Chapter 7: When Lightning Strikes Thrice
It took around three hours for Morgana to finish the two neck bags, and another one for David to wake up fully. Getting him up to speed put a damper on his sunny attitude, but he was quick to realize his position. He was happy to travel with us until he could find his friends. I had returned his sword after he promised to fight with us and returned to readying myself. I was ordering around my wisp in hopes that manual control would make the skill level faster. The small flickering flame of magic grew slightly whenever it levelled up. At first it was the size of a large marble but now it was reaching golf ball size. I was about 12% away from getting to Adept Lv. 5 when the barrier holding back the rain water finally collapsed, letting an ankle high wave of water into the cave.
“Time’s up” I said. Our silver fire was quickly extinguished by the small flood, which plunged the cave back into the dark. The sudden cold water sent an onslaught of shivers through my body; I suddenly found myself craving hot chocolate.
“Let’s move out” Morgana passed me one of the bags she wove and while I tied it around my neck with my magic I led the way out of the cave and into the storm.
“Wow, that is brisk!” Morgana’s surprised shout seemed to embody what all three of us were feeling; It was bone chillingly cold and the rain felt like daggers against the skin. The wind didn’t make it any better as our body temperature dropped farther and farther with each buffeting gale. I had to quickly tighten my bag around my neck so it wouldn’t be blown off my body. I turned around to check on the other to see something that almost made me laugh. The moment Morgana stepped out onto the muddy grass she seemed to sink into it about an inch or so. Seeing as this didn’t bother her any, I turned to David and was kind of surprised to see that he was almost a whole head taller than me.
“Stay Close!” My words were almost carried off by the wind, but judging by the simultaneous nod from both of them I was heard. I guided us in the direction of the apple tree I had found earlier as a sort of landmark then I would change directions afterwards. I didn’t have long hair back home, but having a long mane now in a veritable typhoon was a pain. It was either stuck to my skull or being whipped around by the wind, though Morgana had more hair than me so she might have it worse. at some point my teeth had started chattering. We were moving pretty quickly, keeping a constant jog that all of us could keep up with. I could keep up now that [Perception] wasn’t constantly active and draining my stamina.
We had just reached the apple tree and I had decided to take a moment to let our stamina refill and maybe grab some apples for later. A quick glance and Morgana and David was all I needed to know how they felt; They looked like half-drowned cats and I bet they felt just as horrible. I bet I looked just the same, I felt heavy with a coat full of water weighing me down. When I saw my stamina bar reach full I was about to make us keep moving when I noticed something. I stopped and looked around the drowned forest wondering what I saw; my stamina was slowly falling- my [Perception] had been activated! David’s mane was standing up.
“Move!” I spent a small chunk of mana pushing the two away from the apple tree and into the mud a few feet away, I followed mere moments afterwards and that made all the difference. Where we were standing was quickly reduced to charcoal as what I can only call lightning struck the ground. The bolt of lightning traveled much slower than an actual lighting bolt, but was just as strong, so the moment we hit the soaked and muddy ground a few muscle clenching volts of electricity shot through us.
“Aaagh!” I had never been tased before but I assume it felt the same muscle-clenchingly painful as this. My jaw had been pulled shut and my face muscles spasmed, but then it was gone and I was given control of my body back. Books and movies made pushing through pain look easy; after just one shock I wanted to go lay down and recover; but the threat of whatever just shot lightning at us was a better motivator to stand back up. I was the last one up it seems, David was glaring fiercely in the direction of a now charcoal apple tree and Morgana, while wearing a similarly intense look, also had a splash of fear etched into her scowl. I followed their eyes and immediately I understood why.... It was the cloud lion, and it was pissed. I knew it was the same one from the angry red burns on its face from my wisp’s beams.
You would think I would be used to fear at this point, it’s cold claws digging into my mind and slowly eroding me away from the inside. I could feel how the lion was focused on me in particular, it’s usual fluffy white coat had turned dark and tumultuous, like the storm clouds overhead arcing electricity all over. This was personal to it, and it intended to catch the ones that got away. Our standoff felt like it lasted for an eternity and as if nature itself had given us a starting bell the loud crash of thunder brought all of us into motion. After the lion's first attack we were all aware that staying close together was a bad idea so we split in three different directions. David and Morgana split left and right respectively, swerving around trees and bushes while I had to turn and dive backwards to avoid the pouncing lightning-clad lion. Spitting out the glob of mud that had found its way into my mouth I barely had enough time to direct my wisp to attack for having to dodge another too-slow bolt of lightning. The small modicum of breathing room my wisp granted me wasn’t wasted as I sprinted around the nearest tree and out of the lion’s line of sight, leaving it to swat at the now slightly faster ball of magic.
“Hit and Run!” My screams cut through the almost deafening crackling of electricity for only a moment but that was enough for everyone to hear me… everyone. The tree I was hiding behind was quickly rendered to splinters as the lion charged through the trunk, ignoring my wisp and sending me flying. The horrible pain of wood splinters digging into my already bruised back was nothing to scoff at, but thankfully the rain was so cold that I was starting to go numb in a few places; though that didn’t stop me from being sent flying into another nearby tree and knocking the wind out of me. Seeing me stunned, the lion started to slowly prowl towards me while the few wood shards caught in its fire ignited and turned to cinders. I didn’t even realize I had tunnel vision that whole time because I never saw David approach from the left with his sword in hoof. With a slash of his blade both rainwater and blood was sent flying as David carved into the side of the lion, making a section of dark cloud fur turn a dark red. The lion itself was caught off-guard and off-balance by David, but David himself was caught off-guard when a streak of electricity carried along his blade from the beast’s coat, stunning him momentarily.
“Get up!” The feeling of warm hooves met my side as Morgana reached me and pumped some healing magic into my system, pushing out the wood shards and helping me stand back up. it was almost second nature when I aimed a beam right into the eye of the beast. It wasn’t strong enough to destroy the organ but it was enough to burn and blind it, making it miss its retaliatory strike at David giving him the chance to back off. With a mental flex I brought my wisp back around and had it aim at its joints and paws, if we could bring it down or at least slow it down we could have a chance. Following Morgana we sprinted back into the trees and just in time too as the lion seemed to be fed up with swiping into the dark and just started blasting lightning everywhere incinerating any nearby plant life and actually drying the area for a moment. I was almost sent to the ground a few times by a few strong shocks but still made it far enough in time with Morgana a ways to my right.
“Back to the clearing!” I almost missed Morgana’s words when my wisp was destroyed, sending a migraine-inducing sting to my mind. A quick glance at my mana bar showed me I had less than a quarter remaining, which did not bode well for me. I wouldn’t have enough mana left to fight if I resummoned my wisp, so I just grit my mud-stained teeth and pushed on back to the apple tree clearing. My everything was burning at that point, but I just shut all the pain out when I saw the beast again. it had been chasing David after we got out of range and thankfully my wisp had done some real damage to it. Its back right leg and front left had a sizable chunk taken out of them revealing the sinew-y muscles underneath. David was in the middle of ducking and weaving in and out of trees dodging blasts of lightning and occasionally trying to flap his wings trying to gain flight.
Charging my horn I sent three mid-powered blasts at the lion’s body before turning to run counter clockwise around it, not even looking to see if they landed or not. An outraged roar pierced the storm and a veritable hail of lightning blasts flew towards me. I tried to time my stride so I would be in the air when any would strike the ground nearby, but I wasn’t sure if I timed it right. I had reached the point where most pains had started to blend together, I just hurt.
Risking a glance at the predator, I was able to see just how injured it really was. Not only were a few chunks of flesh missing from its legs and face from my blasts and wisp, but there were long bleeding cuts in it’s sides from David’s blade. Though the worst injury was yet to come, as Morgana had gotten close and with a quick rear up with her hind legs, she slammed down on it’s uninjured front leg; reducing it to useless flesh with a sickening snap. The pain must have been excruciating as the lion’s attention immediately switched from me to Morgana as it reared up onto its hind legs and was about to crush Morgana with it’s other clawed paw… only to stay up in the air as it’s head was snapped back by a tentacle made of shadows flashing out of the darkness behind it and wrapping around its throat, holding it in place. Summoning that had taken most of my remaining mana, but I wasn’t done yet. using the last drops of my mana I used my highest level spell. David had stopped for a moment to catch his breath, which gave me plenty of time to use [Levitation] on his sword, ripping it from his grip and sending it flying at the lion who was starting to build up lightning. The sword flew true and slabbed into the chest of the lion with a wet squelch, the lion’s thrashing intensified even more and wasn’t slowing meaning it wasn’t deep enough.
“Morgana!” I shouted.
“On it!” she replied. She caught on quickly to what I was thinking and with a quick run up and a smooth spin on her front hooves she turned and bucked the sword deep into the chest of the lining-clad lion just as my mana bottomed out. it’s thrashing slowed, then grew still. Taking a few steps aside, Morgana watched as the lion fell to the muddy floor impaled and slain, the three of us stood there shaking the aching in the rain waiting for something else to happen. Then something else did happen… the rain stopped.