The city of Kombinat, a factory, a place of work and construction; day in and day out machines are constructed and loaded upon the black ship by the inhabitants of this city. Who were the inhabitants of this city? They were those of the Black Dragon Clan who had fully accepted the Goddess Myria's rule and those who had chosen to go there because of the rampant disease that had recently graced the shores of the Outer Continent. Three more travellers came to the mechanical city that day, one a woman of resplendent, even angelic beauty, with her black wings, a beautiful indigo-haired woman with a snakes tail instead of legs and a frog man that was dressed in what can only be described as princely clothes. The city's inhabitants were not overly concerned with their appearance; they had grown so dependant on the Goddess that they felt if there was a threat She would take care of it. Nina felt that these people, however, were rather creepy.
"They all have a disturbing similarity." She said.
"Let's just say sis... I mean the Goddess doesn't like things to have too much variety; promotes chaos she says." Bleu said with an annoyed, chiding tone.
"Mais la variete... Variety eez ze spice of life... Zis eez like having gruel everyday of votre vie." Jean said, in an almost desperate tone of voice.
"Wait... Bleu, what did you mean by that? Do you know this 'Goddess'?" Nina asked.
"Hey, why don't we ask the locals about Ryu or the others. Maybe they know something." Bleu said, completely ignoring what Nina had asked.
Bleu slithered away with Jean following, leaving a bewildered Nina in their wake.
"Wh-what? Hey, wait a minute Bleu! You didn't answer me! Bleu, wait!" Nina said, scrambling after them, still managing, somehow to look dignified.
Bleu continued to ignore Nina's questions and Nina finally gave up. They went to the docks, hoping that any information on travellers could be obtained there. Nina wasn't sure she could speak to these people due to how they unnerved her; therefore, Bleu was the one to speak to them.
"Excuse me... Excuse me, yes you could I speak with you for a moment?" Bleu asked a passer by.
"Of course. How can I help you?" The woman said.
"I'm looking for a blue-haired man, with green eyes and he's about yea tall." Bleu gestured Ryu's approximate height.
"Yes actually I did see someone like that. I believe he was with some Urkans, they went to the eastern desert city, I believe. But that was many weeks ago."
"Well shit..." Bleu said in an irritated manner. "Thanks for your time. Come on, Jean, Nina. I have something I want to check."
The three went to a closed building; Bleu simply went up to the door and opened it.
"Now you two wait here; be good while I'm gone, m'kay?" Bleu said in too-cheery voice.
"Bleu, wait! Why are you going in there? Do you know some-" Nina didn't have the chance to finish as Bleu closed the door in Nina's face.
Nina's eye twitched, this was not turning out to be her day; first the arduous walk through the hot desert, then having to speak to creepy people who looked as soulless as Deathevan's followers and now Bleu was acting strange and not telling her anything. She grasped the door handle and pulled; the door didn't even so much as shudder, it was like she was trying to pull the entire wall out.
"Madame Nina, I'm sure zat everything will be okay, zere eez nothing to worry about. Even if Madame Bleu eez not telling us something, I'm sure she has her reasons." Jean said cheerfully.
Nina was not the only one who was irritated. On the other side of the door, Bleu slithered over to a console and tapped some buttons. The screen above descended and lighted up, a mechanical voice emitted from the speakers but no image was seen.
"You have reached Myria's tower, the Great Goddess is not in at the moment. If you could please-" The voice never had a chance to finish as it was cut off by Bleu's demand.
"Cut the crap Eden, I'm not in the mood." Bleu said.
"Ah L-Lady Deis, it has been a long time... I did not expect-" The voice stammered.
"I said cut the crap, Eden. Where's Myria?" Bleu demanded.
"I told you she isn't-" The voice started.
"I know that, you eight bit, antiquated, cheap, arrogant, self-centred, rusty, old pocket calculator. Where did she go?" Bleu was rapidly loosing patience with the mechanical guardian of Myria's city Caer Xhan.
"She is currently at the Urkan city in the east desert." The voice huffed.
"Show me!" Bleu growled, her patience coming to an end.
The screen changed from a white colour to a map of the surrounding area. One could see two cities next to each other and above the western most one were blinking letters, saying 'you are here'. To the northwest on the map one could see a small forest where the Yggdrasil grew, nestled in a corner of the mountain base. To the east across the mountain walls was a small desert valley with a city in the centre, above which blinked letters saying 'Myria is here'. To the north of the mountain barrier of both sides was an immense expanse of desert, known as the Desert of Death.
"The old city of the dragons? Now there's an irony. Why is she there?" Bleu asked.
In ancient times, before the disaster that created the desert of death occurred, the city the Urkan's now lived in had once been inhabited by a small group of the Dragon Clan.
"There has been an increase in creon activity there..." The voice started.
"And she wanted to 'help' them, damn her and her obsessive compulsive personality to the ninth pit of hell. She never learns." Bleu muttered.
"As I was saying, coupled with the fact that the city shall soon be abandoned and the appearance of a Brood child there, Her Eminence felt that Her presence was required, if for nothing else then to bring the Brood child into her munificent guidance." The voice finished irritably.
Bleu swore under her breath in several different languages, a few no longer spoken by any living today and turned off the console. The screen blinked off and Bleu thought of a possible solution.
'If they're abandoning the city, that means they'll have to pass through here to get to the Black Ship. We can wait for Ryu in the Black Dragons' city.' She mused.
She knew of the black dragons' city because she had helped construct the teleporter device there. She knew it would be a great place to stay and they would be able to get back to their own continent quickly. She only hoped that the Wanderer would be able to find Katt, Rand, Bow and Sten and bring them back here. She opened the door to see Nina and Jean sitting by the door. Bleu felt she had been a little short with Nina today, but there was no way she could tell her anything, let alone everything. Her only salvation was that Jean was so relaxed about everything; he wouldn't bother her much if at all about the subject. One of them, Bleu could handle, but both of them nagging her was a little too much with the situation she had to deal with now. She looked at the setting sun; it had been a long day.
"Okay you two, feeling up to a short walk?" Bleu asked almost cheerfully.
"Madame Bleu? But it eez getting dark." Jean said yawning.
"Oh don't worry, it's not far. Right next door, really." Bleu smiled, slithering off, Nina and jean in tow.
Nighttime, a time to rest, to rejuvenate one's mind and body, to ponder the day's quandary and maybe even come up with a solution to life's questions. It's also happy hour at the local tavern of the Dark Dragon's city, though of late, there has been very little to be happy about. That night, however, was a time of momentous celebration for the youth of the city, what few there were left. Those few that were fifteen to their mid-twenties partook of drink and song to honour their friend Draigan and his upcoming though frowned upon nuptials. The tavern owner was all too happy to have guests and in fact, for the night, all drinks were on the house. The tavern was rather large, tables and chairs were all strategically placed to allow people to move freely without getting in each others way, the bar where drinks were served was a long counter that ran the length of the wall, the tavern owner stood behind it, giving out drinks enjoying the festivities and there was stage at the far end of the room where a band played; the sound carried quite well to all corners of the room, with no echo or sound distortion. The tables seemed to grow out of the floor, but were actually carved as apart of the building, a porcelain-like substance that all the buildings of the city were made out of. Draigan was talking to the tavern owner; he had been rather disconcerted about this party that was being held for him and his beloved Yua.
"You really didn't have to do this, it isn't like father approved of my union." Draigan said.
"I never really sided with yer father, hell, none of these youngsters do. It's mostly the older generation; the ones that don't want to anger the Goddess. Besides, this was the girl's idea, called it a 'bachelor party' I think, but not really, ye know? She's definitely not from around here to come up with something like this... Now go on she's waiting fer ye." The tavern keeper replied, shoving Draigan away with his drinks.
Draigan rejoined Yua, close to the stage just as the band finished a song. The band was composed of youth who had grown bored and as a form of amusement learned to play all sorts of instruments even some of the more exotic and strange musical instruments. It was indeed fortunate that they had agreed to play tonight when Yua asked. The doors opened and for a split second the tavern keeper was afraid the elder had come to shut down this little party. He was quite relieved when he saw three strangers walk in. They were stranger, far more foreign then anybody he'd ever seen in his life; one, the leader he presumed, had a serpent's tail instead of legs and she slithered on the ground, but she easily matched the height of anybody here. The second was a woman of astonishing beauty, she seemed reserved and shy, the strangest thing about her were her black wings; true, Yua had black wings, but this woman had bird wings, she gave the tavern keeper the impression of an Angel. He made a mental note that should he have the great fortune to speak with her he would not ruin it by using the old pick-up line 'did it hurt when you fell from heaven?' The third, in the tavern keeper's eyes, was not a pretty sight; a frogman fat and ugly, in the tavern keeper's opinion, was wearing a regal looking hauberk, a mockery of royalty was his first thoughts upon seeing the frog. The leader came up to the bar and gazed the tavern keeper straight in the eyes and he was stuck be her beauty, she held an aura of immense and terrible power, but her eyes had a gentleness and mischievousness to them.
"I'll have a mug of Dragon's Blood, if you still serve it and they'll have a glass of Fairy Wine each." She said.
The tavern keeper raised an eyebrow; it was true he had a single barrel of Dragon's Blood left. The most potent alcoholic drink on the face of the planet, the secrete to making it had been lost long ago and thus the tavern keeper held what may have been the last barrel of the drink anywhere in the world. He, of course, didn't hand it out lightly, but not because it was so rare, rather because the one who drank it was taking their lives in their own hands. It was a well-documented fact that people often passed out after drinking a single pint of Dragon's Blood, those that didn't, died after having their second pint. The tavern keeper did not want anyone to die from drinking, especially not tonight, but the woman seemed so commanding, as though she knew she could handle it. The tavern keeper first took out two goblets and poured the Fairy Wine, it was relatively harmless, it had a strong scent of flours and a good taste, but little in the way of alcoholic content, more sugary than anything else, thus it's name. After passing the winged one and froggy their drinks, he went down beneath the counter, picked a glass and turned to a well kept but little used barrel. He turned the spigot, but at first nothing happened, it hadn't been used after all. Giving it a solid thump, the liquid came forth; it was a thick liquid, the deepest shade of blood-crimson one would ever see. He placed the glass on the counter and the woman narrowed her eyes; the glass was miniscule, barely holding more than a few millimetre of the drink. She looked at the tavern keeper, an irritated expression on her face.
"I don't care how sure of yerself ye think ya are, I wanna know ye can handle yerself." He said stubbornly.
The woman shrugged and gulped down the drink. The tavern keeper was surprised she didn't even flinch, but he never showed his astonishment. Without a word, he got a full-sized mug and filled it to the brim and then passed it to the lady.
"Shall I be attending yer funeral tomorrow?" He asked jokingly.
The woman smiled and took the glass and then slithered off to join her friends.
Nina settled down on a chair and looked out at the band, they had just finished another song and it looked like one of them was going to speak.
"This is an older one we found, but when we did we immediately thought of Draigan's new lady. Here's to you kids!" The bandleader said.
The music began to play; the first two instruments were a piano and what looked like a string less harp, emitting a light from which came a continuous sound though varying in terms of notes. The piano played a repeating melody, rather soothing, almost and then someone on a xylophone joined in. This went on for a short while, people getting into the beat of the music, when suddenly it stopped leaving only the string less harp playing. The abruptness of it seemed to catch everyone off guard and then the xylophone and piano joined in again accompanied by someone on drums. The melody was the same as before except when they were about to hit the same point where the other instruments dropped off, instead of one instrument playing they all did, creating a marvellous symphony. People were obviously enjoying this part, their bodies moving to the beat, some even mimicked the movements of the musicians on their own air-based imaginary instruments. Abruptly the instruments dropped off again leaving the piano, string less harp, xylophone and drums playing a repetitive melody and abruptly again, there was only the piano and harp left. The xylophone re-joined for one last hurrah, the music seemed subdued as the music seemed to fade just as it had come. Everyone cheered and clapped, Nina thought of the music, how it seemed hostile, yet cuddly somehow and she wondered who this Draigan was and who his new lady could be. Jean came over to Bleu and Nina, his face seemed a little flushed with drink and Bleu laughed, she had never heard of anyone getting drunk off of Fairy Wine before, though with the amount of refills Jean had it might be possible.
"Tres bien, don't you think? Not as good as ze Tunlan Players, but tres bien quand meme." Obviously he wasn't drunk enough to lose his accent.
Nina agreed, the Tunlan Players were the most famous music group on the Inner Continent, the best in the world many said, but this little group certainly had it's charm. A hush descended upon the crowd as a young man stood upon the stage.
"Awri', awri'" It was clear from his slurring and his faced that he was quite drunk. "Now why are we here? Itsh time ya found out doncha think? But we all know why, we here to celebrate Draigan'sh marriage! The lucky bashtard found himshelf a babe an' he'sh gonna marry even though hish da' shaysh no! But we, we shtand behind him, right?" The crowd roared its approval. "Why do we shtand behind him? Becaushe, we don agree with everything Elder Teepo shaysh and right now, it'sh becaushe most of us are too pish ashed drunk to care!"
The young man jumped down from the stage and put a purple haired man in a headlock, kissing him on the head. A bleu haired woman jumped from her seat and playfully shoved the bigger man off the purple-haired one.
"Get your own boyfriend, you drunkard!" She laughed.
"I-I not ash think ash you drunk I am!" The bigger man replied, crashing down on a barstool.
With great display, the young woman sat upon the purple-haired one's lap, swung her legs about his waist and kissed him sensually on the lips and he responded in kind, the crowd hooted and hollered at the display. Nina just sat there shocked in the realization that this purple-haired man was Draigan, but more shocking to her was that his wife-to-be was Yua. There was no doubt, even if she hadn't seen her before and the wings were a dead give away in this crowd of wingless dragons there was her hair and face, the family resemblance she bore to Ryu. Bleu looked at Nina and barely glanced at Yua, she was on her second mug of Dragon's Blood but didn't look even slightly tipsy. Jean had taken to singing ballads and reciting poetry to a young dragon woman he met. Bleu suddenly got up and pulled Nina out of her seat.
"There's Yua, shall we go say hi?" Bleu smiled.
Nina didn't have a chance to protest as she was dragged over to Yua who was standing and receiving congratulations from another young couple. Bleu tapped her on the shoulder and she turned to find a startled and embarrassed Nina shoved before her.
"Um... Hi!" Nina said, unsure of herself.
Yua looked at her for a moment, sized her up and then smiled in recognition.
"Ah... You're the Windian woman who was traveling with my big bro. I didn't expect to see you here! Is Ryu here too?" She asked eagerly.
"Um... well... We don't know where he is. We-we did come to bring you back though." Nina stuttered.
"Ah... Now that could be a problem." Yua said almost sombrely. "As you know, I'm getting married soon and I really don't have a reason to leave."
In the desert it is harder to tell which is better: hunting at night or hunting during the day. One could argue that the tracks are easier to follow during the day and that prey is easier to find because it is more active. One could also make the argument that night is better, because there is no sweltering heat and one does not have to chase one's prey. Of course, if one has a fur coat like Bow and Katt, the sweltering heat is truly the deciding factor. Katt and Bow raced across the desert landscape, they were able to see perfectly by the light of the moon and what they were tracking appeared rather large.
"You sure you want to be here, Katt? I mean shouldn't you be resting or healing or something?" Bow asked, concerned.
"I'm fine, I need some exercise to get rid of the stiffness of this leg. I once knew a guy who had a broken back, he spent the whole winter months resting in bed and when he had healed he found that he could barely move. He was never able to walk again. Besides, I can only stand Sten for so long before I start wanting to punch him in the face... a lot." Katt replied.
Bow laughed softly, Katt and Sten had a sort of cat and mouse relationship, but they really good friends. Bow and Katt ran across the next dune, their prey was supposed to be there, but they found nothing.
"That's strange... I could have sworn..." Katt started, but was interrupted by a sudden earthquake. "Gah! What the?"
From beneath the sands a giant scorpion emerged, the sands running off it like water. The great behemoth dwarfed Katt and Bow.
"I think I'm gonna need a bigger cross-bow." Bow whimpered as he stood before the monster.
The giant scorpion took a swipe at Bow, who nimbly dodged; even for a man of his girth he could still move agilely when his life depended on it. The monstrosity roared as it turned towards Bow and attempted to chase him. Katt, using her staff, thwacked it several times, hoping to get its attention. Unfortunately for her, her plan worked, the scorpion turned its attentions toward her and grabbed her in one of its pincers and began to slowly crush her. Bow hurried to arm his crossbow with one of the special bolts he had received from the desert travellers, but he paused in his work for a brief moment to cast a spell.
"Like a steel wall, tighten the defence, DEF_X!" He cast his defensive spell.
Katt felt the pressure lighten somewhat as the spell was cast, but it was not enough to allow her to escape. Bow aimed his crossbow at the monster and fired. The bolt struck the scorpion's unguarded backside and the bolt exploded; the substance that filled the head of the bolt was very volatile and would detonate on heavy impact. The beast roared, dropped Katt and turned on Bow, who was readying another shot. Katt rose quickly to her feet and charged the monster. The scorpion halted and roared; Bow aimed at its open mouth and fired. The shot was perfect and the bolt entered the monsters mouth and a second later the monster blew up as the bolt exploded from the inside. Pieces of shell and scorpion meat flew everywhere and Bow saw Katt behind where the monster used to be. She was flat on her back and Bow rushed to her. She didn't appear to be injured as Bow examined her as she sat up.
"Rather lucky that thing opened its big gob when it did huh?" Bow said.
"Luck had nothing to do with it. I stuck it up the arse, is what happened." Katt laughed. "Now how can we get this stuff back to camp?"
Authors Notes: Lookie a long chapter as a holiday present! Anyways, if you are wondering, the Hymn of Dragons is done to the music of Final Fantasy X's Hymn of the Fayth. The song that was played in the tavern is titled 'Hostile but Cuddly' and can be found on the Ocremix site under seiken densetsu 3 (yeah I know it isn't Breath of Fire, but I couldn't find any appropriate remixes of Breath of Fire for this)e-mail me if you want the URL. I had one major concern for this chapter and that is did I go overboard with Jean's French? I'm not sure he spoke that much French; I hope nobody minds too much. And yes there is a reason the elder's name is Teepo, but I'm not going to tell you why yet.
Artificer Urza's Fanfiction