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Isirion

The Bloodline of Torch [open]

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Isirion's grin was probably- no, it absolutely was the most unwelcome sight Drake could have been met with. The added vagueness of his answers only added insult to injury. At least she knew she was most likely safe? Not that that knowledge had really been a priority to her; she'd just wanted a better grasp on the situation itself regardless of her involvement, but it was clear she wasn't getting that. Fine. She just wouldn't get involved then. Because if Isirion didn't want to tell her anything more, it wasn't her fault if someone got killed. Somewhat reflecting the displeasure within, her expression didn't change much from when she'd first asked her questions. She sighed into her response, saying, "I'll keep that in mind."
Walking off Drake didn't hesitate to ensure Taellonn was following by gripping his wing and pulling him along. She isolated herself and him against a wall, pulling his wing into sort of a shielding curtain, which he kept in place even when Drake let go. Drake didn't say anything after establishing Taellonn's wing-wall so he took it upon himself to quietly inquire, "What now?" She crossed her arms and started tapping her heel enough to be noticeable to Taellonn but not obnoxious. "I'm just waiting now for... Something, I don't know- but I'm still restless as hell with everything going on." Taellonn folded in his wing, enduring a glare. "I can tell. Give yourself a moment to relax, at least. It'll do you go- stop it, I didn't move my wing just for you to glance around like that..."  His requests fell flat as Drake didn't relax and remained vigilant. The majority of her attention was on the green-haired stranger, trying to gather what she could from visuals alone. Drake wasn't intimidated by her beyond simply being unaware of her intentions; the knife wasn't a big deal (after all, who wouldn't carry a weapon in these circumstances?) and the White Dragon with the woman certainly left Drake with a positive impression. Still, paranoia from Leon and Spienz's earlier "betrayal" kept Drake from being comfortable with any assumptions she made. She leaned against the wall and motioned for Taellonn to move slightly so that she could keep Isirion in sight from this angle. Though now, Drake mostly looked to the green-haired woman, analyzing her and trying not to be caught staring as she pondered (with an irrational and unfocused mind, no less) what to make of her. 

Edited by Drakessis

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Alzira was concentrated on her training and so was Susurro. Sappo had gotten a little bored after a while and so he took a nap on the White Dragon's back, although most of the time one of his eyes was open and scanned the area. That's why he noticed the arrival of Drake and her dragon as soon as she entered the room. Sappo liked to think of Drake and Isirion as two predators who weren't sure what to think of each other because they watched each other rather suspiciously and seemed tense. As long as they left Alzira and her dragons at peace the little drag didn't mind too much. After a short conversation the woman and her dragon went to a side of the wall, watching Alzira. Sappo was curious what interested her so much that he left his place and slid carefully into the shadows. From there he tried to observe her intently and step by step he moved closer.

 

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Taellonn's view of the arena was better than Drake's. Beyond the basic dragon-human difference he was the giving the whole room a look over instead of just focusing on one area. So, it only really made sense that he saw a pygmy sneaking up in the darkness when Drake didn't. Something about the pygmy was familiar but he couldn't quite place it; was it one of the city's? If it was, it didn't seem to have much business creeping up on them. Maybe it wasn't- after all most pygmies really seemed to look the same after a while to Taellonn. He decided to temporarily ignore it and try to reason with Drake again now that some time had passed. The concern and quiet of his voice seemed to match as he asked, "Are you done staring? Someone is going to notice, and I wouldn't want to be you when that happens. Can you at least take a break to relax? I can understand why you wouldn't want to sleep here but at some point you need some amount of rest..." Drake tried ignoring him at first, but hearing the indicating inhale of further conversation changed her mind. She took a moment to look away from the green-haired woman and to Taellonn instead. "If someone noticed I'd know by now." Out of either paranoia or to prove a point she looked around. "It looks like I'm clear. And, look, I'll 'relax' when I've got the security to." Taellonn didn't bother to question how she had the security to not worry about being caught staring but lacked the security to rest, and decided he'd point out his finding instead. "Well, someone noticed you." He looked to the pygmy, his expression much more bored than anything. "A little pygmy in the shadows your vigilance somehow missed." Drake's attention suddenly snapped to where Taellonn was looking, not out of any fear (even if the pygmy had intentions of attacking that wasn't too much for her to worry about) but rather to prove Taellonn wasn't lying when she had missed the dragon herself. She could make out the shape of what had to be a pygmy in the shadows, and did a quick laugh-exhale. A pygmy? That was what noticed her? Now that she was over just having not seen it, the situation became amusing. A watcher of her own- how endearingly ironic. For all she knew it could be playing or just checking if she had any food on her. The whole situation did work to relieve some of Drake's tension, but no one could be considered fully innocent here, not even a pygmy. Not wanting it to get defensive she chose to stay put and keep a better watch on the entire area instead of just focusing on the green-haired woman and her dragon. Sometimes she would turn a little just to check for the pygmy, a slight smile forming each time. She almost wished she had some sort of food on her, or just something to give the pygmy any reassurance she wasn't going to be a threat to it... 

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"He likes crickets, from what I have seen", Isirion stated while strolling over to Drake's location to start a more serious conversation: "His keeper and I sent the assassins a message that will probably keep them at bay until it is bright enough outside again to aim and shoot an arrow. You can ask the green-haired lady about the details while you keep guard with her as added protection. This would give me the time to find and deal with the air bandits like my master asked me to while it is still dark and be back in time for the perfomance tomorrow like I promised the arena owner. Don't you agree that this is for the best?" Isirion honestly hoped the female warrior would agree, because if he had to try to blend in with one more of Pride's improbable impractical props, he'd rather pull the arena entrance wide open and invite the assassins in. There had to be a limit to how many despicable decorations you could put on one dragon or human. He had clearly reached his limit when he found himself face to face with an iron butterfly mask with matching insect antenna double swords...No, Drake had to agree!

 

In the meantime somewhere over the Endless desert

 

With every wingbeat they got closer to rescuing the last hopefully still living member of the Royal Blues, Sodger's mood improved. He patted his trusted mount and asked him cheerfully: "So for that performance tomorrow - got any ideas yet on how to beat my apprentice?" Aseto carefully shook his head so his rider could feel his neck muscles move and replied: "The whole idea of the performance is that it is predetermined who wins and who looses. In our first fight I am supposed to beat and give him the whole lone tragic survivor background Pride invented. In our next face-off he will already be the mythical Death character and beat me in return." Sodger tried to wrap his head around that idea and he mumbled: "So you both fight each other with the intention to loose? That doesn't sound very honourable." "No, it isn't," Aseto agreed and added: "but as you bloody well know, the alternative is to fight to the death like they do in every other arena, willing or not." Sodger obviously liked that idea even less and he spat: "A fight should always be out of necessity and for a noble cause otherwise it is just mindless slaughter." This time Aseto nodded carefully and said: "While looking for you, I freed a few arena dragons and prisoners, but the self-proclaimed protectors of the city soon captured them and any Royal Blue they could find again. I will be glad when we can finally leave this rotten to the core city behind and never come back." Ale and the Guardian wholeheartedly agreed only to be reprimanded by their once again enraged captain: "I don't care how awful the city is now. I didn't fight in the Dragon War only to run away now with my tail behind my legs because things aren't like they used to be anymore. Even if no-one else fights for our ideals I still will. Once we are re-united with Eyes I will return to the big city and free it from it's corruption - even if it means burning every corrupted guard tower to the ground!"

 

Ale almost fell from his dragon upon hearing this and gasped: "You can't be serious!" The Guardian looked equally shaken, but his voice had a curious undertone as he inquired: "And how exactly do you plan to accomplish this? There is no way for you to just walk up to the Nebs' towers and torch them." "Torch them?", Sodger repeated incredulously before he shouted with all the conviction and passion his comrades had found so inspiring during the war: "I will incinerate every last one of them and cleanse that cesspool of corruption with bloody HELLFIRE!"

 

A long and shocked silence followed those words until Ale with tears in his eyes finally screamed back at his old captain: "You are as insane as your apprentice who thinks it is alright to murder a boy in cold blood just because he happens to be a bandit. If you start imposing your own sense of justice on this city this will start another a war. A WAR! And those who will suffer the most will be once again ordinary people who are neither for nor against the Nebs and just try to live their lives. People like my wife, my little girl and my boy Jaxon. Don't you dare take away their future with your madness! I will face any foe to protect them - even if it is you I have to stand against! You and your insufferable stubborn and truly misguided pride!"

Edited by Isirion

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Lucky Isirion had switched to a more serious topic when he'd walked over, Drake's sudden revival of her tension hopefully appeared to coincide as she thought over his words. Obviously she couldn't and wasn't just going to let him go and "deal with" or "disable" dragons however he pleased, and even if she wasn't going to be able to stop him from going she could at least make up an excuse to join him. But even that idea was shut down for now when he wanted her to stay put. Well then, he'd just have to stay here too. She stared at some of the props Isirion had been hiding amongst earlier as she began, saying, "I can't say I agree. Sure, those Nebs were distracted before but they've got to be more attentive and alert than ever now. And I'm not doubting your capability when I say this, but, no matter how well you can sneak around and slide into alleys or whatever, one Neb catches you lurking around in a manner that can't be anything but suspicious, especially in their corrupted and surely now wary sight, and you're going to have them a horde of them on your tail. Hell, you could... slaughter them all... burn the bodies, even... get back here unscathed, and you're still gonna be that target. And to what, reveal yourself to the city in an arena fight? In the daytime, no less." She finally looked to him, trying to read him to see if any of this was working but still continuing. "Of course that's an exaggeration of sorts but you have to agree that this is not a time to expose yourself to the Nebs' attention. As of now I'd say you don't blend in with any of this city but its shadows- wait until after your performance and you could walk the streets an unsuspecting 'hero,' free to go anywhere you want without question. And even if those assassins return, they don't get that luxury. I wouldn't say I'm an expert on this, but surely any marksman must be put at a disadvantage if forced to sift through a crowd."
Taellonn had kept his eyes on Isirion and had barely even shifted through Drake's long-winded argument, but at the end he just barely moved closer to her. He wasn't afraid that Drake had said something she'd regret- he just hadn't shook his fear of who she said it all to. 

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Disappointment was written all over Isirion's face as he listened to Drake's words. But she had a point, two actually. He couldn't even blend in with what people in this city apparently expected and liked as arena props and just like the White Dragon shadowing him the other day he would stick out like a sore thumb if he tried to move around as usual. As for drawing the attention of the Nebs, that bridge was already crossed when he had fetched the Guardian and the green-haired lady from their tower in person. If they had been in a forest or mountain area the night would have hidden him perfectly, but here in the city the streets were lit with torches, Pygmy fires burned in some windows and most of the patrolling dragons would have night vision as excellent as his own. Sneaking around a few buildings to get behind an assassin was one thing, but reaching the city gates when nobody was supposed to be outside because of the riots would put the mission itself in jeopardy. If he was being tailed or even hunted by a horde of Nebulas it would surely spook the air-bandits into hiding somewhere else, if they hadn't changed locations already. Drake was right, and since he saw no harm in admitting that, Isirion replied: "You are right, I will stay for now. My master's revenge can wait another day...speaking of revenge - what did that mansion owner do that you had to turn his throat into minced meat instead of just cutting it? If you harbour a known grudge, that can lead back to us as well since you have already performed in this arena in broad daylight."

Edited by Isirion

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Taellonn didn't like Isirion's sudden interest in Drake's motives and the female warrior sensed it. However, she ignored it and took the time to set the scene for Isirion instead- hopefully shifting his attention from his fascination with her grudge. "I think you misunderstand my method of attack." She held up her left arm perpendicular to the ceiling and spread out her right hand, showing off her weapons. "My claws are meant to tear, not just cut. Exactly like a dragon's, with the claws' exit as important as their entry. They're not exactly meant for slitting a throat clean." She drew a line in the air in front of her arm with four clawed fingers. "That method could be effective, but the neck is curved, and that's not a quick way to cut with small edges. And even if I did try to do that with proper tearing-" she made a stabbing motion into her arm with her fingers curled to a half-fist, "-That would only work well from the side, and not the front I was aiming from." Her arms relaxed now that the demonstration was over. "So the best method for me was to tear out his throat. It was the quickest and most efficient, and any unnecessary violence you may have seen was a consequence of the moment. Any 'grudge' you might be suspecting would have fallen completely dead alongside him." Feeling that she still left too much to be said with her last statement, Drake tried to shift Isirion's attention once again, even if it meant lying to his face. But, she was feeling fairly confident so far. "This brings me to another point somewhat regarding my claws- I didn't apologize for attacking you earlier. I suppose I didn't feel a need to since you almost killed me in return, but perhaps now that you've trusted my input on your plans and you know that my claws were supposed to gouge out a fair amount of your arm, I can apologize for what damage there could have been on top of the action itself." Despite as much as she wished fate had taken her more effective, much more painful and infinitely more satisfying route, she tried to hide the scene from replaying over and over in her memory to get her final words out in a sincere way. "So ...I'm sorry." 

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Isirion followed Drake's demonstration with visible curiosity and more than a spark of suspicion in his eyes. Drake's bloodlust at the mansion had been something else and now she was using so many words to explain a thing that could have been summed up as 'claws are for slashing, not cutting'. Still, despite knowing that, her true motives remained as mysterious as always. Isirion decided, since there was no immediate threat, to use the opportunity to have her actually talking in full sentences instead of vague hints to get some answers, but not before addressing a point even more important to him: "Don't apologize for having assessed the situation back at the hut correctly. You attacked the target that posed the highest threat to your employer's master and if I hadn't been wearing my dragon skin cloak you would have succeeded in severing my hand. There are far too many weaklings in this world for you to belittle your own strength and skill. Hone them further and use them for whatever goals you have that you are not telling." Knowing that polite words alone would bring him no step closer to the truth, he decided to add a little threat and provocation: "But be careful not to betray the trust my master has obviously put in you for reuniting him with his dragon, because, honestly, I don't think your dragon would survive it if anything happened to you..."

Edited by Isirion

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Neither Drake or Taellonn could really tell whether it was the witnesses about or  Isirion's threat that had kept Drake from lunging at him right then (though Drake was leaning towards the former and Taellonn the latter.)  Regardless, it was clear whatever sort of persona Drake had been trying to uphold or create had been split apart right then. Clenched teeth seemed to barely separate as her words escaped with an underlying sort of growl at points. "With threats like that you seem a bit too keen on making enemies here, Isirion. I've done nothing to hurt anyone you or your master care about. Not on purpose or even on accident; a reputation I plan to uphold here. I don't know how you couldn't have seen that and instead decided to confront me for nothing, so I can only now see you as a fool for trying to scare me into submission- which, I should add, would take a whole hell of a lot more than a baseless warning to do." Taellonn shifted closer to Drake, hearing her seem to be arguing against a full fight but sensing otherwise. Drake was visibly even more upset by her escort's show of weakness, but just clenched her fists the best she could without stabbing herself and tried not to explode as she continued. "But my point is, as I have said before, what I value here is honor, especially, and dare I say almost now exclusively, for those who have done right by me. And under no circumstances would I put that value in jeopardy by betraying Sodger, Aseto, you, or, consequently, Taellonn."

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That confirms it, Isirion thought as once again the female warrior overreacted after his little slight towards her clingy, no-good-in-a-fight dragon. Even now Taellonn's body language seemed to contradict everything Drake was saying and something went click in his mind. He locked eyes with her and said: "I believe you, that you would never put your dragon in danger, but something does not add up. You, I, Sodger, the Guardian and Ale were the only ones that knew when exactly that night we would be targeting Hassleborough's mansion. You assured us that your 'helpers' were also around and watching, allthough I was unable to spot them. Coincidentally, despite that supervision insuring we're well guarded, like you put it, an assassin was waiting for me right outside the mansion. A mansion you were hell-bent on entering since the time I met you. Frankly, I don't believe there was no grudge involved - you chased Hassleborough from the village to the big city and killed him in the most gruesome way possible in the short time we had. I have been Sodger's apprentice for years now, I know how revenge looks like. What is even more suspicious than that outright lie about your motive, is, that right after I arrived back at the arena another assassin was waiting - and conicidentally again, neither you nor your group were anywhere to be seen. As I see it, you either put your trust in the wrong people and allowed assassins to infiltrate your helpers - or you are actively working with them. Personally I would suspect the deadly, elusive one, that was already at the mansion and eliminated most of the patrols by him or herself without ever showing their face. An assassin would have operated exactly the same way, but your actions are suspicious too. You are neither a real bodyguard, nor hired muscle and you are certainly not a collector. You do kill for revenge but you also perform for entertainment in this arena. If you want my suspicions and attempts to confirm them to stop, you have to come clear about who you really are and what you want to accomplish here, because most of the time your words and actions don't match up and neither does your dragon's body language in relation to them."

Edited by Isirion

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Getting caught did nothing but enrage Drake more, both at the situation itself but also what she considered her own incompetence and Taellonn's clear showings of weakness. Still, as upset as she was, she reminded herself not to let Isirion get the upper hand here. She nearly kicked Taellonn out of the way as she approached Isirion, looking about ready to attack as she tried to one-up his confrontational eye-locking. "Well, if you want me to come clean I'll tell you the truth- I don't know who the hell these assassins are or where the hell they came from. I mean, I already told you Mythy's the one who first warned me about them, so I don't really know what you expected. And I say it's not my fault that you couldn't see my 'helpers' or the assassins about, regardless of how observant you seem to want to boast being with these accusations- Which brings me to perhaps your boldest accusation; that I could be working with the assassins myself. I'd say that doesn't exactly add up considering that, again, Mythy is the one who first warned me, I had this plan before I even met all of you, and I haven't had a reason from then to now to need an assassin." Not wanting to be interrogated over that last statement, she accepted what else she'd have to reveal and continued. "Now I will confess you caught me in having a grudge against Hassleborough." She paused. "But I suppose you want more than than that, so I'll explain. I'm part of a group- an assembly or guild of sorts I suppose, regardless of the proper term I'm fairly certain it's nothing you've had the pleasure of encountering before me. It's how I was able to get all that help for the attack. Regarding Has-"
Taellonn was caught off guard by Drake's sudden openness, and felt his breath catch in his throat. But,  fortunately for him, that breath seemed to reignite his voice. Seeing as Drake had gotten that far and his thoughts were about as scrambled as they could be, he didn't really see much harm in using his newly found, albeit shaky voice to nearly shout, "What the absolute hell are you doing!?" Drake's attention snapped to Taellonn. Really? Just as she was finally getting everything under control, he spoke up? She took a deep breath and stared him dead in the eyes. "I'm giving the man the answers he wants. So unless you've got something of value to say, let me finish." Taellonn recoiled and Drake looked back to Isirion, now trying to hurry this to just get it over with. "As I was saying, about Hassleborough... Simply put Hassleborough did something to upset this group of mine and I was sent after him. I'm sure you can understand why I can't say much more, why this is the first you're hearing of it..." She tried not to sigh, "...and why Taellonn here is so distressed; I'm not even supposed to say this much, much less to a near stranger like you. But that's all over with anyways, since me and my group's business is all taken care of, and I'm free to do whatever the hell I want because of it. Just as I was before, when I despised seeing Aseto held against his will away from his master in what I didn't know was a non-lethal arena, and decided to help in the only way I could think to. After all, as you've been able to so keenly deduce, I would hate seeing myself and Taellonn in that scenario and couldn't stand the idea of keeping another dragon and his master apart like that. Standing here now I have a similar purpose, though no longer built off pure sympathy; I'm here to offer myself as some form of assistance to all of you." A fairly upset laugh nearly forced its way out of her. "After all, I've found nothing better to do."

Edited by Drakessis

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Letting out a long sigh, Isirion broke eye-contact with Drake and said: "Oh well, it would have been really convenient if you had something to do with the assassins, but I guess, as I have seen you twice in action now, you would rather do your own dirty work instead of relying on someone else to do it for you. I can honour that mindset, but you not being in league with them also means, I have no lead as to how they managed to track us that accurately. Just like you, I am definitely no bodyguard, but in Sodger's absence he trusts me to keep this group save. I had to challenge you in order to figure out where your loyalities lie, because the way you ingrated yourself to us, reminded me a lot of the way you ingrated yourself to Jack's group and we both know what ultimately happened to them. I have killed for my master's grudges many times, so I won't ever judge you on that aspect, but it would avoid a lot of confusion, if you'd just be honest the next time. If you are planning on taking out more people like Hassleborough, I'd be happy to help you again as an apology for suspecting you. I now understand, that with a dragon as dependent on you as your Royal Blue, you would feel obliged to assist other dragons in need, just in case they turn out to be just as helpless. You may not see it that way, but the more you protect him, the weaker he gets. Let him fend for himself and use his steam breath for more than just providing a cover for you. Otherwise, there will come a time when you have to choose between the success of one of your revenge missions and him. Admit it, the way he is now, he is already a liability to you, because seeing you as the capable and strong-willed warrior you are, you'd never would have come clean with me about your motives, if not for my threat against your escort. So if you really have nothing better to do in the meantime, why not train your dragon here in the arena and turn him into a real asset?"

 

In the meantime close to the edge of the Endless desert

 

Apart from Aseto who occasionally renewed their steam cover, neither dragon nor human had opened their mouths since Ale's open defiance of their leader. Somehow Sodger not immediately exploding with rage made the whole situation even worse. The Guardian knew his old captain tended to keep grudges and the longer he kept them the bloodier they resolved.The feud with the thieves guild was a perfect example for that, but even that would pale in comparison if Sodger really managed to antagonize the Nebs as a whole, not to mention the air-bandits. Hopefully Eyes would be able to talk him out of it once they rescued him, but if not...

 

The Guardian glanced at Ale who had also remained untypically silent. Having heard the dreaded confirmation, that the man he once revered also didn't give a damn about a bandit-boy's life, must have been the last straw. He'd most certainly drown his problems again until either they or him were gone for good. Without the one that always kept up their spirit, their group would fall apart just like it had after the war. Unable to deal with what they had to do to win, Ale drank away his memories, Eyes faced everyone's problems except his own and he himself became a hermit on an island. Their captain retired solely because of his failing eyesight, but it was obvious now that he never really had quit the war. He had just replaced it with another, working his way up from an extortion gang to the thieves guild and now the Nebulas with their air-bandit lackeys. The big city was as corrupted a society as it could get, but declaring war on them would just make matters worse. Ale was absolutely right about that, but what could they do to make a man as blindly stubborn as their ex-captain see before his madness fully destroyed what little was left of their once numerous and proud regiment. The Guardian glanced over at Ale again and very slowly pulled out the evisceration knife from his vestment. Ale's eyes widened in shock, but he still didn't break his silence...

Edited by Isirion

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Drake mostly disregarded Isirion's words before he brought up Taellonn, considering he wasn't actively threatening her or the dragon anymore. And, as much as she hated it, there was some truth to his statements. But it wasn't like she could just get Taellonn to get out there to fight, especially not when he was this on edge...
The Royal Blue couldn't stand the insults to himself and Drake. Who couldn't possibly understand Drake's and his careful method? Drake did the fighting and instructing, and Taellonn stayed out of the way, followed her instructions, or knocked her back into reality when things got too heated. It only made sense to do! After all, Taellonn had never really been too keen on fighting; that was Drake's forte, and it was best to keep up that order. In Taellonn's mind there were options other than direct violence in these situations; even though he did feel more comfortable when Drake did just skip to the violence instead of this whole deception route she'd decided on (especially amongst such dangerous people she shouldn't have given time to learn about her.) But that was because he just didn't see her as suited for it. He saw her as fit for conflict, not caution, and himself vice versa. In better circumstances Taellonn could just stay out of the way while Drake took care of everything without issue. Why couldn't Isirion see that- and why wasn't Drake bringing it up?
...Still, regardless of the dragon's tenseness, she couldn't just say nothing either. And maybe she could even nudge Taellonn in the right direction a bit, too. "I assure you if he needed to fight for himself he could." Taellonn listened along, quietly agreeing. "But if I had to admit a fault, I'd say it lies in his temperament, not his physical ability." Drake glanced at Taellonn to make sure he'd taken note (and was reassured through his visible offense that he had.) "And that's not something I think simple sparring could solve. But if you have some solution that isn't just replacing him with another dragon, please, I'm all ears." Drake bit back on the almost taunting tone she'd let slip in trying to deal with her current annoyance, but at least hoped it might get Isirion to leave them alone. 

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The moment Drake had said that, Isirion's grin reappeared and he offered: "He could train with me right now down in the arena while you take over my guard shift. I need to practice not killing my opponent for tomorrow's performance anyway and your dragon could work on channeling his temper. There is also the slight possibility that he really will be my opponent tomorrow, because if the Nebs discover the trail of bodies we left at the mansion too soon, they will tighten security to the point Sodger and Aseto have no chance of slipping back into the city undetected. Unless of course you have another Royal Crimson handy for a distraction."

 

In the mean-time close to Cloak & Dagger's lair

 

Sodger's brooding silence weighed heavier and heavier on the dragon carrying him towards his destination. Aseto would gladly die to protect his master if he fought for a just cause, but waging a personal war on an otherwise peaceful, albeit corrupt city seemed a little bit extreme. Even worse was that his own comment about the unjustly imprisoned dragons had started the whole argument, that, admittedly had not many arguments involved. It was more of a clash of convictions and sadly Sodger never backed down from those. Still, he himself had been so mad at the city's workings that he had already burned down one arena - but to hit the entire Nebula infrastructure you would need an army of dragons and he would surely know if his master had one. It was all just his wounded pride talking, there was no way the Egg Hunter could have raised such an army over the last few years - or could he? Suddenly Aseto was so tense, that he almost flew past the structure that was without a doubt Cloak & Dagger's lair.

Edited by Isirion

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Well, with more time I could have had one, Drake smugly thought without actually saying anything (mostly because she'd caught her own near taunting before and was intent on staying serious.) She was really more disappointed than surprised at Isirion's offer. Mainly, he was right about the others' probable difficulty getting back and Taellonn happening to fit the bill for a Royal Blue. Drake regretted asking for an alternative instead of just dismissing him, and ignored Taellonn's sudden standing as she responded, "I have no issues guarding but I'm afraid I can't decide anything for Taellonn. So..." She looked to Taellonn, who seemed far more fit a Nocturne Dragon than a Royal Blue at the moment. When he noticed that was a clear cue to speak he sputtered for a moment before quietly saying. "Th-That's really quite pessimistic thinking, I don't think... that's... it's not... necessary..." Drake was already impatient. "Forget what I said." She looked back at Isirion. "Do something about that blade- put it in a sheath or switch it for some prop, anything to avoid any accidents- and he'll train with you. No other circumstances 'til him or I say so."

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Hiding his amusement over the fact, that now Drake even had to speak for her dragon, Isirion nodded and replied: "Sure, I saw a wooden sword in one of those piles of junk. Your dragon can get rid of his Anagallis disguise while I fetch it. I'll see him at the arena." Then he walked away and tried to remember if the stick sword had been closer to the butterfly dragon wings or the over-sized paw-shoes. Doesn't really matter, as long as I don't have to try to hide among them anymore, Isirion thought and checked the first pile in vain. At the second pile he found Pride standing right next to the sword. The arena owner was wearing a Golden Wyvern coloured nightgown and held Cashmere earplugs in his hands. Upon seeing him Pride smiled like a second sunrise and said loud enough for everyone near to hear: "I just had the greatest idea and wanted to tell you right away. It came to me when I was sleeping and I dreamed about my family. You have to have a flesh and blood family too tomorrow for the performance. It will be much more emotional for the audience if I don't just story-tell them how your family gets slaughtered, but if they can also watch it happen. The green-haired lady can be your lovely wife, Pip your rascal, but charming son and Drake can be your sister. I'm sure she would look friendly enough in a dress. They'll all be wearing fake blood pouches under their clothes so the Royal Blue can rip them apart with maximum effect. It's going to be the greatest performance ever!"

 

"Uhm", was about everything Isirion brought out before Pride waltzed on: "And of course they need names too. Really beautiful names you can lament in anguish after their gruesome death. Your wife can be Felicia, that's my wife's name. Your sister will be called Melody. I had a bird with that name once and your son's name will be Aiden. Great idea, don't you think?" "Uhmmm... I won't lament them whatever they are called", Isirion replied, picked up the wooden sword and left before he would give in to temptation and tried to kill the arena owner with it. Pride scratched his head and approached the 'sister' next: "I already saw what a great performer you are and how well you play your audience. You heard my great idea and will play along with it, right?"

Edited by Isirion

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Taellonn reluctantly began working away at his disguise with his steam and feet (in a slow, inefficient, and time consuming way of course,) and slowly added on to his mental count of how many times he'd had to use his breath in recent memory. A drink wouldn't hurt, but it was nothing drastic or irreparable and he'd really only care if he could use it as an excuse. With his self-pity all sorted out now he decided to turn his attention to the sudden display of Pride, just as Drake already had. She sort of forced an uncomfortable smile at the nightwear-clad man. "I must say, when I first came to this city, I certainly didn't anticipate meeting such a clever storyteller. What better way to tug at the audience's heartstrings than with a family..." Her voice trailed off as she failed to think of further praise, and she cut to the point. "And with your kindness and offered sanctuary here I can't say no to participating." Drake already felt hyper-aware of her claw weapons as she started thinking of where she could hide them in really any sort of non-warrior outfit that Pride would choose, near forgetting to keep up her artificial grin but quickly reaffirming it. 

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Pride's wilful ears had already translated Drake's 'can't say no' into 'say yes to everything' and darted off to make the most floral and impractical dress the arena had ever seen. Every slash of the dragon would make flower petals drop off until with the last flower containing the fake blood her life would finally wither. It would be beautiful and heart-stirring - even more so if he turned the arena sand white to give the impression of snow. Reaching almost Fingers-run-away-speed, Pride arrived at the arena just in time to see his new performer enter it. The owner stopped in his tracks, curious about what was going to happen and soon forgot to breathe. To pass the time until his fake opponent had gotten rid of his fake colouring, Isirion had decided to make good for all the training sessions he had to skip ever since the rescue mission had started. Now he was practising his moves against an imaginary Hooktalon. Steadily rising his speed, not one step was wasted, each movement carefully calculated and executed to pierce his opponent with maximum efficiency. After a while, Isirion moved and struck so fast that Pride who had a vast imagination to start with, swore he could actually see the imaginary dragon. It seemed pretty gigantic and his star seemed to whittle down his stamina by continously cutting the inside of it's legs where more blood would flow from the wounds - all the while dodging two imaginery heads snapping down. Not for the first time Pride wondered, if by some miraculous chance, the mythical Death had become real before his very eyes...

 

In the mean-time at Isirion's hideout

 

The approximated 15 minutes before the first fight between Asura and Belia started, had drawn themselves out into hours because everything that breathed inside the hide-out wanted to get a good spot to watch. Of course in the tradition of the hide-out that meant fighting for the best spots and that took time. When everyone, including the combatants was finally in their place, Lilith spew a flame lance into the air to signal the beginning of the first fight.

 

Asura lost no time and charged with outstretched wing-claws, aiming to throw Belia off-balance. The dragoness however had anticipated the move and jumped aside in time. Being still on the offensive, Asura turned around sharply and slammed her tail in Belia's face. Belia retaliated with a tail-swipe of her own before she tried to grapple her opponent. Asura thwarted her attempt by raking her left wing claw over Belia's already stinging face. "First blood for me!", Asura roared proudly before she stomped on Belia's tail to pin it down and hinder her movement. Belia gave a high-pitched scream, memories of her last injury surfacing before she recovered and shoulder-tackled the other dragoness. Asura had to step back in order to not loose balance enabling Belia to free her tail. Now the flow of the battle was with her and she charged straight at Asura. Spreading her wings, Asura escaped just in time into the air and dived down immediately aiming for Belia's neck. Being too slow to react, Belia crumbled under the impact of Asura landing on her back and screamed again once she felt the other's sharp teeth pierce her skin. From the looks of it, this fight was over, but Lilith didn't grant Asura the victory yet, because she saw the fighting spirit still burning in Belia's eyes.

Edited by Isirion

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Lilith gazed around on those who attended to watch with a conundrum of emotions as she saw a wide range of maturity among the growing crowd. Pity, disgust, and anger stewed around within her gut as she saw those who matured not long ago seemingly enjoying the soon to be fights. Yet the most prominent was the sense of self-hate that she dared to volunteer herself to be a judge for these games. Yet what else was she to do? Standing down from the fights was not really an option, letting that get to their ‘Master’ would be as good as a death-wish as it would be a sign of weakness as he knew very well from previous fights before that she is capable of fighting and killing when ordered to. However, fighting without their supposed ‘Master’ would be almost just as worse in these games that the foolish Asura started. Asura claimed she wanted no deaths, but without their ‘Master’ there to put his ruling..well there was no guarantee that a dragoness would stop in her rage even if she won.

 

A soft growl emitted from deep within her throat as she shook those thoughts away, they were not going to help her with getting though judging this or helping to make sure a life was not lost today. ‘Though will it be so bad if Asura’s life is lost? Look at what she is doing to us now, pitting us in a game when we hunger for food and could be thinking of ways to get our little treasures out of this nightmare while the demon is away.’ It was these thoughts that had Lilith hesitate for before sending the flame lance up to signal the start of the fight as this was not normal thoughts that she normally had no matter how much she disliked another, minus of course their 'Master'.

 

Once the fight started it was with little surprise that Asura held the tide of the battle as history showed that revenge could do well to gain and keep the upper claw within a fight, if not because of the sheer tenacity and will to fulfill that revenge. Though there was no small part of Lilith that still hated that Asura held the tide of this battle and it was what held her back just long enough to even notice the fire within Belia's eyes. Many would be scared if they were in Belia's place as they were pinned and had little ways to get out without being harmed, but that fire showed she was not about to stop and did not care if she got hurt getting out of that pin. It was this fire that made Lilith stand taller before staring at the two fighters before stating loud enough for all to hear, "If Hellfire Belia cannot get out of this pin within a few minutes then I will deem Hellfire Asura having won. "

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Asura was so focused on not letting the only opponent that had ever beaten her get away, that Lilith's words passed right through her ears. Belia on the other hand heard them quite clearly and, intended or not they gave her an idea. It was just a pin, Asura wouldn't bite all the way through her neck and that meant if she could overcome her fear of getting hurt even more, she had a chance to escape. Her last fight was a thing of the past, all that counted now was the present. She had beaten Asura before and she could do it again. Belia crouched down even lower to give her opponent the false impression of crumbling under the pressure and then, straining her muscles to the maximum, she jumped. Bearing Asura's weight too the jump didn't go very far - but it was just enough to slam her rider against the wall of the pit. Asura's grip on her neck loosend and Belia quickly rolled away to catch her breath. Having lost her advantage, Asura quickly took to the air to avoid being pinned against the wall again. Circling over her opponent showed her that her last attack made Belia bleed quite a lot from the neck. Belia knew it too and stood up on her hindlegs to be better able to guard herself from another attack. If Asura shot down now, she would be able to catch her with her wing claws and change her course by spinnnig her body. Her own force would slam Asura into the wall again but from the looks of it the other dragoness had noticed her intention to counter and had landed again. Asura had indeed been aware of the danger of swooping down and decided to turn this fight into a war of attrition instead. The more she made Belia move and strain the faster she would bleed out. Aiming many fast slashes with her wing claws at Belia's face, Asura soon had the other dragoness panting and wreathing in pain from her neck wound that was bleeding a lot worse than before now.

 

Claw who was watching from a particulary good spot he had gained by shoving another hatchling under the foot of an approaching matured Hellfire, smiled with vicious glee. That was exactly the way to fight, to prove your strength without wasting to much of your own. For him it was clear that Asura was the winner and Belia would bleed to death in a few minutes...

Edited by Isirion

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If anyone had been watching Lilith rather than the two combatants, it would not be too hard to notice the small wince at just how Belia had gotten out of that pin. That was defiantly one way to do it, but overall Belia had done more damage to herself than likely the move was worth. 'I was hoping Belia would realize that her tail was unpinned and used this to unbalance Asura, then rolling with the fall to minimize the damage.' Belia's only hope now would be to end this very quickly or else Lilith would feel obligated to end the fight no matter who held the tide the battle at that moment. Still it seemed that Asura would regain her title over Belia as the wounds on Belia accumulated rather quickly and the bleeding grew quicker.  

 

"Enough! Hellfire Asura is the winner in this fight," was finally announced with a small hint of frustration as Lilith finally had enough of the almost one-sided fight. No amount of fire that Belia still held was going to help if she was dead and Lilith was not about to let any Hellfire here die in these pointless fights. If it was needed, Lilith was very willing to jump into the pits to force Asura to stop fighting as it seemed before that Lilith's fears that a dragoness would be to focused on the fights were true with this one. Something told her that no other dragon would jump in to stop the fights, a likely mix of others liking the bloodshed or fear of being harmed themselves.

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When Lilith announced the end of the fight, Belia was so weak from the loss of blood, she couldn't even stand anymore. Asura's victory roar echoed through the pit but it grew dimmer by the second. Suddenly something heavy landed at her side. Her nose told her it was Torch but her hazy mind couldn't figure out why he would care. She had never shown any interest in him at all, had just fought to survive and gain more privileges to raise her chance to gain her freedom one day. Despite this Torch's yellowish red eyes bore into hers, his soft voice telling her to stay awake and prepare herself. His mind somehow empowered her own and Belia felt her slipping consciousness return. The next thing she felt was Torch's breath on her neck and the searing pain when he unleashed his flame. He concentrated his flame to the point it looked almost blue like a female's and breathed once again over her neck. The wound and the skin around it turned black and gave off the sickly odour of burnt flesh, but the bleeding stopped. Torch lifted Belia gently to her hindlegs and wing-claws and whispered: "Show them your strength of will and walk out of here on your own. If you can't, all that pain I caused you will be for nothing." With these words Hellfire Torch flew out of the pit and returned to his place beside Chimera. Belia swayed from the sudden gust of wind from his wings, but she didn't fall. Steading herself the fire returned to her eyes - burning yellowish red for a moment - before she left the pit with her own strength. Asura roared once more, angry that her opponent was only beaten, but not really defeated and left too.

Edited by Isirion

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Lilith's frame tensed as a shadow passed over the pits and was just about to jump into the pits herself until she registered just whom was proving Lilith's first thoughts of no dragon helping wrong. Of course, Lilith had seen here fair share of Hellfire Torch but never had she seen him before actively help another. Then again, their 'Master' was not here to see this and who here would dare say anything bad about the dragon they all should fight to mate with or esteem to be? That did not change the fact that Lilith watched the interaction very closely to make sure that Belia would be alright and in case she would need added care. However; Belia was proving that while she was beaten in this fight, she would not be defeated by Asura or anyone anytime soon. Oh, how proud this made Lilith and even giddy as Asura roared out her anger as she too noticed that her opponent was not truly defeated.  

 

Yet this giddy feeling soon ebbed away as it registered that she needed to announce the next fight and this fight would consist of the rather young Keahi. A gut feeling told her this fight would not end well for the young one as she had no experience in these games and fighting the very experienced Chimera was the equivalent of a hatchling fighting an elder dragon. Hopefully her advice that she gave to the young Keahi would help in her fight enough, but only time would tell. "Hellfire Asura has won the first round in these games and now needs to exit the pit so that the next combatants, Hellfire Chimera and Hellfire Keahi may enter," this was finally announced once Asura seemed to calm and the crowd calmed slightly enough where Lilith would be heard over them. 

Edited by Lilithachaos

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Hellfire Chimera nuzzled her mate who had returned to her side affectionally before jumping down into the arena. Memories of the last time she had done such a thing surfaced and she smiled. It seemed such a long time ago when in reality it had only been a few days since she had found the confidence to fight for her dream. Ever since she had trained like mad so that no-one would ever take Torch away from her again. Her body was still lacking the sheer size and muscle tone of Belia and Asura but her spirit burned as brightly as the flaming torch that carried her fire in front of Torch's cave. There was nowhere in the hideout where that torch couldn't be seen and while it posed a challenge to every other female, to Chimera it was a beacon of her love for Torch. No matter the opponent, she would fight with everything she had to protect her status as his mate.

 

The female that was chosen as her opponent looked like she had second thoughts and seeing how young she was that was no wonder. After Asura and Belia Keahi's delicate features and small stature looked totally out of place. Chimera fixated Keahi's lavender eyes with her own and asked her if she wanted to quit, but the other female just shook her head and charged before Lilith had even given the signal to start. Her aim was a fast surprise victory like the one her opponent had snatched from Belia in the last Hellfire Games, but she made one mistake. Had she targeted any other part of Chimera's body instead of the belly, the reigning Hellfire Queen wouldn't have gone berserk. For Chimera protecting the new life Torch had blessed her with after their first night together was a reflex even more natural than breathing. Her wing-claws caught Keahi's chest and pierced it while she kicked the dragoness with one hindleg and all the force she could muster in the other direction. The effect was that her wing-claws that were already hooked into the flesh raked upwards with the same force and sliced her opponent's chest muscles and throat like butter until they were finally stopped by Keahi's lower jawbone. Chimera dislodged her claws with some difficulty and let the limp, lifeless body slide down unto the already bloodstained sand of the pit. Then, in total silence she left the pit again and landed beside her mate unable to meet his eyes that were full of pity - for both of them.

Edited by Isirion

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Lilith watched as both new combatants entered the pit and again hated that these games were even being held because of another's manipulation, but at least Keahi might have a better chance at fighting here if she played this right. Though the nervousness that seemed to radiated from the younger Hellfire showed that Keahi was not ready for this by far and she should take the offered exit that Chimera was giving her. It was only because of this that Lilith had not yet sent up the flame lance to signal the start of the fight, the hope that Keahi would be smart enough to back down now that she saw the previous fight. 

 

Lilith's hopes were quickly dashed as it seemed like everything started to fall apart very quickly as Keahi charged before anything could be done or said. It was only after everything was done that Lilith felt like she could move, letting out a roar of anger as she took to the air to land in the pits near the fallen dragoness. Checking for any signs of life was pointless but was done anyways as Lilith lowered her head near Keahi's own to feel for any breathing. A rumbling growl emitted as no signs of life was felt and she quickly lifted her head away from the lifeless body to gaze around the gather crowd with growing anger. A part of her knew that Keahi's death was her own fault, but at the same time Lilith's anger was not soothed with this knowledge as these games should never have started in the first place.  

 

"Everyone here should be ashamed for allowing these games to go on and watching them, cheering this bloodshed that Asura started for her petty revenge," Lilith finally roared in anger to the quiet gathering as no-one moved towards the pits or even moved to leave. Her frame was tense as if she was ready to pounce on anyone who came into the pit with even a hint that they wished to fight, her senses on high alert in her rage as she tried to track any threats to herself as her words were likely to stir some dragons up. "You foolishly fall for the manipulation when we should be helping each other find the food we need, but no you want to fight and waste your energy to die quicker. Either way, the games are over and any dragon who tries to continue will have to go through me as I will not allow any more bloodshed or death here today," Lilith's words held a growling rumble and no hidden amount of disgust at the current happenings.

Edited by Lilithachaos

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