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Fantasy Broken Balance

Wolnir nodded with some confidence when his work was rated as professional. He had no reason to lie about it. At least that meant his skill had not suffered with all the recent events, thing that he feared otherwise.
After he was finished processing the different fruits, he was presented with a barrel in order to continue with his work. Seemed to be oak by the looks of it. Practically standard issue, in his experience it went well with everything.
"W-which one do you want first?" Wolnir asked his friend.

Said friend shrugged. "You know flavor mixing better than me"

The orange dragon then thought about which mead to make first and eventually settled for the chemlay with several fruits mixed in. He was curious about the results, it would be his little experiment. One that could be made en masse if approved.

While he worked, Valadir was asked about his profession before coming to the mountains. He was taken aback by the drake's guess about his exploration experience.
"Trader. Was pretty fun. I'll probably get back into it after this war thing is over. What gave my travels away?"
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"You don't get those kinds of wings without a few long expeditions. Probably give us skydrakes a little challenge. Speaking of which, have you met Mastered-Skyhunter Greglar the Whirlwind? The four-winged lad. He's an interesting one. Bubbly personality."

Co'chath continued the conversation while he grabbed a few more barrels for Wolnir. When he brought them over, he peered over Wolnir to see how he's travelling. Satisfied with what he observed, Co'chath asked him, "If you want Brightscaled. You can work here. It's not often to see a skilled pair of hands. Well, in your case paws. We can always use some help."

To be honest he doesn't expect Wolnir to agree. A dragon such as himself probably has better things to do than offer his service to a brewery.
Valadir was left a bit surprised with the drake's reason to compliment him for his wings. Not many non-dragons gave him that comment. He wasn't sure if it was because the humans and such didn't give that subject much of a thought or simply because it felt like an odd thing to say or something of the sorts. Now he settled for the second option. It was probably pretty evident.

"Think I have" he said when he was asked if he had seen the four winged drake before. It rang a bell, yet he wasn't sure if he had actually seen him.

As Wolnir kept filling the other barrels he was provided with the other concoctions he had mixed, he was asked if he would consider working in the brewery more often. It was a very interesting proposal, to say the least. He thought he had been having a lot of downtime during the last couple, and with both Crys and Val probably being busy with the current turn of events, it looked like a good idea to him himself busy and have some of his former life back. Although he wondered if he'd manage to have enough time to spend time with his friends under the circumstances.

"I-I'd love to! S-some things m-may keep me from coming from time to time..." he said, thinking about the times Crystal asked him to take her somewhere or when she had plans involving him.
“Good then. Didn’t think you would say yes to that. You don’t have to be here everyday but if you do, seventh hour in the morning. That is when we start our day. You will have trade for your time. Plenty of work to do. Especially with all the current drama”
Co’chath is excited but he didn’t show it. He hasn’t worked with a dragon before.

After Wolnir filled the small barrels, Co’chath sealed them them picked them up and placed them in a corner. He grabbed some chalk and wrote the current date. He scratched his neck. Thought about when they will finish fermenting. Spontaneously, he wrote down the date in three weeks time. Plenty of time.
”Three weeks to be safe. I don’t really know when they will be finished. Definitely don’t want to crack them to early.”

He turned back to the dragons.
”There’s really not much else too it. Up to you to stay or leave. I have to get back work. Commissioning more barrels before they leave tomorrow.”

He looked at a flameless lantern.
”It about five now. It’s dark now, Maybe you two should head back and get plenty of shut eye. It’s gonna get be real crazy for a long time.”
"S-sixty days would be better..." the orange dragon said. "That is if it's okay to make strong drinks out of them..."

Seeing that there didn't seem to be a lot left to do in the brewery, Val proposed his friend a new destination.
"I had planned to go visit whoever's in charge of making all the weapons around here. Want to come with me?"

"Sure" Wolnir said.

"You know how to get there?" Val then asked Co’chath.

After the dragons eventually left, Valadir then explained to his friend his plan.
"So before arriving here, i stole a weird ass weapon from the humans but got no idea how to actually use it. Given that they'll have me enlist for the upcoming war, reckon it's a good idea to figure out how to use it. See if they think manufacturing it is a good idea. Oh, and also for him to modify it since it's too small for me... In any case, it's in my backpack which it's in my room"

Wolnir nodded at his friend's explanation. Sounded logical.

When they arrived to the hallway were their respective rooms were, Valadir quickly entered his and put his backpack on. He exited the room almost as quickly as he entered it.
"Let's go", he said.

"C-can i see the thing?" Wolnir asked.

"When we arrive"

After some more walking, the pair arrived to the intended destination.

Valadir put his backpack on the ground, opened it and placed it on the counter of the smith.

"I was hoping you could help me figure out how this thing works. Stole it from the humans along with gunpowder and some metal balls wrapped in paper"

Wolnir got closer to have a peek of the thing Val seemed to be so excited about. He wasn't so excited when he saw what it was. Rather the oposite. It was that... thing. The thing that left one of his friends with a permanent limp until that wound costed him his life. The thing that sounded like a thunder just striked you.

Eventually Val turned his head around when he noticed his friend wasn't with him to take a look at stuff.
"What's wrong?"

"I-i'll tell you later..." Wolnir said reservedly. "I-i'll be on t-the dining hall..."

"I'll be right with you after i'm done here", Val said while he watched his friend leave. It didn't look like it but he was actually pretty worried.

Wolnir walked to the hall with his head down and taking regular deep breaths to avoid a panic attack. He wanted to cry but tried his best to not do it. Last thing he needed was to everyone to look at his direction and draw attention to himself.
Co'chath rewrote the date for the next two months.
"Sixty days it is."

One of their guards leads them to one of three Weapon Smith establishments. They travelled to the west side of the mountain. Like the brewery, it's closer to the base. It happens to be the main one.

Lead-Master Grath of the weapons department greeted them. Tall, green-scaled and always carries a sword between his wings. An uncommon weapon among drakes.
He studied the object that Valadir placed on the table. He gave it a poke before grabbing it by the barrel.
"This is... A very interesting piece. I've never seen anything alike. A weapon you say. Perhaps it's made to throw? No... Looks too delicate for that."

Grath studied its irregular metal parts. He looked down the barrel, and carefully toyed with the mechanical moving parts. He looked at the metal balls and then back to the barrel. They seem to be a perfect fit. He picked up one of the balls and slid it down the barrel. He tipped the instrument upside down and the metal ball fell out.

"Perhaps it spits these out?"

A familiar figure saw Wolnir drooping around. It's obvious to the observing drake that he is in an unhappy mood. The drake is itchng to know what has put him in a bad mood. The drake followed Wolnir to the dining hall. When he saw the dragon sitting down,the drake approached him.
"Excuse me Brightscaled. Are you feeling alright?"
The drake has discoloured eyes. One orange and the other is black. As well as a missing horn. It's Motte.
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Valadir nodded at the smith. He never saw it before until the moment the grabbed it from a fresh corpse. It would have been nice to have seen it in action but that would have meant to put himself at risk. The dragon looked closely at all the moving parts as the drake operated them. How the weapon moved then the drake pulled the lever like thing on the lower side sparked his attention.

"I guess so..." The dragon said. He then seemed to get something. "Wait. Gunpowder does spit some funny sparks right? Maybe that's what launches the balls? Lemme try"
Valadir then grabbed his backpack and put it on the counter and carefully pulled some gunpowder from it and dropped it down the barrel, and then pushed the paper wrapped ball down. He then grabbed it by the hilt, pointed it at the floor on the other side of the counter and pulled the lever like thing. The side of the weapon spun but besides that, nothing happened. Then they began discussing what went wrong, and they eventually discovered a small compartment on the side opened by a lever. They decided to drop some gunpowder in there and see what happened.

The dragon then grasped the weapon and did the same as before. Pointed at the ground behind the counter. Pulled the lever thing underneath (aka the trigger) and it actually fired. Only that he wasn't ready for it. The gun jumped off his paw due to the recoil's force, and unpredictively it was loud as shit. More than anything he had seen before. It was enough to give him and the drake tinnitus, and the weapon had also made a good deal of smoke.

"SHIT!" he yelled after pulling the trigger. It took him a bit to reorient himself and regain his sense of hearing.

Wolnir kept his head down on his way to the hall. His deep breaths' frequency diminished as time passed. He was too busy dealing with his mind to realize that he was being followed.
After he arrived to the hall, he grabbed a plate and filled it with saucy meat and a couple bread slices and sat in a quiet corner with the wall behind him. He had the side of his head against one of his paws when he saw that someone went and sat with him. Great. The one time he wanted to be alone and he couldn't have it. Where was this guy when he was actually looking for company these last few days?

He briefly glanced the one that tried to talk to him. It was that guy that found buildings outside of caves to be something out of a madman's imagination. He didn't exactly want him around, but he felt that if he kept ignoring him then the drake was going to keep insisting and thus make things worse.
"...no..." Wolnir muttered. After a deep breath he talked again. "I-i need t-to be a-alone..."
A loud thunderous bang and fire emitted from the weapon. Grath took a couple of steps back and covered his ears. He tripped over the chair behind him, falling on his back. His ears rang from the excruciating noise. It took him a few seconds for him to hear other than a ring. Thereafter, minutes for the ring to leave.
"Cut my tail off and feed my brother to a nycon. That is anything but a weapon. Whoever designed that needs their horns cut and banished to the desert."

He gained his balance again and looked at the weapon on the ground.
"It does more harm to the user than whoever is on the other end."

Grath looked where Valadir shot. A small dint and crack in the floor. o sign of the metal ball. He stared at the damage a longer. He gradually realised that it has the opportunity to cause more destruction than he initially thought.
"I think I have to recount my thoughts. That's reinforced perisiemic stone. For that to even scratch it... I think we need to further our tests on this object."

Grath slowly walked to the weapon and poked it, making sure it will not set off before picking it up and placing it back on the table.
"I think we should take it to the Place of Breaking."

Motte sees Wolnir's complexion and understood the situation, thus, he conducted accordingly.
"Well if you ever need someone to talk to. I'm usually at the Sanatorium."
He pushed himself off the seat and left the dragon alone. Before turning the corner he had one more look at Wonlir. Genuine concern for him. In his palm, Motte held a gold token. He felt obliged to comfort the dragon. Perhaps the best way to do that is to leave him alone. Motte left, debating whether he should tell the others.
That moment was the first time the dragon witnessed such a loud noise. Momentarily losing his sense of hearing and having some ringing ears felt horrible. It took him a while to recover.

"Ugh, good luck doing that to a human..." he said to the drake when he wished the worse for whoever made that thing. At that point the last of his ringing was subsiding.

The drake mentioning that it was more dangerous to the wielder than to the target made him think about his future with the weapon. He had planned to use it in his future battles and give the humans a taste of their own medicine but now he wasn't so sure. Losing his hearing during each battle sounded like more trouble than it was worth. That is, until the drake noticed the damage on the floor. Perhaps it wasn't so counter intuitive as initially thought.

As the drake reached for the weapon, Valadir took several steps back in case something else happened. Luckily nothing remarkable occurred.
"So... i'm guessing that's where you'll neatly disassemble it and figure how it works? Don't know if i can get another one if you are actually going to break it"

Wolnir took a deep breath after Motte took some distance. He didn't think he'd actually get to shake the drake off of him. Meant he could get the alone time he wanted. It ocurred to him that maybe it was a better idea to lock himself in his room and ask for food like he did with Val the other day. Too late for that.
The dragon eventually took his helmet off and stared blankly at his meal for a bit before starting to eat, doing so with notable discouragement but not because of the food itself. He wished to forget the things he had seen. It was just too much and he didn't know when he'd get the next attack.
“Break it?” Grath snorted. “Best I don’t touch it then. I will have the masters reverse it and have you be the first to know the results.”

The drake pulled out a cloth and wrapped the weapon. “It will be in good hands.”

“Can I help you with anything else?”

Both Crystal and Sabato left the healing room defeated and feeling gloom. Unable to free Eragon from his prisoned mind. They convinced the guarding drakes to let them leave. Telling them they have left wards in the room, not that really convinced them but even the drakes have some sympathy for the tired kitsune. The wards will notify the kitsune of any movement in the room. The small folk also assumed that the drakes will be guarding overnight. No one will be getting in. They did feel guilty leaving Eragon but it’s necessary. They need their own sleep and next time they are back, Elijah will escort them. Assuming that the leader of the Guardians agrees. No reason for him not too.

They walked back out into the open air. The night started to settle in. Nearly reaching the sixth hour, the air is cold and another blanket of light snow started. The kitsune’s had a hike back to base.

“Ah… I promised to see Wolnir when I get the chance. Now is my time.”

Crystal stopped both of them.

“Are you sure that is a wise decision? You are tired. Mentally, physically. Your priority should be sleep and food.” Sabato objected. He understands her assignment but she also needs to take care of her own well-being.

“I’ll be fine. Wolnir needs all the attention he can get. He’s lonely.”

“Invite him to where we are.”

“I have. I’m sure he’s considered it.”

Sabato nodded. “So be it. Until next time we meet.”

“Take care of yourself.”

“You as well.”

Casually, they departed from each other.

Crystal thought of a few areas where Wolnir could be. She doubts that they are still at the brewery. Most likely back at his dwelling. After a day like today, surely he will be tired. Up until Eragon decided to make himself mentally retarded, it’s been enjoyable. It would be good to get Wolnir’s opinion as well.

When she arrived, she asked the guards if Wolnir had returned. He hadn’t. Curiosity seeped into her mind. She has no idea where to find him. She could search the mountain for his mind. The prospect is tempting. She’s a bit too etiquette for that so she waited until Wolnir arrived.
"Good" Valadir said when he was told the weapon would be sent somewhere to figure out how it works and that he'd be the first to know about the results. That thing had potential. It seemed quite powerful, yet he was fine with not taking it the trip to the outside world that he'd undertake soon. Its noise would draw some attention to his general area, and having that while alone didn't sound like a good idea. "Perhaps we should think about a name for it. After you figure how it works. Speaking of which, once you do, could you make the grip bigger? It's too small for me"

"No, that's all" The dragon then said when he was asked if there was something else he wanted. "Wait, there's actually something else i wanted to ask. Get in touch with whoever's making my armor, see if you two can come up with a sheath for that thing. I intend to carry it with me when we go out there to fight"

With that said, he set out to go to the dining hall and find out what was in Wolnir's mind, see what got him to leave so... shyly.

The dragon looked for his friend when he arrived to the hall and it wasn't complicated. His orange and blue colors stood out amongst the mostly green drakes. He went to sit beside him, without grabbing anything to eat.

"Hey... sorry for taking this long but i needed to finish that thing" Val said as he sat. He got no reaction at all from his orange friend. They knew eachother enough for him to know that shit was serious.

The black dragon then decided to gently hug him with one of his wings. His friend then rested his head on his shoulder and soon after, he began to sob on his chest. Valadir then decided that it was better to not ask what was on his mind. Now it wasn't important.

As Wolnir let his feelings out, Valadir tightened his grip with his wing. The black dragon hoped the drakes wouldn't get nosey and turn to see what was up, but eventually he saw a couple drakes further along the room-long table looking at him and Wolnir. Two too many. At this rate he thought they would run out of privacy.

"Hey... let's go to your room, okay?" The black dragon proposed. His friend nodded, still crying and in the same position as before. He stood up with him, even though Wolnir did so despondently and leaving both the food and his helmet on the table. Val kept hugging him with his wing and his friend walked with his head down.

While they walked to the exit, they passed next to the drakes that looked at their direction. Valadir took the chance to hit them both in the nape with force. Luckily they didn't have their helmets on.
"Mind. Your. Business"

The way to the rooms was calm, luckily. It was probably late. As the rooms were in sight, so was Crys and the guards.
"I'll tell you in a bit" Val said to her when she came by. When he reached the doors, he opened Wolnir's and got him and Crys inside. Val then went to close the door but he directed some words to the guards.

"If i ever happen to hear that any of you mentioned or asked about what you just saw, i'll have you executed"

And he slammed the door shut.

When he returned inside, Wolnir was laying on his bed alongside Crys, barely any better.
“I’ll have them know of this addition Unbroken.”
Grath bowed his head to Valadir as he left. The dragon seemed to be in a little rush. Someone with his status would have full days. At least that’s what he thought. None the less, he has a new thing to fiddle with and that’s enough for him.

Crystal nearly reached twenty minutes. She counted in her head, giving her something to do other than starring the drake guards awkwardly. The drakes wore gold armour with red silk stitched to the plates. Combined with their large spears, knives at the hips and warblades to their wrists. It’s a striking appearance. She knows the armour to be from the group of the wardens. The policing force of the drakes. Makes sense for them to be posted here.

Footsteps are heard. The distinct clicking of claws on the stone. Not drakes as the pattern belong to quadruped beings. Crystal’s mood dramatically changed from gloom to happy. Her wait is over, and she can finally see the dragons again. When they came into view her emotions dimmed. Valadir’s wing over Wolnir. Wolnir’s dropping to the floor. Crystal sighed. She walked over but before she said anything, Valadir made her wait for answers. Crystal snuck under the dragons and entered first. Her worry started to take over a little and escorted Wolnir to his bed. As she did, her tails sparked with a little mana energy and the fire pit ignited with a flash. Valadir lagging behind them.

Wolnir laid on his head straight away. Crystal climbed up and sat next to his head. Her weight against him with an arm around his neck while the other caressed his head. She used a tail to wipe the salty crust build up off his cheeks. He has been crying for a while be the looks of it. She didn’t say anything, just constantly silently reminding him that she’s right next him. That she will support him any way possible. She can guess what is on his mind. The torture he’s endured. Everything he’s lost. Lamenting the past. Eventually he will have to open. Lay more emotions out. Cry his soul out. But for now, silence.

After Valadir warned the drakes and threatened them. After he slammed the door. The guards looked at each other. Very confused but respected the dragon’s command none the less. If anything, it made them more determined.

Crystal didn’t pay attention to Valadir when he walked in. Keeping all her energy focused on the orange dragon. Every time a fresh tear appeared; She lightly wiped it to avoid any soaking into the bed. She made sure not to irritate him.

After a good amount of time she started, “tears are a good thing Wolnir. They are pure. They are for healing. Never shy away from showing how you deeply feel. Expressing ones inner thoughts is maturescent. Never be ashamed. It’s beautiful.”
Upon seeing how his friend was, Valadir thought that maybe he should have accompanied the orange dragon when he left the armory. Having to deal with whatever was tormenting him now alone didn't sound pleasant at all. He sat beside his friend and did his best to be there for him. Carassing his hair. Curiosity made him wonder what he had seen, but certain things were better left unturned.

"So..." He began telling Crys mentally in order to explain things to her "I asked him to come with me to the armory since i wanted to have the drakes figure out how this odd weapon i found works. Wol then seemed to... have remembered something really unpleasant when i got the thing out of my backpack since he started to feel very uncomfortable. He told me he'd be in the dining hall, and when i finished my business in the armory, i went with him and since he wasn't looking good, i hugged him and then he started crying. Did my best to get him here quietly. So he has some privacy" The cause of his friend's most recent anguish seemed to be the weapon he had now that he thought about it. What could have it done to make him feel that way just by seeing it?

Wolnir cried until his eyes were red and his eyes were out of tears. He had curled up as much as the armor allowed. He considered himself lucky to have a couple friends to fall back on after everything that happened recently. But at the same time he felt he was wasting their time. They always seemed to have places to go yet he felt he kept stealing their free time.
"I see... He indeed has remembered something terrible. Whatever that object is. He's had a very bad experience with it. Do your best to keep it from him. Alas, his memories haunt him."
While Crystal doesn't know the details of the issue, fits like what Wolnir is having. They don't occur uninvited. It brings her back to a few recollections of herself when she needed help. Especially when she didn't want it but was glad she had it.

Not long after, when her tail is soaked in Wolnir's tears. After his sobbing, Crystal thought it is time to bring the matter up. She hates to force him but it needs to be brought to the light. However, what she wants to talk about is a private discussion. Between Wolnir and herself.

"Val. I'm going to probably sound extremely offensive to you but I want to talk to Wolnir in private. It's about this and something else and before you ask no, it has nothing to do with you. You've done nothing wrong. Can you please leave for the night and get some rest?"
Valadir sighed. "Fine. Keep me updated". He knew her enough to know it was better to not ask. Besides, those two were already friends.
The dragon ruffled Wolnir's hair one last time before getting up.
"Have fun"

The dragon left the room shortly after, staring at the guards as he did as to remind them of what he told them some minutes ago.

Valadir then headed to the dining hall to get something to eat. Besides that handful of fruits he had at the brewery, he hadn't really eaten anything that day. On his way there, he thought about his trip to the outside world. He didn't want to leave his friend now that he was in need of emotional support, but he didn't really have a choice. The drakes' rulers' behavior towards him had to change. He refused to be their puppet, used to achieve their own goals. He wanted to see the drakes actually fighting and not just acting tough, although to be fair, they were preparing. All the while his kin's numbers were going down more and more each day. At least his friend would be in good hands. Even though said hands tried to convince him that slavery is a good idea.

He'd stick to the plan. Fly away in the middle of the night after having a short nap. Reach the sea and then fly north, wearing his armor and carrying his backpack and the sword. Having a cutting tool would come in useful. Only problem would be Crystal. If she remained in his friend's room, then she could hear him leave. Or prepare.

When the black dragon arrived to the dining hall, he grabbed a plate and filled it with assorted pieces of food. He sat down to eat. Luckily he didn't see those drakes that tried to peek into his and his friend's business.
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Crystal waited a few seconds after Val left to be certain he cannot overhear their conversation. She debated casting a spell around them to block all sound from travelling out. Decided against it, not deeming it necessary.

"Wol. You're clearly not happy here. In the mountain with the drakes. Cold stone everywhere. The drakes themselves. They are not an ideal race to call friends. Some are nice. The majority have closed personalities. Their culture and beliefs don't mix well with everyone else.

I understand you want your old life back. Friends, family. A healthy, warm place to call home. Wounds... Scars you carry that make you wonder if time can even heal them. Trust me I know Wolnir. I've seen it all. Experienced it all."

She hugged the dragon tightly.
"You have such a gentle soul. You're starting to make me cry... Farout, I have a such great love for you. Such care and I haven't even known you for that long. If I could. I will trap you in a ball of magic so that no one can hurt you. That's the thing, however. If I did that you will never grow. It's impossible. Our past, it's part of what makes us. Both good and bad. It makes us unique.

That being said, I have been thinking of you while I'm busy with other tasks. Earlier today I said I have a gift for you. I'm starting to have second thoughts about it though. Not so sure if you can call it a gift. I've never done this to someone before but I've designed a spell to rid of the trauma you have partaken. You won't forget your memories but you will not know how they affected you, I'm second-guessing myself because I'm not confident how it will change you. How your personality will change. I can estimate but not fully settles on any outcome. Also altering another's mind is a bit of a no-no. Before you give an answer, I want to give you to think about it for a couple of days. I will not judge your answer. Also, I highly encourage you to hang out with us Guardians, down in the forest. I think you will enjoy it more than here and everyone is way more welcoming. It's not as fancy as here but it's warm and homely. Also, you will have a couple of chores to do... But I think it's better for you. Besides, we can see each other more. What are you thinking?"
Wolnir began to calm down and regain composture. Crystal then talked to him and how she talked about her affection for him made him happy.

When she proposed that she could get a spell that potentially erased the trauma, he felt like agreeing to it straightaway, but then she went on how it could have side effects such as a personality change. It'd be better to think it through, although for now the spell was winning.

Then she went on about staying with her and her pals. Not his first choice but she made him think he would be better there than in the mountain. Better than his grey home whose inhabitants were too cold or too busy to actually have a conversation with him. Although it sounded less secure. He wasn't sure if he'd be comfortable living alongside the races that tried to kill him during the last year but he'd find out. He could always go back to the mountain, right?

He decided to trust her and thus agreed.
"Is it alright for me to stay here for the night? It's a bit of a walk to go back. Besides I can give you some company as well. For the whole night." Crystal asked nicely. If Wolnir is to say no, she understands and will not make a fuss about it.

Night covered the mountains quickly. The snow quickly became heavy. Most inhabitants kept inside their warm homes. To gain rest and be refreshed for the next day. However, this is not true for some...

"Aster, we are ready to take action."
Slithra keeps Aster, the chief of the ice drakes, up to date on the state of the war party he leads.

"As so are the scouts."
A third drake swooped in to add his spill of the condition of his appointed drakes. By the name of Gathrae.

The three drakes carry the task to slow their enemy who are guarding the Ruined Stronghold. The force of every other country. Slithra, Second to Aster. Together they lead their party of three hundred ice drakes and Gathrae, appointed leader of twenty skydrakes.

Aster didn't respond immediately. Rather, he continued to stare at the occupied Stronghold. Torches are lit across it as well as many advanced ballistae. According to Gathrae, these war machines can load themselves with incredible speed.

Aster stooped from his overlooking position and flew back with the other two to the rest of the war party. Three kilometres back into the mountains. The war party are separated into groups of thirty, while the skydrakes create their own smaller groups of four. Each group has an Informer and Section Leader. The Informer's assignment is to communicate to other groups and the leaders through means of telepathy while the Section Leader can focus on commanding his group.
They stood in small clearings along the mountains. As high as they could get themselves so when they fly to the enemy, it takes less energy for them to climb altitude.

Aster spoke with his mind.
"The night is dark enough. Let's make our move. Our goal is simple. Slow their advancement in any way possible. Priority is not to be killed and destroy as many anti-air weapons as possible. Poison their supplies. Skydrakes, gather information about them. I want to know everything. Brothers, strike as one group. We are the first act of this war. Leave an impression."
The Chief took off into the cold air and made a steady climb upwards. The war party followed suit. Their attack begins.
Wolnir agreed to Crystal's proposal. He could use the company. He went to ask his guards for help with his chestplate so he could get it off and catch some sleep. The guards hung the armor on its stand in his room, and after they left he wished Crys goodnight.

Valadir ate way more than usual that night, given that he'd be leaving soon and it was better to do so while stocked up. He then went to his room, and he noted that Wolnir's door was still closed. While he walked down the hallway to his door, he thought about going to his friend's room to check on him, but he decided against it since he might be asleep now as far as he was concerned. He only hoped that the necklace and his overall presence was enough for him to be forgiven for his upcoming absence.

The black dragon then checked on his backpack. The only thing remaining there was his mother's cookbook and a journal from one of the elves that captured him back then. He cast the journal to the fireplace, left the cookbook in his bedside table and put his sword inside his backpack. Better to not risk the only memory he had from his family. It was convenient to go with a mostly empty backpack in order to have the maximum space available, and carrying the sword with him would provide him with a sharp tool that could come in handy later. He put it by his armor stand and did the same with his cape. Now it was time to get a bit of sleep, gear up after that and leave while it was still dark.

Val woke up a pawful of hours later. He had no idea what time it was, but he looked outside from the giant window like thing his room had and it still was pitch black. Still in time to go.

First he put his cape on. Easy enough. Then the armor, not so easy but he thought about it last time he helped Wolnir with his armor. Since normally he needed an extra pair of hands to put the chestplate on, that extra pair would be replaced by the wall, pressing himself against it but not doing to with the one adjacent to his friend's room, but rather with the opposite one. Took him longer than he wanted to since his tactic wasn't as effective. After putting on the helmet, he put his backpack on and declared himself ready. The cape partially filled the empty spaces in the armor which made it more comfortable.

He then walked to the window, and with a sigh he jumped out and flew to the sea to avoid being spotted. Once he was far from the shore, he began to go north and with enough luck he'd be back into hostile territory by the day's early light.

If he had been told that he'd go back to that hell out of his own volition, he'd never have believed it.
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Lenera sat cross-legged in front of the fire pit. A cup of tea is within her grip. Her wings draped over the ground, expressing her exhaustion, but she could not sleep. Anxious thoughts replay through her mind. Eragon has a terrible sickness, war is about to enter their threshold, and the one with the prophecy isn't willing to take up arms. Her race faces possible extinction. She's seen the reports of the enemy. The numbers alone are frightening. She must pick up his duty and lead the nation in Eragon's absence. She can easily handle day-to-day talks. Conducting war is too big of a task. She's all for challenges but this... A capable drake she is, but she's not her soulmate. A great warrior doesn't assemble a great leader. It makes her angry to think she's incapable. So much so that it drives her to do her best, but she doesn't know the steps to take. Lenera threw her cup into the fire and growled. Frustration took the better of her. Hopefully, the guards don't hear her.

Finally, after spending time on the floor, filling her clothes with the smell of smoke, she went to bed. Perhaps venting a little will help her sleep, and if not. She will find someone to punch in the snout. Maybe one of the guards. The younger one sometimes puts her on edge, and he has a very punchable face.

Malachi stomped down the poorly lit hallway. Two guards to each of his sides, weapons at the ready in case one of the monsters jumped from the dark. All of them in their armour, they moved quickly through the base of the Ruined Stronghold. Down a long, wide hallway that connected the sections of the gaint wall. Anger surged through the human Commander. He did not expect them to attack. They've never come out of the mountains.
Moreover, they have done so much damage. It was a well-planned attack. Malachi and his guards arrived in a spacious room. The old stone walls held torches that illuminated the place well. The commanding elf Galadriel and chief Kirdurim are both present with a handful of guards whose weapons are pointed to what's in the middle of the room. It put a smile on his face. The caught one. Bound in chain head to toe, an evil monster. As big as a bear, Wings that spammed as large as a dragon. Its hide is as tough as armour; however, he has told that it had an icy breath, not fire.

"Do not get close, Malachi. Its chilling weapon instantly freezes anything."
Galadriel warned Malachi. Her voice said it all. She feared it, even with her magic.

He ignored her. He saw its maw was tied up. He kneeled right next to it and inspected the creature. A small pool of dark red blood was next to his knee. Behind its chains, he can see its wings are cut. To say he is in awe is an understatement. It wore armour and was equipped with weapons and well-made armour. Its craftsmanship rivalled the dwarfs.
"So they're intelligent. It can probably understand us. Galadriel, have you entered its mind?"

"Yes. But not to avail. It's trained to block out everything in its mind. It might even be telepathic."

"I see..."
Malachi can start to understand why she is extremely cautious about it. He looked at its face. Blood dripped from its cheeks and mouth. It deserves it.
"No matter. If they can be caught, it will be easier to kill them. Kill it."

"No! We must study. Uncover weaknesses."

Malachi had a feeling Galadriel was going to say that.
"Fine then. Keep it away from the food and drink. They've spiked enough of it as it is."
He stood up and said to the group, "Spread the word. They are not invincible. We have one, and we eradicate the rest of them."

The sun kissed the eastern shores, lighting up the fresh blankets of snow. However, the drakes' mornings started before then. The Mountain was full of activity. As the days progressed, the excitement came over the population. Anticipation dwelled in them. It is no secret that the hostiles are gathering in front of the foothills of the mountain range. They are a civil culture, but deep inside, they are still primal and crave blood.

As for Crystal, however, she does anything to avoid a harsh dispute but knows that sometimes it cannot be dealt with any other way. Her argument right now is with herself. Does she get up or wait for Wolnir to wake up before moving? She found herself on his bed, right next to him. Her back against his underside, and one of his blue wings encased her blocking most of the morning light. If it wasn't for her internal clock and the few small gaps of light seeping in, she wouldn't have known it was morning. There are a few reasons she found it hard to get up. One, Wolnir is very warm. Two, A couple of her tails are stuck under him. Three, she's entertained by his slow, steady breathing. It moves her back and forth. He's like a gaint moving pillow but with scales.

Eventually, she won her mental battle. She slowly freed three of her tails and slipped out from under his wing. The cold stone struck her feet. She made sure she didn't leave any fur on his bed before having a big stretch and tieing on her kimono. She wore her nagajuban during the night, the cotton undergarment. She believes she can make the best use of herself by putting some logs in the fire pit and relighting it. She then found the kitchenette with some commodities. The drakes have the majority of their dining done in the Dining halls, but they still have some snacks in their homes. Here she found some different teas that look hardly used. She found a fire pot with a stand. She brought it upon herself to brew some tea for the both of them. She filled the fire pot with water from the basin and mounted it over the fire. Next, she went back to the kitchenette and chose the Chamley tea. Mainly because it's the one, she remembered. She took the tea jar and two oversized cups and brought them back to the fire, and waited for the water to boil.
The plan was a success. Val was out of the mountains, and seemed that he had indeed avoided suspicion. The sun had risen already and no one was on his tail, be it drake or human. He only wished that he brought a canteen or something for his trip. He was getting thirsty and it would be overall pretty useful down the line, but he quickly dismissed the thought, convincing himself that he might have made people suspect of his intentions if he went around asking for one. He faintly remembered finding one during his adventure to the mountains, but since he didn't find it he just assumed that he lost it when the elves took his stuff. Luckily he bought the sword with him. A sharp object would come in handy in a number of situations, be it defense, food preparation or elsewhere. Although he'd probably avoid lighting a fireplace since last time he almost died because of it.

When the day came around, he was flying over the Fields. Luckily no one in the stronghold saw him, otherwise he'd be in deep shit right now. He decided to skip the area altogether. The lack of any significant pieces of cover made it dangerous to land in.

Wolnir eventually woke up. He felt less distressed than last night. Sleeping through your problems seemed to be a good idea. He rolled over to his other side and found that Crys had already gone on her way since she wasn't in the room anymore. He sighed, wishing that wasn't the case.
He eventually rolled out of bed and stretched out. It was already daytime. The dragon started to go down the stairs of his room and was pleasantly surprised. Crys was there. He began to think his wishes were actually pretty powerful.
Wolnir smiled and greeted her.
"W-what are you heating?" He asked hoarsely.

Blade was out. Free at last from that hellhole they called a coliseum. He was unsure how long he was in there, probably months. One of his cell mates helped him escape in the middle of the night when the guards were less plentiful. But she decided to stay. Or so he understood since he was alone now, and he failed to understand her reasons. No matter. Now what he wanted was to get as far away from that place. The rush of feelings of his newfound freedom kept him as awake as ever. It didn't matter where he went as long as he kept his cellkeepers behind...

Valadir eventually saw something below him that sparked his attention. Another dragon. White with green stripes across his back and with purple wings and small green stripes on the lower edge of the membranes. He thought that dragon was pretty colorful. The black dragon was flying well above the other dragon so his presence was unnoticed. His heart started to beat stronger with excitement. As if his trip away from the mountains was granted newfound purpose. He decided to follow him and land alongside him in order to guide him to the mountains. Sure, he disliked the drakes overall and at least three different individuals of said race wanted to use him, but.. it was the only safe place for his race.

The white dragon eventually landed by a small cluster of trees in order to catch his breath, and Val did so moments later.

"Thought I'd be the only one out here. Saw you a couple hours ago..." Valadir said.
Blade was startled upon the black dragon's landing. He thought he was alone. He took a look at this new dragon that landed with him. Black and brown. His brown back paws gave him the impression that he was in good physical shape. What caught his attention was the armor he was wearing. He only knew of one place that made them.
"That armor. How have you acquired it?" The white dragon asked.
"From the drakes. You know the southern mountains? Beyond that stronghold?" Val said.
"I am acquainted with them"
"Well, that's the only safe place there is around here" Valadir then said, wanting to explain his proposal. "If you stay out here, it's only a matter of time before you die. I want to help you get there. If you want, that is...There aren't many of us around..."
The white dragon thought about those words. The situation seemed dire. His kin on the brink of extinction. Last thing he wanted was to get captured again.
"Very well. Let's be partners." The white dragon said. "I'm Blade"
Valadir then introduced himself. After that, he proposed a course of action.
"Right... let's find somewhere to spend the day in. The stronghold's populated and going over there in broad daylight isn't a good idea..."
"Brewing a pot of tea. Care for some? Well, I'm already making some for you, so you will enjoy it whether you like it or not."
Crystal replied to Wolnir with a snarky answer.
"Unless, of course, you don't want any. I'll just have two oversized cups of hot tea. Speaking of which..."
The two sizeable reflective silver cups she brought over. She touched the closest one with a finger, and it shrunk to an appropriate size for herself.
While the fire pot filled with water heated, she struck up some conversation,
"Did you have a sound sleep?"


Jura saw to it that Blade had made it halfway across the Zashac desert before taking her own path. She described to him that she wanted to go with him back to the mainland. She shared his concern about the damned place they escaped. But there is another who needs her help. She warned Blade not to trust anyone. So when they saw the shoreline of the large river that split the desert from the mainland, she circled back to where they flew from, back across the desert. She flew fast and hard as the cover of the night will disappear.

She had spent two months imprisoned at Diabmoure. A city built around a coliseum. A city made for one objective. Entertainment. There they hunt and gather all kinds of creatures. Anything that can think and fight. They put them up against each other or otherwise have them fight animals or armies in the coliseum. It's a cruel way to seek pleasure. Brutal for those who are captured and taken under the city, knowing that they can be brought up and killed at a moment's notice. Luckily she had won her fights and didn't face another of her kind. A few weeks longer, she suspected she would have failed. She was treated poorly. Little to no food, constantly in the dark, and horrible living conditions. They had chained any creature that had wings. Better than getting them cut off, at least. She was kept in a specialized enclosure that provided specific routes for all winged beasts to prevent them from flying and escaping when being transported. She saw a few creatures there that she couldn't discern. One particular had her interest for the better part of her stay. It walked like any bipedal, but it had wings and a tail. Its skin was covered by green scales, and a head shaped like a dragon. The only conclusion she thought of was that a dragon and an elf had a hatchling. Blade and herself shared one of these cells; hence, they could fly away together.

The escape itself, however. To say the least, Jura didn't expect it. After two months, she assumed that she would die there, but earlier in the day, when she saw her friend. Her hope became solid rock. The relief she felt was incredible. Her friend did a fantastic job of getting her out. She was able to get Blade out as well. From her perspective, it seemed like her companion gained favour with the Arkarma as she stood with a couple of the guards and when she slipped the keys into her cell. Jura knew precisely what to do. It all happened in what felt like ten minutes. During the early night, she unlocked herself and Blade. With the help of Blade, they eliminated any guards that could raise the alarm. Navigated themselves out to the open air and, with the blanket of the night, successfully flew out without being spotted.

And now she is going back to her friend. No doubt, with the dragon's escape, she will have a hard time. Jura doesn't know her position, but it's guaranteed she needs her own escape plan. A few hours back into the desert, Diabmoure is once again in her sight. Its stone walls contrast against it. It gives her a disgusting taste to look at. How they treated her there. And makes her a little nauseous. That could also be because she craved food.

Even though she is ten minutes from the city, her potent dragon eyes can already make out clear outlines of the wall and buildings behind it. Also, the torches that are lit everywhere stand out to her. Jura is past the cloud line, which she relies on to keep her covered until she is over the city, but her sapphire-coloured scales against the dark sky camouflage her figure. She made a rough plan in her head of how she would retrieve her confidante. As soon as she starts diving, she expects to be spotted. There will be many guards all over the city. She can also see there is large ranged weaponry along the wall. She is in a weakened state but has complete confidence in her ability to dodge everything, even with a passenger.

When her friend slipped her the keys earlier in the day. Attached to the keys was a small green jewel. When she touched it, Jura always knew where to find her friend. Without any clothing, she is forced to store it under her tongue. Right now, it's telling her that she needs to go to the far side of the coliseum, to a large building filled with lighting. It looks like the Keep, and she knows that because she's right above it now.

Jura tucked her wings in and dived straight down, gaining frightening speeds but the faster she went, the less time the guards had to react. Past the clouds and into the danger zone. Her eyes narrowed, focused on where she needed to land, next to the Keep. She had no idea if she'd been spotted. Just before hitting the ground, she snapped her wings open and broke her fall. She landed in the courtyard and quickly looked around. It's rectangular in shape. The Keeps door is only a few meters in front of her. Behind her is a large gate with walls surrounding her. Two guards stand by it. They were stunned to see her, so she took advantage of it. She leapt and ran right towards them. Trying to close the gap of thirty metres as fast as she could, but they both shouted, "Dragon!"

In response, she roared as loud as she could, not only to scare them but maybe, hopefully, the one she rescued heard her as well. Her speed startled the guards. Before one could pull a sword, Jura twisted and swatted him away with her tail. The other is a little quickly and points his at the dragoness. With the bit of fire she managed to store over two months, she opened her maw, and fire erupted from it. It engulfed the guard, who screamed and kicked about to his knees. The heat burned his skin. She slashed at him with her claws and killed him. She turned to face the other guard and found him unconscious. She usually would leave someone who cannot fight back, but her anger is great. She pounced on him and dug her claws into his chest. She also wouldn't eat something sentient, but her belly needed something in it. She tore away the armour and took a few large bites out of his side before heading back towards the Keep.
Not as good as something in the forest... She thought to herself.

She looked up to a window with light coming from it. It's and few stories up. She has a sense that her partner is in that room. How does she get there?


The Overlord leaned forward and rested his chin on his hand, making his many rings obvious. In front of him are two wealthy traders. One he knew well. His name is Abaddon, and the other he hadn't known for a long time. If fact, she's only been in Diabmoure for a couple of months but clearly understands how the game is played. Twenty-six soldiers are also in the room, also a couple of servants of the Overlord. And in a dark corner and mysterious figure. A valuable asset to The Arkarma. A Kitsune by the name of Ganjiro. His black kimono and shiny black fur blended with his surroundings. If it wasn't for his cat-like green eyes. He is easy to miss.

Abaddon pointed and shouted about the other trader, "I saw her, Lord, as did a couple guards. She bought the two dragons, and they escaped on the same day!? We hadn't heard about her until she arrived here."

"Quiet Abaddon. Let her speak. Perhaps she had a reasonable explanation for this."

Abaddon's accusations are strong and make sense, but it is time for the other trader's defence.

While they argued with each other, Ganjiro stared at the new trader. She's clearly from the North. Her clothes are Irellian, and her mannerisms symbolise that. But something about her makes him a little uncomfortable. Before inspecting her mind, his ears flicked to the open window. Someone shouted, and a second later, a loud roar could be heard from the courtyard.
Ashley, walked past the stone corridors, in Diabmoure, en-route to the dungeons that housed the gladiators. She was led by a champion broker by the name of Mubdijin. A shrewd skinny, dark-skinned man, dressed from head to toe in gold chains and jewels. Clearly, he’s compensating, Ashley inwardly smirked. His sales tactics were an easy deception to see through, as well. Shame, I was actually hoping for a bit of a challenge.
Five guards surrounded the two figures. Two on either side of them, one behind, one in front and one in between Ashley’s reach of Mubdijin. Despite his tacky attempts at the rich life, Mubdijin was thorough in his security detail. As were many of the traders and staff here. It is a cutthroat business in the Arkarma. She peered to her left slightly, observing the detailed groves chiselled into the pillars and walls they passed. If this place wasn’t the disgusting entertainment it was, it would have been one of the top architecture landmark on the continent.

Mubdijin drew Ashely back to the issue at hand, “You know Miss Loftwood, any trader that buys a Champion from me has the highest winning statistics. I guarantee your decision is wise to choose me as your Champion broker. To go through others, you wont be as lucky.” He said the last part, so auspiciously it was suspicious. Mubdijin was currently the top Champion broker, having the highest sales due to the success his clients have had in the coliseum. Most influential and powerful traders come to him, to heighten their chances at winning. Although, Ashley quickly found, that this was all due to the fact Mubdijin had gotten away with many levels of sabotage. He would occasionally lace the little food they gave to the prisoners with stomach poisons or depressants that cut their battle prowess. To her knowledge, the Overlord has limited this strategy, and approved any assassination attempt on Mubdijins life as legal, furthermore, to sabotage you had to pay a steep fee to the Akarma.

Ashley zoned Mubdijin’s voice out when he began once again, to tell another story about his difficult rise to power and riches. Finally, they turned a corner, to a lower level, protected by two guards. This led them to the dungeons, housing a variety of hundreds of creatures. Ashely’s expression remained blank. Although the pungent smells also made her gag. Thick, specialised chains and cells restrained each creature. During her two months stay, she heard rumours that the Overlord would let prisoner escape once in a while then before it could even leave the dungeon, the guards would ruthlessly murder it. This demoralised and destroyed any hope of being free.

Disgusting. They all stopped before the first specimen Mubdijin selected. He got one of his men to step into the cage, causing the beast to growl and bite back. It was a four legged creature, slick grey fur, long talons and sharp teeth. A canine of sorts. Ashley raised her eyebrow slightly, unimpressed. Mubdijin sucked in some air and gestured to his guard to onto the next creature, “This one will peek tour interest. An orc captain, bred only for the purpose of war…” Ashley pursed her lips. Mubdijin slightly rubbed his hands nervously. They moved on, “How about..” He didn’t get to finish his introduction before Ashely cut him off with an ill-boding tone, “Mubdijin, I was hoping for something a little more refined. I am not some lowlife with a quick rich scheme.I want excitement, strength, a creature worthy to be mine.”

Mubdijin laughed in an attempt to shake off the threat. Ashley peered over his head. What she saw a champion that peeked her interest. The corner of her mouth curled slightly. Mubdijin followed her gaze to the two dragons that laid in a further cell. “Ah, yes,” he said clasping his hands. “A lady such as yourself would of course had her eyes set on the best.” He led her to the two dragons. One a brilliant white, with green and purple embellishments, the other a cool midnight blue. “Theses area fierce champions indeed!” she approved. True enough, the dwindling species, are the apex predator, in speed, agility and strength. The blue dragon’s head perked up at Ashley’s voice. The dragons eyes ignited with hope when they made eye contact.

Upon coming closer, Ashley felt a warmed metal ring, with keys she had hidden earlier within her knees high boot. Her overhanging coat hid her movements as her hand freed the keys from their hiding spot. “I want to inspect the blue dragon closer.”

Mudbdijin, hastily obliged ordering his guards to, open the cell doors. He stood at the front hiding his nerves when Ashley crouched right next to the dragon. The white dragon growled, a deep powerful threat to back away from his friend. Ashley merely glared back, maintained her noble composure. Although she felt the threat was very real from this new dragon. A guard struck him, shouting abusive insults. Ashely ignored the interaction, and observed the fresh and healed scars on Jura. Shit! What have they done to you friend? Ashley laid her eyes upon the countless injuries she witnessed the dragoness gain from the coliseum.

Ashely stooped in closer against Mubdijin’s protests, and slipped the keys to Jura as well as a small green locator gem. Jura subtly hid the tool hers and Blade’s freedom under her arms. Jura felt her friend’s presence and her voice grew quieter as she left. Ashley asked Mubdijin, when they left the dungeons, “Do you have anyone else lined up for that blue dragon?” Mubdijin replied, “We have one trader by the name of Abbadan.” Ah yes, that works out perfectly. Ashley easily recalled his face. A dark man, who always wore fine silk clothing. “Well no need to show him, I want to purchase that one as my champion.”

Mubdijin dipped his head slightly, “We shall seal the deal in my office. Please this way.” After Ashely had signed the deed to the dragon and left Mubdijin’s office, she saw Abbadan walking in the direction of the dungeons. He and his secretary paused, “Ashely,”

“Please, call me Loftwood. Competitors need not be on first name basis.”

“Hmm, Indeed,” in a tone rather less pleased. “Where do you find your path leading you?” he asked for formality.

Hoping to antagonise the man Ashe said in an impudent tone, “Oh, I am placing a request for my new Champion to face the rings tomorrow against yours. My midnight dragon versus your golden griffin. I am already thinking of the headlines.”

His eyebrow twitched slightly, annoyed by the new development. “So you were the other buyer Mubdijin informed. Well, congratulations are in order for that feat, you must be very lucrative indeed. I respect that about you being the same as I. Once we see something of desire, we grab hold of it as fast as we can.”

Ashley smirked. She stepped forward to pass Abaddon but before she said, “No Abaddon we are not similar in the least, for there is something subtle yet substantial that separates us. You grab what you can for that is all in your ability to obtain. But I obtain all for is all there is nothing beyond me nor my desire. See you in the ring.”

She sensed his blood boil, and dropping the smirk when she was out of his sight. Damned wife beater, she cursed. Right, all that is left to do, is file the request and stall. One hour later Ashely sighed, in her room. She had just finished packing her things and placed them within a storage holder. A little smooth stone she picked up in her travels that keeps all her items. Although the storage was limited she always had to pack lightly. She tucked the stone away in the inner pocket of her jacket. She had changed back into a mixture of her expensive leather armour and the rest fine decorative material, and jewellery.

She travelled to the Miskeh bar and dinner. A high end popular meeting place for traders and investors to interact. Ashely fit right into the crowd, setting herself down on a comfy low couch, with a small table beside it. A petit, shy waitress in a revealing uniform immediately began serving her, placing drinks and a food menu on her table. “Welcome Mistress, how may I serve you?” Ashley slid the menus back to the waitress and replied, “I will just have the Muta Aliq wine with small cuts of baklava.” She nodded and went off to fulfil her duty.

Now all the pieces of her plan were now in motion. Her last act was to as many people aware of her presence to form an alibi. The more witnesses the better. She expected Jura to escape tonight, that dragon wasted no time. Then that means she just needs to be seen here away from the dungeons whilst she escapes. And Abaddon, poor Abaddon will take the fall. Through the months, she weaved a web to reveal his hatred for her. Her pestering earlier should have made him shrewder than Mubdijin. Meaning he will take until evening to pick a champion to best her. Placing him close to the dungeons, when Jura escapes and have in also enters the dungeon right before she does.

Now how shall I make my presence known? Ah ha. Ashley watched the maid before serving another group of men with too much money to know what to do with it all. One of the men began to harass the poor girl, grappling her by the arm and pulling her back in. Her shrieks and protests were heard by most, chatter dying down. Many were onlooking at the situation but everyone refused to help. This was just the way it was here. Half were eager for some violence the others (mainly he staff working) were more afraid of what might happen to them if they intervene.

Ashely slid the knife from her belt and walked subtly over to the man abusing the maid. When she stood behind the man she grabbed his wrist and twisted it behind back. With her other hand she slammed the back of the knife into his neck. Forcing his face to hit the table. There she pinned him down,. The blade of her knife licking at his neck. The glared at the other two men at the table daring them to make a move. They didn’t. Most knew of the first time a lover-stationed man insulted Ashley and was killed by her. It was the strong impression she needed to get into the inner circle of trades within the time limit she had.

Silence overtook the diner. Everyone stunned, turned their attention Ashely when she spoke, “I was wandering of the reason why I had to wait so long for my food and drink. And lo and behold it was you three fools.”

One of the other men growled, “You don’t know who you are messing with.”

“No boys, you don’t know who you are messing with.”

Her tone grew louder when she said, “Listen up, this maid will only be serving me for the entirety of the night. If I hear so much as a peep from anyone else, I won’t not be so pleasant.” She released the man, pushing him forward. Then walked away with the maid head down following her. She sat back down and said for the maid to get her food, and get the bruise on her arm treated. Problem solved.

Nightfall came, and a cool turn of the weather swept in. One of the workers began a fire in the hearth. Not long now she thought. Sure enough, an elite guard, with two foot soldiers came into the diner bar. The man was dressed in a uniform that showed he directly worked for the Overlord. He went to the counter and said a few words to the attendant. The attendant’s eyes swept the room and pointed in Ashely’s direction.

Here we go. She swirled the liquid that was left in her goblet as the guard drew nearer. He stopped in front of her, drawing attention from onlookers. He informed her, “You have been summoned to the keep for an audience with the Overlord. The Arkarma representatives are present.” Ashely sighed feigning annoyance at being disturbed. She drank the last of her wine and stood. She left a sizeable tip for the maid that served her and money for her food. Then she draped her overcoat on her shoulders. She glanced at the guard and made a gesture to lead, “After you,” she said.

They made it to the keep in efficient time, walking to the third floor. Judging from the expressions on everyone, Jura didn’t leave without a bit of damage, she observed. The two-foot soldiers remained outside, whilst the elite soldier entered with Ashley returning to the Overlord’s side. His chin was rested on his hand, the candlelight bouncing off the abundant rings that decorated his fingers. Not in the least bit modest are we, she chided to herself.

Another figure had caught her attention in the large room. He rested in a dark corner, green eyes attacking her mask. Ashley glanced to her left and saw Abbadon, frustrated yet euphoric to see her downfall. He was with three of his security detail and his secretary. Others that were present were three other officials acting as witnesses to this apparent court hearing.

Ashley dipped her head, in fake respect to the Overlord, “Overlord, it is an honour, although I am not sure of the occasion to which you have granted me such a kindness?” She kept her tone neutral and formal.

“Pah!” Abbadon exclaimed, “What is the use of this act Loftwood.”

“I don’t remember addressing you Abbandon,” she quelled his outburst. He glared at the officials for not commencing the interrogation. One of the officials quickly stepped forward, and questioned, “Ashely Loftwood, are you aware of the prison escape that transpired earlier this evening?”

Ashley, feigning disinterest, “No, what of it…?”

“Two dragons were the escapees in question..” another added. Ashley frowned and glared at Abbandon. Slight genuine shock seeped through her expression as she didn’t think Jura would escape with a companion. She portrayed herself to have a seething expression when she inquired, “Was one of these a dragon with scales of midnight blue? I recently required that beast as my champion earlier this afternoon!” she kept her voice lowered but dripping with anger. I assume I am here for compensation for the loss.” She darted her eyes around the area where the Overlord and officials remained, “Yet I don’t see it.”

The officials stepped forward, “You demand compensation, so we can assume you are not an accomplice in the breakout."

Ashley snapped at him, “You better have some concrete evidence to accuse me of that, minion. Know your place.”

Abandon pointed and shouted about Ashely, “I saw her, Lord, as did a couple of guards. She bought the two dragons, and they escaped on the same day!? We hadn’t heard about her until she arrived her.”

The Overlord, to Ashely seemed to ignore Abbadon, requiring that she explain herself.

Ashley commenced her defence, “The fact that I bought the blue beast is public knowledge as was the match I motioned for tomorrow's agenda against Abbandon. This seems to me to be a terrible attmept to frame me. Abbandon was an interested buyer of the dragons, I beat him. He is on a winning streak, as am I. Tomorrow's matcj would have been his defeat.” She pointed a finger at the other trader, “I find it oddly curious how it is you of all people acting as my prosecutor, when you were my competition in buying that dragon, my public rival.”

Abaddon, raged, “please I found myself a better, more powerful champion than that creature.”

Ashley smirked \and feigned a realisation, her eyes widening and her arms slamming on the table before her. The loud bang ensured that all attention was placed on her so whatever she said would be heard for sure, “You little sly filth of a vermin. I told you of the match earlier today, for my champion to verse you pathetic griffin. Were you so afraid on a mere defeat you would attempt such a slight against my coin and the Akarma?”

Abandon’s eyes widened, and his voice went shrill, “You accuse me. I have been here for three years, earning my way. You are nothing. We don’t know where you come from or who your allegiance lies to.”

Ashley saw it in his face that his argument sounded sure. It was, but she already saw it coming. So before his logic settled, she painted more doubt, "Yes, we all know of you haven’t lost a single match in two years. It must have been a shock to your ego when a new upcoming trader, such as myself, would take thataway, and throw it into the pig pen.”

Ashely straightened, and inquired, “Where were you during the escape Abbadon? Last time we spoke, you were on your way to the bvery dungeon of creatures in question."

The officials stared at Abaddon waiting for his response. He was stunned. Speechless. The first official questioned, “Well, where were you Abaddon?”

“I…I…I was…” he stammered. To reveal his whereabouts was certain to tip the scale in favour of his enemy. He growled, “I was just leaving the dungeon.”

Ashley was praying all her bluffing would not be swept away. But something happened and attention shifted elsewhere momentarily to some commotion that transpired outside the keep. Then a loud roar sounded in front of the courtyard below.

About damn time Jura, that was my last line of defence to stall. She unclasped one of her throwing knives. Ganjiro noticed the subtle action and lunged for her, casting a restraining spell. The spell itself had no effect as Ashley focussed on absorbing the mana and cancelling out the spell. But oh shit was it frightening to be in close combat with a flipping centuries-old person. Ganjiro slightly hesitated when he sensed his spell disappear. Ashley took that split second to hurl her knife at Abddon and then a second at the Overlord. Abaddon was struck square in his heart and fell instantly. Ganjiro gritted his teeth and swiftly changed directions to block the knife aimed at the Overlord.

Ashley hadn’t expected Ganjiro to aid the Overlord that quickly, hoping for a few more seconds to run to her exit. She pivoted and sprinted for the open window. There she crouched on the ledge, and glanced back at the Overlord. Ganjiro gracefully walked closer slowly, The Overlord let out a maniacal laugh, “You certainly gave us a show, little fool. Your dragon will be captured. Stand down while you can, and if you beg, I might show you a little mercy.”

Ashley peered once more down at the courtyard, she saw Jura look up to where she was, and her friend had spotted her. She glanced back at the Overlord, “Please, your mercy is for shit. One more thing to inform you before I leave, one of your officials gave me the location of one of your rainy day stashes. So on behalf of my guild of mercenaries, I thank you for your incredibly generous investment.” With that she leapt off the ledge, and slammed into the back of her friend Jura who caught her mid air. When Jura felt Ashley, secure herself upon her, she used her her every ounce of strength she had to fly straight out of there.
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"C-cant argue with that..." Wolnir agreed to Crys's offering of tea. He sat by the fire to keep warm. "W-which kind is it?"
The dragon nodded after he was asked about how his sleep had been. Now that he thought about it, he didn't get any nightmares after recalling those gruesome events and he wasn't sure if it was because a part of him was starting to get over his past or if Crys had done something about it.
"N-no nightmares or anything bad..." He said. "Y-you haven't done a-anything about it, h-have you?"
"A-and how was your sleep?"

A group of humans stopped in front of Blade and Jura's cell. Strangely enough, the two dragons were alone in the cell, normally they'd have more company. The white one stared at them. Not the usual guards, and the girl didn't look like she belonged in the area. At first he thought they were going to be freed. Their torment finally put to an end, but soon the humans' intentions were made clear. A buyer. Not the first time someone came around to buy a fighter in the general area of his cell. He wasn't sure about what happened to those who were bought, but what he knew is that he didn't tend to see them anymore. He assumed their fate wasn't better than what he was going through now. As such, once the girl was allowed in the cell he growled at her in a really unfriendly manner in an attempt for her human to go back the way she came. He didn't attack her when she was inspecting his cellmate nor the guards when he was hit in the muzzle, insulted and made fun of, simply because that would have made things worse.

Blade caught a couple strange movements made from his cellmate, but was quick to look away in order to not give away... whatever was it that she was doing. Once the humans were away he looked at the blue dragoness a bit. Something was up. His scarce sense of hope wanted to believe they were just given help... but that couldn't be true. If so then why was it that help didn't come sooner? It made no sense. He shook away those thoughts by reminding himself that the most likely outcome was that he'd die there. And by a wide margin. He didn't ask the dragoness about it. In all the weeks they were together, she never said a word. No reason to believe she would talk now.

His sense of hope then turned out to be right. His cellmate ended up pulling a key and opening their cell. A couple of guards were stationed outside at all times with the sole purpose of watching him because of his strong magic. The two dragons tagged to kill them before they could do anything. Blade was then told to follow his cellmate's lead, and soon they were out. He was told that his cellmate would go back to rescue someone. Maybe it was the human? Did she help them? He'd find out eventually. That is, if the dragoness wasn't killed in the attempt.

Now he was with his new partner. With the black and brown dragon with armor, looking for a place to stealthily spend the day in order to go to the southern mountains at night to be in a safe place. They were looking for a small hidden place on foot. Higher chance of finding that kind of place with paws on the ground than in the air.
"So..." Val began saying in order to make the search less dull. "Do you know why we began to get killed off by the humans and the others?"

"Can't say I have..." Blade replied.

"Would you like to?"

Blade didn't take long to decide.
"Knowledge is power. Enlighten me"

Valadir took a bit to talk, mostly because he was trying to figure out what those words meant. His new comrade had a particular way to express himself, that was for sure.

"The humans, elves and dwarves have these... parasites. Said parasites want us dead because they can't get to us. They are vulnerable to our fire and thus want us out to get rid of their main competition" Valadir recalled. It had been a while since he was told that fact so he wasn't really sure if that was the exact version.

"That's... really unexpected..." Blade said. He honestly thought the cause was something else, like the other races wanting retribution for the pillaging his race had done through the centuries. But he had no reason to distrust his companion, so he needed only to accept the truth.
"So that means they are not acting out of their own volition?" The white dragon then asked.

Valadir never thought about it that way. Were they really to blame for their actions? No matter. What the other races have done is unforgiveable.
"I guess..."

The dragons continued their search north, eventually arriving at a beach.
"I think i know this place" Valadir announced. "Think i camped here a couple days with a couple friends during summer a long time ago. If i remember correctly, there should be a small cave around here..." Blade followed him in his search for that cave. With the cover of a couple trees, a cave with a view of the ocean sounded both pleasant and useful.

The black dragon eventually found said cave and announced it to his comrade. Small, a bit dark and a bit hidden. Perfect given the circumstances.
"I congratulate your navigation skills" Blade told him, who was several meters away contemplating the distance that separate him from the prison he used to be in.

He walked to where his companion was, only to find him frozen in place. He was about to ask him if there was something amiss with the cave but his partner put his head on his shoulder and began to cry.
"...m-my p-parents a-are dead..."

Blade held Val by the neck, covered him with his wing so he wouldn't keep watching and walked him out. He was overall bigger than Val so that helped cover his field of vision. After a bit, Valadir dropped to the sand, curled up as much as the armor allowed him to and continued to cry himself away. It was too much. He felt defeated, like the world was conspiring against him. As if it wasn't enough to be constantly on the run for his life, being caged for what it felt like forever and not knowing who he could trust.

Blade was taken aback when Val fell. He didn't dare to think how he must be feeling right now. Seeing your family dead must be devastating. Sure, he had to kill some of his former cellmates, sure, but... seeing your family dead must have been another level. The white dragon patted his companion on the shoulder, trying to give him a bit of support. He knew of a spell that might help him with his feelings, but that could bite him in the ass later and doing it without the other dragon's consent felt bad.

Thus, he decided to check what he had seen in that cave. Maybe he had just seen another pair of dragons that just happened to look like his parents? As he walked to the cave, he conjured himself a small, light blue orb of light and made it so it would follow him around his head. The image inside was not pretty at all. On the left side, a big brawny black dragon. Tattered wings, scarred body, patches of missing scales and quite a bit of blood surrounding him. Traces of food deprivation that were well hidden behing his brawn. Definitely Valadir's father. His overall body shape was similar to his companion's. Not a good way to go.
"May you reach peace in the beyond", he thought, dedicating a thought to the deceased parent of his comrade.

When he saw his mother though... that's when Blade started to suspect. Her body was really thin, with several scars and wounds all along, but... if his time inside Diabmoure taught him anything after seeing all sorts of wounds on most living beings, is that those didn't seem lethal.

As he got a bit closer, his suspicions came true. She was still alive, although barely. She was starting to move to see what that light was about.
A few large bolts fired in her direction, but she was already so high up that they missed Jura by a long shot. Before the Diabmoure machine workers could load another round, she had already disappeared into the sky. The sun has started its rise, but it's still dark enough for her to hide. Their escape went vastly better than anticipated. Now she can slow down her pace and catch her breath. As she did, the adrenaline burnt up, and she could feel the cold wind stinging the reopened wounds around her body. All that excitement and movement has taken a toll on her body, and she quickly needs rest. The extra weight on her back didn't help. Alas, they need to get out of the desert at the least.

They had a few hours before crossing the river to the mainland, and they both had explaining to do. Jura believed her friend Ashe had more. The dragoness is a little cut that Ashe took her time to rescue her. A few more fights, she feared that she would see the end of her days. At that point, she would have welcomed it. Her hope dwindled dangerously low.

Jura didn't speak straight away. She let Ashe know she isn't in a pleasant mood with body language. She purposely made the ride a little uncomfy.
If you were not my friend, this would end badly for you...
Thinking to herself. They've known each other for years. Good friends is an understatement.

"Yes, my muscles ache, I have a couple of cracked ribs, many flesh wounds for you to count, I'm about to fall asleep, and I'm starving my guts out. Making you a snack has crossed my mind. Other than that, I'm doing great. Yes, I helped another escape, and yes, I'm pissed because you took too long to rescue me. So why did it take you two bloodstained months to crack the code?"
Putting apparent frustration and anger in her raised voice. At least Ashe can clearly hear her over the wind.

They had their talkative moments, and they had their silent moments. Regardless, the fact that they were heading away from Diabmoure made the hours go by quick. The river is in view, and the beach is on the other side. Jura had a couple of ideas of Blade's whereabouts. She knew of a few hideouts, so she tried the closest ones along the beach.


The Overlord laughed at Ashe's escape. Ganjiro stepped away from the window as the guards looked over the edge. He didn't particularly want to touch them. Much less have their big feet step on his tails. The other officials squawked among themselves. Abaddon's iconic smirk returned to his face; having won the case, all he needed to do was sit back. He has gained the trust of the Overlord.

Ganjiro was about to return to his corner when the Overlord recognised him. The black-furred kitsune side. While he is under no obligation to follow any orders from the Overlord. He's still a part of the Arkarma, and the man who sits in the chair is the warlord.

Ganjiro walked in front of the Overlord. He did not bow but stood in silence. He already knows what the Overlord is going to ask of him.
"I know you have just returned from your venture at the Drakken mountains, but I need a favour from you. Two dragons escaping isn't particularly a good look for me. I need you to go play chase."

Ganjiro rolled his eyes.
"Of course. I'll have them back or exterminated. Of course, there is a price."

"Yes, fine, whatever you want. Just deal with them."

Ganjiro quietly left the noisy room. If He had stayed any longer, he might have decapitated a few of the loud ones. Alas, he makes his way outside. Down the closed, poorly lit spiral stairway onto the ground level. In the largest room of the Keep, the gate to the courtyard to one side and the other lead to many other passages. He slipped through a door that guided him to the back of the Keep. Where the stables are and the majority of the smithing happens. It was early morning, and he didn't particularly have much sleep during the night. It's enough to keep him for the day.

He walked past many buildings before coming to a not-a-very-interesting sandstone hut with a large wooden door at the front. The house is long and narrow, with new and old bones scattered around it. He unlocked the door and walked inside. It's pitch black, aside from the low morning light from the doorway. It smells of blood and flesh. He stared down the black hut.
"Time to wake up Kagerou. We have some hunting to do."

Two large green eyes appeared in front of him. They stared into the soul of Ganjiro. So much passion and wrath in them. However, the kitsune is unaffected by the gaze. Instead welcomed it.

The kitsune created a small orb of orange light in his hand and walked over to the green eyes. Its form can be seen, and it resembles a giant wolf. As big as a dragon. Its fur is as dark as the kitsunes'. Huge paws to crush. But it's the most defining feature. Two large feathered wings.

Ganjiro placed his hand on its head and traced its fur across its body. Behind its hind legs are three long furred tails.
"Good boy. I know we just got back, but we have something very special to do. It's time to hunt a couple of dragons."

The beast understood his words and growled with excitement.
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