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9.5 Anemone

# 2524 13 - 17 mins. 9

"We better get moving then," I said. "Come on. Let's get up there before we lose him again."

I turned toward the next cliff and realized Lolan wasn't following. "What?" I asked.

"I don't know if we should go up there," he said. "That guy, he's supposed to be one of the best storm mages to ever live."

"He can't be that good," said Tigala. "We all have magic. It's four against one."

"That guy is a small army on his own," said Lolan. "I used to look up to him until I learned more about him."

"I think we should turn back too," said Zef. He looked at me. "You are just out of recovery from your stab wound. Let's climb down and watch where he goes from a safer vantage point. We know he's up there now, so we don't need to go up too."

"But what if there's more we can learn from him by getting closer?" I asked. "Whatever is happening here, it's important. So far, we've only found Gnomes, Saurians, and Elves to be sneaking around this island, ignoring the treaty. We need to figure out why. And we need to do it before they come after Lolan."

"I agree, but we wouldn't have good odds of surviving if we went up there and the storm mage or the dragon spotted us," said Lolan. "That's a fight we don't want to get in the middle of."

I looked between Zef and Lolan. It made sense I guess, but I didn't like waiting. I had been waiting for over seven years to find more people like myself, and now, with a possible clue dangled in front of my face, they wanted me to back down and wait some more.

But my body was beginning to hurt pretty badly with all of the injuries I had received over the past couple of weeks. There were scabs all over my arms and legs from Tigala, Lobo's group, the thrashing animated forest, and then the mountain. I guess I could use a little more time to heal.

"Okay, fine," I said. "But let's get down there quickly so we don't miss it when he leaves."

Lolan and Zef nodded. Tigala rolled her eyes and grabbed the invisible rope once again. She sighed and said. "Go on."

"I'll go first," I said. "I can spot for the rest of you."

"I'll do it," said Lolan. He approached the edge of the cliff, looking down now instead of up like before. He wavered a little bit and took a step back, leaning against a rock. "Nevermind. Go ahead."

I climbed down. It wasn't awful. At least we were moving with gravity now. But still, my arms were tired. Climbing for as long as we had been wasn't easy. I lost focus for a moment and dropped a couple of feet before catching myself. Rope burns formed on my hands. I climbed down the rest of the way more carefully, but with the fresh wounds clear in my mind against the wiry rope.

"I'm down," I said, looking back up at the group. Lolan came next, having finally worked up the nerve. He still tried not to look down any further than where his next step needed to be. When he touched down I noticed the sky growing darker above us.

"That doesn't look good," I said. Lolan looked at me and then followed my eyes to the sky. Dark gray clouds swirled in an ominous spiral above the mountain. Lighting skipped across the sky. Then we heard the dragon howl.

"It's starting," said Lolan. "He's trying to take down that dragon on his own."

"You think that's possible?" I asked.

He shook his head. "I didn't think dragons were possible when I woke up this morning. If anyone can do it, he could."

Geez. No wonder he didn't want to go up there if he thinks this guy might be able to take down a dragon. I wouldn't want to get close to him either.

The wind picked up around us and the wyverns stirred to the air. They darted around in an aerial dance, circling each other and playing with the heavy wind currents.

I looked up at Zef. He was on the cliff above trying to make an illusion instead of climbing down first.

He looked down at us with wide eyes and shook his head. He couldn't do it. We must have been too far away. I waved him toward us and he grabbed onto the rope while Tigala held it.

As he started climbing, I heard a screech out over the trees below us. I knew what it was without looking. I turned and saw a wyvern floating at about our level along the cliffside. It looked at us and screeched again, trying to keep its head steadily locked on us between wing beats.

"Look out!" I yelled. And the flying monster dove. It flew forward with talons out.

"Zef!" I yelled. "You might want to jump."

"I can't—" he started. I assume he saw the approaching threat. Large red leathery wings flapped toward us and I heard him squeak out an "Oh!"

Tigala looked over from up top, but couldn't do much as long as Zef dangled from the rope. She began pulling him back up instead.

I heard the stretch of Lolan's bowstring as he readied an arrow. He let it fly and hit the creature in the wing. It screeched again but was otherwise unhindered.

I drew a dagger and the wyvern crashed into the cliff where we stood, separating Lolan and I. I could feel its warm breath as it screamed at us again. Then, I saw the bulbous, scorpion-like tail raise above its wings. It taunted us like cobra following a snake charmer.

"Watch the tail," I yelled to Lolan, and as soon as the words left my mouth, it struck at me.

I dove back, and the point of the tail slammed between my legs, embedding itself in stone. The wyvern jerked it's tail this way and that to break it free, and as it did, the earth gave way beneath me. Still holding the dagger in one hand, I jumped and grabbed onto the nearest thing to me...the wyvern's wing.

Its head snapped to look at me and it flapped its wing to shake me off. It launched me into the air and onto its opposite wing which floated above Lolan. It continued to flail and I struggled to find my balance on the shifting creature. That's when I remembered that I still had the dagger in one hand. I plunged it into skin and held on tight as the wyvern screeched and launched itself back into the air.

I looked around and realized that I was in the middle of its back, the dagger plunged between its shoulders, and the wyvern was soaring high above the forest below.

What have I done, I thought. I looked back at the cliff and saw the group getting smaller as the wyvern flew away. It continued to move with jerky motions, trying to throw me off of it, but the dagger served as a pretty good handhold. I looked back at the tail and realized it was swinging at me along its sides. It didn't want to hit itself I guess. That or it was too hard to aim properly while airborne. I didn't care to find out what the reason was.

I wrapped my legs around the back of the wyvern as I felt it start to take a dive. It sailed toward the trees in an all-out freefall. Then at the last second, it's wings spread and it began to climb once again.

In the momentary calm, I used my free hand to grab another dagger from my hip. I plunged it into the wyvern's back next to the first one and it howled again. The giant bat-like creature turned, doing several barrel rolls at once, but with my hands on the daggers and my legs wrapped around it, it still failed to shake me.

When it finally stopped spinning, I felt sick. It motioned to do it again. I couldn't let it, or I was sure to fall off. So I did the only thing I could think of: I made it hurt more.

I wrenched the daggers in its skin and it jerked to the opposite direction of its planned dive instead. It lurched and turned sideways, but I hauled at the daggers again, and it righted itself. Am I flying this thing? I wondered.

It was flying high above where the group stood on the edge of a cliff. I looked over the beast's shoulder and saw them below. They were specks. The wyvern climbed through the air and other wyverns darted passed us.

I was even above the largest mountain now, where the dragon had landed. I looked in the direction and saw the dragon now hovering above the surface. It screamed and unleashed a torrent of fire on the ground below it. But there was one section of the flame that was redirected. Swirling wind cast the flames away from the storm mage we had seen earlier. When the blast finished, thunder rippled as a lightning bolt struck the dragon.

My wyvern mount tried for a dive and I tugged back on my knives to force him to pull back up. I couldn't believe it was working.

Then I heard another screech. Another wyvern passing by us spotted me and dove after me. I panicked and pulled hard on the knives, steering my wyvern away from the one that was now chasing me. But I pulled too hard. The wyvern turned to relieve the pressure, but he kept going, turning the left-hand turn into another full barrel roll.

My legs were tired, as were my arms. I nearly lost my grip, and then pulled back to stop the spinning. Even after the wyvern stopped, my head still spun. But I didn't have time to recover: our pursuer was right behind me. It flew over us with a screech and I ducked just in time to avoid being crushed by claws the size of my torso.

I pushed forward, lighter this time, and the wyvern started a shallow dive. "Come on," I said. "Let's do this." I pushed a little harder and we dove almost straight down. The other wyvern dove after us, hot on our tail. I looked around for something to shake him but didn't see much up this high other than the small forest on top of the mountain where there was a fight between a dragon and an Elf. I didn't love the idea, but maybe I could get off this thing there before it managed to buck me off. Plus, I might get a chance to see that Elf and find some more clues of his whereabouts. Anything would be helpful really.

I yanked up and to the right, steering my noble steed toward the trees atop the pillar-like mountain. The wyvern behind us was closing in on us. I guess the lack of a passenger made it more aerodynamic. It screeched and then snapped its jaws at me. I yanked right hard, sending us into another barrel-roll. I felt my wyvern's wing impact our pursuer as it spun, and then, it felt like we were in a free fall.

I tried frantically to pull up and steady the creature, but my controls weren't exact. We sailed downward and I felt like I was going to throw up. Then the wyvern straitened just in time for me to see how close we were to the forest I had been aiming for. I had a second, maybe two, but it felt quicker than that and like a lifetime at the same time. The dirt was right in front of us, the red glow of a firefight in the distance. The wyvern crashed into the forest floor and I tried my best to hold onto the handles of my knives. It was no use. When the wyvern's underside hit down, the movement rippled through his body and into me. I was tossed from the beast and went skidding head over heel through the forest. When I finally came to a stop, I rolled over and vomited.

I was still woozy from the aerial acrobatics, but I couldn't get sloppy. At least one wyvern would be right behind me, maybe two, maybe more if others had seen the chase. I forced myself to stand and wiped my mouth with my arm. I turned to face the wyvern and saw it gaining its bearings as well. It spotted me and began walking forward, using the hand-like tops of its wings as front legs. Its tail danced above, taunting me.

The sky was now dark in a thunderstorm with flashes of light and the red firey glow illuminating the edges of the creature. My daggers were lost somewhere in the forest between us, but I still just stared back at him and smiled. "You're in my favored terrain now," I said.

I began focusing on the ground around the creature. Vines grew wrapped at the creature's legs and snagged him. The wyvern screeched and bit at them, snapping them easily. I already used the spent energy to grow more spiked vines between us. I made them dance, mimicking the creature's tail. When it got close to any of them, I wailed on the creature with thorns out. It dodged the first strike, but that put it close to another which connected with its back. Blood ran down where the oversized thorns pulled out. It clawed at another and tore it down.

He was big, bigger than anything I had taken down before. I had to get creative, but I was feeling good now that I was among the plants. I began shaping a tree branch close to me to a sharpened point. I grew vines to wrap around its body legs and wings, but it only did so much good. Then, I saw my dagger.

I ran forward and grabbed it, but the wyvern charged forward too, closing the distance. I grew vines around me as its tail danced. It lurched and I hid behind a one of my vines. The poisonous tip of its tail pierced through, almost reaching my face. It struck again, obliterating a second vine, and then the creature dove.

It crashed through my protections and pinned me to the ground. It looked down at me and screamed in my face. Before it could bite, I dug my dagger into the soft underside of its throat. I pulled down, dragging it through the flesh. Then I pulled the life out of the branch I had sharpened earlier and used a small vine to pull the branch free and guide it as it fell. I rolled to the side as the sharpened branch fell point first onto the wyvern's head, driving straight through it and into the ground.

The wyvern fell limp on top of me.

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