304 Thornwood Keep part three

    By the time the trio walked past the town, the skies were clear once again. The mid-day sun cast its light on the full damage done by the ink-like clouds. Tree's had withered into gnarled, twisted trunks in only a few hours.  The brush, long grasses, and dense foliage were now a blackened emaciated version of their previous self.

    Nightmare walked easily beside Morti as he waddled westward toward the turtle house.  Ducky was lying on Morti's back, hugging his neck while she hummed playfully.  Her blue eyes were turned toward Nix and his mount.  "I like your horse Nix."

    "Want a horse, Ducky?"

    The Water Witch shook her head.  "Can't I just ride Morti?"

    "Sure, but I'll get you one for when Morti isn't here."  Nix thought back to the cavern fight.  "Ducky... where'd you learn that puppet trap?"

    "I could see attachments points on it; I used a simple water weave to bind them."  Ducky nodded to herself as she recalled it.  "Your puppets don't have that; I can't  discern any difference between your puppets and the creatures they represent."

    Nix was tempted to turn into town and check out the damage, but first, he decided to talk to his guild.  "There's one huge difference, Ducky.  Want to guess?"

    Ducky sat upright and assumed a more traditional riding position. "Do you think that puppet was a natural magic user?"

    Nix shook his head.  "Almost certainly not."

    Ducky pursed her lips. "That's not good.  It means that the puppet master can use its own magic skills through a puppet."

    Nix nodded in agreement.  "My own pets are limited to the parent beasts natural abilities.  Although truthfully, I haven't attempted a beast with magic abilities."

    Morti's big nose sniffed the air a few times.  "Mom's here, Nix."

    Nix glanced up at the hill they were climbing. "She must be looking for you. My place is right over this ridge."

    A minute later, they topped the ridge and were offered a good view of the turtle home.  It's looked like an oasis of healthy vegetation in a desert of decay.  Everything outside of the protective perimeter was blackened and dead.  Scarlett and Gil were talking with Jun Li.

    Nix dismounted and led Nightmare around the back of the building to the rock-walled pond.

    [Summons: Soup]

    Soup immediately entered the pond, her huge body taking up nearly a third of it.

    [Summons: Fey]

    Fey appeared in her human form; her long white staff carried in one hand.  Both her and Ducky were temporarily staying with Morti at the Nescari Fortress, but she had asked to see the turtle house.

    Nix put a hand on Morti before he could climb in the pond.  "Let's talk to Scarlett first."

    Scarlett gave him an apologetic look when he approached.  "This hasn't happened in so long that I forgot about it, Nix."

    Nix waved off her apology.  He already knew that the Titans had investigated the event the first time it happened, more than ten years earlier, and could find nothing.  "No worries, we'll take care of this."

    Morti pushed his big head into his mother's side; she hugged him affectionately.  "Are you here to see me, Mom?"

    Scarlett shook her head.  "I thought you were in the practice yard with your Chevalier."

    Morti sat back on his big behind and looked down at his mother. "Can't we get someone else? He smells funny."

    "Morti... The Chevalier is a position of importance; we chose him specifically for this task."

    "Nix can be my Chevalier."  The big bear waddled away, heading directly for the splashing that was coming from the back of the house.

    Nix kept a straight face and was saved from commenting when he saw Fajii approaching.  She offered him a smile and a kiss on the cheek.

    "Can I get you and Nansu to inspect the damage to the trees and vegetation?"

    Fajii nodded.  "Can I take Nightmare?"

    "Go ahead, tell Nan to get Flash from Pon, before the old bastard decides it's his horse."

    /Inferno: Nix: Start scouting Bali, if any of those things from last night are still alive, kill them off.

    /Inferno: Bali: We're on it, boss.  I'll have a report on local wildlife in a few hours.

    "Sure is a nice house, Nix." Gil's round face had a broad smile plastered on it. "I'm gonna check it out. Is Soup here?"

    Nix nodded.  "There's a small pond in the back."

    Scarlett considered her words carefully, not wanting to discourage Nix. "From what I remember, last time it took ten years to recover.  The older, larger trees managed to survive, but the smaller trees and plant life were completely wiped out."

    "I have two alchemists that are knowledgable in botany; once they finish their study, we'll react appropriately."

    Scarlett grabbed his arm and gently pulled him aside, Gil was already walking around the house to check out the turtle pond. "We are so thankful to have Morti back, Nix."

    Nix nodded.  "I'm sure."

    "I didn't realize how big Morti is until he was playing in the practice yard with the other cubs."

    "Aren't all Titan cubs big?"

    Scarlett shook her head.  "There's big, and then there's big.  Big is fine by itself, Mortimus told me that Morti is many times stronger than he should be."

    Nix understood the issue, Scarlett was his mother and was worried about him.  "Morti has fought dragons on several occasions, without a doubt he has taken in a large amount of dragon blood."

    The Titan Clan Leader sighed heavily; her little cub was not so little. "Then, there's the change in coat color."

    Nix recalled the queue he set up to help Morti, he brought it up on his hud and showed Scarlett. "His spirit was splintered, and his fur had been entirely burned away by a Salamander."

    [Mortimer] [Spirit] [[Bulo's Pelt] [Kraken Leather, Leviathan Leather, Lamia leather] [Dragonbone needle] [Camel Hair Thread]

    "I'm so thankful that you found him Nix. Scarlett's kind eyes shone with emotion. "Kraken and Leviathan? Those are both creatures with extraordinary strength.  Bulo was the black bear?"

    "Yes.  Although he was quite large, definitely not a Titan."  Nix closed his hud and noticed most of Alpha team standing in a circle.  "Is Black fur a big deal?"

    "No, but it comes with expectations.  The last Black bear War Leader was name Tautius."

    Nix nodded in approval, "he sounds badass."

    "He was, he's commonly referred to as the Great King."

    A moment later, a soaked-to-the-skin Morti barreled around the edge of the house with Ducky and Fey on his back.  They were yelling encouragement to him as he headed straight toward the river and flopped in, sending water splashing in all directions.  Gil followed at a leisurely pace, walking next to Soup.

    Chants of 'Titan, Titan', were all the encouragement that Gil needed to change into his turtle form and wade into the water.

    Nix turned back to Scarlett, who had been watching the interaction.  "No one's going to confuse Morti with that guy.  Not for a long time anyway."

    Nix excused himself and joined Alpha team, while Scarlett took a seat on the river bank and watched Morti play in the water.

    /Alpha Team: Jun Li: Ready to talk about this guild quest Nix?

    /Alpha team: Nix: Yes.  Bring it up.

    The Nighthag of Thornwood Keep [Guild Quest]

    Description: On the Edge of the Ionova forest is

    the mysterious Keep of Thornwood.  An evil scourage

    has taken over the old fort and regularly inflicts its

    curse on the land.

    Objective: Kill the Nighthag of Thornwood Keep.

    Optional Objective: Cleanse the Keep without killing the Nighthag.

    Reward: Thornwood Keep.

    The Keep may be used as private housing, a guildhall, or a city center.

    /Alpha team: Jun Li: Inferno's presence here almost certainly triggered this Guild quest.

    Alpha team: Semmi: Probably that and Nix being named Steward of Ionova.

    /Alpha team: Nix: I agree.  So let's rid Ionova of this curse before someone gets hurt.

    /Alpha team: Semmi: Why wait until tomorrow?  Let's just hit it now.

    /Alpha team: Pon: You know the deal, Nix.  Prey waits.

    /Alpha team: Nix: This Nighthag is some sort of puppet master that has the ability to make human puppets from the people it takes.

    /Alpha team: Semmi: Human puppets?  What kind of abilities?

    /Alpha team: Nix: That's the issue.  I think she's able to use her own magic while in a puppet.

    /Alpha team: Pon: Not good.  That means we could face her over and over again in a dozen different puppets.

    /Alpha team: Wind: Or a hundred.

    /Alpha team: Semmi: We just have to find the Hag, puppets are useless without the master.

    /Alpha team: Nix: And then we destroy every puppet she made.

    /Alpha Team: Pon: Agreed.

    /Alpha Team: Jun Li: I'll put together a team.  We'll be ready in thirty minutes.

    /Alpha Team: Nix: Good.  That gives me enough time to make adjustments to my gear.
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