Vandross could barely contain the rage that boiled deep inside of him. Though he always believed himself to be a man of patience, the events that unfolded here in the amber sands of Summe have begun to push him to his very limits. Even if Vandross was not fully aware of the details regarding the presence of Alucita and Sunaj, both tremendously skilled Febhed huntsmen, he understood clearly that the two were a threat which were best not underestimated. The green dragon which Vandross was chasing after had disappeared, but Vandross somehow had a feeling that the huntsmen were involved.
The words of the Faith were long a source of strength for the Dragonrider. Vandross would mentally recite the long passages speaking of the Hierophant's encounters and of the discoveries of each intonation and harmony during times of trial and adversity. From them, he would feel an affirmation of self and duty which would empower him and imbue into him a sense of purpose and focus.
None of these passages, however, would seem to offer the sanctuary he desired tonight. Not with his Onus Bonded dragon,Nicodemus, lying beside him lifeless and weak. While his eyes quickly moved over his saffron dragon's immobile form, searching for visible wounds or grievous injuries, Vandross searched within his heart for the telltale presence of the bond itself. Nicodemus and Vandross, through the Onus Bond, shared a single life force. It was not that Vandross feared for his own life to be in danger. Instead, it was that Vandross hoped to still sense Nicodemus' presence within him, and if too weak, share his own strength and health to the unmoving wyrm. Just seconds ago, Nicodemus still showed signs of life. The dragon flexed its body weakly as Vandross reached it and called out its name. But now, in the precious seconds that have passed, the dragon had become less and less responsive to Vandross' words.
"Damn you," Vandross spat between clenched teeth and raised an accussing finger towards the woman in the tricorn hat. Alucita remained where she had stood still, one hand still held towards her face. The line of blood which she had wiped from her cheek was still fresh. Her eyes shifted from her bloodied hand to focus upon Vandross' accusatory glare. "What did you do to it? What did you do to Nicodemus?"
Alucita wanted to answer, but she herself was uncertain. She had invoked the anguished tunes of Vitaesis. But she knew the Harmony she had invoked was merely meant to paralyze. To stun. The saffron dragon's state of being was not the supposed result.
"ANSWER ME!" Vandross flicked a hand towards the empty space right of his head. The ivory bow launched back into motion, clickity clacking into place into a bow. Vandross kept his other hand wrapped around Nicodemus' neck. To most observers, laughter would probably be an impulsive reaction; one does not really look threatening when one holds a bow in one hand and no second hand notches an arrow.
Sunaj turned his attentions towards the distance beyond the copse of trees where the sounds of a faint waterfall could be heard. He knew the emerald dragon was still there, perhaps done bathing itself. While the archer's net had snared him, Sunaj was not skilled in the ways of the Dragon Song, but understood enough to identify the artifacts of the Faith. This was one of the strange manipulations a Dragon and his rider could manifest as attacks which was mimicked by devices known as dissonance nets. The web of fibers transformed movement and energy into vibrations that sang an almost imperceptible harmony of a particular Dragon song. In this case, it was a minor manifestation of Vitaesis. Far weaker than the one used against the saffron dragon.
"I SAID-" Vandross was about to snarl again when a whirling sound grew louder and louder, rushing towards him from the very darkness of the woods. Turning to see what it was, and perhaps dodge out of the way in time, Vandross saw the spinning blur of silver come into view in a narrowing arc straight towards his neck. He inhaled, intent to whistle a minute wall of air to parry the weapon, but the echoblade was made to face exactly that manner of foes. As Vandross intoned for the air to defend him, the echoblade mimicked the very notes and dismissed the command.
Steel slashed against Vandross' throat, easily leaving a narrow line of growing blood across the dragonrider's neck. Vandross dropped the bow and cupped a hand over his throat, watching as the weapon now hurled towards the female huntsman. Alucita deftly reached out to catch the spinning blade, her many years of using the weapon revealed as she plucked it from the air and slowed its spinning gradually by shifting her fingers rapidly across the safe holes on the weapon's surface like a flutist playing a decelerating series of notes. Blood seemed between Vandross' closed hand, dripping down the back of his palm like a growing stream.
"Now perhaps we can be a bit more civil in this," Alucita halted the echoblade now, holding the curved weapon in front of her face. She had the bloodied tip pointing upwards towards the bleeding scar on her cheek, as if to emphasize her point, "Now that we are even."
"You.." Vandross snarled, but the act of speaking caused a tiny spray of crimson mist to erupt from his throat. Nicodemus still remained unmoving.
"I can tend to your wound," Alucita brought her weapon down, then tucked it against her belt. She calmly walked towards Vandross, openly showing her hands were empty. Not that the gesture reassured Vandross in any way. Anyone capable of the Dragon's Song was dangerous so long as they could speak, snap their fingers, or otherwise make any sounds. "But you must promise me to lay your weapon down. Free my fellow huntsman and I will even help you figure out what has happened to your dragon."
"First?" Alucita smiled, "Well of course. How else would we have had the fun of a safe conflict?"
Vandross stared at her with widening eyes. Was this woman mad? Safe conflict? Here he stood, bleeding from a busted lip and a slashed throat. His body was sore and bruised from the blows delivered by Sunaj. And his dragon...
Nicodemus still did not move.
Vandross found it. A passage that helped him focus. The First Hierophant, it is written, was once faced with a simple dilemma. A wicked spirit attempted to tempt him, rising from the shadows to distract him from the grand coda he sung to reshape the world. "With all the world's ills," the spirit slyly asked, "How does one man expect to truly make a difference?" His response was written to be, "Focus first on what lies before you, and if many, on what may not lie before you for long."
"Help.. him," Vandross closed his eyes. The huntswoman nodded and clapped both hands together. She then held her palms slightly away from each other while her finger tips maintained contact with each other. She placed her lips between her palms then, and blew against her hands. Vandross felt his injuries slowly become enveloped in a strange comforting warmth. As he felt his very skin begin to knit back together, a sensation not unlike that of feeling ticklish tendrils running gently over the wound, Vandross snapped his fingers and then slid thumb and forefinger back against each other in the opposite way. The resultant sound, minute as it was, commanded the fibers restraining Sunaj to unfurl.
Sunaj walked up to Alucita's side and massaged his arms as he spoke. "And those worms just regrow them hairs daily? It's no wonder that the Faith is very possessive of them then."
"Nicodemus," Vandross asked, although in his tension the words came out more like a command. Alucita nodded, took a deeper breath, then blowed through her hands again. She narrowed the gap between her palms and closed her eyes. The saffron dragon moved, its body shifting in position as the hunstman continued the song. Vandross moved quickly, bounding to its side and cupping an arm around its head once more.
"Can you hear me? Nicodemus? Can you hear me?"
The dragon gave a weak growl.
"It is not working!" Vandross cried out.
"It should have!" Alucita retorted, ending her song. She hurriedly dropped to her knees beside Vandross and reached for the dragon. Vandross felt a momentary urge to shove her backwards, fearing she'd make things worse, but this close to him, he saw the concern that was truly in her eyes. She cupped her hands together again, leaning towards the dragon's forehead, then blew between her fingers. This close, Vandross heard her intoning the Vitaesis and realized the song she was using was the same song the Hierophant would invoke during the mass healing hymns the Faith would celebrate during the festivals. "The song should work! The injuries were only meant to stun it!"
She turned to look at Vandross and saw him nodding in response. "I believe you." Deep down, Vandross believed she was telling the truth.
"Then what's wrong with it? This was supposed to be a safe conflict, Alucita. The treaty does stand. What's the point of claiming this was a safe conflict for us to merely test each other's skills if you can't heal all the wounds afterwards?" Sunaj kicked at the ground in frustration.
A rustle in the leaves drew the attention of all three towards the edge where the copse of trees stood. Coming into view, with a glowing orb of Maya illuminating her presence, was the human guise of the emerald dragon. Mesin looked worried and her eyes were focused on Vandross alone.
"I'm what's wrong with it. Nicodemus is unwell because of me."