6.5 – Heart tail
Brittle did not falter. She ran straight at him, eager and wanting, craving to end this horrible, horrible man. She had fought him off before. There would be no third time. No quarter. She would kill them all, crush their puny skulls into the ground. Her top tail whooshed at Brute, barely missing his face as he ducked just in time. Still wearing that painted grin. Not for long. She longed to stomp it off his face. She longed for….
She would remove all traces of Scourge, this crude parasite and the host bodies he used. These men, weak with anger and futile fires, easy prey for this entity, this horrid force of mindless destruction. Just look at this one, a true Brute through and through, can’t even swing his sword properly, she evaded the blow with ease. Her blood was boiling. She sneered. You all deserve…
No need to reach for the roots of the forest. She could do this all by herself. Pah! There he went rolling, struck by her second tail. Pathetic. Yet still jeering as he clambered to his feet. She couldn’t take it. That smile. On the face of the creature that tried to kill her lover, turned him into a shell of what he used to be, he could just as well have stabbed her heart. And kept on stabbing for eternity. That was what it felt like. Still. She roared as the pain resurfaced in her chest and felt how it suddenly came alive and burst out from the center of her torso. In the form of a new, wet wood tail, black and slithery, adorned with red, sickly thorns.
Yes. This was what he feared. This was her. A wood maiden in all her glory. This was the horror of the children’s tales. How fitting that this was about to become Brute’s last living memory. She snaked her heart tail around his ugly face and picked him off the ground. His useless sword fell clattering like a discarded child’s toy. Red thorns digging into his already scarred flesh. One little twist and she would rip off his pointless head. But why wouldn’t he stop smiling?!
„Yeeeeeesss“ she said, and….was struck by something, losing her grip and her balance. They both hit the ground. Confused, she looked up. There he was, Brute, scrambling for his sword again. How terribly predictable. She lunged with all three of her tails, but stopped…was held back? Something had grabbed hold of her. The heart tail strained to reach Brute, to shred his skin, but couldn’t reach. Brittle noticed that a root from below had locked on to it, that roots were embracing her from behind, hindering her. It was at this point Brittle realized she could no longer feel the forest. But she could feel something else, a tremor in the roots around her. They constricted further in a way she could only interpret as:
„Let me destroy him!!“ She struggled with all her might, but was powerless to break the vice she was in.
„I have to avenge you!!“
The root closest to her face started growing a small green twig. It rose to touch her face, to gently move her chin. The flames, they were all around her, fiercer and stronger than before. The rest of her kin lost behind the newly erected wall of flame. She hadn’t noticed. Only the area around her, the roots and Brute was still untouched. And the cut and bleeding face of Brute was smiling still. Seeing that, her anger burned again and simultaneously, the flames around her grew in harmony. She…she was feeding them.
„It’s…how…it’s taken me as well…“. Despair filled her now. „How can we fight this?“ The roots squeezed her one last time before returning underground, their touch leaving her with a lingering sensation of:
The tree. Their tree. Turning her face away from Brute, trying desperately not to succumb to rage again, she tried to find a way out of the inferno. As if heeding her call, a tree fell, a great giant creating a temporary path through the flames. Using her tails, she leapt on top of it, running its length as the fires quickly closed in to consume this sudden sacrifice. Flinging herself from the roots at the end she found herself in the area where Breeze had summoned the pain wind, but not a single Daughter was to be seen. She could feel it in the ground now. In the air, even. Everything was vibrating.
They must have felt it too. That’s where they were. Scourge kept hissing and eating behind her as she ran with breakneck speed through the dying forest. And though she didn’t think she’d get there…she did. The tree. The mother tree. Wolves and rabbits and hawks and pheasants and deer and voles and bumblebees and dawnfire sparrows were clustered around the trunk, in the barren boughs. Breeze with her conjoined hands. Brook on her giant badger. Breem nursing a freshly minted scar on her forearm. Branch whispering to the shimmering heartbone of Bray which she had strung around her neck for luck this morning.
And Cutting. In the center of it all. His single eye flower clearly directed at her.
„What do you mean?“ said Brittle, walking through the flotsam of her kin, her kin with furs, with muzzles, with wings, with two legs, four and six. „What good is love when nothing will remain?“
A family of mice softly scurried out of the way, freeing her final passage towards him. She could already feel the rising heat behind her, sign of Scourge’s relentless pursuit. Soon it would all be over. She shook her head, clutching the circumference of the trunk with her long black heart tail, leaning her forehead against the bark, small tears running down her face. Cutting looked at her. The flames came closer. A few of the folk squealed with fright. The animals, though, were silent.
At that very moment, Cutting’s heart flower rebloomed, its golden anthers longer than ever before. They touched her chest where the heart tail emerged. She felt him like she had. That time.
And like that time, she was moved to sing.