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 Fire/Wood, Saeran
Kiefer Holzmann
 Posted: Oct 7 2017, 09:05 PM
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19 years old
Apprentice Bright Wizard
Mr. Creazil is Offline


Kiefer didn't like riding too much. He didn't like the loss of control of being off his feet, and now that he was being deployed like this, he much preferred to be able to hold both sword and staff, rather than keeping a hand on the reigns. He knew some riders could control their horses with just nudges of their legs, but he was definitely not that skilled. His iron-tipped staff was held high as they trotted through the woods, sword still at his belt.

They were on a simple reconnaissance mission this time. He only had a few men at his back, half a dozen mounted pistoliers, meant for hit-and-run. They were just going to scout out the area, see if the beastmen they'd encountered a few days ago were related to a larger herd. Kiefer just hoped that whatever was out here didn't have anything too fast. Those pistoliers could put out a lot of hurt, but they weren't well-armored, and neither was he. They wouldn't do well in a pitched fight.

The wizard pulled his horse to a halt, holding out his staff to signal his men to do the same. Something was off. He didn't hear anything unusual, didn't see anything, but the winds of magic were shifting. Something else was nearby, and it didn't feel Chaotic. "Any of you spot anything?" The men looked around, a little confused. They didn't often work with wizards, especially ones so young. Many of them just grunted and shrugged, assuming the pyromancer was just a little odd.
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Saeran
 Posted: Oct 7 2017, 10:40 PM
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97 years old
Waywatcher
Nil is Offline


Her journey had a rather dull start, if truth be told. Saeran had scaled a lone tree in search of some guidance, but found little more than a brief respite from an unforgiving sun, and decided instead to keep going. The trees had became quickly scarce beyond Athel Loren, which now sat far enough behind her to be but a shadowy expanse; looking at it briefly from her new perspective, she thought perhaps she might understand what it was that drew so many curious wanderers to her people’s realm. It was the last welcoming sight on a horizon that seemed to go for many miles with few wonders and little to show.

Or so she would think, until the shapes appeared in her view and Saeran found herself drawing to an abrupt stop. Others were on the horizon - humans, if their manner betrayed them properly. She stiffened, her spine straightening as she dropped down to a knee. There were several of them - not very many, yet enough that she felt the reflexive reach into her quiver, squinting from beneath her hood as she studied the burdened beasts dragging them around the land. They were not near enough to her yet for her to make sense of. What were they doing out here? Athel Loren would not harbor them. When they stopped, it occurred to her that they were not so foolish. They were searching, much like her. But for what, she couldn’t say.

For the briefest of moments, she entertained herself with a childish thought: perhaps she could ask them for directions to the beginning of the end, and finish this journey before it had begun?

The Waywatch rose to her feet, slowly, placing an arrow gently against her bow. If they were hunters, they would not be searching for her with such heavy steps, and certainly not so many. If they were scouts, they stood close enough to her domain that their business was her own, or at least it sounded convincing enough when she thought it. And if they were truly so foolish as to think they could ride into Athel Loren and live to tell the tale, then there truly were grave dangers in the world. The more she turned each thought over in her mind, the more each seemed unlikely. But she’d keep them at a safe distance. Her bow pointed toward the ground, Saeran stood on feet ready for flight, and whistled.
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Kiefer Holzmann
 Posted: Oct 8 2017, 11:54 AM
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19 years old
Apprentice Bright Wizard
Mr. Creazil is Offline


Kiefer's head whipped around as soon as he heard the whistle. He recognized the tall, slender appearance immediately; and elf. He'd seen some in passing when he was young, but never really talked to one. Wood elf, by the attire. That certainly explained how she'd managed to sneak up on them, wood elves were supposed to be quieter than ghosts when they were out in the wild.

The pistoliers reached for their weapons, but Kiefer held up a hand to stop them. Wood elves were deadly archers, and she already had an arrow nocked. He didn't know how many she could bring down before they even got a shot in. Besides, the Empire wasn't currently hostile with Athel Loren, they just had a somewhat uneasy peace. The longer it stayed peaceful the better, especially in these troubled times.

He dismounted, setting his staff in the ground and walking slowly towards her, hoping she would take it as a sign he meant no harm. Wizards weren't nearly as formidable without their staves. "I'm Kiefer Holzmann, magister of the Empire. Do you speak Imperial?" He certainly hoped so, he knew some elf language but was a bit rusty. "We're looking for the source of some Beastmen who've been raiding Imperial villages near here. Maybe we could work together to hunt the monsters?" The Wood Elves were known for being suspicious and reclusive, but they had no love for Chaos, especially the Beastmen. Maybe this would turn out well after all.
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Saeran
 Posted: Oct 8 2017, 01:45 PM
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97 years old
Waywatcher
Nil is Offline


They noticed her immediately. Saeran narrowed her eyes, waiting as they halted over their weapons at the request of the bright-haired human. Bright, like the dull glow of the Anvil at dawn; she would have puzzled at the realization of what such hair meant, if not for other curiosities. He did not have the makings of a leader, youth alight in his features, but leader he seemed to be. There was at least some wisdom in his actions. He left his staff behind as he approached her, to her satisfaction. She offered a quick, accusatory glance toward those behind him, then snapped her attention back toward him. Her arrow loosened from her bow’s middle, but remained should their minds change.

Kiefer’s words came out in a jumble. Saeran furrowed her brow. Imperial seemed much easier when she had her own tongue to fall back on, and especially when it did not come out as fast as his. She seemed somehow to neglect that she’d have to do any speaking at all. Her cheeks would have flushed if not for the amount of concentration it took to sort through to the meaning of his speech. “Small,” she said, clearly slower, then, in quick correction, “Some. I know...some.”

She didn’t know what a magister was, but there was a word she knew well, and her face darkened at its utterance. Beastmen. The other words vanished at the importance of that one. So the foes of her people were busy elsewhere, too. She eased her weapon then, offering Kiefer a quizzical quirk of her eyebrow. “You? Hunt?” They seemed a strange little kinband to send out into the open. The Empire lords were a curious lot.

“Name - my name, is Saeran,” said the Waywatch. She pointed to the ground. “Beastmen come more and more to the athel… I stop them. You, too.”
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Kiefer Holzmann
 Posted: Oct 9 2017, 09:57 AM
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19 years old
Apprentice Bright Wizard
Mr. Creazil is Offline


Kiefer relaxed a bit s she spoke. Her Imperial was little broken, but they could communicate, at least. He glanced down to her bow, noticing her grip was relaxing. Maybe this wouldn't turn hostile after all. "Yes. Beastmen attacked our villages, we hunt them now." He was walking a fine line, trying to keep his speech simple without talking down to her. A lot of wizards liked to use the biggest words possible to lord it over the common folk, but thankfully Kiefer hadn't picked up that habit.

"Nice to meet you, Saeran." Kiefer looked to his men, then back to her. "Do you have a ride?" He knew wood elves were supposedly amazing trackers, and she looked like a scout or hunter. She was likely skilled for that. They could follow her while she was on foot, but it would slow them down a bit. Then again, elves were a good bit faster than humans, if he remembered correctly.

The wizard went back to his horse, taking up his staff and mounting up. "We can ride with you, find the beastmen. If there are too many I can go back for more soldiers to help." He wondered if she could do the same. It was an exciting thought, seeing an allied force of elves and humans, even if it was only for one battle. The wood elves were normally so reclusive, being able to work alongside even one was a pretty special event.
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Saeran
 Posted: Oct 10 2017, 06:24 AM
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97 years old
Waywatcher
Nil is Offline


Saeran looked at the wizard unblinkingly, with a face that showed Kiefer she was listening despite her silence as he climbed back atop his horse. She would talk, but there was too much to marvel at. This strange meeting, for instance. The closest she had gotten to a living human prior to this was at the other side of a serving platter. Now this one, this strange human, wanted her to...go with them. The expectant gaze told her that much, more so than the words. They reminded her of children in the forest trapped by the siren’s lure, or the foolish wanderers who fell at her kindred’s arrows: eager to find what they were looking for, but unprepared for what came next.

The elf turned, not enough so that they were behind her - she wasn’t sure she trusted them, particularly the quiet ones who rode with Kiefer - and looked briefly at the ground below her and the secrets it held to experienced eyes. One more dead beastmen was another that wouldn’t cross into Athel Loren. She’d sleep well with that knowledge. Confuse the monsters’ dark woods for those of the Asrai, though, and it was this little band of humans that would never bother them again.

She shifted her gaze back on them, cocking her head to the side. The arrow in her hand tightened again against her bow’s middle. You want to ride in the hunt, yet you don’t even know if you’re the stag, Saeran mused to herself. The scout allowed herself a slight grin, then offered more solid advice to the humans in their rough tongue. “Careful, where your feet go. More careful, where your eyes go. Waywatch ask no questions.” She observed the quiet men gravely. “I, too.”

It was the only warning she'd give them. Her eyes lingered on them, as if to make sure they understood it. Then they dropped back to the ground - and, with a quick, narrowed gaze toward the horizon, she set off.
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Kiefer Holzmann
 Posted: Oct 15 2017, 12:05 PM
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19 years old
Apprentice Bright Wizard
Mr. Creazil is Offline


She seemed to understand, although she was an elf of few words. That made sense to him. He wasn't going to be speaking much to her either, they were strangers that barely shared a language between them. He watched, still curious, as she looked at the ground. Just what did her elf eyes see? He'd heard that elves in general had stronger senses than humans, and he supposed that went double for scouts and trackers like her.

When the elf spoke again, Kiefer just nodded. He returned to his horse, taking his staff and mounting up. "Single file behind me, follow where she steps." He assumed that was what she meant. There were many treacherous paths in the forests around here, one could easily slip, or get caught by some sort of animal. He wasn't planning to lose any men to accidents. He'd rather lose none at all, but losing a man to a sinkhole or bog would be horrifyingly pointless.

The squad followed behind her, horses keeping at a walk to match the elf's pace. She was light on her feet, quicker than any human Kiefer had seen. He tried to silence the flames on his staff, not wanting to draw any attention. That, and not wanting to make the wood elf uneasy. They were rather protective of their forests, she probably wouldn't take kindly to anything that could burn it down. He was going to have to rely on his modest sword skills if it came to a fight.
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Saeran
 Posted: Oct 22 2017, 04:18 PM
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97 years old
Waywatcher
Nil is Offline


They no doubt made a strange procession, but Saeran was not thinking of that. She kept her eyes on the grass and the mud, pausing when necessary for further study before she continued again. She did not consult the humans behind her, nor did they seem foolish enough to interrupt her task. Would she notice if they had?

She could not say when they crossed into the dark forest, or how long it was before she slowed. Eventually the Wood Elf stopped, as the ground gave way to gnarled tree trunks and twisted roots that grew closer and closer together, though not for fear of tripping or as a courtesy to Kiefer and his kinband. Saeran peered into the shadowed spaces beyond the grove’s fringes. She made no mention of what she saw. Instead, she slung her bow over her shoulder and scaled the tree beside her, vanishing from the humans’ view.

Tracking the beastmen was half luck: they moved with as little reason as shooting an arrow through one’s foot, and even talented scouts could lose their trail if not careful. But they were there. The humans may not know where the beastmen’s forests began, but Saeran did. The unusual silence told her she’d gone far enough. Silence was not unusual, but this was a silence begot of something more dangerous than winter. She followed a few branches across the forest depths before she stopped, perching herself in the darkened boughs. Beyond them, the gloom gave way to a hazy glow muted by a column of smoke. A campfire - there was little doubt to that. Saeran ducked her head in her hood, scanning the neighboring branches carefully from its shadows. They had found Kiefer’s monsters. What would he do with them now?

One question that produced a dozen more. The beastmen were too stationary, if they had only recently attacked the humans’ village. Why hadn’t they moved on? What did they wait for? Where would they go next?

A bay sounded in the woods, close enough to make Saeran reach for the quiver at her hip - and then, biting back a sharp hiss, she thought of the humans behind her. The Waywatch turned around in the treetops, carrying herself back toward the point of ascension with hurried caution.
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Kiefer Holzmann
 Posted: Oct 24 2017, 08:59 AM
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19 years old
Apprentice Bright Wizard
Mr. Creazil is Offline


It was tricky to follow the elf. It certainly seemed like she was leading them on the hunt, but then again it also seemed like she was more used to leading her fellow elves. Humans were slower, clumsier, with weaker senses. Between them and trying to control their horses as they entered the more tainted parts of the forest, it was a struggle to keep pace with Saeran.

As the woods darkened, Kiefer found himself relying more and more on his Witch Sight, sensing the winds of magic flowing around them. The winds here were more twisted than he was used to, tainted by Chaos. They were getting close. It also meant he'd have to be more careful, he had a hard enough time controlling his powers even in better times.

For a moment, they lost sight of the elf. She slipped through the brush ahead, and the gang of humans lost sight of her in the dim light of the forest. Kiefer urged his horse on, trying to catch her. Then they heard the braying around them. They'd walked right into an ambush. Had the elf not noticed it, or assumed the humans would be stealthy enough to avoid it? He was pretty certain she wasn't working with the Beastmen, Wood Elves and Beastmen had a virulent hatred for each other. "Pistols ready, form up!" Kiefer drew his sword, lifting his staff over his head. The dim fire in his staff's brazier grew into a roaring flame, lighting the woods around them. This wasn't a great situation. He knew the elf wouldn't appreciate him flinging flames around in the forest, but he didn't have a choice. He'd have to limit himself to precise, focused shots.
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Saeran
 Posted: Oct 28 2017, 11:40 AM
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97 years old
Waywatcher
Nil is Offline


A bright light in the web of darkness told her she was headed in the right direction, though it took her a long moment to realize its origins. Saeran felt an instinctive bristle at the back of her neck. Firestarters. But this was hardly the appropriate time to sling ancestral insults toward the humans. The Wood Elf slowed to a stop in the branches above, a safe distance ahead of Kiefer and his kinband in sight, cast in the glow from his flames. The thought of what lay ahead made her uneasy.

She turned herself back around, pulling an arrow from her quiver as the humans followed his instructions below. The silence that fell upon them was temporary.

If there was any doubt that they had found the creatures of Chaos, it was gone now. The Beastmen appeared in the maze of shadowy woods, and they saw the flames clearly. Saeran would never be able to stop herself from the repulsion she felt at the sight of them. Everything about them was unnatural. The twist of their horns, the strange, mismatched nature of their limbs, the ruddy, dirty fur; seeing the twisted, warped features of creatures once familiar and remembering the war they waged with the Asrai made a hatred deep inside warm her chest. The three monsters that trampled through the browned underbrush were obviously surprised to see the humans, allowing the uncertainty to linger for only a moment before they charged forward.

Saeran chose one of the creatures, nocked her arrow, and let if fly. The beast tripped midstep, releasing a growl as it clawed at the arrow now lodged in its knee. No sooner had it turned its eyes up toward the trees than another landed in its throat, silencing any attempt to alert others. It released what amounted only to an angry gurgle. The Waywatcher let her eyes narrow, locking briefly with its gaze as it struggled to find her. Her fingers drew back from the third arrow before it had even the thought to curse the fey-creature in the trees above. Yet she found herself twisting on her feet shortly after its release, trying to make sense of what was unfolding before the humans.
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Kiefer Holzmann
 Posted: Oct 28 2017, 12:53 PM
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19 years old
Apprentice Bright Wizard
Mr. Creazil is Offline


Looking back on it now, Kiefer felt like they'd made a serious mistake. They'd gotten too aggressive, trying to track down the beastmen, not considering that they were going into their home turf. He just hoped they'd get out of this alive, though that was far from guaranteed right then. He couldn't tell just how many beastmen were in the woods around them. Their pelts blended in with the trees and shadows around them, hiding their numbers and letting them strike seemingly from nowhere.

Shots rang out in the forest as the pistoliers opened fire, shot tearing through the creatures of Chaos. It was an impressive start, for sure. Each of them felled one of the beasts, reaching for another pistol. How long until they'd need to reload, though? Kiefer did his part, dagger-like bolts of flame shooting from his hands, punching through the bodies of the beastmen and leaving them crumpled on the forest floor, fur singed around the holes.

Soon enough, the elf joined the fray. He didn't see where they arrow came from, but he saw one of the monsters fall, a shaft sticking out of his leg. He wondered if Waywatchers used poison arrows? "Sabers ready!" the young wizard called out, readying his own sword. The forest was too tight for an ideal cavalry charge, but it also meant it was too tight for a real spear formation. They could at least push the beastmen back a bit.
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Saeran
 Posted: Oct 29 2017, 07:43 PM
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97 years old
Waywatcher
Nil is Offline


This was a situation she had not anticipated. Saeran watched in a mix of bewilderment and concern as the human weapons tore through the monsters and Kiefer’s flames blew them away. It was a strange medley - a familiar scene of battle against a known foe forged with unfamiliar elements and strange players. They fought with a ceremonial stiffness that confused her. Try as she might, she couldn’t understand it. They were so...open. Bold was a more fitting word, perhaps, but it was bold in an alien way she was not used to. She stood for a moment idle with thought, an arrow hanging limp in her bow as warmed air nipped at her calves and struck a faint reminder of a forest far more welcoming than this one. A shaking in the branches beneath her feet stirred her back to a more sensible state of mind. Saeran shifted her eyes toward the darkness beyond the human blades hoisted defiantly toward its gaping maw.

A great hulk of shaggy muscle and heavy hooved feet stepped from beyond the ridge of darkness, slowly at first, but not from any display of fear. Yellow eyes swept over the shafts of the arrows embedded in the flesh of its fellow beast, and Saeran braced herself as it looked accusingly toward the trees with only a slight tilt to its head, the muscles in her arms tightening in anticipation. The Beastman’s looming presence, accented by mismatched attempts at protection across its fur, made it clear it was the scouts’ leader; its heavy exhale through wide nostrils at the end of a long, goat-like snout made it clear it was displeased at their display of weakness. It hefted a crude weapon into the air as it settled its attention on the humans with a shiver of anticipation the elf had not before seen. It was an honor for a Beastman to catch an Asrai, but a feast to dine on human flesh. This one had the rare opportunity to achieve both in one evening...if it was successful.

It charged toward Kiefer and his men as seamlessly as it had appeared, and Saeran pulled tight against her bow.
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Kiefer Holzmann
 Posted: Oct 30 2017, 01:06 AM
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19 years old
Apprentice Bright Wizard
Mr. Creazil is Offline


They were making some progress, it seemed. Beastmen were never very organized, at least by Empire standards. They'd harass a bit, scatter, then return for another attack. In the face of a charge, many of these ones had decided that now was scatter time. Some had fled into the woods, leaving their comrades more vulnerable as the saber-wielding riders rode them down. The men were lightly armored, but most of the beastmen had swords, they couldn't reach the riders so well.

The elf was holding her own, too. They made a surprisingly good team. Kiefer's flames and the charging horsemen drew the eyes, distracting the beastmen as one arrow after another streaked down with pinpoint accuracy. They were thinning the ranks pretty quickly by now. He was just starting to get confident when he saw a larger beastman walking out of the woods. He didn't look like one of their lords, but it could be hard to tell. This could be tough.

"Form up!" The pistoliers rode into formation around him, reaching for what pistols still had ammo. He didn't feel too keen about engaging that monster in close combat. Kiefer looked around, checking for their support. "Saeran?" he called out, hoping the elf was in earshot. "How much fire?" He hoped that would get his message across. There was more he could do, but not without torching the woods. Sometimes he wondered if that was why he got this assignment, so he could burn the beastmen out in an accident.
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Saeran
 Posted: Oct 31 2017, 06:55 AM
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97 years old
Waywatcher
Nil is Offline


Saeran felt her brows knit at Kiefer’s call, shifting slightly in the branches. Fire? What was he asking? Did he intend to burn these woods down, with them in it? Was he - was he asking for her permission? What authority did he think she had? She let loose her arrow, more to momentarily slow the Beastman down than injure it, and stepped across the branches, moving closer to the humans. “Isha help me in my foolishness,” she hissed. But were there any blessings saved for a Wood Elf so naive as to entangle herself with humans?

Her fingers ran over the remaining arrows in her quiver before she plucked another. They could perhaps fell the beast before them now, but if more came, and surely more would… It did not take much to realize she was but one Waywatcher, and Kiefer and his men just one small kinband. Would it be enough? It made a heaviness come across her, though she could not tell if it stemmed from her frustration that she was swayed as easily as the starry-eyed youth of Athel Loren, or instead from the looming sadness of the forest itself, so long corrupted with the foul presence of the beasts that this small reminder of pure life and magic made it weep. Whatever happened to the humans, would she be any closer to discovering the madness of the world? She feared the answer.

“You ask me?” she called to him. It was a weak answer, but she could offer no better. She did not know the promises he made to his lords, but she knew hers, and that was enough. “I cannot understand. Do arrows ask, where I go, before I shoot?”
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Kiefer Holzmann
 Posted: Nov 1 2017, 12:50 PM
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19 years old
Apprentice Bright Wizard
Mr. Creazil is Offline


He supposed he should have known better. She was probably just some veteran soldier sent out to scout, not someone in a position to decide how much of the forest could be sacrificed. He'd have to restrain himself and hope for the best. Kiefer gathered up his magic, trying to focus himself. He'd have to strike a tricky balance here. Too late and he wouldn't stop the beast, too much and he'd at best set the forest ablaze around them, and at worst explode. It was nerve-wracking enough to walk that line when there wasn't a Wood Elf standing right nearby.

The beastman started to advance, and Kiefer let fly. He held his staff forward, shooting a dart of flame out. It hit the monster square in the chest, staggering it. "Reload!" He wasn't sure if his flames would be enough without going all-out, but it could buy them the fifteen seconds his men needed to load their pistols. One good volley from them could shred most beastmen, even one this size.

With a roar, the beast charged. He didn't have time to think now. Kiefer let loose, shooting bolt after bolt of fire at the beast. It tried to bob and weave, Kiefer aiming low so he wouldn't hit the trees around it. Most of the shots hit the ground, scorching the grass and dirt, but then one hit home, slamming into the beast's knee and sending it face-first to the ground. He didn't wait for it to get up, starting to rain shots onto it as it tried to roll into a better position to stand. His hair was beginning to stand on end now, tongues of flame flicking off his orange hair.
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