Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Lilly Ripper 05

Cherry Bomb

The way the ebony tower is build and lived in by the Church of the Living Goddess is like a large communal apartment. The bottom floor is a complex mixtures of teaching areas and wellness centers where the White Maidens have taken over. Below that and deep into the catacombs of the plateau are dungeons reassigns to varius tasks, but the deeper level serve their original purpose of imprisonment and occasional torture. Above and into the trunk of the tower, the White Maidens give way for the Red Gaurd, then a mix, then...who knows? The results of this mixture is that, although the Red and White Heart Magi seperate themselves in task and organization, they mingle socially.

One of the teaching rooms that Anna approached had much music drumming through it. Strings were plucked and skins were beat. When Anna opened the door, she wasn't surprised to see children dancing is semi-unison to the music. Music also created by children. On the stage with the young band was a White maiden who had a wide smile and white hair dyed dark red. Anna leaned on the inside of the doorway and watched.

"Right, now Jump! Really Jump! Who can touch the ceiling? Ooo! Ooo! I can!" The Maiden hopped higher than all but one of the children. Effee kids were good jumpers.

The class was primarily Mume kids with a few Borc and a few more Effee. The borcs were not graceful, but everyone was into the rythem and having fun. That's what Cherry did best. Teach people to have fun.

"Tandy, twirl your wrist when you spin. Bum Bum Bum Boom!" When the first kind fell Cherry followed, and then the rest of the class, probably thinking it was part of the dance. "Okay, guys! I think we've had enough." Giggle Cherry, cutting off the band with a gloved movement. "Take a second to catch your breath and it's totally good today. Hey, how about you guys try this move with each other? I'll see you all next week. Ooo, lights." Chery fell on the floor looking at the candles on the desk. They wern't lit. It was still morning. Anna had no idea what lights Cherry meant.

The kids passed by Anna after a good rest. Some stared at Anna's uniform, and a mume boy stopped. "Is Maiden Cherry in trouble?"

Anna held back a laugh. "Yeah. She's exceeded her fun quota today. We're planing on exiling her." The boy looked shocked and ran off.

"Goldy! I would recognize that voice under water!" Cherry didn't get up. "Quick, throw me a banana! I need to peel something and soon!"

"There are no fruit here, Cherry."

"An orange then!"

"There's no fruit, Cherry."

"A lime?"

"Cherry, there's no fruit. There's no fruit here, Cherry."

Cherry sprang up, reinvigorated by the half minute rest. She pounced Anna gracefully until they collided and then not so gracefully. She hovered over a surprised Anna and declared, "I need to peel something! You have to help me peel something! Let's go!"

I've heard a few stories about Cherry and what she was like. Anna met Cherry a long time ago when she was still training to be a Red Gaurd. Anna had a difficult time that after noon and was crying in the locker room, nursing her bruises next to a window.

"Why are you crying?" word from the window. Anna was so astonished she stumbled off the benches and back up against the wall. Peeking her head over the seal was Cherry, small and wirey. A little Mume girl in a white gown. She didn't have her veil, yet.

"Wha- Bu- What?" Anna stammered, too surprised to wipe the blur from her eyes.

"Stop that crying." Cherry climbed into the window and purched like a cat on the edge. "It's an awesome day! You gotta save your tears for rainy days, you know? Well I know, anyway. Hold still." Cherry pounced on Anna and used a tare from her dress to blot her eyes. "Stop strugling. Hey, do you know one of the Priestesses? I'm looking for a Priestess."

"How are you here!"

Cherry stuck her tongue out. "I climbed through the window. That one." She pointed to her point of entry. "It's used to look at the sky. See?"

"But...We're 6 stories high!"

"I know! You Red'ies have to keep your priestesses on the lower levels." I was told that no one except Cherry reffers to Red Guard as "Red'ies."

From that point on, Anna and Cherry were friends, and good thing, too. Cherry would'a had a hard time explaining to the Red Gaurd why she decided to climb straight up the Ebony Tower if Anna hadn't help sneak her back down.

And now, Cherry was grown up, Red-headed, and juggling apples. "I can't peel these apples!"

"Please, Ma'am!" The merchant outside the church was struggling to grab his fruit back. "Don't touch without buying!"

"Oh, don't be a sticky stuck stick thing, Harrad!" Oh, thought Anna. This wasn't a first offense. "I'll buy your lousy non-peelable apples, but I want something I can peel."

"I don't have something you can peel! Uh...Uh...What about Grapes! People peel grapes! You! You're Red Guard! You can help!"

Anna Shrugged and put up her hands. "Leave me out of this."

"Grapes Grapes Grapes. I don't have finger nails to peel grapes. Is that a Mango? Where did you get a mango?"

"No no. That's my lunch. Uh...Very bad Mango. You don't want that." Cherry wasn't listening. She was reaching in and adding the Mango to the swirl of juggled fruit. "No. No, come on, Maiden. It's my lunch!"

"I'll give your a full gold piece for these apples and that mango. Goldy, pay the good merchant." Anna dug five bits out of her purse and planted them on the merchant. Under that white veil, Anna could swear she saw her friend's eyes flash. "Thank you, Miss Red Guard Person. Catch!" That left two apples and a Mango which Cherry held with her gown. "Goldy, you don't come see me anymore." Cherry walked away with direction.

"You're not mad, are you?"

"Darn toot'n, I'm mad. Hey you! Catch!" Cherry threw an apple fast at the head of a City Gaurd. He caught it with ease and started eating.

"Thanks, Cherry."

Cherry walked in a new direction chattering. "You go off in one of your mopey fits and leave me behind, Goldy. Or worse, your little research runs and I'm thinking 'I'll wager two weeks allowance she's swinging from a vine from the ceilings of the docks!' Well I wanna swing from the ceiling too, Goldy! Why not me?!"

"I'm not swinging from anything, Cherry."

"Ooo! Are you swashbuckling? I don't even know what that means, but I'll bet it's fun! I heard it from a librarian! CATCH!" The last apple arched toward a hapless Effee, tossing wash water out someone's back door. It thudded on his chest and fell into the wash bin.

"Thank you, Mistress Cherry!" The effee yelled as Cherry turned a new direction.

"Eat you're apple, Goldy. Looks like they can be dangerous today." Cherry gnawed on the mango, tearing a grip in the skin.

"You're supposed to cut them in half first, Cherry."

"No knife. So what'cha do'n here, Goldy? We gonna party?! I love parties! Except your smoke parties. Those are dull. How about a contest! Who can guzzle the most Borc wiskey without throwing up!" Gnaw gnaw gnaw.

Anna passed her a knife from her hip. "No, I'm working on something. Something important, but secret. If you could, I might need your help. Can I trust you to keep your lips shut?"

"Huh?" Cherry was half gnawing on the skin, hanf poking, not stabbing, the mango with Anna's knife. "Yeah, sure." She turned attention from the Mango. Her eyes opening wider than before. "Are we going on an Adventure, Goldy?"

The spring mist returned. It was the monsoon trying to drive the ocean onto the plateau again, but failing as rain. Soon enough, another storm would come. Anna sat in her office, Duffworm's books in her lap and a hot cup of Bean Juice, a gift from Drate, on the table.

The first book was titled "Anatomy of the Dead, Volume 14, Spring of 2003ADZ by Arrat Duffworm, Mortician." And the second was labled "Victims of Lily Ripper, Spring of 2003 -" with nothing else.

Anna sighed and closed her eyes, opening Volume 14 first. The thick paperus bound in leather showed detailed and gruesome images of body after body. Race, Gender, and age followed no patern and each sketch was accompanied by notes, most in Ixxar, common tongue to Annalow, some in Borc'ish. Diagrams and notations pointed out depth of certain wounds or discoloration of the skin, some with notes like "probably an accident" or "Illness of the liver? Check with library." A few were clearly marked with "Murder. Tell City Guard."

Then the little girl showed up. Her name was "Unidentified." and she died in Mid-Spring, found in a back alley. Notes point to certain figures a through d.

"The child was drained nearly of all blood before her entrails were removed. Unusual. Point a shows her throat cut to remove the blood, but not all. Some had spilled on the cloth under her. Point b shows where the first cut was made. Knife used was probably dull. hole cut crudely around the belly to pull out organs from point c to point d. Why? Point f shows the girl had something in her fingers. Imprint of the knife? Note, Ask Felfkin his opinion. Never seen anything equal to this."

Anna turned the pages past a few dead men, then found another of Lily's girls. Her name was "Tanyay Dropkin."

"Same blue cloth. Same flower in her mouth. Less blood this time. All cuts were made after blood was drained. Blood loss cause of death? Liver pulled out of hole in belly at point a. Carved and spred into a star shape with stars cut into points b, c, d, e, f, h, and i. Some cut in throat at point j where blood was drained. Knife used was much sharper this time. Must be same as Unidentified on page 15. Holy Bear, what could do this kind of work?"

Only a few pages until the end of the book. No more children.

Anna put down the Bean Juice and shuddered. Looking through the history was like the first time she saw the body of poor Beatrix. These girls weren't mume children to UnSub, but canvuses. In UnSub's twisted mind, these girls were things to carv into art. Anna wiped her eyes and moved on to the next book. The opening paged read,

"Check volume 14 of the Anatomy of the Dead for other bodied like these. It is clear to me, Arrat Duffworm, that this is all done by the same murderer." An arrow points in from the margins. "Lily Ripper." It continues, "On suggestion of my frined, Drte Felfkin, I've begun keeping these notes seperate from the other bodies for ease of reference. In the Holy Bear's name, I prey these pages will be few."

They weren't few. There were 18 to 19 pages, each like the girls in the other volume. As the pages turned, there was less blood and more elaborate carvings and use of organs as decoration. The canvus focused on the torso, with few exceptions where vine work of plants or texturing bleed figuratively down the arms and legs of the victims. In an early case, there was a strange note "Weird blue stuff under finger nails at point e. It stings to touch it, but it washes off easy." And another "Traces of blue stuff again at point a. What is this? Library has no knowledge. Stings to touch with bare hands. Glowing?" Anna closed the book slowly. Blue stuff that stings when touched and may glow in the dark. She knew what that was and shook at it's implications.

A knock on the door sent a jolt through Anna who dropped the book on the floor. "Enter!" Anna stumbled to grab Duffworm's notes. Cherry peeked in. "Oh dear Mandra, that was SOO sad. Goldy? Are you okay?"

"What? Sure, why wouldn't I be?"

"Because you're crying."

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