One enemy down.
|The titan frogs filled the afternoon air with their song. The amphibians were at least a foot in diameter and height. A squirrel scampered into the pen and stopped between a pair of large specimens. Before the squirrel could make another move, a fleshy pink tongue captured the rodent, and it vanished into the gaping maw.
"How did frog farms get their start?" Silverbolt asked while they skirted the shoreline.
The stag helm got caught in some branches. "I hate the outdoors," Wildhunt complained.
"Regretting your choice to become a hero?" Silverbolt snapped the branches.
"Why am I sacrificing my dignity for these ridiculous clod hoppers and beggars..."
"Those clodhoppers and beggars made you. From what I understand, people are hoping you'll replace your parents."
"Why? Wait, how do you know any of this?" With the helmet freed, Wildhunt removed it. Her golden hair fell around her shoulders.
Silverbolt hefted a fallen log over his head and tossed it. A wave licked the shoreline and vanished. "I keep an ear out for trouble. You can learn all sorts of useful things by listening."
Wildhunt sat on a stump and sighed. "Maybe I'm not cut out for this. Yet, I made a deal with Cernunnos. How did this happen again?"
"Grief does funny things to people. You have the potential to achieve great things. I know your mother's death twisted your mind up, but it had to be done for the greater food."
"Why doesn't it feel that way?"
"Because she's your mother. Now any hope of reconciling your differences is gone. I'd be losing my mind over it too." A twig snapped behind them. In a flash, the meteor hammer was in motion.
Wildhunt waved her hands, and a pair of daggers appeared in their grip. "Can you teach me how to use a weapon like yours?"
"How about we get you trained up a little first." The veteran hero pressed a finger to his lips and pointed to the bushes. "Shhh."
Vibrations shook the loose debris on the ground. A soft rumble accompanied the phenomenon. Shit, the killer found the Old One.
The massive girth of the Old One pushed through the underbrush with the force of a bulldozer. Atop the gigantic beast was Lord Schaefers rotting existence. A symbol glowed in the middle of his horrific face.
Mind Control? Is Schaefer taking the Old One to Tuxley? Then again, freeing the overgrown hatrack has its benefits. He tapped Wildhunt on the shoulder. "We'll free the Old One once we find out where your dad is taking him," Silverbolt whispered into her ear.
Wildhunt nodded, and they slowly padded after the titanic Moose.
They followed the massive beast back into Ivorhaven. The sun gave the world a final wink before the moons kissed the world with their silvery light. The Old One stopped outside an abandoned warehouse. The streets were eerily quiet.
Lord Shaefer opened the doors and pulled the forest king into the forsaken structure.
Wildhunt rose, and a gauntleted hand pulled her back. "Hold on a minute. I love the enthusiasm, but we don't know what is behind those doors." A baton appeared in the metal-clad fist. "Recon is our priority. We can't help anyone if we are dead."
The pair took a route across the clay-tiled roofs. "No skylights. The only window is into an empty office. I am so glad we wasted our time." Wildhunt fumed.
She has a point. Wait, I have an idea. "Can't you talk to animals? Why not find a mouse or a pair of rats to poke around. I mean, it is within the realm of your ability, right?"
Wildhunt scowled at Silverbolt. "So far, I've done most of the work. When are you going to contribute?" the new hero fell to her knees from a hard fist slammed into her belly.
"Newsflash, I don't need training. If you want to learn the hard way, be my guest. Just say the word, and I'm gone," Silverbolt said, ready to infiltrate the warehouse.
Wildhunt put her hand on his shoulder. "You can't go in there alone. It might be a trap."
A gauntleted hand slapped the hand away. "According to certain people, I'm not pulling my weight on this expedition." He double-checked his armor and weapons.
"I'm sorry. I feel like I'm not getting anywhere."
"I was the same way. Hexfist made it look easy. He knew what to do in any given situation. I felt so inadequate next to him at times. He said powers do not replace experience and skill."
"I want to try the animal spy plan. It's simple and doesn't put us in danger." Wildhunt landed in the alley. "Why is being a hero so gross?"
"We'll call it a drawback to our rarefied profession."
"Wow, lots of rats down here. Okay, here it goes." A few minutes later, a trio of rats scurried towards the warehouse. Wildhunt joined her companion, "All we can do now is wait."
Silverbolt rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. "I'm sorry for being so harsh with you. I trained hard because the weaponry on earth is deadlier than anything here."
"Can I ask you something?"
"Are you worried about losing yourself when you get married?"
Once again, my love life takes precedence over the problem du jour. Silverbolt twirled a baton around his fingers and leaned over the roof's edge. "No, I'm kind of excited about it. I get to explore a whole other side of me. I wasn't thrilled at first, but Constance is showing me there is a lot to look forward to."
"I feel the same way when I am with Gabe. Maybe being a Noblewoman suits me better than a superhero."
An armored hand patted the young woman on the boney shoulder guard. "You're meant to be a hero. Most people don't make it past the first battle due to injury or fear of death."
"Were you terrible at this when you started?"
"Yes and no. I was great in a fight, but you couldn't get out of bed to investigate to save my life." The lead hero paused, "Say did you tell the rats to return in a certain amount of time.?"
Wildhunt clapped her hand to her helm. "I knew I forgot something."
The highway was all but empty, and three figures wait patiently, hidden in some bushes. Constance felt like a complete idiot. Maybe Gabriel should use the dowsing crystal again.
The goblin faced Midgely and shook his head. "We are missing something. Are you sure your dowsing crystal detects her?"
A soft hand-held up the polished opal triangle on a gold chain, "I agree with the goblin. Is there a faster way to find the spirit?"
Now that I think about it, Idina saw me as a rival for Ethan's affections. Perhaps some taunting is in order. Constance stood in the middle of the road, raised her hands in the air, and shouted. "Idina, I stole your chance at happiness. She raised her hand and wiggled her ring finger. "Look, In a couple of months, Ethan and I will be walking down the aisle and saying I do."
Midgely and Rexword walked out of the bushes and tried to pull her back. "Are you out of her mind? We are trying to find Idina's spirit, not enrage it." Midgely said. The blade popped out of the tip of the parasol and nearly went through his eyeball.
Rexword backed away from the sharpened blade. "Okay, we'll give your idea a try. I want the record to show Lady Constance chose to do this all on her own."
"You have my word Rexword. I will make sure Silverbolt doesn't seek vengeance for my actions. If I die, that job falls to Gabriel." Not that it will save him, but Silverbolt never did listen well.
Gabriel and Rexword hid in the bushes once more, while Constance taunted the night air about her relationship with Silverbolt.
Twenty minutes passed. Constance stomped her foot and growled. "It's frustrating..." A sinister blue glow caught the young noblewoman off-guard.
Dressed in pure white cloth, wreathed in St. Elmo's fire, stood the once beautiful form of Lady Idina. Her image shimmered with each step. Her voice dragged the void into reality. "You don't deserve him. I will make sure you find the afterlife before you even dare to put a wedding gown on." A single wave of the hand sent Constance flying ten feet away.
The gravel tore at her dress and skinned her legs. "Gaberial, Rexword, now would be a good time to show yourselves," Constance shouted.
"I need a minute. Midgely passed out from the excitement. The man held on as long as possible." Rexwords disembodied voice said.
"Keep trying. We need Gabriel awake." Now would be a good time to trigger my transformation on purpose. How do I do that again? Perhaps I should take my training with Ethan a little more seriously.
Another attack almost saw Constance impaled on a sharpened bush stub. Why did I come along? I never wanted the hero's life. "Idina, let go of the past. You no longer have earthly concerns." A familiar tingle and glow surrounded her body. It's about bloody time.
A second later, the unearthly form of the fairy maiden took over. "Rexword, do you know any faery spells?" Constance's wings fluttered, and the parasol blade gleamed in the moonlight.
Idina giggled. "I am all my worst memories and scars made real. I want vengeance." She raised her hands and a multitude of branches and threatened to swallow her. "By the way, Rexword and the spastic Midgely are busy themselves. Draining your life will satisfy me in ways a man never could."
Midgely flailed around by a long tendril of poison ivy. The goblin-like Rexword didn't fare better. A group of willows sprouted around him and whipped him with cat 'o' nine tails ferocity. Two branches wrapped around his sword and dagger and made defense impossible.
"Silverbolt knew you'd turn on us. He didn't trust you." I have one spell, and it activates on touch. I have to lure her to me.
Idina forgot about Constance's companions and screamed from the void. "Lies. You tell lies. I deserve his love and affection. He can mend my wounded soul. Together we will forge a new perfect life."
The vengeful spirit slowly approached the fairy maiden. Her entire body wreathed in spectral fire. "Once he dies, nothing will separate us."
That's right, you undead hussy, come and get me. "Are you saying he doesn't deserve to live a full and happy life?" Constance hovered on the spot, hands at her sides, waiting for the moment to release her little surprise.
Pale translucent hands gripped the fairy maidens gown. A second spectral appendage slowly descended toward the flawless face. "He'll know you fought to the death. You have my word."
It's now or never. Constance raised her hands and thrust them into the icy depths of Idinas ghost matter. Constance felt her hands go numb, and they ached with frostbite. "a dhéanamh glan," she shouted. Idina's visage shimmered and shook as the spell took effect.
The ghostly woman's fairy features cracked and then shattered. The real Idina looked down at her wraith-like appendages. "No. My power is gone. What have you done? My vengeance will go unfinished. Why?"
"Because you don't belong here anymore." Midgely said. The opal dowsing crystal hung in midair. "Anam príosúin." The nobleman shouted.
Opalescent ropes shot out from the pendant and formed a net around Idina. "No. I want my vengeance fulfilled. You can't force me to move on." The restless soul battered against the silvery webbing.
Midgely started to wobble. The goblin-like Rexword held the priest of Andraste up. "I got you, My lord."
The net shrank as the dowsing crystal pulled it and the imprisoned spirit into the depths. A final scream and the light faded. Midgely fell to his knees, weakened by the supernatural conflict.
Constance helped him to his feet, as did Rexword. "From now on you are not allowed to say the words' milk run before we go on an adventure."
Midgely laughed and spoke in a weak voice. "You have my word."
"What is the story with this area of Ivorhaven?" Silverbolt asked. Ten minutes had passed, and the rats hadn't returned. His steel-grey eyes watched the doors like a hawk.
The horned helm looked down at the abandoned area and sighed. "We called it Explorers Rest. Nobility paid great sums of money to people daring enough to map the world."
"Things didn't work out?"
"No. Four expeditions went out with all of our hopes and dreams invested. Two never returned, one ship came back empty, and the fourth saw men driven to the edge of madness. Rumor had it Lord tuxley financed the fourth."
"Do you think he was looking for something dangerous?"
"How should I know? I was barely born when it happened."
The rats returned to the alley. Wildhunt conversed with their tiny allies. Silverbolt found it strange the creatures had so much to say. Annoying as it is, I think talking to animals is cool.
The young hero patted the tiny creatures on the head and smiled. "Thank you. Spread the word Cernunnos has a new champion."
"What's with the smile?" The heart-shaped mask asked.
"The old one can't be transformed. Something about the All Mothers Curse. From what the rats told me, the golden bridle only works when the big animal is asleep. They've kept him docile by feeding him."
A little good news goes a long way. "I'll admit it's good news. What else did they say?"
"Lord Schaefer went into the sewers. A raven man greeted the dead one and petted him like a dog. The raven man held a mask in his hands. According to Renfro, the leader of the trio, it reeked of darkness and the void."
Is the mask responsible for the transformations? "Did our furry friends encounter anyone else in the depths?" Silverbolt crossed his arms with his head down. The iron-colored eyes closed to make sure no outside stimulus distracted him from his partner's words.
"Two others. One smelled like the swamps of Dragonfly Villas. The other reeked of the mountains and poison. Oh, and depictions of Deathmoths littered the room." Wildhunt looked over at her brooding mentor. "Are you awake?"
"Yeah. The old one will have to wait. Running in with our swords raised will get us killed. We can't engage our enemies in an enclosed space. The poison could be airborne, and the tech we need to circumvent it doesn't exist."
Wildhunt stared at him with suspicion. "What's with you? The old Silverbolt would've charged in without regard to his health or the health of others."
A short growl escaped the heart-shaped mask. "I had nothing, Wildhunt. My entire life taught me I was lower than dirt. I hung on to hope by a thread. Don't get me wrong, I had some good times, but my life is a thousand times better with Constance in it."
Wildhunt sighed and kicked at the ground. "I do miss Gabriel's lips on mine. I'd hate to leave him at the mercy of his parents. Without his friendship, my fate would mirror my mothers. Lets go home. I have some making up to do."
"Right behind you."