As the pair of motorcycles raced through… ‘jetted’ through the streets, conversation was flowing on the bike with Sam and K on it. J on the other hand was silent, as was Zuko who was seated with his arms crossed – just as he was on the Bullfrog. To his credit, J had actually attempted to engage in some small talk with Zuko, however those attempts failed as the answers he was getting did not satisfy him in the slightest. K on the other hand was laughing it up with Sam on the other bike, and made it a point to laugh extra loud so that J could hear him – which he did. He cursed under his breath, before Zuko made his own attempt at conversation.
“It is still day time, is it not?” He asked.
“…yeah.” J responded without even looking back at Zuko.
“Then why is it dark? What is up with this place? The sun does not set in some areas, while it does not appear to rise in others.”
“You seriously don’t know, dude?”
“This is my first time in the Enclave, so I do not see how I should have known.”
“…to put it simply man, Shadow Kin and the Unseen live in never ending night, while Golden Soldiers and Dune Elves live in never ending daylight. Our racial traits are geared towards those opposing levels of light, so our forebears built Magic-powered machinery to things dark for those of us who thrive in the darkness, and light for those who excel in the sun. They did this before we completely lost the ability to use Magic.”
“I see… and what of Mana? Regardless of what you call yourselves and despite having lost the ability to cast Spells, you are still creatures of Magic and thus can store Mana.”
“All of our tech is driven by Mana, dude. The guns we use, the bikes we ride, the cars we drive, the shields, the EMPs, everything. For example, that crazy bitch Alex, all of her guns have grips and such that absorb Mana at a rapid rate and create bullets on the fly. In fact, all guns use the same technology, but her ability to store vast amounts of Mana means that she had her people develop guns with faster absorption rates, so couple that with her near endless Mana and deadly accuracy, she can shoot forever. That in itself makes her a monster. These bikes are the same, and absorb they absorb Mana to feed the engine. So even though we can’t form Magic circles and cast Spells, all of this shit you see us using is our form of Wizardry.”
Zuko remained quiet even after the explanation was done, but he nodded a few times, before letting out an impressed sounding snort.
“My turn to ask you a question.” J said as the bikes turned onto a main road. “So who are you to Sam?”
“Would it not be a better idea to ask Sam that question? I only know what she is to me, not what I am to her.”
“Then what is she to you?”
“Somebody who is helping me.”
“Helping you with what?”
“Is it your place to ask me that question?” Zuko asked.
“Probably not.” J admitted honestly. “But I’m still gonna ask.”
Zuko then kept quiet, seemingly annoyed with the never ending questions coming from J. Sam was fielding a similar line of questions from K. The only difference was that she shot him down and he stopped talking altogether as well. Around half an hour into the trip, the light levels started increasing, and it looked like they were riding during dawn. The sun had set when they were approaching the territory and now that things were getting lighter, Zuko just assumed that they were approaching the border of the Null Zone – which was the correct assumption. Soon enough, as the light reached the levels one would expect it to reach during mid-morning, the two bikes came to a checkpoint area which had guards stationed by the Golden Aegis Clan. It was different from the previous two that Zuko had been through as the first had automated gun turrets, and the second had Shadow Kin just standing there. This one was far more official, with a small building, scanners and a boom gate. The motorcycles stopped and the guards approached Sam and K, speaking briefly. There weren’t any scans or I.D checks or the like, and the gate was raised to allow both bikes access.
“Being a General in this place must have its perks.” Zuko said as he looked back at the checkpoint.
“It was mostly because of Sam – K isn’t that impressive.” J said with a shrug and a chuckle.
Zuko looked around him and was absolutely flabbergasted to see the area they had just ridden into. The road was perfectly maintained and marked, the grass alongside was wonderfully pristine and manicured. The buildings, which at this point were houses, were also amazingly well maintained and looked after. There were painted crests and emblems painted above the doors of the houses. There was silence between the travelers as the two bikes hissed down the road. There were tall buildings in the not so distant distance, and the closer they got to those buildings, the more playgrounds and jungle gyms seemed to pop up. The colourful children’s play areas were still pristine and practically untouched, looking as bright and as vibrant as they likely did when they were assembled. Eventually, playgrounds turned to parks, and houses turned to high rise buildings. The once empty streets started to see some traffic, with men and women from different clans and races dressed in their combat armour. Combat armour soon turned to civilian clothing, and the bikes turned onto streets that actually had legitimate activity with a few stalls selling food and such. They then turned into a massive clearing which was practically full to bursting with stalls, kiosks and what have you, with hawkers and merchants peddling their wares in what turned out to be a busy Marketplace. The bikes continued along their path however, and after a minute or two, they pulled up to a building that was not quite within the market place, but close enough that the ambient noise from it could still be heard. The Generals parked in front of the building and they all climbed off of the bikes. Sam quickly ascended the steps and reached up the sleeve of her robe, before pulling a long, old looking key and unlocking the massive wooden door. After pushing it open, she looked back at Zuko and smiled sweetly at him.
“Please come this way, Munsai.”
Zuko did just that and followed Sam into the building which was a little dusty, but looked very similar to Sam’s lab back in the city.
“What is this place, Sam?” Zuko asked as he looked around.
“I guess you would call this the Enclave branch of my store, Munsai.” Sam said with a smile.
“This is an Apothecary as well?”
“Something like that. Anyway, there is accommodation upstairs, a lab on this level, and a garden downstairs. I will take you on a tour a little later Munsai, but first, let us get you settled in upstairs.”
“Settled in? Just how long are we going to be here?” Zuko asked.
“We don’t actually know Munsai, and that is why we must get settled in. I shall see to it that we get something to eat once you are settled in. By the way Munsai, how are you feeling? Physically? I mean, you were absolutely amazing earlier, but…”
“I am fine, Sam.” Zuko said with a nod. “Whatever you rubbed on me the other night really did work. Your skills are impressive.”
“Your praise honours me, Munsai. Please, this way.”
Zuko followed as Sam made her way upstairs, and the Shadow Kin J and k stood there in the lobby, looking completely lost and left out.
“What just happened here?” J asked.
“Now that she has the chance to be alone with him, Sam just ditched us.” K replied.
“Who the fuck is that guy?”
“She refused to tell me a damn thing on the way over here.”
“…it pissed me off how she keeps pandering towards him.” J grumbled.
“Dude, did you see how Alex was all respectful and shit to him?” K grumbled back.
“Yeah man, fuck that guy. Let’s go.”
The two generals stood there in the lobby without moving a muscle.
“…let’s wait for Sam to come back and see if she needs anything else from us.” K suggested.
“Good idea.” J agreed.
Meanwhile upstairs, Zuko had been shown to the largest and most lavish looking of all the bedrooms, and he just stood there looking around. He then looked at Sam, who was busy tidying up.
“Sam.” He said as he walked towards her. “Is this room not a bit much? This looks like where you should sleep.”
“This is where I usually sleep Munsai, however for the duration of your stay here; I think it would be best for you to set up here.”
“You do not have to do that, Sam.”
“It’s okay Munsai.” Sam insisted as she finished fluffing pillows and dusting dressers. “The bathroom is through here complete with shower, so you may freshen up if you like.”
“I would like to get on with what I came here to do, Sam.” Zuko said, sounding somewhat impatient.
“Please Munsai.” Sam urged as she looked at him. “Tonight, we will get started on that. For now though, let us take a few moments to get settled in, and then maybe talk a brief walk around the Market so you can see how things are within the Null Zone.”
Zuko looked at Sam, who was seemingly saying all this with quite the subtext behind it all, prompting him to sigh and nod.
“Very well… let me know when you wish to leave.”
“Thank you Munsai. I shall do just that.”
Sam then made her way out the bedroom and downstairs to where the two Shadow Kin were still standing awkwardly. She played it off as if she hadn’t forgotten about them when she clearly had. They tried not to look hurt, but they clearly were. After talking the somewhat clingy Generals down, she eventually managed to get rid of them and as the bikes shot off, she made her way back upstairs to get Zuko. Around ten minutes later, they were both walking through the streets of the Null Zone. Sam was being spotted and recognised left and right, greeting merchants and fielding questions that she generally did not want to answer again. Zuko was of no help in that regard, as he just stood and glared at people from behind the hood in silence. The walk about was fairly short and soon enough they were walking to cobblestoned back streets and alleyways until they walked into a rather empty and old looking restaurant. A few moments later, a tall man with long, somewhat curly hair, goatee and chest hair that just refused to stay hidden appeared. He had an apron wrapped around his waist and gloves on, and without even looking at Sam and Zuko, waved a gloved hand.
“Yes, yeeeessss, welcome to…”
His speech slowed as he opened his eyes and actually saw just who it was that had entered the building. A myriad of emotions played out on his face until it settled on joy. He walked right up to Sam and swept her up in in a hug that didn’t seem to end. He squeezed her so tightly; it was as if he was afraid that she was going to disappear if he didn’t. It eventually got to be so much that Sam ended up beating him off and shaking her head with a smile.
“Good grief.” Sam said as she playfully ruffled the unkempt mop of curls on this pretty boy’s head. “I know it’s been a while Rick, but it hasn’t been that long.”
“Ah, forgive me Synae.” Rick said with his accented voice as he wiped his eyes with his forearm. “It’s just that every time you leave, one doesn’t know when or if you’re going to come back.”
“It’s been a few months, Riccardo… stop being such a drama queen.” Sam said as she rolled her eyes hard.
Rick and Sam then chuckled for a bit, and the man who appeared to be a Golden Soldier looked at Zuko as his laughter died down. Zuko looked right back at him, and he looked the Agent up and down, before looking back at Sam with raised eyebrows.
“Who in the name of Mangrita is this, Synae? He is pure—”
“Rick, we would like to place an order.” Sam said, cutting him off.
“What would you like to eat, madam?” Rick asked, the look in his eye having changed.
“Braised beef, bean and barely stew.” She said with a nod.
“Understood, and how many bowls would you like?”
“Five bowls and one more for my companion here.”
“Understood… will you be dining here, or at home?”
“At home.” Sam said with a smile. “But please give me my bowls to go.”
“As you wish.” Rick said with a nod.
He turned around and disappeared into the back of the restaurant, while Sam looked at Zuko and smiled warmly.
“Sorry about that Munsai, Rick is an old friend.”
“No need to apologise.” Zuko said with a shake of the head.
Moments later, the tanned man returned with two large bowls of the soup Sam had requested. They were sealed bowls and carry bags, and he handed them to Zuko who took them both.
“A gift for you, my good man. We cannot let the lady carry the heavy soup, no?”
Zuko just held the carry bags in is hands and nodded, before turning around and beginning to walk off. Sam and Rick shared a lingering stare, before nodding at each other.
“Sorry for the wait, Munsai.” Sam said as she shuffled to his side and smiled at him.
Rick stood there with a look of utter shock on his face. He watched as Sam and Zuko walked in the direction of the store, standing at the door of the restaurant watching them disappear. When Sam and Zuko got back to the store, he set the soup down where he was directed to, and soon afterwards, they were set up on a balcony overlooking the market and a large portion of the Null Zone, as well as some of the surrounding war torn territories. Zuko flipped the hood back and looked at the soup on the table.
“Is this not traditional Sun Elf cuisine?”
“I’m impressed, Munsai. This soup is Sun Elf comfort food.”
“I guess that makes that guy a Golden Soldier or whatever they are called in here.” Zuko said that as he loosened the bandages around his face a touch and dipped the spoon into the piping hot soup. “Was this soup already on standby or something?”
“It always is, Munsai…”
“So tell me… where are they?” Zuko asked as his eyes remained transfixed on the soup.
“So you noticed?”
“Pretty difficult not to, Sam… I have not seen a single child since arriving here – not one.”
Sam sighed as she took the lid off of her own bowl of soup and stirred it a bit with her spoon.
“The Elven Enclave does not have any children, Munsai. Children do not exist.”
“What?” Zuko asked as he looked at Sam. “How can that be, though? What happened to them?”
“The last batch grew up, and there hasn’t been another child born since then. As you know Munsai, we Elves are a people who are inexplicably drawn to fighting and whether we fight amongst ourselves or against other people, we just cannot seem to handle peace. As often and as easily as we get into fights, one thing that has been passed down through the generations is the folklore that war is what will kill off the Elven race. People have always taken that to mean that the Magic and swords will do the killing, but that is not the case, Munsai. Warring Elven tribes and settlements of the past have met their end not because they stabbed each other to death, but because… because war makes Elves sterile.”
Sam said this as she took a sip of the soup’s broth, and made a face like she had just tasted the most amazing thing in the known world. The look of sheer joy on her face was at complete loggerheads with what she had just said, and Zuko, who thought he was adequately clued up on Elven history and Lore was absolutely floored by what he just heard. Sam looked at Zuko who was just giving her a look of shock and suddenly remembered that she was talking about some serious stuff.
“Forgive me, Munsai. As I was saying, war makes us sterile and this is a truth that the people of this Enclave have found out the hard way. The closer a skirmish or a fight is to an Elven settlement, the harder it becomes for us to conceive and by the time the fight is on the doorstep of that settlement, no man or woman is fertile and no matter how much or how hard they try, they will never conceive. This Null Zone was built purely to house the children of the Enclave and to have them raised in peaceful environments at least until they were old enough to be trained in the ways of war. It was dubbed the Null Zone because absolutely nothing war related was supposed go on in here, and the children were not supposed to exposed to any of the squabbles of the adults. Unfortunately, as the centuries passed and the relics became more of a rarity, territories were expanded, smaller clans swallowed up and as a consequence, the fighting got closer and closer to the boundaries of the Null Zone. By the time the clans all realised that they were this close to this place, the last batch of children had just moved out and joined their respective clans.”
“How long ago was the last cycle?”
“Nearly a century ago, Munsai.”
“Jayd and Kriyen belonged to that batch, Munsai. They left this place when they were practically still in diapers. I raised and trained them, and now they are the leaders of their own Shadow Kin clan.”
“Those two were amongst the final children born here?” Zuko asked, assuming she was talking about J and K.
“That is correct, Munsai.” Sam said as she resisted taking another sip of the broth.
“How has this not been leaked to the public outside the Enclave? Or at least to the City Lord so he can do something about this?”
“We are Elves, Munsai – we will take care of our own problems. Even if those who live here don’t think of themselves as Elves, their ears point to the sky or to the ground like the rest of us, so they are our brethren. Those of us who are able to pass freely between the Enclave and the city agreed not to say anything about this to anyone outside. We have to keep this contained, and find a way of getting these idiot clan leaders to sit and extend the boundaries of the Null Zone. Only by doing that will Elven children be sired within this Enclave once again.”
“Then why have you not done that yet?”
“The accursed Elder is the only one with the authority to call one such meeting and force the leaders to play nice. He’s probably the only one powerful enough maintain peace within that meeting.”
“And he will not do this because…”
“Because that fool is too preoccupied with waiting for his true love to awaken.” Sam practically spat with about as much disdain as one person could muster.
“Waiting for his true love to awaken?”
“Legend has it; Elder Faelaon has been head over heels in love with one woman his entire life. He pursued her relentlessly and even asked for her hand in marriage. This woman however was extremely powerful and told Faelaon that she would only ever marry a man who was stronger than her, and that sent down the path of Magic and seeking power. The thing is, this woman is so powerful, that she is only ever conscious for a century at most, before she slumbers to replenish her strength. Just being is almost too much for her, and it takes a few centuries for her to wake up. Each time she wakes up, Faelaon proposes to her, and is rejected because he is not yet strong enough for her. He recently reached Elder level strength, so he is currently waiting anxiously for her to awaken. He couldn’t care less about anything that happens that has nothing to do with her.”
“How does he know where she is? Or when she will awaken?”
“He always keeps an eye on her, so he knows where she is when she slumbers. Then he has her brought back to the Enclave and placed in the temple he built for her nigh on six centuries ago. Every time she sleeps, he selects young Elven women and casts a Spell on them, granting them unbelievably long lives and vast power, but at the cost of their freedom and sanity. They tend to her temple and ensure that her hair is cut; fingernails and toe nails are trimmed and other intrusive things. Their lives are linked to hers, and when she wakes up, they die.”
“Wow…” Zuko said as he looked at Sam. “How do you know all this?”
“Information is an important commodity, Munsai. Some of us like to have as much of it as possible.” Sam replied cryptically.
This prompted Zuko to start eating his soup as it had cooled down sufficiently, and the two just watched as the sun began to set as they ate. The minutes turned to hours, and it was dark by the time Sam looked at Zuko and offered him something to drink before inviting him inside. As they made their way downstairs, four bowls of soup were placed on the kitchen island. They both turned around to see Rick, as well as three other figures take a knee with one fist resting on the floor, the other across their chests.
“Guildmaster – welcome back to the Enclave.” They all said in unison.
“Hey, guys.” Sam said with a small wave. “I see you all have yet to eat your soup. Sorry, but we ate ours.”
“No, you must have been hungry, Guildmaster. Please do not apologise.” The one in the middle said.
“Please stand, guys.” Sam said as she ushered them to their feet.
They all stood and Zuko gave them a quick once over. They all appeared to be Golden Soldiers, mostly because they had the ears of Sun Elves. They all wore clothing which had similar ethnic designs to Sam’s robe, although theirs weren’t practically all over their clothes. Whether on the lapels of a coat, or the heel of a boot, there would be something that looked like Sun Elf art there. They were all men, with Zuko recognising the one that looked like a ladies man. One of the new ones was of average height, had long lair and a beard. The other was almost too skinny, had slightly darker skin, a bald head and buck teeth. The final one was somewhat scruffy, but also had a muscular physique, was clean shaven and had short hair.
“Allow me to introduce everybody, the one with the beard is Jack, we call baldy over there Rabbit and our resident tough guy is called Lee.” Sam said as she looked at Zuko with a smile. “Oh, and you already know Rick from earlier.”
Sam then looked at the four men who were clearly waiting to be introduced to this tall, cloaked man. They had heard from Rick that Sam had called him ‘Munsai’ and the other three did not believe Rick at all. They just started at her with unblinking eyes, waiting for her to say something. She could see this, and it didn’t take long for her to figure out why they were so anxious. She then looked at Zuko and was trying to figure out a way to approach the situation. Zuko looked at her and saw that she was thinking hard. He then looked at the four men and grunted slightly.
“Izano Zuko.” He said as he introduced himself. “Do you need more than that?”
The four men looked at Zuko with expressions that just screamed of them requiring far more than that, but Sam just smirked slightly and nodded.
“Alright, let’s go to the garden to discuss things further, and where you four can actually eat your soup.”
She gestured for Zuko to follow her as she led the way down to the garden, which looked like an almost identical copy of the lab at the store, with the same plants and such being grown there. The only difference here was that there was a large round table down there, and after Sam had found an extra chair for Zuko, they all sat down.
“Alright guys, this is the situation, the—”
“Forgive the interruption, but exactly what is this? Who and what are you?” Zuko asked as he looked at Sam.
“Oh, I’m sorry – I just started without providing any context. This officially is the only Alchemist Guild in Glory City; not just in the Enclave. We formed the Guild when we arrived here, and we supply a number of other business and clans within the Enclave with medicinal herbs and such. The guys and I are the founders and sole members of the Guild, and we gather like this every time I am in the Enclave.”
“Alright, I see.” Zuko said with a nod. “How many of these gardens do you have?”
“More than I care to count.” Sam said with a chuckle before looking at the guys. “Alright, as I was saying before, this is our current situation…”
Sam spent some time explaining what had happened leading up to that point and the reason for them coming to the Enclave. The men had been eating their soup, and Jack was the first to speak.
“I’m sorry Guildmaster, but there is something I don’t understand.”
“What is that?” Sam asked.
“Why is this Izano Zuko guy looking to confirm anything about whether or not that Elder has any ties to those attacking the Humans?”
“Because I am currently a member of the Order – an Agent, if you wish to be accurate.”
There was shock in the garden as spoons were dropped into soup bowls, and Rick even stood up.
“Wait, wait, wait Synae!” Rick boomed. “You're telling me that you have brought a Human into the Enclave?! An Elf is trying to help a Human?!”
“Calm down, Riccardo!” Sam ordered.
“Race has nothing to do with this.” Zuko calmly stated as he looked at Rick. “This is about keeping a promise and protecting that which is dear to one who is dear to me.”
“Like I give a shit how you try to justify it! You do not belong here, fucking smooth ear!”
“Enough!” Sam roared as she smacked both palms against the table top. “I will not tolerate any disrespect directed towards Munsai – especially from those who claim to serve under me. Speak to him like that again, and you might find that handsome face of yours melting right off your head.”
There was an awkward silence in the underground garden as the four men suddenly felt chills run down their spines. There was a look in Sam’s eyes that they had not seen in hundreds of years, and it was one that caused Rick to sit right down, and for the others to look down at the table. Zuko looked at Sam with a slight smirk, before looking at the four men sitting across from him.
“So.” Sam said as she calmed down after taking a few deep breaths. “We need to find a way of not only meeting with the Elder, but also getting him to answer whatever questions Munsai has for him.”
“How are we supposed to do that?” Rabbit asked after gulping down the remainder of the broth in his bowl.
“We need to find a way of getting into the High Elf Tower.” Jack said as he looked up at Sam.
“That won’t be easy and not only that, the place is filled with High Elf Mages of ridiculous power.”
“Maybe we can find a way to sneak in and—”
“Munsai can’t sneak.” Sam said with a slight shake of the head. “He makes more noise while sneaking than he does when walking normally or running.”
“Huh? How does that even work??” Rick asked as he glared at Zuko.
The brainstorming session went on in this vein, with Zuko a silent spectator as he watched on. As there was a lull in the brainstorming session, Zuko looked at Sam and tapped her shoulder.
“I have a suggestion.” He said simply.
“We know what it is that Faelaon values the most, do we not?” Zuko said, looking as though he was asking everybody.
“What are you talking about?” Rick asked with a shrug of the shoulders.
“Does he have something he values more than his High Elf blood?”
“He does.” Sam said as it dawned on her. “The Lady.”
“The Lady?” Jack asked. “Do you mean the one he built the temple for?”
“That very one.” Sam said with a nod.
“How does knowing about her help us?” Lee asked.
“Well, we know what it is he values the most and we know where that thing is… so targeting it means targeting his weakness.”
“Are you suggesting we find and kill her or something?”
“Not at all. I am merely suggesting that we seize control of the temple and have him fulfill a number of conditions to have it released.”
“…conditions like?” Rabbit asked.
“Like answering a few questions, or convening and overseeing a meeting between the Generals and what have you of these warring clans.”
Sam’s eyes grew wide as she listened to Zuko speak. She looked at him and he gave her a nod in return before looking at the men at the table.
“The quickest and likeliest easiest method of obtaining what it is that we want is probably this one. I do not have the time, and you do not have the numbers to engage in a full scale war with Faelaon – so this is the best course of action. Of course this is just a suggestion, so feel free to discuss this at your leisure while I retire to my sleeping quarters and rest.”
Zuko then stood up and nodded at Sam, before turning around and walking off. Sam followed after him and showed him to the bedroom, before quickly going back to the garden, prepared to face all the questions in the world from her subordinates. As she sat down and waited to be bombarded with questions, she was instead met by silence and serious facial expressions.
“Who is that man, Guildmaster?” Jack asked. “Who is he, and why are you helping him? Unlike that idiot Rick, I could instantly tell he was not a Smooth Ear, but I can’t tell exactly what he is. I just wish to know.”
As Rick gave Jack the evil eye, Sam noticed that Rabbit and Lee also seemed to have the same expression on their faces as Jack did before speaking, so she just took a deep breath and spoke.
“That man came to my shop seeking information on the attacks that were carried out of Human Agents. He had recognised the effects that the Alchemical remedies had on the ones who attacked the Agents, looked through his own Alchemy texts and wrote the recipes for both Elixirs. He then came to me and presented me with the formulas, and…”
As Sam started from the beginning and explained everything in detail, the four men listened intently. She was completely open with them and when she was done with the explanation, Jack spoke once again, looking as though he wasn’t quite satisfied.
“I hear what you’re saying Guildmaster, but to call a person you met for the first time Munsai, when it took years and years of dedicated service for you to call our previous Munsai by that title… just what did you see in this man during your first meeting?”
“Izano Zuko possesses a quality that I have only seen in our previous Munsai and Elven Elders. That quality made my very being scream and shout to me that I had to do whatever it was that man wanted – whatever it was he desired, because in doing that, I – no we – would finally obtain the chance to achieve what we have sought to achieve for centuries… revenge.”
Sam said this with an intense scowl on her face, and her hands clenched so hard, her knuckles and fingers cracked. The men all looked at each other in silence, before looking at Sam and nodded at around the same time.
“If it is for that purpose, I know I am willing to do anything to achieve that.” Jack said with a nod. “I will help that man.”
“I will too.” Lee agreed.
“Me too.” Rabbit nodded.
“That guy has to get a change of clothes, though.” Rick said with a shake of the head. “I saw the Insignia of the Order on what he was wearing.”
“I agree.” Jack said with a nod. “Order clothing will only draw more attention to him.”
“Okay, we will sort all that out in the morning. I need you guys to find out as much information as you can about the Lady’s temple, and more importantly, where it is. The sooner we find it, the sooner we can devise a plan of getting in.”
“So we are going with that crazy plan of his?” Lee asked.
“It will need fine tuning and proper planning, however I think under the current circumstances, Munsai’s plan is the best one.”
“I don’t like that guy.” Rick said with a huff as he stood up.
“Well I do, and that should be enough.” Sam said with something of a scowl. “Anyway, get out there and squeeze your contacts for as much information as you can, okay?”
“Yes, Guildmaster.” They all said in unison before disbanding.
Sam also made her way upstairs and to the bedrooms. She settled in the one she had chosen to sleep in, and was out cold fairly quickly. The next morning, she awoke to Zuko standing on the balcony they had eaten on last night and just watching the sun rise as well as the Market wake up. She joined him on the balcony, stumbling slightly and rubbing her eyes before yawning as she reached him.
“Good morning, Munsai.” She said sleepily, before getting on her knees and bowing slowly.
Zuko wasn’t sure that she was going to get back up after she dipped her head down, but she eventually did and stood up.
“Did you sleep well?” She asked as she looked up at him.
“I did.” Zuko replied as he looked at her. “How about you? Did you sleep enough?”
“Does anybody ever get enough sleep, Munsai?”
“I think the Lady or whatever she is called would be better suited to answer that question.” Zuko said before looking back out at the Market below.
Sam giggled quite a bit at the joke, before stretching and suddenly waking up properly. She then noticed that she was still barefoot and in her makeshift pajamas, but seeing as Zuko did not make a fuss over it, she would just play it off as if she wasn’t embarrassed or anything. There was silence between the two as they both watched the Marketplace come to life; however Sam eventually broke the silence.
“Would you like some tea or coffee, Munsai?”
“Only if you are having.” Zuko replied.
“Let me get showered and dressed first, and then I will make us some and bring it up here. Please excuse me.”
Sam disappeared deeper into the building, which for all intents and purposes was a four story house, and around half an hour later, she was back on the balcony but had neither tea nor coffee on her.
“I’m terribly sorry Munsai; it appears there isn’t even any sugar in this place. That damned Riccardo… I’ve told him time and again not to ransack the Guild Hall for supplies when I’m not around.” Sam grumbled to herself before looking at Zuko. “It would appear that we need to go to the Market to get something to eat which works out perfectly because I was just thinking that it would be a good move to actually get you some clothes that are not branded with the symbol of the Order.”
“That makes sense.” Zuko said with a nod. “Especially considering that Humans and the Order are reviled.”
“I’m glad you get that, Munsai. Shall we get going?”
“Ready when you are.” Zuko said with a nod.
The two were out on the street in no time, and were in the Marketplace in a matter of minutes. Sam dragged Zuko over to clothing kiosks and stands, looking at both locally made and imported items. The imported ones were clearly smuggled – something that was made apparent by the fact that there often times only one or two size variations to the items of clothing that were available. Nothing seemed to tickle Zuko’s fancy, who surprisingly appeared to be particularly picky about clothing. A good portion of the morning was spent going from merchant to merchant, and it wasn’t until they reached a stall that was right on the outskirts of the market that Zuko actually stopped and looked at something that was hanging there in earnest. The stall itself was run by a Dune Elf merchant, who was neither as big nor as simple as the vast majority of Dune Elf warriors. He was dressed in the traditional Dune Elf attire – flashy and expensive robes that hang loose with the sleeves hanging well beyond his hands. His push-in slippers were pointed, and the tip twirled into a coil, while he had a traditional Dune Elf Turban on his head. His beard was long and well groomed, and unlike the few Dune Elves Zuko had seen within the Enclave that were dressed in rags and simple behemoths, this man’s skin had sheen and suppleness of a rich person.
“Greetings, prospective customer.” The merchant said with a sly smile and a nod. “You have very good taste; however that item is not for sale.”
Zuko didn’t even look at the Dune Elf and just focused his gaze and attention on what was hanging in front of him. Magic using Dune Elves were something of a rarity; however there were a few who were trained in the art of Water Magic – one of the streams belonging to the Elemental School of Magic. Those who were able to practice it were highly prized as Rakisha, the harsh and dry homeland of the Dune Elves, required Water Priests as they were called, to keep the limited number of Oases and waterways that the entire country relied on maintained and clean. What Zuko was actually looking at was Water Priest Armour that had been stripped off of one that had been condemned to death. It wasn’t in the greatest condition and still had blood on it, but Zuko didn’t care as the Enchantments and Buffs the armour contained just screamed of this being high level equipment. The merchant had been speaking to both Sam and Zuko, trying to steer them away from the armour. Zuko was not having it though, and he looked at the merchant and spoke.
“You, Merchant… what is your name?”
“I go by the name Jazeera, prospective customer.” Jazeera said with a slight bow.
“Jazeera… does the dry and caked blood that decorates this armour belong to the Priest who wears it?”
“Yes, however all that remains of the one who wore it is the blood.”
“Really? But Priests are so highly prized in Rakisha, are they not?”
“They are prospective customer. All this means this means is that he committed a crime so grave, that even his position meant did little to prevent him from meeting the end that he did. Anyway, if you are looking for some armour, we have some lovely—prospective customer!!”
Jazeera suddenly yelled as he watched Zuko pull the Water Priest Armour right off the rack and look it over. He then looked at the Dune Elf with an uncompromising look in his eyes.
“There is blood on this armour. That in itself warrants a lower price.”
“Yes, but it isn’t for sale, pro—”
“It’s also covered in scratches and dents, Munsai.”
“It stinks too. How can something in this condition even be for sale?”
“That’s just the thing, it isn’t for sa— wait, what are you doing?!”
Right there in the street, Zuko was disrobing. He tossed the Cloak of Tan'Rhaka onto the armour rack before sliding out of his Black Robes as well. He then started putting the Water Priest Armour on, which was a cross between medium and heavy armour. Dune Elves by nature were physically strong, so even their ‘Priests’ were able to wear heavier sets of armour. The Cuirass had rounded Pauldrons, while the gloves were fingerless. There were no faulds however, as what looked like the bottom half of Zuko’s Robes extended directly from the bottom of the Cuirass down to the ground, the armoured skeleton of sorts that the robe bit was built on causing it to flare out as it got closer to the ground. There were greaves beneath the robe-like bit, and a something of a half-cape draped over the right shoulder which covered the entire arm as well as a portion of the Cuirass itself, stopping just below Zuko’s waist. Along with all the markings and carvings present on the Cuirass and such, there was also a hood connected to the Cuirass which Zuko flipped up over his head. All this was done within a matter of minutes, and even Jazeera was astounded at just how much the armour suited and fit Zuko. He was just about to protest some more, but Sam threw a bundle of money onto the counter of the stall and leaned in close, before whispering into Jazeera’s ear.
“This money should be more than enough to cover the costs of this stinky, banged up armour. If you protest any further, then I might have to go and pay the Merchant Council a visit and have them look into where you get all of this merchandise.”
The threat caused Jazeera to change his tune and suddenly start smiling and nodding along happily.
“O-Of course, treasured customer!” He said with a slimy smile. “This money sufficient, and that armour now belongs to that man!”
Zuko looked at Sam and nodded, before picking up his possessions off of the armour rack. As they were about to walk off, Zuko noticed a large rectangular shaped object that was covered by a large cloth of sorts. He then walked right up to it and stared at it in silence, before looking at Jazeera.
“Merchant… what is under here?”
“S-Something that really is not for sale.”
“I wish to see what it is.”
“Please, treasured customer! There are requests that cannot be granted, no matter how treasured—”
“Munsai said he wishes to see what is beneath the cloth, Merchant.” Sam warned, displaying a completely different side to Zuko. “Don’t make him repeat himself.”
“R-RIGHT AWAY!” Jazeera boomed as he grabbed the sheet. “For the record, this is a very bad idea.” He mumbled as he pulled the sheet away.
It revealed a cage underneath that was about as heavily Warded as possible. Inside the cage was a massive creature that was covered in paper tags with sealing symbols scribbled all over them. There were also a multitude of chains that extended from the bars and frame of the cage and were wrapped around the body of whatever it was that was in there. The chains were taut and looked about ready to snap at the slightest provocation. There were a few moments of peace, but suddenly, the thing inside the cage started shaking and grunting and roaring, as if it could sense or smell that something familiar was outside the cage. Things escalated rather quickly as the shaking and such became more and more violent.
“What is going on here, Merchant?!” Sam asked as she looked at Jazeera.
“Within this cage is the life-long servant who was tasked with protecting the Water Priest. He can probably smell his previous Master’s blood in the air, and is reacting to it.”
“Is it dangerous?”
“I cannot be sure, treasured customer. What I do know, is that this sheet blocked all sense of sight, sound and smell for him, so he didn’t know his Master’s armour was so close. If it is alright with you, I would like to put the sheet back on now, if that is alright with you.”
“No, keep it off.” Zuko commanded as stepped closer to the cage. “Servant within the cage, calm yourself and heed my words. I am the one who is currently wearing your fallen Master’s armour, and circumstances are such that I did not even have the time to clean the blood off before wearing it. I am only wearing it temporarily, and will return it as soon as I am done, so calm down and wait patiently. Continuing to kick up a fuss will only result in you being deprived off your senses once more, so if you sit there and bear with this situation a little longer, I will create a situation in which you can escape and likely take this armour with you.”
Zuko, who had been communicating directly with whatever was within this prison, managed to calm it down with his words. Much to the surprise of Jazeera, the servant stopped making a fuss and became still, which even resulted in the chains becoming far looser than they had been before. Jazeera looked at Zuko with barely contained shock and shook his head slightly.
“These chains are Enchanted, and respond to intent… so long as escape is the intent, they remain tight and hard. The fact that they have loosened and are even resting on the floor of the cage means that the servant within is no longer habouring thoughts of forced or violent escape. How is that possible?”
“I spoke to him.” Zuko said before looking at the merchant. “Do not cover the cage with this sheet again – use one that does not deprive the one inside here of his senses, understood? He will not kick up a fuss anymore.”
Before Jazeera could respond, Zuko picked up his things and began walking.
“Let us be off, Sam.”
The Sun Elf followed after him, quickly catching up and looking at him with a smile.
“That was impressive, Munsai.” She said with a nod. “How were you able to calm that creature down?”
“It is fairly simple to reason with and convince intelligent beings, Sam. That is all that I did. So, where to next?”
“Well, I believe I promised you tea or coffee, Munsai. How about we just turn that into a late morning meal and then we go back to the Guild Hall?”
“That works for me.” Zuko said with a shrug as he walked.
The pair walked right back into the busy hub of the Marketplace. As Zuko followed slightly behind Sam, she was constantly being pulled to the side by people looking to talk to her and show her things. This quickly became annoying to Zuko, and he found himself just walking on when she was stopped again for the umpteenth time. He did his usual thing of just turning where and when it felt right, and in no time at all was completely lost and had no idea where he was or how to find Sam or any of the others. He just continued walking and turning at random until he walked into something or someone almost unbearably hard. As the two bumped off of each other, Zuko looked in the direction of the one he bumped into and suddenly felt a sensation so familiar that he almost got into his battle stance immediately. The one he bumped into looked right back at him and as a look of realisation spread across his face like cold egg running down one’s face, realisation turn to excitement as he grinned about as broadly as he could, also stepping back as if readying himself to pounce.
“Izano Zuko.” The deep, excited voice said.
“Momoh ka Aah.” Zuko said reply as Mana started to swirl around his feet.
Momoh had clenched his fists in preparation of another fight when Zuko suddenly remembered something and stood up straight.
“Wait.” He said as he immediately calmed down.
“What?” Momoh said, having yet to realise it himself.
“This is the Enclave’s Null Zone, is it not? All forms of conflict and combat have been forbidden within the boundaries of this place.”
“Shit, really? Fuck, now that I think about it, I vaguely remember that Catherine saying something like that to me.” Momoh said as he groaned and scratched the back of his head.
“You remember vaguely? You do not even listen when receiving information about a place?”
“Come on man, can you blame me? All she ever does is ramble on about rules and shit, or scolds me nonstop. I don’t have the patience to listen to her when she speaks.” Momoh said as he shrugged.
And so the two men, who belonged to opposing side and had been engaged in brief but absolutely brutal clashes, stood in the middle of the Market streets, unable to engage in combat. They looked at each other awkwardly in silence, before Momoh scratched the back of his head again.
“So, uh… if we can’t fight, what can we do?”
“Why do we have to do anything at all?” Zuko asked with a shrug before shaping to walk off.
“Wait… wanna get something to eat?” Momoh asked with a shrug.
Zuko looked at Momoh and was about to tell him off but suddenly realised that if he was here, the chances of the one who was apparently related to the Elder being there as well were somewhat high. He looked at Momoh for a few seconds as he contemplated what to say, before shrugging.
“I guess I could eat.” Zuko said as he looked at Momoh. “Know a place in particular?”
“Nah man, but this is a market. If we walk around long enough and follow the smell of food, we’ll find a spot.”
And so in a bizarre twist of fate, Zuko and Momoh roamed through the streets of the Null Zone together, looking for a place to eat. They ended up finding a small restaurant that sold grilled food, and sat at a table around the back. Momoh ordered an almost unbelievable amount of food while Zuko himself ordered a regular sized portion of food. The tables at the back had grills built into the tables, and once the raw ingredients were brought on a small table that was placed next to theirs, they were left alone to cook their own meat and such. Momoh washed his hands in the water provided and started placing Zuko’s meat and vegetable skewers on the grill. He looked up at Zuko and sat back in his seat, before both men stared at each other in silence. Momoh clearly wasn’t able to handle awkward silences as he was the first to break again.
“So how long have you been here?” He asked with an awkward shrug.
“I arrived the day after our second encounter.”
“Really? Me too.” Momoh said with a jovial smile and nod. “How are your ribs?”
“You knew about them?” Zuko asked as he started placing some of Momoh’s meat on the grill after having removed the gloves and washed his own hands.
“Of course, man… I felt them shatter against my left fist. Much like during our first fight too.”
“So you aim for them purposely, you bastard?” Zuko growled as he placed the last bit of meat over the coals.
“Heh.” Momoh chuckled as he smirked. “Yo, you are one tough fucking Mage, Zuko. My body shots usually cause a motherfucker to explode.”
“Yeah, well I was probably close to exploding a few times during the previous encounters.” Zuko honestly said with a shake of the head. “If I am right about you, then you might just be the most unfairly gifted fighter on this Plane of Existence.”
“What do you mean if you’re right about me?” Momoh asked as a pitcher of ice cold water and two glasses were brought to the table.
“Your heritage.” Zuko said as he poured the water into both glasses.
“What about it?” Momoh asked as he eyed Zuko while drinking some water.
“It is mixed. I am absolutely certain about the one half, and only fairly certain about the other.” Zuko said as he tended to many items on the grill that belonged to Momoh.
“I’d love to hear your theory, Zuko.” Momoh said with a smirk.
“First of all, you are a Grey Orc.” Zuko declared as he humoured Momoh. “Of that, I could not be more certain. You are a Grey Orc. But the other half… is either Snow Werewolf, or Black Werewolf. I cannot quite put my finger on it as I only saw you briefly and was too focused on my defense, but… I know you have some Wolf in you.”
Momoh suddenly burst out into laughter which was accompanied by clapping. He appeared to be genuinely impressed, and after around half a minute or so of laughter, he calmed down and shook his head, smiling still.
“Well I’ll be damned Zuko, you are impressive as every single Level of Hell! We’ve seen each other twice, and you’ve already figured that much out? Well, you’re right about the Orc bit, which surprises me, but what absolutely blows my mind is the Werewolf bit… how the fuck did you figure that out?”
“The colour of the fur on your arms the other day was too light to belong to a Black Werewolf, yet far too dark to be of a Snow Wolf. So I was stuck between the two.”
“Well Zuko, you were right in both instances, but complicated things. Let me simplify it for you; Gramps was a Black Wolf, Grandma was a Snow Wolf… Pops was a Grey Orc, and Moms was a Grey Wolf, sooooo….”
Momoh said this with a grin on his face, while Zuko looked and felt as though he had just been hit with a ton of bricks. His eyes were about as open as they could be, and it took a few moments for him to comprehend and digest the information he had just received.
“The most powerful variant of Orc sired a child with a woman who was a mixture of the two most powerful variants of Werewolf… unbelievable.”
“Believe it!” Momoh said as he flipped Zuko’s meat and his vegetables.
There was just a brief lull in conversation as Zuko completely digested it all. Once that was done, he actually grinned through the bandages and shook his head while chuckling just a tad.
“You are an absolute monster, Momoh.” Zuko said before tending to Momoh’s meat.
“Well, I try.” Momoh said with a shrug and a chuckle. “How did you figure out I was an Orc? My tusks don’t poke out of my mouth or anything.”
“The shape of your ears and the colour of your blood.” Zuko said with something of a disinterested smirk.
“Seriously?” Momoh said with a grin. “Damn man, your powers of observation are legit. So what about you? What are you?”
“Well, seeing as I stand to lose more by revealing that to you, you will have to settle for a hint that could double up as homework.” Zuko said before holding up a piece of grilled meat for Momoh to inspect.
“Homework?” He said as he nodded, approving the level of doneness before reciprocating for Zuko.
“Yes… my blood is the same colour as yours.” He said as he nodded at his own meat.
“Shit.” Momoh said as he visibly wracked his brain while trying to figure out what that meant.
The men dished up for one another and soon afterwards were eating. Momoh ate like a man who was a combination of a Wolf and an Orc, and Zuko could have sworn the meat was crying out in pain as it was ripped to shreds. He saw this as an opportune moment to quiz Momoh some more.
“So tell me Momoh, why are you even here?” Zuko asked after swallowing some food.
“Man, after you and me had our little thing, that Elven bitch Candace went straight to the Boss and tattled on me like Momoh was doing pointless shit, fighting some weird Agent when it wasn’t necessary, blah blah blah!!”
Momoh’s impersonation of the Elf named Candace was all squeaky and high pitched. It took all of Zuko’s willpower not burst out laughing and thankfully for him, Momoh just kept talking.
“So the Boss dragged me here with them all so he could scold me before telling me about some task we were supposed to do here or some shit, right? But the moment we got here, shit got real busy for him and I managed to escape.”
“Escape?” Zuko asked with his head tilted. “Escape from where?”
“From that fucking High Elf tower. That was like three days ago or some shit and since then; I’ve been eating and fucking my way through the High Elf spot all the way to this Null spot.”
“Eating and fucking?”
“Yeah dude, these Elf women are wild! Nothing like the ones from outside the damn Empire.”
“I know right?!” Zuko boomed, having seemingly forgotten all about the sneaky interrogation. “What the fuck is going on with Elves in this place?! They don’t even call themselves Elves anymore, there’s none of that restraint and such. Now they hold guns, wear armour and spread their legs!”
“Yoooo man, those airy-fairy tree huggers that I’m used to can stay where they are, Zuko! I like these ones! I mean, the High Elves are still snooty bitches, but damn, you can work around that in here!”
The two actually started laughing rather boisterously as they continued to eat. They got along rather smashingly for a pair of men who were on sides that were rekindling feelings of hatred from the past. Momoh then gulped down some more water and started eating a different cut of grilled meat.
“So now you tell me!” Momoh said between slices of meat. “Where did you actually come from?”
“How do you mean?” Zuko asked as he ate a skewer or two.
“I mean, when I boarded the train at L’Sikisiki Station, you were already on the damn train.”
“Oh? You arrived on the same train as I did?” Zuko asked sounding surprised.
“Yeah, man! I watched as those stewards made a big deal over your appearance, and even when those Agent dudes came up to you all hard.”
“Well, that is a surprise. Is this also your first time in this city?”
“Yeah man, it is. It’s crazy how big and modern this place is. Well at least, modern in the Human areas. Our areas aren’t that shiny.”
“You have no idea, Momoh.” Zuko said as he gulped down more water. “I was actually with the Orcs, and they ridiculously primitive. I cannot understand it.”
“Seriously? Damn… I was wondering what life for them was like. How are the women?”
“Monstrous.” Zuko said with a shake of the head. “No matter how small and mousy, they possess Orcish strength. I was being tossed about by women who were no taller than my waist.”
Momoh boomed with laughter as he banged the table a few times.
“Anyway, I came from Rakisha.”
“Damn, from that desert. What’s it like there?”
“Hot and dry.” Zuko said with a shake of the head.
The conversation seemed as though it could have continued forever and actually felt like it was going to, however Momoh’s ears suddenly perked up as he also sniffed the air.
“Fuck!” He whispered as he looked at Zuko. “Shit Zuko, I gotta go! Candace has somehow located me and is bearing down on this place. Sorry but can you take care of the bill? I don’t have money on me anyway. Later!”
Momoh suddenly jumped onto the table, and then the wall that served as a fence for the building before looking at Zuko.
“Hopefully next time, there are no interruptions when we fight! Peace!”
Momoh jumped off the wall and ran at breakneck speed. Zuko quickly flipped his hood up and moments later, that Elf from the other day zoomed by, seemingly not recognising Zuko due to the change of clothing.
“I’ve finally found you, you Gods forsaken Orc! Momoh you warthog! Get back here! We’ve got things to do!!” She roared as she ran after him.
Zuko sat at the table, looking at the absolute mess left my Momoh, and found himself looking around.
“How am I supposed to pay for all this?” Zuko asked himself as a waiter approached him and asked if he needed anything else.
Just as he was wondering how to contact Sam and get her to come over, the Sun Elf appeared as if she knew he was in trouble. Her sandals echoed on the paving, and as she saw Zuko, she almost fell down.
“Munsai!!!” She boomed before running over to him. “I finally found you! Where have you been?! You just disappeared, and…”
Sam noticed the table was filled with scraps and bits of food, and she looked up at a rather satisfied looking Zuko.
“Munsai… did you eat all of this?”
“…let us just say yes.” Zuko said with a nod.
“Was it any good?”
Sam then turned around and spoke to the waiter who was closest to them, ordering some food to go. When everything was done, the pair made their way back to the Guild Hall, with Sam telling Zuko about every place she went to while searching for him. They reached the house and the only time Sam stopped talking about the search was when she was eating. Despite having just eaten himself, Zuko joined in and ate as well. As afternoon slowly turned to evening, Jack, Rabbit and Lee walked into the Guild Hall carrying different parcels of food. They each commented on Zuko’s new armour being bloody and smelling, before reporting on what they had found.
“…so I don’t know how helpful that was or if at all, but all my contacts were able to point me towards was a potential location of the temple.” Lee said with a shrug. “It’s an underwater temple, but the coordinates are strange, because this Enclave is nowhere near a body of water.”
Lee had spoken last of the three that were present and he was the only one who had arrived with any information – although it seemed as though it wasn’t entirely credible. The group sat in silence until Rick arrived, hanging in the doorway and looking rather fatigued.
“I have arrived!” He announced with a flourish and walked into the Hall with something of a stagger – as if he had pulled his groin or something.
He sat at the table and placed a large pot of soup in the middle of where they were seated.
“What are you doing, Riccardo?!” Sam scolded. “What if you got hot soup on Munsai?!”
“What if he got some on us too, Guildmaster?” Rabbit said as he nudged her with his elbow gently.
“None of that matters!” He bellowed. “For I come with news – both good and bad!”
“What is this news, Rick?” Jack asked. “We don’t have time for the theatrics.”
“How right you are, my friend! Anyway, I have spent the entire day ploughing through my contacts—”
“What? Ploughing?” Zuko asked.
“I beg your pardon, GOING through my contacts, and one of them has revealed something that could be very important in the grand scheme of things and this is the good news! The other day, a High Elf arrived with an entourage of people who went to see that Faelaon. The following morning, they were heard discussing going to wake her up or something like that. Apparently, they have been unable to do so thus far because somebody they came with disappeared, and they have been looking for him for days. So if we use a bit of brain power, we can reduce—”
“Deduce.” Sam said with a roll of the eyes.
“Yes, that… we can say that the ‘her’ in question could possibly be the Lady.”
“We could; however do we know why these people seek to wake the Lady up?” Jack asked.
“It apparently has something to do with the Elves of the Enclave joining the cause or the effort or something… I didn’t quite catch that bit because my face descended into nethers…”
“You useless gigolo!” Jack roared as he shook his head. “Listen properly until the end!”
Zuko sat there, trying to connect the dots as fast as he could and soon enough, he looked up before looking at Sam with wide eyes.
“What is it, Munsai?” She asked, sounding concerned.
“I know what they are planning to… oh, we have no time.” Zuko said as he stood up. “If I am correct, then we really have no time to be sitting like this.”
“What’s wrong, Munsai?!”
“Whoever it is that is related to Faelaon came here to strike a deal. He wants the Elder to order the Elves – well, the Non-Elves or whatever they call themselves – to fight against the Order under the banner of the Association, and has seemingly struck a deal that if they manage to wake the Lady up, then they get the Elves.”
Sam looked at Zuko in silence, before looking at the other Guild members who didn’t seem to care or see the urgency in what he said.
“Well, if they are still looking for that person, why is this all so urgent?” Lee asked.
“Because they found that person earlier, just before Sam found me. For all we know, they are already en route to the temple.”
Zuko looked as though he wanted to go to the temple right that second, but Sam stood up and gently placed her hands on his chest.
“Please calm down, Munsai. Remember, Lee has the coordinates of the suspected entrance to the temple. We can go there and see if it’s genuine.”
“But we are nowhere near a body of water, Guildmaster.” Lee said with a shake of the head.
“Yes we are.” Zuko said as something dawned on him. “This city is in the middle of the ocean – it is an island. We are currently floating on a body of water.”
“And how will we even get in to the temple if that information is right?” Rabbit asked.
“The Guildmaster has a Skeleton Key!” Jack added as he stood up as well.
“Sam, I need you to contact Alex and have her rush over here with her stupid vehicle so you and I can head on over to the suspected entrance. Once there, we go in and do our best to reach the Lady before the Association does.”
“Why does it sound like you two will be going alone and leaving us here to rot?”
“Because we are.” Zuko said plainly. “This is not business of your Guild, so even if things go pear shaped, you will not have to face any repercussions.”
“Bullshit.” Jack exclaimed as he stood up. “That lady there is more important to us than whatever reason is driving you to help defend these humans. Involving her in your business means involving us in your business, so you will go nowhere with her, without us present.”
Zuko looked at Jack and the rest, before looking at Sam who looked somewhat touched by that.
“Sam, tell Alex to bring one of those big vehicles instead to come take us all. But let me say this right off the bat – chances are we are going to be facing an absolute monster in there, so death is an absolute certainty.”
“We don’t care.” Jack declared bullishly.
“I kinda care.” Rabbit squeaked as he raised his hand.
“Very well then – go and rest. The moment Alex arrives, we leave.”
The four men grumbled their acknowledgement of the order and left the building. Sam quickly got a hold of Alex and relayed Zuko’s orders to her while he went upstairs. He reached inside his Robes and pulled out a small bag before pulling out a small book. He tossed the book up, and after it glowed a bit, the Cloak of Tan’Rhaka was swallowed up into said book before floating down into his hand. Zuko then tossed the book back into the bag and slid the bag into his armour, before storing the Robes in the storage ring he received from Doh. Not long afterwards, there was a knock on the door and Sam entered with a bucket of water which had a wash cloth in it.
“Munsai, I am here to try wipe down your armour a bit before we go. We cannot have you walking around smelling of somebody else’s sweat and blood, now can we.”
“Thank you.” Zuko said with a nod, before sitting down.
Sam then got to work, removing her robe and revealing the black body suit. She had already added some kind of solution to the water, and got to work wiping the armour with the cloth. The cloth only had to wipe an area once for it to not only shine as though it was new, but also smell nice too. The task did not last too long due to the fact that she only had to drag the cloth across an area once – and this even worked on the bits made of material like the hood and cape. Around twenty minutes later, Sam was done and stood up.
“All done!” She said as she smiled sweetly at Zuko, before nodding and plopping the cloth into the water.
“Why are you going to such lengths to assist me, Sam?” Zuko asked as she went to dump the water in the bathroom.
There was silence until Sam emerged from the bathroom, having quickly freshened up and when she went to pick up her robe, she looked at Zuko and smiled once more.
“Because I listen to my blood when it tells me to do something, Munsai. Whether that is to my benefit or my detriment, I still listen. Please excuse me, I have to get ready.”
Sam quickly made her way out of the bedroom and left Zuko to contemplate what she meant by that. An hour or so before midnight and long after everybody had been waiting downstairs; there was a knock on the door. This knock however was completely pointless as the person who had knocked was already inside the Guild Hall.
“Sam! Mumbai!” Alex boomed as she entered the lobby. “Where are ya?!”
Jack and the rest appeared first, looking as though they were itching to get going. They all greeted Alex in passing as they walked, however Rick ended up stopping and chatting the woman up instead. Moments after he did that, Zuko and Sam appeared, with Zuko seeing Rick doing his thing and chuckling just a bit.
“Yo, Mumbai…” Alex said with a nod when she saw him. “You're lookin’ fuckin’ fresh!”
“Alex.” He said nodding back. “You are looking exactly the same.” He said with a shrug. “Did you bring one of those vehicles?”
“Sure did.” She said with a grin. “The fastest one we have!”
“Alright. Lead the way.”
“Hey Alex.” Sam said with a smile.
“Not mad at me anymore?” Alex enquired.
“Let’s just go, you hoe.”
The two friends laughed a bit and soon enough, everybody was walking briskly to where all large vehicles were made to park when entering the Null Zone. The Armadillo Alex had brought with her was slightly smaller than the other ones, which made sense as it was the quickest and most nimble of the lot. They all hopped inside, with Sam and Zuko upfront with Alex. Just as they were about to set off, Alex started sniffing the air before looking at Zuko with a suspicious look on his face.
“Why are you out here smelling like Sam, Mumbai? I knew it, you two are fuckin’!!”
“No we aren’t!” Sam boomed in reply. “It’s the armour that smells like that, not Munsai!”
“Okay, okay…” Alex said as she started the vehicle and pulled off. “In that case… about the promise we made, Mumbai?”
“Promise? What promise?” Sam asked curiously.
“There is no promise.” Zuko denied with a slight shake of the head. “Do not hold me to your one-sided promises, Alex! I did not agree to or promise anything.”
“What promise?!” Sam asked, becoming increasingly curious.
“There is no promise, Sam.” Zuko said, before looking at Alex.
She looked a little miffed at Zuko’s vehement denial, but quickly changed the subject as she called for the coordinates of the entrance from Lee. He gave them to her, the little Armadillo managed to get them to their destination before midnight – rather impressively. It came to a somewhat rough stop, and moments later, the doors were kicked open. The guys looked as though they were battling to hold their dinner, while Sam took a moment to lean against the car and get bearings straight. Zuko and Alex were the only ones who stepped out and looked as though they had not been affected. Sam quickly dug inside her sleeve and pulled out the Skeleton Key, before holding it up.
“Munsai, my plan is to hold this us and run around in circles until find the entrance. Do you have a better one?”
“Absolutely not.” Zuko replied.
Sam then did just that, leaving things in the hands of fate, lady luck and whatever other superstition there was. The group all ran behind her and Alex couldn’t help but burst into hysterical laughter as she watched all of these people run as Sam held up a wooden token, as if they were performing kind of rain dance. The joke didn’t last all that long though, as all off a sudden, the Skeleton Key started glowing. Everybody stopped abruptly, and looked at each other, before looking at the token.
“This… is this real?” Rabbit asked.
“Is this really where the entrance to the temple is?”
“I have no idea.” Sam replied.
“We only have one course of action before us, and that is to jump into the portal created by this thing and see where we come out on the other side.”
As Zuko said this, Alex popped up from behind them.
“Sam, Mumbai… do you want me to come with yous?”
“No.” Zuko said as he looked at her. “We cannot have everybody go in there and risk us all getting blown up or eaten. Besides, you know how to drive the vehicle. If we come pouring out and need to make a quick getaway, you are our hope.”
“Roger that.” Alex said before leaning in close to Zuko’s ear. “Stay safe, Mumbai… I’ll be waiting for you.”
As Alex said this, she blew into Zuko’s ear and had him shivering in the process. She let out a bellowing laugh before turning around and walking to the car.
“Good luck. Let me know if you get out some place else so I can come pick you up.”
“Thanks, Alex!” Sam called before looking at Zuko. “Shall I go first, Munsai?”
“No, I will. Just tell me where to go.”
“Dead ahead, Munsai.”
Without even a lick of hesitation, Zuko trudged forward and suddenly disappeared. Before he knew it, he was falling down an empty shaft or tunnel. It was dark, but he could see clearly and what he saw grabbed his complete attention as he saw the ocean all around him. There were sea creatures of all shapes and sizes swimming around him, however in the tunnel, there wasn’t even a drop of water. He remained dry as he fell, and he suddenly realised that he was plummeting towards an unseen floor. Twisters suddenly started swirling around his feet and open palms, and this not only slowed his fall, but eventually stopped it altogether, and he just floated in the air for a bit. No sooner had he controlled his fall, did he hear the incoming screams of those he traveled with. He pointed his hands forwards and held them out and a rather large twister appeared seconds before Jack fell right into it and stopped falling, as if he had landed in a net. The others followed suit as well, and in no time at all, Zuko had caught the entire Alchemist Guild in his impromptu twister-net. It was dark, but soon what looked like a glow stick illuminated the darkness and revealed not only the situation outside of the tunnel, but also the one within it. As the guys marveled at the sight of the ocean that surrounded them, Sam looked up and saw Zuko doing his thing. He had started floating down towards the ground while controlling the twister-net as well, and after a few minutes, they reached what seemed like the ocean floor. He landed gently on the floor, and so did the crew. Sam was quick to bow before him with her forehead touching the back of her fingers.
“Thank you, Munsai.”
“Sure thing. Let us be off.”
Sam glared at the others who were too preoccupied with the sea life around them. Zuko didn’t really care and started walking forwards. Sam quickly reached within her robe and pulled out five small pellets that she gave to her subordinates with a glare. They swallowed them and all followed after Zuko who was not wasting any time in powering towards the temple. The Alchemists caught up to him and Sam looked at Zuko.
“Do you not need a Cat’s Vision, Munsai?”
“No need.” Zuko said with a shake of the head. “I can see in the dark.”
“Almost like Drow, huh?” Rabbit remarked flippantly.
Zuko didn’t respond to that, but ended up asking a question instead.
“So you guys, do you also identify as Golden Warriors?”
“Huh? Why would we?” Rick asked as he sounded genuinely confused.
“Well, you are of Sun Elf heritage, are you not? I mean your clothing clearly hints at you being of Sun Elf descent.”
“I think that you have misunderstood, Munsai.” Sam said as they all started increasing the speed they were moving at. “We are not of Sun Elf descent, we are Sun Elves.”
“Really? But I have yet to see you use Magic. After coming here, I thought you became an Alchemist because of the whole Magic ban.”
“Munsai, we are not of this city or this Enclave. We come from the Sun Elf Capital, Drang’Lae.”
“What?!” Zuko asked as he almost tripped over thin air.
“We are… my clan is the Synae Clan, one of the Branch Families of the Royal Family of the Sun Elves. We were tasked with being the protectors of the Royal Family, and protectors had a broad yet fairly simple meaning.”
“If somebody needed Healing, we were on hand to protect them from death.” Jack added.
“If somebody needed an antidote for a particular poison, we were on hand to protect them from a fatal poisoning.” Rick added.
“…and if there was a threat to the life of the Royal Family member we were assigned to, we were on hand to protect our ward from death by bringing it to whoever it was that was trying to bring it upon them.”
“So this is your way of telling me that you lot were assassins?” Zuko asked.
“…yes.” Jack answered when he saw that Sam wasn’t answering. “The Guildmaster, well back then she was known by a different name, was assigned to protecting the King whom she grew up with. He ascended when he was still very young, and was unbelievably vulnerable, so it was her duty to protect him from the shadows. Her affinity for Magic was damn near unparalleled, as was her ability with the blade. She was a true monster in every sense of the word, and many an ambitious Royal tried to have her cross to their side in the years she served.”
“I served my King with unwavering loyalty, despite him being a lackluster ruler. We faced many a crisis under his leadership, and it got to the point where everybody banded together under the banner of his more competent and capable younger brother with the intention of ousting him. I refused to leave his side out of loyalty to him, and neither did these four out of loyalty to me.” Sam continued.
“In one of the bloodiest internal battles the Royal Family had ever seen, the forces of the Prince went up against the forces of the King, and the King’s loyalists were absolutely decimated. We held our own purely because of the Guildmaster’s ridiculous ability, however by the end, the King told us he had seen enough bloodshed and took his own life before we could be defeated and killed.” Lee said, contributing to the tale.
“The Prince, who was so impressed and touched by our loyalty, ordered that our lives be spared, but that our Mana Centres be destroyed so we could no longer hold Mana in any meaningful way.” Rick spat out.
“After that, we were exiled from Drang’Lae, and after wandering the continents, found ourselves within Glory City. We had sharpened our Alchemy skills during our travels, so we decided settle here and try to live our lives as purely Alchemists.” Sam said with something of a bitter smile.
“Sam.” Zuko said, his voice quaking with what seemed like barely contained rage. “The King who ordered that done to you… is he still alive?”
“Yes he is, Munsai.”
“Good.” Zuko replied as his eyes began to glow.
Before he could say anything further, the group suddenly started coming across fresh corpses with still wet blood. They all came to an abrupt halt as they quickly examined one of the corpses. Zuko’s attention was drawn towards a corpse that looked as though it had exploded from the waist up. He then looked at the Alchemists and scowled through the bandages while drawing out Mana at a rapid rate.
“Hear me Sun Elves; we have to get to where the Lady is – NOW!”
As Zuko finished the sentence, gusts of wind swirled around his arms and legs, before he leapt off from the spot. He absolutely shot forwards, and the four Elves had to jump out of the path of the wind generated by his running start. They then followed suit and started running about as quickly as they could, managing to catch and keep up with him. Much like when Sam and Zuko ‘sneaked’ into the Enclave, Zuko was generating so much wind noise, that Sam just gave the other four knowing looks to which they nodded in agreement. Zuko was using following the trail of corpses on the floor, and after a few minutes, the temple itself could be seen in the close distance. They tore towards it and it wasn’t long until they flew through the front door, sending the corpses on the floor flying behind them in their bloody wake.
“Follow the corpses!” Zuko boomed.
They all did just that, however fortunately for them that temple was not particularly large or filled with maze like passages. At the speed they were moving, they reached a corridor in which the concentration of corpses became thicker and thicker until they burst into the room that had corpses on the floor, as well as the living specimens. The Elven girls that Faelaon had cast the Spells on had become horribly disfigured and mutated, and had lost their minds. All they were good for was carrying out their tasks of tending to the slumbering Lady and protecting her from any intruders. They all seemed to be converging towards a single point that was at the top of what looked like a never ending set of stairs, and just as they were going up there, they were being sliced and blown off. Above the steps was a large, fleshy ball that appeared to be what the Lady was sleeping in. Upon seeing it, Zuko looked at the Alchemists who had already gotten to work pulling their weapons out and ingesting their Alchemical pellets that provided Buffs to their physical capabilities. As they took them all, they went through changes as Lee grew bigger and taller, his muscles doubling in size before hard and jagged rock like growths started protruding from his skin. Rabbit on the other hand had pulled out a small dagger and his pellets increased not only the size of his legs, but greatly augmented his speed. Jack was holding a pair of revolvers and had slid a visor over his eyes. His hand-eye coordination and eyesight had been augmented immensely, and Rick was holding a pair of swords in his hands. He was actually dressed in all black now, and even had a mask tied around his eyes. His speed and strength had been increased significantly. Only Sam was yet to take anything, and Zuko didn’t say a thing – he just nodded and burst up the stairs.
The Guild followed him and after ascending the steps with impressive speed, they crashed right into the group of hissing, grunting and disfigured ladies-in-waiting, so to speak. As that happened, the mutated women flew in random directions. Lee was smashing them to bits with his massive and jagged fists, one-shotting them with speed and ease. Rabbit was hopping around, directing his dagger towards vital areas, slicing through and stabbing them with blurring speed and agility. Rick was a whirlwind of steel, his blades decapitating and disemboweling with the kind of ease that was a little unnerving. Jack was finding empty spots and sniping his targets from a distance. His accuracy was damn near on par with Alex’s, and he was reloading so quickly, his hands were also a blur.
Momoh and Candace were busy smashing and slicing at the swarming mob, which seemed to be focusing on them exclusively.
“Damnit!” Candace boomed. “Why are these annoying cockroaches so damn high in number?! I don’t even know how many we’ve killed.”
“Me neither.” Momoh said in a dry tone as he looked completely disinterested.
Candace then suddenly noticed that they had visitors and looked at Momoh.
“Damnit Momoh, who are they?! Why are there other people in here?! Whyyyyyy?!”
Momoh looked to his left to see Zuko and Sam leaping over the zombie like women. Zuko seemed to have lost his patience with them, thrusting his open palms towards the servant women in front of them and unleashed a twister large enough to send them all flying away; including the ones that Momoh and Candace were fighting at that exact moment. When Zuko and Sam landed on the ground, the pairs looked at one another with menacing looks, especially from the women.
“Who the fuck are you two?! What are you doing in this temple?”
“We are here to stop you, you shrill woman.” Zuko said with a sneer.
“Stop us? How did you even know we were going to be here?!’
Momoh looked at Zuko with eyes that just begged him not to mention their encounter earlier. He even shook his head a few times, and after Zuko glanced at the Grey Orc, he sighed slightly.
“W-We have our ways… anyway, the ‘how’ of it is not important, just know that whatever you are planning to ends here.”
“Shit… this is all your fault, Momoh. If you hadn’t have disappeared for a few days, we would have done this and gone back to the city by now!”
“Shut it, bitch!” Momoh roared as he grinned and charged Zuko with immense speed and force.
The first swing, which was launched from right to left, was evaded fairly easily, much to Momoh’s surprise. Where he had aimed high with the first strike, Momoh went low with the second, trying to dig Zuko to the body however this too was also easily evaded, with Zuko bending his back and sucking his stomach in to avoid the strike. As he did this, he avoided yet another blow that was aimed for him face, and this prompted Momoh to launch a kick that was directed towards Zuko’s neck. Zuko turned his body and raised both hands, creating a mini wind wall and successfully blocking the kick.
“You’ve gotten quicker.” Momoh remarked with a grin and wide eyes.
“I am using a different Brother this time.” Zuko replied.
Just then Candace burst towards Zuko and Momoh, raising her exceptionally long blade and readying herself to strike, however she was stopped in her tracks as a torrent of flames that was directed at her head filled the air between her and Zuko. She looked to the left to see Sam blowing flames out from her mouth, before jumping back and creating space. She knelt down and opened her robe before popping three small bottles out from her utility belt. She squeezed them all at the same time, and after the lids popped off, she aimed them towards her open mouth – quickly gulping down the contents. Speed, agility and reflexes were all increased exponentially before she popped two pellets that raised her strength and endurance. She then dipped the fingertips of her left hand into a small tub that she had opened behind her back, however she was unable to do anything further as Candace came for her and began slashing at her with incredible speed. With the agility of a monkey and grace of a cat, Sam evaded and dodged a three strike attack that was sent her way. The moment she landed, she pulled her walking stick out from the belt and blocked the next strike that came through. Somewhere in the process of her pulling the stick out and then swinging it, it transformed from a walking stick to a long sword, because when it blocked the blow, it was steel vs. steel. She then leapt back and as she slid to a halt, she wiped whatever she had dipped her fingertips into onto both sides of the blade, before standing up and going on the offensive, charging the High Elf and unleashing a flurry of attacks of her own.
As the women somehow ended up fighting each other and exchanging blows, Zuko and Momoh were still standing in the same position and watching this all happen.
“Shit…” Momoh said with a shake of the head. “Candace is so annoying. Appreciate you not mentioning lunch and stuff.”
“I should have. You left me with the bill after eating the majority of the food, you bastard.” Zuko snapped.
“Yeah, sorry about that… how about I make it up to you by not killing you tonight?”
“Quite the confidence from one who is about to get sliced to shreds.”
Zuko said this as his eyes glowed while drawing out Mana. Immediately after doing so, Momoh was blown away and flew into a group of incoming mutated Elves.
“We do not have time play this time around.” Zuko said more to himself as he looked up at the fleshy ball.
Momoh suddenly let out a roar and sent mutants flying all over the place before attempting to charge Zuko, who just raised his right hand and appeared to shoot something out of it. Momoh was hit in the face by a ball swirling wind that actually snapped his head back and stopped him in his tracks. He shook his head and tried again, trying to charge Zuko however that attempt was met with the same result. This didn’t deter Momoh though, and as he let out a thunderous yell a shockwave pulsed out from his feet. His legs grew in thickness and his jeans became a little tighter. He then grinned at Zuko and tried charging him again. This time, he was far more successful in his attempts to get forwards, shrugging off the wind projectiles and gaining more ground. This prompted Zuko to raise and press both hands together for added effect. The projectiles more than doubled in force, however Momoh was still able take two or three head on before being forced back. It turned into a battle of speed, as Momoh was changing direction with snappy movements, as well as getting used to Zuko’s speed, meaning he was slowly but surely gaining more and more ground before being forced back again.
As that continued, Candace and Sam were still engaged in their own confrontation – with Sam having the slight advantage in speed. Her reflexes and agility however were proving to be a real problem for Candace though, as Sam was able to dodge and then attack from unorthodox positions, which only served to make Candace more annoyed. Sam was also landing more melee hits, sliding beneath slashes and thrusting her wedge heels into the stomach of the tall High Elf, or kicking her lower back. She even landed a triple kick at one stage, but Candace seemed to shrug it all off without breaking a sweat, and at the conclusion of a particularly fierce exchange, Sam slid back and took a moment to catch her breath.
“What in the Hells are you even trying to accomplish here?” Candace asked as she spat out a little blood. “Your attacks, as good as they are, are doing practically no damage whatsoever. It’s like I don’t even have to use Magic against you.”
Sam just stood up and snapped her fingers in front of her lips before performing the flame thrower attack again. Candace slipped the flames and ran towards Sam’s side but by the time she looked ready to strike, Sam was facing her with her hand in front of her mouth again. She snapped her fingers and blew once more, only this time, no flames came out – only something that smelled like strawberries.
“Really?!” Candace called out as she took evasive action yet only smelled berries. “You ate berry yoghurt and then came to fight?”
Sam didn’t respond as she ducked beneath the instinctive strike that Candace had launched at her.
Zuko and Momoh’s tussle had progressed in the short period, as Momoh had actually gotten close enough to attack Zuko before being blown away this time. He wiped his brow with his sleeve before letting out a bark or two. Moments after he did that, his jeans ripped as his legs grew even more muscular, and covered in grey fur. As soon as Momoh did that, Zuko’s eyes glowed as he drew out more Mana. Just then, the gusts that had been swirling mildly around his arms and legs grew fierce, and a large twister formed at his feet, propelling him up into the air. He hovered above the platform, and that allowed him to see something sticking out of the bottom of the ball – something that he did not recognise, but could immediately guess the purpose of.
“Fuck!” Zuko exclaimed as he looked down at Momoh who was about ready to charge.
He pointed his hands towards Momoh who had tried to charge him, but found himself blown off of his feet by two twisters. He then dug his feet into the ground started to move forward, taking things a step at a time, yet being unable to start running or to gain any momentum. He then bent his knees, hunkering down and let out a series of howls which not only made his legs grow even bigger, but his arms and the rest of his body too. After the first series of howls, he leapt off the ground and cut through the twisters, reducing the gap between him and Zuko. Zuko increased the size and strength of the twisters as he drew out more Mana, which pushed Momoh back again. Momoh then drew out more power and things swung back and forth like this like a pendulum in a clock.
The level of power being displayed in this fight was affecting the other skirmishes as well, and Sam and Candace found themselves having to get low to avoid being blown away by stray gusts of wind, before continuing with their own battle. The mutant Elves were mindless and thus, had no answer or strategy for the winds, which were a blessing for the four men who had unofficially been tasked with taking care of the mob. Just as things appeared as though they couldn’t get more intense, Momoh let out an earth shaking howl before combining his Werewolf power with his Grey Orc power, his legs becoming almost unnecessarily muscled and powerful. His beard and his hair – once brown – had turned grey along with his skin, and his eyes were an amber colour. He got down low once more, and started taking steps towards Zuko, in spite of the gale force winds pushing him back. The brick underfoot cracked with each step, and as Momoh closed the gap between himself and Zuko to about halfway, he shaped as if he was about leap at the floating man. He did just that though and the instant he pushed off of the floor, Zuko pulled his hands away, the twisters disappeared and then he pulsed wind out from his hands to push him out of the way. Momoh, who had pushed off of the ground so hard that it split, cracked and then shattered, flew towards where Zuko had been with such high velocity that he created multiple shockwaves as he tore through the air. Within the blink of an eye he had flown past Zuko, through the wall of the temple, through the Magic barrier that kept the temple dry and deep into the ocean.
“Change of plans!” Zuko boomed as he flew up to the ball and grabbed the thing that had been stabbed into it.
“Momoh, you idiot!” Candace roared as she looked towards the hole he had created.
Water was gushing in through the hole which was rapidly growing as more water forced its way in. Candace then looked up to see Zuko pulling on the Injector she had received from Erathell, and tried to jump up and attack him. She was unable to do so however, as she felt two legs wrap themselves around her neck and before she knew it, Candace was on the receiving end of a Head Scissors that absolutely smashed her into the ground. Zuko was still preoccupied with removing the strange thing from the ball, however when he found that he was unable to do so, he moved on to Plan C. He zipped up until he was level with the side of the fleshy ball. He held his open hands up to his face, palms facing in, before letting out a yell of exertion and driving both hands directly into the ball. His yell turned to a roar as he drew out Mana as quickly as he ever had since arriving in Glory City. The Mana that was being drawn out was being deposited into the ball as rapidly as possible.
Meanwhile down on the ground, Candace and Sam were going at it far less gracefully and elegantly than they were earlier, desperation now in the ascendency. Candace was desperate to stop what Zuko was doing, while Sam was desperate to keep Candace busy until Zuko had done whatever it was that he was doing.
“Why?!” Candace asked. “Why can’t I fight her off? Why am I feeling so sluggish?”
Sam just smirked as she landed another two kick combination. What she had previously blown into the High Elf’s face was not yoghurt breath, but an Alchemical item known as Vines of Paralysis, which slowed Candace’s reflexes to ridiculous levels. As the fight got uglier and uglier, the ball began to glow as did Zuko’s body and even the Injector thing. Water continued to burst into the temple, with the hole becoming bigger and the water becoming more forceful. As the ball glowed brighter and brighter, it began to throb and pulse as the entire temple began to shake violently, before rays of light shot out of Zuko’s eyes and mouth before everything went white.
Up on the surface, Alex was waiting for a signal or a call to come through to let her know things had gone well. All of a sudden, and without warning, what felt like an earthquake or tremor hit the area and before Alex knew what was happening, a MASSIVE geyser of water burst out from the ground some four or five kilometers away.
“What the fuck is thaaaaaaaat?!” She boomed in complete shock before running to and hopping in the Armadillo with the intention of going to investigate.
Meanwhile at the point the water had burst from, bodies shot out along with the water, and the limp, spinning and flipping bodies of those who were in the temple decorated the night sky like little stars, before plummeting to the ground and crashing into it with a hard, yet wet thud. There were also body parts belonging to the mutated Elves that flew out from the hole and plopped down all over the wet and ruined road below. The spray of water continued to rain down on the bodies below that looked like corpses themselves. The Armadillo came rushing to the scene, horn blaring as Alex actually recognised the bodies as they fell from the sky during her drive over. The wheels screeched to a halt as the vehicle stopped, and Alex came bursting out from the Armadillo.
“Saaaaaammm!! Saaaaaaaaaaamm!! Mummmbbbaaaaaiiiiii!!”
She reached the group of bodies, and was unsure as to which one to tend to first. She decided to go for Sam and as when she started shaking the Sun Elf, she heard a groan as Sam seemingly regained consciousness.
“What happened?” She asked groggily as she opened her eyes.
“That’s my fuckin’ line!’ Alex boomed. “What the fuck happened down there? How did you all end bursting out from the fuckin’ ground?!”
“Munsai…” Sam said as she sat up slowly and shook her head. “Where is he? Is he alright?”
Just as she asked, Sam started coughing violently, blood spraying out from her mouth and landing on her wet clothes.
“Why don’t you worry about your damn self?!” Alex boomed; her voice filled with concern.
“That loud woman is correct.” Zuko mumbled as he rolled over onto his back and then sat up. “That cough did not sound too good. Are you alright, Sam?”
Zuko asked this as he struggled to his feet. Sam confirmed that she was alright, despite the beige blood on her clothes. Zuko looked around for everybody, and he even found Candace’s unconscious body amongst the rest.
“We have captured one of them alive.” Zuko said as he coughed up some sea water. “Fantastic.”
Just as he said that, the hole from which the now dead torrent of water had burst from glowed and the ball forced its way through before floating up. It hovered brightly in the air, before appearing to crack down the middle and split open, revealing a bone dry and beautiful Elven woman with long blue hair. She was dressed in a white night gown of sorts, and when she opened her eyes, so much power flowed out from her; it was almost as if she was going to explode.
“What is this?” The Lady asked as she looked at her hands in wonderment. “What is this strength – this power?”
She looked around, before her gaze stopped on the heavily breathing and exhausted looking Izano Zuko whose shoulders were sagging and breath was uncharacteristically ragged. She floated down to him in silence, landing right in front of him and looking deep into his eyes.
“This… this is your doing.” She said suspiciously.
“I would hope so.” Zuko said as he continued to catch his breath. “If it was her doing, things would have become a lot more difficult.” He said as he pointed to Candace.
“Why have you forcefully woken me up?”
“Long story short, Faelaon enlisted some outside help to pump you full of energy to wake you up. He cut a deal with one who is trying to destroy somebody dear to me to wake you up. In return, he would commit forces to assist in the destruction of that person.”
“I see… and you intervened because if you were to wake me, that idiot would not be able to meet his obligation?”
“Precisely.” Zuko said as he placed his hands on his hips and looked up into the sky.
“What is your name?” The Lady asked.
“Izano… Zuko.” He responded between pants.
“Izano Zuko, as a sign of gratitude towards you for providing me with Mana and sparing me the indignation of awakening to being surrounded by those creatures Faelaon loves to create for me, I will grant you a wish – so long as it is within my ability to make it come true.”
Zuko looked at the Lady for a moment before remembering a discussion he had with Sam.
“My wish has two parts to it, but both should be simple enough for you to accomplish.” Zuko said as his breathing finally returned to normal. “First, let it be known to Faelaon that it was in fact somebody from the Order who provided the Mana for you to awaken, and not the Association.”
“Alright, simple enough.” She responded, looking as though knew what both the Association and the Order were. “And the second part of the wish?”
“Have that Elder call a meeting between the heads of all the warring Elf clans within the Enclave.”
“Yes. Under Faelaon’s leadership, Elven society has degenerated to the point where…”
Zuko spent a few minutes explaining to the Lady what exactly the current climate within the Enclave was as well as the idea to have them increase the boundaries of the Null Zone to combat the Elven sterility, and when she heard this, she looked absolutely incensed.
“Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Izano Zuko. I shall definitely do as you ask, however I feel as though doing these things will pale in comparison to what you have done for me. Isn't there anything else I can do?”
“Perhaps tell me your name, and we can call it even.”
The Lady looked at Zuko with something of a smirk, before chuckling and nodding.
“Di’ithra Di’leon – but you may call me Didi.”
As that happened, the four Sun Elf men, who were still face down in the wet road, looked up with grins on their faces and nodded.
“Smooth.” They all said in unison.
“It is a pleasure, Didi.” Zuko said with a nod and something of a respectful bow.
“Anyway, let me go and punish that idiot for making our people suffer for so long. Farewell, Izano Zuko.”
Didi started to glow once more, before actually stopping and looking as if she had something to say.
“Actually, I forgot to ask… you mentioned Faelaon an awful lot but, what of Erathell?”
“Erathell?” Zuko asked with a tilt of the head.
“Yes Erathell, Faelaon’s younger twin?”
It only lasted for a moment, but the look of dawning realisation spread on Zuko’s face before he quickly caught it, and shook his head as if he had no clue who she was talking about.
“Forgive me Didi, I have not lived in this city long, and do not know the names of the Nobility and such.”
“Oh, that’s okay then.” Didi said with a smile. “I will find out from the idiot directly. Farewell.”
Didi waved and this time when she glowed, she became so bright that the light was momentarily blinding. By the time it died down, she had disappeared. Everybody had shielded their eyes, and when they had adjusted and gone back to normal, Alex pointed out that Candace was gone too. Zuko had a grin on his face, however things suddenly went dark for him, and he hit the ground with a wet and heavy thud.