8FOLD: Victory #3

Jeanne Morningstar mrfantastic7 at googlemail.com
Sun May 5 21:52:30 PDT 2019

8FOLD Comics Presents:
VICTORY #3 [8F-192]
"The Quintain"
by Jeanne Morningstar

Kate spoke the Word once more and she was Victory. "Damn," she said, 
ogling her own muscles as she flexed them.

"Well," said Cornelius, "it's time for you to put those impressive 
muscles to use. Follow me."

Moving without movement, in a way she could never fully understand or 
explain with her unenchanted mind, Kate followed him once more and stood 
in the Starlit Temple. There was a statue now where Mr. Victory had 
been--or was that still yet him?

"First we should establish a few ground rules. Because of the sheer 
power you wield and the limitations of your own mortal body, you should 
remain in your Victory form no more than two hours at a time, and take 
at least an hour before assuming that form again, preferably no more 
than twice a day. You will be able to extend that as you grow more used 
to your form, but you need to be careful not to push yourself too far in 
the early stage of learning your powers. If you had taken on the power 
as a child, as its past wielders had, it would have been easier for your 
body to adjust to it, but as an adult it will take longer. "

"Yeah, yeah."

"You will normally find yourself refreshed after a transformation, but 
if you overextend yourself, your mortal body may be in considerable pain 
afterward. So take care." She grumbled. "Now, your training shall begin. 
You shall face the Quintain."

He took her down into a stone passage, down a marble stairway beneath 
the temple itself. Here, in a room lit by torches that glowed with green 
fire, sat the Quintain. It was a large statue with a broad, hostile 
face, and four muscular arms.

Kate smiled. She was in familiar conceptual territory now. This was a 
classic tutorial enemy if there ever was one.

The Quintain opened its eyes. It flexed its mighty four arms and glared 
at her with its implacable stone face.

"Hey, why are you called a Quintain if you have four arms?" she said. 
Shouldn't you be, I don't know, a quatrain?" The quintain only roared in 

The blood rushed to her skin. She clenched her fists. This was her first 
real battle, and she was ready.

The Quintain charged her, struck out quicker than she could see and its 
punch slammed her back into the wall.

Maybe she wasn't ready.

The Quintain was pure action, no thought. Kate needed to move as quickly 
as it did. She needed to keep her fight brain and her programmer brain 
on at the same time. That shouldn't be too hard. She spent so much time 
playing games, talking about games, designing games in part because she 
was so used to feeling herself abstracted from reality, because she felt 
like she was piloting around someone else's body, someone who was 
supposed to be neurotypical and male, and so it felt like a character 
she was playing. Now she was in a body that really felt like her own. 
Her sensations, reactions, needs were more immediate and she wasn't used 
to that.

The Quintain charged again.

She lunged at it and then found herself instinctively zooming past--yes, 
she reminded herself, she could fly. But fighting in midair still made 
her dizzy. She spun around, trying to punch at it, but lost sight of its 
location. She couldn't map out the room that was spinning around her. 
The Quintain dodged around her and punched at her quickly from all sides 
and she fell to the floor. It loomed over her and started punching the 
floor, and she just barely rolled out of its way. "Ahh, hell," she 
muttered. The Quintain gripped ahold of her cape, yanked her up into the 
air and roared in exultation.

Cornelius snapped his fingers and the Quintain stopped. It opened its 
fist and Victory crumpled to the floor. "That wasn't half bad for the 
first showing," said Cornelius. "The Quintain was also created to defend 
our temple against intruders, so it can take down most enemies, even 
highly trained fighters, in mere seconds."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah." She pulled herself up, took a deep breath and 
brushed the dust off her costume. "How long did it take Mr. Victory to 
fight that thing?"

"On the first try? It went about the same as it did for you. Of course, 
he stayed within the temple for three months on end."

"I can't do that." Victory shook her head. "I"m not him, whoever he was. 
I'm my own person--"

Cornelius looked off into the distance. "William Wilson was his name. He 
was just a child when he first gained the Word--an orphan whose family 
had died in a train crash. I brought him here to keep him safe, as I 
brought you. I was a little surprised you were chosen as an adult. 
Normally it is easier for children to take on that kind of magic, 
because they have more untapped potential. But then again, you are still 
coming into your current self."

Kate nodded. The name she knew, and the origin she knew. The origin was 
similar to the one she'd read in the old comics growing up--though it 
had left out the long training--and the name was the one that was given 
for him in the information released under FOIA after his seeming death. 
But that had claimed his parents had survived well into his adulthood.

"Well," she said. "He was an orphan who didn't have anything left when 
you took him in. I have a life and a friend. I can't leave her behind 
for that long. And also, I'm gonna lose track of time if I stay here all 
the time, so I'd pretty much have to push myself too far, right?"

"Well, I suppose that's true. But it'll take you that much longer to be 
ready to protect that friend of yours, who I can quite obviously tell 
you're in love with. You will have enemies, and they will be coming for 
you much sooner than you think."

She took a deep breath. "About that. I guess some of his old enemies are 
still around, or they might come back... The Toad King, for one. You 
really need to tell me more about that--about the history of who he was, 
what he did. What happened to him."

Cornelius shook his head. "I can't, not yet. There's quite a lot of 
history there. Some of it is complex. Some of it is painful. Some of it 
is not mine to tell. Perhaps--" His teddy-bear face was unperturbed, but 
the wind-currents of his elemental form swirled around him. "You read 
about that history, you see. I lived it. Perhaps I am still trying to 
figure out the right way to tell it."

"OK," said Kate. She could kind of understand, though it dif fit the 
all-too-common pattern of fantasy mentor types being unable to give 
straight answers. And yet, she couldn't give the straight answer about 
her own identity to the woman she loved... Or tell her she loved her, 
for that matter. So maybe they were in the same boat. It still pissed 
her off.

She returned, transformed herself back, and pulling out her thoroughly 
beat-up phone, found that no time had passed at all. She flopped onto 
the bed and sighed, feeling relief as she slipped back into her own, 
crappy body. Then she remembered the work she still had to do. Maybe she 
should have stayed in the Temple after all. But, after several hours of 
mind-numbing techno-busywork and desperate procrastination, Elinor came 
home from work and they sat down together in the couch and cuddled and 
watched MST3K, and all her regrets slipped away.



There is a world far away which resembles Earth except that the place of 
magic and science are reversed--magic reigns and science is a secret 
underground tradition. Its name is Terra Alter. Its solar system is a 
mirror image of Earth's give or take a few planets; where the Venus of 
Earth is a baleful world inhabited by sleeping horrors, the Venus of 
Terra Alter, Venus Fortuna, is a beneficent influence which moves in 
prograde rather than retrograde orbit.

An archaeologist named Jason found himself sent there by an Atlantean 
portal, and fell in love with a princess there, but he still valued his 
old world and life and the woman he loved on Earth, Elaine. She was a 
medievalist who he had met through a fencing club. Since plural 
marriages were not uncommon on Terra Alter, he returned to Earth and 
asked if she wanted to marry him too, and she accepted, not without some 
mixed emotions. Though she believed it was worth it for him, the long 
periods of loneliness could be difficult for her. Then one day, the 
princess Antinea, showed up at her doorstep and said that she needed her 
help to find Jason.

Elaine found herself full of mixed emotions--she had never expected to 
meet Antinea face to face, but found herself admiring her and finding 
her attractive. She wanted to see all the wonders her husband had seen 
but wasn't sure she could handle it. In the end, she agreed to help 
rescue him.

But before they could leave, they were attacked by killers from the 
School of Night--a cabal of magic-using radical aristocrats which had 
evolved into a religious order of hired assassins. Elaine was alerted to 
their presence by her cat, Allecto, while making arrangements to take 
care of her. She took up her old foil from fencing and narrowly defeated 
the assassins. And then her mind was projected across the stars to Terra 
Alter, to a new body created for her there.

Meanwhile, in the Eternal City of Amarantine, eldest and greatest of all 
the cities of Terra Alter and home of an eternal empire which had 
endured for thousands of years, the emperor Mandragus, the Dead King 
resurrected by mysterious dire forces, ventured to the labyrinth under 
the city where the School of Night dwells. He sought the aid of one of 
its deadliest assassins, Azella Alraune--who was also his daughter--to 
kill a visitor he had seen in his dreams.

Meanwhile, Elaine awoke in the science-city of New Atlantis, awed and 
overwhelmed by the new world. She was brought before Antinea and learned 
the history of New Atlantis. It was founded long ago by people who 
escaped Atlantis from her world, just as some of her world's mages, it 
is said, came from Terra Alter. Built on alchemy, the fusion of magic 
and science, it moves across the world to hide itself from its enemies. 
In the eyes of the Everlasting Empire of Amarantine it is 
illegal--sometimes it has tolerated them, at other times sought to 
destroy them.

After this, Elaine is taken to see a complex allegorical masque, and 
goes to a ball afterwards. There, she meets a mysterious, intriguing 
dark haired woman--who is in fact Azella Alraune...


[CW: mention of necrophilia]

It had not been hard for Azella to find her target once she'd set about 
it. She had consulted the greatest dream interpreters and fortune 
tellers in the Empire to find the woman who'd haunted her father's 
dreams. She'd killed them afterwards, of course. She'd then snuck into 
the city in disguise, deliberately playing down her glamor until the 
moment of the dance. There were always pilgrims going in and out of New 
Atlantis now. Past rulers had kept them out of the city as much as they 
could, imposing initiation rituals that took years. Antinea had loosened 
that, believing that was better to allow openness to new perspectives 
and ideas and put oneself in danger than shut out people who really 
needed it. This was foolish, of course. Azella could easily masquerade 
as a pilgrim because she did find the scientific method interesting and 
had little inherent loyalty to magic, though she used it when she had 
to. Her first loyalty was to the art she practiced.

Now she held her target in the palm of her hand. She could read her 
movements and reactions like a book. No doubt the target was thinking of 
the one she loved. She was hesitant, at first, but perhaps something 
about the strangeness of her situation made her more receptive. She took 
Azella's hands, eyes growing wide at her meticulously painted red nails. 
Azella squeezed them, gently, and drew her in, weaving the dance around 
her. She seemed to forget her worries, her fears, her loss, everything, 
and relaxed into her touch. Now was the time to strike.

Azella did not have to work hard to fake attraction to her target. She 
couldn't help but find this woman intriguing, even delightful. Of 
course, that was ordinary for someone of her order. One often developed 
a fixation on one's target, who became the center of an assassin's life 
and occupied all their thoughts while they carried out their mission. 
Some even consummated their union with their target's corpse when the 
deed was done. Azella found this inelegant and overliteral. The act of 
killing someone was intimate enough for her. The feeling of destroying 
your enemy was like nothing else in the world, a cataclysm of joy and 

The great assassins were said to have written poems for their targets. 
Azella had had none who were truly worthy of it, until now. If only she 
had a chance to know the woman longer, she could have written her a 
cycle of sonnets. It was with a some regret she made the killing move so 
quickly. But her art had its demands.

She drew the flower from her secret pocket and placed it in her target's 
hair, a red flower impregnated with a powerful poison.

At once, the target's dark brown eyes opened wide. She flung the rose 
aside and swiftly drew her sword. Azella could not help but appreciate 
the swift, sure motion of her target like the textures of a fine wine. 
She felt both irritated and relieved that her plan hadn't worked. She'd 
long yearned for a true challenge, for a foe who was truly worthy of the 
death she brought, which was the main reason she'd taken her father's 

His soldiers had come now, and the city would fall soon, but none of 
that mattered. Her world had contracted to herself and her target.

With a subtle motion of her wrist, she plucked the sash from around her 
waist and it shifted and hardened into a crimson sword.

Now the real dance would begin.

Jeanne "The Dark Space Princess Knight" Morningstar

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