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 A Tale of Iron

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Strider Zero
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PostSubject: Re: A Tale of Iron   February 6th 2016, 2:27 pm

Chapter 50


The group continues through the forest. They suddenly hear some rustling and turn in the direction of the sound. Something is coming towards them from afar.

Akari: Wait. Is thatÖ

Eventually, they recognize the figure as Hunter. He joins up with the group.

Hayim: Master Hunter, youíre safe!
Hunter: Yes. Iím glad you all are as well.
Akari: Whereís your group, Hunter?
Hunter: Theyíre scouting out the enemy hideout. I sensed you guys coming, so I thought I would lead you there.
Akari: Great. Have you encountered any trouble?
Hunter: Not much. Theyíve been going after you, have they?
Akari: Yes.
Hunter: Letís go. Weíll talk more later.

They run, following Hunter. They come to a clearing in the forest, which is vacant.

Akari: Is it here?
Hunter: Yes. Itís located underground. Akari, can you feel it out?
Akari: I can try.
Hunter: Hayim. Will you come with me?

Hayim looks surprised. He seems very nervous.

Hayim: Yes.
Hunter: Good. Iím counting on you.

Akari crouches down and places his hands on the ground.

Akari: Are you sure about this, Hunter? The ground below is completely solid. Itís-

Just as Akari says that, there is a stabbing sound heard and they turn. Shahar flinches out of surprise when he sees that Amitay has just been stabbed in the back of the neck. *Music* Behind Amitay is Hayim, who now stabs him in the back with his other kama. Amitay looks back to see his assailant, his eyes as wide as they can physically go.

Amitay: YouÖbutÖwhy?
Shahar: YOU BASTARD!

Shahar dashes straight for Hayim, and gets pushes away by a blast of water. Just then, arrows begin flying in the groupís direction from all over the forest. Each of them takes a few arrows in different areas. Akari then turns his attention to Hayim, but gets slammed by the side with a blast of water.

Hunter: Good work, Hayim.
Hayim: Thank you, Master.

Amitay falls to the ground. Shahar has tears already flowing from his eyes as his teeth are heavily grit.

Shahar: Hayim, you son of a bitch! Why?!
Hayim: Shahar, you think yourself pretty smart. But you couldnít perceive the lie that was right in front of you this whole time.
Liron: You got his name rightÖ
Hayim: Liron, you were the only one that saw through my act. But you didnít consider the why, did you?
Liron: I thought you were with us to the end. I thoughtÖ
Katzir: (dark voice) HayimÖI wonít forgive you for this. *Music Stops*

Katzirís form begins to darken again. He goes berserk and goes after Hayim. Before he can, Hunter steps in the way grapples him with dark water. With one hand, he dispels Katzirís berserk form. He then flings him aside. Akari stands up and looks at Hunter.

Akari: Hunter. I donít know what you think youíre doing, but Iím going to stop you.
Hunter: Go ahead and try.

At that moment, portals open up and Scimitar, Fireball and Vine come through. Another person also appears, who is wearing a red robe that covers everything, including the face. The twins from the previous group also appear, in revived form.

Liron: Weíre in trouble here!

Drora draws her bow and shoots at Hayim, but he blocks it with a wall of water. Just then, vines entangle Drora and bring her down to the ground. Shahar goes after Fireball, but he dodges a mace strike. He shoots a fireball in retaliation, but Shahar blocks with a barrier. Simultaneously, Liron appears behind him, covered with lightning. She slashes him with both swords, decapitating him. But at that moment, more arrows rain down from the forest, impaling her around her torso. She kneels on the ground.

At this time, Akari and Hunter are fighting hand to hand. Neither one is gaining the upper hand until Akari stomps on the ground to shift Hunterís footing off balance. He then makes a pillar come from the ground to smack Hunter away. Just then, Akari is hit from behind by a translucent beam from the robed individual.

Akari: No!

Just as Akari turns to him, a huge amount of dark water scoops him up and entraps him in a giant water ball.

Hunter: If you arenít connected to the earth, you canít manipulate it.

Akari unleashes a spurt of dark magic, which snaps the water ball. He falls to the ground, gasping for air, when his arms then get grabbed by more dark water. At the same time, the twins appear behind him and grab his arms, placing the sealing mark on him.

Hunter: You would have normally been able to see that attack coming. Has my betrayal dulled your senses?

By this point, Katzir is standing up again and only he and Shahar remain up. Theyíre both teeming with dark energy. Hayim suddenly grabs Shaharís legs with streams of dark water and then crushes, making Shahar lose his footing completely. Katzir appears in front of Hayim and lands a punch, which sends him flying into a tree, half-breaking it. Some vines grab Katzir and at that point, Scimitar cuts him across his back before he can break its grip. Katzir also falls to the ground. Liron slowly gets up. She faces Hunter.

Liron: Sheikh HunterÖno, just Hunter. Iím going to destroy you.

She covers herself with dark lightning and appears in front of him. She rapidly attacks with her swords, but Hunter seems to easily dodge each strike.

Hunter: A nice improvement from before this journey, Liron. But, youíre ten years too inexperienced to be fighting me.

He encases his hand with dark magic and puts his hand on her chest. Suddenly, she is sent flying back and hits the ground hard, bleeding from her mouth.

Akari: To think you were working with the Iron Kingdom all this time. How long?!
Hunter: Iron Kingdom? Your view of this situation is far too narrow.
Akari: What?!
Hunter: The Iron and Red Kingdoms have been fighting constantly for a century now. This conflict does not have an end in sight. Youíve shown that you cannot handle the land you live in. You both will be exterminated.
Akari: Thatís madness! Are you telling me that you have an army large enough to take on both of us?
Hunter: Who said anything about that? Are you even thinking right now? I suppose I canít blame you, considering your situation. You two will take out each other.
Akari: Thatís why you want to incite war?
Hunter: There you go. The Red Kingdom was waiting to invade these past three years. And then they had something even better going for them. It turns out you guys actually got a working dragon. We simply couldnít let that be.
Akari: Are you saying that you leaked the information to the Iron Kingdom?
Hunter: That is exactly what I am saying. Those dragon slayersÖthey acted exactly as I wanted them to. Though, maybe they crippled your forces more than I anticipated. I didnít think theyíd be able to kill both Seijuro and Hamas. And they nearly killed you too.
Akari: Hunter, are youÖan Etal?
Hunter: Where did you hear that name?
Akari: Rumors. I didnít think they actually existed though.

Meanwhile, Hayim is speaking with the rest of the group.

Shahar: Hayim, you still havenít answered us. Why are you doing this?
Hayim: Itís all for Master Hunter.
Shahar: So youíve been brainwashed by him, is that it?
Hayim: Hold your tongue, Shahar. Besides my intellect, everything else I told you was true. I really did grow up on the streets until he saved me. Master Hunter gave me a choice and gave me multiple chances to back down. I follow him by my own choice.
Liron: (strained) ThenÖyour feelings for meÖ
Hayim: They are also real. I thought I could convince you to join our side, but after that night, I realized that it could never be.
Drora: I take back what I said about you, Hayim.
Hayim: Itís okay. I donít need your approval.

Hunter: When I said that Katzir would do something else for youÖdo you remember that?
Akari: Yes.
Hunter: I was hoping that he would destroy your team from the inside out. The real reason I gave you Yusuk is because I knew it would agitate him to a breaking point. But it seems you were able to help him beyond my calculations.
Akari: You know nothing about Katzir.
Hunter: I know enough.
Akari: So then, this whole mission. It was set up by you to lead us out here.
Hunter: It was easy to give them false intel, since it came from my very own people. And it will be just as easy to convince them that the Iron Kingdom killed you here. Seijuro, Hamas, Helen and Akari. Four Sheikh who were slain in a monthís time. Not to mention Daniel of the Red Sun, a prominent military member. And the dragon Dravos. War is inevitable now.
Akari: What makes you think theyíll destroy each other? The Iron Kingdom has a huge advantage now.
Hunter: The element of surprise.
Akari: You think you can surprise them when the army hasnít even mobilized yet? There are spies here, you know.
Hunter: Youíre wrong. The army is ready to go.
Akari: What?! We saw the training grounds. They were empty.
Hunter: Thereís another one underground that youíre not aware of. I was able to convince our dear king to mobilize in secret so that we could have an upper hand.
Akari: Then why me? Why Helen? Arenít we your best friends?! You canít say that our bond was a lie!
Hunter: Of course not. The only reason youíre alive right now is because I canít bring myself to kill you personally. But you must understand. You two were the only things that tied me down to this pitiful kingdom. I know you well enough that neither of you would have joined me. Without you two, I will have no more doubts about what Iím supposed to do.
Akari: Youíre insane.
Hunter: More than Captain Sentus, the generalÖanyone. The one who I was afraid of the most was you. Iím afraid you know me too well. I canít afford to face you in the coming battles ahead. Come here, Hayim.

Hayim returns to Hunterís side. They embrace.

Hunter: Iím sorry for putting you through this. Iím so glad youíre safe.
Hayim: Itís okay. We made it here thanks to the captain.
Akari: HayimÖ
Hayim: Iím grateful to you for teaching me dark magic and for showing me how to improve. You were a great mentor. I will miss you.
Akari: How do you intend to kill me if you canít do it, eh?
Hunter: I devised a way that I donít have to watch it at least. KaíVor, the orb.

Scimitar responds to this and pulls out a red orb the size of a basketball. She hands it to Hunter.

KaíVor: Here, Master.
Hunter: Thank you.
Akari: Is that what I think it is?
Hunter: Yes. This contains enough magical energy to incinerate you all in one blow.

Hunter places it strategically in the middle of where everyone is. He injects a small amount of dark magic into it, which makes it start to pulse. He looks up to see a hawk circling around the sky.

Hunter: Qito! Stay up there and make sure they are dead before meeting back up with us!

The hawk responds with a caw. KaíVor opens up a large portal that all the members go through, excluding Hayim and Hunter.

Liron: Hayim.

Hayim looks down and away from her and then quickly goes into the portal. Hunter takes one last look at Akari. *Music* In synch, they both start tearing up.

Akari: Did it always have to end this way?
Hunter: Unfortunately.
Akari: Then, itís my loss, Hunter.
Hunter: Goodbye, Akari.

Hunter slowly turns and walks through the portal. A second later, it closes completely. Akari puts his head down onto the ground as we can see the agony on his face. Everyone else starts to sob as well. The orb begins to pulse more rapidly. From the perspective of the hawk, the orb glows very brightly and then explodes. *Music Stops* We see all of them incinerate in the blast. When the smoke clears, the hawk flies off. We are then taken to the town where Drake and KaíRud are. Hunter and his group make it there. Among them are two more people. One is a woman wearing a dark purple robe. She has long black hair and has black paint circles around her eyes. The other is a man who is in rough leather clothing. He has thinning hair with glasses. Drake and KaíRud approach them.

Drake: Hunter, youíre back.
KaíRud: What news?
Hunter: Öthey didnít make it. Akari and his group, I mean.
KaíRud: No, not Akari.

They can see the dried tear marks on Hunterís face, which confirms what he says.

Hunter: We need to speak to the king at once. War is coming.

About a day later, Hunter is knelt down before the king. Shiomi is at his side and the three captains are also present.

King: Hunter, youíre back. I trust you were successful in quelling whatever was out there.
Hunter: I wouldnít call what we did out there a success. We lost Akari and Helen in the process.

All three of the captains react and become downtrodden. Even the general seems agitated.

Hunter: They fought bravely, but were killed by the Iron Kingdom. I-Iím sorry.

Hunter starts breaking down in front of them. Sentus walks up to him and puts his hand on Hunterís shoulder.

Sentus: Iím sorry.
Helvast: Then Liron also died as well.
Jerome: House Hetzelberg was involved with this quest. Weíre screwed.
Shiomi: Mind your manners, Jerome.
Jerome: Yes, maíam.
Sentus: The Iron Kingdom cannot be allowed to get away with this.
Helvast: I agree with you, Sentus.
Jerome: I concur.
Shiomi: Your majesty, may I?
King: Yes, you may.
Shiomi: Thank you. As of now, this act, as well as the actions that took place a month ago, will be considered a declaration of war. We are going to strike them down once and for all.
King: By order of the king, all soldiers are to prepare immediately. We sail for the Iron Kingdom in three days.

The king hits a scepter on the floor, signifying that his order has been made official. We see Hunter stand up and walk away from the throne room.

Hunter: Everything is going just as I wanted. And yet it feels soÖempty.

We now go back to the clearing in the forest where the bodies have been incinerated. The space around begins to morph, as another sight is now visible. The group is all badly burned from the blast, but is still alive. Standing in a triangular formation are Amitay, Seijuro and Hassar. They are standing where the orb detonated. The rest of them all look over to see the three of them.

Amitay: As always, Drora, youíre the perfect teammate. *Music*
Seijuro: In the end, this is all we could do for you.
Hassar: At least I was able to atone even a little bit.
Liron: BrotherÖ
Seijuro: Akari, you saw something in Katzir that I could not. You have my thanks.
Hassar: And mine as well.
Akari: Hassar, youíll always be a war hero to me.
Hassar: Glad to hear it. Liron, you know what to do.
Liron: Yeah.
Seijuro: Iím counting on you, Katzir. I believe in you.
Katzir: Thank you.

They both slowly fade away into ash. Amitay falls to his knees. When we see the front of him, he is completely charred. He starts bleeding even more.

Shahar: No. Amitay!
Amitay: Itís okay. My wounds were already fatal. But I was able to use the last of my energy to take in most of the heat and redirect it.
Drora: Donít say itís over!
Amitay: Iím sorry, Drora. I was never able to truly convey how I feel about you. I had hoped to talk to you after this was over. Katzir, youíve grown a lot during this adventure. It was a pleasure watching it. Liron, what happened with your brother was not your fault. Please, donít carry that guilt with you. Captain, you taught me so much in our short time together. Your wisdom is something Hunter canít touch. And Shahar, you became my best friend over the course of this quest. I wish I could have drunk with you after this. Be strong, because this team will need you.
Shahar: I will.
Amitay: Everyone, you canít *cough* let Hunter win. You haveÖtoÖtake himÖout. For the Red Kingdom.

Amitay collapses and ceases breathing. Shahar and Drora both put their heads down immediately. Eventually, they all fall unconscious from their injuries. *Music Stops* The next thing we see is an eye opening slowly to the sight of a man wearing a red mage robe. He has short black hair and wields a staff with a white orb on top. The person waking up is Akari.

Akari: Yusuk? Is that you?
Man: No, Iím not Yusuk.

As Akari comes more to consciousness, his wounds have been mostly healed. He gets a better look at the man.

Akari: No, wait. Youíre the healer from Helenís group. Taario, I believe.
Taario: Itís a good thing I found you when I did. You would have all succumbed to your injuries if I hadnít.

As Akari sits up, he looks around to see everyone else all still unconscious.

Taario: I managed to heal everyone out of critical condition. Well, except for him.

He points to Amitayís body.

Akari: I see. Thank you for trying, and for saving us.

Eventually, everyone else comes to consciousness. They sit up. Taario approaches Liron.

Liron: Taario, where is Ferra?
Taario: She went back home. Sheís safe.
Liron: Thank the heavens.

For the next hour, there is a pervasive silence in the air. Everyone is sitting by himself or herself. Akari in specific is sitting far away from the rest. Eventually, the four remaining group members besides Akari come together.

Liron: The captain is inconsolable.
Shahar: Weíre not much better ourselves.
Katzir: CaptainÖ
Drora: What will he do? He lost both of his best friends on this journey.

A few minutes pass and Akari stands up and walks towards the group. Taario joins in. *Music*

Akari: We failed our quest.

Akariís words cause a reaction within each of them. They all wince.

Akari: As it stands, we no longer exist in the eyes of our kingdom. Hunter thinks he won, but itís far from over. Iím going to stop him. Iím going to make him regret not killing me himself. And while Iím at it, Iím going to make Hayim pay for killing Amitay. Amitay was the one who held our team together emotionally. Whenever one of us needed the support, it was always him who was right there to aid us. So this is for him. At this point, I would normally tell you that since the mission is over, that you are not obligated to follow my orders any further. But I can see the same look in your eyes.

Each of their faces has intensified.

Taario: I canít believe Sheikh Hunter would betray us. Sheikh Helen was very dear to me. Iíll help you any way I can.
Drora: Hayim would dare talk of love and yet stab us in the back like that? I will stab him in the back to make him feel the same pain Amitay felt.
Shahar: Iím going to protect the kingdom that Amitay loved and Iíll bash Hayimís smug face in with my mace.
Katzir: Cousin Seijuro is counting on me. Amitay helped give me a second chance at this. I wonít let it go to waste.
Liron: For better or for worse, I still live. Iím going to seize this opportunity to teach Hayim not to toy with emotions.
Akari: We are the only ones who can stop this. Itís up to us. For Hassar. For Seijuro. For Yusuk. For Helen. For Amitay.

They all nod in agreement.

Akari: ÖFor our kingdom.


Part 2 End

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PostSubject: Re: A Tale of Iron   February 24th 2016, 7:34 pm

Part 3

Chapter 51


Part 3 Opening:


After the fall of Dravos, a scheme was set in motion. Sheikh Hunter, the mastermind behind this plan, led Sheikh Akari and Sheikh Helen out under the guise of dealing with spies from the Iron Kingdom. Helen fell and her team was nearly wiped out. Akari and his group also nearly succumbed to Hunterís treachery, but managed to survive. The damage that was done to them was irreparable, however. Now war is on Jovahís doorstep.

We are taken to the throne room in the Iron Kingdom. There is a male courier knelt down before the queen. Aerona is standing next to her.

Aerona: How is this possible? Youíre telling us that an entire army just appeared out of nowhere and is on its way here?
Courier: Yes, sir.
Queen: How could they have mobilized an army without us knowing?
Courier: Speculation is that there was an underground training ground for this very purpose.
Aerona: We wonít be able to gather all the knights of Aegis in time. And Mars hasnít come back yet. They got us good this time.
Voice: Calm yourself, Royal Knight.

The general has just entered the throne room.

Strago: We still hold the advantage thanks you and the rest of the dragon slayers.
Aerona: Iím going to send word to Vito immediately.
Strago: Tell him to ready what armies and militia he can muster. The two of us canít leave Aegis just yet.
Aerona: Understood. Courier, if you would, remain in the castle halls so that I can write a message.
Courier: I will, sir.

The courier leaves the room.

Queen: This situation doesnít bode well.

Meanwhile, off in the distant plains, we see Mars, who is sweating profusely. His armor is currently cracked in many places and is nearly hanging on at this point.

Mars: Everything is working out well. Just a little more.

Over in the Red Kingdom, we see Akari and his group. They are walking in pairs, aiding each otherís steps. All except for Taario are still limping. Akari and Shahar are helping each other, Liron and Drora and Katzir and Taario. They have reached the Haero Mines.

Shahar: The mines. Can we even do this in our current state?
Akari: No, itís not possible. Taario, how did you get here?
Taario: I went through the mines, but I ran from everything in sight. Since it was just me, it was easier to slip by.
Liron: Yeah, this is not happening. We have to go over it.
Drora: That means we have to go over or around mountains and through a jungle.
Akari: Itíll take more time, but will be a safer route, I imagine. No one else would dare take it. Iíll leave it up to a vote. This is no longer an official mission, so the military hierarchy doesnít apply.
Drora: We have no choice. Weíll go over.
Liron: Yes.

The rest of them nod in agreement.

Katzir: Besides, captain, youíre the only one who should lead us.
Akari: Right. Then, letís go.
Taario: By the way, that was the Mohadmaht back there, wasnít it? You guys took it out?
Shahar: The captain did by himself.
Taario: Wow. We had so much trouble with that thing. Sheikh Helen was barely able to beat it back enough for it to run.

We switch views to a fleet of boats leaving the Red Kingdom. We focus on one boat that has Drake, KaíRud and Jerome.

Jerome: Are you sure youíre ready to go back to your home already?
Drake: My home is in the Red Kingdom now. But a chance to visit my royal knight pals? I donít want to miss it.
KaíRud: Can you really fight them?
Drake: Hell yeah I can. I want to see those smug faces they all have turn cold.
KaíRud: You were once a royal knight too, so didnít you have a smug face?
Drake: Maybe once. Though, what Iím more interested in seeing is you fight, Captain Jerome.
Jerome: Me?
Drake: They say of the three of you, itís the rarest sight to see you fight. Is that because youíre the strongest?
Jerome: No, thatís not why. If anything, Sentus is the strongest of us and yet he is seen fighting more often than either Helvast or myself. No! Youíre the strongest, Jerome!

We can see that Hayim is also on that same ship. He is staring off into the distance. The woman from before with the dark paint circles joins him.

Hayim: What is it, Haka?
Haka: Are you having regrets? I can see you brooding over here.
Hayim: Of course Iím having regrets. Do you honestly think Master Hunter and I wanted to kill them? They were my friends.
Haka: Weíre your friends now. Let me fill that void.

Haka takes Hayim by the hand, but he tears his hand away and looks at her sternly.

Haka: Iím sorry.
Hayim: Compared to Liron, youíre nothing special. Donít try to act like you are.
Haka: Hmph.

She walks away for the time being. KaíVor is the next to approach Hayim.

Hayim: And what do you want?
KaíVor: Iím sorry for her behavior. SheísÖeasily infatuated. Also, forgive me for not recognizing you sooner. As soon as you attacked me with water, I realized who you were.
Hayim: Itís fine. We hadnít met properly before then. Besides, it looked more convincing. Though, I had to kill a few of your friends.
KaíVor: How many?
Hayim: Just the twins.
KaíVor: Allís well then. It couldnít be helped that my team was wiped out. I nearly died myself from that guy with the mace.
Hayim: Ah yes, Shahar crushed your ribcage, didnít he? Your healer must have been impressive to cure that.
KaíVor: Worst pain Iíve ever felt, by far.

We focus in on the ship that is slightly ahead of the rest. Shiomi is standing at the tip of the ship and Helvast is just behind her.

Helvast: Something tells me you arranged for me to be on the same boat.
Shiomi: Of course.

Helvast does a quiet fist pump.

Helvast: Do you think youíll meet General Strago in battle again?
Shiomi: Itís probable. Once they figure out where I am, theyíll likely send him.
Helvast: I wonder if they have anyone as strong as the legendary heroes this time around besides the general?
Shiomi: Itís doubtful. The only ones capable are those dragon slayers.
Helvast: Oh that ought to be funÖjust as long as Sentus doesnít kill them first. Come to think of it, maybe theyíll send those five after you instead.
Shiomi: That would be foolish.
Helvast: Well, they managed to kill Dravos. Is it really?
Shiomi: And just who do you think tested whether or not Dravos was going to be a viable weapon for us?

Later that night, there is a knocking sound. When a door opens, itís shown to be Vito receiving a message. He reads it.

Vito: What?! Where are those two?! We have to get ready immediately!

He turns to a wall, where his katana is mounted. He takes it and unsheathes it and starts to swing it around a bit. Vito then hangs it on his belt and leaves the building. He walks around Drogos, where everyone he passes salutes him. He stops at a small building and opens the door without knocking. Inside, there are people sitting around a table. One of them is Solomon. The person at the head of the table is recognizable by Vito as the actor from the theater in Aegis.

Actor: Youíve managed to make it out of the Glass Kingdom proper.
Vito: Solomon, come with me. Hey, arenít you that actor? What are you doing here?
Actor: Iím in between roles.
Vito: Oh.
Solomon: You canít pull me out of this session. Itís getting really good.

Vito holds up a letter that has Aeronaís signature at the bottom. Solomon gets up immediately and leaves the building with Vito. Vito tells him the contents of the letter.

Solomon: Whaaaat?!
Vito: Whereís Erosion?
Solomon: How should I know?
Vito: You two are connected.
Solomon: Believe it or not, I really donít. Last I knew he was on a mercenary hunt off in Seren.
Vito: Thatís fine. Weíre going to Seren anyway.
Solomon: So, can I go back in?
Vito: How long will it take?
Solomon: Two hours probably. By the time youíre ready to leave, Iíll be done.
Vito: Fine.

Solomon opens the door.

Actorís Voice: How do you want to do this?
Solomon: Ahhh, I missed a boss fight!

He goes in and closes the door.

Vito: ÖWhat are they doing? Hey, wait. He really did know where Erosion was, and I didnít get to bust his balls for it. Iíll do it later.

Later that evening, the two of them are leaving the city. A small group of soldiers is following them. We switch back to the capital, Aegis. Aerona and Strago are sitting down at a table, drinking tea.

Strago: How many soldiers were you able to make ready today?
Aerona: Fifty. Not nearly enough for what we need as a response team.
Strago: Iíve roused fifty myself, so that makes one hundred soldiers as of right now.
Aerona: What will you do?
Strago: I need to be able to move at will. That means youíll be guarding the queen even tighter than before. If Mars happens to come back in time, that should help.
Aerona: I can handle it.
Strago: Should you see a captain or the general, run as far as you can with the queen. Thatís not something you can handle on your own.
Aerona: My father was able to take on a captain by himself, wasnít he?
Strago: While you have superior skill, you donít possess the physical ability yet on par with the legendary heroes. You know what Captain Sentus looks like, yes?
Aerona: I caught a glimpse of him, yes.
Strago: You must especially run from him. As much as you want to kill him, he also seeks to destroy you.
Aerona: Iíve heard.
Strago: Well, there is much work to be done yet. Iíll be off.

Strago stands up and goes for a door nearby.

Aerona: General Strago.
Strago: Yes?
Aerona: I am prepared to defend our queen at all costs. I will even resort to using dark magic if I have to.
Strago: Just be prepared to face any potential consequences.

Strago leaves the room.

Aerona: I will surpass those three in order to win this war.

The next morning, we see a city that has more upscale architecture, similar to Aegis. However, this city has a large stonewall that surrounds it, about fifty feet (15.24 meters) high. In the center of the city, there is a manse. Inside the manse, there we see Vito and Solomon sitting down in front of a desk. Behind the desk, there is a woman in full plate steel armor, except with no helm. She has long wavy blond hair and blue eyes. She is currently standing up.

Woman: Youíre telling me that they were able nearly make it out to sea before we found out about this? How far has our intelligence fallen?
Solomon: We have no idea what they did, Athala. All we know is that somehow they managed to ready their army without our spies knowing. This is obviously something that theyíve been planning for a full month.
Athala: In other words, ever since you guys came back from the Red Kingdom.
Vito: I donít like what youíre trying to say.
Athala: I meant no disrespect. Forgive me. This ill news is quite troubling.
Solomon: Lieutenant, we have to get to the port immediately. The people are in danger.
Athala: Then send a rider to evacuate them. We will outlast them here behind the walls of Seren.
Vito: Dumb bitch. Itís not that simple. Read the bottom portion of this letter.

Athala does. She starts playing with her hair and sits on her desk.

Athala: WellÖif the general wants itÖI guess I canít deny his request. But why did this letter have to come from HIM?
Vito: Because it was for me, so shut the fuck up.
Solomon: Excuse him; weíre very tired from traveling through the night.
Athala: Itís okay. Allow me to prepare my soldiers. You may get some rest at the inn for free. Iíll write a note for you.

They leave after taking the note. Immediately, Athalaís face changes to a very irritated one.

Athala: Those bastards! How dare they talk to me like that?!

As Vito and Solomon walk awayÖ

Solomon: Do you think sheís still mad at you three?
Vito: Probably.

We flashback to a year ago. Athala is on the ground with a wooden staff pointed at her face.

Aerona: Yield.
Athala: I have no choice. Damn.

Next, we see her in the same position, but with a practice long sword pointed at her.

Mars: Looks like I win.
Athala: YesÖ

NextÖ

Vito: Give up, bitch.
Athala: Rrrrrr FUCK YOU GUYS!

Back to the presentÖ

Solomon: She really wanted to prove herself.
Vito: Too bad she chose us as opponents.
Solomon: Itís not like sheís a bad fighter. Sheís pretty good. Sheís just not us.

They make it outside and begin walking through the streets. Eventually, they stop.

Vito: How long are you planning on following us before saying hi?

Erosion steps out from behind a building and gives his signature laugh.

Erosion: I was wondering what you two were doing here, so I decided to follow you.
Solomon: You could have just asked us and we would have told you.
Erosion: But thatís not as fun.
Vito: Come with us, you fucking red gerbil.

They explain the situation to Erosion as they continue walking.

Erosion: Thatís pretty bad. No wonder youíre here.

We now switch to somewhere unknown. Hunter is sitting in a dark room by himself. His eyes are closed.

Hunter: War. *Music* It is an unchanging disaster in an ever-changing world.

We then see flashes of different characters, but we still hear Hunterís voice. We first see an image of the five dragon slayers and then the queen. Then Akariís group and then the Red King. We then see the two generals side by side.

Hunter: A war that has lasted one hundred yearsÖ

We see the boats continue moving with Shiomi at its helm.

Hunter: is about to end.

Next are Vito, Erosion and Solomon walking through Seren and then brief flashes of Mars and then Aerona. Then we see Hayim staring off into the distance.

Hunter: This conflict has been set and motion and canít be stopped.

Akariís group is shown trudging start to walk onto a mountainside. Then, we have an image of the Iron Kingdom on the left side led by Strago and the Red Kingdom on the right side led by Shiomi. Then Hunter appears in the middle, smiling.

Hunter: But this time, it wonít end until there is a victor.


The war begins!

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PostSubject: Re: A Tale of Iron   March 1st 2016, 12:33 am

Chapter 52


It is later that same day. At the harbor, there are about 200 armed soldiers just bordering the actual town. They are lined up in four rows of 50. In the town, Vito, Solomon, Erosion and Athala are walking together.

Athala: We need to evacuate the citizens immediately so we can take point in these buildings. Itíll give us a tactical advantage where we can take them by surprise.
Erosion: Not bad. But, that isnít enough to win this.
Solomon: Weíll be hit by the full force of the army most likely. If we had our ships ready in time, this might have been avoided.
Vito: This is becoming a real pain in the ass.

Over the water, there is a morning fog that is just now burning off. A ship is seen coming through. A voice suddenly cries out.

Male Voice: A ship! Its make is from the Red Kingdom!
Athala: What?! How is that even possible?!
Erosion: This speed is only possible withÖ

Erosion looks at Solomon.

Solomon: A powerful enough wind mage.

From the perspective of the lone ship, we see Shiomi standing at the very front of the ship. Helvast is standing next to her.

Helvast: Looks like Sentusí plan worked after all.
Shiomi: Yes.
Helvast: I sense some strong warriors in the harbor.
Shiomi: There are some hundred strong just outside. Not too bad for such short notice.
Helvast: What are your orders?
Shiomi: I require nothing from any of you. Numbers mean nothing to me.

Shiomi puts one hand out towards the harbor, which is still about a hundred yards away. Some blue energy glows from her hand and then an orb is launched into the sky at an arc. There are people who have already started to run beforehand.

Vito: What the fuck is that?
Solomon: Whatever it is, itís not good!

The four of them instinctively run as far as they can in the short time. The orb lands on the harbor and then explodes. There is a huge rumble in the ground that even the soldiers outside the town can feel. *Music* An entire row of building has been destroyed in an instant and foliage from many other buildings break and splinter.

Vito: Theyíre not going to talk terms of war at all?!
Erosion: Something tells me that theyíre pissed at us!
Solomon: This is way out of our league! We need to retreat now!
Athala: Some good coming here was!

They turn tail and start to run. Back on the shipÖ

Helvast: I wonít let you escape, army.

Helvast steps in front of the general and focuses his mana.

Helvast: Kneel before us.

Suddenly, everyone on land feels an intense pressure weigh down on top of him or her. Many of the soldiers fall to their knees. Vito, Solomon, Erosion and Athala are barely able to keep trudging away from the harbor.

Shiomi: Shall I put some more effort into this blast?
Helvast: Please do. It seems my effect is not as potent at this range. Iíve forgotten how much harder it is to use magic over here.
Shiomi: Very well.

Shiomiís hand glows with an orb that now is the size of her entire body.

Helvast: Thatís more like it.

She releases the blast that is sent in a straight line. The people look in horror as this comes at them quickly. Suddenly, a similar sized orb comes from the opposite direction and meets it just before it reaches the harbor. They clash and then both explode in tandem. The sheer force of the collision destroys the entire harbor and blows back the four warriors who were just at the edge of town. The ship blows back a bit and Helvast shakes a bit, losing complete concentration over his spell. A bright light blinds everyone for a few seconds, but then subsides. The soldiers all run, as they are no longer under Helvastís magic effect. Athala stands up and sees Strago in front of her, with his hand also out.

Athala: General! *Music Stop*

Strago and Shiomi look at each other from afar. After about ten seconds of staring, Strago turns and walks away.

Strago: Come. Letís go.

The five of them walk away. Meanwhile, Helvast is sitting down, breathing heavy.

Helvast: Jeez. You two are on another level. I thought I was going to die.
Shiomi: Thatís not enough to kill you. Donít let him intimidate you so easily.
Helvast: Easy for you to say. I canít blow away entire landscapes like you.
Shiomi: Strago is on high alert. I canít be careless with how I use my power.

Just then, their clothes flap vigorously as Sentus lands on the ship.

Sentus: Were there dragon slayers over there?
Helvast: Probably, based on the power of some of them.
Sentus: You didnít tell me?! Iím going.
Shiomi: Sentus, donít be rash. If you rush off into battle and get killed, we will be at a severe disadvantage.
Sentus: I donít care. I must bathe in their blood now.
Shiomi: That wasnít an option.

Shiomi grabs Sentus by the shoulder and looks into his crimson eyes with her emerald green eyes. Sentus starts sweating.

Sentus: All right. I get it.
Shiomi: Good.
Sentus: By the way, your eyes are looking more beautiful than usual.
Shiomi: Glad to hear it. Maybe Iíll take you first night after we win this war.

Meanwhile, on land, the five are continuing to walk away.

Vito: Why are you here?
Strago: You read the bottom of the letter, right? The Harbinger of Misfortune and I both felt that Sentus might use his wind magic to speed up the process and ambush us even harder.
Athala: Youíre so cool, General Strago.
Solomon: So you came here by yourself?
Strago: Not exactly. There are one hundred knights at Seren. But I felt Shiomiís power come close and so I got here as fast as I could.
Erosion: Is that the name of the one who attacked us?
Strago: That was the general of the Red Kingdom. If you see her, run. Thatís the only advice I have for you.
Athala: And what was that magic that held us into place? Was it gravity?
Strago: Yes. That is Captain Helvastís magic. He is someone else you should avoid if possible.
Solomon: We took on the dragon and youíre saying that weíre not strong enough for a captain?
Strago: If the four of you attack all at once you MIGHT be able to beat one of the captains. You would be better off having Mars and Aerona with you.
Vito: You canít kill the captains yourself?
Strago: I could, but that would result in me also dying. I cannot help you as much you or I would like.
Erosion: What do you mean?
Strago: I have to be very careful with how I use my power. Shiomi will have the same mentality as me from this point on. If one of us gains even the slightest advantage, including stamina, the results could be catastrophic for our respective armies. There will come a time where we will face off. Until then, we both will be conserving our mana as much as possible.
Athala: GeneralÖ
Strago: Despite us being the strongest here, we will not be the most important fighters in this war. The ones that will make the difference will be the captains and you. You four, Mars and Aerona.
Vito: It would have been us six and Drake if he hadnít fucking betrayed us.
Erosion: Not to mention Chef Marlene.
Athala: DrakeÖthat bastard.
Strago: Forget about them. Focus your eyes forward. We cannot have you lurking in the past when youíre needing here and now.
The other four: Yes, sir.
Strago: We should be back at Seren soon. Get some more proper rest. They wonít be attacking for some time.

They make it back to Seren, where there are soldiers cluttered throughout the streets. With them, there are also some knights, who are marked by slightly heavier, more polished and refined armor.

Vito: We got the fancy knights with us, huh?
Strago: We will need them greatly. The knights of Aegis have always been our upper hand here on our territory. Now, as I said before, you get some rest, Vito and Solomon. I know how hard you have worked the past 24 hours.
Solomon: Thank you.

They leave for the inn. Erosion follows them. Athala stays with the general.

Athala: What about you, general? You surely havenít gotten much sleep either.
Strago: No. I will also retire soon.
Athala: I have prepared a special chamber for you inside the manse.
Strago: Hmm? Didnít you not expect me?
Athala: W-well..I figured youíd come eventually.
Strago: Ah, that is thoughtful. Letís be off then.

Some time passes and the general is in a room with Athala. He is wearing standard chain mail and his armor and weapons are propped against a wall. He lies down on a bed.

Athala: What? Arenít you going to take the mail off?
Strago: I need to be somewhat ready. Iím used to it; donít worry.
Athala: Damn it!
Strago: Arenít you being a bit too obvious, Athala? Youíre usually quite reserved with your emotions.
Athala: Forgive me. This sudden war took me by surprise.
Strago: If you are that worried, you may lie next to me.

Strago moves over to give enough room for her. Athala blushes and it looks like steam comes from her ears.

Strago: Whatís wrong? I require protection while I sleep.
Athala: Y-y-yes, general.

Meanwhile, at the throne room, Aerona is sitting down next to the queen. He has his eyes closed.

Queen: Is it difficult to be here?
Aerona: Very much so.
Queen: Iím sorry.
Aerona: I need to be here. Itís okay. This is just a test of will.

At the now destroyed harbor, there is splintered wood everywhere in sight. The ships are able to make it to the shore, but it takes extra time and care due to all the hazards caused by the destruction. The army slowly gets off the ships.

KaíRud: That was quite impressive. To think both generals would show themselves this quickly.
Drake: Strago is a man who will do everything himself if he needs to.
Jerome: That was not even close to the full power they possess. Donít be so easily impressed.

Jerome leaves them and joins the other two captains and Shiomi.

Helvast: Nice of you to join us, Jerome.
Jerome: I thought youíd be in a better mood, Helvast.
Helvast: That damned Strago killed my mood.
Sentus: Thatís because he resisted your magic so easily.
Helvast: You look like you wanted to tell me something.
Sentus: Shit. I said, itís because he resisted your magic so easily.
Jerome: Iím pretty sure you didnít say anything.
Shiomi: You still have that bad habit of forgetting to say what youíre thinking? Iíll hang you if you pull a stunt like that on the battlefield.
Sentus: Anyway, what is our plan of attack? We took the harbor, though it didnít go as expected.
Shiomi: They must have expected that you would aid us get here quicker. Did you do something when you saw the dragon slayers escape?
Sentus: They may have caught a glimpse of my magic when I slayed a lot of griffins.
Shiomi: Griffins?
Sentus: The creatures of darkness were aiding them for some reason.
Helvast: Perhaps they had grown bitter towards Dravos destroying their homes.
Jerome: Either way, they know weíre here. Theyíve probably gone back to their city of defense.
Shiomi: Seren is very well fortified. It will not be easy, but we have to go there. Strago will not have raised enough of an army to oppose us. If we can force him to fight in this battle, we will win this war. Jerome, get Drake over here.
Jerome: Yes, maíam.

Jerome brings Drake to Shiomi.

Drake: Yes, General Shiomi?
Shiomi: What can you tell me about Seren that we donít already know?
Drake: The secret to their defense is in their magic artifact, the Elťnaril. It is an elvenÖ
Shiomi: I know what the Elťnaril is. I was not aware that they possessed it in Seren. But that does make sense.
Drake: It lies in the heart of the city, underground. It will not be easy to reach it.
Sentus: If only Akari were hereÖ
Jerome: We can do this without him. Thatís right! We can do this ourselves!
Sentus: Thatís only the half the issue, Jerome.
Jerome: You miss him already, do you?
Sentus: Yes. And Helen, for that matter. But Akari was our next in line to become a captain. I suppose that goes to Hunter now.
Helvast: Or we could give that unofficial title to Habib. *Chuckle*
Jerome: Thatís not even funny, Helvast.
Shiomi: Thatís enough. What happened was unfortunate, but we have to accept the results. Our top three sheikh are gone and we have nothing to show for it. But we will make them pay for their lives tenfold.

Around this time, we see a thick jungle with tangled vegetation and trees so close together that their trunks nearly touch. Suddenly, a figure pushes its way out of the edge of this jungle. It is Katzir. He breathes heavily as sweat is dripping down his forehead. The rest of the group follows through, all in the same condition.

Katzir: We finally made it.

Taario falls to his knees and vomits.

Liron: I couldnít believe how humid it was. Even for our standards, that was too much.
Akari: Arenít you glad now that we went through the Haero Mines the first time?
Drora: I sure am. Iím all sticky and gross.

They jump down in front of the entrance to the cavern. Their wounds are, for the most part, healed up thanks to Taario. They look over to the village to see no activity.

Shahar: Do you think Sheikh Drake and KaíRud were alerted?
Akari: Letís check it out.

They walk through the town to find it completely vacant.

Akari: They must have evacuated. This has to be Hunterís doing.
Katzir: Why would they evacuate so suddenly? Itís not like this place isnít secured by two sheikh.
Shahar: Because they probably realized that they would be called to war and so they had to move the people with them.
Katzir: That makes sense.
Liron: If people arenít here, then that means we can take whatever food we need.
Shahar: Well, we have what we need to get back to the capital. But, we should rest here at least until weíre fully healed up.
Akari: Yes. We canít risk losing our lives now. Letís find a house to prepare a meal, I suppose.

They find a house that seems better kept than the others. They find that the door is locked.

Drora: One second.

Drora picks the lock with relative ease and they walk in.

Akari: Iím sure Drake wonít mindÖhehe.
Taario: You mean you knew whose house this was all along?
Akari: Yep. Iíve been here before, you know.

With the supplies in the house, they are able to make curry. As they sit down to eatÖ

Katzir: You know, we had curry the first time we all spoke as a team.

They all (minus Taario and Akari) have flashbacks of some conversations during that time.

Amitay: Me? Amitay is my name. Thereís not much to me, really.
Shahar: Well, why have you taken up fighting? We can all at least answer this question.
Amitay: I fight for the Red Kingdom. I started using quarterstaffs because I enjoyed watching the art and decided it was for me. I was taught patriotism at a young age, and I guess it stuck.

Hayim: My name is Hayim. Iím not very smart at all. In fact, Iím not good at a lot of things. I canít cook, canít clean, canít fix things, canít build things. But fighting is the one thing Iím good at. Thatís why I do it.


All four of them start sulking.

Taario: Letís just eat, guys.
Akari: Yeah.

While theyíre eatingÖ

Drora: So, Taario, why do you fight?
Taario: When I found out that my magic is healing, I just wanted to help people. Though, I was ready to go home when Ferra found me. When she told me the situation, I decided to follow you. I still canít believe I wasnít there to protect Helen. So, Iíve chosen to make up for it by protecting the person she loved.
Akari: Thank you, Taario. Without you, we would have surely perished. What happened to Helen would not have changed if you were there, so donít punish yourself for it.

Later that night, they are at the inn. Like the rest of the village, itís completely vacant.

Akari: We can all stay in separate rooms if weíd like. Thereís more than enough room.

Before anyone has a chance to say anything, Akari walks up the stairs with a key.

Liron: We should leave him alone tonight. He hasnít had any time to grieve on his own.

The rest of them go upstairs as well. Shahar, Katzir and Taario take their own rooms. Liron and Drora share a room. They huddle up together on the same bed, both embracing each other as they try to fall asleep.

Drora: Do you think Amitay was going to confess to me?
Liron: I donít know, Drora. Even at the end, his words were never clear.
Drora: In the end, even I didnít know how I felt about him.
Liron: I see. I was going to turn down Hayim either way, but I really did like him as a person.
Drora: I donít think he was expecting to fall for anyone. That made it harder for him to make his choice.
Liron: But he chose Hunter over us and so he canít be mad if we kill him for it.
Drora: I just wish things didnít turn out this way.
Liron: So do I. This familiar feeling of losing someoneÖI hate it.

The same night, we see that the Red military has set up camp just outside the destroyed docks. Shiomi is sitting at the edge, letting her bare feet go into the water. She stares at the moon overhead, which is gibbous waxing. Helvast approaches her.

Helvast: Will you be getting some rest soon?
Shiomi: Yes. Tomorrow will be key. If we can take Seren, we will win this war.
Helvast: Weíll need you at your best, maíam. Please get some sleep.
Shiomi: Do you see the moon, Helvast?
Helvast: Yes, itís almost as radiant as you.
Shiomi: *Chuckle* You captains are getting more eager for my attention lately. Have I gained an enchantress spell without knowing it?
Helvast: Itís just that this may be our last war. While many look to us for strength, it is you who is our pillar. That is why we want-
Shiomi: Youíre persistent. Away with you. I will get enough rest. Or do you not think me capable of handling myself?
Helvast: I beg your parden.

He leaves.

Shiomi: What will you do, Strago?


The Battle of Seren is about to begin!

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PostSubject: Re: A Tale of Iron   March 7th 2016, 11:37 am

Chapter 53



Early the next morning, Strago wakes up and sees that Athala is now sleeping.

Strago: She stayed here all night, huh? I wasnít actually serious.

He looks out the window to see that it is still relatively dark. The morning sun has not risen very high yet. He quietly leaves the room, with just a bit of rattling from his chain mail. There are soldiers that greet him.

Soldier: General, sir. Do you know where the lieutenant is?
Strago: Sheís sleeping. Do not bother her. I am personally taking over organizing operations. Iíll leave the actual battle command to Vito and Solomon.
Soldier: Yes, sir. There is food ready for you by order of the lieutenant.
Strago: Very well.

A few hours pass and then we see Vito, Solomon and Erosion eating breakfast together. It is now bright daylight, but still early in the morning.

Erosion: Do you think theyíll talk?
Solomon: It doesnít seem like they will. They attacked the harbor without any mercy.
Vito: This time, it wonít be so easy. Theyíve never been able to take Seren before. They wonít be able to this time either.

Just then, the general approaches them. This shocks them for a second.

Strago: Good morning. What were you three talking about?
Vito: The fact that they didnít even bother to talk before attacking us.
Strago: Yes, speaking terms of war is standard. And yetÖI sense that something happened in the Red Kingdom that even we are not aware of.
Erosion: What do you mean by that?
Strago: This is an odd move for Shiomi, even after you killed the dragon. It took them a month and then they suddenly got this aggressive. But, we canít worry about the why now. Theyíve made the first move.
Vito: What do you want us to do? Theyíll attack very soon; Iím sure of it.
Strago: Iím leaving you three in charge of the battle itself.
Solomon: Whaaaat?!
Strago: My position here is very delicate. I need to respond wherever Iím needed. Besides, Shiomi wonít be leading this attack. I think we all know who will.
Erosion: The one who knows the most about our cityÖ

At this time, we can see the Red army marching. Next to the general and captains, we see Drake. All of the sudden, a portion of the army splits off from the main one. This army numbers around 300 soldiers/mages/etc. At its head is a man wearing the black mage robe. He has a red Mohawk and greyish black stubble. He has a small curved blade at his hip.

KaíRud: Will you be okay, Ahli?
Ahli: Iíll tear them apart.
KaíRud: Do not be so proud.
Ahli: Leave it to me, General Shiomi. Iíll show you that Iím the next captain candidate.
Shiomi: Donít fail me, Ahli.

The main army continues forward till Seren is in sight. On the other side of the wall, a lookout sees them coming and pummels a giant bell with a metal staff. The baritone bell resounds through the city. Soldiers and knights run frantically around to get into position. Vito, Solomon and Erosion make it to the top of the wall and peer over as the army stops about 200 meters away. The three captains step forward. Sentus, who is in the middle, keeps in front of the other two.

Vito: So now you want to talk!
Sentus: You didnít want to when you killed our people! Youíre the ones who started this war!
Erosion: Heís not wrong.
Sentus: Iím fortunate to have found three of you already! You killed Dravos, and you will pay for it!
Vito: Yeah? And one of you assholes killed my brother and my cousin!
Jerome: Thatís Vito of the Blade then. His brotherís death was on your hands, Sentus.
Sentus: Iím aware.
Vito: Weíll call it even if you turn back now!

Drake steps up to where the captains are.

Solomon: There he is. Just as the general said.
Drake: Turn back, you say?! Have you gone soft, Vito?!

Drake puts his arms out and all of the sudden, five spears appear out of nowhere and float in mid air around him. He pushes his hands forward and the spears fly straight at Solomon, Erosion and Vito. Vito quickly runs his hand over his blade and then slashes horizontally, which makes a beam trail off and hit all five spears. The spears fall to the ground below.

Vito: Is that how it is, Drake?! You son of a bitch.
Sentus: Thatís it. Iím destroying that wall.
Shiomiís Voice: Donít waste your mana.

Shiomi also walks to where they are.

Shiomi: The Elťnaril is active. It rejects any and all magic from the outside. Even if I put all my energy into a single blast, it would do nothing to the barrier that surrounds it.

Shiomi puts out one finger and a small speck of energy is shot out. Once it reaches a certain point, the speck dispels and then we can see the form of the Elťnaril barrier. It is a green cylindrical barrier that encapsulates the entire city.

Helvast: Ancient Elven magic is quite something.
Sentus: Donít hype up your own people, Helvast.

Helvast grins as he flips his hair around while turning around. We catch a glimpse of the ears that were once covered by his long hair. They are larger than normal, and are pointed. His hair then goes back into place as he looks behind him to the general.

Helvast: The Elťnaril also highly restricts the use of magic of whoever is inside the barrier. Weíre at a clear disadvantage there.
Shiomi: That is why we have never been able to take Seren before. I honestly thought that Strago had found a way to make a barrier strong enough for us. But it turns out they just stole one of the Elven artifacts.
Helvast: Iím surprised as well. Even I never believed they had seized it.
Drake: My magic works inside the Elťnaril. I donít use high-class magic to begin with. That is not why I am a sheikh.
Shiomi: This will be up to you, Drake

A soldier approaches Vito.

Soldier: Shall we fire the ballistae?
Solomon: No, thatís not a good idea. Not yet at least. Theyíll just use our own attacks against us with Sentus being there.
Vito: Yeah. Letís hold off on that. They canít do shit to us while weíre behind the barrier.
Solomon: Well, Drake can throw his weapons at us. If they have an earth mage, they can throw rocks up here.
Erosion: Uh oh.

Shiomi now stands ahead of everyone.

Shiomi: Vito, is it?! Where is your general?! Does he not wish to greet me?!
Vito: Weíre not telling you shit!
Shiomi: Did you hear that, men?! Their general is scared to come out!

The army responds with a collective chuckle.

Shiomi: While itís true that I canít hurt you physically from behind that barrier, physicality is not the only way to damage you!

Suddenly, the area begins to shake as a bright blue aura surrounds Shiomi. Many of the soldiers and knights begin to back away.

Solomon: This pressure from this far awayÖ
Erosion: Sheís a monster.
Vito: Iíve never felt this level of power before!

The rumbling subsides eventually and Shiomi goes back into a calmer state.

Knight: Weíre going to die.
Soldier: The general means to kill us all right here!
Female Voice: Donít give up!

Athala joins them at the top of the wall. She draws a spadone and raises it in the air.

Athala: The general will be weakened behind the Elťnaril! Do not fear her! This is what youíve all trained for! Aegis, Drogos, Seren! Wherever you may hail from, the Iron Kingdom trains ten times harder than they ever could. Youíve sweat the most, bled the most and you will show that here and now!

There is a silence for a few seconds. The soldiers and knights seem to all take a step forward. They are no longer quivering and all ready their weapons.

Erosion: Well said, lieutenant.
Athala: Thank you.

Athala looks over the wall and points her sword at Drake.

Athala: As for you, I will crush you today, traitor!
Drake: Ah, sweet Athala! Even from here, your beauty shines brightly!

KaíRud is seen face palming in the background.

Shiomi: Drake, shut up. You have no idea how to talk to women.
Drake: As you wish.

Athala: Did he really just say that to me? Way to kill the mood.
Solomon: Drake always did have the hots for you, lieutenant.
Athala: Really? I had no idea.

Sentus and Helvast now gather by the army.

Helvast: Are you ready for this, Sentus?
Sentus: Of course. Itís up to us to get them over the wall, after all.

Helvast focuses his mana and then steps towards the army. All of the sudden, they begin to drift upwards, off their feet.

Vito: What the fuck? Is he decreasing gravity around them?
Erosion: Thatís pretty cool.
Solomon: Itís not cool if it means they can get over the wall!
Erosion: Iím just saying.
Vito: Ballistae! Get ready!

As the view on the wall zooms out, we can see that the top is littered with ballistae on all sides. There are knights and soldiers alike manning each one in the direction of the Red soldiers.

Athala: Archers! Hold!

Many archers draw their bows and load arrows into them, waiting to be released. At this point, with the soldiers slowly drifting upwards, Sentus creates a giant wind barrier around half of the army and makes them rapidly fly straight towards the wall at an angle.

Athala and Vito: Fire!

Arrows and giant bolts alike come flying out over the wall and towards the flying army. The arrows simply bounce off the wind barrier that surrounds them. A few of the bolts make purchase on some Red soldiers and mages. The army flies at an angle above the wall, so that when the wind is rejected by the barrier, they can still make it to a safe landing with the forward momentum. As they land, the archers immediately switch to long swords. Many of them, however, cannot get their swords out in time and get attacked by Red pikemen. About a second later, Drake lands on top of the wall in front of Vito.

Vito: You!

Drake takes out the weapon that was behind his back to see that there is nothing but the hilt. He points it at Vito and all of the sudden, a lance forms from it. Vito immediately charges and they clash weapons. Vito pushes as hard as he can, which makes Drake start to loom at the very edge.

Vito: Now fall with your army!
Drake: I donít think so!

Two spears appear above Drake and get sent straight at Vito. He dodges backwards to avoid them and then the spears levitate in mid-air. Drakeís lance turns into a longer spear and he twirls it around as the two spears in the air start spinning around Drake. Vito makes a beam slash, but Drake dispels it with his levitating spears and charges at Vito. At that moment, soldiers from both sides interrupt this brief clash and attack both of them. Drake easily outmaneuvers a soldier and pierces him between the helm and the breastplate. Vito cuts through a pikeman, who misses him with a lunge.

Meanwhile, Solomon and Erosion are side by side, fighting. Another wave of soldiers is seen coming over the wall, but Solomon releases a gust of wind to stop their forward momentum. They are seen falling all the way down, not being able to reach the wall. Erosion immediately starts laughing his ass off while dodging a Red soldierís spear.

Solomon: Itís not that funny!
Erosion: Yes it is!

Erosion throws a soldier off the side of the wall. The soldier makes a Wilhelm scream going down. Solomon holds back a laugh, but a chuckle leaks through.

Erosion: See?
Solomon: Stop distracting me, Erosion!

Just then, the three captains make it over the wall and stand in front of the two of them.

Solomon: Shit.
Sentus: YOUíRE MINE!!

Sentus rushes ahead of the other two and pulls out a large curved blade from his back. Solomon jumps back, and encases himself and Erosion with a wind barrier, lifting them off the wall. Sentus puts his hand out, and they stop altogether. Helvast puts his hand out as well and some energy pulsates from his hand. Suddenly, the two of them drop from the air very quickly.

Helvast: Our magic is not very effective here, but itís the skill that counts.
Sentus: Donít you interfere with this fight again, Helvast!
Jerome: This isnít about you right now, Sentus!

As the number of soldiers increases on the wall for the Red Kingdom, the Iron soldiers slowly pull back.

Vito: Fall back to the lower levels!

The Iron army retreats down many long flights of stairs. We focus in on Solomon and Erosion, who are at ground level, lying on cobblestone. They get up and rub their heads.

Solomon: It was worth a shot, but I guess Iím outclassed in wind magic.
Erosion: Still, the gravity effect wasnít too bad. You were able to still stop us from taking any real damage.
Solomon: We have to get back into the fight. They need us there.

They then see the fight starting to get lower and lower in elevation.

Solomon: Weíre getting pushed back. Thatís not good.
Erosion: Letís go.

Erosion, in a parkour fashion, jumps onto a wagon and then uses that lift to jump onto a small buildingís roof and then climbs up onto a lower part of the wall. Solomon propels his jumps with a tiny bit of wind magic to give them extra height as he uses various footstools to have the same effect. As they start heading up, they see someone coming down towards them. Itís Drake, who is jumping down, doing the opposite of Solomon and Erosion.

Solomon: Drake, you son of a bitch!
Drake: Can you take me on?!

Drake gets to the same level of height as the two. He still has two spears levitating around him. Erosion quickly rushes him first while he is still bent down after landing. One of the levitating spears halts his advance by swinging in his direction and he is forced to step back. Solomon throws his scimitar, but it is also blocked. He retrieves it with wind and then Drake attacks with a spear. Solomon blocks it with his shield and then pushes forward to try and impale Drake with his shield. Suddenly, KaíRud lands behind Solomon, and gets kicked away immediately. Erosion was the one who landed it. KaíRud tumbles back, but catches himself and gets back on his feet immediately.

Drake: Nice backup, Ka.
KaíRud: Youíre too impulsive, Drake.
Drake: I know, I know. My bad.

At this point, the Iron soldiers are getting close to them. Drake nods to KaíRud and they both jump away.

Solomon: We canít let them get away!

Just then, Athala lands next to them and immediately gives chase to Drake.

Athala: Go get the baldy! Iíll handle Drake!

Before they can even respond, Athala has also jumped away. †The Red Kingdom is now seen coming down. Arrows from the top of the buildings barrage them and take out many of them while they are vulnerable on the steps. Sentus lands on top of one of those buildings and cleaves through an archerís neck with his blade. Helvast lands next to Erosion with two shotels drawn.

Helvast: Show me your worth, Erosion the Precarious.

Just then, Vito appears above Helvast with his katana aimed straight down at him. Helvast notices him and dodges out of the way. Jerome then appears behind Solomon, who instantly turns around and slashes with his scimitar. Jerome dodges backwards and then the three captains gather together. Vito, Solomon and Erosion do the same.

Jerome: Now, this is a similar sight.
Helvast: Though, these arenít all the right three players.
Sentus: Theyíll be dead all the same.
Solomon: Up close, you really do look like-
Sentus: Donít you dare utter my cousinís name! I will slaughter you right where you stand!!
Helvast: Donít fall for their tricks. You do realize that theyíre trying to get you angry so that you make a mistake.
Vito: We donít need tricks now. Youíre in our territory, bitch!
Helvast: I wonder for how long.
Vito: What do youÖDrake!
Erosion: Heís going for the Elťnaril!

Following Drake, he is in an underground cavern lit by various lanterns. He comes across four knights where the cavern opens up a bit into a large circular area.

Knight: Get him!

Drake puts out one hand and a war hammer appears in his hand. †With three levitating spears, he blocks each of their attacks while he pummels them all to death with the hammer. They each fall.

Drake: Knights of AegisÖhow far youíve fallen.
Athalaís Voice: Itís you who has fallen, Drake!

Athala swings at him from behind with her great sword. Drake dodges out of the way and Athala blocks Drakeís path.

Athala: I wonít let you go after the Elťnaril!
Drake: Athala, you canít stop me.
Athala: Weíll see about that.
Drake: Seeing you again brings me great warmthÖand yet great sorrow. I donít want to kill you, my sweet.
Athala: Good. Iíll kill you instead then.
Drake: Ah ah ah, but that doesnít mean you can kill me either.

Drakeís weapons disappear into thin air. He creates a zweihander identical to Athalaís.

Drake: Shall we play a game?

Above ground, the battle has moved to ground level, as the numerous Red Kingdom soldiers are finally making their way to the streets. Many soldiers from both sides are falling, but more are dying on the Red side. There are many more Red soldiers, however, so the battleís momentum appears to be about even. Elsewhere, we see Vito dodge a slash from Helvast and they both regroup with their respective teams.

Vito: This level of skill with just weaponsÖ
Solomon: Looks like the captains arenít just known for their magical skill.
Erosion: It doesnít matter. We have the advantage. Letís kill them now.
Sentus: Overconfident. Weíll see where that gets you!


The Battle of Seren is in full swing!

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PostSubject: Re: A Tale of Iron   March 9th 2016, 5:28 pm

Chapter 54


Going to back to Drake and Athala, they are motionless, pointing the blades at each other.

Athala: What are you doing?
Drake: This game is simple. Weíll fight with many different weapons. The one who has the upper hand with the most weapons wins.
Athala: Iím not playing your stupid game. If I get the chance, I will kill you.
Drake: As you should. ButÖI couldnít help but notice youíve switched weapons.
Athala: I knew that I would have to fight you eventually. A regular sword wonít cut it against your spear techniques.
Drake: So you chose a great sword. You know, theyíre used for breaking up the formation of spearmen, not necessarily for a one on one duel against them.
Athala: Youíll find that itís not half-bad this way either.
Drake: First, youíll need to win against your own weapon. *Music*

Drake takes a step back and raises his blade up. Athala does the same. They then point their blades outward and then slowly move counter-clockwise around the area. Athala takes the first move and lunges at him. Drake parries the strike and then takes a step forward and lunges as well. Athala also parries Drakeís strike. Athala charges in and makes an overhead slash. Drake puts one hand on the flat side of the blade and blocks the slash. Athala kicks Drake away and then slashes at him. He recovers in time to block the attack and then pushes her away.

Drake: Well, thatís one advantage of having armor. I canít exactly kick you, but you can kick me.
Athala: You abandoned your armor to wear that black robe. You deserve the disadvantage.
Drake: True. Your physical strength has improved to be able to move efficiently in that armor and with that blade.
Athala: Thatís not all.

Athala grips the hilt with one hand and with the other hand, she grips the blade a few inches away from the cross guard.

Drake: Half swording?

She steps in close and attempts to stab Drake. Drake sidesteps and then gains his distance.

Drake: Half swording gives you a mobility boost with that sword, but it wonít work against me.

She charges at him, but Drake slashes with a wide arc, which forces her to back off. She stops half swording and then grips the sword normally with both hands. They both clash blades and they slide off each other. They repeat this process, but Drake slides his blade with attempts to hit Athalaís top hand. Athala allows the tip of the blade to pass through the ring of the cross guard and then angles her sword to trap the blade in there. She then kicks again, which Drake backs up while letting go of the sword to avoid. Athala drops her sword and charges Drake while pulling a dagger from her side. Drake stops her arm and they struggle against each other. Suddenly, in his other hand, he creates a dagger identical to herís, but Athala grabs that wrist. They now are in a full out struggle. Drake manages to push her back and then he flips his dagger a bit.

Drake: Our next weapon will be the dagger then. You win with the zweihander.
Athala: You bastard.

The great sword disappears from the ground. Athala stabs multiple times with the dagger, but Drake is able to avoid each attack. He then lands a thrust to her shoulder, but the damage is minimal because of her armor. He goes for another lunge, but Athala blocks it with her dagger.

Drake: Daggers are not ideal for someone in heavy armor.
Athala: Shut up and fight!

Above ground, we see Erosion charge after Jerome, who dodges a running thrust from his wakizashi. Jerome spins around the thrust and then suddenly has two daggers at the end of his spin. He thrusts both at Erosionís side, but he blocks in time. Vito rushes Jerome now, but Helvast blocks his path and they clash weapons. Solomon and Sentus are meanwhile struggling against each other with weapons. Neither of them is gaining ground against each other.

Solomon: Heís really strong!

Sentus takes a step back, disengaging from the struggle. Solomon slashes, but his reach is too shallow to hit him. Sentus uses the superior reach to try and slash as well, but Solomon blocks with his shield. At this time, Vito is on the offensive to Helvast, who is stepping back gradually with each strike he blocks. Jerome and Erosion are just next to them, rapidly blocking each otherís attacks. As Vito pushes Helvast further and further back, he suddenly spins and slashes at Jerome. Helvast puts his hand out and Vitoís momentum is hampered a bit from gravityís effect. Jerome has enough time to react and block with one dagger at the same time that Erosion slashes with his wakizashi. Jerome blocks this one as well, but Erosion leans in to try and touch him with one finger. Suddenly, a shotel flies his way, between Jeromeís face and his finger. Erosion steps away.

Erosion: What the-!

Jerome slashes at the shotel with one dagger and knocks it behind him, where Vito is and where Helvast is currently charging. Vito also takes a step back where Helvast catches his other sword. Helvast follows up by cross slashing with both at Vito. Vito parries it by slashing upwards at the point where both shotel blades meet. Vito then follows up with his momentum by slashing downwards. Helvast back-steps, but the tip of Vitoís katana catches him on the shoulder and grazes him, leaving a small cut.

Helvast: Youíre quite good.

Back below ground, the dagger battle has halted and Athala is taking a defensive.

Athala: Damn it.
Drake: I win the dagger battle then. Next.

Drake dissipates the dagger in his hand and then puts both hands out. Two long swords appear. One has a black hilt and normal blade, but the other has a darker steel. This sword has what appears to be an inscription on the flat side of the blade. We canít make out its contents, however.

Athala: Iím done playing this game.
Drake: Youíd rather defend against me with that dagger?
Athala: *Groans* Fine.

Drake tosses her the normal sword and she grips it. Both of them keep their distance and circle around each other like before.

Drake: Ooh, very good indeed. Youíve already mastered the length of this blade. Iím impressed by how much youíve grown.

Athala takes a step forward and slashes horizontally. Drake steps back to avoid it and then steps forward and lunges with his sword. She sidesteps it and thrusts with hers, which gleams off his side, cutting him slightly. Drake simultaneously takes the cut while creating a broad slash that lands on her side. Her plate armor absorbs the cut and dents just slightly, but it does jostle her a bit. Athala immediately slashes for his face and he ducks under it and backs up.

Athala: You could have gone for my face like that, and yet you didnít. Is your game worth dying over?!
Drake: How could I possibly damage that beautiful face of yours?
Athala: Drake! If you donít take me seriously, you ARE going to die! Is that how you want to go?! You were a proud warrior of Aegis once!
Drake: Maybe youíre right. You have improved more than I anticipated. Next will be spears, my specialty.

Drake makes the swords disappear. He creates two spears, but Athala has rushes to her great sword.

Athala: Letís do this.
Drake: I see. Fine.

He gets rid of the second spear and holds one with both hands. *Music Temporarily Stops* We flash back into the throne room of Aegis. The queen is sitting on her throne and Athala is standing in the middle of the room, in front of Aerona.

Aerona: A weapon change? I understand why you would come to me for that advice, but what exactly do you want to know?
Athala: I want to be able to fight against long spears.
Aerona: Mmm, I see. With your physical ability, I wouldnít just simply switch to a heavy pole weapon. Halberds, pole-axes, glaives, they all require a lot of strength to be able to counter a spear properly. You use a longsword now, right?
Athala: Yes. Iím at a severe disadvantage against pole weapons with it.
Aerona: Iím aware. That frustrates Vito more than anything with his katana, which is about the same length as your sword. The next natural progression is a great sword. Technically itís more for breaking up spear formations in war, but it can theoretically be used in a one on one fight effectively. Hey, Mars.

Mars approaches them. He lets Athala hold his sword.

Athala: This thing is maybe a bit too heavy.
Mars: Well, to be fair, my sword is heavier than most. What you want is a traditional zweihander, or spadone.
Aerona: Or whatever name you prefer. Anyway, hold it up towards me.

They square off and Aerona points his Kwando at her and she points Marís weapon at him. There is still a sizable reach advantage for the pole weapon.

Aerona: Do you see that? Youíre much closer now than you were. The key is to use the weight of that blade against the thin spear. Chances are you can break his momentum if you get stronger. Because the spear is longer, its weight is distributedÖ

Athala has stopped listening. She is looking at the length of the great sword.

Aerona: Oh, whatever. Just do as I say.

Back to the presentÖ

Athala: I trained for three years for this. Hereís the real test. *Music Resumes*

Drake takes the initiative by thrusting with the spear. Athala brushes it aside with her sword and then slides in to make a thrust with her sword. Drake sidesteps the attack and then makes another lunge. Athala does the same thing and slides her blade across the shaft of the spear. She closes in and attempts to strike his face. Drake ducks down while simultaneously spinning out of the way. He uses the momentum of his spin to whack her down low where her leg armor is. The armor takes this attack completely and Athala goes for an overhead slash. Drake blocks with the middle of the shaft, but gets pushed to his knees from the force of the attack. Athala kicks, which grazes his chin, but he dodges backwards and somersaults to his feet. He makes a quick thrust that makes a slight splinter in her chest plate.

Athala: Damn.

She rushes in again as Drake moves the tip of the spear in a circular motion while lunging it forward. Athala swings her sword as hard as she can, which knocks Drake off balance. He is now backed against the wall.

Athala: Youíre done!

Athala makes a large diagonal slash arc. Drake manages to roll out of the way, while dropping his spear. Athalaís slash hits the wall and makes a large mark in this cavern. She then follows up by slashing at him multiple times. Drake manages to dodge each one and then rushes in. Athala hits him with the pommel to stop his advance. He stumbles back and then avoids a thrust from the great sword. He clamps both hands down onto the flat sides of the blade and thrusts himself forward. She attempts to elbow him, but he hugs her first, temporarily restraining her arms. Drake turns them both around when Athala breaks out of his grip and then attempts to slash him. Drake ducks under it while backing up. He steps on the tip of his spear below him and then kicks it up. It spins in the air and then he catches it just as Athala readies another thrust at him. Drake dodges it and then lunges the spear to injure her right hand. She recoils her hand in pain but then attacks again. This slash is a lot slower than before and Drake easily dodges it. He thrusts his spear into her side, piercing the armor and damaging her quite a bit.

Drake: Thatís game.

Athala grabs the spear with her injured hand and slashes with one hand. This attack does not have the same level of precision and Drake simply sways to dodge it. Drake puts his foot up to her chest and shoves her to the ground, which makes her let go of the spear. She is now holding her side in pain. *Music Stops*

Athala: NoÖthe fight canít end like this.
Drake: You fought very well, Athala. I can see how much work you put in since I left.
Athala: It was for nothing, apparently. Kill me.
Drake: Why would I do that? Iím not a royal knight of Aegis anymore. I donít go by your honor code. That was something I always hated about this kingdom. You lost a duel to the death, so what? You donít have to die over it.

At this point, Athala springs to her feet and makes a desperate attack with her great sword. Drake sidesteps her and stabs her in her other side. She immediately falls to the ground again and her chest plate also falls off her completely, as itís shown that the buckles were also broken. With her sword dropped, she slams both fists against the ground. The injured hand actually spews more blood as a result.

Athala: DAMN IT! What was it all for?! I still couldnít make you go all out!
Drake: Thereís no one who can beat me when it comes to weapons. Itís just a shame that you donít have magic to back you up.

Drake turns Athala over and looks her right in the face. He makes a smile that also has elements of sadness in it. He touches her with one hand on the chest, which makes her wince. His hand suddenly glows with a touch of dark magic and she is then sent flying into the wall behind her. She hits hard and spews blood from her mouth.

Athala: DÖraÖkeÖ

As she lands, slumped against the wall, she loses consciousness.

Drake: I kept that beautiful face in tact. Thatís what matters.

He leaves Athala there and continues on into the cavern. Around this time, we see KaíRud, who is running by himself through a seemingly abandoned street.

KaíRud: Am I getting close to the residential area?

We see that he is nearing more of an area that has rows of simple houses. He stops when he sees that the area is completely vacant.

KaíRud: They evacuated from here already?
Voice: We had a feeling youíd try this as well.

From behind a building, heavy footsteps and rattling armor are heard on the cobblestone. KaíRudís eyes fill with surprise.

KaíRud: So this is where you were, General Strago.
Strago: Do you consider yourself a smart person, sheikh?
KaíRud: I do.
Strago: Then, the second you saw me, why did you not run? Surely Shiomi has instructed you better.
KaíRud: I might be under the restriction of this magic barrier, but so are you.
Strago: And?
KaíRud: There is a reason why you didnít want to spearhead this battle. If you die here, we will win this war.
Strago: This is true. And Shiomi is on the other side of the wall, yes?
KaíRud: I have no intention of telling you.
Strago: You are smart then. But youíve already made too many assumptions. *Music*

Strago takes a step forward and when we see the intense look in his eyes, KaíRud is suddenly sweating. Strago points outward with one palm facing upward

Strago: You assume that I even need magic to crush you. You could have all of your power and you wouldnít be able to lay a finger on me.

KaíRud takes a step backwards hesitantly.

KaíRud: Heís trying to get inside my head. I-if you were as strong as you say, you would have already killed me.
Strago: Your second wrongful assumption is that Iím here solely for my safety. The truth is that we knew that someone of your level would come here and force our hand by threatening our citizens. With the limited amount of soldiers and knights right now, we could only spare one person to protect this district.

Strago takes another step forward and KaíRud another step back.

Strago: Third, you assumed that this was more of a restriction for me than you. Have you forgotten that I am from this kingdom? We donít rely on magic as heavily as you. Fourth, you keep your distance to guard against my speed.

As soon as he finishes his sentence, he appears next to KaíRud, who is still facing forward at this moment.

Strago: From the moment you stepped into this district, youíve been in my range.

With his weapon, Strago cleaves through KaíRudís body and bisects him in one clean motion. After the hard thud from both halves of the bodies hitting the ground, Strago reacts to something. *Music Stops*

Strago: Somethingís wrong.

Below ground, we see Drake in another circular room. In the middle, on a pedestal, there is an orb a foot in diameter. Inside is a swirling mist of deep purple and white, moving in an irregular form. Drake stares at it intently.

Drake: The Elťnaril. Itís been a while since I set foot down here. Well, no use dwelling over the past. Sorry, buddy, but youíre going to have to die today.

Drake creates a lance in his hand and then stabs the orb with all his strength. The orb remains in place and crackles with static electricity. Energy begins building up inside the orb and then a wave of energy bursts out in the room, pushing Drake off his feet into a sitting position.

Drake: Ouch. I didnít expect that to happen. I guess Iíve never attacked it before though.

As he stands up, it is still cackling with static, but then begins to fade. Eventually the swirling mist subsidesÖand the inside goes completely black.


Is this the turning point in the Battle of Seren?!

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PostSubject: Re: A Tale of Iron   March 13th 2016, 3:08 pm

Chapter 55


We see the three captains and three dragon slayers. They are faced off, both sizing each other up.

Erosion: Theyíre definitely harder than I expected.
Solomon: But we have the advantage. We can do this.
Vito: Wait.

The six of them instantly react at the same time to something. The captains grin at the same time. Helvast steps forward and activates heavy gravity on Erosion, Solomon and Vito.

Vito: Damn it! Athala must have failed!
Solomon: This gravity is even stronger than before!
Helvast: Thatís because Iím right next to you as opposed to a few hundred meters away.

Outside of the city, Shiomi is sitting down, Indian style with her eyes closed. She also reacts to this change.

Shiomi: The Elťnaril is down. Nice job, Drake.

She stands up and walks up to the wall. She puts her left hand on it and her hand starts glowing. Back on the other side of the wallÖ

Jerome: Do it, Sentus. Kill them.
Sentus: With pleasure!

At that moment, the wall at that area is destroyed and giant chunks of stone are sent in their vicinity. Sentus turns his attention to them and creates a gust of wind that prevents any stone from harming them. Helvast then turns his head with sweat running down his forehead.

Jerome: Heís appearing now of all times?!
Helvast: Oh shit!

Helvast stops his spell and dives out of the way as a blur zips in a straight line past where he was standing before. Vito nods to Solomon and Erosion and they immediately make a run for it. Helvast turns to them, but then gets knocked over from behind. The three have made it out of sight now. The chaos subsides and Helvast stands up. Shiomi now joins the three of them.

Sentus: That was bad timing.
Shiomi: Oh? Too bad.

Between buildings, the three dragon slayers are breathing heavy. Across from them is Strago.

Strago: Do you see now why you should run from the captains?
Vito: Forget that. What happened to the Elťnaril?
Strago: I have no time to waste. Just hold on for another minute or two.

Strago slams his hand down on the ground and the ground below him gets destroyed completely, making him fall through.

Solomon: Where are our backup knights? They should be here by now.

We now pan to Drogos. An army of knights is just about to pass through. A knight goes over to someone who is operating the gate.

Knight: Open the gate. We need to pass through this instant.
Man: Very well.

The gate opens and they pas through. Just as they do, they can see something in the distance.

Knight: What is that?

This ďsomethingĒ becomes larger and eventually is realized to be a battalion of soldiers from the Red Kingdom.

Knight: Theyíre trying to block us from aiding Seren!

At the head of the Red faction is Ahli. The knights quickly form up with spears at the ready.

Ahli: Just as the general predicted. The back up is coming straight from Drogos. We canít allow them to aid the small numbers at Seren.

The Red faction takes a defensive stance. Some soldiers with large square shields step up to the front. They stand shoulder to shoulder with eight-foot pikes.

Voice: Theyíre using one of our defensive strategies against us.

Out steps a man in plate armor similar to Athalaís. He has short brown hair and a bushy mustache. He appears to be in his late 30s to early 40s. He has a large lance drawn.

Knight: Lieutenant Barg, please take command.
Barg: Of course. With Warden Vito not here, I look after Drogos. I will help you get past them.
Ahli: If you got a death wish, come and fight!
Barg: Boy, the only death I wish for is yours!

Some of the knights behind him facepalm.

Ahli: I think I just dropped a few points in IQ.
Barg: Archers, fire!
Ahli: ?

From behind the wall of Drogos, a slew of arrows fly out towards the Red soldiers. Some of the mages in the middle are taken out from the arrows.

Barg: Charge!

The knights charge at them. Ahli steps just behind the shield wall and parts two of them and gets between them. He concentrates on his hands and flames build up on them. Just as Ahli goes to release this fire, a barrier appears in front of his face, similar looking to Shaharís barriers. Ahli reacts in time to stop his attack. The front row of knights is now closing in on the shield wall. The barrier in front of Ahli disappears and the Iron army crashes into them like a tidal wave. Many of them fall to the shield defense. Many of the knights also fall forward onto the shields as they get pierced. This allows many other knights to jump over the shields and break into the crowd of soldiers.

Ahli: Push them back!
Barg: Break through their defenses! Send them packing!

As the battle turns into more melee combat, we can see that the knights are starting to overpower them. Ahli is seen dodging out of the way from a lance strike from Barg.

Barg: So youíre a sheikh. If I take you out, this will be much easier!
Ahli: As if an old man like you could kill me!

Barg thrusts with his lance towards Ahliís side, which he sidesteps into a barrier. Barg then sweeps high with the weapon. Ahli ducks under it and throws a quick fireball. A barrier comes between them and blocks the fireball. Ahliís hands flair up and then streaks of fire loop around the barrier from both sides, flanking Barg. He dodges both, but Ahli keeps controlling the flames to follow him. Bargís attention becomes diverted for a brief moment and Ahli takes notice. Two barriers appear on both sides of him to block the fire, but the fire had already moved around them by the time they appeared. This surprises Barg and he gets pierced by two fire bolts in the chest. Ahli appears in front of him and then unleashes a concentrated blast of fire at his torso, blowing a large hole through his chest.

Barg: HowÖ

He falls to his knees and then falls on his face. The knights take notice of this and the overall morale begins dropping. Ahli turns his attention to a group of knights and release a large wave of fire, setting many of them ablaze. The knights that are set on fire crash into the Red soldiers, committing a sort of kamikaze tactic.

Ahli: Tch. Theyíre well trained. I can say that much at least.

The Red faction now appears to be gaining the upper hand in this fight.

Ahli: Hahahaha! THIS IS IT FOR THE IRON KINGDOM!

At that moment, the ground below him splinters and many Red soldiers topple over at the same time. Ahli propels himself away with fire and then looks to the source of this disruption. There, joining the fight is Mars. He is breathing somewhat heavy and at that moment, his armor shatters completely and falls off him, revealing chain mail and standard black pants.

Mars: Huh. That didnít happen exactly as expected.

From the ground, Barg reaches out his hand to Mars, who takes notice of this.

Barg: EarthshakerÖ

Mars gives him a nod. Bargís eyes roll back and his head rests on the ground, dead. Mars turns his attention to Ahli.

Ahli: He called you Earthshaker. That means youíre one of the dragon slayers.
Mars: Thatís right. And it looks like youíre wearing the black robe. That means I can properly test this out.

Mars puts two fingers to his forehead.

Mars: Unseal! *Music*

His aura spikes, which surprises Ahli. As a reflex, he shoots a cylindrical fire blast at Mars. Mars counters by raising his hand, which makes an earth wall to block it. Ahli puts more effort into it and the wall busts. He then speeds over to Mars and rapidly punches with his hands on fire. Mars is able to avoid each one.

Mars: Wow, Iím much more mobile without my armor. Whatís more is that Iím in complete control!

Ahli eventually does land a strike to Marsí torso, which leaves a burn mark on his chest. Ahli then does a spin kick to kick Mars away with another burn mark in the same area. As he charges in to follow up, an earth wall comes up and impedes his progress. He sidesteps it and keeps charging, but another one comes up. Two more come up on the opposite side and then slide towards him, attempting to crush him. Ahli jumps over the walls, propelled by fire. He lands in front of Mars.

Mars: Heh, perfect.

Mars slams his sword down into the ground, which shatters the blade completely. The ground around them also shatters, minus the patch of ground that Mars is standing on. Ahli loses his footing completely and begins falling. Mars raises both hands in clenched fist form and a spike protrudes from the ground and impales Ahli from behind. *Music Stops*

Mars: Take that, buttwipe.

The knights are now winning the struggle. They have nearly taken out the army. With Marsí help, they manage to destroy the rest of them. Mars walks around and sees something. One of the dead soldiers is carrying Jahtenís great hammer. He picks it up.

Mars: This is Iron property. Funny how it found its way back here.
Knight: Earthshaker Mars! We need to get to Seren!
Mars: All right. Letís go.

Back at Seren, we see Drake at the vacant housing district. He finds KaíRudís body and stares at it for a few moments.

Drake: This clean of a cut. You ran into the general, didnít you, Ka? Damn it.

Drake then senses something and then runs. Not long after, Vito and Solomon show up.

Solomon: Damn it. He felt us coming and left.
Vito: Bastard. Letís get back to the battle.

Below ground, Strago is in front of the Elťnaril. He puts both hands around the orb and funnels some energy into it. At this time, Athala walks through, groggy.

Athala: GeneralÖI failed. I couldnít stop Drake.
Strago: Yeah.
Athala: Can you restart the artifact?
Strago: I can. It will just take time to kick in.
Athala: General, please execute me here. I deserve to die.
Strago: Do you think we get to die once we make a mistake? Perhaps on the battlefield, it can work out that way. But if you live, you have the chance to rectify those mistakes. Until then, live with the guilt. Use it to make you stronger.
Athala: Youíre right. Next time, I will definitely kill Drake.
Strago: Drake is out of your reach for now, Iím afraid. I should have warned you, but I didnít want to damage your pride. Or maybe I hoped you would win. That was my mistake.
Athala: We have to do something about him. He knows too many of our secrets.
Strago: If this war continues past this battle, he is sure to run into someone he canít beat. It is their very nature that will draw them into battle.
Athala: What do you mean?

Just then, a spark releases from the Elťnaril. The inside of the orb begins functioning as before. Above ground, a minute ago, we go to Shiomi and the captains. There are no Iron soldiers in the vicinity.

Helvast: What do we do? Theyíve all gone into hiding.
Jerome: There might be traps. No, fuck that! Letís kill them all!

Jerome rubs his head.

Sentus: Control yourself, Jerome.
Jerome: Big talk for someone who keeps rushing headlong into every fight that involves those three.
Sentus: Thatís different.
Shiomi: Enough. Iíll make them come out of hiding. Captains, you stay at my side in case Strago comes out. Weíll take him together and kill him.

Shiomi charges up a large orb of magic in her hand. Suddenly, the orb wanes and eventually disappears. They all react to this.

Shiomi: Just when the fun was about to begin.
Helvast: They were able to re-activate the orb that quickly. We hardly had any time to strike.
Sentus: Why didnít Drake destroy it?
Helvast: Itís not that easy. It would take someone of our level or higher to destroy it, but while itís active, it restricts our magic power. So completely crushing the Elťnaril is near impossible.
Shiomi: At any rate, we need to get moving. We donít have much time. Men! I donít care what traps you need to go through! Tear them apart!

The army raises their weapons and begins to charge into the buildings, when all of the sudden a horn blows from behind the wall.

Shiomi: What?!

At that moment, soldiers on horseback break through where Shiomi had blown apart the wall. They begin to hack through Red soldiers as the knights from in the city also come out and start attacking. Another different sounding horn blows from the other side of the city.

Shiomi: Ahli failed? Thatís the horn of Aegis! Weíre getting out of here, now!
Helvast: RETREAT!

The army retreats from the wall. The cavalry charges after them, but Sentus turns around and creates a giant wind blade that bisects 30 of them at once. The rest of them immediately retreat back inside the city. The Red soldiers eventually make their way a good distance away from the city walls.

Voice: SHIOMI!

Strago is now seen in the rubble where the wall was destroyed. Shiomi stops and turns around till she is just a hundred feet away.

Shiomi: You win this one, Strago! It seems our time to fight is not this day!
Strago: I will look forward to it!

Shiomi turns and disappears from sight. Immediately, cheers resound inside the city.

Solomon: We somehow pulled it off, thanks to reinforcements.

A cavalier trots over to the general.

Cavalier: Sir, we come from Helios.
Strago: Very good. You definitely came at an appropriate time.
Cavalier: Thank you, sir.

Meanwhile, Athala has joined Solomon, Erosion and Vito.

Vito: What happened, Athala? I thought you were going to kill Drake?
Athala: I failed. He was too strong for me.
Vito: You should have left him to me. I would have killed him.
Solomon: VitoÖ
Athala: Itís okay. Youíre right. Though, Iím not so sure. Drake has got even stronger. He might even be beyond you.
Vito: What?

A minute later, marching is heard coming from the other side of the city. More knights of Aegis come by, led by Mars.

Erosion: Hey, itís Mars.
Vito: Itís about fucking time you showed up.
Mars: We had a battle at Drogos in order to get here.
Vito: Drogos?! Is the city okay?!
Mars: Itís safe. The fighting took place just outside the city.
Solomon: Thatís good.
Vito: What happened to your armor and your weapon?
Mars: It kinda broke.
Solomon: Furthermore, where have you been? You left right when we needed you.
Mars: If I had known they were going to be here, I wouldnít have gone. But itís a good thing someone came for me. They sent a messenger to find me and bring me back.
Athala: I donít mean to change the subject, but I feel different somehow.
Solomon: Different?

They all inspect Athala with their eyes, naturally drifting towards her chest, which is now more visible without her chestplate.

Athala: Thereís nothing wrong with my breasts!
Solomon: What did Drake do to you?
Athala: HmmÖwell he groped me, but his hand was glowing a dark purpleÖit sent me flying into the wall and then I fell unconscious.
Solomon: He injected dark magic into you. He may have actually unblocked a part of you that couldnít use magic.
Athala: Really?
Erosion: Try bringing it out.

They find someone who can perform the magic affinity test. An aura surrounds her as she focuses. Her aura suddenly starts to change. It gets brighter and brighter until it turns into a light source.

Vito: Are you serious? You have THAT affinity?
Athala: Wait, my affinityÖis light? IÖcan use magic?

She smiles for a few seconds and then her face changes to more of a disgusted one.

Mars: Whatís wrong?
Athala: That means if I want to properly learn how to use this magic, I have to learn from HIM.

She hears Aerona laughing maniacally inside her head. She starts pouting.

Athala: Why couldnít I have the same affinity as the general?
Vito: Be grateful that you can use magic at all now.

Not long after, we see the Red Kingdom army back at the destroyed docks. The general morale is pretty low as the soldier count is thinner.

Shiomi: Not bad, Iron Kingdom. We had them outnumbered and they still found a way to keep us from taking Seren. That city is just too unreasonable to capture.
Helvast: Shall we move our attention elsewhere then?
Shiomi: We will have to sidestep Seren again this time around. Itíll mean they can flank us, but we have no other choice. With reinforcements, they now can fight us back completely. We will divide up our remaining army.
Sentus: Where do you want us?
Jerome: Youíre actually cooperating?
Sentus: I have no choice right now. Theyíre formidable. I have a feeling that if I follow orders, Iíll get my chance.
Shiomi: Jerome, youíre going to take Helios. Those cavaliers were unmistakably theirs. Theyíre going to be weak from spreading their army this thin. Drake is going to take on Drogos.
Helvast: Drake?
Shiomi: They only have a militia at their disposal. Itíll be easier than Helios. Meanwhile, the rest of us will draw out the army at Seren away from those two cities. Sentus, Helvast, I want you two with me. They donít have the legendary heroes anymore. That gives our side more leverage to be able to take on the central forces. I can engage Strago and keep him busy while you two ravage their army. We still have a chance at this one.
Sentus: Understood.
Helvast: It seems forcing their hand has paid off one way or another.

Meanwhile, Drake is by himself.

Drake: Ka, I promise Iíll avenge you somehow.

Later that night, we see the four dragon slayers, Strago and Athala at a single table. They are eating.

Strago: So, did your training go well, Mars?
Mars: I wanted more time, but I did get somewhere. Wait, how did you know about that? It was supposed to be a secret.
Strago: Itís me, remember?
Mars: Fair point.
Solomon: Now weíre just missing one more person.
Strago: He has his own job to do in Aegis.

In Aegis, just outside the city, we see a figure moving. It is cloaked at the moment. We zoom in to see this personís face.

Hayim: Itís time.


Danger approaches Aegis?!

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PostSubject: Re: A Tale of Iron   March 17th 2016, 11:21 am

Chapter 56


In the throne room, we see two rows of five knights each. The queen is on the throne and Aerona is next to her. The room is dimly lit by a row of sconces and a small beacon in the middle that has been lit up by a small amount of light magic.

Aerona: Will you retire soon?
Queen: I will. It is getting late. Will you be sleeping outside my door again?
Aerona: Yes.
Queen: I have an order for you this time.
Aerona: You do?

Just then, Aerona senses something.

Aerona: Get down. Somethingís coming.

At that moment, a portal opens in the room. Hayim appears through it and then so does KaíVor and Haka. Following them are Saber, Rapier, Tulwar (All three revived) as well as Fireball. Ten Red soldiers also step through. The queen immediately hides behind her throne while crouched. Aerona steps forward and readies a Kwando. The other knights draw ready their spears.

Aerona: So there was a planned attack here after all.
Hayim: You must be the royal knight Shahar talked about.
Aerona: ?
Hayim: Kill everyone, including the queen.
Aerona: Protect Queen Eleanor.

The soldiers step into action first to engage with the knights. Rapier speeds over to Aerona and lunges with his sword. Aerona blocks the thrust with the flat end of his weapon and then slashes at him. Rapier slows down time a little to be able to dodge it properly. Aerona takes notice of the blurring that occurs with his movement. Suddenly, Saber also steps into combat with him as well. He starts blocking both attacks and pulls out his shield to continue.

Aerona: I donít recognize either of you. Youíre not too bad, but I donít recall you being in the ranks.

Saber performs a draw cut with his sword. Aerona bashes with his shield to knock the sword away. Simultaneously, he thrusts with his glaive to impale Saber. Rapier appears behind Aerona and then thrusts. Aerona ducks under it from behind and then kicks backwards to push him back. He then beheads Rapier with a broad slash of his weapon. He then turns and does the same to Saber. The queen is intently watching this from behind the throne.

At this time, we can see Hayim engaging with a knight in combat. He tries getting close with his kama, but the knight keeps his distance and keeps thrusting with his spear. Tulwar comes at the knight from behind and makes a deep gash in the armor. Hayim is then able to step in and jam one of his kama into the knightís neck, killing him. Many of the Red soldiers have fallen, but most of the knights have as well. We see a fireball light the last one on fire and kill him. The action stops as Aerona is seen backing up to the throne. There are about two red soldiers left and the rest regroup. Saber and Rapier both regenerate heads.

Aerona: Ah, right. Itís that stupid necromancer ability.
Hayim: Iím impressed. We had a lot of trouble with those two and you took them both out. No wonder Shahar ran away from you three years ago.
Aerona: Speak some sense.
Hayim: How about this? Youíre outnumbered. You canít beat us all.

Aerona takes a huge sigh.

Aerona: Your grace, I ask that you not look at what happens until I tell you itís safe. In order to protect you, Iím going to have to break the law.
Eleanor: I trust youÖokay.

She turns around. He smiles and puts away his shield. *Music* He spins his weapon.

Hayim: So be it. Letís kill him.

Suddenly, dark magic energy surrounds Aerona, which surprises Hayim. It swirls around him and starts to coat him. Hayim shoots a blast of water at him, but he ducks out of the way. The dark armor is now complete. Aerona disappears and then appears in front of the two remaining soldiers. With one clean cut, he slashes both of their throats. A fireball comes his way, but he dodges it with ease. Saber, Rapier and Tulwar now surround him with a triangular formation. Aerona looks left and then right very quickly and then moves left. Rapierís attack comes off first by a fraction of a second and is dodged. Saberís is next and then Aerona moves to the right. He then backflips over Tulwar, who also goes for a slash. He disappears again and then reappears behind Haka.

Hayim: No!

Aerona slashes straight down from her head, cutting her open from the back. KaíVor attacks with her scimitar, but Aerona kicks her away immediately from behind. Hayim throws another blast of water, but Aerona spins his glaive, which disperses the water just as fast as it can get to him. He then puts up his glaive to Hayimís neck before he can get out of the way. The fighting stops once again as now the revived fighters are fading away.

Aerona: Surrender yourself and the others may yet live.
Hayim: Youíre offering mercy?
Aerona: I donít need them. Without your necromancer, theyíre not a threat to me. You, however, could give me some information.
Hayim: Hahahaha! The captain described you guys quite a bit. But youíre much more interesting in person.
Aerona: Captain? You mean Sentus?
Hayim: Ah, thatís right. You guys donít know that heís alive.
Aerona: If you donít stop speaking in circles, I will kill you. I only need one of you alive. But since you appear to be the leader of this, I am offering to take you for the price of your subordinates.
Hayim: So sorry to disappoint, but I wonít be negotiating with you.

Hayim jumps back and a portal appears behind him. He goes through and the portal instantly closes. As Aerona turns, he realizes that the other have also done the same thing. He dispels his dark armor and then breaths another heavy sigh.

Aerona: Itís safe now.

The queen comes out.

Eleanor: I saw it, Aerona.
Aerona: Shit. She had to look.
Eleanor: So, you learned dark magic while you were in the Red Kingdom.
Aerona: I did. Iím willing to accept the consequences once this war is over. But more importantly, youíre no longer safe here.
Eleanor: Yes, I agree. We must move immediately.

Running footsteps are heard a few moments later. The door slams open and some knights come through.

Knight: We felt dark magic in here and came as fast as we could.
Aerona: Some good that did. I already cleaned house.
Knight: (Muttering) Show off. (Normal) Good work, sir!
Aerona: Iím pretty sure I heard that first part. Iíll let it slide for now.
Eleanor: What is the status with the rest of our royal army?
Aerona: It is ready as of tonight. I wouldnít advise that we move until tomorrow. But youíll have to sleep elsewhere tonight.
Eleanor: Very well. Post guards at my room as well as a trap.
Knight: It will be done.

The knight leaves. Aerona looks at the queen and smirks.

Aerona: It looks like itís time for me to enter this war as well.

The next morning, we focus on Solomon, who is walking the streets of Seren. Flashes of the battle against the captains fill his mind as well as the destruction caused at the harbor.

Solomon: (Muttering) This is just like when we went to the Red Kingdom. Circumstances are what keep us alive. The captains, even when they couldnít use their most powerful magic, held their own against us. How long will our luck last?

As he finishes that sentence, a muffled voice starts getting louder and louder till Solomon shakes his head once. He looks over to see Erosion.

Solomon: Were you talking to me?
Erosion: Yeah?
Solomon: Sorry. I have a lot on my mind.
Erosion: Like what?
Solomon: Erosion, do you ever feel like of the five of us that we are treated as lesser?
Erosion: HmmÖ
Solomon: The other threeÖthey are related to legendary knights. Aerona was given the highest rank aside from the general and the queen herself. Vito was made the warden of all the cities east of Drogos. Mars was also given a very high position on the royal knight ladder.
Erosion: Technically, I refused the knighting the first time, so for me it makes sense. Where are you going with this?
Solomon: I feel like I have to work harder to earn the same level of respect. †
Erosion: I wonít argue with that.
Solomon: Thatís a first.

Meanwhile, Mars and Strago are eating breakfast together.

Strago: So Lieutenant Barg is dead then.
Mars: Yes. Forgive me for not mentioning it last night.
Strago: Itís all right. Nothing we can do about it.
Mars: Drogos is safe though.
Strago: For now. It will undoubtedly come under attack soon.

After they finish eatingÖ

Strago: What about your armor and weapon? I donít think we can rush order a fitted set in time for the next battle.
Mars: Thatís not a problem. I have something new I want to try.
Strago: Curious.
Mars: If you would come with me to the wall, I can show you.

The two of them go to the part of the wall that was destroyed. Some masons are doing their best to rebuild it, but there are still large chunks of stone everywhere. Vito is seen sitting on a chair, snoozing.

Mars: If you donít mind, Iíd like to borrow some of this stone.
Strago: Well, most of it is unusable as is, so go ahead. So this armor will be stone based?
Mars: Partly.
Strago: Iíll leave you to it then.

Strago walks over to Vito and flicks him on the forehead, waking him up.

Vito: Who the fuck didÖoh, general. Itís you.
Strago: Youíre supposed to be overseeing this, yes? The only thing I see you overseeing is the inside of your eyelids.
Vito: Iím fucking tired. What do you want me to say?
Strago: I want you to say, ďYes, General StragoĒ and keep watch of this.
Vito: Why me?
Strago: Did you think being the warden just meant you could slack off at Drogos? You have responsibilities.
Vito: Fuck.
Strago: Iíll tell you what. If you can beat me in a fight, Iíll gladly take your post.
Vito: HELL no!
Strago: Good luck then.

Strago leaves.

Vito: What are you doing, Mars?
Mars: Collecting stone that I can use.
Vito: For what?
Mars: Armor and my new weapon.
Vito: What happened to your old set?
Mars: It broke.
Vito: You gotta take care of your stuff, man.

Switching focuses, we see Athala, who is in a bedroom. This room is very plain, mostly for function. She is sitting on her bed, armor off. Sheís wearing a white knight robe; similar to ones weíve seen before.

Athala: His movementsÖ

Athala is replaying her fight with Drake over and over. Specifically, she is recalling the way he fought with the spear.

Athala: Looking back, he could have killed me at several different times. At no point was he ever looking to go after the kill. That held him back, and he still won. If thereís anyone besides the general that can fight a dragon slayer on equal terms in weaponry, it would be him. If I want to beat him, Iíll need to surpass even the Harbinger of Misfortune.

There is a knock at her door.

Athala: Yes?
Male Voice: Your meal is ready.
Athala: Leave it at the door.
Male Voice: ÖYes, maíam.

In the Red camps, we see Sentus, who is inside a tent. His eyes are sagged and there is dark coloring around his sockets. Jerome enters the tent and sits a few feet from him.

Jerome: I guess you didnít sleep well.
Sentus: They were right there, Jerome. And I let them keep their lives another day. Pathetic.
Jerome: There wasnít much we could do under the influence of that elven artifact. Their skill was impressive.
Sentus: When the barrier dropped, I should have killed them all without hesitation.
Jerome: If you had, you might have killed one or both of us in the process. Thatís why you didnít release all your mana at once.
Sentus: Yeah.
Jerome: No. You just hesitated. Thatís all. It had nothing to do with anything else.
Sentus: One Jerome at a time.
Jerome: Get it together, Sentus. If you die because of this bullshit, weíll be at a serious disadvantage.
Sentus: Jerome, every day those bastards live, I have to tell Dravos that I failed to avenge his death. Do you understand what that means?
Jerome: No, I donít.
Sentus: And I donít even know who to kill to avenge Akari. As far as I know, Hunter did that already. But I still feel empty for his death. I need someone to take my anger out on.
Jerome: Youíre a dragon through and through except your form.

Elsewhere, we see Hayim and his group. They are sitting out in an open plain.

Fireball: Hunter wonít be happy about this.
Hayim: The royal knight was stronger than we anticipated. Master Hunter likely didnít know about that form he took.
KaíVor: Whatís more is we lost Haka. She was Hamasí last student of proficient necromancy.
Hayim: She was an unfortunate loss, but it couldnít be helped. She needed to be close by in order for the magic to work. Neyfus, KaíVor, we need to regroup with Qito and Velance. The fight at Seren is likely over by now. Master Hunter did have a contingency in case this plan failed.

Going back to the Red camps, it is later in the day and the sun is starting to set. Helvast is sitting next to Sentus on top of a hill.

Sentus: Does being here anger you at all, Helvast?
Helvast: Why would it anger me?
Sentus: Being elven and knowing that these people slaughtered yours.
Helvast: These people did not slaughter mine. Their ancestors did. There is some of my kind who still holds that grudge. I have long since abandoned any anger I once had for humankind.
Sentus: Just how old are you? Youíve never told me.
Helvast: I have seen the ebb and flow of war ever since it began a century ago. I was just a young boy back then.
Sentus: Jeez. Itís a bit unsettling that an old man garners more favor with the general than I.
Helvast: For elven standards, Iím more or less the same age as you.
Sentus: I see.
Helvast: How about you? Are you angry with the first Red king for turning your ancestor into a human form? Your circumstance is not the greatest.
Sentus: Because we inbreed? It is unfortunate, but I suppose Iím not angry.
Helvast: I just want to know. If you die here, you donít mind if I take your sister? *Chuckle*
Sentus: If anyone outside my family should have her, itís you. Though, Sentira was originally pledged to Dravos and I to Dava, his sister. I donít know how this will play out now. We made many promises, Dravos and I. One of them was that we would make our experience just a little more bearable by swapping partners.
Helvast: I see. So, one of the reasons why youíre so angry is because of the grief your sister also feels.
Sentus: I canít let his death go. My dragon nature propels me. Did you know, Helvast? A dragon always guards his treasure. My treasure is my family. And those five knights brought harm to them. Itís not a choice on whether or not to be angry.
Helvast: I have heard a tale or two of a dragonís wrath. But Iíve never heard it phrased quite like that. Youíre a wonder, Sentus. I only wish it had been you who manifested that full potential.

That night, Drake is seen sitting by himself. Shiomi approaches him and sits next to him.

Shiomi: Are you thinking about Sheikh KaíRud?
Drake: I helped rule the village with him for two years. He was always lecturing me about how impulsive I am. And now heís gone because of that very same mistake. He probably didnít even get a chance to show his ability before Strago cut him down.
Shiomi: We have an odd quirk of seeing faults in other people that we ourselves possess.
Drake: I wanted to see the look on his face after I took down the barrier. He didnít praise me for much, but I think he would have been proud.
Shiomi: I think so too. But now, you have another important task.
Drake: Drogos, right? Youíve given me a lot of responsibility in this war.
Shiomi: We donít have many sheikh to fall back on right now. And you know this terrain the best.
Drake: Drogos was my home for a time, before I guarded the queen.
Shiomi: Was it? So then, will you be okay to bring it to heel?
Drake: Yeah. Itís not my home anymore. I may be impulsive, but I know where my allegiance lies.

At Seren, General Strago is roaming the streets. Solomon is with him.

Strago: Everything seems to be in order.
Solomon: Well, yeah. We had a full day to recover and we have reinforcements now.
Strago: Things arenít the best, but we can make do.

Just then, a courier approaches them.

Courier: General Strago, sir! There is a message for you!
Strago: This sealÖvery well. Thank you.

He takes the letter and reads over it while they walk. He lets out a slight chuckle.

Strago: So thatís how it is.
Solomon: What does the letter say?
Strago: I have some business to attend to. Excuse me.
Solomon: Which reminds meÖ

Strago walks away. He makes it to the manse, where Athala is.

Athala: Y-yes general?
Strago: I have a task for you first thing in the morning.
Athala: I will accept with great honor!
Strago: Good.

We now see Vito, Mars, Erosion and Solomon sitting in the same room. Vito is currently sitting against a windowsill, looking outward.

Mars: Tomorrow will be another big day.
Vito: I want to go back to Drogos. Theyíre not safe.
Solomon: None of us outside of Seren are safe.
Vito: What would my brother have done in this situation? I guess it doesnít matter since he isnít here.
Erosion: Iím not used to this kind of fighting where I canít lay my usual traps and plans.
Solomon: This is war. We donít have the luxury of doing that.
Mars: There may be a time for that, Erosion. You never know.
Erosion: True.
Solomon: All right. Letís get some sleep. Weíll need it.

All except Vito fade out of view as he continues sitting against the windowsill. The screen splits as we see Aerona doing the same in another place entirely. And then they both stand up and also fade into the darkness of night.


Another day of battle is coming.

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PostSubject: Re: A Tale of Iron   March 21st 2016, 2:15 pm

Chapter 57


We now go to the Red Kingdom at the capital. The streets are busy as usual. Vendors are all out and many civilians are buying and selling as if nothing unusual was occurring. We then pan to outside the city and to the mountain pass. Zooming in, we can see Akariís group at the end of the path. They can all see the capital in the distance.

Akari: There it is.
Shahar: By increasing our pace, we managed to cut back a lot of time on the trip back.
Liron: We need to be on guard. Hunter might have planned for our possible survival.
Akari: Yes, I agree. We have no idea anymore who is a traitor and who isnít.
Drora: Iím certain my house is loyal. We can stay there if need be.
Taario: You hail from House Hetzelberg, right? Iíve never seen such a wealthy living quarters up close before.
Katzir: But first, we need to speak to the king.
Akari: Indeed. Letís go.

They make their way to the capital, but not before passing their original training grounds. They move through the streets cautiously, keeping visual from all angles as they move. Akari in specific has a cloak on that covers his face and his black robe. They eventually make it to the palace.

Akari: Things could get hairy in there. Be ready for anything.

They move up the palace stairs and two guards stop them. Sitting behind them is Sheikh Habib. Heís slumped up against the wall next to a big door, smoking.

Guard: Halt!
Akari: Habib, so you stayed behind? Why doesnít that surprise me?
Habib: That voiceÖ

Akari looks up and Habib becomes shocked at seeing him.

Habib: I donít believe it. Youíre-

Akari puts one finger over his mouth and Habib stops talking.

Akari: Just let me through. I need to speak with the king.
Habib: Let them all through, guards.

The guards step aside and the group goes through the door. They make it through the palace and into the throne room. Akari goes in first and surveys the area. There are many guards and mages that are standing in the room. As soon as Akari surveys them, he takes his hood off and allows the rest of the group to follow behind him. As he takes his hood off, the kingís shock mirrors Habibís previously.

King: Youíre alive.
Akari: At this rate, cheating death seems to be my specialty, Your Majesty.
King: Hunter said that you had been killed in battle. How can this be?
Akari: Hunter would have you believe a lot of things that are untrue. I have a lot to explain, Sire.

Akari tells the king the situation.

Akari: What has happened since Hunter came back?
King: We sent most of our forces to the Iron Kingdom not but a few days ago. Hunter went with them.
Akari: If thatís true, then he must be planning something over there. My task is clear.
King: Yes, it is. You need to get to the Iron Kingdom immediately and speak to General Shiomi. I will write a letter with orders. By the way, who are these people behind you?
Akari: This is my group. We initially set out with more, but they perished along the way. Theyíre all very skilled for their individual trades.
King: I see. May I have your names?
Liron: Liron Goldhill, Sire.
Katzir: Katzir Endoku, Your Majesty.
Shahar: Shahar Senjin, Your Majesty.
Drora: Drora Hetzelberg, My King.
Taario: Taario Grendel, Sire.
King: Goldhill, Endoku, Hetzelberg. These are names I recognize. Nevertheless, all of you serve your kingdom well in its time of need. Understood?
All Five: Sire!
Akari: If I may, I donít want the knowledge of my life leaving this palace.
King: Yes, of course. Spies could be anywhere, including right in this very room.
Akari: *nod* I have somewhere to be before I depart.
King: As your king, I order you to rest. You all look weary and exhausted. You will do me no good at half strength. I will give you my letter on the morrow.
Akari: As you wish.
King: Dismissed.

They leave and Akari puts the hood back on. He turns to Habib.

Akari: Habib, do not let anyone into the palace unless itís us. Things are crazier than you know.
Habib: All right.

They leave the palace entirely.

Katzir: What now?
Akari: May we take you up on that offer, Drora?
Drora: Absolutely. But where did you say you have to be?
Akari: I have a few families to visit. You guys go on ahead. I know my way to the Hetzelberg estate.
Drora: Okay, captain. Be safe.

Akari departs from them.

Katzir: Where do you think heís going?
Shahar: If I had to guessÖ
Liron: Most likely Yusuk and Amitayís families.
Katzir: OhÖ
Taario: And Sheikh Helenís as well.
Liron: I need to speak to Ferra. Do you mind if we stop there before we go to your place, Drora?
Drora: Letís do it.

Following Akari, he has made it to a mansion. An older gentleman with gold trimmed robes answers the door.

Man: What business do you have with us?

Akari takes his cloak off and throws it over his shoulder.

Man: A sheikh? Come on in.
Akari: I am Akari. Are you Yusukís father?
Man: Yes. I heard you and your entire group died, including my son.
Akari: Most of us managed to live, fortunately. Yusuk, howeverÖ
Man: I see.

Akari bows out of respect.

Akari: Please forgive me, sir. I was unable to protect him.
Man: Stop your sniveling, sheikh. Get out of here. My son should have never set foot outside the capital.

Yusukís father slams the door and Akari raises his head.

Akari: I can see why Yusuk turned out the way he did. Jeez. Next stopÖ

He now travels to a quainter house by comparison. It is medium sized for the capital standards. He knocks on the door and a middle-aged woman answers the door.

Akari: You are Amitayís mother?
Woman: Yes? Are you Sheikh Akari?
Akari: I am.
Woman: Come in, please.

He is led to a seat as the woman sits on a couch across from him. A middle-aged man sits next to her.

Akari: Do you know why Iím here?
Man: We heard what happened. But youíre alive? Does that meanÖ
Akari: Iím afraid your son was not one of the lucky ones. It pains me to say that.

Both of them instinctively close their eyes for a second. We can already see dried tear marks on both of their faces.

Akari: Iím so sorry. Amitay brought us together as a team and in the end; he gave his all to protect us. I would not be alive without his aid.
Woman: That sounds like our boy. Thank you for coming.
Akari: Iím going to the Iron Kingdom for a while. But when I come back, if you ever need anything, let me know. I will personally see it done for you if it is within my power to do so.
Man: We appreciate that.

Akari leaves shortly after and gives a big sigh.

Akari: Two more stops. And this next one will be the hardest.

He goes not too far from Amitayís home and goes to a house about the same size. He goes to knock on the door but then stops himself. After five seconds, he does eventually knock. The door opens and then Akariís eyes widen. In front of the door is a woman who has the same tone as Akari and has long, wavy black hair. She has a black dress on. This woman already has tears coming from her eyes.

Woman: Akari?
Akari: Mom?

Akariís mother accosts him with a hug. Akari reciprocates this hug and then they both step inside the house. There is another woman inside, who looks like an older version of Helen. She is also wearing a black dress.

Akariís Mother: Helen, itís Akari.
Helen Sr: Akari, thank the heavens.

Helen Senior gives Akari a hug as well. Akariís mother is still clinging onto him, however.

Akari: I didnít expect to make one trip for the both of you.
Helen: Releena, are you going to let go of him?
Releena: Iím sorry. Iím justÖ
Akari: Itís okay.

They all sit down.

Helen: How did you survive? Hunter was the one that gave the news, right?
Akari: Hunter has betrayed us.
Releena: Of all the peopleÖwhy him?
Akari: Itís difficult to process, I know. He nearly killed me out there.
Helen: What about my girl?

Akari puts his head between his hands.

Akari: I failed. I couldnít protect the woman I loved. And whatís more is that I lost my best friend.

Neither of the women says anything to him at that point. They simply embrace him in silence. We switch over to the rest of the group. They are sitting inside a small room. Ferra is with them, serving tea to each of them.

Ferra: I am very glad that you made it back, Taario.
Taario: Thank you. You did save me from those goblins back there, so thank you again.
Ferra: When the news came that you all died, my heart sank. Iím so relieved to see that you came back, Liron.
Liron: We almost didnít. We had many close calls. And FerraÖ
Ferra: Yes?
Liron: The enemy had a necromancer. They sent Hassar after us.
Ferra: Are you serious?
Liron: Youíll be happy to hear that he helped save us in the end. Though he died the way he did, he was given another chance to leave us properly.
Ferra: Thatís good. Though, another note, it seems like not all of you came back. Amitay, he fell, didnít he?
Shahar: He did. Did you know him?
Ferra: Only briefly. He was in the same class as I under Sheikh Hunterís lessons for a while.
Katzir: Hunter is a traitor. Heís the one responsible for all this.
Ferra: Our teacher? But why?
Shahar: Weíre not entirely sure either. The captain seems to know something, but even he doesnít know why.
Ferra: Thatís hard to believe. But it seems I have no choice. It was teacher who brought the news to the entire capital.

A minute later, the group stands up.

Liron: You guys go ahead. Iím going to stay here for a little while.
Drora: Right. You know where to go.

The rest of them leave the house.

Drora: Anyone else want to visit their families before we go?
Shahar: I will go home to let my family know that Iím alive.
Katzir: As much as I hate to, I will as well.
Taario: Yeah, thatís a good idea.
Drora: All right. I will go ahead and have them prepare for your arrivals.

The group splits. We focus back inside Ferraís house.

Liron: Itís been a while since Iíve been here. It seems so nostalgic.
Ferra: Yeah. So, everything you said about seeing Hassar again. It was true?
Liron: Yes. It was surreal. I fought him too. Iím almost at that level. I just have one more step to take.
Ferra: Then youíre way ahead of me. I was going to fight you too. I heard you were going to throw the fight for me.
Liron: I was. I figured you didnít get that much stronger.
Ferra: Hey, I did improve.
Liron: We can practice together when I get back.
Ferra: So, youíre going, huh?
Liron: I have to. Sure, weíre doing a service for our kingdom. But honestly, this one is personal.
Ferra: Yeah, that sounds like you.
Liron: Hayim, he confessed to me and then ran from his problems. He betrayed us after all that. Ferra, you pursued my brother as long as you had feelings for him. He couldnít even do that.
Ferra: I see. A coward, then.
Liron: He even feigned his own intelligence to disguise himself better. Despite the fact that he made himself seem less of a person, Amitay accepted him and always tried to make him feel as a valuable part of the team. And how did Hayim respond to that? He murdered Amitay without mercy. If I see him, Iím going to tear him apart.
Ferra: Just donít make the same mistakes that Hassar did.
Liron: I wonít. I promise. So, Ferra. Are we cool again? I want to hear you say it.
Ferra: We donít have to pretend nothing happened. Things are different now. But yes, we are cool again. Iím sorry for everything.
Liron: Iím sorry for being so cold towards you. I pushed you away and then when you left, I tried to pull you back. We both grew up a little these past six years. With that knowledge, we can both move on with our lives.
Ferra: But first, you have to come back safely.
Liron: I will. Destiny or no, I believe in my own abilities and the abilities of my team. That will guide me to victory or, at the very least, preservation.

Ferra nods in agreement. A bit later in the day, we see Akari standing at the door of Helen Sr.ís house. Heís facing the door with a resolute face.

Releena: Where are you going, Akari?
Akari: Things arenít right yet, mother. I still have much to do before I can truly return.
Releena: You just got back and now youíre going out there again? I canít lose you a second time, Akari!
Akari: Iím the only one who can set things right. Hunter said himself that he was the most afraid of me. With my own two hands, Iím going to end his plot. Itís my responsibility.
Releena: Why is it your responsibility?

Akari turns his head to her.

Akari: Because heís my best friend. And because Helen died believing in that friendship.

He turns his head and walks out the door. He makes his way to a giant mansion, even larger than Yusukís familyís mansion. There are two guards at the gate who let him through. Another guard opens the front door for him and escorts him in. There he finds his group waiting for him.

Akari: Have you all resolved anything you wished to accomplish before we set sail?

Everyone nods at him.

Akari: Good. Weíll take tonight to rest. By the way, Drora. Where are your parents? I would like to pay respects to them for allowing us to stay here.
Drora: Those jackasses? Theyíre both on a business trip.

A male butler approaches Drora.

Butler: You shouldnít speak about the masters so candidly, Ms. Drora!
Drora: Do they pay you to tell me about what I shouldnít say?
Butler: NoÖ?
Drora: Then you can go fuck off with that attitude.
Butler: Yes, maíam.

The butler leaves them alone. Drora lets out an ďohohoĒ laugh.

Katzir: So, captain. Does Hunter have any family outside of Hayim?
Akari: His family is pretty rich, actually. Itís too dangerous to approach them if thatís what youíre thinking.
Shahar: It could make for a hostage situation. We could try cleansing this area of traitors before going to the Iron Kingdom.
Akari: I thought of that as well. Itís not viable, unfortunately. The longer we wait, the more of our people die over there. The fact that we even have to wait tonight is a bit heavy. Thereís also a very strong possibility that Hunterís family is very heavily guarded. Weíll leave that decision up to the king.
Shahar: Yeah, youíre right. It was worth a thought at least.
Liron: There was a sheikh left here. Who was he?
Akari: Oh, Habib? Heís a lazy shit that always slacks off. He somehow got out of going to war. But it is good that heís here.
Liron: How strong is he?
Akari: I wouldnít consider him very strong for our rank, but the fact that he made it to that rank without having a strong work ethic should say it all.
Liron: What is the chance that he is a traitor?
Akari: Slim, though anythingís possible.
Taario: Who would you consider more of the stronger sheikh?
Akari: Well, Seijuro was the most powerful of us and Hamas was easily a close second. After that it was more or less Hunter and I. Thereís also Nymeria and Noque, the sheikh twins. If I had to put the remainder of us into power tiers, Hunter and I are at the top. Nymeria and Noque are just below us. Drake and KaíRud are in that tier as well. Helen would have been in their tier. Then we have the lower tier, which is Ahli, Habib and Khilai.
Liron: So few of you left. And if we donít even count Hunter, that just leaves you in a different league from everyone else.
Akari: It is a shame. That is why we need to raise up new leaders. That is also why I am not dead. I believe I have cheated death twice because I still have a purpose to serve.
Drora: So, who wants food?

Katzir holds in laughter.

Shahar: Seriously? And he was being so cool too.
Drora: Iím sorry, but when a girl gets hungry, sheís gotta eat.
Liron: Iím pretty sure thatís everyone.
Drora: Though if itís any consolation, youíre pretty cute when youíre trying to be cool, captain.
Akari: Yeah yeah.
Katzir: Did anyone else notice how Drora changed back to her normal self the second she stepped foot in her own home?
Liron: Yes.
Drora: Butler!

The butler promptly attends to her.

Butler: I have a name, you know.
Drora: Get my friends and me some food on the double.
Butler: *sigh* (Muttering) I miss the masters.

He walks away, grumbling to himself. At night, we see a large bedroom that has various lingerie strewn everywhere. The bed is a giant pink one. There is a pristine makeup table off to the side and a mirror. Akari is in there with Liron and Drora. Akari is visibly exhausted, with his shoulders slumped and his head hanging. Liron and Drora are both in pink night pajamas.

Akari: So this is your room. Why am I here?
Drora: I just wanted you to see it. Also, Liron and I will be sleeping here. But, thereís room for one more. Hehehe.
Liron: Wait, what?
Drora: (Whispering) Do it for the captain, Liron.
Liron: (Whispering) I donít know what you want me do, but it sounds wrong.
Akari: Itís tempting, but Iíll just sleep on my own again. Thanks. I appreciate what youíre trying to do, but Iím okay.
Drora: Are you sure? If you donít like smaller skinny girls, Lironís tall and thick. All that physical training really pays off, if you know what I mean.
Liron: What the fuck?
Akari: Good night.

Akari leaves the room.

Liron: Seems he wasnít interested at all.

Just outside the room, Akariís nose suddenly bursts with blood as heís walking away.

Drora: I thought for sure he wouldnít be able to resist at least one of us.
Liron: You didnít even think to ask me before saying anything?
Drora: Sorry, it just came to my head. I wanted the captain to feel better. Helen was someone very special to him.
Liron: You worry too much about him. Anyway, isnít he 9 years older than you?
Drora: Yeah, but itís different when youíre someone as fit as him.
Liron: I guess.
Drora: So you think heís good too?
Liron: This is a dangerous conversation. Do I find him attractive? Sure. Beyond that, nothing.
Drora: Oooh.
Liron: Donít you dare start.
Drora: What are you gonna do about it?

Meanwhile, Katzir and Shahar have one ear each up to the door. They are both wearing fancy bathrobes.

Droraís Voice: Hahaha! Stop that! It tickles!
Lironís Voice: Thatís what you get for being a bi-hahaha.

Both of them also have massive nosebleeds and the door suddenly opens as their weight pushes it open. They see Liron holding Drora down as they are both giggling. They look over to the boys and Liron gets up.

Katzir: No, please continue. Weíre not here right now.
Shahar: And Liron, wasnít that laugh a bit too monotone just now?
Liron: (Sarcastically) It seems they found our secret out, Drora.
Drora: (Menacingly) We canít allow this to go unpunished.
Shahar: Oh, so itís a fight you want, huh?
Katzir: I must warn you, Iím an expert at hand to hand.

We can hear a commotion now going on in that room, which goes on for several minutes. After it subsides, we see a groggy Akari walking towards the door, which is still slightly ajar.

Akari: (Mumbling) Whatís all this noise aboutÖ

He opens the door and peers in to see all four of them on the floor, practically huddled up but sprawled out in random directions, sleeping. Shahar is snoring. Akari looks to his left to see a candle and blows it out. He smiles as he walks away. The next morning, we can see the four of them and Taario eating (Akari not present) breakfast at a large dining table.

Drora: Whereís the captain?
Taario: He said he was going to get the official letter from the king. He didnít want to wake you. But seriously, you four gave me quite the fright this morning. When I saw the pool of blood outside your doorÖ
Katzir: We had a hand in that, right, Shahar?
Shahar: Yes, but oddly enough, there was already some blood before we got there.

Liron and Drora look at each other and nod and smirk. After eating, they are in their normal clothes/armor, which are noticeably cleaner than before. They are outside when Akari returns to them.

Akari: Are you all ready to depart?
All: Yes.
Akari: Then, to the Iron Kingdom.


With resolute spirits, the group sets off where chaos currently presides. The war continues next!

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PostSubject: Re: A Tale of Iron   March 24th 2016, 12:40 pm

Chapter 58


One day earlier, we focus on Shiomi, Jerome and Drake. We can see the army divided up into three portions. Jeromeís faction is slightly larger than Drakeís and Shiomiís is the largest by a significant amount.

Shiomi: This is a crucial day. If both of you can raise hell on both cities, we will quickly gain another advantage.
Drake: Jerome, the Helios cavaliers hit hard and fast. They fight a lot differently from the knights of Aegis. But they are weak in defense because they have much lighter armor. The arms in specific are more mobile for quick horseback combat.
Jerome: Noted.
Shiomi: We will get as many soldiers out of Seren as possible. You should have little resistance. Come back alive, both of you.
Jerome: Good luck, general.
Drake: Smite the Iron army with your power.

The armies then move out in different directions. Shiomiís army moves west, Jeromeís northwest and Drakeís southwest. Meanwhile, in Seren, we see the dragon slayers preparing. Mars is hidden currently.

Vito: Whatís the big deal, Mars?
Mars: I want you guys to see my new stuff when Iím done putting it on.

They all have their armor or clothing properly put on. Vito straps his katana to his belt, Erosion spins his wakizashi and sheaths it at his side, Solomon does the same with his scimitar. We then see Mars step out from behind a curtain. He is wearing this armor (without the helm). He also has a giant stone hammer.

Erosion: Woah.
Vito: Pretty cool.
Solomon: Isnít that even more difficult to move in?
Mars: This isnít just regular stone armor. Itís infused with my magic, which makes it slightly better to move in. It also makes it harder. My weapon is the same.
Vito: All right, well letís go.
Mars: ButÖmy armor.
Vito: Yeah, itís cool. We donít have much time.
Mars: The reveal sounded so much better in my headÖ
Solomon: I think itís badass, Mars. Weíll have time to admire it later.
Mars: OkayÖ

They meet up with the general, who is patrolling the streets.

Strago: Good, youíre here. Weíre going to move out soon.
Mars: Will we be splitting up from here?
Strago: Unfortunately, we canít. Theyíre likely to attack from multiple places, but Iím going to need you four with me.
Vito: But what if they attack Drogos?
Strago: I sent Athala to Drogos. Sheís going to do her best to back up the forces there.
Solomon: And what about if they attack Helios?
Strago: Ö
Erosion: Wait, you canít meanÖ
Mars: Youíre going to sacrifice Helios in order to win this fight?
Strago: Itís the only way we can win. Either Helios falls or we all do.
Solomon: How can you think of doing that? Theyíre our people too.
Strago: Do you think I really want to do it?
Vito: Youíre not wrong, general. I agree with this plan.
Strago: Good. This will be a decisive day if the plan can pan out the way I planned.
Mars: I think Iím going to be sick.

The majority of the army in Seren sets out and waits outside the city walls. Suddenly, a male scout on horseback comes by.

Strago: Report!
Scout: Sir, the central army is just north of here! They aim for Drogos!
Vito: I knew it.
Strago: Very well. Go to Helios and aid in the plan over there.
Scout: Yes, sir!

The scout rides north, out of sight.

Solomon: Plan?
Strago: I have a specific strategy for Helios. Just as I sent Athala to Drogos, I sent someone to Helios to do something. †Regardless, we go north. We have to cut them off.

The army moves north. Eventually, they see that Shiomiís faction is actually waiting for them. The two generals step forward.

Shiomi: Nice of you to join us.
Strago: So this was your plan after all. I see Sentus and Helvast behind you. Tell me, did you send Jerome to Helios or Drogos?

We can see Shiomi react to Stragoís question.

Shiomi: What did you do?
Strago: I donít know what you mean.
Shiomi: I donít feel like telling you. Knowing you, giving you information would only help your schemes.
Strago: Not this time. And what about your schemes? Youíre obviously trying to buy time.
Shiomi: Iíd say itís working well then.
Strago: Indeed. Now that weíre talking, are you sure you want to do this? We could end this now.
Shiomi: No, we canít. Dravos, Seijuro, Hamas, Akari, Helen, Daniel. These are names that you erased from our kingdom when YOU declared war on US. Your dragon slayers went into our kingdom and killed our soldiers and then your spies killed some of our most precious people. And now you think you can ďendĒ this just because you got caught off guard? It doesnít work that way, Strago.
Strago: Very well. Bloodshed it is then.

Both generals walk back to their armies.

Vito: How did it go?
Strago: Not good. We really pissed them off this time. Be prepared for an all-out battle.

Shiomiís army now takes a defensive position, with the front row having the large shields as before. Helvast and Sentus step behind them.

Sentus: Theyíre right there, Helvast.
Helvast: Keep it in just a little longer.
Shiomi: No, please donít. This is why I wanted you two here.
Sentus: Thank you!
Helvast: So I can finally release some strong magic.

Helvastís magic aura starts to build up around him and Sentusí does as well.

Erosion: Thatís not good.
Strago: I leave those two up to you! We need to charge now!

Just then, Helvast releases his aura and the Iron army feels the effect of a heavy gravity. Like before, many of them are falling to their knees. Sentus then shoots a small orb into the sky. A few seconds later, out of nowhere, a tornado drops from the sky and lands on the army. It only lasts for a few seconds, but manages to take out a sizable portion of soldiers and knights. The rest of the Iron army charges at them. Mars swings his new hammer on the ground and sends a wave of destruction on the front lines, breaking up their formation. Just then, Helvast stops his spell and dodges out of the way when one of Erosionís beams narrowly misses him. Solomon throws his wind-covered scimitar at Helvast as well, which he is able to dodge. At that moment, Vito appears in front of Sentus and lunges with his katana. Sentus sidesteps him and grabs Vitoís wrist. Mars then sends a wave of rock at Sentus, which he destroys with a windblast with one hand. He then turns to Helvast, where the scimitar is now coming back in his direction. He stops it in mid air and then shoots it straight at Solomon. Solomon catches the scimitar and then charges at Helvast.

Helvast: Four on two? Youíre still outmatched.

Switching over to Jeromeís point of view, he and his army are coming up to a city. We then get an overhead view of it. Behind a layer of wall is mostly rural architecture. There is mostly farmland, with a living quarters district as well.

Jerome: We made it to Helios. Weíll bring it down with ease.

Jerome climbs up on the wall, where there are soldiers who are now alerted to his presence.

Jerome: People of Helios! Fall before the might of the Red Kingdom!

His body starts to emanate with some kind of shadowy aura. Many soldiers on the wall charge at him. Jerome looks both ways at the assailants and then releases this shadowy aura. It strikes them, seemingly having no effect. The soldiers then stop. They all drop to their knees, covering their ears, screaming. Jerome then unleashes a wave of this magic into the crowd of cavaliers coming through the wall. As Jeromeís army charges at them, from the cavaliersí point of view, they look like demons coming at them. Many of the cavaliers become frightened and turn away, which breaks their formation and begins to cause chaos within their lines.

Jerome: Too easy.

Some of the riders are able to resist the magic and charge forward, taking out a few Red soldiers and mages. But being outnumbered, they are quickly struck down. One of them takes a lightning bolt to the head and falls off the horse immediately. One of the riders tries to goad his horse forward, but the horse wonít listen. It is visibly spooked and bucks its rider off, where he eventually gets trampled by other horses. From the top of the wall, Jerome lets out a guttural laugh as Heliosí forces are getting slaughtered. He stops laughing as he looks to his side, where a knight is slowly trudging to him.

Knight: IÖwonítÖlet you win.
Jerome: Iíve already won, knight. I commend you for resisting the madness that plagues you.

Suddenly, the knight springs forward and swings a longsword at him. Jerome appears behind the knight, having a dagger out already. He stabs the knight in the back of the neck.

Jerome: Did you think I couldnít tell that you were faking it?

The knight falls off the side of the wall.

Jerome: Something does seem off though.

The Helios army is quickly destroyed not long after. Jerome and his army move into Helios and take a look around.

Jerome: Did the civilians evacuate already? HmmÖ

At that moment, one of the soldiers steps on a trip wire, which sets off arrows from all directions. This kills about 30 Red soldiers. They then see three buildings burst into flames as the city starts to burn.

Jerome: What the hell?! They sacrificed their own city to kill us?! RETREAT!

The army makes it out quickly, taking no real casualties from the fire.

Jerome: They didnít want us taking their farms. Smart. We make for Drogos! I just hope Drakeís side of things is going well.

At Drogos, Drake and his army has made it to just outside the wall. There is a singular body lying in the grass. It is Ahliís decomposing body.

Drake: So they really did kill Ahli.

Drake uses Ahliís black robe to cover his face.

Drake: Rest, comrade. Weíll take over from here.

As they take a look at the city, everything seems quiet.

Drake: Itís likely a trap. The militia are going to ambush us the second we make it into the city. But it doesnít matter. We outnumber them very heavily.

He brings over a female sheikh, who is very dark skinned. She has short hair and brown eyes.

Drake: Khilai, I need your help.
Khilai: Be quick about it.
Drake: Whoever is in charge right now, be it Lieutenant Barg or otherwise, will be holed up in the cathedral. Iím going in there to smoke them out. Iíll need you out on the battlefield, as a beacon of morale. Can you do that?
Khilai: This isnít what we discussed.
Drake: Sorry, but I have a bad feeling. You donít know General Strago like I do. He can have something very crafty prepared.
Khilai: Isnít this kind of thing what KaíRud always scolded you about?
Drake: This isnít an impulse. I thought very carefully about this on the way.
Khilai: ÖFine. I guess you are taking this seriously enough.

The army marches closer and closer to the gate.

Drake: Get ready to run.

As soon as Drake utters those words, a few figures are seen up onto the wall, manning a few ballistae. With a closer look, they are armored in simple hard leather. Immediately, Drakeís army charges towards the gate as the ballistae fire. The giant bolts take out a few soldiers a piece and then the two men flee from there.

Drake: I knew it. The militia is ready to fight tooth and nail for this city.

As they make it to the gate, Drake creates a 15-foot long spear and shoves it into the ground. He uses it to pole vault over the wall and land on the scaffolding where the gate winch is located. As he surveys the area, the entire area is completely empty.

Drake: This old trick, huh?

He opens the gate with the winch and the army marches into the city.

Drake: This is Drake speaking! I know your tactics! Come out and surrender, or we will kill you all!

There is no response.

Drake: Fine. Kill them all!

As Drakeís army mobilizes, suddenly figures begin pouring out from the buildings and alleyways. Drake is surprised by the number of fighters here when he notices the armor theyíre wearing.

Drake: Knights of Aegis?! Did they send knights from Seren?!

Drake looks to a large stone cathedral and makes his way over there without any resistance. He opens the doors to the cathedral and his foot hits a trip wire. Five arrows come flying his way from both sides of him. He manages to roll out of the way in time. He looks directly ahead to see Athala about twenty feet away.

Drake: Itís you.
Athala: Why did I have a feeling itíd be you whoíd attack us?
Drake: A rematch, then?
Athala: No. Not this time.

We now get a good view of the cathedral. It has been cleared out completely of chairs and pulpits. There are candlesticks on both sides as well as many different windows. From out of the shadows, a figure steps forward. The look on Drakeís face changes to extreme happiness.

Drake: Yes! This is what Iíve been waiting for!

The person who is now standing next to Athala is Aerona. Going back two hours, we follow Athala as she makes it to Drogos. Many knights greet her, though she is surprised.

Athala: What are royal knights doing here? Who is in charge here?
Knight: Please go to the cathedral for that, lieutenant.

She goes to the cathedral, where Aerona is waiting.

Aerona: Ah. Itís been a while.
Athala: YouÖis this why the general sent me?
Aerona: Youíre coming from Seren, yes? Whatís the situation out there?

Athala tells him what she knows and Aerona tells her about the assassination attempt.

Athala: I canít believe they would attack the queen out of nowhere like that.
Aerona: Well, sheís safe now. By the way, I noticed that you have mana flow now. Did you awaken an affinity?
Athala: Yeah. I assume thatís why Iím here. Itís light.
Aerona: Oh? Now, thatís interesting. You need some pointers, is that it?
Athala: No! B-but maybe you could show me a thing or two.

Back to the presentÖ

Aerona: Drake, itís been three whole years now. Athala tells me you got stronger since then.
Drake: I have. I hope you have as well.
Aerona: Of course.
Drake: So youíre going to fight me now? You know, I guarded the queen longer than you. I was a knight of Aegis long before you. Donít think you can beat me.
Aerona: While itís true that you had royal knight training, who do you think commands them?
Drake: The only reason you held that position is because you shielded Eleanor from Daniel of the Red Sun.
Aerona: That was true, for a time.
Athala: If you can distract him, Iíll take him from behind.
Aerona: That wonít be necessary. You conserve your strength. From what youíve told me, weíll likely have another battle ahead of us after this.
Athala: Heís too good for a one on one fight.
Aerona: Lieutenant, the past hour I showed you the ropes of using light magic. Perhaps the general wanted me to demonstrate more to you than just magic though.
Athala: All right. Although if you lose, I might enjoy it a little.

Aerona steps closer to Drake.

Drake: You have no idea how much I wanted this. The person everyone hypes up as the weapon master in the Iron Kingdom.
Aerona: So, are we going to play your game?
Drake: Hell yeah we are. You can pick the first weapon if youíd like.

Aerona suddenly sheds his armor and throws his shield and glaive to the floor. He has his other outfit on under the armor.

Aerona: Now weíre even. Letís go with rapiers first.

Drake creates two basket-hilt rapiers and throws one to Aerona, who catches it. They both step sideways and point the sword outwards.

Drake: Ready?
Aerona: Anytime.


To be continuedÖ

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PostSubject: Re: A Tale of Iron   March 26th 2016, 10:15 pm

Chapter 59


Both Drake and Aerona begin to move towards each other slowly, shuffling their feet carefully with the off hand behind their backs. As soon as they get in reach of the weapon, Aerona strikes first with a lunge. Drake is also about to go for a lunge, but then has to change positioning to block. *Music* Drake pushes the blade away and then thrusts twice with his rapier. Aerona dodges both and then they both unleash a flurry of thrusts. Their arms are now blurring with the speed of each attack. There are sparks flying in the air as the blades meet each other. Neither of them is seemingly getting hit by any of the attacks. Suddenly, the tips of their blades meet, which stops the rush attacks. The rapiers flex heavily from the force of the collision. The blades then spring back into position as they slide off each other. Both of them use their momentum to attack each otherís shoulder, but only Aeronaís strike hits as he ducks under it. It only grazes his shoulder, however. They both step back.

Drake: Damn. Your response time was better than mine in two instances.
Aerona: You seem to also have a lot of experience with rapiers.
Drake: I do indeed.

They both ready themselves again. As Drake is the first to attack this time, Aerona does a forehand slash to parry the attack. He then makes a thrust of his own, which Drake dodges. They both take turns attacking and dodging for a few rounds and then Aerona is able to thrust his rapier through the basket hilt and rip Drakeís weapon out of his hand. Drake backs up and the blades disappear.

Drake: Well done. You win this round.
Athala: So this is your speed without armor.
Aerona: Thatís right.
Drake: Itís my turn to pick the weapon. Hmm, I know. I recently fought your buddy, though it was only for a few seconds.

A katana drops into Aeronaís hand and one appears in Drakeís.

Aerona: Be glad it was only for a few seconds. You would have ended up dead against him as well.
Drake: I highly doubt that.

They both put two hands on their hilts and hold them outwards, pointed at each other. Stepping closer, Drake makes the first attack with a thrust. Aerona sidesteps and makes a short overhead attack. Drake puts up his guard, but the sword actually stops short and Aerona brings the katana down and does a horizontal slash. Drake is able to block this in time. Aerona shoves him back.

Aerona: For the record, this is one of the dumbest things you could have done. I mean picking this weapon.
Drake: Weíll see.

Drake steps in and does an overhead slash. Aerona stands an inch out of reach and the slash misses. Simultaneously, he stabs Drake in the foot and then cuts him across the torso lightly.

Drake: What the hell was that?
Aerona: You made the mistake of making the katana the exact length of Vitoís. Donít you know that Iíve seen his attacks countless times? Only compared to him, your attacks are much slower.

Aerona puts out one hand and heals Drake with light magic. Drake starts laughing.

Drake: Right now, youíre my favorite person in the world!

The weapons disappear.

Drake: Pick your weapon, royal knight!
Aerona: Letís see how versed you are in kama. I just saw someone who used them a few nights ago.
Drake: Nice pick.

Two kama are made for each of them. They spin their weapons and rush in close. They clash weapons over and over, each trying to get an attack in. Drake then hooks one of Aeronaís and then elbows him in the face. Drake then attacks with the other kama, but Aerona hooks it with his other one. He then pulls both arms outwards and then knees Drake in the gut. They both unlatch their blades and then back up.

Drake: Weíll call that one a tie. Fighting too close up is so boring for non-lethal duels.
Aerona: I agree. Sorry for that.

The weapons disappear. The next weapon choice is the longsword. Drake has his black one out.

Aerona: Andķn, your first created weapon, huh?
Drake: Yes. We all used longswords in wars before we became known. Even us pikemen had them as side arms.
Aerona: True.
Drake: But I thought swords werenít your specialty. Youíre doing just fine with them.
Aerona: You see, over the last month, I studied more sword technique. My pole-arm prowess is good enough as is.
Drake: I see.

They both ready their longswords.

Drake: Then, this is the true sword test.

They slowly circle around each other. Drake pokes with his weapon, but it is quickly smacked down. Aerona does the same thing a few seconds later.

Aerona: His guard is solid.
Drake: I donít expect him to be better than Athala at this. She specialized in longswords for a very long time.

Drake takes a swing at his legs and Aerona takes a step back and then lurches forward and slashes high. Drake blocks and gets pushed back. He is able to slide his blade off and spin around Aerona. He takes another slash, but Aerona turns in time to block it. They both slide blades off each other and take a step back. They are both taking a defensive position and remain motionless.

Athala: Drake is trying to figure out how to get past Aeronaís superior speed and reaction time.

Drake feints a slash to the head and goes low again, but it is blocked. Aerona ripostes with a thrust to the torso, which Drake parries. Drake slides his sword forward and attempts to stab Aeronaís shoulder. Aerona dodges and feints a cut to the ankles. Drake anticipates this feint and blocks at his torso successfully. They both take one step back and then thrust at the same time. Drakeís sword misses Aeronaís face by a few inches, but then he drops his sword as we see that he was cut on the hand.

Athala: The very same thing he used to beat me just got used against him. But Drakeís still smiling. This game is far from over.
Drake: Damn. I misjudged the distance by just a hair.
Aerona: You didnít misjudge anything. I moved ever so slightly that you didnít notice.

He heals Drakeís hand.

Athala: Stop healing him! You could have killed him.
Aerona: Relax. This is a fight Iíve wanted long before he turned traitor.
Drake: Hahaha! Likewise, Harbinger of Misfortune! Pick your weapon!
Aerona: I hurt your hand last round. This time Iím going to hurt your pride. Itís time for spears.
Drake: To think that you would pick it and not me.
Athala: You idiot!

Drake creates two seven-foot long spears and tosses one to Aerona. They both spin theirs around for a few second and then ready them.

Aerona: This is your specialty, yeah? Letís see it.
Drake: Very well.

Both of them spin their spears at high speeds and then Aerona attacks first with a thrust. Drake steps back to avoid it and then counters with one of his own. Aerona sidesteps it and then they take turns taking lunges at each other. They are dodging each otherís strikes. Suddenly, Aerona blocks a high thrust by grasping his spear more like a staff and then parrying the spear upwards. He then spins the spear around and jabs at Drake with the handle. It connects, but barely. Drake slides back and thrusts again, now having the reach advantage temporarily. Aerona ducks under it and then spins the spear around to the correct way and slides back while thrusting with one hand to get the maximum distance. Drake wipes the spear aside and it actually comes out of Aeronaís hand from the force. It flips once in the air and then Aerona catches it with an icepick grip.

Athala: Was that intended from the start?!

With the icepick grip, he thrusts his spear downwards towards Drakeís collarbone while rushing in. Drake blocks upwards to stop this, but then Aerona kicks Drake back. Drake tumbles back, but propels himself onto his feet with ease. Just as he gets back on his feet, Aerona makes a broad horizontal swing with the spear. As Drake is in a crouched position, he does block the attack, but the force of the strike forces him off balance. Aerona kicks him in the face, which makes him tumble back again. He gets up on his feet, with a bloody nose. Athala suddenly reacts to the change in Drakeís demeanor. *Music Stops*

Athala: Up until now, Drake has been laughing his losses off. But nowÖheís not smiling anymore.

We can see that Drake is now visibly annoyed.

Aerona: Losing isnít so funny, is it?
Drake: Letís do this. The queen is waitingÖwhat?

Drake shakes his head and then gives Aerona a serious look. He twirls around and twirls his spear overhead a few times and then readies his spear for another round.

Drake: No more fucking around. Iím better than this. Iím different.

The spear disappears from Aeronaís hand. Drakeís posture relaxes.

Drake: Pick up your weapon, knight. Iím going to kill you with everything I have. You have earned that much from me.
Athala: He actually lost a weapon battle. I didnít think it was possible.

Aerona picks up his glaive.

Aerona: Athala, you wanted to see Drakeís weakness, right? Watch closely.
Athala: Hey.
Aerona: Yeah?
Athala: The way you beat him at his own gameÖit was kinda cool. What I mean isÖyou need to show me more about light magic. So donít die. Kick his ass.

Aerona nods and then turns to Drake. Suddenly, a floor tile below him cracks and he trips and falls on his face.

Aerona: Ah, that hasnít happened in a while. Damn it.
Athala: Forget what I just said.
Aerona: Itís not my fault my luck is so bad at times.

He stands up and brushes himself off.

Aerona: And I was having such a cool moment too. Fuck.
Drake: To be clear, this is no longer a game. Iím going to kill you. Use everything you have at your disposal. It wonít be enough.

Two more spears are created and levitate around him. Aerona readies his kwando and goes into a defensive position. Simultaneously, we can see Aerona casting some sort of light magic in his hands even as he is gripping his weapon. Nothing appears to be happening, however, but his hands are glowing ever so faintly.

Drake: Heís going to try to blind me when I get in close. Iíll be ready for it though!

*Music* Drake charges at Aerona and the levitating spears follow side by side with him. He thrusts his spear, which is quickly blocked. The other two spears attack in succession. Aerona parries both of them. They then surround Aerona in a triangular formation and Aerona knocks both spears away. At this moment, Drake also attacks with his spear, which grazes Aerona and he just barely blocks in time to stop any real damage. The two spears come back again and then, in tandem with Drake, attack Aerona at once. From Drakeís perspective, however, it looks like all three spears have now bent at a weird angle and Aerona appears behind Drake. He spins around and tries to whack Aerona, but the spear looks odd again and Aerona easily ducks under it. He then makes a slash of his own, which grazes Drake and causes him to stumble back.

Drake: What is this?! What did you do to my spears?! I thought I hit you just now!
Athala: What is going on?
Aerona: Refraction. Do you know what that word means in science?

Both of them shrug.

Aerona: When the speed of light changes from one place to another, light bends. You thought I was trying to blind you, right? Actually, what I am doing is simply messing with your perception of light by manipulating it.
Drake: What the hell? Where did you get that idea?
Aerona: When we were in the Red Kingdom, there was a forest that messed with our depth perception. Though it was illusion magic, the concept is similar. Thatís where I was inspired from.

Aerona charges at Drake, but all of the sudden five spears appear and block him, stopping his advance.

Drake: Very clever. But even if I canít tell exactly where you are, then Iíll just attack in your general direction.

Drake starts to emanate with dark magic and then roughly 20 spears appear in the air.

Drake: You shouldnít tell the secret of your attacks so candidly!

All of the spears go at Aeronaís direction at once. He spins his weapon to block many of them, but some of the spears make it through and cut Aerona on many different areas of the sides of his body. †All of the sudden, the sharp end of the glaive shatters, leaving him a makeshift spear. He now has a few spots where blood is actively dripping.

Aerona: Not againÖ
Drake: Die, Aerona!

Aerona charges at him and attacks with his broken glaive. Drake blocks with the spear in his hand and then five spears levitate over them. †*Music Stops*

Aerona: Go ahead. Attack. Kill yourself as well as me.
Drake: Damn.
Athala: I see! The amount of spears, while is more lethal, can also be dangerous to him up close.
Aerona: You have a lot of firepower, but you have to maintain concentration on each spear. The more spears you have, the thinner your concentration on each weapon.
Drake: Be quiet.

Two spears thrust themselves at Aerona, but he dodges out of the way. Drake focuses hard and dark magic now surrounds him even thicker. This time, about 50 spears are created, all hanging in the air above Aerona. Aerona is surprised by this.

Drake: I underestimated you, but you also underestimated me, knight! Iím not who I used to be! I trained in the Red Kingdom for three years perfecting my magic! Now fall!

All 50 spears are forced down with great speed, impaling the floor as the shattering of tiles is heard and spears clanging against each other. Some dust is kicked up as well, but not enough to obscure the view. As the attack subsides, Aerona is nowhere in sight, which shocks Drake. As the picture zooms out, Aerona is behind him with his kwando held up to Drakeís neck. Aerona is emanating with dark magic as well. Drake is breathing heavy.

Aerona: Do you want to know where you went wrong, Drake? You willingly stepped into a one on one fight with me.
Drake: I can feel dark magic coming from you as well. I see you learned it too.
Aerona: You fought exactly as I expected you to. Do you know that?
Drake: What do you mean?
Aerona: Your game, the real reason I played along was because I knew it would get you angry. I beat you at every juncture, knowing that with each one, you would lose it just a bit more. Creating weapons also reduced your stamina quite a bit. I picked spears knowing that if I beat you, that it would send you into a full on serious mode. Oh, and jackass, do you want to know why I told you about refraction?
Drake: Why is that?
Aerona: Because I knew that you would respond by using up all your stamina to hit me. All this time, I was trying to make you angrier and angrier so that you would do what you just did. I donít have to hide my dark magic anymore from you. Did you notice, Drake? After I told you about refraction, I didnít use it ever again.

Drake becomes even more shocked as he recalls the fight. None of his attacks after that seemed off.

Drake: I was too flustered to see itÖ
Aerona: You were so fixated on hitting me and then when your weakness was exposed, you lost sight completely. While itís true that I wanted this fight and enjoyed it thoroughly, this was a carefully thought out strategy from the start. Though, my weapon breakingÖagainÖwas not part of my plan.
Drake: So this is how the personal guard to the queen fights. You took a lot of risks. One of them beingÖthat you allowed me to catch my breath!

Drake spins around with his spear, but gets slashed diagonally across the chest by a sharp point of Aeronaís broken weapon. Drake falls to his knees and then onto his face. Athalaís face is completely surprised.

Athala: This was a battle between two weapon masters. Is this what the general meant when he said that Drake would run into someone he couldnít beat?
Aerona: Lieutenant, come here. I want to show you something else.

Some time passes and then the two of them leave the cathedral, with Aerona having his armor back on. Outside, we can see that knights are finishing off the remainders of Drakeís soldiers that remain. The royal knights have decimated Drakeís army. We can see Khilai running away with a handful of Red soldiers and mages.

Athala: There was another sheikh here. Should we pursue?
Aerona: No. We donít need to get caught up with that. We need to prepare for a possible second wave. Iím going to rest up in the cathedral. Do you want to come with me?
Athala: N-nooo? B-but if you want to watch me practice, I guess I have no choice.
Aerona: Thatís not necessary. You can practice on your own if you want.
Athala: I said Iíll come!

Aerona just walks away, leaving her flustered. A knight goes over to check on her.

Athala: Damn it. Is this all part of another elaborate plan incase I turn heel too?
Knight: No, heís just a dick.

About an hour later, we see Aerona sitting down inside the cathedral. Athala is standing up and walks over to him.

Athala: Shouldnít you have bandaged those cuts?
Aerona: Ah, those have already healed. Itís one advantage of having this affinity. Though we canít heal ourselves, our bodies have an accelerated healing rate, but itís not useful in combat particularly.
Athala: I see.
Aerona: With some dedicated hard work and experience, youíll get there too where your body naturally heals itself faster. You already proved that you have the work ethic to improve your physical prowess.
Athala: Right. But I still couldnít beat Drake.
Aerona: Drake also improved over the last three years. There arenít many people alive today that could take him in a battle of weapons. That number is even fewer for people who want to beat him at his game.
Athala: General Strago told me that he would eventually run into someone that he couldnít beat in this war. Iím guessing he was talking about you. Thatís another reason why he sent me to you, I guess. To see that prediction manifest itself.
Aerona: He really said that about me, huh? Well, damn.

Just then, the cathedral doors open and a knight comes in.

Knight: Sir! Another battalion of soldiers is coming this way. And at the head is a blue-robed man.

This shocks both of them.

Athala: A captain?!
Aerona: Letís do as we talked about then. Itís time for another battle.


Jerome reaches Drogos! What will be the outcome of this battle?

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PostSubject: Re: A Tale of Iron   March 26th 2016, 10:28 pm

Chapter 60


Just outside of Drogos, we see Jeromeís army marching until they halt a few hundred yards away from the city walls. Inside the ranks, we can see Khilai has regrouped with them. A hundred feet away is the Iron army, led by Aerona. Both he and Jerome step forward. Aerona has a lance at the moment and has his shield drawn at the same time.

Jerome: So itís you who commanded this army of knights.
Aerona: Do you recognize me?
Jerome: I do. I saw you fight in the coliseum over at my kingdom. But thatís neither here nor there. I assume that Drake is dead.
Aerona: Yeah. He was foolish enough to challenge me on his own.
Khilai: (Muttering) That bastard.
Jerome: And are you foolish enough to challenge me on your own?
Aerona: Maybe. Looking at your numbers, itís not a good idea to go through with this attack. Are you sure you want to do this?
Jerome: I think weíll manage.
Aerona: Fine then. Die at your own discretion.

They both step back. Aerona looks to Athala, who is at the front lines.

Aerona: Is everything ready?
Athala: Yeah.
Aerona: Good. Iím going to need the backup.
Athala: Are you sure you donít want me?
Aerona: I need you to make sure that sheikh doesnít get involved. Iím more worried about the captain killing more than one of us in a devastating attack.
Jerome: Itís time.

The Red soldiers ready their spears and the mages begin readying their magic as well. The Iron knights take note and also ready themselves.

Aerona and Jerome: Charge!

Both sides charge at each other. Just before they meet, Aerona and Athala both release a light wave in tandem, blinding the front lines. The knights break through the Red pikemen and begin to push back their army. Aerona quickly spots Jerome in the chaos and they both move away from the immediate action.

Aerona: Now, thatís more like it.
Jerome: You really are stupid enough to come after THE Captain Jerome.
Aerona: Jerome, huh? Never heard of you.
Jerome: Very funny. Youíre not the one who is going to get under my skin.

The shadows start to surround Jerome and then he releases a wave of it at Aerona, connecting.

Aerona: What theÖ

It seemingly has no effect. Aerona charges straight at Jerome and thrusts with his weapon. Jerome dodges it and pulls out his daggers. He tries to get in close and attack, but Aerona blocks it with his shield. Simultaneously, he lunges again. Jerome sidesteps it and backs up.

Jerome: Fighting you with weaponry alone is not something I want to do if you beat Drake.
Aerona: I could have told you that one.
Jerome: Now that I see you up close, you really do resemble him.
Aerona: Ö
Jerome: I couldnít beat your father in weaponry either. But that didnít matter, did it?
Aerona: So, it was you.
Jerome: Thatís right.

He grips his lance tighter and his expression intensifies.

Aerona: Then, if I beat you, thatíll make me above him.
Jerome: Indeed. Though, I donít think you can do that.

Jerome charges at Aerona again, but his dagger attack is blocked again by the shield. At close range, Jerome unleashes more shadow into Aerona. Aerona counters by thrusting rapidly, with Jerome dodging each one with relative ease. Aerona then shield bashes, but Jerome back steps to avoid it.

Jerome: Interesting. Youíre like him in that department as well. Your father was hard pressed to go mad.
Aerona: Mad? Thatís what this is?
Jerome: He held to his convictions well. But do you know what pushed him over the edge? Watching his comrades die in front of him. The other two legendary heroes were slain and he could do nothing about it. Then he gave into the madness, my eldritch magic.
Aerona: Shut up!

Aerona is teeming with dark magic and activates the dark armor.

Jerome: Oh? Isnít that similar to what Dravos had?
Aerona: Captain Jerome, Iím going to end you right here. You have made a terrible mistake.

Just then, Aeronaís dark armor deactivates and he gasps for air and drops to his knees. *Music* Aeronaís right eye is now covered in black. He starts grunting in pain.

Jerome: Didnít you listen to my story? No, I suppose you were already too angry to take any kind of proper lesson.

Aerona is gritting his teeth and is hunched over right now. He has his hand over his right eye.

Aerona: No! I wonítÖlet it end here!
Jerome: Youíre still resisting? Hmm?

He notices that Aerona is using light magic to counteract the eldritch magic. He suddenly springs forward and attacks with the lance. Jerome laughs and puts one hand out. Suddenly, Aeronaís body begins to stiffen up until ice crystals start to form around his armor. As the effect grows, he eventually becomes frozen in place except for his face.

Aerona: WhatÖtheÖfuck?! Who the hell are you?! Thatís not possible!
Jerome: I am Jerome, of course. Well, thatís not quite right. I suppose WE are Jerome is more appropriate.
Aerona: What?

We fade to black and then see a woman who is of the same skin tone as Jerome with long hair.

A new noble marriage had been consummated and the woman became pregnant. She found out through magical means that she was gifted with twins, but something went wrong. Both twin fetuses were weak and would not survive. They sought the help of every powerful and knowledgeable mage in order to save the babies.

We now see two growing babies in the motherís womb.

And so it was that one particular mage was proficient in fusion and fission magic. He fused the two babies together into one being while they were still growing and in turn, both were saved. This baby would be named Jerome, after the mage who saved them.

Back to the present, Aerona is still wondering what Jerome means with his previous statement.

Jerome: Itís of no consequence to you.
Aerona: For there to be somebody in this world who has two magic affinities. Iíve never heard of such a thing.

Jerome walks up to him and puts both hands around Aeronaís head. He unloads an enormous amount of magic directly into him. Aerona would be convulsing if his body wasnít frozen stiff, but we can see the facial reaction intensify to an extreme. Jerome stops eventually and takes a step back.

Jerome: Youíre better than this. You are different. Come with me. This pain can end now.

Aeronaís eye reacts to Jeromeís words.

Aerona: (Struggling) YouíreÖthe one responsible.
Jerome: Hmm?
Aerona: YouÖcorrupted Drake.
Jerome: Very good. So you can think after all. And yet you still killed him.
Aerona: I did what I had toÖfor my kingdom.
Jerome: It seems I canít turn you because of your light magic. Oh well.

Jerome puts out his hand and ice shards shoot out, piercing through his armor and sending him to the ground.

Jerome: You would have been a fine replacement for Drake. Iím sure I can find another. *Music Stops*

He takes his dagger and raises it in the air. Just then, Aerona moves quickly and slashes with a weapon. Jerome is taken by surprise, but dodges most of the slash. It just grazes his chest a tiny bit. Aerona is on his knees and in his hand is Andķn. He is breathing heavily as he is bleeding slightly from his chest.

Jerome: That sword. Did you hide that in your quiver?
Aerona: Furthermore, once you forced my body to move, you allowed me a brief opportunity.

Just then, a spear flies at Jerome, which he steps away from to dodge. Another one flies towards him and he takes another step back. A knight stands next to Aerona.

Aerona: Good timing.
Knight: You gave me the signal.
Jerome: You, knight. Take that helm off.
Knight: Sorry, but you donít order me around anymore.

As the helm comes off, we see that itís Drake.

Jerome: As I thought. Youíre alive after all.
Aerona: In the end, you still listened to himÖ
Drake: Old habits.
Jerome: But, how did you figure it out?
Aerona: You see, when I healed him the first ti-AAAHHHHHH!!!

Aerona falls onto his face, holding his head with both hands.

Jerome: I forgot to mention something. The fact that you resisted my magic is going to make it a lot more painful for you.
Drake: Then, Iíll explain. When he healed me the first time, during our game, for an instant, I turned back. Thatís when he theorized that light magic could counter the effects of your corruption spell. When I lost the fight, I felt different, almost like the magic was starting to weaken along with my life force. Aerona also felt that and healed me. That completely shattered the magic that was affecting me.
Jerome: I see. In other words, he was the worst person you could have run into.
Drake: Something like that.
Aerona: WhatÖabout the Elťnaril?
Drake: Oh, you mean when I crossed the barrier? It should have nullified the magic. Well, it didÖfor a second. It negated the magic for a second but didnít destroy it, so when I landed on top of Serenís wall, it had time to come back.
Jerome: To be honest, I was nervous about what would happen at Seren, but things turned out fine. Since you so kindly came back to me, I will enlist your services again, Drake.
Aerona: Get AWAY from him!

Dark magic begins surrounding Aerona again and flairs up, but then disappears, causing him even more pain.

Jerome: You just donít learn, do you? Dark magic only amplifies the effect. My eldritch magic is closely related to it. Thatís why your light magic has been this effective.
Drake: Itís all right, knight. I wonít let my mind be corrupted a second time.

Just then, there is a horn sounded behind Jerome and he becomes more aware of whatís happening around him. His army is currently retreating as the knights have overwhelmed them. We briefly pan over to Athala and Khilai, who were faced off.

Khilai: You are resilient. Iíll give you that.

She runs away and Athala allows her to escape. Instead, she joins Aerona and Drake. We can see even further back that there are cavaliers that are killing some retreating soldiers and mages.

Jerome: Cavaliers from Helios?! How the fuck is that even possible?!
Drake: Looks like we were played from the start, captain.
Jerome: It seems you lucked out. I canít afford to die here just yet.

Jerome also retreats. They make no effort of pursuit. A particular cavalier comes up to the group and dismounts. He is more-heavily armored than the average Helios cavalier. He has medium length dirty blond hair. He has a monocle and carries a rapier and medium sized shield.

Drake: Lieutenant Zvornoff, I havenít seen your ugly mug in a while.
Zvornoff: (Nasally voice) Ha! If it isnít the massively traitorous traitor of massive massiveness!
Aerona: ZvorÖyou as well have nice timing.
Zvornoff: Hee! To see someone like you in such a state! ĎTis of utmost shockingness!
Athala: Weíll talk later, Zvor. We have to get him better medical attention.
Zvornoff: Ho! But of course.

Drake also stumbles back, but catches himself.

Drake: Iím also not in the best conditionÖ
Athala: Well, you can suck a dick for all I care.
Zvornoff: Ho! I am not offering such dick!
Drake: Zvor, Jerome attacked Helios, did he not? Whatís going on?
Zvornoff: As we carry Aerona back to Drogos, I shall tell you the tale of our glorious generalís planÖness.

Switching back to the battle with the central forces, there is a stalemate at the moment. Both sides have come to a complete standstill. Vito, Solomon, Erosion and Mars are breathing heavily right now.

Strago: What will you do, Shiomi?
Shiomi: Donít mistake this situation as even. Weíre simply stalling for time before Jerome returns.
Strago: Then we both have a similar goal.
Shiomi: What? You think you have any chance of backup?
Strago: You made one misstep with your plans regarding Aegis.
Shiomi: What do you mean? Wait, no. This is a bluff. You want to goad me into attacking you. Nice try, Strago.
Strago: I guess you got me.

Just then, thumping is heard in the distance.

Shiomi: That must be Jerome and Drake now.

The noise becomes louder and louder, when the thumping is now recognizable.

Shiomi: Wait, thatís notÖ

She turns to Strago, who is smirking.

Shiomi: A double bluff?
Strago: The time to attack is now!

As we can now see Helios cavaliers charging at the Red army from behind, Stragoís army charges from the front. From Solomon and Erosionís perspective, they are seen going for the two captains. Suddenly, two people get in their way. One man and one woman, both wearing black robes, and having similar facial features to one another. They both have a lighter skin tone for Red-born people and both stand around 5í7. The woman has long wavy black hair and hazel eyes. She is dual wielding swords. The man has shoulder length wavy black hair and green eyes. He has a twinblade in his hands.

Solomon: Donít get in our way!
Man: Ah ah ah! We canít just let you attack our precious captains. Isnít that right, Nymeria?
Nymeria: Right, Noque.
Erosion: Solomon, we have a problem.
Solomon: I know.
Both: Sheís hot.

At that moment, a horn, similar to the one that was blown at Drogos, resounds.

Noque: Itís time to retreat.
Nymeria: This isnít over.

As they start runningÖ

Solomon: Iím pretty sure if youíre retreating that means itís over.

They both trip after hearing Solomonís words.

Noque: We will meet again!

They begin the retreatÖagain.

Vito: Donít let them get away!

As both the cavalry and infantry pursue them, Sentus stop and makes another tornado, completely halting their advance. This tornado stays in place and creates a high gust of wind.

Sentus: No! FUCK THIS! YOU ALL DIE HE-

Sentus is quickly cut off as he loses consciousness. He lands in the generalís arms and she quickly carries him off.

Helvast: A wise choice, maíam.

Eventually, the tornado subsides and the Red forces have successfully retreated. The Iron army cheers.

Strago: Looks like my strategy worked out after all.
Vito: How are there so many people from Helios?
Strago: I had most of Heliosí forces evacuate overnight. What they must have thought was their whole army was only a small portion. I had Zvor take a small number of his forces to Drogos to back up Aerona.
Vito: Wait, Aerona?! Heís in Drogos?!
Strago: Last night I received a letter from him saying that he had to move the queen elsewhere and that the rest of the knights of Aegis set up there. Thatís when I had Athala go there as well for many reasons. Drake must have attacked Drogos based on what Shiomi said. We need to go there immediately to see what the outcome was.
Vito: I get to go home, huh?

Many hours pass and as the sun begins to set, they make it to Drogos. By the number of casualties on the field, the morale of the army raises even more as they parade to Drogos. Zvornoff and Athala are there to receive Strago and the four dragon slayers.

Athala: General! Itís good to see you in high spirits.
Strago: It seems things went well on this end as well.
Zvornoff: Hoho! Alas, we indeed crushed the fist of the Red Kingdom!
Vito: Whereís Aerona?

Both of them go quiet for a moment.

Vito: Answer me!
Athala: Heís in bad shape right now. Theyíre healing him now at the hospital.

Vito takes off immediately. The other three dragon slayers go as well, but at a much lighter pace. He makes it to a room, where Aerona is lying down on a stone table. He has a white knight robe on. Drake is sitting there, off to the side.

Aerona: Hey.
Vito: You son of a bitch. What happened to you?
Aerona: I was dumb enough to challenge one of the captains by myself. This is myÖahhh!

He holds his head in pain again.

Drake: Jerome unleashed an inordinate amount of eldritch magic into his body. The fact that heís even alive is a testament to the training you five must have gone through.
Vito: Drake! What the fuck are you doing here?!
Aerona: Stop. Heís all right. He was being manipulated by Jerome. Itís not his fault.
Vito: How is that possible?
Aerona: Eldritch magic. It is a dangerous affinity that can unleash corruption, madness and to an extent, extreme mental damage. What I theorize is that he corrupted Drake to such a degree that his mind must have been easily manipulated.
Drake: My memory is hazy about when I started to turn. As far as I remember, I woke up one day believing that I was a Red soldier. The shock must have destroyed that memory entirely.
Vito: And how do we know youíre not faking it? You could stab us in the back at any moment!
Aerona: Itís all right. I felt the corruption leave his body when I struck him down. Besides, his eyes tell it all.

When Vito gets a closer look at Drakeís eyes, they look completely dead. Drake is even having a difficult time making contact with Vito.

Vito: So let me get this straight. You two fought, and you lost, Drake?
Drake: Yeah.
Vito: ÖHah! I fucking told Athala that we were stronger.
Drake: You guys are beyond what I imagined after three years.

That second, Strago walks in. Solomon, Erosion and Mars do as well a few moments later.

Strago: So thatís what happened.
Drake: GeneralÖwas it you who killed Ka?
Strago: If youíre talking about the sheikh that fell in Seren, then yes.
Drake: I see.
Strago: Do you still feel sad about him?
Drake: I do. Despite what Jerome did, I still spent a lot of time with him. He was my friend.
Strago: Do you want revenge?
Drake: No. He shouldnít have challenged you in the first place.
Solomon: That does bring up an interesting question. Where does your loyalty lie right now?
Drake: Iím not going to lie to you. I feel some attachment to the Red Kingdom still. It was my home for three years. I donít want to see them get hurt. ButÖthis is my true home. When Aerona healed me, I had this sudden realization of how much I missed this kingdom. I will defend it from anyone. Even if it is Ka. So in some way, I should thank you, general. I donít ever have to fight him as an enemy.
Strago: Good. I donít expect you to not have feelings for the other side. But you should know this. The only reason you are alive is because you hold strategic importance right now. Should you prove that you are worth keeping around, we will pardon your treasonÖin time.
Vito: Just like that?! He nearly got us all killed at Seren! I donít care if he was controlled or whatever!
Drake: You can do whatever you want with me. If I die, then at least my suffering will be quick.
Strago: What about you, Aerona? Youíre the one who saved him.
Aerona: Iím not about to make a decision yet. We havenít seen enough to decide what to do with him in my opinion.
Strago: Fair enough. We will discuss it further later.
Vito: Oh, but you listen to him? Anyway, Drake, what do you know about Jeromeís magic? We need to find a way to cure Aerona.
Drake: Nothing other than what we have uncovered together. Jerome by nature is very mysterious. There are few people who ever see him fight. I think I now know why. Heís not the strongest, and not the smartest. But heís the most brutal. He doesnít just kill the opponent. He breaks them down mentally before doing so.
Strago: I think part of his magic being able to work so effectively on someone like you is the mystery behind it. If you knew that you were being manipulated, that may have inherently weakened its effects.
Drake: Thatís very possible.
Strago: Well, weíd better get going. Let the Harbinger of Misfortune rest. The rest of you: I need you with me as well. We are going to make a preliminary plan of action from here on. Come.

Strago leaves and the rest follow, minus Drake. Aerona lays his head back and closes his eyes and Athala walks in.

Drake: Ö
Athala: DrakeÖ
Drake: AthalaÖIím so sorry that I hurt you.
Athala: Idiot, thatís what happens in a fight. I wanted to fight you as much as you wanted to fight me.
Drake: You really have changed. Three years ago, you would have hit me right off the bat.
Athala: Dumbass.

Athala accosts him and plants her lips onto his for a full second. This kiss leaves Drake in shock and suddenly, color returns to his eyes.

Athala: What matters is that youíre back.

A tear streaks across Drakeís face.

Athala: Donít cry on me, damn it. You fucking wuss.

A tear also comes from Athalaís left eye. They embrace.

Aerona: (Groggy) If you guys are planning to have sex, can you not do it here? Iím trying to get some rest.

Athala gives him the middle finger and they walk out of the room. Aerona intently listens for the footsteps to grow fainter and fainter till there are none. Aerona sits up and his hands tense up as he balls them up into a fist. He emanates with dark magic energy again as his teeth grit hard. Suddenly, the aura explodes away from him, which shakes the room once. Some little cracks form in the walls. His anger then subsides as he lies back down.

Aerona: Dad, I failed you. Iím going to murder that man if itís the last thing I do.


Where there is sadness and pain, there is also anger and fury.

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PostSubject: Re: A Tale of Iron   March 31st 2016, 10:37 pm

Chapter 61


We start off with Shiomi and the three captains. They are inside a large tent. It is still the same day.

Shiomi: Now, Jerome. Tell me everything that happened.
Jerome: We thought we destroyed Heliosí army, and then we went to Drogos to back Drake up. What we didnít realize is that the queenís personal guard moved the rest of Aegisí knights to Drogos. Drake fell in a one on one battle with him and cured him of my magic. We also failed to destroy that army. I was able to deal a major blow to the royal knight, however.
Shiomi: But you didnít kill him?
Jerome: He had backup.
Helvast: That would have been a devastating hit to their army.
Jerome: Itís okay. He wonít be fighting anytime soon, after the amount of eldritch magic that I pumped into him.
Shiomi: ďYou made one misstep with your plans regarding Aegis.Ē Thatís what Strago said to me. That obviously ties in with the fact that they were in Drogos waiting for us. But what exactly does that mean?
Helvast: Iím not sure either.
Shiomi: Now, on to you, Sentus. Do you understand why I knocked you out?
Sentus: Yes.
Shiomi: Good, because Iím not apologizing for saving your damn life.
Sentus: I understand. So, whatís our next move?
Helvast: Things arenít looking good for usÖat all. Our morale is getting extremely low. Weíve won some ďbattlesĒ, but weíve lost where it really counted.
Shiomi: We have a more pressing matter. Our food is quickly running out. We havenít been able to plunder anything from them. Theyíve kept all their key cities well defended.
Jerome: Not to mention they burned Helios for this very reason, knowing they couldnít defend it.
Sentus: What about Seren? Surely itís unguarded for now.
Helvast: We could be walking right into the biggest trap of our lives. Stragoís ruthless and cunning.
Jerome: It doesnít have to be a trap for all of us then. Yes, thatís right. We could send a small party to scout for us. No! We should just overwhelm the fuck out of Seren!
Sentus: I agree with the first Jerome that spoke.

Shiomi nods her head, not looking at anyone in particular right now. She seems deep in thought.

Shiomi: Noque and Nymeria. This is a task for them.
Helvast: I agree.
Shiomi: Who are they under of the three of you?
Helvast: Me.
Shiomi: Then you prepare them. We rest tomorrow and then they strike the next day.
Helvast: Understood.
Shiomi: Sentus, Jerome, go make sure our wounded are properly taken care of. Now.

They both exit the tent. Shiomi takes a large sigh.

Shiomi: I can feel it. The weight of the kingdom.
Helvast: Itís a burden I wouldnít wish on anyone your age.
Shiomi: And yet you made sure I was groomed for this position when you discovered me.
Helvast: You are special. Your power is unique and terrifying, yes. But your mental toughness is every bit as impressive. If it were anyone else in your position, the Iron Kingdom would have destroyed us.
Shiomi: Am I the person you envisioned when you saw me as a kid?
Helvast: All that and more, general.
Shiomi: ÖGo. Inform Noque and Nymeria of their mission. I will contemplate our next possible course of action.
Helvast: Yes, maíam.

A bit later, we can see Helvast with the sheikh twins.

Helvast: And that is everything you need to know.
Nymeria: Consider it done.
Noque: Hey, captain. If we do this successfully, will you finally give us what we want?
Helvast: ÖIíll think about it. Why are you two so desperate?
Nymeria: Youíll never understand.
Helvast: I donít want to.
Noque: Weíre not asking you to. We only want you to comply.
Helvast: Thatís enough. I said that I would consider it. Thatís more than you usually get out of me. Be grateful.
Noque: I suppose you want a thank you or something.
Helvast: Get out of my sight!

The two scurry off, chuckling as they do.

Helvast: Honestly, itís like dealing with children.
Sentus: Well compared to them, youíre like a grumpy old man.
Helvast: Ah, Sentus. Someone much more delightful to speak toÖ
Sentus: You at least still have three sheikh under your command. Jerome and I only have one each. And Jerome has Habib.
Helvast: Iíll gladly give you the two for one special in exchange for Hunter.
Sentus: It seems even you are tenser than usual. This is normal of me, but not you. I canít blame you though. Come join me for some tea.
Helvast: Thank you, Sentus. I promise when we get back Iíll return the favor.

The next day comes and we switch over to Drogos. Vito is visiting Aerona, who is still in the same room.

Vito: So, whatís wrong with you anyway?
Aerona: Jeromeís magic. He put so much of it into my body. When I fought him, he showed me many images that I do not want to utter here or anywhere. I havenít been able to get them out of my head. Every time I close my eyesÖ
Vito: Canít you just counter it with your light magic like you did before?
Aerona: Thatís the problem. Jeromeís magic has been gone from my body since yesterday. But the mental damage it left behind is irreversible. My head is pounding so badly right now. I can barely see straight. And every now and then my head seizes with extreme pain and the flashes come back. Fighting is impossible in my condition. Iím in worse condition than when we hadnít gotten any sleep in that dark forest.
Vito: That bad? Holy shit. Just when the five of us all came back together. What made you want to fight him so badly?
Aerona: He was the one, Vito. The captain that I was looking for.
Vito: I see. So then, one of the other two is the one that Iím after. I also fought one of them seriously, but it was behind Serenís walls.
Aerona: Whatever you do, donít underestimate their power. I got cocky after I beat Drake. Donít make the same mistake that I did.

Over at the Red Kingdom, we see a relatively small ship that has set sail just off the coast. Akari and his group are on it. Shahar is at the helm, keeping a close eye on the waters ahead.

Akari: Itís a two-day journey to the Iron Kingdom. Are you sure you can handle this by yourself?
Shahar: Positive. Besides, Iím not the one you have to worry about.

They both briefly glance over to Katzir, who is hunched over the side of the ship.

Akari: Point taken.
Shahar: Iíll need you as lookout instead. Drora has sharp senses, butÖ

Above, we can see Drora filing her nails in a relaxed position.

Shahar: She gets easily distracted.
Akari: Point also taken.

Elsewhere, Liron and Taario are looking at Katzir.

Liron: Do you have anything in your healing arsenal to help seasickness?
Taario: I have a sickness cure that I could try.
Liron: Please do.

Taario approaches Katzir and starts healing him. It appears to have no effect.

Taario: I guess my spell doesnít work on that kind of sick.
Liron: Damn. I guess itís my turn to try something.

Liron stands next to Katzir and hunches over with him. She fakes gagging, but it sounds incredibly monotonous and forced.

Katzir: Haha. I appreciate you trying to help me, but you donít have to make it seem like youíre also sick.
Liron: Okay.

She walks away and goes up to Akari.

Liron: So, whatís the plan once we reach land?
Akari: It really depends on what the situation is when we get there. If weíre lucky, the general will be right there. If not, weíll have to find her. The process could be painless or perilous, depending on where everyone is.
Liron: How well do you know your way around the Iron Kingdom?
Akari: Enough to have a general sense of where major cities are in relation to each other. For example, when we reach the port, just west of it is Seren. West of that is Drogos while northwest is Helios.
Liron: Seems good enoughÖ
Akari: Hey, we donít have the luxury of hiring a tour guide.

Back to the Iron Kingdom, we focus in on what appears to be war council. They are currently inside Vitoís house, sitting around a large table. The ones present are Strago, Vito, Solomon, Erosion, Mars, Athala, Zvornoff and one other. It is a man who stands at roughly 5í10. He has a similar face to Barg and looks similar of age.

Zvornoff: Hee! I did not even realize you had arrived, dear Lieutenant Aggro.
Aggro: Iím sorry. News of my brotherís demise struck me hard. I arrived with the rest of the royal knights.
Strago: Aggro, I am sorry about Barg, but I need you to answer a question. Why were you not with Aerona when the queen was attacked?
Aggro: I was ordered to patrol at that particular time of night. We failed to pick them up. But I heard that the attackers had a warp mage. That is why they were able to slip past our guard.
Zvornoff: Alas, I was unaware that our fair maiden was attacked. I trust that she is of considerable safeness?
Athala: Sheís fine.
Solomon: No one told me either.
Strago: Yes, I forgot to mention that to you all. It was mentioned in the letter.
Vito: Figures.
Athala: Thereís something else that is strange. I questioned Drake this morning. He said that he was unaware of any plan of attack on Queen Eleanor.
Aggro: That bastard is obviously lying.
Athala: No, I donít think so. Aggro, this is coming from me. You know how inherently distrustful I was of him.
Strago: Weíll get to Drake in just a moment. Letís get into this actual council meeting. We have just about everyone here accounted for. Lieutenant of Aegis, Aggro. Lieutenant of Helios, Zvornoff. Lieutenant of Seren, Athala. Lieutenant Commanders Mars, Erosion and Solomon. Lieutenant Commander and Warden of the East, Vito. And Strago, general of the army.
Zvornoff: And what about our harbinger of injuries?
Vito: Watch your mouth. Heís not well enough to be here.
Strago: And Drake is with him at the moment. He is ordered to stay in that room, that way we know he has no ear on this meeting. Our first order of business is to commemorate our fallen brother, Lieutenant of Drogos, Barg. His service to the kingdom is not forgotten. But unfortunately, we must proceed without him. A moment of silence for Barg.

Aggroís eyes are closed and his facial expression is very tight as he is grinding his teeth. There is a moment of silence.

Aggro: Thank you, everyone.
Strago: Of course. Now, we need to discuss business. What is to become of Drake? What is our next course of action in this war? Eventual terms of ceasefire, etcetera.
Aggro: So, Iím to understand that Drake was controlled by one of the captains?
Solomon: More like manipulated. According to what we know, the same thing that happened to Aerona was done to Drake. But the difference is that Drake couldnít resist it the same way. His mind was easily manipulated after that level of corruption and madness.
Vito: Which means that Drake went to the Red Kingdom of his own free will.
Mars: Itís not as simple as that.
Solomon: We still donít know how the magic works completely.
Zvornoff: Drake is of use to us. If he is serious about not betraying us again, it would be stupid to execute him.
Athala: I can vouch for his skill. He is beyond any of us lieutenants in ability.
Strago: So, Zvor, you wish to keep him for practical reasons.
Zvornoff: I donít care what he did. Weíve all done horrible things before. If he can be used as a weapon against the Red Kingdom, then fuck my apple orchards, letís use him.
Strago: I see your point, though I donít care for your wording.
Aggro: You want to put Drake in my brotherís position at Drogos, do you?
Vito: I wonít allow that to happen. At the very least, I donít want Drake anywhere in my jurisdiction.
Strago: Your points are also recognized. Erosion, what do you think?
Erosion: Just kill him.
Solomon: What? Why?
Erosion: Because I felt like saying it. Hehehehe.
Mars: I think we should spare him. If itís not his fault, then thereís no reason to blame him.
Strago: Vito? Aggro? You are the dissenters here. What do you think about sparing his life at the very least?
Vito: Thatís fine. I just donít want to have to see him.
Aggro: He can live, so long as he does not replace Barg. That would be a blatant insult to my brotherís life.
Strago: Noted. LastlyÖ

They all look at Erosion, who does his signature laugh in response.

Erosion: Iím not changing my answer.
Solomon: You fucking troll!
Mars: Good thing it doesnít have to be unanimous.
Solomon: Yeah, technically the general could do whatever he wants.
Strago: And I choose not to for a very good reason. Itís decided then. He lives. Weíll put him to practical use in this war and then his fate will further examined after the fighting has subsided. Now, on to the real stuff.
Zvornoff: Ha! I burned Helios as you commanded, your generalness.
Athala: We made sure to remove as much food as possible from Seren when we evacuated our civilians. We pretty much used up what we had left while your army occupied the city.
Strago: Good. And the Elenaril?
Aggro: A convoy has already moved it to Aegis. If the royal knight werenít in the shape heís in, it would have been with the queen.
Solomon: What do you mean by that?
Aggro: Heís the only one that knows the queenís location except for the people who are with her at this very moment.
Strago: I also know where he has taken her, but that is because it is a place that the three of us set up in case of emergency. We were going to move her there anyway once all our knights were ready to move.
Vito: That bastardís keeping a secret from me?
Strago: Itís better that you donít know. Mind reading magic does exist. The fewer who know, the safer our queen is.
Mars: It seems things are going well for us overall though.
Athala: Yes. Their supplies should be running low.
Strago: Theyíre likely to get desperate soon. Seren is a likely point of attack. But they wonít risk their central forces. Shiomi isnít stupid. She knows that weíre forcing her hand. Seren is the closest thing to them.
Zvornoff: Ho! I hope you donít plan on sacrificing more of Helios cavaliers for a possibility.
Strago: Helios has done enough sacrificing. From now on, you fight with us. We canít make the same mistake we did before. A captain could show up at Seren. Weíll need at least two Lieutenant Commanders on this. Iíd put the four of you out there, but that could be a trap to lure some of us out of Drogos.
Aggro: I would like to accompany this party.
Athala: Two Lieutenant Commanders and a Lieutenant? Isnít that a lot weíre losing if the central forces attack us?
Zvornoff: Oho! Thatís why we have Drake. He increased our number of Lieutenant Commander or higher level fighters from six to seven.
Vito: Make that Six. Aerona is not going to be fighting anytime in the next few days at least.
Zvornoff: Then Drake replaces him for the time being.
Strago: Solomon, Erosion, can you handle this mission?
Solomon: Us?
Strago: Erosion is ideal for trap-heavy ambushes, yes? And Solomon, you have the most versatility in magic right now. You could be the difference of making it out alive if it comes to a magic battle.
Vito: Letís not forget that they go together everywhere, including the bedroom.
Solomon: Shut your fucking mouth, Vito!
Vito: Oh, you wanna go?!
Strago: Quiet.
Athala: Honestly, you guysÖ
Strago: What say you?
Solomon: Iíll do it.
Erosion: Yeah, why not?
Strago: Itís settled. Now, as for coming terms of ceasefireÖ

We now pan over to the hospital, where Drake is conversing with Aerona.

Aerona: So who was your strongest sheikh?
Drake: Well, you guys killed most of them. Seijuro, Hamas, Akari, HelenÖ
Aerona: Helen? Thatís not a name Iím familiar with.
Drake: No? But you knew about Akariís death?
Aerona: He died a month ago by Solomonís hand.
Drake: ÖSomethingís wrong.
Aerona: What do you mean?
Drake: Akari survived that attack. He died just recently from a spy.
Aerona: I had no knowledge of that. Though, someone said something very interesting when the queen was attacked. Something about a captain and me not knowing that he was alive.
Drake: Curious. Describe him.
Aerona: He was a water mage. Kinda scruffy looking. Used kama. Oww.
Drake: Ahh. I know who youíre talking about. ButÖwhy was he tasked with attacking the queen? This is something even I didnít know about.
Aerona: Suddenly, things have gotten stranger. But then, why would he say that Akari was alive?
Drake: It happened very quickly apparently. He must not have finished processing his death.
Aerona: I see. Is this why the Reds suddenly invaded us after a month?
Drake: Yes. We were preparing after the dragon incident, but that event set things off.
Aerona: Weíll need to have a conversation with the general later about this.

Not long after, the other four dragon slayers enter.

Vito: Good, youíre here, Drake. We decided on your fate.
Drake: Oh?

Vito draws his blade and puts it up to Drakeís neck.

Vito: Sorry, but youíre going to die right here.
Drake: So be it.

Vito withdraws his katana.

Vito: Nah, Iím just fucking with ya. Get the fuck out of here.

Drake leaves the room. Aerona lets out a small chuckle before holding his head in pain again.

Solomon: Erosion and I are going to Seren. Itís more of a small-scale ambush.
Aerona: Then Iíll give you this piece of advice. If you see Jerome, run. You all know what the captains look like, right?
Erosion: Better than you do.
Aerona: Good. Beyond that, itís you guys, so Iím sure youíll be fine.
Mars: Aggro will be going with them as well.

Aerona nods and says his goodbyes to the two of them. Following Solomon and Erosion, they have prepared their equipment and get ready to leave with about ten soldiers and five knights. Aggro also eventually joins them, wielding a poleaxe.

Solomon: Ready to go?
Aggro: Yes.
Voice: Yo!

Mars, Vito and Zvornoff greet them before they leave.

Mars: Be safe, you guys.
Vito: Be well.
Zvornoff: Hoho! My mind tells me that you will succeed in whatever endeavor you hope to accomplish!
Aggro: Thanks, Zvor. And I donít say that very often.

They leave. Immediately, Drake walks by.

Drake: Shit, did Aggro just leave? I didnít even get a chance to say anything.

Mars and Vito walk away.

Drake: Whatís the deal with olí Agg? Is he angry at me?
Zvornoff: He is not wanting you to replace his kin, yes?
Drake: What? Oh, you mean as lieutenant of Drogos? So the rumor that Barg died is true.
Zvornoff: Aye. Twas a true tragedy; one for the ages!
Drake: Are you sure? I heard he just got straight up killed by Ahli.
Zvornoff: I would not spare such words to Aggro, former Lieutenant Commander of Aegis.
Drake: The way you speak, Zvor; some may make fun of it, but I love it. Donít forget that.
Zvornoff: Alas! How could anyone hate the GRRREAT and wondrous Zvornoff?!

Getting closer to later afternoon, the scouting group arrives at Seren.

Solomon: Weíre here. We have some preparation to do.


A fated reunion with the sheikh twins is coming up?!

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PostSubject: Re: A Tale of Iron   April 5th 2016, 11:31 pm

Chapter 62


The next day, we see Noque and Nymeria with Seren in view. They have ten mages behind them.

Nymeria: Here it is.
Noque: Letís go in quietly. We have no idea what is behind that wall.
Nymeria: Buildings, maybe?
Noque: Hehehe. Not now, please.
Nymeria: Iím sorry.
Noque: Itís quite all right, dear sister.
Male Mage: (Whispering) Theyíre fucking weird.
Female Mage: (Whispering) I know, right?

They walk up to the wall and then look straight up. Noque raises his arms upwards once out of confusion and then drops them.

Noque: Now what?
Nymeria: The wall looked much lower from far away.
Noque: Truly a worthy adversary.
Male Mage: Are you kidding me right now?!
Nymeria: Wait a minute, brother. There was a part that our glorious general destroyed.
Female Mage: Yeah, itís right next to you!

As the picture zooms out, itís only 50 feet to the left of them. It has been patched up to 10 feet high, but has not been fully repaired.

Noque: There must be an illusionist that made us miss that.
Nymeria: The enemy is craftier than we initially thought.

The mages all fall to their faces.

Noque: Get up, you lazy bastards. We have work to do.

They move to the broken part of the wall. Nymeria focuses her mana and touches Noque on the arm. She does the same for the rest of them.

Noque: Thank you.
Nymeria: Go on.

Noque gets a running start and jumps as high as he needs to in order to grab onto the top of the stone. He propels himself over the wall and lands inside the city. As he does, he steps on a pressure plate. About twenty crossbow bolts come his way. He spins his twinblade to destroy them quickly. Nymeria is next to land next to him. The rest follow.

Noque: It was a trap, but I managed to come out unscathed.
Male Mage: UhÖI think you missed one.

The mage points to his right leg where one crossbow bolt has embedded itself in the side.

Nymeria: *Gasp* My brother! What have they done to you?! Please donít die!
Noque: (Tearing up) It is okay, Nymeria. Live on without me.

One female mage pulls the bolt out of his leg and heals it.

Noque: Oh. Good looking out.

Nymeria hugs Noque.

Nymeria: I thought I was going to lose you.
Female Mage: You know, that isnít nearly enough to kill you unless you let it bleed out for a while.
Nymeria: Thank you for saving him.
Female Mage: Why do I even bother?
Noque: Everyone. Spread out in two groups of five. Meet back here in an hour. Find what you can and take only what you can carry.

They do so. A few seconds pass after they are both out of sight.

Noque: Did you notice it, Nymeria?
Nymeria: Indeed, Noque. We have visitors.
Noque: They hide well. Iím not sure where they are.

There is the sound of clanking armor in the distance.

Nymeria: Truly the masters of stealth. Not a sound to be had.

The clanking gets louder.

Noque: Damn it. Theyíre just too good. Where could they be hiding?

Eventually, we see Solomon and Erosion walk out from behind a building. Theyíre about 30 feet away.

Nymeria: Youíve come!
Noque: I told you weíd meet again.

Both look at the twins with a blank face. There is a silence for a few seconds as the wind blows a steady breeze through.

Erosion: Oh, right. They blocked us from attacking one of the captains.
Solomon: Oh yeah. Those idiots.
Noque: Youíll regret that.

*Music* Nymeria draws her swords. Solomon and Erosion do the same. Nymeria starts glowing with a royal blue aura and it encompasses Noque as well. Erosion immediately charges for Nymeria and attacks with his wakizashi. Noque steps in the way and blocks with one side of his blade. He then spins around very quickly and attempts to slash Erosion. Erosion jumps back, but Nymeria gives chase. The speed coming from Nymeria is also very quick and Erosion has little time to block. He blocks one strike and then Nymeria goes for a follow up with her second sword. Solomon steps in and blocks this one with his scimitar. Noque then attacks Solomon, which the spiked shield blocks an incoming slash.

Solomon: What the-

Both of them are getting pushed back and get shoved back.

Solomon: The girl definitely has enhancement magic like Vito.
Erosion: In that caseÖ

As the twins charge at them again, Erosion releases a beam from one hand that hits Nymeria. She is instantly slower, but looks more normal in speed. She attacks with both swords, but Erosion dodges out of the way. He gets behind Nymeria, but then his attack is slow and Nymeria dodges this strike.

Erosion: What?

Noque appears behind Erosion and thrusts with the twinblade. Erosion is grazed by the attack when he gets out of the way. They all regroup.

Noque: Have you ever had a taste of your own magic, Erosion the Precarious?
Erosion: You have to be kidding me.
Solomon: The two of you have buffing and debuffing?
Nymeria: Thatís right, Solomon.
Erosion: You seem to know who we are.
Noque: Weíve heard all about you. †
Solomon: Well, thatís the trade off for becoming famous.

Nymeria quickly focuses her mana once more and then charges for Solomon this time. Noque goes after Erosion. Nymeria continues a chain of attacks with her two swords while Solomon blocks systematically with both his sword and shield.

Solomon: Sheís definitely very fast, but Vito is faster.
Nymeria: His defense is better than anyone weíve faced so far.

Solomon counters by slashing with his scimitar when he gets an opening to attack. A wind slash trails off as well. Nymeria is able to dodge both the blade and wind attack, but is forced to back off Solomon a bit. Meanwhile, Noque is doing a similar chain of attacks, trying to get past Erosionís guard. Erosion only blocks about half of the attacks and dodges the other half. Noque is switching blades with each attack and often spins with the momentum of his attacks. With the speed of his turning, Erosion is not able to get an attack while Noqueís back is turned. Suddenly, Noqueís twinblade separates from the middle and becomes two swords temporarily.

Erosion: His weapon has a lot of versatility since he can separate and re-attach it.

At that moment, Noque and Nymeria cross each other and switch opponents. As they do, Nymeria touches Noque on the arm briefly and then goes after Erosion. Noque attacks Solomon with a two-sword swing. Solomon blocks with the shield, but gets pushed back a few inches.

Solomon: I noticed that the girl touched him on the arm. Did she increase his strength further?

Noque keeps up the offense and pushes Solomon back more with each attack, though Solomonís guard holds strong and he is unable to land a single hit.

Noque: Your guard is impressive! Very impressive indeed!

Meanwhile, Nymeria is keeping Erosion on the defensive as well. Erosion is dodging backwards more and more.

Erosion: What does she hope to accomplish with this? Wait.
Solomon: I see what theyíre doing!

Noque takes a back step and releases a debuff beam at Solomon and then immediately runs away. Solomon moves, but he is slower than normal.

Solomon: Damn it! Watch out, Erosion!

Noque appears next to Nymeria and they both double team Erosion. Erosion takes a slash to his side from Nymeria, but then they both dodge out of the way when another wind slash comes their way. Noque appears behind Erosion and thrusts one of his swords at his back. Erosion ducks under it and sweep kicks behind him. Noque backs away from the kick. Erosion then turns his attention to Nymeria and attacks her. Nymeria sidesteps a slash from the wakizashi. Noque steps forward to attack, but then stops as he notices caltrops on the ground between them.

Noque: He must have laid those when he sweep-kicked at me.

Solomon has made it behind Nymeria and slices with his scimitar. Nymeria easily dodges it and appears behind Solomon. She thrusts with one sword, but it bounces off a wind barrier that encases him. Solomon turns and blows her away with a powerful gust of wind.

Solomon: Now, letís double-team this bastard!

They both turn their attention to Noque. Erosion goes in first and makes a slash with his sword. Solomon follows up with a wind slash. Erosion ends up having to dodge this as well, but it throws Noque off balance, trying to dodge both attacks at once. The wind grazes Noqueís side, leaving a small cut. Erosion uses his free hand to go straight for Noqueís face, but Noque is able to cut his hand slightly, making him retract it. At this moment, Nymeria appears behind Solomon. He canít react in time, and gets cut across the back, as his wind barrier was no longer active. His armor takes the brunt of the slash, but he does get noticeably cut. Solomon reactivates his barrier and turns around and slashes simultaneously. Nymeria dodges it and then sheathes one sword. She grips one with both hands and focuses dark magic around it. She thrusts her blade, which pierces through the wind barrier. The trajectory changes enough though that Solomon can dodge it.

Nymeria: Tch. That wind is troublesome.

Noque and Nymeria regroup again. *Music Stops*

Solomon: Their teamwork is flawless.
Erosion: Itís better than ours.
Nymeria: Noque, your side.
Noque: It is just a scratch, my love.
Solomon: Wait, WHAT?
Erosion: Did we just hear them right?
Solomon: I assumed you were brother and sister.
Nymeria: Noque, you should watch what you say in front of the enemy.
Noque: Iím sorry, Nymeria. Yes, we are siblings. But weíre much more than just twins. We are one in mind, heart and soul. And we have become one in body as well.
Solomon: You sick people!
Nymeria: So you judge us too. I thought maybe our mutual respect for one anotherís skills would make you accept us more. Even our own captain hates our guts.
Noque: We just want to be happy together. Why is it right for the dragon family to but not us? Itís just not fair.
Erosion: Are youÖventing to us?
Noque: Donít you think the ones that understand you the most are the ones you fight on an equal level?
Solomon: I wouldnít call us equal, even though you are definitely very good.
Nymeria: Individually, we might be weaker than you. But it is our intimacy that raises us to your level as a team.
Erosion: I canít argue with that.
Solomon: No. Having sex doesnít make you any better at fighting as a team.
Erosion: Hey, you never know.
Solomon: Iím not having sex with you or any guy for that matter.
Erosion: I wasnít offeringÖ
Solomon: Iím so glad Vito isnít here right now.
Nymeria: Brother, itís not worth being here anymore.
Noque: What about our mission?
Nymeria: This was a trap as we expected. Thereís nothing of value here.
Noque: Right. You live today, Solomon and Erosion. But know this. We will meet again...for a second time.

The sheikh twins both disappear from sight. Aggro immediately shows up.

Aggro: Damn. Did they know I was waiting to strike?
Solomon: Probably. Youíre not exactly the stealthiest.
Aggro: The rest of them got away too. But at least now we know that they really were scouting this place out.
Solomon: I think they knew they would have lost if this fight had continued.
Erosion: Their stamina was running out quicker and we had more traps for them deeper in the city.
Solomon: ButÖtheir teamwork. It was like they knew each otherís movements instinctively. It kept us from being able to do any big damage.
Aggro: I didnít see anything, but I felt some serious power from the four of you. I felt like if I got involved carelessly that I would die.
Solomon: That was smart, lieutenant. Anyone wearing that black robe is no joke.
Aggro: One of them killed my brother. I know that fact very well.
Erosion: Back to Drogos then?
Solomon: Back to Drogos it is.

They make it back to Drogos by nightfall. Drake is the first to greet them.

Drake: You returned safely. No casualties either. How did it go?
Solomon: We were attacked by sheikh twins.
Drake: Noque and Nymeria, huh? Did you kill them?
Solomon: They fled when they felt the battle wasnít worth continuing.
Drake: Yeah, thatís them all right.
Erosion: Did you know about them beingÖtogether?
Drake: Oh boy, you found out about that. Yes, that has always kept them estranged from the rest of the sheikh. Well, as far as I know from my time over there.
Aggro: They started to complain about it by the end of the fight.
Drake: Captain Helvast wonít marry them. When you are sheikh, if you want to get married, you need to have one of your captains to perform the ceremony. That is because being a sheikh has many responsibilities and marriage could be considered a burden to those responsibilities. In their case, theyíre both under Captain Helvast, so they canít go to the other two to get it done. The other two captains disapproved as well, so itís not like it matters much.
Erosion: When you say it like that, I kinda feel bad for them.
Drake: But enough of that. Iím impressed that you forced them to retreat. KaíRud and I fought against them in a demonstration about a half-year ago. I was the better weapon master, of course, but the teamwork displayed by them made the difference. We lost.
Solomon: We had some tactical advantages. Thatís all Iíll say there. The next time we fight, it might be harder.
Drake: By the way, Aggro, long time no see. I just missed you last time.
Aggro: Drake, donít get too friendly. Youíre not out of your troubles just yet.

Aggro starts walking away.

Aggro: ButÖit is good to see that dumb face of yours again. Iím glad youíre on our side againÖif you really are genuine.
Drake: Oh, but being friendly is my most charming trait, Agg. You know that.
Aggro: Heh.

Aggro completely walks away.

Drake: Heís still as grumpy as ever.
Solomon: Well, he did just lose his brother.
Drake: OhÖright.

He has a flashback to when he covered Ahli with his own robe.

Drake: Rest, comrade.

Drake: Ahli killed him, right? Who killed Ahli, for the record? Was it Aerona?
Erosion: Mars.
Drake: Ah. That makes sense.

In the distance, we can see Athala approaching them. The three of them notice her and turn their attention her way.

Athala: Welcome back.
Erosion: Thanks.
Solomon: Iím gonna go get some rest. Iím getting tired.
Erosion: That sounds good for me as well.

They both walk away. Drake and Athala look at each other for a few seconds and then Athala also turns and walks away. Drake follows her.

Drake: Athala. Can we talk?
Athala: I have nothing to say right now.
Drake: Youíre the one who kissed me. Why are you suddenly going quiet on me?
Athala: I apologize for that. I let my emotions get the better of me. You know what thatís like, donít you?
Drake: What are you trying to say?
Athala: You need to give me time to think about what you mean to me. Until then, I will keep telling the council that you are worth keeping alive. That is all I can do for you right now. Do you find that unreasonable?
Drake: No, that is more than I deserve right now. Thank you.
Athala: Good. Then weíre clear for now. Good night, Drake.

Athala walks away as Drake stands there, misty eyed. A figure approaches him from behind. Drake turns to see that itís Vito.

Vito: What a bitch. If that were my woman, Iíd have cut ties right there.
Drake: You were listening?
Vito: This is my city. I have the right.
Drake: I suppose you do.
Vito: Are you okay with this?
Drake: No, and yetÖI donít deserve to be okay with the situation.
Vito: Thatís bullshit. Look, I donít care if you live or not. But if you do live, you shouldnít settle for that. You donít deserve something? Fuck that. If you want something, go after it. Donít be a pussy.
Drake: You donít sugar coat at all, do you?
Vito: Nope.
Drake: ButÖyouíre right. Come to think of it, your ex-girlfriend was a traitor, right?
Vito: Yeah.
Drake: I heard you killed her.
Vito: She tried to kill me first.
Drake: Fair enough.
Vito: I have to go now. If I catch you out here too late, I wonít hesitate to cut you down.
Drake: Iím not about to start another fight with a dragon slayer.

They part ways. By the Red camps, we see Noque and Nymeria in front of the captains and the general in a large lit tent.

Nymeria: And thatís what happened.
Shiomi: It is as I thought. It was definitely worth checking though.
Helvast: That said, we lost a day doing this. Every day we arenít taking territory we are losing this war more.
Sentus: Where are our supply ships?
Helvast: That is irrelevant to my point. We canít rely on supply ships more than once or twice.
Sentus: My question was not related to your point. I merely want to know where they are.
Shiomi: I suspect they should be here within the next few days.
Jerome: We need to hit them hard. No more dancing around.
Sentus: They could have the Elťnaril at Drogos, where theyíre likely holed up at now.
Jerome: Weíre going to have to deal with that damned artifact again one way or another if we want to win.
Sentus: Yes.
Noque: Captain Helvast. About our agreement. We technically succeeded in our mission. We found out what we needed to know, suffering zero casualties.
Helvast: I told you I would consider it. And consider it I shall.
Sentus: Youíre not talking about this again. Come have a walk with me, you shits.

Sentus takes the twins outside the tent.

Nymeria: Captain Sentus, I can understand the others. But why do you reject our love, of all people?
Sentus: I donít understand your kind of love. My family follows a tradition that has a purpose. No one wants to. You want to willingly step into that curse?
Noque: Love is not a curse, captain.
Sentus: Iím sorry. I still donít understand. I love my sister, but I could never think of her in that way.
Noque: I find that hard to believe.
Sentus: What did you say?!
Nymeria: Sentira is so pretty, even I might think of her in that way.

The twins start giggling.

Sentus: Noque. Nymeria. You two are young. Youíll grow out of this phase. Trust me. Donít bother Captain Helvast with this anymore.
Noque: But IÖ

Sentus puts one hand up and the twins are lifted into the air. He closes his hand as if he is squeezing something and then they both grunt in pain.

Sentus: Drop it!

Sentus flings his hand aside and they both skid into the ground. Nymeria grabs Noque beforehand and shields him from most of the impact. Sentus walks away, flustered.

Noque: Nymeria, are you okay?
Nymeria: Iím just fine. But your woundÖyou never got it healed. I didnít want it to get worse.

Noque gets misty eyed and Nymeria also does in response.

Noque: Why canít they accept us, sister?
Nymeria: I donít know.

They embrace in the grass, crying over each otherís shoulder. Switching back to Drogos, we see Solomon sitting down on a bed with a candle next to him, illuminating his face. He is currently musing over the day.

Solomon: Beyond our teamwork, we need to improve even more individually. Where do I go from here?

Solomon recalls the war council.

Solomon: Iím the difference of making it out alive in a magic battle, huh? I see. Iíll have to thank the general tomorrow.

Solomon leans over and blows out the candle.


A skirmish between top fighters results in much reflection. As each side continues to move forward, the war comes one day closer to ending. What will be the next move? Next time on A Tale of Iron, Part 3!

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PostSubject: Re: A Tale of Iron   April 11th 2016, 8:52 pm

Chapter 63


Earlier in the day, we can see Vito visiting Aerona.

Vito: So, you said you wanted to see me?
Aerona: I have something important to tell you. I donít know who may be listening, so I need you to get closer. No matter what Iím about to tell you, this canít get out. Is that understood?
Vito: Sure. Itís between us.

Aerona whispers something to Vito. Vitoís face gradually changes to one of total shock.

Vito: Youíre kidding me.
Aerona: No. Do you understand why this canít get out to anyone else?
Vito: Yes, I do. Itís just hard to believe.
Aerona: I know. If I donít survive this war, youíll at least know. Until all this fighting has settled, weíll continue as if it didnít happen.

The next day, Vito wakes up in his house. He seems troubled from the get-go. He gets ready and starts to walk along the streets of Drogos with a cup of coffee in his hand. Zvornoff is the first to greet him.

Zvornoff: Hoho! Good morning, Vito of the Bladeness!
Vito: Shut the fuck up, Zvor. Itís too early for yelling. And Iím pretty sure thatís not my nickname.
Zvornoff: I apologize if my glamorousness has blinded you so early in this fine morning.
Vito: What do you want?
Zvornoff: The lieutenants are meeting. We would like a higher ranked individual present and the general is elsewhere.
Vito: Fine.
Zvornoff: Also, we would like Drake to be there.
Vito: Drake?
Zvornoff: Yes.
Vito: No guarantees there. Iím going to visit Aerona first. Where are you meeting?
Zvornoff: A meeting room within that building.
Vito: Oh, thatís convenient. Very well.

Vito goes to the hospital where Drake is conveniently already with Aerona.

Vito: Why are you always here? Do you have a crush on him?
Drake: No. But respect is due for the man who healed me.
Aerona: Good morning.
Vito: Drake, youíre wanted for a meeting.
Drake: A meeting?
Vito: The lieutenants apparently want to talk and they want you with them.
Aerona: I would like to attend this as well.
Vito: What?

Aerona sits up.

Aerona: I would like to start getting back in on this, even if I canít fight just yet. I just need a cane or something. Iím very weak from not walking much the last few days.

Drake creates a cane. He nods casually to Aerona.

Aerona: That magic is too handy.

The three of them go to another room in the building where Athala, Aggro and Zvornoff are sitting down.

Aggro: Commander, are you sure you should be here?
Aerona: Itís all right. I need to start walking around soon anyway. For now, I will just listen.
Vito: So, what did you bitches want to talk about?
Athala: We need more information. Aggro could have walked into a fight with sheikh he had no knowledge of. Thatís why Drake is here.
Drake: I see. So you want to have intel on all of them.

A few minutes laterÖ

Drake: Thatís all I know about sheikhs and higher.
Vito: Youíre telling me that Noque and Nymeria were able to fight evenly with Solomon and Erosion?
Drake: They are very powerful. Nymeriaís enhancement is even better than yours, Iíd venture. Noqueís debuffing is superior to Erosionís as well. But whatís really scary is how they use their magic in conjunction.
Vito: Damn. So what youíre telling me is that those two came back last night and didnít even say hello to me.
Athala: Iím pretty sure that was the least important part of that story.
Zvornoff: Ho! So, what youíre saying is that us lieutenants shouldnít try and fight any sheikh.
Drake: Thatís what Iím saying. Khilai is the only one that you could try. Thatís the one that Athala briefly fought here at Drogos.
Athala: She was very powerful and very skilled. I wouldnít want to risk fighting another one on one with her. I was able to hold my own, but it was close.
Drake: Athala, you are also likely the greatest of lieutenants.
Zvornoff: Now now, Drake! You are clearly mistakenly mistaken!
Aggro: I wonít let that statement slide.
Drake: Sorry. I didnít mean toÖOkay maybe I did a little. Hehe.
Vito: Why donít you three fight for it?
Athala: Now is not the time for this. I donít care who is the strongest among us. I just try to improve as best I can so that I donít lose to the same person twice.

Athala glares at Drake. Some time passes and then the meeting ends.

Aerona: Athala.
Athala: Jeez, I forgot you were here.
Aerona: Walk with me. I want to see your progress.

Switching viewpoints, we see Mars and Solomon practicing in a more open area inside the city. Solomon is throwing wind blades from his hands while Mars is quickly putting up walls to block them. The pace increases steadily until Solomon stops.

Solomon: Yeah, your control has definitely increased significantly since last month.
Mars: Indeed.
Solomon: Itís time that I too start to increase my magic capabilities again.
Mars: I can help you with that hopefully.
Solomon: Thanks. Those captains are too strong. We need to step up our game. By the way, werenít you talking to the general earlier?
Mars: Yeah.

Going back roughly an hour, we see Mars and Strago walking among the militia, knights and soldiers.

Strago: I can see that new armor of yours is infused with magic.
Mars: Finally, someone actually noticed without me saying it!
Strago: Has your body finally accepted that your power is not to be feared, but disciplined?
Mars: I think so. *Music*
Strago: Your parents, they believed that you should control your power through fear. I respect that mentality, because it kept you in check for many years. But, I believe that power can control you eventually if you fear it.
Mars: Yes, I remember. You told me this many times over the course of two years, but it never sunk in till we traveled to the Red Kingdom. It wasnít until a fear of something else could surpass the fear of my own power. For the first time, I was able to unleash my full power, with nothing held back.
Strago: So in a way, the dragon gave you a piece of clarity.
Mars: Something like that.
Strago: The Wrath of Gaia is not something you see often. Its legendary power was something that made your parents apprehensive when they found out you had it. I remember it well.
Mars: You do?
Strago: I was new to the military, but I had already become an officer. I overheard your father talking about it. I remember sympathizing with a child that I had never met.
Mars: Sympathizing?
Strago: You had a power inside you that was not easily contained. It had to be sealed at an early age. Your magic affinity is so rare that there were no true ways developed to deal with it. Thatís where I really could sympathize. But at the same time, you are blessed.
Mars: How so?
Strago: Because you ended up under a general with an even more rare magic and an even more uncontrollable power. The ones who were key in helping me control my power were the legendary heroes. My seniors, my teachers, my friends.

We see a flash of Strago knelt down before three graves.

Strago: I promised myself that I would guide you five the way they guided me. Listen, Mars. It is no accident that Aerona and Jerome were drawn into battle. He unknowingly sought Jerome, and what he found was too much for him to handle at the current moment.
Mars: Are you talking about fate?
Strago: Yes. Look at Drake. Heís an Iron soldier. No matter how much they tried to pull him away, he was always destined to come back to us. Just as you were meant to kill your necromancer friend.
Mars: General Strago, do you think weíre meant to kill the captains?
Strago: I donít know. Fate or no, just continue to improve as you are. Thatís the best you can do for now. *Music Stops*

Back to the presentÖ

Mars: The captains are strong, but theyíre not unbeatable. We just have to get stronger.
Solomon: *Nod* Then letís get to it.

Not too far from there, we can see Athala holding both hands out while Aerona sits down on a step, still grasping the cane. Her hands light up and maintain a glow for a few seconds. Aerona nods a few times in approval.

Aerona: Not bad. For someone who hasnít been able to use magic, youíre learning fast.

Just then, Strago also approaches them.

Strago: I agree. Youíre steadily improving.
Athala: G-g-g-general. You saw that?

She starts fidgeting with her hair.

Strago: I did. Keep it up, lieutenant.
Athala: Yes, sir!
Strago: Now, Aerona. I didnít want to say it while you were bedridden, butÖnow you understand. You didnít heed my warning to avoid fighting a captain one on one.
Aerona: You were right. I felt like I could take on just about anyone after beating Drake. I guess thatís where my luck played a part. If I hadnít fought Drake first, perhaps I would have been more cautious.
Strago: Scenarios will only keep you in the past.
Aerona: Yeah.
Strago: I must go. Excuse me.

He walks away.

Athala: Is he always like that towards you?
Aerona: Yeah. It just means he has high expectations of us.
Athala: Us?
Aerona: The lieutenant commanders, of course.

Meanwhile, we see Vito and Erosion together.

Erosion: Vito, I want you to attack me while your speed is enhanced.
Vito: What? Why?
Erosion: One of the enemies had your magic. If I run into them again, I want to be better prepared.
Vito: I heard about that. All right, fine. Letís do this.

In the Red camps, we focus in on Noque and Nymeria. They are sitting in the grass in the middle of the encampment.

Nymeria: Solomonís defense was too strong. That was a deciding factor in our stalemate yesterday.
Noque: We need a way past it. Also, Erosion was crafty and made some clutch moves that stopped our advances.

Khilai joins them at this moment.

Khilai: Look at you two sounding smart. Thatís not very usual.
Noque: As abrasive as ever, I see.
Khilai: Itís what Iím here for.
Nymeria: Do you have any ideas?
Khilai: Whatís the point? How do you even know youíll see them again?
Nymeria: Fighters like that will be in the front lines for sure.
Noque: And weíre targeting them specifically. Now that weíve got them in our sights, we canít let them go.
Khilai: That type of mentality is what got our other sheikh killed. I have no intention of fighting a dragon slayer. At least not one on one.
Nymeria: You were never known for direct fighting anyway.
Khilai: If it keeps me alive, thatís all I care about.
Noque: You know what else keeps you alive?
Khilai: *Sigh* Here it comes.
Noque: Being a bitch. Hehehehe.
Nymeria: Heeheehee! Good one, Noque.
Khilai: There goes the serious sheikh twins.

The twins high-five each other. Panning over not far from this conversation, we see Sentus walking around. A man approaches him.

Sentus: What is it?
Man: Sir, we bring supplies.
Sentus: Great.
Man: Also, there is a letter from the king. Orders were to give it directly to the general. Where is she?
Sentus: I see. Iím going to pretend you didnít say that last part. Give me that letter.
Man: What? Captain SentusÖ
Sentus: Enough. Hand it over. Or did you forget that the king is family to me?

The man reluctantly gives Sentus the letter. He opens it and reads through. Sentus becomes surprised as soon as he reads for a few seconds. He then begins scrutinizing the letter.

Sentus: It is good that I read this first. I will deliver this personally to the general.
Man: Very well. We will be waiting for you to unload supplies at the dock.
Sentus: Good.

Sentus goes into Shiomiís tent and hands her the letter.

Shiomi: Youíre kidding me. Weíre to continue fighting?
Sentus: That handwriting is unmistakable for me. I hate to say this, Shiomi, but we may have to ignore an order given with the royal seal.
Shiomi: Sentus, you seem to know more about this letter than I do. Whatís going on?
Sentus: I have something to attend to. Go on without me.

Sentus leaves Shiomiís tent with haste, leaving her confused.

Shiomi: Itís been a while since he addressed me by my first name. Something must be up.

Just then, Helvast and Jerome come in.

Helvast: I just saw Sentus leaving the camps.
Jerome: What the hell is going on?
Shiomi: ÖWeíre moving out soon. Tomorrow, we will hit the Iron Kingdom with our full force.
Helvast: Then, itís time to employ our strategy?
Shiomi: Yes. Weíll show them how the Red Kingdom fights when weíre all together.
Jerome: Does that mean that you tooÖ
Shiomi: The time has come. The generals will once again clash.

Some sweat drips down the side of both the captainsí faces.

Shiomi: I know.

Later that day, the army begins to march. They make it past Seren and set up camp again. At Drogos, we see a dragonfly flying into the city and then suddenly shift into a human male. This surprises the people around them. We then pan to the general in front of the lieutenants and dragon slayers. Drake is also present.

Strago: Iíll keep this to the point. Shiomi is making her move. The whole army is between Seren and us. It is likely that they will attack tomorrow.
Aerona: Damn it. Iím still not ready.
Strago: Drake, Aerona. Itíll be up to you two to guard Drogos. We canít allow them to get anywhere near this city, but if a few do slip by, weíll need some people here. You two should be more than enough.
Drake: Understood.
Aerona: So Iím to be in my full armor tomorrow then.
Strago: Do whatever you want. Unfortunately, youíll have to deal with your condition.
Aerona: YeahÖ
Strago: Now, the rest of us will be meeting them half way. We want them to march as far as possible to get to us, but we also canít run the risk of letting them get too close to Drogos. Weíre going to flank them from three sides. Our strongest force will be in the middle, of course. Thatíll have Mars, Solomon and Athala. Our right side will need speed, and so thatíll be where our Helios cavaliers come into play. Zvor and Vito, thatís all you. Finally, our left side will be Erosion and Aggro. Any questions?
Athala: Where are you going to be?
Strago: I canít guarantee that Iím going to be in any one area. My placement will be 100% determined by where General Shiomi is.
Solomon: Does that mean that youíre going to fight her again?
Strago: It seems that way. She was unwilling to fight in our last battle, but I have a feeling things are different this time. I sense desperation out of the Red Kingdom.
Aerona: Weíve effectively cornered them, but that also means theyíre willing to-agh! Damn it.
Vito: Theyíre willing to fight for our food.
Zvornoff: And you want us to do the usual, yes?
Strago: Yes. Helios has proven its worth more than ever. It will be rebuilt even more grand than before. I promise you that, Zvor.
Zvornoff: Hoho! I shall hold those words to my chest like a baby clinging to her motherís bosom.
Strago: Moving on, our biggest problem this war has been consistent all throughout. Itís the existence of the captains and our lack of being able to combat them properly.
Vito: We had one shot, and we blew it.
Strago: I could attack them, but then weíd have no one to fight against the general.
Mars: If the five lieutenant commanders were to fight them at full strength, do you think weíd be able to take on the three captains?
Strago: I donít think so, no. In the past, the three knights were able to match them. But three years have passed since then and the captains have gotten even stronger and the heroes are dead.
Vito: So what youíre telling me is that both the general and the captains are bigger threats than the dragon was?
Strago: I cannot say for certain. You saw their power. What do you think?
Solomon: Sentusí wind magicÖIíve never seen anything like it. I hate to say it, but perhaps this is even bigger than the dragon.
Aerona: Dravosí threat was more about how he would add to the Red Kingdomís forces, not just his individual power.
Erosion: If he had been in this war with his dragon fire enhanced by Sentusí wind, we would have lost.
Strago: I agree. The fact that the dragon is dead should not be undermined by our current threat. It could have been a lot worse. ButÖthe current threat still remains.
Athala: Donít we have ANY anti-magic users?
Aggro: None in Aegis to my recollection.
Zvornoff: Nay.
Vito: No.
Strago: Anti-magic would be effective. We do have our elven artifact in Aegis. But I would not risk losing it now. They may be expecting it after Seren.
Mars: Maybe we donít have to deal with the captains head on. Right here in Drogos, a captain was present and yet he was forced to retreat.
Solomon: Yes, thatís true. The captains might be strong, but they wonít stick around for impossible odds.
Strago: Then we stall them as long as possible. Whatever form that might take, I donít care. First and foremost, we need to deal with Helvastís gravity magic.

As they continue their conversation, we pan back to the Red camps. Shiomi is with the two captains, Khilai and the sheikh twins.

Shiomi: We canít count on Sentus in this fight, but he should be back hopefully within the next day. In that case, Iíll need to doubly rely on you three sheikh. Is that clear?
Khilai: Of course.
Shiomi: Jerome, Helvast, you two will be key. You need to cripple their army as soon as possible. No holding back, Jerome.
Jerome: Very well.
Shiomi: Iím putting Noque and Nymeria in the middle and Khilai in the back. You may need to change positions based on the battle circumstances. Things are going to move very quickly. You need to trust your own judgment on this one.
Khilai: If only Hunter were here.
Shiomi: Hunter has his own work cut out for him. What we need is for you to step up and show us that youíre not the weakest sheikh.
Khilai: Iíll be damned if I get considered below Habib.
Nymeria: You say that, but Habib is not bad when he actually tries.
Helvast: Enough. What the hell is Sentus thinking, ditching us right on the eve of battle?
Shiomi: I trust him to come back when it really counts.
Helvast: So do I, but it still perturbs me.

After the meeting, everyone except Shiomi and Helvast leave.

Shiomi: It may be time for me to finally let loose.

Helvast looks at Shiomi and his mind takes him back in time. We see a line of young boys and girls, roughly ages 12-13. Helvast and a few others are in front of them. A young boy with crimson hair and eyes steps forth.

Helvast: Youíre one of them arenít you?
Boy: My name is Sentus.
Helvast: Sentus, huh? You must be the younger brother of Sentira.
Sentus: Yes.
Helvast: Letís see what your magic looks like, if you are ready.

A mage steps up to the two of them and casts a spell on Sentus. The aura surrounding Sentus starts to swirl around and become wind. Helvast reacts with surprise.

Helvast: Very nice. That was a strong aura you just summoned. And is that your brother over there?

A similar looking boy to Sentus steps up.

Sentus: No, this is my cousin, Dravos.
Dravos: Sentus, that was so cool!

As the spell is cast on Dravos, his aura turns to flame.

Helvast: This too is powerful. These two have incredible potential, especially working together.

They go through the rest of the children save for one girl who has her hair covering her eyes. She sheepishly steps up.

Helvast: What is your name?
Girl: ShÖShiomi.
Helvast: Are you nervous?
Shiomi: IÖ
Sentus: Sheís very shy. She wonít speak to anyone in our class.
Helvast: I see. Well, letís see what your magic is.

As the spell is cast on Shiomi, her aura does not appear to change. It lingers as is for a few moments but then begins to intensify. Helvast gives a curious look when at that moment it intensifies even more so. Suddenly, energy bursts from her body, completely knocking the mage in front of her off his feet. Everyone in the immediate vicinity looks on with shock and awe as the energy subsides. Shiomiís hair has blown aside, revealing her emerald green eyes, which are also surprised.

Helvast: I donít believe it.
Dravos: What was that, Sentus?
Sentus: I donít know. But that power, it was even stronger than ours.
Helvast: You there. Do you know what magic affinity you just unlocked?
Shiomi: IÖno.
Helvast: Of all my time living, never have I seen this. Weíve only heard about it in tales. Energy magic, the strongest type of magic known.
Shiomi: Energy? Strongest?
Helvast: Does that frighten you?
Shiomi: Yes.
Helvast: Come with me. Iíll teach you how to control this power. You too, Sentus and Dravos. You two also show incredible potential.

Back to the presentÖ

Helvast: Youíre not the same sheepish little girl anymore; thatís for sure.
Shiomi: Isnít it ironic, Helvast? You taught me everything, all so that I could boss you around once I became stronger than you.
Helvast: I knew what I was signing up for. You were destined to surpass everyone either way. Had that man not been born at the same time with the same power, you would have surely brought victory to our kingdom.
Shiomi: I can still bring victory. Donít talk like itís over.
Helvast: As you wish. *Smirks*
Shiomi: Did you know I was going to become attractive when you saw me as a child?
Helvast: NoÖthat I did not expect.

That night, we see a split screen of Strago and Shiomi. They are both staring out into the distance.

Strago: Tomorrow, Iíll see you again.
Shiomi: Tomorrow is the day.
Strago: One of us may not live through our next encounter.
Shiomi: Our next encounter may be our last.
Strago: ButÖ
Shiomi: And yetÖ
Both: I can hardly wait.


The generals get anxious to fight each other. Another eve arrives, possibly raising the curtain on the deciding battle. As tension continues to escalate, the war continues next time!

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PostSubject: Re: A Tale of Iron   April 13th 2016, 12:10 pm

Chapter 64


The next morning, we see the sun, which is about the height of the ocean. Coasting along is Akariís ship. Currently, it is just Shahar and Liron on the deck.

Shahar: Isnít it cool to see the sun at this height while sailing?
Liron: Yeah. Iíve never seen it like this before.
Shahar: Do you think weíll be able to reach the general?
Liron: Yes, I do.
Shahar: Why do you say yes?
Liron: Weíve come this far by our own determination, will and power. With the captain here, I feel like we can accomplish just about anything.
Shahar: I see. It will not be easy for certain. We will likely end up in the middle of battle somewhere. But that wonít be so easy to adapt to unlike our quest at the Red Kingdom.
Liron: Most people seem to manage.
Shahar: On the surface, yes. Just like how you masked your own past in your demeanor.
Liron: Fair enough.

They both notice that land is in sight.

Liron: There it is; the Iron Kingdom.
Shahar: Liron, can you go onto the lookout? We need to be able to navigate through any sandbars so that we donít get stuck.
Liron: Right.

She climbs up the lookout net and then has a look down.

Liron: Itís still quite dark. Itís difficult to see.
Shahar: (raised volume) What?
Liron: I said itís difficult to see!
Shahar: Damn. I thought weíd make better time by moving a bit earlier.

As they get closer, they notice that the land ahead of them is a beach. They get about fifty feet away when the ship skids to a halt. Shahar throws the anchor down.

Shahar: Thatís about as far as weíll be able to go.
Liron: What?
Shahar: *Sigh*

He motions for her to come down and she does.

Liron: Thatís as close as we can get, huh?
Shahar: Yeah.

A latch on the deck opens and Akari comes up from below.

Akari: So weíre here.
Shahar: Sorry to wake you. We didnít expect to beach that hard.
Akari: Itís all right. I feel well rested.
Liron: It looks like we didnít get to the docks.
Shahar: Yeah, well, we only knew the general direction of where to go.
Akari: That wasnít overly important anyway.
Liron: Are the others awake?
Akari: Taario is, but Katzir is still asleep. I donít know about Drora.
Liron: Iíll check on her.
Akari: Weíll let them sleep for another hour. The king ordered us to be at our best, after all.

A bit over an hour passes and the group has assembled above deck.

Katzir: So thatís the Iron Kingdom. I thought it would look much different. From here it looks just like our home.
Akari: Oh, trust me. It looks very different once we start getting into the cities.
Taario: Though, itís much much colder here than it is at home.
Shahar: Well? Shall we go?
Akari: Yeah. Letís.

Akari stands at the helm of the ship and jumps the distance to the beach. Katzir focuses and manages to make a bit of dark magic surround him.

Katzir: This is really hard while not in our kingdomÖ

Katzir makes the jump as well.

Drora: I canít make that jump! Liron...

As she addresses Liron, she picks Taario up and surrounds the two of them with lightning.

Taario: Oh!
Liron: Sorry, healers take precedence.

Liron also makes the jump.

Drora: Damn it. Shahar, you canít do it either, right?
Shahar: WellÖ

He creates a barrier next to the ship and then steps on it. He helps Drora onto the barrier. He creates another one in front of them. As they step onto the next platform, the first one disappears and reforms in front of them. They repeat this process till they make it to the beach.

Drora: THANK you, Shahar, for being a gentleman.
Shahar: Donít mention it.
Liron: Donít look at me. Iím not a man, so I canít be a gentleman.

The group looks outward towards the plains that ensue to realize something about the terrain. There is a thin layer of snow covering the grass. Going to the Red camps, everyone is huddled up in tents. There is about five inches of snow in the area. We focus in on Shiomiís tent, where Jerome is with her. There is a pot of boiling water in the middle of the tent.

Shiomi: This is going to slow us down considerably.
Jerome: If there is a god of snow, heís an asshole.
Shiomi: Our people are not used to this kind of cold. This bodes very poorly for us.
Jerome: Should we cancel the attack? NO! Fuck that! We can do it!
Shiomi: If you shout again in my tent, Iíll smack you. And no, we canít just cancel our attack. The longer we stay here, the worse off we are.
Jerome: Weíll have to make use of our fire mages, I suppose.
Shiomi: Correct.

Over at Drogos, we can see that the city is also covered with snow. Aerona and Mars are sitting outside, looking at it. They are both wearing heavy fur coats.

Mars: We got lucky for once.
Aerona: Itís because Iím not fighting. Thatís probably why.
Mars: Probably. This will makes things much harder for them.

Not too long after, we see the army gathered. Aerona and Drake are facing Strago. Aerona is still using his cane as a crutch.

Strago: Will you be okay?
Aerona: Weíll be fine.
Drake: Yeah. Donít worry so much.
Strago: Good. Weíll return soon.

The army leaves them behind. They march until the Red army is in sight. Both armies stop. Snow continues to make a steady fall. Both generals take a step forward.

Strago: Shiomi, you can stop this now!
Shiomi: Spare your words of pity!
Strago: Fine! Then I guess it was meant to end like this!
Shiomi: Nothing will be ending today!

Helvast and Jerome step forward.

Shiomi: Now, letís show these bastards how the Red Kingdom fights!

The army begins chanting ďRedĒ over and over.

Solomon: How can their morale be so high when theyíre in such deep shit?
Mars: Itís the general.
Vito: Not just her.

Helvast suddenly becomes surrounded by dark magic energy and then he steps his foot forward. The Iron army feels a familiar pressure bear down on them. The four dragon slayers seem less affected by this.

Erosion: It seems weíre more used to this.
Strago: All who can move, we strike now!

Strago leads the charge and rushes straight at Helvast. Suddenly, about thirty or so fireballs come their way and hit the snow in front of them. A massive amount of steam instantly rises, obscuring the view between them. The Iron army then feels the pressure drop and they charge into the mist. From the Red perspective, Khilai and Jerome both put their hands out and the mist itself starts to crystalize. Strago suddenly bursts through and attacks Jerome with his weapon. Shiomi gets in the way, however and blocks with a falchion. She is pushed back a bit, but staves off the attack.

Shiomi: Are you sure you want to do this now?

The dragon slayers also make it through the mist when the crystalizing ice suddenly freezes many of the Iron soldiers, knights and cavaliers. Vito appears in front of Jerome and Khilai and makes a broad slash for both of them. Nymeria steps in the way and blocks the slash. Noque appears behind Vito at that moment, but gets blown away by a gust of wind. Vito jumps away as a chasm starts forming around the general vicinity. Everyone is forced to move away from that area. The four dragon slayers group together.

Mars: Where is Sentus?
Erosion: Havenít seen him.

Khilai, Noque, Nymeria, Jerome and Helvast face them. Athala, Aggro and Zvornoff (off his horse) join the lieutenant commanders. Helvast activates gravity on them and Jerome unleashes a wave of eldritch magic on them. They fight through and attack. Mars unseals with two fingers and destroys the ground below the Red group. The gravity drops as the Red group jumps away. Khilai unleashes ice shards from her hands, but Solomon blocks them with a gust of wind, which drops them. Vito jumps over the chasm and attacks Nymeria. Nymeria blocks an incoming slash and then Noque is behind him again. This time, Zvornoff is behind Noque as well and lunges with his rapier. Noque turns and parries the attack.

Meanwhile, Strago is attacking Shiomi rapidly with his weapon. Shiomi is avoiding most of the strikes while blocking a few of them.

Shiomi: Are you going to use any of your power, Strago?
Strago: Ö
Shiomi: You canít, can you? Can you sacrifice your soldiers?!

Shiomi puts her free hand up and starts charging up a blast. Strago stops and does the same.

Shiomi: So you do value your life over your subordinates.
Strago: And you donít?
Shiomi: Of course I do. If either of us dies, itís the end of our army.
Strago: We have to prioritize our own lives over all.
Shiomi: We are in agreement.

They stand there in this stalemate. Back to the other fight, Athala and Nymeria are engaging in sword combat while Zvornoff is engaging Noque. Aggro is going after Khilai, who is dodging each of his poleaxe swings. Vito is struggling with Jerome with their blades.

Vito: Iíll kill you right now!
Jerome: Why so angry? Donít tell me that your friend died from my magic.
Vito: He might as well have!

Vito shoves Jerome back and goes for another slash. At the same time, Erosion appears behind Jerome, but suddenly stops. Helvast has his hand out towards him. Erosion starts to crack the ground below because of the gravity. Solomon attacks Helvast with a wind blade, but Helvast ducks under it. Mars also swings at him with his hammer. Helvast increases gravity on Mars with his other hand, who instantly cracks the ground to the point of making Mars lose his footing and fall to the ground. Just then, the lieutenants all begin to see the enemy as demons, similar to the Helios cavaliers before.

At this time, with much of the frozen army stiff, about fifteen mages go up to them and make a tandem lightning storm that shocks them all, killing most of them. The ice shatters from the impact, and it jars them all to see what is going on. This also snaps the lieutenants out of the temporary madness being inflicted on them.

Strago: This is not good. Retreat!

The rest of the soldiers retreat and there is no pursuit right away.

Shiomi: Drive them back to Drogos where weíll end them!

The army makes it back to Drogos, a third of the size that it initially was.

Drake: What?! Did you lose?
Strago: Yes. Unfortunately, theyíre coming for us.
Aerona: What the hell happened out there?
Vito: Their strategy won out.
Aerona: Help me up to the top of the wall. Solomon, Erosion, Mars.

They all nod and help Aerona up to the top of the wall. As the army is seen approaching Drogos, they all make their respective hand signs.

Vito: Can you handle it?
Aerona: DefinitelyÖprobably.
Mars: Too late for that.
Erosion: Teh
Mars: Pen
Aerona: Hyak
Vito: Ooh
Solomon: Go
All Five: Fire!

They unleash the Tepenhyakugo straight at the Red mages. Shiomi sees this coming.

Shiomi: So this is their defense plan, huh?

Shiomi charges up a blast and fires it straight at the Tepenhyakugo. The two meet, and they explode in the middle, causing a very loud explosion sound and a shockwave that resounds through all of Drogos and is felt by the Red faction as well.

Solomon: You have to be kidding me.
Vito: SheÖwas able to tie with us?
Mars: That wasnít even her full power either.

Aerona passes out on the spot and falls forward.

Shiomi: Damn. They made me put some effort in to stop that one. The tide has suddenly shifted. Letís go.

The Reds retreat after that.

Erosion: Theyíre retreating? Why?
Strago: You made the general expend some stamina. Thatís enough to make them have to regroup. If I were to fight her right now, I would win due to having more mana left. And that means we would win this war.
Solomon: It looks like weíll win either way.
Strago: We just lost a lot of soldiers. That may not be the case anymore.
Aggro: We were supposed to crush them in theory!
Athala: Things donít always pan out the way they look on paper.
Vito: We know that better than anyone.

Later that day, we see Akari and his group. They are at Helios. The snow and wind has begun to pick up even more.

Shahar: Damn. I have no idea what city this is, but itís completely burned down.
Akari: HeliosÖI think.
Liron: We canít go any further in this weather. Weíll freeze to death.

They go into the burned city and find a house that built of stone. It is still very cold, however.

Drora: Can we use any of the wood here?
Shahar: Itís been burnt to a crisp. Itís unusable. Most of the wood here is wet as well from the snow.
Katzir: We have a few blankets that we can use. Thatís about it.
Liron: We have an iron pot, right?
Katzir: Yes.
Liron: Let me have it.

Katzir gives Liron the pot. She goes outside and scoops up as much snow as she can into the pot and brings it inside.

Akari: I see what youíre going for.

She shocks the pot a few times and the snow gradually melts.

Liron: Now, we need some wood. Any wood will do.

They find some wet wood nearby and bring it under the pot. Liron shocks the wood and steam comes off it. She then does it again and a fire starts under the pot.

Akari: Nice.
Taario: My hero.
Drora: Thatís Liron for you. Always finding a way.
Liron: Donít praise me. Just get more wood. I can only do this a certain amount of times though.

They are able to maintain a steady fire for a while, which makes the water boil and eventually steam begins to make its way into the room from the pot, gradually warming the room.

Katzir: Ms. Liron, youíre the best.
Liron: Itís the best I can do for tonight. I donít know how long this will hold.
Akari: It will get us through the night. We just have to hope that tomorrow will be better.

Night comes and the group is sitting in multiple places around the center of this large room. Katzir is sitting with Liron.

Katzir: Can I ask you something?
Liron: What is it, Katzir?
Katzir: What do you think of me?
Liron: Thatís a vague question. You need to be more specific.
Katzir: As a person. As a human.
Liron: Youíre fine just the way you are, if thatís what you want to know.
Katzir: Why do you say that?
Liron: Why are you asking me this?
Katzir: Because I respect you so much.
Liron: I think your trait of seeing the good in people is something not everyone has. You might have grown up, but you still have it. Donít lose it for anyone. Not even me.
Katzir: I see.
Liron: Is that the answer you were looking for?
Katzir: YesÖI suppose.
Liron: What do you think of Hayim?
Katzir: Hayim?
Liron: Donít hold back. Tell me what you really think.
Katzir: I think he led a sad life and just follows his heart.
Liron: Is that all?
Katzir: He didnít want to hurt us. When I attacked him, he let his guard down on purpose.

We see a flashback of Katzir knocking Hayim away.

Katzir: While I donít think he could have done much at that moment, he knew I was going to attack next. He took the attack.
Liron: Do you think it was out of guilt?
Katzir: I do. Is that the answer you were looking for?
Liron: No. Well, half of it.
Katzir: After what you just said about me?
Liron: Heh. I wonít press the issue.

Katzir seems confused, but leaves it alone. Meanwhile, Shahar and Drora are sitting together.

Shahar: Drora, are you doing okay?
Drora: Iím managing. How about you?
Shahar: Iím okay. Do you mind if I ask you something personal?
Drora: No, go ahead.
Shahar: Did you love Amitay?
Drora: Wow. No hesitation. You know, I was thinking about it. I came to the conclusion on the boat that I didnít. I liked him a lot, but love? No. I havenít come across someone that I love in that way.
Shahar: Seems like you put a lot of thought into it.
Drora: How about you?
Shahar: Did I love Amitay? I donít roll that way, sweetheart.
Drora: No, I meanÖdo you love me?
Shahar: ÖNo.
Drora: Oh, thatís a relief then.
Shahar: There was always a misunderstanding then.
Drora: Yeah.

Akari: Are you regretting this yet, Taario?
Taario: Nah. Itís rough, but I can get through this.
Akari: Good man. If you had been with us from the start, things would have gone a lot smoother.
Taario: Yusuk was with you, right? I never liked him. He always had the mentality of everyone should serve him because heís the healer. Itís the opposite. A healer should be serving everyone. Thatís why everyone protects us. Because we give it our all to make sure our comrades stay alive.
Akari: Sounds like Hunter was good for something.
Taario: Yes. That is something he taught me. It never sunk in with Yusuk though.
Akari: I remember him saying those words on many occasions.
Taario: I still cannot believe that he could be a traitor of all things.
Akari: Hunterís situationÖit may be more complicated than you think. If he truly is an Etal, there might be a whole new side that we havenít heard yet.
Taario: What is an Etal?
Akari: Iíve only heard rumors of their existence, but I cannot tell you any more than thisÖ

Back at Drogos, we focus in on the five dragon slayers. They are quiet, when Vito speaks up.

Vito: I still canít believe it. That was our winning attack for the dragon, and she stopped it so easily.
Aerona: I know. The generals are on another level, even from Dravos.
Mars: Anyway, Aerona. Will you be able to fight tomorrow?
Aerona: I will fight tomorrow. Whether Iím able to or not is an entirely different matter.
Solomon: Weíll need all five of us in order to take on the captains.
Aerona: We have something a lot more troubling on our hands.
Erosion: What is it?
Aerona: Have you noticed the general? Iíve never seen him like this before.

Switching viewpoints to Strago, we can see his hands shaking as he is sitting down. Athala is with him currently. We can faintly hear a chuckle coming from him.

Athala: What is wrong, general?
Strago: I was so close to losing it today. I can tell she felt the same.
Athala: Are you afraid of clashing with her?
Strago: Afraid? Hahahaha! The only thing Iím afraid of is that my excitement gets in the way of my judgment on the battlefield. I want to fight her so badly; you have no idea.

Athala seems genuinely shocked by this change in demeanor.

Strago: Get some sleep, Athala. Tomorrow, theyíll definitely attack again.

The next day, there is a split-screen of both armies marching until the view eventually merges into one as they meet. The snow is still present, but has cleared up a bit as the sun is strong and bright. Both Strago and Shiomi meet eyes and suddenly, their auras both spike as they walk towards each other. With each step, the energy intensifies to the point that the ground begins shaking. Both armies immediately turn tail and run in opposite directions, leaving both generals alone.


The strongest duel cannot be delayed any further by neither heaven or earth!

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PostSubject: Re: A Tale of Iron   April 16th 2016, 9:19 pm

Chapter 65


The two kingdoms have many different written laws in effect. Some are similar, but many are different. For example, dark magic is strictly forbidden in the Iron Kingdom, but is rather encouraged in the Red Kingdom. Polygamy is legal in the Red Kingdom, but is seen as less favorable, whereas it is illegal in the Iron Kingdom. HoweverÖthere is one unspoken rule that is agreed wholeheartedly by everyone, be he or she Red or Iron born. That unspoken rule isÖ

If the general of the Red Kingdom is to meet the general of the Iron Kingdom in combatÖeveryone should run until they are out of visual range. For if you can even see either general, you run the risk of being killed.


The generals stay about ten feet apart from each other until everyone has left the vicinity. They then both step closer and closer until both of them lean in towards each other. Their lips meet each otherís and they embrace. After a few moments, they retract and both sit down.

Strago: It has been too long.
Shiomi: Iíve missed you so much, Strago.
Strago: Fate is so cruel, that we are pitted against each other like this.
Shiomi: I know. I wish it were not so, but we cannot abandon our positions.
Strago: Yes.
Shiomi: Tell me. What was your plan when you sent spies to kill our sheikh just a few weeks ago?
Strago: Iím not sure what you mean. What happened over there?

Shiomi tells Strago about Akariís ďdeathĒ and the events leading up to it.

Strago: Shiomi, we did not orchestrate that.
Shiomi: That canít be true. And yet, you wouldnít lie about that.
Strago: I suspected that something was going on in the Red Kingdom when you so aggressively came at us now of all times.
Shiomi: Are you saying that we were set up?
Strago: Itís possible. We donít have enough information yet.
Shiomi: Indeed. Anyway, I suppose we should get this over with. Donít you think?
Strago: Yeah.

They both stand up. Strago sheds his armor and throws his weapon aside. Shiomi throws her falchion aside as well. They both walk away from each other till they are roughly 100 feet away from each other. They turn and square off. Suddenly, both of them disappear and meet in the middle. They both strike with their right fists and they slide off each otherís. Just as they do, all of the snow in their area blows away within a 50-foot radius. *Music* A second after this happens, a sonic boom-like sound occurs in the area. Shiomi high kicks at Strago, who dodges it and goes for a roundhouse kick. Shiomi dodges this as well and both attacks make another sonic boom, seemingly in tandem. Strago then charges a large amount of energy in his right hand and Shiomi does the same in retaliation. They clash fists, and then the energy explodes and sends them back 200 feet each. They both land on their feet and disappear, making it back to each other nearly instantly. Shiomi unleashes a flurry of punches, which Strago dodges. Suddenly, Strago takes one punch and flies through the air. Just before he can hit the ground, Shiomi appears below him to follow up. Strago spins in the air and kicks downwards to counter her next strike. This makes a chasm in the ground below her, sending her into it. Only a second later, she jumps out, seemingly unharmed.

Strago: YesÖitís only been a year, but it feels more like ten!
Shiomi: Thereís nothing like this, Strago. This is what I live for!

They both laugh as they spike their magic aura, making the area shake. Both generals fly upwards into the air and clash fists again. Strago lands a punch to Shiomi, which sends her down at an angle. She catches herself before landing on the ground safely just in front of a mountain. Strago lands in front of her and punches again. She dodges, and the mountain gets a large hole blasted into it. Shiomi retaliates by grappling him and throwing him into the hole he just created. She then shoots a blast the size of her body at the mountain, which eviscerates the entire structure. As the dust starts to subside, Strago bursts from it, his clothes in tatters. Shiomi dodges an incoming flying kick and then retaliates with a punch. Strago blocks with one hand and then knees her in the gut. She recoils and then Strago blasts her quickly with his left hand, which sends her flying into another mountain. The explosion levels off the mountain about halfway. Suddenly, another explosion occurs in that vicinity, which destroys the rest of the mountain and Shiomi rushes back in. The two generals take turns dodging each otherís attacks in a major flurry of punches and kicks from both of them. They are now positioned in the middle of two mountains as they have moved while attacking. Finally, the pattern breaks as they both clasp hands with each other. They both yell out and the explosion that occurs as a result destroys both mountains completely. As the dust settles, both of their clothes are completely wrecked. They are both left with just undergarments.

Strago: Damn. So thatís whatís under all that modest clothing.
Shiomi: Youíre pretty strapping yourself.
Strago: UnfortunatelyÖ
Shiomi: YeahÖ

Both of them activate a sizable portion of energy around them and they are both now wearing identical outfits. The clothes are glowing blue.

Shiomi: So you knew about this technique as well.
Strago: Yes. If we are to fight, it might as well be with some dignity in tact.
Shiomi: Even though these arenít real clothes.
Strago: True.

Suddenly, the generals fly up into the air again. Shiomi swoops towards Strago and punches for him, but he is able to contort out of the way in time. She repeats this motion multiple times in what appears to be an instant. Strago is barely dodging each as it seems Shiomi is picking up momentum as she flies. Strago unleashes an omni-direction wave of energy, which slows her momentum enough that he can dodge the next strike and then counter. He punches her in the face, which sends her flying away. He flies after her, but she stops herself with a small bit of energy sent in the opposite direction. She catches Strago off guard and kicks him straight up, sending him even higher in altitude. As she flies up, they quickly start to engage each other with fists, blocking and dodging each otherís attacks. As we see an aerial view of this, the few remaining mountains look very miniscule due to how high up they are. *Music Temporarily Stops*

Meanwhile, at Drogos, we can hear each boom faintly.

Vito: How far away are they? Yet we can still hear them.
Aerona: Itís insane.

At the Red camps, the noise is also heard.

Jerome: That is some frightening power.
Helvast: Iíve lived for a long time, Jerome. But Iíve never seen anything like when those two go at it.

At Helios, there is no sound heard, but Akari and his group is standing outside, surprised.

Akari: Thereís no mistaking this energy. This is the general.
Drora: Itís faint, but itís so far away. How is this level of strength even possible?
Liron: Unbelievable.
Shahar: In any case, we know where General Shiomi is. We have to hurry.
Akari: We will head in that direction, yes. But we cannot get involved in that fight. If even a captain got involved when theyíre going all out, they would surely die.

Back to the fight, the generals are still in the air. *Music Resumes* They suddenly break free of their attacking and both charge up a massive amount of energy. They both unleash a blast in the form of a continuous beam, which collides in the middle. They both put even more energy into it, when the beam explodes at the center. We get a split-screen of Drogos and the Red camps, which can both see the explosion in the sky from how gigantic it is. As the blast subsides, both generals land on the ground. Some of their clothes are ripped, but quickly regenerate.

Shiomi: It is as I thought. We are still even.
Strago: I trained and trained. And yet I still canít surpass you.
Shiomi: I have done the same. And yet, thereís one last measure that we have not done yet.
Strago: Hmph. I wasnít going to say anything if you werenít, but yes.
Shiomi: Come, Strago. Will you go against the law of your land once more?!
Strago: The law doesnít apply to this fight.

Shiomi and Strago both spike their auras again, but this time, it turns into a dark purple aura, and suddenly, the area shakes even more. The ground starts breaking all around them. Strago is the first to attack by dashing towards her. She side steps the attack and Strago ends up punching into a mountain. This punch shatters the mountain. Shiomi appears behind Strago and kicks at him. He also sidesteps, and the ground in front of her kick gets destroyed and blows away, including all the rubble from the mountain. They both jump back twice, making them nearly 1,000 feet away from each other. They both spike their auras and then speed straight towards each other, colliding fists at the half-way point. The explosion that occurs leaves a giant crater where their fists met. The view below them is pitch black and encompasses where the mountain initially was. The dark aura is gone temporarily. *Music Stops*

Strago: Even in dark magicÖ
Shiomi: You have been practicing that too then. Youíre not so lawful now are you?
Strago: I told you, the law doesnít apply. There is a royal decree that I am allowed to practice dark magic for the sole purpose of fighting you. Itís in writing, though no announcement has been given.
Shiomi: How could you practice it so efficiently without anyone else knowing?
Strago: Iím fortunately not the only one in Aegis who likes using it.
Shiomi: I see. I have no right to judge. We both have our dark sides.
Strago: That we do.

They chuckle for a moment.

Strago: Hey.
Shiomi: What is it?
Strago: I love you.
Shiomi: Are you certain?
Strago: We are like gods, Shiomi. Youíre the only one who understands me, because you went through and go through the same trials I do. You are the only one that I can give my all, and you wonít die.

We now go to a battlefield where there are hundreds of slain Red mages and soldiers. A younger Strago is seen walking away from this battlefield, with bloodstains all across his armor, which is just standard knight armor. There are Iron knights gazing at him in awe.

Strago: Was that it? This is the battlefield you all spoke of? I thought maybe I could test the limits of my power, but no. Itís the same, no matter where I go.

We see another scene of Strago destroying more soldiers with a spear, when suddenly his spear is blocked by a falchion. We see a younger Shiomi, without the turban, in the black mage robe. The two of them exchange gazes and then stop fighting instantly.

Shiomi: Youíre just like me, arenít you?
Strago: And youÖare like me.

Back to the presentÖ

Strago: How long has it been since we found each other?

We see another scene of them meeting, but they now have their general outfits.

Strago: Itís you again.
Shiomi: Hello to you too. Letís enjoy this fight!
Strago: Yes!

And yet another meeting.

Shiomi: StragoÖ
Strago: ShiomiÖwe have another chance to fight.
Shiomi: Iím so happy.

To the present againÖ

Strago: Every time we met again, it was the greatest feeling. The excitement of being vulnerable. Itís amazing.
Shiomi: I can agree with you there.
Strago: Donít you understand, Shiomi? We were born on the same day with the same power. We were meant for each other.
Shiomi: Yes. We were. We may have only had a few encounters, but I do feel the same way towards you. But, that doesnít solve anything.
Strago: I know. Our kingdomsÖthey are always at war.
Shiomi: And you know I canít stop it.
Strago: Unfortunately, I do know.
Shiomi: But, while we are on opposite sides, we might as well enjoy ourselves a little more.
Strago: Yeah.

At Drogos, we focus in on the dragon slayers again. Aerona is not in his armor, but he has his other outfit on and has a halberd with him.

Aerona: Hey, do you feel that?
Erosion: Now that you mention it, yeah.
Vito: Somethingís coming our way, but itís far away.
Solomon: We should go check that out.
Mars: If itís an enemy, they might try to interfere after the generals have exhausted their mana.
Aerona: Agreed.

Back with the generals, they are continually exchanging blows. Their faces are scratched and bloodied, but their faces are showing pure delight. They both land a punch on each otherís face simultaneously and then back off, starting to breath a bit heavily.

Strago: How many hours have we been here fighting?
Shiomi: Iíve lost track.

They look up at the sun, which has started to go westward.

Shiomi: At least five by the position of the sun.
Strago: I think thatís a new record for us.
Shiomi: But we lost track the last time as well.
Strago: This is true. Then, letís finish this with one final attack.
Shiomi: Very well.

They both fly into the air again and separate by a few hundred feet. They activate dark magic and spike their auras one last time. They charge up an orb that is about three times the size of their bodies and release them in tandem. The orbs clash and there is a bright light that emits from it, before the explosion completely covers everything in sight. Much of the ground below still gets destroyed and from Drogos, there is a sudden quake that rumbles the whole city. Many of the tents in the Red camps get blown over and pots spill, etc.

After the chaos has come to a halt, we focus in on a crater. At the bottom, the two generals lie face down next to each other. Their energy clothes arenít even regenerating this time. They lift their heads up towards each other.

Shiomi: Can you still fight?
Strago: No. You?
Shiomi: No.

They sit up.

Shiomi: At least, we canít fight on that level anymore.
Strago: Yeah.
Shiomi: For the first time in three years, I feel sated.
Strago: So do I. Our power, itís both a blessing and a curse. If everyone were as strong as us, our world would not exist anymore. And yet, being the only ones like this is so isolating.
Shiomi: When I was a little girl, I was shy. I had a problem meeting new people, because they all seemed to be nasty towards me. Then I discovered that I could command all those people through fear and power.
Strago: For me, I was just a scared child who didnít want to be involved with war or anything. Then I found that I could single handedly end warsÖor so I thought before I met you.
Shiomi: Looks like we both changed because of our magic affinity.
Strago: Yeah. It also did something else for us. It brought us together.

Shiomi nods in agreements. Not far off, we can see Akari and his group running.

Akari: Weíre not far now!

They suddenly stop. Akari smiles as he sweats from his brow.

Akari: I donít know whether I should feel lucky or not.
Shahar: Maybe a bit of both, captain.

Barricading their way are none other than the five dragon slayers. *Music*

Solomon: So youíre alive.
Akari: I am. It seems youíre all doing well.
Shahar: Royal Knight Aerona. Do you recognize me?
Aerona: No, I donít. Have we met before?
Shahar: Three years ago, though it was only briefly.
Aerona: Sorry. If I remembered every face from back then, Iíd go insane.
Liron: Then, you guys are the dragon slayers.
Vito: Thatís right, bitch.
Katzir: The guys who took out my cousin.
Mars: You want to finish off our general while heís vulnerable; is that it?
Akari: Weíre not here to fight. We need to speak to our general.
Erosion: I donít believe you.
Drora: Itís the truth!
Aerona: The truth? When it comes to your leader, itís impossible to know the truth.
Taario: Please, listen. Weíll even lay down our weapons. Right, guys?

The others do not seem to be responding to Taario.

Akari: Sorry, Taario, but I canít surrender.
Shahar: Neither can I. I swore an oath and I intend to keep it.
Liron: Then, in order to succeed in our missionÖ
Katzir: We have to beat these guys first.
Akari: Get ready. This is not like any opponent you have faced thus far.
Mars: Looks like we can all fight together again.
Solomon: Itís the first time in a month. Letís make it count.


The groups have met and are at odds! Who will win this fated battle?!

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PostSubject: Re: A Tale of Iron   April 20th 2016, 7:29 pm

Chapter 66


Akari: Iíll take point here. Liron, Katzir, Shahar, back me up. You other two, support us from behind.
Aerona: (Mumbling) Shahar? Why does that sound familiar?
Vito: Aerona, you take it easy. Youíre still not at 100%, so donít overdo it.
Aerona: Right.

Drora and Taario step behind the other four. The five dragon slayers now have their weapons drawn. Akari suddenly slides his foot forward, sending a wave of the ground at them. Mars counters by golf swinging his hammer onto the ground, breaking the wave up and stopping its momentum. *Music* As the view is now obscured, Liron appears behind them, clad in lightning and her swords drawn. She slashes at Aerona, who dodges it. Katzir meanwhile comes from up front, with dark magic activated and punches Mars in the chest, which only makes him slide back an inch or so.

Katzir: This armorÖ

Just then, Shahar rushes up and attacks Solomon with his mace. Solomon blocks with his shield and then attacks with his scimitar. Shahar makes a barrier to block it and then Akari appears behind Solomon. Vito appears between the two of them and slashes at Akari, who dodges backwards. Meanwhile, Liron continues attacking Aerona, who is dodging each strike narrowly. She is then hit by a debuff beam and starts moving slower. Erosion goes to attack Liron, but an arrow flies his way. He quickly changes his attention and slashes the arrow out of the air. Aerona coats his right arm in dark magic and punches through the lightning and Liron dodges the punch. Aerona recoils in slight pain from the shock.

Aerona: Damn.

At that moment, Shahar comes running towards Aerona from behind and attacks with his mace. Aerona turns around and knocks the mace away with his halberd. Liron attacks Aerona at this moment, but Vito gets in the way and shoots a blade beam at her. The lightning protects her, but she does slide back a bit.

Aerona: Thanks.
Vito: No problem. Iíll handle this one. This guy must have a grudge against you, so you can take care of him.

We now see that the fight has broken up into more sections. Solomon is faced off against Katzir, Erosion against Drora and Taario and Mars against Akari.

Akari: The fellow earth user. We meet again.
Mars: Not exactly.

Mars slams his hammer down at the same time Akari puts his hand on the ground. The hammer makes a crack in the ground, but nothing else happens. This surprises Mars.

Akari: Whatís wrong?

Meanwhile, Aerona is squared off against Shahar.

Aerona: So, whatís your deal with me anyway?
Shahar: Itís nothing against you personally. You defeated my unit on the battlefield fairly. It was at Seren fields.
Aerona: My first commanding battle, huh? Good to know I made a lasting impression my first time.
Shahar: I looked at you, and you asked me if I wanted to fight. I backed down like a coward. Not this time.
Aerona: I vaguely remember that. So that was you. Donít mistake cowardice for intelligence. You did the smart thing by running.

Shahar charges for Aerona. He takes a step back, but a barrier appears behind him to halt his progress. Shahar swings downwards at Aerona, who sidesteps it. Another barrier appears where he sidesteps, creating a corner of a wall. Shahar shifts his position to corner Aerona and then hacks horizontally. Aerona ducks under it and then thrusts with his halberd. The short distance between them makes the thrust ineffective and the armor blocks the weapon. Shahar goes for a vertical attack this time. Aerona moves in closer and grabs the shaft of the mace. They struggle, but Shahar seems to be winning the power struggle. Aerona puts his other hand up and releases a small wave of dark magic, which sends Shahar back, but with his weapon in hand.

Switching to Erosion, he is dodging knife attacks from Drora and staff attacks from Taario. They are moving one after another, to keep the attack flow going. After dodging a staff strike, Erosion briefly touches Taarioís face with his right hand and then blocks an incoming dagger thrust with his left. He then kicks Taario away and then throws a punch at Drora with his right hand. Drora backs away.

Taario: Is this poison?
Drora: Taario!
Taario: Itís okay.

Taarioís staff orb glows a murky green color and surrounds his body.

Erosion: So you are a healer after all. Did you just cure the poison?
Taario: Thatís right.

Erosion then reacts to something.

Erosion: Something is happening, but what?

He closes his eyes and then waits. Suddenly, he turns and slashes, which parries a thrust from Droraís dagger. The image of Drora and Taario before dissipates. Droraís face is completely shocked.

Drora: How did you see through it?
Erosion: Sorry, but Iím the master of tricks. Iím always on the lookout for that kind of thing.

Erosion disappears as Taario attacks him from behind. He appears ten feet away from them.

Taario: So this is a dragon slayer.
Drora: The captain wasnít exaggerating.

Switching to Solomon and Katzir, we see Solomon surrounded by a wind barrier as Katzir charges at him. His fist starts to break through the barrier, but it ultimately repels him.

Solomon: This one is fast, but nothing I canít handle. Iíll just analyze him for a bit longer.
Katzir: Are you scared of fighting me head on? Drop that wind barrier!
Solomon: Are you that stupid? Do you think I can be taunted so easily?
Katzir: Damn. I was never good at that sort of thingÖ

Solomon glides just off the ground towards Katzir. He slashes with his scimitar and Katzir narrowly dodges. He gets cut on his side, but is not sure why. Katzir rushes in to attack Solomon again and focuses more dark magic in his fist. This breaks through the wind barrier, but Solomon still dodges the punch. He retaliates with a shield bash, which Katzir dodges. Solomon then takes a slash with his scimitar. Katzir blocks with the iron knuckles and then kicks Solomon in the chest. This does nothing, however.

Solomon: Did you forget that I have armor on?

Shifting viewpoints, we see Vito and Liron clash weapons a few times. Liron activates lightning on one of her swords just as it clashes with Vitoís. Vito gets shocked and recoils. Liron follows up with her other sword, but Vito disappears. Vito appears a couple yards away.

Vito: That hurt. Damn. Be like that then.
Liron: Stop your whining.

Liron surrounds herself with lightning again and then manages to summon a small amount of dark magic to fuse with it. She speeds over to Vito and attacks with both swords. Itís not till she follows through with the attack that she hit nothing. Vito is behind her, surprising her.

Liron: That speedÖitís even faster than my brotherís!

Vito slashes, but the lightning surrounding her repels the blade. This confuses Vito for a moment and he backs off.

Vito: Thatís not normal for lightning.

Back to Mars and Akari, we can see Akari chuckling.

Akari: This is the difference between the Red Kingdom and Iron Kingdom when it comes to skill.
Mars: YouíreÖnot the same as a month ago.
Akari: Thatís right. You bastardsÖthough you took a month of my life away, you inadvertently made me stronger.
Mars: How is that possible?
Akari: Iím not telling you that.
Mars: Fine. But just so you know, youíre not the only one who improved.

Mars puts one finger up to his head and unseals. His aura spikes a little. Akari rears back in confusion.

Akari: What you just did. Donít tell me you haveÖ
Mars: This fight isnít over, Akiri.
Akari: Itís Akari.

Mars swings his hammer to the ground and makes the ground crack and quake towards Akari. Akari dodges this.

Akari: That one was a bit stronger.
Mars: Iím not done yet!

Mars unseals with two fingers next and his energy levels spike even higher. Akari puts his hand on the ground, but the earth around him still gets manipulated and a dome starts to enclose around him, albeit slowly.

Akari: Thereís no mistaking it.

Suddenly, the dome breaks completely and the rubble gets controlled and is sent straight at Mars. His armor protects him from any damage.

Akari: The Wrath of Gaia, is it? Iíve only heard of legends. I knew your earth felt different. Youíre still in complete control, arenít you?
Mars: Thatís right.
Akari: Fascinating!

Mars drops the hammer and then begins manipulating the ground with his hands. Spikes and waves of ground begin to form from all sides of Akari and go straight towards him. Akariís face turns completely serious and then he puts both hands out. All of the attacks stop dead in their tracks.

Akari: Thatís not enough to defeat me, Earthshaker!
Mars: Compared to that fire sheikh, this guy is on a completely different level!

Akari closes his hands and all of the spikes and waves crumble. He then moves his hands in a circular motion, which gathers up all the crumbled ground and reforms it into a giant fist twice the size of his body. He then punches forward, which sends the fist flying straight at Mars. Mars barely jumps out of the way in time and then somersaults back onto his feet. But as he gets onto his feet, Akari is right next to him. He takes some dark magic into his palm and strikes Marsí breastplate. Mars gets blown back, but the armor holds strong.

Akari: I see. Such an innovative way to use your magic. Your armor reminds me of the Mohadmaht.
Mars: Come again?
Akari: Oh, never mind.
Mars: I wasnít planning on using anything higher than level twoÖbut it seems I have no choice!

Meanwhile, Erosion is putting Drora on the defensive. Drora blocks each swing from Erosionís wakizashi, but then she gets hit by a debuff beam. Each time she blocks, it seems as though her guard is breaking more and more. Taario joins in and whacks at Erosion, but Erosion grabs the staff with one hand and kicks Taario away. He then blocks an incoming stab with the orb on the staff and then cuts Drora on the leg, which makes her forcefully sit.

Erosion: Thatís as far as I want to hurt you. Give up.

Around this time, Vito is seen dodging strikes from Liron.

Vito: Do you rely on your speed to win? Thatís not going to work against people of my level.
Liron: Stop talking and fight!

Vito slashes and a beam trails off, hitting Liron and sending her to the ground. She shoots a lightning bolt from her lying down position, but Vito dodges it. Liron kicks herself up to her feet and continues attacking.

Vito: Youíre not bad.

Vito appears behind her and hits her in the back of the head with the handle of his katana. She stumbles forward and releases a wave of electricity. This shocks Vito a little bit, but he retaliates with another blade beam, which cuts her across her back and makes her fall to the ground.

Vito: Stay down. Iíd rather not kill a girl this good looking.

Going to another fight, Aerona is panting heavily.

Aerona: Damn it. Iím just not back at 100%.
Shahar: I donít care how bad of condition youíre in. This is my chance and Iím going to take it.

Shahar charges at Aerona and attacks with his mace. Aerona dodges it, but Shahar puts a barrier to Aeronaís left. He suddenly moves to the right and appears behind Shahar.

Shahar: A feint?

A barrier appears behind Shahar, but Aerona doesnít attack. Instead, he has light emit from both hands. Shahar turns and faces him.

Shahar: Whatís the matter? Are my barriers too troublesome for your offensive style?
Aerona: You should watch what you say in the heat of battle.

Shahar dispels the barrier between them and attacks with the mace again. Aerona backsteps and then lunges with his halberd. Shahar dodges it, but he receives a small cut on his face.

Shahar: What? What just happened?

Aerona then swings the halberd horizontally. Shahar blocks, but the halberd completely misses the block and pierces through the armor around his thigh, gashing him. He swings again with his halberd, but a barrier comes up at his side, blocking it. Aerona quickly spins and swings the other way and another barrier blocks that attack as well. Aerona then throws the halberd like a javelin, and Shahar blocks with the mace. As he does, Aerona suddenly bursts forward with a surge of dark magic and punches Shahar in the gut, where his armor is not protecting completely. The dark magic surges into Shahar and he is blown away. Aerona pants even heavier as Shahar lies on the ground, bleeding from his mouth.

Aerona: Shit. I was wondering when you would finally use those barriers to block yourself in.
Shahar: Damn.
Aerona: Iíll admit your strategy is very annoying, but it has many flaws. One of which is that if you go into a defensive mode, you limit your own movements.
Shahar: This is true.
Aerona: I wouldnít recommend getting up. You have many gaps in your armor. Another attack like the one I just gave you could seriously injure you.

Over by Katzir and Solomon, we see Katzir charging up as much dark magic as he can muster. Solomon interrupts him with a wind blade that is sent his way. Katzir loses focus in order to dodge it.

Katzir: He wonít let me power up. Damn it.
Solomon: Weíve fought another one of your kind, only he was much stronger. I know not to let you gain any kind of momentum.
Katzir: The one youíre talking about, itís Seijuro, right?
Solomon: Sorry, I donít remember his name. Iím not too good with them.
Katzir: I donít think I can beat this guy. But I have to try!

Katzir rushes for Solomon, focusing as much dark magic as he can while moving. He disappears and then reappears behind Solomon. Solomon activates his wind barrier, but this time Katzir releases a dark beam. This breaks through the wind barrier and explodes on contact with Solomon. When the attack subsides, Solomon is mildly injured, and Katzir is breathing heavily.

Solomon: Looks like that attack took a lot out of you.
Katzir: Even that didnít work.
Solomon: I blocked at the last second with dark magic of my own, otherwise that might have done a little more damage. This guy is dangerous, but he canít do that again.

Katzir relaxes his stance as Solomon looks at him.

Katzir: My cousin once told me that it is wise to know when to surrender. You are clearly too much for me right now.
Solomon: Then youíre not as stupid as I thought.
Katzir: But will you at least listen to what I have to say?
Solomon: Fine.
Katzir: These guys are out of our league. The only one we can count on is the captain at this point.

We now see Akari and Mars faced off. We can see that their fight has moved nearly out of sight to the others. *Music Stops*

Mars: Weíre far enough away now.
Akari: Are you going to show me your full power?
Mars: In order to defeat you, I will show you who is the most powerful earth user. *Music*


Mars unseals with all five fingers.

Mars: Wrath of Gaia, maximum power!

The spike in energy makes Akariís eyes widen with surprise.

Akari: This could be bad.

Mars slams his hammer down on the ground and the entire area quakes and starts to splinter. Akari controls the earth below him and starts sliding backwards, but the destruction catches up with him and the ground below him breaks. He falls into the chasm that is created. As he is falling, he makes a horizontal pillar below him to land on. Akari jumps out of the chasm, only for Mars to attack again. This time, all the earth in the immediate vicinity gets swept back like water and then makes a 30 feet-high tidal wave of rock and mud towards Akari. He activates dark magic and controls as much as he can behind him to counter the wave, but it only slows it down a little and he gets buried under the wave. Suddenly, a big boulder pops up from the ground and then opens up to reveal Akari very dirtied and somewhat injured.

Akari: This power is unreal. Itís just like when I used all my mana at once.
Mars: Itís not over yet!

The ground around Akari begins to swirl up and swallow him. Akari gets pulled under and then moments later, the ground condenses and pressurizes. Mars breathes heavily. *Music Stops*

Mars: I managed somehow to not kill myself in that attack.

Mars struggles to put five fingers on his head, but does so and is able to seal his power back up. He drops to his knees from exhaustion.

Mars: I was able to keep some semblance of control, though it was minimal.

Just then, the picture zooms out and we can see Akari standing behind Mars. He is bloodied and his robe is slightly tattered.

Akari: And that lack of control is why you are not the greatest earth user here.

We can see that there is a hole just behind Akari.

Akari: You are indeed more powerful than I am. But power isnít everything. Your control was lacking, and thatís why you couldnít kill me.
Mars: Yeah.
Akari: Do you wish to continue?
Mars: Iím not about to give up just yet.

Just then, Akari flinches.

Akari: You two got very close before I noticed you. I guess that speaks for the state that Iím in currently.

Erosion and Aerona have their weapons held up to Akariís neck.

Aerona: You spared me back at the Red Kingdom by allowing me to surrender. I will return that favor to you.
Akari: Youíre gracious. My team?
Erosion: Theyíre all breathing.
Akari: Good.

They go back to the rest of both teams.

Akari: You guys deliberately stopped us. Tell me, are you working with Hunter?
Mars: Hunter?

Marsí reaction to that name piques Akari.

Akari: You seem to know something about that name.
Mars: Whatís happening?
Aerona: Something is going on, obviously. Drake told me that someone else had killed you.
Akari: Hunter tried. He thought he killed us, but we managed to get through it.
Mars: So Hunter was a spy after all.
Akari: Mars, what do you know?
Mars: I met Hunter during our first fight with you. He helped me out, gave me information.
Akari: Heís not an Iron spy. Heís not on either side. Have any of you heard of the Etal?

The five shake their heads.

Akari: It doesnít matter. We NEED to get to the generals. This war was orchestrated by Hunter in order to wipe us both out!
Vito: Why should we believe you?
Mars: I believe him. After meeting Hunter personally, everything fits.
Aerona: Which one of you is Shahar?
Shahar: That would be me.
Aerona: Your name was mentioned twice by someone recently. The queen was attacked. I managed to defend her, but even Drake didnít know about this attack. He called Akari captain and he mentioned your story of running away from me.
Shahar: This person! What sort of magic did he use?!
Aerona: He was a water mage and used kama.
Liron: Thatís Hayim.
Drora: That son of a bitch is here!
Shahar: He betrayed our group for Hunter.
Aerona: Everything makes sense now. Solomon, let the healer work.

Taario heals everyone as best as he can, including the dragon slayers.

Aerona: I would help, but my stamina is too low currently.
Vito: If theyíre telling the truth, then we need to get to the generals now.
Akari: Yes. Thatís what Iíve been saying this whole time.
Solomon: Then letís go.
Liron: Looks like we have to move quickly.
Erosion: This magic energyÖitís coming from a captain.
Akari: Thatís Captain Helvastís magic!
Aerona: To the battlefield then!


Can they stop the fighting in time?!

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PostSubject: Re: A Tale of Iron   April 23rd 2016, 12:09 pm

Chapter 67


At Drogos, we can see the Red army lined up with Helvast and Jerome at its helm.

Helvast: Now that the generals are done fighting, we can attack as we want to.

Helvast spikes his magic energy and activates gravity on the soldiers and knights in Drogos.

Jerome: Now, break that gate down, Khilai!
Khilai: Yes, brother!

Khilai goes up to the gate and begins forming a giant ice hammer. It takes about half a minute to make.

Athala: Damn it! We canít move!
Drake: Where did those dragon slayers go?! We need them now more than ever!
Zvornoff: Weíll have to do this ourselves! Lieutenants, and former lieutenant, ho!
Drake: Way to rub it in!

The hammer smashes against the gate, denting it. She smashes it a few more times, denting it a bit more.

Khilai: Just a little bit more.
Voice: Stop this right now!

The captains and Khilai look behind them to see Akari. Following him is everyone else from both teams minus Aerona and Liron.

Helvast: Akari. Youíre alive.
Jerome: Heís with some of the Iron Kingdomís lieutenant commanders.

Akari approaches Helvast and the four lieutenant commanders go toward the wall.

Vito: Everyone, lower your weapons.
Akari: Do you hear that, Captain Helvast? Please stop this and hear me out.

Helvast drops the gravity effect. The Iron soldiers lower their weapons according to Vitoís command.

Athala: Are you sure about this, Vito?!
Vito: Yes, Iím sure! You have no idea whatís going on here!
Drake: That son of a bitch Akari is alive after all.
Helvast: There, are you happy? Do you want to explain yourself?
Akari: Weíve been tricked. Both of our kingdoms have been tricked. As we speak, the generals are being contacted.
Helvast: Are you certain about this, Akari? Sentus places a lot of faith in you. Youíll reflect poorly on him if this does not go well for us.
Akari: I understand. Please retreat for the time being.
Helvast: What do you think, Jerome?
Jerome: Thereís obviously something wrong here, Helvast. Hunter definitively said that Akari and his group died. And yet here they are. This smells of a set up to me.
Helvast: Iím afraid youíre right. We need more information. We will retreat for now.

The army retreats. The gate opens, letting the four dragon slayers in. Aggro is the first to greet them.

Aggro: Whatís happening?
Solomon: Just be patient for now. We need to sort things out once General Strago gets back.
Aggro: What the hell is that supposed to mean?! Are you conspiring with the Red Kingdom?!
Vito: Say one more word of insubordination and youíll regret it.
Aggro: ÖWhere is the commander?

We see Aerona and Liron running when Aerona stops and holds his head while breathing heavily. Liron is carrying a bag on her back

Liron: Whatís wrong?
Aerona: Sorry. I canít run anymore. My recent circumstances havenít beenÖfortunate.
Liron: I heard. Thatís why I attacked you first back there.
Aerona: So cold. But besides, it looks like weíre not far off.
Liron: I can tell.

The area in front of them has been completely ravaged, being in completely random altitudes every few yards or so from how destroyed the area is.

Aerona: There were mountains here beforeÖ
Liron: Seriously?

They come across a few chasms with no bottom in visible sight. Finally, they find the crater where the generals are casually chatting in their undergarments.

Aerona: Hey, general! You wanna give us some context to this scene here?
Strago: Aerona? What are you doing here?
Shiomi: Wait a minute, Strago. That woman.
Strago: Do you think theyíre an item?
Shiomi: No no. You there! Hassarís sister!
Liron: General Shiomi!
Shiomi: Come closer, child! I thought you were dead!

Aerona and Liron slide into the crater. Liron pulls out a blanket from the bag and Shiomi wraps herself in it.

Shiomi: Thatís convenient. Itís fucking cold out here.
Liron: Itís a good thing I brought mine.
Strago: Do you have one for me?
Liron: No.
Strago: So cold!
Aerona: Thatís what I said.
Strago: So, Shiomi. You said that she supposedly died. Does that mean she was part of that group?
Shiomi: Yes. Tell me, what is going on?

Liron tells a condensed version of the story.

Shiomi: Hunter, huh?
Aerona: Sir, the assassination attempt on the queen was also their doing.
Strago: I can see why that would be.
Shiomi: Hunter gave us a reason to attack you relentlessly. He wanted to ensure that the Iron Kingdom also kept fighting.
Strago: Precisely.
Shiomi: Strago, we need to have a truce meeting immediately. Bring only your most trusted people. I wonít ask you to bring the queen into this.
Strago: Agreed. Weíll meet at your camp, in a private tent.
Shiomi: Very well.

The generals stand up.

Shiomi: Whatís your name again?
Liron: Liron Goldhill.
Shiomi: Come then, Liron. Letís go.
Liron: Right.

The two of them leave. Strago and Aerona also get out of the crater.

Strago: Before we get back to DrogosÖcan you help me find my armor?
Aerona: Seriously?

Some time later, we see the lieutenants, lieutenant commanders and the general together.

Strago: And thatís the gist of whatís happening.
Aggro: General, please allow us to at least come along, even if we canít go inside the tent.
Strago: Thatís not necessary. Thereís a very good reason why I picked their camps. If they try anything funny, with me there, they risk their own people and supplies getting destroyed in the collateral damage of Shiomi and I fighting.
Athala: But, you havenít recovered your mana fully yet.
Strago: Thatís not a problem. Iím going to steal it from a few people.
Solomon: You can do that?
Strago: Yep. Part of my energy magic allows me to sap energy from people. Of course, it doesnít work against Shiomi, since she can absorb my energy at the same rateÖso it cancels out.
Mars: General Strago, why are you so overpowered?
Aggro: Very well, Iíll stay.
Zvornoff: Yes, you make a good point.
Strago: Aerona, bring Drake with us. He may be good for easing tension between us.
Aerona: I understand, but why me?
Strago: Heís always visiting you.
Vito: See?! I fucking told you!
Aerona: Got it.
Strago: We leave in an hour.

About an hour later, we see the dragon slayers, Drake and Strago leaving Drogos.

Aerona: Are you going to be okay?
Drake: I have no idea. Iíll be lucky if they donít immediately demand my head on sight.
Strago: If thatís the only demand for peace, we may consider it.
Drake: I understand.

They make it to the Red camps. Jerome is waiting for them at the edge of where the last tent is. Aerona sees him and immediately tenses up. Vito puts his hand on Aeronaís shoulder and he relaxes a bit.

Jerome: Right this way.

They can see Noque and Nymeria not too far from the tent. Noque points two fingers towards his eyes and then points them towards Solomon and Erosion. The six of them (and Jerome) go inside the tent.

Noque: Was I threatening, Nymeria?
Nymeria: Very threatening, brother. I bet theyíre shaking in their leg armor.

Inside the tent, Shiomi, Helvast, Jerome, Akari and Khilai are waiting for them. They are standing on the far end of the tent, opposite of the entrance. There is a table in the middle with two seats. Shiomi sits down at one end and invites Strago to sit at the opposite. He does so.

Jerome: Hmmhmmhmmhmm! Royal knight, it seems youíre recovering well. Iím impressed.
Aerona: Be quiet, you bastard.
Shiomi: Jerome, shut the fuck up.
Khilai: Drake. How convenient of you to be standing on that side now.
Drake: Iím sorry, Khilai.
Vito: He shouldnít be. That guy next to you was responsible.
Khilai: Do not talk ill of my brother, knave.
Drake: Vito, itís okay. Akari, I may not be a sheikh anymore, but it delights me to see you alive.
Akari: Thank you. I hope that we can talk after this is over.
Helvast: Mars, I believe. I hear you have the Wrath of Gaia. Thatís not a magic Iíve seen since I was just a young boy.
Mars: Indeed. But, I donít recall my father mentioning anyone else having it in his time.
Helvast: Before his time.

Mars looks with confusion as he sees Helvastís appearance.

Shiomi: Thatís enough banter.
Strago: Yes, letís get to business.
Shiomi: Akari, speak your mind. Now.
Akari: Hunter has no doubt done his best to pit us against each other. We canít worry about kingdoms right now. We have to work together to get rid of this threat. General Strago. General Shiomi. Do either of you know anything about the Etal?
Helvast: Akari. Did you just say Etal? Are you saying Hunter is one of them?
Shiomi: Helvast, tell us everything you know. Right now!
Helvast: Right. About 30 years ago, our government noticed something interesting. This was, of course, during the reign of King Daniel IV, not his son, King Daniel V, the current king.
Shiomi: Get on with it.
Helvast: Sorry. Anyway, what we noticed was an increasing amount of people. So we took a census. What we failed to notice previously was that there was a huge influx of immigration. It passed us by, since they looked just like us and spoke the same language. We managed to track down some of those immigrants. What we found was that they identified as Etal once. They wouldnít really tell us what exactly that meant, so we kept an eye on them for a year. After the kingdom determined that they were not hostile towards our country, we decided to drop the matter altogether.
Shiomi: There has to be more to it than that.
Helvast: That year that they appeared, our economy suddenly flourished, better than it ever had before. They contributed in every walk of life. They increased our farm production twice over, for one.
Mars: That is admittedly impressive.
Helvast: Yes, so you can understand why we, at the time, decided to just consider them as denizens of the Red Kingdom. That is the last time I heard of the name ďEtalĒ until you just uttered that word, Akari.
Strago: In other words, theyíre engrained in your society. Itís impossible to tell who is a traitor and who isnít.
Helvast: I canít imagine why they would want to turn hostile now after all this time.
Akari: Hunter told me that we donít deserve our land anymore. Something to that effect. He believed that our constant fighting has caused this.
Vito: Well, this Hunter isnít wrong there. Weíre always fighting each other.
Erosion: I agree.
Solomon: Thatís not the point. Heís just starting another war. How does that make him any better from us? It doesnít.
Helvast: Akari, how did you come to hear about the Etal?
Akari: I only heard Hunterís father say the name once. I overheard him speak to his wife, using that name. I didnít understand the conversation, and I still donít. But I knew that when he spoke that word, he spoke it with a certain confidence.
Helvast: You were very close with Hunter, werenít you?
Akari: Yes sir. By the way, where is Captain Sentus? I want to tell him that Iím alive.
Shiomi: We donít know currently.
Khilai: More importantly, where is Hunter?
Akari: Iím surprised we havenít seen him already. Our king told me directly that he had been sent here.

Shiomi goes quiet.

Strago: Shiomi. Heís not here, is he?
Shiomi: Ö
Voice: Excuse me!
Shiomi: What is it?!
Voice: There is a message for General Shiomi! It has the royal seal!
Shiomi: Drake, bring that to me at once!
Drake: Yes, maíam!

Drake takes the letter from outside and hands it to Shiomi.

Drake: Oops, I followed orders from the Red Kingdom again without thinking.
Strago: Itís fine. I was going to tell you to do the same anyway.

Shiomi opens the letter. After a few moments of silence, she takes a big sigh. *Music*

Shiomi: Just what the fuck is going on here?
Strago: Tell us what has happened. Now is not the time for secrets, Shiomi.
Shiomi: ÖAkari. Come here.
Akari: Yes!

He steps closer to Shiomi.

Shiomi: Is this letter what I think it is?
Akari: This isÖHunterís handwriting!
Shiomi: I knew it. This letter and the previous one donít even come close to looking like the letter you handed me an hour ago, Akari.

Over at the Red Kingdom, we see the palace. Habib is in his usual spot, sitting behind the guards to the entrance. A figure appears before the guards.

Guard: Halt!

Habib looks over to who it is and stands up immediately. It is none other than Hunter.

Hunter: Whatís the matter? Iím not allowed in?
Habib: What are you doing here? I thought you were supposed to be at the Iron Kingdom.
Hunter: General Shiomi ordered me to stay at the last minute so that I could protect the capital.
Habib: Lies. You especially are not allowed in the palace right now. Get out.

Hunter cocks his head.

Hunter: Curious. Now, Habib. Youíre going to let me in. Think about this for a second. Do you really think you can take me?
Habib: YouÖ
Hunter: Come on, champ.
Habib: ÖLet him through.
Guard: But, we have orders from the king!
Habib: I donít care. Do you want to die?

The guards step aside reluctantly.

Hunter: Thatís the smart Habib I know. I never thought you were lazy. Just efficient.

Hunter makes his way into the throne room, which takes the king by complete surprise.

Hunter: My liege, I came all this way to see you. Iím hurt that you would want to barricade me from entering.
Daniel: Hunter! What are you doing here?!
Hunter: Canít you at least tell me why Iím not allowed in?
Daniel: Youíre a traitor!
Hunter: Who, pray tell, is spreading awful rumors like that?
Daniel: Thatís not for you to know.
Hunter: Could it be? Okay, so maybe it is true. Maybe it isnít.
Daniel: Enough of this! Seize him!

The ten mages that guard the throne room turn on Hunter. Hunter activates dark magic and then disappears. He appears in front of King Daniel.

Hunter: Do you want to harm our dear king? I think not.
Daniel: What are you planning?
Hunter: Regimes fall. Generations die out. But do you know what does remain in a country? Its people. But, thatís only IF they can keep it. My people, they want that feeling ever so badly.
Daniel: Youíre speaking in riddles. Why? Who are you trying to convince with your cryptic nonsense?
Hunter: ÖMyself. Do you know why? Itís because I had to make a decision in these past ten seconds. That decisionÖwas whether or not to spare your life.
Daniel: ÖAnd? Will you?
Hunter: Well, itís like I said.

Hunter points at the kingís head and a water bullet pierces his skull, killing him almost instantly. Daniel slumps over and falls out of his throne. Hunter catches the crown as it tumbles off his head and places it on his own head.

Hunter: ÖRegimes fall. And so ends this one.

The ten mages train their sights on Hunter even harder and build up magic energy.

Hunter: What are you doing? I have won this throne by rite of conquest, have I not? You serve me now! Or, do you honestly think youíre capable of defeating me right now?

The mages contemplate for a few seconds and drop their energy. They bow to Hunter, who sits on the throne.

Hunter: Thatís much better.

Back to the Red campÖ

Shiomi: Our king is dead according to this letter. We are ordered now to follow the lead of ďHunter, the Red KingĒ.

Everyone in the room reacts with surprise.

Akari: He was right there all along. Son of a bitch!
Aerona: Wait a minute. That came from the Red Kingdom. That means this had to have been written some time ago.
Akari: We left less than a week ago. He must have been killed the same day I left.
Vito: But why has this letter shown up NOW? Isnít this too convenient?
Shiomi: Wait a minute. This letter has the same handwriting as the last letter. Sentus, he knew something was wrong when he read it. Now I understand. This letter must have come with our supply ship. It sailed during all hours of the night with sailors taking shifts. It must have arrived quicker than you, Akari.
Akari: When did this ship arrive?
Helvast: Two days ago. Then that means someone has been keeping that letter until now.
Strago: Thatís not good.
Shiomi: Drake, who gave you the letter just now? *Music Stops*
Drake: It was just a regular courier.
Strago: Find that courier now and see who it was that gave him that letter!
Drake: On it!

At that moment, an orb rolls into the tent, already glowing extremely brightly.

Akari: This orb! EVERYONE-

The orb explodes, sending the entire tent into flames with a very loud bang. Meanwhile, at the Red Kingdom, we see Hunter sitting on the throne. Hayim is currently in there.

Hunter: So, the attack on the queen failed. Thatís a shame.
Hayim: Iím so sorry, Master Hunter.
Hunter: Itís okay. You did the best you could. Thatís all that matters to me.

At that moment, the giant doors to the throne room fling open and crack the walls on impact. This startles everyone in the room. Walking into the room is Sentus.

Hunter: Captain Sentus!
Sentus: You piece of shit. I knew it was your handwriting. No one else writes that neat.
Hunter: So you ended up reading that letter, huh? Thatís a shame.
Sentus: Is my cousin dead?
Hunter: Yes. Do you hate me for it?

Hunter is sweating. He stands up and puts himself in a defensive position.

Hunter: How much do you know?
Sentus: I can surmise just about everything. Are you the one that killed Akari? Depending on your answer, I might kill you right now.
Hunter: No, I did not.
Sentus: I see. You do seem to be telling the truth.
Hunter: Why are you here?
Sentus: The way things are going, weíre going to lose to the Iron Kingdom and weíll have to form a truce again. I canít handle that. So, hereís the deal. You tell me everything, and Iím forming a temporary alliance with you. Understood?
Hunter: Ha! Hahahaha! Oh, Iím so relieved.

Hunter sits down and takes a big sigh of relief.

Hunter: Very well. Iíll tell you everything.

Meanwhile, at Drogos, we focus in on the lieutenants.

Athala: I feel very uneasy.
Aggro: You heard the general. There is very low risk of going into their territory.
Athala: I know. But I still canít help but worry.

A few moments later, an explosion goes off not too far from them. *Music*

Zvornoff: What was that?!

Three more explosions go off in succession in different places. Knights and soldiers are now running everywhere.

Athala: Letís go!

Athala takes a few steps forward and then stops. She quickly turns around and unsheathes her blade to block an incoming attack. Her assailant is Aggro.

Athala: You! What the hell are you doing, Agg?!
Zvornoff: Heís a traitor, that he is!
Aggro: Shut up.

Athala shoves Aggro back and readies her blade. She then notices out of the corner of her eye a blade going for her face. She narrowly dodges it with only a scratch.

Athala: Zvornoff! Aggro! What is wrong with you two?!
Zvornoff: Ho. Youíll never understand, dear Athala.

Six knights line up next to Athala.

Knight: Lieutenant Athala! What is going on?! We saw them attack you!
Athala: Seize Zvornoff this instant. Iíll handle Aggro.
Knight: Right away!
Zvornoff: Agg.

They exchange glances and Zvornoff takes off. The knights follow after him.

Athala: Tell me. Was Barg a traitor too?
Aggro: Indeed he was. But thatís not what you need to be worrying about.
Athala: Oh? You think you have what it takes to best me now?
Aggro: Iíll put your head on a spike for Drake to see if he even makes it back alive.
Athala: You sick bastard. It seems Iím the only lieutenant the Iron Kingdom has right now. But, I promise that I wonít let that number diminish any further. Die, traitor!


To be continuedÖ

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PostSubject: Re: A Tale of Iron   May 4th 2016, 5:51 pm

Chapter 68


As the fire burns in the Red camps, we see other similar explosions go off all across the camps. Suddenly, the first one begins to wane and a giant jagged crystal orb of ice bursts through the flames. It shatters moments later. Everyone that was in the tent is unharmed.

Khilai: We did it, Jerome.
Jerome: Yes. Though weíre completely unharmed. That perplexes me.
Aerona: It was our generals, Iíd imagine. They stole energy from the orbís explosion.
Strago: Guilty.
Vito: We have a bigger problem right now.

They look over to the rest of the camp to see that most of it has caught fire.

Akari: My team is in there!
Shiomi: Jerome, Khilai. Do what you can to stop these flames.
Strago: Iím going in to save as many people as I can.
Shiomi: Iím coming with you.
Solomon: I have an idea, Jerome. We might be able to do this more efficiently.

Inside the burning camps, we see Akariís group escaping. They then hear some fighting taking place on the opposite end of the encampment.

Shahar: What the hell is going on here?!
Liron: Hunter had some back up plans, it seems.

They go towards the noise to find Noque and Nymeria slaughtering Red mages and soldiers in droves. They run from the sheikh twins, but they give chase to the soldiers. Suddenly, a barrier appears to stop their advance. Simultaneously, Liron and Katzir appear behind them to attack. The twins dodge both incoming punches. The rest of the group forms up. Liron and Katzir are in the front, Shahar in the middle and Drora and Taario in back.

Nymeria: We didnít think you survived.
Noque: To think that Master Hunter couldnít follow through.

*Music* Back at Drogos, Athala lunges her greatsword at Aggro, who blocks it with his poleaxe. Athala takes a step back as Aggro swings his poleaxe downwards at her. The axe misses and then Athala lunges again, but this time for Aggroís front hand. Aggro slides his hand back closer to his back hand to dodge the attack. Aggro then jabs the tip of his weapon towards Athala. She bats it down with her sword and then slashes. The sword cuts his side, but only scrapes the armor. The damage seems almost unnatural how low it was based on how easily the sword passed through the armor.

Athala: Thatís right. I forgot you have that magic. I never thought Iíd have to deal with it in this manner.

Aggro goes on the offensive and swings his axe. Athala dodges the first strike, and he uses the momentum to swing around and attack again. This time, she parries the strike and then lunges towards his chest. At the same time, Aggro regains his weaponís momentum and attacks again. The thrust pierces Aggroís armor, but barely pierces the skin. The axe bites into Athalaís shoulder armor and leaves a gash in her shoulder. They both retreat and take a few steps back.

Athala: Damn it. Damage reduction magic is troublesome for someone like me.
Aggro: And Drake said youíre the best lieutenant.
Athala: Are you that upset by what he said? Besides, donít act like youíve won just because you scored a hit on me.

Aggro charges in, but Athala raises one hand and a small flash comes out, blinding him temporarily. Athala spins once to gain momentum and then backhand swings at his side. This time, the sword breaks through and leaves a strong cut at his left hip. He swings wildly to make her back up. He opens one eye and then makes a more precise horizontal strike. Athala takes a step towards him and then blocks by letting the shaft of the pole hit her blade. She then slides the blade to cut his hand, though it barely pierces through the gauntlet. Aggro uses his other hand to let go of the weapon and grasp Athalaís greatsword by the blade. Athala kicks high in the air as a response and kicks him straight in the jaw, making him stumble back. It does less damage than it should have, but frees her weapon from his grasp.

Athala: Donít underestimate a womanís natural flexibility.

Athala goes on the offensive with an upward slash. Aggro blocks low and then she uses the momentum to thrust just above Aggroís left knee, gashing it a bit. They both back up again.

Athala: I might not be able to hurt you as much, but I can just keep injuring you little by little.
Aggro: Damn. My weapon is less suited to close quarters, but at the same time, itís also less nimble because of the great amount of strength she has. I see youíve also made some progress learning your magic.
Athala: Just a little more and then I should be able to win.
Aggro: Youíre going to regret challenging me alone.

Aggro spins his weapon and then slowly steps towards her. She keeps her blade pointed outward. Suddenly, he makes a retreating broad slash. Athala blocks it and then does not attack.

Athala: Heís going to try and use his reach advantage now that his other strategy failed.

Athala takes a step forward and Aggro immediately attacks again. She blocks and then takes another step up. Aggro mimics her steps, keeping equal distance. He also keeps on the attack with each step or two. Suddenly, Athala doesnít take a step forward and instead reaches to her side and throws her dagger straight at his face. He bats it down, but Athala then rushes straight for him. Aggro reaches to his side and also pulls out a dagger. She slashes the hand holding the poleaxe, but gets stabbed just below the collarbone. The wound isnít too deep thanks to her armor. She drops her greatsword all of the sudden and grabs the hand holding the dagger. Simultaneously, she steps on the blade of her dagger, which makes it fly up. She catches it with her left hand and stabs it into his dagger hand. Aggro then pushes her off him, but some blood spurts out of both hands in doing so.

Athala: Perfect.

Athala sheathes her dagger and then puts both hands up. Aggro guards his face with one forearm, but she instead maneuvers behind him and puts him into a sleeper hold.

Athala: Your damage reduction magic doesnít give you more air, does it?

Aggro puts both hands up to try and break free of her grasp, but as he applies a large amount of pressure, blood spurts from his hands.

Aggro: My grip! Thatís why she went for my hands so often?!
Athala: I wasnít 100% sure that I could take you in a physical bout like this, so I had some insurance.

Aggro suddenly jerks back, trying to break free. They end up on the ground and Athala wraps her legs around his torso while maintaining her grip. After some time, Aggro passes out and Athala lets go. *Music Stops* She takes a deep breath. A minute later, two knights come by.

Knight: Lieutenant Athala, Lieutenant Zvornoff escaped Drogos. His speed magic was too much for us to simply catch him.
Athala: Thatís all right. I managed to subdue Aggro. Bind his hands and take him to a prison cell. Weíll interrogate him later.
Knight: Yes, maíam.
Athala: And do it quickly. Heíll wake up in the next few minutes and he wonít be happy.

Outside the Red camps, we see Liron covered in lightning, rapidly punching at Nymeria, who is avoiding all of the punches convincingly. Just then, Katzir, clad in dark magic, appears behind Nymeria. Noque goes to attack Katzir, but a barrier appears in his way. An arrow also follows, making him dodge away from Nymeria. Liron and Katzir attack in tandem, but Nymeria disappears and both of their punches miss. Nymeria and Noque back up.

Nymeria: Theyíre really good for non-sheikh opponents.
Noque: Whatís more is that they work well together.
Nymeria: The armored guyís strategyÖitís troublesome.
Noque: We can finish this, sister.
Nymeria: Wait, brother. Whatís that?

On the opposite end of camp, we see Jerome and Khilai on opposite sides of Solomon, with Vito standing behind him. Vito puts both hands on Solomonís back.

Vito: Do it now.

Khilai and Jerome release their ice in the form of very fine crystals in a large volume. Solomon combines it with a large gust of wind that makes a small localized ice storm. This is aimed at an area with flames, which slowly dies down until it freezes over. They then aim it elsewhere and continue this process. As they do that, we can see Shiomi and Strago zip in and out of the area, carrying multiple Red soldiers and mages each time they come back. Eventually, the entire camp has been cooled to the point where there is just smoke rising from all the destroyed tents. Noque and Nymeria see this.

Noque: Thatís not good.
Nymeria: Time to retreat then.

They both run away at an impressive speed. Just a moment later, Akari and Erosion show up.

Erosion: Was thatÖ?
Akari: The sheikh twins?
Shahar: Judging from their interactions, I would say that it was them.
Akari: I donít believe it. Even they were working for Hunter.
Erosion: I think we found our culprit, Akari.
Akari: Yeah. Well, itís good that you all made it out okay.
Liron: Those explosionsÖthey were from same kind of orb that we nearly died from.
Akari: I noticed. One of them blew up in our tent.
Erosion: Letís get back to the others.

When they get back, there are only roughly 200 Red units left. As we get a better look at the destroyed encampment, there are bodies strewn everywhere. Not just charred, but some have been killed by weapons.

Shiomi: We lost about half our forces in this attack. Damn you, Hunter.
Helvast: Our peopleÖheís going to pay.
Strago: Letís make way to Drogos for now. Weíll provide as much shelter and food as needed.
Shiomi: Are you sure about this?
Strago: Weíre all in this together now.
Jerome: We still havenít discussed terms of peace.
Aerona: Weíre offering you resources that you donít have, you dumb piece of shit.
Vito: Yeah! Now youíre talking, Aerona!
Strago: Both of you be quiet.
Shiomi: Jerome, itís okay. Thereís a lot more at stake here than our pride as kingdoms.
Jerome: Very well.

They make their way back to Drogos to see smoke also rising from it.

Vito: No!
Drake: Here too?

They get to the gate and it opens for them. The Red soldiers and mages stand by just inside the gate while remaining Iron units seem withdrawn from them. Some look with contempt and vice versa.

Strago: Athala, what happened here?
Athala: Weíve been betrayed. Zvornoff and AggroÖboth of them tried to kill me.
Strago: Even themÖmy god. Everything has changed.
Athala: Did you get attacked too?
Solomon: Half of the Red army got wiped out from the traitors that attacked them.
Vito: Where are Aggro and Zvornoff now?
Athala: Zvor escaped, but I managed to defeat Aggro. Heís currently in your jail, Vito.
Aerona: Iím going. Akari, with me.
Akari: Yeah.

At a line of jail cells, we see Aggro being chained against the wall, stripped of his armor. Vito opens the door and Aerona and Akari go in. Vito and the generals hang back from behind the cell and listen.

Aggro: Commander. How nice of you to visit me.
Aerona: Agg, how could you? Barg fought and died for our kingdom and here you are shitting on that!
Aggro: My brother slipped up and fought someone too powerful for him. I wish he hadnít, but the facts are the facts. You should be happy it happened, because thatís one less traitor you have to worry about.
Aerona: Donít say that. You fought for the Iron Kingdom. You are valuable to us. Donít just abandon that.
Aggro: I appreciate your kind words, commander. But Iíve only ever truly followed one person, one king.
Akari: So you are an Etal after all.
Aggro: Are you Akari?
Akari: Yes, I am.
Aggro: You were supposed to be dead. If you had just died like a good boy, your people wouldnít be suffering.
Akari: Thatís bullshit. You intended to wipe us out regardless.
Aggro: As I said, you wouldnít be suffering. We would have eased it much quicker
Aerona: Tell us. What is Etal?
Aggro: What does it matter anyway?

Aerona punches Aggro in the face.

Aerona: Youíve seen me interrogate before. You know that I can keep healing you over and over. Donít push me today. Iím in a really bad mood right now.
Akari: He makes a good point. I have a healer on standby as well. So once he runs out of mana, I can get mine to start.
Aggro: To see you this flusteredÖitís a joy. You usually donít show any emotion. ButÖyouíre right. I will tell you what you want to know.

Outside, we see Drake approach Athala.

Drake: Iím proud of you for kicking the shit out of Agg.
Athala: I just did my duty.
Drake: And you did it well. The fact that you captured him alive was even more important. We need as much information as possible.
Athala: Thatís good to hear.

Drake embraces Athala. She is reluctant, but reciprocates.

Drora: AwwwÖisnít that cute?

Athala pushes him off immediately.

Drake: Hetzelberg woman, you were here this whole time?

The whole group is behind them.

Drake: Ah. Looks like most of you made it back as well. Iím very relieved.
Liron: Sheikh Drake, have you gone back to the Iron Kingdom?
Drake: Yeah. Turns out I was being manipulated by Captain Jerome. For now, theyíve accepted me back.
Katzir: Iím happy for you.
Drake: Thanks, Katzir. With Ka gone, it seems natural as well.
Shahar: Sheikh KaíRud was killed?
Drake: Yes. Sheikh Ahli also fell in this war. And with Noque and Nymeria turning heel, the only sheikh left are Akari, Khilai and Habib.
Liron: For the time being, you may also act as a sheikh again while weíre allied.
Drake: That depends on the terms of peace. We still havenít hammered things out.

At the Red Kingdom, in the throne room, we see Hunter and Hayim alone.

Hayim: Master, were you ready for Sentus to show up at this time?
Hunter: Iím ready for a lot of things, Hayim. That was not one of them. If †he had attacked us on the spot, I donít think we would have survived.
Hayim: Surely you have a strategy against Sentus and the generals though.
Hunter: Of course. Itís just not ready. I didnít think I had to use it this quickly. Luckily, Sentusí focus is on one thing, and itís not us for now.
Hayim: Just what the heck is going on over at the Iron Kingdom?
Hunter: At this point, I donít even know. And thatís a scary thought.

Back inside the jail cellÖ

Aggro: EtalÖthat is the name of our people. But, it is also the name of our home.
Akari: Your home?
Aggro: Jovah is the continent that houses both the Iron and Red Kingdoms. Etal is a continent north of Jovah.
Aerona: So, the people of Etal migrated from the North to Jovah in both kingdoms.
Aggro: Migrated is the wrong word. Or at least, it doesnít imply the right context. I was young when we moved, but I still remember my homeland. It was a lot like here. Maybe thatís why I felt so at home here. But then, we learned of your history. You guys have been fighting each other off and on for 70 years by that point, with no real end in sight.
Vito: Aggro, why did your people move? What did you mean by not the right context?

At that moment, the ground vibrates once. Twice. Three times. The vibrating seems to be rhythmic. Aggro seems genuinely confused by this.

Akari: What did you do?
Aggro: Nothing, I swear.
Shiomi: This rhythmÖ
Strago: Itís footstepsÖa lot of them.
Aerona: Hold that thought, Aggro.

They all go outside and go to the top of the wall to see whatís happening. Helvast and Jerome are already there. There is what appears to be moving black from afar.

Shiomi: Helvast, you have better eyes than all of us. What is that?

Helvast is visibly anxious. His palms are sweating and itís also dripping from his brow.

Shiomi: Helvast!
Helvast: There are thousands of them at least.
Shiomi: Are they Etal?!
Helvast: No. TheyíreÖorcs. *Music*

Everyone is shocked by Helvastís words.

Strago: Orcs?
Helvast: Orcs, goblins Öall sorts of creatures of darkness.
Vito: What youíre suggesting is that there are THOUSANDS of creatures that are cooperating and all heading towards us?!

As they speak, the sound becomes louder and louder and the vibrations become more intense.

Helvast: Thatís not the worst news, Iím afraid.
Shiomi: Iím aware of the worst news.

They can all feel it.

Aerona: We dealt with this a lot in the Red Kingdom. Of course weíd have to deal with it againÖ
Vito: Anti-Magic fieldsÖI fucking hate them.
Aerona: Iíll be back.

Aerona goes back to the cell, where Aggro seems to be even more nerve wracked.

Aggro: What is going on out there, commander?
Aerona: Creatures of darkness. Thousands of them. Are you telling me that this is NOT the Etalís doing?!
Aggro: Vito asked about why we came here. What you see before youÖthat is why.
Aerona: Are you saying you were forced out by them?
Aggro: Yes. Creatures of darkness individually may not be all that threatening. But when they rally together in huge numbers, they can be unstoppable. Especially when that thing is the driving force.
Aerona: That thing? What are you talking about?

At that moment, both the generals step into the room, standing behind Aerona.

Aggro: Iím talking aboutÖthe dark lord.


Just as one threat emerges, yet another rears its head?!

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PostSubject: Re: A Tale of Iron   May 11th 2016, 11:06 am

Chapter 69


Aerona is shocked by Aggroís words. The generals also seem to be surprised by these words.

Shiomi: Lies.
Strago: Agg, are you telling me that there is some kind of master of darkness that is controlling them?
Aggro: I saw it with my own eyes. Do you think we would risk going up against you two if we didnít have a choice?
Aerona: Weíll talk about this later.

As the three of them leave the room, Aggro curls up into a ball to the best of his ability while his arms are chained. They make it back to the top of the wall.

Strago: Whatís the status?
Vito: Take a look for yourself.

As they look out, the army is much closer and still marching. A closer look at them and we can see more than just orcs. There are goblins littered in the mix as well. In the back, there are trolls and a Cyclops. †As they get even closer, they begin chanting in another language. The echo from thousands of voices in unison hit each of them on the wall in the core of their stomachs. Many of the men become frightened.

Khilai: What can we do against such a force without our magic?
Jerome: Stay strong, Khilai.
Khilai: Fuck that. Brother, you might be foolhardy enough to stay, but Iím leaving. Come with me so that you donít die as well.
Jerome: Listen to me for once. No, itís not me you should listen to.

Jerome looks over to Shiomi.

Shiomi: Strago, letís do this.
Strago: Yes. Would you like to open?
Shiomi: Very well. Everyone! Harken to us!

All the chatter goes completely silent.

Shiomi: My mentor once told me that courage cannot exist without fear!

Shiomi nods to Helvast, who nods back.

Shiomi: This fear you all have, itís understandable! Weíre faced with difficult odds! But this is where your courage must push that aside! These creatures of darkness have no idea who we are! Weíve bled and died at each otherís hands for a hundred years! Who are these cunts to come in now and try to wipe us out?! My Red mages. You know how tough these Iron bastards are!
Strago: And my Iron army. You all know how resilient these Red fuckers can be.

There is a slight chuckle from the crowd of soldiers.

Shiomi: So now is the time that we stick by each other! Thereís no more reliable ally than an enemy that you canít kill!
Strago: Today we put aside kingdom! Today we fight as Jovah! So, letís show these creatures of darkness what it means to fight the people of this continent!

A few cheers come through and then a few more. The general morale seems to have been raised.

Shiomi: Iím leaving you in command. This is your city after all.
Strago: Very well. Archers up here on the wall! Heavy units by the gate! You will be led by Mars and Solomon! You two, you relay information directly to me. Everyone else, you will be divided evenly into three divisions. You will be under General Shiomi, Captain Helvast or Captain Jerome. You three will relay information directly to me as needed. Archers, you will be directly under my command. Aerona, youíre my second in command up here. Vito, youíre going to be Shiomiís second. Erosion and Sheikh Khilai, youíll be with Jerome. Sheikh Akari is with Helvast. Drake, youíre up here. Athala, youíll be with the heavy units.

Strago then stops when he realizes that it has gone quiet behind him. The army has stopped just 100 feet from the wall. One orc comes forward.

Orc: Waa kuwee mid ka mid ah aad fuckers hadla orcish?!
Strago: What did he say?
Helvast: He asked if any of us speaks orcish. I happen to know enough of it to speak somewhat intelligently.
Shiomi: Just how many languages do you know anyway?
Helvast: Five. Elvish, orcish, dwarvish, dragon and our common tongue.

Helvast steps up to the edge of the wall.

Helvast: Waa maxay waxa aad doonayso? (What is it that you want?)
Orc: la gowraco doonaa Rabbiga madow Waxaad, oo miridhkeeda dartaa. (You will be sacrificed to the dark lord, elf scum)

At those words, Helvast takes a hard step back. He starts breathing heavily. Shiomi puts her hand on his shoulder.

Shiomi: What is it?
Helvast: Dark lord? That canít be possible. After all this time, I still failed.
Shiomi: Itís okay. Donít forget whom you serve.

Helvast takes a deep breath.

Helvast: Youíre right.
Vito: Tell him to go fuck himself in orcish.
Helvast: Tag naftaada fuck!

The orc spits on the ground in front of him and then rejoins its army. Vito gives a nod of approval.

Strago: Now is the time to move! Get into your positions!

Everyone scatters about until form starts to show in the collective army. In the streets below, the army has been divided into three parts except for the archers and heavy units. Most of the heavy armored units are Iron knights, but there are some Red soldiers there. Shahar is with them.

Solomon: You ready for this?
Shahar: As Iíll ever be.
Mars: Heh, Athala. Youíre considered heavy.
Athala: Shut up.

With Shiomiís faction, Katzir and Taario are present. They have both been armed with longswords.

Shiomi: Seijuroís cousin. Have you gained control of your dark magic?
Katzir: Yes, maíam. Itís just unfortunate that I canít use it in this fight.
Vito: I knew I should have gotten a cup of coffee before all this.

At Jeromeís factionÖ

Jerome: Do you understand now, Khilai?
Khilai: Yes. As long as we have the generals on our side, we canít lose.
Erosion: While weíre at it, we might as well show that weíre also formidable.

With Helvastís faction, Liron is there.

Helvast: Itís good to see you again, Liron.
Liron: And you as well, Captain Helvast. Thereís a lot we have to talk about.
Akari: But first, we must get through this fight.
Liron: Yeah.
Helvast: If things get too hard for you, stick close to me.
Liron: That wonít be necessary. Iíll show you my growth.

Above, Drora and Drake are on opposite sides of Aerona. Drake has a spear on his back next to a quiver.

Drake: Hetzelberg girl, are you up for this?
Drora: I bet Iím better at this than you are, Sheikh Drake.
Drake: Is that a challenge?
Aerona: Focus.
Strago: They arenít attacking. Are they waiting for us to make the first move?
Aerona: If theyíre offeringÖ
Strago: Yes, then weíll attack first. Archers, ready!

The archers load arrows and pull back on the bowstrings. Strago takes a heavy sigh as a silence fills the air for a brief moment. He looks down at Shiomi. She nods at him. He looks out at the creatures of darkness.

Strago: Fire!

All the archers release their arrows towards the creatures of darkness. Some of the arrows bounce off the orc armor, but most of them strike true and kill a lot of enemies. With that, the army lurches forward and charges the wall. The archers go into a fire-at-will frenzy, shooting at whatever they can. Just then, Strago notices something moving from the distance in the air. As it becomes clearer, there are about 50 harpies coming straight for them.

Strago: Harpies! This is what they were waiting for.

One of the harpies swoops by and clutches a Red archer by the shoulders, burying its talons into his skin. It drops him off the edge, making him splat next to Helvastís faction. One harpy swoops down towards Shiomiís faction. Vito quickly unsheathes his blade and cleaves it in half, re-sheathing it right away.

Shiomi: Good sword work.

Back at the top, the harpies swirl around, though many of them are getting taken out. One swoops straight at Aerona, who ducks under the talon attack. Simultaneously, Drake and Drora manually impale it with an arrow, killing it.

Aerona: Good looking out.
Strago: Trolls!

A few trolls and the Cyclops come up to the gate. One trolls pounds the gate with a giant club, severely denting it.

Aerona: All archers to the left of me focus on the giants! All to the right of me keep firing at the harpies!
Drora: Let me help you!
Aerona: Thatís fine!

Drora shoots an arrow at the Cyclops, which hits it directly in the eye. It thrashes around once in pain, hitting one of the trolls. The troll retaliates by shoving it, making it topple over. A few goblins are squished during this process.

Drake: Nice shot!
Drora: Thank you!

One harpy flies down to its army and scoops up an orc. It brings the orc up to the top of the wall and drops it off in front of Strago. It draws a greatsword and grips it with both hands. Strago draws his weapon, which is significantly larger. The orc makes a mad dash for Strago, but then suddenly Strago zips by him. The next thing the orc knows, it seems much shorter before it dies. The picture zooms out to see that it was bisected cleanly. On the other side of the gate, we can see it dent gradually in many different places. All the heavy units have readied their weapons and shields. On the other side, there are many arrows that are pelting the four giant creatures attacking. Most of them are hitting, but are only sinking an inch into the thick hide that they have. The Cyclops, at this point, has regained its eyesight.

Mars: SteadyÖ

There is a silence for a few moments, and then the gate comes crashing down in front of them. One troll bursts through and swings its club straight at the heavy units. A few soldiers get batted away and fly through the air. Shahar gets in close and bashes the right ankle (his left) with his mace. This makes the leg wobble a bit, but he holds up strong. Mars follows up on the other ankle with his hammer. This blow is a lot more damaging to the troll and it staggers a bit.

Solomon: One more, guys!

Just then, Athala rushes forward and cuts the ankle at the same time as Shaharís second strike on the same leg. Mars makes another strike as well and it falls to its knees. Solomon runs up and Mars drops his hammer in order to vault him up into the air. Solomon gets propelled straight at the trollís head and he slashed his scimitar downwards from the forehead, through the nose. Solomon lands and backs up, trying to regain his balance on the ground. The troll falls forwards onto its face and the four of them give one last strike in tandem to finish it off. At that moment, two more trolls and the Cyclops comes through, as well as a wave of orcs and goblins.

Athala: Damn it.
Solomon: Fall back!

They back up a bit before a few orcs make it to them. Solomon blocks one sword attack from an orc with his shield and slashes its neck. Mars crushes one goblin with a downward smash with his hammer. Shahar bashes one of the orcís breastplate in and then smacks it on the side of the face, killing it. Athala is seen cutting off a head from a goblin. As they continue backing up, suddenly, Shiomiís faction rushes in to aid them. Shiomi and Vito start to rapidly cut through some of the orcs when a troll comes up to them.

Shiomi: All of you focus on the orcs! Iíll take this one!

Shiomi spins her falchion once and readies herself. The troll smashes down with its club, but she appears on top of the club. She stares the troll in the face with a stoic look. The troll snarls at her and attempts to shake her off the club. Before it can gain any momentum, she jumps off the club and onto its shoulder. She slashes at its neck, which leaves a gash. The troll grabs with its free hand, but she jumps again, landing on the head. She slashes the top of its head, which makes it stumble back, stomping a few orcs on the way. Shiomi then jumps high into the air and spins. As she falls in a spinning motion, she makes one last slash, which goes straight down the middle of its face. It falls backwards, dead, as Shiomi lands on the ground.

Shiomi: That should slow their advance a little!

Even with the two trolls as obstacles for the creatures, they are now still pouring through the gate at an enormous rate. The army backs up again as Jerome and Helvastís factions join them on all sides. As the creatures begin coming through in a linear fashion, the human army is more formed like a semi-circle. As the creatures clash with the humans, Helvast and Jeromeís army are able to flank them from both sides and start taking them out. They are starting to push back the orc army. Just then, about a hundred more orcs come pouring through and start to overtake the Jovah army. Above, Strago sees this going on. The archers are still focused on a few remaining harpies and attacking as many orcs and the few trolls and Cyclops that are behind the gate that are temporarily barred from getting in due to the dead trolls blocking the way.

Strago: Archers! Aid our infantry!
Aerona: Drake! Take care of that!
Drake: On it!

Drake and about half of the archers switch their attention on the opposite side of the wall and begin firing on the orcs that are in melee with the infantry below. The other half is now firing at full force at one troll in particular. Drora and Aerona fire in tandem with two arrows that kill one troll that already has close to 70 arrows embedded into its hide. It falls around the gate area, continuing to plug up the entrance to Drogos. Aerona then takes a step back and switches to his halberd.

Aerona: Keep firing! Iím going to focus on the remaining harpies!

The five remaining harpies simply retreat.

Aerona: Or not!
Strago: Keep it up, everyone!

Just then, two Iron soldiers have arrived at the top of the steps, carrying a giant pot. A third one is carrying a tinderbox and some char cloth.

Soldier: General!
Strago: Very good!
Aerona: Archer girl! Wrap that cloth around one of your arrows!
Drora: Got it!

Drora does so and the four of them go to the part of the wall just above the gate. The men with the giant pot pour its contents over the side, which is shown to be oil. It heavily douses the one troll that just died below. The man with the tinderbox grabs a fire striker and a piece of rock and creates some sparks that catch the cloth around the arrow. Eventually it is lit on fire. One soldier comes by with a torch and Drora lights it with her arrow before releasing it onto the troll. The troll burns and the heat from the oil rises quickly, making Drora step back. All the orcs who were about to come through the gate stop and immediately back away from the fire that now covers the gate.

Strago: Perfect.

Below, many of the humans are being killed, but with the help of the archers above, they start to overtake the creatures of darkness. We see Shiomi, Helvast and Jerome in front wreaking havoc. Vito and Erosion follow behind, killing many of them. Mars and Solomon follow suit just behind them and then the rest of the army convenes on the orcs. They quickly cut through all of them. There is a moment of respite below as everyone catches his or her breath.

Athala: Thatís all of them for now.

Above, the arrow firing has stopped as well.

Strago: What will they do now?
Drake: Iím not sure.

A few moments pass and then a sound comes from above. The archers all look up to see something looming very high in the air.

Aerona: Is it a griffin?!
Helvast: Watch out, everyone!

They look down towards Helvast.

Shiomi: What is it, Helvast?
Helvast: Not good, thatís what it is. A cockatrice!

A giant bird-like creature swoops down towards the infantry and lands hard on the ground, shattering part of the stonework.

Helvast: Donít look directly at it!

Some soldiers do look at it, but nothing seems to be happening.

Mars: The anti-magic field is working against it!

The cockatrice flaps its wings and creates a gust of wind, which blows back many soldiers. Some soldiers attempt to get close to it, but it whips its long snake-like tail, which knocks them away 15 feet.

Mage: We canít even get close to it!

At that moment, four people step up ahead of the rest of them as most of them back up.

Vito: Leave this to us. *Music*

A fifth lands next to them.

Soldier: Itís the dragon slayers!
Katzir: Captain, I think I now know why you talked about them so much.
Akari: Yeah. Theyíre always at the forefront of danger with no regard for their own lives. And more than anything right nowÖ
Shiomi: They want to give us a morale boost.
Akari: Exactly.
Vito: Nice of you to join us down here.
Aerona: I couldnít miss out on killing this oversized chicken.
Mars: Mmm chicken.
Erosion: Do you think weíll be able to eat this thing?
Solomon: I doubt it, Erosion. Itís a creature of darkness after all.
Aerona: Get ready to jump.

The tail whip comes back around and the five of them jump simultaneously to avoid it.

Vito: Mars, lead the way!
Aerona: Make a line!

Mars stays ahead of them and they run in a linear formation towards the cockatrice, which flaps its wings at them. They all crouch and put their hands on the back of whoever is in front of them, supporting them. The five of them only get pushed back an inch as a result.

Akari: They used diffusion to withstand that attack. Smart

They dart out of formation and attack the beast from different sides. The cockatrice raises its right leg and attacks with its talons. Attempting to grab Erosion, he quickly sidesteps and slashes its foot. The damage is minimal, however. Aerona follows up on that same foot and hacks with his halberd. This does a little more damage and makes the creature reel back in pain. At the same time, on the other side, Vito is slashing rapidly at the other foot and Solomon also gets a slash in. Mars attacks with his hammer to bash it. The cockatrice takes a few steps back and then flies up a few feet in the air. It swoops at them, but they duck under it. It comes back the other way, but they duck under it again. It lands again.

Mars: Letís get rid of that tail.

They charge and the beast swipes its tail again. This time, they jump over it again, but then brace themselves against the tail when it retracts to stop it. Vito stops bracing and then starts cutting at the tail, making some headway into it. Eventually, the strength of the tail pushes them away.

Vito: Iíll focus on that tail. You guys get those wings.
Aerona: Solomon, Mars, you provide as much support for us as possible. Erosion and I will get up there and damage the wings.

They charge at it again. It attacks with its talons, but Solomon blocks it with his spiked shield and Mars bats the other with his hammer, stopping its momentum. At that moment, Erosion and Aerona jump onto opposite feet and jump into the air. Erosion makes two slashes with his wakizashi and Aerona gets one hack off, and their attacks strike true in the middle of the wings, before they flap and send them flying straight down to the ground. They tumble backwards and get up to their feet quickly. A moment later, the creature lets out a screech as the tail gets severed from behind. Vito rejoins the group. The cockatrice shows visible fright in its eyes and tries to fly up. It manages to do so, but starts bleeding from the wings and then falls straight down. The five smirk. At this moment, the soldiers and mages in the area start cheering. *Music Stops*

Solomon: Itís not over yet.
Strago: Good work.

Strago walks up to the cockatrice with his weapon drawn. He takes one long strike at its face, which kills it.

Solomon: You had to steal our kill.
Strago: Itís clear now what we must do. Weíve done well so far, but weíve only put a small dent in this army. We need to take down the anti-magic user.


To be continuedÖ

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PostSubject: Re: A Tale of Iron   May 16th 2016, 5:24 pm

Chapter 70


Strago: We need to take down the anti-magic user.
Aerona: That sounds familiar, doesnít it, guys?
Mars: Way too familiar.
Shiomi: Yes. This flame wonít last. We will need to get out there. No doubt the anti-magic creature will be in the back somewhere.

Strago and Aerona go back to the top of the wall, where the archers have been resting their arms.

Strago: If weíre to go out thereÖwe need to take out as many of them as possible from up here. Archers! To your positions! Fire at will!

The archers quickly grab their bows and start firing at the orcs and goblins. There are some orcs that are rushing forward through the ranks and make it to the front. They have crossbows and start shooting them. Most of them hit the wall because of the angle of shooting, but a few of them make it over and hit some archers. One of them manages to hit Aerona on the shoulder, but only embeds about an inch deep.

Drora: Are you okay?!
Aerona: Fine. Thereís no time for medical attention unfortunately.
Drake: Hang in there, knight!

Around this time, the flame is starting to die down. One ambitious goblin runs through a small opening on the side where it sees the entire infantry waiting. It shrieks and runs away back through that opening. Aerona steps back and stops firing his bow.

Strago: What are you doing?
Aerona: Iím going with them. My light magic is the most effective against them. If we can that anti-magic user down, I can get everyone back safe.
Strago: Very well.

As Aerona goes down to ground level, the other four dragon slayers join him.

Vito: Youíre hurt.
Aerona: Iíll be fine. We need to gather up whoever will go with us.

Immediately, one soldier approaches them. He is wearing the Helios cavalier armor, with dirty blond hair swept back. He is carrying a kite shield and an estoc.

Soldier: Sir, let me aid you!
Vito: Who the fuck are you?
Soldier: I am the second in command to Lieutenant Zvornoff at Helios. Keros, sir. (Pronounced Kair-Ohs)
Aerona: Keros. Weíll welcome you. You know what youíre getting into, right?
Keros: Of course!

Akari approaches them as well. Liron and Shahar are with him. Shahar has been armed with a shield.

Akari: Count us in.

Lastly, Jerome and Helvast also go to them.

Akari: Captain Helvast. Captain Jerome. Are you certain about this?
Jerome: Youíre going to need us out there. Thatís all there is to it.
Helvast: Iím the best shot we have of identifying who the anti-magic user is out there.
Solomon: I thought creatures of darkness couldnít use magic.
Akari: I found out not long ago that there are a select few that can. The Mohadmaht was one.
Jerome: You fought that thing?
Akari: I did and it could use ice magic like you and Khilai. Though it wasnít as skilled.
Shahar: Anyway, we need to wait for the right moment to charge through.
Stragoís Voice: If youíre looking for the opportune moment, weíll create that.

We see Strago, Shiomi, Khilai, Athala, Katzir and Drake.

Shiomi: Weíll clear a path for you. But once you get beyond that gate, youíll be on your own.
Strago: The archers will draw their fire as much as possible. We will also taunt them into attacking the rest of our infantry. Thatís as much as we can do for you.
Aerona: Thatís more than enough.
Helvast: Are you all familiar with a spinning top strategy?
Erosion: You mean with the fastest of us moving in a circular motion around the main group?
Helvast: Yes. From my experience, that would be myself, Jerome and Vito. Now, our four pillars of defense. Mars and Solomon, you are two of them.
Keros: I have a shield and so does this Red soldier *nods to Shahar*.
Shahar: Yes.
Helvast: Solomon, Iíd like you to take the head position. Mars, the right, Iron guy on the left and Red guy in the back.
Aerona: Iíll position myself between Mars and Solomon. Akari, you should work with Shahar to guide him since he will be fighting backwards.
Akari: Yes, I agree. Iíll be between Mars and Shahar then. Liron, Iíd like you to be on the other side of me, between Shahar andÖ
Keros: Keros.
Liron: Yeah.
Erosion: Then that puts me between Solomon and Keros.
Helvast: Good. I know we have been enemies up until now, but I believe that we can succeed here as a team.
Jerome: Khilai. Be careful.
Khilai: Dumbass. Thatís what I should be saying to you.

The generals and their small group line up at the head of the rest of the infantry. The fire is still slowly dying out as the troll has now been reduced to mostly ashes at this point. Suddenly, the Cyclops bursts through the flames and charges right at them. The generals are the first to move and attack the legs in tandem, bringing it to its knees right away. Drake throws his spear into its eye, blinding it again. Athala jumps onto its head and drives her greatsword into the back of the neck. It slumps forward and dies. Athala takes the spear out of its eye and tosses it back to Drake, who catches it.

Katzir: Nice!
Khilai: Stellar work, people.
Athala: You could have helped.
Shiomi: Donít lose focus. The fire is about to die out.

As the flame starts to diminish even further. The dark army bursts through, which puts it out completely.

Strago: Now is the time! Charge!

Both armies charge at each other and clash. The humans gain headway right away. We see the front lines charging straight through the orcs and goblins. But as the creatures of darkness begin to move around the front lines, some of the soldiers start to fall. Suddenly, the 11-member party bursts through from behind and pushes through the gate with the help of the front lines. They immediately break away to the right, against the wall. Out in front of them are still thousands of creatures.

Vito: Thatís a lot of them!
Liron: Their numbers look even greater up close.

Just then, arrows rain down from above them and start taking out creatures. Some of them have fire on them.

Droraís Voice: (Faint) Liron, Captain, Shahar! Donít die on me!
Helvast: Form up!

They get into their formation, except Vito, Helvast and Jerome stand in the very front for now. Many of the orcs and goblins now turn to them, but arrows take out more of them. Also, they hear the sound of fellow creatures being slaughtered and see the main army making its way out of the gate and into the open.

Helvast: Akari, control our pace! Make sure to communicate with the front!
Akari: Yes, sir! Letís move! Two paces per second!

They each rhythmically move two steps each second. Though their steps are not entirely equal, they seem to be keeping form.

Akari: Thatís good!

Just then, an orc comes at them from the side where Keros is. Vito suddenly dashes around and cuts it down immediately.

Helvast: Good reaction!

Vito now moves over a little, just past Keros. Another orc comes towards Erosion and Helvast mirrors what Vito just did. Vito moves to the back of the group and Helvast replaces Vitoís original spot as they continue walking. Two goblins come by where Keros and Erosion are. Jerome quickly stabs the right goblin in the head with a dagger. Keros stabs the other one in the head with his estoc, killing it. Jerome replaces Helvastís spot, Helvast replaces Vitoís spot and now Vito stands closer to Aerona.

Akari: Keros, your steps are too shallow!
Keros: Sorry!
Akari: Much better! Keep that pace up!

At this point, about twenty creatures approach them, quickly surrounding them.

Akari: Halt!

The groupís pace comes to a halt and Jerome, Vito and Helvast begin circling around the group at an even pace. The orcs and goblins rush in from all side. Any that get to any of those three get cut down immediately. One gets through towards Aerona and gets beheaded by his halberd. Another gets through towards Solomon and he shield bashes its head and then gets its throat slashed. Shahar blocks an incoming sword strike from a goblin and then Akari destroys its head with his flail.

Akari: Letís move! One pace per second!

They start moving at a slower pace while still fending off orcs. One orc gets through and Keros blocks a strike with his shield and then stabs it in the neck.

Akari: Aerona, Mars, a little slower!
Erosion: Vito, do you need to switch out?!
Vito: Iím fine!
Akari: Captain Helvast, youíre moving a step too quickly!
Helvast: Understood!

As the three moving units continue to keep cutting through orcs and goblins, the amount of them that filter through is low. Whoever is in front of it quickly kills those that can make it through. Meanwhile, with the main army, the orcs are beginning to gain the advantage. Khilai, with dual hatchets, is cutting through as many as she can, but then sees ten coming straight at her. Taario is seen in individual swordfights with goblins and barely winning. He is running out of breath and starts to back up. Soldiers and mages are beginning to fall very quickly.

Strago: Fall back! Weíve done what we can!

They begin to retreat as just a few arrows hit some orcs. The last five have fire on them and because of how many creatures there are, catch quite a few of them with fire. This slows their advance, allowing the humans to make it through the gate safely.

Strago: Are you out of arrows?!
Soldierís Voice: Yes sir!
Shiomi: Shit.
Strago: Weíll hold them off here as long as we can! Theyíll make it!

Out on the field, the group has come to a halt as now they have been completely surrounded. There are roughly 30 orcs surrounding them.

Aerona: We must be close for them to be this aware of our movements.
Helvast: Agreed.
Vito: We need to ditch this formation and cut through. There are too many for the spinning top.
Jerome: The three of us will clear out as many as we can. Keep pace with us.

Helvast, Jerome and Vito charge forward in front of Solomon and start to rapidly cut down orcs and goblins. As they try to close in those three from behind, Solomon, Erosion and Aerona kill them from behind. As their attention starts to split to the octagonal formation, Mars and Keros begin to kill them as well. Then finally the other three start as they start to attack from behind, looking for any weak points in the formation.

Akari: Two paces per second! We can do this!

The formation continues to hold strong as they press on. Eventually, they find a clearing and make it through. They are now at the back of the army. As the orcs pursue them from the back, Helvast, Vito and Jerome go back into the spinning top motion, helping them cut down as many as they can.

Helvast: Letís switch out! Aerona, Erosion and Liron, you take our places!

They do so in one fluid motion in between killing orcs. Helvast gets in the very middle and begins scanning around.

Helvast: There! About two-hundred feet away. Thereís an orc with a staff and seems to be chanting!
Jerome: Good eye, Helvast!
Shahar: Everyone, letís shift!

They rotate to their right so that Shahar is in the back again in the direction that they begin to move in, which is now to the left of where they were moving initially. Helvast takes Erosionís original position now and begins fighting himself. Jerome has Aeronaís and Vito has Lironís.

Helvast: You three will be responsible for getting that anti-magic orc!
Akari: Letís go three paces per second!

They pick up the pace, now moving at a fast walk speed. Keros, being directly parallel to the creatures of darkness, is receiving the most orcs, but is keeping his position well and quickly responds to any goblins or orcs that filter through. One giant orc, about twice the normal size, comes straight at Mars and swings a morning star at him. He counters with his hammer, which pushes away the morning star. He then slams it in the stomach, which makes the giant orc reel back.

Helvast: Do you see the orc yet?!
Erosion: Yes! About 50 feet away!
Aerona: Are you two ready for this?!
Liron: Any time!

They get just a bit closer and then they bolt out of the formation and make a dash straight for this orc. Many of them get in their way. They crash into these orcs and quickly take out many of them.

Aerona: Erosion, go!

Erosion hops onto the nearest orcís head and propels himself forward onto another head and then jumps straight at the orc with a wooden staff. It looks at him, but cannot react in time as he slices downward, ending his life. Just seconds later, they all react to the change in the air.

Aerona: Everyone, close your eyes! *Music*

They all do and Aerona unleashes a huge light wave that disintegrates about 20 creatures in their area. Inside Drogos, we can see that the archers have now joined the infantry in fighting, but the creatures of darkness are still winning. They then suddenly feel their magic come back. Drake immediately takes a step back and focuses dark magic and creates about 30 spears overhead and takes out 30 orcs. Khilai releases an ice storm from her hand, which takes out more of them. Katzir releases a dark beam, which kills even more of them. There is now a large enough gap between the armies that the two generals are able to step in front and create a wave of energy that destroys most of them up until the gate.

Back to the group out in the field, they have regrouped. Akari quickly moves his hands in a circular motion and the ground below them splinters.

Akari: Mars, help me with this!
Mars: On it!

Mars unseals with one finger and aids Akari, as the ground below them becomes raised an inch. The ground then starts to slide slowly towards Drogos. Aerona releases another massive live wave, taking out many more orcs. Solomon creates a wind barrier around the entire raised ground and Vito keeps his hand on Aeronaís shoulder with his hand glowing blue. Their eyes are remaining closed. Suddenly, the ground starts to slide a bit easier.

Helvast: Iíve lowered the gravity on this area just a bit!

Aerona releases yet another massive light wave. They are now getting very close to the city gate. Khilai steps out from the gate and creates a slide of ice for the ground to move even smoother on. Aerona releases another light wave and then looks towards Khilai and the other group members coming out of the gate. He then notices that there is an orc with a crossbow aiming at Khilai at an angle where she is not looking. He suddenly activates dark magic and jumps forward and blocks it with his halberd. The bolt splinters and one of the pieces flies into his leg.

Aerona: Damn it.
Khilai: YouÖ

The rest of them open their eyes and Akari breaks the ground when theyíve gotten to the end. They quickly make it through the gate. Akari and Mars combine their powers to plug the gate area with a large wall. Then, we pan upwards to the top of the wall where only two people are there. *Music Stops*

Shiomi: You ready to put these fuckers behind us?
Strago: As ready as ever.

They stand together and put out one hand each as energy begins to form in their hands. The energy orbs each get to about the size of their body and then they fire in tandem. There are still about a thousand creatures of darkness left, including one troll that is just now making its way to the gate. As the two blasts hit, the entire area explodes, making a blinding light and a large shockwave that shakes the whole city for a second or two. As the light subsides, there is nothing left of the orc army. They both take a big sigh of relief. Everyone looks up at them expectantly. They turn to their people and simultaneously put up one fist each. Everyone starts cheering for a few moments. We briefly see Aggro, who can faintly hear the cheers from his cell.

Aggro: They must have won. But thereís no escape.

The cheers subside only after a few moments. There are bodies strewn everywhere in the streets of Drogos. Itís very difficult for them to stand without stepping on a body of either side.

Drake: We lost so many.
Athala: At least another 100 men. Maybe closer to 200. Damn it.
Khilai: Thatís war for you.
Aerona: Yeah.
Khilai: Let me treat you, please. Itís my fault you got hurt a second time.
Aerona: Itís okay. Athala, this is for you to do. Let me see how far youíve grown.
Athala: Are you sure about this?
Aerona: You can do this.

He removes the crossbow bolt on his shoulder, which starts to bleed out immediately. Athala quickly focuses her mana and manages to make a concentrated light beam on it. The bleeding stops, but the wound is not fully closed.

Aerona: Good enough. Now, this one.

He removes the splintered bolt from his leg and she does the same thing.

Drake: You did it. Youíre really learning how to use it.
Aerona: My body will heal on its own from here. Anyway, Keros. Come here.

Keros approaches them.

Keros: Yes, sir?
Aerona: You handled yourself well out there. That swordplay, Iíve seen it before. Did you know a man who was also an animal tamer?
Keros: Yes. He used dogs for tracking and had the same type of weapon as me. Do you know him?
Aerona: I see. He must have been working under Zvor.
Keros: What happened to Lieutenant Zvornoff? I did not see him anywhere.
Athala: He is a traitor. He managed to get away though. Were you his underling?
Keros: Yes.
Aerona: Iíll recommend that you take his position after this is all over, Keros.
Keros: Thank you!

Above the wall, Strago and Shiomi are looking at their people.

Shiomi: This simply canít continue. Weíre losing everyone.
Strago: Yes. We need to move to Aegis as soon as possible.
Shiomi: Tomorrow then.
Strago: Yeah, our people are too tired to travel today. I will have the queen brought back to Aegis as well. She needs to be present for our decisions.
Shiomi: Very well.
Strago: Until then, we will provide you all with quarters and food tonight.
Shiomi: Thank you. We will not forget this.

A bit later, we can see Akari and his group together inside a building. They are all visibly exhausted.

Akari: So thatís our status up until now.
Liron: Hunter killed our king just after we left. ThatísÖ
Shahar: Itís hard to process. He was one step ahead of us this time.
Katzir: Do you think he anticipated that we would survive?
Akari: No. If that were the case, he would have left some people behind to finish us off. He could not have predicted Taarioís arrival as well as the interference that stopped the blast from killing us.
Drora: So then, his plan was just for good measure.
Taario: We all know how smart Hunter is. It shouldnít come as a surprise.
Liron: Either way, we have to hope that Captain Sentus can end things by himself.

Later that night, we see Jerome and Khilai in a bedroom with two beds.

Khilai: We should get some rest, brother.
Jerome: Khilai, were you scared today?
Khilai: Sheikh donít have the luxury of being scared. No.
Jerome: Itís okay. I was scared, especially when I went out there to find the anti-magic orc. Everyone there was frightened on some level.
Khilai: YouÖ? I thought fear was yours to control in others.
Jerome: The reason I can utilize fear in others is because I know what itís like myself. And without my magic, all I am left with is my own fear.
Khilai: JeromeÖ
Jerome: Itís okay to let it go.
Khilai: YesÖthen I was scared. When I saw how many of them there wereÖ
Jerome: That is what makes you human, sister. Donít forget that. What we just fought was not human. That is why we won today. Because they did not fear us.
Khilai: I see. But, Jerome. I was not as much scared of losing my own life as I was of losing you when you went out there.
Jerome: KhilaiÖI was also scared of losing you as well.

They embrace each other tightly.

Jerome: And thatís why weíll survive through this.


Though the battle has ended, the damage done this day will forever be a scar on Jovahís history.

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PostSubject: Re: A Tale of Iron   May 18th 2016, 1:08 pm

Chapter 71


The next morning is wet and dreary as the clouds remain overcast. In a large room, we see Strago, Solomon, Mars, Erosion, Vito, Drake, Shiomi, Helvast, Jerome, Akari and Khilai. There is a small plate of food in front of each of them, just barely enough to suffice as a meal.

Strago: Good morning. I wanted to discuss our plan of action with you before we move.
Jerome: Where is the royal knight?
Solomon: He is resting at the moment. He overdid it yesterday after not being completely recovered.
Strago: He has an important task later today, and so I allowed him to rest a little longer.
Shiomi: Very well. Say what you need to, General Strago.
Strago: General Shiomi and I have decided that we will go to Aegis. We have the Elenaril there now, which will prevent an anti-magic field from getting into the city, should we get attacked again. It is there that we will discuss our plans with our queen present. If that is not acceptable to any of you, speak up now.

No one voices disapproval.

Shiomi: Good. While Hunter may be our ďkingĒ right now, I still have command of the army. And as the general, I am officially declaring an alliance with the Iron Kingdom.
Strago: And since I have command of our army, I will also officially declare an alliance with General Shiomi and her army. You have all bared witness to our words.
Shiomi: And so as of now, any royal decree from the Red Kingdom will be weighed against our alliance with the Iron Kingdom. Jerome, Helvast, is that clear
Helvast: Understood.
Jerome: Yes, it is clear.
Shiomi: Akari, Khilai, do you understand?
Akari: Yes, maíam.
Khilai: Of course. Your orders come first.
Shiomi: Precisely.
Strago: And to my people, let me make this clear. We are not allied with the Red Kingdom controlled by Hunter. We are allied with the army of the Red Kingdom, controlled by General Shiomi.

They give a nod to Strago.

Strago: Then let us eat and drink together at this table to honor our new alliance.

They all raise their glasses and drink once. A little later, we see Aerona sitting upright in a bed. His eyes seem lifeless. A knock is heard on the door.

Aerona: Come in.

The door opens and Aerona is surprised by the visitor. It is Jerome, who also seems to react to something when he sees Aerona.

Aerona: YouÖwhy are you here?
Jerome: My sister told me that you saved her life yesterday. My eyes were still closed, so I did not see it.
Aerona: Sheís related to you, huh?
Jerome: If you had known, would you have done the same thing?
Aerona: It was entirely reflexive. So probably.
Jerome: Thank you. As return, I will answer any questions you have regardingÖthat battle.
Aerona: I wonít refuse that offer. Everyone wants to know things about that battle that was kept so secretive.
Jerome: We may be a twisted bastard, but I have our honor.
Aerona: An interesting sentence structure. Fine. Tell me who killed who first.
Jerome: You know the truth about your own father. Your cousin was the second to fall. It was by Sentusí hand ultimately. Sentus was the only one that was able to win in a one on one battle.
Aerona: So then Helvast was responsible for Marsí father.
Jerome: There was a fourth member on our side and though Helvast fought, it was another who dealt the finishing strike.
Aerona: Another?
Jerome: It was a man you already killed. His name was Seijuro.
Aerona: Seijuro. I remember that name well. How did he do it?
Jerome: He tapped into a power that I assume he could not use against you five.
Aerona: We didnít let him charge up; thatís for sure.

Just then, Aerona lets out a small chuckle.

Jerome: What is it?
Aerona: The one who had the killing strike on Seijuro was Mars. He got revenge without even knowing it.
Jerome: Is that so? That is ironic to say the least.
Aerona: My last question does not have to do with the fight itself unfortunately. I want to know why you have two magic affinities.
Jerome: I see no harm in telling you. It does nothing to tell you why since you already know the ďwhatĒ of it. As I told you before, we are Jerome. This body you see before you is the result of two unborn babies joined together to save both. As we have grown, our body has become inseparable, permanently together, as is our magic power. But our consciences have remained separate and so have our magic affinities. So it is not wrong to call me one person, but it is not wrong to call me two people either. I was given one name and yetÖwe are both Jerome. Thatís the best way I can explain it.
Aerona: Fascinating. And your sisterÖ
Jerome: She was born normally. My mother was sickly when she bore me. By the time they had Khilai, they forcibly improved her health so that this would not happen again.
Aerona: I see. So your very existence protected her life.
Jerome: Thatís one way of putting it. Is that all you wish to know?
Aerona: Yes. Thank you.
Jerome: One more thing before I leave. When I walked into the room, I could feel it, the change in you.
Aerona: Ö
Jerome: Royal knight, at this moment, you cannot use light magic, can you?
Aerona: How did you know?
Jerome: You can hide it from most mages, but from a captain, nothing magical can go unnoticed. That radiance inside you, itís completely gone.

Aerona puts his palm out and dark magic aura gathers as an orb.

Aerona: I can summon dark magicÖactually easier than before. But I felt it too this morning. The light has left me.
Jerome: I will have Captain Helvast have a look. He will know more about this than I.

Jerome nods and leaves the room abruptly. Switching viewpoints, we see Mars, Vito, Drake and Athala inside the cells.

Aggro: AthalaÖI was hoping you wouldnít come.
Athala: Too embarrassed? Unfortunately, as a prisoner, you donít have a choice.
Drake: Agg, you have to tell us all you know. What happened to your people?
Aggro: Iíll talk to you, Mars. You were my favorite superior after all.
Mars: Thank you. *Music*
Aggro: From what I heard, you experienced thousands of those things yesterday. What you saw was merely a fraction of the power that was shown to the Etal. We saw tens of thousandsÖmaybe even more. Our people were slaughtered before they even had a chance of fighting back. And in that moment of despair, thatís when we saw it.
Mars: Youíre referring to this ďdark lordĒ.
Aggro: As dark as the night sky, shrouded in black aura, just the mere sight of thisÖthis thingÖinstilled fear into every single one of us. With every step, the earth below him quaked. There was an unnatural chill that followed him, as if the temperature had dropped 4 degrees (Celcius, or close to 40F). We all understood how powerless we were against it. And yet one of our own decided to attack. He was a man whose mind had gone simple from disease. I, at the tender age of 10, saw that man get pulled into what looked like an abyss. I still remember the screams of pain as his body was being torn apart simultaneously. And then, after the man had been silencedÖa snicker. Just a simple laugh gave us severe migraines. I felt like I was going to drop dead at that moment.
Vito: Thatís insane.
Mars: Thereís still something I donít understand. Why didnít you just ask us for help? You came to Jovah and kept silent all this time. Why?
Aggro: We wanted to, but only a week after we landed here, the Iron Kingdom attempted to invade the Red Kingdom. As you know, it ended in one of many stalemates and ceasefires in our long illustrious history. It was then that we learned about this 70 yearlong feud. We even learned about the purging of the elves and dwarves. You were far too wrapped up in each other to care about anyone else.
Vito: And this king you said you follow. Is that Hunter?
Aggro: Yes. Let me just say, you didnít see what I saw. In our darkest moment, Master Hunter was our beacon, our symbol of hope.

A tear streaks from one eye.

Mars: Iím not sure what you saw in him, but we canít let him just take Jovah.
Aggro: Iím aware of that. Our peopleÖwe just want a peaceful home. Thatís all. One that isnít constantly fighting.
Drake: Agg, I can respect that. But how does that make it any better to take that home away from others?
Aggro: You donít deserve this home. You canít even go 5 years without a war. How pathetic is that?
Mars: I recall Akari mentioning that Hunter told him the same thing.
Vito: Is this what you say to convince yourself every night? Thatís how you justify all of this? You donít get to decide who deserves what.
Aggro: That may be. But if we win this, we will get to decide.
Vito: Are you even thinking? We have the two generals.
Aggro: Hah. Do you think Master Hunter is truly scared of them? That he doesnít have a plan for them?
Mars: If he plans on taking them out, he must have something up his sleeve. Tell me what.
Aggro: Believe me when I say I have no idea. You would have had a better chance asking Noque or Nymeria. We, at the Iron Kingdom, knew far less about Master Hunter or his plans.
Mars: I believe you. What else can you tell us?
Aggro: Even if you take us out, youíll still have to deal with what we dealt with. Itís now clear that they have their sights set on the Iron Kingdom. I know not what Master Hunter will do when he learns of this, but I believe in him. He can save us from the darkness. *Music Stops*

We now go back to the room Aerona is in, except Helvast is now there.

Aerona: Captain Helvast.
Helvast: We havenít spoken like this before, so Iíll just say pleased to meet you.
Aerona: The same goes for me. Your help yesterday was tremendous. You have more information than anyone.
Helvast: I appreciate that.
Aerona: Are you an elf, Captain Helvast?

He puts some of his hair behind his ears, showing them.

Aerona: That makes sense.
Helvast: I suppose I gave myself away many times yesterday.
Aerona: I never thought I would speak to an elf.
Helvast: There are many things happening that seem unprecedented. Iíve lived over 150 years, but never in my life have things turned out this way. But enough of me. I too see what Jerome sensed.
Aerona: And?
Helvast: I have heard of this before. There have been light mages in the Red Kingdom who have lost their ability permanently.
Aerona: So, this is permanent after all?
Helvast: Sadly, yes. Yesterday, I felt your dark magic just once, but I could tell that you have worked on it a lot lately. Have you neglected your light training in favor of dark?
Aerona: I worked on one technique this past month, but otherwise, yes. I put most of my efforts into increasing my dark prowess.
Helvast: As you have no doubt learned, darkness and light cannot coexist as magic. Iím sure from experiments that you realized that dark magic and light magic cancel out each other.
Aerona: Yes. Knowing that, I even questioned if I could learn it to begin with.
Helvast: The affinities can both exist in your body, but one has to be at a low level. Since you recently increased your dark ability, it seems that you have disrupted that formula that kept both inside. Also, your state of emotions could have affected things. Iím guessing something bad recently happened to you. Jeromeís Eldritch magic may have had a hand in this transformation. I think he knew that when he realized what had happened to you.
Aerona: So, youíre saying that I lost my light magic before today, but what I used yesterday was the last of the reserves that existed in my body.
Helvast: That is most likely the case. Think of it as a sort of farewell gift.
Aerona: That would be my luck, after allÖshit.
Helvast: There IS an upside, however.
Aerona: There is?
Helvast: Darkness and lightÖthey are two sides of the same affinity. There are rare cases of natural born dark users learning low-level light magic after intense training. But those light mages who have lost theirs entirelyÖsomething changed in them. Have you felt your dark magic today?
Aerona: Yes. Itís the same, but it was easier to manipulate. Are you trying to tell meÖ
Helvast: It is exactly as you think. The tradeoff for losing your light magicÖis that you have become a natural dark mage.
Aerona: I see. But I canít heal, and my bodyís natural healing rate will be normal again. And that cool technique I learned recentlyÖand the kingdom Iím in frowns on dark magicÖ
Helvast: Wow, you really do have bad luck. Well, try to make the best of it.
Aerona: Iíll try.

Helvast leaves but then pops his head back around the door.

Helvast: By the way, I heard you have to go get the queen. Is she cute? If so, would you mind introdu-
Aerona: Out.
Helvast: Hmph yes, my apologies.

Not too much later, we see Akari and Drake walking together.

Akari: A symbol of hopeÖ
Drake: I was hoping you would know what that meant.
Akari: Unfortunately, no. I mean, I guess I can understand the fact that heís very powerful and very intelligent. But it seems deeper than that.
Drake: Yeah.
Akari: So, about earlier this morningÖ

We go back to the breakfast meeting.

Shiomi: By the way, Drake.
Drake: Yes?
Shiomi: While we are allied, I would like for you to wear the sheikh robe once more. The armor you had on before does not appear to be fitted, which will do you little good.
Drake: This is true.
Shiomi: I ask this of you as a symbol. You are the only one that bridges the gap between both kingdoms right now.
Strago: You could have run this idea by me before asking Drake, but I do not object to this.
Drake: I will think about it.

Back to the presentÖ

Akari: What are your thoughts about what the general asked of you?
Drake: Itís hard. I always belonged to the Iron Kingdom. You know, I was manipulated into joining the Red Kingdom. ButÖI enjoyed my time with Ka, with the Red Kingdom. This alliance has given me relief, but before that I felt so torn. And even after all this mess, I will still feel conflicted.
Akari: I understand.

About an hour later, we see Solomon, Erosion and Vito walking together.

Solomon: Is that everything that Aggro said to you?
Vito: Thatís everything.
Erosion: Iím not sure what to think.
Vito: Weíll talk about it later all in front of the queen.
Solomon: Speaking of the queen, isnít Aerona supposed to get her from wherever her hiding place is?
Vito: He left with Zvorís horse just before I met up with you guys.
Erosion: Damn.
Solomon: We havenít had much of a chance to all sit down together.
Vito: The situation right nowÖis complicated. Thatís all I can say for now.
Solomon: We should go get Mars. Weíre probably going to leave soon.

They find Mars and they travel to the other entrance to Drogos. A few soldiers have gathered, but the majority of them have not yet arrived.

Vito: Fuck it, Iím going to get some food.
Solomon: But all the citizens have evacuated. The food stands are all out of service.
Vito: Shit! Go make me some lunch then.
Solomon: Make your own fucking lunch!

Just then, someone approaches them. It is Helvast.

Helvast: Hmm, Lord of Speechcraft, I heard that you have quite the reputation as a chef.
Solomon: Thanks.
Helvast: While you make Vitoís lunch, could you perchance allow me to partake in your cooking?
Solomon: As I just said, he can make his own lunch. Maybe Iíll make your lunch once. But not now. Weíre about to leave.
Mars: I donít see either general yet. I donít think weíre leaving yet.
Solomon: Youíre not helping!
Helvast: I understand. Itís not like we have much here anyway. In Aegis then?
Solomon: Iíll think about it.
Helvast: Splendid!
Voice: Are you pestering them, Helvast?

Jerome joins them.

Helvast: Of course not.

Not far behind Jerome are Drake and Khilai.

Khilai: So, you all came early as well.
Erosion: Heh.
Khilai: Youíre sick.
Erosion: I do not deny this.
Drake: Hey, Vito. Do you mind if we speak for a moment?

Vito and Drake step just away from the cluster of people.

Vito: What do you want?
Drake: I just wanted to ask you about something. At the Red camps, you stuck up for me. Why? I thought you wanted me dead.
Vito: Oh, you mean when that bitch over there called you out? Donít think anything of it.
Drake: I just wanted to thank you. It meant a lot coming from you.
Vito: Heh. Itís nothing worth mentioning. You started growing on me, is all. But, you owe me one, bitch.

Vito goes back to the group. Drake follows. About a minute later, many people begin to gather at this area. The generals both walk to the front, against the gate.

Shiomi: Red mages, we make for the city of Aegis!
Strago: And now, let the gate open!

A few seconds pass and nothing happens.

Strago: Gate person?
Male Voice: Sir, the gate person was killed yesterday!
Strago: What about the other gate person?
Male Voice: Sir, he was also killed.
Strago: (Irritated) Damn. Will someone step up and get this gate open?

Suddenly, the gate begins to lift, surprising everyone. Helvast chuckles.

Shiomi: Good work, Helvast! Wherever you are in this crowd!
Helvastís Voice: No problem!

The gate gets to its peak and everyone goes through. The gate drops after that and they march on. Shiomi hangs back and the four lieutenant commanders step forward in order to lead. Athala, Drora and Liron approach Shiomi as she joins the front of the crowd.

Shiomi: ÖLiron, right?
Liron: Yes, maíam.
Shiomi: And young Hetzelberg.
Drora: Drora, General Shiomi.
Shiomi: Ah, thatís it. And you I havenít met before. It seems they do make beauties over here too.
Athala: I am Lieutenant Athala. I am currently the only one of my rank as of right now. And you are quite stunning yourself, General Shiomi.
Shiomi: Thank you. AthalaÖthat sounds familiar. Ah, you were the one who apprehended that Iron traitor. The fact that you captured him alive was of the utmost importance.
Liron: Looks like the Iron Kingdom has a competent woman in power.
Drora: And that golden hair. No wonder Sheikh Drake had those puppy dog eyes when he saw her yesterday.

Akari and Shahar, who are walking together, see the women chuckling amongst themselves.

Akari: What do you think theyíre talking about?
Shahar: Something evil, no doubt.
Akari: Why do you say that?
Shahar: Drora is in on that conversation. She makes every conversation evil.
Akari: Thatís fair. I suppose we should just unleash Drora on whatever dark forces are coming from Etal.

Meanwhile, at the Red Kingdom, we go to the throne room where Hunter is joined by Hayim, KaíVor and the rest of that group. The doors open and two individuals walk through. One is an older man in his 60s with black and grey hair. He is wearing a tattered uniform that appears to have been regal at one point. The other is a woman with icy blue long hair, also in her 60s with a bluish green sundress. They slowly walk up to the throne and Hunter smiles at them. The man has a few tears building up around his eyes.

Man: You did it, my son.
Hunter: Hello, Father, Mother.


Hunterís parents enter the scene!

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PostSubject: Re: A Tale of Iron   May 23rd 2016, 11:07 am

Chapter 72


Hayim: Lord William, Lady Sarah. It is good to see you both again.
Sarah: And to see that you have returned safely, Hayim, is also a relief.
Hunter: I trust you had no problems getting into the palace?
William: No. It seems everything is under your control for now.
Hunter: Iím certain there will be insurgents who want revenge for their former king. But we will deal with them. Much like now.
Hayim: I sensed it too.
Hunter: Your senses have indeed improved then. Before, this assassin would have been too skilled for you.
Sarah: Assassin?
Hunter: You can come down now.

Hunter looks straight up at someone who is falling down straight towards him. He is cloaked and has a dagger in his hand.

Assassin: For King Daniel!

Suddenly, a portal appears above Hunter and the assassin falls into it and then appears through another portal in front of Hunter. He looks up at Hunter, who hasnít moved an inch except for his eyes.

Hunter: Your skill at hiding isnít bad. But do you honestly think you can evade my senses?

The man lunges straight at Hunter with his dagger, but a streak of water blocks the dagger. It then pierces through the manís torso, where his heart is. The water has now turned red and then it drops to the ground as the assassin falls back, dead.

Hunter: KaíVor, Hayim, please clean this up.

Hayim absorbs the blood into an orb of water and KaíVor warps it away.

Hunter: As we were saying?
William: How goes the fight at the Iron Kingdom?
Hunter: Unfortunately my information is short at the moment. Things seemed to be going well, although we were not able to kill the Iron Queen.
Sarah: You went after Queen Eleanor?
Hunter: The effect will be the same, I believe. The assassination attempt should at least anger the Iron Kingdom. They had less reason to stick this war out.
William: I see. Well done, Hunter.
Hunter: Though, there might have been a few oversights in my plan. Itís a slim chance, but itís possible that Akari may not be dead.
William: What?!
Sarah: Donít tell me you showed mercy to him!
Hunter: Quito confirmed the kill. Isnít that right?

He looks at the man with the tattered clothes.

Quito: Yes. I saw it from a hawk. They all disintegrated.
Hunter: Except, I forgot one small detail. They have Drora, an illusionist.
Hayim: But, Droraís illusions couldnít stop the blast from going off.
Hunter: Thatís true, but when I stepped into this palace, someone told the king about me. Who else could it have possibly been? Habib has kept silent, and I donít want to get rid of him. He has utility.
William: You said that this man confirmed the kill. That means that you yourself did not see it.
Hunter: The blast would have severely injured me as well to be able to see it.
William: But you did not have to use that against Akari. You just demonstrated that you can kill a person with your water magic.
Hunter: I donít like your tone right now.
Sarah: He is your father! Show some respect!
Hunter: And he gave that up the moment he gave me his title as the king of Etal. You have both spoken out against the king just now. The fact that you two are still standing here having a conversation with me means that I have shown you respect.
William: Tch.
Hunter: I admit that I could not kill Akari myself. Tell me something, Father. †*Points at Sarah* Could you aim your own blade at her given the same situation I was in?

They both go quiet for a few seconds.

William: Are you telling me that you fancy Akari that way?
Hunter: Of course not. But he was my best friend. You pushed away all your friends, so you wouldnít know any other comparison.
Sarah: Hunter, I understand what you are trying to say. But you canít let your emotions get in the way of your mission. You chose to become the king. You canít hold on to the Red Kingdom.
Hunter: Iím not holding on.
Sarah: Then why are you still wearing the sheikh robe?
Hunter: For your information, sheikh robes have strong magical resistance. Theyíre not just for show.
William: You are the king now. You have to wear something more befitting your title.
Hunter: Do you think I wanted to betray my two best friends?! Do you think I wanted to kill my king?! I did this for you! I did this for my people! For a continent that I have never seen!
Sarah: Are you sure you didnít purposely allow Akari to live? Are we even sure that Helen is dead too?

Hunter stands up and points to the door.

Hunter: Get the FUCK out, right NOW!
William: Very well.

Dejected, Hunterís parents turn and walk out of the room. Hunter sits back onto the throne and puts his hand over his face, rubbing his eyes.

Hunter: I donít get angry very often. When I do, itís usually because of them.
Hayim: Theyíll never understand what you had to go through, Master Hunter.
Hunter: But to think that he might be aliveÖ
Hayim: Does that make you happy or sad?
Hunter: Both, to be honest.

Back at the Iron Kingdom, the combined army has reached Aegis. They are let into the city immediately and as they step in, they all react to the difference in them.

Helvast: Ah, the Elťnaril. This is familiar.

They make it to the castle, where most of the soldiers stay outside.

Akari: General Shiomi, if I may. Iíd like to bring my group in with us to stand guard over our meeting with the queen. Just in case.
Shiomi: Very well.

Strago, the lieutenant commanders, Athala, Shiomi, the captains and sheikhs go inside as well as Akariís group and Drake. They make it outside of the throne room.

Drake: I think Iíll guard this door as well. I donít think the queen would be very happy to see me.
Athala: Are you sure?
Drake: Positive. Itís not time yet.

Strago opens the doors and steps through first. He sees a nearly empty room, with Eleanor sitting on her throne and Aerona sitting next to her. They both stand up upon seeing Strago. The rest of them walk in. Shiomi shuts the doors behind them. As they get closer, Eleanor suddenly briskly walks forward and hugs Athala. She also hugs Eleanor.

Athala: My queen.
Eleanor: Itís so good to see you alive. I heard you learned some magic.
Athala: I did.
Aerona: She kept asking about you as I caught her up on our situation.

After a few moments, Eleanor returns to her throne. Shiomi steps forward and gives a quick bow.

Shiomi: A pleasure to meet you, Queen Eleanor. I am General Shiomi.
Eleanor: Somehow I thought you would look a lot different for all the stories of might I heard.

Helvast pops out from behind Shiomi.

Helvast: Greetings! I am Captain Helvast. Would you be interested in-

He gets interrupted as Shiomi elbows him in the gut.

Shiomi: Captain Jerome, step forward as well.

She grabs Helvast by the wrist and makes him stand next to her and Jerome stands next to Helvast.

Shiomi: These are two of my captains. Captain Sentus is not here at the moment.
Eleanor: I see. And then, I see two sheikh here as well.

Akari and Khilai step forward and introduce themselves as well.

Eleanor: To think Aggro, Zvornoff and Barg were all traitors.
Aerona: Where is Agg right now?
Mars: He is being taken to his own section of prison cells.
Aerona: Fitting.
Athala: Did you tell her that I was the one that kicked his ass?
Eleanor: He did. Thatís just like you.
Shiomi: You got much happier the second you saw the queen. Do you have some kind of history with her?
Athala: I was born here under a noble house. Since we are the same age, I was often brought to this castle to keep her entertained. They did not expect that we would become very close though.
Eleanor: Thatís right. Or that I would become queen this soon. At the tender age of 24 I was given this position. But you already know that.
Shiomi: Yes, I remember, sadly. That was when we had her father assassinated three years ago.

Shiomi quickly glances at Jerome, who seems on edge.

Shiomi: Perhaps it wasnít a good thing to bring him here. Keep it together, Jerome!
Eleanor: But, the time for grudges is over. We cannot continue to co-exist this way. My father was power-hungry. I saw what it did to him and I donít want to be anything like that.
Shiomi: I am glad to hear you say that. I feel the same way, especially after everything that has transpired these past few days. Now, if you donít mind, there is more that we all need to hear. Helvast, if you would.
Helvast: Of course.

Helvast steps forward, in the middle of everyone.

Helvast: Before I say anything, I understand that there was more information this morning that Aggro divulged. Mars, would you kindly speak about that?
Mars: Sure.

Mars tells the room what Aggro said.

Helvast: Hmm. Troubling indeed. Now, itís important that you all see this.

Helvast reveals his elf ears to the room, shocking some of them.

Helvast: I have no need to hide this. After I tell you all this, you would have figured it out anyway.

His usually jovial face then hardens into a very serious countenance. *Music*

Helvast: Every culture has its folklore. For example, in the Red Kingdom, the Mohadmaht was one. Elves live a very long time, and so for anything to be considered a fairy tale, it has to be ancient. My parents were somewhere around seven centuries old and they passed the story of a dark lord down to me when I was just a child. They spoke of times where darkness would gather in one place for centuries until finally it spawned something so vile, so evil, that nothing could stop it. Have you ever wondered where creatures of darkness come from?
Solomon: We all wonder that.
Helvast: They spawn from land that is super rich with dark magic. They will literally just rise out of the ground, feeding off the aura that resides within the land. Dragon slayers, you have been to the Red Kingdom. You felt the difference?
Vito: It was obvious. The dark magic in the land was there.
Helvast: But that is not enough to spawn the creatures of darkness. At most, a few goblins could form, but thatís it. The reason why this dark aura exists in our kingdom is because of the second Red King. He learned this information and sought to raise creatures of darkness in order to control them against the Iron Kingdom. The second Red King was a scholar of the arcane and took great effort into studying elven magic. There were a few elves in those days that held a strong grudge against the Iron Kingdom and became dark elves. They taught the second Red King everything he needed to know to do this.
Shiomi: I have never heard of this before.
Helvast: Our history books tell that the Iron Kingdom killed him in an invasion. That is a lie. Those dark elves and the king. I was the one who killed them all. In your time, I would have been a young adult then. Do you know why I did it? Because I was afraid that a dark lord would eventually rise from the Red Kingís stupidity. Then, we would all be doomed. I destroyed every piece of research and information that the Red King wrote down. I changed our history for our own good. You cannot control that kind of power. Itís not physically possible, even for our two generals.
Jerome: But by the time you killed him, the damage to our kingdom had already been done, yes?
Helvast: Yes. I could not stop him in time for the land to become enriched. But I saved our continent from certain destruction. I am sure of that.
Solomon: Why are there still so many creatures of darkness at the Red Kingdom if that isnít enough to spawn that many?
Helvast: Iím afraid I donít know. That problem predates even me.
Akari: So this dark lord that the Etal spoke of, it is not the only one that has appeared in history.
Helvast: Itís tough to say. No one has ever defeated one. It could be the same one. My parents spoke of a sealing technique that was developed, but even that failed.
Eleanor: And youíre saying this thing has set its sights on my kingdom?
Helvast: That seems to be the case. I will say this. I have seen many powers. Sealing wonít work. Thereís only one power in this world that can possibly defeat this master of darkness. *Music Stops*

Helvast looks at the two generals.

Strago: Us, Captain Helvast?
Helvast: You two are the strongest people I have ever met. Even among energy mages, nothing has been recorded that quite compares to the feats that you have shown. If you canít destroy the dark lord, no one can.
Shiomi: Iím glad that you have confidence in us, but we have another problem. The Etal are threatening us from the Red Kingdom. We have two conflicts at once. Dividing this up will not be easy.

There is a silence for about ten seconds as everyone contemplates.

Aerona: Iím going to the Red Kingdom.
Eleanor: Aerona?!
Aerona: It was my mission that set the loss of your kingdom in motion. We are the ones that killed Dravos, which is why this war with the Etal was possible. Allow us to help you take it back as recompense.
Eleanor: Do you understand what youíre doing?!
Aerona: Yeah. Sorry, guys. You donít have to go with me if you donít want to.
Vito: Fuck that. Iím going too.
Solomon: If you both are going, Iím going with you.
Mars: Yeah, sure.
Erosion: You canít split us apart again.
Akari: I have to confront Hunter. Too many people died believing in me to stop this conflict.
Shiomi: Then, Jerome, Helvast. I want you to go with Strago to Etal. I am needed in the Red Kingdom.
Helvast: I think thatís not what we need.
Shiomi: What?
Helvast: As I said, you two are the only ones capable of doing this. I think you and General Strago should both go to Etal. Leave the Red Kingdom to its captains.
Shiomi: But Sentus. Helvast, you know as well as I do what may have happened with him.
Helvast: Iím aware. By this point, he has either been killed, captured or worse.
Solomon: Whatís worse?
Helvast: He might have joined the enemy.
Akari: Captain Sentus would never do that!
Jerome: Iím not so sure, Akari.

He looks over at the dragon slayers.

Vito: Because of us, huh?
Aerona: If thatís the case, then weíll take responsibility and deal with him.
Khilai: Iím going with Jerome.
Athala: I want to go with you, general.
Strago: Athala, if this is how it is to be, I canít have you with me.
Shiomi: If Strago and I go together, no one else can be present. You will all die if we are forced to go all out against whatever lies north of here.
Strago: Besides, you have to finish your magic training. You wonít be able to do that without a proper teacher.
Eleanor: *Sigh* So I guess itís settled. You are all welcome to stay here in Aegis while you prepare for your journeys. Now, AerÖ

Aerona is gone.

Eleanor: That motherfucker! Iíll reprimand him later. If you would all please give us some privacy, Iíd like to speak with General Shiomi alone
Strago: Even me?
Eleanor: General Strago, out.
Strago: ÖAs you wish.

The rest of them leave the room.

Akari: Did someone leave this room a few moments ago?
Liron: No, we were watching it the whole time. Did something happen?
Strago: There are secret passages in that room. He used one of them when no one else was paying attention.
Drake: So, what is going to happen now?
Jerome: How would you like to go back to the Red Kingdom? Hehehehe.
Drake: I donít ever want to hear that question from you. That never means something good for me.
Helvast: Itís okay. Weíll talk more. For now we will need to rest up and prepare.
Strago: We will make sure just like as in Drogos that you are all housed and fed as well. Aegis will better suit our needs.
Helvast: Where do you plan to house our general?
Strago: Only in the finest room in the Iron Kingdom. Well, the second finest room after the queenís.
Helvast: Oh, thatís nice. ÖWait a second!
Strago: *Smirk* You will also have nice chambers, if thatís what youíre worried about.

Jerome puts his hand on Helvastís back.

Jerome: Let it go. You canít compete.
Helvast: B-butÖJerome! Have my back here!
Strago: Relax. I was just joking. Weíll figure it all out somehow. For an old guy, you sure do sometimes act like a child. But, after hearing your story, I respect you a lot more. Would I have been able to betray my king for the good of the kingdom? Iím not sure.
Akari: Thatís where you differ from Hunter, Captain Helvast. Hunter betrayed his king to take the throne for himself. You did it to hand it off to someone else.
Helvast: Well, his son, the third Red KingÖhe was a compassionate man and the kingdom was far better off in his hands.
Liron: Captain Helvast, did I just hear all that right?
Helvast: You did. We have much to discuss, young Liron. All of you who reside in Akariís group. We need to have a chat.
Drora: We have a new name, you know.
Akari: What? We do?
Taario: Youíre really serious about the group name?
Drora: Of course. Our group was born from this chaos and our team is the one true problem in Hunterís plan. We are the Fangs of Pestilence, because that is exactly what weíll bring to Hunter, Hayim and those Etal.
Akari: TheÖFangs of Pestilence?
Katzir: It seems ďAkariís groupĒ isnít going to cut it anymore, captain.
Vito: We need to name our group, ASAP!
Solomon: We already have our name, the dragon slayers.
Strago: Fangs of Pestilence. Thatís pretty badass.
Akari: I like it. Well done, Drora.
Mars: So, do you guys want a tour of Aegis while youíre here?
Akari: That would be lovely.

Mars leaves with the captains, Khilai and the Fangs. Solomon tags along as well. Erosion leaves a minute and so does Vito. About twenty minutes later and Shiomi comes out of the throne room, seeing only Strago, Athala and Drake there.

Strago: Shiomi, come with me.
Shiomi: Of course.

She nods to Athala and Drake and they leave.

Drake: I guess itís time for me to go too.
Athala: No. You need to go in there.
Drake: I thought I told you-
Athala: Queenís orders.

Athala opens the doors and grabs Drake by the arm. She tugs him inside the room and shuts the door behind them.

Athala: You have to do this, Drake. You canít run away any longer.
Eleanor: Come closer, Drake.

Drake paces slowly towards her and then falls to his knees.

Drake: My queen. Please forgive me. I failed to protect your father. And whatís worse, I was manipulated into betraying your kingdom.
Eleanor: I was told of your situation earlier. I didnít know if I wanted to see you again. But, as I told the others, the time for grudges is over. Drake, I would welcome you back to the Iron Kingdom. But, there is something I want you to do for me.
Drake: Anything.
Eleanor: If you happen to have an opportunity to get away with it, I want you to kill that man. He poses a threat to our stability as allies. Do you understand? If you donít have an opportunity, that is okay. But if you do, donít hesitate for a second, Drake. Kill Captain Jerome.


Even with this alliance, there are still dealings behind closed doors?!

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PostSubject: Re: A Tale of Iron   May 31st 2016, 10:39 am

Chapter 73


We start off with Liron and Helvast in a room. They are sitting across from each other at a small table.

Liron: When I saw Hassar that day, he was different. It was like he had finally found peace when I stabbed him and that carried over to when he was animated in front of us.
Helvast: Remarkable. So he helped save you and the rest of the Fangs from that blast.
Liron: He did.
Helvast: Iím glad. Hassar was dear to me, even during those years that he was incarcerated.
Liron: I know. I appreciate everything youíve done for my family. I just have one more thing to ask of you.
Helvast: Iím not done helping you just yet, Liron. There is much more for you after this war.
Liron: I see. Thank you, Captain Helvast.
Helvast: But what is it you need help with?
Liron: Iím working on a new spell, but Iím having trouble making any real progress.

Switching viewpoint, we see Akari and Katzir in front of Shiomi.

Shiomi: Show me then what youíve learned.

Katzir brings out his dark magic aura and keeps it suspended around his body.

Shiomi: Not bad. Itís not easy around these parts either.
Katzir: General Shiomi, am I still a liability?
Shiomi: Hah. You kept that in the back of your head, did you? No. You are not.

Katzir dispels his dark magic and takes a sigh.

Katzir: Thank you.
Shiomi: I donít know everything you saw out there, but it has certainly changed you. Youíre more confident and youíve even mellowed out a bit. Youíre not as tense.
Akari: Itís a testament to his training. He worked hard under me to achieve the level of mastery that he is at.
Shiomi: It appears you are a more effective teacher than Hunter.
Akari: Thank you, maíam.

Outside, we see Jerome standing on top of the castle with the wind blowing, making his hair and robe flap around. He is staring at the view of Aegis from this high vantage point. He blinks once and his eyes shift as he notices that Khilai is now behind him.

Jerome: Have you also come to look at the view?
Khilai: I came because Iím worried about you.
Jerome: About me?
Khilai: You havenít been yourself since you entered the city.
Jerome: Iíve just been thinking about how weíve never been able to reach Aegis and then we were casually invited here now that weíre temporary allies.
Khilai: Iím sure thatís on your mind too, but thatís not it. Youíre good at many things. Lying is not one of them. Thatís always been my job.
Jerome: Why do you want to know so badly?
Khilai: Because youíre my brother and because no one else will listen to you. Captain Sentus, Captain Helvast, General Shiomi, theyíre all respectful of you, but they keep their distance.
Jerome: I chose this life for myself. Someone from the Red Kingdom has to do the things I do. The fact that I sometimes enjoy those things is another matter. Do you see the hatred in Drakeís eyes when he sees me?
Khilai: ÖYes.
Jerome: I would be lying if I said I donít savor that look a little bit. Yes! Indeed! We love to see that scowl he gives! Hmmhmmmhmm!
Khilai: I donít care.
Jerome: Come again?
Khilai: Itís your Eldritch magic, right? The more you use it, the more it messes with your head. Am I correct by saying that?
Jerome: Iíve never said that aloud. How could you know that?
Khilai: I told you, no one else listens to you except me. You may say something different, but your heart speaks something else, Jerome. Whatís my number one specialty?
Jerome: Itís reading peopleÖ
Khilai: Thatís right. Did you think you were immune to my perception because you hide your true self better than normal?
Jerome: And what is my true self?
Khilai: You push people away because you know that eventually the Eldritch magic will make you go completely mad. Itís an uncertain, unknown count down and you donít want anyone near you when it that number reaches zero.

Jerome turns around to look at his sister, his face in shock.

Khilai: But, every time you push people further away, you die a little inside. Am I wrong?!
Jerome: Everything you said is correct. But if you can read me so well, then you should know why Iím not myself right now.
Khilai: After the meeting we had yesterday, I have a guess.

Jerome turns back around.

Jerome: Your guess is correct. Yes, I was the assassin in question. That is when I manipulated Drake. He was a personal guard to the queen, who was the princess at the time. But at that time, he was sent to aid the attack on the king on the battlefield. Queen Eleanorís father was a fighter. He preferred to command his kingdom on the field rather than in a castle. That made him vulnerable.
Khilai: What you did, you did in war. You canít be held responsible for that.
Jerome: But, you see, thatís where youíre wrong. If the two kingdoms become permanent allies after this war is over, there may be a scapegoat to settle things. General Shiomi would sacrifice me in a heartbeat. Life would continue on as if no one had died. And I would be remembered as a villain who had no place in Jovah.
Khilai: And are you okay with that?
Jerome: Strangely enough, yes. Everything I did was for the betterment of the kingdom. If my death served that purpose, I would be okay with that. Besides, itís as you said, I have pushed people away for that reason.
Khilai: Youíve seen that far?
Jerome: But, there is one person I havenít been able to keep away apparently. Khilai, as long as you stay that person, life will still be worth living.
Khilai: Always.
Jerome: Thank you. Now, come enjoy this view with me.

Khilai stands next to them as they both look out at the city. In the city, we focus on the Fangs, minus Akari. They are looking around.

Drora: The captain was right when he said this looks way different than the Red Kingdom. This city is way bigger than our capital.
Taario: No kidding. This is our second day looking through Aegis, and it all still seems so foreign.
Shahar: I know what you mean. Maybe it wasnít such a good idea, venturing out on our own.
Katzir: Itís cool. Iím sure weíll be fine.
Liron: What should we do though? Iím sure right about now Drora is getting hungry.
Drora: You know me so well.

They walk through where there seems to be many food stands, but all of them sell sandwiches.

Liron: Why is there such a low variety in this particular spot?
Shahar: I have no idea.
Drora: GuysÖsomeoneís watching us.

Drora suddenly turns to see a cloaked person leaned up against a wall. The appearance is completely obscured.

Drora: How longÖ
Shahar: What do you want?

The cloaked person points to his/her right, indicating that they keep going. They turn to each other and contemplate. Shahar turns back to look, but this figure is no longer there.

Liron: This person wanted us to keep going.
Shahar: We should listen for now. Just keep your guard up.

They continue walking for less than a minute when a smell hits Drora and she immediately darts off in that direction to a food stand. The other four follow her. This stand is selling hamburgers.

Drora: I have heard of this food before. Iíll have one, please!

A plump man makes one for her and she takes a bite.

Drora: MMMMMM!!!! That is amazing!

The rest of them get hamburgers as well.

Shahar: I must admit; Iron cuisine is very good.
Taario: Agreed.
Liron: Nice.
Katzir: We should figure out how to do this and bring it to our capital city.

At that moment, Blaze approaches them and sits in front of them, panting.

Liron: Seems this guy thinks so too.
Drora: Awww, he wants some food.

They give him a few pieces of food. He happily barks and runs off. After eating, they move on and continue walking through the city.

Taario: What should we do?
Drora: I want to see the clothing.
Liron: Thatís a good idea.
Shahar: Ugh.
Liron: Shahar, this is actually something you want to witness.
Shahar: What do you mean?
Liron: Youíll see.

They eventually find their way to a place where clothes are sold, just across the way from a fabric shop.

Shahar: Well, thatís efficient.
Drora: letís go inside.

They go inside to see both men and womenís clothing, mostly made out of wool. In the back of the shop, there is an older woman knitting and a younger woman standing up, attending to other buyers. Drora approaches the older woman.

Drora: Are all these clothes hand-made by you and your daughter?
Elder: Yes, thatís right, dearie.
Drora: They are beautiful.
Taario: Look how sweet sheís being.
Drora: I mean, the minimalistic style on this particular dress is stunning. Perfect for someone whoís looking to show off a little somethiní somethiní. Right, Liron?
Liron: Iím not wearing something that skimpy.
Drora: On the other hand, this artistic direction for this wool coat. Fascinating.
Elder: So you noticed that, huh? I see you have an eye for fashion.

Drora proceeds to look at every single clothing item, speaking of its qualities in great detail. Without ever taking a pause, she continues talking, even moving on to the next article of clothing. The three menís eyes slowly widen.

Liron: Told you. If you thought fighting was her natural environment, youíd be dead wrong.
Katzir: Well, she did say that this is what she wanted to do with her life.
Taario: Sheís still talking. I donít think sheís taken a single pause in the last minute and a half.
Shahar: You were right. This is entertaining. Especially if you look at how overwhelmed the old woman is getting by all the praise sheís receiving at once.

After some time, they walk out of the shop with a dress.

Drora: Iím so glad we use the same currency.

Soon after, they find a blacksmith armorer. A rough looking man with a black beard is hammering out a spear. There is a display of weapons that are mounted on the wall next to him. They range from pole weapons to swords and some percussion weapons as well. A few shields are present as well.

Blacksmith: Some Red folk, huh? I wasnít expecting this.
Shahar: Those are some fine looking weapons you have there.
Blacksmith: HmmÖ

He turns from his work and comes closer to the group.

Blacksmith: Your armor, it has Iron influence in design. Was that intended?
Shahar: It was. My style of fighting is more like an Iron soldierís than a Red mageís.

Shahar pulls out his mace.

Blacksmith: HmmÖyou should keep maintenance on that mace. The flanges are starting to wear down.
Shahar: Ah, I totally forgot. Thank you.
Drora: Why DO you have your armor on anyway?
Shahar: Weíll talk about that later.
Blacksmith: Can I interest you in a shield?
Shahar: Ah, I donít usually fight with one. I have barrier magic.
Liron: Would you look at my weapons as well?

She unsheathes her two blades. She lays them on a table next to them.

Blacksmith: Now this is a treat. I donít often get to see custom made Red weapons.
Liron: You can tell that it was a custom order?
Blacksmith: Oh yeah. Whoever did this was very specific.
Liron: My brother was high ranked in the military. He had this done for me.
Blacksmith: Your brother clearly knew what he was doing then. These are beautifully made. But, they could use some sharpening. The edge is starting to dull.
Liron: That doesnít surprise me. The swords met a lot of orc armor recently. I must have killed at least 30 to 50 orcs during our final strategy.
Blacksmith: Orcs?
Katzir: I guess you guys donít know much of whatís going on.
Blacksmith: No. Come to think of it, I did see other Red folk walk by. We at some kind of truce?
Shahar: Something like that. Iím sure the queen will make some kind of official announcement about it.
Blacksmith: Thatís good. Red, Iron, itís all the same to me when it comes to my business.

After they leave the blacksmith, they wander around aimlessly for a bit longer.

Drora: Dinner time. Letís go find somewhere to sit down and eat.
Taario: Itís amazing that this whole city seems to be running as if no war was even going on.
Katzir: So was our capital when we made it back.

They find a pub and sit down. They are served food and begin to eat.

Katzir: This whole experience is surreal. A week ago, we would have never imagined this would be in our near future.
Shahar: I know what you mean. I never thought Iíd see Aegis and here we are dining in it.
Drora: Do you think we should have brought the captain along with us?
Liron: He was busy. Captain Helvast wanted him for some reason. I asked him, but he wouldnít tell me why.
Taario: You seem to know Captain Helvast pretty well.
Liron: Itís complicated, but ultimately my brother was a sheikh under his command.
Shahar: Did you know that he was an elf?
Liron: No. I had no idea. I was just as surprised as you were when the captain told us.
Drora: I wonder how Amitay would have reacted to all this.
Shahar: Itís no use thinking about it now. Whatís more important is that we prepare for Hayim and those assholes that kept attacking us.
Katzir: Itís our job to clear the way for the captain to face off against Hunter once more.

As the day turns to twilight, the five of them look towards the castle, which can be made out in the distance.

Shahar: We ought to get back.

They begin walking through a maze of streets.

Drora: Do you guys know that weíre being followed?
Liron: Yeah.
Katzir: Yep. Theyíre not that good compared to what weíve faced.
Taario: Even I could tell.

Eventually, they stop in an alleyway, where six ruffians with tattered clothes also go into this alleyway.

Liron: What do you want?
Ruffian: I donít know how you did it, but you should have died from that poison in the food.
Taario: Oh, so there actually was poison in it. Iím glad I purified it with my magic beforehand.
Ruffian: Fucking Red scum. You donít belong here! Although, the ladies can stay.
Shahar: So itís a fight youíre looking for.

Before any of them draw their weapons, the ruffians are surprised as another figure walks among them. It is the cloaked person from before.

???: (Male Voice) Thatís enough. Leave now, or youíll be executed on the spot.
Ruffian: That voiceÖitís you. Fine. You win this time.

The men leave.

Shahar: Come to think of it, I also recognized your voice.

The cloaked man looks around to see that no one else is looking and then takes off the hood. It is Aerona.

Liron: What are you doing sneaking around your own city?
Aerona: Iíd rather avoid the attention right now. Did you follow the direction I pointed at earlier?
Drora: Yes and thank you for that.
Katzir: Does that mean that you havenít been following us this whole time?
Aerona: No. Only at that time and for the past half-hour. Drora, you noticed those men, but you didnít notice me, did you?
Drora: Shut up!

Just then, a bark is heard. Suddenly, Blaze comes prancing into the alleyway and jumps into Aeronaís arms.

Aerona: This guy was following you for most of the day.
Drora: I was wondering why a wolf was allowed to roam the streets without any alarm.
Taario: Could you perhaps show us a quicker way to the castle?
Aerona: Yes. Follow me.

They make it back to the castle by sun down.

Aerona: If youíll excuse me, thereís a girl who wants to yell at me and I shouldnít keep her waiting any longer.

He leaves them. Suddenly, Khilai comes by.

Khilai: Shit. I just missed him, didnít I? I still havenít thanked him.
Liron: Sheikh Khilai, right?
Khilai: Yes. And Iíve heard about you guys. Akari has spoken well of you today. I did not know Hassar very well, but I did know Seijuro. Tough son of a bitch.
Katzir: Yeah, he was.
Khilai: I would like some company. Any of you willing to join me?
Liron: I will.
Drora: Iíd usually be in on girl talk, but Iím tired.
Taario: *Yawn* Same here.

Liron, Shahar and Katzir follow Khilai.

Taario: Isnít Liron usually pretty withdrawn? She was the first to agree to speak with Sheikh Khilai.
Drora: I think she could see that they have a similar temperament.

The others sit in an empty mess hall, with candles littered around a table.

Khilai: So, you guys saw Hunterís true colors. Tell me about it. I didnít want to ask Akari, because I didnít want to touch a nerve.
Katzir: He actually didnít change much. The only difference was who he viewed as an enemy.
Khilai: How is that possible?
Shahar: It was the same with Hayim, our former teammate. Everything he told us was the truth, except he feigned being unintelligent.
Khilai: Thatís smart. There are people like myself who can pick out deception easily.
Liron: I was able to tell in the end that Hayim wasnít as stupid as he made us believe at first. But I didnít think he could be a traitor.
Khilai: Because he became close to you all? Perhaps thatís why Hunter only brought Akari and Helen along. Those two are the only Sheikh that would have never suspected Hunter.

Just then, some footsteps are heard, but the immediate candlelight does not allow view of who it is until the figure comes close enough.

Akari: I thought I heard some of you. I came across Drora just a few minutes ago.
Khilai: Akari. How much did you hear?
Akari: I heard everything you just said.

Akari sits down with them.

Akari: Thatís only half of the reason. When it came down to it, he was not able to kill me himself. He told me that Helen and I were the only two that tied him to the Red Kingdom. Knowing him, we were emotionally barring him from doing his duty.
Liron: I can understand that.
Khilai: To tell you the truth, Akari, Iíve never liked Hunter. It always annoyed the hell out of me that I could never tell what he was thinking.
Akari: Thatís old news, Khilai. Hunter knew you didnít like him.
Khilai: Shit.
Akari: Helen tried to get him to interact with you, so that you would get to know him better.
Shahar: Forgive my rudeness, but weíre talking an awful lot about Hunter. This question has been on my mind for a while. Can you really face him as an enemy?
Khilai: I was getting to that soon as well.
Akari: Well, I suppose secrecy is not what we need. Especially after what happened to us all. Truth be told, Iím still trying to mentally prepare myself. If he were standing in front of me right now, I donít think I would be able to fight him at 100%. And trust me, I need to in order to defeat him. All the same, he also needs to be committed 100% to defeat me. In our last fight, Hunter held back some of his power. Our mentalities will be a key factor if the two of us face off.
Khilai: Then you donít fight him alone. Itís that simple.
Akari: This is true.
Katzir: Sheikh Khilai. You are Captain Jeromeís sister, right? Did he teach you how to fight?
Khilai: Yes. It also helps that we have the same affinity for ice.
Katzir: What is it like being trained by him? Of the three captains, your brother is the one with the most mystery surrounding him. Not many people see him fight seriously. Seijuro once told me that Jerome is the worst possible captain to pick a fight with.
Khilai: Put it into perspective this way. You fought the dragon slayers in a skirmish, right?
Katzir: Thatís right.
Khilai: The royal knight was not at full strength, am I right?
Shahar: Thatís correct.
Khilai: The reason that he was in that position was after nearly dying in a one on one fight with my brother. That fight happened days prior to your skirmish. With healing magic, almost anyone can be back to 100% in 24 hours.
Liron: Now that you bring that upÖare you saying that Jerome cripples his opponents that badly?
Khilai: Yes. The training I underwent was much of the same. He used his Eldritch magic on me many times when I was younger.
Akari: So thatís why youíre a hardened person in nature.
Khilai: Donít get me wrong though. He didnít want to do it. I personally begged for it. I was not born with the same magical power as him due to hisÖcircumstances. I wanted to make up for it through other means.
Katzir: My cousin at his absolute strongest still could not beat any of the three captains.
Khilai: Well, itís getting late. I think itís time for me to turn in for the night. Liron, Shahar, Katzir. It was nice to meet you. Akari, weíll talk more another dayÖas the last of the Sheikhs.
Akari: Oh donít say that. Habib might still be with us. Hahaha.
Khilai: Good one. Good night.

Khilai leaves.

Katzir: She seems a lot nicer than she gives herself credit for.
Akari: Sheís usually more abrasive. But this situation has softened up even the more hardened people.
Liron: Yeah.
Shahar: We should probably get some sleep as well.

They all nod and leave the mess hall as well, blowing out the candles except one, which lights their way.


Weíve seen how the Red mages are coping. How about on the Iron side of things? Next time!

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PostSubject: Re: A Tale of Iron   June 3rd 2016, 11:34 am

Chapter 74


We go back a day to when Drake and Athala were in the throne room with the queen.

Eleanor: But if you do, donít hesitate for a second, Drake. Kill Captain Jerome.
Drake: I can understand why you want me to carry out this mission. IímÖnot sure itís possible though. Even when they sleep, all the captains have trained to be on full alert.
Eleanor: You did say, ďanythingĒ, Drake.
Drake: YesÖI did.
Athala: EllyÖthis might be too much even for him.
Drake: I will keep my eyes open for an opportunity. And if he tries to betray our alliance, I will be the first to attack.
Eleanor: Good.

There is a silence for a few seconds. The queenís lips are quivering, like she is trying to say something, but canít.

Eleanor: Damn it. I thought I could keep my emotions out of this.
Drake: My queen?

Eleanor gets down on her knees with Drake and hugs him.

Eleanor: I missed you, my first personal guard.
Drake: Iím so sorry. I wish I could have come back sooner.

The next day, we see the five dragon slayers eating breakfast together.

Solomon: Even though things have changed, when weíre like this itís like nothing is different.
Aerona: Arenít you all glad I didnít offer up my room to anyone?
Vito: Hell yeah. Iíll bet Drake wanted to move in with you.
Aerona: MaybeÖI wouldnít say yes, thatís for damn sure.
Mars: So, what are we going to do today?
Erosion: How about training?
Mars: Iím down for that.
Solomon: Hell yeah! We can have another spar to see whoíd win.
Vito: You guys are going to lose.
Aerona: Iíll pass.

Aerona throws on a cloak and opens the door to the room.

Solomon: Whaaaat?! Youíre turning down a spar?
Aerona: See ya.

He closes the door behind him.

Vito: He didnít even wait for us to finish eating.
Solomon: What the hell is going on?! Itís pissing me off!
Vito: Ö
Mars: Anyway, we can still train. We just wonít have a dedicated healer.

Out in a courtyard, we can see Athala and Drake sparring with each other. They both have practice long swords. Drake strikes Athala on the shoulder.

Athala: Damn it.
Drake: You definitely have learned from our last fight though.
Athala: Iíd prefer a practice great sword.
Drake: Say no more.

The practice swords disappear and a dulled great sword appears in Athalaís hand. A dulled spear appears in Drakeís hand.

Athala: Now this is more like it.

They go a few more rounds of sparring.

Drake: Now youíre getting the hang of fighting a skilled spear user.
Athala: Still, Iím not at your level yet. I canít stop.
Drake: Hey, Iím improving too, you know. Iím not going to just let you catch up to me.

A few moments later, Strago joins them. He is wearing a knight robe with some clothes under it.

Strago: I see you two are already practicing. Itís not a bad idea, but you should also rest your bodies more.
Drake: I feel too on edge right now, sir.
Strago: Fine. Then Iíll dull that edge. If you would.

He puts out his hand and Drake creates a practice arming sword.

Strago: An arming sword? Very well. Both of you come at me. Letís see how well you work as a team.

A solid minute later, both of them are on the ground and Strago stands above them.

Strago: How about now, Drake? Do you still feel on edge to fight?
Drake: No. Iím satisfied. Thank you, sir.
Athala: Did you have to go all out with your speed, General Strago?
Strago: Who told you that was my top speed?

Just then, there is a clapping noise heard. They turn around to see Keros.

Keros: That was a magnificent display.
Strago: You were with that group against the orcs.
Keros: Yes, sir.
Athala: This person is supposedly next in line for Lieutenant of Helios.
Strago: Oh, you are? Athala, how about you test him out? Your stamina will be a good handicap for the match.
Athala: Very well. But, just to let you know, I could keep going for hours.
Strago: Then I feel sorry for you, new guy.
Keros: Iíll do my best.

In the streets of Aegis, we can see Aerona walking around. Blaze is walking with him.

Aerona: What am I even doing out here anyway?

He sees the Fangs looking for food.

Aerona: I guess Iíll give them a bit of help. Iíll also have Blaze follow them just in case.

A bit later, in a cell, Aggro is no longer chained up. He is sitting down with an empty plate in front of him. A nearby door opens and Strago comes through. Shiomi follows.

Aggro: The generals have come to see me.
Shiomi: We have come to see if you are willing to divulge any more information.
Aggro: I already told Mars everything I know.
Strago: Will your buddies be coming for you?
Aggro: Unlikely. Barg would have. But charging headlong into enemy territory for one guy? Thatís not anyoneís M.O on this continent.
Shiomi: Then, are you willing to change sides and work with us? You may not be welcome here anymore, but I will find you a home in the Red Kingdom if you do.
Aggro: Sure, Iíll switch sides.
Shiomi: Youíre lying.
Aggro: Then what was the point of asking if you werenít going to believe me?
Strago: She was testing how genuine you were. The condition youíre in has left you no room for good acting.
Shiomi: Though, I was serious about the offer on the off chance that you were actually willing to betray your ďsymbol of hopeĒ.
Aggro: So calculated. I see that you arenít the general just for your power. You and General Strago are the same in that regard.
Shiomi: Whatís your point?
Aggro: You would get along under King Hunterís rule. Why not just submit? You could save many lives if you do.
Shiomi: Iím sure you and the Etal have suffered greatly at the hands of darkness. I understand why youíd be upset with us. But, you pissed us off. Thatís why we wonít surrender to Hunter. Your people murdered Sheikh Helen and nearly killed Sheikh Akari. Your king, someone we considered a brother in arms, betrayed our trust and killed the king that he swore an oath to protect.
Strago: And your people tried to assassinate my queen. You, someone who I treated well. Someone that Mars and Aerona held in high regard. You aimed your axe at your fellow lieutenant and tried to kill her dishonorably. †Weíre going to save lives, Aggro. But not in the way that you want. Weíre going to destroy the Etal and wipe them off the face of the earth. And while weíre at it, we are going to take care of this dark lord problem so that our future generation does not have to go through what you did.
Aggro: Spoken like a true warmonger. Thatís exactly why your kingdoms will end up killing each other.
Shiomi: I used to think that was the case too. But as warmongering kingdoms, we have similar mindsets; and in that, we have common ground. Part of it is just accepting that weíre all awful peopleÖor that weíre all decent people in comparison to what threatens humanity.
Aggro: Your words carry a lot of weight, General Shiomi. Had I been born ten years later, perhaps you would have won me over just now.
Strago: Then itís clear what we must do with you.

Outside the castle, we can see the other four dragon slayers besides Aerona. They are all breathing heavy.

Vito: Thatís what Iím talking about.
Solomon: It doesnít count since all five of us werenít here.
Mars: Still, it was close.
Erosion: Iíll win next time for sure.
Mars: How about we add to our one vs one records with practice weapons?
Vito: Have we even been keeping track of that?
Erosion: Not really.
Mars: All I know is that I have a winning record against all of you.
Vito: Hahaha. Like hell you do.

They travel out into the city. They approach a stationary target practice area with a man standing in the vicinity. He is wearing business attire and immediately makes a standing bow to the four of them.

Man: My lords. It has been some time since you last visited.
Solomon: We need four rounds of throwing knives.
Man: Yes, sir.

The four of them are given three throwing knives and line up to four of the six targets.

Solomon: Ready? Three, two, oneÖthrow.

They throw their knives in tandem and all hit the target. Erosion manages to hit dead center.

Erosion: Hell yeah!

They throw two more times.

Erosion: Iím on fire today with throwing knives.
Mars: But I win because Vito missed his and hit my target instead.
Vito: Shut the fuck up!
Solomon: No, it doesnít work that way. As much as I hate to admit it, Erosion wins.
Man: Can I interest you in an archery round while the royal knight isnít with you?
Mars: Yes. Letís do that next.

They all do the same thing except shooting three arrows.

Erosion: Not bad, Mars. Been practicing?
Mars: You guys do remember that my father was the best archer? I donít do it much, but I learned.
Vito: Thatís true.
Solomon: Got any other target practice types?
Man: Javelin throwing.

A few minutes laterÖ

Solomon: Yes! I finally won something today! We all won something.

At the castle, we see Aerona and Drake at the courtyard. Athala is sitting on a bench nearby.

Aerona: So Keros passed?
Drake: He did well. Heís not on Athalaís level, but he has spunk.
Aerona: By the way, I have a request for you. I need a new weapon designed over the next few days and your magic could make the smithing process very easy.
Drake: What happened to yourÖoh yeah I broke it during our fight.
Aerona: Can you help me?
Drake: Yes, of course.

A few moments later, the other four return to the castle.

Aerona: Ah.
Solomon: There you are, you son of a bitch!
Aerona: Itís good youíre all here. I have something to tell you all.
Vito: Wait, youíre going to reveal that now?!
Aerona: Itís not what youíre thinking, no.
Solomon: Wait, what do YOU mean, Vito?
Vito: Nothing.
Aerona: IÖI canít use light magic anymore.
All: What?!
Mars: How is that possible?
Athala: Youíre not serious.
Aerona: Iím afraid itís true.
Solomon: So, does that mean youíre now the weakest of us? Does that mean we canít use the Tepenhyakugo anymore? At least heíll stop being able to show off as much if heís weaker than us.
Aerona: Not exactly. Itís a bit difficult to show you while the Elťnaril is still active. But, I thought that you should all know. Athala, I will still teach you as much as I can, but I wonít be able to demonstrate anymore.
Athala: Not a problem.
Aerona: Anyway, Drake, if you would follow me.
Drake: Yes.

The two of them walk away at the same time that Akari comes walking by.

Akari: I heard all that. Iíve never heard of something like this.
Solomon: What are we going to do without a healer on our team?
Akari: Welcome to my world, buddy. On our previous mis-
Solomon: You have a healer! We donít have one anymore!
Akari: As I was sayingÖon our previous mission, we didnít have one. Taario didnít join us till after Hunter betrayed us.
Erosion: We can replace Aerona with Athala.
Athala: Like Iíd join your little gang.
Vito: He was joking. You donít qualify to be a dragon slayer.
Athala: You want to say that to my face?
Vito: Iíll say it twice to your face, bitch. You want to go?
Athala: ÖNo. The generalís orders were to rest.
Vito: Thatís what I thought.
Akari: So, can someone explain to me why my magic is restricted?
Mars: There is an elven artifact that is doing that.
Akari: Elven, huh? We encountered strange dark elven magic not too long ago. It kept alive the spirit of an old dwarven king.
Mars: Weird.

Later that day, we see Athala in the throne room with the queen. Strago is also present.

Eleanor: So, thatís his deal.
Athala: Yes. Has he not reported to you at all today?
Eleanor: No. Thatís very unlike himÖespecially considering the circumstances.
Strago: I will talk to him.
Eleanor: Anyway, as you know, I spoke to General Shiomi in private yesterday.
Strago: Yes, I remember. How did that go?
Eleanor: There were things I wanted to determine about her plans and ambitions. I am satisfied with how our conversation went.
Athala: Thatís good.
Strago: Shiomi is someone we can trust.
Eleanor: I agree from what Iíve heard her say.
Strago: Things are going smoothly so far. I was initially very nervous about bringing them to Aegis. But I felt that this was the best decision.
Eleanor: I would have done the same, given our circumstances. It appears as though the Red Kingdom has lost more than we have.
Athala: Theyíve lost their kingdom to a foreign bastard, for one.
Strago: One thing is clear. If we help take back the Red Kingdom, we may be able to forge a more lasting alliance.
Athala: Thatís what our ancestors said when we killed the elves and dwarves. But we ended up fighting each other anyway.
Eleanor: We are not our ancestors. They did not experience the horrors that we have. We also have the advantage of having written history. They were the guinea pigs of our kingdoms.
Strago: Well said.

We now go to a room with various blacksmithing tools. There is a man in his 40s working on an iron with rough long black hair. He has a scruffy black beard. He is wearing a leather gambeson of sorts. There is a knock at the heavy black iron door nearby.

Blacksmith: If itís you, Kelly, Iím going to shove this hammer up that nasty cunt of yours!

The door opens and creaks as it does. Aerona and Drake enter.

Aerona: Hey, Jerard.
Jerard: My favorite customer! Gyahahaha!

Jerard stands up and then sees Drake next to him.

Drake: Hello, old friend.
Jerard: Fuck me upside down, itís Drake!
Drake: How have you been?
Jerard: Your buddy has been keeping me busy. And it looks like youíre about to make me even richer.
Aerona: This is true.
Jerard: I just made that glaive for you too. How the fuck did you break it so quick?!
Aerona: This guy sent a bunch of spears at it. It held up pretty well though.
Drake: YeahÖitís kinda my fault this time.
Jerard: You want me to make another one? I have the design already prepared, since you love breaking my weapons. Gyahahaha! Youíre the best with Ďem though, so I donít mind so much.
Aerona: Youíre the man, Jerard. ButÖIím not looking for the usual this time. Drake, show him.

We donít see what weapon Drake shows him with his magic.

Jerard: Oh, that is much different. Though it will be very easy to make compared to your usual requests.
Drake: I can leave this with you for up to an hour and you can study it, cast it, whatever you need to do. After that hour, the weapon will automatically disappear.
Jerard: Got it. I missed having that magic around. You made a great smithís assistant when you were a teenager.
Drake: I wish I could go back to those days sometimes.
Aerona: You worked with Jerard?
Drake: When I wasnít being trained to be Eleanorís bodyguard, this is how I made a little bit of extra money. It also helped me train my magic.
Aerona: Interesting.
Jerard: The past and present bodyguards in front of me, huh?
Female Voice: Jerard! Did you remember to feed Polly?!
Jerard: The bird has been dead for two years, ya dumb bitch!

The metal door opens wide and a woman comes bursting through. She is also in her 40s with messy blond hair and a blue dirty maidís dress.

Jerard: What did I tell you about coming in uninvited, Kelly?!
Kelly: Iím your wife! I can come in whenever I want, dear! Drake?! Is that you?!
Drake: Kelly. Itís good to see you as well.
Kelly: Jerard, did you see? Itís Drake!
Jerard: I saw with my own eyes!
Aerona: I see your marriage is thriving as well as ever.
Jerard: Gyahahaha! We havenít killed each other yet, so itís good! Itís a good thing she likes it rough. Know what I mean?
Drake: Too much information.
Kelly: Drake, youíve grown up to be such a handsome man. I might fall for you.
Jerard: You can have her. Two gold.
Kelly: Iím worth at least 50!
Jerard: Just be careful, Drake. Sheís so loose by now that you could fit a cestus up there. Haha!
Drake: ÖIíll leave the weapon there. Later.
Aerona: Iíll be back in a few days to check on your progress.

Aerona and Drake walk out of the room with the door still open.

Jerard: We havenít even discussed the payment yet!

A bag flies at Jerard and smacks him in the face, landing in his lap. He opens it and looks at the contents inside.

Jerard: This will do!

Later that night, Athala and Drake are sitting out in the courtyard as the moonlight is beginning to illuminate them. They watch as the Fangs return to the castle and walk by.

Drake: Donít you wish we could go back to those days where it was just me, you and Eleanor?
Athala: Maybe. Although, I donít miss the political strings that were attached back then.
Drake: I know what you mean. My parents wanted me to get close to the princess, hoping that she would fall in love with me, giving me a shot at becoming king.
Athala: I didnít know that.
Drake: Well, itís true. Athala, you know what happened to them, right?
Athala: Öyeah.
Drake: How did they die? Were they lynched?
Athala: ItÖit was Barg and Aggro. They acted on their own. EllyÖshe wanted them to live. The general punished them both very heavily for acting against orders.
Drake: AggroÖI have half a mind to go beat the shit out of him. ButÖitís not his fault. Itís mine, after all. No, rather, itís Jeromeís fault that they died.

Drake tilts his head down, clenching his fists tightly.

Drake: I never even got to say goodbye to them.
Athala: Iím sorry.

A few moments of silence pass.

Drake: Can I ask you a question?
Athala: What is it?
Drake: Do you have feelings for the royal knight?
Athala: Heh. Hahahaha! What makes you ask that?
Drake: Heís been teaching you light magic and you seem closer.
Athala: You just made me throw up a little inside.
Drake: Thatís a relief. He took my position and topped me as weapon master. I was afraid he would take you as well.
Athala: I donít hate him anymore. Thatís as far as Iím willing to go with him. Heís a means to an end for me. Those five still piss me the hell off sometimes. And last I checked, Iím not yours.
Drake: Sorry. I didnít mean it that way.

Back at Aeronaís room, we see the four lieutenant commanders playing a card game of some sort. Aerona walks in, looking visibly tired and stressed.

Vito: Jeez, man. You look like hell.
Aerona: I just finished getting yelled at.
Mars: You want in on this game?
Aerona: Iím good.

He lies down nearby.

Solomon: Tomorrow weíre supposed to intermingle a bit more. That should be interesting. Maybe Iíll try talking to that small girl in the Fangs of Pestilence.
Vito: No you wonít.
Solomon: Fuck you.
Erosion: If you donít, Solomon, I might.
Vito: That one in that Fang group though. The taller one with big titties. Damn man.
Aerona: Her nameís Liron.
Vito: You going after her too?
Aerona: Nah. Go for it.
Mars: What about the black one? Jeromeís sister.
Erosion: Sheís not bad looking.
Aerona: Yeah, but do you really want to deal with Jerome if things go wrong?
Mars: Fair point.
Solomon: Well, I think things will go well tomorrow. We can even talk things out with the captains.
Vito: Ö
Mars: Ö
Aerona: Oh, that reminds me. Vito, Mars. Thereís something I learned from Jerome.

Aerona tells them about the battle.

Mars: Seijuro was the one? And I was the one that got the final shot on him.
Erosion: Isnít that awesome?
Mars: Being told that I got revenge is weird.
Vito: SentusÖhe spoke to me as if I wronged HIM.
Aerona: Sentus isnít here right now either. Knowing that, you two should have no problems tomorrow.
Mars: Yeah. Iíll be fine then.
Vito: For now.
Solomon: But what about you? Donít you hate Jerome?
Aerona: More than anyone. But Iím okayÖfor now.
Erosion: Tomorrow will definitely be interesting then. Hehe.


What will tomorrowís events do for the relationship between armies?

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