Chapter 4: Crime

By StormFox

Credits: Authors everywhere, especially my betas, please forgive me for this, but I'm writing this as an experiment in writing OC inserts without becoming a (Marry Sue/Marty Stu). There will be several but the narrator is the main. This tale is based off various fictions, none of which I own. The primary focus fiction represented here is Drowtales, a growing, yet obscure semi-original, five year old, 14 chapter manga by Kern.

Disclaimer: Many of the changes are intentional but Little of Syphiles early life was viewed or explained so if this isn't how you imagined it kern, Sorry? 0.0!

Summary: Syphile's life took a turn for the worse when she allowed herself to become 'tainted' so she could learn summoning. But what if during the ceremony… something went wrong? What if instead of a dying demon another soul took its place. Events couldn't have turned out that different, could they?

Quain'tana stood in Syphile's main room gazing down at the sleeping infant in the stone basin that protruded from the wall. It had been nearly a month since she had gotten a few hours alone to breath; between meetings with the council of nine, the Deves heads, working logistics with her generals, dancing around the clan politicians and maintaining her physical skills she'd hardly had enough time to sleep! It was a pity there wasn't an active war at the moment so she could justify larger delegations of responsibilities and go enjoy herself once in a while. Damn Kel'noz and his sensible arguments… him and Rosof.

Turning her attention back to the peacefully sleeping infant she snorted. Her granddaughter was going to have an interesting life if any of her reports were accurate; Syphile was turning into quite an interesting character. She had set one of the fallen legion, a promising young shadow stalker by the name of Maeve, to keep tabs on the girl immediately after placing Ariel into Syphiles care but by then it had already been too late. The child had developed a knack for disappearing from detection by her stalkers in some of the strangest places; a fact she found great amusement in on the numerous occasions T&I had reported to her Sillices growing frustrations. Also, Maeve believed the rash of missing materials was somehow tied to the girls' activities as well; Syphile's journal was not the most illuminating of sources due to the foreign script it was written in but the watcher had noted that the writing tended to increase dramatically directly after the disappearance of supplies.

The girl was up to something, and something usually translated to a backbone. Hearing the ghost of footsteps behind her Quain'tana smiled. "You're back early Maeve, anything interesting to report?"

Maeve, she saw, still in her slave getup smiled and spoke softly. "Possibly, Illharess."

Raising an eyebrow she turned back to her sleeping grandchild. "And?"

"It would seem that the human divisions have seen fit to alter the time of their supply run into Chel. Syphile is with them."


Warden Glae'dryn cast his gaze around the establishment and sighed in disgust; how it was that their darkling cousins would find such amusement in such senseless bloodshed was well beyond her ken. She only hoped that her queens' premonition of the visitor making an appearance in such a place was accurate.

Frowning down at the current fight between a surprisingly well armored Orc and a pair of the houses Taurem she frowned, wondering if she was being punished. Her blade had died last month when she had run afoul of a pair of Vloz'ress berserkers. The two Templers with them had been injured as well but not without killing the brutes and their handler. It wasn't really her fault, she kept reminding herself, the Templers had the demon spawn well in hand so she had taken her blade and gone after the tainted swine behind them. Logical, no? As it turned out the bastard had quite a talent for illusions and she had ended up giving the air a spectacular thrashing while her blade attempted to skewer the twitchy little creep.

Her blade had been stabbed through the back.

And now she was here.

It was an important job certainly. If she found the child from Lady Shimi's vision it would be a fine jewel on her cape, but the queen's vision had been uncertain as to which arena would be the one and thus she waited - totally alone save for the scum of the city for their dubious company. [i]I hate my life[/i].

Syphile stood in the challengers' atrium and fidgeted. For an arena that boasted a battle every 10 minutes there were a suspiciously small number of souls in the room. That was probably because these fighters weren't owned by the establishment. Glancing around and studying the assembled warriors, Syphile thought about how she had come to be here.

Begin flashback

When she and the group of 23 humans had entered the city, they had almost immediately split up. The Embiri and Halmes each perused different sections of the market with the coin they were allotted for supplies and Commander Ragnar of the Halme division had sent her off to one of the cheaper armories with the other rookie the group had taken on in past months, Joel Jackson.

Joel was a 23 year old underworld orphan who had decided that it was time to ditch the streets of the city and join the largest multispecies mercenary force in the underworld - the Sarghress. Joel was the young recruit she had seen being beaten soundly by the commander when she had first joined. Now that they were back in the city his cockiness that had earned him the thrashing that she typically withstood had returned.

At least he had something to back it up this time around.

Since Commander Ragnar's crazy scheme for world domination wouldn't start for another hour or so, they had very little money with which to get her some armor. Thankfully Joel knew just the place; you didn't survive growing up as an orphan, let alone a human, on the streets of Chel without learning where to find food, work or some type of protection; Joel had found all three in a small bolt hole in the north quarter of lower Chel'el'susoloth.

Every elf in Chel knows how to use mana. Most practiced it as children because making lights was pretty. After childhood the most typical users of mana were those who sold their power at the mana forges in north western Chel, but every so often, about one in every twenty or so would actually develop their powers as a way to earn a living - honest or not. As it turned out Joel knew an enterprising Darkling in the under-city who had developed a talent for the high art of shape shifting, a rare skill that combined the elements of blood, bone and often, empathy. While it held the properties of none of its composite affinities, it gave a similar and highly useful result.

Consequently the merchants' main trade was in biological products, easily reformed by his unusual skill. Weapons and pieces of armor crafted from condensed bone and carapace hung everywhere on the walls and even from the ceiling; armors of hard and soft leather stood on racks that took up the main floor of the shop and on the back wall behind the counter were squares of material that were labeled to contain various reshaped organs and meats beneath their shiny shells. Joel had found the man when he was young and made a living hunting the large bugs that inhabited the surrounding caverns. The bugs were later stripped of their shells to be reformed into specially tailored chitin plate armor made from the shells of the underworlds large bugs while their various organs and muscles became squares of meat to be sold to other customers. Large and armored though the insects had been, not very many could handle a human ramming a stick through their eyes and into their skull. After purchasing a set of the chitin armor they had proceeded to the alleyway next to the armory.

"Come on Sif, I know a… shortcut." Joel looked hopefully at the young Darkling. She raised a skeptical eyebrow, wary. "It's this way." Without waiting for a reply, Joel took off running down the alleyway. Syphille, running to catch up, muttered an oath under her breath. "Blasted Halme."

After almost ten minutes of running, Syphille caught up to the Halme boy, in a dank water logged ally, out of breath. "Joel, I'm going to kill you for this [i]shortcut[/i] later. Slowly and pain…" she trailed off, seeing Joel standing stock still. He was facing a rather irate looking group of people, among which were a Taurem, a Dwarf, and several burly Dark Elves.

"Fancy meeting you here," Joel said, voice breaking slightly. He prayed that the Darkling girl hadn't noticed. "What brings you to this section of Chel?" He grinned, and slid his hands behind his back, grasping the hilts of his two knives. The largest of the Drow growled.

"You, Joel Clarkson." The Drow looked rather annoyed and ready to bite the Halme's head off. Judging by his size, he probably could. "You have caused us a lot of problems since you joined those [i]War Meat Marines[/i]." He definitely did not sound happy. The Dwarf muttered something unintelligible, and hefted a wicked looking axe. "We should just kill him now, Kal."

"There's no need for that," Joel squeaked. He heard the Darkling girl behind him laugh at something.[i]Please don't let her be laughing at me![/i] He pleaded silently.

"What'd he do?" Syphile spoke up from behind him, "If you don't mind my asking."

"He managed to run out on a debt and survive. Because of this other little shit, clients have been getting it into their heads that they can skip out on debts by hiding behind other organizations. [i]Like the Sarghress.[/i] We've already lost six other losers to them including a special interest of mine…[b][i]Jer'kol[/i][/b]."

"Loan sharks, huh…" Syphile muttered. "You sure know how to pick them, kid."

"Enough talk, back off feral, the human's coming with us." As the group spoke and stepped forward onto the water covered stones Syphiles eyes narrowed and her face turned a deeper shade of black. Whipping out her staff she rammed the rod between the crumbling stones that made the floor of the shallow pool. Joel gazed on in awe as sharp arcs of visible blue white energy sped down the metal pole, across the water and into the group of thugs making them jerk spasmodically.

Syphile wrenched her staff out of the water and turned her brilliant orange glare on Joel. "Arena. Now. No detours."

End flashback

"Hey you," A voice called out, slicing straight through Syphile's reverie "The brat with the orange hair! You're up next; your name's just been given to the announcer." Nodding, she stood up and began to strap on her new armor. Hefting the dark-iron pole she was using for a weapon, Syphile proceeded to the gates, wondering what odds the bookies would give Ragnar on her fight. Standing before the gates she waited and watched as slaves cleared the ring of the dead bodies from the last fight and shuddered.

[b]"Today, my fine patrons, we are presented with a new challenger!"[/b] boomed a voice from beyond the opening gates. [b]"A rare and mighty creature from the moons above has come to the ring of blood to do battle with the toughest scum of the underworld!"[/b] The announcer continued as Syphile reached the center of the pit. [b]"But such daring young travelers should be careful what they wish for, because she has now found herself ambushed by a family of Xuile'solen. Give a rousing welcome for our young traveler, The Storm Fox!" [/b] As the crowd roared its interest there was the metallic thump of a lock being thrown open and the gate on the other side of the arena opened to reveal five 'sightless' of varying ages. Damn. "You have two minutes to place your bets before the fight starts."

"RAGNAR!" Syphile shouted as she crouched down and watched the quintet slowly move along the arena walls to surround her. "If I die down here, I swear by the nine moons, I'll become a poltergeist and haunt you for the rest of your miserable life!"

"I told you it was called the circle of blood for a reason, kid, what did you think it'd be like?" he called back, toasting her from the second story wall. "Besides, you better win. I got great odds on you!"

Syphile's own reply was cut off by the sudden beginning of the fight as a knife wielding child suddenly rushed her from behind. Managing to spin and face her attacker the blades bit into the carapace armor covering her arm. Whipping her staff up, she caught the mutant drow boy in the ribs and sent him sprawling off to the side. Closing her eyes for a moment Syphile ordered Khul to begin actively reshaping and storing her mana as the lightning element. Opening her eyes and resuming the staff fighting ready stance she looked at her charging opponents. It was time to dance.

Glae'dryn looked up from her drink in interest as the crowd began to gasp and shout in excitement. She had heard the announcers introduction but dismissed it as the usual tripe such establishments came up with for such events. A young feral warrior visiting from the moons, Hah! Shoving herself into a position by the wall overlooking the arena, Glae'dryn gazed down on the fight. It wasn't really what she was expecting given the excitement of the crowd and the noises emanating from the pit. For one thing there was very little blood staining the ground or the remaining fighters. For another the lone fighter was NOT a feral.

Looking around carefully, she saw that three of the young girls' opponents were down and she was busy dancing away from, and around, the two adults. Three bodies were scattered around the arena floor: The one in the center was lying down in a fetal position, its hair covering its face, the second was laying against the wall blood slowly leaking from a indentation on the top of her skull, and the third was on the other side of the arena halfway between the wall and the center twitching like a human having with intense brain fever.

There were a few things in common with all of them, their hair was frizzy and still moving of its own accord and each of the Xuile'solen children had multiple burn marks covering their bodies. These were signs of mana arts. No feral had ever had mana, but the bushy tail, furry orange dog ears, and extended canines begged to differ. She hadn't seen any feral with such tails before, but it reminded her of the foxes she had seen the Qin'dalasque riding in her tour of the border city Val'Raveran. There might be something there. Was this some new variant on the drow form? Or perhaps ver'drowendar with partial deformations like the berserkers? Her mind reeling as she watched the young girl trade brightly flashing blows with the older drow outcasts, Glae actually considered the possibility that the announcer had been telling the truth.

Learning the stranger had entered with a group of Sarghress regulars she shook her head and quickly went to the arena office and asked for a messenger bat. If this was her target she might just be in luck, but even if it wasn't this was still something Illharess Shimi'lande needed to know. The Sarghress were sheltering something twisted and impure, it was their holy duty as the Val'Kyorl'solenurn to make sure it was not a threat.

Commander Ragnar, Private Joel, and Private Miko watched the fight unfolding in the pit with glee. They had each placed a months' pay as Sarghress legionnaires on the girl below and the odds were 5 to one against her even with the handicaps for her superior weapon and armor. As it was an unlimited arena that hosted Elvin fights in addition to slaves, mana attacks were allowed, but no penalty had been issued as Syphile's opponents had been Xuile'solen. [i]Too bad for the sightless 'long-ears' that Syphile's attacks were primarily elemental.[/i] Ragnar thought sadistically.

The Embiri, Private Miko, had expressed some worry for Syphile at the beginning, upon seeing she had not only five opponents but that each were carrying a nasty array of weapons and would be resistant to the mana attacks. After the first two went down her worries quieted and she began to watch the match intently.

The Xuile'solen child beside Syphile was down and breathing painfully as Syphile turned to keep an eye on her other four opponents. [i]Damn it.[/i] she thought as she took in the four other opponents and the one lying on the ground beside her, [i]Two more than we've ever had to work with before. Might as well take this one out before he gets his malnourished carcass off the ground[/i] she thought, jabbing the now electrified staff into the side of his head sharply enough to give him a concussion.

Taking a quick glance at their opponents, Khul and Syphile began gauging them as they were being taught. The two adults were the fastest and very likely the most dangerous; the 'mother' held a spear while the 'father' wielded an axe. The boy she had just bashed in the head had been carrying a pair of knives, it was too late to pick them up, and beyond a general knowledge of how to properly use a pair of daggers, they were by no means experienced with them. The closer of the two children looked to be about 18 and was carrying a large war hammer; slow but powerful, she'd likely be dead if it managed to hit her and it would be difficult to block. The farther one carried a pair of small axes, probably meant for throwing, but as they were still in the girls hands it was likely she didn't want to lose her weapons on the chance she might get a hit.

Making a split second decision Syphile shot for the girl with the axes. Hearing her move, the Xuile'solen began to shift their positions to follow her. Upon closing in on the younger girl, Syphile brought her staff whistling around to impact the girls left wrist. Hearing the attack her opponent hissed and tried to lower her arm to avoid the blow. Instead of losing her hand, she lost the axe. The return strike whipped toward Syphile's neck, and she bent backwards at the waist, coming back up in a hand stand, her right foot impacting her opponents jaw in the process.

As the younger drow righted herself she smiled seeing the other girl reeling from the blows accompanying electrical blasts. It was time to end this before the others could get here and put her in real trouble. Leaping forward, an impressive two feet into the air, Syphile brought the end of the staff down on the 'sightless' girls head leaving a massive welt in the hard bony skull. As her staff connected and sent its electrical payload through the girl's body to make sure she didn't get back up for a while, the Xuile'solens remaining axe came around and bit into Syphiles armor, leaving a cut on her leg.

Cursing, Syphile used the length of her staff to vault across a stretch of the arena in the direction of the final Xuile'solen child wielding the war hammer. As Xuile'solen relied mostly on sound to navigate this impromptu act gained her some precious time and distance from the elder sightless. Landing to the right of the mace wielder, Syphille swept her staff upward, aiming to connect with the older Drow's chin. Sensing the incoming pressure of her weapon, the boy swept the haft of his hammer before him, deflecting the blow. Using the momentum from the act the mace wielder spun, bringing the large stone head around in a wide devastating arc. Ducking beneath the blow Syphile backpedalled furiously, avoiding the hammers whistling arcs: right, down from the left, up, from the right again, a quick reverse from the left, again and again. Backed to the arena wall, Syphile raised her staff parallel to the ground to meet the latest blow from above and the staff shattered in the center leaving her with a pair of shorter rods with jagged edges. Falling back against the arena wall, she quickly rolled to the side to avoid another relentless blow from the hammer which shattered against the arena wall. [i]Finally, some luck.[/i] Syphile thought.

Private Joel grinned. At the rate that Syphille was winning, he would be able to earn enough to pay off some of his more serious debts, and still have enough left over to spend on other things. He winced, seeing the Drow girl electrocute her third Xuile'Solen. While he had never been on the receiving end of any type of lightning, it looked painful. Extremely painful, he noted, watching the young Sightless twitch spasmodically on the ground.

[i]Ouch![/i] he winced again, seeing Syphille begin working on the older sightless woman. He made a mental note to never annoy Syphille again in any way, lest he find himself on the receiving end of her ire.

Syphile was having trouble with her two final opponents, he noticed, they were rather inseparable, always trying to maneuver to double team his squad mate. She wasn't giving them an easy time of it at least, for every move they made to preposition, Syphile would scurry the opposite in an attempt to keep facing a single opponent at any given time. [i]heh, looks like she still hasn't gotten used to fighting multiple opponents. How did they even see though?[/i] Joel wondered. He had heard that some of the stronger emberi trained with blindfolds on like the grey 'long ears' did but the graylings had magic eyes on their weapons… such things had stopped making sense to him long ago. There were white elves, grey elves, there used to be brown elves, black elves, spider elves, dragon elves, snake elves and upon meeting Syphile, there were apparently wolf elves. But what were the 'sightless'?

As he watched Syphile catch per opponents spear with one half of her fractured staff and shatter it with the other he pondered the question. What made the sightless different from the other elves he had encountered? Well they had no eyes for one thing, hence the term sightless. They had long prehensile tongues and heavily canine teeth, but so did many elves. Well the teeth anyways, not the tongue. The ears were also a little odd, much wider than they should be and always moving… that was about it. So what creature had all of those features he though as he watched Syphile flip backwards repeatedly, trying to gain some distance from her attackers.

Large adjustable ears, poor or no sight, canine teeth and long tongues… there were numerous creatures like that in the underworld he thought in frustration. If only he had some other attributes to add to the list.

He broke off his musings abruptly as a large blob of white guano fell on his nose from a passing messenger bat. Bats? Bat elves? Maybe… but the dragon elves the Black Dragon Arena was using had wings so maybe not… his thoughts were interrupted again by a flash of light and an explosion from the pit below. Looking around frantically his eyes bugged as he saw the elder male sightless crumple to the ground, a large smoking hole in his chest.

Tlek'gyr was furious.

She and her family had spent the last century living in relative peace in the outer caverns between the bright and the wet air cities of the sighted elves but that had all ended two months ago. Life had been hard for them but they had endured and carved out a fine home for themselves in the deep pool cavern where there were plenty of fish and large bugs near the pool for them to eat, and it was quite satisfying to chow down on a fine meal of leg-worm after a long fight with the beasts.

But it seemed such things were not meant to last; last month a group of sighted elves had come with ropes and clubs and had taken her family to fight in a sandy pit day after day just to be allowed some barely adequate food. Mushrooms of all things - the savages.

She and her family had survived eight fights since then by working like they had hunted, as a family. They would surround their target and start whistling in order to keep 'sight' of their surroundings and their prey. Once they were all in place they would rush their prey from all sides and start stabbing it, never giving it time to recover or focus on a single one of them. But today was different, she could hear it, her family was dying. Jlof'jik, her youngest had attacked too soon and the sighted elf had sent him down screaming. That had been enough to send her into a rage but it had not ended there, her daughter, her precious daughter had fallen next, and then her eldest son.

When she had finally been able to reach the swiftly jumping elf she had abandoned all pretence and attacked her with a savage fury only a mother could manage. So many times her ears had watched the vile sighted elf dodge or block by the barest margins, always jumping and twirling, keeping her mate from helping her, it was infuriating. Finally she had lost her last shred of control and swung her staff around like a club only to have the nasty little girl before her break it. Thrusting the splintered end of the spear made staff at her opponent she watched, her ears twitching in surprise, as the girl fell backwards and kept doing so, all the way across the pit. What was this creature?

As the creature finished moving she and her husband spread out to different points in the arena to avoid the possibility of the girl missing one of them only to hit the other with any attack she might come up with and prepared to charge.

During all of this the figure had not moved from its position. Was it wounded? It didn't seem to be favoring either arm or leg as far as she could hear. Hissing an order to her husband both of them charged. As they neared the halfway point in the arena their opponent stood from her position and threw one of its weapons at her husband forcing him to dodge and slow down. Confused, Tlek'gyr listened to the pole as it spun back toward the opposite arena wall and imbedded in the stonework. It was foolish to throw away one's own weapons and if nothing else the little savage had shown herself to be anything but foolish. Hefting what was left of the spear she prepared to impale the child who had caused her and her family so much pain this day.

As she hurled the shaft at her opponent the girl raised her arms and remaining fragment of staff at Tlek'gyrs husband and a thunderous crack rent the air. As the shockwave of air and sound passed through her body she doubled over, clutching her head in agony. Crumpling to the ground she removed one of her shaking hands from her ears and sniffed it; blood. The sound had broken her ears and made her well and truly blind.

Circle of Blood medical bay.

Syphile screamed as the remnants of the spear were being pulled from the side of her leg. [i]Sharess damn-it![/i]she thought furiously. [i]Shoddy, cheap, piece of shit bug armor![/i] "OWW!" she roared as the bottom portion was yanked unceremoniously from her thigh. "I'm going to kill Joel when I get out of here;" She growled menacingly. "Him and his stupid armorist."

"Now, now." A voice replied coming up behind her. "That's not very charitable of you, now is it? You should at least give the boy a head start while he pays off his debts. He did find you some affordable armor after all." The figure emerged from the poorly lit passage way to reveal a beaming Commander Ragnar. "And by the damage the stuff has taken it looks like you need more training, it saved you a good deep scratch at least four times down here. Not to mention your bright idea to catch that war hammer with your arm." He said tossing the shattered carapace at her.

"You did well out there though; fetched us a pretty ada while you were at it too. It's a pity we can't sell you really, I had to knock heads just to get down here, the passage way was so thick with bidders offering small clans for you that I had to leave Joel and Miko outside to block the passage."

"Oh thank you so much for curbing your excess, I'll be sure to remember it next time you try to bother me for cash." She groused.

"Ah, don't be like that!" the commander mock whined. "I made sure to take out your cut from our winnings." He said grinning and throwing a heavy leather sack at her. "An ada in five from each of us, as agreed."

"It was an ada in four, you cheapskate." Syphile said glaring at him and continuing the game. It was useful for blowing off steam and the man tended to be more jovial when she went along with it, taking more time to teach and less to spar; something she was always grateful for.

"Yes, well, the other ada pays for your continued lessons," came the smirking reply. "Ah ah ah, no using magic on your commanding officer outside of the sparring ring! And how do you even have any energy left after that fight? Never mind, that's not important. We have to get moving; your aunt and her army have turned up outside and indicated that we're to return A.S.A.P. She looked pissed."

Quill'yate Yurun'hiir Val'Sarghress was an imposing figure and knew it. Standing over Syphile, she glared down at her 'niece' as they strode along Chel'el'Sussoloth's under-city streets waiting for an explanation. As she and her Highland Raiders had just returned on the far side of Chel earlier that week from a long five year trek through some newly unearthed ruins on the over world, she had allowed them some time to enjoy themselves at the gladiatorial arenas known as the Ring of Fire.

She and her girls had been shocked to find nearly a quarter of Chel in ruins, but as the story slowly came out from the surviving civilians, their shock has quickly turned to fury. Their last week had been spent giving the bodies of the dead and inedible a proper send off and gathering things of great value for salvaging. The War-Golems she thought should be gathered before the Sharen could come back for them, if for no other reason than to deny the dragons their use.

Quill'yates mouth quirked up slightly as she remembered the salvaging process; transporting the Golems had been relatively difficult before she had found the large violet scorpion Mech. The thing had incredible strength, a long wide back and impressive speed for such a large construct. It had taken her most of that morning to work out the kinks in the basic controls for the droid, but it was one of those times she had been quite happy with the knowledge that she was a battle sorcerer nearly six and a half centuries in age.

This morning marked the end of this salvage run as the pack lizards were full of weapons, armor and the Golems they had collected. The War Golems were ready to go and it seemed they had yet to be noticed by anyone important. A pack of Xuile'Solen had got it into their heads that her troops would make a good meal two days back, but no one had died; well, no one except the sightless family. Carefully disguising the caravan, she had allowed herself and most of her troops some downtime at the local arenas and bars.

She had been happily watching a fascinating fight between some Jaal'Darya changeling and a quintet of Xuile'solen when Laele'aell and two of her Fallen Legion handlers had appeared behind her and informed her of the current situation. Laele had wanted to drop into the ring, kill the gladiators, retrieve the target and dice anyone who got in her way while delivering Syphile home; her Fallen Legion handlers wanted to let the battle finish and extract the girl quietly, they had figured informing her was a convenient way to curb Laele's excess, because mindless as their commander may have become, she still took orders from known superior officers.

Broken from her reverie by Syphiles voice she returned to the present; listening expectantly. Syphile spoke for a long time as they made their way back to the caravan and continued to talk as they sat there, Quill'yates troops gathering around them. The ancient general listened quietly as the young sorceress detailed the trials of the last few months; the Nidraa'chal war, the pressure from the headmistress, becoming changed, the confrontation with her mother, her apprenticeship and subsequent escapes from the embittered Sillice Val'Sharen Sarghress, Her assignment to Ariel and the troubles that supplied her, and finally her relationship with the War Meat and how it had brought her to the Circle of Blood arena. It was quite a story, she had to admit. It wasn't as harsh as what she and many of the orphans of Chel had endured, but it was certainly more interesting than their own early years.

"So what about your new friend, this Khul'shalkrum you keep mentioning. How does he fit into all of this?" she asked. To her surprise Syphile began laughing. Looking back on the girl from her position inside the cock pit of the scorpion mech she saw Syphile doubled over in tearful laughter.

"He is the reason" Syphile gasped out, wiping her eyes and returning her gaze to Quill'yate "that I have come to doubt the sanity of the tainted." Noticing Quill'yates raised eyebrow from the approaching war Gollum she continued more calmly. "He is not my friend but rather my tenant, my seed as it were but for the fact that I am not tainted. It's hard to explain. He's the ethereal that I summoned from the nether realms, but he isn't a demon. He was bound to me during the ceremony but he hasn't spread through my aura. His presence has changed my mana but our energies are separate and seem to be different in nature. Mostly it just gives me a headache when I think about it."

"…Uh huh. Get on, we need to be getting home quickly. Your Halme and Embiri friends will finish their business here without you. We're due back home."

Fighting down her distaste of the area, Warden Glae'dryn followed her target into the ruins of the Nidraa'chal war. Looking around at the rubble, she shuddered. This place gave her the creeps. Picking her way around the rubble she made an effort to stay hidden from the rapidly returning Highland raiders while maintaining a close eye on the young fox girl.

[i]Strange[/i] she thought, observing the Sarghress caravan [i]That such golems should be left to rust. The new demon arts of the Sharen might make them obsolete true; but their worth was still immense. It was a wonder that they were yet to be collected. Truly though, it is a wonder that much of the battle field had not been salvaged by commoners or clans long since. Nearly half the Sharen army had fallen in theses ruins, and several of the Deves houses had completely disappeared here.[/i]

As she watched, musing, she noted the conversation between the darkling general and her target. Interesting, if she could have a conversation with one of their generals, she must have some importance. As she watched the Highland Raiders finished packing up, there was some momentary confusion, a fair number of them were climbing onto the various Golems. Why would they do that? Her answer came moments later when the various groups of Golems began to glow and change shape to become pack dragons. Light sorcery. "It makes a strange kind of sense I suppose," Glae murmured to herself. "If our informants are worth their commissions, the Sarghress raiders often transport highly valuable relics in their caravans. Light sorcery would be a logical step for security. At least with the more sensitive items. But do they hire the sorcerers or train their troops? Most of our information says they don't put much emphasis on the mana arts, it's always been one of the Sarghress weaknesses."

"And so the plot thickens." Came a voice from behind her followed by a sharp pain and darkness.

"And so the plot thickens." Mave whispered into the Drowussus ear before bashing her over the head with the hilt of her ninjato. This was the fourth grayling spy this month she had redirected. Sighing she lifted the young woman onto her shoulder and started off towards the Drowussu fortress. Grunting at the weight, Maeve sighed. At least she wouldn't have trouble acting drunk this time, the girl stunk of enough alcohol to make it seem real and was heavy enough that tripping and swaying wouldn't be much of a problem.

[i]Let's get this over with.[/i]