513 United Inui

    Tura Raine Xai sat behind her desk in the Xai Clan Office in Parliament. Her eyes skimmed the docket in front of her for the fourth time; unable to concentrate, she finally pushed her chair away and waited.  A movement at the door interrupted her thoughts.  "Come in, please."

    A younger Dhassi woman with auburn hair and light brown eyes offered her a respectful bow.  "Tura Raine."

    "Please, dispense with the formalities and call me Raine."

    **********Author Reminder**********

    Umi Strom was rescued by Inferno in Chapter 203, Burning Down the House.  During this mission, Inferno gained the rights to start the Greater House of Inferno process. The Strom Clan is the second strongest Fir'Dhassi Clan.


    Umi Strom nodded.  The young Dhassi woman would one day inherit the leadership of the Strom Clan.  Raine Xai took leave from her position and disappeared weeks earlier; seeing her in Parliament was surprising.  "Fine, call me Umi."

    Rain gestured for her to sit, pausing a moment while she did so.  "I wanted to speak with you regarding an important matter.  Strom Clan holds considerable influence in Inuit."

    "As does the Xai Clan.  Do you wish to ask me something?"

    "I want to unite the Fir'Dhassi Clans under the Inferno Banner."

    "Unite the Clans?"  Umi stared at the Xai Clan leader for a moment.  "Are you being serious?  What's Nix up to now?"

    Raine shook her head slightly.  "This is my doing. After spending several weeks with Inferno, I am convinced that if they are defeated, all the planes will fall down with them."

    Umi shook her head slightly.  "This conflict that Inferno is mixed up in hasn't reached Oasis."

    "Yes, it has.  Zen Dar was one of Khione's people."  Fajii had briefed Raine before being brought into Inferno.

    "Zen Dar is dead."  Umi watched her for a moment before putting the pieces together.  "A human female killed her, someone no one had seen before."

    "This was done by a group called Pathfinder.  Their mission is to track the Eyes of Khione."

    "Hmm...."  Umi hadn't seen the body herself, but she had heard that the assassin removed one of his eyes.  "Wait... Do you mean literally?"

    "Yes. Khione's eye resides in her strongest minions."

    "This doesn't have anything to do with you being betrothed to the Inferno Leader?"

    Raine shook her head.  "We barely know each other at this point; we are not betrothed."

    Umi knew Nix only in passing.  Inferno had saved her life when one of her own people discarded it. "You're saying that war is coming?"

    Raine opened up her desk hud and brought up the docket that she'd been preparing, well aware that Umi was watching her.  "I'm saying that it's already here, and I need your support. With the Strom Clan's 18 votes, I can present this Docket on behalf of the Fir'Dhassi."

    Docket 687.443 [Planar War is Here, Unite all of Oasis and Defend our Lands]

    Summary: For several years, an old and very influential power has been making hidden moves.  Recently, our human friends have uncovered this person and her motives.  It is Khione, the Goddess of Winter, and she seeks to enslave us all. Her agents are infiltrating the lands of Colonial, Oasis, Everspire, and even the Dragon Cites.  Secret battles are being fought on all the planes, including Oasis.  It is time for us to join the fight before it becomes too late for us to make a difference.

    [Approving Opinion: Tura Raine Xai]

    [Dissenting Opinion: No Dissenter Yet]

    Umi stared at the docket for a few moments, although second in command; she was the one who did all the voting.  "Fine... The Fir'Dhassi will stand together on this."

    Raine posted the docket and then leaned back in her chair.  "Thank you for your support, Umi."

    [Minister of Naval Defense, Vyona Seabreeze, has approved this docket on behalf of the Izzin Empire.]

    [Approve: 55  Dissent: 0]

    [Tura Raine Xai has approved this docket on behalf of the Fir'Dhassi]

    [Approve: 145 Dissent: 0]

    "Just like that, we push all of Oasis into war?"  Umi leaned back in her chair, watching the docket with Raine.

    "We still haven't heard from the Su'Dhassi or the Ain'Dhassi."  Raine sent a personal message to Sai Tali and Deru Sarashi, neither had replied back.

    [Surai Sai Tali has approved this docket on behalf of the Ain'Dhassi]

    [Desu Deru Sarashi has approved this docket on behalf of the Su'Dhassi]

    [Nansu has approved this docket on behalf of the Inferno Guild]

    [Sulane has approved this docket on behalf of the Resolute Guild]

    [Approve: 354 Dissent: 0]

    [Docket 687.443 has passed with a unanimous vote.  A Parliamentary War council will be convened in three days]

    Umi was too nervous to smile at her companion.  "A unanimous docket? When did that last happen?"

    Raine didn't seem overly surprised.  The Dhassi were aware of what Inferno was like. When you lived with a young dragon, you were either his friend or his food.


    The hanging skeleton glanced up, and the vaulted rock ceiling above him.  The conduit passage that Rat-Nix had taken inside of the Fortress brought him to a series of large open septic tanks.  In Rat-form, the smell didn't bother him.

    "Why were you lowered to the ground?"

    The skeleton stared at him for a long moment.  "Why couldn't you be a woman? Something round and heavy to rest my tired bones on."

    "Er... Round and Heavy?"  Rat-King scurried closer until he was directly under the prisoner.  "I notice your name is a bit hefty... Is there something a bit shorter I can call you?"

    "I'm just a **ty Bard, but call me Duran if you like... Since I've completely lost my mind."

    "I'm here to speak with a friend of mine and scout the Keep.  If you're someone important, perhaps my mission parameters will change."

    The skeleton shook his head slightly. "Unfortunately, I'm not important.  Just a crazy person that is tortured daily for amusement. What's your name?"


    "I like it, very descriptive.  Is that your real name?"

    Rat-Nix shook his tiny head.  "No.  My real name has tremendous power, even whispering it in here might cause this place to collapse."

    "I like you, Rat-King."

    "Sure... What's not to like?"  Rat-Nix scanned the surroundings for anything that might help him.  Four large septic tanks were constructed in a square that filled all but a small circle in the middle of the room.  It was here that the skeleton was suspended in the air.  His arms and legs were manacled to a larger chain that was anchored into the ceiling.  Workable gears and cables made some sort of pulley-system that was operable from the floor above.  "I'm going to get you out of there.  Sing for me while I figure out my plan."

    The skeleton cleared his throat and began to sing...

    "Well, she walked by the guard and gave him a kiss

    -But he had to stand still just needin' a piss

    -And she rubbed her hand up where she dare

    -Well, he almost relieved himself... Right there

    -As she backed up naughtily towards his peg

    -A little bit of pee trickled down his leg

    -Twas a bad time to give him a squeezer

    -Cause he gushed-on-out like a water geyser"

    "Stop!  God in heaven... What the hell is that? You sound like a croaking toad!"

    "Hmmm... I believe I said I was a **ty Bard."

    [Dominate: Common Rats]

    The Rat-King has dominated one thousand Common Rats.

    "Come..."  Rat-King spoke quietly while continuing to study the dangling skelly. The rats crowded around him until they covered the small circle like a blanket.  He pictured the rats climbing on each other in his head.  "Climb!"  The rats started jumping on top of each other, forming an unorganized ball of teeth, claws, and fur.  "Heh... I can't believe that worked... Okay... now climb!"  This time he pictured his objective more clearly, Fifty rats at the base, forty rats climbing on them, thirty-five standing on them... Slowly a pillar of rats extended upward toward the ceiling; it swayed back and forth as it narrowed the gap between the skeleton bard and the floor.  More than half the distance was covered was when Nix decided it wasn't going to get any better.  He scurried over the bodies of his minions and leaped toward the dangling bone feet.  Unfortunately, he overshot slightly and crashed into the bard's ribcage.

    "Uhg... Careful! My ribs!"

    Nix clung to the skellies ribs with his sharp teeth, before righting himself and scurrying upward.  "Hang out here while I check things out."

    Duran chuckled crazily.  "Funny... How did you do that?"

    Nix was already climbing up the chain that hung from the ceiling.  "Not sure... Things like this happen during a Rat-Rescue."

    "A Ratscue?"

    [Blink, Blink]

    Nix stopped halfway up the chain and looked down. "Can I use that?"

    Duran nodded. "Sure."

    "Things like this happen during a Ratscue," Nix continued.  He followed the chain to a rusted metal gearbox that was attached to the ceiling, fairly close to the trap door.  He easily tore through the outer casing of the gearbox with teeth and claws, exposing several large and very rusted gears.  "Been a while since this was serviced... Just a guess."

    "What?"  Duran watched as the front half of the Rat-King disappeared into the box.  "I'm crazy, right?"

    "Definitely."  Nix withdrew his head and peeked down at the skeleton.  "Let me know if one of these gears lowers the chain."

    "Sure, Rat-King."

    Nix pushed his head back into the gearbox and chomped down on the nearest gear, the metal felt soft under his rat-teeth, and within a few seconds, he was able to break off a sizable chunk of the gear. Without warning, the chain started feeding out of the box with a high pitched screech of metal on metal.  A loud crash followed by a low moan caused the Rat-King to back up and examine the results.

    The Bard Skeleton lay flat on his back, with a few meters of chain resting on his chest.  "That's the one," he groaned.

    Rat-King nodded in agreement.  "So it is."  He peeked back into the gearbox and broke off a thinner piece of metal before climbing down the chain.

    Duran struggled to get from under the pile of metal links, a task made more difficult by his manacles.  "Am I crazy?"

    "I already said you were."  Rat-King held a jagged piece of metal in its tiny claws; without pausing, he jammed it into the lock on the wrist manacle.

    "Do you know how to pick locks?"

    "No," Nix admitted as he continued to push the sliver of metal around randomly.

    The bard held out his opposite hand.  "Well, I do."
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