Running through a dense jungle is never a good idea, but now that I was running for my life, it was even worse. The shock of losing Graymane still echoed in my heart, making each step unsure. More than once, I caught myself from tripping over a root or rock.
The blasted Destroyer harpy was still on me.
Through the thick canopy I could hear the flapping of its wings which sounded like the roaring of a furnace. The heat it radiated pierced the green roof. Whenever the leaves parted to show a glimpse of the sky, I could see it tracking me. It was hell bent on my destruction: that much was clear.
Every step I took brought the creature closer to Silias and his tavern. I knew that I was bringing a flame to a kindling, but I had no idea where else I could run to. If I ran deeper into the jungle, it would follow me there as well, so what would I gain from that? Who knew what I could run into there. With my mind in turmoil, my paws just kept moving on and on, one step after the other.
Suddenly I found myself bursting out into the clearing where Silias’ tavern was. There, I was met by at least a dozen Wardens, standing close to the building. Their gaze was fixed on the Destroyer, who they must have seen coming their way. As I approached, I could see palpable fear on their face. Not a good sign.
When I got close to the Wardens, I glanced backwards just in time to see the harpy halt its flight and soar upwards. There, high in the air, it waited and observed. I could see it looking at its new opponents, measuring, calculating.
That thing was too blasted smart.
I was startled by Thornfang who came back to my side. He nuzzled my paw, breaking me out of my stupor. With grim determination, I took my bow and nocked an arrow. The projectile flew true to its target, but burst into flames even before it hit the blazing harpy.
“Well, that’s not going to work,” I grumbled.
A couple of wardens who had bows somehow took courage from my action and shot a barrage of arrows at the creature. I joined in, but hardly any of our shots managed to hit the thing, and even when they did hit, it had no apparent effect. Except agitating the Destroyer.
It pressed its wings close to its body and dove straight for us. One of the wardens ran up to it, holding a shield in front of him.
“Get out of its way!” I shouted at the twig, but to no avail.
He just stood there, knelt behind his shield as the harpy came down. Just before hitting the ground it stopped in mid-air, flinging a huge burst of flame down at the warden. The roar of the flames was so deafening, it almost drowned out the Warden’s cries of pain. Almost.
The others were disgusted and Thornfang took a step back, but I had already seen too much to let it phase me. My next arrow hit the creature square against the head, but it just broke upon impact, not even leaving a mark.
My left paw, however, became increasingly painful with every shot I fired. The reddened flesh visible through my fur hurt worse than I could have imagined.
I rolled to the side to evade the tongue of flame that the harpy lashed out at me; however, I was unable to recover quickly enough to dodge the second one. As I saw the fire rush at me, a screen of water formed in front of me, blasting into steam as it snuffed out the flame.
Glancing over, I saw the elementalist Warden who had just saved my life. She seemed young, even for a sylvari, and terrified. For a moment she seemed desperate to find a solution as the harpy hunted down the other Wardens.
Within ten seconds, another two were burned. The elementalist waved her hands frantically and muttering unintelligibly too. Much to my surprise, ice formed itself in front of me, slowly taking shape. My breath caught in my throat the moment I saw that the ice had taken the shape of a bow. The elementalist gestured at me and I flung my own bow on my back as I picked up the conjured one.
The magic inside it was obvious, but the freezing cold bit deep into my burned paw, sending an explosion of pain through my entire body. Clenching my jaws with all my might, I pulled back the vaporous string and found an arrow of pure ice form itself. Letting the string go, I could not hear the familiar twang, but the arrow flew straight at the Destroyer and exploded on its leg.
The place of impact darkened as the harpy shouted in pain: a deafening roar like two boulders being smashed together. Immediately, the harpy fixed its eyes on me and soared into the sky.
The pain of the ice against my burned flesh numbed my senses as the harpy reached the zenith of its flight. My vision was blurry, but I could still see the harpy diving at me, its pressed close to it and roaring with a fire fueled by hatred.
If only my body would react!
When Thornfang chewed on the tip of my tail, the new flash of pain sent a wave of adrenaline through my body. Grasping at the moment, I drew back hard on the bow of ice, but did not let go. The longer I held it, the larger and more powerful the arrow became. As the arrow grew, the harpy came closer and closer.
Unable to hold on any longer, I let the string go. The frozen arrow flew through the air, leaving a trail of vapor and snow. The projectile and the Destroyer met head-on. A bright flash and an explosion of steam and snow blinded me. After a high pitched wail that shook the earth itself, the harpy crashed to the ground.
The smoke and dirt cleared slowly and I saw the Destroyer’s solidified body no more than three feet from me, after which everything went black.
After all that had happened, waking to the sounds of laughter and festivities coming through the windows vexed me greatly. I stirred and found my left paw bandaged, and probably treated. The room was dark as only the light from outside came in. Thornfang shifted its weight to allow me some more room. He was laying on the bed, folded around me. I placed my right paw on his head and drew some comfort from that.
The door opened slowly, letting light spill in. A shadow blocked most of it. “You are awake!”
“Yea,” I said softly.
The shadow stepped further into the room and I could see it was Silias.
“How long have I been out?” I asked.
“Almost a day, my charr friend.”
“You hurt your paw, so we treated it.”
Silias smiled at me.
“I don’t know what happened, but when Thornfang came back alone, agitated, I knew something was wrong. I called the Wardens who arrived only minutes before you did.”
“Yes,” Silias nodded. “Even so, you still were the one who saved us.”
Another voice broke in on the conversation. “We must not forget that he also brought that thing here.”
Silias sighed as Graymane’s Priory colleague, Cain, entered the room.
“Where is Magister Flaymane?”
His voice was sharp, but also filled with worry. It took a few seconds before I could answer him.
“He gave his life to destroy the fissure the Destroyers were using to get to the surface.”
A shocked silence fell in the room, made all the more unbearable by the festive noises outside.
“Dead?” Cain asked in shock.
After taking a deep breath I told him everything. How we found the Destroyers and fought of the first few and that the harpy arrived. How we found the little river and blocked it up. How Graymane used all that water to destroy the fissure and sacrificed his life.
“Are you sure you’re going?” Silias asked.
“Yea,” I sighed. “Time to move on.”
I had just finished packing my bag. For once, I left with some coin on me and a bag filled with supplies. Thornfang was pacing to and fro, obviously exited to be out and about. Cain, however, never spoke to me again after I woke up. I did not apologize to him, nor did I feel the need to. It was not my fault that Graymane died, although his death weighed heavily on me.
This whole place reminded me of him, which was one of the reasons I wanted to get out.
“Besides,” I said, “this place is crawling with Wardens now, you have no need for a guard. And I don’t want any pity coins.”
Silias smiled and nodded. “I understand. In that case, I wish you good luck.”
“Thank you,” I replied.
For a moment we stared at each other, after which we parted without speaking. All that had to be said was said. I owed a lot to that twig, that much was true, and I helped him where I could. But now, it was time to move on and get away from all these walking plants.
I flung my pack on my back and checked to see if my new clothes were in order. My left paw was still sensitive, so I protected it with a thick leather glove. Stepping out the door, the sight of all the blackened grass nauseated me. The harpy’s corpse still lay there.
Looming over the stone and obsidian grotesque statue, I saw it sprawled out in the dirt, untouched by the saplings walking around. A glint of light caught my eye and I took out my sword using its pummel to break away the stone covering it.
When enough rock was smashed away, a small sliver of obsidian fell on the ground from the corpse. The sliver glowed with primal fire and emanated heat. Oddly fascinated by it, I took a small steel strongbox and emptied it in my bag. Even though I picked up the sliver using the tips of my claws I felt its heat creep up. Once in the strongbox, it seemed to quiet down. I closed the lid and wrapped the box in a cloth before placing it back in my bag.
Once the pack was on my back again, I took a deep breath and hesitated only a moment before setting off deeper into the jungle with Thornfang at my side.
End of Part 7
End of Chapter 2