Graphic Help By foolmetal alchemistChapter II - Alchemist of the Sands
Ed woke up to the aroma of bacon frying. Glancing over at the second bed, he wasn’t surprised to see it vacant. Resting on the neatly made cot was a basin of water and a crisp white towel. He took that as his cue and freshened up a bit. A short time later he walked into the kitchen to find Al at the stove, and their hostess nowhere to be seen.
“Where is Lilly?” He asked as he set the basin and towel down on the counter.
“She was called away early this morning; a child was running a fever.” Al took the bacon out of the skillet he was using and skillfully cracked a couple of eggs into the sizzling grease.
“Well … that was awful convenient … think she’s avoiding me?”
“I wouldn’t do that, Ed.”
The young alchemist whipped around to find Lilly standing in the doorway, and in her hand was a small black medical bag. Ed's cheeks flared as he sheepishly rubbed the back of his head. “Yeah … didn't think you would. Breakfast ready, Al?”
“Yes, brother. How is the baby doing, Lilly?”
“She’s doing much better, thank you.”
“You promised to tell us what last night’s fiasco was all about,” Ed reminded her between bites.
“That I did … finish your breakfast first, then I’ll explain all that I can.”
A little later Ed joined the other two out in the front room, plopping down on the empty pillow beside Al. He glanced over at Lilly expectantly and was alarmed how tired the golden eyes looking back at him appeared.
“I lied yesterday about not knowing an alchemist …”
“I knew it!” Ed’s eyes flashed with a look of betrayal. “This town … you … who the hell are you protecting?”
“Please, Ed … let me explain. I lied because Louis DePuy is a very powerful alchemist, calls himself the Alchemist of the Sands. He uses his alchemy for evil, you two. He’s killed with it … many times. He wasn’t always the only alchemist we had in Ishmar but he … he eliminated everyone he saw as a threat. Including my caregiver, Arthur LeCross, and the only alchemy Arthur practiced was healing.”
“Bastard … why doesn’t anyone do anything about it? Send someone for help?” Ed demanded.
“We’ve tried … but he destroyed any modes of transportation we had and those that tried other means were always found out. For each infraction he …” Lilly choked back a sob. “He and his watchdogs pick five random villagers for public execution … men, women … children … they do not discriminate in who they choose.”
Ed could barely keep his rage in control. “Why … why would he do such things?”
“Because he can … it’s all about the power and fear.”
“Enough of this! Come on, Al. Let’s go see this Alchemist of the Sands.”
“Ed … Alphonse … I won’t stop you this time. Don’t think I’d have the power to. But he is a very dangerous man and as powerful as you might be as a State Alchemist. He has years of experience ahead of you and won’t hesitate to kill you both. Know that going into this. I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t say that I’d rather you two left Ishmar and never look back. But know if you fail, you won’t be the only two that die today. DePuy will know it was you last night and will dish out his usual punishment.”
“We won’t fail … I’ll bury this guy so deep he’ll never hurt anyone again.” Ed declared as he and Al stood.
Lilly sighed and stood as well, she quickly hugged Ed causing him to blush with embarrassment. She did the same to Al, resting her cheek against his cool armor for a moment. “Watch over each other.”
“We always do.” They replied in unison.
Lillian watched from her door as the two brothers walked down the street toward the house Mr. DePuy had claimed as his own. She clenched her hand in silent rage as she noticed the citizens of Ishmar watching from their windows. “I’m sending them to their deaths,” she whispered to herself.
Sighing, she turned to face Ruth’s mother, Garnet. “It’s time … this is our last chance. The State Alchemist and his brother will have DePuy’s attention we have
to use that to our advantage.”
“State Alchemist … why did he bring his baby brother with him?”
“The ‘baby’ brother is the State Alchemist, Garnet. Not sure what brought them to our town … but looks like they are going to cover our escape. Let us pray this is the last blood we’ll find on our hands. Alert the others … remember our plan bring the very basics, Boonville is a two-day walk away. Hurry! I want people ready to go very soon.”
As Garnet ran off to do as she said, Lillian walked back into her own house to make preparations. She paused to glance over at DePuy’s. “Forgive us Ed, Alphonse … we weren’t always such cowards.”
“Brother … I have a bad feeling about this.”
“It’s just this town, Al. The streets echo with the screams of the dead, but that is all going to change. This DePuy has messed with the wrong alchemist; we’ll make him pay for his crimes.” They stopped outside the building Lillian had directed them to and glanced around with anticipation.
“I don’t see any guards … didn’t Lillian say something about watchdogs? Wonder where they are?”
“Don’t know … don’t care, Al. Let’s go introduce ourselves.” Ed walked up to the door and knocked. A long moment passed … he knocked again. “Al?”
Reaching past his brother Al smashed an iron fist into the door, causing it to fly off its hinges and crash on the floor inside.
“Quick and effective,” Ed said as he stepped inside. The darkness surprised him after the bright desert sun outside. It was so dark inside that the small glow coming in around his brother's huge frame didn't penetrate the gloom.
“DePuy! Where are you, coward?!? Come out of the shadows and face me!”
His challenge was answered with a chorus of low growls. Ed frowned as a throng of menacing yellow eyes appeared in the blackness. “You know, Al, when she mentioned watchdogs, I didn’t think she actually meant dogs.”
The brothers swiftly moved into defensive stances, with Al taking the lead to use his armor as a shield if needed. “DePuy, call your mutts off now!” Ed commanded.
Once again the only answer he received was from the beasts around them as they charged. With a brilliant flash of light, Ed’s auto-mail hand shifted into a sharp blade with which he caught one of his attackers square in the chest.
“Brother! These aren’t natural...”
Ed frowned as the creature he just killed fell into the sunlight. Al was right; it was a creation of alchemy. “Chimeras … be careful, Al!”
His brother was holding his own, slamming the twisted beasts into the wall with backbreaking strength. However, there seemed to be no end to their attackers, one would fall and two seemed to take its place. “Screw this …” Ed growled in frustration. He sliced at another creature before clapping his hands together and slamming them down on the ground. He was perplexed for a moment when his fingers sunk into sand but recovered quickly and used the sand to his advantage in order to transmute a large field of deadly spikes of glass. The room was filled with howls of dying chimeras.
Ed looked over toward the voice. It was still too dark to make out the layout of the room. He could smell the odor of blood and cigars. “DePuy, by the power given to me as a State Alchemist …”
“A State Alchemist … in my humble abode? How wonderful.”
The young alchemist growled under his breath. “Stop hiding in the shadows!”
“I’m not hiding … I just prefer the darkness … too much sun is bad for the skin and all that. Now what brings a State Alchemist to this little, one-camel town?”
Lillian shuddered slightly as the dying howls of the watchdogs faded; she prayed that their cries were a good sign for the Elric brothers. Outside her house a small crowd had gathered … too small, so many had already perished. “Are you all ready?”
“Lilly are you sure this is the only way?”
“Our whole lives are here!”
“How are we going to make it … what about the children?”
“Your lives are not here … maybe a few worldly goods but your lives are not … and if you stay it will only mean your deaths. And we’ll make it just like we always have, on our own two legs. It’s time; you will be following Garnet from now on.”
“Lilly?!? What about you?” Garnet spoke up alarmed, the concern she felt written across her face.
“I’ll catch up … I need to carry out the second part of the plan … if DePuy wants to rule this town, he’ll rule over ashes. And … I’m hoping the Elric brothers will be successful.”
“If they are … can’t we come back?”
“Do you really want to raise your families in these blood soaked streets? It’s best if we start anew. Now hurry up … the sounds of the battle within are intensifying. This is our one and only chance.”
She smiled behind her veil at the silent resolve she saw in the faces of the others; she hoped the determination would see them through the days ahead. As they proceeded out of town she snagged Garnet’s arm and pulled her off to the side.
“Lead them to Uther …”
“What? That is an extra two days of travel, if not more! Why?”
“Someone is giving us away to DePuy. Hopefully this will throw him off. Remember to cover your tracks and with luck we’ll see each other again, someday.”
Garnet hugged Lillian with tears in her eyes. “Old Arthur would be proud.” With that she hurried off to catch up with the others.
“You’re on your own now,” Lillian said to the retreating crowd as they disappeared over the first dune. “May the rest of your lives be in peace.”
Lilly glanced toward DePuy’s residence it was all ready … at her feet laid the last transmutation circle. There were identical drawings on every porch, connected to one another. She’d only need to trigger one to cause a hellish chaos.
The attack came swiftly with deadly accuracy, the only warning was an almost silent whistle, but it was enough and Al stepped in front of his brother, letting his armored body take the brunt of the assault. There was a wrenching sound of metal being torn from its seams followed by a dull clank. The glint from a large blade gleamed in the dim light before disappearing once more into the darkness.
The dust settled and Ed found his brother kneeling in front of him, his right arm had been severed and was lying on the ground beside him. “Enough of this! No more attacking from the shadows!”
Slamming his hands down on the ground, Ed called upon the power of alchemy and the whole building structure disappeared into sawdust that rained down upon him. In the brilliant sunlight he could now see four men, who seemed temporarily blinded by the invasion of light.
“Now or never, Al … let’s take them down!”
The loss of an arm didn’t slow down his brother he charged the closest man, and Al’s armored gauntlet sent him flying across the street. He didn’t get back up. Ed heard a whistle coming from behind where he was kneeling. “Not this time,” he growled as a wall of granite appeared at his back. The bladed weapon thrown at him became lodged within. Even before the barrier had finished forming, Ed was on the move. Whipping around the granite he charged his attacker. The startled man had no chance of dodging the assault and was knocked unconscious by Ed’s auto-mailed fist.
The Elric brothers faced their final two attackers … at their feet laid the bloody corpses of the half-dog and half-mountain lion chimeras.
“So which one of you is the Alchemist of the Sands?” Ed inquired.
One of the men chuckled.
“What’s so funny?”
“Neither of us are, shrimp.”
The annoyed alchemist knocked the final two henchmen out cold before they had time to draw their weapons. Ed stood over the last crumpled body, panting slightly. He glanced over at his brother who was retrieving his severed arm. “I’ll fix that for you in a second, Al … but if none of those were DePuy … then where is he?”
Before Al could answer him, the ground beneath their feet began to move. Or to be more exact, the sand did. Ed jumped back as a large sinkhole appeared; the loose sand pulled the corpses of the dead into its lethal eye. “Al! Watch it!”
It was an unnecessary warning; Al was already on the move. Ed grabbed an unconscious man as he fled the sand trap. His brother did the same with the remaining two and they escaped out of the ruins.
“What the hell, was that?”
“Just cleaning up your mess.”
Ed and Al spun around to find a robed heavyset man standing behind them, a cigar dangling from his lips. He glanced at Al’s still missing arm. “Interesting.”
“DePuy, nice to see you …”
“You’ve caused quite a mess, State Alchemist … I’m impressed …”
“You’ve said that already … and I’m ready to impress you some more!” Smacking his hands together he bent down toward the ground. Before he could make contact, though, a deluge of sand struck his face.
“Sorry, boy … I haven’t figured out how you are doing your transmutations but you are in my element now.”
Lillian watched the battle between the alchemists from her door. Ed and Al had seemed to be winning from what she had seen, but she lost sight of them when DePuy had summoned one of his sand storms. She had seen this before and knew the damage he could cause with his creation. He would change the granules of sand into shards of glass, which would shred everything they came in contact with. She wasn’t even sure the armor protecting Al would survive, and knew Ed wouldn’t.
“I can’t be idle any longer … I’m sorry Arthur.” She knelt down placing her hands on either side of the transmutation circle at her feet. The array of fire began to glow and with preplanned precision the buildings lining the streets began to explode.
It had the desired effect, the shard storm faded. Before it died completely she saw the armored body of Al running toward her, his brother cradled in his arm. She stood stopping the chain of explosions before it reached her own dwelling.
“Lilly! Please … help!”
Al ran up to her, his brother was unconscious in his embrace … his clothes almost completely destroyed. Lillian wasn’t sure what startled her the most, the fact Al was missing an arm but she could see no blood … or anything at all in the darkness of the gap in the armor or the fact his brother was covered in blood his exposed skin shredded from the violent attack.
“I tried to shield him … please Lilly … he can’t die … he’s all I got.”
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~Chapter III - Treasure of Ishmar “You know what, Ed, equivalent exchange sucks!”