504 Undercover part one

    Cyra took a seat on the nearest bunk; her weathered face held the barest hint of fatigue.  "Going to introduce yourselves?  All you fortress guys appeared at once, right before the border opened up.  There was no time to process anyone before your Captain charged off."

    /Alpha: Semmi: She doesn't know anything, Boss.  Be vague; less is more.

    "I'm Nicholas.  We were told at the last moment that our enemy was vulnerable to air attack and that we were to end this once and for all."

    Cyra swore softly under her breath. "That was obviously misinformation.  Was it really a dragon?"

    Nix shook his head slightly.  "Two bone drakes, we were able to put one down."

    [Whisper: Jun Li to Nix] I don't know the specifics yet, but the officer we were holding prisoner managed to get out of her cell and kill all the prisoners.  It's a bloodbath down here.

    [Whisper: Nix to Jun Li] Did she escape?

    [Whisper: Jun Li to Nix] No, her body is covered with dozens of minor cuts, but no one had any weapons. Best guess is some sort of ritual was involved. News from the front is good. We lost eleven melee skellies compared to 345 of theirs.  No other casualties.

    Jun Li stared at the puddles of blood, glad for once that she didn't have a nose. The underground prison walls were splashed with red like someone had taken buckets of paint to them.  "What a mess.  Thanks for the lift."

    Fey held the hem of her white robes with a bony hand; the sight of copious amounts of blood didn't bother her in the slightest. "The marks on the other prisoners suggest she transformed into something with sharp claws."

    /Inferno: Sharl: Their frontal attack retreated a few minutes ago; everything is quiet.

    /Inferno: Jun Li: Scout team head out; we'll maintain skeleton crews at the border.

    /Inferno: Ronnie: Skeleton crews... Funny stuff.

    Jun Li knelt beside the dead prisoner and turned her over.  "We'll examine each of these prisoners for clues and then clean up."

    Fey eyed the corpse; one slash had opened it up from neck to navel.  "Do I have time to change? I don't want to get my robes dirty."

    [Whisper: Jun Li to Nix] Going to stay out for a while?

    [Whisper: Nix to Jun Li] Maybe... Let you know it a bit.

    "How did your group get here?"  Cyra leaned her bow against the bunk and removed one of the daggers from her belt so that she could sit comfortably.

    "Tidal artifact, I'm guessing.  Unfortunately, I wasn't privy to that information."  Nix motioned for his team to relax as he took a seat on the same bunk as the older woman.  "How did you open the border?"

    Cyra shook her head slightly.  "I assumed it was done from the Fortress, or perhaps even the Undead.  Fucking bone bastards."

    Nix didn't comment; the woman didn't seem angry despite her words.

    /Alpha: Semmi: They don't know anything.  They get blind reinforcements, but communication is most likely limited.  We need to find out how it works.  Be careful, Nix.  We should probably already know.

    "We didn't see much of the battlefield. My team was able to deal with one of the drakes. By the time we finished, the other one was chasing us."

    "You killed one of them?"  Cyra studied each of the team members for a moment.  "Two mages, two thieves, and a spellsword?  What did you hit it with?"

    /Alpha: Semmi: Careful, she's using some sort of identifier skill.

    Nix held out his sword hilt and pushed Black Ice into it.  The dark blade emerged smoothly, causing the temperature around it to drop suddenly.

    Cyra smiled when she saw the blade.  "Black Ice?  That's pretty rare. I'm surprised you were allowed to come here."

    Nix returned her smile and let the blade retreat.  "Strictly speaking... I may have snuck into the group."

    "We're glad you did.  Reports are coming in slowly; today wasn't a good day for us." Cyra glanced at the rest of the group.  "Anything to add?"

    /Alpha: Semmi: We should give her something, but nothing important.

    "I'm Windal; just call me Wind.  Something crossed the border and hid in the trees when we were fighting.  By the time we were finished with the drake, it completely vanished." Wind surprised everyone by speaking up; the Gemini thief shrugged slightly.  "It looked like a fiend, only much larger."

    /Alpha: Pon: Are you talking about Bigfoot? Who allowed you to speak?

    /Alpha: Wind: I have a plan.

    /Alpha: Nix: Good enough for me.

    "Settle in and get some rest.  You may be going back out soon."  Cyra gathered her things and walked toward the exit.  She paused at the door and glanced back at Nix.  "No more trouble with Pelos; we need every person we can get."

    Nix grinned suddenly.  "No promises, but I won't do anything permanent."

    "Good enough."  Cyra chuckled at his words before exiting the tent.

    /Alpha: Semmi:  Has Jun Li contacted you?

    /Alpha: Nix: Yep.  The officer we had in custody escaped and wiped out the rest of the prisoners.  She's investigating the 'how' part.

    /Alpha: Semmi: If we could get our hands on an active roster and possibly troop movements, that would be really good.

    /Alpha: Fajii: This Burrough is as surprised as we are that the border fell tonight.  I'd like to ask around.

    /Alpha: Semmi: I'll go with you.  Nix, that Commander...

    Nix nodded without saying anything.  It would take a small raid to deal with him.

    /Alpha: Pon: Cyra too, there are some strong people here.

    /Alpha: Nix: What's your plan, Wind?

    /Alpha: Wind: My ring companion, Atilla, can summon Fiends.

    /Alpha: Nix: Are they strong?

    /Alpha: Wind: Weak as hell.

    /Alpha: Pon: Lame... We need something strong.

    /Alpha: Wind: We can kill them, perhaps even bring a few back without weakening our faction's position.

    Nix laughed at the smug look on Wind's face.  "I like it!  That antlered freak will come in handy for something.

    Semmi and Fajii left the tent a short while later; Nix reclined on his bunk, thankful to have eyelids for once.

    /Alpha: Pon: Shouldn't one of us go with them?

    /Alpha: Nix: Know what's better at finding intel than an attractive woman?

    /Alpha: Wind: Two of them?

    /Alpha: Nix: Exactly.  Who's going to talk to them with an old bastard standing behind them?

    With nothing pressing, Nix considered their position and what they should do next.  The rules of the Bone Fortress was operating in their favor for now.  Somehow the command at the fortress managed to send reinforcements directly to the frontline while also making sure their prisoners were dealt with.

    /Alpha: Nix: Summon your witch companion, Old man.  She may know something.

    /Alpha: Wind: What was that?

    /Alpha: Semmi: Witch companion?

    Nix smiled at the look on the old mage's face.  He'd obviously kept that information to himself.  Semmi may have been distracted with a side-mission, but she was still monitoring team communication.

    /Alpha: Pon: Thought we agreed to keep it quiet, you Punk!

    /Alpha: Nix: Times have changed.  Let's talk with her.

    Pon stepped away from the bunk.

    [Summons: Shur'icon]

    /Alpha: Nix: Woah... You old bastard.

    /Alpha: Wind: Semmi is gonna love this.

    /Alpha: Semmi: What?

    "Hey!"  Pon scowled at his two teammates.  "Keep it down!  I can't help how she looks."

    "This is your real appearance?  What happened to your skeletal form?" A dark-haired witch stood in front of them. She wore a simple black tunic and trousers.  Her shiny hair hung down her back, stopping short of her waist, black boots that ended near her knees completed the goth look. "Still in the Bone Fortress?"

    Pon nodded.  "Unfortunately.  We have taken Xander Burrough and are currently engaging Fury and Peril."

    Shur'icon's dark eyes showed her surprise.  "You are very strong, but the road back to the Fortress is long."

    "No, **."  Pon glanced at his teammates; both of them were grinning at him.

    Shur'icon has joined Alpha.

    /Alpha: Pon: You're here for intel. We met someone named Pelos, Cyra, and an Unknown Commander.

    /Alpha: Shur'icon:  Pelos is in charge of the Fury Graveyard Precinct; I don't recall the name of it.  Cyra is a very powerful Shadow Ranger; if she's here, then the other person must be Commander Bensic.  He commands the Peril Burrough, but if both borders are active, he's in charge of Fury also.

    /Alpha: Nix: Know anything about another coven on the outside?  Something outside of Everspire?

    /Alpha: Shur'icon: I'm not sure of the location, but it can be contacted through a man named Hooper. That's all I know.

    /Alpha: Pon: Is that everything?

    /Alpha: Shur'icon: You'll have to kill me again?

    /Alpha: Pon: Unfortunately, you aren't bound anywhere.  I can't risk letting you loose.

    Nix stood up and pushed Black Ice into his sword hilt.  "Shall I?"

    Shur'icon nodded.  "Much less painful than being burnt to a crisp."

    Nix's dark blade flashed out; an instant later, the witch crumbled to the floor.  "You should take better care of your companions, old man."

    Pon frowned as the corpse slowly disappeared.  "Can't be helped until she proves herself.  Once she does, I may assign her to Ayla as protection."

    Wind shared a glance with Nix.  "Doesn't hurt that she's real easy on the eyes."

    Pon flipped his laughing teammates his bony finger.  "Thanks to you fools, I have to explain this to Sem."

    /Alpha: Semmi: Hooper?  I'm not familiar with the name.

    /Alpha: Nix: I am. He's the Innkeeper of the Burly Bear in Cyphix. (Ref. Chapter 6)

    [Whisper: Nix to Shae]  Can you get word to Gideon?  We have a solid lead on the missing coven.  Tell him to investigate Hooper, the Innkeeper of the Burly Bear in Cyphix.

    [Whisper: Shae to Nix] Understood.  I won't be able to return until you summon me.

    [Whisper: Nix to Shae] Don't worry, I'll bring you back as soon as I can.
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