The Last Descendant Ch. 05byElianna©
"You want advice, or do you want to keep seething over how the girl already trusts me?" Gosta asked pointedly.
Entrari bit back another irritable growl. "Okay. Give me your advice."
"Take a few minutes. Hold her hand. Talk to her like she's as smart as you know she is, and tell her the truth about what she's walking into with you."
"What good will it do?"
"It will keep her from going mad when we do meet the demon, and you from doing something even more insane to protect her." Gosta eyed him strangely. "Whatever it is you've got for this girl is making you crazy, Entrari."
"Oh," he cackled, "you noticed."
"We all notice."
Entrari rolled his eyes. "Great."
He turned to see Elenna standing quietly beside Kelda. She'd wrapped the mantle he'd given her yesterday over her fur cloak and was shivering in the cold again. Kelda stood next to her hovering rather protectively, but he also pointedly kept his hands to himself. He squared his shoulders and joined them.
"Let's get something to eat and settle in for the evening," he said to Kelda.
They walked back to their fire. He decided to try the gentlemanly thing.
"Please, Elenna," he said trying to sound courtly and genteel, "sit. You must be tired."
She looked at him warily, her gray eyes narrowing thoughtfully even as she mutely obeyed. He sat next to her, and Gosta served them each a warm cup of some kind of stew that had been cooking over the fire for a while.
They ate for a while in silence, soaking up the warmth of the fire and the stew. After a while, Elenna's face seemed to relax a little.
"Feeling better?" he asked her quietly.
She nodded mutely.
"Still feel it, though, don't you?"
Again she nodded.
"We need to talk for a moment about tomorrow," he began. "It's going to be..." he paused searching for the right words.
"Awful," she whispered for him.
"Worse," he said darkly. "Most likely there will be the bodies of my men about. They will be," he didn't think it would be so hard to come up with words to explain, "mangled."
Her face blanched for a moment as it sunk in, and then she took a deep breath and nodded.
"You feel the darkness on your spirit already," he continued, "It only gets stronger. It usually makes me feel cold, even though I know I am warm; much like a fever. When the battle begins, you will see some powerful spells; lightning, energy spells, some of them make the ground shake. They will be painful for the demon and it will bellow. Demons make a...terrible sound. We'll keep at it until the demon decides it's time to go back to the underworld. It's usually quick. I have many men, and they know powerful spells."
Her beautiful face grew thoughtful as he spoke. Her soft, pink lips pouted slightly, and with her hair a mess from their earlier ride, he found her absolutely irresistible. He knew it wasn't the right time, that it was completely inappropriate, that she didn't want him right now, but he couldn't stop himself. He leaned over and reached out to tuck a few errant tresses behind her ear, even as his lips met hers.
Gods! She was so soft and warm. Even with her lips chapped and her nose slightly runny from the cold, he couldn't think of any kiss sweeter...until her body grew rigid, she gasped both in surprise and anger, and someone nearby cleared his throat.
Entrari sighed and pulled away from her, his lips tingling from the sweet contact with her skin.
She moved so quickly that he barely caught her flying hand before it made contact with his face, the raging fire back in her eyes as she stared at him angrily. He smiled smugly, turned her hand in his and kissed her palm lingeringly, never once looking away from her stormy eyes. She let out a little distressed whimper and he felt her hand tremble slightly under his lips.
She pulled her hand from his grasp and leaned away from him, her eyes suddenly wary.
Entrari growled irritably at her. "I'm not going to hurt you, princess."
She said nothing but sat rigidly and stared into the fire.
Entrari snuggled up to a very stiff woman when he went to bed. She didn't comment on his chivalry as he wrapped his blankets around them both, and remained rigid until he finally whispered an incantation to make her sleep. As he went to sleep he wondered if this was the gods' idea of humor.
Elenna rode silently beside Entrari early the next morning. The horrible feeling clawing at her spirit seemed to grow worse with each clop of her horse's hooves.
"This looks like a good place to set up a base camp," said Kelda to Entrari.
The prince nodded. "Let's picket the horses here and set up. We'll continue the rest of the way on foot."
"Why aren't we taking the horses?" Elenna whispered to Gosta as he helped her off her mount.
"They don't do well with demons. It drives most animals mad."
Just like me, she thought quietly to herself.
"Stick close to Entrari," he instructed in her ear.
She stared at the prince bitterly. So he could try to molest her again, no doubt.
Once the horses were picketed and a few of the more inexperienced men were left to guard them, Entrari and his men formed ranks and marched along the trail in silence. Elenna felt like her spirit was overwhelmed with their tension, the sickening claws of the demon, and her own fear. She stumbled often as she walked, and to her surprise, Entrari caught her each time she tripped.
They marched for nearly an hour when it hit her and then it grew worse with each step. Soon the smell was overwhelming; death, decay, rot. There were no animals among the trees; only the sounds of flies as they buzzed around feeding off the dead. Elenna kept her eyes on her feet, unable to force herself to look at what was rotting in the forest, but when she saw a severed hand alongside the path, she felt her stomach turn. The memory of horror was marked all about her. The spirits of the forest wailed in her ears. Elenna felt her vision grow blurry as her heart pounded loudly in her ears.
She couldn't do this.
"Easy," Entrari whispered in her ear. He put his hand around her arm, at once forcing her forward, and supporting her.
"Don't make me," she begged him suddenly. "I swear I won't run from you."
"I'm sorry, Elenna," he replied, and from his tone, she could tell he really meant it. "I wish I had another choice."
"Can you feel it?" Gosta whispered.
"Yes," Entrari replied. "It's powerful."
"It's had a lot of blood. It's been well-fed."
"This isn't going to be easy," the prince said. His eyes looked about the forest for a moment and then his jaw clenched in anger.
"No," Gosta agreed.
She looked around wildly. There were little shimmers of metal all around, and for a moment her brain couldn't register what it saw. Then she recognized the shimmering metal as pieces of armor; the demon had ripped the bodies of Entrari's men completely apart. There were spatters of blood on the bark of trees, and there were decomposing heaps covered with flies only a few yards from the trail.
Elenna was too shocked to even retch with horror.
She heard the prince's men whisper to each other, their voices filled with anger, grief and fear. Obviously, they weren't used to this, either.
Suddenly there was a terrible sound. It was a mixture of the most agonized scream of torture, the most desperate wail of hunger, and the fiercest growl of rage all combined into one powerful, bestial call.
"Make ready!" Entrari called to his men, his voice clear and strong.
They spread out where they were, turning to face the direction of that unearthly cry.
Elenna trembled in fear, but was completely unable to move. She panted, sweated, and tears leaked from her eyes, but almost as though she'd been frozen by magic, she was rooted where she stood.
"Close your eyes, Elenna," Entrari said to her, his voice soft and urgent. "Don't look. I'll protect you. Just don't look."
Oh how she wished she could force her eyes to close!
The treetops began to rustle as though they were swaying in a horrible wind, and the silent forest was filled with the sounds of great snaps, as though the trees themselves were breaking like they were twigs under someone's boots.
Could it really be that large?
"Hold your ground," Entrari called to his men.
The trees before her eyes seemed to fold away as though they were no stronger than blades of grass, and the demon bounded forward with horrifying grace and speed. It was as tall as the towering pines in the forest, and it moved like a bull on all fours. Its skin was black, glistening as though it was covered in moisture, or perhaps it was covered in some kind of mucus. Its eyes were red and burning as though the flames of the Abyss were writhing within its skull. Its body was a cross between some kind of muscular man and that of clawed reptile, each foot ending with sharp talons. Its mouth was filled with teeth, dripping with saliva; its nose was simply two gaping holes like a snake's. It was the monster she'd had nightmares about as a child; larger than she'd ever imagined, and behind those fiery eyes was malevolence, hunger and...frightening intelligence.
"Dear Gods!" Kelda cried, his voice low with dread. "It's huge."
Elenna felt her spirit suck into her boots; as though the underworld itself was calling her to join its halls. Things started to turn black as she heard voices chanting about her.
"Now!" Entrari called in a loud voice.
Elenna felt the ground about her tremble and shake. Entrari's men were using their magic, but she couldn't see it. She could feel nothing except a strong pull to the ground. She crashed to her knees as she felt many bodiless hands reach out from the earth and pull her down with inescapable strength.
Dear gods! Something was pulling her very soul into the Abyss!
"Help me!" she cried out with her spirit to the world around her. "Help me!"
The wind raged around her like a tempest; the blackness of the evil pulled at her and the ground felt as though it would swallow her. She screamed, but her voice was strangled. She fought, but her limbs were restrained.
Elenna! A voice called to her through the maelstrom. Elenna! Listen!
She knew that voice. It brought her peace and agony all at once.
"Mamma!" she wailed.
Elenna! This is your moment! Reach out. Call upon the spirits of this world. Don't let the darkness overwhelm you!
"I don't know how!" she wailed as she struggled fruitlessly against the powerful grasp of those dark hands.
I have taught you! Her mother's voice sounded almost as desperate as her own pitiful cries of terror. Elenna! You know what you must do!
She knew what to do. Of course she did. It was just that she couldn't...could she? Elenna reached out with her spirit and recoiled as she felt once again the overwhelming blackness of the demon. People were screaming all around her, their voices caught in the same tempest that made her sightless. The demon bellowed and snarled, the ground shook and her fingers seemed to seep into the ground as it continued to pull her.
"NO!" she cried in terror.
She balled her hands into fists, her fingernails biting into her palms and drawing blood. She reached out further with her very soul, begging the spirits of the world.
"HELP ME!" She wailed to them.
The blood from her palms slipped through her clenching fingers, the pain of the tears in her skin were inconsequential in comparison to the ripping tempest that pulled at her. A single drop of blood fell onto the earth, but the sound of that single drop echoed in her ears like a boom on massive drum, shaking the earth beneath her. Her fingers ripped deeper into her flesh and her life dripped from her bloody fingers, connecting with the ground with dull echoing thuds. As her blood oozed into the earth, the bodiless arms that were tugging her downwards seemed to lose their hold.
Suddenly she felt it; as though some immense dam had been broken, a multitude of voices washed over her. She nearly drowned in that river of millions upon millions of voices crying out over space and time, but even as they washed over her, they supported her. Their spirits sung in her ears and infused her body with their power. For the first time in her life, Elenna felt the full force of Druid magic, as the spirits of the world lent her their essence. With her unseeing eyes she saw them all; the heavenly images of those alive and long dead; the spirits of the wild animals, the earth, the water, even the vast echoing souls of the mountains.
They surrounded her and uplifted her, and though she crouched on her knees her palms bleeding into the moist soil, she felt like the tallest person in the universe. The wicked blackness of the demon screaming and bellowing as Entrari's men battered it with magic seemed suddenly tiny and miniscule. The warrior/sorcerers of Haladon looked like carven little toys as they valiantly battled the vicious monster. For a moment, she felt almost god-like as she saw the world though the power of those millions of souls, but then the weight of such power crashed into her like a battering ram, knocking the breath from her lungs. In one awful moment, she knew her purpose, and even as they lent her their strength, Elenna knew that she was bound to those millions of souls that supported her.
As if that realization brought her back into the dreadful moment, suddenly Elenna found herself kneeling on the ground, her fingernails biting painfully into her palms, her blood dripping into the earth. The power of the world was contained in her tiny body. She looked up at the screeching and slavering monster as it tried again and again to consume the sorcerers about her. Its body crashed into an invisible wall and then bellowed as it was struck by lightning. Entrari and his men were chanting, sweating and trembling as they stood up to the monster that could literally squash them with its large, talon-like foot. She reached out with her soul for the incredible force that had been lent to her and she looked up at the screaming monster with determination.
Time seemed to stand still for one brief second. She saw Gosta turn to look at her, his brown eyes widening for a moment with awe. Then he turned back, raised his hand and chanted another spell at the horrible monster, drawing upon his magic to push it back yet again.
The older knight, Rhogan, had fallen to his knees. His face was drenched with sweat, his breast heaving. A young blonde warrior, maybe only a few years older than she, stepped in front of the old guard and chanted, his beautiful blue eyes afraid and yet determined.
Entrari's green eyes glowed like a wolf's in the darkness. He raised his hands, and from his fingers shot horrifying bolts of energy making the monster scream and snarl with rage. Kelda stood beside him, using the same spell and together, their magic worked like a whip of pure energy, beating at the monster relentlessly.
Elenna looked around at the men about her. Some of them had collapsed to their knees panting with exertion, some fought on, their eyes determined and yet hopeless.
Her soul felt the screams of the dead regiment about her; their bodies lying dismembered and mangled in the forest and yet their spirits ached for their comrades. The pain of those murdered men echoed now to her sensitive ears and their souls implored at her to spare those who still lived.
She looked up at the monster with resolve. It had to return to the Abyss. It didn't belong on this plane.
"Go back!" she whispered, her voice barely audible to her ears, though the shout of the millions of in her mind whispering with her nearly knocked the wind out of her lungs.
The creature froze in the midst of the melee and for a moment its eyes locked upon her. For a dreadful second all was silent, and then it lunged forward as though it would endure every ounce of agony merely to consume her. Entrari's men shouted in terror as all their magic seemed unable to stop the charging monster. They braced themselves for its attack, protecting those already wounded with their bodies.
No. They wouldn't die. Not these men!
"Go back!" Elenna cried again, her voice still a desperate whisper and yet it was more powerful than it had ever been.
With her unseeing and yet all-seeing eyes she watched as the millions of souls she'd called upon rushed towards the creature. Light charged into dark and as they collided, the demon suddenly disappeared with a long, keening wail.
Elenna stared at the empty space where the demon had just been for a moment in shock and then suddenly her world went black.
Thanks again for all your feedback on the last chapter, folks. Well, surprise! No sex again, but...well, you know. Give me some feedback on how you liked it or didn't for that matter. Your feedback makes me think and I appreciate the positive and negative. Thanks for reading me.