The group of adventurers had journeyed to Elpo Village, there another group had been claiming success for their deeds. They'd decided to let them believe whatever they wanted to believe. They knew the truth. They had recently lost Valerie, who was called away to duty elsewhere, but had taken in a couple of wayward wanderers, an archer and a bare-hand fighter, along with a male shadowmage. They had all experienced a terrible vision of Zentil burning to the ground under the militant command of Jaira, a power-hungry warlord dark elf who would stoop to any level, do anything no matter how vile, how twisted, how low, sick and depraved, to get what she wanted. They had scarcely got to know each other while they were journeying back to Zentil, partly to regroup for the night and partly to see if it was still standing, when they ran into a pack of bandits, an archer on top of a wagon being pulled by a whipling, and an all too familiar face. "Well well well.. look who we have here. If you are looking to pass, you'll have to pay a fee." It was Nerria, of the group they had met earlier. "THIS is how you spend your time? I thought you were an experienced adventurer to look up to! How disappointing!" Alchana sighed. "What is it you want from us?" Nerria crossed her arms. "Oh, you have me all wrong Miss Elf. Everything I do is for money. Theft, property damage.. murder. I wouldn't dare to consider myself as something as stupid as an 'adventurer'. And that is where we are right now. Your money, now." "Pay a fee?" Arisa replied, frowning. "You think you own these roads?" Nerria smirked. "I think that you should give me your money.. before you get hurt." "You accept blood?" Tylissa sneered. "Think we can get a loan?" At the mention of blood, Nerria smirks again. "If that is the path you wish to go, then the only fee is your lives." Madelyn sticks close to Alchana, speaking out.. "Isn't there something else we can offer? I am sure we can all be civil about this.." "Sorry, priesty. Perhaps your goddess will be a merciful one when you see her in person." Nerria grinned. She looks to the group of bandits assembled around her. "Kill them." At that, the group leapt into action, getting the first licks in. Tylissa fires a lightning bolt, striking the nearest bandit... who immediately falls to the ground, sputtering and unable to move! It was the first cast Tylissa had done since (re)learning how to do it, and she was thrilled with the results! Her comrades had also pounced, with fists flying, arrows whizzing by and... did the archer just fire two? It was so fast Tylissa hadn't even seen the second draw... It flew towards Nerria, but she snatched it out of the air with ease. "Oh.. trust me, you don't want to get me involved." she said. Alchana flung a smoke bomb and it exploded with a *piff* sound, quickly engulfing some of the bandits and making them choke. There was a flash of light, and another of the bandits was blinded. The shadowmage, Julius, started an incantation, and suddenly, horrible tendrils of dark energy leapt from his hands and into the face of yet another of the bandits, blinding her as well. Her scream told the story that it wasn't just blinding going on at work there... it was hurting! One bandit had escaped unscathed, besides Nerria. She took the opportunity to drive a precision punch into Linara's arm. Striking a nerve made her arm lose its strength for just an instant, but it was just enough for her to drop her sword and prevent a counterattack. As Linara shook out her arm and retrieved her sword, the bandit gallivanted away to safety. With the bandits still incapacitated, the group laid into them again. Tylissa turned her gaze toward Nerria and marched forward. "I'm going to enjoy this." She drew back and fired a lightning bolt at Nerria. Nerria tried to dodge, expectig a fireball or some such... and had it been, she her nimbleness would have easily carried her out of its path... but it was a shock of lightning, which crackled and buzzed. Nerria was struck by it, but it seemed to be somewhat ineffective, and all it did was make her angry. Nerria smiles, spotting the 4 ranged combatants. "My my my.. look at them.. all standing there.. thinking they're safe from harm.. perhaps it is time I contribute." Nerria was so fast, they barely had time to see what was happening. She had palmed a smokebomb no bigger than the first knuckle of one's finger... but it exploded into a much larger cloud than even Alchana's had, trapping everyone but Linara in a smog cloud. The smog was slightly caustic, and made the group cough hard. When they breathed in, the coughing got worse, which made them breathe harder... it was a terrible cycle, and the hard coughing hurt after a while. Linara could only watch, until one of the bandits blinded her with a smoke bomb no bigger than a pebble, but causing a billowing cloud of smoke to engulf her. It wasn't the same thick, hazy smog Nerria employed, but it was enough to get away from danger again. With Alchana's smoke cloud clear now, the bandits fought back with relish. The archer's whip pet entangled Alchana with a tentacle, causing its sharp points to dig into her. The other bandits used throwing knives and their short swords, jabbing Alchana with them. Linara was stabbed, fortunately not too seriously, as the bandit's attack was more of speed than skill. As the battle unfolded, the bandits began to lose ground. Nerria was too engrossed in telling the elven archer what to do, that she had not seen Tylissa get closer... and she was shocked nearly out of her boots by another lightning bolt. "EYAGH!" Nerria yelled out. When she met Tylissa's angry gaze, it was with one of equal, if not greater anger. "You seriously don't know when to quit, do you?" Nerria growled through clenched teeth. With speed that defied belief, she flung a knife through the air. Tylissa didn't even see it, until it was embedded up to the hilt in her chest. "Hurk-" Tylissa choked out, as her hands shot to her chest, grasping the knife. Her eyes were wide and her mouth hung open a little, as blood seeped around her hands. She slowly looked down and saw the horror spreading, her blood staining her robe and running down from her chest to her stomach. Tylissa wobbled a little, taking a couple steps backward, and then collapsed against a large rock, sitting up. She was too weak for just a knife strike... the blade was poisoned. Nerria smiled cockily at Tylissa. "I told you all you didn't want me involved." Nerria left her hired goons to their fate. The battle was coming to an end with the group having laid out all the bandits. As they regrouped to heal and discuss their fight, they realized someone was missing. "Tylissa?" Linara called out. "Where did you go?" Her only reply was a weak cough. Linara looked around a little, walking around the rock Tylissa had slumped against, nearly triipping over the sorceress. "Tylissa! What.. what happened? Madelyn! We need help over here!" The group came over and saw the state Tylissa was in. It was bad. Blood seeped around the knife blade, running down the elf. It was bad, but nothing Madelyn hadn't healed before... Madelyn rounded the corner and gasped. She'd seen wounds before, obviously, being a cleric and all. But it never failed to surprise her every time. "Oh dear.. it did plunge pretty deep.. please, hold still, Miss Tylissa.." Madelyn pulled the knife out, drawing a yelp from Tylissa. She placed her hand on Tylissa's wound and issued forth her healing energy... ... but nothing happened this time! "Wh-what? N-nothing happened.." Madelyn said, trying not to panic. She concentrated, trying to will the wound closed... but again, it didn't take. Blood was washing out of the puncture wound now, with the knife not there to plug it. "N-nothing's happened! I can't heal her!" Madelyn was panicking now. "M-magic.. trace on knife.." Tylissa said. The blade had been enchanted as well. Wounds caused by it had to naturally heal. It would make a great weapon for the group now, but it had come at the cost of one of their lives. Tylissa realized this meant she could not be saved. "Guys... I want to thank you... for every-" she coughed hard. "For everything." Linara had knelt by Tylissa, taking her hand. "Ty, come on. We can get you through this. We can-" "No," Tylissa interjected. "I can't feel my legs. I'm... going to go. I know it. I may not have the magic powers I used to, but I have something better." She managed a weak smile. "You guys were nothing but awesome, even when I was a jerk and all I deserved from you was to be fed to the plant we fought earlier. I'm proud to call you my friends... thank you.. for.. every... thing..." Tylissa's eyes closed and her body settled completely against the rock, as she took a couple more ragged breaths. She gently squeezed Linara's hand, and then she sighed and relaxed... and was still. Madelyn began to cry first. Alchana's head lowered in respect and then she hugged Madelyn, consoling her. Rhiannon and Arisa felt bad but not having known Tylissa at all, didn't feel much sadness, but mostly anger towards Nerria. Linara teared up, getting angry. "Nerria!" she yelled out, wiping a tear. "Hear my words! We will get you for this one day! You will pay and be brought to justice for this!" Linara scooped up Tylissa and placed her on the bandit's cart. They couldn't leave her there. "Come on... lets get back to town. Maybe... maybe that vendor still has a resurrection scroll..." Linara brightened as the realization came to her through her grief, like a ray of light cutting through the darkness. "We.. we can still save her if we hurry!"