Book V Chapter 4: Moonshadow
"Your plans will not succeed, no matter what lengths you go to to realize them. We will pursue you every step of the way-- and your corruption cannot hope to win against the might and fury of nature!" Dilndrou bellowed, his eyes glinting blue in the murky light as the skies opened up once more, rain swiftly converting the ground into a shallow lake.
Lifting his massive head, he opened his jaw, hissing as he charged at the bat hovering just above him.
Despite the pounding rain, the beast had little trouble maneuvering out of the way, swiping at the alligator's head as he ran past, whipping around to face his opponent again.
Neither of the great beast-gods were made for such combat; the water was not deep enough, the mud only surface-thick; Dilndrou was unable to slip away into the muck that would give him an advantage-- and the demon-bat could easily take to the air to evade his attacks nonetheless.
"You were always so full of hot air," Nigel scoffed with a grin, his teeth glinting in the flashes of lightning overhead. "What do you mean by "we", by the way? You and whom?Sasha? Aqk? Sasha is too busy lazing about in his silly glade... I know that all too well. And Aqk..."
"Aqk undoubtedly has been scouring Valenth for you. She is your greatest opponent-- let both of us find you at once, and you shall meet your end once and f--"
"Hah! Wrong, my silly lizard companion... Aqk met her end a few months ago. And you won't believe who managed it! If only I could take credit for it..."
Dilndrou's rage flared; he struggled not to lunge at the bat a second time, desperate to keep his anger in check. "You LIE! I have had enough of your drivel; why should I believe such foolish--"
"Aqk's Speaker has a child as well, you know-- another Elysian-spawn," Nigel began, fluttering about lightly in the storm's howling winds. "Great, golden fellow. Terribly hotheaded; if I'm to understand it correctly, he took out both his father and Aqk himself in a mirajin-addled rage. How about that family drama, eh?"
Nigel dropped to the wet earth like a stone, evading Dilndrou's sudden powerful lunge into the air; the enormous alligator's scale-plated belly sped a hair's breadth over Nigel's head, narrowly missing him.
"Oh, that was a nice jump! I'm impressed!" he crowed, spreading a wing with a flourish. "Why don't--gurk!"
The mud caked into Nigel's fur suddenly hardened into a thick shell, threatening to crush him where he sat; his feet sank into the sucking mud just beneath the shallow pools of rainwater.
"Hah, that was absentminded of me. Come now, Dilndrou. Don't take it out on me-- I didn't touch her! I only watched," he insisted sheepishly as the alligator strode closer, jaws open wide. The mud oozed its way up his body, reaching to smother him as he struggled to free himself.
"Even if you didn't, I still owe you for thousands of years of treachery, Artemio. Even if the filth that falls out of your mouth were somehow true, it wouldn't change the necessity of your death."
"Do you think killing me would bring an end to death?" Nigel asked, shaking the creeping mud from his face. "Do you think vengeance is a tool for change, Dilndrou?"
"I believe a problem must be destroyed at the source before a cure will be successful," he bellowed.
Nigel tilted his head, strangely calm despite his situation. "That," he announced, "is a wise observation, indeed. Oh, Dilndrou-- you are truly king among sages!" he cried, no small amount of mockery in his tone.
Dilndrou lunged a third time, intent on snapping the bat's horned head from his shoulders-- but something crashed into his side, throwing him just out of reach as it carved into the spaces between his thick scales. The alligator roared, rolling through the muddy water.
"What manner of trickery is-- ?!"
He was answered by a cacophony of barking howls and snarls as a swarm of dark, bounding shapes surrounded him. They leapt upon his scaly back, tearing and biting at him, many creatures acting as a single, powerful force.
Furious and disoriented, he rolled a second time, managing to tear one of the creatures from him with his mighty jaws, snapping it in two with a single bite before swallowing the corpse; this grisly retaliation only seemed to increase the little beasts' fury, however.
In the flashing lightning, a countless number of tiny eyes glittered golden.
"Worthless faerie-dogs!" Dilndrou cried, smashing three of the varworgn with a swing of his muscular tail, throwing several others back with the force of the muddy wave it made in its wake.
Still, the pack latched onto his body again, spattering the viscous ground with his blood even as it came to life to retaliate, forming tentacles and talons to batter and throw them with.
Without warning, the alpha surfaced, hurling himself atop Dilndrou's broad snout, his claws digging deep into the tough flesh. Dilndrou tossed his head up and back in an attempt to shake the werewolf off, even as he watched Nigel uproot himself from his mud prison, wings beating at the air.
"Don't spend too long playing with him, puppies," Nigel sang, taking flight again and circling overhead. "There's still much to be done elsewhere. I merely want him out of the way while we see to it!"
Immediately, Dilndrou knew what his adversary intended to do. Hurling himself into the mud, he tumbled through it, smashing as many wolves as he could beneath his bulk, blood oozing in great rivulets from between his scales.
Without the assistance of their late master, the wolves could injure him, but they were no grave threat.
Still, he could never retreat for Aensdoun in time to...
"Curse you a thousand times, Artemio! Sasha will paint the grove with your entrails!"
"I'm sure he would if I let him," the bat mused. "But it's not him I want. Death is curable, impermanent-- acts of vengeance are nothing but tantrums played out with weapons, and your cuddly teddy-friend killed poor Voghn out of self-defense. Why waste time punishing him for self-preservation? Only changing the world is worthwhile... why, your little Speaker feels the same way, doesn't he?"
With a sharp laugh, Nigel disappeared into the rolling clouds.
Dilndrou screamed in fury after him, the mud churning at his feet and lashing tail to keep his circling assailants at bay.
Death is curable...
Furious and aching, Dilndrou plowed into the thick trees surrounding the battered clearing, the varworgn pack snapping at his heels.
Crashing through the wood, he hurled himself into the turbulent waters of a nearby lake, disappearing in a swirling cloud of silt and blood.
The pack came to a stop several yards away from the lake, eyeing the water warily; throwing themselves foolishly in would be a fatal error, as the alligator could now battle on his own terms.
Instead, they shook the mud from their fur, snapping and growling at their inferiors before turning tail and retracing their steps, their golden eyes glowing in the low light.
Next Chapter: Book V Chapter V
Category: Book V | Story