The hunt for the gamayuns draws ever closer! Liarie accompanied by Quil and Riel speed through the Scar with the attention of finding the gamayuns. What will happen if they succeed in their hunt?
The featured art was done by Mattias and you can see more of his work here – website.
The editing was done by Luke Thompson and here is his – website.
To run with the fey amid their ancient forests is a dream that few ever achieve. A race that normally keeps to themselves, it is rare to see them beyond their realm. Even if you do get an opportunity to see a fey or even interact with one, you’ll find them to be dull in many ways. Beautiful as they are, their interactions with other races are quite emotionless. Many before me who have studied this race have concluded it is to do with them having such limited social interactions even with each other! Many believe the fey to be a dying race, and this war that surrounds us daily surely makes their frightful situation worse as many nations harvest the magic from the few ancient trees that remain. I wonder, if upon the final fey’s death, will all the ancient trees wilt and cast our planet to a magicless void? What a terrifying thought!
-Apprentice Scholar Ariel Rijil, A Curious Observation into the Races of Coronam
The drone of an engine high in the sky slowly grew. Deep within the confined walls of the scar, the roar was muffled and difficult to tell from which direction it was originating from.
“Another aircraft, do you think it’s Derdainian?” Liarie asked, ears perked as she stared up at the cloudy sky. A gust of powerful wind blew across the top of the walls sending down a whisper to tickle at her orange locks of hair.
“A difficult question, but it should have little effect on our mission,” Riel replied.
Liarie looked down at the ghostly youth to see him focused on the forked path ahead of them. “It is still a concern. If it is another bomber, it raises the question of what Derdainia plans for this area.”
“Let him focus, sister,” Quil replied. She was leaned up against the rock wall focused on leading a caterpillar gently along from fingertip to fingertip.
“What do you think, Quil?” Liarie asked, crossing her arms.
Quil looked up from the insect to meet Liarie’s gaze before turning to the sky above. The roar of the engine grew ever louder. “This is a magically rich area, I’m sure the Imperium has plans to retake it from us. An opportune time for us to earn glory in battle and grow stronger.”
“I wouldn’t call that an opportune time, but a dangerous one,” Liarie replied.
“Well, risks must be taken.” Quil returned her attention to the bright red caterpillar.
“Right, risks and rewards.” Liarie shook her head before looking back up to the sky spotting the black blip of a shape soaring overhead. The roaring engine reached its peak before beginning to drift away, the dark shape vanishing from sight just as quickly as it appeared.
“I found their presence, it chose the left path,” Riel said.
“They head deeper!” Liarie exclaimed.
“Yes, but not quite toward the center based on the previous directions they chose. I suspect one of the gamayuns knows a faster route through here than the Scar’s edge,” Quil said.
“Knowledgeable or not, we’ll trap them in the end!” Liarie grinned.
“Agreed, lead the way, sister.” Quil waved her hand for Liarie to start.
Stepping forward, Liarie burst into a quick pace, hooves easily propelling her through the rugged terrain. Wherever a grassy patch lay, her hooves would kick it up, disturbing insects from their scurrying hunt for the day. Her dress billowed out with the speed she carried herself through the weaving path.
Up ahead Liarie noticed the fork in the path. She glanced over her shoulder to see Riel, nothing more than a haze of his former shape, the wisp of a soul clear within, begin to brighten with a surge of magic.
“Right,” Riel said.
Turning her attention to the front, Liarie slowed down a step to make the turn before resuming her sprint, tail flicking in her wake to maintain her balance. The tapping of Quil’s hooves just behind giving Liarie a strange comfort. The glimpses of green and bright wildlife all around made her heart flutter.
Do you feel it, sister? The thrill of the run! When was it last that we experienced such joy? Liarie could not help but smile as memories of the ancient forest flooded back to her.
The path ahead splintered in several directions ending in dead ends but blossoming with foliage covered in webs. On the left, a wide clear path directed her attention. Sprinting past, Liarie glanced toward the webs and spotted startled movement of an insectoid shape. “Another silvrik. Do you think they’ll respond to us soon?”
“Yes, soon. Though we have time as long as we maintain our swiftness,” Quil replied.
Hooking to the right, the trees growing in the dead ends had branches sticking through the wall to create a green roof along the path. Yellow eyes peered from the small holes created by the branches. The eyes blinking with curiosity as the trio ran by before pulling back into the shadows.
“It departs,” Riel stated.
“Each warning is surely creating quite the horde to cut us off,” Liarie said.
“We should be able to determine the gamayun’s exit before the silvrik amass,” Quil replied.
“I’m starting to wonder if this was such a good idea to come here. Those gamayuns have surely put the silvrik on edge. We’re making it much worse.” Liarie felt the rays of the sun hit her skin once more after leaving the cover of the tree branches. The heat, typically joyous to her, now left her strained with the ongoing sprint they had been maintaining since yesterday to catch up to their target. The presence that she had struggled to notice at the entrance of the Scar was becoming clearer with each step.
“We shall succeed, there is no doubt in my mind,” Quil said.
“I hope you’re right,” Liarie said.
“Left,” Riel cut in.
The path forked left once more heading down a way before the path tightened to a thin crevice. Slowing down, Liarie peered through the passage trying to get a clear view of what lay beyond. “I sense silvrik ahead. Do you think it is a trap?”
“How they will react is difficult to answer,” Riel said.
“Tis a high concentration of magic ahead; I suspect it is merely a gathering place for them.” Quil placed a hand on Liarie’s shoulder to pull her back. “Nonetheless, shall I lead just in case?”
“You are rash, if it truly is a gathering place, we will need my softer approach,” Liarie said brushing Quil’s hand off before stepping towards the thin path.
“Are you suggesting me a brute, Liarie?” Quil smiled.
“No, just a bit too cold, dear sister. Seeing you might make them think you an enemy.”
“I wouldn’t call it cold, just more focused than you and your emotions.”
Liarie felt the heat rush to her face as she scowled, thankful that she was facing away from her sister. She brings up my emotions again. Curse it. She began to sidestep through the tight passageway, the bright light on the other side guiding her through the shadows. “Let’s get moving.”
“Of course,” Quil replied.
Even without seeing her sister, Liarie knew there was a coy smile on Quil’s lips, the thought only further frustrating her. The smell of blooming flowers up ahead rid her of her dark thoughts. Hurrying in her step, she burst from the entrance with a smile on her lips at the sight of the blooming flowers lining the wide space. The trees at the center with branches rising to touch the floating rock only furthered the awe of the area.
A sudden burst of movement caught her eye. She spotted the thin legs vanish into holes along the wall’s edge, kicking up grass in their wake.
“At least six, possibly eight?” Quil said, coming to stand beside Liarie.
“Eight,” Riel replied.
“They seem calm enough; we should get moving before more show up,” Liarie said starting to walk down the side path to lead down into the area. The tranquil flow of water running through the space only furthered her peace. A grassy patch amidst a grouping of flowers called out to her; only the urgency to continue moving due to the danger of the silvrik stopped her from taking up the offer of an afternoon nap.
Movement out of the corner of her eyes. In the shadows, Liarie saw four eyes staring at her as she walked by. She forced her hands away from reaching for the wand resting along her hip. Instead, she kept a calm pace, tail wagging slowly and ears perked listening for any sudden movements. From within the shadows a sense of anger brewed causing the hair on the back of her neck to stand on end.
“The gamayuns’ presence slowed here; I suspect we near one of their campsites,” Riel said.
“Fortunate news,” Quil replied.
Liarie glanced back at her sister to see her with ears perked as well, eyes darting towards the shadows. “You sense it too, don’t you?”
“Yes, their patience for us is growing thin,” Quil replied. “The gamayuns passing surely put them in a poor mood.”
“Turn right up ahead. It won’t be much further now,” Riel said.
Moving through the shadow of the floating rock, Liarie glanced back at it, marveling in the entangling life around its surface. The races of sunlight glistening along its borders forcing her to look away. “Maybe their current anger is merely because of us disturbing their gathering.”
“I highly doubt it,” Quil replied.
Leaving behind the garden, the path tightened once more, the grass and flowers from before becoming pockets intermixed with the dry ground. Liarie rubbed at her arms, the brewing anger seemingly never leaving her presence as it kept her on edge. The heat of the day’s travel only furthered her discomfort. She wiped at beads of sweat from her forehead and reached for her canteen to take a long swig from the cool water within.
“They stayed here,” Riel said.
“Another camp?” Liarie asked, screwing the canteen closed.
The trio were surrounded by the same dull walls of the Scar once more. Down one path that dead-ended in a cave, Liarie felt the lingering presence of the gamayuns.
“It’s recent too, they surely left it this morning,” Quil said walking into the cave.
“Just like the last one. They are good at leaving no trace. We’re lucky; if we were just a day late in showing up in the town, we’d never had found them,” Liarie said, stopping at the entrance to peer inside in awe at the lack of any remains or interesting features.
“It is more than luck, Yenvark is with us!” Quil looked back at them with a grin. “Riel, inform your brother of our location. It won’t be long now before we teleport back and create a trap.”
“Then we can be finished with this chase.” Liarie smiled in return.
“And on to better fortune, hopefully.” Quil moved past Riel who took a seated position, head lowered in focus. “We just have to go a little further.”
Liarie looked down at Riel, watching the glow on his semi-transparent skin lighten up as magic flowed through his body. Stepping past to join Quil, she looked up again to spot several holes in the cliffsides with eyes watching. “More of them are forming up around us.”
“There numbers are too few, still,” Quil replied.
“Darke informs me that the caravan is on the move west, they have been slowed in travel from the recent storms,” Riel said.
“Slowed down? By how much?” Liarie asked, looking back to see Riel back on his feet, the glow of his skin returned to normal.
“A full day’s travel.”
“That’s not good at all!” Liarie cried. “We can’t lay a trap if the gamayuns exit the Scar before we’re even in position.”
Quil shook her head. “Truly unfortunate news, we must then take matter into our own hands.”
“Are you sure about that?” Liarie asked.
“If we catch them by surprise, we may be able to win.”
“We shouldn’t engage with them, if we lose our circumstances will be terrible.”
“We’re taking the risk, sister. We will not run all this way for no reason.” She began to move out of the dead end and back towards the main path. “Join me or not, I am going.”
“Stubborn.” Liarie sighed before she chased after her sister, with Riel pacing besides her. Back to a quick pace, the walls seemed to zoom by in a blur, all details lost along the way. She is right though, to come all this way and let them slip away with no action is terrible! Any exhaustion that Liarie had felt before drifted away with the renewed excitement she felt in her beating heart. The thrill of speed while running so close to her sister like old times only furthered her joy.
Their hooves clicked loudly along the floor, echoing up the Scar’s walls. Insects scurried out of the way, several getting crushed along the path, forgotten by the two running fey. Riel trailed behind in his ghostly walk, seemingly there and not at the same time. Eyes viewed them from the shadows, uncertain what to do with them. Chitters and skitters whispered on the air as a gathering of numbers was brewing behind the group’s steps.
The presence began to grow more obvious; the distinct touch of Orsolya and the youth, along with a third presence, sent shivers of anticipation through Liarie. The third presence she was unsure on as well as the youth, but just Orsolya’s presence alone was enough to quicken her pace. A growing surge of magic through her made her clasp and unclasp her hands in an eagerness to want to move and weave spells to bring down the troublesome gamayun, even though that time was not yet.
“Calm yourself sister, less you alert them to our presence,” Quil said.
“Sorry,” Liarie replied, taking a moment around a bend to pause and close her eyes. With a deep breath she refocused and resumed her sprint to catch up to Quil and Riel who had gone ahead.
Now that battle is on our path, I am looking forward to it! When did that change in me happen, to seek battle? I fear I’m becoming more like a human each day. She glanced to her sides, spotting another pair of eyes watching from a crack in the floor. On her left another hole with three pairs watching her. Glimpses of movement confirmed the silvrik existence. I wonder if they can see it, my raw emotion? This growing fury that I’m so eager to bring down upon Orsolya. If my younger self saw it, she would turn in fear. Now I embrace it, when did this change happen? She squeezed her hands tightly, a tear creeping in the corner of her eye. I should have this rage! For Orsolya, that woman deserves it for disrupting my dear beloved! How far would we be now in our plans for revenge if it weren’t for her?
“I can sense them ahead; we should slow our pace,” Riel said.
“Agreed,” Quil said slowing down to a walk before glancing back at Liarie with a scowl. “Do you wish to alert them of our presence with those emotions of yours?”
“Sorry,” Liarie replied, halting in her step at the heated expression on Quil’s face.
“You said it once before, now keep calm!”
“I… Yes, sister.” Liarie nodded her head solemnly. She took an idle step back, taking the chance to cool down from the run.
“Riel, scout ahead, please,” Quil said.
“Okay,” Riel replied and moved ahead before vanishing around a corner.
“As soon as he returns, we’ll move in.”
Liarie nodded again before leaning against the wall, eyes closed. With a deep breath, she relaxed to the currents of magic all around. Her breathing calmed as she regained her composure.
Liarie opened her eyes to see Quil looking off in the direction that Riel had gone. “What?”
“I did not intend to snap at you.”
“I understand, tensions have been… high as of late, between us.”
Quil looked back to Liarie, her usual sharp eyes had a softer touch to them. “I don’t want it to remain as such, I hope you realize that.”
“I know, but what can be done?”
“I’m not sure, but I fear we will continue to drift apart.”
Liarie shook her head. “I hate thinking such horrid thoughts.”
“Agreed, and yet…” Quil turned her head towards the direction that Riel had gone.
A sharp bang of pain struck Liarie in her senses causing her to stagger a step before regaining her composure. “Riel!” she said just as an explosion was set off, and a gush of smoke soon followed, filling the passageway they both stood in.
Gasping in shock, Liarie caught a breath of the smoke causing her to fall into a fit of coughing. Rubbing at her eyes she blinked several times before looking up to see the immediate area clear, the smoke flowing around an invisible bubble with Quil standing at the center.
“Stand, we have to act swiftly,” Quil said offering her hand to Liarie.
Taking the hand, Liarie was lifted to her feet. Coughing a few more times she followed Quil, who was already marching toward the corner, the smoke billowing off to the sides in her presence.
“Riel is forming back as we speak. We must reach him and protect him before the gamayuns can snuff him out,” Quil said.
“How did they even spot him?” Liarie asked, between gasps for air as she tried to regain her evened breathing, the gulp of smoke she had inhaled still clogging her senses.
“I haven’t the answer, only the knowledge of what we must do.” Quil reached for her wand, a blue glow emitting from its crystal. “Are you prepared?”
“Let us act,” Liarie replied, expanding her own barrier from the smoke as Quil race off to her right. The passageway opening slightly allowed Liarie to move to the left. Reaching out, she spotted the trail that Riel had taken before ending further ahead where now a splattering of his aura was trying to concentrate back onto itself.
A salvo of three gunshots rang into the air, the piercing sound bouncing along the walls, making it difficult to find the source. Liarie ducked behind a large tree; its network of roots sinking into the ground created a small nook for her to hide behind. Another salvo of gunshots, one of the bullets whizzing by her to land with a crack in the stone. This is surely going to force the silvrik into action.
The smoke began to clear, revealing the open space cluttered with six trees, all with branches extending toward a pair of floating rock islands high above. The large rocks shifting up and down slowly, blocked out the afternoon sun’s rays leaving the area darkened.
Tightening her hand into a fist, Liarie wove a barrier with ease before peering out from her cover to see the opposite side of the area. From behind one tree on the left she saw the young gamayun with a rifle raised toward the boulder Quil hid behind on the opposite side from Liarie. Further beyond, Liarie spotted Orsolya standing in the open with barrier held in one hand and a rifle in the other. Orsolya’s mouth opened in shouts in the Derdainian tongue, the words too distant for Liarie to interpret.
Will today be the day, Orsolya? Liarie began to stand, her right hand gripping the wand tightly.
“Let me take the middle, sister! You take the sides towards the younger one!”
Liarie glanced over to Quil and nodded in understanding before backing off and instead headed toward the side to the next tree lined with its thick tall roots.
A bullet struck against her barrier, its flattened shape falling to the ground harmlessly. The impact caused her fist to vibrate. Regular rounds? She spotted the young gamayun poke out from cover to fire another round. There is magic infused, but not nearly enough. And why are they not using piercer rounds?
Stopping besides the next tree, Liarie took a deep breath, tail twitching for what came next. She glanced out of the corner of her eye to see Quil pushing toward Riel’s reforming body at the center of the clearing. Flashes of light where bullets struck Quil’s barrier illuminated the shade around her.
Looking back towards the cover holding the youth, Liarie intentionally stepped out from cover. Green aura began to float around her wand with the preparation of a spell. Oh, great queen, grant this fey power to strike out against her foes.
As soon as the youth leaned out of cover to fire a shot, Liarie pounced.
The barrier concentrated forward with Liarie’s sudden move and caught the bullet, shattering it under the large sum of magic in the bullet’s shell. Stronger than I anticipated! With the bullet slowed, Liarie in her heightened senses easily shifted her weight, the bullet only grazing her right shoulder. Her sprint was not slowed as dirt and rocks were kicked up with each pounding of her hooves. The aura around her wand grew in tandem with her step.
Bearing down on the youth, Liarie saw the fear in the girl’s eyes. Mercy was never given to me, nor shall it to you! Liarie slammed her left hoof into the ground, and all the magic she had gathered shot through her hoof to flow into the ground. Cracks shot out like a web before spiking up.
A flash of red appeared all around the imperial as her natural barrier to magic activated, the spikes of dirt beneath her feet shattering, but not before sending ricocheting shards to strike against her. As more spikes shot out from the sides, they suddenly exploded sending more shards to reign down on the youth.
Orsolya appeared in front of the girl with a flash of motion, forming a new barrier all around to block the shards.
She acted fast! Liarie jumped back as Orsolya aimed a point-blank shot of her rifle at Liarie’s head.
Liarie raised her hand to recreate her barrier in time as Orsolya fired off several more, quick rounds.
Pulling the girl back, Orsolya retreated behind the large tree.
Liarie shook her right hand from the tingling warmth returning to it; the chill that had followed the sudden exertion of magic was fading once more as magic flowed back toward her wand.
With her senses back in order, Liarie began to follow the two gamayuns before stopping at a loud crack. Turning towards it, Liarie saw the third gamayun on the opposite side of the clearing using magic to pull down the floating boulder on Quil who was helping Riel to his feet. “Quil!” Liarie shouted swinging her wand in the air, the flow of air ripping off several branches from the trees to float before her. She pointed the wand at the gamayun, sending forth the branches like thrown knives.
The gamayun released his hold on the boulder to raise up a barrier of dirt to block the branches. His magic had already finished; the boulder was already slowly crumbling down toward Quil and Riel.
Liarie pointed the wand towards Quil to feed her magic to her sister. Take my power, raise up a wall above yourself!
Liarie smiled at the welcoming touch of her sister’s magic to her own. The rock above began to shift in the air at the last second around Quil, dust and debris following right after.
Pulling her wand close again, Liarie pushed the dust out of her way with a gust of magic. Her heart sank as in her limited view she could make out the remaining rocks falling upon the area where Quil was. I can’t sense her! The magic flowing from those rocks is too much!
A sharp pain suddenly hit Liarie’s leg. She fell onto her left leg, pain shaking her. In the clearing dust, she saw her attacker. Orsolya!
The woman was flanked by the older gamayun who had his rifle raised at Liarie, clear magic seeping into his rifle.
They mean to end me! Liarie grit her teeth and raised her hand in defiance, the barrier thickening like a shell. Queen, protect this fair fey!
A loud thunderous clap of magic reverberated from the center of the clearing.
Liarie saw the three imperials look towards the flow of magic. Doing the same, Liarie watched in awe at all the rocks lifting into the area along with the surrounding trees. Roots snapped and wood cracked as the trees were sent flying through the air towards the three imperials who were now retreating towards the rear of the clearing. The rocks were soon to follow.
Lessening the flow of magic into her barrier, Liarie took the moment to relax as relief washed through her. In the midst of the flying debris, Riel steadily walked forward, body glowing with pure magic, no more than an outline of white distorted by waves of a rainbow of colors.
From besides Riel, Quil stood safely. Spotting Liarie’s bleeding leg, Quil came over in a rush. “Is the bullet still within?”
Liarie sat back, putting weight on her right side as she examined her bloody calf, “No, it passed through.
“I’ll close it,” Quil said crouching besides Liarie with hands extended towards the wound.
“I can close it.”
“Shush, you sent magic to me and now I return it.”
“Thank you, sister.” Liarie relaxed, the adrenaline of the fight seeping away as the pain of the abrupt wound began to flood her senses. Closing her eyes tight, Liarie winced at Quil’s touch. A heat soon followed that bathed Liarie, bringing with it comfort.
A distant chitter and scamper began to fill the air.
“They’re coming, aren’t they?” Liarie asked.
“Yes, what of your shoulder?”
“A graze, I shall handle it myself.” Liarie opened her eyes to see Quil already standing over her with wand at the ready. Peering down her side, Liarie saw the hole now closed, the blood coating her calf and fur going down to her hoof starting to dry. Reaching up to her shoulder, she sent a surge of magic into it, closing the wound with ease. She pushed herself to her feet, renewed strength gained from the flow of magic giving a bounce to her step. “We should leave.”
“Not yet, Riel has the gamayuns on the run. Between him and the silvrik, maybe we can still corner them,” Quil said, starting to run after Riel, who was exiting the clearing in the direction the imperials had run.
“We’re taking a big risk; we’ve done what we can!” Liarie called out as she gave chase.
“We can do more!”
On either side of Liarie, she spotted the yellow eyes followed by twisted shapes emerging from the shadows. This bad idea is getting worse! The narrowing path was lined with debris and a pair of trees laying on their side. Further beyond Liarie heard the loud cracks of stone and wood breaking along with blasts of magic. Much worse!