Realm of Valor

DC/RH BK I, CH 22: Fire Pit

Chapter Twenty-two: Fire Pit

Proudsprout was not the only sprite attacking. He was just the first to reach the target. His considerably larger mana pool and physical parameters put him above the rest but not so far that they were unable to catch up and catch up they did. The battle between Makas and the troll and the sprite warriors was on. Ignoring the scale, there was little difference between the fight going on and a clash between a dog and a hornets’ nest. However, that scale was all the difference in the world. Makas had the advantage in size, strength, power, mana, endurance and vitality but the sprites were able to fly circles around it, attacking as they pleased with little consequence.

Yelping in pain, Makas leapt backwards, slamming his back into the tunnel wall. The wall shook from the impact, dislodging a lot of dust and stone from the ceiling. Failing to crush the sprite responsible, he simply put his back against the wall and growled at his attackers. It was frustrating. He only needed a single hit to crush these annoying little wings and yet, he could not. Despite fighting for so long and only killed one. There was another he was sure would die but it was carried off before he could confirm or snatch it.

The troll looked miserable. Numerous welts and bumps covered its body. Dark blood and, at times, pus oozed freely from them. They healed at a visible rate but instead of getting demoralised at this, the sprites only grew more excited. After fighting with it for so long, they could tell. The troll’s regeneration was slowing. Unfortunately, Makas knew this as well. He clung to the walls, doing his best to limit his openings. His attacks grew nastier. Often, he stuck not at them but around them crudely employing mana to shake up their surroundings or blast the stone around them, hoping to score a hit. Despite how stupid he looked, Makas possessed a feral cunning not inferior to any wild predator.

But nothing he did was enough and he knew it. He had already reached the point where he was covered in stings. His leg had seized on him and he could feel whatever was wrong with it fighting its way up his calf, grappling mightily with his own recovery abilities. This greatly reduced his mobility. Stamping that foot angrily, he wondered why it would not heal right. What Makas did not realise was that he had received every ounce of venom that malevenomous serpent had possessed. The sprites merely coated their weapons with poison. Plus, they were barely able to cut into his skin. The serpent, however, had pumped him full of it.

What it did know was that it was cornered and unable to make use of its strength. He was about to be the buffalo that was quartered by wolves. For the first time in a long time, Makas wished for water. A twinge of regret and nostalgia filled it at that moment but it vanished quickly because the troll did not understand it. It harboured a sentiment for streams and lakes but it did not understand why. What it did know was that if given a chance.  The little wings that surrounded it would sting it to death and it could not allow that.

Ignoring his hunger as well as the possible consequences of what he was about to do, he called on the sweet scent. The sprites couldn’t see what was happening under the surface and by the time it finally manifested physically, it would be too late.

Proudsprout could scarcely believe it. They were winning. the order of things had changed a little but they were definitely winning. Now, all they had to was wait till Echo got the remaining serpents in position. All he could do was thank the forest. He was not sure they could have held on for much longer. Sweat ran in rivulets down his face and his mana pool was close to petering out. For the first time in his life, he could feel an ache in his wings. He had underestimated the technique but soon things will be alright.

As if to spite him and his words, the troll stood upright, its mana blasting out so strongly, it kicked up a shockwave. Stunned by the force, he blinked his eyes to find the troll going through a strange transformation. The longer their battle had dragged the more the troll had shed its fae disguise. Now the opposite was happening. Its leathery skin was changing to a woody brown. Stag antlers erupted from its head. Its body thinned rapidly until a more proportionally humanoid figure could be made.

The new creature stood at one and half times the height of a man with antlers and its flesh was that of the forest. Patterns of leaves and animals could be found drawn on its skin, all aglow with faerie light. Its eyes were gems that shone with awe-inspiring brilliance and its aura was mighty and great. Each sprite present and even the ones watching through Brandr’s screen felt a weight fall on their spirits. It was the same feeling the kitten of a housecat would have if it found itself face to face with a full grown tiger. Instinctively, they could already tell. They were not facing a troll anymore but a faelord. A forest lord. Except…

The thing’s energy was revolting. Sprites and fae, in general, were sensitive to magic. The pulse of mana and the thready beat of the living was something they were very familiar with and whatever the troll had turned into was just plain wrong. It had somehow made itself multiple times more monstrous than it was before. Looking at it was akin to seeing a priceless stretch of fabric turned to rags and patched with unidentifiable hairs and pieces of skin. Proudsprout found himself reeling. A few others were unable to withstand the creature’s presence and fell from the sky.

Suddenly, the creature screamed and began to tear at itself. Its flesh was twisting, bubbling and turning in a bid to revert to what it was before. Proudsprout and the remaining sprites stared in shock as the troll scratched furrows deeper than any they had inflicted on it onto itself with its claws. They did not know it but they were witnessing the last of the fae magic or sweet scent, as Makas termed it, be consumed.

Makas let loose a long drawn out scream that rang through the tunnels. Everyone just stared in horrified fascination has it became a troll once more, this time, much larger and brawnier. Cradling his head in his hands, he looked around him in pain and confusion only this time, its eyes were not simply bestial, they were insane.

[What are you still waiting for] Brandr’s voice rang in their minds. [Withdraw!]

The warriors did not even question the order. Their wings kicked in activating the third movement of the [Blitzwing Technique] [Withdraw]. This skill was exactly like [Onrush] only, in reverse. They pumped all their mana into their wings giving them all the fuel they needed to drag them away. They could not have done so any sooner for the troll lashed out right that moment.

Despite its gruesome wounds, its mana was just as potent, perhaps even more so than when they began the battle. The muscles of its arm rippled and his claws let lose a forceful wave of mana that cut off the legs of the slowest sprite. Staring at the fleeing morsels, it bounded right after them. The burst of speed it put on was greater than anything it had displayed up until that point. Bringing its elongated arms to the ground it bounded after them like some demented ape. The abrupt change gave it even more speed in addition to scaring the leaves off the remaining sprites.

Lucky for them, just before it could catch up, the ground before it gave way and the troll fell straight in. Flailing hopelessly for a weightless second, it crashed into the pit. All it could do from that point on was instinctively close his eyes before he was impaled by the spikes that lined its bottom. As if that was not enough, a geyser of flame shot up from the base of the pit, rising so high it met the ceiling of the tunnel.

Brandr panted heavily. That had taken more out of him than he had expected. He estimated that that fire pit had cost him nearly five times its usual essence cost and that was even with him wrestling with it. As bizarre as the feeling was. It was not unfamiliar.

‘Did something just disrupt my essence flow?’ he questioned.


Author’s Notes:

Poor Makas! Something is clearly not right here. I wonder if anyone can guess what is going on.

Ignoring that for now, I bet none of you were expecting that ending. I titled the chapter fire pit not because the pit itself played a large role in it but because it was the punchline to show that Brandr could have…. {SPOILERS}

One Comment

  1. I’m going to hazard a guess that Makas accidentally met a fae lord, and assuming that it is kind to everything, tried to give Makas a blessing and ended up getting eaten. Or Makas found a fae lord sleeping and just ate him. Most my hypothesis involves Makas eating something.

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