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Isirion

The Bloodline of Torch

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Taellonn was leading the way to what he thought Drake would consider more promising; all that meant to him was that he would be finding somewhere much more dangerous and suspicious to go. The only thing that unsettled Taellonn more than the search was Drake's sudden noticeable tenseness on his back. Was she worried about this man? This man that she had invited along? All of Drake's mixed messages, her weird plans, and misplaced trust were starting to become grinding for Taellonn. But his emotions dulled as Drake's hands guided and took control of Taellonn, silently telling him to fly up, turn around, and stop midair. At first he was confused as to why Drake had him hovering like this, as if preparing to dive behind the man and his Royal Blue. Drake, however, had clear intentions. The wingbeats behind her and Taellonn had been off. There had to be something else off too, something she sensed but couldn't pinpoint, but she didn't think into it now that she had a target. A strangely non-lethal looking target, at that.

In the few moments it had taken for Drake to process the situation and for Taellonn to see the new follower, Ale had also noticed the presence behind him and stopped. Drake's glare stayed fixed on the trailing woman as Ale spoke up. After checking behind him, he clarified that he knew the woman, and put Drake's concerns to rest.

Both grateful that there was no conflict but afraid to be leading once again, Taellonn pressed on. Drake wasn't necessarily relaxed now, but now it didn't feel like she was about to spring off of Taellonn to slice someone's throat. Focusing instead on the journey, Taellonn noticed a large crowd. Everything about the location he saw, from the building to the crowd, filled Taellonn with uneasiness. Even from this distance. Surely it was far enough that no one would notice it (no humans, anyhow), but to avoid it might mean a longer stay in this insane city. Taellonn quietly sighed and adjusted his course.

Edited by Drakessis

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Flying as fast as possible while dodging those annoying Pygmy-banners that seemed to be everywhere and showed a human hedgehog or possibly a porcupine human, Isirion finally spotted what he had been looking for and he adjusted his course to fly straight at the massive bulk of Ale's dragon. It seemed the drunkard had teamed-up with the green-haired lady and a warrior riding an...Anagallis? Isirion frowned as he noticed a detail, that didn't fit:The dragon had too many horns. The closer he looked, the more the dragon ahead appeared like someone had painted over a Royal Blue with bright green and red. A very fidgety Royal Blue that carried a female claw-wielding-warrior he had last seen after she had almost cut his hand off and helped the thieves guild master escape. According to his calculations the 'bodyguard' should be with the guild master, Fingers and her employer Wallet - so what was she doing here in the company of two of the people that had hunted them? Isirion cursed and made his dragon stop right in the path of the 'Anagallis'. He unsheathed his bloodstained blade, the unmistakeable sound made his mount wince, but he didn't care and shouted: "Working for that trader must be paying off if you can afford to paint your Royal Blue like that. Or are you working as a bodyguard for those two now...Drake?"

Edited by Isirion

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Alzira noticed that Ale was following someone riding an oddly colourful dragon and she hoped for a explanation when they landed. Just when she thought about calling out to Ale, Susurro told her about another approaching member of their group, Isirion. She heard his shout before she saw him completely and for a moment Alzira was dumbstruck. Then the memory from that horrible night at Soger's hut rushed back into her, and so did fear and anger. Drake, she had heard that name! Isirion had wanted her to delay some information to the old soldier, that Drake was a bodyguard for a trader of the village and the person who had helped the guild master escape. Drake, whose dragon was responsible for the steam in which Orion was mistakenly killed. That explained the colourful dragon she was riding, he must really be the painted-over Royal Blue and now she noticed what had disturbed her about that dragon. As soon as her eyes darted back to Isirion she recognised the unsheated blade and started slightly to tremble, Sappo was instantly on her shoulder. This was a bit much for her, she didn't want to see another life taken today. Susurro decided to take the lead and slowed down noticeably. To be true none of them knew what to do. Fleeing into the desert was not really an option and so Susurro tried to keep a distance but within earshot. He and Sappo took turns watching their surroundings, fearing an approaching danger that would escalate things.

Edited by Alzira

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Taellonn's feet kicked slightly in the air as he struggled to stabilize himself at the sudden stop. He wished he could as easily stabilize his heart, which was beating beyond levels he could ever recall. Despite only the few glances he had gotten at this man before, he couldn't get rid of those etched images of Drake being held captive, and her being nearly slaughtered. He felt his throat swell with a promise of steam, but couldn't bring himself to fire. He was frozen, and could do nothing but pray that Drake knew what to do.

The same tenseness indicating that a throat was at risk returned to Drake, though this time with outstretched claws that warned further. Between his appearance, his voice, and his knowledge of her name and (by now, probably former) employer, Drake could tell this was the attacker from before. Glancing over it, she processed the sight of the sword before processing the words from its wielder, quickly trying to piece together what could be its range and damage. She didn't like the estimates, but knew it wouldn't help to dwell on them. She tried to make her voice steady as she spoke. "Alright, first of all, I'm not sure exactly who you are or what your motives are; but it seems like you really don't know who I am either in the same respect. The only difference I see is that you know my name. But to simply answer your questions, I'm just helping these two find a friend of theirs, unbeknownst to my... Employer." She could feel Taellonn's uneasiness and held back a sigh. "Nothing conflict worthy."

Edited by Drakessis

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While Drake spoke, Isirion watched both her and her dragon. At their first meeting he had noticed the concern the Royal Blue had for it's rider but judging from the situation now, that concern seemed to go both ways. The female warrior looked as strong and determined as ever but it also looked like she was reluctant to drag her dragon into a fight. With Sodger's time running out, Isirion wasn't too keen to turn this encounter into a fight either, so he manoeuvered his mount out of the way and said: "My name is Isirion and the man those two are searching for is my employer. He is held at an underground arena a few flight minutes from here and scheduled to a dragon fight in less than two hours. There is already a crowd gathering at the entrance so if you really want to help, you can sneak in with me and kill a few of the spectators to create a commotion we can use to set my master free while the guards are distracted by the panicking mob."

 

Ale who had been dumbstruck like Alzira but unlike her, hadn't gotten the hint that Drake had been working with the enemy, snapped out of his confusion and shouted: "We will not kill anybody else today!" Isirion whose temper was starting to flare again, shouted back: "The prisoner cages are in plain view and there is only one entrance to the arena - unless you want to fight your way through all the guards there, you have to create a distraction serious enough to make them gather somewhere else. Creating a few bodies is the fastest and easiest way to do just that - or would you prefer I sneak in and set the raging mad arena dragons on them so that most of the crowd and the guards get trampled?" Ale cursed and spat and raged himself, but he couldn't come up with a better idea so his eyes darted between Drake and Alzira pleading them to come up with a solution.

Edited by Isirion

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Drake considered the situation. They had Royal Blues, so steam was an option. But the Nebs were probably still on high alert and wouldn't hesitate to go after any signs of steam; not to mention it'd completely ruin Taellonn's cover. She answered, "I can only see an option or two. The first would be steaming the area, I guess the predictable choice, but I think that'd put us all in harm's way. Between the Nebs and the restricted vision... But I think there's a better option. A better option for us, anyways. I could try to start a few fights among the crowd. Surely I could upset or provoke enough people to get either some fights or a complete brawl to happen and distract the guards. Maybe I could even leave my armor with my dragon to only have my under-armor clothes and look more susceptible to a punch." She ignored Taellonn's obvious worry as she went on, feeling assured her experience could protect her better than any armor. "I think it'd be the safest option for us, and I'm sure I could hold my own pretty well, but it might cost the crowd a few injuries." Hoping the idea wasn't too far-fetched, she continued. "And maybe I should have mentioned it sooner, but your friend isn't the only one I'm looking for. I'm also looking for two other people, Hal and Cal, and I think it's a safe bet they've been taken to the same place as Sodger. If we go with the second plan, I'd really appreciate if someone could help me find them too."

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Susurro shook his head about the arena business and wondered if his keeper would come up with a more peaceful approach. Sappo was still sitting on Alzira's shoulder, looking at Isirion and the strange warrior lady. They were interesting to watch as they seemed tense and battle-ready but on the other hand they also seemed reluctant to start a fight now. As long as they focused on each other he wasn't concerned, but as soon as one of them would come too close to his keeper he would fight. Just to prove that he was prepared he spat a little blue flame.

 

Alzira didn't like the idea of an arena where obviously dragons killed humans and other humans made money with it, possibly with bets on the outcome too. She hated to admit it, but Isirion was right, somehow they had to get in the arena and free Sodger. The old soldier was still alive! That was the good news, the bad news that he might not stay that way for long, regarding the masses that were moving towards the arena to see him get killed. But to kill a few people to create a distraction? No! She wouldn't stand for it! "As long as nobody gets killed I prefer the idea of a diversion through fights in the crowd and we can enter the area like everybody else, disguised as spectators. By the way, has anybody seen the Guardian?" She looked around, somehow expecting to see him arrive.

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Isirion couldn't care less if the weaklings in the crowd would loose their life or only a few teeth. He sheathed his blade and the sound made his dragon wince again, then he spoke: "I don't know where the Guardian is, but if we are going to play fisticuffs without him we better make it convincing. Ale, get a few of the spectators drunk before you start a riot right in the middle of the crowd. You still got that flask you used to make the bandit witless?"

 

Ale winced just like Isirion's dragon as he remembered the poor boy, but now was not the time for regret. The tavern owner pulled out his flask and a few beer bottles he had acquired before and waved with them. Isirion took that as a 'yes' and continued, this time addressing Drake: "Drake - your positioning and timing is crucial. As soon as Ale's drunkards have lured the guards, start a fight near the entrance so that they are caught between two mobs. The green-haired lady and I will sneak in and break out everyone that is still alive. As the Nebs are still using this arena to execute trouble makers almost every day, I doubt it will be more than the half dozen prisoners I saw as I sneaked in earlier. Your disguised dragon is our trump card. Make him understand, that however concerned he is for your safety, he can't steam the area before we are clear of the bottle-neck entrance. If this rescue goes as planned we meet up at the biggest tavern in the vicinity."

 

By now the group was almost over the crowd and it was high-time to land and hide the dragons. Isirion showed them the hiding spot he had discovered before and sneaked once again towards the arena entrance. Ale straightened his shoulders and forced a smile on his lips as if he was in a merry mood. His tavern-trained eyes spotted a likely group to invite to a quick drinking game and soon their spirit, their volume and most importantly their temper rose. As the traditional shoving and 'what-are-you-looking-at?' began, Ale risked a quick glance towards the entrance to see how things were going over there.

Edited by Isirion

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Drake didn't need to relay the message to not steam the area to Taellonn, as being called out for his concern had clearly gotten his attention. He parked himself away from the crowd, but still with a clear view of it all. Drake put as much trust in Taellonn's self control as she could, and got to work.

Three guards had gone to break up the drunken fights nearby, with another going to check on one who'd been hit by a stray fist square in the jaw. That left the other half of the guards here. Drake looked at the people around her. The most violent looking ones caught her attention, and they wouldn't be hard to blend in with. Shifting her claws to her knuckles after spotting a belt-mounted bag of coins, she only had time to momentarily question her pickpocketing skills before snatching the bag and ducking away, clenching it enough so that the coins pressed through it almost painfully against her hand and had no room left to shift and clink. The weak guilt that occurred as she shoved the bag in her pocket quickly disappeared as she noticed that the swipe had worked to stir some anger and blind accusations. Concealing the smile from both her success and her adolescent enjoyment of getting away with something, she moved on. It was a good start and certainly seemed to put anyone who overheard the commotion on edge, so Drake didn't bother to risk trying to replicate the action. She turned to tripping, shoving, bumping, and the like instead. Blind accusations once again aided her (despite being caught and hit in the armor a few times,) and the four guards not preoccupied went to break up the new fights, along with one from the other group of guards. Making sure to avoid the guards, Drake went to see if she could go even further. The more she spread out the fight, the better the results, right?

Edited by Drakessis

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Alzira watched Ale preparing the crowd. She wondered what mysterious brewage he kept in his flask. One thing was for sure, it worked very well and she decided that she wouldn't dare to take a sip should she ever be offered one. She shook her head slightly and tried not to loose Isirion out of her sight, without him she would be lost in the commotion that was already building. She took a quick peek at Drake. The female warrior was creating her own version of an uproar or to be precise she got the crowd into the right mood, just to the point where they would snap easily and turn into a full out riot. Alzira kept watching her surroundings, trying to keep away from the beginning turmoil. She hoped Susurro was okay but he was in hiding and he knew how to handle himself so no reason to worry. She looked after Sappo who she kept in a bag hidden under her loose-fitting overcoat. He wouldn't have stayed behind and so she took him with her, feeding him a dried cricket now and then. When she turned her head again she noticed that they would act soon so she tried to stay close to Isirion but distant enough so he could act.

Edited by Alzira

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Isirion got slightly annoyed every time the green-haired lady turned her head or fed her pocket dragon a cricket. Hadn't she ever heard of stealth? On the other hand, Ale's and Drake's respective riots were turning out that successful that by now even a full grown, brightly painted dragon weaving through the crowd might go unnoticed. Already three of the guards had their armour and helmets battered and all the other guards were busy trying to avoid that kind of fate while desperately trying to restore order. Isirion estimated they had less than five minutes before those guards either retreated or called for reinforcements. Quickly taking advantage of the commotion he bypassed the guards and directed Alzira towards Sodger's prison cell. There he turned around and whispered: "My blade can deal with the locks easily, but you have to deal with my master's stubbornness first. Do you understand?"

Edited by Isirion

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Alzira nodded. She was getting nervous, partly due to the arranged racket, partly caused by Isirion's presence but to be true staying with him was far safer than in the crowd where the stir-up caused more and more bruises and damaged equipment. She turned towards Sodger:"Come with us, we'll escort you outside. I've heard about your Royal Blue motto to stand proudly true, and I ask you to leave with us so you can fight another day. I mean there is a difference between fighting for a noble reason and being slaughtered! Since you are injured it would rather be the latter. So I beg of you, leave with us so you can choose the day of your fights on your terms or at least more equal ones. I see no shame in that, rather the other way round." She took a deep breath, braced herself and said quietly:"Please come with us, time is of the essence!"

Edited by Alzira

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Upon hearing a female voice, the old soldier would have stood up, if he weren't already standing - proudly hiding his injuries and ready to take on any dragon. The voice sounded like it belonged to a real lady despite being slightly apologetic - and strangely familiar. Suddenly Sodger remembered the ill-fated meeting and he could finally place the voice. It belonged to the honest and polite lady that had first been draggged along by that uncouth hunter and later taken hostage during the thieves guild assault. The soldier wondered what she was doing here but quickly focused on what she was saying instead. At first he was outraged that she suggested that he should flee from here like a coward but he soon understood her point. Fighting the half dozen air-bandits, that had ambushed him, head-on had gotten him into this situation and already cost him his dragon. If he tried to fight an unknown dragon with the injuries he had sustained from that unfair attack he would most likely loose his life too.

 

Sodger bowed his head towards the sound of Alzira's voice to signal his consent of being freed instead of facing whatever dragon the corrupted Nebs had had in store for him. A split-second later he heard a sound he had no difficulty at all recognizing but couldn't believe he had really heard. His ears insisted they had just heard the unmistakable sound of a certain blade being unsheathed and used to smash open the locks on his cage door. How could his first apprentice be here too? Sodger decided to leave the questions that kept piling up for later and let himself being guided outside by Alzira. By the sound of it Isirion had made himself busy freeing the other prisoners too. Very soon they all made their way back to the entrance from where the sound of a full-grown riot was coming: screaming, shouting, fighting. It sounded like a battlefield and Sodger immediately tensed up and grasped for his sword that, like Aseto, wasn't at his side anymore. He uttered a fierce curse and swore with a murderous look in his blind eyes that the air-bandits responsible for his loss would suffer for trampling the Royal Blue honour as soon as he got out of here...

Edited by Isirion

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Sparing a quick look around after every few steps let Drake notice just as the group was leaving the arena. The chaos ensuing around her didn't threaten her too much as she made her way through the crowd. The wild energy of battle was certainly nothing new to her, and not being a direct target herself led to her armor only having to absorb stray hits and scrapes (albeit quite a few, and fairly harder than she had anticipated.) The fury behind some of the hits she saw and even endured surprised her most. All this anger, all stemming from a quick theft and well timed shoves. These people were just as volatile as hatchlings wanting to prove themselves to nestmates. Catching her thoughts wandering forced Drake into a more serious mindstate, and any of the adolescent joy she'd allowed herself disappeared to make way for her usual battle-ready demeanor. This also seemed to make a few observant crowd members wary, so Drake progressed a bit quicker through the crowd to get to Taellonn.

Taellonn was already kneeled down for Drake to get onto his back, and was airborne almost as soon as Drake had mounted. With the rest of the group out of earshot, Drake took the opportunity to try to quietly reassure Taellonn. "All we need to do is reunite Sodger and Aseto, and then we can get back to what we originally came here for." Taellonn protested. "You aren't concerned about the rest of them? Not even the one who tried to kill you!? There's no way we can be through with them. They're obviously interested in your..." The next word rolled off of Taellonn's tongue odd, as if it were spoken by a child lying to a parent's face. "...employer, and that itself is enough for me to believe that we may cross paths with them again. You've already run into that man with the blade twice! I say we take that as an omen and quit! Before I told you to stop because I thought you were in over your head... Now I think this could only end with your head lopped off!" Drake scowled, though Taellonn couldn't see it. "I've already clearly established that I know what I'm doing and I'm not going to quit. So you overreacting is pointless." Taellonn anxiously snorted and waited for Drake to give a signal. Not wanting to risk Taellonn's disguise any further than it'd already been compromised, Drake simply told him to fly to the tavern as she planned out how she'd concisely tell Sodger that she knew the whereabouts of Aseto. Taellonn's anxiety may have rubbed off on Drake, because quick intrusive thoughts told her that Aseto may have been found or really didn't listen to her and left the area. She shook away the thoughts as Taellonn kept flying.

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Every time his master uttered another death threat, Isirion unsheathed his blade and glared viciously at everyone who mistook Sodger's grudge towards the air-bandits for a challenge and tried to take him on. Suddenly facing a black-clad figure skillfully wielding a bloodstained blade instead, made even the most aggressive ones think twice and eventually back away. A few minutes later the little group had safely reached the edge of the crowd. Isirion lead them all towards the biggest tavern in the vicinity. He insisted on leaving the dragons behind and blending in with the tavern-goers. By now he had sheathed his blade again but he still looked like he was out for blood rather than beer. Sodger on the other hand had calmed down noteably after they had stumbled upon Ale in a backstreet. In his mind the old soldier probably pictured how the re-united Royal Blues would swoop down on the air-bandits and bring them to justice. Ale thought that his old captain would probably be even more encouraged after hearing how Isirion had already dealt with one of the bandits and so he kept his mouth tightly shut on that matter. Once the group reached the tavern Isirion had no trouble spotting the 'Anagallis' and the female warrior riding it. He was fairly sure they had seen him in return and he decided to let them approach him for a change...

Edited by Isirion

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Drake promptly saw the group arriving at the tavern. Noticing that they appeared to be trying to blend in, she contemplated leaving Taellonn behind to approach them. More accurately, she was trying to figure out how Taellonn would respond to her leaving him behind. Either he'd protest because she'd be facing the group alone, or he'd be glad he didn't have to face the group himself. After what she'd seen from him in this city mind a situation or two, she doubted the latter. Trying to sound like she actually had a plan instead of just trying to get Taellonn to not cling by her, she relayed her idea. "You can trail me while I go talk to them. Not behind me, just off to the side, supervising what happens." Drake jumped off of him and instantly left, leaving Taellonn with no room to put in his own thoughts. He did what she said and established a distance between them to stay at far to the side.

Drake soon approached the group, eyes constantly shifting to that deadly figure to make sure he wasn't trying anything. In a confident and assertive voice, she began to introduce herself to the man matching the sketch she'd seen and description she'd heard of Sodger. "Sodger..." She thought momentarily about a first impression, now that she was getting a proper chance to make one. "... sir, my name is Drake. I helped in the efforts to find you, but I was initially sent by someone else. I'd assume the name Aseto is familiar to you?"

Edited by Drakessis

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Upon hearing his name Sodger quickly turned towards Drake. Not being able to see made him listen more closely to new voices to find out wether their owners would be trustworthy. Drake's voice told him she was strong-willed and brave but something had currently put her on edge as she sounded a lot more guarded than necessary. Sodger thought it was a good voice and the news it had delivered were even better: His trusted dragon was still alive and had found the means to communicate with him through Drake. He was about to say 'thank you' and 'bring me to him', as Isirion interrupted with his usual ice-cold voice: "Aseto can wait. If the Nebs start another dragon hunt he is probably safer wherever he is at the moment. Before we meet up with him I want Drake to clarify her intentions. Sodger didn't look very pleased that his apprentice had interrupted him but he let him continue. Isirion moved between his master and Drake before he spoke again: "It was Drake who freed the thieves guild master who calls himself Jack now and she works as a recently hired bodyguard for non other than Wallet, the fence of the self-same guild. Now-" Isirion nonchalantly caught Sodger's arm as he tried to lunge at Drake and went on: "Now she has helped us despite knowing it was us who had threatened Jack and had wanted a word with her employer. Personally I would eradicate everyone that is left of that accursed guild but they possess vital information about a missing person that is precious to my master. We will continue to hunt them - the question is - what will their bodyguard do?" Isirion addressed his last question directly at Drake and you didn't need Sodger's perception to hear the underlying message: Either Drake would become an obstacle to be removed without a second thought or a new asset to be used accordingly...

Edited by Isirion

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Taellonn was about to yell out to Drake, but the quick inhale in preparation gave his nostrils the trace of some cold and bloodstained scent about the man who was once again interrogating Drake, which held him back from rushing over and yelling out. He hoped Drake sensed his hesitation, even from this distance, and would use some common sense.

Drake couldn't say she wasn't surprised by the questions; surely she couldn't have expected to get mixed up with a man that had nearly killed her without having to admit more to him. She didn't break eye contact as she spoke, despite the discomfort it gave her and every instinct telling her to make sure nothing was getting ready to stab her or anything. She'd have to rely on Taellonn and her own spacial awareness instead. "Surely if I was still interested in serving Wallet, I'd be guarding him right now. All I needed was a quick and unsuspecting way into the city to get to a certain mansion. But if you're against that whole lot, you can consider me an ally in that sense." Her left hand shifted from her side to her hip and back to her side once during her once again intentionally vague statements, and she hoped no one had noticed that quick nervous movement as she doubted her own words. She had only wanted to help Aseto, but now she was basically offering herself as some brawny pawn to these people she didn't know. Then again, she couldn't help Aseto unless she was alive and trusted, could she?

Edited by Drakessis

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Drake's 'answer' was every bit as vague as her last one but once again Isirion accepted it. Having a secret agenda was something he understood perfectly and didn't mind as long as it didn't interfere with his own. Not expecting any serious revelations from Drake's carefully guarded demeanor, he shifted his attention to her dragon to gain some insight from it's body language instead. No surprises there as it was still fidgety and overly concerned. It also looked like this wasn't the first, second or third occasion it had had reasons to worry about it's owners safety. As a bodyguard it would be natural to frequently put herself in danger but she had just admitted that had only been a means to an end. With her skill she could be a mercenary but the altruistic part of her behaviour didn't fit. What kind of mercenary goes out of his or her way to reunite a dragon with it's owner? Isirion had no idea and didn't really care so he decided to drop this mental subject and concentrate on the task ahead again.

 

His master seemed to have come to a similar conclusion as he finally said: "Drake, you may have reasons of your own, but you have still proven yourself useful to us. I accept your help and thank you for it. If you really don't work for Wallet anymore you can tell us where to find him. Preferably alone. We can discuss the details while you take us to Aseto." Having already taken command, Sodger issued another order - this time for his first apprentice: "Isirion, you go and find the lair of those accursed air-bandits. I want to pay them a visit once we are done with the other scum. Nobody insults the honour of the Royal Blue and lives..." Isirion acknowledged his new assignment and said: "I will search for their lair and disable their dragons so they cannot flee. Once I am done I will meet up with you at this tavern again." Sodger looked very pleased contrary to Ale and the rescued prisoners who looked more and more confused as the conversation went on. All they wanted to do was get back to their families or in Hal's and Cal's case back to Pride's arena...

Edited by Isirion

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Drake listened to her instructions; fairly straightforward. Isirion's instructions seemed like they were just as straightforward; but far more alarming once expanded upon. Disabling dragons? Drake saw no way to interpret that positively, and rage coursed through her mind and down her spine, spreading to her battle ready limbs and weapons. But no, she couldn't risk anything now, and as much as it pained her she had to do nothing. For now, at least. Holding back that rage made it grind against each bone and muscle it inhabited, and that painful red anger became hot and visible in her face, tracing and highlighting her already defined features as it rose to her skin. She turned towards Taellonn and away from the group quickly enough to hide it and covered up the sudden movement with the quick excuse, "Give me a bit to ready my dragon for the task" before walking towards him.

Taellonn was about to speak up before Drake interrupted him. "You remember where Aseto was? And how to get there?" Taellonn nodded. "I'm your escort, it's my job to remember things like that. I know my way around everywhere I've been in this city so far." Drake's voice became quieter, ensuring that they were the only two with knowledge of the conversation's content. "Then you'll have no problem taking Sodger to him by yourself." Taellonn choked on his first word and matched Drake's volume. "By-ech!-y myself? What are you going to be-" he thought about what he heard Isirion say, that Drake surely hadn't taken lightly, "-Oh no, no, no, Drake! You can't be serious!" Drake didn't bother to try to reassure him and explained her plan instead. "I'll say I'm going to help some of the freed prisoners get home safely; by that I mean Hal and Cal, if they're among them. And I will help those two if they're there, I really do owe something to those grooms that helped us. But I'll just use that freed chance to follow-" she didn't want to chance Isirion catching his name, despite such a quiet conversation, "-him, and try to get to the dragons before he does. I can even enlist the help of some of those resourceful pygmies here, if I really need to. Or ask around the arena, if fate aligns. Now, since Sodger will be asking questions, I'll fill you in on everything you might need to know or be reminded of..."

After Drake had finished her fairly concise explanation (keeping time in mind,) Taellonn was glad he was just as informed about what Drake was entirely up to as she was herself; though at this point he had known most of what was happening. She walked Taellonn (who was still upset over the whole separation ordeal but knew he couldn't change Drake's mind at this point) over to the group and began to explain, "Sodger, I'm leaving my dragon in charge of taking you to Aseto. His name is Taellonn and he can give you as much information as I could have." She explained more to the whole group now. "I have some business with the other freed prisoners and need to assist some of them, as I believe I may have said before." She pat Taellonn's neck before leaving to ask the freed prisoners if any of them knew of or were Hal and/or Cal. Taellonn's tenseness did cause some guilt in Drake, but the rage now just embedded in her and awaiting a chance to surface quickly overwhelmed it before it could become doubt.

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Before trying to climb onto Taellonn's back, Sodger let his hands 'see' the dragon for him. He touched the scales, traced lines that felt covered in paint but still strangely metallic. The dragon before him reminded him painfully of Aseto as it was without doubt a Royal Blue too. The markings however felt different and the whole dragon was lacking his loyal mount's composure. Sodger decided the faster he would get his own dragon back the better. He groped for the saddle and tried to pull himself up. The injuries he had hidden made him wince but finally he sat upright in the saddle and ready to go wherever Taellonn would take him.

 

Meanwhile the five other prisoners told Drake everything she wanted to know. Like she had hoped two of them were indeed Hal and Cal. Both of them had bushy eyebrows and messy brown hair. Their hands were rough from stable duty and polishing Mythy's scales. The brothers suggested that all of them should go to Pride's arena to seek shelter and disguises there because the Nebs wouldn't give up on them that easily. A handful of lowly prisoners escaping from right under their noses had been a severe blow to their imagined pride and they would look everywhere to find them or at least some scapegoats to state an example. Hal described Pride's arena to everyone who didn't knew it yet and Cal added: "We have a lot of empty stables to hide your dragons too and our Pygmies can deliver messages to your friends or relatives so that they can stop worrying." The other three prisoners looked very relieved at that, as did Ale who volunteered to fetch their dragons from their current hiding place. Isirion didn't look too happy about the delay of his mission but he also saw the wisdom in establishing a secure base of operations first. As everyone knew the directions now he merely suggested that they all split up and go there on their own to avoid drawing attention to that place.

 

It took sometime for everyone to arrive, but finally Pride and his arena safely and gladly harboured the whole group including their dragons. The most difficult part had been bringing Aseto back. Like Hal and Cal had predicted the Nebs had been everywhere, but by shielding the undisguised Royal Blue with his own brightly coloured frame, Taellonn had managed to fool the sky patrols. Except for the Guardian and his Grey, who were still missing, they all sat together in the preparation quarters now and exchanged information. The five rescued prisoners and a certain little groom all expressed their heartfelt thanks to the group and offered their assistence. Sodger, who, of course hadn't been 'rescued', but merely convinced to fight on better terms, decided it was high time to formulate a battle plan. He stood up and steadied himself against Aseto, then he said: "The enemy we face is cunning and hides behind the twisted laws of this city. The air-bandits that captured me work together with some of the corrupted Nebula patrols. The rest of the thieves guild that attacked my home also hides in this city and they are the only ones that might know what fate befell the Gatherer. Now the Guardian is missing too. I say we form teams to deal with these problems at once. Isirion will find and deal with the air-bandits. Drake will lead Ale and me to Wallet so that we can squeeze the information we need out of him. Everyone else, who hasn't had a run in with the authorities yet, must try to find out what happened to the Guardian. He has the strength and the build of a bear and someone is bound to remember him. Any objections?"

 

"I have an objection", Ale said quickly and rather pointlessly pointed at Sodger's wobbly legs: "You are in no condition to go anywhere not to mention fight anything. Let the grooms show their gratitude by letting them tend to your wounds. Finding our missing comrades must have priority over defending your pride so send your apprentice with Drake instead of letting him pick another fight with the air-bandits. In the mean-time the lady Alzira and I will find out if the Guardian has gotten himself into troubles with the authorities. Once we are all together again we can plan our next move." Sodger's fighting spirit still flared but his body insisted on being that of an old, blind and rather bruised man and so he just nodded and let his dragon entrust him to the care of Hal and Cal. Ale breathed a sigh of relief and turned around to see how Sodger's apprentice would take his new assignment. Only Isirion seemed to be preoccupied with a certain arena master fluttering around him like the insect he was dressed up as. Pride not only seemed to be intrigued by the Black Dragon skin cloak and hood he was wearing, he also seemed to be very interested in catching a glimpse of the stranger's blade. Finally Isirion's temper obliged and he drew his bloodstained blade in one lightning fast motion. He stopped the point not even an inch away from Pride's larynx and asked: "What do you want?" Upon perceiving the ice-cold and menacing voice the arena master looked utterly delighted and he chirped: "Perfect. This is utterly perfect. You even sound like him. You must stay here and perform in my arena! One fight as a compensation for the risk I bear of sheltering you all here. That's only fair, isn't it?

 

Isirion sheathed his blade and gave Pride the warmest smile he could manage, then he said: "Sure, if you let me fight your strongest dragon we have a deal. And after I kill it, I will recompense you with an egg of the same species for free. I am the Egg Hunter's apprentice after all and fairness is important in our business too." Pride suddenly looked as if he had really been stabbed and put on display well...like a butterfly. The stranger had twisted his words and used them like a weapon to hit his weak point with frightening accuracy. But what could he do now that the stranger had already accepted on this own terms?" The only thing Pride could think of right now was to stall for time saying: "Uhmm...." and hoping for a miracle.

Edited by Isirion

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As neither's eyes had left Isirion for too long, with the looming thoughts of Drake's initial encounter with him still overwhelming them, Taellonn and Drake couldn't have missed Pride and Isirion's conversation. Taellonn seemed to notice Drake's rage overcoming her before she did, as she was already pressing her way between the two with little regard of what the action might result in as Taellonn froze up, scared of what Isirion or even the anger clouded Drake might do if he intervened.

Drake was right up to Isirion now. One hand loomed where she might have a chance to stop him from unsheathing his blade, while the other contemplated whether to aim for the throat, gut, or eyes if it needed to. Drake's voice seemed to have the underlying growls of a dragon as she spoke out, not yet completly comprehending what she way doing. "Kill his dragon?" But comprehension slowly rose and mixed with Drake's rage, and she thought through her words now as the growl in her throat fell and once again rose. She had to be on Pride's side if she wanted a better chance to get through this unscathed and without too much suspicion, not the dragon's side. "What kind of an offer is that? This man gives us all assistance, and for payment requests a simple favor. But instead you insist on not only taking his help, but the life of his strongest dragon? And you say to 'repay' him, you'll offer him an egg of the same species; one that will hatch into a dragon that will have to be taught, raised, and has no real promise of similar quality. You are asking him to give up not just his dragon, but the history and influence behind it that surely drives his arena. And for what? To say you killed a dragon in cold blood because its keeper offered you assistance and asked for a simple performance? What kind of a man does that make you?" Drake's chest heaved with an accompanying loud breath, and her knuckles cracked from the tightness of the joints. "Not one I can assist. I refuse to bring anyone here to Wallet if you kill any dragon here! I refuse to help anyone that dishonorable!"

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As Drake forced herself into the 'conversation' he was having with the arena owner, Isirion's doubts about her motives re-emerged. Was it his imagination or did she seem more concerned about the dragon's fate rather than Pride's? Isirion decided his time and patience was better spent focused on the problem at hand and so he said calmly: "It seems my words have offended you and Drake somehow, but I don't understand why. You own a dragon arena and challenged me to a fight. I accepted to risk my life despite having just rescued two of your grooms from another arena. If your dragon kills me, the crowd will have it's usual satisfaction but if I kill your dragon too easily they will be disappointed and that won't do the reputation of your arena any good. That is why I asked you to use your strongest dragon. If I can choose my own fights I don't pick on weaklings. That goes against my sense of honour."

 

Pride's shock turned into utter relief as he started to understand. He flapped his arms excitedly as he pointed at the different props in the preparation quarters and said: "You thought we would do fights to the death like those underground arenas and the cursed Nebs do?" No, no, no. My arena is different and I take great pride in that. My dragon fights are a spectacle to entertain the crowd and make it beg for more. Every fight is woven into a fantastic tale and the combatants never get hurt for real. Since you look and sound quite a lot like the mythical Death, I wanted you to perform for me. Nobody knows where he came from or where he has gone to so I want to fill in the gaps with my imagination. The crowd will love a tragic hero who has lost everything in the aftermath of the Dragon War and is driven by revenge. Picking up the blade of his slain father he trains himself until the blade is stained with his own blood. When he is ready, he searches for the dragon that has devastated his village and finally finds it within this arena. The two of them face off in an epic battle that makes the spectators chew their nails and hold their breath - Drake can tell you all about working the crowd. She did a wonderful job in her last perfomance!" This time Isirion looked like he had a blade held to his throat as he choked on the words: "Performance? You only pretend to fight?"

Edited by Isirion

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Seeing that the whole thing was a misunderstanding for the most part didn't help Drake at all. Taellonn, however, saw it as an opportunity to see the situation as less dangerous and walked up behind Drake to make sure he had every detail of what was happening. Drake didn't acknowledge the presence behind her too much, instead focused on Isirion's question. Would he actually rather be fighting some dragon to the death, or was this just new for him? Whatever it was, Drake didn't like it. But Pride had put her on the spot, and she couldn't just turn her back on him after defending him and his arena. Her arms relaxed, but she still looked on edge as she explained. "You still fight. You just don't do actual damage and aim for fake armor or whatever Pride gives you as a target. I'm assuming you're beyond well adjusted to that blade of yours, so I think being able to direct and control your attacks wouldn't be an issue at all. Pride and the opposing dragon do most of the actual theatrics, and I'm sure Pride could give you a fitting, natural role if you're too uncomfortable with 'pretending.' All I had to do during my performance was a few taunts and an improvised finisher. It's all over fairly quickly, considering you don't really need to hurt your opponent." Now Drake's shoulders relaxed a bit too, making her look like she was (or at least was trying to be) sympathetic. "I didn't think I'd adjust well to just performing either, but you get used to it fairly quickly. And if you don't get used to it and still can't just 'pretend' on a whim... Well, I'm sure Pride could give you story for that too."

Edited by Drakessis

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Isirion still looked doubtful about the whole pretending thing, but finally he agreed to fight Pride's way. The arena master fluttered around him once more, this time taking in the parallel gashes adorning Isirion's right-hand sleeve and he said: "That's great, these claw marks will make the whole back-story even more believable. What kind of dragon did you get them from?" Isirion grimassed and let out his death-rasp-laugh then he said: "Drake". Pride nodded sympathetically and said: "Vicious beasts the whole lot of them. Right, now we need you to get acquainted with Mythy. Follow me."

 

Isirion followed Pride to the dragon quarters and sized up the Golden Wyvern in it's luxurious cage. It looked strong enough but not particular agile. Dodging the first attack and rolling under it's wings to stab it in the belly would end a real fight in less than thirty seconds. No wonder the arena master preferred fake fights. Golden Myth didn't mind being scrutinized but he reacted to the cold, bloodstained smell the stranger brought with him and growled: "I can smell the blood of at least three different dragons on you. You are not welcome here, dragon killer. Leave, before I make you." Pride had never seen his dragon act so hostile and it worried him. Suddenly he understood why Isirion had taken the whole dragon fight matter dead serious. He already had fought dragons for real - and won - just like the mythical Death. The arena master was torn between awe and fear. He licked his lips that had become very dry and said: "Mythy, this is Isirion, he will pretend to fight you for our next performance." Pride tried to let the vision he had for the fight come to life with many words and gestures to convince his dragon, but he failed miserably, maybe because Death was so close...Mythy only shook his head and growled: "I refuse." Isirion shrugged and said with his sub-zero voice: "Then I will fight Aseto. That dragon has been in the Dragon War and at least knows how to fight." Pride looked relieved, that the performance could go on as planned, but also puzzled greatly about Golden Myth's behaviour. Since he now had a lot of preparation ahead of him to get everything ready for tomorrow, he decided to ask one of the grooms to find out what had rubbed Mythy's scales the wrong way. Back in the preparation quarters, he fetched the wyvern's favourite grubby little groom and said: "Pip, go to Mythy and talk to him. Good boy." Pip dropped everything he had in his hands and stormed off. Isirion didn't storm off, but he seemed just as eager as he asked Drake: "Will you let me fulfill my mission now and lead me to Wallet?"

Edited by Isirion

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