Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for violence.
I threw my arm forward, my foxfire roaring out in front of me like some wild animal straight for the two men.
The one in black cursed and shoved the older one behind him. “Stand back, Merlin! This thing is powerful.”
Hmm, he still seemed to think I was low enough to qualify as an ‘it’. How annoying. Oh, well, I suppose I had to prove him wrong. I would enjoy this greatly. I braced my hand into a claw and thrust it towards the two men.
A wild smile spread across my lips as the man in black cursed and had to use his sword to block my strike. My foxfire instantly shot around the edges of his sword and attempted to burn him into cinders.
That was it, no matter how much enchantment his light armor was riddled with, my fire could burn it away and turn him into ash and dust in seconds.
“Air! Burst!” He suddenly cried, his voice strong despite his imminent death. Then, the air in between us exploded out towards me, sending me flying back through the air. I hit the ground hard and rolled head over tail for a few feet until I dug my claws into the soft earth and skidded to a stop.
Growling, I hissed at the two men. What the heck was that magic? It was like no other I’ve ever seen, besides that, how did that human use it in the first place? Humans couldn’t use magic that powerful, they weren’t like the other Supernaturals.
“Excellent as always, Sir Percival,” said the old man, sounding extremely glad to see me sent flying. Stupid geezer, I wanted to kill him just for that. “Your spellwork even puts mine to shame.”
Spellwork? A human!? That arrogance. I seethed with rage and humiliation. Both at being so thoroughly beaten by that spell, and at the idea of a human using magic like that.
Humans were the lowest of the low, even bugs were more powerful than them. They didn’t deserve the respect of the Supernaturals, they didn’t deserve my mercy. Tyr, Emily, and Fen were exceptions to the rule. Humans who had managed to break free from the chains of their mundaneness. These humans were fakers, weaklings. And I would revel in destroying their sense of power.
It didn't matter to me how much false power they had, I had fought powerful magical creatures as well. A magic-imbued human was no different. “Well, now,” I laughed, my words coming out broken though my sharp fangs as I staggered to my feet. “I guess I underestimated you humans. Who knew you had access to such power. What did you do to achieve it, I wonder.” False, wrong, pathetic. The words burned in the back of my throat, aching to be let out. I bit them down and away. I would show them the truth of their powerlessness in due time.
I would make sure of it.
Without warning, flames sprung up at the feet of Percival and Merlin, the blue fire licking at their clothes and skin like a faithful pet. Merlin cried out and slammed his staff into the ground, a protective bubble rising around him. Hmm...that would take my flames a while to work through. Oh, well, more time for me to deal with this annoying Sir Percival.
Percival waved his hand and the flames suddenly went out with barely a whisper. Interesting, so he could do that as well. Maybe this would turn out to be more fun than I first expected. He leapt forward, his swords pulled back and slashed at me. I met his steel with my claws, the impact sending sparks flying. Our weapons locked together, each of us struggling to gain the upper hand over the other. Luckily for me, I was a lot stronger than my small physique might suggest.
Slower than it should have for a human, I overcame his strength and pushed him down. Something out of the corner of my eye caught my attention and I leaped into the air in time for a spear of earth to stab into the air right where I once was. I flipped in the air and sent orbs of foxfire flying at Percival. He couldn’t turn in time and the fire engulfed him.
But just like the last time, his powers somehow extinguished them before they could burn him away. Still though, it was obvious I was doing damage to him. His clothes were singed and his armor was blackened in spots. He staggered to his feet, his skin somehow not showing any form of injury from my flames.
Was it possible that, on top of his unnatural magical powers, that he also had some sort of regeneration? Could humans even gain that sort of power without selling their souls to a powerful Supernatural? I had no idea, but I was going to find out.
“You are unusually strong for a human,” I smiled at Percival. The sight of a grin like mine of the body of a child must have frightened him enough that he took a step back from me. I didn’t blame him, I wasn’t natural to humans, it was only instinct for them to fear a being like me. “Might you tell me how you gained power like that.”
“I am the Champion,” Percival replied, holding out one midnight sword pointed straight at me.
I pursed my lips together. Champion? Champion of what? Maybe he was one of the Indebted, after all. A human who had sold their soul for power, they were rare, but not impossible to come across. The only issue was that I hadn’t heard anything of one of the Dues Kings or their generals taking on a new human in recent times. It was a point of boasting for the high-ranking Supernaturals, another sign of their superiority over the human race. Well, whatever, I would ask Percival when I had beaten him.
A quick glance to the side proved that the old man was still trying his hardest to ward off my flames, but they were steadily burning their way through his enchantments. Humanity could send a thousand magicians my way and I could kill each and every one of them without batting an eye. They were no threat to me.
Percival, on the other hand, was more of a bother than that ancient magician. His defense against my flames was not optimal, though I could work around it. I flicked out my fingers and used another one of my powers. Seeing that my foxfire wasn’t going to work as well as I would like, it was time to use one of the aces in my deck.
Suddenly, replicas of me fanned out from either side of me, creating more and more in their wake as they circled Percival. His eyes bugged out as he turned a slow circle to see all of my doubles.
All the Valarians smiled as one. Large, wicked smiles, much too big and toothy for any human to ever show.
This particular trick was another of my abilities. Illusion magic, one of the powers of the Four Ancient Foxes. One I didn’t use very much due to personal issues with it, but still effective regardless. These illusions would have but a fraction of my total power, but it would still be enough to overwhelm Percival. Though he may be a Champion or whatever, he was still human.
Humans were so fragile.
As one, the Valarians sprung forward, a wave of foxfire and claws, all aimed for the knight in the center, all aimed to kill.
Until Percival pointed one of his swords into the air and called to the heavens like he was praising whatever god the humans worshipped. “Lightning! Destroy my foe!”
Lightning, so reminiscent of the thunderbird’s feathers, arced down from the sky in terrible glory with his words. It struck down every one of my illusions with brutal accuracy, shattering them back to the mists they were spawned from. Dang it, so he could do that too. Wish away my flames, control the earth and air, and now lightning. How could this human get so much power? I had to know!
Luckily enough for me, however, my doppelgangers served as the perfect distraction. He had been so busy with them, he hadn’t noticed the second illusion I had cast. A cover spell, rendering me totally invisible. If it had been him and me one-on-one he likely would have noticed my presence sneaking up on him, however, dealing with my copies had distracted him enough for me to get behind him.
I pounced. My clawed hand shot through Percival’s armor and flesh alike, until I was wrist deep in his torso, my hand clenched around his heart. He choked, gargling as blood rushed up his throat from his busted lungs. His knees gave out from underneath him, and only my hand was keeping him from face planting into the dirt. Seemed whatever regeneration had protected him from my flames could do nothing to heal him from this wound.
No matter the power the humans seemed to have, they were still the weakest creature on these Great Worlds. So easy to kill, all you had to do was crush a few organs or create a big enough wound and they would bleed out. Wait a few years and they would die of old age. Expose them to a disease and they would sicken and die. Humans were so very fragile, it was almost laughable.
“So,” gargled the warrior as death slowly crept up on him. I was surprised he was still alive, actually. Whatever healing powers protected him from my flames must have been prolonging this agony for him. “This is where I die. I’m sorry my lord, I failed to give you the power of the Holy Grail.”
I tensed involuntarily, my hand squeezing his heart a little too hard. He jerked in pain, I barely noticed. These humans were after the Holy Grail!? What insanity possessed them to go after that artifact?!
According to legends I had heard, the Holy Grail was an ancient artifact forged when the worlds first sired life. An amalgam of all magics, it was said to hold unimaginable power. If humans got the power bestowed by that legendary grail, then it could upset the entire balance of the Great Worlds forever.
Then another thought hit me. Was this why the Great Beasts were so angry? If humans got that power and the Balance was upset that way, then the disparage between then and now would be greater than any bloodshed the Supernaturals could ever create on their own. The worlds would never be the same if the humans pulled that off.
If that was what they were angry at, then why weren’t the Great Beasts killing the humans? They could do it easily. Coyote was a lesser beast but he could still give me a run for my money, humans would be nothing to him. A chilling thought wound through my head, what if the Great Beasts wanted that to happen? What if that was the Supernaturals punishment, to have the humans become as powerful as them?
I needed to stop the humans. Not just for the safety of the Great Worlds, I couldn’t care less about that. The Great Worlds could fall to ruin for all I cared. I wanted to stop these humans because if I didn’t, then all of my fun at the humans’ expense would be for naught. Humans were at the bottom of the Supernatural ranks, and it needed to stay that way.
Abruptly, I let go of the inner parts of Percival. With a wet noise reminiscent of cutting meat, he slid off my arm and to the ground in front of me. He made a noise of confusion and pain at the sudden change.
I reached down and pulled his head up from the grass by his hair. I knelt down by his face with a smile. Now that my hand wasn’t plugging the hole in his chest, blood was flowing freely. Ruby liquid poured from the gaping wounds, staining the grass and his armor with its cruel color. I lifted my free arm to my mouth and risked a taste of the man’s blood. He wasn’t a Great Beast so there would be no chance of any retribution to me.
This man’s blood was delicious. A deep, rich flavor like the freshest strawberries and chocolate mixed with a hint of copper and spice. A true delicacy. Was it his powers that made him so appetizing? Or maybe it was just him. I had no way of knowing.
He made another keening noise. One I recognized. The kind of noise that said that he was close to death. I had heard it thousands of times over the course of my long life, on a thousand hunts and battlefields. I had forgotten how quickly humans died if they lost their blood. I had allowed his tantalizing blood to distract me, but I couldn’t let myself forget why I was letting him go.
“Let’s strike a deal, shall we?” I whispered, leaning down to speak in his ear. “If I save your life, you’ll answer all of my questions and owe me a favor. Deal?”
I straightened and watched as emotions passed through his dark eyes. Confusion, anger, panic, hatred, humiliation, desperation. Humans were so easy to read. I knew that he wanted to agree with me, but his sense of honor was stopping him. I wasn’t surprised, knights like him were bound by strict codes that he didn’t want to break. Guess I would have to sweeten the deal a bit.
“I suppose you’re thinking of refusing me, right?” I sighed. “Well, think about this. Without you around, I’ll kill your king and this magician. Easy.” I flicked blood-stained fingers at the man struggling against my azure inferno. He must have been trying to save his comrade. How laughably adorable to think he could stand up against me. “Then you’ll have not only failed your king but allowed him to die as well. What kind of knight would you be if you let that happen? What kind of Champion lets his mission go up in smoke at the price of his pride?” I didn’t know if that final taunt would work, but I wasn’t disappointed.
Indignation flared to life in the depths of his eye. I had to resist the urge to smile broadly, he had taken the bait.
“What do you say, Sir Percival? A favor and some questions answered don’t seem like such a bad price compared to the lives of you and your comrades, right?”
He nodded. Such a simple movement, and up and down of his head that any creature with a neck in all of the Great Worlds could do. A simple, easy movement.
But one that had just sealed his fate forever more.