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21.6 Banyan

# 1799 9 - 12 mins. 7

I clung to Grollok's arm in my full vine armor. Lolan climbed up onto the treant's shoulder and Tigala held onto the top of his forearm as the tree walked toward the doom drake. Even at the top of his canopy Grollok only stood a little less than half of the doom drake's height. It was no match if the two of them were to go head to head, and Grollok made a pretty big target.

I scanned the battlefield, wondering if I could see Geralt. Had he made it to Kesq yet? Would the message get delivered? I didn't have time to wonder about it anymore, as I saw someone familiar speeding toward us. Malcolm was still trying to stop us, having seen what we were planning. Would he use the beacons instead? Or was that something outside of the vision he saw with his sight magic? I hoped it was.

"Malcolm's headed this way," I said. "We need to protect Grollok. Can you two focus on keeping him safe?"

"Where are you going?" asked Lolan.

"I'm going to do what I can to help," I said. I dove off of Grollok's arm and reached out to the beacon that glowed on his chest. It might not have been the smartest move, but it looked cool, and it kept me from weighing down Grollok as my vine armor expanded rapidly from the beacon-boosted magic.

The vines shot out beneath me, meeting the ground before I fell half of the distance to it. They caught me and I stumbled slightly, getting used to the new leg length. But I didn't just grow my legs. I fortified the entire armor. New vines coiled around others, making the armor three times as thick. My arms extended to almost the bottom of my legs. Vines weren't enough though. If I was going to fight Malcolm and dodge attacks from the doom drake, I would need something tougher.

I focused on the magic inside of Grollok's beacon, and funneled it out and into my armor. I worked on hardening the exterior of my armor. Dark bark began to grow on the outermost layer, forming large panels that resembled rough-cut plate armor. They were wiry and gnarled, but they were as thick as a brick wall. They covered my arms and legs first, and then my chest, back, and head in various plates.

Malcolm was on us in an instant. He flew straight to me and paused for a moment.

"You couldn't just die when you were easier to kill, could you?" he said. "Now it's going to have to get messy."

He pulled both arms back, and like he was lobbing a large rock at me, he threw them forward. A giant blast of fire materialized from his hands and barrelled toward me. I threw up my arms, crossing in front of my torso. The flame hit me with a force that pushed me back, with the feet of my vine armor scraping trenches in the ground. The heat wafted over me, even through the thick armor. But I was still intact. I had weathered an attack from Malcolm.

However, it wasn't something I wanted to keep doing. I reached forward and shot vines from my already abnormally long arms, reaching for him. He was too quick, dodging out of the way. I threw the other arm and met the same outcome. I was too slow compared to a single Human that was able to fly.

I swung again with my left arm, while my right worked on something else. I swiped a little high, and Malcolm flew low to dodge. When he did, the other vine I had grown behind him slammed into his back, swatting him at the ground. He hit the dirt, rolled, and skidded.

I didn't waste a second. I needed to tell everyone what was going on. I needed help. I couldn't hold Malcolm off all on my own. We needed Grollok if we were going to do this. I acted without thinking. I started speaking, but as I did, either by luck or some strange technique handed down from my ancestors, I used my plants to try and amplify my voice.

"Protect Grollok," I said, pointing at the treant behind me. The words were muffled and hard to hear at first, but trying gave me a better idea of how to improve. I tried again. "Protect Grollok. Protect him," I said, still pointing my armored vine arm at Grollok.

This time, it seemed to work. Others began to join the fight. A thick fog rolled in behind me, obscuring the walking tree. An Avian flew up to my side with glowing eyes, ready to predict Malcolm's next move. Dwarves and Saurians below began pelting Malcolm with rocks and blasts of water as he stood to his feet. It wasn't much against someone with as much power as him, but it was enough to slow him down at least.

Malcolm dodged most of the attacks, only taking a few small hits from the rocks and water as he pushed himself back into the air. He centered himself on me and began flying forward again. The Avian flew to intercept, but Malcolm's eyes glowed white as well. The two clashed in what looked like martial arts, but Malcolm was almost free of gravity, while the Avian could only use her legs since her winged arms held her aloft. Malcolm struck the Avian, and she plummeted to the ground. Without even waiting to watch the Avian fall, Malcolm continued his flight toward me.

Then, the announcement came. A voice was in my ear like it was my own thought, but it wasn't my voice. It was Geralt's. What happened to Kesq? Was she alright?

"...don't push the magic in a certain direction. Let it lead the way," said Geralt as he finished his instructions. It was clear now that he knew more than what I had told him. So Kesq wasn't alright. Did Malcolm stop her? Did he kill her?

Malcolm continued toward me like nothing was happening. He met my eyes and smirked. Could he not hear what we were hearing? Maybe we actually had an advantage here that he didn't know about. Maybe we could use it against him.

I reached out and tapped into Grollok's magic behind me. My arm shot at Malcolm at a speed he wasn't even ready for. The vines wrapped around him and I could see the look of surprise in his eyes. He had no clue how I was doing this.

I wound up, ready to throw him at the ground, but just before I could, a heat overwhelmed me. I pillar of fire shot between me and Malcolm, burning off the end of my vine arm. When the flame dissipated, I couldn't find Malcolm anywhere. The doom drake was still watching out for him. Then, an impact hit my leg, shredding vines and making me unstable. I used my unharmed arm to hold myself up and Malcolm followed up with illusion magic. The purple magic covered my vision and the battlefield faded away. Malcolm faded away, and I was left in darkness. I searched for the light, but it was so dim. I looked up and found a grate letting in a small amount of light. I followed the light down to where it highlighted crude metal bars. Was I in another jail cell? No, this was illusion magic. But why was I seeing this? Then something moved behind the bars. It was a hand, cracked and skeletal. It grabbed the bar. Then a face followed it. The face was gaunt with starvation, but it was familiar. It was a Treek. The dark brown bark-like skin matched my own. I looked closer. The Treek had her hair in dreads, now wiry and frayed from lack of maintenance. It was my mother.

"Mom," I said, trying to scramble forward to the bars, but everything felt weird. I could see my hands move but not feel the motion. She was so thin and emaciated. How could anyone do this to another person? I pushed my face closer to the bars. "Mom, I'm so sorry," I said. I grabbed the bar and found she wasn't alone in the cell. Behind her, curled up on the floor was my father, even thinner than my mother. He was wasting away on the floor, looking like a skeleton draped in a thin cloth.

"I can get you out," I said. "I'll get you out." I reached for my magic, but it wasn't working. Then, the darkness faded and I returned to the battlefield. Malcolm was just in front of me with a yellow glow coming from his hands.

There was a flash and a sudden excruciating pain that ripped down my back. My body seized and I fell toppled to the ground, vine armor and all. My face slammed into the mud, unable to do anything about it. I writhed there and wondered when Malcolm would finish the job.

Then there was a sound above me that I didn't quite understand. It was a roar, like a large animal, but none that I had ever heard of.

I tested my strength again and managed to get the vine arms under me. I relied on the magic to lift me to my feet again and face the creature that I had heard. I found the source was a large giant lizard covered in vines, thorns, and flowers. How did that happen?

I watched closely wondering if I had one more enemy to fight now, but the creature began attacking Malcolm. Malcolm sparred with it until he knocked the lizard off its feet with a well-placed pillar of stone, but then there was a flash of energy. Yellow mixed with a green coming from behind my back, and a tornado of vines and branches spawned out of the sky. It headed directly for Malcolm, sweeping him up in the mess.

I looked behind me and found Grollok was the source of the green magic. They are using the beacons, I thought, and it is actually working!

There was another flash of energy as a Dwarf launched a boulder covered in a thick layer of briars. It hit Malcolm, but instead of launching him, the thorns caught on his robes and he sailed through the air with the large rock.

This was working. We might have a chance.

Malcolm, seeing that the situation had changed, managed to pull himself free of the ensnaring boulder and looked us over. There was clear confusion on his face. He was frustrated and for the first time, unaware of our abilities. After a moment, he fled back to the shoulder of the doom drake.

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