30 Crafted Mask

    [Command: Attack My Target]

    Twenty Vila came up out of the water, instead of running around to the riverbank they scampered up the thick bridge beams like spiders, claws gouging into the hard timber as the moved upward toward the man with the wolf mask.

    Nix pulled his rifle and took aim before firing repeatedly, his Aviente stopped a hundred feet off the ground and hovered in place.  The crowd around the masked man instantly scattered, some people going as far as to jump off the bridge to avoid the gunfire.

    He tried to turn and run back toward town, but the push of people rushing out caused him to give up immediately. He ran toward the rail just as the first Vila leaped onto the bridge. A moment of panic saw him try to summon his beasts but instead the nightmarish creature clamped onto his face and bore him to the ground.  His screams were drowned out by the vicious growls of a half dozen predators tearing him to pieces.

    Nix landed immediately.

    [Command: Defend Me]

    The Vila surrounded him when he dismounted, right away that created an empty space around him.  No one wanted anything to do with the beasts surrounding Nix.  He pulled the mask off the man, he was average looking and could have easily passed for a college kid.  A partially severed forearm had a familiar-looking device on it.

    Nix picked it up and examined it for a moment.  "Not good."  He stepped back onto his mount and quickly gained altitude.  Kryn, the docks and most of the ships were now ablaze.  The flames reaching hundreds of feet into the air.  He headed along the coast, away from the flames. After a few minutes, he landed and activated Deep Blue.

    There was a small crowd of Aquarions huddled around the cottage when Nix appeared among them a few moments later.  Zhava's thin face smiled pleasantly at him when he approached.

    "The Aviante has hatched Nix."  Zhava was kneeling on the sand, pulling bits of eggshell off of the slimy white manta.

    Nix stepped forward and picked it up gently before walking toward the surf.  "Going to do you a solid by cutting down the sand travel a bit."  Although mantas could thrive on land and sea, they usually hatched either in or very close to the water.  He knelt down and held it in the surf, slowly its tiny wings began to flap as it moved towards deeper water.

    All the Aquarions were smiling excitedly, apparently, the hatching of an Aviante was a good omen.

    Nix caught the Aquarion leader's eye when he turned back toward the cottage.  "Need to talk Min."

    Mina nodded and followed him back to the cottage.  She was wearing the two-piece swimsuit he had made her.  She closed the door behind her and took a seat on the couch.  "You seem troubled Nix."

    "Just a bit."  He sat the device and the wolf mask on the table in front of her.

    "You found him?"  Min picked up the artifact and then froze in place.

    Beast Master Bracer

    Enables the training of

    the Beast Master Skill and

    may be used as a stable for

    twenty beasts. Custom made

    for Zenic.

    20/20 Enhanced Wolfmen

    Crafted by Alpha

    If Aquarions cursed, Nix would have expected to hear it now.  Min's teeth were clenched and her brows were furrowed.

    "Nix...  This is being crafted by someone."

    "It would seem that way,"  Nix agreed.  "My question would be, how many has he made?"

    "The materials to make the Ricoli artifact are quite rare, I have to assume that this is also the case for the Land-Beast version."

    "What if it's not?"  Nix turned over the wolf mask and examined it.  Then he handed it to Mina.

    Wolf Mask

    Hides the identity of

    the wearer.  Provides heightened

    night awareness. Custom

    made for Zenic

    Crafted by Opaz

    "It provides another clue."  Mina handed it back. "Is that a tailored mask?"

    "Yes,"  Nix added it to the enhancement slot and then chose himself for the first block. "Opaz used a standard wolf pelt for the material.  Let's see what it does with an enhanced wolfman pet."

    "Can you tell the level of Opaz's tailoring skills?"

    He didn't need to make the recipe first since he already had an example.  The recipe would be made automatically once the first one finished.  "It's high, but that isn't the troublesome part."

    Enhanced Wolfman Mask

    Enables Nightvision, enhanced

    hearing and +5 to all stats.

    Custom Made for Nix.

    Crafted by Nix.

    Mina watched him carefully, unlike other humans, he didn't often show emotions.  She could see surprise and fear in his eyes.  "What is the troublesome part?"

    Nix frowned and slipped the mask on, instantly his entire demeanor changed to that of a predator. "That mask was made at the Gladis Hub."

    Mina walked with him out of the cottage.  He hadn't spoken since he took the mask off.  She had no idea where the place he mentioned was, however, she understood it was somewhere he wanted to avoid.

    "Let's talk about it later Min, I need to consider our options."

    Mina nodded, "could you bring me to Jenza in the morning?  I want to pick up a few things."

    "Sure, you can tag along when I drop off the product line for the boutique."  They parted at the wharf with a wave and Nix headed towards his houseboat.

    The wharf was a bit loud, in particular, there seemed to be a large amount of activity on his boat.  Nix took the stairs up to the top level and shook his head in disbelief.  "Just make yourself at home guys."

    Pon, Wind, Ronnie, and Rose were all in his hot tub.  Ronnie flashed her pretty smile at him, "the hot tub was a great idea Nix!"

    Nix nodded in agreement, "you should have got one yourself."

    She laughed at the face he made.  "Sharing is caring Nix!  Besides, no one but you can even afford something like this."

    "Fine, enjoy yourselves.  I need to sleep a bit."  Nix opened the sliding glass door and closed it behind him.  A moment later he collapsed silently on the bed.


    Nix opened his eyes a few hours later, the sun had already set and most of the inhabitants had turned in for the night.  A glance at the back deck told him that his hot tub was empty.  He stared at the ceiling over his bed, there was no mistake.  The Gladis Hub used certain threads that couldn't be found anywhere in Colonial. The mask had been made with a camel-hair thread, it was the only animal hair thread in his inventory.  It was one of many items that he had brought with him from the Gladis hub.

    The sliding door from his back deck slid open, an Aquarion with braided hair and a red one-piece swimsuit peeked in. She smiled tentatively, able to sense the serious atmosphere.  "May I come in?"

    Nix nodded and sat up on the bed.  "Feel free to use the hot tub Fajii."

    "Thank you."  She moved closer and sat down, before handing him an object.  "I told you that I would bring you something nice."

    Nix whistled and took it from her hands.  It was an enormous seashell covered in beautiful leopard-like markings.  Out of habit, he held it up to his ear.

    Fajii cocked her head to one side.  "What are you doing?"

    "My people say that you can hear the sea when you put a shell up to your ear."

    Fajii laughed and shook her head. Her laugh was pretty, the kind that made you want to join in.   "That's silly right?"

    "I suppose it is.  This is a beautiful shell though.  Thank you."

    Fajii looked pleased, "May I ask you something Nix?"

    "Go ahead."

    "I saw Chael and Nansu touching their mouths together while hugging.  What were they doing?"

    Nix gave her a deadpan look, "feeding each other."

    Fajii's pretty face seemed less confused.  "Oh, like a youngling."

    He chuckled and nodded, "just like that."

    "Why are you laughing Nix?"

    He smiled and shrugged at her. "No reason, suddenly I realized that you are very attractive."

    Fajii shook her head, "Among my people I am not considered pretty."

    "Really?  Why is that?"

    Fajii held up her hand and spread her fingers wide showing her webbed fingers.  "It's called shorthand, when the webbing ends at the first knuckle, Aquarion men find it unattractive."

    "I bet the added dexterity is quite handy for an alchemist."

    She turned her head and pointed to her ear.  "My ears are barely larger than yours."

    "Ears and hands are important in determining Aquarion beauty?"

    Fajii nodded, "very important."

    Nix slowly shook his head.  "I would call you a stunningly beautiful woman."

    Fajii looked down at her hands for a long moment, as if considering his words carefully.  "Those are very nice words.  Thank  you for saying them."

    "It's late, but you can stay if you like."

    Fajii had a small understanding of human nature, but she did understand the invitation.  A small smile showed on her lips and her voice lowered to a whisper.  "Does everything work the same way?"

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    Nix chuckled at her expression. "Probably."
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