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Azreal felt burning indignation as he was taken against his will through the winding corridors that made up the Dragon Rider’s home. Only his heightened Elven senses were able to allow him to see the faces of all the fellow dragon riders and apprentices, to be able to see the laughter cross their faces as he was dangling like a damned toy from the mouth of a brilliant white dragon. He knew that if he was walking free then most would dare not laugh at him, his skills with a sword from his training as a Paladin had helped him a great deal, as had his speed, reflexes and strength.

Azreal sighed as he crossed his arms, knowing that it was beyond useless for him to try and struggle against his white scaled companion. He was glad that he had his helm on, even though he couldn’t be mistaken for anyone else, or Navanash in his eyes, he was still grateful that he didn’t have people looking at the annoyance on his face. He knew of Navanash, his dragon’s strength, having had to transport books from the libraries he remembered well how his dragon had been able to carry most of them to help speed up Azreal’s workload. The fact that he was dangling feet to the ground meant there was no way he could twist around to stop his dragon at any rate so he would just have to put up with it. There would be no reasoning with him yet; Navanash was too excited to listen, though Azreal would ensure that once he was put down Navanash never acted like this again.

Navanash normally acted like Azreal did, bearing himself regally and acting how he should. However he was still a young one and would have centuries to learn how to conduct himself properly from Azreal. Azreal was glad that the dragon had grabbed him by his dark chest plate and not actually his shield which was held in place above his cloak on his back, it meant that he would have less damage to his equipment as well as not being accidently dropped and be injured underneath his dragons feet. As his dragon surged round corners, and Azreal found himself being swayed from one side to the next with every turn, every bend, he found himself reflecting upon the last twelve months, his first year as a dragon riders and all he had been taught.

One thing that Azreal had been glad to find out had been the fact that one of the considered tutors to new dragon riders was actually a dwarven paladin by the name of Thadek Hammerhand, a spiritual guide and adviser it almost seemed. Azreal had spent a lot of time with Thadek, questioning him on all manners of things in regards to the order of Paladin oaths that he held, as well as the oaths he had made to Modeus. Whilst he was relieved that Thadek said Modeus would most likely allow them to leave if the orders of Paladins required their aid, or were threatened he also must hold his oaths to Modeus in regard and honour them as he should.

One troubling subject that the two discussed was how they would react if the orders of Paladins, and that of the Dragon Riders ever went to war against each other. Azreal could understand why the Paladins would go to war if they had to, the dragon riders sheltered a number of fel magic users, and he could see for himself that most were learning to further their gifts, an image which troubled him greatly. “What if the orders of Paladin’s unite and declare war on the Dragon Rider’s and Modeus Thadek? Would we honour the oaths that we made as Paladin’s to eradicate evil in all it’s forms and join them, renouncing our oaths to Modeus?” Azreal had asked, aware that he would not like the answer.

“Modeus would give us the choice on which side we should fight with, and which side we should fight against. However if the Paladin’s were chosen to be the side we fought with against the dragon riders, then we would do so without our dragons.” Thadek had responded to Azreal. Azreal looked over at Navanash as the dwarf spoke, he had bonded with his dragon as suspected and wasn’t sure whether he could depart without him if necessary. However he was sure that if that time ever came, and he prayed to the gods that it never did, then Navanash would influence his decision somehow, even if it meant not taking sides but exiling themselves away from the fighting. He would ensure his dragon stayed safe, no matter the cost. None would stand in his way.

Another area he had excelled in with his training was his actual sword fighting skills, Lady Xerxia, the dark elf warrior had been the apprentices trainer in sword fighting. Azreal had stood there and watched as Lady Xerxia had beaten every single one of the other apprentices in such a short amount of time, only Kilaren could last over five minutes against the aggressive warrior, and he could only just manage ten.

Azreal remembered their dance well, it was not a battle like it had been from others, but a dance, to an opponent he was proud to have fought against. The two of them had flowed from one attack into another, moving quickly from attacking to defending. Whilst Azreal knew that Xerxia would probably like to be on the offensive for most of the time he would do his best, meeting attacks with counter attacks until after half an hour the two of them were tiring. After the bout he had remembered Xerxia walking over to him, purring slightly as one hand tentatively stroked his cheek, something he had found odd from the Dark Elf. Being a high elf he found the dark elf way of life very puzzling, sure they lived under threat but they put pleasure above a lot of things, something too which Azreal would never do. After she stroked his cheek she slapped him with the other hand lightly on his face, walking away before Azreal was knocked head over heels by her dragon. Obviously she didn’t like her opponents standing after each bout so in his mind that was the reason that the dragon had knocked him over.
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They passed several people he knew, including Ser Jerome who couldn’t hold back his laughter. Finally when they were outside the great doors to the hall Navanash put him down. Azreal quickly tuned to stop his dragon from just walking through into the hall.

“Navanash, companion. Look at me before we go into these halls and find why we have been summoned.” His dragon complied, lowering his head to the same height of the elf, Azreal marvelling at his dragon’s grace even after what he had just been put through. “What is it little one.” His dragon boomed back, excitement dripping in his voice.

“Navanash, my young friend, I know how excited you are for going on our first mission. I know how it feels as I once felt that thrill myself,” he paused for a moment, cupping his dragon’s head in his hands as he looked directly into his dragon’s eyes. “I understand that you were in a hurry but please do not do that again. You made us both look a little foolish young one, something I am not used to. We are to teach each other as well as learn from each other, do not forget that.” He smiled beneath his helmet before lowering his voice a bit, “Besides I think the other apprentices will get jealous that they didn’t get the ride that I just got, I think most would probably wet themselves.”

Navanash boomed with laughter before replying, “Alright Azreal, I’ll bear that in mind, I forget that it might not be as fun for you. Now that you are done telling me off perhaps we can go inside and find out what mission we are being sent on. It must be a fairly important one.” Azreal turned nodding to his companion.
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The group moved together on their dragons, travelling to help fight against the brutal orks. Azreal had tangled with them in the past, when he was hunting down the damned fel users he had to kill more than his share of orks sometimes, the damned brutes were always looking for a fight. He sat atop Navanash, back straight as they covered more ground then they would walking, though Azreal was certain that he would have been fine walking.

All of a sudden there was a burst from the undergrowth and a person bellowed “Gnolls!” Loud enough for the group to hear. Instinctively Azreal leapt off of Navanash as Gnolls roared and ripped through the undergrowth charging towards the dragon riders. “Stupid creatures have the gall to attack us?! Do they really believe that they can even take one of us down?!” Navanash snarled on his link to Azreal. Azreal drew his sword before turning his attention to his charge, “No they can’t Navanash. Let us show these fools the fury of the dragons.”

Immediately the group drew weapons and began fighting, whether on the backs of their dragon’s or by the side. Azreal chose to fight by his dragons side, his speed allowing him to hurtle towards the enemy at the same pace of his dragon. As fast as lightening Navanash grabbed a gnoll in his mouth, teeth crunching through bone, tearing through flesh as he shook his head back and forth, shaking it like a ragdoll. One Gnoll thought it could take the opportunity to kill the dragon, leaping for its neck with a crude looking mace. Azreal intercepted, sword slicing through the mace arm causing the creature to scream in pain. Landing lightly on his feet Azreal swung his sword and decapitated its head from its shoulder, ducking a second later to avoid a cruel looking blade. He grabbed hold of the dead Gnoll’s mace and while blocking the downward strike from the Gnoll’s blade launched his own attack upwards, mace smashing into its lower lip and knocking it off of its feet. He quickly brought the mace down, burying it in its head so it wouldn’t rise again before Navanash’s tail whipped past him, knocking a Gnoll charging at him off its feet before beating it to death by repeatedly hitting it with the tail.

Standing straight Azreal patted Navanash’s side in thanks before leaping forward to meet his next opponent, Navanash pouncing as well as he landed on two gnolls. He clawed at them repeatedly before bowing his neck and ripping one of their heads off, the other Azreal stabbed through the head before shoulder barging his next opponent. Azreal leapt nimbly away at a hasty swing of the gnolls sword who tried to kill the elf, before planting his blade through its chest, twisting it until the creature went limp. He quickly withdrew his sword and held it ready to fight any others that dared engage him or Navanash.
 

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Ia! Ia! Cthulhu Fthagn!
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1,727 Posts
OOC: Sorry it took me so long, damn, it has been years since I wrote anything, surprised I still know the abc, hopefully, though I am unsure. If it starts with C I think I know it.

The room was a mess, various items lying around, gnawed and broken, valuable furniture tarnished, and in the middle of it all Gresh’Thoth, his own bloody dragon, lay sleeping on Avariss’s broken in half bed. He frowned while looking at all that mess, Gresh’Thoth became a nuisance lately, it seemed that his nature was leaning towards aggressiveness and arrogance while not forgetting to spread wanton destruction when he had spare time. Still he was magnificent, the most magnificent of all the wild beasts Avariss has ever seen, though beast was not the right term, the creature was intelligent, malevolently intelligent.

Stroking his beard Avariss contemplated what of an oddity the dragon was, considering his draconic brothers, he was twice the size he should be, which was enormous for that age, not to mention the unnatural second head, something which was nearly unheard of from what Modeus have told him. Due to him having such a “mutated” dragon it was obvious that he will participate in all kind of dragon debates, from which the most prominent was the effects of fel corruption on dragonkind. In those debates Modeus told Avariss the thing which he sensed alone already, Gresh’Thoth hatched from the very egg that Avariss found on the border of the Dark Lands, obviously he was tainted, the question was how tainted and how it would affect him further, if at all. As if the dragon sensed Avariss’s thoughts he twisted his head sideways and let out a small puff of noxious swamp green gas from his nostrils. The green “mist” which the dragon was releasing had already been tested by Avariss and easily identified as highly toxic and even lethal in the correct dose, now if only he could utilize this for something more than just gas bombs it would’ve been wonderful.

He crossed the room silently, he had to wake the dragon, they had to get going. On his way he passed by a cracked mirror, and he swore he couldn’t recognize the figure which stood infront of him there. He changed a lot during this passing year, both physically and mentally. Arjack’s constant drilling was finally showing results, making Avariss look both stronger and healthier, gone was the overly pale tone from his skin, replaced by a more healthy looking grey, not only that but it also seemed that he was becoming a bit muscular and while he was nothing compared to Arjack , Modeus or even most of his fellow apprentices he was still much more than the slim, twig-like old Avariss. The relentless training with the mad fitness dwarf forced him to get larger robes and cloths as he grew in size, he even began carrying a sword with him since he was forced to participate in Lady Xerxia’s endless sparring sessions, and even though he spent, not most, but all of his time laying on his back and pleading for mercy he still managed to improve his skill and abilities in the art of fencing, slowly learning how to defend, parry and even attack correctly, all considered, he became a moderate swordsman, though still he probably wouldn’t be able to beat any of the other apprentices in a straight swordfight.

As he continued inspecting himself he caught a glimpse of the mysterious purple black tattoos which began covering his arms and chest. It was a thing of mystery which neither Modeus nor Tel’Alarian, the scholar, could explain. Still, while he suffered from this minor imprints he did manage, with the guidance of Tel’Alarian, to minimize visible physical corruption and to successfully slow down the corruption process itself, though his eyes still glowed with a dark green color when he dabbled with the fel arts. Though out of all that was achieved, the thing which seemed to be the biggest success was the subsiding of the Voice, in the passing year it grew weaker and weaker, especially when he didn’t use his powers, and even when he did, it became no more than a faint whisper in the back of his head making his living a lot easier and helping him function more or less normally.

He slowly turned away from the cracked mirror, his figure slowly disappearing. He turned back to the dragon, Avariss’s blanket was laying on top of one of the heads, comically floating a bit each time it let out air. Yet even in this state the dragon did look magnificent, two heads, both horned with shining white horns which easily stood out because of the creature’s unnaturally black scales. Like the horns, the scales themselves shone when light shone upon them, giving the dragon a majestic look when it strode. From where Avariss stood he could see the drake’s rows of sharp white teeth, they looked nasty and menacing, easily able to tear the flesh of some unlucky foe.

Even though the dragon looked strong and in a way beautiful, still, what stood out the most in it, were the two heads. Even Avariss could sense that it was something that was not meant to be, yet he never showed any distaste for it, he embraced it as change, like the one he was going through, nothing remained the same in the test of time, and if Gresh’Thoth was the beginning of a new evolution it was not for Avariss to decide its fate, though, it did became hard to control the dragon when each head thought and fancied different things. Nevertheless, he never complained about it, as far as it concerned him, the dragon could sense, hear, see, feel, and smell twice as better as any of his “brothers”, which gave him an edge in nearly all dragon related things, especially in Sir Mordred’s lessons where the dragon could show it’s smug superiority to his kin, but all those advantage did not come without disadvantages, at least for Avariss. It was harder to control the dragon, more so when on the back of the beast though Avariss didn’t mind, riding on top of the dragon felt like riding on an enormous warhorse which could easily trample over anything or burst his way through a solid wall of granite, and even though Avariss never really tried it, he still liked the thought and could picture it in his mind.

Quickly snapping back to reality Avariss pushed the dragon with his leg, hopelessly trying to force it off the broken bed, while mumbling to himself about the dragon being useless and that it should’ve woken up five minutes ago.

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Dazedly Gresh’Thoth followed Avariss as he led the way towards the great hall. As usual the way from his own quarters was longer then the way of the other apprentices as he preferred the seclusion and feeling of isolation that being away from the rest gave away and even though he walked this way hundreds of times he still found it terrible long and even possibly confusing for one who would not have walked it daily.

The dragon shook both of his heads in an attempt to remove the webbings of sleep from his mind, it followed blindly, through instinct, while bumping into various walls or corners as it went on without making any comment. Obviously whatever the dragon did earlier exhausted him quite a bit.

Avariss had to admit to himself, waking up this lazy and lumbering beast was not an easy task, especially when it was so much larger than the rest of the dragons. The usual pushing and shoving did not help Avariss, not even hitting the dragon with his fist, he doubted the fact that the dragon even felt it. In a vain attempt to wake the dragon Avariss picked up a half broken chair and threw it on top of the dragon, it bounced away harmlessly but did enough noise to rouse Gresh’Thoth’s interest, as it opened one eye slowly and lazily trying to understand where all the noise was coming from. Not wanting to miss the rare chance Avariss hit the dragon lightly on the back with his staff, forcing it to react and move a bit, forcing blood to begin flowing quicker and thus making the dragon awake slowly. Though sadly for Avariss the waking up process did not end there. Gresh’Thoth, realizing that he did not awake naturally look at Avariss with what seemed to be terrible malice, as if he just took away the most precious thing the dragon owned. “Warlock, what is it that you want?” He asked, his tone sullen and unfriendly. “Gresh, Modeus is summoning us, and we answer, this time all dragons need to be present as well.” He replied to the speaking left head.

The unfriendly look passed from the dragons face to be replaced by a curious one, neither of them knew what Modeus wanted and both were curious. “Fine…” Gresh’Thoth replied as it slowly rose up to its magnificent height, “But first, We have something to take care of.” Another voice said which Avariss recognized as the right head, Thoth. “And wh…” Was all that Avariss said before Gresh smashed his head into him, knocking him off his feet while Thoth caught him in the leg with his mouth, and after about thirty seconds of thrashing and tossing the dragon let him be. “Next time don’t wake us up with your stick and chairs, better shout at us or something.” The dragon’s heads said together in synchronization, while both smiling somewhat of a friendly - ish smile which Avariss could not decipher the meaning of, was it truly friendly or terrible evil… He would never know.

Still, at least he managed to get the large brute walking.

The long walk left Avariss with a bit of a spare time which he decided for the betterment of his relationship with his dragon, though before he could speak the dragon already spoke for him. “How is your research advancing? Any new ground shaking breakthroughs?” It asked cynically . Avariss knew what was the research which the drake spoke of, and it certainly was not his interest in the Ancients which he shared with Tel’Alarian. The dragon spoke of something far more sinister.

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It started around ten months ago, it took time to get the materials and books, not to mention real permission from the dragon lord. While Andaleth considered the light and divinity for a cure of the fel corruption Avariss knew that a permanent answer would not be found in life, but in death. He knew that sometimes, one had to work in the dark for the benefit of the light. So while Andaleth “wasted” his time with ridiculous fairy tales of healing magic conducted by priests and healers Avariss turned to a more permanent solution which made him dabble in death. He did not know if Andaleth was aware that he begun experimentation, though he did know that he was part of the original crew to work on it which consisted of Avariss, him, and Modeus. From them only Avariss was left, which pretty much let him have free reign on where the experiments went to, apart from the once in a while check by Modeus to see if everything is up to standards and fine and Gresh’Thoth ever vigilant eye. It was obvious at first that the drake did not like the idea, it was a foul smelling path yet Avariss knew it to be the true way to the cure, with time the dragon grew accustomed and began showing fascination in Avariss’s work, even though he rarely displayed it.

Sadly for Avariss nearly anything he learned had to be done by himself as there was no teacher for such arts. The art of Nercromancy was unspoken of, forbidden, punished by death in most places, considered far worse than the daemonic magic he already used, all in all, Avariss was the perfect heretic, the ultimate villain considering his interests, sadly for the dark his personality contradicted his interests and while he dabbled in the dark he sought to help the light instead.

In these ten months of study Avariss has managed to develop sort of a temporary cure, in a way he managed to use death to create life, but not the unlife that necromancy usually created, he actually managed to heal, to create biological matter, cells from thin air. It only showed him how much of a fool the known world was, by forbidding the studies of necromancy it was slowing down the progress of what some called the healing institute, and while healers focused on restoring, knitting tissue back together, nearly nobody could resurrect a dead person back to normal functionality. What Avariss was doing was far more then healing, he was creating, it seemed that this dark art could be used for life as much as for death.

The idea itself came to him around half a year after he began his research. In his studies he consulted not only books of the dark art but also books of medicine, anatomy, and the research of body structure. From time to time he managed to sneak it a dead animal, first it was rats, then stray cats or dogs, rabbits, frogs, whatever he could find to dissect, yet his most wonderful catch was a living cow, he managed to somehow get her down stairs to his “experimentation cellar, built directly underneath his quarters, locked by two doors and a hidden well with dwarven engineering. Half the cow was fed to Gresh’Thoth to keep him silent, essentially “bribing” him, but more likely because the sight of such a large beast just created a rather large appetite in him.

He then proceeded to study the other half of the cow, and then it struck him, the thought which led to the temporary cure. He should’ve saw it a lot earlier but due to the small sized animals it was hard to vision, but now, when he saw it on a large animal like that… It was an amazing thought yet such a simple one. Most living creatures where structured in the same way, having similar limbs and while some had several digestive systems or more legs or mouths it did not matter, they living functioned the same and thus their cells were always the same, inhabiting the same places.

Necromancy could be used to reanimate the dead, to make a lifeless corpse stand up and walk by some dark means, to achieve that it had to recreate something in that corpse, not just give it will, everyone wills to live but when you die, you die, it had to recreate function, movability, and to achieve that it had to reconstruct dead, rotten cells.

In theory this could be applied to recreate something which was lost, a warlock doesn’t sprout horns without any body changes nor does his skin turn craggy by some cryptic means, it all came down to the alteration of the cells, the use of fel magic was clearly effecting the body itself from within. Altering it to suit the daemonic practice and to create the fel visage. All of this meant that a warlocks body, still had the potential cells to recreate previous appearance, as one could recreate an arm he could instead remove features.

It was somewhat of a wildcard of an idea, Avariss did not really know if it would work, and finding a suitable candidate for his mad scheming would be impossible and as such with the help of Gresh’Thoth he decided to use it on himself, and so they did, the dragon watched as dark nercromantic energies danced through Avariss’s body, slowly altering his appearance, at first the body was twisting, morphing, unnaturally, it was painful and alarm showed in the drake’s eyes, yet Avariss told him to stay put. Slowly he managed to control the growth and regrowth of the cells, slowly and painfully his horns began receding, turning smaller and smaller until they disappeared totally and black hair took their former place, with that done he began morphing the skin, and after about an hour of painful recreation Avariss marched out of the room, terrifyingly joyous, and looking completely normal. This was sort of a breakthrough, in practice, this meant that he could no longer be physically changed by fel magic though the corruption still lingered in his body.

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“Nothing new. The temporary solution still seems to work, yet as I feared it is only temporary. The forces of the void constantly try to take back control and if left unchecked the degradation back to physical corruption can occur twice as fast even thrice. A permanent solution will have to be found.” Avariss said, replying to the dragon’s question, it was not rare that the dragon showed interest in this but it was something they both did not speak of. Especially not in public like this. “If you are asking this because you want a new pair of horns then I think I can make you new ones, or change yours, but that is not the purpose of this research.” He said lightheartedly while hopefully trying to stir this conversation to more positive places. Gresh snorted in a rare display of hidden laughter, while Thoth said arrogantly, “Why would we ever change something in us, we are the greatest creation of the gods, the perfect being, I can understand why you would need to change yourself, but us? Ridiculous.” The dragon was indeed full of himself, and yet so very young as well, he is going to be even more problematic when he grows up Avariss thought to himself.

Slowly they made their way to the great hall where Modeus awaited while making friendly banter on the way. It was good for Avariss to have positive interaction with Gresh’Thoth as they were bound yet their relationship not the strongest of them all, it was kind of a normal one, no love but no hate as well and Avariss wanted, needed, it changed.

It seemed that they were one of the last pairs to arrive, as many eyes turned to inspect them when they entered, each pair of eyes emitting more loathing and hate then the other, he had no real friends here, some even enemies, the closest thing to a friend that Avariss had was Andaleth though even he did not communicate with him too much the passing year. It seemed to Avariss that his dream for a more social life will never be real, his nature and interests shoved people away from him, even among his own kind he was not welcome as most of them showed a more merciless and cruel nature which Avariss lacked. Though in normal society it did not matter what his thoughts and personality were, he was judged primly for what he was, did and practiced. He was surprised that Jerome didn’t lunge at him and stab him five times through the heart with the looks he was giving him.

Ignoring him Avariss strode on, his dragon, Gresh’Thoth just behind him, looking raucously content. It was enough to stay the hand of any would be justice seekers who did not want to face the wrath of the oversized brute. He knew that as much as most of them hated him they hated his dragon even more for what he was born to be. Still, it did not matter, only thing that mattered was that Modeus summoned them and he answered the call as he was ought to.

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He put the saddle upon the dragon, it seemed that they were going on a little adventure, it came to Modeus’s attention that mysteriously a large incursion from the orcs has came upon them from the dark lands, moving into the mining passes and threatening the mountain dwarves which resided there. With that information gathered it seemed that the dragon lord wanted to test his apprentices and send them to battle looking to find why the orcs were driven to attack and if someone was leading them with a darker purpose in mind.

For Avariss the primary goal was to save as many lives as he could, he did not like pointless killing, nor did he feel a great need to kill any orcs but he had no choice, they were threatening the lands which he was now sworn to defend. For him it felt like the orcs were trespassing on his lands, and nobody should trespass on his lands. With this thoughts Avariss quickly returned to his room after the quick gathering, packing food, water, extra clothes and other essentials for the two week journey ahead. Deciding that a robe would not be enough for such a warlike undertaking he took it off, put on a light chain vest which he practiced with, though the term light, should not be used ever when talking about armour. Still, it was better than running naked on the battlefield. He then put his robe back on, took his sword, staff and backpack and went back outside to his waiting dragon. Their trip began.

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They were travelling onwards for two hours already, each apprentice taking care of his own things, talking with who he wanted, doing what he wanted, it didn’t feel to Avariss that they were really a group of apprentice dragon riders, it felt more like a random assortment of people who happened to also be riding big scaly lizards. Gresh’Thoth was mostly keeping to himself and nearly each of Avariss’s poor attempts to strike up a conversation ended in either the dragon ignoring or in it dying out after three sentences. Clearly the drake was not interested in conversation. Instead it was taking in the scenery around them, after all Gresh’Thoth did not go out to the wilds too often and the forest fascinated him.

Avariss used the time to inspect the rest, coming to realize that Gresh’Thoth did seriously outgrow most of them, making him look a lot more menacing though not more mature. As he kept looking around he suddenly noticed that they began travelling slower, for an instant he thought that it was only Gresh’Thoth but as he looked around he saw that the other apprentices were looking puzzled as well. Turning his head back to the dragon he saw that one head was looking upwards while the other inspecting the ground, something was not right, the drakes nostrils flared, puffs of green murky misty smoke coming out. Slowly but surely he felt Gresh’Thoth’s muscles tense, like he was ready to leap, “What is it?” Avariss asked, yet no answer was given.

He was about to ask again when suddenly a whistle filled the air, as if something was cutting through it, Avariss instinctively ducked, and after a second he heard the thud of metal impacting against wood. Turning around to look he saw an arrow protruding out of Jerome’s shield. Before anything could be sad, wild and mad laughter filled the silent air around them, followed by insane cackling and howling, it was an ambush! Before Avariss could do anything he heard the twin voices of Gresh’Thoth in his head, “Gnolls!”.

The warning was quickly followed by droves of hunched, furred creatures, armored in iron and armed with steel, which erupted from the forest like out of nowhere. They were surrounded by the malicious creatures, some standing back while others charging mindlessly forward. A shiver ran down Avariss’s spine, it was a long time since he fought for his life, yet not the first time. Gresh’Thoth seemed more at ease, his large size and bulk giving him confidence which Avariss did not have.

With a large roar the dragon charged forward, carrying Avariss with him. Twin heads lashing sideways knocking two gnolls down on the ground. The dragon viciously tore into them claws and jaws tearing and rending their flesh brutally. The huge brute made short work of them discouraging others from attacking him. Yet it did not seem to mind being attacked or not, Gresh’Thoth was out for blood. Turning around to search for more prey Avariss noticed a gnoll leaping from a tree nearby, intending to slice one of the heads, the momentum of the jump should suffice if the steel was not sharp enough. With a quick mumble Avariss sent a lightning bolt out of his sword, burning the gnoll, his sword dropping and his body falling near Gresh’Thoth. The drake jumped back alarmed about the suddenly falling gnoll. “You welcome.” Avariss mumbled to him. With that said the drake proceeded to tear the gnolls body with its mighty jaws.

Feeling safer on top of the dragon Avariss decided against dropping to the ground like some of the apprentices did. Noticing two gnolls sneaking from behind Avariss shouted to the dragon, “Behind.” Which immidiatly sent the drake lashing with his tail, as mighty as a swinging oak the tail smashed into one gnoll sending him rolling away into a stone rock, rendering him unconscious or dead, while the other one jumped above the deal and proceeded to hit it with its blunt mace. With a quick gesture Avariss immolated the gnoll with a firebolt sending it running away in vain attempts to extinguish itself. As two more gnolls appeared infront of them Avariss cast his shroud of darkness on top of them, confusing them, rendering them sightless as they tumbled in the dark circle in front of him. Reading his thoughts the drake rushed inside running over both will rending and slashing blindly. Something was hit, a squeak of pain and another cry of hurt were heard and afterwards only the sound of teeth against flesh could be heard.

Dispelling the sphere revealed an ugly scene, which included a lot of blood, insides and two gnolls. Looking around he inspected how the battle was going on, looking to see if his help was needed somewhere…
 

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The Emperor Protects
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Kell was already stood in the hall when the call came for the apprentices to gather once again, having been engaged in another of his private discussions with Modeus that they had periodically held over the past year. He had been careful not to draw too much attention to these meetings, passing them off as private tuition with the dragon lord, though the others would have inevitably noticed the amount of time he spent with an individual who he had usually shown nothing but suspicion and insubordination to.

Though arguably he wasn't all that alike to the man that had entered the Hold a year ago. Arjack was the primary cause of the physical changes. He had a particular disdain for the human apprentices and Kell was certain that he worked them and punished them harder than the non-humans. He had long ago lost count of the amount of laps that Arjack had made him run of the holds many winding and twisting corridors, or the countless times he had forced him to run up and down the steep and difficult climb to the Hold itself. He hated Arjack, though not with the same passion and utter contempt that he reserved for the warlocks, one in particular. But for all his hate, the dwarf had undoubtably achieved his task of making him stronger. His muscles were much more defined now, giving him a much more lean and toned appearance, having initially chided him constantly for being 'out of shape', though he still maintained he had been in fine shape, thug begrudgingly admitted he was in much better form now.

Unlike the other apprentices he had spent a significant amount of his time with only two other instructors. Mordred had been an essential instructor, teaching them in the unfamiliar art of fighting from the back of a dragon, which as it transpired was nothing at all like fighting from horseback. He had found it particularly challenging, more so than the others, though the cause of this had been almost entirely down to Typhon and his random and erratic behaviour. Mordred assured him that in time however, Typhon would eventually become more obedient. The other instructor was Lady Xerxia, who although uncompromisingly harsh and ruthless like Arjack, was somehow much more likeable and tolerable. Along with the certain allure the dark elf held, her lessons were also the most interesting and informative to Kell. Though she never gave him any sort of praise, quite the opposite intact, she had nonetheless significantly improved his blade work. Forcing him to abandon his old technique of rapid but blunt form of attack, for a just as rapid but more flowing and elegant style, impressing onto him that sword fighting had much akin to dancing, the dance of death as she would call it.

He rarely spent any time with the other instructors. He would venture out into the wilds with the wood elf Ley'ana, but only when he absolutely had to and when Modeus forced him to. He spent virtually no time at all with the paladin Thadek Hammerhand, having no use for his (in Kells own opinion) misguided and farfetched beliefs and ways. And as for Tel'Alarian, he would have assumed he was myth like many of the other students if he had not seen him numerous times in the library whilst he carried out the task Modeus had set him, which curiously to and outsider never once involved lifting a single book or scroll from the vast collection.

Before he could reflect any further on the past year, he was violently yanked through the air and left to hang upside down whilst the Dragon Lord looked on with amusement. He twisted in the air to look at his assailant, already knowing full well who it would be. Of all the changed within the year, Typhons had been the most extreme. His growing size, strength and most of all unpredictability had been rapid and filled with many of these occasions. He often thought Typhon took a perverse sort of pleasure in successfully ambushing him, though he developed a certain awareness and guard against these 'attacks', this had only spurred the young dragon into more dedicated efforts. Some of them had been truly ludicrous and baffling. With a sigh of exasperation he requested Typhon to drop him, having learnt that demanding or ordering the dragon was never met with any success.

He had spent many nights with Modeus and the other shadow apprentices, the self styled nickname those who had shadow dragons game themselves, discussing the temperament of the mysterious dragons, along with their as of yet unexplained ability to disappear entirely into shadows and sometimes when there were no shadows to see as soon as they left your field of view, somehow managing to appear in other locations without any logical explanation.

As he shifted his attention from Typhon to his fellow apprentices who were entering the hall, he was unceremoniously dropped onto a table, crashing through it as he landed, still wearing his armour from the days sparring with Xerxia. By the time he sat up and surveyed the wreckage, Typhon had of course vanished.

Groaning he picked himself up in time to see Avariss arrive. Amongst all the changes that had occurred over the year, the one constant had been his loathing of the creature now in front of him. Though he noted with alarmingly curiosity and suspicion that the warlocks horns had disappeared and his complexion had take on a semblance of normal. Far from reassuring him that the warlock might have changed his ways, the rapid change only managed to reassert his beliefs about Avariss and how much he would dearly like to cut him down where he stood.

Modeus quickly explained his reasons for gathering them together and gave them their first mission as dragon riders, assuring them that he would keep his eye on them through his own means, meaning that they would for the first time in a year be let out of the Hold without the Dragon Lord or any of his instructors. They then all headed out of the hall to fix their reigns to their dragons and ride forth from the Hold. It was with little surprise that Kell found Typhon already waiting with his battle harness already attached.

A few hours of traveling later they were brought to a sudden halt by their dragons, who took to suddenly sniffing the air, poised and alert for threats. Kell climbed down warily from Typhons back, fully expecting the drake to disappear within a moments notice if they were attacked. A tense few moments went by before an arrow whistled in to strike Jeromes shield. As one the dragons yelled out their mixed cry of warning and anticipation 'Gnolls!'

Kell immediately took off to their left flank, noting that his dragon had predictably vanished, though he wasn't at all concerned, knowing that for all his behaviour, Typhon wouldn't dare abandon him in a real fight. A group of gnolls rushed out from the tree line to greet him and he skidded to a halt, quickly appraising their numbers, seven to one. "What lovely odds i've managed to find myself" he muttered under his breath. As they charged forwards he drew his pistol, fired it and smoothly holstered it in one fluid and rehearsed motion. Yet again, for all his hate of Arjack, he had gone to great lengths to repair his notoriously unreliable pistol and restore it to full working order. The gnoll he had shot crumpled to the floor giving the others pause, though he knew it would be short at best before they worked out he wouldn't even almost have time to reload. Quickly drawing his dual swords, he faced them with a relaxed posture, arms hanging loosely at his side.

"Well, come on if your coming" He said to them with a grin. Two of them had the good sense to draw bows and arrows, but before either of them could so much as notch their arrows, a monstrous shape pounced from the shadows behind them. Typhon grasped one in his powerful jaws and almost tore it in half as he violently shook it back and forth. Grinning as the odds were restored easily within his favour, Kell leapt forwards in a whirlwind of blades to engage the shocked creatures, joining his dragon in killing all six of the remaining gnolls.
 

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Andaleth : Striking out with your flaming blades cutting down any Gnoll that dares come close to you or Sirrush you feel slightly uneasy as something isn’t right here though you are not entirely sure what it is yet as Gnolls have not been known to attack such heavily armoured groups unless they themselves have some form of monstrous allies. As you ponder this you find yourself beaten to the answer as two lumbering forest trolls crash through the tree line and into the group with massive clubs in their right hands either made from the tree’s themselves or a large pillar of stone. Knowing that only fire or strong acid will be enough to kill such monsters you try to make your way close to them before you hear the deep dwarf Salas shout out to you with a warning. Whipping your head around and activating your mage-sight you see a build of arcane power that is primitive yet powerful at the side of where the trolls had come from, changing your sight back to normal you see a hunched and red robed Gnoll wielding a skull topped stuff that blazed with arcane power raise its free hand to the sky before screaming words in its primitive language. As it brings its hand down you see lightning gather around its hand and know that you must counter such a spell before the Gnoll spellcaster known as a Shaman has a chance to use its powers on Salas who is still picking himself up from getting hit by a minor version of the spell. As you form a counter spell in your mind (either actually a counter spell or just using your own lightning) you decide to leave the trolls for now as Avariss is with Azreal, Kilaren and Kell and he too knows can command Fel Flames, while you deal with the shaman Sirrush seems content to guard your back raking his monstrous claws across chests or removing heads from their shoulders with powerful blows. (I would suggest you yourself deal with the shaman with the help of Salas while leaving the 5 Gnolls attacking you to Sirrush. For a ‘wizard’ duel you can either pm me or we can talk about it over msn.)

Azreal : Turning around to face another Gnoll that would of attacked you from behind you see it fall flat on its face with a sword sticking out of its back, you notice that the blade belongs to Kilaren who is now fighting his way to retrieve his fallen blade before he takes his place next to you to fight side by side as his dragon moves off to join Narvanash is decimating any Gnolls that attempt to get passed you and Kilaren to try and attack the others from behind and you can’t help but smile as the white and gold dragon seems to match each other perfectly with each of them knocking wounded Gnolls to the other for them to finish off. As you fight back to back with Kilaren you turn your head to see him intercept a blow from a pike wielding Gnoll that was meant for your back as you then turn to put your shield in the way of two arrows that would of buried themselves in Kilaren’s unprotected right side. Fighting to keep each other out of harms way both you and Kilaren you feel at ease with his Dark Elf by your side as unlike Avariss he is not a practitioner of Fel Magic and as your thoughts turn to the Fel Art you can’t help by feel slightly sick as your mage-sight see’s Andaleth and Avariss beginning to unleash their terrible power, before you can do anything you hear deep thunderous foot steps coming from the forest infront of you and turn to see the giant lumbering form of a forest troll crash its way through the tree’s to stand before you with what appears to be what remains as a tree trunk clutched in its scaled right hand. This is something you, Aussir, Narvanash and Kilaren will have to work together to defeat. (I suggest talking with Ramo at how best you will deal with this threat and remember that you are fighting a troll so it’s a tough opponent, no one shot killing it.)

Jerome : Lashing our from the back of your Oberon with your blade you keep your shield raised as several more arrows thud into its metallic surface with a couple bouncing off completely, while being mounted gives you an advantage of those Gnolls trying to attack you from the ground it still makes you a prime target for those Gnolls who are using bows. Jumping from the saddle you raise your blade above your head and bring it down upon a rather small Gnoll who is wearing a rusted iron helmet and wielding a pike with your blade making an audible crunch as cleave its head in two. Kicking the Gnolls corpse away from yourself you turn to see Oberon hit a charging Gnoll with the back of his left claw sending it slamming into a tree with a deep crunch obviously either killing it or having broken its back. Turning away from your dragon you see a large brute of a Gnoll with a notched and rusted axe try to take off Endras’s dragon’s tail and quickly move to intercept it flicking out your blade to sever its right wrist to make it drop its axe and as you hear Endras thank you the brute turns its head to face you as its left arm shoots out and its large meaty fist connects with the side of your helmet sending you sprawling onto your back as your ears ring from the blow. (Finish off the brute you are fighting though remember you are slightly dazed, like everyone else you may only kill another 5 Gnolls between you and your dragon.)

Avariss : Turning from the scene of carnage that Gresh’Thoth created you see that Kell is trying to take on six Gnolls by himself as his dragon, Typhon, has disappeared again. Thrusting out your left arm you immolate one of the Gnolls that charges towards the human warrior before you make your way over to him quickly cycling through the spells that you know in your mind to deal with the Gnolls though given the look on Kell’s face he isn’t too happy with you helping him and even less happy about the way that you are doing it. Finally stepping next to Kell you turn to your left to see that Andaleth and the dwarf Salas have now engaged what appears to be a Gnoll wizard of some form given that he has a skull topped staff which you can see blazes with arcane power along with being dressed in robes. Shifting your attention back to the Gnolls you see that Kell has already dispatched two of them with efficient strikes that have cut open their throats and is now proceeding to attack the other two but before you are able to join him something crashes through the tree’s behind the Gnolls you and Kell are attacking. From behind the Gnolls both you and Kell see the monstrous scaled form of a forest troll and clutched in its scaly left hand is a massive section of stone pillar covered in old blood and rusted chains, letting out a deep roar it smashes its make shift club into the Gnolls infront of it before it makes its lumbering way towards you and the human, at a quick to your right you are able to see that Azreal and Kilaren are beset by another troll aswell. (You and Kell need to work together to kill the troll, obviously it will take more than 1 update to kill it. Your dragon can focus on killing another 5 Gnolls if you wish or help fight the troll.)

Kilaren : Dashing back into skirmish you find yourself fighting side by side with Azreal the Paladin as Aussir moves to join Narvanash, Azreal’s dragon. Fighting beside Azreal you can see why Lady Xerxia praises him so much as each of his blows is perfectly measured to kill with the least effort required but also has the strength to make sure every blow is fatal, you can’t help but wonder why it is there are so few Dark Elf Paladin’s if there are any at all, perhaps you could ask Azreal if he knows any when you eventually make camp. Turning your mind back to the task at hand you move Huron to intercept a blow from a Gnolls pike that would have cleaved into Azreal’s back and in turn his shield takes two arrows that would have hit you in right side. While you and Azreal constantly keep each other our of harms way both Aussir and Narvanash are like two solid walls of gold and brilliant white though now their snouts and claws are coated in blood of the Gnolls as they rend and tear at any of the foul creatures that seek to get past you and Azreal to go and attack Kell and Avariss from behind. There is something about fighting beside such magnificent creatures that calms you though you are slightly annoyed that you had only cleaned Aussir a few hours ago and now she is completely filthy. As you continue to fight both you and Azreal hear deep thunderous foot steps coming from the forest infront of you and turn to see the giant lumbering form of a forest troll crash its way through the tree’s to stand before you with what appears to be what remains as a tree trunk clutched in its scaled right hand. This is something you, Aussir, Narvanash and Azreal will have to work together to defeat. (I suggest talking with Ramo at how best you will deal with this threat and remember that you are fighting a troll so it’s a tough opponent, no one shot killing it.)

Kell : Throwing away the Gnolls corpse that was in his mouth Typhon grasps another two Gnolls in his front claws before he rears up onto his hide legs and falls backwards into a tree’s shadow disappearing from sight and amazingly taking his two victims with him leaving you to fight the Gnolls infront of you. Charging towards to meet them you see dark green flame shoot from the left of you and immolate one of the Gnolls charging towards you and only now do you notice the foul feeling of sorcery being used by Andaleth and Avariss and that it is Avariss who was the one who decided to ‘help’ you and because of this you can’t help but spit on the ground and curse quietly as the dark elf warlock joins you at your side as you neatly open up the throats of a Gnoll wearing patchwork leather armour and another wearing chainmail that is wielding a heavy wooden club. As you charge forward with Avariss to meet the remaining four Gnolls in honorable combat, if these wretched creatures knew anything of honour you and Avariss along with the Gnolls stop as you hear loud crashing thunderous steps approaching from infront of you in the tree’s. Taking several small steps back your lower jaw opens in shock as you see the monstrous scaled form of a forest troll and clutched in its scaly left hand is a massive section of stone pillar covered in old blood and rusted chains, letting out a deep roar it smashes its make shift club into the Gnolls infront of it before it makes its lumbering way towards you and the dark elf, at a quick glance to your right you are able to see that Azreal and Kilaren are beset by another troll aswell and for now there is no sign of Typhon meaning you have to rely on Avariss and his wretched unnatural dragon. (You and Avariss need to work together to kill the troll, obviously it will take more than 1 update to kill it. Your dragon can focus on killing another 5 Gnolls if you wish or help fight the troll.)

Endras : Leaping back into the saddle of your dragon Jadeus lashes out with his right claw again managing to completely remove the head of one of the Gnolls in a fountain of gore before he wheels around to allow his tail to lash out and knock a further three to the ground as you line up another target. Given that there are arrows still being fired from some of the Gnoll archers you decide to help your fellow apprentices by picking them off with your own archery skills. As you and Jadeus continue to focus on taking out the archers you do not notice a very large brute like Gnoll wielding a notched and rusted great axe come charging out of the woods from behind you until Jadeus has already turned to the side and you catch it out of the corner of your eye as it goes to bring down its axe upon Jadeus’s tail. However before the axe falls the human knight called Jerome intercepts the Gnoll by severing its right hand at the wrist forcing it to drop its axe, letting out a sigh of relief that Jadeus won’t lose some of his tail to the Gnolls you thank Jerome from the back of your dragon before turning your attention back to the forest as you hear heavy foot falls coming closer but as you try to work out what sort of creature could be making such thunderous footsteps your attention is pulled back to your current task as one of the smaller Gnolls manages to get passed Jaedus and leaps up onto his back as the foul creature attempts to claw and bite you as it has no weapons. (You may kill up to another 5 Gnolls between yourself and your dragon during your post.)

Salas : As you lay about the Gnolls with your hammers you decide that it wasn’t at all wise to leave the group to try and scare them as the entire force of the Gnolls could have ambushed you and the rest of your fellow apprentices would never of known what had happened to you until it was too late. Cursing at your own stupidity you and Rolkaus burst from the tree line to aid your fellow apprentices with Rolkaus leaping into the air and crushed three Gnolls beneath his bulk as his head whips around to take off the left arm of a Gnoll with his mighty jaws. Charging down the small slope into the middle of the group you crash into a group of four large brutes all wearing heavy armour and wielding great axes that appear to be in good condition. Thanks to your size you are able to weave through their clumsy swings as you crush knee caps and shatter pelvises with mighty blows from your hammers and as you pivot on your right foot to bring your hammers to crush the chestplate of one of the brutes still standing you are throw off of your feet and onto your back several meters away as a lightning bolt slams into your chest from an unknown direction. Pushing yourself to your feet you shake your head to try and clear the stars from your eyes and see a hunched and red robed Gnoll wielding a skull topped staff on the edge of the clearing cackling at you, you know better than to fight magic by yourself so you call out to Andaleth to warn him of the shaman. (In this post I expect to see you shouting to warn Andaleth about the shaman, like the others you and your dragon can kill a maximum of 5 Gnolls between you.)
 

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OOC: Sorry all for the late post.

Aseer grabbed his bow from its pride of place, taking care to ensure that the bow string was tightly bound and that the wood held firm. Satisfied that it was ready to prove itself in battle, the archer deftly slid his weapon across his shoulder, proceeding to fasten the relatively thin, but light, leather armor that he had come to so easily put his faith into. A child-like grin couldn't help but be plastered across Aseer's face, and he would've sworn that he'd be humming to himself if he hadn't had some semblance of self-control. For too long he felt that he'd been cooped up in the hold, performing endless training sessions and practices; true, Lady Ley'ana often lead expeditions into the forest surrounding the hold, and Aseer had to concede to the Wood Elf's mastery of survival in the wild, but a hunting trip simply couldn't compare to a bandit hunt, or a real mission as a dragon rider for that matter. Aseer grudgingly admitted that his skill at the bow had improved considerably under the mysterious rider's tutelage, whereas once Aseer could hit a moving target a number of dragon's lengths away, now he could hit thrice as many in half the time; regardless, the archer still questioned what good his steel-tipped arrows would do against a truely monstrous foe, he doubted they could even hope to pierce a dragon's hide. Alass, Modeus seemed to have the answers to everything, and Aseer had already thrown his lot in with the Dragon Lord, for good or for worse. Aseer had also spent much of his time with Lord Mordred, discovering that firing atop a dragon was a mighty feat within itself, in addition to even hitting one's target. Originally, the bowman had thought that it would be akin to fighting from horseback, but to his dismay, Aseer found that the two were radically different: a horse was a beast, and a rider could control it and utilize it as an object, a tool to further his aims, whilst dragons were intelligent beings, and, especially when still in their youth (and, so Aseer believed, especially if they were particular stubborn red dragons), often contradicted the instructions of their riders, or outright ignored them.

Aseer had notably less love for his other two instructors; the dwarf, Arjack Ironfist, was a cruel master and although Aseer had kept himself in shape, defying his noble heritage, he had struggled under the instructor's grueling regime. Regardless, Aseer had to admit that the laps became easier, and that his body began to build itself, and eventually he found himself doing extra exercises in his own spare time, although he'd never admit his pride in the success to the dwarf himself. However, it was Lady Xerxia that accounted for much of the pain which Aseer had become so accustomed to waking to. The Dark Elf seemed to take sadistic pleasure in causing her students suffering; she seemed to embody what a Dark Elf was imagined to be by children at the heart of the empire, a puppeteer that revelled in dominance over others. True, Asser had never found himself more apt at swordplay, but he still couldn't bring himself to trust the lithe figure.

With the fluidity of skill, Aseer swung his his full quiver over his shoulder, placing it alongside his weapon. However, in the process he found his eyes locked on the graceful creature that had come to dominate his quarters over the past year. Seraphim had grown drastically over the course of the year, from being able to rest on Aseer's shoulder to easily being taller than he even whilst laying on her forearms. The drake was in the process of grooming herself, the act in itself both seemingly innocent and menacing at the same time, the ferocious claws more than capable of rendering flesh from bone, and her mighty teeth capable of crushing both. “Something on your mind little one? You seem so lost in thought that you have missed three of the buttons on your leather jerkin.” Aseer was pulled back to the moment to find the elegant form of the dragoness regarding him with sly amusement. Aseer lighted at the sight of his companion, "And you would appear to have missed a speck of sheep's blood...just over there." Seraphim growled at the stubborn stain that had resisted her attempts, scowling at it in defiance. Aseer laughed despite himself, Seraphim seemed different to the other female dragons he had managed to corner into a conversation, they were predominantly maternal and caring in tone, whereas his companion was always toying, stubborn and almost arrogant, reminding the archer almost of an Elvish maiden. With lethal claws and a tail capable of felling a tree, of course. “Come on, you’ll just have to go through the motions again when you have your next meal, and I doubt Modeus would be quite so understanding if we show up late.” The dragoness grunted in mock indifference, raising to her feet, only just able to fit within the suddenly tiny space of Aseer’s room. “And what of Andaleth? I hear he has finally emerged from whatever project he and Modeus have been working on.” Aseer grinned at having been reminded of his comrade, but he had to admit he was somewhat suspicious as to what he and the Dragon Lord got up to in their seemingly endless forays into their respective labs, or the daunting cavern of the Hall’s library, he didn’t completely believe that cure to fel corruption was the whole plan of the Dragon Lord, he was rarely so clear cut. Regardless, Aseer hadn’t raised the question to the warlock, in no small part due to their meetings being few and in-between over the past few weeks.

“Aseer, my friend, come in come in. What can I do for you?” smiling at his friend, Aseer entered Andaleth’s room, which had only been a minor detour through the twisting walkways of the Hall. “It’s good to see you too Andaleth. You too Sirrush. Any idea on why Modeus would finally get us back out into the world again would be appreciated, but I fear that you're just in the dark as me?"

Andaleth shook his head in respone to Aseer’s question, "True I know little more than you, but if you ask me it is quite annoying to be uprooted after so long in the castle with less than a days notice. I have so much to do, experiments that need my attention." Aseer almost groaned at his friend, almost grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him till he came to his senses. Judging by his own reaction, Aseer judged that Andaleth’s drake felt much the same. "Yes, yes, I know that you have no problems galvanting off into who knows what, but I swear, I would rather stay here with my books."

Sirrush shook his head, turning his gaze in Aseer's direction, a conspiratorial cant to his great head, "I apologize for Andaleth Aseer. Why he would rather stay here, his nose in a book, than be beneath the open sky, I cannot fathom. Quite the change from the adventurous thief that entered the castle a year ago don't you think?"

Grinning, Aseer followed the dragon’s lead, "I can't help but agree more!" The sound of scraping scales accompanied Seraphim as she leaned into the room, fixing Sirrush with an accusatory stare, “Don't encourage him” Seraphim had already made it clear to Aseer that she felt no need it going off in some adventure, apparently contented to be the master of the local food chain, although Aseer was not wholly convinced she was not merely putting on a show, "Adventure, fine maidens and freedom," Aseer cried, ignoring his drake’s hard gaze, " not to mention the inevitable damsel in distress that will fall head over heels for her heroic savior. One can only keep a man with a dragon locked in a mountain for so long."

Andaleth shrugged his shoulders and sighed in resignation, a slow smile creeping over his face though at Aseer's comments, "Well, when you put it that way.... I suppose that I can part with my books for a few months. As far as my research goes I am waiting on letters from several mages and priests before Modeus and I can continue. A jaunt through the country and a good fight or two would not go amiss I suppose..... Provided there is a pretty maiden involved of course." Slapping Aseer on the shoulder, Andaleth cried in a dramatic tone of voice, mimicking his friend, "Come you rapscallion! It seems there is mischief afoot and I would hate to miss all the fun."

"Haha, I knew I could sway you!" Aseer laughed. Seraphim gave a slight snort and rolled her eyes in disbelief, turning on her fellow drake, "Oh look what you've gone and done..."

Andaleth went on to fill Aseer in on his ongoing research, and Aseer his friend on his own pre-occupations since their last meeting;

"Good to know you've kept yourself busy. But I must say I don't fully understand, you of all people surely cannot fall to taint, and you are extremely powerful in the arts, you and I both know this to be true. So why do you, as well as other fel users, refrain from utilising your power? Would you not use a sharper blade or a stronger bow if one was handed to you?" Aseer queried his companion, a question he had asked often before yet still had not received a satisfactory answer.

"Each time I reach for my magic Aseer, it is like poisoning myself slowly, bit by bit. Each time the Fel power courses through me I can feel the temptation to take more, to do more, despite the fact that I know that it will lead me to damnation. It is no simple tool for each time you use it, it takes a small part of you and turns it into something that is not you. It is like dipping your hand into a pool of water contaminated with oil. Removing your hand, the water will eventually dry but it will leave a film, a contaminating residue on your skin." Aseer frowned slightly, noticing his friend’s discomfort at the thought, "One that you can never wash off."

Gesturing to the blade that rested comfortably over his right shoulder, Andaleth continued, "It is as if I every time I drew my sword I had to consider the possibility that it would turn on me. That it would attempt to maim and disfigure me. Not a pleasant prospect." Andaleth gave a wave of his hand, and Aseer respected the hint that the subject had been closed for now, "Now, enough about me and my studies. What have you been up to over the last several weeks?"

Beaming at being able to recount his own exploits, Aseer jumped at the chance, "As a matter of fact, I just returned from the woodlands; Lady Ley'ana managed to convince the old Lord to let us out for a few weeks for a nice grand hunt!" Grinning at the memories, Aseer continued, "A few weeks independent in the wilderness with nothing but one's guile to survive! Mind you, I probably ate better than that preserved rubber we are told was once meat that you got shoved down your gullet back here!"
By the time the duo entered the hall, a number of their compatriots had already gathered, Aseer noticed Jerome amongst others and nodded a greating, a man who had potentially changed the most amongst them, a far cry from the self-centered pampered child of nobility who first entered the Hold; admittedly Aseer didn’t believe that nobility could truly be left behind, the son of a duke had lot of connotations, but Jerome was a trustworthy friend and companion, if not an entirely modest one. Aseer also spotted a number of apprentices who he did not know as well, one wood elf, Endras was his name, the archer had come to know from his training with Lady Ley’ana. They had shared only a few words at most, but Aseer had respect for the being’s skill; although he still could not shake a certain suspicion of the secretive race of elves, he had heard of a good many friends having lost comrades who were ambushed by Endras’ kin deep within the tree line. Avariss too was present, Aseer wouldn’t go as far as to call the warlock a friend, and he knew that others’ would most likely never do so, and he himself had his doubts about the man, still easily remembering that one evening in Modeus’ study. However, despite his withdrawnness and secluded behaviour, Aseer believed that the fel user was on their side, and if a war was truly on its way, then the archer hoped that he could count on the warlock to fight on his side.

The assortment of dragons and riders set out not long after Modeus detailed their mission; Aseer had no qualms about facing the orks, and finally felt like he could put his training as a dragon rider to some proper use. However, Modeus’ comments about a possible greater power commanding the orcish armies left him with a sour taste in his mouth, and a suspicion that they could well be walking into something greater than they expected. The steady march and movements of Seraphim and the rest of her kin became background noise to Aseer, and despite conversing with his drake, he spent much of the time deep in thought, so that when the pace of the dragoness suddenly shifted and the shattering cry went up, the archer reacted with instinctive precission and reflexes. “Gnolls!” Within a second Aseer had sighted one of the hideous beasts that ran screaming towards himself and his drake, by the time another had passed an arrow had drilled itself into the creature’s thick skull, felling it where it stood; another shot claimed the life of a creature before it had even had time to recognise the death of its comrade. Then Aseer truly snapped back into the scene, events fitted into place in his mind and he consciously took control of his actions, “Seraphim, slay them where they stand.” The only answer from the dragoness was a mighty roar as she threw herself into the fray, the sight of an enraged dragon causing hesitation amongst even the tiny brains of the Gnolls, one of their ranks could hardly comprehend the intense pain as the drake’s powerful jaws closed around its head, whilst another let out a cry as an arrow burrowed itself into its arm, before being silenced with a dagger protruding from its chest. Aseer skilfully notched a fourth arrow, but before he could release it the beasts were upon them. Unsheathing his blade, Aseer swore as he struggled to put Sir Mordred’s training into practise; Seraphim, noticing her rider’s trouble, deftly swung around, showing grace for a being of such size, the impact of her tail upon the Gnoll extracting a sickening crunch as its bones shattered under the force. “Three for me.” Boasted the dragoness as the squeals of yet another of the monsters was silenced beneath her foot, before Aseer loosed a shaft into the Gnoll archers that cowered in the tree line, grinning at his drake, “Four.”
 

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The Emperor Protects
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Kell looked over to see Typhon toss a severely dismembered Gnoll away, glad to have the drake at this side for once. The thought had barely formed however when his enigmatic dragon seized another two Gnolls and vanished entirely with them into the shadows.

"Typhon!" He yelled out in exasperation "Get back here right now dammit! Typhon!" The dragon would be the end of him, he was certain, and the situation seemed to agree with him as he now stood in the midst of a large group of Gnolls, heavily outnumbered. Even as he moved to slay more of them, one burst into flames. Not any natural type of fire though. Sickening green fire, coupled with a foul odour and sense of corruption.

He turned his head to see Avariss and Gresh'Thoth moving forwards to aid him, somehow knowing it was going to be Avariss and not Andaleth.

"What are you doing here warlock?" He asked with a snarl. The corrupt sorcerer was the last person he wanted help from, him and his freak of a dragon.

"It looks like you need someone to even the odds here. There is no need in such hostility kell, I am here to help you, there is no time for this petty rivalry in times like these"

Kell merely glared at him contemptuously as he decapitated another Gnoll with a vicious lateral swing, ducking low to thrust is other sword into another of the howling creatures. Too easy, suicidal even. He looked back at the warlock "Just make sure you stay out of my way, I can handle these gnolls just fi-"

His next few words were cut off however, as large creature came crashing through the trees. Scales covered it's monstrous vaguely humanoid form, it's meaty hands clutched around the remains of a stone pillar, spattered with blood and gore, as well as an oddly melodic sound from the blood soaked chains wrapped around it. The worst thing about it though was the stench emanating from it, preceding it like a wave on the water.

"Well, it seems that gnolls wont be the only thing in need of handling here..." Avariss remarked just as the monster let loose a deafening roar.

"Well now…is that…is that a troll?" Kell stammered, incredulity written across his face at the sight before him, having never seen a troll in his life, he could only guess from the tales and stories he'd been told by other mercenaries and travellers in an inn round the fireside.

Avariss snorted in contempt at his question, raising his ire "I guess you humans don't have much experience when it comes to actual danger... Yes, this is a troll, and if we don't act fast it might as well kill us."

Kell still smarting at the warlocks remark quickly formed a rash, yet enticing plan in his head and nodded at the warlocks words "Agreed, this would be one of those times where we have to put aside our differences. You move in and distract it, i'll make my way round behind it"

Drawing his sword in a manner that made Kell struggle to stifle a laugh, Avariss and his accursed dragon stalked forwards towards the troll, "You do realise that my speciality doesn't lay with my extremely superior melee fighting skills, right?" He asked, his tone dripping of sarcasm.

"Of course" Kell remarked causally, as he slowly drew his pistol and aimed it at the advancing warlock "In fact i'm rather counting on it" The pistol then roared, bucking back in his hand, a puff of flame erupting from the end as the round traveled the distance between them in a blink of an eye to hit the unsuspecting warlock.

Kell frowned however when the shot only managed to strike his arm. He looked at his pistol in confusion as the shot 'missed', holding it up to his face in concern.

Avariss rolled away from the troll gripping his arm where a hole now appeared. Turning back to Kell his eyes were full of green devilish flame along with a sickly green tinged glow coming from his arm wound "I swear Kell, I swear in the void that if this wasn't a mistake, I will feed your soul to the demons and incinerate your body, hopefully sending it to the damned thing which gave birth to you." He says in an explosion of kept in anger and rage

Kell blinked at the threat, swallowing hard, a moment of rare uncertainty and trepidation briefly flickers acrossed his normally confident features.

Regaining his composure he shrugged at the warlock, dismissively waving his pistol "Of course it was an accident. I missed!" Hoping the warlock wouldn't pick up on the double meaning in his words. "Everyone knows how faulty this is" He bluffed, privately hoping no one else knew the pistol had long since been repaired.

Narrowing his flaming eyes Avariss waves his hands, elaborately, muttering words while looking at Kell directly, his eyes open up even more, pools of dark green flame engulfing them as his body glows with sickly energy, with a loud thunderclap the energy leaves his body, twisting through the air, travelling, until finding its place on the various weapons which the party uses, including Kells and his own weapon.

"I hope for your own sake, that you have a semblance of honour left in you. I really hope that you don't give me any reason to question your words..." With that he would turn to face the troll, pointing at the beast with his sword as suddenly dark green lightning erupts from it, striking the troll and charring his skin where it hits.

Quickly drawing his now flaming swords before he caught fire with them, Kell glared at the warlock "These better go out after this!"

He charged at troll, as it staggered from the lighting assailing it and blistering its torso. He managed to inflict a score of hacking slices and cuts onto the troll, but still struggled to penetrate its thick hide. He desperately ducked to avoid the trolls weapon, only allowed a moments triumph before the trolls other fist hammered into his chest, punching him back by its other fist a good ten meters before he slid to a halt.

Winded he managed to struggle to his feet again "Might have to revaluate our attack plan warlock"

"There was never any plan, it's a shame that you humans lack any of the agility we elves tend to have." He snapped at Kell, derision clear in his voice "We are two, we would just have to wear it down, you are good with those two daggers you are using, keep harassing him, get his attention, I'll do what I do best, destroy him from afar. If you need I can send Gresh'Thoth to help you if he won't tear you to pieces"

He looked over to the two headed dragon, even just looking at it made his skin crawl, dragons should never be so corrupt. Where the hell was Typhon when he needed him.
 

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Jadeus glared at Endras for a second, his eyes stony and commanding. Elegantly, Endras jumped forward, even as he sheathed his sword, and tucked into a roll that flew over a gnoll’s swung weapon and sprung from it. The move took him to Jadeus’ side, and he leapt astride easily, standing atop the swaying dragon and compensating for the movement as a sailor does aboard a rocking ship, as the dragon swung his right claw out, the gore-coated, rock-hard nail slicing easily through a gnolls skin and bone to sever the head, resulting in a fountain of blood spurting six feet into the air and covering the dragons head. The consequence was an even more ferocious appearance as Jadeus’ emerald-moss-green scales were lined with the red-black blood of their enemies. Immediately after this, Jadeus’ turned on the spot, the move so quick it almost threw Endras off his back. ‘We need to practice this more ...’ he thought quickly, before pulling an arrow from his quiver and drawing the bow, trying to sight a target. He heard the sound of bones breaking as the dragon’s thick tail threw more enemies to the ground, before the wyrm roared his anger.

A primitive metal arrowhead flashed in the intense sunlight, and the elf tracked it to it’s source, still stood atop the green dragon’s back. A few gnoll archers stood further back from the main fight, in the shadows of the trees at the side of the road. Endras snorted; clearly they thought they couldn’t be seen. “Stupid creatures,” he muttered, before taking a deep breath and taking aim, holding the breath. He held his shot, waited until the perfect moment, and when he was sure the shot would hit, he released both breath and arrow at the same time. Within seconds, he had another bow knocked and drawn, and saw that there was one less archer. A smile touched his face, and he sat back in his saddle as Jadeus took an armoured gnoll between his teeth and bit down, crushing armour, bone and organs. The dragon then spat it out and growled, “Tastes completely vile.”

Endras’ smirk grew wider, and he took aim again, this time loosing his arrow almost immediately at an archer who had moved between the faux-protection of the shadowy woods, an easy shot for the elf, who’d spent so much time practicing in the last year that the bow was an extension of his body, like another limb. The dragon turned again, and out of the corner of his eye he spotted monstrous creature, like a gnoll but larger by far, erupting from the woods like one of the boars he had hunted in the woodlands around High Dragon Hold. The weapon it grasped in its huge, powerful hands was filthy, rust and dried gore staining the blade so it glinted vilely when it caught the light, and notched from long, hard use. He kew instantly he’d seen it too late; even his quick reflexes wouldn’t allow him to knock and arrow and loose it in time; the beast’s axe was already raised, aimed at Jadeus’ tail. “Jadeus!” he yelled, the horror clear in his voice.

The muscles of the larger creature bulged and tensed, standing out against the thick skin, a testament to the power it bore. Endras reached for an arrow, knowing it would be too late but determined to kill the creature anyway, but as he did so, the right hand was severed, the axe dropped - the blade embedding itself deep into the loamy soil, the thick haft pointing accusingly at the beast - and a sigh forced itself between the elf’s teeth. Relief spread throughout his chest.

“You have my thanks, Ser Jerome!” he said before Jadeus’ leapt upon another gnoll, tearing into it with claws and teeth, bearing Endras away with him. He glanced back and saw Jerome thrown to the floor by a blow, but when he got back to his feet, the wood elf allowed himself to focus on his own fight. They had come closer to the woods at the side of the road, and Endras eyed a branch above, which he had decided to leap up to, and take better stock of the situation from the treetops when dull, heavy footsteps resounded, loud and threatening, through the shadows of the trees. Instantly, he thought of all the creatures of Ela’Amnor who could make such noise, trying to decide which he would rather it was, when a screeching gnoll drew his attention, scrabbling up the back of Jadeus, clawing and biting. Endras balled a fist and punched the creature’s snout, black blood exploding over his hand even as the Gnoll’s claws scored lines on his armour. He took an arrow from the receptacle on Jadeus’ saddle and stabbed the point through the Gnoll’s eye, the jelly running down the wooden shaft sluggishly.
 

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Unfinished Project King
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His short sword, glowing flames roaring, held in a reverse grip, slashed across the belly of a Gnoll that had thought itself fortunate to skirt away from Sirrush's flashing claws, the gaping wound low on the belly and deep, its insides spilling out around its feet as Andaleth sidestepped its headlong rush. Behind him he heard the grinding crunch of Sirrush's jaws clamping down on a wretched specimen, its squeals of pain muffled as as its head was enveloped in the dragons gaping maw.

"More approach, Andaleth," Sirrush said, a look of disgust passing across his amber eyes as he spat the Gnolls torso on the ground. Putting his back to his drake's side, Andaleth watched as more Gnolls poured from the woods, their numbers seemingly endless. Raising his hand, crackling lighting flew from his outstretched fingers, the blackened corpses of two more beasts falling heavily to the ground, Andaleth mused at the Gnolls actions. Normally it was out of character for semi-intelligent creatures such as these to attack heavily armored parties, let alone a party that had dragons in their midst. Something was amiss and a feeling of unease began to creep into his spine.

His moment of pre-occupation almost cost him as a poorly made sword, inwardly curved and covered with rust and filth flashed before his face. Jumping to the side, his longsword came up to parry, catching the things return strike near the hilt of his own blade. Andaleth forced his arms up, the creatures blade pinned in between his own, pulling the thing off balance, exposing its mid-section. Launch a heavy kick into its stomach it faltered backwards, feral anger on its face as it once more rushed at him. Its movement was forestalled as Sirrush's tail, serpentine and agile, whipped around the creatures core, heft if from the ground and threw it back towards the woodline.

Andaleth's feeling of unease disapated as the creature soared and collided not with a tree, but with the hulking form of a forest troll. The massive beast had pushed its way through the undergrowth, only to have a half dead gnoll strike it in the chest. The troll roared in indignation and brought a heavy foot down on the helpless creature that had fallen at its feet. The troll, who was joined by another of its kind, hefted its heavy treebranch club, sighted in on the main body of apprentices, its beady eyes narrowing as it started forward. Andaleth quickly sheathed his blades, trusting Sirrush to protect him, the intent of his spell already froming in his mind. Trolls had amazing regenerative abilities, fire or strong acid the only way to insure their deaths and, Andaleth thought with a devious smile, fire was something he had in abundance.

The heat of his spell was coursing through his body, his eyes blazing with the pulsing light of his magic, he turned to assist his fellows in dealing with this new threat. His first step had hardly fallen when he heard a shout of warning, a gruff voice calling to him, caution permeating its tone. Wheeling back around, his hands wreathed in the flames that he had called to him, he saw the dwarf, Salas, picking himself up off the ground, the armor on his back still smoking, his hand outstretched pointing. Following the Dwarfs motion, he sent his arcane senses questing, searching, something about the surroundings suddenly putting him on the defense. His gaze found an eddy of power, primal, savage, its pulsing rythm strong as the tide, as fierce as the wind, as everlasting as the trees that stood around them. Stepping from what remained of the brush where the trolls had emerged, was a Gnoll, hunched and bent, clad in a robe of deepest crimson, draped with animal pelts and strings of bones, carrying a staff topped with the skull of a man, its empty eye sockets glowing with crimson light, the focal point for the beast's power. Its other hand, empty and clawed, stretched to the sky as if trying to scratch the sun, jarring words of its primitive language shouting to the heavens as it called lightning from the sky, the flickering energy collecting and writhing around the outstretched appendage.

Andaleth felt nothing but calm surety. This had been one of the moments that Modeus had been preparing him for. Letting the flames die from his left hand, he held it out, the words of the couter spell in his mind in an instant. He shouted to the dwarf, "Salas. I will take care of his magic. See if you can flank him, get around to his blind side and strike when you can!" The dwarf nodded, before setting of in a wide circle, getting himself out of the Shaman's view.

Facing his opponent head on, Andaleth shouted, "Come beast!" His challenge clear in his voice, doing all that he could to distract the Shaman from Salas' course, "test your might against me!"

In answer the Shaman let his bolt fly. This was not the precise strike of a mage or a warlock trained in his arts, but the raging attack of a feral beast, its power unchecked. The bolt of lightning forked out from its staff, splitting and careening in all directions as it blasted along its path, setting tree limbs a lite with smoldering flames, cracking the very rocks at Andaleths feet. Drawing on that connection with the earth, grounding his own magic in the very bedrock below him, Andaleth caught the spell, its power arcing around him in a circle as the power of the strike found its way safely to the earth. His hair stood on end, the wild power of the Shaman's spell still coursing around him, Andaleth let loose with a strike of his own, his hands collecting the sparking power that still flowed around him, he sent that energy, laced with his own Fel power arcing back at the Shaman. The difference in the spells could not have been more pronounced. Where the beasts spell had raged uncontrolled, Andaleth's was precise, surgical, focused at the very heart of his enemy. He heard it cry out and watched as one of the charms that rested around its neck caught fire, falling form the necklace where it rested, the reaching tendril of Andaleth's spell following the charm to the ground. A talisman it must have been, a protective amulet, for the beast appeared to be unscathed.

Refusing to let up, Andaleth punched his fists out in rapid alternating succession and from them with each motion flew a fist sized ball of searing flames that rocketted towards the Shaman even as Andaleth moved closer, his steps following the rythm of his spells. He watched in amusement as the Shaman began to twirl its staff around itself, the glowing eyes of the skull leaving a pattern of energy in the air, a protective web of power that formed around the beast like a sphere, causing his balls of flame to richochette away at every angle, setting even more of the surrounding forest to flame. Andaleth was closer now, a mere 10 feet separating him from his quarry. He stopped moving, planted his feet wide, his balance sure, he called to his power. It felt as if his blood were on fire with the heat of the magic he called forth. Behind him he was barely aware of Sirrush dispatching even more Gnolls, their dying screams barely cutting through the roaring torrent of the magic that coalesced around him. He was surrounded by flames, fire, blazing with the light of the noonday sun, swirled around him, the heat causing the Shaman to take a small hastily planted step backwards. With a cry, Andaleth flung his hands forward and with that motion a wave of searing flame flew from his outstretched hands. It rolled over the Shaman, its cry of pain and surprise, shrill and panicked, rang out from inside the flaming torrent. Something in Andaleth told him that despite appearances, this fight was not yet over.

As he let the Firestorm die down, he watched, amusement mixed with determination as clawed hand, the fur seared from it, the skin on the back of the hand pink and angry shoved its way out of the conjured fire. It was quickly followed by the beast's body, its robe tattered, shredded, smoldering and in some places still a lite with the flames of Andaleth's spell. "A worthy opponent ended," Andaleth thought. "Sirrush," Andaleth called across the mental link to his drake, "Keep the Gnolls at bay my friend, it appears this is going to take longer than I anticipated." Sirrush did not answer verbally, but his roar broke over Andaleth, its primal fury invigorating him.

Once more he called forth a flow of magic from the well of Fel power at his core and all around him, flashing across the clearing, lightning sparked and arced, gathering in intensity and power, waiting to be unleashed at the beast before him with an effort of Andaleth's will.
 

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Ia! Ia! Cthulhu Fthagn!
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Gresh’Thoth was conveying a great sense of joy and pride as he feasted upon his handmade gnoll steaks, Avariss looked at him with mixed feeling, he was glad that the dragon could finally let out his anger and negative emotions on something other than Avariss but it was also kind of disturbing at the same time as the dragon seemed to take great pleasure over what he has done. He turned away from the spectacle that was Gresh’Thoth and looked around, nearby he noticed Kell trying to take out six gnolls by himself, his dragon was nowhere to be found yet that seemed to be Typhon’s specialty, disappearing.

He knew how disliked he was by Kell, hated, was the more correct word, it was as if each time they met Kell would just gaze at him and imagine how he would tear him to pieces. It was not a mutual feeling though, as the year passed Avariss managed to distance Voice away, and after all, it was Voice that created their initial hatred, he hoped that with time Kell would grow friendlier towards him, or at least, respect him. He hoped he won’t be sorry for helping Kell.

Fire coursed through his left arm, he thrust it upwards and the fire crawled to his palm, dark green snakes slowly twirling against his hand as they made their way to his extended hand, curling his fist he let all the serpents crawl inside and then focusing on the gnoll closest to Kell he unclenched his hand letting the fire escape. In a blink of an eye the Gnoll burst in dark emerald flames, it began running around helplessly at the flames scorched his body, crawling around him like a living being, finally the charred corpse fell on the ground, steam rising from it along with the stink of sorcery. A moment later Gresh’Thoth raised his head as the smell of charred meat reached his nostrils and like a bullet he charged towards the dead Gnoll while plummeting into another one.

Several quick strides brought Avariss close to Kell. Unsurprisingly he was greeted by the snarling hard features of Kell, as he moved closer the warrior snapped at him a quick question about why his whereabouts are here. “It looked like you needed someone to help even the odds here. There is no need in such hostility Kell, I am here to help. This is not the time for some petty rivalry.” He replied to Kell with honesty. The warrior looked at Avariss with a disdainful gaze and turned back to decapitate another Gnoll. Avariss quickly noted that Kell was not someone he would like to engage in physical combat that’s for sure. Disembowling another Gnoll Kell snarled at him to stay out of his way as he could handle the gnolls alone, but just before the dual wielding fighter could finish his retort a clamor rose from the trees around them as a huge brutish looking troll crashed through the forest to face them.

It was a bulky looking monstrosity, covered in dirt and mud which nearly hidden its scaly hide. Beneath those scales immense muscles could be seen, each of his arms looked like a tree trunk that with one swipe can smash one into a bloody pulp. In his right hand the terror held a stone pillar covered in rusted chains, muck, and old blood. Avariss could not figure out if the troll has escaped captivity or just never bothered removing the chains from the makeshift club he used, looking at Kell he said, “Well, it seems that Gnolls won’t be the only thing in need of handling here.” As if to strengthen the argument the huge creature let out a ground shacking roar.

Kell stammered, he has clearly never seen something like this, yet to Avariss the troll held no surprises, he saw worse thing in his life as a pariah, and if this troll stank like a cart full of dead Kell would just need to wait and meet a corrupt troll near the border of the Dark Lands. Kell stuttered as he was about to speak, his speech coming out as a shaky question, “Well now… Is that… Is that a troll?”

What a stupid question that was, of course that was a troll, one could even know it by reading folk stories, not many creatures answered the description of big humanoid tree trunk looking scaly brute. Snorting in contempt Avariss answered, a tiny bit of sarcastic anger in his voice, “I guess you humans don’t have much experience when it comes to dealing with actual danger… Yes Kell, this is a troll, and if we don’t act fast it might as well kill us.”.

Snapping out of his state of confusion Kell nodded to Avariss and said that this is one of them times where they should put their differences aside. As if having a plan he ordered Avariss to move towards the front of the troll and distract it while he sneaks on it from behind. He narrowed his eyes in suspicion, Kell seemed way too cooperative, still, maybe, he realized, just like Avariss, that it was a time of danger and that they needed to work together to survive.

Avariss muttered a fine and fumbled for his sword very unskillfully, he wasn’t used to using it yet, and drawing a long sheet of metal wasn’t his best skill. He saw what would remind him of a smile on Kell’s face which quickly disappeared, he realized what Kell was thinking of his martial skills, which wasn’t a surprise considering that they were pretty poor. At any rate, the troll did not know that and hopefully him waving a sword in front of it would be enough to draw it away and distract it.

Undesirably he edged towards the troll tossing out a half assed sarcastic phrase, “You do realize that my expertise doesn’t lay in my extremely superior melee fighting skills, right?” To which Kell answered casually with an “Of course.” Satisfied Avariss moved closer to the stinking pile of humanoid shaped meat which stood above him. Something bumped into his right arm, taking a look he saw Gresh’Thoth; it seemed that the dragon was close enough to him to actually stand by his side when the need was there. He smiled reassuringly as if he knew what he was doing and then was about to proceed to charging into the troll when a deafening roar was heard, he glanced at the troll and saw that it wasn’t it and as he was about to turn towards Kell, a sharp pain hit him in his arm forcing him to cry out in pain.

He rolled away from the troll, he heard Gresh’Thoth in his mind, asking if he was ok, he was fine yet the pain was immense, as he rolled he felt the leaves and ground penetrate his flesh where a new hole appeared, this would have to be healed and bandaged, Avariss knew enough about medicine to realize that the wound could become much worse if it was contaminated by the wild setting around them. Finally out of the troll’s reach he looked at his arm to access the damage, he could fix it with some necrohealing but he could not risk doing it here as the pesky paladins would smell the taint of death on him. He looked back at Kell trying to figure out what it was which struck him.

As he turned he saw Kell’s pistol, smoke rising from it, that vermin, he knew he could not trust him. Kell’s action justified Avariss’s distrust towards other races. His anger was rising quickly and uncontrollably, his powers thriving from the negative energies, as if the void was inside him, his words coming out acidic and full of rage, with each passing moment he filled with more and more emotions, betrayal was one of the strongest that he felt. As the dark energies coursed through him he sensed the blood flow from his arm stopping, he watched as a sickly green glow was emitting from the pistolwound. His eyes were flaming with hatred and anger, his body glowing with fel energy he rose to his feet, he addressed Kell, his tone dripping with venom and hatred, “I swear Kell, I swear by the void that if this wasn't a mistake, I will feed your soul to the demons and incinerate your body, hopefully sending it to the damned thing which gave birth to you.”. He never realized he had so much anger inside of him.

For a moment Kell seemed to waver, uncertainty and fear covering his regularly confidant features. It was just a moment, but a moment was enough. He knew that Kell feared him; he despised him because he feared him, and deep inside, in some twisted domain it made Avariss proud. The human seemed to quickly regain his composure as he shrugged and claimed that it was a mistake and that everyone knew that the pistol was a faulty thing. It seemed to be hardly fitting for someone to create a whole plan around a faulty machine but Avariss let it slide, Gresh’Thoth calming him down and explaining that now would be a bad time to fight Kell.

Not wanting to let the energies go to waste Avariss focused; he used the already created energies and tapped into them, empowering them. It seemed that Avariss’s body was answering the call of the void, as it responded well to the stored energies; his eyes became pools of dark green flame, bottomless pits of dark energy. His whole body glowed with fel magic. Forcing the energy to flow to his arms he let it out with a loud thunderclap, the energy leaving him and travelling like flying serpents through the air, finding their place in the various weaponry that the party used. “I hope for your own sake, that you have a semblance of honour left in you.” He spat at Kell. “I really hope that you don't give me any reason to question your words..."

With that said Avariss turned away from Kell, pointing his sword at the troll he focused the remains of his energy at the edge of it and sent a lightning bolt at the troll, the dark green lightning hit the beast and charred its skin. The smell of burning hair and skin was strong in the air. The troll staggered back a little and like on que several gnolls emerged out of the woods around them to support their bigger comrade. “Deal with them.” Avariss muttered to Gresh’Thoth, sending him away to hunt the approaching reinforcements. He would deal with them easily.

He heard Kell shouting over the commotion of battle about reevaluating their plan. Remembering the plan which revolved around the pistol Avariss quickly snapped at Kell, “There was never any plan to begin with, it’s a shame that humans like you lack the agility we elves tend to have.” Sending another lightning bolt at the troll he continued, “We are two, we would just have to wear it down, you are good with those two daggers you are using, keep harassing him, get his attention, I'll do what I do best, destroy him from afar. If you need I can send Gresh'Thoth to help you if he won't tear you to pieces". With that said Avariss backed off, leaving Kell to face the brute heads on.
 

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Azreal turned like lightning when he heard a gnoll behind him, spinning on the spot with his blade held low, cloak furling behind him. As he turned he watched as the Gnoll that would have stabbed him in the back fall flat on its face with a blade sticking out of its back. Azreal noticed a sword sticking out of its back, the blade unmistakable to him as he had sparred against it so often. The blade belonged to Kilaren who moved over towards him to retrieve his blade.
Azreal pulled his blade out of the Gnoll’s back and wordlessly handed the sword over to him. He offered no words of thanks, he would have been able to kill the Gnoll by himself. He simply nodded his head as Kilarn took place next to him as the pair prepared to fight the oncoming Gnolls with their dragons.

The two dragons looked regal together, completely deadly. The shimmering Gold of Kilarn’s dragon and Navanash’s brilliant white scales shining as the two played around with the Gnolls, wounding them before throwing the wounded ones to the other dragon to finish off.

Azreal removed these thoughts from his mind as he turned his attention back to the Gnoll’s at hand, fighting alongside Kilaren with speed and grace that few could keep up with. The two of them fought as one, Kilaren intercepting blows that were meant for Azreal, as Azreal did the same for his fellow apprentice. Azreal did appreciate that he had the fellow high elf at his side, Kilaren being one of the few that Azreal felt more at ease with, and to his credit Kilaren could keep up with the paladin, unlike the humans and other members of the squad.

The best thing about Kilaren was that he was completely unlike Avariss, and that he did not practice the arts of Fel magic, something that he loathed over everything else. It didn’t help that Azreal’s mage-sight could see the two fel bastards, Andaleth and Avariss begin to unleash their terrible power.

Before Azreal could turn and deal with the two of them he could hear thunderous footsteps lumbering out of the forest in front of the group. Instantly Azreal knew it wouldn’t be anything good and held his position, flexing his grip on his blade as their new foe approached. A forest troll crashed its way through the tree’s heading towards Azreal and Kilaren and their dragons. Clutched in its right hand was a tree trunk that it was obviously going to use as a club.

Azreal turned to regard Kilaren, Aussir and Navanash. “We have to work together to take this beast down, me and Navanash shall distract it from the front, Kilaren, if you can get behind it with Aussir then we may have a chance. What do you think?”

Navanash stared coolly at Azreal as he responded privately to him, "Azreal this course of action is rather risky, especially for one as small as you. I could probably take a hit or two from the troll, but I'm not sure how you could handle a hit."

Azreal placed a hand on his dragon's side before responding, "The troll has to hit me first Navanash. I have fought things far worse than this beast before and remained pretty much unscathed. Do not worry about me I shall be fine." He turned back to Kilaren for his reply.
 

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I could see why Azreal was praised by Xerxia, I really could. Every blow was perfectly timed, using exactly the right amount of force to end the life of those he duelled. It was almost as if he had measured the force needed for a killing blow, he was so precise in his movements. There were no wasted strokes, no weak lungs; no second chances when fighting a swordsman of his calibre

We danced in that welter of blood and death, while Navanash and Aussir tore Gnolls apart with their claws and fangs. I intercepted a blow from a pike that would have plunged deep into Azreal’s back had Húron not been there to turn it aside. As I drove her through that Gnoll’s chest Azreal’s shield intercepted arrows aimed for my back. Our fight was full of occasions like this where we each saved the others life and all through it Navanash and Aussir were blurs of white and gold with claws and teeth red with blood.

I could not help feeling some disgruntlement at this. After all I had been cleaning Aussir only a few hours before and now her scales were more crimson than gold. But at least she was still living, still fighting. There was something calming in fighting in the presence of such magnificent creatures, something fulfilling. It enhanced my skill, that calm. It made me react faster when my mind was not clouded with emotion, made me think faster and more logically.

Then I felt the pounding beneath my feet as the troll rushed onto the road, headed straight for myself and Azreal. I gripped my sword tighter and felt joy, joy at the sight of such a challenge “We have to work together to take this beast down, me and Navanash shall distract it from the front, Kilaren, if you can get behind it with Aussir then we may have a chance. What do you think?” Azreal’s voice penetrated my reverie and I spoke myself only a moment after he was finished.

“There is nothing else we can do with the time we have my friend.” Then the troll finally reached the road and I spoke so quietly that none could hear me over the beast’s roar. “Let the blood that stains my hands finally be washed clean. Please...”
 

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Discussion Starter #312 (Edited)
Andaleth : The Gnoll shaman infront of you lets out an angry hiss before the hiss becomes a cackling howling laugh as he charges towards you in an ungainly swaying run as the glowing eye sockets on the tip of its staff blaze with more power as it howls syllables in its odd language. The Gnoll then stops several feet from you and thrusts the head of its staff out towards you as the glowing eyes of the skull unleash several crackling red lightning bolts towards you which you easily counter with your own lightning but before you are able to call upon another spell the shaman charges forwards and begins swinging its staff at you as it grips it in both of its paws, you can clearly see that there is still red lightning gathered in the sockets of the human skull and that it would be very unwise for you to allow him to land even a single hit as you do not know what kind of powers the shaman has at his disposal or even what kind of power is trapped within that staff. Now the staff is closer however you can see faint arcane lines etched into the human skull but they are too precise to be made by any creature such as a Gnoll which brings you to the conclusion that this staff must of belonged to a warlock or mage of some kind before it someone found its way into the paws of this filthy Gnoll. Now that the shaman is trying to engage you in melee you have the advantage of your training from Lady Xerxia to call upon along with your Fel magic, you are confident in yourself to decide to try a pure blend of Fel Magic and swordsmanship against this shaman. (You are free to kill the shaman in this post if you wish Midge and as usual we can work out something over msn, for now Sirrush just has Gnolls to deal with so you don’t need to post much for him unless you wish to.)

Azreal : Charging forward to meet the troll head on you easily jump to the right as its brings it massive tree-club down in a two handed strike that shakes the ground and throws up dirt into the air, even with your full plate armour on you are easily quicker than a stupid monster like the troll, smiling to yourself under your helmet you duck under another swing of its club before you roll towards the Troll and bring up your shining blade to cut into its scales which for you is like trying to cut into several layers of chainmail and while you manage it as you withdraw your blade to dodge back from the trolls fist you see that the wound you had inflicted has already started to heal. As the troll turns to face you Narvanash darts out from your left and slams into the troll managing to rake his claws across its head and even manages to gouge out the trolls right eye before nimbly jumping away from the troll as the brute attempts to punch Narvanash in the ribs. As you and Narvanash continue to face about the troll at the front you see that Kilaren and Aussir have managed to get behind the troll and have started to attack it aswell scoring some deep wounds but the trolls regenerate is just too quick to allow you to deal any lashing damage but now that the troll is constantly spinning around in circles it is unable to decide on who to focus its anger on. You will need to come up with a plan on how to deal lasting damage to the troll with the help of Sirrush, Kilaren and Aussir. (When you and Santaire figured out how to deal lasting damage to the troll between the two of you, you can heavily wound it.)

Avariss : Evening as you tell Kell to deal with the Gnolls you see the inky black form of Typhon bursts from the shadows and lands upon the trolls back as he digs his claws into its tough hide as his head whips around jaws open to size the troll by the back of the neck but the Troll merely lets out an angry bellow before grabbing Typhon behind the head with its free hand and wrenches your dragon off of its back and with an awesome feat of monstrous strength hurls the shadow dragon into Gresh’Thoth. As the two dragons snarl and snap at each other as they try to untangle themselves you see the Gnolls charge towards both of the dragons but your focus has to remain on the troll clearly thinking the dragons can take of themselves. Mentally skimming all the destructive spells you know you realize that lightning will not be enough to combat the troll as such monsters can only really be hurt by fire and acid though while you have a small vile of acid in the potions bag at your side you highly doubt it will be enough to kill the control so you will have to focus on all of the fired based Fel magic that you know. As you start to spit out the syllables for a Fel Fire Storm to catch the smell of burning and see that Andaleth has set part of the forest on fire in his duel with what appears to be a Gnoll shaman but quickly push such distractions to the back of your mind as you focus on the troll infront of you. As you continue to speak the incantation of your spell Gresh’Thoth joins you with both of his jaws covered in Gnoll flesh and blood having dealt with those who sought to attack him. (Gresh’Thoth is yours to control in this update as dragons are pretty much resistant to fire so use that to your advantage, between you and Kell you can heavily wound the troll.)

Kilaren : As Narvanash and Azreal charge forward to keep the troll occupied you and Aussir slowly make your way behind it trying not to catch its attention while easily killing any remaining Gnolls that attempt to attack you or sneak up on Azreal and his dragon. As you move around behind the troll you look out across the forest trail to see that your fellow apprentices are either finishing off the Gnolls, with Kell and the warlock Avariss trying to bring down a second troll with the help of their dragons with the other warlock Andaleth engaged in some form of magic duel with what appears to be a Gnoll shaman which in turn has set fire to some of the surrounding forest. It seems that Andaleth has no concern for collateral damage and what it could mean if the fire spreads and you can clearly see concern for the forest written on the face of Endras the wood elf. Finally getting behind the troll you and Aussir start to launch swift strong attacks against its back and you find trying to penetrate the scaly hide of the troll is like trying to cut through several layers of chainmail and that any wounds you deal to the creature start to heal over within moments of you withdrawing your blade. Trying to remember the old tales of trolls you recall that only fire and acid can hurt these beasts and you let out a sigh remembering that all your dragons still have another year of growth before they are able to breathe fire. For now you, Aussir, Azreal and Narvanash carry on attacking the troll forcing it to spin around wildly as it can not concentrate on which of you to attack. You will need to think of a way to deal lasting damage to the troll and then you remember that the forest is on fire. (When you and Ramo figured out how to deal lasting damage to the troll between the two of you, you can heavily wound it.)

Kell : As you think of Typhon you catch a glimpse of two glowing red eyes coming from the shadows created by the tree’s behind the troll before the lean inky black form of Typhon bursts from the shadows and lands upon the trolls back as he digs his claws into its tough hide as his head whips around jaws open to size the troll by the back of the neck but the Troll merely lets out an angry bellow before grabbing Typhon behind the head with its free hand and wrenches your dragon off of its back and with an awesome feat of monstrous strength hurls the shadow dragon into Gresh’Thoth. If the troll has been using its full strength when it had punched you it could of easily crushed your ribs but luckily for you it must think you’re not even worth its full strength. Turning your attention from the two dragons which are now snarling and snapping at each other with their fangs as they try to untangle themselves from each other you look back at the troll and try to come up with a plan of attack that won’t see you running into a suicide mission to give the damned warlock time to unleash more of his cursed spells. Having no better idea other than to try and distract it you start to move towards it as Avariss unleashes more of his Fel magic you see the large monstrous form of Gresh’Thoth lumber towards the troll and are awed by his size as the corrupt dragon is almost as large as the troll, moving reluctantly to join the corrupt dragon your ‘sixth’ sense kicks in as Typhon flips you into the air from behind before you land rather painfully in the saddle on his back, now that your dragon is being co-operative for the moment you might be able to deal with the troll. (Typhon is yours to control for your post, you can also work with Komanko to defeat the troll. Between the two of you, you can heavily wound it.)

Endras : As the forest trolls appear from the woods you let out a small groan as you watch the two monstrous stupid brutes entire the skirmish but what alarms you more is the fact that the magic duel between the shaman and Andaleth has caused some of the tree’s to burst into flames which is not stopped could possibly set the entire forest on fire which would kill everything within but you are unsure on how to stop the flames so you decide to deal with them after the fight has finished. Turning your attention to the trolls that Kell and Avariss are fighting you start notching arrows and firing them at the breath brute aiming for its nose and its eyes where your arrows will deal atleast some lasting damage as normally they wouldn’t be able to penetrate the trolls scaly hide. As you fire at the troll Jadeus jumps around the forest trail picking off those lone Gnolls that are trying to sneak up on your fellow apprentices and easily deals with them using his razor sharp claws and sword like fangs with the occasional whip of his tail sending Gnolls crashing into tree’s, other Gnolls or simply crushing them into the ground. Judging by the amount of Gnolls left it seems that the battle will soon be over however there are still the trolls to deal with. (Feel free to help Kell and Avariss heavily wound the troll they are fighting along with thinking of a plan to deal with the flaming forest.)

Aseer : Remaining upon Seraphim’s back you twist around as a foul reeking odor catches your attention along with heavy footfalls and the crashing noise of broken tree’s to see that two forest trolls have entered the battle raging on the bath. You see that Kell and the warlock Avariss are attempting to deal with one as Kilaren and Azreal fight another, the wood elf Endras like you is picking off the Gnolls still in the tree line while Jerome and Salas the dwarf charge around the ambush sight attacking what ever Gnolls dare come within the reach of their weapons. Notching one of your few barbed arrows you take careful aim at the troll that Kilaren and Azreal are fighting before loosing your arrow which flies straight and true to piece the left eyeball of the troll which staggers back with a bellow of rage as he uselessly tries to swat at the arrow now protruding from its skull. Before you can attempt to take out its second eye Seraphim spoils your shot by swinging around to lunge into a group of four Gnolls which in turn prompts you to draw your sword again and start to twist in your saddle as you attempt to hack at the Gnolls. With a final glance across the ambush sight you see that the battle will soon be other once the remaining Gnolls have been defeated and the trolls have been killed. If you shout that the battle is almost done to your fellow apprentices then it is up to you. (You have the group of 4 Gnolls to kill and then can kill up to a further five or after killing the four Gnolls you can join Kilaren and Azreal to fight their troll. If you join in the troll fight then you can help heavily wound it.)

Jerome and Salas : You still haven’t posted from the previous update so if you can do that then great, but also feel free to join in helping your fellow apprentices fight the trolls aswell.
 

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Following the cries of yet another arrow claiming its mark, Aseer twisted in the saddle to the sound of crashing trees and a roar which was the product of children’s darkest nightmares; a hideous odour preceded the trolls that tore through the undergrowth, almost as if the very air was suffocating in its presence. The archer was about to command his dragon to charge into the fray, but the two trolls were swiftly met by Kell, Avariss, Kilaren and Azrael, with fire blood and the sounds of swords piercing flesh accompanying the confrontation of rider, dragon and troll. Taking advantage of the lull in the fight around him, Aseer took stock of the battle: Endras was proving himself to be a truly capable bowman, slaughtering the Gnoll archers in droves, many before they could even nock an arrow – the elf’s bolts seemed to follow even the Gnolls that sought desperate shelter behind the tree line. Jerome and Salas meanwhile danced around the ambush site, utilising the speed of their dragons and the power of their blows to severe limbs, heads or entire torsos from any unfortunate that found itself in their path. “Aseer? We are in the middle of something!” Seraphim’s urging threw Aseer back into the moment, realising that he was in fact still a part of this fight, “Aye.” Reaching behind for his quiver, Aseer readied one of his few barbed arrows, the tip a grizzly horror that would embed itself deep inside flesh and tear apart all which it encountered on its travel; the result was often an arrow that caused as much damage when it was removed as when it entered, one’s insides became gore and many who survived the battle later perished from infection brought on by tiny barbs still embed in their flesh after the wound is cleaned. A casual observer would scoff at the shot: a top heavy arrow being fired from a mount over a distance great enough to cause even a clear shot to potentially go askew, and all without even considering the target; however, a trained eye would notice the slight breath out, the eerie mix of calm and concentration etched on Aseer’s face and the firm draw that preceded the release – the training of a Dragon rider. The mighty crack of the string snapping forward filled Aseer’s conscience as time seemed to slow, his hand instinctively correcting for the slightest miscalculation as the bolt accelerated onwards, the arrow made a low [twang] as it vibrated on it’s trajectory, bent and twisted by the sheer force placed upon it by the released tension. All of this occurred before the bolt even left the bow. An inhuman roar of agony widened Aseer’s view once more, as the Troll staggers back, desperately attempting to swat aside the arrow that lay embedded in its eye.

“Not a bad shot if I do say so myself.” Aseer hadn’t even finished his own compliment before he had another barbed arrow nocked, “Light’s out big guy.” However, the shot went far wide, disappearing into the trees. Aseer cursed as he gripped the saddle attempting to right himself, completely unprepared for Seraphim’s sudden leap. “Bugger all! Do you know few of those I have?” Seraphim’s blood-stained face twisted back at her rider, irritation clear, “Oh, I’m so sorry I spoiled your shot. Next time I’ll let the Gnolls get you, how’s that?” Aseer’s eyes widened as he realised his mistake. The group of four Gnolls - three if one didn’t count the creature rolling around in its own blood, a suspiciously Seraphim-sized bite mark of its torso absent – charged at dragon and rider, and were met by sword and claw. Aseer slashed to his left and right, forcing the Gnolls to take steps back rather than causing much damage. One Gnoll managed to wrap its filthy arm around Seraphim’s neck, whilst the drake tore into two of its brethren, and attempted to bring his sword arm about in a might cutting movement; however, the creature soon discovered that all that remained of its right arm was a stumb spouting gore, having been severed by the rider. Before the Gnoll could even register the appropriate degree of pain, Aseer’s sword pierced its skull and ended its life. All four Gnolls lay dead on the floor - and in most cases multiple pieces - around the duo; Aseer glanced once more at the battle, realising that it was close to finishing. “Keep at it! We have the monsters on the ropes!” Only the two forest trolls remained along with a diminutive number of Gnolls, from which the aggression and glee of combat had largely being replaced by fear of the mounted warriors and their mighty beasts. Aseer growled at his foes before pointing his sword, driven by inevitable victory, “Into them Seraphim!” The Gnolls seemed to become even more petrified by what could only be described as the malicious grin which appeared on the blood soaked dragon’s face. With a roar, the two charged into a group of four of their foes, the result of the confrontation already assured.
 

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As Andaleth had a magic duel with the gnoll Salas rose to his feet. It was clear that the gnoll was no match for the mage and so turning on his heels salas turned to the forest trolls. The trolls were locked in combat with the others but there was no sign of Rolkaus, everywhere he looked he could not see him. running into the foliage he quickly found him. Rolkaus was locked in combat with a troll, a single beast that had fallen behind the others and was fending of the wyrm with its mighty club.

“Rolkaus duck!”

Salas yelled out shortly before letting out a mighty war cry and leaping into the air,like a pounce from a tiger he launched at the trolls face engulfed with rage at the damage Rolkaus had been dealt.Movement paced his eyes and everything turned to a blur all that he could make out was anger and blood.Eventually he awoke and not in the most comfortable of positions.the troll’s head lay atop of Salas’s belly pinning him,the rest of the body was scattered with arms in trees and the creatures body was in the center of the opening with salas stood in the centre surrounded by blood and gore.

“ha we sure showed him,er hello anyone help!”Salas chuckled but with little energy to stand he started to call to the others for aid.
 

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Azreal smiled underneath his helm as he charged forward fearlessly, sprinting straight towards the troll. This would be an interesting challenge, and he hoped that his allies could get into position fast enough to attack the troll, which would completely throw it off. The troll saw him charging towards it, and with a deafening roar it charged towards him, a massive tree club in its hand as it rushed towards him bringing the club down in a powerful two handed strike.

Azreal nimbly jumped to the right, easily avoiding the club even in his full plate armour. His reflexes and speed were still so much faster than the trolls, one of the things that would see him victorious this day. The ground shook with the collision with the club, throwing up dirt and dust in the air, Azreal thankful that none of the stuff kicked up by the troll could limit his abilities or get in his eyes.

He ducked underneath the next swing of the club, rolling forward to bring himself right up next to the troll. He brought his shimmering blade up in a two handed strike, shield on his back as he sliced into its thick scales, making him even with his elven strength push hard as it felt like he was cutting through several layers of chain mail. He yanked his blade free of the trolls leg before the troll could hit him with its fists, leaping backwards as he notice the wound he had just inflicted already start to heal.

As the troll turned to face hi Navanash, his brilliant white dragon leapt seemingly out of nowhere, leaping from the left it slammed into the troll, raking its skin with his huge claws and even gouging out his right eye. Navanash moved back as the troll tried to punch him, and Azreal leapt forward again to get its attention. As he and Navanash continued to fight the troll face to face he could see that Kilaren and Aussir had managed to maneuver behind the troll and both leapt to attack it, the for dealing damage to it as they attacked from multiple angles.

They couldn't get any lasting damage on it though thanks to its ability of being able to heal, but it was confused by the attacks and constantly turning to deal with the damage, though it couldn't decide who to unleash his anger on. Azreal yelled over the roar to his companions, "Kilaren, go for the head with your dragon, try and damage its brain with your blades and teeth while me and Navanash keep it distracted." He yelled, they had to deal with it somehow, and the head was their best bet.
 

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The last pieces of of the gnoll’s eyeball slid slickly off the end of the arrow head, landing on Jadeus’ hide. A snort of indignation passed through the dragon’s snout, and he grumbled. “Watch where you’re getting that. I imagine you won’t want to be cleaning it all up later unless you have to.” A hint of smugness had entered the dragon’s voice, but the smile it elicited on the elf’s face was quickly removed when the source of the noise within the forest was revealed. The trolls limbered forwards eagerly, extremely ugly and even stupider. Jadeus made to leap at them, but Endras stopped him with a twitch of his feet.

“Jadeus, fire!” he bellowed, gesturing towards the unnatural flames that had sprouted within the woods. Another snort passed through the dragon’s snout and an odd noise followed it. The elf immediately knew what was wrong; having spent so much time in woodlands with the dragon, they both had a connection with forests than most people. However, he heard the trolls stomping around the trail into the centre of the skirmish. He put the flames to the back of his mind; whilst he would have done anything within his power to put out the flames, he didn’t have the time to think about it; his fellow apprentices were in need of aid. With a graceful sweep of his arm, the elf drew an arrow from the quiver he wore over his shoulder and knocked it. He took aim, compensating for the rolling movements of the dragon beneath him and took a deep breath. He loosed, instantly drawing another arrow and taking aim once more, missing the result of his first. He thought desperately; his arrows wouldn’t make any difference to the bulk of the troll, at least no more than a fly bothering a horse, and came up with his solution. ‘The eyes,’ he told himself disparagingly, and let loose his second arrow, and then another, and another, all aimed towards the ugly creature’s eyes. ‘Please, gods, let them fly true,’ he thought, before Jadeus leapt.

The sensation of tearing through the air was extraordinary, and Endras couldn’t wait until Jadeus could fly truly, and he knew that his companion felt the same. The sound of Gnoll bones cracking, their death screams, filled his ears and for a second, he allowed himself to glory in the power he was astride, before coming to his senses when he almost toppled from his saddle, ‘Get yourself together, Endras!’

More arrows flew from his bow towards the troll that Kell and Avariss, but his mind wasn’t really on the fight; more the fire starting to send smoke curling into the trees. His soul cried out at the damage already being done, and knew how much worse it would get if not dealt with. The best he could think was getting Jadeus and the other dragons to uproot the trees and drag them away so he and the others could aid in putting out the fires, but that had its own risks.
 

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Despite the fact that Andaleth's spell raged around it, Fel lightnig called forth from the very core of Andaleth's being, the Shaman, the beastial Gnoll, lunged forward. It was obvious from its gait that one or all of Andaleth's spells had wounded it, but still it rushed on, its lurching strides closing the distance between the two combatants quickly. Andaleth sneered as it pulled up in front of him, its staff brandished in front of it, the path of the human skull evident as the beast swung the weapon, its glowing eyes tracing out the arc of its swing. Andaleth took a slight step back, his swords leaping to his hands in one deft motion, one held high, the other low across his body. Lifting his gaze, laughter bubbling on his lips, his contempt for the creature before him evident in his piercing gaze, so much so that the Gnoll, despite all of its feral prowess, began to tremble. As Crimson lightning spat forth from the depths of the skulls eye sockets, Andaleth almost felt, lost so he was in the pulsing torent of magic that engulfed him, that time began to crawl, like a helpless insect through a pool of molasses. Thrusting his long sword into the ground below him, Andaleth raised his right hand and batted the spell, pathetic bursts of lightning, aside, its power no more than a nuisance.

Fear.... Fear laced the air, he could feel it, smell it on the air, wafting, seeping from the wretched beast before him. He had no respect for it, the creature was worth nothing, mattered none, but still he mustered an ounce of respect, admiration for the depth of its stupidity, as it rushed forward, using its arcane staff as a weapon of blunt violence. Clearly it hoped to crush Andaleth's skull with a lucky blow. With ease Andaleth withdrew his long sword from the earth, a flash of fire clearing the blade of detritus as it rose to meet the arcing staff. The second their weapons met, a flash of sparks, orange and red, blossomed into life, bathing the clearing in which they stood in stuttering light. Each of the beasts swings met Andaleth's cold steel, its wild strikes keeping Andaleth at bay, unable to mount a counterstrike. In the midst of the melee, Andaleth noticed, that the staff, despite the fact that it was born by a savage thug, was intricately made, the shaft carved with intricate lacing arcane script. This was not the work of a half-sentient beast, but scavenged from some sorcerer or warlock that had met their end at the Shaman's hand. Perhaps it was this arcane artifact that allowed the beast to channel magical power at all. Either way, this fight would see the foul staff destroyed and its bearer dead. Andaleth vowed to see to that.

The beast tired, Andaleth could feel that its strikes came with less frequency and far less accuracy. The time was his to strike. The forms of the sword, taught to him by Lady Xerxia sprang to mind, his own names given to each to help in rememberance. A surge in confidence, brought on by the thought of the mistress of the blades, her stern glare seemingly bearing down on him from the depths of his own imagination, drove him forward, graceful and deadly. The Heron in the Lillies flowed to the Kingfisher in Flight, as his blades flashed outward in a pattern to fast and accurate for the Gnoll to match.

His shortsword flashed out, a viper like slash to the right, and he felt the resistance as it took the Gnolls, left arm off just below the elbow. Blood flew as the beast screamed in pain, trying to bring its staff up to protect itself, only to have Andaleth's longsword meet it, the blade of the sword glowing orange with power as Andaleth infused his magic into it. A thunderclap, a noise loud enough to leave his ears ringing pealed as the blade took the human skull from the end of the staff. The backlash of power washed over Andaleth, coursing around him like the tide, and as his vision cleared from the blinding pulse of light he found the Gnoll, the shaman who moments before stood before him, so sure in its own power, writhing on the ground, blood pouring from its ears and mouth and the empty sockets where its eyes had been. The wailing scream that ripped from its through enough to pull at Andaleth's soul. With a grunt of effort, his long sword whistled through the air, and the sceaming stopped, the dull thud of the beast's head hitting the ground thunderous in the midst of the sudden silence.
 

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I watched as Azreal and Narvanash charged straight for the troll.

With Aussir at my side I circled it and saw the layout of the battle. Andaleth was in a magical duel with a Gnoll Shaman, Avariss and Kell fought another troll and the rest of the apprentices were in combat with the Gnolls. Even as I watched, I saw fire leap from one of the duelling warlocks and set the forest ablaze. I kept circling the troll, cutting down any Gnolls that got in my way as I did so. One lunged for me with a spear and I sidestepped, grasped the haft of the spear and kicked the Gnoll in the face, snapping its head back with a crack. I took the spear from its dying grasp and hurled it, watching it plunge into the back of a Gnoll about to attack Azreal

When I was finally behind the troll I attacked with Aussir at my side, savaging it. But very few of my blows penetrated its thick hide and those that did, the cuts healed over as soon as my blade was withdrawn. I kept attacking, praying that a cut would get through and remain but I had no such luck. Even the mighty claws of Aussir could not cause lasting damage. The troll seemed unable to decide which of us to attack, constantly turning to swipe at me before turning back to attack Azreal.

I heard Azreal shout. "Kilaren, go for the head with your dragon, try and damage its brain with your blades and teeth while me and Navanash keep it distracted."

“Toss me,” I snapped to Aussir. The surprise was evident in her voice when she responded with a question but I had no time for answering. “Just toss me at the goddamn troll’s head.” I ran at her and jumped and she slapped me towards the troll. It would hurt like hell later, but at that moment in time I was too pumped on adrenaline to notice.

I landed on the troll’s shoulder and Húron flashed in the sunlight as I clove deep wounds in the troll’s head. But they healed over just as fast and the troll reached up a hand, bellowing. I dropped from its shoulder and sank my blade into its back, ripping it from side to side but when I wrenched it free and flipped back to the ground, the evidence that I had done anything faded from sight. I cursed and then remembered that the only things capable of hurting trolls was fire and acid. But it was another year before any of the dragons would be breathing fire and the warlocks were occupied. I was about to attack the troll again when I heard a howling battle cry behind me.

I ducked and rolled to one side, coming up with Húron held up at waist height. The screaming Gnoll ran onto the gleaming blade and its battle cry turned into a scream of pain. I spun, ripping the blade free from the Gnoll’s waist and bringing it round for a coup de grâce that severed its head. I found myself gazing into the crackling fire consuming the forest and an idea struck me. I turned back to the troll, a smile of savage pleasure on my face. “Azreal,” I called. “The fire, we need to push it into the fire...”
 
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