Today on Animus Lost… we rejoin our adventuring company as they endure the tiring journey for Grakkas’ lost friend, Meru. While on that journey, their new, mysterious ship captain, born of Ivy but enslaved by the Holly, along with Scary Horse, have been swept up by the Jottun. Join us as they set out to save them.
“I thought you had permission to be here.” Buckley looked to the group in surprise. He dropped the scry and took the lever from his mouth.
“We did.” Arkh piped in, “From the Holly.”
Albin moved Arkh aside to look at Buckley and the rest of the group, “But now we’re in Ivy territory.”
“Who gave you permission before, then?”
There was silence as they all looked at each other with the same questioning faces. Goldie nearly shouted, “Well, Quinlan was Ivy! SHE must have been letting us pass!”
There was a round of eye rolls and exasperated sighs as they all realized that Goldie must be right.
“Well,” Arkh said irritably, “we should at least get moving before the flora takes us over.” Making jerky motions to break the strands.
Fritz took that as his cue, “Okay, Goldie, Nameless, you take point. Albin, follow up.” He then gestured to their new arrivals, “You three after that. Tell them where to go. Arkh, you follow them. I’ll keep an eye on you all from the rear.”
Without much hesitation, the mercenaries followed Fritz’ orders, gathering in their places around the three “children”. Kana and Safara moved to resume their stations at Buckley’s elbows while he closed his eyes and continued his strange, modified Scry.
It wasn’t long before Albin grew bored and began to fiddle with his newfound gift. As he “empowered”, or so he called it, since it felt essentially the same to him, he noticed something interesting. The plant life around him became easier to move through. If he really concentrated, he could even feel it carry his step.
“Wow.” he mumbled to himself, “that’s cool!”
He continued to test it, pushing his limits, and didn’t even notice how well it was working until Fritz called out from behind, “What the hell, Albin?”
He was looking at the Beastman’s furry shoulder blades and rising higher still to glimpse Goldie’s hair. When he realized what he was doing, his furious concentration wavered, and the plant life swiftly receded, causing Albin to fall several feet to the ground.
“AAAOWWW!!!!!” Albin howled, standing and rubbing his nose while making a face.
Nameless turned to give Albin an incredulous look. “Are you kidding me? You weren’t complaining when the zeppelin crashed, but this?”
“I didn’t bump my nose when the zeppelin crashed!” Albin complained.
Everyone rolled their eyes and grumbled, but it wasn’t long until he could feel Goldie and Nameless testing it for themselves.
“So if you’re using Old Magic…” Albin continued to question Kana and Safara. Buckley never spoke. “Then why don’t you just levitate instead of fighting the vegetation?”
“It’s more difficult, in the end,” Kana replied. She seemed to have more patience for his needling. “We’re giving our magic to Buckley, rather than use it for ourselves. We can continue like this all day, for several days.”
Albin was about to ask for more information, when Fritz called out, “Three ahead!”
Goldie, Nameless, and Albin were ready to fight almost immediately, but didn’t see the three Fey soldiers until they jerked in surprised at seeing them.
“We can’t let them go,” Fritz said quietly. Albin knew what that meant, and wondered for a moment why he even said it. His heart sank when he realized that the words were meant for Arkh.
Albin watched one of the soldiers notch an arrow and pull back on the bowstring. It was hard to tell where they were aiming, but he decided that their Scryer was most important to him and prepared to jump. When the arrow was released with a soft thwang, Albin reached up and exposed his torso to the incoming attack to reach up high enough to cover Buckley. His tactics paid off, and he felt the arrow sink deep into his shield and ring out. Buckley didn’t seem to notice his near-death experience, still concentrating with his eyes closed. The two girls pulled him down by his arms and he offered them no resistance.
Albin landed heavily and felt Goldie’s familiar magic bolster his strength. He heard her raise her voice in a great, shaking roar and watched as she charged recklessly at the bowman with Always There close behind. A Fey soldier drew a thin, wicked blade from his belt and stepped in Goldie’s path, blocking her while the bowman attempted to reload his weapon, shaken by her display.
Goldie and Always There reached the soldier almost simultaneously. Albin felt a pulse of Vulcani Magic and watched helplessly as the ground shifted beneath Goldie’s feet, causing her to swing wildly. The Fey in front of her smiled as he easily dodged, moving to her unprotected side… and into Always There’s brutal downswing.
…at least he died smiling.
Blood splattered the bowman’s face, and he turned to his companion and shouted something in their language. The mage immediately turned to run, and was rewarded with a bolt through his shoulder. Stumbling and crying out, he continued to move away at top speed.
“ALBIN!” Frtiz shouted from behind him, “AFTER HIM!”
Goldie’s shouts from behind were so loud that they vibrated, buzzing in his ears, and he was certain that his help was not needed there. Sergeant Stubby loped after him as he began to give chase, but was swiftly left behind.
The Fey mage was bleeding, but he was moving swiftly with the help of his magic. Albin could feel the oppressive, dampening aura of his opponent’s Dragon Breath, and laughed to himself.
He didn’t need magic to take down one skinny Fey.
There was a rumbling noise beneath Albin’s feet, and, with a sudden burst of the Fey’s Vulcani magic, a solid, earthen wall exploded from the ground in front of Albin.
Without hesitation, Albin threw his body into the obstacle. The wall crumbled with his weight, and it was such a satisfying break that Albin couldn’t help himself, “OOOHHH YEEAAAHHH!!!”
Following Albin’s warcry, the Fey looked back, wide-eyed, and reached up to the trees with his good arm. A branch bent low for him to grab, then pulled him high into the canopy.
Albin’s first instinct was to copy him. The dampening Breath weakened as the Fey moved away, and Albin reached for his Vulcani magic.A thick branch hung low in front of him, and he grabbed it, willing it to fling him upward. Instead, the wood strained and threatened to break, so instead of willing it to move, he willed it to stay. The trees grew so close together that it wasn’t clear which interwoven branch belonged to which trunk. Albin pulled himself up under his own strength and, understanding his relative newness to this type of magic, remained as close to the thick trunks as he could. Giving chase through the trees by willing the branches he touched to remain still and strong.
The Fey he pursued was beginning to panic. He was rapidly losing blood and slowing from the injury as well as magical exhaustion. In a last ditch effort to lose the Dwarf, the mage caused the branches to part, too far for the Dwarf to jump it, then the branch on which he stood bent backward to fling him forward across the gap.
Albin jumped anyway.
The Fey shrieked when he realized that he couldn’t change his fate. Albin caught the skinny scout midair by the legs and weighed him down heavily. Albin climbed up the Fey’s body for a better grip and prepared for impact.
Albin swiftly lost his sense of direction after they met the first few branches. They tumbled uncontrollably toward the ground, Albin ducking his head and balled up. He felt the Fey’s body jerk and break as his unprotected limbs met the branches with Albin’s weight behind them.
When they finally found the ground, Albin stood. The Fey, surprisingly, did the same.
“Heh,” Albin mocked him, “this is what I’m built for. Outlast anybody.”
“How?” The Fey replied in a thick accent, breathing heavily and holding himself at an awkward angle. “How can you use the Vulcani Magic?”
“How can YOU use Vulcani Magic?” Albin said condescendingly.
The Fey’s expression darkened, “It’s not for you.” he said as he built up his next attack. A stone spear emerged from the ground behind him and struck toward Albin.
Albin sidestepped, slapping the stone aside with his buckler the same way he would a blade. Slipping his large round-shield loose from his arm, he chucked it. The sharpened edge of the shield bit into the unarmored Fey, and he went limp with a quiet grunt and fell silent.
Looking up and around at his surroundings, Albin realized that he had no idea where he was or how to get back. He stood staring at the trees, willing them to show him the way, for several minutes. He was beginning to think he might be lost when a rustling in the underbrush caught his attention. Shields at the ready, he awaited the arrival.
With wagging tail, Sergeant Stubby wiggled toward Albin, as happy to see him as ever.
“OOOHHHHH GOOD BOY!!” Albin exclaimed as he reached out to pet the dog. When did he get so tall? “Where’s Fritz, buddy? Find Fritz!”
Albin and Sergeant Stubby burst loudly from the underbrush and knocked into Always There. Sergeant Stubby wiggled over to Fritz, licking Always There’s boot randomly as he passed and pranced happily around Fritz’ feet, looking at Albin for praise, which was freely given.
“Did you get ‘im?” Fritz asked without preamble.
“Yeah.” Albin replied flatly.
Safara wasn’t so easily convinced, “Are you sure he’s dead?”
Albin didn’t reply at first, he only reached behind him and pulled out the severed head he’d carried with him and tossed it out to land at Safara’s feet, “Pretty sure.”
Arkh, who was still standing just behind her, gagged and coughed at the gruesome sight. Albin used that opportunity to brag about the chase, exaggerating a few key points.
“We should find a safe place to bed down,” Fritz said flatly after Albin was done, clearly not amused, unlike Goldie, who was rapt.
The group moved on, leaving the severed head to keep Arkh from losing his lunch. Buckley pointed them toward a steep overhang set inside the bank of a wide, shallow stream. Albin volunteered for first watch, and exhaustion allowed most of the party to sleep soundly.
Before long, Albin noticed that even the roots hanging from the outcropping and the short moss lining the moist floor reached out to the sleeping forms of his companions. Every few minutes, he made a point of checking on them, cutting them out when they were in danger of being consumed. It made for a tough watch, but at least they didn’t have to constantly move to stay alive.