes. Brusquely, he brushed her hand off his shoulder and stumbled out of the room as though in a daze, her worried stare following him as he left.
Once he exited the room, Jackie was there on the outside, waiting for him. In the sky, the sun was shining without a cloud to block out its joyful rays. If birds were still around in that barren area, they would have been chirping merry tunes whilst flitting about cheerily. When he awoke that very morning, it seemed to him the kind of day that could never go wrong.
Contrary to his first impression of that day, something had gone wrong. A terrible realization had put a damper on his perception of his own life.
At first, Jackie bounced up to him, a wide grin on her beautiful face. Seeing his forlorn expression, her smile slowly faded. “Sal? What’s wrong?”
“I need to be alone,” he told her, a slight tremor in his voice betraying his stoic tone.
“But Sal,” she called as he walked by her, “wait. Tell me what’s wrong. Sal…!” Turvy went on walking, and she screeched, “Salvador Andrés! Listen to your girlfriend!”
Wisely, he did stop that time. He turned on his heels to face her as she scampered over to catch him by the cuff of one of his white sleeves. “Talk to me,” she demanded.
“What’s there to say?” he asked moodily. In her frustration, she reached up and pulled his hat over his eyes, knowing his phobia of being blind. The reaction she received was frantic flailing of the arms as he fought to keep calm. “Jackie? …Jackie?!” he called, panicking. “¿Dondé estás? ¡Yo no puedo ver! ¡NO PUEDO VER! ¡Yo veo nada!”
She crossed her arms and watched as he stumbled around, waving his arms in front of him to feel for obstacles. “¡Ayúdame! Ayúdame, ¡por favor! ¡Ahora!” He cried out pitifully, “¡Estoy muerto! ¡Estoy perdido! Adíos, ¡mundo cruel! Estoy—“
Finally Jackie couldn’t listen to him plead anymore. “Okay, if I let you see again, will you tell me what’s wrong?” she shouted over the volume of his cries.
“¡Sí! Sí, ¡ahora! ¡Por favor!”
Jackie grabbed him briefly to steady him and keep him still from his struggling, and then hopped up to reach his hat and pull it off (then put it on her own head—she had always admired his hat). He practically collapsed in relief, finally calming down from his recent flailing.
“Okay, as promised,” said Jackie, “you need to tell me what’s wrong.” Turvy was avoiding her eyes, but she stood up on her tiptoes, smooshed his cheeks together, and turned his head so he had no choice but to stare down at her. The sight of them would have been slightly comical, if the situation wasn’t so depressing. “Focus,” she told him. “Look at me. Honey, you try to hide everything behind that silly grin of yours, but apparently this was too heavy for you to even bother. Please tell me. It might make you feel better.”
“Nuh, it wunt,” he told her through smooshed cheeks. She let him go to allow him to talk.
“But it couldn’t possibly be that bad… can it?”
“I killed my mother,” he blurted out. Jackie froze and blinked at him. “She died while giving birth to me. If I was never born, she’d be alive today.”
“But, Sal,” she said with a sympathetic tone, “if you were never born, I would be quite lonely.”
But Turvy wasn’t totally paying attention again. In her frustration, Jackie frowned at him and tugged at his arm. “Please? Feel better. You’ve done so much for me. For all of us. I need you.”
“Mmh,” he grunted.
“There’s something else on your mind, Sal.”
He stared ahead for a moment, then turned his green/grey eyes to her, staring fiercely into her own warm gold eyes. She vaguely noticed that he had placed his hands on her hips. “Jackie. I want you to marry me.”
That statement threw Jackie Valkyri for a loop. “Uh, say again?”
“I want you to marry me.”
Rapidly, she blinked in surprise and shock. “N-now?”
“No. But soon.”
Hesitantly, she replied, “honey… I’m not sure if—“
The bounty hunter cut her off by saying, “Jackie, either we are meant to be everything to each other… or nothing. Marry me or leave me.” His tone was uncharacteristically solemn, his eyes unusually intense. Basically he was giving her an ultimatum—and figuratively putting her into a corner. Nervously she swallowed. Sal raised his eyebrows, impatient for a response.
“No,” she decided. “I can’t decide; it’s too soon. So I won’t.”
Turvy’s shoulders slumped as he took his hands away from her. In a way he wasn’t really asking her to marry him. At this time, where his mind was full of chaos, Jackie was the only chance for solidity he had. Something stable to hold on to when the rest of his life wasn’t going as it was meant to be. If he was to stay with her, he wanted to make sure she was willing to stay with him.
Apparently she wasn’t.
Seeing his crestfallen expression, her confusion turned to worry and sympathy. Biting her lip momentarily, she offered, “I’m sorry, Sal. You didn’t give me much of a choice.”
Turvy was already walking. For a brief time, she wondered whether or not she should follow him. Eventually she decided that Turvy was better off being left alone for now. Perhaps he would come to his senses and tell her that whether or not she wanted to marry him didn’t matter to him, and he wanted to stay with her.
But time went on. He took back his stuff from the room that they shared and took a new room for himself. They no longer hung out like they used to, make fun of Auran and his overlarge ego, or playfully fight over whose turn it was to make dinner, or even sing songs together from Evita. Not even when I’d be Surprisingly Good for You was playing in the background. That was their favorite song from the musical, and the words to it were left unsung in an uncomfortable silence between them.
Jackie, conflicted by her feelings for him, couldn’t decide to shun him or to give him a second chance, so she would sometimes be overly nice to him and immediately switch to hating his guts. Then, she would mentally reprimand herself for being inconsistent. Did she love him for who he was or did she hate him for being so stupid?
As the days wore on, he seemed to push the new information about his mother María off to the side in favor of newer dilemmas to deal with—such as the growing threat of Mortigal’s gathering forces. For a while, he seemed happy again as there were new tasks to deal with and things to keep his mind away from his personal troubles. But who could tell for sure when he was always smiling? Always smiling, just like the skeletal grin on his bounty hunting mask…
He snapped back into reality as she insistently pushed herself into his arms. In a hurry he stepped away. “You don’t love me!”
“Yes I do!” she answered. “I’ve always loved you and always will! And you love me too!”
Turvy couldn’t reply right away. A lump had lodged itself into his throat, making speech emotionally impossible. As much as he loved her, he couldn’t be with her. He loved her a lot more than he could handle. He loved her more than he loved anyone in his whole life. He loved her more than she could know, more than he could find words to express it. But unfortunately, Jackie, even as she thought she still loved him again in her altered state of mind, didn’t truly feel that way. So the only way to fix it…
“Jackie?” said Salvador in an unusually thin voice, then cleared his throat with a rough “a-herm”. It did little to help him, though. “You remember why we split apart, ¿sí?”
The bounty hunter received a blank stare. Still, he went on. “I wanted more than what we already had together, but you weren’t ready for it. I could have waited for you to be ready. But… I was a fool with a brain full of dust bunnies and thought that because you weren’t ready, we shouldn’t be together. Because you didn’t love me as much as I loved you. And I know I shouldn’t have done some things I’ve done… or said some things I said… or been some things I was in the past… but y’know, the whole time since we broke up, I was kind of hoping—just a little bit maybe, but nothing to pin everything on—that you would forgive me and give me a second chance, that you would tell me how much of an idiot I am for forcing you to give me up and then let me hold you and make everything better, to make everything back to the way things were between us.
“You make me a better person when you are with me, and I need all the help I can get if I’m ever going to be good enough for you. If some part of you wants me back, maybe even just a little bit, a sliver of a percent of a fraction of a tiny little itty-bitty peqeño part of a piece of you, then please, I beg for another chance with you.” Despite that, though, he shook his head no. “But not like this. Not when you’re not you. And please, for dios sake, not in the middle of a battlefield when you’re hit with a confusion spell and Auran’s chasing down a bone giant that’s making off with Polyfeus. Anything but that—it’s not the time or place. And in your case, not the state of mind.”
Like a vegetable, she kept staring uncomprehendingly at him. It was like talking to a tree stump, and tree stumps often held better conversations. The information he was hitting her with was causing her temporarily magically modified brain to go Does Not Compute.
“So if you want me? I’m yours. But no…” he said, his voice nearly failing him yet again, “…as much as I hate to say, it probably can’t happen.”
Knowing he was going to regret this when she would come back to herself, he caved in and held her. With a war full of zombies and bone giants and whatever else was out there, Salvador was holding Jackie as though nothing was going on, as though they were trapped in a small bubble that was like a world all on its own. And gods, he missed holding her. He missed when they used to share a room and he would stay awake to watch her sleep. He missed watching Evita and singing I’d be Surprisingly Good for You with her on rainy days. He missed her chiding him when he would do or say something stupid and typically Turvy, then smiling while giving him a hug and tell him he’d better make up for it somehow or else.
The chunk of pure emotion that was wedged in his throat suddenly reached his eyes, which to his indignity, began to well up. But for now he wouldn’t care. What a coward he was to be able to say this to her when she was not able to listen or remember, but never when she was waiting to hear what he was thinking!
“Te amo,” he choked to her, then put a hand to her chin and gently tilted it up so that he could press his lips to hers in a loving kiss. That kiss lasted a while, perhaps a good fifteen seconds, and when he could finally bear it no longer, he pulled away enough to whisper to her lips, “dispel.”
Though he knew little to no magic and trusted it about as much, it was one of the first and most basic spells the training academy taught him and one of the very few ones he kept in his memory. Back then when he was learning to be a successful bounty hunter for the base, he had no idea he would need to use it for this situation.
This time he was powerless to hold back the tears as he let her go.
The spark of magic quickly worked its way into her brain to unravel the threads of Auran’s misfired confusion spell. It wasn’t long before Jackie blinked, her thoughts, feelings, and personality flooding back into her expressive eyes. Just as soon she remembered where she was, what she was doing, and that Turvy was holding her tightly to him, his face just inches away from hers.
For many moments she sputtered before wrenching herself free from his embrace. “TURVY? What the cricket do you think you’re doing?!?” Crossing her arms with her violet eyes flickering hotly, she demanded, “You have fifteen seconds to explain to me what’s going on. Or else.”
Even through his tears, he managed a silly grin as he put his hands in his pockets. “Easier to tell me to look for queso on the moon.” It was then that she noticed that he had been crying a moment earlier.
“Sal? What’s wrong?” she asked, her attitude doing a sudden about-face. It was rare to catch him in a moment of genuine weakness. Though she didn’t know what happened or what he had admitted during the time of her confusion, she could tell it was something important to him. Something that had stripped away his tough outer shell and revealed the softness within, even for just that short period of time.
“I can’t tell you. Not right now, at least.” He shook his head, his grin disappearing for a brief few seconds as he sniffed and wiped his eyes. “I just don’t know what I should be doing.”
Although she had no idea what his problem was, Jackie was in fact able to offer him some advice. “Try,” she told him. “You try. That’s what you should do.”
Grinning like an idiot again, he nodded. “Okay.”
“Now what are you doing standing here! You better get your butt in gear and help Auran save Polyfeus! You hear me?”
Right there, that was the true Jackie. He couldn’t explain it; in that moment, he just felt happier than he had been in several months. With renewed steel, he went back charging into the fray, nimble Jackie following alongside him, taking down zombies from all sides.
The two of them were easily able to catch up with Auran and the undead abomination that held Polyfeus captive, mostly due to the giant’s painstakingly slow speed. “About TIME!” roared the peeved mage over the surrounding ruckus. “What were you doing? Having a tea party or something?!”
“YES!” yelled Turvy just to mess with him. “And I saved you a doily too, you—“ he continued, calling Auran something highly crude and inappropriate. Jackie snorted in amusement, but still smacked him anyways.
“Don’t be an eejit,” she told him while trying to her grin. She wasn’t doing a very good job.
With an unbridled battlecry, Turvy took out one of his swords and began hacking at one of the giant’s legs that was anchored to the ground. Jackie ululated and started on the other leg with her small yet vicious kukris. It didn’t seem to do much damage at first, but with their combined efforts, cracks were beginning to appear along the bone.
“Valignat!” Auran cried, and a spray of fire flew from his palms and engulfed the bone giant’s bulky head. It parted its jaws in a massive screech—apparently the fire was having some effect on it. During the midst of the bombardment on it, Polyfeus, with his superhuman strength, was able to wrestle free from its grasp. With a triumphant grunt, he ran along its arm to its shoulder, and with an almighty swing of his fist, knocked a fell blow to its spinal column. It screamed again with a hellish cry as the assault continued. At last, with fire in its face to blind and confuse it, fractured feet to cease its walking, and a crumbling spine, it began to lurch over backwards, almost in slow motion with its colossal size.
“TIM-BURRRRRR!” shouted Turvy as loudly as he could.
Before the giant could impact the ground, Auran levitated to Polyfeus and plucked him off of its massive shoulder. Turvy almost chuckled at what he imagined the mage was thinking. Perhaps something like: Ugh! More physical exercise. How brutish and uncultured…
Straining from the weight of their leader, Auran actually managed to land safely before he could plow both himself and Polyfeus into the ground. Cheering echoed about from the good base as the forces of undead were finally being driven back into a retreat by Mortigal’s orders.
The day was done, and they were victorious.
For now, at least.
~FOUR DAYS LATER~
Turvy sat in the courtyard, on a bench underneath one of the very few healthy trees left in that desert area. The base was kind of like a haven for vegetation in these parts. The Oracle, who had nothing else to do really but be a vessel for the gods to talk through, enjoyed gardening once and a while, and managed to bring back the green into the base. Turvy kind of had to admit, she did a pretty good job. It looked very nice.
Held in his hands was his guitar. He wasn’t really playing anything, just a bunch of little random notes that carried off into the air. As he plucked away at the strings, he hit a sour note and winced.
Auran, with Jackie at his heels, made his way over to the idle bounty hunter. “Are you deaf, half-and-half, or did you just not hear the meeting bell ringing?” drawled the mage. Half-and-half. It referred to his mixed heritage, but it didn’t bother him as much as it used to. He set down his guitar and stretched, several joints crackling. “Agh—nope, didn’t hear it.”
“Well then come on,” Jackie urged impatiently. “Let’s go! It’s important!”
Within minutes, they reached the giant building which held the meeting room. It was a fine-looking building made of marble, combined with arches and towering greek pillars. In a hurry, Jackie scampered ahead and pushed open the double doors. The room was filled to the brim with all of their comrades, and at the head was Polyfeus, looking serious like he always did, and the Oracle, who looked tired and withdrawn but still as radiant as ever. The Oracle looked like that, Turvy noticed, whenever she had just had a vision from either the past or future (or even to an alternate dimension, which really threw him for a loop).
“Is everyone here?” boomed Polyfeus over the mutterings of the gathered people He paced at the front a while, his eyes scanning the crowd. Satisfied, he stopped beside the pale redheaded Oracle.
“Our Oracle,” announced their leader, “recently had a vision.” The mumbling began again, but he silenced them by continuing, “a good vision this time. One that benefits us greatly if it comes to pass.”
Immediately, everyone seemed to hold their breath. A turn of events in their favor? What could it be?
“A savior,” spoke the Oracle softly as though reading their minds. She did not need to speak any louder to be heard, however. “One who will help us be rid of Mortigal and his allies once and for all.”
A strained hush went over the room. Who was it? Was it one among them? Jackie’s bright green eyes widened. Auran tried to look unaffected by this piece of news, like he knew it all along, but failed horribly. Turvy clenched and unclenched his fists with the building suspense.
“Our savior,” she went on, “is not of this dimension. This one who will send us all from evil is from Earth, before it was affected by this poison of the land.”
For a while, no one said anything. In the back of the room where the three friends were standing, Auran sniggered quietly. “What, Salvador Andrés, did you think just because your first name meant ‘savior’, you’d be the one to save us all?” he toadied in a hiss of a whisper in the bounty hunter’s direction.
“Nah,” replied Turvy with a shrug. “Less work for me, y’know.”
But Jackie was raising her hand hesitantly. Polyfeus spotted her in the back and called on her. “Speak, Jackie Valkyri.”
“Who is this savior?” she inquired.
“Yeah, who is he?” Turvy echoed.
At that, the Oracle smiled a knowing smile, and whispered something to Polyfeus.
“‘He’,” corrected Polyfeus, “is a ‘she’.”
A jolt of surprise ran through the gathering as he added, “and she is but a child of seventeen.”
Turvy grinned as an excited and bewildered murmur spread throughout the crowd. “Can’t wait to meet her,” he said.
Jackie pulled a face. “Turvy! Don’t be a letch.”
Auran rolled his eyes.
But little did he know, it was the bounty hunter who would be sent to retrieve her and bring her to the base. And that he would botch that job up pretty badly, too.
With everything considered, Salvador smiled. He was content now that things gained a little more order in his life.
Sure, there would be Auran, constantly taunting him. And yes, Jackie would remain out of reach of him. But things definitely seemed to be looking up for both him and his comrades.
All he really had to do… was try.