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Fallen Joy

Mount Ariadne

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Morwenna said nothing as she watched the others. She was a shy one and the actions she witnessed confused her a bit. Sitting in the back she would hum to the music softly. 

This was definitely different than what she was acustomed to back in her old clan. 

And so she watched.

sorry its super short and late

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She laughed into the embrace and encircled her arms around the figure as well, a most usual display of such intense emotion. Her face glowed like the warmth of a fire at such delightful praise from Luna, the skin shading a rosy pink as she beamed at her new family. “I am the one to be truly blessed with a new family, I hope you shall be as dear as blood-relatives in time.”

 

At the approach of the other witch, she nodded eagerly at her words and patted the hand at her shoulder with her own. “Then I hope we shall go on many marvellous and informative journeys together. I would be glad to share with you.” She moved forward, picking up a goblet of something rich and spicy, sipping the liquid quickly for the day's event’s had left her quite parched. Over the rim of her cup, she sent a smile to Morwenna in greeting. "To new bonds!" She called, raising her glass with elegance.

Spoiler

Please excuse how dreadfully late my post is.

 

Edited by Abigail666

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"To new bonds!" 

"Yes!" Luna exclaimed, gliding her way to the fountain to refill her chalice. "To new bonds!"

She rose her glittering cup high, allowing it to dazzle in the lights.

Alexandria's brief protest to Natasha's lack of acknowledgement was lost within the haze of Luna's rising intoxication and bubbling glee over their reunion. The ancient witch took a full mouth of the crimson liquor, welcoming the further haze upon her usually thought engorged mind.

However, Morwenna's silent position did not escape her perspective despite her whimsical mood. Her youthful face stones just for a moment, mauve irises glistening with a concern and contemplation on the situation. With a second wave of her finger, another chalice self dips into the fountain of inebriation and dances flawlessly to the lone witch's hands. 

"Drink with us sister! Let it free your mind from life's burdening weights."

Then suddenly Luna herself paused. Her head tilts up to gaze as if spellbound to the endless lights vibrating in the atmosphere. She seems to be peering through an invisible window,  becoming ecstatic of the sight she witnessed. 

"Oh sisters, something wondrous about to happen. Come, come!"

She strode to the fountain and looked to the crimson and bronze pool bouncing with the ripples of falling water. 

"Another sister calls to us from distant lands. I believe it is our Matriarch. Let us see what she needs, open your coven souls and listen."

 

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e4832689a7a835e4613b3d9e7516aadd--fire-magic-fire-element.jpgMorwenna didn't take the drink at the moment.  Her shy nature kept her sitting on the sideline for the moment. After all, she did come from a clan that didn't socialize much with the outside world or other witches. 

Her heterchroma pink and orange eyes looked about at the other witches. Such brighter, jovious voices ringing out and happily dancing among the group. 

A drink suddenly appearing in her hands caught the young witch offguard. She had never drank the liquid within it, and it piqued her interest. Taking a sip, it tasted quite odd to her at first, like cough syrup or motor oil. 

But after a few more sips, she enjoyed it. She drank more of it as it seemed that she wouldn't be scolded for involving herself in such acts. However since it was her first time drinking, it also didn't fare well. 

Morwenna stood and began to dance, balls of fire moving around with her, her body and hios swaying to the music as she couldn't control it. Many of the fire she conjured moved along with her, and some flew into the air going off like fireworks. 

She was starting to let herself become more loose. And enjoying herself for once.

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After the celebrations, the passing of time found quiet within the Witches' Tower once more. During that time, another Sister has joined the Coven, her room manifesting in the complex inner workings of the tower. With this room, a new waterfall birthed and spilled like locks of hair a pool of water. Though the flow was much too great for the pond to hold, it never overflowed. Outside, the army of orcs still worked tirelessly on expanding the tunnels of mountain. Their latest project involved networking the honeycombs of Mt Ariadne into the neighboring mountainous structure to the east; there a nest  and stable of rider dragons lived and bred.  There were still only 30 dragons, but through fortunate a few select were pregnant and speckled eggs dusted the nest. Torches illuminated the cute orbs in sleek reflections of hazels, crimsons, and cerulean colors. 

Natasha had just landed her dragon Durzol and was observing a clutch of eggs. They were placed in the hard light of a torch, and she could see shadows of life dancing through the shells. Durzol cooed over her left shoulder and she knocked him affectionately with the back of her hands. She was grateful he was immune to pregnancy. Even the thought of her own womb infected with a little parasite tightened a knot in her stomach. That's right, Marcques wanted her to bare children. Disgusting.

"I'm telling ya, she can't coming back this time."

Natasha lazily shifted her crimson eyes from the eggs, catching the approach of two elderly she-orcs trudging up the nearby incline. Shelia and Abree, once strong tamers crippled by age and the wrong side of a beast's fangs. Shelia was nearly blinded by a hound's lick to the eyeball and Abree lost an arm and most of her nose trying tame the wrong cavern creature. Before the witches, they would have been pick off, but Luna found them useful in the egg care. 

"She always comes back Shelia..." Abree crooned in a nasally tone. "Be happy she does."

"Haven't you noticed? The four witches that went in never came back. That tower don't shine so bright like before. Telling ya,  they died and she's next. "

Natasha slowly raised her brows. Dead witches? For a moment, a part of Natasha she'd never admit existed nearly dropped all her things and bee-lined it for the tower. Her thighs literally shivered with adrenaline to do so, and her mind chastised them for the impulsive weakness. She grunted deep in her chest and warned her heart to calm itself before continuing to listen.

"Well, there was something weird..." Abree said. "Some weeks ago, Luna came back without the two witches she left with, all beat up and tired. She came into the stable and I spotted her. She seemed pretty pissed that I saw her, thought that was it for me. But then she fell over, and told me to carry her to the tower. I was doing all sorts of weird things for her after that."

"Like what?" 

"Ah you know I don't understand any that witch stuff. Mostly hold and stir things for her. She didn't seem able to move much. Could've snapped her neck like a twig. Anyway, I'd cook things for her and she dip her hands in it. She then looked at her hands, and kicked me out. Did that for a week." 

"I bet something hurt her real good."

"Probably. Where did she go with them witches?"

"Nigel told me some dark and dank forest. According to him the wit-"

The orcs suddenly stopped, finally noticing Natasha. The she-orc, unashamed, walked right up to them. She towering figure made the hunched orcs visibly flinch. She stopped looked Shelia dead in her old clouded red eyes whilst own flared intimidatingly with sheer interest.

"Don't stop on my account, what did Nigel say?" She commanded.

"I...I'm not sure I remember."

Natasha only had to stare at her a half second more before she cracked. 

"I mean..he said they turned into something...all white and noisy. They were no longer witches, he ran away."

"Coward," Natasha snarled. "That's probably why Luna  sent him to off to the dwarves. And she's there again?"

"Maybe?"

Durzol gave a rumbling growl behind her and she quickly spoke again.

"Well, last night she snuck off with Bale and Curt on their dragons. Don't know where she went."

Natasha blinked once, and then silently left the old orcs to themselves. Durzol followed after her. 

It wasn't her business. It really wasn't. What did she care? She was just the witch's slave. She had no orders and hence no obligations.

She knew this, but still she walked...no, she ran and eventually sprinted all the way to the witches' tower. Her mind still couldn't comprehend her actions when she found herself banging on the big doors of the tower with the side of her fist. She knew exactly who she wanted to see.

"Alexandria," she said loudly before hitting the door three more times. "Are you there?" 

As she asked the question, she asked herself mentally again why was she there.

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Syvos had been fortunate in that Alexandria had kept her from the others during the time when the mating calls seemed most prominent. There was no reason for her dragon to become useless and worse tempered than current – at least in her mind. The plight in the caverns below was of no consequence at current, as Alexandria moved with careful hands as she slides the last bit of polish along the ebon blade that lay in her grasp.

Alexandria could remember clearly the day that Luna had bestowed the gift of the sable blade on her, for it had not been so long prior. Such care and dedication was given to such a gift, and in some ways Alexandria was still awed by it, and that Luna would trust her with it. The bandolier of bells she had taken to wearing hung carefully off a corner of the poster bed in the corner, her room littered with various weaponry and targets. One  in the corner looked long overdue for retirement as most of the stuffing had been beaten out of him. The rest of the room is blaise and rather dull. Alexandria had little use for opulent things, aside from the armor she vested quite often. For now, she is donned only in a thick leather tunic with matching brown pants. The mane that sits atop her head coiffed into a tight braid in some semblance of taming the fire colored tresses. 

Sighing, she raises and sets the blade aside before drawing up to her impressive height. She often towers over the other witches, and even a few of the orcs. She moves with a purposeful gait, intent on filling her belly with ale and food, only to pause at the thundering sound of what seemed to be panicked pounding on the doors. Furthermore, when her name was called through muffled sounds, the witches’ brows furrow as she moves to the doors. Surprise replaces her frown, though the confusion remains.

“Natasha?” She questions, though she is glad to see the she-orc. Alexandria has struggled with the strange bubbling sensation occurs in her stomach whenever Natasha is mentioned or seen. It is a source of irritation and confusion that has brought the witch to seeking answers in the many tomes that Luna and the other witches have on hand, only to find nothing. She cannot surmise the meaning of the sensation, but cannot deny it either. Without realizing, her face breaks into a wide grin.

“Have you come to drink?” She asks.

Edited by Lacernella Rubra

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Natasha lowered her clamped fist as she heard the echoing steps of someone approaching. Her chiseled abdomen tightened, and her mind started an incessant purring of anticipation. She half turns her body, wanting to walk away. No, she needed to confirm that the witch was there. The door clicked; Natasha's coils of muscles tense, and she thins her lips. 

The scarlet-haired witch peeked her amber irises into the flaring lights of the magma hued cavern. At the sight of her, every gnarled knot within the orc loosens. Lips part with a sigh. She couldn't comprehend this sudden sensation of relief.

"Natasha?"

"You're here," she says in orc and takes a half step towards the witch before stopping herself. Her fingers twitch at her sides, and she falls back. "Good."

The opening door further reveals the witch and the orc's eyes brazenly drawdown. No armor of gold; sleek brown leather, hard and form-fitting. Natasha gets another tinge of discomfort as she exhales away newly heated breath and brings her gaze back up. That beaming smile throws her guard and makes her clear her throat.

"Have you come to drink?"

"Heh, no." She said with some amusement in her voice. "No, time."

Alexandria wasn't missing, and so she could have walked away, but her rational nature told her if Luna was indeed trudging in death's waters, Alexandria would dive in after her. These witches tended to devote great lengths for each other. At least this way, Natasha would be there.

"Need to tell you something," she said, decisively turning full front towards her. "Orcs have stories of Luna. That she left in night because witches vanish. You know of this?" 

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“Of course.” Alexandria immediately replies in orc to Natasha’s first statement, confusion writ across her visage. Where else would the giant she-witch be? However, she contemplates this as her own gaze draws along Natasha’s form and she notes the telltale sign of relief and perhaps a tinge of anxiety that seems to course through the she-orc.

It was not unusual for Luna to be gone on missions of her own while her sisters kept to the tower, or were on missions of their own, it was well known that Luna felt particularly responsible for them all, however. Her confusion quickly becomes a frown as Alexandria reaches to grasp Natasha’s wrist, drawing the woman’s athletic form closer.

“Tell me on the way to my room. I need to gather my things.” While many of the orcs avoided the tower, Alexandria didn’t seem eager to give Natasha the choice as she attempts to drag her through the hallways back up the giant staircase that leads to her own room. Throwing open the door, Alexandria moves to her armor first, seating herself upon a broken stool to pull on thick plated boots. It is several moments before Alexandria clasps her final bit of golden armor in place and her hand reaches for the bells.

“Tsk, she probably didn’t want to risk any of us, and thought to take care of it on her own.” She hisses through closed teeth as the bells adorn her body and her sword finds home in its sheathe. “I will follow her. I need to get to Syvos.”

Alexandria doesn’t wait for Natasha this time, hurried feet carrying her down into the depths of the dragon caverns as a sharp whistle produces from the depths of her maw. Syvos’ head peeks from one of the stalls and a shrill warble comes from the  small dragon and Alexandria grasps the modified bridle that has been made for the dragons and quickly places it upon her rider dragon. Syvos snorts derisively before settling once more as her witch throws open her stall door.

Kamal huffs as he slithers towards her in a panicked, hurried state.

“Excuse you?! Just where do you think you’re going without me?” He huffs.

“You always complain, and I need to go find Luna before she becomes what she hunts.” Alexandria offers as Kamal grumbles, and slides into the greaves of her armor.

“I’m still going.” He huffs. Alexandria rolls her crimson gaze before pausing to peer at Natasha. The woman doesn’t know why she so desperately wants the orcs presence, but her hands tighten on Syvos’ reigns.

“Are you coming?” She questions, though then a frown touches her lips, furrowing her brow. “It will be dangerous. I will probably need the bells…” Her hand moves to grasp one of the mahogany handles. It was always a danger to call upon their power.

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Alexandria reached out, and as a reflex, Natasha tensed with the constant battle ravenous flame in her belly, preparing to scorch the fool that dared to touch her. Then her mind deepened its purr, overriding so many years of violent outbursts and dousing the flame. Like a tamed beast, she settled as Alexandria's hand curled around her wrist. Somehow she still felt incredibly warm as her dense muscles melted, and she followed without resistance into the tower. 

 The orc was used to the obligations of her enslavement, forcing her to castrate her more primal nature. Usually, she'd resent the imposed weakness and vulnerability. Yet this scarlet haired woman seemed to literally bewitch her personality. Instead of begrudgingly letting her obligations possess her, those crimson eyes widened and then lazed into a half moon-gaze as she followed her, mind clean of resentment.

 Marquise's voice rang in her ears at that moment: You're not yourself.

 Her instantly ignited her temper shook off the feeling, allowing her to focus back on the moment at hand. The two jutted up the stairs and Natasha explained everything she had heard: Luna's wounded return and how Abree tended to her; the supposed missing witches, which she already deduced to be Stellestria, Una Tal, Emma, and Serra; and finally Luna's departure with two of the more skilled warrior orcs. Curt and Bale were one of the few orcs that could potentially challenge Natasha.

 By the time she finished, Alexandria was primed like a gold lion for battle. Natasha couldn't help but crack a small grin at the sight. This was the witch she was familiar with, an intrepid warrior springing with haste into battle. Excitement ringed through her muscle, so much that she had to roll and pop the tension from her neck. Alexandria didn't have to wait; the she-orc was on her heels. When Alexandria mentioned her bells and gave her admonitions, Natasha's grin only widened.

 "Wouldn't miss it," she practically growled in response at the stable. 

In that moment, Durzol landed behind the orc. The hazel winged-beast trembled with exhilaration fed through Natasha's empathetic link. He was already wearing his saddle, a metallic and hide welded craft. He was also adorned with metallic plates on his neck and a helm to his crown and snout. His long tail brandished weaponry of jutting spikes flared in a trident formation.

"We wouldn't miss it."  

Durzol reared up at sight of Syvos, coos vibrating intensely under his massive husk neck and black smoke leaking from his nostrils. By the twinkle of his amethyst eyes, his interest in Syvos was still very much untamed. In fact, a scar or two on his body told stories of how he perhaps got too invasive. He  slowly cranked his head over Natasha's shoulder, eyes hyper-focused on Syvos. Natasha had a twitch of irritation and instantly swung her fist over her shoulder, knocking him right in the snout. The dragon sniffed out harshly and whined, protesting at the injustice. Nonetheless, he backed up and came to a curled sit with the face that could only be interpreted as pouting. 

 "Do you know where they went?" Natasha asked, ignoring him (and Kamal for that matter). "Many dark forests over the mountains." 

 

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If Natasha showed any discomfort, it was lost upon Alexandria. She was consumed in a flurry of motions as the saddle was fitted to Syvos, the witch ensuring that it was secure as it could be. However, she pauses and turns to face an already prepared Natasha and Durzol, a grin breaking across her face.

“Good.” Is all she offers, before resuming the task in front of her.

Syvos sniffs indignantly and turns her head rather sharply from Durzol’s inquisitive and longing gaze as her tail twitches in warning. The alpha would not be simply taken in by crooning and professions of adoration, no, Durzol would need to prove himself to Syvos in an act of pure violence and strength. The ruddy red of her form shifted to accommodate the saddle as Alexandria slipped the sable sword into a special sheathe made for riding. Once everything was fit to a keen eye, the witches attention became rapt on Natasha.

Something about the She-orc nagged at her mind, like a lazing river that refused to be routed. Ever since their passionate embrace after claiming the dragons as their own, a tingling had erupted within her core at every passing moment the orc was in her presence. It was dangerous, and yet, Alexandria was placated by it. Perhaps this was simply the soul of warrior meeting warrior. Yes, that had to be it.

Alexandria knew little of her fellow sisters, for she rarely spent time in the tower – preferring instead to dedicate herself to Luna’s tasks, so the names were lost on her, but the power of the coven soul had waned – and that was not something that was keen to be overlooked. Alexandria frowned as she procured the golden mask that completed her ensemble.

“I do not know the witches, or their task. I am familiar with monsters, however, and Luna’s affliction sounds like something undead.” She muses as she places the mask onto her visage and mounts Syvos, who churrls and paces a moment, eager to stretch her wings.

“Undead are only a few places, that I know of. Luna has a good start ahead of us, however, we’d best hurry.” Muscles bunched beneath the witch as Syvos eagerly pumped her wings before moving to the large platform that lead out to the side of the mountain. The dragons could leap into the wind rather than trying to take off from the ground – which made it easier on all parties. Alexandria reigned the dragon in, who snorted impatiently, and shifted in the saddle.

“We’ll start with the closest and work our way out.” A last call before temptation is too much for Syvos, and she takes to the wind with the grace of a dancer. Alexandria lets out a cry of elation, before laughing as the wind whips her plait behind her and she guides Syvos towards the first destination. They would fly over many mountains, circling and pacing – but seeing no sign of Luna or the orcs.  

It is several hours and many curses later that they pause, giving the dragons time to rest before they continue their pursuit of their elusive leader. 

"Just one more." Alexandria offers around a bit of jerky she had stashed in a bag. The witch offers a handful to Natasha, even as she chews - the meat stringy and dense. Her mouth feels dry and aches at the thought of what might happen in the time they're wasting in letting the dragons rest. Where could Luna have gone? Surely there had to be some clue aside from her affliction. Perhaps instead of being hasty, Alexandria should have consulted her fellow coven members, alas, it is too late. Determination settles between her brows and fixates there as they furrow. 

"We will find her." She states, breathing it into existence. 

Edited by Lacernella Rubra

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Natasha listened to Alexandria, sensing her urgency. As she suddenly took off, Natasha paused for a moment to think. Or at least she tried too. Two moments after Syvos dived from her edge, Natasha saw a blur of hazel rush pass her peripheral.

AUUUGH

Son of a—DURZOL!”

Natasha ran after the racing dragon, barely grabbing a plate in his armor and pulling herself on the saddle seconds before the dragon bird dived down the cliff side. He folded his amber wings, ignoring Natasha's chastising curses, and caught up to the crimson beauty. Synchronously they spread their wings and curved up towards the skies. In swirls of ruby and gold, the dragons churned in the gusts of winds like autumn leaves in the zephyr. Alexandria yelled in exhilaration and Natasha couldn’t help herself, her ash face breaking into a tusked grin and crying out like a wild animal in the skies with her steed.

They rode over the palisades of rock, and eventually their shadows cascaded over canopies of green. Alas their hours of search were fruitless, it took them to the far northeast, over the Haunted Glen and now near the Forgotten Wood.  The scarlet skies were darkening into the dusk of night, navy shade expanding from the west horizon and stars blinking beyond the clouds. They landed their tired dragons, Durzol hunched with heated breathes. The dragon tread to a pool of water they decisively choose to re-hydrate them. The liquid steamed in his mouth as he drank.

Natasha was sitting cross armed on a rock, thinking hard when Alexandria approached her with the jerky. She took it silently and shoved it between their tusks. Alexandria dedication to this mission was lost on her, but still managed to put stress in her neck and shoulders. Her mind chewed on her thoughts as her teeth effortlessly devoured the meat in a few bites.

“Alexandria,” she finally says. “Can’t you use your…” She paused, rolling her discomfort with the concept on her tongue. “Magic to find her?”

More than enough times she had seen the witches use all kinds of voodoo to do impossible things. When The Matriarch was their slave, before irony made them its bitch, she was capable of seeing things in the future, locating enemy traps and locations. She even warned them of Luna and her kind on their way to invade the fortress. Locating enemies and threats seemed possible, why not be able to use it to find comrades? These sisters did seem strangely close after-all.  

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Alexandria paces, like a golden beacon in the waning skylight. Hand to her chin, rubbing in thought as each movement only seems to bring further frustration. She pauses, however, at Natasha’s question.

“I had thought to scry for her, but I don’t have anything of hers to scry with. It’s old and archaic magic…but effective only if you have something of the person.” Her gaze travels to the sable sword in it’s sheathe.

“Luna once owned the Sable Sword, but I wonder if it’s been too long to use it.” The worst is that no fruition would come from trying, and so Alexandria grasps a map from the saddlebags and lays it upon the ground as she draws the ebon blade from it’s sheathe. The darkness of the blade only made darker by the waning light. From the saddlebags comes a chain, a simple thing, no fancy crystals attached to it, nor are there any gems. Alexandria wraps the chain around the sword – leaving a tail to dangle below as she concentrates on her desire to locate Luna.

It is several tense moments that the chain circles the map before simply dropping to their current locale. Brows furrow in a scowl, and Alexandria sighs.

“Well, that’s not going to work.” She murmurs, before contemplating if she has enough knowledge and power to seek assistance from the coven soul. Surely it would track the location of all  their sisters, for their very essence was tied into it. Sheathing her sword, Alexandria puts away the map and chain. Drawing in a deep breath, she settles in the middle of the clearing as her dragon seeks refuge near Durzol, lapping up great gulps of water as acid oozes from her jowls.

The surrounding flora melts as the caustic goo hits them, glowing ever so slightly as it seeps into the ground, leaving hazardous puddles wherever she swings her head.

“I’m going to try and reach her through the coven soul.” Alexandria explains to Natasha, knowing that it is unlikely that she will understand – not because she lacks intelligence – but simply because she is born of a different mind. Magic was something obtuse to the orcs even on their best day. Shit, sometimes Alexandria didn’t fully comprehend the depths of the well. The golden witch closes her eyes as a deep breath leaves her lungs and reaches to touch the coven soul with her mind. It reacts, a warmth spreading through her limbs like a comforting hug before it slithers to her fingertips. Drawing focus on her desire to find Luna once more, Alexandria lets out another deep breath as the soul stirs and for a moment nothing happens before she is given a generalized feeling of where Luna has gone. It settles on her like a chill, an affliction that she does not desire as those once heated fingertips become cool to the touch.

Wraithlike – her fingers begin to whiten at the tips and the sensation of a chill courses its way down her spine before she disconnects abruptly, drawing back from the coven soul so quickly that it causes her to gasp for air as she returns to herself. After a moment of clearing her lungs of what seemed as though ages of dust, the golden witch stands with a somber expression.

“If the dragons are ready, we should go. I got a sense of where Luna is, we should be able to reach her quickly if we don’t waste time. The dragons will probably be useless after this, we’ve ridden them hard today.” She muses.

“Syvos!” IT is a sharp call, and the dragon bounds over excitedly despite her earlier need of reprieve. Goo spills from her maw in excitement, gathering before spilling out through teeth as it lands upon the ground, littering it with dead spots. Alexandria swings into the saddle and grasps the reigns as she swivels Syvos about – waiting for Natasha. Once the other is mounted, she takes to the sky once more.

It is not a long ride to the Dark Forest, which is a fitting name for such an ominous place. It is dark when they finally land, and Alexandria frowns deeply as she dismounts.

“I could not see a fire from above, but I assume Luna wouldn’t put one up, not wanting to get caught unaware or by any of the undead that roam here.” Alexandria pauses at that, gaze narrowing.

 

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Natasha observed silently, listening to the details of Alexandria's plan with little response to give. The witch was correct, the orc's war-driven culture of tusk and claw meant they grasped little of the arcane world—as poor as any savages could comprehend complexity. Natasha merely traced her carmine eyes to the witch's movements. A chain spun over a map, 'scrying' she called it, absurd is what the she-orc thought. 

"…."

She crossed her bulk arms tightly over her metal breastplates, furrowing her brows and twitching in the jaw. Alexandria meditated deep within herself, to pull some hidden strength from her core. Natasha ground the tip of her sharp nail along with the rough curve of her triceps, tapping with discomfort. The witch looked so temporarily vulnerable that the orc instantly widened her awareness of the world around them. 

"....."

The emerald grass became a sea of movement, and the wind too swirled around the witch's invisible seduction. Then something strange happened, something Natasha instantly didn't like. The witch was in distress. 

The orc uncrossed her arms, narrowing her eyes for a moment before snapping to a stand. Quick steps filled the distance between them, paused an inch before contact. She swiftly recalled the last time she jumped to conclusions when the witch used magic—how she was in some unfathomable danger. Unease pulled at her body; she felt her heart race and tandem thoughts started to twist and tangle. All her muscles tensed to fight some non-existent monster. To murder and maim whatever dared to cause this. Would she be powerless again to help? Oh how she hated magic. Why did she suggest this?

"……."

When Alexandria broke her spell and hunched forward, her left shoulder fell into Natasha's grasp. The orc was knelt before her, hand firmly gripped on the plates of the witch's arm and eyes focused with wild pupils. She was silent for a moment, grip hard and firm before the black of her eyes slowly contracted back to normal.

"Breathe," she said, her naturally deep voice containing an unusual husk in tone. When Alexandria recovered, the she-orc removed her hand and stood, stepping back as the witch too stood. She nodded curtly to the new plan, dusting off the last bits of emotion from her shoulders. She grunted something in orc, and Durzol came racing to her side. Synchronously the two mounted, and in tandem, they took off.

They flew across the misty fields of the Forgotten Forest, the whimsical nature of their flight gone and now heavy with intent. As the night aged, Natasha's carmine eyes shone brightly in the murk, her nocturnal vision awakening. Still, the orc squinted; there was something strange about this evening. It felt heavier than usual—not an aphotic world, but one suffocated by a veil of black. Even Durzol, who too thrived in the night, whined with unease under his breath. 

They landed before an undead forest; trees were full of growth, rich in the bark and thick with boroughs, yet their colors seemed paled and bland like blood deprived flesh. The wind was cold and noisy, capable of rising bumps on even Natasha's thick skin. She dismounted, laced with solemnity, and flicked her eyes back and forth as she prowled the outskirts.

"Someone was here," she said, crouching down at a smoldered lump of charcoal. Her nostrils flared wide. "Curt and Bale." She stood and walker further around the area. "Two dragons." Her feet traveled over some ruffled dirt and scattered scales of different colors. 

"In right place," she concluded and turned towards the wood. It was so dark between the tree lines that her eyes could barely pierce five feet beyond them. Her boot hooked and kicked up a broken branch, catching it with her left hand. From her sash, she produced a bottle of clear gelatinous liquid and cloth in which she wrapped around the edge of the branch. It was a trick the orcs commonly did—fabric material on a limb, soaked with flammable saliva of an orc hound. She walked to Durzol, and on cue, he breathed fiery life into it.

"Let's go," she said, extending the torch to Alexandria. 

(This adventure will be continued in this thread)

 

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As the two witches departed on their journey, something else was brewing in the depths of Mount Ariadne. Underneath the ordinarily hot and feverish twisted tunnels, an unusual spread of snow and ice manifested throughout the serpentine corridors. Mist impregnated the air as the fertile cold consummated with the fiery womb of the volcanic landscape. In the last few weeks, everything was strangely cooler in the witches’ domain. Magma pools regressed and hardened, and brimstone piled into with high mountainous peaks. 

The source of the brisk winds was an archway in the courtyard. Like an open maw to winter, it breathed random gusts of crisp air. The rim of the arch was lined with crying icicles. The stalactites blushed an amber color from the fiery world, and then shred tears that caught the cave’s icy breath. Each drop froze, descended, and dissipated into mist.

In the great belly of the icy underpass, an orc named Ferrah sat before a barred cavern. Her head, shoulders, and thighs were dusted with snow. Leaning on the wall beside her was a great bone crafted zanbato weapon. Her crimson eyes were closed, and if not for the long vaporous breaths exhaling from her nostrils, she might have been thought frozen dead. Thanks to the insulated thick nature of their hides, the orcs of the tribe were quite as resistant to cold as they were to the blistering heat. Still, Ferrah’s body was layered in the skinned hides of orc hounds and other wild beasts, suggesting even she reached certain limits. 

Beyond the bars, which sparkled with lightning at spontaneous intervals, a magnificent winged beast lurked. An ancient dragon. She paced back and forth in the imprisonment, like a crystalline coated predator stalking the outlines of their cage. Her fine feline talons brushed through vast piles of powdery snow and scrapped the thin layers of ice adorned rock. She was surreally beautiful and radiated with a mystical aura of aged magic. This dragon was Crysanthe, long won by the witches and held for months as their prisoner. Trust with the dragon was sought many times, but the beast refused to yield to promises not delivered.

Ferrah!”

Ferrah opened a lazy carmine eye, huffing slightly and turning her head towards the tunnel. Down it came a bulky scrambling orc. His name was Jadi, and he was lined with so much muscle that it seemed to strain on his ability to think. Absent-minded to the friction-less nature of ice, Jadi’s dash soon became a tumbleweed roll of angry curses. He collided with a wall, the impact dislodging icicles from the ceiling. Ferrah slowly raised the brow, too bitter and cold to laugh at his clumsy idiocy. 

“What is it, Jadi?” She grunted, raising a clawed hand and brushing off the snow from her shoulders.

Jadi rolled onto his big bottom with a groan, rubbing the new knots on his melon. “Ouch…” He grumbled. Ferrah gave him a whole ten seconds, with him doing nothing but rubbing his aches like an ape, before she grasped a fallen icicle and knocked him clean on the temple.

“What do you want, Jadi?!” She snarled, now on her feet. Ferrah’s short temper was well known, and she loved picking a fight. Despite the icicle snapping clean on his massive head, Jadi merely rubbed the spot and stood.

“Oh yeah...Something with egg.” He mumbled.

“What with egg?” Ferrah said with a twitching eye.

“It’s not working.”

“....What does that MEAN, Jadi?”

“Well, area not so cold. Egg not so shiny...blinking a lot. Think its dying. Wondering if we can eat it now.”

Ferrah stared for a moment, not sure what to make of it. Before she could answer, a quake in the earth nearly threw her off her feet. Crysthane had slammed her talon before the cage, grasping their attention. The beast lowered her slender head, the orcs reflecting in her silvery sea gaze.

“Bring me a witch, now.” Her voice rang melodically sweet but deadly throughout the orc’s minds. “If the egg dies, you will know no greater wrath than mine.

Jadi suddenly laughed, stomping before the cage. Ferrah shifted her eyes towards him, and then slowing started drifting back. Crysanthe merely narrowed her eyes a half-inch.

“Stupid animal! You’re all locked up! Shut-up before I use your hide as target pra-”

He didn’t finish, for the open jaws of the dragon sent a hellish winter upon his soul. Within seconds, he was frozen solid. Ferrah dived out of the way, looking up  just in time to see the ice statue tilt over and shatter into fleshy pieces. Crysanthe turned her critical eyes to Ferrah once more.

“A witch, now.” 

Shortly after, Ferrah was banging on the doors of the Witch Tower. Two witches had been working on the dragon, but she had not seen them in some time. Now she was pissed. She was always pissed, but today she was once more infuriated by her piss-poor position of dragon duty. Jadi had it coming, but be damned if she was going to become a frozen sickle because these witches wanted to keep something so dangerous so close.

“HELLO?!” She banged so hard that the entire door rumbled at her fury. She had a lot of power for someone so short for an orc. 

@Eternity

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