This time I wake up to somebody hitting me. I open my eyes, trying to remember what happened, only to get a feeling of pure terror. I don’t know why, but right now I feel like curling up in a fetal position and dying.
Another slap to the face snaps me out of it. Felmier is sitting near me, trying to shake me free. He regained consciousness and seems to be ok. I look to the side and see Flaer, unconscious, but healed. Her form is nude, her clothes have been burned away. She is still a little kid essentially, so I find some of my clothes I stashed away before and put them on her. My cloak should do fine job protecting her for the moment. Good thing I put it in my backpack.
While I’m moving around, Felmier looks a little panicky. His face shows fear and he gestures me to be quiet. I nod to him and he points his finger up, out of the crater. I wanted to mention the anomalies, but strangely there are only a few. About twenty meters up, there are many of them, each crackling with energy, ready to strike at us, but nearby all of them were gone. I come closer to the elf and whisper to him.
“Hey, what happened?”
“When I woke up, you were shaking, screaming silently in pain. You were in agony and I couldn’t do anything. The anomalies were unraveling around us, turning into the darkness and going into your abdomen. It glowed blue for some reason and around us more space opened up. Sadly, now many monsters are around us, trying to get to us. One of the smaller ones got through already, but I put it down.”
Elf pointed a finger at a fish monster. It looked like a morlock, it’s eyes big and blind, skin pale. It had fins instead of ears and on its back and had webbed fingers and toes.
I peak out of the crater and see that behind the anomalies surrounding us, there are various monsters. Some of them look like the morlock that was lying nearby, others look like dogs or cats. There is one big monster, which is basically a giant brain with a single eye and many tentacles hanging down. I think they are often called beholders. It looks at me and I feel shiver running down my spine, the single eye unnerving me. I feel like panicking.
I quickly duck back down. I can’to let it look at me. Quickly going her Flaer, I check her condition. She is breathing, although somewhat shallow. Her pulse is stable, her wounds healed from my blood. Good thing she is unconscious, I wouldn’t be able to handle her otherwise, not in this place.
I sit down and try turning into a fox. The sphere in my stomach seems to be stopping me. I look at it and it has changed a little. The fleshy parts are now light blue color, like my blood instead of red. In there I feel energy swirling. The darkness it absorbed turned into power for me. I concentrate and absorb it, leaving not a drop behind. Emptied, it stays the same color, but stops glowing. Now I can turn into other forms.
With my senses enhanced, I can feel my surrounding. A meter from the edge of the crater everything is safe, but going out, the anomalies create a maze of some sort. I try to map it out and it looks fine to get out, but I won’t be able to see the edges of each danger, so I will have to use something. Without the lamia, dust and stones are as good as anything. And I do have my tail.
I get close to the elf and speak to him quietly.
“Do you know the monsters out there?”
“I only seen a couple of them. What did you see?”
“There were the morlocks, dog monsters and big cats. All of them looked strong, but they were not attacking each other. There was also a big brain with tentacles.”
“Damn it. The brain is bad, everything else is cannon fodder. It controls them to attack others or does a direct mind attack. Without long range weapons we are as good as toast against it. It will control us to eat us later.”
“I don’t know about that. It looked at me, but I felt nothing.”
“It can’t get through the anomalies. Once we are out, it will take us.”
“I am sure I am immune. But for you and Flaer it will be dangerous. Let’s see. You will take Flaer and carry her, I will go at the front. When we are about to get out, you will stay within the anomalies until I dispose of the brain monster, then you follow me and we walk back to the camp. It was still intact last I saw it.”
Elf doesn’t say anything, just silently nods. Good, I don’t need to convince him of doing anything. I pick up Flaer, make sure the cloak covers her completely and hand her over. Then we start making our way out. Throwing around pebbles would be too slow, so I extend my tail in front of me and use it to judge where the danger is. Most of the time I can feel it without actually poking an anomaly, but sometimes I have to stick it in and get shocked or pulled. Good think these ones have been weakened by me sucking out their energy in my delirium.
We make our way through and the monsters outside become restless. They are on the opposite end of the field, trying to get to us. The brain become ballsy and sends his posse after us. Some of them immediately get ripped apart, but others make it through. About half run around the crater, trying to catch us on the other end of the field. Their monster senses are suited for living in this environment, they must have some detectors, they are already at the center, where the crater is. This is bad, if they catch Felmier, I won’t be able to help much.
We walk and crawl, trying to get through. After few minutes we come to a place with a few meter wide open area. I let the elf rest while making my way back slightly. There I start feeding the anomalies with darkness, making them grow, closing the way to us. This should stall the monsters. I walk out of those anomalies and come back to where Felmier is.
We continue our way out of the anomalies. The field is giant, perhaps hundreds of meters, but further you walk from the crater, fewer anomalies there are. It seems that we were the target of the release, the darkness trying to retaliate for me breaking the anomaly. Or perhaps it wanted to see me. I remember the sensation before I passed out the first time. Something looked at me…
The thought makes me twitch, making me feel very uneasy. Now is not the time. We get far enough from the crater that anomalies are far enough from one another to not be create tight corridors. Some distance away the monsters that were running around the center. Here that can easily catch us. We need to get rid of the beholder. I lead on, hoping to create some distance, but it is of no use. Those monsters are better suited for this environment.
I find a pocket of tightly packed weak anomalies and lead Felmier there. I give him Feldrazil and tell him to guard himself. He should be able to fight, seeing how there is little space for monsters to maneuver.
I walk out if it and look for the brain monster. He is using some of the morlocks as the way to bypass the anomalies, leading them in front of him. He is about twenty meters away. I should be able to kill him quickly.
I get ready for the confrontation, it shouldn’t take long for me to kill him, but as I am waiting, I hear elf shouting at me.
“Master Zern, help me. Please help.”
I turn around and see that Flaer is being pulled into the anomaly. Oh god, what happened? I can’t let Flaer die. I won’t forgive myself. I dash towards them, trying to avoid the anomalies and get close. The elf is fighting against the dangerous entity trying to pull the dragon girl into the center. I get there in time and pull her out, but she falls outside of our little safety pocket. Felmier is on the ground, the sword is beside him. I make sure Flaer is ok and turn to the elf. He seems ok, just tired from all this nonsense. I understand him.
I stand up but someone hits my back very hard. In my back a couple of claws are buried. I spin around, trying to counter attack, but it’s Flaer, her eyes closed. The brain monster must have gotten to her. Damnit. I have to kill him.
I try to pin her down, but she dashes out of the way and towards the elf. It wouldn’t be hard if I wanted to kill her, but I am trying to not harm her. She was about to kill the elf, but stops just short of him. It seems the control doesn’t reach that far, the brain can’t make her kill him. Instead, she grabs the sword and turns towards me.
Without the runes it is just a sword, shouldn’t be too hard for me. In fact, I don’t have to fight her at all, I need to kill the brain. But I can’t just charge at him, it won’t have much problem sending the girl into the swirling death around us. I need her safe first.
I charge at her, my arms and tail ready to grab her. I doubt she can do serious damage to me, the wound she inflicted almost healed already. Just to make it easier, I change into my wolf form, utilizing the extra speed. I get close to her, but she swings the sword, trying to cut me. I dodge it and go in, but she ducks down, dodging my arms.
She then uses her own tail to try and pierce me. Her power is impressive, the transformation made her much stronger. I grab her tail with my own, stopping it completely. Holding onto her tail, I drag her closer to me. Not able to escape, she begins her own attack, swinging the sword around. I try to stop it, hoping to catch her wrist, but she makes it hard.
Standing very close, we do this back and forth fighting with me trying to disarm her. I can’t hurt her, she has already been through enough. Damn, why can’t I use magic, it would make it so easy.
Deciding to use an old trick, I use my forearm to take the hit from the sword. This time my bones are harder than the last time, stopping the sword before it cuts through. Loosing the weapon, I quickly hit her wrist which holds the sword, making her release her grasp on it. With a move of my arm, I throw the sword aside and pick up Flaer, bringing her to the elf. I drop her beside him, making the brain monster loose his grasp on her.
Damn thing gave me a hard time. I am angry and I want to rip the stupid brain apart. I walk out of the safety pocket and run towards the brain. It applies its mind magic on me, tickling my brain, but it is powerless against me. It then sends some of its puppets against me, hoping to stall me. I decimate them with a few swipes of my claws, dropping the bodies around me. Within few seconds I kill off the monsters that were with the brain and get close enough to grab it.
I push my arm into the tentacles, hoping to grab onto something. Any tentacle would be fine, but I actually reach the spine of the monster. It must have been something else before becoming this monstrosity.
I pick it up, ignoring any attempts of escape. Engulfing myself in black fire I walk towards a nearby anomaly. It panics, trying to get out of my grasp, wiggling its tentacles. Ah, scared now you shit.
When I walk into an anomaly, it ignored me, but begins working on the monster. This is a different one from the last time, instead of pulling towards the center, it begins spinning the air around. The tentacles of the monster are being sucked towards the left as it is slightly off the center. The power is very strong, the filthy appendages actually ripping off of it. I hold it like that for a while, feeding my black flames to it. The anomaly grows in strength, making it more extreme.
After a few minutes, the brain seems close to death, bleeding dark red blood. I release it to spin in the middle of the scary thing. After a few seconds, the forces on the body are so extreme front, it rips apart, pieces of flesh flying off.
I don’t stay any longer. I quickly walk out of the dangerous twister, scared to make it fold into an artifact. I don’t want to risk another release just yet.
The two I left in the pocket seem fine. I get to them and see if there are any injuries. Thankfully they are both uninjured. I breath a sigh of relief. Thinking of taking a short break, my thoughts stop once I see some bright flashes off to the side. Within an anomaly, whatever remains of Feldrazil is fighting against the damned thing. Damn it. I must have flung it too hard.
The blade is all crunched up, the runes are glowing, trying to protect the blade. The anomaly sends electricity and flames at the metal, trying to defeat it. King Robert said something about the blade being the best one under the skies or something. Such a pity it was crushed in a stupid anomaly.
Looking at it, I am thinking about taking it out, but before I can do anything, the vortex of energy folds into another artifact, with lightning and fire and the blade all inside it. Resulting stone is very deformed, transparent but beautiful. It looks like lightning and fire have been frozen in amber. Crunched up Feldrazil is also inside it. It’s a weird stone. I pick it up and bring it with us.
I pick up Flaer and carry her forward. The monsters have been killed, it should be safe now. The elf walks behind me, exhausted but happy to be alive. He follows my every step, making sure not to get sucked in by any of the dangerous things around us.
After twenty minutes we get far enough that anomalies become rare. There are at least a few meters between each one and even Felmier can detect them like that. We walk on towards the camp. After another ten minutes we come across what seems to be the remains of the ward. A bonfire and some tents, with a magic formation and a crystal. I can’t activate it and neither can the elf. We walk on.
When we get about hundred meters away, somebody runs out of the bush towards us. Three people come running. There aren’t any anomalies between us, so they get to us safely.
The three people are ones of the five mages who were here previously. Once the release happened, they hid after monsters attacked. Two of them died, but these ones survived.
Amongst them was a young dragon boy, an anthropomorphic cat and an orc. Each one wears some kind of robes and has a staff or wand. Good at magic, but can’t fight monsters without back up. I don’t bother talking, only motioning them to follow.
We walk silently, witnessing the devastation and the death that came here. Without the ward, the darkness has seeped further, letting monsters and anomalies to appear here. The camp was defending itself against them, but they were able to secure the area.
When we walk close to the camp, I see Meriden walking around with a sword, covered in blood and having a couple of cuts on her. Mercissa is also there, with claws on her hands, ready to fight. I get close and they try talking to me but I just walk past them into the camp. I get everyone to the healer, hoping to get everyone treated. Flaer and the elf, as well as the group we picked up are all left there and I walk away.
Silently I walk toward my tent, trying to get away. Out of danger, I feel very unnerved, their eyes looking at me. I need to rest, my mind is too exhausted. With all the danger, the worry for others and the hallucinations, my mind is very tired, slowly going numb. This is hard. I plop onto some furs and close my eyes, hoping to forget this day.