| Tsadde clung tightly to the blue dragon's
back. Seren sure looked a lot less menacing than Denyx, but he
still wasn't quite used to riding a dragon. He was surprised to
see that they were headed towards the Katarina Zone West again.
Nall and Jerin flew alongside them. "This is where we part," Nall
said. Seren nodded and continued on her course while Nall veered
to the north.
"So your lair isn't far from Nall's?" Tsadde asked, trying to engage in conversation.
"Yes, technically speaking. Both the White Dragon Cave and the Blue Dragon Cave are in the Katarina Zone West. The Black Dragon Cave is located in the Marius Zone to the southeast, and the Red Dragon Cave is by the Minea Sea, which is straight down south of Azado."
Tsadde whistled, clearly impressed. "So you guys are scattered all over the place then."
Seren chuckled. "Yes, but it wouldn't be safe if we were all in one spot. You understand. Look, we're almost there."
Tsadde looked down and saw a small opening amongst the cliffs and peaks of the mountain range.
They had entered the cave shortly after landing. There were quite a number of fountains along the walls and streams flowing along the path. "I take it you never get thirsty," Tsadde commented, and Seren smiled.
"I find the presence of water very soothing; the sound of it echoing through these lonely tunnels is very comforting."
The two continued to walk down the cool corridors, the sound of their footsteps mingling with the sound of the rushing water. It was not long before they reached the lair, but someone had reached there first. A giant beast with dripping fangs and very sharp looking claws stood waiting for them. Tsadde gulped. "Nall was right to pair us up; that Tallas guy sure isn't playing fair." Both he and Seren prepared for battle.
Nall flew in closer to the iceberg. "Brrrrr," Jerin shivered. "It's a good thing I brought a shawl, you didn't tell me you lived on an ice burg!"
"You didn't ask," Nall said, nonchalantly. He walked into the opening of the cave. "Okay, all we have to do is go through these warps and we'll be there."
Jerin groaned. "I thought we were there already." Nall shook his head. "Oh-ho no, this is just the cave. The lair is deeper inside."
They continued through the icy caverns. Step on one warp, end up on another, then move to the far one, and then back on the same one. Jerin was surprised that Nall didn't get confused with all this, but she thought that it was perfectly reasonable since he lived there. There came a deep rumbling sound from within the lair as they neared it.
"Oh-oh," said Nall.
"What do you mean 'oh-oh'?," Jerin asked.
Nall didn't answer. Instead, he drew his sword and edged towards the entrance of the lair. Peering inside, he saw a loathsome looking beast with a spiked tail and long horns protruding from its back. "Yeck," Nall said under his breath. "That thing better not leave a mess in my cave. That Tallas is always one step ahead of us." He turned and motioned for Jerin to follow him.
"What are you going to do, fight it?" she asked. Nall held his breath for a moment as the monster stirred, then nodded to Jerin. Surprisingly, she looked eager to do battle. Jerin had whipped out a pair of claw-shaped gloves from her knapsack. She slid them onto her hands and then pushed her bag aside. "I'm ready," she said.
Nall grinned. He was glad that his companion wasn't helpless. "On the count of three, we charge. One........two......THREE!!!"
Ruby flew lower as they reached their destination. Rykea looked at the expanse of blue as they soared above the Minea Sea. Ruby dove straight towards the Serak Palace, which was now nothing but ruins. It had been abandoned for years, but Ruby didn't care-all the better for her to have some peace and quiet. "Okay Ausa boy, we're here. You can get off my back now." Rykea hastily got off.
"All right. Straight through that corridor and we're home." Ruby started down the warm tunnel, the dim glow of lava flows providing the only source of light as they went deeper and deeper into the caves.
"My, it's very hot here," Rykea said, beads of perspiration forming on his brow.
"Gee, maybe it's because we're in a volcano," Ruby said haughtily.
Rykea removed his robe. She certainly does have an attitude.
Not quite far from the lair, Ruby stopped.
"What is it Miss Ruby?," Rykea asked.
"Kid, your manners are getting to me. Anyways, there's something in my lair. My lair! Oooh, how DARE anyone enter MY LAIR without MY permission!!"
Rykea placed a hand over her mouth, but it was too late; they had been heard. A deafening roar pierced the silence, followed by thundering footsteps. A long necked creature with a large snout and stubby hind legs appeared. It hissed at them, its mouth dripping with venom.
"AHHHH!!!," screamed Ruby.
"WHAT IS THAT!?!," exclaimed Rykea.
The monster lunged at them, and they scattered. "LIGHTENING SPIKE!!!," Rykea shouted, and bolts of lightening bombarded the huge beast. It roared in pain and headed straight for him. "Bad idea," he said with a nervous gulp.
Ayin looked around excitedly as she and Denyx climbed higher into the sky. "Are we there yet?" she asked.
"Almost," the black dragon answered, as they neared the Marius Zone.
"What's that over there?" Ayin pointed down towards what looked like the remains of a city.
"Oh, that. That's just Neo-Vane. Been there for years, ever since the flying mechanism got busted."
"And Lucia saved the city from crashing into the cliffs," Ayin recalled from her books.
Denyx flew down to what used to be the Zaback Mines. "Okay, let's go." They walked through the crumbling passageways, and entered a great doorway. Ayin thought she heard voices coming from within.
"Hold it, Denyx. Listen," she said, grasping his shoulder. Denyx stayed still, and listened.
"The Guardians have been placed at the other caves, is that correct Miss Daleth?"
"Daleth-?" Denyx started, but Ayin shushed him.
"Yes, Kossori. All except this one."
"Which is exactly why we're here. Master Tallas has instructed me to deal with the black dragon, since his other plan failed in keeping him under his control. You can leave now, Daleth. I have everything under control here."
"I must object, Kossori. Let me handle the black dragon. I think I am much more capable of handling the situation than a reject mage from Vane."
"'Reject '?! I'll have you know that I am no reject! Just misunderstood. I had meaningful intentions. Nobody would listen to me. So, that's why I'm here, when I could be at the Guild studying or doing some other tedious duty."
Daleth folded her arms. "Very well, as you say. But what if you can't handle the black dragon? Then you'll be having second thoughts. Suppose he came with reinforcements? Where would you be then?"
The mage looked a tad worried, but shook his head and stood firm. "Hah! Don't try and talk me out of it, Daleth. Go back to Neo-Vane."
Daleth bowed her head and was gone in a flash. Kossori looked around the lair, a satisfied look on his face. "I'll show her, I'll prove to Tallas that I'm worthy of his trust, I'll be more than she is."
Denyx sighed. Somehow he knew it wouldn't be an easy task getting into the lair. He turned to Ayin. "Okay, he's only expecting one of us--right?," he whispered. Ayin nodded, understanding his intentions. "Stay behind; if things get too hectic in there, then you know what to do." Denyx then entered the lair. "Hey kid--you lost!?"
Kossori glared at the black dragon, his copper eyes ablaze. "Who're you calling 'kid'!? I wouldn't talk if I were you, considering what I'm gonna do!!"
Denyx rolled his eyes. "Ye-ah, but you ain't me. Amscray ya little runt, you're invading my space!!!" He brought out his sword and lept at the undaunted mage.
Kossori eluded the attack with amazing dexterity. "Shadow Bane!!" Denyx was assailed by bits and shards of rock as Kossori's attack blasted through the cave floor, causing eruptions to surround him.
Denyx fell back, still clutching his sword. "Little sneak! I can play that too!! DRAGON QUAKE!!!!" The dragon-shaped bolt plunged into the earth and out again, causing huge chunks of rock to fly out.
Kossori gritted his teeth as he tried desperately to hold his footing. "ARGH!! Must you be so DIFFICULT!?!? Why can't you accept your defeat!?"
"Maybe because I'm not defeated!" Denyx said, holding his blade in a defensive position.
Kossori grasped his staff tighter. He was really ticked now. "SHADOW BELLICOSE!!!!" The entire lair darkened, and deep bluish flames appeared from nowhere, showering down upon a bewildered Denyx.
Ayin gasped. The lair lightened up once again (well, it wasn't really very light in there to begin with), and she saw Denyx, still, yet barely, standing. He stood his ground, despite the unexpected fierce bombardment of Kossori's attack. Ayin could not bear to do nothing any longer. She came out of hiding and ran to Denyx's side. "Are you all right!?"
Kossori was surprised to see that someone else had come with the black dragon. "Who are you!!?" he exclaimed.
Ayin faced him, staring him down. She drew her sword. "My
name is Ayin Yutsora, and you are asking for it!!"
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