273 Heart of Winter part four

    Fabri considered it for a moment before nodding her head. "Follow me."  She led them to the eastern side of the chamber where a circle of white crystals had been carefully placed on the ground.

    /Gemini: Tharaka: Transport magic?

    /Gemini: Nix: Does that even exist?

    They stepped into the circle and Fabri touched her staff to one of the crystals.

    [Skal: Nuenthi]

    An instant later they appeared in a nearly identical circle in a much smaller chamber. The sounds of screaming and gunfire echoed throughout the chamber.

    /Gemini: Nix: Stay close enough for heals, engage individual targets.


    Nix appeared next to three human mercenaries that were dragging an Ashobel female. Although she was bleeding badly, she was still attempting to fight them off. One slash with his red scimitar removed the head of the closest merc, the other two were impacted by a half dozen emerald strands that punched through their chests.  Nix slammed them on the rock surface a few times and then cast their broken bodies to one side.

    [Aura Ignition: Emerald Flame]

    Four Aquarions had been in the process of charging toward Nix when he flamed up, a look of panic covered their faces when they saw the green flames, prompting them to skid to an abrupt halt. An instant later the four water creatures went into full retreat mode.

    [Tides of Flame]

    Nix targeted the Aquarions and then brushed aside a spear that had been thrown at him.  The screams of agony from the pool of flames were loud in his ears when he shifted focus.


    The merc felt herself pulled into the air by an unstoppable force, a flash of a silver sword divided her neatly into two separate parts.

    Nix frowned at Chiba who had taken his target. "Oy... What's up with the kill steal?"

    Chiba cackled at him, her form moving in and out of combat. "You're taking all the good ones, Apprentice!"

    /Gemini: Locas: Someone named Gearpin is 200 meters away and closing fast on our position.

    [Summons: Ducky]

    Duck appeared in front of Nix, her smiling face quickly taking in the battlefield.

    Ducky has joined your group.

    Ducky has joined the Gemini channel.

    /Gemini: Nix: We need to speak to this Gearpin person Ducky, don't kill him unless you have to.

    Ducky nodded calmly, her silver bow in one hand.

    /Gemini: Nix: We are trying to stop an unknown force from abducting and killing Ashobel, only target Aquarions and human mercs.

    /Gemini: Ducky: I understand.

    /Gemini: Nix: Target Gearpin Ducky, I want that information.

    Gearpin looked like a dragon human hybrid that had gone especially heavy on the dragon side.  He stood upright and moved like a large man, but his body was covered with hard scales.  A six-foot tail trailed behind him, the end of it was equipped with three impressive-looking spikes. He closed the distance with inhuman speed.


    Gearpin has resisted bewitch.

    [Copyright: Gearpin]

    Floyd assumed Gearpin's form and flashed toward the original.


    Locas put an arrow through the foot of Gearpin, immobilizing him.

    Gearpin is pinned in place for 8 seconds.

    Gearpin has been slowed by 60 percent.

    Floyd advanced shockingly fast and struck a hard blow with his fist before stepping to one side to dodge a counter-attack.  The Naga Trickster spun in place and slammed his tail into Gearpin's face; continuing the movement he swept his target's legs.

    Gearpin has been stunned.


    Gearpin has become Ducky's trusted ally.

    Nix dodged to one side as he became the target for several archers that had entered the fray, an instant later a chunk of ice slammed into his back and knocked him to the ground.

    You have resisted stun.

    Nix spotted the Aquarion who had attacked him, both of his hands glowed with emerald fire.

    /Gemini: Tharaka: A Breach is opening up!

    A breach appeared a dozen meters away, an instant later a woman who appeared to be wearing Ice Armor stepped through.  Instantly she recognized the quality of the opposition she faced, without hesitating she leaped forward and grabbed Gearpin by the arm before disappearing back into the Breach.

    Nix and Chiba sprinted toward the closing gate, the old woman had been closer and managed to make it inside while Nix landed hard on the cavern floor.

    "F*ck!"  Nix cursed loudly and rolled to his feet.

    "Nix!" Ducky was visibly upset.

    "What's wrong?  Chiba can take care of herself."

    Ducky shook her head. "She took the wrong Gearpin!"

    "What?"  Nix looked around, his eyes falling on the real Gearpin.  "Shit..."

    An hour later most of the Aquarions and their accomplices were either dead or involved in a desperate retreat.  Locas put on an impressive display of archery, continuing to bring the fleeing enemy down long after they'd left normal bow range.  Nix left Ducky and her 'friend' sitting near one of the fires talking. His spirit companion was very good at peeling back layers without seeming too curious.

    Zinu was talking to Locas who seemed very interested in the continent of Everspire.

    /Gemini: Locas: I should like to visit this place Nix.

    /Gemini: Zinu: It can be very harsh, although my people shouldn't have attacked Inferno, we are among the weakest inhabitants of Everspire.  Our Krayven Clan is not strong.

    /Gemini: Locas: It's fine.  Inferno grows stronger every day, I will definitely see this place for myself.

    /Gemini: Nix: I'll take you to Inferno City.

    Nix approached Ducky, smiling pleasantly at Gearpin.  "Ready?"

    Ducky nodded.  "I should be able to answer most of your questions."

    /Gemini: Nix: Raka, come back to the fire.  We are going to find some answers.

    Raka arrived a few minutes later, with Fabri in tow.  "That was Neptiphago by the way, she must have shortened her name to Tipha in the interest of anonymity."

    "That's her?" Nix found the news encouraging, she hadn't regained her dragon strength.

    Fabri bowed toward Nix, "thank you for coming to our aide.  We were able to fight them off without losing anyone."

    Nix stared at the Ice Mage for a moment, he could sense the strength of Ice in her. "The time for the Ashobel to stand apart is gone, let us remain friends from this point."

    Fabri gave him the Ashobel's version of a smile, which looked like a wild animal baring its teeth. "That isn't up to me, the new chieftain will have the final say."

    /Gemini: Tharaka: I've decided to take part.  There are four of us Nomads, we will pair off and fight, then the winners will face each other for the right to challenge the chosen tomorrow.

    /Gemini: Nix: This is sudden.  Are you sure you want to take this on?

    /Gemini: Tharaka: Yes, I must grow again.  Rediscover my magic and then perhaps walk the path of the Archon.

    Nix nodded to himself, satisfied with Raka's answer.  He spent years being sucked dry by the Nether Emperor, perhaps he would thrive here.  He turned back toward Ducky, who was waiting patiently.  "Confirm the identity of Tipha."

    "Tipha is Neptiphago, the water dragon who was once the Master of Aquarius," Ducky replied without hesitating.

    "Where is Aquarius?"

    Ducky brought up a hud and pointed to a spot about fifty miles away.  "Deep below the surface, through hundreds of feet of Ice, there is a pocket of water that remains unfrozen.  Aquarius is hidden there."

    "Does Tipha have the Artifact?"

    "No, she is searching for the Heart of Ice." Ducky stole a quick glance at Fabri, "she suspects that the Ashobel know where it is although she is unable to confirm this."

    Nix sighed heavily, perhaps he should have brought more people.  "What's the interest in the Ashobel? Why is she killing them?"

    "Their exposure to the artifact has changed the Ashobel.  It has sunk into their bones, the same way that the dragons absorbed spectral in Core'Dium."  Ducky looked to Gearpin for acknowledgment, he nodded his reptilian head.

    "We knew something like that had happened.  Why take the Ashobel?"

    "The Ashobel's unique physiology absorbs the energy of the Heart of Winter.  Neptiphago has been using a special room in Aquarius to drain the Ashobel Marrow."

    Raka's entire demeanor changed instantly.  "What?  What is she doing with the product?"

    "She's absorbing it and growing stronger. Gearpin thinks that if she can find the Heart of Winter, Aquarius will rise to rule over Colonial." Ducky patted Gearpin's shoulder.  "Can you think of anything else we may need to know?"

    Gearpin nodded slowly.  "There is a traitor among the Ashobel."
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