Born this Way, Part XCV

A sudden boom of something switching on echoed in all of their ears, and the great lights of the arena glared down at them, illuminating the entire complex. All of them were visible to each other, including the other two lost souls, Ashandarei and Falkoen.

Elicoor lowered his staff to hold it in both hands, and Khoura stopped, having been prowling along until the light exposed them all.

“Good girl, Zorana.” The familiar, deep voice said, patting the spectre at his right on the head. To his left was the flame druid, sitting in her flaming panther form. All three of them were down in the sands along with the others. “And now we have them all.”

Falkoen instantly hissed at Gideon as he appeared before them, only taking a moment to look around at everyone before returning his gaze back to Gideon, his daggers at the ready as he took a stance that was ready to fight, speaking lowly in Darnassian. “Then you’re welcoming your death.”

Ash looked up in the stands, looking like someone had rolled her down a hill in a barrel full of sand and rocks, shielding her eyes from the sudden transition from night vision to the glaring light. As tired as she was, she went for her weapons. Trying to stay on her feet more than getting ready for a fight, the words dimly registered “Have them all.”

Lowering her gaze to the rest of the arena, she blinked repeatedly seeing the ‘rescue party’, not sure if she was happy or sad they actually showed up.

Irontooth on the other hand gave a happy wuff, catching Ash’s scent and turning a full circle around Auramis’ legs.

Auramis had to shield his eyes as well, his sword’s light dying down as he refocused on the area around them. Standing between Ash and him was Gideon, the others scattered about. He felt oddly more comfortable having the party back together, his shield raised as he turned to keep his gaze on Gideon.
Serai growled, seeing the state her sister was in, eyes darting to Falk, then Gideon. Her grip tightening on the mace she held, something told her to not move in first, as much as she wanted to run to her sister and heal her hurts.

“The coward rears his ugly head at last.” Locking her green eyes onto Gideon and bringing her shield around in a ready posture.

Gideon clapped. “What a happy reunion, hm?” He moved to walk around them slowly, looking at each person carefully with no emotion or expression on his wrinkled face.

He stopped before Elicoor, and it was unfortunately obvious that Gideon was his sire. “Hello, my son. I am proud. You have become quite the Arbiter. Although… you waste such power on a useless wench like Xana’ri. I cannot say I am surprised.”

The wizard growled. “Where is she?” His eyes were locked to Gideon’s.

“Good question!” Whirling away, he crossed the sandy expanse to return to his place between the two women he was with previously. “Where is she? Where is the Harbinger?”

“Likely somewhere you hid her for your own, you wretch.” Falkoen spat his words in response to Gideon, looking to Elicoor, a bit confused to see the similarities between the men before he realized their relation. He slowly sheathed his daggers, leaving only the claws of his gauntlets out as his weapons as he stared at the magus.

“What game are you playing?” Auramis spoke up at last, his voice calm as he stood behind his shield, his sword back and ready to swing if he had to do so.

Ash didn’t move when he walked around them, lashing out at him wouldn’t have done any good, and one thing she had learned was not to intentionally draw attention. Her eyes found Auramis and a faint grin appeared.

Khoura remained in her feline form, opting to stay put as well.

Gideon continued. “That is the main point in all of this, correct? Funny that. She is not even here at this moment.”

Zorana disappeared then, and the flame druid followed.

“So what will all of you do? Come at me? Try to escape? Nothing?” he asked them, folding his jeweled hands at his waist.

“I’m here because of my commitment to a fellow Crusade and his family… I think it’s something you fail to understand, given how you have treated yours.” Auramis stared down the man, stabbing his sword into the sand as he grasped at his libram, picking it up, contemplating what exactly to do.

“Where is she?” Falkoen hissed out once more, taking a ready stance once more, appearing rather eager to charge at the man, but images of his last attempts kept filling his mind. There had to be some way to get to him…

The man chuckled and leaned over to better view the rogue, that pendant falling out of his robes again, dangling in the air. “Do you really wish to find out?” He turned to regard Elicoor as well, and then the others. “I have been busy.”

“The motherless swill… Where is she?” Falkoen seemed ready to jump, his patience thinning as the mage wasted time with his words. “You’re trying to distract us… Waste our time and make us focus on you… You are not worth the attention.”

The pendant caught her eye again, frowning slightly, it was more than an attraction to something new and shiny. Realizing that even should this dissolve into a fighting match, she was far too tired to worry about it, her daggers went back to their sheathes, instead removing a small throwing knife, eyeing the chain again she flicked the weapon not at Gideon, but at the chain that held the pendant.

“Falk, catch it!”

Zorana popped into existence from nowhere then. She went for the dagger, moving lightning fast… But not fast enough. She hesitated for a split second just before she would have caught the weapon, and it was just long enough to miss the blade. It glinted through the air and fractured the chain, sending the trinket falling to the sand.

It all happened in slow motion, and Gideon didn’t have time to react fast enough. A blast of energy left his fingertips, aimed in Falkoen’s general direction.

It was a chain reaction. Elicoor swung his staff and charged the end with magic, Arcane wind and energy arcing across him once more. A roar, and a blast aimed at Gideon.

Khoura leaped into action, going for the old man.

Auramis betrayed his previous hesitant outside the caverns as he quickly uttered the prayer to take a brunt of the damage Falkoen would receive, a second spell quickly follow to shield the others as they worked to do what need be done.

Falkoen was already on the move as soon as the dagger left Ash’s hand, catching the blast against his back, only causing him to fall forward as he reached for the pendant, grasping at it greedily as he began to roll, looking to Elicoor and immediately falling into the shadows to appear behind him now with the pendant.

Auramis groaned out as the blast hit Falkoen, burns appearing on his own back under his armor, grasping at his sword to lean on it before he pushed himself back up, rushing to Gideon with his shield up, intending to ram the man.

Ash looked at the outcome of her dagger toss, happy at the small bit of productive chaos. “Happy now, Gids? Not your little doll, not anyones.”

Serai moved quickly, following Auramis, and readying several cantrip healing spells and stopping to kneel by the wounded argent. Murmuring again she surrounded them both in the flickery glow of a sustained healing.

Eyes darting around, she kept up the same soft near chant, focusing on her sister first, the soft radiant light enveloping each of her allies for a brief instant. It’d be enough to keep them on their feet through the attack. “Are you alright, Lightborne? Come on. We have to regroup.”

Irontooth took the moment of distraction to move back to Ash’s side, standing in a defensive guardian position in front of the injured Rogue. The rumbling growl a clear ‘stay away’.

Elicoor glanced back, having not expecting the Kaldorei to suddenly be there. Gideon had caught the direction the rogue was moving and sent another blast in his direction, hoping to take both Elicoor and Falkoen out.

The younger wizard released his magic, the Arcane blast meeting with Gideon’s, but the necromancer’s power was much greater, and it overpowered the other draenei’s.

Elicoor barely had enough time to lift his staff and attempt the block the blast, yelling back at the rogue behind him. “Move!” he said, taking the blow fully and smashing back into the arena wall.

Khoura’s claws met with Gideon’s robes then, but not for long. Her flame druid self leaped from the shadows in a burning rage and tackled her, sending them rolling into the sand, battling each other.

“Stupid little girl! Get that pendant!” Gideon roared at Zorana, who squeaked and went after Falkoen.

Born this Way, Part XCIV

Back at Cosmowrench…

 
Auramis’ brow knit at the appearance of the spirit, stepping back from her as he stared her down. “I am not a Scarlet…”

“You are mad and red like one!” She giggled. “Everyone left to race!” Blinking, she was suddenly extremely close to him, close enough to touch, invading his personal space majorly. “Will you find Ash by yourself?” she whispered.

“No… I have Irontooth to help me… And of course I’m mad. People seem to lack rules or morals here… Do you lack them too?” His hand rested atop of the worg’s head, stepping back to avoid the Draenei spirit being so close to him.

“I’m dead. What do I care?” She said bluntly, quite unlike her usual ever-friendly demeanor. It was truth however, that nothing about her was usual.

“Explore? Sun is playing in the sand with the Moon.”

“Sun and moon? … What are you talking about?” He raised his brow at her. As usual, he couldn’t make heads or tails of her puzzles. He didn’t even bother acknowledging her unusually morbid words.

Zorana held out her hands as if she were weighing them. “Sunny. Moony. Elfies. Down the rabbit hole?”

“Elves? … A night elf and a blood elf?” At least his knowledge on religion helped him figure something out during this strange trip, looking down the mine before he looked back to Zorana. “You know where the people in here are?”

She simply nodded. “You do not need friendsies, do you?”

Irontooth gave a plaintive whine, backing up a step from both Auramis and the ghost. Obviously not wanting to go further without backup. He gave the human a look that would have asked “Are you fel-touched crazy?”

“You won’t take me if I wait for my… Friends… Would you?”

Zorana grinned like a cat, quite happily. “Nope!”

Auramis considered her words for a moment, as though seriously contemplating her offer. Moments later, he slowly shook his head, stepping back again. “The Crusade taught me to work as a unit… Just because this group is lacking morals doesn’t mean they’re worthless…”

Her hooves hadn’t touched the ground yet, and she floated in a circle around him, transparent and ethereal. “What about Ash?”

“I think she needs her sister as much as Kiserai needs her right now… I won’t betray them to go hunting on my own when they’re all here for the search.”

“But they left you.” Zorana said, face expressionless. “And he will find them soon…”

“If he finds them, they have three magic users in their group… I’m only one… I have faith that they can take care of themselves… I’m a protector. I’m not meant to go alone.”

The wolf looked between the two, trying to figure out how to get Auramis out of there. Pausing when he heard that the ghost knew where his Rogue was, shaking his shaggy head repeatedly.

She sort of just floated there, staring at him, wondering if he realized exactly what they were all up against.

In a blink, she was down at the ground petting the worg. “Hello Irontoothy! Ash misses you bunches! Yes!”

Growling low, Irontooth backed up a few steps away from the ghost. Trying to stay close to Auramis and get away from the spirit at the same time.

“Animals don’t normally react positively to spirits, kind or otherwise…” He looked down at the worg for a moment before turning his gaze back to Zorana.

Giving Auramis a loud wuff that echoed in the confines of the tunnel, he tried nudging him back the way they had came. Eyeing Zorana warily again.

From nothingness, Zorana pulled a very tiny trinket out from thin air, holding it in the palm of her hand. “Hummy, hummy. So little. So smart. How pretty.”

The small tracker pinned under Serai’s gauntlet flared bright red, the edge catching her eye and she stopped in mid flight. The tracker hadn’t gone off since Ash disappeared.

Auramis blinked at the item, looking back to the worg and reaching down to him. He had stored it inside of one of the satchels on his armor, removing the small tracker and comparing the two. “I assume you got that from Ash?”

The spectre beamed, suddenly blinking over to Auramis and slapping him upside the head. “TAG! You are chase!”

Disappearing into nothingness, she laughed, voice echoing. She was gone, but the signal from the tracker was still humming… Leading down into the mine shaft.

The paladin groaned in response, pondering his options, looking down at Irontooth, as though trusting the wolf’s instincts over his own in the situation, the tracker likely beeping as the spectre retreated.

The wolf whined softly, taking a step down the tunnel then backing that same step up, it was obvious where the sense of caution between wolf and usual companion came from. Finally, moving cautiously further into the mineshaft.

Auramis finally relented, looking back one more time for the others before he moved forward with the wolf, slipping the tracker onto his belt before he removed his sword and shield, having them ready as he followed Irontooth down the mineshaft.

Elicoor felt the pinch of talons grabbing his shoulder, and suddenly Khoura was behind him as an elf, holding onto his robes. “Lord Meraan, the blood elf has stopped.” she said to him, blinking back the wind. She had gotten used to riding the air on wings as a bird and was a bit disoriented. “Something else has her attention… We will lose her, we cannot afford it!”

He growled low, hesitating a moment in thought before slowing his carpet, turning it around to head back towards Kiserai. The flame druid disappeared into the purple haze of the twisting nether.

“What is it, Kiserai?” he called to the woman as they approached.

The tracker was active again, and the red flare meant trouble. Or one type of trouble, it also was her distress beacon. Slipping the small red and gold pin from under the gauntlet, she held it up so they could see the brighter red glow the object still held.

“Trouble. I have to follow this… It reacts to a tracking device Ash has… Red is not good. Think distress beacon. It hasn’t been active since she left for Northrend the first time… Now it suddenly comes to life? You can keep following the Flame Druid if you want. I have to go after her.”

He shook his head. “No. We’ll see where that take us. It may be a trap either way, and either way we have no choice.” Pausing, he glanced back to Khoura, who nodded in agreement.

“Lead on.”

Wheeling the windrider around in mid-air, Serai dove back the direction they had come, urging all speed possible from the creature. Glancing to the tracker frequently, keeping straight on to where the wings seemed to be pointing. The reckless speed a sign she really wasn’t concerned if the others kept up, only getting to her destination.

Were they heading back towards… the mine shaft? Elicoor couldn’t see Auramis nor Irontooth as they sped closer, pushing some of his own magic to drive the carpet beneath him. Red and black robes flapped in the wind, and he could feel Khoura’s grip tighten around him, her chin at his shoulder.

Auramis was too far down the shaft to even notice their return at this point, his sword illuminating with a simple spell as he used it as their torch, keeping close to the wolf as they followed the beeping of the tracker. Auramis made sure to keep careful watch on the worg, not daring go further if it didn’t.

Dropping the flyer to the ground, she let it run to slow the speed down, trusting the mount to stop where it needed and not run off a cliff or into a wall. Dismounting in a smooth, battle trained motion, her shield and mace being unsheathed as she walked forwards, still eyeing the tracker.

“Auramis??” She knew he had a tracker, she’d seen the one Ash gave him. Walking into the darkness beyond didn’t seem to phase her.

Both the druid and the magi followed her inside without hesitation, and the magi pulled his staff from his back, whispering an incantation to make the crystals at the head glow brightly.

Khoura dropped to the ground, hitting on all fours on graceful paws as she began to stalk ahead of them, her eyesight heightened even further in the darkness.

“I cannot see him going in here by himself, Kiserai.” Elicoor murmured to her, walking carefully. “That being said, if he saw Ashandarei, they may be close.”

Auramis still couldn’t hear them with how far he was, the eerie sounds of of the tunnel overpowering anything that wasn’t close enough. The sound of wind rushing over the rocks and the echo of stray stones falling, along with the loud echoes from his shifting armor. It was a wonder he could even hear the wolf beside him in the tight tunnels.

Irontooth gave a low ‘arroo’, looking back over a shaggy shoulder the way they had came, then continuing forwards. Sniffing the air for the familiar scents of Ash or any clues as to what they were headed towards.

Serai moved forward in a near jog, “I can’t either. It’s not in his nature to take risks I don’t think. A pity that is. And we might be walking straight into a trap.. you know that right? Just because the tracker is active, doesn’t mean Asha still has it or is even alive. I just have to hope she is..”

“Again.. we may not have a choice…” Elicoor stopped then, suddenly realizing that he was by himself. Kiserai and Khoura were both gone, and his eyes narrowed. The nerve underneath his eye began to twitch. “Kiserai? Everroot? Can you hear me?” he called out. How did they get out of his sight?

It took a good minute for her to realize she didn’t hear Elicoor or Khoura behind her. Stopping, she looked back over her shoulder, they had been right behind her. “Lord Meraan? Khoura?”

Auramis blinked at the sudden sensation of being alone, looking down to where Ironfang was moments ago. Indeed, he was alone, blinking in confusion and quickly looking about for the wolf, taking a small spring ahead to see if he had run ahead. Seeing he wasn’t there, he let out a sigh, looking back to the tracker at his belt, relying on it as he guided himself through the tunnel.

Born this Way, Part XCIII

Meanwhile in the Arena…

 
Ash had been watching the entire stalking process, her eyes going to the dagger as well. Gideon could probably track it, but getting it away from him was just as important.

The darkness of the arena threw everything into odd shadow, but she knew Z was gone.

“We have to get out of here, and now. While there are no eyes. I don’t care if you want to stab me later, we have to work together now.” She said it as a quiet hiss to the arena in general, not bothering to locate Falkoen.

Ash forced herself to her feet, walking over to the dagger and staring at it before nudging at it with her boot. Picking it up, she stared at the blade, turning it over repeated. “One less that he has available to him.”

The dagger was tucked behind her belt, as she made her way to the wall of the arena, there was a door here she remembered walking through it, if she could find it again, they’d be out in those tunnels again, not exactly a pleasant thought, but it was away from here and that was what was important.

Falkoen didn’t seem to approve of the immediate grabbing of the dagger, fading into view at last as he looked around with sharp eyes, obviously still feeling rather trapped, despite the lessened fear for his life. “Good, that’s fine… But how do we get out of here, exactly? My eyes were covered when I was brought here… I can do my best to retrace my steps out of here, if we’ve no other options.”

“There was a tunnel entrance, it lead back into some amethyst mines that looked abandoned. If we can find our way back there, we should be able to find our way back out?” Ashandarei pat the dagger, reassuring herself that it was still there.

“Better than sitting here waiting to be collected like good little playthings? I want to sleep, I want to drink my weight in ale to make the rest of these injuries hurt less, but mostly? I want out of here. Two pairs of eyes are better than one, and I’m not exactly moving at top speed anyways.. Let’s find the exit and see where it leads from there.”

Born this Way, Part XCII

Auramis looked back at them, an angry glare pointed at Kiserai. “I wasn’t aware you were the type to enjoy watching psychological torture and watching your allies being held over a bottomless pit over infinite space. All it would have required was a simple spell to coerce her to cooperate, and you applaud choking someone… And you call yourself ARGENT.”

“It’s called trusting your allies. Have you been watching those two at all? He wouldn’t have hurt her. It was a shock tactic, yes. But right now. My focus is getting Asha back, and rescuing the others. And here I thought you actually cared about her. Or what happened. I will do what is necessary. Even if I don’t like it. That is called survival.” She may have been a good half a head shorter than the other Argent, but she was a miniature thundercloud.

Another low wuff and Irontooth was nudging both of them, none too gently with his head. The wolf’s equivalent of “Grow up, it’s over.”

“I’m not willing to compromise my beliefs for something that could have been as simple as me casting one spell. The ends do NOT justify the means. I was taught that all of my life, and I will stand by that philosophy. I am not someone to use dark methods, I’m here to FIGHT people like that in the name of peace and the safety of our friends.”

“And if she resisted your one simple spell? Then she would have been alerted to what was being done, and it would not have been effective. I trusted Lord Meraan, he didn’t actually hurt her, and I highly doubt ‘dropping’ her would have done anything. She’s a Druid. They can kind of shape shift. If you hadn’t noticed.” All but ignoring the nudge from the dire wolf, facing off with Auramis.
“And if YOU hadn’t noticed, she is injured from fighting the flame druidess. That coupled with the fact I’m simply not used to such immediate shifts from my own ALLIES, it’s a wonder I didn’t snap and act against Merran. If she resisted the one simple spell, then, perhaps, Elicoor could have taken a moment to ASK himself if he had a spell to help in this situation. Over 25 thousand years to his name and the first solution being to try and scare the Hell out of the woman seems a bit RUSHED. Do none of you have any patience?”

A sudden crack that sounded like rolling thunder exploded into the air. Elicoor gripped his staff, the end of it thrust into the ground before him. “ENOUGH!” He boomed sternly. “We have no time to argue morals. We must investigate the information the flame druid has given us, or else this will all be for naught. Collect yourselves, mount your beasts, and meet me near the Cosmowrench.” Khoura had already called for her hippogryph, and Elicoor yanked his weapon from the earth and proceeded to climb aboard his rug once more, both of them leaving the bickering pair in the settling dust.

“At least my morals are present…” Auramis scoffed, pulling up his libram and turning it open to the appropriate page. Finally on solid ground, he summoned his charger, mounting Vigilance a moment later. He looked back to Kiserai, waiting for her to mount before he rode off.

“He did use a spell. He used multiple spells from what I could see. And he used something far stronger. The need for survival and preservation. It wasn’t trying to scare the hell out of her, it was convincing the Flame druidess that – ” She let out a loud yelp at the bellowing tone, she looked to Irontooth, then back to the leaving pair.

“I suppose he’s right… Irontooth, meet us there. You know where to go.” Climbing back onto the Windrider, she nudged the creature into the air, watching the wolf bound off in the correct direction.

Elicoor was there by himself, standing on the outskirts of the outpost. He leaned back heavily on the wall, smoking his pipe less than casually. Khoura was gone, as was Tandle. Closing his eyes over, the man attempted to put his thoughts together and formulate a decent plan. Nothing was worse than working on the fly, and it was something he hated doing. He was greatly annoyed by the human paladin, but in the end he knew that such things could not be helped. They were a spirited race after all, and Elicoor himself had once believed in the same convictions Auramis did.

Quietly, he waited.

Auramis watched as Kiserai left, along with the dire wolf running ahead. The paladin was ready to whip the reins and have his horse move forward, but he stopped. Looking back, he realized the druidess simply laid there, still unconscious from Irontooth’s assault on her. He looked back in the direction the group went, then back to her, letting out a groan. Jumping down from his horse, he walked over towards her. Taking a robe from his satchel, he bound her hands, lifting her up a moment later and bringing her to the horse. After tying her to the saddle, he climbed up and finally rode off to the others.

Letting her flyer catch the upper wind currents, she just soared, savoring the thrill of flight and watching the ground slip by below her, a gentle nudge to the side and the creature did a full barrel roll as it started to descend to Cosmowrench. Landing with a solid sounding thunk.

Irontooth came bounding up a few minutes later, not looking out of breath, happily circling around the Wind rider making an ‘Arrrroooo’ sound.

The wizard nodded to her. “Is he behind you?” he asked simply.

Soon enough, he rode up to the group, the druidess still tied up and laying across the saddle of his charger. Stepping down from the saddle, he looked between the two, nodding to the flame druidess. “Leaving her behind didn’t seem like a good idea…”

“Mmm.” Elicoor rumbled, taking a long drag from his pipe. Moments later, Khoura flew into view, landing swiftly on the wall Elicoor was leaning against. Another moment and she was an elf again, jumping down to the ground before the group. “There is a problem. There are several mine shafts that lead beneath the Netherstorm. I did not scout through them very deeply because I have no idea exactly how deep they are and where they go, but I can tell you that most of them are abandoned, pitch black, and have endless forks.”

“So what now? Wake the Druid up and ‘convince’ her to tell us? We could let Lightborne cast at her until she cooperates. I’m sure that will work. Or pick one and hope its the right one? Can you get any type of magical reading off of them?”

Khoura shook her head and shrugged. “Elicoor would have to do that.” Pausing, she looked to the magi for answers.

“Allow Auramis do it this time, should it make him feel better.” he replied, looking over to the human.

“I am not a priest with a specialty in the mind… But I will try.” He raised his brow at Elicoor, confused at the change of pace, but not questioning it. Grasping at the druidess, he pulled her from the horse, cradling her in his arms before he set her down on the ground. Pulling his flask from his waist, he turned it over after uncorking, allowing a light splashing of water to hit her face to wake her.

Lazy eyes blinked and a gasp was drawn, head bobbing forward in disorientation before the flame druid realized where she was. In a great burst of flame and heat, she erupted into an inferno, barreling upward into the air with a mighty, dual-toned scream. The phoenix tested her wings, beating them with enough force that her flames licked the ground in a gust of defiance, power enough to rocket her higher into the sky.

And in a moment, she was blazing through the night, heading in the direction the real Khoura had come from.

“Yes, this was a wonderful idea, Lightborne. Next, let’s throw ourselves on Gideon’s mercy and hope everything turns out alright in the end?” Serai watched the Flame druid disappearing, just shaking her head slightly.

The instant that a threat was detected, Irontooth was at Auramis’ side, growling in a coldly menacing rumble at the retreating druidess.

As the fire ignited, Auramis quickly spoke the incantation needed to protect himself, a barrier of Light rising between him and the flames, guarding him from the pain they would have brought. After the fires died, he looked up at the retreating druidess, groaning in annoyance. With Kiserai’s words, he snapped his head back at her. “And I suppose everyone else’s solution of leaving her would have given up a more positive result.”

“My flyer isn’t designed for passengers. Even Irontooth’s harness is not exactly safe. For either of us. I knew you’d bring her, I just didn’t think you’d let her get away so easily. Easier to transport her by ground.”

Not asking, he never asked before casting at people, she murmured a soft incantation, causing a diffuse glow to gather around the other Paladin, brighten for a moment then fade back away. He may not be a trained healer, but she was.

“Elicoor offered me the chance to do something within my morals, so I tried. It isn’t my fault that she turned into a goblin rocket and flew away.” Auramis snapped at Kiserai again. Clearly, his patience with her snippy remarks was coming to an end, based on the stern look he gave her.

After cooling off, he nodded towards her, uttering a rather quiet word of thanks for the healing.

“Will you two shut up and get after her? Lord Meraan, what do-…” Khoura stopped as she whirled around to where the man had just been standing. “Elicoor? Oh, he is already gone!”

Cursing in her native language, she shifted and followed.

Giving her flyer another nudge, Serai pulled back on the reigns, never having bothered to dismount from the Windrider’s saddle. “Hold the ground down for us, Auramis? Have to make sure it doesn’t escape too… ” And she was up and flying after Elicoor before she could hear if he made a remark or scowled at her again.

Irontooth didn’t move from Auramis’ side, looking up at him with an almost amused ‘look’.
Auramis let out a sigh as they left, trying to contain his anger with the insubordination from the Crusader. Taking a deep breath, he held it and tried to calm his nerves, letting out a heavy puff of air. After a moment, he turned his gaze to the mineshaft, glancing to where everyone flew off to before making his way towards it, motioning for the wolf to follow.

“Hello, Argent-Scarlet. How fun that you stayed behind!”

The familiar voice permeated the air, and two pink, floating eyes popped into existence before the rest of her body followed.

Zorana.

Born this Way, Part XCI

Auramis staggered off the carpet, his body relaxing greatly as his feet touched solid land. Taking calming breaths, he turned his eyes to the frozen druidess, pondering over what to do with it as the true Khoura was being healed and tended to. The paladin’s aura shifted to resist the flames she might produce, looking over his libram once more. “And what are we to do with this one? Leaving her as a hunk of ice won’t suffice in the long run.”

Elicoor’s eyes softened a bit as he held the night elf, and he gently touched her chin and shook her head to wake her. “She did.” he replied.

As Khoura came to, she gazed up at the blood elf and the draenei for a moment, eyes glazed before her thoughts collected and she jumped out of his arms.

“Where is she? Did you kill her?” she asked, spying her frozen self. The ice had begun to melt.

“No, we did not. We are going to get her to take us to where she came from. She’s outnumbered and she knows it. A bit of prodding will help too.”

Kiserai frowned slightly, looking between the gathered rescuers and the ice block of a flame druid. “What if she just shifts and flies off? Or does that flame movement thing? We could also be walking straight into a trap.”

Irontooth sniffed at the iceblock, then walked around it a few times, giving a questioning ‘arrrooo’ to the Paladins. Satisfied that the iceblock wasn’t a threat, the direwolf licked it a few times then went to lay back down at Auramis’ feet.

“We do not have much of a choice, do we?” Elicoor rumbled, glancing to the blood elf. “Even so, I can use ice to slow her down, and you two paladins have your own spells. Something tells me she’ll be tired.”

The block of ice cracked and shattered then, and the flame druid tumbled forward, gasping for breath and laying on the ground in her humanoid form. Her flames had been doused for now, and she made no effort to move or flee… at least, not yet.

Khoura moved to take a shot at her, and Elicoor quickly moved to intervene, grabbing and pulling her back. “Wait a minute, Khoura. She may have useful information.”

Auramis took a breath as he finally fully settled down, looking to the flame druid with a raised brow. He reached for his libram, pulling it up as he moved to stand before her, turning the pages in the book. He waited for now, not knowing the questions to ask. Given Elicoor’s tone concerning Auramis’ fear of heights, he wasn’t inclined to speak up for the moment either, but he remained by the druid, just in case.

A ragged chuckle came from the heap of elf, coughing between breaths. “Do you think I’ll give you anything you want, Elicoor?” she said, growling the words. Slowly she pulled herself up just enough to lean on her arms. Left… Right… hanging there with her purple hair tossed about her scorched frame. “Am I really the one at loss? You are the one who wants to be lead to his death.”

The man tightened his grip on the real Khoura, and his eyes narrowed. He could feel the rage welling within the elf. “Do you think we would have come this far if we were not willing to risk everything?” he retorted at her. “Tell me where Gideon is, where he has the others.” Pausing, his voice deepened and boomed. “We will make you wish you had.”

The flame druid laughed again and screwed her head up, staring at him with burning eyes through the purple tangled mess. “I’ll burn you faster than you can snap, old man.”

Irontooth let out a low growl at the elf, taking a step forward away from Auramis. Teeth bared, the giant wolf looked menacing in his own right. The growl seemed to back up Elicoor’s booming voice.

Kiserai just frowned down at the elf, “I may be an Argent, Druid, that doesn’t mean I’m toothless. I don’t care what they do in order to get the information we need. I easily will turn a blind eye to whatever is done if it helps find my sister..”

“There are simpler methods of making her talk…” Auramis continued to file through the libram in his hand, looking through the spells, periodically looking back at the fire druidess before him. “I offer one chance to tell us of your own volition and clear your conscious before I force it from you.”

The ‘younger’ of the two Knights frowned over at Auramis. “It’s not your sister that psychopath has.” Crossing her arms angrily, the normal calm of an Argent was nowhere to be seen.

“And I would rather not reduce myself to methods he would employ when trying to gather information.” Auramis looked back at Kiserai as he spoke, his words almost a snap, as if trying to remind her of his position of authority in the Crusade… Not something he often did, but, out here, he had been feeling out of control of his own fate for some time.

The wizard rolled his eyes and sighed. “You should listen to your sister, Argent.” he growled, not in the mood to be ‘educated’ by a human.

“I’ll wait if you wish. Read your picture book.” The flame druid chuckled yet again, drawing herself up on her knees. “By all means, discuss the dynamics of interrogation. I’ll even help you draw the charts and gra-AHH!”

A blast of cold ice hit her squarely in the face, knocking her back on her rear, and she growled, hands beginning to glow like dying embers. “Son of a bitch, that hurt!”

Auramis blinked, turning his gaze back to the druidess, then to Elicoor, groaning in annoyance. “That’s hardly behavior befitting a wizened Draenei… Hit something until it works. You, of all people, should know there are easier, quicker ways of getting information.”

Serai gave her fellow Paladin an icy stare before dropping her gaze, still grumbling almost as much as the wolf was. “If it works, use it, Auramis. She’s not going to co-operate. Not willingly at least.”

“So that means we have to bombard her with magical spells? That’s no better than reacting like mindless fools who resort to using clubs to hit someone if they don’t cooperate. There are EASIER means of making someone talk… That don’t involve turning your target into an ice block or a smoldering pile of ash.”

“You are correct… I was not always a magi.” Elicoor rumbled and whispered something to Khoura. In a split second, he grabbed the elf and blinked over to the nearby edge of the Netherstorm, holding the woman by the throat over the edge. Arcane winds picked up his cape and billowed his robes, electricity crackled around his fingers, and his eyes glinted menacingly. “You will speak, or she will die!” He roared to the flame druid, whose eyes were wide as dinner plates. Khoura was screaming and kicking at the wizard, clawing at his grip to get away.

“NO! No! Don’t kill her! Don’t you kill her!” The flame druid screamed and started to run at him, tripping and stumbling over her tattered leathers. “Please! I’ll tell you! The mine shaft! It leads to the arena!” She gasped and reached at him. “PLEASE!”

Trying to hide a smirk, Kiserai gave a half shrug at Auramis. Almost laughing at the wolf’s wuff of amusement. “Whatever works. Do me a favor? Incapacitate the druid. Like you did to Ash when you two had that little spar?”

Auramis hardly even heard Kiserai, calling out to Elicoor. “What in the name of the Light are you doing?” He seemed too shocked to actually move, probably for fear he might actually drop her.

“Oh for the love of the Light! Lightborne. The Druid. Stop her. Now would be nice? Get ‘er Irontooth!”

The wolf actually followed the order, bounding after the flame druidess and launching himself at her. Paws first to collide with the druidess’ back.

“It’s near the keep! PLEASE JUS-” The breath was knocked out of her as the dire wolf tackled her. Her skull struck the ground, knocking her out cold. As soon as Elicoor saw that, he pulled Khoura back into a hug, holding her tight. “Well done, my dear. Forgive me if I hurt you..” he whispered to her. She clung to the man, coughing into his chest for a moment before pulling away to gather herself. The magical energy that had been arcing across his body ceased, and he suddenly looked tired. “I am fine, Lord Meraan. Your plan… has worked…”

Auramis simply stood there, dumbfounded. A moment later, he shook his head, apparently seething with anger before he took a breath, turning away from the group to pace to himself for a moment… Everyone here was crazy!

Walking forward, Serai patted the dire wolf on the head, “Good job, Irontooth! Wasn’t it, Auramis? Didn’t think you the type to freeze when action was needed.”

Continuing forward, she stopped next to Elicoor, “Improvised plan, Lord Meraan?”

He nodded to her, calming himself. “Unfortunately. There was going to be risk either way. I could only hope that she cared for the other half of herself… as selfish as she seems.”

He cleared his throat and wiped a hand down his face. “Alright. Mine shaft. Somewhere near Tempest Keep, I am assuming.” he said simply, gathering his thoughts. His gaze landed on Khoura, who nodded to him.

“I am fine, Lord Meraan. Let us begin.”

Both of them turned then to look at Auramis.

Born this Way, Part XC

The other side of Netherstorm, continued…

 
Auramis’ eyes widened. This was exactly what he feared, being at risk of dying out in the middle of nothingness, or worse, falling after some form of collapse. He looked about, ensuring he had everything he needed before looking to Elicoor, panic evident on his face. “And how are we leaving this rock?”

Kiserai eyed her fellow Argent, then shook her head slightly still not seeing whatever her sister saw, and quickly regathered the few belongings she had removed from her Wind Riders packs.

“C’mon, Irontooth. Time to get you strapped on again so we can get off this rock.

Irontooth gave a soft ‘wuff’, looking between the two Paladins and followed after the younger Dawnborn toward the breach where she had left the tan colored Wind Rider. The harness they had fitted for him to carry the wolf on flights still lay next to the now irritated creature.

The smell of burning wood thickened, as did the visibility within the hold. From somewhere up above, what sounded like a tree falling could be heard… And then the rotten mast crashed right through the center, splitting the boat in half. Elicoor stumbled back and grabbed onto the wall of the ship, watching as boxes, bits of wood and other things started to slide away from him and into the twisting nether, right behind the burning mast. The floating rocks that were holding the old vessel together slowly started to shift…

“Hurry up, Elicoor!” Khoura yelled from wherever she was outside.

Auramis’ eyes widened at the sight of falling debris, his eyes dilating at the sensation of the rock shifting beneath them. He looked about for something: ANYTHING to get onto that could get him away from the rock. A magic rug, a wyvern with room for two: something!

Irontooth let out an irritated ‘arrroooo’ and nipped at Serai’s leg, urging her to hurry up with the harness, even he didn’t like the smoke and sudden debris falling.

Serai growled back at the wolf, fastening the harness around his middle and the halter in place to keep him from sliding out. After checking all buckles and straps she hopped into the saddle on the tan creature who was shifting her weight from side to side wanting to take off.

“You’re not going to sprout wings, Lightborne, get over here.”

Fire seemed to sprout everywhere around them, and it was extremely hard to see now. Elicoor coughed and pointed his staff, letting out a blast of cold air in a cone ahead of him, allowing him to see the paladins and the exit.

With this things on his carpet, he quickly stepped on and urged them to follow. “We need to grab that druid!” he said, raising his hand and blasting the smoke and fire back again. “This thing is going to crumble any moment!”

Auramis quickly moved to the carpet. Despite his lack of trust for them, it was his way out, and he wasn’t about to complain. Doing his best to focus, which wasn’t as great as it SHOULD be, he pulled his libram from his hip, quickly filing through the pages, looking for the proper spell for the coming chase as he looked up, away from the abyss.

Seeing he was at least getting to safety, Serai nudged her windrider up and away from the crumbling boat, ignoring the yowl from Irontooth as his feet left the decking, he hated flying probably more than Auramis it seemed. Her first order of business was getting the wolf safely back on solid ground, Ash would kill her if anything happened to that animal.

Nudging the flyer away from danger, she angled back towards land, making a determined effort not to look straight down at the abyss or back at the mass of flame they escaped from.

“I have to set him back on the ground! I’m slower with him harnessed below my flyer anyways.” Serai was shouting to be heard over the rush of wind and distance.

Elicoor touched the carpet and the thing spurred to life, taking off with a great rush of air and the speed to match any living thing. His magic helped to charge it and compensate for the extra bit of weight. After they were clear of the burning ruins, he turned the thing around and surveyed the airspace above. Khoura was fighting the flaming version of herself, exchanging nature and fire magics in midair. They would shift and blast each other and shift again, dropping into and out of their flight forms. Tandle was nowhere to be seen, and the nature druid was looking much more hurt than the fire one.

“Alright paladin, help me grab her.” Elicoor said, glancing back to Auramis. “I’ll freeze one and grab the other. Kiserai can heal my druid up when we meet up with her? Are you ready?”

Auramis placed a finger onto a spell in the libram, nodding quickly as he looked up, uttering the semantic component for the spell, preparing it as he looked to the druids. “I’m ready… I’ll grab Khoura, and I assume you’ll freeze the flame.”

“Hold on.” The wizard nodded and the carpet took off again, heading straight into the middle of the fight. He roared something in draenei and the carpet went up and turned, suspending two men at a ninety-degree angle for a split second as as Elicoor raised his hands and blasted the fire druid, freezing her solid.

Auramis dropped his libram to his side, immediately grasping at the carpet as his other hand pointed at Khoura, a repentance spell cast at her to soothe her mind and cause her to fall into a slumber like stance, reaching out to be sure he could grab at her as he cast it, attempting to pull her into the carpet.

The attack was fast, and it had to be. As the block of ice began to fall, the rug plummeted with it speeding to catch up with the thing before it was lost to the twisting nether forever. With a grunt, he caught the thing in his lap and looked back to see the other Khoura fast asleep in Auramis’ lap.

“Rug. Kiserai… Now.” he grumbled.

Settling the flyer onto the solid ground that was left of the area, Serai quickly scrambled off of the saddle, landing in a solid clunk of plate hitting stone, braced to not fall over on impact. Moving to harness straps, she pulled the releases one at a time letting the wolf free of the confining leather travel harness.

Scanning the sky for the flying carpet, she set about readying several quick healing spells, not exactly knowing what shape any of them would be in on landing but wanting to be ready.

With the moment of action having passed and the ride returning to a calmer state, Auramis seemed to shiver a bit, adrenaline still flowing as his fear came back to the front of his mind, trying to remain as centered in the carpet as possible, keeping his eyes on the land before them, and ONLY on that land, trying not to mind the sleeping druid in his lap.

It was a quick glide to the purple landscape that made up the majority of the Netherstorm, and as the carpet slowed to a stop, Elicoor pitched the frozen druid off and stood, grabbing the real Khoura up in his arms.

“Mission complete. Perfect execution, Auramis. You managed not to scream.” he said, nodding to the man.

Turning, he looked to Kiserai. Would you mind healing her up? I’ll deal with the other in a moment.”

Nodding to the Magi, Kiserai moved forward gently resting her hands on the Druidess and whispering softly the memorized spells for quick but no where near painless healing. She kept the soft murmur going as the pale light surrounded both of them for a moment.

The stabilizing work done, she began looking for more serious injuries that would require extensive healing,  frowning at the state that Khoura was in.

“She looks like she tried to wrestle a fireball.”

Born this Way, Part LXXXIX

The Arena, continued…

 
Edging around the arena again, she kept a wary eye out for Falk not wanting to get ambushed again.

“Then fight with honor and, if you cannot choose how you live, then choose how you die with what you have.” Falkoen rushed in the direction of Ash, pulling a knife from his belt and throwing it toward her direction, trying to draw her out of hiding.

Jumping out of the way of the thrown weapon sent up a spray of sand off to her right. Immediately diving in the opposite direction, she drew two of her own throwing knives loosing one at her previous position.

Ash needed to talk to the other Rogue out of sight of Gids, or at least masked from him, but how to do that without getting stabbed…

Falkoen continued to move, spotting the rush of sand and moving forward, the sand kicking out from under his feet as he charged her, the blunt ends of his daggers forward. Once he believed he was close enough, he shot his arm forward, striking at the space before him with the blunt end of the hilt.

Her reaction times were slowed just enough from everything that had happened that day. The collision knocked her from her feet and she slid a few feet in the sand, scrambling to get purchase and back to her feet.

Blinking in the still darkness, she hated that he had the edge on her in sight in here, everything was darkened shapes and shadows, risking a glance back up at Gideon and Daelin, she just shook her head, wondering if she could stall the fight long enough. Without Falk’s help.

Falkoen pressed the attack, but he sheathed his daggers, swinging his fists out at Ash, his hands ready to react if he had to, swinging at her and trying to beat her back to focus on him, to ignore the fool above them. “I am your opponent. if you must fight and die, do so while facing your opponent. Control this fight! He’s given us nothing else to control… I won’t let us all be killed here, and I know you don’t want to die either, so fight back!”

“Roan..why..” She didn’t really care if Falk heard the hurt whisper.

His pummelling attack drew her back to where she was, pulling her arms up in a guard, a few seconds slower than usual. Taking the hits, she grunted feeling a rib give way under the heavy blow.

“We’re dead anyways. He’s luring our rescuers here. Probably to watch the winner of this little blood battle be slaughtered.” Her voice was an angry pain-filled hiss pitched low enough for the combatants alone.

Falkoen’s fist stopped before her face, his feet sliding as he came to a full halt, his brow knitting at what was said. His knuckles looked bruised from his assault, but, seeing her lack of defensive speed, the conflict would have been over too quickly otherwise. He spoke back, his other hand pulled back with his palm open, ready to defend himself if he had to, were this a ploy. “… Why would he lure rescuers here?”

“You’re not that stupid, Falkoen. Think it through. And as much as I hate to say it, and will regret it later..I hope..we can’t stop fighting. He’ll get suspicious.”

Ash didn’t go on the offensive though, she looked tired, more so than just the walk through the tunnels would account for, that close the distant look was more than being there a long time, something had happened, and recently, and had rattled the younger Rogue.

Hearing how the paused combat may raise suspicious, he returned to swinging at the rogue, punching at her unrelentingly as he pressed his attack, his eyes angry at the comment that he needed to simply think it through. “You know as well as I that I’ve been kept away and out of the light. I do not know any reason why this mad man would want to lure rescuers here when it means he’s compromising his hiding places.”

Yelping, she hadn’t expected the attack so suddenly even though she had suggested it. Ash managed to block about half the blows, she was going to be a mass of bruises and cracked bones after this.

Steadily giving ground, she really was getting too tired to think clearly, “Because, if he lures them here, he controls what they see, where they are, what happens to them. Like how I ended up a spectre for almost two months. Depending on who is in the rescue party, he might just kill them outright. I know my sister is in it.. “

“He’s that sure of himself, then… A fool.” He spins as he swept a kick under her at her legs, attempting to knock her to her back. He draw back for an attack, his fingers bent and showing his clawed fingers, stabbing his hand down at her, but slowly enough she would be able to roll out of the way. “He will be overwhelmed.”

Hitting the ground, she began the roll even before she saw the attack, expecting one. “Will he? If he gets the two of us to kill each other? That’s two less people the rescue party has to count on. Torsyth was out cold last time I saw him. We need to convince him this fight will be a draw, or something. I just want to sleep. Today has been..” Ash trailed off, shaking her head as if to clear it, “It’s been enlightening, and I want to just sleep.”

“Then you need to cut me in a convincing manner that would knock me out… Or simply knock me out and then pass out yourself. If you truly are so tired, we must force you into a state where you cannot move on… That way, neither of us are at fault for the lack of death.” He nods, stabbing at her as she rolled, or at least trying to, sliding his foot through the sand to kick it at her face.

“That..all? Want dinner while.. I’m at it?”

Spluttering at the spray of sand, Ash glowered up at the taller elf, who to this point hadn’t taken a hit, growling something in Thalassian, it didn’t sound friendly, nor pleasant. She jumped over the kick, remembering the trick she’d played on Auramis their first duel, he wanted her to end this? Fine.

Stepping fluidly to the shadow just behind the taller Rogue, Ash struck with the blunted end of one of her daggers, trying to clip him behind the ear to knock him out and fighting the urge to steady herself against him.

There was a low growl then from somewhere in the arena. It did not sound entirely animal-like, but then again it was not quite humanoid.

“Is it forfeit then, elves? Do you think I cannot hear your voices in my own arena? Have you no idea of the hundreds of spirits that lend me their ear here?” Gideon rumbled, leaning forward. A large pendant fell out of his collar and dangled around his neck freely, glinting in the sole light in the area. There was some sort of blue liquid inside of it, encased in clear crystal and decorated in silver. The many rings on his fingers clinked as he tapped his hand on his throne, and the growling could be heard once more.

“One more chance, or she will rip both of your throats out… And I just had the ring freshly sanded.”

Falkoen didn’t seem to readily try and dodge the attack at first, all going according to plan… However, the moment Gideon’s words rang out, his eyes widened. Immediately, he attempted to drop prone to avoid the blow, throwing himself forward onto the ground, rolling away from Ash before rolling up, clumsily stumbling about as he tried to reorient himself, looking up at the necromancer with a snarl leaving him.

“Why do you do this, exactly!? Why do you gain from this other than a sense of relevance!? Your power could have much better uses were you not such a selfish fool!”

“You know what.. No. I’m tired, your mind games from earlier left me not exactly in the top fighting state going into this, and taking a pummeling from him. No more. Done. Not playing your games anymore. Even if I die, I think you’ll find that death a mistake when your little pet Scion lures the others here.”

Ash looked over at Falkoen and shrugged, she had no plans on dying, but going on the offensive was logically out of the question for her, she was running mostly on adrenaline and energy reserves as it was. The run earlier didn’t help matters. Or running from Gideon. Or anything else that had happened.

Another chuckle, and Gideon reached into his robe for the dagger he had used earlier on the servant, then stood, hefting Daelin up with one arm. “Very well. Finish her off, Falkoen. Zorana, make sure he does such. Khoura, return to me.” He lumbered away into the darkness.

Two glowing, pink orbs popped into existence near the two, both half-moon happy. “Hello, best friend! I am here. You are there. Soon, you will be here too!”

“Sorry, Z, he made me not a spirit-ghosty anymore. If Falk here kills me, then I’m dead-dead. You lose your best friend. And I bet my sister and the shiny Paladin will be really sad about that. Like your papa and mama were when they lost you.”

Ash just shrugged. This had always been a possibility, but she’d always hoped it would be in a battle that actually meant something. Not worn down, and dead tired, and certainly not to one of his kind. Setting herself in a ready stance for defense, she watched him warily.

“Well.. are you going to follow orders like a sheep? You know what’s at stake.”

“We’ll both die if I don’t… I doubt your friends will come just right now when it would be the most opportune moments…” He growled, his fingers pressing into his palms angrily, blood running down his hands as he stared up at where Gideon was moments ago. Looking to Ash, he pondered his limited options, his thoughts rushing through his mind. He seemed to be thinking more than doing. Finally, he yelled out, shaking his head and fading into the shadows, trying to hide from the chaos.

Zorana blinked and looked between the two. “There must be one! … No more eyes, I can choose! Best friend, she will be with me!” she yipped, procuring one of the many daggers that were all sheathed to her leather sash, hidden beneath thin fabric. One dagger seemed to be missing.

“But… Wild man! Where are you?! I want to play!” She called out, fading into nothingness, voice disembodied.

“I wish they would.. I could use a hug right now.. and I’d even let my sister cast at me without complaining.”

Ash flinched at the yell, expecting an attack from Falk.

“Z, no! I chose not to attack him. Mostly because I’m too tired to right now. Thanks to Gideon, and Roan… and now Falkoen. If you choose, choose to do what’s right. And let him go. No more eyes. Get him out of here.”

Falkoen pulled his daggers out, his eyes alight with anger at the ghost, keeping to the shadows. It was the best thing in his arsenal. Unlike the mysticism of the Sin’dorei, this power was natural for him, hiding and moving about silently, trying to stay alive, looking about quickly, ears twitching as he tried to find an exit to the room, a way to get away.

“There is no escape.” Zorana whispered the words, yet her voice was loud enough to fill the entire complex.”

A gush of air brushed Falkoen’s cheek. “You hide in the darkness, but I am the darkness.”

“Zorana.. please don’t hurt him. No eyes… just let him go. He doesn’t belong here. And he certainly doesn’t look like he’d be good at dancing. So just let him go?”

Ash had found a pillar, and leaned her back against it, groaning softly, she hurt from head to toe.

“You say eyes aren’t watching you, yet you still obey and seek to kill one of us… All for what? For the eyes?” Falkoen spoke quickly and in Draenic. “If there are no eyes, then let them believe what they want to believe. Release the blood elf, let her be free and safe for your dancing, and let me return to my cell. Killing me will make the eyes mad, he’ll not believe she got to me herself if you kill me.” Falkoen was clearly desperate, but he didn’t want to spill blood because he was told to do so, and he wasn’t keen on the idea of death… This was the only logical conclusion in his eyes.

Zorana suddenly burst out of the shadows.“NO PAPA! NOT THAT SOUND!” she screamed, holding her head, shaking it back and forth wildly. When she hit the arena floor she blinked into nothingness, and the last sign of her movement was a splash of sand and a glitter of the dagger that was just in her grip. Blue and encrusted with glowing gems that resembled sapphires, the wavy blade and ornate hilt of the weapon just poked out from the sand with its tip buried like a sword in a stone.

Falkoen blinked at the sight, unsure if what he was seeing was actually happening at first. He remained in the shadows, staring at the dagger as though it might spring up and try to fly at him,like this was some form of deception.