276 Baptism

    Nix's emerald aura flamed out for a moment, only to be replaced with Ice Flames.  The stone beneath his feet that had been heating up now hissed as if in agony.  "There's only one way to remove something like this."

    Aki nodded, "I'm ready for my death."  Her pale face was calm while she watched a dozen strands dangle in the air, the strands shuttered for a moment and then split into twenty-four, a blast of cold air moved outward from the Fire Mage.  "Cold fire?"

    "It's good that you're ready."  Four strands wrapped around her, picking off the ground as the pain of cold fire stole her breath away.  The screams of her squad told her that they were being treated similarly.


    Nix pulsed the strength of Ice Flames down the strands; the Aquarion mouths were frozen open in agonizing screams. The blue strands shimmered around their bodies, first freezing them solid before pulsing into Emerald flames to melt the ice.  The green flames were meticulously controlled, never allowed to exist after thawing out the Aquarions.

    Chiba and Floyd arrived on the scene shortly after the screams; six Aquarion's dangled in the air, they would scream and then freeze alternately.

    Floyd watched with interest; his own racial memories were filled with events much worse than this. "His control is amazing."

    Chiba nodded.  "Finesse and strength are a deadly combination.  If that boy ran amok, all of Colonial would burn."

    Locas finally left the rooftop of the Inn and joined the team at the market square.  He left track on to verify that no one was close.  "What's this?"

    Chiba shrugged slightly.  "A baptism, not sure the reason yet."

    The trio who were watching slowly retreated further away from Nix and the Aquarions.  The temperature had become arctic cold, and everything within 50 meters of him was covered in a sheet of ice.  Slowly a corona formed around each of the Aquarions; whatever armor and weapons they had equipped were destroyed by Nix's flame cycle.

    /Gemini: Chiba: Fall back. I sense a power build-up.

    The glowing blue corona surrounding each of them brightened considerably until a wave of power erupted from them, pushing outward in all directions. Nix held onto the strands, gripping them tightly while he was buffeted like a kite in the wind.  After a few minutes, the Aquarions dropped to the ground, and the strands imprisoning them evaporated.

    Aki has been slain.

    Bu'Na has been slain.

    Veta has been slain.

    Salom has been slain.

    Enri has been slain.

    Vargis has been slain.

    Nix cursed loudly, his eyes staring at the six blue coronas that were still hovering in the air above the corpses.

    He only had an instant of warning before all of them moved toward him.

    [Aura Ignition: Gemini Flame]

    The coronas slammed into Nix, knocking him backward. However, they were repelled by the Gemini Flames.  Nix held out a hand, and a dozen strands impaled them, causing a piercing screech to fill the air.

    He placed his free hand over his chest and focused on Shae.  A moment later, she appeared next to him in Archon form, fully prepped for battle.

    Shae has joined the Gemini group.

    Shae has joined the Gemini channel.

    /Gemini: Nix: Destroy the Coronas Shae!

    Shae flashed towards the nearest, her twin fire blades slashing it in two.  Within a few moments, all the Coronas that Nix held had been destroyed.  The redhead let her swords flame out and turned back toward him.

    Nix collapsed to his knees, his strands didn't require mana, but the pulsing did.  He was utterly depleted.

    A warm hand gripped his arm and helped him up; the Salamander smiled sweetly at him. "Finally, you call me for back-up."

    "Thanks, Shae." Nix examined the destroyed coronas for a moment and then linked it in chat.

    /Gemini: Nix: Any idea what this is?

    Heart of Winter Orb [Unknown]

    /Gemini: Chiba: That was inside of them? That's f*cking creepy as hell.

    /Gemini: Zinu: Shall I rez the Aquarions?

    Nix looked at his Everspire healer; usually, only Aquarion Matriarchs could rez Aquarions.  "Can you do it?"

    Zinu nodded and moved toward Aki.

    [New Hope]

    Zinu has resurrected Aki.

    [New Hope]

    Zinu has resurrected Enri.

    /Gemini: Zinu: I have to wait a bit now.  Rezzing two takes nearly all of my mana.

    Aki was on the ground; her pale eyes were streaming with tears.  "It's gone from me... Finally, I am free from it.

    "Aki?  I need to know about Tipha.  Is she in the infusion chamber?"

    If the Aquarion was surprised, her face didn't show it. "Yes, she has a healing basin there that she needs to use since she is grievously wounded."

    /Gemini: Nix: Prepare to move out.  I'll bring in Morti and Ducky."

    "Two minutes Aki, tell me what has happened since Aquarius fell out of the sky."  Nix tossed Zinu a mana potion and gestured for her to continue rezzing.

    "I was a powerful Matriarch of the Aquarions, one of the Elder leaders.  We were much different then; you wouldn't recognize the creatures we evolved from.  Aquarius landed here, and Neptiphago made herself known to us.  She brought gifts and taught us new skills and abilities.  Without knowing why we slowly fell to her will."

    Nix spared a glance at her squad.  "They were Aquarion Elders also?"

    Aki nodded.  "Yes."

    "What does Tipha gain by controlling you?"

    The Aquarion shook her head.  "Neptiphago is not my master, nor does she control us."

    "What?"  Nix glanced at Chiba, who only shrugged at him.  "I thought you do her bidding?"

    "No.  We do the bidding of the Heart of Winter."

    "That doesn't sound good."  Nix cursed silently, wishing now he had brought Raka.

    "Tipha and her city were falling from the skies above a dangerous continent.  She made a deal with the imprisoned soul."

    "So Tipha meets the Aquarions, and she's already under the influence of the artifact?" Nix was beginning to have a bad feeling.

    "Yes, the borrowed strength that powered the city and helped restore some of her power all came from the Heart of Winter,"  Aki spoke softly, occasionally she would wipe her eyes.

    "This artifact is some kind of entity?"  Shae placed a hand on Nix's shoulder and joined the conversation.

    Nix nodded slowly. "It took all the Dragon Masters of the Sky Kingdom to bind it."

    "We should retreat then Nix, something like that is beyond us."  Shae's warm brown eyes showed a hint of caution.

    "I agree.  Let's kill Tipha first."  Nix paused and turned back toward Aki.  "How did the Ashobel get the artifact?"

    "Tipha had been controlled for many months; however, one day, she broke free of the geas for a short while and sought to destroy the Artifact.  The Heart of Winter put her into a deep sleep and then instructed us to hide the Artifact deep in the ice."

    "The Ashobel must have stumbled upon it?  What were you doing during all of this?"  Nix noticed that ZInu was done and tossed her another mana potion.

    Aki breathed a sigh of relief when the last of her squad was rezzed.  "After hiding the Heart of Winter, we sent our people away and kept watch here at Aquarius."

    "Does Tipha know that you served two masters?"

    Aki shook her head.  "We told her that we hid it because it was controlling her.  She was the one who figured out the Ashobel absorption."

    Nix already knew that part, Tipha was sucking out the marrow of Ashobel and slowly gaining strength.  "She wants it back?  Isn't she scared of being controlled again?"

    "No, the strength she regained has made her arrogant."

    "This Artifact controlled you?  Even after you hid it?"

    "Yes, it waits, and it plans. Time is meaningless."

    /Gemini: Nix: We'll kill Tipha and then retreat for a while.

    /Gemini: Locas: Let me get this straight. It controlled a dragon, and when the Neptiphago found out, it subdued the dragon.

    /Gemini: Floyd: It sent Aki to hide it and stand guard while it strengthed the Ashobel.  With the Ashobel and the Aquarions in hand, it could take over Colonial.  That would still be decades away.

    "Wait here, Aki.  We will deal with Tipha."  Nix started to walked towards the north end of the city when Aki stopped him.

    "I am supposed to resupply her with Ashobel. If I fail to do that, she will be suspicious."

    /Gemini: Nix: Let's take a few minutes to plan then, while I bring in more people.

    [Summons: Mortimer]

    [Summons: Ducky]

    [Whisper Nix to Gideon] Bringing you in.  Stand by.

    [Create Breach: Loki: Aquarius]

    A few moments later, Gideon and his squad stepped through the gate.  Nix started a mini-raid group and invited Pathfinder to join.

    /Gemini: Nix: We're going to move out shortly. I have a specific mission for the five of you.
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