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December 29, 2020 in IC Archives
Vitri, with its three suns, has never been considered a temperate planet. It's volcanic desert of Sirrah even less. And yet, the goddess of fire chose here to create her favored people, allowing them to live at the foot of her grand volcano alongside the Ignium - lava and fire nymphs bound to her will that tend sacred sites of elemental power. Over the millennia her children grew into their own, earning the name Orc from their elven cousins. They have grown into a vast culture that spans the desert, protecting those who live there by sword and by trade. Among them, are tribes that live aback giant beasts of burden, herds that go well beyond the hundreds, roaming together with houses and shops built upon their backs. Whole families traveling together in houses passed down through generations.
One of the furthest border worlds between the ethereal and the physical planes, Vitri does not receive as many visitors from other worlds as others do, making it a much desired hiding spot for ne'er-do-wells. Unfortunately for them, the many gods and demigods of this world do not take kindly to those trying to disturb the balance. Those unfortunate enough to catch a god's misfavor will find themselves at the wrong end of a holy sword. And for those dumb enough to try and hide in the desert of Sirrah- well, let's just say the desert heat will be the least of their worries once an orc raiding party gets wind of them.
Among the border worlds, the worlds closest to Vitri are Nexxus- an interdimensional battleground for creatures with ambitions to control the multiverse- and Liadris- a home to selfish, cruel gods who care nothing for the misery their actions cause to anyone. Few creatures outside of the gods are granted the ability to create portals between these worlds. One such creature is a race of elves known as the Varish, created in the domain of Liadris. Their powers are both a curse and a blessing, as one god gave them the means to escape the wrath of another. Their misfortune follows them, though, centuries later. Their own physiology, as well as the retained curse of a jilted Sun God, make them easy targets for those who would use their power to create portals.
Demons, angels, and other beings that might be considered myth and legend in less magic-rich worlds inhabit Nexxus. The battles between natural enemies have died down, after nearly destroying the planet- but the peace is anything but easy. With neutral parties taking over the care and protection of large communities of interdimensional refugees- pulled in by the massive distortions in the planet's magic- demons have infiltrated these spaces, and adapted to them over the years. As their lives and goals have adapted, their ambitions and greed have remained the same. Wherever they went, crime and profiteering followed. Sin was celebrated- slowly driving the angels farther and farther away through their natural revulsion to evil.
So, when a lost Varish elf found himself wandering the streets of a strange city after stumbling through a portal- it was hardly a surprise that he found himself bound, blindfolded, and tossed into a dark cell. It was the beginning of months spent wearing himself to nothing in the service of his new masters. The routine was a welcome distraction, even if the treatment he received was rough- eat, sleep, open a portal, eat, sleep.... Aiden would never have put up with such treatment before he had left his home, but now....he had nothing left of his old life. This was good enough for him.
Today was loud. Orcs were rushing around all over the place, some gathering armor and others had weapons they were sharpening. Still more rushed through shouting to each other lists of supplies, arms already full of the very same they were calling out. Priests in bright reds and somber blacks echoed those carrying bandages, trying to rush a blessing on them to assist in healing those who would need it. Word had come from a scouting party that a portal had opened and spit out a group of slavers not too far from the current location the city had stopped. There were reports of humans with unknown beings, horrible noises that could make grown orcs cringe, and magical backlash warping plants nearest the water of the oasis.
And amongst it all, the nymphs were prepping the calves for a raid. It was a funny sight to see, really, such delicate waifish creatures as nymphs carrying the hulking armor the orcs had crafted for the younger Buq'harn. And Jinan would have laughed, had he not been assisting them. Compared to the other orcs who seemed to be donning plated armor or magic runes, Jinan seemed rather naked. With his whole midsection exposed, and a single bastard sword strapped to his back, no one would have guessed he was leading the war party. No one, including the strangers in the sand. And that was the goal.
He was to be the distraction, or the negotiator, whichever was needed. And give a signal for either an attack or a careful extraction, depending on the hostility of those involved. Why him he had no idea- but Nuri had almost insisted on it. The Ignian nymph who was guardian of the barracks-and subsequently the Great Buq'harn it was built on- had quite the influence in such things, and usually their suggestions resulted in grand successes. But this time Jinan was unsure. He was no negotiator, he couldn't say no to anyone! Goddess, what was that Nymph scheming this time?
It was dark by the time everyone was ready. Thirty orcs riding their great lava beasts set out into the desert, with Jinan at the lead on an unarmored beast. For cover, one of the mages that had accompanied them conjured a sandstorm, allowing the hulking beasts to hide in plain sight. As they neared the oasis, Jinan gave a signal and the war party split off from him.
Bursting out of the sandstorm atop his great rhino, he did his best to look as though he'd been trying to escape it, hacking and coughing and wiping his face as he neared the oasis. As he came upon one of the first tents, he slid down from his mount and gave a standard Vitrian salute, fist over heart. "Hail travelers! May I enter your camp, to escape the coming storm? and perhaps water my Buq'harn here at the oasis?" he asked, gesturing to the great horned creature who emitted lava glow below its riding gear.
His job had started, infiltrate the camp, identify the captives from the traders, and either coerce them free or get them separated before signaling the war party. He could only hope it would go smoothly.
Alpha huffed, his exhaustion clear as he kept an eye on Aiden's unconscious form. The elf was laid on a pallet next to a red-skinned pleasure slave, the imp also out of it. Vandal had been out since the crossing, with good reason. The elf was lucky that he was so valuable, that the caravan leader had not killed him for his defiance when Alpha had pulled him from the bloody water. They had lost slaves, animals, supplies- and the water was too sullied to create another portal. Because of their losses, Alpha and many of the other servants had been forced to do much more work in getting their camp set up. Even with the water sullied, it was easy enough to get water for their beasts, and cooking. He wasn't used to so much hard work, but they had too much work and not enough bodies. Set up the giant pavillions, lay out rugs, pillows and pallets, cook food, fetch water, water the beasts, set out furniture, make sure the slaves were in good condition- with some time for fooling around with some of them- and getting them all bound and guarded for the night.
He sighed, and leaned back on a pillow. Why had he saved the elf? Clearly, the little male was done with life, and done with the slavers. He couldn't say that he blamed him, though. A slave's life was hard enough if they were a worker, a fighter, or -perhaps- especially if they were a pleasure slave. Being the key to another world had to be incredibly draining for the creature, with not much returned before it had to happen again. He'd seen the masters doing scouting runs first. Hardly a day went by where they were not dragging the elf into the portal. Something about the elf's manner had struck him as odd, from the first time he'd seen it. The elf looked....defeated. As though this was his accepted lot in life. He'd looked that way from the beginning, and Alpha knew that most of their victims had some fight in them before they realized that no help was coming.
Something had to have happened to him before he was picked up. Something bad. The demon wasn't sure why, but his curiosity about the elf was growing- and he'd been weirdly attracted to the wet, lifeless body in his arms. It made no sense to him. Alpha didn't even like elves. He wasn't even sure what gender it was- he couldn't exactly ask them about it. The demon shook his head. He had to be tired, if he was thinking weird things like this.
He heard a voice outside of the pavillion, hailing the camp. Crap. Alpha sighed, and took a painfully long time rising before he opened the door to the tent, and looked out. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that the voice was hailing the camp in the direction of the Quartermaster's tent. Good, he wouldn't have to do any greeting- or fighting. It looked like they had been right to lash down for a sand storm, though. Something about this made him suspicious, though. What was a lone traveler doing here, with one of those giant beasts? Slipping back inside, Alpha looked down at his two charges. If they were attacked, these two would die. Alpha felt sick. None of them had asked for this, not even him.
Jinan had been brought into a tent that was full of bright color, and grandly decorated. Someone had taken his mount to water with the other animals they had, which was perfectly alright. As he settled onto one of the floor pillows, two people who looked like they could drop dead right then brought food and drink in. This, of course, made Jinan upset, and he hid his frown by taking one of the glasses of water they had brought. As he'd been settling, a muscular man with a full beard had been talking, rather- rambling. "We are so pleased to have you here, sir. While it's late and most of our people are exhausted from our traveling and setting up, we are more than grateful to host someone from this world. We are but simple traders, with fantastic merchandise to offer. Once you have had your fill of food and drink perhaps we could offer you a look at our wares?" he smiled, rubbing his hands together the way greedy salesmen do.
"Perhaps. What things do you trade in?" The orc drawled over his cup. He was doing his best to keep level headed, but knowing what he did and seeing the few people he had when he was brought into this tent had already made him angry. He could only hope the quartermaster would assume it to be frustration at the storm. "My clansmen are traders themselves, perhaps we might work out a deal. Depending on the merchandise you offer, of course." he added with a grin, setting the cup down. Yes, that would ensure he brought forth whomever they considered the best. Those who were favored tended to have leadership amongst the others captive.
"of course, sir! I cannot make promises for my master as he is asleep, and any arrangement like that would be approved by him. But! I most certainly can show you what our best goods are like!" he smiled, waving one of the people floating near the entrance to the tent over. "You. Bring this man our very best. of each. And I don't care if it means waking anyone," he ordered, watching the person rush off before settling down opposite Jinan at the little table.
So, the leader was asleep somewhere else. That made sense. Why do business yourself when you could have someone be the face for you? Such a shame, though. He would've loved to have words with the man in charge. "Is there a chance i may speak with your leader about such a deal at a later time?"
"perhaps. I will speak with him about it in the morning. For now, take a look at our wares. We offer only the finest specimens. Fighters, workers, and even pleasure slaves. Anything you might need, we have." the man grinned as a group of slaves were led inside, oblivious to the look he was given by Jinan before it was covered again by false curiosity.
"Hoi, Alpha- get your pale hide te th' Quartermaster, now. And bring the prettier o' those bits with ye." The rough voice outside made it clear that he had no more time to think, or finish what he'd begun. All he could hope was that he would be able to get through this sales pitch without being sold! The demon looked down at the imp on his pallet. Crap. He'd already slipped out, and hidden the elf among the rock outcropping that circled a good half of the camp- it had been easy enough, with the visitor's distraction. There was no way he could get out of here with Vandal, now. And sure as shit, the imp would end up sold, even in this state.
He sighed, and scooped up the tiny male. The imp was obviously suffering from under feeding, and his makeup was still a disaster from the crossing. Vandal's hair, though, shimmered and flickered like purple flames, with occasional flashes of rose. Alpha wasn't sure what it meant. He was heartened, though, to hear the male make a soft moan. Thank fuck, he was still alive. The demon gave him a quiet apology, as he carried him across to the Quartermaster's tent. He was more encouraged, and a little startled, when Vandal's arms came up to hold onto his shoulder. That was an incredible leap- or perhaps he'd healed more than he'd let on?
"Can you stand, little one?" A squeeze on his shoulder. Alpha smiled, a brief flicker, before his mask came back down. He had to be emotionless in front of the customers, after all. Perhaps there would still be a way to get them out of this, if only he had the time to figure it out! He stepped forward, ducking under the edge of the tent roof as the Quartermaster waved him inside impatiently. The man got right up next to Alpha to hiss in his ear. Alpha had to resist the urge to punch him.
"Is he still broken? I need the slut to dance, if we're going to get a decent price for him!" Much to the surprise of both of them, Vandal's hand came up, and lightly stroked the man's cheek- making him yelp in pain. "You little wh-" he started, before coughing with embarrassment, and backing away with a flourish. "Music!" A servant- one lovely creature with dead eyes- picked up a lute, and began playing obediently.
"Hold still as a post for me, my friend." Vandal's soft voice held an edge to it, even as he made the request. Curious, Alpha locked himself in place. As the music continued, he was very much tested on his ability to hold back his expression as Vandal performed a sultry, elegant dance- often using Alpha's body to arch against, climb up and sit on, spin around, and finally, landed bonelessly back in his original position, looking as if he was asleep again. Alpha had to admit, he was damned impressed.
Jinan passed the time until the slaves were brought before him with small talk and drinking tea, keeping himself occupied as he watched shadows rushing around outside the tents. And then suddenly there were persons being brought in. Whomever they were, one of them looked like a sack of potatoes being carried by the other. And it appeared the quartermaster was none too pleased by this as he hissed at them both.
As music sounded, Jinan found himself fascinated by the way the red skinned one- was he a nymph?- danced about, showing a talent that had truly enraptured the orc warrior. As he slumped to the ground, the orc was staring, mouth agape, and cheeks flushed. The quartermaster seemed to notice, a greedy grin on his face. "You see? Only the finest." he boasted, patting the orc on the shoulder and chuckling as he put a grip on him.
"The red one is certainly skilled. And what about the other? The one who was used as a prop?" The orc breathed, raising an eyebrow at the quartermaster as he pushed his hand off his shoulder. He wanted as little contact with the man as possible. Standing, he brushed himself off and stretched his arms above his head. "You don't mind if I get a closer look, do you?"
"Ah he's a fighter, certainly not someone you'd be- no i suppose it's alright if you get a closer look." The quarter master started, jumbling sentences as Jinan got up to inspect the persons brought before him.
Walking closer, the orc let out a low sigh and tugged a hand through his hair, thumb rolling along the charm set into his headband. Goddess give me the strength not to deck that man before the time is right. Circling the slaves that were being offered to him, he took his time to inspect them, making notes to himself. They looked tired. And the red one seemed like he was in need of some serious help, given how he had barely opened his eyes- still, if he was a nymph as he suspected, the fiery sheen in his hair was a good sign. But, they would be in no shape to truly help during the raid. Jinan leaned in close, offering a hushed apology as he patted him down, tucking a note into the man's belt. Hopefully, he could read common, and would understand that he had to get as many slaves to safety as he could.
He took his time checking the red one, brushing a gentle hand to his skin, and running fingers through his hair. Yes, he was alive, but he needed something. The orc just wasn't sure what that something was. But still, he was fascinated by this one. "You offer me your best, but your best appears broken. This dancer of yours won't open his eyes. He appears ill." The orc breathed, raising an eyebrow at the quartermaster as he turned. "I expect you'd give me a discount for offering me broken goods. He is clearly skilled, but the state you have offered him in is appalling."
He felt something strange, as the customer approached him. Alpha had seen plenty of this world's inhabitants before, as the Master had dragged him along for scouting missions, and couldn't remember seeing anyone so...he wasn't sure how to describe it. Normally, someone inspecting him so closely would make Alpha wary and annoyed. But the look the man was giving him was less....greedy? ...lustful? Alpha didn't see that in him. What he saw was concern. It was unusual, and if he'd been the focus of that gaze much longer, he might have blushed.
The soft, husky apology startled him, but not as much as the sudden touching. Alpha was hard pressed to keep his face stone still- he'd be damned if he gave the Quartermaster a show. He had to admit that it was hard, though. The man's hands were surprisingly warm, and the sudden scrape of parchment below his waist did make him blush slightly. Thankfully by then, the man was shifting his attention to Vandal, and the Quartermaster was staring at the imp as if willing him to wake up and do something for the customer. Alpha almost laughed out loud, because he'd done something. Acted the part of a fainting princess. While he was probably still in pain, his performance had been stunning. His body's starved, shaky condition was easy to spot, though.
Alpha felt that strangeness again, like a tug in his chest. This time, it gave him a needle-like pain as he realized that the man looked taken with the imp. It was natural, wasn't it? Vandal was small and beautiful- not a coarse, stiff, battered weapon like him. Even if he was talented and handsome....well....an elegant sword couldn't fit in a scabbard made for a knife, after all. The fuck was he thinking? Alpha berated himself for stupid, weird thoughts as the man gave the Quartermaster his opinion. He almost missed it, but when he told the man he should get a discount for broken goods, Alpha had to suppress a snort of laughter. The look on the old bear's face was beautiful, and Alpha would cherish the image forever.
"Kind sir, please....the poor things have had a rough journey, is all! We all have, really- but I digress. You are quite right." Alpha could see the man's gears spinning, and was sure which tactic he would use before the words left his mouth. He named a price that was four times what they would normally be sold for. "Now, I know that's a lot, and you are right- I feel terrible asking so much when they're in such sorry shape. For such a discerning eye as yours....I could do a quarter of that." Alpha gave the softest of snorts, hoping the man could hear it as close as he still was.
The orc gave a hum as he stared the man down, rolling the numbers in his head for a minute. He knew that was too much, and that the new price was probably the regular. It was a bartering tactic he'd seen his father use on rude customers who were known for haggling on his typically decent prices. But was the haggling really worth it right now? He let out a low sigh and narrowed his eyes on the man, which seemed to unnerve him. good. "I am in no mood to haggle, nor am I in a mood for cheap tricks every tradesman understands. I am tired from my ride through the sandstorm, however. So let us simply call it a deal that I may rest," he breathed, thumb toying with the charm in his hair once more.
This seemed to surprise the quarter master a bit, as he nodded vigorously and stammered for words. "Save it. I mean it when I say I'm exhausted. I'll not have excuses or more discussion over this." He sighed, pulling the purse off his hip. He knew the man had seen it, and had been eyeing it for a while. Opening it, he produced several large red and orange glowing stones and placed them in the quartermaster's hand. "Gold in the amount you asked is too hard to carry for travelers like myself. This world uses gems as a means of large monetary sums. You'll find those to be enough, and then some for allowing me to stay here through the storm." he breathed, walking back to scoop up the red one. Standing, he caught eyes with the fighter and worried briefly if he had overstepped a boundary with the man. He only hoped he could give an apology later. For now, he needed to check on the red one and see if there was any way he could help him.
"Now, I'm sure everyone is exhausted, so why don't we call it a night?" he smiled, looking down at the small male in his arms before back up at the quartermaster once more. "Is there somewhere private we may rest? Your hospitality and generosity through this storm will not go unnoticed, I assure you." he said, a little wickedness slipping past his façade. He was getting tired of playing with this man. He would be more than happy to put his sword through the man's gullet.
"Of course of course! We can partition off this section of the tent for you to uh, enjoy yourself," the quartermaster nodded, quickly getting two of the slaves to draw the fabrics of the tent for them. "Let us rest! And in the morning, I can introduce the master to you! I am certain he would like to hear about your offer for permanent trade relations then!" He smiled, clutching the gems he was given as he watched Jinan carry Vandal into the newly portioned off section of the tent.
Once he was alone with the small male, Jinan laid him tenderly upon the pillow pile they had left and pet his hair soft. "Are you alright, my dancing friend? I am Jinan. And these people will not be a blight upon you much longer." he whispered, sitting beside him stiffly. He still couldn't believe he'd managed to pull that off so well. Perhaps his dad was right about him having a trader's skills.
The Quartermaster took his prize, and hurried the slaves to prepare the tent for their customer. As they worked, he turned to Alpha with a smirk. The demon sighed inwardly. He'd avoided being sold for quite a while, but the demon was never one for making himself well liked. The Quartermaster had been insulted that Alpha frequently got asked to do work that was traditionally his. Alpha was of the opinion that the male was too much style, not a lot of substance. Now, though, he could be rid of the demon.
"Enjoy your new master, slave. Remember to give him whatever pleasures he wishes, even if it's not your usual skill at punching things." Alpha's eyes flashed dangerously, and the Quartermaster cleared his throat hurriedly. "Just don't embarrass Master Avarice." He left with a slight yip as Alpha feinted at him. Coward. When he and the rest were gone, he realized he was alone- and without orders. In the tent on the very edge of the open side of the camp. He could easily circle to the elf's hiding spot, and bring him back before anyone noticed. He started to move, and felt the crinkling at his waist. Alpha pulled out the note, and struggled to make out the words. It was no use- he couldn't read the language. Still, if this was a secret note from a stranger...there was only one reason that he could think of, but he would have to find a way to confirm that.
Vandal's eyes fluttered open at the soft touch, the lantern light catching the brilliant purple as he looked up at the man. He looked shocked for a moment, at the words- was...was this man planning to rescue him? Reading his body language, and the feel of his energy...that was it, exactly. Vandal sat up with an excited face, grabbed the man's face, and kissed his cheek with soft lips. With a shimmer of magic that looked like heat rising from the desert, Vandal's 'disguise' melted. He looked much healthier, and more muscular than he had a moment ago.
"Finally! You have backup, don't you? Thank fuck, I thought I was actually going to have to make another escape. " He crawled to the curtain, opening it enough to hiss at the larger demon. "Alpha! C'mere! We gotta hurry- I think we're going to have company soon." He waved him in impatiently. "Right, you don't know what the hell I'm talkin' about-" He grabbed the necklace around Alpha's neck, and yanked it off. It set off another spell, and Alpha felt a wave of nausea. He dropped to his knees next to Vandal- right...this was Vandal- his Captain...
The demon's appearance shifted shifted, as his memories flooded back. Right- they had blocked them, to make it easier to pass Avarice's tests and get into his slave ring. He gasped for breath- the chest piece he'd been wearing was too tight, now, for the added muscle. Vandal winced, and helped him loosen it. As the smaller demon's nimble fingers worked on it, Alpha's hair grew long and pale. When he looked up again, he seemed....more elegant, and confident.
"The next time we decide that was a good idea, let's remember that it is not." Even his voice was just a bit smoother.
Jinan was relieved to be alone, and was trying to relax his muscles so he could prepare for a fight. Gods he hated men like that knobhead! He'd be more than happy to shove his sword into the man here in a bit. He just had to give it a few minutes before he set off the signal for the others. He was so focused on trying to get himself into fight mode, he didn't notice the smaller male moving at first. And then he was pulled in and- and kissed on the cheek! He stared in wonder as the red one spoke, suddenly much more lively than he had been moments before! What-? And then he was pulling the other back into the tent, and both were changing forms. "I'm.... confused.... what? what's going on?" he asked, shaking his head as he tried to understand what he was watching. "I- yes, there is backup. The storm- it's not actually a storm. I jus- hold on. Who are you two?" he breathed, fingers twitching as he fought to reach for his blade. The sudden shift in looks and behavior was confusing him, making him more than a little paranoid.
His mind was swimming, palms getting sweatier. This wasn't part of the plan! They weren't supposed to- what were they even doing here if they weren't actually slaves? "No. nuh-uh. Doesn't matter right now. I've gotta focus," he breathed, slapping his cheeks to get him to calm down. "I've got to set off the signal flare and let my party know when everyone's asleep," he mumbled, mostly reminding himself what his mission was. It was hard to remember when the two he thought he'd already saved turned out to be not-slaves after all! He looked back at them, reevaluating them now that they'd changed. They might be able to help more than he'd thought.
"If you're able, I could use any help you are willing to offer." he breathed, going to his pack that had been brought with off his mount. Right. His mount. He'd have to get Sevvi back. But that could happen later, too. "I had hoped you'd be able to get more slaves out of here for me, before the raid comes through. But I don't think that'll be an option now. So hopefully the blockheads I ride with will be able to tell people apart. Shouldn't be too hard, even for them. These slavers separate themselves in looks and living quarters from those they're selling fairly obviously." he sighed, fingers coming up to the charm in his hair once more. "Goddess protect me, and let my blade strike true tonight. "
"I'm getting too old for this shit," Alpha growled. He tapped Vandal, and pointed out to the stone outcropping. "Our elf friend is there. Go get as many of the others moved as you can. Shadow shift- if the guards spot you running around, it would be weird. If they spot me right now- I don't want Avarice taking a fancy to me." Vandal smirked at him. "Yeah, yeah, you know. Fuck off already." Vandal gave him a mocking salute- and dropped through Alpha's shadow like it was a hole in the ground. Alpha stood stock still for several moments, before turning to the stranger. He took note of the rather panicked expression, and held up his empty hands. He kept his voice low so it wouldn't carry beyond the canvas.
"Give us just a few more minutes, and Vandal will have most of the slaves out of the way. We cannot do much for the pets- Some of the bastards have some personal favorites that they do 'quality testing' with at night. There is no real way to get them out of the way. How long before your people come? Minutes?" He could already feel a vague rumble in the ground. It wasn't something that most of the people here could sense, but Alpha had hyperawareness. "We're here to rescue one of our own. He was taken, and sold as a pleasure slave before we could reach him. Can we count on your help to get him back?"
Jinan watched curiously as the red one- they'd called him Vandal right? - disappeared into the shadow of the other one. It was rare to see someone with gifts in more than one element here. Most who could do that had to have special gems and objects in order to make it work. Blinking back to reality as Alpha - that was his name, right?- spoke to him, he swallowed and nodded. "Right, yes. Once my signal goes off it'll be just a couple of minutes before this place is swarming with orcs. And as long as they are able to tell the poor souls from their captors, things should be alright." he sighed, tugging a hand through his hair once more as he tried to keep level headed.
"I can certainly try. And if not, I can put you in contact with others who may be of more help. I'm only leading this mission because Nuri insisted," he shrugged, pulling the fabric of the tent open just a smidge so he could peek out. Anyone who didn't know what they were seeing would assume the lights in the sand to be other people stopped, or perhaps a city in the distance. To him, it was a sign that his men were just about ready to charge. "Hopefully Vandal will be done soon, I can tell my men are ready," he sighed, pulling the sword off his back and tugging a dagger out of his boot. "Do you need a weapon?" he asked, holding the dagger out for Alpha. He'd been called a fighter before, when he was slimmer. He could only imagine how skilled he really was.
Alpha looked down at the dagger, and took it with an amused smile. He didn't normally use weapons, but something about the gesture from the flustered male felt...almost sweet. It was an odd feeling to the demon. He nodded in response to his words, before tucking the dagger awkwardly in his belt. He adjusted the gloves on his hands, feeling the weight of small metal disks over his knuckles. The sharpened edges poked out of the leather, gleaming under the lantern light.
"Vandal will be back in moments. I will feel it as soon as he is ready to return. " He heard a sound, and held out a hand in a stay motion. Alpha tilted his head. He was right, there was a popping sound. The demon stood stock still as he felt the magic take hold of him, touching, seeking- and then Vandal tumbled out of the shadow, coughing and smoking. "What in the f-"
"Go now! We have to get started before the rest of camp notices the fire." Alpha sighed. Every. Damned. Time. Vandal scowled. "It wasn't my fault! One of the others tripped over a lantern, and it fell into a crate!" Alpha swore creatively, and pushed them both out of the tent on the side outside of the camp.
"Come on, then, get a move on!"
Jinan smiled at Alpha as he took the dagger, taking the time to admire the gloves when he adjusted them. Those were interesting. He'd ask later, though. He wanted to learn more about these two, when they weren't about to face a horde of morons. He gave a short nod, grabbing his bag to get ready. And then suddenly there was smoke, and Vandal was back. "What ju-" he started, only to jump as Alpha and Vandal both urged him to hurry up. Right, yes!
"well, luckily, fire was exactly what i needed." He hummed, pulling a cylindrical object out of his bag. "A little more fire won't seem so out of place now, so that works." he chuckled, lighting a match and then using that to ignite the cylinder. Chucking it into the tent next to them, it caught in a deep crimson that shaped into a gorgeous apothecary rose. The next second, the sandstorm that had been raging seemed to still, and Jinan let out a shrill whistle. Thundering steps sounded from three sides of the camp as Orcs atop great beasts came charging down into the camp, his own mount rushing over to his side. He turned to the two that had been helping him, and smirked. "Sevvi here is going to help us get more of the slaves out. That's our priority. The others will take care of taking down as many of the slavers as they can. Oh, and if you're not fire proof, stay away from her joints. She's a buq'harn with a lava core, and it leaks out at her joints. The rest of her skin is fine, comfortably warm. Even humans can touch them. If you see a blue glow, those are water Buq'harn, they're less common." The beast was at least ten feet tall, and verging on six feet wide, probably twelve feet long. She had warm maroon eyes that seemed soft, and young. But the armor covering her face and shoulders would make her easier to spot once the others got into the camp. Everyone else would have metal armor, and hers was leather.
"Now, you said there were favorites? How many and are any close? If we can get them separated from the slavers, we can save some time for the others who will want to trample the slavers or burn them in the lava." He breathed, swinging the sword as he spotted the first round of Buq'harn riders charging in. He seemed much calmer now that things had been set in motion. He was holding himself like a trained soldier now, ready to leap in if needed. It was as if the nerves he'd had were finally gone- and they were. He no longer had to do much of anything except swing his sword and help people on top of Sevvi's back.
"Aww, what a beauty!" Vandal laughed, as he moved up around her shoulder and gave her a friendly pat. "I'm with you, I think- Alpha, can you lead the others out from the rocks?" Alpha nodded, and gave a short salute before he turned in the direction of the hidden slaves- coming face-to-face with one of the sentries who had seen the smoke. He dodged a wicked slice of a scimitar by dropping down, and kicking up. The hulking male- for a human- made an unintelligible noise as he was lifted off the ground a good foot, and landed in a crumpled heap behind Alpha. The demon flipped back up, and continued on as if he hadn't just ended the male's entire line in one kick. Vandal snickered, and pointed over his shoulder.
"This way, then. " The small imp took off like a shot, expecting the orc to keep up. He took the direct route, through the flaming tent to the other side. At this point, the entire camp was in chaos, and it didn't matter who saw what. Another guard saw him, and took a swing. Vandal laughed with what sounded like psychotic glee as he made a gymnastic move that put him over the sword- wrapped his thighs around the male's head and continued momentum swung him around to snap the guard's neck. He rolled away as the guard fell, and continued his run into the camp.
Sevvi let out what seemed like a happy sound- somewhere between a horse's bray and the grunt of an earthly rhino- as Vandal pat her side, her big horned snout coming over to give him a warm lick, magma dribbling along his side. When he started off down the row, she was keen to follow him. To her, he was just as warm and nice as the ignium nymphs who cared for her! She didn't have her own nymph yet, as she was not big enough for one to have been born from her magma. But she was happy to call him her nymph for now!
Jinan couldn't help but stop to admire Alpha's quick take down of the poor human, staring for a second before Vandal's voice in his ears caught up with his brain. Turning, he started after vandal, only to find himself just as in awe of the other. Grabbing Sevvi's reins, he pulled her to a stop so Vandal had space to move around. He chuckled at how eager she was to follow him. "She must like you! Most of the babies won't follow any but their trainer and their rider." He called, sword coming up to block a swing from yet another trying to stop them. Using the sword to hold the man in place, he almost seemed to dance as his legs went out from under him to knock the man to the ground, his arm coming up to support him. Standing upright, he continued on with Sevvi close on his heels.
Around them, the buq'harn that swarmed in were twice the size of Sevvi, and orcs were dropping down off of them with blades and fists ready. Magic casters were staying above, where they had a better view of who was friend and who was foe. People made of magma and coal, fire and smoke seemed to be among those staying atop the beasts, too, although some were swinging off the sides to burn those around them that were not allies.
One of the large beasts still on the edge spotted Alpha running off, and came forwards. "Are you with Jinan?" the rider shouted, spotting Jinan's dagger on his side. "If you are with us, we are here to carry refugees. We have healers with us as well, if any need them," she called, the beast's blue eyes staring into Alpha's very being.
Vandal took no notice of the magma, until it began to cool, and he moved to brush it off as another slaver approached him. With a bloodthirsty grin, he grabbed a handful of the molten rock, and slung it at the bastard, delighting in his pained scream. He stopped long enough to brush the rest off, before angling for the tent where the rest of the favorites were kept. With luck, they'd been left as their masters either fought, or ran to save their own skins. When he reached the tent, he gave a snarl of rage- they'd set the tent on fire, intent on not letting the rescuers have their toys. Vandal dodged between fighters, stopping long enough to give one a hearty shove onto his opponent's blade, and dove into the tent. The fire brushed his skin like a dear lover, making him smile.
The slaves huddled in the center coughed and cried out from beneath a soaked blanket- good, someone with brains was here! Vandal walked to the other side of the tent, and 'kissed' the fire. It seemed to burn calmer, and slowed, before Vandal whispered his request. The fire parted wide, and Vandal moved back to grab an arm. He barked an order for them to move, and pulled and shoved until they were all out. He waved at Jinan as he approached with his cute beastie.
"Here, get them out of here!"
Alpha nodded, and pointed to the rock wall, where a large group of slaves were huddled in the shadows. "There. Come out, all of you- your ride to freedom is here!" He grinned as some of the younger slaves actually squealed with joy. The others looked at each other nervously. One of them shrugged, and led the rest of them out. It was better than staying, certainly. One of the smaller slaves- a pretty purple haired elf woman- looked up at him, worried.
"What about him?" She pointed, to where Aiden was laid, still unconscious. He was pale, and seemed to be having trouble breathing. Alpha ran to him, and picked him up carefully. He swore softly. He was doing worse, not better. He turned, and waved to catch the rider's attention.
"This one will definitely need that healer!"
Vandal was not the only one to growl in rage at seeing the tent ablaze, Jinan was seeing red as he fought the urge to follow Vandal inside. He would have, if not for the fact he had to get Sevvi ready. Pulling the second saddle blanket out to accommodate more riders, he quickly got that strapped down, greatful to the sweet beast as a jet of magma shot out and burned a potential attacker. Once the blankets had been secured, he shifted his attention and started assisting the slaves onto her back. A few orcs had managed to make it to them, and were providing cover as he did so. "She's a baby, and quite docile. She won't hurt you because she knows you're friends. Stay away from her joints, unless you're fire proof." he repeated, continuing to help them all atop her. Once the last one was on, he sighed and smiled at htem all. "Hold on tight to one another. She runs fast." he warned, before turning to look Sevvi in one large warm eye. "Sevvi, find mommy!" with that simple command, the baby was off running out of the camp and along the rim of orcs and buq'harn still cycling through in waves. Every time a buq'harn passed she gave a tiny toot, and got a low grunt in response.
Turning to Vandal, Jinan swung his sword up over his shoulder. "We'd better start gathering another group for when she returns. Where to next, oh flaming one?" he hummed, swinging his sword out to stab one of the slavers that had been missed by his sword brothers.
As slaves started coming out of hiding, two more beasts that glowed blue came up, and orcs from all three dropped down, rope ladders dropping behidn them as they began helping people onto the animals backs. At the call for a healer, the rider that had been talking to Alpha jumped down. She was smaller than Jinan, but curvy with a deep rust skintone. "Let me see what I can do. I am Kamaria, by the way," she smiled, pulling a pack off her back and plopping herself beside Aiden. After inspecting him carefully, she began pulling ingredients out of her bag, along with a mortar, pestle, and a bottle of water that shared the glow of her steed.
Hearing a tiny tooting sound coming closer, she looked up and frowned. "Clear the way! Here comes Sevvi! Seran! svin in doch sevvi!" she called, the orcs clearing slaves from her mount as the large beast moved forwards to greet the baby. Once Sevvi had been stopped, a few more orcs rushed forwards to help the refugees down, reassuring those atop that the bigger beasts were far more gentle than the excitable baby. She just thought this was a game, and that she would get a treat.
Vandal looked around, and noted that most of the camp was in ruins. His head whipped around as he heard a pained scream. He turned to Jinan, and held up his hands.
"Stay right where you are, and no matter what happens in the next five minutes- do NOT move!" Vandal paused long enough to be sure Jinan had gotten the message, and his magic locked Jinan's shadow 'open'. He was closer than any of the tents, and his shadow wasn't as fluid in the wind that cut through the camp.
Vandal darted forward, and leapt through it- to slide down the strange shadow path that only he could traverse. The twisting, flowing energy connected to another shadow that seemed to flicker just slightly- the tent around it was in flames. That had to be it. Cutting through the other shadow, he came up, and found a young pleasure slave- his skin was getting redder, and he coughed hard in the smoky tent. Vandal wrapped a surprisingly strong arm around his waist. The young one was only slightly bigger than him, and Vandal lifted him easily.
"Keep hold of me until I say, and keep those eyes shut!" The young male nodded, with a soft whimper of pain, before Vandal darted back through the shadow. When he came back up, he was grateful that Jinan was in the same place he'd left him. Most of the slavers were dealt with already, and only a small number of them seemed to have escaped. Vandal knew that Avarice was already gone. The demon was slippery as an eel. Pulling the youth out into the moonlight, Vandal put a hand on his cheek, and whispered a spell. It was something he usually kept to himself, but...the boy was too pretty to let Avarice destroy him like that. His amethyst eyes glowed softly. The boy gasped, and gave a soft moan- but he was good. He hadn't been told to open his eyes yet. When Vandal moved his hand, the dark red and slightly warped skin was smooth and pale again. "There, now. You'll be alright. We're getting you out of here.
"Kamaria, thank you- That elf is the one who opened the portal here. He tried to drown himself- did drown a number of the slavers, as the portal was open at the time. Can you help him?"
Jinan did as he was told, but it was hard to do as fire continued to eat around them, swords clanging nearby didn't help him any either. Harder still, was remaining still as he felt a sword slash across his back, cutting deep before one of his brothers managed to get them away. Once Vandal had returned, with another slave no less, he fell to his knees and hissed. Punching the ground he swore loudly and looked up at Vandal. "We need to move. Do you think you can burn this shut?" he asked, shifting for the man to see the gash across his back. It wasn't deep enough for any real damage, but between the sand and the ride home, he didn't want to have an open cut. He really didn't want Kamaria getting her hands on it either. His sister was cruel.
One of the others spotted him on the ground, and there was a shout in another tongue of "Man down!" before they had a wall of orcs around them, some of whom took their time to put out the encroaching fires.
"I can, but it will not be pleasant for him." she sighed, leaning down to listen to his breathing. There was water in his lungs, first and foremost. "Ah'ni, I need your help!" she called, and suddenly there was a person beside her whos skin was white as ice, though air bubbles appeared to shift with in them as they moved.
"What has happened?"
"Attempted drowning. He has water in his lungs, could you please?" Kamaria asked softly, smiling as the nymph reached down to kiss Aiden softly, pulling the water out of his lungs and only his lungs. "Thank you, Ah'ni." Kamaria smiled as the nymph bowed low and returned to Seran, who was nuzzling the baby beast and playing with her while they waited for more commands from their trainer. Now that that was dealt with, the real work could begin. She began grinding herbs in her mortar, working quickly and expertly before putting them into the bottle with the glowing water. Looking up at Alpha she paused. "Hold him up and get him to drink this, please. All of it, if possible. More than half is best. I'll need both hands for this next part." she sighed, grabbing the elf's hands and focusing on transferring energy into him from herself. As she did so, she paused and opened her eyes, staring once more. "Wait, no. let me see that a moment." Taking back the bottle, she did the unthinkable, taking Alpha's dagger and slicing her wrist open. Mixing that in with the rest, she passed it back and took his hands again. "Okay. That should work better. I didn't expect to find a Varish here. They're very rare outside of the cities."
"Here, take him- you can open your eyes now, darling- good boy. Go with them, they're taking you somewhere safe." The boy's eyes widened at the sight of Vandal, but he obeyed him readily. Once the boy was out of his arms, Vandal turned to Jinan, and set his hand on the shallow cut. With another whisper of the same spell, the flesh knit back together with only a sting of excited nerves. Once that was done, Vandal gave Jinan an exasperated sigh, before jerking his head. "Come on, then. There's not much left to do but mop up." He looked around, his pointed ears twitching and flicking as he sorted out various calls in the camp. His eyes glowed a brighter purple as he stepped on a shadow, and extended his senses across the solid shadows of the area. The moving shadows made it difficult, but he did not see any more slaves needing rescued- and most of the slavers had either been dispatched, or got away. He held up a hand, and with a shout in a strange, song-like language- every flame in camp died out.
Aiden coughed, his lungs protesting to the water moving out of his lungs. Alpha lifted him up as the elf wheezed, concerned that he still didn't seem awake yet. He took back the bloodied medicine, looking slightly askance at the healer. Blood for an elf? That was something new for him, but then- he'd never heard of a 'Varish', either. He lifted the elf up, and set the bottle next to him long enough to brush his long, silky lavender hair away from his face. If the situation had been less dire, he might have chuckled at the realization that he had freckles. Alpha picked up the bottle, and began to tip the medicine into his mouth. As soon as the liquid touched his lips, Aiden awoke with a start. He wasn't aware- his eyes looked devoid of life, if Alpha was honest- but he drank eagerly. Soon enough, the entire bottle was gone.
He whimpered when the bottle was gone, but laid back to rest his head against Alpha's chest. He was already breathing better, and his skin looked less pale. Alpha bit his lip as he felt a sudden strong urge, looking at the vulnerable elf. Oh. Oh no. This was a feeling he had come to recognize, but usually it was with one of the elves from the school in Nexus. What were they called, again? Fuck, it was hard to think when his brain was focused on how soft Aiden's hair and skin felt, or the scent of some kind of flower. He couldn't tell what flower, but it was so nice.
"Nnnhh....Var-Varish, was it? They're...not related to Star elves, are they? What're they....Eishan! That was it. Not related to Eishan, are they?" If they were, he needed to leave Aiden in the hands of someone who was not a powerful demon. The unnatural attraction of his species to theirs was quite literally a curse. If he couldn't leave soon, he would end up doing things he greatly regretted. "Please...you have to find someone else to take him-" Alpha's face was flushed, and he looked as though he was in pain.