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Isirion

The Bloodline of Torch [open]

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Pride couldn't resist a theatrical gesture, even if it wasn't handed to him on a silver plate. He dropped on one knee and waved his right hand through the air in a flourishing show of respect. It looked a bit like he was trying to swat a fly, but that didn't deter him from doing it again in Alzira's direction. Afterwards he stood up again and said: "We help them by going to her party. You two will accompany me and my lovely wife. We'll offer her your Royal Blue as a gift and when the Lady puts him with her other dragons, he can incite a rebellion. She is desparate for well-behaved blue dragons. If the old solider's one hadn't been so vicious she might have bought him instead of me. Seeing as he was, I learned a bit about her newest fancy and found myself with an invitation I didn't even think to follow until now. It is the perfect opportunity. If we manage to pull this off, we will not only free those dragons but undermine her position as a collector. Better yet, if all those blue dragons cause another uproar, it will also seriously undermine what little is left of the Nebulas' dignity. One blue dragon caused uproar might have been an honest mistake, the second one just bad luck, but three is plain incompetence. They will all jump at that last straw to save their pride, they will band together as one and come down on the Lady's mansion - and when they are all there - you lot strike them. The more of that mansion that gets destroyed in the fight the better, her place is even worse than Lord Hassleboroughs. At least his trophies are dead, but the Lady keeps her most priced possessions nailed alive to whatever background she sees fit.

 

Golden Myth hadn't known that gruesome detail and a dangerously low growl escaped him and he found himself saying: "Forget what I said about teaming up with the dragon killer. The swift death he offers with that wicked blade of his is way too kind and clean for the likes of her. You should pluck her from her mansion and throw her into a fighting pit with a starving dragon instead!" Pride turned round to his beloved dragon and asked, his eyes full of sadness: "Isn't that exactly what made the dragon killer you loathe so much a dragon killer in the first place?" Mythy gave another low growl and pawed at the ground furiously, but there was no denying the argument. Not until he remembered his conversation with said dragon killer. The wyvern raised himself to his full height and asked: "So why is he still killing dragons then? Noone is forcing him to fight them in a pit anymore." Pride looked a bit sheepish at that, as he remembered how he had convinced Isirion to fight against Drake's dragon with a wooden sword, then he said, looking even sadder than before: "I don't know, maybe he has never learned anything else except killing." Mythy lowered his head and rubbed it against Pride's before he said softly: "That is just like you, believing the best in people and dragons alike. I hope you are right and he doesn't just enjoy killing whatever the reason. His dragon skin cloak would be the perfect disguise to mingle with those collectors..." Pride agreed and turned around again to face Drake: "So, what do you think about our plan? I managed to take the flowery dress you were supposed to wear during the next performance with me before I fled. Wearing it you can easily pass as a lady and nobody will suspect you. The greenhaired lady probably has a dress of her own already, otherwise my lovely wife can borrow her one. She lives not too far from here, so a pygmy can easily bring her another message before she goes into hiding. Do you prefer butterflies or flowers on your dress?" The last sentence was directed at Alzira, despite the fact, that Drake hadn't even agreed to the half-baked plan yet...

 

At roughly the same time at Felicia's house

 

Isirion's eyes flew fully open as he heard a noise coming from the window he had climbed through. A pygmy had flown in and was hissing at the nearest decoration. No, not hissing, laughing, Isirion realized and silently agreed with the newcomer. That particular Golden Wyvern model was sporting butterfly wings which had no business at all on a wyvern. It also sported antlers which had no business on any kind of dragon he knew of. Thinking of business, Isirion wondered what a lone pygmy was doing in that particular house before dawn and inspected it closer. The pygmy was carrying a message in his hind-claws, no doubt intended for the woman sleeping on the double bed. Realizing he had no time to loose, Isirion leaped over and caught the little dragon in his hand before it could wake up his unsuspecting host. The real grass around the bed should have made his landing inaudible, but still the woman woke up. Her nostrils flared and she asked softly while she waited for her eyes to adjust: "Are you hurt? I can smell so much blood." Having not the faintest idea on how to react to that, Isirion remained silent, but the woman spoke again: "Did you get mixed up in that horrible slaughter out there? It's alright now. You are save in here." Again, Isirion felt at loss for words and again the woman filled the silence: "There are bandages in the next room. My husband sometimes needs them for his performances. There is also food if you are hungry." Still holding the messenger pygmy and still no closer to getting a single word out, Isirion decided to look for the 'next' room. So far he had only noticed the one he had climbed into, but soon enough he found a door completely hidden with flower garlands. He opened it and immediately the woman said: "I think the bandages are somewhere on the top right shelf. The food is on the left shelf, you can choose between Hooktalon biscuits, Hooktalon cakes and Hooktalon candy." Isirion swiped all the bandages from the right shelf since he always needed them in his hideout and then gave the left shelf a curious glance. As far as he knew no part of a Hooktalon was suitable to be made into a sweet, but they probably still tasted better than Hellfire flesh and certainly better than the Nilia Pygmy he was holding...

Edited by Isirion

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With lying and infiltration seeming to have become the norm for Drake recently, Pride's idea was nothing too far fetched. Then again, putting Taellonn more in harm's way than usual had started to become the norm too, but that was nothing Drake had grown comfortable with as a result. And perhaps that'd have saved Taellonn from even Drake's sheer consideration of this plan; if not for the anecdote which had managed to upset both Golden Myth and the three Draikenflaemes within earshot. The interrogator had been taken by slight surprise and grown even more attentive, Taellonn had a rush of fear down his spine on top of the worry Pride had already provided by practically promising the Royal Blue a sure visit with the edge of a weapon, while Drake was now absolutely seething, though she didn't show any signs of lashing out here. Without any focus on the Nebs Drake probably would have insisted another mansion break-in be planned right then, but Pride's idea lent itself to killing two birds with one stone and could hopefully leave the Nebs prime to fall victim to whatever superiors would plan. Before Drake could express her thoughts Taellonn found it better to express his own. "I can understand your limited options here, but there must be another, much more promising way to go about this? Your plan seems to hinge on my ability to incite a rebellion somewhat heavily, and... If I failed..." His voice trailed off as he realized he'd skipped his oh-so-useful excuses and gone straight to the point, and he already felt defeated by the time Drake responded. "Taellonn, if you'd been caught in this whole mess and bought by the Lady, I'd personally like to think that you'd have incited the rebellion Pride's plan calls for anyways, not stayed compliant. What's the difference here?" Taellonn could feel Drake's confidence through her argument and reluctantly accepted what would hopefully be temporary defeat. "I would say it's that I have a choice in this situation, but that'd be wrong, wouldn't it?" He sighed and looked off somewhere. "Don't expect me to go in there improvising. I'd need time to prepare for such a tall order." Drake was mostly satisfied with that and turned her attention to Pride. "I say we explain this opportunity and idea to a superior of mine for some revision and a more solid method of attack before putting all our efforts into a plan that might not even go through. If things go right, we'll be wreaking havoc on that disgusting mansion of hers." The interrogator seemed satisfied with the plan being filtered through someone besides Drake, as he'd suggested, or was at least satisfied enough to not oppose the plan or anxiously sulk like the rather deflated looking Taellonn was. Drake herself liked how everything was falling into place; they could take down another rotten collector, dismantle the corrupt Nebs, and following through with Pride's full plan would mean that she'd be able to keep a certain dragon killer under watch, however missing he was now, and perhaps even have her own deadly ambition realized in the oncoming chaos... 

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Alzira had sketched a few scenes but now she put away her tools. Sappo was still sitting on her shoulder and snoring. Since his keeper had calmed down he couldn't help it and he had fallen asleep. She caressed the little one and answered. "I'm sorry, did I understand correctly? We dare to go to the Lady's party, that's some bold step!" She paused for a moment and considered what they all had experienced in the last few hours. She shuddered, but they were right, something had to be done. So Alzira straightened herself up and continued: "I greatly appreciate your offer but I think I'll take my own dress. I'm glad I packed one so there is no need to trouble your wife on my behalf." Then  she hesitated again. She had to point out the weak spot, at least in her mind, and said in a concerned voice: "I wonder, how do we intend to cover our exit? I mean since it's your invitation Pride, they'll notice that the uprising appeared just after the new dragon arrived." She looked at them inquiringly.

 

Edited by Alzira

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Pride met Alzira's gaze head on and said with the air of confidence of one who had done such things a hundred times already: "Once the dragon passes into Lady's possession it's her servants who are responsible. If she chooses to punish them for their failure in restraining our brave Royal Blue here, I'll gladly fetch the whip myself. Do you really believe the noble Lady impales the panorama dragons herself? She doesn't. The stableboys in her employment do and occasionally a guest eager to prove his commitment to the collector's course does too. That is another reason you should take Death with you. I'd rather pierce my own heart than hurt a dragon, but he would undoubtly do whatever is necessary to keep our masquerade going until everything is in place. Once we have punished the humans and rescued the dragons the White Dragon can heal them."

 

Golden Myth who had found the same flaw in the plan as Alzira waited if Pride would sometime elaborate on how they would escape until it dawned on him. He raised himself up again and put his snout in front of Pride's face: "You haven't planned a cover for our exit because we don't need one, do we? Letting Death and Drake together loose upon those dragon abusers will mean there will be even less survivors than in Hassleborough's mansion?" It was not a question but somehow Mythy let it sound like one. Pride scratched his beloved wyvern under the chin and answered: "I know what the Pygmy message our friend the smith sent said. Hassleborough's daughter woke up in the middle of the night and found everyone else slaughtered. The brave girl went straight to the next Neb tower and all hell broke loose. But I assure you - there will be no children at Lady's party. We will enter through the front gate and we will leave through the front gate."

 

Meanwhile at Felicia's house

 

After finding out that Hooktalon cake tasted like strawberries, Isirion inspected the message the Pygmy had brought. It was signed with a butterfly and all but told the woman in the other room to get clear of the city as soon as possible. The Pygmy gave him a reproachful look all the while he was reading, and an even more reproachful one after he tried to bribe it with a Hooktalon biscuit. Sighing Isirion went back into the other room and handed over the message to it's rightful recipient. The woman read it eagerly and caressed the butterfly signature before she looked up. She studied the cloaked shadow standing right in front of her und let her gaze wander over the bloodstains that had become clearly visible in the light of dawn. At last she looked right into the ice-cold and ice-blue eyes beneath the hood and said: "You look like Death. Pride said you are capable of anything. Can you bring me to my husband? He wants me to be save, but I'd rather be at his side." The message had held not a single clue about Pride's whereabouts, but as long as he could just follow the Pygmy back that didn't matter. Isirion nodded and commanded the Pgymy to fly back to Pride, but the little dragon just gave him another reproachful look. "Bloody Pygeon!", Isirion cursed and tried again, but to no avail. Felicia tried her luck as well, but the Pygmy just started to squint, trying to give both of them reproachful looks at the same time. Isirion felt his temper rising again and he was close to strangling the pygmy into submission, when the woman fetched a quill and scribbled a short reply. The pygmy transformed from reproachful to attentive like a butterfly and Felicia coaxed it: "Lets deliver this message together or not at all." A sudden ripping sound made her turn around and gasp. In the place of a black-clad creep now stood a clean-shaven man, with close-cropped tangerine hair wearing a cloak of flowers and butterflies. In place of the flower and butterfly curtain next to him stood an empty wall. Felicia sought his eyes to give him a reproachful look the pygmy wouldn't be ashamed of and gasped again: "I thought your eyes were blue like ice, but now they are dead purple." Isirion shrugged and replied as cool and calm as ice and death: "And I thought you wanted to be with your husband..."

Edited by Isirion

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Drake had listened intently and let the intricacies of the plan get filled out by the others. Sure, the plan just about amounted to "bloodshed," but at least getting out seemed straightforward. "I've got a feeling that this party will have Neb attention before we've even begun, and there's no way we can know the exact number of people attending. We're either going to have to find a safe place to have people lurking on the outside, find some way of hasty communication or both; it's still probably going to fall to chaos, but at least the descent there won't get us killed. We can't entirely rely on Isirion and me for the fighting either for those two reasons and because- well, I'll at least be at a disadvantage compared to how I typically am. I don't think the regular partygoer with be armed, but trading in my armor for a dress isn't exactly something that's going to benefit me combat-wise anyways. Unless we can somehow sneak in my armor... I'll need it for sure when the Nebs come." She sighed, not so much discouraged as she was instead not enjoying the thought of any foreseeable change in attire. "We can think of that later." She didn't really like that idea of "later," but it wasn't like every single resource was at hand right now; they still needed approval or at least enough supporters of this plan, Drake really needed to see exactly how many people and dragons were still here, and she didn't have a clue where Isirion was. For all she knew, Drake could be unluckily lucky, and he could be dead. Probably not with his arm-slash-weakening-cloak and Fever-Wyvern-surviving-self, but there wasn't anything else to go off of. Regardless, "later" was going to be exactly that, and Drake was going to get done what she could now. "Right now, we should really be gathering support and going to a superior of mine, like I said. It's the least but I'd say most important thing we can do right now before we get too invested, and it seems we've got enough knowledge for attack and escape to justify our plans."

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Drakes words went right through Prides ears as his brain already formed their battle plan into an epos to be performed. He filled his lungs with enough air for a hundred lines describing their victory-to-be before they had even set one foot into the Lady's domain, when Golden Myth provided the last crucial detail. The wyvern gave Drake a toothy smile and told her: "Did Pride forget to mention it is a masquerade party? He will be so disappointed to not be able to see you in that flowery horror, but the role of a dragon knight suits you so much more. We'll leave being a lady to Alzira. Both of you can accompany Lord and Lady Butterfly. I know Pride's wife - the more he tells her to stay out of danger the more likely she is to appear right in the middle of it. It wouldn't surprise me if Felicia is already on her way!"

 

From outside the sound of a small commotion drifted in and Mythy's smile widened as it grew noisier and then vanished like the sun behind a cloud. He touched his nostrils with a paw and said puzzled: "I can smell Felicia, but she carries a cold, bloodstained smell with her." The guard outside seemed to be even more puzzled as they heard him shout: "Uhm, anyone here named Pride? A woman wearing a butterfly nightgown and a man wearing a flower curtain are here to see him. Oh and they carry a message and a messenger pygmy. He seems to like it."

 

Meanwhile in the skies above the fishermen's village

 

Wing-claw brushing against wing-claw, their whole bodies engulfed in blue and red flames, the flight of Hellfire Wyverns that had been bred and trained inside the mountain broke through the crater on top like a volcano erupting. The old captain hovering close by on his long-distance dragon screamed a rallying cry and for a moment he could see. His heart-beat matched the wing-beats of the army his faithful apprentice had bred for him, the blood in his ears rushed with the joy of flying free across the sky, his nose tingled with the scent of his comrades all around him and his skin smoldered from the sheer heat the wyvern emitted. The inferior dragon beneath him squirmed and wanted to flee, but Sodger suffered no desertion. He struck down with the flat of his new sword and warned his quivering mount: "Obey or die." The dragon stopped resisting if not shivering and surrendered his fate to the blind, old man on his back. The ex-captain of the Royal Blue regiment commanded him to fly before the wyverns towards the big city, and without looking back, the long-distance dragon knew, that however fast he flew, hell would follow him.

Edited by Isirion

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Along with Mythy and just about any other dragon in range, Taellonn smelled the bloody presence which had arrived. Unlike the dragons which could physically witness the absurd juxtaposition of the scent with the flower-curtain-cape and either laughed or gazed on in sheer curiosity, Taellonn found no such distraction as he ignored everything but that scent, and was relieved when Drake seemed to look at him for confirmation on Mythy's observations. Small city, Drake thought with a barely visible head shake, accepting that, if Isirion really was here, there was no point in turning him away if Pride's wife accompanied him. Drake didn't owe him a single answer beyond what he knew, after all, and if anything he should be thankful that he'd be let in and wouldn't complain. The interrogator backed away slightly. "That's as good an excuse as any to leave this spot, hm?" Drake nodded. "We could run into someone we need to along the way, who knows." She looked to Pride. "Come on, let's meet your wife and this curtain-clad runaway she seems to have found."

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Pride's smile lit up the room more than the feeble moring sun outside as he dashed into his wife's arms. Felicia just had about the time to toss the messenger pygmy to her companion before it got crushed in the embrace. Isirion caught it easily with one hand darting out like a viper, while his eyes studied the guards, the building and the general location. His gaze wandered over muscles and calluses that spoke of weapon training, peculiar alterations to what appeared on the outside to be a mere dragon stable, the assortment of dragons and finally Drake. Donning a mocking smile, he greeted her: "Is this the place your distractions and supervisions came from? It looks like a very tight fit for a Royal Crimson, but a Fever Wyvern would feel right at home." And once again his eyes studied the humans and dragons around them to see if his remark had hit anything.

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Taellonn had stayed behind during the reunion, saying he'd wanted at least a little rest until being thrust into the unknown, but Drake knew he probably just didn't trust himself to not be a wreck if Isirion was there and said something particularly concerning. Drake appreciated that choice more now than before. "It's at least where they came back to. From what I hear the Royal Crimson's being told to come back here and most people say she's not going to be happy about being cramped up outside. And, I suppose about any other wyvern or Fever-Wyvern-sized dragon would fit more comfortably than her. Did you see a Fever Wyvern as you came in or something? I know we have one." She paused and looked for such a wyvern just quickly enough to avoid Isirion from getting any words in. She knew Leon and Spienz didn't have any reason to stay outside and were probably in the building, but since she hadn't seen them she assumed they were avoiding her. It didn't matter, she didn't need them right now and she'd be scared of herself too. She'd actually seen Ezra, but he was never any sort of indication as to where Relantia was and she'd heard enough about the Royal Crimson's whereabouts without him. Drake glanced at Pride as she began speaking before focusing on Isirion again. "Well, that's not too important right now because, before Pride gets to you and tries to tell you about his... Elaborate, plan, I should at least get you on board with it. I do remember you saying that you might be willing to help me after accusing me of conspiring with assassins, after all. Pride has connections to a certain 'Lady' who we're hoping to take down, along with the other sadistic snobs at the party of hers we'd be infiltrating. If it went right we'd have the Nebs arriving weakened and ready to fall to my people's forces. All you'd need to do is join me in the combat aspects and... maybe skewer a dragon to a wall. Pride feels like you'd be the best to prove our false 'commitment' to her in such ways-" Drake decided to add in a small strategical excuse, "-and, since another facet of the plan hinges on Taellonn, I'll need to be keeping an eye on him so I'm out of the picture there. That's about the basics and we still have to gather up participants here and I'm sure there's more for me to find out about this 'Lady,' but I'm sure Pride would be beyond enthusiastic to fill you in on anything else while I take care of that; if you're willing to help, that is."

Edited by Drakessis

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One more time Isirion gave everyone present a piercing glance before he replied with his voice as mocking as his smile: "I can see that those are not assassins." A few seconds later he added with his face and voice back to sub-zero normal: "I don't hold grudges towards that Fever Wyvern, but if it confuses me with prey one more time, it will taste my blade." His tone conveyed no menace, just a simple statement delivered with the body language of someone who had the strength and skill to make good on that promise. Taking a leaf out of Drake's book he continued before anyone could ge a word in and said: "I can guess Pride's plan and why I am in it." Pulling the flower curtain from his shoulders so that his dragon skin cloak became visible again he continued: "I can mingle with these collectors just fine and I certainly don't have a problem killing them all." These words earned him another reproachful look from the messenger pygmy he was still holding, but he ignored it and went on: "Drake, you know my master sent me to deal with the air-bandits and their dragons, but believe me, those who employ them have a target on their back too. Sodger didn't mind us killing everyone in Hassleborough's mansion and he wouldn't shed a tear for that Lady and her servants either. I even suspect that if I hadn't already offered my help, he would straightforward order me to help you clean up another one of those corrupted cesspools as he would call it. Count me in."

 

In the mean-time at Torch's cave at Isirion's hideout

 

Torch sighed, hours had passed and Flameys skills had not improved in the slightest. All the hatchling had to do was figuring out the pattern of his tail strikes and avoid them. Chimera winced every time her charge got slammed across the cave, but since there were dragon cashmere blankets everywhere, no real harm was done. In the end Flamey gave up and whined: "This training alone is too hard. Why can't I train with Claw? He would have figured this out easily." Another sigh escaped Torch and he growled: "Not this again. Claw is not your friend. You can rely on no-one but yourself in here. If you keep failing so pathetically, our keeper will kill you. If you keep giving up so easily, our keeper will kill you. If you don't get stronger at all, our keeper will kill you." "Leave him be Torch, Flamey just doesn't have an instinct for killing", Hellfire Chimera ended the futile training and playfully bit her mate's throat. Torch brushed her off gently and said softly: "He has no instinct for flying or fighting either. I want to keep him alive, but I fear the moment Isirion lays eyes on him, he will be Skull's next meal." Chimera considered this for a while, until her eyes lit up and she said: "I must have lost a hundred times against Belia and some of thoses losses were probably even more pathetic than Flamey's tries just now. I had no fighting skills, only spirit, but still our keeper did not kill me. In hindsight he did the exact opposite - he gave me a reason to live. 'Fight or die'. I fought for you against Belia - and I won. I think Flamey's mind works similar. He just can't fight on command - he needs something to fight for." Torch lowered his frame until he was level with the hatchling and touched his heart with his wing-claw: "Do you have something or someone you are willing to fight for?" Flamey only hesitated for a second, before he squeaked: "I'll fight for my friends. For Alteria and Claw and Skull even though she is creepy!" Torch touched his own heart and confirmed: "That's the spirit. Remember this feeling and it will help you focus. You must not only be willing to fight - you must be willing to win, because dead you are of no use to any of your friends except Skull. Now try again!"

 

Flamey readied himself to try again, but Torch didn't strike. The older male suddenly turned his head this way and that and without warning the whole cave began to tremble. Little pebbles began to rain down from the ceiling and Chimera jumped to protect Flamey with her outstretched wings and larger frame. Torch still moved his head around as if he was trying to catch a sound only he could hear, but as the tremors grew stronger by the minute he stopped and focused on the safety of his mate and her charge. They both looked unhurt albeit a bit shaken, but that could easily change if the earthquake or whatever it was grew any stronger. By now the every visible part of the hideout was trembling and Torch strongly suspected that neither the hidden livestock-area nor Isirion's own cave were any saver. Everything was shaking and almost everything in here was made out of stone that could crush them all, if the earthquakes got any worse. Torch urged Chimera and Flamey to leave the cave and stay airborne as long as they could. If they flew at ground level the would have more time and a better chance to avoid crushing down stones as opposed to staying inside. Chimera acknowledged the idea and flew towards other Hellfires who apparently had the same idea...

Edited by Isirion

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Satisfied with Isirion's response and sure that she wouldn't be relying on a Fever Wyvern to attack him anytime in the future, Drake accepted his answer with a "Glad to hear you're willing," and took it upon herself to get the approval and support she needed for the plan, confident she had enough grasp on the situation to earn it. Anything she forgot from Pride's ideas could be elaborated upon later, especially considering she wanted some more concrete facts from wherever she could find them; from scouts, from city dwellers already on hand, or from a certain hostage. She was already thinking of her next steps as she flagged down a superior, the same she'd encountered upon first rushing into the base, who'd told her about Ezra's worry and Relantia's summons to the arena that had fallen through once Drake arrived. It took just about no time to get him against 'The Lady,' and, while skeptical about the company Drake had brought and her Royal Blue's full capabilities, he trusted in her judgement on Pride and Felicia (with Isirion, she told him to ask a patchy-bearded man clad in knives about the man with the cold and bloodstained presence) and agreed to let her go through with the mansion-based attack while he and his colleagues organized the attack on the Nebs. As he passed on the plans, there was a rising buzz of conversation about the topic, and Drake knew who exactly she was going to next. It was more two people, really, because she first sent off the interrogator, curious as he was as to why Drake felt entitled to command him to do something, to bring Pride and the new arrivals back to the empty stable they were meant to be taking refuge in. The count became three when she had to inform the increasingly antsy Taellonn of what she was doing, but after that she made her way to the inhabited walled-off stable. The lock didn't seem as loud as before when the key-wielding guard opened it amid all the stirred conversation, but inside of the room it heavily clicked and echoed just as much as before. With a last-second and barely sincere "Thank you" to the guard, Drake walked in and stood in the narrow area between that wall and the real prisoner's area behind the preexisting stable door-turned cell wall. It was nothing short of an empty room, save for an old chair, and was clearly meant for temporary custody. The chair wasn't even anything remarkably intimidating for someone undergoing interrogation, unless they found the fact that one shorter back leg put it slightly off balance unnerving. But, with claw weapons adorning her hands, Drake wouldn't have to be thinking about any wobbly chair's ability to intimidate when she asked an imprisoned Wallet if he knew about any 'Lady' with an affinity for living dragon decorations or dragon servants... 

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The fence stared wide-eyed at Drake's claws as his mind replayed the scene of Lord Hassleboroughs gruesome demise. He understood the warrior woman was asking for full sentences now, but somehow his brain had frozen and he could only nod. What seemed like a life-time later Wallet managed to choke out that Hassleborough had boasted about an invitation he had gotten from a person he called the 'Blue Lady'. She told him to bring along some Vine and dress up accordingly. He also remembered that the lord had been told to leave his daughter at home because at the last party she had tried to nick a Daydream from the sky whatever that meant. Wallet squirmed uneasy on the chair that was too small to accommodate his ample frame, then he asked with the tiniest of voices: "Did you kill the daughter too? She did nothing wrong."

 

At the same time at the 'guest' stable

 

When the interrogater had lead Pride, Felicia and Isirion to the stable, the first two thanked him while the latter scanned the room and found himself an easily defendable position with his back guarded by the stable back-wall. The messenger pygmy had come with them. It clung to the least likely place imaginable for a dragon - Isirion's bloodstained cloak. Pride came almost as close as he finally found the opportunity to offer his heartfelt thanks. Isirion listened as politely as possible, but when he finally got a word in, he growled: "Instead of thanking me you should hate me like your dragon does, because every drop of blood I spilled at your arena made the target on your back grow as well." That made Pride finally shut up and so Isirion could concentrate on the Nilia Pygmy that for some reason had traded shooting him reproachful looks for roosting on his cloak. It was quite young and fully capable of flying, but every time he shook his arm to encourage it to find another roost, it clung to him even harder. With nothing else to do in the time it took Drake to get permission for this newest slaughtering mission she and Pride had some inexplicable way cooked up together, he decided to solve this pygmy-sized riddle. He focused on the pygmy's body language and weighed it against the peculiar behaviour it had displayed at Pride's house. Together they screamed the answer as loud as if the pygmy had actually talked. Isirion tapped his index finger against the little one's heart and said: "Drake's people took you in because your swarm vanished. They haven't been killed otherwise you would be spooked by the dragon blood on my cloak, but you aren't one hundred percent sure they have been abducted. A small part of you fears they might have abandoned you because you have disappointed them, that is why you tried so hard to fulfill your duty as a messenger. But now that you have heard the talk about the Lady and that I am willing to infiltrate her mansion, you cling to the hope that they are still alive and in her clutches. You want me to look for them and rescue them if possible." The pygmy nodded vigorously and immensely happy that finally, someone had truly understood him. Isirion was about to give his answer to the unspoken question, when he noticed how silent the stable had become. Every pair of eye in the stable was focused on him, Pride and Felicia stared with open mouths, the green-haired lady and her dragons stared in open surprise, Golden Myth stared with grudging acknowledgement and Drake's Royal Blue and the interrogator just stared...

Edited by Isirion

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Drake was almost surprised and maybe even slightly offended at the question, but upon realizing Wallet knew just about enough about her to warrant the question, she calmed down. "Alright, you caught me," she began, in a borderline sarcastic way that was nothing short of an indication that she was answering a dumb question, "No way would I kill a little kid. Like you said, she did nothing wrong." Drake considered some truthful embellishing about her stance on- odd as it was to consider, child-killing- but stayed quiet instead. She had her own set of morals and enemies, and the only way kids or hatchlings got involved with the latter were if they were in harm's way and needed helping, simple as that. Besides, she didn't want to waste any time, and inviting any type of conversation wouldn't help with that. In typical fashion she cut the interrogation as quickly as she'd intended to begin it, departing with, "That was all I needed to know. Chances are, the next person to question you won't be me, and it might not even be here. Don't worry, you'll make it out alive after, provided you keep choosing not to hold your tongue until you've gotten out." Though she hadn't exactly intended to, she thought back to the dragons which had brought her initial group to the city. They were surely still in some stable, one Taellonn knew the whereabouts of, either unaware of the situation or presuming it. She hadn't even interacted with the dragons, but leaving them still felt wrong and she'd somehow need to get them in a better position, provided they even wanted any help or hadn't escaped like Taellonn. If the Draikenflaemes could manage to find the dragons they'd certainly allow them any choice for their future, but Drake didn't doubt that Wallet would actually get out alive (surely he'd be scared enough to reconsider his choices and stay quiet about his imprisonment, and he'd have a target on his back anyways) and, if any dragon wanted to be with him, so be it. She thought this as she left the room and the guard locked the door behind her, but her focus shifted back to the 'Blue Lady' once she exited. At least, it would have, if she didn't come across the odd scene in the 'guest' stable. Walking over, she lightly prodded Taellonn, who'd situated himself a little ways away from the stable previously, with her foot and asked what happened. It was something about Isirion and the pygmy, which Taellonn just about completely failed to articulate as the pressure of everyone else's silence and his own surprise sunk in more; but, based on the lack of any bodies or fresh blood, Drake presumed it wasn't anything of extreme urgency, at least not right now. So, she didn't have any qualms about interrupting whatever happened. "I've received permission and my superiors have already begun planning on how they'll be managing the Nebs. I've also learned that our target might have the alias of the 'Blue Lady' as well, and that she was also expecting a certain deceased lord as a guest at her party. I say we just have to be wary of that and how it may impact security or her personally, but it's nothing we can't manage or talk our ways around if it turns out to be an issue."

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The first one to react to Drake's news was Isirion. He poked the pygmy again, this time on the shoulder and told it with a mocking smile: "Seems today is your lucky day." The next sentence came accompanied by a poke in the stomach: "That is if you can manage not to flinch." The pygmy gave Isirion the expected puzzled look and he explained: "Gifting the 'Blue Lady' blue dragons will gain us entry to the party. Drake will gift her Royal Blue although with gums that pallid a colour he won't be much use until he gets himself a full trough of water to drink first. I will gift you and the lady will probably ask me to skewer you to a wall of her choosing right away to prove my commitment to her. You might end up right next to your swarm, their terrified shrieks ringing in your head while I drive nails into your body. However if you can muster enough mental strength to hold still regardless of the circumstances, I can place those nails accurately enough to give you just enough room to wriggle free by tearing your wing membranes in some places. But if you flinch, I will most likely hit your wing-bones instead and crush them. Only in the first case you will be able to move around afterwards and free the other 'gifts' so you better get used to the pain." In the half-second it took the pygmy to work out what that meant, Isirion had drawn the assassin's knife and poked a hole in it's wing right beneath two interlocking bones. The pymy screeched in pain and despite it's efforts to supress it, flinched back an inch when Isirion threatened to stab it again. Not a second later the screech and Pride's horrified gasp was drowned out by Golden Myth who roared with all the pent-up anger and frustration he had felt from the moment he had first smelled the dragon killer in Pride's arena. Like a golden lightning bolt he charged at Isirion who deftly stepped aside and let the wall behind him meet the wyverns's charge. Golden Myth slammed into the wall with full force and went out like a torch, right after his ears registered the pygmy's trembling but determined voice: "ag...again!"

Edited by Isirion

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"I can't- You really-" Drake barely inhaled before actually saying something worthwhile, the moments it took to compose her filled by the interrogator pushing his way past the rest, including a practically unresponsive Taellonn, to check on the Golden Wyvern. "What the hell was that, Isirion? I mean, think for one second, won't you? You can't just stab anyone out of nowhere here! You..." She glanced at Mythy. "...You've even hurt Golden Myth with that! Do you think that's helpful in any way? Productive? And, as you should have foreseen, since we can't leave a pygmy bleeding, we're going to be wasting time, wasting effort, and, I might even be tempted to say, inflicting trauma on the pygmy's end that could have gone without while we heal them." Her anger faintly subsided into a tone of authority as she continued. "This pygmy is going to be tended to right now to prevent anything worse from happening; so, you need to hand them over and, since I'm apparently late to whatever exactly you're doing here, someone, I don't care who, had better tell me who the hell they are and why the hell you're trying to impale them."

Edited by Drakessis

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Isirion made no attempt of handing over the pygmy to be placed in the care of the White Dragon and weirdly enough neither seemed the pygmy himself inclined to leave the apparently hostile shoulder. Since nobody seemed to understand what was going on in his charge's head, Isirion translated again: "Sitting around here and getting pampered while knowing that his family is most likely suffering in the Blue Lady's 'care' is something the little one can't stand. If a few moments of pain in preparation is what it takes to ultimately save them he is prepared to suffer a lot worse than being stabbed precisely through his wing membrane. Once he can control his flinching I'll personally hand him over to Susurro. In your own interest you should let him continue, otherwise who will unlock your dragon's cage once he has been gifted. I can't see Taellonn lockpicking human-sized locks with his dragon-sized paws." He pointed out the Royal Blue's front paws with the assassin's blade and then nonchalantly stabbed the pygmy again, before almost snarling in Drake's direction: "If you value dragons so much, you should honour this one's commitment. I understand you are used to having to make decision for your meek escort, but this pygmy has enough willpower for two dragons. Did you notice how he barely flinched this time? One more try should do the trick."

 

As Isirion prepared to strike yet again, Golden Myth regained his conciousness and got to his feet. He had a nasty looking bump on his forehead and Pride's fussing over it didn't help at all. Mythy gently shoved his keeper aside and placed himself in a non-threatening way a few feet in front of Isirion and asked him rather bewildered: "Why am I still alive dragon killer? You spared my life once when I attacked you back at the arena, yet I just tried to kill you again." Isirion stayed the assassin's knife an inch before it would have pierced the pygmy's unflinching right wing and answered with a voice fit to freeze a flight of Hellfires over: "This knife's blade isn't long enough to fully pierce your heart and your charge was too quick to draw my own blade instead."

Edited by Isirion

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Drake was ready to explain why it clearly wasn't her fault she wasn't informed on the situation in the first place, and why she was actually right, and why there was, once again, absolutely no reason to mention Taellonn, but she was interrupted more than once- first by Mythy, then by Isirion in his reply to the dragon, and finally by the interrogator, who felt his own frustration rising as he began to tune out occasionally and now wanted nothing more than to break the tension in the air that could have been cut with the knife this 'Death' or 'Isirion' or whoever he was held. He forced his way as between the three as he could, ensuring eyes were on him. "And here I was thinking this plan of yours was in good hands! Not a single one of you seems to be on the same page now, and you expect me to believe that you're going to infiltrate a guarded party and kill a city noble without getting killed yourselves? This lack of communication is going to do nothing but hurt you all in the end, and who knows what it could mean for the poor souls in the mansion." He gestured to the currently knife-wielding man. "You may think with reason, but I agree with Drake when she says you act unreasonably. If the pygmy wants to help, wants to prepare in such a way, and can be healed in the end, then I say let him be an asset to us and a savior to his family. But you and that pygmy aren't alone in this room, and you need to consider the feelings of those you're apparently working with and how they're seeing what you're doing. Reason with them before you act and spare yourself the trouble of having a wyvern after your throat and a warrior who's looking not far from the same." He looked between the Golden Wyvern and Drake, though he focused mostly on the latter. "I'm not trying to pick any sides here, and I don't want you to think I am. But I think a pygmy can be as courageous as any other dragon or human, and a few moments of pain, however intense, is a small sacrifice for the freedom of the suffering. I haven't been here for the whole of this man's interactions with you two, but you can't just go after him if you're working with him; he's trying to help this pygmy, even if you don't agree with how he is." Nothing seemed to shut Drake down more than the implication from another Draikenflaeme that she wasn't reliable, and it took nothing more than a moment for her to reestablish the mature and responsible presence she valued so greatly in order to prove him wrong. Maybe his arguments had some merit; the pygmy could be a hero if it so pleased, even if it meant some sacrifice, but that didn't mean Isirion was completely in the right. That worked for Drake. "I... agree," she began, slight reluctance making itself known but not blatantly obvious. "We all have the same goal here, so we all just need to make our intentions clear before we act. No more fighting like this, especially not at the mansion. If the pygmy so wishes, we should let him endure what he needs to in order to assist us and... save his family? The injuries are... only temporary, after all."

Edited by Drakessis

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"They are", Isirion confirmed and finally put away the assassin's knife. Like he had promised before, he handed over the pygmy personally to the White Dragon before addressing everyone in the room: "I rarely act without reason and this time I wasn't only testing the pygmy's resolve. I was also testing the restraint of everyone else here. If Pride still intends for us to enter the party as guests charging in at the first sign of dragon mistreatment is a no-go. Golden Myth already disqualified himself, but Felicia passed with flying colours. I guess that isn't so surprising, seeing as she didn't even bat an eye-lash at finding a bloodstained stranger in her bedroom earlier." Pride raised a surpised eye-brow at his wife, but she only shrugged and Isirion went on: "You on the other hand, Pride, should wear a full face mask to hide your face full of pity, shock and disgust. Drake should be fine in her full-body armour if she manages to keep the bloodlust she displayed at Hassleborough's mansion hidden. That leaves the green-haired lady." He positioned himself right before Alzira and continued: "I know you are able to show some sort of composure like you did when suddenly faced with a dead assassin, but way too often your compassion shines through as it did when I brought you the hunter's body. Before this is over, you might witness a lot more deaths like the boy bandit's and his dragon. Will you really be able to keep up the masquerade, especially when your dragons are not around to bolster your spirit?"

Edited by Isirion

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Susurro took the little dragon and placed him in front of him. He got on his haunches and cupped the pygmy with his forearmes, then he bowed down and whispered: "Don't be afraid, I will touch you and you will feel a strange sensation. Please relax and you will be healed soon." After that short instruction he sent his powers to check the damage and concentrated on undoing the cuts. When he was finished he turned to the people around him and said camly: "It would be best to let the little one sleep for a while, he needs it to complete the healing." He then focused on Isirion and continued, a slight grumbling might have been heared: "Do not misunderstand me: I will help if I can but I am my own master and might refuse to do so, especially if things like that are done on purpose. Do not take me or my powers for granted, they are as all things limited. I am neither your tool nor yours to command."

 

Sappo, awoken by the Pygmy's cry, had watched the training with curiosity. He then stretched his wings, circled around the room and took his place on his keeper's shoulder where he eyed Isirion suspiciously.

 

Alzira was still stunned by Isirion's display of understanding of the the Nilia Pygmy. This short interaction showed her that he was not immune to dragons' needs and wants. He just put reason and usefulness before compassion and emotion. She even agreed to his evaluation of the people involved. Would she be able to keep a cool composure? Just now it dawned on her that she would be without Sappo and she hadn't been without the Myst Pygmy.... ever! "Isirion," she started, "your assumption is quite to the point. I don't know if I am strong enough to embody such a dragon collector." ...She hesitated, an idea began forming in her mind... " maybe you could introduce me as a dragon trainer, a coach for pygmies who teaches them tricks and such. That way Sappo could stay with me." She nudged Sappo, "you would do that, wouldn't you?" The dragon grumbled in agreement.

 

Edited by Alzira

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The White Dragons defiance surprised Isirion, especially after all he had done for Susurro's keeper. He locked eyes with the dragon and told him: "As long as you don't take my help for granted either the next time the green-haired lady gets attacked by thieves, spotted by an air-bandit, preyed upon by assassins or held up in a Neb tower." With that Isirion dismissed the matter and gave Alzira's idea some serious thought while the pygmy received his due treatment. When that was finished, he told Alzira: "If your pygmy can keep the Lady's eyes occupied with his tricks, the Nilia has a much better chance of wriggling free and sneaking off towards the dragon holding area undetected. I believe I can draw some attention away too by telling origin stories of some of the decorations in Hassleboroughs mansion. He did order half of them at the Egg Hunter's pole after all. Also that sort of name dropping lends credibility to our cover story, which, thanks to Drake, the dead lord conveniently can't disprove. Pride is a walking distraction all on his own and -" Proving his point, now that Golden Myth and the Nilia were both apparently fine again, Pride was back to his usual, personal space invading 'deathmerized' behaviour and begged instantly: "Please tell me your origin story! The party won't start for at least half a day and telling me...I mean us, about yourself will go a long way in making our performance much more believable!"

 

Felicia rolled her eyes, when her husband hijacked the conversation, but she was curious herself as to how someone could turn out as a cold and ruthless dragon killer without remorse while at the same time being able to understand dragons even better than those who had apparently dedicated their lives to them. Isirion ignored Pride best as he could and focused on Alzira again: "But there is also a chance that the 'Blue Lady' isn't interested at all in the performance of any non-blue pygmy. In that case you should teach the Nilia a few tricks in advance too and prepare for the pitch-black one to become a decoration for a time instead."

Edited by Isirion

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Alzira took the offer better than she thought, she just twitched slightly as Isirion proposed the "nailing" of Sappo. She knew she had to watch his training otherwise she would reveal their disguise. Nevertheless she didn't like it. She responded: "Only if Sappo agrees" The keeper of the pygmy looked to the little dragon who had followed the discussion intensly. He had choosen to go directly to the Nilia Dragon and to get his information from the source. Alzira could see them engaged in a severe conversation with lots of grumbling and chirping involved. Finally Sappo came back, nodded a small grunt towards his keeper and flew directly to Isirion, staring at him provokingly. He was ready to help the little Nilia. "But I will watch you training, I need to steel myself too," Alzira added.

 

Susurro sighed, he was most thankful for Isirion's help but frankly he would prefer a day without healing anybody.

Since he couldn't support Alzira on this mission he was glad that she was now able to fend for herself  better but that didn't mean she had to put herself in harm's way. The White dragon definitely didn't enjoy the current developement.

 

Edited by Alzira

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Despite just getting permission to hurt another pygmy, Isirion made no attempt to draw the assassin's knife again. Instead he said with a vicious smile to the green-haired lady: "You said it yourself - you need to steel yourself and I need to see if your knife training bore any fruits. Once Drake starts ripping out throats and I start killing guards, the other guests might try to barter for their lives by taking someone from our group hostage. If Sappo ends up being a decoration but needs to come back for you instead of freeing Taellonn and the other dragons our plan falls apart. I noticed not only when he tried to burn off my face that your little one takes pride in defending you. His flame is certainly potent enough to serve this purpose, but having trained it so fiercly he can flame steadily for minutes like he did in the forest and the arena also means he knows you need defending. It would ease both our minds if you could prove that instead of becoming a liablilty you will be able to fend for yourself for a while so take out your knife and fight me."

Edited by Isirion

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"You seem to enjoy this, bending peoples' words and principles", Alzira stated. Nevertheless she readied herself and moved her hand just so slightly to the side so she could grasp the hilt of her knife. She knew a surprise attack would be best but Isirion had already made his intentions of testing her clear so he was definitely prepared or rather experienced enough to see her attack coming. Despite all that she tried to use Sappo as a diversion. The little dragon was still flapping his wings and hovering up and down in front of Isirion, staring at him, expecting an iminent attack on himself. Alzira drew the knife and at the same moment she made a step towards Isirion. She turned it slightly so she would have the perfect angle for a fast strike on the hand and with a quick turn and a sidestep she could get even closer and try a hit at the armpit or neck and ideally disarmor even disable her opponent - if it was an odinary person. Still she thought that people deeming her harmless was better because then a hidden attack or even a good defense would be more startling instead.

 

Edited by Alzira

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"Wrong", Isirion said. "I said from the beginning that you should prepare for your pygmy to become a decoration." And with one swift movement he grabbed the pitch-black pygmy that was so conveniently flapping in front of him firmly by the neck, quickly turned it to face it's keeper and added: "The lady's mansion is full of pygmys nailed to the wall alive. So you should also be prepared for the other guests to use them as a shield or to attack. They can rip them from the wall and throw them in your face or they can grab them by the tail and use them like a whip with claws. What will you do then?"

 

Pride who had watched the exchange anxiously yelped when Sappo was grabbed, but Felicia patted his arm and said: "You should really go and work on that full face mask. And please don't make it a butterfly." "Or a wyvern", Mythy growled from behind while his tail was violently swishing left to right like a nervous cat's since he was still chewing on the answer the dragon killer had given him earlier.

 

In the mean-time at a certain dragon stable within the big city

 

Loot, the Harvest Dragon rolled unto his back and scratched his belly in thought. The hay was comfortable, the food was plenty, but something still wasn't right. He rolled back on his feet and asked Sparky, the Red Dragon who, despite all the hay around, blew a little spark every five seconds or so: "Do you think our masters will ever come back for us?" "I don't have a master", Sunny, the Sunrise Dragon interjected, but even she looked worried because absolutely no-one had come for them. Sparky stopped hazarding the stable and growled: "There was one hell of a commotion outside last night." Now Loot looked even more worried and replied: "Wallet would never leave me behind. I am his favourite loot after all. He must have been captured...or worse." The Red Dragon spew a flame in the shape of a skull and teased: "You mean he is dead. We were fleeing from a bloody murderer after all. Remember Gutter-Fish?" Loot didn't want to remember, but he did. He also remembered all the fun times he had with Wallet. A sigh escaped his scaly lips and he said: "We should go looking for them. I remember a mansion decorated with egg shells and a fancy mosaic Wallet mentioned." Sparky shook his head and grumbled: "Sure, lets just walk up to that place and ask. Didn't you see the city from above? All those spikes and the scales and trophies on the roofs and walls. Besides this is a human problem. We shouldn't interfere." Loot gave the Red a nasty look and said: "Sticking our noses where they don't belong is kind of the point of being a member of a thieves guild." Sparky matched the look and replied: "After carrying around Fingers for the whole trip to the city, I have a pretty good notion of why even our fearless guild leader had turned tail and I don't think even the assassins he wanted to hire here would have stood any chance. Face it, they are dead and we are on our own otherwise someone would have come for us."

 

"Someone has come for you!", the stable master suddenly announced and lead a one-handed man in, who looked like he had been through hell and back. Loot barely recognized Fingers, but it couldn't be anyone else. The Harvest shoved open the unlocked cage doors, shot out and grabbed him like a piece of treasure: "Where is Wallet? Where are the others? What happened?"

Edited by Isirion

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Alzira flinched, but then it dawned on her:"I appologize, I misunderstood," she said through clenched teeth. Seeing the little dragon being hold like that made her feel sick. Sappo himself felt a bit strained but since he had agreed to this training he had expected something like this, but that didn't mean he liked it. He flapped his wings a little more intensly and managed to wink at his keeper. Alzira blinked, had she seen correctly? Sappo was alright! She relaxed almost immediately. She felt reassured, braced herself and told Isirion:" Go on then, I have to see this through, otherwise my behavior will tell." This time she promised herself to keep it together, she won't flinch again.

 

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