150 The Snake Pi

    Nix sat quietly in the Parliament Guild Office, reading two dockets that Semmi had marked for him. A knock on the door interrupted his thoughts.  He sighed heavily when he recognized the dark blonde hair. "Of all the days to visit..."

    "Tura Raine Xai," Nix stated her name calmly but didn't attach a greeting to it.

    "Greetings Guild Leader Nix, you're an awfully difficult person to track down."

    "That's by design mostly, no offense but I find the dhassi to be a bit ass-ish..."

    Unexpectedly she laughed at his words, it was only for a moment but the bit of mirth completely collapsed Nix's opinion that she was a stone-cold ass.  "That is certainly true.  If you aren't busy I'd like to speak with you."

    "I'm busy..."  Nix widened the door a bit and stepped to one side.  "I can spare five minutes."

    Nix took a seat at his desk but turned the chair around so that it was facing the couch.  "Have a seat."

    Raine sat down, noticing the pillow and blanket neatly folded.  Her sharp blue eyes also noted the open docket on the desk hud.  "I can tell you about that docket if you like."

    Nix leaned back in his chair, "you sure you want to?  I'm already leaning toward your side."

    "For once," she muttered under her breath.  "First I wish to thank you.  Had you not been 'illegally exploring' on Fir'Dhassi lands, I may have been killed."

    Raine was dressed in the same brown leather armor that she always wore.  Her blonde hair was tied back in a top pony that emphasized her pointed ears and blue eyes.

    Nix ignored the illegal comment.  "There's no 'may have.'  You must have found the site that Tyai mentioned.  Even someone like me who only has part of the information can put the pieces together."

    "Is that right?"  Raine's face showed her skepticism.

    "You're an unpopular leader, I don't care why.  Factions within your own clan have been working to unseat you.  First with the attempted assassination of Delyn and then with your abduction.  Your death would be blamed on the Ain'Dhassi, either to start a conflict with them or more likely to shift blame away from the real killers."

    Raine's face grew visibly pale as she listened. "You aren't wrong.  There isn't an easy fix."

    "Sure there is.  Unless your opposing faction somehow decides to stop plotting against you, there are only three options and they're all easy."

    "You're talking about killing them."  Raine's pale face seemed too calm to speak so easily of death.

    "That's the option I'd go with," Nix admitted.

    "And option two?"

    "Give them what they want.  Step down, hand over the power."  Nix smiled at the anger that flashed across the dhassi's face.

    Raine was regretting her idea to thank the human guild leader.  She had heard the rumor that he was uncommonly blunt and was often difficult to converse with.  "Option three?"

    "Divide.  Make an offer, you have 32 votes, hand over enough to satisfy them and then kick them out of the clan."

    "Guild Leader Nix... I can't just make an offer.  That would weaken the Xai Clan."

    "Offer 12 votes and some land away from your power base.  That would still leave you with 20 votes, that's two more than the Strom Clan."

    Raine held her face in her hands for a moment, the stress of constant conflict seemed to weigh heavily on her.  "They'll never accept it."

    Nix shrugged, "which brings us back to option one.  See?  All three are easy."

    The Xai Clan leader's face showed a grim smile when she looked back at him.  "None of my advisors have suggested option two or three."

    "I do charge an advisor fee, 10 million credits, payable when you leave."

    Raine sighed, "that's very reasonable."

    "Is it?  Make it 30 million then."

    "Thank you for coming to my aide Guild Leader Nix. Delyn said that you held the assassins off for several minutes"

    "A few minutes.  Time's up Tura Raine, I have pressing business elsewhere."  Nix was hoping she would dally, the Guild Office 'Expel' option was incredibly fun to use.  It had literally tossed Del Tali into the hallway.

    Raine nodded and stood up.  She offered her hand and they shook cordially.  "Come visit the Fir'Dhassi Camp and we'll entertain you properly.  I haven't shown you my best side."

    "I've seen you naked... Pretty sure that's your best side."  Nix laughed when the Fir'Dhassi's face turned red, her mouth opened and shut a few times before she walked quickly out of the office without speaking further.

    Nix finished reading both dockets and then voted accordingly.


    [79th Floor Staging Area: The Snake Pit]

    Nix glanced over the group sheet.

    Tank: Mortimer

    DPS: Pon, Win, Chael,

    CC: Nix

    Heals: Tess

    /Inferno: Nix: Take 2 minutes, we'll go then.

    [Summons: Ducky]

    [Summons: Tor, Cal, Shadai]

    The there Arch Winds landed next to him and bowed their heads slightly.

    "Shadai I want you to assist our healer.  Tor and Cal will attack whatever Morti is hitting."

    /Inferno: Pon: Just the stone stage and that's it?

    /Inferno: Tess: It's limited to a five-person group, so it's more likely to require finesse.

    Nix stared at the round stone stage.  "Of course... it has to be snakes."

    In the middle of the gray stones stood an impressive looking snake-man.  It bore a remarkable resemblance to the body of a Lamia however it's head was completely snake.  Two muscular arms pushed out from the snake body approximately where the shoulders should have been, each scaled hand held wickedly curved daggers.  The fanged face was about ten feet off the ground but there was another 20 feet of snake body coiled on the stone.

    /Inferno: Chael: Where are its minions?

    /Inferno: Pon: It doesn't have any...

    /Inferno: Nix: They always have minions.

    /Inferno: Tess: I'm ready Nix.  Keep in mind, my main focus is on keeping Morti alive. He has priority on heals and cleanses.

    /Inferno: Pon: Hope you brought plenty of cleanse, there's going to be poison.  Lots of it.

    /Inferno: Nix: Let's get this done.

    The Inferno Group stepped out of the staging area and were immediately met with a Floor message.

    [From the 70th Floor and above, all Special floors will be owned by the first guild that manages to clear the prior floor. All other guilds will skip to the next available floor.]

    /Inferno: Tess: Woah... that's interesting.  How many floors?

    /Inferno: Pon: A hundred.

    /Inferno: Nix: Actually they elevator attendant said that he doesn't know and that there's at least a hundred.

    /Inferno: Pon: That's what I said noob.

    /Inferno: Wind: Nope, that's not what you said.

    /Inferno: Chael: I'm with Wind on this one.

    The stage stood about ten feet off the ground and was kept in the air by massive stone pillars.  A single set of stairs led from the grassy area to the top of the stage.

    Morti and Nix stepped on the first stair together.  Immediately the loud sound of hissing reverberated through the air.

    /Inferno: Nix: Was kinda hoping there'd be no hissing.

    They stood at the top of the stairs together for a moment, then charged in.

    Nix has been cursed.

    Morti has resisted Snakepit Curse. [Immunity]

    Pon has been cursed.

    Tess has been cursed.

    Chael has been cursed.

    Ducky has resisted Snakepit Curse. [Immunity]

    Tess has been cursed.

    Wind has been cursed.

    Nix stumbled to the ground, he pushed off and tried to roll back to his feet but instead fell face first on the ground again.

    /Inferno: Tess: Oh **...

    /Inferno: Pon: F*ck this is awesome!

    /Inferno: Wind: Can't use any skills.

    Nix managed to stand, for some reason he was swaying back and forth.  That's when he noticed that he was surrounded by Snake-men.  He grabbed the nearest one by the arm and slammed his fist into its chest. It flew off the stage like it had been shot from a cannon.

    Chael has been stunned.

    "RAAAWWR"  Morti's roar echoed on the stage.

    Morti has taunted Snakepit.

    /Inferno: Tess: Nix!  Quit attacking us!  That was Chael you just hit.

    "Huh?"  Nix froze in place, none of the Snakemen were trying to attack him, then he looked down at his own body.

    /Inferno: Nix: Oh god...

    Nix raised a hand.

    You may not use any skills or weapons.

    /Inferno: Tess: I can't heal Nix.  Shit, I can't do anything but hiss.

    /Inferno: Wind: Retreat and reset?

    Nix glanced at Morti, his health was decreasing at an alarming rate. A quick look in the air told him that his Arch Winds had not been affected.

    /Inferno: Nix: Shadai can still heal.  I don't think she will be able to keep up.  Cal and Tor are hitting the boss.

    Nix charged Snakepit and slammed a fist into Snakepit's back.

    You have damaged Snakepit for 1 health point.

    /Inferno: Pon: Really?  Your punching it?

    /Inferno: Tess: It's a reset Nix.  We can't win this.

    Nix studied the scene for a moment while he slammed punch after punch into the back of Snakepit.  Morti's health was dropping at a much faster rate than Snakepits.  Cal and Tor weren't a match for the giant snake's dps.

    "Morti! Stun him!"

    The giant bear slammed both paws into the chest of Snakepit, then rammed him with the full weight of his body.

    Snakepit has been stunned.

    The giant snake-man hunched over for a moment, giving Nix time to jump on his back.  He looped his legs around one of the powerful arms and held on tight to the back of its neck.

    /Inferno: Wind: Right... Jump on!

    The Snake-men of Inferno piled onto the back of Snakepit, clinging to it out of desperation.  A second later Snakepit straightened out easily and resumed attacking Morti.

    /Inferno: Tess: It stood up anyways, jump off?

    Nix struggled to restrain the arm of Snakepit, he couldn't manage it but he did slow it down quite a bit.  The other four saw what he was doing and immediately began assisted.  With Snakepit being slowed, Shadai was able to catch back up and slowly restore Morti to full health.

    Slowly Snakepit's health began dropping.  When it was at 52 percent it became obvious that the members of Inferno were not going to be able to keep holding the snake.

    /Inferno: Pon: We can't keep it up Nix, not enough stamina.

    Pon was the first one to lose his grip and be thrown from Snakepit's back, he bounced twice on the stone stage and rolled off the edge onto the grass below.  A moment later Chael joined him.

    /Inferno: Nix: Help me with this arm, ignore the other one.  He's starting to overtake Morti again!

    Nix gripped the powerful arm in a full body lock, he was slammed against Morti countless times but was in no danger of tiring and he wasn't losing health.

    When Snakepit hit 50 percent, he dropped to the ground and the entire stage began vibrating.

    [Snakepit is invulnerable]

    Nix's Curse has been lifted.

    Tess's Curse has been lifted.

    Wind's Curse has been lifted.

    [Blessing of the Goddess]

    Tess has cast healing magic on Mortimer.

    /Inferno: Tess: Awesome!

    Without warning Snakepit's body split into three smaller Snakepits.

    /Inferno: Wind: Putting markers on all three bosses. Bullseye is the Main target, CC star, and moon!

    Wind used his hud to put a bullseye over the middle Snakepit before putting a star and moon on the other two.

    Nix targeted the moon-marked Snakepit and instantly a dozen strands of Emerald flame wrapped around its body.

    Ducky has charmed Snakepit.

    The star-marked Snakepit flashed toward the Main target and began attacking.

    With star-marked Snakepit's help, Bullseye was quickly slain and the group turned its focus onto Nix's Snakepit.

    Five minutes later the last Snakepit died and the stage faded away.

    Embassy System Message: Congratulations to the Inferno Guild for Clearing the 79th floor.

    /Inferno: Tess: That wasn't too bad.

    /Inferno: Wind: We'd been boned without our flying friends and Morti's immunity.

    /Inferno: Nix: Where's Pon and Chael?

    Pon and Chael slithered up the steps a moment later.  They were both still in the cursed Snakepit form.

    /Inferno: Tess: Curse didn't drop?

    /Inferno: Pon: We weren't on the stage when it was wiped clean apparently.

    /Inferno: Chael: Wind... hook a buddy up and kill me, please.

    The sound of Tess's laughter caused them all to turn toward her.  The pretty redhead was struggling to speak.  "Read the curse guys.  72 hours... Persistent."

    /Inferno: Chael: No way...

    /Inferno: Pon: Who cares... it's only for three days.

    /Inferno: Nix: Oh I know who cares.  Nansu.

    /Inferno: Tess: Yep, you think she freaked out when your ears became pointy.  She's going to love this Chael.

    /Inferno: Nansu: Did something happen to Chael?

    /Inferno: Jun Li: Nice job Embassy team!

    /Inferno: Nix: You guys win?

    /Inferno: Semmi: Yep, Inferno is now on the 8th floor of Mermaid City

    /Inferno: Nix: Okay, whoever wants to see the 80th floor, come to the 79th level and we'll all go up together.

    A half-hour later, most of the members of Inferno had arrived.  A red-faced Nansu refused to look at Snakepit Chael.  Together they moved to the 80th floor.

    Nix walked beside Snakepit Pon and stepped onto the rocky slope.  A short but exceptionally wide man wearing a helmet immediately approached them.

    /Inferno: Nix: Please say it's a dwarf.

    /Inferno: Pon: Nope, just a very stout human.

    "Greetings, you must be the Guild Leader of Inferno?  I'm Duncan Craft, the foreman of this mine."

    "I'm Nix, the Guild Leader of Inferno.  What sort of mine is this?"

    Duncan took off his helmet and wiped his sweaty brow with the back of his sleeve.  "It's a Mere Mine Guild Leader Nix. An Enhanced Mere Mine to be exact."
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