Flames and Steel: The Chromatic War

The Phoenix, Revealed.

Hey Eremes,

A lot happened today. I wonder if you are with us, or if your spirit made it onwards in its journey. If you’re with us, then you must not have had much else to do to hang out with a scraggly bunch. If you’re with us, then you know what happened. So please humor me if it’s so.

It all started with a portal. We had thought ourselves blessed to be given one freely, but little did I know that that portal would be my curse. The start of it all. Upon entering the guild hall, we were brought the sight of Trevor, the guild runner, unconscious and next to a man with a large brim hat and vials covering his person. A’lev was quick to demand the person answer what had happened and who he was. The man, not intimidated, shrugged and replied, “I don’t know, maybe you can tell me.”

He handed A’lev a note. He read it briefly then looked up and asked the group, “Does anyone know who this ‘Whikebain’ person is?”

I will admit that I grimaced, and made a half-arsed attempt to drift back behind the group. I should have played it out, perhaps it would have gone unnoticed that way. A’lev looked right to me, taking my eyes with his, and asked, “Caramel, do you know anything about this?”

“About what? I don’t know what you’re talking about…” I was fidgeting badly.

He was hardly convinced. I would have blamed him if he had been. “You seem nervous. The fight is over, why are you so nervous?”

Shameful, yes, but I tried to play off Crim’s apparent love of treasure to distract the group so that I could make an escape. I knew exactly what was going on and I did not want the thought that was churning my stomach to come true. It did not even remotely play off properly. Finally, realizing it was inevitable, I admitted that I was indeed Whikebain.

A silly name yes? I don’t suspect you would even care that I had a real name. You never seemed very interested in my past, and I liked that about you. You wouldn’t ever ask me where I came from, why I was running, or even who I really was. Not that you ever showed interest in my future. But I know for a fact that you would have my back if I desperately needed you to. Why else would you have saved me so many times?

I then turned to the stranger and demanded he tell me who he was. I believe the exact words were, “Who the hell are you anyway?” He just stared at me, annoyed.

It would appear that Guardian had taken Goat, and in return for him he wanted me delivered into his hands. Just as I had feared. I didn’t want to go back. Who would? It was a fancy and well-furnished prison, but a prison none-the-less. But no one was going to suffer for me. So I stepped forward, and told them that I would go to get Goat back.

Crim, who had been alarmingly quiet the entire time, suddenly spoke up. “Is that um, eye-thing around?”

I hadn’t felt it pop up, but that didn’t mean that it wasn’t. Remembering how Sindri was able to notice it before, I tried to detect magic above my head. My findings resulted in emptiness and so I let him know.

He asked if Velius and T’lemya would attempt to gather information at the local church, to which he received a stare from Velius and an angry tail flicking from T’lemya. She glared at the ninja and then moved to do her own thing, more than likely hiding in the shadows somewhere. Neo had not been secretive to his dislike of the girl who clung to the shadows and didn’t speak but I personally was entertained by her presence. If I had thought she’d let me near her, I would love to find out more about her.

Neo was asked to take Trevor to the infirmary and see if he could go about getting a better shield. The burly tank seemed more than happy to help out with something. To A’lev and “the Alchemist” he asked if between the two, they could make a solution that would make skin glow. The two looked to each other, having only just met and never exchanging of names, thought the request odd but figured it would be an interesting test of their skills.

Then Crim turned to me. “I need to borrow you for a little bit, out that way,” and he moved his head to indicate outside.

Concerned, and not entirely trusting, I looked to A’lev and told him hurriedly, “If I’m not back in an hour or two, come looking for us?”

“Scratch that, I’ll come looking after half an hour.”

I let the ninja drag me outside and through the town till we got to the market place. He kept looking around him, wary of every eye of a passer-by. Stopping and turning to me he said quietly, “I have a plan. We’re going to give Caramel up to get Goat back,” he hushed my instant noise, “but it’s not going to be you. We’re going to change places.”

I stared at him dumbly. He dragged me through the marketplace, slowly starting to bring the old way of life back to Trinity after the attack, til he had two wigs and a few other odd assortments of things purchased. He gathered up my long hair, tied it to the top of my head with a small scrap of leather, and then shoved a wig on my head. It immediately itched. He threw one upon his own scalp and I noticed it looked alarmingly like my own hair. I started to understand.

Awkwardly we exchanged clothes. I don’t wish to go into details… It was not the highlight of my day. We found a still abandoned house, found the darkest spot we could, turned our backs to each other, undressed, then deftly thrust each others clothes into reaching hands without turning around. I am going to assume he didn’t turn around. Actually, I’m going to pray.

While we dressed, he told me of his plan with the bag of sharing and the rope. We were to tie one end of each to ourselves with the length of the rope running through the bags. This way we could silently communicate through the tugging of the rope.

Fully dressed and turning to check out the handwork, he then looked at my faithful companions. Well, one is certainly faithful. The other… “I’m going to need them, I’m sorry, and that ribbon.”

I looked down at my hand that clutched my beautifully vibrant ribbon. Guardian had given it to me so long ago and I had cherished it since. It was on my seventh birthday, and having just crushed my desiring hope to visit the nearest town to pick out my present, I immediately shut myself in my room and refused to come out no matter how much he tried to bribe me. Later that day, I opened my door, thinking perhaps I should eat something and since Guardian rarely moved about during the day, figured I would be safe from his sight. I ran right into his chest without realizing what had stopped me. Looking up, noticing what had happened, and trying to slam the door in his face, he stopped my feeble attempt with one hand and with another tied this very same ribbon into my hair. He guided me to a mirror to show it off. “There my dear, I was right about the colors. They suit you perfectly. I had already gotten you your present, so a trip to town was useless.”

It made sense to give it to Crim, but parting with it was still difficult. After a moment, I finally leaned closer. “If you must have it, then you’re going to wear it properly. I don’t expect you to know how to,” I told him, slightly annoyed, as I tied it in his fake hair.

We left the house and were back in the market part of the city. Again Crim turned to me and told me he would need my ‘pets’. I gave Ely a gentle pet and told her to ‘stalk’ Crim. She obediently trotted to his side. We both looked at Lil’Eremes. This would be difficult…

You go to him and I give you pretty noises? I couldn’t describe to you how I talk to Lil’Eremes. It was almost like I pushed my thoughts to him.

He looked at me, at Crim, then back to me. Pretty noise?

I played a little bit of a song I had learned long ago to help Guardian relax. It was a strong and complicated lullaby that I never could fully master. Until now. I felt it flow from my fingers and voice easily, too easily. I stopped and pointed to Crim.

Lil’Eremes, seeming pleased, flew over to Crim’s shoulder and nestled upon it, still looking at me. So I played more of the ancient lullaby masterpiece for him. Immediately, the city-folk fell to the ground, asleep. Crim and I both looked at the bodies around us, alarmed.

Unfortunately, this is when A’lev and Harry found us. Having taken more than half an hour, A’lev asked Harry to come with him to track Crim and myself. He saw the bodies around us and exclaimed, “What the hell happened?”

Crim, seeming to not want the blame, looked right at me and declared, “It’s Crim’s fault!”

I glared. “Don’t look at me, it was her song!”

“He told me to do it.”

The two looked back and forth. It would seem as though they hadn’t seen through our disguise. Yet.

“Why would I tell you do to something so stup-”

“GUARDS! SOMEONE IS MURDERING PEOPLE IN THE MARKET!”

“Oh they’re not murdered, they’re just sleeping..” I muttered annoyed and kicked at a sleeping woman. The woman refused to waken, causing me some distress.

“Well they look dead,” A’lev said, more than a little annoyed.

The guards were running over, and I wasn’t going to end up in Crim’s shoes with the whole getting-into-trouble, so thinking as a Crim would, I looked around, said “I’m out, see ya~!” and climbed the nearest building to the roof and dashed towards the guild hall. Crim bolted off as well.

I’m not sure how the other two escaped. I never asked. I was having too much fun. Sometimes it’s nice to feel reckless. I entered the hall and sort of hovered in the entry, not sure what to do now. Crim, aka, Caramel, made in behind me along with A’lev and Harry not too far behind him. It looked like everyone was back from their tasks, Velius having taken the time to do the task Crim had asked about (out of boredom), and were ready for the next part.

A man burst into the hall, a wild expression on his face, and distress in his eyes. “I need to speak with the guild leader!”

The group looked at each other. A’lev spoke up, “What about?”

“Are you the guild leader?”

“Um, no, but if it concerns him, it concerns us.”

“I’ll only speak to the leader.”

Crim pointed to me and declared, “That guy over there, the ninja, he’s the guild leader.”

The man turned to me. “Don’t listen to the girl, she’s crazy,” I told the poor sod.

The chaos ensued for a moment before I finally got fed up with the half-answers and trying to convince the guy to tell us so I caught his attention. “Sir. I regret to inform you but the guild leader is currently… kidnapped.”

“KIDNAPPED!?”

The group groaned and glared at me. “Crim, you shouldn’t have told him that.”

I merely shrugged in return, knowing that what I spoke was the truth and it was better than running in circles.

After a small time, the man was convinced enough to tell us a little of his peril. “There is a dragon in my bed!”

“A dragon… in your bed…” someone repeated, disbelieved.

“He just appeared there, said something about arbiters, and collapsed. I don’t want people to find out and think I’m in league with them!”

“What color scales did this dragon have?”

“They were, they were red!”

Immediately concerned, we followed the man back to his home. Upon his moldy bed of hay there was indeed a man who sported a mangled red dragon wing from his back and shiny red scales across his body. We asked for more details.

It would appear that he was down in the sewer when he fished out what he thought was simply a drowning man, among other things, ‘doing what any good citizen of the city would do’ and brought him to his home to recover. It was only after he had laid the body on the cot that he had realized what he had brought home and ran to seek help.

What would Crim do…? “Other things?” I asked the man, pretending to be greatly interested.

“Um… yeah… They’re in the pot…” He replied, dejectedly.

I dove over to the pot, took a look in, and immediately regretted my decision. That was definitely not ‘loot’. Gagging and turning away quickly in disgust, I decided that being Crim was not as easy as he made it seem.

We looked at the body. It was fairly mangled. Burns covered the half-elf-half-red-dragon body, one single wing rose beaten and battered, certainly no longer usable, from his back. If he even had another one, it was tucked under his body and unseen. The male dragon seemed to be very close to death, which posed the big question. What were they going to do with him?

Harry knew immediately what he would do. His hammer was in his hands and he was ready to go. For whatever reason, he didn’t actually strike the unconscious man.

It was discussed briefly, and the opportunity to gather information won over simply killing him. Desira gave him a small heal and his breathing became less labored. More stable. But still he did not wake. Conjuring water into a helmet provided by Neo, Desira dumped it on his face causing him to sputter awake.

“Whoa dude,” his pupils were completely dilated, “what the…”

A’lev, with a hand poised and ready to spell, a stern look on his face and steel in his voice, said to the other ‘red’, “Talk, and do it quickly. Who are you?”

The man seemed to focus on A’lev, I’m not entirely sure. I was already losing interest. The ‘reds’ were everywhere. Half-breeds like a plague. Horrible lot, all of them. Except A’lev. I had come to terms that once in a rare occasion, a half-blooded dragon could turn out alright. Even if he did have a stick up his arse lately.

“Oh yo, brother! Glad I found you.”

“Yes you did, now why were you looking for us?”

“Dude… It was bad man. I messed up, and you know how dad is.”

“Yes, I’m aware how father is.”

Harry, barely controlling himself and his hammer already poised to strike the dragon down, asked between clenched teeth, “Can I kill him?”

“Maybe, Harry. Hold on,” A’lev told the dwarf then looked back at his brother. He then proceeded to question him. Was he involved in the attack on Harry’s home village. No, it would appear not.

‘Brother’ was responsible for opening portals and preparing them for the use of the red flight. He was indeed the cause for said “portal jacking” involving A’lev during a time that I was not involved with this group. Needless to say, I barely understood much of this conversation. He spent most of his time in the ‘Lab’ and any free time was spent on breeding camps. “Oh you should see Sheila bro,” he told A’lev with a satisfied grin to which A’lev ordered him to focus. ‘Brother’ did something wrong, I missed what due to entertaining my boredom with swinging Crim’s sword back and forth, and it lead him to fear for his life with their ‘father’. He was beaten badly by the red dragon, and he managed to escape and remembering how A’lev was always a thorn in their father’s side, decided to take his chances with the younger half-blood.

I looked to the Alchemist while this went on. “Can I try on your hat?” I asked him, a bit fascinated with the large brimmed hat. It was very elegant and nothing like I had ever seen before.

He stared at me, trying to determine whether I was serious or not, then finally answered, “no.”

“Please?”

He glared at me in disbelief. As if this whole conversation was below him. So I quickly gave up.

Leaning back on the cot, ‘Brother’ looked around. “I could get use to this, dudes,” he told them smugly, “just bring on the babes.”

Feeling the boredom try to take control and eat my mind, I let it act out in me. “Well there’s a very pretty girl over there who can entertain with music even.” I pointed to Crim.

“Oh really? Hey there babe, how you doing?” Before Crim could even squirm, ‘Brother’ scoffed, “Whoa now Dude-babe, chill. I see what you’re playing at, and it’s a very nice disguise and all… I mean, you walk like you’re supposed to be wearing that, but you ain’t fooling me.”

My heart fell. Looking around I saw the realization fall on everyone’s face. No one said a word. I looked to the window. Tempting. Very tempting.

Deciding that since ‘Brother’ wasn’t involved on the attack on Halar, and that he seemed fairly harmless in his wants to just hide out and relax, they decided to allow ‘Brother’ to stay at the guild as long as he didn’t ‘make a scene’. A’lev met us back at the guild hall after having turned ‘Brother’ invisible and flying, yes I said flying (a lot of things have happened since you passed on), both over the city to the hall unseen. The thought to simply drop him was tempting, but the mess that would be caused upon seeing the very thing that the city was recently destroyed by was not something he wanted to deal with. So instead ‘Brother’ was safely brought and tucked away.

“You aren’t going to get into any trouble now, are you?”

“No man,” he told them honestly, “I just want to hang back and chill. Go to the local bar and get my game on.” He looked down, cast a spell on himself to look like a muscular half-elf, scale-free, and chuckled. “This is what all the ladies want to see right? Oh yeaaaaaaaah.”

I refrained from telling him that that much muscle was ungodly laughable. Finally, we left him. I was glad.

The group looked at us and I knew the game was up. It was fairly obvious at this point anyway. ‘Caramel’ stood there, looking as normal as could be, and I, ‘Crim’ glowed like a badly powered light spell. After Lil’Eremes sang my masterpiece softly (I was pleasantly surprised that he had learned it) and everyone calmed down, we explained part of the plan. We were to make the exchange for Goat, and then sneak in to retrieve Crim, help him bust out, or wait for him to come back to us.

Eremes, are you still listening if you are there? I doubt you would be. By now you would have wandered along seeking some great dragon to slay. I bet you would have loved to get a chunk of Guardian. He would have enjoyed you. I’m going to pretend that you’re still there and listening. Perhaps having nothing better to do.

I should have been paying attention, for a portal was suddenly there and shimmering in our faces. I heard someone call out a “thanks Sindri!” but I didn’t even see the adorable halfling come into the room, let alone cast the portal. In fact, I realized, I hadn’t seen him since we came back from the soul forge. Looking around, I also noted that he had quickly dispersed again. Everyone took the portal.

We came upon familiar territory. It made my stomach cramp. Don’t get me wrong, life wasn’t bad here. But like I said, a very comfortable prison is still a prison, and the confusion and fear I felt towards Guardian did little to make it seem better.

I mentioned as such, and Crim slathered the weird glowing solution on his skin. It indeed caused his skin to glow as mine. I wonder if I could get a similar creation but with the opposite effect. Something twitched and I felt as though I was being watched. It was a familiar sensation lately. The eye was back. I scuttled up close to Crim and whispered to him softly, “it’s back…”

He seemed distracted. He led us to the gate and I had to fight the urge to turn and run. Running would not have helped. It would not get Goat back, and it wouldn’t work anyway. Fleeing would reveal who I really was, and then I’d be chased down and crushed. A terrified hare under the paws of a smug predator.

I removed my arbiter’s tome. If worst came to worst, I did not want Guardian to get his hands on this. So turning to the Alchemist, I muttered to him. “Please hold onto this for me. He won’t have reason to think you have it.” Not really caring to ask further, he took it and tucked it away.

We entered the grounds. Crim looked around, seeming to debate something. I felt a rapid tugging on the rope tied to my waist that lead through the bag of sharing to Crim. I stood there, my mind blank as to what I was supposed to do. Being so close to home, so close to my hell, was making me on edge and barely able to concentrate on moving forward. Funny, I had always seemed so ditzy before, hadn’t I, Eremes? I suppose being faced with your own latest nightmare sobers the most dazzled girl.

He led us towards the gardens. I suppose it was better than going inside the mansion itself. Things could be difficult in there, and traps could easily be set I imagine. We came upon one of the elegantly dressed garden tables, set up with a large umbrella to provide decent shade. Two figures sat up to the table. One I knew all too well, the other… Confused me.

But there he sat in all his glory, the man who I have known my entire life. A man who never changed. Long dark hair and eyes, pale complexion, and complete arrogance written throughout his entire being. He radiated power, but as to how much we wouldn’t be certain right away, and somehow also seemed amused? There he was, my ‘Guardian’.

“Ah, there you are my sweet,” Guardian smiled to Crim then looked to the little girl, “little one, your sister has finally decided to join us.”

The little girl opened her eyes wide and looked at Crim. “Sister?” She happily chattered with excitement. “Yay sister you’re here! Mom and dad sold me too!”

I stared dumbfounded. I knew she seemed familiar… It was the little girl who had convinced me that my ‘living situation’ was not exactly normal. She had tried to get me to visit her village. She had died for her innocent actions. It was difficult, as shock vibrated down my spine and threatened to eat my knees out, but I managed to keep my face neutral. Perhaps lacking too much emotion.

Goat was lying on a cot nearby. Two vampires melted into sight and lifted his stiff body and brought him over to us. He appeared to be in a holding spell and kept looking around with his eyes. It was all he could seem to do.

A’lev noticed Guardian was holding a book. “You have my tome?”

“Ah yes! It was quite the read. I thoroughly enjoyed it.” He ran his fingers through the pages.

A’lev looked stressed. “I bet. How much did you read?”

“All of it. I have had time after all. Not my normal kind of read, but I did learn a few things. Including a bit of what the red dragons are up to,” he threw the book to A’lev. “Now my sweet,” he looked at Crim, “I hope you’ve had your fun, but it’s time to return to your place. Come here, place your left hand on the table, and we’ll take care of that little problem you have.”

“Problem, what problem?” Someone asked.

“She is a danger to herself and all of you. I doubt even she herself knows this though. Why, if she were to so much as skin her knee, the whole world would be in trouble.”

I was stunned. What was he talking about?

“Now sweet, come here and put your left hand on the table.”

He was still addressing Crim. Was the plan really working? Crim, looking very hesitant now, did as told and put his left hand on the table next to Guardian. Guardian grabbed his wrist in a steel grip. Even as far as I was, I could see how Crim jerked at the sudden pressure. Guardian took out a sharp knife, and put it to Crim’s ring finger. “Now my sweet, I’m going to need you to hold very still and try very, very hard not to scream.”

Just as he pressed down on the dagger, Crim did his weird trick of phasing out of the physical world and ghostly popping out of Guardian’s grasp. “Oh hell no!” Crim yelled out.

Guardian looked very serious. “Now, if you’re going to try and insult my intelligence, next time do so with a much better disguise then that.” He looked right into my eyes and I felt that feeling eat at my knees again. “Now, pet, it’s time to stop playing and come here.”

Immediately, as per the plan, Crim and I threw our gear and weapons into the bag of sharing and retrieved our stuff. “Lil’Eremes, come here!” The little dragon was more than happy to return to my shoulders, having tried several times to talk me into letting him come back prior.

“Um…” I was drawing at a blank canvas. The artist had packed up their paints and thrown them in the trash, leaving me with this white slate in my mind and no idea what to do. “Huddle time!”

I attempted to draw everyone together to discuss what we were going to do. I was not going to let anyone get hurt for me, Crim had already barely escaped that fate, so the intent to give in and return to Guardian and my prison was on the tip of my tongue.

Neo suddenly pushed Desira away from him and ran a little bit away from the group and began to vomit immensely. One look towards the smug look on Guardian’s face and we knew where this strange ailment came from. Enraged that Guardian was messing with his friends, and seeing him start to cast another spell, A’lev charged in right up to Guardian and made to attack. My face paled, and I swear if it were possible, the glow would have dimmed.

Crim took this chance to push me behind him, making his intent to protect me clear. But I didn’t fear for my life, no… So I told him that we needed to try and help A’lev. He immediately popped into invisibility.

A’lev threw up his arcane shields and played his part of “avoidance” tank on Guardian and two vampires. Crim snuck up to them and attacked from atop of the table.

The rest of the group began to work on two vampires that shadowed them as they entered the grounds. Velius plunged his daggers in, Blasphemy chugged a buffing potion, and Harry did his smash-smash with his giant hammer. Two more vampires appeared on the rooftops, archers, and began to shoot into the group. Harry attempted an entangling spell on them, but alas, failed. Velius and T’lemya both attempted to outmaneuver the vampires and were managing to do some damage but were taking a good deal of damage themselves. The Alchemist chucked a bottle of something probably-not-nice at one.

Desira was attacked for a bit of damage. She healed that and Velius with a channel as she dodged an arrow. She threw up a consecrate in attempts to aid the group and hinder the vampires. A vampire, perhaps sensing the threat and greatly annoyed, slammed her from behind, getting her pretty bad. Before she got a chance to steady herself and make another heal, Guardian made sure that she would be taken out of the battle.

Being firstly terrified for A’lev’s life, I rushed after him, wincing at every blow that made it through his spells and prayed his shields would last. Upon finally making it behind him, and barely noticing what was going on behind me, I felt something weird swell up inside. As the half-dragon threw an impressive amount of magic at Guardian, I was filled with the overwhelming need to try and keep A’lev from being crushed by Guardian and his two minions. Something pushed at my mind from out of nowhere and I let it take control. A shimmering, blue and gold radiance surrounded me and seemed to float over A’lev. I wouldn’t learn till later, but his spells were extended and strengthened slightly by this glow.

“Sister, sister, don’t let them hurt daddy!” The little girl screamed at me, having approached me from the side. It almost made me falter.

Neo was managing to make his way up to A’lev and successfully taunted a vampire off. I was instantly relieved and wondered how everyone else fared. As I turned to check on the rest of the group, I was brought the sight of Desira falling unconscious. T’lemya looked pretty injured herself, and so did Velius. It would also seem that a vampire that had been wailed on for a good bit was still standing.

I completely missed how it happened, but an arrow went flying across the ground and landed very close to my feet. Guardian, having seen this, yelled out, “Don’t touch her!” A ghostly chariot appeared and the vampire was trampled into the ground by the phantom horses. I stood there stunned.

The little girl suddenly shrieked out and ran to Guardian as a large hit battered at him, gave him a hug, and what little injury he seemed to sustain from the attacks Crim and A’lev were unleashing on him seemed to look better. She was healing him! “Call off your friends pet, this is the last time I’ll ask you,” he told me, a touch of anger and a lot of impatience in his voice.

I stood there, torn, mayhem surrounding me. A’lev looked like he was one hit away from falling, Crim had been shielded by Desira as they entered the grounds and thus she took half the damage he did. If he took damage, she would die. T’lemya and Velius looked pretty bad… No one should die for me. I am but one person, and all I fight for is simple freedom. The freedom of one was not worth the lives of others. Especially not mine. So I ran past A’lev, placing my hand on his back briefly to give him the largest heal I knew as I passed, to Guardian. “STOP, please! I will come back to you! I will stop fighting, I won’t try to escape, I’ll stay with you as you want. Just please, let me heal the Cleric (I promise to return to your side after), stop attacking my friends, release everyone from the spells, and let them leave here freely and further unharmed.”

“You will stop your games?”

“Yes.”

“Very well. Men, withdraw!”

Disappointed in us, Eremes? I understand why you would be. If you hadn’t had your life stolen from you by the creature on the island, I wonder if you would have lost it here. Or was Guardian simply playing with us all?

I ran over to Desira and healed her so that she was conscious, and thus could take care of herself. She seemed dazed, and not at all happy as I returned to Guardian’s side. He indicated for me to sit at the table with him that he had been previously primping his ego at, and I obliged.

“Well now, since you have entertained my dear pet, I shall entertain you. You are each allowed to ask two questions and I will answer to the best of my ability. Men, chairs please.”

“Release me from your spell?” Neo called out.

Guardian looked over and laughed. “Ah yes, feeling a bit ill are we? One of my favorites. Do not fear, we shall place her far from you.”

Vampires floated down from the roof and placed a row of chairs before us, but nowhere near where I sat. It would appear he didn’t trust them to be close to me. After sitting down, he looked at the table annoyed. “If you insist on being so close, please at least take a chair.”

Crim, looking very pissed, came out of invisibility while standing on top of the table, then while grumbling, took a seat at our table. At least I would have one person close during this. For now.

Guardian looked over the group, saw Neo and addressed him. “You there, the burly walking man of metal, you must be feeling better now. You may go first. Two questions.”

Neo, looking relieved, wasted no time. “Why do you want Caramel?”

Guardian seemed amused by the question. “I have been guarding her for thousands of years, boy. Keeping her from harm. At my side she is safe.”

“What was the great danger you spoke of at the start?”

“The world could be destroyed.” He then looked to Harry. “Great tracker of beasts, it is your turn.”

“How many continents are in this world?”

Guardian confirmed that the map in the Library of the Phoenix was indeed correct. Second Harry asked who the black dragons would most likely ally with, them or the red dragons. Guardian admitted that he would not know but assumed that they would ally with whoever had ‘broken their toys’ less. Which at this point the red dragons hadn’t fared to well with.

He turned to Velius who asked about the ritual that destroyed the Sylvans and asked what they should do to prevent a similar fate in this world.

“It would appear the reds are attempting the ritual that destroyed us in the first place. They probably don’t have the needed knowledge, so will make the same mistakes. I would suggest that you never let them obtain the knowledge that they seek. Keep it from them, and we may be spared.”

He asked something along the lines of his family and a crest of a two-tailed swallow. I can hardly recall what it was about, because at this point my mind was starting to feel a little funny and it was hard to concentrate.

T’lemya was next. She shuffled up to him and spoke very softly, I was barely able to hear it and I doubt anyone else did, “What am I?”

“What? Oh, that?” He reached over and flicked her tail. “You’re descended from the other continent. From people who went there, and made deals. You are the result.” She seemed to digest this. Her next question I couldn’t quite hear but the answer was, “I’m sorry, I would not know that.”

After discussing a bit about Al’ev’s spells and how impressed Guardian was at their potency, A’lev asked about the souls trapped in the gems and if there was a way to restore them. Guardian said it was impossible, but A’lev did not seem convinced. He asked something about a stone he pulled from his pocket, but I had already been losing my track of mind on other things.

Turning to the Alchemist, “Ah the one who likes to tinker with his potions, what questions do you have?”

“Where can I find the Phoenix?”

Guardian laughed. “It’s been with you this entire adventure. You’ve been traveling with it!”

Seeming to immediately understand, the Alchemist rubbed his chin. “That is all I have.”

“Just one? Would you like to give your question to someone else?”

“Mmm no.”

“Seems a waste. Well, you,” he looked to Desira, “you have a great fondness for keeping your friends healthy. It gets you into trouble now-and-then doesn’t it?”

Only when people punish me for it. Ahem, Sir, we found a library on a strange island.”

“Ah, my resort!”

“I’m not finished yet,” she crisply told him, “It’s occupied by odd people now. I assume you’ve been to the library, and if so, been up to the librarian’s rooms. You might have seen some murals of gods and a glowing baby on the walls. What can you tell us about their meaning and the history behind them?”

“The baby was our attempt to store important knowledge. It has worked well.”

“I see… Is it possible we may visit Caramel here?”

“Possible, but not likely. We will probably have to move soon.”

“…Dragon trouble?"

“Likely.”

He turned to Crim. “Master of invisibility and attacking from above, what questions do you have.”

Crim’s face was masked in an expression of anger. “First off, I do not like you. I do not like how things played out, I do not like this place, and I don’t like playing around as if we are friends. We are not friends.”

“Fair enough.”

“What would happen if the Phoenix was damaged?” And then he launched himself across the table, grabbed me, and put his sword to my throat. I’ll admit I was surprised, and taken aback, but I wasn’t scared. Whether it was from my muddled head, or from the trust I had in the ninja (he risked his life for me), I’m not sure. I just know I didn’t fear this.

“All power stored would be released at once. My guess is that all the world would die. You really don’t want to do that by the way.”

His gaze took Crim’s eyes captive and with conflict on Crim’s face, Crim let me go. “You’re right. I really don’t,” he said, suddenly bored.

I sat back down, in a daze. Things were falling into place in my head and I didn’t like it one bit.

Guardian looked at me. “And what questions do you have my sweet pet?”

“Well, I’m not stupid.” I started, not understanding how my voice sounded strong when it felt so weak, “Just from what was asked and said here I pretty much assume that I’m this ‘Phoenix’ that you’re talking about.” I stopped long enough as he nodded his head, “Which means my whole life was a giant lie,” that fuzzy feeling was enveloping my head, causing me to become numb and making it very hard to concentrate on what I was saying. “Did I ever have parents?”

“No my pet, you were created.”

“So I’m not a descendant of the celestials…”

“If this is too much for you, I can take care of it.”

“Take care of it?”

“Wipe your memory of course.”

“No thanks.”

It was becoming a blur at that point. I couldn’t even feel my body. I learned that I was indeed the age I thought I was, but this was not my only life. I was thousands of years old. I was a great repository of knowledge from the ancient Sylvan race, keeping it safe in case another apocalypse happened.

“So what happens when I do this?” I asked, taking my dagger out and holding it over my left ring finger.

“Pet, do me a great favor and do it properly if you’re going to do it. Cut from your first knuckle,” he indicated the knuckle closest to the palm, “and take it off in one swift and fluid motion.”

I hovered the knife where he indicated then stopped, “Wait, the whole finger?”

“Yes, the whole finger.”

“Eep, never mind then,” I uttered as I hastily put my dagger away. “The little girl, you told me she was dead.”

“She is.”

“If you were going to bring her back, you could have just done so and put out some sort of lie. You didn’t have to tell me that she was dead. From the books you let me entertain myself with I learned that murder was wrong, especially knowingly killing a child. You could have avoided all of this…” I stopped because he simply stared at me. I wanted desperately to redeem in my mind the man I had loved greatly as a child. “Was your killing simply to keep me in your protection?”

“The life of one means nothing in the life of many.”

I sighed. He was my father, in more ways that I had known before, but I still didn’t feel right with what had been done.

“Men, I desire some tea!”

That did sound good. Odd that I should suddenly think so. “Can I have some too, please?”

“You want some tea, pet?”

“Yes please.”

“I don’t suppose you’ll allow us to borrow Caramel,” someone asked gently. I think it was Neo who spoke.

Guardian huffed a laugh and confirmed that he would not.

“She has become a valuable member of our team, and we could protect her.”

He laughed even louder. “I think today has sufficiently proven that I am much more capable of protecting her than you. I try to make her comfortable, but what is her happiness over the lives of the world?”

A’lev agreed, much to his own annoyance.

“You should leave now, or if you so desire… I imagine the reds will be on my doorstep soon enough, and so you may all accompany us on our escape plan.”

“What is your plan?”

“If I tell you my plan and you all leave my sight, you could potentially wreck it. It’s not a perfect plan after all. It has some weaknesses.”

Crim was not interested and made to leave with Goat, Harry moving to help. It would appear he was still suffering from the holding spell.

I looked to Guardian. “Release the half-orc.”

“Now Pet, I can’t go giving you everything that you want. He will be released after they leave.”

I glared at him. “Fine.” I looked to see Desira shifting in her seat, staring at me and a thought came to my mind. “May I have a Cleric pet?”

“You wish for another pet?” His face eased greatly, becoming friendly and that which I had remembered for most of my life.

“Yes, the Cleric there,” I pointed to Desira, “can I have her as a pet?”

“Of course.”

I motioned for her to come over, finally being allowed. I whispered my apologies. “It was the only way I could think to let you near me.”

“It’s okay. I don’t like you staying here.”

“I know, but what other choice did I have? I wasn’t going to let you die for my sake. Things were not going well.”

“No, they certainly were not… I know you instructed Ely to be in my care, but perhaps we can send her to Sindri. I know he seems a little funny, but I’m sure he would be greatly capable of taking care of her.” She spoke of how I had told Ely to stay with the Cleric at the start of the battle. I forgot to mention it then, Eremes, because it wasn’t important at the time.

“It’s fine. I was worried about him using her against me, but it would seem he has much better tools for that. Now listen, I’m concerned. The Alchemist only just joined our group and it seems he has been searching for ‘the Phoenix’. So he’s after me, and I don’t know why. Plus he has my tome.” I briefly told her why I gave it to him.

“I’m concerned as well, but we have to get you out of here.”

“I don’t see that happening any time soon, if ever.”

Meanwhile, Neo and A’lev had devised a plan to try and convince Guardian that the group was more than capable of protecting ‘the Phoenix’. A’lev had a thought, and both agreed that they cared not to leave anyone behind or stay here while the world was in trouble around them. They proposed to create a trap to lure a certain red dragon who had captured the ninja master’s arm, and sword, out to hopefully destroy him. They would float rumors about the Phoenix that would eventually reach Azar, the red dragon who is hunting the Phoenix, and hopefully drag the dragon out onto the heroes terms and hopefully would finish him off. They asked Guardian for his help.

Guardian, intrigued by this plan, asked more about the sword. Unfortunately, the one who know most about it had left with Goat.

At this point, I noticed what they were talking about. They wanted Crim. Remembering the rope and bag of sharing, I asked Guardian for a pen and paper. He opened up his robe and pulled an image of a pen from his sleeve that immediately turned into a real one. He followed suit with an ink well and paper. ‘Crim, we need you, hurry back!’ I tossed the note into the bag and rapidly tugged on the rope.

I was rewarded with a ‘no’.

‘We need to know about the master’s sword. What it looked like.’

The paper came back with a crudely drawn cross on it. Greatly annoyed, A’lev decided he would go and retrieve the ninja. Guardian bestowed to him a rose that would help him find his way back. He flew off and found Crim and Harry carrying a still Goat. A’lev looked confused. “I thought the spell would have been removed by now.”

As Crim and Harry put Goat down, they were rewarded with surprise as the half-orc stood up and dusted himself off. Crim exclaimed, “If you were free, why did you have us carry you?”

Goat looked guilty. “I don’t get touched often. It felt nice…”

A’lev told the two what they had missed upon leaving, and worked to convince them to come back as Goat began to make his way back to the guild. Luckily, the two agreed, Crim not so happy about it.

Meanwhile I had been dealing with this weird fuzziness. The numbing wasn’t so bad, it made things easier to deal with. I bet if I did want to take my finger off, I wouldn’t even feel it at this point. It did make it hard to think though. I had looked at Guardian and asked, “Something’s been bugging me… how do people go about making babies.” It had suddenly popped into my head, having dealt with “Brother” earlier.

Guardian seemed flustered.

“They say it has to do with getting in each other’s pants, and I’ve been in Crim’s pants. Does that mean I’m pregnant?”

Guardian’s face went red. “Have you defiled the Phoenix!?” He seemed to forget that Crim was not here, and that we were waiting for A’lev to retrieve him as he yelled to the empty spot that Crim had been sitting in.

I was still musing. “It didn’t seem very enjoyable, unlike what all the boys say, all I did was put his pants on. They’re very uncomfortable…”

“Oh, then no, you did not partake in the baby-making act, my pet.”

“Oh, then how is it done?”

“That’s a matter to discuss later. Much later…”

Shifting oddly in Crim’s clothes, having reminding myself that I was still in them, I decided to venture into the mansion, my old room, and change into an outfit of my old clothes. The dress was insanely frilly, and not suited for traveling, but I imagine I wasn’t going adventuring much after this.

Then they had returned. Crim went straight to business. “What do you know about Lamashtu’s Gullet?”

“Oh, they have that… Things are worse than I feared. It was our attempt to fight back when the gods began to punish us. When stabbed into a creature’s heart, it steals the soul and feeds it to Lamashtu. It opens a channel into the god’s realm. Lamashtu herself took out the first wielder of the sword, after she realized the connection existed. She put her energy through it and used the wielder to gather souls for her. She turned the weapon on us.”

A’lev and Neo looked at each other. Both agreed that they did not want their souls taken from them with this evil sword.

I looked to Guardian, a bit of a glare in my eyes and voice, “Do I even have a soul?”

“Of course you do. You have thousands.”

“Oh.. .goody…” The fuzzy feeling became stronger.

A’lev, perhaps finally realizing that no one had asked, “What is your name. It seems weird to call you Guardian as Caramel does.”

“I wondered if you would ask. I am Vyenthris Phoenixrun,” he told everyone with a flourishing hand movement.

They discussed the plan further, but by this point I was beyond caring. I was not what I thought I was. No Assimar. No. Instead I was a creation and a container for an ancient race. An experiment. A successful one, yes, but that didn’t make me feel much better. Being called ‘the Phoenix’ makes me feel like an object. I went from being uninvolved in this stupid obsession with the red dragons to being too important. I don’t like it. Suddenly my life is too meaningful with the lives of many on my hands. Now it would also appear I have a Cleric and Alchemist stuck to my side, and I don’t even understand why.

The world is spinning, Eremes. How do I make it stop? The numb is nice. It’s encased my entire body now. I barely feel it. It’s almost as if I’m a ghost too. Would I be able to see you then? Maybe even talk to you? We could have a tea party. I hardly think you’d care for this. I’d like it though. To sit there and sip at tea and nibble at some cake. To sip at tea… and nibble at some cake… Sip… at tea…

Caramel looked at her empty tea cup and smiled gently. She lifted it into her hands delicately as if she were handling an egg, and caressed the side of the cup before she lifted it to her lips and sipped at the air.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYa6tuR-QEw

The Phoenix, Revealed.
sai325

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