Adam’s Soulscape, ???
I took a deep breath, closing my eyes as I grasped Absol’s reins, feeling the leather in my palm twist and twine. Absol tugged at the strap twice, indicating that she was prepared.
I raised my eyes towards the behemoth beside me, blinking as its chest quivered and a deep rumble exited its throat. It raised its arm once again before slamming it into the center of its chest.
The strike sent another shockwave outwards, rattling the earth and forcibly hanging the promise of further violence in the already blood-filled atmosphere.
Just like a war drum. I thought. In front of us, the Hellions’ midnight black fur began to bristle as the creatures raised their heads up into the air and cackled like demented hyenas.
I opened my eyes fully, feeling invigorated in a way that I could scarcely describe. My grip tightened around the reins, and Absol shifted, starting to get restless as we watched the howling beasts almost reach us.
Thump. My heart began to beat in sync with Blueberry’s drum-like chest smashes, which sped up with every successive strike. I felt my lips run over my mouth in an unconscious gesture and resisted the urge to charge on ahead.
“Not ye~e~et! Wait for i~i~it…” Mina said in a sing-song voice, as if she were at an opera, rather than helping me wage my war.
The Eokor’s smacks intensified as Voldemort’s new wave of werewolves rushed its way past the giants; the monsters weaved through their massive legs, taking care not to get squashed by their humongous allies. A few seconds and they would be upon us.
“Now!” Mina cried!
The Hellions sprang into action, rushing forward with wild, vicious steps and meeting the werewolves in a storm of fur, fang and claws. I nodded and gave Absol a very light kick to let her know it was time.
“Let’s go.” I said, my tone of voice taking on an air of finality that almost surprised me. “We’re almost there, Absol. Almost at the end of the line.”
~Yes.~ Absol said as she took us into a trot. ~Let’s kick Deathstealer in the face.~
I grinned at that, feeling my steed speed up. It didn’t take long for us to join our monstrous allies, I thought as Absol charged into the fray, knocking down several werewolves before one leapt towards me from the right.
“Odgovor!” I called out and swirled my wand, sending the chain around the creature’s snout and giving it a sharp tug, muzzling it.
Another tug downwards, and I sent the werewolf into the craggy earth, where its head was introduced to Absol’s merciless hooves, crushing its brain into a paste.
Absol didn’t waste any time, continuing her charge through the fighting until we were beset by another three werewolves.
I patted my friend’s neck with my right hand, transferring my chain-shield to it so that it would defend her weak point. “Don’t worry about them, just push through!”
I felt my magic course through my chest and into my hand, twisting and morphing my errant chain into a hard shaft with a spear point.
Spin and pierce. I thought, meeting the first werewolf with a wordless cry. The spear went through the creature’s shoulder, and I felt the pressure cause my left hand to shudder with pain, making me cry out and disable the spell.
“Fuck!” I cursed and held my quivering, pulsating hand, watching as Absol pushed through the two remaining werewolves like they were nothing but small children standing against a rampaging adult.
Still. I thought, throwing a glance behind me to the one who was giving pathetic whines, its shoulder lying beside it in a pool of blood. At least I got the job done. Note to self; don’t physically challenge creatures far beyond your strength level. Not gonna win.
The remaining two werewolves tumbled into a recovery before moving to pursue us, snarling in anger.
“Behind us!” I said, holding my still throbbing hand to my chest. “They’re gaining on us!”
Absol did not answer, instead waiting until the right moment before lashing out with a back kick. Her powerful leg caught the first werewolf in the forehead, and she used it as a jumping off point, unfurling her wings and giving them a mighty flap, sending us up into the sky and caving the creature’s skull in.
I didn’t stop to watch its form go limp and crumble into the earth, nor did I bother looking at its companion, who got swarmed and torn apart by three Hellions.
No, I was busy obeying Absol as a massive club flew over my head. The strength of the Giant’s swing was so fierce that it whipped up howling winds, destabilizing Absol’s flight and making her a sitting duck for the follow-up strike.
I thrust my pained hand forward and roared. “Absol, up! Odgovor!”
A thick, white chain burst forth from my wand’s tip, wrapping itself around the Giant’s steel club.
I worked quickly, tying the chain around Absol’s saddle as Absol took us straight up with all of the force she could muster. “Let him pull us!”
Absol gave a nod and I pulled the chain to tighten its hold.
I braced myself just in time because, a second later, I felt a massive pull to the left, rocketing us away from another giant’s downward swing, which crashed into the earth with a thundering boom.
Dodged a bullet there— or a club I suppose… I thought, breathing a sigh of relief and pulling the chain back to me.
~Zero!~ Absol said in alarm, and I turned my head just in time to see the third bring his arm up, his steel club wound up behind him like a mockery of a baseball player getting ready to knock us out of the park.
“…Shit.” I realized, trying to wrack my mind for a way to dodge this hit. Fuck. We’re locked into this trajectory with no way to adjust!
Maybe if I hooked onto it to pull me faster, I could— But before I could finish the thought, I heard Mina’s laughter from above and raised my head to see her grinning face for an instant before her tiny frame rocketed towards the Giant.
I tried not to gape as her small form reached his face. She cocked her arm back, and with the cutest of cries, let it rip— right in the Giant’s jaw.
There was a single moment in which nothing happened, and I wondered if Mina had finally met her match, but then I saw the giant’s flesh ripple from the blow, flinging its head back and knocking the massive beast backwards.
An instant later, I felt the shockwave strike us. I gathered my wits. “Steady us, Absol!”
I took stock of our surroundings, trying to ignore the ache in my hand, the force of the winds and the deafening pounding rushing up to my ears.
To the side, Blueberry was dueling with another one of the Giants, blocking its club strikes with its bare fists, which sent even more shockwaves into the air.
Directly beneath us, Mina was speeding all over the Giant’s downed form, dodging its attempts to grab her with elegance and grace.
Holy crap, Mina is insane— and I’m the one who created her. I shook my head as I saw her leap onto the Giant’s neck and pinch its ear. The creature’s eyes went wide as it let out a roaring wail, making me wince.
~He’s coming. The first one.~ Absol said through our link, and I tensed, turning my eyes to the behemoth in question.
The massive monstrosity bared its teeth in a snarl as it held its club in a ready position, daring us to come near it.
“Is that how it’s going to be?” I said, eyes widening with anticipation. “Fine then. Let’s dance. Absol!”
Absol obeyed with a loud chirp, launching us forward to meet the Giant’s challenge. She tilted her wings down, narrowly avoiding the club and going past its guard.
“Odgovor!” I cried out, sending the chain flying towards its left eye, hoping to tear into its brain and end things, then and there.
But the Giant raised its free hand to defend, causing my chain to bounce off harmlessly.
I tugged at the reins, and Absol swung to the side, taking us well out of the Giant’s range.
“Let’s try it again.” I said. “It can’t protect its eyes forever.”
Absol chirped in the affirmative and we went in for another try, and another, and another, but the Giant had figured our game out.
Worse; with every attempt, its counter attack managed to get just a little closer.
Damn. I thought.
A few more, and the Giant would be able to hit us. Even if it was a glancing blow, it would be enough to end us.
I had to figure something out, but the damn thing just kept defending its… eyes.
“That’s it!” I said, nodding to myself. “Let’s go in again.”
I felt Absol’s hesitation through our bond, but she chirped in the affirmative, anyway. ~Trust.~
“Thank you…” I said and held onto the reins tightly.
We would have one shot at this.
Once again, Absol flew forward, dodging the Giant’s club strike with ease as she got me into position.
I saw the creature’s beady eyes crinkle with glee but paid it no heed, instead aiming my wand at its ear.
Loud and explosive!
The explosion rang in its ear, causing the Giant to give a loud grunt, fumbling its attempt to snatch us and letting us reach its other side.
“Now, take us up!” I shouted as loud as I could from its other side. “We go for its eyes from above!”
Absol obeyed, though she continued to send feelings of confusion through the link. ~He heard. From the other ear.~
“Yes, he did.” I said, watching as the Giant bent his head down, covering his face with his hands, making it impossible for me to strike at his eyes. “Too bad for him that I’ve changed my target to something else.”
I stared up at the sky for a single moment, taking in its cosmic brilliance before addressing my companion. “Let’s go. Straight down!”
I raised my wand even as Absol tilted us down, closing my eyes to focus for my next spell.
With the stars at my back, I sharpened my will to a fine, hot spearpoint. I opened my eyes and brought my wand down with a roar.
“Odgovor…!” I called out.
Orange, fiery power collected at the tip of my wand, blazing and pulsing with power for a single moment before the chain erupted, flying down to the back of the Giant’s neck.
I felt the creature’s hide resist my power and gritted my teeth, redoubling my efforts.
Thinner. Hotter. I thought, hand tightening around my wand as we got closer and closer.
The chain-flame-spear compacted into a needlepoint, and I saw it begin to pierce the Giant’s skin pore. Yes!
The Giant yelped, realizing that he had been duped. He tried to reach for the attack, but it was far too late for that.
The spear bored into the Giant’s neck, and into his spine, transforming back into a chain before latching onto the bone in an attempt to burn his nervous system to a crisp.
The Giant turned towards me with eyes full of hate, moving to strike me down as he tried to ignore the pain.
“Die!” I shouted, tightening the grip of the chain and finally cracking through the burnt bones, reaching the vulnerable tissue fellow.
The Giant spasmed, eyes rolling into the back of his head before falling to the side. I dispelled the chain, watching the monstrous being crash into the earth with wide, battle-crazed eyes.
A second later, I panted for breath, feeling the rush dissipate with alarming speed. That had taken a lot out of me— Far too much.
I took stock of my left hand’s injury, opening and closing it. The pain spiked, forcing a hiss out of my lips.
It hurt quite a bit, but it didn’t really feel broken. Maybe that lance charge did less damage to me than I had initially thought.
Still, no sense in tempting fate like that…
My eyes went down as I continued to nurse my hand, and I watched with incredulousness as Mina was already making her opponent juggle a bunch of small boulders while standing on one foot.
The poor creature’s face was a lump of bruised flesh, and its eyes were full of primal fear as it kept its attention on its given task.
Blueberry gave a grunt from beside the girl, sitting on top of the final Giant’s corpse, shattered with such brutality that I averted my eyes.
~The Deathstealer is not there.~ Absol said, and my head swiveled to the man’s last known location. Absol was right.
I searched the battlefield for any sign of the man, but still found no sign of him. “I don’t like the feel of this. Wait— the dragon!”
Before Absol could reply, a powerful roar from above tore through the relative calm and swept its remnants away with negligent ease.
I raised my head, knowing just what I’d find.
The super-sized Hungarian Horntail soared through the sky, its massive form blocking the view of the stars above as it flapped its way down to us, matching our altitude with deceptive ease.
At its back, Voldemort stood at ease.
“You have put up quite an interesting fight, Adam Clarke.” The Dark Lord said, sending me a nod of acknowledgment. “But this is where it ends.”
“This isn’t over yet, you know.” I said, taking my wand in hand and ignoring the jolt of pain that ran up my arm. “I’m not yet beaten.”
“But you are weakened, and separated from the creature below.” Voldemort said, sending the girl a curious look. “I have never seen her like— not among wizards and witches. Is she a vampire, perhaps?”
“Definitely not.” I said. “She isn’t human, if that’s what you’re asking, though.”
“Intriguing.” He said. “What is she, then? A creature of such power… I would have at least heard whispers of its existence.”
At that, I shook my head, feeling amused about something that only I understood. “You wouldn’t find her anywhere. She’s nothing— nothing but a remnant, the last remaining dreg of an ancient, defunct Kingdom who thought it could tread upon the realm of the gods.”
“…And what is this Kingdom’s name?” Voldemort asked, eyes alight with interest.
“Its name, huh?” I gave a mirthless smile and didn’t answer.
Voldemort was about to say something before I interrupted. “Don’t worry, she’ll be joining us soon.”
“I think not.” Voldemort said, gesturing down towards the earth, and I saw as she and her entourage were being swarmed by an army of massive snakes, complete with three snakes so large that they could only be Basilisks. “She seems to be… preoccupied.”
I pursed my lips. “That won’t keep her for long.”
“Too true. A being of her strength level cannot be beaten back by such a paltry force.” Voldemort said with a smirk. “But it will be more than long enough for me to end your life. By then, it will be too late. I will have checkmated you.”
The Dragon finally raised its head, glaring at me with intense eyes before it opened its maw, showing a bright orange glow coming from its throat.
I let out a panicked series of ridiculous, gibberish cries as Absol folded her wings, dropping us straight down.
And then its breath came, a roaring, relentless stream of red fire so hot that I had to shield my face, even when it was not in direct contact with me. The dragon tilted its head down, and its stream followed our trajectory.
“Absol!” I cried out, but it was unnecessary; Absol had already angled us down, opening her wings and swinging us to the right.
The fire continued to follow us, the Horntail twisting its massive body as it adjusted its position in midair.
“We need to reach him.” I said. Absol chirped in agreement, swinging around the stationary Dragon and getting within range while just barely staying ahead of its fire.
“Odgovor!” I called out, sending a swinging chain at the man.
Voldemort laughed and slashed his wand, deflecting the attack before launching a Bone-Breaking Curse at me.
I gave the chain a ruthless tug, spinning it in a spiral just in time for it to reflect the Bone-Breaker right back at its caster.
With a cry, Voldemort thrust his wand forward, splitting the spell into two and making it fizzle out in a shower of dirty yellow sparks.
“There is no need to resist.” Voldemort spoke as I passed him, tugging at the reins so that Absol and I could do another flyby. “Ignis Imperia!”
The firebreath howled as it morphed into a cursed, colossal firestorm of winged snakes, dragons and chimeras, all staring at me with a look of ravenous hunger.
Is this what I think it is?
“No more holding back.” Voldemort’s voice came, still heard above the roaring of the apparitions created by his Fiendfyre.
“Holy—” I cried out. “We need to go straight at him! No other choice!”
It was a credit to her trust in me that Absol obeyed without a moment’s hesitation.
I hurriedly took the chain and reshaped it to form a large, convex shield in the hopes of deflecting the Fiendfyre creatures as I got closer and closer to my target.
But, it wasn’t enough.
I gritted my teeth, ignoring the incredible heat I felt all over as I focused on infusing the shield with my next spell. “Glacius!”
Within an instant, the blossoming pain disappeared, replaced with a soothing cold.
Absol made a sound between a whimper and a chirp, and I looked down to see that she’d suffered a burn on her right wing, slowing us down.
That’s not good. I thought, directing some of the cold towards the right side of the shield. “Better, Absol?”
~A little.~ She replied, her normally airy voice sounding strained. ~Can’t fight this forever.~
“I know. We’ll have to weave our way through, like with the auroras.” I bit out, even as I continued to focus on keeping the shield strong against the incessant wave of fire. “I can’t hold this forever, either.”
Absol gave a nod before dropping us a little to gain some momentum, using it to swing us out of the range of a wyvern. A blast of water sent a fire dragon colliding with a flying serpent, but the two creatures howled as they merged into an even larger monster, lashing out at us with multiple heads.
A Hydra. I thought and tugged the reins to the right, dodging and weaving past its many jaws— but Voldemort only laughed, twisting his wand in the air as if he were preparing to throw a lasso.
It was just then that I realized what had happened. My eyes flew to every conceivable direction, but all I saw was one of his fire creatures blocking the way.
This was a trap, and I had walked right into it.
“This is the end for you, Clarke!” Voldemort cackled, bringing his wand to his left hand and grasping its tip. “Burn!”
The creatures all roared before merging together and forming a dome of impenetrable flame, blocking off all avenues of escape.
And it was getting smaller.
I licked dry lips, the heat having long since evaporated any sweat I’d produced in the last few minutes, and focused, extending my shield into a dome of cool energy. At once, the heat dissipated into manageable levels.
Still, this was a short-term fix at best, I realized as I felt the heat gradually begin to increase as the walls of fire continued to come closer and closer.
The flames shifted, showing the individual faces of each Fiend created by Voldemort’s spell. They snarled at me with barely contained hunger.
I swallowed and cast another spell. “Glacius Maxima!”
The spell halted the flames’ progress for a single second before the fire grew in intensity, closing in on me at a faster rate.
“It’s no use!” I heard Voldemort’s glee even over this sea of flames, and I felt doubt gnawing at my mind. “You cannot withstand my might forever!”
He was right, I realized. I didn’t know of any way to counter this…
~Forward.~ Absol said, cutting through my thoughts before they could take a turn for the worse.
My eyes widened and I turned my gaze down at my friend while I absorbed her suggestion. “Forward… Yes. Through the fire and the flames. Take the damage and just end him. It’s a long-shot… But maybe… Just maybe…”
I placed my hand forward and willed the shield stuck to Absol’s neck to join with the one of ice, strengthening it and buying me some time to think and focus my will.
With great effort, I switched the spell from my wand to my right hand and readied myself for my next move. I retracted my arm, as if I was readying it for the mightiest swing it could muster.
I stopped for a moment, feeling hesitation.
This was insane; I couldn’t do it. There was no possible—
“No more running.”
I slowed my breathing and let out a long exhale, extinguishing my doubts, my self-reproach and my fears. I would do this, and I would survive.
In response to my resolve, voices began to echo in my mind, unbidden.
“You can do this. Remember that for me, won’t you? Trust your instincts.”
“You’re stronger than you think you are.”
“The power of self-determination…”
“Follow your dreams, son. Forge your own path.”
“The only thing that matters is—”
My eyes widened further as I felt my heart pulse once, twice, sending a wave of cool certainty coursing through my entire body, banishing away all of the pain I felt and making me feel refreshed.
“Absol.” I said, not questioning the sudden surge of power.
Absol raised her head once, sending a shriek of challenge as she flapped her wings, taking us forward through the Fiendfyre’s roaring wall of flames. The dome buckled and cracked, and I narrowed my eyes.
The energy streamed up from my heart and then down into my hands, which glowed blue as the cracks began to disappear in a wave of energy. The dome crashed into the wall of Fiendfyre, filling the air with the unearthly howls of the creatures within.
“No chance!” Voldemort cried, and I felt the entire flame wall converging onto my position. “It’s over for you, boy!”
“All or nothing!” I roared, converting the dome into a triangular shield tipped with a spike of ice.
I felt the flames licking at my back, heard Absol’s cries of pain and focused even harder. “Push through! God damn it! Put everything into it! Everything!”
The pressure broke, and a second later, Absol and I tore through the wall of Fiendfyre, flying over Voldemort and his mount.
~Can’t… Any… More…~ Absol said, and she stopped moving, already beginning to fade from existence. ~Get him… See you when… You wake up.~
Absol… I gave her a single look before positioning myself over her saddle. I had to angle this just right. Thank you. I won’t let your efforts go in vain.
“You…!” I heard Voldemort cry out even as I leapt off of Absol’s back towards the man. I felt her presence retreat from my mind, going far away even as I fell towards him, my wand raised up high into the sky. “How?”
I didn’t answer, collecting everything I had, everything that was myself, into one final attack.
The shield-ice-drill shimmered before the energy began to swirl, collecting itself around the tip of my wand. There was no point in defending anymore.
“Odgovor!” I roared for the final time. Sending a hailstorm of glowing blue chains flying at the man.
He only managed to deflect one before he realized that he had to abandon all defense and kill me, instead.
But it was too late.
“Avada Keda—” Three spear-tipped chains flew true, piercing his throat, chest, and hand, forcing him to let go of his wand. The yew stick fell away, carried off into the winds.
In the next instant, I collided with the man, and we both fell off of the dragon’s back.
There was a moment’s disorientation before I felt Voldemort’s good hand grip my head and bring it to meet his own.
“Don’t think you’ve beaten me, child.” Voldemort said, blood flying out of his mouth and hitting my right cheek. “I will not soon forget your defiance.”
I stared back into his red eyes, the same cool, ethereal energy still coursing through me as I collected my power and placed my wand against his forehead.
“Good.” I said, pressing the wand into it. “Take this moment in, the next time you choose to cross paths with me. Remember this pain.”
The spear-tipped chain burst out of the back of Voldemort’s skull, and I felt the man’s presence begin to fade as his body turned to dust in my hands, leaving me to fall to the earth below.
“I…” I said, my voice dropping to a murmur as soon as that energy winked out of existence. “I won.”
The gray, craggy earth continued to loom closer, closer, closer…
I closed my eyes, readying myself for impact, but it never came.
“So, you did it.” Mina’s voice came from above, and I opened my eyes to see her staring down at me, sitting atop Blueberry’s shoulder.
His shoulder? Am I no longer falling? I thought, looking around. “You caught me? I didn’t even feel it.”
“Blueberry can be really gentle if I want him to.” Mina said as the Eokor grunted. “But of course, you knew that, didn’t you?”
The sky above flickered, and I saw the innumerable stars begin to fade away. It wasn’t just the stars, though. Even Blueberry and Mina were also fading.
“Aye.” I said, voice going a little quiet. “I do. I know you.”
We shared a long look, even as this world continued to collapse in on itself. She broke off the gaze, staring into the distance. “This was fun, you know.”
“I’m glad you feel that way.”
“I’m going back into the darkness again, aren’t I?”
“…Yes.” I said, sighing. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know that—”
“That I’d be real.” Mina finished for me. “Not just a figment of your imagination.”
She looked down at me with a wink, her previous fear and sadness gone like it had never been there. “I hope I’ll be going on a fun adventure, at least? It’s boring in the dark.”
The world collapsed, leaving absolutely nothing behind.
You will. Was my last thought before I lost consciousness.