Table of Contents
Last scene of the penultimate chapter. Whee!
Blue Skulking Bear roared in frustration, looking out over the ruined city, and then turned to the others. The group had moved quickly as the spirit began his pursuit, but his need to reduce himself to a more manageable size had given the Abyssals time to flee, and they had taken full advantage of it â€“ leaving the zombies behind for a final distraction, they had escaped from the tunnels and disappeared.
Nia spoke softly, looking out across the water. â€œThey wonâ€™t be gone for long. And when they return, it will be with the forces that they need to take me back with them.â€
â€œLet them come.â€ Blue Skulking Bear let out another roar, and the winds began to shift. â€œI do not fear the Dead.â€ He shifted into his largest form, flexing his claws as the sky clouded over and thunder began to roll. â€œThe Hunt will not return soon enough to trouble us, and they will not last long against my huraka.â€
Kieran sighed. â€œMaster Skulking Bear, we have in our possession knowledge that could destroy the Deathlords forever. Their servants will not want that knowledge revealed.â€
For a moment, it seemed that Skulking Bear was fazed, and then he grinned even more widely. â€œDo you? And this is why you need to reach that island?â€
â€œIt is.â€ Kieran bowed again, and looked at his friends, who followed his lead. â€œI canâ€™t tell you any more.â€
â€œWell, then. Madam, tell me where this island is, and I will form you transport long before those cowards can assemble anything.â€
Nia sat, and began to talk with Skulking Bear, as the others waited. The sky continued to rumble, and the winds spun and spiralled; one by one, it took the form of great bears like Seven Winds Dancing, each stepping forwards to bow to the Wind Master before taking up a position in the valley. Dancing himself appeared, grinning widely, and caught Elena up in a hug before bowing to the others.
â€œI knew my faith in you was not misplaced! Thank you, so much!â€ Elena laughed, slipping out of his arms, and bowed.
â€œIt was our pleasure to set things right, my friend. And you helped us â€“â€ She broke off, staring at the ridge. â€œUmâ€¦ Master Skulking Bear?â€
Everyoneâ€™s attention turned. The horizon was growing dark, and the stars were spreading across the sky. Skulking Bear growled, deep in his throat. â€œIt is not nightfall for hours. What dark sorcery is this?â€
â€œI have a feeling weâ€™re about to find out.â€ Sirrim gestured, pointing to the rim of the valley, where thousands of war ghosts and zombies were forming. Standing in front of them was the lady in the veils, her arms raised, dark Essence pouring from her into the sky and turning it as black as night. Twice-Forged Steel stepped forwards, flanked by four more people â€“ a woman dressed in little more than tattered robes, her skin touched with plague and her eyes burning with fervor, another encased in bone and soulsteel, claws protruding and her expression dead, a man standing seven feet tall, his goremaul tipped with a grinning skull, and the last seeming neither male nor female, but a grotesque parody of both, with neither breasts nor crotch visible under its funeral robes, wielding a powerbow that seemed forged from a single monstrous tusk. Steel raised his voice, which carried across the valley.
â€œLetâ€™s try this again, shall we? Hand over the girl, or we destroy everything!â€
â€œTAKE HER, IF YOU CAN!â€ Skulking Bear gestured to Kieran. â€œTake your companions and stand together. I will send you to where you need to be, and then we will deal with this pathetic excuse for an army.â€
Sirrim stepped forwards, as the dead began to pour over the valley rim, practically flying towards the assembled spirits. Lightning flashed and thunder rolled as hundreds of huraka began to take action, their breath sending zombies flying. â€œKieran, I must stay here and fight with the wind court. Be well. Iâ€™m sure that we will meet again, when your mission is complete.â€
â€œWe should stay and â€“â€ Elenaâ€™s words were cut off by Skulking Bear, who shook his head.
â€œYOUR MISSION IS MORE IMPORTANT STILL. WE CAN DEAL WITH THIS, AND WE CANNOT AFFORD THE RISK OF LOSING YOU. I WILL EXPECT TO SEE YOU AT MY FORTRESS WHEN YOU ARE FINISHED, ELENA WINDWALKER. WE HAVE MUCH TO DISCUSS.â€
Impulsively, Nia stepped forwards. She reached into her robes, pulling out a small pouch. Opening it, she dropped three seeds into one hand, tucking them away, and handed the pouch to Skulking Bear. â€œHere. These may help. They heal people, places, and things.â€
Skulking Bear grinned more widely, and patted Nia on the head. She staggered, but managed a smile. â€œKHASAS SEEDS! A RARE GIFT, INDEED â€“ MANY THANKS, I WILL USE THEM WELL!â€ His smile turned fierce, and he raised his arms; the wind picked up the four companions, spinning them into the air. â€œNOW GO!â€
Clouds formed around the four, and they began to pick up speed. A few stray arrows flew their way, only to be brushed aside by the torrential winds. As they flew away, Kieran saw Skulking Bear smashing his way through the army towards the Abyssals, with Sirrim and Seven Winds Dancing at his side, and held his hands together. â€œSun, watch over them in this fight to come. Let them surviveâ€¦â€
And then the cloud had carried them beyond the battlefield, and there was nothing to do but hope, and wait. Soon, they would reach the end of their journey. Soon, they would reach Mokrelus.