374 Team Viper


    Authors Note:  A few characters in this chapter that haven't been seen for a while.  Sori Dah, the Chief Acolyte, and Lamia from the Scorched Earth Temple. Randa, the stable hand from Ever Flame that Nix hired to take care of his horses.


    Gil wrapped the blanket around his shoulders and exhaled slowly, the warm vapor of his breath pushed visibly into the cold air.  "I can't believe a fire mage did this."

    Jaro didn't comment; his dark eyes stared at the block of black ice that used to be the infirmary. "Nix said it's the coldest ice he can manage."

    Gil knew his friend well enough to guess he wasn't going to leave.  "I'll start a fire, no sense in freezing to death before Nix gets back with the antidote."

    Jaro nodded and watched while he started gathering tinder from the steel box that was placed next to the fireplace.  "Who was that Ice woman that helped Nix?"

    Gil looked up from the kindling he'd been stacking. "Her name was Shi, some sort of ice princess."

    "You're stacking that all wrong."

    Gil scowled at his friend.  "I'm a turtle. I know how to make a fire."

    Jaro's frown faded for a moment.  "What does that even mean?  Turtles are water creatures."

    Gil blew on the small flame until it slowly caught hold.  "Think about it, fur-nuts."


    Haven: Nix's Horse Ranch

    "You should head out, hun."  Hyai had her arm looped through his while they both leaned their elbows on the railing of the balcony overlooking Nix's horse ranch.

    Nix nodded, his eyes straying toward the sliding door.  "Dad will get them settled; you don't have to stay."

    The tall redhead shrugged slightly.  "I'll stay here until you get back from the mission, the break will be nice."

    Nix leaned closer and kissed her lightly before heading toward the stairs. "Fine, remember to enjoy yourself. You don't have to wait on everyone."

    "Hmm...  I like doing that."

    His long strides took him past the stable, where Randa and the two friends she brought from Ever Flame were inspecting the latest arrivals.  "Damn, Randa... Are they all mountain ponies?"

    Randa looked up at the sound of his voice. "Hey, Nix! This is Nyle and Chez.  Say hi to the Boss, guys."

    Nix nodded at the two young men, the three of them were as thin as rails.  "How many horses?"

    "Twenty-five.  Three stallions and the rest are mares."  Randa's short brown hair hung down in her face, from a distance she'd pass for one of the guys.

    "Did these come from Gideon?"

    "Yep.  Call me Rand, Boss." Rand pushed back against one of the smaller ponies that nudged her.  "You've got a great mix; we should talk about different breeding lines at some point."

    "I'll leave it to you, Rand.  Just let me know first."  Nix headed towards Nightmare' stall, his feet sliding to a sudden stop when she came into view.   "RAND!

    Rand jumped slightly when he raised his voice.  "Problem boss?"  The young woman trotted toward him.

    "The f*ck is that thing?"  Nix pointed towards Nightmare's stall.

    Rand's face reddened slightly.  "That's your goat, Boss.  Although technically, I believe it's a mountain ram."

    "I know what it is!  Why is it here?" Nix stared at the brown devil with its curved horns and missing ear.

    "Are you worried about him?  His presence seems to calm Nightmare."

    Nix cursed under his breath.  "How did it get here?"

    "Mr. Pon brought it by.  I guess he bought it from someone named Yuli. Apparently, he paid a hefty sum."

    Nix scowled at the mangy goat and grabbed an apple from his inventory.  Nightmare peered over the top rail at him, her nostrils flaring.  "I bet he did."

    Rand offered him a shy smile. "They get along, but I'll put him in his own stall if you like."

    "No.  That's fine."  Nix fed Nightmare the apple and waited until Rand walked away.  The annoying bleat of a goat echoed in the small stall.  "Keep quiet bastard, or I'll cut off your other ear."

    His pleasant mood had faded by the time Nix made his way toward the Temple a few minutes later.

    /Inferno: Jun Li: Officer meeting at the Temple training grounds in five minutes.

    /Inferno: Nix: Almost there.

    [Whisper Nix to Hyai]  Any plans for tonight's meal?

    [Whisper Hyai to Nix] We have some canned leviathan in the pantry, thought I'd make a stew.

    [Whisper Nix to Hyai] I brought a mountain sheep back from Everspire, someone mentioned that they are perfect for grilling.

    [Whisper Hyai to Nix]  Change of plans then, I'll prepare it like deer.  Where is it?

    [Whisper Nix to Hyai] It's in Nightmare's stall.  Don't turn your back on it; the thing is vicious.

    [Whisper Hyai to Nix]  Perfect.  Thanks, hun.

    A few minutes later, the Inferno officers sat in a circle in the center of the training yard.  The mood was solemn; everyone was concerned about the events in Nescari.

    Jun Li had her hud map up and was displaying the lands belonging to the Serpent Clan.

    /Inferno: Officer: Jun Li: As you can see, the Serpent Clan is located in the southern section of Titania.  They're relatively close to the Great Desert, which means that things will be warm.

    /Inferno: Officer: Nix: Only those with a Snake form and poison immunity on this mission.

    /Inferno: Officer: Semmi: That's pretty limiting.

    /Inferno: Officer: Nix: I know.  Given that this Terror poison is persistent, I'm not taking chances.

    /Inferno: Officer: Sharl: I have the snake ring from the Desert King, does that count?

    /Inferno: Officer: Nix: Yes.  Immunity also?

    /Inferno: Officer: Sharl: Yep.  It's listed as one of the ring properties.

    /Inferno: Officer: Milat: I have poison immunity but not snake form.

    /Inferno: Officer: Ronnie: So just the two of you?

    /Inferno: Officer: Nix: Floyd and the Lamia are immune to poison.

    /Inferno: Officer: Wind: You should take Sori Dah, she's the best fighter among the lamia.

    /Inferno: Officer: Jun Li: Going in hard or soft?

    /Inferno: Officer: Nix: Soft, but might end up being hard.

    /Inferno: Officer: Ronnie: I like it when you talk that way!

    [Whisper: Ronnie to Sharl] Hey Sis... Can I have your snake ring?

    [Whisper: Sharl to Ronnie] No.

    /Inferno: Officer: Jun Li: That's four then. Nix, Sharl, Floyd, and Sori Dah.  Is that enough, Nix?

    /Inferno: Officer: Nix: Add Milat, we should be good.

    /Inferno: Officer: Milat: What about a snake form?

    /Inferno: Officer: Nix: I've got something nice for you.

    Sand Snake [Minature Animation .25]

    Description: This Sand Snake has all

    the capabilities of the full-sized version.

    /Inferno: Officer: Pon: I've seen those bastards in the Great Desert, they're f*cking huge.

    /Inferno: Officer: Nix: This one should be one quarter the size. It was made in Eidengal by their crafting experts.

    /Inferno: Officer: Pon: The ones that disappeared when we opened the front door?

    /Inferno: Officer: Nix: Yep, those ones.  It will become a permanent form once you use it.  You can pass if you like.

    /Inferno: Officer: Milat: I'll take it.  Thank you.

    /Inferno: Officer: Semmi: I've sent Floyd and Sori a whisper.  They are both on their way.

    /Inferno: Officer: Jun Li: Anything else, Nix?

    /Inferno: Officer: Nix: No.  I'll take the team to HQ and finalize our plans.


    1800 hours, Ionova HQ

    The quest map from HQ was by far the best anyone in Inferno had ever seen. Its 3-D topography could be edited only to show certain features.

    Nix had the Beliq river highlighted.  "According to the map, the water levels in the river are close to 40 feet.  No rapids or falls, and it basically takes a long arch around the desert once it passes through southern Titania."

    Sori's verticle iris's studied the map; every few seconds, she would hiss quietly, a nervous habit that Nix found disconcerting. "I've never been in the Dark Water crafts."

    Floyd smiled at the chief acolyte.  "It's fine, Sori.  They only sink about half the time."

    Sori returned his smile, sharp upper fangs completely ruined the effect.  Her red-streaked brown hair matched her eyes perfectly.  "If that happens, make sure to get Nix out first."

    You've started the Viper Channel.

    /Viper: Nix: Gear up, we don't know the length of our stay, so bring whatever you think necessary.  We will leave at 0800, get some rest.

    /Viper: Milat: Two hours in the craft?

    /Viper: Nix: Yes. That puts us on the outskirt of the Serpent lands.  It will be horseback from there.

    /Viper: Sori: Why not use the flying mounts?

    /Viper: Nix: They are still too uncommon. A group of fliers at this point would give us away.

    /Viper: Sharl: Drop your guild tag. Change your settings to anonymous.

    /Viper: Floyd: Got it.

    An hour later, Nix was eating dinner by himself at the Turtle house; Fajii was on a quest with Eron, Hyai was back in Haven, and Shae was taking care of the dragon eggs.  A small flash of black across the kitchen island announced the arrival of Soup's Shadow Sphynx form.

    "Just you and me tonight, Soup."

    The black creature zipped up the side of his arm and perched on his shoulder.  It was less than a foot on and no bigger around than a person's wrist.

    Nix used his pointer finger to stroke the soft fur on her head. "Going to inspect."

    Soup  [Shadow Sphynx]

    No Statistics Available.


    Phase Shift



    Night Vision

    Nix nodded in satisfaction.  "All good skills.  I have some work to do, so hang out."  He pushed the remains of his plate away and opened up his taxidermist queue.

    [Enhancement: Applied Miniaturization Text][Basilisk Leather][Camel Hair][Ceramic Needle][Platinum Thread]

    Please Verify the Scale. (.25, .50, .75)

    "Hmm... Desert Basilisk are about a hundred feet long.  Verify Scale as .25."
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