“What’s wrong,” Damya asked. When her gaze followed the werecat’s, Damya’s eyes widened in panic. “They’ve broken through,” she said. “Dear Creator, keep us! The Drosskin have broken through the enchantments! Sisters, to me!”
From all around the enchanted wood, firesprites flew to Damya’s side. “Destroy the pools…the trees…everything! Do not let the enemy use this sacred place!”
“Damya, what are you doing!” Manasa screamed.
“If they capture the pools, the Drosskin will be able to spy on all Sylvans and feed information to their Asheken allies. We cannot allow that to happen! Nach, Sandrie, take Katja and Manasa back to the altar! Get them to safety. Hurry!”
“But we haven’t contacted Caleb yet!” Katja protested.
“It doesn’t matter. If you stay here and are captured by the Drosskin, all hope for the inhabitants of either realm could well be lost!”
Sandor grabbed the two females and flung them onto Nach’s back.
“Go!” He said while readying his saber. “I’ll stall them!”
The griffin was running through the trees and onto open ground before anyone could say another word. Katja and Manasa gripped his fur and feathers in desperation as he bounded into the sky. Behind them, sudden fire raged throughout the forest and Katja saw steam rise from the Scrying Pools amidst the firesprites’ conjured conflagration. As Katja looked up, she saw the vivid sky was now smudged with hundreds of tattered, black bodies as winged Drosskin pursued them.
Katja unsheathed her claws and Nach kindled blue flames in his talons. As their enemies flew closer, Nach released a torrent of fire that scorched their nearest attacker’s already-singed skin. The fiend screeched in pain and dropped away only to be replaced by another. Katja snarled and raked her claws across a nearby Drosskin’s gnarled face even while Manasa kicked the offender nearest her. Four more enemies replaced their fallen allies. Far ahead of them, Katja could see the altar which was their refuge. It was still controlled by her brother Kumos and his fellow wraiths, but dozens of enemies now flew between the wraiths and their allies.
“We’ll never make it,” Manasa screamed over the wind.
“We can and we will or, so help me, I will die the second death trying!” Nach roared. “Just keep them off my back as well as you can! Use your tail, manticore! Even in this place, you should be able to skinshift!”
Katja concentrated and transformed the end of her long, golden-furred tail into something that looked like Aria’s armored, scorpion-like tail. With little discretion, she began stabbing enemies with the tail’s hooked barb. The Drosskin retreated from that tail far faster than from her claws. Between Katja’s attacks and Nach’s flames, they managed to keep most of the Drosskin at bay. Even so, there were too many enemies to defeat and the near-constant aerial attacks were forcing Nach toward the ground.
“We need help!” Manasa yelled.
“There is none!” Nach said. “If the wraiths come to our aid here instead of holding the line of defense, they will lose control of the Wraithwalking Altar to the Drosskin!”
As he said this, the last of Nach’s dwindling flames died in his talons. A Drosskin shrieked in triumph and swooped in for its attack only to be blown backwards by a ball of blue flame.
Katja jerked her head around in confusion and then gave a loud roar of joy as she saw a swarm of tiny, bright bodies charging their way. “The firesprites are here!”
With whips of fire, the Pyrekin firesprites drove the Drosskin away from their allies. Under their protection, the griffin wraith finally was able to deliver with his precious charges to the altar.
“Go! Go!” Kumos screamed as Katja and Manasa scrambled down Nach’s back.
“What happens to you?” Katja asked as she hugged him.
“We’ll be fine, but you will not be if you stay.”
“I love you!” Katja said as Cyrena opened the portal back to the Erde Realm.
“I know and I love you, too. Now, go! Find the Keystones and help us end this eternal war!”
Without another word, Katja snatched a piece of silphium plant out by its roots from the ground in front of the altar, grabbed hold of Queen Manasa, and dove head-first into the void between worlds. The screams and sounds of battle raged in Katja’s furry ears as the two females shot toward safety.
I hope you enjoyed this week’s entry in the SCRAWLS Diary from my in-progress book Fireforger. Now that we’ve concluded this miniseries, I hope to have a little bit of a rougher piece for us to look at next week. In the meantime, I welcome your comments on what I’ve shared with you today.
As always, SCRAWLS is designed to be a public journal of my fiction and artwork as I create it. In the way of writing, you’ll see new scenes, rich characters, and, of course, enchanting worlds. In the way of art, you’ll see everything from vivid photography to intriguing drawings. As always, my goal is to bring you both finished work and the rough stuff. After all, showing you some of the behind-the-scenes scaffolding that I use to create my work allows you to truly walk the creative journey with me through all of its ups and downs.
Until we meet again, may we each rewrite our world for the better!
The Seared Cranium Report: An Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with enchanting fantasy fiction, deep love, and vivid art for all. As always, contact me with any questions or thoughts. Thanks!