302 Thornwood Keep part one

    The tall redhead stared at the turtle house, her full lips curved in a smile.  The innkeeper shook her head in amazement.  The rest of his peers were struggling in Ever Flame while Nix already had a home, land and a ruling title.


    She turned at the sound of his voice, the normally reserved woman threw herself into his arms and squeezed him tight.  "Got room for one more?"

    Nix smiled into her thick hair. "Even if we don't, we do."

    Hyai returned his smile and stepped away.  "That makes no sense hun."

    Semmi was right, Ronnie brought back a dozen rangers and Bali was among them.

    The tiny ranger spotted him right away and marched up to him.  "Been hiding in this backwater place and shirking your duties Commander?"

    "Backwater?" Nix placed a hand on her shoulder, his tone serious.  "This is a dangerous place, Bali. The farms are being overrun, miners are being attacked and beasts are wandering into town. I expect your best."

    Bali nodded, her face growing serious.  "We'll start right away."

    /Inferno: Jun Li: With the rangers and raiding teams quartering here, we'll need to set up a tent city.

    /Inferno: Bali: Tent city?  I'm staying in that turtle shell with the boss!"

    /Inferno: Nix: Yeah... not gonna happen.

    /Inferno: Fajii: No.

    /Inferno: Hyai: No way.

    Hyai grabbed his arm and pulled him away. "We brought your chest Nix, where do you want it?"

    Nix opened his hud and started adding to his house's permissions list.  "My stuff? I'll put it in the closet."

    "Hey, boss... Is that normal?"  Bali pointed at the sky just north of them.  A large black ball, as dark as ink,  could be seen hovering in the distance.

    Nix stared at it for a moment.  "I don't think so."

    "Get back to town now and ring the bell!"  Theo Tram's voice held the trace of panic, both of his siblings dropped control of the puppets.

    Nix picked up both Dire Wolf puppets and stowed them away.  "What's going on Theo?"

    "Thorned Wood Curse, black rain that will turn people into monsters. Hasn't happened since I was a baby." Wolf-Theo turned his head in the direction of town.  A moment later a loud bell started ringing.  "Get undercover sir!"

    /Inferno: Jun Li: Mina, take the rangers back to Haven until this blows over.

    /Inferno: Mina: All gating activities are currently locked down.

    Nix frowned at the ink-like ball in the sky. It started rapidly expanding, black clouds of fog pushing outward in all directions.  "Everyone in the house now! Theo, will you guys be safe in the guardhouse?"

    "Yes.  It's one of the more sturdy structures in town."

    "Go now."  Nix grabbed the last wolf doll as soon a Theo released control and stowed it away, making sure to grab his trunk he led Hyai through the back door.

    Ronnie followed them into the door, her dark eyes glancing at the bed.  "Looks comfy."

    "Very." Nix nodded as he stepped into the closet and put the trunk away.

    /Inferno: Jun Li: We all in the house?"

    /Inferno: Semmi: A bit crowded, but yes.

    Nix walked into the kitchen, "Home Security, lockdown the house."

    Lockdown has been activated.

    Nix ran to the front windows and looked out.  A large image of a turtle settled over the home and a large portion of the property; it sat down and slowly retracted its head and limbs.

    Your Turtle Home has been secured.

    Ronnies dark face squeezed next to his. "Looks like the immediate property is secured also. Can I have this place Nix?"

    "Um... No."

    Black rain fell from the sky like a plague, every window in the turtle home had a face pressed up against it as Inferno watched trees and grass wither up an die before them.

    The rain lasted for nearly an hour, a brief lull in the storm was followed by multiple strikes of black lightning.  Great bolts of blackness struck the ground, tearing large wounds in the land.  Black craters formed after these strikes and dark creatures of all shapes and sizes crawled out of them.

    /Inferno: Pon: The f*ck kind of curse is this?

    Dozens of the creatures approached the home and were stopped by the turtle shield. They slammed against the barrier repeatedly for several minutes before giving up and wandering away.

    /Inferno: Semmi: These creatures are all pretty small Nix.  I doubt they represent much danger to us.

    /Inferno: Nix: We'll stay for now.  The rain may start again.  Shit...

    /Infenerno: Semmi: What?

    Nix walked over to the coffee table where he kept a written account of his Ionova employees. He found Tintin's account. "I have a gatherer team that might be out in this."

    Nansu's head popped up when he said, gatherer.  "What are they after?"

    Nix glanced back at the sheet.  "Agaricus. Know what that is?"

    Nansu nodded and brought up the hud on the coffee table.  She brought up the local map and zoomed in.  "It's a type of mushroom.  It grows almost entirely in caves."

    Nix cursed and walked through the crowded room into his bedroom.  Rummaging through his trunk he pulled out a second halter.

    /Inferno: Nix: You're with me old man.

    Pon nodded and started gearing up.

    "Looks like there are some caves east of town." Nansu considered the distance for a moment.  "Would have taken fifteen minutes to reach town if they are on foot."

    Nix shook his head.  "Not enough time."

    He walked back into the living room and handed Pon a halter. "Use Flash for this one."

    Pon nodded.

    /Inferno: Nix: Three volunteers to wolf it up?

    Nix pulled out one of his three Dire-Wolf puppets and waited.

    /Inferno: Ronnie: Oh hell yeah.

    /Inferno: Bali: Me, me!

    /Inferno: Nansu: I'll come.  I should be able to find them.

    /Inferno: Nix: You sure Nan?

    /Inferno: Nansu: Yep.  I even know what Agaricus smell like.

    /Inferno: Nix: Pick up your puppet and follow me.

    Nix led the trio into the bedroom and had them lay down comfortably.

    Ronnie laid back on the pillow, her dark eyes were dancing.  "Three women in your bed at once Nix.  This a record?"

    "Focus."  Nix waited until all three were animating the Dire Wolf puppets.

    /Inferno: Nix: This is the most advanced puppets I can make.  They are Emperor level Dire Wolves, although they require a lot of effort, if you need to sacrifice them to save a life, do not hesitate.

    /Inferno: Ronnie: Understood Nix.

    /Inferno: Bali: Got it, Commander

    /Inferno: Nansu: Yes sir!

    Nix walked through the living room again and exited the front door with Pon and the Dire Wolves close behind.

    "Holy crap."  Nix slowly looked around the area.  His immediate property had been protected from the scourge but everything else had withered away. the smell of decay was heavy in the air.

    [Summons: Nightmare]

    His demon horse appeared in front of him a moment later.  Nix patted her head gently and jumped into the saddle.

    [Aura Ignition: Emerald Flames]

    Nix flames caused Nightmare's aura to light up also.  The two of them stood motionlessly as green and orange flames licked at them.

    /Inferno: Pon. F*ck... You bastard Nix, I want one of those.

    /Inferno: Nix: I'll give you her next foal.

    /Inferno: Pon: Really?

    /Inferno: Nix: No. Are you wolves ready?

    /Inferno: Bali: Yep.  What's this self-destruct icon?

    /Inferno: Nix: Activate it and see.

    /Inferno: Bali: Really?

    /Inferno: Nix: No.  Let's ride.

    "On me!"  Nix turned Nightmare eastward toward town and let her run.  Flash and the three Dire Wolves were hot on her tail.
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