Part 1 is here.
Khisanth, her name taken from a famous dragon of fiction, was sometimes a thorn in my side. As a rule, dragons don't fight each other. We tend to be a rare race, and moreso, we are hunted viciously if we show our hides, so mostly dragons deal in the shadows and deception to ensure survival.
These manipulative tactics lead to some underhanded dealing with each other, though. Although we do not fight, some dragons like to deceive each other, usually for treasure, other times to swipe a task leading to Young, Adult or Elder status, as we all start out hatchlings. Only serious crimes ever lead to fights between dragons and the penalty of losing is permadeath, a "perk" only dragons have in this world. You might call it balance for the enormous power we can have.
Khisanth started out around the same time as me, and although she has proved to be helpful in the past, she commonly has a habit of trailing me and generally being a nuisance. She has taken treasures I have sought, only to innocently deny she had anything to do with it. Fairly clever, very annoying.
"You know, Virinax, from this vantage point, I would say you are plotting something involving that artifact."
I know it is pointless to lie on this one, so I decide to play it straight to find out what she wants.
"I am planning on taking the artifact in the trading process, it would be stolen anyway, so no real harm done," I note.
"Except you happen to be doublecrossing a certain pirate guild, and I doubt they would be too happy about that" I will admit, her response is a bit shocking.
"How would you know anything about them or what they want?" I respond.
She giggles, "I have my ways...though I have to admit, having your girlfriend do your voice is adorable!"
"Khi, that is not funny! I am running a serious business here! What do you want anyway?
She giggles again, "I want in on the fun of course!"
I think for a moment before responding "And the artifact?"
Her response does not surprise me in the least "How about we roll for it?"
"Well, I would have a very good chance of success with or without you, so why should I even have you along?"
At this point, a fairy floats down next to me. Why is it girls always have to pick anything pretty? She dances in front of me. "You have twice the chance of living, in case anything goes wrong, and I promise to do nothing but help, and if I win the roll, I will still help you with another task as consolation."
"Alright, but on this condition: I want to be the one to grab the artifact, I am a better flyer, and I don't want you forgetting the deal. Time is ticking, and I want to get this started.
"Sure!" she responds with more enthusiasm than I predicted.
"Alright, you are aware of what is going to be happening down there, right?" It is 4:24. Six minutes.
Her fairy figure nods.
"When the main force of Tonis and Four Gears is drawn away, I want to be down there amidst the buildings, ready to dispel any magical fields the guard of the artifact might have, and then shift to dragonform and freeze them with my breath. I was planning on sending an elemental out to the ship to freeze it, but if you want to sit on the opposite cliff, you can shift to human and drop any kind of magic field on the ship before it gets to close. The ship needs to be disabled, and the Raiders will stop at nothing to get that artifact, however, the ship is their strongest attack versus us as dragons. Especially the cannons, but their ship has general protection spells on it that would allow them to use ranged attacks. Four Gears itself won't send out any airships until it has them manned, which can take valuable minutes."
"I have just the spells to fix that ship! I can use an inertia bubble on them to keep the ship from getting close, and then a time stop. That lasts about 5-10 seconds, although the mage on board will likely get out of it first. He won't be able to free the others any more than a second or two earlier, so that should allow you more than enough time," she responds with emphatic emoting. Always fond of emotes, this one is.
"Alright, that should be fine," I reply. "Whatever you do, don't come down to help if I run into trouble at the harbor. Two lost dragons would be a heavy blow to our community. What form are you going to take over to the other cliff? Fairy is not going to be a good idea."
"Er, alright, just try to fly around like you are an NPC, and less like a player," I note. "Meet me at the rock circle in the forest south of the city. Use fairy form so I know it is you. I will be back in human form. Keep me updated with details so I know what is going on, too. We can roll on the artifact there, and work on getting back to whoever's lair quickly and safely"
She nods again. The time is 4:30, and it is time to go. I see the fleet coming in to the harbor already, so I know this will be interesting.
"Good luck, Khisanth"
"Good luck!" she practically squeaks, and promptly turns into a stork. Sigh, a stork.
I hop off the cliff and start gliding the thousand or so feet down to the harbor. With luck, I spot an NPC group of gulls headed to the main town area, and fall in with them. Too bad I never bothered to learn the form of a gull.
They reach the town and I deviate off course to fly down to the roof of a building nearest the harbor. It has awnings, which I plan on using to jump down on to reach ground level. It also has a fenced in yard that is currently empty. I have checked this place often, it is NPC-owned, and rarely populated with players. The building is next to a main street, though, which runs from the harbor to the center of the city, which is shaped like a giant gear.
Currently, there is a group of players milling about next to the building where the city meets the harbor. Out at the docks are massive ships and a fairly large army, headed by several lords. Ferric is absent from the group with his usual bronze-colored armor. The fleet is a little further out, almost to the docks themselves, of which one space is open for the transport ship.
Looking at the players, I see a fairly diverse group that could be a threat, as a group anyway. My natural armor and magic resistance helps a lot here, but dragonfear will have to suffice until I can mist them. I hate to spend any time or energy misting any of them, but these chances I can not take right now. If any of them get past the paralyzing fear or the mist, I doubt they will do much to bother me.
The fleet stops now and a lone ship from the group sails in and stops at the dock. In moments, the docking door comes down on the dock, followed by a phalanx of wizards.
Khisanth's voice cuts in, "I see a ship coming in from the North, Vir".
"Cast an identification spell on it, I want to know what class it is," I tell her.
Moments pass. A second group of wizards followed by a floating pink orb come down onto the dock. I imagine there is some conversation now to ensure all of the deal is being made fairly.
"Dreadlark, Class C, it has a magical tag on it, too."
"That is our friend," I reply. "I tagged that ship, for the elemental to find easily. The deal is being made as we speak."
"Alright, let me know when to fire."
Waiting. The conversation is carrying on, and I imagine the spy in the group on the docks is getting nervous. I get nervous every time I meet with the Arc Raiders to discuss business, as I know that dragons are on their hunting list.
Finally the deal is struck, and the floating orb passes ownership to one of the lords. Curiously, one of the wizards is staying behind as the others get back on board their ship. I have to wonder to myself what was traded to them for this orb.
Simultaneously, two things happen. A regiment of NPC soldiers detaches from the main group and comes down to the main city area next to my building, with a pre-recorded message: "Everyone, please vacate this area and go about your business. If you are not authorized to be here when the guard comes through, they will attack you." After the message, the soldiers then proceed to patrol up the street towards the heart of the city and the keep, presumably repeating the message every 5-10 seconds.
At the same time, shouting is heard from the other end of the docks, along with cannon fire. As predicted, much of the Four Gears army pours into the ships, and within moments they are headed out towards the new fleet of Raiders coming in, firing at the Tonis fleet and moving slowly backwards, drawing them away. The wizard on the docks has encased the guard and orb in a bubble, likely to avoid any incoming cannon shots.
This is my cue to get ready. Shiting to my female mage form, I hop down to the awning and then the alley between the smithing house I was on and some other dwelling. I quickly summon my elemental and then cloak it. I open the gate to the back and find of all things, what looks like a newbie rogue, crouched behind the fence. Her outline is shadowed, so I am guessing she is practicing stealth. This should be fun.
"Khi, get ready to stop that ship as soon as it starts into the bay." I am hoping she keeps her end of the bargain. I type a message to the rogue. "Hi! Watching the fun, too?"
Her character nods. "Yeah!! I want to know what that orb is, and I wanted to practice my stealth, too!! Don't give me away by standing too close! What do you think it is that they are carrying?" Enthusiastic girl.
I type back. "Probably something immensely powerful to defend the city with. This city has always been concentrated on defense and expansion, so I doubt it is anything to do with war or offense." The fleets are now at the edge of the bay, near the cliff where I was sitting earlier. At the docks, the guard is moving slowly back, likely because they are still bubbled. The wizard seems intent on keeping it channeled. Good. Things are going well. I stay crouched next to the fence as well.
"Vir, the ship is moving in now....fire?" asks Khisanth.
Here we go, now or never. "Yeah, go ahead and stop them, I am going in," I reply, and as I speak I quickly use both dispel magic and then silence (for good measure) on the bubbled area of the guard, before hitting my revert ability. The bubble disperses while I change back to my dragon form. My rogue friend is paralyzed by the fear and I imagine whoever is behind the character is likely shocked as well.
I quickly jump the fence before anyone has anytime to act and sweep the guard's portion of the dock with my breath while tromping in.
"The ship is now frozen in time, you have less than 10 seconds!" Khisanth practically shouts.
I jump over the guard to the wizard and the lord's orb. I use my steal ability to transfer game ownership, and then grab it before flying upwards. I see another contingent of players, likely a combination of Four Gears and random people coming down the city's main street at me. My direction is clear, back to the bay and spiral upwards to the cliff and then southward to the forest.
I make my way out and activate my shield with whatever magic I have left. The effect is draining, but it should absorb enough damage for me to be ok and not drop my precious cargo. Looking behind me, I see the wizard breaking free of my breath attack (wonderful) and of all things, having the audacity to start a flying spell to chase me.
"Khisanth, I am being tailed by that wizard on the docks! He is flying at me and I am not sure why, but just in case, you want to fly over here and hit dragonform when you reach the cliff?" I yell.
"I am on my way!" she yells back. Amazing how we both get into it even when we have mics to speak into that work perfectly well.
The wizard is actually gaining on me, and his wand starts to glow, the intensity getting brighter by the second. I have no doubt he is charging some spell, but I have no idea which, and I have no intention to find out. I pick up my speed, though this drains my shield faster as well, something that is worrisome. As I reach the cliff, the fleets of Tonis and Four Gears coming back from their battle below in the sea, I hear a roar behind me. Khisanth.
I drop to the cliff for a moment and look back to see her collide with the wizard in midair, knocking him offbalance and dropping his charge attack. It disrupts his flying spell as well, and he drops to the ocean like a stone.
"Keep going, Vir, there are more wizards coming up from the ships. I will hold them back for the moment so you can get away!" she says excitedly.
Without needing to be told twice, I leap off the cliff and glide towards the forest below. This region of forest has particularly dense foliage, so I drop in a clearing and start my way walking under a canopy that should hide me for the moment so I can recharge.
I let go of the orb and let it float while I start a recharge ritual. It cancels all my active spells, but regenerates my energy at a rapid rate. Anyone using magic learns to do this early on, and it works wonders. After a few seconds I pause the ritual and cast a detect lifeforms spell. The spell leaves me with nothing, so I go back to recharging.
While my energy comes back, I turn to look at this artifact, curious to see what it might be by sight. The orb itself is a protection spell, as I imagined. Underneath its pink, glowing shell, is a secondary orb, more solid on the bottom, and the top half covered with what looks like metallic vines intertwined, like a flimsy barrier. Looking closer, I peer through the metal vines and realize with a shock what is inside.
"Khisanth, are you ok?"
"Yes," she replies. "I drew them away along the coast, took out a bunch, and after a certain point the rest pulled back, as if they realized something. They might have you on track, you know."
"That doesn't matter," I said. "We have a bigger problem right now. This is not an artifact that we stole....it's a human child"
(Currently, I am in the process of figuring out my direction for the next part of this story, so it will be some time....to be continued!)