20 Feb

I dove into the water without much conscious thought. I only had one chance to escape before Rak was under her control. 

Dammit- Can’t we just catch a break?! First everything with that cloud guy, then the storm, now we’re having to fight this mind-controlling bitch? Fuck!

My rage mixed with the cold salty water pretty much shook off any grogginess from my time under her control. I took a double take at the jarring lack of the rest of the island, but before I could even ponder what it was that we’d landed on, a massive fin came barrelling straight for me. 

I just narrowly avoided it, the current created pulling me further down and spinning me around. 

Alright. I’m awake now. 

With a clear head, I swam underneath the bizarre creature. As I got closer to where I would return to the surface, I looked behind my shoulder for a brief moment to see Rak dive in after me.

Oh brother. This won’t be fun. 

I swam as fast as I could and managed to get back up to shore before he could catch up, taking the opportunity to use my powers. The familiar small flame appeared in the palm of my hand. I ran off into the protection of the jungle, using the flame to dry myself off. 

I ducked behind some trees, deep enough in the woods to give me good cover, but that also granted me a view of the shoreline. I waited for him to rise in the same spot I had while I tried to come up with some kind of plan. I needed to break the control the mysterious bird woman had on Rak-Li, but how? 

How had he broken it the first time?

He’d hit her with a blast of water that knocked her down, and she’d stopped singing. He must’ve broken her hold then.

I could still hear her singing, but the way the sound echoed around the island-sized creature made it near impossible to pinpoint. She was using that to her advantage, and keeping me at a distance. I felt the buzz creeping into my head again. 


I covered my ears. 

There was no way I’d be able to find her, not with Rak-Li under her spell. I had to keep my guard up, otherwise, I’d end up just like him again. 

Rak-Li hoisted himself up onto the shore and looked around, the salt water dripping off of him. 

There was no time, and no other choice. I’d have to deal with him before I’d be able to take her out. 

Before he knew what hit him, I powered up, my markings creeping over my arm. Without hesitation I blasted myself towards him, hitting Rak square in the jaw. He flew down the beach, hitting the sand with a nasty thud. For the moment, he was out cold.

I knew this wouldn’t last long. Without wasting a breath, blasted into the air, using the jets of fire from my palms to propel me. I looked all around the creature, but the feathered woman was nowhere to be found. The island was quiet, apart from the sound of the waves. 

She was hiding.

Curse the skies! She must’ve known I had knocked out her pawn and shut up. 

I would just burn down the entire thing, but of course the whole damn island was a living creature. Just great. When was there ever such an easy solution? 

Instead I gritted my teeth and flew above the trees and continued to scan for her. There really wasn’t any better choice. 

Her melody started up again, coming from the shore behind me.

I turned around just in time to see Rak hurtling towards me, propelled by a gigantic jet of water. He slammed right into my left side with his entire body sending me crashing back into the jungle. I managed to use my fire to cushion my fall before I hit the ground, and I landed on my feet.

I ran through the jungle towards the source of the singing- she was so close now. It felt like my consciousness was slowly being ripped away from me, and I covered my ears with my hands. If I could just take her out, I wouldn’t have to fight my friend any longer. 

I emerged from the forest and found myself back next to our ruined boat on the shore where we had first woken up. There she was, standing there with a wicked grin on her face. 

I went to hit her but suddenly my hands were wrenched behind my back and up; Rak had me pinned. I yelped, the pain ripping through my shoulders.

No matter how much I kicked and struggled, his grip on me was like stone. I never realized just how strong he was, but the difference between us was staggering.

The woman bubbled into velvety laughter. “You can’t run from your fate, little fire boy. All who invade Ceterra must nourish it with their lives.”

My eyes grew wide. She smiled charmingly. 

“Don’t worry, little one. It won’t hurt. You and your fish friend should be grateful to become part of something so much bigger!”

As the woman walked closer to me, she began to sing her song. 

My stomach churned. No other sound in this world filled me with such rage. I was unable to think of anything else. My mark burst alight, flames churning deep inside my body, beaconing to be released. I struggled and kicked against Rak once more, but he only pulled my arms up further, sending more searing pain through my back and shoulders. I stood up on my toes to try and relieve the tension, but he only lifted my arms higher. 

I was screwed. Done for. I squeezed my eyes shut, breathing raggedly. I felt her sharp talons as she gently touched my chin, dragging them down to my chest, right over my heart. 

No. This was not where my story would end. 

I screamed as loudly as I could, a raging inferno bursting from my lips. The fire engulfed her entire body: lighting every hair and feather, searing her flesh. Her guttural cries filled the air, her once sweet sound turned bitter and hoarse as the flames consumed her. She ran frantically towards the sea.

I felt Rak’s grip on me finally loosen and I fell away from him, running after the woman. I caught her right before she could launch herself into the water, and I threw her ass onto the shore with such force that it ripped my shoulder out of its socket. I cried out in pain, and that cry quickly turned into an enraged growl as I charged after her, arm limp at my side. Rak grabbed hold of me again, and I winced; his grip on my injured arm loosened, but he still wouldn’t let me go. 

We watched her burn. There was nothing she could do to save herself now. 

Once the flame finally stopped, she was dead; burned to a crisp. Rak finally let me go.

“I’m so sorry Aku. I fell under her control, and I hurt you.” Rak cursed himself. 

I took a shaky breath. “It's okay, Rak. If it weren't for you I would still be under her control.”

He sighed, watching as I tried to move my arm. The pain was unreal.

“Here, allow me.”

I let my good arm fall, and I felt him grab my bad elbow. Before I could even tense up he jerked my arm back into socket with one swift movement.

My scream rivaled that of the wench as she burned. 

“Thank you,” I said breathlessly. He nodded. 

“It’s unfortunate,” I continued, “I had to kill her before we could get any info. But with her singing I doubt we even would have been able to.”

“That’s true.” Rak said. 

“And aye, I also got to give you a nice punch to the face so- consider us even for the last fight.” I laughed.

Rak turned to the ashen corpse. “I wonder why a singular woman was just living on this island creature. Perhaps we’re getting closer to the mainland?” 

“I guess we'll find out soon enough. It seems to be going somewhere, so now that there are no more threats here, maybe we should keep riding this thing for a moon or two. See where we end up.”

“Sounds like a solid plan. I'll try and gather some food. Can you gather firewood and spot a place for us to camp?”

I nodded.

We walked in different directions, both of us wanting to get our tasks done quickly so we could relax after everything we’d been through. 

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