Heart thudding and out of breath, Solaris leans against an old pine tree. Through the needle leaf canopy, the sky brightens in shades from black to gray. The morning’s sunrise is still many heartbeats away.
She growls, shaking her head and clutching her fur-edged cloak. Water drips from skeletal branches and the tip of her nose. She wipes and breathes in the damp air, face relaxing and lungs refreshed.
Crackling underbrush jerks her head. Smithmage Martle scrambles clear of a thicket wearing a voluminous robe covered in twigs and sticky seeds. Legs wobbling, he falls and struggles on with knees and palms.
“Calm down!” Heart steadying, Solaris holds up her hand. “It’s a mystic fear. Pause, and let it clear.”
“No!” Martle recoils with wide wild eyes. “Run! He Comes!” The older man staggers to his feet and stampedes into more underbrush.
Solaris sighs. “There goes our best offensive caster.” She rubs her bare arms to smooth away goosebumps. “Time for second best.”
Marching back the way she came, primal spells of stormy seas tickle her lips like living desires eager for release. Blue lightning skips across her fingers and icy wind billows from her nostrils. Every breath has the potential for stone shattering thunder and every hand swipe could slice realms to summon a wave of water.
Cries of pain, bestial rage, and the clang of weapons—the battle she fled continues unabated.
Breaking into the clearing at the edge of castle ruins and where a large cave invites discovery, Solaris spins her hands to ready a chilling spell.
Bodies of snakes thick as tree trunks are tangled across the battlefield, their guts strewn out and ready for a crow’s feast. Several bat-crows, big as horses without their wings stretched, lie broken with their hybrid skulls caved in. The living slime they carried still lives, chasing guardsmen around, hungry for their shinny metal.
Solaris turns from the distractions. Only one true threat remains: The monster that sent her and others running with a roar that pierced her soul. The one with Belazar’s face and body, but chiseled from a pink stone and twice his height.
Theros is no more than a normal-sized goat before the monster. The gruff charges with spiral horns leading, and the pink giant smacks the noble beast aside with a casual swipe of an axe that could split a boulder.
Beorn cries out as his loyal mount is sliced through and collapses, legs snapped. The ranger charges with both his mystic weapons glowing, and a ray of purple power comes over his shoulder to blast the monster’s face.
Solaris nods towards Messoack as he flings another blast, and she follows with her own rays of icy blue that hit the monster’s legs, covering its stony skin and slowing its step in time for Beorn to smash and hack with his weapons.
The monster’s arms are long, and it slashes with abandon, borrowing Belazar’s raging spirit to hit Beorn despite the ranger’s dancing feet. The giant’s axe clangs center mass, ringing Beorn’s breastplate like a bell and launching him to land on his ass, but not breaking through the enchanted steel.
Solaris waves. “Hey, Not-Belazar!” She swirls her hands around spots of hovering ice that grow into boulders of snow. “Catch!” She flings her arms, catapulting them to blast against the monster’s chest.
Druidess Sylyca helps Jacob to his feet at the cave’s entrance, and Messoack’s voice says in Solaris’s head, “Welcome back. Sylyca is out of healing magic, and our Belazar is transparent. We kill his Jabberwaki or die.”
Solaris frowns, holding on to the mental connection with the magician. “Where is my Belazar?”
Jacob tears off his ragged tunic as the sky brightens with dawn. “Round four, Big Bel!”
He charges, feet a blur, and the Jabberwaki misses with the first swing. Jacob pounds with glowing fists, and the monster catches him with a back swing.
Solaris winches as blood sprays and bone crunches.
Messoack says in her head, “After nearly getting absorbed by his monster, your Belazar took off into the cave on his giant hyena.” He shoots another pair of purple blasts and ducks behind a rock.
Solaris grunts and swings her arm like a sword. A line of azure light cuts through the air above the Jabberwaki, spraying water. Curling her fingers, she strains to move her glowing hands apart, and the line splits into a colossal mouth to the Ocean World.
“Drink in my roar, you over-sized Belazar!”
A wall of frothy sea slams down upon the Jabberwaki, knocking it to the ground and splashing Beorn as the nearby warrior struggles to stand.
Solaris trembles as her vision blurs. “Get it!” She releases the rift’s lips, which snap close, cutting off the other world’s sea. “Get it while it’s down!”
Favored arm limp, Beorn grips his warhammer in his off-hand and sloshes through the mud Solaris has made.
“Hurry!” Solaris spins her hands, summoning more ice magic.
Beorn cracks his hammer against the monster’s kneecap, sending shards of pink stone flying. “That’s for Theros.” He cracks the other knee. “That’s for Bel—”
“Thieves!” A voice hammers in Solaris’s head; it is not Messoack. “You shall die as you have lived—Poorly!”
The Jabberwaki rolls to the side, dodging Messoack’s mystic blasts, and climbs to its feet despite Beorn’s damage to its knees. It settles into a warrior’s stance, discarding Belazar’s reckless style.
Solaris narrows her eyes and steadies her aim. “Get out of my mind, Zenath.” She shoots her frosty rays, striking the Jabberwaki in the neck and face.
It clutches an eye covered in frosty cracks, and Sylyca whips a mystic tangle of thorns around its ankles.
“Yay, ladies!” Beorn charges with hammer swinging and shatters a stony leg. “Set it up.” He swings and breaks the Jabberwaki’s blocking forearm. “Knock it down.”
Holding his guts in with one hand, Jacob leaps in with a glowing foot that breaks the monster’s other leg, toppling it.
Solaris hurries to the cave’s entrance. “I’m going after Belazar! Someone toss me a torch!”
The sun peeks over the horizon, and the Jabberwaki covers its face as the light melts it.
Beorn slams his hammer down on the monster’s chest, splitting it open. “It’s hollow inside.”
Solaris growls and runs to Jacob, who is resting his head in Sylyca’s lap as the she-elf feeds him potion after potion.
“Nice spellcraft.” The martial artist leans to spit out a frothy bit of gore. “What happened to Pipit and Martle?”
Solaris grabs a torch tucked into the sash around his waist. “They couldn’t conquer their fear.” She sparks a flame with flint and steel, and holds the fire at arm’s length. “But I fear no monster, especially not one with my Bel’s handsome face.”
Belazar, warrior—rugged former Verdant crusader
Beorn, Ranger of Thorn—Colgrevance’s right hand
Jacob, martial artist—tumbling scout with mystic fists
Martle, smithmage—Pipit’s assistant and formerly Zenath’s
Messoack, magician—loyal explorer of madness
Solaris, sea witch—whimsical lover of the grotesque
Sylyca, druidess—elvish caster of dreams and life
Theros, giant goat—a gruff that serves as Beorn’s mount