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Tiras focused, as things went to hell, on removing the bolt from his arm. It was surprisingly easy, as the bolt's head was smooth. No barbs or hook, thanks be to Elimine. His gambeson had kept him from getting stabbed too deep, so while there was plenty of pain, with the offending foreign object now gone, his arm was easier to move. He drew his sword again and focused on Renata. Wratt was already helping with her four supernatural suitors. Tiras decided to offer his aid as well.

He ran past Renata and attacked one of the remaining three. The squire parried a strike to his teeth, using the overwhelming strength of the blow to power his own. His sword hit the morph's unprotected neck. It got stuck somewhere in the middle, likely the spine, and the squire had to retreat, a rusty sword passing through the space he had just been standing. He had dragged the other one with him.

However old these creatures were, they still appeared young to him. The black mist added to that impression. However, if the creatures of eldritch magic were truly immune to the passage of time, their equipment was not. Tiras blocked a follow-up strike from the rusty blade of the morph on his sword. The rusty blade struck his vambrace, and snapped off at the hilt. The morph looked at this, and Tiras used the distraction to grab the morph's head and rip his sword out, consequently snapping its neck. It dissolved in the same way as the others.

"They keep mentioning a 'Dragon's Gate.' Perhaps we should go there, so we can put a stop to these things?" Tiras suggested.
Grateful for her companions' help, Renata sized up the last morph of the several that had approached her before attempting to stun it with her magic the same as the other before it. This one, however, was a mite more prepared, dodging in a pendulous motion while swinging a decayed stump that was barely recogniseable as a weapon. Feeling the wind knocked out of her as the blade slapped into her side, Renata stabbed the apparition and fell forward, proceeding to wrestle it as it disintegrated, eventually leaving her on the ground clinging to nothing.

After a glance to ascertain there were no more morphs approaching for the moment, Renata assessed her injury. Though it wasn't much more than a scratch and a bruise, she was keenly aware that if the weapon striking her hadn't been an ancient relic, she could easily have been incapacitated. She wasted no time producing her cloak to measure out a portion she could cut off and tie around herself: flesh wound or not, she wasn't about to take even the slightest chance letting it set up on its own. "We've nowhere better to go, I imagine," she said to Tiras as she made sure her protective gear was also in order. She resolved never again to be caught without it on this damnable island. "But let's get that wound dressed first." She gestured at Tiras's arm, holding up the tattered cloak. Renata had no shortage of questions for Lennox, but those would come second to survival.
With the current fight at an end, Lennox approached the old fossil. Wratt. "Let me make things crystal clear. I am Lennox Hyperion, son of Maddox Hyperion, first cousin of Baron Shadrach Hyperion of Arretium, wielder of Dyrnwyn. I may have noble blood, but I am lord to no man. That man you saw before is Wolfram Caron, uncle and magic teacher of Shadrach Hyperion, former historian of the Hyperion family, practitioner of 'elder' magic. Since the fall of Etruria and the Tower of the Saint, he has made it his life's goal to see the ashes of the Lycian Church at his feet." Lennox explained, pausing to look at Raye. "I've been trying to minimize his impact so he doesn't fuck things up for my cousin or escalate the severity of their actions. It's what led me to Raye. The cult that held her were dark mages. I went to slay them to keep him from enlisting him." He turned back to the rest of the group.  "I don't know much about this Nergal, outside of him being around over a century ago. Wolfram specialized his knowledge around the times of Marquesses Hector and Eliwood, which may be were his knowledge of Nergal came from. I fear his plan is to follow Nergal's footsteps instead of enlisting an army. I fear he plans on making an army of these 'morphs'. Since the morphs are still around, I think he can't make his own. If he could, he would have field tested them against these morphs. As for the girl, never met her. He must have picked her up at some point. They must have been here for a while, both looked like they were about to drop."

He began walking away from them to locate his shirt. "I think the Church must have some of that same knowledge. Why else would they send a group of mercenaries to blow up the Dragon's Gate? I wouldn't be surprised if they expected us to end up as nothing but fodder for the morphs, thinning their numbers so they can swoop in with little resistance. Plus, they wouldn't have had to transport the explosives either, in case it blew up in transit. It would be a win/win scenario for them." He picked up his shirt and began putting it on under his cloak. "That being said, we have no other destination on this island. So, all we can do is go along with what the church hired us to do in the first place."
Tiras unfastened his vambrace, then his sleeve cuff, letting Renata attend to his arm while Lennox went on his spiel.

"You're making a lot of assumptions there, Lennox," the squire said. "Even if that were true, and we don't know that it is, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that these things, morphs, whatever you call them, even the ones that may have had skill a century ago, have terrible equipment in the present. One of their swords literally snapped on my armor. I'm surprised these things have clothes. And if Wratt, our illustrious leader, was not informed of them, I'd guess that the church wouldn't have known about them either.

"If I had to guess, I'd say that our jobs, such as they were, would have been as preliminary, disposable scouts. The fact that our ship sank and our payload, with which we would have destroyed this 'Dragon's Gate,' went off mid-sinking means that we've failed. They'll probably send in another team, likely to do the same job and eliminate survivors of the first attempt as a method of tying up loose ends. And if those scouts find anything else out here, I'm sure after that, then the mockery of Elimine that call themselves clerics will show up and rain the light of purification down on this place. All in all, I'd like to get off this godforsaken rock well beforehand."

Tiras winced as the bandages were wound tight around his forearm, then buttoned back up his gambeson sleeve and re-buckled his vambrace. He grabbed up his visored bascinet, fastening it over his head before lifting the visor.

"Thank you, Renata," he said. He looked at her, bowing his head in thanks before looking back up at the rest of the group. "The Dragon's Gate seems to be the place we'll find some answers to this mystery, so let's be off."
Raye and Lennox made their way back to the group but while the two of them were off finding the fire it seemed like some visitors had approached the rest of their group, and rather rude ones that kept repeating the same thing over and over again. That name, Nergal, seemed familiar somehow but it was hard to place.

Still, these weird shadow people were hostile but given the circumstances Raye couldn't really do anything about it. She'd just gone out of her way to not transform in front of the others and outside of that she really had no combat experience at all. So during the whole encounter she just stood there, holding what amounted to a makeshift torch, while the others all fought. Some weird guy Lennox seemed to know looked at her a couple of times so she waved hello at him but then he and someone he was with disappeared. That seemed pretty rude too.

The group was discussing what to do next but all she really wanted to do was see the Dragon's Gate and that seemed to be where they were going still. But that name, Nergal. She had heard it before... ”Oh yeah! Nergal, that scary guy!”
"These are only the ones on the outskirts, by the water. The ones further inland might have better equipment and potentially better protection from the elements. We also don't know their numbers and they could swarm like bees. And, may I remind you. Wratt isn't part of the church. They probably view him as disposable as whatever mercenaries he would have gathered for this endeavor," He chimed in. "As for that second part, if I implied something contrary to that, I must of misspoke. I never meant to imply a scenario where the Church lets us leave this island alive." He glanced at Dyrnwyn momentarily before continuing. "All I know is they want something from this island. I don't think Wolfram came seeking the same goal. I'd recommend against taking anything back with us. Ostia already has people chasing me for my sword, the last thing any of us probably wants is seekers trying to kill you for whatever artifact they could be seeking."

Thinking the discussion was done, he let down his guard until Raye chimed in. 'That scary guy!' Must resist urge to acknowledge. If he plays it off as if he didn't hear it, hopefully they others could ignore it too. Damn it, Raye! An idea came to him, and he decided to blurt it out before someone can digest what she said. "Oh, Raye. I'm sorry for Wolfram. He's a bit creepy at times and spent most of his life as a loner, even if he called my uncle a friend. He doesn't really know how to interact with people, so I'm apologizing for him staring at you like he was. Please, accept my apology on his behalf."
"Hm," Tiras crossed his arms with a muffled clank before shrugging and walking further inland. "Whatever. We're wasting time arguing over what ifs. Let's go."

The squire snapped off a branch of decent size, then tore off a long strip of his cloak. He frowned at the necessity (the cloak was originally Sir Verde's after all), but affixed the cloth around the broken end of the branch. The make-shift torch was then shoved in the fire until it caught. He walked further into the forest, travelling what he approximated, based on the night stars, to be south and west. There were many thickets of dense foliage in these forests, and while he did not see any new morphs, he kept an eye out and a hand on his sword.

At last, he came upon a large clearing. Perhaps a field? The forest opened up around the base of a mountain. There was a ruined garrison at the edge of the forest, and further beyond, a large, rotten snag that had fallen over. Even lying on its side, the tree was still taller than him. The squire looked around the area, trying to catch any golden points of light in the dark. He knew, however, that if there were any enemies on this island, they had already seen him and his torch. He raised the torch over his head.

He saw them. At least a hundred yards out. He couldn't tell what their weapons were, or their attire, but he saw spots of deeper shadow and the glint of glowing golden irises. There were a minimum of four he could see.

Tiras drew his sword. He grunted.

"Great. More of this."
"Pleasure," Renata murmured in response to Tiras as she geared up and re-tied her hair, although she froze for a moment when Raye spoke. Nergal... Wolfram... Scary guy? Were they the same person? She decided to refrain from looking so obviously like she was lost in thought: whoever these boogeymen were, they didn't deserve her dwelling on them. The only thing that mattered was finding some clue as to how they could all escape the Dread Isle in one piece.

... But, then, perhaps they are the clue... Apparently Renata was so frazzled that the thought only occurred to her when the group was on the move again (not that it would have helped to set up camp and attempt to rest anywhere within a mile of those yellow-eyed monsters). "... Ah, Raye?" Renata experimentally addressed one of her companions. "This 'Nergal' individual... do you—" She practically bit her tongue as Tiras halted and signaled the presence of more morphs. She was no archer, but a simple hunting bow would've worked wonders at this distance. She had magic, but seeing how it was light magic... Then it occurred to her what she was going to do.

"Keep moving," Renata said to the rest of the group as she strode in a trajectory perpendicular to their own, transitioning into a jog as she produced her tome. That'll do. She set her sights on a raggedy old tree at the edge of the woods, as far as she believed her magic could reach, and hissed the incantation with a flourish. A crack echoed through the open expanse as the fragile wood was rent by a small explosion of light: it wasn't powerful enough to completely fell the tree, but it left a glowing scar and a cloud of splinters all the same. As several of the apparitions began to clamber towards the tree, Renata made a break for the far side of the field. It normally would've been smarter to skirt around the treeline, but every morph she'd met so far had moved slower than she could run. As long as the morphs could do nothing to substantially slow them down...

A yelp escaped Renata as a tendril of dark magic closed around her legs to trip her. Another golden set of eyes appeared in the distance as a black-robed figure, practically invisible until now, shrugged off its hood. "This is a message..."
Renata's quick thinking brought the group a momentary distraction, for which Tiras was thankful. Not all of them were fooled, however, as he was still holding a light in the dark. He skirted the edge of the field, going around behind the great tree and further south, when he heard Renata yelp. The squire turned to the sound and just barely made out Renata, seemingly held in place by something. Perhaps a bear trap? But then he saw a nearby morph in a dark, tattered robe. Its shrouded hands held a dark shape that might've been a book. Tiras chucked his torch at the dark magic user, and it landed just behind the creature.

While its robes caught fire and it began to look for the source, Tiras gripped his sword in both hands, ran up to it and cut deeply. He could feel the human-like quality of its body, feeling his sword get caught on bones. He wrenched the sword out of his opponent and cut again. It dissipated, dousing the fire that had caught on it. The squire stomped out the rest. The torch was nearly embers at this point, anyway.

He picked up the fallen magic tome and considered it for a moment, before walking over to Renata.

"Perhaps I should stick close?" he mused. "At any rate, let's go, before the other golden-eyed bastards realize the distraction."
When Lennox saw Tiras preparing a torch, he did something a bit similar, tearing off part of his sleeve from his shirt. Instead of making a torch with it, he fashioned an eye cover and wrapped his right eye with it, concealing it in darkness. He wasn't about to risk his vision being messed with when they are far from any healers. Tiras might not have seen a lot of night combat, but as someone who's own sword occasionally emitted fire, it's thrown off his own vision at inopportune moments, not just for him but for his cousin as well. Thankfully, it also affected their foes, but when fighting these constructs, you can't assume anything. When that was done, he made sure to stay to his right, so only his left eye acclimated to the light.

During their walk, Renata began to inquire about Nergal. Raye's damn mouth and innocence are complicating things again. Before he could squash such train of thought, Tiras did it for him. Thank the Saint, he thought not having to go down this road. It was more morphs, but they were nothing. Guiltless killing, if anything. No repercussions, no upset families, no nothing. If his great-grandfather Ludwig truly left to find death in battle, he should have come here. He'd have the fun of his life killing these hordes. When the dark mage hidden in the woods revealed himself and attacked Renata as she ran, Lennox knew their light source backfired, especially as it slowly waned. Lennox just watched as Tiras threw the torch and killed the mage, and thus the torch, saving Renata. Lennox then switched the eye patch to to left eye and noticed something he didn't see when the light was lit. Two morphs, clad in decayed leather and tattered hoods wielding daggers, not 20 yards in front of them. The hoods obscured their eyes and were just out of range of the then diminished torch. "Two more, straight ahead!"

Lennox ran to meet them, longsword in hand. They both charged him as well, moving surprising fast compared to the others. He swung at the one on the right and they scattered, with the one on the left lunging at Lennox. He snatched him out of the air, grabbing him by the throat. The morph swung the daggers right into his shoulders. Lennox pressed on, pulling the morph closer and headbutted the morph in the face. Followed by a thrust of his sword into the chest, killing the morph. Lennox yanked out the dagger in his right shoulder, yelling through the pain, "DAMN IT!" The other morph attacked and Lennox tried it again, only this time, instead of catching the morph, he shoved the dagger through his jaw into his skull. The body almost threw him off balance as it impacted him, but faded shortly after.
As Lennox turned to "correct" what Raye had said she realized that what she had said and how she had said it was her doing a rather bad job at the whole "don't let people know you're a really old dragon" thing. Her inexperience in having to act like most of her past didn't exist didn't mesh well with people suddenly talking about someone she had actually seen before. She would just have to take a little effort to keep herself in check from this point forward.

"It's okay..." She replied to him, trying to support his version of the story as shaky as it was.

The group began to move again, making their way more inland. Renata stopped to try to press further on the manakete's suspicious remarks. Thankfully, depending on your point of view, more of those mysterious figures going on and on about Nergal showed up and deflected the conversation for her. The issue now was the same as before though. The only way she could really help in the fight was to transform yet to transform would defeat the point of the whole "keeping it a secret" thing, leaving the girl to just stand back and watch as she had with the last fight.
Taking Tiras's hand to hoist herself up just in time to see Lennox being stabbed, the gut-churning reality of the situation occurred to Renata: their group was now stuck in a struggle of attrition in which the farther they traveled, the more wounds they would accrue with no real medical aid at their disposal. If they couldn't soon make it to the Dragon's Gate and find something there to save them, their deaths were all a matter of "when", not "if". Hearing a scuffling as the grass behind her was displaced, Renata whirled to face a husky apparition hefting a club that had perhaps once borne an axe head at its tip: these things were definitely stronger than the ones that had been skulking on the edges of the woods near the shore. Determined not to let the morph swing its weapon, she dove in the opposite direction of the club with sword outstretched. It barely left a scratch. Preparing her tome as the club came down and shook the earth next to her, Renata's eyes landed on Raye hanging back in the distance. Why did that girl even come here in the first place? Could she defend herself at all? But there was no time to be incredulous. Aiming for the morph's eyes, Renata muttered her incantation once again. Blinded, the morph flailed about to knock Renata away with a fist, which she took as a suggestion to hobble away and continue running. Although the other apparitions that were not spindly knaves and wizards seemed to have been fooled by her distraction earlier, if they were to catch up it could very well spell doom for the party. She caught up to Lennox's side: although she doubted she would be able to catch him if his injuries gave him trouble walking, she would have to try. The magical sword he wielded may well be their best chance at surviving this hellish journey.
Lennox slowly grabbed the remaining dagger and collected himself enough to pull it out. He began moving his shoulders about to gauge how bad the damage was. The pain was tolerable, but this couldn't keep going on. As much fun he could potentially have, eventually, he'd be overwhelmed. They'd all be overwhelmed...except for...

"You know what Raye? Screw it. We won't make it at this rate. We'll deal with the fallout later. Now isn't the time for holding back," He said addressing the dragon girl as he turned around. He paused a bit, just now realizing Renata was next to him as he turned. "I'm sorry for handicapping us, but I hope you'll understand why." He sheathed his longsword and drew Dyrnwyn again. No holding back, after all, he thought. Until he looked at his cloak. The heavy cloak with the innerweave of chainmail definitely slowed him down, but he couldn't think of leaving it here. As much as it'll slow him down, it's one of the few material ties to his family. He couldn't budge on that yet.
Tiras took the cue from Renata and as she hobbled over to the hulk that was Lennox, the squire decapitated the blind, flailing morph she'd left behind. The creatures' talk of a message was just something of a background noise to him now, annoying as it was. In the dark he wasn't sure where Wratt had gotten to, but he was sure the gruff bastard wasn't about to lay down and die. The youth turned and followed Lennox, keeping his sword in a readied position over his left shoulder. He held the blade loosely and made sure to keep his ears as open as his helm would allow.

He opened the visor of his helm to see better in the dark. He caught up with Lennox, Renata, and Raye.

"Let's see if we can't find a fortress to hole up in for the night," he suggested. His right arm was irritated and nearly numb, though thankfully not bleeding. Some rest would do him some good.
Raye continued to watch as those around her fought and fought with the seemingly endless waves of these weird people that kept talking about Nergal. She couldn't even talk about Nergal too given that anything she could really say about him would reveal a bit too much about her.

Thankfully for everyone, Lennox finally decided to let her relax the whole "don't let the others find out you're a dragon" thing, and perhaps not a moment too soon. Nodding she pulled out her Dragonstone and then began to transform. Light purple feathery winds sprouted from her back before wrapping around her. When they pulled back, Raye stood there as a tall, round, feathery dragon.

Flapping her wings she took to the air and flew past the group towards some of the apparitions before opening her mouth and spewing forth a stream of flame onto them as she passed by them. Turning around she flew back to the group and landed, having finally managed to be useful.
As she froze, back stuck against some remnant of a stone structure jutting from the ground, Renata wasn't entirely sure what she was looking at until she was: it was a literal dragon; the exact same shape-shifting creature that was described by so many fairy tales and folk legends. But what happened to... "You... She..." As she began to reply to Lennox, Renata connected the dots that Raye and the apocalyptic harbinger that was now landing by their side were the same being... and, contrary to what Lennox had said, she didn't understand at all.

"Are you mad?!" The words that escaped Renata's lips mirrored her state of irrational fear. "We're— we're going to the Dragon's Gate and you're bringing a dragon there?! Are you out of your damned mind?!?!" Profanity had never come naturally to Renata, but if this weren't a suitable place for it she didn't know what was. Like the fact that they were still on the run, it did not occur to Renata that she had no idea of whatever were the actual ramifications of bringing a dragon to the Dragon's Gate.

At least Wratt would be able to find them easily... or run away, if it came to that.
Oh, a dragon. Would you look at-A DRAGON?! Tiras nearly did a spit-take as he saw the bag of fire and feathers fly at a group of approaching morphs and crisp them nice and well done. His heart in his throat, he forced his nearly numb right hand to grip his sword. The beast flew closer and closer, until the dragon landed in a pile of warm feathers showering around them, in the form of Raye. The little girl who Lennox had brought aboard. The girl he'd though of as thoroughly harmless. The girl he figured needed the most protection. And she could roast all of them alive. Like little kernels of corn. Pop!

Tiras turned to Lennox and pointed his sword at him from a crouched ready stance.

"How many more, Lennox?" He ground out, well and truly pissed off. "How many more things are you keeping secret from us? Things that could keep us alive or doom us all... How many more?! Spill it! What, can you turn into a dragon, too?"
Lennox turned to Tiras, who was in the midst of losing all composure. Tiras had turned his sword on him in shock. Paranoia flowed from his lips. "From what I've heard of Sir Adrian Verde, I'm sure he'd find your behavior quite unbecoming," Lennox started with, hoping his comment would ground his mental state a bit. He grabbed the sword near the tip, squeezing it hard enough it drew blood, and directed away from his vital areas. "I rescued a helpless girl from a cult of druids who had stolen something from her. They intended to use what ever dark magics at their disposal to lash out at the Emperor's Church. I joined a Keeper of the Church and a small unit of Lycian soldiers in taking out this cult because I feared my uncle joining them and bolstering the zeal of the Church by embodying their dogma of anti-magic sentiment. When I discovered what she was, I ran away with her to keep her away from agents of his church or, potentially, his relic seekers. I feared her being killed by zealots or manipulated into a weapon of the Emperor. I separated from her in hopes of keeping the latter from discovering her, and assumed she'd be indistinct enough to elude the former. But then we met in again in Badon. And here we are now."

He turned his head back towards Renata, to answer her question, "If you recall, Raye elected to go on her own free will. I did not bring her here. I just swore her protection. She's not invulnerable, but, I won't elaborate further. It's not my place. Besides, how can you tell someone who can do that, where they can or cannot go?" He looked back at Tiras, to ensure he wasn't about to stab him. "That's why I deliberately diverted her comments about Nergal to my uncle. How do you explain that away?"

"At the time of embarkment, I had no idea your beliefs about Lycia and it's cult. You took on a mission sponsored by the Church, after all. I didn't know if you were 'righteous servants' of the Church of the Preservation of Sanctity or just needed the money. I wasn't sure you could be trusted. I could tell from your accents you're Lycian born and bred. You're an Ostian without a doubt, Tiras. Me, I'm not a dragon, I'm a wolf, perhaps even a fiery wolf, like my father. And no, I don't shape shift, it's my family sigil."
He paused for a bit and began laughing as he let go of the sword and stepped away. "It doesn't make for a particularly compelling fight either. Don't get me wrong, a squash match can be entertaining with the right opponent, but what really gets the blood pumping is a classic underdog beating the odds story. A dragon kinda throws that balance out the window. Oh, I guess that kinda answers your first question, Renata."
"If you knew as much as you claim about Sir Adrian, you'd know how deep his disdain for the new church ran. He would be ashamed I took the job at all," Tiras growled. "But I had no choice, if I didn't want to become a thief." The squire removed the threatening point, glowering at the Etrurian lord in the dark. "A fine time to mention trust. Our lives are in danger from dark abominations, we're all depending on each other for survival, and you decide only now to reveal that Raye is a dragon. I trusted you, Hyperion. No more. We continue together, but only until we're back on the mainland. When we separate, we are strangers."

The squire made strides westward, his eyes as alert as possible in the dark. He was grateful for the faint moonlight as he walked across the field, though he knew the little party was far and away from being out of trouble. He saw a faint glint of gold in the dark. It glittered, far away, in the gate of some ruins a bit northwest of his position, probably five hundred or so yards out.

"Well, there's one of them," he mused.

Just then, Tiras noticed that the air around him was weird, making his skin feel kind of greasy. What was this? He looked around for anything close and then looked up. There were gathering arcs of electricity.

He threw himself to the side. Not far enough. His right arm erupted in a terrible sensation of burning, electric pain as the muscles spasmed and the rest of him felt a tingle through the metal bits of his armor. He steamed, but at least the greasiness was gone.

"Long range magic. This is going to be a giant pain in my ass."
Renata let out a mirthless chuckle at Lennox's eloquent reply. "Goodness... Wratt was right on the money about you, milord." For all of a second, she reflected with regret upon the time she'd sworn fealty to a liege only to abandon that liege for fear of attracting undue attention as a fugitive. It was at that point that Tiras began to moodily stride his own way. This is no good... Dragon or no, we've got to stay together or we're good as dead.

"But— but now is hardly the time for division among us. We must—" No sooner had Renata lapsed into the diplomatic speech of a church servant than a lightning bolt had rent the air right next to Tiras. There had been magic hanging in the air, but she hadn't expected that. "We're killing that thing before it can get a direct hit," she declared, thoroughly annoyed that these creatures kept interrupting the party's every chance to get on the right page with one another. At least it was a distraction from the fact that there was a flesh-and-blood dragon right behind her.
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