372 The Titan Serpent Clan

    Nix closed quickly on the sneaking assassin; he was about to break his stealth when a second form joined the first.

    /Inferno: Nix: Assassins in the Nescari Fortress, anyone close needs to come now.

    /Inferno: Ducky: Fey and I are here!

    /Inferno: Nix: I have to stay close to Scarlett, join me, and we'll find Morti.

    Nix has cast [Daisy Chains]

    Dark Blade has been stunned.

    Rip Fang has been stunned.

    Nix has activated [Storm Rider].

    An instant later, Nix appeared behind the original assassin with his red scimitar in hand.  He slapped a black hand on him, and then leaped away when he sensed sudden danger.

    Rip Fang has resisted Daisy Chains.

    Rip Fang has activated her Bloodline. [Titan Asp]

    It struck faster than Nix could move, an enormous black head sunk long fangs deep into his flesh as it clamped down around his back.

    Nix has resisted terror poison.

    [Aura Ignition: Emerald Flame]

    Rip Fang is immune to fire.

    "F*cking **."  Nix swung his blade at the snake's body, but it twisted him to avoid the strike.  Quickly he reversed grip and stabbed through his own shoulder, the blade pushing easily through the flesh as it impaled upward through the snake's mouth and out of his head.

    Rip Fang has received a [Fatal Strike].

    The black snake hissed loudly, a noise that made Nix's ear's ring as it morphed back into a human shape.  Nix sliced through the assassin's neck before it could attempt any life-saving measures.

    Rip Fang has been slain.

    Ducky has [Charmed] Dark Blade.

    Nix glanced up to see that two of his companions join him; Scarlett and Mortimus flanked them.  The big War Leader growled when his eyes caught the assassins.

    "Serpent Clan."  Mortimus's voice was filled with dread, "are you poisoned?"

    Nix shook his head.  "Question him, Ducky, I don't care if he dies."

    Ducky nodded and placed a hand on the assassin's shoulder.  "Sorry about your friend."

    The assassin watched her with beady black eyes. "She was incompetent.  None of us were supposed to change, no matter what."

    "I see.  That's too bad.  You are much smarter than her."  Ducky's voice was soothing to the ears. "Will you get in trouble for letting your target slip away?"

    Dark Blade shook his head. "I don't have a target; my mission was a distraction."

    Ducky's blue eyes stared at the assassin.  "He's resisting Nix; anything further will probably kill him."

    "Doesn't matter.  I want to know why they are here." Nix summoned his three Arch Wings, Shadai healed his wounds while the two archers fanned out and covered the area.


    Dresa covered her mouth to keep from laughing. "Aww... He walked away from her; at least he approached her.  If Jaro had done that, it wouldn't have taken us five years to get together."

    Yena nodded in agreement; the alchemist had been tasked with keeping an eye on the cubs.  Even though they were on the Fortress grounds, someone needed to keep an eye out.  "It might have taken ten years if Nix hadn't pushed things along by throwing that fight."

    Dresa didn't reply, but she silently agreed, Jaro had been in no hurry.

    /Nescari Fortress: Scarlett: Assassins in the Fortress!

    "Let's go!"  Dresa quickly extracted herself from the dense thicket they had been hiding in; a hissing sound caused her to dodge to one side, the arrow blurred by her and sunk into Yena's left eye.

    Immediately she rolled to one side and drew her weapon; an instant later, a second arrow struck her in the throat, knocking her back into the brush.

    Three stealthed assassin's padded passed them a few seconds later; two were armed with bows while the third held twin daggers.  The knife-wielder stopped one of his companions when she started heading into the thicket to check the bodies.  "No time.  Kill the white cub; if we have time, the black one is a bonus."

    Yena groaned while easing her friend off of her; blood streamed down the left side of the alchemist's face as she struggled to open her bag.  She broke open a small vial and poured half of it directly around the arrow still lodged in Dresa's throat, the rest she used on her own wound before struggling to her feet and staggering out of the brush.

    /Titan Clan: Yena: They've broken the perimeter and are going for the cubs.

    Yena notched an arrow on her bow and headed toward the clearing; an instant later, a thundering roar shook the glade.

    "GET BEHIND ME!" Morti reared up and then slammed his big paws onto the ground.

    [Ground Pounder]

    Teriff Sharpeye has been stunned.

    Ruthless Juka has been stunned.

    Gali Medo has been stunned.

    The Titan cub ignored the dagger wielder and charged the archers, a rumbling sound like an approaching thunderstorm made the nearest archer's eyes widen in panic just before a huge paw slammed into her body and sent her skidding across the glade.

    Gali Medo has been crippled.

    Teriff Sharpeye has resisted stun.

    The second archer dodged to one side, his bow flashing up to shoot an arrow directly into the cub's face. Massive jaws clamped down on his shoulder, a powerful wrench, and the assassin was tossed into the air like a ragdoll.

    The third assassin sprinted toward the cubs, his eyes zeroing in on his target as he downed a potion.

    Ruthless Juka has used [Accelerant]

    Snow could see the eyes of the last assassin pick her out of the group, she moved to one side, and he altered course to intercept.  "Stay back!  He's after me!"

    Juka nearly stumbled in surprise when the white cub charged him, a quick kill, and he'd use his escape skills to retreat.  His blade came up to slash at her throat, just as an arrow pierced his back, causing him to miss.

    Snow Lili has used [Razor Strike]

    Four parallel cuts appeared on Juka's face, the surprising strength of the blow knocking him to one side.

    The assassin spun to parry an instant before two gigantic paws slammed down on him, he didn't even have time to shout before all of his ribs shattered at once.

    Ruthless Juka has been slain.

    Morti stood on his hind legs, his sharp eyes taking in everything while his huge nose huffed the air. "Get back to the group, Snow."

    "Don't be so bossy."  Snow growled at him but did as he asked.


    Jaro frowned his companion and let out a bit more line.  "You cheating me, Gil?"

    Gil's round face was the picture of innocence as he unhooked his fourth fish of the day and stowed it away.  "How is that even possible?  We're using identical bait and the same fishing the spot."

    Jaro picked up his flask and took a long pull before handing it to him. "I wouldn't put it pass you to use some sort of turtle power."

    Gil grinned widely and accepted the drink.  "So... You admit that turtles have power?"

    "Didn't say that, did I?  I said you're cheating again!"

    Gil's sharp eyes caught a movement in the sky; a winged rider banked toward them.  "That's a Daiken, one of Inferno's mounts."

    Jaro stood and watched as a silver-haired girl landed in a small clearing on the other side of the river.  "Why would Fey ride a Daiken?"

    "Good question."  Gil dropped his rod and started wading across the knee-deep stream.

    The girl was tall and seemed a bit thin; her baggy robes had been swapped out for brown leather leggings.  Her ordinarily beautiful face was creased with worry.  "Both of you need to get back to the Fortress.  There's been an attack."

    Jaro was halfway across the stream when she spoke; he paused and nodded.  "We'll take the horses and be there in a few minutes."

    Fey shook her head.  "No, I'll take your horse back with Gil.  Ride my Daiken."

    Jaro's tanned face showed his surprise. "Fly back?  No thanks!  I'm not getting on one of those."

    "Please, Jaro, you need to get back now.  Dresa has been injured."

    "Dresa?  My Dres?"

    Fey and Gil waited for a moment while Jaro mounted up and took off from the clearing.  The Daiken circled once and then headed back toward the Fortress.

    Gil paused while Fey climbed into the saddle of Jaro's horse.  "You can fly back if you want."

    Fey shook her head.  Nix had given her specific directions to make sure both Stewards made it back to the castle safely.  "I don't mind riding with you."

    "How bad is it?"

    "Poison arrow to the throat, seems like a fatal wound."

    Gil frowned at the words but didn't blame the mage for saying them.  They rode hard for a few minutes before he spoke again.  "Who would attack us?"

    Fey's sharp vision scanned the woods, her pale eyes taking in every movement.  "Scarlett says it's the Serpent Clan."
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