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The Many Gifts of Malia--Part 68: "The Eggshell"

by dragonfphoenix


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

Old and bony though I was, I’d taken down the nearest witch and moved onto the second before they noticed me. It probably didn’t help that my Sword was aflame and hissing violently, but it certainly made beheading them easier. The second enchantress managed to raise her arms as the strike came, and her hands tumbled off with her head.

As I rounded on the third, my senses nudged three facts to the edge of my thoughts. First, two of seven—no, eight—of the Sisters were down. That left three for me, and three for Hasda. Second, the djinn had extended his aura to Hasda’s sword, mimicking the celestial fire engulfing mine. I’d need to ask him about why his presence deterred the witches, and keep an eye on him learning any more tricks he probably shouldn’t know. And third, the spirit lines connecting the remaining witches flared with every death, concentrating their power. Maybe killing all of them would be a bad—

Another headless body collapsed before me, and suddenly the Serynis aura felt very divine.

Shit.

Roots burst from the water beneath me, tangling around my legs, through the gaps in my bones, snapping as I thundered through them. I felled the fourth as she sought to bring a tree down on me and had my Sword in the throat of the fifth as the sundered log splashed the swampwater where I’d been. Three more, only one still on Hasda, and they were quickly breaching the limit between demigod and deity.

The last two had the sense to separate as I bisected the back of the one brave enough to keep its eyes on Hasda. Her breath huffed out, her eyes wide as she tried to turn and found no strength in her lower body. A backstroke, and she joined her fallen sisters in the marsh.

Hasda held himself well despite the stained, stinking water I’d splashed all over him. His eyes reflected none of the demented hunger I saw in the djinn’s, which was good, but left me wondering how much control he still had over the spirit. Adjusting his stance, he smiled. “Thanks for the help.”

“We’re not out of it yet.” I kept my eyes on the witch to the left, feeling the heat of the second as she circled to flank us. Scowling, I swapped back to my Spear and shifted to put Hasda behind me. “Can you get to the hydra?”

“We can try.” The dissonant undertones that laced his voice sent shivers down my spine. Without another word, he picked his way through the swamp, plashing all the way.

I blocked out the snarls and yowls, adding Hasda’s fierce cries to the list. Only two sorceresses left. The thread of their shared power hung taut in the air, a silver cable of animosity as thick as my fists. I couldn’t cut it, and if I couldn’t kill both at once, I might not be able to stop their ascension. My momentum had stalled, and now I had to play the fun game of catching the homicidal hags.

They weren’t going to go quietly, either. Maintaining a steady stream of howling, they raised a troop of viney sylvans, tree-bodied creatures with a vaguely human shape. Balls of leaves floated around their heads, fluttering gaps in the foliage standing in for eyes and mouths. Stringy swamp weeds, dripping dark water, clung to their shoulders and elbows as they emerged from the marsh. Wind rattled the wet leaves, and I realized the sylvans were screaming at me.

Light pulsed along the connecting thread, and the witches changed, too. Since I’d spun, the one on my left was now on my right, and she’d taken on the most dramatic change. Her hair curled around her in a dramatic halo, waves twisting the strands in chaotic directions. Her body looked more human, although the skin was translucent enough to show the forest behind her without revealing any bones. It made her teeth stand out as she shrieked and was slightly unnerving.

The other Serynis Sister, now on my left, had shriveled. Less glowy than her opposite, she hid her sullen face behind a veil of straight, dark hair that reminded me of a willow tree after a torrential downpour. Her frame was skeletal, accentuating her bony hands as she drew more sylvans to join the summoned throng. The vines that wrapped her body would have been revealing, if she’d had anything worth showing. As it was, the valleys between her ribs were almost enough to raise my sympathy, discounting that she’d just been trying to eat Hasda.

And I couldn’t just ignore the sylvans. Before I’d mowed down most of their coven, I would’ve blown these little conjurants over like so many sticks in the wind. But now, they had some real spine to them, and I didn’t like the itch they put on the back of my hands. They stank of loam, the kind that swallowed the dead and decaying corpses to dissolve them into the dirt. Almost an after-death.

Which meant they were going to be a total pain in my ass. And my wrists, based on how easily they fell to my Spear thrusts. But there were a lot of them, and only one of me. Thrust, pull, aim, push. Over and over, as the little stickmen swarmed me, and I hadn’t even dented their numbers.

The witches cackled and summoned more.

Sweeping them off their feet, crushing them, drowning them in the water—nothing slowed them. The broken ones clawed on, and the unbroken clung worse than the swamp weeds swirling underfoot. I stamped away as best I could. With the viscous marsh, however, that was easier said than done.

A wet crackling broke through my focus, followed by bits of speckled, sea-green eggshells floating on the water. When the hydra roared, I ran. The stupid sylvans fluttered their leaves in celebration right before a massive neck slammed down and crushed them. All around us, trees shrieked and splintered as the remaining hydra heads rose and smashed their bulk against the first.

My sprint put me past the witches, who watched the thrashing hydra in confusion. They hadn’t spotted the broken eggshells yet, and with the hydra rampaging there probably wouldn’t be any remains for them to notice anyways. They had, however, floated closer together, and I nearly speared the willow-haired one before they split again.

Damn it.

That crushed egg was definitely the hydra’s, which meant civil conversation was out of the question now. I wanted to check on Hasda because both he and the mongoose were submerged under all those writhing necks, but I had bigger concerns at the moment, like the fact that the witches’ soul bond glowed like a bar of steel in Phaeus’ forge. The bushy-haired one seemed to radiate the greater power, although my instincts didn’t trust how quiet the willow-haired one was being.

Under the water, the sylvans burst like overcooked berries as the Serynis Sisters lost control over them. Or flooded them with too much power. Either way, the sorceresses were dangerously close to deciding what their divine form would be. One body or two, it didn’t matter to me. I needed to end this fight, quickly, before I let a fledgling goddess loose. We were in no position to recruit her, even if she were amiable, since I’d most likely be bringing the heartbroken hydra in by force.

They had other plans. The willow-haired witch wailed like a banshee. Dark bands raced across their bond as she fell and her sister rose. Shriveling, the black-haired enchantress curled under the water as her face paled. Her sister hovered with a triumphant glow, vines uncurling their leaves across her skin. With a final shriek, the bond collapsed, leaving no trace of the frailer witch.

I leveled my spear at the remaining sorceress. “Finally ate your own, did you?”

The witch licked her fingers, flashing eggshell fragments she held pinched between her teeth.

I tensed. Where did she get those?

“Mmm.” She purred and swallowed the chipped pieces. “What tantalizing power.”

“That’s not enough to push you past the boundary.” I slid forward, careful not to slosh.

Her eyes, aglow with orange light, settled on me. “We’re so close. Would you help us?”

“You’d forfeit your freedom so easily?” Calculating the best angle for an underhanded thrust that might reach her—them?—before they realized the danger made it hard to concentrate on the best way to angle them into verbal submission. And their use of the plural gave me pause, since if the witch I saw hadn’t absorbed her partner, then there was a possibility she could still use the other as an avatar. Or they were co-forms of the same almost-deity. But they weren’t divine yet, so there was still a chance I could kill them even if they started hopping their consciousness between bodies.

“Names hold power.” Her eyes danced with mischief. “With whom would we be binding ourselves, were we to swear this bond?”

Were they seriously considering this? I shook my head. “Not just me. You would be bound within our pantheon, a protected member of our family.”

The drowned snarls and turbulent water made for a strange backdrop to an even stranger conversation.

Closing her eyes, she inhaled the thick swamp air, ignoring the conflict behind her. When she opened them, the orange light had dimmed, but the sly look had not. “We smell guile on you.”

“Sorry, the swamp isn’t the best place for a bath.” A few more steps, and I’d be in striking distance.

“What is your name?” They were totally drunk on power, the intoxication weighing heavily on their words.

I gave them a thin smile. “You wouldn’t recognize it.”

“Try us.”

“Okay.” My spear flashed as I thrust.


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Mon Mar 28, 2022 12:08 pm
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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!!

First Impression: Okay we're off to quite some start with this trial situation here since it seems like now's the time we sort of finally go all in on that. As usual things have already gotten way more complicated than you first expect and this time I was expecting complications and somehow it exceeded that expectation.

Anyway let's get right to it,

Old and bony though I was, I’d taken down the nearest witch and moved onto the second before they noticed me. It probably didn’t help that my Sword was aflame and hissing violently, but it certainly made beheading them easier. The second enchantress managed to raise her arms as the strike came, and her hands tumbled off with her head.


Well that was a pretty brutal start. Its the first time in a while that I'm seeing him just going for the kill there with no attempt at trash talking or any of that and that is perhaps more terrifying than any of the other descriptions from earlier.

As I rounded on the third, my senses nudged three facts to the edge of my thoughts. First, two of seven—no, eight—of the Sisters were down. That left three for me, and three for Hasda. Second, the djinn had extended his aura to Hasda’s sword, mimicking the celestial fire engulfing mine. I’d need to ask him about why his presence deterred the witches, and keep an eye on him learning any more tricks he probably shouldn’t know. And third, the spirit lines connecting the remaining witches flared with every death, concentrating their power. Maybe killing all of them would be a bad—

Another headless body collapsed before me, and suddenly the Serynis aura felt very divine.

Shit.

Roots burst from the water beneath me, tangling around my legs, through the gaps in my bones, snapping as I thundered through them. I felled the fourth as she sought to bring a tree down on me and had my Sword in the throat of the fifth as the sundered log splashed the swampwater where I’d been. Three more, only one still on Hasda, and they were quickly breaching the limit between demigod and deity.


Oh well that was unexpected, I knew it wasn't going to be as easy as chopping the heads off of eight witches, but wow, we've got another little twist here and this one appears to be of some pretty celestial proportions as well. Its certainly not the sort of twist that you tend to run into every day. That is quite the moment here. And those descriptions with Hasda's current fighting technique are also proving to be very interesting so far.

The last two had the sense to separate as I bisected the back of the one brave enough to keep its eyes on Hasda. Her breath huffed out, her eyes wide as she tried to turn and found no strength in her lower body. A backstroke, and she joined her fallen sisters in the marsh.

Hasda held himself well despite the stained, stinking water I’d splashed all over him. His eyes reflected none of the demented hunger I saw in the djinn’s, which was good, but left me wondering how much control he still had over the spirit. Adjusting his stance, he smiled. “Thanks for the help.”


I love how utterly casual that was...I have a feeling Hasda maybe doesn't quite know the full stakes of everything that is happening around him at the moment, either that or he is just very, very good at handling the kind of pressure that comes with this sort of stuff.

I blocked out the snarls and yowls, adding Hasda’s fierce cries to the list. Only two sorceresses left. The thread of their shared power hung taut in the air, a silver cable of animosity as thick as my fists. I couldn’t cut it, and if I couldn’t kill both at once, I might not be able to stop their ascension. My momentum had stalled, and now I had to play the fun game of catching the homicidal hags.

They weren’t going to go quietly, either. Maintaining a steady stream of howling, they raised a troop of viney sylvans, tree-bodied creatures with a vaguely human shape. Balls of leaves floated around their heads, fluttering gaps in the foliage standing in for eyes and mouths. Stringy swamp weeds, dripping dark water, clung to their shoulders and elbows as they emerged from the marsh. Wind rattled the wet leaves, and I realized the sylvans were screaming at me.


OOooh well things are definitely happening here...for one Hasda seems to have some sort of very interesting team up going with that spirit which might explain that calmness a little better and now we have the final witches to get rid of before things really go in a direction that could spell more doom. Loving the build up we're getting so far. And I think you're doing a pretty solid job keeping this fight scene which happens so soon after the previous one still be just as interesting and distinctly different.

Light pulsed along the connecting thread, and the witches changed, too. Since I’d spun, the one on my left was now on my right, and she’d taken on the most dramatic change. Her hair curled around her in a dramatic halo, waves twisting the strands in chaotic directions. Her body looked more human, although the skin was translucent enough to show the forest behind her without revealing any bones. It made her teeth stand out as she shrieked and was slightly unnerving.

The other Serynis Sister, now on my left, had shriveled. Less glowy than her opposite, she hid her sullen face behind a veil of straight, dark hair that reminded me of a willow tree after a torrential downpour. Her frame was skeletal, accentuating her bony hands as she drew more sylvans to join the summoned throng. The vines that wrapped her body would have been revealing, if she’d had anything worth showing. As it was, the valleys between her ribs were almost enough to raise my sympathy, discounting that she’d just been trying to eat Hasda.


Well...as always these transformations are definitely intriguing...and I love that we have a little bit of a funny remark there just to keep things a tiny bit lighter in the midst of what has been a pretty intense start to this chapter so far.

Which meant they were going to be a total pain in my ass. And my wrists, based on how easily they fell to my Spear thrusts. But there were a lot of them, and only one of me. Thrust, pull, aim, push. Over and over, as the little stickmen swarmed me, and I hadn’t even dented their numbers.

The witches cackled and summoned more.

Sweeping them off their feet, crushing them, drowning them in the water—nothing slowed them. The broken ones clawed on, and the unbroken clung worse than the swamp weeds swirling underfoot. I stamped away as best I could. With the viscous marsh, however, that was easier said than done.


Hmm...well it seems we've gotten ourselves one of these horde situations now, that's interesting, it is the sort of thing that you'd expect to Charax's weakness given his age and the not ideal battle conditions, well let's see where this manages to take us here.

A wet crackling broke through my focus, followed by bits of speckled, sea-green eggshells floating on the water. When the hydra roared, I ran. The stupid sylvans fluttered their leaves in celebration right before a massive neck slammed down and crushed them. All around us, trees shrieked and splintered as the remaining hydra heads rose and smashed their bulk against the first.

My sprint put me past the witches, who watched the thrashing hydra in confusion. They hadn’t spotted the broken eggshells yet, and with the hydra rampaging there probably wouldn’t be any remains for them to notice anyways. They had, however, floated closer together, and I nearly speared the willow-haired one before they split again.


Well here we go, thinks are certainly starting to happen there. Let's see if this particular situation gets resolved here because I have a feeling this is going to drag on for a tiny bit later.

That crushed egg was definitely the hydra’s, which meant civil conversation was out of the question now. I wanted to check on Hasda because both he and the mongoose were submerged under all those writhing necks, but I had bigger concerns at the moment, like the fact that the witches’ soul bond glowed like a bar of steel in Phaeus’ forge. The bushy-haired one seemed to radiate the greater power, although my instincts didn’t trust how quiet the willow-haired one was being.

Under the water, the sylvans burst like overcooked berries as the Serynis Sisters lost control over them. Or flooded them with too much power. Either way, the sorceresses were dangerously close to deciding what their divine form would be. One body or two, it didn’t matter to me. I needed to end this fight, quickly, before I let a fledgling goddess loose. We were in no position to recruit her, even if she were amiable, since I’d most likely be bringing the heartbroken hydra in by force.


Well that would certainly complicate matter pretty significantly there with the broken eggs combining with whatever divine craziness could envelop them in the next few minutes here. Let's see where this ends up taking us.

They had other plans. The willow-haired witch wailed like a banshee. Dark bands raced across their bond as she fell and her sister rose. Shriveling, the black-haired enchantress curled under the water as her face paled. Her sister hovered with a triumphant glow, vines uncurling their leaves across her skin. With a final shriek, the bond collapsed, leaving no trace of the frailer witch.

I leveled my spear at the remaining sorceress. “Finally ate your own, did you?”

The witch licked her fingers, flashing eggshell fragments she held pinched between her teeth.

I tensed. Where did she get those?


Okay for just a moment I thought that was going to end up being something maybe good for Charax and Hasda but that particular question there and the way this witch is reacting seems to be indicating that the opposite is true at the moment.

“You’d forfeit your freedom so easily?” Calculating the best angle for an underhanded thrust that might reach her—them?—before they realized the danger made it hard to concentrate on the best way to angle them into verbal submission. And their use of the plural gave me pause, since if the witch I saw hadn’t absorbed her partner, then there was a possibility she could still use the other as an avatar. Or they were co-forms of the same almost-deity. But they weren’t divine yet, so there was still a chance I could kill them even if they started hopping their consciousness between bodies.

“Names hold power.” Her eyes danced with mischief. “With whom would we be binding ourselves, were we to swear this bond?”

Were they seriously considering this? I shook my head. “Not just me. You would be bound within our pantheon, a protected member of our family.”


Okay...well that took a turn I wasn't expecting...I have to imagine this won't end well but for some reason we have an oddly legitimate sounding conversation taking place in the midst of just the general chaos that's been happening at the moment. This is definitely one of these twists you never see coming.

The drowned snarls and turbulent water made for a strange backdrop to an even stranger conversation.

Closing her eyes, she inhaled the thick swamp air, ignoring the conflict behind her. When she opened them, the orange light had dimmed, but the sly look had not. “We smell guile on you.”

“Sorry, the swamp isn’t the best place for a bath.” A few more steps, and I’d be in striking distance.

“What is your name?” They were totally drunk on power, the intoxication weighing heavily on their words.

I gave them a thin smile. “You wouldn’t recognize it.”

“Try us.”

“Okay.” My spear flashed as I thrust.


Well...that's about what I expected as the ending...and now ahhhhh...I must find out what happens next...this one really built up quite powerfully there on so many angles that it feels like more than just this witch situation is going to explode as a result of that one action.

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: Overall, another solid beginning to yet another pretty awesome fight sequence although this one is clearly either to explode into another level of craziness or is about to maybe start winding down. We'll find out soon enough I suppose.

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

Stay Safe
Harry




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Tue Feb 08, 2022 3:10 am
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Plume wrote a review...



Hey there! Plume here, with a review! And happy late one year anniversary of Malia!! Cannot believe I've been reviewing this for a year, haha. And I can't believe you're still keeping at it! I admire your dedication!!

Ooh, this was a fun chapter!! Love all the action. You've definitely left me wanting more, that's for sure. The battle with the sorceresses was so gripping, and I'm excited to see if Charax vanquishes her (them?) once and for all!

One thing I think was great was how much the action escalated. I was hooked from the moment the witches started to condense. I liked the feature where they kind of consolidated the power, and seeing Charax come to that realization was a big "oh no" moment that was enjoyable to read. This would make a very good video game, I feel. Then the sylvans come in, and there are so many, and then the hydra comes in with a broken egg, and I just sat there thinking "how on earth are they going to get out of this now?" You had me really living in the moment and hanging on to each sentence, which is superb. Really great job!

Another thing you knocked out of the park was your descriptions. I enjoyed the ones of the witches when there were only two left— the contrasts between them were very well described. I loved the line about how the one witch's hair looked like a willow after torrential downpour. The one thing I would say was that there were points where it felt like the description was at an exciting part, and it slowed down the action, which made it feel longer, if that makes sense. I think that maybe rearranging them to parts that have natural lulls could be beneficial? I do understand that they are somewhat essential in the moment, so if you can't reorganize, they're honestly fine as-is.

Overall: really nice work!! Don't have much to nitpick on this one— I've said it once, and I'll say it again: you're remarkably good at writing action. Very exciting to see if Charax's aim lands true in the next chapter! Until next time!!





France... doesn't exist?
— WeepingWisteria