Metal, Magic, and Monsters Chapter 4

Hero brought his foot down.

It would have been an infantile— though, undoubtedly impressive—gesture that was meant to literally bowl over Thomas. Unfortunately, his plan had some severe flaws.

One, Thomas was flying in the air. Thus, any tremors were unlikely to affect her. Two, where Hero brought down his foot, the ground had unhelpfully split open into a grinning fissure.

The knight felt wispy nothingness cushioning his feet. The left side of his body has suddenly gained a ton or two, and strong as the knight was, he was no match for his downward momentum.

He sank. Hero listened to the wind whip and howl around him. It appeared that the stone was only splitting faster as he fell.

He let loose a throaty roar that he barely registered before the bottom abruptly appeared beneath him.

Thomas dully heard an enraged bellow followed by a deceptively quiet thud. The fissure in the earth spat out a thick cloud of dust and rock as the knights bulk and momentum pulverized the bedrock.

Thomas cocked a half-hearted smirk. She was the only one who could so effectively drive Hero into a fit of rage.

Whether that was anything a wise person would be proud of is less certain.

The magic she weaved to split the earth beneath him was definitely taxing. However, it was necessary, and it would probably hold the herculean knight for several minutes as he clawed his way back up. Thomas gauged that several minutes would be overkill for a simple duel with the guards, but perhaps by dropping the knight into a hole, she would net more, substantial, punishment.

Of course, her first thoughts were of getting spanked.

Thomas really wanted to smack her head against a tree.

Her fantasies broken, she shifted her attention to a deep roar that filled the air. For a split second, she suspected it was Hero and a shiver ran down her spine. Then the sound of metal rang through the air.

Oh, it’s just the hellhound. She visibly relaxed.

Thomas turned around to see Krula, her halberd half-buried in the dirt, panting heavily. The hellhound’s defiant snarl gave Thomas pause. Then she caught sight of the oblong shape of her own energy bolt.

More specifically, the two halves of it.

Thomas’ eyes widened.

Perhaps I should look into getting a halberd for Hero, she thought.

As quick as the magic was bisected, the twin bolts hurtled past the guards and into the twin boulders flanking the gate. The boulders absorbed the bolts and for a second, nothing happened. Then cracks multiplied across the surface and a purple glow spilled out. As the light reached its zenith, the two stones exploded.

The blast ejected blackened sand in every direction, obscuring the guards.

That can’t be healthy, Thomas thought.

Thomas made the mistake of paying too much attention to her magical firework display. Too late, she noticed the hellhound had silently bounded towards her, out of the cloud. Along with her, she brought a sharp hunk of metal on another metal stick, which was rapidly approaching Thomas’ face.

Hurriedly backpedaled from the metal blade that had snuck inches from her face. The alp snapped open her wings and magically shoved herself backward. The mage overshot the push and ended up dragging her as-of-yet unscuffed boots through the gravelly path.

She chastised herself for her lack of control. The Demonic energy was evidently harder to control than her more human variety, but she was hardly going to excuse the fact that she allowed herself to panic.

Bringing her attention back to Krula, the mage willed a clear dome of force around herself. A darkness bloomed from her bosom and surrounded her with a slightly opaque dome of purple. Small veins crisscrossed regularly across the magic’s surface, giving the impression of glass.

Good. The dome appeared to be even more robust than how it used to be cast. In a field as delicate as protection, however, she was unsure whether that was a good thing.

Krula snarled at the flying dome and tensed. Cocking her arm back she spun and hurled the halberd at the mage. It flew true and smashed into alp’s shell. While the speed and power managed to blow the heavy-looking construct several feet, it remained intact. Shuddering, it ricocheted the weapon off the path.

Then the weapon jerked back at an unnatural angle, flying back towards the hellhound’s outstretched hand.

The mage was unconcerned. If it couldn’t break into the dome, there was no reason to be worried.

Thomas, safely inside her magic, countered. She launched a volley of black bolts at Krula, which corkscrewed menacingly towards the hellhound. Krula twisted to dodge and tossed her halberd into the air. Her paws free, the hellhound dropped on all fours to duck beneath a projectile shooting past the space where her head previously occupied.

“Playing fetch with yourself now?”

Thomas sneered as she hurled another blast at Krula.

Unconcerned by her taunting, the hellhound ran off of the path into the grassy field. As it turned out, that was a wise decision. The road exploded behind her, sending clods of dirt spinning into the air. Lithely avoiding the thudding impacts, she disappeared into the grass.

Thomas floated down and glanced around the ruined path. She kept a careful eye over the large fissure behind her. No sign of a gauntlet hoisting itself over the ledge, so it appeared she had more time. She turned back around and finally noticed David. He had apparently sat this part out. Now, where had the hellhound gone?

Thomas scanned the grass. Nothing but wind. Maybe some magically aided sight-?

The mage flinched as she heard a howl from behind her. Twisting her head, she saw the hellhound. Krula bounded out of the grass as a blur, each footfall leaving a fiery imprint and then shot into the air. She raised her now slightly dented halberd.

The hellhound gleefully brought the blade down, aiming for Thomas’ skull. The weapon stopped dead mid-air with a metallic ringing and the translucent black dome reappeared around the surprised alp. She feigned boredom. Krula landed heavily on the magical surface, and the pair stared tensely at each other for several seconds.

Thomas stuck her tongue out and blew a raspberry.

Enraged, Krula began repeatedly slamming the barrier with her halberd. Thomas watched amusedly as she continuously hammered away at her barrier with seemingly little results.

Then she saw the small spiderweb cracks where the hellhound was hitting. The smile dropped.

Thomas hastily brought her palm up and struck the hellhound in the chest with a bolt. The furry guard was blown off of the dome and tumbled backward into the dirt road.

It evidently did little and the hellhound quickly regained her footing. She straightened and gave the alp a hard look.

“That all you got? Just going to hide behind a shield and shoot your little balls all day?”

Thomas lowered the dome and materialized a horde of magical projectiles above her head.

“Well, looks like controlling Demonic energy isn’t going to be too much of a challenge for a sorcerer of stature,” she glanced up at the swirling vortex of magic and smiled. “Thought, I’ll admit, it’s been quite a while since I’ve actually cast any real spells, so I must thank you. Despite being a monster, this is actually quite refreshing.”

Krula stretched, planting her halberd into the dirt.

“You know, I don’t see any problem with being a monster. And, you say that like you somehow used to not be a monster.”

She ran her paw across her mohawk, ending it with a rude gesture in Thomas’ direction.

In response, Thomas launched the multitude of bolts suspended above her. Attacking the enemy while they were taunting you was only common sense.

Unless they were goading you.

The hellhound’s ruby eyes narrowed as she snatched her halberd out of the ground. She deftly brought the blade up and managed to deflect a bolt, sending the projectile away at an angle to devastate a patch of grass and the occupying worms.

Thomas, unconcerned, deepened herself into her reservoir of Demonic Energy. This wild surge of black magic exploded in her veins, pouring flaming black bolts of hellfire onto the guard.

Unfortunately for the mage, the hellhound knew her way around hellfire.

Krula staggered forward through the storm of magic, blocking the unrelenting flurry of bolts with her halberd. Gritting her teeth in a wild grin, she carefully aimed and slugged her weapon at a bolt aimed straight towards her.

The bolt stopped as it hit the metal edge. It trembled. Then the rest of the swing connected. With a beautiful windup, Krula sent the magical projectile directly back to sender.

Thomas eyed the black projectile curiously. It was going fast. Very, very fast. She ceased her bombardment, the flames in her eyes dying as she focused on the magic being reflected back to her. Not a second too soon, she erected her shield.

It slammed into it and seemingly dissipated across her field of view. Thomas let out a breath she’d been holding.

Then a black sliver shot through the spiderweb cracks in her dome. The magic caught her in the exceedingly unarmored chest, the resulting blast violently bouncing her around the inside of her magical cage. Losing all control, it shattered, sending Thomas to the ground, trailing smoke. She landed in a plume of dirt and grass, gasping for breath.

Krula sauntered over victoriously to the mage. Winded, Thomas could do little other than roll over and watch in pain as Krula stamped a furry paw onto her chest.

“Nice ‘sorcerer’ thing you got going there, you cocky little bitch,” Krula said.

She lowered the halberd inches above Thomas’ neck and smirked.

“Yield.”

Silence.

“Bitch,” Krula muttered.

Hero finally clambered over the edge of the fissure and looked up at the scene. His armor was covered in dirt and pebbles, but he was none the worse for wear. Climbing had gotten his mind off how much he wanted to throttle the little alp he considered a friend. He was now in the ‘fuming’ stage, but once he had caught the sight of the hellhound over the coughing mage, he stiffened.

At the sight of a blade brandished at Thomas, Hero’s fingers twitched. David walked over to him and gave an encouraging look.

The guardsman had, so far, sat the battle out and spectated beside the knight. He had even sheathed his sword without doing much more than menacing with it. Slowly, Hero wrenched his gaze from the defeated mage to an empty spot in the sky. Empty, save for a suspicious spot of purple sticking out from the blue.

“David, how come you haven’t done anything yet?” the knight said slowly, watching flecks of purple appear in the air, “Krula might need some help.”

The guard chuckled, still watching Krula flaunt her victory and hips, though his eyes were mostly on her hips.

“You know, I usually sit these out. Getting a feel for what the other person can do is something I’m good at. And if Krula can take ‘em out using her muscles, I can just sit out the fight. No big deal.”

He looked up at Hero, who was continuing to stare at the rapidly expanding ball of magic.

“Anyways, aren’t you a little worried about your girlfriend there? I would expect you would be a little less cool with the whole situation.”

Hero’s helmet swiveled and glowered at David. He redirected some of his ire meant for Thomas towards the guard. The guardsman didn’t so much as flinch. Slightly affronted at how his attempts at intimidation had failed, Hero returned his attention to above and grumbled.

“She’s capable. Tom is my friend and she’s a damn smart mage, so sometimes my worry doesn’t mean much.”

He paused.

“He’s a dude, so no, not a girlfriend.”  

The guard shrugged. To David, that sounded suspiciously like an afterthought.

Krula broke into their thoughts with her steadily increasing threats, “Look here you little fuck, if you’re just going to pretend to be out cold, I’m going to have beat you with the shaft of this thing. Then I’ll fucking rip out your throat with my mouth. You want that?”

No response. The hellhound raised her weapon before a girlish giggle caught Krula’s attention.

“Well, it looks like most of my magic will work, even the whole teleportation business. Anyways I did hear your threats, and I am shivering in my boots. I surrender.”

Krula ears twitched as she turned around to see Thomas calling out to her, hovering in the spot where Hero was already looking.

“Please, anything,” Thomas continued, “anything but you putting your filthy mutt-mouth anywhere near my neck and upper torso.”

Krula and David both looked back at the mage that Krula had pinned in confusion. The faux-Thomas wore a sly grin on its face and then melted into an inky black puddle.

Thomas wore the same devious expression.

As angry with the mage as he was, Hero couldn’t help but be amused at the two guard’s shock. The melting clone was a nice touch. He always did have a weakness for theatrics.

Krula whipped around, futilely attempting to leap at Thomas.

“You little fuck! I do not have a ‘filthy mutt mouth!’”

David made a noncommittal sound. Krula spared him a look that promised consequences before continuing to jump beneath the flying mage.

Though her hind legs were powerfully muscled, Thoma had the advantage of flight. Krula didn’t even manage to leap halfway to the alp.

“Bad dog.”

Thomas held her palm out and pointed vaguely at Krula, murmuring softly. The hellhound gripped her halberd tightly, preparing to avoid Thomas’ next spell.

Suddenly, several walls of smooth, compacted earth erupted around her, just high enough that Krula couldn’t clear them with a jump. Taken off guard, she ineffectively hacked at the surrounding dirt in an attempt to break out. The mage gestured again, delving deeper into her Demonic Energy.

A colossal stream of purple fire exploded out towards the hellhound, instantly engulfing her in an inferno. The intense heat washed across the road, incinerating all the dirt and grass within the fireball. Hero and David stepped away hastily from the sudden brightness and didn’t stop until they had nearly reached the wall.

Despite the intense heat and clear killing intent that the alp was displaying, David did not seem terribly worried.

Hero scowled at the maelstrom that Thomas had unleashed. Normally, he could attribute to Thomas’ choice of fire against a hellhound as an attempt to incapacitate her non-lethally, but this attack seemed anything but. He stayed, unsure whether or not to stop the fight.

Thomas’ eyes glowed an intense purple, rivaling the light of the fire. Satisfaction etched into her smirk, she ended the spell with a clench of her fist and the flames winked out of existence.

The assembled group blinked rapidly to readjust to the sudden lack of light. Before them, a billowing cloud of smoke obscured the plain and towered into the sky. David gave Hero an absent pat and walked into the smoldering road. His stride had a slight skip to it. He took the chain leash he had unhooked from Krula with him and swung it around purposefully.

Out of the corner of his eye, Hero could see a flash of light from the chain, and a new glowing link was added to the chain.

Hero briefly thought about warning Thomas, but with no small effort, decided against it. The mage ought to get some punishment for her recklessness even if Hero wanted to forgive her on principle. He sighed. Such was the life of a caretaker.

The mage in question floated above the cloud, impatiently waiting for the plumes to clear. After several seconds of relative peace, Thomas allowed her impatience to get the better of her. She made a motion to wave the clouds away with magic when she heard a strange sound.

A rapid beating in the air of something spinning. And quickly. A miniature cyclone developed in the smokescreen below her, and in the eye, Krula appeared. She was spinning extremely quickly, David’s chain attached to something.

That something was David himself.  

Krula, her quivering mohawk now slightly charred, seemed to be unharmed and only slightly peeved.

Thomas mentally slapped herself. Hellhounds. Hells. Fire.

“She’s fireproof,” Thomas groaned.

Though, judging by her half-melted chainmail and molten halberd, her equipment was not.

However, the melted armor seemed to hamper her none as the merry-go-hellhound picked up an impressive amount of speed. The chain was tied around David’s arm, and the guardsman was casually riding the centripetal force and floating around two feet off the ground. At the center, Krula was acting as a wheel. It was pretty mesmerizing, Thomas had to admit.

Then, Krula stopped. Thomas narrowed her eyes. Was she going to throw the man like a bola at her? Why?

However, instead of letting go, Krula simply stopped, aiming David at Thomas. The chain simply produced new white links of chain, clanging as the guardsman flew through the air with all the certainty of a scorpion bolt.

Thomas was unable to register what was happening and barely managed to throw up another defensive orb around herself. The idea that he would launch himself at an unhealthy speed seemed ever so slightly unsound. That he had a magical chain did not appear to improve his situation.

The mage feebly attempted to dodge but succeeded in only moving several inches to the left. David sailed over the top of the dome and twisted around the magical barrier, the chain shifting his direction mid-air into a comfortable orbit around the alp. Each full rotation left a length of white chain ensnaring her.

Thomas immediately knew what they were after. A ball of made of chain-links, and inside, a pulpy alp inside of it. She barely had time to groan as she noticed the cracks in her shield had not disappeared.

Thomas shot bolts at David but to no avail. The guardsman’s speed seemed completely unabated as he wrapped the growing chain around the dome. After shooting multiple bolts and missing or only hitting a glancing blow at a chain, she gave up. The mage was reduced to watching the chain’s progress at constricting the barrier.

After nearly half a minute, only pinpricks of light shone through the thick layering of white metal links, and from the sound of the scraping metal, David was still hard at work outside.

Thomas briefly thought about teleporting her way out of the chain link prison, but to do so, she would have to lower her barrier. Already feeling the pressure on her magical shield, she had little illusion on what would happen should she try. On top of that, the sheer weight of the enchanted metal was making her flight somewhat laborious. She would be coming down soon, and not on her own terms.

The silence of the metal outside confirmed her suspicion. She felt her body lurch and her wings give out as the chains were presumably pulled down by the two guards. She struggled to fight it, but she was no match for their strength.

Feeling her stomach making its way up her throat, she desperately reinforced the barrier. Luckily, her magic kept her at a fixed distance away from the barrier walls, something the mage kept in mind as the chain wrapped orb was rudely introduced to the ground.

Because of her fixed position, nothing broke. She still wanted to throw up. The bone-jarring impact ran through her entire body and she floated, dazed for several seconds. Then she blearily refocused on the barrier around her.

The walls were badly cracked, dim light diffusing from outside the chains. At the sight of the white chains still snugly tied around her, a sour expression spread across her face. After the pained one of course.

Convinced that she wasn’t dead, Thomas experimentally loosed a small jet of fire at the metal. She succeeding in slightly heating up the links. She intensified the miniature torrent, and to her delight, a link began to distort in the heat, slightly melting.

Calculating the exact temperature required to melt the surrounding chains, she closed her eyes and visualized the exterior. Then she bathed the outside with flames many times the necessary heat. Immediately causing the inside of the barrier felt like a sauna, despite the heat absorbing properties of her barrier.

She pressed on.

The interior flooded with an intense flickering light, sending eerie beams of orange light across the walls. However, once the heat reduced the chains into little more than a thick layer of slag coating, the inside of the orb dimmed and Thomas doubled over in nausea.

Right, she thought, I neglected to prepare an exit route. Silly me.

Despite that, Thomas felt content. She had proved a point. What point it was remained to be seen, but still.

Of course, she was still slightly disconcerted by the fact that she was surrounded by an orb of enchanted metal, but the warmth and the darkness inside was cozy. Slowly, the magic keeping her aloft failed, and she drifted to the smooth bottom.

It seemed that she burned through Demonic Energy far more quickly than she had with Spiritual Energy. Or she was out of practice. Either way, she didn’t have much time to contemplate as her eyelids drooped. Her last thought was how nice the heat in the encroaching cold. Then, losing consciousness, Thomas’ eyes closed and she went limp.

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