Cloud Flute: Part Seven
Lae closed her eyes, preparing for the worst. This was it, she was at the end of her journey and nothing would follow this plight...
A vicious howl reached her ears. Daring to open her eyes to slits, she saw Vacerus reel back, shaking his mighty head in frustration.
Laerya had no idea what just happened, but when she opened her eyes fully she saw Akorri in front of her, cursing and clutching his fist. How had Akorri managed to get in front of her? Had he powered through the Demon Breath to strike Vacerus? If so, that was a demonstration of extreme will power; Lae herself couldn't do it. In spite of everything, she felt respect for the Xweetok growing inside her.
"Fool," Lorelei spat. "You can hold Vacerus off, but he'll still get you."
Akorri whirled round to face Lae. Her mouth fell open as she saw the furious expression on the Xweetok's face – she'd never seen Akorri this angry. She felt as though his red eyes pierced her skin as he glared at her. "I'm sorry, Laerya," he rasped. "Run back to the others, get them to help. I'll hold Vacerus off."
Laerya could hardly believe what she was hearing. She'd never known Akorri could be so selfless. For a second, she was seriously convinced that Akorri was joking, but the expression on his face had not abated after a moment's passing. "I... I can't let you do that!" Laerya protested, feeling her heart drop.
"Don't argue," Akorri pressed. Amidst the anger, there was slight awe on his face, too, as if he'd just realized something important.
From the corner of her eye Lae saw Vacerus's tail swinging towards them. With the reflexes of a well-trained young Cybunny, she grabbed Akorri and pulled him towards her as she ran, narrowly avoiding the Draik's thick tail; it whisked past her at a tremendous force.
"Akorri, you can run with me to get the others," Lae suggested breathlessly. "I can pull you along, it'll be no problem, I'm still fast even when I'm holding you."
"No," Akorri protested. "I can't run away anymore, Laerya."
Laerya actually barreled Akorri over to avoid Vacerus's tail hitting them again. She rolled away and bounced up, trying to catch her breath. Akorri stood up more slowly.
"I've been running away for years now," Akorri continued, speaking faster. "Laerya, I live in a hole in the Haunted Woods, hoarding treasure that I stole from various figures of authority. A couple of years ago I ran away from friends when they needed me most. I hid during a battle and left them to fend for themselves."
Akorri jumped lithely away as Vacerus's tail swung again; Lae was already well out of range, straining to catch Akorri's confession. She wondered why he was telling her this.
"Only recently a friend disappeared before my eyes and I could do nothing but watch her," the Xweetok growled, speaking so fast Lae thought that if he quickened his speaking pace any more she wouldn't be able to understand him. "I've been feeling so helpless and pitiful that I've resorted to putting everyone around me down."
Vacerus snarled as his tail missed Akorri and Lae once more. Lae wondered how long they could keep this up.
"I'm sick of myself." Akorri clenched his fist. "I'm not running anymore." He was shaking, though with fear or fury, Lae did not know.
"Isn't that heartwarming?" Lae forgot that Lorelei was there, listening to every word, flying daintily away from Vacerus's tail each time it crashed towards her. "It's a shame you realized everything too late, Red Rogue. This is it for you."
"No, it's not!" Lae cried, heartened by Akorri's honesty. He'd just spilled his life out to her in the heat of battle, and her respect for him grew stronger still. They were going to do this; they were doing to get out of this mess. How, Lae didn't know, but she clung to this newfound hope.
Lorelei grinned darkly. "There's no way you'll be able to get out of this."
The next time Vacerus swung his tail, Akorri punched it hard, causing the Draik to roar in pain.
Laerya, pushing her fear to the back of her mind, ran straight at Vacerus, jumped up and kicked his chest with such a force that she felt Vacerus recoil.
"He's going to overpower you," Lorelei sneered as she watched Akorri and Lae fight back.
Several minutes of Lae's kicking and Akorri's punching proved ineffective; Vacerus only grew angrier, his attacks becoming fiercer each time he tried to strike.
Laerya, feeling the exhilaration of battle flow through her, leapt up and belted Vacerus again, narrowly avoiding the Draik's snapping jaws.
Her breath was coming in shallow gasps; time had slowed down; her legs felt they would give way under her due to the force of her kicks. Never had she been in a battle that lasted this long without a change in the enemy's condition, and this discouraged her immensely. All the spirit she'd felt when Akorri spoke up had dissipated, leaving a tired, breathless Cybunny in its wake.
So absorbed she was in her dismay that she didn't see Vacerus's tail hurtling towards her. She only had time to gasp before the tail collided with her torso, flinging her off the ground, causing her to fly in midair and then crash as she landed. Pain exploded in her body and she lay there, winded, her mind wrapped in despair.
"Laerya!" Was that Akorri's voice Lae heard? It sounded panicked, distressed... she wondered why...
She should give up now... there was no why she and Akorri were going to bring down the mighty Vacerus... The odds were against them... violence wouldn't finish the beast...
No, not violence... Lae was quickly gaining a sensible train of thought. "Music..." she murmured, though she wasn't sure why. "Music would soothe his temper..." And then it came to her. Fericeus's words flashed in her mind, causing her to sit up stiffly. The beautiful tune immediately slowed the Draik's ferocious onslaught.
"The Cloud Flute!" Laerya watched as Akorri tried to run towards her, but was blocked by Vacerus's tail. She turned her eyes to Lorelei, grinning as she saw the light blue flute held loosely in the Bori's hand.
She lifted herself off the ground, jumped past Vacerus's tail and almost slammed into Akorri in her haste to reach him. "Akorri, the story of Vacerus," she hissed so Lorelei would not hear, just as quickly as Akorri had spoken earlier. "It says that music from the Cloud Flute will put him to sleep."
"Wait, what? What flute?" Akorri's bemused expression irritated Lae.
"The flute in Lorelei's hand," Lae explained impatiently, dodging a swipe from Vacerus's claws. "The one you stole from the Faerieland gallery. It'll put Vacerus to sleep if we play it."
"But I don't know how to play the flute!" Akorri replied.
"It doesn't matter, we just need to get it." Lae titled her head towards Lorelei. "See if you can grab the flute from the Bori. I'll distract Vacerus."
The Akorri Lae had known before this battle would have immediately turned down the idea; however, the Xweetok merely nodded and turned to face Lorelei. Lae smiled in surprise and turned to face her own obstacle.
Vacerus loomed up at her, his teeth bared in a snarl. His white scales shone in the sunlight – if Laerya didn't have to face up to the Draik, she would have marveled once more at his frightening splendor.
"You look like something out of NeoQuest," Lae contemplated aloud.
Vacerus growled in response, opening his mouth to spit flames. Laerya jumped to the side to avoid the fire, though she was so close she could feel the searing heat.
From behind her she heard Akorri's confident challenge, "Stop flying up there like a coward and come and face me yourself, you second-rate witch!"
Lae grinned with satisfaction as she dodged Vacerus's fire again, hearing Lorelei's livid voice, "You think I'm second-rate? You'll pay for that bravado, Red Rogue!"
Daring to turn around to see how Akorri's match would fare, Lae saw the faerie Bori land on the ground in front of Akorri, her fists alight with purple magic. Without giving Akorri a chance to move, a beam of purple light fired straight towards him.
Lae didn't think about what she was doing. It was as though her mind was elsewhere and her body was acting of its own accord. She felt herself pushing Akorri out of the way and the purple beam struck her, knocking the breath out of her and disabling the use of her limbs. She couldn't move. She stood on the spot, the magic crackling over her fur.
"What did you do that for?" Akorri yelled angrily.
Lae couldn't speak. She glanced from Akorri to the flute in Lorelei's hand, hoping in earnest that the Xweetok would take the hint.
Lorelei was confused, but it wasn't long before that twisted smile snaked across her face. "Want to save your friend's skin? How noble of you."
Laerya was aware that Vacerus had stopped attacking. It seemed that he, too, was interested in this sudden turn of events.
Lae felt like screaming at Akorri. Get a move on! she urged him with her mind. Hurry up, stop being so slow and grab the stupid flute!
It looked as though Akorri got the gist of Laerya's wild eye signals. Without warning he thumped Lorelei's head; the Bori staggered back at the impact, thoroughly winded. Akorri wrenched the flute out of Lorelei's hand and immediately bolted towards Vacerus.
When Lae tried to move her legs, she found that she could; she ran after Akorri, figuring that Lorelei had cast a temporary stunning spell on her. If Akorri had been hit, he would have been at the mercy of Lorelei's magic. Laerya was glad she'd taken it upon herself to block him and get hit instead, though she wasn't sure why she'd done it.
"You two aren't going anywhere!" Lorelei screamed. Lae latched onto Akorri and thrust him out of the way of the purple beam hurtling towards them. She saw the light stream right past her head, scorching the grass.
"Akorri, you have to play the Cloud Flute now!" Lae commanded urgently, feeling the outcome of the battle hanging precariously in the balance. If Akorri didn't play now, there was a chance he wouldn't ever be able to.
With Laerya still clinging tightly to him, Vacerus preparing to attack and Lorelei trying to launch another stunning beam, Akorri hastily put the flute to his lips and blew.
To be continued...