15 Unity (Night), 6107 RTR (12 November2004) Tulani, Alptraum and Arkold are shown the cause of the Tizhar Forbidden Zone.
(Alptraum) (Arkold) (Dream Realms) (The Light of Nala) (Necropolis) (Tulani)
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Tizhar Wilderness
The shade here at the edge of the forest offers some protection from the noonday sun high above, in the crystal clear sky. A broad river separates the forest from the vast, verdant steppes to the west, where a city of tents and portable fortifications indicate the presence of a sizeable army. The breeze shifts now, and the odors of Dromodons and death from somewhere close become apparent.

Where the ground begins to slope down towards the river, three figures find themselves sitting in the warm grass: a dark Eeee in colorful clothing, a large Jupani with white fur and blond hair, and a Sphynx in black and white. Behind them in the forest, positioned so that the sun streaming through the leaves highlights her scales in the most flattering manner, is a blue-and-gold dragon coiled around a slender tree, watching the others with gray-green eyes.

"And here we are, once again, in a realm of the dead," Alptraum mutters and glances around. He notices the dragon and grins, commenting, "And there you are. Fashionable. Much more so than the armor." Then shifting to a more serious tone, he says, "And why are we here anyway? This is a bit of a distraction given we have a necromancer to deal with."

Arkold's eyes snap open and he immediately says, "Holy-Dagh-hell, another dragon!" while flailing for his sword.

Tulani blinks in utter confusion for a moment as she takes in the strange surroundings, rubbing the side of her head, "Now how in the world… "

"Actually, this is just a dream of a memory," the dragon says, then rolls her eyes at Arkold's reaction. "I thought I should show this to you while there was still enough leftover magic to get you all here."

"Heh, much better," Alptraum remarks, then shrugs. He rubs lightly along his muzzle, then says, "Well, now that we're all here, what did you want to show us? A particular battle of importance?"

Tulani looks over the beautifully scaled dragon while listening to it speak. At Alptraum's question she breaks in to the conversation for a moment, addressing the dragon, just slightly annoyed, "And you are?"

Arkold squints at the dragon a moment before relaxing. "Oh," he mumbles, "it's you. Can't say I'll ever get used to this underworld or dream world or whatever-world we're in." He scratches his head and sits up.

The dragon looks from Tulani to Alptraum, and says, "Aren't you going to introduce me?" to the Eeee.

Alptraum chuckles. "Tulani, this here is the dragon who decided to take up occupancy in my mind for a bit. Nosy dragon, this is Tulani," he says and grins playfully. "Actually, you really do need a name," he tells the dragon a moment later. "So, I think I'll call you Kaira. It's easier to say then 'that dragon'."

Tulani looks a little put out that both Alptraum and Arkold recognize the dragon and she has not a clue. But she smiles once Alptraum introduces her, and inclining her head politely says, "Pleased to meet you, Kaira."

"Hey," asks Arkold, "how come you meet the cute dragons while I get stuck with the ugly soul eating ones anyway bats?" He eyes 'Kaira' consideringly.

'Kaira' thinks it over. "That's fairly appropriate, as names go," she says, and then gets up onto her feet to come over and give Tulani a sniff. "Hmm, you don't read as a dragon so much now. Pleased to meet you, Tulani."

"It's my irresistible charm," Alptraum confides to Arkold.

"And yes, I wanted to show you a particular battle of importance," Kaira says to Alptraum. "It was one of the first memories that Vorgulremik stole when he arrived on your world, and may help shed some light on your current situation." It seems to be fairly easy for dragons to smirk.

"Where'd you find an irresistible charm and how in all the world did you afford it, eh? Must have been in that horde," Arkold inquires as he grins at Alptraum.

Rolling her eyes skyward for a moment as she listens to the conversation of the men, Tulani focuses her attention on Kaira, speaking softly, "Yes well, me being a dragon for a day was rather unexpected… " She scratches the back of her head and continues, "An important battle, hmm?"

"You've been stuck in Vorg too long, your jokes need work," Alptraum says with a smirk back at the dragon as he stands. He pats Kaira's side and says, "Now, in all seriousness, thanks for thinking of a way to help us out again. Shall we go down there?"

"Yes, yes, follow me," Kaira says, and heads towards a bend in the treeline. "And no pinching my tail," the dragon warns Arkold.

"At least this didn't happen during the good part of a dream. Or even in a good dream, heh, I kept dreamin' of little Vorgs swirlin' down a hole yelling in falsetto voices, "I'lll geeet yooou Arkooold."" The wolf grins widely at the warning but says nothing to it as he follows after the dragon.

"Can I pinch your tail?" Alptraum asks, but actually walks alongside the dragon anyway.

The Sphynx sighs and shrugs at the 'tail-pinching' comments, following last and giving Arkold a pat on the shoulder, and saying with some humor, "No, you can't tweak my tail either."

"No," Kaira answers, and leads them around the bend. Ahead of them is a military encampment, with tents, wagons, Dromodons and people busily running about. From the largest tent, a banner waves – black, with the symbol of the inverted grave embroidered onto it in blood red. Behind the tents, between them and the trees, is an army of the dead, stacked in piles like so much cordwood.

"Lovely, necromancers," Alptraum remarks, his humor evaporating quickly. He glances back at Arkold and Tulani, saying, "It's always evil hordes, isn't it?"

"There's another army across the river," Kaira points out, "but they're keeping hidden in the trees there. And honestly, have you ever heard of a nice horde?"

Even if this is a dream Tulani keeps well away from any people wandering about, especially far from the piles of dead, muttering grimly, "Just lovely"

"There's no justice in the world," Arkold mock-grumbles to Tulani conspiratorially. When he looks away from her and notices the army he stops to frown gravely. "I don' think I've ever seen its like. I've seen men in metal suits that move by themselves, wagons with guns, fish men with fish weapons, an' all sorts of oddity in war but no' this. No' magic."

"Closest I've seen were murals in Babel," Alptraum remarks and flicks his ears about to listen. "One's about Rephath's war and all. Anyway, I've never seen these many undead up close before. Hope I never have to in reality."

As Arkold speaks to her Tulani mutters slowly, thoughtfully, "It's something else you can add to your book."

"The good bit is closer to the big tent," Kaira says, and leads them towards it. Nobody seems to notice them at all, and they pass a long line of mages working in rune-inscribed circles of dirt. The dragon stops when they've reached a smaller group: a Hekoye in mage robes, a tall brown Khatta garbed in Abu Dhabian-style finery, and a Khatta woman wearing clothing that seems to be made all of chains, silk and plates of thin wood adorned with jewels and gilt in gold. She stands out as well by her markings: roseate spots and long dark hair, but not quite like a Savanite.

"Well, that's right out of the paintings we saw in the castle. Notice the spots and how the jaw lines are different? That's not a Savanite," Alptraum says to Tulani and Arkold. "I wonder what year this occurred?"

"I don't think my not getting enough tail is somethin' I want to write do- … oh you mean the army? Heh, yeah this'll go in. I'll give it a whole page. Think'll learn to draw, too, maybe hire someone," replies Arkold to Tulani. The wolf rubs his chin as he surveys the gathering of unique individuals, "Don't see many Hekoye this way."

"The control spells are nearly ready, Prince Akahazam," the Hekoye says to the tall Khatta after bowing deeply. The words are in some language that isn't immediately familiar, but everyone can understand it – such is the nature of dreams.

Tulani nods as Alptraum speaks, trying to keep herself from staring at the Khatta woman or either of the other two there, even though they can't see them, and it was only a memory. She replies quietly, "Indeed she does… She looks exactly like the Khatta in the painting over the fireplace."

"Today the Olympians will taste defeat," the Prince announces, then with a sardonic smile adds, "and tomorrow their fallen will swell our ranks."

"Exactly? I was sure the species was the same, but I wasn't sure if she was the same person," Alptraum comments to Tulani. He then looks back to the speaking people and says, "That's what you think. Hate to tell you, but you're not around in the future."

"I wouldn't be so sure," Arkold advises Alptraum cautiously, "'cause Vorg was, an' he's died before. These guys deal with death, yah? Who knows if they still walk somewhere."

"They can't hear you, you know," Kaira points out. "This is a memory from the coyote mage here," she notes. "Don't tell me you're the type who yells at the screen during movies too?"

"What's a movie?" Alptraum asks, then shrugs. "And of course they can't hear us. If they could, we'd be in trouble."

"Movie?" Tulani queries curiously before turning her attention back to the conversation before them, walking up just a little closer.

The dragon just shakes her head, and says, "Never mind."

"It's sort of like an image projected on a wall by a machine," Arkold explains helpfully.

"Why wouldn't you just paint the wall?" Alptraum asks Arkold.

The spotted woman speaks, and there is an odd, hollow quality to her voice. "The Olympians will be ground under, and then so to will be their weak gods." Turning to the Prince, she promises, "And those who survive will bow down and worship you, Akahazam. You will be their new god." Her smile is… well, not unlike a dragon's, really.

Tulani makes a disgruntled Shhh noise as Alptraum and Arkold continue on about this 'movie', gesturing to them to quiet down. She was trying to pay attention.

"And that would be the Necromancer King, and his wife," Alptraum observes. "It must be. The woman of darkness and all that. Listen to her."

"Uh, well, they move see. No' really sure how it works but it involves light, some motion, an' a smell like burnin'. Maybe candles, eh?" The Jupani shrugs, then turns to watch the woman speak. "She's kind of cre- er, shh, right. Shushing."

The Prince cups the woman's cheek in his hand, and gives her a passionate kiss. As he pulls back, he says to her, "Summon Amena's Shadow, my dear Amenlichtli. Animate our army, and deliver our enemies unto death."

The Sphynx shivers briefly but visibly as the man speaks the name of Necropolis.

"Wow, I feel dirty watching those two kiss. bleh," Alptraum remarks and flicks his wings in disgust. The Eeee does, however, move closer to the woman, curious as to her power and 'feel' at close range. Better to know an enemy now, than be surprised later, after all.

The spotted woman bows her head slightly, then turns and heads towards a tarpaulin-covered platform. As two other Khattas begin to uncover the now familiar stone sarcophagus, Amenlichtli casts a brief glance over her shoulder, for a moment looking right at Alptraum. The Eeee doesn't sense anything from her though, since this recreation must be limited to what the Hekoye experienced himself.

"Interestin'," Arkold remarks as he watches the pair. "To think this is how it happened, eh? One deluded fool, one apparently malleable source of power, an' stir 'em together an' people die." He shakes his head a bit. "An' y'know I've never seen an' outfit like that on a woman. Not on this world or several others."

Tulani watches the Eeee step forward and follows behind, but not quite as close.

"Heh, if I didn't know better, I'd say she senses me," Alptraum muses. He moves closer still, wanting to witness as much of this ritual as he can.

"Guess her death-mojo is strong, Bats. Might wan' to keep that in mind eh," the wolf warns. His gaze drifts to the sarcophagus and he frowns more deeply. "Guess in a way it was ol' Vorg who had the Shadow. Right under his nose, eh? Remember that dark stuff? Maybe it's controllable by people like them."

The Khatta porters lift the top off of the sarcophagus, revealing a darkly shadowed space within. Everything seems to darken as well… the sky, the ground, the trees and the people. For Alptraum and Tulani, it feels very familiar. Very Sylvanian, really. Slowly, the dark tendrils rise out of the stone coffin, and flow over the sides. Spilling across the platform, they seek out and merge into the ground itself.

And the piles of corpses stir. In groups, the zombies jerkily assemble themselves into phalanxes of soldiers.

Hissing unconsciously from between her teeth, the Sylvanian Sphynx rapidly backs up from her closer position… Even if it is a 'dream' or a 'memory' she still doesn't like it.

"Of course, if any of that touches the living, they're in trouble," Alptraum notes and glances over at the prince and Hekoye. Unlike Tulani, Alptraum doesn't back up.

To Alptraum's comment Arkold says, "Maybe that's where it gets its power, eh? Eatin' the livin. Sort of explains zombies doesn't it." He turns to watch the undead assemble and adds, "Makes me glad Vorg hadn't figured it out to this point."

The assembled mages continue their chanting and spell working as the Hekoye channels their efforts like an orchestra conductor. The dead men begin to march, trundling down the slope towards the river. Amenlichtli simply stands and grins, shadows pooling and playing at her feet.

Alptraum nods grimly to Arkold, "Agreed." He glances back at Amenlichtli and says, "If I could only strike you down now, feh. But then, this has already happened. Not like I could change it now."

"He reached a roadblock, of sorts," Kaira interjects. "He sent his elf-girl out to do research in many great libraries, but found out little about the Shadow. He believed it could only be controlled by one of Amenlichtli's own bloodline."

"Heh, yes, Ravenia. I hope she'll be all right. This has to be a shock to her, to be separated from him," Alptraum comments to the dragon.

Watching the tentacles spread across the ground the black and white Sphynx nods as Alptraum speaks, wondering about the elven girl as well while glancing at the spellcasters in the memory.

As the zombies cross the river, there finally appears to be some activity in the trees. As the sky darkens, a bright white light begins to build where the Olympian forces supposedly wait, causing the trees to cast sharp shadows on the undead army.

"I've never seen the realization of doom create a physical light of epiphany before," Arkold comments at the strange light as he shields his eyes.

"And thus begins an epic battle," Alptraum remarks, his attention switching between the feline woman and the now growing light. "Or maybe it's one big surrender flag reflecting light."

Nearby, Amenlichtli's grin collapses into an angry frown. "She wouldn't," the Aeztepan curses. "She wouldn't DARE!"

Even though she's still kept a fairly serious look on her face, the corner of Tulani's mouth quirks up in a smile as she replies to Arkold's comment in a slightly humorous tone, "You know… You can be very eloquent when you want to be… " Shading her own eyes, she glances back as she hears cursing.

"Well, something's sure pinched her tail," Alptraum remarks and looks at Amenlichtli. "Not so high and mighty now, eh?"

Where the light washes over the festering army, zombies collapse like marionettes with their strings cut. Even those in shadow begin to stagger and wobble. The Prince turns an angry face towards Amenlichtli, and demands, "What is the meaning of this!"

Arkold grins a bit as well. "I used to write poetry. Shh." He winks at the Sphynx, then remarks louder, "I guess she knows what's against 'er then. If she's some kind of Aeztepan agent, than she must be from the south. Maybe another foreigner followed her on 'er northern conquest to oppose this?"

The Sphynx makes a 'lips are sealed' gesture at Arkold's comment about poetry, gazing towards the rising light and trying to spot the source.

"I'd say we're seeing the light of Nala in action. I wonder who is over there… " Alptraum remarks.

The Shadow is flowing its way up Amenlichtli's body now, wrapping around her like a cloak. "It is a bluff!" she declares, and thrusts her arms forward. Darkness lances outwards from them towards the light. "My sister will back down! She has no choice!"

The sky begins to darken now not from the Shadow, but from a rapidly growing cloudfront that seems to be flowing inward from all directions.

"Probably an ancestor of Lord Jynx and 'is sister," Arkold answers Alptraum. "He's the one who wielded the Light of Nala against the Necromancer King. 'Course I think that happened elsewhere, so this may be another, previous, champion."

Tulani flexes her wing at Alptraum's statement, replying curiously, "We could go look, though I'm not sure if we'd see anything since this is from the point of view of him, right?" She points vaguely to the Hekoye off to the side, and glancing at Kaira.

"Eh, I bet she does have a choice, and you're about to loose, kitty," Alptraum comments to Amenlichtli. He then looks to Tulani and nods, "We probably wouldn't. I bet you're right."

The dragon nods to Tulani, and to the others says, "Do not confuse this with the history of Sylvania. You are off by at least a thousand years, perhaps more. Nothing was ever written about this conflict, at least that Vorgulremik could uncover."

Settling her wings back comfortably the Sphynx listens carefully, flicking her ears between the figures, but focusing on Amenlichtli.

Arkold scratches his head at the dragon's comment. "Huh, really? Olympians. Yah. I guess it must be old at that. I'm sketchy on my Olympian history – ancient history bored me to tears – but they're old, really old. So whoever is on that side could be anyone, an' this instance of Amenlichtli has to be old too. Odd, since there's a perfect picture of her in the castle."

"Unless, as you suggested, she reincarnates," Alptraum comments to Arkold.

As the Shadow penetrates the trees, a roar of wind is heard, and the ground itself begins to shake. Tents blow over, and porters struggle to keep the Dromodons from bolting. "What's going on? What is this?" begs the Hekoye mage, but he turns away from the terrifying expression on the face of Necropolis. The Prince is on his knees, holding up his hands to block out the wind and light.

"Eeee," whines Arkold as he gets a good look at Amenlichtli's expression. Involuntarily he takes a step back and looks elsewhere. "Think I prefer the dragons. Yikes."

"Ever have that sinking feeling of doom, Arkold? I'm having one right now. Nothing good can come from this clashing," Alptraum yells over the sound of the wind.

Tulani, for her part, says nothing, watching the direction of the light and wind, hoping to see something. She does mutter softly to herself, "Now I really want to know what's over there."

The forest across the river erupts, as an intertwined vortex of light and shadow lances up into the sky… and cracks it! The flow of power reverses, and strikes the ground, knocking everyone off of their feet (save for those who are, as it were, just observers).

Alptraum winces and pulls his ears down from all the noise! "I really, really, hope we won't have to do this someday," he yells.

"Yeah," Arkold says as he gazes up at the broken sky, "yeah I've had those feelings of doom. They broke the sky! Dagh's left hand, the sky! I wonder if this wound is still around? Can't imagine this land will survive this well."

Squinting her eyes against the light and clapping her ears almost flat as she continues watching, Tulani's eyes widen unintentionally in amazement at the rent in the sky. In a grim voice, she says, "Oh yeah… feelings of Doom… not good, very not good… "

The shockwave spreads out from the impact, and living matter crumbles to dust in its wake. Trees, river, grass and soldiers are swept away. The Hekoye turns to run, but is caught, leaving only bones and an afterimage behind. As the wave passes the observers, they are left standing in a wasteland, under the roiling sky of a Forbidden Zone. With a solid thunk, the lid of the sarcophagus slides back into place. The afterimages of the people are still there, though.

"Oh man," Arkold wails, "this is it! This is how they start! I remember askin' way back when I was being tutored why they exists, an' the guy didn't know. I don't think many people know, or hell, anyone except a very few. This is what makes a Forbidden Zone. Terrible." He squints against the glare, then steps towards where the avatar had been. "Do you see 'er? The woman. I want to see if she survived somehow."

Alptraum slowly lets go of his ears. "Yeah, not good at all," Alptraum says in a normal voice. "This … explains some of the scarred lands of this world. Gods. If that Necromancer gets hold of the coffin, this could happen to Sylvania." Alptraum then looks around for the feline woman, ears and eyes searching.

While the area is filled with angry ghosts, there are none that resemble a female Khatta.

"Technically, that has already happened," Kaira points out, as she goes up to the ghost of the Hekoye and passes a claw back and forth through it. "It gets a bit boring after this… centuries of being trapped between life and death here, until Vorgulremik popped out of that hole in the sky and stirred things up."

Tulani almost falls over as she is suddenly surrounded by wasteland, spinning about and looking in all directions, turning to look towards where the coffin stood, before glancing back up at the sky and commenting, in amazement, "He came through in the hole in the sky? This just gets worse and worse doesn't it?"

After a few minutes, Alptraum says, "No, I don't see her." Alptraum, out of curiosity, walks over to where the dragon is and waves his hand through the Hekoye too.

Arkold lays his ears back, and whispers, "Even if we had the Light of Nala we'd lose out if we used it directly against the Shadow. This is good to know, we can't let that happen." He squints one last time at where he thinks the woman was, shrugs, then straightens to look around. "An' Sylvania seemed to already suffer somethin' like this, jus' not as bad. If this happened to the country now, eh, it'd probably be worse right?"

"Someone did retrieve the sarcophagus, with its entombed Avatar, and brought it to Sylvania," the dragon says. "But things didn't play out quite the same way. The Avatar fled or was defeated, leaving behind the Shadow. It's been soaking into the land ever since, and its influence is fairly obvious, I'd say." The Hekoye doesn't react to the people prodding at it, being a ghost and all.

Alptraum nods. Grimly, he says, "I wonder if the damage is undoable at this point. As for the avatar… " He scratches his ear and says, "We know the same avatar returned at one point. The picture. There's no way it was this old… Same woman. The Light of Nala must have destroyed her."

Nodding slowly, the black and white Sphynx wanders up to the coffin still lying there, examining the outside to see if it looks any different from how it looked back in the castle.

"The legends that Vorgulremik uncovered mention Necropolis being both killable and immortal. The Avatar can be killed, but eventually a new one will be born to the bloodline, and Amena will posses her and become Amenlichtli again. But Avatars don't age after that… they aren't really alive anymore. So one could survive in a stone coffin, presumably." As she relates this information, Kaira leaves the ghost and perches on the sarcophagus, much as Vorgulremik had done.

"If it got in, in time. Perhaps the last time it couldn't," Alptraum offers as a suggestion. "Pity this is a dream or I'd open the coffin and look," he adds with an ironic grin.

The sarcophagus looks the same as the one back in the castle, without the recently added engraving of a tortured dragon. "The book relating the events of the Necromancer War told of the Avatar being found inside the Sarcophagus. However, it may not have been this same one. There's no evidence to suggest that it was taken from here all the way to Sylvania. It could have been moved to various places over the centuries before then," Kaira suggests.

"So, did Vorgy find anything on destroying the coffin?" Alptraum asks.

Tulani calls back calmly over her shoulder as she examines the coffin, "It looks the same as the one in the castle, just missing a picture on the front."

"Hm, I suppose that means when it devours someone, it adds to its exterior," Alptraum says to Tulani as he approaches. "Interesting."

"He wasn't interested in destroying it," the dragon says. "He wanted to control the Shadow. If it is contained in the sarcophagus somehow, then destroying that could release the Shadow to run wild. Your sorcerous opponent is likely interested in controlling it as well."

"That goes without saying, regarding the necromancer," Alptraum says and nods towards Kaira. "But, even if he wasn't interested, knowing what could destroy it means knowing how to protect it."

The Sylvanian Sphynx hrrms to herself, wondering idly out loud, "I wonder if sleeping on top of the coffin affected Vorgulremik in any way?"

"The only certainty is that the Shadow wants to be used," Kaira claims. "At least, I'm fairly certain. It drew in Vorgulremik, and probably your necromancer as well. I wouldn't worry about if I were you."

Alptraum erks. "I'm sleeping next to it," he says. "Ack, why did you have to mention that possibility!"

"I doubt it would like you, Alptraum," the dragon says, grinning.

"But why does it want to be used? What does it hope to accomplish? I saw 'er look, that look of giving somethin' that costs another more than it costs you, she's up to somethin' … but what?" The wolf eyes the coffin suspicously. "What does the Shadow want?"

Tulani blinks at Alptraum's comment and immediately looks apologetic, "Sorry, I was just wondering out loud. And it's important to think on."

"Because I'm male?" Alptraum retorts and smirks. "Or rather, because of my heritage, more likely."

"Your heritage, of course," Kaira says. "You're from the enemy camp, so to speak. You represent Life and Death, the Shadow is Unlife and Undeath."

Arkold nods slowly as he listens, "Are any of the rest of us in danger? The necromancer represents the King in this equation – seems like the Shadow's always makin' a King – so I'm probably okay. Huh." His gaze swivels to Tulani. "What about Tulani? She's kind of feline. Is she in danger? An' if not, who might be?"

"Yeah, but you know how the stories go. Always trying to seduce someone from the other camp, blah, blah," Alptraum says, then looks to the other two. "Anyway. What are we going to do with this thing? It's not like we can move it easily. Think Dunky will have any ideas? And hmm, good point about Tulani, Arkold. Or Lilith and Ravenia, for that matter."

Sitting down on the sarcophagus lid, the Sphynx gets a thoughtful look on her face. Quickly breaking out of it as Arkold speaks, she blinks and says, "Alrighty then… Hrmm, my suggestion would be to keep the coffin where we can watch it until the Sorcerer is gone and THEN figure out what to do with it."

"Only place I can think of to destroy it would be, ah, Gateway near Abu Dhabi. But, eh, that'd be hard. REAL hard. We'd need to secure an expedition pass for one, eh? An' they know me. Second we'd need to actually lug that thing to Abu Dhabi an' into the gateway. Third, we'd have to shove it in to the portal," Arkold suggests.

The dragon shrugs with her wings. "Tulani isn't Aeztepan, much less a direct descendant of Amena," Kaira says. "The others really aren't any more or less likely to get a reaction from the Shadow either. The sorcerer may think he has a way to control it, but could just as easily be consumed like Vorgulremik was."

"Well, I could lure him to it and open it so it could try to eat him. Of course, that could end badly too if it didn't," Alptraum offers. "It didn't seem to want to touch me, at least."

"May I make a suggestion?" Kaira asks.

"Feel free" Tulani replies to the dragon's query.

"Suggest away," Alptraum replies.

"Does it involve me pinching your tail," asks Arkold.

"Well, the thing is in a vault deep underground," the dragon points out. "How hard could it be to collapse the tunnels that lead to it? And as for pinching tails… I'd be obliged to pinch back, and really… I have bigger claws."

The Sphynx gives the wolf a playful smack to the back of his head for the suggestion.

"Yes, but I'd like to stop the leeching into Sylvania too," Alptraum says to Kaira. "If we can do that, then bury it, great. Otherwise, it'll just attract someone else in time. Better to end it now, than just delay it."

"Which! If someone could be infected, then sealed in … maybe it would stop leeching. Hm," Alptraum muses. "That's a horrible thought, really."

Arkold considers the dragon's claws as he thinks. "It still taints the land, eh? An' I mean that castle was made from, what, Earth magic? Another mage an' another repeat of the cycle. Then again," he scratches his chin, "what happens to Sylvania without it, eh? I mean it's been there so long. Maybe the land … needs it? And as for the claws," he scratches his chin a little more, eyes a claw, and says finally, "I can live with that."

Tulani cringes visibly at the thought of being locked in a coffin, her wings twitching nervously, Alptraum at least knew she didn't like small spaces.

Arkold rubs his head too. "Ow. Hey how often do I get to flirt with a dragon? It's for the book," he tells Tulani, then winks at her.

"While you might be able stop it from leaking, that doesn't mean Sylvania will recover from the contamination it has already suffered," Kaira says. "It is ultimately up to you all, of course. You can try to guard it forever, destroy it… or bury it until you have a better plan."

"Just remember the dragon you're flirting with lived in my head for a bit," Alptraum tells Arkold, then elbows him. He looks at Kaira and says, "Yeah, it might not. But if we don't try, it surely won't. It's sort of a cheap out to say 'well, it's been like this sooo long… '"

Kaira eyes Arkold oddly. "If this is what your are like in your sleep, how bad are you when you're awake?"

"I vote for burying or guarding it till we have a better plan, we shouldn't really try something that could end up destroying Sylvania… And remember we still need to deal with the Necromancer, that's more of an immediate problem," the Sphynx states.

Arkold rubs his head and his side against the hail of unwarranted (unlikely) abuse. "I hope you don't think of this as flirtin' with you Bats, 'cause I know how bats are – and I'm okay with that! – but we're just friends," Arkold tells Alptraum. To the dragon he answers, "Oh I'm much better in person."

Alptraum looks ill at the suggestion. He just shakes his head and returns his attention to the matter at hand. "Well, we can't leave it to the Necromancer, I agree there. So sealing it away for now is probably the best solution, to buy us some time. But, we can't just decide sealing it away is all we'll do. It's a problem that needs a more permanent answer."

"I don't see any immediate way this could work… If we destroy the coffin it gets loose… if we seal it away someone could find it, we could try transferring the shadow into something else, but I have no idea how that could be done. And again there's the risk of it running loose or someone else trying to use it… And I don't think… burying someone alive with it is a good solution," the Sphynx comments, swallowing and shuddering once again at the idea.

Pearly tendrils of mist begin to cover the ground, as things start to fade into transparency. "Well, I hope I've helped you out a little," Kaira says, "but it looks like the magic is wearing off. If you need to contact me again, just prick yourself with the dagger, Alptraum. I drop of blood is a small price to talk to me again, I'm sure… "

"Does that work for me too," Arkold asks.

"No," the fading dragon replies. "For you… stab yourself… in… the… " But it's too late, everything is fading into mist.

Arkold grins. "That's the most fun with dragons I've ever had. I feel vindicated," he declares as he begins to fade away.

"It was a possibility, Tulani, nothing more. Not a good one, but we have to lay out all the options. Now, Kaira … prick myself? Bleh," Alptraum remarks and smirks. "So, I guess I'm stuck with you then? Ah well, I attract strange. I'm sure we'll chat again."

Tulani sighs to herself, pondering what could possibly be done about the problem… an interesting thought coming to mind as she too leaves the dreamscape.

---

GMed by BoingDragon

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Today is Ring Day, Year 25 of the Reign of Archelaus the First (6124)