21.7 Bayan

# 2873 14 - 19 mins. 10

We finally had it. We had an advantage. It was a gap in Malcolm's knowledge, and we had to do everything we could to use it while it was still unknown to him. I stared up at him as he landed back on top of the doom drake's head. He looked back down at me. But I had bigger things to think about now.

I surveyed the battlefield. It was filled with people who had come together here. We had overcome our past and chose to live in the present. There were no more Treeks, Dwarves, Avians, Beastfolk, Gnomes, Humans, and Elves. We were just people trying to protect those who couldn't protect themselves. We were here, united for the sake of ending the hatred and destruction. And it was up to us to do just that.

I set my jaw and raised a charred vine arm at the doom drake. "ATTACK!" I yelled, and the warriors all around me joined with their own voices. Flashes of green mixed with a rainbow of other colors exploded all around me so fast that I didn't have time to figure out what the original magic was supposed to look like with each attack. Regardless of who cast it, there was a tinge of nature to everything that happened. Vines, branches, bushes, carnivorous plant maws. They all slammed into the doom drake.

And it was working. The doom drake was starting to falter. We focused on the wounds created before Malcolm took control and we dug them deeper, with the tag-along plants adding to the damage of each hit.

I couldn't let them do all of the work though. This war started with my people and I needed it to end with my people too. Though we were few, we had our own part to play. I reached back to the beacon on Grollock's chest, and this time I didn't hold back. I used all of the tricks I had learned along the way. I focused on the hope of winning this battle, defeating the doom drake, and getting to enjoy the company of the people who helped me do it. I let the magic go where it wanted to go, and I let my body do what came naturally to it. Maybe there was still some muscle memory somewhere deep in my being that would let me use my magic the way my ancestors did.

I let the magic wash over me and my vine armor stretched and pulled me upward. It grew exponentially, pushing me to a height just above Grollock now. I was a small Treek at the center of a massive goliath of plants, vines, bark, and thorns, and my magic controlled it all as naturally as if it were my own body. I closed my eyes and let the vines and bark protect my head. I saw through my plants. I could feel what they felt and see where they were. But it wasn't just the plants in my armor. I could sense all of the plants around me, even the ones created as a secondary effect of the spells created by others. All of it formed a three-dimensional map in my mind of what was going on around me.

I had come so far, and now was the time to use it.

I charged at the doom drake and slammed into its leg. The monster brought down a giant claw to scrape me off of it, but I was no longer so easily swatted away. I wrapped vines from my arms around the leg and used my free arm to dig into the exposed flesh of the monster's leg.

Our attacks came faster than the doom drake could retaliate, pushing it back onto the foot of the volcano. It had never stopped fighting us or turned its back on us, but it was now stumbling backward up the sharp lava rock.

But the doom drake wasn't alone anymore. Though we had it on its back foot, Malcolm was the perfect ally for it. There was a glow of pink magic from above, and when it stopped, the doom drake turned its backpedaling into attacks. Each footstep landing turned into a wave of rocks spiking up into the warriors still on the ground. Many were thrown into the air, others were pinned in the cracks in the earth and crushed to death.

The doom drake used the opening to smack a few of the falling warriors back into the ground with its tail. It was just so powerful, and even with our concerted effort, if it had Malcolm thinking for it, we were still outmatched.

I had to get Malcolm. Somehow, I needed to separate him. I needed to take him out of the picture so the others could defeat the doom drake. I thought through as many ideas as I could all at once. Was there any other way to do this? To take on Malcolm might be incredibly dangerous. Even though I managed to make him slip up earlier, there was no guarantee that I could do it again. If I were to make one mistake, that would be the end of me. But if I could win, if there was some chance that I could get him away from the doom drake, the others might be able to take it down.

It was worth the risk. It might be the only thing I could do to let us win this war. I couldn't take down the doom drake myself, but I could at the very least lure away Malcolm.

I began climbing the doom drake, still in my tree-height body armor made of vines, bark, and thorns. I sent my vines up, latching onto the limbs and fins of the doom drake, higher and higher. The weight of my plants pulled the monster off balance, making it adjust its feet to support me. It swatted at me, but I bound its claws in vines before it could impact. It pulled them free tearing the vines and tried again, but I was able to stop it each time, growing more vines. The doom drake was then pelted with attacks, distracting it from me once again. I swung to the back to avoid any major attacks and used its back fins as handholds on my way up.

I could see Malcolm well now. He stood just above me, looking down on the battle. He fed instructions to the doom drake when he saw weak points and used his sight magic to predict our attacks. But he was focused on the warriors below and didn't even see me coming as a result. I reached the doom drake's upper back and whipped my vines into Malcolm, curling them around him. I know I wouldn't be able to hold him long, so I threw Malcolm higher up the slope of the volcano, away from the battle and the doom drake.

He recovered quickly and began to use his flight before he even impacted the black volcanic rock. I threw vines close to where he would have landed and wrapped them around a rock outcropping. I used the anchor point to pull my full armor in his direction. Malcolm dodged me as a sailed toward him and slammed into the side of the volcano. It was a rough landing, but I could handle it. I had forty feet of vine cushion between me and the ground. Just as I landed, Malcolm slammed into me like a comet. He blasted a whole right through the vine armor's shoulder.

"You want me dead?" I yelled to him, doing my best to amplify my voice with the aching and rubbing of vines. "Come get me!" I had to keep him distracted as long as possible to give the others a chance.

I stretched out an arm further up the volcano still and found another anchor point to latch onto. I jumped and used the anchor to pull me forward, climbing the volcano quickly.

Malcolm didn't seem to care. He was so much faster than me. He did another attack, like the first, but this time through the lower abdomen of the vine armor. He was getting closer to hitting my actual body.

I closed the holes as quickly as I could, but it wasn't very fast now. I was outside of the range of Grollok's beacon. But there were veins all around me, climbing and converging further up the volcano. They pulsed with red magic. It was fire magic. I considered tapping into it, but I was scared. I knew others were tapping into nature magic from Grollock below. I knew it must have been uncomfortable for them. Nature magic killed so many when the plague hit so many years ago. It was the whole reason my people were hated so much. And many were looking past that correlation so that we could win this battle and defeat the doom drake once and for all.

But I had a similar issue with using fire magic. It was the magic that stole my family away from me. It was what Malcolm started out with. It had caused so much pain for me and the people I loved. Even though others were no doubt facing the same dilemma below, I wasn't sure if I could overcome it.

Malcolm flew back toward me and this time used his own fire magic to create a pillar of fire slowly making its way to me. It reached the bottom of my vine legs and I could feel the moisture being sucked out of them. The flames ate at my plants and charred them, sealing them and making it hard to regrow from their ends.

But instead of backing away from it, I grabbed a large column of volcanic rock. I tore it from the mountainside and used it as a shield against the flames. The rock heated, but it was a thick black glass that was made with heat. It wasn't going to fall apart due to some fire magic. I jumped through the pillar of fire with the rock breaking an opening for me, and swatted at Malcolm again. I launched him further up the volcano still. He slid on the glossy black earth.

Malcolm yelled with a ferocity I hadn't quite seen from him before. He was always so controlled and sure of what he was doing, but it seemed I was starting to really get to him. Good. He stood and used earth magic to glide down the mountain toward me, riding a wave of cascading stones.

I hunched down, preparing for a hit, but it was harder than I expected. The stones jutted out of the mountain and slammed into me, sending me and my whole vine suit spinning.

A flash of orange magic had him transforming into a dragon himself. He looked eerily similar to the one we had just killed below. Malcolm breathed in deeply, and my heart lept. I knew that sound, but could he...?

Flames blasted from his throat at me. I dove out of the way, charring more of the vines that made up my left arm as I did. I didn't wait for him to strike again.

I threw a torrent of vines at him, adding exploding seed pods to each. They erupted, and Malcolm flapped his wings as fast as he could to escape. Spines stuck out all over him, but he was still intact in his dragon form. I followed up by launching myself at him. We crashed into the mountain in a tangle of vines and scales. He let out blasts of fire and bit through vines as I grew more, trying to immobilize him.

Then, there was another flash of orange magic, and the dragon faded away, turning back into Malcolm. In his smaller Human form, he slipped through my grasp, flying just beyond my reach at the top of the mountain. For the first time since I had first met him, he looked like he was struggling. He breathed heavily and sustained injuries all over his body.

"We need to stop it," I said, hoping there was some ounce of sympathy left in him for the other races. "You can't kill so many just to keep your race safe. They will always find something to fight—"

"I don't care what you think. You're the dirty Treek. Your people killed hundreds of thousands once you found out how to use your magic well. You have no right to talk to me about other races," said Malcolm.

"That wasn't me. That was you. You tricked the world into believing it was the Treeks to get revenge for what a few Treeks did to your mother."

Malcolm looked shocked, taking a step back toward the volcano's mouth. The red lava glowed and lit the edges of his silhouette. Sparks of red danced in the air around him. He gave an evil smile. "Ah, so you've learned Sight magic. I must say, that was rather quick."

I had just watched in on Klaus's sight magic, but I wasn't about to tell Malcolm that. "We don't want to hurt you. We just want to stop the fighting." I said.

Malcolm's smile widened as he broke out into a mocking laugh. "You still think you can hurt me? After all of this, you think that you can do anything about what is going on? You don't even know how outmatched you are."

Malcolm leveled his gaze at me, the shadows accentuating his brow line. He took a step toward me and threw one hand forward at a time. From each, a blue glow produced sheets of ice so thin they were hard to track as they flew out at me. I tried to dodge, but the ice came too fast. One sheet sliced the entirety of my vine leg clean off. The other sliced off an arm from my armor. I fell to the ground, kneeling on my one remaining vine knee and holding myself up with the opposite arm. I looked up at him, trying to regrow the vines before he could send a follow-up.

I wasn't fast enough. Before I knew it, two more sheets came at me, aimed for my remaining two limbs. I couldn't grow the vines fast enough, but just before they hit, I reached out to the veins that surrounded us and centered somewhere in the mouth of the volcano. I used the beacon and vines shot out in front of me, covered in flames. The ice hit hardened bark, shattered, and melted instantly, pelting my body with droplets of water instead.

Malcolm wound up again. I continued reaching out to the beacon. I didn't extend my body this time but instead grew branches out of the volcanic rock around him. They all were covered in flames. They would last a much shorter time than normal due to the heat, but they were also a heck of a lot more intimidating.

Malcolm looked at the branches, unafraid, with a quizzical look. "How are you doing that?"

"It doesn't matter. The fact is I can hurt you, and we will stop you. Stop this so we don't have to hurt you." I said.

Malcolm reached out at the vines. His hand glowed with red magic, but it was a slow unprovoking motion. The red glow touched the flaming branches. He stared at them, and then looked down at the veins, following them to where they met inside the volcano. "Ah, I see," he said. "You're not as smart as you think."

He reached his hands back and I saw the red glow reaching for the magic in the fire veins.

"No! Don't!" I yelled. But I was too late.

Malcolm erupted in flames. They engulfed his body without burning him up. He used his flight to lift himself into the air as a flaming beacon of a man. Then, with a thrust of his arms, a torrent of fire as wide as the doom drake's legs shot at me. I dodged, but with my limited mobility. There was only so much I could do. The flames burned over half of my vine armor in an instant, shrinking vines around me, and trapping me inside of them.

As I fell to the ground, I looked up at him one more time. He was laughing with corrupt power. He reached back for more fire magic from the beacon within the volcano. But this time, when he went to unleash it, there was a rumble and cracking from within the volcano. Globs of lava shot high above him, but they were just the precursor of what was to come. Lava spewed from the volcano, and a look of terror showed on Malcolm's face. Whatever was happening, he was no longer in control. Malcolm tried to let go of the magic and run, but before he had a chance, the lava consumed him without even giving him time to scream. He was gone in an instant, and the rumble of the volcano wasn't stopping. The volcano was erupting and all of the people I had come to care about were just below.

Tags: Kaia Malcolm


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