Trel, a goblin who was missing his left earlobe, squeezed the shaft of his crooked spear between his fingers so hard that his knuckles were almost yellow. The dented kettle he had hammered into a reasonable approximation of a helmet slid over his beady black eyes, and he pushed it up in irritation so he could search for an escape route. Barely a stone's throw away, a dense forest of stalagmites and stalactites taunted him with shadowed nooks and crannies through which a small, nimble goblin such as him could have sneaked away within seconds. Boxed in between trolls and orcs, he considered his chances before he caught movement to his left. There! A braver - or even more cowardly - goblin than him broke ranks and sprinted toward the cover. The string of a crossbow hummed, and the deserter landed flat on his face, a long bolt sticking out of the back of his skull. Trel's shoulders slumped. Bad plan. Shaking in his boots, he craned his neck so he could see who had taken the shot. Over the shoulders of the soldiers around him, he caught a short glimpse of a dark elf wearing a red-feathered cloak and a silly hat.
"Stop gawking and move it, scrawny!" an angry voice from behind him hissed, and a hard kick catapulted him forward. He jostled the troll walking before him nose first, and heard her angry grunts as stars danced before his vision. Trel ducked his head and tried to ignore the taste of blood on his split lower lip. There were worse fates than being among the front rows of the assault. He peered ahead into the twilight, where a wooden cart rumbled slowly toward the four standing megaliths framing the portal to the Avatar islands. Not only were the forced labourers dragging the vehicle even closer to the danger, they had to endure the darting whip and sharp tongue of its orc driver. Spittle flew from the pink-skinned creature's mouth as he shouted obscenities at the sweat-drenched goblins leaning into their work with all the strength they could muster, and his lash painted dark bruises onto their skins. Trel thought the driver wasn't putting his heart into it, since he wasn't even drawing blood. No wonder he was distracted, considering the wagon's cargo. The large, square block of light-devouring substance - it didn't look like any stone or metal Trel had ever heard of, not that this excluded many - made mist condense out of thin air and flow down its sides, trailing the cart like a bride's veil. Trel didn't like looking at the thing much, since the unholy, glowing letters decorating the dark artefact made him dizzy. And he couldn't even read. With a sigh, he returned to watching the wagon's escort, resigned to his fate. The well-armed squad of leather-armoured orcs drew back as the wagon came to a stop in the centre of the portal's wafting glow. They threw nervous glances at the black block that now shuddered and slowly lifted itself into the air. The cart's driver took that as his clue to jump off his seat and run back toward the army as fast as his large-toed feet could carry him over the uneven ground. Chained to the cart, the wailing, panicked goblins strained against their restraints and pulled in different directions, unable to coordinate long enough to get away from the profane box now burning like a square piece of coal.
"Excuse me for cutting our talk short, but the enemy seems to be attacking," Ami said as she discarded Torian's note. She fidgeted and raised one arm in front of her chest, uncomfortable under the Avatar's fixed stare. "Um, would you consider helping me out with the defences? I don't think the army is fond of either of us."
Amadeus' eyes narrowed and the corners of his mouth tilted down. Ami worried she had insulted him, but after a moment during which he seemed to debate with himself, he nodded once. "The longer this siege takes, the longer it will delay my own plans," he growled and turned on his heel. Without another word, he started walking back the way he had come, toward the command centre.
Ami breathed out in relief. That was one worry less. "Everyone, do not attack the Avatar. I repeat: do NOT attack the Avatar. He will work with us for now." Employees informed about the change in situation, she hoped that there wouldn't be any unfortunate misunderstandings. As an afterthought, she plucked Tiger from the ceiling of the ambush room and set her down at her feet. "Don't worry, he's gone," she soothed the crouching, tiger-striped youma who resembled a bigger, horned version of herself. An instant of concentration and a black flash later, the young Keeper saw the world from Tiger's perspective once more. Stronger, more developed muscles than her own relaxed as she unwound her limbs from the ball the frightened youma had curled up into. The body, by now familiar, still shivered randomly from the creature's recent fear, and Ami felt a slight itching sensation on her face and skin, as if she was sunburnt. She'd have to check up on Tiger's health properly after the current crisis was over.
When Ami flashed into existence in the command centre, the row of seats in front of the scrying screens was filled with busy-looking warlocks. The robed magic users almost fell over each other in their eagerness to show off their discipline and work ethic. Ami rather suspected that this sudden burst of motivation was intended to distract her from their sad display of cowardice in the face of the Avatar's invasion. Or at least to look more important than the others in case she wanted to demonstrate her disappointment by making an example out of someone. "Report! What is going on?"
Jadeite was hovering above the seated magicians, looking over their shoulders at the scrying screens. "So far, they have encircled a portal and are watching it from a distance while some sort of magical contraption is pouring suspicious-looking energy into it. We aren't sure what it's supposed to do yet. Good work with the Avatar, by the way," the grey-uniformed man congratulated.
Ami felt a bit warmer at the words and smiled up at him.
An instant later, Torian's face with its oil-slick hair obstructed her view. The warlock's even teeth were bared in a winning smile. "Indeed, it was glorious! I would not have believed it possible if I had not seen it with my own eyes, Mistress! The Avatar defeated with a single spell! How did you do it?"
"There are more important things to deal with right now," Ami waved him off. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Cathy enter through the door. The blonde was out of her damaged armour and back in the white sailor Mercury uniform she usually wore. Her disappointed expression mirrored that of the others of the room. Obviously, she was just as eager as the others to learn how Mercury had managed to stop the nearly invincible champion of the Light. Ami observed the scrying screens through her visor, but the device couldn't make much sense of the shrinking, floating black cube surrounded by a corona of fire. Behind the glass was just an image of the scene in the visible spectrum, carrying none of the extra information that her sensors could have picked up. "Has anyone encountered this kind of magic before?"
A deep rumble from the parts of her dungeon that formerly belonged to Keeper Morrigan sounded deceptively loud in the silence following her question. Eyes widening, Ami directed her attention to that part of her domain, looking for the source of the vibrations. The noise came from her portal to the Underworld. Three of the tall megaliths forming the structure had toppled and slammed into the walls on their way down. The fourth only had escaped that fate because Ami had moved it aside earlier, rendering the magical gate impassible. Thus, it had not been around for the huge, black claw growing from its former base to displace it. Three more of the crooked growths reached toward the ceiling, arching towards a central point at which their sharp tips touched. Even the ominous blue glow of the inscriptions winding around the horn-like pillars couldn't drown out the brighter orange of a forming portal within the space delimited by the ebony claws. "Never mind," Ami shouted, "It re-opened our side of the portal." Her eyes stared unseeing into the room as she gathered up her reaperbots and rapidly deployed them in front of the compromised portal. Even dropping from a height of less than five centimetres, the automatons clattered impressively loud as they landed in a crouch and turned their knob-like eyes onto the new entrance.
"Get the troops over there now," Cathy demanded as she ran over to Ami's side and skidded to halt. She tapped a random warlock on the shoulder. "You, display the portal, now!" Turning back to Mercury, she asked "Can you simply shut it down again?"
Ami's borrowed face was grim. "The substance making up those pillars seems fairly hard. My giant sword is chipping pieces off, but it's not going fast. The claws seem to be regenerating some of the damage, too." Her frown deepened. "They are not flammable, either."
"Right, we need to contain-"
A hush fell over the room as the Avatar strode in through the door, head held high and right hand on the pommel of his sword grip. The warlocks made themselves small in their seats and stayed very quiet as he walked up to Keeper Mercury. "Well, Empress," he ignored the surprised hisses of indrawn breath at his use of the title, "it looks like your visitors can't take the hint that they are not wanted."
Cathy nodded. "Yes, we have to make sure that they can't get the bulk of their troops through that portal." She whirled on the Avatar, her blue eyes flashing with determination. "Marda, or whatever your real name is, if you are going to help us then get over there and make yourself useful!"
The Avatar blinked once at being ordered around like that by the blonde swordswoman who knew she wouldn't last a chance against him outside of her powered armour. The warlocks stared at her as if she had grown a second head, and Snyder froze in the doorway, looking as if he would faint and drop out of sight before he had properly entered the room.
Cathy put her hands akimbo. "What? There's no time to lose! Either he helps us or he doesn't! Back to work, everyone!"
Jered shook his head in exasperated amazement and was the first to break the stunned silence. "Something isn't right about this. Tactically, it doesn't make sense to send your invasion force straight through the opponent's prepared defences." He leaned down to one of the diviners, pointing at the map on the central table "Check the other portals nearby!" The magician did as he was told, and found another set of blue-streaked claws on his first try. "Crap. I think that spell fixed all blocked portals linking to theirs." He pointed at the gate around which the army was gathering. Its blackened floor, scorched by the Unraveller's gift, was empty now. Of the cart and the unlucky goblins chained to it, nothing but lighter silhouettes on the smoking ground were left. Jered fumbled with his daggers in reflex. "We could be looking at over twenty possible incursion points, nine in the immediate vicinity of the dungeon!"
"They'll be able to get the most of their troops onto the continent, then" Cathy declared as she walked around quickly to the map. "We can't blockade all of them in time! I think the ones we should focus on are-"
"Of course we can," the Avatar cut her off.
Ami understood immediately what he meant. "There is a single point of failure for this invasion," she said, "Just not on our side."
"Oh. OH." Cathy sounded chagrined as she looked at Mercury with pleading eyes. "Please tell me we are not going to charge the enemy army head-on!"
Trel emerged from the portal, accompanied by a gaggle of other goblins and a few orcs. His soles felt as if they were on fire from charging across the heated stone, but his leather boots were merely singed. Cold air brushed over his skin, the feeling doubly intense due to the contrast with the sweltering heat that the Underworld rock had retained from the magic cube's conflagration. The gangly green creature stopped hopping from one leg on the other to look up when he heard a sound like an avalanche of heavy buckets bearing down on his position. His ears drooped at the sight, and he wondered just which dark god he had offended to deserve this. The other soldiers clearly felt the same way, and the advance faltered before it had properly started. Hovering above the incoming wall of scythe-wielding undead metal reapers was Keeper Mercury herself, her eyes flashing an awful red. She was flanked by a giant, disembodied hand. As if that wasn't terrifying enough, her real horned reaper sprinted ahead of her forces, maw open as he howled with bloodlust. It was a sight that would have given the bravest dark angel pause. To round of an Underworlder's worst nightmare, the Avatar himself was striding down the corridor behind the red demon, his sword drawn and outlined in white light. Even the most disciplined of the intruders froze in complete shock, their minds unwilling to process what they were seeing. The Avatar and Mercury, teaming up? Too simple-minded to be paralysed by the apparent impossibility, Trel screamed at the top of his lungs, spun around, lunged through the legs off the orc behind him, and ran back toward the portal. Energised by his example, the rest of the troop turned tail and stampeded after him, dropping their weapons so their weight wouldn't slow them down.
Within the orange-tinted, wafting space that was shared by both exits of the portal, Trel bumped into one of the warlocks assigned to follow the initial group and counter the Keeper's magic. He simply kept going in his panic, and with a loud ripping noise, the warlock's hairy legs were bared to the world. He turned and raised his fist at the retreating back of the greenskin, who couldn't see because of the purple rag now covering his face. It flew off his face when a red fist attached to a round, bulbeous body stopped his flight.
"Deserting?" The bile demon laughed as he lifted the goblin off his feet. Trel's legs treaded air as he still tried to flee in vain. "I'll have fun with yo- ARGH!" With strength born from adrenaline and fear, the goblin took a bite out of the demon's leathery arm behind the wrist, his eyes rolling madly as he struggled. His left arm found the voracious creature's nose ring and tugged with all his might. Startled by the sudden pain, the monster let go for a moment. Without the demon's grip to hold him back, the goblin's pulling motion yanked him forward, and the kettle covering his head collided with the space between his rotund obstacle's eyes. He didn't even notice. Kicking and screaming, he clambered over the toppling bulk of his opponent. The bile demon's morning stars, attached with chains to his long, horizontal horns, clattered to the floor as he fell on his back. The orcs right on the goblin's heels didn't take the time to go around him, and his flabby belly wobbled and bounced as the fleeing troops stepped on it. Covered in many footprints and thoroughly miffed, the bile demon sat up when the stream of creatures cut off. He was swearing horrible vengeance when a shadow fell over him. As his eyes met the solid white ones of the maniacally-grinning reaper standing over him, he knew that his day had just become much, much worse.
Outside of the portal, the disorganised mob of retreating soldiers slammed into troops moving up to the gate to be sent to their own destinations. Shouts and angry curses echoed through the cave as frightened monsters tried to climb over their comrades and squeeze through the densely-packed formations in their eagerness to get away. A large bile demon with an intricately-carved breastplate resting over his stomach stood next to one of the magical gate's monoliths, entering the destinations for the soldiers who were supposed to be passing through. A sudden twist of his head sent the morning star attached to the end of his horn scything through the legs of the deserters, tripping them up and sending them tumbling onto the hot ground. That was the least of the punishments he would inflict on them for cowardly neglecting orders and messing up his neatly-ordered schedule. As he prepared to vent his fury on the spineless worms, something entirely unexpected helped them escape his wrath. A glittering surge of water slashed horizontally over the tangled-up front ranks, looking almost like a giant hand. The force of the slap-like impact sent the foremost creatures flying over the heads of their comrades, enveloped in a spray of droplets. They crash-landed among the other soldiers, spreading more chaos and confusion. By now, the slow forward movement of the Underworld army had come to a stop. Its front ranks, thrown into disarray by the retreating forces barrelling into them, formed a dam that kept the rest back. The warriors hesitated not only because of the bodies in their way, but also because of the cold, obscuring fog seeping out of the portal. In an instant, the clammy banks of impenetrable mist swallowed the portal's frame. Silhouettes moved within, and muffled combat noise escaped from its cover as it rolled toward the troops.
"It's the enemy! Warlocks toward the front, get rid of that fog!" a thunderous voice rolled over the battlefield, coming from far behind the front lines. A dark angel rose above the masses, red eyes glowering at the unexpected complication.
Ami's five ice golems were the first of her troops to cross the portal's threshold. She was glad that within her Shaboo Spray, nobody could see her lookalikes make fools out of themselves. As soon as the ice girls stepped onto the warm stone, the bottom layer of their feet started melting, making the ice lose traction. Within seconds, the quintet slipped. Waving their glittering arms, the statues clattered to the ground and skidded forward, leaving a trail of broken rings from their ice chainmail behind. Aside from sparing Ami embarrassment, the fog was also providing a lot of protection. The first crossbow bolts and enchanted arrows whirred past, aimed in the general direction of her forces, rather than enhanced with supernatural aim. Not far ahead, the ground was getting slick with blood as the reaper caught up with the stragglers, and Ami averted her gaze in revulsion. The Avatar wasn't far behind the demon, though the reaper's growl became angrier and louder whenever the champion of Light approached. Right now, he was sounding like a very large and angry bear. "Shabon Spray Freezing!"
With a few quick spells, Ami constructed a low ring of frozen ice around the portal's perimeter. While the barrier only reached up to her waist, the icy wall was slippery and should at least slow down the enemy forces while her reaper automatons bought time. With a gesture, she made her frozen Keeper hand reach through the portal, dragging a gigantic sword with it on the way back. She looked around at the magically-erected claws maintaining the gate and activated her visor to locate the weakest one. Startled, she ducked her head when a blue hemisphere flickered into sight around her, its surface rippling like a disturbed pond as a burning arrow pinged off it. "Thanks, Jadeite!" While she was glad for the dark general's shield, him being close at a time like this made her feel uneasy. With him here in the Underworld, right in the face of danger, she feared for his safety. She shook her head. She couldn't let personal feelings get in the way now, and resolved to complete this mission in record time. With a sound like a bell ringing, her oversized weapon struck the front right pillar hard, sending shards of smooth black substance flying. A quick glance to the left told her that the enemy was moving again. A wall of green and pink-skinned humanoids was closing in on her position, interspersed with a few large blobs of red bile demon skin. Most disturbing were the two slender, claw-armed females running ahead of the group. Ami winced as the first of the screeching madwomen in black leather somersaulted over the barricade, only for her head to go flying as she lunged at the Avatar with an extended claw. The second one ducked and let lightning flow across the long blades attached to her fingers. One of Ami's ice golems kneeling behind the barricades popped and sizzled as the arcs of electricity flowed into the animated statue and caused the water within to boil. Not to be outdone, Rabixtrel bounded in her direction, and the dark mistress barely had the time to yelp in surprise before her torso split in two, cut by scythe strike that went from her left shoulder to her right hip.
Disturbed by the deaths, Ami decided to do something about the incoming horde right now before it could get its act together and swarm her with numbers. Closing her eyes, she drew upon her connection with the dungeon heart and urged it to consume a pile of gold from her treasury. She substituted the dark power produced by the operation for her senshi magic and cast another Shabon Spray, making sure that the stream of corrupted black bubbles shot far past the Avatar and Rabixtrel and beyond her improvised barricade. The acidic black fog produced by the spell mushroomed up and outward from the point of impact, and her ears immediately picked up the pained cries and shouts of creatures whose eyes and ears started burning. She hadn't made the spell as strong as it could have been, as its excessive cruelty went against her gentle nature. It wouldn't inflict permanent damage now, but still be debilitating enough that the enemy would avoid it. In a way, it was better than a solid wall. Immediately, trolls and goblins turned tail, coughing and rubbing their eyes and bleeding ears as they stumbled out of the dark mist. Another volley of missiles zoomed toward her location, but Jadeite was already at her side, spreading his shield. Satisfied that the situation was under control for the moment, Ami redoubled her efforts to cut down one of the blue-runed black pillar that maintained the portal. Another blow that rang like a bell, another chip in the rock.
"Warlocks, get rid of this fucking mist already! Attack them!" The dark angel in charge of the combined city forces roared, still taken aback by the audacity of Mercury to actually attack first. "What does she even hope to accomplish? You! You there! Dragons!" He pointed with his black sword at two of the large, green monsters towering above the rest of the troops. The long-snouted creatures turned to look at him, and one snorted fire from its nose. "Take off and flap your wings to disperse that infernal cloud!"
The dragons threw a long-suffering look at their black-winged general, but shrugged and lifted off, gales from their leathery wing beats kicking up dust and bowling over the smaller nearby soldiers.
A shrill cackle sounded from nearby. "A closed portal."
"What?" The dark angel whirled around to face the short, one-eyed crone who had somehow sneaked up on him. She was leaning on her cane and grinning madly at her, revealing many gaps between her teeth. "The answer. To your question."
The general mentally backtracked, understood what she meant, and gritted his teeth in annoyance. That sorceress was such a pest, and if he had it his way, he'd snapped that gangly little neck of hers without a long time ago to make the incessant cackling stop. Unfortunately, her political position and, more importantly, the fact that she was channelling power from her coven of warlocks to maintain the Unraveller's magic, protected her better than any armour could. Instead, he watched the dragons as they swooped down from near the ceiling of the cave in majestic arcs, spewing fire from their maws. His mood picked up as the black and grey mists both tore apart in their wake, revealing Mercury's black automatons. Even as he watched, a ballista bolt got stuck in one of the things, lifted it off its feet, and dragged it along back through the portal on momentum alone. This would be- "Witch! She's hacking at that pillar with a giant sword!" His frown was back, the furrow between his brows amplified by the curves of his horns.
"Gee he he he, I wonder when she'll notice that the more damage she does, the faster it will grow back?"
At that moment, a great cry of horror from thousands of throats echoed through the cave, shaking the stalagmites and stalactites with its intensity. The black-plumed angel whirled back to the scene of battle and saw one of the dragons struggling in the air, blood hosing down the troops below with each swing of its clipped right wing. What shocked the commander, however, was the armoured figure who had his legs slung around the scaly monster's neck and was holding it by its horns, directing its descent. "The Avatar! You told me that your warlocks saw Mercury defeat him! How can he be HERE? EXPLAIN!"
"Don't get so excited, you'll get ulcers," the crone answered as she watched the soldiers in the shadow of the descending dragon run for their lives, panic on their coarse faces as they looked up over their shoulders at the plummeting beast. An instant later, the monster crashed hard enough that the vibrations could be felt even from her distant vantage point. The thrashing bulk rolled a short distance, hewing a red and sticky lane into the forest of demoralised soldiers. "Ouch."
"ANSWER THE QUESTION!"
"He's obviously decided that working for Mercury is better than suffering whatever other fate she had prepared for him, duh," the crone answered, shrugging her shoulders. "Look, he's already running back to her position."
"The Avatar working with a Keeper. That must be some threat she's holding over his head," the dark angel snarled and watched with a grim expression as the second dragon strafed the glowing figure from above. The beast had learned from the fate of its predecessor and remained as high in the air as practical, outside the jumping range of the obscenely goodly warrior. As it circled for another go, the steady beat of its wings suddenly slowed to a crawl. The Underworld general caught a glimpse of a horned, scythe-wielding figure in the fog who was raising his fist. Actions magically slowed, the dragon plummeted like a rock, unable to keep itself aloft. A moment before it struck the ground, the reaper blurred and leapt, swinging his scythe. The dragon's head separated from its neck already before the giant body crashed, releasing a huge gout of hot blood. Rabixtrel landed on the corpse and screamed his triumph at the wavering soldiers.
Reaper. Avatar. Mercury herself. Her most powerful magician. Around thirty or so golems. The dark angel surveyed what his enemy was holding the portal with, and started smiling. Once more, he addressed the crone. "Cut your spell!"
"Huh?" The crone's remaining eye blinked rapidly, and she tilted her head as she raised an eyebrow at the blue-skinned humanoid. "That would be stuuupid. I cut the spell, the portal can be destroyed," the robed figure explained as if talking to an angry toddler.
"You insolent- look! That, right there, is all of Keeper Mercury's strength that counts! Her best troops! We are too far from her dungeon for her to transport them back, so when the portal collapses, they'll be trapped here with us with no way to escape!"
"I think you mean 'and then we'll be trapped here with them'," the crone contradicted.
"Nonsense! Without pressure, we can take our time and bombard them to death. If they leave that spot, we can bring the full force of our superior numbers to bear on them. They will be crushed!" The commander of the underworld troops gestured toward the formation of dark elves enchanting their crossbows on one side, and the dozen of magical catapults on the other.
Cackling loudly, the crone shook her head. "Nah, doesn't convince me. Have you-" A black sword tip appeared in front of her neck, a hair's width away from breaking the wrinkly skin.
"I could simply stab you and make you stop the spell that way," the dark angel threatened. "Believe me, I feel so very tempted right now."
"You make a good point," the old woman replied in a deadpan tone of voice. "Very well." She snipped her fingers. "The spell is gone, and so am I." With a poof, the small figure disappeared in a cloud of yellow, sulphurous-smelling smoke. A few oversized leeches appeared where she had stood and launched themselves at the dark angel in blind hunger. He uttered a curse, incinerating the vermin, and turned to observe the course of the battle.
"Something's different! The pillar is no longer healing," Ami shouted as she kept slamming her weapon into the shuddering edifice. She was uncomfortably aware of the bloody battle raging around her. Reluctant creatures were shoved to the front by the pressure of those further behind, into the carnage both the Avatar and the horned reaper were inflicting. Both had a wide, blood-drenched circle around them and stood on a heap of corpses. Where Rabixtrel whirled like a dervish, relishing each and every blow, Amadeus stood still and unmoveable like a rock. When his sword darted outward, it was with quick, efficient strikes. Despite his economy of motion, the weapon unerringly found vital spots, and his targets dropped after a single hit. Ami didn't really want to think about what was going on around her, but the incredible noise caused by weapons clashing against armour and the screams of the injured and dying intruded on her thoughts. Her automatons weren't idle either, and she shuddered at the ruthlessness her goblin pilots were capable of when given the means to express their violent urges. With some difficulty, she managed to ignore the sickening stench of blood and ruptured bowel and continued hacking with her giant blade. This time, the cracks in the column spread farther, and an entire section of its substance splintered and trickled to the ground. The vast black claw creaked and wobbled like a tree about to fall. With the sound of a rock slide, it broke off and toppled, and the moment it did, the hazy orange glow within the portal disappeared. "Everyone, we did it! Evacuate now! Jadeite!"
The dark general shimmered into existence right next to her and thrust his palm forward. A black ellipse appeared, and he bowed, holding one arm across his chest. "After you."
"Water?" Hovering in the air, Ami looked around wide-eyed at the ocean waves that surrounded them on all sides, then at her reflection below. Crimson eyes blinked back at her from Tiger's distorted reflection. An instant later, seawater fountained up next to her when the next reaperbot stepped through the portal and sank like a stone.
Jadeite, flying at her side, shrugged his shoulders. "It's not my fault that this particular Underworld location corresponds to some place above the sea. I couldn't know before actually opening the portal." He remained hovering next to the black ellipse that kept disgorging blood-smeared and dented automatons. The Keeper hand emerged next, moving backward and dragging a resisting Rabixtrel through by the leg.
The horned reaper trod water like he did everything else: angrily.
Ami shot a Shabon Spray Freezing into the waves to provide some ice for him to hold on. "Sorry, I- oof!" The Avatar leapt from the gate next and latched on to her legs on the way down. She sank half a metre due to the unexpected additional weight, but managed to stabilise her position before she could touch the water below.
"While I could use a bath, I'd rather avoid this one," Amadeus muttered as he pulled himself higher.
Ami winced. Having a fully-armoured man climb up your body hurt, especially with the ungentle grips those gauntleted hands were using.
A moment later, she was giving the Avatar a piggy-back ride. A calm moment in the waves below allowed her to see just how ridiculous that looked. Despite herself, she giggled and hoped against hope that nobody was watching them right now.
"On the other hand," Amadeus continued as the arm slung around her shoulder moved higher, closer to her throat, "we are technically not on the Avatar Islands right now."
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