Rising, Stheno stalked downstream, around a willow-draped bend that with a little magic would block all sound from Kirito’s hearing. Even yelling. She rather thought there would be yelling.
A whisper to set the ward of silence, and she raised her hands over the stream. Water flowed up to clawed fingertips, gathering into a shimmering sphere. Sunlight glowed, caught in the lens of water, brighter and brighter-
Cleared, into the massive head of a red dragon. “Lady Stheno,” the dragon chuckled. “To what do I owe this pleasure?”
“Lord Beniryuu.” Stheno’s lips thinned. “Tell me why I shouldn’t advise Euryale to rip out your beating heart.” Or ask Vincent to plot routes into your lair….
No. That was a threat best left unspoken. In case she ever needed it to be not a threat, but a promise.
Besides. If she knew Valentine, the ranger had already scouted every lair Beniryuu claimed, and several more the dragon was sure no one knew of.
“Charming as ever.” A rumbling laugh. “What have you Seen, to make you so testy?”
“You’ve brought children into Aincrad!”
“Of course I have.”
Damn all smug dragons and their thrice-damned Prophecies. “The youkai lords bargained with you for warriors, not children! Willing souls, who would choose to join our land and our cause-”
“And they will.” A thread of smoke rose from red-scaled nostrils. “I’ve watched humans for many centuries, dear lady. They will adapt. Especially the children.”
“Not if they’re afraid they’ll become monsters!” Stheno sank claws into rippling water. “You show them a human being infected by a lycan, and never tell them there’s a way to fight the infection? To keep their own minds – their own souls! – and survive?”
“I thought I would leave that to the clan lords in the game. Some of the bakeneko and kamitachi have already adopted their first players.” The dragon smirked. “Before this level, none of the players would have had enough magic in their veins to survive casting a purification.”
Stheno saw red, and knew she needed the lenses. Even through scrying water, her gaze would have petrified any lesser creature. “This world is a simulation! They don’t have to cast the spells-”
“But they will have to, once we bring them to our world. They will have to know exactly what they can do… and how frail an infected human is.” The dragon’s breath hissed. “We are at war, dear lady. The elves breed thin and slow, yes – but the rest of the nations of Galifar multiply like rabbits, compared to our kind. In the time it takes one dragon to hatch and grow to leave the nest…. Hah. Not even half that long. In the decades we need to raise one true-born lycan to master the shift, the humans can train a score of simple spearmen and two mage-wrights to arm them all with silversteel potions. We have no time for half measures!”
A/N: Yes, I borrowed a few FF7 characters for youkai lords. Who doesn’t want to see Vincent as a wand-casting ranger….
And yep, the whole “humans pushing out other races” is a canon problem in Eberron – just ask the orcs. Who were actually good guys, in that history. And without their kinds of magic to hold back the daelkyr… things get bad.