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A Moonlit Flight

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It was a rather calm evening.  The last highlights of the sun's rays slowly creeped towards the horizon, signaling that the end of yet another calm day was near.  It wasn't often that Mladris was able to take on the full beauty that the Cold Mountains had to offer her and she wasn't the only one.  The snow lay undisturbed for the most part, covering the trees and the ground.  Deer and other local fauna were out and about.  The few trails in the snow made that apparent but they did not bother the dragon.  They bore her no ill will unlike other creatures, humans were her main problem but she could handle them.  

She had observed none in weeks, not since she flew down to the ocean and came upon a rather curious band of individuals.  One was a young woman, there was something unusual about her that she couldn't quite put a talon on.  Definitely magic oriented.  Then again, there are still quite a few creatures/beings that she was unfamiliar with.  

With a rumble, the dragon shifted from stomach up onto all fours and then began to move to the mouth of her cave.  The sky was streaked with orange, yellow, red, and a hint of blue as the sun's retreat began to close to an end.   The moon was beginning to make a appearance and it was full this night.

"Hmm...a perfect time for a flight." She said to herself as she stretched her wings, flapping them a few times to get rid of the stiffness and then with one powerful stroke, she was in the air.  

 

Thud.

Thud.

 

Thud.

 

The downward stroke of her wings caused the trees to sway back and forth as well as shaking the snow off of them.  She maintained her current altitude above the treelike, just enough room for her wings to not skim the trees.

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It had been three years since Nathan and his companions first arrived on this continent on this very beach.

Three years of bloodshed and battling the demonic all across the world. The group that would become The Watchers had, had its first triumph - its greatest loss and struggled onwards through thick and thin. Everything seemed to have happened so quickly though - he could barely remember some days that he had just turned 38. If he were to look in the mirror and compare himself to the picture in his wallet of the group when they had first arrived here - as a memento to mark the occasion, he would see only some minor differences: His hair was longer and he had grown out his beard. 

No doubt the creature he had intended to visit this night would remember him, facial hair or not. Age was quite different for dragons than it was for humans. Not that Nathan was an ordinary man in the strictest sense of the word. The passing of three years felt like the passing of months to him - given his enhanced condition, but to a Red Wyrm like the one the group had encountered - it would probably be like the blinking of an eye. Very likely, assuming she didn't group him with the unfortunates and fools that dared to enter her lair uninvited, she probably remembered him as if it were yesterday.

For the occasion, Nathan chose to wear his suit instead of his armor - both as a show of peace and to mark the change that had taken place both in him and in the world. To a creature like a dragon - appearances meant much, as did a person's "aura". His had changed only a bit over the years. He had grown less eager to settle things with swords and more with words. In becoming leader of the Watchers team, he had learned that diplomacy and negotiation could be just as valuable as skill with a blade. In some cases, even moreso - as civilized people usually didn't settle matters by bludgeoning each other with oversized weapons. Not unless they had good reason to, anyway, he thought with a smirk.

He started down the path leading to the Cold Mountains from Mageside City as per usual - on horseback - his name was Spero. After two weeks of riding - when the great animal refused to go further when they reached the outermost part of the icy peaks, Nathan released the reins and let his mount go. Spero was a good horse - brave, intelligent and loyal, and he knew the way back home.

Nathan paused as he took in his surroundings.

The area had not changed at all since he had last been here - a few more trees, maybe, but that was about it. The rock formations and snow-capped peaks loomed over him on all sides. Just ahead, not too far from the original landing where they had disembarked from their ship, he could make out a particularly large mountain- one that put all the others to shame in both height and in width.

What most folks didn't know about him was that among Nathan's enhancements was a near-photographic memory. He could take one glimpse at any spot on a map and compare it to the land - and he could sketch the whole thing from memory. That served him well as he approached the shoreline - where he had first set foot on Genesaris.

The waves were lapping on the shore - just the same as they did three years ago - though unlike before, the full moon was high in the sky above him - giving him a clear view despite the coming darkness.

The last bits of daylight faded from sight - just as his acute hearing picked up the sound of the beating of wings from somewhere very far off. No doubt that meant she was up and about. Whether or not she was aware of his presence he could not tell, but he hoped it was so. He had only come to talk. A fact which he hoped was made evident in the fact he was only wearing a grey suit and tie as opposed to his armor. 

Hell, he had even forgone bringing along his sword, Godsend - all for the sake of this one mission.

"May the Eternal Heavens watch over me." He intoned quietly - his dark eyes scanning the skies for the source of the sound. "May she see that my intentions are honorable and pure."

A few more minutes of searching - and he zeroed in on his target. There indeed, flying above the treeline - descending from the mountain he had glimpsed earlier was the great red dragon.

"And may she not think of me as a tasty midnight snack." He finished the prayer with some slight deprecating humor. It helped ease the tension he felt growing in his chest as he raised both his arms high.

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Thud.

 

Thud.

Thud.

 

The dragon gained a little bit of altitude so she could survey her territory better, that is when she noticed some movement.  Narrowing her eyes so she could make out finer details, it was a human, male.  No armor or weapons.  Wearing only plain clothing...he was the man that appeared on the shore by the sea about three years ago.  That was but a blink in the years of a dragon but this human didn't seem to change much. How interesting...why was he back?    

With a low growl, she began a full descent towards him.  As she reached him, she flared her wings out to slow down.  The force from the downward stroke of her wings caused the trees to sway and groan under the pressure.  

"Human..." She said as she brought her hind legs down first, then her forelegs.  The earth shook slightly as it absorbed her weight.  "I did not expect to see you again, much less in my territory...I usually kill those that trespass..." The last word was said with a slight hiss as she folded her wings and sat back on her haunches.

 

"Nathan correct?  Where are your companions?  Hiding somewhere no doubt in hopes of ambushing me?" She would have smelled them as she drew nearer had she not been able to see them.  Other animals would not be out and about due to the snowfall, they spend most of their time seeking shelter.  Therefore, it would be much easier to detect anything or anyone else.

"Why have you come?"  

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“I am indeed called Nathan, but I am alone, dragon.” Nathan replied calmly. “And I am powerless against you, not that I had any intention of troubling you anyway.” With that, he gestured to the land around them. “I beg your forgiveness for intruding, but I have an urgent matter to discuss with you.”

He inhaled slowly, looking directly into her golden eyes - his own, brown ones were full of pleading. 

“If you would hear me out, that is. If you wish to kill me, then I will not defend myself or flee. If you wish me to leave, I will do so and never return. I have no intention of staying in a place I am not wanted.” 

Silently, he hoped his words would get through to her. He meant every word. Nathan did not think it egotistical that he announced he was unafraid of death. He’d meant that too. His comrades were strong enough to handle things without him; but he would prefer to stay by their side and lead them into battle against the demonic.

It all simply relied on how diplomatic this dragon was feeling. Arms hanging loosely at his sides, Nathan waited with an impartial expression.

Edited by Sir Nathaniel

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"Hmm..." Mladris gently rumbled as she slightly tilted her head.  "What is it that you wish me to hear?"  This human had kept his word before, perhaps she should allow him some of her trust...for now.  She settled into a more comfortable position by laying down on her stomach and crossing her forelegs over one another.  The once undisturbed snow now crumpled under her weight and it began to melt due to the warmth that her body emitted.

"I do not wish to kill you for you have shown me that you are not here to kill me like all the others before you...a very rare trait among humans to keep their word.  What is the saying I have heard your kind mutter as they dig through my treasures?"  She tilted her head to the right and averted her eyes upward while tapping a talon on the ground.  "Ah yes!  Shoot first, ask questions later?"  She snorted as she returned her gaze back to Nathan and shifted so she lay on her side, her tail stretched out behind her.

"Forgive me, you are not here to be criticized for others actions..."

Night had fully taken over the sky by this point, the only things that shined were the thousands of stars that occupied the sky and the dragon's ember eyes.  All was quiet...peaceful.

 

 

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“We humans also have another saying: ‘War makes strange bedfellows.’” Nathan replied, internally relieved that she was willing to listen. As she spread out over the snow, he also assumed an at ease posture with his hands folded behind his back and turned his gaze briefly at the sky.

”Before I explain, I thank you sincerely for listening.”

With that, Nathan cleared his throat.

”I am part of a group of demon slayers called The Watchers, and our sole mission is to hunt down and defeat the creatures of Hell as well as their mortal slaves.” He paused a moment, turned his eyes back towards her and continued. “Our efforts thus far have uncovered a major conspiracy, one which might bring about the end of the world. A powerful King of Hell is about to manifest here in Genesaris. It’s name is Asmodeus and if it is allowed to have its way, all life will end.”

His expression turned grim and he looked on, a glimmer of fear in his eyes as he did so. 

“Supposedly, no mortal weapon can harm this thing. That is why I am here. To ask for your help, as you are not mortal, nor do you use weapons. Even so, for the first time in my life, I can say that I am afraid.”

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Screaming into his mind, the wail of the blizzard put Tor in a trance for millennia. The stone of the mountain flowing within him, frozen in time past his own bloodline, a man wakes buried in snow. The shocking cold threw him into a panic, and he took off into the blurry white.

Unbeknownst to this man, his soul belonged to a reaper of the underworld, and the memories of his eternity torturing innocent souls rest inside the heart of the dragon he once attempted to slay. 

Pushing forward he finds himself upon the mouth of a small cave, hearing many thuds yuh yuh. Moving toward the thuds he begins to hear voices, probably some people tryna get it on before they die at the hands of whatever's thudding. Toren takes a long toke of his cursed pipe, Goreng, quietly listening in upon the conversation until nightfall. Kinda creepy, he thinks of himself.

While hearing every, single, word of the conversation, Tor didn't comprehend much, because he was pretty dumb. He had to know why they were going on though, and decided to come upon them.

To his shock, there was a man in a suit seducing a rather intense lizard, and Tor felt his hand habitually reach for his axe. Feeling the power in his mighty beard, he began to approach them, when he heard the word Asmodeus. Instant fury wracked his head, and he glared deeply into the man's soul, the moment the man noticed him.

 

 

Edited by Toren Zhai

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Mladris nodded her head slightly in response but said nothing as he started to speak.  The forest seemed to come back to life, seeing that the dragon was not in a hunting mood yet the fauna kept their distance.  Never before had she encountered a demon, that was a name that was usually associated with her due to her appearance.  The jagged black horns that surrounded her skull made her look the part.  She chuckled quietly at the thought but was quick to return her attention to Nathan as he spoke.  

"Are the others that were with you on the beach that day a part of this group...the Watchers?" She asked, thinking back to that day that she spoke with them on the beach.  "And there names were..."  Mladris paused as she heard someone approach and quickly sat up, a deep rumble emitting from her throat as she cast a glare at Nathan.

"I thought that you were alone...is this your attempt at slaying me and taking what is mine?  A poor attempt at that!" She snarled as she then turned to face the intruder. An orange glow appeared at the back of her throat, a fiery torrent ready to be unleashed.

   

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((Hello again! So sorry for the long wait.))

______________________________________________________

 

"No, I am alone." Nathan replied immediately. "My comrades are in a place very far away from here." He also had sensed the intruder the moment he had glared - feeling strange. "Stand aside, for a moment, dragon. I will deal with our uninvited guest."

Nathan's words were level, but his voice was laced with venom. How was it possible? He was certain he hadn't been followed, so why then was there someone here? A rogue treasure hunter, perhaps? Or was it a cultist?

With a brief moment of concentration, Nathan willed a storm into existence. Above them, the clouds started to gather - black and grey. There came a flash of lightning in the distance, followed by a clap of thunder. Nathan's palms began to crackle and glow with sparks of electricity. His eyes took on a bright blue coloration - his pupils vanishing under its ambiance.

"I am unarmed, but I am far from defenseless." He murmured, his voice having taken on a thrumming, echoing cadence. He turned to his scaled ally, as way of explanation, he gestured with his hand. It glowed and popped with a current of white-hot energy. "I control all electricity. The power of thunder and lightning is mine to command."

To their intruder, he raised his voice.

"You, reveal yourself, now! Come out and face us!"

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What, or rather who emerged from the foliage not far from where Nathan was standing was the last person on Valucre that he ever intended to see again. 

Stepping onto the beach was a tall man with long, black hair and yellow eyes. An ornate sword hung at his belt, thrumming with power. A wicked grin was on his face; cruelty and glee in equal measure in his eyes. 

"Been a long time, Jameson." He said after what seemed an eternity, though truthfully it was only a few minutes. 

"Not long enough, Dugall." Nathan snarled. The glow in his eyes intensified, and he all but spat the name out. 

Dugall's eyes scanned the dragon appraisingly, and to Nathan's disgust, his grin widened. 

"Aren't you going to introduce me to your dragon friend? Aren't we old acquaintances, after all?"

Dugall's tone wasn't its usual style. It was obvious mockery. What Nathan had come to expect was genuine, if blunt respect from the assassin. When an opponent gained Dugall's admiration, he could be something approaching civil. Never friendly, but civil. This feigned politeness was an affectation. A prelude to the fight to come. Any time the mercenary sought out Nathan, it always ended in violence. 

Nathan's skill and abilities had let him narrowly best his rival time and again, but now, something had changed in him. 

"You are not my friend, Dugall. You claim you never needed any." Nathan's voice was level, but it was laced with venom. "But still, you always were more courteous. Why now do you show such insolence? Can't you see we're in the middle of a conversation?" He gestured to Mladris. "If you truly desire me to beat you senseless, kindly wait until we're finished!" 

He turned back to his scaled ally.

"I apologize, Dragon. He is no friend of mine, you see. He is a minor annoyance." 

Dugall's smile disappeared. In its place, there came a fierce scowl. His hand gripped the hilt of his sword, but he did not draw it. 

"I did not come to bandy words with you, Jameson. Nor did I come to wait while you discussed the weather with this... lizard." He spat the last word with contempt. "I came to settle our score, once and for all!" 

Nathan raised his hand, partly in reply to the challenge and partly for his draconic ally. 

"Please excuse me, dragon. This will take only a minute." 

At that moment, there came a flash of lightning, followed by a clap of thunder. A massive bolt of electricity shot down from the clouds, enveloping the Paladin in brilliant light. A moment later and he emerged, unharmed, now armored in gold and silver plated steel, a sword clutched in his right hand; electrical energy arcing and dancing across the blade. 

Nathan tilted his head, cracked his neck, then charged.

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A half second later, Dugall drew his own sword and brought it up in a sideways parry - just as Godsend struck in a vertical slash that would have split him in two. He pushed forward in a well executed low riposte. Nathan countered him, his blade lunging low then high, only to have his foe parry them both - his sword a blur in his hands. Back and forth the two humans fought - their swords and feet a flurry of movement - each too fast for the naked eye to follow. Like so many times before, their skills were absolutely equal; their blades ringing and repelling each other. Their eyes and attacks were focused solely on each other - neither paying the slightest attention to the dragon in their midst, and how could they? They were mortal enemies - this clash was one they had repeated times beyond count - each unable to best the other, but were determined this would be the one instance where he triumphed over his hated rival. 

Just as the sun began to set, just out of sight, their blades clanged against each other, once, twice, three times - then locked. Sweat dewed their faces; sparks flying from their swords as the stalemate continued. Arms quivered with effort as each pushed and tried to overpower his foe, in vain. Beneath their feet, the ground began to splinter and break from the force they were exerting. 

"Your skills are as sharp as ever, Jameson." Dugall admitted between breaths. "I daresay they are on par with my own. It will be by a razor thin margin, but you will lose." He leaned forward, then whispered. "And then I'm going to kill your scaly friend. I've always wanted to slay a dragon."

"You wish." Nathan replied, gritting his teeth. "You can't win, Dugall. Even if you strike me down, the dragon is impervious to your weapon."

"Are you so certain?" The assassin pushed a little harder, catching his foe with the edge of his sword. To the Paladin's surprise, the blade simply bypassed the armor - cutting into the flesh beneath. "The Ghostblade - Frostbite. All armor is useless before it, even yours. Even your friend's scales are no match...-"

He was interrupted by Nathan rearing his head back and slamming it against his foe's in a brutal headbutt. Dugall jerked back in rage and pain. Seeing his chance, Nathan reared his blade back and struck hard in a left-to-right slash against Dugall's breastplate, just above the right pectoral. The attack did little damage to the steel, as expected, but it did dent it - probably bruising him. 

Dugall leaped away before any more damage could be done, rearing back into a defensive stance - a scowl on his face.

"You're going to pay for that, Jameson." He snarled. "You're going to regret not making it a lethal hit."

"I could have killed you right there, Dugall. I could have just gone for your head - and that would be the end of the 'world's greatest assassin.'" Nathan taunted. "Now why don't you leave before I do?"

"Never." Dugall roared, then charged again. "It's all over for you, Nathan. You and the dragon."

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