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Isirion

The Bloodline of Torch

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"It will tell anyway", Isirion sighed and released the pygmy. "Better make that two full face masks and give the lady the invitation you got", he commanded Pride and then addressed Alzira again: "Your knife skills did improve a bit as did your situational judgement, but seeing as your face betrays almost everything, I suggest we rely on your painting skills instead. If you can paint us more of those invitations enough of Drake's people can strategically place themselves inside the lady's mansion and provide backup. I imagine Pride will have no trouble fabricating some kind of backstory and disguise for them in time. Since you will be busy painting and I have some experience handling dragons, I will train the pygmies until you have finished the forgeries. I believe setting things on fire with a little challenge involved would be perfect for yours. The Nilia has very dexterous paws since he didn't even need a harness to carry messages. They are perfect for lock-picking and grabbing and throwing things. He can fly around freely to get a layout of the mansion, grab things from the tables and toss them to the Dark Myst to set on fire. Two fluttering pygmies and a few flying and burning objects should prove a very effective distraction as well. In that case I can slip away and free the dragons before the lady decides she wants to keep one or both of the pgymies as decorations." Isirion pulled out one of the bandages he had swiped from Pride's place and called the Nilia to him: "Rest time is over. You are already prepared for option A, but option B may also work if you two can combine your strengths." The Nilia pygmy tried out his newly healed wings and flapped over eagerly. Isirion tied one end of the bandage around it's belly and then gestured Sappo to come to him as well: "You enjoy letting loose your flame, strong enough to turn it blue which is hopefully exactly what the blue lady wants to see but if you cannot aim that fire accurately enough you will burn the Nilia's wings. Both of you are in motion and there is also the object you should ignite, if you are not exactly aware of your own position in relation to his he will get hurt a lot more than with option A. To avoid this I will tie both of you together and you must practice to fly at a fixed distance from each other. That distance is the maximum reach of your flame so show me now - preferably without trying to burn off my face."

 

While Isirion talked to the pygmies, Pride rummaged in the belongings he managed to take with him and produced the invitation. It was written in blue ink and bore the blue lady's crest at the end. Two pygmies intertwined with elaborate needles protuding from their wings, backs and feet. Felicia pointed at them and said: "Just like Hassleborough and his vines. They tell the whole world what they are doing, but nobody cares." Her husband gave her a kiss and said: "I care and so do these people." Pride indicated everyone else present, but Golden Myth only snorted and spat pointing at the dragon killer: "If he cares about anyone here, you can turn me into a giant flower for your next performance." Pride looked puzzled and went to deliver the invitation to Alzira, but Felicia started to giggle: "Oh, I'd love to see a golden rose or maybe a mythical pansy. Too bad I can't decide." "What's there to decide?", Mythy asked looking as puzzled as his keeper. Felicia stopped giggling and explained: "Well, you lost that bet already. You said it yourself and I saw it with my own eyes, Death spared your life even though you attacked him. He even complimented you on the fastness of your attack, saying that he hadn't time to draw his blade to stab your heart. But he also didn't gouge out your eye or slash your throat or cut your sinews with the knife he was holding. There is more, however cruel it might seem, he is helping the Nilia despite getting attacked for it. And lastly the painter lady - " "I understand", Mythy growled, "if he didn't care at all he wouldn't have tried preparing her for all eventualities." "If he didn't care at all he would have done what even I know to be the best defense against that knife move - hitting her wrist really hard." Mythy remained silent for a few seconds, then he said: "Alright, you can turn me into a Rose Dragon and I guess I owe the dragon killer another apology." Felicia giggled again and then mockingly imitated Isirion's ice-cold voice: "Don't apologize to me, I only spared her wrist a possible injury because her painting skills are still needed." Golden Myth let out a laugh and smiled brightly finally understanding why his keeper loved this woman so much.

Edited by Isirion

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Sappo listened carefully and liked this new game immediately! Trying to hit something with his flame is one of his all time favourites! It should work like match, shouldn't it? The only drawback, as he soon realized, was that bandage that was being wrapped around him. Was this really necessary? He was good at this! With a little sigh of dissapointment he looked at it, he had agreed to help but maybe smoulder it a bit? Suddenly he felt a jolt through it. That reminded him that he wasn't alone in this game and the limited range they were supposed to work with. Under no circumstances would he hurt the Nilia! The little black concentrated a bit and turned his flame blue, aimed and just as the little blue dragon stood still for a second to aim a piece of wood he'd found at him he spat a little blue cloud. Since he had aimed a little shorter because he new "blue" reached farther than"red" the other pygmy shouldn't suffer any consequences but the missile would be consumed.

 

Alzira saw the dragons fluttering around each other, squeaking and screeching. The blue threw straw, pieces of wood and small stuff it found lying around and the black countered by spitting blue flames, burning them to a crisp. She supposed they were giving each other signs on how to work together. Watching them exchangin missiles, blue fireballs, long ranging flames and escaping them in the last moment looked quite dramatic and almost like a beautiful and deadly dance. The colours and burning vapours mixed and evaporated, it was a stunning sight, at least to her. She thought about capturing such a scene in her next piece of art, but back to work.

 

Alzira still had to finish a few more invitations. She was really lucky she had had the right inks at hand and had just needed three attempts to get the right shade of blue. The paper was a bit trickier, it was a high quality looking but nevertheless of a lower one than she had expected. She still had some similar one left that worked and looked perfectly fine. The crest itself took a while to figure out, but wasn't that much of a challange in the end. While she was forging the invitations she overheard the conversation with Felicia and instantly knew that she had been quite lucky in the little fight and that she once again had misjudged Isirion.

 

Edited by Alzira

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Pride was torn between working on two full face masks, admiring his smart and beautiful wife, keeping an eye on Death and of course watching the little ones play as if nothing was wrong in the world. Both pygmies seemed to have forgotten everything around them and just concentrated on their game. While the Dark Myst was clearly proud of his fire power and aiming skills, the Nilia looked truly happy being able to play with another pygmy totally forgetting the ordeal it had been put through not long ago. Isirion was also watching the pygmies but he looked neither happy nor proud of the apparently successful training instead his face was an inapproachable mask, but Pride being Pride didn't let that stop him. He put down the half-finished dragonfly mask he was working on and approached with a spring in his step: "I knew it. You are not just a dragon killer." "You are right, I kill humans too", Isirion snapped, barely restricting himself from drawing his blade and proving that exact point. He was used to dealing with people and dragons trying to kill him, but the obsession that particular human showed towards him was more than unsettling. It kind of reminded him of Hellfire T who was always seeking his attention whenever he checked on the higher up caves. "Bloody Hellfire", Isirion suddenly cursed as it dawned on him that he hadn't been able to check on the hellfires for days because one bloody mission kept creeping up right after the other. First it had been a searching mission for the missing Gatherer, but that had turned into a rescue mission for Sodger and that had turned into an assassination mission for a city lord and now an infiltration mission for the blue lady's mansion on top of the full scale assault mission on the air-bandits his master had given him. "But", Pride tried to explain himself only to find a bloodstained blade suddenly pressed against his throat. Isirion's killing intent was almost tangible as his temper fueled by anger and frustration finally got the better of him and he hissed while drawing the first drop of blood: "Not one more word."

 

Meanwhile somewhere over the Endless Desert

 

"Please slow down and let us rest for a bit", Ale pleaded as Barrel started to wheeze with every wingbeat. Aseto who was flying without a rider slowed down almost immediately and after a few seconds the Guardian's Grey matched his pace. The Guardian didn't look too happy about it, but he steered towards an overhanging rock formation and landed there. When everyone was hidden as much as possible from prying air-bandit eyes, Ale asked him: "I understand why you left our captain behind and why you want to stop his apprentice from starting a war, but do you really think that that is what he is trying to do?" The Guardian rubbed his temples and said: "You heard Sodger's declaration yourself and it was you who first feared it could lead to another war. You know how badly he wants to cleanse that corrupted city. What better way than to use somebody who managed to turn a simple disagreement with an extortion gang into a war with the whole of the thieves guild. Even backed up by a gigantic Hooktalon they got annihilated almost single-handedly by Sodger's apprentice. I don't want it to be true, but our old captain has found the perfect weapon for his goal and he isn't afraid to use it. I believe that in accordance to Sodger's orders, Isirion plans to make the Nebulas and the air-bandits fight each other by attacking each side and blaming it on the other. We need to find him and stop him before he makes that first kill that would start a retaliation war that could really engulf the whole city." "I know where to find him", Aseto told them. "He will be at Pride's arena because he promised to fight me and even if he breaks that promise I can still find him by his cold and bloodstained scent." The Guardian nodded and said: "It will be difficult for us to enter the city again after we needed a Royal Crimson sized distraction to leave it, but I have an idea. The armor we took from the slain guards at that city lord's mansion in order to make it look like they were still patrolling looks just like the Nebs'. If we -" "You want to use deceit?", Ale interrupted and wondered if their ex-captain was the only one who had changed for the worse after meeting that bloody murderer. The Guardian slammed his fist on the ground and spat: "You know how much I hate liars and dishonesty, but letting the enemy fool themselves is a valid battle tactic." Ale couldn't argue with that, but Aseto immediately growled: "They have to be really big fools if they mistake us for Nebulas." "We will fool them with the honest truth and tell them that you are the one that burned down their underground arena and if doing so gives us the chance to free those other, unjustly imprisoned Royal Blues, even better!", the Guardian proclaimed and Ale added: "I remember that Isirion once planned to set the raging mad dragons loose at the underground arena our captain was held at in order to create enough chaos to free him. That ruthless plan got changed thanks to the greenhaired lady and the female warrior, but-" "But there might be a chance he tries again to unleash dragons in order to fool the Nebs into thinking their air-bandit lackeys betrayed them!", the Guardian concluded looking like a bear who had just found a giant beehive. If only it doesn't turn into a giant hornet's nest...

Edited by Isirion

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Finally Alzira had finished the last invitation, complete with crest and all the other adornments. She took them and went to Pride and Isirion to let them be checked one last time. She took a peek at the pygmies who where still engaged in their training, moving up and down, left and right through the room. It looked like a fierce fight and a game at the same time, dangerous none the less. Alzira turned to the men, noticing that the constant controlled angry mood lingering around Isirion had changed to something sharper, more vicious. As she looked closer she noticed the blade at Pride's throat, already tasting his blood. Why had they to act like this just now? As she came nearer she shouted at them, annoyed by their behavior:"Oh stop it, we don't have time for this! Isirion, you are a great asset, but you can't eliminate your problems that way. This limits your options in your future endeavours! And you Pride, you have a great and creative mind but please accept that some people need more private space than others! We have no time to fight amongst ourselves and then lick our wounds! I think it best if we all get back to finalize our work." At least she stopped them for another minute she thought, not realizing that Susurro, drawn to her loud voice, had closed up to her, eying both men intently, ready to act if need be. Even Sappo had found his way to near his keeper. He and the Nilia were still engaged in their exchange of blows, blue flame ready to "misfire".

 

Edited by Alzira

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For a moment it seemed like Isirion was now all the more ready to follow through with the 'eliminate your problems' part, but then he lowered his blade. He looked like he wanted to say something, maybe an insult or even an apology, but a bucket full of water to his face cut his words short. Felicia had decided to take no risks in cooling that murderous temper down with a generous load of water from the stable trough. Pride wasted no time and retreated to the safest spot available - right behind his wife. Together they watched as Isirion's fury dissipated with the same speed as a the water droplets running down his bloodstained cloak. Finally, when he was standing an an almost pink puddle, Isirion sheathed his blade and said visibly calmer: " A pity you didn't use that water on your husband earlier, a lot of unpleasantness could have been avoided." Felicia shook her head and replied just as calm: "Nah, my husband is just like weed, watering him only makes it worse." "I tried cutting him back but you stopped me", Isirion interjected now looking perfectly calm. Pride looked from his wife to Isirion and back again. Something was going on here and whatever it was, it obviously wasn't finished yet. Felicia gave her husband a cheeky smile and elaborated: "He doesn't need to be cut down completely, just a little trimming here and there, like a hedge." And for some reason she burst into laughter and a moment later Isirion joined in with his deathrasp variant. Pride looked very flustered as he finally sat down again to finish the masks. Everyone around him was laughing now - except Drake and even she would probably be at least grinning, if she hadn't already left the stable earlier to check on the left-behind dragons.

 

In the mean-time at the Shadow guild

 

Nightblade sat behind his desk, his eyes wandering around aimlessly, but always coming back to the knife lying just a few inches away. It's matted blade reflected nothing but that was exactly what made it so alluring. Showing nothing, feeling nothing, it was the perfect assassination tool, but it still paled in comparison to what Trueshot's killer was apparently capable off. The shadow guild leader focused and read the reports quietly to himself again. The city lord Hassleborough had been murdered along with his entire staff, property guards and a few guests right in the middle of his mansion, only his daughter who had been asleep at the time of the crime, survived. In total twenty-two bodies had been found inside and outside the mansion, but that had only been the start. Starting with the ones who had blamed Pride and attacked his arena, all across the city Nebs had been found dead, slain with eerie precision. But what really got the rumour mills running was the fact that among the thirty-something dead men, were also five dead dragons. Word on the street was that the mythical Death had returned to finish something he had started all those years ago, but nobody could tell what exactly that 'something' was, only that it was apparently bad news for any kind of Neb. Nightblade's eyes got drawn towards the knife again and he suddenly felt the urge to defend himself: "I really tried my best to avenge you, but that creep is like a ghost. Nightfeather and I even took a perfect shot at him, but it was no use. Not even the Nebulas with their dragons stood a chance and got killed instead. I can't with good conscience endanger any more assassin's lives with this futile mission and so, although it tears my heart apart, I have to accept that 'Death' claimed you and move on towards the next target."

 

At approximately the same time at a certain dragon stable within the big city

 

"What happened?", Loot repeated his question, since he still hadn't gotten anything useful out of Fingers yet. "Telling me you left our masters behind in that creepy mansion because you heard a frightening sound is neither an excuse nor an explanation at all." Fingers tried to wriggle out of the Harvest's inquisitive embrace, but failed. His shoulders slumped and he whispered: "If you had seen what I have seen after hearing that sound at Sodger's hut, you would have run too!" The Harvest and the Red Dragon looked doubtful, but the Sunrise nodded and said with a matter-of-fact-voice: "I was there too, I heard what he heard and I saw what he saw, that's why I let myself be taken away by your shady guild master." Now Fingers nodded too and spoke directly to the Harvest Dragon showing him his stump: "This happened when I first heard that eerie sound, the second time I heard it nearly everyone in my guild got slaughtered. Tell me honestly - if you heard that sound for a third time - wouldn't you run too?" Tightening his grip, so that Fingers wouldn't be able to run away before answering his questions, the Harvest Dragon growled hopefully: "So you didn't actually see them die? My master could still be alive?" Fingers carefully shook his head, but since there was no telling which question he had answered, Loot squeezed even harder and hissed: "There is no way Wallet would die before spending all those coins he made from dealing with that filthy rich fox." Fingers gasped for air and then spat out: "That filthy rich fox was a city lord and he still got killed inside his own disgusting mansion. All his servants and guards got killed too and they hadn't been the only ones. Even now they are still hauling Neb bodies off the streets. I don't know what happened. I don't want to know what happened!" "Yeah, you are a coward, I got that the first time", Loot spat back and finally released his grip. Fingers slid to the ground, visibly shaken only to be instantly caught by the Red Dragon. Sparky handled him much gentler than the Harvest, even giving him a little room to breath before he teased: "So you came for us because we are your only chance to get out of the city alive?" Fingers looked up and replied defiantly: "I came for you because you are the only ones left even though I could have just ditched you all at the first chance like that female bodyguard Wallet hired!"

Edited by Isirion

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Alone again, and with purpose, Drake couldn't have been more content with her small excursion to the dragon stables. With Taellonn still at the Draikenflaeme base, the only remnants of his protests were the moments of hesitance in the directions to the stable he'd described, which now kept repeating in her mind. She was alone, save for an eye in the sky or two watching her back, belonging to ready volunteers who claimed a certain Royal Crimson had greatly praised them and, no, weren't going to prove it. It hadn't been Drake's choice of lookouts anyways, and she could care less about whatever bragging rights the two pinned on themselves. As long as they took their task as seriously as she did, that was fine. Because, either despite everything or because of everything, even a short journey in the city had Drake as on edge as her first lone walk around, but she did find solace and confidence in the fact that she didn't feel paranoid- just prepared. She kept up her typical self-assured stride as she repeated Taellonn's directions again and again to herself, though surely to the point of overdoing it (which was, once again, typical).

She could already hear commotion before going into the proper stable area, with the most (at least, relatively) familiar voice being Fingers'... which, really, she should have suspected. Or, well, considered as a possibility, at least. She didn't know if he was dead or alive, or where he'd run off too back at the mansion; hell, she didn't even really know if she'd cared enough to think about it. Regardless, he was here now, and Drake adjusted her purpose to accommodate his presence as she asked the stable master to let her in. A slight grin was stretched across her face as she entered the stables to the sound of Fingers' defiant voice, an expression that would have clearly conveyed some sort of amusement on behalf of the young woman, if it didn't look so awkward on her typically stern canvas of a face. It even, just as awkwardly, distorted her voice in the way smiles do as she spoke (which, admittedly, almost surprised her as she noticed). "'Ditched' seems like a strong word- last I checked I was exploring the city while some dragons sat in a stable. You can't expect me not to get sidetracked by all this commotion, can you?" 

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Fingers almost jumped back into the dragon's embrace when Drake suddenly spoke from behind him. Sparky snorted and said: "Welcome back Wallet's bodyguard. Can you per chance shed some light on the fate of your employer and his companions?" Loot rolled his eyes at the awkward formal tone the Red Dragon used, but he understood the idea. They had no way of forcing Drake to tell them what she knew, if she knew anything, so all they could do was ask politely. Fingers didn't understand, but he suddenly remembered something important and asked: "Is your Royal Blue alright? The Nebs were hunting them all over the city and he isn't in his stable anymore."

 

In the mean-time at Pride's arena

 

After the bodies of their fallen comrades had been transported away, a fresh group of Nebs had entered the arena to investigate. Their superiors had told them that the arena had been the place from which the assassination of Lord Hassleborough had been planned and that the owner had been the ring leader behind it. They were to look for proof and possible witnesses. So far they had only found one more body right next to the entrance for human challenger that looked like something with claws, maybe a dragon had got to it. But now the group was gathered around another body in the preparation quarters. It was no surprise that it had taken them so long to find it because almost the whole floor was covered with junk. The body was clad in black and bore a single, fatal stab wound to the heart, that by now looked discomfortingly familiar. The leader of the little group rummaged through the pockets to find a clue about the corpse's identity but found absolutely nothing. That was strange but also a perfect opportunity. It wasn't difficult to let it look like the dead guy had been hired by Pride to kill that city lord. Of course it had been too late to save Lord Hassleborough, but their swift and professional investigation had at least avenged his death. All that was left was finding whatever hole Pride was hiding in and silencing him too...Hassleborough's daughter would be so grateful to them, that she might even stop hitting them with Mr. Fluffy Pillow...

Edited by Isirion

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Drake's grin faded almost as quickly as it formed, but the change didn't express much of anything,despite the fact that, behind that new look was the tying up of some loose ends and plan adjustments before responding... 

She had to account for Fingers now and, well, she could be leading him straight to the slaughterhouse. It didn't really bother her as much as it just interrupted her initial plan of just taking the dragons back to the base and just... leaving it at that, for the most part. She knew that defiance upon realizing at least the partial reality of her purpose was always a possibility, especially with Wallet locked away, but Fingers added an entirely new factor. Chances were any number of the dragons might not approve of Fingers being led to the sharp end of a blade, so maybe Drake at least had to make an effort to keep him alive. She could do that, and the dragons wouldn't even have to know she was making that effort. 

With her final plans coming together, all that was left was to set it in motion, get everyone to the base. "I can't tell you the full extent of everything that's happened, just because, frankly, I'm getting gaps filled in myself, and I've lost track of most of what I thought was happening." She sighed. "The most I can offer right now is security, which Wallet and my Royal Blue are already enjoying. There's another stable I can bring you all to while everything calms down, it's pretty busy but hasn't had any trouble. An adjacent space has some living quarters, once again busy but the best place to be in the city right now." She paused for a moment, looking like she was searching for anything more to give them. "Anyways, that's why I'm here. Still afraid I can't shine much light on anything, but it's been so chaotic trying to get everything sorted that I haven't had time to ask questions. Hopefully that will change."

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Loot had been won over after Drake mentioned the words security and Wallet in the same sentence. The Red looked a bit doubtful since everything sounded a bit too convenient, but on the other paw, if it was true and the bodyguard had really managed to keep her employer safe, there was a slight chance the others might also still be alive. While he wasn't particulary fond of the stubborn and overly proud thieves guild master, he did miss Wallet's kind servant who had never woken him up for heating duty unless it was absolutely necessary. Now that he thought about it, the sleepiness that had been his almost constant companion in the fisherman's village had entirely gone and been replaced by a restless energy that had first manifested itself by the urge to constantly blew sparks. Sparky wondered briefly if the location change had somehow invigorated him, but there were more pressing matters at paw. The dragon decided to trust Drake and said: "I really can't picture you working with the black-clad murderer Fingers warned us about, so all that's left to say is this - thank you for your kind offer. We'll gladly take it."

 

In the mean-time at the other stable in the city

 

After her intentionally bawdy joke had cleared the tension from the air, Felicia had thought about a way to keep the peace between the most unlikely allies. While Isirion seemed to seethe when Pride as much as breathed in his direction, he didn't seem to mind the Nilia Pygmy now clinging to him like a shadow at all. Pride's favourite wyvern loathed the dragon killer as much as his keeper admired him. The Royal Blue who had already performed splendidly in the arena and should have fake-fighted Death next, looked as nervous as if someone had told it to fight for real instead. The painter lady and her dragons clearly weren't fond of Isirion's methods, but they seemed to acknowledge the helpful intentions behind them. Felicia herself felt like she already knew him for years, because of her husband's obsession. Although the mythical Death turned out to be quite different from the image Pride had, she rather liked the brutal honesty that stood in stark contrast to her husband's elaborate but made-up stories...

Edited by Isirion

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Drake readily accepted the Red's compliance and ushered the lot out, nearly thanking them for coming along before biting her tongue. It felt too much like a pushover move, even if she was genuinely glad she'd gotten them to come along. She instead filled the short trip's conversation with some more informing about the stables: there were dragons both inside and outside, far more than one might expect, but that just meant there was no more room inside. The dragons would have to stay in the outside stables, unfortunately away from the rest, while Fingers could stay inside, where Drake would lead him straight to some sanctuary (or, as she had so glamorously described it for the second time now, "living quarters"). Once everyone was settled, probably by tomorrow, they could all congregate and any questions from anyone for anybody could be answered. The path back was not identical to the way Drake had come, as one new turn set the group in the direction of the stable entrance.

It was hard to see inside of the stables, and anyone could have mistaken it for some huge walled off garden or something, odd as it'd be in this particular location. Pygmies, messengers or not, lined the perimeter, eyes darting towards the arrivals in excitement as they paused their playing, wall-vandalizing (with whatever sharp appendages they saw as being in need of upkeep), or snacking in favor of the strangers. Even then, with all those eyes turned, in some indescribable way, there almost seemed to be too few. The number didn't exactly sit right, but it wasn't anything the Pygmies minded. Drake ignored it as she told the group to wait while she got them in, and made her way to the stable entrance. A quick explanation later she called them over as the doors (inner edges rough from the amount of dragons whose rough bodies had rushed through and scraped past them) opened horizontally, tucking into the walls and stirring a few Pygmies. The place certainly was packed, but that didn't mean it wasn't a nice stable. Worn, definitely, but nice. The two rows of stables were separated by a pathway just as thick as one of them, which dragons out here took advantage of. The dragons in stables all seemed to be resting, some sharing spaces with each other, with some decidedly warm Pygmies, or both. The only stables which stood out seemed to be one big stable amalgamate, and were covered by some form of improvised drapes, through which a dragon- red and gigantic- could be seen, along with what seemed to be a good chunk of the missing population of Pygmies. 

Drake looked to the dragons as the entrance closed. "Crowded, I know, but hopefully somewhere's free if you need it. I'm pretty sure there's water and food in there, but you can probably find someone to ask if not. Now-" She put her hand palm-flat between Fingers' shoulderblades, trying to keep those claws from making contact. "We can take a shortcut through the building." She led him towards the building at the end of the pathway, letting herself inside before bringing her guest in and closing the door, just as the most perplexed Royal Blue in the room looked straight towards the two and stood. He didn't know if he wanted to rush over (well, he did want to, but didn't know if it was smart), so he just decided to inform his own group instead, with an eloquent "...Uh?"

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With the Red in the lead, the Harvest and the Sunrise walked single file towards a cozy looking, almost pygeon free spot within. Loot sniffed out the nearest food supply while Sunny settled down right away. Sparky gave the whole structure a few curious glances, wondering about the pygmy sentries, the huge wall and the improvised drapes. The place oozed security, but in a caring kind of way. There were no cut-off dragon spikes or horns and the only dragon scales he could see were right were they belonged - on living, breathing dragons, that seemed perfectly at ease. The Red helped himself to some water and curled up next the Sunrise who was already snoring away.

 

At approximately the same time at a certain Nebula tower

 

After the third cup of hot chocolate, Amara, the late lord Hassleborough's daughter, had made up her mind. While the Neb captain had been friendly and understanding enough, every new report that came in confirmed that he was unable to handle the situation. Not only had her father along with his servants and guards been brutally murdered, but a whole lot of Nebs as well. All over the city they were finding bodies and while a small part of Amara thought that was a just punishment for failing to protect her father, the girl knew something had to be done. Her whole life she had been groomed to take over the Vine empire and while she had preferred daydreaming about Daydream Dragons over studying, enough of the essential lessons had stuck in her mind. Bad situations, like bad vines had to be weeded out immediately. Nothing saps credibility like not being able to defend or at least avenge one's roots. Amara clutched Mr. Fluffy Pillow as firm as she could and slammed the stuffed hatchling on the table. It landed with an audible, slightly jingly but very heavy sounding thump and the girl announced: "Captain, you will come with me. Hiding here doesn't improve the situation at all. This proliferation of loose murderers needs to be cut down by professionals and I know just where to hire the right gardeners for that."

 

At the same time at the 'living quarters'

 

Taellonn's 'Uh?' turned quite a few heads. One head was hidden under a glittering full-face dragon-fly mask attached to a glittering human with glittering butterfly-like wings. Fingers looked again and now there stood two of them, albeit the new human dragon-fly seemed to be female and only wearing a half-mask. The ex-thief sighed with relief as he understood, that the couple probably just had dressed up for some masquerade party. Suddenly the whole room swam in front of his eyes - there like a pitch-black stain back-dropped by the pristine scales of a White Dragon stood his very own nightmare. Fingers yelped and tried to back out of the room, but he might as well have tried pushing back against a wall.

 

Thinking how wrong Sparky had been, Fingers prepared for death, knowing it would at least be swift, but the dreaded strike never came. Fingers blinked, wondering why he was still alive, when suddenly he felt a hand on his shoulder. In the blink of an eye, his personal nightmare had crossed the distance and now stood right in front of him, grinning ever so slightly as he said: "My master would be so pleased that I finally caught you, but I honestly can't take any credit for this." Isirion looked the ex-thief up and down, taking in the haunted look, then he told him: "Relax, my orders never were to kill you or I would have done so the first time we met." Oddly enough, that did calm Fingers down. He had already experienced the excrutiating pain of having cut off a part of his body, what else was there left to fear? Fingers slowly breathed in and out, before he asked: "And what were your orders regarding the others?" For a moment it looked like Isirion wouldn't answer, but then he divulged: "Kill everyone, who didn't know the location the Gatherer was held at." At that Fingers let out a hysterical laugh before he coughed: "So, I would have really died at that disgusting mansion, not even knowing it had been my ex-guild who had captured the benefactor I had been looking for ever since his disappearance." Isirion shrugged, he couldn't care less if the thief lived or died and so he informed him coldly: "You might still die, it all depends on the reason Drake brought you here."

Edited by Isirion

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Sappo and the Nilia were still training, but they didn't need the bandage anymore. Swerving the Pygmies danced around, blue and red flames colouring the space between them. Susurro had fallen asleep a while ago and from time to time his tail twitched sharply, and Alzira? The lady had waved the pygmies toward her. At first she asked the Nilia dragon if he would accept the name "Leal" (meaning loyal) - she had to call the little one somehow. She had taught the dragons, trained them to follow the signals - voice commands so that they knew when to start and end their performance and even a few whistles to get their attention, to hide and to start "accidentally" a few small fires. Furthermore, since she had finished the invitations some time earlier, she had helped Pride with her mask, adding a few more shadows and colour to make it look even more exquisite and realistic. She had picked a Green Fire Gem Dragon because this mask would suit the green dress she already had and the rich tastes of the event as well. She even chose to wear gem and talon adorned, ingeniously crafted long dress gloves (inspired by Drake´s), indeed she could move her fingers independently and even use the Talons as a last means weapon. The dress itself was of a simple but comfortable cut, it had a slit at the side which allowed for mobility if need be and since it was not adorned in any way yet it allowed Pride to use lots of his sparkly stones to deepen the impression of a human shaped dragon even more. She was just trying on her costume to accustom the pygmies to her changed appearance as the visitors busted in. As she turned toward the commotion she recognized Fingers immediately. The shaking figure was standing there, seemingly fearing every next step and his eyes darted around the room nervously, Isirion´s charms didn´t seem to calm him a bit she noticed caustically to herself. She stepped to the poor man and said "Don´t worry, you are not alone here", at the same time she turned to Isirion and since she had heared his last remark pointed out:"It´s obvious, isn´t it? He is good with acquiring things and even manages to open doors, especially closed ones. He has skills which we can hardly deny are of use to us." She winked at Fingers, hoping to have strengthened his position and not he other way round

Edited by Alzira

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That the green-haired lady spoke for him, gave Fingers a lot more courage than he had thought possible. Albeit the hinted prospect of working together with the black-clad murderer still scared him it was way better than working against him. For now, like Drake had promised, he really seemed to be safe. He visible calmed down, far more than before and said: "Although I have quit working as a pickpocket and a thief, I am willing to use my skills for a good cause." Isirion once again looked the ex-thief up and down, this time concentrating on the clothes his former prey was wearing then he mused: "He might be able to pass as a dragon handler. It is not uncommon that those not fast or nimble enough loose a limb or two while feeding their charges, I've seen it happen often enough."

 

As if he too possessed some skill in teleportation, Pride appeared right next to Isirion and asked him excitedly: "You worked as a dragon handler? Was that before or after the underground-arena?" Felicia appeared just as fast and interjected: "Why don't you save the questions for later and start explaining what role our newest companion has to play in your plan." Pride swelled with pride and started right away before his brain even caught up with what he wanted to say: "The blue lady loves blue dragons so much she lets her servants nail them onto her walls so that they can't fly away. Those too big to fit on the walls, she puts into cages, that's were you will go. Not into the cage of course, but we need you to unlock the cages to free the dragons so that they can mount a rebellion under the leadership of Drake's dragon who, because he is also blue, going to be inside. When they are out-" At that point Felicia sealed her husband's mouth with a kiss and then said: "A wonderful explanation my dear. I couldn't have stated the facts better - We need a pickpocket to open those cages during the masquerade party the blue lady hosts tonight." In her mind she added 'an unspooked pickpocket who won't run away because he has foreknowledge that everyone else is going to get slaughtered...' Fingers who of course couldn't read minds, nodded and said: "Sure, those cages usual have standard locks that I could open blindfolded and with a hairpin but won't the blue lady notice a bunch of dragons flying away?" Felicia smiled brightly and passed the figurative torch to Alzira: "That's where she comes in. I am sure she can explain everything you need to know."

 

In the mean-time at Leetle island

 

Diadora sat beside the motionless human and gently brushed her nose against his. She tried patting his head, mewling into his ears, even licking his face but Eyes didn't stirr at all. Galandir watched his adopted baby-sister with a heartbroken look in his eyes. That human had doted on her with all his heart after a single meeting, not caring at all that she was from an entirely different species. From all the Guardian's companions he had been the kindest and now he...and now he...Galandir couldn't bear to finish the thought he would shatter like glass if that human, if Eyes, just like his father, left them, leaving behind only a painful memory. A sad mewl escaped him and his sister looked at him whimpering: "The angry human said he shouldn't pat me, but...I liked it so much...is it my fault he is...?" Just like her brother Diadora couldn't bear to finish the sentence, but the pain and regret in her eyes made everything clear. She was already blaming herself, just like Galandir had blamed himself after Galandors death and there were no words to ease her mind, only time could heal her heart...

 

Suddenly a shadow fell over the Guardian hatchling - Lazarus had approached despite the broad daylight and he came with a gift of hope. While every eye on the island was focused on the victim of Sodger's wrath, he had picked a single leaf from the enshrined Leetle tree and brought it back. He carefully placed it into Galandirs paw and told him: "Before you were born, the Guardian's heart was set in stone, just like his old captain's, but you managed to move him. Together with your new siblings you managed to make him leave the past that was weighing him down were it belongs - the past. This shrine is a memento for all those who had to die for the Dragon War to end, but as you have studied so diligently at your father's side it is above else a beacon of life and rebirth. Nothing truly dies in nature, it only changes form, just like the seasons, just like-" "Just like that leaf!" Galandir exclaimed as he remembered why the Leetle tree was covetted by humans in the first place. Beyond the everchanging colours of the seasons, it's leaves possessed healing powers. The little Guardian quickly chewed the leaf into tiny bits and combined them with his spit. Then he gently opened Eyes mouth and made him swallow the mixture. A minute later the human opened his eyes in wonder. A tiny female Guardian hatchling was filling his whole field of vision, but that was alright, everything was alright now. Eyes stretched out his hand and patted her ever so gently...

Edited by Isirion

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