Dramen landed on a thick branch next to her and eyed the cage. If he could get it open he would eventually be able to worry the collar off- but first he had to get into the cage. He was large and powerful in his crow form: a strike of his beak was enough to crack even the toughest shell, so he should be able to break even a sturdy lock. But there was no lock- there was only an elaborate panel across the top of the cage.
Inlaid in the panel were two discs, and each disc a hand-shaped depression; within the finger-troughs of each was a fine line of raised metal. It appeared that if you placed your hands in the depressions you could press down the metal bits, and then turn the discs, which would open the cage. Simple enough, if you had hands.
Which, of course, he didn’t. He croaked in frustration, and the seagull opened its bill and panted.
A sudden scream caught his attention, and he whirled back toward the beach- Sera and the man were no longer dancing- they were fighting. And running up and down the man’s body was… lightning?
Any moment now, my little storm will manifest itself… Storm Petrel’s words echoed in his mind. Had she truly placed the fury of a storm in a mortal shell? Damen clawed and stabbed fruitlessly at the indentations in the panel- but his crow anatomy was useless against it. He threw himself into the air, determined to drive away Sera’s attacker, only to find himself slammed back to the tree by a mental weight more powerful than any he’d before encountered. More powerful than his sister even, the most powerful of all the Elder Immortals.
**Release me, dark one.** It was a command, and Dramen realized it must be coming from the seagull. **Release me, and I will save her.**
**I cannot!** He didn’t want to spend time arguing with this unknown power, but she held his will so firmly in her own that he could not move.
**You can. Abandon your crow form.**
**You don’t understand! The curse-**
**Now! I will not stay lucid for much longer!** Dramen shuddered, and allowed his body to transform. The seagull would see that he was intangible, and release him- he might still drive off the attacker, give Sera time to seek shelter…
The branch he was crouching on dipped alarmingly beneath his increased weight, and he flung himself on the cage for support. The black metal burned his arms, but he was too shocked to do anything but cling. He was corporeal!
He was corporeal. He shoved his hands into the indentations and twisted, ignoring the pain. The cage sprang open and E’ia let out a shriek of triumph- but the collar still held her fast. Dramen reached in and unbuckled it, but as he did so he felt a sharp, piercing pain in the flesh of his thumb. The seagull launched herself into the air, and toward the struggling pair on the sands- but Dramen did not follow her progress with his eyes. Instead he slumped backward, a curious heaviness having overtaken his limbs. Only one substance in all of the realms would have such an instantaneous effect on an Immortal.
Morrian’s Tears, he thought dully, picturing the small, flowering plant which grew only in the Empyrean realms. They produced a juice toxic to any lesser Immortal- but only if he had first been weakened by black metal. Apparently Storm Petrel wasn’t as cavalier as she’d seemed. As the poison spread through his system he felt himself slipping from his perch in the tree- and he no longer had the capacity to shift himself. As his all-too-solid body began to plummet to toward the ground he realized-
I will die…
…but Sera will live.
He smiled as he fell.