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4.5 Entangled

# 1987 10 - 13 mins.

From the stalk of neck where the Saurian representative had just chopped, were now two more necks and heads. The creature didn't slow down at all. In fact, it seemed to fight with more tenacity.

"I'm going to help," said Zef.

"Really?" I said. "They were going to exile you in a land with monsters like that roaming around and they were going to execute me."

Zef looked at me with confusion. "I thought you'd want to help too."

"I did," I said, then looked away. "That was before they planned to kill me."

After all of the good I tried to do here and all of the trouble I tried to stay out of, the representatives still wanted to kill me. They assumed I was evil due to something terrible that my people did. Some sanctuary this was.

"We need to help. We can't just let this colony fall to the ground. There are still missing people out there," said Zef.

"We could help and then run as soon as the fight is over," said Lolan.

"If they can take down that thing they can definitely capture us," said Tigala.

Zef held a pointed finger up. "Unless helping them is all of the evidence they need to trust us finally."

"You really think that's all it would take? I just saved Lobo's life and they have twisted the story around so much that you'd think I already killed him." I said.

Zef scrunched his eyebrows together. "That's not the only reason I want to help. Yes, it may help them be more lenient with us, but I think it's also the right thing to do."

"After all that they've put us through? After they didn't listen to a word we said and hated us for talking to other races? After they assumed we were lying because I'm a Treek? After they threatened to execute me even though I saved my attacker's life?" I was breathing heavy and I could feel the blood rushing to my face. I was angry, and that was the first time I really let it out.

Zef looked up at me and in a small voice, he said, "Hatred breeds hatred. Someone has to be the first to break the cycle."

"Good luck with that," I said through clenched teeth. "I'm going to find Chipry and get out of here. I won't die a martyr."

Zef didn't say a word. He only nodded and then climbed through the shattered wall of the building to join the fight.

Lolan looked at me, then at Zef, and then back at me again. "Sorry, Kaia. I'm going to try and help too. We'll meet you by the cliff when it's over."

This time I was the one to say nothing. I nodded and he jumped over the hole in the floor to join the fray.

Tigala, Marv, and I stood in the middle of the ruined building.

"What are you going to do, Tigala?" I asked.

Tigala looked at me. "Are you sure about this? You may die just as easily outside of these walls."

I nodded. "At least I won't give them the satisfaction of killing me."

Tigala nodded and said, "I'll come."

Next, I looked at Marv. "And you?"

"I'm afraid I'm not much of a fighter," said the Dwarf. "I was a coal miner. Besides, they were about to kick me out of the colony before you four showed up."

"Okay. I need to get Chipry and then we can go."

I found another staircase and climbed it to the top floor. It was bent and irregular. The walls had cracks in the wood and the floor creaked loudly.

After looking through a couple of off-level rooms, I found a cage near the back of the building against the wall that the creature had shattered on the floor below. The wall was intact on the second floor, but the room was tilted toward it. The cage was half-buried by chairs and I feared the worst.

I let out a whistle to see if he was okay. After a moment, the whistle was returned along with the rustling of feathers. I tore the chairs off and freed Chipry from his cage. He hopped to my shoulder immediately but lacked some of his usual bounciness—still weak from the troll fight, I assumed. I wasted no time running down the stairs and rejoining the group.

"Okay. Let's go." I said.

We crept out of the front of the building and peeked around the corner. The massive lizard now had seven heads. If they kept up their current rate, it would soon outnumber the people fighting it.

I huffed and said, "Come on." I lead the group across the clearing to the next building. It was another freshly built wooden house that had a sign out front that read 'Butcher'. We sneaked around the front and to the next. We rounded the far corner and began walking down the alley toward the back of the building with the colony's rear gate in view.

There was yelling from the direction of the fight. We peaked around the back of the building just in time to see a Dwarven guard and the Dwarven representative working together to split one of the creature's necks with jagged stone. The guard raised a pillar of stone from the ground while the representative held a floating rock above it. The two collided, severing another head and the giant lizard screamed. It's other heads whipped around. One of them slammed into another fighter sending him our way, skidding across the dirt and grass.

The warrior rolled over and I saw a familiar face. Rodrigo stared up at me, his face souring with rage.

Blood ran from the top of his head down his face and his clothes were tattered and frayed. With great effort he stood, glaring at me the whole time. "I thought I told you to stay put."

"You were going to execute me. You really think I'm just going to sit around and let you?" I said.

"Those sound like the words of someone who is guilty," he said.

Neither of us moved. We just stared each other down with the screaming monster terrorizing the town behind him. I didn't know what was more important to him, protecting the town or bringing me down. I wasn't sure Tigala would be very effective against fire magic, and I was at a disadvantage already with my nature magic.

Fire magic, I thought. Why did that sound so important? The thought nagged at me, but I didn't have time for it now.

"We're leaving," I said. I whistled to Chipry who chirped and flew to the building's rooftop as I stepped out from behind the corner of the house. I was careful, ready to summon my vines at a moment's notice.

He snarled at me with black and gray hair hanging loose in front of his face. "There are people's lives at stake and you're going to make me fight you too?" His face grew red with anger.

"You don't have to fight us. You can let us go," I said. I kept walking toward the back gate trying to look unphased by his anger.

Rodrigo reached his boiling point. He let out a guttural yell and threw his arm forward. A blast of fire shot out of it at me.

I knew it was coming and brought a vine up to grab some of the flames while I dropped to the ground. The heat passed over me in a wave and the top of my vine shriveled.

I drained the little life from it that I could and raised another vine right in front of Rodrigo. It was smaller, being further away, but it was enough. He raised his hand again and the vine wrapped around it, throwing it off course. The torrent of fire shot into the ground nearby.

"Don't you have bigger problems than us right now?" I asked from behind the husk of the first vine. Behind Rodrigo, the giant lizard smashed into another building, shattering an entire corner of it. It creaked and bent, threatening to topple.

He raised up a flame to burn away the base of the vine that bound him. The fire danced around the ground and it reminded me of that nagging thought once again. "There's no telling what you'll do to this colony if I let you free," he said.

I didn't want to fight him, but it didn't look like this could end any other way.

I had been working on growing another one of those giant mushrooms while I stalled him. It was smaller than the one I grew in the cave, but it would have to do. I grabbed its stem and tore it off, welding the head of the mushroom as a shield as I charged Rodrigo. I heard footsteps echoing my own not too far behind me—Tigala.

Rodrigo saw me running as he freed his hands and let out a quick stream of fire in my direction. My mushroom took the blow and dissolved almost entirely. The flame grazed my arm as it ate through the mushroom flesh, and I remembered why I couldn't stop thinking about the importance of fire. I threw the mushroom head to the side and whistled.

Chipry swooped down and blocked Rodrigo's vision, landing on his cheeks and eyes but not doing much damage. I ran to the side and pulled out my dagger, while Tigala, who had now caught up in her tiger form, pounced on Rodrigo.

She pinned him to the ground and I whistled to call Chipry off. When Rodrigo opened his eyes again, he had a tiger on top of him and a dagger to his throat.

He glared up at me. "Do it," he said. "Show them all what you came here for. Kill me."

I thought about it. He had been the one leader that was after me since day one on Daegal. He never liked me, and always seemed to be looking for a chance to take me down. Would I be better off if I killed him? Maybe. No one else was even around to see. They would suspect him a casualty of the monster attack.

But that's not who I am. I am not a killer. I thought about my parents and about their respect for life. I couldn't betray their memory by doing this, no matter how easy it might be.

I looked back down at Rodrigo with clenched teeth. "You need to let us go," I said, trying my best to hide my uncertainty.

"I would nev—" he started.

"You might be the only one who can stop that thing," I said, nodding at the creature.

"What?" he snarled.

"That thing, it regenerates like the trolls we ran into in the forest. You can stop the regeneration with fire. They need your help, and we have the chance to deny the colony of that right now, but we won't. So let us go and you can go save the colony."

His eyes darted from me to Tigala, and then back to me again. "If you ever come back I swear I'll kill you myself," he said.

"We won't," I said. "Do we have a deal?"

He looked away and nodded.

I put my knife back by my hip and stood up. Tigala let out one more growl before stepping off of Rodrigo.

As he stood, I said, "I have never tried to hurt anyone here. I just want to find my people."

Rodrigo straightened his jacket and turned towards the fight. After making sure we weren't pursuing him he broke into a run.

I waved Marv out of his hiding from behind the corner of the building and the three of us walked out of the colony's back gate, uncontested.

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