This chapter was interesting to write. I struggled with the first half, and then the second half just flowed.
I know it's a short chapter, but I just really felt like stopping it there. :)
6 : The Raging
Flight felt a thrill of excitement. Her tail wagged vigorously. "We did it..." she whispered. "We found Saruma, and now we're going to walk with her, and she's going to save us..." Her voice faded away until she was rambling on inside her head. She stayed in a sort of dazed state for a few minutes while the others got over their own excitement and stared at her, wondering what she was doing.
The unnerving pressure of lupine eyes boring into her finally broke Flight from her reverie, and she flinched back from the others as if in fear. When she realized that nothing was wrong, she still kept her ears and tail down, but in embarrassment rather than submission.
"Well, should we go?" offered Song. His tone was edged with something that told Flight he felt awkward. Suddenly she felt awkward, too.
Saruma cocked her head. "How about 'Why shouldn't we'?" she answered with a fanged grin.
"I have an idea," Flight announced. "Saruma, can you and perhaps Caelum just turn into birds or things that can fly and fly to the fire? It would be faster and safer."
"Oh, that's a useful idea," said Caelum. "It seems simple enough, I'm surprised we didn't think of it."
"Well, we haven't been thinking about this very long..."
"Ah. True." The wind spirit flicked an ear in acknowledgement.
Saruma snorted. "Let's be off already!" Caelum leaned back a bit in surprise, but he just replied with a simple "Alright" and a wave of his tail. Then the two spirits morphed into their avian forms and were off.
The other three wolves stared after them. Leaf wore a rather disgruntled expression. "That was a rather unsatisfying climax for our journey," she growled.
"That wasn't even a climax," responded Flight. "The climax is going to happen without us. Although, our journey wasn't particularly epic enough to actually /have/ a climax..."
Hoping to appear as the sensible one, Song interrupted, "Well, if we want to have any sort of climax at all, we should all be well-rested when we face it."
"Oh come on," Flight teased. "You make it sound like a bad thing."
"But climaxes are usually battles and things, and people get killed..."
"We aren't talking about a story-like climax, brother. We were just hoping for some sort of momentous event to happen. Oh well."
As the three wolves bedded down for the night, a sprinkling rain cloud passed overhead. The light dusting of water soon turned to a shower, and after a few short minutes strengthened to a deluge. The wolves squirmed and wriggled closer to the trunk of their den-tree, twitching whenever stray drops of water fell through the tree and onto them.
Despite their discomfort, they managed to fight their ways into sleep, and the storm drifted away.
The morning dawned gray and cool. Not to mention wet.. As Flight wandered into awareness, the first thing she became aware of was the heaviness of her damp fur.
"Blast it," she muttered.
She recalled the fire. How could it survive in this weather? She hoped dearly that Saruma had succeeded. Fervently she wished that Saruma would appear soon and tell her how it had gone.
Song and Leaf seemed to be sleeping soundy still, so Flight took the freedom to go off, relieve herself, and then meander aimlessly throughout the field. During the time she was out, her shadow shortened to about a quarter its former length. As soon as she realized this, she hustled back to the den-tree.
She could make out the figures of two wolves standing up as she approached the tree: Song's light shape and Leaf's dark one. But... there seemed to be something in the trees, moving slightly. Was that... a wolf? Yes, a bright white wolf. Caelum? Was Saruma there, too? She quickened her pace to a trot, eager to hear the news.
Her hope fell apart when she saw the tiny battered body of a starved-looking Saruma, crumpled at Caelum's feet.
Saruma was without a scratch, but her fur was dull, bent and bedraggled. Her gazed eyes flickered open for a moment. She grunted in acknowledgement to Flight, and then her body went completely limp.
Flight was speechless. Her mouth kept opening and closing as she tried to ask questions.
"Killed," came Caelum's answer to the silent inquiry. "Her other body was killed. Perhaps I should start at the beginning again."
The white wolf sat down and stared at Flight with eyes both stern and sorrowful. "Do you mind?"
Flight could only nod.
Caelum took a deep breath and began.
"There's the fire!" Caelum shrieked. "By the stars, that's massive."
Saruma's wings stopped flapping for a moment as the shock hit her. "That is. Especially with this weather, it couldn't possibly be a normal wildfire... but..."
The two birds dove down into the trees and transformed into cats. They would need tough but agile forms for dealing with this fire. Saruma began drawing upon her spiritual energy. She would first need to restrain the fire so it couldn't grow, and then draw its power out so it would fall and die out. She closed her eyes and concentrated on her task. She sharpened her focus so much that she felt the entire world fall away until only she and the fire were left.
The conflagration was enormous compared to her body. But usually she, being the fire spirit, felt large in comparison to the fire. This fire was big to the point where it had at least as much energy as she did. It must have stretched miles. It felt like even the charred forest left in its wake still burned, as if the fire refused to let go of the land it had claimed.
"How unusual," Saruma muttered.
Finally she got the ward placed around the fire. It roared in defiance against the containing walls of energy. She started trying to draw the energy from the fire.
Normally she could suck out the energy with ease. It would just come to her. This time, however, the fire refused to relent. It wouldn't die down at all. It was like trying to pull an elephant by the tail. It didn't work.
Worry sprouted within her, and that soon gave way to anxiety and even a bit of rash anger. "Come on, flames!" she hissed.
She grew vaguely aware of a voice in the distance. Not the fire's growl, but an actual voice from an actual throat. "Saruma!" it called. "Saruma! Run!"
Suddenly the world was all around her, and something bright white took up most of her field of vision. "Caelum?" she asked, half dazed, as her mind caught up with her body.
Caelum ran behind the fire spirit and began shoving her flank. "Get moving! We're being attacked!"
Saruma still wasn't able to act fast enough. Rather dulled and weakened by using so much power to trap the great fire, she could hardly comprehend the situation. Herself and the fire were still the only things real to her. Even when a cream-colored horse reared up to attack her, she still didn't move. Only when the horse's hooves fell and crushed her skull into the ground did she begin to get an idea of what was actually happening.