After had Daniel finished burying his armour, he looked over to the decaying tower and saw Aria and Loralei glaring at each other in a tense standoff. He hurried over to them, hoping to defuse the situation, but found his worries were needless. Before he even got close, Aria dashed forward and embraced Loralei, laughing joyfully and ignoring her confused expression. Suddenly she called out to Daniel, saying “Brother, I approve! She small and huggable but still strong and feisty, just the type of mate I think suits you.” Without even waiting for a response, she started to drag the confused Loralei away while saying, “Come with me, Lor, we need to get the car ready so we can leave.”
An hour later, they were back to driving. They had taken the time to salvage the crystal from the remains of the hovercraft and were 126cc richer. That amount seemed far too much for the council to have provided them with it, so it was probably the pilot’s money. But even that amount wasn’t the best haul for the day. The Armour they had taken from the dead elite was by far the best. The black form-fitting suit of movable plates adjusted itself nicely to fit Daniels body like it was made for him. That was a part of the armour’s magic; amongst the many enchantments was one that adjusted the shape and size to fit the wearer comfortably.
Despite the power of the armour, Daniel only used the chest piece and legs. There were a few reasons for that. Firstly, there was comfort. Daniel basically never had time to equip more than just that and as such hadn’t worn a whole set in years. Suddenly doing so would be uncomfortable and more importantly, restrictive. Although the suit was made to conduct mana enough that magic could be cast through it, it would still reduce how dexterously his hands could move. However the most important reason was that he wouldn’t be able to see his scales glisten and shine in the light. As it was, covering his legs and chest was the extent his vanity would allow.
It was actually a very common problem for Draconian, vanity was so tied to their species that the idea of completely covering themselves was almost an alien concept. The more powerful the individual, the more they wanted to show off their scales, especially for higher variants. Even the elite, who had undergone training to fight that instinct, still exposed their tails, wings and sometimes heads.
Since both Lor and Aria were mages, neither wanted the arm pieces and gloves. Only Leah had any real use for them and she was more than happy to take them. The black armour reshaped itself to fit snugly around her muscular arms and coated her sharp claws with blade like plates. With that in place, she had no worries of her claws breaking if she used them as weapons. No one wanted the helmet so it sat unused in the back of the car.
Feeling comfortable in the armour, Daniel passed time as they travelled by taking a rest. When he woke up, he was laying against Aria. While he was comfortable and happy, his circumstances conflicted with what he dreamt and made the moment seem all the more precious. The dream felt altogether too clear I his mind, like he was being hinted at, that there was something he needed to remember just beyond his reach.
Sunlight reflected off his scales, which shone far more brightly then before he slept. He noticed a cleaning rag in his sleeping sister’s hand and made the obvious conclusion. Cleaning another Draconian’s scales fell into an odd cultural category. Depending on the den, it was either the most normal thing imaginable, like shaking hands, or it was unimaginably intimate, like sex but more embarrassing. The Southernmost den fell into the first category but from Leah’s blushing expression, the Southwest Den was the latter.
While Daniel would never know it, Aria had cleaned his scales knowing full well that it was embarrassing for Leah. While she accepted Leah as Daniel’s mate based on her strength, their personalities simply didn’t mesh well. As far as she was concerned, Daniel was hers and she was letting other’s borrow him from time to time. While Loralei was almost instinctively willing to share, Leah seemed to have some intention to monopolise or at the least centralise. Monogamy was rare for Draconian, and the person at has the partners was the Centre; hence becoming a Centre was called centralising. Aria just couldn’t shake the feeling that Leah wanted them gone so that she could make a group of her own.
By midday, the tall walls of Enoksen could be seen in the distance, the thick white stone looked like a cloud against the red sands of the wasteland. Far more out of place was the tree that formed the centre of the city. That tree was, technically, Enoksen and the buildings around it were called ‘The city surrounding Enoksen’, but no one outside of a formal situation would ever make that distinction. It was a part of the Elven overly pretentious act that they didn’t name their cities but did name the great trees that formed their hearts. Very few Elves actually cared about the environment and nature, but they all liked to pretend they did. Apparently it gave an earnest impression that added to their beauty.
Enoksen, the tree, was at least a couple hundred meters tall and seemed to be some kind of oak tree. Since its trunk was surrounded by visible roots, it had to have grown after the fall. For something that large to have grown in such a short period of time, magic would have had to have been used. Rather than focusing expanding arable land or securing the city’s defences, the Elves used their magic on something as pointless as a giant tree that chewed through resources and did little for the city aside from some shade. A city council member was once quoted as saying, “A few hundred people starving to death is a small price to pay for such a beautiful sight.” Or so a rumour said.
To the south of the city was a quarry, where they dug through the sand to reach a city underneath the sand. The resources unearthed there were what made it possible for those living in Enoksen, the city, to live comfortably. While the quarry was often attacked by creatures that lived in the sand, the standing army and Warmaidens made short work off anything that could affect the prosperity of the city.
Since they were at a key city in Celtic territory if they gave themselves away as Norse followers, they would be hunted down by their army in no time at all. Given that, they agreed that it would be best if they waited at an inn while one of them went to inform the city leaders. It was at that point in the discussion that Aria revealed that she had the skills Individual Scry (Lesser) and Individual Scry (Greater), which let her see Daniel through her crystal ball, where ever he went. Although they thought that she used him as an example, she chose him as the target of the skills and they couldn’t be changed. It was a major downside to the skills, but because of that, they didn’t cost much relative to the price of the general versions. With that, they would know if anything happened to him and were willing to wait for him to finish the task.
As they approached the great iron grates at the closest entrance, they were stopped by a guard. The guard was an Elf wearing a simple metal chest-plate over what looked like an old-world blue police uniform. The sharp contrast between the medieval armour and modern uniform seemed entirely lost on the Elf as they dryly went about their work.
“State your business and duration of your visit. If you’re a local, proceed to the east gate.”
He questioned Loralei, who was the driver, who panicked slightly before answering.
“Y-yes, we’re just travellers. We’ll only be in town for one night.”
The guard shrugged and let them through; probably making the usual mistake of assuming Draconian couldn’t lie. He also gave them directions to a nearby inn with a parking lot and sun-baking space. The Inn was called “Dug-up Traveller’s”, and was a building that was removed from the quarry and placed in the town. There were actually a few buildings like that, as it was slightly easier to move an existing building then to make a new one when it came to magic. Their room was a simple one, with wallpapered walls, a sink in the bathroom and two beds that could be pushed together. There wasn’t much to it but for 8cc a night for the four of them, they couldn’t expect much in a city.
As they were unpacking, Daniel found the bottle of Whiskey he had been keeping and, when they were done, handed it over to Aria while saying, “As I promised all those years ago, a bottle of old-world.” While her face lit up with an amazing smile, there wasn’t any particular surprise. If she hadn’t mentioned her ability to scry he might have wondered about that. Some people found scrying to be uncomfortable, but Daniel found it comforting to know that they had that connection. Since there wasn’t much time left in the work day, they decided to drink it after he got back.
The streets of Enoken were cobblestone and about half of the buildings were the same. The other half was either modern buildings or shaped plants. While each building was beautiful, or at the very lease charming, the overall look was chaotic and disorganised. Elfish pride would never let anyone else tell them that their concept of beauty was wrong, and the result was a city without consistency. Even if every piece was good, the whole thing together felt wrong. It was a problem that wasn’t helped by the addition of other races. While Elves were the majority, many other races found their way into the city. While no Dwarves, Mongrels or Darklings would be allowed into the city, other races made up at least thirty percent of the population.
When he asked a local for directions, he was told that he was in luck, that with his race he could get access to the city council easily. The Council building was located next to the training grounds and there were plenty of Draconian in the army. That gave them priority with regards to giving reports, as it was generally believed that they wouldn’t waste time and usually concerned the cities protection.
He was, however, not in luck. The local had made an understandable yet unforgivable mistake. The guards of the council building were not, in fact, Draconian, but were Dragonkin; a very different thing. While they had very similar builds and sizes, Dragonkin were coated from head to toe in scales and had sharp snouts filled with razor sharp teeth. They also were born with fully formed wings and claws, resembling a dragon far more closely then Draconian did. However, the lacked the breath attacks that Draconian were proud of. There was a legend that said the first Draconian and Dragonkin were sisters, born of the same dragon and her human love.
While Dragonkin outwardly looked closer to dragons, their lifespans and personality were closer to humans, with very few of them living to be a hundred. The worst part about them as that they wholeheartedly believed that they were a race chosen by the dragons to lead the world, that all their actions were the embodiment of good, and that Draconian were inherently evil people that spread corruption. That attitude meant that they almost always fought when they met. In that regards, pre-fall society was the worst possible place for them, given the likelihood of meeting and inappropriateness of murder.
The soldier was red coloured and both sides strained their willpower to fight back their instinct to draw weapons. That was until they had a moment of recognition. A couple years prior, when Daniel had been short on money, he had worked as a mercenary for a territory war between the Celtic and Norse orders. At the time, the red coloured soldier had been commanding a unit. Apparently, after their defeat they were demoted and were now a town guard. With recognition evident in both their eyes a different kind of tense atmosphere developed as each waited for the other to make a move.
In the end, Daniel had no choice but to move first, if he waited for more soldiers to pass by, his situation would only get worse. He suddenly faced a dash to the left before running to the right. As he ran, he could hear the Dragonkin yelling “Intruder” and “Spy” with his full volume. Things weren’t going well, and the smart thing to do would have been to retreat and try another time. Daniel, however, was too annoyed to consider that. Instead he tried running through the blockages to force his way to the leaders, almost completely unaware of how much it made him look like an assassin.
Making a sudden jump to the side, he avoided a blast of fire that would have hit him. Turning back he saw the spell array the red guy had used. It was a standard array with a diameter nearly half a meter wide. Daniel didn’t bother hiding his laughter as he mocked the Dragonkin’s incompetence. A spell that simple could be made with a ten to twenty centimetre circle; needing a circle that large to make sure the ratios were right was the peak of incompetence. Sweat even glistened through their red scales, showing that they were exhausted from that small effort. His victory years prior made far more sense when he saw how bad his opponent had been.
That distraction was Daniels downfall, or one of the contributing reasons, anyway, as he turned to face forward and was immediately struck across the face with the centre of a shield. As he rolled backwards his neck was pinned by two crossed spears. Looking around he saw he was surrounded by heavily armoured women with sturdy round shields, and pistols on their wastes. Each and every one of them was in their peak fitness, and they were filled with a beautiful vitality. From the design of their shields, he knew that he found the right place; they were the Morrigan Order. The woman who hit him had a very recognisable face; almost identical to someone he had met before.
“Ms Zeeb, I take it? I have a message for you. Smith Street Village has fallen.”