Nix stood up from his seat and opened a breach to HQ in Ionova. "We're no longer operating from within Ever Flame, everyone in."
/Inferno: Jun Li: All personel, exit Ever Flame through the Town Hall Breach.
/Inferno: Nix: No more discussion here, I'll meet you at HQ in a bit. First, I need to see someone.
Shae latched onto his hand. "I'm going too."
Nix nodded in agreement and stood next to the breach until everyone exited Ever Flame, then he opened a second breach to Deidra's courtyard.
"Breach Commander Nix." Deidra's Majordomo appeared almost immediately; instead of creating a fuss, he gestured for him to follow. "From now on, I'll bring you directly to her."
Nix raised an eyebrow at the attendant's back before glancing at Shae.
[Whisper: Shae to Nix] Is he usually so compliant?
Nix shook his head.
[Whisper: Nix to Shae] Not a bit. Usually, he's a pain in the ass.
[Whisper: Shae to Nix] Is Vega a dragon?
[Whisper: Nix to Shae] Nearly. He has a dragon puppet, which shouldn't be possible.
[Whisper: Shae to Nix] I thought it must have something to do with dragons since you had everyone leave Ever Flame and came directly here.
Shae gripped his hand tight, unlike the rest of Inferno, she wasn't intimidated by Deidra. She just didn't like her.
Deidra was lecturing her two students when Nix and Shae entered. "Take a few moments to consider the options, and we will speak again after my guests have departed."
Shae glanced at the pond; she could feel it's strangeness. "Dragon Water?"
Deidra nodded. She had to remind herself that iridescent salamanders were notably astute. "I am pleased that he brought you today. Would you mind coming with me?"
Shae stole a glance at Nix. "If Nix is going, then so will I."
Deidra opened a breach and stepped through without speaking further; Nix followed and pulled the confused salamander with him.
His arrival at the nursery showed a drastic rise in the humidity. "What happened to all the dry air?"
Deidra only smiled and nodded. "It means they've entered an advancement state, the elements you donated are sealed in."
Shae frowned at the dragon. "You had Nix donate elements?"
"I did." Deidra admitted, "two of them are advancing normally, but the third..."
"Why are we here again?" Nix found the entire process fascinating, but he had too many other items on his plate to put much thought behind it.
Deidra suddenly bowed respectfully to Shae. "Would you examine these eggs, and tell me what you feel."
The beautiful redhead laid a hand on the nearest egg; it was smooth and warm to the touch. "Lightning Elemental, definitely male."
Deidra didn't bother to hide her surprise; she could only discern their element. "Next one, please."
Shae moved to the second, a smile curved her lips when she touched it. "Hybrid Elemental, Ice Flames, also a male."
The salamander moved to the last egg and placed her hand on it, immediately her eyes widened in shock. She put a second hand on the shell and closed her eyes to focus. "Salamander/Dragon hybrid, female. Irridescent bloodline."
Deidra watched as the salamander inspected the egg. "Somehow, my daughter has become our daughter."
Shae nodded in agreement. "Ours. She carries my bloodline."
"Such a thing..." Deidra placed her hand on the outside of the egg; her usually confident expression replaced with confusion. "Three hours ago, it started falling behind the other two."
Shae's hands glowed red, not the bright orange of her normal flames. "She'll need regular infusions of red flames to thrive."
Nix remembered the red flames from Shae's promotion to Nemesis. "The meta-flame?"
Shae nodded. "During metamorphosis, Salamanders produce red flames; the by-product of these flames are, of course, the yellow and blue flames that you were able to absorb."
Nix laughed despite the severe nature of the discussion; the blue and yellow flames created his green ones. "My emerald flames are junk?"
"An amazing flame that shouldn't exist," Shae corrected. "I'll have to stay here, of course. No one else can create this particular meta. "
"Thank you." Deidra placed her hand on the hybrid egg; she could feel its vigor returning. "How does Nix carry part of your Meta-flames?"
Shae pursed her lips for a moment before favoring her mate with a smile. "At great risk to himself, he absorbed them on two separate occasions in order to save me."
"Why don't dragons breed with other dragons?" The question had been bothering Nix since he discovered dragon spawn and dragon descendants. Where were the pure dragon lines?
"Because of our strength and longevity, it's something that is only allowed on rare occasions. It is one of the rules that we must follow." Deidra's tone said that she wouldn't elaborate further.
Nix found the bloodline topic so compelling that he forgot his purpose for coming. "What do you know about Vega?"
"I don't know anything about him. Should I?"
Nix sighed heavily. "I was hoping you did. He has a dragon puppet."
Deidra swore loudly, the anger in her voice surprising both Shae and Nix. "Bastard!"
"Putting aside the skill necessary to create such a thing. The materials needed would be incredibly rare." Nix had figured it out while studying Taxidermy. One dragon skin can equal thousands of dragon leathers. To create a dragon, you'd need thousands of dragon skins, a seemingly impossible feat considering the number of dragons is much less than that. On top of that, you'd need thousands of sets of bones, teeth, and claws.
"If he really created one, then he must have located Khalam'Zhur." Deidra shook her head, "even if he did find the Dragon Graveyard, he still wouldn't have enough materials."
Nix considered the options carefully. "If it isn't a puppet, then its high-level animation. Which would be good for us, it would be powerful but not enough to insta-wipe us."
Deidrea nodded slowly. "Probably animation Nix, a cheap imitation that looks more impressive than it is."
[Whisper: Shae to Nix] Wouldn't an Emperor level Dragon puppet be stronger than the real thing.
[Whisper: Nix to Shae] In theory, yes. It's either an animation or a low-ranked puppet. It definitely wouldn't be an Emperor level.
"I have to get back. This final assault on the Mountain pass has to be planned." Nix grabbed Shae's hand and squeezed it gently. "Stay here and monitor the hybrid egg."
Shae stepped willingly into his embrace, kissing the side of his neck. "Thank you for understanding, Nix. Please be careful and bring me in if it's necessary."
"I will." Nix stepped through a breach moments later without saying anything further.
Deidra watched the place where the Inferno Leader disappeared. "Don't Salamanders mate for life?"
"And you chose a human?" Deidra's tone was friendly than usual.
"Yes." Shae caressed the outside of the shell and morphed into salamander form. She climbed up on the egg and draped herself over the top of it. Immediately her body glowed with red flames, and her eyes closed.
Deidra covered her mouth to keep from laughing aloud. Even dragons wouldn't dare compare a salamander to a mother hen.
[1500 hours: HQ, Ionova]
/Inferno: Jun Li: From now on, all raid planning takes place in guild chat. Let's try to keep our plans secure.
/Inferno: Semmi: Vega has a dragon puppet? Or at least something that looks like a dragon.
/Inferno: Nix: Yes.
Nix brought up his Breach Commander Interface. A holo image of the Mountain Pass camp settled neatly onto the round table. It has already been updated with the images Nix saved on his hud. He highlighted an area East of the camp.
/Inferno: Nix: This is the weakest path to the Command Tent; this will be our primary route.
/Inferno: Jun Li: I agree, let's use multiple assaults to distract them from our real purpose.
/Inferno: Semmi: If we fail to stop Vega from activating the puppet. Then what?
/Inferno: Jun Li: Fight it out as best we can.
/Inferno: Nix: We'll use Flame Knights for the primary hit. Our ranger/sniper mounted force will follow them directly and make use of high-value targets.
/Inferno: Jun Li: That leaves a pincer attack from the North and South sides of the camp.
/Inferno: Nix: I'll bring up the best options for this Op.
/Breach Commander Interface
[Heavy Mounted Armor]
1st Division Flame Knights 1000
Colonial Knights of Glory 300
Krayven Elite 1700
12 Pillar Alliance 220
Titan Ground Pounders 400
Inferno Rangers 200
Earth Temple Acolytes 200
Inferno Snipers 6
/Inferno: Pon: Holy crap... The Ground Pounders are taking part?
/Inferno: Nix: They are. Mortimus will be leading them.
/Inferno: Semmi: Morti's Pop is enormous. That's someone I want to see in action.
/Breach Commander Nix: Prepare for battle, I'll place everyone in five minutes.
This will be a Three-pronged attack. We'll use heavy armor to push into their center and rely on our ranged fighters to eliminate their chain of command. At the same time, we'll assault their northern and southern perimeters. I'm holding the Nether Army and Strom Clan in reserve in the event that we need back-up. I've relayed instructions to all the Vice Commanders in this operation.
[Northern Assault] Vice Commander Sulane.
Colonial Knights of Glory
12 Pillar Alliance
Earth Temple Acolytes
[Primary Assault] Vice Commander Locas
1st Division Flame Knights
Nether Assault Force (Reserve)
[Southern Assault] Vice Commander Mortimus
Krayven Elite 1700
Titan Ground Pounders
Strom Clan (Reserve)
/Inferno: Jun Li: That leaves the infiltration team. How many?
/Inferno: Nix Ten will have to be enough. I'll bring us right to the puppet.
/Inferno: Jun Li: Here's our infiltration team. The rest of Inferno will be part of the Primary force.
Nix moved away from the table to bring his companions in.
"Fey, I want you in the air on this one. I want everything in camp on fire."
Fey nodded, while Ducky helped her roll up her baggy sleeves. "Burn it all, Nix."
"Exactly right. Morti, you are with the infiltration team and me." Nix smiled at Ducky, who was waiting patiently for her assignment while she helped Fey. "Ducky, I want you to follow the Knights into the center of the camp. Create as much chaos as you can."
Ducky nodded. "Understood."
/Inferno: Nix: Get ready, moving everyone to Ever Flame now. Stay in formation; we'll start immediately.
Nix opened a breach, and all of HQ emptied out.
Nix brought up his Breach Commander Interface and placed his troops at their assigned locations, he nodded to himself and moved next to the infiltration team.
/Breach Commander Nix: Ten seconds! Prepare to move.
[Create Breach: Bandit Camp, Lower Chamber]
Nix charged into the breach without hesitating.