Phoenix In Shadow – Chapter 02

Chapter 2.

Down!” Kyri shouted.

Tobimar reacted just in time; the huge serpent’s venom sprayed above his head, striking the grass and bushes behind them, almost instantly turning them gray and brittle. “Terian and Chromaias!”

If that struck him, he could be killed! Not that getting hit by the thing’s immense teeth or caught by coils the thickness of a strong man’s thigh would be any better, but the virulence of the poison stunned her.

Also somewhat stunning was the pain in her heart at the thought of Tobimar dying. She was aware that this was something she should think about, should understand – but this was not the time.

The green-black monster’s head swayed back uncannily fast, evading Flamewing’s strike, then lunged forward; its teeth, in turn, rebounded from the Raiment of the Phoenix, and drops of venom dribbled harmlessly down and away. Still, the impact sent her tumbling away, a shock of pain echoing through her frame. It’s even stronger than I thought. And I thought a fifty-foot snake would be awfully strong.

Tobimar took a twin cut at the creature, distracting it from Kyri momentarily, but the monster’s scales rippled and deflected most of the force of the blow; what should have been crippling wounds became mere scratches. It slewed around and sprayed more venom at him, but the Skysand Prince anticipated the move and leapt over the downward-slanting spray.

Then the gray, dead bush reached out and grasped Tobimar.

Kyri charged forward, even as part of her stared in disbelief. The bush became its servant upon death? What monstrous thing is this?

The monster was forced to turn away from Tobimar at the last moment or have Flamewing’s blazing blade take its head, but now Tobimar was struggling in earnest. The hideous corruption in Rivendream Pass is worse than I imagined. I never thought of anything such as this. Poplock, where are you?

“Come forth, Son of Fire, and consume our enemies!” shouted a voice from somewhere in the greenery.

A glittering little red crystal flew out and shattered, expanding into a low, squat, four-legged sinuous form that was formed of pure white flame. “Ssssooo it sssshall be,” it hissed, a voice of water striking white-hot steel, and lunged at the huge serpent.

Astonishingly, the monster’s scales were at least partially proof against fire as well, for though it let loose a steam kettle whistle of pain and rage at the salamander’s attack, it did not appear terribly burned.

But it had reflexively turned towards the source of pain, and that gave Kyri the opening she had sought. Flamewing streaked out and around, a meteor and lightning bolt in one, and with a terrific impact the titanic greatsword sheared clean through the serpent. She leapt back to clear the thing’s death-throes, and the salamander scrambled up and down the twisting coils, directing its flames and reducing the corpse to ash. It then bobbed in her direction and in the direction of the voice from the bushes, and vanished in a puff of smoke.

“Well, drought, Kyri!” the little toad said plaintively as he emerged from the bushes. “If I’d known you were going to kill it that fast I might have saved him for another time.”

She shook her head with a grin. “It was that distraction that permitted the blow, o most cautious of Toads.” She looked to Tobimar, who was now standing; the gray bush had fallen apart once its master was slain. “Are you all right, Tobimar?”

“Not… entirely.”

She saw grayish trails across his cheeks and hands; fortunately the thing’s tendrils had not reached the eyes. “Hold still.”

She called upon Myrionar’s power as she touched her friend. The power came, golden light that erased gray, eased pain, restored strength and health.

But she felt resistance this time – both from the dead grayness, a pushing and denial that tried to shunt the power of the God of Justice and Vengeance away, prevent it from touching the parts of Tobimar it had claimed, and from outside, as though Myrionar were more distant. She set her jaw and drove her will against the grayness, and it shattered, passing into darkness like that which she sensed all around, and then dispersing.

The strain on her face did not escape Tobimar’s observation; one of his greatest talents was to see that which others hid, she’d noticed. “That was harder than usual, I see.”

She straightened and nodded, looking around warily. “Yes. We were warned it would be.”

She remembered how they’d finally decided it was time… A bright day, a good day, a day when things seemed right…