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Fire and Blood

Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Joined
Sep 29, 2013
Messages
1,554
#26
A welcome return to an enjoyable story. Another good installment.

You might want to be b it more consistent about the demon's gender. Unless that's the point.

And vampires, don't ignore the powerful enemy who escaped from you last time.:slapface:
 

Borgnine

Moderator
Staff member
True Blood
Joined
Jun 15, 2013
Messages
1,829
#28
Well, demon ans monster are male designation, but creature is a female one no ?
Nouns in English don't have genders by themselves as it probably is in French. The use of he/she/it depends on a persons/things/animals real gender. If your demon characters is a he, then he's a he no matter if it's a demon, monster, creature or anything else.
 
Joined
Oct 5, 2017
Messages
38
#29
Huu... f*k me. Why my english teachers never told me that... Indeed, in french, we can play with it : one section i call it the creature and so i call it she, the next one i call it the monster and i call it he.

Well, i'll have to read and track all those mistakes i did T.T

Thanks for the teaching Borgnine.

Edit 30-5-18 :
Allright, i've corrected every wrong sentence about the bloodletters (and some others) i found. It should not be anymore he/she mistakes. Only neutral descriptive about demons/creatures/things like them.
I can now go on to the chapter 10 \o/
 
Last edited:
Joined
Oct 5, 2017
Messages
38
#30
Ok, Chapter 11 with i hope no more translation surprise like the previous one xD

Fire & Blood
Chapter 11


A smile spread over the tattooed face of the elf who was leading the line. Pushing his hood back, he looked up at the canopy far above. The branches of the tallest trees formed an immense ceiling to the vast clearing, the thorns from the pines mixing with the leaves of oaks and birches. The sky was not visible. But small lanterns were hung in the heights and diffused a soft ambient light. Light that shone day and night, easily distorting the notion of time for those who were not used to it.

A second elf approached, sharing his wonder.

- Every time we come back I find this place a little more beautiful, he said.

- And tomorrow night we will merge with it, replied the first while throwing away his pack.

He approached the imposing rock covered with mosses which was enthroned in the center of this space. In several agile jumps he found himself at the top and embraced the landscape with a glance. Not a dead leaf dragged here. Even in autumn, this small part of the forest remained as lost in spring. That was one of the reasons he kept coming back to this place.

He noticed the troupe approaching the newcomers and had a resigned pinch. A second, less cheerful reason. Without hesitation he drove himself forward and made a perfect salto, his braided hair whipping the air in his naked back. He received himself with the flexibility of a cat and bowed respectfully to the elf at the head of the procession.

- Father, he simply declared.


*​

- Gailrya my sister, it is good to see you again, declared the elf by gratifying her with a vigorous hug.

She gritted her teeth when he released her but did not comment on her little brother's display of affection. Like a luminous ball, the miniature female figure flying close to them began a spiral descent around the two elves.

- I too am glad that you are with us, she assured, distractedly chasing the spite out of her hand. How was your journey ?

- Fine, he replied with a quick spin. It couldn't be any other way, Loren's majesty runs in our veins. But tell me Sister, our father seems to be better off than on my last visit.

- Yes, the last few years have been successful for him, she said while watching her brother stray through her room.

He nodded while lingering over the crystal shard on a shelf. Then he turned abruptly. His long braided strands whipped his face and naked shoulders, causing the little luminous spirit to gain new speed.

- I enjoyed seeing you again sister, he said.

Then, without waiting for her reaction, he turned back and went out. The elf remained motionless for several long minutes, so much so that the spite flew close to her face and held out a miniature hand towards Gailrya's hair. Her brother left just as suddenly as he landed. She sighed, then looked at the entrance with a resigned mine.

- I am also well, brother, she answered the question he had not asked.

She offered the palm of her hand to the spirit that landed there and began to imitate her brother's spins. She smiled at this performance, then invited it to take off again.

She in turn came out, rushing down the limbs allowing access to her apartments in the heart of a huge coniferous, whose variety grew only here in Loren. With her spirit on her heels, she ran like a child towards a less dense part of the sylvan city. The trees were particularly tall and sturdy, but also spaced apart. Large pieces of blue sky were visible, which was not the case under the canopy of pine thorns.

Her eyes were sparkling, she breathed in full lungs and stood up on her toes, pushing a long sibilant whistle. Floating over her shoulder, the immaterial elf was monkeying her posture. It exaggerated it even by placing its little hands as megaphones.

A few seconds passed. Then a sharp cry answered her. Skillfully slipping between the high branches, a magnificent bird of prey appeared and descended to Gailrya. It made several other high-pitched cries, then slowed its fall by flapping its wings more vigorously. The gust snapped the visitor's hair and carried away the surprised spite who carried out a roll-ball in the air.

- Anok, she said as she walked towards the bird that was looking at from a good head over.

She put a friendly hand on the plumage of its torso without trying to caress it. This would have disordered the complex alignment of feathers. With equal affection, the majestic bird surrounded the elf with its wings.

With malice she raised her arm and slipped her hand under a tuft of feathers at the edge of its collar. The giant falcon giggled with pleasure as she scratched its leather. Usually, they hated that kind of caress. But not it. It even loved them, which had always amused Gailrya.

- Bothel and his troupe are back ! she slipped to it laughing.

With its beak open, Anok tilted its head to the side, staring at its companion with its large black and yellow eyes.

- They're dancing tomorrow night for Mabon. I can't wait to see what they've prepared for us to celebrate !

The bird turned its large head towards the spite who flew close to its beak, raising a finger towards it while covering it with silent admonitions. Nothing in the bird's manifestations indicated that it understood the spirit or the elf. On the other hand it was clear that it appreciated the caresses lavished.

*​

- It seems more taciturn than usual, if that is even possible, noticed the elf wearing a long dress made of green and brown ribbons. And I don't think Bothel's feats and his dancers will improve its mood.

She added this remark with a keen eye to Helion, the sovereign of the Elven domain. Sovereign who, however, guarded himself well from approaching the creature which evolved heavily before their eyes.

They were a few kilometres from the heart of the elven settlement, on the edge of a darker part of the forest, one of the oldest groves in Athel Loren. Apart from the two elves, no creature came to tread the thick mattress of needles and dead leaves built up over the centuries.

- I just hope he will not go prowling around the edge of the forest again, commented Helion with a loose mine. If it were to shred simple travellers along our forest again, it would eventually incite humans to venture deeper...

His neighbour did not answer. She was content to observe the guardian of the place, moving slowly between the enormous trunks, surrounded by the vegetable shadows that never left it. She could perceive the anger that animated it. Even today, which was a day of feasts and rejoicing, a latent rage was brewing in the creature's heart.

- Gusternum will not act in this way, the enchantress assured him. Even if it's thirsty for scarlet sap, it won't do anything of the sort. It knows Loren would suffer afterwards.

- Pray Isha you are right.

In silence, they stood side by side watching the incarnated spirit wander through the grove. Unlike its fellows, it had never entered the vegetative state, close to hibernation, into which they sometimes entered for several years. And obviously it wasn't about to happen...

*​

- It's strange, we're in the middle of the day and this darkness doesn't go away, Manesh'k commented while exposing himself outside the protective shadow of the canopy.

At first doubtful, the other two shared his astonishment when they noticed that the light did not aggress the undead.

- I... don't understand it, confessed the ornithologist when he joined him. Certainly it is not related to Tristofan or Castille. And…

- Bhaa, whatever, cut off the third individual. We don't have to walk in the damn bushes anymore. That's the most important thing.

Manesh'k exchanged a worried look with Gilnash, carrying many questions. But this one had no more answers than him.

Luther took a steady step forward, both pleased with this prodigy and eager to leave the forest. The forest. Manesh'k had been through more than he could count over the centuries. Yet he felt something was wrong. That the more they advanced, the more the wood weighed around them, that the atmosphere stagnated under the thick branches. Added to that the unpleasant impression of being watched, that each of their actions and gestures had been observed since they had crossed the erected stone...

A robin came out of the foliage to fly near them, especially Gilnash, which surprised no one. Even though they had seen or heard very few animals, the birds remained attracted by the strange bond their brother had with these creatures. With a sincere smile, Gilnash gently stretched his arm towards him. The bird studied him for a moment, then landed on his finger with a few enthusiastic whistles. As Luther looked up from exasperation, Manesh'k silently shared the pleasure of their companion. Luther was still too young. Too young to realize Gilnash's privilege of being able to converse freely with strangers, however modest they may be. Strangers who did not flee by discovering his true nature, who did not attack him, did not judge him. They didn't care, they were just happy to share some of their time. Secretly he envied the vampire's gift...

- Another spur, Luther sighed which drew him from his thoughts.

Looking for the sun with his eyes, he added with irony :

- I never thought I'd have to look for him again to find my way...

Then, having found the star despite the veil that protected them, he set off on the opposite path, towards the West.

- Wait Luther, stopped Gilnash as he frowned.

He was obviously in the middle of a discussion with his feathered friend.

- Sorry I don't have any seeds for him...

- Let's take the other path, he cut their youngest with a worried mine.

- Correct me if I'm wrong, but Parravon's castle is to the west and the shortest route is the straight line. You've been there before, right?

- A long time ago, passing by l'Anguille, Manesh'k specified who had not discussed this kind of indications from Gilnash for many years.

Luther eventually sighed again, but still went in the direction indicated. For several hours they walked in the same direction. The bird did not leave Gilnash, this one showing a darker and darker mine as they were sinking into the thick forest.

- One moment, he finally stopped them, watching the undergrowth with intensity.

- What…

- Follow me, he brutally resumed while walking straight through the bushes.

Perplexed, the two vampires lingered for a moment on the surroundings, unable to determine what their friend had seen. Luther finally shrugged his shoulders and followed him before they were left behind.

Manesh'k remained forbidden by noticing a detail that Luther had not noticed. As they advanced in the same direction from the fork, the setting sun was facing them again.

*
The troupe of dancers gracefully performed acrobatics. They bounced off the promontory and threw each other into the air to gain momentum before skillfully receiving. Almost the entire city was gathered around them, enjoying the feast of apples, nuts and other dried fruits. Mabon, the autumn equinox, was an annual festival celebrated here only. The other cities, further South, were preparing for the coming winter and were entering a lethargic state following the end of the Wild Hunt. But here, North of Loren, the softwoods were not losing their needles and life was not keeping pace with the rest of the forest.

Capturing a fluctuation within the woods, the enchantress slowly turned towards the edge of the city. Something was wrong. She apologized briefly to her neighbours dressed in brown and orange, then walked a few steps away from the show.

Almost every day humans or dwarves passed the guardian stones that bounded Athel Loren's domain. More rarely, aberrations from the north, green skin or followers of the ruins forces. Even more rarely the undead. When these intruders were few in number, the old forest would retrace their steps without them noticing. If guardian spirits were around, they would never leave the tree canopy.

That very morning, she had perceived the approach of the unnatural creatures. Necromancy animated puppets, no more than two or three. She had felt the forest retrace its paths to make them leave it belly as quickly as possible, no guard being close to their position. Gusternum, the vegetal colossus, must have smelled it too. Probably that was the reason for its morning anger : these creatures were out of its reach and would have left before it could reach them. But it had to be said that they were still here. Worse. They were moving deeper and deeper into Loren's heart.

- Warda? Is there a problem ?

The enchanteress faced the young elf, Helion's daughter. She had perceived her disorder. The spite who never left her imitated her anxious posture, standing on her shoulder.

- I think it is, yes.

*​

- This damn forest will never end ! exclaimed Luther, who bluntly removed a shrub from his path.

Like the youngest, Manesh'k was getting tired of this constant penumbra. He would have almost regretted the strange sun that lit them a few hours earlier. For it had been several hours that they progressed with difficulty in ferns, brambles and other plants, evolving between more and more voluminous trees. Most of them were softwoods, so that thick needle mattresses frequently concealed roots on which they tripped.

Suddenly they ended up in a glade, the trees and ferns suddenly disappearing to make way for a wild grass. Luther almost fell of surprise so much he had stepped over knotty roots during the evening. Bewildered, all three blinked for a moment. Even Gilnash couldn't understand it. The second before the undergrowth and its vault of impenetrable branches stretched as far as the eye could see and now they walked under the starry sky.

- I... don't understand it, said the ornithologist, looking for his words. A few steps ago we were... and now we are...

- It's not natural, Manesh'k commented as she looked across the glade.

This one was vast, several cottages could have easily held there. All around, the forest suddenly left place to wild grasses. The sprigs came to them half-thigh.

In the centre of the cleared space stood several huge upright stones, even more imposing than the one they had surpassed when they entered the woods. The menhirs, polished by the centuries, were planted in an arc of circle which was opposed to them. The three undead approached carefully, studying both the ancient monument and the shadows of the conifers surrounding them. On the other side of the stones were two other rocks on which a vast platform of rock was placed.

- A... dolmen ? Here ? Luther commented.

And from almost four meters high, Manesh'k thought while crossing his arms. All this left him perplexed. Now it was clearly evident that magic was at work here. An ancient magic. Maybe even more than he and Gilnash were.

He closed his eyes and concentrated all his attention on himself, completely ignored his environment. He looked for a few seconds in the memories stolen from Castille and his short own experiences the desired sensation. With a satisfied smile he managed to find it. The vampire opened to the winds as he opened his eyes. The flow that suddenly struck him was so violent that he drove him back.

- Manesh'k !

Stunned, he pushed back without really paying attention to it the hand that his brother held out to him, a mask of anxiety painted on the face. Since they had wrested her powers from Castille, he and Luther were able to feel, even discern, the winds of magic. Not as intensely as in the hours following the necromancer's death, and he did not have the control that his younger brother had shown. He struggled to preserve this gift, to be able to manipulate the winds, his feelings diminishing as the power of Castille dissipated within him. And then... By opening himself to these winds, he had just become aware that he was literally bathing in them. Under his scarlet gaze, the invisible winds swirled furiously, almost scratching him with their ethereal claws. They swirled through the glade, grazing its edge, before wrapping themselves around the pillars and flying straight into the air. As he looked up he saw them fall back here and there in the distance, scattering beyond his field of vision.

- What's the matter with him ? Luther worried about the apathetic state of his eldest.

- He admires, Gilnash simply replied with an amused smile.

- Admire what ? he questioned him with a suspicious look.

- The majesty of the winds. Take the effort to open up and you will see for yourself.

- Isn't it... dangerous ?

- Considering his skills, not really. With greater power he could risk drowning in it. But given his... talents in the matter he can consider himself lucky to be able to appreciate them.

- ...Ah, just replied Luther .

Leaving a Manesh'k there somewhat lost in his contemplation, Luther and Gilnash approached the cairn with a quiet step. Both went around, studying granite that had been standing for ages.

- Do you think they were raised by men ? Luther asked.

- Honestly ? I doubt it, replied the ornithologist frankly. They look much older to me. As for the magic that flows through them, it is... how to say...

- Wild?

- Indeed, he approved while approaching.

He stretched out his arm and touched the rock with his fingertips. He was not surprised by the slight tingling that went up along his wrist. Raw magic flowed here and through this strange forest.

A swirling movement drew Manesh'k's attention to his companions as his brother came into contact with the dolmen's pillar. Above the plateau several shimmerings of energy materialized by agglomerating particles from the main stream. More and more amazed by this place, he approached his companions, eyes riveted on the iridescent amalgams within the winds of magic.

- Guys...

They both turned to him, then discovered with amazement the event by following his gaze. The air waved like a surface of water disturbed by a projectile. The web of reality was distorted and gradually gave way to three small, half-material, half-ethered forms.

- What is this, Luther whispered as the apparitions came down to them.

They stood between the three undead, nested in bright yellow and green halos of light. One of them floated quietly towards Luther who moved backwards, but did not raise his hand when the entity simply began to wave around him without attacking. Similarly, the other two approached a Manesh'k whose view of trends was overlaid with that of reality. The first swirled gently around his hips, the second along his arm. He raised it until the wild spirit came to rest in the palm of his hand.

Thanks to his double vision he could perfectly examine the true appearance of the creature who observed him with just as much curiosity. Apart from the whirlwind of light and soft sparks that surrounded it, this thing looked like a woman of about fifteen centimeters in the simplest appearance. No, not a woman, he realized as it bent forward to study his face, it translucent hair falling on its chest. An elf.

He looked down at the second spirit who was quietly climbing up his shoulder. This one had a whole other look. Simian arms were attached to a body he would have described as a batracian in the proportions of its torso and lower limbs. Except its shoulders and back were covered with quills like those of a hedgehog. Its face was that of a fox whose snout he would have crushed... However, even in comparison with the first, it did not repulse the vampire.

- Gilnash, he called without ceasing to observe his two curious. What are they?

- I have no idea, admitted the concerned man who was watching Luther's companion, a kind of squirrel with no fur except on its tail and dragonfly wings floating above the younger's forehead.

- They are beautiful, breathed Walach's son.

Manesh'k raised the second arm, a spirit in each palm now. What was this place that housed such strange creatures?

All three turned abruptly when the shot fused, grazing Manesh'k who narrowly moved aside. Immediately the attitude of the creatures changed as they jumped backwards. The elf's hair rose up on its skull and its fingers turned into claws disproportionate for its small size. The quills of the second rose up on its back, turning it into a real ball of spikes.

As for the squirrel, its jaw immediately became strikingly similar to that of the bloodletter while its wings were covered with leather, now resembling those of a bat. But these were not the three spirits to which the undead were turned : a good dozen other arrows sprang from the undergrowth without any warning. Gifted with reflexes far exceeding those of mortals, they drove away from the granite menhirs without being touched.

- I can't feel them ! Luther shouted, his forehead open by a shot better fitted than the others.

- Don't trust your sense of smell ! advised Manesh'k by closing his eyes.

Vigorously repelling the state of daze which had allowed him to commune with the place, he imposed himself in calm. They couldn't smell them. But there was one detail that never deceived vampires. A little less than a dozen heartbeats were ambushed in the thickets. He could hear them beating in his ears, the doubt that they had missed such easy prey coming to shake their confidence with a slight acceleration. He opened his eyes and smiled, his hand on the pommel of his sword.

- Don't kill any of them ! Gilnash suddenly ordered them, a hint of anxiety in his voice.

- Excuse me?

- Just do what I tell you ! he insisted to the younger, kneeling at his side under the cover of the same menhir.

- We'll pay the price again with this bullshit, he squealed spouting out without warning.

Manesh'k jumped behind him, Gilnash running in parallel a few meters from them.

*​

He notched a new arrow with a fluid gesture and shot it off, barely taking the time to align his target. These creatures were moving far too fast to be just humans ! He tightened his jaw when he noticed that his arrow had missed the invader again. But from the corner of his eye he noticed that one of his neighbours had better luck. The shock of the impact threw back the unknown in armor who spread out in the tall grass and disappeared from his field of view, stopped net in charge.

Two more, he thought as he unchecked a new arrow that the other barely avoided again ! As he drew a fifth from his quiver, his blood turned when he saw the metallic sheen. He dived to the side and dodged the dagger, which slipped into the trunk of the tree behind his back. He straightened himself by raising his bow, but it was now too late : a metal gauntlet picked him up at the cheekbone and threw him aside.

- Elves ! Luther exclaimed after a brief glance at his victim lying in the ferns.

He dived forward under a new arrow that blew into his hair and found himself under this new enemy. He had already dropped his bow and had his hand on the short sword hanging from his hip. The undead, however, was quicker. He straightened himself by drawing his sword from the sheath and struck a knob to the jaw of the Elf who released a sinister crack before he collapsed.

The vampire took a look at the undergrowth. Gilnash was pushing back another opponent with several scarlet sprays and was already leaving three more bodies in his trail.

For someone who did not wish to kill his enemies he had a heavy hand... A heartbeat, much too close, made him suddenly rotate. Luther grabbed the wrist of this new attacker with his free hand, preventing him from carrying his sword. He held a dagger in his other hand which he in turn raised to stab the exposed flank of the vampire with the cross guard. But more was needed to destabilize the undead who violently struck his opponent's ribs, protected by a light pourpoint that did not really absorb the shock. The Elf hiccupped in shock and his blow lost all power, cresting on Luther's steel shoulder pad without further damage. He released his wrist and slapped him with force with his gauntlet, which finally got rid of him.

Luther turned again, but this time he was not fact enought. The elven blade skinned him from ear to shoulder before sliding on his colletin with some sparks. He shouted a curse and then yelped with surprise when the second sword struck him in the pelvis, tearing off a strap of armour. He rolled on the ground and did not waste a moment to get some space. This new enemy looked at him, his twin blades pointed towards the undead. The vampire growled with contempt as he felt his own throat. He'd survive, but that skirmish would leave him with a hellish scar. With a war cry the elf charged and at the last moment whirled about himself, surrounding himself with a sharp and impassable perimeter. With blurry movements he found himself facing Luther and closed his two blades on his throat, like a giant chisel. But his dance was stopped sharply by the sword of the undead, who, pointing downwards, caught the two weapons in his guard and carried the three blades to the ground. The stupor was noticeable on the elf's face when his cheek came to crush against the vampire's fist as well.

*​

He leaned against a trunk as he stood up. The ground waved around him and the burn of his open cheekbone made him wrinkle his eye.

- It's called a Quillon dirty salad-eater ! he heard a voice scream.

He groped his bow again, then slowly notched a new arrow. He took a deep breath and waited a second for the universe to stop moving, and then turned carefully. The intruder was above one of his unconscious comrades and continued to insult him with dubious imagination. He calmly raised his bow and pointed it. A sudden shock at the end of the handle deflected the shot that whistled an inch from the undead, who jumped sideways, surprised. The elf discovered the first enemy to fall during the charge, an arrow stuck in the shoulder pad. He broke the part of the bow he had in his hand with a twist of his wrist before sending the tenacious elf to his companions.

*​

- I had seen him, Luther said confidently raising his chin.

- I don't doubts it, Manesh'k answered as he tore off the arrow.

He frowned but did not add any swear words. The archer had managed to find a rift between the breastplate and the shoulder pad. Moreover the point was barbed according to the sharp pain that he felt now...

Gilnash came forward. Several bloody features stained his patrol soldier outfit. As the youngest opened his mouth the ornithologist anticipated his remark :

- No comments. He is not dead. And I had no choice.

Luther picked himself up and then raised both hands as a sign of surrender before going to pick up his weapon.

- Elves ? Here ? raised Manesh'k after a moment.

- Meh, here or elsewhere...

In doing so, Luther gave the swordsman as a well-sentimented boot kick as Gilnash studied the battlefield.

- Nine, he counted. Too little to be a detachment and too much to be mere travellers.

- A patrol ? Manesh'k posed as a hypothesis.

Gilnash nodded. As they recovered from their emotions, the three spites appeared again, floating between the extended bodies. The elf's and the winged squirrel's were lingering by them, casting black glances at the undead. However they did not attack them, contenting themselves with going from body to body.

- Did you hear about all this ? Manesh'k asked, referring to his friend's conversations with the various birds he met during the day.

- It was confused in their minds, but many of them had already seen elves in these woods.

- You could have told us earlier, Luther reproached while the third ethereal creature was floating towards.

This one pointed out the vampire of its arms too big for its body, the quills of its back undulating with each movement. It croaked in silence, seeming to insult the fighter.

- What's the matter with you ? he pushed with contempt, gratifying the spite with a grimace of his own.

The creature moved back and blinked several times, blissful. Before it get back to its ride.

- Listen. I...

All three pivoted in one block when the dead branch cracked, already drawing their blades. But that was just a deer, about fifteen meters away. He watched them, motionless. Its antlers peaked well above two metres in height. All four considered each other for a few seconds in silence, until Gilnash spoke.

- We are still far from Parravon. Let's get out of here. The sooner we leave these woods behind, the better.

His two companions nodded. They left the scene without delay, leaving their unconscious aggressors and the majestic animal there, surprisingly unafraid. To everyone's surprise, however, the spiky creature stubbornly annoyed Luther and followed them out of the monolithic glade.
 

Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Joined
Sep 29, 2013
Messages
1,554
#31
It seems that uninvited visits to Athel Loren can be very bad fr your 'elf'.

More seriously, this is an interesting new setting for the story. I'm looking forward to more.
 
Joined
Oct 5, 2017
Messages
38
#32
It's time to go on !


Fire & Blood
Chapter 12



- They're gonna pay! These evil offspring have desecrated the sacred woods ! They must pay for this sacrilege !

The elf was fulminating. He walked back and forth to the edge of the cairn and gave black looks to anyone daring to approach him. The others of the tree dancers remained silent, not daring to attract the attention of their companion.

The scout patrol was still in shock when they arrived. Several of them were injured. One of them would not walk for several months...

- How could this have happened ? asked Helion.

He turned to the priestess who avoided his gaze. She herself had underestimated these creatures.

- Loren's song evoked a handful of creatures, she replied without facing him. We had no idea it was... that.

Bothel caught the talk on the fly. He almost shouted at the elf wearing a diaphanous dress for a moment, but changed his mind at the last moment. An enchantress spoke for Loren. To rush her was to attack the forest itself.

- We have never been confronted with that, she insisted, finally turning to them.

Helion sighed. This was not the first time the dead had entered the forest. However, they had never behaved in such a way before...

- The dead, witches desecrating corpses, even vampires as men call them, he summed it up aloud. But this...

- A vampire ? What the hell is that ? Interviewed this time the tattooed elf.

His fine eyebrows drew a horizontal line while he looked confused. Two other dancers of the troupe approached, interested by the thread of the conversation.

- Wizards, Warda began with an absent look towards the erect stones. Dead people who cling to the winds and refuse to give back to the earth what belongs to it. They feed...

She hesitated and grinned.

- They feed on mortal blood. They are poor fighters who prowl the night. They are never more than one and...

- Stop with the men's tales.

All three, as well as all the elves present, turned to the individual who had spoken by cutting Wanda's speech. The skin of his body undulating with each of his steps as the flesh below was redesigned, an indescribable creature advanced. The fur was detached by handles from his chest, his lower limbs were provided with hooves and the upper ones with trembling hands. His deformed head resorbed on itself as his snout became a real jaw. His antlers sunk into his skull and disappeared, producing eddies across his forehead, as if they were dipping into pink, malleable clay. A brown and tangled hair emerged from the spine, a few strands even fell back on his increasingly refined face. When his feet were finally topped with toes, a naked elf of strong build stood in front of them, stretching his neck with many cracks.

- Anos, Helion breathed as he recognized the shapeshifter. It's been a long time...

He nodded quickly to the lord. One of the spites in the grove appeared suddenly, like a translucent squirrel, and stared at the strange elf. He continued :

- The three undead were all vampires. And they were excellent warriors, he insisted with gravity.

Bothel crossed his arms and tilted his head to the side. This naked individual, more eccentric than himself, was already beginning to interest him.

- They had armor made by men. They have made short work of the foresters.

- Warriors, you say? Persisted Bothel with a gleam of challenge in his eyes.

Anos stared at the war dancer for a moment with a bored look. He detailed it from head to toe, before returning to Helion.

- Warriors, yes. And they deliberately chose not to kill anyone.

- What do you know, animal ? The war dancer pushed him.

He had finally reviewed his judgment. His palpable disdain irritated him.

- I know it, I was there, I saw it. There was nothing they could do.

- And why...

- I also know in which direction they went, he continued.

By saying so he showered the aggressiveness of the dancer while recapturing his interest. He turned to Helion and Warda.

- The dead go straight to the Mortourbe. [1]

The elf lord grinned. If these warlocks of the dead had killed no one, had committed no sacrilege other than to be present and defend themselves, this place would surely change the deal.

*​

- The Mortourbe ? What the hell is that ? She asked her companion higher up.

- You're still very young, otherwise you'd know what this place is.

As he said these words, his own mount, a huge eagle, came down to Gailrya and her falcon. His bird of prey was a little bigger than Anok. But this one had nothing to envy his fellow.

He studied the horizon as the wings of his mount beat, searching for his words.

- Even your father, Lord Helion, was young at that time. He was not yet 'Lord'. The forest had only recently accepted us into its midst and had only limited confidence in our kind.

A jolt interrupted him. Gaylria waited patiently for him to resume, stroking Anok's plumage. The emerald forest was moving at high speed a few meters below.

"That year a herd of man-beasts was engaged in the forest. In the middle of winter, the Loren was apathetic and reacted only late to their presence. They were able to penetrate deep and reached a frozen pond. They surprised a group of elves who had come to dance on the ice in the company of the rare spites then inclined to join them.

The slaughter was inevitable and the ice was tinged with red. When Helion and the first scouts arrived at the pond, it had changed. Changed to become what it is today. Instead of ice, dark lenses and dead leaves covered the surface. When they swept them, they found that the once crystal-clear water was cloudy, impregnated with mud and mosses of water. We never found the elves. The mystery was even thicker when they discovered the traces of the beast men."

Mouth-beat, Gaylria drank his words. Helion had never told her about this story.

- But... and the enchantresses? They must have found out what it...

- We do not yet fused with Loren as we do today, he answered sadly. And when that was the case... the forest refused to answer their requests, as it still refuses.

Helion's daughter remained silent. Such a catastrophe was hard to digest.

- What is certain, he continued, is that corpses are still on the bottom of the water. Beast men. But also elves.

Gaylria returned to the horizon. Mortourbe... what an unjust name. If elves had really died there, they should honour their memory, not make it a haunted place.

*​

- What the hell is this place?

Under Luther's eyes lay a swamp, covered with mist despite the day's late hour. Not a songbird, not a frog was croaking, not a single animal was showing up. No living being was there.

- This contrasts with the Dolmens clearing, Manesh'k tuned.

He chased away with his hand the immaterial quill spirit that had been stubbornly following them since dawn. He turned to Gilnash, as always when he did not know what he was dealing with. But he seemed more disturbed by the sudden disappearance of his flying companions. Not a swallow, buzzard or sparrow answered his call. The ornithologist only felt the emptiness. A void that his brothers could not fill.

- Let's leave this place quickly, I don't feel anything good there, he grinned as he studied the branches.

Manesh'k nodded. He wasn't comfortable either. And he was getting tired of that green tide stretching as far as the eye could see.

- What irony, Luther commented. Mortals always associate us with this kind of place, lugubrious as they wish. And yet when we find one at the bottom of the world, we have only one desire: to leave...

- Even the elves avoid this place, warned the ornithologist. For some reason, they don't like it either.

- One wonders why...

The elves... not skinning them on the spot had been painful. It had been even more so to keep his nephew from doing so. But, on Gilnash's vague indications, they had left them there. Unconscious, but alive. Manesh'k turned to his brother again. Why didn't he warn them they weren't alone in that damn forest ? Why protect elves like that ? Why deprive themselves of a feast ? There were enough for all three to be full... The elven nectar, so delicate and intoxicating at the same time... He frowned. What had Gilnash seen that he refused to tell them ?

- Let's go, said the ornithologist with a last look at the murky waters.

Manesh'k followed in his footsteps, thoughtful.

- Wait…

Luther's eyes were riveted on the surface of the water. Nothing moved except the steaming fumaroles from the warm peat and a few bubbles rising from the depths. It waved, immaterial.

- What's the matter?

- In the water... murmured the younger, fascinated.

Slowly he turned his lips up and revealed his fangs. He seemed so happy. Manesh'k went from his nephew to the surface, without understanding. Then a shiver ran through him as the disembodied spirit that accompanied them suddenly agitated. He moved away from them, growling in the direction of Luther, the prickles spiked with anger.

- The wind... he finally understood.

Not a breath came to disturb the place. But by extending his senses beyond his own shell, he took the measure of the agitation that reigned. Luther was marveled, Gilnash overtaken, his mind restless... and then what came to meet them.

Slowly, his hand came to rest on the knob of his weapon. A wave came to disturb the surface, spreading gently through the pond. Then another... and a shadow was discerned under water.

The vampire looked up, ready to react to any threat. With a measured slowness, a mixture of branches and roots came out of the marsh. The deformed thing, dripping with crumbling water and nauseous mud, dragged itself in their direction. It had no legs and no head. Its body was soaked bark, mouldy woods and vine roots. This... thing, was to vegetation what they were to living things. A mass of dead creatures, animated by some sorceries... And which advanced painfully in their direction.

Gilnash was incredulous, too. He didn't understand what he was looking at. He had seen the elves through the eyes of several feathered creatures. But never a creature like that. How was that possible ?

Never in their wanderings had the three vampires been confronted with such strangeness. And yet, it continued to advance, with soft roots like tentacles towing it meters after meters to the shore, to them. And yet, it wasn't even this being that left them speechless. That was their number. As if, slowly, the whole pond came alive, waving its bowels to regurgitate them in front of them.

Despite their unprecedented situation, Luther found a way to burst out laughing. Without understanding, Manesh'k and Gilnash saw him approaching the water's edge while the living dead plant was getting closer and closer.

- There are dead people in there, he said, reaching out his hand.

He closed his eyes and the two vampires felt his energy, his will that bent Shyish to his whims. And the purple wind of death was meekly manipulated. Like a shroud he dragged the creature and closed his grip on it bowels.

The thing flinched and stood still against Luther as he used all the power at his disposal, his will opposing that of the other creature.

- Bones, in the mud... guessed Manesh'k.

Linked by the roots and mixed with the branches, bones and joints worn by time composed in part the skeleton of this thing. And applying his claw to them, Luther was able to stop its advance despite its approximate control of necromancy. Trembling, dripping with mud and dead leaves, the thing could no longer progress forward.

- I love magic ! Rejoiced Luther while pushing on, forcing little by little the creature to twist, to skin itself into several branches. And there are so many more !

He stretched out his second arm in the direction of the troubled waters which had entered into effervescence at the moment when he had come into contact with the vegetable spirit. At his side, the magical animal with the quills feigned and spat in his direction without daring to do more.

- I love...

The arrow whistles slightly through his hand. Pushing a scream of surprise and pain, he moved backwards. The other two vampires, blades already drawn, immediately took shelter in the shade of the trees.

With an unintelligible gurgle, the creature of silt collapsed on itself, roughed by Luther's treatment. Holding his wounded limb in his wrist, he swept the undergrowth with his gaze.

- You fern-eating bastards ! Show yourselves ! I know it's you who....

Before he finished his sentence an elf suddenly appeared before him, as if fallen from heaven. And before he could grasp any more, he was opposed to a steel wall which forced him to jump backwards so as not to be lacerated. The undead found himself in a precarious balance on the water's edge, waving his arms so as not to fall. Without hesitating for a moment his opponent threw him into the water with a violent kick in the stomach.


*​

Immediately other attackers sprang from the branches and bushes, standing between the pond and the other two vampires.

- Where did they come from ? exclaimed Manesh'k, who bowed down to avoid a blade before leaping at his attacker.

More lively than his opponent, he grabbed his wrist on the flight and threw him violently at one of his companions. But rather than overturn it, the mate avoided it with a wise roll. His weapon ricocheted over the undead's one with a rain of sparks like Manesh'k managed to parry and send it bouncing in a new direction. From the corner of his eye he noticed that his first enemy was already on his feet and ready to come back.

He flip-flopped when a new individual let himself fall behind him, but held back his blade by notifying his outfit.

- Who are these guys ? creaked Manesh'k that stuck back to back with him.

- No idea, Gilnash replied. I've never seen them before.

- Mmh?

- Never, really, he insisted. My companions have never seen elves moving like them. They look more like acrobats than fighters. Or dancers, too...

Manesh'k slowly swept the group of about ten individuals that surrounded the two brothers in arms.

- We are not here to fight, Gilnash began. We mean no harm to...

An arrow whistled between them, Manesh'k pulling the ornithologist with him. He looked for a moment for the author of these shots. In futility. He frowned.

- Now I, I want to hurt you, he said darkly before leaping into the fray.

*​

Luther stood up and shook, throwing water everywhere. Immersed to the chest, he finally took the time to study his attacker. The elf dressed in a simple loincloth was watching him from the shore. He was taller than the vampire. Just like one of the foresters beaten the day before, he fought with two swords. But above all, he wore the tattoos of twin wolves spread out on his torso, ivy leaves rolling up his thighs and wrapping around his arms to his hands as well as stylized feathers painted on one of his cheeks.

Unimpressed, the vampire took the time to spit a little water while looking at him black.

- For that you'll pay, Elf. For you I'll make an exception. My blade will rust, but if I dip it in elf blood...

- I ask to see, he replied, standing still as Luther drew his weapon.

He cried out in anger and ran towards that cheeky elf. But as he was about to pull himself out of the pond, the cloudy water suddenly began to bubble around him again.

- What…

Gnarled roots sprang suddenly from the water and in great splashes threw themselves at the vampire. Before he understood the origin of this new assault, the bark tentacles wrapped around his ankles, hips and wrists. Strangled by a vegetable collar, he disappeared into the depths, dragged into darkness.

*​

- Luther!

Brutally pushing back the elf that was facing him, Manesh'k made his way to the shore, several blades bouncing off his armor. When two other elf warriors sprang up in front of him, he growled with hatred.

- Get out of here!

With one step to the side he avoided the third individual coming from behind. He collapsed like a mass under the knob that the vampire inflicted on him. This one would not return to the assault after another roll.

- I've had enough, leave me alone or I'll bleed you to death !

To support his threat, he took a battle position, ready to leap forward with his blade. Above the fighters the spite with the quills was watching the fight of the undead. He swayed here and there, hesitating about what to do.

- I like this one.

The two fighters took a furtive look behind them, not leaving Manesh'k with their eyes, rightly. Whoever had spoken had thrown Luther into the water. The spirit with the quills turned towards him. The vampire squeezed the handle of his weapon a little harder.

- It is a just end that drowning for your sacrilege, he said with a fierce smile.

- Drowning ? Manesh'k repeated with her lips.

- When a Lemure takes a body, it never comes back to the surface, added the elf with a mocking smile.

Then he made some reels with his two swords before imitating the vampire's position.

- Don't worry, you'll find him in a few moments.

- If you only knew...

Both jumped simultaneously as the other elves moved away from the struggle to come.

*​

Dodge, parry, roll, dodge again... his three opponents were good. Very good even. But he had been fighting since the dawn of human civilization. It was neither the first nor the last time he fought in outnumber. But when an elven blade nicked his flank, he came to his senses. As gifted as he was, he could not continue this mortal ballet forever. He enjoyed a time of respite between two assaults and looked around. Manesh'k was scraping with another half-naked elf, surrounded by several of these strange fighters. No sign of Luther. No archer in sight either. Though. The arrow the cadet had received did not come from one of these warriors. None wore bows or quivers.

From the corner of the eye the undead suddenly noticed a shadow sliding over the foliage. At the same time as his senses were rising and his enemies were returning to the charge, he jumped upwards. The vampire clung to the first branch that came. Leaning with one hand and his elbow for his armed arm, he hoisted himself up without losing an instant. The elves would soon imitate him.

A brew of air. His instincts had not deceived him. Jumping from one branch to another, he climbed up a branch like a tightrope walker and, close to the top, took his impulse... to find himself facing a fake face, all composed of brambles !

- What…

Before he realized what this new assault was, the thing swept him away. The next moment, he was diving into the void.

The shock on land was painful. With a thousand precautions Gilnash rolled to the side. He had lost the Lahmian sword in the fall but no matter, he still had his daggers hanging on his hips. As he stood up heavily, he noticed that the elves were not approaching. They stayed more than a reasonable distance from the shaken vampire.

Gilnash flip-flopped when a hoarse whimper sprang from his back. With one step to the side he avoided the vegetable whip that had propelled him into the air. Without wasting a moment, he walked away from this thing while keeping the elves in his field of vision. But they had their weapons down, just watching the living dead and the newcomer. Therefore, he turned to this new enemy and looked at it with suspicion.

This... creature, strangely similar to the thing in the pond. Except that it clearly had the shape of a humanoid. Its legs were composed of roots, similar to that of a mangrove tree, all intertwined with brambles. Its torso was hollow bark where no heart was visible. He noticed that the right arm had a shoulder but branched into a whip of intertwined brambles, the one that had made him fall from so high. The right, on the other hand, was composed only of black and smooth bark, sparse with thorns and ending in three sharp claws.

Gilnash drew his daggers with a fluid movement. He frowned as the creature charged : other varied specimens, ranging from interwoven roses to shoulders covered with reed fleece, had just appeared behind the first. His thousand years of existence would perhaps be entirely necessary...

*​

- Anok, what is it?

Perched on her falcon, the elf had the greatest difficulty controlling her feathered friend. From the moment they approached the Mortourbe, he had begun to behave strangely. Never in their fights against beast-mens or green-skins had he behaved this way. He categorically refused to approach the treetops. But as soon as Gailrya tried to point him in a new direction, he would fly back over the fighting.

Not far away, she saw that the eagle of the other rider had the same problems as Anok. Something downstairs was disturbing the two birds. Something that encouraged her to join the fight more ! Bothel, her brother, had himself thrown one of the vampires between the deadly claws of the Lemures of the Mortourbe. Then he started the fight with a second. A fight that was still going on, according to the metal smashes she was getting. She squeezed the wood of her bow to whiten her fingers. What could drive their birds of prey below to refuse to fight, but also keep them on the battlefield ?

*​

There were only two enemies left, the third eating the water lilies by the roots. One of them was reduced to facing a group of dryads with daggers. The last one was fighting his son in a single fight. The other dancers of the troop had moved apart and formed a circle around the belligerents, ready to skewer the undead if he tried to flee.

There was one detail, however, that bothered the Elf Lord. When the first had disappeared beneath the surface, this individual had rushed to his rescue, had used violence to make his way among the warriors. But after exchanging a few words, his behaviour had changed radically. He was... having fun. That was the word he could use. Even as he was fighting a mortal battle with Bothel, one of the most dangerous warriors Helion had ever seen, he was not dealing any mortal blow. Nothing betrayed this feeling on his impassive face and he was striking devastating blows to the elf. But the longer the fight, the more he felt he was right.

- You are strong, monster, told Bothel between two passes of weapons. But I'd still chop you up !

And he made a new spin that the vampire jumped backwards, stopping at a sword length from the dancer.

- You're not bad either, my boy, Manesh'k replied, moving away in the face of a new charge from the tattooed elf.

Helion frowned when he saw that several dancers had to move away from the arc of the circle described by his blade so as not to disturb him. The intruder's obvious calm, compared to Bothel's hatred, only supported his impression. He grinned more when he heard the rest.

- I... am... not... your boy ! he roars, punctuating every syllable with raging reels.

He suddenly rolled forward and straightened up immediately, outspeeding the vampire whose armour took the blow.

- I have seen more than five hundred winters pass by, said the elf with a mean smile.

Sniffing, Manesh'k quickly examined his outfit. One blade impact among many... He took a critical look at the confident elf.

- I'll tell you something, he began by sketching a smile that revealed overdeveloped canines. I'm over two thousand years old.

- What ? Helion hiccupped from his back position.

And the vampire, bursting with laughter, in turn charged a Bothel who had immediately stopped laughing.

- That thing would be two thousand years old ? That monster is lying ! That can't be possible !

Anos just shrugged, keeping his arms crossed. The forest itself was full of much older secrets. That these things were so old surprised him, but was not impossible.

Warda did not observe the same fight. She was turned towards the vampire with the daggers, much more in difficulties in front of the tens of dryades which he faced. His outfit was in shreds and several wounds spread over his face and arms. But he continued the fight without interruption. Like a dancer he avoided an assault from behind him. As soon as he received himself he leaned back to avoid a wooden member as sharp as a spear and with a dry movement he cut it. He suddenly dropped to the ground to avoid a third attack at shoulder height and took the opportunity to sweep the injured dryade with a circular movement of his legs.

- Something's wrong, she murmured.

- Yes, Bothel should have ended it by now...

- I'm not talking about that, cut the enchantress. Dryads...

Anos and Helion turned to her, intrigued.

- Dryades? repeated the skin changer.

- They usually live far from this part of the forest...

- I don't see how....

A real cataclysm suddenly jostled several trees, threatening to uproot them. The ground trembled as the imposing mass of the new and immense protagonist hit the ground. Several dancers immediately moved aside, barely being reduced to scarlet juice. Manesh'k like Bothel took several steps back, dominated by this behemoth of another era. Even the dryads interrupted their attacks.

The colossus compacted on itself and exulted with a hoarse rumble, similar to the crash of an avalanche. It dominated the humanoids to a large extent, with its tallest branches alongside the local peaks. No one made a move. The crashing arrival had literally frozen the fighting.

- By Isha... Anos whispered.

- Gusternum... where...

- It's a spirit, Warda breathed, just as stunned. Although incarnate, he knows the secret paths better than any asrai !

The creature's sparkling green gaze was riveted on the undead. It shouted again and armed a titanic strike, from a right side limb. Manesh'k and Bothel dived on both sides to avoid the blow that shook the ground under their feet. With his eyes wide open, Manesh'k saw it bring back to himself the amalgam of vines that would have violently crushed him. Weighly, the monster straightened up, sliding its soft branches like willow stems. They left deep furrows in the humus.

- Bothel came out of there ! cried Helion as his son stood on the vampire's right.

But the dancer didn't have the time. The bark beast suddenly continued with another attack. It used it's vines as oversized whips and each of its blows caused new earthquakes. They drew concentric circles on the surface of the water as the primal anger raged on its target.

Between two shots the war dancer managed to roll outside the combat area redesigned by this gigantic protagonist. He watched as his opponent dodged the tree man's attacks. Then he turned to the tree-man himself. He already had the opportunity to see and even fight alongside one of these venerable spirits. But the few seconds spent in front of it were enough for Bothel to understand that he had nothing to do with his fellow men. No other guardian of the forest would ever have pushed young sprouts to come into battle, attacked an elf to injure an enemy, or blindly maimed the ground. He knew the name of this tree-man and the history of its plant incarnation. But seeing its anger with his own eyes was a whole other thing. Gusternum…

It continued to hammer the ground with thick branches loosely resembling arms, two on each side of the trunk. But the vampire was sharp, he had discovered it himself at his own cost. Gusternum would not be able to mow him down like that and it must have realized it because it stopped. It took a steep step forward, the roots surrounding its limb immediately sinking into the ground. If that could be called a limb: its legs were only the soft trunk of the tree in which Gusternum had incarnated, split in two in order to be able to walk the world... It roared again before straightening up with a multitude of cracks. The living dead raised his blade, ready for any eventuality.

- Get back ! All of you ! Helion suddenly ordered in a frightened voice as his son joined them.

Manesh'k took a quick look at the elf as he heard the tone of his order before refocusing on his enemy. In an orange plume, he belched in the air a fine powder that quickly fell on the undead, now alone facing the tree-man. Trapped, he swept the cleared clearing with his eyes, waiting for the effects of the substance that covered him. His enormous opponent stood still without taking its eyes off him.

- Father, what ? asked Bothel without blinking.

- Oxidizing spores, he simply murmured.

- Oxi... what?

- When several centuries ago, Gusternum was incarnated to repel dwarf lumberjacks, it confronted them with this process, Anos answered without bothering to turn to the dancer.

A strap suddenly detached from Manesh'k's breastplate. He looked down and saw his shoulder pad following the same path. Then his sheath fell off too. It was with round eyes that he saw one of his knee pads suddenly crack in two before joining the rest. Looking at the scene with an absent eye, Anos continued his account:

- The fighters' chainmail and blades have fallen to dust. Not one of them approached Gusternum with a metal weapon. And not one has returned home...

- Nice story, elf.

The shapeshifter flip-flopped and turned the vampire's wrist away and the dagger of the vampire cut only from the wind.

- Fine reflexes, the elf, he commentated by giving him a hook with his other hand while spraying him with water.

What he had not foreseen was that by taking the blow the elf would not grab it with his own second hand. He amplified his movement and lifted the stunned vampire off the ground.

- But... he should be... began Bothel whose gaze glided to the surface of the water.

- ...dead ? Luther completed as he straightened up, a mean-spirited smile taking shape on his face. I'm already dead. Were you seriously hoping to drown someone like me in a pit full of bones ?

And he charged the four individuals. But it was neither Bothel, nor Anos, nor Helion who replied. Overspeeding the undead, Warda stood up on her way, arms wide apart. She revealed the inside of the diaphanous veil that covered her indented outfit. Before Luther reacted, a cloud of wings, claws and quills grabbed him by the throat, blinding him and tearing the skin of his face and arms. He rolled to the ground screaming as the swarm of spirits of all kinds were attacking him.

*​

- I can't believe my eyes, it is here!

- Who ?

- The guardian of the grove ! exclaimed Gailrya, lowering her bow.

As she urged Anok to approach she could see the scene through a hole : the tree-man facing the helpless intruder and surrounded by the dancers. With a herculean setback, the mind threw him out of her field of vision. She also saw her brother and father in front of another enemy covered with spites and gesticulating like a devil. Then his gaze flowed towards the last of the group, unable to approach, completely surrounded by the dryades. The scene was unreal. So many means for only three individuals ! She slid her bow into the quiver at her shoulder, idle. Their presence in the air was not necessary with such a demonstration of force.

Gently, she urged Anok down a little more. Without her knowing why, his reluctance had gone away as suddenly as she had come. Flapping his wings vigorously, he gradually descended to the gap, imitated by his neighbour on a giant eagle. The bird suddenly shrieked and swerved.

*​

- Manesh'k !

The vampire tried to join him, but immediately a wall of living brambles and knotty roots blocked his way, challenging him to approach. Whistling, Gilnash replied without losing a moment and tore pieces of bark from their owners with daggers. But the creatures of wood and sap did not falter and on the contrary, began to suffocate the living dead under their numbers alone. With claws and thorns, the plant creatures gradually reduced the border outfit to shreds...

The cry that resounded in the foliage had the effect of a flash on the living dead. He stood up abruptly and savagely repelled his assailants before turning to its author. The massive corpse of the raptor cut through the branches and crushed many of the plant creatures before coming to rest a few meters away. Gilnash rushed to the creature on the ground, rushing things of brambles, turning away from the fight, from his brothers and from the threat of the elves. At that very moment, only that huge falcon mattered. Releasing his daggers, he laid his hands on the already sticky feathers while the body was shaken with spasms. He avoided a wing strike without thinking about it, struck by the agony of the bird. Then he stopped. The wing fell back and the blood stopped spurting from the gaping wound.

He could hear the cries of pain of his companions. He would guess the wooden spirits ready to tear him to pieces in front of the elves. He saw the person with a quiver staggering up next to him. But Gilnash had eyes only for the author of this atrocious act. This author who in turn let himself fall and stared at him with incandescent eyes. It whipped the air with his long, dripping tongue in mood before raising its two glowing blades.

From a roll Gilnash avoided the tattooed demon's chisel. With a howl of rage he plunged his hands into the torso of the nearest creature's bark. The one who was trying to attack him was thrown without warning in front of the scarlet monster who cut it in two before charging and growling with hatred.


*​

- What is that... that thing! exclaimed an elf.

- Impossible…

It was simply impossible. A bloodletter couldn't have been in that forest. Not here. Not that far. Not without Warda and the forest itself perceiving it. And yet there it was, clearing a deadly path through the dryads to reach the vampire. Vampire trying to stay alive under the blades of this unnatural aberration.

Even Gusternum turned away from its enemy on the ground, sounded. His clothes and armor were in pieces, but by some magic his sword had escaped the slaughter. Shaking his head, the undead followed the emerald gaze and discovered too the demon who came to sow discord in their battle. The tree-man returned to him, then again to the scarlet demon. Manesh'k remaining lying on the ground, it finally opted for this new enemy. With a heavy step where anger was perceptible, it moved towards this fourth intruder.

*​

Gilnash heard the approach more than he saw it. He was almost swept away by the dull strike that threw his pursuer out of his field of vision. He himself rolled out of range and narrowly avoided the claws of a new bramble creature. He pushed it away and looked for the colossus, before finding that in the confusion he had returned next to the corpse of the giant falcon. The ornithologist grinned in pain. A pain that had nothing physical about it. As he lifted his head he saw that the elf that was riding this prince of heaven was facing him. An arrow in hand. Tears in my eyes. She cried out in hatred and pain and then threw herself at him. The vampire had only to take a step aside to avoid it, then was splashed in the face.

He blinked several times before he could realize what had just happened. Everything was going crazy. Black points protruded from the back of this new enemy. Loading him to despair, she had just impaled herself on the claws of a dryad that was about to stab the undead !

- For someone who didn't want to kill...

With a haggard eye, Gilnash turned to his unrecognizable nephew. The skin of his face had been lacerated and his armour, already mistreated in Grissenwald, was in pitiful condition. He held Manesh'k upright, his arm around his shoulder, barely in better shape. The latter dragged his sword with one hand. And just above them floated still and always the spiky simian beast, passively studying the two undead. Behind them came several fighters who visibly hesitated about the approach to follow : finish the vampires or join the colossus on which the demon threw himself without hesitation ?

*​

- Gailrya!

Making fast reels with his blades, the tattooed elf rushed to the other end of the battlefield. He passed in front of the enchantress, also overwhelmed by events. She had recalled her cloud of spites, leaving the first vampire free, and now hesitated to send them to harass the demon. But she still didn't understand. But how did he get here ?

- Warda ! Banish him !

- What?

- Banish him ! Helion repeated, incredulous. You ! Neither the vampires nor the demon come near ! he shouted to the dancers stopped in full charge.

The side completely skinned by the whip with the sharp leaves, the tattooed bloodletter rose again, healing at sight of eye.

- That's impossible, Anos realized when he came out of his storeroom. He can't get up again ! Not with injuries like that ! He should go back to the void !

- Banish him! insisted the Lord.

With a wild bellow, the scarlet beast jumped over a new lash and reached Gusternum. Without ceasing to howl, it drew two furrows on its trunk and tore off several bark plates on the way.

*​

- Get away from her ! Right now ! shouted Bothel.

With an agile leap he jumped over the dryads stunned by the sudden wound of the titan. They turned away from Gilnash and advanced towards the duellists, leaving the elf and the vampires alone. But the dancer was not affected in any way. His sister lay at Luther's feet. A smile appeared on his unrecognizable face.

- Is that who you're talking about ? He provoked him by taking the body by the throat.

Without visible effort, he lifted her inanimate body, her feet no longer touching the ground.

- You…

A blast brutally cut the elf. The explosion separated the bloodletter from the living tree and threw them both to the ground. As Manesh'k, overwhelmed by events, turned to them, he could only be dazzled by the flash that followed. Then nothing.

When Bothel's wrinkled eyes recovered his sight, the three vampires and his sister had... disappeared. Pure and simple. He flip-flopped, incredulous, while the enchantress discovered with horror the result of her fate.

- It... It... It bounced... she stammered as Helion like Anos did not yet realize what had just happened.

With an agile leap, Khorne's herald stood up and scanned the assembly, looking for its prey. Its bright gaze waited a moment on Warda who had a hiccup when discovering the dark metal rune hanging from its neck. Then, before the massive tree-man also got back on its feet, it rushed towards the undergrowth carrying away its two blades. Neither the elves nor the dryads tried to pursue it.

- What just happened ? asked a war dancer to his neighbour who was as lost as he was.

Vampires were simply volatilized.




[1] I can't really translate this one since its a play on word from Mort and Tourbe who mean Death and Peat.
 

Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Joined
Sep 29, 2013
Messages
1,554
#33
A good, long action scene here. How did those vampires think the elves would care what their intentions were? Eenter Loren, die, right?

Interesting behaviour from the daemon...
 
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