Also, this ended up over 3k words.
Chapter list: http://tanadin.dreamwidth.org/382.html
Map of the continent: http://tanadin.deviantart.com/art/F
Character status spreadsheet: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet
Kingdom of Kalt’on, Minecraftia. November 16, year 573. Time instance 483Z.
Nessy was being very, very annoying.
As the others were setting up camp for the night, the young half-dragon was bouncing around, leaping over people and occasionally knocking things over. She seemed uncharacteristically cheerful and would occasionally park herself in front of someone, shove her face near theirs, say “HI!” really excitedly, then bound off to circle the camp once more.
It was irritating the hell out of Nia.
Normally, it wouldn’t have bothered her more than a little bit, but between being irritable from walking through the desert all night and that damned voice talking to her all the time, she was a lot more angry than she should have been. She took a deep breath and tried to shrug it off, though. Nessy was kind of weird, and she couldn’t help that. Right?
Get rid of her. The suggestion seemed so innocent for what it was implying. She’s obnoxious and she’s in your way. Remove her.
That’s not necessary. Despite this protest, however, Nia could barely keep from punching Nessy in her stupid reptilian face when she jumped right over her, wind from her passage buffeting the tent that Nia was struggling to set up. She snarled quietly but went back to work, try and failing to ignore the voice whispering more and more terrible, evil ideas into her mind.
It’s not like anyone would care, you know. She’s just as annoying to everyone else. What could they do, anyway? You hold Kaen no Mai.
Look at her. Bouncing around and getting in people’s way while not doing any of the work herself. Think about it. Has she ever done anything useful for the group? Has she ever really helped except for occasionally setting up camp, if she’s even done that?
Thinking about it, Nia couldn’t really recall anything that Nessy had done. Sure, she had helped with the watchtowers on the way into Kalt’on, but they didn’t really need her- they had Onai, didn’t they?
Wait. She saved Niel that one time.
Oh, like that matters. He’s a liability and you know it.
Nia struggled to deny that.
A somewhat outdated fact.
Admit it. Nessy is just here for the glory of defeating the Hostiles. She might even try to take all the credit for herself.
Would she do that…?
Nia shivered, feeling an odd urge to seize Kaen no Mai run through her as she stepped back from her tent, now set up. Her eyes drifted to where Nessy was bothering Onai, and a surge of irritation ran through her once more.
She’s annoying, she’s useless, and she’s planning behind your back! She’s nothing but a leaching irritant!
Nia’s fingers twitched.
Nia felt an angry shiver run down her spine and her hand reached back, touching the surface of Kaen no Mai. She didn’t pull the bow off of her back, caught between the insanity of the voice’s words and her own reason, the only thing keeping her together being the smooth, warm surface of the bow as it hummed under her fingers.
Claws of insanity digging their way into an innocent heart.
She felt someone touch her shoulder and she jerked violently, the spell broken and her reason winning out over the voice. Her head snapped around to see Vian.
“Hey, um...are you okay? I was just wondering, cause you’ve been spacing out a lot recently, and then you did it looking at Nessy and you looked like you might actually shoot her. I mean...I know you’d never do that, but-”
Vian didn’t finish his sentence, being interrupted by Nia bursting into tears. The horror of what she had been about to do hit her like a falling building, the fear, the anger, and the sheer terror of herself mixing into one. She hugged Vian tightly for support as she sobbed, shaking and wanting to disappear.
I was going to hurt Nessy. I was going to kill my friend. What is wrong with me?!
The voice seemed to be gone for now, but she knew it would be back. It always came back.
Vian, meanwhile, awkwardly half-hugged her, patting her back uncertainly. “Um...It’ll be okay? Nia, what’s going on?”
Nia didn’t answer. She couldn’t answer. How could she tell him what she had been about to do?
She couldn’t work up the ability or willpower to move from Vian’s arms for quite awhile, but when she did, she did so somewhat awkwardly and wouldn’t meet his eyes.
“S-sorry about that. I’ve just...I’ve been really stressed lately, and you caught me at a bad time.” She cleared her throat. “Sorry about crying all over you like that. Um…”
“It’s fine, it’s fine.” Vian assured. “I can understand the whole stress thing.” He paused. “And I don’t mind being cried on. It’s not every day a pretty girl throws herself at me.”
Nia frowned at him and swatted his shoulder.
“Ow! Geez, sorry.”
She snorted in laughter. “You’re a weird guy, you know that?”
He shrugged. “Yeah. What gave it away, the shirt or the gloves?”
“The fact that we ran into you in the middle of goddamn nowhere and you happened to be one of us and also happened to be related to Zel.”
Before their conversation could continue, Nessy jumped right up to them, almost knocking Nia over. She grinned at them before bounding off again. Nia growled softly, causing Vian to raise an eyebrow.
“She been pissing you off?”
“You could say that.” Nia shivered as the voice returned, but she struggled to ignore it, trying to focus on Vian’s voice instead. It was easier when there were other words to listen to.
“Maybe we could talk to Mokdal about it? I mean, he’s kind of our dragon expert, being one himself. Maybe he knows how to make her stop. Katrin’s been asking her to quit it ever since we stopped to make camp but it doesn't work for more than about thirty seconds.”
Nia nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, we could do that.” Hopefully he can make her stop so I don’t lose my fucking mind and murder her in cold blood. She shivered. “Can we do that right now?”
“That was the plan.” Vian turned around and strode purposefully towards Mokdal, Nia not far behind.
The dragon yawned and turned his head as they approached. “Hmm? Is there something you need?”
Vian nodded. “Nia wants to ask you something.”
Nia glared at him. “Seriously?”
Mokdal raised an eyeridge and Nia cleared her throat. “Is there any way to stop Nessy from being so...annoying? She’s bouncing around and making life really difficult.”
Mokdal shook his head. “No, unfortunately. It’s just...her time of the cycle.”
“Pardon?” Nia blinked. “I’ve known her for two months and she’s never done this before.”
“It’s a dragon thing.” Mokdal said, sighing. “And even if I could stop her, I wouldn’t. She has spent so little time in her dragon form that it is underdeveloped, both physically and magically. As she spends more and more time in it, the more and more powerful she will get, and she will need every ounce of that power as a half-dragon, especially considering the upcoming fight.”
Nia sighed. “Yeah, I guess I can understand that. But is there any way to keep her from annoying the hell out of everyone?”
“Sadly. no. I’ll try to keep her near me, however.” Mokdal raised his head. “Nessy! Could you come over here, please?”
“Thanks.” Nia mumbled, before quickly scrambling away, Vian following.
Meanwhile, on the other side of their small camp, a fight was occurring. Or, rather, a training match.
“You can’t just go for brute strength like you can with a two-handed weapon! Cmon, give me some skill!”
“I DON’T HAVE ANY SKILL HERE, ARRA!” Zekara growled, slamming the sword straight down at her friend. Arra easily blocked it with one of her own blades and gently poked Zekara in the stomach with the other.
“Okay. So many you’re not cut out to be a one-handed fighter. Sure, you’ve got the strength and I know you’ve got the rage, but you don’t have the finesse or the practice. You can definitely learn it, but not in a short enough time.” Arra sheathed her weapons and crossed her arms. “Hmm...Oh, I know.”
“What? You know how to make me useful enough for this upcoming fight?”
“No. But I do know how to make you so badass looking no one will want to fuck with you. Hang on.” Arra stepped over to her bag and removed the spare sword that she had hanging on the outside of it. “I knew carrying around three swords would pay off!” She rummaged through the bag to find some leather strips that she had been carrying around as well. Peeking into the bag, Zekara discovered that leather strips and an extra sword were the most normal of the items her friend was hauling around.
“Look, okay. What we’re gonna do is we’re going to essentially tie this extra sword to your left arm. Granted, it won’t be very useful- in fact, I don’t think you can use it at all- but waving that and your other sword around while yelling like the daughter of the Frostlands that you are will scare the living daylights out of anything and everything and nothing will even try to fight you. If anything does come after you, just swing wildly and yell in a slightly angrier way. I’ll come running and help kick their asses.”
Zekara raised an eyebrow. “I like yelling and being scary.”
“Great! It’s way better than sitting the fight out. Hold still, I’m gonna give this a shot.” Arra stepped forward and Zekara helpfully held up the remainder of her left arm. She waited patiently as Arra struggled to attach the sword, eventually stepping back, satisfied.
“You’re like a pirate that’s been taking too many badass pills.”
“A pirate?” Zekara looked excited. “Do you think we could attach a hook to my arm?”
Arra burst into laughter. “Maybe! Unfortunately, we don’t have one- well, Marcus might, but he’s creepy so I’m not about to ask him- so the sword will have to do. It’s scarier anyway.”
Zekara admired her left arm and nodded. “I look ready to kick some ass.” She grinned.
“Just don’t hit anything with that left sword, it’ll come right off after a couple of swings. Wave it around all you want, though. Um. Maybe not in my direction.”
Zekara laughed. “Is it really that unstable?”
“Well...yeah. I don’t really have a way to attach the leather to itself without it being permanent and requiring it to be cut off, so…”
“Oh, I do.” Zekara sheathed the sword that she was still holding in her right hand and fumbled to get her bag open. She looked pitifully at Arra until she rolled her eyes and helped to open it. Zekara drew out a smaller pouch and motioned for Arra to open it as well. The Kalt’onian peered into the bag and pulled out an odd object, some kind of metal spike with a flat metal disk on top.
“What is this?”
“I think it’s called a tack. Just drive it through one piece of leather and into another- it’ll hold them together. You can pull it right back out after.”
“It’ll keep them together? How?”
“I have no idea.” Zekara confessed, having Arra shut the pouch and toss it back into her bag. “Magic, I guess. But will that help?”
“It should.” Arra grinned. “Between you and me, we could probably take over the world.”
“We’d need to include Claire.”
“Right, right. I’d want my sibling included in world domination if possible.”
“You have a sibling?”
“I did.” Arra hesitated. “He was lost really early on after we joined the Sandbreakers.”
“...Oh. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay. I’m mostly over it.” Arra sighed. “Sometimes, though, I’m not. And it sucks.”
Zekara put her (less deadly) arm around Arra’s shoulders and hugged her briefly. “It’ll be okay.”
“Yeah.” A smile spread across Arra’s face. “Carry on, right? And I’ve got friends, not just in Shriker and the other Sandbreakers, but you guys, too.”
“Yep!” Zekara nodded. “You’ve got us and, when you have a pack or two of badass friends, what more do you need?”
Sometimes, even that cannot save what you stand for from destruction.
Vechs paced, paranoid, from one side of the room to the other. Blame seemed to be contemplating murder while Pak gently patted his shoulder.
“Kaltaerion’s influencing Nia. That much is obvious.” Blame growled softly. “Nessy could have been killed.”
Nebris shivered. He didn’t want to know what it was like to have your orb shatter in your hands and know that an innocent life was over, and that there had been nothing you could do to stop it.
“And she won’t tell anyone.” Vechs mumbled. “She’s afraid of their reactions just as much as she’s afraid of her own mind. Dammit, Nia! I know you get your stubborn, keep-shit-to-yourself nature from me, but just...fucking quit it!”
“Between Nia with Kaltaerion and Adrian with his monstrous form, it looks like the Davion family is just becoming hell in a handbasket.” Nebris commented.
“You mean it wasn’t already?” Blame asked him, amusing Vechs enough to get a laugh out of him despite his current levels of stress.
“That’s me. King of the Hell in a Handbasket kingdom.”
“Your kingdom is currently a pile of dust.” Pak reminded him.
Vechs whipped around and glared at him. “Don’t remind me. It’s painful enough seeing it through your orbs.”
Vechs sighed, sitting down, but got up moments later to pace again.
A storm of death was about to roll in, and he knew it.
Ashwatch, Minecraftia. October 5, year 573. Time instance 483Z.
Velana breathed a sigh of relief as she reached the top of the final hill leading into Ashwatch. It had been quite the walk from her home to here, and she was relieved to have finally reached her destination.
As she began her descent, however, three Ashenhorns who were clearly guarding the entrance into Ashwatch stepped forward to block her path.
“Who are you to seek entry into Ashwatch?” One of them, a man with two sets of ribs, asked her.
“I am a friend of the Ashenhorns and I know that my niece and nephew are either here or were here recently. I’m looking for them.”
He looked suspiciously at her. “Who-”
“Wait a second, Clatter, that’s Velana!” A woman, this one with four ribs, nudged him out of the way. “Velana, it’s good to see you in Ashwatch once more. I’m sure we can help you find who you’re looking for, but would you be so kind as to recall the phrase you were given by Seer last time you saw her? We’re not supposed to let anyone in unless they know the phrase or are allowed in by a Skullblade that knows them.”
Velana nodded. “Of course. One moment while I attempt to figure out how to pronounce that many consonants in a row.” She noticed the Skullblade smiling, knowing how difficult Skullspeak could be, before the mage shut her eyes to focus.
“U os Velana, ghuaql ig nya Omyaqyihqm.”
Velana sighed as the Skullblades all looked at each other. “My pronunciation leaves much to be desired, doesn’t it?”
“Unfortunately, yes. However, that’s good enough.” The female Ashenhorn smiled. “I’ll take you to Seer. I’m assuming your niece and nephew are the outsiders that Shred brought.”
“That sounds like them. Was a unicorn with them?”
“Then that’s them.”
As they walked, the Ashenhorn continued to speak. “I believe they have recently left, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Seer knows where they have gone.”
“Fantastic.” Velana muttered, but was silent until they reached Seer’s home.
“This would be where she lives. Good luck on all your travels, Velana.”
“Same to you.” Velana nodded to the woman before stepping forward and knocking on the door.
Seer of Pathways opened the door and tilted her head. “Velana! What are you doing here?”
“The seer doesn’t know?”
“Ha. Very funny.”
“Sorry. I’m searching for my niece and nephew- Nia and Adrian. I need to find them.”
“Ah. Well, they left just after the valk’vanor hatched, so you’re quite far behind them. However, I know where they’ve gone. They’re off to the Vicious Wilds, to seek the counsel of someone who can help them.” Seer paused. “I believe you know this woman.”
“Oh, I believe I do.” Velana muttered. “Thank you, Seer. I’ll contact my friend and figure out what to do from here.”
“You won’t stay in Ashwatch for awhile?”
“Not this time. I’m in a bit of a hurry- I’m very worried about them.”
“I understand.” Seer nodded to her. “Good luck, my friend.”
“Thank you.” Velana waiting until Seer had shut the door before pulling out her mirror and leaning it against the wall, sitting down. She mumbled the spell and waited for Skera to answer.
The alchemist didn’t take long to appear on the surface of the mirror, one eyebrow raised. “I thought you were after Adrian and Nia?”
“I am. I just arrived in Ashwatch, and it turns out they went to go see you.”
“Indeed they did. They’re off on a quest, I’m afraid. Their group of descendants has split up, going to Valdrar, Tirisk, and Ahnrak in search of more of their prophesied group.”
Velana groaned. “Where did they go?”
“I don’t know.” Skera shrugged. “I didn’t ask. If I had to guess, though, they went to Ahnrak. They took Teramelle, who should increase how far they can move in a day assuming they don’t use the river. Something tells me that Shred won’t think of that, though.”
Velana sighed. “Fine. I guess I’m off to Ahnrak. Do let me know if you hear anything of their whereabouts.”
“Very well.” With that, the image of Skera rippled and faded.