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Flash Fiction – Dragonfire Part 2 June 25, 2010

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: , ,
8 comments

This story is part of a weekly series, updated every friday. Click Here to read from the beginning.


For the second time that day Nox found herself in freefall, only this time it was not by choice.  A horde of flying rats had attached themselves to her aura shield, and the sheer weight of them was dragging her down. She frantically looked around, but all she could see were beady red eyes, hairy bodies and sharp claws. She dredged up another burst of wind from somewhere, enough to put her into a spin and knock a few of them off. “Grimm, I need a little help here! I’m flying blind, what do I do?”

“Let them pile on,” the hound said.

“What!”

“Stay calm, short-stuff. I will get you out of this. The rats make a perfect heat shield. You will be safe from the dragonfire Loki is slinging around, and enough of them will burn off to let you gain altitude again. Let yourself fall.”

“But what about the ground, Grimm?  If I can’t pull out of the dive I’m going to make a nice, girly shaped crater.”  She flung her tired body into another twisting maneuver, and two more rats slipped off the ice forming on her shield.

“Ride the thermals back up. Never waste your strength in a fight when you don’t have to.” he said. “Can you change the shape of your aura shield, like this?” He sent a mental image of a simple airfoil to her.

“I think so,” Nox said, her voice starting to slur from fatigue.  She let go of the wind and focused on reshaping her aura. As the surface area increased more of the rats swooped in and piled on. Nox let out a pained gasp.  “They’re too heavy Grimm, I’m sorry.  I can’t hold the shield. I’m so sorry…”

“Don’t you give up on me! You can do this!  Just hang on a little longer!”

“I’m trying…” she said, her voice coming out as a choked sob.  “The air is too hot… I can’t breathe…”

Grimm bounded down the five flights of stairs to the foot of the city walls.  A wave of heat slammed into him as he emerged into the smoke filled valley.  Everywhere he looked, monsters screamed and died as the dragonfire caught up to them.   “Loki! She’s coming down, you have to ease up!”

The fire elemental turned his smoldering gaze to the sky.  “She’s stopped falling. They’re towing her westward.”  He flung out a hand and immolated a herd of scorpion tailed deer before they could get too close. “Can you handle the ones on the ground?”

“I’ve got you covered, go!”

Loki dropped his hand and closed his eyes, trusting Grimm to keep the monsters at bay.  Beads of ink from the dragon tattoo on his arm rose up to the surface of his skin, and ran down to pool in his cupped hand.  He hurled it skyward, and for a moment the image of the tattoo hung in the air in front of him.  There was a sharp, wrenching feeling in his gut, and then he was looking down on his body.  Some small part of his mind knew he was going to have a hard time getting his spirit back where it belonged, but for right now all that mattered was getting to Nox.  He coiled around the thermals rising from the fires and clawed his way up into the clouds.

Lighting crackled and thunder boomed as the superheated air met the cool winds of the upper atmosphere.  Good, he thought. A storm would slow the little bastards down. He could see the tangle of flying rats ahead of him.  Nox hung limp in their grasp, her aura shield fading.  Loki lunged forward, opened his jaws and unleashed Hel. The sky filled with light and heat, and dozens of the creatures vaporized.

Loki roared in exaltation as the dragonfire rushed through him, raw and primal. He had always loved the power, since the very first time he used it. How many nights had the craving for it robbed him of sleep?  He could not remember why he had ever held back, when it was so easy to let go and watch the world burn.  He lashed out with it again, and again, until the last few rats scattered and flew off as fast as their leathery wings could take them.   He let out a frustrated bellow and looked for a new target.  His eyes lit on one small figure tumbling down through the clouds.  The aching need to use more fire sent him darting forward…

…and he pulled up short as a familiar pair of blue eyes looked back at him, blinking in confusion. Nox. The whole reason he had come here.  A sudden, sick revulsion at what he had nearly done swept through him, and the fires inside him guttered out.  Without the heat to keep him aloft, his spirit was yanked violently down to earth and slammed back  into his body. He fell to his hands and knees and retched, until nothing came up but bile.  Nox made a barely controlled landing nearby, bouncing and skidding to a halt.

All around them, the ghosts of the last wind knights stood in a ring facing outwards. Loki recognized the one who had challenged him at the mountain pass that morning.  The knights chanted in unison, swinging their swords in precise lines, up, around, down and across, summoning a mass air casting.  Grimm’s keening howl rose up in an eerie counterpoint to direct their attacks.  At the end of each cycle, any monsters within thirty feet of them swayed and toppled over, like wheat mown down by a scythe.  It was a slaughter, but the monsters kept coming. They had been created to hunt down air elementals, and flung themselves at their ancient enemies with a mindless fury.

Overhead, the skies opened and a chill rain fell, dousing the last of the fires.  Nox crawled through the downpour to Loki’s side. “Grimm says we need to move. If we lean on each other, I think we can make it.” She slid her arm under his, and they staggered to their feet.   As soon as they were upright Grimm’s howl changed in timbre, and the ghosts turned to march deeper into the ruined city.  Nox and Loki stumbled through the streets for what seemed like an eternity, the pouring rain making every step a misery.  Grimm scouted ahead until he found a building for them to rest in.  The last thing Loki remembered clearly was catching Nox as she passed out. He carried her up a flight of stairs to a small, dry room and laid her down with her head pillowed against Grimm’s side before letting exhaustion drag him off into oblivion…

(next week: Under Siege)


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Zombieluv Contest – Forever June 22, 2010

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction, writing contest.
23 comments

@marirandomities has come up with a fantastically gory little idea  – the Zombie Luv flash fiction contest 🙂   How could I resist a writing prompt like that?

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Her eyes were the color of frozen meat. Her lips more maggot than flesh.  Dry, brittle finger bones scratched at the shimmering curtain of the containment spell with a mindless determination, an automatic response to the reanimation process.

Ryan knew where it had all gone wrong.  It wasn’t his fault though, the Devil had lied to him. He remembered that night clearly – the mist at the crossroads, and an unholy pact to bring back the woman he loved.  The Devil had laughed, as only He can when a deal has been made.  Ryan should have known better than to trust Old Nick, but he was desperate, and figured the laugh was just to add to the atmosphere. The Devil had an image to uphold, after all.

Laura continued to scrabble at the walls of the containment spell, and would keep doing so until the hour was up and the spell faded.  Ryan glanced at his watch; only two minutes remained.  He brushed aside the chalk lines on the floor with his foot to set her loose, and braced himself as she shambled towards him.

His soul was lost anyway.  At least this way they could be together, forever.

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Guidelines:
  • Word count: maximum 1.000
  • The story must be a romance between two zombies. Make it as horrific as you like. 😉
  • Stories containing animal cruelty, torture, graphic sex or violence, any form of exaltation of violence, racism or other forms of prejudice will be immediately disqualified.
  • Post your entry on your own blog, with a title resembling this:
Zombie Luv Flash Fic Contest: Story Title
  • Copy and paste the contest logo and the guidelines at the end of your entry post.

Flash Fiction – Dragonfire Part 1 June 18, 2010

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: , ,
13 comments

This story is part of a weekly series, updated every friday. Click Here to read from the beginning.


It had been two thousand years since the fall of the House of Winds, and time had not been kind to their infrastructure.  Loki eyed up the decrepit watchtower in front of him with a bit of concern.  The three story pile of rock that straddled the narrow mountain pass looked like it was ready to collapse at any moment. The remnants of a metal portcullis hung in a jagged line over the entry tunnel, making it look like a gaping maw, and the ever present wind made a hollow moaning sound as it blew through it.

“Yeah, that’s not creepy at all, is it?” he said. “I suppose if we are really quiet it might not fall on our heads.”

His horse let out a nervous whicker and tried to back down the road.  Sybarite hated anything that did not involve him being groomed or fed, but for once Loki agreed with him.

“No help for it, old boy.  It’s either this, or spend a whole day backtracking.” He had to dismount and toss a rag over the horse’s eyes to get him to enter the tunnel.  The wind groaned and small rocks rattled down around them as the entryway swallowed them up.  The darkness was oppressive, and even the flames Loki summoned could not cut through the gloom that surrounded them.  Their forward progress slowed to a crawl as Loki carefully felt his way forward.  “How long is this thing?” he muttered.

A sepulchral voice rose out of the moaning of the wind. “It goes on for eternity, unless you answer truthfully.  Who are you, and what is your purpose here?”

“I could ask you the same thing,” he said, stalling for time to identify his opponent.

The ghost of a knight materialized in front him, holding a sword inches from his throat.  “Answer or die.”

Loki scowled, but caution held his temper in check.  “I’ve worn a lot of names lately.  But today, you can call me Loki.  As for what I’m doing here,” he paused, and the scowl turned into a wry smile, “I’m making a fool out of myself over a woman.  Or so my friends keep telling me.”

The ghost laughed and lowered his sword. “The captain told us to expect a fire elemental with a glib tongue.”

Loki raised an eyebrow. “The captain?”

“We do not normally use the name the Shadowkin gave to him, out of respect. But you would know him as Grimmalkyn.” The ghost waved a hand, and the gloom lifted. He drifted towards the now sunny exit to the tunnel. “This way, please.  The captain formally requests that the Lord Dragon clear the enemies from the east gate of the city.”

Loki gave him a hard look.  “The last Lord Dragon was murdered fifteen years ago, along with the rest of his family. I am not him.”

The ghost pointed towards Loki’s arm.  “The Dragon’s mark is not an easy thing to bear.  You are right to fear it.”

“Fear it?” Loki let out a short laugh.  “No.  I love it.  That is the problem, I like the power just a little too much.” He led Sybarite out of the tunnel, and mounted up. “Tell Grimm that Loki is on the way,” he said, putting emphasis on his name, “and forget that you ever heard me called Lord Dragon.”

The ghost turned, as if listening to someone.  “He asks that you hurry.”

“I am not going to…” He paused as he topped the small rise leading out of the tunnel.  “use it…” The valley below him was crawling with Shadowkin creatures, as if a black tide had washed over it.  More creatures were streaming in around the sides of the city walls, and a cloud of dark shapes wheeled in the air overhead.  “Well, that explains why I didn’t run into anything last night. The monsters were all here.”

As he looked up, a glimmer of electric blue plummeted from the sky like a falling star, only to twist at the last second and soar back up into the clouds.  The flying creatures followed it closely like an oily comet’s tail.   Loki didn’t have to ask who that was, he knew Nox’s aura when he saw it. “Dammit, Grimm. You were supposed to keep her safe.”  He tossed the reins towards the ghost.  “Watch Sybarite for me, would you?”

“Good hunting, sir,” the ghost replied.

The lord of every great House has access to more than their own, inborn powers – energy stored in artifacts that let them tap into heart of the elements – but unlike most elemental castings, the key to the House of Fire was burned into the living skin of its rulers.  Loki’s pulse started to race as the power rose around him, warm and seductive as any lover he had ever known.  A stylized tattoo of dragon rose to surface of the skin on his shoulder, and coiled down around his arm until its toothy jaws gaped open on inside of wrist.  A ball of fire formed in his hand, as if the dragon had breathed it out into his palm.

He kept his gaze on Nox’s flickering blue aura, to remind himself there were things here that should not be burned, and set the dragon fire loose.

From overhead, it looked like a scarlet heat wave enveloped half of the monsters outside the city walls.  One minute they were bathed in light, the next there was nothing left but charred skeletons.  Nox took advantage of the confusion amongst her attackers to fly higher.  She ducked into the clouds, but not before getting a glimpse of a dragon made of fire and smoke stalking down into the valley.  She was so startled by it that she forgot to keep moving upwards.

A telepathic bark from Grimm brought her wandering attention back.  “Nox, they are boxing you in!” he said.” You have to keep ahead of them!”

Nox dodged a swipe from the claw of a huge flying rat that had closed in on her. “You know, you only call me Nox when you’re upset.  I just noticed that.”

“Keep focused!”

“I’m tired, furball.  If I admit you were right, will you spare me the ‘I told you so’s’?”

“Break left, dive… now up!  Gain altitude!”

“Sure. No sweat…”

“Use the thermals from the heat waves Loki is throwing around, they will make ascending easier.”

“Loki is here?”  Nox craned her neck to look for him, but all she could see was scarlet flames.

“Pay attention!”

Nox twisted to avoid another attack, but she did not see the second creature until it was too late.  It latched onto her aura shield, slowing her down enough for more of them to pile on.  The weight soon became too much and they all tumbled downwards towards the holocaust of fire below…

(to be continued)


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Who are you writing for? June 14, 2010

Posted by techtigger in writing.
13 comments

As so often happens, I am once again finding ways I need to improve my writing.  This week, the issue is trying to find the balance between description, dialogue and action.  It is all too easy, and for the writer, fun, to lavish words on elaborate descriptions of the world they’ve spent so much time building.  But is that really fun for the reader?

I just finished a book this weekend, by an author I adore – however, the book in question was dreadful.  I kept asking myself, how did someone so good at writing, at spinning page-turning tales of wonder, write this?  It was 90% description of the setting and culture, with a few vague lines here and there to keep the characters involved.   It was obvious the writer knew the subject matter, loved the history it was based on, but there was no plot, and no character development.  Just lots of pretty words.

The answer hit me this morning – the author wasn’t writing for the reader, they were writing for themselves.    And, I suppose it’s okay for an author to do an experimental piece now and then, but I plunked down $24 USD for a hardcover, and now I want my money back.

I am not going to get it back, but at least I did get this one take-away.  I will be writing for my readers. Even if I never get published beyond my own blog, I will keep the reader in mind as I write.   I do not ever want my readers to be as annoyed, and disappointed as I was with this book.

Which brings me back to my first thought, finding a balance in my writing. To work on this, I am putting together a checklist:

1: I need to have enough detail to put the reader in the scene, let them ‘see’ where things are and get a feel for the setting.  I will not describe anything that does not move the plot along.  No matter how ‘cool’ the description might sound when I write it.

2: I need to have the characters talk about things, rather than the author telling what happens.  Endless pages of me telling you about the plot, rather than characters discovering it is BORING

3: I will not have my characters sitting around talking at each other, they will be doing things. Even if it’s just fidgeting nervously, tweaking someone’s nose, or pounding  a fist into a wall.  No one stands still and talks without moving

4:  dialogue will reveal issues which will lead to conflict and require actions.  No yapping about trivial stuff that has nothing to do with the story

5: Action sequences will have a reason for being there. This is not a ‘no-scene-unexploded’ action film. There will be action, but only if it moves the plot forward.  The consequences of the action will lead to more conflicts.

Anyone else seeing a thread here? Nothing stays in a story that does not move the plot forward. I am going to be tackling my revisions with this in mind, and hopefully my readers will enjoy the results.  I suppose my $24 wasn’t entirely wasted on that book.  I got a valuable writing lesson out of it.

So, how do you find that balance? What things are on your revision checklist?  I’d love to hear how others tackle that issue!  And who do you write for, and why?  Let’s chat in the comments 🙂

Flash Fiction – Breaking Point June 11, 2010

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: , ,
11 comments

This story is part of a weekly series, updated every friday. Click Here to read from the beginning.


The ruined city of the wind elementals was crawling with dark shapes, their high-pitched wails cutting through the chill morning air. Nox stood between the crenellations that lined the top of the city walls, and leaned out to look down at the Shadowkin-bred creatures gathering below.  She tried to count how many of them had come hunting for her, but lost count after four hundred.

Grimm padded over to stand beside her, his claws clicking on the stone parapet.  “Don’t tease the monsters, short-stuff.  It’s rude.”

“We need to break this spell mother put on me, furball.  The fastest way to do that is to push its boundaries until it cracks.”

The hound gave her a sympathetic look. “I know you want to fly, little one, it’s the first thing every air elemental tries to do.  But we need to get out of here. Every time you try to summon the wind, it will only draw in more creatures. We are horribly out-numbered already, and this is not a defensible position.”

“If we don’t break this spell now, we might as well go straight back home.  I can’t help your break your own curse if I’m not playing with a full deck myself,” she said. “Think about it, if something compromises a person’s psyche, it leaves them open to other kinds of mental attacks.  Look at how close the Shadowkin came to making me kill Loki. Do you think they could have gotten a hold on me so easily, unaided?”

“Damn. Your mother left the door wide open for them,” Grimm growled.

“The Shadowkin won’t stop coming after me, now that they’ve found a weakness. You know it.”

“Even so, I know what you are thinking of doing, and I don’t like it.  Not one bit. What if you’re wrong?”

“I’m not wrong,” Nox said, with more confidence than she was feeling.  She stepped back a few paces, her heart hammering in her chest.  “Wish me luck,” she said, and took a running leap out into space.

Five stories is a long way to fall.

There was enough time to think about what she had done. Time for her mind to batter desperately against the spell that held her powers in check. Time enough for fear, and for the agonizing backlash from the compulsion to hit.  There was even time, as the ground rushed up to meet her, for regret.

She was close enough to see that the eyes of the monsters glowed, even in daylight, when the compulsion spell loosened.  It wasn’t much, but it was enough to keep her from becoming one with the ground.  She summoned a wind shear that tossed her sideways like a leaf in a gale. Another effort of will got her high enough to keep the beasts from jumping up to grab her.

Nox could hear Grimm’s triumphant howl as she soared upwards. “It’s too soon to celebrate, furball,” she said. “That was just the emergency release mother always builds into her spells.  The minute I’m safe, the compulsion will kick back in.”  She turned slowly around, getting a feel for moving in the air streams.  “So, what can I do to stay in trouble?”

“I don’t think that is going to be a problem,” Grimm said. “Look to your left. Those small dots on the horizon are airborne predators.  You had better come back, you don’t have the skill for aerial combat.”

“I don’t, but you do. You’re a telepath, just dump the skills into my head.”

Grimm snapped at her.  “You know I can’t remember much.”

“Then ask Tyrus, or one of the other ghosts here.  Try, Grimm!  When that spell resets, I’ll be lucky if I can look out a window without getting the shakes. The longer it’s down, the easier it’ll be to break it later.”

“You are not used to channeling the amount of energy it takes to fight in the air! You will burn yourself out, you need to land!”

“Too late, here they come!”

Grimm spat out a few curses before snapping out orders at her.  “Get above them. You are small, fight like a peregrine.  Harden your aura around you, dive and slam them with it like a fist.  Then get your altitude back again. The minute they gain the upper air, you are dead.”

“That tactic will only get one at a time, Grimm. I need something that will take out large numbers.”

“Quit arguing and get above them, dammit!”

Nox flew higher, until the air grew thin and she had to peer down through wisps of clouds.  The dots had grown into mottled grey shapes, with wings and long, thin tails.  They looked like a cross between a bird and some sort of large rodent.  “And they call pigeons sky rats,”  Nox said, and solidified her aura around her in a glimmering sphere.

Grimm snorted. “Save the jokes for later, short-stuff.” He sent a private thought to Tyrus before speaking to her again. “Use the clouds as cover; we’ll spot targets for you.  Keep the sun at your back, and whatever you do, don’t stop. If you lose air speed, they will sink those claws into you and drag you down.”

Nox streaked downwards, leaving vapor trails in her wake.  The impact as she hit the first flying rat caused her to rebound with a jerk that snapped her head back.  She fought off the stars that filled her vision and worked to get above them again.

Grimm called out to her. “To your right, angle down and curve back up.”

Nox hurried to comply, and took down another rat.  “Two down, fifty or so to go.  No sweat,” she said.   already feeling fatigued.  Controlling the winds while both fighting the creatures, and the spell was taking its toll.

Grimm rumbled at Tyrus, “Tell him I said to hurry.” Then, to Nox, “Hang in there, little one. Help is on the way.”



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Flash Fiction – Broken Wings June 4, 2010

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: , ,
10 comments

This story is part of a weekly series, updated every friday. Click Here to read from the beginning.


The faint light of dawn filtered into the ruined hallway where Nox sat, trying to bring some order to her jumbled bag of supplies. She could just see the ruins of the city through an arrow slit in the walls. There wasn’t much left of the ancestral home of House of Winds.  Only a few broken walls and columns poked up above a lush green canopy of vegetation. As far as she could tell, only Lord Galen’s castle and the city walls where they had set up camp were still intact.

Grimm and the ghost of Lieutenant Tyrus were standing to either side of the opening, discussing the family ties between the Houses of Ice and Winds.  She tried to pay attention, but exhaustion won out over curiosity. She picked up a blanket and smelled it, then tossed it aside.  “Crud,” she grumbled.  “The sausages got smashed into the blankets.  Shoveling supplies back into my bag probably wasn’t the brightest idea I’ve ever had.”

Grimm snorted.  “We were a little too busy breaking out of the Morning Lord’s prison to be careful about repacking.  Don’t worry, I’ll take care of the crumbs.” The hound licked his chops and eyed up the offending blankets with undisguised glee.

Nox laughed and made a nest out of her spare clothes.  “Well, this will have to do for a bed.” She balled up a bunch of socks into a shirt to make an impromptu pillow, and then lay back with her hands laced behind her head.  “You know, there’s a really big hole in this theory of yours.  If I’m an Air elemental, why is my control of that element weaker than Ice?  Hel, most times I have to use the two in tandem to make even small things happen.”

Tyrus gave her a curious look.  “Have you ever tried a major working with wind alone?”

“Sure, when I was five.  Climbed a tree and tried to fly,” she said, with a wry smile.  “Mother stopped me before gravity could introduce me to the ground.”

“How do you know you couldn’t have flown?”

“Well, I was convinced I could at the time, but back then I was also certain the moon was made of cheese.”  She let out a huge yawn.  “I’d say we’ll talk about it in the morning, but that’s already here. Wake me up if anything unpleasant comes to visit.”

Grimm nudged her shoulder affectionately.  “Sleep yourself out, little one.  We’ll keep watch over you.”

Nox woke up hours later with a bright beam of sunlight hitting her in the face.  She could hear Grimm in the back of her mind, his telepathic voice muted to a whisper.  He was still talking to Tyrus, and she was about to roll over and go back to sleep when she realized they were talking about her.

“A compulsion is holding her powers back? Are you sure? “ Grimm said.

Tyrus sounded angry. “Yes.  It is set very deep in her psyche, and it has been there for some time.  But who could do something so sadistic to their own child?  Losing an eye or hand would be less traumatic than being cut off from the elements. ”

“Serenna is human, she has never understood what the elements mean to us. If she thought those powers put her child in danger, she would cut them off without hesitation.”

“Why should it matter whether their heir has Ice as a primary, or secondary element?  It never did in our day.”

“Politics,” Grimm snarled. “Her parents have spent the past few hundred years making the House of Ice the leader of the Winter Kindreds.  If word got out they had come to power on a lie, even their own allies might challenge their rule. It would not be a peaceful transition of power. Lucien is far too dangerous for  a rival to leave alive, and they’d take down his whole family with him.” Grimm looked disgusted.  “I’m sure the words ‘greater good’ and ‘necessary sacrifice’ were bandied about when this was done to Nox.   Damn Serenna.  And damn Lucien for his ambitions…”

Nox lay still, staring blankly at the ceiling.  She knew she should have been upset, but she was too numb to care. The scientist in her noted that this was shock, and that the repression of strong feelings was not a good thing. She didn’t care about that either.  At some point she must have gotten up and slipped away without the other two noticing, because she found herself standing alone, barefoot on the parapet that lined the top of the city walls. The sun drenched plateau stretched out below her, and the breeze whipped her dark hair into her eyes.

She closed her eyes and tilted her head back, remembering how it had felt the last time she tried to fly.  The exhilarating rush as the air answered her call, the brief moment of weightlessness… and the screaming agony in her mind as her mother’s compulsion set in.  Nox teetered on the edge of the parapet, clinging to a crenellation as self-preservation instinct kicked in. Her heart pounded wildly, her head ached and her stomach was tied in knots.  Again, the scientific part of her mind noted all of the classic physical symptoms that were a reaction to a compulsion kicking in.  She had lived with them for so long, she hadn’t recognized them for what they were, until now.

As the symptoms receded, the numbness returned, along with one thought:  Every compulsion could be broken.   She closed her eyes and reached out for the winds again, but her concentration was shattered as someone yanked her back from the edge of the wall.  She found herself lying on her back, looking up at Grimm’s furry face.

“You have to stop, little one!  The creatures the Shadowkin unleashed here were made to hunt down air elementals. What were you thinking, you have just rung the dinner bell!  I can’t fight them all, there are too many of them!”

In the distance, the wails and howls of hunting packs gathering filled the air…

(to be continued)


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