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TOPIC | Story: Shade's Witness
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[center]-----[font=Georgia][size=6]Introduction-----[/center] [font=Georgia][size=5]T[/size][/font]he Icewarden keeps prisons beyond his border, and these hold horrors which only unyielding ice can contain. A secret Order of ice dragons helps to safeguard these hidden places. One such prison is discovered under the Rotrock Rim, and the clan of Plague dragons living there cast out the guardians in an attempt to gain access to a powerful entity sealed deep within. That entity has its own plans and the gears of its machinations have been turning slowly since long before the arrival of the plague clan... [center]-----[font=Georgia][size=5]Notes-----[/center] This story was written between [url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?p=lair&tab=userpage&id=115702]Minstri[/url] and [url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?p=view&tab=userpage&id=204852]LittleRogue[/url], as a war between the Clan of Singing Blood and the Clan at Bonewood Refuge, after which the defeated clan had planned to find a new home in the Viridian Labyrinth. However, LittleRogue seems to have vanished, so most of the details of the conflict from the point of view of their clan could not be included. It may be updated at some point if Rogue returns and decides they would like to. Otherwise, it stands as-is. The "Discovery" chapter was written by LittleRogue, the rest was written by Minstri based on the agreed-upon outline. An off-site version of this story can be found [url=https://docs.google.com/document/d/1_ZO1zzYQiIKV58T3pJcXu1ve764Zj2phTLLRqCX-PGI]here[/url]. [b]Warnings[/b] [indent]• Combat between dragons, including mild descriptions of injury and blood • Minor descriptions of body horror Please feel free to notify me of anything else I might have missed, or if something seems like it should be changed.[/indent] [center]-----[font=Georgia][size=5]Table of Contents-----[/center] • Characters Prologue • Characters Main • Characters Epilogue 0. [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2464668/1#post_33797289]Prologue[/url] 1. [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2464668/1#post_33797306]Escaped[/url] 2. [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2464668/1#post_33797308]Discovery[/url] 3. [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2464668/1#post_33797312]Scouts[/url] 4. [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2464668/1#post_33797315]Misfortune[/url] 5. [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2464668/1#post_33797317]War[/url] 6. [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2464668/1#post_33797317]Reflection[/url] 7. [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2464668/1#post_33797375]Retrieval[/url] 8. [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2464668/1#post_33816766]Epilogue[/url] [center]-----[font=Georgia][size=5]Characters Prologue-----[/center] [center]Ayna and Donvurma [url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=30370676][img]http://flightrising.com/rendern/portraits/303707/30370676p.png[/img][/url][url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=31682122][img]http://flightrising.com/rendern/portraits/316822/31682122p.png[/img][/url][/center] The story begins with these two. The two Ice Dragons maintained a Prison of Ice deep below the Rotrock Rim on behalf of the Ice Warden. Ayna tricked the Queen of the Clan who had claimed the prison, and the two were driven out when her treachery was discovered. (Note that these two have been breed changed and exalted, so that portion of the story can be read in the prologue below, but their breed in the story is different - Ayna is a fae and Don is a Guardian) [center]Frostmoon Trio [url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=34986147][img]http://flightrising.com/rendern/portraits/349862/34986147p.png[/img][/url][url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=34986148][img]http://flightrising.com/rendern/portraits/349862/34986148p.png[/img][/url][url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=34986149][img]http://flightrising.com/rendern/portraits/349862/34986149p.png[/img][/url][/center] Fallout from the battle against Donvurma--three of Kisankai's children are cursed. The curse results in havoc for the Clan of Singing Blood. (Note that the first of the trio has been exalted, but the other two still have most of the story) [center]-----[font=Georgia][size=5]Characters Main-----[/center] [center]Majka and Kulm [url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=34422438][img]http://flightrising.com/rendern/portraits/344225/34422438p.png[/img][/url][url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=34891528][img]http://flightrising.com/rendern/portraits/348916/34891528p.png[/img][/url][/center] Majka is called in to replace Ayna and Secure the Prison. While she is doing so she discovers Kulm's egg and adopts the Snapper as her own. Kulm is trained as a warrior and helps her mother with the prison. Once the events of the story begin to unfold, Kulm finds herself at the center of the struggle against her Clan's most dangerous foe, and her own greatest fear. (Note that Kulm has been exalted by another owner. You can read her bio [url=https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ZWUZ4V4oeUXU9qCXsizZFQynn83RfjsL26g6L3VJj3c/edit#heading=h.q52zvpv9iz1o]here[/url].) [center]Dragons at Bonewood Refuge [url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=19738868][img]http://flightrising.com/rendern/portraits/197389/19738868p.png[/img][/url][url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=22451736][img]http://flightrising.com/rendern/portraits/224518/22451736p.png[/img][/url][url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=19461400][img]http://flightrising.com/rendern/portraits/194615/19461400p.png[/img][/url][url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=19467826][img]http://flightrising.com/rendern/portraits/194679/19467826p.png[/img][/url] Dresden -- -- Murphy -- -- Neptune -- -- Jaka[/center] Dresden is the start of the story for the dragons at Bonewood Refuge, having been called out of the refuge by the strange magical creature which escaped from the Ice Prison. He pities the creature and takes it back to the lair with him. [center]Clan of Singing Blood [url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=9262261][img]http://flightrising.com/rendern/portraits/92623/9262261p.png[/img][/url][url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=20745910][img]http://flightrising.com/rendern/portraits/207460/20745910p.png[/img][/url][url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=29519016][img]http://flightrising.com/rendern/portraits/295191/29519016p.png[/img][/url][url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=21072954][img]http://flightrising.com/rendern/portraits/210730/21072954p.png[/img][/url][url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=11702367][img]http://flightrising.com/rendern/portraits/117024/11702367p.png[/img][/url] Sovri -- -- Sahko -- -- Susan -- -- Makhae -- -- Yuseph[/center] These are the remaining dragons from the Clan of Singing Blood who play roles in the story, but whose own lore doesn't necessarily revolve around these events. [center]-----[font=Georgia][size=5]Characters Epilogue-----[/center] Note: These Character's stories are best read after finishing "Shade's Witness" --they expand upon the story and reveal new information about the events. [center]Vorastoque [url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=34970238][img]http://flightrising.com/rendern/portraits/349703/34970238p.png[/img][/url][/center] The weapon utilized against the Eyebite in order to disable it and allow it to be captured. The story of her creation started long before any of these events were set in motion, and the tragedy of her existence is a burden upon the King's heart. [center]Minseok and Volamina [url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=31081433][img]http://flightrising.com/rendern/portraits/310815/31081433p.png[/img][/url][url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=31837368][img]http://flightrising.com/rendern/portraits/318374/31837368p.png[/img][/url][/center] Minseok saved Volamina from certain death and sought asylum with the Clan of Singing Blood. He did not know of the terrible events that would come to unfold due to his nobility and how far he would fall because of his love. Volamina came to be at the heart of the Eyebite Incident, and none of it would have happened were it not for her. While she has met failure in this chapter, she and her knight still live. Sornieth is undergoing dramatic changes in every corner and shadow, and she is ready to take full advantage of that... and to be a part of it. [center]Villian [url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=52073364][img]http://flightrising.com/rendern/portraits/520734/52073364p.png[/img][/url][/center] Villian was sent out by the same Order that Ayna served, to check on the status of the ruined prison and its prisoner. [center]Avymur [url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=39969541][img]http://flightrising.com/rendern/portraits/399696/39969541p.png[/img][/url][/center] The last son of Minseok and Volamina, left behind when the traitors fled the clan. His story is yet to be written.

Introduction

The Icewarden keeps prisons beyond his border, and these hold horrors which only unyielding ice can contain. A secret Order of ice dragons helps to safeguard these hidden places. One such prison is discovered under the Rotrock Rim, and the clan of Plague dragons living there cast out the guardians in an attempt to gain access to a powerful entity sealed deep within.

That entity has its own plans and the gears of its machinations have been turning slowly since long before the arrival of the plague clan...



Notes
This story was written between Minstri and LittleRogue, as a war between the Clan of Singing Blood and the Clan at Bonewood Refuge, after which the defeated clan had planned to find a new home in the Viridian Labyrinth. However, LittleRogue seems to have vanished, so most of the details of the conflict from the point of view of their clan could not be included. It may be updated at some point if Rogue returns and decides they would like to. Otherwise, it stands as-is.

The "Discovery" chapter was written by LittleRogue, the rest was written by Minstri based on the agreed-upon outline.

An off-site version of this story can be found here.


Warnings
• Combat between dragons, including mild descriptions of injury and blood
• Minor descriptions of body horror

Please feel free to notify me of anything else I might have missed, or if something seems like it should be changed.



Table of Contents

• Characters Prologue
• Characters Main
• Characters Epilogue
0. Prologue
1. Escaped
2. Discovery
3. Scouts
4. Misfortune
5. War
6. Reflection
7. Retrieval
8. Epilogue



Characters Prologue

Ayna and Donvurma

30370676p.png31682122p.png
The story begins with these two. The two Ice Dragons maintained a Prison of Ice deep below the Rotrock Rim on behalf of the Ice Warden. Ayna tricked the Queen of the Clan who had claimed the prison, and the two were driven out when her treachery was discovered.

(Note that these two have been breed changed and exalted, so that portion of the story can be read in the prologue below, but their breed in the story is different - Ayna is a fae and Don is a Guardian)


Frostmoon Trio

34986147p.png34986148p.png34986149p.png
Fallout from the battle against Donvurma--three of Kisankai's children are cursed. The curse results in havoc for the Clan of Singing Blood.

(Note that the first of the trio has been exalted, but the other two still have most of the story)



Characters Main

Majka and Kulm

34422438p.png34891528p.png
Majka is called in to replace Ayna and Secure the Prison. While she is doing so she discovers Kulm's egg and adopts the Snapper as her own. Kulm is trained as a warrior and helps her mother with the prison. Once the events of the story begin to unfold, Kulm finds herself at the center of the struggle against her Clan's most dangerous foe, and her own greatest fear.

(Note that Kulm has been exalted by another owner. You can read her bio here.)


Dragons at Bonewood Refuge

19738868p.png22451736p.png19461400p.png19467826p.png
Dresden -- -- Murphy -- -- Neptune -- -- Jaka
Dresden is the start of the story for the dragons at Bonewood Refuge, having been called out of the refuge by the strange magical creature which escaped from the Ice Prison. He pities the creature and takes it back to the lair with him.


Clan of Singing Blood

9262261p.png20745910p.png29519016p.png21072954p.png11702367p.png
Sovri -- -- Sahko -- -- Susan -- -- Makhae -- -- Yuseph
These are the remaining dragons from the Clan of Singing Blood who play roles in the story, but whose own lore doesn't necessarily revolve around these events.



Characters Epilogue
Note: These Character's stories are best read after finishing "Shade's Witness" --they expand upon the story and reveal new information about the events.

Vorastoque

34970238p.png
The weapon utilized against the Eyebite in order to disable it and allow it to be captured. The story of her creation started long before any of these events were set in motion, and the tragedy of her existence is a burden upon the King's heart.


Minseok and Volamina

31081433p.png31837368p.png
Minseok saved Volamina from certain death and sought asylum with the Clan of Singing Blood. He did not know of the terrible events that would come to unfold due to his nobility and how far he would fall because of his love. Volamina came to be at the heart of the Eyebite Incident, and none of it would have happened were it not for her. While she has met failure in this chapter, she and her knight still live. Sornieth is undergoing dramatic changes in every corner and shadow, and she is ready to take full advantage of that... and to be a part of it.


Villian

52073364p.png
Villian was sent out by the same Order that Ayna served, to check on the status of the ruined prison and its prisoner.


Avymur

39969541p.png
The last son of Minseok and Volamina, left behind when the traitors fled the clan. His story is yet to be written.
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Visual Art
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Lore Dragons Sales
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Shade's Witness
Scarwind Fae Colony
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+3 FR Time
Hatchling Letters appreciated

Minstri not Ministri (careful with Pings)



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Prologue: The Frozen Depths

The White Prison

Deep below the Rotrock Rim, in the Old Lair of the Clan of Singing Blood, there was a place where blood did not flow. It still would sing, however. Blood would sing in ringing, crystalline notes from the hung, frozen chimes which decorated The White Prison. A little sliver of the Icewarden's domain in the heart of the Scarred Wasteland. Here everything was still and silent and stopped. No sickness progressed. No battles of life and death occurred. Only the chimes stirred and sang, the blood producing a broken and halting song.

The stirring of the chimes was caused by the warden Donvurma, the sole moving denizen in that dark place. Each breath from his mouth, each shift of his weight and fluttering of his wings stir the glittering chimes which fill the chambers. Some believed he was a prisoner himself, and in some ways that was true. He never left the dark and frigid corridors until his removal after a lifetime ensuring their security.

It was said that his breath is what keeps the place so cold and that a sigh from the great beast can freeze the blood in a dragon's heart. If true, with his departure, perhaps the place will thaw. It was not known how much of an exaggeration these powers were, as few dragons ever spent long enough in his presence to confirm or disprove it, save for the prisoners, and they did not speak.

He was alone until the arrival of Ayna, who said she had come to help him protect this place, and he took her as his mate. To say he loved her would be a considerable understatement. Though no visible signs of affection could he show her, his devotion was absolute. Though she never told him what it was they truly guarded, the what and the why was wholly unimportant.

The dark frozen place was Ayna's domain. She was the keeper of the White Prison, whose name was never spoken, save to summon her to the speaker. She is called the White, or the Broken Mirror, or the Ice Witch.

Here she long served as the Clan's Warden, guarding over the strangest and most dangerous of the clan's enemies. Though few really understood her role. The Clan of Singing Blood does not bother much with prisoners, deeds are generally punished if necessary, and if the criminal survives said punishment, that is that. What then did Ayna keep in her prison? What sort of dragons, beasts, ghosts, and monsters were trapped in that deep place? Who would the Queen call upon Ayna to deal with?


The Seals

Ayna served the clan as their warden only as a secondary role. Her primary duties were both simpler and far more important than that. The chambers of the White Prison had been guarded by her kind, her far-flung sisters for long before the Clan of Singing Blood arrived. For a time it sat in silence, sealed away below the deeper regions of the clan's lair (which had served as a lair to even older clans before it), but the Queen of that clan sensed the power within those deep places and began a search for what mysteries waited beneath the cliffs. That is when Ayna arrived.

She was sent there by her Order, dragons devoted to the service of the Icewarden. Something had been sealed by his power in that depth long ago. Now, Minstri and her clan threatened to break that seal. So she was sent to guard it and ensure no dragon of plague ever touch it. It's unclear if she knew exactly what it was she was guarding. But knowing or not would have made no difference to her.

When she arrived in white Prison she was greeted by an unexpected sight. Another dragon had already taken up residence there. The still and monstrous guardian Donvurma. The guardian had come to claim that sacred place as his Charge. Ayna was suspicious only for a short time. None of the outer seals had been breached, so he could not have broken in. If he found his way there, then he was truly meant to be there. She took him as her mate but never revealed the nature of her order or the true reasons for her being there.


The Breach

Eventually, the discovery of the hidden prison was imminent. The Queen's power and prowess as a seer set her apart from those others which had sought the place and failed to find it. Ayna made a drastic move and revealed her presence and the location of the prison itself. She had long studied the Queen and felt confident in her abilities to beguile her, in spite of the common failure of other dragons who tried the same.

Ayna offered the Prison to the Clan, and swore herself its Warden. She could entrap any creature mundane, mystic, or eldritch within. To be trusted by the clan, she could keep them from ever examining the deeper reaches of the Prison. For a long time, then, Ayna served the clan in this capacity. She was a strange figure to the rest of the clan, shrouded in mystery and fear.


Shattering the Ice

It was not until the second coming of the King, once he had come to his true body, that her deceptions were discovered. The sharpened focus of his mind allowed him to detect the powerful and subtle spells she had woven around own mind to secure it. That she was hiding something and hiding it specifically from his sister displeased him. He sought then to discover answers from other sources and masked his inquiries into her and her secret sect. It was not until he felt he had discovered all he could and that he was fully ready and equipped to deal with the problem that he took the matter, at last, to the Queen.

The Queen summoned Ayna to her chambers, where a trap had been laid for the icy fae. Her capture was swift, but she used her magics to imprison the guard of the Keep and several of her subordinates within the depths of the White Prison before she was fully subdued and placed in the King's care. Minstri was unable to plumb the depths of the Ice Witch's mind, but Sovri had means of interview that were unlike his sisters, and over the course of several days he managed to exact enough information about the ancient chambers that a proper excavation could be conducted and the guards retrieved. Of course, they still had Donvurma to deal with.

When the trap was sprung on Ayna that final day, Donvurma knew, and all the denizens of Clifftown above heard his furious roar. Thunder shook the structures of dragon-kind on the distance surface world and drinks froze in their cups, but there was nothing more Donvurma could do. Ayna had been summoned to the Inner Keep, which rested nestled on the inner edge of the Wyrmwound. She was well out of his reach. This had been by design. Those filth-encrusted creatures could not have taken them so easily in their own domain, and two at once. The cowards had separated them.

Donvurma set immediately to fortifying his home, readying himself for battle. By Ayna's magics several of the keep's guards were trapped in the lower reaches of the Prison, where none of that plague clan had ever walked before. From them, he took their enchanted tools and weapons and used those to lay traps, and he hoped that Ayna had escaped, that she would return soon.

But Ayna never returned to the frozen depths...


The Battle

It was several days before the plague clan arrived with their forces for an expedition and assault. Donvurma had thought for sure the Queen would have come, but she did not. She left the operation entirely to her brother, though he loathed such confrontation, and his presence was generally demoralizing to the clan's warriors. Ayna had managed to craft magics which had fooled and beguiled the Queen, so she feared to step into the place lest she run afoul more such spellwork. Instead, she hid away in shame.

The task of removing Donvurma was given to Kisankai, a disgraced Guardian, who knew the pain of being stripped of a Charge. She was not at all the only dragon who came to fight him. The imprisonment of the clan's guards meant that this was also a jailbreak, and it took coordination of the clan's most skilled warriors to subdue the only remaining warden.

Donvurma knew he could not win alone and against an overwhelming number, even with the advantages, he had of knowledge of the prison and mastery of ice. Instead, he focused on one goal - force the King into the battlefield, and wound him if possible. Killing him was a dream beyond reach. He knew, though he was not sure how, that Ayna's downfall and his own were due to the actions of that single sinister skydancer. By the touch of that thing's claws had his life been utterly destroyed. But Sovri's cowardice was well known and proven here. He would not join the fight, remaining constantly out of reach. He did not even enter the uppermost chambers of ice but stayed in the tunnels above.

In a fury, Donvurma turned away from the battle and did what no one could have expected. He began to destroy his Charge himself. He fled through the many rooms, shattering the ice and releasing the prisoners he had previously guarded upon the warriors.

This act finally forced the King to enter the Prison himself, to prevent Donvurma from unleashing more chaos. Horrors and unspeakable monsters resided here, terrors which could not be defeated, only contained. The warriors were directed to prevent any of these entities from escaping, and Sovri pursued Donvurma.

The King of Cursed Light was dwarfed by the guardian. Small and frail. In the darkness underground his connection to the Lightweaver would be weakened, and his magic more brittle than his birdlike bones. How Donvurma lost is known only to them, and of the duel, the guardian does not speak.


Exile

Ayna and Donvurma were exiled in failure and disgrace. Ayna, for her loss of the Prison, would be unable to return to her Order and her sisters. Donvurma had been stripped of his Charge, and would likely have pined away and died if not for Ayna's devotion in the days that followed.

Prologue: The Frozen Depths

The White Prison

Deep below the Rotrock Rim, in the Old Lair of the Clan of Singing Blood, there was a place where blood did not flow. It still would sing, however. Blood would sing in ringing, crystalline notes from the hung, frozen chimes which decorated The White Prison. A little sliver of the Icewarden's domain in the heart of the Scarred Wasteland. Here everything was still and silent and stopped. No sickness progressed. No battles of life and death occurred. Only the chimes stirred and sang, the blood producing a broken and halting song.

The stirring of the chimes was caused by the warden Donvurma, the sole moving denizen in that dark place. Each breath from his mouth, each shift of his weight and fluttering of his wings stir the glittering chimes which fill the chambers. Some believed he was a prisoner himself, and in some ways that was true. He never left the dark and frigid corridors until his removal after a lifetime ensuring their security.

It was said that his breath is what keeps the place so cold and that a sigh from the great beast can freeze the blood in a dragon's heart. If true, with his departure, perhaps the place will thaw. It was not known how much of an exaggeration these powers were, as few dragons ever spent long enough in his presence to confirm or disprove it, save for the prisoners, and they did not speak.

He was alone until the arrival of Ayna, who said she had come to help him protect this place, and he took her as his mate. To say he loved her would be a considerable understatement. Though no visible signs of affection could he show her, his devotion was absolute. Though she never told him what it was they truly guarded, the what and the why was wholly unimportant.

The dark frozen place was Ayna's domain. She was the keeper of the White Prison, whose name was never spoken, save to summon her to the speaker. She is called the White, or the Broken Mirror, or the Ice Witch.

Here she long served as the Clan's Warden, guarding over the strangest and most dangerous of the clan's enemies. Though few really understood her role. The Clan of Singing Blood does not bother much with prisoners, deeds are generally punished if necessary, and if the criminal survives said punishment, that is that. What then did Ayna keep in her prison? What sort of dragons, beasts, ghosts, and monsters were trapped in that deep place? Who would the Queen call upon Ayna to deal with?


The Seals

Ayna served the clan as their warden only as a secondary role. Her primary duties were both simpler and far more important than that. The chambers of the White Prison had been guarded by her kind, her far-flung sisters for long before the Clan of Singing Blood arrived. For a time it sat in silence, sealed away below the deeper regions of the clan's lair (which had served as a lair to even older clans before it), but the Queen of that clan sensed the power within those deep places and began a search for what mysteries waited beneath the cliffs. That is when Ayna arrived.

She was sent there by her Order, dragons devoted to the service of the Icewarden. Something had been sealed by his power in that depth long ago. Now, Minstri and her clan threatened to break that seal. So she was sent to guard it and ensure no dragon of plague ever touch it. It's unclear if she knew exactly what it was she was guarding. But knowing or not would have made no difference to her.

When she arrived in white Prison she was greeted by an unexpected sight. Another dragon had already taken up residence there. The still and monstrous guardian Donvurma. The guardian had come to claim that sacred place as his Charge. Ayna was suspicious only for a short time. None of the outer seals had been breached, so he could not have broken in. If he found his way there, then he was truly meant to be there. She took him as her mate but never revealed the nature of her order or the true reasons for her being there.


The Breach

Eventually, the discovery of the hidden prison was imminent. The Queen's power and prowess as a seer set her apart from those others which had sought the place and failed to find it. Ayna made a drastic move and revealed her presence and the location of the prison itself. She had long studied the Queen and felt confident in her abilities to beguile her, in spite of the common failure of other dragons who tried the same.

Ayna offered the Prison to the Clan, and swore herself its Warden. She could entrap any creature mundane, mystic, or eldritch within. To be trusted by the clan, she could keep them from ever examining the deeper reaches of the Prison. For a long time, then, Ayna served the clan in this capacity. She was a strange figure to the rest of the clan, shrouded in mystery and fear.


Shattering the Ice

It was not until the second coming of the King, once he had come to his true body, that her deceptions were discovered. The sharpened focus of his mind allowed him to detect the powerful and subtle spells she had woven around own mind to secure it. That she was hiding something and hiding it specifically from his sister displeased him. He sought then to discover answers from other sources and masked his inquiries into her and her secret sect. It was not until he felt he had discovered all he could and that he was fully ready and equipped to deal with the problem that he took the matter, at last, to the Queen.

The Queen summoned Ayna to her chambers, where a trap had been laid for the icy fae. Her capture was swift, but she used her magics to imprison the guard of the Keep and several of her subordinates within the depths of the White Prison before she was fully subdued and placed in the King's care. Minstri was unable to plumb the depths of the Ice Witch's mind, but Sovri had means of interview that were unlike his sisters, and over the course of several days he managed to exact enough information about the ancient chambers that a proper excavation could be conducted and the guards retrieved. Of course, they still had Donvurma to deal with.

When the trap was sprung on Ayna that final day, Donvurma knew, and all the denizens of Clifftown above heard his furious roar. Thunder shook the structures of dragon-kind on the distance surface world and drinks froze in their cups, but there was nothing more Donvurma could do. Ayna had been summoned to the Inner Keep, which rested nestled on the inner edge of the Wyrmwound. She was well out of his reach. This had been by design. Those filth-encrusted creatures could not have taken them so easily in their own domain, and two at once. The cowards had separated them.

Donvurma set immediately to fortifying his home, readying himself for battle. By Ayna's magics several of the keep's guards were trapped in the lower reaches of the Prison, where none of that plague clan had ever walked before. From them, he took their enchanted tools and weapons and used those to lay traps, and he hoped that Ayna had escaped, that she would return soon.

But Ayna never returned to the frozen depths...


The Battle

It was several days before the plague clan arrived with their forces for an expedition and assault. Donvurma had thought for sure the Queen would have come, but she did not. She left the operation entirely to her brother, though he loathed such confrontation, and his presence was generally demoralizing to the clan's warriors. Ayna had managed to craft magics which had fooled and beguiled the Queen, so she feared to step into the place lest she run afoul more such spellwork. Instead, she hid away in shame.

The task of removing Donvurma was given to Kisankai, a disgraced Guardian, who knew the pain of being stripped of a Charge. She was not at all the only dragon who came to fight him. The imprisonment of the clan's guards meant that this was also a jailbreak, and it took coordination of the clan's most skilled warriors to subdue the only remaining warden.

Donvurma knew he could not win alone and against an overwhelming number, even with the advantages, he had of knowledge of the prison and mastery of ice. Instead, he focused on one goal - force the King into the battlefield, and wound him if possible. Killing him was a dream beyond reach. He knew, though he was not sure how, that Ayna's downfall and his own were due to the actions of that single sinister skydancer. By the touch of that thing's claws had his life been utterly destroyed. But Sovri's cowardice was well known and proven here. He would not join the fight, remaining constantly out of reach. He did not even enter the uppermost chambers of ice but stayed in the tunnels above.

In a fury, Donvurma turned away from the battle and did what no one could have expected. He began to destroy his Charge himself. He fled through the many rooms, shattering the ice and releasing the prisoners he had previously guarded upon the warriors.

This act finally forced the King to enter the Prison himself, to prevent Donvurma from unleashing more chaos. Horrors and unspeakable monsters resided here, terrors which could not be defeated, only contained. The warriors were directed to prevent any of these entities from escaping, and Sovri pursued Donvurma.

The King of Cursed Light was dwarfed by the guardian. Small and frail. In the darkness underground his connection to the Lightweaver would be weakened, and his magic more brittle than his birdlike bones. How Donvurma lost is known only to them, and of the duel, the guardian does not speak.


Exile

Ayna and Donvurma were exiled in failure and disgrace. Ayna, for her loss of the Prison, would be unable to return to her Order and her sisters. Donvurma had been stripped of his Charge, and would likely have pined away and died if not for Ayna's devotion in the days that followed.
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Chapter 1: Escaped

Cursed children, out of season blizzards and disappearances of dragon and beast from the surrounding territory, as well as from the Bonestrewn Crest. It was almost enough to cast doubt in Sovri's mind and to make him wonder if challenging and displacing Ayna and her Guardian had been the right decision. Worse, his sister had become distressed over the whole affair, still filled with shame over having been duped, unaccustomed to being faced with her own failure. Now, though, there was something else wrong, something which clutched at her heart and made it beat with frantic fear.

Sovri slid down into the deeper tunnels, and was met with a damp and mouldering scent. The air was cold and wet. Sovri had to step lightly and carefully to navigate the partially flooded chambers. It was different now than it had been under the care of the Ice Witch, but it would still be years before everything completely thawed.

Sovri stopped in the main chamber. There sat Majka and her adopted daughter, both surrounded by chimes made from crystallized blood. Between them was a brazier which warmed the entrance and filled it with a dim light. The hideous pearlcatcher bowed low to the ground, but Kulm didn't notice the King's approach. Her eyes were fixed upon the shadowed passage with led farther down. She startled when the king spoke.

"Are the prisoners secure?"

"Yes, all those things which resided here in ice, are held securely now by my great brood."

"All?"

Majka's eyes narrowed. "That which might have been contained within the lowest room, there is nothing there now, nor was there anything before." She pauses. "My brood has infested the whole of the prison, and found nothing out of place, but now we see that even the ice in the bottommost chamber is weeping."

"Melting. Ice melts." Sovri answered, a hint of annoyance in his tone. "It melted and you allowed whatever was trapped within to escape."

Majka cowered and bared her teeth. "We saw nothing, sensed nothing."

"Your senses misled you. The Queen has told me that her prize is gone." Sovri glanced at Kulm, who was now lying on the ground with her face pressed into the soggy entryway floor. "... Well, go recheck everything. I need to know if anything else managed to escape your notice… Corrosion will be here shortly, you will report to him and follow his orders until further notice." Sovri walked past Majka and towards the far passage, intent on studying the empty cell far below. "We'll have to figure out if you and your brood are not as capable as advertised, or... if whatever was held here was more than we were prepared to reckon with."



Sahko was knotted up in extreme agitation. Pink eyes blinking and bugging wide from his face, and wings and limbs. Excitement and anxiety had crashed into a bubbling froth within him. He was not overwhelmed for long. He righted himself after a few moments and fixated upon the task his king had set before him, checking and rechecking his calculations and measurements. If he was right, oh, this would be a project of equal or greater interest as his dear Amanita. The skull-faced Fae glanced at him as he thought of her and pushed a scrap of paper towards him. He took it, looked it over, then added it to his growing stack of notes. There had been a few sightings reported, not many, but enough to give him something to work with. A lot to work with. Who saw it, what did they see, why did others not see it, what qualities do or did the witnesses have in common, time and date and location, what was its heading, how fast could it move, during what periods did it travel… which creatures along its route vanished… what did those ones have in common…

Sovri though, he only had two questions for Sahko right now.

"How dangerous is it?"

"Very." Sahko purred. "It could even prove a threat to you, my lord, given enough time… the right resources."

"Where is it?"

"I don't know… yet."

The King frowned leaning over to look at Sahko's notes and the page which Amanita had donated to them. A charcoal drawing, not more than a smudge really. A sinister smudge, with a depthless eye at its center.

"If we wait long enough, though, I think it will come back." Sahko added in a distracted way. "If this pattern is reliable, but… it might not be."

Sovri narrowed his eyes at Sahko. If it returned it would do so on its terms. He did not like that idea. "...Time and resources… We should make sure to not give it either. Have a report ready in an hour, a search team will be deployed then."

Chapter 1: Escaped

Cursed children, out of season blizzards and disappearances of dragon and beast from the surrounding territory, as well as from the Bonestrewn Crest. It was almost enough to cast doubt in Sovri's mind and to make him wonder if challenging and displacing Ayna and her Guardian had been the right decision. Worse, his sister had become distressed over the whole affair, still filled with shame over having been duped, unaccustomed to being faced with her own failure. Now, though, there was something else wrong, something which clutched at her heart and made it beat with frantic fear.

Sovri slid down into the deeper tunnels, and was met with a damp and mouldering scent. The air was cold and wet. Sovri had to step lightly and carefully to navigate the partially flooded chambers. It was different now than it had been under the care of the Ice Witch, but it would still be years before everything completely thawed.

Sovri stopped in the main chamber. There sat Majka and her adopted daughter, both surrounded by chimes made from crystallized blood. Between them was a brazier which warmed the entrance and filled it with a dim light. The hideous pearlcatcher bowed low to the ground, but Kulm didn't notice the King's approach. Her eyes were fixed upon the shadowed passage with led farther down. She startled when the king spoke.

"Are the prisoners secure?"

"Yes, all those things which resided here in ice, are held securely now by my great brood."

"All?"

Majka's eyes narrowed. "That which might have been contained within the lowest room, there is nothing there now, nor was there anything before." She pauses. "My brood has infested the whole of the prison, and found nothing out of place, but now we see that even the ice in the bottommost chamber is weeping."

"Melting. Ice melts." Sovri answered, a hint of annoyance in his tone. "It melted and you allowed whatever was trapped within to escape."

Majka cowered and bared her teeth. "We saw nothing, sensed nothing."

"Your senses misled you. The Queen has told me that her prize is gone." Sovri glanced at Kulm, who was now lying on the ground with her face pressed into the soggy entryway floor. "... Well, go recheck everything. I need to know if anything else managed to escape your notice… Corrosion will be here shortly, you will report to him and follow his orders until further notice." Sovri walked past Majka and towards the far passage, intent on studying the empty cell far below. "We'll have to figure out if you and your brood are not as capable as advertised, or... if whatever was held here was more than we were prepared to reckon with."



Sahko was knotted up in extreme agitation. Pink eyes blinking and bugging wide from his face, and wings and limbs. Excitement and anxiety had crashed into a bubbling froth within him. He was not overwhelmed for long. He righted himself after a few moments and fixated upon the task his king had set before him, checking and rechecking his calculations and measurements. If he was right, oh, this would be a project of equal or greater interest as his dear Amanita. The skull-faced Fae glanced at him as he thought of her and pushed a scrap of paper towards him. He took it, looked it over, then added it to his growing stack of notes. There had been a few sightings reported, not many, but enough to give him something to work with. A lot to work with. Who saw it, what did they see, why did others not see it, what qualities do or did the witnesses have in common, time and date and location, what was its heading, how fast could it move, during what periods did it travel… which creatures along its route vanished… what did those ones have in common…

Sovri though, he only had two questions for Sahko right now.

"How dangerous is it?"

"Very." Sahko purred. "It could even prove a threat to you, my lord, given enough time… the right resources."

"Where is it?"

"I don't know… yet."

The King frowned leaning over to look at Sahko's notes and the page which Amanita had donated to them. A charcoal drawing, not more than a smudge really. A sinister smudge, with a depthless eye at its center.

"If we wait long enough, though, I think it will come back." Sahko added in a distracted way. "If this pattern is reliable, but… it might not be."

Sovri narrowed his eyes at Sahko. If it returned it would do so on its terms. He did not like that idea. "...Time and resources… We should make sure to not give it either. Have a report ready in an hour, a search team will be deployed then."
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Chapter 2: Discovery

Something wasn't right. Energy was crackling through the air, the static it caused dancing across Dresden’s scales. It didn’t take long for the feeling to drag him from the book he had been reading. With a practiced motion he grabbed the runed birdskull from the desk and clipped it to his belt. The jostling was enough to draw the elemental that resided in it.

Bob grumbled as he coalesced into a more stable shape, his purple form fading into stars as it spiraled from the skull. “Whaa?” He moaned as he was dragged along the lairs corridors “Boss?” Dresden finally noticed the elemental.

“There's something magical nearby” He murmured, his frills twitching as he tried to follow the pull of energy.

“And that is obviously unusual for this place” Bob folded his arms, as he looked at the fae, “The eleven elementals and eleven shaman not magical enough for you?”

“It’s not that” He grumbled back, aware of the strong magical energies that surrounded the lair. He barely even noticed as he walked past the clans Guardian, Jaka as he left, the obligatory wave as he took to the air as he left the mouth of the lair. He frowned as he followed the energy, so intent of finding the source he didn’t notice as another bright fae caught up to him. Her large wings had given her and advantage, and Murphy didn’t even look out of breath as she yanked on her mates tail.

“Oi!” She yelled finally gaining his attention “I’ve been calling your name for miles!” An angry Murphy was not a good sight.

Dresden was still dazed the green swirls and runes on his body pulsing as he felt the magic thick in the air. “Oh” He muttered his brain not able to form proper sentences with the fog of magic taking over his mind. He turned his head focusing on a clump of dead trees, his pink eyes focused and he almost floated forward, murmuring under his breath “So much magic…” Murphy grew worried as she followed, she knew he could be confused by strong magical forces, but the last time she had seen him like this he had been too close to the Arcanist. He landed by the trees frills vibrating in anticipation.

A shadow moved, flitting between the broken trunk, Murphy couldn't focus on it as if it was permanently just out of view. Dresden reached out an arm towards the shadow, his runes glowing even brighter, sending bright pulses of light down his arms to his claws. The shadow changed, it seemed to coalesce into something more solid, shadow turned to smoke, rushing together into a form that was small and long, much like a fae without wings. Its eyes were a deep black and endless, they were large and somehow looked innocent and young. The shadow reached out a tendril-like arm towards Dresden's, the moment they touched the shadow rushed forward. It curled around the small fae’s body, if it had mass it would have constricted him, squeezing the breath from his body, instead where the shadow touched Dresden felt like ice, but still trapped in his daze he didn’t mind, he reached a paw up, patting its strange head,
“It’s okay little one” He chirped “I’ll protect you” Its endless eyes flicked towards where Murphy hoovered, unsure of what to do “She's my mate, she will help you too”

“Dresden?” Murph asked, finally finding her voice “What is your new friend?” She kept the strain from her voice unwilling to frighten the thing holding her mate.

“Oh just a lost piece of magic” He hummed “Let’s go home little one, Neptune would like to meet you” No sooner had he taken to the air did the guardian appear, his eyes filled with determination teeth bared at the shadow. The shadow darted to the faes back, pressing its face to his ear as if it was speaking

“Neptune!” Dresden grumbled “why are you scaring them?” The guardian was taken aback by the faes accusations.

“My dear, you have an unknown magical entity attached to you, what do you expect?” He lowered his stance as he spoke, lowering his fared wings, and bringing himself to the faes eye level.

“They are just a little scared, a lost piece of magic looking for a home” Dresden stroked the shadow lovingly, “We always accept the needy, no matter how strange” Neptune couldn't fault that logic but something still felt off, the sensation of wrong prickling across his fins.

“Okay we shall look after them, but we will also find out more, so as to best help them” With a shared frown between Murphy and Neptune the trio took to the air.

Chapter 2: Discovery

Something wasn't right. Energy was crackling through the air, the static it caused dancing across Dresden’s scales. It didn’t take long for the feeling to drag him from the book he had been reading. With a practiced motion he grabbed the runed birdskull from the desk and clipped it to his belt. The jostling was enough to draw the elemental that resided in it.

Bob grumbled as he coalesced into a more stable shape, his purple form fading into stars as it spiraled from the skull. “Whaa?” He moaned as he was dragged along the lairs corridors “Boss?” Dresden finally noticed the elemental.

“There's something magical nearby” He murmured, his frills twitching as he tried to follow the pull of energy.

“And that is obviously unusual for this place” Bob folded his arms, as he looked at the fae, “The eleven elementals and eleven shaman not magical enough for you?”

“It’s not that” He grumbled back, aware of the strong magical energies that surrounded the lair. He barely even noticed as he walked past the clans Guardian, Jaka as he left, the obligatory wave as he took to the air as he left the mouth of the lair. He frowned as he followed the energy, so intent of finding the source he didn’t notice as another bright fae caught up to him. Her large wings had given her and advantage, and Murphy didn’t even look out of breath as she yanked on her mates tail.

“Oi!” She yelled finally gaining his attention “I’ve been calling your name for miles!” An angry Murphy was not a good sight.

Dresden was still dazed the green swirls and runes on his body pulsing as he felt the magic thick in the air. “Oh” He muttered his brain not able to form proper sentences with the fog of magic taking over his mind. He turned his head focusing on a clump of dead trees, his pink eyes focused and he almost floated forward, murmuring under his breath “So much magic…” Murphy grew worried as she followed, she knew he could be confused by strong magical forces, but the last time she had seen him like this he had been too close to the Arcanist. He landed by the trees frills vibrating in anticipation.

A shadow moved, flitting between the broken trunk, Murphy couldn't focus on it as if it was permanently just out of view. Dresden reached out an arm towards the shadow, his runes glowing even brighter, sending bright pulses of light down his arms to his claws. The shadow changed, it seemed to coalesce into something more solid, shadow turned to smoke, rushing together into a form that was small and long, much like a fae without wings. Its eyes were a deep black and endless, they were large and somehow looked innocent and young. The shadow reached out a tendril-like arm towards Dresden's, the moment they touched the shadow rushed forward. It curled around the small fae’s body, if it had mass it would have constricted him, squeezing the breath from his body, instead where the shadow touched Dresden felt like ice, but still trapped in his daze he didn’t mind, he reached a paw up, patting its strange head,
“It’s okay little one” He chirped “I’ll protect you” Its endless eyes flicked towards where Murphy hoovered, unsure of what to do “She's my mate, she will help you too”

“Dresden?” Murph asked, finally finding her voice “What is your new friend?” She kept the strain from her voice unwilling to frighten the thing holding her mate.

“Oh just a lost piece of magic” He hummed “Let’s go home little one, Neptune would like to meet you” No sooner had he taken to the air did the guardian appear, his eyes filled with determination teeth bared at the shadow. The shadow darted to the faes back, pressing its face to his ear as if it was speaking

“Neptune!” Dresden grumbled “why are you scaring them?” The guardian was taken aback by the faes accusations.

“My dear, you have an unknown magical entity attached to you, what do you expect?” He lowered his stance as he spoke, lowering his fared wings, and bringing himself to the faes eye level.

“They are just a little scared, a lost piece of magic looking for a home” Dresden stroked the shadow lovingly, “We always accept the needy, no matter how strange” Neptune couldn't fault that logic but something still felt off, the sensation of wrong prickling across his fins.

“Okay we shall look after them, but we will also find out more, so as to best help them” With a shared frown between Murphy and Neptune the trio took to the air.
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Chapter 3: Scouts

The armor-clad black snapper, Kulm, lie flat on her belly among the bones and dry reeds, wishing it had been someone else who was successful in the hunt. She squinted at the dark shape which was at that moment settled between two large rocks. In the distance she could see the line of dark and twisted trees which stood as ancient bastions along the border of the Scarred Wasteland and the Shadowbinder's beguiling domain.

The thing vanished from sight, but she was quite certain that it was still there, or somewhere nearby. The reeds rippled in the wind and the spiral scout Yuseph inched towards her. "There is another scouting party, they should be close by, if they have followed their orders and kept pace. I will go to them, and tell them-"

"And leave me here?" Kulm wasn't able to mask the distress in her voice.

"Well, yes. One of us has to stay to keep track of it, and once the others know, we can send the fastest - well, me, to go back and…"

Kulm had stopped listening. The dark thing was moving again, slowly, up a spire of broken bone and fleshy overgrowth, till it rested, wrapped around the very top. She could see it searching for something. Wide eye floating within the inscrutable bounds of its body. That eye scanned the skies. This was a nightmare. Literally. In the flurry of events following its escape she had been atlast able to put a name to the hideous thing which had long haunted her dreams. An ever present Witness, watching the world unfold and peering into her very soul. She could fight dragon or beast surely and easily, but this thing was neither. Perhaps Sovri sent her to follow it, and be killed by it, to punish her mother for letting the Eyebite escape.

"...you stay and I'll return s-"

"No!" She hissed. "If you leave I'll be alone with that thing, and what will I do then?"

"Same thing we've been doing." Yuseph replied, somewhat confused. He wasn't used to seeing a warrior fold in fear like this, but he couldn't see what she could. Whatever it was it must have been a terribly frightful thing to behold. "We won't get nowhere and nothing done sitting here. I'd stay, but I can't see it and you'd take too long to get to the others. I'll zip away and be back in under an hour."

Kulm said nothing, but glanced at Yuseph for the briefest of moments. Yuseph nodded, then turned away, waiting a moment for the winds favor to mask his flight away from their hiding place. Just as he was about to take off, he felt Kulm slam her foot down on his tail. "Wait!"

"May you be cursed with eternal hiccups! You're no coward, let me and go you'll be fine!"

"No, quiet, look." Kulm pointed, indicating something the in air. Yuseph peered upward and spotted them, a pair of brilliant magenta faes in the distance. "It's here for them." She whispered, certain of this, but not knowing exactly why.

The two watched as they neared the waiting thing, and Kulm let out a gasp when the male fae reached out for it. Every muscle in her body stood out, and for a moment Yuseph thought she was certain to spring up and charge at them. Kulm thought that too. She wanted to shout a warning or drive the fae away from the thing, but she felt as if her legs were glued to the earth, and no struggle could force her to rise. Words caught in her throat and she gasped for air, trying to shout, but unable to make any sound at all. Yuseph coiled in the reeds but did nothing out of uncertainty. They watched as that scene unfolded, and the great watery guardian appeared, apparently ready to fight off the threat of the thing. Kulm felt a moment of relief. If the guardian challenged the thing, perhaps she could stand, and they could do something about it. That didn't last long, however, as the powerful dragon was talked down, and the four departed in apparent peace.

Kulm whined "They took it." and Yuseph spat curses. He would be dismantled if that thing were lost.

"If it's with them I can still track it. You go alert the others, tell them what has happened and recall the search parties. I'll follow them as far as I can, till I am sure of their heading and destination, then I'll return and meet you at the Keep."

Kulm nodded, and waited until she was sure she would not be spotted by the retreating dragons to move. Once clear, she ran along as fast as she could, her pace a rolling thunder across the Wandering Contagion.

Yuseph also followed along the ground, though he prefered the air. He slithered as a serpent beast, keeping his quarry at the greatest possible distance he could, even allowing them to be out of his sight from time to time, but he was his clan's pride as scout and tracker, and the followed them until he could see the distant outline of the ravine between the territories, and watched the three dive into its reaches. That was enough for now, he thought. He was sure that if he ventured any closer to that ravine he would be spotted or caught, and he had no particular desire to approach that strange and sinister treeline. He turned back and made his way quickly towards the Keep. He would probably beat the other members of the search party - he was fast and had no need to rest - but that was fine. Time was now of the essence.



Inside a grand hall of the Scarwind Keep, the Council of Clan of Singing Blood gathered. Yuseph had returned and relayed his report to the King. Nine dragons gathered within the room, though the Queen was absent, for she sat now in her tower, scrying, divining, and attempting to reach spirits of power and knowledge that would grant her the means to secure the lost Eye Shade. Sahko had been invited to share the knowledge he gained about the strange entity. The king had only just finished going over the full scope of recent events when the Judge, Sinflayer spoke.

"Cowardice in our youngest warrior has cost us greatly, if-"

"That no longer matters. Kulm will be seen to later if it is necessary, but the state of matters remains the same regardless of blame." The King looked at the bone-adorned Skydancer whom he had cut short. "That is your domain, but not our concern now."

Sinflayer shook her head. "If Kulm is to be of any use, she must be strengthened."

The King's feathers twitched in irritation. "Oh, of course." He purred. "Why don't you go see to that straight away." Sinflayer's eyes narrowed, and he elaborated. "Since it is clearly of the greatest importance, you shouldn't waste your time here with the council when you have real work to do." She clicked her beak and cast a glance around the others, but did not move. Sovri looked at her intently. "Well? Why are you still here. Go, set our young warrior straight. I expect her to be hard as steel before our meeting is over, hm?"

Sinflayer lowered her head. "Of course, my King. I will let the matter rest."

"That's not what I asked. I asked you to leave."

Sinflayer stiffened. There was a ripple of sound from the rest of council.

"Oh? You don't want to leave? So it's not vital and time sensitive that you get your sadistic claws into Kulm? Let us discuss the matter at hand, then. Shall we?" Sovri detested having to make such a show of things, but even among the Council he did not command the respect that his sister did.

"We need to warn them. Chances are good that those dragons have no idea of the danger they're in." Said Susan, trying to help bring the conversation back to where it needed to be.

Peryite nodded in a patronizing way that showed his patient disagreement. "Perhaps, but, if they understood the full scope of the Deep Thing, do you think that would motivate them to cooperate with us? We know nothing about them. Handing them information could easily backfire."

Sahko's head twitched vigorously up and down. "Yes! They might find some way to utilize the Eyebite against us." The thought of someone else getting their hands on what he had come to think of as HIS project filled him with disgust and dismay.

"Or the Eye might use them against us, because they don't have the tools they need to defend themselves from it." Susan countered.

"They tap powerful elemental energies. A convergence lies within their lair… Powerful dragons reside there. My instruments have detected it from time to time, but I have not been successful in reaching out to them in the past."

"Just the sort of place that thing could unleash the most devastation in." Peryite notes.

Sovri considers. "Our primary objective is retrieval of the Eyebite. We need more information about the clan who have taken it. Susan, I think you are right to try and reach out to them. We can warn them of potential danger without giving away all of our secrets, and at least assess if they will be willing or able to work with us. If not, the time spent on diplomacy will not be wasted, as we will use it to gather information and our warriors. Warlords, the scouting parties will return soon. We will send them right back out again. Gather the other warriors and get them ready."

Chapter 3: Scouts

The armor-clad black snapper, Kulm, lie flat on her belly among the bones and dry reeds, wishing it had been someone else who was successful in the hunt. She squinted at the dark shape which was at that moment settled between two large rocks. In the distance she could see the line of dark and twisted trees which stood as ancient bastions along the border of the Scarred Wasteland and the Shadowbinder's beguiling domain.

The thing vanished from sight, but she was quite certain that it was still there, or somewhere nearby. The reeds rippled in the wind and the spiral scout Yuseph inched towards her. "There is another scouting party, they should be close by, if they have followed their orders and kept pace. I will go to them, and tell them-"

"And leave me here?" Kulm wasn't able to mask the distress in her voice.

"Well, yes. One of us has to stay to keep track of it, and once the others know, we can send the fastest - well, me, to go back and…"

Kulm had stopped listening. The dark thing was moving again, slowly, up a spire of broken bone and fleshy overgrowth, till it rested, wrapped around the very top. She could see it searching for something. Wide eye floating within the inscrutable bounds of its body. That eye scanned the skies. This was a nightmare. Literally. In the flurry of events following its escape she had been atlast able to put a name to the hideous thing which had long haunted her dreams. An ever present Witness, watching the world unfold and peering into her very soul. She could fight dragon or beast surely and easily, but this thing was neither. Perhaps Sovri sent her to follow it, and be killed by it, to punish her mother for letting the Eyebite escape.

"...you stay and I'll return s-"

"No!" She hissed. "If you leave I'll be alone with that thing, and what will I do then?"

"Same thing we've been doing." Yuseph replied, somewhat confused. He wasn't used to seeing a warrior fold in fear like this, but he couldn't see what she could. Whatever it was it must have been a terribly frightful thing to behold. "We won't get nowhere and nothing done sitting here. I'd stay, but I can't see it and you'd take too long to get to the others. I'll zip away and be back in under an hour."

Kulm said nothing, but glanced at Yuseph for the briefest of moments. Yuseph nodded, then turned away, waiting a moment for the winds favor to mask his flight away from their hiding place. Just as he was about to take off, he felt Kulm slam her foot down on his tail. "Wait!"

"May you be cursed with eternal hiccups! You're no coward, let me and go you'll be fine!"

"No, quiet, look." Kulm pointed, indicating something the in air. Yuseph peered upward and spotted them, a pair of brilliant magenta faes in the distance. "It's here for them." She whispered, certain of this, but not knowing exactly why.

The two watched as they neared the waiting thing, and Kulm let out a gasp when the male fae reached out for it. Every muscle in her body stood out, and for a moment Yuseph thought she was certain to spring up and charge at them. Kulm thought that too. She wanted to shout a warning or drive the fae away from the thing, but she felt as if her legs were glued to the earth, and no struggle could force her to rise. Words caught in her throat and she gasped for air, trying to shout, but unable to make any sound at all. Yuseph coiled in the reeds but did nothing out of uncertainty. They watched as that scene unfolded, and the great watery guardian appeared, apparently ready to fight off the threat of the thing. Kulm felt a moment of relief. If the guardian challenged the thing, perhaps she could stand, and they could do something about it. That didn't last long, however, as the powerful dragon was talked down, and the four departed in apparent peace.

Kulm whined "They took it." and Yuseph spat curses. He would be dismantled if that thing were lost.

"If it's with them I can still track it. You go alert the others, tell them what has happened and recall the search parties. I'll follow them as far as I can, till I am sure of their heading and destination, then I'll return and meet you at the Keep."

Kulm nodded, and waited until she was sure she would not be spotted by the retreating dragons to move. Once clear, she ran along as fast as she could, her pace a rolling thunder across the Wandering Contagion.

Yuseph also followed along the ground, though he prefered the air. He slithered as a serpent beast, keeping his quarry at the greatest possible distance he could, even allowing them to be out of his sight from time to time, but he was his clan's pride as scout and tracker, and the followed them until he could see the distant outline of the ravine between the territories, and watched the three dive into its reaches. That was enough for now, he thought. He was sure that if he ventured any closer to that ravine he would be spotted or caught, and he had no particular desire to approach that strange and sinister treeline. He turned back and made his way quickly towards the Keep. He would probably beat the other members of the search party - he was fast and had no need to rest - but that was fine. Time was now of the essence.



Inside a grand hall of the Scarwind Keep, the Council of Clan of Singing Blood gathered. Yuseph had returned and relayed his report to the King. Nine dragons gathered within the room, though the Queen was absent, for she sat now in her tower, scrying, divining, and attempting to reach spirits of power and knowledge that would grant her the means to secure the lost Eye Shade. Sahko had been invited to share the knowledge he gained about the strange entity. The king had only just finished going over the full scope of recent events when the Judge, Sinflayer spoke.

"Cowardice in our youngest warrior has cost us greatly, if-"

"That no longer matters. Kulm will be seen to later if it is necessary, but the state of matters remains the same regardless of blame." The King looked at the bone-adorned Skydancer whom he had cut short. "That is your domain, but not our concern now."

Sinflayer shook her head. "If Kulm is to be of any use, she must be strengthened."

The King's feathers twitched in irritation. "Oh, of course." He purred. "Why don't you go see to that straight away." Sinflayer's eyes narrowed, and he elaborated. "Since it is clearly of the greatest importance, you shouldn't waste your time here with the council when you have real work to do." She clicked her beak and cast a glance around the others, but did not move. Sovri looked at her intently. "Well? Why are you still here. Go, set our young warrior straight. I expect her to be hard as steel before our meeting is over, hm?"

Sinflayer lowered her head. "Of course, my King. I will let the matter rest."

"That's not what I asked. I asked you to leave."

Sinflayer stiffened. There was a ripple of sound from the rest of council.

"Oh? You don't want to leave? So it's not vital and time sensitive that you get your sadistic claws into Kulm? Let us discuss the matter at hand, then. Shall we?" Sovri detested having to make such a show of things, but even among the Council he did not command the respect that his sister did.

"We need to warn them. Chances are good that those dragons have no idea of the danger they're in." Said Susan, trying to help bring the conversation back to where it needed to be.

Peryite nodded in a patronizing way that showed his patient disagreement. "Perhaps, but, if they understood the full scope of the Deep Thing, do you think that would motivate them to cooperate with us? We know nothing about them. Handing them information could easily backfire."

Sahko's head twitched vigorously up and down. "Yes! They might find some way to utilize the Eyebite against us." The thought of someone else getting their hands on what he had come to think of as HIS project filled him with disgust and dismay.

"Or the Eye might use them against us, because they don't have the tools they need to defend themselves from it." Susan countered.

"They tap powerful elemental energies. A convergence lies within their lair… Powerful dragons reside there. My instruments have detected it from time to time, but I have not been successful in reaching out to them in the past."

"Just the sort of place that thing could unleash the most devastation in." Peryite notes.

Sovri considers. "Our primary objective is retrieval of the Eyebite. We need more information about the clan who have taken it. Susan, I think you are right to try and reach out to them. We can warn them of potential danger without giving away all of our secrets, and at least assess if they will be willing or able to work with us. If not, the time spent on diplomacy will not be wasted, as we will use it to gather information and our warriors. Warlords, the scouting parties will return soon. We will send them right back out again. Gather the other warriors and get them ready."
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Chapter 4: Misfortune

As glittering dawn spread across the Scarred Wasteland two pearlcatchers made their way towards the hidden Bonewood Refuge. Susan led the way ahead of Mahkae, the two of them on foot now that their destination was closer. They were in a hurry, but if things went poorly, they would need the energy to make a swift escape. The deep ravine which Yuseph had mentioned in his report was in sight, but the two of them did not know precisely where the lair itself was.

They traveled in silence now. Conversation had run dry during the journey and there were more important things to focus on. The original plan had been to send a lone courier ahead of them to make initial contact, but Saestis had been injured only a few days prior. A beastclan attack apparently. Just one more thing in a string of bad luck and ill omens.

Susan was on high alert. They had no idea yet if the clan they were approaching would be hostile or not, or what the entity they were trying to retrieve would do. She was, besides the Twins, the clans foremost warrior. Even so, one cannot defend against something that isn't there.

Mahkae barely saw it. It was as if the light of dawn had coalesced into a physical form less than a meter above Susan's back, then was dropped like a stone upon her. Susan rolled forward, attempting to throw off her attacker, and it was gone in a flash. She drew her sword, enchanted steel glinting like white fire.



"...There was nothing I could do. It was as if the daylight itself wanted us dead. I have never seen such a thing. Never… seen her fight like that."

"But does daylight bleed, does daylight attack with the crescent claws of a wild hunter?"

Mahkae looked up at the King. "No…" Behind her Verthandi was tending to the cracks and wounds in her body, but Sovri had already made his assessment of them. The ambassador had crashed into the cliffs upon her return, but Sovri guessed the worst of her injuries came from a wildclaw. From a dragon. She was lucky to be alive.

Sovri turned Susan's pearl over in his hands meditatively. Dried blood flaked off of it as he did so. Hers mostly, but not all of it. "No…" Mahkae repeated, anguish in her voice as she watched Sovri turn over and over her friend's manifest soul. Her friend, whom she had abandoned. "...daylight does not have Eyes either…"

Chapter 4: Misfortune

As glittering dawn spread across the Scarred Wasteland two pearlcatchers made their way towards the hidden Bonewood Refuge. Susan led the way ahead of Mahkae, the two of them on foot now that their destination was closer. They were in a hurry, but if things went poorly, they would need the energy to make a swift escape. The deep ravine which Yuseph had mentioned in his report was in sight, but the two of them did not know precisely where the lair itself was.

They traveled in silence now. Conversation had run dry during the journey and there were more important things to focus on. The original plan had been to send a lone courier ahead of them to make initial contact, but Saestis had been injured only a few days prior. A beastclan attack apparently. Just one more thing in a string of bad luck and ill omens.

Susan was on high alert. They had no idea yet if the clan they were approaching would be hostile or not, or what the entity they were trying to retrieve would do. She was, besides the Twins, the clans foremost warrior. Even so, one cannot defend against something that isn't there.

Mahkae barely saw it. It was as if the light of dawn had coalesced into a physical form less than a meter above Susan's back, then was dropped like a stone upon her. Susan rolled forward, attempting to throw off her attacker, and it was gone in a flash. She drew her sword, enchanted steel glinting like white fire.



"...There was nothing I could do. It was as if the daylight itself wanted us dead. I have never seen such a thing. Never… seen her fight like that."

"But does daylight bleed, does daylight attack with the crescent claws of a wild hunter?"

Mahkae looked up at the King. "No…" Behind her Verthandi was tending to the cracks and wounds in her body, but Sovri had already made his assessment of them. The ambassador had crashed into the cliffs upon her return, but Sovri guessed the worst of her injuries came from a wildclaw. From a dragon. She was lucky to be alive.

Sovri turned Susan's pearl over in his hands meditatively. Dried blood flaked off of it as he did so. Hers mostly, but not all of it. "No…" Mahkae repeated, anguish in her voice as she watched Sovri turn over and over her friend's manifest soul. Her friend, whom she had abandoned. "...daylight does not have Eyes either…"
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Chapter 5: War

It was clear then that no attempts at diplomacy would be successful. The very thing they were trying to reclaim would make sure of that. If they wanted to reach it, the Clan of Singing Blood would have to go through the defenses it had raised around itself - the clan at the Bonewood Refuge, and its powerful elemental shamans.

Susan was not dead. Sovri knew as much holding her bloodstained pearl. He could feel the vitality still within. It was not hard to convince the clan to go on the offensive after that. It was harder, perhaps, to reign them in than anything else. Susan was Peryite's mate, and it wasn't lost on Sovri that Peryite had more influence in the clan than he did.

They needed information. Blind rage would not secure their quarry, or save Susan. Reconnaissance was done in the area, but it did not escape the notice of the clan, and these missions quickly escalated to a series of skirmishes throughout the territory. Zamori was called upon, and he supplemented the Bloodsinger warriors with beasts and hired beastclan mercenaries to maintain pressure on their enemy. The fights were no longer about gathering information, but were a distraction from Sahko's work. The arcane spiral began to dig for information about the Eyebite, Scrying upon it, and tapping into the latent magic around the place. The clan within was not doing well.

The Eyebite had tapped into the dragons' elemental energies, and was drawing on them, Devouring them. What once had been their greatest strengths was, against this creature, a most dire vulnerability. This also meant that the Eyebite would be entrenched and unlikely to flee. It could be trapped there. Sahko set to determining how to trap and imprison the entity; the Warlords set themselves to probing the lair and reading for a full assault.

Sovri searched for Susan. It had become clear that she was not in the Bonewood Refuge. She wasn't there because they had not attacked her. The mission was sabotaged by a third party, but it was too late to repair the damage. Sovri examined the blood on her pearl as part of his search, and he tracked it to Minseok, the Clan of Singing Blood's own assassin. Some investigating revealed that Minseok had been corrupted by the Eyebite the very day it escaped.

Minseok had made himself a hidden lair at the edge of the clan's territory, in the depths below a small ruined structure. When the king found him, he attacked Minseok, only for the wildclaw to dissolve into light. A brilliant silhouette filled with twitching empty eyes. The two fought briefly, until Sovri gained the upper hand. Sovri caught and held it with his magic and the corrupted, shade-touched wildclaw screamed. This summoned Volamina to his side, and she freed her mate from the king, and the two quickly fled. Sovri did not pursue them. He searched the ruin, found Susan imprisoned there, and released her. After healing her, she was eager to take to the battlefield. "These dragons are as much a victim as I am, if not more so. I will not stand by while our warlords tear apart the innocent to get at their prize… but if they must be driven out of their home for us to save them from this monster, then so be it."

With Susan restored to command a series of major attacks began. These were carefully targeted with the goal of driving the dragons out of their lair, and giving non-combatants ample time to flee. Still, the clan which had become the Bloodsinger's enemy was not a weak one, even plagued by the Eyebite. All the while Sahko continued to work on his plan to ensure the Eyebite could not escape. Without Sahko's powerful magics, managing the elemental shaman was significantly harder. Sovri called for the full strength of the Clan of Singing Blood. Such had not been done since the claiming of the Scarwind Keep at the edge of the Wyrmwound. Any dragon which could fight, would, though many had no real idea of why the clan had come to war at this remote place.

With the enemy clan caught up in battle, and the Eyebite augmenting their power as it simultaneously drained their life, Sahko set his plan in motion. The king had given him a powerful weapon. Vorastoque, the Sword of Teeth, and within her construction Sahko had keyed the activation for his ritual cage. She had only to reach the chamber where the Eyebite was hiding in the lair, and then Sahko could use its own powers against it, grounding out all magical and elemental energy for a short period of time, and locking the Eyebite in place. They could collect it at their leisure. This would have a few side effects, most of the lair would probably be destroyed, and Vorastoque would likely become corrupted by the Shade.


Chapter 6: Reflection

The Warlord slipped through encampment barely limping in spite of the burns across his flank and right wing. Behind him the Bonewood Refuge sat in ruins, now a place where no living dragon did reside. He had already given orders for his warriors to withdraw. Somewhere Susan was tracking the progress of the enemy clan, ensuring no stragglers were left behind. What remained within the lair was to be left to the mages. He glanced over his shoulder towards the battlefield, thinking of Sahko's giddiness. The mad spiral was so pleased… it was an ill omen.

He slipped into the medical area. It was all makeshift. A conjured windstorm had stripped the entire encampment of most of the tents, and no one had bothered to restore them. Instead they were laid across the ground as beds and blankets and temporary bandages. At the center was Sovri, tending to the wounded, keen golden eyes assessing the conditions of those around him, experience and some… supernatural senses directing him to those most in need of immediate care. With their king acting as their healer, the Bloodsingers were virtually immortal on the battlefield.

The warlord settled himself upon the ground and watched the king work. The skydancer had delivered very few orders, the management of tactics had been left to the Warlords and Susan, and the three of them had managed a fearsome offensive. The Warlord smiled to himself, pleased with their victory.

Chapter 5: War

It was clear then that no attempts at diplomacy would be successful. The very thing they were trying to reclaim would make sure of that. If they wanted to reach it, the Clan of Singing Blood would have to go through the defenses it had raised around itself - the clan at the Bonewood Refuge, and its powerful elemental shamans.

Susan was not dead. Sovri knew as much holding her bloodstained pearl. He could feel the vitality still within. It was not hard to convince the clan to go on the offensive after that. It was harder, perhaps, to reign them in than anything else. Susan was Peryite's mate, and it wasn't lost on Sovri that Peryite had more influence in the clan than he did.

They needed information. Blind rage would not secure their quarry, or save Susan. Reconnaissance was done in the area, but it did not escape the notice of the clan, and these missions quickly escalated to a series of skirmishes throughout the territory. Zamori was called upon, and he supplemented the Bloodsinger warriors with beasts and hired beastclan mercenaries to maintain pressure on their enemy. The fights were no longer about gathering information, but were a distraction from Sahko's work. The arcane spiral began to dig for information about the Eyebite, Scrying upon it, and tapping into the latent magic around the place. The clan within was not doing well.

The Eyebite had tapped into the dragons' elemental energies, and was drawing on them, Devouring them. What once had been their greatest strengths was, against this creature, a most dire vulnerability. This also meant that the Eyebite would be entrenched and unlikely to flee. It could be trapped there. Sahko set to determining how to trap and imprison the entity; the Warlords set themselves to probing the lair and reading for a full assault.

Sovri searched for Susan. It had become clear that she was not in the Bonewood Refuge. She wasn't there because they had not attacked her. The mission was sabotaged by a third party, but it was too late to repair the damage. Sovri examined the blood on her pearl as part of his search, and he tracked it to Minseok, the Clan of Singing Blood's own assassin. Some investigating revealed that Minseok had been corrupted by the Eyebite the very day it escaped.

Minseok had made himself a hidden lair at the edge of the clan's territory, in the depths below a small ruined structure. When the king found him, he attacked Minseok, only for the wildclaw to dissolve into light. A brilliant silhouette filled with twitching empty eyes. The two fought briefly, until Sovri gained the upper hand. Sovri caught and held it with his magic and the corrupted, shade-touched wildclaw screamed. This summoned Volamina to his side, and she freed her mate from the king, and the two quickly fled. Sovri did not pursue them. He searched the ruin, found Susan imprisoned there, and released her. After healing her, she was eager to take to the battlefield. "These dragons are as much a victim as I am, if not more so. I will not stand by while our warlords tear apart the innocent to get at their prize… but if they must be driven out of their home for us to save them from this monster, then so be it."

With Susan restored to command a series of major attacks began. These were carefully targeted with the goal of driving the dragons out of their lair, and giving non-combatants ample time to flee. Still, the clan which had become the Bloodsinger's enemy was not a weak one, even plagued by the Eyebite. All the while Sahko continued to work on his plan to ensure the Eyebite could not escape. Without Sahko's powerful magics, managing the elemental shaman was significantly harder. Sovri called for the full strength of the Clan of Singing Blood. Such had not been done since the claiming of the Scarwind Keep at the edge of the Wyrmwound. Any dragon which could fight, would, though many had no real idea of why the clan had come to war at this remote place.

With the enemy clan caught up in battle, and the Eyebite augmenting their power as it simultaneously drained their life, Sahko set his plan in motion. The king had given him a powerful weapon. Vorastoque, the Sword of Teeth, and within her construction Sahko had keyed the activation for his ritual cage. She had only to reach the chamber where the Eyebite was hiding in the lair, and then Sahko could use its own powers against it, grounding out all magical and elemental energy for a short period of time, and locking the Eyebite in place. They could collect it at their leisure. This would have a few side effects, most of the lair would probably be destroyed, and Vorastoque would likely become corrupted by the Shade.


Chapter 6: Reflection

The Warlord slipped through encampment barely limping in spite of the burns across his flank and right wing. Behind him the Bonewood Refuge sat in ruins, now a place where no living dragon did reside. He had already given orders for his warriors to withdraw. Somewhere Susan was tracking the progress of the enemy clan, ensuring no stragglers were left behind. What remained within the lair was to be left to the mages. He glanced over his shoulder towards the battlefield, thinking of Sahko's giddiness. The mad spiral was so pleased… it was an ill omen.

He slipped into the medical area. It was all makeshift. A conjured windstorm had stripped the entire encampment of most of the tents, and no one had bothered to restore them. Instead they were laid across the ground as beds and blankets and temporary bandages. At the center was Sovri, tending to the wounded, keen golden eyes assessing the conditions of those around him, experience and some… supernatural senses directing him to those most in need of immediate care. With their king acting as their healer, the Bloodsingers were virtually immortal on the battlefield.

The warlord settled himself upon the ground and watched the king work. The skydancer had delivered very few orders, the management of tactics had been left to the Warlords and Susan, and the three of them had managed a fearsome offensive. The Warlord smiled to himself, pleased with their victory.
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[center]-----[font=Georgia][size=6]Chapter 7: Retrieval[/size][/font]-----[/center] [font=Georgia][size=5]K[/size][/font]ulm trembled; her armor shuddered with crystalline complaints at the tiny tremors. She would be labeled a coward for this. Even after all she had done to prove herself on the battlefield. She could fight dragons and elementals and any creature of Sorneith which she was commanded to, but before the Eyebite she shook like a runt wyrmling. "I can't. I can't go." She would rather face a whole army alone than the Eyebite alongside the clan's most powerful spellmaster. The arcane spiral's expression was unreadable. Dozens of pink eyes watched her from his face, his wings, and hands. He was himself a horror almost as terrible as the thing from the depths, but he was only a dragon. "You must come. I need you there to secure the Eyebite, and move its prison. Vorastoque's work is done. It cannot harm you. It cannot even so much as touch you. It's not much you need to do… Once we have returned it to the Keep, I will not need you anymore, and you can put it out of your mind forever." Kulm balked. Did that mean he needed her to not only get near to it, but to travel the whole way back home in its company? "But why? Why do you need me for this? There are others who can see it." "Yes. I can see it myself, but I can not perform the necessary bindings to relocate it alone. There are only three possible candidates who possess the necessary qualities for me to use in my spellbinding. The traitor Minseok, the Arcane Shaman, and you." Sahko reached out and tapped a claw against Kulm's glassy armor. "I don't understand. What quality?" Kulm frowned, trying to determine what those dragons had in common. She knew Minseok; he was a powerful and cunning assassin. There were rumors that he had been killed, that he had been the one who captured Susan, and more outlandish things besides. She didn't know anything about the Arcane Shaman, though, besides that he must have been one of the eleven elemental masters in the enemy lair. She thought about the fae which reached out to the Eyebite just as this whole affair had begun. The memory made her sick and ache with shame. If only she had stood up then. Was that the Arcane Shaman? What did either of them have to do with her? "I need the aid of a dragon which the Eyebite has tainted." Sahko elaborated. "Tainted?!" The spiral seemed to… swim through the air with a twitch of his wings. He curled around Kulm's neck like a violet scarf. "Oh, my girl, of course. Your egg was hidden in its own prison, within its easy reach. Did you not realize? The nightmares? The fear? The sight? The inability to act contrary to the Eyebite's desires? A Bloodsinger warrior is not a coward, least of all the daughter of our terrible Majka... but here you are trembling like a child." Kulm remained frozen where she stood, not answering. "You have power over it, and it knows that, so it keeps you at bay with terror. You know what it is… a thing of the deep and far beyond. A sliver of the Shade. An Outsider. If you do not help me return it to our Queen's domain, it may very well assert itself over you, and drive you insane… It claimed Minseok with ease, but temptations would not work on you, so it employs fear. That terror will devour you, till even your waking hours are consumed by nightmares." Sahko slipped from her shoulders and into a coil on the floor. Kulm looked at him. He may have been right, but it didn't make her feel like she was any more prepared to do what he needed her to. It only made her feel more doomed than before. "But I can't." She groaned. "Yes… very well. I understand. I will make this quite simple. You have only to follow, and put one foot before the other-" "You don't understand! You're not listening, I can't go near that thing." "Oh, my girl, you can't willingly go near it, no. But we will manage." ----- Susan glanced behind her, making sure the other three were able to keep up as they made their way through the deserted and partially collapsed tunnels. It was difficult to pass in places, as Sahko and Sovri had to transport Kulm between them. Her limbs wrapped in spectral chains of light conjured by the king. Susan pitied her. She looked absolutely terrified, and this whole ordeal seemed like an unnecessary cruelty. Susan knew when they grew near to the thing. The caverns seemed… different. Warped. Not stone and earth, but something oily which slid away and escaped conscious observation. Susan drew her sword. The light it shed seemed to create a tiny aura of normalcy around their party. Behind her, she could hear the rattling of chains and armor. Sovri called out softly. "We are not the first ones to arrive. Minseok is with the Eyebite." "Good. I'd like to have another go at him." Sovri nodded. "He will probably try to interfere with Sahko's work." "I'll only need two minutes, no more." Sahko said. "Keep him away from me and Kulm for that long, and then we can leave." Susan slid into the chamber, and paused a moment. The Eyebite was there, in the center of the room. A twitching sphere of darkness from which were staring countless terrible eyes. Depthless, bottomless, and all-seeing. It was like they would suck into them all that they observed. Behind her, Sovri was saying something, but she didn't quite hear it. Below the black mass was Minseok, golden scales glittering. His brilliant light was faded with plague and sickness, giving him a sallow, greenish tint. He grinned at Susan, bearing all his teeth. Gold eyes were open very wide, Susan thought they might be likely to fall out of his sunken skull. She lunged forward, driving her blade ahead of her, gripping earth and air with her wings, and propelling herself forward as swiftly as she could. She did not expect her first strike to land; she had to close the distance, and her enemy was sure to be prepared for her. She was taken by surprise then, when her sword struck true, and was buried near to the hilt in the other dragon's chest. Her gathered momentum carried them forward for several more feet. Minseok's claws dug into the floor as he leaned his weight against her to stop them moving and to keep himself from falling backwards. He took advantage of her moment of shock, and grabbed her by the face, claws digging in as he wrapped his hand around her horn. "My god grants me Immortality. What does yours do for you?" He hissed. Susan could feel something in his claws, digging through the flesh of her face and scratching at her skull. Susan twisted and kicked with both legs, pulling free her sword and trying to lever the wildclaw off her face, but his grip on her horns were not to be loosened. He laughed as she failed to pull herself free. [center][url=https://orig00.deviantart.net/8802/f/2018/187/c/8/minseoksusan_finalize_by_general_ebonrose-dcgfq3h.jpg][img]https://orig00.deviantart.net/7422/f/2018/187/0/3/minseoksusan_finalize_sm_by_general_ebonrose-dcgfquh.png[/img][/url] [size=2]Art by [url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?p=lair&tab=userpage&id=115702]Minstri[/url][/center] He was strong, but not that strong. It was not muscle and bone that he held her with, but some corrupting force- a power stolen from the Eyebite. She could feel it clawing at her. She bared her teeth. She would not be able to free herself, but without the daylight he wouldn't be able to blink himself all over the place. In an instant she changed her tactics, dropping her legs and weight back to the ground, and lunging forward. He had been pulling, trying to hold her, and had no defense ready as she headbutted him, slamming her horn into his jaw and seizing his neck in her teeth. He leapt as she pushed him back, slashing at her with the deadly raptorial claws for which his kind were named. She held her sword across herself, holding it up as a defense, blocking his attack and slicing his feet. It was an imperfect defense in a grapple, and by the time she carried him into the far wall with her charge, her chest had sustained several gashes. He caught her hand in his claw, slicing it deeply enough to ruin her ability to hold her sword. Behind her she could hear a wicked, screaming roar, and a cry of denial and disbelief. As she grappled with the wildclaw, Sahko began his binding. Sovri rushed forward to aid her in the battle against Minseok, passing below the Eyebite. As he did, a great appendage, like an eagle's talon, shot out from the sphere of darkness and slammed into the skydancer, pinning him to the ground. "Impossible!" Sahko shrieked. "It should not be able to reach any of us!" Sovri's eyes widened. "Bind it! Bind it quickly!" He clawed at the earth, and his wings beat frantically as he tried to free himself. Bone cracked and broke in its grip. From the sphere new shapes began to form, dozens of wings, twitching and fluttering, all covered in eyes, all eyes fixed upon Sovri. "Vorastoque… of course… made of my own bone and blood. My weapon… made my weakness." Two minutes would be a fatal eternity. Minseok realized his mistake as Sahko started the ritual, but he could not disengage from Susan. Whatever he had used to grab hold of her clearly wasn't working like he had thought it would. It should have broken into her mind quickly. He had spent all that time with her as his captive, he had been certain he had learned her weaknesses. Instead he was left locked in a desperate grapple with the furious pearlcatcher, and without his ability to blink, his skills as an assassin were not a fit match against hers as a warrior. But she was injured, bleeding badly. She could keep him away from Sahko, but at the cost of her own hide, and Sovri could not reach her. Sovri thrashed and felt his body coming apart. The Eyebite was crushing him, enough force to kill most other dragons. Susan would die if he could not reach her and heal her. The king forced his body apart, rot and corrupt flesh splitting and spilling out from him, taking the form of twitching tentacles reaching out for her, but the Eyebite kept him from being able to reach her. Sahko, who would have been on another day keenly interested in that grotesque manifestation of Sovri's powers, was forced to concentrate on the binding. Once it was done, Minseok would have no power, and the king would be free. Until then, there was every possibility of absolute failure. If Minseok got free of Susan and disrupted the binding the Eyebite would be freed again. Kulm trembled, eyes wide and fixed upon the creature which had haunted her for all her life. The thing which had never failed to make her heart become faint with fear. A single eye was focused upon her, all others upon the king which it kept pinned to the ground, who trashed and snarled and became monstrous. The scent of blood filled her nostrils. Dragon blood. A warrior's blood. Kulm tore her eyes away from the Eyebite, and saw Susan, struggling for her life. Not just her life, but for the survival of their entire clan. Kulm knew if this thing freed itself it would destroy them all. The green-eyed pearlcatcher fought like a warrior. Wasn't that what Kulm was meant to be? Susan's armor was torn to shreds, she was no longer able to hold her sword, and she was grinning. Not just snarling, but grinning. She was sure to die, but had no fear. A Bloodsinger warrior wasn't supposed to feel fear. They would always be victorious. Always survive. Kulm looked back at the Eyebite. Beside her Sahko's incationations filled her ears. "I'm not afraid of you." She said. Its eyes rolled as more turned to her, away from the King. "You're afraid of me." She said. All eyes were on her now, bearing upon her. Its grip upon Sovri slackened from the lack of focus. "I command you." Kulm said. Sahko swam through the air around her, his chant had grown full of cackling laughter. "I BIND YOU!" She shouted. Two minutes would have been a fatal eternity. Sahko had calculated those two minutes based on an unwilling and unhelpful Kulm. Kulm's command however, was enough to complete Sahko's ritual almost as soon as it was uttered. Minseok fled, his invulnerability gone with the capture of his 'god'. Sovri rushed upon Susan, who was too weak to do anything but collapse into the mass of his supporting limbs as soon as the adversary had departed. As he carried her out of the ruins, he came upon Vorastoque's skull, and picked it up, carrying it with them back home. Sahko secured the Eyebite with enchanted chains, and lashed it to Kulm. She carried it all the way back to clan's Inner Keep. Here Sahko created a permanent prison for the thing. The Clan of Singing Blood was victorious.

Chapter 7: Retrieval

Kulm trembled; her armor shuddered with crystalline complaints at the tiny tremors. She would be labeled a coward for this. Even after all she had done to prove herself on the battlefield. She could fight dragons and elementals and any creature of Sorneith which she was commanded to, but before the Eyebite she shook like a runt wyrmling. "I can't. I can't go." She would rather face a whole army alone than the Eyebite alongside the clan's most powerful spellmaster.

The arcane spiral's expression was unreadable. Dozens of pink eyes watched her from his face, his wings, and hands. He was himself a horror almost as terrible as the thing from the depths, but he was only a dragon. "You must come. I need you there to secure the Eyebite, and move its prison. Vorastoque's work is done. It cannot harm you. It cannot even so much as touch you. It's not much you need to do… Once we have returned it to the Keep, I will not need you anymore, and you can put it out of your mind forever."

Kulm balked. Did that mean he needed her to not only get near to it, but to travel the whole way back home in its company? "But why? Why do you need me for this? There are others who can see it."

"Yes. I can see it myself, but I can not perform the necessary bindings to relocate it alone. There are only three possible candidates who possess the necessary qualities for me to use in my spellbinding. The traitor Minseok, the Arcane Shaman, and you." Sahko reached out and tapped a claw against Kulm's glassy armor.

"I don't understand. What quality?" Kulm frowned, trying to determine what those dragons had in common. She knew Minseok; he was a powerful and cunning assassin. There were rumors that he had been killed, that he had been the one who captured Susan, and more outlandish things besides. She didn't know anything about the Arcane Shaman, though, besides that he must have been one of the eleven elemental masters in the enemy lair. She thought about the fae which reached out to the Eyebite just as this whole affair had begun. The memory made her sick and ache with shame. If only she had stood up then. Was that the Arcane Shaman? What did either of them have to do with her?

"I need the aid of a dragon which the Eyebite has tainted." Sahko elaborated.

"Tainted?!"

The spiral seemed to… swim through the air with a twitch of his wings. He curled around Kulm's neck like a violet scarf. "Oh, my girl, of course. Your egg was hidden in its own prison, within its easy reach. Did you not realize? The nightmares? The fear? The sight? The inability to act contrary to the Eyebite's desires? A Bloodsinger warrior is not a coward, least of all the daughter of our terrible Majka... but here you are trembling like a child."

Kulm remained frozen where she stood, not answering.

"You have power over it, and it knows that, so it keeps you at bay with terror. You know what it is… a thing of the deep and far beyond. A sliver of the Shade. An Outsider. If you do not help me return it to our Queen's domain, it may very well assert itself over you, and drive you insane… It claimed Minseok with ease, but temptations would not work on you, so it employs fear. That terror will devour you, till even your waking hours are consumed by nightmares."

Sahko slipped from her shoulders and into a coil on the floor. Kulm looked at him. He may have been right, but it didn't make her feel like she was any more prepared to do what he needed her to. It only made her feel more doomed than before. "But I can't." She groaned.

"Yes… very well. I understand. I will make this quite simple. You have only to follow, and put one foot before the other-"

"You don't understand! You're not listening, I can't go near that thing."

"Oh, my girl, you can't willingly go near it, no. But we will manage."



Susan glanced behind her, making sure the other three were able to keep up as they made their way through the deserted and partially collapsed tunnels. It was difficult to pass in places, as Sahko and Sovri had to transport Kulm between them. Her limbs wrapped in spectral chains of light conjured by the king. Susan pitied her. She looked absolutely terrified, and this whole ordeal seemed like an unnecessary cruelty.

Susan knew when they grew near to the thing. The caverns seemed… different. Warped. Not stone and earth, but something oily which slid away and escaped conscious observation. Susan drew her sword. The light it shed seemed to create a tiny aura of normalcy around their party. Behind her, she could hear the rattling of chains and armor.

Sovri called out softly. "We are not the first ones to arrive. Minseok is with the Eyebite."

"Good. I'd like to have another go at him."

Sovri nodded. "He will probably try to interfere with Sahko's work."

"I'll only need two minutes, no more." Sahko said. "Keep him away from me and Kulm for that long, and then we can leave."

Susan slid into the chamber, and paused a moment. The Eyebite was there, in the center of the room. A twitching sphere of darkness from which were staring countless terrible eyes. Depthless, bottomless, and all-seeing. It was like they would suck into them all that they observed.

Behind her, Sovri was saying something, but she didn't quite hear it. Below the black mass was Minseok, golden scales glittering. His brilliant light was faded with plague and sickness, giving him a sallow, greenish tint. He grinned at Susan, bearing all his teeth. Gold eyes were open very wide, Susan thought they might be likely to fall out of his sunken skull.

She lunged forward, driving her blade ahead of her, gripping earth and air with her wings, and propelling herself forward as swiftly as she could. She did not expect her first strike to land; she had to close the distance, and her enemy was sure to be prepared for her.

She was taken by surprise then, when her sword struck true, and was buried near to the hilt in the other dragon's chest. Her gathered momentum carried them forward for several more feet. Minseok's claws dug into the floor as he leaned his weight against her to stop them moving and to keep himself from falling backwards. He took advantage of her moment of shock, and grabbed her by the face, claws digging in as he wrapped his hand around her horn. "My god grants me Immortality. What does yours do for you?" He hissed. Susan could feel something in his claws, digging through the flesh of her face and scratching at her skull. Susan twisted and kicked with both legs, pulling free her sword and trying to lever the wildclaw off her face, but his grip on her horns were not to be loosened. He laughed as she failed to pull herself free.
minseoksusan_finalize_sm_by_general_ebonrose-dcgfquh.png
Art by Minstri

He was strong, but not that strong. It was not muscle and bone that he held her with, but some corrupting force- a power stolen from the Eyebite. She could feel it clawing at her. She bared her teeth. She would not be able to free herself, but without the daylight he wouldn't be able to blink himself all over the place. In an instant she changed her tactics, dropping her legs and weight back to the ground, and lunging forward. He had been pulling, trying to hold her, and had no defense ready as she headbutted him, slamming her horn into his jaw and seizing his neck in her teeth.

He leapt as she pushed him back, slashing at her with the deadly raptorial claws for which his kind were named. She held her sword across herself, holding it up as a defense, blocking his attack and slicing his feet. It was an imperfect defense in a grapple, and by the time she carried him into the far wall with her charge, her chest had sustained several gashes. He caught her hand in his claw, slicing it deeply enough to ruin her ability to hold her sword.

Behind her she could hear a wicked, screaming roar, and a cry of denial and disbelief. As she grappled with the wildclaw, Sahko began his binding. Sovri rushed forward to aid her in the battle against Minseok, passing below the Eyebite. As he did, a great appendage, like an eagle's talon, shot out from the sphere of darkness and slammed into the skydancer, pinning him to the ground.

"Impossible!" Sahko shrieked. "It should not be able to reach any of us!"

Sovri's eyes widened. "Bind it! Bind it quickly!" He clawed at the earth, and his wings beat frantically as he tried to free himself. Bone cracked and broke in its grip. From the sphere new shapes began to form, dozens of wings, twitching and fluttering, all covered in eyes, all eyes fixed upon Sovri.

"Vorastoque… of course… made of my own bone and blood. My weapon… made my weakness."

Two minutes would be a fatal eternity.

Minseok realized his mistake as Sahko started the ritual, but he could not disengage from Susan. Whatever he had used to grab hold of her clearly wasn't working like he had thought it would. It should have broken into her mind quickly. He had spent all that time with her as his captive, he had been certain he had learned her weaknesses. Instead he was left locked in a desperate grapple with the furious pearlcatcher, and without his ability to blink, his skills as an assassin were not a fit match against hers as a warrior.

But she was injured, bleeding badly. She could keep him away from Sahko, but at the cost of her own hide, and Sovri could not reach her. Sovri thrashed and felt his body coming apart. The Eyebite was crushing him, enough force to kill most other dragons. Susan would die if he could not reach her and heal her. The king forced his body apart, rot and corrupt flesh splitting and spilling out from him, taking the form of twitching tentacles reaching out for her, but the Eyebite kept him from being able to reach her.

Sahko, who would have been on another day keenly interested in that grotesque manifestation of Sovri's powers, was forced to concentrate on the binding. Once it was done, Minseok would have no power, and the king would be free. Until then, there was every possibility of absolute failure. If Minseok got free of Susan and disrupted the binding the Eyebite would be freed again.

Kulm trembled, eyes wide and fixed upon the creature which had haunted her for all her life. The thing which had never failed to make her heart become faint with fear. A single eye was focused upon her, all others upon the king which it kept pinned to the ground, who trashed and snarled and became monstrous. The scent of blood filled her nostrils. Dragon blood. A warrior's blood. Kulm tore her eyes away from the Eyebite, and saw Susan, struggling for her life. Not just her life, but for the survival of their entire clan. Kulm knew if this thing freed itself it would destroy them all. The green-eyed pearlcatcher fought like a warrior. Wasn't that what Kulm was meant to be? Susan's armor was torn to shreds, she was no longer able to hold her sword, and she was grinning. Not just snarling, but grinning. She was sure to die, but had no fear.

A Bloodsinger warrior wasn't supposed to feel fear. They would always be victorious. Always survive. Kulm looked back at the Eyebite. Beside her Sahko's incationations filled her ears.

"I'm not afraid of you." She said. Its eyes rolled as more turned to her, away from the King.

"You're afraid of me." She said. All eyes were on her now, bearing upon her. Its grip upon Sovri slackened from the lack of focus.

"I command you." Kulm said. Sahko swam through the air around her, his chant had grown full of cackling laughter.

"I BIND YOU!" She shouted.

Two minutes would have been a fatal eternity. Sahko had calculated those two minutes based on an unwilling and unhelpful Kulm. Kulm's command however, was enough to complete Sahko's ritual almost as soon as it was uttered.

Minseok fled, his invulnerability gone with the capture of his 'god'.

Sovri rushed upon Susan, who was too weak to do anything but collapse into the mass of his supporting limbs as soon as the adversary had departed.

As he carried her out of the ruins, he came upon Vorastoque's skull, and picked it up, carrying it with them back home.

Sahko secured the Eyebite with enchanted chains, and lashed it to Kulm. She carried it all the way back to clan's Inner Keep. Here Sahko created a permanent prison for the thing.

The Clan of Singing Blood was victorious.
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Epilogue: The Harbinger


Rightious Crime

Minseok had been branded a thief of the worst sort. He fled the Sunbeam Ruins with two possessions of extraordinary value. The first was an ancient scroll taken from a deep Inverted Tower below The Hewn City. The Tower had been home to a clan of Pearlcatcher Monks whose holy mission was to safeguard relics and knowledge of great value.

The scroll had been requested by an old Imperial, and Minseok had the job of escorting two of the Monks who carried the scroll to the Imperial's clan. The three arrived in the Imperial's lonely abode, a single shack built upon a much older foundation, which long ago would have supported a far grander structure. The Monks entered while Minseok remained outside, standing guard. After nearly two hours he heard a low, brief argument between the dragons within. It was not his place to observe, but he had been waiting a very long time, and it was his job to ensure the safety of the scroll and the monks.

Sliding up to the window he looked in and was witness to something chilling. One of the Monks stood by holding the scroll open, reading something from its length quietly while the other stood beside him watching the Imperial perform an evil deed. Set on a long table before the ancient withered Imperial was a row of eggs, which he was inspecting slowly. There had been five eggs on the table… three had been cracked open, their light and vitality destroyed, leaving behind only a glass-like shell and the ectoplasmic remains of unformed dragons. Minseok watched as the dragon prepared to shatter the fourth egg, and leapt in through the window, cracking the sill and frame, and shredding the curtains with his claws.

The Monks had said the eggs needed to be destroyed, that the scroll contained a prophecy of doom, and that any one of the resultant children might have fulfilled it. Minseok was unconvinced. He was not fast enough to save the fourth egg, but he had managed to seize the fifth by the end of the confrontation. He walked out of the now ruined shack alone holding the last remaining egg and the accursed scroll. None followed.


Exile

Minseok cared for the egg until it hatched into a marvelous golden Coatl. She was tender and beautiful, and he loved and adored her. The Monks were wrong; no evil could come from this child. It had been his intention to find a distant secluded clan where she would not be found and leave her in the care of other dragons, but he could not bear to part with her.

But in his care, she could never be safe. One of the Monks he had left in the shack survived, and reported his betrayal and his theft. He was soon hunted by them and their allies, and even by freelance hunters, hoping to gain some bounty by his death or capture. He fled the Sunbeam Ruins, the glittering hills of Light's Domain, with the tiny coatl clutched to his chest, and the cursed scroll in its case slung over his shoulder.

Minseok was invited to the Clan of Singing Blood by Helveca, an old scholar he had once known, before she departed the Domain of Light, holding only hate in her heart for the brilliance of her God. Minseok did not know what caused her to leave, but after his experiences, he could not blame her.

The Scarred Wasteland was a brutal place, well deserving its name, and he was not so certain he wished to have the child, Vola, raised there. However, it was protected, and he would scarcely be welcome anywhere else now that he was branded a murderer and thief, with a considerable bounty for his head, as well as Vola's.

He quickly made himself useful. His skills were grounded in violence, and the Clan of Singing Blood had plenty of need for them. He was a Warrior and found great favor in that role. Vola grew older and more beautiful. She shone like the sun, and the corruption and grimness of the Scarred Wasteland was unable to touch her. Minseok did not fare quite as well. The Scarred wasteland dulled his brilliance, and while he was never sick, there came to be an aura of illness to him.

Minseok hid away the sealed scroll case among his belongings, and in time forgot, not its existence, but its significance.


Adopted Daughter

Volamena had a few faint memories of her earliest days. Those spent in the glittering hills around the Sunbeam Ruins or fleeing through darkened forests; they had always been pursued. They were dreams and no more than that, for those kinds of places could scarcely be imagined otherwise, when growing up in the Scarred Wasteland. Here where her only view was of the grim and corrupt vistas visible from her window high up on the Rotrock cliffs.

She spent her youth running along the bridges and balconies of her Clifftown home. The Scarred Wasteland is a desperate land, but the Clan of Singing Blood carved out a protected region and had enough wealth to keep the population from wanting for too much. She was educated by Helveca alongside the other children of the clan. Finnigan and Saldeti treated her as warmly and lovingly as their own numerous children, and she spent much of her time with them. She had no want for friends to get into mischief with but was generally kind and well-behaved. She was happy throughout her life.

When she grew older Finnigan helped to find Vola a suitable role in the clan, even as most of his own children departed it. She helped him for awhile and saw to managing business as a merchant, then as a tax officer on behalf of the Clan's Council. The work suited her well enough, though she was at times too soft-hearted for the task and occasionally taken advantage of.

She eventually settled into the management of clan records. Deeds, property ownership, trade, hunting rights- all such things passed through her claws. It was perhaps not the job she would have come to on her own, but it was the one Finnigan had been best equipped to help her reach.


The Golden Knight

She saw little of Minseok; he was very often away on campaigns, hunting trips, or other missions. When he was around he would regale her with stories of his deeds, or of the past and the Sunbeam Ruins, for her golden plumage so reminded him of home.

When she was old enough to be curious about her origins, and why they were exiles, he did not hide the truth from her. He told her of the Monks, and the Imperial judge, who had marked her for destruction. The Monks had said the eggs needed to be destroyed, that the scroll contained a prophecy of doom, and that any one of the resultant children might have fulfilled it. Might have, but Minseok had come to know Vola, and no evil could come from her. The Monks had been paranoid and misguided.

Volamena came to view Minseok as a knight. Her Knight. She longed for times when he walked the halls of the lair or they would walk together on the balconies and paths, up to the top of the Bonestrewn Crest above Clifftown, where she could sit for hours and listen to his stories of war and daring and of sunlight and the forgotten ruins bathed in radiance. When she was old enough to claim a mate she courted him. He was perhaps the only dragon in the clan to be surprised by this, but it took very little convincing in the end.


Hidden Purpose

Her work also allowed her to be near the library, which she loved. She was true to her nature as a dragon of Light. Tephra allowed her access to nearly everything within with very little oversight, as she had long become a trusted friend. When Tephra eventually succumbed to Madness, his successor was equally permissive.

It was Tephra's fall which made Volamena pursue the library with greater intensity, hoping to find some way to help him. She found nothing of the sort. Instead while searching one of the back rooms she found a sealed scroll case, set with emblems of Light and Ice. It was heavy. She lifted it near to her face to better inspect it, and the runes and emblems upon lit up with brilliant light, blinding her. As she blinked away the brilliance she could see dark afterimage shaped almost like an eye. When she looked over the case again, the light in the markings was dim and gentle.

She opened the case and pulled out a heavy bloodstained scroll.

Volamena was not seen for three days after finding the scroll, but when she returned she resumed her usual work with renewed vigor. She knew now what her purpose was, why and how they had come to call this place their home. She knew more than ever of Minseok's Holy Deeds, and that he was her knight and protector, and that he would be her hand for all that was to come.

Deep below the Earth, under layers of rot and corruption and stone, it waited. For eons, it had been trapped by the Icewarden and guarded by His agents, but now she was here. She would undo the travesty of its containment. The scroll and the prophecies within had been a warning for those who would destroy Volamena and the glory which she was meant to help usher into the world. That was not their true purpose. They were for her, to guide her along her destined path.


The Frozen Depths

Vola learned of Ayna and that she had deceived the Queen. She served as Warden of the Frozen Depths, watching over the terrible and powerful enemies of Singing Blood, and the monsters which they had unearthed and captured. Her service was a farce, meant to conceal the imprisoned entity from the Queen, as Minstri sought to bind it and use it for some unholy purpose.

Vola had but to reveal this to the Queen and all would fall into place, the Clan of Singing Blood would remove the prison's wardens, and That-Which-Waited would be freed when the ice thawed. Vola could not do this herself, however. To be caught between the two powerful witches, of blood and ice would quickly mean her death, and bringing attention to herself in any way would be to risk the plan as a whole. Volamena had to remain entirely beyond scrutiny. Someone else would have to discover and reveal Ayna's treachery.

Meditations and consultations with the scroll helped her to uncover the answer. The King would be the one to destroy the prison wardens, and he would do so on behalf of his Queen.

The King was the Key. She just needed to figure out how to get him to the door.


Red Eyes

Vola had a passing familiarity with Sovri, due to her work for the Council and the fact that he and Finnigan were close friends, but she had never really had a conversation with him herself.

When she finally did gain an audience with him, she discovered why he had not seen Ayna's deception before now. It only took a single look at him to shake her faith in the scroll, or her ability to interpret it. The Scroll had been clear, the King of the clan was a Light dragon. The King of Cursed Light, he was called.

Sovri, the King of the Clan of Singing Blood, looked down at Vola with crimson eyes. He was a Plague dragon. He was not the king she thought he was.

But all else was as the scroll described! Indeed, as she got to know him more, he seemed to certainly be the foretold King of Cursed Light- her key to shattering the prison and releasing That-Which-Waited. There was something she was missing then. She learned as much as she could about him. She asked Finnigan and scoured the library. She sought out the oldest of the Clan, those who knew the most about the Queen and her Quest to bring Sovri to her side. Her questions could not be hidden, but she tried her best to make excuses, even going so far as to make suggestions of courtship towards him, to hide the purpose for her prying.

At last, she discovered the truth. Sovri was an otherworldly spirit, bound into the body of a living vessel which the Queen had crafted. The King possessed the power to heal others, but he never made use of any other kinds of magic. He could not use magic because his spirit and the body he inhabited were in misalignment; he was meant to be a Light dragon.

She knew before any others of the King's fatal flaw. That would have to be remedied before he would be able to see Ayna's deceptions and defeat the wardens. An intense influx of plague magic would be enough to overpower the spirit and destroy the vessel. Then she was sure the King would return as a Light dragon.

Vola was then faced with regicide as her next step. She would have to be careful and subtle and patient to destroy the King, and her plan was just that. If the clan moved its territory nearer the Wyrmwound, the proximity to the heart of the Scarred Wasteland and the Seat of the Plaguebringer's power would be enough to push the King out of balance with his own body. A series of research expeditions and petitions later had easily swayed the Clan to the idea. The location of the Scarwind Keep, long overrun by vermin and beasts, made the clan's warriors eager to claim it.

And when they did, the King fell.

For the full story of the King's Origin and Downfall see 'The Quest', 'Brother of the Queen', and 'Fall of the King'


Prison Break

From there, Volamena's plan proceeded precisely as she had intended, as it was foretold in the scroll. The King returned and saw through Ayna's deception, and both she and her guardian were removed. The Queen continued her own pursuit of That-Which-Waited, but with the removal of the Icewarden's agents, it would be too late for her to claim her prize. The Queen's corrupt claws would never touch it and never bind it. It was meant for far greater things than that, and Volamena would be its eternal servant.

The moment the ice began to thaw it made its escape and visited Volamena in her dreams. Only then did Volamena reveal all that she had done to Minseok, and his love for her and knowledge that she could bring no evil to the world convinced him quickly of her righteousness, and of the holiness and glory of That-Which-Waited. Now it was free, and it blessed them both.

It would make its way to the other Prisons around Sornieth, and Volamena and Minseok would shatter them as well. First, it would have to gather strength and see to the eradication of the Clan of Singing Blood, for just as they had the keys to release, they also had the keys to seal it away again, and the Clan was quick to pursue it after it escaped.


Collapse

Volamena and Minseok left the clan quickly and quietly as chaos erupted in clan following the escape of That-Which-Had-Waited. Vola began to search for the next prison, while Minseok, her warrior and knight made to sabotage the Queen's agents at every turn. To ensure that the Clan of Singing Blood would war with the dragons at Bonewood Refuge, and there be ensnared by their new God and the new dragons which would come to serve it.

Minseok even captured their most powerful warrior, Susan, who had been a close friend. He had been certain that she, as righteous a dragon as she was, would be quick to convert.

She was not. It didn't stop Minseok from trying, and as he did Volamena extracted as much knowledge as she could from her.

Here the plan fell to pieces. The dragons at Bonewood Refuge had not bowed easily to the Entity they had invited into their home, indeed, the thing itself was hard to follow and predict, even for its loyal servants. Worse, the lair of Volamena and Minseok was discovered by Sovri, and they lost several crucial elements within. Their ability to ready the trap within the Bonewood Refuge was lost. They got away with only the Scroll.

Volamena watched in horror as the plan she had laid for years and years crumbled like the pages of a burned book. She had done well with subtlety and patience, but she could not serve her master as a warrior. She was at a loss and was destroyed by the sudden failure of everything. Her faith was shattered.

Minseok could not bear to see her agony, and he had not lost faith. Everything they had done to this point was for a clear purpose. If they were tested, they were tested, and he would continue to fight. He swore to face the Bloodsinger dragons, and that he would return in victory, and restore Vola to her golden brilliance.

Minseok only managed to crawl out of the refuge, dragging himself along the ground when he failed and their god was Bound by magic, and Minseok stripped of its blessings and power.

He never again saw his love. Vola had taken the scroll and gone.

Epilogue: The Harbinger


Rightious Crime

Minseok had been branded a thief of the worst sort. He fled the Sunbeam Ruins with two possessions of extraordinary value. The first was an ancient scroll taken from a deep Inverted Tower below The Hewn City. The Tower had been home to a clan of Pearlcatcher Monks whose holy mission was to safeguard relics and knowledge of great value.

The scroll had been requested by an old Imperial, and Minseok had the job of escorting two of the Monks who carried the scroll to the Imperial's clan. The three arrived in the Imperial's lonely abode, a single shack built upon a much older foundation, which long ago would have supported a far grander structure. The Monks entered while Minseok remained outside, standing guard. After nearly two hours he heard a low, brief argument between the dragons within. It was not his place to observe, but he had been waiting a very long time, and it was his job to ensure the safety of the scroll and the monks.

Sliding up to the window he looked in and was witness to something chilling. One of the Monks stood by holding the scroll open, reading something from its length quietly while the other stood beside him watching the Imperial perform an evil deed. Set on a long table before the ancient withered Imperial was a row of eggs, which he was inspecting slowly. There had been five eggs on the table… three had been cracked open, their light and vitality destroyed, leaving behind only a glass-like shell and the ectoplasmic remains of unformed dragons. Minseok watched as the dragon prepared to shatter the fourth egg, and leapt in through the window, cracking the sill and frame, and shredding the curtains with his claws.

The Monks had said the eggs needed to be destroyed, that the scroll contained a prophecy of doom, and that any one of the resultant children might have fulfilled it. Minseok was unconvinced. He was not fast enough to save the fourth egg, but he had managed to seize the fifth by the end of the confrontation. He walked out of the now ruined shack alone holding the last remaining egg and the accursed scroll. None followed.


Exile

Minseok cared for the egg until it hatched into a marvelous golden Coatl. She was tender and beautiful, and he loved and adored her. The Monks were wrong; no evil could come from this child. It had been his intention to find a distant secluded clan where she would not be found and leave her in the care of other dragons, but he could not bear to part with her.

But in his care, she could never be safe. One of the Monks he had left in the shack survived, and reported his betrayal and his theft. He was soon hunted by them and their allies, and even by freelance hunters, hoping to gain some bounty by his death or capture. He fled the Sunbeam Ruins, the glittering hills of Light's Domain, with the tiny coatl clutched to his chest, and the cursed scroll in its case slung over his shoulder.

Minseok was invited to the Clan of Singing Blood by Helveca, an old scholar he had once known, before she departed the Domain of Light, holding only hate in her heart for the brilliance of her God. Minseok did not know what caused her to leave, but after his experiences, he could not blame her.

The Scarred Wasteland was a brutal place, well deserving its name, and he was not so certain he wished to have the child, Vola, raised there. However, it was protected, and he would scarcely be welcome anywhere else now that he was branded a murderer and thief, with a considerable bounty for his head, as well as Vola's.

He quickly made himself useful. His skills were grounded in violence, and the Clan of Singing Blood had plenty of need for them. He was a Warrior and found great favor in that role. Vola grew older and more beautiful. She shone like the sun, and the corruption and grimness of the Scarred Wasteland was unable to touch her. Minseok did not fare quite as well. The Scarred wasteland dulled his brilliance, and while he was never sick, there came to be an aura of illness to him.

Minseok hid away the sealed scroll case among his belongings, and in time forgot, not its existence, but its significance.


Adopted Daughter

Volamena had a few faint memories of her earliest days. Those spent in the glittering hills around the Sunbeam Ruins or fleeing through darkened forests; they had always been pursued. They were dreams and no more than that, for those kinds of places could scarcely be imagined otherwise, when growing up in the Scarred Wasteland. Here where her only view was of the grim and corrupt vistas visible from her window high up on the Rotrock cliffs.

She spent her youth running along the bridges and balconies of her Clifftown home. The Scarred Wasteland is a desperate land, but the Clan of Singing Blood carved out a protected region and had enough wealth to keep the population from wanting for too much. She was educated by Helveca alongside the other children of the clan. Finnigan and Saldeti treated her as warmly and lovingly as their own numerous children, and she spent much of her time with them. She had no want for friends to get into mischief with but was generally kind and well-behaved. She was happy throughout her life.

When she grew older Finnigan helped to find Vola a suitable role in the clan, even as most of his own children departed it. She helped him for awhile and saw to managing business as a merchant, then as a tax officer on behalf of the Clan's Council. The work suited her well enough, though she was at times too soft-hearted for the task and occasionally taken advantage of.

She eventually settled into the management of clan records. Deeds, property ownership, trade, hunting rights- all such things passed through her claws. It was perhaps not the job she would have come to on her own, but it was the one Finnigan had been best equipped to help her reach.


The Golden Knight

She saw little of Minseok; he was very often away on campaigns, hunting trips, or other missions. When he was around he would regale her with stories of his deeds, or of the past and the Sunbeam Ruins, for her golden plumage so reminded him of home.

When she was old enough to be curious about her origins, and why they were exiles, he did not hide the truth from her. He told her of the Monks, and the Imperial judge, who had marked her for destruction. The Monks had said the eggs needed to be destroyed, that the scroll contained a prophecy of doom, and that any one of the resultant children might have fulfilled it. Might have, but Minseok had come to know Vola, and no evil could come from her. The Monks had been paranoid and misguided.

Volamena came to view Minseok as a knight. Her Knight. She longed for times when he walked the halls of the lair or they would walk together on the balconies and paths, up to the top of the Bonestrewn Crest above Clifftown, where she could sit for hours and listen to his stories of war and daring and of sunlight and the forgotten ruins bathed in radiance. When she was old enough to claim a mate she courted him. He was perhaps the only dragon in the clan to be surprised by this, but it took very little convincing in the end.


Hidden Purpose

Her work also allowed her to be near the library, which she loved. She was true to her nature as a dragon of Light. Tephra allowed her access to nearly everything within with very little oversight, as she had long become a trusted friend. When Tephra eventually succumbed to Madness, his successor was equally permissive.

It was Tephra's fall which made Volamena pursue the library with greater intensity, hoping to find some way to help him. She found nothing of the sort. Instead while searching one of the back rooms she found a sealed scroll case, set with emblems of Light and Ice. It was heavy. She lifted it near to her face to better inspect it, and the runes and emblems upon lit up with brilliant light, blinding her. As she blinked away the brilliance she could see dark afterimage shaped almost like an eye. When she looked over the case again, the light in the markings was dim and gentle.

She opened the case and pulled out a heavy bloodstained scroll.

Volamena was not seen for three days after finding the scroll, but when she returned she resumed her usual work with renewed vigor. She knew now what her purpose was, why and how they had come to call this place their home. She knew more than ever of Minseok's Holy Deeds, and that he was her knight and protector, and that he would be her hand for all that was to come.

Deep below the Earth, under layers of rot and corruption and stone, it waited. For eons, it had been trapped by the Icewarden and guarded by His agents, but now she was here. She would undo the travesty of its containment. The scroll and the prophecies within had been a warning for those who would destroy Volamena and the glory which she was meant to help usher into the world. That was not their true purpose. They were for her, to guide her along her destined path.


The Frozen Depths

Vola learned of Ayna and that she had deceived the Queen. She served as Warden of the Frozen Depths, watching over the terrible and powerful enemies of Singing Blood, and the monsters which they had unearthed and captured. Her service was a farce, meant to conceal the imprisoned entity from the Queen, as Minstri sought to bind it and use it for some unholy purpose.

Vola had but to reveal this to the Queen and all would fall into place, the Clan of Singing Blood would remove the prison's wardens, and That-Which-Waited would be freed when the ice thawed. Vola could not do this herself, however. To be caught between the two powerful witches, of blood and ice would quickly mean her death, and bringing attention to herself in any way would be to risk the plan as a whole. Volamena had to remain entirely beyond scrutiny. Someone else would have to discover and reveal Ayna's treachery.

Meditations and consultations with the scroll helped her to uncover the answer. The King would be the one to destroy the prison wardens, and he would do so on behalf of his Queen.

The King was the Key. She just needed to figure out how to get him to the door.


Red Eyes

Vola had a passing familiarity with Sovri, due to her work for the Council and the fact that he and Finnigan were close friends, but she had never really had a conversation with him herself.

When she finally did gain an audience with him, she discovered why he had not seen Ayna's deception before now. It only took a single look at him to shake her faith in the scroll, or her ability to interpret it. The Scroll had been clear, the King of the clan was a Light dragon. The King of Cursed Light, he was called.

Sovri, the King of the Clan of Singing Blood, looked down at Vola with crimson eyes. He was a Plague dragon. He was not the king she thought he was.

But all else was as the scroll described! Indeed, as she got to know him more, he seemed to certainly be the foretold King of Cursed Light- her key to shattering the prison and releasing That-Which-Waited. There was something she was missing then. She learned as much as she could about him. She asked Finnigan and scoured the library. She sought out the oldest of the Clan, those who knew the most about the Queen and her Quest to bring Sovri to her side. Her questions could not be hidden, but she tried her best to make excuses, even going so far as to make suggestions of courtship towards him, to hide the purpose for her prying.

At last, she discovered the truth. Sovri was an otherworldly spirit, bound into the body of a living vessel which the Queen had crafted. The King possessed the power to heal others, but he never made use of any other kinds of magic. He could not use magic because his spirit and the body he inhabited were in misalignment; he was meant to be a Light dragon.

She knew before any others of the King's fatal flaw. That would have to be remedied before he would be able to see Ayna's deceptions and defeat the wardens. An intense influx of plague magic would be enough to overpower the spirit and destroy the vessel. Then she was sure the King would return as a Light dragon.

Vola was then faced with regicide as her next step. She would have to be careful and subtle and patient to destroy the King, and her plan was just that. If the clan moved its territory nearer the Wyrmwound, the proximity to the heart of the Scarred Wasteland and the Seat of the Plaguebringer's power would be enough to push the King out of balance with his own body. A series of research expeditions and petitions later had easily swayed the Clan to the idea. The location of the Scarwind Keep, long overrun by vermin and beasts, made the clan's warriors eager to claim it.

And when they did, the King fell.

For the full story of the King's Origin and Downfall see 'The Quest', 'Brother of the Queen', and 'Fall of the King'


Prison Break

From there, Volamena's plan proceeded precisely as she had intended, as it was foretold in the scroll. The King returned and saw through Ayna's deception, and both she and her guardian were removed. The Queen continued her own pursuit of That-Which-Waited, but with the removal of the Icewarden's agents, it would be too late for her to claim her prize. The Queen's corrupt claws would never touch it and never bind it. It was meant for far greater things than that, and Volamena would be its eternal servant.

The moment the ice began to thaw it made its escape and visited Volamena in her dreams. Only then did Volamena reveal all that she had done to Minseok, and his love for her and knowledge that she could bring no evil to the world convinced him quickly of her righteousness, and of the holiness and glory of That-Which-Waited. Now it was free, and it blessed them both.

It would make its way to the other Prisons around Sornieth, and Volamena and Minseok would shatter them as well. First, it would have to gather strength and see to the eradication of the Clan of Singing Blood, for just as they had the keys to release, they also had the keys to seal it away again, and the Clan was quick to pursue it after it escaped.


Collapse

Volamena and Minseok left the clan quickly and quietly as chaos erupted in clan following the escape of That-Which-Had-Waited. Vola began to search for the next prison, while Minseok, her warrior and knight made to sabotage the Queen's agents at every turn. To ensure that the Clan of Singing Blood would war with the dragons at Bonewood Refuge, and there be ensnared by their new God and the new dragons which would come to serve it.

Minseok even captured their most powerful warrior, Susan, who had been a close friend. He had been certain that she, as righteous a dragon as she was, would be quick to convert.

She was not. It didn't stop Minseok from trying, and as he did Volamena extracted as much knowledge as she could from her.

Here the plan fell to pieces. The dragons at Bonewood Refuge had not bowed easily to the Entity they had invited into their home, indeed, the thing itself was hard to follow and predict, even for its loyal servants. Worse, the lair of Volamena and Minseok was discovered by Sovri, and they lost several crucial elements within. Their ability to ready the trap within the Bonewood Refuge was lost. They got away with only the Scroll.

Volamena watched in horror as the plan she had laid for years and years crumbled like the pages of a burned book. She had done well with subtlety and patience, but she could not serve her master as a warrior. She was at a loss and was destroyed by the sudden failure of everything. Her faith was shattered.

Minseok could not bear to see her agony, and he had not lost faith. Everything they had done to this point was for a clear purpose. If they were tested, they were tested, and he would continue to fight. He swore to face the Bloodsinger dragons, and that he would return in victory, and restore Vola to her golden brilliance.

Minseok only managed to crawl out of the refuge, dragging himself along the ground when he failed and their god was Bound by magic, and Minseok stripped of its blessings and power.

He never again saw his love. Vola had taken the scroll and gone.
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sig_horizontal_divider_by_general_ebonrose-dbatlo8.png Lore & Projects:
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Shade's Witness
Scarwind Fae Colony
sig_horizontal_divider_by_general_ebonrose-dbatlo8.png Formerly @GennyWar
+3 FR Time
Hatchling Letters appreciated

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IvxNq.gifsaBOX.gif9CWQV.gif9eeco.gif


115702_by_general_ebonrose-d9t2ic9.gif Art Shops:
DNAger Adopts
Pixel Adopts
Accents

Visual Art
sig_horizontal_divider_by_general_ebonrose-dbatlo8.png Lore & Projects:
Lore Dragons Sales
Bio Writing Service
Shade's Witness
Scarwind Fae Colony
sig_horizontal_divider_by_general_ebonrose-dbatlo8.png Formerly @GennyWar
+3 FR Time
Hatchling Letters appreciated

Minstri not Ministri (careful with Pings)



N8sl46I.png

IvxNq.gifsaBOX.gif9CWQV.gif9eeco.gif
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