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GAAAAAHAHAHA! Oh, Stanos is in for it now!
"Ohshit." Kitsuki isn't entirely sure what's going on, but she can taste the temperature dropping by several degrees--enough to indicate anger--and sorrow radiating from Winter. It's not rocket science, so she leaps into the bushes along with Mo`re and Asmindr.
"Okay, we're moving, yep, we're moving, watch us move." A small fox is surprisingly good at moving other people. "Yeah, we're going all right, we're getting away from here, look at us go! I mean, we all know what's coming next, right? Yes we do, yes we do, so off we go!"
Kaligo, for his part, is suddenly oblivious to everything around him. He's next to Winter in the space it takes to draw half a breath, arms around the sprite and murmuring anything that comes to mind. "Hey, Win, don't be sad, s'not a big deal, really, and it'll be straightened out in a bit, so don't cry, don't cry, shhhh. . ."
Somewhere in the back of his mind he realizes that Kit has the right idea and, arm still around Winter's shoulders, decides that they'd better move, too.
Stanos is experiencing sudden guilt. He's not entirely sure what's causing it, although he's certain it must have something to do with the sniffle and a silence that's abruptly far too loud. But he doesn't know why he suddenly feels like he's done something very, very wrong that he must suddenly apologize profusely for, and it's disconcerting. It's not that he's never felt guilt before, but it doesn't come often or easily for him, and now that it's here he doesn't quite know what to do.
When Kaligo had disappeared to Winter's side, he'd been sure that the demon had been going to attack him and had almost drawn his sword. But no, the demon's embracing him and uttering something that sounds awfully like soothing nothings, and that's even more discomfiting than the guilt. He can practically see the universe flopping down on its ear and grinning mischievously at him.
And then the mage is looking at him with a face that's far too neutral (ignoring that, of course, Stanos can look equally passive with very little effot) and requesting to speak to him. And what can he do but grunt, school his face into an equally stoic expression, and nod?
Alexandra idles over to where Kitsuki is herding the others away. "You can't really blame him," she says apologetically in their general direction. ". . . well, maybe you can. But really, it's how he was raised. And taught." She glances briefly over her shoulder at Stanos's retreating back. "It's hard to unlearn a thousand years of prejudice."
, and Stanos
Baaaad move, Stanos...
"Oh yes, I've got the book," the scion quips, holding it up for Alexandra to get a quick glimpse. "I'll have to find a new hiding place and guardian, though. Thank you for the assistance. It's duly appreciated..."
Nahr chuckles as he walks over and pats the sleeping behemoth on the nose.
"T'wasn't your fault. Good boy. I'll give you some carrot treats later..."
Mo`re winces, sensing what Stanos's accusations are going to cause. He tries to interject, (after all, he doubts if Kaligo would get himself roasted on purpose), though he already fears it's too late.
One sniffle. So small as not to be heard at all. One sniffle, followed by a stray tear...
Winter knows Kaligo would never mean to hurt any of them. And, after living with Gen and Mo`re for so long, he knows better than anyone how volatile spells and magicks can be. Even if a spell is cast correctly, the results are never to be guaranteed. So he knows whatever Kaligo had done was nothing more than an accident. But hearing Stanos accuse him of doing otherwise...
~he's wrong... and Kaligo would have been hurt too. why no can be friends?~
...a sniffle, and a single, solitary tear...
Mo`re freezes, while Asmindr yelps. The two both find the nearest bush and jump behind it, fearing whatever is about to happen next.
Singer wouldn't actually kill him... Asmindr takes the moment to change back to his smaller form and sits on Mo`re's shoulder. "...right?"
"Winter sniffled. Who knows what she'll do."
At that moment, even the most lacking of any psy-sensitivity can feel a red haze fall over the area before shrinking to a single point. Gen stands up, her face neutral... if one could ignore the flaming red irises for a few moments.
"...Stanos, a word with you... Please?"
"....alas, poor Stanos..."
"...I knew him, Asmindr. A dragon of infinite... um..."
"...self-destructive ignorance and prejudices?"
"Yes, that sounds about right."
Kitsuki goes flying rather neatly in a little ball of rather shocked sandy fur. She lands with a soft-sounding plop in the dust, covered head to toe with dirt. Fortunately she had the sense to close her eyes, so at least those are clear and filled with irritation.
"Yes," she says in response to Mo`re. "Yes, it would."
There was little to no time to throw up a good shield. Kaligo had himself interposed between Gen and the fire, arms crossed over his face and hoping that his natural defenses would be enough and that Stanos would back him up. Fortunately, there was no need; Winter took care of that.
But he does feel just a little insufficient. Just a little. And he can't seem to stop kicking himself. He should have known that the "rabbit" would do that, should have planned for it, should have. . . Fat lot of good I am as a bodyguard. The dragon makes a better guard than me.
The dragon, meanwhile, spins on his heel to face Kaligo. "You did that on purpose," he hisses.
"That thing was going to toast us," Stanos snarls. "You did something that made it want to attack us--we could've died--thought it'd be funny, didn't you?"
"That was an accident!" Kaligo protests, but there is guilt in his voice. He did do something that provoked it, but that hadn't been intentional. And he certainly wouldn't have thought it funny. Still, someone could have died, and it'd have been his fault.
"I thought so. Once a demon, always a demon. I--"
"Shut up, Stanos." For once, there is no levity in Alexandra's voice, only the cold mountain winds and ages long past. A snap of her fingers drops the earthen wall in front of Winter and she crosses her arms over her chest. "If Kaligo was going to get us all killed, he'd have done it by now. Try and see past your own nose some time, 'kay?"
Her attention turns away from Stanos and her tone brightens a little as she sees Nahr exit the cave. "So, mission accomplished?"
, and Stanos
Finally, I caught an RP muse.
It doesn't take long for the monster bunny to get tired of the little chase. Outraged, it finally stops and lashes out with it hindfeet, kicking up tremendous amounts of dirts and whatever else happens to be nearby.
Mo`re takes the chance to hop off and stroll (yes, stroll) to a relatively safe spot. He turns and simply raises an eyebrow at the now dirt covered Kit.
"...I suppose saying you've got something on you would be a bit silly at this point..."
With the commotion outside, slipping into the cave is a ridiculously easy thing now. For Nahr, it always was, but he has to abide by certain 'rules' after all.
"Now let's see, I left that book... ah hah!"
'The book' was in fact little more than a slab of rock approximately three feet long, two feet wide, and one inch thick. A mix runes, elemental scripts, and a writing incomprehensible to all but greater cosmic beings (like Nahr) was engraved on the topside. The moment the scion lays his hand on it, the stone glows and shrinks, shifting to a more manageable, but still quite thick book.
"Tag, I'm it." Chuckling, Nahr slips back out, a rook piece left in the book's place.
Somewhere, in the outer fringes of reality where only gods and supreme immortals exist, there is a being known at Fate. Many times it conspires with Destiny to help bring about some great path of existance for a chosen few. These few are picked by their whim, which no one has been able to figure out to this day.
Other times, Fate looks upon the various lower forms of species with the ability of higher reasoning, and enjoys very cheap laughs at their expense.
Unfortunately for the entire group, Kaligo would be the butt of the next joke.
The monster rabbit pauses, having caught a glimpse of Kaligo's illusion. Hissing, its eyes glow a moment before it fires up and blasts a strong, oddly black coloured flame at its perceived rival. Asmindr is about to scream a warning he fears will come too late, but fortunately the trio is saved by the unexpected yet welcome appearance of a giant ice wall.
//no no! no hurt, bunny!//
Unfortunately, it becomes apparent that the wall won't stop the fire for too long. However, having had a good enough laugh, Fate intervenes on the side of the hapless group... just this once.
The dark, blazing stream weakens, then dies altogether. The creature takes a step, then another, before crashing to the ground in a dead sleep. Several moments pass before Gen shakes herself from her trance and glances around.
"...did it work?"
"Hey, as long as it works!"
And then she's outside, stumbling over the threshold of the cave as her pupils contract at the sudden light. It takes her a few seconds to recover and then she's nearly run over by the approaching lapine, flinging herself aside just in time.
Stanos gets there before Kaligo does, flinging up a shield. The fire hits it and sprays off in different directions, and Stanos grunts as the pressure forces him back a few inches, heels digging into the ground. His first instinct is to retaliate, but he restrains himself, remembering Nahr's caution. Stupid lousy. . . grar.
"Thanks." Kaligo nods in Stanos's general direction, and then closes his eyes briefly. His powers are limited when it comes to actual offensive or defensive spells, but his skill with illusion is unparalleled. But what illusion would be useful now?
Kaligo disguises Stanos, Gen, and himself as another giant armored rabbit, even bigger than "Thumper," but sleeping. Hope it's not stupid enough to try attacking us.
A long time ago, Alexandra decided that she was no longer a dragon. But she knew that well, sometimes it is convenient to be a dragon. Dragons are bigger, stronger, faster, and better-protected. So she swore that, as long as she was no longer a dragon, she would not become a dragon for convenience's sake.
Right now, it would be very convenient to be a dragon.
But she isn't. She claps her hands together, blood-red Earth-priestess crests flaring to life on her palms; a triangle within a square. The earth beneath their feet lurches briefly, and then obligingly raises itself into a wall in front of Winter.
Then fire and ice collides with a hiss of steam.
The steam is quickly leaving, but the rabbit seems confused by its suddenly inability to see clearly. Something small and sand-colored runs headfirst into its nose with a small mutter that sounds something like, "Over here, stupid." It doesn't hurt, but it enrages the rabbit-thing, especially when whatever it is begins nipping at its hindfeet, which aren't protected. Too close to use fire on it, the creature begins to lumber around in circles.
, and Stanos
Now I can post...
"...come and get me? Where's the style in that? I'll say one thing, immortality makes for better creativity..."
Mo`re steps to the side just as the monstrous creature finally comes into view. He raises an eyebrow when he gets a good look at Nahr's pet.
"Now here's something you don't see every day..."
To say it looks like a rabbit is stretching it somewhat. It does have long ears, though a second, shorter pair twitch in front of those. Eyes colored with hellfire glance first at where Kit was, then look at Mo`re. Instead of the usual front teeth more appropriate for an herbivore, this rabbit's front teeth are more fang-like in appearance. Tufts of dark gray fur stick out between armor plates. The metal 'gloves' armed with deadly blades cover forepaws. The tail is the biggest different, as on this behemoth, its on fire.
For a few moments after Kit departs, all is silent in the cave. There's no warning to the explosion of man and beast when the rabbit comes forth, wearing a slightly singed Mo`re on its back
"Kit, another distraction would be good..."
Remember! Don't hurt him!" Nahr waves to the others before slipping around the crazed monster. THe rabbit spews gouts of fire every which way while trying to dislodge the indrani on its back.
"And we get all the work!" Asmindr flies directly in front of Winter and changes. Instead of the Tyr-dragon form, Asmindr shifts into a strange, snake-like dragon with blue prismatic scales. Blue and white feather wings unfurl from his back. The dragon hisses, spitting out a stream of freezing water.
I hope I don't make a mess of steam this way...
//Gen not ready...//
She needs more time to complete the spell. Hope the decoys can hold out... Asminder spits out a water shield to fend off a stray flame. ~Hurry it up, Singer.~
Having fallen into a deep trance, Gen doesn't hear nor see the actions around here. Nor can she protect herself from the blasts of fire shooting every which way...
Sorry I'm late.
What language is that?
Languages aren't something Stanos is normally concerned with. He's heard many different tongues over the course of his long, long life, and he's learned to speak quite a few. But he wonders about this one, because it sounds very similar to the dragon tongue. And yet. . . and yet. . . it's different, but different how?
Kaligo, meanwhile, drops to one knee. But he is not at all relaxed; only conserving energy. His senses remain focused on the cave entrance, where Mo`re and Kitsuki just disappeared.
"It won't." Alexandra's words are completely confident. Not cocky, but merely firm in conviction, in the same way that someone will state that two plus two equals four, or that the sky is blue. She speaks as if it were fact. It is fact. Nothing is going to get that close if she is there.
"How the hell do you crack jokes at a time like this?" Kitsuki mutters wearily. The next moment, a gout of fire passes so close that she can fear the ends of her tailfur singing. Yeowch. She can just barely see something ahead of them; something lolloping slowly towards them in a manner much like yes, a rabbit. It has long ears, too. And it seems to be revving up for another fire-blast.
Well, here goes nothing. Kitsuki leaps directly into the line of fire, grinning maniacally and waving her arms. "Hey, stupid!" she hollers. "Try an' catch me!"
And then she turns and runs like hell.
, and Stanos
Hmm, when to battle...
"Something tells me I'm only going to have one shot at this." She walks a bit away from the cave, then sits down. The after image of a magic circle appears under her for a moment. Her eyes close halfway, the voice coming from the mage's lips is hers, and yet, not hers.
"L zdon wkutxjk wkh odqg ehwzhhq gdunqhvv dqg oljkw. Jxlgh ph, fkloguhq ti Kasqtv. L zdon wkutxjk wkh odqg ehwzhhq olih dqg ghdwk. Sutwhfw ph, vslulwv ti Dwktu. Dv L uhdfk wkh jdwh ti guhdpv, vxuutxqg ph lq btxu nqtzohgjh, vshdnhuv ti Phuw."
"One shot indeed. Winter..."
The sprite nods, following some routine that's probably been done between the group many times before. Another magic circle appears, thish time under Winter and made of ice. Unlike the previous one, this remains, the sprite staying in the center.
Satisfied, the dragon flits over to Alexandra, alighting on her shoulder a moment.
"The circle is the last line of defense. For my sake, because Gen probably will kill me otherwise, let's make sure it doesn't get that far."
Nahr whistles and stands just off to the side of the cave's entrance. Sure, he could just go in himself with no problem, but this way was more interesting. And he had to abide by the rules he and his 'cousin' set forth.
~Even if Kohr cheats more often than not.~
"Don't think of it like that, Kit. Think of it as a new ride you haven't gone on yet... with all the safety features off."
Mo`re moves to Kit's side, peering carefully into the darkness.
"I can't see anything. And I get the feeling we'll have to lure it out of the cave for this to work."
He takes another step. The ground rumbles, a stream of fire shooting directly between the two. Mo`re turns to Kit and grins.
"I think the ride's about to begin.
"Of course," Alexandra replies, as if she is completely used to being instructed to protect someone who's pretty much a total stranger. Maybe she is. But she knows enough of Winter to not want any harm to come to him. Winter inspires that in people.
So she takes position next to Winter, next to and a little behind.
Gen's look gives Stanos another shock. While hecan't read the words there, he knows what it means--he's of less importance than the demon. The demon he's trying to protect her from. This doesn't make any sense to him. Is the demon a friend?
This is a new idea that Stanos can't quite grasp. Demons don't have friends. This is common knowledge. They have temporary allies, and he assumed that the demons allied themselves with these people for the purpose of acquiring the book. But they're cooperating in a while demons never cooperate with outsiders. One of them is even a decoy.
Something in his brain is beginning to twist itself around. He shoves it into the back for now. Time to concentrate the business at hand.
Kaligo, to his credit, doesn't blush. But he does smile warmly. "I'll be fine," he promises, and moves into place on Gen's other side. If he notices Stanos's suspicious look he doesn't say anything, keeping his eyes fixed at the cave entrance straight ahead.
"Yeah, but you come back to life, I don't really have that kind of liberty. . ." Whatever else Kitsuki is saying, it fades away as both she and Mo`re are swallowed by the cave.
Alexandra cups her hands around her mouth, grinning. "Good luck!"
"Shut up, Alex."
, and Stanos
::is grateful for any heat reduction::
"We have a very important job," Asmindr quips, now addressing Alexandra. "We make sure nothing happens to Winter."
The little dragon had learned the hard way just how much the sprite means to Gen. The one time he made the mistake of placing her safety above Winter's, he feared he would not live to see another sunset. The mage's fury is the stuff nightmares are made of, far as Asmindr's concerned.
"Kaligo would be enough, but if you insist, Stanos, go ahead. I guess one can never have too many bodyguards." Gen shoots Stanos a look, conveying the rest of the unspoken message.
~Cause any trouble for Kaligo or make Win cry as a result, and you will be a new set of luggage.~
"And while everyone's doing their own thing, I'll see to retrieving the book. I'm going to have to find another hiding place for it, after all."
"Indeed." The indrani walks behind Kit, giving a gentle push on her shoulders. "Come along, Kit. We must do the job we are best suited for, after all. I personally don't mind being bunny kibble for the odd moment or two..."
//be careful, Kit and Mo`re.// Winter floats back over to Kaligo, pecking him lightly on the cheek; a sprite's gesture of affection between close friends.
//Kaligo be careful, too.//
Winter isn't worried about Gen. Kaligo would be protecting her, after all. And she's good at taking care of herself as well as him, so Winter knows she'll be okay.
After all, she promised as much, a long time ago.
"In that case, it sounds like we're ready." Nahr bows as Mo`re and Kit step to the cave. "After you..."
"Nooooooooooo!!!" Kitsuki wails, clenching the brim of her hat with both hands. She does some comical stomping, flailing, and general temper-tantrum throwing.
"Me?" Kaligo blinks several times, surprised at being volunteered for guard duty. But he doesn't mind--he's more than capable of playing bodyguard, and he'd hate to see Gen get hurt. "All right, I guess. If Gen doesn't mind."
Stanos frowns. She'd let a demon guard her life? The very idea is preposterous. He darts a look at the odd white being who suggested it. Clearly he trusts this demon, although his senses confirm that the being is not himself a demon (in fact, he's something Stanos has never seen before). It must be trickery of some sort.
He steps forward. "I will vounteer myself for guard duty as well," he says gruffly. "If nobody minds," he adds as an afterthought.
Kitsuki seems to be through with her tantrum (which nobody was really paying attention to anyway). She sighs and lets her hands drop to her sides. There's no way she's gonna get out of decoy duty, might as well get it over with as soon as possible.
"Fine," she mutters. "Let's just get this over with." With that, she begins a slow shuffle to the entrance of the cave.
"And what do the rest of us do?" Alexandra queries. "Just stand around and look decorative?"
, and Stanos
No more heat... please.
Gen finally calms down sending a glare at Nahr that would maim if it were tangible. She sighs, then and goes over their options.
"The spell is an odd one, to be sure. It requires me being in a trance, and close enough to the thing in order to work. I won't even begin to bore you with mantra, aura, astral projection, et cetera. Suffice it to say, I form a kind of dream energy and smack the thing with it. At least for this particular spell. I doubt if my other ones would work, though."
"Alexandra...? I believe I have that right, yes? Alexandra has a point. We need decoys." Asmindr flies back to settle on Gen's shoulder, where he flaps his wings with an indignant huff. "And they will have to keep this thing occupied. It's bad enough the Singer has to be put in such jeopardy."
"Lay off that singer crap, and I can take care of myself under normal circumstances. This spell just happens to fall outside the realm of normal."
"...don't we all?"
Sensing that the bunny won't be harmed, Winter floats back to Kaligo's side. He pauses a moment, then 'speaks' loud enough for the others to hear, especially Stanos.
//Kaligo stay with Gen, help keep safe while making spell...?//
...something a good person would do. Surely Stanos would see that...
"Still need those decoys."
"Oh, that's easy. Kit and I will take that job."
If Kit didn't have a reason to cringe before, she does now.
Can't. . . think. . . hunger. . . too great. . .
Winter's statement brings something like wonder to Kaligo, mixed with the tiniest bit of fear. Of course Winter would say that. Whether it's true is something completely different.
It happened hundreds of years ago, Kaligo. Get over it. You put it behind you, remember?
Yes, he remembers. Of course he does. Alexandra had a lot to do with that.
The commotion finally makes Kitsuki look up, frowning. "Whazza? Bunny rabbit?" A pause as it sinks in. "Armor-plated fire-breathing bunny?" Her face scrunches up comically. "Hey, that reminds of whatshisface. The puppy. That kicked all our asses. Ha ha. Ha. Ha." Her laughter trails off very quickly.
Stanos, meanwhile, is experiencing the shock of his life. He'd been sure that Mo`re was toasted. Fried. Burnt to a crisp. Definitely dead, or at least lying on the ground screaming in horrible pain. But instead he is standing there quite calmly picking pieces of burnt flesh off his arm and there is. . . new skin underneath. As if he'd never been burnt in the first place.
Moreover, the guardian is, against all logic, an armor-plated, magically-enhanced fire-breathing rabbit. This does not fit into anything Stanos has ever experienced before. And as if that were not enough, one of them is now insisting that it not be hurt. More than one, and he's saying that it's a pet.
He has no idea what to make of this and decides that right now, keeping quiet and standing off to the side is a very good idea.
Alexandra, however, seems to be taking this quite well. She doesn't bat an eye when Mo`re recovers quite well from being burned alive. The lapine guardian of the book they're after prompts a little chuckle, and she nods in agreement when Winter says that they're not to hurt or kill it. One would think that she's already seen everything that's to be seen in the world and is no longer surprised by anything new.
"But how are we going to put it to sleep if it toasts us?" she queries. "We'll need a decoy or something, don't we?"
Hovering in the background, Kitsuki tries very hard not to cringe.
, and Stanos
Sorry, it's been too hot to think for a post...
//Winter know, deep down, Kaligo never bad.//
To the untrained, a simple enough statement. To those who know the sprite, there's something about his mental tone... something about his phrasing... just... something.
Maybe he does know. Perhaps he understands without full knowledge.
Or, quite possibly, he sees what others cannot, even in their own selves...
"...done and done! Finally. I'll go ahead. Maybe I can get a look at this Guardian..."
"I wouldn't..." Nahr's warning comes too late, the little dragon zipping inside the now cleared cave. "... 3... 2... 1..." He watches impassively as the ground beneath them trembles, then nearly bucks. A scream ranging high enough to cause bleeding in human ears echoes from within the darkness. Nahr steps out of the way just as a large flame spews from the mouth of the cave.
While not dead, Mo`re isn't as lucky. He blinks, his skin freshly roasted to a barbecued black.
"...let me guess, the guardian?"
"Bingo." Nahr just watches as a silver blur is spit out, slamming into a nearby tree. "Soooo..."
"Not. One. Word." The tiny dragon shook himself, looking none the worse for wear despite the horrible display of power. "That thing is... I have no words for it."
~Huh boy.~ Gen gets up, glancing at Mo`re just to remind herself he does heal. Despite their fights, she'll miss him if he ever does get the opportunity to leave...
"What did you see, Asmindr?"
"...you're not going to believe it. I saw it, and I still don't believe it."
"Don't keep us in the dark." Mo`re brushes at black flakes of skin, which slowly reveal newly formed, healthy skin beneath. "Spill."
"...fifty foot width, armor plated, magic imbued, fire-breathing..."
"Sounds like a dragon."
The scion blinks, only to go suddenly wistful, wiping at a stray tear.
"Aw, it's Thumper-bunny..."
"...no, I don't want to know. I'm not asking."
"I'll ask, then. Thumper-bunny?"
"He's a pet of mine."
"Wait wait wait. You have a gigantic, armor plated, magic enhanced, fire breathing bunny for a pet?"
"...you make it sound like there's something wrong with that.
"If it's your pet, then why..."
"You saw what it looks like. Would you make it guard something?"
"So why are we here, if it's guarding the book."
"Because once the location has been determined by outside forces, I have to move it. A shame, it's been here for a few millennia. I was hoping i could leave it here with no problems."
"...so basically, this is all your fault."
"...I suppose, if one were to look at it right, in a roundabout manner, one could say...
Having only caught bits and pieces of the conversation, Winter is only able to clearly make out the word 'bunny.' Though even if he heard the description, it's doubtful his feelings, nor his next actions, would change at all.
He moves fast, standing in front of the cave, arms outstretched and prepared to block the path.
//no kill, no hurt!//
"...he's right, I want to keep my Thumper-bunny intact.
"Then how to you propose we get the book if we can't get rid of it?"
"Simple. Gen's got a sleeping spell...
For miles around, the only sound heard is that of a woman swearing up a blue streak...