Chapter 38

Let the celebration begin

?

"I feel like a absolute idiot..."

"You look fine."

Leaning against the side of a palm tree at the side of the road that led to southern Naya, Kader tapped his paw on the gravel as Bran, for the umpteenth time, messed with his disguise. "You know, the longer you keep messing with that, the worse it's going to end up looking."

"I know..." Bran said as he walked on out from the brush, messing with the outfit that they had picked out for him. It was a pair of robes that once belonged to a Anthro-Lizard monk and were a bit too colorful for his liking... and a lot more itchy. Whoever tailored this does not like skin... but he is a newcomer to this strange world and the species this is made for is not his. The worst part was the decorated hat with a built-in mask that looked like a angry bird; if this was for Lizards, why did they need masks of other species? He could barely see out of this thing. "... but this thing keeps itching me and riding up in places it should not. We couldn't have washed it before we left to try and get it just slightly more comfy?"

"No time." Kader climbed up Bran's disguise, stopping at his shoulder to sit on it. "You want to find your friends, but washing something as regal as this takes time."

"... or you are just lazy."

"That too."

"Ugh..." No sense arguing about this. They're already halfway to the city, so... he may as well buck up and suck it up. He went back out onto the road and continued to follow it. Kader pulled the coin purse off his back and began to count the cash inside- they can only spend so much here. "So... what more can you tell me about Naya? Is there anything I shouldn't do to avoid offending anyone?"

"You're asking the wrong mouse, buster. Best advice i can tell you in this regard: watch the interactions and try to mimic as best you can."

Mimic... there's only so far that can get him, but it's all he can do. "Gee... how helpful..."

"I'm sorry i don't know every single lad and lass in Naya, bucko. I'm not that popular and i didn't know i was going to play host to... whatever the heck you are, so sorry my advice isn't exactly helpful. For now... just mimic what you see, don't step into anyone, and try to keep your distance." He lowered himself into the purse to do more accurate counting.

Bran exhaled dejectedly, slouching forward and lowering his head. "Whatever you say, Reepicheep..."

Kader puased in his counting, poked his head back up, and blinked several times in puzzlement before looking towards his living ride. "... Reepa-who?"

"Ah, forget it."

"If it makes you feel any better, nobody there gets offended easy; even the more stoic Gryphons are chill, so you don't have to worry about... except... there is one person in Naya who you should look out for. If you offend him... you are going to disappear. Scary thing is that you don't need to say it to his face; just a glance will send you away."

"That's someone like that there?"

"Yep... and if you heard the stories, you'd believe 'em. He's a vicious dragon by the name of Termundus. He hates Anthromorph's like me. he also hates the Phoenixes and the Gryphons. He's not too big on his own kind either."

"So he's a jerk who hates everyone. How does that make him dangerous? Is he a mob boss or something?"

"I wish... at least then the Council would do something. No, it's because he's a General, and one of the more powerful ones, too." Kader got out of the purse and used his paws to demonstrate, with one going high and another not that far down, with it going lower with each explanation. "Nexian hierarchy works like this: there is the Supreme Council, a group of three that rules EVERYTHING but very rarely leave their ivory tower. Then there's the Council, who dole out the rules, deal with court, mingle with the common folk. Then below them are the Supreme Generals, who answer to the Council and rule over provinces- think of it like emperors and magistrates. Then under them are the Generals, who... well, do General stuff."

Bran sorta got it, but it still doesn't explain why Termundus is so feared. "If he's on the bottom tier, why is he dangerous?"

"Because he IS on the bottom tier. Generals are given free reign- they can do whatever they want with little impunity if its for 'the good of the country'. And Termundus abuses his position, taking innocent people prisoner and doing Stars know what to them." Abusing his position... Bran scoffed at the notion; if it wasn't so commonplace back home on Vega, he would be surprised. "And he's no slouch in battle, either." Kader continued. "He's a legend, having earned a reputation in The Shadow War a couple decades back. His command over the fine earth is frightening."

And he's a Earth Dragon, too... if Sokuro has to tangle with him, she'll be in for a rough fight- the elements she can easily use are light and fire, and those aren't great against the ground. "Yeah... i guess ground manipulation would be a scary thing. He can dig your own grave and bury you alive in the blink of an eye and-"

"No no, you didn't hear me. I mean the FINE earth- I'm talking the refined stuff like gemstones: rubies, sapphires, emeralds, amethysts, topazes, pearls, garnets, diamonds, lapis lazuli's, even raw crystals. He can control all of that... and through some divine providence, or prank, we're near one of the biggest crystal deposits in the country."

... well, there goes any chances of actually winning a battle against him, should the situation ever call for it. If he has gemstones under his control, then there's no way they could possibly win, and depending on the gem, it could reflect Sokuro's light powers like a mirror with a laser. "Well... crap."

"You can say that again." Kader sat on down, leaning back on his pawed hands and crossing his legs. He pursed his teeth to the side as he thought of this: "Can your friends fight? I'm not asking because i think they can win, but to gauge their chances at escape."

"Sokuro, Polosa, and Eia can. They're Aerids. ... it's what they call Dragons where they are from. I only saw Sokuro in combat and she... needs training. I don't know about Polosa and Eia. Ventus... i know he has a weapon, but I don't know if it would be effective against a dragon's scaly hide, even if it does use outdated ammo. And Fayin? I don't even know if she can. But if what you said is true and Termundus can command jewels, then... yeah, they'd all be screwed."

"No chance in winning?"

"Not even a chance. Sokuro commands light and fire, Polosa wind, and Eia electricity."

"Yeah, they'd be better off running."

Meanwhile...

Seliox messed with the fancy clothing that had been laid out for him for the services and the festival today. A red and black Dragon in the closest thing to a tux they have, which is also black- there's a word here, and it's called clueless. As he messed with the collar, his gaze moved to the side, towards the reflection of the two lizards he had been given. The little one has been eating everything it had been given, but the larger one... she's refusing to eat.

"Are you going to remain moody?" He asked the large lizard, whose only response was a dismissive gaze before turning away. "I'll take that as a yes." Finished up, he approached the cage they were in and pushed a plate full of scraps from his breakfast through a slit. "I know its not much, but you really do need to eat." And the big one refused to budge, prompting Sel to loudly exhale.

The doors opened and Termundus walked in, as booming as ever. He looked uncomfortable, as he should; he hates going to these gatherings. It takes him away from his tasks and runs the risk of one of hte other 'goody-goody' generals from finding out what he does. "Are you almost done?"

"Just about, Fa-... Termundus, but i can't get it to eat anything. I offered everything i could spare, but it hasn't touched a single thing. If it doesn't eat something soon, i think it'll starve to death."

"Then let it." He coldly replied, frightening Fayin. This guy is ice-cold, colder then her former masters. This isn't the first time she's refused to eat, but they kept trying at least several days before giving up. "If the dumb beast doesn't want to eat, that's its problem, not yours. Now hurry up. The sooner we get there, the sooner i can leave." He turned and left, closing the door with his tail.

On Termundus' way out, Seliox replied, "That's not really how that works, you know," as the door was closed. "... but you don't really care about what any one thinks, so what am i going to accomplish." He sighed to himself. He turned back to the cage, and towards the two lizards within. "Well, i'll see you when i get back then. Hopefully you'll eat something." With that said, he left.

Knowing how these things work from past experiences, Fayin waited several minutes to insure that they had indeed left and weren't coming back for something they forgot. After three have passed, "... aaaaaand they're gone." She got up and began stretching around. Being in this cramped box is really getting to her. And with him gone, she won't feel guilty for eating the scraps. "Good kid. Shame i have to be the broody beast around him, but with a father like that, i woulldn't want any info getting to him." She commented to herself as she took a bite of the breadcrust. It tasted off, but it's all she has. Good thing Pearl was asleep, otherwise she'd have nothing.

"Now then..." She said to herself as she took another bite. "How do i get out of this...?" This wasn't her first rodeo in a bad situation; she dealt with plenty back when she had a master. During those days, she trained herself to be observant, to take note of everything in her surroundings. "When the trap closed... it was seamless. This may be a glass box, but it's tightly sealed with no visible seems on the inside..." She looked up. "But there is a lock... and it's the only airsource we have... at least the only visible one, and it's too high up for me to reach, and no holds to grab onto." She looked to the walls. "There are slots to slip food in, but they are much to thin for even the Kalamander."

Tossing the last of the crust in her mouth, she walked to the side of the cage that offered the best look at Seliox's room. There must be something in here she can use. "Hmm... kids got a clean room... but his mess seems to be localized to a corner..." She pushed herself up against the glass to get a closer look, or as close as she can get. "Hmm... what's something i can use to jimmy the lock with...?" There wasn't much there that could help- most of it were toys and other such things. "Come on... give me something to work with here..." But there was none. "Ugh... Umatz dammit, there's nothing here that could work."

Not giving up, she began to pace herself, walking back and forth as she thought it over. Her pacing woke Pearl up from her nap, causing her to yawn. Each step Pearl took made a clicking noise, which slowly irritated the handmaid. "Ugh... i'm gonna find whoever designed these cages and claw them to a pu-"

That's when it hit her. She had tools right here with her. She looked at her paws, towards the claws that protruded out of them. She then looked down at her feet, at the razor-sharp crescents. She did a lot of reading back on Dragenia when the colonists came- her kind had been regularly referenced as Dinosaurs, a extinct race from the human world; more specifically, her kind is of the Raptor: the Utahraptor to be ultra specific. Why bring this up? Cause almost every species of Raptor has razor-sharp claws on their feet that can cut through anything, and while she is in no hurry to try and cut glass, she is willing to try these on the lock. ... there is just one small problem. She can't reach the lock in any position that will allow her to tinker with it.

... leaving her with only one, bloody, painful option.

She really didn't want to do this; she saw others have theirs removed and it sounded terrible. They were surprisingly easy to remove, but that doesn't stop all the screaming or the pain, now does it. "If i wasn't desperate..." She steeled herself for the pain that was about to come. "... those Colonists better know how to reattach these..." She took several deep breaths to calm her nerves before getting to work.

This was gonna suck and it was gonna suck bad.

Elsewhere...

"Explain to me again why i am wearing this getup?"

Taking a break at the foot of the trunk of the giant tree that connects the island to the mainland, Sokuro looked at her reflection in the ocean waters. She, like every other Dragon here, were dressed in a full-body cloak specifically tailored for this occasion: as this is simultaneously a celebration of both mourning and remembrance, all are required to wear a cloak to symbolize their grief, even if many today don't have a strong connection to the disappearance. Each cloak was black, as traditional mourning attire usually is, and made to work with draconic figures, such as slits for wings to extend out. The backs of the cloaks were adorned with a pattern to symbolize togetherness, though each one was different; be it chains, bricks, locked hands or paws, or any such equivalent.

Sokuro's borrowed cloak belonged to a former orphan who had since moved away far to the north, towards a winter tundra, if she understood the explanation correctly. As the celebration isn't recognized up there, or at the very least not as mainstream as here, he had no use to it. The pattern on its back was of wings draped one over the other, as was Silverwinds and Firacus, though the wing shape was different- hers were dragons, Fira's was a seagull, and Sil's was a Phoenix.

"Because its traditional wear." Seqy responded as she finished up the breakfast she woke up too late to finish on time.

"But do i need to wear it?"

"Because it is to symbolize that we are in mourning." Alua spoke as she dusted sand off of the sleeves. "I know it was a long time ago, but families of those who were lost still exist and acting like this was just another run-of-the-mill event would be disrespectful."

Sokuro felt like an idiot, complaining about this. She's... always had a hard connection with death, but not in the way you would think. When her parents died... she didn't cry. She was sad, sure, but not as sad as people expected her to be. Everyone she knew prepared for a blubbering mess out of both children when they learned their parents were gone, and while they got that from Taled, Sokuro... Sokuro was not. Some thought she was hiding her pain and letting it out in secret so nobody would see, while others feared she was apathetic. "Oh... right. I get the message. I'll be respectful. But... it does beg the question of why i got the long one."

"It was the only spare we had." Piracus said as he flew on his back. "We told you that before we left."

"I meant, why couldn't we have modified it to make it more form fitting? I'm gonna trip over if I keep this on." To prove her point, the wind picked up her hood and drapped it over her eyes, causing her to grumble. "... then there's another thing." She pulled the hood off. "My companions won't be able to recognize me in this getup. Silver's are super rare here, right? So wouldn't be being more exposed help me?"

"You do remember what happened yesterday, don't you?" Seqy asked.

"I think i can handle a few insults."

"No no. What you experienced yesterday was a small taste of what Sil has to put up with every day. They can get heartless when they get riled up, even to the point of physical violence."

"... yeah. And it's terrible and i wish i could help him, but a lot of people saw me yesterday and would surely have spread stories and rumors by now about the 'female silver', right?"

Seqy was going to counter the argument, but didn't. "Wh... bb... mm... you do have a point there. A lot in the marketplace did see you, and heavens to helashy the Generals and the Council heard of you by now."

"At the very least, you can pull the hood down." Alua said as she approached. Sokuro wasted no time in doing so, too- having to pull cloth over spines and horns was a feat in patience, and these guys made a material that can withstand the sharpness? What is it and where can she find it on Dragenia? "Just remember to pull it back up when the ceremony begins, ok?"

"Alright. So... what is this whole thing going to entail? I'm walking into unknown territory here, so I would like to know what to expect."

"Well, as I mentioned, this is in remembrance to those who left us during that voyage. After a speech from the Supreme Council, we follow it by a moment of silence. After that, we-"

"After that, it's off to fun and games!" The twins cheered, high fiv... er, high pawing.

Alua stood still for a moment before exhaling deeply. How is she failing at teaching these two how to be tactful? "... not the most...tact way to put it, but yes. There are booths of food and fun set up, along with a myriad of games to partake in, like races and such. They all revolve around togetherness, which is a huge part of our culture..." Her mood quickly turned sad as she looked towards Sil, who was sitting by himself. "... which saddens me more when someone is a social outcast, like poor Sil. The twins are always together and Seqy usually goes off with Seliox, leaving him alone."

"Don't you hang out with him?"

"... i would, but..."

"She goes a'courting." Fira said as bluntly as possible. "You'll never meet a more desperate woman then her."

Alua stood frozen for a moment before closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. She held it for several seconds before breathing out. Sokuro knows this all too well- her own caretaker would do this whenever someone back home would get on her nerves. "... yes, i do try to find someone i believe could be my significant other."

"All she gets are duds." Pira called from the distance.

Once again, another deep inhale and exhale... but more quick this time. "Ok, i'm gonna go punch a tree... be back in a few minutes." With a flap of her wings, she took to the air and went straight towards the forest, all the while the twins were calling out for her, saying they were only joking, but that was falling on deaf ears.

A breezy chuckle exited Sokuro's lips before she glanced to the sand to gather her thoughts. She looked towards Sil and went over to him. He sat under the tree, drawing in the sand. She stayed as silent as she could as she walked over to see if she can see what he was drawing. It wasn't a great drawing, but she could make out some familiar shapes of the house they had just left. Given his mental state, she wanted to keep him as positive as possible. "Huh. Not bad." She commented.

Sil took notice she was here but didn't stop. "It's something to pass the time..."

"Do you do this often?"

"On occasion." He said as he drew in the windows. "Do you?"

"Me? Oh, pebt, gods no. No, i suck big time- the best i can do are stick figures, and they're pretty bad lookin' stick figures. Now Bran... he's one of the best i've seen. His sketches are amazing- this one he did of the night sky was astonishing. Maybe i should buy him a paint set... or maybe some new stencils... or whatever those things are painters use- the thing they hold in their hand."

What the heck is she going on about? He stopped to look at her with that kind of expression painting on his face. "What are you rambling on about?"

"Heh... sorry. It's a habit of mine- i just ramble on and on and on and-... i'm doing it again, aren't I?" He nodded. She sheepishly chuckled, rubbing the back of her head. "Right... it's a hard habit to kick."

"... un-huh." He got up, clapping the sand off his paws. "Well... we should get going before the twins annoy Alua up a tree." He stepped out of the shadows and saw he was too late on that soliloquy. "Never mind."

if Sokuro's nasty habit is rambling, then the twins nasty habit is the lack of a filter and social awareness. As evidenced by Alua, they can make anybody go nuts. As Sil flew off to help her down, Sokuro stopped by Seqy, who was just watching and observing. She had nothing better to do. "Did you know Sil could draw?" Sokuro asked.

"I know he doodles to pass the time, but he's not aspiring to be an artist. Besides... no way a university will accept him."

They have university's here? "So... is there anything i should know before we head into town, especially since I don't want to piss off whoever is in charge here and end up in a dungeon for the rest of my life."

"Mmmmm... well, i guess there is one. I learned about this in school: Long ago, the land was chaotic and lawless, until one day, Three Supreme Generals descended from on high and brought law and order to the land... or at least that's how the glanderous legend goes." Sokuro raised a perplexed eyebrow. "Heh... just trying to be funny." It clearly didn't stick. "Ahem... right... well, the blunt version it is then.

"Ever since the Civil War ended, things have been a bit rough, it did bring changes like, for example, the ones in charge. In every certain territory of the Southern Alnerian Alliance, there's an individual in charge, alongside 3 other distinctive individuals that aid them on protecting and ruling the land, this one figure is the Supreme General, aided alongside the other 3 individuals, the lower Generals. Alongside these Generals there's the Supreme Council, which makes sure that the laws are followed alongside the lower Council- think of the Supreme's as governors and the lowers as mayors. However, besides reviewing incidents and whatnot, these individuals, the Supreme Council, serve as Judges, Juries, and if the time is ever needed, as Executioners"

Now what fresh hell is this? Southern Alnerian Alliance? Multiple layers of Councils and Generals... It was hard enough trying to figure out the difference between Naya and Nexia, now there's all this mess. "Good grief... this sounds extremely complicated."

"Yeah. It is. And it can get easily mixed up and twisted... our education system isn't that great."

"It's crap." The twins called out from the distance, almost as if they were hearing in on their conversation.

"... not the most polite way to put it, but yes... it's not all that great... it's very one-sided and... doesn't allow, in their own words, filth- that's their wording, not mine. And then the Anthromorphs twist it up with their thoughts on how this all works and trying to convince them otherwise is a whole other mess all to itself."

And now comes out the dark side of this world. The hate towards Silvers were bad enough, now "This is probably a bad point to ask, but are they friendly? The Generals and the Councils, i mean."

"Most of them tend to be, but there are jerks; what group doesn't have them? But the one you really want to look out for is a lower General named Termundus. He's a ruthless pig who hates everyone and won't hesitate to throw you to the dogs if it serves him; it's thanks to him that the Anthromorphs are in a worse spot then they were before. He's also the one who adopted Seliox... and... the one who put Sil into this mess."

Sil? What does Sil have in relation to this? "He did?"

"He didn't cause the explosion, if that's what you mean. He's the one who started all the stories and rumors about how Sil and all the Silver kind are these horrible monsters and... it spread like a fire. I told you he hates everyone, but his hatred towards Sil is... rather disturbing."

"That prick..." Sokuro snarled, closing her paws into fists as a fire burned in her eyes and all around her... at least that's what she imagined.

That little outburst was cut short when a coconut rolled into view, getting their attention. "About time you paid attention." They heard Sil call out. "We're heading out."

"We're coming." Seqy called back as Sokuro picked up the coconut. Evioly doesn't exist in a climate that produces these naturally, but she saw some that were brought in from the Zerijxos Isles. They weren't as furry as these, though. "We should get going." Seqy said back to Sokuro before taking off. She nodded back and tossed the coconut aside before taking flight.

The coconut rolled under the tree, coming to a rest at Sil's little drawing.

... a sickeningly messed up claw came up out of the shadows cast by the morning light and, with no effort at all, punctured the coconut like a hot knife through warm butter, lifting it up into the air. A disturbingly guttural growl came from the shadows as teeth began to form. "A... nother... Sil... ver..." A soul chilling voice spoke. As it did, the coconut began to twist and deform; it was slowly rotting away. "This... wasn't... in... the... plan..." A pair of glowing red eyes opened out of nowhere. "But... could... be... useful..." By this point, the coconut was just about mush. "If... Soulless... has... idea..."

The eyes, the teeth, and the claw disappeared, returning back into the shadows from whence they came. The decomposed coconut fell with nothing to hold onto it, smacking down into the middle of Sil's drawing.

Deep within the mists that surrounded that land, far, far to the west, laid a series of islands. Once, it was part of the mainland, but a endless string of earthquakes tore it apart from the continent, causing it to drift away into the prevailing fog that surrounds them all. Few have ventured here... and for good reason, for deep within the bowels of this artificial chain of islets rested the greatest threat this world has known.

But for now, they are waiting, waiting for just the right time to make their return to the grand stage. In some faroff cave, three such members of this terrifying race gnawed on the bones of the stupid recruits they slaughtered just yesterday.

In the deepest part of the biggest island laid a giant cavern, a cavern that held thousands upon thousands of these nightmares obscured by the darkness, and in the center of that rested a single gem, pristine and flawless in its crimson glow. A swirling blackness rested inside, recovering from the horrendous defeat they had suffered years ago. None would dare approach it, not unless they had something important to say...

...such as one who had just arrived from the mainland. It approached with such impunity, it failed to notice the guardian. "Lord... i... bring..." A frightening blade came down in front of the approached, setting it aback.

"Do not approach him unless summoned, welp." The hulking behemoth spoke. "Lest you wish for a painful end."

"But... i... bring... news...Lord... should... hear..."

The hulk was having none of it as it approached, dragging he blade behind him. "And i told you to get lost, you cur!"

The gem's dim glow grew bright as the blackness stirred. "Peace, Avias... peace..." A voice spoke from it. cold... calculating... Soulless... there are not enough words to describe the sheer terror his metallic voice could instill. Black, nebulous smoke hissed from the gem and took form behind it. Frightening red eyes peered out of the smoke. "Our friend here has some news to bring... so let him bring it. The hulking brute scoffed in the young ones face before backing away to let him pass. "Now then..." A red tendril came from the mist and approached the newcomers throat. "Speak."

"Yes, sire..." the being spoke more clearly and succinctly then before. "A Silver... a new one has appeared. A female."

"Preposterous." The hulk scoffed. "It's too early for her to be here. She's still just a babe in the Frozen Lands."

"I do not think it is Shadewind he is referring to, Avias..." The voice spoke. "I sense that she is still in her castle, resting soundly before she her education. No... Lady Shade still resides in her home, so this new Silver is not her. And Avias..." The eyes turned to look at him, giving off a soul-piercing glare. "...interrupt us again... and you will suffer." The hulk complied and clammed shut. The eyes returned their attention to the interrogation. "Continue."

"Well, this new female Silver, she claims to be from across the sea. She's mentioned her name is Sokuro and that she-"

The misty eyes got close, almost as if he took a interest. "Sokuro...? You said her name is Sokuro?"

Why is he taking an interest in that name? "Um... yes?"

The mist moved away and the eyes glared away, almost as if the being inside was pondering. "Termundus..."

"What about the prick?" The hulk asked.

"He recently used one of our gems to interrogate a prisoner. It should be nothing new... except this one was different. The one he used it on isn't from our world- he's one of those Anthromorph's, but lacking in fur. I saw into his memories of the past week and saw mention of this Sokuro. She's powerful- powerful enough to take on what they see as a indestructible beast without fear. As our reporter here mentioned, she is a Silver... but in their world, they are harbinger demi-gods. Silverwind and Shadewind are powerful, but nowhere near that level... not yet, at least."

"Is she a threat?"

"No. No. She's only a kid and only became a demi-god a month ago in their time, and like this Ventus person the lout used our gem on, she only wants to return home, so partaking in this worlds troubles is not on their agenda. Besides, she is new to her role, like a baby learning to walk. She wasn't even able to beat that monster, but this god of theirs named Vel..." He stopped when he said that name, recognizing it, as all who witnessed that day should. "oh... oh, i didn't realize... hmhmhm..."

"Lord?"

The eerie chuckling continued as possible revelations filled his mind. "... i think i found where they experiments fled to."

"Experiments?" The newcomer repeated.

"It's nothing that concerns you. It was before your time among us. Regardless, they won't return- Termundus put a deep fear into them that won't go away."

The newcomer nodded before bowing to him. "So what do you wish for me to do?"

The eyes closed shut, correlating with a increased glow in the gem. The newcomer, puzzled by this, tilted his head before leaning in. Soon, a pulse emanated from it, spreading through out the caverns, the islands, and the entire country as he spoke to his kind. "This goes to everyone. We have some visitors in our world." Within all their minds, the images of all seven displaced souls- Sokuro, Bran, Polosa, Ventus, Eia, Fayin, and Pearl- appeared in their eyes. For Sokuro, Eia, and Bran, both their Ferid and Aerid forms were shown. "These souls have been displaced from their world and are now in ours. Do not let the Silver among them scare you- she knows not of us and she does not alter our plan in any way- none of them do. They are simply displaced souls who wish to leave. And i know this goes against your better nature, but they are not to be touched. If you feel the need to feed, go ahead, but under no circumstances are these seven to be touched. They aren't to even know about us; all they wish is to find their way home... and we will let them. Anyone who even so much as gets a thought about eating one will meet a swift and violent end."

The glow in the game stopped and returned to what it was before as the eyes reappeared. "As for you, continue to observe this Sokuro girl." He removed the tendril from the creatures throat, who nodded before dissolving away.

The mists and the eyes faded away, returning to the crystal that housed them. The hulking brute approached and stood by it. "Are you sure about this, my lord?"

"I am certain. And there will be a positive in all this: Silverwind will want to get stronger after he sees how powerful Sokuro is, be it she battles Termundus for that Ventus lout, or against one of the Ferals who refuse to listen. Either way, this will be beneficial to us. But only if these newcomers are alive."

"If you are sure."

"I am sure." As the hulk turned to leave, the voice spoke up, "Summon Vendetta. I have a task for him."

A pool of blood had gathered in the corner of the cage, with the disturbing amount disgusting even Pearl. Shimmying her bloodied footclaw around inside the lock, the exhausted Fayin ignored the pain from her covered foot for as long as she could, which she has been doing since yanking it out. Pulling the claw out of its socket was easier then she was anticipating... but also a helluva lot more painful. She's experienced some bad pains in her life, but this took the damn triple-layer cake.

She had been moving the claw around for ten minutes straight and the throbbing pain was getting worse. She breathed through it, remembering all the lessons she taught pregnant mothers during childbirth classes. Lamaze breathing helped her concentrate, but it can only work for so long, and at least they have something positive at the end of all the pain. Fayin? A bad limp, a loss in pride, and possibly some brain damage from all the blood she had lost... which was a lot.

She could feel herself getting woozy from the bloodloss but she had to stay focused. First thing she needs to do when she gets out of this cage is find a medical station to heal this wound up, then find a cafeteria to get juice. Juice can help speed up the creation of new blood, particularly Fakil juice- it's Dragenia's orange juice. But the odds of that being here are remote... not that it matters- she just needs something.

She wobbled in her steps, struggling to stay up. She stepped on her bad foot, which sent a intense shooting pain up through her body in a instant. It was a horrible, horrible pain, but it shot her awake. She felt something stop the claw, which was slightly moving when she pushed against it. That must be the mechanism. She continued to mess with it, hoping that it would be her ticket to freedom.

*Click*

It did something. The lock vanished and seems began to appear in the corners. Seconds later, the cage fell apart like a box being pulled apart in multiple directions. "Fina... finally..." She panted. She held a hand to her head, trying to stay upright. "Now we can... now we can... get out of... out of here... But... i need to sit down..." She fell forwards, barely having enough cognition to keep herself from slamming down hard. Before she could react, Pearl ran out the door as fast as she could. "F... fine... be... that way... I save... your life... and... and..."

She couldn't even finish speaking. She rolled onto her back and panted heavily as her vision began to blur. She slowly, gently, and carefully lifted her leg up so that she could look down to it. Her bloodied foot was wrapped up with her shirt, but it had already changed color. This was such a terrible idea.

"This... is... how... i die..." She panted. "Gods... i'm an idiot... for thinking this... was a idea... that needed to be..." She heard movement outside the door. "And... here come... the guards..." Rolling onto her front, she forced herself up, making sure not to step on her wound. IF she's going down, she is at least going to try to fight.

But instead, Pearl came through the door, carrying a box in her mouth. "Huh...?" Fayin panted as she fell back down onto her butt. "What... di...?" Pearl approached her and put the box in her lap. Fayin, using what strength she had, opened it up.

The contents were medical supplies, enough to help her through this... but this is strange, though. The writing on them- they're of a human language. Spanish, she thinks is the correct term for it, and below those were smaller English letters in... what did they call those things- parakathes? Parathathes? If she had any cognitive function left to think, she would, but she doesn't have that or time left. She needed to focus on healing herself.

She slapped herself in the face to keep yourself focused. "Ok... ok... rem... remember... your... your lang... language... classes..." Pearl sat by her side, worried that her only familiar companion is likely dying. Fayin grabbed a random item and opened the box. "This is... this... is... bandages... that's... that's g... that's go..." She quickly shook her head. "That's good... now... these... are... swabs, and these... are um... um..."

Her version got worse as she struggled to stay awake. She had lost too much blood and it was affective her far worse then she had anticipated. Pearl gave out a worried coo as she hurried over to the struggling dino. "I... i can... i can... i can do... i can..."

With little to no functionality left, she fell onto her side, finding that keeping her eyes open was becoming impossible. "... Velx... i... i'm sorry..." Pearl cried out in fear, giving panicked shouts as her only companion was on her last legs. Suddenly, her yelps of panic turned to fear and anger as she ran towards the bed. Before her eyes closed, Fayin saw a shadowy mass rising out of the floor in front of her, with glowing red eyes that would scare a hardened warrior. "... the... god of... death in... this world... i assume..." She rested her head on the floor. "So this... is where... i... die..." With no strength left, she closed her eyes.

...

"You...are ... lucky... Souluss... wants... you... all... alive..."

...

"I'm... not... dead...?"

There was no knowing how much time had passed, or even if all this was real, but when Fayin opened her eyes once more, she saw a black mist fading away. This made no sense... she should be dead. With how much blood she lost and how exhausted she was, she should be in the afterworld... but she's not.

With what little strength she had left, Fayin looked towards Pearl, who had a fruit in her mouth. It looked like a fruit and smelled like a fruit, so it must be a fruit. The kalamander dropped it on the floor and nudged it over to her. "... thanks... i... think... but... how... am... i... alive?"

Pearl ran around Fayin several times before stopping at her feet. Working against the strain her exhausted body was under, Fayin forced herself to sit up. Her arms wobbled like flimsy rubber as she did. Propping herself up with the cage's edge, she looked down towards Pearl who was closed to her left foot. A closer look showed that the gaping wound that was left when she ripped out her foot claw was healed. The hole was closed and no more blood was gushing out.

"Wounds... don't... heal... that... fast..." She commented. She grabbed the fruit and pulled it close. "So... what could... have..." Wait... that black mass. Did it heal her? Did it save her? "...the... god of death... spared me...?" She looked down at the fruit. "... must... not... have... been... my... time..." She placed it down and used the footclaw to slice it up. This took more time then it should have, but given her condition... She put the claw aside and picked up a slice to eat it. It tasted like a human fruit. An orange? lemon? Something citrusy.

Eating all of the slice- peel and all- she looked towards the window. It was still light out, and the blue was kinda dark so it was still morning. "A celebration... that... can last a while." Based on what she remembers on the flight here, Termundus and Seliox live in a small community to the north of the city; a community where only the elite live. By her estimate, it took them several minutes to fly here, so the same must be true for a return flight. Walking would probably take a half hour, or an hour tops, but that's if they are operating at top efficiency ... something Fayin doesn't have... least that would've been the case if she didn't just cripple herself and almost die from bloodloss. With those two factors, she'll be lucky to get there by the end of the day.

She realized this as she ate, that her wounded status would make things difficult. She'll be lucky enough to get out of this house, let alone get to the city. "This... is going... to be annoying..." She panted as she ate more slices. She turned her attention to all the toys and knickknacks Seliox has in his room. One of these should serve as a suitable walking stick... hoping they aren't as flimsy as some toys are back on Dragenia. These are purely Aerid folk, after all, so they should have studier stuff.

Quickly chowing down, Fayin realized she was on her last piece of fruit. She glanced towards Pearl, who had been watching her this whole time. "You can have it... if you want..." She said as she passed it over. Pearl panted before eating it up wholesale- this sorta confirms Kalamanders are omnivores, at least.

Having some small amount of strength left, Fayin forced herself back onto her feet. The pain in her foot was excruciating- healing a wound doesn't automatically get rid of the pain, especially a kind that leaves you crippled for the rest of your life. "First thing... we're gonna do... is raid the kitchen..." That made Pearl a happy demi-drake. "... and then... we're gonna... get the heck out of here..." She limped her way over to the pile, trying to not put any pressure at all on her foot. It was easier said then done.

"And then... i'm gonna kill that stupid fox-boy..."

At different times, but at the same gate, the boy from the stars and the girl with the scale had arrived at Nexia with their respective parties. Balloons hung over the stalls, stalls that were covered in streamers and flags. Everyone was wearing a cloak with the 'connection' theme on their backs, and those who didn't wore outfits that were appropriate, and everyone kinda ignores folks who come in more colorful fare- not everyone has enough money to buy a cloak or appropriate attire.

"Huh." Bran said as he stood at the gate to the city. He had the mask pulled up so he could get a good view- the eyeholes are so limiting. "So this is what Naya looks like. Not quite how i pictured it."

"What did you picture?" Kader asked as he pulled Bran's mask down for him.

Ignoring that violation of space, he started walking into the crowd that was slowly gathering around. "Well, there are dragons, so i pictured a grand fantasy vista, like towns built on top of mesas or into the coastline of a mountain range, not..." That's when he realized that the architecture looked familiar... eerily familiar. He's seen these designs in movies and games... these are Mayan buildings... but how can that be? The creepy similarities between the American Tribes and the people of Misken are eerie enough, but this? How many planets share design ideas? "... Mayan... houses?"

"Mayan? No, i think you mean Nayan."

He was going to agree with the little mouse if he didn't see the steppe pyramid that rose up in the distance. Only one culture has theirs designed like that. "No... i mean... Mayan."

"Ah, you probably bumped yourself on the head too hard when you shipwrecked. That or giving you some of my stash last night was a terrible idea."

"It was a terrible idea at the start." Bran firmly said. But maybe Kader was right- he barely got any sleep last night, and there's no telling what this worlds alcohol does to a foreign brain like his. And... the designs could just be similar their looks. This wouldn't be the first culture to do so, but still... it's peculiar to see such similar architecture from Earth here. "But... maybe you are right. Maybe i'm just imagining things."

"There you go." Kader climbed back up to Bran's shoulder. "Now hurry- game's aren't open yet, but we can get some food and i am starving."

"Then you should've ate before we left."

"Nun-un; there's one stall here that has the best food in this berg and i plan on breaking the record there."

"Someone as small as you is going to break a record? That'll be the day."

"You don't even know what kind of record."

"And i don't want to know."

Not long after, missing each other by a measly 20 seconds, Sokuro and her entourage arrived, landing at the gate. Pira tried to make his landing all fancy, but he messed up and ended up crashing into the sign in the archway. "And that is why you never want to stylize your landings." Seqy mentioned to Sokuro before Pira fell from the sign, landing hard on Fira. "Otherwise you'll get broken bones."

"Unpleasant." The twins coughed.

Sokuro slowly shook her head while exhaling a breathy chuckle. She turned her attention to the busy streets; it was far more crowded then she had planned. From the air, it doesn't even look like there are enough buildings to house all these people. "It's a lot more packed then i was anticipating."

"A lot of them are from out of state." Alua mentioned. "Many are here from Yeztia, Xetil, Uria, Atelk and Tetua."

And here she thought the Colonists names for things were weird. "But i thought this was purely a Nexia only thing."

"Nope. We all lost something on those doomed voyages."

VoyageS? As in plural? There was more then one? Geez, you'd figure they'd have learned their lesson the first time... "Voyages? I thought it was just the one."

"No... there were more then one. Many ships went out, but none ever came back. Even the rescue ship to find any potential shipwrecks vanished." Yeesh, the fog sounds like the killer in a horror novel. "But with you and your friends here, we know that they didn't die in vain."

Sokuro looked away to hide her guilt and shame. She hates having to lead them on with her story, but what choice did she have? They're the only ones helping her during this whole mess and she wants to keep it that way... even if it means lying. It's a pisspoor situation, but again, what other choices does she have? "Heh... right..." She saw Alua tilt her head at her actions, forcing her to change the question. "So... how does this festival work? This is your world- i'm just following your leads."

"Well, food stalls are open..." Seqy said as she approached with a skewer loaded with peppers. "...but the games don't start until after the ceremony: it occurs at the dock where the voyage departed, and there, the Supreme General gives a speech that everyone is to attend."

Geez, here we go again with the pronoun game. Her quick lesson was so recent, it didn't have time to sink in. "And that chap is..."

"The quote unquote "King" of Nexia." Alua said. "Nice guy- probably the gentlest out of all of them."

A kind ruler, eh? The way the people act don't really reflect that... but maybe that's thanks to Termundus and not the guy in charge. "Maybe i should ask him for help then. If he's kind, he must be welcoming and willing to help."

"You can try, if the guards and the other Generals even let you close to see him." A jaded Sil commented. "On top of being the most important dragon in the country, He's old- at such an advanced age, a little sneeze could take him out."

"He's not that frail." Alua responded.

"He's never out in public."

"None of the Supremes are except for days like today."

Sokuro tapped a claw on her forehead, not really having time for this. Every second she wastes is a second less finding her friends. "Can we focus on the problem at hand, please?"

Alua felt bad for turning the conversation away from the important task at hand. "Ok, Ok. Sorry. The celebration lasts till nightfall, and even then a few hours afterwards, so we have all day and some of the night to try and find your friends. As you yourself said, three out of your five missing friends have specific looks, so finding them should be easy. If they aren't here... i don't know what to tell you."

"They'll be here. They have to be."

"What do they look like?" Fira asked.

"I thought i already told you." He and his brother only shrugged in response, not really remembering if she did either. "Eh, who cares- can't be too careful during a search. Eia and Polosa are dragons like me, except Eia is purple and Polosa is a mint green. Since all the dragons here seem to have more then two colors, finding them should be easy- they are a solid color like me. Bran, Fayin, and Ventus are not dragons and look nothing like the other races gathered here, so finding them will be easier then them finding us, especially since we are all wearing ceremonial garbs."

"And me and Sokuro are the only Silver's in the entire world." Sil finally said, getting a part in this battle plan. "If you're friends are one-of-a-kind animals in a pack, then we're a flippin' lighthouse."

Is Sil even willing to put himself through that? The locals are nasty to him and she doesn't want to get him hurt for her sake. "But, un... won't people jeer at us if they see who we are?"

"Some will... but they tend to simmer down when people from other towns and country's come, and there are a lot of people from out of town here."

All they had to do was look left and right to see... yeah... the city is packed with out-of-towners. "You don't say..." Sokuro sarcastically replied. "... well, it's a start, i suppose. We won't really know if it works until it works." She heard a noise like a trumpet go off. She took notice of that but didn't pay it no mind. "Now, i think we should try games that make us take off the cloak heads, so that we can-" She then noticed that everyone was ignoring her and walking with the rest of the crowd. "Un, hey! Where are you guys going?"

"To the ceremony." Alua responded. "The trumpet was the sign that it was close to beginning."

The ceremony... right. Well, if the others are as puzzled about this world as she is, then whatever the locals do during it will make them stand out like a sore thumb thanks to their cluelessness. "Right..." She trotted after them. "But did you even hear what i said?"

"Yeah yeah yeah, revealing games and all that." Pira replied.

Such a lameduck response. Is she even getting through to them? "Well, you don't have to be rude about it."

The ceremony everyone was hyping up was to take place at the city docks. Out in the waters were a large array of navel ships, masted and fully crewed, all arranged in a semi-circle that seemed to stretch the entire length of the port. In the center of the semi-circle was the biggest vessel anyone has ever seen on this world, all shiny with gold trimmings and a red-carpet deck. The personal ship of all of the Southern Alliance's leaders, but moreso to Nexia's Supreme General.

Speaking of whom, all the Generals and Councilors who had the time to spare coming were here. It was a decent turnout, though some have expressed their... distain for being here. This wasn't the full roster- in total, only 20 or so bothered to show up. "I really see no need for me to be here." Termundus said. Seliox was off in the bathroom, having needed to go badly.

"Because it's a memorial?" The auburn, green-eyed puma General named Valentis, replied.

"... And that matters to me why?" Termundus coldly and callously replied, irritating some of the others. "I have a billion other things i would rather enjoy doing today, and being here with all of you is not one of them."

He has no idea how universal that is, but at least they are showing tact about it. "The feeling is mutual, but at least we're smart enough to hide that for the sake of everyone else." The ashen gray canine general, Fengus, stated as a matter of fact, his blue eyed gaze angering the dragon. Termundus hid that by rolling his eyes. "You should learn to keep those thoughts to yourself."

He scoffed. "Right. Typical response. You're just saying that because i'm some trophy you can all flaunt and i need to behave."

A collection of groans came from everyone present- they are not going to go through another year of this, not today. "Stars, here we go again..." Most complained.

"No no, let the maniac rant." a Red dragoness with a chilly demeanor named Feruschia said. "Maybe he'll actually hear himself this time."

In his anger, Termundus spat out, "I save you all from extinction at the teeth of those monsters none of you could even kill, and you treat me like i'm some trophy guard dog that comes at your every word." Fengus snarled at him, taking offense to that statement.

Feruschia patted a claw on her cheer, watching like a eager audience member at a play, waiting for the good stuff they heard so much about to make them go see it to finally happen. But there's no payoff here. "Well, seems he hasn't heard himself this time."

"Some of us weren't even alive yet!" Valentis exclaimed. "I know i wasn't!"

Fengus slowly shook his head, wondering how someone can become so deranged. "It is amazing how much delusion can fit into someone's head."

Termundus' anger for his "comrades" was reaching a boiling point. He never liked these guys- he just tolerated them just so he can use them. "rrrr..."

"Enough." A booming, yet soft and elderly voice spoke out. The generals stopped bickering and looked up to the ships wheel. Standing there was Nexia's Supreme General, a white dragon who is as ancient as the day is long. He has seen a lot of hardship and battles during his near 80 years alive- the average lifespan of this worlds dragons being 70, at best. He may be ancient in their terms, but he still has enough kick to put Termundus in his place. He spread his old, leathery wings and glided down to the main deck, "You all act like children."

"But your lordship-" The four arguers started to speak.

"I said enough." That shut'em up. "This little spat didn't even need to happen to begin with. If you all used this time and energy to bicker among yourselves to good effect, i wouldn't have to go day after day hearing about one of the Generals doing bad, something you are all guilty of... especially you, Termundus. The ceremony is about to start, so all of you be silent until it is finished. Understood?"

Termundus kept his snarls and his contempt internal. The Supreme Generals are supposed to be the most powerful dragons in the world... well, the world they are trapped in, but even still... Termundus kept his composure, bottling up his hate for when he can properly unleash it... like when his designs come to fruition. "Yes... Lord Cirrus."

If the city streets weren't crowded before, then the docks have tripled that. If the streets were a bus during lunch hour, then the docks were a subway at quittin' time. Most of the fliers took off from the docks, heading out towards the masted ships that ringed around the harbor.

Lucky them, Bran thought, as he was caught between a Iguana Anthromorph and a Gryphon. "I feel so cramped." He grunted as he tried to get a little elbow room.

"Really?" Kader asked as he leaned on Bran's head, filing down his nails. "I don't."

"That's because you're pocket sized and on my shoulder."

"Exactly." He dropped the nail file into one such pocket, one that was big enough to fit the mouse.

"Ugh..." Bran grumbled. "What a time to not be able to fly..."

Meanwhile, just five people away- so close, their spittle could reach the other, Sokuro was having a similar issue with space as well... but having it coupled with the anxiety of not being able to tell anyone in this crowd apart. This is a big problem with no way to rectify it easily. "It's gonna be hard to find anyone in this mess..."

"There are a lot more people here then there were last year..." Seqy commented as she looked out among the crowd. She looked back to Sokuro and saw dread take residence on the newcomers face. "But i wouldn't fret too much. You'll find them."

Sokuro is glad for the sentiment, even if it is a empty one. With all these people here, it's doubtful she'll even find them. She lowered her head and with a grunting sigh, "Ugh... i'll be happy if i'm able to find at least one of them. Least that would be progress."

Not long after, trumpets began to sound, coming from the large yacht in the middle of the semi-circle. It made Sokuro lift her head up to see what was going on. It may only be trumpets so far, but it's far more grander then anything she's seen. Well, except her Ascension- that one had more magic and form-changing involved.

Walking forward to the edge of the ship were 21 warriors dressed in the fanciest garb Sokuro has seen so far. They may all be cloaks, but they're the most elegant kind she's seen. She turned her attention to the one in the lead. His cloak was simple, but his stature was grand. "I'm guessing he's the old one Sil and Alua were talking about?" She whispered to Seqy.

"Yep. Supreme General Ozunus Cirrus, the quote unquote "king" of Nexia and one of the most powerful members of the Southern Alliance. He may be near the end of his time, but he isn't letting that slow him down. He's as kind as a kitten and really popular." She grabbed Sokuro's head and turned it to the right, towards the emerald-colored dragon. "Him, on the other hand... isn't. That is Termundus."

So that is the famous Termundus Sokuro's been hearing so much about. Strange, she didn't plan on him looking handsome- the way she heard it, he's supposed to be a monster with the same color scheme as Seliox... who she now noticed is on the boat with them, standing with the guards. Guess he's not supposed to be part of this. "Huh. Funny. The way i heard him described, i imagined a demonic-looking beast with red flames coming out of his claws, wings, and tail."

"Yeah... well, he's not exactly popular with the Anthromorphs, the Gryphons, and the Phoenixes."

"And Sil." Sokuro added.

Seqy paused for a moment, sucking in her lips as she glanced to the ground. "... yeah, and, and Sil. Just be careful if he notices you. Those that disappear when they anger him are rarely seen again." She nodded in response. Hopa was training enough for things like this.

Before long, the trumpets silenced, as did the crowd, as Cirrus approached a stand and spoke up for all to hear. "69 years ago to this day, the rest of the world vanished behind the fogs of doubt. Our world became smaller and the connections we had with those in the mysterious beyond vanished in its grayish mists."

"We all bore witness to the many brave souls that departed for the misty barrier; brave souls who gave their best effort to uncover the truth behind the vanishing of the rest of the world... only to vanish themselves, trying to uncover the blanket of doubt that soon rose on our minds."

"Far too many left... none have ever returned... and any who would've survived... would be gone now." His gaze soon reflected the pain of the loss, as if he had lost someone important to him. Sokuro had picked up on that, knowing the pain of loss. Given his age, it could've been his mate or his children or maybe even a friend.

"We all appreciate the sacrifice they made for us..." His gaze once more rose, this time filled with hope and determination. "...because even as they vanished, possibly never be seen again, it's that same will that made them go, to uncover the truth, that still remains in our own hearts... in our own Souls that gives us hope that someday we shall see them again... or, meet with their children or their children's children."

"Let their bravery never be in vain..." He spread his wings wide. "To the lost."

"To the lost." Everyone somberly shouted, though Termundus merely mouthed his. Afterwards, everybody bowed their heads in a moment of silence, a move that caught Sokuro and Bran off guard, but they were quick to adapt and follow suit. If they were just a few seconds slower in their realization, they would've seen how microscopically close they were. Only five people separated them, but they were no closer to knowing that then they are to win a game.

Speaking of which, Cirrus soon raised his head after the moment had passed, as did everybody else. "Now... let us celebrate their lives the best way we can, for while we honor the lost, we also honor the living. Go: drink, play, and be merry."