373 Inheritance

    Nix sat next to the alchemist's bed; he had held her reddish-brown hair out of her face while Scarlett dressed the wound.

    "Why are you still sitting with me?" Yena's single eye watched him; it was dark brown like chocolate.

    Nix cringed inside at the weak sound of her voice.  It sounded exactly like someone who was dying.  Everyone liked Yena, but she had no family, and her only close friend was in a bed a few feet away.  He had stayed because no one else came.  "Well... I got a bit of a crush on you."

    "It's a persistent poison Nix, with no antidote." Yena's lips curved in a smile. "You don't have to say something like that."

    Nix shrugged and squeezed her hand.  Yena had hit her target from a hundred meters away, despite having an arrow sticking out of her shooting eye.  Anyone else would have stayed down and died. "Fine, I'm here on someone else's behalf."

    /Inferno: Ducky: Can you push them in dragon eggs, Nix?  Like you did with Del Tali?

    /Inferno: Nix: Maybe.  We have some time.  I want all hands on deck.  Have Captain Locas come and see me.

    "Hmm... One fib after another, I don't mind, though." Yena's smile faltered slightly when she heard the sound of Jaro sobbing quietly, Dresa's bed was on her blind side so she couldn't see them.

    "I'm working on a plan, but I need to know a bit more about the poison."

    Yena nodded slowly.  "Could I have some water?"

    Nix grabbed a glass from the nearby table and poured it half full.

    "You want to know how long it takes to kill its victim, right?"  Yena was an alchemist; she was well aware of the effects of the Serpent Clan's terror poison.  "Two days, if the patient is strong."

    Nix cursed under his breathe.  "Can we do anything to extend that a bit?"

    Yena closed her eye, even to Nix's untrained instincts, she seemed like someone who might not make it through the night. "There was a man named Rias; he was poisoned and disappeared into the north.  We found him a few weeks later, frozen solid in a block of ice."

    "Does that help us?"

    "Shush, damn, you're impatient. We were preparing him for burial when he woke up; apparently, he wasn't dead."

    "Did the cold cure him?"

    Yena shook her head slightly.  "No, he died two days later. You asked me how to slow it down."


    A voice from the door caught his attention.  Captain Locas had already arrived. The blond ranger still sported the mohawk that Ronnie had given him.

    /Inferno: Nix: Special mission Locas.  I want you to sit with this woman; her name is Yena.

    /Inferno: Locas: Of course.

    Nix squeezed her hand and motioned toward the door. "This is Locas; he's been admiring you from afar."

    Yena's single eye looked skeptical.  "Must be really far, since I've never seen him before."

    To his credit, Locas didn't miss a beat. "I saw you shoot against Bali in Ionova last month."

    Yena frowned slightly.  "That damned Bali. What an irritating little squirt."

    Locas laughed in agreement and sat in the chair next to the bed.  "On that, we agree.  If it makes you feel better, I can't beat her either."

    "It does make me feel a little better."

    /Inferno: Nix: You got this Captain?

    /Inferno: Locas: Yes.


    Two hours later: The Titan Clan War Room.

    "Lili was the target?" Nix considered Ducky's words while she gave Mortimus a full report.  The Water Witch had spent several minutes patiently questioning the assassin captive.

    After she finished speaking, the War Council debated the intel she had gathered.  Mortimus, all of the Stewards and Scarlett, sat together at a round wooden table.  Jaro was the only Steward absent from the meeting.

    Surprisingly Gil was quite vocal; he seemed to have a strong grasp of tactics and battle strategy.  "We are missing something.  Won't they expect us to respond overwhelmingly and wipe them out?"

    Nix nodded in agreement.  "I don't like it either. It's not adding up.  Were they expecting a flawless mission that would leave them in the clear?"

    "What would you have us do?"  Scarlett spoke directly to Nix, the rest of the Stewards, and her husband had already given their recommendations.  Although the Clan Leader wasn't an experienced fighter, she would offer common-sense advice.

    "How old are you, Scarlett?"  Nix's yellow eyes scrutinized the Clan Leader as if trying to guess.

    Scarlett's warm features blushed slightly.  "Asking such a thing, Nix...  I'm 33."

    Nix nodded to himself, "I would have guessed 27 or 28 by looking at you."

    [Whisper: Gil to Nix]  Nice save, at least you're smart.

    Nix ignored Gil and continued.  "My point is, still young enough to have more children."

    Mortimus coughed loudly, his eyes staring at the table in front of him.

    [Whisper: Gil to Nix]  Forget my last comment, you're an idiot.

    Nix kept his expression carefully neutral.  "I'm close to figuring this out.  Why don't you explain to me who Lili really is?"

    Scarlett glanced at her husband and nodded slowly.  "I need the room.  Steward Nix, please stay."

    [Whisper: Gil to Nix] Nice knowing you.  Can I have the Turtle house?

    [Whisper: Nix to Gil] No.  Go check on Jaro.

    A few minutes later, the room was empty except for Nix and both of Morti's parents.  Scarlett opened up a table hud that showed an extended family tree, she pointed at a specific point and looked up at Nix.  "This is me, the current Matriarch of the Titan Clans.  In the event that I die without a female heir, there is a line of succession."

    Nix leaned closer.  "She isn't related to you?  It's a different family line?"

    Scarlett nodded.  "In the beginning, there were two ruling families.  For some reason, both families seem to birth males.  Two generations back, their family held the Clan Leader position, a few generations before that it was ours again."

    "So it leap-frogs back and forth every few generations."  Nix studied the family tree for a few moments before shaking his head.  "We are missing something."

    The table creaked in protest when Mortimus leaned a massive elbow on top of it.  "The Serpent Clan use to be different; they were reliable in the old days."

    Nix shrugged slightly.  "I can only say this.  Those were assassins that infiltrated the fortress, trained, and disciplined."

    /Inferno: Nix: Come back to the conference room, Ducky, bring Snow Lili with you.

    /Inferno: Ducky: Okay.

    Scarlett closed her hud, her eyes filled with concern. "We have fighters, maybe even a few with rogue abilities, but nothing like assassins."

    "You don't go after the heirs unless..."  Nix left the rest of the sentence unsaid.

    "You already have a plan to deal with the rulers."  Scarlett finished the thought.  Both her and Mortimus could conceivably like many decades longer.

    "We were lucky.  Weren't we?"  Mortimus deep voice was lowered to barely a whisper.

    "Yes.  They weren't expecting the cubs would be able to deal with three assassins."  Nix hadn't worried about Morti when he discovered where the assassins were heading.  He had used lamia leather when he rebuilt the Titan cub's coat; his natural poison resistance would be quite high.  "Give me two weeks, and I'll make this go away."

    "You can do that?"  Scarlett's face was a mixture of disbelief and hope.

    Mortimus stared at his wife, although his heart was stout, the thought of losing her terrified him. "I'll give you two weeks.  After that, we'll wipe the Serpent Clan from Everspire."

    Scarlett sighed with relief, getting Mortimus to listen was sometimes very difficult.  "What do we have to do?"

    Nix glanced toward the door when it opened, Ducky ushered Snow Lili inside and then closed it behind them.  "Go on vacation."

    "Vacation?"  Scarlett had been ready for anything, but that took her by surprise.

    "Sorry in advance, but Ducky is going to have to vette all three of you.  It's standard for anyone gaining access to Haven."

    Mortimus nodded.  "I understand.  I've seen skin-wearers in the past, gruesome business."

    Nix handed Deep Blue to Ducky. "Just enough to make sure of their identities, then take them directly to Haven."

    "No time to pack?"  Scarlett seemed alarmed by the idea.

    Nix gave them both an innocent look. "Rico is the best Tailor in all of Oasis. If you show up with nothing, he'll take good care of you."

    /Inferno: Nix: Officer Meeting at the Gemini Temple, one hour.

    /Inferno: Ronnie: Special mission boss?

    /Inferno: Nix: Yes.
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