Episode 13: When Hope Is Abandoned part 2
An arrow, meant to impale Kihivas, sliced along his cheek, cutting his lip. It landed firmly into the ground he knelt upon. Anger radiated as he tossed a slow look over his shoulder. The archer was not in sight.
“Surrender Primal, before you and all your friends die,” Captain Elsie spat in anger!
He launched forward, sending a cloud of dust out behind him where another arrow landed. His speed allowed him past the defences to take a hold of the neck spouting such inane crap! Claws dug into skin drawing blood. Eyes became wide with uncommon fear. He pressed deeper.
From the captain’s left hand, a blade appeared. Deep it plunged into Kihivas’ torso. Past the fear still in those hate-filled eyes, the captain warned him, “every one of you will die!”
“You forget,” Kihivas whispered into her ear as he brought them both closer, “with your kind, we were never living.”
Curled fingers slowly crushed the delicate windpipe of the human. Desperate was the grip that tried to pry his fingers off. The light in a human’s eyes was hard to extinguish. They continued to fight even when there was no hope. Was it this that made them entitled to the torture they inflicted upon others?
“An unbreakable human spirit? Or just human arrogance?”
There was a gurgle desperate to get air into burning lungs. Kihivas watched the light slowly go dim until a blade slid into his back to pierce a lung as it sliced upwards on an angle. The soldier at his back was sent flying with a kick! As his hold weakened for a moment, air was desperately sucked into burning lungs. It would grant the woman a moment longer of life. But only a moment.
A second blade broke through the skin at his lower back causing him to buckle forward. A third came in for his side. Soldiers were like ants! He gripped the blade at his side with his hand. Using all their weight, the terrified soldier struggled to pierce his side. Kihivas kept his sights on the captain. With renewed strength, he squeezed. The sword in his back was pulled out only to be jammed back in next to the spine. A narrow miss. Through the pain, he snarled.
The two blades in him were pulled out at the same time. They did not come back. At the corner of his vision which was beginning to fail, he saw Notes appear behind the soldier. Quick movements ended the life when the neck was twisted. An efficient death. But not a very satisfying one.
“End hers, Kihivas,” was the order.
“I’m not your minion,” he reminded the vampire at his side.
A knife appeared in the neck of his victim. He felt the sting of the blade cutting into his finger. With the blade embedded deep into the neck, the captain finally came to her end. Hot blood washed over his hand. Anger had his eyes moving towards the source of the interference. There was no indication that Nevetes was aware of what he’d caused, but Kihivas would be a fool to think this was a coincidence. The human flopped about like a ragdoll as Kihivas spun about abruptly. The captain’s body became a force to clear a path when she was thrown.
Taking him at the shoulder, Notes made it clear, “dying to prove your point, proves nothing. People will only hear you if you’re alive.”
He was taken away, back to their side where Notes would drop him off behind the others. Pain set him to his knees. But this fight was far from over.
“Stay down,” Notes shouted!
“I’ve got him,” the Elemental’s voice announced the presence he should have sensed earlier. A testament to his injuries.
“I don’t need some Elemental playing healer,” he snapped at her.
“I’m not playing,” she smiled as she knelt next to him.
The light in her eyes stalled him. He’d never before seen this light directed at him. Knowing Elementals carried the power to kill, it was scarier than facing Nevetes!
“Will you stay put and trust me?” delicate fingers brushed the hair behind her ears.
Vines shot up out of the earth to embrace him tightly. Though he struggled, he was unable to free himself. His blood was draining to the ground, making him weaker than he should be. He glared at her. Her inane smile was warm.
“I’ll heal him,” she was telling Notes. He hesitated, but there was little that could be done in this moment. With a hesitant nod, Notes left him with the Elemental.
“Don’t touch me,” he threatened darkly! “Notes you bastard!”
For some reason, it made her smile brighter, “I don’t need to.”
Her eyes looked at the injuries covered with blood. Those delicate hands waved slowly next to him. She seemed to be concentrating. The damned light grew brighter. Despite his struggles, he was unable to stop this from happening. But what exactly was it? Warmth was spreading through him. What should have brought comfort, brought distress revealed through bared teeth.
Her finger flicked his forehead. It was successful like nothing else could have been. Stunned, he stared blankly at her.
Soft was her laughter, “do you feel better?”
The vines holding him down released him, and then surprisingly, they helped him to sit upright. His hands touched his body where the wounds had been. They were gone! He looked at her in shock unable to vocalize any thought.
“Nevetes experienced my healing powers too. He jumped away like a snake had bit him,” she revealed with a giggle.
Slowly a smile formed. He nodded acknowledgement of something he couldn’t understand. But he could accept it. He left her to return to the fight he wasn’t ready to walk away from.
Pretty things sparkled in the air! Mae watched with fascination. Sparks, lost and wandering. Drawn to something wrong which lay in the earth below them. She could feel it drawing the sparks to it. Her burble of laughter pleased the beast beside her. He could not see the sparks. But the heads of the soldiers she’d killed was amusement enough for him. Like a kitten with a toy, he batted them about.
More soldiers were coming for them. Pleased with more toys, her pet tensed up. He moved in next to her, crouching low at her back. Her claws dug into the earth scoring the ground. Blackness washed out the warm brown of the earth.
Seeing the circle of death around the two of them, the other playthings stopped. Calls were made. Those holding strange, curved sticks came forward. Mae watched. Sights were upon the two of them. Little pointy sticks sailed through the air. Her friend seemed to understand something she did not. His large body shielded her when he jumped before her. But she still felt the impact even though it wasn’t visible. A whimper was all she heard from him. Then he stumbled towards her. His body would still protect her. But when he fell down, she saw the truth. Countless little sticks were embedded into his side. Dark blood oozed onto his sparce pale fur. She felt his pain. And it upset her!
Her power erupted on the furiously vibrating wings that sent her into the throng. Claws cut into soft flesh. Serrated teeth tore out vital parts on exposed necks. Blood flowed and bodies dropped. Her hands were saturated in blood when she realized that she wasn’t alone. Familiar was the scent of power.
The flower soul was approaching her pet. Through his suffering, he tried to snarl a warning at her. Amid the chaos of death, Mae chirped. The flower soul was a friend. She could help.
With a sneer Mae sent bits of flesh flying behind her with a kick. She moved back to his side. Her head butted his. She could still feel his pain. Dark eyes watched as the flower soul sat down. The light in the eyes captured hers. And though she wasn’t aware of how to do it, her eyes shone in a twisted echo. The flow of power was easy to see. For Mae, at least. She saw how the flesh was being rebuilt. It was Mae’s power, fueled by anger, that sent the sticks flying outwards with force. It was painful, but her friend accepted the pain. He only nudged her side with a soft whimper. The flower soul quickly mended all the places that hurt.
With each closed wound, her friend grew more alert. When it was done, Mae’s friend was able to stand once more. The pain wasn’t even a memory he carried now. And he was back to playing with the heads of the fallen. Slow, so as to not upset the dark eyes who watched them from a distance, Mae approached the flower soul. They locked eyes. There was a tremble in the flower soul.
Mae took her place before the flower soul with a thoughtful, intense look. The origin of the tremble was a new discovery for Mae that was enlightening. Her claws dug at the earth. She’d felt the power contained within from the start, but now she saw it more for what it really was. The nod from the flower soul affirmed the silent statement. What lay below was bad. Mae dug her fingers deep into the earth. The use of her power, which the flower soul had shown her, bled into the ground. That power was an infection.
There was a smile on flower soul’s face showing approval. Approval of what Mae was doing. The earth fell from her claws as she let out a burble of laughter. The beast ran back to them. The earth shuddered at his passing. A leap landed Mae upon his shoulders. They were running back to the fighting where more playthings waited.
Marie’s weight was a formidable force in this form. Curved claws dug mercilessly into the back of the soldier who had come for her brothers. They stood back, watching her. Her claws had made their way to the vulnerable lungs. It would soon be over for the soldier. Though, she suspected that it wasn’t soon enough for him as his body spasmed uselessly under her weight.
The moment he was dead, she stepped off. A swipe of her paw sent the blade scuttling over the earth towards her brothers. Her look was pointed. Even without the ability to speak, she was communicating effectively. The sword was picked up. Without a weapon in hand, her brothers were stationary targets.
The boys they’d travelled here with had already taken up their arms. They were an untrained group. And they were up against trained soldiers who outnumbered them greatly. The odds said they would have a quick demise. And though Marie would do everything she could, it was clear that she too was untrained.
What she’d said to the general rang inside her mind now. They lacked the training, but they more than had the motivation. Seeing a glimpse of the Primal that she had followed, renewed her resolve. He unwaveringly faced his foe despite the odds coming at him. The least she could do was the same.
Using the speed of her species, Marie used her weight to slam several of the soldiers into those behind them. There wasn’t time to lower swords, impaling some. Catching those that fell was at the cost of valuable moments. Marie raced in. Death was swift to those who were busy helping others.
Not all were willing to lend a hand. There were those ready to carry on with the battle. Weapons came at her. Sliding under one granted access to the arm wielding it. The power of her jaws crushed bone. His body stopped another’s blade as she tossed him. More came for her. She narrowly avoided a death blow by weaving. But that move left her open.
Sliding on his knees sent Reis in. The sword he’d taken clashed with the one meant to kill her. The impact sent Reis’ shoulder back painfully. He winced in pain! She launched over his head as a second blow came in. She didn’t know Reis well, but he was now family. And no one threatened her family.
“Thank you, Marie,” he met her gaze. She winked. And then both resumed battling.
Chad was at her brother’s side. His weapon of choice was a heavy stick. Perhaps not as impressive as some, Chad still made it an effective weapon. The numbers coming at them made the fight one-sided. Marie launched forward. One soldier for each front paw crashed to the ground. They wouldn’t get back up. It helped even the odds. Her brother nodded with thanks. More soldiers were coming for them. This battle had a long way to go.
A wash of something unknown hit them. Those that weren’t human felt it acutely. A warning. Marie looked back, directed by instinct. Backing up towards the forest, a small figure in a flowing top watched the battlefield. Hands were clasped before her lips. Something was wrong.
The strange petal-winged girl and her pet had felt it too. Leaving the battle unfinished, they fled leaving those they fought to stand dumbfounded. The Primal with the two buns atop his head, now growled his unease. The entire group with him backed away. It was time Marie did the same. She slammed into soldiers to send them back. She nodded at her group. But since they hadn’t felt the change, there was hesitation. Annoyed, she heavily swiped at the soldier before her. She had been sent flying back, dead from the impact more than the wounds sustained.
Marie looked out at the field where the others were fleeing. She nodded with a pointed look. Then she took a step back. Reluctant to leave without her group, she didn’t go far. Reis was the first to catch on. He nodded at her to show that he understood.
Then Reis grabbed a hold of Chad’s arm, “we gotta go!”
“What? Where?” Chad’s stick deflected a heavy hit.
“Just go!” Reis shoved his friend. Then he was able to reach her brothers. He gave the same orders.
It left Bryn alone to fight. Since he was out of reach, Reis tried to call out. The calls weren’t heard. So, Marie raced in. Her presence was enough to send one soldier falling back. Another had been going for a killing blow on Bryn. Seeing that his death was coming in on four paws seemed to make up the soldier’s mind. If death would come, he was prepared to give his life so long as he was doing his job. Unable to call out a warning, there was nothing Marie could do! Bryn’s sword arm was cut off. Shock kept the pain from registering, but the visual had Bryn passing out. The sword came back in to end Bryn’s life.
Saving the strength in his arms, Nevetes’ wings sent soldiers flying in all directions. Slow was his purposeful stride towards Vania. All who stood between them were eliminated without a thought. Their deaths were neither quick nor painless. Screams echoed beyond their deaths.
Arrows sent to impale were lost to the smoke of his wings. Swords were swatted away with no more thought than a bug would warrant. Angry shouts fell upon deaf ears. Vania was his only objective.
The general brandished a weapon. Nerves. Blood. Sweat. Disgust. All of these scents were hitting Nevetes as he strode forward. Unwavering, red-tinted eyes held their prey. Confident in his stand, it was with an angry bark that the general waved away those who tried to protect him.
“I never wanted to kill you,” was Vania’s claim as they faced each other.
Nevetes bared poison-tipped claws. The smoke of his wings seemed to caress him.
The shift from confident to angry was subtle. No more than a twitch of a curled lip. “Your suffering always had a purpose to help humanity. You can take that with you to your grave today.”
Nevetes’ shift was far more visceral. Revealed in bared fangs preceding his lunge forward! Prepared, Vania countered with his sword. Nevetes ducked under and spun outwards. Vania gripped his arm. The sword he held plunged in.
The blade slid into his stomach. It was lost to the smoke at his back giving the impression that Nevetes’ body was swallowing the weapon rather than being impaled by it. The conceited glee filling the general’s eyes vanished the moment Nevetes’ wing gripped the side of his face. Blood stained the pitted skin, and boils erupted on the face. Smoke wormed into the wounded flesh. The nearest eye began to fill with that smoke.
Vania gripped the wing revealing that it was so much more than smoke. His mouth was open but only a strangled sound emerged. His right hand twisted the blade in deeper, causing more damage. His gaze flickered past Nevetes.
A momentary glance with a dozen possible meanings. But Nevetes stopped as a sense washed over him. A sixth sense giving warning. Seeing the shift, the general’s gaze flickered momentarily. He would die right now, but not without taking something from Nevetes. And that was when he knew!
The power of throwing Vania created a necessary opening. Using the power of his wings, he raced to her. Bryn was lying before her on the ground. Blood heavily stained his clothing, but thanks to her abilities, he was conscious. Hearing Nevetes’ call, she was watching him. It was why she didn’t see it coming. Creeping up behind her, a lone soldier breaking out of the brush. The blade in his hand reflected the light. There was no one to protect her. No time for her to invoke that power she wouldn’t reserve for herself. As fast as he was, the blade coming for her was faster. Grey eyes were wide, and he saw fear in them. He could smell the blood she now tasted upon her lips when the strike landed.
The blood of the soldier was finding the earth in rain-like droplets. His death at Nevetes’ hands was far too merciful. On his knees, Nevetes pulled Zene close. Her trembling hands rested ineffectually over the wound in her chest. A lung had been punctured taking away her right to breathe. Already her heartbeat was slowing.
“Heal yourself,” he commanded gruffly.
She smiled tremulously at him through the blood, “I’ve never tried to heal myself.”
His hard look questioned her.
She gave a small shrug, “never been hurt before like this.”
“Just do it.”
The orders for their deaths were given by a voice that still shook. The troops still remaining tried to push forward to follow that order. When she was once again safe, he would rip Vania apart! His hand at her cheek pulled her attention back to him. He was relieved to see the light shining in her eyes.
“You won’t leave me, will you?” she seemed to chide him.
His look said it all.
“It’s amazing, the life that used to be here,” the words were barely more than a whisper.
“What?” confusion surrounded the anger which masked the fear.
From the eyes that were beginning to close, a light flashed bright and strong. Around them the ground shifted just before exploding! Around them, massive petals danced. The two of them were lifted up and then engulfed in a cage of the Elemental’s making.
“Hope was always meant to be abandoned,” his arms gently held her frail body. Her blood glistened in the corner of her mouth. A tear slipped from his eye to fall to her cheek. Slowly she blinked. Her smile reached him.
“Don’t be so dramatic,” she mimicked him softly.
“I’m not the one that gave her life for some demon,” his voice broke.
She touched his cheek with her fingers and corrected him, “not some demon, my Primal.”
“You’re so stupid,” he pulled her hand away. She was trying to heal him, even now.
“I’ve heard people who are in love are like that,” her voice had faded to a whisper.
He closed his eyes to shut out the truth he couldn’t bear. He would follow her if only his stupid body would let him. But not before he killed everyone out there! Her fingers fell limp in his hand. And though it hurt more deeply than anything ever had, he looked at her. Her heartbeat was fading fast now. She was no longer conscious. He felt his heart physically break the moment he could no longer hear hers.
The breath in his lungs had a shaky escape. His hands trembled as he pulled her close. For the first time in his life, tears fell from his eyes. When his head dropped, his lips found hers. She was his. His love. His reason. His soul!
A flash of red behind his closed eyes brought light to a different time! Through the blood he began to see his mother’s agony as she held her stomach. Sitting cramped on the hard floor of a small cage, tears falling heavily upon her legs. The blood swirled and he saw his young self now sitting in that cage. No tears. No agony. Only hopeless resignation to the fate that seemed his birthright. His mother’s black eyes gave way to death. Yet her blood cried for him, and for the other she couldn’t save. Her blood raged within the tubes it was pulled through. Her body gone, she had only one gift she could grant to her son. Beneath the blackness of the demon she couldn’t fight, her red blood carried with it the memories of everything she wished she could have shared with her sons. Years of schooling, languages learned, a joy of new experiences. And a smile touched by sunlight and love; the last memory she had to share, and the greatest gift she could give.
The blood shifted, giving way to a meadow. A young woman with brown hair held out her hand. Laughter floated upon the breeze. A child danced among the tall grass, waving her hands and laughing. The wind shifted to follow her every move, pulling at the little sundress she wore. The eyes of a young Elemental opened. She searched for the girl with the brown hair, whose smile held a hint of surprise. But the love in those eyes did not waiver. That love was an anchor. The world and the blood around that anchor shifted. The meadow was dark with the memory. The young woman on the hill held strong, her eyes never letting go of the one she loved. In a pale flash, only droplets of blood remained to fall to the ground where she once stood. Zene, too far away to help, screamed her sister’s name! Over her, a familiar and evil figure stood.
Nevetes opened his eyes. She was growing cold. His words came on nothing more than a breath, “please don’t go.”
He kissed her again. Her blood touched his lips. Notes of sunshine and rain. Only she could have the two mix. His blood was bitter and cold, just like his heart would forever be. Their blood mixed and he knew that the part about him that mattered at all would always remain with her.
Following the appearance of a monstrous flower the earth gave a tremble. Collectively, everyone held their breath. The tremble grew to a quake that threatened to engulf them all! Sensing the danger, everyone upon that ground began to run in a desperate attempt to save their lives. Friends or foes, it didn’t matter in the wake of a dying Elemental’s power!
Dust rose where the battle had once been. Faces were covered to protect from the worst of it. Through tear-filled eyes, they all struggled to see as a town once buried by Elementals was now uncovered by one.
“It’s Hope,” anger was alive in Kihivas’ voice.
All around, people stared in disbelief. Their fighting forgotten. Primal, human, or unknown creature; they all stood on one side in this moment. The monstrous flower, the likes of which none of them had ever seen, bulged as though a force from inside the enclosed petals caused it. Instinctively, every soul backed away. Purple and pink petals stretched, fighting the force. The explosion sent a wave of air in every direction. Hair and loose clothing were pulled. Arms protected faces. And the cloud created by the earthquake was dispersed in the single move.
As eyes cleared, they saw the truth. Where the flower once stood, Nevetes was crouched. The wings at his back vibrated. In his arms, Zene’s lifeless form. The smoke and darkness of his wings shrouded them, blocking visibility to them. Yet, it seemed as though Nevetes were kissing her.
“Zene,” Bryn’s broken voice emerged. Hand upon his elbow to hold in the blood he was losing.
Cradling her, Nevetes’ black eyes shot up to pierce the general to the spot. Those around him fell back. From the depths of the pit still clouded by smoke the air current couldn’t reach, a collective growl sounded out. Demonic rage bringing fear to everyone, other than to Nevetes.
Zene’s body was left behind in the remnants of the flower. The claws coming for the general would lay claim to the one thing he lacked, a heart. The impact could have been enough to stop its beating but at the last moment the general saw his fate. The sword at his side came into play to save his heart from being torn out.
The blade slid in stopping halfway along its length because Nevetes has his claws on Vania’s chest. The impact had him gasping for air. There was a shudder that ran throughout the heavy body. But death was not his just yet. Nevetes had more to take.
“Nevetes,” his name was a thought that came in on the breeze.
He growled softly on an annoyed breath. There was an unnatural echo in his voice, “learn to play dead. I left you there the moment I heard your heartbeat come back.”
Zene struggled to stand. It was Bryn that moved first, running to her side to help. He hesitated, but only for a moment once he reached her side. She looked different. It wasn’t just the blood staining her outfit, or the lack of colour in her cheeks. Looking over his shoulder, he saw it even from this distance.
Taking a risk in order to save his miserable life, the general struggled forward to move the blade in deeper. It wasn’t that the pain didn’t exist. Nevetes simply didn’t care about it. Black eyes were back upon Vania. Fear of his mistake had that heart beating wildly. Nevetes’ fingers curled in, sending his claws in deeper. The tips of them touched a rapidly beating heart.
Bryn walked her in. When she was close enough, the strength growing inside her carried her the rest of the way. At a loss, Bryn stood back. Zene walked up to them as though Vania weren’t even here. She stood before Nevetes. Soft were the eyes smiling up at him. Eyes that were no longer simply grey.
He watched her, seeing the changes that scared Bryn. Grey eyes now held a kiss of red. Elemental hands were now decorated with delicate claws. The flush of her cheeks was missing. And what Bryn couldn’t know, was that her heart now beat at a slower rate.
But that heartbeat was still hers. The light of hope shining in her eyes was the same. She was still his. In response, his eyes revealed their red tint once more.
He groused with a flat tone, “it’s hard to be intimidating when you pull this crap.”
A breath of a laugh crinkled her happy eyes.
The blade twisted, “you’ll both be dead.”
A drop of black blood fell to the earth staining it. With his left arm, he pulled Zene to his body. With Vania so close it shouldn’t be a question of what he was protecting her from. Yet at his side, the precipice to the pit loomed heavily with real danger. The cloud of smoke was so like his wings, and it seemed to call to them. The growl emanating from the darkness was not unlike his.
“What is it?” Nevetes gestured with his head to the pit.
“Don’t ignore me!” The general was struggling with all his might to move the blade. Flexing his fingers kept Vania from doing anything but struggle for a breath.
Her eyes stared through the smoke. Fearfully she spoke, “voids.”
“Wraiths?” his question was cold.
She shook her head, “something like, only different. Wraiths want their sparks so they can be at peace.”
“And these?” Nevetes’ eyes didn’t move from her.
She set her hand upon his chest, “they want to destroy sparks.”
Nevetes’ eyes snapped to Vania, “then let’s give them what they want.”
Her hand gripped tighter to his chest, “what do you mean?”
A jerking movement pulled Vania closer as fangs emerged from a cold smile. Fear completely consumed Vania. The black smoke of Nevetes’ wings touched the wounded cheek in what could almost be a caress. The blood lust in red eyes negated any such emotion. With a will that may have been controlled by Nevetes, the smoke moved unerringly to the general’s eyes. Boils erupted on the fragile body parts. A tremble turned into quaking. No sound emerged from a throat constricted with fear.
“Nevetes?” worry carried on Zene’s voice to try and reach him.
Wings snapping back forced her to let him go. With his hand still clutching the general’s heart, Nevetes shot off the precipice.
“NEVETES,” Zene screamed his name!
The blackness of the pit swallowed them whole on the embrace of a collective growl! There was a pause where some people pressed hands to lips, while others stared in breathless fear. At the edge of the precipice, Zene crashed to her knees.
“I saw your memories,” Zene’s tears ran down her face. The pit was evil! Something a single Elemental couldn’t handle on her own. Had the Elementals of the past known this evil existed here and that’s why they buried it? Or had they brought about this evil?
The darkness of the cloud had swallowed the two of them. Somehow it had swallowed the general’s screams too. There was nothing but a soundless emptiness that kept her on her knees.
“Demons without a spark to ground them,” her voice seemed lost. But a spark of understanding was all it took to bring light to her eyes once more.
Marie made a sound something like a growl. She sensed the power the others could not see.
Hands curling into the earth, Zene found power that was needed. She blinked away the tears obscuring her vision. Her bottom lip firmed with resolve.
“Zene, no,” Bryn’s arm pressed across her collarbone to physically keep her still. “You’re too weak. You have to recover first.”
Marie set a paw to the precipice edge. The determination in her colorful eyes was a reflection of Zene’s.
Both her brother’s had their arms around her thick neck, “Marie, don’t be an idiot!”
Reis’ hands were clutching nothing but air in frustration, “what is with you girls and sacrificing yourselves for that monster?”
From Zene and Marie, a growl emerged to silence them all! Bryn’s arm fell slowly away. She knew that he was looking at her differently again. And when she had Nevetes back, she would ask him to explain. But in order to do that, she needed Nevetes back!
“Marie, stay here and protect them,” her order was spoken softly, but Marie nodded. She looked past Bryn, “Mae.”
Mae looked up. She’d been playing at the precipice edge as though it were her meadow, “mmmae!”
Zene looked back at the pit, “let’s go kill some of your brethren.”
“Mmmae,” was the happy chirp. She then looked at the beast and gave two quick chirps. Reluctantly, the creature backed down till he was lying the best he could in the dirt.
Zene and Mae jumped as one into the pit.
Unlike Mae, these demons didn’t care what power he brought. Death was the only interest they had. Through the smoke and fog of demon smoke, he saw the demise of General Vania. The horror of the pain was unlike anything Nevetes could have done. It would have been enough to throw Vania to this, but the truth remained frustratingly clear to his mind.
In her present state, Zene lacked the power to bury Hope once more. These demons would rise. They would kill with an appetite that couldn’t be sated. The rest of the world could be damned for all he cared, but Zene would care. And like an idiot, she would stand to fight something that she had no hope of defeating.
Slapping away a form that seemed to coalesce at will, he knew that there really wasn’t any hope for him either. A hit along his side brought out a snarl from him. But admitting defeat without trying wasn’t his way. His claws found something hard, and he crushed it. Smoke came for his open wounds like ants to something sweet. Snapping his wings sent the smoke at his back away with a force he hadn’t been aware he had. Nearly the entire pit at his back was cleared for a moment.
‘I think not hearing that it was supposed to be impossible, helped me figure out ways that I could.’ He heard an echo of her voice from the past.
The smoke was crowding back in. It wanted death, and Vania was nothing more than tainted blood droplets upon the broken ground. That smoke landed a physical hit to his shoulder, sending him stumbling forward. A collective hit from front and back sent him spiraling. His claws had a hold of one. He crushed it, and felt his hand crushed in return. Pulling it from the smoke revealed the damage. His face was hit, sending his head turning towards the direction that smoke now raced.
The vibration of smoky wings of a flower in bloom sent the speeding demon into a spin causing it to crash. Delight at the mayhem had Mae’s eyes sparkling. She pounced upon another demon. The odd power she held emerged. The smoke surrounding her prey cleared revealing a disfigured corpse putrefied and mummified. The hardened corpse cracked before fragmenting. Mae had just killed something that was already dead. She moved to the next.
Nevetes slammed his claws behind him sightlessly. The corpse he couldn’t see exploded. He spun about, his wings catching some and his claws catching others. More boils appeared on his skin as smoke touched the boils which had exploded. The blood beneath his skin was heating to levels guaranteeing death. It was clear he would not last much longer. Mae had been an idiot to follow him.
He fell to one knee; an attempt to keep standing that was wasted. Something caught his wing and tried to rip it from his back. Bunching his shoulders, Nevetes pulled them both forward. His left arm caught a demon coming for his face. Smoky fangs slammed through his flesh.
She called his name, getting more attention than desired. Fingers were pressed to her lips. Tears touched her eyes. Demons all around her raced for the new soul they could devour!
A sigh feathered through his nose as he rolled his eyes, “figures.”
The demon gnawing slowly through his wing was hurled into the one which refused to let go of his arm. The two demons collided with incredible force! The back of his hand sent another demon back when it moved in for an attack. Eyes upon her, Nevetes moved to intercept.
Her eyes had slammed shut against the truth. He slammed two to the ground in one swipe. His wings took out others. A kick handled something crawling along the ground. Then he had her in his arms. Happy eyes danced up at him.
The wind from his wings being pulled in cleared the air so that she could breathe. He made it very clear, “that smoke touches you, you’re dead!”
“Hold me,” she had her arms around his neck.
“I don’t have time to rescue you,” he argued as his wings continued to push smoke and demons away from her.
She shook her head, “like in the mountain. I’ll use my power, and you clear the way out for us.”
He considered her and her proposal. Pulling her close, “since you stupidly put yourself down here, there’s not much choice.”
She wrapped her arms around his neck as he pulled her into his embrace. Her legs dangled lightly. Her frail shoulders bunched in, and she laid her head upon his chest. She was as small as she could be, making her less of a target. But down an arm, he was more vulnerable.
His wings pulled in slow and dramatic, creating a cocoon around them. There was a pause while gathering strength. Then, as the first demons touched him, that power exploded! The cry of demons was a growl that echoed throughout the pit. Those that crashed met their violent fate. Those touched directly by his wings suffered more. Those touched by the wind he’d created were exposed. Mangled corpses lacking souls.
From across the battlefield Mae had watched them. Though she was covered in boils, that psychotic little grin of hers remained. She delighted in the destruction he was capable of.
Then the power shifted back. Smoke returned to cover the corpses, and to swallow Mae. It swarmed like a living being. He could try the trick again, but it would only be a temporary reprieve. Enough to let them escape, if that’s all they wanted.
But he felt her power touched his in a way it hadn’t been able to before. It was a warmth that wasn’t uncomfortable which began in his blood. From inside his body, her power began to heal him. It built a fire within him. It fanned the embers of his spark. In surprise he looked down at her.
“Mmhm,” she chirped the sound in delight. She was shaking her head to let him know that she didn’t understand. But not understanding hadn’t ever stopped her.
He scowled darkly, “it’s too late to complain now. Keep your head down and let me fight.”
She was back to clutching his shirt. The tiny claws of his wings reached out to grip their enemy. Smoke to smoke, he’d have been willing to fight on this level. But it seemed that something more existed. A tendril of teal was where it began. That single became a handful within only a breath. They danced among the smoke of his wings, bouncing in and out not unlike lightning within storm clouds. But the direction was clear as they coursed through until they moved beyond his wings to the captured the demon. The demon seemed to know the fate it faced, but the futile struggle was only a desperate attempt to extinguish Nevetes’ life, not to save its own. Light erupted and the demon was gone.
Zene held his shirt tight in her grasp. Eyes closed to the world kept her oblivious. He held the back of her head to keep her that way. She was focused solely upon him. The boils all over his body were beginning to fade. And each new one that erupted was healed before it could properly form. The hole in his chest that Vania’s sword had created began to stitch shut. Renewed energy gave him strength to keep fighting.
Each hit that he gave brought swift death. And each hit brought a dozen more to them. Consequences didn’t matter to these beings. Death was the only goal they pursued. Blackness took over his eyes and he saw the whispers of a memory he thought forever lost. A child given the life of his mother’s disease. Her hatred of Vania had driven the young body far beyond its limits. Death was all about in a massacre. And through the shattered glass that couldn’t be seen through, she felt that hated presence. His death alone would satiate this bloodlust!
But that bloodlust would not see its fulfillment. Not then. And not now even though Vania was dead. Because Nevetes hadn’t done it for her. If her call had been fulfilled, Vania’s death would have been far more painful and slow.
He looked down at the Elemental in his arms. Her trust in him was absolute. She pushed herself beyond the limit of any Elemental. And she did it for his sake. The glow of teal moved through his blackened eyes.
His growl gave fire to emotions boiling within him. Crouched low, he cradled Zene close. His wings rose above them slowly. The black of his eyes was washed away by red. A spark of teal moved like electricity through the smoke of his wings creating an electrical storm.
Demons seemed to fall back from the force radiating off him. Mae was watching him, mirroring his crouched pose. Upset with the switch of power, the demons pressed forward. Until his wings slammed down sending a torrent of power in every direction. Jumping into that power, Mae used it to launch out of the pit. Following on the back of the wave, the teal electricity surged!
Gripped by fear, they’d all watched Zene and the strange girl jump into the pit. It was pointless to stick around. Maybe even dangerous. Still, Bryn couldn’t move. These were his friends. Zene…Zene was important to him!
“Aren’t you going to change back, Marie?” Her brothers were at her side as they posed the question.
She gave them a dry look followed by a shrug. Uncertain in the response her brothers exchanged confused looks. But as she looked at the soldiers, it was clear that the danger had not yet passed.
Reis saw it too, and spoke up, “are we going to keep fighting?”
The question was not a challenge, and it didn’t come off that way. Soldiers looked about to one another. With their commanding officers all dead, it was a question of who would step up now and what they would do.
One woman shrugged. Though she held her sword, it was pointed harmlessly down to the ground. She addressed Reis’ question, “there’s a lot that I think we don’t understand. But they’re down there fighting a battle General Vania created.”
Looks were shared. A breath seemed hard to catch.
She continued, “I believe in fighting for something you believe in. And like I said, I don’t even understand what’s going on.”
There were murmurs of agreement. Other soldiers were willing to step away. And maybe because she had stepped up, or maybe because she was next in the line of command, those who were more uncertain were willing to follow her lead. It seemed that the fighting was over for them.
“What is that?” Chad leaned into the pit.
Reis and Bryn hurriedly grabbed him to pull him back. Everyone saw it. A hue of blue deep within the darkness. There was a flash that made them all wince! Protective arms moved up and people stepped back. The hackles on Marie’s back were up. Soldiers turned weapons to the pit.
A small form landed heavily next to the beast they all feared. Until this interruption, it had remained stationary. At this, it jumped up with excitement. Theirs was a strange reunion that was a clear display of joy.
Attentions turned back to the pit. The blue light was a lightning storm that took over sending the clouds back. That which touched the blue light exploded. All throughout the pit, small flashes of light showed the battle.
At the thick of it, something dark shot up. Dark wings, a darker countenance. Nevetes erupted from the cloud. In his arms, a sparkling teal jewel. They landed upon the ground between the two groups. The impact sent them all stumbling. The wings at Nevetes’ back floated down, seeming to shrink as they did. From the depths of the smoke a soft blue light glowed warmly. Seeing it, they made the connection and looked back at the pit. The last remnants of the battle played out. Teal lights erupted until all that was left was a grey dust. The smoke was now a memory.
“Zene,” Bryn hesitated to reach out to her. She had remained unmoving within Nevetes’ arms.
Nevetes growled low and cautionary. No one would be allowed close to her. There was a sigh that came from her. She snuggled in deeper to the powerful chest as though she were comfortably, peacefully asleep.
Marie stepped up getting a sidelong look out of Nevetes. She nodded once with a meaning he understood and accepted. Then, with a nod to her brothers, she indicated that it was time to leave. They reluctantly followed. The soldier who had spoken sheathed her sword. Like Marie’s brothers, there were those that hesitated before following. She gave a curt nod that Nevetes didn’t return. He stared coldly at them as the soldiers followed the woman in a silent retreat.
Bryn, Reis, and Chad waited. But the fighting was over, and Nevetes was never big on words. Carrying Zene, he left. Reis was going to say something, but Chad put a hand upon his shoulder. The way he shook his head told Reis that it was futile to try. Softly, Chad suggested that they follow Marie and her brothers.
The earth shook once more as the monstrous beast ran off. The strange girl with the petal wings rode upon its shoulders. Strangely, they were not following Nevetes even though they had seemed to come because of him. There wasn’t a second glance from either of them as they parted ways.
At the edge of the forest, a figure with two messy buns atop his head was watching Nevetes. There was a sullen aura as he leaned his back against a tree with arms crossed angrily over his stomach. A second figure emerged from the woods. His gaze was upon the one leaning into the tree. A nod gestured towards the darkness of the woods. Glaring with that same darkness, he moved to follow his friend.
Bryn looked back at the pit. It was now nothing more than that. Relicts of what used to be a town lay among the broken earth. The settling dust did nothing more to hide this. There was still an eerie chill emanating, but maybe that was just Bryn. His gaze was drawn up at a strange movement. Across the expanse, a man in a lab coat stood. He was watching Nevetes carry Zene away. From this distance, it was hard to be sure if there was a smile upon that face. Then he was gone. Simply vanished as though he were never there.
Unsettled by the moment, Bryn would keep this to himself. The others were calling to him now. It was time to leave this place. He ran to catch up.
The forest held the solitude Nevetes craved. The canopy overhead dulled the sun. And for miles about there was only the sounds of forest life. With Zene still in his arms, he continued to walk them on their path as they argued.
“It’s a blood disease,” Nevetes pointed out. “You can heal, maybe you can heal this.”
“What’s to heal, if I’m not broken?” her smile was as bright as ever. She had the strength to walk but he’d found a reason to carry her that she wasn’t disputing.
“Idiot,” he sighed. “You know you gotta drink blood as a vampire.”
“Ohhh,” her voice trailed off with uncomfortable understanding. Then she perked right back up, “can I just drink yours?”
Pain washed over him, “I’m not letting anyone drink from me.”
Zene seemed confident as she held him, “you will for me.”
“I don’t like this new confidence in you,” he grumbled.
She laughed, “just wait till I learn to fight!”
“You’re not fighting.” The command was absolute.
“I’ve already fought,” she reminded him with light laughter that was out of place.
“You’re a supplement to my power,” was the most he was willing to give.
Something occurred to her, “does that mean you’re part Elemental now since I’m part vampire?”
“You’re part demon too, don’t forget,” he muttered darkly. “Just heal yourself before it takes over.”
“I could try,” she seemed thoughtful. A mischievous glance shot up at him, “maybe I’ll start with trying to heal the Elemental out of you!”
“I will drop you,” he cautioned her. But the way he held her close to him negated such a thing. She giggled.
Silence grew as they walked through the woods. Everything was normal here. No signs of the fighting they’d left behind. The peace of the forest reached out to Zene. He didn’t care about it. But it was a nice change to have a moment. Despite his growing power, a break from the fighting wasn’t a bad thing.
“Do you think everyone will be okay?” she glanced over his shoulder even though it was the wrong direction.
“Why would I care?” his tone was flat.
She explained as though it mattered, “I wasn’t able to put Bryn’s arm back on. I wasn’t even able to stop all the blood.”
“He’s got two arms,” he reminded her. Then a cruel grin surfaced, “had two.”
“Nevetes!” she lightly hit his chest.
His smile was buried, “stop worrying about them. Worry about us.”
“I wonder what friend we’ll meet next,” her voice was alight with soft excitement as she set her sights forward once more!
He gave a suffering sigh, “let’s just focus on figuring out us…”
He paused uncomfortably. She looked up at him in question.
Glaring off to the side, he poorly backtracked on an explanation, “what…powers we both have now. You almost dying is the start of a whole lot of problems for us.”
Laying her cheek against his shoulder, she replied happily, “I think things started back at the mountain for us.”
He nodded begrudging agreement to that. Red eyes narrowed, and his lips softly touched her head.