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Chapter 8 — Bring Forth the Spirits

 

Gunnar couldn’t get why that Iye-dragon was retrieving his smog, until the answer came at him.

Before that Ismat-construct could do anything, shrieks hollered as hordes of gray, grotesque creatures spurted out of Iye’s spear wand. Resembling drastically deformed beings that could split apart at even a breeze, they swerved about until their dotty eyes narrowed at someone and rushed towards them. In particular, a pair of the ugly creatures targeted him, causing his heart to dip when they entered within range of the repellent balls and weren’t repulsed.

Goodness, he was going to be torn apart.

Then his brother Bills jabbed his shoulder. “This the fight you dreamed of being in, kid?” he said with a brandish of a sword, bringing Gunnar a downpour of clarity. This was a proper battle, no time for fear! He had to keep firm.

His brother wouldn’t let him hear the end of it anyway. “This stuff ain’t for kids,” Gunnar remarked, ducking as one of the smog monsters swung its chewed-up, oversized arm. His battleaxe rose in his place, hacking it off, and then the rest of the living smog’s body.

“Good answer,” Bills said, shredding his own foe until it dissipated like Gunnar’s. “Funny, the smog itself felt more threatening. These guys? They get sliced up like butter.”

Gunnar nodded, watching the remnant clouds of their foes get ejected by the spheres when something crashed against his side. In a flash his body was tumbling over a large green mushroom and landed prone on the hard stone. A heavy choke punctured his throat as he took in the static clouds of gray fluttering over him.

He was inhaling smog.

Holding his breath, he brought himself to retrieve his nearby axe, one end burrowed deep into stone. That dig aspect worked better than he thought.

Good thing it also made it easy to pull out. He yanked out the weapon, then darted out of the haze in time to block a strike from a third smog monster. Resembling an unsaturated slime with long, whiplike hands, it threw its fat body over, throwing Gunnar back into those forsaken clouds ripping at his lungs.

To his good fortune, Bills and another dwarf came to the rescue. Working in tandem, they distracted the slime and gave the Gunnar the chance to get out, inhaling all the fresh air possible once on clearer grounds. Yet another smog monster came over, slender and swift in form, but Gunnar managed to rip that one apart before resting up against a mushroom stalk.

“You disappointment,” Bills teased, the smoky remains of their slime-like foe scattering. “Still a kid, eh?”

Gunnar gave a pfft. “Not my fault they hit like a truck.”

“Did you just say truck?” the other dwarf said.

Oh. That was awkward. “Um, a boulder. They hit like a boulder.”

Bills coughed into his fist while the other dwarf smirked. “In any case, you two better stick with a group where it’s safer.” With a wave of his hand, he urged the brothers to follow him.

The trio skirted around mushrooms, rocky hills, and thick smoke to reach a party of dwarves synchronized in battle against the foul, disfigured horrors that nasty Iye-dragon kept summoning. Herein was a chance for Gunnar to breathe and observe the battlefield around him: teams similar to this were holding up against the smog creatures whilst steadily repelling the overcast clouds. Some dragons fought here and there too, though he failed to spot Jakyra, that villain called Iye, or the Ismat-construct.

He kept feeling these tiny tugs from the smog creatures, probably the mana imbued in them as befitting their own constructed nature. But unlike Ismat, they were primitive and simple-minded, showing almost no intelligence in the way they fought, though that was made up for by the ease of mass-producing them.

And their unique traits and looks. Some of them were flying about, some running or jumping, some crawling, and each with their own methods for attacking. On a positive note, they lacked ranged and magical attacks to use. Plus, Iye had to absorb the smog he left around to make them, and their ‘deaths’ left less and less of the stuff for him, meaning both the choking cloud plumes and the monsters were doomed to diminish in number.

His only advantage now is the size of this place, Gunnar thought, surveying the hollow. Large enough to host a grand village and full of obstacles, Iye could slip out from the adjoining passageways, including the one the dwarves entered from. Meanwhile, the smog creatures were causing no end of trouble, buying time for the villainous dragon.

Ismat’s distracting him just fine. Gunnar could hear sounds of things much denser than smog crashing into another, probably Iye moving smack into flame barriers or having to fight off someone. But it may not last for long.

At that moment Herod and a few other dwarves swung by, the powerful and complicated mana within Fracture Beam yanking the dwarf’s attention. “We’re going to destroy that hostile dragon’s artifact,” the chief yelled, sweeping the magic scepter over the gray monsters. In a blinding flash, the attached prism shot out beams of colorful light that phased through them like they were nothing.

And nothing they became indeed, for the tool that broke up mana left only a few tufts of smoke in their place. Gunnar’s fear for that thing shot up to awe.

He didn’t bother to hear Herod’s follow up. “I’m going with them,” he announced to Bills.

“Not with that face you will,” Bills said, bringing out an ointment and rubbing it over Gunnar. The ache in his body mysteriously vanished as the dwarf caressed his face, finding the bruises that were just there gone. Healing magic?

More surprising was Bills’s eagerness to also fight with Herod, until he explained. “We’ll be safer with him anyway, kid. Just don’t try to play the hero much and watch your neck.” And the two of them ran alongside the party out to neutralize Iye.

 


 

Iye’s name feels like it's just waiting to be used for puns, Jakyra offhandedly thought, clawing apart four of the constructs that outcast dragon had summoned. Too many of these things were lumping together, keeping her from joining up with Ismat. Couldn’t these things stay dead?

Okay, bad word choice. Constructs weren’t exactly living creatures.

And these ones had no need to fear death. It didn’t help that Iye’s ability to replenish the constructs made them seem equivalent to undead, and they sure did act the part too. And at this point, they were starting to come in huge swaths, outnumbering their foes. Still, the frail things could only stall for so long, and Iye couldn’t keep raising them back.

No matter what, he’s entombed in a grave situation. Still, it only took a simple slip up such as Iye getting out of Ismat’s attack range for him to escape, and Jakyra was not allowing the chance. She had to be there as backup.

But these cursed smog monsters, they kept bugging her at every turn!

The ground was swarmed with them. Flying troops kept her from lifting her mass up into the air — as if she could get a running start for takeoff anyway. Many a fiend she smashed, yet more kept coming in a bid to overwhelm. Jakyra had to first ensure her life wouldn’t be snuffed out, and a better strategy was in order.

Signs from Iye and Ismat’s clash presented themselves in front of her, be it as flames or the smog creatures flying out from spots not drenched by smog. Getting there would be a struggle. On the other hand, two ‘armored’ dragons dealing with their swarm of baddies were on her right. Considering strength in numbers, if she could reach them—

Jakyra took to wiping out an isolated group, giving her some running space to work with. If only those spheres the dwarves kept throwing all over also affected these creatures! It was fortunate enough the dwarves had left plenty around to isolate the smoky clouds, meaning Iye couldn’t just shroud himself in them and thus force Ismat to battle on his own.

The extra space would do, though. With a thrust of her legs, Jakyra charged horn-first, wincing as she plowed through the smog constructs. No way she could push through the thicker forces between her and Ismat, but reaching the guard dragons was feasible. If she could just endure the pain inflicted deep into her scales, she’d make it.

Her claw slipped on three inconveniently placed spheres.

You’re kidding! she hissed with a stumble, allowing the misty constructs to pile up on her. And when she was only a few meters from the dragon duo, no less! Her body wildly swung around, hurling attackers off her back and her fists destroying others, but more kept coming. Worse, a barrier of them now walled her off from the assistance she craved.

A multicolored beam disconcerted Jakyra’s pupils before she found Iye’s stupid distractions gone, reduced to puffy particles. The ground flashed many colors interweaving with the glowing mushrooms’ blue lights, and the dragon turned around to find the source as she finished off the stragglers.

Chief Herod and his Fracture Beam! If his merry men weren’t already demolishing the monsters with iron weapons and magic supplies, the chief’s prism-tipped scepter was rupturing them like balloons. Best laser pointer ever. And was that Gunnar over there, chopping off heads and appendages with his battleaxe? That looked Ismat-worthy enough to report.

“Less gawking, you dragons, and more fighting!” Herod barked. “We’ve a criminal to catch!”

Oh, right. Jakyra sundered herself from the vivid scene, finding the dragons behind her turning away too. Or did one of them do it to avoid her gaze, as if she was a basilisk? He looked familiar — maybe she clobbered him long ago and he was scarred by the memory.

Not the time, she warned herself, following in the wake of Herod’s light brigade.

The resulting purge was wonderful. Fear Factor didn’t do anything to the thoughtless smog creatures, but fear was the only thing Jakyra could describe her party as. Spheres were thrown out, dissipating leftover smog clouds to the edges and ceiling, along with a range of offensive magic she couldn’t begin to describe. For all their numbers, the constructs had nothing on this battalion's sheer power, and whatever stragglers survived the flames, lightning, and any other magic unleashed on them fell to blades, fists, and talons alike.

And it went without saying that Fracture Beam was something else on its own. Even with the anima purge from long ago, it was the bane of these feeble constructs!

The others seem to be clearing up their own monsters, Jakyra noticed by observing the other parties around the village. Sure, a sizable amount of constructs remained, but everything smog-related was finally starting to thin out. Good, that left Iye.

Rising to the air, it didn’t take long to get her eyes on the crook — there, his tail just retreated behind a grove of mushroom stalks. Further inspection showed Ismat elsewhere, fending off against way more smog creatures than a single person should face. Iye’s attempt to ward him off, no doubt, but the fool was backing himself into a corner. He wouldn’t have much room left for fleeing at this point.

“He’s setting something up.”

Jakyra practically did a barrel roll. Beside her hovered Fumnaya, the ancient brown coairse squinting her eyes with a set scowl Jakyra bore the brunt of on many occasions. “Figures he has a contingency plan. Either he’s got a surprise for us, or—”

A purplish light flashed out from the grove. Then it intensified, oddly brightening the rocky floor.

“He’s escaping,” Fumnaya finished, tugging Jakyra by the shoulder with strength beyond her years. “Child, hurry.” And with that, she shot off.

Jakyra blinked as the older dragon tore through the smog monsters in her way, dead set on intercepting Iye. A child! Couldn’t Fumnaya ever use her actual name? If there weren’t bigger fish to fry, she’d confront her on the spot.

But again, not the time. She flew in pursuit — as much Fumnaya made her fume, Jakyra wasn’t into letting grudges have her turn a blind eye on someone wanting assistance.

Not that she was neglecting Ismat. The behemoth had no trouble deconstructing his lesser cousins, and Herod would soon free him from being on the defensive. Oh, and she unwittingly made two puns right there.

Focus, she thought with a grumble, intercepting a smog creature that thumped her temples. Those blasted weaklings hit harder than they looked!

No sooner had Fumnaya reached the grove than Iye jumped out with an overhead fist. The elder coairse swerved out of the way, but the gleem threw his punch at a bulbous, swollen mushroom and covered his face. With a shudder, a barrage of spores were discharged with enough velocity to stun Fumnaya, her body dipping.

“Nuh-uh,” Jakyra said, the quiet words oblivious to the burning sensation in her chest. With a tuck of her wings, she plunged into Iye before he could move, throwing him to the ground and picking up on the sound of what were either scales or bones cracking. Not enough. Showing him how to throw a punch by using his face as a demonstration would finish the job.

Miraculously, it didn’t. Iye held on, stabbing one of her wounded spots with the smog spear he had. The distracting burn of pain was all Iye needed to throw her off and return the injuries he sustained full force. Jakyra’s attempt to swipe back met with failure as the gleem parried the claw to the side, before lunging at her neck and butting his horns onto her face.

Oh, woah. She was being clobbered.

Pain was something Jakyra could handle, but it came off as astounding to her for Iye to be such a capable fighter, considering his desire to flee. At the end of it all she was slumped underneath a mushroom cap, wounded both in terms of flesh and pride.

“I haven’t the time to soak myself in more mud,” Iye snarled, leaving her there. “Not with all this rubbish chasing after me while I’m still trying to perfect my Smogherald. But don’t worry, I’ll finish every last one of you off in due time.”

By then, Jakyra was dimly aware of the rods embedded into the grainy dirt that Iye was tinkering with, set in a triangular formation with a purplish light encased in each. Soon Iye stepped away as similarly colored volts spasmed from those lights, until they came into contact with each other and shifted towards the center. A ripple formed, then another—

Iye abruptly moved, his fist decimating the last-stand of a charge Fumnaya made. “Eh, why not?” he said, putting his claw over her snout while Jakyra watched in a daze. The crackling noise from the altar, it was like she was at a waterfall, but she heard Iye’s egregious words all the same. “You want to return to the dirt you coairses come from? I’ll oblige.”

At that moment, the dwarf Gunnar came in and struck his limb.

Iye screeched, releasing Fumnaya and moving back when Gunnar went for the other. No, his battleaxe was going off to the side, aiming for the spear. Ducking from a swipe, the dwarf committed to the attack.

Jakyra bet her eyes were just as wide as everyone else’s at that moment when the axe struck. A pronounced crack appeared in the onyx, smog leaking out.

“My Smogherald!” Iye flipped out, his rage an opportunity to Jakyra’s weary mind. As Iye swatted Gunnar away, her legs jumped in front of her and she pounced, reeling in her arm.

And she threw her hardest punch yet, sending the villain staggering to the nearest giant mushroom. “Serves you right,” she said, putting a claw on her throbbing forehead.

Iye struggled to get up, then slumped back as more dwarves approached, Herod twirling his scepter around while Ismat’s roar echoed throughout the hollow. By then the plasma at the altar had formed a sizable rip hanging in the very air. Jagged and fluctuating, it looked like a makeshift portal.

Huh. Iye must have imbued refined psychic magic into each rod, but refined magic being expendable and all, the rift would’ve only lasted long enough for Iye to escape without being chased. Clever trick, but it was useless now.

Jakyra and the dwarves jumped as the floor in front of them ruptured into mouths of a vibrant abyss — scratch that, more like many holes connected to a pastel-hued world, with pastel-hued creatures floating out. The what now?

She didn’t have time to react as the creatures rasped in what could’ve been some foreign language, their hands and feet literally extending to attack. She backed off, realizing with a start that they had no arms or legs attached. Instead, there was this faint, wiry line that seemed intangible. Those ran into little tentacle-like buds sprouting from the shoulders and below the torso, and also from the hands and feet. The buds almost were like a troll just beginning to regrow his or her limbs, except these things didn’t need limbs to begin with.

And those little tentacle strips could move, gross!

Their torsos each had a tail and a neckless head attached, the head itself star-shaped and with sunken, huge eyes of various shades and creepy white pupils. Their furry bodies had the strangest luster, as if they were every color possible and yet not. It was so alien to Jakyra, fighting these otherworldly creatures that could move their odd hands and feet separately from their main body, that she barely resisted the urge to run.

Not that she had to, as the creatures sank back into their holes without warning, their hands and feet drifting along as the rifts resealed themselves. The dwarves regathered their composure at this, getting back into orderly formations. It was as if nothing had ever happened.

Well, except for one thing.

Brimir crashed down at this time with all the anger he could muster. “Unbelievable!” he hollered, swerving his head to an arriving Ismat. “What were those?”

“They tripped my dangersense, whatever they were.” Ismat snarled at the tiny, receding cracks in the makeshift portal, the purple lights within the rods dying out.

Jakyra found herself repeating his next words, steam rushing out her horns as she glared at the spot where a certain enemy was supposed to be surrendering himself. “And they let Iye escape.”

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About the author

SaadTheConjurer

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Bio: Peace be upon you.

You've met a madman with a fondness for ducks, striving to write high-quality stories.

Currently writing a Pokemon Mystery Dungeon fanfic on fanfiction.net and AO3 (not posting it on Royal Road just yet). Needs to write more original work sooner or later.

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