A Quest to Save
Part 33 of Quest
~ ~ ~
Scouts reach for the sky.
Beat their wings to fly up high.
See a battle joined…
~ ~ ~
Chero shot upwards past the enchanted
forest’s screen to rarified air above.
Ahead antenna quive–no mantid
praying as it rests amid the foxglove.
An insectoid head rises, turns this way
and that seeking but not finding its prey.
Anasril broke through budding leaves and stays
hovering beside him. She sees no way
two as small as they can best that creature.
She turns brave eyes to Chero; with a nod,
they fly at cloud height–two small lights venture
into a field of stars–nothing to prod
the Undeem creature to look for a fight
amid the constellation’s wheel that night.
~ ~ ~
Hen’s on his own now; he’ll have to bide. Anasril glanced back to where they had parted ways one last time. Branches, some budding, some not, met her gaze as it skimmed the crowns of Enchanted Trees. She’d done her duty, saved his life and then helped to rescue the baby the Undeem had kidnapped. Her quest was finished, except for this one last piece. One of the Undeem had helped them escape from their plane and now her screams rent the night’s quiet, silencing all the forest’s usual sounds.
Anasril steeled herself. After this, she and Chero would go home, back to the field where starlight mingled with wards that kept the Undeem out. Back to their small lives where they belonged.
“What’s the plan?” Anasril asked, half afraid of the answer.
Chero remained quiet, studying the scene, taking in the scale of things. He watched the insect’s head dip down and then rise up to top the forest before dropping down again. So far no pattern emerged for its odd behavior. As they closed in, another scream disrupted the quiet. It sounded like a wounded beast dying. He poured on more speed but couldn’t spot the screamer amid night’s blanketing darkness.
They were gnats flying,
arrowing towards certain doom,
to save her un-life.
Chero’s spider wriggled around in the pack on his back and he had to concentrate to keep her antics from sending him off course. That left no room for planning, not that he needed a plan. The Undeem had one flaw he might be able to exploit if he could get close enough.
Or not–that giant centipede the Undeem had fused into looked impenetrable though it couldn’t be. The Undeem had no solidity, just a crude facsimile limited in scope. Next to that creature of soul-sucking death, he and Anasril were gnats easily swatted or swallowed by the jaws clacking closed.
On the ground, near to but not directly in front of the creature bumbling around, the Undeem maiden from the sunken palace writhed and howled a soul-tearing scream. A misty figure crouched on her chest and held her down. In that half-visible face, mania gleamed in its eyes.
An image pushed itself to the forefront of his mind and he dove, smiling at his pet spider’s request. Anasril followed his lead, questions in her eyes. His pet answered them by hopping onto the attacker’s shoulder and biting it. Anasril tossed fairy dust in that evil queen’s eyes.
Chero caught his spider, who wrapped all eight of her appendages around his torso, just before the apparition of the screaming Undeem Queen vanished. He fought for altitude with Anasril keeping pace beside him. They dodged the centipede’s flailing legs.
~ ~ ~
My mind is my own.
Darkness can’t smote its ruins.
Get out of my head!
Undreal held fast to the image of a city in ruins–her mind–weathered by uncounted years of mind control, but not broken. Its foundations remained strong, unbroken by the Undeem Queen, her former mistress, battering it. They would not break; she would not break. Not so long as she held that baby’s tiny hand. Through his hand that gripped her thumb, light entered through a crack throwing its radiance into a place that had long been without it. It illuminated everything–all her hopes and fears–each thing she had kept locked in the rooms of her mental city.
A scream not her own…
It signaled her victory.
She’d won the battle.
The deluge stopped; the black tide receded leaving Undreal alone in her mind, and free. She blinked eyes that were more phantasm than reality and stared at the two balls of light that pulsed with life as they rose, fighting for sky. But it couldn’t be…they had left her…
~ ~ ~
Henneth reached the fight and pulled up short as a white blur that glowed shot in front of him. It rotated until its hilt faced him; its grip invited his hand to wrap around its supple leather.
“You’re meant for heroes–
Blest hands with good tempered hearts–
not a plain man’s hand.”
Henneth tried to go around the levitating sword but it moved with him keeping its hilt at the level of his eye. The jewel in its pommel winked once, then the blade shot forwards, impaling itself in the giant centipede’s body. The creature writhed, flinging its component Undeem free so that they rained down on Henneth. Their touch leeched his soul–his light–dimming it.
His breath caught in his chest and his limbs grew heavy. The Guardian blade flashed into view, its hilt facing him. He just had to grasp it. Forcing fingers that felt filled with concrete to wrap around that hilt, he felt life flood back into his arm. The Undeem’s thieving continued as he swung the sword in an awkward arc, introducing its gleaming blade to the Undeem stealing his lifeforce. The blade sliced through shadow severing the Undeem’s arm, which once parted, fell to the ground releasing Henneth. How much had it stole? An hour? A day? A year off his life?
Seeing more Undeem shake off their disorientation from the violent parting from that monstrous fusion, he fled. He ran back to where he had left that baby alone. Each step he took became a prayer winging its way towards the baby.
Let me be in time.
Let the demons not find him!
O God, save the child!
~ ~ ~
Undreal picked up the baby, her savior.
The stars still wheeled overhead, obscured now
by trees that no longer bent to heaven’s choir.
In deference to that divine light, they’d bowed.
As they straightened up, the column of light
that’d brought the child to her switched off, leaving
darkness that’s deeper for that absent light.
All around her Undeem fell, some shrieking,
others in rage that turned their falls to dives.
Their queen had lost control of her monster.
Her will didn’t enforce their cohesive drive.
They reverted to revenant monsters.
Black pits that served as eyes held a ravenous
hunger for the ‘lil life she held in trust.
~ ~ ~
Run, chased by demons.
Safeguard the child in your arms.
You hold salvation.
~ ~ ~
To be continued in A Quest on the Run.
~ ~ ~
Due to the anniversary of my sister’s death on 2/22, sections of Curse Breaker: Enchanted, Vol. 1 will be published Saturday thru Monday in memory of my sister.
For my sister –
Too soon death stopped you.
Too many days left unlived.
Too much left unsaid.