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Isirion

The Bloodline of Torch

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Realizing what Alzira, Pride and most likely Fingers must have seen, Isirion retracted his hand with his usual speed, but the damage was done - or more to the point not done. Cursing Pride's thrice distracting presence and himself for letting his guard down, he racked his brains for a likely explanation: "Working with Hellfires for years will make normal fire seem like nothing. And it was Sappo who made the flame corridor that saved you...I just led you through..." Fingers nodded vigorously, as if totally convinced, because his survival instincts told him to. Pride, like always, couldn't take a hint and started enthusiastically: "I totally forgot about the moving flames back then, but now I remember and that wasn't the only weird thing. What is up with your eye colour sometimes changing? They seem purple every time you are not wearing a hood." "It's not the hood, it's the shade", Isirion corrected before he could stop himself: "Bloody hellfire, forget I said that!"

 

"Not a chance in hell", Felicia, having returned from her bath at the exact right moment, beamed and pulled up a chair. "Now talk. Tell us everything, because we earned at least that for putting up with your temper all the time." "Fine", Isirion resigned and snuffed out every candle flame in the room with a wink of his hand. In the gloom his eyes appeared once again icy-blue and he said: "It is a little souvenir from my method of escape from the veiled lady, as is my name." Felicia stopped her husband just in time before he could interrupt with one of a dozen new questions and Isirion continued from where he had left off the last time he had shared something of his past: "The veiled lady, after buying me from the Nebs, put me in her own private arena to help her break newly acquired dragons. You already got a taste of the method involved, and while said method cut the stock in half, it was still very effective. After a few months of slaughter in the name of obedience training, the veiled lady came to my cage and dangled the prospect of freedom once again in front of me. If I could apply 'our' method onto enough already trained dragons, then there would be no more need to keep me locked up and I would get the chance to enjoy the fruits of 'our' work...Slightly confused at what she meant, I entered the arena to find myself face to face with a fully armoured warrior on top of a battle-scarred Royal Blue. Both of them perfectly in sync and clearly used to fighting together. Until now relying on my speed and skill with my blade and impromptu-daggers had been sufficient to survive, but facing off against a veteran of the Dragon War, a discharged warrior of the famous Royal Blue regiment, I felt like 'Dirt' again. Each one covered the other's blind-spots perfectly, the timing of their strikes matched without words and neither wasted their stamina. Soon I was with my back against the wall - I had focused on dodging the dragon's attacks because without armour they would take me out instantly, but the human had already wounded me twice. I felt the disapproving gaze of the veiled lady on me and since lying down and accepting my fate had never been my style, I did the only thing I could think of - kick sand into the dragon's eyes and leap up his joints to get to the rider. I slammed my blade at his wrist to disarm him and then pointed it at the gap under his helmet. The warrior looked at me calmly and said: "Do what you must do, but neither of us will surrender to you or that monster. To face the foe and stand proudly true - That is the honour of the Royal Blue!" Sensing that he really meant what he had said, I pierced his throat and then stabbed his unresisting dragon through the neck, killing it too. Even though I had managed to survive again, it didn't feel like a victory, because with the last breath of the dragon, my prospect of freedom died too. When the veiled lady came to punish me for my failure, I couldn't help myself but ask why she didn't use whatever she had used to capture that formidable warrior and dragon pair in the first place. The cracking of her many-tailed dragon-whip was the only answer I got. When my wounds were healed, she threw me into the arena again with a new plan. This time, I would only face the rider, and the dragon would be forced to watch from a reinforced cage. Only by submitting to the veiled lady would it be able to save it's rider's life. The Royal Blue warrior's swordsmanship was impressive, but without the support of his dragon, my superior speed soon overwhelmed him and I could incapacitate him. Just like the first, he stood proudly and unafraid after loosing. His dragon looking just as proud made no sign of submission and once again I wondered, how another dragon and rider from the Royal Blues had ended up here. Since there were no contrary orders from the veiled lady, I questioned the man in front of me and he, for the first time, lost his countenance and spat: "Abominable Magi!" His outburst, a sign of weakness, didn't go unnoticed. Immediately the veiled lady ordered me to torture and cut him up until his dragon submitted. Obediently I cut his armour straps to get to some surface to work with and soon the sand was red with blood and the arena filled with growled death threats from the caged dragon, but still it did not submit. In the end the man bled out and the beast had knocked itself out from trying with all it's strength to break the cage. I wondered if that 'abominable Magi' had anything to do with the fact, that despite all the dragon's effort the bars weren't even bent. For a time the veiled lady put her plans with the adult Royal Blues on ice and focused on training surviving hatchlings and bringing minor nobles under her heel, occasionally using me to enforce her point. I used the time to train myself as best as I could, because I knew the veiled lady would not give up on cutting short years of training by making already trained dragons submit to her. Me, training myself seemingly for her cause, was something that pleased the lady immensely, for she came to my cage to watch me every day...

 

Months later, I had honed my body to be ready to face any foe and upon close inspection the veiled lady seemed to be fully satisfied with my progress. For the third time she sent me to face a Royal Blue dragon and rider pair and this time I succeeded in breaking their spirits by showing them, that I could not only beat each of them fairly on their own but even when they fought together. There was nothing they could do but to submit to my strength and the lady that commanded it. The rider was taken away as living assurance and the dragon became a pet. Each time a fight worked out like this, I was sure I had finally earned my freedom, but I couldn't have been more wrong. The moment she had enough battle-trained pets, she had me thrown into the deepest dungeon to waste away like her other discarded toys. After she locked the cage door for good, she threw me my blade through the bars and mocked me: "I'll let you keep your blade because I love your eyes. Too bad they are not much use to you in the dark. Try to kill the others to survive a little longer or try to kill yourself - I don't care, I already got everything I wanted from you." The veiled lady turned her back and left me to the darkness and the 'others'. When the last of her footsteps had faded, an eerie orange light illuminated the deepest dungeon and I saw half-eaten dragons still dragging their mangled bodies around, other dragons gnawing frantically on their own limbs while gibbering humans with already chewed off arms and hands stood nearby, staring blankly into space. The source of the light and most certainly the madness was the 'abominable Magi'. There were still traces to be seen of the magnificent creature she had once been, but down here she looked only barely less pitiful than the rest. Whatever power she had over them, just like them, just like me - she was a victim of the veiled lady's treachery. Unafraid, I closed the distance and offered to put her out of her misery. The dragoness gazed at me for a long time and I felt her mind brushing against mine, testing me, testing my resolve. Finally she spoke to me, her mind's voice reverberating in my head: "And who will put you out of your misery?" Certain that she could hear me, I thought as hard as I could: "With your flesh and blood I will survive for as long as I can, and the moment I hear footsteps again, I will play dead next to the door and when it opens for the next victim to be thrown in here, I will use that chance to escape." "And after killing me to survive long enough to escape, what will you do then?" "I will go and kill another dragon. The one that took everything from me and turned me into 'Dirt'. Blackjade." Suddenly my brain felt as if it had been set on fire, pure rage filled my mind, my whole vision became blood-red and I understood, that that was another thing the Magi and I had in common. This time I spoke aloud: "I will kill her for my sake  - and yours", and she answered in kind: "Yes you will. I will make sure you will. Now don't hesitate and do it - Isirion!" The Magi's name was Isiria as I understood the moment I plunged my blade into her heart. The name means 'iron will' and using her last strength and magic she teleported me and my blade stained with her blood into Blackjade's lair. I soon realized, that with her last breath Isiria had given me more than just a new name. She had entrusted me her magic so that I would have a fighting chance against the Black dragon that had defeated her and taken my parents from me. Filled with her fury and my own I struck down every black-air bandit in the lair, who tried to oppose me, including their leader and finally engaged the dragoness, that had devastated both our lives. The ensuing battle was gruesome and in the end I flayed Blackjade and took her skin for a cloak." With another wink of his hand the fire energy he had stolen from the flames returned and all the candles reignited themselves: "As a souvenir from that time my blade stained with Isiria's blood never dulls and what you perceive in the light as an abnormal eye colouration is the 'Magi sight' I inherited. Not only can I see in the dark, but I can also perceive the flow of energy like a Magi with it. As you saw, I can manipulate this energy to some degree - especially fire energy." Another wink and one flame grew and took the fiery shape of a magnificent female Magi radiating power, her eerie eyes burning purplish-blue. With a hint of sadness Isirion let the flaming image of Isiria vanish again, then he growled: "I bet the blue lady would love that party trick even more than my eyes...damn you all for making me remember her."

Edited by Isirion

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Alzira was unsettled by Isirion´s confession. To be true she had expected some dire story behind his behaviour, his pragmaticism and his effectiveness, but the truth she had been told just now was still more gruesome. To survive under such circumstances called for that kind of dedication his name stated.This Lady was not to be trifled with. Nevertheless his control over the fire could be the ability they were missing from their new plan that was forming in her mind. Sure, a lot of it depended heavily on Isirion and his showmanship... No, that wouldn´t work, but ... they had the perfect entertainer already amidst them. Pride would love this... she hoped.

 

She tried to put her notion into words: "I have kind of an idea, but first Isirion: How long can you keep up your fire-ability? I hope about an hour at least is possible. If that is so Pride should pose as an Party-Magican, performing an impressive lightshow switching on and off lights, first a few, then all and then groups of candles, maybe with additional sparkles now and then - something like fireworks or such whatever takes the audience in. In the meantime I could quick-sketch the nobles so they have to lift their masks and Felicia slips through the room and meddles with their drinks - Remember: No kids. Fingers, I ask you to open the cages and free Leal´s swarm and the caged dragons. You should get help by the remaining pygmies. Leal and Sappo will perform their fight, drawing additional attention away from you even more. More importantly:" Alzira fixed Isirion, "you would have to do all the fire manipulation in secret. The only problem I see is that you have to work closely together with Pride, stretching the act with grandeur and perfect timing. Maybe an magic spell or some elaborate gesture would be useful." She paused... "Ah, yes, our exit should be memorable: Pride, Leal, Sappo and I should leave with a kind of bang, a pompous exit to the show, and imprinting our alibi. The rest should slip away as soon as our tasks are finished and since they aren´t that exposed to the audience a silent exit would be best I guess. What do you think? Did I forget something?" she paused again, recalling what else they needed to do at the masquerade party. Well, the killing of the Blue Lady was still a problem, she needed Isirion with her as well. Seemed he had a full plate. She voiced her worries concerning that to him.

 

Edited by Alzira

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"No." Isirion's answer came as quickly as a piercing attack, but seeing as he was beleaguered by Pride conjuring a vision of a travelling theatre dedicating every performance to bettering the audience by showing them how awesome dragons and their magic could be, it seemed doubtful that that 'no' had anything to do with Alzira's concerns. Felicia, used to her husband in 'vision-mode', let the adjusted plan play out in her mind and found it nearly perfect. Smiling, as if she had been the real mastermind behind everything, she said: "I really like the part where you make the nobles take off their masks, so we don't chance poisoning a child unlucky enough to be already of adult-height. If we go over the top with this performance, which is very likely, since my husband is born to entertain, this will grab their attention entirely. Between the magic and the pygmy show I will have plenty of time to poison all our targets, before they drink to the blue lady's health. To make sure they don't drop dead before you get your audience with her, I will adjust the mixture to only take effect after a minimum of ten minutes, which also beats the usage of taste-tasters by more paranoid nobles. This should be enough time to get an invite from the sadistic snob to tell her all your training secrets in private - not counting your 'old', wrinkly bodyguard. The longer the show lasts, the more of Leal's swarm can be freed. The other dragons should already be getting food sneaked in by Leal and every other pygmy helping him so they have enough strength to fly to safety. After hearing about the 'abominable Magi' and those weird reinforced cages, we can't be sure there isn't any more trickery involved. Just to make sure, our thief should try to unlock every cage subtly first. Fingers - can we count on you?", Felicia asked with a reassuring smile, normally reserved for her husband, which worked it's own kind of magic. The pitiful beggar-looking thief straightened up and said firmly: "I never wanted to be a thief, just, like I now believe, he did not want to become a bloody murderer, but we are what we are today and we both are very, very good at it. I'll promise you that I will use my skills as best as I can to free all those dragons, if he promises, this will not turn into another massacre. Indicating Isirion both times, Fingers now waited patiently for a satisfactorily reply.

 

"I promise, I will not turn this into another massacre unintentionally", Isirion confirmed, his tone indicating slight amusement. Fingers, from a safe distance, did not give up so easily: "I know you enticed my guild master into attacking your 'blind, old master', so you could slaughter us all. I understand now why both your Ex-Royal-Blue-master and you hate criminals and those that use them so much, but listen to me - listen to a reformed criminal. I could only change my ways, because you only took my hand and not my life." "That has been my master's request", Isirion immediately countered, but Fingers hadn't been finished yet. The ex-thief was done with cowering. Having heard that even his personal nightmare had been vulnerable once gave him a sort of reckless courage: "I feared you more than anything in my life, but now I can't help but pity you. The blue lady turned you too into an obedient tool, not just her dragons and even though that Magi's sacrifice freed you, you ended up belonging to a different master. Tell me 'iron will', how much of the death you unintentionally caused is really your own will. Tell me!"

 

Fingers, his heart racing and his face flushed like a Royal Crimson, groped the table to keep from running away after all, when Isirion advanced on him, with an unreadable expression. There was no sign of the assassin's knife, nor the blade stained with Isiria's blood, but Fingers had no illusions that 'Death' could kill him any other number of ways, including, as he had just learned, turning him into a barbecue at will. As ready as he would ever be to finally look death in the eye, Fingers stopped squirming, but Isirion merely stated: "My will is my own. Know that I would gladly kill every corrupted noble and bandit-lackey in this city personally, but since this group has earned mine and my master's trust, I am willing to try it your way. In the end it doesn't matter, what we will do or not do at that party." Fingers looked mighty relieved, but Felicia's brow furrowed like a hundred-year-old tree-bark and that omnious last sentence. Pride, as usual, heard only what he wanted to hear and beamed: "Great, everything is settled then. I'll ready our costumes for the performance of our life-times. But before, one question, Isirion - I need to know - how did you become so good at telling stories? I felt almost like I was there with you in that cage. And how did you know that Isiria fell victim to Blackjade and what her name meant? And didn't you say you worked with Hellfires for years - but it couldn't have been with the blue lady, they aren't blue are they? And what happened to the Royal Blue riders, are they still alive somewhere? And what did the lady mean when she said she already got everything she wanted from you? You were just her murder weapon, were you? And most importantly - how could those half-eaten dragons still be alive?" Isirion took a deep breath, by now he knew, short of killing him, there was no way of getting rid of Pride, besides answering: "Firstly. I was there - and since my master is blind, I am used to describing things to him. Secondly. When my blade pierced Isiria's heart, she gave me her magic imprinted with her strongest memories. I could see Blackjade's acidic magic tear through Isiria's defenses, could feel magically reinforced claws rip her skin and finally hear her scream in the agony of defeat. Thirdly. I started working with Hellfires after killing Blackjade. Also, female Hellfires are wreathed in blue flames because their fire is hotter and stronger than the males' red. Fourthly. No, the blue lady had me put them to death most entertainingly. Fifthly. I was her murder weapon, her pet and her toy and I assume that becoming bored of playing with me, is what she meant when she tossed me away. Lastly. They weren't alive, they were corpses animated by Isiria's magic to keep them as a prolonged food source. That is what you will be too, if I hear one more question. Now get everything ready." Pride's smile could have replaced the sun for a month as he agreed with a conspiratorial voice: "I was born ready for this. Our new performance will be even better than 'the Death and the Dragon' - We are going to call it 'The Union of Blue Phire and Fiery Death!"

 

In the mean-time at the Hive

 

Under the watchful eye of Königin von Gefallen, no servant dared to show anything but cold purpose towards their given tasks. In record-time family heirlooms, research, trade goods and tools in addition to food reserves had been relocated to the lower levels of the hive. Her honour-guard was stationed and battle-ready, more of her personal spy-drones ready to be deployed. Where to, depended solely on the intelligence her daughter would bring back. Königin trusted that Iris was up to the task, her information gathering skills were unmatched - but only if her mind was in the game too. Königin had made it clear enough that too much was at stake for a childish blunder so it was only a matter of time until Iris returned with crucial intel. Her other child, Dämon, had already succeeded in putting the Nebula towers on alert, but being alert was not the same as being prepared for an actual army. Once again Königin silently despised the spineless cowards strutting around in armour they hadn't earned in the least. They had not fought in the Dragon War, they hadn't been tempered in the heat of battle. It was no wonder that five or six year old ghost story had re-surfaced again and most citizens, despite all the posters claiming otherwise, believed that 'Death' himself had run rampart, piling up Nebula corpses as high as their towers. Königin mused if there was a connection to the impending Hellfire Army, until a messenger-drone politely interrupted her train of thought: "My queen, the heiress has returned."

Edited by Isirion

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Königin looked irritated that he would interrupt her thoughts but due to the nature of the information Iris was meant to collect she stayed her hand, and right after the Messenger-Drone alerted her that Iris had returned, the girl in question appeared behind him with barely a sound, giving the poor creature quite the fright. Königin seemed unfazed at her daughters light-footed nature, almost as if she had 'sensed' her enter the room, after all she had trained the girl, and Königin gave her daughter an intense look as she asked, "What did you learn on your journey, and be quick about it."
 

Iris, in her ever cheery voice began recounting her findings as she put out the pictures she had drawn onto the planning table. Her obvious dismissal for things like respect made her mother annoyed once more but due to the situation she let it slide, for the moment at least. As she talked she recounted the layout, sizes and genders of all the dragons she could see as well as the fact that the camp itself had been set up more as a ambush rather than an assault base to attack the city. Eventually she reached the part about the blind old man that the dragons seemed to listen to and respect as some sort of leader, pointing at a drawing of the man. Königin paused as she heard the description, it seemed highly familiar and her thoughts drifted back to the Dragon War, in a barely audible whisper she said "Sodger... is it possible?", her thoughts were focused especially about the royal blues and their captain that had put an end to the Dragon war, however she refused to make a complete assumption without seeing this man with her own eyes. Königin listened to the rest of Iris' report before flicking her wrist towards her private servant and instructing them to prepare both a mount to get her to her Black Dragon's nest as well as her cloths for upcoming festivities at the Blue Lady's mansion. She left the room without even a glance at her daughter or a word of praise, which the girl was used too, as the Hive Queen went to get ready to head into the desert to see for herself and attempt to communicate with this man before things went south in a major way, especially before the party began. She was seen hurrying towards the lower levels where her son spent most of his free time and where he was currently at.

 

Iris, realizing she was free from her mothers grasp, gathered all her stuff back into her bag and with a little giggle she left to find her little brother. The servant-drones that had known Iris since she was a kid could tell from the way she giggled that she was looking for her brother and the gossip began once again now that they had completed the transport of anything valuable on the upper levels down to the vault.

At the same time in the von Gefallen Vault

 

Dämon placed the last pile of notes carefully into the vault and looked around at the carefully organised room, however he soon went back to the laboratory and workshop. On the table there was a man who was laying face down and had a large tattoo along his back in the shape of a black dragon, and Dämon went over to the man, taking out a few syringes filled with what seemed to be blood from a black dragon and after laying them out on his bench he began injecting them into different areas of the mans body. First he injected one of the syringes into the base of the mans neck, where the neck and shoulders lined up, then he injected several into the mans veins across his body, equally distributing the injections across the torso and limbs.

 

As Dämon finished the injections, and cleaning his tools, Königin walked into the laboratory room, a look of approval for how efficiently and quickly he had cleaned everything important into the vault, and now was continuing with the experiments that could benefit the house. She walked over to the table as her son knelt, inspecting the subject, an already large muscular man who looked to be in good health and on of the most promising subjects that had been selected, this one having been more than willing to undergo the treatment unlike most of the others. "Any progress? This experiment could be a crucial piece of what we are about to deal with." as she spoke to her son, her voice had a powerful tone that also had a soft undercurrent to it.

"Yes mother, this is his second round of injections, besides a seeming need to administer the injections occasionally to retain the effects, the subject seems to be stable, I hope to find a way to make the changes more permanent however I still have not found a way to do so." 
Dämon explained as he stood up once more to finish putting away his tools, keeping his stance towards his mother respectful as he could.

 

"Good, the situation with the Hellfires has changed and I will be travelling to meet their leader personally, which you will accompany me on and if the subject wakes up and is ready in time then he shall come as well, other than that bring along whatever else you feel is required and Nyx, we will be paying her mother a visit, I trust no other dragon to bear me safely there and back." Her voice held an affection she held for no other dragon for her Alt Black Dragon, Black Death, whom she had inherited much like Dämon had inherited Nyx when she was but an egg, at a young age and raised her herself, and even survived the Dragon War with.

With a bow of respect, Dämon began gathering the basic essentials he would need, putting his gauntlet back on, grabbing his favorite Dragon-back Scimitar which he strapped to his back, grabbing the supplies of food and water to make sure they would be able to make the journey swiftly and without issue, and finally donning his Black Dragon skin cape while placing his mask into his satchel so that he would be ready for the party after they got back.

Edited by FallenDiablo

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Königin von Gefallen watched with approval the time-efficient manner in which her son gathered his belongings and made ready for the trip. Her daughter on the other hand earned herself a look of unveiled disapprovement, as they encountered her giggling and clearly waiting for Dämon in front of the vault entrance. Passing by Iris without another glance, Königin mounted the transport-steed ladden with everything she had commanded. Trusting that her son would follow on Nyx as soon as possible, the Hive Queen made her way to her dragon's nest. It was strategically placed, highly fortified and majestic - just like the Hive itself. Knowing that Black Death hated interruptions and discourtesy as much as herself, Königin politely announced her presence before entering. Black Death awaited her, bearing her battle-scars from the Dragon War like a queen would bear a crown. "It has been too long that we flew together little bee", the dragoness stated, using Königin's oldest nickname. "Indeed, it has", Königin agreed and quickly explained the reason of her visit. Black Death lowered her frame to the ground, so that Königin could transfer her saddle and gear more easily, then she rose up and said: "I will fly as fast as I can. If my daughter and your son can't keep up, you spoil them too much."

 

When the desert wind was in her face again, Königin finally replied: "You are right, but Dämon is the child of my love, I can't be as strict with him as with Iris for fear of loosing him again. I never felt so weak and helpless as at that time when my little angel boy was stolen from his crib." Black Death nodded in mid-flight, her strengthened flight muscles quickly bearing them towards the Hellfire camp. She clearly remembered those emotional times when her rider had been as unstable as an hive without a queen and it reminded her of something else as well: "If that man endangering the city is really the ex-captain of the Royal Blues, then showing weakness, fear or hesitation is something we can't afford. We have to face him and stand proudly true - just like the motto of the old Royal Blue." "I know," the Hive Queen replied curtly: "it will be just like talking to the blue lady." Hearing this, Black Death snorted and agreed: "Exactly, while inspiring his comrades through courage and conviction, Sodger always punished cowardize and lack of discipline without mercy. The blue lady with her whole 'obedience is everything' obsession could easily be his granddaughter." Both rider and dragon enjoyed to be able to drop the regal act, at least for a while, in front of their soulmate. Königin laughed like she hadn't in years and quipped: "You are on to something Blackie. Now we know why he became the leader of the Royal Blues - that colour-craziness must be a family thing." "You are one to talk little von Gefallen bee, with your black dragon, black crest and black heart," Black Death teased back. Königin couldn't stop a giggle, that sounded just like Iris' and added: "Not to mention our Black-Air-Bandits. That were some fun times...remember that chatty brat? He is actually their leader now and calls himself Chet. I should invite him to come to the party so we can tease him again." Black Death snorted again in pure laughter, then suddenly stopped herself after catching glimpses of motion in front and behind: "We are near and so are our offsprings."

 

Meanwhile in the big city

 

Pride had had a great time airing out the costumes, adding more details here and there and having everyone, at least once, parade them across the room. His perfectly reasonable explanation being, that, since so much hinged on the performance, everyone should be comfortable and able to move perfectly - the real reason was of course, that he wanted to see his once-again-personal hero wear an outfit he had made. Leal had finally checked in with them and confirmed that he and the other pygmies had delivered extra food to the caged dragons and were ready to serve as an additional distraction if necessary. Felicia had finished adjusting the poison and Alzira had added the finishing touch to the make-up of everyone not wearing a full-face mask. Isirion distributed the fake-invitation he had saved while Fingers, still under Sappo-supervision, was allowed to organize transport to the blue lady's mansion. When the ex-thief returned, he brought back the latest gossip he had picked up: "There is a lot of buzz going around and the city is full of wanted-posters, but we should be safe since they got most of the details wrong. They don't know that Alzira dyed her hair charcoal black and that the Guardian isn't even with you anymore. But their description of Pride is accurate as hell, so he should not take of his mask at all costs." Pride looked really disappointed at that and in order to cheer himself up he ordered one last parade. Felicia took his arm and soon two dragonflies with glittering wings swirled around in perfect unison. Alzira, in her green Fire Gem outfit, gracefully joined them while directing Sappo and Leal. Fingers, acting like a performer's assistant, smiled and occasionally waved his hand. Isirion on the other hand had already had enough from the last parade. Being constantly stared at reminded him too much of his time in the underground-arenas, so leaving behind his costume to be more inconspicuous he snuck out the door mumbling 'I'll be back in a few minutes'. Outside he took a deep breath to banish the picture of Pride's compound eyes still following his every move. Then, after making sure nobody else observed him either, Isirion teleported away.

 

Reappearing inside the old couple's house they had taken shelter in earlier, Isirion immediately searched for the residents. Too much was at stake to allow any loose ends and so he made sure that, whether their sleep had been genuine or feigned, they now slept eternally in their bedroom. There was another reason he had teleported here. Since he barely had enough dragon energy left to light a candle he needed to refill in order to conjure up all that flame magic Pride envisioned. Outside, Drake's hideout had already burned out and the Nebs had left after checking that none of the bodies cooked in their own armour, matched the cloth-wearing subjects they had been looking for. As he had hoped, the Nebs had also ignored every non-Royal-Blue dragon trapped or injured by the collapsed building. Carefully sneaking through the debris, Isirion searched the ruins of the stable for dragons that were still alive. He quickly stole the energy of every breathing dragon he found and killed them afterwards. The last one he found looked very familiar. It was a Red Dragon from the fishermen's village, whose energy he had stolen countless times to power the torches in the hatching and growing areas of his hideout. Sparky, trapped under a fallen beam with a broken spine, didn't notice the touch of Death. His mind drifted into the familiar sleepiness conjuring peaceful memories of home. Until his last breath the Red firmly believed he was once again rolled up at the base of the heating system in Wallet's mansion knowing that the kind servant nearby would let him sleep like always...let him sleep in peace.

 

When the Red Dragon had died with a serene smile instead of even a hint of a struggle, his murderer felt a strange kind of sensation, as if, once again, the Fever Wyvern's poison had invaded his body. His heart certainly beat faster and it felt as if patches of heat were spreading from it in waves that aligned with an uncomfortable tugging feeling. Suddenly appreciating a powerful distraction like Pride, Isirion dismissed the strange sensation and teleported back to the tavern. Nobody had witnessed his instant arrival and so he casually opened the door to rejoined the others. He put on once again his full disguise, sporting his own black dragon skin cloak and an almost too life-like Black Dragon mask, courtesy of Pride. Almost instantly Pride's eyes were on him, but oddly enough, Isirion didn't seemed as annoyed as usual by it...

Edited by Isirion

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Dämon saw his mother and went down on one knee in a respectful pose towards his 'Queen' and when she left he turned towards the subject, trying to wake him up, which took more than a few moments too long. Having succeeded at last at waking the man he instructed him to prepare his flying gear and to grab the fastest spare dragon they had that wasn't an experimental subject or one of the family's private mounts, the man heading off to do as he had been instructed by his master.

 

As he himself passed through the exit to prepare his own gear he ran into Iris who jumped him with a flying tackle hug, her favorite form of greeting, and just hung off his neck still giggling. "Little Brother, stay home this time, mother is strong enough to do everything herself so don't follow her." Her tone was sad as she had already guessed that he would follow their mother without needing to be told, he was like that, always had and always would be. Dämon sighed a little as he knew he had already had to leave in the middle of speaking to her once but he could not let his mother go to the army alone, it was practically an instinct to protect the 'Queen', and he would do so even when his sister became 'Queen' after their mother. "Sister, you know I must go, it is my duty, and you need to stay here and make sure everything is ready for the Blue Lady's party, I promise we will be there to go with you."

 

Before she could make a response Dämon deftly picked her up and set her back on her feet and strode down the hall, heading straight to the private caves where Nyx was waiting. "Time to pay your mother a visit I believe." His words were met with an appreciative grin, or what would pass for one for dragons, but she decided to save her words for when they were in the air in order to save time catching up to Dämon's mother, who had already left before them. Dämon climbed onto her back and they took off into the sky, taking the route to leave the city where no Nebula's would see him, the man he had given the injections following behind.

 

Right after her brother left with his newest experiment to follow the 'Queen', Iris went back to Shade, grabbing a spare water canteen and together they followed after the others, Iris wearing a mischievous grin while Shade was practically sighing as the young lady dragged him into trouble once again.

Edited by FallenDiablo

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Königin observed the Hellfire Army encampment with a spyglass of her own and found it exactly as her heiress had described. She then directed her gaze towards the old man walking around impatiently as if waiting for something. Her body tensed up instantly - that man was indeed Sodger, ex-captain of the Royal Blues. Black Death noticed the change in her rider and whispered: "I recognize him too. He still has that impressive, ox-like physique and those sentry wyverns look even more impressive and strong." "Indeed, and they might all charge like a bull if we don't play this smart like we planned. Land here and we talk strategy when our offsprings have caught up."

 

It didn't take long for Dämon and his test-subject companion to close the distance since he had wasted almost no time following his mother's orders. Königin greeted them with a curt nod and said: "You two will be my honour guard, flanking me while I ride into the camp in plain view. Once the sentries have called out my arrival to Sodger, I will greet him with his old title and the motto of the Royal Blues before I introduce myself with and my own full title and the motto of the Black Dragon regiment. Neither of you is to speak a word unless necessary. Chances are he won't recognize my voice, but he couldn't have forgotten the von Gefallen name. Now, let's proceed."

Edited by Isirion

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As his mother instructed him and the test subject, he noticed a small figure move ever so slightly nearby, not enough for most to notice but still enough to set his already high alert senses on fire. He made a motion with his hands to let the others know there was something watching them and approached the point swift and quietly, and grabbed the small figure with his gauntlet, only to let it fall back to the ground with a small 'whump'. The small figure made a little sound of complaint and Dämon sighed as he watched his older sister rub her back grumbling about how her brother had been too rough with her and needed to be 'gentler', next time. "Iris, why are you here?" Dämon's tone was worried, his eyes turning towards their mother who had already noticed his movement, and with a sigh he stepped aside.

 

Königin strode over to her progeny, looking down at Iris with a distasteful expression. When Iris tried to speak Königin held up her hand to cut her off and even Iris could tell this was not the time to patronize her mother, not when she was this serious, "You foolish girl! What possessed you to make you think this was a good idea?" Königin paused for a moment as if waiting for Iris' response, however she started speaking once more, "Your being here means that should something happen to us, there is no one to manage the family, and as much as it irks me, you are my successor and the most suitable to inherit my title." After she finished talking she glared at her daughter expecting a response that would satisfy her.

Once her mother had finished with her barrage of statements mixed with questions, Iris cleared her throat and looked towards her little brother to address him since he was the first to address her, as well as to slightly annoy their mother, "I was worried about you little brother... and well I was rather curious". As soon as she added the 'and' Dämon's expression turned into an even deeper frown and she turned slightly sheepish, although she powered on finishing her statement.

Königin let out a long, exasperated sigh, thinking to herself "This girl will be the death of me", rubbing her brow as she thinks. It only took her a few moments to decide what to do, "Iris, stay with Dämon, Dämon keep your sister from being eaten by a Hellfire, or anything else for that matter, I get the feeling even if we left her behind she would follow us in." Her choices were partly because she knew she could take care of herself, but Iris was not as capable as herself or Dämon, and partly because she could tell Iris would rather cling to her brother the whole time than do anything else she was instructed to do.

 

Iris gave no complaint and they organised themselves again, Dämon following on the left and the Test Subject on the right of Königin while Iris was riding behind Dämon on Nyx's saddle. As they rode towards the camp in full view slow enough to be obvious they were diplomatic, Königin called out in a strong, loud voice "I am Königin von Gefallen, Wing Commander of the Black Dragon Regiment, Black Dragons destroy their enemy with fearsome might, we are the deadly shadows of the night. I am here to speak with Sodger, Captain of the Royal Blue Regiment, To face the foe and stand proudly true - That is the honour of the Royal Blue".

Edited by FallenDiablo

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Having been alerted by the two closest sentries to the arrival and composition of the small group, Sodger stood ready to face them. Having no trouble placing Königin's voice, still confident and commanding as ever, he hailed her back: "Greetings Königin von Gefallen, nicknamed Queen of the Battlefield and Wing Commander of the Black Dragon Regiment. I am Sodger, the ex-captain of the Royal Blues. You are without a doubt here to assess if I am a threat to your city. The only threat to the city are it's corrupted nobles and their bandit-lackeys. I have come to take care of both. Now, I must bid you leave with your company, lest your presence warns off our current prey, the so-called Sunstone Bandits."

Edited by Isirion

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Königin raised an eyebrow, not even a flicker of emotion crossing her face at his words and she looked around at the encampment before addressing what Sodger had said before, "You and your deeds may be legendary, however, to lead a host of Hellfires towards the city, even with the noblest intentions, would prove..." She paused as she thought about the best way to phrase her statement before finishing, "Problematic, to say the least."

 

Königin paused for a moment before adding "As you have said, I am here to assess the situation and attempt to come to a diplomatic solution to avoid the destruction of the city or my household, preferably before you commence any assault on city or bandits." Her tone was disciplined and instead of her usual overbearing and regal tone, she spoke in a more controlled tone that she only used when addressing those who she felt held power or status equal to her own, a tone that still held a hint of regality but also held much of what a true Commander would sound like instead of a queen. It would be to little surprise to nearly anyone that Königin never used this tone towards any of the other nobles in the city, after all, she felt no connection or respect for them and their many debauched fancies.

 

While their mother attempted to begin diplomatic discussions, Iris, who had been sitting quietly in the saddle behind her younger brother with her hands holding onto his shoulders, decided this would be a great time to wrap her arms around his waist and cling to him tighter than before and grin cheekily as if they were not surrounded by fire breathing lizards while their mother tried to reason with what Iris could only describe as an angry old blind man. Dämon provided no resistance to her actions but kept his eyes moving, counting numbers and noting positions to make sure he was ready for any situation that might arise, especially if he needed to protect either his sister who was now clinging to him stronger than a barnacle or his mother who was speaking to the very battle-worn old man.

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All the while the Queen of the Battlefield spoke, carefully choosing her words and tone, Sodger had stood rigid like a stone, listening intently. The desert winds had changed and now brought with them a sound most welcome: Wingbeats alternating between powerful and frantic, as the predators he had sent closed in on their prey, corraling it right into the trap. Calculating the perfect moment in his head from the sounds and the perimeter he had walked tirelessly, Sodger raised his fist high into the air as a sign to spring the trap. The sentry wyverns roared and rose up until they were high above the approaching Sunstones. Bodies blazing, the Hellfires covered the sky in fire, denying even the slightest chance of escape. On the ground their hidden brethren shed their cover and aimed straight for the vulnerable underbellies of their confused enemies. Concentrated fire, overwhelming and precise made short work of the already harried host of Sunstones, but Sodger wasn't finished yet. Now that their mounts where falling onto the earth like ashes, it was time to deal with the bandits. A single gesture with his hand, universally understood and the Hellfires that had driven the Sunstones into the deathtrap simultaneously spewed fire from behind. The bandits, already scared out of their wits were incinerated on the spot and breathed their last in excruciating agony. Sodger seemingly deaf to their cries, his face bathed in red and blue flames, smiled and let loose a victory cry not unlike a full grown Hellfire. His re-unitied army responded in kind until another pass of his hand silenced the now battle-proven Hellfire Army. Knowing he was still facing Königin von Gefallen since neither of them had moved an inch from the moment the Sunstone-extermination had started, Sodger bowed as befitted her status and informed her calmly: "The corrupted city-nobles and their Nebula lackeys have 24 hours to surrender to me."

Edited by Isirion

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Königin seemed unfazed by the proceedings at least on a visible level, her eyes remaining locked onto Sodger while the slaughter happened. Dämon, on the other hand, seemed to tense up at the sudden slaughter, his eyes locked on the figures of his mother and the old man, his reaction mainly due to the possible danger towards his Queen Mother and Iris, and less towards the sounds of screaming or the scent of death, but soon his posture relaxed once more. As for Iris, she clung to her brother in surprise, grimacing at the sounds and smells that came from the slaughter that had just commenced.

 

Unlike the von Gefallen family, the Test Subject designated TeSu-1-1, seemed to be rather distressed by the sudden and violent affair that had just taken place, his face turning pallor and his eyes going wide. For quite a few moments after the dust had settled he seemed to remain that way as if a statue of him had been cast out of marble in the perfect likeness of himself.

 

Taking a moment to mull over his words, it was obvious this was not the kind of individual you tried to negotiate with, especially when you lacked leverage or incentive, Königin nodded, more to herself than for his viewing, or lack there-of, "So be it, the von Gefallen House will not stand in your way, the fates of the other houses are in their own hands to do with what they wish." As she spoke she smiled slightly and said in a slightly lower tone so only Sodger would be able to hear, "I believe I shall reveal this at the Blue Lady's festivities tonight, it would make the party ever so much more lively." Her disdain for the mentioned noble, and the festivities being held, bled through her words, her tone as if she were envisioning some sort of hideous creature. She then spoke back in a normal and formal tone, "For now my family and I shall return to the city, I would hope that you will not bring your... war towards the von Gefallen household."

 

She turned to leave, waving for her offspring and the TeSu to follow her lead, first, they would head to get Iris saddled back on Shade, and then they would take off towards the city to attend to any final preparations and evacuations at their house and to attend the Blue Lady's party to deliver the news of her discussion with Sodger.

Edited by FallenDiablo

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Lady Cerulia Phirestone the First watched the sun dip below the horizon and smiled in anticipation. A second later the whole city turned her favourite colour as all the blue Nebulas flashed their wing patterns, while every red, green and purple one dimmed theirs. A certain tower captain, Darian Hightower who had received different orders from a von Gefallen offspring, wasn't too happy about this, but as long as it was only for a few minutes to indicate the biggest party of them all was starting, it wouldn't do any harm. The inhabitants of this city had gone through so much in the last days, they deserved a break and a distraction from the horror show their lives had become with dead people and dragons dropping in the streets and their favourite arena-master turning out to be a traitor. Darian sighed and inspected his blue Nebula costume, that, according to his family, should earn him a few points with the blue lady. Darian did not really want to earn points with any noble family, but as he was just a second son of the Hightower family, he didn't really have a chance. Either he submitted to the whims of more powerful families like the Phirestones and the von Gefallens, or he would find himself without an inheritance or worse.

 

The blue mansion was almost unrecognizable, every stone of the fortress-like building had been decorated with shining blue crystals or equally beautiful blue flowers that together formed the crest of the Phirestone family: A sapphire-blue rose with deadly thorns that all but stabbed the male and female Royal Blues flanking it. The gates to the immense garden area had been thrown wide open, like a gaping maw waiting for prey to wander in. The garden path, winding like a serpent's tongue was hidden under layers and layers of blue flower petals. Before the real entrance to the mansion courtyard, a stone arch with Magelight Pygmies pinned to it as a light source had been installed as a security checkpoint. Each newcomer and his or her invitation was inspected under the magelight, before they were allowed inside the courtyard. Darian passed the checkpoint with no problems and met up with the rest of his family. His father was busy arranging their present, a glimmering cloak made from the hide of a rare blue dragon, on the platform reserved for the gifts the party-goers were supposed to bring. His mother was chatting with his direct superior, Sir Kenneth Overton, high captain of the Nebula patrol and total pain in the backside. Darian greeted them both and explored the premises. In plain view of the present-platform, long rows of tables loaded with polished silverware and plates bearing the Phirestone crest had been prepared. Spaced out evenly on the tables, pygmie-shaped candlesticks holding scented candles provided an eerie but fragrant light. The chairs were comfortable with hand-stitches cushions. A special table stood on a raised platform facing the others. It was mounted on a well-scrubbed Royal Blue, that didn't dare to move a muscle. To reach the table, you had to walk up a few stairs that had been attached to the tail and lower back spikes of the poor dragon. Darian stared in disbelieve, then quickly looked away. The scent of roasted meat gave him a new direction. Located near the rear-wall was the entire kitchen staff roasting pigs over a fire-pit, stirring pots and cutting vegetables. Close by waited dozens of dragon hatchlings dressed up as waiters. Their paws were clean and since they were dragons, no matter how hot the dishes, they didn't burn themselves carrying them. They also didn't drop a single plate, Darian noticed with awe, before he noticed slim scars, most likely from Cerulia's famous whip on almost every scaly waiter or waitress.

 

A flourish of trumpets distracted Darian and he looked for the source. An herald dressed in black and gold with a perfectly stitched crest entered. Darian didn't need to strain his eyes to know what that crest depicted. Every one in the city and beyond knew the crossed golden needles crowning the head of a black, many-tailed dragon - The von Gefallens had arrived.

Edited by Isirion

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The first von Gefallen to appear was Königin, who arrived in a carriage, a separate carriage following behind hers with the gifts for the Blue Lady in tow. The moment Königin stepped from the carriage a Golden Wyvern, Sollaria, descended from the sky, with Dämon & Iris on her back and the pair quickly dismounted with ease. 

 

Königin's dress was a sleeveless pure golden dress that shimmers like a thousand scales with a Black Dragon crafted from the finest scales on her back, the neck of the dress fitting closely to her neck and went up quite a bit higher than your average dress. At the base of where the tail is normally instead it splits into many different coloured tails, all made of different scales and the tails wrapped around the lower part of her dress starting from the back. The lack of sleeves only served to display her near inhuman beauty and almost unnaturally well-preserved features even further, traits that both her children had evidently inherited from her and would keep them looking beautiful and youthful even into old age. It was evident that both she and her daughter's dresses were crafted by Königin herself by hand, the craftsmanship far exceeding the quality of most other dresses.  Atop her head is a headpiece made of thin golden needles that looked to be the same as the one on their family crest, her hair woven in and around the lower needles to hold it firmly in place and to complete her regal aura.

 

Iris' dress, while similar to her mothers, was instead a golden white in colour and had long sleeves extending to her hands, which at the ends of each had a ring attached which would go on her middle finger to keep the sleeves in place. The dress matched well with her amber eyes and light skin, features that set her distinctly apart from her mother and brother, both of whom had emerald eyes and slightly tanned skin. Dämon who walked parallel to his sister wore a cloak made from Black Dragon leather, the clasp had the family insignia emblazoned on it, and underneath the cloak there would be the occasional glimpse of clothes crafted from fine black silk that glinted like scales in the light much like his mother and sisters dresses. In addition to the cloak and black silk, Dämon wore a half-mask that covered the left side of his face, the design of the mask appeared almost like what a dragon-human skeleton fusion would look like, a terrifying visage of Death and Power. His gauntlet was crafted from the most exquisite Black Dragon parts, from the leather to the scales and even the claws were all genuine, and the claws themselves looked razor-sharp.

 

As Königin started walking her offspring fell into step behind her each flanking her on either side and behind them were the servant drones that brought the von Gefallen families gift and family crest banners for the Blue Lady. There was a noticeable lack of guards as if the family either felt that no one would dare cross them or that they had confidence in the members present. The gift consisted of a pair of beautiful blue eggs, to those who had seen them before they would recognize them to be imported Aeria Glori's eggs. The von Gefallen's inherent inhuman beauty, combined with the mysterious nature of their family and the sense of danger each family member gave off, causing the more sensitive of individuals to know that crossing even a single member of their family was extremely dangerous, let alone three, would create an almost mesmeric attraction effect, drawing in the attention and gazes of the curious, sycophantic and powerful alike.

 

Approaching the invitation checkpoint, Königin's expression soured for a moment in disgust at the display before returning her features to a neutral stance, while Iris murmured about the 'poor Pygmy'. Dämon, on the other hand, remained impassive the entire time, his eyes instead remained straightforward, although they occasionally glanced around to assess the surroundings for threats or obstacles. The trio didn't seem to show any inclination of slowing down to show an invitation, and should anyone try to stop them the withering stare they would receive from Königin would cause all but the strongest of individuals to shrivel up inside, after which the invitation would be shown and they would proceed inside. Once the servants carrying the boxes with the two blue eggs in them came through Königin directed them to place them with the other gifts, the ornately carved boxes with intricately woven cloth lining the inside would be easily distinguishable as being from the von Gefallen house.

Edited by FallenDiablo

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From the battlements of her fortress-like mansion, Lady Cerulia Phirestone the First observed the impact her peculiar decorations and draconic waiters had on the guests that had arrived so far. At first they had all been taken with awe, but now, that that von Gefallen distraction had arrived, their gazes kept wandering to her beautiful form and regal bearing that made her stand out even among her equally beautiful children. Clenching her fist in annoyance around the dragon-whip she wore as a belt on her Royal Blue dress fashioned from genuine dragon scales, Cerulia left her vantage point to check on her own child. She found Celeris in her private quarters trying to wriggle out of the skin-tight costume she had spent half an hour getting her into earlier. The blue lady watched her daughter's desperate attempts for a minute before she intervened: "Celeris, stop squirming, you will ruin that costume." "I don't care, I hate that costume, it makes me look ridiculous. Why would I want to look like one of your stupid pygmy decorations anyway. I want to wear my own costume!" Getting curious about the costume her daughter apparently preferred, Cerulia picked it up and laid it out on the bed for inspection. A smile flickered across her face as she straightened out an adult-sized, patched-up black cloak concealing a stick-sword partially painted red. Cerulia slowly traced the 'bloodstained blade' with her index finger, increasing her daughter's anxiety, before bursting into laughter: "Celeris, if you had chosen any other costume, I would have made you burn it with your own hands, but since I was quite fond of Death myself, I'll indulge you. Come with me. There is still time to turn this flimsy thing into a fear-inducing, deadly menace befitting that name!"

 

Meanwhile at the tavern

 

When the light coming through the windows had turned blue indicating the start of the long awaited masquerade party, Pride ushered everyone out and into the carriage Fingers had organized. It was a small carriage, so everyone had to squeeze together, but in the end they were on their way without damaging the costumes while the two pygmies took the much more comfortable and faster aerial route. At the entrance to the Blue Mansion, two human Dragonflies with their one-handed servant finally emerged alongside a black-haired lady dressed as a green Fire Gem dragon, accompanied by a bodyguard wearing a Black Dragon skin cloak and mask. Isirion had decided to stay in costume full-time stating that there could be other nobles besides the blue lady, who might remember his face from one of her underground-arena events. The real reason was of course, that he hated pretending to be weak and decrepit. It was also much easier to hide his bloodstained blade and assassin's knife in his usual getup. After dismissing and tipping the carriage driver, the group neared the invitation checkpoint whose clerks looked particular miserable. After being treated like dirt by the von Gefallens, the five-person group approaching them without an apparent present for the blue lady was the perfect opportunity to rebuild their crushed pride. Flaunting their full authority as members of the Phirestone household, the clerks demanded: "Papers and party gifts. If you fail to present them, we are empowered to escort you from the premises and discipline you in a most painful manner."

Edited by Isirion

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Alzira beckoned Fingers to present the invitations and then reached to her artificial wing and pulled out a small package covered in a soft piece of cloth. "This is much too valuable to be handled by anyone." She pulled the material aside to show its contents to the servants. The underlying filigree frame was made of a metal with a uncommon blue sheen to it. She secretly thanked Sappo for this idea, for he had noticed that metal gained a curious blue sheen if treated -not melted- with precise high heat, and then cooling down slowly. Alzira had then polished the frame until this unique feature perfected the subject it presented. The painting itself embodied an Indigo Lunar Herold whose colours nearly shone on themselves. The dragon portrayed almost looked alive. This was stressed even more through a special technique that made the eyes following the observer. 

 

Alzira was glad she had remembered the "humble" mentioning of the "appropriate gifts" description during forging the invitations, telling that anything of right  -meaning blue- colour would be sufficient. Since nobility and even newer upper class were invited and "rare and expensive" was not an option she knew they had to aim for "rare and ingenious". Luckily she had a lot of half finished pictures with her, and in one of them the depicted dragons, a Lunar Herold had been completed. She then had chosen the right section to put in the metal frame and with a heavy heart she had cut the painting to size.

 

After a short time of letting the servants stare at it she withdraw the picture and rewrapped it. "I hope this is to your satisfaction and my entourage and I may proceed?", she added in just a slightly annoyed undertone, one she knew was familiar to all servants used to old nobility - not too much, because that would mean she wanted to impress like any upstart.

 

Edited by Alzira

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Recognizing the voice of true nobility, the clerks decided it was much safer to take their pent up anger out on another target. They returned the invitations with a bow and waved Alzira and her entourage through the checkpoint. Once they were a safe distance away and well within the party area, Felicia whispered: "That was the easy part, now we have to quickly find the master of ceremony to insert our performance into the schedule of the party before everyone toasts the blue lady. I am best suited for this task, so everyone else stay together and out of trouble until I come back." Pride smiled under his full face-mask and watched his beautiful wife disappear in the crowd. Why was there a crowd already?, Pride wondered until it hit him. He had forgotten that he wasn't the only one with an obsession with the legendary 'Death' in this city. Naturally 'Death' was a popular costume, but among half a dozen of generic black-cloak-red-stick-sword costumes, Isirion's genuine Black Dragon cloak along with the eye-catching Black Dragon full-face mask Pride had crafted stood out. Everyone present, who had been looking forward to the 'Death and the Dragon' performance gathered round the next best thing, openly comparing it with the von Gefallen interpretation. Noticing the commotion he caused, Isirion quickly walked away, but doing so with his usual predatory stride, made the situation worse. Two female party guests wearing especially revealing Blusang costumes teased him to 'take them' with his 'blade'. Another party guest dressed in black, who had been served too much alcohol by the dragon waiters already, sputtered something about challenging the imposter and tried to poke Isirion with a stick sword. Barely suppressing his urge to draw his very own, very real blade or at least the assassin's knife, Isirion dodged them all and looked for a way out...

Edited by Isirion

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Alzira was waiting for Felicia, hoping that the staying out of trouble part could be achieved for once. She had her doubts with the staying together part, especially when she looked at Isirion struggling with and trying to get away from the unwanted attention of other guests. Alzira turned to Fingers and Pride and whispered behind her fan: "Walk with me, so it does not look unnatural," and she linked arms with Pride, ignoring his confusion and steered him closer to the commotion. She beckoned Fingers to follow them slowly and explained: "First rule of parties: Don't run. This is their territory and running makes you prey. Walk calmly, stay in your group and pretend to ignore them, especially you Fingers, since you mimick a servant. I don't like this either, but I do know how to maneuver these waters." She picked two glasses of beverage from one of the dragon waiters, passed one to Pride, clinked glasses and laughed lightly. "Second rule: Drink in your hand - it's part of the look  and third: Don't stick out if you don't want attention, and we don't want that yet. This way, just like Sappo and Leal circling above the courtyard, we can keep an eye on our 'Death' without drawing unwanted attention ourselves."

Edited by Alzira

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The first of the von Gefallen to separate from their family members was Iris, her eyes dead set on the bar and basically any and every lovely looking young woman sitting at it, stalking towards like a predator. It would not take her long to start drinking and flirting, short of her mother or brother it seemed doubtful anyone would be able to pry her away from her drinks without using force. Her attention was especially focused on the beautiful but less popular individuals, even going as far as to flirt with any maids that got too close, keeping an ear open for any snippets of conversation from any of the surrounding individuals that might prove useful.


Königin, on the other hand, avoided any alcohol whatsoever, standing to the side of the festivities acting aloof and as if the rest of the party was below her, literally and figuratively, as she observed the courtyard waiting for the Blue Lady to make her entrance which Königin thought to herself 'Which will probably be eye-catching and very blue'. While she kept an eye on the audience, her gaze drifted over one of the Blue Lady's staff, a young lady whom would not seem suspicious interacting with Königin's own daughter and who had been assigned to waiting drinks at the party, and yet Königin could recognize as one of her drones that she had handpicked to infiltrate the other noble houses in order to keep her 'well informed'.

 

Dämon, unlike the other members of his family, decided to mingle with the main crowd, greeting both those he knew by name and those he did not and all the while he scanned for any signs of weapons or individuals who he had not seen before at this kind of party. His physical ability combined with having many years of practice made it seem like he was gliding through the throng instead of walking, avoiding bumping into anyone or anything. His attention had been drawn immediately to the other individual who bore a cloak made of genuine Black Dragon-hide, even as he greeted other guests, after all, it was not every day one got their hands on such material. His curiosity was only increased when he saw the man moving through the crowd, his movements setting him apart from the rest of the party and his companions, he moved like someone who knew how to fight, and that got Dämon's attention far easier than anything else, after all, he doubted there were many here who could hold a real sword, let alone use one.

 

Once he had made his rounds to greet those who needed to be greeted, Dämon stepped off to the side of the courtyard to observe the man wearing a genuine Black Dragon cloak, who had caught his interest, which was easy enough since even to the untrained eye, the quality of the real thing far outstripped that of the knockoffs surrounding it. While he observed the man, he occasionally still glanced around the party, taking note of any important figures that entered and assessing the potential danger they may carry towards the von Gefallen family members

Edited by FallenDiablo

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Every time another black cloak appeared in his field of vision, Isirion tensed. Unlike the others party guests he didn't see them as costumes, but as the loathsome uniform of the Black-Air-Bandits. Moving through the crowd was much more difficult than in the streets, everyone seemed to be fixated on getting in his way. What saved him in the end was the arrival of a much bigger distraction. The musicians, that so far had not played a single note as to not interfere with the heralds announcing newly arrived nobles, suddenly played a long, drawn out march. From the entrance to the vast courtyard appeared a quartett of burly men lifting up a blue-tinged casket, draped with a hand-woven sapphire-blue cloth. Their feet moving in unison and in time with the funeral march, they carried the casket towards the pile of presents and set it down gracefully. On the last note of the march, with every pair of eyes on the casket, the lid suddenly sprung open. Out of the interior made of deep blue velvet, two people rose and smiled with apparent-fake-fangs. The man wore black formal wear styled like a male Vampire Dragon, the woman was dressed in white formal wear, reminiscent of a female Vampire Dragon. In the dead silence following their appearance, the herald announced with a voice as deep as a grave: Lord and Lady Marrovarg. For deadly frights caused by our arrival, kindly use Marrovarg Funeral Service With A Smile. Putting the fun in funeral we bury your sorrow and your body. Now with family discount.

 

In the short amount of time, the crowd stood just frozen with shock, Isirion weaved his way back to the others and muttered: "Those nobles are all crazy..." Pride on the other hand started to clap and murmured: "I wish I had thought of such a splendid performance." The other guests seemed to share his opinion and soon started clapping too. Now that most other great noble houses and their retainers had arrived, the musicians played a cheerful tune, inviting the guests to dance, while on the battlements the first of many attractions of the night appeared. Six well-oiled, athletic humans, three male and three female, fought each other with spears burning at both ends. Their weapons whirled around, illuminating the darkness and drawing many cheers from the crowd. Soon they switched to flaming swords, knocking them out of each others hand and extinguishing the fire by swallowing them. For the next act they switched to even smaller weapons and juggled multiple burning daggers. It was a beautiful sight to behold until one of the jugglers lost his footing and stumbled. From the darkness immediately came the sound of a whip coiling around a neck and breaking it. The five remaining jugglers finished their performance and the blue lady entered the limelight. Standing errect like a statue, the sparkliness of her dress rivaling the night-sky, Lady Cerulia Phirestone the First welcomed her guests with a firm voice that easily carried over the courtyard: "Welcome my dear friends and enemies, tonight we have come together not to snap at each others heels, but to celebrate the debut of my daughter in our world. Being born as a noble is not nearly enough. Without the strength to keep your life and your position, one would soon meet a dead-end. Being able to forge connections, controlling your subjects and seeing through falsehoods while keeping an eye out for the competition are vital for every noble dead set on ruling this city. So, in order to prove your worth as much as hers, there will be a special gift for the first person to find and clink glasses with Celeris. Enjoy our first party-game: Search!"

Edited by Isirion

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Königin continued to look upon the party with contempt, the entrance of House Marrovarg barely even managing to make her blink and her eyes seemed to glaze over as they gave their little speech. Once the grave looking pair had finished their little introductory stunt and speech, and the next performance came out, Königin seemed to take an interest in the proceedings once more. Her gaze slid over the three male retainers in interest and those around her got to see a rare sight, the Hive Queen was... smiling? Her smile only lasted so long however, disappearing with the crack of the whip and the sound of one of those fine performer's necks snapping. "What a waste." She thought to herself, and her slightly soured expression told those who knew her better than most that she was quite displeased by the waste over such a trivial mistake, after all, no one hated wasting fine things more than she. As the Blue Lady finished her speech, Königin glanced at her son, whom had been waiting for her signal whether or not to join in, and nodded to him. What she wanted was obvious to her progeny, for him to find the Blue Lady's daughter before the others, a display of power and skill designed to set the Blue Lady off kilter, as well as to increase the satisfaction the Hive Queen would get when she made the announcement of the cities impending doom to the nobles during such an extravagant party.

 

For Iris, in the short time since she had been at the bar, she had already drunk more than enough to leave her highly intoxicated, and had since moved onto chatting up a maid in a secluded area of the garden, even in a state of total intoxication Iris retained her beautiful expressions and sweet voice. The Marrovarg surprise barely managed to take her attention away from the girl for a moment, before she turned it back to the maid and continued flirting. When the performers appeared her attention once more was drawn away, although this time the female performers managed to captivate her attention for far longer, although at the appearance of the Blue Lady she became disinterested, which meant that she went back to chasing the pretty maids.

 

Dämon, whom had been watching the unusual man throughout the festivities, only glancing around every few moments to scan for danger and risk, saw the caskets and almost sighed to himself. House Marrovarg was strange, to say the least, their cheerful demeanor despite their profession was both refreshing and unsettling at the same time. When the others began clapping he clapped a few times wryly and when the performing started he relaxed ever so slightly, the air around him becoming less tense, more approachable for the sycophants that wished to fawn over him, although he would pay them little mind, his attention still focused on the unusual group and the man with the Black Dragon Cloak. When the Blue Lady announced her little game, Dämon's eyes immediately flicked to his mother, who, with just a slight nod, told him everything he needed to know about what his mother, his Queen, wanted him to do. With a few deft movements he slipped into the throng and began searching, once again gliding through the crowd of people. The Blue Lady was extravagant and proud, there would be few who met both the requirements for quality of costume, and were a young girl, not to mention the clues that the Lady kept dropping, a costume to do with the dead, "How hard could it be to find someone who fits all three criteria among this sea of people in knockoff 'Death' costumes." He thought to himself wryly amused.

Edited by FallenDiablo

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Alzira watched with increasing concern the progression of the Blue Lady´s masquerade  party. The announcing of the guests was starting amusingly and the entertainment as well, although the audience was instantly reminded of the consequences of displeasuring the host through the mishap of one of the athletes. She thought about their further course of action. On the one hand failing would most definitely result in instant death on the other there was the option to complete the party game and gain access to an audience much easier. But what did she know about the girl?

Mentioning the debut meant - at least to Alzira - that she  wished to make her succcessor officially known to the public for the first time. Usually that was done at an age were the young noble had aquired a good education and could be formed in the manners and unwritten rules of the predominant hierarchy, usually to the benefits of the own house. Due to her own experience and taking into account the hostile situation in-house she presumed Celeris to be younger than the usual age which made Alzira put the girl´s age about 7 to 10 years old. She had to ask Pride about this...

 

Furthermore, if the hints of the lady were to be believed, the costume would have something to do with death. That could mean several different things: Any dragon related to death was an option or... as she looked around the most recent trend was put in her mind, actually several versions were walking around her now: "Death". Celeris wouldn´t be oblivious to this trend. She was quite sure that the young noble would be intrigued by this character, probably she would whatever her age seek out the real deal if he was in reach... An idea formed in her mind: She needed Isirion instantly. Putting thought into action she moved closer to Fingers, Pride and their own "Death" to ask about Celeris´age and tell them about her idea. She feigned a sip and proposed her idea directly to Isirion: "I know you aren´t one to mingle, but I need you to do exactly this and look for a child, or at least a young noble. I´m quite sure she´ll wear a Death costume and would love to meet her counterpart." Sensing Isirion tensing at the mention of mingling she added:" In fact I guess it would be easier if I accompany you. Four eyes see more than two and I´ll fob the other fans off faster." She smiled and linked arms with him. She must be stressed out because somehow this started to get quite amusing...

 

Edited by Alzira

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Tensing up even more, Isirion's normally graceful and predatory movements degraded to the point that a walking corpse would seem less awkward and stiff in comparison. Rigidly putting one foot before the other whenever Alzira changed directions, Isirion felt like he had been thrown in a totally diferent kind of arena. Instead of raging-mad starving dragons, he faced equally mad nobles, who all seemed to want a piece of him too. No amount of protest could stop them from snatching at his cloak trying to find out if he was a little girl in disguise, while Pride and Alzira were left untouched and swam through the throng like a fish through water. It was like everyone else at the party was a shark while he was a drop of blood.

 

Pride, who by all means should have drawn way more attention with his glittering dragonfly costume and odd mask moved happily through the crowd all the while keeping his insectoid-eyes on the lookout. In his head the ex-arena master tried to organize everything he knew about the blue lady's offspring before sharing the information discreetly with the other three: "Celeris must be somewhere between five and six years old. While she is undoubtedly Cerulia's daughter, there have been quite a few speculations about her paternity. Just like the Hive Queen, our blue-eyed host had quite a few husbands, who met a more or less gruesome end. The last one, a brown-haired, brown-eyed Overton-oaf, was found with multiple stab wounds not long after 'Death' vanished from the public eye. Since Celeris has hair like wildfire and blazing blue eyes the rumour mills never stopped running behind the lady's back. Since both the von Gefallen and the Phirestone family derive their nobility from the maternal side, it doesn't matter lineage-wise, but it still makes one wonder. And now, from all the possible costumes, the Blue Lady has revealed to us that her daughter is dressed up exactly like our blue-eyed, hot-tempered Death, when he was her 'toy' about five or six years ago. Smiling again brightly like a sun under his full-face mask, Pride added cheerfully, as if it were a mere afterthought: "Blue Phire and Fiery Death indeed..."


Hearing this, Isirion violently pulled away from the crowd and Alzira. Not missing a beat he quickly grabbed Pride with both hands and dragged him towards an empty corner, where he growled immediately: "What are you insinuating?" Pride struggled in vain and questioned back: "What were you insinuating when you told us about your time with the blue lady in such an ambiguous way? Enjoying the fruits of your work together? The lady being fully satisfied after you honed your body? She loved your eyes and she got everything she wanted from you? Isn't that the real reason you came to her party with us instead of hunting down the Black-Air-Bandits like you were supposed to?" Isirion let the flood of questions wash over him, then he sighed deeply and breathed: "You really don't know when to stop. I already told you that she bought me from the Nebs and used me as a toy, pet and murder weapon for her convenience. Why the hell would you think, that she'd have ever allowed something to grow from that?" "Because you are the epitome of strength and you do whatever is necessary to survive. Didn't you hear her speech on how harsh the life of a noble is in this city? What she really wanted from you is to pass on those traits to an offspring, so it would have the strength to one day be the heir of the most powerful and most hated family in the big city." Feeling like his world had just turned upside down, Isirion released Pride and leaned against the wall. His whole body felt numb as if he'd accidently gotten a taste of the poison Felicia planned to distribute. His mind played back all the interactions he had with the veiled aka the blue lady in order to find something that disputed Pride's theory, but there was no use. The moment Pride had said it, he knew it was the truth. The blue lady had used him for breeding an exceptional offspring just like she'd used her blue dragons - just like he'd used Torch. The irony was bloody hilarious. Before he knew it, Isirion laughed out loud, drawing once more the attention of the crowd that had backed off after his violent display.

 

Observing the whole courtyard from the battlements in order to gauge the performance of those seeking her well-camouflaged daughter, the blue lady's gaze was drawn to one particular corner where one of the many 'Deaths' was drawing a lot of probably unwanted attention to himself. It was the same 'Death' that had barely escaped the clutches of the famous Hightower half-sisters, who had been easily recognizable in their revealing Blusang outfits. Cerulia concurred with the crowd that that 'Death' was indeed an interesting specimen and decided to watch him just a little while longer...

 

Meanwhile close to the Blue Mansion

 

"Straighten your backs. Hands away from your concealed knives. Don't look at people as if they were targets!" Amara's stern voice tried to whip the half a dozen 'gardeners' she had hired into a passable entourage. Without any family left it was the only way to enter the Blue Lady's party in order to make her debut and find clues which noble had ordered the assault on the Hassleborough mansion. Nightfeather, the most restless of the group, caught her injured hand for the nth time darting for a hidden dagger and cursed silently. Nightblade on the other hand was calm and composed. If they could pull off infiltrating the party, they would be so much closer to finding Trueshots real murderer. And it would not even be illegal or anything because they had the gross of the Nebulas backing them up. They just had to be careful not to deviate from the official story spread by the Nebs to prevent civil unrest when sounding out the nobles. Let them think that the murderer they hired was already dead so they might let something slip. It still hurt that Trueshot's body had been executed for that reason, but in the end it would all be worth it.

Edited by Isirion

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Alzia had listened to Pride curiously and was still mulling over the implications Pride´s information had revealed when Isirion left her arm rather suddenly. She followed Pride and his captivator with her eyes and moved through the crowd in a distance. Due to the commotion they created she didn´t want to get into the focus of anyone watching and it was a given that at least the host would have an eye on them now. Isirion´s reaction told her enough to confirm Pride´s and her own conclusions. That was not good, their whole situation had gotten an additional layer of problems.

 

Although, this racket could be useful nevertheless... Celeris could be somewhere in this crowd. She was still a kid and most kids are curious and would want to know what´s going on. To Alzira it was quite probable that the girl was right here, maybe even right next to her staring with the crowd at the agitators. She gripped her glass with newfound hope and started looking for the little Death again.

 

 

Edited by Alzira

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Feeling the attention of the crowd drawn once again solely towards Isirion, Pride experienced an unsual pang of envy and guilt before his performer instincts kicked in. Swaying a little for effects, Pride drowned out Isirion's creepy merriment with a few hearty laughs of his own and bellowed: "A corner is a dead end, so let's search for the little heiress here? Pretty hilarious that now everyone, but Celeris is gathered here too. She must be laughing her noble behind off from watching your antics! You should really lay off the strong stuff for a bit." Finishing his misdirection with a few over-the-top back-slaps that cost him as much courage as he could muster, Pride steered his 'Death' back into the fold. On cue Fingers, walking as calmly as Alzira had instructed him to, appeared and offered a glas of wine. Isirion took it with an unsteady hand, unwittingly amplifying the illusion, that too much alcohol had been the only reason behind the huge commotion he had caused. Promptly the crowd dispersed as each individual realized that staring at an apparent drunken duo in a corner brought them not one step closer to finding Celeris. At loss what else to do, Isirion silently observed the movement of every other Death he could spot. It was the obvious solution to the riddle the blue lady had given them, however it was just as obvious that there was no disguised child among them. By dangling such an easy solution in front of them, the blue lady had them all moving exactly like puppets on a string. It was such a familiar feeling, that Isirion couldn't stop himself from laughing again: "Now she's really done it and made everyone her puppet. One can't help but admire her for that sheer audacity. Whether that particular trait is hereditary or not, Celeris should be anything but a puppet among puppets right now. I am going to check if she inherited my strength or already succumbed to crying in the cold, lonely darkness."

 

"You didn't even believe she existed a few minutes ago and now you are telling me you know exactly where she is hiding?", Pride asked dumbfounded. "Exactly - and if she's anything like me, she will lie in wait with a real blade in her hand. Don't you see that the blue lady has told us exactly what to expect? Being born as a noble is not nearly enough. Without the strength to keep your life and your position, one would soon meet a dead-end. So where do dead nobles who didn't have enough strength go?" "They go into the family tomb", Isirion answered his own question and quoted the blue lady further: "Being able to forge connections, controlling your subjects and seeing through falsehoods while keeping an eye out for the competition are vital for every noble dead set on ruling this city. Camouflaged by a black cloak, silent as death Celeris should be waiting in the Phirestone tomb by herself for someone to figure out the clues. If the first person to find her is able to gain her trust, the special gift in itself would be the opportunity to forge such a rare alliance built on trust with the future ruler, sealed by clinking glasses. On the other hand, should the person that finds her first, harbour ill intentions, they will learn that even the youngest Phirestone has the will and the strength to defend herself. This is why the wilful lady described the game we are playing as one to prove our worth as much as Celeris'. Now Alzira if you want to effectively use my daughter as a stepping-stone to that private audience with her mother, you better choose your words carefully when you meet her."

Edited by Isirion

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