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Ariel is the young heir to the Val'Sarghress clan. She has a powerful and uncommon shapechanging high sorcery. Legally, she is the daughter of Quain'tana Val'Sarghress, though her biological mother is actually Mel'arnach Val'Sarghress.
Arc I of Moonless age is by in large about Ariel coming of age. Until the age of 10 she was raised by an abusive older sister, Syphile, under the pretense of being Quain'tana's daughter by blood. After a disastrous first formal meeting with her mother, she was removed from Syphile's care and sent to Orthorbbae disguised as a male. School was difficult, but she became close friends with Faen'arae Val'Sullisin'rune. Eventually her cover was blown and she left Orthorbbae.
When Faen fled to the Overworld for safety, Ariel left home to look for her. She found Faen trapped in a halme prison and brought her back to the Sarghress Fortress to recover from the traumatic experience. Upon her return, she found out that Mel'arnach was her true mother. Ariel was torn between her two "mothers," and maintained allegiance to both in different ways.
In Arc II, Ariel is part of Sar'nel's squad of Home Guard soldiers. She took command of the squad when Sar'nel was injured during the battle for North Cliff and is now fighting against the Vel'Sharen in the Sarghress war effort. She faces many trials in her time during the war, through Felde, and even with her own clansmen.
In Arc III, Ariel is now the leader of the clan, leading colonist through turbulent times on the surface. She is aided heavily by Kel'noz and support from Quill'yate's Highland Raiders and Ash'waren's exiled nobles.
Appearance and Personality
Ariel is typically a light-spirited and kind drow. She has a lot of responsibility resting on her shoulders as heir to one of the 9 Great Clans, but she does her best to make her mother and Ill'haress proud. Though she sometimes exhibits child-like behavior, she is fiercely loyal to her clan, her family, and her friends.
Ariel cares deeply for those in her inner circle and shows her affection for them openly. She always tries to repay kindnesses that are shown to her, but is likewise capable of holding long-term grudges against those who have wronged her. Her temper sometimes flares in defense of her loved ones or clan, but she generally possesses a friendly calm even in the heat of battle.
Ariel, like her mother and grandmother, is exceptionally tall for her age. She has long white hair with long bangs that she previously colored purple, until told that it was the favored color of Snadhya'rune Vel'Sharen. Since then, she has replaced her purple highlights with the red typically worn by Sarghress warriors. Her eyes are purple.
Ariel's High Sorcery
Ariel possesses a rare and dangerous high sorcery that allows her to change the shape, color, and texture of her body parts at will. Since she is still a drow and needs her vital organs in the correct places to work, this craft can be incredibly dangerous if Ariel is not careful. It hurts her to shift around her bones and flesh too much, so she will often use her long hair to form additional the parts she may need.
She can absorb objects into her body to provide additional matter for her transformations, but she can't shift into something that exceeds the combined mass of herself and these objects. If injured while shifted, the material used to create that part of her will suffer the injury. This is another reason Ariel often chooses to use her hair to create extraneous body parts to protect herself.
She can move her skin and muscle to physically close wounds, but this process does not properly heal her injuries.
Though Ariel is still learning to use this ability to its fullest extent, she seems to intuitively know how to shift herself when she is in danger. It is likely that she inherited this ability in part from her biological mother, Mel'arnach, who possesses a similar high sorcery.
While her flavor of high sorcery is extremely useful, it is not without consequences. Blood and bone, and other biological elements are a hazard to Ariel.
Biography - Arc I
Ariel Val'Sarghress was born one year after the Nidraa'chal War. She is believed by many to be the youngest daughter of Quain'tana Val'Sarghress. Only a few individuals within the clan know the truth - she was born to Mel'arnach, eldest daughter of Quain'tana, and Zhor, an Aware. Ariel was told from birth that Quain'tana was her biological mother, but was given to her sister Syphile to be raised.
Ariel spent the majority of her childhood under slave-like conditions, kept by Syphile in a lonely cell with bare furnishings. For the first decade of her life, she was abused and bullied by Syphile, never treated with kindness or love. Restricted to a few areas within the central tower and kept from Quain'tana herself, she had no companions or friends. She would escape into books, reading about Quain'tana's exploits and fantasy stories. She grew up hoping and dreaming of the day she would meet Quain'tana and be freed from Syphile's harsh care.
Her tenth birthday marked the first time she would meet her mother. As the date neared, Ariel sneaked out of her allowed zone to seek help from her brother Kel'noz. Syphile had demanded she read a dictionary from beginning to end, a task Kel'noz found little value in. Instead, he read her stories of the clan's history until she fell asleep. When she awoke, he gave her a small gray kitten as an early birthday present. She would name this kitten Fuzzy.
Ariel was ecstatic. After exploring with her kitten, she ran back to her room where she found Syphile looking sadly at an angry, ugly doll Ariel had made of her. Syphile beat Ariel for ignoring her lessons and locked both her and Fuzzy in her room. Without proper food or a way to clean up after the cat, Fuzzy grew sick and angry. Syphile was upset by the mess and grabbed Fuzzy by the tail before smashing the helpless cat's brains against the wall.
Fuzzy's death only further cemented her hate for her caretaker. After Syphile left, Ariel threw a tantrum and destroyed much of her cruel caretaker's room. Some days later, Syphile came to bring her before Quain'tana. Ariel stubbornly refused to fix her hair up the way Syphile wanted and spent the walk to the throne room glaring at her spitefully.
The moment of Ariel's dreams had arrived, and she was presented to her mother, Quain'tana. Quain proved to be cold and distant - nothing like the warm hero Ariel and imagined she would be. Quain'tana asked her daughter what her greatest goal would be. Ariel told her mother the truth: she wanted to kill Syphile. Quain'tana grinned and requested she do so on the spot. Afraid, Ariel said she couldn't do that because she was too young. Quain'tana took this as a sign of weakness and said that she had no use for Ariel like that. With her dreams crushed, Kel'noz dismissed the terrified Ariel, who ran from the room bawling.
Kel'noz sympathetically hatched a plan with Quain'tana on Ariel's behalf. He suggested Ariel be taught within the towers of the Orthorbbae. Quain'tana was afraid of Vel'Sharen influence and agreed on the condition that she be disguised as a male within the boys' school. Ariel did not initially know of this caveat, but eagerly agreed to go away to school and be free of Syphile forever. While gathering her things to leave, she briefly encountered Mel'arnach, who had been described by Syphile to be the boogeyman of the Sarghress clan. Mistaking Mel'arnach's genuine attempts at comforting kindness to be a desire to eat her, Ariel screamed until the guards came to restrain Mel.
Kel'noz found and comforted her, and they left for school. On their way out, Ariel watched a duel between her adopted sister Koil'dorath and the leader of the Highland Raiders, Quill'yate. Quill'yate spoke with her after the fight to explain that sometimes mothers are harsh so that their children can learn to grow up strong. Ariel took these words to heart, though she didn't understand their full meaning.
Life at Orthorbbae
When Ariel finally arrived at school, she was asked by Kel'noz to pretend to be a boy. Ariel had been sheltered from the politics of Chel'el'Sussoloth, and couldn't understand why, but she did as her brother asked so she could stay at Orthorbbae.
School would prove to be rather hazardous for Ariel. While the first day was full of excitement, the next day Ariel ran into trouble in physical education class. During what was supposed to be a friendly sparing session, Ariel's true gender was discovered by Mir'kiin Vel'Vloz'ress through a rather unconventional combat move. As class ended, Ariel found herself confronted by her classmates Mir'kiin, Khal'harror Val'Beldrobbaen and Nau'kheol Vel'Sharen. After being abandoned by Yafein Val'Sullisin'rune, a boy she had befriended the day before, Ariel had to stand up to the three boys alone.
Khal gave Mir'kiin a knife, and the boy quickly stabbed Ariel. She began to panic and fled as fast as she could on one of the school's hover-platforms. Mir'kiin gave chase and as they reached the shaft of the tower, he stole her keystone, causing her to fall into the depths of the school. Through a miraculous and instinctive use of wind sorcery, Ariel managed to survive the fall though she was badly wounded both physically and mentally from the incident. She might have died down at the bottom of the tower if she had not been found by Faen Val'Sullisin'rune.
Faen's warmth was something new and foreign to Ariel, but she welcomed the kind girl as a friend. Over the next few weeks, Ariel's physical wounds would heal but the emotional scars left her fearful and timid around the boys in her class. Her only comfort came from sneaking down into the female section of the school to see Faen. During this time, Kel'noz offered to help Ariel learn how to control the shapeshifting ability that she had begun to show signs of. He offered to help train Ariel personally so she could become stronger, hoping this would lessen the fears that made her weak.
At the end of the fourth year, the boys' towers held a competition. During this challenge, Ariel would meet another Val'Sarghress, Sar'nel, who told her that the Clan comes before everything. Even though he was from another tower, he defended her during the competition. Unfortunately, Headmistress Snadhya'rune Vel'Sharen was watching the battle and took notice of Ariel, the "son" of Quain'tana. Khaless, her protector twin, reported that there were rumors of Ariel being a female hidden within the towers. After the competition, Ariel was notified that she must transfer to the female school if she wished to remain at Orthorbbae. At first, Ariel was thrilled to join Faen and be free of the male students that attacked her, but Kel'noz explained that if she did this, Quain'tana would disown her for repeating Syphile's mistakes. She ultimately decided she would not go back to school.
When she arrived home, Quain'tana commanded that she prove her worth by defeating the bully, Mir'kiin, and bringing him to her. Kel'noz recommended she seek out help, new allies to aid her in her goal. With Faen and Yafein's help, Ariel went out into Chel'el'sussoloth to get help. They first purchased a light elf slave named Maya. They soon found that all Maya knew was housework, so Ariel gave her to Yafein as she continued to look for a suitable slave for fighting.
Help would come to them in the form of a strange looking slave, Liriel. Her master attempted to rob and murder Ariel and Faen, but Faen inadvertently rescued everyone when her empathy took over the riding wolf they had borrowed and the wolf killed the man. Liriel proclaimed the bewildered girls her new masters and offered to help for a beer. She led them to the Black Dragon Tavern which held local gladiator fights.
Here, Ariel purchased Vaelia, an emberi gladiator. Unfortunately, Vaelia was badly hurt in the fight and was likely to be of little help. After watching Rikshakar, a half-dragon/half-drow win his fight, Ariel decided to ask for his help instead. She was denied access to him by herself, so she disguised herself as a warrior and entered a fight alongside Vaelia to gain access to the gladiator's quarters.
There she met Rikshakar and asked for his help. Initially rejected, Ariel attempted to gain his trust by taking the form of a young half-dragon. He asked for a kiss, and the young girl reluctantly agreed to secure his help. However, he attempted to take more than a kiss from her and may have succeeded had Vaelia not started causing a scene. Instead Rikshakar made Ariel prove she had dragon blood like him, kicking her down into the dragon pit where a winged dragon rested. Again, wind sorcery saved Ariel and it gained Rikshakar's word that he would help her.
Leaving Faen, Ariel returned to the Sarghress fortress with Vaelia and Liriel, although the latter slipped out of her sight upon arrival. On her way inside, Ariel was confronted by Jer'kol, the soldier who had loaned her the riding wolf. He claimed to be her father and tried to hold her close. She quickly realized he was trying to suffocate her and began to struggle. Vaelia saved her life by attacking Jer'kol and causing enough of a commotion to draw commander Kor'maril Sarghress to the area. He intervened on Ariel's behalf, and Ariel used her shapeshifting powers to grow claws to scratch out one of Jer'kol's eyes. She freed Vaelia in thanks, but the injured Vaelia chose to stay by Ariel's side.
The next day, Ariel went with Rikshakar and Vaelia to face Mir'kiin. After Rikshakar made quick work of Mir'kiin's bodyguard, he told Ariel she'd have to deal with Mir'kiin herself. Afraid, Vaelia comforted Ariel and she soon defeated Mir'kiin easily, discovering that for all her fears, she was actually much stronger than he was.
Heir to the Clan
Bringing Mir'kiin back to the Sarghress fortress defeated, Ariel expected to be praised by Quain'tana, but instead was told to kill him. At first she refused, having never killed before in her life. When faced with the alternative of killing Sar'nel, the Sarghress boy who had defended her in the arena, Ariel knew that the clan came first and chose to kill Mir'kiin. It was neither quick nor pretty, but she recovered when Quain'tana declared her the heir to the Sarghress Clan.
Her new title came with several benefits. She was given new guards from the Fallen Legion and lands that used to belong to Syphile. Vaelia was allowed to remain with her as a personal guard, and she had finally won the approval of her mother, Quain'tana. She quickly sought to find Faen at the Orthorbbae to tell her the wonderful news.
Arriving at the school, Ariel overheard the students talking about someone killing a teacher. She learned from Chrys'tel Vel'Sharen that Faen went looking for her at the towers. She ran to the tower where she found Tralyn, one of her teachers. It seemed that Faen was guilty of accidentally murdering one of her teachers, so Tralyn advised she flee to the overworld, leaving only a note for Ariel behind.
Ariel was crushed and returned to the Sarghress fortress. Yafein came to demand she apologize for earlier remarks that he was useless. Ariel refused and called him a coward when he trapped her feet with earth sorcery. She used her shapeshifting powers to free her feet and grew angry in her depressed state. The startled Yafein called her a monster, prompting her to attack him with a mana blast. However, Maya moved between them as Yafein fled, killing the light elf on the spot. Shocked that she could kill so easily, Ariel left her room to wander and clear her inconsolable mind.
The Black Dragon
She received an invitation to a fight at the Black Dragon Tavern, so she left with her guards. They watched Rikshakar win his fight, but her guards noted a tension in the air. As Ariel was about to leave, Rikshakar ran to her, asking for her to return the favor and save him after he failed to intentionally lose in the last fight.
Ariel commanded her guards to help Rikshakar, a move she quickly regretted. However, Ariel was being secretly tailed by her elder sister, Laele'aell. Laele was a mindless killing machine, slaughtering everyone in her path. Even demons stood no chance as Ariel watched her consume the freed nether beings with ease. Ariel had been told that Laele had once been the pride and joy of Quain'tana, and she grew afraid she might end up like Laele'aell as she followed her sister's bloodbath through the tavern.
She returned home victorious. A month passed, and Ariel remained despondent and weak. However, some encouraging words from Vaelia awoke a desire to go find Faen on the surface.
Ariel quickly devised a plan to seek out Chrys'tel, who had been Faen's roommate, and interrogate her about what had really happened. Disguising herself as Faen, Ariel lured Chrys'tel into an alley and confronted her about Faen's true reasons for leaving. She learned the truth: that Faen had accidentally killed their teacher by falling into empathetic shock when Chrys'tel tried to bring her to a tainting ceremony. Ariel took Chrys'tel captive and brought her back to Quain'tana to be judged. During this time, she also met Chirinide Val'Kyorl'solenurn, a girl her age who claimed it was her holy duty to protect Ariel based on a vision held by her Ill'haress Shimi'lande. Ariel didn't know what to think of this, but accepted her help for the time being.
Ariel then confronted Kel'noz and Tralyn. She displayed the first real act of anger against Kel'noz, accusing him of treating her like an adult only when it suited the clan's need and demanded to know why she should serve the clan at all. This resonated with her brother, who agreed to allow her audience with Quain'tana to ask for permission to go to the surface.
Before her meeting was arranged, Ariel went for a walk after awaking from terrible nightmares. She ran into Syphile in the hall, who was sobbing quietly after an altercation with Quain'tana. Ariel stood up to her old caretaker, and Syphile attacked her with a snake-shaped blood-drinking biogolem. Ariel held her ground, but was ultimately saved by a strange shadowy being and whisked away. She awoke within the spidery lair of Mel'arnach.
Mel'arnach proved to be a kind and caring individual, nothing like what Ariel had assumed. Mel'arnach gave Ariel a dragon biogolem as a gift and told her a story about a Sarghress rite of passage to help gain Quain'tana's permission to go to the surface. This story would help, and Ariel soon prepared for her journey with Quain'tana's approval. Vaelia, Rikshakar and Liriel all agreed to accompany Ariel on her way.
Preparing to Leave
While purchasing supplies for her trip, Ariel bought a feral that she named Melodia. Her group was also joined by warden Chirinide Val'Kyorl'solenurn, her blade Shan'naal Kyorl'solenurn, and a prisoner they had with them Kyo'nne Val'Illhar'dro.
On the way to the outpost leading above ground, Ariel's trip was delayed when the Sarghress caravan was attacked unexpectedly by duergar. While Rikshakar helped fight off the attackers, Vaelia and a masked Highland Raider brought Ariel and her group to a safe cavern. The Raider turned out to be Jer'kol, the same man that had tried to smother Ariel months prior. He knocked Vaelia unconscious but was eventually killed by Ariel and her allies.
Ariel barely had time to react when she was attacked by Kiel'ndia Vel'Vloz'ress and Naal'suul Val'Beldrobbaen, friends of Kyo'nne and Chrys'tel. Kyo'nne convinced everyone to back down peacefully, and together they returned to the caravan. Kiel and Naal parted on strained, but generally good terms with Ariel.
Arriving at Machike'Shikumo, Ariel's journey finally began.
Journey to the Old World
Exploring The Surface
Ariel, Vaelia, Rikshakar, Melodia, Liriel, Chiri'nide, Shan'naal, and Kyo'nne departed together for the surface without incident. However, shortly after arriving Rikshakar kidnapped Ariel and separated her from the rest of the party. He flew her to an isolated cave high up on a cliff, where he once again tried to force himself on her. In defense Ariel reached for the small biogolem Mel had given her and integrated it into her body as she changed her shape, becoming a strong half-dragon herself. She mercilessly mauled Rik'shakar before flying away into the wastelands surrounding the cave. She eventually met up with Vaelia, Liriel and Melodia and set herself back to the goal of finding Faen.
The now-smaller group explored the route shown by the tracker Ariel had been given to follow Faen's aura. They saw the devastation of some of the human settlements on the surface before they were attacked by a group of hostile Halme and defended Chirinide, Shan, and Kyo'nne from a similar group. They tracked Faen's aura to their castle where Ariel led the assault on the castle. With some surprise help from a squad of Sarghress Highland Raiders they found Faen traumatized in the prisons. Ariel dipped her hair in the blood of the fallen king of the castle, thus completing the Sarghress rite of passage Quain'tana had requested.
During the raid, Liriel wandered off on her own. When Ariel found her, her hair, eyes and skin had changed color and her behavior had drastically changed. Liriel confessed that she had undergone a transformation and was actually carrying the aura of the Val'Sharess Diva'ratrika. Ariel did not believe her slave but agreed to indulge her by calling her Diva. With Diva's new mature personality showing, Ariel began to take her a little more seriously as a companion.
Ariel returned to the Val'Sarghress fortress with Faen in tow. Before leaving the surface behind, she allowed Vaelia to join the Highland Raiders so that she might explore more of the Overworld.
Upon meeting with Quain'tana to discuss her trip, Ariel requested that Faen be able to stay with the Sarghress to recover. Quain'tana allowed this, making Faen Ariel's responsibility. Quain'tana praised Ariel's conquests on her journey and expressed her pride in the strong heir Ariel was becoming. Ariel was comforted by this as a small portion of the dream she once held was made reality.
Shortly after this ride, Kel'noz told Ariel that he wished for her to meet with Mel'arnach. He took her to Mel, who was being held in the depths of the Sarghress prisons after having her arms brutally broken by Quain'tana. Mel'arnach took the opportunity to tell Ariel about her true parentage and expressed hope that Ariel would forsake Quain'tana entirely. Ariel, though sympathetic to Mel'arnach's plight, could not immediately accept that Mel was her true mother. She instead ran to Quain'tana and convinced her to free Mel from the prison. Quain'tana allowed this so long as Mel'arnach agreed to begin bearing children for the clan. Crushed, Mel accepted these conditions.
Biography - Arc II
In the Home Guard
15 years later in the midst of war between the Val'Sarghress and the Vel'Sharen, Ariel started her climb through the Sarghress ranks as a grunt in the Home Guard. Her squad leader was Sar'nel and she was joined by Faen and the twins Kau and Shala Val'Sharen.
During training before their first mission, Ariel was called away to speak with a young Val'Jaal'darya ambassador. The girl told Ariel that there was Nidraa'chal treachery within the Jaal'darya clan and pleaded with Ariel to investigate for a high price. Ariel diplomatically declined the offer but allowed the girl to stay with the clan until Quain'tana herself returned.
The squad set off shortly after this. They met briefly with Mel'arnach at the Sullisin'rune dome. Despite her acceptance of the truth, Ariel still publicly held her position as daughter of Quain'tana, even going so far as to snap at Mel'arnach for her disrespect towards Quain. Before they left, Mel'arnach's guard, Lulianne, gave Ariel an invitation to a gathering in Felde on behalf of Snadhya'rune Vel'Sharen. Ariel set this aside, and resumed her duties with the Home Guard.
The group made a stop at a concert held by Kyo'nne in the rebuilt district. After the show, Ariel and her squad met with Kyo'nne to discuss politics and the state of affairs in Chel. She reminded Ariel to be mindful of what she fought for, and Ariel suggested Kyo write a song to inspire the Sarghress troops in the war effort. They left on good terms and the squad set out for the North Cliff.
Attack on the North Cliff
Soon after arriving in the North Cliff, Ariel was approached to settle a conflict between a local landowner and one of her tenants. Ariel did her best to resolve the dispute diplomatically but was interrupted by the arrival of a badly injured man with a nether gate installed in his chest. After sealing the gate with Kau and Shala, Ariel slowly took command of the scattered troops around her.
After tracking down the leader of the invasion, Maki, Ariel successfully rallied the commoners of the district against those that would open gates in their streets. After the battle was over, Ariel accepted a message that Commander Koil'dorath needed assistance at Darya Lake. With Sar'nel in no position to lead the squad, she easily took command of the remaining Sarghress soldiers at the North Cliff and began the march to First Landing.
Battle of Darya Lake
Upon her arrival, Ariel met with Koil'dorath to discuss tactics. Koil'dorath was equally surprised to see Ariel arrive as she was to see her leading troops; Unbeknownst to Ariel herself, Quain'tana had apparently mandated that Ariel not be promoted until after the war was over. Regardless, Koil'dorath agreed to allow Ariel to fight if she felt she was ready, so Ariel and the soldiers from the North Cliff were placed on the field.
Ariel was placed in a line of shield-bearers and marched on the frontlines of the assault. After a nearby Vel'Sharen tower was taken by her allies, Ariel argued with several of the Sarghress soldiers who were behaving dishonorably. She freed any Vel'Sharen slaves that were willing to fight and brought them to Commander Sang Niz'zre Sarghress. However, the building is blown up by Malag'nafein resulting in many deaths--Ariel, Faen, and several others survive, only to crawl into the hands of Nihi'liir Vel'Sharen, Shinae Vel'Sharen and Black Sun troops waiting for them. Through use of clever shapeshifting and confusing the Black Sun jailors, Ariel and her group escape and manage to cause a riot within the slaver compound. Meanwhile, Sarghress troops are launching an assault on the Sharen base.
Ariel then moves to assassinate Nihi'liir, and later encounters Shinae on the rooftops of the compound, testing her mentally and physically by trying to parlay with the Sharen, then slandering Chrys'tel. This causes Shinae to overact and blast Ariel several times with her pressure sorcery--the Sarghress heir is blown off the ledge and is unable to recover due to the shredding of her hair wings. She falls to the ground sustaining severe injuries. Looking up at the ceiling of the Chelian cavern sparks a memory in the injured girl, and she wonders why the ceiling no longer sparkles as it once did.
To the Surface: Ys
While lying in bed recovering from her injuries, Ariel receives a visit from Chirinide and Shan'naal, requesting permission to come with her to the surface and fulfill the drowussu's personal goals. Ariel is slightly surprised, wondering how they could have known she was to be sent to the surface as an assignment. The trail would take them through the captured First Landing fortress, then onward to Ys on an additional order.
While at Ys, she and Faen take their relationship to the next level, and assisted in defending Ys before an airship appears over the colony. The next day, she and Tur'geis Am'saag Sarghress have an argument over whether to stay in Ys or follow the airship but it was ultimately rendered moot when the council of Ys kicks the Sarghress out for reasons they find suspicious. Ariel and those who are going with her then go in the direction deduced by Sar'nel to be the likely destination of the airship, Felde.
Investigation of Felde
As the team heading for Felde traveled, they came across a Val'Sullisinrune plantation that had been ravaged by unknown forces. Ariel noted that they were moving further and further away from Chirinide and Shan'naal's monastery, and asked if they were okay with that. Chiri commented that they had some time before the Vanir delegation was set to arrive. Surmising that the best place for survivors of the plantation ransacking to flee to would be Felde, they decided to press on.
Arriving at the port near Felde, they discovered that the tower at the center of the city was controlled by Snadhya'rune Vel'Sharen. Riz'riia immediately ordered them to return to Chel, unwilling to take on one of the "three dragons" and feeling that it was their duty to inform the clan and return with an army. Ariel and Syrak favored trying to gather more information about the airship, as it was the reason that they had come to Felde in the first place. Hoping to come to a compromise, Faen proposed going to Felde and simply asking to see the airship, as she had brought along the invitation that Lulianne had given Ariel. The others agreed, particularly after encountering Kyo'nne Val'Illhar'dro. As they followed her into the tower, she warned them not to stray.
After taking advantage of the over-sized bath in their room, Ariel and Faen are contacted again by Kyo'nne, who told them that she had found someone who could provide access to the airship. They agreed to follow the singer, leaving their gear behind on her recommendation.
To their shock, Kyo'nne led them to a private dining area, where they were greeted by Snadhya'rune, who was preparing to share a meal with Mel'arnach, Zhor, Kalki, and Sasi. Kalki appeared surprised, mistaking Faen for Ariel and commenting that she was "endowed." Snadhya corrected Kalki, telling her that the one wearing their colors in her hair was her sibling. Ariel's purple highlights immediately shifted to the bright red worn by the Sarghress clan as she coldly told them that she had no sister.
Ariel and Faen attempted to leave, but were stopped by Snadhya, who asked what news they brought from Chel. Ariel confidently told Snadhya that her clan was losing the war; the First Daughter seemed surprisingly satisfied by the news. Snadhya'rune continued to speak of her wish that Chel be led by a strong leader, and complimented Faen and Ariel's clans on their ability to breed strong women in an effort to sway them. Mel'arnach pleaded with her to listen to Snadhya'rune, saying that she wasn't like the other Sharen. After offering to set aside her crown if it would put them at ease, Snadhya'rune convinced Ariel and Faen to stay long enough for cake to arrive. Mel'arnach was finally able to introduce Ariel to her father Zhor, who had been recently restored to his original Dokkalfar body by Wi'am Val'Jaal'darya. Snadhya shifted the conversation to what Ariel's aspirations were; the subject of the airship was brought up, and Ariel admitted that she had always wanted to find one after hearing about them in the stories of Quain'tana's exploits. Mel'arnach disagreed, stating that if Quain'tana had found one, she would most likely have destroyed it, as she did with everything she touched.
Ariel attempted again to leave with Faen, stating that they had to leave in the morning. Hoping to convince her to stay, Mel'arnach pleaded with her to listen to Snadhya'rune, and that Quain'tana was tearing them apart. As mother and daughter argued, Kalki stabbed Ariel's hand with a knife, pinning it to the table and telling the younger drow that she was stuck with them. Faen attempted to help her remove the knife as Snadhya reprimanded Kalki, warning her not to push her patience. Kalki responded by snatching Lulianne's sword and severing Ariel's arm.
As Zhor tackled Kalki in order to protect Ariel, Faen attempted to help Ariel, telling her to close the wound. Kalki threw Zhor to the side, beating him with Ariel's arm until Snadhya'rune intervened by summoning a floor dragon to subdue her. Ariel appeared to cycle through multiple forms in a sort of fit, finally settling on a smaller form from her youth as she closed the wound where her arm had been. Snadhya advised them that the fit was similar to what Khaless occasionally experienced if she lost control of herself. Zhor commented on how small she was, wondering if that was her true form.
With Snadhya's assistance, Ariel was brought out of her stupor as a pair of guards brought Riz'riia into the room, claiming that they had caught her sneaking about. Snadhya attempted to convince Ariel to absorb Riz'riia's arm, reasoning that it would be too late to reattach her original arm - especially since Kalki had left the room with it. Ariel refused, however, stating that a Sarghress didn't steal from her comrades. Snadhya commented that it was disappointing, and that she sensed Zhor's blood in her as Zhor looked on proudly.
Escape From Felde
Mel'arnach, Lulianne, Zhor and several guards escorted Ariel and Faen to their rooms; along the way,Zhor complimented Ariel, telling her that he was proud that she had refused to take her fellow soldier's arm. Upon arrival at the guest quarters, they found that the room had been set on fire - assumably by Kalki. Ariel noticed her discarded arm lying on the ground; after attempting to reattach it, she found that it was unsalvageable. As she sat in disappointment, Lulianne appeared at her shoulder, whispering that she would need to learn not to fear the taking of new faces, even that of her own kin if necessary.
They were interrupted by the arrival of a member of the Kavahini clan, who proceeded to evade the guards and headed down the hallway. When Lulianne left to give chase, Ariel and Faen took advantage of the distraction to slip away, despite Mel'arnach's protests. As they turned to go, Ariel told Zhor that it was nice talking to him, at long last, telling him to take care of Mel. Mel'arnach attempted to stop them, desperate to see her family reunited after so long, but was stopped by Zhor, who told her that she needed to learn to let go.
During their escape, Ariel and Faen sensed the presence of a nether gate, spurring them to move faster. They stumbled across Shan'naal and an unconscious Chiri'nide, who appeared to be under attack by a drowussu empath. As Faen intercepted the empath's empathy attack, Ariel charged forward, knocking her down with a punch and following up with a stomp. Faen helped to stabilize Chiri'nide; after realizing they couldn't help Riz'riia due to the raider being taken by Snadhya'rune, Ariel resolved to find the rest of their squad while Shan'naal and Faen carried Chiri'nide out of the tower.
Finding her way to the lower level, where Faen sensed the rest of the squad, Ariel came across a badly wounded Ynda. Taking Kalki's "pet" as a hostage, Ariel confronted the psychotic drow, and offered to trade Ynda forKau and Shala, who Kalki had managed to capture. After slicing Shala's throat, Kalki dared her to kill Ynda. Ariel hesitated to do so; Kalki then hurled a nether demon at her, attempting to taint her, but Ariel was able to use Ynda as a shield to intercept it. Using her hair in place of her missing left arm, Ariel was able to grab hold of Kalki, pulling her close enough to punch.
Kalki continued to goad Ariel, offering to give her a second chance as she collected another demon summon behind her back. Ariel refused, telling Kalki that she wasn't family - she was a sick dog. A sad look crossed Kalki's face before it was quickly replaced with a smile. She then slammed the small summoned demon into Ariel's forehead, rendering her unconscious.
A short time later, Ariel lay helpless on the ground as Kau and the healer demons attempted to save Shala. Kalki gloated, telling them that they were wasting their time. As she was about the further torture Kau, Sasi was suddenly thrown into the room, having been defeated by Sar'nel. Kalki grew agitated, attacking him as he attempted to rally his comrades. Before Kalki could taint him with another summoned demon like she had Kau, Ariel slammed into her from behind, pinning her to the wall. Ariel quickly held her shoulder up to Kalki's, absorbing her left arm while claiming that since Kalki had taken her arm, she was taking hers.
Ariel's features shifted to that of Kalki's, prompting Kalki to panic and call her a face-stealer. With one more stomp to the face, Ariel told her she could keep her snake of a mother and left her sister to her own devices. As she and the others headed back up to the previous floor, they came across Riz, who appeared to be in a daze. Reunited, the squad met back up outside, where Kiel'ndia was arguing with a guard. Pretending to be Kalki, Ariel shoved the guard into the lake, ordering the remaining guards to let their group pass. After the turtle disembarked, the group of drow realized that Shala had passed away just as they had reached safety.
Return To Chel
While the giant turtle summon traveled, Ariel and Chrys'tel discussed the recent events. Ariel told the young Sharen that Quain'tana knew that the Vel'Sharen clan was responsible for the recent mess - if she could convince the Sharen to give up, then the Sarghress would deal with Snadyha'rune. As they continued their debate, Kharla'ggen began to collapse, having used up a majority of her vast mana supply. Acting quickly, Ariel caught on to Chrys'tel, who caught Faen, and together they were able to keep the Ill'haress from falling off of the great turtle.
Ariel and her squadmates returned to Val'Sarghress territory, where they attempted to recuperate after their harsh trip. Other Sarghress warriors began swapping stories of their war experiences; with enough prodding, Ariel was convinced to tell them a brief recounting of their recent adventure to Felde. After sitting down, she and Faen noticed Sarn'el sitting alone, picking at his food instead of eating. Later that night, Ariel joined Sarn'el, Kau, Chiri'nide, Shan'naal and Faen as they cremated Shala's body; Ariel lamented that Shala had been Sharen and Sarghress both, and was sorry that she hadn't taken the time to get to know her better.
Following the Puppeteer Incident, Ariel checked in on Faen, who was still somewhat upset about what had happened. While everyone had been controlled, she had been left conscious, unable to move. In an effort to lift her spirits, Ariel offered to take her to see the "babies" - her younger siblings.
Upon arrival at the children's room, they noticed an exhausted Jiv'kyn, who appeared to be sleeping in a chair outside the door. As the entered the room, they heard a barely noticeable comment - "Beware the beasts." Ariel and Faen were met with the sight of two small boys and a baby girl. Vene, the oldest, was the most vocal, challenging them before allowing them into "Fort Kick Butt." When Faen asked what the names of the other two children were, Ariel commented that Quain'tana had no imagination - the younger boy was still nicknamed "Pup," while the baby girl was still completely unnamed.
The boys continued to defend their fort from the perceived invaders, calling Ariel and Faen "giants." After throwing a loaf of bread at Ariel's head, her hair began to writhe as she yelled in outrage, prompting the boys to re-label her as a kraken. Seeing that Ariel was about to lose her temper, Faen intervened, telling Ariel to let her deal with the boys. Taking a closer look at Pup, Faen noted that he had the same eyes that she did - the heterochromic eyes found commonly amongst the Sullisin. Pup panicked, thinking that she was attempting to steal his eyes for herself.
Ariel watched in amusement as Faen failed to gain entry to the "fort," due to the boys feeling that her butt was too big. Picking up her little sister, she wondered if she was ever that small. The moment of wonder was interrupted as the baby began to soil her diaper, causing her to begin crying. Unsure what to do, Ariel turned to Faen, only to find the empath struck by the baby's strong emotions and weeping as well.
Quain'tana arrived shortly afterwards, drawn by the noise. Faen swooped in with a towel, taking the baby from the Ill'haress so that she could be cleaned and changed. Instead of being infuriated by their presence as Ariel feared, Quain'tana merely told them to keep the noise to a minimum if they wished to keep access to the floor. Before she left, Ariel caught her attention, saying that they should spar again sometime. Quain'tana gave her a small smile before agreeing, and instructed her to be at the Alliance dinner the next day.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Ariel turned her attention back to Faen, who was admiring the baby. Faen commented that she looked a lot like Ariel, and wondered if they would be able to name her. Ariel shrugged, telling her it might be possible if they took care of her.
Sarghress Civil War
Motherly Advice, Quain'tana Style
Days after the Puppeteer Incident, Ariel was met by Die'tra and Tur'geis as she went to the sparring grounds. She greeted them kindly, coming to an understanding with Tur'geis over their previous disagreement after the Battle of Darya Lake. While waiting to be called over for the spar, Ariel socialized with other Sarghress, asking after their health and trading stories. Nuru'lara and Karo were also present; Nuru informed Ariel of the recent changes within the Val'Kyorl'solenurn, and that they had a new Ill'haress. Ariel appeared to be impressed, and pondered whether she would have a chance to meet the Kyorl's new leader.
While watching the current match between Quill'yate and Quain'tana, Ariel was challenged by another Sarghress - a Home Guard warrior named Riviel who goaded her into a spar after insulting both her and Quain'tana by calling them hypocrites. When Jak'iaah attempted to force the orange-haired soldier to back down, Ariel stopped her, telling Jak'iaah that they would never stop unless she forced them to.
Riviel's opening attack was to strike at Ariel's unprotected head, but the attack was halted as Koil'dorath admonished her against attacking someone's head while they had no headgear. Koil ordered the match to continue, unimpressed that Ariel would allow herself to be goaded into a fight just because someone insulted her mother. As the spar resumed, Riviel attempted to gain an advantage by grabbing Ariel's hair; the tables were turned when Ariel's prehensile hair took hold of her arm and slammed her to the ground. Ariel attempted to help Riviel up, asking her name, but was rebuffed as Riviel retreated in an angry huff.
Ariel was then called up to spar with Quain'tana herself and was handed her favorite weapon by Taldryn. The fight was brief, as the Ill'haress felt no need to take it easy on her heir. As they sparred, Quain'tana told her that she had learned of Ariel's recent defiance of orders and warned her to be careful of charging headlong into danger. She then ordered Ariel to be at the gathering of clans set for the next morning.
Quain'tana continued to thrash Ariel in their spar, imparting smaller bits of wisdom regarding how to handle foes as they fought. Ariel continued to persevere, however, and refused to give up despite being severely outmatched. After Quain'tana asked if she had had enough, Ariel let her lance fall to the ground and took up a hand-to-hand fighting stance. She fared no better and found herself thrown to the ground again and again as Quain'tana countered every attack. Ariel finally asked Quain'tana what to do if the opponent was just too strong to defeat; Quain replied that she should retreat and wait for a better opportunity. If she couldn't retreat, then she should try to outlast them. As the spar came to a close, Ariel gave her mother a bow of respect, requesting permission to retreat to train harder for a future rematch.
Gathering of the Clans
Ariel waited patiently outside of the meeting hall as the surviving clan heads debated the future of Chel. After Zala'ess Vel'Sharen appeared to have a mental break during the negotiations, the summit collapsed, and each leader returned to their clans with no true resolution set. Ariel chased down Chrys'tel, who was hurriedly escorting her mother back to their quarters in order to find out what had happened. Chrys admitted that Zala'ess had been poisoned by Snadhya'rune's madness-inducing toxin and told Ariel to tell Quain'tana to hold things together until they could resolve the new problem.
The next day, Ariel and Faen brought the baby with them as they walked through the fortress. Along the way, they met Quill'yate, who was exiting Quain'tana's room with a grim expression. Quill greeted them, brightening up at their appearance and commenting that Ariel had grown taller again. Noticing the baby, she asked if that was all that she had missed, and whether the baby was theirs. Ariel sheepishly admitted that the baby was actually her little sister. Before leaving again for the surface, Quill'yate advised Ariel against getting into politics, and if she ever got burned by them, Ariel would know where to find her people.
Noting how upset Quill'yate appeared to be, Ariel decided to check on Quain'tana to find out what had happened. Locating her in a break room, she was stopped by Zith, who advised her that the Ill'haress didn't want to speak to anyone. While Faen used the baby to distract him, Ariel was passed through by Angjss'stra. Finding Quain'tana attacking a punching bag, Ariel asked what was wrong, and was filled in on the recent attack on Snadhya'rune's tower in Chel. When Quain mentioned that Mel'arnach had been with them, Ariel couldn't help but wonder if she had returned for her stolen children.
After passing a bottle of strong alcohol to the Ill'haress, Ariel was shocked to see the state of Quain'tana's wound, which had festered and spread despite the clan healers' best efforts. After updating her that a healer from the Val'Sullisinrune clan was en route, she asked if Ariel enjoyed spending time with the children. When Ariel confirmed that she did, Quain'tana charged her with watching over them, advising her to use only the people who she trusted completely to help her. Finally, Quain'tana ordered Ariel to stay within the Fortress for the time being, telling her that the last thing she needed was another rogue daughter.
Fall of a Legend
Ariel waited outside of the healing room with Koil'dorath and Suu'be the next day as the healer began her ministrations. When Suu'be complained that someone ought to take command of the clan in order to give Quain time to heal properly, Ariel asked Koil'dorath if she would take charge. Koil declined, saying that she would rather be on the field. Suu'be immediately turned on Ariel, declaring that Koil'dorath would rule the clan, not her. As she continued to berate Ariel, Quain'tana appeared behind her, incensed by pain and suspicion. After accusing the commander of trying to usurp her, she began to beat Suu'be in front of Ariel and Koil'dorath, until Koil was able to convince her to stop.
After Suu'be was carried into the healing room to be treated, Sang arrived, having heard the commotion. She recommended that Koil take the legions out for exercises to keep them distracted while Ariel was to locate any other healers who weren't afraid of Quain's wrath. Ariel agreed, offering the idea that an empath might be able to dull the pain.
The next morning, Ariel again waited outside of the healing room while the healer attempted to treat Quain'tana's festering wounds. Three empaths - Faen, Slyand'iss and another unnamed empath - proved to be insufficient to control Quain'tana's pain, and they were sent away from the healing room. Ariel hugged Faen, attempting to comfort her, and suggested that they visit the children. They were intercepted by Sang, however, who pulled Ariel aside to assist with locating Laele'aell.
Her request turned out to be an excuse to bring Ariel a secure location, however. After questioning the young heir about her opinions of the Sharen and whether she would follow Quain'tana's path regarding the Alliance. Sang then recounted her own experience at the hands of Sharen torturers in the past as well as the previous attempt on Quain's life by Diva'ratrika's assassins. After Ariel appeared unsure of whether or not she would follow Quain'tana's goals, Sang revealed that Ariel's life was in danger as the Ill'haress was not expected to survive the poison, and they needed to secure Quain's bloodline.
Unwilling to stand by while her mother's life was in danger, Ariel slipped away from her guards, using her air sorcery to jump safely out of an upper floor window. While trying to find her way back to the healing chamber, she encountered Riviel, along with other Sarghress soldiers. Riviel and her companions gave chase to the heir, and proceeded to attack Ariel, revealing that a coup detat against the vals was occuring. Ariel attempted to fight back but found herself unable to defeat multiple opponents. Help arrived in the form of Koil'dorath, who had returned from the legion exercises; disappointed with both Riviel and Ariel for brawling during a time of crisis, she had them both locked up in the Sarghress prison.
To their surprise, Kau was present, having been arrested for an unknown reason. Ariel took advantage of the forced downtime to question Riviel, hoping to find out the source of her hatred and to discover why she and Kau were being targeted. Riviel refused to provide details as to who was responsible for the mutiny but was convinced to explain her reasons for hating Ariel - she had thought that the vals were spoiled, with special priveleges and powers, not knowing what Ariel had been forced to endure as Quain'tana's heir. Kau argued against the reasons for her jealosy, stating that she just wanted someone to hate. Ariel then attempted to reason with Riviel, telling her that she hadn't wanted the privileges and responsibilities that had been laid down on her shoulders - neither she, nor Koil'dorath truly wanted to rule the clan, and even Quain'tana didn't want the title. Riviel scoffed, accusing Quain'tana of being in bed with the Sharen alliance and that the Sarghress clan would become just another noble clan, contrary to their original aims. Ariel disagreed, explaining that she had thought Quain would return to the surface to relive the glory days, as the old stories were the only thing that made the Ill'haress happy.
Their conversation was interrupted by the arrival of Dax'ia, who shot Ariel with a poisoned hand crossbow bolt. As the poison began to take hold, Ariel found herself unable to defend herself, collapsing against the cell wall. Riviel protested Dax'ia's actions, as it appeared the Fallen Legionnaire was preparing to enter the cell to kill Ariel. Dax'ia appeared angry at having to clean up after Riviel, stating that killing someone who was still basically a big kid made her sick.
To Ariel's surprise, Riviel came to her defense, knocking out Dax'ia with one hit. After releasing Kau, they helped Ariel to stand up and move up the stairs towards the exit. As they climbed the stairs, Riviel revealed more regarding the mutiny, and that the anti-val sentiments had been stirring for quite some time - many long-time supporters of Quain'tana felt betrayed by her sudden willingness to ally with the Vel'Sharen, who had been their sworn enemy for so long.
Upon reaching the entrance, they were met by Rosof, Sar'nel, Nei'kalsa and other Sarghress warriors, who had been come to retrieve a body. Sar'nel asked what they were doing there; Kau told him that they had been arrested. Ariel asked if the rumors were true that Quain'tana was dead; Rosof explained that she lived, but had gone berserk, and perhaps Ariel could talk her into calming down so that they could restore order. Ariel insisted that she wouldn't stay locked up, to which Kau also agreed, and asked if they were siding with the anti-vals. Sar'nel appeared insulted that others would think that Kau was a Val'Sharen, stating that they were stupid - Kau was one of them.
Ariel, Rosof and the others managed to make their way to where Quain'tana had been in a stand-off with the Home Guard, arriving right as Suu'be was about to cut down the Ill'haress. Throwing herself between Suu'be and Quain'tana, Ariel tried to reason with the commander, calling for a healer and for the Home Guard to stand down. Suu'be appeared to be incensed, grabbing Ariel by the throat and complaining that she was interfering again. Other members of the clan began to stand up for Ariel, telling Suu'be that she had no right to touch the little wolf. When Suu'be insisted that Quain'tana was going to die regardless, Ariel told her that that wasn't her decision to make. A crossbow bolt then flew past Ariel's cheek, barely missing her. Quain'tana appeared to respond, standing up and grabbing Suu'be by the neck and snapping it. Ariel caught the Ill'haress as she fell, hearing Quain's final words that no one could defeat her.
In the aftermath, Ariel was escorted to Machike, as Rosof felt that it would be better to move her and the other children while they restored order. As they reached the outskirts of Sarghress territory, Ariel waved at Faen and the two remaining grandchildren, who had been evacuated earlier by Rayata and Sakraag. As she did so, the exhaustion from the recent beating and poisoning finally took their toll. Ariel fainted and was helped onto a wolf by My'ona.
Once they reached Machike, they were greeted by Kel'noz. Relieved to see a friendly face, Ariel embraced her brother, telling him she had missed him greatly. He patted her gently, telling her that she wasn't so little anymore before finally breaking the news that Quain'tana had died from her wounds - Ariel was now the leader of the clan. 
During her stay at Machike, Ariel found herself on top of the hill where she and her friends had traveled so many years ago, when looking for Faen. Shouting her frustration into the wind, she turned to find that Pup had snuck up behind her, and been frightened by the sudden noise. She picked him up and convinced him to shout with her, hoping to vent some of the frustrations and fears plaguing them both. Afterwards, they began a small snowball fight, targeting a young Emberi who had yelled at her.
Mistaking the Emberi for Vaelia, she picked him up, hugging him in an enthusiastic greeting. To her surprise, the Emberi responded by struggling and kicking her in the face. She dropped him, allowing him to run off down the hill while she wondered what had just happened.
After being joined by Faen and the baby, Ariel and Pup attempted to call out to the Emberi to tell him that he had dropped his catch - a rabbit that was likely his dinner. Following his tracks, they located his home, and were greeted warmly by Vaelia. Ariel was introduced to her former guardian's son Kenro and daughter Esuni and welcomed into her home. When the children were introduced to Vaelia's family as Pup and Octobear, the warrior expressed surprise, asking why they didn't have proper names yet. After deciding to name them right then and there, Ariel's first instinct was to name her Vaelia, but was rejected by both Faen and Vaelia herself. Ariel and Faen discussed several possible names, declining the option to name them after Quain'tana or even after themselves. After several more failed attempts to pick a name, Vaelia asked Pup what he wanted for his name. Pup was initially surprised at being allowed to choose his own name, but took it in stride, and finally settled on the name Pelan. Vaelia, seeing the continued struggle to pick a name for the baby, suggested the name Octarya, which Ariel and Faen gladly accepted.
Ariel and Faen pondered how something so simple as naming a baby could turn out to be so hard; Vaelia replied that everything was challenging when you were a new parent. After Ariel commented on the changes made to Machike, including the difference in the current section of the colony, Vaelia explained that many of her kin had found their way to the colony and found a place there. She also mentioned that Ariel had been largely responsible for the freedoms that the Emberi enjoyed at Machike, surprising Kenro at the revelation that his mother had once been a slave. Ariel insisted she hadn't done anything, but Vaelia disagreed - her freeing of Vaelia had influenced the clan's attitudes towards slaves, as well as the Highland Raiders who she had served with.
Ariel was moved by the Emberi's optimism, and asked her for a much needed hug. Vaelia obliged, telling her that everything would be alright - spring would come, and with it, better days.
Biography - Arc III
The Hermionne Invasion of Machike
Ariel, now the leader of the clan, is among Sarghress defenders during the Hermionne siege on Machike'Shikumo. She heard urgent news of the heavy bombard the goblins used against the wall alongside, and the sudden appearance of 100 mounted riders on the colony's main road. She is eager to get out and help the war effort herself, but not before a drowussu attempts to assassinate her. Rather than killing the woman, Ariel tells Hellenda to fight for her home; the other woman chose to back off, and Sar'nel nervously sheathed his sword behind them.
Out on the battlefield, Ariel comes across three golen units pinned by a group of Hermionne on horseback--among them being Kau and Syland'iss. With wind sorcery and polearm in hand, Ariel, Zair, Durlyn, and Bal'diira drove back the group of Hermionne. Faen provided empathy support with confusing the horses.
Despite Kel'noz's warning to fall back due to the overwhelming numbers, Ariel decided to use Kau's golem to charge into the thick of enemy troops. This allowed her to leap into the air for a fatal strike on the leader, Toland. On his death, the hermionne scattered--but the victory was hard-won as the mist revealed the drow casualties and heavy destruction of the colony itself.
Kyo'nne's Offer of Peace
The following day, a familiar airship docks next to the main tower of the colony, delivering Ariel's old friend Kyo'nne with a message bearing peace and goodwill.
Though her friends openly slung accusations, Ariel listens to Kyo'nne's summary of political shifts in Chel over the last three years: there had been a Gathering of the Clans, and the Sarghress had sent someone who clearly was not Koil'dorath. The young leader was highly suspicious of the proposal to bring Ariel to Felde for a new Gathering of current clan leaders: the requirement was to declare allegiance to the questionable Alliance flag, in order to receive aid and supplies. Kyo'nne's comment about Kalki's attack and Shala's death prompted Ariel to grill the Illhar'dro in the number of troops on that ship. Faen's whispered comment about how afraid Kyo was only increased suspicion about the proposal, leading them to believe that the invitation to Felde could only a trap laid by Snadhya's minions to separate Ariel from her clan. Sar'nel then escorted the singer out at swordpoint, forcing her to return to the airship. As she crossed the gangplank and pleaded for them to see reason, Ariel continued to refuse, telling her old friend to return to her mistress with her answer: the Sarghress clan would remain independent.
Another Attack On Machike
The decision to cast her old friend out of Machike with an official refusal was met with disaster raining down on the already broken colony--forcing Kel'noz to order an immediate evacuation to the city below via Raider escort. Ariel bore extreme guilt for failing her citizens with her refusal, but she is reassured by her uncle's confidence that he will find a solution, somehow, somewhere. In the city of Machike, she and Faen met with Kel'noz and Ash'waren Val'Sullisin'rune regarding the situation. Though the leader felt trapped in a corner by her enemies, she had great faith in Kel'noz and Ariel's determination to recoup losses.
Suspecting that the airship might return for another attempt to destroy Machike, the colonists set to work placing traps as a stalling tactic. When the flying vessel indeed returned, following the retreating colonists, they quickly became ensnared by wires that had been strung across the crevice that led to Fustin'darun. As the crew attempted to free the ship, the colonial defenders took action, sniping at the crew on the main deck from the cavern walls. Along with crossbow fire, the Sarghress then followed it up by firing a blast from the giant bombard cannon that they had taken from the Hermionne army. The defenders then cheered as the airship was forced to retreat.
While the colonists continued to arm and prepare for yet another attack, the airship returned again, this time bearing a payload of giant boulders and rock chunks that they began to drop onto the civilian population and buildings below. Ariel and Faen were able to escape the bombardment, shielding Pelan and Octarya until they were able to find cover.
Ariel and Faen watched as their defenses were decimated yet again by the Nidraa'chal airship's mana cannons, until they were found by Durlyn and Zair. After watching the ship continue to batter Fustin'darun's dwellings, Faen advised her that they seemed to be searching for someone - most likely Ash'waren. As she spoke, the Sullissin'rune clan leader's home was bombarded by the mana cannons, and seemingly destroyed.
Forming a desperate plan, she quickly asked Durlyn and Zair if they would assist her, though it might get them killed. After they agreed, she ordered Faen to locate Kel'noz, and for the other two to follow her. The small group scattered, launching flares into the sky, signaling a retreat, which drew the airship's attention away from the civilian population and further into the underworld. After noticing the Black Sun mercenaries that exited the ship via ropes and begin to head back towards the civilians, Ariel again drew their fire, picking up a fallen Sarghress banner and defiantly shouting to them that the Sarghress would never surrender. The distraction was successful, and they turned their attention back towards the young Sarghress leader and began to pursue her.
Using her wind affinity and shapeshifting to evade her pursuers, Ariel had a fleeting run-in with a member of the Kavahini clan, who quickly flew away. Setting aside the odd encounter, she continued on towards the rendesvous location, where she found Faen and some of the other defenders waiting for her. To her dismay, the group was much smaller than she had hoped for, numbering around thirty, which included an unconscious Kel'noz.
Kel'noz remained unconscious during the defenders' next encounter, where they witnessed an ambush on an Alliance traveling group by the Kavahini clan. They laid low, not interfering with the attack, as they did not know where the allegiances of either party lay. As the Nidraa'chal had been claiming to be operating under the purview of the Sharen Alliance prior to attacking Machike, the defenders opted to side with the Kavahini, rescuing one of their Koubagia from her Alliance pursuers and accepting a challenge from Chakri Kavahini to prove themselves.
While they discussed their next move, Kel'noz woke, and was helped back to Ariel's side by Vara'nin. After chiding her for not following his earlier advice, he instructed them to head further inward to the underworld to the outpost of Sha'shi.
The group of defenders moved further into the underworld, surviving on hidden caches of rations and supplies that Kel'noz had secretly placed in the event of an emergency. As they traveled, they continued to play a game of cat and mouse with the Nidraa'chal airship, drawing fire by leaving dummies and decoys along the trail. Eventually, they arrived at Sha'shi, where Kel'noz continued to act as teacher, explaining the history of the outpost and the nearby moon fragments to Ariel and Faen.
Shortly after their arrival, Kel'noz was greeted amicably by the outpost's leader - a light elf who was known by the nickname of Zy'ezra. The two appeared to have a history together, as they bantered flirtatiously before coming to an agreement that would allow the weary travelers a chance to shelter and rest.
While most of the defenders rested, the engineers introduced Kau to their experimental golem workshop, as well as their most recent golem armor prototype. He agreed to pilot the armor for their next test flight and challenged Ariel to a race to the top of the town. Ever up for a challenge, Ariel readily agreed - her wind affinity versus his golem technology.
Ariel, being unarmored and lighter, was able to use her mana arts to boost herself quickly, gaining an early lead on the heavier, more armored Kau. As her friend began to falter, she stopped, turning around to check on him. Frustrated by what was beginning to look like another defeat, Kau became determined that he would not fall behind again, and that he would find his own power. They continued the race, until both reaching the top. Ariel won readily, but the victory was quickly ignored as they realized with wonder that they were standing on top of a piece of the fallen moon. As they realized they were in the very center of the underworld, the airship finally reappeared overhead.
After witnessing the successful testing and realizing the potential capabilities of the golem armor, Kel'noz formed a plan to take control of the Nidraa'chal airship. Forming an alliance with the outpost of engineers, he agreed that in exchange for their assistance in capturing the airship, the Sha'shi engineers would have full access to study the ancient flying machine. Ariel backed up the promise, saying that they had her word as well.
A Desperate Gamble
The boarding party made an attempt to infiltrate the airship initially, with Kau and Slyand'iss piloting their golems and acting as standard work golems. Their ruse was soon exposed, however, when Da'xia caught a glimpse of Ariel and sounded an alert to the airship crew. With little other choice, the defenders scrambled to get as many of the boarding party onto the deck as possible. Ariel found herself confronting Sasi'rael, who was acting as the airship's captain, as well as Kyo'nne.
Kyo'nne interposed herself between Sasi and Ariel, asking her former friend to back down and get out while they still could. As she did so, Ariel was attacked by Ji'aan, who taunted her about being a pale shadow of Quain'tana. The two fought furiously until Kyo'nne used her spellsong, knocking her off of the side of the ship with a powerful blast. The young Sarghress was able to barely catch hold of the edge of the ship, holding on for dear life as the rest of the boarding party fought on.
Soon, the airship became its own worst enemy, as the mana blasts fired from the ship at the defenders still on the ground were caught in the mana vortex surrounding the colony and turned back on itself. Shortly afterwards, the ship began to list, until it came close enough for the rest of the boarding party to gain access to the ship. Ariel, having climbed back aboard, re-engaged her fight with Ji'aan and Sasi, as well as dodging more spellsong blasts from Kyo'nne as the Kel'noz and several others moved below decks to capture the engine room.
The fight was soon halted as the engines began to lose power, causing the flying vessel to head on an uncorrectable course towards the ground. Upon impact, Ariel and Kyo'nne were flung from the deck into mid air. In another unexpected move, Ariel again used her wind magic to control her falling speed in order to catch Kyo'nne, to the singer's shock, shielding her from the full brunt of the landing. Kyo'nne lamented the recent events, telling Ariel that she should have let her die; instead of agreeing, Ariel merely told her to shut up.
Ariel continued to surprise Kyo'nne, using her shapeshifting to try to reform and reinforce her damaged legs. After exchanging a few words, she stood, picked up Kyo'nne and carried her back to the embattled airship. The pair arrived in time for Sal'bara Val'Chai'toc to activate her war golem, furious at the destruction of the airship. After putting Kyo'nne down, Ariel jumped into the battle, but was quickly brought down by a mana grenade from Sal'bara's arsenal. As she lay stunned on the ground, the Val'Chaitoc warrior ordered Kyo'nne to take her hostage.
The fight grew fierce, with several defenders swarming the war golem and fending off the mana blasts. Kel'noz continued to shield himself, taking cover on the ship's deck. The tide of the battle was turned when Kyo'nne had a change of heart and turned on her fellow Nidraa'chal. Using her spellsong, she fired a blast at the levitating Sal'bara, destroying her mana foci and causing her golem armor to crash. With its controller taken out of the battle and unable to provide commands, the war golem was quickly dispatched.
As they watched the wreckage of the destroyed golem, Ariel tried to bolster Kyo'nne's flagging spirits, telling her she had done the right thing.
Return To Machike
Having won a hard-fought victory over the Nidraa'chal and gaining control of a now-ruined airship, Kel'noz convinced Lady Z that the ship was in fact salvagable, challenging her and her outpost of engineers to inspect and repair it. After the ship became flightworthy again, the defenders took to the air, heading back to Machike and Fustin'darun. As they traveled, Ariel and Faen spotted a figure landing on the main deck - Chakri Kavahini. The owl warrior gave them a silent bow of respect for their success and flew away.
After reaching the colony, Ariel and Faen were happily reunited with Octarya and Pelan.
Seeking More Allies
Having gained control of the airship, Kel'noz and Ariel sought aid from Ys against Felde, but were met with resistance. Councillor Kane'ohe did not see a reason to rebel against the colony's protectors, and instead proposed that the airship be returned to Felde in exchange for aid. When Kane'ohe attempted to dismiss the two Sarghress, they refused to leave; Ariel flipped a table upwards to create a barrier, while Kel fired off a signal flare to the waiting airship, signalling that their negotiations had failed.
The flare launched an attack from the airship's mana cannons, as well as an aerial invasion by Kavahini warriors, who had joined Ariel in support of her defiance of Felde. Kel and Ariel were assisted by Slainne, a matriarch of the Am'saag barbarians who also pledged their support to the young val'Sarghress, and the three were able to subdue the Ys council members with little to no bloodshed. In exchange for their cooperation in the transition of control over the colony, the councillors would be allowed to peacefully depart to Felde or a location of their choosing.
Along with their Kavahini allies, Ariel's other allies managed to infiltrate the colony from the ground, taking control of it once the colonists were pacified by the use of the combined empathic abilities of Ash'waren, Faen, and Bae'rali. As Ariel and Kel oversaw the capture of the Council, they were met by Tralyn - Ariel's former teacher, who had been instrumental in getting the Sarghress inside. After a quick reunion, they received further reports of the rest of the pacification progress; while one remaining area had finally relented and surrendered, another tower refused; the last holdouts would then be slain, according to Chakri Kavahini. Ariel attempted to stop her, feeling that there was a chance they could be reasoned with, but was advised by Kel'noz that she couldn't spare everyone.
The Hunt Begins Again
Leaving the colony in the hands of Taldrin, Vaelia and a handful of allies, the Wolf Pack, as it came to be called, began to move on to their next target - the Ssu colony of Shikomei. Recounting their recent results with the other colonies that they had either allied with or taken control of, Ariel continued to hope that the next ones would continue to be on friendly terms and would help to bolster their shrinking numbers. With every colony visited, more of the Wolf Pack would be left behind.
Their travels along the rim led them finally to Shikomei, where the airship - now dubbed the "Mistwhale" - set down in the middle of what appeared to be a celebration of some kind. Instead of a friendly greeting, however, Ariel, Faen and Kel were greeted by an irate Chirinide val'Kyorl'solenurn, whose "vows night" had been ruined by their landing. Confused as to what they had stumbled into, Ariel asked Faen for clarification. The empath explained the purpose of a Vows Night, while a calmer Shan'naal attempted to calm Chiri down.
As Shan escorted Chiri out, the Sarghress were met by a nervous Felyn'mice Kyorl'solenurn, who questioned what their purpose for coming to Shikomei was and commenting that the Holy Mother would be displeased if they were to harm the Shikomei colonists. Ariel and Kel'noz attempted to reassure Felyn'mice that they didn't intend to invade the colony, explaining that they hoped to form an alliance with the other colonies against Felde's influence. She remained unconvinced, at first believing them to have arrived to conquer the colony, and later to loot it. When Kel asked if anything bad had happened to the colony, she replied that they had been left alone, and Shikomei was a peaceful little town where very little happened.
During their meeting, howls filled the air from outside, and the Wolf Pack was alerted that their Sarghress Legion pursuers had finally arrived. Kel'noz ordered a withdrawal back to the airship, as Shikomei had refused a defensive partnership. Despite this, Ariel leapt to the defense of the Ssu colonists, followed by Sar'nel, Kau, Faen and Chakri.
The Fractures Are Revealed
While fending off a wave of Sarghress wolves, Ariel witnessed Faen being wounded as her attempts to use empathy to calm the predators failed. As she ordered Sar'nel to get Faen out of the fight, she caught sight of someone familiar - a black and white masked wolf with blue eyes, now older and larger. Recognizing the dire wolf, she called out to it, hoping it would remember her. The wolf showed no signs of recognizing her, however, and instead savagely attacked her. Unable to bring herself to harm the pup that had once been destined to be her partner prior to her departure for Machike, Ariel hesitated, and the wolf was eventually brought down by an arrow from Shan'naal and a strike from Chakri.
The small group of defenders was nearly overwhelmed, until Kel'noz intervened, using his mana arts to create a stony barrie between the colonists and the wolves after coming to an agreement with Felyn'mice. The rest of the Wolf Pack moved in to repel the Sarghress Legion, buying time for as many colonists as possible to board the airship and evacuate. Rallying around Ariel, the defenders continued to fight the legionnaires, until Kel'noz was felled by surprise attack by Mablevi. The older val'Sarghress ordered them to leave him behind as he bought them time to escape, using the last of his strength to raise another massive earthen wall between them and the invaders, which also helped launch the airship. Ariel refused to leave him behind, however, using her wind magic to retrieve him and fly them both up on to the departing Mistwhale.
As the Mistwhale began its retreat, Kel'noz angrily commented that she had again risked everything they had worked for, without a thought. Instead of taking the chastisement, however, Ariel instead argued that she refused to leave any of her family behind again, and that they should have stayed by Quain'tana's side til the end. They began to hear another familiar sound - this time of the mana cannons preparing to fire. To their shock, a mana cannon barrage erupted from the airship, bombarding Shikomei.
The Chase Continues...To Felde
Confronted by the furious Shikomei colonists who had made it on board, Ariel could only listen as Felyn'mice and Chiri'nide berated the Wolf Pack for destroying their home. Hoping to calm them down, the Little Wolf promised that they would do whatever they could to rescue the surviving colonists who hadn't made it onto the Mistwhale, and were now likely hostages of the Sarghress Legions. Realizing there was only one real option, Ariel then declared that they would have to lead the Legions to a battleground of their own choosing, where they could even the playing field.
Later, while resting in their shared quarters, Ariel tended to Faen's wounds until she was called to Kel's cabin by Sar'nel. Once there, he showed her a recent discovery - a set of bloody bandages, indicating that her brother was wounded more seriously than they had first thought. That battlefield, they determined, would be Felde itself.
Assault On Felde
The Mistwhale hung back in the clouds, taking cover as they approached they waited for a signal from the ground which would launch the assault. Upon receiving the awaited flare, the ship moved at full speed, charging the defenses that surrounded Snadhya'rune's central tower and attempting to bypass its cannons. Seeing that they would be shot down quickly, Ariel ordered the ship to attempt to land as close as possible to the Tower; Kyo'nne took the steering wheel, and was able to guide the ship to the ordered spot. The Wolf Pack braced themselves, and the airship crashed into the landing platform as requested. Before they could turn on the ship, the city's defenders on were distracted by another force attacking force, this time from the ground - Quill'yate's Highland Raiders, who had answered Kel's call to arms.
Taking a small squad consisting of Sar'nel, Chiri'nide, Shan'naal, and Kau, Ariel headed to the upper floors of the central tower to investigate the upper floor where Snadhya's main tainting chamber resided. Upon reaching the massive chambers, they encountered Nona'brail, who immediately asked a nearby nurse demon to defend her. Several more nurse demons joined them, and they confronted the team. Sar'nel recognized them, however, and advised that they lay their arms down, as the nurses were not immediately hostile. The team complied, hoping to keep the demons from attacking them. Nona panicked, but to her surprise, the nurses began to "diagnose" her, and removed her from the room due to her sudden onset of distress. Another nurse turned to Ariel, revealing that they would not harm the companions of a guest, and that they were safe there.
After Kau reminded her of Kyo'nne's initial invitation to the Felde gathering, they realized that the nurses considered Ariel to be a guest. With that new information, they requested assistance from the nurses, including asking if they would show the team the summoning gate that had been sensed in the tainting chamber.
The nurses escorted them to the tainting chamber, where they found a massive summoning gate and foci - larger than any they had seen before. Explaining that the nurses tended to the gate, their escort asked if there were any worlds that they wished to visit. Instead of visiting another world, however, Ariel and Sar'nel pondered openly the idea of turning the gate on its defenders, and unleashing demons on them to give them a dose of their own medicine.
Their idea was short-lived, however, as they realized that demons had already been unleashed on the ground - this time, by one of the Felde summoners. The Wolf Pack forces had scattered, hoping to escape the rapidly growing nether tendrils that were attempting to come through the gate, leaving them little room to fight back. Instead of opening the larger gate above them, Ariel instead requested that the nurses come to the aid of their comrades. As the order was part of their duties in keeping out of control gates from harming the residents, the nurses complied, descending on the rogue nether creature and devouring it.
When the summoner realized that her demons were being beaten back, she sought to widen the gate, only to be confronted by a gigantic version of the nurses - a joining of all the nurse demons who had responded to the request for help. The massive entity struck down the summoner, wiping the gate from the ground and closing it before delivering an ominous about the hazards of unmonitored gates. Ariel and her team could only watch as the giant nurse began to fall apart, its ingested energy now outgrowing their host bodies. While Chiri expressed concern that the remaining demons would be a danger to everyone if they weren't sealed properly, Ariel could only respond that it had been worth the risk.
Ariel and her companions continued to watch the ground battle from the tower's window, cheering as they noticed the approach of the Sarghress Legion being met with hostility from the defenders due to the confusion. Thanks to the addition of the Highland Raiders, the defenders had become confused as to who their true enemy was, and begun to fire on the Legions. Knowing the Legions, it was bound to be met with hostility from the Sarghress, as such an attack could not go unanswered. The plan backfired, however, and the team watched with shock as the brief scuffle between Felde and Sarghress forces abated, and showed that they were in fact working together.
They were drawn out of their stunned pause by a warning from Chiri'nide - her visions had finally returned to her. In it, she had seen Ariel opening the door, only to be cut down by a Legion soldier. In addition, she sensed that Ash'waren and Faen had run into their own trouble below them. Ariel insisted on leaving to find Faen, but was warned that worse trouble would happen if they didn't stop the Legion here. Giving in to their warnings, she hesitantly agreed, realizing that Sar'nel was right. Beginning to run again, they made their way down a hallway as the Legion began to break through the blocked door to give chase.
Another Family Confrontation
After finding a suitable place for an ambush, Ariel and her team laid in wait, allowing their pursuers to approach. With Kau fending off and separating most of them using his golem armor, the others began to fight the Legionnaires, allowing Ariel a chance to confront their leader, Kor'maril. As they began to trade blows, he admitted that they were hunting Ariel - the clan's purpose was always to take down the vals. She tried to reason with him, reminding him that he was one of the ones who had tried to control her years ago, as Quain was dying - she could have been saved if the power grab hadn't happened while she was weak.
Kor'maril denied that they had wanted power - all they had done was attempt to keep the clan together, knowing what would happen upon the Ill'haress' death. Ariel had been needed to keep everything together, but instead ran, in their eyes - what would she expect to have happened by leaving and keeping silent for so long? Koil'dorath had only been able to hold the clan together until she too had died.
Ariel argued that she and Kel'noz hadn't stayed silent - Kel had kept in touch with Koil, yet their requests for aid, such as during the Hermionne invasion, had gone unanswered. As she spoke, she began to get the upper hand in the fight as Kor'maril's strength began to wane. He admitted that it mattered little, now - the clan wanted val blood, and she could come back in chains, or come back dead. Even if he were to die, there were many more waiting to take down the vals of Chel, and they wouldn't stop until the underworld had been purged of them.
Realizing that there was no other option if there was to be any hope of saving the fractured clan, Ariel made a decision that surprised everyone...and surrendered.
The Clan's Fractures Must Be Healed
Now prisoners of the Sarghress Legions, Ariel and her companions were escorted back to Chel, with Kor'maril remaining close to Ariel and a wagon holding the grievously injured Kel'noz. Both vals walked, hands bound, with their armor and weapons removed - even Ariel's notoriously prehensile hair had been secured with a stout strap. As they began the journey home, they discussed the mess that had been made of Felde, and the aftermath. When Ariel commented that Kor'maril should see what had been done to Machike, he merely mentioned that he had heard of what had happened, and that it would be a while before the perpetrators would try it again. He then praised her actions in surrendering, as some of the legionnaires hadn't wanted to kill their own. After she asked why a bag had been put over her head, he advised her that it was for her own protection, at least until they returned to base. Once there, he presumed that there would be a public trial for the Wolf Pack, depending on what Sang decided.
As they continued to converse, Rabulav brought word to Kor'maril of a sudden change. Ariel correctly guessed that the legionnaire had brought bad news, specifically that Sang had succumbed to her nether-infested wounds. She removed her hood as the commander lamented Sang's death, unsure of what they would do without their leader now. Recounting how most of the former Sarghress leadership was now either dead or retreated, Kor'maril admitted he was no leader and could not replace them. From the cart, Kel'noz spoke up, advising that Kor'maril had no choice now - he had to return Ariel to the clan.
As her brother spoke, Ariel took a step towards the dire wolf once destined to be her partner. Holding out her hands to the wolf, she waited as hesitantly took in her scent, and allowed her to scratch its chin. The slow rebuilding of trust had to begin somewhere, after all, and it would continue one step at a time.
"So when it is time to kill, to be an heir, to be thrown into all sorts of shit to prove to Quain'tana my worth, then I'm not a kid. I'm a kid only when you want me to be? Make up your mind, big brother!" - To Kel'noz, after he attempted to dissuade her from journeying overworld to locate Faen, citing she was too young to make such a venture.
"If we do nothing, we leave the colonists to fend for themselves. Better to end this now, even if it brings greater danger to us." - To Kel'noz, after his chastisement for taking risks by joining the battle against the Hermionne invaders.
"You're not family. You - you're a sick dog. I'm a wolf! I'm Quain's blood -" - To Kalki, refusing to acknowledge her as family after Kalki had attacked her.
"I'm not leaving any more family behind! Not you, not Mel, nor anyone else ever again! We should have stayed with Quain'tana 'till the end." - To Kel'noz val'Sarghress, after being chided for risking everything instead of leaving him behind.