It all came to down to this. All the bandits and necromancers, politics and pirates, leviathans and abominations. It led us here. My feathers are quaking. My heart is racing. A field of burning sand stretches out before us and at the end of it is the elemental. The primordial being of fire itself stands at least thirty feet tall. Devil horns protrude from it’s magma head. Fire burns in its eyes and its gaze is locked on us. I look at my companions. Norman, an old hedge with dreams of adventure. He’s a miner at heart, but a few months ago he discovered he’s a warlock too. He draws his sword and readies his pickaxe. Sure determination burns in his eyes. Then there’s Mini, the gerbil. A bandit and a rogue with more athletic ability than I’ve ever known. The legendary and ancient ice spear: the Borealis, choose Mini to be it’s wielder and he’s never cast magic in his life. Now, Mini held the spear above his head. He shook it and a battle cry escaped his lips.
I don’t understand how they’re so calm. I’m trembling like a leaf. We could die! If we fail, the entire country burns. I mutter a prayer to the wind god, Atlus. May the wind be at our backs this fight and should I fall, may my spirit soar the wind for eternity.
The ground quakes and terror skips my heart. I fly into the air as the elemental lets out an ungodly roar. It was waiting for us. That much we knew. We came to face it before, but had to flee. We all had to get fire blessed to enter the monster’s domain without it constantly aware of us. I hated the idea. To be fire blessed, I had to lose the wind blessing I was born with. My wind blessing was my identity, but saving the kingdom is more important than one’s own identity. And, now that we have the Borealus, we stand a chance to defeat this elemental. This fight will surely be worthy of songs.
An ash snake, standing twenty feet tall and three swarms of fire bats are summoned by the elemental’s roar. I try to swallow down my nerves and I look to my companions. Norman stomps his foot and suddenly disappears. It takes me a moment to realize he somehow made it over to the ash snake. With three, powerful strikes, Norman carves chunks off the towering creature.
Norman’s action was the trigger. The sky turned red as the fire elemental summoned it’s power. The ash snake bit at Norman, but he dodged it. I lost sight of him when a swarm of fire bats engulfed him. The other two swarms came after Mini and I. Mini bounded away while flew upward. The swarm gave chase. My heart pounds harder. Fire bats aren’t much, but three swarms, an ash snake, and the fire elemental? I’m scared. I raise my wing and two stars appeared at my sides. I could cast them out at the swarms, but if they stay near me, they’ll protect me if anything attacks me. I’ll keep them with me. My aim isn’t very good anyway.
“Ha!” Norman’s victorious shout cuts through the air. I look over just in time to see him dice up the bat swarm and take three more shots at the ash snake. All three of his strikes rip more chunks out of the snake. It lets out a scathing hiss and pain writhes from its face. The ash snake falls over and it body thuds loudly against the ground. The glow of fire in its eyes fades and suddenly its entire body fall apart like windblown ash. I can’t believe it. Norman killed it in six hits!
The elemental let out another cry and suddenly fire was shooting across the sky. It shot straight for Mini like a falling comet. Mini bounded away once again. He was able to avoid the initial hit, but the aftermath explosion of fire look liked it singed his tail. I find it hard to believe that he walked away from it so easily, but I guess the cold aura on the Borealis froze the flames. Mini points the Borealis at one of the fire bat swarms. His hands are shaking–he never really cared for magic–so the frost spell he cast missed.
Norman suddenly disappears again. He escapes the swarm of fire bats that rages around him and dashes straight for the elemental. I think he’s making a death wish. The elemental sees him coming and raises its hand to smash him into the ground, but Norman disappears again! In a billowing cloud of black mist, Norman reappears by the elemental’s head. He lands four direct strikes, but in doing so, ticks the elemental off. I cry out in alarm when the elemental grabs Norman in hand and slams him down on the ground.
“I’m coming, buddy!” There’s alarm in Mini’s voice when he cries out. He abandons the swarms of fire bats and charges closer to the elemental. He pulls a decanter from his belt pouch and aims the top right at the fiery monster. A geyser of water explodes from the magical item and completely douses the elemental. Heavy steam humidifies the air. The elemental groans in pain and its glowing, magma skin dampens and hardens to rock.
My eyes are as wide as orbs as I watch. I wish I knew how to help, but none of my spells would do much damage to the elemental and my weapons wouldn’t penetrate. All I have are my instruments and my songs to inspire my companions, and these two stars protecting me. I take a risk and cast one of my stars at a fire bat swarm. Surprise encourages my heart when I actually hit it. The bats explode in a blinding, radiant light and not one survived.
A roar of unfathomable rage splits through the air. The fire elemental snatches a large boulder from the ground and lobs it straight at Mini. While it soars through the air, the rock catches fire. Terror skips my heart. When we arrived in these infernal plains last time, we were chased away by those burning rocks. Mini and I almost died in their fiery explosions. Yet, Mini wasn’t running away this time. He takes the Borealis in one hand and points it right at the meteor falling toward it. I yelp when the boulder makes impact. Yet, the fiery explosion I remember was doused by a chilling shade of blue. The boulder fell apart with frozen chunks of ice stuck to it. Mini was unmoved. He remained poised with spear in hand and a smirk slips on his face. “That all you got, ya overgrown barbeque?!”
The elemental growls so deeply, it echoes the sky. It shifts its burning gaze down at Norman. The old hedge is still on the ground. An easy target! The elemental raises both fists and brings them slamming down at Norman. To my disbelief, the old hedge manages to roll out of the way! He plants one foot on the ground and suddenly his magic of black mist teleports him back on the elemental’s head. Norman drives his pickaxe into the monster’s rocky skin to secure himself a good hold. The elemental tries to throw him off, but the old hedge continues to be as stubborn as I have known him to be.
I’m trying to keep Norman healed. He’s taken a lot of damage. I see how he’s getting ragged. Even standing on the elemental is hurting him. Yet, my healing spells are only doing so much. I try digging in my bag for the scroll of mass cure wounds I obtained. It has to be here somewhere! Suddenly, stinging and burning pain pierces my arm and I yelp when the last swarm of fire bats engulfs the air around me. Another one tries biting at my feathers, but my final star gets to it first. It explodes in radiant light and the fire bats all dissolve into embers. I’m glad I kept one star with me, but where was that stupid scroll?!
“Hold for hole!” Horror chills my bones when I hear Norman’s shout. He looking at Mini and a solemn look swaps between the two of them. Mini nods curtly and readies the Borealis. He waits.
Norman uses his pickaxe to rip a chunk of rock from the elemental’s head. He then jumps down into the elemental’s flesh. “No!” I cry out. The fool! Doesn’t he know its hotter than a million suns inside that thing?! He’ll get himself killed!
The elemental roars with ungodly wrath. It raises its hands to pick Norman out of its head, but the fiery sky suddenly darkens. A chill courses my spine as large, black feathers drift from the sky and around the elemental. I recognize those feathers. They’re Titan’s feathers. Titan is the owl god the night. Norman’s god.
Like striking snakes, large black chains suddenly erupt from the ground. They latch around the elemental’s wrists just as it grabs Norman from its head. Another chain explodes from the ground and seizes the elemental by the neck. It’s pulled to its knees and Norman is lost from its grip. The old hedge falls straight to the ground, thirty feet below. I finally find my scroll and I cast a mass healing spell on Norman and Mini. Norman doesn’t get up.
A bright blue light flashes from the tip of Mini’s Borealis. For a moment, the world deafens. Then, a large glacial blast bursts from the Borealis. It engulfs the elemental. Ice furthers binds the monster as its frozen solid.
I can’t take my eyes from Norman’s unmoving form. I know I cast the spell correctly and there’s only one reason why it didn’t work. My breath shudders and tears fill my eyes. That stupid, old hedge. Always rushing us. Always thinking he was smarter than us. Always calling us ‘idiots.’ Well, who’s the idiot who went and got himself killed now?! It wasn’t fair! He was just an old man who wanted an adventure. He was my friend!
My anguish could not be controlled. I scream and the wind picks up around me. My god, Atlus, owl god of the wind, appears behind me and with a mighty flap of his wings, he directs the wind at the elemental. Our power slices through the elemental like a hot knife through butter. It falls apart and crumbles to the ground in chunks of frozen ash.
Atlus lowers me to the ground and I fall on my knees. He lays a wing upon my shoulders and in his mighty, green light my wind blessing returns. I want to feel grateful, but all I feel was grief. Norman lays motionless a few paces ahead.
Mini comes to my side when Atlus returns to the heavens. He doesn’t say anything. I don’t say anything. Neither of us know what to say. We did it. We beat the elemental. We saved the kingdom, but at the cost of our friend.
More black feathers gently drift from the sky and my beak parts in surprise as Titan, herself, flies down to Norman’s body. She brushes one wing against him and hope soars in my chest when Norman stirs. Mini and I move to step closer, but Titan shakes her head. That single motion returns my grief. She wasn’t here to heal Norman, but to take him to her realm beyond life.
Norman grunts as he rises to his feet. He lightly brushes himself off and looks more pleased than I’ve ever seen him to be. “Well, idiots.” He actually smiles at Mini and I. “‘Twas a fine adventure. Keep on defending the wood.”
Tears roll down my face. I’m too choked up to say anything back to him. Mini gives Norman a single nod and we watch as Titan gently takes Norman in her talons and flies off. They fade in the light of the rising sun.
Mini and I still don’t know what to say to each other, but we spot Norman’s pickaxe in the ruins of the elemental. We grab it and stand it upright in front of the elemental’s corpse as a memorial to Norman. Since the old hedge wasn’t the only one to kill the monster, Mini and I leave traces of ourselves as well. Mini carves his sigil of a rapier through cheese in a rock and places it next to the pickaxe. I carve the symbol of the wind and do the same. We take one last long look over our accomplishment. Then, its our duty to tell the kingdom its safe.
I can’t help but think about how right Norman was. It was a fine adventure.