Wraith's Lament Final Entry
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Woohoo! We made it!
Oblique stared with wide-eyed horror, her jaw hanging limp at the sight that stood before her. The relentless battering of her heart against her ribcage was drowned out only by the tremoring earth beneath Wraith’s enormous form. Never before had she seen such a creature - if it was in fact a creature and not a demon sent from the underworld itself. She towered so far overhead it was difficult to parse her as a living being. No tree Oblique had seen had ever dwarfed the Wraith.
The only things that the chiro had ever seen with such height were mountains and the vast sky itself.
Three clutched her stryx’s neck tightly, everything between the tips of her toe and the top of her head trembling. What were they supposed to do? Why was it up to them to save Sol? They weren’t fighters - they were survivors. And every part of Three screamed at her to run, to hide, to do anything to ensure they saw the next sunrise. Nothing they ever did would be enough.
The thought echoed through her mind as she craned her neck up to face the beast, the biggest thing she had ever laid eyes on. It was the only thing she could hear over her heartbeat and the crackle of the forest fire around them.
Nothing you ever do will be enough.
“What do we do, Oblique?” Three’s voice cracked as it left her lips. She felt a shudder travel down her companion’s spine, her fur standing on end. A coughing fit seized the human as she choked down smoke. Amber eyes darting around she looked for any way forward. She came up empty. There really was no other option.
Oblique launched herself off the ground clumsily. She wasn’t a great flyer at base - she had tried her entire life to get a better handle on it and only improved slightly. But that wasn’t her problem now. Every stretch of her membrane, every flap of her wing, sent pain streaking through her body. Oblique was spent. The scarce energy she had regained from their momentary respite was long gone. Any reserves she had were gone. She was trying to light a fire in the ocean.
Three shrieked when Oblique faltered and smashed through a layer of branches. Twigs buried themselves in Oblique’s skin and tangled in her rider’s fur. Oblique flapped with all of her might and only scarcely stopped herself from smacking into the next layer of branches. The enormous bat snatched at a particularly sharp looking branch with her feet. It didn’t break easily - but it did eventually break as she yanked on it.
“What are you doing?” Three shouted. It was a rhetorical question. What Oblique was doing was clear. “You want to fight that thing? No way! You’re out of your mind!”
Oblique snorted with both exhaustion and amusement. It was true - Oblique was even less of a fighter than she was a flier. While she never labeled herself as a pacifist it was how many knew her. Oblique didn’t even enjoy eating insects, the only chiro Three had ever known to be a vegetarian.
But this wasn’t about fighting or not fighting. Not to Oblique. This was about creating peace. This was saving the world.
“Stop!” Three screamed, her voice harsh and rasping. “Oblique, st-”
The human was interrupted by another coughing fit as she inhaled smoke.
With a snap the branch broke off in Oblique’s grasp, allowing her to barely move out of the way of an enormous claw. It carved easily through the massive trunk and felled multiple trees in one stroke.The branch was heavy and made it too difficult to shoot upwards - so Oblque used the weight to her advantage. Together she and Three dropped, unfurling her wings just before she hit the ground. Wind whipped past Oblique and Three as they veered out of the way. The forest was transformed into falling dominoes. It was difficult to keep from turning to look at the chorus of creaks, cracks, and thuds.
The impact was enough to rattle their chests. But the angry roar of the Wraith was enough to knock them out of the sky; and it did just that. Oblique barely managed to grab a particularly thick tree trunk, refusing to drop the branch in her lower feet. Three shook her stryx as hard as she could.
“Put down! The branch!” Three slapped the back of the chiro’s neck. “We need to get out of here! What do you expect to do to the devil herself?”
Oblique couldn’t answer how she wanted to. She would just have to show her companion what she had in mind. The moment Wraith closed her jaws Oblique hauled herself back into the air. Pain permeated each and every muscle in her wings but she had no choice but to endure.
The reek of corruption filled her nostrils as she approached the Wraith. A smell she was familiar with now - it was, if she had to describe it concisely, like if you plopped a body that had been decaying in the sun into a tub of vinegar. The stench of death with an acidic, sour tang. It couldn’t even be covered with the burning smell of the evergreens around them. Nothing could hide it.
Wraith opened her massive beak and lunged forward. The vacuum of air left by her thrust was enough to throw Oblique off-kilter. If she hadn’t been so exhausted she would have fought it - but this time, her exhaustion benefitted her. The chiro moved with the wave of air and ended up to the side of the beast. The clack of the Wraith’s empty beak echoed through the burning forest.
Oblique, now free and clear, poured all of her strength into moving upwards. To the Wraith, she was certain, it looked like victory. The bat was fleeing. The chiro was getting as high as she could go - under normal circumstances it would have been impressive. But the Wraith already stood tall and the tiny stryx had nothing left to give. Oblique took each and every flap she could until she moved further downwards than upwards.
“Are you mad? What’s wrong with you?” Three gripped her stryx’s fur with white knuckles. “Go! Go!”
All Oblique had to do now, however, was aim.
And let go.
The branch plummeted down with progressing speed. It was, to a stryx of that size, hardly a splinter. But with the strength of the world’s rotation behind it, it was a bullet. Though the Wraith saw the branch coming there was little she could do. It ripped through the beast’s shoulder, lodging itself deep in her flesh. Furious hisses and shrieks shook the needles hanging from the pines.
“That will never be enough.” Three’s voice was quiet. Only a few days ago she would have cheered at getting in such a good hit on the Wraith. But her resolve had broken, receding into the childlike part of herself that wanted to hide under the bed. She swallowed hard. “But it will have to be. Oblique, we need to buy time for the others. Oblique-!”
The chiro couldn’t fly anymore. She held her wings limply, buffeted upwards by the velocity of her fall. Gentle brown eyes locked on the monster she was plummeting towards she contemplated all she had done and all she had failed to do. Would it ever be enough? Would her friends remember her as someone who had done everything they could for those they loved? Or would they remember her as someone who cared but simply wasn’t strong enough to make a difference?
As her vision faded to black and the screams of her comrade faded her body felt weightless. The last thing she heard was the flapping of membrane and the whistling of wind passing her ears.
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