57 Crater City

    "We are awfully close to human territory. Doesn't this seem a bit off?" Nix couldn't shake the feeling that this city shouldn't be here.  He was camouflaged by the weedy jungle growing up from the crater floor, Mina was so close that she occasionally brushed against him. Aquarions didn't understand personal space.

    The entire raid was waiting in the seaweed, spread out over several yards.  Semmi was looking for a way in, while Wind had snuck into the city looking for anything they might want.

    "I don't like it Nix," Mina whispered in his ear.  "This city makes no sense.  It only has housing."

    "What's your estimate of their population based on the housing?"

    Mina considered the numbers while she counted the buildings.   "Four thousand."

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    "Ducky..."  Nix had her change forms for a moment and gave her specific directions.  "There's an underground cave entrance along the north wall.  Check it out please, do not be seen."

    [Command: Scout Area]

    Nix summoned Soup and had him stand by.

    /Guildchat: Wind: Honestly there's nothing here worth taking.

    /Guilchat: Semmi: We can take a direct route Nix, there a few stragglers but no guards at all.

    /Guildchat: Nix: Min says that there's housing here for four thousand.

    /Guildchat: Jun Li: I recommend we retreat Nix.

    /Guildchat: Nix: Wind and Semmi return to our staging area.

    Banza sat on the crater floor, his fire spear and shield in hand.  He was studying the replay of the video Wind had taken.  "This looks like a construction camp Nix."

    Jun Li had moved over beside him, "See those cages?  What's normally in them?"  She pointed out a half dozen large metal crates.

    Nix was looking at his own map when red dots started appearing from nowhere.  They extended toward Phelinomia in a dense display of activity.  "The F*ck is that?"

    /Guildchat: Jun Li: Nix!  My entire map is flooded with enemy!

    /Guildchat: Nix: We found our missing Aquarions, they are in the tunnels.

    [Guild Event: Onion Quest Updated]  You have discovered a plot to destroy the Phelinomia capital city of Lohai. You will be awarded points based on the actions you take from this moment.

    /Guildchat: Nix: Shit...  Wind and Semmi head to Lohai immediately and warn them!

    "Those cages are for Rock Worms Nix!"  Mina wasn't following all of the conversations, but her map had been updated also.

    "Rock worms?  Let me guess, they excavate?"  Nix cussed under his breath.

    Mina nodded, "we use them to build tunnels."

    /Guildchat: Nix: Fall back to the ship and prepare for a fight.

    Nix waited while Inferno started moving out.  It was Mina who had noticed that he wasn't moving.  "Nix?  Why aren't you following us?"

    /Guildchat: Jun Li: Nix?

    "Follow them Min, I'm heading into the tunnels."  Nix started moving toward the cavern entrance, he stopped with both Mina and Jun Li followed.

    Mina's alien eyes stared at him, "if you are going, then so am I."

    Jun Li moved closer and grabbed his arm, the normally stoic woman looked angry.  "Hey!  What do you expect to do by yourself?"

    "Those of you with complete fire immunity can stay.  Everyone else should go."  Nix started toward the cavern, both of his arms were being held.  "This is a dormant volcano, I'm going to see if there's a chance to create some problems for our tunnel rats."

    He flashed away before they could respond.  Jun Li grabbed Mina's hand when she started to follow him.  "Mina, trust your friends."

    Mina stared in the direction Nix had taken, "I...  okay.  Let's go back."

    Nix resummoned Ducky and headed to the entrance.  They both clung to Soup's shell as they plunged into the darkness.  He slipped on his wolf mask and instantly the darkness faded.  The main cave had been straightened and widened by quite a bit since the last time he had been here.  The trio swam near the ceiling and in a straight line, not bothering with the side passages.

    They stopped after about five minutes of swimming.  Nix could sense the flickering of flame in the ground deep beneath them. "Ducky... take us to one of the rock worms."  He watched her face for a moment, to make sure she understood.  She retreated to the last side passage and took a right, a few meters from the entrance were three Aquarions and A long metal cage.

    [Command: Charm My Target]

    Immediately the largest Aquarion grabbed one of the others and slammed him against the wall.  Green strands shot out of Nix's hand as a half dozen of them encircled the third Aquarion.  Nix put Soup on defense mode, having him protect Ducky.

    The charmed Aquarion pulled a dagger and plunged it repeatedly into the other.  When the smaller Aquarion died, his killer stood motionless, awaiting further orders.  The third Aquarion had been paralyzed from the pain of six emerald strands, it died a few seconds after the first.

    [Command: Attack My Target]

    Nix sent Soup after the last one.  Soup's strength was far greater than a single Aquarion, he crushed its head in his enormous beak and with a powerful wrench removed the head.

    After searching all three bodies, he peaked in the cage, there was a single creature about fifteen feet in length.  Its enormous teeth reminded Nix of a shrew, short powerful looking arms mounted right behind the head.  Five rather sharp looking talons hung from its paws.  There were no back legs.

    [Command: Charm My Target]

    Nix watched the animals eyes, right after Ducky charmed him they took on a blank expression.  He opened the cage door and headed back toward the main tunnel.  After arriving at the spot he had decided upon, he turned back toward his companions.  "Ducky, have the creature dig here, straight down. Recast Charm as many times as you need to."

    Ducky nodded and pointed to the solid rock floor.  A moment later the creature started digging.

    /Guildchat: Nix: Ask Mina where to get Rock Worms at, these things are amazing.

    /Guildchat: Ronnie: You okay Nix?

    /Guildchat: Nix: Yes, don't wait for me if I'm late.  Get ready to take on that armada.

    /Guildchat: Semmi: We got this.

    /Guildchat: Pon: We've disabled three of there ships by burning their sails.  Now they have sharpshooters on the decks.

    /Guildchat: Nix: Good job, watch yourself!

    Nix hovered and descended slowly, the creature dug through solid rock about as fast as a person could walk.  He couldn't see the front of the worm, but its teeth and claws cut through stone like it was cheese.  A lumpy paste streamed out of its tail end, creating a passageway about three feet in diameter. He had been forced to unsummon Soup because he couldn't fit.

    They traveled steadily downward for several minutes, Ducky had to stop and recast charm a half dozen times.

    Finally, they punched through to a large open area.

    [Your charmed creature has been slain]

    [Ducky has been slain]

    A blast of intense heat washed over Nix, instantly sending the water around him into a boil.

    [Aura Ignition]

    Nix's green flame erupted outward, his face relaxing as the pain went away.  He had come out in a large open cavern, the surface of the floor was magma, although it had cooled to the point where it seemed like mud to Nix's feet.

    "Who are you that comes to this old Lord's crater?"

    Nix turned at the voice, an old woman lay half in the lava and half out.  Her hair had once been red but was now streaked with white.  "A Salamander Lord?"

    The old woman struggled to sit up, but couldn't quite manage it.  "Perhaps I once was, it has been years since I wielded that sort of power."

    A skeleton figure lay next to her, "I'm Nix.  I mean you no harm Lord."

    The old woman gave up her effort and caressed the skull next to her.  "It's not fair... living on when the one you love dies."

    Nix nodded, unexpectedly his own memories surfaced and turned his thoughts dark.  "No.  That isn't fair."  He moved closer and wrapped all of the green tentacles around her, slowly pulling her out of the lava.

    The old woman moaned with pleasure, her eyes opening wider.  "What are you trying to do young man?"

    Nix sighed with embarrassment , "sorry... I can't control that part."  Shae had told him that his flame was very pleasant for salamanders.  He closed his eyes and tried to sense her flame, it was the barest flicker.  "Please excuse me further!"

    He wrapped her up tightly and pulled her closer,  Shae had used her mouth to transplant the fire seed to him initially so he tried to imitate the process.  The old woman's eyes looked angry when his mouth covered hers, she struggled slightly and then arched against him, moaning as a large part of his fire essence sheared off from the Emerald Fire Seed.

    She screamed in protest, her voice growing louder and stronger.  She glowed with green flames for a moment and abruptly they turned blue.  Nix continued to feed the flames until finally she grabbed him and cast him aside.

    "Boy... You dare take advantage of this old Lord?"  The Salamander's appearance grew stronger, her body seeming to reverse age until a middle-aged woman stood before him.  Her white-streaked red-hair had turned to blue.

    "Forgive me, I was trying to strengthen you."  Nix aura faded to nothing and he collapsed on the molten rock.

    "Foolish little salamander."  She approached him and picked him up gently.  "I chose my time already, this isn't what I wanted."

    Nix smiled weakly.  "I apologize, I meddled in your affairs."

    The woman stared at him, her nostrils flaring.  "Summon her now.  Or I will most certainly destroy you."

    "Summon who?"

    "Your mate..."  Her old eyes watched him while he only stared back.

    "Sorry... I don't have a mate, even if I did there's no way I could summon her."

    "Place your hand on your chest, and concentrate on your need."  She watched while he did what she asked.

    A moment later there was a flash of light and Shae appeared out of thin air.  Her eyes glanced around and found Nix, then she gazed upon the old Salamander.  If you've harmed him..." Shae left the sentence unfinished, the threat hanging in the air.

    "A Nemesis?" The woman bowed reverently, " He is unharmed great one, I am Severance."

    Nix staggered to his feet, his strength slowly returning. "I'm fine Shae." He glanced up toward the surface. "Above us there are Aquarions digging a tunnel that leads to Phelinomia. How could we ruin their day?"

    "Water creatures in my territory?" Severance scowled at the thought, "with help I could give them something unpleasant."

    Nix nodded, his thoughts still lingering on dark thoughts. "Let's burn them all!"
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