Crocodilian ~ Chapter 23
Tales of Havek | Duration: 8 Minutes
Chapter 1. Chapter 2. Chapter 3. Chapter 4. Chapter 5. Chapter 6. Chapter 7. Chapter 8. Chapter 9. Chapter 10. Chapter 11. Chapter 12. Chapter 13. Chapter 14. Chapter 15. Chapter 16. Chapter 17. Chapter 18. Chapter 19. Chapter 20. Chapter 21. Chapter 22.
Richta halted his approach toward Tamerond Blake when a loud boom caught his attention in the direction of the tree line. He looked back to see an orb-like flash permeate the dark sky. It wasn’t lightning since it came up from the ground, and it didn’t fade away either. Instead, the flash grew brighter, forming a horizontal wall of Energy that barreled across the landscape at great speed.
The dark tentacles writhing above the mangroves shuddered as it passed over them, becoming less animated and falling limp to the forest floor. Richta braced himself as the mysterious white light swept across the clearing and engulfed him before he had a chance to figure out a way to evade it. When the light passed over him, he felt warm and his Energy reserves were suddenly replenished.
More booms resounded from deep in the mangrove forest and additional waves of light could be seen traveling their way. Ian must have gone into battle against something Richta couldn’t even begin to fathom.
“Quick, Tamerond, we need to get to that cabin before something terrible happens to us out here. I don’t trust the swamp, not during a great storm, and especially not when everything is trying to kill us,” Richta said, turning back to the armored man.
Tamerond had closed the gap between them while Richta’s back had been turned. Tamerond’s eyes were wide with fear, but he lunged forward anyway. Sweat glistened on the deputy commander’s scarred forehead. His teeth were dirty, his breath hot and rotten. It wasn’t until Richta felt his knees grow weak that he looked down to find the blade buried deep in his stomach.
More light washed over them and Tamerond backed away. “What have I done? No, no, no. What have I done? Almighty have mercy, what have I done?”
Richta stumbled back, hands framing the embedded blade’s grip but not touching it. He didn’t want to remove the blade for fear that it would cause him to bleed out faster, but he grew nauseous thinking of the metal wedged inside his stomach tissue.
He nearly fell to the ground. The world started to rock back and forth like he was on the boardwalk again, the large waves rolling underneath. His mind wandered, as did he, trying to navigate himself away from his attacker. He should have killed Tamerond when he had the chance, instead he’d saved him. For what? Out of pity? No. It was because he’d been at fault for the explosions in Blokravn. Guilt had won him over.
The storm subsided for some strange reason. Richta couldn’t worry about that right now, he was too focused on not dying. He stumbled through the clearing toward the cabin as fast as he could. The deputy commander’s voice was directly behind him, the man’s metal armor clinking with each step. He’d dropped the forgetful act again, speaking as if they were old acquaintances once more.
“Now where are you going, Richta? I’ve waited a long time for my revenge and there’s no way you’re getting away from me again. I don’t know what sort of mind games you’ve been playing but I’m starting to get the hang of it—”
Another pulsing wave washed over them and Richta tripped over a stump in the mud. He almost landed on the knife but fell on his side at the last second. He gritted his teeth and looked back to see Tamerond holding his head.
“What is going on with me? You there,” Tamerond said, pointing. “Where am I? Where have you brought me?”
Richta, despite his daze, couldn’t help but wonder what was happening to the deputy commander. It appeared that with each passing of the light waves, the man was being affected far differently than Richta. The mangrove spirit’s memory powers, he realized. Ian Merstellar must be confronting her, that’s why he’d needed the lightbow. This must be her doing.
“No, I remember,” Tamerond said, shaking away his brain fog. His eyes transformed back into squinted hatred. “You, you, you, you! I remember it all. You can’t make me forget. I am going to kill you for what you did to me.”
Richta attempted to get to his feet but stopped short, resting on his knees. He couldn’t make the additional ten meters, not in his condition. The wet footsteps slogged up behind him. He looked around for a weapon, but saw none. The only one available to him was the knife lodged in his stomach.
Tamerond grabbed the back of Richta’s eye patch strap and pulled. It jerked the guard’s head back, but when the eye patch snapped free, Richta found the strength to get to his feet. The lidless eye that turned to meet Tamerond was red and fierce. Tamerond suddenly found that he couldn’t move, and it wasn’t out of fear. Richta’s ability would leave Tamerond paralyzed for several long seconds; just enough time for the man to regret having ever come down to the swamp in search of his revenge.
“See you in Burg,” Richta said, raising the bloodied knife.
Another wave of Energy silently blasted through them, blinding Richta for a moment. The deputy commander remained frozen, but his expression had changed from hateful spite to questioning terror. Richta watched the quivering in Tamerond’s eyes and he couldn’t bring himself to kill him, despite it all. Richta deflated, lowering the knife. The precious few seconds passed and Tamerond could move again. He raised his arms defensively, cowering.
“Please don’t kill me, you madman! Put down the knife and let’s talk this out,” the temporarily mind-wiped Tamerond pleaded. “I promise I won't– I promise… I promise I’m going to kill you, Richta!”
Tamerond kicked Richta in the stomach. Richta clutched his injured mid-section as he collapsed near the cabin. Sharp hisses emanated from underneath the structure. He glanced behind him into the darkness but made out only slithering shadows.
Then, the full weight of his enemy fell upon him, pinning him. Richta tried to throw the knife out of reach but Tamerond grabbed his wrist with amazing strength and squeezed. The gauntleted fist nearly crushed his hand and Richta was forced to let go. Tamerond grabbed it. He looked down his misshapen nose at Richta with a smug expression. Richta expected a few final remarks, but none came. Tamerond raised the knife one last time and brought it down.
The world shook with each expulsion of Energy from Merai, or whatever was using the girl’s body to do its bidding. The Light waves emanated from her in rapid succession now, holding back the encroaching roots of Darkness. The spindly spears of destruction were suspended mid-air and could not reach her body due to the powerful nature of the two opposing energies.
Ian Merstellar had never seen anything like it in all his life, but he could not gawk forever. Something had to be done to finish this. He’d been brought to Yonledo for a reason, that reason hovered above him, bathed in white light: an innocent young girl who could be spared the same trauma he’d faced.
Ian wobbled to his feet and searched for the lightbow. He was naked, but he didn’t care. He was covered head to toe in mud. The waves of light were disorienting, and the nature of his cup seemed tethered to the glowing Merai. He could feel her fear, her anxiety, her confusion. He could feel the mangrove spirit controlling the girl, and he questioned everything that the spirit had told him. Had she not cared about them and their humanity, and simply used them as pawns to try and defeat her ancient enemy?
Ian saw the lightbow perched on a mound just off the plateau, and he made for it. Two slippery roots grabbed him from behind and threw him to the ground. However, they weren’t roots, but arms. Tyvno—also reverted back into human form—looked at him with disgust before sliding down the small incline to reach the lightbow first. The scrawny man picked it up, the bolt already heated. The scribe aimed the weapon at Ian’s chest.
“Wait, brother,” Ian said, standing up and raising his arms.
Tyvno’s head cocked slightly, his finger on the trigger. “What did you say?”
“I called you my brother. We have more in common than you think,” Ian said, slowly. He wasn’t sure if this was going to work, but the man had stopped to listen, so maybe there was something there; a thread he could pull to unravel the man’s spiraling hatred. The Light continued to wash over them, but it didn’t seem to affect either of them any longer, other than preventing them from changing into their crocodile forms.
“Go on,” Tyvno ordered.
“That monster is using us, Tyvno,” Ian said, pointing toward the demon. “It’s telling us things that we want to hear so that we feel justified in making certain choices, but that’s not why we’re here. You’re here because you are hurting just like me. You’ve lost everyone you ever loved and now you don’t know what to do. Honestly, there’s nothing we can do. We can only go on without them. But then you ask yourself why? Why go on if no one cares? Well, you have to make people care, Tyvno. Not by force, not through hatred, but through building meaningful connections. Connections that rely on trust and mutual respect.”
The dark figure glanced away from the root systems slowly penetrating Merai’s force field. Its smile faded when it realized that Tyvno had the upper hand and still hadn’t taken Ian’s life.
“What are you doing, boy?” the demon’s voice boomed. “Kill that worthless maggot, or I’ll end you as well.”
Tyvno’s brow furrowed. His eyes jerked from the dark figure back to Ian, his arm wavering with the weapon.
“We’re family, Tyvno, you and I,” Ian said. “You’re my new brother, remember? And what is family?”
Tyvno swallowed and straightened his arm to train the weapon on Ian’s chest.
“Family… is forever.”
Tyvno pulled the trigger.