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Rush tore into the final large chunk of the creature that had slightly resembled him and raised his head and let loose a low-pitch roar of victory. Rush briefly considered scattering the pieces of the aura projection as a warning to other things that had the audacity to challenge him in his own kingdom. This was his territory and he should defend it because-- why should he defend this space? It was an interesting thought. He immediately forgot it because he looked down and saw the pieces again.

That it had looked like him was weird but strangely flattering. Rush had a generic awareness of how he looked because his senses were expanded within this space.

He did not scatter the pieces because of the smell, oh the smell...

He decided to eat them. It was probably because it looked like him, but he noted that it was especially delicious. As expected of a creature that could look somewhat similar to this king.

Rush chewed on a piece of wing thoughtfully. He had really gained the upper hand near the end when it was hitting him in the face with those wings. They were plush and fluffy and light and the constant smacking against his nose had been more infuriating than painful. He had seized an opportunity in between flapping to grab the wing with his mouth and pull it off. That was when the tide turned and the battle had been truly won. The creature had started to spasm and got more frantic even as it got weaker. Rush had capitalized immediately and greedily started to devour the creature and the rest, as they say, was history.

Rush turned his head slightly and flexed his small wings. To his credit, he wasn’t exactly sure what to do with them. There was an old memory of using them to fly through the air, free and clear, in the skies of-- of where? Rush actually forgot his food/prey/fun for a moment with the discovery of the half-memory and hopped in the air experimentally. He flapped his wings and floated in place. He was so excited that for a moment he stopped flapping his wings. Or rather, he stopped flapping one of his wings. Rush started to turn lazily end over end and stopped flapping entirely.

That was when Rush realized that he didn’t need the wings to float at all. He clicked his talons against each other irritatedly at the discovery. Why have them for the thing if he could do the thing? He was less concerned with the wings a second later because he discovered he liked the sound of the claws clicking together. It was melodic and pleasurable and reminded him of that time about half a minute ago when he had eaten that thing that looked like him.

The wings on his back started to shrink slowly, becoming less and less visible as time went on. Tummy full, Rush didn’t bother to stop himself from spinning. It was oddly calming. Rush spun lazily through the air and his eyelids started to droop.

Rush cast a quick look over at the food thing that was watching him nearby. He did not care as long as it was not close to him.

He did, however, remember to send a strong mental warning to the thing. It was close enough, it would know.

Closer would eat it.

Yes, good, that was good. He would eat them all.

The thought of eating the delicious but sharp fuzzy things sprang to mind. It was a recent memory and he had no trouble recalling it. Rush really liked his claws. He clicked them as he closed his eyes and got ready to digest his meal.

The space around him shook violently and his eyes opened for half-a-beat. They started to close again when a part of the space trembled near the edges and a golden crack actually appeared in the dimly lit space.

His eyes opened wide now, considering this new development. This sort of thing happened now and again but it had never been this violent. Not since that weird grey thing had tossed his space around. Rush had no choice but to acknowledge that his foe had been mighty. It had only given up when it realized that Rush was mighty too.

Rush wondered what was causing the space to shake this time. He did not see any of the weird grey space.

That was when a small light appeared in front of him. The view was fuzzy and unclear, like the thing that was further away was when it was not closer to him. Rush experimentally floated around the small white light noting that it didn’t seem to be anything other than flat. It was also the same image no matter how he looked at it. There were things happening but Rush wasn’t all that interested. His stomach was full and his body, floating as it was, felt content and heavy.

The screen went away and he started to forget about it.

The space shook again. Rush wondered what was causing the space to shake, again.

The window reappeared and Rush decided to give it a little more of his attention while he rested. There was a strange shape moving very fast in the window. Rush was a little bit interested in the moving thing and decided to pay attention to it.

His tail began to flick back and forth, ever so slightly.

Shake………….shake………..shake………..

↢↦

Arathan was only the tiniest bit surprised when Rush had opened a window, seemingly of his own volition, to see what Ruth was doing. It was how soul shapes grew general awareness after a time. They would begin to wonder what the soul space was doing or why something was happening and, often accidentally, latch onto the small and tenuous link that would only grow stronger between soul shape and host.

This wasn’t of use to Rush or Ruth at the moment.

In fact, Arathan considered, it was quite possibly very, very bad. If Rush got in the habit of trying to devour aura from here, at best nothing would happen, and at worst, someone might notice and investigate.

Arathan considered distracting the small thing again. It had warned her in a half-assed way that if she got closer it would eat her. It hadn’t even been a coherent thought so it was hard to take it as serious. Hilarious, as if Rush could be any danger to Arathan. She had chosen to ignore it.

Now, though? She was considering aura bunnies that shot bows and arrows.

In the end, she filed away the notion of bow and arrow bunnies and decided to watch. Arathan straightened her body slightly and looked hard into the dim space, using the window Rush had pulled up to see what was going on. Arathan made another mental note to ask Tamara about a great number of things. If Arathan didn’t know what was going on, she wouldn’t know how to help or be of help to Tamara.

She was just thinking about the questions she was going to ask when Rush did something unexpected.

Something very possibly very not good.

↢↦

When the cloven hoof hit the dirt in front of Ruth, he had already made up his mind to at least try conventional methods. Conventional in this case meant that he threw a handful of dirt straight up the moment he could see the things face.

The goatman had leveled his halberd and was getting ready to charge him from above when the smattering of dirt and sand hit the air in front of his face and caused him to miss a step. In addition to missing a step, he grunted and started to squint painfully. Ruth was gratified to know he could throw dirt at close range. Dirt is way better than rocks.

Ruth had cast Generic Magnetic Field before the goat had charged. He still didn’t know much about it but it was ‘free’ for the moment and it had done fun, if somewhat pointless, things to the metal shard that the small hatless furry creature on the bridge had brandished. The other nice thing was that the arrow in his shoulder had actually pushed itself out, the metal seemingly repulsed by his flesh.

The goatman’s halberd started to veer away from Ruth slightly as the metal tip pierced the air toward his abdomen.

The goatman let out a cry and tried to steady the halberd even as it fought his control. The range was somewhat short but the effect was actually kind of impressive? Ruth would have to figure out how this spell actually worked when cows, houses, spiders, and goats weren’t trying to murder him. He would probably need to be conscious, too.

With a bulge of muscles and effort, the tip skipped across a few of the black scales of Ruth’s clothing eating clothes before sinking into his unwounded shoulder instead of his sternum. Ruth let out a brief cry and grabbed at the wood below the axeblade to try and pull it out. He needn’t have bothered because no sooner had the metal pierced into his body than the whole axehead shot in the opposite direction, briefly bending the wooden shaft before shattering it at a breakpoint completely. The axeblade whistled and shot back in the direction it had come from like a cannonball.

In an extremely unfortunate turn of events, the goatman, still squinting through sand and dirt and heroically trying to fight the halberd axeblade that was turning traitor in his hands, had started to duck down as the halberd blade rocketed straight backward and the wooden shaft exploded in his hands. The blade spun off past his shoulder and into the sky, leaving a brief sparkle before disappearing -- probably to ruin someone else’s day.

The goatman had started to turn to watch the halberd blade spinning off, the hairs on the back of his neck rising as the specter of death sped off into the distance. He never got to turn his head the whole way because two hands grabbed both of the horns on top of his head and dragged him down into the ditch.

Ruth bit into his shoulder for extra purchase and held him down by the horns, yelling in pain even as he struggled to hold the goatman down. The goatman struggled and began to scream in a weird bleating goat fashion as it tried to push Ruth’s teeth away, his response being to bite even more viciously. Weird hissing accompanied the biting as Ruth got ahold of both of the goat horns and slammed the goatman into the ground. The goatman put both his hands on Ruth’s head to get him off and was surprised when he felt the resistance on his horns fall away on one side.

Ruth had canceled the Generic Magnetic Field when he’d noticed the arrow, previously lodged in his shoulder, rolling further up the hill as if trying to get away from him. It had started to slide down with the field de-activated and then his new sassy tail had grabbed it. All those tail calisthenics had paid off. Ruth released one horn with one hand, grabbed the arrow that had just 'escaped' from his body, and began stabbing the point into the ribs of the goatman repeatedly.

A shadow fell over him, blocking out the sun, even as the goatman struggling under his hands began to weaken. Ruth rolled immediately to the right and put the dying goatman between him and the sky. Just in time to feel the goatman shudder as two arrows quickly penetrated the back of the goatman lying on him. The archer stood on top of the ditch already feeding another arrow into his bowstring.

Ruth thrust his hands from around the mostly dead weight that was lying on him and pointed them toward the goat archer using the goatman still on him as a shield. He screamed wordlessly as he started to channel Shock into both hands. Time slowed and the goat archer was just, somehow, faster. An arrow started to pull back and the calm furred fingers seemed like they had extra time to pull the bowstring back that would kill Ruth. Ruth immediately thought about recasting Generic Magnetic Field but it didn’t seem like there was enough time to do that either. If he did that he would have to stop channeling Shock. It was just a race now. A race he would lose. The best hope was to survive the arrow that was being drawn toward his eyes, somehow, and kill the goatman on the return barrage.

A wordless rage blurred from deep within him.

For a moment he saw a small creature with weird lumps on its back and burning yellow eyes that were the shape of vertical slits. A tail lifted behind it and a soundless wave shook outward like a violent pulse from Ruth toward the goatman.

SHAKESHAKESHAKE

↢↦

Rush did not understand much of what was going on but it had determined that there were things.

That might not seem impressive, but the fact that Rush could tell that there were things going on that were different from the normal distant flashes was a big step.

The small window was gathering more of his attention and he was reaching true concern because the space around him was trembling. The thing had poked a thing toward his point of view. Rush did not feel endangered by this poke, thus, did nothing to avoid it. As Rush expected, this weird creature was simply too feeble to threaten his greatness.

Rush started to get bored. Only for a second though, because everything started to distort again.

The space trembled and cracked even more. Some of the space actually started to leak outward into the nothingness.

This, Rush decided, was unforgivable. The space provided Rush with a place to lord over. It was in desperate need of leadership and he was the leader. It was the space that provided food, and he protected it. There was also the image of the concept of territory again. He needed to protect his territory.

While the thing on the image made no sense to Rush and he felt no immediate danger from it, there was still a reaction to the space. The space was being attacked and that was unacceptable. The space belonged to Rush and therefore the thing with the thing was attacking his thing.

RAGE.

So Rush did what Rush always did when an invader entered his territory. Rush attacked it.

↢↦

Shake...Shake...Shake...Shake.

The goatman staggered as the weird wave reached him. Intense pain burst into his head as the noise reached his ears. His fingers released the nocked arrow before it was fully pulled so that he could clutch at his head. The result, the arrow skipped against the goatman that was lying on Ruth and then skipped a few more times into the distance before coming to a stop.

One, two, three, four, five, six! Six skips!

Ruth had just counted them. Then a sharp light filled the air as electrical arcs hissed out from his hands and slammed into the goatman archer. The bang as the lightning hit the goat immediately deafened anyone having a fight to the death within a meter. So everyone.

The unfamiliar and powerful rage flooded Ruth and he pushed the goatman off him and stood up, screaming his victory to the heavens.

↢↦

Rush threw back his head as he felt the space once again begin to stabilize. He howled upward and closed his eyes in a simulacrum of Ruth, exulting in his victory as lord of this place. The food provider was safe. He was still full. Rush spun around three times in the air and started to curl up on himself.

The threat vanquished, he closed his eyes after casting a pleased look over his domain. One eye opened briefly as it considered the thing in the darkness that wasn’t far away. He once again sent out his warning.

Closer. Eat it.

The window had closed during his victory pose.

↢↦

Ruth sat down and checked his shoulders. They were punctured and hurt. Neither wound was too deep but neither was exactly shallow. Ruth panted and poked at the arrow hole with his finger. He winced. He was a little concerned because his clothing was starting to cover the wound and the scales were starting to repair themselves in order to do so.

He broke out into a cold sweat as he began to wonder whether or not the clothing would try to seep into his wounds and eat him. Ruth would keep an eye out for that.

Ruth thought he should rest but decided against it. Ruth had spent his new life running frantically from one area to the other, only stopping when he collapsed or was knocked unconscious. He had already been lucky that he hadn’t been eaten, stoned, or just smothered in his sleep with all the carelessness that he’d displayed.

No more. Sleep would only occur if he could hide or find shelter.

Ruth sat down and crossed his legs, staring at the dead goat further up the hill. While he was recovering and taking stock of things, he might as well see what had attacked him and try to figure out if there were more of them.

Almost as if it were offering itself, the goatman near him began to cough softly, moaning quietly.

Ruth regarded the un-electrocuted and semi-conscious goatman and smiled. He would get some answers. Then he would learn how to use the bow. The bow seemed powerful.

For the moment, Ruth forgot about that strange little creature that had appeared in his mind, and the sound that had emerged that had briefly stunned the goatman. Rather, he tried thinking of it, got nowhere, and immediately put it aside for later.

↢↦

“I’m going to release my barrier,” Heath said calmly. “Collect yourself and act like you’ve either seen something amusing or something that didn’t impress you.”

Tamara rolled her shoulders and unclasped the fists at her side. She nodded after a moment and closed her eyes. “Do it.”

The barrier disappeared just as Tamara finished sighing. “Oh. I thought that was really going to be the end of him. It was, uh, ugly.” Her face was a study in disinterest.

“He lived, doesn’t that make you happy?” Heath smiled.

“I guess.” Tamara turned to him and smiled. “Hey, let’s go get cake.”

Spoiler: Spoiler

 

 

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Bio: I'm not by nature a very courageous person. If you have been around enough you might have surmised as much on your own. I started writing these gaming books because I was frustrated, and in desperate need of a way to give voice to the ideas and concepts that I hope to see in a game some day. I'm also trying to write a book about a former dragon without making him into too much of a murder hobo. I hope you enjoy them. If you don't, that's alright too. :)

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