Book VI Chapter 13: Bad Moon Rising
"My lord, I shall not have you wait forever. I promise..."
The moon named forNigel'screatorhung fat in the early evening sky, a thousand stars framing her on all sides.
Nigel gazed quietly up at it as the pack fidgeted and snarled in the grass below, scenting the air, pawing the ground and doing all they could to resist the urge to sing to their goddess.
It would not do to give away their presence or position now; not after how long they had worked for the moment that dangled temptingly just before them.
Hundreds upon hundreds of years had passed since his brother had been slain trying to steal theEye of Elysiaaway from the Three Avatars.
Even in a cleverly-planned ambush,Ineglio'sbearhad proven far too strong for him to defeat in single combat.
But he had nearly succeeded; if not forDilndrou'salchemy, Sasha would have died with him that night.
This time, it would be different; there was no doubt in Nigel's mind.
None of the gods' Avatars could even begin to fathom what he had in store for them.
He smiled, stepping gracefully down from the rock and tightening his bat-printed scarf around his neck; a pair of enormous wings like living shadows burst from his shoulderblades, spreading and stretching behind him.
"It's time, puppies. Are you ready to see your master again? I know I am!"
Leaping into the air, he beckoned thevarworgnwith a casual wave of a hand; as one, they surged forward into the inky shadows beneath the titanic trees of theSacred Grove.
They ran through the Grove on silent, padded feet, eyes flashing yellow and blue in the dull light of the moon.
No bears lay in the soft grasses in the clearings; many years ago, it would have been impossible to take a step without running straight into one or more, ready and all too willing to defend the grove from trespassers.
Now, the old bear's forest was barren and empty, save for the plants, trees, and shrubs growing within.
They scented the air, and smelt him nearby; deep and earthy, with a hint of vibrant green growth.
The first two wolves flew in tatters across the clearing before the pack realized they were no longer alone.
"It is time for us to finish this, then? Fine!" Sasha bellowed.
"I will, like I should have then!"
The wolves fell into tight formation as Sasha emerged from the shadows, claws and teeth wicked and shining in a great field of dark fur, appearing as though the earth itself had come to do battle.
Three more wolves were smashed between his swinging paws and the solid ground before they could move, bones pulverized before they could even yelp in pain.
The eldest wolf howled, a long, low, furious cry that rallied the others around him; as his offspring dashed forward to strike, desperately avoiding the enormous grizzly's devastating blows, the black varworg glared up into the darkness of the canopy above.
"Oh, Sasha, Sasha. Picking on puppies a fraction of your size? This just isn't you!"
Two enormous, blazing eyes split open beneath the feet of the combatants, bear and wolves alike; hundreds more far smaller pairs followed suit, winking in and out like stars spilled upon the forest floor.
In an instant, the wolves sprang well away-- and the tainted ground exploded in a swarm of thousands of furious bats, grasping hold of Sasha's fur, burrowing in to tear and gnaw with tiny, plagued teeth.
Sasha bellowed in pain, slamming his side against a nearby tree to dislodge the offending creatures, foam gathering at his great jaws.
"COWARD! FIGHT FOR YOURSELF, AND DIE!"
"But I am fighting myself," the bats whispered and squeaked and hissed at him, their jaws dripping with red."Or had you noticed?
I'm glad to see you too, of course..."
Raising up onto his hind legs, Sasha hurled himself forward to charge the remaining wolves, rage flaring in his eyes. They scattered, snapping at his paws as he galloped by, leaving great gashes in the dirt with his claws as he stopped and spun for a second pass.
But suddenly, the old bear's brain jolted, and he skidded to a stop, roaring with fury.
The tiny nuisance bats were gone as though they had never been-- and a great, winged shadow danced hurriedly down the path leading to the Eye of Elysia!
Swinging an arm to send the pack of varworgn flying, Sasha pursued, howling curses as he ran as swiftly as his sturdy legs could carry him.
"ARTEMIO! I WILL BURY YOU IN HELL!"
As Sasha charged into the Eye's clearing, an enormous blast of blue light blinded him.
Reeling, he bellowed-- watching in horror as the shining light darkened to a thick, noxious green that seemed to ooze over everything it could touch.
The crystal's voice keened and trilled in his ears, wavering and deepening into something unfamiliar-- something unmistakably corrupt.
As the old bear backed away, the light dimmed and the crystalsong faded away.
The enchanted trees and plants--once shining blue crystal humming withVitae-- grew warped and distorted in an instant, roots and leaves blackening, falling, crumbling to putrid dust upon the sickly grey ground.
And in the midst of the awful, twisted trees of the clearing stood a sleek, amber-furred wolf, his eyes cold and calculating as they fell upon the great bear.
Just behind him, Artemio alighted atop the Eye of Elysia-- now as sick, green, and perverse as the formerly beautifultitantrees around them, pulsing with an energy more foul than anything Sasha had ever felt caress his fur.
"It's a regular family reunion, isn't it?" The horned bat cooed, watching with interest as the varworgn crept up behind Sasha, teeth bared and ears flat against their heads.
"...now, here's a face I thought I was done seeing,"Voghngrowled, blinking slowly as he gazed with wary interest at the newly corrupted Eye.
"Shall we end this, then, Artemio?
For old times' sake, as they say?"
Next Chapter: Book VI Chapter XIV
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