The first short story in the series that shall be called:
“How does it feel to watch your world die, fairy queen?” Reysombra’s peal of laughter loomed over the Valley of the Sun. His blood red robes shifted as he strode triumphantly forward, his hand tightened on the glaive. The blade at the end of the polearm pulsed with the charging magic siphoned from the fairy queen’s realm.
Queen Clematis’s crumpled wings failed to lift her. There was nowhere in the en-shadowed valley she could flee to now. Around her lay the bodies of brave denizens who had answered her desperate call. The good creatures of the forest … hundreds of fae folk, gnomes, fairies, centaurs, satyrs, it pained Clematis to gaze upon the bloodied corpse of the pure-hearted unicorn. If he continued to leech the power from the valley there would be nothing left.
Reysombra pointed the glaive at her. “I will crush this world as I have every other. There is no being in any known dimension powerful enough to face me. I’ve never even been properly challenged by a,” he showed air quotes, “champion of the realm. You have no hope.”
A bell tolled across the valley. The scouts she had sent back to the castle had succeeded.
It took everything she had to sit up, to press herself chest forward at the offending elf. “Looks like you’re wrong.” Grasping a small pin out of a belt pouch she held it up as it glowed. “Summoners of Sorrow, I call to thee in my moment of darkness! Hear my call and answer!”
The driving beat of Spirit of the Radio infected her through the earbuds from her MP3 player. Crystal loved the band named Rush from the moment she’d discovered it. The perfect soundtrack for her forays into the Science Olympiad team’s club room where she spent her hours after high school was over. She blew and popped a bubble from her gum as her ponytail bobbed against the back of her neck. She’d timed her experiment perfectly. The end of the song would coincide with the completion of the electrolysis session currently running the first separation gel on the lab counter under her watchful eye.
She was determined to be the biology division champ this year. No doubt few teams would have attempted extracting and amplifying dinosaur DNA. In a few hours after dying the gel she’d know if the test method worked, or it would be back to the drawing board.
Regardless of what happened today, she’d be just in time for this evening’s Cryptid Trappers role playing session, precisely as she planned.
Pulling a pair of pencils out of her jean jacket pocket she pounded out the rhythm on the edge of the lab counter, jamming to the lyrics. Sure, this was an older band her mom introduced her to, she’d never see them perform since the drummer had unfortunately passed away. The lyrics and the complexity of the music spoke to her. They were full of depth, challenging her to think, a sound track for her life.
The last beat hit the moment her timer went off. She switched off the power and transferred the gel over to the dye bath. “Alright. Now in a few hours … ”
Suddenly a glow on the lapel of her jean jacket caught her attention. A small silver pin in the shape of a fox blazed like it had an internal light.
“Great. What now?” She flicked the pin with a finger and instantly felt the pull through the dimensional rift.
In seemingly no time her hiking boots hit the ground of a forested valley. Or rather, what should have been forested. Someone had done a piss poor attempt at landscaping. In a broad circle some force had cut a vast swath of plant growth down and tossed it like tinder. Everywhere lay the twisted remains of creatures she knew by name from previous visits. It should have been daytime, but the Valley of the Sun was shrouded in darkness, a thick cover of clouds overhead.
Crystal snapped her gum as she took in the key figures in this. She knew Clematis, the fairy queen lay in a diminutive wreck at the feet of a towering elf wreathed in blood red robes wielding a large glowing glaive and cackling maniacally. With her hands in her pockets she shook her head. “Not fair to pick on the little folk, buddy.” She wasn’t certain if she knew his name she would even bother using it.
Cruel eyes turned her way. The elf barked a laugh. “Ha, a human? You summoned a human? This is your hope, queeny? A sprig of a girl? Against the all powerful Reysombra the Destroyer. Hah!”
Clematis smiled wearily. “Oh good, the spell summoned the power of the kitsune!”
“Kitsune?” Reysombra took a step toward Crystal as she stood with a cocked hip and disinterested expression. “Awwww, you summoned a cute wittle furry to kick my ass? How sweet.”
“Who you callin’ a furry?” She blew another bubble and popped it.
“You. You’re just some pathetic girl, what do you hope to be able to do against an army unto himself, a powerful near god like me.”
Crystal eyed Clematis and pointed with a thumb. “Near god? This guy? Really?”
“Come on, furball. Let’s see your delicate animal form so I can split it like a twig and make the queen of losers watch.” He laughed, holding his glaive over his head.
With a slow shrug, Crystal spat the gum out and locked eyes with him. “Alright, if you say so.” She snapped her fingers and all the warmth sucked out of the air. The girl’s form vanished into a black void. In an explosion a large black furred fox leapt out, nine tails lashing the air behind her. The maw opened revealing a set of savage teeth. She stood upright with a muscular core solid as an ironwood tree. Her mass leaned forward with two massive grasping paws ending in scythe-like claws.
Reysombra took a step back so as to take in the whole of her form. “Impressive. I was expecting something a little more curvy.”
“Curvy?” She snorted and flexed her claws. “You mean like these?”
“No, I mean like your hips, sweetheart.”
“Sweetheart? Isn’t that cute.” Her cobalt blue eyes gleamed in the darkness. “You really don’t know what you’re screwing with.”
“Like I need to be concerned. I am Reysombra the Destroyer.” He brandished his glaive in front of him and released the stored energy in a slicing blast.
In the flick of a tail the black furred body burst into dark flames, dancing with blue waves. The blast from Reysombra’s weapon passed right through the now ethereal form. She laughed, the sound thick through her fangs. “Pleased to meet you. I am Umbramortis, also known as the Hellfire Sorceress.”
He blinked, gaze switching between the glaive’s blade and the massive nine-tailed fox comprised of dark flames. “But how … why didn’t it … it should have cut you? That should have cleaved you like the forest!”
Umbramortis shifted a claw. “Well, if I had remained flesh it would have. Did I ruin your fun? Sorry about that.”
“There has to be a way to hurt you … everything has a weakness.” He sent another wave her way. And another. Each one harmlessly passed through.
“You know the definition of insanity.” She stalked toward him, smiling. “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. You can keep trying if you want. Eventually you’ll run out of power. I can wait.”
Reysombra gripped the glaive and swallowed the gorge rising in his gut. The more he stared into her blue burning eyes, the more his knees threatened to give out. How could you hit something that didn’t have substance?
“Finished with your tantrum? Good. Cause I got a thing about brutes coming into my friend’s realm and causing shit. And if that little tickle is the best you got? Wow … I mean they say to carry a big stick, but you know my philosophy is to just be the damn stick.”
In a straight lunge she barreled jaws first at him. He scrambled backward, slashing with the glaive but it passed right through her, leaving behind wisps of smoke.
“Gah! How did you—”
She turned around and her teeth tore the weapon from his hands and bit it half. With one massive paw she pummeled him across the ground. “Don’t tell me that toy was the only weapon you had. You are so outclassed.”
Reysombra landed in a singed muddle, rolling around to extinguish the hungry flames from his robes. Some of the flesh beneath it clearly burned. That was gonna leave a mark. Something told him by his awkward stance that bones had broken, but the adrenaline currently masked the pain. Never in all his lengthy centuries had someone turned the tables on him. How did this even happen? He’d conquered so many kingdoms before this, most of them bowed to him at the sound of his name. It took armies to stand up to him. That glaive was a legendary weapon from the deep realm of the beyond. And she’d snapped it like a twig.
“Wait,” he pointed with a trembling finger, “you were ethereal … how did you … my glaive … hit me … what?”
“Do I gotta teach you everything? Ever heard of a poltergeist?” She slashed a paw through him. “Ethereal.” Then she back pawed him sending him in another somersault. “Solid. It’s an at will thing even low level sorcerers can pull off. For me I’ve been doing it so long it barely takes a second thought.” She chuckled. “Once I did time it wrong and made it solidify in the middle of a target’s chest. Really bad day for that dude to have these suckers gut him from the inside.” Her claws clicked in succession. “I almost felt sorry for him—almost.”
Reysombra’s heart tried to escape his rib cage. “You’re a monster!”
“Oh, thank you for noticing.” She padded in a circle, daring to turn her back at him, all nine dark flamed tails lashing the air lazily. “I don’t think it’s fair that I have all the fun. Shall we start the party?” Umbramortis’s tails blazed bright blue as she raised her muzzle to the sky and released a piercing howl.
All around the glade they began to stir. The bodies of the slain denizens of the valley. Wreathed in dark smoke the unicorn slowly rose up, her horn and eyes glowed a deep purple. Hundreds of purple eyed creatures reassemble themselves and began to shuffle toward Reysombra with a clear purpose.
“Y—you can raise the dead?”
“I have an affinity for that, yes.” She laughed, long and cold. “Seems they want to play with you.”
He scrambled toward the broken end of the glaive, picking up the shaft with the blade. “No no, I have never known defeat.”
“Ehh, first time for everything.” She stalked forward, calling to the shuffling horde. “Take your vengeance against the one who slaughtered you.”
Fumbling with the weapon, he staggered back, giving ground. The glow of the blade sparked and sputtered, magic failing to build up and instead falling in useless globs at his feet. The makeshift undead army surrounded him, grasping hands and claws snagged on his robes as he tried to evade them. “You can’t do this.”
“Why ever not?” She flicked a tail nonchalantly. “Because I’m just a useless furry? Or because I’m a girl? Come come, explain to me why, I am exceedingly curious as to how you are reading this situation.”
“I’m supposed to win.” He threw himself into an awkward cartwheel, barely evading the charging unicorn.
“That’s not how evolution works.” She smiled, flashing her teeth. “Welcome to survival of the fittest. You’re about to become extinct.” Between her paws a massive ball of dark flames grew, time to send his ass to hell. “Hold him.”
Reysombra thrashed as the masses fell upon him. This was bad, very very bad! Only one way out and he hated to use it. But the last thing he wanted to know was what that happy flame ball would do to him. He grabbed a small charm on his bracelet and snapped it in two. In a flash of light he vanished.
Rays of sunlight spilled into the glade as the clouds dispersed.
Between her paws the fireball fizzled as she snorted. “No fair, he chickened out before I had a chance to roast him. No’well. At least the valley is safe.”
Clematis bowed before her. “Thank you, Umbramortis. We are indebted to a member of the Summoners of Sorrow for once again saving our world.”
She sucked on a tooth looking over the spoiled land. “Dang, fixing this isn’t my discipline. But no problem. I’ll chat with the others tonight in our session. I’m sure that’s in someone elses bag of tricks. Hrm, probably take two of them, really.”
“Oh uhh,” she sheepishly scratched her chin as she looked at the army of undead fae folk, “you want me to leave them for now? They can at least start the clean up. I mean, I wish I could bring them all the way back to life. But … you know … full reincarnation’s not in my spell set. I never heard the end of it the last time I tried.”
Clematis climbed up onto the head of the undead unicorn. “It’s all good. These guys can protect us for now.”
Closing her eyes, Umbramortis’s writhing dark flames evaporated, leaving behind the ponytailed girl in a jean jacket and hiking boots. She pulled out a fresh stick of gum and popped it into her mouth. “Kay, laters.”
The portal opened and swallowed her whole.
She emerged back in the Science Olympiad team’s lab to a message on her cell phone. Yo, Crystal. Forgot to remind ya, your turn to bring the munchies for game night! We’re gonna so blast through the next level of Cryptid Trappers. Can’t wait to wander the Valley of the Sun tonight. Summoners of Sorrow RULE!
She grinned and snapped a bubble from her gum, texting back. Got it. Might have to do a bit of restoration in the valley first. Some jacked up power junkie messed it up again.
The answer came swift. Oh yeah? You teach him not to screw with the resident bitch?
Crystal laughed. That fool played with fire in the dark and got burned.
More stories to come …