Camilla peeked around a corner, only one of her golden eyes visible behind the wall. She saw an orc walk past a light in the corridor ahead, arguing with a slightly shorter troll.
From a crossroad further ahead came a rumbling noise, and then three goblins screeched in fright and pressed themselves against the wall to let a barrel roll past. All three of the greenskins shook their fists at the imp running on top of the barrel, poking her tongue out at them.
Finding nothing to be worried about, Camilla continued on her way toward the empress' audience chamber, watching out for more barrels from the side corridors.
The other creatures didn't bother her, though they did stop to gawk at her colourful feather-print dress.
Nevertheless, the young ambassador wouldn't feel safe until she actually reached Empress. Diplomatic immunity or no, there was someone who held a personal grudge against her in this dungeon.
“Now who do we have sneaking around here?” someone asked behind Camilla, making her start.
Hearing the voice of the very person the fairy was trying to avoid, she whirled around on her heel and dropped into a balanced stance that would allow her to doge in several directions if she had to. She blinked as she caught sight of the demonic apparition in orange.
Tiger grinned as she loomed over the fae. “Like the new look? I do so enjoy being tall!”
“Err, it's quite you?” Camilla tried, her wings buzzing nervously behind her. She had no idea why the Empress' sister had turned into what looked like a form-fitting suit of armour with a head, but she doubted it boded well for her. “Er, you are Tiger, right?”
“How nice of you to remember me. Do you also remember setting my hair on fire? Because I certainly do, and I think we really should discuss that.” There was nothing friendly about the youma's smile.
Camilla's eyes widened. “Ah, I'm afraid we can't,” she said quickly. “You see, I'm here with a message for the Empress! Very important diplomatic mission. Mustn't be delayed. Now if you'd just let me pass, I'll be on my way and-”
“Mercury isn't available right now, so I'm in charge of the dungeon,” Tiger said, taking obvious enjoyment from seeing the fairy's face fall.
“Not here? But...” Uh oh, this was bad. Camilla's gaze darted left and right as she looked for a way out. She briefly considered the goblins and orcs who had stopped to watch the confrontation, obviously hoping for some entertainment. She could expect no help from them. “Oh well, in that case I should probably return to my chambers and wait until she comes back, right?” she said with a wide, fake smile, sweating lightly.
“I don't think so. We are going to discuss what you did to my hair, now!” the black-striped youma declared, crossing her arms.
“But it grew back already!” the fae protested, pointing with her index finger at the bangs of blue hair that looked a bit straighter than Mercury's, but otherwise the same.
“That's no excuse!” Tiger replied. “Oh, and take this. You'll need it.” She tossed a small, glittering object to the fairy, who caught it reflexively.
A hand mirror, Camilla realised, puzzled. She wondered if she should drop it to keep her hands free. Readying herself for action, she shifted her weight forward and formed a fist. “You know, if you really want to have this discussion, then you should remember who won last time,” she said with a bravado she didn't quite feel.
Tiger laughed. “A fluke. This time, there won't be any soap in my eyes! Prepare yourself!”
Camilla flinched as the armoured creature grasped at her – only to stare in surprise when the limb slammed into a semi-spherical barrier. Through the ripples of blue light moving outward from the impact point, she could see that Tiger looked just as dumbfounded as she felt.
“Tiger, that's quite enough,” a calm male voice said from behind the fairy.
“Jadeite!” the youma hissed, glaring at a spot somewhere above Camilla's left shoulder.
The young ambassador looked in the indicated direction and spotted an arm, its white-gloved palm facing outward in a warding gesture. She took a quick step aside so that she could see both the uniformed man and her assailant. “General Jadeite!” she said, flushing slightly.
“Must you always interrupt my fun? Stop bothering me!” Tiger exclaimed. She fixated Camilla with a stare. “I'll deal with you later!” A column of ice formed around her, hiding her from view before it scattered.
Jadeite stared at the now empty spot, his frown deepening as he slowly lowered his hand.
Camilla's heart kept beating faster than usual as she stared at the curly-haired blonde. “Thank you for saving me,” she said, inclining her head slightly. “I was getting worried there. Is it true that she's currently in charge of the dungeon?”
“She certainly thinks so. She has borrowed some of the Empress' power, and it has gone straight to her head,” the dark general explained, not looking at Camilla. He produced a crystal ball from a pocket and narrowed his steel-blue eyes at it.
“Borrowed? Wait, where is Mercury? I have a message for her about the battle-”
“I don't have time for that. I've got to catch Tiger before she does something regrettable, rather than just annoying.” Jadeite still didn't look at the fairy and dissolved into a cluster of upwards-shooting vertical lines as she called for him to wait.
“Stop bothering me already!” Tiger demanded when the flash from a teleport briefly projected her shadow onto the wall before her.
“Then stop making trouble and give Mercury back!” the dark general replied, scowling. “What were you thinking, going after that fairy? Are you trying to provoke a diplomatic incident?”
“I was only going to glamour her bald!” Tiger replied, turning to look at the dark general. She raised an eyebrow as she spotted Cathy letting go of the grey-uniformed man. “Admit it, it would have been hilarious! Also, she deserves it.”
“The ambassador is off limits to you,” Jadeite said, his sinister expression unchanged.
Cathy took a step forward on slightly shaky legs. Jadeite's teleport must have disagreed with her. “Seriously, don't you ever think ahead about the consequences of your actions?”
“Excuse me? Did you mistake me for my boring bookworm of a sister?” Tiger asked. It wasn't as if she lived completely in the present, but the future was this vast and nebulous place full of problems that tended to solve themselves most of the time. She could handle the rest when they actually became relevant, so why poison the present with worries about them?
“Please tell me you aren't serious,” the swordswoman groaned. She looked as if she would have liked to bury her face in her palm again, but she was wearing heavy gauntlets that would have made such a gesture painful. “Now please let Mercury go. Her mind got attacked by a dark god, and she might need medical help! We are all worried about her! You are putting her in danger+”
Tiger hesitated. “No, I'm not! She's completely safe where she's now,” the youma explained. “Her body was healthy when I took it over, and her mind's not going to get any worse from sleeping. You should be grateful that I'm taking good care of her!”
“But we could probably wake her up faster if we had her body,” Cathy pointed out.
“Eh, just let her rest. I can take over for her for a while just fine!” If she was doing something harmful to Mercury, then the dungeon heart would use its minion link to stop her anyway, right?
“Not good enough. You are getting out of that body now, whether you want to or not,” Jadeite announced. “And don't even think about running. With that crystal ball being part of your body,” he pointed at Tiger's collarbone, “I can track you down anywhere.”
“Oh, so that's how it's going to be,” Tiger said, narrowing her eyes at him even as they lit up with whitish light. “I guess I'll just have to demonstrate that I'm the strongest and in charge. Even if you brought reinforcements.” She indicated Cathy with a slight nod. “Not that I see how a mere human like her could contribute meaningfully,” she scoffed.
“Well, last time I went all out in this armour, I fought the Avatar to a standstill,” the swordswoman replied, her confident voice distorted by the helmet.
Tiger blinked. That was a point she had neglected to take into account. Come to think of it, she didn't know what spells the blonde's sword had been enchanted with. “Wait, wait! This is also Mercury's body,” she said, grinning smugly as she patted down her metallic-gleaming sides. “Are you really willing to hurt her too?”
“Well...” Cathy drew out, looking thoughtful, “I do have other options.” She took her hands off the haft of the weapon at her belt and crossed her arms as she assumed a familiar-looking pose. “Shabon Spray!”
Tiger flinched away when a blast of bubbles flew from Cathy's hands, quickly filling the room with more impenetrable fog than the bubbles could have possibly contained. Now that she was on the receiving end of the spell, her field of vision had turned into a wall of drab grey.
Even Cathy's startled “Whoa!” sounded muffled by the mist.
“I would be much more worried about this if I didn't have Keeper sight, you know,” the youma commented as she observed the swordswoman inspecting her ice-covered fingertips. “Thanks for reminding me that I'm not at full power yet, though.” The tiger-striped being thrust her right hand in the air. “Mercury Power, Make Up!”
“Don't tell me she can do that too,” Jadeite muttered inside the fog.
From Ami's memories, Tiger knew exactly how to trigger the transformation and what it felt like. Sadly, going through the motions had never worked for her before. For a breathless instant, she feared that she had merely made herself look very silly. Then, she felt the familiar rush of icy magic wash over her like a refreshing shower. Apparently, merging with Ami was enough to let her trigger the transformation herself. Another thing her memories told her should be hers had been reacquired!
As the uniform finished forming around Tiger, a sudden impulse struck her. Oh, why not? Grinning she faced Jadeite and Cathy, striking a pose. ”Evil rebels who would cut short a hard-working youma's well-deserved regency! In the name of Mercury, I shall punish you!” Hah! The stunned look on Jadeite's face alone made everything worth it! Sailor Moon would certainly approve!
“Oh yeah, we are the rebels now. Because rebels always try to save the rightful empress,” Cathy commented.
“She doesn't need saving! She's-” Tiger hesitated, feeling something stir in the back of her mind. ”Oh, did the transformation wake you up? she asked mentally in the direction of Ami's presence.
The brief feeling of confusion she felt radiating from the girl turned into panic.
“Calm down, it's just me, so don't worr-” “Hey!” Tiger protested out loud when she was yanked through space without warning. “Where are you- stop!”
Wide-eyed, the youma braced herself for impact moments before she slammed into a curved, glowing surface, bounced off, and dropped to the floor.
Above her, the crystal sphere resting on the backs of three troll statues rumbled and darkened.
“Oh yes, just flee back into the dungeon heart,” Tiger muttered as she sat up and rubbed the bump on her head. “Great idea! Except I can't go in there!” A pause. “You aren't listening to me at all, are you?” she complained as she felt herself drawn back to the dungeon heart once again. Briefly, she saw a reflection of red-glowing eyes in the sphere's surface before her face slammed into it. Stuck to the pulsating object like a fly to glue, she could feel Ami struggling to get free. “Ow! Just get out!”
Tiger released her hold on the possessed body before the much more powerful teenager could tear herself free by force. She didn't know exactly what would happen in that case, but it probably wouldn't be pleasant. Even before her form had properly separated into its component parts, Ami's presence suddenly disappeared from her mind, sucked upwards into the dungeon heart. The youma dropped back to the ground, still wrapped in the armour that was now separate from her. “Yargh!”
Ami was smaller than Tiger, and her equipment was sized to fit her. Crushed and squeezed almost everywhere by the constricting suit of armour, Tiger was in too much pain to notice when she struck the floor with a clang. A frantic glamour later, the metal around her shimmered and resized itself. She sat up, sucking air into her lungs and thanking Metallia that her body had still been somewhat malleable from returning to her true shape. It still hurt, damn it! She glared up at the dungeon heart, just in time to spot a human-sized shadow appearing in the white-glowing sphere above her.
An instant later, Ami dropped right into her lap. Startled, Tiger caught the naked girl, her sore arms protesting from the strain. “I should drop you into Jadeite's arms like this for all the trouble you have caused me!” she teased reflexively.
“Head... hurts...” Ami groaned weakly.
The youma took a closer look at the limp form of her adopted sister, a bit disappointed and worried that she wasn't even blushing. Was that blood behind her bangs, trickling down her neck? Holding Ami, Tiger levitated off the ground and teleported. Moments later her loud shout of “SNYYYDER!” echoed through the dungeon.
Ami sat in her bed, her back propped up by a pillow, and stared morosely at her aquamarine covers while Snyder wrapped a bandage around her head. She didn't dare meet the eyes of her advisers, who were standing around her bed with worried expressions.
“I messed up,” she sighed. Now Crowned Death was forewarned, and she had squandered the aid of the surface nations! They wouldn't trust her ever again! Her hands tightened into fists, crumpling the fabric of her nightgown. “My plan was a complete failure.”
“Well, yes,” Tiger commented from her right, sounding inappropriately cheerful. “Ow!”
Ami glanced in her direction, and saw that the youma had fallen victim to an elbow to the ribs from Cathy. Jadeite stood with crossed arms to Tiger's left, his scowl matching that of the swordswoman.
“Don't give her the wrong impression. She must be confused enough already,” the scarred blonde scolded.
Cathy was right. The last thing Ami remembered was Crowned Death gloating at her, listing all the ways he would torture her if she didn't give up the information he wanted. It had been a long, long list, and she had no doubt that he would have enjoyed making good on his threats. She shivered. “How did you save me? I wasn't able to do a thing.”
“Oh,” her adopted sister spoke up, “That was fairly straightforward. I simply blew up his temple.”
Ami blinked. It took her a moment to process Tiger's words. She jerked her head to the side and stared wide-eyed at the youma. “What?”
“Careful! You will start bleeding from your ears again if you do not treat yourself with care,” Snyder admonished as the sudden movement almost ripped the bandage from his grip.
As if to confirm his words, Ami felt a sudden pain flare up in her temples. Wincing, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
“That's what you get for trying to cook your brain with too much magic, or so I'm told,” Jered commented. The wavy-haired man was sitting at Ami's desk, his legs crossed. “And yeah, Crowned Death's temple is gone, so the mission was a complete success after all. Tiger here claims credit for that, not that she's ever gotten around to tell us how she did it among all the bragging.”
“The temple is...?” Ami trailed off as she had to completely re-adjust all her assumptions. She covered her mouth with her hand as she gaped in disbelief and confusion at Tiger. “How?”
“Well, when you went and got yourself captured by Crowned Death, I bravely possessed you- oh, don't look at me like that. You did it to me often enough!”
Ami closed her mouth. She hadn't even be aware that she could be possessed. The idea made her uncomfortable, but things had turned out for the best, or she wouldn't be sitting here now. “Go on?” she said, deciding that she desperately needed more information.
“Well, since Crowned Death had trapped you inside that fiery crown and wasn't paying any attention to me, I used the unattended link to his zombie heart to blow up the temple,” Tiger reported proudly.
“What did you do? Use all his gold to replicate adamantine?” Ami asked. That's what she would have tried, perhaps after de-constructing the basin full of liquefied mana at the centre of the temple.
“Nothing as boring as that,” Tiger said, waving one hand dismissively as she grinned down at the teenager. “I filled the ship with that awesome substance from one of those chemistry books Rei helped you scan. The one that burns everything. Can't remember its weird name, but there were three fluorides and one chlorine in it!”
“Chlorine trifluoride,” Ami said, paling slightly.
“Yeah, that's it! Expensive stuff, though. I didn't get as much as I wanted.” She shrugged. “Oh well, not my money.”
“But- there's a reason why I don't use it!” Ami blurted out, horrified. ”What if Crowned Death managed to record what you did? It would be a terrible weapon in the hands of Keepers if he told them how to replicate it!”
“I don't really care if they try to make some and set themselves on fire,” Tiger said with a nasty grin. “Seriously, what are the odds that they would actually manage to safely contain it?”
“Near-certainty, eventually.” Ami let herself sink back into her pillow. It was too late to do anything about it now anyway. “Still, I'm too grateful you got me out of there to complain much about it. Thank you so much for saving me! I'd have been lost without your help,” she admitted. Funny how being in the grasp of a dark god could rearrange one's priorities. A new thought struck her. If the temple was destroyed, then- “Cathy, we need to seize Clairmonte's territory!”
“Too late,” the swordswoman replied in a deadpan tone of voice.
Ami hung her head. “I see. That will-”
The blonde's serious expression turned into a smile. “And with that, I mean that we already seized it.”
“But-” Ami began. She blinked and used the dungeon heart to figure out where her troops were at, finding some of them to be far away from her dungeon. “How long have I been out?”
“A few hours. Tiger here wasn't in any hurry to relinquish your body,” Jadeite informed her.
“Well, you were unconscious!” the youma defended herself. “You can't fault me for wanting to enjoy the benefits of being in charge for a while longer!”
“I can, and I do,” the dark general contradicted.
Ami looked from one to the other, uncertain of what she should think about that. Did anything happen between them while she was indisposed? “Jered, can you give me a succinct summary of what I missed and need to know?”
“Sure.” The wavy-haired man sat up straighter. “Cathy sent out the invasion forces as soon as she got news about Clairmonte's death. Torian took him out during a failed rescue attempt shortly before Tiger destroyed the temple.”
“Oh.” Ami looked thoughtful for a moment. “I think I know when that happened. Crowned Death got distracted briefly for no apparent reason, and he sounded irritated afterwards.”
“Are you really all right?” Cathy asked. “You were in the hands of the death god, and...”
“He didn't get around to torturing me,” Ami reassured the blonde. “Actually, I suspect he couldn't do more than keep me there and terrify me,” she pondered, one hand raised to her chin. “Since I was only there in mind, a hallucination would-”
“Your body sprouted a black fiery crown and tried to eviscerate me,” Tiger interrupted.
“Oh,” Ami said in a small voice and turned an unhealthy pale colour. “I- I didn't know that. I was lucky he gloated so much, then. Cathy, can you please scan me to see if there's any residue? Tiger too,” she added after a moment of reflection. “And my armour and everything else I was wearing, too.”
“I'll get right on it,” the swordswoman said, touching her right earring. The Mercury goggles slid over her eyes, and she moved to the other side of the bed so she could look at Ami and Tiger at the same time.
“Anyway, Tiger possessed you and did that thing to blow up the temple,” Jered filled the silence during the scanning process. “We struck five of Clairmonte's territories, chased off or eliminated the resistance, and disconnected their portals. There were complications at three of them. Your sister pulled rank to throw your other youma at one of the problems and sent your warlocks to deal with another. Both groups succeeded, but the warlocks suffered some minor ghost-related injuries. Three remain in the infirmary to recover their strength. You'll be happy to learn that the youma remain unharmed.” He grinned. “Even Umbra returned with the same number of limbs she left with.”
Ami nodded along as she waited for her computer to process the scanning results. “The third complication?”
“A vampire activating one of the inactive dungeon hearts. Rabixtrel destroyed it eventually. Oh, and you should probably find something for him to kill before he gets bored and goes after the reaperbots.”
“I'll put him back on ghost-exterminating duty,” Ami agreed.
“Your troops are still in the process of looting everything that looks valuable. In the meantime, Tiger has been spending her time organising a victory celebration. Oh, and both Ambassador Camilla and Abbot Durval want to see you.”
“I would advise that you get some proper rest first,” Snyder said as he finished wrapping the ward-covered bandage around the young empress' head. “Magical overexertion is no laughing matter.”
Ami nodded. “I can't see myself successfully handling diplomacy with my current headache.” A beep from her computer drew her gaze down to the display. She frowned at the readout, then grimaced when doing so intensified the painful pressure in her head. “Tiger, you need decontamination. I don't know why, but the foreign dark power in my own body is rapidly breaking down.”
“Are you sure about that?” the red-and-white dressed acolyte said, looking over her shoulder.
“Definitely. Its getting weaker as I watch.”
“Caution suggests that it be treated anyway, just to be safe,” the redhead advised.
Ami shook her head, wincing. “I don't think the stress of suppressing my flight instinct would be good for me in my current state,” she protested. “Let's keep observing the contamination until after I had some rest. If it's still a problem at that point, I'll let you remove it.”
Snyder fell quiet as he pondered this. Finally, he inclined his head. “That is acceptable. Tiger? Will you follow me outside for treatment, please?”
The striped youma pouted and raised a finger chidingly in Ami's direction. “Yuck. You got death god poison all over me, and I can't even sick Tserk on you this time. It's not fair!” She started walking toward the door. “Oh well, at least I don't have your aversion to healing spells.”
“I guess I better go too and make sure Snyder gets everything,” Cathy said, tapping her visor with one finger.
“Yes, we have kept you from resting long enough,” Jered agreed as he followed his girlfriend.
“I hope you get better soon,” Jadeite said with a hint of a smile.
Ami watched his retreating back until he closed the door behind him, feeling slightly better already.
“Youma can possess people?” Usagi squeaked into the crystal ball, her eyes wide.
In her bed, Ami winced at the volume.
“Usagi! Not so loud, or you'll wake your family,” Luna admonished as she climbed on the girl's pyjama-clad shoulder.
The blonde turned to face the black mooncat, her long pigtails whipping from the motion. “Luuuna! How am I supposed to fight monsters who are transformed people? I can't just kill them!” she said with watering eyes.
“Hmm,” Luna jumped off Usagi's shoulder and landed on the ground, “there is a way to heal someone who has been turned into a youma,” the cat said in a thoughtful tone of voice. Suddenly, she leaped again, doing a backflip in mid-air.
Usagi leaned forward to better see the pink-handled wand that had dropped onto the carpet next to the cat.
“This is the moon stick,” Luna explained, sitting down as Usagi picked up the innocent-looking weapon and admired the golden crescent on its tip. “It's the symbol of the leader of the senshi, so treat it with respect.”
“How does it work?” Ami's curious voice came from the crystal ball.
“You point the stick at a target and say 'Moon Healing Activation' to heal it and purge it of evil,” Luna said.
Usagi weighed the wand in her hand. “Say, Luna, do you think this could turn Ami back to normal when she gets back?” she asked eagerly.
“It's possible,” the cat replied, twitching her ears.
“Um, I'd prefer not to take the risk,” Ami objected. “Since the dungeon heart keeps me alive, I'm disinclined to experiment with spells that might cut me off from it.”
The blonde's face fell, and some colour left her face. “You think I could accidentally k-kill you with this?” Her lower lip was quivering.
“It's not likely,” Ami hurried to reassure her friend. “It would probably just get rid of Metallia's influence.” While making me convulse in revulsion, she added in her mind. “My link to the dungeon heart is very solid, but I'd still want to know more about the dangers before giving it a try. Oh, Luna?” she asked in an attempt to change the topic.
“There's something weird going on with my senshi powers. Cathy reports feeling a strange jolt when she last used my Shabon Spray, and her fingers ended up covered in ice. Do you know what might be happening?”
Luna started pacing up and down. “This happened after you almost burned yourself out by throwing around more magic than you could handle?”
“I think your overuse of magic has forced your senshi powers to prematurely grow to the point where I'd give you this.” Luna hopped into the air and did another back-flip. A blue, star-tipped pen landed in front of the crystal ball.
“What's that?” Usagi asked.
“It's a transformation item to properly access and control the additional magic Sailor Mercury now has at her disposal.” She looked at the crystal ball and sighed. “Unfortunately, it's here and I can't give it to her. Ami, you should be able to do a new attack, but without this, you'll have to figure out how to by yourself.”
“Do you know the name of the attack at least?” the blue-haired girl asked, intrigued.
“Sorry. My memory is still full of holes. I could- Usagi, what are you doing?” Luna suddenly found herself hoisted up by her owner and the room spinning around her.
The pig-tailed blonde held the cat in both hands and flipped her over once more. “Well, I was wondering what other things you had stashed away.” She spun the feline around once more, and looked disappointed when no item was produced. “With your memory, you have probably forgotten half of them. I'm trying to help!”
“Cats are not for shaking!” Luna protested. “Usagi! Stop it!”
“But- eep!” The blonde started sweating when Luna unsheathed her claws and grabbed hold of her pyjama sleeves. With reflexes gained through many battles, she threw herself aside when the cat launched herself at her face.
“Get back down here!” Luna demanded, glaring up at the floating girl who pressed her back against the ceiling.
Usagi shook her head, making her dangling pigtails sway. “No way!”
The cat's tail twitched as she circled the teenager like a shark, and from the crystal ball came Ami's soft giggles.
A black-winged figure with pale blue skin stood within a circle of dim illumination, motionless like a statue. Not a single muscle twitched in the dark angel's face, not even when wings flapped in the darkness and another of his kind landed in front of him.
The newcomer's arrival shook the ground, causing some of the blood-coloured rust covering it to flake off and drift away. He folded his wings and slowly rose to his full height, revealing his starved, almost skeletal appearance. The black, frayed trousers covering his legs added to his decaying impression.
The first dark angel, a being of smooth skin and unnatural symmetry, finally deigned to take notice of him. Jagged blue lines and patterns ran down his legs and shifted to remain aligned with their continuations on the ground that zigzagged off into the darkness. In a voice that was female and lacked any inflection, he spoke “Crowned Death. Are you here to submit to my demands?”
“Hardly.” The sickly-looking angel sneered, stretching its paper-thin skin so that it became almost transparent. “You are going to create me a device to strike at that insufferable Keeper Mercury, Unraveller!”
“Why would I do that? Perhaps I shall increase the intensity of my attacks to remind you that we are in conflict.”
The ground shook again, and a third dark angel stepped out of the darkness. He was half again as tall as the others, with larger horns and prominent muscles. “You will do it because I demand it!” he growled as he took position at the sickly one's side.
“Azzathra. How fitting for you to work as hired muscle.” The first creature's voice remained a calm monotone, showing no surprise.
With a roar of rage, the tall brute darted forward and closed a massive hand around the speaker's neck.
“Unless you have a death wish, you will watch your tongue!”
“I care nothing for the life of this glorified messenger bird,” the Unraveller pointed out, her voice coming out as a wheeze through her puppet's squeezed throat.
“But you do care for your own,” Crowned Death's messenger said in a hoarse whisper. “Therefore, you will do as we command.”
The Unraveller faced Azzathra and pointed at the representative of the death god. “You despise him. It makes no sense for the two of you to cooperate.”
“He has come around to my point of view on an issue of general policy,” Azzathra said, letting his captive drop to the floor. “Besides, I haven't repaid Mercury yet for depriving me of my favoured dragon.” The dark angel's mirthless smile broadened. “Your quarrel with Crowned Death is over. You will provide us with what we need, or it will be the end of you!”
“Very well, Tyrant.” The Unraveller paused exactly long enough to wipe the triumphant grin off Azzathra's face with her next emotionless words. “Provided you are willing to meet my price.”
“You dare make demands in your position?” the brute bellowed.
Crowned Death's mouthpiece moved closer. “It is impossible for you to win against both of us. Stop wasting everyone's time with this useless posturing.”
“I will not work for free. It is irrelevant whether or not I would lose a fight against both of you, since I am too fast for either of you to catch me. Now, are you ready to negotiate a deal?”
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