A sound from behind Nix caused both Guyanar and Zinu to fall to their knees in despair. The last pieces of a large snake-looking creature that was coiled around the Totem, finally crumbled to the ground.
Suddenly Nix figured out his reason for being there. "You want me to replace your Totem creature?"
Zinu nodded from her knees. "You're a salamander, although it is fire-based, we would be able to adapt to those changes over time."
Nix would have laughed had he not seen the anguish in the old man's eyes. "I'm sorry Zinu, I can't sit around on a post all day."
Zinu shook her head in denial. "I know that Nix, our Ecclesia wandered quite a bit, only coming back once a month."
Nix shook his head while helping the old man back to his feet. "Sorry, I carry too many expectations already."
"We aren't leeches, Nix" Zinu slowly stood up. "The benefits aren't one way. It's symbiotic in nature; our Ecclesia only weakened because it was at the end of its life cycle."
The old man's dark eyes pleaded with him. "Perhaps a temporary arrangement until we can find a suitable replacement?"
"Sorry. My answer is no." Nix kept his face free of expression, several of the Krayven clansmen had gathered around.
"No." Zinu shook her head and grabbed one of Nix's hands. "I am sorry. This was an unreasonable request; please forget my words and remain our friend."
Nix nodded. "Of course."
"I will bring you back." Zinu pulled him toward their horses, stopping when Nix shook his hand free.
[Summons: Shadow Daiken]
Nix had to bite his lip to keep the smile off his face. It was his first time summoning the mount. It was black as coal with smooth, scaled skin. It bore a slight resemblance to a drake, but its wings were more sturdy, and its body seemed wide and flat.
Nix unsummoned Nightmare and climbed onto the comfortable looking saddle that his Daiken wore. Without speaking further, he shot into the air.
"Holy crap." Nix patted the smooth skin of the Shadow Daiken, it gained altitude effortlessly and accelerated eastward toward Free Trader City.
Yarl chased down the last straggler and tapped it on its hindquarters to encourage it back toward the safety of the herd. Although the mountain goats were equipped to defend against predators, there were a few larger hunters that required the strength of numbers to deter them.
The thin boy chewed on the last bit of jerky from his bag while watching over his flock. Darkness had fallen over the foothills, and so he noticed the disturbance very quickly.
A ball of orange and red flames floated towards him; it moved in large lazy circles. The shepherd hesitated for a moment and then abandoned his goats. The safety of the clan always came first.
Yaro sprinted over the uneven trail towards camp. They kept a small lookout post on the outskirts of the camp. Although the post was unmanned in times of peace, there was a battle horn there.
The post illuminated just when he arrived, causing the boy to duck reflexively when the flames passed over his head. He felt the heat of the fire, warming him as he grabbed the horn and sounded the alarm.
Across the camp, a young woman rolled quickly from her bed of furs. She jumped into her robe and grabbed her staff. She ignored the bucket of reddish clay next to the tent flap and ran outside.
Several of her clansmen had already armed themselves and were carrying torches, Zinu scanned the camp carefully, there didn't seem to be any fighting. Her sharp eyes picked out the glow next to the sacred ground. "The Totem! Our Totem is under attack!"
The clan's cleric was the first to arrive; her bare feet skidded to a stop on the red clay, her mouth dropped open in surprise. "Its... Beautiful."
When Guyanar arrived a few minutes later, the area outside of the totem ring was crowded, although none dare approach too close. The old man's face creased in a shocked smile.
Zinu grabbed his arm when he continued to walk toward the Totem. "Stop, Papa... W-What is it?"
"I have to activate the Totem." Guyanar ignored his granddaughter and approached the carved post. He removed his belt knife and made a shallow cut on each palm before placing them on either side of the Totem. His entire body glowed red for a moment before he released his hands and staggered backward.
Zinu helped the old man to his feet, retreating before the heat of the great bird. "What is it?"
Guyanar let his granddaughter lead him to the edge of the large circle. "Keep your distance; no one goes inside the ring anymore."
By morning, the Totem had changed drastically. Wings emerged halfway up its length, and the head of a predatory bird could be seen at the top. The ground inside the ring had turned to liquid sometime before morning. It bubbled slowly like a gigantic pot of red stew.
Yaro, the shepherd boy, remained awake, although it long passed the point where he should have rested after a night spent protecting the flock. For the first time in months, he felt strong and warm. His young face showed amazement when he examined the protections that were placed on him.
[Protection of the Phoenix]
+ 200 to Attack.
+ 300 to Flame Resistance.
+ 150 to all Stats.
In the event of your death,
you will respawn at the
base of the Phoenix totem.
He glanced up to see Zinu watching him; his face turned red immediately. The cleric's pale skin and light brown hair weren't covered in red clay. "Where did it come from, Zinu?"
Zinu shrugged slightly, her eyes staring at the majestic bird. Its feathers were a combination of red and orange, the flames surrounding it constantly flickered while distorting the air. "I don't even know what a Phoenix is."
Yaro watched the bubbling ground inside of the ring. "Do you think we'll be able to use the clay?"
Zinu nodded. Nearly all of the clan watched in silence; the normal activities of their life were temporarily put aside. "It's beautiful, isn't it? I've never seen anything like it."
The entire clan waited and observed the Phoenix. Every few hours, the loud scream of a bird of prey would echo in the camp. After three days, the ground around the Totem solidified, and the majestic bird took to the air. He circled the camp a few times and then headed toward the distant mountain peaks.
Nix gained altitude quickly and let the winds carry him east. For the tenth time in three days, he checked his stats.
Nix [Race: Phoenix]
[Totem Enhancement: Clan Krayven]
From the Ashes
Return to Totem
All of his regular stats were gone entirely, his access to guild chat, and his inventory was disabled. Three days earlier, he set up camp on a distant peak and notified his friends that he would be out of touch for a few days.
In the three days since then, a lot of changes had taken place. When he first perched on the Totem, he had been level one, and his stats were much lower. The Totem started counting down as soon as his feet landed on it. It had taken three days to convert the earth Totem to a fire totem. According to the counter on his hud, the current charge would last nearly two months.
Nix returned to his lofty camp and let the Phoenix form drop. Unlike his recent forms, it wasn't a puppet. He had used the activation stone to assign himself the form permanently.
You have learned Phoenix Fire.
Nix stood up slowly, his body feeling hot while his head seemed to be spinning slightly.
You are suffering from the aftereffects of Phoenix blood.
Nix used Deep Blue to return to the Turtle House and then stumbled through the door. Shae's welcoming smile quickly dropped when she noticed his condition.
"Nix?" The Salamander supported his weight and helped him into the bedroom. Both Fajii and Hyai followed them in and helped her undress him.
"I'm okay. Just a bit tired." Nix felt the bed flip-flopping and closed his eyes.
He felt a warm hand placed on his head and opened his eyes to see Shae leaning over him. "You have Phoenix Blood poisoning Nix. Did you get into a fight?"
Nix nodded slowly, "Kicked his ass sideways."
Shae shook her head at him. "Its effect is lessening. Get some rest, and you can tell me about it when you wake up."
"Sounds good." Nix closed his eyes and, within seconds, was asleep.
Hyai sat on the foot of the bed, watching Shae examine him. "He found three advanced animations in the Eidengal Armory; he said they would be permanently assigned to whoever used it."
The Salamander clucked her tongue at the sleeping guild leader. "One of them was a Phoenix?"
Hyai nodded. "Yes."
Fajii's dark face didn't seem worried. "I can feel the Earth element in him, too; he just does whatever he likes."
Shae smiled while nodding her head. "Prey waits."