tagNovels and NovellasThe Storm Mage Ch. 20

The Storm Mage Ch. 20


The storm raged on as I soared through the rain. Frigid drops sank into my skin, and lightning crashed all around me. I tried not to think about Benjamin bleeding and dying behind me. Stupid fucking asshole. Edwa was crying, but I was too upset to comfort her. I saved the world and no one knew it. All I had to was give up Benjamin. At least I had Edwa.

"You have me," she said through tears.

I didn't know where I was going or why. The gusting winds threw me around in the air as I tried to maintain a steady path. Unable to win over the storm, I set down and attempted to calm it. To my shock, the storm would not subside. I conjured lightning easily enough just to be sure I was in control of my powers, but the raging storm would not stop. Maybe I didn't have that power anymore. Maybe Gime held it.

I fell backwards into the grass, held out my arms, and felt the planet turn under me. I missed seeing the sky above me and the grass surrounding me. I closed my eyes and tapped into the anima. The grass swayed around me as a trillion dim souls. The energy of the storm buzzed high above me, blinding veins of lightning: pure concentrated anima, surged over the world. And there was another energy, this one racing across the ground. To my sense it was a brilliant fire rocketing to the Sky Temple. I hesitated to find out what it was. Whatever new problem it might be, Benjamin deserved it, but Almaea was there and free of guilt. If Benjamin hadn't recovered, she would be defenseless.

I took to the air once more and followed it. It was certainly fast. The energy wasn't as fast as me, but much faster than any hume. I squinted through the stormy night to try and make out what it was but could only see its anima. I flew on ahead and set down in its path, putting my hand out to stop it. The energy did not slow down, instead becoming a small warm package in my arms as it leapt to me. The thing breathed heavily as I cradled it. I could feel its frantic heartbeat.

"Ahh! Storm Mage. Hoooo, you are a sight for these sore eyes."

The person stood up in my arms and hugged me around the neck, its pointy ears brushing my face. Was it the goblin?

"Luh, luh, what was your name?" I asked her.

"Laha, dear. Lords you humes sure know how to put a goblin's height to shame. Bit bigger since the last time I saw you," she said, gently biting my ear.

"Were you going to the Sky Temple?"

"Aye. Was hoping to find some guildies, anyone really. There's a mess in Pokacea...a real mess."

Her heart still hadn't settled, and she was trembling in my arms. The storm only seemed to rage harder the longer it went on. I pulled my wings around us to protect her from the rain.

"She's so tiny," said Edwa in my mind then giggling.

"What's this mess you speak of, Laha?"

"Well, suppose I should start from the beginning or it won't make a sugar lick of sense. I last saw you and the Myrmidon at the temple that night. You two went up the steps and I never saw you again. Glad to see you're alive, truly. I guess your man didn't survive the mob?"

"No...he survived. We went our separate ways..."

"Sorry to hear that dear, I really am. Seemed like a sweet couple. But as I was saying, I departed just before dawn with the last of the guildies that morning. Even helped the Healers set up camp. So I headed to Pokacea for a place to rest only to the find the inn burned down when I got there. Was about twenty of us from the temple and we figure, you know, got to get work if we want food and shelter. So we did some repairs on the inn-"

"Laha, please, a little faster," I said.

"Sorry, sorry. So we're just relaxing in the bar, exchanging quest stories. I know a good half of them at least tossed that poor girl from the temple, but they ain't going to talking about that. Anyway, an Acolyte comes stumbling into town around noon. Blood all down the front of him, ear missing. So he goes to the Animist since there's no Healers in town. Though I should have known right then that was suspicious."

"Why would that be suspicious?"

"I mean, if this hume just left the Sky Temple, and I know for a fact there are two Healers there, why's he look so shitty? So I visit the Animist after he leaves, fuming about how no one will help him. She says his ear was bitten off by a dead girl. What a tale. And, and then that Healer stopped by a few hours later." Laha paused for a moment.


"My point is! She gets hollering about the Ghoul, the Animist that is. I asked her about that. And boy did she have an earful about Ghouls. Apparently, back in the day, 'fore The Reckoning, Ghouls were as normal as a Fighter or a Mage. Just another class. But their power became great and dark as the years went on. The guilds wiped them out, or so the stories go. But the Animist, she tells me, a Ghoul can make minions out of you, if you're already dead. If they attack you while you still draw breath, then you become a Ghoul yourself. And some can spread the Fear like a Revenant, and some can devour you whole."

"Would you believe me if I said I know all of this?"

"Aye, I suppose you might. Something special about you. Anyway, this didn't happen all at once."

"WHAT didn't happen all at once?"

Even Edwa was becoming perturbed at the rate this story was told, bubbling in my mind like an angry kettle.

"The disappearances, dear. Must have happened over a few days as it were. Thing with guildies is, if they disappear, you just assume they're off on their next quest. My boys didn't want nothing to do with me after your Myrmidon beat the snot out of 'em and I just stood by. So when they disappeared, I thought nothing of it. But then a few more guildies went off, still nothing strange. But then this one Mage, she gets left behind she says, by her guild. And then it happened to a Fighter that night. See, we began thinking they weren't leaving, someone was taking them. And people in the village started disappearing too.

"That night we all shared the main room of the inn. Put a bunch of tankards all over the floor in case someone tries to sneak in. Sure enough, that night, cups go rattling, someone starts screaming. The room is swarming with guildies. And I swear to you, as sure as my ears are pointy, they were eating people."

"Fucking lordsdammit," I cussed under my breath.

"And Lords save me, I panicked. Started shooting fireballs, dodging under people. I broke out of that inn, left it burning again. And I ran. Sent sparks to my boots and ran for the Sky Temple like they was having a free candy sale. Was like the storm was chasing me, lightning crashing everywhere. That's when I came upon you. Ain't no one I'd rather see on these plains right now besides maybe Alexandria themself."

"So you think it was a Ghoul that ate the people?"

"Not Ghoul, Ghouls. Was a hoard of them. Think that Acolyte had something to do with it. You get to be my age, that suspicious stuff ends up being something more, more often than not. You learn to keep your eyes and ears open in a place like this."

I took a deep breath. Had we really failed to contain the Ghouls? When would Squall have interacted with this guy? Laha said it had happened days ago, but Squall only became a Ghoul today. It had to be Salia, but when? Who else had she bitten?

I reached out in the world to sense any other Ghouls. That torrential storm on the horizon moving this way, only when I really examined it did I realize that it was a swirling mass of anima an antima. It was a colossal storm of lightning and the dark horrible absence of anima. It was a storm I could not control, and I didn't think Gime was bringing down such a storm on me which meant someone else was controlling it.

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