by Max Barry

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by The Kingdom of Neuebremen. . 27 reads.

Stars (The Devil's Den)

"The Na'rella", Port of Ostend City

"It's 4 in the morning, Maddie, why are you up at this time?"

"Miss Vaughan, it's so hot in here! I'm trying to find a cool place to sleep in!"

"Well, hurry before Eric wakes up!"

Maddie runs up the stairs and onto the deck of the ship to find a good place to sleep at. As usual, if it's too hot inside, she sometimes sleeps in the ship's crow's nest, perched atop the highest mast.

The view from up there is beautiful. Sometimes, when the weather is perfect and there are no clouds in the sky, Maddie can see the stars, all there just for her. When she was young, her mum told her that the stars way up high were the souls of her people, watching over her and providing her their undying love and care.

After her wonderful adventures with the Na'rella and its crew, she is more than inclined to believe her mum wasn't lying about that after all.

As the gentle rocking of the boat begins to put her to sleep, she suddenly hears people talking nearby. Normally she wouldn't care, people often walked around the docks at this time of the evening, but something is unique about these voices.

They aren't talking Neuebremenian, Saheerian or anything like that. Their language sounded so foreign, so out there...

Who are they?

Maddie decides to peek over the crow's nest to get a better look at the pier. There they are. Two people in hoodies. And they're coming to the boat?

What? Does Eric know these guys? What are they doing?

Maddie suddenly pulls back into the crow's nest, as she sees them climb the plank Eric left behind. They're boarding the ship! The Na'rella has to be getting invaded by Templars! It's the only logical explanation!

She needs to do something to protect her friends, right now.


“Uhmm, Sri? That's the ship right?”

“Yep, looked like something out of the history books, in the pest's abhorrent style of course. Right, Markus?”

“Indubitably... though, tell me, why are we doing this mission again? I mean, I don't know about you but I'm not exactly sure working with the pests are going to give us anything usef—”

“Well Markus, if only you have a tail like me,” she swooshed her tail to his mouth, shushing it. “Maybe you'll know not to question our mission?”

“Right, right.” he moves her tail away. “Oh and it seems like they're getting ready as well!”

“I'll tell the others.”

Sri left the deck and came inside the boat where it's warm and free from the sea salts that's constantly bombarding her snout. Several other agents are seated on the couch, most squeezed right besides each other for warmth, one of which saluted Sri.

“What're you saluting for, Ken?”

“Our beautiful feldmeister of course!” Ken replied, landing him sneering remarks from his other agents.

“Oh shut it. Get the cash card and the bullions, make sure they're ready for when we get these cats to her majesty.”

“On it!” Ken replied before darting into a room nearby, the other agents followed suit.

Now with nothing else to do, she rests her bottom on the couches and pulls out her pistol, inspecting it for the sixth time this day. She does this whenever boredom gets to her, though this time it's because she wants to make sure the mission goes as smoothly as possible. She doesn't want to be a catalyst for those pest's wretchedness to consume another one of her kin.

The clock ticks by and the cash card and gold bullions are now ready and Markus is awaiting her on deck, the captain telling her that the planks have already been laid out and it's time to go. The other agents including Ken followed Sri on deck as they rendezvous with Markus.

Now, as Sri is the only non-human on deck, she's led by Markus who is a human. As the board have been lowered, the two agents climbed aboard the Na'rella, the stomping of their boots as noticeable as the rumbling of the waves, their coat dripping with sea water. Both managed to get on the deck of the Na'rella.

“Don't you ever wondered why would anyone in this century even use a wooden boat?” Markus asked Sri out of the blue.

“Intimidation, I think they want to remind us of... something.” she replied with distaste.

The two stops their chatter as they boarded the Na'rella, their boots creaking the wooden deck of the ship.

Now, it's time for business.


Eric hears the stomping of boots above the deck of the ship, and immediately runs for his weapon in his room, a double-barreled shotgun like the ones from those cowboy flicks in Aislada. He is not taking any chances; this wasn't the first time his boat was invaded by unwanted visitors and this wasn't the first time he had had to turn an invader's legs into red dust either.

He runs up to the deck of the ship, past the slaves he kept on board for trading, and the moment he arrives to confront his visitors, he pulls up his gun and cocks it as loudly as he can.

"Don't move."

Maddie is peering from the top of the crow's nest down at the situation below her. How did she not know Eric had a shotgun? No wonder why Kathrin told her to hide, if this was his response to invaders!

Sri heard cocking and her gaze immediately swung to the source. It's the man himself, though she do not know who he is, though she knows for certain he's dangerous. Markus snapped a pistol to his waist faster than the man could blink, while the other agents on the boat loads their automatic rifles as well.

Knowing his predicament and deciding it's best to deescalate, Markus throws his gun on the deck, “Greetings, gentlemen.” he proclaimed loudly, “I've heard the wind news of a sailing ship named ‘Na'rella’ carrying quality goods... if you know what I mean.” he winks.

Eric raises an eyebrow and lowers his shotgun a little. "Remove your hoods, and then we'll talk about trading."

Markus opened his cap, revealing a flowing brown hair soaked in sea water. Sri however flashed her badge towards him, her tail pointing at it, though as she is revealing her nonite identity, the other agents on the boat light up their lasers and made sure Eric knows one wrong pull of a trigger meant an end to him and his ship.

“Perhaps a little introduction, Sri?” Markus snarked at Sri.

She scoffs, “We are merchants of the Maneiran Federation, a country located across the ocean and are looking for your valuable cargo. Saheers as I've heard your kind call them.” she grinned.

Eric stares at all of the laser points around him, before looking at Sri. "Interesting... a catgirl. You two are certainly one of the more interesting customers I have had."
"Well, since you're here now, I might as well introduce myself. My name is Eric Vaughan, and as you can gather I am a slave trader. Since you've already answered the what, I might as well ask the why, since your... unique status..."

He is eyeing Sri weirdly, with a mix of curiosity and... lust? Is this guy a pervert?

"Why do you want to buy these slaves?"

Up above, Maddie is still peeking. She is waiting for the "Maneirans" to leave so she can ambush them. They're definitely up to something, but what is it?

Back on the ground, Sri glanced at Eric, “A simple equation really. A worker with no wage is always more profitable than those whom has it. Is it really that complicated?”

“Anyway, name's Sri.”

Markus puts on his cap again, “Name's Markus, how about a bit of a tour?” Markus then stomps the deck, where the other agents climbed aboard the Na'rella as well, Ken carrying a briefcase filled which seemed to weigh him down.

Eric takes the Maneiran agents into the ship, all the while talking to them about the ship, what he does for a living, and obviously about his slavery operation, which specialises in dealing forest wolves, arctic wolves and foxes. He is still on edge about their sudden appearance and their armed nature, but he does a decent job at concealing this.

Once Maddie is sure they are out of sight, she immediately begins to scurry down the crow's nest, before picking up the gun that had been left behind on the deck. It felt so unnaturally heavy for something no bigger than her hands.

She kind of knew how to use a gun. She had seen soldiers back at home use weapons like this.

She heads down below the deck, following behind Eric and the Maneirans.

Sri and Markus would, despite their despise of this pest walking them through his ship, they would nod and shrug at his stories, making sure not to reveal their distaste too much. Though in spite of her distaste for pests, she can't help but feel curious about the slaves, what do they look like, and their story. She knows that Neuebremen has always been an enigmatic slave state, but she's always curious at the why.

She brushes her tail Eric, “Perhaps we could take a look at some of these... slaves you got onboard. We'd like to see our specimen after all.”

Eric looks at Sri's tail, before looking at her and at Markus. "Oh, of course. Now, don't be mistaken, even if I do sell and own slaves I'm really not a bad guy. If you get to know me, you'll really find I'm quite nice. And if you doubt that, you can ask Kathrin, who's been with me since I was a child."

He takes them to see the slaves, who are surprisingly well-kept and don't look anywhere near as bad as many of the other slaves that wander throughout Ostend with their owners in tow.


Maddie is peeking around a corner, with the gun pressed tightly to her chest. She can see two Maneirans standing outside the room Eric and his guests are in.

The plan is simple. She would jump out from behind the corner and shoot the guards in the kneecaps. Then she would ask them what they were doing to Eric. And if they didn't talk, then she'd kick them in the face until they did.

She closes her eyes, breathes in, and then jumps out from behind the corner she was hiding behind. Suddenly, she gets tackled to the ground by another Maneiran agent and he promptly wrestles Markus's gun out of her hands before pointing it down at her.

"Who the hell are you?"

Ken tackled the tiny mongrel, making sure she has no way of moving, the other agents pointing Markus' gun at the specimen. Moments eariler he had finally just got the briefcase on deck when he noticed the tiny child running inside with a gun at hand, but he's more surprised by her clothing.

“A slave?”

“An agile one at that.” another agent came right besides the would-be-assassin and kneels over her, “Sweetie, you might want to explain yourself.”


“Hmm indeed, quite the specimen you have here, Eric, it would've made for a high price if it were sold.” Markus comments, his eyes fixated on the females more so than the males, “Especially the ladies.” he sneers.

Sri would similarly be fixated on the females, disgust ran through her mind, she couldn't stand it but she needs to endure, “Has any of these ladies been part of the pleasure industry?”


Maddie shouts back at the agent, "GET OFF ME!" before kicking him hard in the nuts. She is desperately trying to escape the grasp of the agents, and the commotion she causes is enough to catch the attention of Eric, Sri and Markus. Oh, and also Kathrin.

Kathrin runs down the hallway and tries to get the guard off Maddie, and manages to kick him aside before helping her stowaway get up to her feet. She gives her a hug, and tries to comfort the now-crying kid.

Eric bursts out of the room with his shotgun poised, and stumbles across Kathrin surrounded by the two guards.

"Kat... what happened, and who is that?"

Ken, having been critically damaged upon his two reproductive organ crumpled to the ground, while the other agent's knocked on the floor though he stammered upright again. He drags Ken to the wall when Eric came into the hallway. “Your subject here have apparently attempted to kill our colleague, with a gun...”

Sri and Markus arrived shortly after and the latter realized his pistol he hasn't retrieved yet. “So you let your specimen loose on a voyage, Eric?” he questioned him, “And who is this other one, a spottie?” he glared at Kathrin.

Eric turned to Markus. "I don't know who that Breune girl is. Kathrin is mine's though, she is not for sale if you are wondering." He then turned towards Kathrin and Maddie, who were still surrounded by Ken and the other agent. He ushered for them to get out of the way so he could talk to them. "Now, Kat, who is this girl? You seem to know her very well." Eric was still pointing the shotgun at Maddie.

"Eric, put the gun down! She's just a kid!"

"And who the hell is this kid?! How did she even get on board?!"

Maddie was still crying into Kathrin's shoulder. "Eric, I'll answer you later, just give her some time to calm down! Come on Maddie, let's get you to bed..."

“Well well well, it seems that she's on the chopping board for you, isn't she?” the agent remarks, “name's Hendra, junior feldmeister.” he introduced himself, “perhaps we could get that girl for free if that'll settle our problem here?”

Slightly frustrated Sri could only flap her tail around in disgruntlement, she came here to free the slaves and yet one of them tried to murder her, though, she hopes it's just a misunderstanding. But even so, something must be done for repayment.

“I agree with his assessment, Eric, I don't appreciate it when someone tries to kill me.”

Eric looks at Sri and replies, "Absolutely. That girl isn't even one of mines', so feel free to take her with you. When you get ready to leave I'll bring her up to you to take away. And Markus, next time do pick up your weapons, will you?"

"Maddie, what were you even trying to do?! You could have gotten yourself killed, you know!"

"I was only trying to protect you guys! I thought they were going to hurt you or something..."

Kathrin was comforting Maddie, who was kneeled on her bed and crying into her shoulder. Eric and the visitors hadn't come for the both of them yet, but sooner or later both of them will have to explain to Eric what just happened.

"Maddie, you know what I told you. Don't show yourself to Eric or any visitors he gets at all! Now he knows you're here, and who knows what he's going to do to you? You need to be more careful sometimes, you know."

Kathrin continues. "Look, I'll talk to him when they're gone, and I'll try to convince him to keep you on board."

"Thanks, Kat..."


A few minutes would have passed by with more discussions on the slaves though Sri's mind is still stuck on that little mongrel. She can't help but pity her, though she can't put her finger on why the hell would that girl tried to kill her, or Markus. But she figures that's a matter for later.

“Eric, so tell me, have any of your slaves been part of the pleasure industry?”

As a specific request from her majesty the prime minister, she requested to focus on the most valuable slaves first, being those whom have served as sexual labourers. Her logic? God knows what awful motive she had, but Sri's not going to argue with her overlord, especially if it gets them out of the pest's hellhole they called home.

Eric stares at Markus for a few seconds with a slightly bemused expression. "Why, of course they have, Markus. You know, with how the world is careening today with sexual relationships some people are getting desperate to have the good stuff in life. So, they get it from slaves. They can only say yes, because that's what a slave does."
The way he says it as a matter-of-fact thing disgusts Markus and Sri. How can he be so relaxed about such a disgusting use of his slaves.

He continues. "Well, it's not to say that that kind of usage is looked down upon in Neuebremen, since the way they are perceived here it may as well be zoophilia with even more moral qualms. Really, only the rich and the extremely debauched buy slaves for that purpose only. And you didn't hear this from me, but I think that even the Grand Templar owns a couple sex slaves for his own pleasure."

And it must be said that Trace did not, in fact, own slaves for that purpose. He was too disconnected from life to enjoy such a thing.

"And which ones have been a part of the... pleasure industry?" Markus asks, staring down at his gun. If he could, and my God he would, but if he could he would shoot Eric in the face right there and right now.

"Well... I'm not quite sure actually." Eric says, drinking another cup of tea. "The slaves I collect often come from wildly different backgrounds, so I can never remember who did what and who was born in x and y. It could be none of them, it could be all of them... Again, I'm not exactly sure. I can tell you with certainty though that Kathrin was destined to be a sex slave, hence why she's infertile and has an appearance that would excite some kinds of people."

He's definitely a pervert, the Maneirans think to themselves.

Sri knows that this man deep inside is definitely a pervert, an even bigger one than her majesty, and a heartless one at that. This leaves no question on the moral deficiency of the pests and their rotted minds, she'll definitely push for extermination on the next budget meeting, but that's for later. She nudges her tail to Markus.

“Then we have our request.” Markus replies. “We'll take all of them, we don't mind the kind of saheer they are as long as they're fit.”

“And I hope you give that girl free of charge or I'll be very unhappy.” he continues, giving a threatening glare at Eric.

Sri shudders at her friend's remarks here, even though she knew it's for the best. And regarding this Eric himself, she definitely thinks he'll be an asset worth keeping as the federation's main contractor for quality saheers.

Eric raises his eyebrow, and then says, "Sure. If you want all of them I ask for 400,000 marks. And as for the girl... let me get her. I'll be right back."

Eric stands up and leaves the room Markus and Sri are in, before heading down to the room Kathrin and Maddie are in. "Kathrin? Where's the girl?"

"Eric, please let her stay, you can't hand her over to those people up there, who knows-"

"Kat, she nearly killed them and ruined this deal for me. I don't even know who she... wait a minute..."

He looks at Maddie, who is now fast asleep in Kathrin's bed. "Kathrin... is she the daughter of the King of East Breune?!"

"And that's what I wanted to tell you, Eric, she's royal blo-"

"Alright, now she is definitely coming with me. Get out of my way, Kathrin."

"ERIC! Don't do this, please! What if she gets harmed?! What are we going to-"

"And remind me about the part where her wellbeing is my problem, Kathrin? You didn't tell me she was on board, so therefore I don't know about her existence by any normal standard and therefore whatever becomes of her is not my problem!"

He drags her out of Kathrin's bed, and after locking Kathrin in her own room and taking a now-angry Maddie protesting and shouting at Eric to let her go with him, he throws her down in front of the Maneirans, his shotgun pointed at her head to make sure she wouldn't try anything funny.

She looks at Markus and Sri with fear in her eyes. Somewhere behind her she can hear Kathrin crying.

"There. The girl who assaulted you earlier." He was glaring at her. "Unfortunately, I will have to charge an extra 2000 marks because of her... unique status... as the daughter of a prominent figure within Neuebremen's sphere of influence."

Sri and Markus both looked with disgust at the tiny mongrel. She's of a royal blood, a pest no less, but still a saheer, she'll make a great bargaining chip for the federation, and perhaps a great gift for her majesty.

“That'll be most excellent.” Markus says while picking up the tiny mongrel... and hugging her like his own child. He looked down at the child, and wiped his leathery finger on her face, “You are beautiful, aren't you?”

Weirded off, Sri looked away and whistles, where Hendra and Ken arrived, the latter carrying a briefcase. Throwing it on the floor, with a loud bang it cracks open, revealing eight gold bars a kilogramme each stacked on top of one another.

“Eight kilograms of pure gold ingots, enough with a few thousand to spare as a tip.” Sri remarks. A smile plastered on her face she rubs her tail on the tiny mongrel, “You'll be alright, sweetie.”

“Now would you mind getting these slaves to our ship?”

Eric smiles at the gold, and after admiring it for a short while helps the Maneirans put the slaves on board their vessel. Kathrin can only watch helplessly from a porthole in the Na'rella as Maddie is chucked on board with all the others.

Maddie is crying profusely as the boat pulls away from Ostend. She wanted to see the world, but not as a slave. What will her mum think of her now? What can her mum even do now?

Why have the stars forsaken her? She thought that they were supposed to be there for her, yet they had let her fall into the hands of slave owners. Why?

Aboard the ship...

Aboard the ship, Sri would've finally had comfort in knowing that the pervert's a long way behind her. The warmth of the ship once again revitalized her salted senses and she could now inspect some of the slaves they've finally rescued.

The crew have done their due diligence.

The slaves would be assigned grouped accommodation which would surprise them in comfort where bunk beds and blankets are readily available. Their shackles would be released, and their first experience on the ship would be a warm shower on the lower deck, monitored by armed guards. And food? Stacks of salted preserved meat and fish that the crew must unwillingly bear the smell of.

Maddie though, received special attention and was brought to the captain's quarter.

“So, what's your name, kid?” Sri asks the child, sitting beside her on the bed. Sri hopes that she's not too scared of her or else she'll be another nuisance aboard, beside Ken of course, he's worse.

Maddie doesn't talk to Sri. She's still petrified. And slightly curious. Every human she had ever seen was usually just that, a human. Sri though, she was like a mix between one and a cat. How did she come to be in the first place? How is that even possible?

She doesn't show this though. All she displays is fear. A whole lot of it.

Sri slaps her tail on the girl's mouth and tickled her ears with it, “You know...” she spoke with a tone of a grandma mustering up a tale. “I would be scared too if I were you, kid.”

“I know how you felt, having been voyaging across the seas protected by a person you loved, only to be thrown away to an unknown's hand is obviously terrifying, and I sympathize with you.” she pats her neck. “But you could trust me, and I will bet my life on it, that you and your people will be safe under our care. We're not your slaveholders, we're not a Templaric pest, we're here to save all of you, including you.”

Her voice is soothing... and she purrs.

“Now please, tell me, what's your name?”

Maddie is slightly calmed by Sri's voice, and manages to stutter out, "My... my name is Maddie. What, what's your name? Also... sorry about earlier..."

Sri smirked, she's been waiting for weeks for this moment, “My name's Sri Saptabhuwana Tunggadewi Maharajasa Wijayamanahirawardhani.” she spits the comically long name, “Call me Sri.”

“Now, Maddie, you might see from my name that I'm of noble blood... or what's left of it, similar of you, and I will assume responsibility for your care from now on.” stands up and held Maddie's hand, “Now, you don't look all that convinced, so I'll give you a tour around the ship so you could see for yourself.”

The ship despite its small size is luckily able to accommodate the influx of saheers. There would be a line just out from the staircases where a few terrified saheers are tended to by medics, some are now wearing some bare clothing.

Some saheers on the way would look fluffed from the time they get from the showers and seem relieved, and the crew members viewed the saheers with... adorement?

Maddie wonders what's really going on. This isn't how slaves are normally treated. They're never given baths, fed well, cared for by their owners... are they being freed?

"Sri, what's really going on? Did you buy them because you wanted to enslave them, or is it something more than that?"

She gives the girl a tail swipe, “Of course, no nonite would betray fellow nonites, you should know that of all people.” she tugs on her ears and puts on a fanged grin, “But because you tried to kill me there, you'll be cleaning the dishes for a day.”

Seeing her kin finally getting a much needed breather from their days of slavery brought a smile on Sri's face, a bittersweet one as there's still plenty left on the pest's lair. Though from these saheers, she's sure that they will be notable asset when used correctly, and the more terrifying their origin is, the better.

“So, Maddie, could you enlighten us about the pes... templars? How's the saheers under their rule?” Sri suddenly asks as they passed a grouping of still unkempt saheers, their eyes to her seemed lifeless, their bodies frail, their appearance enough to boil her blood. “What did they do to these poor souls?”

Maddie doesn't know enough about what the Templars do to the Saheer to tell Sri. All she knows is that the Templar hate them and torture them in a vast amount of ways, more than she can count on her fingers and toes. However, she is familiar with how the West Breune, which are under Templar rule, are treated, and from what she can see they are relatively fine as a society.

"I'mma be honest, Sri, I don't know. I mean, if Eric had these guys as slaves..." she looked at some of them with pity. "... it can't be good, right? Also really? I have to do the dishes? Aw man."

“Maddie.” she stops a few feets away from the group of saheers, “Slavery is not normal in the slightest, not in any form, and for such reason, those abhorrent Templars are almost universally shunned by the rest of the world.” she says sternly, attracting the saheers' attention. “And we're saving all of you for a reason, for nonite slavery, or genocide, has no place even in this godforsaken world.”
“For those templars to think they're above our kind,” she tugs at her tail, “their pathetic race would see the end of their days, soon.”

Some of the slaves react to Sri's speech to them. Others are simply too traumatized to respond at all to anything. God only knows what horrors they have seen thanks to people like Eric.

For a fact, Maddie is well aware that slavery is wrong. Her mum made that clear to her. Nobody, not even humans, deserve to have their rights taken away from them. Nobody deserves to be turned into a mindless machine. Not even the Templars, who have committed atrocities comparable to that of the Humanist State, deserve a fate like that. There is no fate worse than being enslaved.

"Do you mean that all humans will die? I don't think all of them are as bad as they are, Sri."

No, not all of them. But those Templars? And the plague they call their own people? Let's just say we have plans for pests like those people.” she lets out a smirk at Maddie. If the saheers could understand what she's saying, they would certainly sense that something isn't right about this neko-jinn, or the other crews in fact, some may even felt her feeling oozing out of her, and it's one they know best, and they would recognize that feeling from Eric himself. One which induces terror.

“Now, Maddie,” she picks her up, “You're going to the kitchen now!” she ran to the kitchen, where Maddie would face her judgment; a several meter high mount of unwashed plates.

"Oh come on, Sri!"

(Return to main page) | Stars (The Devil's Den) | Markus, Sri, Madelyn, Eric, Kathrin | Templar Order of Neuebremen → Federation of Maneiras

The Kingdom of Neuebremen