Monday, November 19, 2018

The Shalafae Archives - War Elemental

They sat on the hill overlooking the warrior camp, studying their target. "Kongar hasn't moved all day," Elthanael murmured, leaning closer to the hybrid. She nodded, sniffing the hot winds that breezed past them. Being in the desert made her want to fly and hunt, and forget all about her duties to Lord Shalafae.

Kill first, then fly. It was difficult for the woman to keep her mind focused as the sun beat down on them. "But he's there. He's waiting for us."

Elthanael spat, caressing the hilt of his sword. "We could just go in there."

"Tent's shielded. I already tried to phase in, but this is the closest I could get."

"Explains why we're way out here." He chuckled. "How 'bout you just light them all on fire, and I'll get Kongar when he comes out. Then we get the hell out of here before that Chaos storm arrives."

Morrigana slowly nodded her head. A few centuries of partnership, yet it felt like they'd been together forever. She was pleased to have someone she could trust to watch her back; coming on assassination missions was well beneath her father's notice.

"Dragonfire should convince his mercenaries he's not worth protecting," she mused. Kongar had stolen from her father, then attempted to hide. Unfortunately for the petty thief, there were few places to hide from the Shalafaes, and fewer swords-for-hire that would stand up against them.

"And you get to fly," he said, patting her shoulder. "I'll wait until you've got them good and frenzied."

Morrigana rose, stretching, summoning power to her. She didn't care if anyone in camp felt her transformation; none of them would be able to stop her. And they would be unable to do anything once she was in dragon form without special weapons; Kongar had unlikely paid for the kind of mercenaries that had dragon slaying blades.

Chaos energy crackled through her nerves, and she nudged with her mind, initiating the transformation. Muscles and tendons creaked as they stretched, bones shifted and grew, and her wings spread. In the span of heartbeats, Morrigana was a large black dragon, silver markings gleaming under the heavy sun. Trumpeting, she stretched her head out, warning her prey she was coming. Launching into the air, Morri laughed to herself.

She rose effortlessly, wings pumping through hot air. This was what she'd wanted, what she needed. This harsh desert was like her homeworld, full of volcanic fields and jagged cliffs. Shalafae's court was currently held in a sandy desert, all rolling dunes and sand storms.

Her scales absorbed the heat, warming her blood, stirring her nerves. Taut wings caught a thermal, and she soared, the world spread out below her. She was queen of the sky, and none could defeat her. Not even the looming Chaos storm, seething closer every moment, could stop her.

Morrigana growled to herself, baring her teeth. This isn't the time for this.

Coming back to herself, she dove toward the camp, wings tucked against her sides. Mercenaries scurried below, and the half-dragon roared a challenge. Crossbows were fired up at her, bouncing harmlessly off her scales. Arching her back, Morrigana's dive leveled out, and she unleashed venom on the camp. Sticky fluid shot from the glands in her cheeks, mixing, igniting from the very friction of the air. Screams filled the camp, and she laughed to herself.

Someone tried to use magic on her, attempting to snag her out of the sky. Morrigana laughed again, her shields devouring the spell, and turned for another strafe. Those who'd survived the first attack decided they weren't getting paid enough, and the fled by any means possible. Dimensional walls rippled as Kongar was abandoned.

Fire roared as canvas and rope were consumed, and Morri reveled in the sound. Landing before Kongar's tent, her tail lashed up dirt and rocks, dust flying as she folded her wings. Venom dripped from snarling lips, and she issued a telepathic challenge.

~There's no skirt to hide behind any longer!~

Kongar's presence oozed out along with the corpulent man himself. Nearly as wide as he was tall, he moved surprisingly fast. Morrigana tasted the magic he used to keep his bulk from being a hassle, and she blew air out her nose in a draconic laugh.

"Why are you here?" he shouted, planting the haft of his axe in the sand. Magic pulsed from the weapon; it was enchanted to improve his fighting skills.

~You know why I'm here.~ She stretched her wings, keeping her head high. ~Lord Shalafae does not appreciate your theft.~

"So he sent his little bitch to kill me?" Kongar laughed, fat rolling with the motion.

"Pretty much," Elthanael answered, appearing behind the obese man. Kongar grunted, eyes widening, as the elf drove his golden scimitar deep into the fatty's back. Blood stained the man's lips, and the elf twisted the blade.

Morri slipped back to her natural form, approaching her cousin as he withdrew his scimitar. "Fat bastard really thought he was better than us." The elf laughed, shoving Kongar forward.

Their target remained standing, and even started laughing. "You really thought that would kill me?" He purposely echoed their phrasing, his question dripping derision. He turned, blood dribbling down his chin. "All this padding is armor too, dolts."

Power surged around Kongar, and the two assassins leapt away. Kongar's shields domed over them, trapping them in the field of combat. Morrigana swore, drawing her sword, the black metal singing for battle. Kongar lifted his axe, the edge gleaming under the desert sun. Elthanael tried to circle around the rotund fighter, waiting to strike.

"Shalafae can go fuck himself," Kongar spat, watching his killers. "He doesn't run the multiverse."

"He doesn't have to. You stole what is his, and that puts you under his jurisdiction." Morrigana circled him, watching as he swung his axe, threatening the young woman. Kongar was waiting for something, but she didn't know what.

The ground rumbled, and the hybrid launched herself into the air. The fat man's shield kept her from going too high, from transforming. Had she gotten higher, she'd have escaped the lashing tendrils of barb wire that shot out of the ground. Metal dug into bare flesh, and she snarled in pain, hovering.

Then she was yanked back to the earth.

Where did Kongar get a war elemental from? In no way should he be able to control one. But the proof was in the barbs digging through her shields. Somehow, from somewhere, the former bureaucrat had obtained a war elemental. A powerful creature spawned from all the worst and best parts of mass combat, forged in the passions and death of battle, they were less predictable and less controllable than even fire elementals. 

Beneath her feet, the hard desert ground became muddy with bloody. Bayonets stabbed at her, gouging but not piercing her armor. Voices howled in the back of her head, crying for vengeance and her life. She felt the press of seething bodies, of dying men, as though entire legions clashed aroung her.

Elthanael battled Kongar, trying to get past the axe. Morrigana tried to join him, but the elemental held her in place. Halberds sprang up, piercing her wings, shredding the patagia. Tearing at the weapons with her talons, the hybrid fought for her freedom.

It will drown me in my own blood, she realized, yanking a strand of barb wire from her side. And Father will never forgive me for dying to an elemental. All elementals owe our family allegiance.

Yet she couldn't reach its consciousness. There was no presence to this elemental, no sentience, no matter how foreign. Whatever magic Kongar used to control the being had locked the mind away too far to sense. A flail bashed into her hip, and the young woman winced, her concentration broken.

"You may not have a mind, but you can still die." Grunting as she struggled against her attacker, Morrigana drove her black sword deep into the ground. DragonSoul screamed in delight, gorging on the energy of the elemental, before channeling it to its mistress.

Morrigana gasped at the onslaught of wild power. It had been decades since she'd fed upon elemental power, and had forgotten the difference. Her heart raced, and she quickly become lost in dreams of conquest and battle, slaughter and desperation. It felt good, and she allowed her consciousness to slip.

In her mind, she soared over endless fields of soldiers. Different eras and different races battled. Cries of pain and the clash of weapons rose to her ears, and her heart thrilled. I am the ultimate war beast. All will die for me. Morrigana unleashed a gout of flame, enveloping rank after rank of fighter in fire. Their screams increased, and she laughed triumphantly.

"Gana-tii!"

Elthanael's cry cut through her communion. Gasping, the half-dragon found herself on her knees, clasping the crossguard of her sword. Blood stained her scaly skin, filled her mouth, and called her back to the war elemental. Most of its power was gone, and it was trying to retreat.

Kongar clearly had no intention of retreating. In the half-second it took her to become aware of her surroundings, the fat thief had brought his axe to bear on her. The massive blade sliced through the air, prepared to cleave her skull.

The elf interposed himself between Morrigana and the axe. She commanded the elemental to attack Kongar, giving back the energy she had stolen, but there just wasn't time. Axe smashed through golden blade, sinking deep into the elf's shoulder. Shrapnel flew, blood splattered, and she screamed at her cousin's impending demise.

Crimson mud surged as conjured weapons burst toward Kongar. Morri released her sword, catching Elthanael as he collapsed. Kongar shrieked in surprise as his pet elemental attacked him. The hybrid didn't care, trusting that the elemental would kill its former master. She focused on the elf, surveying the damage done to him.

Dark blood welled from the wedge-shaped wound. Elthanael's breathing was strained, his face pale. Tears welled, blurring her vision. "No, no, no. I can't lose you."

She poured energy into him, and the elf suddenly smiled, weakly taking her hand. "He missed my heart. I'll live, sweet jewel." He coughed, blood staining his lips. "I'm glad I stopped him."

Her tears were almost immediately dried up. "But you lost your sword."

"Nothing compared to what your father would do if I let you die." Elthanael smiled again, gaining strength as she healed him. "I can always get a new sword."

Morrigana smiled, relieved that he wasn't seriously hurt. Kongar continued screaming, and the assassin glanced up at him. Free of control, the war elemental was having its revenge. It would kill the rotund man, and finish their job for them.

However, they were stuck. The Chaos storm had finished encircling the solar system, disrupting the flow of energy, making it impossible for her to open a portal through the aether.

"We'd better find shelter," Morrigana whispered, trying to reach her father to let him know of their success.

"Anywhere you go, I'll follow."

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