Metaworld Chronicles

by

Wutosama

Chapter 19 - The Woods have Wolves

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A note from Wutosama

edited 03/01/19

The serene fragrance of the Earl Grey in Gwen's hands unravel the knot possessing both her body and mind. Instructor Alesia was here now, and all would be well. Beside her, Yue toasted a sandwich, while Elvia absently dangled her legs over the edge of a tall stool.

The door to the bunker opened with a groan. Gwen saw the familiar figure of Debora push past the heavy door.

“Hey, guys.”

To Gwen’s surprise, Debora’s usual coldness became instead one of touching relief. She then noticed the injuries covering Debora’s arms, including a purple blotch that extended from her chin to her ear.

“Deb! My God! You’re hurt!” Gwen set down her cup of tea and moved towards her friend and rival. “Elvia! Give us a hand!”

“Thank God, you’re all safe...” Debora smiled, wincing as she did so.

“Healing Word!” Elvia incanted, placing a hand over Debora’s neck and shoulder. Positive energy suffused the Transmuter for a moment, casting a pale green glow as her bruises eased, becoming faint imprints.

“Thank you.” Debora exhaled appreciatively before turning to Yue. “It sure is handy having a healer on the team, hey?”

“Hmmph!” Yue breathed out from her nostrils. She had loathed Debora since day one. The surfie girl was typical of those living in the South Shire, always looking down on migrants.

“So…” Debora sat beside them, crossing her tanned legs. “We had about… oh ~ a hundred and thirty kills today.”

Her eyes met Yue’s, and Gwen caught a spark sizzling between them.

“That’s very impressive,” Gwen concurred. "I’d say we're at a century, tops.”

“Oh?” Debora immediately flashed her teeth.

“I don’t know about that…” Yue retorted with a smile of her own. “Sure, we ran short of Gobs, but we also had… oh, a tier 3 Wind Wolf, and then a - what was it? A tier 4 Wombat.”

“A… Wombat?”

“Yeah,” Yue replied uncertainly, realising her lack of panache.

“A… combat wombat?” Debora smirked.

Yue's face grew red.

“Henley!” She summoned her second. The Diviner materialised as if by magic. He had been listening to their conversation in the background, amusing himself with the girls' rivalry.

“Do that thing that you do,” Yue commanded.

“Yes, Ma’am!” Henley turned to Debora with a twinkle in his eye.

“Tis was a terrible and dreadful beast!” He began as Elvia began to chuckle. “Stay a while Debora, O traveller from another team, and listen to the tale of the epic battle that unfolded the moment Team Seven returned to our base camp…”

Henley was a good storyteller.

The breakroom burst into hearty laughter, chuckling with delight as Henley retold the tale with outlandish exaggerations. Despite all that had happened, the accommodating atmosphere was a good lubricant to ease the friction of their disastrous trip.

"Gwen killed it, by herself?!" Debora blinked her eyes at Gwen.

Gwen returned a coy and modest grin.

Debbie... Gwen recollected. In the past, she had cut off all contact. Later in life, when the night was still, the shallow philosophy of shower thoughts took over. There was always the occasional fantasy of a ‘what if’ scenario. What if she hadn’t left school? What if she had graduated with her friends? Attended the same universities?

“Deb…” She began, her friend turned to face her with luminous, amber eyes, a smile brightly blooming upon her face. “Deb, I want to let you know that…”

'Crack!'

The tremor that cracked the concrete bunker came on like a whiplash. The students felt it simultaneously, the momentum of moving earth sending them tumbling from their seats and balling into one another. Debora fell forward onto Gwen, who lost her balance, slamming herself against hard concrete.

“Get out!” Someone called from somewhere in the room, “Earthquake!”

A chunk of the bunker dropped from the ceiling, narrowly missing Gwen’s head.

Gwen’s mind was a chaotic scramble, she wanted to expand her Mana Shield, but it was too dangerous with Debora lingering over her. Unlike Instructor Alesia, Gwen's Lightning Shield could sizzle Debora right there and then.

“Bronze Skin!” Dobra grunted, pushing herself from Gwen and shielding her friend from another wayward chunk of fallen concrete. “Gwen! Follow my lead! Enhance Fortitude!”

Jun had made a moving dome of ice over Elvia and Yue; the trio was already moving.

“Gwen, over here!”

“You guys go! Deb’s got me.”

Yue met Debora's eyes, neither giving way.

“Get out now!” Gwen spat.

Thankfully, the steel doors of the bunker fortification remained intact enough to be opened, thanks to a few Abjurers creating a passage, the students could escape without complication.

“What the hell is that!!!” Someone screeched, pointing southward. Gwen turned to see a mountain, a damned MOUNTAIN, moving in the distance.

They felt the earth shift again. Another supernatural tremor passed the clearing. All around them was the chaotic sound of crumbling structures and the falling and snapping of Gum Trees, whose twisted forms were sending down an avalanche of leaves and branches.

“Where’s Instructor De Botton?” Gwen shouted over the din. “Has anyone seen Alesia?”

Gwen's answer came in the form of chaotic and panicked of students. The night was dark, and the waxing moon barely provided enough light to see. What happened to all the lights? Gwen realised. There used to be lumen globes all over the camp.

“Dancing Lights!” Gwen incanted, shedding light onto the anarchy. Around her, panicked students roved chaotically, moving like headless flies.

They're making it worse, she realised. Gwen had experienced earthquakes in the old world before and knew the protocol for emergency measures. The greatest danger existed directly within, and outside buildings, at exits and alongside exterior walls. In a place like this were branches weighing twenty odd kilos were falling like rain; it would be best to steer well away from the bush.

“To me!” She began to holler. “Everyone, gather on me!”

No one listened.

“TO ME!” She called again, louder this time, her vocal cords straining to their limits, but only a few students stopped to run toward her.

“They’re not listening!” Yue cried out over the din.

“THUNDERCLAP!”

Gwen incanted a basic cantrip. In the next moment, a loud 'CRACK!' resounded over the area with a burst of brilliant white electrical light.

“To me!” she screamed at them, wishing that she had a spell for voice projection. “Move away from the buildings and make for the clearing! Stay away from trees!”

Two dozen or so students followed. Gwen took them towards an area of the camp clearing that seemed to offer the largest zone of safety from falling objects.

“Where are all the instructors?” Yue asked bewilderingly, her voice beginning to grow hoarse.

They looked toward the main building.

Gwen's heart dropped forty fathoms. The two-storey concrete shed had collapsed into a pile of loose rubble, great slabs of cement jutting this way and that. The instructors had been having a meeting- Oh my God! Her heart skipped a beat. Was Alesia in there?

“Oh… no…” Elvia cried out in dismay and panic. “We need to help them!”

“Count me in.” Debora joined them, her bronze skin gleaming under the glow of Gwen's Dancing Lights. “I should be able to move the slabs with a few Enhancement buffs.”

“Alright, Jun! You stay here with the other students, Henley, can you detect people under the rubble or something?”

Henley was bleeding from a cut on his forehead. He looked at her weakly. The boy's face was full of fright and terror; his eyes glazed over.

“Elvia, give him a hand with that bleeding.”

“Got it! Healing Word!"

“Who else? Who else can help us? Speak up!”

The students remained silent, their eyes wide with incomprehension.

Shit, they’re just kids. Gwen crushed the disappointment rising from her chest. Her mind turned away from the students, huddled like a gaggle of frightened geese, thinking instead of Alesia, Instructor Boone, Mr Richardson and the others.

“Elvia, Deb, you’re with me. Yue! Can you help Jun control the situation here?”

“You got it, Boss,” Yue replied, firing a few blasts of fire into the air to attract any stragglers. “Evokers! Give me Dancing Lights! Abjurers! Form a perimeter and yell if you see something coming that’s not human!”

As she crossed over to the building, Gwen continued to shout into the gloom.

“Who else can help? I need Transmuters! Which one of you is an Earth Elementalist?”

There were no answers to Gwen’s desperate enquiries. Looking at her two companions, she was glad beyond relief that Elvia could heal and Debora remained calm and collected. She needed them now more than ever to be lucid and competent.

The trio made it across the clearing.

“Enhance Strength!” Debora self-buffed, then tried to lift the rubble while Gwen and Elvia stood heart-in-mouth a safe distance away. The wreckage was deceptively small, yet even a tiny slab of reinforced concrete was over a ton, far beyond the enhanced strength of a junior Transmuter, and a teenage girl at that.

“It's too much!” Debora turned to look at them with an expression of pure despair. “It's too heavy for me!”

“Oh, Gwennie…” Elvia’s face was now streaked with tears. Their poor Instructors, did any of them managed to get out? Surely they couldn’t have all perished!

“We…we have to find the other students.” Gwen forced her mouth to move. Now wasn't the time to play the waif. There has to be an adult here to take command. “The instructors would have placed our safeties as the top priority. We need to do the same..."

“THANK GOD you’re all alright!”

A familiar voice called out from the darkness. The silhouette of a middle-aged man in an Instructor’s sports uniform appeared from the edge of the clearing.

“Mr Crusoe!” Tension melted from Debora's limbs. Gwen knew that he was Debora's homeroom teacher and that Debora was his favourite.

“Are the others alright?” Gwen and Elvia asked simultaneously.

“The others are with me, but we’re going to need your help.”

“What’s wrong?”

As Crusoe came into the light, they could see that he was bleeding all over. His uniform was torn here and there and covered with leaves and dust. Dark blood was oozing over a graze near his abdomen, sending a clotted cascade of dark maroon down his track pants.

“Sir!” Elvia cried out, moving immediately to heal him. “Cure Minor Wounds!”

“Thank you, dear.” He coughed, patting Elvia’s head kindly. “I still need your help though.”

Crusoe gestured towards the woods that extended into the darkness.

“I am afraid instructor Alesia's pinned under a fallen tree, we managed to get her out, but we need a healer before we can move her.”

Gwen's chest constricted, Alesia's injured?!

“Of course!” Elvia agreed readily.

“I’ll come with.” Debora followed.

“Are you okay now sir?” Elvia kindly asked the ageing Instructor.

“Thank you. It’s just this way, about a few hundred meters, follow me and be careful of any Magical Beasts that may still be in the area.”

The party moved with as much haste as could be mustered. In the distance, they could see the opening of a pyrotechnical display that seemed to light up the heavens itself. There was a titanic struggle happening, wherever and whatever that creature was, and the resultant phenomena was a reddish, scarlet glow that seemed to consume the night sky.

That illumination! That colour! It was a unique, singular shade of red!

Suddenly, Gwen paused in her thoughts.
No one in their party had cast anything, but she could feel the flow of the air around them change and the composition of elements in the area shift, modified by an arcane current.

“Halt!” Crusoe’s voice echoed through the woods despite the persistent falling of leaves and branches every time the ground shook. “Did you feel that?”

“Yeah.” Gwen readied a spell.

Debora renewed her Bronze Skin, moving closer to Gwen, acting as her Shield.

“Elvia, stay behind us,” Gwen commanded. The little blonde girl narrowed her profile.

“Debora.” Crusoe scanned the area around them carefully, speaking his next words carefully. “I want you to restrain Gwen, right now.”

To Gwen’s unsuspecting confusion, her friend reached out and caught her by the arm, whipping Gwen around so quickly as to utterly disorientate her before driving an iron knee into her gut, sending her down onto the path.

“Deb! W-what are you doing!” Elvia called out in alarm, her mind robbed of meaningful judgment.

Debora's grip had the consistency of a steel vice, wrapping around Gwen's neck before pulling Gwen upward, half choking her and driving the air from her oesophagus. The Transmuter's other arm twisted Gwen's wrist behind her back so tightly as to make Gwen’s mind hot with agony. Through the pain, Gwen realised that without the ability to gesture and invoke, she was incapable of casting spells.

Crusoe’s face transformed from a kindly old man to one full of menace and malice.

“It’s a shame the tier 4 Fire is not here, but the Transmuter's a nice catch.” He said to no one in particular. His gaze moved up and down the bodies of the two girls, smacking his lips as he did do.

“Sir?” Elvia still had not realised the crisis of the moment. "Mr Crusoe?"

“Run Evee! Run!” Gwen managed to squeeze out between Debora’s fingers, “He’s not Crusoe!”

To her dismay, the small girl did not run. Elvia did not want to leave behind her friends.

“Good girl.” ‘Not’ Crusoe stated approvingly, dispensing with silent spells. “Dominate!”

In an instant, Gwen realised what had happened to Debora. That spell! It was one of the forbidden Schools of Enchantment. They had learnt about it in Spellcraft. The mental manipulation inherent to Enchantment was censored and was only available to law enforcement specialists. This man before them wasn't a Tower Agent, meaning he was something far more dangerous.

Elvia's eyes began to glaze over.

No! Not Elvia! Not on my life, you piece of shit! Gwen's mind rioted.

For once, she was glad that she had terrible control over her conduits. Tapping into a torrent of raging emotions, her Evocation Sigil activated as before, triggered by not by expertise but by trauma. A flood of electricity poured from her skin, ripping through Debora’s body, dispelling her Bronze Skin and ravaging her innards as the hysterical charge sought to ground itself.

Debora collapsed where she stood behind Gwen in a shower of gold-white sparks, falling senseless to the floor like an untethered marionette. Gwen wanted desperately to kneel and check if her friend was still alive, but couldn't afford to ignore Crusoe, who was staring at her slack-jawed.

“Gwen?” Elvia’s voice was quivering and weak. Good, Gwen breathed out. The Dominate had not taken Evee.

Their Instructor once told them that mind control effects worked best on unsuspecting individuals. The more conscious a person was, the less likely they were to be affected. In that manner, it was very similar to the School of Illusion.

“Debora…”

“Evee…” Gwen placed herself between the Mage and her friend. “Evee, I want you to run back to camp as fast as you can, tell Yue what has happened.”

Elvia’s face had been full of hesitation, but Gwen’s steadfast demeanour quickly dispelled her reluctance. The Gwen in front of her now felt so different, so determined and powerful. In the pale glow of the distant fire that illuminated the horizon, her figure was like that of a giant!

She would have to go, Elvia convinced herself. She owed it to Gwen to make it back to Yue and tell everyone what had happened here. That was the duty which Gwen had bestowed upon her.

“Oh, it’s not going to be that easy…” Not Crusoe intoned nastily. “Dominate!”

This time, the Enchantment was directed toward the Lighting Mage. Gwen's senses were suddenly thrust into wool. She could feel the will of an alien malevolence invading her conscience, trying to change her perceptions.

Then... nothing happened.

It was exactly that. For what Gwen felt in her mind seemed not to happen to her personally, but rather someone else. She understood the phenomena, but her mind remained unmolested nor affected. She was less a victim and more like that of a scientist watching the spread of ink in a container, recording its colouration and displacement.

Elvia had by now made a short distance down the Fire Trail, and would soon be out of sight.

Crusoe beamed at Gwen with an aura of sadistic delight.

“What did you do?” He spluttered, his tone full of marvel. “How did you resist my spell? You're not wearing a Mind Shield ring.”

Dominate was a tier 5 enchantment! How does a Tier 2 Mage with a single school even begin to possess the mental fortitude necessary to resist his compulsion?

“You are whetting my appetite more and more, Gwen Song.” Crusoe’s pitch rose dangerously, “You might be my catch of the day, after all.”

Gwen felt cold sweat drench her back. This man is incredibly dangerous! She thought to herself, thinking of a dozen scenarios where she could somehow buy time for Debora, but also escape herself.

The man began to change, and Gwen felt her stomach churn as the Illusion over his face dispelled entirely, revealing - a cowl? The figure in front of her wore the indistinct shape of a robe that seemed to distort her vision, almost as if she was staring at a faint shadow in human form. The dust around him began to twist and form into small vortexes, becoming tendrils extending from his body.

“Well then.” The man savoured the dramatic reveal. “Let's get our freak on, shall we-”

“Guiding Bolt!” Gwen caught the man before he could finish, smothering his form with purple energy and motes of positive mana. She can't believe the stupid idiot still thought to deliver his stupid villain’s diatribe. She then pushed her conduits to full-throttle, committing her entire mana pool.

“Blast Bolt!”

The world went white.

 

 

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A note from Wutosama

Chapter Ref ::  


Volume 1 Amazon (US) the book is in all markets as well.
Volume 2 Amazon (US) the book is in all markets as well.
 
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V2 Google Play, iBook, Kobo, Nook and Playster Link

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Metaworld-Meta-fics :

Strictly CaliAn islander's Meta-journeyStrategic MagicThe Strange Life of an Elf From Sydney
"Strictly Caliban" From the always catty @Wandysama
And "An Islander's Meta-Journey" from young gun @Bartimeus
The Mysteries of Fudan, and Other Rumors From the Metaworld
Strategic Magic by kjoatmon
Farewells - The Strange Life of a Quarter-Elf From Sydney
Rise of a Magi by a Duck Mage (Rhein)


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Wutosama

Bio: I write on the phone and edit at home. Times are tough!

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