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Hessen was very careful to tell Suni to watch her behavior and speech; he wanted her to act the part of a divine messenger to gain their respect. It lasted for a little under two weeks, which was longer than he expected. Currently, a month after her first appearance in the mountain, Suni sat in a meeting, head resting in her palm and eyes crossed to look at the pencil she was wiggling between her upper lip and nose.


The pencil fell from its perch and tumbled onto the floor.

Leave it, Suni

Suni reluctantly abandoned the pencil and sat straight in her chair, turning her attention to the six men and women seated around her.

Faro, the man who had first stepped forward for her a month before, handed her a folder, “Arha, the six of us have each written reports for you to look over. They will give you an idea of the current state of affairs here in Pale and the greater Vaharan mountain range, as well as our suggestions of how to move forward.”

Suni accepted the folder sagely.

“If you don’t mind, we’ll go over the financial reports first.” Suni shuffled through the folder and brought one of the packets to the front. She looked at Faro and gave him a slight nod. He gestured to the woman sitting across from him. “Tilda?”

The woman was thin and had a pinched face with high cheekbones. She stood and cleared her throat, “It will be difficult for us to find the proper funds to repair the generators, but once the capital meets– Arha, you’re looking at the wrong report.”

“Oh sorry, I can’t tell which is which.”


“Well, I can’t read them.”

Tilda blinked rapidly several times, “Why didn’t you tell us earlier you couldn’t read?”

“You never asked.”

“Now, now, no need to get worked up over this,” Faro said and motioned Tilda to sit back down. "Arha, we’ll arrange a tutor for you. With your intelligence I’m sure you’ll be able to learn in no time.”

Suni looked back down at the packet. The words on the smooth rock paper looked like masses of black horizontal blurs. “Oh, I don’t think that will be necessary. I can’t see well enough to read.”

Faro pinched the bridge of his nose, “Arha, I will schedule a time to go over the reports with you. For now I suggest we adjourn our meeting.”

Suni glanced up at Hessen, who was resting on her head, his head dangling onto her forehead and front limbs splayed out to the sides.

He means pause it until later.

Suni leaned back in her chair and kicked her feet up onto the table, face screwed into a glare. “I think we should hold off on doing anything drastic until I visit the capital. Nothing matters until everyone in Vaharan knows of my existence and our God’s presence. After that, I will go to Azoras and demand they share their resources so we can restore Pale and other cities here. Let’s say… in about six months.”

The advisors exchanged uneasy glances around the table, “Six months, Arha?” Gallen asked from next to Tilda, “Should we not wait until you’re an adult?”

“No worries. I’ll be fully grown by then.”

It seemed preposterous, and yet made sense at the same time. In the short month she had been here, Suni had grown from a large child to a teenager that towered over the tallest man in the mountain. Tilda opened her mouth to protest, but Faro held up a hand to stop her. “Arha, if you don’t mind me asking, how old are you?”

Somehow Suni had retrieved the pencil from the ground without anyone noticing and returned it to its rightful place on her upper lip, “A year and eight months now I think. I don’t really keep track.”

“That’s impossible,” Tilda muttered under her breath.

Suni sprang on top of the table in one fluid motion, the pencil clattered to the floor once more. “Are you accusing me of lying, Tilda?”

The older woman shrank back in her chair, “No, Arha! Never! I only, it’s just, outside the realm of my knowledge how such a thing could be possible.”

Suni sighed and shook her head, walking along the edge of the circular table, “I told you when I got here. I was sent here by your god. Don’t you see? He made me for this. My sole purpose is to act as his messenger.” They looked up at her, eyes full of wonder and worship. Suni squatted down in front of Tilda, marble eyes unblinking. Her tail patted the woman lightly on the cheek. “There’s nothing to worry about. Six months from now I’m going to make the bastards from Azoras bow their heads to me.”

That evening, Faro came across Suni in the library. She was resting on her stomach, head cupped in her hands and legs bent over until they touched the ground in a scorpion shape. An open tome lay in front of her.



“What are you doing?”

Hessen turned the page with a flick of his tail. The barest hint of a smile danced on Suni’s face. “Why, reading, of course.”
Before moving on to the lower levels, Suni explored the rest of the third level. She passed a large dining area occupied by a stone round table. Seated around it were nine figures dressed in pure white robes tied shut with white sashes. People in black robes tied with black sashes scurried around the room, setting down food served on metal tableware decorated with gold accents. She moved on before being noticed. The mountain city had a distinct lack of doors, instead using open archways. However, each High Priest had their own set of rooms with locked ornate metal gates. These were easily obliterated by Suni. They opened to an office connected to a set of apartments, once again separated by a metal gate. Each oozed with overindulgence, filled with rare wood furniture, decorations made of gold, and plush cushions. She moved on after looking at only two of them.

The third and fourth floors were where the bulk of what would be considered a town square in a regular town built on land. Winding hallways replaced streets and buildings were simple caverns carved into the stone walls, the yawning openings covered with dirty drapes, strips of dry seaweed, or nothing at all. The bright electric lights of the previous floors were replaced by the occasional dim orange glow of whale oil lamps. Luckily, Suni already had poor vision and could easily navigate in the darkness. She ran her hand across the remnants of electrical wiring and broken lights on the walls, frowning. The air here was also noticeably colder, wetter, and thinner. Townspeople walked past her in groups, all making their way to the upper levels. They cast her quick, nervous glances and whispered among themselves but did their best to avoid the strange creature dressed in a priest’s robe but a servant’s sash stalking their home.

“This place is a dump.”

This mountain range was attacked by the Azoras to the north not long ago. It appears they have been unable to recover.

Suni rolled her eyes, “‘Not long’ for you usually means ‘actually a very long time, but since I’m an old fart it doesn’t feel like a long time to me.’”

Hessen flicked her with his tail. Only a couple hundred years or so.

“That’s a long time to be living with so much broken shit.”

The next three floors were full of vertical gardens, bathing under UV lights, though less than half appeared to be functional, with the last floor being completely abandoned. “How come you didn’t defend them when they were attacked? Aren’t these your people? They worship you.”

Hessen snorted. Worship? They perform ridiculous rites and leave me useless “gifts” and call it worship. They use me because they are weak, pitiful creatures. Their priests demand tithes in my name so that they may live in decadence. The common people say prayers in my name looking for forgiveness for their sins and to explain phenomena they don’t understand. I owe them nothing.

The next five floors were all residential. In comparison to the priests' rooms, these homes had no doors. Each was made of one to three interconnected chambers. The walls were bare and any small amount of furniture they had was made of carved stone. Their beds were thin cloth mats placed on the floor and the pillows were made of woven straw. She paused at the top of what would have been the sixth residential floor and sniffed. “The air past here is dead.”

They do not have enough working generators to pump air into the rest of the mountain.

“How far down does it go?”

Even a small mountain would have many hundreds of floors, and this one is an average size.

Suni leaned back to sit on her tail, legs crossed and arms crossed in front of her. Her eyebrows wrinkled into what Hessen affectionately called her “thinking glare.” He slithered across her shoulders and gently bumped his head to her cheek.

What will you do, little one?

She jumped up and grinned. Her eyes glinted with excitement. “I will remind these pitiable creatures who the god they worship is.”

The majority of the mountain residents were gathered on the first floor, heads bent in their daily morning prayer when the mountain began shaking. Suni exploded into the room from the floor below at the same time the ocean rushed in from above. It churned around them, herding them into a tight group on the far side of the room. Suni ignored their screams of panic, her face lit up with a smirk as she skated across the surface of the water to the center of the room. The water left as quickly as it appeared, draining down the stairs into the depths below. Before anyone could breathe a sigh of relief though, the room was filled with the sound of cracking stone. They looked up just in time to see the sacred statue of their god collapse. In its place, Hessen loomed over them. At only a fraction of his true size, he still nearly filled the entire room, the statue’s head dwarfed in his enormous claw. The townspeople cowered in fear. One man attempted to crawl away, only to scream in terror when Hessen swung his head towards them, revealing Suni standing on top of it.

“Lower your heads!” She snarled. “You dare look upon your god with such filthy eyes?”

As one, her audience scrambled to their knees and prostrated themselves before her. Some of them mouthed silent prayers. Others choked back silent sobs.

Mind your language, Suni. They will respect you more for it. Use their faith against them.

“I am Suni Straov. The Great Dragon has long doubted your faith and sent me here as his envoy. I came here hoping to prove him wrong, but what did I find?” She jumped down from Hessen’s head, lithe and catlike and began slowly pacing in front of them. “Priests engorged with their ego and wealth! A city in ruins! A people who don’t know what it is to worship and respect their god!” She stopped in front of the familiar smell of the nine priests she’d come across earlier. “Stand up.”

They shuffled into a line in front of her, fighting to be the first to obey and stand nearest to her. One of them dared a glance upwards. The swing of her spear was so unexpected that the priests didn’t realize what had happened until the offending party’s bun had fallen on the ground. “I said stand up, not look up. Are you deaf?” Though she was only a child, a freakishly tall child but a child nonetheless, she appeared to tower over them. The priest could do nothing but shake their head, the greedy fervor from just a moment ago nowhere to be seen. Suni swung her spear once again, causing all nine of them to flinch. Four of them screamed. Three wet themselves. Their sashes fell to the ground. “Strip.”

They didn’t hesitate to obey,

“As of this moment, you are stripped of your positions. You are to live on the lower floors, among the rest of the citizens. You are no longer allowed to live off of tithes or receive special treatment. Now get in the back and out of my sight.”

The nine former priests did as they were told, wearing nothing but their underclothes. If the situation had been different, they may have been jeered and laughed at. As it were though, they made their walk of shame in silence. Suni held her arm out behind her and Hessen dissolved into water that snaked out towards her, wrapping around her arm and forming back into the miniature version of him.

It would be best to keep my true form separate from this smaller version of me. A god should remain mysterious.

“Our god has departed. You may all stand and raise your heads.” She waited for them to find their feet before continuing, “Starting today I will serve as your…” She paused for just a moment, attempting to make up a word that would fit. “…Arha.”

Hessen snorted on her shoulder and turned his head away to hide his laughter. Suni ignored him.

“Together with this messenger the Great White Dragon has left me, I will repair the mistakes you have made and guide you back onto the proper path.”

The crowd stared back at her in silence. Their entire world had been turned upside down in only a few minutes, and they now had no idea how to react. A lone middle aged man wearing a black robe and sash with dark skin and hair that showed the first traces of gray stepped forward. He placed his right fist high on the left side of his chest and bowed his head. “Arha, please guide us.”

The rest followed suit. Their words echoed across the cavern. “Arha, guide us.”

If you can name the book I stole "Arha" from I will give you a cookie
Light filtered in from above, illuminating the stairs in a streaky yellow light and warming the stone steps. It gave Else the strength to climb the last section out of the mountain and into the open air temple. It was one of the smallest, as it was located on the smallest isle at the very edge of the mountain range. The circular foundation had been built directly into the mountain, looking as though someone had slammed the two together. Decorated pillars ran along the outer edge that sloped downward in height from the center and opened up to face the ocean.. In the middle was a round, stone bowl with images of the water dragon carved into its sides. Despite its size, the temple was considered one of the most important, due to the fact that its location on the far reaches meant it was the closest to their God’s den and the most likely place to spot him from afar.

She was surprised to see a pair of bare feet as she emerged from the underground. It was usually still too early for worshippers to be leaving offerings. When she finally emerged, Else saw not a devout follower come to pay their respects, but a naked girl staring at the altar with an inquisitive expression. At least, Else thought she was a girl. She looked younger than her, perhaps a young teenager, yet she was most likely the same height or even slightly taller than Else. Her body was oddly proportioned and a long scaly tail brushed the floor behind her. A spear was embedded deep into the stone next to her, making Else gasp. “You’ve damaged the temple! Who are you?"

“Suni.” The girl turned to look at her, eyes squinting in the sunlight, mouth twisted in a small frown. "Is that an adult?"


"They're smaller than you said."

"What are you talking about?" Else asked, baffled.

The girl continued on as if Else hadn't spoken. "How could you forget? Maybe you are getting old."

"Who are you talking to?" Else demanded. The girl titled her head and then pointed to the open ocean behind her. Else opened her mouth to speak when a huge shadow rose out of the deep, showering them both in a torrent of salty water. The entire isle became shrouded in shadow as the great dragon Else had only seen in drawings blocked out the sun. She threw herself to the ground, body trembling, as her God towered over her. She dared not look up, for to look directly at Him this close was forbidden. As she shook frozen in place, Else heard the soft padding of footsteps as the girl, Suni, approached her.

“Hey, can you take me into the city?”

LIght once again illuminated the temple and Else dared a glance upward. Suni stood in front of her, her spear held loosely in her left hand, which Else realized, looked more like a staff with a large pointed fish hook on the end. Her God was gone, but sitting on the shoulders of the girl in front of her, was what appeared to be a miniature version of Him. He snaked around her neck, his long tail wrapped around the upper half of her left arm. “I-Is that..”

“It’s Hessen.”

Suni did not appear to be willing to offer any explanation beyond that so Else could only nod, despite the fact she had no idea who or what a “Hessen” was. “Y-You can speak to our god?”

Suni opened her mouth to speak, then closed it, a slight frown on her face. After a long pause she shrugged, but said nothing.

It seemed impossible, But it was also impossible to deny what she had seen with her own eyes. Else studied Suni for a moment, her eyes stopping on the girl’s eyes - the same color as their gods. She staggered to her feet and wiped the salt water from her face. “Follow me.”

The first floor beneath the temple was dedicated to prayers and worship of their god. It had the highest ceiling in the mountain and was occupied by a gigantic statue of their God in the center that had been carved out directly from the stone when the room had been created. The floor below that, contained the offices of the priests of the temple and the maze-like libraries containing everything from scriptures, histories, and textbooks to fictional fairy tales. Else took them to the floor just below, where the living quarters of the priests were located. She would have liked to take her straight to the high priest, but there was no way she could before giving Suni clothes. At this level of the city, the only thing available were the white robes reserved for priests, and Else hoped the High Priest would forgive her for this transgression, given the fact that she couldn’t exactly parade a naked alien-looking girl with a tail all the way down to the lower levels.

Suni was quiet but stopped often to inspect the various parts of the city. Else had to practically tear her away from the libraries. She didn’t know what to make of this strange creature. She clearly had a connection of some sort to their God, but her attitude and appearance was completely unbefitting of someone of that position. It made her angry. Else and so many others had dedicated their lives to worship of the white dragon, and this ugly creature had appeared out of nowhere and somehow earned his favor for no reason.

At the far end of the third floor were the laundry rooms. Luckily it was the end of the week, meaning that there would be a stack of clean robes to choose from. The girl was the skinniest person Else had ever seen, and the sleeves of the robes consumed her stick-like arms, but would otherwise fit well enough with a belt. She hesitated before picking one out. Traditionally, blue was for the lowest level acolytes, followed by green, red, purple, and then white. Else personally wore a red belt, one that she had worked hard to obtain. If this child could communicate with their God, then she deserved the highest tier, white, but Else couldn’t bring herself to hand her the sacred color. Suni stared at the colored bands of fabric over her shoulder and pulled out two black ones. “Wait! The black ones are for the cleaners.”

Suni shrugged. “I don’t care.” She used one to tie the robe shut. The second, she hung on the first for some indiscernible later purpose.

“We’re going to go back upstairs to see the High Priest.” Else began leading her back to the stairwell, but Suni stopped in the doorway.

“I already saw upstairs.”

“Well, yes but you need to talk to the High Priest?”


“Because you can communicate with our God! We need to.. We have to…” Else wrung her hands together, “I don’t know what we need to do with that information, so that’s why we have to go to the High Priest. He’ll know what to do.”

“Okay, you can go tell him. I’m going to explore the rest of the city.”

“What? Wait, you can’t!” It was too late though; Suni had already begun sprinting down the hallway. She moved at a terrifying speed and it took Else less than a moment to lose sight of her, leaving her wondering how in the world she was supposed to explain what had transpired.
Hessen never thought that he would raise a child. Let alone, a monster child that grew faster than any creature he knew and tested his patience nearly every day. He loved her anyway. On the third day Hessen was jolted awake by a voice in his head, speaking in the mother tongue he had almost forgotten. He immediately dove into the water, calling out to his lost kin, chasing after the voice that taunted him but found no one. When he returned, the child was waiting for him, smirking. That day he accepted her, not as a human, but as one of his own. He named her Suni.

Suni quickly outgrew the little isle Hessen brought her to and let him know by flinging herself into the water after breakfast two days later. Hessen dove after her in a panic only to see the gremlin swimming as if she had been born in the water with the largest shit-eating grin he had ever seen. His relief was quickly replaced with the feeling of questioning all of his life choices as she spent the next three hours using her small size and maneuverability to hide and avoid all his attempts to catch her. That night though, as he did his best to lie still to avoid disturbing the sleeping babe on his snout, his heart felt full.

It didn’t take long for rumors to spread among the humans. They spoke of seeing a strange figure that accompanied their god. Some thought she was a ghost. Others thought she was a new dangerous sea creature. Hessen steered her away from them, worried of what they would think of her. Humans were so often afraid of things they couldn’t understand, and they understood so little. At first, Suni didn’t seem to mind the lack of human contact. She satisfied her curiosity by speaking to and often, despite Hessen’s warnings, fighting the colorful ocean life around her, earning their friendship and respect. After a year, Suni became restless, giving Hessen the choice to take her to human city or wait for her to sneak away and see it alone. And so, for the first time in over five hundred years, the great dragon made the journey to the home of those who worshiped him.
The pod knows something has gone terribly wrong as soon as it touches the water. Its sensors immediately begin a scan for humanoid life. Its calculations show that it doesn’t matter though. Unless they were within the immediate vicinity, they would never be able to find it. The pod does find life, but the discovery only makes the situation worse, as it senses a giant beast coming towards it. Alarms begin beeping and red text scrolls across the screen. The child within cracks open an eye, then rolls over onto her side, covering her face with an arm. The pod only has one choice. It immediately begins to make preparations for long-term internment. According to its calculations, The child will be able to survive for two days, fifteen hours, thirteen minutes and fifty-four seconds on the seafloor, which it will reach in approximately three minutes. At the speed the beast is traveling, it will reach the pod in two minutes and forty-two seconds. The current best case scenario would be for the beast to pass by without noticing the pod and for it to be found later. This seems unlikely, as no intelligent life has been detected within a one thousand kilometer radius, but given the situation, it is the only available option.
Only one minute left until the pod touches the seafloor. The beast disappears from its sensors; it appears to have turned around and left the area. Thirty seconds left. Five. Four. Three…The pod does not sense the dragon coming from behind until it’s too late. Alarm bells ring and lights flash, but there is nothing to be done. The beast engulfs it one smooth motion.

Hessen carried the pod in his mouth for over an hour, taking it to a small isle with an abandoned temple. Since he didn’t know what it was, he wanted to make sure that it was as far away from the populated mountains as possible. The “temple” was nothing more than a circular foundation with a half circle stone wall, and a rectangular slab of rock in the middle. Hessen gently opened his mouth and let the pod roll onto the stone bed. Bright red lights flashed as the device beeped incessantly. He squinted in the bright light and did his best to stop himself from crushing it with his foot. After ten seconds or so the device calmed down. A metal cover on the outside retracted, revealing a window. Hessen used a claw to roll it until he could see inside.
He was greeted with a pair of pale blue, almost colorless eyes that matched his own. The two stared at each other. Well, Hessen stared and the child glared back. She was an ugly little thing. Too skinny and long, as if someone had grabbed her by the hands and feet and pulled until she’d been stretched out. He tapped the window and the pod hissed and slid open. The child did not seem interested in moving and continued to wrinkle her eyebrows at him. Hessen leaned forward and touched the tip of his nose to her forehead. He chuckled, a deep rumble in his throat. Someone, somewhere had sent him an ugly, angry baby. And yet, he knew the second they touched that he would die for her.

After the meeting, Emrin went back to her room and attempted to salvage her ruined notes. Then, she carefully packed her things and made her way to the meeting spot. The carriage ride should have been a good time to get to know her companions, but Emrin instead chose to spend the 2 hours sleeping. It was a better use of her time. She was suddenly woken up by someone stomping in the carriage, and woke up to see Liam getting off the carriage. Emrin ignored what he said and simply rolled her eyes and followed them out of the carriage, and drew her staff. She didn’t follow them all the way to the inn though, staying back by the carriage. Now that she was awake and out of the carriage she could see that Liam was right. Something was...off. Even though it was early in the morning the town seemed strangely empty.

The three sorcerers in the inn sprang into action the moment the door opened. The man on the stairs immediately drew a second dagger and leaped off the stairs at Liam. The man behind the counter immediately dropped the body he had been holding and drew his staff and cast a spell, sending a magic bolt in the doorway at Ryder and Finlay. Meanwhile, the last sorcerer, a woman, began a summoning spell, summoning a large white basilisk, which she used to attack the carriage that she had noticed through the window.

Emrin had been about to step up to help upon realizing they were under attack when the basilisk came crashing through the inn wall straight towards the carriage. She managed to get a shield up just in time, and the basilisk pulled back to strike again.

As Liam was ready with an arrow drawn, he quickly aimed at the sorcerer and fired. Turning his attention to the knifeman he raised his bow like a staff and blocked the knife by slamming it into the man's wrist. Allowing himself to fall backwards, he allowed the opponent's energy to push him back onto the floor. Raising his foot up against the man’s stomach, he then used the momentum to roll backwards and toss him behind him, into the path of the fire blast.

As the less than hospitable inn staff was revealed and registered in Ryder’s mind, he started casting a hex on himself but didn’t manage to quite finish before a magic bolt was hurled at them. Jumping to the side to evade it, Ryder came to a stop on one knee after a roll on the hopefully moderately clean floor, only slightly bruised and singed.

Finishing his own spell of boosting up his reflexes, he gave his two companions within the inn a glance. They weren’t dead and Prosthetics & Bow seemed to be handling the dagger guy well enough. So, without further thought, Ryder sprang into action and closed in on the sorcerer with the staff.

Easily jumping on top of the counter, Ryder sought to leverage the higher ground by first aiming a sweeping kick at the sorcerer’s staff to disarm him or at least knock the physical means of defense aside momentarily. Long enough for the spear bearer to attempt an attack. He went for the sorcerer’s shoulder, intending to prevent staff shenanigans more permanently.

Meanwhile outside, Liah was still groggy after being woken up. Having no issue with staying behind while the boys cleared the inn. However a large snake came out of nowhere and started attacking Emrin just barely managing to block the attack. Liah yelped and bolted from the carriage, making her way next to Emrin as her familiar rascal grew to the size of a tiger, growling at the much larger basilisk. Liah started to summon, and suddenly water seemed to shoot out of the ground in a spiral, taking shape into a blue mongoose. Slightly smaller than the basilisk but much larger than Rascal. Directing her summon to attack, the mongoose sprang at the basilisk and tackled it, wrapping it’s own body around it as it bit its neck. And rolled away with it.

Sidney had been sitting quietly in a corner (or at least as much as she could) lazily writing a letter to her family back home. If it were a paper for class she would have been able to pump it out in less than twenty minutes but had taken the time to add unnecessarily gratuitous detail to the sights as they rode and generally ignored her fellow classmates. They didn’t get to travel so why not let them live vicariously a bit?

By the time they finally stopped Em-something had fallen asleep, only waking up when Arm-and-Leg got up to leave the carriage. Since she was still putting the finishing touches on her letter she opted to wait until properly finishing before getting out.

She was so immersed in her writing that she didn’t notice anything was off until the wall of a building exploded and a large serpent - no! A basilisk erupted from it. With one hand she grabbed the window sill of the carriage to leap up and the other for her bolt-action that had been slung over her shoulder the whole ride. During her flip into the roof she got a proper look to the other side of the carriage. Nothing was coming at them at the moment. Dead or waiting in case these guys fail? It didn’t matter at the moment. Big ass snakes and whatever was going on inside had the priority.

Scoping down on the serpent, it was now wrapped by a blue transparent summon that was keeping it off of the sleeping Em-something. Too risky for a headshot? Hm, not great odds. Miss and she’ll get mad, maybe alert others and weaken our position. No. Better odds. Moving from where the head was, she aimed closer to where the heart, lungs and other more vital organs. It may be a summon but most still responded like any animal when injured. The first round hit the center of its body while the second only just clipped it.

The basilisk struggled against the mongoose, it’s body thrashing. As it thrashed its tail, a gust of wind blew the debris from the destroyed inn towards them. Emrin put up another shield and cast a spell on one of Sidney’s bullets, increasing its speed and power. The bullet ripped through the body of the basilisk, and it collapsed momentarily, before being healed and raising it’s head again. After being healed the basilisk finally managed to get a hold of the mongoose and tear it off of its body, flinging it to the side.

As Liam threw the man with the daggers over his shoulder, he cast a spell, diverting the magical bolt around him. Rather than go back to attack Liam, he immediately struck at Ryder, redirecting his spear enough that it merely grazed the staff-wielder’s shoulder, rather than piercing it. Then with his other hand he made an attempt to slash Ryder’s throat. The staff-wielder took cover behind the man with the daggers and called out to the summoner.

“Calla! Come! We’re pulling out. Hold them off with Beck.”

The Summoner, Calla, looked annoyed but obeyed the order and quickly ran to join the other two. Her basilisk followed her, knocking Ryder out of the way and positioning itself between the group of three sorcerers and the Isunian students. The sorcerer quickly began casting a teleport spell.

“They’re getting away!” Emrin cast an air bolt but was blocked by the basilisk and the group of sorcerers disappeared. Emrin swore and then walked into the inn, looking at the aftermath.

“We need to search the bodies. One of them might have a clue to where we need to go. Search the inn too. There should be supplies for us somewhere.” She looked around her, "If you're not ok with touching bodies, then look for the supplies or other clues." She walked up the body closest to her and started searching through his pockets.
"There is no need to worry Ryder, when Master Sylvain and I created the spell, we made sure to take your hexes into account. There should be no issues."

Master Zayla smiled at Liah's comment. She was also someone who cherished her sleep. "We will need you to be ready within the hour. They will be a carriage to take you all outside of Isunia and into the nearest village, but after that I'm afraid you'll have to go on foot."

"You will not be allowed to fly." Master Lyndel added. "You'll be too noticeable."

"If you do not want to be hexed then you may leave." Master Emmaline told Sidney. "The hex should not interfere with your fighting capabilities." She looked to Master Isac for confirmation.

Master Isac looked offended. "Must everyone question my abilities today? These kinds of hexes are my specialty. There will be no problems. If there are," He shrugged, "Deal with it. Now if there are no further questions I will explain how the hex works." This will be a binding hex. There will be several rules to follow. If any of the rules are broken, you will put under a paralysis spell that can only be broken if at least two other party members place a small drop of blood on the hex mark. These rules will apply even in death, which means should one of you die, you'll have to carry the body with you. I imagine that will be highly inconvenient, so don't die. The rules are as follows. 1. You must stay within 500 feet of your fellow party members. 2. You must stay within 50 feet of at least one party member. This will mean you will have to stay in pairs. 3. You cannot injure another member of the party and 4. You cannot teleport. If there are no further questions, step forward and I will cast the spell."

After Master Isac cast the spell, they were instructed to be prepared to leave within the hour. A carriage would be waiting for them at the city gates. Once they reached the city gates, they were to talk to the inn keeper to learn the exact location of the stone and get supplies. They were provided with nothing but a travelling clock (enchanted to keep the wearer warm in the cold and cool in the heat), water skins, and two tents.

"One more thing before you go," Master Emmaline told stopped them right before they left. "There will be one more student joining you later. Her name is Esperanza Ciervo. She will contact you through this scrying mirror. She handed the mirror to Finlay. That is all. We will be waiting for your return."
"It seems everyone is here First, apologies for calling you here so late." Master Emmaline said, "However, this is a matter of utmost importance. I am sure most, if not all of you have heard the rumors already. Mana's Heartstone has been found. As you are aware, this is an incredible powerful relic, and if it falls into the wrong hands, it could cause the continent to fall into chaos. Luckily, an Isunian contact has managed to get ahold of the stone already. Your mission is to go retrieve it, and then bring back here to Isunia, so it can be destroyed."

"Of course we can't trust all of you." Mirella looked at each them, her expression showing that she trusted none of them. "To ensure none of you betray us, Master Isac will be putting a Hex on all of you."

"Are there any questions? If not, then please step forward so Master Isac can cast the hex." Master Lyndel gestured to the front.

"I need to cast it on all of you at the same time." Master Isac said standing up, "So decide quickly if you're going to accept or not."

Emrin carefully looked around her. She had already guessed what the mission would be when she signed up for it, but she wasn't about to risk her life if she didn't think her party would be reliable. It was of course, reassuring to have Liah and Liam, whose skills she was familiar with. The other three though, were strangers to her. They seemed capable enough though, and she trusted the Masters' decision. "Other countries are bound to have already made their move to retrieve the stone. Do you know who and how many?"

"It seems Draesa has already dispatched a unit. They have most likely dispatched a team of elite mages." Sylvain told her. "However, their numbers will be small and we trust in your skills. We are unsure about Soria. Yoendra for now, has agreed to allow us to handle the matter. However you must still be careful bounty hunters and rogue mages."

Emrin took a moment to think it over. "I trust in your judgement Masters. I will accept the mission."
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