I toiled and fretted about this one because it reveals something about Luke Callindor that I’ve never mentioned on the blog. Yet, we’re at the end of the road and I can’t show how he’ll be starting this story without his voices. The details are still in the dark, but this definitely holds some spoilers. It was either this or part of the final battle, but I feel that should be left secret more than this internal confrontation.
Luke’s back arches at the sensation of keen steel slicing across his stomach, the thin blade hidden by the shadows. Feeling around his body, the half-elf is convinced that he has been gutted even though he cannot find the wound. A hot pain runs across his neck and he drops to the floor, his hands scrambling to hold the fresh gash closed. Like before, his flesh is intact and the phantasmal agony vanishes completely after a few seconds. He refuses to move out of fear of being attacked again and depends on his sound sight to locate his enemies. Nothing appears even when he hears the flapping of wings and faint footsteps. An explosive boom rattles Luke’s senses and sends him crawling toward a corner that grows out of the darkness. Curling into a ball, he shields his face from the ghostly forms that materialize around him.
“This is pathetic,” the Sword Dragon growls, his metallic head hovering over the forest tracker. The rest of its body remaining in the shadows, the creature’s solid tail can be heard thudding against the ground. “Even in a dream, he is crumbling. I understand that he has suffered greatly, but now is not the time to be so weak. How can he defeat his enemies if he is going to cry at the sight of his own shadow?”
“Feed him a rat,” Pike suggests, the snake fiend slithering across the floor. His forked tongue lances out to taste a familiar scent in the air. “Think someone out there. Might not have much time in here.”
“Both of you be quiet,” Lucy says as she lands next to Luke. The griffin puts a wing over the warrior while Stiletto appears to comfort his old friend with a few licks to the face. “We need to be patient and recover our own energies. It is not like any of us are at full strength after what we went through. Luke will need our power when he faces the Baron. Possibly even the nameless beast who refuses to stay in his cage.”
The Sword Dragon bares his teeth at the griffin and lets a trickle of molten rock fall from his mouth. “A sparrow should not mouth off to a hungry falcon. Besides, I will only help if I see a reason to and this child has proven he can handle me. My interest in this fight has nothing to do with the Baron, but with my host’s strength. If he fails to impress me then I will take over and show all of you what real power can do.”
“All well and good, but you still need to let him heal,” Lucy argues as her body grows large enough to dwarf the construct. Spreading her wings and rearing back, she creates a circle of light that reveals the ruined village surrounding them. “Always remember that we die with Luke Callindor. Bluster and brag as much as you want, but never put us at risk. Be thankful that you are allowed to roam instead of being locked away again.”
“I will share my utter joy at being in a slightly larger birdcage when that pesky telepath returns,” the dragon retorts with a smoke-spewing snort. Moving back into the remaining shadows, the narrow-bodied creature runs its golden wings across a crumbled wall. “Do you truly believe he can recover? The one who holds his heart has been pushed away. The one who understands his pain is unsure of his sanity. You can sense that he has changed and may turn on the others just as easily. Imagine the disaster that will occur if he upsets the one who truly knows him.”
“Then we will endure.”
“You repeatedly let him make mistakes.”
Lucy flaps her wings and unleashes a shrieking roar before saying, “We are not the ones in control! Luke Callindor is our friend and master!”
“Only to those who are too weak to stand up for themselves.”
“Host waking up!” Pike screams before burrowing into the stone.