Current Track: Blabb
Holy crap! Another chapter?! It can\'t be! Oh yes it is! Hopefully I\'ll have chapter 10 out soon as well, but I have so many ideas currently, it may take a bit! No p0rn in this one either, but I may have to include some in the next chapter, depending on what I feel like. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Arzhi rode along the mountain road, lost deep in thought. It was raining again...well; it was more like wet air. A fine rainy drizzle floated through the air, soaking everything it touched. Tochinoki sneezed and shook his head. \"Where are we going?\" he asked. Arzhi looked up and scanned the rocky landscape with his crimson eyes. Ragged slopes rose above them on either side, and the road seemed to wind on forever. He had long since discarded his sword and bow, knowing they were not gifts from his mother. \"I don\'t know Tochi...I guess we\'ll go wherever the road takes us.\" he replied, patting his mounts neck. He had also left Cerdwin behind long ago. She was plainly evil, and Arzhi had no desire to consort with anything evil ever again. His purple mane was plastered against his slender neck, and his tail was draped limply across Tochi\'s back. There was a pause, where the only sounds were Tochi\'s soft foot falls on the wet gravel path. \"Why are you crying?\" Tochi said quietly. Arzhi sniffed, and wiped his eyes. \"I...I don\'t know what to do anymore...I\'m no hero. I killed all those people; I\'m nothing more than a murderer.\" \"You were not yourself. The Demon had a hold of your mind. You have to remain strong in order to get through this ordeal.\" \"Since when did you get so wise?\" Arzhi said with a weak smile. \"Since we met Cadfael, actually.\" \"I miss him, Tochi. I miss him a lot...but if I go back and look for him, I\'ll surely be caught and killed.\" \"Which is why we must move forwards. We can only hope he catches up with us.\" \"Maybe you\'re right...\" Arzhi muttered. A while later, the rain grew in intensity, so Arzhi and Tochi had taken shelter under a rocky outcrop. Water poured in small streams off the lip of the outcrop. Arzhi was refilling his water canister from one of them, while Tochi tried to make himself comfortable on the cold damp ground. \"This is not good weather for me...\" he muttered, curling his tail around himself. \"It is not good weather for anyone.\" Arzhi replied, shuffling up next to his friend. \"Do you think you could get a fire going?\" Tochi asked hopefully. \"Without wood, keeping it going would be more tiresome than its worth.\" Tochi sighed and rested his head on his forearms. Arzhi leaned back against the damp wall of the outcropping and sighed. He licked his lips, and immediately spat, sitting up straight and shuddering. \"Eeeurgh! What was that horrible taste?!\" he exclaimed. \"Oh, that\'ll be your armour.\" Tochi said without lifting his head, his tongue flicking out several times. \"My tongue can taste smells?\" Arzhi asked \"Yes...all snakes can...and my species of course.\" \"It tastes like rancid blood!\" \"Probably because it is.\" Arzhi grimaced and began unbuckling his armour. He pulled off his breastplate and jerkin, throwing them in a pile in the middle of the floor. He pulled off his trousers, and they joined the pile. He raised his hand, and his eyes glittered briefly, before the pile of leather burst into flames. \"I\'ll not be sullied by the blood of innocents!\" Arzhi snarled, baring his fangs. Due to being mostly snake now, all his genitals were internal, so he had nothing really to hide. He did keep his long belt though, it had all his pouches and money attached to it. He slung it over his shoulder and fastened it like a baldric. He then grabbed Tochi\'s saddle and pulled off the small amounts of supplies they had, before throwing the saddle onto the fire as well. \"I\'ll start from scratch. I\'ll begin again. I won\'t be anyone\'s puppet, I\'ll do things my own way, and nobody can tell me otherwise!\" he said determinedly. \"Are you sure about this?\" Tochi asked \"Yes. From now on it\'ll just be me and you. I do not need equipment or armour. I do not need weapons or shields. I have all I need within me. Mother gifted me with immense power, and this is a gift I will make great use of. I can use it, shape it with my will and imagination! For starters, despite the baldric, I still feel a bit naked.\" Arzhi raised his hands and let a small glow rise between them. There was a brief flash, and Arzhi was wearing a black leather loincloth, with golden patterns upon it. It came down to about his knees, and was attached to a thin belt around his waist. \"What about the Tattoos?\" Tochi asked \"I am no longer under his influence. They will not desecrate my flesh any longer.\" Arzhi said, and clapped his hands. The Tattoos vanished. His fine scales glittered a fine pearly white in the firelight. Arzhi looked over his purified form, his slender muscles gleaming in the flickering light. Although he could not see it, his crimson eyes slowly faded from red, to a rather sad blue. \"Your eyes...They are like the Mistresses!\" Tochi gasped \"Eh? What do you mean by that?\" Arzhi asked \"They change colour to reflect your inner emotions. I have only known the Mistresses eyes to do that.\" Arzhi smiled and leaned against Tochi, closing his eyes. \"It seems that with this change, I have come closer to Mother, and further from the Devil.\" He said. Meanwhile, the Devil was rather angry. He did not know how Arzhi had broken free of his influence, but when he had erased the tattoos, the Devil lost the power to spy on him. \"How the fuck did he break my influence?!\" He shouted, his eyes smouldering. He is more powerful than you give him credit for said a voice from behind him. The devil whipped around and saw The King sitting in his throne. \"What do you want, Elder God?\" He snarled Nothing from you little devil The King said, clasping his hands in front of him You should know that your little plans will mean nothing in the face of his wrath \"It was you! You broke my spell!!\" The devil hissed No Unlike you I am forbidden to interfere I simply gave him insight into how to break your spell He did the rest himself \"What do you want? You can\'t have come down here to gloat, that isn\'t your style.\" No I came to warn you You play a very dangerous game here Lucifer By doing what you have done you have upset a very fine balance If Arzhi fails in stopping you then I will personally get involved to reset that balance \"You can\'t! That is not allowed!\" The destruction of one world is insignificant But I am particularly fond of this one I will not interfere but instead will watch with interest For now With that, he was gone. The Devil cursed. Now that The King had had shown an interest to his plans, he would have to speed things up. Back in the mountains, it had stopped raining and the sun was shining. Arzhi rode along on Tochi gazing up at the blue sky. He felt as if an enourmous weight had been lifted from his shoulders, and his head felt clear and clean. Even for the summer, there had been an abnormal amount of rain lately, so sunshine was a welcome thing. \"How do you plan to go un-noticed dressed like that?\" Tochi asked \"Purely human cities are no longer safe for us. Unfortunately Humans happen to share most of their cities with the \'n ddynol Anifeiliaid.\" \"That\'s the name for what humans call ‘Anthropoids\'.\" Arzhi said \"Most of the time it\'s shortened to Anifeil. The Anifeil also share their cities with Humans. This means we\'ll have to go to the non human and Anifeil cities. We also cannot head for Demon cities; they will think I am a hero of some sort. This means we\'ll have to head for cities of the neutral races, such as the Grey Elves, or the Lizardfolk.\" \"How do you know so much?\" Tochi asked, looking over his shoulder at Arzhi \"I\'m just saying what I read! I still have no idea how to get to any of these places.\" \"I guess we\'ll have to keep going until we find someone to ask directions.\" \"Indeed we may.\" Oddly enough, they didn\'t have to wait long. Around the very next bend was an armed band of men. Arzhi gritted his teeth when he saw them, but relaxed when he saw they were neither human, nor Anifeil. As luck would have it, they were Grey Elves. Grey Elves were different from the Woodland Elves, or the Mountain Elves. They were tall with pale grey skin, long fine features, and small pointed ears. They were quite different from the Wood elves, which were tall and broad with nut brown skin and green hair, or the Mountain Elves who were short like dwarves, but were slender, with black skin and white eyes. Grey elves were called \"High\" Elves by some, although they did not share this honourific. They had a great love of music, the martial arts, and archery, much like the Unicorns. It was one of the Grey Elves who spoke first. \"What a strange appearance for one travelling this road.\" He said, looking at Arzhi. The rest of the Grey Elves turned to look at Arzhi. \"Maybe, but anyone coming across a group of Elves armed such as yourselves, would think there trouble brewing.\" \"It is not often we see a member of the wondering outside of their realm.\" Arzhi tried to contain his surprise. \"How did you guess my kind so easily?\" He asked \"Your eyes just now proved it.\" The elf said \"When I said you were a Celestial, your eyes changed from yellow to orange. I guess that was surprise.\" \"Indeed it was.\" Arzhi said dismounting. \"I am Neidr Bragad...son of Neidr Fam.\" \"The Celestial tongue is a fair one.\" The elf said \"I am Valde Pandus son of Valde Proeliator, captain of this band of mercenaries.\" \"It is a pleasure to meet you and your men. I had thought I was the only one travelling on this barren road.\" \"We are headed back to the woodland city of Amplus Nemus, the stronghold of the Grey Elves.\" Pandus said. \"A coincidence, then, that I might be travelling to the same place.\" Arzhi said \"It was my fortune to come across you then, as I was not sure in which direction the city lies.\" \"Would you then like to accompany us for the rest of the way?\" Pandus offered. \"If I would not be a burden to you and your men.\" \"Only if you can\'t fight!\" someone shouted from the back of the group, eliciting a laugh from the rest of the group. \"We shall see if we are attacked, whether or not I can fight.\" Arzhi replied with a small smile. Soon the path began to climb sharply up the side of a mountain, and the terrain became rockier. The temperature also seemed to be dropping as well. \"Tell me, Pandus; does this rout take us up into the snow line?\" Arzhi asked. \"Not quite.\" The elf replied, running a hand through his long brown hair \"It rises to a height where snow falls in the winter, but then there is a road that leads under the mountain.\" \"Why put the entrance so high?\" \"To make sure only the people who are neither Human nor Anifeil may enter.\" Arzhi looked slightly confused, and Pandus laughed. \"We Grey Elves do not trust these young races. Dwarves, Merfolk, Lizardfolk, the other Elves, Drow, we welcome them all as they have long since proven their worth over countless millennia. Humans and the Anifeil however, can not be trusted. They are both a young race and prone to violence and war when it could be avoided.\" \"I see. Then I am glad it is hidden. But I am also glad it is not hidden too high. We do not fare well in the snow.\" Arzhi said, patting Tochi on the neck. \"Then how do you feel about dark subterranean tunnels?\" Pandus asked \"If they are warmer than this windswept hill, then I\'d feel almost compassionate towards them.\" \"Good, the door is just by that rock.\" Pandus pointed towards a tall shard of rock that rested by the side of the winding path. He came to a halt next to it, and stuck his hand inside a small hollow in the rock. There was a click, and a large stone door slid to one side, revealing a dark passageway into the mountain. \"The dwarves made this passage for us a long time ago. It is the fastest way to get to the city.\" Pandus said, taking a lantern from his pack. The rest of the mercenaries were doing the same, and soon, they were descending down a stone ramp with well worn grooves made by carts and carriages. \"Is this the only door?\" Arzhi asked as the door slid slowly back into place. \"There are other doors, yes.\" Pandus said, tying his lantern to a long stick, and raising it aloft. \"But this one is the main byway.\" Arzhi nodded and peered ahead. It was pitch black. There was absolutely no light apart from the lights of the lanterns. \"Never have I been somewhere so dark.\" He said, his voice echoing off the walls. \"It gets brighter the deeper into the mountain you go. This is a tunnel that has been manually carved. The rest of the route is a massive network of natural tunnels. Some caves in here are so vast they contain entire cities.\" \"You said it would get brighter...\" Arzhi said with a confused look. \"Ah yes!\" Pandus said with a laugh. \"There are a large number of glowing plants and algae down here, a number of the creatures down here also produce light. In some tunnels it can actually get quite bright. The main route, which is the one we\'re taking, is the best lit, with lanterns and other lights being placed in it.\" \"I see...\" \"You say that a lot, but I wonder if you really do.\" \"Eh? Oh, it\'s just a habit. I generally say it when there\'s not much else to say.\" Just then, a dull bluish glow lit up a corner. As the party rounded it, a vast tunnel came into view. Its ceiling was as high as a cathedral, and it was as wide enough for ten large carts to travel side by side with room to spare. Algae adorned the walls, glowing various shades of blue and green, brightly lighting the tunnel. There were several dark tunnel mouths entering the main tunnel, with people emerging from them, and disappearing into them. \"I had not expected it to be so busy!\" Arzhi exclaimed, looking around at the wide variety of people, noting that not one of them was Human or Anifeil. \"Oh yes, Like I said, there are whole cities under these mountains, mostly Dwarves and our mountain cousins. There are also the Drow, but they live deep within the mountain where the only light comes from their own eyes.\" Arzhi knew a little about the Drow. They were similar to the Grey Elves, but had white skin and hair from the lack of any sort of light, and glowing red eyes that allowed them to see in the inky blackness at the heart of the world. \"Would they really come up from beyond the depths?\" Arzhi asked \"Sometimes. There is a surprisingly large population in Amplus Nemus, although sunlight has a peculiar effect on them.\" \"How so?\" \"Their skin goes from milk white, to black as the darkness in which they dwell. It is even darker than that of the Mountain Elves.\" \"Interesting...Tell me, are there any cities on the way to the other side?\" \"Not on this particular route, but there are taverns and stables at regular intervals.\" \"I see...Well, I had hoped...\" Arzhi stopped speaking abruptly, and stopped dead in his tracks. There was the clanking and jingling of armour as the mercenaries tried not run into him. \"What is it?\" Pandus asked. \"We\'re being followed...\" Arzhi said, his eyes suddenly turning red. \"And this smell is all to familiar...\" \"What? What is it?\" Pandus asked, his hand coming to rest on the hilt of the rapier he wore at his belt. \"Demonblessed...They followed us into the passage...\" \"What?!\" Pandus said, drawing his rapier. Several travellers of the underground highway looked at him. Arzhi leapt onto a rock to one side of the road and cleared his throat. \"Can I have your attention please?!\" he shouted at the top of his lungs. The traffic around them stopped. \"Everybody run! There are Demonblessed on the way! Spread the word!\" Hundreds of pairs of eyes looked at him in the following silence. Just then, the faint sound of whooping and howling came filtering through the still air. That\'s when the screaming started. People scattered from the area as fast as they could, vanishing up side tunnels or heading back the way they came. All the mercenaries had drawn their weapons. There was a loud clanking noise from one of the side tunnels, and roughly twenty heavily armed and armoured Dwarven soldiers came pounding towards Arzhi. Dwarves were generally stocky and powerful, physically stronger than most, even though the average height was four feet six inches. There were armed with axes, swords, bardiches and hammers. Arzhi jumped off the rock just as the leader of the dwarves arrived at the rock. \"We heard someone shouting about Demonblessed!\" he said enthusiastically. \"There are many coming this way.\" Arzhi said \"Good! They shall feel the edges of our blades, and the spikes of our hammers!!\" The dwarf shouted, to a ringing chorus of shouts and war cries. \"Just like dwarves to come running at the first sound of a fight.\" Pandus said. \"Aye, that we do!\" The dwarf said with a massive grin (at least, Arzhi thought it was a grin. It was hard to tell behind the dwarf\'s enourmous beard). Arzhi sighed. He had only really had proper interaction with Unicorns and Demonblessed, but he could tell there was no use in talking these people out of it. The dwarves were drawing up information, facing the direction of the now audible howling of demonic spawn. \"I take it you are a Wyrd user?\" Pandus said to Arzhi \"Eh? What do you mean?\" \"You don\'t have any weapons; therefore I assume you use magic.\" \"Oh, right yes, I do.\" \"Don\'t use any destruction or fire based magic in here; we don\'t want the roof collapsing on us.\" \"Okay.\" \"Are we fighting now?\" Tochi asked as Arzhi jumped on his back. \"Supporting. We\'ll hang back and take them on from a distance. I do not want any of those Demons recognising me.\" The Demonblessed were approaching fast, and they soon rounded the bend the group of warriors was facing. There was about forty of them, all crazed with the scent of battle. \"It looks like a good fight lads!!\" The dwarf cried, his men roaring with approval. Pandus just sighed, and cricked his neck. \"Remember, we fight as a unit.\" He said to his men \"Do not separate for whatever reason.\" The Demonblessed were almost upon them when a searing bolt of green light lanced over their heads and hit a Demonblessed square in the chest, blasting a hole straight through its chest. Arzhi was standing on Tochi\'s back, his eyes blazing with golden fire. Tochi was snarling and hissing, his pupils contracted into slits. The Demonblessed screeched to a halt as the stricken creature looked down at its chest, and saw the perfectly circular hole in it. It looked up, and fell sideways. \"Kill the bastards!!\" The dwarf yelled, and the clanking mass of dwarven armour surged forwards and slammed into the demons, followed closely by the Elves. Demonblessed were a lot stronger than the dwarves, and more resilient than the Elves, but they were not unbeatable, especially not by such a group of dangerous fighters. The dwarves were already engaged in fierce battle with the demons, and Pandus and his men moved through the throng in a tightly knit group. Arzhi narrowed his eyes and held out his hand. \"With this tainted blood, I swear I will never slay another mortal, but I will not hold back against the Devil and his ilk!\" He closed his hand into a fist, and one of the Demonblessed slumped to the floor, blood pouring out of his eyes, nose mouth and ears. He raised his other hand and swung it in a glittering arc above his head. He brought his other arm up and clapped his hands together above his head. He then brought his arms down with his hands together as if he was praying. He closed his eyes, and opened his hands. Odd sigils appeared on the backs of all the warriors fighting, and their weapons glowed with a soft golden light. The dwarven lead saw the glow and smiled. He swung his great glaive in a wide arc and sliced clean through no less than three Demonblessed. \"A fine advantage you have given us!\" he cried, smashing his way through the fray. The sigils on the backs of the warriors seemed to be protecting them from serious harm; the blows of the Demons impacting, but doing less than fatal damage. Arzhi held out his hand, palm forward, and then wrenched it back, closing his fist as if snatching something. Three of the Demonblessed flew through the air as Arzhi flung out his other hand. Three sharp wooden spikes shot out the ground and impaled the three demons, spraying their tainted blood through the air. The Elves had fanned out now, and were quickly and methodically carving their way through the crowd of demons. The dwarves were leaving a blood trail in their wake soon the Demonblessed were retreating back up the tunnel. They had not been expecting such powerful resistance. Only ten remained, this number rapidly dwindled as elven arrows hissed through the air towards them. Pandus\' men had drawn bows and were shooting off arrows as fast as they could. Soon there were only four Demonblessed left, and they were soon out of bow shot. Arzhi snarled and urged Tochi forwards. The big lizard broke into a run and they began to rapidly catch up with the fleeing demons. Arzhi drew his hand back, and a long green javelin grew in his hand. He waited until they were a bit closer before bringing his arm forwards. The glowing javelin shot forwards and split into four, each searing shaft impaling a Demonblessed straight through the heart. Tochi skidded to a halt, and Arzhi wiped his brow (although he didn\'t actually sweat, it was more a force of habit). The glow faded from his eyes, and he had Tochi turn back to the site of the battle. When they arrived, Arzhi saw that some of the dwarves were looting the corpses, even removing the heads. A dwarf saw Arzhi\'s enquiring gaze, and grinned. \"Demon spawn heads fetch a pretty price!\" he said. Arzhi sighed and rode over to where Pandus was talking to the Dwarven leader. He looked up as Arzhi dismounted and approached them. \"Arzhi! I must thank you for those enchantments; the battle could have gone much worse otherwise!\" The Dwarf turned and looked Arzhi up and down. \"Aye! A fine bit o\' casting ye did there! Me men and I are most grateful!\" \"Think nothing of it.\" Arzhi said \"Although casting an enchantment like that on all of you was a...draining experience.\" \"Never done it on near thirty people before?\" The dwarf asked \"Not really, no.\" Arzhi admitted. This was true; he had never done anything like this before. He wasn\'t even sure how he knew how to do it. All he did know was that he wanted to help these people, and all of a sudden the right thing popped into his head. \"My name is Drache Jäger.\" The dwarf said, holding out his hand. \"I am Neidr Bragad, son of Neidr Fam.\" Arzhi said, gripping the dwarf\'s forearm, the dwarf doing the same. \"It\'s an honour to meet you!\" the dwarf boomed \"It is still fortunate we arrived when we did. You would have been hard pressed on your own.\" \"Indeed, we really are fortunate you were so close.\" \"We were headed for the Human capital actually.\" Jäger said, scratching his chin. \"Apparently there was a huge uprising of Demon spawn, and near a thousand people were killed.\" \"A thousand?!\" Pandus exclaimed \"How could they have mustered the courage...the audacity to stage something like this?\" \"I dunno, but they say they were led by a great white devil, who rode a beast the size of a dragon.\" Arzhi, who had gone momentarily tense, breathed a mental sigh of relief. He was partially hoping his part in the massacre would be blow greatly out of proportion. This was proof of that, which now allowed him to move around a bit more freely. \"Why would such a terrifying sounding creature interest you?\" Arzhi asked \"We live to fight!\" The dwarf said proudly, thumping his chest. \"Against such an opponent we would either become heroes, or die a glorious death!\" \"I see. Given that we ran into the Demon spawn down here, I don\'t think you\'ll need to worry about being short of battles.\" \"Aye! That\'s true. Although...I was wondering...How long do these enchantments last?\" Arzhi looked thoughtful for a moment \"I\'m fairly certain that once they\'re cast, they\'ll remain on your weapons and armour for pretty much all of eternity.\" Jäger looked somewhat stunned. \"That means you are now in possession of very valuable items.\" Pandus said with a small smile. After the two parties had cleared the road way, and said their goodbyes, the Elves stayed at the battle sight waiting for the proper authorities. Once the tunnel guards had shown up and helped clear the way, the grey Elves and Arzhi were about to set off again. \"Oh! Captain Pandus!\" Pandus turned and saw a messenger running towards him. It was a mountain elf, and he was running as fast as he could. \"What is it?\" Pandus asked \"The Underworld city of Obscurum Cado is under attack by Drow raiders! The Duke is requesting all elven forces in the area to come and help defend the city!\" \"Those white skinned bastards!\" Pandus said, clenching his fists \"No offence.\" He added \"None taken.\" Arzhi said \"Would you like me to accompany you?\" \"While your talents are formidable, I would hate to keep you from your quest any longer. We have Wyrd users to help defend us, have no fear.\" \"Then I guess this is goodbye.\" Arzhi said \"It was a privilege travelling with you, even if it was for such a short time.\" \"I hope we meet again. To reach the elven city, keep following the main tunnel, you will emerge from here overlooking a valley. Head down into the valley; pass through the grassy plains that lie there and then out into the wooded hills of Camorr. Follow the white road, and it will lead you straight to the city.\" \"I thank you greatly for this, Pandus, and I shall not forget the aid you have given me.\" Arzhi said, shaking Pandus\' hand. Soon, the Elves were disappearing down another passage. Arzhi sighed and rubbed his neck. He slowly mounted Tochi and set off down the tunnel. \"I hope we find a Tavern or something soon, I\'m so tired.\" Arzhi said \"I hope we find a Tavern so I can eat something!\" Tochi said enthusiastically. Arzhi laughed. About an hour and a half later, they did come across a tavern. It was a huge structure, partially carved into the rocky wall of the tunnel, and partially built out of thick beams of black wood. There was also a stable built next to it with a variety of mounts in it. There were horses and ponies, but there were also Land Sharks (large armour plated creatures shaped like tanks) and giant Salamanders. There was a sign on the oddly large door of the tavern which read (in several languages): \"Saurian mounts welcome in the bar.\". Arzhi jumped off Tochi\'s back and read the sign. He shrugged and opened the door, Tochi following him inside. In the brightly lit bar, Arzhi could plainly see most of the clientele were some form of Reptile, either Lizardfolk (armour plates, talons, fangs and all), or very large snakes. In cliché circumstances, the bar would have gone silent as Arzhi entered, but as it happened, only the Ophidians (the collective name for the various snake like creatures) stopped to look at him. Arzhi made his way to the bar making a mental note to make sure he knew what specific species future taverns catered to. The odd thing about the reptilian species was that, while a great deal of them were actually Anifeil, they had been around just as long as the Lizardfolk (who were a completely separate species), meaning they were probably the only Anifeil who new about this place. Arzhi approached the bar and a very large, muscled Monitor lizard looked down at him. \"What can I do for you?\" he hissed. \"I require a room for the night, and food.\" Arzhi replied \"Lots of food!\" Tochi interrupted, realising he could actually join in on this conversation. The monitor lizard laughed and rubbed his head. \"You\'re very brave travelling with such an intelligent Saurian!\" He laughed \"We do actually have some rooms specially designed for Saurians, and we have one left.\" \"That\'ll do just fine.\" Arzhi said, relaxing a bit. He was obviously among friends here. He had been worried he would stand out, being completely white and all, but he noticed a group of three albino crocodiles sitting at a table, and an albino cobra with a blindfold over his eyes talking to a group of geckos. \"We\'ll get your room ready, and a maid will be with you shortly.\" the big lizard said \"Thank you.\" Arzhi replied A few moments later, a rather small blue tailed skink led him over to a table in a secluded corner. Arzhi sat down with his back against the wall, and Tochi lay down next to the table, his back easily level with it. \"Now then my lord, what can I get you?\" \"Please don\'t call me that...I am no lord.\" Arzhi said holding up a hand \"Travelling incognito then, sir?\" Arzhi gave her a wry smile \"Indeed...\" he said \"I will have whatever is read now, and...\" \"Lots of meat!\" Tochi said \"Flash fried with a bit of salt and pepper!\" The skink looked at Arzhi, who laughed. \"Indulge him, Gods now he deserves it.\" \"Right away then sir.\" she said and went off to fetch the food. Arzhi sat back and observed the reasonably crowded pub. There was a huge range of reptilian Anifeil and Lizardfolk. There were Saurians, Fire Lizards, Ophidians, all in a huge range of colours. While he was observing the other patrons, he recalled something that he had asked Yslien the day she had bought him. While passing through the streets in her coach, he noticed all the Ophidians they went past bowed to the carriage. When he had asked about this, Yslien had smiled and laughed, saying: \"Because I am Purest white. There is a difference between albinos and those that are pure white. Those with \"Snowscales\" are nobility and royalty amongst the Ophidians.\" Arzhi smiled to himself. That was why he was being treated so nicely. His scales were pure white. The skink soon returned with their food. Arzhi was having a large steak with delicately roasted vegetables with a honey glaze. She deposited a large tray of steaming meat in front of Tochi who immediately began to stuff his face. The skink set down a fine quartz goblet filled with a mint smelling green wine. She bowed, winked, and walked off. Arzhi raised his brow for a moment and then began eating. After going so long without proper food, the steak was the most delicious thing Arzhi had ever eaten; the vegetables too. The wine was indeed mint, with a hint of aniseed. Tochi was busy munching his way through what seemed to be half a cow, and enjoying himself immensely. \"Besht...Shteak...ever!\" he said between mouthfuls. \"Don\'t talk with your mouth full.\" Arzhi scolded. Just as Arzhi had finished eating, and was taking another mouthful of the (surprisingly strong) wine, there was a commotion at one of the other tables. Several large Lizardfolk had backed a rather scared looking Ophidian into a corner. Lizardfolk were certainly intimidating. They had naturally armoured scales all over their bodies, large square heads with powerful jaws, and sharp slicing talons. \"You cheating freak!\" One of the Lizardfolk was bellowing \"Trying to steal our money?!\" \"N-No! I wasss jussst playing cardsss!\" the ophidian squeaked. Arzhi looked around and saw the other Ophidians go very tense. The Barlizard had reached under the counter and pulled out a very large crossbow. Arzhi sighed, and stood up. The Ophidians looked around at him as he walked slowly through the tables. Arzhi looked over at the Barlizard and winked. The Barlizard grinned and put the crossbow away, and then he leaned against the bar and rested his chin in his hands. All of the other Ophidians looked at him expectantly (as well as the rest of the bar). Arzhi did not know it, but actual Snowscales were revered for their prowess in all forms of combat. They were getting ready for a show. By this point the small Ophidian that was backed into a corner had been picked up by the front of his shirt and slammed against the wall. The Lizardman brought back his hand, talons outstretched, just as the muscles in Arzhi\'s calves tensed. The Lizardman brought his hand forwards in a deadly jab. Thap The Lizardman blinked, and the Ophidian opened his eyes. Arzhi was standing just to the right of the Lizardman, holding the thick muscled arm in place. Arzhi was shorter, and more slender than the Lizardman, but he was having no trouble in the slightest. \"Can you imagine what I would do to you if you had killed him?\" Arzhi asked, and twisted the Lizards arm. There was a sickening crack as the arm broke. The Lizardman roared and dropped the Ophidian, who quickly scurried behind Arzhi. Arzhi let go of the broken arm just as the Lizardman swung his left hand to punch Arzhi in the face. Arzhi smiled and caught the fist, hopped onto one foot, and kicked the Lizardman so hard his ribs broke. The stricken lizard flew through the air and crashed into a table, sending the occupants scurrying. The other Lizardfolk charged at Arzhi. Arzhi sighed, scratched his head, and spun. He scooped both of them up in his tail, leapt sideways, and slammed them on top of their stricken companion. The bar was silent for a few seconds, before the crowd cheered. Arzhi grabbed the three Lizardfolk by the tail, and towed them to the door. He quite firmly hurled them out, before closing the door with a quiet click. He then went over to the bar, reached into one of his pouches and withdrew a glittering blue sapphire. He placed it on the counter, and slid it towards the Barlizard. The Monitor lizard picked it up and pulled a small eyeglass from his pocket. \"That was quite impressive.\" He said studying the sapphire. \"Thank you. That\'s for the Table, the room, the food, and to buy everyone in the bar a drink.\" Arzhi replied. \"Well, given that this beauty is about 80 carats, you got yourself a deal!\" The Barlizard said with a grin \"Oi! You lot!\" He shouted at the bar \"Drinks on the Snowscale!!\" A good while later, Arzhi was lying on a bed, staring at the ceiling. Well, it wasn\'t really a bed, more like a large elevated nest. Tochi was curled up next to him on the soft bedding with his eyes closed. The tavern apparently stayed open twenty-four hours, as he could still hear the sounds of people coming in through the door. There obviously was no night in this place. The room was probably one of the nicer ones in the tavern. It was right on the top floor, at the very back of the building, so it was mostly carved out of the tunnel. The tunnel seemed to be made out of granite, which in this case had been polished and shined so much; it hardly looked like a cave at all. \"Tochi?\" Arzhi asked quietly \"Mmmmm?\" came the sleepy reply. \"Do you miss them?\" Arzhi said. Tochi opened one yellow eye and looked at Arzhi. \"Oh yes, very much so. But I never knew them like you did. I lived mostly in the menagerie...\" Tochi stopped as silvery tears began to roll down Arzhi\'s reptilian cheeks. \"What have I become, Tochi?\" he whimpered \"I am no longer human, but neither am I a demon. I am not an Anifeil, I am not an Ophidian...I...I don\'t know what I am anymore! I don\'t even know what to do! I killed Demonblessed! I got into a bar fight! I don\'t know how I used these powers!\" Arzhi sat up, tears flowing freely from his eyes. \"This is not me! I never wanted any of this! I just wanted to live my life quietly with people I love, but now I\'m stuck as a fugitive from the humans, with no direction to go in! I started life as a slave! When Mother found me I did not know what was going on...But then I found something that I had never experienced before. I found love. People who actually loved me and it made me so happy! But I have no idea what to do anymore! The few friends I met during my travels have all gone, and I do not know if I will ever see them again!\" Arzhi was now sobbing uncontrollably. His shoulders shook, his hands gripped the bedding tightly. Arzhi had shut his eyes tight and gritted his teeth to try and stifle the sobs. But then something warm and surprisingly soft wrapped itself around him. He opened his eyes and saw Tochi, curled around him. The Saurians head was level with his. It was amazing how much expression could be displayed on a face that seemed to be mostly mouth and teeth. \"You are not alone in this...\" Tochi said in the common tongue \"I am your friend, and I shall always be your friend. I know I am no replacement for Yslien, or Natasla, but I will never leave your side. We will find them together. Remember I said I would carry you to the ends of the earth to find them? I still stand by that.\" Arzhi looked at Tochi with a mixture of shock and happiness. \"Thank you...\" he whispered, hugging Tochi round the neck. Tochi smiled (although, because his face wasn\'t really designed for it, it was more like a non threatening snarl), and placed his arms around Arzhi, who was suddenly sound asleep. Emotions had tired him out, and it was all he could have done to keep his eyes open. Tochi lay his head down next to Arzhi\'s and closed his eyes. Meanwhile, in the dwindling twilight, a group of horses were moving along a mountain path, following the tracks made by a large three toed creature. The party paused by a rocky outcrop and a figure dismounted. In the dim light the outline of a tail could be seen. The figure ducked under the outcrop and examined the pile of ash that lay there. \"He was certainly here.\" Cadfael said, stepping out from under the outcrop, rubbing some ash between his fingers. \"He burnt his armour?\" asked Anyon. The priest wore a white leather glove over his scarred hand. The evil wound he received from touching Arzhi\'s cursed sword would never fully heal. \"It appears so. It is as if he wants us to follow him. It is like he is leaving us clues.\" \"Do you suppose he is leading us into a trap?\" \"I do not think so...\" Cadfael said, rubbing his chin \"If he truly was evil, why discard his sword, or shatter the amulet?\" They had found the evil sword lying at the foot of some ruins, and they destroyed it on the spot. Cadfael had gone up the ruins and found the remains of a golden amulet, lying scattered in the moss and sparse tufts of grass. \"Then do you suppose it was some sort of possession?\" \"We won\'t know that until we find him.\" Cadfael replied, mounting his horse \"It is likely he is headed for the Grey Elf city of Amplus Nemus. There he would be able to lay low. Unfortunately this means a trek through the mountains.\" \"Then a trek through the mountains it shall have to be.\" Anyon said The next day, Arzhi was riding along the subterranean road. It was oddly empty, possibly a result of the Demonblessed attack the other day. He had slept so well that night; it was like he was at home again. He rubbed the back of his head, scritching his long purple mane. It was at that point a large white dragon landed with a loud crash in front of him. It had dropped through a hole in the ceiling. It had a rather nasty looking scar across its face. Arzhi blinked. \"Hello.\" He said. \"You!\" the dragon hissed \"I have finally found you!\" \"Ah...bugger.\" Arzhi said. \"After all this time, the little bastard who gave me this scar!\" \"Uhhh...Yeah, about that...Seems that everything up to this point was orchestrated by the Devil...\" Arzhi said \"Don\'t fuck with me!\" the dragon roared. \"Even though you\'ve changed your skin, I still recognise your smell!\" \"Tochi? Would you mind backing off a bit?\" Arzhi said, dismounting. \"Gladly!\" Tochi said, scuttling back. \"So you intend to fight me here?!\" The dragon said \"I\'ve done to much fighting since coming to this world, I\'d rather not if it\'s all the same to you.\" \"You come to this world and expect to be able to talk your way out of serious situations?\" The dragon said with a sneer \"In this world there is only violence and fighting. This is why I\'ve turned your little Hyena friend into something a bit more impressive.\" \"Who...Wait...Jiles?!\" \"Oh...ssso you do remember my naaame?\" Arzhi turned and Jiles was standing behind him. He was different though. He had patches of green scales all over his body, and large draconic wings sprouted from his back. He had a long, whip-like tail and taloned feet and hands. His eyes were slitted and red. \"Oh no...What did he do to you?\" Arzhi said \"I would have perfected him, if you had not interrupted the process half way through!\" The dragon roared. \"I guess this means I have to fight then?\" Arzhi said, his eyes beginning to glow. \"But of course! I will have my revenge on y...\" The dragon stopped and blinked. Jiles was pinned against the wall, unconscious. Arzhi was holding his arm out, with his hand miming pinning someone against a wall. \"I have changed, dragon. Jiles was one of the first people who helped me in this world, and I intend to take him back.\" \"You don\'t stand a chance against me!\" The dragon laughed. Arzhi frowned, and raised his free hand. The ground began to tremble and Arzhi raised his fist. It was like he was trying to lift an immense weight, but it was now causing the whole tunnel to shake. The dragon looked around. \"What\'s going on?!\" he gasped as small stones began to rise around him. \"You\'re going up.\" Arzhi hissed. There was a noise that sounded very much like \"Thoom\" and the dragon was rocketing up the hole he had made. He cracked his head on every outcrop in the vertical shaft, and was suddenly out in the open air, rising high up in the sky. He struggled to right himself, his wings flapping furiously. It was a little to late though, as gravity decided it was time to go down. The dragon plummeted from the sky straight towards the rocks below. Cadfael looked up as the mountain began to rumble and shake. The horses whinnied and danced backwards. \"What in gods name was that?!\" Anyon said looking up at the mountain. There was suddenly a very loud roar and a crash, accompanied by the sound of shattering rocks and falling boulders. Cadfael jumped off his horse and ran up a small bank. Anyon joined him soon after, accompanied by the armed knights that travelled with them. In the middle of a large crater, a large white dragon lay. He had a rather nasty scar on his face. Cadfael descended slowly until he was level with the dragons head. \"Hello?\" he said, prodding the dragon \"That...fucccking....white...baaassstarddd...\" he snarled, before collapsing. \"I think Arzhi is in that mountain.\" Cadfael said. \"You don\'t say...\" Under the mountain, Arzhi was riding along the road with Jiles tied to the back of Tochi. It may not have been necessary, but Arzhi wasn\'t taking any chances. He\'d used a hell of a lot of power to throw that dragon out of the mountain, and he was feeling rather weak. There was a groan from behind him and the sound of someone realising they were tied up and riding along on the back of a large Saurian. \"So...Are you Jiles? Or are you a dragon\'s plaything?\" Arzhi asked without turning his head. \"Wh...What did you say? Why am I tied up?\" Came the reply \"Just answer the question.\" \"Well...I...I don\'t remember much...Are we still in the Dragons cave?\" \"Far from it in fact.\" \"How...wait! Where\'s Arzhi?! I was travelling with a man named Arzhi. He had the looks of a girl, but he is most certainly a man, he had long purple hair too. Have you seen him?\" Arzhi frowned. This was either a very clever ruse or he really did not remember anything. He told Tochi to stop, and jumped off his back. He pulled Jiles off as well and propped him against a wall. His eyes seemed less reptilian now, and he had a bemused expression on his face. \"What was the last thing you remember?\" Arzhi asked \"We had stopped in a cave, I went to explore and I fell down some sort of stone chute. I remember seeing lots of arcane equipment, and then everything is blank after that.\" \"Can you remember what city you hail from?\" \"Ahmé.\" \"Do you know your mothers name?\" \"Of course! It\'s Belle.\" \"Ah hah!\" Arzhi exclaimed \"No it\'s not! Your mothers name is Catharine!\" \"No-oo...\" Jiles said with a frown \"It\'s definitely Belle.\" \"Well I guess we can trust him.\" Arzhi said to Tochi. \"Are you sure?\" \"If he was still under the dragons control, he would have changed the name as soon as I accused him of lying.\" \"What are you saying?\" Jiles asked. Arzhi reached forwards and untied the rope that was binding the hyena. The rope quickly vanished in a puff of white smoke. \"I have something to tell you...and it may come as a bit of a shock.\" A while later, Arzhi was along next to Jiles, with Tochi following behind them. \"So...You\'re not the son of a demon, but of an immensely powerful race of neutral gods who are similar to demons, but don\'t get worshipped because nobody really knows about them?\" \"That\'s pretty much it, yes.\" Arzhi said. \"And this dragon was experimenting on me...\" \"Hence the wings and the tail.\" Arzhi finished Most Of the scales that had replaced fur where around the hyena\'s forearms, paws, calves and feet. He wiggled his tail as if realising it was there for the first time. \"This feels weird...\" He said, swishing the tail. \"Then don\'t think about it. I didn\'t. Your body\'ll know what to do.\" \"So you changed again into the avatar of your mother?\" Jiles asked \"I do not know anymore. Maybe I am simply her son, and nothing more.\" \"So where are we headed?\" \"The Grey Elf city. I intend to lay low and gather information there.\" \"Do you really think people won\'t notice me?\" \"I doubt it, there are probably stranger hybrids. I think the dragon was attempting to get himself a half dragon without going through the messy business of finding a suitable mate.\" \"How delightful...\" A few days later the three travellers arrived at a large stone archway that led out into bright sunshine. There was a well paved road made out of white sandstone. Deep grooves had been worn into the road on either side where centuries worth of carts and wagons had travelled. The road went down the mountains to the floor of a green valley. Beyond that, a vast expanse of hills could be seen, covered in a thick blanket of trees. \"I guess we follow the white road?\" Jiles asked \"Indeed we do...I have the feeling my task will be made easier by having you with me.\" Arzhi replied. \"Well I am indebted to you, so I guess I\'m stuck with a known fugitive.\" \"Hopefully not for much longer.\" ***