She’d honestly had little reason to believe there was a difference until this engagement. The bloody white thing had torn through three of the ten in no time flat, a guttural sound that may have been a chuckle issuing from somewhere in its belly. It now contemptuously eyed herself and the remaining seven. “Run now, and I might be too bored to come after you,” it drawled in a gravelly voice that oozed superiority, and Talae gritted her teeth, her only response to ready to charge again.
Another two of her number actually believed the thing and turned tail, only to earn themselves a swift end with their backs turned. “What? I never did like cowards,” he (for it had to be a he from the tonality) offered, and she had the absurd thought that were he humanoid, he would have shrugged. Just like that, it was Talae and five perfectly ordinary soldiers. Frankly, she wasn’t all that extraordinary herself, and she knew it. Didn’t mean she was going to run away though.
“Chatty reptile, aren’t you?” she spat, lunging for his foreleg. The dragon blinked languidly and moved out of the way, attempting to swat her for her trouble, but she sidestepped and tried again, her hand-and-a-half skidding off his pearlescent scales.
“Grumpy worm, aren’t you?” he replied in kind, employing his tail in an attempt to skewer her in the stomach. Talae wasn’t having that, though, and true to form, decided that in the end doing the unexpected was the only way they stood a damn chance. Timing the hit as well as she could, she waited for another strike from the tail and plunged the large sword into the ground, impaling the draconian appendage on the way. “You little bitch!” he snarled, tugging futilely at the pinned fifth limb.
“Now would be nice,” she shouted back to her fellows, and they took the cue, coming at the partially-incapacitated enemy with an assortment of weaponry. Unfortunately, he was more than ready for this, and though there were black spots at the edge of his vision from the obvious pain of having one’s tail treated like the average shishkabob, it was nowhere near enough to cripple him. Another soldier fell to his claws, unable to remember the importance of dodging when blocking was not an option.
Dead gods damn it! she thought emphatically, reaching to rearm herself, this time with a short tube of a rather deadly concoction. Nitrates, charcoal and just a little sulfur. Stank up the tent so bad she almost couldn’t stand it, but made for most interesting results when lit on fire. From a smaller pouch, she produced a couple of roughened pieces of flint, fixed to narrow leather loops which she slipped over the second digits of her index and middle fingers. Having lost her primary method of combat to keep the dragon in about the right place, she was going to have to rely on the other four for a sufficient distraction.
Oh, look, a flaw in the plan. She was saved from having to consider it overmuch by a flash of white overhead. Alistair, having just drawn his spear, had spotted Talae trying to do something and decided to help. His magic-users were directed to the assistance of the younger Shanir sister, and the archers to keep at the cover fire for the primary combat line and Beelzes, whose injury he’d missed by mere seconds.
“What do you require?” he asked, slightly aloft even still.
“I need that thing to open its big mouth, and then everyone to get the hell out of my way,” she replied tersely, and he nodded.
“I believe I can do that,” was the only response she received, and then he was off, making quite the nuisance out of himself with his trident, aided by the remaining four people standing. When one of them, she was unsure which, caught the thing somehow painfully, causing him to roar in apparent discomfiture, she saw her chance. Flicking her fingers together, Talae created a spark, enough to catch on the fuse she’d melded to her incendiary device.
“Move, now!” she shouted, and charged forward, wasting no time shoving the explosive into the creature’s mouth and retreating herself. There were precious few seconds until-
A wave of heat and force slammed into her back, and Talae pitched forward, head contacting the ground hard, causing stars to dance a light show in front of her eyelids. She managed to retain her consciousness- barely. She felt talons wrapping around her upper arms and lifting her as gently as possible to her feet, and she nodded her thanks, regretting it when this brought on a fresh wave of nausea. She stumbled back against Alistair for a second, then regained her feet and stepped away from the harpy’s support. “Did it work?” It would have been a matter of timing most delicate, to work effectively. The mixture she’d loaded that capsule with was highly explosive, as her throbbing head would gladly attest, but it may not kill the thing unless it had exploded while still in his mouth or down his throat. If he’d spat it out, he may have just lost an arm or escaped harm entirely. She was reassured by the knowledge that if it had been regurgitated, it was in her general direction, which meant she would be the worst damaged.
Oh, please let it be dead. Talae swooned slightly again, placing her hands on her knees and taking a few deep breaths. The four still-living Legionnaires were looking at her like she was crazy, but she was pretty used to that.
Instead, her mental space repeated but a single mantra- you will not have them. The stark simplicity of it sapped more complex intimations from her existence for the time being- she stopped considering what she was really doing, and in so letting go, found at last the resolve to properly do it. To attack with nothing less than utter killer intent. The protests of her better nature were smothered beneath the weight of sheer necessity- she had not the luxury of moral dilemma, much less mercy. Right now, the best she could muster in terms of mercy was killing them as quickly as she was able.
The small world-space into which she had retreated, the thick glass bubble encasing her awareness, was shattered upon a very specific sound- Beelzes voice, to be exact, and more specifically the sharp change in altitude that this tonality suffered. She had no time to be elated at the general’s arrival, no chance to entertain fanciful notions of his appearance heralding reinforcement or somehow saving them all, because Beelzes had been struck.
“No!” Fae dashed to her friend’s side, finding that the problem was an arrow lodged in her abdomen. Not even a dragon- a Child! A damnable Child, and who had she been throwing herself at for the better part of ten minutes? “Beelzes, come on Beelzes! Say something! Tell me a joke, please? Tell me this is a joke, won’t you? Oh gods…” but her friend was unresponsive, and Fae wasn’t even sure what this meant. Was she dead, or just unconscious? It was so hard to tell over the din of the battle, but that didn’t stop Fae from assuming she was still alive.
“Come on, Beelzes, you can’t go to sleep! You have to stay awake! Wake up!” Fae debated whether or not to pull the arrow out and try to heal the damage, but she didn’t even know what the extent of that damage was, or if it was something she’d still be able to fix, depleted as she was becoming. “Please? Please wake up? Come on…” The dark elf swiped furiously at the watery trails running down her face. Crying wasn’t going to help Beelzes any. It wasn’t going to help anyone.
Dammit! I say I’m going to do one thing, and I can’t even do that! It was not as though her healing would do much good for the warlock anyway, since it apparently came from some semidivine ancestor. Well, precious lot of good that was doing her right now.
Though… she’d never actually tried that, had she? She’d always been aware of it, surely, that elephant in the room every time she stopped to consider the shape of the her internal system. It always sat there, radiant and chill, imperiously dominating those places in her mind where she dared not venture. She could feel the power there, but something had always bid her remain clear of it. Instinct, visceral and strong. If Beelzes had been right back then, that was the divine aspect of her existence, ill-contained within a mortal body perhaps, but…
How much was she willing to give to save them? It was a question she’d never thought to answer, but now, on the cusp of plunging straight into that foreign part of herself, sitting beside the unmoving form of her closest friend and her teacher, feeling her tears mix with the blood staining her face and knowing she was so utterly unimportant, so completely ineffectual in doing the one thing she had resolved to do even after her uselessness became apparent, the question gained a significance it had never taken on before.
So, how much was she willing to give? More importantly, how much would it take?
Neira, in the midst of an attempt to gut Xeron, was abruptly thrown backwards, spinning end-over-end in the air and not seeming to be particularly bothered by this. Righting herself, she stopped her movement by an act of will and raised an eyebrow in the general direction of the Silenced, who had stopped moving and was now essentially just floating there.
What came next over their mental connection wrung a dark laugh out of the nightmarian. I’d say yes, but then I can’t say I’m surprised, she sniped with a grin. He was right about one thing; this was a great deal of fun. Partially in contact with his mind as she was, she heard the dragon, and her smile dropped off abruptly. Scaly bitch. she muttered to herself, though frankly she could care less about whether or not she was heard. Here she was, thoroughly enjoying herself, and of course keeping Xeron from wrecking absolute havoc on the already-chaotic battlefield below, and now there was interference and well… put-out wasn’t really the best way to describe it, but irritated didn’t quite do enough.
Of course, his apparent compliance was about to make her really angry, before she caught just a glimpse of his intent. What followed was most certainly nothing she had expected, and she shook her head, wry smirk twisting her features. “Does the freedom hurt yet?” she asked rhetorically, and nodded in answer to his question.
“I think I will.” Neira was mercenary enough to seize an opportunity when she saw one, and though she wouldn’t trust him as far as she could throw him- though that was a bad idiom, she could throw someone his size very far indeed- this constituted an opportunity. It also promised to be most entertaining, and required no more consideration than that. She was about to apply her psychic speed and join Xeron in the fray, but she stopped short, staring at the horizon. More… and those are reds, it seems. Narrowing her almandine eyes, the nightmarian glanced at the battlefield below. With a deep breath, she projected her thoughts to the remaining members of the Black guard.
The reds approach. It was all she said, but it was perhaps all that needed to be said. Without sparing it another thought, she burst forward, traveling in Xeron's wake and then branching off in the opposite direction, lancing psionic blows from her arms, slicing red-tinged arcs through the intervening space.
It roared, stomping forward. The pikemen held their ground, but at this pace the dragon could simply stomp past them. Kisikoni rushed forward, diving under a swipe of the Dragon's claw and throwing the blades up to stab through the Dragon. However thick the scales were, the Butterfly swords were heavy and sharp. With some weight, not even the plate mails of the late-dwarven masters could withstand repeated blows. The dragon was on all fours, so it reared up as Kisikoni rolled to his feet. He jumped back but a powerful slash ripped Kisikoni's swords from his hands, breaking several fingers and his left wrist. Crying out, he slammed his palm into the Live Armor. The armor reacted, but there wasn't enough energy to quickly heal his hands. The blades glinted once, and landed inside a building. Unconsciously, he made a note to return there and reclaim his weapons- otherwise he'd have to use his fists or that power.
During all this, he had stumbled back as the archers continued to pepper the Dragon with arrows. It did little more than annoy it with ugly flesh wounds, and the archers were only able to continue their rain of pointed shafts because they were plucking them from their dead comrades and enemies.
Looks like you don't have your little daggers anymore. It thought snidely.
"Look! I don't need your shitty humor!" Kisikoni snarled, and the nearest legionnaire looked at him oddly. The dragon heard as well, and snorted.
"You can read my thoughts, underdweller?" It scoffed.
"No! Uh, I..." Kisikoni said, before trailing off. The Dragon cocked it's head, and without pausing, it's neck snapped out and the dragon had Kisikoni between it's teeth. However terrible it looked to his fellow Legionnaires, they knew an opportunity when they saw it and took the chance to throw everything they could at the lizard. Mace slammed into it's scales, causing awful discolorations and slowing the dragon's movements. Halberds and spears jabbed in an out, lacing the beast with many puncture wounds. Arrows turned the dragon into one gigantic pincushion. A single Golem, Kisikoni's Golem had finally arrived, crashing out of an alley behind the Dragon and jumping onto it's wings, where it managed to get a good grip and tear the leathery wing membrane. The dragon screeched between it's teeth, with Kisikoni flopping like a ragdoll in it's mouth. However, something was wrong with the Dragon. It seemed to have trouble dealing with the Deep Human, not the golem or the nuisance of Legionnaires. The piercing wounds dealt by the Dragon's razor sharp teeth were only digging in an inch, and sticking fast.
"You have a disgusting taste, Deep Human! You might as well be a rotting oxen!" It snarled, slightly muffled by the inability to open it's mouth. Kisikoni's face was twisted in pain, as his broken hands flopped about trying to get the dragon off. He was unaware that the Dragon simply couldn't.
It's my turn, vessel. You need the help and you can't deny it. The being intoned. Kisikoni tried to ward off the voice, but deep down, he knew that it was right. And it heard that small voice.
Don't worry, scum. I need your body alive, so I'm not going to leave you dead. It snapped, and at that moment, the Dragon's eyes glazed as if it had suddenly been drugged. The Legionnaires didn't notice, but as they slowly stopped their attacks, they found that the thirty-foot dragon had frozen in place, it's pupils dilated erratically, as if something foreign had afflicted the being.[/i]
"Release yourself from me, human scum!" The dragon roared, and with a massive effort, ripped it's mouth free from Kisikoni's body. Several teeth left the dragon's mouth, and Kisikoni fell twenty feet to the ground, However, to their amazement the deep human staggered to his feet, his arms armed with black claw-like growths. Kisikoni looked at them as if he should have been surprised, then swore and charged the Dragon as it snarled at his golem. The Dragon turned it's head just as Kisikoni jumped at it, digging his long claws into it's skin.
"You are tainted, Deep human!" It screeched, flinching at the wounds in obvious pain. Withdrawing the claws, he dropped out of the way as two muscled arms slashed at where he once had been. Kisikoni was coughing in exertion now, blood welling in his mouth even as he spat some of it out. How long had it been since they first started engaging the dragon? Sure, it was full of arrows, wounded in so many places it looked ridiculous, and had one of it's wings torn so badly it couldn't fly. But it still was thrashing, tearing at the Legionnaires with eyes full of vigor and hate. It swiped, and instinctively Kisikoni brought his blackened hands up. The hand hit the claws, but didn't crush them. However, Kisikoni's stance was poor for absorbing such force and he was sent flying across the street into the wall. His vision flashed once, and dimmed dangerously.
After for an indeterminable amount of time, Kisikon grimly pushed himself up from the wall. His eyes, as strong as they were in the darkness had trouble adjusting due to his fatigue. He saw that the Dragon and the Legionnaires were at a standstill, due mostly to the fact that Kisikoni's golem was assisting them and the Dragon had been dusted over with wounds that added up. He was praying to his dead undergods that Talae and Pel and everybody else was okay. The black claws have retreated, and Kisikoni got up. He needed something. A weapon. Dragging himself over to the ruined shop, he scrabbled in the dirt and glass until he found the butterfly swords. The alchemic scroll he used to enhance them had given it protection, because there were no freaking dents or anything. Impressive, but Kisikoni was too tired to acknowledge it. He didn't even realize his fingers had popped back into place. He just grabbed the swords, and felt an innate strength surge through them. Looking at them again, a thin writhing black outline had traced the edge of the blade. It produced a strange hissing sound. He didn't really question it, as he walked back out the shop, tripping over some rubble before getting up and facing the dragon. Once again, it's back was turned to Kisikoni.
Kisikoni understood why, he had thought himself dead too. But it was still a mistake, hopefully fatal. With the last of his strength, he forced himself to focus and go through with one last surprise attack. He relayed a simple command to his Golem. Keep it busy.
The Golem complied, immediately rushing and grabbing the dragon. Kisikoni rushed, calling whatever resided in his head or gut or whatever to his legs. Some of the patched wounds reopened, but not all as Kisikoni sailed through the air with both blades aimed down for the Dragon's head.
Just as the dragon reached the air, it was knocked right back down by the Mialee twins, a fact that wasn't lost on Lily. She happily waved at the twins opportune arrival. Then, further playing with their sickness, she coyly blew a kiss in their direction for a thank-you gesture. Then the huntress leveled her eyes back on the dragon, nocking an arrow and waiting for the perfect moment to strike.
"Blast it all. Come then!" The dragon challenged.
"Gladly," Caine grunted and he was off down the street as fast as his anger could carry him. No doubt this was predictable for the dragon, Caine charging the beast again. But this time, the Dragon knew the berserker was coming. He spread his scaled legs to grant better stability and arched his neck. Let's she how the human liked being torn in half. He brought his head back, readying his mouth and neck muscles to rip the human apart. As he opened his mouth, something sharp jammed in the webbing between the dragon's lips. The sudden shock and subsequent numbness killed the thought of biting the human and caused the mouth to hang loose, fat and numb. Out of the corner of the Dragon's eye, Lily pumped her hand in victory.
Caine took the gift happily and cut into the dragon's forearm, sending it into the ground. Then angled a sword at the neck of the beast looking to plunge a blade deep into his throat. "Too easy!" The dragon taunted and slammed into Caine with his other arm, sending the beserker across the street and through a door, into a building. Damn door was strong too, as it knocked the breath out of Caine.
The dragon never had time to rest as Mikanaa was upon him. While her prayers could not affect him directly, her hammer could. As the dragon used it's other arm to try and steady itself, Mikana bashed it with her heavy hammer, sending the dragon back down to the ground, "You bitch!" it snarled. She hefted her hammer up high and looked to put the beast out of it's misery with one last hammer blow to the head. Things could never be that simple however, as the dragon thrust with it's hind-legs, effectively head-butting the paladin with a scaly and ridged head. The sudden assault tossed Mikana on her back.
If dragon's could smile, the hatchling would be beaming as he stared at the grounded paladin. "I don't normal eat you, what with the armor and all. But I will enjoy eating you," He said as his jaws opened wide to chew on the paladin. However, the Hatchling just could not get a break as more arrows pounded into the back of his head. The numbness returned as the dragon looked back towards the elf.
Lily had made her way off of the building and into the street behind the dragon as he was busy fighting with the berserker and paladin. She had just made it down when the dragon had pinned Mikana and threatened her. His little speech managed her just enough time to jam a couple of arrows into the dragon. He whipped his serpentine head and glared at the elf. He was tired of all of these interruptions... His tail snaked out and looked to snap the slender elf in half. But the dragon didn't expect the huntress's agility.
Lily heard the tail slicing through the wind and ducked just as the appendage cut through where she had been. The elf then pushed forward and hopped onto a thicker part of the dragon's tail and ran along it's back, pelting the things with poisoned arrows as she traveled the length of his spine. He roared in pain as the poison began to seep into his blood. That damned was a lot more trouble than she looked! He used what little strength he had and bucked the elf off of his back, but the damage was done. Most of it's body was numb and his jaw felt fat and useless. Then to add on to all of the hatchling's problems a pain erupted into it's flank. It yelped in the sudden pain as it left and was replaced by another higher up. He looked back and watched as the berserker used his swords to climb on to the dragon's back.
Caine had blood and sweat trickling down his forehead and he climbed. He was going to kill this dragon, dammit! He finally reached the things back and followed the trail of arrows up it's spine all the way to the base of it's neck, where Caine jumped and put all of his weight into the two blades, looking to plunge them hilt deep into the dragon. He would kill this dragon if it was the last thing he did.
"How many can you make out from here, Musanthiss?" the largest of the reds flared his nostrils in irritation, wishing that she could join the fray sooner rather than having to rely on planning, and tactics. Although Iridanias did little to help the Red Dragons' reputation for simplistic brutality and their all too willingness to resort to violence as the first and only resort, the elder dragon was a credit to her race an veteran warrior. When her youngest brother did not immediately answer her querie, the lead red uttered a warning growl. it yielded immediate results.
"Some three-thousand...maybe twenty-five hundred legionnaires, and nine whites." Musanthiss closed his eyes in concentration and furrowed his scaled brow. After a moment, he shook his head and looked towards Iridanias. "I cannot tell how many are dead. The scent of charred wood and blood is thick."
"Damn...that's more than we expected," another large red stated quietly, "Let us pray that we make it in time." Iridanias scoffed at this.
The Reds approach.
Wrath looked to the sky, wondering where exactly that mentally intrusive little dragonfly of a woman was. They were going to have a chat about personal space later, right after they were done surviving this travesty of a siege. Breaking off the train of thought, the general ducked under the jab of a pike and hooked his own curved swords around each of the offending soldier's ankles. With one vicious yank, tendons severed and the orc went down rather soundlessly for a man who should have been in immense pain. Wrath lashed out with a kick to the temple that sent a deep human sprawling onto the cobbles amongst the corpses. When he made to sprint again, a beefy hand clutched Wrath's calf in an iron grip.
Unsurprisingly, it was the hamstrung orc that was pushing past the pain using his race's natural tenacity. Why were these cultists so damned determined to hold on to one measley plot of land? Wrath brought his heel down in a way that snapped the man's neck with little effort. Since when did I become so good at martial arts?
The thought could not be pondered further as the press of enemies began to crush on Wrath and his small squad of golems. An indeterminable amount of time passed in which the halfbreed hacked, slashed, kicked and heaved out burning breaths. Somehow though, he found himself shuffling through the ragged ranks of legionnaires. Some recognized him and called out his name, others cheered. Most simply fought on. Wrath too, found himself not caring for the reunion as much as he should have. Slowly, now safely behind an advancing line of legionnaires, Wrath kneeled down next to Faera. That crazy old(well, she did not look particularly old at the moment) warlock had finally done herself in. The woman's breathing was shallow, and Wrath could not tell if she would survive or not. He patted Faera's shoulder, hefted his swords once more and turned back towards the battle.
"Casualties are a very real, very necessary aspect of war." as if to punctuate his point, a pained roar sounded off somewhere above the city.
Flying around in a tangle of psionic energy and flailing limbs, Hasseka'ja was still piecing together what the hell had just happened. Mental chains were bonds of servitude, unable to be broken by will alone. How in the Burning Dark did some backwater dark elf manage such a feet without any sort of outside intervention? Shouldn't she have felt any prior tests to break the chains? All these thoughts wheeled through her mind as the small white dragon desparately erected barrier after barrier to defend herself against a two-pronged assault.
"You will pay for this, vermin! I enslaved you once, and I can damn well do it again!" the dragon cried as she reversed a psychic pulse of Xeron's into a net that would dig into the dark elf's mind like razorwire, reducing him to a quivering pile of nonsense-spewing meat. The mental mesh dissipated in fine red mist before it could even fully form. Xeron grinned like a madman andpointed at his slightly edged teeth.
"Look at them, Hasseka! Pearly whites! I have not seen them in so long! And by the dead gods! Did you know I sounded this...erotic?" the former silenced looked to Neira and flexed. "Wadd'ya think, my little butterfly? Brains, body and a voice that makes ladies moist. It's just plain unfair, is it not?"
Hasseka'ja displaced her corporeal form and reappeared behind Xeron, snapping her jaws shut so quickly it rattled the dragon's skull. SHe was rewarded with the satisfying crunch of bone and the taste of blood. Halfling blood? What? A few feet away, snickering in delight, Xeron dismissed the conjured illusion and waved at Hasseka'ja. This was summarily followed by a glowing red field of pain-inducing needles that sent the dragon into another fit of spasms. "Good ol' fashion fun."
Urantonon roared at the indignity of being cornered by glorified apes and slashed about in an attempt to keep the vermin clear. Upon feeling the boldest of them make a break for his neck, the hatchling snapped his wings up, smacking the human to the ground. The dragon immediately pinned Caine with one great claw and moved to pulp his head with the other. He would kill this human, if it was the last thing he did.
With hyper-hieghtened senses, the small white Yaeral whipped his head away just before Kisikoni could bury his weapons into flesh. The dragon leaned heavily on his side to shake off the crushing grip of the simulacrum and smashed it's now dented chest into the ground for good measure. Yaeral had made the mistake of underestimating the durability of the deep human, and resolved to slay him outright this time. Wheeling on Kisikoni, Yaeral found that his vision was slowly going red on the left side. He cursed loudly in draconic upon probing the area, having found one butterfly sword lodged deep into the tissue of his right eye. "Little, pale, monkey..."
A sudden, massive pain flowered in Egalister's maw that caused the dragon to recoil in agony. The makeshift bomb had detonated directly upon the roof of the dragon's mouth, causing more pain that any real damage. Dragon anatomy would have a bone plate separating the tissue between brain and palate. A very solid bone. Egalister felt that several teeth had been blown clean out of his mouth, as his tongue was little more than a scorched hunk of raw meat. The dragon wheeled on Talae and raised his hand in an odd gesture. A blast of shredding ice was summoned forth to engulf the bulk of Talae's unit. Egalister spat out blood and some more teeth. "Yeah, bish. I'b a b'age."
By that, of course, the dragon was stating that he was also a mage. Odd for one that resisted arcane attacks, but nightmarians did it quite often.
Unfortunately for the Legion, the other three dragons were tearing holes into their formations. One had even gotten as far back as the wall which Sid's original squad had deployed from, and was now attacking Legion troops from behind.
“Necessity… I wonder if any of this is really necessary,” she confessed, laying Beelzes’s arm upon the ground and standing. She placed a hand on her shoulder, and Zek climbed onto her forearm obediently. “But even if it isn’t, we’ve chosen it, haven’t we?” Holding her hand out, she silently bid her little pet leave, and he trilled plaintively, but settled onto Wrath’s shoulder anyhow. “Look after him for a minute, would you, Captain? There’s something I have to do.”
So saying, Fae focused, this time seeking out that part of herself that held what relics her divine ancestor had left her. Normally, she avoided it, because it felt so foreign, but now she actively embraced it, breaking the barrier that separated the two bits of consciousness in her mind with a sensation reminiscent of breaking glass. She was rewarded with an influx of strength, spilling out into tangibility as though her limbs and very skin were brimming with magic- as though she were magic. Perhaps she was.
Kneeling again, she apologized in a low murmur to her tutor and gripped the arrow in the deep human’s side, wrenching it out and immediately laying a hand on the wound to will it closed. “Not yet, my friend,” she said fondly. “The world would miss your sense of humor too much.” Smiling, Fae stood, turning away from her friend and her commander, and listened. Except… it wasn’t really listening anymore. She was simply aware. Every life on the battlefield burned with some kind of inner fire, and she could distinguish between Children, dragons, and Legionnaires by some intuitive method that she would not have been able to explain. The information was truthfully more than she was meant to handle, and a splitting pain started in her skull and rippled through the rest of her, following the power, a symptom she diagnosed with an agonizing clarity. It must be done.
Pushing it back for the moment, she dug through that pristine corner of herself, searching for something that she knew was there, but didn’t truly understand. Like everything else, it was as if she were moving through the dark, but her ears and nerves and nose and tongue burned with it. Her mortality, her essence, was scoured away in the pursuit, and what was left was at once Faera and nothing at all like her. No longer did she entertain mortal perceptions and mortal thoughts. No longer did all of those things that had once seemed to matter so very much hold any weight in her mind. Nothing mattered but protecting them. Protecting Talae and Beelzes and Wrath and Kisikoni and Lily and everyone else. The understanding of this single fact was so sharp, so acute, she wondered that it had not come to her before.
I… am willing to give everything I have. And this, she knew, wasn’t enough. But it was as close as she was ever meant to come to enough. Homing in on those presences, those beings that she knew to be the Children of Fire, she removed all other awareness from herself until they were all she sensed. Plunging into that connection as though it were a lake and she a fish, Fae allowed that awareness to ripple over her mind. Memories, instincts, feelings flooded her, but by now Fae was a singular, empty vessel and capable of containing all of it. Who she had been mingled with who they were, until there was no difference any more. They, too, would be scoured of their sins, of their deeds, and of everything they were. She willed it so, and pushed that power outward until it overcame those presences, extinguishing the flames.
Externally, what had begun as Fae standing in the middle of empty space was quickly becoming something else entirely. A luminosity escaped her, roiling too brightly to look at directly and growing in magnitude until it covered the entire field of battle in nothing but whiteness. “I’m sorry, sister,” Fae whispered, and gave it one final push, pouring all she had into the spell. The Children, each and every last one of them, dropped to their knees and clutched their heads, screaming soundlessly as that same purging flooded whatever they called a consciousness. The sensations of bright light and absolute silence lasted for the dragons and Legionnaires but a moment, and then everything returned to sensibility again.
But the Children of Fire here were no more. They had simply vanished without a trace into that white, burning void, leaving behind no evidence they had existed at all. The only units left on the battlefield were the Legion of Ashes and the hatchlings they fought.
Less noticeably, save perhaps to Wrath and Beelzes who may have known to look, Fae too had vanished into nothingness. The mortal body was not a suitable vessel for divine power, after all, and tapping into her own had destroyed the young mage, beyond recovery.
Neira laughed as she smashed through another one of the dragon’s hastily-constructed barriers. “Oh my; someone has abandonment issues,” she mocked, lashing out with another mental pulse. Ah, but it did feel nice to cut loose. Xeron certainly seemed to be enjoying himself, and to his comment, she could only roll her eyes.
“And someone is rather pleased with himself,” she continued with a shake of the head. “Nobody said the world was fair.” She had been about to insert something snarky about how he had been more efficient when he wasn’t talking, but she was stopped when her vision whited out for a second, and she looked down to the battlefield, which had apparently become much less populated while she wasn’t paying attention. “Well now,” she murmured, but did not dwell on it for long.
“Xeron, I do know how you love to toy with your prey, but there are several more dragons here…” she actually wasn’t sure if he was planning on helping with that or just leaving when this one was dead like a smart person would do, but, well, you never gained anything if you didn’t make an effort.
Hmph. Her making an effort on behalf of the Legion. That half-breed general had better appreciate this.
“This is getting to be a rather odd habit of mine,” the harpy commented with some trace of irony. “Miss Shanir, do you still have a smoke bomb, perhaps?” She did not respond immediately, and Alistair was confused. “Talae?” he followed her eyes to try and figure out what had her so arrested, and saw the younger sibling handing off her little drake to the General. That was… odd, but he wasn’t sure why it had her sister so absorbed in the goings-on.
Gaining altitude, Alistair watched as another unit of the Legion filed into engage the dragon, still pinned to the earth by its tail. He’d scored the thing a good last to the side, enough to get the bomb in place, but it seemed even that was not enough to down it for good. He was counting on the air up here to clear the woman’s head a bit, because she, like the rest of them was going to be needed.
Looking back down, his eyes picked out a bright spot in the dark. Actually, it was bright enough that he couldn’t look at it for long- Alistair squeezed his eyes shut against the burst of luminescence, but Talae did not, for she had seen the entire sequence from start to finish. “No… no, no, NO!” she force of the raw-throated shout made the harpy flinch, and when he looked back down, it was to discover with surprise that Faera Shanir was simply… gone. Now that he got to thinking about it, there wasn’t a living Child left on the field either. A distance away, Neira and a dark elf he didn’t know were providing more than ample trouble for a dragon, and Caine, Lily and Mikana were at another. Kisikoni and a few other Legionnaires seemed to be keeping a fourth bust as the one they had just barely escaped tore through another line.
“No… Fae… dead gods, why would you do that?” Talae’s grief was expressed in whispers now, but Alistair caught the words, and his heart felt heavier for it. He did not know the pain of losing a sibling, nor indeed of losing the only family he had left, as he had gathered the sisters were for each other.
“I can take you to-” he began, but the woman shook her head fiercely.
“Put me down. That monster is going to die. They’ve taken everything from me. I can’t let them think for a second that they’re going to get away with that.” Talae grit her teeth. Nihalistrix had taken her mother, and these whitespawn her sister. It was time she took something from them.
Alistair hesitated, but in the end decided he wasn’t going to argue. “Don’t be reckless,” he warned. “Or all she did will be meaningless.” There was only one thing that drove people like the younger sibling to do something like that- the thought that she’d be helping those she cared about by doing it. Help she had; there was no denying that, but it wouldn’t make much difference if Talae got herself killed.
“I guess you’ll just have to help then, won’t you?” Her voice was completely toneless, and Alistair frowned. “I need one of my arms, and then you’re going to drop me on that dragon.”
He figured any arguments about the relative stupidity of that idea would go unheeded, so instead, he simply released one of her hands, doubling his grip on the other. Talae reached into her belt-pouches, pulling out first a vial with something bright red inside it, which she downed. “Painkiller,” she muttered by way of explanation, though she wasn’t really sure why. The next object was a smokebomb, and with a well-aimed toss, she lobbed it right at the dragon’s feet, taking a knife from her boot in the return motion. “Now.”
“Right…” Alistair aimed his swoop to take advantage of the cover and dove in, dropping the dark elf right where he thought the dragon would be. As it turned out, he aimed just about right, and the woman caught the creature’s flank on her way down, her momentum causing the knife to drag a jagged line down a white-scaled haunch. Releasing the blade before it caught and jarred her arms too badly, Talae cast around for something else to use as a weapon.
Bet those bastards can hurt each other, she thought upon spying a few serrated draconian teeth on the ground. Grabbing the longest two she could find, she ran up his tail and subsequently his spine with the natural grip and balance genetics had given her. Growling, the thing shot a spell or two, banking on the fact that his hide would dissipate the magic before it harmed him, but without being able to see her, the first flew wide and she was able to duck under the second.
Mouth set into a grim line, Talae pressed herself against his neck, aiming for the eyes with his very own fangs. “Die, you shit-eating, god-killing piece of scum.”
The huntress whispered, watching stars for a moment and distantly wondered what would she use for a weapon now before she slipping into unconsciousness.
Even Mikana wasn't immune to the hatchlings rampant thrashings. The force of the Hatchling buffeting Caine with his wings slammed her head into the ground and rendered her useless for the time being. Even if she did have her head bashed against the cobblestones, Caine saved the elf from getting eaten by his timely appearence. For even if Lily had taken the dragon's attention off of Mikana, he no doubt would have finished her off. Now the hatchling was working on his more... Troublesome prey. The human berserker. Caine was pinned under the dragon's claw, swords all but useless in such a position. He knew the katana was still in his grip, but the saber was elsewhere. Probably sent flying when the wings of the hatchling caught him. Seems like the Mialee didn't do near as much damage to the appendages as he though. Well damn.
Urantonon spent no time gloating to the human. He had learned that lesson. He would do this quick and as painfully as possible. He was going to smash the human's head like a melon! The human was wriggling under the weight of his claw, but it would be useless. There was no escape now! It didn't matter if the human managed to wretch an arm free. What would a single appendage do? Punch him? Pah! There was nothing he could do. The hatchling swatted downward with his massive claw, the beginnings of a draconian smile at the edges of his powerful maw. In his last seconds, the human was futilely tapping on his armor. That wouldn't save him...
... Or would it? Caine punched at the hatchling's incoming claw and effectively knocked it backwards sending the lizard off-balance. Following up, Caine used his new supernatural strength to flip the dragon's other claw off of the rest of his body. He quickly rolled out from under the dragon and got to his feet, sending the rest of his new found strength to his legs and put as much distance as he could between the dragon and himself before turning around before facing his foe.
Both enemies were tired and worn. Lily's incessant rain of poisoned arrows were beginning to take their toll, and the dragon showed it. It panted heavily, a mixture of anger and amazement plastered over it's reptilian face. "You! How! ... You bastard! Why won't you just DIE! It'd be so much easier!" The dragon hissed. Even angered, the dragon didn't look too healthy, it was leaning heavily off of it's front claws, the tag team of Caine's and Mikana's assault bloodying them. There was nothing much left in the tank for
Caine fared no better. The beserker held his hand under his arm, wracked in pain. The last ditch punch might had saved his life, but he felt the bones crack under the pressure caused by the surge of strength. The Blackguard emblem on his chest flashed once before fading out. Caine had only used one of the three abilities his armored had granted. The sprinting ability to make it to the wall. Now he was just down to one, the lunge. He would save that one for later. He would need ever card he had under his sleeve. Speaking of sleeves, the leather from his live armor was in tatters from being ripped out from under the grasp of the dragon. His armor was beaten, nicked, and generally in disrepair. Blood accompanied the rips and tears in the armor and his hand was looked horrible. His pinky finger looked shattered. A cut along his forehead dripped blood and mixed with sweat and seeped into his eyes. Another cut sliced through his left cheek. He looked like shit. He was bound to get a plethora of scars from this encounter. However, did still have control of his black katana.
He even panted like the dragon, but neither were going to give up until the other was dead. Caine grabbed the katana with both hands, pushing through the pain with raw and unbridled fury. He had never been pushed this far before. He was pissed like never before. If his rage could kill alone, then he would cut a swath through the Dragons themselves. However, he was just going to have to manage one as it.
"Life... Isn't easy, you goddamn lizard!" Caine panted between gritted teeth. He was not himself any more. Just the living embodiment of blind rage a fury. He was going to kill that lizard. Then he charged the hatchling again. His worn legs carried him to the hatchling. "Dammit human! You are a persistent! Little! Shit!" Urantonon growled before lunging neck forward and catching the berserker in his teeth. The hatchling felt the ooze of the berserkers blood on his tongue.
Caine tried to sidestep out of the way, but the dragon managed to catch him. The human's trunk was in the dragon's mouth, the hatchling's head parallel to the ground. The pain didn't register with Caine, he didn't have time for it. What most would have considered game over, Caine saw as an oppertunity. Without missing a beat, Caine hefted the katana up high and plunged the sword downward into the dragon's eye. A roar escaped the dragon as he loosed his grip and recoiled. He tossed his head to the sky and roared a pained howl. He was blinded by that human! The others were sure to make fun of him!
Caine was barely conscious, but now was his chance. He would kill this dragon, here and now. He looked up to the roaring dragon and growled, "Liera... Guide me." He would kill it for Liera.
He smashed the blackguard emblem with his mangled hand, activating the last ability... The jump. Caine took one step... Two steps... Three steps... And then he was airborne. He hung in the sky for what felt like hours. Days. Months... Years. It was all in slow motion. Caine felt his own voice roar along with the dragon, as if watching from far away. The impact was hard, the black sword slamming into the dragon's skull and burying the entire blade. Then the hilt snapped, sending everything back into normal speed. The roar was cut off short and both hatchling and human collapsed into the ground.
Mikana was finally coming back to her senses, awakening to the carnage Urantonon and Caine had caused. The dragon was in a slump... Dead. Mikana slowly made her way to her feet and just stood in awe of the dead dragon... Then something caught her eye. Movement. Something was crawling towards her. It was a bloody mess, but she could see the black hilt in it's hand... Caine. Mikana rushed to his side, and leaned him on her lap.
Caine looked up into Mikana's eyes and smiled. It was a genuine smile, one containing everything Caine was an antithesis of. Happiness, Joy, Sorrow, Sadness. Everything but anger. His anger was burned out, he was done being mad, being pissed off at the world. He was done with it all.
Mikana smiled back and reached for her prayers to heal him.
They would not come. She could not heal his wounds. Her eyes widened at the Berserker. Caine nodded, already accepted the fact, "I know. I know," He said in a serene voice. He reached up to her face for the last time. He brushed the loose hair out of her face and looking into the pools that were her eyes. "Thank you," he said... Then.
Then something happened. Mikana's eyes hardened. A mischievious and... Dire grin spread across her face. In his last moments of clarity, Caine remembered something. He stared at the scar on her neck. His eyes widened as the memories flooded back...
A powerful strike clashed against Caine's horizontal strike and sent the weapon spinning off into the murky gloom. With her free hand, Mikana caught Caine's large wrist--which was supposed to deliver a strike to rend her skull in twain--in her delicate palm. The elf, who was barely a third of the berserker's size, caught and held him like an adult would a child with a tantrum. She released a pulse of dragonfire that seared the skin of Caine's forearm from wrist to elbow, her grip tightening. "Do you feel it? What it's like to be powerless? That's how I felt when barbarians like you," this word was punctuated with a burning look at the Legion symbol on Caine's armor, "Came into my village and killed our men...defiled our women...defiled me...
He blinked once.
He stood, and spoke in a voice devoid of anger. "I am a human," He repeated, "I defiled nothing. You," He began again, looking down at the Child. Their roles were reversed. Now it was him who looked down upon the grounded child. It was him who held the upper hand. However, he held no joy or pride in this fact. Caine's next words held hints of an overlying fury, the origins of his title of berserker, "It was you who took my Liera from me. For that alone, I'll kill every single damn one of you." With that, a wet squelch punctuated the sentence. He had stabbed the Child in throat in a fit of rage at the memory of this Liera. As he ripped the saber out of the slain child's throat, a spatter of blood landed on his scarred cheek.
He blinked again, tears welling up in his eyes. She had tried to kill him! He had killed her! Dammit! DAMMIT! She had been the spy! What had he done. Oh Liera... What has he done... As his eyes began to glaze, he stared a hole into her forehead.
"I am still human. You've taken Liera from me twice now... I am... Still human... May she have.. mercy... on my soul. May she... Forgive me. But... I'll see you in hell," And the fury within Caine... Died. Mikana began to laugh, remembering. When her head made contact with the cobblestone, it must have had opened the floodgates to her memory. Everything came flooding back. It might have taken a long time. But she had killed the berserker. The monster. She had repaid him in kind, with the pain of the realization at last. She played his heart like a flute. She made him forsake everything he held dear... For her. She had won.
And then in the white light. Mikana was gone.
Lily watched from her perch on the building, tears falling from her cheeks and her hand pressed against her mouth in horror.
He tried to contact his golem unconsciously, but it was crushed under the dragon's heavy body. It barely mustered a response, as it had sustained many battle wounds and was now beginning to malfunction. Kisikoni was barely able to turn his head as Yaeral studied it's blinded left eye. Kisikoni dimly thought that he was finished. Not an increment of strength was left in his battered body, all of his strength based on that last ditch attempt to kill the dragon in one blow. The dragon was wounded- very badly, but it was still alive, and that brought deep shame to the Deep Human, as he lay still on the damaged cobblestone path.
Looks like you're through. I'm sure you won't mind if I save both our hides, worthless husk. It said, loathing dripping from each syllable. Kisikoni didn't answer, he couldn't even formulate a response. He was too tired, and every second was a fight to stay conscious. Suddenly, his gut curled as if recoiling from something. Kisikoni's eyes flew open and his head snapped toward the sight of a bright white light. Yaeral directed his attention away slightly, curious as to what it was. As the light approached, Kisikoni felt like retching. His body began cramping, and as the light passed over he felt an inhuman scream reverberate in his head. Kisikoni rolled onto his back, arching in pain and clutching his head with a strength he didn't know he had.
The light winked out, and as Kisikoni flopped down in exhaustion, he blinked once and felt his eyes widen in surprise as the children that were launching arrows behind the dragon had simply vanished. Yaeral still remained, even as it looked behind him and saw that his backup had simply disappeared in the light. Surprise was never really something that appeared on the dragon's face, but this was one of those times. It snarled slightly, then turned around. "Bah. I can take care of this myself." It snarled, leering down at the Legionnaires, who seemed to have regained composure and readied their weapons hesitatingly. Kisikoni watched, completely drained as the Dragon looked down on the deep human with relish.
"Anytime now." He coughed, oblivious to everything but the one eye that glared down with absolute hate on him.
That was Holy Magic, fool! Not even I can withstand such a powerful blast and still combat a dragon! An angry voice raged. Useless! You're comrades are so useless! Who would sentence us to death like so! I'm going to lose the first vessel in over a thousand years!
Kisikoni groaned, intent on surviving. He had no clue what was going on with his comrades, but he wasn't going to end this life as dragon feed after somebody had mustered the strength to wipe out the children in this city. His vacant right hand grabbed a crack in the street, trying to drag himself away from harm but the Dragon had already grabbed him, with it's gaping mouth. Teeth sunk into Kisikoni's lower torso, littering his body with wounds that the Live Leather couldn't possibly stand.
"Disgusting taste." Yaeral said, spitting Kisikoni out. Kisikoni felt a foreign presence layer his skin, and he hit the ground once more. He wasn't harmed by the fall, but he was feeling the bite wound all through his lower body. His comrades surged forward, trying to distract the dragon by jabbing at it once more with powerful weapons. Kisikoni's body was heavy, he couldn't move a single muscle. He could feel the foreign being in his gut keeping him alive, but he was out of the fight. With one blade held in a white knuckled grip and the other lodged in the Dragon's eye, Kisikoni closed his eyes.
As if she had already pieced together the events of the last several seconds, the deep human's eyes went wide and rimmed with tears. There, in the middle of a battlefield, Beelzes drew her knees to her chest and began to sob.
Wrath's gaze was already back on the battle. This was a losty cause. Even with the loss of the Children, the hatchlings spurred their followers on. Wrath's forces were being beaten into a neat little ball in the middle of the city, and it was only a matter of time at this point. Once the Reds arrived, the remaining legionnaires would be slaughtered in short order. It took a great amount of willpower not to allow his grip to slacken, to allow his hooks to fall to the ground thus admitting defeat. The urge only grew as the first of the reds passed over the wall of Herrick.
The largest of the group barked out a series of commands and the remaining dragons veered off to survey the entirety of the ruined city. Both militia and legionnaire alike halted, both sides knowing that the end was near. Almost every battle waged across Herrick came to a grinding halt upon witnessing the descending masses of red scales and fury. As the first screams echoed throughout the city, Wrath closed his eyes and released a slow breath. In seconds the bard was tearing into the unmoving front lines of the enemy as few legionnaires snapped out of their dispair-induced stupors to follow his lead. They would not go down quietly. Hell, even Beelzes was firing arcs of black water that froze all it touched despite her sorrow.
Wrath could not say how long this went on for, only that it was easily the closest he had ever felt to his comrades. He was sure that they felt the same, that anyone would in the face of death. Their surprise attack had taken a good few dozen lives before the greatest of the reds took to the air once more from the western end of the city. Wrath's heart sunk as he saw the mass of black-armored limbs jutting out from between the beast's teeth, and the general drew arcane winds about himself once he was sure that it was heading straight for their position.
Egalister's howl was so loud, so intense that it rocked the very cobbles upon which the surrounding soldiers stood. The white dragon rolled it's shoulder in such a way that flipped the offending waif of a dark elf into the air. With speed and accuracy that should not have been possible for a creature that now lacked sight, Egalister snatched Talae out of the air in a taloned grip that kept her limbs firmly pinned to her sides. Regarding his prey with useless, mutilated eyes, Egalister whimpered and snarled in Talae's face.
"You dark little bitch. Heste'rak No'n VRekk AzalI--" Egalister had lapsed into his native tongue, Draconic, and was rambling a string of curses at Talae. Draconic had roughly seventy different variations for the words revenge, torture and superior respectively. Those legionnaires nearby did not charge for fear of their temporary captain being crushed in the dragon's grip. It was not until the sound of beating wings and the scrabble of claws meeting stone. The whispers of 'red' from the stinking mortals confirmed his suspicions.
"Heh, you are speaking the sacred tongue, Ega." Egalister would have flushed had he any true pigmentation. That silky, roiling voice that belonged to Letanikkalta the Scarlet was one that haunted his dreams. He heard her circle around him inspecting the white and his prey like a hunting cat sizing up a wounded wolf that had been fighting a wolverine, wondering which of the two would be the easier meal. At length, the red brushed against her one-time lover affectionately and parked herself in front of the smaller dragon. "Mind if I have half? I do so enjoy dark elves..."
With speed that almost seemed desperate(which he was) Egalister proffered his dark little treat to his fellow dragon. Letanikkalta flashed a mouth full of gleaming fangs and regarded Talae with large orange eyes. "Don't move Ega, we would not want you to lose a finger...and you, my cute little snack, try not to be too fattening..."
The large red chuckled mirthlessly as her jaws closed over Talae.
"Well, that's unssemly." Yaeral wheeled around at the gravelly whisper of a red that had alighted on a rooftop nearby and hissed a warning. "Who are you? The Lady did not inform us of any bargain being struck with Gurthene-"
"Lighten up, White." Musanthiss curled his scaled lip at his pale cousin and hopped on to the ground below, ignoring the nearby soldiers and prodding Kisikoni with a single black talon. The young red did not so much as look at Yaeral as he spoke. "You should receive word of the alliance in a few days. Can I have a bite?" he asked, poking Kisikoni once more. It was Yaeral's turn to sneer at the red's poor taste in food.
Iridanias swept in low with her wings perpendicular to the ground, dragging the spiked tip of her wings against the stone below. The sparking line effectively separated the ranks of dragon-loyalists from the legionnaires, clearing a cozy space for the great red to land. Easily the largest dragon for miles, it was an understatement to say that it was a snug fit. Once on the ground Iridanias opened her jaws to drop her burden directly in front of Wrath.
Wrath was unimpressed at the scare tactic. He locked eyes with the dragon and did not balk outwardly when it flared it's massive wings, the span of which was enough to blot out the stars in his line of sight. After a long while of soundless staring the red narrowed her eyes and growled. "Well?"
Wrath furrowed his brow in confusion and awkwardly shrugged in reply. Well what? at his shoulder, Beelzes pointed towards the bundle of dead legionnaires that Iridania had set down. Except it was not live leather, that was black. It was a ton of burnt flesh. It was not even mangled limbs that jutted out from the mass, but torn chunks of scale and bone. It was the head of a dragon...one of the whites. Wrath stared up at the red uncomprehending. Iridanias grinned, noting the recognition in his eyes.
She promptly made a 180 and began savaging the ranks of dragon-loyalists. At the multiple entrances to the city square, the other reds came skuling in through the relatively narrow streets. Letanikkalta was the first to arrive, dragging the handless, eyeless carcass of Egalister in her jaws and making muffled conversation with Talae, whom she had placed on her back after nearly swallowing the dark elf. Next was Musanthiss, limping in on three legs while his left claw clutched Yaeral's heart like a bleeding orb. A small procession of legionnaires follow both dragons, the secon carrying Kisikoni. The other ten or so reds arrived in short order, most of which presenting some sort of grisly trophy courtesy of a white dragon. Xeron was even perched atop the head of a red alongside Neira, the dragon having helped to finish off Hasseka'ja.
When the last of the dragons had arrived the square, most of the Legion was in a tight circle with weapons bared and warily observing the strange actions of the Reds. Only Wrath, Beelzes and several other members of the Black Guard were collected. Wrath stared up at Iridanias with weary eyes, waiting for the dragon to stop licking her chops as two other reds finished off the remainder of Herrick's population. "Well?"
Iridanias loosed a hearty laugh and stooped low to regard Wrath. "I like you, human. You did not scream when you saw me coming. An admirable trait...a warrior's heart...but enough of that now." the dragon drew herself up to full height and cleared her throat, addressing the legionnaire's as a whole. "Hear me, mortals. We of Gurthenemon's clutch bare you no ill will. We have sought to demonstrate this by destroying your opponents. To prove that this is not simply a territorial dispute, our lord requests the presence of your leader to discuss the terms of a possible alliance...who would your leader be, exactly?"
As one, it seemed, the beaten legion allowed their multitude of gazes to fall upon Wrath. He did not waver, merely staring up at the dragon and trying not to make a face at the ludicrous proposition before him. Iridanias chuckled and snorted a breath of flame. Wrath realized, distantly, that she was no mere hatchling. This one was a true dragon. The weight of the world on his shoulders, Wrath asked the one question that was on everyone's mind; "Why in the Nine Circles would you want to ally yourself with the Legion of Ashes?"
Another laugh. This one seemed more sinister. Iridanias lowered her head once more, lowering her voice as well in an ineffectual whisper. "Not the Legion, boy. You. Your people." a lithe figure hopped off of the dragon's back, allowing his gaze to rest on Wrath. Zakair looked to be on the verge of tears, but the elven ex-child composed himself and nodded before the dragon continued. "We have watched you for some time now, through the eyes of Mikana...rest her soul. Lord Gurthenemon has seen something in your group that does not normally manifest itself in such proximity...the one factor that led to the original culling of the dragons, a variable that our kind has yet to reproduce...something we need on our side if we want to destroy the other dragon lords while surviving independantly as well."
"What would that be?" Wrath asked skeptically.
"That, my dear human, is simple: Heroes. The X-Factor that allows a frail little human to bulldoze a dragon, or a puny dark elf to conjure a miracle that wipes out an entire city of Children. That is what we desire. So, we give you three choices: Hear us out, and join the reds. Deny our audience and stay here to die at the hands of starvation or discovery by scouts. Or...you could always call us liars and die here and now."
Wrath stared at Iridanias for a long while, the army doing the same as he considered the offer. It was not much of a choice really, die or join. "Fine. I will speak with Gurthenemon...now, how exactly am I getting to hiss palace?"
"By wing, of course." a red growled mockingly.
The rosy fingers of dawn touched the husk of a city that was Herrick with a tentative caress. Soldiers of the Legion were huddled around fires, sleeping on the streets and talking in hushed tones. Some of them even deigned to converse with the gigantic red dragons that had made themselves at home in various areas amongst the wreckage. Medical stations all around the city were filled to capacity. Achiru and Qinn were even helping out, as Beelzes tended tot he grief-numbed Talae and the wounded Kisikoni at the same time.
Atop the wall from which Nhil Derenthi was supposed to have deployed his troops, Sid Grimsmirk stared down onto the fields below. At the base of the wall a growing pile of burning corpses lay stinking of charred flesh, although the halfling did not even cough.
"Uta Menlitan. Orc, private first-class." another corpse was tossed over the wall by a line of burly soldiers as roughly forty others helped to pass the bodies upward and watched with grimly set faces. Sid wrote down another name upon the four-page ledger. "Kel Moonraid, elf, first sergeant." yet another. The next body almost evoked a sob from the tiny woman as she recognized the lovely round face and flawless skin. "...Pel Mekillot....halfling...vanguard medic."
Turha and Thanaros hefted the next corpse and Turha immediately broke down to the floor, sobbing quietly. Thanaros patted the linker's shoulder and continued to lift Gurgen's body over the wall. "Gurgen Mialee...hu...human...could someone else do this?"
With a sigh, Sid handed the ledger off to some dark elf and moved far enough down the wall that the smell was not too overwhelming. Abandoned by the Legion, befriended by dragons and most likely branded as deserters and betrayers to mortals everywhere on the off-chance that they had survived. The halfling barely noticed Wrath taking a seat next to her and wrapping a steadying arm around her shoulders. On Wrath's shoulder, Zeke chirped in distress. "...was I leaning forward?"
Wrath looked across the plains and towards the expanse of dragon-controlled territory, only squeezing his friend tighter in response.
Chapter Two: END
A welt of pain erupted in her heart and she felt a tear slide down her grimy face. Caine. Her brother, not by blood, but by battle, was dead. Died saving her and Mikana. As the tear fell to the ground, the took the saber in her hand and carried it with her. She would keep it, and Caine's memory alive. She had lost her Bloodleaf bow, but gained a human warrior's blade. She held it in her hand and stalked over to Caine. The human was as peaceful as he ever was, still wearing the defiant and hardened scowl. A true warrior, and a true warrior's death. If he had been one of the Bloodleaf, he would be buried at the base of an ancient tree, to become part of the tree forever more. A burial given only to the greatest warriors of her clan. But there he lay. In the middle of the street, broken. A sweep of air flushed her blonde hair forward and the scrape of talons halted behind her. Her golem. Liliana MK II.
Lily turned her back on the fallen warrior and pushed past the draconian golem. Much of the metal on the dragon was dented and bent, and it's left wing was mangled. As she passed her mount she whispered to it, "Keep his body safe. Protect it. He will not be forgotten in this manner." And she was off, dashing through the streets. There were others that needed her help. There were others who were fighting. She needed to be with them. With her family. She pushed past the tears of losing two, a brother and a sister, and sought to protect the rest.
For once in her life, she felt the Bloodleaf within soul creep out into her mind. The cold and calculating killer of the forests. The guardians and protectors of her clan. As the red scales descended from the sky, Lily felt no fear, nor remorse. Only an urge to hunt. She fell into line with others of the legion, her family, as they tore into the dragon loyalists. She fought with reckless abandon with the saber she had just picked up. The Bloodleaf wasn't foolish however, and fought smart. She would wait for her moment and strike at an opening. She remembered faint wisps of Wrath fighting by her side at one moment, and the flash of magic the next. The huntress was cold, her feelings reigned in, the soft and caring individual hidden behind Bloodleaf killer instinct.
She found herself with Wrath and Beezles among others of the blackguard. She was bloodied, but not all of it hers. She had a visible limp and blood flowed freely from her cheek. Lily finally looked the part of the title "Bloodleaf". Lily felt miles away from the conversation at hand. The Reds apparently wanted to ally themselves with them for some bullshit reason like heroes. She looked to General Wrath however. He was their leader. He was the only one she would follow. Whatever his choice was, it would be hers as well. The option was obvious. Lily took it without a word, only lightly laying a hand on the human's shoulder. A hand saying that she was with him, whatever his choice.
The next day as dawn rose over into the skies, Lily aimlessly walked around the city. The city was theirs, but at what cost? She stepped over many of the legion who were sleeping in the streets, passed by many of the campfires giving only an acknowledging glance to the legionnaires circling it. She found her way to the wall, nearby where the bodies were being disposed of. She made it just in time to witness Pel's body being tipped into the fire below. Within the shell of the elf's heart, she felt a pang of remorse. Of sorrow. Many friends had died that night. She shook her head as Gurgen came next, not finding the tears to cry for her friend. She was long past crying.
However, she did find Turha and wrapped him in an embrace. She whispered her apologies in his ear and retreated back into her shell. She stood near the procession, watching as the bodies were filed down the line and hoisted into the air and dropped into the fire below. A grim procession. She watched however. These were her comrades, her family. They deserved that much. At the end of the procession, one last body was tipped into the roaring flames below.
"Caine Abel... Human... Berserker."
She sniffed at the sight of her brother falling into the mouth of the flames. She shook her head and looked to the golden horizon. "Heroes... They said they wanted heroes," Lily began, "We aren't heroes... They. They were Heroes. Gurgen. Pel. Faera. Caine. All of them. Heroes. Let us hope they will bless us with their strength. We will need it before dusk breaks..." She said, turning away from the horizon and gripping the silver saber all that much harder.
It was like laying on air. He saw only darkness, but he heard... He heard sounds. The gush of a gentle stream, winds caressing the grass and trees. He no longer felt cold... He felt warm. Like he was bathing in the sunlight. Then he opened his eyes. A cloudless sky welcomed him. Where... Where was he? Where did he go? Caine slowly began to sit up, expecting the shock of pain at any moment. However, pain did not eat at him. He sat up feeling perfectly fine. He looked at his hands. His hands were unscarred. The human stared long and hard at his hands. No scars... Where did they go? What happened to him?
His unscarred hands went to his face. Nothing. The skin... The skin was perfect. He felt no rough scars, only his patchy beard, he could never grow a decent one. He looked up and scrambled on all fours to the stream. He had to see it with his own eyes. It couldn't be true. It just couldn't. At the water he looked at his own reflection. The man staring back was him. But... He wore no scars. His eyes no longer had the murderous gleam of a berserker. The man's eyes could even be called... Gentle. His hands went to his earlier wounds. The wounds he sustained during the fight with Urantonon. Nothing. Not even a scar. Where was he?
He finally noticed what he wore. It was a simple brown tunic. His live armor was gone, long gone. Not a trace of it was left. His head whipped back and jerked side to side looking for his armor. Where in the hell did it bloody get to? There was nothing only... Only his black katana sticking out of the ground. Funny. The man thought it was broken. He remembered having the hilt in his hand. Caine shook his head sharply and laid back on the soft grass. What happened? Where was he? The last thing he remembered was falling. Falling with a white dragon and riding the beast into the ground. Mikana... Where was Mikana? Was she okay? Caine sighed. What happed to him? And more importantly... What was he going to do now?
Then... Then a voice. A familiar voice tugged at his ears. He hesitated for a minute. Did he just imagine that? He had to. His mind playing with his memories. That had to be it. But then it called for him again. It was feminine.. Gentle.. Loving. It couldn't be. It can't be. It was impossible. He saw... He knew... Caine picked his head up and looked behind him.
"... Caine?" The woman whispered. She wore a white satin dress and her raven hair danced in the gentle wind. One of her hands covered her mouth while the other arm was clenched around her waist, as if to hold herself together. The woman was stunning, and Caine only stared at her. Dumbstruck. "... It.. Can't be? Li-.. Liera?" Caine stuttered. For the first time in years, tears welled up in the berserker's- no, in the man's eyes. The woman nodded vigorously and ran towards Caine. Caine jumped to his feet and went to meet her.
They met in an embrace long over-do. They kissed, they embraced, and they never threatened to break the moment. Finally they pulled apart long enough to stare into each others eyes. His hazel eyes into her brown. "I thought you were... I thought I'd never see you... I missed you," Caine said, stumbling over his words. Liera gave and small smile and laid her head against his chest. "I missed you too. I never stopped waiting you know. I never gave up on you." She whispered. He pulled her in closer to his chest. "Liera... I'm sorry. I'm so sorry! For everything. Liera... Forgive me?" He said, tears streaming down his face."I love you..." Caine whispered into her ear. She broke the embrace in order to look him into his hazel eyes. Tears were streaming down her face as well, "Of course I forgive you. There's nothing to forgive... You're home now." Now he knew where he was.
He was home.
He took one long look at the black katana sticking out of the ground. A reminder of what he had been through. Memories of Dragons, of the Children. Of Talae, of Faera, of Lily. Even Kisikoni, Alistair, Niera. Of Captain Wrath and Leutinent Sid. He would never forget them. They would always be his friends, and he would keep them in his heart forever more. He tore his eyes away from the black blade and back to his love. Back to his Liera.
He was home.