Carpathia III: Episode 128: Rock and Water
Once Quilyon had made her intentions known, she rapidly went about terrorizing the rest of the group. The others lived in fear, for she had a remarkable ability of popping up at unexpected moments with a surprise challenge, failure of which resulted in a swift and carefully placed boot to a sensitive body part of her choosing.
Azrael was more traditional, working to train each in combat without skulking around and surprising people. It was a better arrangement, for Quilyon's objective was to train split-second reaction, while Azrael was better able to endure the rigors of combat without the need of any of his trainees to hold back.
Adell was glad to be practicing with Azrael, for it meant that this was one time, at least, that Quilyon would not be surprising him. Sitting lazily on the front porch was Artemis, observing the exercise and playing with the flowers near the steps. Adell's practice had been going on for at least an hour and he was beginning to tire.
Azrael stood with his back to the one large tree inside the cabin's fence. Adell did his best to quickly analyze the situation with his palms turned to the ground, ready to act at any time. Believing that Azrael was cornered, Adell spread his feet, assuming a solid stance and swiftly moved his arms, as though he were scooping rocks from the ground. Indeed, three grapefruit-sized rocks rose from the soil and Adell unleashed three rapid punches, sending them hurtling toward Azrael. Swiftly, Azrael dodged two of them and only had time to deflect the third with his sword.
Azrael: That was good. I was not able to dodge all the stones. It would appear that you are weary, however. Perhaps we should have a break.
Adell leaned forward and grabbed his knees, taking several heavy breaths.
Adell: Yes, a break. A break would be nice.
Artemis looked up from his flowers, though he still waved his hand absentmindedly through the petals.
Artemis: I wish I could have something to do besides hang around in the background.
Adell joined Artemis on the porch and sat down next to him, placing his arm around Artemis's shoulder.
Adell: You're probably the most important person we could have out there. You're our one-man hospital.
Azrael: I concur. One cannot underestimate the value of an effective healer, and you are most effective indeed, Master Artemis.
It felt to Adell that Artemis relaxed his body, releasing a little of the tension, though his expression remained unchanged.
Artemis: It would be great if I could do something awesome.
Adell decided it best that he not say anything and simply sit and pet Artemis. It was at this time that the flowers next to the porch caught his attention.
Adell: I know Kaoru hasn't had time to tend the flowers the last few days, but has Jacob been taking care of them? They seem bigger and more colorful every time I look at them.
Artemis: I don't know. They look the same to me.
Interruption came swiftly from a panicky Kagurain running toward them, waving his arms frantically.
Adell: Oh boy, what's up with him this time?
Artemis seemed to have forgotten his previous malaise when he saw Kagurain coming.
Artemis: I don't know, but Quilyon has him wound up pretty tight. Last time I saw him, she had just finished twisting him up into a pretzel.
It didn't take long for Kagurain to close the distance. It took some time for him to catch his breath long enough to speak.
Kagurain: I think Quilyon is following me!
Adell stood and looked around, checking for any hint of rustling bush or suspicious tree. Azrael did the same, though Artemis remained nonchalantly sitting on the porch.
Azrael: I have no sense of anyone following.
Kagurain: She's sneaky!
Adell took a step past Kagurain to scan the landscape again. Despite Azrael's assurance, he was still a bit nervous himself. Still, he could see no evidence of Quilyon being near.
Adell: I think we're safe for now.
As much to reassure himself as Kagurain, Adell gave him a hearty slap on the back.
Kagurain stumbled forward a step and, at the same time, instinctively cast a magnetic shield bubble around himself. Once the shield engulfed Adell, his wristwatch flew off of his arm and brained Kagurain right between the eyes, sending him tumbling backward and splat down on the dirt. The others took a few moments to survey the situation.
Artemis: He's down.
Adell: Ya know, maybe Quilyon has gone a smidge too far.
Azrael stroked his chin thoughtfully.
Azrael: While I understand your concerns, I believe Quilyon's intentions are good. It is, however, perhaps a good idea to speak with her about scaling back a little.
One method of eluding Quilyon's surprises was to follow her rather than to allow her to follow them. Jaze and Toma were doing exactly this when she decided to do some training with Kaoru.
Kaoru: Quilyon, you know I can't fight you, especially now.
Quilyon's body went limp as she rolled her eyes.
Quilyon: Oh, fine.
Reaching behind her, Quilyon grabbed Reuli's shirt and pulled him in front of her.
Quilyon: Spar with Reuli then?
Reuli said nothing and merely gazed up at Kaoru with doe eyes and trembling lips.
Quilyon grunted in frustration.
Quilyon: Fine, how about Jaze, then? You can spar with him.
Quilyon beckoned Jaze to join and he sheepishly obeyed, trudging to Quilyon's side and facing Kaoru. Kaoru didn't speak and seemed to be considering the new development as Jaze turned his head toward Quilyon.
Jaze: Oh, come on. Kaoru is a sweetie. He would never...
Jaze's sentence was cut off by the sudden sting of Kaoru's water whip on his tush.
Jaze rubbed his butt while Kaoru looked at him smugly.
Jaze: You're gonna regret that. Stand back!
Quilyon and Reuli quickly backpedaled as Jaze unleashed a stream of fire and whipped it around himself in an effort to appear intimidating. Kaoru seemed unimpressed as he moved his hand back and forth, trailing a stream of water behind it.
The battle, unfortunately, would have to wait. Roose approached the group just as Ryuu and Keast landed nearby.
Roose: We found him!
Keast crouched on the ground and folded his wings on his back, looking around nervously.
Keast: Your friends were quite pushy, dragging me all the way out here. There aren't any soldiers around, are there?
Keast suddenly began looking around more frantically.
The others smirked as Keast stopped jerking his head around and smiled as though he'd just made the world's greatest joke.
Jaze: No soldiers here, Keast, and there never will be. We have a lot to talk about. It's almost time for dinner, so we should go back to the house.
The conversation went on well after dinner and the group only managed to finalize the primary plan. Still left for discussion were the plans for what to do if things went wrong. Fortunately, at least for the moment, Jacob arrived with dried fruit chips to snack on as they continued. It wasn't much, but it did relieve at least a little of the tedium and tension.
Adell: We're banking awfully hard on this "Wishmaster is a coward" theory.
Jaze: I can't think of much else. The only alternative any of us can see is fighting both Wishmaster and the rest of Nekramentia at the same time.
Ryuu: Blue and I exchanged all the memories of when we were taught about the Dragon Wars.
Blue: We are in agreement with Hades. He is a coward. As he said, I think it likely that he will not appear unless attacked directly. It's important to remember what Hades said. Wishmaster thinks you, Jaze, were given all of his power, which would make you Wishmaster's equal, at least. He'll not come out to face you. Not by choice.
There was silence for many moments while everyone sat, lost in their thoughts. A few picked out a few of Jacob's fruit chips and munched on them.
Artemis: That could change if we mess with his plans too much. Still, nobody said this was going to be easy.
Kaoru rubbed the bridge of his nose.
Kaoru: I don't know. I think my brain is completely fried right now.
With that, Jacob stood and conspicuously placed himself in the middle of the group and clapped his hands once.
Jacob: Okay, Kaoru is right. We're not going to be able to get anything more done tonight. Everyone will get some rest. Tomorrow, I will take the ideas so far and discuss them with the Elder Council.
The others glanced around at each other, nodding in agreement. So far, this was the only plan proposed that day that everyone could agree upon without reservation.
Jacob: So, if I have the ideas so far, Jaze, Kaoru, Adell, Artemis, Ryuu, and Kagurain will go to Nekramentia to lure the kids out and capture them. Keast will do aerial surveilance. The villagers will evacuate to the other side of the river where Blue will stand guard in case Wishmaster does decide to make an appearance. After you bring the kids back here, then you go after Wishmaster. Is that right?
Before anyone else could offer any acknowledgement, Blue, with his head down and pawing at the ground, spoke softly.
Blue: I'm sorry. I know a blue dragon is the last sort of dragon you'd want on a mission in a place this dry.
The others were stunned, as this was the first time Blue demonstrated any confidence issues.
Adell: Blue, you are what you are and we're glad of your help doing what you do best here by the river. You're the reason why anything we're planning is possible.
The others nodded.
Kaoru: You're the foundation of everything. Without you, we'd have to leave the village unguarded and that would be unacceptable!
Jacob turned and folded his arms across his chest, gazing down at Blue with a knowing glint in his eye.
Jacob: Blue, you can protect us, right?
Laboriously, Blue stood and gazed around at all the eyes looking back at him. To everyone's amazement, he threw off his cloak and transformed himself into the form of a mighty dragon. Standing tall and proud, he addressed the group.
Blue: Wishmaster shall not cross this river for as long as I draw breath.
Blue paused for a moment and then spread his gnarled, perforated wings.
Blue: And when the time comes for us to all dispatch him together, I shall make him pay for what he did to my wings.
To emphasize his point, Blue slammed his tail hard into the dirt road behind him. Despite the grimness of the past several hours, the others couldn't help but smile at Blue's exuberance.
Taking Jacob's advice, the others stood and began to mingle, slowly breaking apart into small groups, most discussing plans for a little recreation to ease the tension. Several made it a point to approach Blue and give him an appreciative pat on the nose.
Jacob: Hey, Keast. You're welcome to stay here for as long as you like.
Keast looked around at the the unusual assemblage of persons surrounding him. Two dragons. A tokki, the likes of which he'd never seen before. Several people with cosmic powers granted by a demigod.
Keast: You know, I think I will stay for awhile. This place has gotten much more interesting.
All city pictures from SimCity 4