Kingdom of Flies

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Typhus - Deculture.png
Writeup Info
Title Kingdom of Flies
Genres Action, Drama, Slice of Life(?)
Author Archivalfag
Timeline Begins five years prior to Magical Girl Noir Quest.
Canonicity Status Canon
Completion Status Ongoing


With Strauss removed and Varrigan City cut off from the rest of the world, the newly-freed Maerorus must band together to build a new home in a ruined city infested with gangs, mutants and monsters.

Kingdom of Flies[edit]


There was a time, long, long ago, when Varrigan City was pure. Families arrived, bright-eyed and full of hope, their futures laid out before them. There was a time before skyscrapers blotted out the sun in the financial districts. Before hovels sprawled across every available space like a filthy calico mosaic of aluminum and steel. A time before guns and drugs flowed through the city almost as easily as the unclaimed bodies left in the sewers. There was a time, believe it or not, when the boogeyman was just a story, and children had the luxury of fearing monsters that existed only in their minds.

A time before Horzine. A time before Doctor Strauss.

The company seemed to spring up overnight; nobody could quite figure out exactly when it had arrived. They started small, a pharmaceuticals company with a handful of under-the-table deals with gangs and the odd cartel. Combat stimulants designed to unlock the hidden potential of the mind and body. Designer narcotics that hooked people with just the slightest whiff. They sold the good stuff, and soon enough, people took notice. Money rolled in, drugs rolled out, and like a hungry infant, the company grew. The city was alive and drug money was the blood pumping through its veins.

With the right people paid off, nobody noticed if a few vagrants disappeared every now and again. A few bums here and there, a hooker or two, maybe an orphan - people nobody would miss, and never enough to raise any eyebrows. It was only a matter of time before the boogeymen got bolder. Civilians disappeared. Respectable, working men and women - or at least as respectable as you could get in Varrigan. Children were snatched from school yards in broad daylight. Fed by the city, Horzine had grown into a monster.

Soon enough there were two classes of citizen in Varrigan City: those that worked for Horzine, and those that didn't. Even if you didn't work for them, chances are that you were only alive because of their money. Those that flourished lived in high-rise apartments that radiated around the Horzine HQ like a swarm of piglets suckling at their mother's teat. The city centre was a burnished metropolis of business suits, fancy cars and not a clean conscience in sight. Beyond that square mile of luxury were the concrete tenements of the not-so-lucky, who could at least thank their God of science for at least letting them keep their heads above the surface of the filth. The rest of the city was dominated by shacks and shanties on land owned by Horzine and controlled by a new batch of gangs every day.

Of course, it was only a matter of time before it all came crashing down. Like the fall of Rome, Horzine's empire was struck down in the blink of an eye. All six bridges off of Jefferson Island now only led straight into a cold, watery grave and the single tunnel out fared no better. Cell towers were destroyed, phone lines were severed. Varrigan burned and its master had fled, leaving beasts and madmen to flood the already hellish streets. The citizens would answer for what they allowed to pass.


Eliza Thorne let out a strained groan as air filtered out of her bruised lungs. It took several more moments for her the fire in her mind to finally ignite. She peeled her face off of the cold, hard ceramic floors every stiff joint and muscle screamed in protest. A stabbing pain shot through her right ankle as she tried her best to stand - sprained, no doubt. With a sigh of defeat, she did her best to pull herself over to a wall to sit against. The grimey, green-tinged corridors of the Horzine HQ were eerily silent, she noted. Even her walkie-talkie was oddly mute, and after a few vain tries, she confirmed that it was either dead or being jammed.

Thorne took a deep breath, staring into her lap as she tried desperately to remember what had happened. The last thing she could recall was seeing her only ticket out of that hell hole go up in flames in front of her eyes. Everything seemed to get fuzzy after that. There was running, screaming and shooting. The details were all lost to an andrenaline-induced haze.

Protocol Ten had been a lie. No - not quite a lie; an ommission of fact. No one in the security team had known exactly what the protocol entailed; everyone always just guessed that the city would either be burned or blown up. The only instruction any of them had been given was to defend the building at all costs. Thorne snorted, a short chuckle born of morbid mixture of anger and amusement. Of course they would be holed up in the building. It was the most heavily defended place in the city. Of course, that meant jack shit if what they were supposed to be defending against came from within. Then it just turned the stalwart defenders into fish in a barrel.

A large clock on the wall told her that it was just about six o'clock in the evening - which meant that she had been knocked out for the better part of an hour. Even in that short span of time, Thorne could feel a prickling, tingling sensation clawing at the right side of her body like some creature trying to break free. She would need to get to her quarters soon. She couldn't go for too long without her medication or else... things she didn't like to think about would start to happen to her.

With a pained groan, Thorne pushed her injured leg outward and focused on her foot. Something inside of her twisted and churned, something not quite magical nor biological that shaped flesh and muscle like clay. A muffled scream escaped the scarred girl's lips as she tried to yank her foot free of her boot. Pain stabbed at her foot as bone began to reshape itself. Her hurried hand pulled her combat knife free of its sheath and rammed it down the boot, desperate to cut it open. A moment later, the boot came free after she had sliced through the side.

Thorne stared as flesh churned beneath her skin, knobs and spikes appearing and disappearing within moments. The girl stuffed the knife's hilt in her mouth to keep from screaming. She could either endure a minute or two of agony, or be forced to limp her way through a warzone for a week. Her soulgem had lost its spark long ago; the Doctor's experiments had rendered it little more than a fashionable accessory. It didn't accumulate grief, sure, but Thorne was also robbed of her magic.

The now ex-security chief slumped back against the wall as the pain subsided and her knife tumbled into her lap. Fumbling around on her utility belt, she grasped what looked like little more than a standard insulin pen. Thorne yanked off the cap and measured the clear liquid inside. Only one dose was left. With a disappointed sigh, she jammed the needle into her neck, thumbed the top button and relaxed. Almost immediately, the tingling sensation in her right side dissipated - even the scarring seemed to fade away slightly.

Pulling herself to her feet, Thorne gave her toes an experimental flex before putting her weight on the freshly healed foot. Sure enough, the pain had vanished. She couldn't help but smile, grateful that her foot had regenerated properly; not even an extra toe or anything unusual this time. As she took a cursory glance down the halls, the security officer could already spot shards of glass from broken light fixtures and office windows littering the floor. With one last grumble, Thorne did her best to tie her boot back together and began her journey to the stairwells.

Eliza (she had always preferred the name over 'Elizabeth') Thorne had never been particularly lucky. She could barely even remember her time before the experiments. She was snatched up from one of Varrigan's over-populated, unhygenic orphanages somewhere around the age of ten, then Shanghai'd into a contract with one of the incubators - probably the Thirteenth - and finally handed over to the good Doctor herself. Thorne couldn't even remember what she wished for anymore or how long she had even been a real magical girl for. Not terribly long, at any rate.

Thorne had the good fortune of being the first magical girl to survive the Maerorus procedures. With no magic left, the Doctor was generous enough to give her a job on the Horzine security team. She proved to be a good shot and a decent leader in the field, so long as someone else was telling her her objectives. Thorne had the pleasure of knowing just about every horrid abomination locked up in the deep, dark bowels of the building. Hell, she had even made friends with a few of the more recent Maerorus subjects.

As she rounded a corner, the first sounds of activity reached her. Immediately, her training kicked in and she crouched against the wall, pistol drawn. Thorne peered around the corner, forced to peek out a little more than she would have liked because of her bad eye. In the distance, she could see a figure slowly making its way further down the hall. It looked human - an adult man by the looks of him - but his movements weren't quite right. He looked ill, taking sudden, jerky steps forward with heavy footfalls.

Thorne rounded the corner silently, still crouched as she crept up to the man, her gun trained on him the whole way. He was wearing the same security uniform as her, which meant he had to be one of her subordinates. As she crept closer, Thorne couldn't help but notice a faint buzzing coming from the other security officer's direction. It wasn't until she was less than ten feet away that she called out.

"Freeze!" Thorne shouted, standing upright. "Turn around slowly and keep your hands where I can see them!"

The man froze. His head lolled to the side as he shuffled around slowly. It wasn't until she could see the man's blackened eyes that the head of security realized exactly what she was looking at.

Thorne had made a bad call.

She recognized him as an older guard by the name of Masterson. He was one of the few security officers who had actually been around longer than Thorne. Few managed to survive anywhere near that long. The front of his uniform was torn open and his entrails hung loose, covered in buzzing flies the size of a man's thumb. The insects flitted about, circling the officer before crawling back into his chest cavity, bloated on flesh and other unmentionable matter. Every now and then Thorne could see moving bumps of roughly the same size moving around just beneath his skin.

"Oh no," she muttered, taking one terrified step back. "No, no, no..."

"Sssisssssster," the man breathed, sounding more like a wheeze than a word.

"STAY BACK!" Thorne screamed. "Take one more step and I'll shoot!"

Masterson - or what was left of him - jerked as a sharp breath escape his nostrils. A laugh. They both knew the gun would be useless. Thorne already knew what was wrong with him. She'd seen it dozens of times before. Of all the terrible, hideous experiments she could run into, it had to be...

"Typhus," she whimpered. "Don't do this ! For the love of god, PLEASE-"

The man took a jerky step forward, making the girl's breath catch in her throat.

"Wheeere... is Motherrr?" He asked. "We cannot fiiind herrr..."

"She- She's gone!" Thorne wailed in reply. She could already feel her eyes getting warm and wet. "Just don't move!"

"GONE?" 'Typhus' glanced around the hallway, as though expecting to find her there. "Wheeere... has she gooone?"

"I don't know! Just please don't... please," the security officer pleaded, trying to wipe her tears away, "not like this..."

"Whyyy do you cryyy, sissster?" The man's brow furrowed. "Whyyy... would we hurrrt one of ourrr... BELOVED sissstersss?"

"Then what?!" Thorne cried. It was clear from her voice that her hope had already left her. "What do you wan-"

"You wiiill help us FIIIND Motherrr."

"Don't you get it?!" The girl wailed, growing angry in her desperation. "She's GONE! She left the city hours ago! Who knows where she is now!"

The man stopped, and for a brief moment, even the ever present buzzing went silent, too.

"Then," he mutttered, "we mussst go afterrr herrr..."

Thorne froze, almost forgetting to breathe. She couldn't afford to let Typhus leave the island. No force - mundane or magical girl - could withstand Typhus' wrath.

"N-no, Typhus," Thorne said, trying to collect herself. "Where- Where are you? I'll come down. We'll talk! I'll explain everything! Just- Just don't do anything rash, o-okay?"

'Typhus' stopped as he absorbed the security officer's words. Finally, after what seemed an eternity to Thorne, he nodded.

"We shall take you to usss," he answered. "Thisss man will..."


"Essscort," the zombified guard repeated, nodding as he tried the word out. "Yesss... Thank you, sissster. Now come..."

Thorne smiled gently, wiping the last of her tears away as the man shuffled around. She almost even giggled. It was easy to forget that Typhus, Host of the Destroyer Hive, was nothing more than a frightened little girl looking for her 'mother'.


True to her word, the fly-ridden guard led Thorne down into the labrynthine depths of the Horzine HQ, never straying too far to scout ahead. As they made their way down, more of the shambling zombies began to follow along until it seemed a full squad of Thorne's former subordinates had joined them. Strangely, it didn't seem to bother her, seeing her former comrades as shambling, fly-ridden corpses. She had never felt entirely at home among them. Eliza Thorne was a strange existence caught between being human, magical girl and something else altogether.

When they finally reached holding cell forty-nine, the men stepped aside and stood at attention, like a band of royal guards. Thorne stopped and took a deep breath, trying to maintain her composure. As she pushed the door open - surprisingly without the need for her security card - her ears were immediately assailed with a buzzing far louder than that coming from her guide.

The room was hexagon shaped and cramped. The concrete walls and stainless steel furnishings made it look more like a prison cell than anything else. A metal bed topped with a thin mattress and sheets sat against one side, while a toilet and sink were attached to the opposite wall. The rest of the room was populated by shelves with a handful of books, toys and other knick-knacks scattered about. In the very center of the room stood the source of the god-awful, incessant buzzing noise. Typhus was at least a head shorter than Thorne and dressed in a ragged, hooded robe. Beneath her hood, what little of the girl'ss face could be seen was wrapped entirely in dirty bandages that seemed to shift and rustle every now and again. Holding herself upright with an enormous, rusted and grimy-encrusted scythe, Thorne almost wanted to call her the littlest Grim Reaper.

Typhus was the most recent of the Maerorus Project's victims behind Valnikov. She was more powerful than any of them by far - almost incomparably so - but the procedures had left her body feeble and sickly. The Doctor, as any who had worked for her knew, had very little tolerance for flaws. Because of her physical condition, Typhus had been cast away and nearly forgotten in the dungeon-like depths of the building. Thorne couldn't imagine the girl was any older than fourteen, but where she came from and how the Doctor had come upon her was anyone's guess.

The smaller girl took a timid step forward as Thorne shut the door behind her.

"Sissster?" She asked, her voice strained and raspy, sounding like a much younger, more feminine version of the guard who had brought Thorne down.

"H-hello, Typhus," Thorne answered, trying her best to look friendly.

The little hooded figure took another step toward the security officer before erupting into a fit of violent coughing that would rival a chain-smoker. Thorne took the smaller girl's hand - pale and surprisingly dainty - and led her over to the bed, sitting them both down beside each other.

"E-excussse usss," Typhus muttered, letting out several more coughs. "Now... wherrre hasss Motherrr gone? Ourrr doorrr wasss unlocked today. Motherrr sssaid it shhhouldn't be unlocked unlessssss it'sss... an emergencccy."

Thorne held the girl's hand, stroking it with her thumb like a mother and child. "She, erm, left the city, Typhus," the black-haired girl answered. "She's gone far away now."

The tiny reaper stared up at her 'older sister', bright crimson eyes shimmering with a child-like innocence. "Whyyy... hasss she gooone?"

"She, um," the security officer thought for a moment, not entirely sure of how to proceed. "Some, uh, some bad people took away her job. And they wanted to take away her company and her money, too. So- So instead of letting them do that, she let all of her experiments out so they could live in the city."

"Whyyy... diddd the peopllle do thattt to Motherrr?" Typhus asked, still starring up at her 'older sister'. "Whyy diddd theyyy want to steeeal from herrr?"

"Be- Because they didn't like what she was doing, Typhus. They didn't want her to keep doing... things to girls. Li-like she, um, did to you," Thorne hesitated, then added, "or me."

The young Maerorus was silent for some time, her gaze falling to the floor as she let out a muffled sniffle.

"Beforrre she... leffft," the hooded girl muttered, staring at the floor, "sheee came to visssit usss. She... tooold usss that she lovesss usss... She sssaid thaaat we werrre alwaysss herrr favourrrite..."

Thorne smiled gently, before wrapping an arm around the girl's shoulders and resting her cheek on her head. Somehow, the sensation of squirming and writhing under Typhus' robe didn't bother her nearly as much as she expected.

"I'm... I'm sure you were," Thorne cooed softly, rubbing the girls' shoulder. "She was so excited after the procedures were finished..."

She remembered the event so vividly. The Doctor had gathered nearly every one of Horzine's science personnel to witness the birth of her most perfect creation - which made it all the more disappointing when the girl could barely stand on her own, never mind handle a close-quarters fight.

"Whattt... nnnow, sissster?" Typhus asked. "Do wwwe... finnnd Motherrr?"

"N-No, we need to, um," Thorne stammered as she tried to figure out an excuse. "We need to look after the city for the Do- for Mother! We have to gather supplies and- and- and make a plan!"

The small girl nodded. "Ifff... Ifff we takkke caaare of the cccity... Willll Motherrr returrrn?"

"I- Maybe? Maybe... she'll come back if you're good."

"Th-thennn... weee shalll be good," Typhus answered, nodding. Thorne couldn't help but smile after seeing the look of sincerity in her eyes.

"Good. Now get some rest, you," the security officer muttered, giving the girl's head a good pat. "I'll go find what we need. Can your, erm, men help me secure the building?"

Typhus nodded vigorously - or as much as she could in her condition. "Theyyy willll fffollow orrrdersss anddd keep you sssafe."

"Great. I'll be sure to look for a nicer room for you, too," Thorne said as she took a glance around the prison cell of a room. "I'll be back later. Take care, sis."

Making her way to the door, Thorne couldn't help but smile as she looked back and watched the tiny reaper tuck herself in. Somehow, despite everything, she felt as though things would start to get better. She had finally caught the lucky break that had eluded her for all twenty-one years of her life. It would take a lot of work and a lot of patience, but for the first time, Eliza Thorne had a home and a small, loving family.

Into the Wolf's Den[edit]

One month had passed since Varrigan disappeared from the map. People had always called it Hell on Earth, sometimes worse, depending on who you asked. The city's crime rates had long since eclipsed even those of Santa Destroy, poverty and unemployment were rampant, corruption ran through the police department, and some parts of the city were in ruins even before what was coming to be known as the Varrigan City Massacre.

Existing gangs had snatched up what territory they could, while new groups sprang up to fill in the gaps. The Wolf Pack, the Rising Sons, the Crimson Dragon Clan, even the old VCPD had started staking their claim. Money had become worthless. Stores and clinics were ransacked, hospitals turned into abattoirs and just about every luxury casino and club had been appropriated by one gang or another.

For years, the district known as 'Casino Land' has been the financial heart of Varrigan. Bright neon lights of casinos reflected off the polished white faces of million dollar condos, but beyond the main strip, Casino Land was little more than an old western film set. The glimmering strip worked to conceal yet more run down tenements and long abandoned buildings.

The far end of the strip terminated at a cluster of three of the most infamous structures in the city: the Blood God's Arena, Saint Filth's General Hospital and the Horzine Biotech Tower. Each building seemed to feed off of each other in a kind of morbid symbiosis. The tower supplied the arena with combatants for gangsters looking for a bit quick cash, which in turn fed the hospital patients who would occasionally 'disappear' in the night.

It was in one of the derelict back streets of Casino Land, under an overcast noon sky, that a young girl walked alone. She walked with confident steps, combat boots crunching against the layers of dust and debris that caked the sidewalks. A frayed burlap shawl draped down to her waist, concealing a battered and torn Horzine security uniform and a sawn-off shotgun held in a lazy grip.

Street thugs and bandits had learned very quickly that a girl walking the streets alone was to be left to herself in the new Varrigan. Most moved through the city at night in small groups. People moved quickly, always armed and never along main streets. Working cars were so rare they might as well have been unicorns. In the middle of the day, anyone could have been fooled into thinking the city was deserted. Of course, they would be dead soon after, shot down by a sniper and had their corpse looted by bandits that seemed to crawl out of the shadows.

The girl walked on, passing buildings that looked as though they had stood through nuclear explosions. Cement slabs and broken glass were piled on the ground in heaps as tall as a man. Graffiti coloured the walls, some old and worn, some fresh and new. Every now and then, she would walk by a building tagged with a black, stylized image of a howling wolf's head.

Every now and again she would see the glint of a scope sighting in on her from a far off window, reminding her that she was never entirely alone. Street signs were broken or defaced, some reading 'WOLF'S STREET'. At least she knew she was in the right place, as if the trail of bodies hanging from rusty lamp posts didn't already say enough.

As she came closer to her destination, she started to see figures hovering in doorways and windows. The people never said anything, never ventured out of the shadows, and certainly didn't point any fingers. They simply stood and watched. With any luck, her quarry would know she was coming.

After what felt like an eternity of walking, she spotted a dilapidated two storey building at the corner of a four-way intersection. Without looking or thinking, she crossed diagonally across the street, oblivious of any potential danger. The first floor of the building was walled with painted cement blocks, the windows blocked with sandbags and any signage having long since been removed. The second floor windows were framed by intricate masonry and only half-blocked with sandbags and debris, with a guard visible in every second window, guns trained on the brazen trespasser.

The girl found her way to a metal side door, flanked by a severed head impaled on what might have once been a wall lamp, and gave it three solid knocks. As she waited for an answer, she couldn't help but notice the mound of decaying bodies piled against the wall, presided over by a cloud of swarming flies.

Within a few seconds, a hatch slid open and a gun barrel protruded into her face.

"Who are ya and whaddaya want?" A voice growled from the other side.

The girl didn't so much as flinch. "My name is Eliza Thorne," she answered. "I'm here to see the Wolf."


Typhus groaned. Her tiny arms squeezed a fluffy white pillow, a trickle of drool wetting the corner against her cheek. She slept in a new bedroom, with a queen-sized bed and an entire wall giving way to enormous windows with heavy curtains. The heavy buzzing of insects never ceased in her presence, even whilst she slept. A bloated, thumb-sized fly landed on her bedside clock, jittering about and wiping its eyes with a fuzzy leg.


The little Maerorus turned and murmured unintelligibly, burying her bandaged face in her pillow.


A single, tired crimson eye peaked open from beneath her wrappings and fixed on the clock. Slowly, yawning and stretching, pulled herself up. Even at night, she wore her black cloak, the hood pulled down to reveal a short mess of pale hair and a pair of thin, pointed bone nobs protruding an inch above each ear.

"Gooddd morrrning, Dessstroyerrr," the Host hissed.

+DAWN HAS WITHERED. NOON HAS COME,+ replied the Destroyer, its deep voice resounding through Typhus' mind. +WE MUST BREAK OUR FAST.+

Typhus rarely spoke to the Destroyer directly. Their consciousness melded into one on most occassions, but in the stillness of her bedroom, even the witch buried inside of her was welcome company. At the edge of her mind, she could feel the many smaller organisms of the Destroyer Hive spread through out the Horzine tower, from the tiniest flies to the servile zombie guards.

With the Host finally awakened, a servant shoved its way through the door and shambled into the room, bringing with it an elegantly plated breakfast on a tray. Typhus reflexively pulled on her hood as it set the tray down on her lap beforing shambling back out. Orange juice, toast, scrambled eggs and a meat that Typhus couldn't quite identify...

+PIGEON FLESH,+ the Destroyer clarified, sensing her confusion.

Typhus took a drink of the orange juice, careful to tip her head back to keep it from dribbling through her cheeks. She wrinkled her nose as she tasted it murmuring, "It hasss pulppp..."


"Buttt weee don'ttt liiike ittt..."


Begrudgingly, Typhus obeyed. As she took a first bite of toast, her eyes lit up.

"Honnneeeyyy!" Her excited squeal came out as more of a strained wheeze, prompting a short fit of coughing.


The Maerorus gleefully wolfed down the honey toast with as much haste as she could muster - which, admittedly, wasn't terribly hasty at all. The scrambled eggs and meat were obliterated next, with destroyer flies flitting out from under her wrappings to bring smaller pieces directly to the hive.

"Wherrre isss sssisssterrrr Thhhornnne?" Typhus asked between forkfuls.


The tiny reaper nodded slowly, not quite understanding, but accepting. She pushed herself to the edge of the bed and stretched out a pale hand. At once, a torrent of hundreds of thousands of flies flowed out from her sleave, propelled outward like a firehose spewing black water. The flies buzzed in circles as they slowly grouped together, forming an indistinct, towering mass of tiny writhing bodies in Typhus' hands. They packed together tighter and tighter until - with a wooshing noise and a flicker of light - the enormous, grime-coated scythe called Manreaper appeared in their place.

Typhus put her weight on the scythe as she pulled herself off of the bed. A handful of stray flies circled through the air before disappearing under her cloak. The reaper walked with unsteady steps, leaning against the gargantuan weapon as though it were a simple walking stick.

+WE ARE FRAIL,+ the Destroyer's voice echoed in her head. +REMAIN HERE.+

The Maerorus paused, her eyes wandering to the floor. "We mussst go to the bathrrroommm..."

The Destroyer was silent for a moment, until Typhus finally sensed an affirmative reaction.



Thorne found herself being led up an old wooden staircase, the steps creaking with every footfall. The halls were much more claustrophobic than she had expected from the outside. The tops and bottoms of the walls bore clean strips where wooden moldings had been torn away, likely for firewood.

The man guiding her wore a haphazard mix of body armour; a helmet from the Arena, a vest from Horzine and pieces of scrap metal duct taped to his arms and legs. He rested a shotgun over one shoulder as he led the way, clearly not sensing much danger from the black-haired girl.

Eventually, the halls opened into the true Wolf's Den. The building had once been a dance hall, some two or three decades previous. Now, the dance floor was converted to a den of filth. Debris and rubble was stilled scattered about the floor, though, a good portion of it had been pushed up against the walls. A gaping hole in ceiling let sunlight in, while candles and torches did the rest of the work.

Tables were scattered about, hosting roughly a dozen men. A game of poker was being played at one, a lap dance at another. A trio of scruffy musicians played a disjointed jazz tune in a corner of the room, instead of on stage.

It was there, on the stage, lounging on a beaten up old couch and gnawing on a severed arm, that Thorne found her quarry. The Wolf locked eyes with the black-haired girl, and flashed a predatory grin.


The Wolf roared, and the rats obeyed. Very shortly, not a soul was left in the room aside from the two Maerorus. The wolf tore off a strip of flesh from her snack and gulped it down before tossing the arm aside. She pushed herself up, effortlessly yanking a machete the size of a man's arm out of the wooden stage as she made her way down to the dance floor.

"Lizzy," the Wolf laughed, showing off her sharpened canines. "Long time no see."

Her hair was long and wavy, the colour seeming to shimmer between red and violent as the lighting changed. The Wolf wore a black leather jacket - unzipped with absolutely nothing underneath - and a matching pair of pants with the fly undone. What looked like braces were worn over her elbows and knees. Over her ears, she wore a device that looked to be the bastard child of a pair of headphones and an eggtimer, held on with a headband and a chinstrap. Strangest of all were the pair of stitched seams ran horizontally across her face and neck. Thorne would have recognized her anywhere.

"Gavrill," she said, forcing something of a smile to her face.

Thorne wasn't tall to begin with, but the other woman positively dwarfed her as she approached. The former security officer wagered she was at least six and a half feet, maybe closer to seven.

The former security officer stayed relaxed and still as the elder Madaraki circled around her, eyes glancing up and down, nose constantly sniffing at the air. Without warning, Gavrill stepped up behind Thorne and pressed her nose against the girl's ebony hair, groaning with satisfaction as she took a long, deep whiff.

"Damn, Lizzy. You smell gooood," the Wolf sighed, slowly licking her lips.

Thorne turned sharply, but the taller woman spoke again before she could open her mouth.

"You have shampoo," Gavrill muttered, stepping in front of the black-haired girl. "Good quality, too... Strawberry?"

Thorne stayed silent, her face forming an impassive look teetering on the edge of becoming a scowl.

"I'd kill a man for some good shampoo these days..."

"Or anything else, I'd say."

Gavrill snickered and stepped around her again, this time pulling the stubby shotgun from Thorne's hand as her enormous machete vanished into thin air. She opened the breech, checking to see if it was loaded, then snapped it shut again.

"Funny, Lizzy," she said, turning the weapon over in her hands, "always thought of you as more of a rifle kind of gal."

"I'm adaptable."

The Wolf snorted. "Never been one for guns, but I always liked a good sawed-off. You know what they call these in Italy?"

"What?" Thorne asked, humouring the woman.

"'Lupara'," Gavrill answered. "It means 'for wolves'. As in, 'for HUNTING wolves'."

There was a flurry of movement, and Thorne suddenly found the barrel of the shotgun uncomfortably close to her skull.

"You looking to do some wolf hunting today, Lizzy?"

Without flinching, Thorne replied, "Of a sort."

Gavrill let out a sharp bark of laughter. "That's what I always liked about you, Lizzy!" She said, waving the gun a bit more threateningly than Thorne would have liked. "Show no fear! But... Hnnh. But old Gavrill can smell it on you..."

The Wolf took another long sniff as she paced around Thorne a third time, showing little regard for personal space. Her lips twitched as she did, flashing slivers of pearly white canines. Thorne could hear the sickening sound of Gavrill's tongue running over her teeth. The taller Maerorus shook and groaned as a powerful tingling ran up her spine.

"You're drooling," the black-haired girl remarked.

Gavrill growled and wiped the trickle of saliva with her sleave, her grin fading as she did. "So what can I do for you today? Come to join the pack?"

"Not quite," Thorne replied. She cocked her head at one of the vacated tables. "Why don't we sit down? I have a proposition to discuss."

"A proposition? Oh boy, haven't had one of those lately," the stitched Maerorus found her way to a recently vacated chair, then leaned back and kicked her feet up on to the table. She still held the gun in a weak grip, letting it clang against the chair leg. "So what do you want?"

The security officer took a seat, unable to keep her eyes from darting to the weapon every now and again. "I've gotten myself into a bit of a," she started, pausing to find her words, "situation. I need your help."

"Go on."

"Have you been to the tower lately?"

"Not personally. I make a point to avoid it, but I've been hearing some mighty strange stories. Boys say it's infested with-"


Gavrill smiled, making a point to bare her teeth. "You've been there?"

"I live there," Thorne laughed. "Does the name Typhus mean anything to you?"

"The disease?"

"The Maerorus."

"Never heard of her."

"I was afraid of that." The black-haired girl sighed and ran a hand through her hair, showing off her scars and milky right eye. "She was the second most recent attempt. The most successful, too."

"And... what? She makes zombies?"

Thorne nodded. "And a lot more, but she's just a kid. She doesn't understand any of this. She- She WORSHIPS the Doctor and thinks I'm some kind of big sister. And," she groaned, "I kind of... promised to help her take care of the city."

"Hnnh," Gavrill grunted as she thought. "And you want my help?"

"You're a Madaraki. You're smart. You know science. Medicine. Things we need."

"I can take people apart and put them back together, I understand that much," the Wolf said, "but I'm seeing a problem here. What happens when this... 'Typhus' or whatever the fuck her name is suddenly decides she wants the city all to herself. You make it sound like she could kill us like we're ants or somethin'. "

"She's just a kid, Gavrill. We just need to take care of her and help her make the right decisions."

"Kids GROW UP, Lizzy," the larger Maerorus growled, her lips curling into a snarl as her feet dropped to the ground. "I won't make that mistake again. Take it from me. Sure, she calls you 'big sister' today. You try to protect her, take care of her and bring her up right, but sisters just- They- Hnnngh-"


Gavrill's fists clenched, her knuckles blanching. Muscles in her face twitched and dance as she fought back the searing, singing pain in her skull. "Sisters- Hnh. Sisters get you FUCKED."

"You stand only to gain from this," Thorne said, a dour look on her face. "Don't let old grudges get the better of you. You're letting the Nails put words in your mouth."

The taller Maerorus grunted and rose from her seat, slapping Thorne's shotgun down on the table as she did. A giant machete appeared in either of her hands as she paced around the room. Even from a distance, Thorne could make out minute muscle spasms in the elder Madaraki's face and arms as she fought back the killing urge of the Butcher's Nails.

Gavrill Madaraki had been the first of many to receive the malignant surgical enhancements - and the sole survivor of the operation prior to Ekaterina Valnikov. The Doctor had once explained the procedure to Thorne, but, as usual, the finer details were lost on the primordial Maerorus. The Nails were complex instruments; lodged just above the ears and penetrating six inches into the brain, they controlled any number of functions, all designed to promote and reward violent rage.

However, as the Doctor soon realized, promoting aggression had the unfortunate side-effect of making subjects all the harder to control, especially when said subjects were designed to be capable of single-handedly wiping out entire Officios. The experiments were halted after the Doctor was forced to put down several perfectly good Maerorus. After the tragedy that was Typhus, she rethought the procedure's physical standards and began to formulate a new variant of the Butcher's Nails. Less invasive, less potent, easier to command.

The damage to Gavrill Madaraki, however, had long since been done.

The stitched girl turned her head to face Thorne at long last. As she spoke, Thorne could hear the withheld rage tainting her words. "Two conditions," Gavrill stated. "First, I want the arena. My territory, no strings attached."

"Done. Not like there's much competition. The second?"

"The second. Hrnnh," Gavrill's lip twitched into a snarling grin. "Someday, and I don't know when, I'm going to hunt down that bitch sister of mine. It might be a month from now, it might be years. I don't know. But someday, I'm going to want my revenge and I want you and the rest of this city at my back when I do."

Thorne thought for a moment, getting up and taking her shotgun as she did. "Assuming we haven't killed each other by then," she said, trying to match the Wolf's predatory expression, "I think we have a deal."

Red Sands of Paradise[edit]

She stepped into the light. Sand crunched under thick-soled boots. Uneven bumps and mounds dotted the floor of the arena - the sun-bleached and half-buried bones of the forgotten dead. Carrion birds still circled overhead and perched in the rafters, in hopes that the slaughter would begin anew. The scent of blood and sweat and tears and death still hung in the air. Perhaps not for most, but for her... For her, it was as if the killing had only ended yesterday.


She shushed the voice from the archway, taking another step forward. Wind howled through the deserted stands, carrying dust and trash as it blew. But when she closed her eyes, the crowd roared. She could hear them cheering. Still calling for blood. Always more blood.

A four foot machete materialized in either hand. She held one over her shoulder while the other rested with its squared tip in the sand. The wind picked up, catching in her jacket and running hot over her skin. Sand kicked at her shins. Each breath filled her nostrils with a familiar, stale coppery scent. Her machetes sang as she cut through the air, her muscles still remembering the last time they had shed blood in the sand...


Gavrill stepped into the light. The crowd roared for her as she hefted her twin machetes, Slaughter and Carnage, into the air, basking in the audience's attention. She closed her eyes as she strode forward, letting the cheering wash over her. It seemed she would be called out for one last battle. Summoned from the silent darkness of her cell for one final hurrah before being stashed away again and forgotten.

Far and away in the press box, Gavrill caught sight of the Doctor and her ever impassive face. It was the same one she always wore during matches. No enjoyment, no passion, only cold, calculating analysis. This time, however, Gavrill was determined to put on a show for the good Doctor.

She stopped five feet from the centre-point of the arena and snorted. Her opponent was nothing more than a child. Fair and frail, with long raven black hair and a wild, animal look to her eyes. Wires descended into her skull through oozing wounds amidst scarring and shaved patches of her beautiful ebony locks. Her face twitched with rage, despite the fight having yet to begin.

Another poor, ragged victim of the Nails.

The child gunned the engine of a gargantuan chainsword, opposing rows of teeth gnashing at thin air. It was nearly as tall as Gavrill and looked positively ridiculous in the clutches of the waif's black, fleshmetal hands.

Gavrill flashed the girl a snarling grin as the pair circled each other in the sand, baring her glimmering white teeth. It seemed this one had made it rather far through the Doctor's gauntlet of procedures.

"What's your name, girly?" Gavrill asked, her own lip twitching as the Nails began to bite into her consciousness.

The girl answered with only more ragged breaths and growls.

"Pretty little thing like you probably got a pretty little name," Gavrill continued, goading the kid on. "Tell me."

"I- I am," she growled, her nostrils flaring and spasming as she struggled to form words, "c-cur-called Ekkkaterina."

"Like I said," the older Maerorus said, her tongue running over her teeth, "pretty little name."

Something caught the smaller girl's attention, and Gavrill siezed the initiative. She kicked a clump of sand at the Russian's face, blinding her.

A hail of blows came next. Downstroke after downstroke. Slaughter, Carnage, Slaughter, Carnage, each one desperately blocked by the idle chainsword.

Gavrill kicked the girl in the ribs, savouring minute crunches of bone as Ekaterina fell to the ground. Carnage came down, dodged by a timely, panicked roll.

The seasoned gladiator stood aside, letting the fresh meat to scramble to her feet, her fleshmetal legs shaking with adrenaline.

Ekaterina charged. Skulltaker roared and screamed for blood as it met the twin machetes. The tiny Russian pressed on with all her might, but the older woman held firm as a brick wall, robbing her of any momentum. Gavrill pulled her head back, then skull met skull with a thunderous crack.

With the smaller girl reeling, Gavrill closed in. She batted the chainsword aside with Slaughter and the thick sole of her boot crashed into Ekaterina's sternum.

She could feel it now - the ticking of the metal buried deep in the meat of her brain. The pleasure shocks every time she struck the pitiful little Russian. Gavrill wiped the beginning of a nosebleed with her sleeve. Young Ekaterina scrabbled to her feet.

"Come on kid," Gavrill snarled, circling and eyeing her prey like a beast, "make me feel something. Show the good people that you're not worthless."

The child roared and rushed her opponent once more, her crimson eyes almost bulging out of her skull as spittle ran down her chin. Gavrill met it with a howling charge of her own. The hulking mass of the older Maerorus nearly bowled her smaller opponent over into the sand. Slaughter and Carnage met Skulltaker again and again, the weapons screeching with each clash as chainaxe teeth and flecks of metal came loose.

Clashing demigods bellowed with savage fury as the Nails bit into their skulls. Both struck harder and faster than any mortal man could ever hope to match. Ekaterina's movements grew more learned with each stroke of her chainsword, while Gavrill's every step was filled with the unwavering confidence of a veteran. She wouldn't lose, but the little wretch had made her bleed her own blood. At the very least, that was worthy of note.

Gavrill's strength and experience showed, however. She bit back the pain of the Nails. She channelled it, rather than letting the rage flow freely. Slaughter and Carnage beat down a constant onslaught, keeping Ekaterina ever on the defensive. She wasn't quite used to the massive bulk of Skulltaker, but Gavrill could see that she wielded it with the blackened, skeletal hands of a natural. A born killer.

The pair pulled back in the same instant. Ekaterina wiped blood and saliva from her panting, parched mouth - at some point she must have bitten her hulk of an opponent, though it was likely that neither of them had noticed. A pair of red streams trickled down from Gavrill's ear-coverings; she could feel the veins throbbing in her skull, beating a war drum's rhythm against the Nails.

"You're- Hrnnh- You're doin' pretty good, kid."

"I- Hm- I think that- Hah- I am winning," the Russian grinned beneath a mask of blood and sweat. "What- Hnnnh- What do you think?"

The Nails bit deep into Gavrill's skull at that. With her teeth bared, she let go of her machetes and rushed her opponent. Skulltaker kicked up a puff of dust as Ekaterina did the same. the larger woman took hold of the Russian's head and brought it down on her knee. Gavrill pulled her hands back in, taking hold of the girl's collar. A suddenly sensation of weightlessness took hold of Ekaterina as she was lifted off the ground with a gnarled, over-sized hand, then blinding pain as her face was broken against the ground.

"Cocky little shit," Gavrill growled, pulling the girl back to her feet.

The Russian was held up by her throat to look straight into Gavrill's manic, twitching grin while her bladed feet kicked uselessly at the air beneath them. It was only then that she noticed a hearty chunk of the other Maerorus' face had been torn away - likely where she had managed to sink her teeth in during the brawl.

The only sound Ekaterina could make was a rough "KHRN" as Gavrill felt... something... dig its way into her stomach. She looked down to find Ekaterina's fleshmetal arm elbow-deep inside of her chest, red fluid running down its contours.

It only seemed to make the Wolf more excited.

"So," she muttered through ragged, strained, "that- hrnh- that the noise you make when y- hrnnkh- when you take a life, HUH?" Her grip tightened around the smaller girl's neck. "Thought this- hnnh- would be the END of ol' Gavrill, huh? But- hrnnk- y'see," Gavrill's eyes widened, "there's one thing the good Doctor forgot to- hrnnh- to tell you."

Rows of jagged blades came down around Ekaterina's arm, as though the fresh hole in Gavrill's abdomen had turned into a giant mouth. The Russian screamed.


Gavrill released her grip, letting the smaller girl drop the ground in a battered heap. The arm that had once ended in twisted, ebony metal now ended at the elbow, black blood dribbling from the stump into the sand.

The Wolf, meanwhile, slowly picked up Ekaterina's fallen chainsword and gave it a few experimental swings and gunned the engine. "Khrrnn... Khaaarrrnnn," the muttered as she made her way back to the broken body, playing with the words. "I like the sound of that."

With all the dignity of a street thug, Gavrill kicked the Russian onto her back and placed a foot on her stomach. The Wolf licked her lips and hefted Skulltaker into the air, holding it just above Ekaterina's ribcage. The younger girl's face was an ugly, bloodied, contorted mess. Her nose was nearly pulp and crimson-painted sand stuck to her wounds in patches.

Gavrill wiped her mangled cheek on her shoulder as she stared down at her beaten opponent. She could already feel the adrenaline fading out of her system as the Nails grip weakened.

"You fought well," the Wolf said, her fingers drumming against Skulltaker's hilt. "Welcome to the pit, Kharn."

Skulltaker roared as it dropped. Baptized in the arena, Kharn Valnikov was maimed, killed and burned. And for the briefest of moments, out of the corner of her eye, Gavrill swore she saw the Doctor grinning above the carnage.


That was the last time Gavrill Madaraki saw the light of day until her release. She couldn't tell just how long ago it had been. A year? Months? Time had no meaning in her cell. Sedated and chained, everything had become blurred mess after blurred mess, only ever broken by the call to battle. She couldn't be entirely sure that half of her fights had even happened. The beasts she fought in the pit were the things of nightmares - the things that had no right existing in reality. Yet, that was what the Doctor did best; she made the impossible possible.

The wind picked up again, just as Gavrill turned her attention to the stands. Her gang had been pressed into cleaning duty earlier; some carried debris and rubble out, others carried out withered corpses that had been trampled or left behind in the panicked exodus a month earlier. Most of her crew had come to understand that they didn't simply work for her - she OWNED them. The Wolf did not ask. The Wolf demanded, and what the Wolf demanded was done.

A strange thought came to her mind as she stepped in circles, soaking in the sight of the grand coliseum. If the arena belonged to her, and it was the Blood God's Arena...

Gavrill snickered. She would have to do away with the skull decorations, though. They weren't exactly to her taste. If skulls were displayed, they ought to be REAL skulls, the kind that once held eyeballs and brains. No more of those goofy outfits, either. This time they would need real armour. And of course they would need monsters. The Wolf Pack would have to bring in all the horrid beasts they could find. Maybe use THEIR skulls for decorations.

For the first time since she was handed off to the Doctor, Gavrill Madaraki had hopes and dreams. Her life may have been confined to Varrigan City for the time being, but it sure as hell was better than a hundred foot wide circle of dirt and sand.

After completing a slow lap around the arena, Gavrill found herself almost in the exact centre. She bent down and scooped up a handful of sand, letting it run through her fingers as she stood again. Her nose sniffed at it, still picking up more than a hint of spilled blood.

She looked up into the evening sky. The sun had begun to dip below the arena's walls, painting the sand shades of orange and red. Slaughter and Carnage materialized in her hands as she held her arms out, blades splayed wide like the wings of an angel. The arena thirsted. The Nails pricked at her mind, whispering its will to her. She was its most loyal disciple, and it asked only the simplest of tributes.

"BLOOD," she roared. "FOR THE BLOOD GOD!"