Hey, everyone! I’m back with another part of Magic Binds! I bet you’re wondering what happens to Misveri and Jax when the giant, carnivorous serpent decides to pay an unexpected visit to them in their little ‘sheltered’ cavern, so you get the opportunity, here and now, to find out! If you have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, take a look at these before returning:
“Gah!” I woke up suddenly. “What the–?”
“Shh,” Jax warned. “The serpent is trying to break the wall, but so far not succeeding. The cavern will hold, though. It can smell us, and hear us, too, as well as sense us, so we must take utmost care in largely eliminating a trail for it to follow. It’ll give up and pass soon enough.”
I shuddered, but forced myself to relax. It couldn’t get in.
A chunk of rock flew away from the crack on the wall and landed inches away from my head. I looked up, terrified, to see the serpent’s beady red cat-like slitted eyes peering into the widened crack with an eagerness in its eye, like a hunter about to strike. It pounded again at the rock opening.
“Um, Jax?” I fought to keep my voice steady. “Are you absolutely sure that this cave will hold?”
His voice was shaky too. “Not anymore.”
This was where I left off. Enjoy! 😀
“What are we going to do?” I yelled over the deafening pounds of the serpent.
“I don’t know!” Jax screamed back. “It’s never done this when I was in here!”
“Then why is it doing it now?”
Jax pondered the thought for a moment. “Do you happen to be a magician?” he asked.
“A necromancer’s apprentice,” I answered breathlessly, trying to dodge the chunks of rock flying from the crack.
“That’s probably the reason.”
“How do we get out?!”
“I don’t know!” Jax sounded panicked. “But now we have two things to worry about!”
“What’s that?” I asked, then uttered a soft scream as I toppled back into the pool. Water poured onto me from the huge crack in the ceiling, raising the water level fast.
“Are you all right?” Jax called to me in the darkness.
“Yeh,” I replied, “but soon neither of us will be. The cave is filling up with water.”
“WHAT?!” I heard him stumble as he tried to rush over. “First we were attacked by the serpent, then we had a problem with flesh-eating birds, and now this!”
“Flesh-eating birds?!” I scrambled to my feet, but Jax pulled me back down. He was crouching on the glistening rock. He pointed up, and I followed his gaze to see hundreds of tiny yellow birds fluttering up above. They had sharp talons and cruel, hooked beaks.
“What are we going to do?!” I repeated, this time in a whisper.
Jax shook his head helplessly. “There’s no other way out. We’re going to die here.”
“Not on my watch.” I grabbed my stick from my belt and stood up, waving it in the air and smacking about a hundred birds. They fell to the ground and disintegrated in the fast-rising water.
Invigorated with fear, I swung it around and around in circles. The swarm became a cloud, then reduced to just a few fluttering around. I whacked them down and sheathed my stick.
Jax stared in awe at the stick. “I’ve really got to get one of those.”
“No time.” I unclipped the stick again, clutching it in my hands and venturing towards the broken entrance. Jax called after me, but I ignored him.
The next hit brought the serpent’s enormous head crashing through the broadened opening. Acting quickly, I stabbed the stick downward, hitting the beady red eye closest to me. It bellowed in pain and frustration, retreating for another shot and buying us a little time, a few precious seconds at most.
I beckoned Jax over and told him my plan, He nodded in agreement as I finished and took his position at the other end of the cave, while I hid in the shadows and taunted the serpent invisibly.
It roared a challenge in serpent-tongue and charged again, this time striking the rock with so much force that the roof trembled and almost caved in, as did the wall that the serpent hit. Catching Jax at the edge of its vision, it slithered towards him with deadly silence, finally raising its head and striking with deadly precision, straight at Jax.
He jumped away just in time, diving to the floor. The serpent smacked headfirst into the wall behind him, and the whole room started to rumble. A gaping hole appeared in the side of the wall, and most of it disappeared down the side of the large mountain. The fresh, cold, crisp night air blew into the cave, giving us a break from all of the dust.
“Quick, Misveri, get out!” Jax yelled, breaking me out of my stupor.
I picked my way among the falling rocks, over to the hole. “Jax, come on!” I extended my hand to him, but he did not take it.
“No, Misveri,” he murmured sadly. “My leg is caught in the serpent’s venomous fangs.”
The serpent! I glanced down at where it used to be, now crushed by rubble. The fangs must have tore through the fabric of his pants and cut deep into his skin, making him wince.
“I’m not leaving without you, Jax,” I told him firmly. “A life for a life.” I jumped down and began to try hauling him out.
He screamed in pain at first, and I stopped, terrified, as the cavern started to collapse around me. I came to my senses after a flying chunk of rock landed next to my foot, so I gritted my teeth and began to pull again.
Jax soon quieted down, which made it a little easier to bear as I tried a new tactic. I dug through the mound of broken-down rocks until I found a gleaming white fang, caught in the green material that used to be Jax’s pants. I gently eased it out of Jax’s leg, making sure not to make contact with the poison myself.
When Jax was free, he tried to get up, but cried out as his injured leg gave way. If not for me, he would’ve fallen down and killed himself, but I caught his arm and steadied him.
I took a deep breath. “Do you think you’ll be able to climb back down the mountain?” I asked Jax.
“Yeah, I think so.” His eyes were wide and he was breathing slowly and heavily, but his voice was steady. “We’ll jump out on the count of three.”
I turned my head and looked back. The cave was collapsing, and the ground below us was trembling, as if the serpent were trying to break through the weight on top of it.
“THREE!” I yelled desperately, dragging Jax behind me as I jumped over the ledge. Jax stumbled a little, but I had no time to think about that as we scrambled down the mountain. We weren’t a moment too soon; as we jumped down from ledge to ledge, hopping in an ungraceful fashion, the entire mountaintop crumbled, and the remains cascaded down the other side of the mountain.
After a few minutes of climbing down, the pressure crashed down on Jax and he fell backwards as his left leg slipped and he fell. I grabbed his right arm as he went down past me, stopping his descent but leaving him dangling in midair with my hand as his only chance of survival.
Pulling him up, I managed to get him secured. “I never knew I’d ever say this to someone I hardly know, but…” I cleared my throat. “Hang onto my back, I’ll carry you down.”
He smiled. “I never thought I’d be doing this to someone I hardly know, but…thanks.”
With his added weight on me, I started to climb down again. A rock clattered down under my foot, and it was only then that I realized that I was right over a cliff.
“Need some help?” someone called from below. “It sure looks like it.”
I decided to take the risk. “Can you help us?” I replied loudly. “We’re a little stuck here.”
In a minute, someone came up beside us. He looked like Jax, in a way, with his black hair, golden-brown skin, and mischievous green eyes, but in all other fields he lacked any similarity in comparison with Jax. His hands were clumsy and he often made loud noises as he made his way up, nothing like the silent and stealthy manner in which Jax had crept past me in the tunnels (which I doubted even existed anymore). He was thin and starved, so much that I could count every one of his ribs if I stopped to try. However, his eyes lit up when he saw Jax, and it became clear to me that it was no chance meeting that we were having with this person up here in the mountains.
“Jax!” he exclaimed. “What happened? And who’s this?” he added, confused.
Jax raised his head. “This is Misveri, I met her in the tunnels. Long story short, the serpent attacked us in a supposed safe haven and bit my leg.”
“And who, if I may kindly interrupt this friendly reunion, is this?” I asked.
“Oh, did I forget to mention that?” Jax asked innocently. “This is my friend Jekal. See, we live among a large group of forest people, and we have to work to keep each other alive. We’re all about the same age, because somehow this place grants immortality.”
I had no time to dwell on his words, but one thing flared in my mind: where there was a group, there was a healer.
“Can you take us to your camp?” I asked eagerly. “Jax badly needs a healer.”
“This’ll be easier.” Jekal dipped two fingers into a brown leather pouch hanging around his neck. When he pulled it out, it was covered with pink dust, which he sprinkled over the three of us. “Fairy dust can take us to wherever the owner wishes. We’ll get to the camp.”
That was the last thing I heard as the world distorted around me and I lost my grip on the rock. I screamed, thinking that we would fall to our deaths as my surroundings twisted and turned.
I landed on my feet with a bone-jarring THUD, but I was able to stand up shakily. Jax was no longer clinging to my back, but lying on the floor a good distance, say, 6 feet, away from me. I rushed over to him in dismay, hoping that I hadn’t killed him in the fall.
To my relief, he was still breathing, and I took the chance to survey my surroundings. I was in a clearing that was obviously in the forest that Jax lived in. The trees were a reddish-golden color, like fall leaves, but the leaves themselves were all different colors, from red to green to purple to pink to blue, and other exotic colors never before seen in my world. They extended high up into the sky. When I looked up, I could catch a glimpse of movement and the edge of a wooden structure built among the treetops.
Suddenly, I noticed that Jekal had wandered over to a nearby tree, the thickest in the clearing. He was pulling a rope that was concealed among the tree leaves. A rope ladder dropped down, and he began to climb.
I pulled up the now-unconscious Jax onto my back again and placed my hands on the bottom rung. Slowly, I made my way up, already weak with exhaustion but not giving up. One after another, I thought silently. Just keep going.
I finally reached the top, a network of wooden structures winding around the highest tree branches that could still support weight, attached to the thick tree trunks and connected with bridges. The several sturdy ropes and strong knots held in together and tight.
At the top, Jekal was waiting with a girl about my age, with shoulder-length black hair, sea-green eyes, and the same golden-brown skin as all of the others. Many boys and girls like that were milling around, some sharing newly killed food or freshly picked herbs, others sharpening weapons, and a few more just talking around the magical fire.
“Are these the ones, Jekal?” she asked him sharply, pointing at me.
He nodded. “Yes, Jessica. Jax was bitten, although he and the girl managed to kill the serpent–or at least delay the annual feeding.”
The girl, Jessica, walked cautiously around me, examining how we looked. She eased Jax off of my back and called a nearby group of boys to carry him away. They made a ‘seat’ with their arms to hold Jax as they started walking him to another tree.
“She seems a little…not the type,” Jessica said suspiciously. “Say she’s not the one?”
“Tell no one,” Jekal breathed quietly. “They must not know or her head will be mounted on the wall before they even have proof.”
I didn’t like that, but I kept quiet. I had done enough for one night.
Suddenly, my legs buckled as my exhaustion crashed down on me. Falling to my knees, I heard wild screaming just before my vision went black.