Of Darkness and Flame

While Magnagora had been spared the devastating attention of draconic visitors plaguing the nations of the Basin for some time now, its citizens knew well that they need to arm themselves for war regardless. Some, like Uzriel d’Vanecu, had been collecting information for years now but it wasn’t until early Shanthin, 558 CE, that the call for such had come from the Demon Lords of Nil themselves. Their apostles had delivered the missive to each Guild to collate all available information on the previous visits and prepare to report it before the Supreme Master Luciphage himself within the month. And so Magnagorans set off to draw upon their networks to suss out what they could, every detail a potential weapon or layer of armour.

While they worked, the Necromentate became agitated, fighting against its bindings with intensity typical of a prophecy brewing within. Magnagorans made quick work of the preparations and many witnessed the prophecy offered to Toshiko Zayah which warned against the appetites of the “pale ones” and a future which would see “darkness consumed by flame”. As is often with prophecy, it was unclear whether darkness referred to the city of Magnagora itself or something else altogether, but even the most elementary reading implied the destructive wrath of the draconic envoys who were soon to arrive.

At the beginning of Roarkian, Magnagora had been called to attend the Supreme Master at the Throne of the Beast where in attendance were not just Magnagorans but the Demon Lords and Lady as well – Nifilhema, Ashtorath, and Baalphegar. Thus did a lengthy war council begin with the Warlady Kailanna n’Kylbar calling upon envoys of each Guild to present their findings. Uzriel came armed with a lengthy scroll, Toshiko spoke passionately of his time witnessing draconic destruction firsthand, and Niavene D’Cente spoke on behalf of the Infernals.

When the presentations were done, it was time to plan a suitable defence strategy. Having learnt of the dragon’s thirst for temporal energy, the Demon Lords urged the city to hide theirs and cast the artifacts from their minds lest the dragons pluck it from there. The dragon’s telepathic strength could also be turned into a vulnerability, they surmised, with Magnagora’s own Necromentate. Bringing their black dome to full capacity had been set as a priority.

Now it was time to go on the offensive. The seers at Magnagora’s disposal had been consulted by Kalas Vexacion and Toshiko, providing additional windows into the future. And it was the future that Magnagora sought to thwart, and prophecy they sought to subvert. Rather than oppose the envoys, the Demon Lords plotted to have the city manipulate and seduce them to Magnagoran ways. Draconic allies would be nothing short of extraordinary for the Engine.

Since permitting the dragons free access to the Megalith of Doom could well spell doom upon Magnagora, the scientific minds of the city rallied to a summit at the d’Murani Tower. Of the endless proposals, it was Shaddus D’Cente’s vapour delivery idea that got the minds of Snaikka i’Xiia and Vittoria d’Lardick racing. Well did they remember the case of the gasline-feeding, mutated rats of Magnagora. It required Vittoria not only to restore the ecosystem of the sewers to banish them back underground but also Edwin d’Vanecu to serve as a phlebotomist to research the effects of their venom. Edwin was summarily called into the meeting to share his expertise and before long a plan was born.

There was only one problem – the scale of the project. This was no mere valve turning that Lamplighter Lain could accomplish. They required an experienced engineer so Shaddus had set off to inquire with Victor von’Lochli, the resident Geochemancy expert. Too occupied with other matters, Victor had sent Magnagorans after one of his students – Ragash Chokuul. While the summit continued, scouts had been sent out to track down the man and it was Kalas Ealou who managed the task in Rasebal i’Xiia’s cavernous laboratory. Brought back the city, Ragash was ecstatic for the project and set off to run maintenance on the “old girl” – Nosfydra, the Heart of the Megalith of Doom – from whence all tainted fumes running through the Magnagoran gasline network originate.

While Ragash worked, Magnagorans set off to cloak their temporal projects. Whatever it was that the Iniquitous Society had going on had resulted in Kailanna, Sapphira d’Vanecu, Uzriel, and Vatul Feyranti initiating a blood drive with Edwin d’Vanecu back to his old duties. Meanwhile, the Infernal Mandate dabbled in Necromancy underneath the Necropolis with Primarch Shango D’Cente, Ealou, and Kalas Ixion ensuring the safety of their interests. Finally, the Heralds Vexacion, Shaddus, along with their Harbinger Veldrin D’Cente, performed a ritual that sent the acrid scent of ozone wafting upon the air overground.

Thus prepared, they waited.

But it was not the envoys that came first. On the 1st of Estar, 559 CE, a blast of hot air heralded the arrival of a scarred, red-scaled dracnari matriarch. Her piercing blue eyes had taken in the entirety of the Necropolis and she was not pleased with what she was seeing. Warlady Kailanna, Uzriel, and Shaddus welcomed her and tried to pry her for information, but she was tight-lipped about draconic matters. She asked that Magnagora not oblige the dragons when they come as she did not wish for them to imbibe of the power that Magnagora had to offer. But no promise was made, for the Warlady chose to act in the best interests of the city rather than comply with vague requests of dragonkind. Thus scorned, the matriarch left.

In the evening, Nosfydra saw more activity than it had in decades with people running up and down its levels, adjusting valves to regulate smog flow, and ducking blasts of steam. Under Ragash’s direction, the clockwork behemoth had been readied for its ultimate challenge as midnight struck, and a new venting outlet had been prepared in the Gloaming. In the name of science, the pipe had been thoroughly tested by Shaddus’ inhaling of its fumes and Veldrin’s flammability test. Neither worked out well for them or the witness to their experiments, Nyana Wyrdbane.

Before long, the foretold pale ones had come. Five draconic emissaries arrived to behold the Megalith of Doom, their scales translucent and their robes flowing like silver liquid. They broke out into a quarrel almost immediately and one of them left as the power coursing through the Necropolis had woke a sense of unease in her. The remaining dracnari demanded a tribute of power and Magnagora was eager to oblige them, just not with the Megalith of Doom. With their honeyed words, they began to regale the dracnari with tales of the power they had prepared as an offering. Suspicious of such immediate supplication and mistrustful of the ease with which the city was luring them to their city, another of the emissaries left in a hurry.

Of the three that remained, each desired to see some of the ways of Magnagora before they would entertain their offer. The first one set off with Shango, Veldrin, and Nyana to witness duels at the Midnight Coliseum, the second one wished to see the growth and evolution of the city at the construction site of the Clock Tower with Sapphira, Uzriel, Vexacion, and Kalnid i’Xiia in tow; and the third one desired to be shown how the city looks after its own and was brought to the College of Necromantic and Tainted Research by Kailanna, Niavene, Vatul, and Shaddus. While the visitors were being entertained, Ealou obtained the final spikes for the Necromentate, bringing it to full power in the nick of time.

The seduction was going flawlessly at first but then the trouble began. Kalnid mentioned the enslavement and torturing of souls that Magnagora dabbles in, upsetting the second dracnari, but Uzriel managed to turn the conversation around. The Warlady herself implied those who are weak are cast down to the Undercity and left to their own devices to the third dracnari, but Niavene brought the conversation around by speaking highly of the d’Murani soup that is fed to said outcasts and the honest work that is found for them. This pleased the dracnari for he much approved of looking after one’s own regardless of their situation. The first dracnari, however, was soon after brought to the n’Rotri Spike by Shango and shown not only the “honest work” offered to the beggars but also the punishment of self-proclaimed Empress Kebira n’Rotri – now mute, deaf, and chained. An attempt was made to save the situation but it soon backfired spectacularly and the dracnari left the city in an outraged huff.

And then there were two.

Sufficiently convinced that giving Magnagoran ways a try was worth their time, the two dracnari gathered in Gloaming with the entire city in attendance. With Magnagora on one side of the vent and the dracnari on the other, they waited for Ragash to release the full might of the fumes. When the blast came, it threw the emissaries to the ground with its ferocity and they screamed and clawed at the ground as the tainted smog invaded their lungs. But soon it was over and the city held its breath while the air cleared.

The two rose, full of excitement and energy. Their bodies were blackened, something like smog trapped beneath their translucent scales, and their eyes leaked a black liquid. They could do it now, they proclaimed; they were ready. Discarding their guises, they rose upon dark wings into the sky, each easily the size of a Magnagoran quarter. They trumpeted their joy while circling each other above the smog-clad city, ready to undertake their final mission.

Then the sky was torn open.

A vicious tearing ripped the fabric of the Prime Plane open with three crude slashes, beyond them the vibrant clouds of Aetherspace. Then came a shadow, swathing the entire city of Magnagora in darkness. The very air trembled, from the city itself to the furthest reaches of the mountain ranges encircling the Basin of Life.

And thus did she appear – a True Dragon.

She could not be anything but, smashing through reality and leaving it torn behind her. She filled the sky with blood-red scales, blue eyes dancing as the hottest flame, and enormous webbed wings. Her horned head turned to the two blackened dragons, laughably small in comparison, she roared – her bloodied jaws stretching as wide as the Clock Tower is tall.

There were no speeches, no discussions. She engaged the dragons immediately, sending one plummeting towards the city with a whip of her tail. Before it managed to stop, the dragon skidded over the roof of the Silent Cathedral, the Clock Tower, and came to a stop only at the Tower of Midnight Domination. Demolishing one of its towers, it took back to the skies – but just as it was to rejoin the battle, an agonising screeching rose from the depths of the city. The Necromentate was fighting and while it did not phase the True Dragon, the Mature Dragons were thrown off course enough to move the entire fight to take place over the Sea of Despair.

In their first attempt, one of the dragons entangled itself around the True Dragon’s jaws, while the other utilised a time magic enhanced attack of black smog. It only served to antagonise the True Dragon further for she incinerated the dragon around her snout with blue-white flame that scorched the entire sky enough to clear it of clouds all the way to the Inner Sea. The second dragon tried to cower and flee, blink away at the last second, but she made up the distance in no time and had him in her jaws. She bit down, crushing it, and thrust the entire dragon at Magnagora, smashing him against the docks where he sank, taking the Bridge of Torment along with him.

Thus ended the very short lives of the dragons who allied with Magnagora, but it was not yet the end of their dealings with dragons. The behemoth left the skies through the very tear she used to enter the Prime Plane and sealed it, but soon visited Magnagora again. This time, however, she was back in her dracnari matriarch guise. Furious with Magnagora for forcing her hand, she berated them at the Necropolis. Her outrage was met with foolhardy accusations and surliness. This was a mythical creature the size of the entire city of Magnagora, being told the fate of the two Mature Dragons was her fault. Be it folly or belief in the True Dragon’s benevolence, despite a display to the contrary, Magnagora lost its chance to learn anything of dragon matters. She came to honour them for not making her an empty promise but left, having revealed only that the Mature Dragons are driven mad by Yugomaru.

Three intense months had gone by in a blink of an eye, leaving Magnagorans with more questions than answers. Had they subverted the prophecy by avoiding the city being destroyed by fire? Or had the darkness been the mutated dragons consumed by the flame-hued True Dragon?