Caroline woke from a dream. She couldn't recall what it was about, but she still felt good about it, a warm fuzzy feeling in her form.
She sat up feeling good... then looked around and remembered where she was. The doves and demons continued to argue, some physically fighting.
It seems the two had descended back into argument while Caroline was asleep, and the quartz gem still wasn't sure which was which.
The good vibes from her dream souring at the sight of this finished off the last of Caroline's nerves, and she made a decision. If you can't beat em, cheat.
Caroline: Issue. Help. Now.
Ceylon: The demons I take it?
Caroline: How did you know?
Caroline: Never mind, stupid question, yes.
Ceylon: No desire to figure it out yourself? Caroline: I want to get on with this and start fighting. Please, please tell me you can tell which one is which, I'm pulling my hair out over here.
Ceylon: Normally I'd try to encourage you to develop new skills and grow as a gem. But given the apocalyptic consequences of you potentially taking too long, I'll help you out. It's the feathery folk. When you attack, the spell they're using to disguise themselves will fade. The real doves will get their wings back the more progress you make against the demons.
Caroline: THANK YOU!
Ceylon: Happy hunting.
Caroline signed out, stood up, dusted herself off.. and charged hell for leather into the nearest feathered creature, slamming into it like her body was a missile.
She more or less blasted through it, what was left of its body collapsing into a broken pile of distinctly not feathery gore and grist.
Caroline drew her battle axe, "This," She said, holding her weapon aloft in the direction of the demons, "This is going to be fun."
Caroline had been carving a canyon of gore through the demons for about an hour when her communicator went off.
She had figured out how to use it hands free, so she was able to answer without stopping her absolute butchering of the demons.
Lazurite: Hey, how goes it?
Caroline: Murdering demons.
Lazurite: Whats a demon?
Caroline: No idea, but they lied to me, are currently trying to kill me, and are far better at dying than I am.
Lazurite: Lol, not much of a challenge for a warrior gem huh?
Caroline: Not really, not on their own anyway. They've got a few heavies, but mostly their biggest asset is numbers. There's metric fuck loads of them. For every one I kill twelve seem to appear, but I'm making progress. At this right, I should be able to find and level the big boss in no time.
Lazurite: You're handling your land so much better than me.
Caroline: You kidding? I had to ask Ceylon for help. I don't have the skills or determination you do to get a job done by myself. I'm just really, really good at killing things XD
Lazurite: Skills? Determination?
Caroline: You were on that planet alone for, like, ever. Just you and Desert Glass, and you were doing it. You didn't have much to work with, but you kept going, you found clever ways to use what you had and never gave up. You could have just said 'screw this' and flown off. But you were better than that, and you still are.
Caroline: Oh hell, big guy inbound. Talk again later, gotta deal with this.
Caroline sighed out, taking a deep breath as she charged the sulfur wyvern and the eight or so demons riding it, firing arrows down at her.
Lazurite sat for a moment, thinking over what Caroline had told her. She hadn't ever thought of herself as vary impressive, as a lapis or as a gem onto herself.
And yet.. Caroline was using thoughts of *her* to fight on? Challenging an entire army of enemies? And here she'd been cowering from just two or three hiding in the smoke...
'Perhaps its time I stop hiding.' She thought to herself.
The timing was none too early, as moments after she let out her wings and took off, she heard a scream from nearby.
She flew down towards it, finding that one of the Smoke Demon creatures had wandered out of its misty camouflage in the air to attack some unsuspecting bat consorts.
She grinned, 'Big mistake.'
She flew down at the monster, forming her wings into fists-a technique she'd used to carry supplies back on the planet she'd been trying to terraform-and slammed them down onto the Smoke Demon, crushing it beneath the fists.
It let out a gasp and vanished into grist.
The bat consorts were shocked, but before they could try to thank her, two more smoke demons rushed from the fog above, accompanied by three very odd looking enemies.
Melody Riders going by the health bars. Horsemen. They looked like someone tried to make the shape of people and horses out of thousands of music notes, and given them cavalry weapons.
Lazurite gulped, but took a breath, and raised her wings again. She could do this.
Imperial Jade was on her guard as she entered the Empty Forest.
She'd gathered more information from the locals, and learned, through the same round about code speak, that the thing producing the new monsters-the ones that even the normal ones like imps an ogres didn't like-lived in the center of this place.
She doubted she was ready to actually fight it of course, but she figured gathering intel couldn't hurt. She could see why they called it the Empty Forest. It was silent save for her footsteps, and completely dead save for the trees.
No other signs of life, plant or animal. Even the underlings stopped appearing at some point. Both aspects of the fusion gem came from lives of quite a bit of hustle and bustle, so to be in this place of such emptiness and silence was none too kind on her nerves.
The deeper into the forest she got, the more an unseen dread bubbled up in the pit of her form. She found herself imagine the Diamonds in the center of the forest, finding her within it and shattering her on the spot with no words or emotion.
So lost was she in those thoughts, that she didn't notice the creature approaching her until it's horns slammed into her chest. The monster was more solid than the Grimy Spawn, but no more easy on the eyes.
It was built like a quadruped, but with far, far, far too many legs; at least twelve of the brown furred, hooved appendages that Jade could see.
Some didn't even tough the ground, others were bent at odd angles or split into two legs. All of them coming from a thick mass that seemed to be pure, solid horn or antler material, stretching up into a tree branch like cluster of stretching horns.
No visible eyes, but at least four mouths, a main one at the front of it and three others that Jade could see having grown on different parts of the horn body, all salivating and growling.
Imperial Jade righted herself in time to avoid the second charge attack, bringing her foot up to kick the underbelly.
She winced, realizing that unarmed attacks weren't going to do much to it. Its legs were vulnerable yes, but its body really was solid all the way through, or the horn shell was thick enough that the attacks weren't gonna get through.
She looked around for a rock or something she could use, only to get pounced on again.
The horns seemed to be able to stretch out like vines or tentacles, all creaking like old wood as they did so, trying to stab or snare the fusion gem.
Acting more on some kind of instinct than anything else, Imperial Jade closed the two hands on her right side as though around the handle of a weapon, and swung up at the monster above her.
To her genuine shock, there was a solid impact that knocked the monster off of her. Looking to her hands, she found what looked like a war hammer.
It was pitch black and otherwise featureless, like looking at a three dimensional shadow. It faded and vanished almost immediately, leaving her once again unarmed.
Deciding to investigate that later, she turned her attention to the monster.
It was alive still, but with a massive crack in its horn shell body. A weak point. She could work with this.
Lazurite panted as the last of the Melody Riders dissolved into grist.
The consorts thankfully had water pouches on them, so in addition to her wings, she'd had a small amount of other water to use, which had made all the difference in fighting them.
She was a bit bruised up, but damage like that was nothing to a gem so long as their actual stone was unarmed.
"Are you two okay?" She asked the consorts.
"Yes, we're fine thanks to you." The first said, both smiling at her, "How can we help you?" The second asked.
It hadn't occurred to Lazurite until that moment to actually ask the locals about the place. She'd been too afraid of those monsters hiding in the fog, hoping one of her friends, perhaps Ceylon since she knew so much, to help her. She mentally kicked herself now, but shrugged it off.
"Is there anything important that needs tending to?" She asked, "Maybe an important location that's been overrun?"
The two consorts thought it over for a moment before the first said, "No one's been able to get to the Tuning Fork in awhile. Without it, there's not been any way to get the music the planet makes back on tune. It's been so discordant and broken lately."
"They're calling the thing blocking the Tuning Fork off 'The Sound Storm'."
Lazurite nodded, thanking them. It wasn't a massive amount, but it was a goal she could focus on.
River woke with a yawn. She couldn't recall what she had been dreaming about, but whatever it was, it had left her in good spirits.
She looked around at the others. She'd been brought to the servants quarters after being knocked out she realized.
The consorts around her were all dressed appropriately as servants such as herself. All were staring at her for some reason. The pearl assumed initially it was because she looked so different to them, but realized that couldn't be the case.
They'd seen her already when the soldiers had marched them all in here. Looking closer, several of the consorts were red faced or unable to make eye contact with her.
River could only interpret this as a mix of anger and disgust, all contained quite well by polite servants.
She realized what had happened, and touched her gem. It must have been projecting her dream outward.
Whatever she'd been dreaming, the other servants had all been able to see it and watch. River didn't even know what it had been, but to inspire such a reaction from those around her, it must have been reprehensible...
River was surprised when one of the consort servants approached her to talk. "The name's Meghan." She introduced herself.
She was dressed as a maid, her ursine figure filling it out remarkably well the pearl thought, "Welcome to the servant's cell."
"It's a pleasure to be here. I... cell?" She questioned.
Meghan nodded, "Don't worry, so long as you follow the rules you'll be fine."
"Pearls like myself are excellent at following rules." River assured her.
Meghan raised an eyebrow, her expression making it look like she was waiting for a punchline. When none came, her expression grew more curious.
"Riiight... anyway, servants don't own positions. Any and all forms of treasure get thrown out into the Biting Yard."
"The.. what?" River questioned.
Meghan pointed to a window in the corner of the cell. Looking out of it, the purple pearl looked over a massive courtyard. It was littered with treasures of all kinds; but equally riddled with gore. The cause was easy to spot.
Bear traps. Hundreds of them. Much grizzlier than normal ones, more so even than the animate ones that had tried to attack River before.
And just like that, the sense of calm River had developed at being in a familiar place melted away.