289 Ground Pounder

    A half-hour later, Nix was sitting in the Blue Quail Tavern with Jaro and Gillian.  He was staring at the Turtle Titan, who insisted that he call him Gil.  "Let me get this straight.  Great Grand Pa Sinai disappeared 50 years ago.  Since then, Titania has been cursed.  How am I doing?"

    Gil nodded.  "The curse is recent; of course, none of the Titan's can currently change forms."

    Jaro looked impossibly sad; he gripped his large hands together.  "I found a lead in Chespri. Unfortunately, the quest of the Steward remains unfinished."

    Nix had been listening to them for a while; he was starting to understand the gist of their situation. "There are seven Stewards?  One from each settlement in Titania?"

    "We were appointed by the Clan Matriarch herself, although she has been mourning for months."  Jaro downed his drink with a tip of his mug and immediately poured himself another.

    The tavern was warm and crowded.  The smell of cooked meat made Nix's mouth water.  "What's the cause of the curse?"

    Jaro's low voice rumbled, it was evident that it was a sensitive subject. "An Ice Mage named Menial is at the heart of it.   Some say that he is the son of Khione herself.  Anyways... he has an artifact that he has used to curse us."

    New Quests are available.

    Sinai the Conqueror

    Description: The great Patriarch

    of the Turtle Clan disappeared more

    than fifty years ago.  Someone must

    know what happened.

    Reward: Turtle Housing.

    Chaos Artifact

    Description: The Titan's of the North

    have been cursed with the inability to

    change forms.  Solve the mystery and destroy

    the artifact.

    Reward: Stewardship of Ionova

    Nix read the quests while his mind picked through the details.  "How big would Sinai be in Titan form?"

    "Bigger than this room, as Titans go, he was fairly large."  Gil leaned closer, his aquamarine eyes showing amusement. "I'm nearly as big."

    "Right... Want to take a trip then?"  Nix stood up and placed a handful of credits on the table.

    He turned toward the front door, walking fast while considering his next move.

    Gil and Jaro had to run to catch up with the Inferno Guild Leader.  Jaro's face was excited.  "Where we going?  A special mission?"

    Nix nodded. "Need a mount.  Where can we get one?"

    Jaro deliberately slowed down. "A mount?"

    Gil laughed at his obvious discomfort.  "Go ahead, Jaro, ask for another mount."

    Nix watched as Jaro walked into the stable, he looked like a man heading to the gallows.  "What's going on here, Gil?"

    Gil didn't bother to hide his amusement.  "Dire Wolves ate his last horse; he doesn't want to ask her for another one."

    The stable was located directly next to the Town's Main Gate.  No sooner had Jaro entered when the door slammed open, and a dark-haired woman walked out.  She was tall and lean, instantly reminding Nix of Jun Li.  Her dark hair was worn in a single ponytail.

    She stopped in front of Nix and Gil.  "The two of you would be wanting mounts?"

    Nix nodded.  "Just for a day or so."

    "I'm Dresa, the Stablemaster here. You won't let my horses get eaten, right?"

    Nix shrugged.  "Only if it comes down to them or me."

    Dresa leaned closer; for someone who ran a stable, she smelled remarkably good.  "That doesn't instill much faith."

    "Come with us then."  Nix glanced back at the stable door that was still wide open, Jaro was desperately trying to wave him off.

    "She doesn't have time to follo..."

    "Okay."  Dresa interrupted Jaro before stomping back into the stable.

    "Now you've done it."  Gil chuckled at the look on Jaro's face.  "She's sweet on him."

    Nix laughed loudly. "Well, that explains the hostility."


    Nix jumped sideways, narrowly evading the snapping jaws, one quick slice, and the wolf hobbled away on three legs.

    [Balefire: Fury]

    A white blast of flame incinerated the remaining wolf, leaving an exhausted Nix gasping for air.

    [You have leveled up to 126]

    The four riders were near Nix's respawn point when the chase started.  They came up out of the ground and were everywhere.  The allies scattered in different directions, with Nix heading back toward Nescari.


    [Dragon Eyes]

    After pulling a large portion of the pack with him, Nix had found a place to fight and start killing them. Unfortunately, the use of the Fury flame sucked through his mana.  The Fury blade didn't use any, but utilizing the Fury flame for balefire and flame strands had quickly exhausted him.


    A gentle flame settles over Nix, healing his injuries.

    He counted corpses as he headed south, seventeen of the wolves had followed him.  Nix didn't know much about the creatures, but he did realize they weren't from the same pack.  There were Dire wolves mixed in with a half dozen other different kinds.

    Nix found her backed up against a huge tree; she was a hammer wielder like Jaro.  Dresa waded into the pack without any fear; she was fast and vicious.

    [Power Slam]

    Dresa has landed a significant strike on an Alpha Wolf.

    [Dual Chain]

    Nix has followed up Dresa's attack with a significant strike.

    An Alpha Wolf has been slain.

    Dresa looked up in surprise, "Nix?  Go help, Jaro!"

    Nix raised his hands, and a dozen emerald strands shot out and wrapped around the last four wolves. He heaved backward and then slammed them onto the rocks.  Spinning quickly, he leaned back and slammed them against the tree Dresa had used to shield her back.

    A Dire Wolf has been slain.

    An Arctic Wolf has been slain.

    An Arctic Wolf has been slain.

    A Forest Stryder has been slain.

    The Stablemaster stared in shock for a moment, then abruptly turned north and started running.  "Jaro went this way."

    Deafening howls filled the air as the pair ran north, it echoed from all directions.  There were so many that their thermal images looked like one big lake of fire.

    "Shit..."  Nix cursed while he ran.  "Seems like more have joined up."

    Dresa nodded as she ran; her brown face was creased with worry.  "Two Stewards at the same time, it seems they were prepared."

    Nix didn't comment, Dresa ran like the wind, and he was pressing hard to stay with her.  Did she mean that Nescari was being watched?  Or maybe... they were after him.  "There!"

    Two men were fighting back-to-back in a sea of wolves.  The shorter fighter held a mace in each hand, each strike of his weapon sent a beast tumbling into the air.  Jaro swung his hammer in a wide swath, bashing and crushing anything that dared to step in his range.

    Nix targeted the middle of the pack.

    [Tides of Flame]

    The maddening howls of agony could be heard as Nix charged through his own flames.

    Dresa dodged to one side and ran around the affected area.  Nix targeted the center of the pack again.

    [Meteor Storm: Gemini Flame]

    Fire rained down on the wolves as Nix slashed his way toward Jaro and Gil.  The stench of burnt fur and the sizzling of meat filled the air.

    [Aura Ignition: Gemini Flame]

    Nix let his flames engulf him as he recklessly attacked the pack. They seemed to come in endless waves, steadily pushing back the group of four.  After more than an hour of fighting, Gil slipped on the blood-splattered ground and was nearly overrun.  Dresa stood over him with her hammer while Jaro dragged him back to his feet.

    Nix targeted the center of the pack again.  "We have to retreat!  This is too open."

    [Tides of Flame]

    The flames washed over the pack while the four fighters retreated, a half-mile away, was a high buff that they could use to secure a better position.  Dresa sprinted toward it with Nix bringing up the rear while throwing fire attacks at their pursuit.

    A deep war horn sounded from somewhere close by.  Nix didn't slow down, but he recognized that all three of his companions looked relieved.

    Dresa altered her course slightly.  "The Ground Pounders are here!"

    "Ground pounders?"  Nix noticed that many of the wolves had started to retreat, only the most stubborn Dire Wolves continued to press the fight.

    A large company of fighters broke free of the woods and slammed into the ranks of the pack.  They wore black plated armor and slaughtered the wolves with impunity.

    Within a few minutes, the battle was over.  Wolf corpses littered the ground as far as the eye could see.  Nix stood with his group and used Jaro's bandages to work on their wounds.

    "Steward Jaro?"  A deep, intimidating voice spoke from behind them.  Nix turned to see a heavily muscled man walking toward them.  He had short brown hair and a thick beard, although he seemed twice the size of everyone else, his step was silent like a thief.

    Jaro bowed deeply.  "War Leader!"

    The giant man breathed a sigh of relief.  "I'm glad that you're safe, we've lost enough good people lately."  His voice rumbled like rocks sliding down a steep hill.

    Gil and Dresa also bowed respectfully.

    Jaro grabbed his arm and pulled him forward.  "This is Nix.  The same person who helped me last night."

    Nix shook the man's ridiculously large hands. "Thanks for the help."

    The bearded man smiled suddenly, and his air of intimidation vanished. "You fight hard, Nix.  I'm the War Leader of the Titan Clan, Mortimus."

    "Mortimus?"  Nix bit down on the smile that threatened to come out.  "Well met sir, I'm Nix, the Guild Leader of Inferno."
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