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Isirion

The Bloodline of Torch [open]

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The Nebula dragon didn't struggle because it had not only overheard the deal, but it was also force-trained to be a good steed. It followed the lead of the other Nebula and did it's best to shield the Royal Blue from view. The surviving guard seemed to have a very clear direction in mind, because he steered right towards the city walls. In his mind two thoughts prevailed, the first was self preservation, the second getting rid of the witness and cause of his betrayal. If he could manage to lure them to the Black air-bandits' lair, they could kill the female warrior for him and instead of being labeled as a traitor he would be the hero that secured the Royal Blue that caused the Nebs so much trouble lately. Of course he still didn't believe the rather meek looking one in his company was the right one, but since it fit the bill of being a Royal Blue approximately the right size and shape, it would do. The guard smirked under his helmet and edged his mount to fly a bit faster.

 

In the mean-time back at Leetle island

 

Another long silence had followed the Guardian's declaration, that his old captain was to stay at Leetle island, while he and Ale would fly back to the city. Sodger had gone back to his brooding and his mood affected everyone else. Even Eyes stopped his baby-talk and raised a curious eyebrow at his bear-like friend who shook his head silently in a 'don't ask' way. Ale shook his head too and went to check on their provisions. When he rummaged through the saddle-bags, he let out a sob as he touched the abundant food-packages his lovely wife had prepared. He was so close to her now, but it felt like he would never see her again, if he followed the Guardian in his quest to stop Isirion from executing Sodgers orders and probably start a war. The city didn't see them as heroes, but trouble-makers who were hunted by the Nebs. Why should he risk his life for those that wouldn't even appreciate it? Wasn't it enough to have brought what was left of the Royal Blues home safely? Unbidden the face of the boy-bandit surfaced in his mind and he sobbed again. There were boys like him in the city too, boys like his son Jaxon or girls like his daughter Winny; he just had to go.

 

"You have to go", Sodger suddenly exclaimed, Ale flinched in surprise, but his old captain was talking to Aseto. "You promised the arena-owner that you would fight my apprentice there. Even if it is to be a fake fight, you can't wriggle out of it by staying here, that would be dishonourable." The Royal Blue grumbled, but there was no denying Sodger's point. "I'll go, but you'll still stay here!", he finally growled. Sodger nodded and added in his mind 'for now'. He even waved after the three dragons and their two riders, even though he could only hear them leave. When the wing beats had disappeared he whispered 'good riddance you traitors' and called for Lazarus. Eyes was wondering what his captain wanted with the Lurker, but since the old soldier made no attempt to climb on it's back and follow his comrades, he soon started petting Diadora again, thus distracted he never stood a chance. Guided by Lazarus, Sodger struck him down and strangled him until he moved no more. Lazarus stared down at the motionless body for a moment and then complimented Sodger: "From the shadows dark and black Lurkers aim for the foe's back. It seems you haven't forgotten that sometimes there is only the Lurker-way to do things." Not caring if his traitorous ex-comrade was dead or only unconscious, the ex-captain of the Royal Blue regiment mounted the Lurker and commanded him to bring him to the fishermen's village. With the Lurker's small build it was impossible that he could carry him all the way to the big city, but in the village he could fetch some coins from his hut, buy provisions, a sword, rent a long-distance dragon and be on his way within half an hour...

Edited by Isirion

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At any given moment Drake was glancing between what she could see of Taellonn, the Neb, and their location. Taellonn himself had mostly been looking to where they'd go next (after all, that was what Drake had told him to do,) which ultimately made him realize that he was not leading the way as he'd have liked. In fact, the group was going a very different and plain wrong path from what Taellonn would have liked. If they were to follow the city wall's perimeter (or, worse, take some weird route outside of it) it'd take ages to get near help; the best way was to cut across the city, which would not only be faster but make it easier for Taellonn to find a mock-destination. Beginning to feel alarmed with his plan falling through he continually glanced up at at Drake, hoping she'd get the message. When she couldn't seem to see his pleas, he did the only other thing he could think to (besides speak, but he wanted to know for sure he'd be noticed) and stopped and hovered midair. That got Drake's attention, as she disrupted the Nebula dragon she rode and quite audibly instructed it to stop, to simultaneously warn the accompanying guard in case he had any ill-advised thoughts of utilitizing the stop or somehow hadn't noticed. She shifted part of her focus to Taellonn. "What's wrong?" The Royal Blue momentarily glanced to the guard. "This route is... It's terrible. We've had a terrible start and it's going to be worse if we follow through with it. You need to let me lead the way more if you actually want to get anywhere..." Drake saw nothing wrong with Taellonn's clear-voiced worries; he was doing exactly what she told him to. She near glared at the guard and said with what could be nothing but a confrontational tone, "You heard him. We follow my Royal Blue." Taellonn had already been edging on flying off again (his previous anxiety having worn off to make way for his new predominant worries of being caught) as Drake voiced her expectations. 

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The guard came so far as 'But-', when a Glaring Sun move, that was more of a Shadowy Night attack, slammed into him from above and pinned him and his mount onto the street. For the Nebula it was the second time it had to bear another dragon's weight today and it just pretended to collapse because that was far less exhausting than trying to wriggle out again. The rider wasn't so smart and started again: "What-", but the Golden Wyvern who had apprehended him, shut him up and growled in his best 'Lord Death' voice: "You will not move, you will not speak, or otherwise I will paint this street with your blood and wear your bones like a crown!" The Neb either feinted for real or had just found his own theatrical vocation, either way he dropped right beside his quite flattened looking Nebula. Mythy took to the air again and Pride, who was riding him told Drake: "It looked like two Nebs were oppressing Lady Hooktalon's dragon, so we charged in, I'm really glad Mythy decided to pounce on the more shifty looking rider, otherwise our reunion would have turned out quite embarrassing. The green-haired lady isn't far behind, but her White Dragon is even more conspicuous than mine at night. We should find cover as soon as possible, otherwise our escape will be a rather short one. Do you per chance know a place where we can hide our dragons and ourselves for the rest of the night?"

 

In the mean-time back at Pride's arena

 

The Nebulas co-ordinated attack had turned into a disaster. Isirion fully aware, that he was riding a dragon that had received the same training as the attackers had forced his mount to evade the initial attack and then had quickly changed steeds. The assassin's knife came in handy again and another Neb with a cut throat was sent on his way to meet the ground. Nightblade who was watching in secret from a nearby building hissed at every death that wasn't the death he wished for until he got sick of hissing. His plan to get revenge for Trueshot through the Nebs had obviously failed, but maybe he could still salvage the situation. His target had to be exhausted and less attentive after fighting all those Nebs, so right now he was really free to 'aim at the black side'. Nightblade didn't think twice and let loose an arrow - almost at the same time as Nightfeather who also couldn't just sit idly by. The sound of the arrows piercing the night seemed to go on forever, drowning out the sharp intake of breath Nightfeather took because she had made the shot despite her injured hand, but never making the satisfying 'thump' of hitting a body - still, as the two assassins looked at the hovering Nebula Dragons, every last saddle was empty...

Edited by Isirion

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That was one inconvenience gone, and good riddance at that. If Drake had to argue with that guard he probably wouldn't have fared much better as his former coworker (perhaps worse if he'd really gotten under her skin.) But in him and his dragon's place were four more inconveniences- luckily, at least two of the lot were forgivable and much less of a problem. Drake weighed the risks in her head, but came to the conclusion that Pride and Mythy might respect her cause and agree to keep quiet, and if the green-haired lady or her dragon or anyone caused any trouble, Drake had a considerable advantage amongst her comrades. "I do," she said, not feeling the need to reveal anymore yet. "While Taellonn leads on his previous route-" Taellonn took that as a cue to keep finding his false location, "-I'll try to cover Mythy and him the best this Nebula can manage."

 

Taellonn wasn't quite sure who Drake wanted to shake off besides the Nebula dragon, but upon landing in a just-about-dragon-sized gap between some buildings it seemed she was taking along everyone but said dragon. The desire for sanctuary overwhelmed Taellonn's doubts, and Drake climbing onto his back to travel in tandem offered some security. He continued to lead the group to the Draikenflaeme base as Drake had instructed, going even as, mere yards from the entrance, Drake near jumped off and sprinted inside to tell any willing ear the what exactly was going on. 

 

Meanwhile outside the city

 

Two dragons had rushed to stop the departing Royal Crimson. By virtue of her species she hadn't been hard for the pair of Khusa dragons to find, and some already present suspicions had caused Relantia to fly slower than average anyways. She'd been between overjoyed and concerned hearing of incoming Nebs and the possible need for her to intervene (perhaps even without meddling Ezra, no less!) Still, even though she knew the circumstances didn't permit it, Relantia almost wished at least one dragon could have told her if Drake and, to a somewhat slighter degree, Taellonn were holding their own. But having time to wait- as she was now- gave her time to reassure herself that the young warrior would fight her way through dying breaths to keep herself and her dragon safe; a bloodthirsty vigor the Royal Crimson would admire in nearly any warrior sharing it. Breaking her train of thought was one dragon who grew impatient of the wait and decided he'd rather dart off to look for the third dragon that'd been sent out to be a relay and deliver the orders from Leon's pygmy.

 

Flying without much thinking besides direction and going faster, faster, faster revealed its risk when he nearly crashed into the relay dragon; a quietly determined, red-scaled Copper. After offering a quick cursing-out the relay dragon told the other that Relantia was being summoned to deal with the Nebs. With some more observant flying, the two dragons made their way to deliver the news to the awaiting Relantia and the female Khusa that had stayed put.

Edited by Drakessis

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On normal nights, the four dragons would have inevitably drawn the attention of the Black air-bandits, but Chet's mind was already in the Sunstones' hideout. Enraged by the Zyu's defiance, the messenger's lateness and the general unrest among his men, he was now set on breaking the arrangement between the two bandit tribes like he had broken the spear. Raiding the Sunstones would be like killing two birds with one stone, not only would he eliminate the competition, he would also gain another hide-out and all the loot the Sunstones had accumulated during their day-raids. Chet grinned and flew on, not even noticing that he and his men not only had flown way too close to the big city, but that they had been followed by a very persistent blue Zyumorph too.

 

High in the Neb towers a lot of Nebula necks turned to the pitch black skies and shrieked a warning but everyone who would care about it was already out. The instructions from the tower captain who had sounded the city alarm and brought by messenger pygmies had been clear enough: round up stray dragons, round up stray humans, round up everyone even slightly suspicious because they could be involved in the gruesome murder of a city lord. So far the only thing suspicous had been the gathering of Nebs over Pride's arena, but that had dispersed again rather quickly. The other tower captains drew the conclusion that the Neb leader had followed the established tradition of picking off an easy scapegoat and that the situation was resolved already. All that was left was flying around to be seen by the concerned citizens to ensure them that everything was under control and the city was save once again. How wrong they were they only noticed when they happened upon more and more riderless Nebula dragons. All of them claimed that their riders had fallen to 'Death' and somehow that sounded worse than if they had just fallen to their death...

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Ezaryth beat his wings powerfully, the specks on the dark night sky which he had been following for a very long time burning themselves into his mind, fueling his fire. His long body wound through the air undetected. A smudge on the horizon below quickly turned into a blob, then a human den, a big one. The dragon noticed that the den had many other humans and dragons inside their walls, seemingly equal, but not quite.

 

His golden eyes landed on a group of other dragons, some of which he recognized the species of, but some foreign to him. They were flying back and forth outside the human den strangely, going at a hurried pace only to later take to the air again, speeding the way they had come. Two otf them met in midair and seemingly squabbled for a bit, then flew off in the same direction. Ezar looked up at the slowing Black Air Bandits, then back again at the humanless dragons doing their strange thing. Some help always was appreciated, even if said help was seemingly half crazy. He'll start with the two dragons flying together.

 

The Zyumorph circled down, wanting to stop one and ask for its help. He came perpendicular to two flying Khusas, veering to fly alongside the dragons to try to talk. "Greetings, dragonkin. What are you doing?" He asked, half yelling over the whistling wind. "There's some bad humans that need killing!" Ezar tried to appeal to their bloodthirsty side. 

Edited by ArcticFang

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The reunited Khusas hadn't expected to be approached by some random dragon, but that didn't mean they going to turn deaf ears to him; a dragon in need was a dragon in need! The female flew upwards a few feet (she didn't feel threatened, but the Draikenflaeme dragon knew to keep a defense whenever possible) as her male counterpart engaged with the stranger. "That always seems the case..." He heard the sound of a Royal Crimson's wings getting closer and glanced back towards where Relantia and the Copper were. As he suspected, the news must have been delivered and they'd already begun flying back to the city. "Really, I trust you know what you're talking about and I'd be more than willing to help you, but my friends and I are preoccupied here- in a hurry, too. We've got our own bad humans in the city ahead." 

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Ezaryth was glad that the two didn't turn on him and attack, but also a bit let down as he saw the male Khusa keep his indifference, giving him a warning look. He nodded politely, and chuckled slightly to his response. "Ave." He said solemnly, even though he'd never had much experience with other humans other than the Black Air Bandits. For now, that entire group of scrawny worms spoke for their kind. 

 Another pair of wingbeats made his head turn to look behind them, like the male Khusa. A large, red dragon was gaining on them, and by the other dragon's unpanicked experession, Ezaryth let himself relax around the other dragon, some sort of volcanic type that he'd never seen before in his life. It was very large. 

Ezar looked back at the Khusa he was talking to as he spoke again, a spark lighting his brain. "Well, if you need help, I'd be willing to help you rid the human den... A sittee? The sittee of your nuisances, if it wouldn't take much time." He was fairly sure that he could help whatever these dragons were doing, then recruit them and have enough time to catch the bandits and put an end to their sorry existences.

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The Khusa only managed to open his jaw slightly before a rushing relay Copper interrupted in a distinctly human tongue, "Are you done here? I know that all three of us had the orders to return, and there's no sense in waiting around when we could very well have another task ahead of us, depending on how it's all been going in our absence." The male Khusa sputtered to explain the Zyu's situation, which got him a quick eyeroll before the Copper decided that he might better convince the female to focus on the task at hand. Once again feeling rushed (and with a reminder of his orders, feeling a type of burden on his shoulders for delaying) the male Khusa determined it may be best to lay out all his cards. "I've no guarantees on time but I'm sure an extra dragon would be of little consequence-" The somewhat-eavesdropping Copper scoffed at that assumption and reminded him that the city was on high alert now and a Royal Crimson was enough risk, which the Khusa ignored, "-So even if you can't help, it may at least benefit your cause to fly along with us for a distance and tell us exactly who you're after, why you're after them, and where they are. I could try to help you afterwards, but, perhaps even at the expense of time, if you followed through, helped, and proved yourself we could convince more of my allies to assist."

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Ezaryth was anxiously awaiting the Khusa's reply, before a Copper edged his way into the conversation, seemingly berating the other male in humantongue. He decided to remain quiet, seeing as the Copper was slightly annoyed at the Khusa, who didn't have enough time to reply to him before he moved on to talking with the female Khusa. Besides, his humanese was very bad. The Zyumorph hastened his wingbeats, trying to minimize the damage of his intrusion, staying by the male Khusa's side.

 

He was looking nervously at the Copper, sure that his conversation mate would decline his offer and hurry along his own business, before his voice caught his attention. Ezar turned full attention to the male as he laid out his plan, shooting the Copper a wary look as he intruded again, thinking over the offer for a second. Hopefully, with the speed that they were flying now, they wouldn't waste much time explaining or gathering allies. These were a very fast-paced group, unlike his normally casual pace. Ezaryth caught the Khusa's eye and nodded, accepting the offer. He began to talk.

 

"I'm after some nasty humans, all of them riding on some Black dragons, the leader's some man who calls himself Chet. They caught me, and imprisoned me in their lair for many a day before I was able to break out of their pens." The blue Zyu snorted with contempt, resisting the urge to scratch some bare skin under missing scales. "After I got out, I explored a little. There were corpses of other humans, recently killed. They seemed to be... have been prisoners of that group, as well. The walls held blood in its history. I've been stalking them with intent to avenge the slain ones, and myself. They seemed to have been stopping here, as I followed from a distance. This is the time to kill, but all of them against me... I thought to take them on myself, but now, seeing you and your group, I have realized that I would die if I tried that." 

 

Ezaryth tried to keep it brief, but some elaboration was needed to convince the posse that those humans needed to die, and soon. "So, I hope to ally myself with others well versed in the art of killing." In the silence that followed, he turned his eyes to the front. "Where are we going now?" The den was larger than even the biggest dragons' lairs collected as one. The swarms of humans and dragons below looked like termites above their hill. His nose wrinkled slightly. Clearly, human scent was an acquired taste.

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The Khusa listened intently, and it was clear this Zyumorph wasn't exaggerating the need for assistance, which he'd be happy to help with. In fact, what the Zyumorph had described seemed similar- had he heard of this before? The Khusa wasn't from around the city (he and the female Khusa were some of the many to be called in from elsewhere), but some Draikenflaemes were and he recalled eavesdropping on some conversations mentioning organized Black dragons. Of course the Khusa had much more on his mind (after all, he'd been one of three selected to retrieve Relantia), so he wasn't entirely listening before but now felt this was certainly of interest to his superiors. 

 

The Khusa answered, "A building belonging to my cause within the walls. Well, first our Royal Crimson is probably going to part so that she can get more solid instruction." With a quick head tilt he gestured to Relantia. He found it slightly odd that, despite noticing the slight gesture to herself, she was still uninvested in what the two dragons were doing. But he didn't really know Relantia, or how she thought that, if the situation really was of any concern to her, she'd be getting orders about it later. Or how she saw that Zyumorph as a non-threat in and of himself; not necessarily because he wasn't hostile, but because that was simply how Relantia viewed a younger and smaller dragon. But, it wasn't the Khusa's place to judge Relantia's reaction, and he just decided to continue. "The humans you're hunting seem like they might be of interest to us, so I think we should get to someone right away and tell them what's going on."

 

As Relantia stopped at the city's edge, the Copper dragon rushed ahead to the small Draikenflaeme base, clearly intent on making sure no one else got distracted before he could inform the others that Relantia was here. The male Khusa quickly told the Zyumorph that they'd need to take a slightly different route than the wyvern had just to be safer (he had an unusually adamant caution to his tone, but still seemed to have good intentions nonetheless,) and guided him down a lower, sneakier route to reach the base, the female Khusa watching their backs after the Copper had flown off. 

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The city was bathed in flashing blue, purple, green and red lights from the Nebulas' wings, robbing the inhabitants of what little sleep they had left after the city-wide alarm. Finally word had spread that a city lord had been brutally murdered in his mansion and the ones responsible were on the loose somewhere in the city. The Nebs claimed to have everything under control, but the bodies turning up on the street or falling straight into the people's houses told a different story. Another word spread like wildfire and everyone who heard it shivered before passing it on for the word was 'Death'.

 

Isirion watched the circling Nebs and sighed. Like Drake had predicted earlier, the Nebulas had become more attentive and alert than ever. There was no getting out of the city unnoticed, however stealthily he moved, there was no way he wouldn't draw the attention of the wyverns. One of them catching a glimpse of him would be enough to paint an even bigger target on his back than the horrible canvas on Pride's arena had been. If this happened it would nullify the small reprieve he had gained by vanishing from the Nebula's back just before those arrows had hit him. One at a time he probably could really kill them all, but by now, by word of all those riderless dragons, the Nebs would have learned not to underestimate him again. Next time they caught sight of him they would shoot first and without warning, just like the assassins had done. Isirion wondered for a while why the assassins had chosen to forgo reason and still went after the target of a dead contractor, but there was no changing that now. On top of having to deal with the corrupted Nebulas and their air-bandit lackeys, he would have to deal with the assassins too. It was a lot more than he had bargained for, but Sodger's orders had been clear and coincided perfectly with his own opinion. Now, more than ever, he shared the vision of his master who had no vision - every last one of those weaklings had to die. Isirion's eyes lit up in anticipation of the fight to come and then turned from ice-blue to dead purple. A moment later his bloodstained blade sang it's eerie song from the back of the Nebula who had been circling the highest. Before the slain rider hit the ground, the figure cloaked in black who had killed him, leaped down onto another Nebula and claimed another victim before vanishing again. Since there was still no sign that Drake, who must have gotten far away by now, was willing to orchestrate another distraction, Isirion figured that engaging the Nebs as briefly as possible and vanishing before they knew what hit them, was the only way to disrupt their surveillance net strongly enough for him to sneak out of the city gates unnoticed.

 

The plan worked better than expected and he did get closer to the gates with every group he took out, but since he had already been fighting almost non-stop ever since Hassleborough's mansion on top of having been poisoned, each fight took a heavy toll on his already exhausted body. Soon he didn't have the energy anymore to come to his enemies so he made them come to him instead. Roaring like a female Hellfire he challenged them to charge after him into a narrow alley. Sweat dripped from his whole body like rain, his fingers struggled to keep his blade aloft, but still he fought. With exhaustion weighing him down, his speed had dropped considerably and it felt as if the Fever Wyvern poison was affecting him again, but the lethality of his strikes hadn't degraded yet. Soon the alley was even narrower than before with all the bodies piling up and this time it wasn't only the riders, Isirion, taking full advantage of the narrow alley, attacked the dragons too, ultimately robbing them of their lives and the chance of relaying his position to anyone. By bringing death to every last man and dragon in the alley, Isirion felt more alive than ever before, but he also knew that he couldn't keep this up much longer. He took a deep breath and enjoyed a sudden gust of wind that dried a little bit of sweat before his battle instincts switched to high alert again because his senses told him that the gust of wind had in fact been the wing beats of two or more dragons. Isirion looked up immediately, preparing himself to fight more Nebs, but spotting a male Khusa, and a blue Zyumorph instead...

 

In the mean-time at the dragon stables in the fishermen village


Sighing with relief the stable master watched his best long distance dragon become an indistinct shadow against the clear night sky. Leaving with it was the very man he had been 'persuaded' to watch out for a while ago by a black-clad creep armed with a bloodstained blade and a very well drawn sketch. He had been told to show the sketch around and send any information he encountered via Pygmy to the big city. Still feeling the point of that wicked blade at his throat, he had lost no time and asked around the village. While nobody had seen the old man depicted in the sketch, the bartender of the Leetle Fish looked like he had seen a ghost. A bit of gentle questioning revealed that he too had been visited by the black-clad creep and a bit of less gentle questioning revealed why. What the bartender had told him was enough to make him run back straight to his stables. There he had barricaded the door until the man from the sketch pounded on it in full battle gear and demanded a long distance mount to take him to the big city in exchange for a handful of very old looking coins. Greed had won over caution and he had obliged. Now all that was left to do was sending the messenger pygmy. Once that was done, the stable master sighed with relief again. Whatever the old soldier and the black-clad creep were up to - it was the big city's problem now...

Edited by Isirion

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Ezaryth was hesitant, even after his delight of recieving help, of going into a heavily populated 'building.' He took a discreet calming breath, and nodded, letting the Khusa take care of other business with the large red dragon. He did not wish to hurry them, but a prickle in his chest warned him to hurry. No more should be slain unnecessarily by them. The Zyu nodded again as the Khusa spoke, but he was nervous about who this 'someone' would be. Maybe whoever they were could possibly be working with the Bandits. Ezar huffed at himself. He had to trust these dragons, but it was hard to allow himself to be led into this den. 

 

As the copper they were traveling with zoomed away, Ezaryth noticed that they left the big red dragon at the edge of the wall, and he started to follow the copper before seeing that his Khusa guide (friend? Acquaintance?) was flying in a different direction. His confusion was allayed by quick words, and he followed the Khusa down into the high stalks of stone sprouting from the ground here. It was like a garden. All of it smelled like the bandit base, but slightly less aggravating to the nose. Humans. The Zyumorph looked shiftily around, making sure no nets would appear and ensnare him in the coarse rope. Thankfully, none came, and he just relaxed his clenched talons when the scent of blood hit his nose. 

 

There! To the front, rapidly approaching, was a thin strip of ground between two stalks. And... Blood, bodies, motionless corpses heaped up like so much rotten fruit, a wing here, an arm there. Some were still twitching, but that may have been his horrified mind. His chest caved as he struggled to suck in breath. That figure, standing amongst bodies piled high... Ezar came to a screeching halt above the alley, eyes strained and terrified. Where had he seen almost that same figure before, in the same scenario? The figure looked up, and he felt his breathing calm a little. Its eyes glinted a dull purple, evil purple, unlike the icy blue he remembered. Wishing not to hold the Khusa back, the zyumorph sped up again, blindly trying to find the feathered male. Anything to escape the figure's gaze.

Edited by ArcticFang

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If the Zyumorph halting hadn't alerted the Khusa, the smell of blood and the sight it drew him to certainly would have. His first instinct was to study the scene, and especially the cause of all the sheer death- his face, his weapon, his clothing, anything prominent. Clearly a man slaughtering men and dragons alike in an alley was unique enough, but frankly the Khusa hadn't the slightest clue what to make of him besides an enemy. But with the dead Nebulas before him, even the exhaust he read in the man's body language wasn't enough to convince him (a Khusa, lacking any ranged advantage) to step up and try to fight alone. He didn't know if he could trust his shaken acquaintance to help or if the Zyu would even help their chances, and he held commitments elsewhere and knew that, if he were to die in battle, he would not let it be because of a rash decision. With the image of a dragon killer carved into his mind, the Khusa took advantage of his acquaintance's sudden rush. Straining to fly within at least the edge of the wild dragon's vision, the Khusa relayed some quick words to waste no time. "N-New path, follow me, it's safer." Truthfully he'd have to somehow improvise this new route, but hoped the Zyumorph was in a state to even partially listen and tried to stay in his line of sight, hoping to leave that bloody scene a memory and nothing more for the dragon. 

 

Following behind the odd pair had given the female Khusa a clear indication that something was wrong. She couldn't quite make out the scene before her; piled masses decorated the ground, with their shapes surely making them corpses, but focusing she swore she could see a figure standing. Perhaps she could, perhaps she couldn't, but, regardless of what she saw, the males in front had flown off some odd direction and that was the more important task at hand. She wasn't keen on causing more confusion by trying to get involved, and instead veered sideways and away from the alley. She'd keep track of the dragons if she could, but her intent now seemed more to not lose them. Her eyes stayed looking up as she flew low between buildings. Later on she'd have to ask her counterpart what exactly had been in that alley, but she had a feeling it wouldn't take asking to be told. 

Edited by Drakessis

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Barely hiding his relief that the Khusa and the Zyumorph didn't turn out to be another enemy he had to fight, Isirion made up his mind to call the night a day. He knew how far he could push his own body and the limit was approaching fast, it was much better to sneak into the next inconspicous house and rest out of sight of the Nebs. Come tomorrow, the news of what had happened this night hopefully would have spread and exaggerated enough to cause some citizen to fear for their own safety and try to flee. Just like Drake had done, he could attach himself as a bodyguard to one of them and finally leave the city without arousing suspicion. Once outside he could ditch or kill his charge and go after the air-bandits like he had planned to ages ago. Suddenly the sound of another wing-beat interrupted his plans, but it was only another Khusa that flew past just like the other. Isirion gave them no other thoughts and climbed over the wall of the alley in order to find a promising, preferably empty, house to occupy until morning...

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Earlier on Taellonn had taken it upon himself to lead the others inside the base after Drake had rushed off, and offered as much explanation as he could to the first significant ear: they'd come with Drake, these people needed protection from the Nebs, and from what he'd seen they'd done nothing wrong. The little group had been ushered away by some well-armored and visibly armed man (him being selected to escort them almost seemed random, but he didn't appear to question his purpose for a second) from the majority of Draikenflaemes and dragons scattered about and crowding the building, and navigating the area in this way began to indicate that this part of the base was no more than a repurposed dragon stable building. The majority of actual stable-space seemed to be outside, but four enclosures lining the main walkway to that area were located inside: one was empty and open to the rest of the room, another open one had two dragons and presumably their respective riders in it, and two seemed to have been walled off, with new doors put in that hid each area's content. One of the walled off rooms looked like it could have had light coming from the inside, but there wasn't much time spared to investigate. The man instructed them to go in the empty stable (he insisted he wasn't going to lock them in or anything, it was just what the space they had at hand) and told them that it was in their best interest to either stay here with their dragons for the time being or split from the dragons to hide out elsewhere- provided they could prove there'd be no issues with them staying here. If Drake put in a good word (at that point she'd still been preoccupied) that'd certainly help their case, but bases still had to be covered: who are you, how do you know Drake, do you have any idea what this place is, tell me about your dragon- general questions that seemed to drag on and never elicited much of any response from the man besides occasional listening nods and a continual glare from teal-gray eyes. 

 

The male Khusa had found a new route and reunited with the female Khusa along the way, and the now trio had reached the base at last, coming from the back. Both humans and dragons alike could smell the general dustiness of worn armor and dragons that the building radiated (it was similar to a normal dragon stable, really, just with some more dust and metal), and being outside was no different from inside in that respect. This side of the base wasn't easily identifiable, but it was certainly no stable. The entrance was large and didn't seem to be made with dragons in mind, but it was big enough where the three could squeeze through. The female Khusa spoke. "Finally. I'll go inform someone we're back with another dragon so you'll have less explaining to do. Probably gonna be hell walking through there with some random stranger, right?" The male Khusa lightly nodded. "Yeah. Questions, questions, questions that I don't have time for. I'll try to stick close." The female Khusa quickly laughed out a "good luck" before pulling on a loose brick on the doorframe with her mouth. Something on the other side made a heavy "clunk" against the floor, and the Khusa ducked and tucked her wings close as she pushed open the entrance. The male Khusa started walking to the entrance and looked to the Zyumorph. "It's pretty busy in there, but I know who to go to. Like I said, lots of people are going to be curious, but it's fine to ignore them- easier, too." With that the Khusa started making his way in, keeping his counterpart in sight ahead. The female Khusa had only been inside for a short time, but it didn't take long to overhear word of some other visitors taking shelter that were still being questioned. Hopefully another stranger wouldn't be too much for them; after all, this one had purpose. 

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Ezar's  brain still hummed with haunted thought, but he tried to put the gory scene behind him, literally. He could tell from the Khusa's disturbed look that it wasn't commonplace to see mass killings here. Shuddering, he shook his head and wrinkled his nose as the trio came to the human den, still struggling to get used to dragons and humans intermingling. He had to force himself to stop looking around like his head was on a pivot, but it was hard not to.

The two males and the female lowered their altitude before touching down in front of a large square den. There was a hole in the wall, blocked with a different material than the wall itself. The Zyu sniffed around the rectangle as the two Khusas spoke, not wanting to make himself seem more like a deadweight. He  stepped back as the female came forward and pulled on a stone, snapping his head to look at the hole in surprise as it made a noise. Warily, he watched the female push her way into the entrance, the material swinging away. 

Ezaryth gulped. That was a very small hole to squeeze through. He glanced at the male Khusa, heading to the entrance. His ears barely caught on to what he said, and the dragon nodded slowly. "Ignore them. Great. Okay." He moved forward, pushing the swingy sheet of what looked like wood but didn't feel like the ragged wild bark that he knew. There was a lot of activity in front, but he kept his eyes fixed on the Male Khusa. Ignore.

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"Ignorance is bliss", thought Golden Myth as he listened to Pride chattering away as if he was having a real conversation instead of being interrogated. The green-haired lady had understood and answered the given questions as concisely as possible, stating she was a mere painter who had been dragged into this whole mess because she helped rescue an old man and reunite him with his dragon. Pride on the other hand took every question as an opportunity to tell a tale fitting those he used in his performances. His voice, able to fill a whole arena rang loud and clear as he re-told the story of who he was and how he got to be an arena owner. Only this time he managed to weave in how he met his wife-to-be Felicia for the first time at the flower shop where he bought roses to put on the grave of Melody, his pet bird who had just died. The second time he met her, he bought even more roses to pay his respects to the Red Dragon whose death had enabled him to live his dream. He told Felicia he wanted to recreate the dragon out of roses but the flower girl chewed his ear off what a waste that would be. Flowers were for proposals and butterflies, using them for burials made her sad because it wasted their beauty on the dead. Next time they met, Pride was wearing a self-made butterfly suit and proposed. Golden Myth rolled his eyes as Pride strayed more and more away from the question at hand and secretly admired their interrogater's patience. But Pride hadn't been finished yet, he took a deep breath and continued: "When Felicia accepted my proposal, in return I accepted her view of the world. My arena was doing fine in avoiding death during the performances, but it didn't actually save any lives. With my wife at my side that changed - together we scoured the underground arenas and I rekindled the connections I had with the Nebs. Soon most of the coins I made from the performances went into their pockets to buy captive dragons off them before they were sold to other arenas or collectors. Once I acquired a dragon, I let it perform to earn back the coins I spent and afterwards let it go if it wished to. Apart from Golden Myth they all chose to leave after a few performances, but that's alright. Dragons, like butterflies are supposed to be free. The air-bandits have no right to abduct them from the wild or steal them from their keepers. They have no right to sell them to their corrupted Neb-friends who in turn either re-sell them to collectors like Hassleborough or abuse them in their underground arenas for the sake of their 'justice'. Good thing 'Death' has returned to finally set them free. Last time he had been here, he could only set free their broken spirits from their imprisoned bodies, but this time it looks like he is trying to truly set them free by killing each and everyone of those who took their freedom!

 

"Uh oh," Mythy thought and buried his head in his wings, but Pride had no intention of stopping now. He took another deep breath and went on: "If you do care about dragons as much as that female warrior Drake, you asked me about, maybe you should do like she did and team up with him too. Where is he by the way? If it weren't for him holding off all those Nebs, we wouldn't even had a chance to escape after they surrounded my arena. I'd really like to express my thanks..."

Edited by Isirion

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Pride's answers-turned-epics had managed to get the interrogator leaning against the wall, an option made viable when the accompanying Golden Wyvern seemed to be just as exhausted by the encounter, most likely proving that Pride wasn't some maniacal genius biding his time with misleading conversation and theatrics to prepare to massacre everyone, or something. The interrogator had been kept quiet, only because whenever he had thought to interurpt he'd just get another of the man's answers or something actually noteworthy imbedded into a story; the most recent ones being about air bandits and his rescue of captive dragons and bringing up some 'Death' figure. With the interrogator's glare long gone in exchange for a bored stare, he finally showed some emotion again with a borderline confused look. At this point he wasn't concerned with trying to keep anyone in the stable in check, and, struggling to keep up with the stories anyways, didn't really feel the need to keep this questioning threatening. Evident of his confusion and growing impatience, he pinched the bridge of his nose before trying to come up with some sort of response. "I... 'Death?' I don't..." the interrogator sighed and recrossed his arms, "I don't know who that is. I don't have any semblance of a clue as to who that is, and I sure don't know where he is either. Just, look, as far as I'm concerned, all of you are fine to stay here until this whole ordeal clears up. If you want to know about wherever this 'Death' is, then go ask Drake about it, since she's apparently 'teamed up' with him." Something already felt off about that statement, but the interrogator knew he'd probably fare better asking Drake about whoever that was and how he was apparently setting dragons free, rather than trying to decipher another story. And if this 'Death' had been involved with what happened at the arena, chances were that leaders were already going to know about him, or if he was still there then Relantia would. It never (maybe more like occasionally after this particular interrogation) hurt to ask, though. He glanced behind him, as if doing that for the umpteenth time would somehow make the female warrior appear as she'd failed to do when he really could have used a way out of questions. He thought he might have seen some royal blue scales, but hadn't looked long enough to know for sure. As a final question he asked, "Do you want me to go find her for you?" which really translated more to, 'I'm going to find Drake and ask her what exactly you've been going on about, but I'll make sure to drag her back here if you really want your answer.'

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Pride lit up like a Candelabra Dragon and nodded vigorously: "Please do and if you would be so kind to find a messenger pygmy for me too so that I can tell my wife I am safe, I'd be even more grateful." Since his keeper's answers finally had ebbed from waterfall to single sentence, Golden Myth unburied his head and added: "I would like to offer my thanks to all of you for giving us shelter, but I feel your ears are already coming off from Pride's unique way of expressing himself. So instead I'll give you something even more important - a word of advice. All this talk about underground myths made me figure out who you people are and what you stand for. A beacon of hope for imprisoned and ill-treated dragons. A Flaeme of justice burning in the dark. While Death brought his namesake mainly to the tortured dragons, you brought it exclusivly to the humans doing the torturing. Judging by the state the city is in right now, you are still doing it, but you are doing it wrong. It is the system that enables such a large-scale abuse of dragons that needs to be brought down and that system is built on the shoulders of all those Nebula dragons that are trained and indoctrinated from hatching on to serve and enforce said system. I have been caught in that system and nearly perished in it, but Pride saved me. Let him save you too before you persish sooner or later in a loosing battle you picked for the sake of dragons over the sake of your own kind. Your strong determination to not hurt dragons is what's hurting them the most. Your belief that all dragons are good and need to be protected is what's keeping you from doing what is necessary. Whenever the Nebs arrest an innocent human or dragon they do it from the backs from the very dragon they are named after and those dragons do nothing about it. The Sunstone and the Black air-bandits that work together with them also draw their power from their respective dragons. A single turn in the air of even one of them would have stopped hundreds of people and dragons getting abducted, abused and ultimately killed, but they didn't. They have sunk to the level of their human keepers and enjoy their filthy privileges on the back of every one else. I only realized that truth when the Nebs came to our arena tonight and tried to arrest first Pride and then every human and dragon there for a crime your people most likely commited. Their dragons didn't even blink, they just didn't care, just as they haven't cared for all those Royal Blues that have been captured for burning an underground arena instead of the one that did it after your Drake traded places with it in Pride's arena. Yes, you do give captured dragons hope, occasionally even free them, but ultimately your actions cause the abusers to become even more aggressive and oppressive to keep the other dragons under their yoke and so they get hurt even more than before. Pride wants to show everyone in the city a way out of this. He wants to show them that dragons and humans can work together freely and willingly. But your zeal to kill one more dragon abuser cost him the only place he could do that from. Now, like he said even though it breaks his heart, there is only one option left to revive his dream one day - killing each and everyone of those abusers. And since that includes their dragons my advice is to listen to him and take him seriously. Look for a pile of bodies and you'll probably find Death, team up with him and this time destroy the system itself while it is in disarray by bringing down all it's supporting legs. If I, as a dragon, am willing to work together with a dragon killer I loathe for that goal, you must to."

Edited by Isirion

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The interrogator sighed. "Horrid systems all over, corrupting whoever they touch. Though-" he looked behind him, and that glimpse of royal blue scales resurfaced, though much more obvious now, "-I think you're mistaken. I agree that dragons are as easily corrupted as humans, and as capable of evil. It's why a dragon forced under such influence is such a terrible sight, as terrible a sight as a corrupted member of my own species, because we know that dragons and humans are of similar minds, capable of so many of the same thoughts and emotions and more. It's why dragons stripped of free will serve, for me, an even worse sight. I've thought that, perhaps, even the opposite is true. When not all dragons are good, and can sink as low as humans, people are willing to hurt them, because they can believe they're better, even as they steal hatchlings and capture innocent dragons." He paused after the straying. "What I'm saying is, I don't know what Drake's been telling you, but it certainly doesn't reflect what I've agreed to fight for. As for this 'Death' who I still barely have a lick of a clue about, that's not my call and most of what's occurring here isn't." He checked for the Royal Blue again, and saw that the dragon had allowed himself to rest outside one of the walled-off rooms. Based on the dragon's calmness he obviously hadn't lost his rider, so the man assumed Drake was inside the room being an interrogator herself. With slight insight on 'Death' and more he pondered whether he should go straight to a superior rather than get a Drake-translation of the situation. He decided he'd find both sides to this and then go. The man excused himself to get Drake, and after sending a suddenly nervous Taellonn to find a pygmy retrieved an agitated Drake from the room and tried to quickly get some clarification, only to get the opposite in return. A few answers caught him off guard such as a misunderstanding "Does anyone else want to accuse me of betrayal today?" and a quieter but just as worrying "Why would I know where the hell he is?" Seeing as he wasn't getting much from that, the interrogator decided that he'd try to get what he could from Drake's answers to Pride, hushed Drake as they exited the room and ushered her towards the group. He put on a neutral expression over his exhausted one. "We're finding a messenger pygmy, and Drake should be able to answer what you need." Drake was anticipating she'd need to spin a tale as well as Pride to explain 'Death's' absence, and the intent focus from the interrogator didn't help with the pressure. Luckily, Taellon was returning with a pygmy at his tail, and surefire support in her alibi was just what she needed. 

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Pride gave Drake a big smile when she entered the room, followed by an even bigger one for the messenger pygmy. At once he banished all thoughts about Death from his mind and concentrated on conjuring up a letter to his wife. It was no simple task finding the right words to not cause her unnecessary worry but still urgent enough to convince her to go somewhere safe until the whole ordeal was over. When he was finished, he patted his clothes for a bribe-snack for the pygmy but found none. Not willing to let the pygmy go without a chewable thank you, he approached the green-haired lady and asked: "May I ask you for some of those crickets you carry around for your pitch-black companion? And might I also inquire on how are you holding up? This whole situation must be horrible for you. If there is any way I can help, please tell me."

 

In the mean-time inside an inconspicous house not too close to a certain pile of dead Nebs

 

Isirion would have preferred to hide inside an empty house, but dawn was approaching fast and every second he was out in the street increased the chances of being discovered. At least this one had only one occupant - a woman fast asleep on a bed sized for two. Either she was very decadent or more likely had a husband working late. Or just a late husband if he had been a Neb. Having nothing better to do while resting, Isirion let his gaze wander around the room and take in the decorations that were at least as exaggerated as those he had seen inside Hassleborough's mansion. From outside it had looked like a normal house, but inside it was like he had walked into a meadow. The whole room was covered in flowers and butterflies and butterflies covered in flowers and flowers covered with butterflies. The floor was painted to look like a pasture but, for unknown reasons, consisted of real grass in a generous stretch around the bed. The walls sported dragon themed decorations, most of them picturing the same Golden Wyvern, sometimes in flight, sometimes in fight...but always wearing a rather impractical disguise. In short, everything in this house screamed 'made py Pride'...

Edited by Isirion

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Alzira already had a cricket in hand, in fact two, one for Pride and one for Sappo, who almost immediately swallowed his. Chewing happily he listened to his keeper's conversation. "Dear Pride, thank you for your concern. I have to admit I'm quite shaken", she answered. She couldn't hold back a shiver at the thought of the attack on the arena. She didn't see much of the slaughter and to be true she was glad about that. Quite frankly the noises will be enough to keep her awake the next few nights. She looked thankfully at her dragons who had watched over her and had her as soon as they recognised the alarm and the ongoing attack.

 

Susurro had followed the group with mixed feelings but for now they were save and he strongly needed some sleep so he lay down next to a wall and stated:"I need some proper rest, please don't bother yourselves", and off he was.

 

After a short pause Alzira added: "Nevertheless I'm fine. I even have to admit that I'm still quite agitated, so much has happened today,..." and her voice trailed off. Then she composed herself: "Seeing so many people and dragons here, I think a little sketching will calm me down." She took the bag with her art supplies and moved to Susurro, leaning at his side so she could still watch the dragons and humans interacting with each other. Sappo was still sitting on Alzira's shoulder but as soon as she took a relaxed position he curled up, keeping one eye at her.

 

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Pride took the cricket and fed it to the messenger-to-be-pygmy while pretending not to see how the interrogater checked his message. Like Golden Myth he had by now figured out a few things about Drake's companions. Being passionate about dragons was a thing he understood perfectly well and so he didn't mind in the slightest to have his letter examined in case it contained an involuntary clue to their location. He also swallowed all the questions he had wanted to ask Drake, because he also realized talking to her about a dragon killer he admired might not be the safest approach. Also, Mythy had probably already said more than enough on that subject. So he just watched the pygmy lick it's lip after devouring the cricket with delight and then take off with his message without delay. After that he watched the green-haired lady paint until he couldn't stand it anymore and asked: "So what are we going to do? We can't just do nothing, can we? The Nebs will find us sooner or later and we' risk burning down the city if we start a full-scale dragon on dragon fight here. Speaking of dragons - shouldn't you at least try to utilize the current situation to free all those poor Royal Blues that have been captured in the stead of the old soldier's dragon?" Pride was finally looking directly at Drake now as he continued to speak his mind: "Your own dragon is a Royal Blue. If not for Pip and his ingenious idea to paint him over, he would be suffering right along with them. If you don't act now, they will suffer even worse. I have heard the 'Lady' is looking for magnificent looking blue dragons to be trained like dogs to serve at her next big party. Everyone has human waiters, 'I'll have dragon waiters', she boasts. Who do you think provides the dragons? Who trains them? Like Mythy said - executing a random dragon abuser or two doesn't change anything. You have to bring down the Nebula network while it is weakened and you can't do that without help. Take the hand that is offering help, though it may be stained with dirt, butterfly dust, paint or even dragon blood!"

 

In the meantime at the huge mountain shadowing over the fishermen's village

 

Sodger commanded the long-distance dragon he was riding to make a short stop at the other side of the mountain and set him down near a cave there he had described in great detail. The dragon did as asked and soon the old soldier made his way through a seemingly solid wall into the lair of Hellfire Wyverns his loyal apprentice had bred and trained for him over the past years. It didn't matter that he couldn't see them, he felt their fierce fire burning on his face, smelled their scent and heard them breath, eat, move and fight. They were a testament to his devoted service, the last ressort if an other Dragon War broke out after all the dragon regiments had long been retired and dismantled. These dragons would not stop after the war was just won, they would burn down every last one of their enemies so there wouldn't be another war ever again. So far there hadn't been a need to use them since there hadn't been another Dragon War, but what was going on in the big city fully justified unleashing them. The corruption that had overtaken almost the entire city like rot spreading from a festering wound had become it's greatest danger itself. And since there was no White Dragon powerful enough to cure a whole city, there was only one way to deal with such a large-scale infection - to burn it with Hellfire!

Edited by Isirion

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From the short distance he'd allowed himself to stray the interrogator had heard everything Pride proposed, something he'd anticipated but didn't expect the man to bring up so quickly. Swinging his foot forward almost casually, he stepped in front of the Royal Blue that'd parked himself right beside his rider. With a more aggressive yet just as protective dragon he may have been more conscious of his legs, but the real dangers to him presently, as he saw it, were Drake's suddenly unclear convictions coupled with her impulsive drive to get back in action. After all, why would she have been so agitated over losing time with that prisoner? He certainly wasn't going anywhere soon- Drake had been looking for something, anything else she could keep herself busy with, and Pride had swung open the door to terrible decisions. So, instead of letting Taellon stutter on in protest, the interrogator took it upon himself to interject. "I certainly applaud your ambition, but once again you're finding yourself speaking to the wrong person. With my knowledge of the city I believe that- with the educated guidance of my superiors and the employment of their methods and planning- we may stand as a formidable counter to the Nebs and be capable of dismantling their system. But, the only way to start on that is to inform them, and, I say, take care of whatever is more urgent first. While the city being under the forces of the Nebs is a long-standing issue, I think it'd be in our best interest to heed your words and assist the presently suffering: those Royal Blues and whoever else we may find." Taellonn slipped to the opposite side of Drake, who would have been considerably more upset at being interrupted if she hadn't agreed with the culprit. She nodded along with his words. "You're right. We have some time to plan since I doubt the Nebs will be springing back quickly, and relying on the more experienced of ourselves to gather even more support or whatever they find fit will serve us best. But rescuing those Royal Blues is urgent and probably fairly viable with our current resources." She addressed Pride now, clearly much more focused than agitated as ideas rushed through her mind. "You mentioned this 'Lady' and her ambitions, you see the sorts of support we have here, and you must have some idea of where imprisoned dragons are kept in this city- how do you suggest we go about helping these Royal Blues?" 

Edited by Drakessis

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