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Isirion

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  1. The Marrovargs ditched the parts of their Vampire Dragon costumes, that would interfere with eating human food and lead the small group to the mentioned room of offerings. An embalming table had been covered with sable cloth and laden with rather cheerful looking food. There were apples with fanged smiles sliced into, potatoes with funny faces and the meat was carved into the shapes of different animals. Pip, apparently already used to this, sat down and grabbed a 'Vampire Apple', a piece of red meat shaped like a fish along with a 'droopy' and a 'grinny' potato and put them all on his plate. Then he took a pitcher filled with red berry juice and helped himself to a glass of 'blood'. Celeris inspected every piece of food clearly fascinated by the craftsmanship and finally settled on a slice of dragon shaped venison and a skull face potato. Lord Marrovarg grabbed every ear-to-ear-smile potato he could find and passed on the meat, his lady passed on the potatoes and grabbed a big piece of butterflyshaped roasted meat. Both Marrovargs put their haul on the same plate and started eating, their knifes and forks never bothering each other. Pip looked a bit puzzled until he understood and carefully reached for the unused plate to set up a nice dish for the dragons. He selected two 'Vampire Apples', one for each pygmy and a floundershaped piece of meat and cut everything into easily chewable bits. Celeris beamed that her dragon was apparently allowed on the table and fed her a few apple slices before munching on her own food. A few seconds later she remembered once again her courtesy training, swallowed and chirped: "I thank our graceful hosts for this meal, that is...uhm...to die for." Lord Marrovarg bellowed a laugh that made a fine set of dust fall from the earthen ceiling, his wife chuckled into an especially cheery potato and said: "No thanks necessary, you all look like you don't have enough flesh on your bones." Her husband grabbed a napkin from a small casket and brushed away the dust he had caused to fall. While he fidgeted with the napkin, Lady Marrovarg suddenly focused on Alzira and stated: "We have to talk about your companion. What do you know of him?"
  2. Celeris, quickly hogging the other pair of free air/viewholes, stayed glued to them the whole flight. The farthest she had been off ground so far had been the occasional tree, hayloft or back of a stabled dragon. Her mother had never allowed her to fly, claiming her body was just not strong enough yet to hold onto a dragon midflight. But this, this was the opportunity of a lifetime as they were inside a closed wooden box with no possible way to fall down, even if she tried to. The worst that could happen was bumping into Pip or the other passenger, but as the dragons outside flew so smoothly, there wasn't even the slightest disruption of the breathtaking view. Celeris knew the other parts of the city had all those dragon trophies stuffed on their roofs and walls and everything, but here it was all skulls and bones and beautifully carved tombstones. In short she loved it and was actually disappointed when the flight ended and Pip asked her to go underground. Reluctantly Celeris followed Alzira down into the grave and very soon called out in pure mirth. She had climbed into the grave believing there would be a stair or ladder leading down into the Marrovarg Home, but it turned out to be a slide. Loosing not a second Celeris jumped onto the slide for more speed and enjoyed the ride down even though the view was mostly tight packed earth and a few maggots. Pip followed without delay and greeted the familiar pair of 'Vampire Dragons' that waited at the end of the slide with a hearty: "I present you Celeris Phirestone and Lady Taifa, I bet you were dying to meet them." Both Marrovargs chuckled and gave the boy a hug, before their expression turned slightly more serious: "You have all heard the grave news, the Queen Bee choose to share with us, killing the mood of the party. While we do not like Königin von Gefallen, we believe her words, that a host of Hellfires is coming for us. Thus we offer you sanctuary here and a cremation discount if the Hellfires can't be repelled, knowing that they will do most of the work for us. We have prepared rooms for you where you could rest, but since time is of the essence, we would like you to follow us to the room of offerings where we can talk while feasting on funerary goods. Will you sleep like the dead or eat their food with us first? Celeris, remembering the common courtesy of letting the adults speak first, made sure she hadn't accidently crushed her Magelight Pygmy during the slide down while pointedly waiting for the Lady Taifa to give a response.
  3. Pip who's grin had seemed frozen in place like on a real skull, suddenly grinned in earnest, feeling the weight and the warmth of the 'Fierce Beast' on his shoulder. He put a cricket on his open palm, prepared to offer it to 'Dark Myth', only to find his hand empty in a flash. Next to him Celeris giggled and offered the cricket to Sappo in his stead and told him to loose the mechanism that held part of the coffin lid open. The boy reached out and and unhooked the metal rod with his feet while catching the heavy lid with his hands stretched out high, so it neither crushed the pygmy on his shoulder nor it's owner. The lid shut tightly and for a moment inside the coffin was total darkness. Celeris couldn't resist making an eerie spooky sound before releasing her Magelight once more. Pip strained to remember when the Pygmy had stopped announcing the game had a winner and crawled under Lady Death's cloak again, but it was futile. With all that had happened Celeris could have hidden a whole Royal Crimson without him noticing. Grinning once more, Pip used the light to find a special panel in the coffin's side. He pressed slightly against it and slid it to the side revealing air-holes, Celeris, picking up on the trick, searched for the matching mechanism on the other side of the coffin and quickly uncovered the corresponding air holes. Pip rapped his knuckle against the lid in a heart-beat fashion and soon the casket started moving. The quartett of burly man that had carried it before marched their precious cargo towards a waiting pair of Grave Dragons and fastened it between them. Trained to walk and fly at the same somber pace, both dragons took off with barely a disruption of the precarious balance of their load and flew towards the Marrovarg Graveyard Complex. Everyone close enough to an airhole could see rows and rows of graves laid out to form the Marrovarg Crest - which was nothing more and nothing less than a grinning skull. In place of the right eye hole an open grave waited, which gave the skull the impression of winking as well as grinning. The dragons landed softly beneath it and waited for the Marrovarg Funeral Service assistants to attend to them. None came and so Pip opened the coffin lid from the inside, steadied it again with the metal rod and crawled out. He smiled towards the headstone bearing in old-fashioned, carved out letters the Marrovarg Motto: 'Laugh in the Face of Death'. Then, grinning up towards his ears, he helped everyone else out of the coffin and pointed towards the open grave: "After you"
  4. Albeit proudly leading the way, Pip seemed a bit miffed, that Alzira hadn't asked about his new Marrovarg title, but where they were going, grave silence would probably be for the best anyway. A minute later he had reached his final destination, the pile of presents in the courtyard. He pointed at the elaborate casket the Marrovargs had arrived in and declared: "I haven't known my new foster nobles for long, but I am dead sure, they would not let this exquisite piece of craftsmenship go to the worms. If we hide in it, we can catch a ride back - or at least we already have our coffin ready, when the Hellfires come." Celeris acknowledged Pip's witty string of grave jokes with a series of giggles and promptly helped him out, pulling back the lid. When the two-person casket gaped open like a grave, the both turned towards Alzira grinning like skulls and declared in unison: "After you!"
  5. "I am Melidia now." "I am Melidia now." "I am Melidia now," Nightfeather repeated inwardly like a mantra to calm herself down on the way to the von Gefallen lair. When all hell broke loose at the party she had managed to exchange a single glance with her leader Nightblade, assuring him that she was still on mission and going with the von Gefallen family was for that reason only. There was nothing else she could do - if she had hinted that she was in fact a prisoner, she would have condemned her fellow assassins to a death far worse, than the one Death had promised if she went after him one more time. "I am Melidia now", Nightfeather repeated one more time, then she mustered all her courage and entered the Hive. At once servant drones appeared and led her away to be washed, scrubbed and clad in the attire fitting her new status now. Melidia banned every spark of defiance from her eyes, lowered her head and whispered with as much subservience as she could muster, like she was testing out the words: "I am ready to serve my new master now". In the mean-time back at the Blue Mansion The disposable drone, weaved his way with an occasional stumble through the dispersing crowd in order to deliver Königin's message to the Blue Lady. The faint sound of a whip cracking steered him in the right direction. When he arrived at 'The Sky', he gasped and almost retched, betraying his training. The whole floor around Cerulia Phirestone was covered with dead Nilia pygmies, bearing gaping wounds from the lady's famous whip. Some even had their heads cracked in, but despite that there was little to no blood around the corpses. "Is this what I will look like too after I deliver my message?", the drone thought briefly, before a blade stained with a lot more blood on it than the floor ended his life swiftly. Isirion let the corpse sink on the floor and gave an acknowledging nod towards the Blue Lady: "You were right, that Königin would send someone to rub ruining your party in. So what will you do now?" Cerulia cracked her whip one more time and hissed: "Stirring up a Hive in return." Meanwhile in the courtyard A very, very upset looking Nilia Pygmia almost crashed into a very, very frustrated looking Dark Myst Pygmy and immediately shot an reproachful look, before frantically flying on. Sappo looked after Leal, torn between his yet unfulfilled task of finding Pride and finding out what had spooked his new pygmy friend. In the end not letting his keeper go unprotected any longer in the midst of the chaos won over both options and Sappo returned to Alzira. To his surprise Leal was there too, screeching in her face, trying to make her understand something that had happened. The two kids tried their best to understand too, but Leal was just too upset to make any sense and the courtyard filling with escape carriages and dragons to pick up the soon to be incinerated nobles became more and more dangerous. Celeris took a long look at the frightened blue-coloured pygmy, then she decided: "I will let a servant know that I am safe and that I will hide with the Marrovargs. In fact we will all go there now. It is a lot safer than being here with my mother after those walking dressing puppets ruined her party with their announcement. Unless someone or somedragon has a better idea - Pip, my mighty dragon warrior and newest Marrovarg adopt - lead the way!"
  6. Pride had never felt so lost in his life, not even after watching his beloved arena burn to the ground. In half a day the whole city would be undistinguishable from the ashes of his life's dream. From the moment he had heard that the ex-captain of the Royal Blues was the one threatening the city, he knew it was all his fault. He knew he had provided shelter to a group of people in conflict with the Nebs, he knew they had broken the old soldier out of prison but ignored it because they had freed Mythy's grooms in the process too. He knew it couldn't have been a coincindence that almost all of them had left the night Hassleborough was slaughtered, only to come back bloodied and with assassin's on their tail. Golden Myth had tried to warn him, told him about the fresh blood he had smelled on the dragon killer, but he hadn't listened and it had cost him his arena. Now it would cost him his city. It was time to find his wife and his dragon and leave all this behind. Fingers had never run faster in his life, whatever those nobles had gotten themselves into, the chaos following the announcement of the looming Hellfire Army provided the perfect cover to make his escape. He had never wanted any of this, only to find and reunite with the Gatherer who had shown him kindness and compassion. Still, he had done his part of the plan that had been forced on him, but this was all over now. It was time to leave this messed up city for good and start anew. Felicia had never been more nervous in her life, not even on her wedding day. She had dealt with poisons most of her life pre-Pride, but actually trying to administer them in an attempt to poison most of the ruling class was nerve-wrecking to say the least. Every time a noble had looked at her, she felt exposed, unable to continue for fear of discovery and so she had moved on from potential target to potential target, never finding the right time or the right moment. The shocking announcement of Königin von Gefallen really came as a blessing in disguise. It was time to go back to being a simple flower girl married to a simple man, while that army of Hellfires would soon take care of the problem for her.
  7. As the von Gefallen words sank in, the courtyard fell silent at first, then the whispers started. The murmuring rose into a crescendo of shouts, each voice demanding either an emergency meeting, an escort, protection, further details, the Nebulas to do 'something', the Royal Blue regiment to reform and take charge, the Blue Lady to retire instead, a glass of wine or simply an apology for being lumped in with those corrupted nobles... *crack* *crack* *crack* The Blue Lady furiously cracked her whip, the chaos in the courtyard drowning out the sound that was meant to regain the attention of the nobles. Torn between wanting to find Darian to strangle him for withholding important details in his report of the Hellfires and craving to jump down into the courtyard to strangle the whole von Gefallen family for ruining her party, Cerulia quickly weighed her options. The arena fiasko had left the Nebulas decimated, but still a force to be reckonend with. Her personal dragons were plenty and trained to utmost obedience, but would it be enough? Rumours had it that the Nebs had failed to take out a single attacker, what use would they be against a full army of Hellfires? Not even the mythical Death would stand a chance...or would he? A dangerous idea began to form in her mind. To take out an army you didn't have to take out each and every soldier, taking out the commander would lead to the command structure breaking down, weakening the army, possibly enough to repel it. With a clear plan in mind, the lady rushed towards the 'Sky', hoping against hope that at least some of the noble leaders would be there. By the time she had descended the battlements, the Overtons had retreated to command and organize the remaining Nebula forces, followed by the Hightower tower-captains. The Marrovargs had left to go underground, planning to hide six feet under their own graveyard complex. The lesser nobles soon fled in droves too, some trying to hide, some trying to evacuate, none planning to help. The Hassleborough heir sought shelter with the assassin's guild, while Nightfeather remained in supposedly deep cover with the von Gefallens. Thus, when the Blue Lady reached the 'Sky', she found it vacant, except for a Black Dragon skin-clad figure apparently messing around with the decorations. In desperate need to vent her pent up anger, Cerulia cracked her whip again, but the victim-to-be dodged with uncanny ease and grace, spinning around in a split-second throwing the corpse of a Nilia with a broken neck at her. A way too lively looking Nilia, started hissing and spitting and shrieking from the corpse-thrower's shoulder, but the man ignored it and just stared at her with very familiar looking icy-blue eyes from beneath a Black Dragon mask. The Blue Lady stared back, the corpse that had hit her, lying forgotten on the floor. Almost simultaneous both of them gasped: "You!"
  8. 'Good', captain Darian Hightower thought as he observed the restless nobles finally calming down. When Dämon von Gefallen had reappeared in their midst, calm and composed despite having apparently lost a part of his costume, the brighter nobles immediately concluded that he must have found Celeris and participated in some kind of hidden challenge, no doubt emerging the victor. Thus, they saw no more reason to continue to search in vain while suspecting each other of working together with other houses to foil their chances at winning the Phirestone favour. Even the slower ones could tell that something had changed, when the Hive Queen passed through them like they weren't even there. It was time to act. 'Good', the Blue Lady thought standing tall on the battlements, focused on the approximate direction of the family tomb. A Magelight, no doubt her daughter's, was flashing constantly above the treeline, indicating that someone had cleared every part of the 'Search' game. She had had her doubts, when Celeris had suggested to include the newest Marrovarg adopt into the challenge, but utilizing the element of surprise was a valid battle strategy. Now, all that was left, was deducing who won the game. To her surprise every noble that had any chance of winning was present in the courtyard. Was there a dark horse among those she had dismissed as failures from the start? Her thoughts drifted towards the figure that had drawn so much attention earlier and a very quiet 'I wonder...' could be heard escaping her lips. Captain Darian Hightower, who had been waiting at a safe distance for a chance to safely deliver the message Dämon had given him, gathered his courage and finally approached her with his head bowed: "My lady, I bear a message from the first son of the von Gefallen family. A host of Hellfire Wyverns is approaching the city. If that light means, that the game is concluded, we should start preparations for evacuation." *smack* A bloody gash appeared across Darian's face, left behind by the lady's whip. Cerulia looked even more furious than he had feared, even after he had waited to deliver the bad news until the goal of the party had been reached, presumably putting her in a good mood. Darian bowed even lower, not daring to make eye contact and presented the von Gefallen coin. The lady snatched it up immediately and hissed: "Those walking dressing puppets would not have handed over one of their precious coins to a nobody like you, if there wasn't a real threat. Patch yourself up and then go summon the Overton, Hightower and Marrovarg leaders to the 'Sky' to discuss strategy. You are not to breathe a word to anyone else about this. Do you understand?" Darian understood perfectly, if he failed to comply, a host of hellfires would be his least concern and a much more comfortable way to die...
  9. Having left Fingers behind with orders to rejoin the party and search for Felicia whose continued absence might bode ill for their plan, Isirion snuck around a few more corners until he stood before the pride and joy of the Blue Lady. A gigantic dragon diorama labeled 'The Sky' stretched along the full length of a wall, sporting dozens of Nilia pygmies seemingly dancing in the air, swooping down a waterfall or resting in a tree. While the art of the wallpainting providing the background was vibrant and dynamic like Alzira's paintings, the eyes of most of the pygmies pinned to it were lifeless and dull. The Nilias were all alive, but their bodies seemed vacant. Leal screeched in a futile attempt to get a reaction or even recognition from his swarm, but few even turned their empty eyes in his direction. "If you can't stomach what I am about to do, you should leave', Isirion addressed the heartbroken pygmy. Leal screeched even louder and tried to bite the hand closing in on the neck of a particular pitiful looking pygmy. Catching Leal with his other hand, Isirion put him face to face with the pinned one and asked: "If that were you, wouldn't you wish for someone to end your meaningless suffering?" Leal fell silent, and only the sound of a neck breaking could be heard, soon followed by another and another and another...
  10. A few seconds later two pairs of eyes were glued on the Magelight's first tries on igniting the twigs Alzira threw with her tail-flame in mid-air. Sappo of course had long mastered that game and every time Pip offered him another meaty treat, he generously showed-off that he could burn even the most difficult throws before they hit the ground. Isirion, who had left the moment he got 'permission', focused on not running into any more surprise-nobles. Leal had sounded really anxious and was still fidgeting on his shoulder. Whatever the little one had seen, it must have been something able to ruin their plan. That was reason enough to cross the forest-garden with a sprint. Just before the Magelight checkpoint he slowed down and re-entered the party at a normal pace. Mindful of not drawing anymore unnecessary attention again, he tried to walk like the real nobles, at least those that weren't dead-drunk by now. That way, with Leal pointing his head towards the intended target-destination, Isirion soon found himself inside the Blue Lady's very own dragon stables. So far everything seemed as planned, most of the cages were unlocked already, with the docile inhabitants happily munching on a few morsels of extra-food the pygmies must have sneaked in. What hadn't been in the plan was Fingers being a tightly-gagged and tied-up inhabitant of one the still locked cages. Isirion cut him free through the bars so that the ex-thief could lock-pick himself out of his predicament. After that was done, Isirion very quietly demanded an explanation. Fingers, by now used to giving explanations, explained just as quietly that he had run into Ale and the Guardian who were here in Nebula disguise to also free the dragons, but refused to free the broken pygmies. Isirion immediately understood and whispered: "You have done your part Fingers, get out of here. I will go and put those pygmies out of their misery."
  11. As Alzira reluctantly drank from the glass of Vine, two pairs of blue eyes watched her intently. Isirion watched out for any sign of poisoning, while Celeris seemed focused on the fake-clawed fire-gem gloves. Only Pip paid no interest to the beverage and tried to befriend Sappo instead by offering him some sort of spiced meat, no doubtly swiped from the noble's buffet. When it was her turn to drink, Celeris called the Magelight to action just as she raised the glass towards her lips. With a bright flash the glass was suddenly empty and the space behind the Phirestone heir became mysteriously wet. Interestingly enough the wet space shot reproachful glances and flew straight at Isirion revealing itself to be an indignant Nilia Pygmy. Leal started squeaking and found himself snatched from the air in a splitsecond, followed by a quick inspection for any messages. Finding none, Isirion tried to interpret Leal's continous, desperate sounding squeaks. His apparent dragon mishandling earned him a few mumbled choice words from Pip and an icy stare from Celeris. Ignoring them both, Isirion concentrated to get the gist of Leal's predicament. About a minute later he bowed slightly towards Alzira and offered a slightly redacted translation: "My lady, this messenger pygmy seems to have flown too close to one of those dragon displays our host favours. He got spooked or shooed away and most likely lost his message there and then. Should I go back and search for the message in case it's important?"
  12. Both cornered kids seemed to share a meaningful glance, then they bowed towards the presumed nobles that had spendidly gone along with their performance. As one they handed over the daggers and chorused: "You have shown strength, honour and resourcefulness using your dragon and the terrain like that. You have earned those daggers and a drink!" At the last words Pip and Celeris whistled and the Magelight came to them at once bearing two glasses and a bottle of Vine. The Phirestone heir took everything, filled both glasses and offered one to Isirion who nonchalantly passed it to Alzira. Celeris probably raised an eyebrow or two under her Black Marrow mask, but said nothing and clinked glasses with the green Fire Gem lady instead. *clink*
  13. Having never seen Sappo' improved blasts that varied their colour and range, Pip slowed down and gawked with a dreamy smile. Pride's vision-mode had surely rubbed off because he could already imagine an all-pygmy-performance with the Dark Myst as it's star. His stage name would be Dark Myth of course. Suddenly noticing that he had been driven back against one of the stone dragons flanking the tomb, the 'dragon warrior' brandished his tooth-dagger and valiantly charging at Sappo he proclaimed: "Fierce beast, you will not take me alive. Lady Death will avenge me and wear your skin for a scarf!" Celeris on the other hand had no intentions of letting the game end so soon. Running close by like a whirlwind she shouted: "Lady Death will kill you herself if you let yourself be beaten by that shoulder accessory!" Isirion, who had been drawn entirely into his daughters game, laughed and taunted in hot pursuit: "You should worry about yourself with Death so close behind." Celeris sped up immediately, clearing bushes and low topiaries as if she was flying. This was so much more fun than learning boring words and noble demeanor. Weaving around the obstacles himself, Isirion increased his running speed enough to overtake his daughter to once again try to coral her back towards the tomb. He figured it was about time that the difference in their build took it's toll on her stamina. Breathing hard Celeris tried to keep enough distance to choose her flight path, but soon enough she also found herself with her back against a stone dragon. Isirion changed his stance and approached her like a person instead of prey and growled in his most menacing voice: "You have nowhere left to run. Give me that dagger or I'll skin your friend and wear him as a scarf."
  14. Still growling, because his frustration, if not his exaggerated death-threat, had been real, Isirion replied: "I agree, I'll hunt down Celeris while you two take down that runt from Pride's arena." Falling deathly silent, he switched into full predator mode and stalked after his prey, leaving Alzira and Sappo to follow an occasional golden glint between the now dimly Mage-lit trees. It was soon clear that the children intended to turn 'Search' into their own glorified version of Hide & Seek. Every time Sappo came close to Pip's hiding place, a rustling could be heard and the boy stormed off to find another topiary to hide behind. Pip, for the first time after learning that his most favourite place in the world had burned down, was having real fun and so he forgot all about the 'honourable combat' and thoroughly enjoyed the running around like the child he was part. Likewise, Celeris was hellbent on extending the fun game of leading the presumed noble with the awesome Death costume by the nose, but even with all her speed she could never get away more than a few yards before her pursuer caught up again. Oddly enough her shadow never tried to incapacitate her, only stuck close enough to not loose sight of her between the trees. It was as if he was more interested in the tricks she pulled in order to loose him than in actually catching her. That kind of treatment felt frustratingly familiar and so she slid to a stop and complained: "You are testing me. You are like my mother. You are no fun." Remembering at the last second that she was supposed to act diplomatic and all, Celeris added in her mother's voice and tone: "But I love your costume." That stopped Isirion dead in his tracks. While testing his daughter's survival instincts he had intended to corral her in between himself and the back of the tomb, but now his head was filled with images of the veiled lady again. Of course his daughter used his distraction to disappear. Isirion grinned approvingly and gave chase. He was beginning to enjoy the game after all...
  15. Another snicker could be heard from the darkness, and a moment later Pip spoke again, sounding one part indignant and two parts melodramatic: "Celi, for the love of dragons, can you please stop snickering? You are totally undermining my performance. With Pride gone, I am the only dragon-friendly entertainer left in this city. I have to make a good impression on as many nobles as I can." The patch of darkness seemed to suck in his words, weighing them and finally threw them back with a laugh: "Pip, you made a good impression on the only noble that counts today - on me. Lady Death will not forget your ingenuity, that prevented a tragedy. If you hadn't suggested I'd imitate my mother's voice to stop those idiots, this game would have been ruined." Sounding quite pleased with himself, Pip returned the flattery: "If not for your flawless performance, my plan would not have worked at all." "And now for the grand finale", Celeris Phirestone's voice rang out like a funeral bell and suddenly the patch of darkness around her lifted as she pulled back her cloak and threw a Magelight Pygmy into the air. In it's light the secret behind her invisibilty was revealed. Her dark, silky cloak was made of dyed Shadow-Walker manes, that had allowed her to seemingly melt into the shadows. Beneath it, she wore an intricate black tunic made of finely tanned dragon leather with matching gloves, trousers and boots. Her face was hidden behind a gruesome mask, carved from the skull of a Black Marrow. Suddenly, two dragon-tooth-daggers appeared in her hands. She threw one of them to Pip and in unison they taunted the green Fire Gem lady and her Black Dragon bodyguard: "To prove your worth, you must take them from us." All the while the children had clearly fun with their performance, Isirion looked like a nightmare even darker than Blackjade had come true. It was as if Pride had shrunk and multiplied and there were now two more like him - even worse, he had to play along with them. Unable or unwilling to hide his frustration, Isirion drew his bloodstained-blade and growled like an very ill-tempered Hellfire: "Taking them from the jaws of that Blue-Banded Dragon had been a worthy challenge, taking them from your cold, dead hands proves nothing. But if you insist..." The eyes beneath the Black Marrow and the Golden Wyvern mask grew big, and then, as if practiced a hundred times, both children jumped from their stone dragons and ran away in opposite directions. Only the Magelight stayed, floating above the tomb entrance, giving off a steady light and an occasional Celeris-like snickering... In the mean-time inside the dragon stables at the Blue Mansion Lifting Fingers high against the reinforced bars of the dragon cage, he just caught him unlocking, the Guardian demanded an explanation. Fingers explained at length and the Guardian couldn't believe his ears. He called over Ale, who also wouldn't believe his ears. Only when a Nilia and a Misfit Pygmy swooped down in their faces to help the ex-thief, they started to believe just a little bit, that the cowardly runaway from the fishermen's village had teamed up with the one that had maimed him to free the dragons trapped in the mansion. Now it was Finger's turn to ask why the two ex-Royal-Blues were standing guard in stolen Nebula armour over their own dragons. The Guardian quickly explained, how 'delivering' Aseto as the culprit who had burned down a Neb arena had gone awry and he had ended up as a 'present' to be guarded for the Blue Lady. After a lot more questions and answers, Fingers summed it all up: "So you two are also here to free all those dragons and with the keys you talked off the noble who hired you it will go a lot faster. The only problem is freeing Leal's swarm. We found where the Nilia are on display, but they have all been pinned through their wingbones on purpose so they can't fly away." The Guardian thought about the problem and the conclusion he came to was as practical as it was cruel: "Leave them. If only half of what I heard about the Blue Lady is true, those pygmys had not only their bones broken but their minds as well. They would jeopardize the resuce of the dragons that can still be saved." Leal hissed and gave the bear-like man the most reproachful look he had in his repertoire, but it was to no avail. The wine bottle-like human had at least the decency to look ashamed at the floor, but he too didn't lift a finger at the Nilia's plight. Hissing again, Leal took off to find the only human that had truly understood him and been willing to help.
  16. Isirion let himself be steered away from the two nobles and their not so obedient looking new disciple. Even through his dragon skin cloak he could feel the death-glares the assassin still gave them and that made him chuckle. When he and Alzira were out of earshot and back on track on the path to the tomb, he said: "I agree, that that had to be Celeris, but I don't think it is a trap. From the start this was supposed to be a test. We still have a chance to actually pass, if I don't run into anymore weirdos that remind me a little bit too much of Blackjade." After a few minutes of quite silent walking, the tomb appeared before them. Hewn of blue-tinted stone and flanked by two majestic Royal Blues, it was a sight to behold even in the dark. Not so much the pint-sized, slightly grubby looking boy dressed in a self-made Golden Myth costume, who sat cross-legged on the left dragon and greeted them with a pip-squeak: "Halt travellers, none may approach my princess before facing me in honorable combat!" A very unlady-like snicker could be heard from atop the other dragon, but only a patch of darkness among more darkness could be seen...
  17. As Dämon looked less and less like Blackjade with every piece he removed, Isirion finally managed to relax and mirror the noble's non-aggressive stance; even putting away the scavenged dagger. His voice however, was still every bit as vicious as he taunted Nightfeather: "Seeing as I can't use you anymore to deliver another message to your leader since those noble siblings claimed you, I'll just have to deliver a final message to your brethren myself." Nightfeather's eyes grew wide as she understood the full meaning of his words. While she was safe in Iris' hands and possible arms, Death would slaughter the rest of her guild. The thought was almost unbearable. Gritting her teeth, Nightfeather ripped out Trueshot's knife, that had come loose from Iris attempt to pull her up and threw it with all her might and rage. Anticipating the move, Isirion caught the assassin's knife with his left hand and drew his own blade with the right in one fluid motion. The sound the bloodstained blade made when it left the sheath was as eerie as ever, reminding a listener of the wailing of all the souls it had claimed. Perfectly adjusting to Nightfeathers forward motion, Isirion weaved under her throwing arm and pointed the tip of the blade at her throat, stopping the assassin dead in her tracks, lest she'd impale herself. Murder and venom finally gone from his voice, he addressed Dämon: "As you can see, this one is an assassin for real. I would be well in my rights to execute her on the spot for her recent attempt, but that would be a waste of her considerable skill. Use her strength well, but keep her on a tight leash, because if she comes after me or my charges one more time, I won't hold back again." The party from Felicia's point of view so far Felicia's plan of finding the master of ceremony in a jiffy to get him to insert the group's performance into the schedule had been derailed quite a bit. For starters there was no master of ceremony. In hindsight, a being as obsessed with exerting control over others as the Blue Lady would of course plan everything herself. Felicia felt like biting herself in the butt for her oversight, but that would not help at all. Having withdrawn in a corner furthest away from the commotion some idiot, hopefully unrelated to her group, had caused, Felicia weighed her options. With most of the minor nobles busy sucking up to the higher nobles, neither would pay much attention, if she posed as a fancy waitress, poisoning their drinks on the way. The only problem was that there were way too many of them to poison by hand before the first symptoms would show. Should she try to dilute the poison a bit more to gain a few additional minutes before it would take effect? No, she had already pushed the formula to the lower limit of its efficiency. Any more meddling and the poison wouldn't be potent enough anymore to kill a fullgrown human. Unbidden the picture of a pony-tailed figure wearing a lab-coat, square glasses and a look of constant curiosity, rose from the depths of her mind. Right, there had been a customer at her flower shop who had struck up the weirdest conversation about how they wanted to test the interaction between dragon poison and plant poison. Of course she had kicked them out pony-tail, lab-coat-tails and all because she was 'just' a simple flower girl, but somehow that peculiar idea must have stuck to her mind. Would it be possible to prolong the time it took for her poison to take effect while maintaining its efficiency by adding dragon poison? What wouldn't she give right now to know if that customer's research had born any fruit...
  18. "Stop at once", the most perfect impression of the Blue Lady's voice yet, took command of the situation, the sudden interruption freezing everyone in their place. Isirion who was about to put both the failed assassin and the noble failure out of their misery, halted his dagger an inch from Iris's and Nightfeather's head and looked for the source in vain. "Are you idiots done now?", the unseen voice reprimanded them all, including even Dämon and Alzira who hadn't done anything. Realizing that killing his targets in front of a witness he couldn't silence because he couldn't see them was indeed idiotic, Isirion nodded and he wasn't the only one. Despite being quite dazed from the headbutt, Nightfeather nodded too and said: "I am an idiot for trying to take on Death alone and an even greater idiot for trying to throw my life away after Iris put in so much effort to save it." Sounding farther away than before, the voice offered a bit of advice: "If you loose sight of what the game is about, you will loose the game. Come find me after sorting out your mess."
  19. "...no assassin...too sloppy...impulsive...", Dämon's words haunted Nightfeather after she barely managed to get the image of Trueshot's killer carving her up out of her head. She was a failure as an assassin and that hurt a lot more than her wound. Even worse, the only way to get out of the mess she had gotten herself into was to play along with the noble's assessment of her. When Iris von Gefallen defended her again right before puking, Nightfeather felt like vomitting herself. She did not deserve that kind of trust, she really was an assassin and she had approached Iris under a false name and pretense. Nightfeather found herself torn between the wish of living that lie just a little while longer and burying all the lies along with Melidia. Isirion nearly felt like throwing up himself since the amount of weakness displayed right in front of him disgusted him on an almost physical level. The blue lady was right to test their daughter if that was how noble heiresses usually behaved. If he were to find Celeris drunk and stupid enough to tumble into the path of a knife with her back wide open, he would do exactly what he had told Pride he would do with no hesitation. The real question was what to do with the assassin, who potentially knew too much about them. Alzira, even though she was imitating the blue lady flawlessly, had all but forbidden him to torture her to death to send an even stronger message to the rest of her guild. The male von Gefallen, albeit being apparently cut from a rougher cloth, had let his emotions cloud his judgement because of the weird attachement his half-sister seemed to have towards this 'Melidia'. It would be easy to use his superior speed to cut her throat with the newfound dagger despite their objections. "Do it!", the fallen assassin suddenly hissed, her head raised as high as she could and her throat exposed: "I am not afraid of Death."
  20. *rustle* There it was again, the dreaded sound that heralded Death, my death, Nightfeather thought. I came so close, I almost got him, I wonder if Trueshot felt the same... With unnatural clarity Nightfeather perceived every motion of the Black Dragon skin cloak as it's wearer promptly spun around, Trueshot's knife in hand, aiming straight for her throat. *tackle* Why does my back hurt and why are there petals in my mouth? Nightfeather tried to make sense of what happened, but that proved to be as impossible as getting up. Some kind of soft, bouncy, weight held her down to the ground. A strand of cut-off white hair entered Nightfeather's vision, gently floating down right beside her. It couldn't be. Death had missed, because the only person she thought of as a friend, no, more than a friend, outside of the assassin guild had appeared out of nowhere to save her. The sound of agitated breathing told her that Iris von Gefallen was alive as well and maybe even enjoyed the position they found themselves in. Suddenly a sharp pain in her barely healed hand made her cry out in anguish and frustration. Death had driven Trueshot's knife right through the wound from the last encounter, effectively nailing Nightfeather to the ground. Looking down on her with ice-cold eyes, he picked up the dagger she could no longer hold onto and hissed with unveiled cruelty: "It's been a while since I used a dagger for a quill and human skin for paper, but don't worrry, this time, your leader will get the message even though the handwriting will be a bit messy."
  21. The closer the noble came, the more Isirion tensed up, until his pose was nigh but undistinguishable from a panther poised to strike. It was as if his mind perceived a threat coming from the stranger his eyes could not see. What was it about that other Death that put him constantly on edge? When that so-called Dämon stretched out his arm to offer it to Alzira, Isirion finally realized what had been bothering him. The combination of Black Dragon hide and claw with green eyes that seemed to glow in the dark, invoked a memory of Blackjade that made his skin crawl. Confronting the dragon from the past along the human from the present, Isirion snapped and growled murderously: "BACK OFF!" The angry roar startled Nightfeather from her hiding place. Believing she had been found out, the assassin drew an hidden dagger and charged. By now there was no doubt which one of the two Deaths was the bloody murderer she sought. Her eyes getting accustomed to the dark, she easily recognized the knife that Trueshots killer had taken. Throwing all caution to the wind, knowing she would have only this one chance before her target could draw the weapon he was deadly proficient with, Nightfeather flew like an arrow towards the growling Death. If she could kill him before he could kill her, she would carve out his heart and offer it on Trueshot's unmarked grave. If not, maybe at least a certain free-spirited, white-haired, amber-eyed heiress would weep for her in secret, like Nightblade had wept for Trueshot...
  22. Ripping himself free from Alzira's arm once again, Isirion lost no time stepping between her and the armed, or more precisely arm-clawed, figure. With the same motion his right hand darted towards the concealed assassin's knife and his body assumed a stance that would allow him to fend off the dragon-claw gauntlet if necessary. So far it did not seem that way, but Isirion wasn't willing to risk anything at a distance too short to efficiently use his blade. Like Drake had proven with her sneak-attack during the thieves guild assault, against a claw-user he was at a clear disadvantage in grappling range. A knife however was perfect for the current distance. If the other 'Death' tried anything besides talking, Isirion was more than ready to put his knife-skills stemming from a childhood frequently spent gutting disgusting fish to use. Wordlessly locking eyes with the possible target so that no movement however slightly preluding an attack would escape him, Isirion left the diplomatic option entirely to Alzira. A few minutes ago at the party Nightfeather had finally begun to relax. Their infiltration of the party had been successful, nobody paid any attention to the Hassleborough entourage in their vine-themed costumes despite some awkward movements here and there. A quick trip to the bar, an invaluable source of rumours and solid information everywhere, quickly solved the mystery. All the guests here were focused on finding the Phirestone heir in order to gain favour with her house, in other words boring political stuff. Nightblade would scold her if she said things like that out aloud, seeing that that boring political stuff was what usual led to the most lucrative assignments. Compared to that, their payment for the current mission, the stuffed Pillow Dragon hatchling Amara called Mr. Fluffy Pillow seemed the lowest of the low - until they found out that the slightly jingly sound the unnaturally heavy thing had made, came from the actual stuffing consisting of pure gold. Whatever else Hassleborough had been before getting murdered, towards his daughter he had acted with foresight and deeply loving care. Nightfeather brushed away a tiny bit of moisture that had appeared in the corner of her eye and concentrated on the nobles participating in the event. Which of them had hired 'Death' and why? Who was directly or indirectly responsible for Trueshot's demise in the wake of that crime? Nightfeather's searching gaze landed on the blue lady who was strutting around the battlements. No. While that noble was certainly cold-blooded enough to order a massacre of the scale that had happened at the Hassleborough mansion, she had no need to use an outsider when the whole of the Nebs was in her palm. If she wanted to get rid of Hassleborough, she could have just pinned any convenient crime on him like she had done with that unfortunate arena-master. The same logic excluded the Overtons and the Hightowers from the list of suspects, leaving only the von Gefallens and the Marrovargs. Hiring 'Death' to bring death to someone sounded like a typical Marrovarg joke, but given their profession, they had no reason to begrudge anyone their life since in the end everyone in the city eventually would end up their customer. The von Gefallens made even less sense as culprits, they were already superior to everyone, so why remove the number of people to look down on? Should they focus on finding 'Death' instead after all? No. Nightblade had been right, that would only lead to more victims among them. She could still hear the rustling of Death's cloak in her nightmares, feel the knife at her throat before getting stabbed in the hand in the blink of an eye... *rustle* Nightfeather's eyes widened, her breathing sped up along with her heartbeat. Searching around with frentic eyes for the source of the disturbingly familiar sound, she soon found herself trailing behind the male von Gefallen heir as if in a trance. Every time his genuine Black Dragon skin cloak rustled in the crowd of party-goers, her hand clenched and wandered to a concealed weapon. Finally Nightfeather got a grip on herself and allowed her assassin's training to take over. Melting into the crowd, body language as tranquil as an oasis, she followed the distinctive cloak and dragon-claw-gauntlet from a safe distance. To make sure she wasn't spotted even after following all the way into the garden area, Nightfeather circled around until an all too familiar sound stopped her dead in her tracks. *rustle* Instinctivly hiding behind a Blue-Banded Dragon topiary that seemed to be missing some teeth-twigs, Nightfeather stared ahead in disbelief because in front of her, illuminated briefly by a pitch-black pygmy's fire, was another genuine Black Dragon skin cloak rustling omniously...
  23. "Ahhh, how I would love to capture and embalm that von Gefallen treat to preserve his manly beauty for all eternity," Lady Marrovarg sighed. Her husband laughed heartily and proposed with a rather devious grin: "You know the young female von Gefallen is even more of a treat and we would even save our precious embalming fluid seeing as she has already drunk half the bar dry." "You are right, she even looks like she's ready to drop dead from alcohol-poisoning any second now. Did you per chance bring your tools?" "Nah, but we can ask Pip to fetch them real quick", Lord Marrovarg offered, scanning the courtyard for a grubby boy in a Golden Wyvern costume. "That's a good idea and it would take his mind off the fact that his most favourite place in the whole world has burned down." "Yeah, ordering that was even more cruel of Cery than usual, considering that she of all people should recognize the stab wounds all those Neb corpses bore. Hassleboroughs body on the other hand looked like he ran into the wrong end of that dragon claw gauntlet or something very much alike. Now where is that boy?" Noticing for the third time the change from pavement to gravel under his feet, Isirion paused briefly and followed the new direction leading away from the Magelight. While a normal person like Alzira wouldn't be able to make out more than rough shapes, he easily pierced the darkness with his Magi sight, but nothing ahead looked like a tomb at all. There were trees though that had pygmy skeletons in grotesque poses nailed to them and the gravel path became lined with the cracked skulls of disobedient hatchlings. The shrubbery closely followed the theme, being cut into the shape of different full-grown dragons all writhing in agony or cowering before a whip. Isirion smiled faintly and after describing the scenery to Alzira he said: "More proof that the veiled lady hasn't lost her unique taste. We must be getting quite close. Last chance to turn back if you have second thoughts about meeting the offspring of two monsters as Pride would put it."
  24. Looking as happy as a Vampire Dragon, who had per chance stumbled upon an exquisitely tasting blood sample, Lord Marrovarg went full 'Pride-admiration-mode' on Dämon: "Uhhh another Death with our kind of humour and a costume to die for!" "That dragon claw-gauntlet looks almost too alive though, the perfection level of the stitches makes our body restauration service after a Neb judgement look like a toddler smashing pieces together", his wife corrected with a near deadly amount of envy. Latching onto the prompt, the husband pondered gravely: "You are right, we'd need to seclude ourselves for a hundred years in a tomb and practice like hell, if we want to get even close to the von Gefallen skill-level." "The nearest tomb would be the Phirestone tomb wouldn't it?" Lady Marrovarg replied with a wink towards Dämon along with another hastily scrabbled and erased drawing of the way leading right there... Meanwhile, after passing the magelight checkpoint in the opposite direction without a challenge, Isirion and Alzira stepped once again on the winding garden path, trying to disturb the petals as little as possible. They figured, that if they concentrated on the feel of the pavement beneath the petals and their feet, they'd find the third junction leading towards the tomb with the added benefit of not giving away the correct path to other nobles that might decide to take a stroll out here...
  25. Taking Alzira's compliments with dignity and a mischievous twinkle in their eyes, both Marrovargs flashed a fanged grin, then the man said: "You are a lot livelier than our usual customers but Death still follows you." Delivering a playful slap on Alzira's arm, Lady Marrovarg explained: "My darling-dead means that your grim-looking arm-accessory has followed you here. Or maybe he meant your pitch-black shoulder accessory, even I can't keep track of all his puns." Lord Marrovarg grinned like a skull, happy to be finally able to deliver the punchline he had in mind from the moment he had noticed that the black-haired lady had a Black Dragon cloak and mask wearing shadow. The moment Isirion appeared right next to Alzira, like some kind of bodyguard, he announced: "Death is here." Instead of a laugh however he got an icy stare through the eye-holes of the black dragon mask as a reply. Then the maybe-bodyguard seemed to remember something and said cooly: "Apology for my intrusion. I haven't been a bodyguard for long. Switching from harming bodies to guarding them still takes some adjustment, so I must ask your wife to refrain from slapping my charge if she has any interest in keeping her hands." Both Marrovargs slapped their knees and laughed loud enough to raise the dead. The husband recovered first and replied: "A Death with a sense of humour nearly as twisted as the serpent-like garden path hidden beneath those blue flower petals our host fancies." "Don't worry about your lady, we are just a humble pair of funeral directors giving directions", the wife chimed in and scrabbled something on the ground with her feet. It looked a lot like a snake with a single wing on it's third coil, before it got erased with even more scrabbling. The two human Vampires exchanged a meaningful glance with the lady and her bodyguard before seemingly loosing interest in favour of sinking their fangs into the two nearest glasses of red wine. Isirion mirrored that gaze briefly before offering his arm to Alzira. There was no question she had understood the hint too, all that was left was getting to their destination as inconspicuously as possible. He hated not having both arms free, but after remembering that he was supposed to be a bodyguard today, there was really no helping it - especially since it put him far away from Pride who had started staring daggers at him for no apparent reason again...