Table of Contents
Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated; I'm just busy trying to write stuff that might actually get published, and this fell by the wayside for a bit. It will continue, though!
â€œSo, what sign exactly are we waiting for?â€ Kieran glanced over at Elena, Khory, and the three frogmen who had agreed to help them. The lake was still in the evening light, and the mist still hanging over it was almost peaceful. Still, there was a sense of foreboding hanging over everything, and Kieran couldnâ€™t help but shiver in anticipation.
â€œSomething obviousâ€¦â€ Elena sighed. â€œWeâ€™re going to raid another godâ€™s lair. How do times change so fast?â€
â€œItâ€™s not that different from what we used to do, really. Itâ€™s only that, now, theyâ€™re home.â€ Kieran chuckled at Elenaâ€™s sour expression. â€œCheer up. Weâ€™ll be fine.â€
â€œLike we were fine last time?â€ Kieranâ€™s face fell at the reminder, and Elena sighed, patting him on the shoulder. â€œNo, youâ€™re right, kid. Youâ€™re more than able to handle this sort of thing.â€
â€œSpeaking of handling, do you hear something?â€ Khory raised his hand for quiet, pointing towards the lake. For a moment, Kieran and Elena listened quietly, and then they heard it. A rushing sound, like a waterfall. Suddenly, a chunk of the lake was moving rapidly westwards, rushing away towards the forest. The watchers gaped at one another, and Khory whistled softly. â€œThatâ€™s one hell of a signal.â€
â€œSorcery, I think, and powerful. Sirrim must be stronger than I thought.â€ Kieran nodded to the frogmen. â€œLetâ€™s get going. Fast.â€
As the frogmen grabbed the three humans, towing them through the water as quickly as possible, Kieran risked watching the far shore, hoping to see something, his senses tuned to the world of spirits. He could, faintly, see elemental shapes in the fog, but little else; occasionally, flashes of silver, red, green, and blue light would shine, and he wondered what magics were being unleashed by â€“ and against â€“ Sirrim. However, the lake where the six travellers were crossing was shallow and calm, and the frogmen wasted no time in swimming towards the isle in the centre.
As they approached the island, Kieran studied it carefully. The island was rocky and barren, a hill of earth dropped in the centre of the lake, with five irregularly shaped and placed rocks scattered about. â€œWas that always there?â€
â€œNo.â€ The frogman pulling Kieran shook his head as the water level dropped, and they began to stop swimming and start wading. â€œThe island was placed with the waters.â€
â€œStrange. Itâ€™s some sort of geomantic configuration. Couldnâ€™t say what itâ€™s for, though.â€ Kieran frowned, looking around the oddly placed plinths, frowning. The frogmen stayed in the shallows, muttering to each other, as Khory and Elena walked ashore with him. â€œSome sort of warding pattern, maybe?â€
â€œNo glow.â€ Khory looked around at the rocks. â€œMust be near the middle.â€
The three moved closer to the middle of the island, glancing around. As they did so, there was a pause, and all of the rocks began to glow with faint red light. Elena blinked, looking around, and shook her head. â€œKieran. The waterâ€¦â€
Kieran looked, and cursed under his breath. The waves to the west were gathering, moving towards the island, and he could see a large water elemental, looking like a strange manlike creature riding a fish-dog, racing towards the island. â€œTheyâ€™ve spotted us. That was fast. Must be these columnsâ€¦ oh, gods above.â€ He pointed, his jaw dropping.
Embedded in the centre-most of the five columns was a squat, yellowish-red crystal, pulsing in time with the five rocks. However, in the centre of the crystal was a steady, pale blue glow. Khory studied it for a moment. â€œWhat is it?â€
â€œYasal crystal.â€ Kieran shook his head mutely. â€œThe water spirits here have imprisoned another spirit.â€
â€œAND YOU WILL NOT RELEASE IT!â€ The creature that had been racing boomed across the waves, leaping from the dog in a single, fluid arc, and landing on the rocks, its legs spreading out to cushion its fall as it raised a great spear, with a coral blade, towards Kieran. â€œYou Solar pup! We will not allow you to ruin our victory!â€
Kieran drew his daiklave with a frown. â€œKhory, get that crystal out now. Elena, backup would be lovely.â€
Elena stepped forwards, and the elemental laughed, a hollow sound. â€œPathetic mortals. You think your little blade will stop me?â€ Its arms flowed, expanding and slicing forwards, and the spear shot forwards with them. Kieran stepped into the blow, letting it cascade off his sword, as Elena circled around, aiming for a strike at the creatureâ€™s back â€“ only to be forced to leap backwards with a curse as the elementalâ€™s mount leapt from the sea, snarling and biting.
Meanwhile, Khory gritted his teeth, raised his heavy hammer in both hands, and brought it swinging with all his might towards the stone. In a shower of shards, the monolith cracked, and he swung again.
The elemental cursed, and screamed. â€œNo! You will not!â€ It raised its spear, leaping upwards again. Kieran shot out with his daiklave, slamming it crosswise into the creature, and sending it flying backwards.
â€œIgnore me at your peril, elemental.â€ His anima flickered around him, and the elemental gasped. â€œI am a Chosen of the Sun, and I will stop this unjust action you are taking!â€
â€œImpossible! Not so soon! We werenâ€™t readyâ€¦â€ The elemental clenched its teeth. â€œI will destroy you!â€ It leapt forwards in a blur of motion, spear flying left, right, and forwards all at once, and Kieran was forced to step backwards as blows rained down upon him. Two struck home, one leaving a line of blood along his jaw and the second stabbing into his side and bringing a gasp of pain. Kieran gritted his teeth, spinning his sword into an arc of golden light that sent the elemental, in its turn, staggering backwards.
â€œA lot of people seem to be saying that lately.â€ Off to one side, Elena delivered a vicious blow to the monstrous dog, sending it whimpering back towards the water, and Kieran pressed forwards again. Past the elemental, he saw more spirits coming. â€œNone of them beat me. Maybe youâ€™re the one who should be considering his fate.â€
At that moment, Khoryâ€™s hammer cracked the central column with a resounding crash, and he slammed it into the Yasal crystal. To his dismay, it didnâ€™t even give, although the rock around it did, sending the crystal falling unharmed to the ground. â€œKieran, I canâ€™t hurt this thing!â€
â€œI can!â€ Kieran glanced backwards for a moment as Elena stepped forwards towards the two combatants again. â€œSend it this way! And hurry!â€ The host of water spirits was getting closer; far off, on the beach, he could still make out the flickering lights of battle, and he knew that Sirrim wouldnâ€™t be coming in pursuit.
Khory nodded, scooping up the crystal, and, reaching back, hurled in through the air. Kieran spun, taking three steps and running up one of the columns, spinning backwards in the air as he brought his daiklave around towards the crystal, light blazing forth from him and running down the length of the sword, causing it to flare with brilliance. Seeing an opening, the spirit grinned, letting water flow from its body down the length of its blade, and thrusting forwards simultaneously with impossible speed. There was a sickening thud.
And then Kieranâ€™s sword hit the crystal, sailing through the air, and in a blaze of gold, red, and airy blue, it shattered. Landing, Kieran spun towards the elemental, and his eyes widened.
Elena winced as she slid off the spear. â€œSorryâ€¦ kidâ€¦â€ She coughed as the elemental scowled, raising the spear to finish her as she fell back, blood staining the stones. Kieran started to run forwards, but knew he was already too late.
And then the spear stopped, inches from Elenaâ€™s throat. The water elemental roared with frustration as Kieran skidded to a halt, eyes wide. â€œWho dares?â€
â€œI do.â€ The elementalâ€™s hand went slack, and its eyes widened. Across the water, the advancing host was skidding to a stop, falling over itself in its haste to get away. Turning, the elemental looked up.
The fourteen-foot tall bear, its fur white like snow with hints of blue, glared down at the elemental, a surprisingly human hand holding the coral spear firmly. â€œWe need to talk.â€