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15.3 Kudzu

# 2372 12 - 16 mins. 9

A note from houston

The break is over! For all of you who have been patiently waiting for the next chapter, thanks for sticking around! And to any newcomers, thanks for checking out the story.

Sprig was on hiatus for a few months while I figured things out and made sure I was ready for the ending. Writing is hard. Any creative endeavor is. You are constantly battling against your inner critic, and I let that get the best of me a few months ago. But I'm happy to say that I've made it through the slump, learned from it, and I'm ready to take on the rest of this story.

I started writing again on March 30th, and in the month of April, I had my biggest writing month ever, passing 50,000 words. I now have first drafts for most of the remaining chapters. So as a thank you for waiting, I'm going to start releasing at least 2 chapters a week until Sprig is over. You can now expect to see a chapter on Mondays, Fridays, and sometimes on Wednesdays. Thanks again for reading!

Adventure awaits,

Houston Hare

Marv was the last to enter, blocking the little light breaking in through the smashed doorway. I could smell it again, the smell of refuse. We were crowded together in what had to have been another one of the holding cells for the slaves down below. They were left to rot in these rooms to help their slaver, whoever that was.

"So are we really just going to wait for them?" asked Ferek "They're going to cook us alive in here."

"They might be easier to fight in close quarters," said Tallesia. "Wikith fights well in the open where he can create miniature climates, but you can only shrink that so small."

Well, I didn't expect Tallesia to give up one of her own so easily, but I guess it was to help us capture him and not kill.

"Something is going on," said Kricoo. Her eyes were flickering back and forth from the white glow of sight magic to her normal dark Avian eyes.

"Can you figure out what?" I asked.

"It's jumbled," she said. "I can't parse it. It hurts."

"Try to turn it off for now. We can worry about it after," said Tigala.

"Let's spread out then. Maybe we can keep him on his toes long enough to take them out," said Garlar.

"This way," said Wallace, leading us past the cell bars that separated the foyer of the room from the holding area. We all ran in, past the bars, caging ourselves in.

The cell was big, much larger than the entrance of the room. We spread out, each picking a section of wall far enough from everyone else that we couldn't reach each other with outstretched arms.

We heard the footsteps, and the silhouette of Wikith filled the doorway. He chuckled and said, "Well, I thought we were going to have more fun with them. But they practically did the work for us, closing themselves in."

Wikith stepped in slowly, and a second shadow walked in behind him—Lolan's brother.

"You know what to do, Brendell," said WIkith.

The metal of the cell door creaked shut as they walked into the cell part of the room. They were locked in here with us now. He sure is confident, I thought.

The only light in the room came from the open door into the rest of the cavern. Even that was dim light, casting Wikith and Brendell in dark shadows. No one wanted to make the first move, afraid of being the target of his attack. There was silence.

With a blast of wind, I was thrown hard against the wall. My head hit first, and then my body. I slumped and fell to the ground, coughing and gasping for breath. Wikith had sent a stray shot to see if he would catch anyone. Of course, it hit me.

There was a blue light and I heard the crackle of energy arcing in front of me. He heard me. I didn't have time to look. I dove to the side instead and a blast of blue energy tore into the wall next to me. I didn't wait for a follow-up and ran toward the middle of the room.

The ground was dust, making me nearly useless in here. Still, I charged, trying to throw them off and dodge any attacks in the meantime.

Wikith was at the center of the room with a swirl of yellow light and dust around him. He threw an arm at me and I was knocked from my feet again. But before Wikith could throw another attack, a blast of water hit him in the legs, knocking them out from beneath him. It didn't knock him over, unfortunately. The small cyclone that circled him kept him aloft, but it was enough for another bolt of electricity to strike the ground instead of me.

Then, the chaos ensued. I ran back for the darkness to catch my breath as Geralt ran in screaming with a sword raised above his head. He was slow, and loud due to the golden armor. He reached the cyclone circling WIkith and was slowed by it, giving Wikith time to discharge the energy bouncing between his hands. It struck Geralt's armor, and Geralt stopped in his tracks. The electricity bounced around the shell of his armor and into the ground, leaving Geralt unaffected and confused.

While Wikith was focused on the Human, earthen pillars shot up one by one, and Marv charged in swinging at the Elf from his rock suit. But Brendell stepped in just before Marv reached them. A blast of wind knocked the Dwarf back.

I had to try and help somehow, but Geralt had shown that it would be hard to even get in close enough to attack with a weapon. It had to be magic, but I had none with the barren floor of the cavern.

A tiger pounced on the younger Elf, pushing him away from Wikith's protection. Wikith saw the attack and landed a bolt on Tigala. She seized and fell allowing Brendell to get back on his feet.

Illusions swirled around Wikith, as he tried to get back to Brendell, and water froze into a wall, blocking WIkith's path. I couldn't make out most of my group in the darkness, but at least Wikith was bold enough to stand in the light and make it clear when they were attacking.

Can we win this? I wondered.

It was hard to see what happened next. Lightning flickered throughout striking the ground around Wikith and making him virtually untouchable. I watched the scene unfold in flashes. People were closing in and Wikith was backtracking toward the cell bars. More pillars sprung up to slow him further. Another flash showed the anger on his face.

A wind blew the exterior door shut, and then there was darkness. All hopes of finding the piles of refuse with my eyes were dashed. For a moment, it was silent. But it was short-lived. A guttural yell echoed in the holding cell. With an explosion of light, a gust of wind hit so hard I doubted even the strongest Saurian would still be on his feet.

"There. That's better," said Wikith. "Now which of you would like to die first?"

Brendell's blue lightning showed Wikith's face, grinning, hardly phased by the confrontation aside from one stray hair hanging in front of his face.

"Ahh," yelled Kricoo as she grabbed her head like it was about to burst. Two bright white eyes shined through the darkness. Whatever was bugging her before, it was getting worse.

"You then?" said Wikith. Lightning flickered between his hands and then lurched toward Kricoo. But before it landed, a stream of water hit the bolt, directing it into the earthen floor.

"They're stalling," yelled Kricoo, still holding her head. "The creature..."

Wikith sighed. "You are becoming a nuisance," he said, preparing another bolt. His cyclone sped up, with dust whipping around him. His robes flapped in the wind and he moved so fast that it was hard to track him. He headed in the direction of Kricoo.

A fight ensued in front of her, protecting the helpless Avian from the attack.

If she was right, and she usually was, this was just a distraction. But from what? The creature? My eyes went wide. They were waking it up now!

I turned to Geralt who was slumped beside me. "Help me get out of here. They're waking up the monster at the bottom of the cave. I'm limited in here anyway."

"It would be my hono—" he started. A stray bolt hit just above us, sending debris clanking against Geralt's armor.

"Let's go!" he said.

We ran for the door. Although Wikith was occupied trying to take out Kricoo, Brendell still guarded the closed cell door. He was fighting off Garlar and Ferek who exchanged lightning with streams of water. Garlar managed to pin one of Brendell's legs, while Ferek ran forward with a club above his head. He swung at the Elf. Brendell ducked and touched Ferek's ribs with hands wrapped in lightning. Ferek fell, but Garlar was ready with a follow-up. Another blast of water, frozen around the Elf's other leg. Brendell looked down, with creased eyebrows. Then, he used a gust of wind to lift Ferrek's club. It spun in the air, smacking one of the ice caps on his foot. It cracked, and Brendell was able to push his foot free.

As Garlar prepared another stream of water, Brendell's lightning slammed into it. The bolt stretched from the water to its wielder, and Garlar stumbled backward. Brendell used the opening to grab the club and smack his other leg free of the ice. Then he saw us approaching.

I had no magic, and neither did Geralt. Brendell, on the other hand, had just taken out two seasoned Saurian warriors. I grabbed my knife and gulped.

"Help us companions!" yelled Geralt. "Get us free so we can stop it!"

At least he had a commanding voice.

The Marv and Crag team rolled up in a massive rock ball, defending us. Tallesia sent a gust at Brendell, knocking him back. Lolan shot a burst of fire to keep his brother off-balance.

But we attracted Wikith's attention as well. The whole fight quickly shifted to the front of the room with the Arcus guarding the cell bars.

The battle became so chaotic it was hard to tell what was happening. Between dust, debris, explosions of magic, and the low light, it was hard to imagine doing anything to get through it and out the door.

Nonetheless, we pushed forward, into the chaos. Geralt charged ahead of me, and I followed if only to keep him safe.

Tigala dove in and out of the clouds of dust that was filling the room. Zef created decoys for the Arcus to attack. Water blasted as Garlar and Ferrek found their footing. And Wallace charged into the fray several times with his sword raised.

Then the battlefield changed entirely. Tallesia created a fog that spread out from her with a shimmer of yellow magic. It quickly enveloped the room with Wikith's cyclone being the only thing that pushed it back.

"Come on," said Geralt. "Let's go!" He tugged on my arm in the direction of the bars.

We ran, with the yells and sounds of battle as our only way of telling where anyone was.

Geralt ran into someone and a shock knocked him to the ground. I looked up to see Brendell with the door just behind him, barely visible through the fog.

I glared back at him. Let's go. He stared me down with blue lightning dancing around his silhouette.

With my blade in hand, I charged at him. I stooped low, grabbing a handful of the dust that had been stirred from the battle and threw it at his face.

He stumbled backward yelling. Before he could find his aim, I jumped, kicking him hard in the chest. He slammed into the bars behind him, but he was quick. Before he was pushed out of range, he swung a hand forward and grabbed my leg.

The pain ripped through me. My whole body pulsed. My back tensed, and I toppled to the ground.

Brendell recovered from the kick quicker than I did from the electricity. He stepped over me and the lightning between his hands arced with greater intensity.

"You're the one master wants," said Brendell over the sounds of battle. "Maybe I won't kill you then." He raised his hands ready to lunge them down at me.

With a loud growl, bright light and heat washed over me. I shuffled back and saw the flames ripping through the fog. I looked up to see Lolan, orange and red reflecting off of him. The anger in his face was apparent, which would explain the strength of his fire magic.

The flame dissipated, and Lolan didn't take his eyes off of Brendell. "I'll deal with him," he said. "Get out of here."

I got up as quickly as I could with my muscles still spasming.

Brendell stepped forward. "Lolan. I was wondering when I would see you again."

"You don't want to hurt me," said Lolan.

"You're wrong. I want to hurt you more than the rest." He lunged for Lolan. I hated to leave him to fight Brendell on his own, but if anyone had the experience to do it, it was Lolan.

This time I grabbed Geralt's arm and ran for the bars. The battle continued in the fog behind us, obscured by the fog. I grabbed the bars looking for an opening. They were solid. The door was locked tight. I reached for my plants, but the floor was so barren. I wouldn't be able to grow anything before one of the Elves had a chance to stop me.

I heard a growl next to me. Tigala was slamming her wyvern head into the bars. She looked at me, then kept hammering away. She was wounded, with tears in her wings and fresh blood on her back and tail.

The wind grew stronger around us. The fog was thrown aside and Wikith appeared, making eye contact with me. "You," he said. He sped up his flight, leaning forward and coming for me.

Cracking stone signaled the approach of Marv rolled up in a ball in his Crag suit. He crashed into Wikith, knocking him off course, and out of view once again. But Marv kept going. Geralt and I dove out of the way, and the rock boulder slammed into and through the bars, ripping them out of the ceiling.

Marv unrolled so I could see his face. "We've got this. Go!"

I glanced at the battle. The swirl of wind was growing closer again. Could I really leave them in here? Could they fight off the Arcus?

"We need to go!" said Tigala. She was halfway back to her Beastfolk form now.

The purple glow of illusion magic covered us as we ran. Zef was with us too.

I took a deep breath and ran through the opening, back into to wider cavern. It was time to get our people back.

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