As he turned to begin work on freeing Picnic, Myrae grabbed Rigel by the collar of the fluffy little shirt she had provided him. She must have been wanting to look above the crowd as she verily began to climb him. Being the gentleman he was Rigel accommodated her by reaching down and lifting her until their faces aligned. To his pleasant surprise he kissed him. He pulled her tight against himself and returned her kiss happily.
After their brief interlude she whispered “This guy is beyond us, but really insecure. Follow my lead and insult him, but--for Loth’s sake--don’t try to fight him!”
“I hate to see you go…but love to watch you walk away.”
Rigel followed a half step behind Myrae as they made their way toward the newest creature of the underworld to meet them. He listened as Myrae confronted the great worm, then began to introduce the party.
Rigel bowed to the great worm introducing himself. "Oh great...grackoakgraymerdam Apologies for my poor pronunciation. It is a pleasure to meet one as great as you. I would like to take you fishing, I could catch a might fearsome fish with a worm of your size."
Pioloss was so engrossed in staring up at the dragon that at first he didn't notice when Faan was suddenly fussing over him.
"Faan! You're OK!" Pioloss was so overcome with emotion that before he could think better of it, he'd already thrown his arms around the unfortunate Elfmaid and pulled her into a heartfelt, if bloody, hug.
Then he heard Myrae start to insult the Dragon.
Pioloss released Faan and turned his head in slow motion towards the Drow, his eyes wide and disbelieving.
Then Rigel had a go!
Dammit all, but if everyone else was going to start saying stupid stuff at the worst possible time then what the heck was he meant to bring to the group?! But despite that, Pioloss had to stifle a laugh at the image of his giant friend wrestling an even more giant fish out of the water whilst using the Dragon as bait!
“Do we… really want to make him angry?” Faan whispered.
Probably not was the sensible answer, but since they certainly weren’t going to win in an actual fight… Why not? Myrae’s plan might be madder than a box of frogs, but hey! If they were going to die anyway then they might as well have a bit of fun first! Pioloss took the time to repeat all of this out loud to Faan before turning towards the looming serpent.
“I humbly apologise for my friend's insult oh mighty Gregory-hay-gardener!” He called up before shouting across to Rigel. “Rigel, you really shouldn’t just WING these things! This is the legendary Grey-cork-chakalaka-pram to whom we are speaking! If we offend him then we might not get our three wishes!” Pioloss turned back to the Dragon, bowing low as much to hide the wide grin on his face as to display his false respect. “Lord Graham-tractor-urger, forgive my ignorance but I assume you do grant wishes? Most trolls that live under bridges tend to do that, don’t they? Or perhaps you were lying in wait for the chance passing of three billy goats? If so then you have our most humble apologies for distracting you! Perhaps to make up for it we could assist you in finding a castle that would take on an oversized worm such as yourself and feed you muffins on the proviso that you heat their ovens?” Finished with his spout of word vomit, Pioloss turned back to Rigel and whispered over loudly, “That should hopefully mollify the giant iguana, just remember not to mention wings! I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it!”
And then it wasn’t belated, because--though his claws were in and his fangs clamped tight to avoid any accidental injury to his mate--Cat-Tom was continuing to stalk toward the threat. He looked past her, shaking his great furred ruff beneath her arms and chuffing--maybe for her to run while he taught this overgrown salamander a lesson.
Perhaps Cat-Tom couldn’t allow his focus to shift. Perhaps he was just as afraid of Graekokorheyurgardramyr as she, and breaking lock on the monster would mean his nerve would fail. Miiya did not consider any of this. Whatever the reason, going toward the dragon was death, and
So commenced a desperate push-o-war between greatcat and vastly-outweighed Aeros girl. Feeling more than hearing the thrumming growl emanating from Cat-Tom’s chest, Miiya closed her eyes and PUSHED against Cat-Tom with all her might.
She might as well have tried to shove a team of oxen. Miiya’s feet slid in the dirt, leaving furrows as the greatcat gently strained against her, and then tried to turn aside to bypass her. “No!” Miiya gasped, and shifted to stay in front of Cat-Tom. “Please, no!” Tom would die if he tried to protect her, if he tried to help the others. Of this, Miiya was certain. He was her only friend down here, she loved him--she was certain--and she was just as certain that she could not lose him. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” Tears were leaking from behind her closed eyes now. She knew she was apologizing to their companions, who--if not already dead--soon would be. She was apologizing for her cowardice, because she was going to live. She was going to take Tom and disappear down into the depths of the Underneath and live--if just for a few more hours. “Don’t go!” She couldn’t see him crushed to gruesome bits like those dozen Skaven, she wouldn’t be ripped apart to decorate some wyrm’s horde chamber. “Stay with me!”
Miiya’s sliding feet found an outcrop of bedrock in the dirt, and she set herself against it, buttressing the straining greatcat. Locking her shoulder and neck into Cat-Tom’s Miiya buried her face in the thick fur of his ruff and cried; “Tom, come back to me!” She sobbed, and would not move. She would not move when the beast four or five times her weight pushed against her. She would not move when her spine compressed and her femurs creaked over locked knees. The Storm Dancer was exceptionally tough for an Aeros, but she was only an Aeros, and she would be broken by the unyielding strength of Cat-Tom. Miiya lifted her tear-streaked face from his fur and loosed a thin wail of pain, fear, and shame. “Don’t leave me!!”
The titanic dragon could scarce believe his ears as the insults and dismissals flew thick and fast from the group of insects beneath it. It knew Myrae from a time before her excommunication, knew of it from lying in hiding wait and listening to the whispers of the deeps. He knew her threats were empty now that she was a disfavored heretic, he knew she had the legendary weapon and that he could devour her and take it for his horde without fearing drow retribution.
He also knew she had a sharp tongue, and he still held each and every one of her insults, from his
defeat glorious battle years ago, deep within his glass heart. He had thought to assuage those hurts by devouring her and taking the Draegoleth’s Claw.
Except that the tiny fleck of drow scum had found herself even more impudent worms with which to keep company. Only the tiny winged girl had showed him proper deference, fleeing in terror as all mortals should before the unstoppable force of a dragon.
Because he was a dragon!
Even though he be flightless! Even though he could not leave The Underneath with legs too short to battle the great dragons of the surf--NO! Enough of this!
“In so l e n c e !” Graekokorheyurgardramyr growled. “You lack p r o per d e f e r e n c e.” Though deep and rumbling, could there be a hint of wheedling pique in the monster’s voice? “I shall t e a c h all of y o u the tr ue mean i n g of f e a r!” So saying, the dragon seemed to inflate, its great armored hide clattering and clanking as plates shifted to accommodate the sudden increase in girth as the dragon inhaled. The insects below it were bathed in the same violet light that was leaking from between gaps in his lifted plate armor as Graekokorheyurgardramyr opened his massive maw and blasted a great gout of smoke at, over, and around the party of adventurers.
As it blew the warm smoke--because some real dragons
can’t don’t breath fire--Graekokorheyurgardramyr deflated quite a bit. Maybe a bit more than he intended, for the last of his breath he directed at the winged girl and her panther familiar that had sewn so much chaos in the ranks of his minions. The couple was quite far away, and even great dragons of The Underneath have limited lung capacity. Working hard to dredge up enough of the mind-altering vapors, the dragon made a few rumbling noises at the end of its exhalation, perhaps akin to an giant asthmatic smoker dealing with a bout of bronchitis.
The Vapors of
The fetid purple cloud that rolls over any unable to avoid it contains mind-altering properties. It is with this smoke that Graekokorheyurgardramyr controls the Skaven. With proper concentration, the dragon can establish dominance over the mind of some who inhale his breath. Skaven and other vermin races are more susceptible than Umans, Drow, or Elves.
The vapors have other uses too, when mind control is not possible. They can alter the victim’s state of mind to elicit fear, sadness, despair, or other emotions. They can cause those who breathe them to see things which are not there, relive past experiences, or have a vision of some wonderful or terrible future.
Establishing control of minds took a great deal of concentration, and needed to come from a dominant place of settled mind. Graekokorheyurgardramyr was not in such a place at the moment, and he knew this. Instead of trying to dominate the wills of these impudent scum, he would unlock their deepest fears; be they some past trauma, a fear of some awful future or even an imaginary horror. As the dragon’s angry gaze and still-very-potent presence swept over them, each of the party would feel the his influence in turn. What effect it would have was unknown, but Graekokorheyurgardramyr expected them all to be reduced to gibbering wrecks. Perhaps they would throw themselves from the cliff in a blind panic. Perhaps they would dive into his open maw to escape their awful visions.
Graekokorheyurgardramyr hoped so, because it took quite a bit out of him to smoke so many fools.
The drowess made no attempt to avoid the smoke, nor did she hold her breath. In fact, she spoke calmly to her companions as she was enveloped in the purple cloud. “He is showing yew yer fears. None of what you will see in the smoke is real. Don’t do anything stupid.” She advised.
For her own self, Myrae stood arms folded, staring straight ahead. If there was any real change in the drowess’s countenance, it would be hard to discern. Perhaps a jaw muscle in her neck stood out a bit more prominently, and her carmine eyes might have misted just a little--though that was probably just from the irritating smoke.
She waited, breathing evenly, absolutely immobile, until the cloud cleared. The drowess had experienced this trick before. The difference now was that the future she had seen in her last encounter with Graekokorheyurgardramyr had already come to pass. “She died a long time ago.” The drowess whispered to herself, closing her eyes for a moment and swallowing something that seemed to catch in her throat.
By the time the cloud cleared and she could fix her piercing gaze upon the deflated dragon, Myrae’s jaw had unclenched and her ruined voice held just as much obnoxious dismissiveness as it had before the smoke. “None of what yew see is real.” She reminded her companions. “Just like Puff here. He’s not a real dragon; they breathe fire, this guy just smokes everybody out and gets you super high. He’s basically a giant talking hookah.” Rolling along now, Myrae sneered and unsheathed the Dragoleth’s Claw. “Real dragons have hoards of gold, jewels and…” She tapped the mythic blade against her thigh. “...legendary weapons. They’re impressive. This guy’s “hoard” makes you want to stage an intervention: it’s basically a dank hole stuffed with pinecones and dogshit.” Myrae laughed derisively. “That’s why squirrels can never find their nuts. They bury them too deep and then Puff here burrows up and steals ‘em. It’s why he’s afraid to show his face on the surface; angry squirrels.”
If it had not been clear before, Myrae’s gambit would become apparent to her companions now. That great big mountain that had been floating around in the distant mists of The Rift was not so distant nor so misty now. In fact, it was quite close and getting closer by the moment. When they had first emerged into The Rift cavern, Myrae and Miiya had summoned the massive edifice of stone. It had long since been time to start applying the brakes by singing it to a gentle halt, just brushing the broad ledge on which they all now stood.
Unfortunately, as is wont of some teenage drivers, the girl was now a bit distracted and not paying attention to parallel parking the mountain.
Graekokorheyurgardramyr was still clinging to the edge of the cliff, his body half up and half down. Myrae could see him eyeing The Draegoleth’s Claw, sizing her and the weapon up, trying to determine if she had the ability to harm him with the legendary blade. C’mon budalls, keep him distracted for just a few more moments! She thought the words she dared not say.
“Oh!” The elfmaid stiffened in surprise just an instant as a very dirty Pioloss hugged her, then she returned the embrace without reservation. She liked this. She liked where her chin rested and how she had to rise up on the balls of her feet… was it the first time he’d put his arms around her in a non-tack--?
Just like that he had released her.
I mean, yes, there was a dragon. But wasn’t there always some peril or horror or… Was physical contact so meaningless--
Shake it off. Faan hadn’t missed Pioloss’s occasional social awkwardness up to this point. What was one more little bit of weird? She just really wished she hadn’t taken off her duster, Faan thought, looking down at the blood on her blouse and skirt.
Oh well, on to actually important things. “Do we… really want to make him angry?” She whispered, and then listened to Pioloss’s reply, feeling rather unconvinced.
Faan was still trying to gin up the courage to insult the enormous dragon when the smoke rolled over her. She cringed, closing her eyes, expecting flames to accompany the fetid vapors, then slowly straightened in the fog.
When the elfmaid opened her eyes, the scene she beheld was not from the Underneath. She did not need Myrae’s warning to know that what she saw was not present reality. As she watched the crystal pillars shatter and lift skyward into the blackness of the void, again, Faan relived the terrible feeling of loss from that day. But, like Myrae, she knew the wailing and screaming, the unearthly groaning of a realm dying--all muffled by the window though which she witnessed it--was not happening now. It had happened.
Faan buckled, folding to the floor in the fetid fog, she wrapped her arms around herself, trying to contain the grief, trying to hold on to the wish that this could be some imaginary horror, some phantasmagoric future. If she just clenched tight enough, maybe she could make it not have happened, make it all a nightmare and a thousand y--.
But no, as the dragonsbreath dissipated, the vision retreated into inescapable memory and Faan drew a long deep breath of clear sweet air of the hopeless now. It took some time. Perhaps the others fared better than she. Maybe they recovered quickly and hurled their own insults, or perhaps they did worse and remained trapped in prisons of fear or loss. Faan, though, eventually unfolded and stood much changed. The seamstress that now faced Graekokorheyurgardramyr, with flashing gaze, was very much pointier and very, very, elven.
“I don’t know, Myrae. It has a dragon’s head despite being wingless and stubby-legged.” She opined icily. “It’s like that dog with the pointy face and ridiculous body; what is it called?” Faan wondered aloud, a finger to her chin. “A ‘Corgi’.” The digit departed its resting place as Faan remembered. “Perhaps it is some sort of dragon dog. Dragon Corgi.”
She was very much smaller and very far below even the deflated dragon, but the--at once imperious and dismissive--glance with which she fixed Graekokorheyurgardramyr, gave the distinct impression that Faan towered above the wyrm. “A ‘Dorgie’ if you will.”
Oh gods! Pioloss thought as the dragon worm began buffing up like a scaly balloon. Is he about to…?
Not wanting to take any chances, Pioloss took a few deep breaths and covered his nose and mouth for good measure. Thankfully his need to breathe had been greatly reduced in recent weeks, because he really didn’t fancy having to deal with dragon flatulence through his enhanced sense of smell! As it turned out he was (as usual) way off the mark. But his precautions for once were bang on. To be fair he had literally just finished living through his worst fear - and the knowledge of what would happen to him if he died was something he would have to come to terms with at a later date. But it couldn't hurt to be extra cautious so the face covering stayed.
As the smoke billowed around them a plan formed and Pioloss sprang into action. He would only get one chance at this and time was against him. By the time the mind-altering fog had cleared, he had strips of meat hung in a neat row over a crude, ramshackle version of the frame Rigel had put together at the last camp.
"Mr Gra-cocoa-hurdygurdy Sir? Over here if you would please. I didn't quite manage to finish smoking these before, and it would be a shame to let it go to waste…"
"He is showing yew yer fears. None of what you will see in the smoke is real. Don’t do anything stupid.” Rigel heard Myrae’s words just as he saw movement from the corner of his left eye.
Rigel had rarely known fear in his life. In fact, the last time he could remember experiencing fear he was but a lad. Now here it was as his greatest lifelong fear manifested before his very eyes.
First it stood and turned to face him. Resplendent in its red shorts and red vest lined around the edges with Gold Bric-a-brac. Tiny gold Fleur-de-lis on the pocket of the vest. It wore a too small hat that was round and boxish sitting atop its head, a gold tassel hung from the top center of the cap and hung from the left swinging with each movement. Then it squatted and seemingly from out of the very air around it large brass disks appeared in its furry paws. Sitting there on its haunches it’s eyes bulging and baring it’s long yellowed chicklet teeth it began crashing the disks together just like it did when he was a child and saw it at a traveling circus. The disks made an enormous racket that filled the cavern with its sound and Rigel's heart with dread.
Rigel suddenly blurted out to his father in the first real fear he had experienced in years.
MONKEY SCARE ME!
He heard Myrae speak again, “None of what yew see is real.” and just as suddenly the creature was gone and Rigel was back in the moment.
“Gods! I hope I didn’t say that out loud” the thought to himself.
┠ TOM CAT ┨
A Felonious Feline
╺ ✽ ╸
“The problem with cats is that they get the exact same look on their face whether they see a moth or an axe-murderer.”
Cat-Tom wished his mate would understand: he needed to do this. The reptile had threatened to eat her–he couldn’t let that go unchallenged. His very genetics wouldn’t let him back down from a threat to his mate–he had to protect her as much as he had to breathe air. And he would protect so long as he drew breath.
This was how important she was to him. He would die to protect her. He was going to die to protect her–even he knew that if he attacked the dragon, he’d
definitely most likely, die. It was a terrifying prospect, but the instant he’d found her, his mate–his true mate–her wellbeing had become one of the highest priorities in his life. And it didn’t matter how much the reptile wanted to eat Miiya and decorate its stubby little lair with her wings, because
No matter what. Even if it meant defying the wishes of his mate, Cat-Tom would do everything in his power to protect her.
Thus, the greatcat pushed as gently as he could against the far smaller Aeros girl, shaking his ruff and chuffing at her to just “Rrrun away, please!” His narrowed yellow eyes looked past her as he snarled at the reptile, ignoring the insult-hurling that the others in the group were engaged in–they were not and would never be Cat-Tom's concern. (Keh, let’s be honest; they were barely Tom-Cat’s concern, too.) The greatcat lashed his tail, his thrumming growl deepening in his chest to such an intensity that the noise vibrated through Miiya’s body. He continued to push against her until, suddenly, she began to offer him real resistance.
Somehow, despite her lesser weight, the Aeros could not, would not, be moved, no matter how much he strained forward, shook his ruff, chuffed, and growled, she simply wasn't budging. Why couldn’t she understand? Didn’t she see that he was doing this for her??
As a whole, Cat-Tom was much more animalistic than when in his two-legged form–he was far more driven by instinct, basic emotion, and a singular, straightforward, unwavering focus when on four paws, than he was on two legs.
Almost nothing could turn him aside from the task of protecting his mate.
His mate being in immediate pain, was one of those things.
And the fact that it was he who caused her pain, sent shock brightly jagging through his system like a bolt of lightning.
Instantly, Cat-Tom stilled, ceasing his relentless march forward. Finally, his stubborn focus on the reptile, broke. Finally, he heard Miiya. Well, that wasn’t quite right. He felt all of the intent behind each of her words echo within his own chest; he felt her panic, her desperation, her fear…and her love, behind every shaking syllable. Cat-Tom shook his head, his whole body beginning to tremble within Miiya's panicked grasp, her tear-streaked face buried deep into his ruff. The greatcat managed one last chuff (“I’m sorrrrry forrr hurrrting you”), before he lowered his muzzle, his maw falling open as he released a roar..
Being as close as she was, Miiya couldn’t fail to not only feel the pain of his forced shift (through the bond and the physical shift itself) but she could also hear the shift.
Forced shifts were gruesome. Instead of transforming, as in a regular shift, a forced shift got the change done quick and dirty. Pain blazed through him as his needle-sharp feline teeth were pushed out by the flat ridge of his Uman ones. It felt like a million and one biting fire ants swept over his skin as his fur seemed to shoot inwards, like grass growing instantly in reverse as each shaft of hair was pulled into each of his pores. His claws fell away as his paws cracked and split into fingers and toes. Finally, the greatcat gave a painful and violent jerk, as all at once every single bone in his body shattered and reformed in a series of sickening SNAPPING CRACKS. His pained roar grew in intensity…
…and transformed, along with his body, into a very Uman-ish scream of pain.
Tom-Cat’s agonized cry continued for another second or two, until it was abruptly cut off as he fell to his knees, dragging Miiya–who hadn’t let go of him during the whole transformation–down with him. He sucked in great, heaving breaths of air, every single bone, joint, and muscle in his body aching in a way that couldn’t be explained unless one experienced a forced shift for themselves.
Still shaking with pain, Tom-Cat wrapped his arms around Miiya’s shivering form and pulled her in close, working his jaw until he could finally speak. “Shh, shh, I’m herrre, Teleskela,” he murmured. He buried his face into her neck and smelled her, then marked her with his scent in a needful and somewhat needy reaffirmation of their bond. He needed to feel close to her, needed to settle the part of himself that was still terrified at how close he’d come to losing her.
Tom-Cat felt Miiya’s own terror shudder through him, felt how close to a complete breakdown she really was, and slid his arms down around her waist, gathered her up, and held her tight to him. He peppered her throat and jaw with small kisses, continuing to scent mark her wherever he could reach. “I’m not going anywherrre,” he assured, pressing a kiss to each of her tear-stained cheeks. “I prrromise. Teleskela, look at me.” Tom-Cat kept one of his arms tight around her waist and raised the other to cup her face and force her to look at him. “As long as I drrraw brrreath, I will neverrr willingly leave you.” He kissed her, unable to help himself and uncaring at how salty it was. He drew back and held her gaze, and though his yellow-gold eyes still contained traces of pain, they burned with sincere intensity. “As long as I’m able, I will always come back to you. I prrromise, Teleskela.” He looked into her eyes for a few moments until she nodded, somewhat hesitantly.
The catling could tell that she was still scared, and he realized after a moment, that her terror was from the thought of losing him. A wave of affection suddenly overswept him that was so powerful, it was impossible to keep it from surging through the bond. Tom-Cat stood and raised Miiya up with him, not letting go of her and automatically tightening his grip when he felt her suddenly tense, like she was about to bolt. He stood between her and Graekokorheyurgardramyr, and looked over his shoulder to see the dragon puff up and spew a cloud of spores that blasted the group and wafted towards them, thinning out considerably as the smoke traveled further from its source. His gaze hardened with hate and fury as he recalled the reptile’s words and threats against his bondmate. His fury at the threats against Miiya made his skin burn with heat and feel too small in an entirely different way as the cat within him again sought to once more burst forth and rage at the threat against his mate.
Tom-Cat growled. He turned back to Miiya and curved a palm around the back of her neck, looking into her eyes. “Teleskela, don’t worrrrry...I-I’ve got this.” He grit his teeth, pushing down his own panic, his own fear and anxiety, in order to be strong for her. He would not let any of it bleed through the bond. He worked his jaw and then spoke again, sounding far firmer and more resolute than he felt. “I prrromise I won’t let him hurrrt you. Trrrust me.”
Miiya stared up at him, her eyes wide, almost shining from more than just her tears. He was helpless in the face of it–he would do anything to protect her. He would do anything to make her feel safe; he would do anything to make her happy. “O-or you!” she exclaimed. At Tom-Cat’s somewhat quizzical look, she clarified. “And I-you-we…I don’t want him to hurt you, Tom!” She again jumped and wrapped her arms around his neck and he caught her reflexively as she wrapped him in a tight embrace. Her arms in a stranglehold around his neck with her legs clamped around his waist, nearly squeezing the air from him, like she didn’t trust that he wouldn’t disappear in front of her eyes or go running straight for the dragon.
When she noticed the thin cloud coming their way, a panicked expression overtook her and she tightened her already vice-like grip on him. Without thinking, Miiya spread her wings and backed wind hard, cupping the air and pushing the smoke away from them with a few, great whirlwind gusts. She was breathing hard. Tom-Cat could feel the jagged edge of her panic through the bond and he sought to comfort her, to bring her back to a level where she could function. It also served to give him something to focus on besides his own misgivings and apprehension.
He loosened her arms around his neck a bit so that he could breathe easier, and stitched an easy smile onto his lips that he in no way actually felt. “See? Everrrything is going to be fine, Teleskela. In fact, everrrybody will be fine.” He reached up a hand and brushed a strand of hair out of one of Miiya’s eyes. He grazed his thumb over the arch of her eyebrow in a soothing gesture. “It will all be okay–everrryone will get out of this and will laugh about that Wingless Wonderrr, laterrr.”
Lies. He’d already resolved to shift back and drag her away from the dragon, from the danger, if push came to shove. Tom-Cat had no qualms about leaving the rest of the group to die, if it meant Miiya would be safe.
Still, for right now, he wouldn’t let Miiya know any of that. He turned back towards the group and set Miiya down on her feet, taking one of her hands and threading their fingers together in a firm grip. He’d seen something behind Graekokorheyurgardramyr and quickly cottoned onto what Myrae was doing. He saw the wyrm start to turn its massive head to look behind it. Kwesh! They couldn’t let that happen. Not when it was almost here.
Tom-Cat placed two fingers in his mouth and emitted an ear-piercing whistle, which got Graekokorheyurgardramyr’s (and pretty much everyone else’s) attention. As the enormous dragon focused all of its attention upon him, the catling gripped Miiya’s hand tighter and didn’t let his fear show. Instead, he sketched a cocky expression across his features and shrugged at the great beast.
“Hey Wingless Wonderrr,” he called, the acoustics of the cavern ensuring that his voice easily carried across the distance that separated them. He casually edged closer to the group, pulling Miiya with him but keeping his body between herself and Graekokorheyurgardramyr. “How much do yourrr hallucinogenic sporrres go forrr in the UnderrrNeath? I know they’d fetch a prrretty prrrice in Haven.” At the dragon’s somewhat confused look, Tom-Cat snickered. “Don’t look so puzzled, WW,” he said, giving the reptile a razor-edged grin. “I didn’t get it beforrre, but now I underrrstand why such a ‘mighty and powerrrful dragon’,” the air quotes were heavily implied; the sarcasm was clearly defined. “Would lurrrk in an abyss, waiting forrr trrravelerrrs to pass by, instead of hunting–like a rrreal drrragon.” He made a flippant, dismissive gesture. “You’rrre nothing but a drrrug dealerrr. I mean, it all fits.” Tom-Cat moved even closer to the rest, still keeping Miiya mostly behind him. He held up his fingers, ticking off each point as he made them. “Let’s see: 1.) lurrrking in the shadows; 2.) acting like a crrreep; 3.) possesses a weirrrd, unearrrned sense of entitlement; 4.) rrresorrrts to thrrreats to coverrr theirrr inferrriorrrity complex.” Tom-Cat nodded. “Yeah, that sounds like prrretty much everrry low-level drrrug dealerrr with delusions of grrrandeurrr, that I’ve everrr met.”
They were closer to the group though Tom-Cat stopped, not wanting to bring Miiya any closer to Graekokorheyurgardramyr than necessary. “So tell me, oh Wingless Wonderrr–sorrry,” he amended, not sounding sorry in the least, “WW.” He sneered. “So tell me, WW, how’s business?”
TOM-CAT: [KIANA BEACH: ★First Stab - POUNCE (★1/2) - WATCHER BATTLE (3/★4/5/6/★7)] – [GOBLIN SLAYING: (1)-(☆1/2)] – [ICE CAVES: CLIFFHANGER (★1/2) - POWDER KEG (★1/2/3) - HYPOTHERMIA (4/5/6) - BONDED (7/8/9/)] – [SUNSTEALER:(1/2/3/4)-(1/2)] – ★Miiya & Cat-Tom – [SPARRING: (1/2/★3)] - ☆The Great Tipsu Hunt! - ☆Stolen Kiss – ☆Overwhelmed by Intimacy – Returning to Her – ★Bath Time Bonding – ☆Wings, Tails, & Love – ☆Cave Storms – Climbing the Walls – [1st KISS: ★Chase-(★2/★3/4)] – ★Cat-Tom: Rescue Kitty! – Cat-Tom vs. Skaven – ☆(Forced) Shift Back – 9 Lives – ★A Beast in the Darkness – Reuniting w/Teleskela – ☆Bored Nihilism – Cat vs. Dragon – ★Emotionally Exhausted Bath – ☆Catboy, Interrupted – All For Her – ☆Bellissimo Gato – [BATH-HOUSE: Confessions(1/2/3/4)] – Catboys Can Purr – ★Bagels, Love Poems & Catnapping – Love Poem – [FIGHT PIT: CHAMPION SUITE (★1.No, no, no.../2a-2b/3.Prostitution/★4.Tipsu/☆5/☆6a-6b/★7a-7b.Holden's/Proposition) - GRAND ARENA (Leona/☆F#1/★F#4/★Cat-Tom vs.Werewolf: 1/2/3) - LOST (1/★2) - FOUND (3/4a-4b/5/★6.Swansong Kiss) - RESCUE (★1.Teleskela, MF'er/2/☆3.Reawakened Bond) - ESCAPE (4/5/6/7)]
DAETH: ☆Breaking Callon - ☆Pleasure w/Pain - Teasing Amarice - [DAYTRIP: LAVISH HAND (1/2/3a-3b/☆4.Sensing Death] - Kissing Fate(★1a-1b) - Precariously Balanced Nature - ★At Long Last, Eddellyn - Soul Searching - ☆Into the Maze - ★The Minotaur & The Labyrinth - ★Heart of the Maze - Before the Storm - ★Thunder & Honey - ★Ripped Gowns - ★Sensual Poetry - Warding Sigils - ★Hedonistic Filth & House-Sized Party Crasher - Confronting Maarazaar(1/2/3) - ★Ash Bunny Irihi - Cormeum MIA (stolen heart) - A Vow & Shadowy Msg
RISQUÉ: ★Fun with Fisticuffs!
[CHATTE] ★Enter Chatte - Chat w/Castor - ★Proposing the Race
[ASMODIEL & GALVINA] ★A Celestial & Demoness Play Cards - Asmodiel Smites a Feeder - An Angel & Aeros Walk Into a Bar... - Undaunted Spirit - Benediction
[☆ = favorite / ★= extra fave]
The blast of l
ure worm, corgon, dorgie, drrrug dealerrr dragon smoke did not have the desired effect. Or maybe it did. Graekokorheyurgardramyr could not see through his own cloud. It seemed like the insects had been frozen in place, but as soon as the smoke cleared they were back at their outrageous insults. All except the Aeros girl and the now transformed cat-person. She had backed wind with her wings and prevented herself and her mate from breathing in the fumes. That was unfortunate, because it seemed as though she were the most susceptible to fear.
Though the insults were ludicrous, and should have been beneath Graekokorheyurgardramyr’s notice, there were kernels of truth enough in all of them to crack his fragile ego. He did fear the surface--not for the squirrels there, but because of the flighted dragons. It was for that reason that he had never ventured out of the Underneath. Not all dragons feasted upon the flesh of other sentient beings, but Graekokorheyurgardramyr did, because it showed that he was strong, that he had dominion over all. Umans, Dwarves, Drow, Orcs--he’d eaten the flesh of those races, even the odd Elf or Hafling that had been unfortunate enough to stumble into his subterranean domains. Not Aeros, though, for the flighted folk were almost never found in the darkness below. Miiya’s was flesh he had never tasted, and today would be the day this deficiency was rectified.
Graekokorheyurgardramyr did not think he could catch the girl were she not immobilized, plus she would have to be separated from her damnable mate-cat-thing -- Wingless Wonder, really?! -- so, again, he inflated his body a second time. Again, a purplish light leaked from between scale and jaws. He stomped forward, extricating his entire bulk from where it had hung over the edge of the chasm, intent on moving within range of Miiya and Tom-Cat.
“Oh no yew don’t!” Myrae growled. Gripping The Draegoleth’s Claw tightly, she turned briefly to the rest of her companions. “We can’t let Puff have her,” she rasped, indicating Miiya. She grimaced. “Them, because she’ll be useless if TC dies before we vith outta here," she amended and clarified. "You budalls don’t have a chance in hell of actually damaging the Wingless Wonder,” hey, Myrae would use a good insult when she heard one, “but we just need him to flinch a little. So make it look good, but don’t do something dumb and get yourself eaten.” The drowess said this last with a not-so-surreptitious glance at the thin, pale Uman. Myrae wasn’t prone to reckless gambits…except when the situation called for it. Still, a little Meat-courage always helped and she grabbed a handful of Rigel’s shirt, yanked him down, and laid one on him. Thus fortified, Myrae charged toward the emerging dragon. The mountain was scant yards away. Either she would drive Graekokorheyurgardramyr back into the chasm or she’d ram The Claw between his armored plates when he was inflated and see what that did.
Graekokorheyurgardramyr saw the warriors of the group charging him and almost snorted--as if those pig stickers they wielded could actually hurt it. He saw the drowess, too--and, more importantly, the legendary sword--coming and quickly shuffled most of himself back down over the edge. He blew a hasty shot of smoke at Miiya and Tom-Cat, then huffed the remainder between himself and Myrae, trying to generate a smokescreen to stand off his attacker--at least the attacker he actually worried cared about. Relying on the thicker armor of his chest to provide protection, he reared back, still clutching the edge of the chasm, moving his vulnerable head and neck out of reach of Myrae’s sword.
Unsure of what exactly he could do, but unwilling to do nothing, Rigel plunged toward the great worm following Myrae.
The drowess charged heedlessly into the cloud, leaping at the dragon and bringing The Draegoleth’s Claw down from a two-handed overhead chop to strike Graekokorheyurgardramyr’s chest plates. There was a tremendous reverberating crack and sparks flew from the impact of the mythic weapon.
The high priestess who had been the former master of The Claw might have pierced the dragonscale, Myrae could not. The Claw drained her vitality and strength, pitting it against the armor plate, and still came up far short of what was needed to strike a decisive blow. The blade bounced back, cracking, but not piercing, the dragon’s chest plate.
Her strength pulled from her by the dread weapon, Myrae barely managed to keep hold of the sword as she staggered back. Above her a baleful eye glared down.
“T h e game is u p, Drow.” Graekokorheyurgardramyr gloated. He had known the tiny fool before him had never been a threat; that he would take the sword from her with ease. He had known he would eventually poison and devour the Aeros. Now he would slay all these impertinent worms. They had made their choice. “N o w yo u shall al l p--” The dragon’s words were cut off by a great grinding crash. If the wyrm spoke or screamed as most of its body was compressed between cliff and mountain, the sound of it was lost in the cataclysmic collision.
“Sure is.” Myrae agreed. In one smooth motion she sheathed The Claw and rolled backward, propelled by a veritable wave of rock and soil as the mountain smashed into the side of The Rift.
There was a lot of dust, a LOT of noise, and a WHOLE LOT of shaking as the entire cliffside ledge began to crumble. Myrae couldn’t shout but she could point and wave as she came running out of the initial dust cloud of the collision. “Time to go, budalls!”
Eventually the mountain was going to “bounce” off the cliff. They all needed to cross to the drifting island of rock before they fell into the bottomless abyss along with their ledge and what was left of Graekokorheyurgardramyr. This was made trickier by the complete disruption of the ground beneath their feet. It was not a solid, not a liquid, but some sort of non-newtonian jumble of crap. Sometimes rocks went up, sometimes they went down, but to live everyone needed to not go with them.
A corresponding ledge upon the drifting mountain looked like it might be reachable by climbing an active landslide that was a sort of slow-motion bow-wave of the crash. It was toward this that Myrae lept, clambered, slid, and scrambled.
For reasons unknown, the appearance of the dragon had not triggered the same combat response in Picnic as had the Kobolds and Skaven. The golem remained blue-hued and contemplative, even as the cloud of spore-breath enveloped it. The Golem did not draw breath and was unaffected by the mind-altering gasses. It felt the will of Graekokorheyurgardramyr sweep over it. Graekokorheyurgardramyr seemed some form of weak empath, able to project moods and fear through eye contact. Again, because it had none, the TonDen was unaffected by the dragon’s attempt to spark fear and doubt in its diffuse crystalline mind.
It was only when Myrae called for a general charge, that Picnic complied. Surging forward with Myrae and any other who heeded her call, the great golem charged at the massive dragon.
Graekokorheyurgardramyr was many times Picnic’s size, and the war machine had already determined that neither its weapon-wings nor largest set of pincered arms could pierce the dragon’s armor. However, even the slow-thinking golem could see the obvious plan to back the dragon into the path of the looming collision. To avoid interfering with Myrae, Picnic veered left and charged into the enormous claw anchoring the dragon to the cliff.
Like the much smaller drowess, the huge golem was ineffective at dealing damage to Graekokorheyurgardramyr, but it was able to prevent the monster from pulling itself from the chasm before the collision between cliffside and mountain crushed the dragon.
In the ensuring chaos, the golem’s four legs served it well--allowing it to negotiate the destabilizing ground underfoot. However, rather than immediately climb the rockslide to the cliff, it backed away from the decaying ledge and looked back to the others to see if any needed help ascending the unstable ground.
She doesn’t mean me, right? Faan wondered as the others charged Graekokorheyurgardramyr. There was absolutely nothing the seamstress could do against the dragon--besides hurling insults. She, too, could see Myrae’s plan, but Faan figured that running at the dragon would incentivise it to climb out of harms way to snap up a tasty elven morsel rather than cower in fear of her needle and thread. At least, that was how Faan justified demurring from Myrae’s call for a general charge.
Instead, she retreated back into the rocks, losing some of her haughty demeanor and calling out her goblin porters. “Grog! Get your crew and grab my trunk!” Faan had to shout her loudest to be heard over the roar of the mountains crashing together. “Climb if you want to live!” She advised.
Grog and Goblins
“NOPE!” Was the nearly-automatic response from the hole into which Grog had dug himself. It was only when rumbling like the end of the worlde threatened to shake the rockpile he sheltered in apart that Grog--and his goblin crew--emerged in a panic. Despite facing what appeared to be imminent death by being crushed beneath a landslide before being dropped into a bottomless chasm, the Goblin crew was surprisingly still game to carry Faan’s wares.
Eager hands lifted the trunk while the crew bunched together and lurched forward. The absence of Skaven (and dragon) cheered the goblins. The rockslide was of less concern to them than goblin-eating monsters. Less concern, until they tried to actually negotiate it. The goblins could swarm up the snowplow-wave of dirt and rock, or they could carry the trunk, not both. Seeing this, Grog made the executive decision to dump the boss lady’s stuff and save himself. The rest of his crew followed suit.
“HEY, BLUE GUY. GRAB TRUNK!” He shouted helpfully, before scrambling up the rolling rocks and gathering with his crew on the more-solid ledge of the drifting mountain, peering down at the others struggling to climb up to safety.
The rest of the goblins began chattering actively to each other, taking bets on which of the big stupids would make it, which would plummet to their dooms, and which would be crushed to death.