Chapter 15:


The Melancholy of a Whimsical Half-Elph

It wasn’t long before Enne left. She followed the beaten trails through the nearby forest at the brink of dawn. She persisted, despite her tiredness. With what little the locales said, the land had been long haunted before the European settlers arrived. But their insights were flawed; The land wasn’t haunted. She felt a large amount of mana equally distributed throughout, reminding her of her encounter with the windigo on a mountainside months ago. The morning light cracked through the trees, revealing the damp grounds. Just overhead were the mountains. She rested against a tree to admire the sight.

“She really left me behind,” she said. “Figures. I hope they didn’t get into any problems.”

Her ears perked to rustling bushes. She stood still with her eyes trailing toward the distant source. The strange disturbance happened, but she hadn’t sensed movement since she left. That’s when it clicked.

“That—Explains why the forest was so damned quiet,” she muttered.

Heavy movement crunched against the mixture of wet and dry leaves. The hulking beast walked on its four legs, clearly towering Enne at 12 feet. The bear’s appearance had altered significantly from its original form. Its body convulsed and emitted a strange rattling sound. Its matted fur cracked from its opening, revealing its pulsating blue veins. Tendrils also wafted around from the slots, like sensors. Its glazed-over bluish eyes were set on her. Its growl distorted lowly.

“I’ve always wondered what a full-formed necro-bear looked like,” she whispered. “Only if Allie could see this.”

It stood on its hind legs to bellow out a horrific roar. Enne took to the forest’s thicket, making it harder for it to reach her. Its footsteps shook the trees and land, cracking off branches with each tread. She looked over her shoulder to see it was still keeping up. The bear’s paws clawed into the treeline, flinging large chunks of wood in her direction. The trees she ran between caught most of it while the rest ripped through. Enne slid, ducking before they pierced the ground’s surface. It let out a low bellow as it watched from afar. Enne gazed back at its lifeless eyes.

I could burn this entire forest down, but— Enne thought about how to rid the bear. She never had to contend with a fully infected bear during her whole life at home.

It snorted while it continued around the perimeter. Enne looked toward the north. It was the only way to proceed, but she wasn’t sure how the rebels could fight it off if she stumbled upon them. She bolted away, cutting through a leaf-covered trail and jumping over fallen logs. The trembling earth marked its proximity.

If I keep running, I’ll only lead it to them. Enne conceded. She slowed down when she reached a lightly dense area with dead trees. A sudden shift in the air triggered her reflexes. The bear’s massive body flung at her when she spun away. Her landing was botched, but she quickly recovered. Despite its hefty appearance, it moved quicker than she imagined. She used the nearby trees to keep it at bay, though it easily tore through them. Enne swindled a branch off the ground while holding her momentum.

The branch began charging energy. She threw herself over a log and evaded its bone-crunching swipe. She rolled away before the log shifted onto her. Her body tumbled down the hill, breaking sapling before slamming into a tree. Enne caught her breath, clutching the developing branch that slowly formed into a bow. The log quickly descended, tumbling aimlessly in her direction. She quickly swung behind the tree, feeling the brunt of the log as she fell forward.

“Fuck,” she muttered.

Enne got onto her feet while the trees came crashing down. The bear scrambled after her, frothing from the mouth. It leaped after her, but she evaded to the side when it razed the hillside. The cluttered environment didn’t give the bear to do much as it slowly treaded toward her. The bow finally formed into its glorious hue. It tried to rush her before being slowed down by the thick trees. Its weight chipped away against them before it forced itself through. Enne took the high ground, pivoting against the trees to build upward momentum. As she flipped over, she drew the invisible bow. With the amount of mana in the forest, it was easy to summon the arrow.

An explosion followed after letting go of the arrow. A brilliant shade of green consumed the land, kicking up dirt below her. During her slow descent, she glimpsed a disturbance within the uniformed layer of smoke. The bear sprung at her with its massive paw, ready to swipe her down, and she couldn’t move away in time.

Crap. Her eyes widened.

The bear’s nails slashed against the side of her waist, sending her spinning away to the top of the hill. Enne slammed through multiple tree tops before landing at the foot of a rotted stump. She lost the bow during her tumble, and the bear was quick to capitalize on her wounded state. Her dress was drenched with blood. Enne’s hands trembled when she tried to reach for it. She was too exhausted to heal herself. Her eyes shifted to the approaching footsteps. The fog hid the massive silhouette. Enne scrambled out of sight, clutching her wound. Its distorted growl disturbed the silent aftermath. She hid behind a set of collapsed trees.

How the hell did it take a direct hit? Enne wondered. Looking ahead, she made out what appeared to be a structure. There wasn’t a chance she could fight in her current state, and the bear’s sniffing suddenly became a timer.

She moved as swiftly as she could while minimizing her presence. The lumbering beast wandered through the waning thicket. When she reached the structure, she discovered a cabin that hardly survived the centuries of abandonment. She nudged the door open, looking over her shoulder before entering. After closing the door, she found herself in a covert space. Everything was connected and in ruins. The cool air entered through the broken windows throughout. Her body shuddered, reminding her of her wound.

Enne sat on a nearby chair, keeping an eye out the window. She reached for her wound, tearing her rip a little more to reveal the deep wound. Though she remained calm, her heart beat faster when feeling her warm blood. She couldn’t tell whether she had become infected. Since necrobytes had overtaken the bear, its claws likely had traces of its infection. Would healing work at all? The wound began to sting when she adjusted. She covered her mouth, nearly letting out a yelp. Her heavy pants were quickly reduced to shallow breathing after glimpsing the wide window by her.

Why hasn’t it come for me yet? Enne wondered. She redirected her attention to her wound. Holding her hands a few inches away from it, energy began to envelop her fingertips. The soothing aura eased the uncomfortable sensation. However, after a few seconds, she realized her wound hadn’t even begun to heal.

“It’s—not healing,” she whispered. Her low, quivering voice carried with it uncertainty. “No, no. But…”

She felt her wound, now crusted over into a black stripe. Her eyes strained to the texture, reminiscent of her markings and scaley thigh. Enne looked out the window, finding the fog subsiding through the morning sun. The bear wasn’t too far as it sniffed its way toward the cabin. Something clicked within as Enne stood. Her healed scab emitted a dull pain, bearable compared to how she felt earlier. Enne exited through the backdoor, intentionally making noise when she slammed through. The bellowing didn’t stop her as she escaped into the trail and didn’t need to look back as she heard it quickly approaching.

“Come on, come on!” she yelled, enraging it further.

Enne scaled the slope, using her momentum to bounce against its rocks and downed trees. She sprung through the treetops before landing on cracked pavement. She ignored the loud flatbed approaching, noticing before she could move. In vain, she tried to jump over it but slammed onto the hood and over its roof. Her tumble ended when she slipped into the back. Her head rested against warmth despite the chilly environment. When Enne opened her eyes, Alejandro gazed at her.

Hello, you fool, I love you!

“By god,” Extendo shouted over the radio. “Is she dead? She just came outta nowhere!”

“No,” Salem moaned. “Turn it off already! All these old tunes—”

“I can’t! She hit the flatbed so hard I can’t turn it off!”

I had to jump in my car~

“A—Allie?” she gasped. Enne was at a loss for words. “I can explain everything! I know I really screwed up—”

Alejandro’s lowly chuckle made her at ease as her thoughts trailed off. Salem looked on, equally as confused as Enne. His eyes fixated on the greenery behind them and the beautiful red hues of the morning sun. Concrete razed from some violent impact. A towering creature glared back at him. He looked upon Enne, realizing he covered her mouth from whatever excuse she had.

This is my favorite song! Enne thought as her ears perked.

Don’t need a book of wisdom.

“You’re popular wherever you go,” he sighed. Enne smiled back.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Salem asked before pointing at whatever was chasing them. “And what the hell is that?”

“A necro-bear,” Alejandro and Enne replied simultaneously. Their energies contrasted the other.

“And it looks fully infected too,” the wanderer noted.

“A what?” Extendo asked while looking through the rearview window. “Oh, hell! That ain’t no bear!”

“Its composition is all the same—”

“Nobody cares!” Salem yelled. “Is there a way to kill this thing?”

Enne glimpsed the explosive symbol on the crates before looking toward Alejandro. The wanderer looked to the driver, who awaited their response. He shook his head.

She’s the heart of the funfair.

“Oh, hell no!” he replied. “That’s all that shipment we’ve got left!”

“There’s not gonna be a damned thing if kills us!” Enne came into view. Alejandro felt the large gash against her waist when he felt it.

“En, what happened here?” he asked.

“We’ll talk about that later. It’s gaining on us!”

And she’s all mine, my magic friend!

Enne grabbed a few of the grenades and lobbed them at the bear. They watched as the grenades stuck to their matted fur. Salem sighed, handing over the grenade launcher to Enne. The flatbed decelerated after a sharp shift in momentum. Alejandro looked over, noticing Extendo’s panic. Enne grinned when she looked at the unloaded weapon before looking at their pursuer.

She’s a child of the sun.

“What’s going on?” Alejandro asked. Extendo tried to turn the ignition several times. “Hey—”

“Now isn’t a good time for this piece of shit to fry on us!” he replied.

“Can we shut this dumb song off?” Salem yelled over the song’s whistling chorus. “Totally inappropriate!”

Don’t need no fortune teller

To know where my lucky love belongs

“En! Not at close—” Alejandro looked over to a blind flash.

When the light subsided, the back of the flatbed caught on fire while the trio in the back was unscathed. The well-timed mana shield shattered into the air. The bear tumbled away in a ball of flames but didn’t lie still. It chased after them with its sudden burst of speed.

And we’re all magic friends.

Enne expected as much as she snatched a piece of metal from her surroundings. Salem gasped when she watched the small object transform into a majestic bow. Enne’s lips pursed when she glanced upon the seer. She raised her bow, readying another arrow as it absorbed the surrounding mana.

“Time to slow this jack—” Enne shuddered when she heard metallic whistling.

“What the hell is that?” Extendo asked. “Oh god! This thing is going to die on us, and I’ve got no shipment and a used grenade launcher.”

“That should be the least of your worries,” Alejandro sighed.

Be the joyrider, ow~

I’ll take you on a sky ride

The snallygaster emerged over the treetop, letting out its horrid screech and circling them as they came close. And in a fell swoop, it dove into its massive body, piercing its thick hide with ease. The winged creature pierced the matted flesh with tendrils from its mouth. Enne realized it was absorbing it before disappearing around the road’s curvature.

Who Rox you like a baby

“That—happened so fast,” Salem said.

“A friend of yours, Miss Silver Elf?” Extendo asked. Enne shook her head as she sat against a crate. “Ah, shit… We may have to go on foot!”

Alejandro sat next to her to admire the sunrise. Though he was annoyed by everything she’d done, he missed her too much to reprimand her at that moment. Enne felt his warm hands on hers. She looked to find a warm, tired smile beneath his beard. She leaned against him without uttering a word.

She says, hello, you fool, I love you

C’mon, join the joyride

Be a joyrider

The flatbed came to a sudden halt with black smoke rising from the engine. Extendo sighed loudly, though no one moved.

“All right,” he said. “This joyride is over.”

“Yeah,” Salem agreed. “What a dumb song.”

Roxxette's "Joyride" is so catchy! Therefore, it was hard for me not to include it. This was a pretty fun chapter to write! It was a chaotic process. I hope you enjoyed it! Comment/feedback is always appreciated! Leave a like!