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The Many Gifts of Malia--Part 67: "The Bite"

by dragonfphoenix


Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.

That was a really bad idea.

For one thing, gods don’t just “die.” It takes decades, even if they’re slain in battle, dismembered, and the pieces scattered to the ends of the earth, for their consciousness to fade. Malia would be able to siphon a portion of Nergal’s power from him, but it wouldn’t kill him. But she was in no condition to be trying to consume foreign deities. Even at full strength, it’d take Malia several dedicated years to digest a god down to their husk.

It did serve as a sufficient distraction to break Meduga’s rhythm, though, and he was far more mortal. Deflecting his lunge downwards, I rode his arm with my Sword and took his head off cleanly. The fish-scale robe and succeeding geyser of energy, not so much. With the Apkalla no longer present, Marudak’s power sprayed everywhere, chasing the dark ichor that spurted from the headless stump. I kicked the body away, but blood still splattered me.

If I hadn’t been watching for it, I would’ve missed Meduga’s soul as it fled. A wispy thread, like a breath on a snowy day, fluttered around the suspended droplets of ichor. Recoiling from the blood, it twisted upwards, trying to mask its flight behind the concussive blasts of power. But without its God of Death to collect it, it had only its instincts to follow.

I snatched its tail with my bony fingers, grunting as another wave reverberated through my skeleton. The spirit writhed like a fish as it fought to escape. Snorting, I sank my fingers into its ether and sucked it into my marrow. No way was I going to let it run home and tattle that they’d lost yet another skirmish and one of their gods had been taken down. The mongoose was still loose, but we’d deal with that in time. As the spirit slid through my bones, it chilled them, the familiar pang of a harvested death. I hadn’t deposited a soul into Nebesa in centuries, so I’d have to carry the Apkalla within me until we could hunt Thane down and pass it off to him.

Malia was having a lovely time failing to digest her latest meal. Retching, she was doubled over, her elbows keeping her face out of the pool of bile. Another convulsion, and the slimy ball of leather that had been Nergal’s avatar plopped into the puke puddle. Malia jerked up, hugging her stomach, before she belched a dry heave that flung the black exhaust of Nergal’s spirit from her. Shivering, she scraped her tongue on her teeth and forced a look of disgust over the pain peeking out.

I switched back to my Spear and leaned my weight on it as I walked over. “Bit off more than you could chew?”

“Piss off.” Her wings curled around her as she continued to shiver.

I grunted and slid down next to her. “So, am I saying it, or are you?”

“If you think I’m going to sit this one out because of a couple of scratches, you’re sadly mistaken.” She continued to shake, the shudders nearly rattling my arm out of its socket. “I’m…”

“You’re not fine, and you know it.” I vanished my Spear and turned her to face me. “You can’t gaze, you barely managed to tether him, and you’d throw a fit and smash the first mirror you looked in if you could see yourself right now.”

She huffed and grumbled for a bit longer but eventually conceded the point. Scowling, she snapped her portal open and slithered through. It vanished in a puff, leaving me alone to chase down Hasda and the witches.

North. That was where they’d headed, and where the hydra would be. As I trudged through the forest, I sighed in appreciation. Not only was the flora beautiful, the golds and greens of the tree leaves pleasantly contrasted against the tans and browns of the bark, but it was an enjoyable walk without whatever enchantment had been inhibiting us before. The earth was soft and forgiving on my tired bones, and the air in the shadow of the canopy was cool.

But there was still no sign of Kydon. The longer he stayed absent, the worse I felt about this Trial. I was beginning to suspect he’d already called it as lost or failed, but he hadn’t had the decency to announce it yet. Even if he’d made up his mind, he should at least see the Trial to its conclusion, and the fact that he hadn’t meant we were in for a fiasco when the chips fell.

That did raise an interesting thread, though. While our Arbiter was strangely absent, the Paedens’ choice of divine beast was just as intriguing. Native to lands further east than Paedea, mongooses had a reputation as fierce guard animals, able to take on predators many times their size with their speed and shrewd intellect. This one had a hide thick enough to turn the weapons of gods, but what worried me the most was the breed’s reputation for an unwavering immunity to venoms.

Although the Ibithian hydra was draconic, it could spit a stream of toxins just as well as it could breathe fire. The latter might give the mongoose trouble, but if the hydra managed to pierce its coat with a bite, it would simply shrug the poisons off. And I had no idea how the creature’s own bite would be, whether it relied on sheer strength or had some kind of hydra’s bane of its own. The Ibithian hydra was an aged thing by now and, though by no accounts slow, still had a sluggishness to it simply because of its size that would disadvantage it against the more lithe mongoose. So I was hoping that Hasda would be able to handle both divine beasts, since it was unlikely he’d have to fight the hydra at all, but I had a sinking feeling that the witches wouldn’t be content to just watch from the sidelines.

The change from peaceful timberland to marshy battlefield was sudden, the arrival of the cacophony a wet slap. With the mastery of forest magic the Serynis Sisters had displayed so far, it shouldn’t have surprised me that they would create an auditory cocoon to isolate the sounds of them hunting their prey, but it did. All pretense of youthful sylvan sorceress shed, the hags circled Hasda. Their frustrated shrieks sailed across the swamp, competing with the snarls of the mongoose as it snipped and slashed at the submerged hydra. Roots and claws surged beneath the surface, vines rising to ensnare Hasda as scales flecked the spray, testament to the hydra’s combat with the waterlogged mammal.

Zephyrus’ gift must have already been putting in good work, as Hasda’s hair was soaked wet from where the witches must have tried to drown him. Sword out, Hasda stared them down as they circled him, but it was the purple glow from his arm and the mocking face of the djinn, floating just behind his shoulder, that kept the witches at bay. Hasda was poorly equipped to handle any kind of truly magical being, and while I wasn’t sure what about the djinn gave the enchantresses pause, I was grateful for it.

The roars of the hydra burbled from the murky waters, drawn-out wails of agony. Its ichor stained the water brown, mixing with the yellowed pond scum. Bloody froth foamed around the thrashing mongoose, held under by its death grip on a hydra head. From the surging water, the neck had to be ridiculously thick, something Hasda, Malia, and I holding hands could form a ring around. The swamp was unevenly deep as well, or there was some magic afoot, because I couldn’t see the frill on the hydra’s spine breaching the surface of the water despite Hasda being barely knee-deep in the marsh. But the mongoose wrestled with only one head, with no sign of the others.

This Trial had well and truly gone to shit. And with no Kydon here to consult, I had no way of telling which of the threats I was allowed to attack without voiding the results. While the hydra was the crux of the Trial, Hasda had yet to engage with it, as far as I knew, and he couldn’t recruit the beast if it were dead. He may not have even started the Trial, since the witches had hemmed him in, babbling about how they wanted to consume his flesh and devour his power.

But Hasda was close enough to the location of the Trial proper that Kydon could argue that—

That son of a bitch.

I let the cool rage of battle settle over me as I tightened my grip on my Sword. Kydon must have been spending too much time around Malia, if he thought he was going to manipulate the terms of the Trial to include the sorceresses as an obstacle to the Trial’s completion. They hadn’t even been a known variable when the Trial was set forth, and if they did count, that meant Kydon had been near enough to see me break their spell over Hasda, decide that was ‘interference,’ and leave, all without announcing his presence or the nullification of the event. I’d beat the eternal shit out of him when I next saw him.

But first, I had some cannibals to kill.


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Mon Mar 21, 2022 2:01 pm
KateHardy wrote a review...



Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening/Night(whichever one it is in your part of the world),

Hi! I'm here to leave a quick review!! Sorry its been a while, things have gotten a bit busy lately so I've fallen behind quite a bit on these but I'm going to slowly catch up here. :)

First Impression: Well...this is quite the setup here for this trial to come. I think you wrapped up that earlier one pretty nicely there and adding in that extra bit of doubt with Malia is a fun addition to things here.

Anyway let's get right to it,

That was a really bad idea.

For one thing, gods don’t just “die.” It takes decades, even if they’re slain in battle, dismembered, and the pieces scattered to the ends of the earth, for their consciousness to fade. Malia would be able to siphon a portion of Nergal’s power from him, but it wouldn’t kill him. But she was in no condition to be trying to consume foreign deities. Even at full strength, it’d take Malia several dedicated years to digest a god down to their husk.

It did serve as a sufficient distraction to break Meduga’s rhythm, though, and he was far more mortal. Deflecting his lunge downwards, I rode his arm with my Sword and took his head off cleanly. The fish-scale robe and succeeding geyser of energy, not so much. With the Apkalla no longer present, Marudak’s power sprayed everywhere, chasing the dark ichor that spurted from the headless stump. I kicked the body away, but blood still splattered me.


Oooh well I was wondering what that particular move by Malia was going to end up doing. This is a direction I definitely wasn't expecting it to take but I am absolutely loving the fact that we did in fact go in this direction cause now the fight gets to carry on even more and I do love these fight scenes. It does also prevent things from ending too abruptly as well I think so that's a nice touch to remind us exactly what kind of power scale we're dealing with in these fights.

If I hadn’t been watching for it, I would’ve missed Meduga’s soul as it fled. A wispy thread, like a breath on a snowy day, fluttered around the suspended droplets of ichor. Recoiling from the blood, it twisted upwards, trying to mask its flight behind the concussive blasts of power. But without its God of Death to collect it, it had only its instincts to follow.

I snatched its tail with my bony fingers, grunting as another wave reverberated through my skeleton. The spirit writhed like a fish as it fought to escape. Snorting, I sank my fingers into its ether and sucked it into my marrow. No way was I going to let it run home and tattle that they’d lost yet another skirmish and one of their gods had been taken down. The mongoose was still loose, but we’d deal with that in time. As the spirit slid through my bones, it chilled them, the familiar pang of a harvested death. I hadn’t deposited a soul into Nebesa in centuries, so I’d have to carry the Apkalla within me until we could hunt Thane down and pass it off to him.


Oooh well never thought we'd get to see a moment of Charax having to do that, and for the person he was fighting of all things, that's an interesting little moment there. On the bright side it seems like all this means that second twist there isn't going to do much in the way of changing who ultimately wins this fight. Hopefully Malia doesn't end up suffering too much from this whole ordeal.

Malia was having a lovely time failing to digest her latest meal. Retching, she was doubled over, her elbows keeping her face out of the pool of bile. Another convulsion, and the slimy ball of leather that had been Nergal’s avatar plopped into the puke puddle. Malia jerked up, hugging her stomach, before she belched a dry heave that flung the black exhaust of Nergal’s spirit from her. Shivering, she scraped her tongue on her teeth and forced a look of disgust over the pain peeking out.

I switched back to my Spear and leaned my weight on it as I walked over. “Bit off more than you could chew?”

“Piss off.” Her wings curled around her as she continued to shiver.

I grunted and slid down next to her. “So, am I saying it, or are you?”


Ahh well this particular dynamic has just become them at this point and I am always here for it. And well that also seems like a situation that calls for a truckload or two of tissue there...that is certainly not the cleanest way to end a fight like that and it seems like Malia is going to be a bit under the weather after all of that.

“If you think I’m going to sit this one out because of a couple of scratches, you’re sadly mistaken.” She continued to shake, the shudders nearly rattling my arm out of its socket. “I’m…”

“You’re not fine, and you know it.” I vanished my Spear and turned her to face me. “You can’t gaze, you barely managed to tether him, and you’d throw a fit and smash the first mirror you looked in if you could see yourself right now.”

She huffed and grumbled for a bit longer but eventually conceded the point. Scowling, she snapped her portal open and slithered through. It vanished in a puff, leaving me alone to chase down Hasda and the witches.


Well the simple fact that she listened with barely a grumble in that case is actually terrifying because it means she genuinely has to be feeling absolutely horrible and unable to carry on with any amount of fighting. Hopefully whatever happened there won't leave too many permanent impacts.

North. That was where they’d headed, and where the hydra would be. As I trudged through the forest, I sighed in appreciation. Not only was the flora beautiful, the golds and greens of the tree leaves pleasantly contrasted against the tans and browns of the bark, but it was an enjoyable walk without whatever enchantment had been inhibiting us before. The earth was soft and forgiving on my tired bones, and the air in the shadow of the canopy was cool.

But there was still no sign of Kydon. The longer he stayed absent, the worse I felt about this Trial. I was beginning to suspect he’d already called it as lost or failed, but he hadn’t had the decency to announce it yet. Even if he’d made up his mind, he should at least see the Trial to its conclusion, and the fact that he hadn’t meant we were in for a fiasco when the chips fell.


Hmm...well alright so this seems to indicate that our little detour that we've been on for a bit is officially over and things are now focusing again on the trial that we started this whole journey although there are already undercurrents of more things possibly happening over the course of this trial that could be bad for them.

That did raise an interesting thread, though. While our Arbiter was strangely absent, the Paedens’ choice of divine beast was just as intriguing. Native to lands further east than Paedea, mongooses had a reputation as fierce guard animals, able to take on predators many times their size with their speed and shrewd intellect. This one had a hide thick enough to turn the weapons of gods, but what worried me the most was the breed’s reputation for an unwavering immunity to venoms.

Although the Ibithian hydra was draconic, it could spit a stream of toxins just as well as it could breathe fire. The latter might give the mongoose trouble, but if the hydra managed to pierce its coat with a bite, it would simply shrug the poisons off. And I had no idea how the creature’s own bite would be, whether it relied on sheer strength or had some kind of hydra’s bane of its own. The Ibithian hydra was an aged thing by now and, though by no accounts slow, still had a sluggishness to it simply because of its size that would disadvantage it against the more lithe mongoose. So I was hoping that Hasda would be able to handle both divine beasts, since it was unlikely he’d have to fight the hydra at all, but I had a sinking feeling that the witches wouldn’t be content to just watch from the sidelines.


Okay..well nothing like a good little history lesson from Charax to tell us just how bad the threat we're going to face in the very near future is. It does seem like we should all be preparing for the worst as always, with this trial starting off sounding like bad things are going to happen unlike the first one which had a somewhat lighter sort of tone to things before it got bad afterwards.

The change from peaceful timberland to marshy battlefield was sudden, the arrival of the cacophony a wet slap. With the mastery of forest magic the Serynis Sisters had displayed so far, it shouldn’t have surprised me that they would create an auditory cocoon to isolate the sounds of them hunting their prey, but it did. All pretense of youthful sylvan sorceress shed, the hags circled Hasda. Their frustrated shrieks sailed across the swamp, competing with the snarls of the mongoose as it snipped and slashed at the submerged hydra. Roots and claws surged beneath the surface, vines rising to ensnare Hasda as scales flecked the spray, testament to the hydra’s combat with the waterlogged mammal.

Zephyrus’ gift must have already been putting in good work, as Hasda’s hair was soaked wet from where the witches must have tried to drown him. Sword out, Hasda stared them down as they circled him, but it was the purple glow from his arm and the mocking face of the djinn, floating just behind his shoulder, that kept the witches at bay. Hasda was poorly equipped to handle any kind of truly magical being, and while I wasn’t sure what about the djinn gave the enchantresses pause, I was grateful for it.


Hmm..well that sounds like a lovely scene to walk into. I love the description there to just sort of show us where everything is in relative to everything else because I'm sure things will very soon be descending into complete disarray and all of this will be vital to keeping track of things.

The roars of the hydra burbled from the murky waters, drawn-out wails of agony. Its ichor stained the water brown, mixing with the yellowed pond scum. Bloody froth foamed around the thrashing mongoose, held under by its death grip on a hydra head. From the surging water, the neck had to be ridiculously thick, something Hasda, Malia, and I holding hands could form a ring around. The swamp was unevenly deep as well, or there was some magic afoot, because I couldn’t see the frill on the hydra’s spine breaching the surface of the water despite Hasda being barely knee-deep in the marsh. But the mongoose wrestled with only one head, with no sign of the others.

This Trial had well and truly gone to shit. And with no Kydon here to consult, I had no way of telling which of the threats I was allowed to attack without voiding the results. While the hydra was the crux of the Trial, Hasda had yet to engage with it, as far as I knew, and he couldn’t recruit the beast if it were dead. He may not have even started the Trial, since the witches had hemmed him in, babbling about how they wanted to consume his flesh and devour his power.


Well...I suppose the way Charax put it here was kind of mild...things have well and truly gone bonkers here and with how touchy the rules can be at this point, it definitely presents quite an additional problem to things here...let's see how they go about dealing with this particular situation.

But Hasda was close enough to the location of the Trial proper that Kydon could argue that—

That son of a bitch.

I let the cool rage of battle settle over me as I tightened my grip on my Sword. Kydon must have been spending too much time around Malia, if he thought he was going to manipulate the terms of the Trial to include the sorceresses as an obstacle to the Trial’s completion. They hadn’t even been a known variable when the Trial was set forth, and if they did count, that meant Kydon had been near enough to see me break their spell over Hasda, decide that was ‘interference,’ and leave, all without announcing his presence or the nullification of the event. I’d beat the eternal shit out of him when I next saw him.

But first, I had some cannibals to kill.


Hmm....well that is a fun line to end on...the cliffhangers in this story have also been really fun...and this one is no exception to that rule. I have a feeling we're going to see some interesting things going down soon...that revelation was certainly enough to get you thinking quite a bit as a reader.

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: Overall, a pretty solid chapter as always. That twist with the whole eating this person situation and Malia's current condition are a nice addition to keep us wondering while we also setup up the start of a trial that is clearly going to be far worse than the previous one that we had. Looking forward to seeing how this goes down soon.

As always remember to take what you think was helpful and forget the rest.

Stay Safe
Harry




dragonfphoenix says...


Glad to have you back! Life definitely can get hectic at times. I think you're going to like some of the following chapters, too. It only gets crazier from here XD



KateHardy says...


Oooh excited to see those! :)



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Wed Feb 02, 2022 2:47 am
Plume wrote a review...



Hey there! Plume here, with a review!

Ah, this was a great read!! Loved the slow transition back to the trial, though it seems like we've encountered some difficulty with that. Looking forward to seeing how it continues; by the last line, it seems we've got a fight scene ahead of us!

One thing I especially loved about this chapter was the description of the whole soul gathering thing. I think it was definitely a very unique piece of description. One thing I always marvel at is how detailed you continue to be regarding certain magical rules. I'm not much of a fantasy worldbuilder, so whenever someone does it and it's in depth and consistent, I kinda just marvel at it. The part about the soul going into Charax's bones was just so unique and vivid; I really enjoyed it!

Specifics

Their frustrated shrieks sailed across the swamp, competing with the snarls of the mongoose as it snipped and slashed at the submerged hydra.


I was a little confused to see the mongoose here. I know you said it had ran off, but it was a little unclear to see that it had gone from where Charax was to here. I think some sort of note about how it was the mongoose from earlier and maybe a little musing of oh, this is where it ended up would have helped. It was also weird to me that Charax was thinking so much about the mongoose beforehand, almost as if he knew it would be there? I don't know. It just seemed a little out of order.

Kydon must have been spending too much time around Malia, if he thought he was going to manipulate the terms of the Trial to include the sorceresses as an obstacle to the Trial’s completion.


This seems vaguely uncharacteristic for Kydon— from what I remember, he was a real stickler for the rules. I also feel like he doesn't have much motivation to intervene like this. I don't remember him having any sort of grudge against Malia or Charax specifically; he just seemed like a bit of a wet blanket. Interested to see if Charax's hunch proves true, or if Kydon isn't there for a different reason.

Overall: nice work!! I look forward to seeing Hasda and Charax team up (if they do, actually—not sure if Charax will risk interfering now... his last statement certainly suggests he might), and then later on the facedown between the Hydra and Charax. Until next time!!





A Prince of Darkness Is a Gentleman
— William Shakespeare