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Flashes to Ashes [P, Phedre]
Topic Started: Fri Jul 7, 2017 9:05 pm (542 Views)
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Ikenna had no choice, his beast hide armor was stowed for now to allow him to breathe. Now he was down to nothing but some linen trousers, thin and baggy. His skin was pitch-black and shiny, but his silhouette in the dark of evening was broken up by glowing across his body, his eyes burning through the shadows, white lines tracing along his major arteries, and breaking through at every joint like lava through blackened stone. Each segment of his unarmored scorpid tail was outlined by the same glow, all the way down to the spiked tip that laid exhausted upon the ground. The humidity simply steamed off of his body in practically imperceptibly thin streams, and though the around him was warmer than most of the Debon Plains, it was drier. His breathing was short and shallow, the smell of burning wood came from his arm propping him against the outside of wooden-structured pub, but no fire broke out, just a dark line of smoke. Fortunately the ground beneath his feet was dirt, more resistant to the heat emanating from his body.

This was a sensation he had not felt in several years, the sensation of heat. Maybe for all that his form was, it could not stand against sickness stubborn enough. Perhaps this would just pass, but it had been growing for several weeks and showed no signs of stopping, turning his typical fiery-orange white with increased energy. Poor Azuzu, his drake, his friend, nearly as large as Ikenna was tall, seemed to suffer the same as he stayed curled a short way away from the arakureb's bare feet. Perhaps this was just another effect of their transformations. Maybe he was going to become a full fire elemental, which could only be something for the worse. How would ever approach Bethari with something like that?

He smiled to himself, a normally rambling nature gone with his breath, a bit amusing and nobody he knew around to appreciate that much. As before, this was merely just another wave of the heat, of the burning sensation overtaking his body. With time it should pass, or at least he should be able to get control over it, or so he kept telling himself. Either way, it seemed to be a better idea to be out under the starry sky than inside the establishment with lots of highly flammable alcohols. Perhaps if he could sweat it would not be so bad, but such was the nature of who he was to stay dry without water.
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They were tired, dirty, and in desperate need of a drink. The evening brought forth annoyance after annoyance, and after that overweight dwarfling took so long to die the pair decided to quit for the night and get a well earned drink. “I still can’t believe it took that long for him to bleed out,” the man said, wiping his brow with the back of his hand. A smear of blood was left in its wake. “Your blade was practically lodged in his bone, it should have taken minutes!”

“Nevermind the bloodloss,” the woman replied with a groan, “I have never seen the poison of the blade take so long to start acting...”

The two walked closely together in the shadows of the alleyway. The woman, Phedre, raked a hand through curtains of loose ebon hair, her azure gaze pointed wearily at her feet. Her leathers were streaked in blood, which glimmered like black oil in the dim light. Her blade was tucked neatly between her shoulder blades and a dagger sat against her hip. Her companion scratched his beard casually, his dark eyes darting across the roadway, assessing for danger. His blade sat on his hip, but his hand rested readily on the hilt. They matched each other in stride as they walked, her long legs stretching to pair with his taller frame. They looked fairly foreboding in their adornments, splashed with the crimson life source of the night’s last target.

“I think his weight had something to do with it,” the man, Diocletian, pondered, kicking a stray pebble with his boot, “I have never seen a man with such tight armor. I was more afraid that he would bust a strap and the flying buckle would be the death of me.” He laughed gruffly and glanced over to Phedre, gauging her reaction.

“What an end that would be,” she said with a smile, leading his to grow more so, “death by flying buckle. I would probably get lost in a fit of laugher, slip on a spot of blood and join you in the afterlife shortly thereafter.” She looked back at him and let out a short laugh, then throwing her arm over his shoulders, “where is this pub, I’m dying to drink away this loathsome evening.”

It was not long before the light from the pub caught their eye, and like a beacon of flame, drew them closer to its doors. They were nearly at the entrance when Phedre paused, turning her head slightly to take a slow inhale. Was that... wood burning?

She took a step backward and glanced to her right, a dark shadow of a beast coming into view. She had seen nothing of its nature before, though she instantly queried fire magic of some kind, for a thin tendril of smoke crept from the wood against which his shoulder leaned. Phedre cocked her head to the side, curious eyes looking at the stranger.

“Oh here we go,” Diocletian grumbled to himself before reaching over and taking Phedre by her upper arm, “the ale is this way,” he said louder so that both the stranger and the woman could clearly hear.

She ignored him, as she often did, and instead spoke to the stranger, who looked as though he was a walking sauna. “Good evening,” she said softly, watching him through long lashes, curious about the nature of his existence, “are they not allowing you inside for fear of incineration?” Her lips crept into a slight smile, which was followed by a deep sigh from Diocletian.
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People were coming and going, but most did not think twice about some long figure leaning against the outside of the pub, glowing markings or not. Maybe they just thought that he was somebody having trouble holding his ale and needed a moment outside while he avoided making a mess inside, maybe he had some other inane reason for standing outside rather than being inside getting drunk, but whatever went through their minds it was little concern for his well-being. At most he might receive a wave or a nod in the dark, a courtesy greeting that ultimately amounted to nothing.

Eventually, though, as seemed to be the case with places such as this, there was only so long before one of the particular types of people showed up and showed an interest, one way or another. Adventurers, mercenaries, bounty hunters, Jack-of-All-Trades, wanderers, and heroes. Which this woman was, along with her accompaniment who not wrongly was more focused on getting into the pub and getting drunk rather than stopping to chat with some stranger hanging out around it.

Ikenna chuckled a bit more out of stress than actual amusement, took a deep breath, and did what was only polite. He replied!

"Fortunately not, but all the same, my incendiary nature is why I am out here. They may sit away from me and the heat given the Summer nights being so warm, but I am more aware of how hot I can burn, and just how quickly and poorly that will interact with alcohol, no matter how delicious. Well, at least Firebrew is made for such interactions, but I am afraid they have none." Ikenna said with his Istani accent unmistakable, of the poorer dialect of Istan City's slums. Despite his power and the potential of the Matandra Clan, they were still happy in the slums and that ultimately affected the dialects of most of the children, "Still, from what I saw before coming out beneath this beautiful starry night sky, their selection is good and their prices are fair. There has yet to be a brawl that I have seen, some people getting a bit loud, but jovial all the same.'

Ikenna would have normally continued on for at least a few more lines of dialogue, but his now glowing white eyes went wide and he became quickly short of breath. The white all across his body grew brighter, his joints felt like they were tightening against his body, peeling his arms closer to his torso and making him double over. The sensation was new, striking, and wholly unexpected. There was no buildup, no obvious warning, it just struck, but he stood firm and defiant against even this, but it was clear to the Matandra that it would not last long.

"I may need to. . . Need to go. Pleasure. Good night." He said, his voice taking a choppier style with each word as he turned to walk away. Azuzu lifted its head, feeling the growing pulses of heat coming off of his friend, but there was nothing that the drake could do but stand and follow.

Neither of them, despite being experienced with fire in one form or the other, predicted what happened next. Quite simply, it was not even something that they suspected as being possible.

Ikenna effectively exploded in white light that swept against the structures, taking walls and what few being were present outside, which meant Ikenna, Azuzu, the woman, and the man. They were gone, a scorch mark left upon the ground, and everything even remotely flammable being set ablaze.

The smell of smoke was what woke Ikenna, but there was something odd about it even to a hazy freshly-awakened mind. It was not like a sudden strike, something new, but rather as if it was something fallen asleep to. The air despite it was cool, free from humidity, with a strangely warm and gentle breeze that washed over his skin, softly stirring him from his sleep. It felt like he had fallen asleep outside, but he did not remember falling asleep.

The war mage sat up and opened his eyes wearily, a surprisingly easy feet. Where he was, it was dark, perhaps night time? Thinking back, he remembered being outside beneath the night sky, but not any place like this. At first he thought he might be dreaming, but there was a certain solidity and weight to everything that dispelled that notion, a clarity unmatched by any normal dreams, but even given that it was still difficult to believe what he saw.

Trees were everywhere, with bark as black as coal but speckled with glows of orange like embers. Their leaves were ashen white, creating a canopy beneath an overcast sky that thundered golden lightning across the clouds. The trees were set upon a field white like snow, but as Ikenna brought his hands across the ground around him, he found it to be nothing but cooled ashes. Everything seemed like it should be dead, burnt away, but the leaves rustled like any others, staying attached to their twigs and their branches, nothing snapping or crumbling, just continuing to stand.

He would be worried that he had burned everything down if what he was seeing made any sense. He stood, gazing around, trying desperately to recall those moments before losing consciousness, as the heat had built upon him, but it was tricky to grasp those fleeting thoughts. What he could remember was that Azuzu was near him, and so he called out, a little desperation to his voice as it shot past the trees, "Azuzu?! Azuzu!"
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“Out of Firebrew,” she responded, the faint breeze tossing locks of her ebon hair, “what a misfortune. It is cruel to have to wait alone, and without a drink in hand to quell the solitude.”

“By the Gods,” Diocletian groaned, grabbing again at her arm, “you do not even know the man. Perhaps it is peace that he is seeking, and you are naught but disturbing it. We have our own thirsts to quench.”

His tug was again stilled as the woman stood firm, her feet planted in a way not easily moved. She ignored his protests, as she often did, especially when the cause was another male. He made like they would all overpower her and steal her into the night, or worse, trick her into believing it an amorous connection, leaving her somehow vulnerable. Neither of which were commonplace... neither of which he would suffer for. She was his to protect, although she saw it quite differently, and as such they were often in conflict with one another. Of course it did not help that her skill for detecting admiration was undeveloped, and though unintentional, she scorned him often. He would swallow this until the end of his days and continue his commitment for hopes that one day she would wise up and do what is best for the both of them.

Her blue eyes shone in the dimming light as they traced the delicate pattern of white lines across the stranger’s skin. She remained curious, for the man spoke of running a temperature, and it certainly appeared to be the case, as the pillar beside him continued to smoke. She wondered if he were possessed, perhaps by an elemental spirit of some kind, but she was ignorant to those practices and thusly remained quiet about them. Magic and mages, and the knowledge of same, were not commonplace in Phedre’s mind. She learned early to avoid them, for those gifts were not imparted unto her and often made for uncomfortable engagements. Her physical prowess was dismantled by the strong magic of an elder mage, and the vulnerability stung worse than she cared to admit. Still, ever the learner, she sought knowledge, for understanding the beast was the first step in countering it.

The man, or monster, Phedre was still unsure, was kindly. He spoke in gentle words. This only irked her companion further, for it was unlikely that the exchange would end in blows, which is oft his preferred method of termination. An angry Phedre was not a beguiled Phedre, and so any chance of amorous exchange between the stranger and the warrioress would be unlikely. There has been times when her rage had turned to passion, with himself as the target, and boy wouldn’t that turn around the evening’s course in a heartbeat. She was ferocious in all aspects of life and it was as intoxicating as it was deadly.

It was then that the man began to show distress, his white eyes aglow and muscles rigid in tension. Phedre leaned in to assess his health, for the change was sudden and brought for sincere concern. “Are you unwell,” she questioned softly, reaching out toward him for a brief moment before retracting her hand. She did not know how hot he ran, and if he singed the timber he would surely burn her flesh.

There was a guttural noise and the distinct shuffle of a reptile. “Oh good, a drake,” Diocletian growled through clenched teeth. Neither of them had noticed the creature beforehand, too caught up in its master. This made Dio’s mood sour more so, as Phedre oft found herself drawn to animals. She had too many to readily employ herself, often sending them to roam free while she went about her business. The pair had not seen the dire tiger in weeks, but there were no reports of attacks in nearby villages, so he appeared to be behaving himself.

Phedre’s eyes flicked to the drake, but then returned immediately to the man, who was now excusing himself with some degree of difficulty. “Please, Sir,” she offered, again extending her hand and then pulling back, “is there some way that we can assist-“
Her words were cut short as an immense and blinding light penetrated her view. There was a great pressure and intense heat and then... nothing. Blackness and stillness settled through her senses and as she passed into the realm of unconsciousness she could hear Diocletion let out a soft, yet disdainful curse.


Diocletian awoke with a cough and a sputter. His lungs burned as he fought to draw breath. Face down in a bed of ashes, he sucked in the fragile powder and began hacking. He sat up with an abruptness that appeared to startle a nearby creature, the drake perhaps, and brushed ash from his face and mouth with fervor. Whist engaged in his revival, he glanced around him. They were no longer in the small town, outside of the merry pub. There would be no jovial drinking or celebratory bar fights. He would go thirsty for more than one thing this eve.

The thought awoke him to the utter silence around him. Aged trees encircled him but made no sound. The thick bed of ash damped the resonance of any creature stalking nearby. With haste he jumped to his feet, a cloud of grey blooming in his wake. He did not hear or see her immediately, and instead, frantically searched for her raven locks amongst the ash.

Whereby he was sooty and dust covered, she lay nearby in near sterility, ash clinging only to the smears of blood that adorned her in the previous realm. She had a streak of charcoal across her cheek, edged ever so slightly across her nose. Her long lashed met, eyes closed, and her lips, rose with the blush of life, were sealed. She appeared to be asleep, frozen in time, amongst a soft bed of grey, coldless snow.

He raced to her side, sliding into the ash at her shoulder, another plume of grey soot billowing up in his wake. He lay a hand atop her head and smoothed through the black tendrils of her hair which curled against the ash like squid ink in the ocean depths. “Phedre,” he whispered, his face low to hers, not wanting to startle her awake... that was his backup plan. He brushed lightly at her cheek and called her once more, “Phedre.”

Her lashes had just begun to part when the bellow of the stranger exploded across their expanse. Phedre shot up in a startle, her forehead colliding with Dio with a thud. “Ngh,” he groaned, popping back on his heels and grabbing at his mouth. He pulled his hands away and found them touched with a bit of crimson. She had split his lip.

She in turn was clutching her head, rubbing at the spot of connection, but appeared none the worse for wear. The commotion stirred up more ash plumes, which hid Dio from sight briefly. Confused and alarmed at their change in location, and the booming and somewhat panicked voice of the stranger, Phedre drew her dagger and jumped to her feet. As the dust settled she glanced at Diocletian and connected the dots. Recognizing that she must have head butted him, she offered a tumble of words in an awkward apology and extended her hand to help him up. He accepted and they again stood shoulder to shoulder, his bleeding lip already sealed.

Diocletian knew better than to ask about her wellness in the presence of others, and gauged by her movement that she was fine enough considering they had basically exploded into a whole new plane. Content with that knowledge he gave himself a once over, rubbing at a spot where the hilt of his sword must have caught him in the ribs during the... relocation. He glared at the man who recently had glowing white eyes and roared, “what are you on about then?! What’s this about?!”

Phedre watched the stranger and made some quick deductions. He was looking for his drake, she concluded, and quite desperately. This journey was unlikely to be of his choosing. “Are you alright,” she called, “are you hurt?”

Diocletian was busy dusting himself off, too busy to observe her gaze was directed to the stranger and not to him. “I’m intact, if not a little bruised,” he grumped, “thanks for-“ He looked up. She was not addressing him. He could not be sourer. He shut up instantly and took to growling lowly instead. He glared at the stranger with such disgust he half believed he would melt into a pile of puss and slime. “If only,” he said silently to himself.
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The smell of smoke, ground covered in ash, and trees like coal. Ikenna went quiet without response from his drake and focused on the world around him, this alien landscape that appeared dead, practically apocalyptic, yet still lived. His eyes climbed up to the sky to watch the lightning flash across the dark clouds with golden hues as opposed to the typical cold colors. It was confusing as it was mesmerizing, an unusual sight yet not any more threatening than any other coming storm that he had experienced.

A very humanoid roaring came from out of his sight, and Ikenna's instincts for battle flared. He turned sharply and his tail lifted from the ground, its tip hovering hover his head as he took a crouched position, arms forward and raised. It was then that he realized he was wearing nothing but trousers, his armor and shields elsewhere, even his tail bare, but he was far from helpless without them. Proper equipment merely made fighting easier, but every Matandra needed to be self-reliant in case a brawl randomly broke out at the complex. Strike, weave fire, maximize tail use until the enemy felt secure against the tactics, then change dramatically.

Another moment was needed for the arakureb's eyes to adjust to the faint lines of warmth all around him, examining the faces in the dark and the subtle warmth all around them. The landscape was surprisingly warm despite its cool air, perhaps not immediately noticeable to touch, but to his sight which picked up on heat it was unmistakable. The faces of the two people nearby were those that he had seen just prior to arriving wherever they were, not unfriendly people, but probably just as surprised to be somewhere radically different as he was. A striking warmth in his peripheral vision caught his attention as he calmed and his tail lowered, the heat generated from Azuzu, the unique drake as it watched the scene unfold, ready to strike if needed but otherwise unmoving.

Both of the other people wanted answers to two different things. One to know why they were here, assuming Ikenna was responsible, and the other to know about his well-being. The Matandra sighed and stood straight, lowering his tail to drape over his shoulder as he looked around.

"I am fine. Actually, I feel a little cooler than normal. Recently I have been feeling like I have been overheating, from waking to sleeping, but right now I feel well." Ikenna stopped and looked at his own hands, examining the glowing joints closely as they had dimmed to a soft yellow, as if he had spent his mana. As he continued to think, and as he looked at the tow people, he remembered a striking burning sensation and his muscles seizing before he lost consciousness. He shrugged, having no immediate answers, and turned his hands to form the proper movements for a simple light spell and continue addressing those caught up in this situation along with him with aid from a reasonably bright light, "Wahalakulena. Anyway, even if I was not, it would be nothing that I could not handle. We of the Matandra clan of Istan City are a hardy bunch, and pain is less of an obstacle to us as a normal part of life.

"Conversely and in order; firstly, are you two alright? Any injuries should probably be checked and handled quickly. I have absolutely no idea where we are or what could be lurking around any. . . Well, I am at least fairly certain that these are trees.

"Secondly, do either of you happen to know what happened? I remember feeling hot, then my muscles hurt, then I woke up on an ashen ground. I would almost fear that I burned everything around me down, but I distinctly remember not being in a forest surrounded by trees.

"Wait, no, before the second question, definitely after the first, perhaps introductions would be well-considered? I am Ikenna Abala'Mahala of the Matandra clan, 'The Spitfire', son of Azubuike Matandra, "Of Glassed Sand", and Uzoma Mataka'Damana Matandra, "Mother Scorchscale". I am heir to the Matandra War Mage Legacy, first Arakureb in centuries with a tail, Infernal Scorpion of the battle of Setubanda in Nalai, and proud boyfriend of Bethari "The Painted Mantis". My companion-- Azuzu, get over here! My companion, Azuzu, is-- or at least was a Dune Drake, raised by me since his hatching. Who might you two be?"

At his beckoning, the drake practically slithered its way over to his side, coiling around his legs with its wings tucked tightly, but clearly ready to expand at a moment's notice. Its own tail was akin to Ikenna's in its scorpion-like appearance, and over its scaled body it similarly glowed at its joints and the tip of its tail, though the underbelly glowed brightest.
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Judging herself to not be in immediate threat of danger, Phedre sheathed her dagger. She took a long, slow inhale and evaluated the environment around her. The air was warm, thick with heat, and smelled heavily of brimstone and burning. Although dim, there was enough light present to suggest daytime, but thick storm clouds blocked any clue of time provided by the sun... or potentially... suns. She had not seen, nor heard of this place, and her travels were many. Surely somewhere in her adventuring she would have taken note of a map location or passing discussion on a realm so enveloped in the attributes of fire. Not being well versed in the arcane, Phedre assumed little was impossible. They had been transported to somewhere entirely unique via explosion... if that wasn’t enough to convince one to look outside the lines earthen cause and effect, what else would be?

Phedre did not endure magic with any manner of ease. She knew it a weak point and grew up avoiding it wherever possible. Mages were powerful and unpredictable, which made for difficult battles and slimmer odds of victory. Every choice in life was a calculated risk to the woman, a complicated risk/gain analysis that hoped to churn out the right answer to life’s more complicated questions. This terrain provided her with little input for her equation. Everything was a risk. Nothing was known. There were burning trees that still stood tall and alive, there was a moving breeze that head tiny sparks and embers cool enough to touch but hot enough to be made uncomfortable. Was the ground all ash covered? Or was it simply ash, and nothing more? What lay beneath it? The very surface emanated warmth, as though a brush fire had recently swept through and begun to cool. Everything seemed to burn, but nothing seemed to die, or even mind it for that matter. Truly the nature of this world was confounding.

Diocletian had his eyes on the stranger and little more. Less interested in the new world, his intentions were to secure safety and a way back to the merry little inn full of pints of ale. He wanted a real bed for the night, and a belly full of food, not a charred, fire-filled adventure.

It was the camber of the stranger’s voice that drew Phedre’s eye line back to him. He assured a state of wellness, albeit somehow coolness? Phedre’s eyes squinted slightly as she tried to process the information. He appeared to be glowing less than earlier, and was in far less pain. It could be surmised that if he felt cooler now, and appeared more contained in the very least, because some of his heat-based energy had been expelled in the explosion. But that still did not explain their transport. Explosions did not teleport people. Phedre had seen her fair share of severed and burned limbs to know this. The method of travel remained a mystery.

Phedre’s flinch was apparent when the stranger summoned light from his hand. She nearly took a step back from him. Diocletian moved closer beside her, both sets of eyes watching the mage with a new alertness. It was uncommon to be amongst one who summons light with mana rather than flint or friction. It was unsettling how easily the spell had been cast.

The man introduced himself then, a flurry of genealogical references, nicknames and titles, none of which had the slightest of impact on Phedre or her companion. There was but two words that brought a cold chill to her spine, an odd feeling as a tear of sweat trickled down it at the same time. War mage. The word’s brought Dio’s hand to his hilt, as though a blade would be much help if the war mage delved into his more advanced spell work. Perhaps the friendly exchange at the inn had been a mistake, and the harsh tug at her arm should have been abided.

She said nothing, but Diocletian eventually grumbled, “a Matandra. I know of your clan.” His words were not disparaging, nor laced with distain, simply a quiet acknowledgement of the class of fighting that the group were known for. He respected their loyalty, and harbored them no ill will, but the man, Ikenna, held a skill set that could pose quite a threat should push come to shove. Diocletian took in the full scale of the man’s appearance then, not sure what to make of his scorpion like appendage. It likely had a toxin of some kind, another thing to be aware of. And of course there was the drake, the reptile was clearly loyal to his master and could prove vengeful in a fight. None of this gave cause for Dio to remove his hand from his sword hilt.

There was a pause of silence then, as Phedre did not speak and her companion refused to speak for her. She shifted her weight to her back leg and rested it over her hip. She too was evaluating, calculating her words, deciding how much information to provide and how much to reserve. “I am Phedre,” she motioned to the man beside her, “this is Diocletian.”

“We are of clan ‘don’t f*** with us’,” he didn’t say, but screamed loudly from his eyes.

Phedre provided no other information on her person. Knowing he was a skilled war mage was enough to put a stop to her lip flapping. Knowledge was power. She would not provide him with any more of that which he already had. She did however, shuffle her weight and respond to his query of wellness. “We are both intact.”

“Intact enough to flay your chest open and watch you bleed out,” Diocletian again did not say aloud.

“As for your query as to what happened,” Phedre continued, her blue eyes watching without falter, “we were hoping that you could inform us.” Her gaze flashed over his body, catching on the glowing segments at his joints, “I had assumed that you would be sure of it. Is it fair to say that this... trait... is not common amongst the Matandra?”

Diocletian rolled his eyes. “Oh who cares, honestly,” he growled, “can you get us back to the inn? I’m certain this place has two suns and is not of our home planet, so it’s not like we could commandeer a few horses and mosey our way back ourselves...”

Phedre again said nothing, simply watching Ikenna with a cautious gaze. The swiftness of their return was unlikely, since he did not even know how they got to where they were in the first place. The hot air blew a strand of raven black hair across her face, catching briefly amongst her long lashes. No, it seemed far more likely that they would have to stick close to the war mage until he devised a solution, likely using some of the magic that had the pair on edge. Sticking close to a mage... not on Phedre’s list of Top 10 Favorite Ways to Spend a Day. She shivered, despite the heat, and wished she had another warrior or two on her side. She regretted sending away her dire tiger... he would be formidable, but perhaps a little warm under all of the fur. But alas, it was the two of them and a war mage, in a land of fire and brimstone, surrounded by storm clouds that danced with lightning. Perhaps they were not on another planet at all... but in hell itself.
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Ikenna thought best when he spoke, something about vocalizing what should otherwise be his inner-workings, hearing the sound and feeling the reverberations made his mind work best, but even staying quiet as he awaited responses from the two who could properly communicate, he could notice a familiar expression in the eyes of the man, Diocletian.

The man's gaze, a sort of certain rage that only came from a good place, reminded the Matandra of one of his family members, a cryomancer best known as city-slicker, and perhaps the hottest head of the modern iteration of the clan. Despite being older than Ike, the two still butted heads in a way that could only be referred to as a particular Matandra-respect. They recognized one another's power and skills, experience versus practice, and a distinct elemental cliche accompanying their headbutting that neither could deny held a certain factor of humor. If needed to, the two could work together despite this, perhaps driving one another to excess in their duties just as a refusal to be outdone by the other, and while that extra level of a certain familial bond might not be there, Ikenna felt he could at least respect whatever this man was capable of and the reasons he did anything for.

Probably for the sake of the woman. She seemed more uncomfortable with the situation, despite seeming self-sufficient herself. What exactly it was that made her demeanor shift so slightly the tailed arakureb could not pinpoint, but he had this sense that no matter what it was, ultimately he was to blame. Maybe later, if he gained her trust, she could explain it to him, but for now it just seemed like a better idea not to push.

"Well it is far from being unheard of that a Matandra black out and awaken only to find ourselves in a place radically different than we last recall, but that usually requires copious amount of alcohol and I was a long ways off from hitting my limit. Even then it does not typically ensure others coming along for the ride, and I do not feel a hangover." Ikenna was not exactly joking, either, but was working to add a bit of levity to break the tense air up. He was far from being removed by the Matandra want for celebration, perhaps a bit of personality trait developed from victorious celebration of sparring matches, but nothing about this felt like he had too much to drink the night or day before, "The last thing that I recall was growing far hotter than even I being so attuned to the flames am comfortable with, my muscles felt like they were all screaming out in agony, and then everything went dark.

"I suppose it would be safe to assume that this is, after a fashion, my fault. I barely understand anything about my nature, being that I was not born glowing or with a tail, and it only seems to progress further each day. Infernal practitioners of enough skill are capable of entering the Elemental Plane of Fire through fire like a one-way gateway, but I have never heard a story of taking others with them incidentally. Truthfully, I thought that the plane might be more fire and lava, not trees. All I can assume is that I must have been filled to capacity with fiery mana and effectively exploded-- oh by the great flames, I was in a flammable wood-structured area.

"Well, nothing I can do about that now, but I may want to pay reparations as needed. It is going to set me back financially for my journeys, but it is only right that I do what I can to right the wrongs I have committed whether intentional, controlled, or otherwise.

"The especially unfortunate thing is that even if I somehow have tapped into that level of Infernal practice, the only noted ways of returning are through places strongly connected to the Elemental Plane of Fire, such as Therab, normal not holding nearly the connection for safe return even for a skilled pyromancer. Alternatively the Matandra patriarch could be used, but he is back in Istan City, effectively equidistant as Therab assuming that this Plane holds similar geography to Chaon, and neither are nearby.

"This all being said. My deepest apologies to all of you, Diocletian, Phedre, and Azuzu. Even with this being my fault, I am afraid I must request something."
This part was undoubtedly going to hurt to a certain degree. Ikenna was not above asking for help, but it did not lessen a certain sting to his pride, especially asking for help for something by which he was now confident as being his fault, "Assuming that this is the Elemental Plane of Fire, that means I will be nearly useless against anything here. I am singularly focused in my magical studies, fire magic does little to fire elementals after all, and my proper armors are back at the inn given that I was worried about burning through or melting them. The best I can offer in return is to attempt to undo this, perhaps either creating an artificial connection with enough power, or recreating the initial event that brought us here to begin with. I do not know by what means, but I do swear upon my blood as a Matandra to return you both to Chaon."
Edited by Ikenna, Mon Jul 10, 2017 2:14 pm.
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"Well it is far from being unheard of that a Matandra black out and awaken only to find ourselves in a place radically different than we last recall, but that usually requires copious amount of alcohol and I was a long ways off from hitting my limit." The war mage spoke with a hint of mirth in his voice.

Diocletian laughed loosely, shaking his head. He patted Phedre on the shoulder and she relaxed slightly. “I could use a copious amount of alcohol right now,” he roared, his fury softening into his usual, more hospitable manner.

“Couldn’t we all,” Phedre admitted, releasing some of her tension with a swift exhale.
The mage continued his speech, his words intelligent but not haughty. In most cases long winded verbal exchange brought forth annoyance and aggravation from Phedre, but now it restored the face of humanity to one that had turned monster when he self-identified as a mage. He seemed a reasonable sort of fellow, perhaps even goodly, for he spoke with distress about the inn he must have ignited, and was certain he would attend to the repair of the structure upon his return. It was admirable, and a trait that Phedre was not sure she would own herself, should that have been her.

She thought back to a bounty the pair had recently turned in. They found the man in the back room of a crowded pub. He was known to force himself upon unconsenting women and girls and appeared to be attempting to do so again with a young server. Phedre wasted no time in gutting the scoundrel from sternum to groin, although a swift death was beyond what he deserved. Diocletian tended to the young woman and returned her to the care of a fellow serving girl, while Phedre tied a rope around the heels of the corpse and dragged him wordlessly into the pub proper and out of the front door, leaving a thick crimson streak behind them. She did not think of pausing, leaning the dead man against the outer wall, and returning to clean up her mess. She did not consider the impact that a corpse sliding across a pub floor, followed slowly by his entrails, may have on the patrons who drank within. She continued on her way, mounting her black steed, dallying the rope around her saddle horn, and dragging the bounty (and his entrails) to the local lawman who presided over the distribution of reward money. This mage, Phedre thought, may have behaved otherwise.

The woman’s attention was drawn back to the present at the mention of her name. The man was… apologizing? He was like no mage she had ever met. The arrogance of the class was often ever present, especially amongst the men. She inclined her head in a brief acknowledgement and said little else as he continued to speak, this time in request of their protection in the quest for the path home.

It was Dio who spoke first, his posture relaxed and friendly, “as long as you don’t burn us alive I am happy to make a reasonable effort to keep you intact.” Phedre nodded in agreement. “That being said, that tail of yours… keep it far away from me.”

Phedre allowed herself to truly evaluate the form of the man for the first time now. The scorpion-like tail was an odd appendage indeed, one that she had not seen on any other humanoid in her travels. He was only an inch or so taller than her, but his rigid course hair stood straight atop his head, adding to his perceived height. He spoke like someone older than his appearance, and being a mage she wondered if it was so. He appeared younger than the pair, in his early twenties. His build was athletic, though carried less muscular bulk than Diocletian. Any musculature at all was surprising for her to see on a mage, but being a war mage, she surmised, was a bit different. He was handsome enough, in an otherworldly sort of way, for his features made his magical inclination evident. The glow at his joints was somewhat mesmerizing, or it would have been if it was not a constant reminder to Phedre of the man’s inner power.

“We will provide the protection we can in this place,” she spoke softly and stepped closer to the war mage, “but you will have to lead us toward whatever you will need to send us back.” What she did not say was that she was concerned should they come across elementals, for blades and steel do little against a roaring flame. But they would do what they could. She approached Ikenna and gestured forward, kicking up plumes of ash in her wake. She wondered if there would be potable water somewhere, her throat burned with thirst.
Edited by Phedre, Mon Jul 10, 2017 6:16 pm.
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Well, things definitely seemed to be taking a bit of turn from the particularly uncomfortable to the usual fare that people had around the Matandra. Few people could quite stand up to his talkative nature for long without getting annoyed, but at the same time it made it easy to recognize when he hit a certain level of comfort with other people. The tension had died away for the most part, but they were still, for the most part, strangers to one another.

"I will try my best to keep it, or at the very least the stinger, away from both of you." Ikenna said with a nod, looking over at the tail draped over his shoulder. It only made sense that such a thing would make most people uncomfortable. Within the Matandra clan it tended to just be more of a liability than a threat, allowing enemies-- namely other Matandras, to grab it and throw him around by it, making it an even stranger sensation when people were off-put by it, "Alright, then. Well, the first thing is, my compatriots, to do some bit of scouting. While my magic may normally either be practically useless or at the worst detrimental, I do have a number of utility tricks up my sleeve-- well, it would be up my sleeve if I was wearing my armor. Anyway, stand a bit back and I will fly up to get an aerial view of the area with wings made of fire! I can see heat, including changes in heat, great and small. Maybe that will help to locate something. Imsha silvelka."

With those last two words, a spark would fly from Ikenna's hand and dissipate before getting too far. It was a small spell, an introductory-level processing of mana for novice-level fire magic, but it would do the job he needed for his Hellfire Soul brilliantly. With that spell cast, the fiery mana properly prepared, and his mind set on lift, he was ready. He looked up as he moved beneath a thinner area in the canopy of ashen leaves and took a deep breath. This was unlikely to be a pleasant experience. He nodded, gave a thumbs up to his two new allies, crouched in preparation for what was coming, and then with a thought two large spouts of fire erupted from his back with enough force to propel him upwards. For a brief moment, the small clearing was bright, wholly lit up by his wings, then it went dark with his departure.

As expected, going through sticks even with arakureb thick flesh was not pleasant. It scratched at his skin, and embers were left behind on the leaves and sticks where they were broken off by the force of his ascent. Yet it did ultimately work. High above the trees, he could see far though without great detail. He turned in the air, orange eyes scanning the world near and far as he took it all in. Below him was a veritable sea of ashen leaves rustling with each warm breeze. In the distance were not only active volcanoes set in a range, pumping out cloud-like smoke that darkened the sky and chilled the world, but several had flows of lava running down their length. He could track their flows easily given the amount of heat they put off, but strangely enough there were no fires running amok in this world, at least none that the Matandra could see even on the horizon.

What he could lay eyes upon, however, was a different source of heat snaking its way through the char-like forest. It did not simply burn bright like the flows in the distance, but relatively cooler and with an expanding and dissipating area of warmth around it. The best that Ikenna could assume was that it was the closest thing that passed for a proper river in this place.

Azuzu had stayed below, occasionally standing and looking up through the hole where Ikenna had flown up, and then shifting glances towards the two strangers. Occasionally short hissing sounds came from the mouth of the drake, but not threatening so much as inquisitive. It turned around, put its front claws on the trees, and occasionally slapped at their bark and the ashen ground with its own scorpion-like tail.

Eventually Ikenna descended, fiery wings extending to slow his descent before vanishing in a scattering of harmless embers. He hit the ground with bare feet, a finger pointing in a particular direction, the direction of what he assumed was a river, "That way. I think there is water, or at least something that we might be able to follow somewhere, wherever. It seems to be warm, but maybe either not warm enough to burn normal flesh, or like it will not take too long to cool to a proper level to drink. Either way, if you two do not have a container like a skin or flask, I may be able to create some crude cups or bowls that we could use. Also, it looks like the dark sky up above us is actually smoke being pumped out by volcanoes out in the distance. I cannot tell if or when it might clear up, but I could probably set light spells on things of yours to act as non-incendiary torches. It might make us easier to spot to whatever is lurking around the trees, but it will also help to keep us from stumbling over anything in the dark."
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There was another flash of warm lightning across the sky and Phedre found herself longing for the cool breeze that oft preceded a storm such as this. Her skin was sticky, damp with the humidity of the plane. She felt a dampness on her neck, her long black hair catching in the moisture and clinging against her nape. She rarely wore it loose, the midnight curtain was a nuisance in combat, and as the unknown was ever present in this new realm, she felt it prudent to tame it once more. She untied two leather thongs from her belt then swept her hands up through her hair, collecting it in a tail at the top of her head. With one leather piece she bound the base there, wrapping it several times before dexterous fingers drew tight a knot. Placing the remaining thong in her mouth, she rapidly plaited the remaining shadowy lengths into one long braid. After tying the bottom off with the piece held firm in her teeth, she flung it over her shoulder where it swung happily down her back, grazing the sheath of her poison blade.

Ikenna began to explain his method of scouting, a task that everyone would agree was imperative for the group, and drew wide eyed stares from the two companions. They gave each other a sideways glance, and Phedre shook her head slightly. She would rather they all climb upon one another’s shoulders and risk toppling than rely upon magicked wings, and ones made of fire no less. Diocletian was amused, his lips curled into a slight smile.

She did not share the same sentiment. Phedre took two large steps backward before the mage cast his spell, shooting forth a spark which wove into a set of flaming wings. Did he just… give them… a thumbs up? Diocletian returned it with a boyish grin. She winced, holding her eyes in a half closed squeeze as he lifted off, breaking through the tree canopy and into the sky above. She crossed her arms over her chest and sighed, “seems like an awful lot of pomp and circumstance when one could just climb a tree…”

Diocletian stifled a laugh and clapped her on the back, “oh yeah, climbing those living, burning trees would be my preferred method as well. Why use fancy fire wings when you could just as easily burn the flesh from your limbs climbing up one of those bastards.”

Phedre grumbled incoherently and kept her eyes on the opening that Ikenna had just blasted his way though. He was clearly a skilled mage, and a valuable ally, and although his temperament appeared rather even, she could not help but worry that if they differed in opinion somehow she would find herself in dire need of medical assistance. She made a mental note to place herself in good physical position of the man throughout their travels, should she have an inkling of his pending attack and head it off with a solid stabbing or two. The drake swiveled its head to look over her as if he knew her thoughts but then returned his gaze upwards at his master. What had they gotten themselves into…

There was a faint downdraft, and the distinct beat of wings, and the mage began his careful decent back to the ground. Phedre released a breath she was unaware that she held when the wings disappeared in a flurry of floating embers. She was not sure that she would ever get used to that.

The man spoke of water, or at least a hot spring of some kind, and Phedre was reminded of the burning thirst she felt earlier. Yes, finding potable water would be a good first objective. She nodded in agreement, eyes moving to follow the man’s extended finger and take note of its direction.

As she moved forward, Diocletian fell into step behind her. His hand rested on the hilt of his blade and eyes surveyed the environment to assess risk. They kicked up clouds of ash as they walked, the soft powder dampening the sound of their footfalls. Phedre let out a groan, hand moving to her shoulder which she rotated slowly. She must have landed on it during the explosion, it ached and protested with the movement. Her hip on the same side also growled, the muscles bruised and throbbing. It was a souring inconvenience, but not one that slowed her speed.

She paused, realizing that she did not answer his query regarding conjuring light, nor his offer to create dishware. Looking forward still, she replied, “we have canteens on our person.” Diocletian reached for his and found his slightly squished, but still usable. Phedre’s had hung from the hip that did not ache, for likely had avoided impact. “As for light,” she said, peering through darkened trees ahead, “I would prefer the light of the burning canopies to something summoned by mana.”

She continued setting the pace for another few minutes, about to inquire as to the distance, when she heard the soft bubble of flowing water nearby. Pushing through a low hanging branch Phedre was hit with a wall of humidity. Air thick with moisture filled her lungs. They had reached the stream, if you could call it such. Steam rose from its sluggish current and curled across the water’s surface. Crouching beside it, Phedre hovered a hand on top, trying to determine if the fluid would cause burn should it be touched. It was hard to say for sure, the steam appeared cool enough to warrant a quick dip of her hand. It was glorious, a comfortable heat just above tepid. Reminded of her aches, she closed her eyes a moment to imagine crawling into its depths and soaking weary bones into a fresh hot bath, a luxury it had been some time since she had experienced.

The daydream was fractured by the eerie creaking of a creature nearby. Phedre pulled her hand from the water quickly and reached behind her for her blade. Up over one shoulder stood the hilt, and she unsheathed it in a fluid but slow motion to limit the sound it would create. Behind her she heard Diocletian do the same, eyes frozen on a grey, hulking mass that lumbered from across the shoreline. It was frightful looking, a pale, bloated mass of decaying tissue, soggy with moisture and oozing a thick mucus from its segmented frame. A wet rattle of a noise carried across the stream and it became apparent that the creature had noticed their intrusion.
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No answer, at least not at first from the duo, merely taking instead to the direction of water. Perhaps they were similar to Ari, a bit more on the quieter side, but that was still no grounds for the Arakureb to assume anything. In the dark of this place he could still see the outlines of heat projected by the environment, allowing him to move about as freely as if it were dusk back in Imythess. Perhaps these two had a similar ability to see well in the dark. The world was so wide, wonderful, and crazy in how different things could be that he could not find it within himself to doubt such a possibility. Ikenna exchanged glances with Azuzu, shrugged, and simply followed after the two.

It was relative silence as they traveled. The warm breeze rustling leaves, the ash below crunching softly akin to sand with each step. Various things rattled here and there, and perhaps in the distance what seemed like a soft creaking was the sound of some critters waking and moving about. It was eerie how quiet things were, like the dead of night despite how natural the smoky sky seemed to be. Perhaps the creatures still acted on a cycle and they had arrived in their dead of night.

Ikenna's fiery orange eyes occasionally glanced down at the charcoal-like bark of the trees, dotted with embers that simply did not seem to catch, with an interesting layering to their trunks. Idly he reached over as they walked past the flora and picked at one of the scab-like pieces of wood, prying it easily from the rest of the tree. As he did so, embers flew after it, dark wood having suddenly born these protoflames at the damage done before igniting the area the piece had been removed from. Swiftly, the Istani's hand slapped over the catching flame and suffocated it before it could grow further, cautiously removing his palm just to be sure he was not about to incidentally start a wildfire. They seemed to be in the clear, and Ikenna muttered to his drake companion, "Best not test that, lest the world conspire against us."

The fiery drake shuddered its wings at the arakureb and shook its head. Its own orange eyes glanced at the ground, curious about the ash and the earth beneath it, but not wanting to get left behind as its lifelong friend began to walk after the two new people, just in case it hit stone or roots too thick to get through in a timely manner. Sticking low to the ground it followed as the questions from earlier got rather delayed answers.

"Better prepared than I am for this, it seems. Then again as I recall you were both approaching the pub rather than leaving it, so perhaps you were already loaded up as the day was winding to a close rather than getting ready to set off for lands of magic and enchantment." Ikenna noted, looking back down at his puffy pants, the only thing on his person. No enchanted jewelry, nor simple gloves, nor shield or even knife. He had been expecting a rather simple night of letting his heat burn off and then perhaps indulge in enough drinking to end up somewhere unexpected and far more pleasant, perhaps in the arms of a beautiful woman who did not mind how hot he was.

The second answer was a bit more odd to Ikenna, the idea of burning the leaves and the trees and just using that light. Magical light was perfectly fine, nice and bright without being blinding. There was a reason that most Academy of Magic students were taught it as an early spell, an easy guide for the darkened world without needing to risk tomes or scrolls with the fire of a candle.

"Burning the canopies might be easy, but also ill-advised. If everything here is born and empowered by fire, everything grown to feed into burning nature, then perhaps not only would they be flammable but happy to catch and cast light by such a manner. The best-case scenario would just be that they burn for a long while, though that would ultimately result in setting everything ablaze, choking with thick and dark smoke and melting flesh from bones if not burning to them as the fluid evaporates from the body. Even if I and Azuzu can survive all of that, I would be disheartened for either of you, let alone both, succumb to pyric nature. The worst-case scenario would be that they do that while growing, fed by the heat of fresh flames and giving way to any sort of unfortunate effects, possibly growing rapidly or even springing to furious life." He walked through the ideas of everything that could go wrong, leaving nothing to spare. Fire was something he thought about a lot, and so as it followed, it was something by which he could talk a lot about. Yet for every ember and spark that caused fires of thought in his mind, it boggled him to think about whatever such a world was capable of, stirring thoughts of Imythess and the land to the South, a neighbor so close yet so different, "I heard tales that the explorers of Choer to the South encountered all manner of strange and curious creatures, things by which they were not expecting. Flora and fauna utterly alien, though what exactly I cannot recall, but some were definitely unfriendly and either predatory or territorial by nature. If that was just what could be found on Chaon South of Istan, who knows what manner of undocumented life can be found in a place such as this? Unfortunately, pyric practitioners seldom record this world as they do the purely fire elementals that are summoned."

Eventually they were greeted at their destination by the heaviness of humidity, something he definitely missed not having to deal with in Istan yet seemed to have been in the Debon Plains to the North in spades. Here it was revisited again, perhaps a byproduct of the water running through the world, polluting the air and weighing it down. It took Ikenna a moment to adjust to it, its ability to seemingly increase the heat being easily shrugged off by his nature.

"Water! Funny to think now that I grew up expecting the plane of Fire to be more fire and brimstone than char and running rivers. I suppose the Planes are a bit more naturalistic than expected." Ikenna laughed, approaching the water and getting a handful to wet his mouth with. He did not care to test the water, his vision having turned slightly red from the steam hanging in the area playing at his ability to see heat. The water was refreshing, and the arakureb brought his head up to survey the area from a ground level, his orbs setting sight upon a creature nearly-silhouetted in the mist-like water particles floating through the air, "Oh, a local creature! Nothing pleasant-looking, but it probably uses that as intimidation. The long legs are probably for traversing. . ."

It was something to behold, for sure. It had a thick body with long spindly legs beneath it, its movements creaked like wood in a strong breeze, and it seemed like a corpse that had been left in this environment too long. Its face was obvious, skull-like, or perhaps like flesh clinging loose to a skull, draping down, leaving large black spots where its eyes were. As it met eyes with the party across the water, more steam billowed from stiff tube-like protrusions across its body, mixing with the surroundings and hiding its presence.

"Traversing the river freely, unimpeded. Some steaming creature, perhaps at least partially elemental. Creaking. Stalking. Horrifying. It is a predator that uses fear as its tool. It can most likely see relatively unimpeded through this obscuring steam and is coming for us as a meal. Teleep thihad anhelia!" With those last words shouted, Ikenna leaned forward, throwing out a crescent burst of fire away from his new companions and at the creature he was certain was coming for them. The fire cut through the steam with its force and impacted the beast halfway across, knocking it off-balance and forcing it back into hiding further among the steam, "That may have bought us a moment. I have a spell that I think could-- no, that spell would hurt you. Uhm. I would advice stepping back from the water, maybe even back to the trees, unless either of you can fight that beast in here? Please say you can."
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Phedre was aware of the war mage’s chatter, for it seemed to cease so infrequently since they had arrived on this god forsaken plane. But her mind processed only nondescript sound, no words permeated her resolute focus. The great beast shuddered from across the small stream, the air rippling around it from an intense inward heat. It wore bloated skins of past victims, the loose, poorly inhabited flesh gaping from an unusual central frame. The meat was swollen, bloated from the heat and moisture that composed the true essence of the monster. She took note of its anorexic limbs, the lower half in particular appeared too thin to support the substantial swollen tissue above. This could be a weak point, an easy method to counter the creature’s balance and send him tumbling to the earth. As it stood, it was taller than a human man, towering several feet above Diocletian’s head. It moved with great discoordination however, the ill-fitted meat suit it wore flopped as though propelled with too little muscle strength.

The creature inhaled a deep, rattling breath, and Phedre caught distinct similarities between the sound of it and that of a dying man. She glanced again at one of the lolling human heads sagging down the creature’s body. The eyes were a murky grey, coated in the permanent film of death and the slow process of decay. It was the beast who breathed, not through a mouth or nose, but through misshapen tubes that opened beneath the folds of old flesh, and out toward its back. Hot bursts of steam billowed from the tubes, adding a putrid stench to the already humid air.

The beast succeeded in swallowing its frame in the clouds bellowing from its body. Phedre could barely make out the outline through the fog, and the ambient temperature grew sweltering. Sweat slid readily down her neck and back, soaking through her clothing. Droplets clung on her forehead, some catching in her brow, holding there until joined by enough of its kind to travel further down her front. Slender fingers grasped the hilt at her back with practiced precision, and drew forth her blade with haste, keeping her eye on her quarry. Muscles coiled as she deepened her stance, surveying the scene to assess a means of attack.

The stream was shallow, and not wide, but the creature now stood at least ten feet past it. Walking across would be their only option if they were to get close enough to land an attack. She glanced at Diocletian and met his ready gaze, awaiting her cue and direction. The greatest risk would be in the crossing. Slow in thigh deep water, she would be exposed for half a minute with the inability to dodge or parry with any speed.

Without any other option, she leapt forth into the tepid water, the warmth swirling around her and soaking through her leathers. Dio remained on shore, keeping solid footing should he need to leap in to defend her during her crossing. The splash drew the attention of the beast, who now swiveled and headed in Phedre’s direction. Its limbs creaked eerily as it pushed through the lingering steam to stand visible once more on the shore line. Empty sockets that she assumed we eyes bore down on her as it drew in a great breath, readying its attack.

It is then that Ikenna’s burst of flame shot forth across the water to impact the creature. He stumbled backward, giving Phedre time to slosh across the remainder of the stream, but not so much time that she could pause to shudder at the act of magic.

Clear on the opposite shore, Phedre readied her blade, following the gasps and creaks of the strange beast, her vision blurred by the clouding of steam. She heard a splash behind her and assumed Dio had taken the chance to cross the water, for he would be of little use to her on the opposite bank. Another rattling breath came from Phedre’s left and a plume of steam irrupted near her elbow. With a grunt she swung blindly, slicing with the hopes of encouraging the creature to back away.

Metal met bone as the blade bit through bloated flesh and landed at the creature’s core. Wearing a smirk she pulled back her sword, readying for another wounding attack. But instead, as the steel released from the creature’s side, a great rush of boiling hot steam poured forth from the wound. Its spray burnt across her forearm, causing her to recoil and step back. She cursed and retreated another step, glancing at the blistering skin on her left arm. It was not her dominant hand, and she was able to resettle in her fighting stance before Diocletian arrived beside her.

As the beast stepped forward again it appeared shorter, the blade’s wound closed by a collapse of surrounding flesh. Like a skin emptied of its water, the creature was collapsing from the massive leak of its comprising steam. Despite the decrease in height it appeared no worse for wear, and the fight would only just be getting started.
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Ikenna did not sweat, but the water condensing upon his poreless skin to create the illusion of perspiration. To him it was more like a thick mist, a bit of a slow build of hydration to a body that was so resistant to heat. Still it weighed heavy on the arakureb's body, inhaling it almost like smoke through his throat with its density, but nowhere near enough to make him cough.

Indeed enough, the two were somewhat similar to Bethari when Ikenna had first met her, quiet individuals of action rather than copious words like he was. Rather than giving him any indication of preparedness, they showed it through their movements, preparing their weapons and beginning the assault against the monster. Phedre was first into the water to meat the creature before it could strike at them properly. Ikenna was a defensive fighter, he waited for enemies to come to him and then punished them for the sheer ego that it would take to challenge a Matandra. She, and perhaps her companion, were offensive fighters, forward on the offensive without intent on letting up on the enemy.

Before the creature could bear down upon her with whatever natural fury it had, the glowing crescent burst of magic struck home, parting the steam even if only momentarily and illuminating the horrific visage in greater detail by the burst of shaped fire.

The more that the creature in the steam moved, the more horrifying its silhouette seemed. That flash had outlined its form, and all the forms of the things that it wore, the dead bodies and their flesh hanging from it almost like trophies, the flesh dilapidated upon their bones, worn out, bloated, and just plain disgusting. It seemed almost like some necrotic creature, a flesh golem amalgamated from the dead, yet billowed steam to fill the air with heated water and the pungent odor of decay.

The fire did little against the deadened and soaked flesh that the thing sported, but the force behind the spell, its main purpose, stayed true. On its tall legs, a high-impact was difficult for it to stay balanced against while retaining offense. It released a hissing sound, perhaps of aggravation at feisty prey, and Diocletian followed Phedre into the water. Ikenna was left upon the shore along with his drake, their gaze flashing at each other for a moment as information processed through the matandra's mind.

He had been of the thought that anything pyric would be nearly useless here. He assumed it of himself, and he had assumed it of Azuzu, yet he had forgotten some things that were incredibly important. Unlike Ikenna, who had only his tail as a natural weapon, Azuzu was a drake with claws, teeth, and its very own tail.

"Wait a second. Azuzu! Attack it!" The war mage barked, throwing a finger at the silhouette that seemed to be steadily shrinking.

The drake looked at him with a confused expression, a bit of disbelief that he wanted it to attack some bloated corpse on long legs, but the insistence his burning gaze drove the drake to action. Taking easily to the air and the warm drafts that carried even through here, sending the airborne particles of water swirling, the drake went into action. With a reptilian screech the drake flew like an arrow, its target obvious by its form, and the full weight of its body crashed down upon the steaming thing. Through the mist, Azuzu's glow let its form be tracked easily, claws rending at rotted flesh and damp bone, teeth biting, spitting, hissing, and retching furiously at the awful taste of such soggy and putrid flesh, and its tail whipping wildly to sting and break whatever it could upon his prey's form with precision.

More steam burst from the bloated beast as its hide was breached, but Azuzu was of fire, and it was cold, not water, not steam, that was its weakness. Against this it might be a natural predator if not for the taste. More hissing like a chorus of death rattles sounded out as the horrific creature thrashed and deflated, between its death throes and the involuntary beating of the drake's wings, it crashed against the shore on Phedre's side.

From the body emerged an ethereal form, spinning and thrashing violently, almost inseparable from the steam. It was enraged, but could do little. The pressure it had built up within the body was gone, leaving it to be capable of little more than throwing peoples hair and small bits of debris about. With the realization of its lost power, it vanished down the stream, putting distance between itself and what it had once considered prey.

With the life gone from its enemy, Azuzu disembarked from its body and gagged, thrashing his head in distaste and spitting at the ground whenever it found the chance.

Ikenna made his way through the stream slowly but surely, his orange eyes darting around to examine the horizon for any more foreboding silhouettes as the steam was beginning to think, no longer bolstered in density by the creature but still present and heavy over the water source.

"Well, then! I suppose that creature was more frightful than tough! Many apologies that I could not be of more help to the battle. None of you are not injured, are you?" Ikenna asked as he emerged on the other side of the stream, shaking his legs as if it would do any good to free him of some of the excess water that had accumulated on his pants, his tail occasionally whipping downwards to slap at them.

Azuzu hissed and spat at the Istani humanoid in response, his plan having left a terrible taste.

"It looked like-- what were those? They looked like. . . Wahalakulena. Yes, heads. Humanoid!" Ikenna moved his way over to the lifeless body of the beast and summoned forth a glow of light upon the tip of his tail, hovering it over the body like a lamp. His curiosity overwhelmed any sense of worry that it might not be dead, but rather unconscious as he poked and prodded at it. The flesh was sticky and slimy, perhaps pieces unseen being left behind on his fingers as he examined it. His nose wrinkled at the closer scent of decay, but it did not deter him, even as he gently poked at the bloated parts, "Necrotic tissue, but not a necrotic design. The heads are definitely humanoid, and with these conditions. . . Well, this should be fresh! Well, relatively fresh! this is fantastic! The beast must be an ambusher, partially elemental or fully. Sharp teeth and claws, two long legs and two, shorter, but still usable arms. Perhaps it was steam, itself, feeding off the dead bodies and using them to make itself look more frightening. Impressive that it could animate these. . . Did it do it through steam, do you think, or could it be crossed of natural necromantic power, as well? It uses the steam to hide, then strikes frightened prey. Long legs, eerie creaks, putrescent stench, haunting visage, trophy-like heads. Food and utility, ingenious!

"If it has humanoid body parts, then that means humanoids. Either we are not the first to recently arrive here, with this being the result of the others-- if they were lone pyromancers, unable to affect this killer much, then they could very well have perished. Otherwise, there could be locals that I did not see!"
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Phedre took a step back, resettling into her fighting stance, prepared for the beast’s fury of retaliation. Bringing her blade up, she prepared to parry when a heavy reptile lunged through the steam, catapulting atop the monster’s back. Phedre was forced to retreat then, shielding her eyes from the spewing hot steam. It was Ikenna’s drake atop the bloated body of the beast, unaffected by its heat. It swiped deftly with its claws, raking through the decaying tissue and puncturing through to the gaseous core. More furious slashes brought killing blows, shredding the elementals frame. Without the bloated tissue, the creature no longer had a corporal form to host.

The greyish balloons of flesh deflated leaving, for only a moment, the brief appearance of an unformed elemental. It retreated into oblivion, leaving behind a soggy pile of bloated tissue, the dead eyes of which continued their foggy stare up from the earth. Phedre shuddered, repressing a very active gag. Diocletian moved forward to nudge it with his boot.

“Poor guy,” he muttered, glancing at the drake who hissed, spit and wretched nearby, “I would hate to have had my mouth on this mess…”

Phedre nodded, her hand covered her mouth as she continued her downward gaze toward the pile of soggy corpses. Her forearm burned, and she spared a glance at it when Ikenna queried about injuries. It was an angry red and a few oozing blisters had already formed. She dragged her sleeve down to cover it, pushing it out of her mind. She would tend to it when they returned to their rightful world, or perhaps when they camped for the night, whatever came first.

“No, we are not injured,” she announced as Dio gave her a look followed by an eye roll. He resheathed his blade and she followed suit, after wiping it across her leg to clean off the creature’s residue.

It was now the mage’s turn to examine the corpses, and he did so with some delight and fascination, narrating his findings as he went. He poked at the slimy remains and queried at the cause of their impulsion. “I doubt the creature has necromantic power,” Phedre joined the discussion, “it appeared all propulsion came from the steam. Once it lost its pressure, it lost its strength. And most necromancy spells carry some degree more of coordination. This beast moved similar to an obese drunkard.”

“It is true,” she continued, after the mage mused over the humanoid corpses, “these bodies are human, but there is no saying that he obtained them from this realm.” She began walking away from the corpse and moved back to the stream, running her hands through the warm water. “We were able to transport to this realm, one would assume some creatures of this plane are capable of the same.”

She let out a sigh, slowly unfolding and returning to her feet. They had reached the water, slayed a beast, and they were none closer to home than they were in the first clearing. “Where to now? Upstream? Downstream?”

She looked up both paths. Neither were more descript that the other. Both were surrounded by smoldering trees. The air in both direction shimmered with heat. Both were dark, quiet, and completely non-encouraging. Dio kicked at the shoreline, mind busy with the thought of a warm bed. The pair were worn out. The high from the battle died quicker than their quarry and left them with a sobering numbness. Phedre yawned, Dio eased himself to the ground, a plume of ash billowing from around him.

(OOC: Sorry for the shortness! I figured short was better than nothing)
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"Interplanar travel requires either points of extreme elemental attunement such as Therab, the only volcano in Imythess so massive and potent as to actually host such a rift between worlds, or immense elementally-aligned magical power to essentially rip a temporary hole between planes, which, again I apologize for, is how I incidentally brought us here when I overloaded. It is unlikely that either these creatures that would be more likely mixed with water elementally would have the potency to traverse to Chaon, or that the average Infernos of such power would fall regularly to such a thing. Not only that, but to my knowledge and study of this plane and its inhabitants, as well as having fought against the Cult of the Joined and the elemental creatures they enslaved, such a thing as this remains unfamiliar to me." Ikenna explained matter-of-factly, his head stuffed with years of arcane study beneath some of the harshest teachers, Matandra's pushing him to succeed at dreams he claimed. He had studied and battled intensely to understand what he could about pyromancy and the plane from which it came, yet he knew that there was still he had yet to study, "Unless somebody or something comes to correct us, we have to assume that the world is uninhabited and continue on the path towards Therab, so upstream is our best bet for both surviving and getting back to Imythess. Fortunately the Cult of the Joined should be mostly cleared out since I have not heard word of them for quite some time, but I doubt we have seen the last of these steaming aberrations along the water either way we go."

Ikenna sighed as he stood away from the horrifically aligned monstrosity of parts, amazed at the natural trick of the steaming elemental to balance its own nature in a scavenger's manner. Yet, for as much as he could appreciate the nature of this place, he could not help but look upon the parts that the thing had harvested for its body with disgust and a certain amount of worry that permeated the back of his mind. If it could use these bits of corpses to create one body, then doubtlessly it could do so once again if allowed enough time.

"When we get far enough along, I am going to incinerate these bodies, give them something of a bit of decency in death. Whoever they are or whatever they did, it does not feel right to leave their bodies at the whims of an elemental like that. At the very least I can make it more difficult for it to reuse their bodies for a while." The pyromancer's tone had changed from one of intellectual excitement to a somber sympathy for the dead. To him it was the same as knowing a critter in the desert was having its body picked apart by a scavenger; a spectacular example of nature, but a poor and unfortunate fate for the one being devoured. Realizing his change in mood, Ikenna tried to turn it around with a bit of a forced smile, "Maybe if we are lucky, we can find some fish or fruit that is native to this place? There is no telling how long we will be here, and testing any food would be grand! If we find people living here, then perhaps they will know of something! Come, Azuzu, onwards to better things!"

The drake was still spitting and licking at the ground to pry the taste away from the receptors on its tongue. It was a nasty, bitter taste, completely rotted and disturbingly wet, the mere thought of which made its own scorpion-like tail twitch furiously. Yet, eventually, the abnormal drake had freed itself of the taste enough to go forward after the arakureb that it claimed as its own.

True enough to his word, once the group was well enough away from the scene of their first unfortunate encounter in this plane, the pyromancer stopped and turned about. A deep breath of relatively fresh but warm and humid air, he knelt down, wove his magic, and launched a great ball of fire arcing through the air towards an approximation of where the amalgamated horror of corpses had been. The fireball hit the ground with a distant yet cacophonous roar as it exploded, sending bits of fiery debris from the impact cast off in various directions. He paused at the enhanced power of his own magic for just a moment before turning and resuming upstream.

"Why did this have to happen so late in the night?" Ikenna wondered aloud, not particularly asking as if any other members of the group would have an answer, but rather openly complaining, "Early in the day and I would not feel so tired. I could appreciate this beautiful place. No, this overload had to happen at night, and right as I was going to enjoy some nice Firebrew. If I had known this would happen, I could have at least grabbed my shields. If this is truly the Elemental Plane of Fire, I cannot be sure that any of my magic will work. I might be just about useless, what a thing for a Matandra to be."
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