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Blog 221: Campaign Novelization

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Here it is. The boss battle, dun dun dun.

Just to recap, Arael was one of the friendly senior members of the Orphanage, House Drovenge's team of assassins that Mathal, Tarvi, Abe, and Rizzardo were also a part of. I'm not sure any further recap is needed, but if so, then all the other chapters are on Wattpad (, FF, and AO3 as Council of Thieves.


Chapter 32: A Legacy of Pain

They made it all the way to the closed flaps of the tent without any sign of Arael, visible or invisible. Mathal dropped Rizzardo into Crosael’s arms, who dropped him on the ground, and shouldered into the tent.

The white-blond haired half-elf sat at a desk with his back to the door of the tent. He leaned his elbows against the desk, the face so similar to Moris’s rested on his laced fingers.



He didn’t turn. He didn’t move at all.

“Rizzardo told me what happened.”

“He’s still alive?”

“Yeah. We’re not here to kill you. Just stop attacking the Maggot Tree.”

“I can’t. Reinforcements will be here any minute.”

“You’re in charge. Call them off.”

He rose slowly to his feet. His face, what she could see of it behind the long, blond strands, had sunk into the hollows of his skull. His eyes were two silvery-blue pinpricks in black-ringed pits. His clothes hung loose on his skeletal frame.

“Arael, are you--”

“Janiven is in charge.”

“Janiven isn’t here! And you, what happened? Sit down, lie down--”

“You happened!” he spat. “You and Tarvi and Abe! You were my friends. My family. And then she had to kill him. I haven’t done anything since but remember.”

“I’m still your friend. Arael--”

“No. No.”

“A real friend--”

“Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!”

He rose up into the air, fists shaking. He vanished. She cursed in Aklo.

“I don’t want to fight you! Don’t--”

He blasted her with a cold so intense that her skin turned blue as it burned down to the bone. The force hurled her out of the tent and straight into Crosael, thankfully not still holding Rizzardo. He caught her with a grunt.

“Failure to communicate?”

“No, he’s just hurt--I can talk him down!”

A second blast of cold threw the tent flaps wide. Crosael dropped her and shifted forward, arms spread to catch the arctic wind. His glyphs flared olive green, but frost crystals coated his rags. He threw the wind back at the unseen Arael.

“Freeze,” said Arael in hollow, disembodied Elvish.

A third wind kicked up, slamming into Crosael’s. He grunted and dug in his heels but slid inch by inch toward the slithering roots of the creeping trees.

Mathal shook off the numbing cold and slammed one palm to the ground.


Her swarm of implacable fangs burst up from around her hand and shot toward Arael. They sheared sparks harmlessly off his armored aura, but it was enough. She charged in his direction and opened her mouth. Rust red venom geysered out and painted his translucent form.

Arael kept one hand toward Crosael, forcing him closer and closer to the tripping, suffocating tangle. He pointed at Mathal with the other.


A twenty-foot ball of roaring fire exploded down at her. She dived as far as she could from the center of the blast, but the searing caught her in the back. Flames ripped her breath away. Heat melted through her scales. The force drove her face-first into the dirt and stone of the earth.

Mathal grasped for her fleeting consciousness, but the waves of pain crushed all thought and darkened all her senses. She shrunk down until all she was and knew was a tiny, wordless scream inside a shell of pain.

A shell.

A slight twinge in her chest pierced through every layer of hurt. Her aura flared rust red.

She burst up from the Mathal-shaped pit in the earth in a rain of dirt and cutting stone. A bolt of lightning stabbed through her chest. She screamed and fell.

Crosael fell without a scream, his eyes wide with surprise. He clawed at the thick, snaking roots, but they kept coming. They buried him under their heavy tangle.


Arael’s red-stained feet touched down in front of Mathal. She staggered up to her hands and knees. He kicked the side of her temple. She hit the ground but crawled right back onto her arms, spitting blood.

“Don’ this.”

He held a shaking, red-stained hand over her head.

“Goodbye, Mathal.”

Lightning crackled between his fingertips.


As she forced herself back up onto her hands and knees, Mathal shifted at the speed of thought. Arms and legs lengthened black and bent in at the joints. Her entire body curved and blackened. Arael’s name turned to a wordless shriek between her venom-dripping mandibles. Their razor-sharp tips sank half a foot through his ribcage.

Arael screamed. Mathal’s mandibles ripped red and silver from his chest. She tossed his limp body aside.

Mathal the spider leaped across the fireball’s twenty-foot crater. She didn’t stopped until she reached Crosael. Her mandibles sliced through the thick roots like paper. She spat out the venom-soaked pulp and snatched him up in one of her eight legs.

She shot web into the branches of the nearest tree and tossed her brother into the strands. He stuck and dangled, but it was good enough for now.

Mathal picked her way back to Arael through the roots. He laid in growing puddle of red, his skin purpling with her venom. Her eight legs shifted back to two arms and two legs. All shook from exertion.

She collapsed onto her belly but had just enough strength left to roll into the puddle on her back. She turned her ear to the ground, facing Arael upside down.

“You’re poisoned.”

“I’m dying.”

Mathal turned her head to the blue sky over the disappearing clearing. She could’ve healed him if she hadn’t applied her toxin directly to his chest.

“You didn’t have to die.”

“Don’t. You...saved me.”


Pure, unadulterated anger pushed her up onto her elbows. Onto her hands and knees. She crawled over Arael’s face. She could barely see it through the burning tears.

“What did you [redacted] say to me?”

“...thank you.”

The last of his breath rattled out of his chest. Mathal roared and slammed her fist by his pointed ear. Red splashed up into their faces. She spat and sobbed and wiped it from her face onto the back of her arm but only smeared it all over herself.

Black flashed in the corner of her eye. Twelve pairs of boots stood at the edge of the creeping treeline. Mathal raised her head. The shadow-skinned fey watched her in silence. She scooped Arael up in her arms and staggered up to her feet.

“Him? Are you here for him? Are you going to bury him?”

They said nothing. The silence only made her angrier. She screamed at them, blinded by tears. She kept screaming until the black blurs faded back into the trees.


Mathal burned the body. Crosael and Rizzardo woke in her web before the charred corpse had stopped smoking. The clearing was gone, Arael’s tent buried under the sea of roots and dead leaves. Crosael opened his mouth.


He closed it.

Rizzardo took one look a the charred corpse in the hollow of the tree, paled, and also said nothing. Crosael healed the three of them, even whisking away the last of the blood and dirt off their clothes. Mathal and Crosael helped Rizzardo down. Together, they returned to the Maggot Tree.

The twelve silent fey had taken their smoking bins with them, but the scent of burning still lingered in the clearing. Fmughwa the Deathgorger screeched a subsonic pulse as they approached, one much weaker than before. It barely reached through the thin layers of Mathal’s skin.

She and Crosael scrambled over the tangle of roots and in through a hidden crevice. They climbed up through the soft, innerwood tunnel. They higher they climbed, the hotter the air grew inside the tree. They were both covered in sweat by the time they’d reached the hole to the heart chamber of the Tree. Rings of glyphs like the rings of a natural tree had been carved into the floor and ceiling. They bonded the two dozen separate trunks below into a single, massive trunk extending above.

A black and yellow shelled beetle as large as a covered wagon hunkered down on her belly in a dark corner of the cell. Her yellow, segmented antennae hung limp over her dull, black eyes, each the size of a humanoid head. Her long yellow legs, once as strong as tall shoots of bamboo, had bent and broken and could no longer support her weight.

Mathal inhaled the muggy air with an involuntary hiss, one hand grasping the fabric of her shirt in a fist. Crosael strode past her without stopping.

“Stand back.”

He knelt in front of Fmughwa the familiar’s drooping head and placed his ink-smeared hands under her mandibles. One healing spell wasn’t enough. He cast another. Another.

Mathal turned her back to the sight. Mother had let this happen to her own familiar, her own soul. A blood-boiling scream itched at the bottom of her lungs.

“I need some air.”

“Go. We’ll join you once we’re through.”

She jumped down the tunnel and slid full speed down the twists and turns of the smooth wood. Rizzardo appeared at the end of a turn with his hands and feet braced against the walls. He screamed. She screamed. They all screamed and collided and tumbled out of the Maggot Tree with a map of fresh, new bruises.

“I think I’ve broken something,” Rizzardo winced.

“Can’t have been anything important.”

Crosael would be out of spells by the time he repaired all the damage done to Fmughwa. Mathal was just as magically drained. She didn’t bother getting up off the roots. There was something hypnotic about the slightest sway of the leaves hundreds of feet overhead. Rizzardo stared up at the canopy beside her.

“It’s actually kind of nice here when you’re not being attacked by killer flies or killer spiders or killer bird-things.”

“Gryphs. Mother breeded them.”

“Killer bird-abominations, got it.”

“You’ll like her about the same.”

Rizzardo jerked up straight as a rail, completely ignoring whatever he’d broken.

“The Mother of Flies? If your plan is to hand me over, I’d literally rather you just kill me now.”

“No. We need a place to rest so Crosael can take the three of us back to the city tomorrow.”

“Thanks, but no thanks. I’m taking my chances in the woods.”

“With the fey.”

Rizzardo stopped mid-step. He walked back beside Mathal and sunk down without a word. Both stared up at the slight, mind-numbing sway of the leaves.

They woke with a start at the quake of the ground below. They staggered up and held each other for balance. Fmughwa the Deathgorger reared up on her massive hind legs, forelegs kicking, shell and wings flaring to their full span. Her mandibles opened with a subsonic screech that shook Mathal to the pit of her bones and the spiders, flies, and gryphs from every crevice of the Maggot Tree. Fmughwa landed on its roots and rattled the leaves to the height of its canopy.

Crosael waved grandly at Mathal and Rizzardo from behind the giant beetle’s antennae. He’d spelled away the sweat and smeared black to look right as rain except for the slight shadows under his eyes.

“How do you feel about a shortcut?”


Fmughwa burst through the canopy and over the trees of the Etherwood, the three riders on her head whooping and/or screaming into the sunset horizon. Rizzardo sat behind Crosael, his arms locked in a deathgrip around Crosael’s torso. Mathal sat behind him, hands raised to the whipping winds of the beetle’s flight.

The sea of trees stretched for miles in all directions without breaks in the green, but Fmughwa knew the way. Mathal let the wind blow through her, whisking away all thought of where they were going and where they’d been. She whooped and screamed and smiled.

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