Chapter list: http://tanadin.dreamwidth.org/382.html
Map of the western continent: http://tanadin.deviantart.com/art/
Map of the eastern continent: http://tanadin.deviantart.com/art/Besker
Vysha territory, Beskeren. April 20, year 788. Time instance 483Z.
They had been walking upriver for three days.
Partway through the first day, they had passed from the plains into forests of unfamiliar trees filled with creatures, some of which they’d never seen before. Occasionally they ran into a group of boven and Ujhin would explain why they were there and the boven would just nod, allowing them to continue on their way with no challenge. Now, Ujhin insisted that they had to be close, for it was near dusk on the third day of walking and the helpful boven leader from before had insisted that it was a four days’ walk.
They were tired of walking, with aching limbs and dull minds. Vengeance had pestered Nessy to fly them upriver until she growled at him and told him that flying that many people that far would be difficult, she may very well lose the river, and that they had no idea how the locals would react to a dragon flying overhead.
Ujhin had agreed with her. Dragons were many things, but subtle wasn’t one of them. Vengeance accepted his aching feet with bad-tempered muttering and crossed arms.
Ujhin held up a hand and they stopped, all immediately focusing on him as he knelt and investigated a set of tracks by the river’s edge.
“Now,” he said slowly, “what do you suppose this is?”
Nessy knelt by his side and frowned, making Vengeance lean over them to see. The tracks were clawed, like a dragon’s, but had only two toes.
“It’s bipedal,” Nessy mumbled, “and reptilian. A sazron?”
“Sazrons have three toes,” Zekara told her, shaking her head.
“It looks fucked,” Vengeance announced, stepping back from it. “I don’t like it.”
“A choice made, a fate changed,” Endira mumbled, running a finger along the edge of one of the tracks. “One of these was involved in fate-bound events, but…” She shuddered. “The shadows have been speaking to me again, but they’re even more vague than before, as if something’s scaring them. But one of these has changed fate before.” Her eyes darkened. “Or has been the catalyst for a choice another made.”
“Well, that’s as clear as the mud they’re in,” Eclipse grumbled. “Thanks, oh wise one.”
“Don’t mention it.” Endira stood up straight.
“We should be cautious,” Ujhin announced, standing as well. “I don’t know what that thing is but it looks like it crossed the river. Hopefully we won’t run into it or any of its friends. Let’s move.”
They set out once more, this time tense and on the lookout for danger.
After several minutes, Nessy stopped, growling. “We’re being hunted,” she announced, turning around to gaze into the trees. “Something’s following us.”
“How can you tell?” Zekara asked, readying her axe.
“You could call it instinct.” Nessy’s eyes glowed faintly. “Or you could call it draconic hearing. This thing is not meant to hunt here. It’s not an ambush predator and it’s impossible to cover distance quickly in this place at that size. It’s probably strayed from its home in search of food. So it’s hungry.” She drew her sword. “Get ready.”
Vengeance groaned and drew his sword, the others not far behind. Soon, the footsteps of the creature were audible even to him, and he tightened his grip on the sword as it crashed through the bushes and opened its jaws in a roar.
It was tall and bipedal, covered in red scales with jaws full of sharp teeth. Its eyes were bright yellow and batlike wings extended, half-folded, from its back. Two claws curved from each hand and foot, and a tail ending in a spiked macehead lashed behind it.
Beside him, Zekara tensed, baring her teeth and meeting it with a roar of her own. “SETAER!” She charged, her axe slamming into the scales on its chest and barely denting them. It roared and swung at her, its claws striking her armor and screeching against metal.
Nessy growled and charged forward as well, teleporting above it in a flash of purple and driving her sword down towards its neck, where it struck solid scales and skidded off. She yelped and teleported away, making sure that she land on its back and spear herself on its spines, breathing heavily as she shakily got to her feet off of the grass. “Zekara! It’s not the same one! It’s not the same one we- you, whatever!- fought before!”
Vengeance shot Nessy a confused look as Ujhin, Endira, and Eclipse all charged in.
“A setaer killed Claire,” Nessy explained quickly, “and Zekara’s not happy about it.” She raced back in, Vengeance right behind her.
It quickly became apparent that they couldn’t get through its scales. Only Ujhin sometimes got a lucky strike through its scales with his dragonbone spear, but it was too strong and sturdy, tearing open Eclipse’s shoulder and scratching at Zekara’s armor repeatedly.
“How did you kill this thing?” Vengeance demanded, ducking under a slice of darkness that ineffectively melted off of the creature’s scales.
“Nia shot it in the mouth, piercing its brain and breaking its neck!” Nessy shouted, dancing back and away from the setaer’s tail, knowing full well what it could do to her. “I don’t suppose you have Kaen no Mai handy?!”
“Ujhin! Did you hear that?”
Ujhin glanced at him and nodded sharply, immediately understanding. He backed up, readying his spear to throw. “C’mon, grumpy, open wide!”
Endira slashed at its eyes with a lance of darkness, making the setaer open its mouth in a furious roar.
The dragonbone spear hit the back of the roof of the setaer’s mouth, digging deep into its skull and making it collapse, eyes wide open and wings mostly spread in a display of anger. A last shuddering breath made its way out of the setaer’s throat, and then it was still.
Zekara growled at it, breathing heavily and slowly lowering her axe. Her armor was dented and scratched, but she seemed unharmed. Eclipse’s shoulder was badly wounded, Endira was fine, and Nessy had a few scrapes from her impact with the ground. Vengeance groaned at a long, shallow cut on his left forearm that made him glare at the monster.
Ujhin retrieved his spear and wiped it off before letting out a shaking breath.
“Well. That was...not fun.”
Zekara snarled in agreement and put her axe on her back. She sat down against a tree and watched the monster’s corpse as Ujhin cleaned and bandaged the group’s wounds, making sure they were fit to travel before calling to her again and setting out once more.
Now, they walked quieter and kept their eyes open.
Vechs sat upright in his seat and exchanged a worried glance with Iirkolav. Oros’ mental voice was louder than it usually was, and he spoke with more urgency.
Maker. Nozvalu is here.
“What’s going on?” Aureylian asked as both Vechs and Iirkolav got to their feet, concern written across their faces.
“Oros wants to see us. Nozvalu is here.”
Aureylian nodded and let them go. Vechs led the way, forcibly slowing himself down to allow Iirkolav to keep up. They entered the sector where the Hostiles stayed and convinced Saltar’vesque to fly them out to Oros’ spire. He was happy to be of use, lifting them onto his back and flying as quickly as his wings could carry him. He told them that Kyilld had flown towards Oros a few minutes ago, although she wouldn’t explain why, and Vechs only urged him to go faster.
They landed quickly, jumping off of Saltar’vesque’s back and ignoring how hard they hit the ground. Iirkolav growled as his metal leg creaked in protest, but he shook it off, stepping forward towards the spire.
Oros was wrapped tightly around it, as usual, with his head near the top and his eyes shut. At the bottom, Nozvalu sat on a stone with Kyilld attending to his wounds, slowly sealing the worst of them with magic. Nozvalu perked up at the sight of Vechs and Iirkolav, starting to stand but remaining still at a hiss from Kyilld.
“Vechs! Iirkolav! I have dire news from the Infinity Hourglass- I was almost killed coming here and I fear I won’t be able to recover before it’s too late.”
“What happened?” Iirkolav demanded, surveying Nozvalu’s remaining wounds. He was covered in marks left by swords and arrows, for the most part, but the odd clawmark scratched across his armor or dug into his flesh. Dark bags underlined his dull bronze eyes and his wings slumped in exhaustion.
“Herobrine. He’s turned on us and has released the souls of the damned to fight against us.” Nozvalu’s solemn announcement was met with shocked silence. A hollow dread built in Vechs’ chest, worming its way around his heart and down through his entire body.
“We don’t stand a chance.” Nozvalu lowered his head. “Mezeron can’t release the spirits of the dead that he holds under his control without destabilizing most of the nether. It’s bad enough…”
The sound of movement drew their attention upwards. Oros’ eyes snapped open as he descended from the spire, his lower half still wrapped around it as his upper lowered to the ground.
The flashing of colors in his eyes was no different than it usually was, but it seemed more methodical, somehow. More calculating.
“It is time,” he rumbled, using his arms to push the front half of his body off of the ground.
Then, unbelievably, he spread his wings.
I’ve never seen him leave the spire, Vechs thought numbly. I’ve never seen him fly.
“What are you going to do?” Nozvalu asked, his voice a breath of wind against the hurricane of Oros.
“I am going to do what should have been done hundreds of years ago.” Oros lowered himself, slightly, and then pushed up, beating his wings hard enough to make Kyilld stumble and to disbalance Vechs, the winds of subsequent wingbeats whipping their hair and the grass around violently. Oros’ tail uncurled easily from the spire as he circled once overhead, gaining altitude, and then he dipped his wings and dove.
But only for a moment. He extended his wings and twisted his body to create a vertical circle in the air, his head coming around to meet the end of his tail as his jaws opened wide. Time seemed to slow as Oros neared the end of his loop, and Vechs thought he was going to clamp down on the end of his tail, completing the circle.
Oros’ jaws snapped shut inches from the end of his tail and he quickly flew another loop before pulling out of it, leaving a shimmering purple-and-bronze disk behind. Just as his tail was leaving the circle, his body twisted around to face the disk and he put on a burst of speed, vanishing through the portal. It shrank into nothing, barely letting his tailtip through, and the world was silent.
Nozvalu forced himself to his feet. “Come on! I’m not going to miss whatever he plans to do.” He ripped a portal in the air with his claws and stepped through, Vechs and Iirkolav not far behind.
The bloodstained sands of the Infinity Hourglass were just as red as they had been the previous time they were there, but now they were swarmed with furious ghostly figures, injured and angry and insane, struggling to do as much damage to the opposing side as possible. Herobrine flew overhead on white demonic energy, laughing evilly as his forces destroyed that which he had once sided with. Ishtillion chased him through the sky, but a bolt of energy knocked him down to the sands.
Overhead, a familiar red serpent flew, quickly descending from the skies with eyes of every color and a mouth glowing faintly white, growing brighter and brighter by the second.
The moment he was low enough for Herobrine to notice was the moment he opened his jaws.
Flames poured from Oros’ mouth, flames that flickered in time with the colors of his eyes. Every ghost, every spirit, every member of the undead that the flames licked dissolved into nothing but a hollow scream that was lost in the sound of the inferno. Flames bathed over their allies but didn’t harm them, creating flickers of energy throughout their bodies and made them shake off their wounds and carry on, charging their terrified opponents and painting the sands red.
Herobrine howled in anger and shot forward, towards Oros, as the great serpent shut his jaws. He pulled into a hover, massive wings an ear-pounding force even from a distance. He let Herobrine approach, watching him charge an attack, and dove as he fired.
A beam of white-hot energy pierced through the air where Oros was mere moments before, hot enough to make even Vechs feel like someone had tried to sear his skin off. Oros circled around and released another barrage of flame, bathing Herobrine in the flickering colors. Everywhere he tried to move, Oros followed, circling around him and disintegrating every attack he tried to focus.
With a last defiant howl, Herobrine dissolved into a gleaming white skull and fell to the sands.
Oros shut his jaws and circled overhead, descending to land on the Infinity Hourglass itself. He wrapped his coils around the hourglass and rested his head and torso on top, dislodging one of Nozvalu’s siblings. Norazdomu, from where he rested under the hourglass, shook, and in the sudden shocked silence of the battlefield, Vechs could hear that he was laughing- a quiet, pained sound that made the golden serpents around him chatter unhappily.
The enemy forces quickly vanished through the teleporters on the far side, and the allies didn’t pursue them.
Both sides needed to rest and regroup, and now, they knew what to expect. Ishtillion slowly stepped over to where the skull of Herobrine had fallen, scooping it up in his talons.
“Lieutenant down,” he mumbled, “and good riddance.”
Nozvalu nodded slightly and opened up a rift for Vechs and Iirkolav to return.
“What about Oros?” Vechs asked quietly, gazing up at his creation.
“He can take care of himself,” Iirkolav mumbled, “and I think they need him more than we do right now.”
Vechs nodded slowly and stepped through the portal, his counterpart not far behind.
The moment they were back, Oros’ voice rang through their minds.
The other Hostiles do not possess the same power I do.
But they can still bite.
They exchanged glances as Oros’ presence faded away, wondering what he meant and knowing that they might not ever find out.
But if he had the power to defeat- no, to destroy Herobrine…
...he had the right to be as mysterious as he wanted.