Chapter 11: Separated and Reunited
“Are you ready?" Draden asked them as they stood in a huddle outside the third gate.
Loran nodded and Flight blinked brightly twice.
“Good. Flight,” he directed the orb, “as soon as the witch appears, blind her.”
Flight blinked twice again, but uncontrollably let out a burst of ripples across his iridescently fluorescent surface. He still wasn’t so confident about what would transpire.
“Loran,” Draden turned to her, “whatever you do, don’t stand still. It will be harder for her to target you with her magic.” She nodded her understanding.
Even though they had just met, he felt it was his duty to protect her. They were wanted by the same forces for whatever reason, and this created an instant bond between them.
“Now, let’s go.” He knocked on the gate. A moment later, it opened with a quiet creak revealing behind it the muddy bank of the marsh the Saero River had created. Draden walked through.
Loran followed closely behind Draden, her left arm hanging by her side, right hand gripping it.
Cringing, she stepped into the cold, murky water, chills running up her legs. She was thankful that she was only wearing a brown, cotton short-sleeved shirt and inexpensive beige shorts. The fringes of her clothes were partially blackened from Draden’s rescue/electrocution, so getting them muddy was hardly the worst thing to happen to them.
Back to the matter at hand. She wasn’t sure why she trusted this guy-or even if she trusted him-but anyone was better than those things that had held her captive. They wanted him as well, so they had that in common. She also quite enjoyed the flying light ball, which she had heard Draden call ‘Flight’.
Right now, Flight was just hovering slowly over the water, his reflection shining dimly back at him. She heard a low hum come from him, and she asked in a sweet voice, “Are you scared of something?”
Flight’s inner light grew and he wrote, all too quickly, “Of course not!” but then he returned to his dim state.
She heard a squish as she stepped on something that briefly grasped her foot, but then it was gone. ‘Hmm…’ she thought in doubt. ‘It must have just been the mud.’
“Well, whatever you’re scared of,” she said to Flight, “I’m sure you’ll be okay.” Flight blinked twice and bobbed over to her side.
They were about halfway to the river, water rising halfway up their legs. They walked in the shadow of an ancient willow when there was a snap, a splash, and a squeak.
The snap was a branch from the willow breaking off. The splash was the branch falling into the water, stirring up more of the muck. The squeak was from Flight, caught under the branch and brought into the water, where he exploded in a burst of energy.
She could feel the sparks of electricity running through the water and sparking on her legs. She saw hundreds of his sparks snaking through the water, grouping around certain spots of mud under the semi-clear liquid.
From one of the pulsing spots of electricity to the left of her, a partially deteriorated hand emerged from the middle, grasping frantically in the water.
A high voice came from somewhere behind them, laughing evilly, “Yesss, my children, rise from your watery graves!”
Flight was gone, they'd found the third witch, and dead things were coming to kill them.
This would be interesting.
‘Let’s keep it simple: burn the bodies!’ he thought quickly. ’But they are wet, partially deteriorated bodies....’
“Prepare to be smokin’!” he yelled, casting a glob of lava at the nearest thing’s face. It splashed onto its decaying skin, evaporating the water and turning what remained of its skull to ash.
“Ahh!” Loran screamed, and he turned to see a hand sticking out of the swirling water and grasping her ankle.
“Move!” he shouted, and she yanked her foot, escaping the flailing hand, but falling into the water.
He ran over to her and helped her up.
“W-what are they?!” she asked in panic.
“Um… walking dead guys,” he answered with an uncertain laugh.
Three of the creatures were limping towards them, and more were freeing themselves from the mud.
“Why are all of these corpses here?!” she said frantically.
“That,” he answered, “is a very good question. One that we will have to find out after this is finished. Until then, stay behind me!”
She quietly conceded.
“…Stay behind me!" Draden finished.
She quietly conceded.
Quietly, because a silence spell had been cast on her. Against her own will, her legs were forcing her to walk. They took her around the moldy oak tree and straight into the arms of the witch.
“Now you die!” the witch cackled, and her mouth moved with the words of an ancient spell.
Draden was oblivious to this, as he was preoccupied with a horde of the living dead.
He ran to a stop next to one of the meandering creatures. It made a feeble stumbling grab at him, but Draden dodged, punching it hard in its corroded face. Its head rolled off and its body collapsed with a splash.
‘Well, that was easy!’ There were six of the creatures left. He decided to end it quickly, sending six fireballs at them. Each fireball slammed into a decaying body, leaving nothing behind but ash floating on the surface of the water.
He turned around, noticing that Loran was no longer behind him. “Loran?” he called out. His voice echoed back at him. He could hear nothing else except the water as it rippled around his legs.
He waded through the marsh, looking for any sign of her. From behind an old oak tree, he could see a faint glow. Cautiously, he walked around it, stepping over its limbs that had been uncovered by the Saero River with time.
The first thing he saw was the witch.
The second thing he saw was Loran. She was floating. And her body was glowing. ‘Not good!’
“Stop!” he yelled, charging at the witch.
The green cloaked woman threw up her pointy-nailed hand, and Draden stopped mid-run. He was lifted off the ground. ‘So much for that plan.’
“Stop!” he yelled again. “What are you doing?! Why is she glowing…?”
The witch laughed. “Her spirit will soon be thrown into oblivion!” Another laugh. “Eternal death, for all eternity!” Yet another laugh.
Draden retorted, “That’s kind of what ‘eternal’ means.”
She scowled at him. “Be silent and let me finish! You shall get your turn next.” The witch pulled her hand away from Loran’s body and a glowing white form emerged. It was identical to Loranin appearance, except translucent.
“Now go!” the witch commanded to the spirit. “Enter obliv-”
“Not so fast,” a voice interrupted. Draden looked around him, trying to see where the voice had come from. Off to the left, he saw Kladspir standing in the shadows of a tree.
“But-but how…?” Draden stuttered, in shock..
“SILENCE!” bellowed the witch, and his mouth sealed shut with a spell. “How dare you interrupt my sacrifice!” she yelled at Kladspir.
“I just couldn’t resist, you old hag,” Kladspir responded with a smirk. “I seem to recall that when performing one of these rituals, the caster is completely vulnerable and incapable of defense.” He wagged his finger at her. “Not smart.
“Glicear!” he shouted, hoping to end the witch once and for all.
At the same time, the witch attempted to finish the spell, “Enter obliv-” She was interrupted once again, impaled through the heart by a large spike of ice.
“What are we going to do?! Draden exclaimed furiously. They now stood huddled together around Loran’s body which was lying on a root of the oak tree. “Now that the stupid witch has taken Loran apart and gone and gotten herself killed,” he glared at Kladspir, “what the hell are we supposed to do?!”
Kladspir stared at him silently for a moment, then replied, “I’m proud of you, Draden. I was beginning to think you didn’t have a backbone.”
Draden just gawked at him.
“It’s really quite easy to fix, Draden. You’ve got a lot to learn.”
“Then teach me!” he retorted.
“Okay then.” Kladspir smiled. “The witch merely used a spell to control this girl’s spirit.” He demonstrated this by making the apparition float around the tree. “In this state, anyone can control her. Unless, of course, the witch had erected a blocking spell, which she didn’t. Who is this girl, by the way?” he queried, raising an eyebrow.
Draden recounted to Kladspir what had happened from the tunnel til now, while Loran floated around aimlessly. “What I don’t understand is how you are here-alive! I waited outside the cave and saw no sign of you!”
Kladspir laughed heartily, “I held the lava for as long as I could, but the pressure soon became too much to resist against. So, I created a shield around myself and let the lava carry me out of the tunnel and down the path to the forest. And let me tell you, after feeling that heat roll around me for those many long minutes, I am never cooking anything alive again.”
Draden cringed at the thought of cooking something alive.
Kladspir continued, “Then I practically burned my feet walking back up that red-hot rock. I passed the crack in the wall where you said Loran was being held, but alas, I could not fit. So, I continued on my way, and when I came to the top of that hill right there,” he pointed at the peak of the path that had led to where the gate used to be, “I saw you finish off those corpses with magic. A waste of energy if you ask me. Could have done it with my bare hands,” he sniffed.
“Yes, well, you weren’t there to coach me on like you always gladly do,” Draden growled back.
“Anyways…,” continued Kladspir, wondering why this boy was so moody, “Let’s get this girl back in her body.”