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Rolled Hyacinth, Verbena and Aster
This one went well again, nothing special happened. Verbena is lv9 and Aster lv11
Rolled Vunguza, Ayaz and Whisper
Whisper got KO'd 3 times. The first time was misjudgement, thinking he'd be able to take another hit while Ayaz got breath up to heal him. Follow that with two crits both while he was at the -exact- health for them to KO him. Since he has a familiar (which I was getting to but missed the chance to introduce) I remembered the familiar saving throw this time and...
To remind anyone unsure (it is only posted in IWB rules since I'd hoped to finish this ages ago): Roll 2d4 (two 4-sided dice). If the total is 8 both dragon and familiar survive. If it's more than 4 the dragon lives but the familiar dies. If it's less than 4 the familiar lives but the dragon dies.
I rolled two 2's.
But I noticed that the rule doesn't account for a total of 4, neither here or in the Pinkerlocke I borrowed it from, so I treated it as a coin flip: heads he dies, tails the familiar dies.
I flipped tails.
Whisper yet gets to live. Holy crap that was harrowing.
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Noelani felt her heart skip a beat, her breath catch in her throat as she stared in rapt awe at the apparition watching them from the centre of the ruin. A ghost! An actual ghost! Prior to her leaving the lands of her birth the Wildclaw had studied abandoned settlements, dragon or otherwise, in the hopes of seeking out supernatural phenomenon. So many stories abounded wherein a traveller had sworn they had seen a party going on, some grand ball, within the rundown walls of a once beautiful hall only for the gathering to vanish by the time they'd reached them. Stories of strange voices calling out to passers-by, of dragons going missing trying to find the source. Claims of being watched or followed as they explored the sites.
This, right here, right now was a bona fide, honest to Lightweaver ghost of a Pearlcatcher. Noelani found herself tracing the feathery patterning around her eyes as she marvelled at how she and the spectre shared it, down to the stripy banding on their tails. It wasn't uncommon for unrelated dragons to share similar genes as these yet her heart fluttered at the idea that this might be some long-lost relative of hers.
Movement snagged the Wildclaw's attention, pulling it down to where, at the Pearlcatcher's feet,the ghosts of two hatchlings, also Pearlcatchers, sat as they joined their presumable mother in studying the goings on.
“Incredible.” It took a moment for Lani to realise she'd uttered the word, feeling at once foolish and wary as if the very act of speaking would ruin this sacred moment. A breath of relief left her when the figures did not vanish as feared. Rather the Pearlcatcher lowered her upper eyelids in a 'seriously?' kind of expression. A rush of guilt moved Noelani to blurt, “I'm sorry! My name is Noelani. It's... it's an honour to meet someone preserved by Lightweaver's gift.” She bowed low, stretching her wings out with the action. Her eyes flew open in confused shock when a snort was heard.
“I mean, it's nice to finally have some respect but I'm hardly anyone worth giving formalities to.”
Lifting her head Noelani saw how the ghostly dragon had lowered herself to the ground, laying over the hump of what was now assumed to be her grave. The two hatchlings had moved to each of her sides, pressing against the pale belly as they watched with wide blue eyes more suited to the Lightning flight than either the Plague of their mother or the gold of the Light where they now lay. This was not how she had expected anyone with the Lightweaver's favour, especially one of an opposing element, to respond. Was not this the resting place of centuries, aeons long passed? Yet this phantasm was acting not unlike someone born in the modern era.
At a loss for words the white dragon swivelled to cast a questioning look at Whisper, the Imperial having not yet left the freshly turned grave. Pavan and Maili were shivering against his paws, he himself returning her glance with a level stare. Of course, she'd neglected how the children might react to the sight of ghosts. Neglected the children for her own interests. Again.
“Cute kids.” Noelani spun in surprise at the Pearlcatcher's words, the risen reptile now wearing what looked to be longing and regret on her striped face. Fanning wings that glittered like freshly cooled obsidian the limbs were draped comfortingly over the two small forms at her sides as she looked between them both. “They might be here now but I never got to know mine.” Another snort, a flick of the whiskers and the disapproving glare returned. “I'm Yue by the way. And don't even thinking about making that stupid joke or I'll claw your eyes out.”
Joke? “I'd never dream of dishonouring our ancestors.” No sooner had she finished the sentence did the eidolon known as Yue bark out a laugh.
“'Dishonour'. 'Ancestors'. Please, I died like five years ago.” Five... oh. “Travelling.” You added, as if sensing the next question. “Got ambushed by serthis while walking with friends to the Sea of a Thousand Currents. Died to poison. Pathetic, huh?”
“I truly am sorry.” Noelani tried, only for Yue to wave an arm dismissively.
“Save it. I should have been more careful.” Again that look of regret washed over her ashen features, presumably reliving that painful moment. “I was trying to save my friend after she was assaulted by those damnable snakes. They knew, set a trap.”
Once again words escaped the Wildclaw as she fought for some way to placate the fallen phantom. As she scrambled for something, anything, to reply with Whisper cried out in pain, bucking his hind legs at whatever assailant had struck him, bounding out of the tower as he shook himself in attempt to rid himself of it. As he passed Noelani clasped her hands to her mouth in shock a not one but a group of serthis of varying scale colour held tight to her mate's flaxen mane. One of them clung to something protruding from Whisper's neck.
“You have got to be kidding!” Yue screamed in outrage, rising to full height, faceted wings flared at maximum length. The scent of ozone filled the air as magic crackled, though Noelani noted how it failed to affect anything. No noxious fumes, no fleshy pustules. No sign of the signature Plague pestilence. Yue could do nothing but watch.
Balling her clawed hands into fists the pale Wildclaw frowned so hard it hurt, eyes squeezed shut in a rage she did not believe to be entirely her own. As she took a step to begin a frenzied sprint at the serpentine aggressors something made her stop, swinging her head around to see two very much frightened kits huddled together in the corner. Fight or protect? The answer to her was obvious, run out and tear the beasts apart. She didn't care for the mewling infants, she cared for her love who was currently being stabbed to death. Yet...
An ear-piercing screech carried on the winds as all the frustration vented in one vocal outlet.
It was answered by a roar of anger then, another large shape barrelling through the clearing as arcs of lightning shot in random directions. One caught one of the assassins as he sought to escape, sending the snake splaying in the grass as spasms shook his body before being trampled underfoot. Another was sent flying by the swing of a mighty, blue head adorned with impressive antlers.
Three more yet clung onto Whisper's neck as the Imperial shook, bucked, beat his wings furiously. He could not reach and they were too persistent. The one with the knife twisted it dangerously into his spine, causing him to unleash another bellow, arching his neck back.
One of the serthis swung around, catching the sunshine-coloured beard as it went past, using it to fling herself onto his softer, vulnerable throat. Just in time for her as the second Imperial managed to rip one of her clanmates from their target's back, sending her sprawling. There was confusion in her eyes as she glanced between the two giant dragons, the rest of her face hidden by long hair and scarf, masking her expression. Something must have been decided in a split second as, almost in slow motion, a longer blade, a green liquid dripping off of its point was pulled from a hidden sheath, lifted, stabbed into Whisper's neck, pulled along its width as she was dragged off by the newcomer.
Blood gushed from his torn throat, which he grabbed at, gasping, gagging.
Noelani screamed again, hands at her mouth, hatchlings at her heals where she'd subconsciously stepped back to them. How she wanted to run out there. Yue, too, cried in aggravation, unable to leave her physical body's resting place.
Two more figured emerged from the trees then, more sparks of Lightning magic trailing over every blade of grass at their approach; another Imperial, this one purple, and yet another Pearlcatcher. Both sported the same cherubic markings. Behind them rushed a trio of centaur of all things. As Noelani poised to pounce at what she thought were pursuers Whisper fell with a thud, revealing to her the extent of the damage done. Until then, from the angle she had stood and the structure blocking some of her view she had only seen the initial stab. That was a gash drawn from ear to ear, oozing discoloured blood.
She felt faint, toppling to one knee as everything around her became a blur. Nothing registered as she stared in disbelief at her mate writhing on the ground. Move! her inner voice wailed. Move! Run to him! Do something! Yet all she could manage was a sullen shake of the head, a whispered, “No...”, tears trickling into the grey swirls on her cheeks.
She didn't want to admit it. She hated admitting it. But she was not a fighter. Not the warrior of Light she'd aspired once to be. No, she was a scholar. A learner. Someone who would sooner curl up with a book to study that dash out into the thick of battle. The sight of the wounded and dying sickened her. For all the internal screaming she would chide herself with, now all she could do, even though it was her own mate, was sink to her knees and weep openly.
Yue's words echoed in her ears. Pathetic. Pathetic. Pathetic.
The male centaur, tawny with white splotches at his chest and legs, reared up to yell something at the females behind him in their native language, returned to the ground, galloped ahead to give an escaping serthis a sharp kick to the head, rendering them unconscious. The dappled grey female covered with chocolate speckles turned on her heels, disappeared into the forest, returned with a curious length of pipe. As she neared the fallen Whisper the brown female was already working to clean the wound, slapping his forearm and shouting every time he struggled.
A grim fascination overtook Noelani as she watched the horse-people aid the three new dragons; the males of both species fending off further attacks from the serthis as the females busied themselves to clean and patch up Whisper's wounds. Her throat had tightened upon watching the young Imperial girl assist the dappled mare insert the tube down her mate's throat, making strangled noises at the thought. Suddenly she found herself aware of a warmth on either side, guessing her hatchlings had squirmed up next to her where she's sat down. In that moment, she was grateful for them.
Then there was a third. Not a warmth as such - in fact it was chillingly cold - yet a comforting presence all the same, pressing into her chest. Barely there yet definitely noticeable. Another choked sob escaped the Wildclaw as she realised it was the ghost of her son, of Keano. Just like with the charcoal Pearlcatcher and her whelps he had been given form in undeath and now offered his youthful support along with his living siblings.
“I wonder if that's how he felt after I...” Yue murmured softly, returning to her laying position as her children peered out from her wings curiously at Keano. She forced another chuckle, though a genuine smile, small as it was, graced her features. Then she shook her head, lifted it to regard her guests.
“Why can't I...?” Noelani asked aloud, voice quivering with fear, with confusion, with grief. “I need to... He needs me... Why am I still here?”
It was then that the crystalline teal Imperial approached them, panting, static dancing in his mane. “Hey Yue.” He greeted quietly reaching his muzzle out to hers as she did the same. Although he passed right through they held the gesture, pretending it did not matter. Once content they shared a smile, then he turned, serious, to acknowledge Noelani.
“Name's Raijin.” He explained, bobbing his head slightly causing a crystal looped on a string around his neck to bounce. “I really am sorry. I think those serthis mistook your friend for me.”
Vunguza stared in absolute horror at the rippling surface of the lake, dully aware of Laika trying to get his attention.
He'd only been half paying attention to Ilmatar's spiel when she gathered the clan by the lakeside, saying how a great secret slept right beneath their feet. Shade. He'd passed it off as complete mince. The Shade wasn't real.
And yet now, here it was. A Vision of an expanding nothingness.
The last few days the Snapper had managed to form some kind of bond with the maren who lived in the pond, likely through his Water magic offering some connection between the two. Whatever the case she seemed more at ease with him than any other dragon, preferring to hide beneath the surface and watch from afar should anyone else approach.
When it was just the two of them she offered insight to the workings of this large body of water, explaining that it was far deeper than it first appears and how it connected to a vast, underwater network of cave systems used by the fish folk to quickly traverse the different regions otherwise blocked by land. It was through one such tunnel that Laika had found her way inside the clan grounds, a claim Vunguza was able to confirm by sensing the nearby water with his Sight. It was still a fragile work in progress as he faced his greatest fear but now he could comfortably keep both front legs submerged to cast out his senses.
Many of the waterways were blocked off, a last ditch attempt to keep pursuers off of civilian tails while the warriors turned to fight. Normally they would be kept clear, hidden by clever positioning of rocks and seaweed, or dug at an angle, to create the illusion of the entrances being part of the lake bed. As a shark hunter it was Laika's duty to patrol these waterways and either fight off trespassers or else sound an alert. Part of her missed those days since being exiled as a dragon sympathiser, offering to unblock the tunnels for traders and others such as herself: cast out, exiled.
Guz had agreed, if suspiciously at first. A suspicion that soon subsided when the clearing of the first waterway brought with it a fresh flow of underground water. Not only was it clean, helping to clear the lake some, the current brought with it something the Snapper had never thought he'd Hear or See again. Bubbles. Millions of pearlescent orbs each containing a Prophecy burbled from the Tidelord Himself as he'd slept within the Spiral Keep. Prophecies long forgotten with His disappearance.
It could be forgiven, then, that Vunguza wanted to pay attention to those instead of Ilmatar's havering. What Water dragon in their right mind would pass up such a gift? And so it was that he asked his new friend to please do unseal the cave network so long as she promised to keep them safe. Eagerly agreeing Laika made quick work of it, each opening releasing a new swath of Tidelord's revelations.
Some were familiar, images he'd caught glimpses of as the Sea swept him away during the great tsunami that had left him stranded in the land of the Windsinger, that had guided him to his new, if tiny, clan. He Saw the place they now called home. He Saw the events that transpired on their journey, suppressing sniffles as he Saw Makani and Isaura one last time.
Matar must have gotten the hint that he was too preoccupied to care about what she was trying to tell them, dismissing the gathering and stalking off, followed closely by Anvindr and Meifeng. No, he wanted to revel in his gift, allowing his bulk to sink deeper into the silty banks, eyes half-lidded in a trance as he observed his deity's Visions.
Until one in particular, larger, more powerful than the rest quite literally burst his bubble. With horror gripping his mind the brick-scaled Snapper swung about to stare at the cliffs bordering their clan grounds, deep blue eyes reflecting the tendrils of nothingness snaking out from the rock, null maws snapping at the sky, roots and vines slithering across the ground until it absorbed every last living thing.
It was true. The Shade was real. Tidelord Himself had sent a message to him, tried to warn him before He disappeared to parts unknown. And Ilmatar was headed straight for it.
As he set to lumber after the rusty Coatl another spherical prophecy popped, sending him scrabbling to a standstill as he gawped at a sight only he could See. She was coming out of a cave, but she was different. Falling apart, bits of her missing, others held on only by threads of determined flesh ravaged by an invisible foe. Dead yet alive. Shambling, mindless. Everything around her falling with each tainted step she took, more strands of nothingness spreading at every footfall.
She was going to die, and something powerful was going to bring her back.
“Ilmatar!” The cliffs rang with the force of his bellow as Vunguza charged as fast as he was able into the plaza, casting about with heaving breaths for the feathered dragon. How long had he been out? Zoned into his own place to Watch the images of many possible futures? “Ye cannae be serious...”
Inventory/Notes: Breed/Gene x10
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The second half with Guz was well done and I love how you described the abilities of a Waterborn dragon. And I'm chuffed to see that we share similar ideas of beastfolk who become familiars as being banished for their interest in dragonkind. And the vision of Zombie!Matar at the end was chilling, holy crap.
My FR lair.
Recolored Zandalari crest by Krysteena, Lunaire sig by Jeydis and RimCraft mod Panthara by Varethyn. Thank you, you guys are the best!
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A deep sigh fell from Leesil's lips, and with it a stone-coloured plume fell from his progressively balding wing, as he listened to Terramar's latest, fruitless report. “I assure you,” the Skydancer insisted, barely moving save for a slight adjustment to the way he carried his helmet in his arm, “that my group and I are giving our utmost efforts in locating your daughter.” Offering a sympathetic bob of the head he ended by asking, “Will that be all?”
The blue Coatl simply nodded tiredly, the motion slow, lacking energy. Waving a heavy arm dismissively Leesil was forced to break off the gesture as he doubled over in pain, grasping at his neck as he resisted the urge to cough. It felt like his throat was being pricked repeatedly by the points of so many needles. Quick as a flash the other dragon was at his side, offering a tall glass of clear water that the leader of the Cloudweaver clan took gratefully, taking great gulps to drown the sensation. Once slaked and the glass returned to the table beside the bed on which he lay Leesil managed to croak out, “Thank you. Please... find her. Find Ilmatar.”
Once his scout, after striking a respectable salute, had left the ailing Coatl reached under the bed, felt around, pulled out a simple plastic bucket. Placing it on the linen-covered straw in front of him Leesil took a few deep breaths, then allowed himself to cough, hard, harsh, into the bucket. Flecks of dark ooze spattered the inside, dribbled down sluggishly. Darker than dark. Infinitely dark. He glared at the globs of Shade as, pulsating and writhing, they ate away at the already ragged container.
Placing it on the floor a Caribbean-blue arm reached out weakly to lift a glass bell resting on the bedside table next to the water, shook it to unleash a pleasing tinkling ring, placed it back and flopped on his side, breathing heavily. Not too long after a stoic Ridgeback male poked his head in, nodded solemnly, took the bucket as he slipped back out of the bedchamber. Leesil hated having to call on such strong dragons, whether physically, mentally or of sheer will, to perform such a menial task. It was necessary, however; they thought they were simply washing it, believing to be cleansing germs from his illness. Rather their strength fed the Shade fragments within so that they, with their diminutive size, would fill to the point they ceased to exist. Nothingness is not nothingness when there was something in it after all. But it left his servants weak and tired for a few days, or even weeks, each time they did so. It brought the once-proud leader shame and regret.
All of his life Leesil had carried within him a cursed growth. No one could say how long exactly, that he might have had it since birth or shortly after was anyone's guess. No one's guess, he corrected, as only a very, very select few knew.
Tyrell had known. Rather she found out when they had their clutch together. No matter the element eggs were not a dull grey swept with black swirls. They had all looked like the colour had been sucked out of them, much like his now dull plumes did now as the Shade inside him drained his very essence. She'd destroyed some of the eggs before leaving him. For all she'd cared for his health all her love and tenderness had vanished once the secret was out. The Shade may as well have taken them, too.
Leesil had managed to salvage one egg in Tyrell's lashing out: Ilmatar's. He'd prayed that it would hatch safely with the darkness only being on the surface. Every night leading up to the moment he would dream of the shell splitting open to reveal not a hatchling but a devouring void that overtook the world in seconds. How proud and relieved he'd been when a plump, brightly coloured and, most importantly, healthy Coatl girl tumbled out with no visible sign of her inheriting his curse. Still Leesil had wanted to keep her close to make sure. If she did unknowingly carry Shade then it would be a danger to let her out in the world.
So of course, once she had reached her late teens, Ilmatar had the typical bout of teenage rebelliousness and a desire to fly the nest to start her own. He'd made Mistral Zenith as sprawling and attractive as possible, having every child's dream built somewhere within or under the floating city. He'd hoped it would distract her into wanting to keep it for herself so he could keep an eye on her. Instead it became a tourist trap as dragons from miles around flocked to see it all. Soon foreigners outnumbered clan members to the point their leader was forced to hire outside help to maintain it all. And all that did was put his daughter off further, making her point by boycotting all he'd set up for her. By running away during the chaos that was the death of the Twisting Crescendo.
Now she was out there somewhere, potentially at risk. Potentially putting others at risk.
If she really did carry the darkness inside her as well Sornieth itself was under threat.
Vunguza all but barrelled straight into Meifeng where the Ridgeback was sat chatting with Anvindr presumably about the meeting he'd completely zoned out of. Breathing heavily from the mad dash he'd set out on the Snapper took a few shaky steps back as the pair watched him in confusion, sucking in air to steady himself. “Have... have ei'er o' ya... seen Matar?” He asked between breaths.
Ridgeback and Spiral exchanged glanced, Vin shaking his head. “Not since we met up at the lake, no.” Cocking his head curiously he added, “Why?”
Uttering a rather colourful curse Guz surveyed the immediate area. Where was the cave he'd Seen? “Ah got... a Vision... while ah were natterin' whit Laika aboot the underwater tunnels.” Wait, had he told them she was doing that? Their blank glances told him all he needed. Shaking his head vehemently he . “It don't matter. What does that Matar is in danger.”
“Danger?” Spines prickling in shock Meifeng fully turned to face the smaller dragon. Tidelord how she had grown in such a short amount of time, even sporting new stripy patterns as vibrant as his vocabulary. “What danger? What do you mean?”
As he parted his jaws to speak again Vunguza was interrupted by the call of an unfamiliar, monotonous voice, “Hello! Excuse me?” All three turned sharply to a rather odd sight: An entirely cream-coloured Fae dressed in light copper armour and sporting a strange, cone-shaped hat riding on the back of a rather pink Pearlcatcher dressed in brown furs as a large, web-winged bird and feather-winged wolf, both of black and red colouration, trailed behind them.
“An' who are ye?” It was not asked unkindly but Vunguza was very intent on explaining what he'd Seen at the lake and had little, if none at all, time for interruptions like this.
Placing his hands flat against each other and offering a small bow that obscured a lot of his body behind the strange hat the Fae buzzed, “I am called Aure, and I call this one Ciro.” Beneath him, at the mention of what was assumed to be his name, the Pearlcatcher let out an odd sound that was more like a canine bark. Behind the wolfskin draped over his head gleamed two brown eyes of the Earth flight. Behind them the hainu echoed the sentiment while the bird squawked pleasantly. Aure chuckled. “Ah yes, and those are Risetta and Myskia.” He gestured to the hainu and webwing respectively.
“It's um... lovely to meet you?” Vin offered, distracted by the way Ciro was acting. Aure must have noticed this as his frills drooped, though his facial fins remained splayed.
“Ciro was abandoned. At least so I assume. I was out meditating by the Bamboo Waterfalls when I saw him playing with a pack of hainu. It took time to realise that he was living with and acting like them. His egg must have hatched out there or else he left alone as a hatchling. Whatever the case I think he believes he is a hainu. Risetta, in fact, is his, for lack of better term, litter mate.”
Ciro's tongue lolled out as he grinned widely, revealing pearlescent glinting on his teeth. Letting out another bark-roar the Pearlcatcher trotted over to the trio, sniffing at them in turn as his long, tufted tail wagged behind him excitedly.
“How bizarre.” Muttered Vin as the dark-scaled Spiral looped around to study the not-hainu dragon. Or... not-dragon hainu? “I've heard of wild or feral dragons but not anything like this.”
“It's actually not uncommon for dragons to be raised by other animals.” Aure explained, voice calm while frills wavered with excitement. He, too, must have been interested in the prospect. “Wolves are fairly common but with our wings it makes sense to be raised by hainu.”
“Sorry fer buttin' in, like,” Guz cut in hurriedly, “but ah'm afeared ye arrived at a poor time.” Turning back to his clan-mates-to-be he repeated in a lower tone, “We need tae find Matar.”
Dipping his head apologetically and pressing his hands together again the Fae replied, “Ah, forgive the ill timing. We heard this clan was being remade and had hopes, what with Ciro's... how shall I put it... upbringing, that we'd secure a place here. At least for a time.”
“That would be wonderful if you were to join us.” Meifeng beamed briefly, the expression giving way to disgust as Ciro licked her leg. “However Matar is our leader. Or going to be our leader. So we can't do much about it right now.”
“Going to?” The cone-hat slipped slightly as its wearer tilted his head, revealing the lime green eyes of Wind. “So you're not in fact a clan?”
“Yet.” Mei corrected, half turned to follow Vunguza. The Snapper was so tense his body was shaking. “Anyway, um... you... you guys have a look around the place or something. Make yourself at home. We're planning on rebuilding anyway so most places are free to claim if you want. Matar will decide what to do when-”
There was a scream, barely audible, muffled by the many meters of soil between them and the origin. At once all three scrabbled to the end cliffs to locate the cave in Vunguza's Vision, all but forgetting their guests. “Oh my, that sounded unpleasant.” Aure mused, rubbing his chin in pondering. “What do you think, girls? Should we see if we can help?” Glancing over his slim shoulder the Fae addressed the two animals lurking at the back. Risetta barked excitedly, flaring her red wings as she darted in front. So too did Myskia flutter over to perch on Ciro's nose horns, offering a low warble as it studied her master with spider-like eyes. “Then it is settled.” Aure declared, even as his friend-steed-familiar-dragon-hainu lurched forwards to follow the group.
Figures they wouldn't believe her. After all, she hadn't believed the stories herself until she'd seen it for real. Stalking back towards the cave leading down to the Shade chamber Ilmatar flicked her long tail in irritation. What hurt most is that they were so unconvinced that they didn't even want to follow her, to see it for themselves. She shouldn't blame them. The Shade had only ever been a scary story for misbehaving hatchlings. Meifeng claimed that it must have been a nightmare. Anvindr suggested she simply hadn't had enough sleep. Vunguza was too busy staring into the water to pay attention. And there was still no sign of Noelani, Whisper or their kits.
As she entered the darkness, sitting in the dim entrance and staring into the shadowy gullet of the tunnel the Coatl fleetingly considered calling Ayaz for help, for a way to persuade her to-be clan that she was telling the truth and that they needed to act on it before it ate everything in its subterranean prison and came for them. Her pink tongue flicked out habitually, tasting the damp air wafting up from inside. Moss. Fungi. Stagnant water. Strong. It would take a long time for the hindered mass to tear its way up if Ayaz's defences were doing their job.
Standing up, stretching and turning to leave to find a less crazy solution to her problem Ilmatar paused as something pulled at her. A faint voice called. Yet it wasn't a voice. She hadn't even heard it, not really. It was similar to when Ayaz had spoken to her as he guided them through to the grotto the first time, slipping partially into the darkness to enter her shadow. Yet... not. A strange feeling entered her chest, felt like a hook had hitched behind her heart and was slowly tugging at it. Not painful, just... there. Teasing her towards, into, the cave again. She'd felt it before, when she stood in the stone hall gazing up at what she'd learned was Sornieth's greatest enemy. Or, a fragment of it. In the moment she'd passed it off as fear of knowing the truth. Now it was trying to bring her back. Back down the spiralling tunnels, through the suffocating darkness.
Resisting the call the copper dragon managed to walk away, one hand over her chest as the feeling lingered, faded, a memory. What was it? Why would the Shade be calling to her? Was it the Shade? She frowned, shaking her head as she forced a laugh. It was probably just Ayaz playing tricks on her again. Yet as she made to return to her shack to contemplate a thought crossed her mind. What if she took a piece of the Pillar to show them instead? Even the most magically-deprived would be able to feel the Windsinger's essence singing inside of it, surely.
Snaking her neck around Matar's eyes rested on the cave mouth again. Something made her fur puff out slightly. The thought of going back inside? The sensation of the Shade – or likely Ayaz – pulling her deeper? The others were still off doing whatever it was they were doing. No one would see her go in except the shadow Tundra.
She'd be quick. In, grab a piece of marble, out again. Simple. Ayaz had pulled the Shade apart for her to see it. She'd just pry a piece off from there. It had already been cracked, a crumb of a fragment of the slab of the World Pillar. What she'd hold would be a mere grain in comparison. A grain containing more power than the most powerful of draconic magi.
They needed to know and she needed to prove it.
She went back inside.
Ayaz awoke from his trance-nap as he sensed someone entering the Shade passage. It dithered for a while, moved away, moved back in again, dithered again. So the process was until they'd dithered halfway down the hall. He should go to check, see what they were doing in there. At least see who it was. He guessed it to be Ilmatar; she'd been the only one to know after all. Giving a shrug of disinterest the Tundra lay back down, casting out into the darkness for other signs of life.
The hopping of the harpy lady as she built herself a nest in a small indent in the rock face.
The slithering of the serthis boy as he arranged alchemical supplies for his Spiral master.
The tiny, halting footsteps of small rodents snuffling around in their burrows.
Nothing special. No one nearby was asleep save for some ground-dwelling critters not worth terrorising.
He was bored. So he rolled over, settling back down to return to his trance state, curling into himself and draping his tail tuft over his nose like he did when he was alive. What Thayvern still did out there somewhere. As he just began to drift off he shot bolt upright in fear. Or as bolt upright as one could when floating in a pocket shadow dimension. Possibly-Matar's steps had become smoother. A surety that should not have been possible for creatures not blessed with the Shadow low-light vision. Or simply being made of shadows. Had she found a light? Wide open darkness was the closest one could get to true nothingness outside of the Shade itself. Introducing light, assuming it worked at all, would only spur it into action. What had she done?
If he'd still had a spine a sharp chill would have run along it as Ayaz felt his way towards the walls of the chamber. Still accessible. No light cutting it off from his limited world. So then... how? Pushing through the semi-physical barrier that was the rock wall 'how' became clear: A trail of absolute nothing tearing through the blackness like a ragged scar. Where it had escaped last time? Had it left a trail that now grew throughout the burrow? Even in the gloom it was clear to see it. Vertigo wasn't something he'd suffered since before the split and yet now, as he stared in growing terror at the tear in reality, he felt like he was being swallowed, falling into an endless pit. It must have been this that she'd followed, much as it stood out in the void.
“Ilmatar?” It was surprising even to Ayaz how thick his voice felt. Very few things scared him. Very few. Usually it was the echo of a fear Thay had faced wherever he was. As it was the echo of his heart pounded in the living shadow's chest as true fear made his misty fur stand on end. “Ilmatar!” He broke into a run as he chased what he assumed, hoped to be the Coatl. Something was wrong.
Wait, yes. Very wrong. The wound was smaller now. How? He stopped, checked back behind him. The Shade was trickling back in on itself like water being tipped down a tube one way then the other. It was reforming, gathering in its chamber despite its escape route. Why?
He charged, fuelled at once by the horror of two dragons. Could Thayvern feel him? Did he feel anxious for no reason? He'd sometimes idly wondered if the effect went both ways; now that it was at its strongest he could not help but think on it fully.
Then came the scream, reverberating up throughout the tunnel network. If his Other could feel his strong emotions then Thay must have been suffering a full-on panic attack at that point. What had she done? What was going on? Why was the Shade acting the way it was? As the Shade trail dribbled past him Ayaz found himself scrabbling to a halt as he felt his own essence being pulled deeper into the caves. The screams grew louder, more desperate. Behind him he could make out the voices of the other dragons yet residing in this place, along with another he did not recognise. He hadn't sensed any newcomers; they must have arrived in open daylight. No time to find out who. Fighting to keep himself together Ayaz resumed his full-tilt run into the main chamber.
Then halted once more as eyes, mouth, wings opened in utter shock.
The Shade had left its place upon the Pillar fragment and was now draining into Ilmatar. Not destroying her. Not killing her. Not removing her from existence. A memory from his Other's eyes flashed in his mind as the Shade did the same to him, feeling its way into his body rather than tearing it apart. Until it was torn out by the mage. Was this what would have happened to Thayvern had the mage not intercepted?
Dark swirls replaced the silvery-blue stripes that coated her ruddy pelt, black blotches blooming along her flank, sides, neck, face. Negative strips cut into her wing tips. Reached for her body, taking with it the colouration of her plumage. So too did the areas around the darkening spots fade from red-brown to off-white. The entire time the Coatl writhed and struggled, flailing uselessly to beat back a force she could not touch yet was filling her very being. Taking her over. Possession?
Once it was over Ilmatar collapsed, twitching on the cold floor. Shade stench strong in his nostrils, the powerful presence permeating his body, Ayaz tentatively approached the fallen dragon. “Ilmatar?” Never in his short existence had he felt so useless. “Are... you okay?” It must be Thayvern talking. Not him. Not really. Just like when the Imperial whelp had died. Nothing made sense. There was no reason for any of this to have happened.
And yet it had.
With a groan Matar slowly managed to right herself, lifting herself up on short, wobbly legs. Ayaz found himself pressing against her for support. She leaned against him as balance was lost. “What... happ... ened...?” Her eyes cracked open. He flinched. While her irises remained the same pale green of her flight element the sclera, the whites, had gone black like his own. Blacker than black. Two peridot discs floating in a pool of nothing.
“I don't understand.” The Tundra breathed, unable to comprehend the very recent events. “By all logic you should be...” So it was true. There did exist people capable of containing the Shade. Inexplicable. Unexplained. They simply could. And Matar was one of them.
“So... what happens now?”
“I don't know.”
I don't know what I wrote or where it came from but I had extreme inspiration last night and got another material today so here you go I guess
Inventory/Notes: Breed/Gene x10
No seriously. I had no plot to work towards. It just happened Aure and Ciro finally make their debut! Woo! Also, since Matar is no longer participating in 'locke activity and Ciro now fully introduced I moved the hainu over to him instead. Also this was originally going to be the next IWB chapter but inspiration said no there's more time if anyone wants to adopt Orchid!
Falcon: Hee I had a feeling you'd enjoy all this. Throwbacks away! Yeah I had fun exploring how Water dragons work and am glad Vunguza's getting over his fears after being swept away in the tsunami otherwise he'd make a Very Bad Water Dragon. Not all beastfolk familiars will be exiles! But in this case it worked out given current events And same. I couldn't bring myself to actually kill her though so there will be some Shade vs Time/Space shenanigans or something. Plot!
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Rolled Maili, Ayaz and Pavan
Nothing of particular note happened. It was slow going having two casters but since they're both healers no one was in any danger. Even after eating some super-effective hits. I've lost track of everyone's levels somewhere but Maili is lv10, Ayaz lv13 and Pavan lv12.
It might just because I'm coming down with something but I feel like I ruined the story with this twist somehow. Otherwise, aside from one outstanding piece of art (yes, more art!) I've officially caught up on the backlog. Whee!
Inventory/Notes: Breed/Gene x11