381 The Naga King

    If Floyd felt any discomfort under the stares of the other Firsts, he didn't show it.  Sharl stood next to him; she had already swapped out her destroyed armor with the Inferno House Armor.

    Tautius studied the Naga for a few moments before speaking.  "Welcome, Floyd, the First.  The trials have chosen."

    [Whisper: Sori to Nix] May I use Deep Blue for a moment? It won't take long.

    [Whisper: Nix to Sori] Yes.  Ducky has it.  Bring us back a healer.

    [Whisper: Sori to Nix] Do not let Floyd greet the Serpent Clan until I return.

    Ducky gave him a questioning look a few moments later; Nix nodded while he listened to the council greet, Floyd.

    /Inferno: Nix: We'll have to settle the Serpent Clan, Mari'Djinn was going to do it.

    /Inferno: Chiba: How?  We don't have any contacts.

    /Inferno: Floyd: Do not worry.  I will handle this.

    The Naga bowed low to the others on the platforms.  "Please excuse me.  I must introduce myself to the members of the Serpent Clan."

    Tautius nodded his head.  "If you need assistance, the other Firsts will help you."

    Floyd's face was expressionless while he thanked the council.  He stayed in Naga form and joined the other members of Inferno.

    /Inferno: Ducky: You okay, Floyd?

    /Inferno: Floyd: No, I'm being overrun with the memories of my ancestors.  I need a few moments.

    /Inferno: Milat: What's that mean?

    /Inferno: Sharl: Floyd shares the racial memories of every Naga King that has come before him. Before now, only bits and pieces of it were easily accessible.

    Sharl placed a gentle hand on his shoulder.  As his spirit companion, she could feel his strength growing.  "Focus on the memories; we will handle things until you are ready."

    /Inferno: Chiba: I will do the Lion quest.  I haven't blooded my new gold blade properly.

    /Inferno: Nix: Sori went to get some back-up, you can team up with whatever healer is available.

    [Whisper: Sharl to Nix]  Sori went to retrieve the Six.

    [Whisper: Nix to Sharl]  The Six?

    [Whisper: Sharl to Nix] The Six best warriors among the Lamia.  They have been trained for the sole purpose of protecting him when he claims his heritage.

    [Whisper: Nix to Sharl] There isn't a Lamia nation, they are all Scorched Earth Acolytes.

    [Whisper: Sharl to Nix] The Serpent Clan will become his nation.  This is probably the best outcome for us.

    [Whisper: Nix to Shar] We will give him whatever aid he requires.

    Inferno sat together in the market place; the scorching heat of the desert sun did nothing to prevent customers from looking for deals.  In fact, it was just the opposite.  Unlike the inhabitants of Phai City, the serpent city seemed to be bustling with energy.

    Sori returned with the six acolytes. Also accompanying her was Wind, Semmi, Jun Li, and Pinky.  The Lamia Chief Acolyte approached Nix and returned Deep Blue.  "Thank you, Champion."

    [Whisper: Nix to Sori] How come you aren't one of the six?

    [Whisper: Sori to Nix] My responsibilities lie elsewhere.

    Nix slipped on his bracer without commenting further. He noticed that Pinkie was watching him, so he shook his head slightly.  "Morti isn't here, Pink.  He is in Haven with his parents.  I'll probably summon him for the next trial, though."

    Pinky greeted him with a wave.  "That's fine; I just thought he' be here."

    Pinky was one of the Inferno players who focused on the Embassy; months earlier, she formed a group with Sila and Morti.  With Morti tanking, the three of them dominated the leaderboard and were pushing steadily toward the 100th floor.

    Nix kept tabs on the pink-haired cleric's progress.  A second group made up of Zhava, Nezbit, and Chael were the number two embassy group. "Do you mind joining up with Chiba for one of the trials?  We need a healer."

    Pinky shook her head slightly.  "With Chiba?  No problem, she's awesome."

    /Inferno: Nix: Thanks to everyone for coming.  We are here to back Floyd's play.  Get ready for a fight.

    The two Gemini thieves approached him; Nix could tell that something was bothering them.  "What's up, guys?"

    The frown on Semmi's face deepened. "Pon is gone. No one has seen him, and he isn't answering his messages."

    Nix opened his hud and checked the Fire Mage's status; the old man was anonymous.  "He told me he had something to take care of and that he'd be gone a few days."

    You have joined the Alpha Channel.

    /Alpha: Semmi: What?  Did you speak to him?

    /Alpha: Nix: Yes.  I'm sure he's fine.  No one's going to mess with Pon.

    /Alpha: Semmi: Why wouldn't he tell me?

    /Alpha: Nix: I'm sure he didn't want you to worry.  So... stop worrying.

    /Alpha: Wind: He probably has another woman on the side.

    /Alpha: Nix: Good point.  It's probably a side-woman.

    Semmi stared at her two teammates for a moment, before the beginnings of a smile started to show.

    /Alpha: Semmi: Who else would put up with that guy?

    /Alpha: Wind: No one.

    /Alpha: Nix: You're a Saint Sem.

    /Alpha: Wind: Looks like a group is approaching Floyd.

    Nix turned to see two people walking toward Floyd.  They were flanked by a half-dozen others.

    /Alpha: Semmi: Better get over there boss.  We'll stealth and provide back-up.

    By the time Nix arrived, the group had already left.  Floyd was standing with Sharl; the six Lamia acolytes were standing behind him.  "What did they want?"

    Floyd held up a small note written on parchment.  "Those are the Serpent Clan leaders. The woman is named Thessa, and the male is Umbrik.  I'm to present myself to the family heads tonight."

    Nix waited until the group exited through the snake mounds before he replied. "What's your first impression of them?"

    "Both dickheads," Floyd answered.

    "Floyd..."  Sharl sighed and looked like she wanted to smack him.

    "Fine...  Sorry, Sharl.  What I meant to say is that I don't trust them."

    [Whisper: Floyd to Nix] I'm not sure how to handle this meeting, Nix. My racial memories seem a bit ruthless.

    [Whisper: Nix to Floyd] Either way, we'll have your back.

    [Whisper: Floyd to Nix] No recommendations?

    [Whisper: Nix to Floyd]  Well... I'm pretty good at diplomacy.  If it were me, I'd go in hard and make examples of your enemies.  Plenty of time to play nice later.

    [Whisper: Floyd to Nix] That's what my racial memories are saying. The Clan Leaders gave me a meeting place in the Under-City.

    [Whisper: Nix to Floyd] Let's get ready then.  How long until the meeting?

    [Whisper: Floyd to Nix] It's at 1600 hours.

    /Inferno: Nix: Feel free to do a bit of shopping; if you have a snake form, the under-market is even more impressive.

    /Inferno: Jun Li: Under-market?

    /Inferno: Nix: The mounds with the large holes lead to a second city beneath this one.

    /Inferno: Wind: Really?


    1540 hours, Under City.

    /Inferno: Semmi: Where do you want those of us without a snake form?

    /Inferno: Nix: Group up and stealth in the market.  Be ready for anything.

    /Inferno: Semmi: Nansu analyzed the Terror Poison antidote while Shi was unfreezing the infirmary.  She's confident that she can copy it.

    /Inferno: Nix: Great idea. Let's hope we don't need it.

    Sharl, Floyd, Milat, Sori, and Nix were flanked by the six as they made their way to the meeting hall.  The streets and bazaar were notably empty when the Inferno Group passed through it.

    /Inferno: Floyd: Seems too quiet.

    /Inferno: Sharl: Whatever you decided, I've got your back.

    /Inferno: Floyd: Thanks.

    The meeting hall was a large dome building made from the same brown mud that the snake-mounds were made of.  There weren't any traditional doors, two round holes in the wall marked the exit and entry point.  Nix morphed into his basilisk form and entered first.  He slithered away from the entrance and quickly changed back.

    Floyd's black snake was the next one through, he changed into his Naga form and waited with Nix.  The circular room was packed with nearly a hundred people.  Bench seating was set up in rows. At the from of the area was a raised platform.  A man and woman from the Serpent Clan watched them along with everyone else in the room.

    Nix could feel the hostility in the building.  The occasional whisper of 'outsiders' and 'foreigners' could be heard.

    Floyd took the lead and moved calmly toward the Clan Leaders.  His dark eyes studied the audience while they watched him.

    Floyd has activated [Racial Heritage: Serpent Supression]

    Instantly the atmosphere in the hall changed from hostility to fear.  The emotionless faces of the Clan Leaders paled with shock.  Whatever they planned to say disappeared when Floyd moved onto the platform.

    "Outsider?"  Floyd's voice seemed shockingly loud.  "Take a good look at me.  I am the First."

    Nix watched the audience; the Clan leader seemed like she wanted to return to the platform.  The large male with her whispered in her ear.

    Floyd moved as close to the audience as the platform would allow.  "All serpents are descended from the Naga."

    "Ridiculous!"  Thessa, the Clan Leader, finally found her voice.  "Do you think you are a King?"

    Floyd nodded.  "Without a doubt, I am a Naga King."

    Nix bit his lip to hide his reaction.

    /Alpha: Nix: Get ready out there.  Shits about to get real.

    /Alpha: Wind: How's our boy doing?

    /Alpha: Nix: Coming in like a f*cking boss.

    "First, let's advance slower."  Thessa moved beside him, one of the six shadowed her movement. "We have the same agenda; we wish the Serpent Clan to prosper."

    Floyd considered her words for a moment before answering.  "Was it you who hired the assassins to kill the Titan Clan leaders?"

    "That was unfortunate.  I am investigating..."

    "Enough."  Floyd interrupted her.  "Those responsible for the attack on the Titan Clan Leader's family will be punished.  We will stay united with the rest of the Titan Clans under Scarlet and Mortimus."

    "Why?"  A low voice spoke from the back of the room.  A large man, dressed in black and surrounded by armored men stood up.  "Why should we continue to answer to the bear clan?"

    Floyd's dark eyes focused on the speaker. "Why?  War has come to Everspire. Khione sits in the north and waits.  How will you fare when she covers this desert in a blanket of ice?"

    "She won't do that if we ally ourselves with her now. We should step away from the other Titan Clans and join her."

    The air around Floyd seemed to darken.  The darkness swirled around him before slowly rising upward.  The entire room watched as a black seal formed over the Naga.

    [Racial Heritage: Enemy Divination]

    The black seal over Floyd's head exploded outward in a burst of power.  An instant later, black marks formed over the heads of several different people, including the man who was speaking.

    Redzik has been marked as an enemy of the Serpent Clan.

    Hana has been marked as an enemy of the Serpent Clan.

    Jopi has been marked as an enemy of the Serpent Clan.

    Ylando has been marked as an enemy of the Serpent Clan.

    Festir has been marked as an enemy of the Serpent Clan.

    Semerat has been marked as an enemy of the Serpent Clan.

    Merktaw has been marked as an enemy of the Serpent Clan.

    Ulynn has been marked as an enemy of the Serpent Clan.

    Tyce has been marked as an enemy of the Serpent Clan.

    Malibut has been marked as an enemy of the Serpent Clan.

    Rethryk has been marked as an enemy of the Serpent Clan.

    Thrakis has been marked as an enemy of the Serpent Clan.

    Omitzo has been marked as an enemy of the Serpent Clan.

    Umbrik has been marked as an enemy of the Serpent Clan.

    /Serpent Clan: Floyd the First: All enemies of the Serpent Clan have been marked.  Slay them without mercy.

    Nix morphed into his basilisk form and shot into the crowd. He ignored the panicking clan members and went directly after the culprit.

    Floyd moved to follow but was stopped when Umbrik, the Clan Warleader, thrust a spear at him.  Unexpectedly Thessa jumped in front of Floyd and defended the attack.

    "What are you doing, Umbrik?"  Thessa's own spear was held out in front of her.

    Umbrik's face darkened with anger, his eyes staring at the black mark that hovered over his own head.  "Step away from him."

    "Betrayer!"  Thessa's voice dripped with hatred.  "I will defend the First!"

    Instantly the room erupted in chaos.

    Nix arrived in front of the man dressed in black; two men instantly stepped forward with shields raised.

    Nix has used [Tailwhip] to sweep his enemies aside.

    Thrakis leaped to one side.  "Fools, everyone change forms now!"

    Thrakis has activated his bloodline [Hydra].

    Three serpent heads swayed in the air.  "Welcome to the last day of your existence."  The words echoed and hissed as all three spoke at once.

    Nix struck forward suddenly, his dark head a blur.  [Petrify]  The center head of the Hydra turned to solid stone and fell onto the floor with a solid thud.

    "Insolence!"  Both hydra heads attacked at the same time.  Thrakis has cast [Acid Blast] [Toxic Burst]

    Nix retreated before the fanged heads.  [Basilisk Armor].  The solid scale flaps that lay flat against the Basilisk's head extended and shielded his face causing both attacks to bounce off harmlessly.

    /Inferno: Semmi: Fighting has erupted out here, Nix!

    /Inferno: Sharl: Our enemy has black marks over their heads.

    /Inferno: Semmi: Well... That makes it easy.

    Moving forward over the broken pews, Nix advanced while Thrakis retreated.

    /Inferno: Sori: You need help with him, Nix?

    /Inferno: Nix: Nope.  This form is bad-ass.

    Thrakis as activated [Volcanic Field]

    Nix ignored the burning puddle, slithering through it like it was water.  [Viper Strike] The jaws of the Basilisk clamped down on the left head of the Hydra, his long fangs punching through the head while injecting poison.

    Thrakis has used [Great Escape].

    The Hydra morphed into human form before dropping an object on the ground; a moment later, it exploded, sending bodies flying into the air.

    Nix has been stunned.

    The Basilisk raised its head a few seconds later, its heavily scaled body unharmed.  "Shit..."

    /Inferno: Nix: One of the ringleaders escaped.  Be on the lookout.


    Thrakis exited the under-city close to the city wall.  The large man cursed as he made his way toward the south gate.

    "Hello, beautiful."

    Thrakis paused as an old man stepped forward to block his path.  The old man carried a gold sword in one hand and a  nearly empty bottle in the other.  "Step aside, old man."

    The gray-haired figured scowled at him and finished off the bottle before tossing it to one side.  "I'm a beautiful woman, asshat."

    Thrakis drew his sword.  "I don't have time for craziness."  He struck suddenly, his blade thrusting toward the flat chest.  He stumbled slightly when his target disappeared.

    "That wasn't too bad."  Chiba flowed in front of him, her blade flashing twice before she retreated.  The man's sword, along with both hands, dropped onto the paved road an instant later.

    /Inferno: Chiba: Found your missing ringleader.

    /Inferno: Nix: Really?  You're the best Chiba.

    The old woman's face reddened slightly before she frowned at the screaming man who had dropped to his knees. "Would you keep it down?  My lovely apprentice is complimenting me."
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