“This is ridiculous,” Malick said. As he noticed the trees changed and knew that Rylah could hear him. “Do I really need to hike for an hour before you bring me here?
“I’d rather none of your Wicken brothers found me.” Rylah said. “Plus the exercise is healthy, tell, what happened when your monks met?”
“We discussed the means in which Hell may have managed this in great lengths. They also speculated on how the Trinity may do the same.”
“No, that was just the first hour. They’ll pray for what it’s worth. We are keeping up many of our same patrols, but our focus is Tarabel.”
Rylah knew that Malick was being intentionally vague. She also didn’t care. “So, why the trip out here this time? To talk to me about prayer?”
“The monks are sending a hundred of us to the northern coast,” Malick said.
“A hundred? There are a hundred Wicken Men?” Rylah asked.
“We have several hundred, but that’s almost the entire force, young and old, at the Monastery,” Malick answered.
“Well, I’ll keep my distance. You’ll be easy to track,” She said.
“You’ll keep a generous distance; I can’t help you if you’re caught.”
“I’ll manage,” She said.
“Is that Fae?” Malick found himself noticing he greenish yellow fire that warmed her camp.
“No smoke,” She said. “And it makes my magic stronger.”
“What kind of magic can you do?”
Corteal watched as other Faeries struggle, hindered by the constricting brush, as he had been earlier. He saw a young Faery who would not make it. He had let the branches wrap around his throat. He would not die quickly, Corteal feared. It would be death too for a Faery to exit the Greened Sanctuary before a Calling was completed. Not all Faeries would answer its call. Some’s minds had been taken too far with corruption.
Sensing that enough had arrived Corteal flew towards the center of the massive egg shaped clearing in the brush. It offered up green foliage that glowed ever so faintly. He felt the air grow denser as the essence of the place became aware of him. Corteal offered it his memories.
The Faeries who had entered the Calling became aware at once of Corteal’s gift. A diversity of insect wings hummed with intensity, some anger, some fear, some both. Many of those here were ancient and remembered the life of an Arae.
“He will be dead!”
“He is alone, we can kill him.”
“Tear off his wings then tie them back on with his intestines!”
The opinions were varied, but the Faeries were clearly stirred. The usually soft crowd was full of words in this Calling. Corteal drifted away from the center but not towards the edge.
“We know where he is,” Corteal said. “The Fae is strong on that Island. We can beat him there.”
“I’m sure you think so,” a fellow ancient faery said to him. His name was Naro. “Do you remember Tarabel on the battle field? Before he was turned? He was magnificent, he could not die!”
“He is turned now, weaker,” a clear wasp-winged faery said. “He’ll die now!” She yelled
“Are you sure?” Naro fluttered his large moth wings to confront the speaker.
“Yes,” Corteal said. “Something is shifting and we cannot allow it to be the second coming of Hell!”
“You do that, Corteal,” Sophia, a blue butterfly winged faery, said. “I’m not ready to fight for the mortal, the Fae is strong.”
“Damn the Mortal, I want to kill Tarabel!”
Cheers of affirmation wrung through the Faeries…
The small Wicken army marched north. Malick rode on the edge of it. He needed oxygen. Rylah’s demonstration from the night before still flashed vividly just behind his vision. When his eyes closed from exhaustion the hallucinations came back strong and he would shoot awake.
Malick cursed her to damnation yet another time as he tried to clear his head. He hadn’t imagined that she could be so strong. She had claimed it was a basic mind game her brother and her used to play, and since Malick was acclimated to the Fae she was able to pull him in. Riddles, Demons, puzzles, puzzles made from demons, and an encounter with a dozen twisted Faeries. Malick didn’t like that he could remember dying.
“Holding up, Amora?” Malick heard Meyhill say as he rode up behind him.
“Are you?” Malick asked Meyhill. He didn’t look overly healthy himself.
“Amora, I want nothing to do with Tarabel,” Meyhill said. “I had to drink myself to sleep last night.”
“Well, I didn’t have to do that,” Malick said. “But I didn’t sleep easy either.”
“Hopefully this will just be a cold trip to the beach,” Meyhill said. “I’m going to go find Edipen. I should make sure he doesn’t desert.”
Morale in the march could be summed up as nervous. Malick was happy they hadn’t arrived any later than they had. Through the eyes of the Wicken they could perceive the mass of energies at war, an unperceivable distance off the coast.
Before dark they’d fortified the beaches and raised effigies and burned fires to diminish the opposing powers. It was during a dark hour before sunrise that the first boats appeared.
Corteal flew through the rift into the mortal. He broke free of the flow of Faeries and ascended above the island city. The Fae had been long repressed by this place, but the repression had angered the Fae and made the connection strong. The Faeries were nearly as powerful as they would have been in the Fae.
Some Faeries hunted for Tarabel. Some of them just hunted any who would oppose them in the streets. Fire began once again in Steillina. Corteal felt Tarabel’s power swell and knew at once where he was, as did a hundred other Faeries.
Tarabel ascended above the city drawing most the Faeries. His aura was fire. His black and white eagle’s wings where twice as large as any Faeries. His sword burned. His shield drank the light.
Corteal conjured his spear and charged in with the Faery swarm for his chance at the fallen Arae. Faeries died in mass but their strikes found homes and soon the still numerous swarm hovered hungry but cautious around the blood soaked monster. His eyes burned – white hot.
Corteal threw his spear. Tarabel raised his sheild to absorb the weapon. Corteal darted from the swarm and called the weapon back to him. Now closer to Tarabel he threw the weapon with more force. It punched through Tarabels right wing. Corteal called the weapon back. Tarabel rushed at him. The weakened creature missed Corteal’s spell and cut through a cloudy image of the Faery.
Corteal, now behind Tarabel, slid his spear through the back of Tarabel’s rib cage slicing through Tarabel’s heart. Corteal swiftly fluttered backwards as Tarabel turned to slice at him. Corteal called his spear back and blood purred out of the poor creature like a fountain. He collapsed to his knees but would not die.
Hell left Tarabel’s eyes. His aura vanished. His sword was just a sword. His shield was just a shield. His wings were just white, speckled with black. He was just an Arae. The Faeries began to leave. There was no desire to kill this creature.
Corteal left last, when he was certain what was left of Tarabel wouldn’t die. He felt guilt. He felt remorse, as if some terrible act had been committed. The sun rose on a largely empty city. Many had fled in the night. Corteal watched some now, as they watched him, as they watched their fallen deity. Corteal left then. It was as easy as turning a corner here to return to his home.
Rylah watched from Hospin’s perspective as the Wicken Men easily threw off or quarantined the Landing parties fleeing the fallen island city. Malick handled himself well and got through that morning relatively unscathed. She had been tempted to feel joy. The Faeries had taken care of Tarabel.
She was on edge though, and she knew why. She placed Cyrah into the Fae as close to Mount Dansu as she could. She climbed a rock formation in the field of tall grass for and easy view of the mountain and the gate.
They opened. Slowly, but they were opening. Behind them was just darkness as far as Cyrah could discern. There was a voice, deep, indiscernible. Cyrah saw motion. Five creatures walked from the gates. The first was tall and lean, dark skinned, with large leathery wings. She held a long blades and slender spear. The blade its self was longer than a man. Behind her came a taller, scaly, human shaped, creature. Its wings were like the first creature but larger. Its scaled skin was light except for its head which was like a dark fury insects complete with pincers. Behind them walked three massive Draegon. The gates began to close.
They spoke briefly then flew off. Rylah tasked Cyrah to do her best to track them. She returned to her own senses inside her camp. It had only gotten worse was all she thought. She gave Hospin a message for Malick. Belragh was in the Fae.