Face the Wraith
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Meridian and Ferah battle the Wraith, a seemingly immortal monster. Entry for Chapter 6 of Wraith's Lament.
Ferah stared in horror at the monster facing them down. The legends were true; the creature was, indeed, tall enough to blot out the sun. Meridian trembled beneath her, whether with fear or rage, she couldn’t tell. “Flee,” she whispered to her mount. They had to get out of here, one way or another. When Meridian didn’t appear to hear her, Ferah pulled on her fur imploringly. As the Wraith advanced, the lycan screamed and burst into the air. The Wraith pulled back, readying for the attack, but Meridian spun, almost losing control in the wild air currents caused by Geiger’s flames still whipping around them. She flew, faster than she ever had in her life, over the castle, over the ramparts, away from the Wraith. The beast gave chase, but could not keep up with a flyer’s mad dash. Safely out in the city streets, Meridian glided down to a landing.
“No, Meri, we have to go, we have to warn others, she’ll catch us if we stay in Sol!” Ferah’s words were fast, tripping over themselves. Meridian simply shook herself, nearly dislodging her rider. She dropped to her belly, the signal to get off. “I’m not getting off. We have to go,” Ferah repeated. Meridian turned her head to look at her, the fire on the castle reflecting in her eyes, turning green to red, almost as if she were corrupted herself. Ferah knew, in that moment, that her mount would not leave this fight. Her soul was that of a warrior, and this was the greatest battle ever presented. What Meridian was offering was a chance for Ferah to save herself. She made her decision. “No,” she said again. “I won’t leave you. We’ve fought monsters together, we’ve fought in the arena together. And if Sol is to be saved, we will do it together.”
Meridian’s nose wrinkled in a feral grin. She lifted herself to her feet and turned, against the tide of people, stryx, and animals that were beginning to flee the city. Tipping back, she threw her weight forward and up, flying hard into the blood red sky. The Wraith had already turned her attention to the guards and fighters that were rushing to defend the castle. She screamed and spat, corruption spilling from her jaws and sizzling on the stones of the city grounds. Ferah was fascinated to see the glowing runes that encircled her like chains. Perhaps they were part of her power? Or an ancient attempt to seal her away? She stood taller than trees and her eyes boiled with a rage so hot it felt as if they’d caused the fire that had begun to spread to the streets.
At the thought of fire, Ferah realized that Meridian was heating up beneath her. Wouldn’t that be useless? Hadn’t they already proven that fire didn’t affect the Wraith? Sheer damage from teeth and claws would be their best bet. She wished she had a weapon, but there wasn’t time to fly down and grab one.
Distracted by the guards, the Wraith didn’t see Meridian’s first attack. The lycan swooped down, latching onto her back and ripping out clumps of thick feathers, attempting to reach the flesh beneath. The Wraith didn’t appear to notice until Meridian’s jaws came away bloody, and even then she merely grunted. It was Ferah who saw the tail swing coming, and she shouted to her mount. Meridian leapt off, turning what would’ve been a wing-shattering strike into a blow that sent them flying. She rolled with it, stabilizing their flight for another pass, but already Ferah could see fur dislodged from the hit floating through the air. The Wraith was covered in sharp bits. They were lucky the first time, but they might not be the second.
The monster was watching them now, teeth bared as they soared overhead. Without warning she lunged, reaching overgrown claws to snatch them out of the air. Ferah’s breath froze in her throat. Meridian barrel rolled, nearly giving her rider whiplash as she spun and dropped away. One claw snagged through the membrane of her wing, ripping it, but otherwise they clapped together harmlessly above.
Ferah was too dizzy to see Meridian’s next attack, but she had to assume it was fruitless, as they were soon flying out of reach again, the lycan snarling with frustration. Usually it was her strategy to close in for a bloody grapple, but she clearly understood that in this case, the blood would be hers. All this time, the heat seeping from her fur had been increasing. Ferah knew that if Meridian wanted her fire to be hotter, she had to spend time “charging” it, so to speak. Given time, she could burn hot enough to keep a forge running. Was this her plan now? Geiger could produce more fire, certainly, but perhaps Meridian’s could be hot enough to get through whatever protected the Wraith. Protection….Ferah had a thought. “When you’re ready,” she called to Meridian. “Aim for the runes! Burn them first!” The lycan flicked an ear. Acknowledgement. Below them, the Wraith spun to follow their circling.
Baring her teeth, Meridian dived, a scream pouring from her. The Wraith, again, braced for an attack, but again it was a fakeout. The lycan whipped past, aiming blindingly hot fire for the runes encircling her legs. It splashed against them harmlessly, and above the Wraith rumbled a laugh, letting them fly through her legs and regain altitude. Other stryx were beginning to circle now, but she simply swatted away all those that dared to come too close.
“Pup!” the Wraith bellowed. “I’ve stood for a thousand years, haunting your minds and your hearts. You think you are strong, even with your rider at your side. You are nothing. Together, you are nothing. She will die with you!”
Meridian hovered midair during this tirade, chest heaving. Ferah had little hope for this battle now. The fire was, as she feared, useless. It was only a matter of time until they slipped up and the Wraith slapped them out of the air. She was on the verge of pulling Meridian away when her mount dipped forward again. The scars that ran along her chest and throat lit from within, seeping white. The Wraith laughed as she saw the lycan coming for her. She spread her arms wide, inviting Meridian to do her worst. Meridian flew at full speed toward her chest, Ferah gripping the saddle tight. The lycan opened her jaws, spitting a stream of fire so pale it was almost blue, aimed directly at the corruption that spread like a spider’s web across the Wraith’s chest. The fire lit the courtyard, dispelling the red light, shining off the Wraith’s eyes, forcing Ferah to look away. As it hit the Wraith, she froze, her confidence broken. The fire clung to the corruption, burning into it. She screamed, in pain for the first time, and curled into herself, swatting wildly at stryx and rider. Meridian swerved away, climbing into the sky.
Ferah turned back to watch as they sped to a safe distance. The Wraith was already recovering, and she glared even more fiercely after them, but she had been hurt. She could be hurt. This battle was not over, but it could, perhaps, be won.
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