The magic slammed into the vine creature and it instantly began to grow. It grew taller and denser, faster than anything I could have done on my own. I was already canceling the magic in anticipation of things going horribly wrong, but it still wasn't enough. It was three times my height in seconds. After a few more, it was half the height of Grollok.
The trees around us reacted. Many stepped back and away from the explosion of magic. Grollok stood his ground.
The vine creature began whipping around violently. A vine ripped through the canopy striking a tree in the distance. It still wasn't big enough to do any major damage to the tree, but it was still growing. Another vine slammed down on the ground between me and Lolan. It left a rut big enough to bury someone in.
We backed up too. I kept trying to push the magic away from the vine monster, but it was too strong.
The vine creature grew and now stood the height of Grollok himself.
Grollok, for his part, looked like he was also having trouble with the magic being sapped from him. He was clutching at his chest. But when he saw the vine monster reach his own height, he threw his arms forward and slammed the vine creature in the chest.
The vine monster stumbled backward, away from Grollok and toward us.
"Look out!" yelled Lolan. We all dove for cover. One stray foot headed my way, but I wasn't quick enough to outrun it. Right before it touched down, I felt a tug on my arm and was pulled onto the back of Bubba. Palem steered the elk out of danger.
"Thank you," I said, catching my breath.
He didn't have time to answer. Another foot was coming our way. This time Bubba charged toward the foot at Palem's command. The foot sailed over us, barely clearing the elk's antlers.
It crashed into the ground behind us.
"Hold him down. I can't control it anymore!" I yelled, hoping Grollok got the message.
"BBBIIINNND HIIIM," bellowed the treant.
Other trees stepped forward and tackled the vine creature. It continued to fight, flailing and scratching at the earth, but it was far outnumbered. Trees piled onto it, holding down limbs and keeping it from doing any more damage.
When the dust had finally settled, I looked to make sure everyone was still okay. Lolan was on Tigala's back, who was in tiger form. As for the Saurian, she was still being held by the treant who had caught her.
I looked up at Grollok. "We had a deal, let the Saurian go."
Grollok looked a little less stable than usual. He still held one hand to his chest as he looked at me and then at the captive.
"FRREEEE HHHEEER," he said.
The treant stooped low to the ground and placed its branched hand on the ground. The Saurian looked at me with wide eyes before stepping onto the stable earth. She took a moment to get her footing and then darted off into the forest.
And here I thought maybe she'd talk to us after all of this. Wishful thinking.
"I made you. And I have the power to make more of you," I said, staring up at the broken treant. "I need you to listen to me. There is a monster, far bigger even than all of you. It wants destruction, and it will come for all of us. So stop fighting me and my friends. Let's work together to save our people."
Grollok looked at the broken tree and then another. This might actually work.
"WWWUUTT DDOOO WEEE NEEEDDD TOOOO DOOO?" asked Grollok.
I looked at the others and then back at the trees. "Come with us. We'll be attacking the monster shortly. You can come with us and help."
Grollok stared at me for a moment. His chest rose and then fell. "WWWEEE WIILLL HHHELLPPP," said Grollok.
I smiled. "Follow us."
We had been walking for a couple of hours when we decided to take a break. We found a nice spot among the hills and small plants to rest in the shade of one of the towering pillar-like mountains. The treants and twig creatures seemed to enjoy the break as well. They chose to stand still and soak up the sun.
"That went well," I said as I grew some small berry bushes for us. I wondered if the others were getting sick of my berries.
"Yeah," said Tigala, "we got lucky."
"Where do you think that Saurian came from?" asked Lolan.
"I was wondering the same thing," I said. "None of you have seen her before, right?"
"Nope," said Lolan.
Tigala shook her head and Palem focused on his own nature magic creation.
"Do you think it was another Havik situation?" I asked. "Maybe it was someone using illusion magic to look like a Saurian.
"Maybe," said Lolan. "But at least in Havik's situation, he was a lot more hostile. If that was Havik, Malcolm, or one of his subordinates, she wouldn't have been so hesitant to attack. She didn't want a fight."
"True," I finished growing a handful of berries and distributed them to the group, I even gave a few to Bubba who gobbled them up.
Palem was nearing the completion of this creation as well. It was a cucumber vine, with loads of the fruit hanging off of it.
I heard something coming from near the cliffs. I looked over and saw the same blue Saurian we had saved from the trees.
She took slow steps toward us, eyeing the towering trees as she did.
"It's okay," I said. "They're resting, and I told them to leave you alone anyway."
"Why?" asked the Saurian.
"It's like I said. We weren't trying to hurt you. We want to work together. We were just curious how you got to Daegal. We thought we knew everyone on the island at this point."
"How did you know how to do that?" she said. Her eyes moved to something behind me. I turned and found the vine monster in the distance, still struggling to break free of the two treants that restrained it.
"Oh, I'm not entirely sure," I said. "I was put in a tough situation a little bit ago and the only tool I had was a massive vein of nature magic. I used it and it went haywire. It's how I created all of them."
"Did you mean to?" she asked. She sure was interested in the magic, but unwilling to give answers of her own. Maybe it would help ease the tension she had with us though.
"No," I said. "This time I did, but I wasn't sure it was going to work either. And I'd prefer not to create more of them. They're kind of dangerous."
"Yeah," said the Saurian. "Thank you, for saving me."
"You're welcome," I said. "I'm Kaia. And that's Tigala, Lolan, and Palem." I pointed to each of them in turn.
"This is Bubba," added Palem.
The Saurian looked us over. "Kesq," she said finally. "I'm here because I'm running from someone. Someone wants to use what I know as a weapon, but it's too powerful."
"Well, not to sound just like that someone, but we need something powerful to stop this monster that just woke up," I said.
"Yeah," said Kesq. "I saw it."
"You did?" I asked. "Where?"
"It was further up the stream where we met, close to where it met the ocean. I watched it stalk closer and closer to me with a dragon trailing it. And then, all of a sudden, it disappeared in a mist of violet energy."
"It teleported?" I asked no one in particular. I looked at Tigala.
"We need to tell the others," said Tigala.
"Yeah," I said. I stood up and began walking toward the trees.
"You're going to stop it?" asked Kesq.
"We're going to try," I said. "That thing wants to kill everyone in its path. It tried destroying the world once before, and it's going to try again."
Kesq took a deep breath. "I'll help," she said.
I turned to make eye contact with her. "Thank you. We can use all the help we can get."
I looked back to the trees, "Grollok! We need to move."
The trees that were still 'awake' and holding the vine monster stomped their feet down. It was enough to stir the trees around it and send a shockwave all the way to me. The other treants and plants began to stir themselves awake. Once I found Grollok with his glowing features I said, "The monster teleported somewhere. We need to find it before it does major damage."
Grollok looked down at us and then bellowed out the word: "MOOOVVVVE!"
The rest of the trees sprung to motion.
"Grollok," I yelled up again, barely audible over the tearing of dirt from ancient roots. "I think we're going to need a ride too. We don't have a lot of time."
Grollok stepped forward and lowered a hand in front of us. I was the first to step onto the bark-covered appendage. The rest followed, with Kesq being the last to join, hesitant to step onto the hand of a monster that was previously trying to kill her.
Grollok lifted us up and began his march back to Birdsbane to join the rest of the survivors. He lifted us to what would be considered his chest, close to the green glowing markings. And then he walked with us held in front of him.
It was wild being lifted up so quickly, being at the top of the canopy. It was even wilder that we were moving with something at this height, and that something was a tree that I brought to life. I looked down at the ground and felt queasy. This was not a height I wanted to fall from.
I looked at the others, trying to distract myself from the height. Kesq, most of all looked out of place. She sat on the tree's palm with eyes wide, as if she was afraid the floor beneath her would give out at any moment.
"So, any chance you're going to tell us what you know that could have been used as a weapon? I promise we won't hold you hostage for it, no matter how useful it might be." That didn't come out exactly as I had hoped.
She gave me an odd look which only barely masked the fear from the height and dangerous tree monster that carried us. Then she said, "you already know it, to an extent at least." She lifted her chin at the glowing center of Grollok. "That glow, it's known as a beacon—an extremely powerful source of magic. Tapping into them is dangerous, but grants amazing power with the respective type of magic."
"Woah," I said. "I didn't know they had a name. I thought it was just a strange occurrence on Daegal."
"It is," she said. "There are a lot of them here. I can sense them. The knowledge I have is how to use them; how to tap into that power, even of a different type of magic, and use it to make you stronger."
"What's the downside?" asked Tigala. She never liked toying with magic, especially different kinds.
"Well, it's hard to control if you don't know what you're doing, but it sounds like you might have already experienced that."
"Yeah," I said. I glanced at Tigala again. "So you could teach me to harness the power of those better?" I asked. That could change the whole dynamic of the battle that we were preparing for. If we could use those veins, the beacons, then maybe we'd have a chance at taking down the doom drake.
"I could," she said. "But I'm not sure I want to yet. I want to make sure you are what you say you are. It's not the kind of knowledge that just anyone should have."
"Fair enough," I said. But I really wanted to know. That might be what we needed.
She didn't seem to want to say more than that at the moment, and I didn't want to pry and make it look like I was going back on my promise of not holding her hostage for the knowledge. I'm sure she wasn't happy about having to keep the information from people who would abuse it.
Instead, we kept quiet as the treants continued on toward our current base of operations. It wasn't long at all before we could see the wyverns flying among the spire mountains, and then the ruined town of Birdsbane. But when we saw the town, I noticed there was someone running from the town toward us. They were small, like an ant coming to attack us.
"Hang on Grollok," I said. "There's someone coming." I pointed and the others looked. "Let me talk to them. They might think you are enemies."
Grollok didn't respond but slowly lowered his hand instead. We touched down and I climbed off of the tree to find Rodrigo at the head of the approaching group.
He looked at me, and then the tree that lowered us down. I'm sure he was considering the history we had over me creating this forest of wandering monsters. Still, he spared no time to tell us, "The doom drake. It attacked!"
"What? Already? Where?" I asked, unable to contain all of the questions I had.
"Brighton," he said. "The city is gone."