"Ahh! Hot! Hot!" yelled Galia after a moment.
Around us, the plants I had grown were barely upright. They hung limp and wilted while others turned to molten drops of sap and fell around us. Galia danced in place holding his arm with some of that burning sap of something running down it.
The forest was in ruin. All around us, fires spread. Trees were dark pillars framing the dragon's charge toward the colony.
I heard a groan. It was Tigala. She must have been waking up.
"Are you okay?" I asked her, kneeling down next to her in the tight huddle of Elves.
"Get off of me," she growled, shoving Galia from the smoldering remains of our plant bunker. Galia tripped over a ruined banana tree on his way out and fell in a pile of ash. He screamed louder but got up quick enough that I knew he'd be fine.
Good. She's okay, I thought.
Tigala rubbed her head as she stood to her feet and looked confused seeing all of the Elves close by.
"What happened?" said Tigala. She stood and glared at the Elves in a stance that indicated she was ready to tear through them.
"Bigger problems," I said, pointing at the dragon heading for the colony. I turned to the Elves. "We need a storm. We need rain if we're going to have anything intact after fighting this thing."
"We don't take orders from you," said Galia, scoffing at the thought of helping.
"I don't care," I said. "You really want me to believe that you aren't the Arcus? Then help me take down that dragon. We need a storm."
Tallesia who had been staring in awe at the dragon up until that point turned her attention to me. "We care very little what you think of us," said Tallesia. "But our people are back there, and we need to do what we can to help. If you think you can stop..." she looked back at the dragon, "that, then you'll have a storm."
I still didn't trust them. They were dangerous. They had caught me off guard and taken out Tigala. Working with them wasn't as simple as just trusting them to have your back, but it was all I had at the moment.
I looked at Tigala. "We need to get over there fast. You think you can carry me?" I asked.
Tigala stood up, rolled her shoulders, and gave one more snort to the Elves. In the distance, the dragon released its first fire blast on the colony. It wouldn't take many of those to destroy the whole place. "Yeah," was all that Tigala said. Then she began to transform.
The Elves were doing their rain dance, pushing and pulling on the clouds like they were rowing an imaginary boat. The rain began to dump on us and the burning forest around us. Steam immediately rose, creating a haze throughout. I took a moment to find the unburnt side of a tree and make myself some armor. I reached my arms into the trunk and pulled away with bark armor. I did the same with my legs and then again with my head. I completed the set with a section for my chest and back and mended the two together before the life left them.
Then out of the ashy ground, I grew a sapling about as tall as me. I grabbed the knife from my hip and held it out as the sapling grew. I commanded it to wrap small branches around the hilt of the dagger and then drained the life from the base of the small tree. When it was finished, I had a spear and full tree bark armor.
I looked back and saw Tigala fully transformed into a tiger, her go-to. She was ready.
"We need the storm on the colony, with heavy rain if we're going to stop any destruction that thing may cause," I said to Tallesia.
"We'll take care of it," she said with an elegant nod.
"Anything else you can do to help too. Lightning, wind, we need all of the help we can get." I wasn't sure they were going to help. Maybe they just wanted to come and finish us off once the dragon had worn us all down. If they were the Arcus though, it was odd that they had attacked it and that they barely escaped its fire blast.
Tallesia only nodded in response.
"You ready?" I asked Tigala.
She nodded and growled.
I hopped on Tigala's back and she charged at the inferno that was the colony.
Behind us, I felt a large gust of wind. Fearful of another attack from the Elves, I turned to look. Wind blew in large gusts, causing the Elves' hair and clothes to whip around violently. But the wind wasn't just to make them look cool. They began running after us, and when the wind picked up the most, they all jumped, letting the gust carry them much further through the air than should be possible. They landed from the large jump, kept running, and then jumped again. With their wind-walking, they were keeping pace with Tigala, a full-sized tiger.
We ran toward the city watching the dragon. I didn't have a plan, but I wanted to make it at least look like I did. Honestly, I was terrified. I had only survived attacks from that monster by the skin of my teeth up to this point.
But even without a plan, I had to do something. There was no way we were going to scare that thing off without everyone who was able doing their part. And failing to drive it off meant one more win for the Arcus. It meant that more people would be pointlessly killed for the sake of this war. It meant we would be even more disadvantaged when we did finally confront the Arcus. We needed that dragon gone as soon as we could manage.
It released another torrent of flame on the town, and I was afraid for what I might find when we got there. Luckily, I did spot some magic being flung back at the creature. At least everyone hadn't run.
Tigala changed course slightly, toward the rear gate of the colony and I looked that direction to find Zef and Lolan waving us over. I was glad to see they survived the start of the attack, but why were they outside of the colony? Were they running?
We reached them and the Elves behind us began pulling the large storm over the colony.
"What are you doing?" I asked Zef.
"We need to run. Everyone needs to evacuate. The dragon can have the colony," said Zef.
"That's what the Arcus want," I said. "If we run, we are without defense in the wilderness. I don't think we'd be any better off."
"We'd be alive," said Zef. "We can't fight that thing. Have you seen how powerful it is? We need to help people escape."
It was weird to see Zef scared. I agreed to an extent. Fighting it didn't look like the easy option, but at the same time, it could fly. Running didn't exactly mean escape.
"What if it just chases us?" I asked. "We need to fight or we won't get a chance too. We need to act now, while we still can."
"I don't think it's a good idea," said Zef. "I don't think we'll survive this."
"Maybe we won't, but I don't see any other options," I said.
Lolan looked lost, unsure of who to side with. I'm sure he didn't feel very capable going into a magical fire fight, but he had proven helpful in sticky situations before. He just needed to hang back.
I hopped off of Tigala's back. "Are you good?" I asked her.
Zef looked between us. "We need to be careful then. Don't take chances."
I nodded but wasn't fully agreeing with him. If I avoided taking chances, I wouldn't be on Daegal. I wouldn't have worked with all of them. Taking chances was the only way I could improve this situation. "Let's go," I said.
I ran in through the back gate and laid my eyes on the destruction before me. Several buildings were burned almost completely to the ground. Paths of fire and ash spread out across the town square. People were running around like ants scattered beneath a giant.
I looked at the chaos and the only thought that came to my head was, We need to work together.
Tallesia and her fellow Elves ran in through the gate. The storm brewed above us and a few drops of rain hit my arm. Then, the clouds unleashed, dumping rain in sheets all around us. Good.
"Let's go!" I yelled to the others. "Do whatever you can. I'm going to see if my plants can affect it."
I ran forward in the downpour dodging patches of fire and crumbling buildings. The ground was all broken up with large outcroppings of rock. It made for decent cover as long as I was behind it when the dragon struck.
The beast was currently battling a group of Saurians. Some charged the dragon trying to freeze its legs to the ground. Others used the water to douse the fires immediately around them, providing them with greater mobility to dodge each attack.
A group of Humans was approaching it as well from the side. They ran forward while the dragon's attention was on the Saurians. Once they were close enough they attacked with fire. The dragon didn't seem to mind the attack, being a firebreather itself. A few attacked with swords and made the equivalent of papercuts on the creature's leg. But it did react to that.
The monster drew in a deep breath. I tried to stop it. I shot vines from the ground and wrapped them around the dragon's neck. But it was no use. It was far too strong for the measly vines I grew. It spat fire as it turned its head toward the Humans. The fire consumed the Saurians and then the Humans. I ducked behind a stone bunker. When it was safe to raise my head again, there was only one Saurian left that had ducked out of the way, while all but one of the Humans managed to deflect the flames from themselves.
The sight shocked me. It took the wind out of me and the fire never came near me. Those people died, in an instant. And for what? Because some Elf thinks they can do whatever they want. Because they think that revenge is the only option.
This stupid war once again was destroying the world. Killing brothers, and sisters. Killing parents and children. All because of grudges that no one could even trace.