081 Encounter · 16


Encounters · 16
V



ictory disappeared under a sky of monsters of ash and cinder, a dark wind stirring flower petals of fire skyward. Below that sky Chain, Maye, Squawk, and Lute Mouser found themselves in a desperate battle to stay alive. For the two Sa·B·ers the monsters that would overcome Maye and Squawk were of little concern compared to the threat of the wyvern. Every injury they inflicted simply resulted in a gout of flame that fused shut the wooden carapace of the Ambrosial beast. Drop was hard pressed to swim safely through the battlefield providing protection from the flames as the five of them were pressed into trying battle. There was only so much that each of them could accomplish though, as Squawk only understood spell casting of one fashion and struggled to cast any spells within Ambrosia. Maye was limited in her ammo supplies and even less familiar with magic than Squawk to be able to accomplish much more than kicking the monsters that swarmed her with her hooves while using her rifle as a club. Even Lute found himself hard pressed as the Ambrosial wire of his weapon was far less effective within Ambrosia. But not one of them missed the ease with which Chain moved, or the Ambrosial Gate that she opened within Ambrosia with each snap of her fingers despite the risk of opening a gate at all within.

“She really is an idiot. If any of us tried to open a Gate….”

Squawk swallowed fiercely as he weighed the consequences of opening a Gate within Ambrosia and could only connect Chain’s ability to do so with her idiocy. Maye fared little better in understanding how Chain pulled it off, but she could barely focus on the dancing, flipping, acrobatic delivery of arrows of Light and powerful sword slashes carrying that Light. Lute could better watch her and knew the power she wielded was genuine. With one swing of her sword, she turned her bow into a blade of light that rent many a monster asunder and split the wyvern vainly in two. The beast naturally responded with a belch of flame that Drop had to save Chain from.

“We have to stop making it angry. Stopping these flames in this domain… If not for the wood, it would not be possible.”

“Then I just need to figure out how to kill it in one blow!”

Closing her eyes for a moment and moving by instinct, Chain tried to think but was again assailed by the image of the dragon of Darkness that filled the space between her thoughts. Opening her eyes, she pouted angrily and ran to buy herself some more time.

“Hrm~! It’s no good! I can’t think with that thing in my head.”

Snapping her fingers, Chain summoned her bow and leapt into the air, spinning and using monsters as steppingstones to climb higher. As she ascended, she loosed arrow after arrow, but for every monster she killed, two more seemed to take its place. The battle was not going the way she wanted it to, and she knew normally she would be getting legitimately angry instead of just frustrated. But like her thoughts, memories, and knowledge, her emotions were fragmented and unreliable in their appearances. Only the dragon of Darkness and the whispering of the Lucifalz were constants.

“That’s right, the tree. It may be loud, but I can hear my thoughts in it.”

“Wait! Don’t! We may desire knowledge, but we cannot hope to find what we seek within the Lucifalz.”

“But you can hear my voice in there to, can’t you?”

“We can, but…”

“Then help me find my voice in there. Let’s find my voice speaking the knowledge I need.”

Drop swam alongside Chain as best she could, looking on Chain’s massive eyes and pleading expression worriedly. She looked on the battlefield and the hopelessness of the battle and trembled. If there was a time to take risks, it was in that moment.

“Fine, but we pull out if we start to get overwhelmed.”

“Don’t worry, we’re just listening for me and any knowledge I have to win this fight.”

Nodding in confirmation, Drop and Chain turned their thoughts onto the Lucifalz. The whispering was overwhelming, and Chain fell to a knee, forcing Lute to have to come to her rescue.

“Chainmaid, are you alright?”

“I just need a moment.”

“I can buy you that much, but the nun and the pilgrim…”

“They’ll be fine…”

Chain could not afford to focus on anything else if she were to isolate her voice among the whispers of the Lucifalz. It was a difficult task though as when she did hear her voice it was either too fleeting or too alien in attitude and thought to grasp. She did not relent though and just started trying to listen no matter what they were saying in the hopes that she would hear what she needed to. Trying to prompt her voice amongst the whispers she spoke aloud what she needed.

“Magical theory, the relationship between wood and fire, and what can kill them both…”

“What are you saying Chainmaid?”

Overhearing Chain as he fought to keep her protected, Lute asked her what she meant but she did not hear him. Her voice within the Lucifalz’s whispers had taken to arguing with itself over what she focused on.

“Fire and wood shouldn’t be able to coexist. Fire burns wood as fuel.”

“But if the wood is strong enough it can resist the fire.”

“Such a weak fire though should be easily put out with a simple breeze or a splash of water.”

“Wood strong enough to resist fire will shrug off such a wind and water only strengthens wood.”

“Earth is no good either. Wood can strengthen itself from earth as well and can penetrate even the strongest of rocks.”

“Then the wood that is too strong even for fire has to be killed.”

“But what element is left that could pull that off.”

“Darkness…”

The word came to Chain ominously and seemed to cut her off from the whispers of the Lucifalz. Standing unsteadily, she took a step back and looked at the Lucifalz, remembering what she and Drop promised the spirits above.

“A Darkness to swallow even the greatest Light.”

“That isn’t a good idea.”

Drop could not contain her worry about the idea that Chain had, but Chain simply smiled.

“But it’s what we promised the spirits here, isn’t it? To protect them from the Light with a Darkness it can’t pierce.”

“For some reason I don’t like what you’re saying Chainmaid.”

“Heh heh! That’s fine. But­–”

“If you call upon Darkness now…”

Interrupting Chain’s dismissal of Lute, Drop again tried to warn against Chain’s train of thought. Lute found the spirit’s concerns pressing and queried of the urgency.

“Tell me Chainmaid, what is this Darkness you are referring to, and where will it come from? Is it perhaps related to that Gate you keep opening even when it would be unwise for the rest of to open our Gates?”

“It’s something like that. It’s like the power of the Foreigner that infected me. But all I should need is an incantation that makes sure I stay in control. That and a spell that is easier to control.”

Lifting up her sword, Chain looked at her reflection in the blade and smiled. Drop’s reaction was less enthusiastic by several degrees and she did not hold back her thoughts.

“We should not wake the Beast. The last time the Beast was awake–”

“It ate everything.”

The enthusiasm that Chain spoke with gave pause to Drop and Lute, but the Chainmaid smiled brightly with a twinkle in her eyes. Swiping away monster that got to close her she turned those shimmering eyes on Lute and Drop.

“It’s time to go, so gather everyone up by the Lucifalz and get ready to take us out of here Drop. I’ve got the incantation ready.”

“Do you have it ready or did you hear it from the Lucifalz?”

“Maybe a bit of both, but I’ve had enough of that thing whispering in my head and I’m going to get rid of it. I’m going to get rid of everything stopping me from piecing my thoughts together. Now go get the others, it’s time to leave.”

Not staying to continue arguing with herself, Chain bolted away from Drop and Lute and into the thick of the cloud of monsters as it had descended upon the nest the Lucifalz stood in. Sprinting at full speed with a smile on her face, she put her sword to lethal work, monsters of ash and cinder falling like autumn tree leaves in a gale. One monster in particular would not fall so easily as it stood like a mountain against the gale, and for it, Chain snapped her fingers and called up her bow. With the first arrow she earned the wyvern’s attention by shooting it in the neck. She did not loose her next arrow until after she leapt above the Ambrosial beast’s lunging bite, the arrow finding purchase in the back of the wyvern’s head. Rearing back in pain, the wyvern provided Chain a path back to the ground and dropping her bow she ran down it and cut through the wyvern’s body along with the bow as she ran down its back. The light coated sword easily cut through the wyvern’s wooden carapace and an eruption of fire traced Chain’s path down its back. Chain did not make her way directly to the ground though but made for the wyvern’s tail. The wyvern had no intention of letting Chain make for it and stabbed at her with the barbed tail. Chain simply smiled and leapt just in front of where the tail struck and stabbed her sword into it just behind the stinger. Twisting her sword to stop her leap, the wood splintered and cracked. The wyvern roared in response and whipped its tail back around to dislodge Chain who was glad to go. But she did not intend to leave without a prize and twisted her sword free with a powerful slash severing the stinger from the tail. Having chosen her dismount of the wyvern, Chain exploited her time in the air to summon her bow with another snap of her fingers and loosed a series of arrows of Light into the wound she cut down the beast’s back. The wyvern roared with pain and rage and whipped about to level its fiery glare onto Chain as she landed at the edge of the nest.

“That’s right, eyes on me.”

Smiling broadly, Chain saw the line of events before her were exactly what she wanted them to be. Moving into place behind the Lucifalz, Drop, Maye, Squawk, and Lute all looked in her direction with looks of worry, concern, incredulousness, and curiosity. With Lute with them though, Chain knew they would be safe under the branches of the Lucifalz and turned to the task she set for herself. Grabbing her cape, she pulled it tight against her and let it disappear, revealing her scabbard hanging from her sword strap that was wrapped around her hips. Sheathing her sword, she looked up at the wyvern that had begun wearily approaching her. She couldn’t ask for more perfect a situation and her eyes sparkled with excitement.

“Here. We. GO‼”

Holding both hands out in front of her with palms turned towards each other, Chain snapped the fingers of her left hand releasing the distinctive ringing sound that accompanied the motion. Between her palms the sphere of light her snap conjured swelled into being and she began her incantation.

“~ Darkness that falls as night”

With the beginnings of her incantation, the sphere of light became corrupted with Darkness and was soon transformed by it. As the sphere of light became a sphere of Darkness, Chain’s cape flared violently back into being as she continued her incantation.

“Hatred transcending ages
Passed from Foreigner to mankind
I call on your hunger to devour that which dares oppose me
Bind it to my purpose in the form of my greatest strength
Feed you with the flesh of my enemies
Sword of Darkness! ~”

Calling out the name of her incantation, Chain released the sphere of Darkness. In the same breath she took a step back with her right foot and drew her sword through the sphere. As her blade met the sphere, the Darkness became one with it, a snaking trail of Darkness writhing into the air lengthening the blade well beyond its tip. Taking her sword in both hands, Chain turned the tip behind her and squared up to face the wyvern, whose internal flames seemed to defy the color stealing properties of the sword she wielded. Chain simply smiled wider, and in response her sword of Darkness grew larger and larger behind her.

“It’s been a while since the Beast fed, so I hope you make a good meal.”
.


Copyright © 2019 Joshua D Tarwater

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