134 Assassins in the Woods
Nix spent a few more minutes looking at dockets before shutting the hud down A glance to his left told him that Semmi was still at it.
"We're heading out for a bit Sem."
The blonde scout barely looked up. "Okay... I'm reviewing all the dockets that are expiring in the next 2 weeks. I'll present anything pressing at the guild meetings."
Nix took Shae's hand and together they left the Guild Office. The sound of running footsteps caused him to turn. The Ain'Dhassi who had helped him write up the contracted skidded to a halt in front of him.
"Er... Something I can do for you?" Nix noticed the man's frosty demeanor was gone.
The Ain'Dhassi dropped to his knees and touched his head to the floor. "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, sir!"
"Hey... easy there." Nix bent down and grabbed his arm, gently helping him back to his feet. "Going to hurt yourself doing that."
"I'm Solamane Manu, of Clan Manu. All three of my elder brothers were taken prisoner in the Mere Stone Wars."
"Solamane? Nice to meet you, I'm Nix and this is Shae." Nix put a hand on the Ice Dhassi's shoulder. "I hope everything works out for you."
Shae pulled him down the hall, leaving the Dhassi staring at them. "Sorry, we're meeting someone."
Nix bit down a laugh as he was pulled down the hall by Shae. Fajii must have braided the Salamander's hair earlier, when braided it only hung to her waist. "What's the rush? Are we late?"
Shae shook her head and held tightly to his hand.
/Inferno: Ronnie: Who can make me a crown? Darsi? You can make one of those?
/Inferno: Darsi: I suppose I could. What kind of enchantment do you want?
/Inferno: Ronnie: None... just has to be pretty.
/Inferno: Sharl: Give it an intelligence bonus. Maybe that will help.
They found Fajii looking at rings, there was a wide variety of them. Some with magical enhancements, others just nice to look at. She looked up when they approached her.
"Nix.. there's a man behind me. He's been watching me since I arrived." Fajii held a gold ring up. "Do you like this one Nix?"
Nix nodded and spotted the man right away. He wasn't even trying to avert his eyes. "I don't blame him, you look very nice today."
Shae smiled in agreement, "he probably thinks you are a dhassi like him."
Nix looked objectively at Fajii. Although Aquarion on the outside, she no longer could pass for one of them. She was almost as dark as Ronnie, her ears came to perfect points and her brown hair was streaked with red. The verticle iris's from the Scorched Earth Temple had turned Fajii into an exotic beauty.
The dhassi finally decided to approach them. He had light-colored hair and green eyes. His pointed ears were definitely longer then Fajii's. "May I ask what clan you belong to Miss?"
"I'm from the Inferno Guild." Fajii gave him a pleasant smile while she purchased the gold ring that caught her eye.
The dhassi seemed to freeze for a moment. "A dhassi has joined a human guild?"
Fajii's smile faded. "I'm an Aquarion from Colonial. Do you even know what that means? I can live, eat, breathe and sleep underwater."
Shae let a small laugh slip out, she quickly covered it with a slender hand. "Watching someone for so long is a bit rude. It makes me curious as to your purpose."
"Is my Clansman bothering you, Guild Leader Nix?" A young Fir'Dhassi woman spoke from behind them. "I'm Tura Umi Strom and this gentleman is one of my older cousins."
The Dhassi in question bowed deeply. "Tura Umi, I was only making conversation."
Nix raised an eyebrow, "Strom? Relation to Bael?"
Umi smiled slightly. She had the lightest brown eyes Nix had ever seen, her hair was a deep auburn color. "Favorite Uncle..." She stood up straight and deepened her voice in a fair imitation of the Bael that Inferno had met. "I stand outside of the Clan!"
Fajii and Shae both laughed at the gesture.
Nix had to bite his lip to keep from joining them. "He seemed very stern."
/Inferno: Nix: Semmi, look up Tura Umi Strom, please.
/Inferno: Semmi: Daughter of the Clan Strom Leader, second strongest Clan among the Fir'Dhassi. They have 18 votes.
"He wasn't bothering us, he mistook me for a Dhassi female." Fajii moved to Nix's other side and handed him the ring she had purchased. "I bought this for you Nix."
"Hmm?" Nix slipped the ring over his free thumb. As an Aquarion, Fajii was without guile. She would say the same things in public that she would say in private. He held out his hand and examined it. "Goes with my eyes?"
Shae nodded. "Pretty."
"Please accept my invitation to visit the Clan Strom Office in Parliament, we are located on the 3rd floor." Umi slipped a hand through her older cousin's arm, making it clear that he was leaving with her.
"I'll pass but I won't say no to a cold Toma sometime." Nix let himself get pulled away by the ever impatient Shae.
Oasis System Message: All War Captives that have been held for three years or longer, must be released immediately.
Nix spent the afternoon wandering the busy Parliament courtyards with Shae and Fajii. The trio had wandered to the orchards and found themselves near the magical barrier.
/Inferno: Nix: Can you sense anything Shae?
/Inferno: Shae: Only that I can't cross. It's tied into the power of Earth or Nature, I can't tell which. An Earth Nemesis could probably break out.
/Inferno: Nix: Let's head back, I'm going to do more research at the Guild Office.
He parted ways with Shae and Fajii when they decided to head back to Colonial. Semmi was still sitting at the same desk, flipping through the different menus.
"Working kinda hard Sem." Nix smiled at her when he walked in.
Semmi covered a yawn. "I want to replace the desk by the window with a couch. Sound good?"
Nix took a seat at his desk and leaned back. "See to it. Let's keep a warm blanket and soft pillow on it."
Semmi nodded. "Deal."
A tiny, ice colored bird landed on the desk.
Semmi stood and put out a hand for him to hop on. She then opened his desk hud and pointed to an area directly North of Parliament. "This is the place you asked about."
She placed him on the window sill next to the open window again. "Try not to get eaten."
Nix cocked his little ice head to one side and pecked at her hand. "Don't be so clingy."
Nix stayed lower this time and moved in a circular pattern towards the barrier. He would exit the barrier near the orchards and stay in the trees. He hoped to avoid any flying predators.
He spent the next hour weaving in and out of trees, his flying skills quickly improving. He was about to cross a fast-moving river when he spotted them. A half dozen stealthed fighters were laying down in the tall ferns that lined the riverbank. He could tell they were stealthed because they were nearly transparent to his enhanced bird vision. Apparently the Ice Sparrow could see through the subterfuge.
/Inferno: Nix: Spotted an ambush or raiding party of some kind.
/Inferno: Semmi: Can you tell their race?
/Inferno: Nix: No, I don't see their target either. Gonna look around...
Nix decided to take a risk and fly higher for a few seconds, he spotted them almost immediately. A small covered wagon was camped in a small grove of trees on the other side of the river.
/Inferno: Nix: What kind of mounts does Oasis have?
/Inferno: Semmi: Almost exclusively the Dhassi ride horses. Flying mounts are in constant danger from a number of large flying predators.
Nix flew across the stream and landed on the top of the wagon. It reminded him of the kind that Gypsy fortune tellers would have in the stories he use to read. There were three Ain'Dhassi sitting around a small fire. They wore green armor and all three had arrow quivers strapped to their back. Three bows leaning against the wagon made Nix guess they were a hunting party.
/Inferno: Nix: Damn... think I found the target.
/Inferno: Semmi: So close to Parliament?
/Inferno: Nix: F*ck... they're barely kids. It looks like a hunting party.
/Inferno: Semmi: I could send a message to Del Tali.
/Inferno: Nix: No, then they'd know we can see outside somehow. I'll handle it.
Nix flew down and landed on the soft sand next to the fire.
It was the female who noticed him first. "Hey! Is that a Winter Sparrow?"
The other two were young males, they could have been brothers by the look of them.
The female broke off a piece of bread that she was eating and tossed it on the ground. "Think he wants to bond with one of us?"
/Inferno: Nix: What was the symbol for danger again?
/Inferno: Semmi: Looks like an upside 'y'.
Nix hopped onto a clear patch of sand and started doing his best to draw the symbol.
"He looks hurt." The male larger adolescent with a slighter deeper voice spoke, there was a hint of laughter in his voice.
"A mating dance maybe? Could be he really wants to bond with you Cora." The smaller male grinned when he spoke.
Nix hopped over to his feet and pecked them.
All three of them immediately went quiet, their demeanors turning serious.
"Hey..." The one called Cora bent lower to look at him closely.
Nix gave up on his first drawing and made another one closer.
"Danger?" Cora looked at the two boys she was with. "Doesn't that look like danger?"
The large male lowered his voice. "Can you understand us?"
Nix nodded his head. When he did all three adolescents reached for their bows.
"We are in danger?" Cora whispered the words softly.
Nix nodded again. He moved to the stump next to the fire and used his beak to point in the direction.
The older male moved to the wagon and opened a small hud. "We have reason to believe we are in danger."
A deep voice spoke from the hud, Nix couldn't make out the words but suddenly all three Ain'Dhassi moved into the woods and disappeared from sight. Nix flew up to the top of the wagon and waited.
/Inferno: Nix: It's actually kind of nice here if you don't consider the ambush. They haven't moved yet so they could be waiting for dark.
Nix spotted three ghosts moving silently through the forest, without a doubt they were using some sort of enhanced movement technique. He had never seen anything move so swiftly and quietly through the forest. They appeared in the bushes a few meters from the fire, all three of them were masked. One of them was definitely looking at him.
A feminine voice flowed softly from the undergrowth, it was smooth and quiet like silk. "Our ally?"
Nix nodded his bird head.
"Where's the enemy?"
Nix took to the air again, he flew over the river. The would-be assassins had moved closer to the river but were still hiding in the ferns. Nix dipped a wing and flew directly over them before landing in a nearby tree.
/Inferno: Nix: Shows about to start...
Only two of the ghosts bothered to come. The female appeared in the middle of them and two silver swords flashed. The other used arrows and killed two of them with one-shot each.
Nix whistled from his seat in the Guild officer. He had only seen Chiba move like that. Was that the standard in Oasis?
/Inferno: Nix: I want to see who the bad guys are here.
The difference in skill between the two groups was too vast. The archer and the dual-wielding swordmaster made quick work of the enemy. Nix noticed that they were searching the bodies so he glided to the ground and landed nearby.
The female held out her hand. "Come little bird."
Nix ignored the request and hopped closer to one of the bodies. It was definitely a Fir'Dhassi corpse. Before he could fly away he felt a hand close around his small body.
/Inferno: Nix: Oh shit...
"Hmmm... What shall we do with you little bird?" She held Nix closer to her face, her blue eyes staring. "Interested in a Spirit Bond?"
Nix pecked her hand as hard as he could in reply.
The action caused the female to laugh quietly. She pulled down the mask that was covering the lower part of her face. "Very feisty."
/Inferno: Nix: I did not see that coming...
/Inferno: Semmi: What?
/Inferno: Nix: It's Del Tali.
She opened up her hand, palm up. Nix stood motionless peering up at her. "The Fir'Dhassi grow bold, attempting such a thing so close to Parliament."
Nix couldn't see a reason to stay any longer so he hopped off of her palm and took to the air. He hadn't been able to do much exploring, but he did learn a few valuable things.