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Fumon hideout, Chi Kingdom, Sarasaland, the day before Halloween...

“I can’t believe I’m late again!” said the Fumon rookie, running flat out through the maze of tunnels. “Why am I always the last one to know about these meetings?”

He turned a corner and stopped, staring down an old dead end tunnel in annoyance. It was another wrong turn, and long disused, judging by all the cobwebs. But just as he was about to turn back, something caught his eyes. The wall had a strange outline in it, and looking closer, he saw that it was actually an archway that had been sealed up and painted to match the rest of the wall. Hoping it might be a shortcut, he rushed the blockage- not the smartest thing to do, but he was in a hurry -and crashed straight through the crumbling stone and mortar! Unfortunately, his headlong flight didn’t end on the floor on the other side of the archway, but instead sent him tumbling down a spiral of stone stairs. He was unconscious by the time he reached the floor at the bottom.

If only he’d noticed the warning carved into the archway:

DANGER

Do Not Enter

A few minutes later, the Fumon woke, sore and bruised, but not badly hurt. The first thing he noticed was darkness, the only source of light coming from the top of the stairs behind him. There was enough light for his night vision to function, however, and it revealed a huge underground chamber. The floor was dirt, but the walls and ceiling were rock. Tombstones and other grave markers covered the floor, and the walls were lined with niches holding coffins- each heavily chained and padlocked. Curved around the room at the top and bases of the walls were strange runes that the Fumon couldn’t read. As he stared at them, he noticed that they glowed faintly, but the glow was growing steadily dimmer. A few moments more, and it extinguished altogether.

“Huh... Since when do we have a graveyard?” Part of him was curious about just who was buried here, and why it had been sealed up, but the rest of the rookie’s mind was more focused on how creepy the place was, and how quickly he could get back to the other Fumon. He hurried back up the stairs, pausing only to see what damage he’d done to the wall. He briefly considered telling someone so they could fix it, but getting back to the comfort of more familiar hallways reminded him of how late he was for the meeting. He set off again at top speed, the mysterious tomb completely driven out of his head.
Meanwhile, back in the burial chamber, the earth stirred among the tombstones...

28 hours later...

The Fumon rookie could never remember running so fast in his life. He could only hope to reach shelter soon, and that the thing chasing him had been left far behind.

Funny, any other time he would have loathed going to Gaijin's home, let alone considered it safe... but this time there was no other choice.

He kept running, not daring to look back.

Meanwhile, back in their burrow after a long day of patrols, Gaijin and Aki were getting ready for the holiday. "So, are we doing the party this year, or trick-or-treating?" Asked Gaijin, carving out a jack-o-lantern.

Aki, who was hanging streamers and fake cobwebs, answered, "I was hoping we could do both this year. You know, take everybody out and then come back for the party."

"Hmm…" Said Gaijin, thinking. "I guess we could. If the Fumon aren't acting up again. You remember what happened last year."

Aki winced, not wanting to remember that fiasco. It had taken them weeks to clear all the toilet paper and silly string out of the burrow, and the pagoda- and the rest of their friends' homes.

A loud thud from outside caught their attention, followed by frantic knocking on the entrance pipe. Gaijin set down his carving knife, about to go answer, when the sound suddenly broke off. There was silence for a heartbeat, then a high pitched scream, and something black fell out of the pipe, landing hard on the floor.

Gaijin drew his sword, fearing it might be another one of those killer j-pop robots. They'd had a hard enough time getting rid of the last one. Looking closer, however, he saw that it was a Fumon. Raising his Pixel Cutter, he readied to strike the creature down, banishing it back to where ever they respawned. The Devil Slicer was in the other room, otherwise he could've simply imprisoned the Fumon in its blade.

The Fumon suddenly seemed to notice him. He cowered before the mighty warrior, eyes wide in terror. "Mercy!" He said, throwing himself flat at Gaijin's feet. "Mercy! Help me!"

Gaijin stayed his sword, confused. This wasn't normal Fumon behavior. But he had no time to think on that as Aki called, "Gaijin! Duck!"

He did, just in time to dodge her bo-staff being thrown over his head like a spear- and impaling a ghoulish monster that had just come out of the pipe! Wasting no time, he leapt over the still prone Fumon to battle. Aki's staff hadn't killed the thing, only knocked it backwards into the wall. A quick slash from the Pixel Cutter, and the thing's head was clean off. It fell to the floor in a rotting heap, then vanished in a puff of smoke and one hundred points.

Gaijin turned back to the Fumon, frowning as he wiped his blade clean and retrieved Aki’s staff. "That had better not be what I think it was." He said, gesturing to the spot where the corpse had been.

The Fumon rookie chuckled weakly, getting to his feet. "Eh, funny story, actually…"

"Start talking." Said Aki, brandishing her chain-sword.

"Ok! Ok!" Said the Fumon, backing onto the couch, and looking very much like he was regretting this visit. "Just... keep her away from me... Please..." He shuddered, remembering the the last time he’d faced Aki in the summer and had ended up as a frozen lawn ornament.

Several minutes later…

"You did WHAT?!"

If goombas could facepalm, Gaijin would have. He could already feel his eye starting to twitch. Trying to control himself, he said to the Fumon, "Do you have even the SLIGHTEST idea of what you've unleashed?"

“Uh... something bad?” said the Fumon, gulping as he noticed the dangerous twitch on Gaijin’s face.

“Try apocalyptic.” said Aki.

The rookie paled. “Th- that bad huh? Alright. How do we fix this?”

“We?” said Gaijin, his eyes narrowing. “What makes you think we are going to clean up your mess?” He poked the Fumon with the tip of his blade for emphasis.

“But- but you just said- !” The rookie couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Gaijin wasn’t going to help? “But you’re supposed to be the good guys! Even Daku’s helping!”

Both goombahs froze, staring hard at their “guest”. Seeing that he had their attention, the Fumon continued, “Why do you think I ran all the way here? I even lost my sword on the way! I was sent to get help. Your help.”

The silence seemed to stretch on forever, though it it was only seconds. The couple shared a look, seeming to reach some agreement, then Gaijin turned back to the Fumon, his gaze fierce and determined.

“Take us there.”

Meanwhile, back at the Fumon hideout...

A cry of pain rang out as another Fumon ninja was struck down by the swarming undead. Snarling, Daku fought his way towards them, but was too late, as the fallen warrior rose again to join the growing enemy ranks.

“Lord Daku! We’re outnumbered and losing too many ninja! We have to retreat!” said his second-in-command, appearing at his side through the throng of battle. The Fumon leader said nothing, slashing at another undead creature with his monstrous broadsword. But even as he finished that one, two more took its place. If he ever got hold of the idiots responsible for this mess... But that would have to wait. His eyes narrowed as he surveyed the fighting, calculating the odds. Despite his rage and determination, he could see that his second was right. They couldn’t hold out much longer, and even he, their best warrior, couldn’t keep them at bay forever.

“RETREAT!” he bellowed, “FALL BACK!”

His second took up the call, clearing a path to the exits while Daku covered the fleeing survivors. Soon he found himself cornered, breathing hard and locked in combat with several more of the undead. The Fumon had been fighting for hours to try and defend their base from the horde, but these monsters never tired. Fighting off several in front of him, he failed to noticed one of the turned Fumon leap at him from above. The impact was enough to throw Daku back against the wall, his sword knocked from his grasp and lost amid the mass of undead. He struggled to free himself, but the former ninja was somehow stronger in death, and he couldn’t dislodge it. The creature opened its fanged mouth, leaning in for a bite-

SLICE!

-only for its head to slide to the floor, the sword blade passing so close that Daku could feel the breeze from it against his face. He blinked at the gore-covered pixelated blade, then looked up into the eyes of his rescuer. “I was beginning to think you wouldn’t come.” He said, unable to resist a smirk.

“And miss all the excitement?” said Gaijin, pulling the other goombah to his feet. His expression grew serious as he returned Daku’s broadsword. “Don’t make me regret this.”

“If we live through this, we’ll see soon enough.” the Lord Fumon answered. They moved back-to-back as the fighting began anew, once more one the same side, but for how long?

Aki, meanwhile, was having a field day, chopping away at the undead with her chain-sword and grinning maniacally. The poor Fumon rookie fighting alongside her was torn. On one side, he needed to stay close for the protection she could offer, but on the other side, he wanted to get as far away from her as possible before that sword was turned on him.

“How did you even know we’d come?” said Gaijin, slashing another monster as it came at Daku’s side.

“Because I know your heart.” he answered, dispatching his own creature as Gaijin ducked the blade. “You should guard it better, old friend. One day your compassion will be your undoing.”

“I don’t believe that.”

“Believe what you will, I simply offer a warning...” They went on fighting, the two in perfect sync, even as Daku continued, “For instance, how do you know I won’t betray you when all is done?”

Gaijin’s answer was hesitant, though his sword didn’t falter. “I don’t.”

“Yet here you are.”

Gaijin quickly changed to a different topic, feeling his concentration waver. One slip here meant worse than death. “You certainly picked a fine time to be philosophical.”

“Can you you think of a better one?” said Daku, flashing his teeth in a twisted smile as he kicked away another opponent.

“I can think of several.” said Gaijin, flaring his wings and knocking back several more undead to give them some breathing room.

“So...” said Gaijin, pressing back-to-back with Daku again, “Your rookie over there tells us he unleashed this undead apocalypse.”

Daku’s eyes flashed dangerously as he caught sight of the Fumon. “Did he now? I was wondering who’s fault this was...”

The Fumon caught his master’s eyes, and paled. He found himself wondering which would be worse, dismemberment by Gaijin’s crazy wife, or facing Daku’s wrath.

Gaijin winced in sympathy, realizing what he’d just done, but quickly turned his attention to Aki. No worries there. She seemed perfectly in her element, now with a wall at her back and still happily slicing away. She was also racking up an impressive number of points.

“I can’t remember. Was Aki always that good with a chainsaw?” said Daku, unable to keep from staring.

“Uh...” Gaijin had no answer. But there was no time for that now. He quickly shook himself, nudging Daku and refocusing their attention on their own fight. “Any idea how to beat these things?”

“One,” said Daku. “but it involves a risk. You know the power our blades hold. If we unleash their full might, we could finish this.”

“You know what happens if I do that!” said Gaijin, liking their odds less and less. Though they were thinning the undead ranks with their skill and the special powers of their swords, they were still horribly outnumbered.

“Thus the risk..” said Daku, “but you know of mine as well. Under these circumstances however...”

Gaijin grit his teeth, knowing he was right. “Together than?”

“Now!”

One awesome display of combined magical undead slaying later...

As the last monster vanished in a puff of smoke and one hundred points, the mighty warriors took a second to rest.

“Do- do you think... we got them all?” said Gaijin leaning against Aki for support.

“I’d be shocked if we didn’t,” said Daku, just as tired, but determined not to show it.
“I’ll get my surviving Fumon to seal up that room immediately. But as for you two...”

Gaijin and Aki suddenly found themselves surrounded by Fumon.

“Daku...” said Gaijin, glaring at him.

Daku stared him down, as both sides tensed. Then he moved his gauntlet in signal, and the wall of ninja parted, revealing the exit. “Only for the sake of what was, do I let you go this one time.” he said, “Leave now. Before I change my mind...” He turned his back on them.

Gaijin opened his mouth to speak, paused, then closed in again. He felt Aki pull him away, even as he stared at Daku, at his once old friend, now long gone... Or was there still a trance of him left?

“Thank you, Hikari.” he whispered.

Daku closed his eyes, silent, and unmoving, as the two heroes disappeared.

Meanwhile, the poor rookie tried his luck sneaking out the other door, only to be caught and dragged back inside. He spent of the rest of his week sealing up the wall to the tomb chamber, alone.

As they walked home, Gaijin thought back to what had happened in the Fumon’s lair. He was so lost in thought, that he didn’t even hear Aki.

“Gaijin...”

“...”

“Gaijin!”

“...”

“GAIJIN!”

“Huh?! What is it?” he said, nearly walking into her as she came to a sudden stop.

“Look.” she said, gently grabbing his face and pointing it in the direction she was looking.

Gaijin stared up in shock. Their entire yard: pipe, pagoda, ka blocks and all, was covered in toilet paper and silly string. A note taped to their mailbox read:

Thanks for the save. Happy Halloween!

~The Fumon~


“OH COME ON!”

The End?
The Halloween Truce
Just a little something I originally did for the Gaijin Goombah Fan Club Halloween Contest but was too late in finishing. Lol, so here it is as a late Christmas present! Hope you enjoy! :)

Daku is Nights2Dreams' character

Gaijin and Aki, well everybody knows who they belong to, right?

Anyway, not mine, just burrowing for the story.
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Secret Gaijin Gift for Imadragonyah by arkansandragon
Secret Gaijin Gift for Imadragonyah
ImadragonYah asked for "any cool anime fan art". I actually don't watch a lot of anime, but one I do like is "Fairy Tail", so here's a picture of one of my favorite characters from the show: Happy the flying cat. :) Enjoy, and Merry Christmas! :)
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Her head was pounding as AD woke to the dull grey of a barred prison cell. If only she had a dollar for every time that had happened since joining the Alliance. She sighed, glad at least that it wasn't Coredeath's prison, or a Huntsclan dungeon. The cell was typically what she'd expect. Three walls, one with a tiny barred window, and the fourth wall and door made out of more bars, too narrowly spaced for her to squeeze through. On the other side of the door was a long hallway with doors at either end. AD could tell by the shadows cast on the wall that there were other cells next to her's, but they appeared to be empty. Her's seemed to be in the middle of the row. The only furniture in the cell was a cot, a sink, and a toilet, all bolted to the floor and walls. She pulled on the bars experimentally, but they didn't budge. The bars and lock also proved to be fireproof, and without her dragon talons, she had no way to pick the lock. As she searched the room, her thoughts drifted back to the events that had landed her here. Her cloak had been taken, but thankfully they hadn’t found the Heart of Draco. She’d hidden it in one of the cloak’s inside pockets, and had swallowed it while running away from the market.

​She didn't have long to think though, as two stern-looking guards came towards her cell. Or at least, they would have looked stern, but tripping over their own feet every few seconds ruined the effect. Both were goombos, one armed with a long spear and the other dragging a sack that was almost as big as he was. They seemed to be having trouble seeing where they going, which was no wonder, as they both wore sun glasses. Both of them also wore what looked like tin-foil hats. It was all AD could do to keep a straight face. She actually felt sorry for the poor silly things, and didn't think laughing would get her any points with these two. Besides, who was she to judge clothing styles? Maybe it was a dress code thing?

​"Somebody left a gift basket for you." said the one dragging the sack, unlocking the cell door.

​"I'm over here." said AD.

​The guard locked the empty cell door again and peeked out from under his sunglasses to make sure he had the right cell this time. As soon as he caught of her, he quickly covered his eyes again and unlocked the door, while other guard held her at spear-point. Tossing the sack in, they quickly relocked the door and left the hallway. Curious now, AD opened the sack. There was an actual gift basket inside it, but so big that it shouldn't have fit into that sack at all. AD wasn't that phased by it though. After all, magic could do many strange things. The first thing she pulled from the basket was a greeting card that read:

​"Welcome to the Chi Kingdom of Sarasaland! Sorry my sister punched you in the face. Enjoy your prison stay!"

​AD blinked in disbelief. They actually had a greeting card for her exact situation… That was just weird, even for this place. Clearly though, it was the little werelion cub AD had seen at the market, who had sent this card. Her big sister certainly had a hard punch, which made AD wonder why she didn't have a black eye, or worse. Now that she thought about it, the bruises on her wing were gone too. Those had almost healed on their own anyway, but the change was still enough to notice. They must have taken her to a healer before dropping her off in here. That was odd... Given her alien nature and the tabloid news, she’d have thought their first stop would be a government laboratory- not that she was complaining. Better a jail cell than a dissection table. Unless...

​She shook the dark thoughts from her mind. Paranoia now would only drive her crazy. The best thing to do now was get her strength back, and be vigilant to the here and now. She turned back to the gift basket, noticing that it was stuffed full of fruit. There were also two books, and something that resembled an oversized nail-care kit, along with several small combs. One book was titled Wing and Feather Care for Dummies, and the kit proved to be the various tools she’d need. The other book was The Official Sarasaland Tourist Guide. Well, AD thought, at least she’d have plenty of time to read them. Settling down, she started in on the fruit and began with the feather care guide.

​It was a presence that caught her attention, for there was no sound to hear. AD didn’t turn to look behind her, she didn’t need to, but simply continued reading. The figure waited, patient, until she finished the page she was on. But it was AD who spoke first.

​“The dragonslayers of my world were trained as ninja.” she said. “How long did you think you could hide?”

​“If you knew I was there all along, then why not seek me out?” said the Fumon. “I could’ve killed you at any time.”

​“But you didn’t.” said AD. “And you sent me trainees in your ambush. That has me curious... I’m clearly a newcomer here, and you don’t know the extent of my power. For all you know, those newspapers could be right. Why not get rid of me?”

​“That was a test, and a warning.” he said. “As for those stories, who do you think started them in the first place?”

​“My question stands. What purpose could you possibly have for me?”

​“We are the Fumon. Spreading ignorance and hatred is what we do. And you, my draconic friend, well...”

​She heard the scrape of sword leaving sheath, turned, but found him gone.

​“Why waste the potential you have for causing both, and so much more?” he whispered, his voice right beside her head. She froze, feeling the steel of his blade against her belly. He tapped her lightly with it, right over the spot where her gizzard was. The spot where the Heart of Draco now rested.

​“Others before you have tried to control what I guard.” she said. “You won’t find it any easier.”

​“You would be foolish to anger us.” he said, stepping away from her and gesturing his sword to the shadows on the back wall. She looked, seeing the eyes of other Fumon hidden there. Too many if it came to a fight.

​The sound of the hallway door opening distracted her. When she looked back, the Fumon had vanished.

"Hi there!"

​“Gah!” AD clutched at her heart, staring at the werelion cub who had just appeared at the cell door seemingly out of thin air. She stepped back, felt something bump her tail, and looked. There was an egg sitting on the floor behind her. Scowling, she cracked it open, quickly checking the ruby inside for damage. Satisfied that the gem was still whole, she tucked it under her wing.

"Are you ok? Sorry I scared you." said the cub. "My name is Kate. What's yours?"

The dragon-yoshi blinked, taking a moment to process the excited chatter before answering. "Call me AD, and I'm fine, thanks."

"That's good," said Kate. "Did you like the fruit basket and my card? Gaijin thought the books would be good for you too. I hope your wing is feeling better. Are you really an alien? Do you want to be friends? Can I ride you? How did you get that aweful scar on your side? Did you know there was a reward for catching you?"

"Uh…" AD blinked again, not sure how to even begin answering. It wasn't that she didn't like children, but being the loner that she was, she'd had little experience with them. She ate some more fruit before answering this time. "The fruit's good. The card was weird. Thanks for the books. My wing feels great, and yes, I'm an alien." She wasn't ready to answer the cub's questions about friendship or rides just yet. Kate's family might not approve a friendship with a possibly dangerous outsider, for one thing. As for giving the girl a ride… AD had been ridden before, but never just for fun. Dragon riding was a stealth tactic for combat when planes would be a disadvantage, and also to quickly evacuate the wounded from a battlefield. It took a great deal of trust between those involved, and it was still too early for AD to know who she could trust in this new world.

Her wing subconsciously moved to cover the old scar at Kate's mention of it. "I don't like to talk about it…" she said.

Kate seemed to have realized she'd gone too far, and an awkward silence followed.

Suddenly remembering the last question, and wanting to change the subject, AD said, "I knew about the reward for hunting me. It was in all the newspapers. I suppose your sister and Gaijin already collected it?"

“And used it to pay for your bail.” said a new voice.

They both turned to see Kate’s sister, Gaijin, and his wife being escorted into the cell block by the same guards that had brought AD the gift bag earlier. At least, she thought it was the same guards. It was hard to tell. The two stopped the group once they were inside the door, offering them each a pair of sunglasses and a tin foil hat. These were politely, but firmly, refused, and the group continued down the hall until they’d joined Kate. The guards both exchanged a glance, then exited the hallway, closing the door behind them.

AD studied the new arrivals for a few moments, and they did the same to her. Finally, it was Kate’s sister who broke the silence.

“Sorry about that sucker punch.” she said. “I’ve have used a net, but we didn’t have one.”

AD gave a slight nod. “I’ll live.” Turning to Gaijin, she added, “And I’m sorry about hitting you in the face with soggy groceries. You... you didn’t have to help me... Thank you...”

“You could’ve just asked.” said Gaijin. “We’d have given you the help anyway. You certainly don’t seem as dangerous as the newspapers would like us to believe.”

“I see that now,” said AD. “and I am sorry... I judged your world based on how mine would have acted.”

They looked at her in some confusion, but before she could explain, Gaijin suddenly drew his sword. The others tensed at this signal, readying their own weapons, and Aki asked, “Gaijin, what is it?”

“Fumon.” he said simply, pointing his sword between the bars of AD’s cell to something above and behind her.

She turned to look, and spotted one of the ninjas’ bandanas caught between two of the ceiling titles. “So that’s how they got in here.” she said, more to herself than the others.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the building, one of the Fumon trainees was looking for the bandana he’d lost for the third time in as many weeks.

Light caught AD’s eye, and she turned back to stare at Gaijin’s sword. The blade was covered in writhing coils of fire emerging from its hilt. She felt a growing heat beneath her wing, and pulled out the Heart of Draco, noticing that it was behaving strangely as well. It pulsed much faster than normal, and glowed with power, though she wasn’t using it. All of the group stared between the two artifacts. On a hunch, AD brought the ruby closer to Gaijin’s blade, and the activity of both increased. The sword blade completely caught fire. Meanwhile the ruby grew hot enough that she could barely hold it, pulsing like a racing heartbeat and the color of its glow turning a darker red the nearer she held it to the sword, until it was almost black. The two quickly drew away from each other, and with the separation their items returned to normal.

AD was stunned. She’d never gotten a reaction like that out of the gem before. But then again, she’d never let it near another magical artifact before, as she now guessed Gaijin’s sword might be.

Gaijin and the others look equally shocked, and he studied her more intently this time before saying, “We clearly have a lot to talk about.”

“That might take a while.” said AD. “I’m not sure how long I’ll be stuck in here.”

“But you won’t!” said Kate with a grin. “Didn’t you hear my sister? We paid your bail! You’re coming home with us!”

“Only,” said the older werelion, raising a finger in warning. “until we find place for you to settle down.”

AD made sure her gift bag was tied shut as the guards were summoned to let her out. Though she was grateful to them, these four and she still had some way to go before any friendship could be made. But this, thought AD, might just be a good start to one- if her answers to their questions didn’t alienate her even further...
Jail Drake
Hi all! First off, thank you to those who've wished me a happy birthday. :D Yesterday was my birthday, but I wanted to give something this year instead of just getting things. :) I would've finished this earlier, but I had work to do. I hope you still enjoy the late present: Part 5 of AD's adventures in Sarasaland.

Part 1: arkansandragon.deviantart.com/…

Part 2: arkansandragon.deviantart.com/…

Part 3: arkansandragon.deviantart.com/…

Part 4: arkansandragon.deviantart.com/…

Also, Kate and her big sister aren't mine. They belong to this guy: eventing-guy.deviantart.com/

I'm just borrowing them for the story. Gaijin, Aki, and the Fumon aren't mine either- but I'm pretty sure everybody here already knows who they belong to.
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AD couldn't help but stare as she cased the marketplace. There was a famous market back home, the Magus Bazaar, which had been part of the hidden magical world. She'd never had the chance to visit it before the war, but from photos and stories, she imagined it would have looked something like this place. There were shops and stalls all over the streets and busy shoppers going every which way. Most of the stalls she expected to see: food, cloth, trinkets and the like. But then there were stalls that sold things like inventory bags ("A bag for every adventure! Now with extra slots!"), and things called power ups ("It's dangerous to go alone, buy something here first!"). She considered swiping one of the bags, but the stall owner was keeping a careful count of them, so she decided against it. What she really needed though, was food.

It didn't take long to find the food stalls and vendors selling tasty treats. But snagging anything proved to be more difficult. Apparently, since the fruit stands were manned by yoshies, and some of them were new to the job, all of the food vendors had taken the precaution of sealing away their goods until an actual customer came by. AD had already see two of the new apprentices reprimanded for snacking from the other stalls. She wondered why they didn't try to take any fruit from their own stock, but quickly discovered the reason when she tried it herself. All the fruit had been sprayed with something tasted like peppers and hurt her stomach. She wouldn't be able to just eat her fill and leave.

Soon enough though, she found a likely target in a couple of the strange chestnut creatures, which she'd learned were called goombas. They were shopping for food, and already had a large bag full. She didn't dare try to take their wallet, as both were armed. The male had a strangely-bladed sword- she guessed this must be the "Gaijin Goombah" she'd read about -and his wife carried a bo staff. Robbing an armed target was dangerous enough. Robbing a very likely swordmaster would be suicidal. Still... maybe if she went for the bag of food, that wouldn't be as noticeable…

Pretending to look over what other stalls had to offer, she watched the pair from the corner of her eye. Mrs. Goombah was soon chatting away with another shopper, this one reminding AD very much of the were-beasts from back home. She had the aspects of a lioness, and there was a younger one with her. She didn't look old enough to be the cub's mother though, so most likely a sister. AD looked closer, noticing that the cub held a large wallet...

No. She'd already sunk this low. She wouldn't disgrace herself further by stealing from children. Better just go for the bag of food and get it over with.

She waited until Gaijin had his back turned, looking over the fruit stall. The next moment, her tongue was out and the bag of food safely in her mouth. AD moved away as stealthily as she could, making sure the cloak still covered her. She'd almost made it into the cover of the bamboo, not believing her good luck, when Gaijin landed in front of her, sword drawn.

Of course. She'd been starting to wonder when her bad luck curse would kick in today.

She turned to flee back into town, only to find that way blocked by Gaijin’s wife. Slowly, the two circled AD, backing her against a nearby wall. She’d been in much worse situations than this before, but then she’d known what her enemies were capable of. She had no idea what these two could do, and she didn’t want to fight them anyway if it could be helped.

“Alright,” said Gaijin. “We’ve caught you. Now drop it!”

AD spit out the bag of food, intent to try talking her way out of this, but she’d misjudged how hard it was being thrown, and her aim. SPLAT! The whole soggy mess hit Gaijin square in the face, knocking him over backwards! AD and Aki stared at Gaijin for a moment in stunned silence, then both moved at the same time. While Aki rushed to help Gaijin, AD made another break for the bamboo. She disappeared into the thick forest, running until she was sure she’d lost any pursuers. Only then did she stop to rest.

A snapping twig from behind was her only warning. She whirled- but too late. The last thing AD saw was the were-lion’s fist coming straight at her face.
The Ancient dragon surveyed the landscape that stretched out below him, the only sound the beating of his great wings and the rustle of the wind over his dark red scales. Torchwing was in no hurry. It had been awhile since the old Helian had been out of his lair, and the warm sun felt good on his skin, highlighting the golden stripes that dappled across it.

Movement caught his eye, and he glanced downward, the rotten stench of decay meeting his nostrils a moment later. His great eyes narrowed as he recognized what they were. There is no mistaking the Whithered Aegis once you see them.

"Flame!" He thought, "The undead are growing bolder by the day..."

This small group of undead seemed to be attacking something, perhaps some poor Adventurer that had crossed their path. The dragon flew lower, trying to see what it was. When he could only see glimpses of whatever it was, but as it seemed to move on four legs, he might almost have mistaken it for a wolf.

Almost.

A piercing cry reached his ears, unlike anything he'd heard before. A flash of white, brown and yellow, a flurry of large, feathered wings-

"That," He thought, "is no wolf."

Immediately, he dove, landing hard enough that the earth trembled with force of it, and let out his mightiest roar! That certainly got the undead's attention. They abandoned their prey to face the newcomer, rushing onward regardless of the powerful foe they now beheld. There were seven in all, but the Ancient soon made quick work of them. After gathering his loot from their remains, he then went over to examine their quarry, which now lay unconscious on the ground.

"By my scales..." he thought as he gazed at it. "What is this thing?!"

In all his life and travels, Torchwing had never seen a creature quite like this. In size, it was little bigger then a dragon hatchling, but it looked older then that, perhaps just come into adulthood. In head and chest, the creature resembled a strange giant bird. A snow white head and neck, a large curved beak, with brown feathers down its chest and large feathered wings sprouting from its back. A strange mane of lighter brown fur also ringed the base of its neck, reaching down to mid-chest. It's forelegs were bare from the elbow down, covered in tiny yellow scales and ended with strong talons, each equipped with a deadly black claw.

But here the resemblance stopped, for the beast's hindquarters were completely different. The brown feathers ended at its midriff, blending smoothly into short, tawny brown fur. The hind legs were like those of the Saris, lean and powerfully muscled. This, Torchwing reasoned, would give the creature ample power needed for lunching itself into flight. They ended in large paws, and long rope-like tail come off the rear, ending with a large tuft of fur.

"For stabilizing flight, most likely." thought the dragon.

It was then that he noticed something twitch on the creature's head. Two white ears stuck up just behind the eyes on it's head. They also, were like those of a Saris, but instead of fur, these were covered in feathers. They twitched again as Torchwing drew nearer.

"So, still alive, my strange friend?" he asked. As if in answer, one ear swiveled to catch his voice, and the one of the creature's eyes eased open. Torch caught sight of dark blue with a round pupil, but clouded with pain as the creature tried to raise its head to look at him. It blinked once, then the eye closed, and it went limp again.

It was only now that Torchwing noticed the blood, and silently cursed himself. He'd been so caught up in the beast's appearance that he hadn't checked it for injury. For all he knew it could have bled to death while he was still gawking at it! He quickly found the source of the problem however, a long gash in the creature's side, which was bleeding sluggishly.

"Hrm... You won't be alive much longer if I don't find a healer." He said quietly. Fortunately, Torchwing knew of a naka (non-dragon) city nearby. He would take the creature there for healing. Perhaps they might know what it was...

...

Torchwing glanced around as he entered the healers' building. He was in Khutit (bi-ped) form, as his normal form was too big to enter through the doors. He soon spotted "his" creature on a bed near the far wall. The human healer tending it gave him a respectful nod as he approached.

"How is our 'guest'?" he asked softly.

"Stable." said the human, an elderly male, "Luckily the wound only looked worse then it was. But he seems under nourished and hard pressed. Perhaps those Withered Aegis you killed had been hunting him for awhile now."

"Strange..." mused Torchwing, "Why would they chase him for so long?"

"Maybe he can tell us when he wakes." answered the healer, "If his kind speak, at least."

A soft groan came from the bed. The two turned to look, and saw the creature lift its head, looking around slowly with wide eyes. It saw them and hissed in alarm, flaring its mighty wings!

"Peace!" said Torchwing, reaching a claw toward it, palm out, "Peace, my friend! We won't harm you. You're safe now."

The creature gave him a strange look, then settled back down. There was a long silence, then-

"You look familiar."

Another silence, as Torchwing and the healer stared in shock. Certainly they had guested that the creature could speak, but hearing and seeing it actually do so still took them by surprise. Its voice held a faint croak and hiss, whether an accent or simply from a dry throat, it was hard to tell. But the voice was definitely male.

Finally regaining his composure, Torchwing regained his dragon form, though he had to lie down after banging his head on the ceiling. "Do you remember anything of what happened?" he asked.

The creature started for a moment at the sudden transformation, but then calmed as he seemed to recognize Torchwing. "Aye, I remember you, Magic Wielder." his said, nodding his head to the impressive dragon. "You saved my life."

"Pardon me," said the healer, speaking to the creature, "I don't mean to be rude, but who are you?"

He studied the human for a moment, then said, "My name is Talonstrike. I am one of the Gryphire'ryne (Griff-Fire-Rye-In); the Children of Gryphera (Griff-Fear-a), first of our kind."

"Griff- Griffire- Griffin?" tried the human.

Talonstrike looked at him thoughtfully, then said, "If our name is too much for you, then yes. Griffin will do."

"My name is Torchwing." said the dragon, as Talonstrike turned back toward him. "Where do you come from, Talonstrike?" he asked.

The griffin was silent for a moment, then said slowly, "My home is a steep cliff face, the cliff where we built our eyries for generations. The cliff rings all around a small valley with many trees and rivers. Hunting and fishing are good, and we can gather wood, clay, and weaving grass (flax) to build with. My kind have lived their since before any of us remember, never needing to go into the outside world. We were content, and lived in peace." He paused then, lowering his head and continued, "We thought those crags and cliffs would protect us from all threats... We thought we were safe..." He looked up, met their eyes-

"We were wrong."

He continued sadly, "They came upon us without warning, and without mercy. They carry the scent of Death, yet they are not dead! These, these walking Death, somehow they made it up the cliffs... There was this- this plant-like thing with them! It tried to take root, twisting and distorting eveything around it. We fought, we fought, but they drove us into the valley... Many of my battle-kin were slain... I was sent to find help. I fled, but those- those-"

"They are known as the Withered Aegis." Torchwing said solemnly. "They are undead."

"Yes..." said Talonstrike, "Yes, those, those undead, followed me, ambushed me when I chose to rest. I should have known! I would be dead as well, were it not for you." He raised his head, looking gratefully at the Ancient dragon. "You know of these foul creatures." he then said seriously, "I can see the truth of it in your eyes."

There was another long pause, like the calm before the storm...

Finally, Talonstrike said, "I was sent to find help. But, it seems that you have found me..."

...

A few weeks had passed since Talonstrike's rescue from the Whithered Aegis, and Torchwing came to visit him regularly. During these visits, the Ancient dragon told Talonstrike about the lands of Istaria, of the Living Races and their Gift, and of their plight by the hoards of the Withered Aegis.

The griffin's health was fast improving. Today he was well enough for a short flight outside. Torchwing accompanied him, and afterward, they both rested on the roof of a nearby building.

As they sat there, looking out at the setting sun, Torchwing looked down at the young griffin. He studied the other for a moment, as if gathering his thoughts, and then said, "I have told you much about our lands these past few weeks. But you have yet to tell me more about your homeland."

He paused, wondering if he should continue. He knew that speaking of the griffin's homeland might be painful for Talonstrike, but it was the only way the other Living Races might be able to help free them from the undead armies. Finally, he said, "I would like to know more about where you come from. Perhaps with that knowledge, we might find a way to rid your home of the Whithered Aegis."

The young griffin remained silent, staring out at the horizon. For a moment, Torchwing was afraid that he might have asked the question too soon. But then-

"My home is an island in the sea."

Talonstrike did not look at the dragon as he spoke, but continued to fix his gaze out beyond the setting sun. His eyes had a far away look in them, as if he were once again seeing his beloved home.

"My home is an island shrouded by a deep fog that not even our keen eyes can pierce. Within this fog are tall pillars of rock and sharp stones that jut from the water. And through that fog are beaches of white sand that ring a clear lagoon. Beyond the lagoon are tall steep cliffs that ring the entire island.

The eldest of my people say that our home was once a great mountain of the sea that spewed fire from it's depths. The mountain blew itself up, they say, and now all that remains are the great stone cliff-walls and the heart of the mountain at the center of the island. There is still fire inside it, but it no longer spits flames.

The steep cliffs are were we build out eyries, our nests. And below are lush forests and meadows. It is a good place. Or, at least, it was..."

Talonstrike faltered then, looking away from the sunset.

Torchwing waited patiently, not wanting to interrupt. The young griffin said nothing more for a long while. Then he seemed to perk up slightly, as if remembering something. One of the creature's claws went to his chest, and drew out something that had been hidden among the feathers and mane of fur.

As he held it up, the thing seemed to glow in the warm light of the sun's last rays. Torchwing stared at it in wonder. It was a simple pendant. A smooth round stone hung on a rawhide cord, but the stone was unlike anything that the old dragon had seen before. It was the color of honey, with flecks of what looked like gem powder in it. Strangest of all was the tiny grass beetle that seemed to be encased within it.

"What is that?" he asked, pointing to it with a claw.

"A gift from a friend," Talonstrike said softly, gazing at it as he held it in the light. "We call it 'Amber'. It seeps from certain trees on our island and hardens into stone over time. These are tall, straight trees with needles for leaves. Sometimes we collect the sap from these trees to make it ourselves, but amber is more easily found in hardened clusters at the base of the trees. Sometimes things like this beetle get trapped in the amber before it hardens, and we find them."

He finally turned to look at Torchwing, and continued, "My people are not stone cutters. Amber and gems are the hardest things we can cut. Wood, fired clay, leather and sharpened gems are what most use for armor and weapons. But the most experienced crafters can take the amber and melt it, and then cast it into feathers which are tied together with rawhide over leather padding. Gem powder is often mixed with the amber to strengthen it."

His eyes seemed to smile then, and he chuckled quietly, saying "I guess it wasn't a very smart idea to leave without getting my armor first..." But then his face grew solemn again. "The undead came from under the water and through the fog. They somehow made it up the steep cliffs... I wasn't the only one who was sent to find help. But the fog that we thought could protect us, now became a death trap. Those of us who didn't crash into the stone were slain by the undead that followed us into it. We never saw them until it was too late... As far as I know, I was the only one who escaped..."

Talonstrike would say no more after that. Torchwing watched him for a few moments, unsure of what to do. Finally, he said, "I'm truly sorry for your loss. But I will do what I can to help you. And perhaps we can convince the other Living Races to also come to you people's aid, and strike another blow against the Blight and the Whithered Aegis..."
Scale and Feather: An Istaria What-If Story
An old story I wrote on the Istaria community forum, thanks to a suggestion discussion, and later posted at Fanfiction.net. Thought I might as well post it here too. I'm know as Flamestar on the forum. :)

What if the 11 Living Races of Istaria weren't alone in their war against the Blight? What if there was a 12th race, long hidden and unknown to the outside world? What if the Withered Aegis found them first and ensnared them in the Blight? What if a survivor escaped and sought help from the Empire? Currently a one-shot.
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I also have a fanfiction.net account: www.fanfiction.net/u/1218133/A…

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AMCAlmaron Featured By Owner Sep 6, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Cheers for the watch!
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Happy late birthday! 
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Thank you! :)
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Just wanted to say, happy birthday :) hope you have a good one. Do take care.
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Thanks! :)
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TY for the Fave!:iconthanksforfaving: 
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Thanks for the fav!
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Thanks for the watch!  :D
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this is long overdue....thanks for the :+fav: :hug:
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hum, so Contest Entry: ADJL avatar is currently featured on Jeff goodes site for ADJL fan art.
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