The Beginning After the End (Vol. 8.5): Amongst the Fallen
More Dangerous Than It Used to Be (Part 4)
More Dangerous Than It Used to Be (Part 4)
Dec 16, 2021
The mana beast's scream had flushed all thought from my head. I couldn't even focus enough to use mana, and so fell freely until I hit the ground with a bone-jarring thump. A distant pain tugged at my left side, and I wondered idly how many ribs I'd broken. The crashing of the ravager's plated, segmented body striking the ground around me seemed to last for a very long time.
Lying on the forest floor, my eyes closed and ears ringing, I wondered idly if the elf girl had survived. Beneath the insistent buzzing left behind by the ravager's scream attack, the forest seemed silent. No noise from the mana beast was a good sign, at least.
Finally, after what might have been a few seconds or a few minutes, I attempted to roll onto my side and push myself into a sitting position. A deep, dull pain below my ribs took my breath away, forcing me to lie back.
I let out a hissing breath and tentatively moved one hand to the spot: something was sticking out of my side.
With effort, I forced my eyes open and looked down at myself.
The barbed stinger of one of the scorpionlike tails had stabbed into my lower back, piercing all the way through me to jut out my front.
I knew I needed to pull myself free of the stinger, but that was easier said than done.
Scanning the ground around me, I spotted one of my daggers half stuck in the dirt several feet away. Too far for me to reach.
I grabbed the barbed tip of the tail and attempted to break it off by hand, infusing my arms with mana to give myself strength, but I couldn't get any leverage on it lying flat on my back.
The light, frightened voice came from the other side of the mountain of ravager meat.
"You're alive," I said, the movement of my muscles around the mana beast's stinger causing a fresh wave of agony to ripple out through the rest of my body. "That's nice."
"Y-you sound…are you hurt?"
"I'll be fine," I groaned, not sure if it was true. "Can you get to me?"
I heard creaking, like trees blowing in the wind, then felt the girl's footsteps approaching.
Wordlessly, I pointed to where the dagger was sticking up from the soft ground.
The girl ran to it, then returned, holding it out gingerly.
Taking it, I began to saw on the stone-hard stinger, trying to remove the barb so I could lift myself free. After a few seconds, I realized my muscles were fatigued, so tired I was having a hard time gripping the blade.
My breathing was shallow, and I could feel the heat radiating from my chest and neck.
"Venom," I said softly, letting my arms go limp for just a second.
The girl's wide eyes somehow grew even wider, and she held out a shaking hand toward the dagger. "I can t-try…"
Snorting, I went back to sawing at the stinger as best I could. It was about as thick as my wrist, and as hard as a horn. Under different circumstances, I probably could have done it without too much trouble, but as things were, I knew there was a real chance I would die of the venom before I could free myself.
The girl watched for a while, her huge mint colored eyes staring down at me, tears making them shine even in the dim light. I resisted the urge to snap at her, saving my strength for the work. After a minute, she seemed to shake out of a stupor and began to run around, staring at the forest floor.
"What are you doing?" I snapped, unable to hide my irritation. Couldn't I even die in peace?
"Looking," she shot back over her shoulder, then I lost sight of her.
My tired, poisoned brain couldn't think of anything else waspish to say, but a crack from the ravager's stinger refocused me. I'd carved a little over halfway through.
With the blade still lodged in the black stinger for leverage, I grabbed the partially-sheared tip and heaved. It twisted, snapping and cracking, and then finally broke free.
Several drops of thick, black goo pulsed from the severed end.
Not wanting to poison myself any further, I tore free a piece of my shirt and wiped away as much of the venom as I could, then began to slide myself up the stinger until I felt it slip out of my back.
My legs shook and everything hurt like hell, so I sat back down, one hand over the hole in my stomach. Blood was running freely through my fingers.
"Listen," I said when I heard hurried footsteps approaching. "There is a place you can go. The Wall. Not too far." My words were slightly slurred.
The girl's bright hair bounced as she kneeled down in front of me and began stuffing something into the wound. "Twist around a bit so I can get the back too."
I did so, though I couldn't process what she was doing, and so continued giving her directions. "Straight west, then follow the mountains south. Just a few hours away."
After she'd finished with my back, the girl moved around to sit in front of me and handed me three small green pods. "Here, chew these. Quickly."
I raised an eyebrow and looked at the pods, each one about the size of my thumb.
"Til seeds. They're a natural anti-venom—and the ocimum leaves will stop the bleeding."
With a shrug, I popped the three seed pods into my mouth and chewed quickly. Each one contained dozens of tiny seeds that had a slightly sweet, nutty flavor.
The girl put one hand on my shoulder and pushed lightly. "Lie back and rest. Let your mana heal you. I'll—I'll stand guard, okay?"
The tremor in her small voice didn't exactly inspire confidence, but if her remedy didn't work, I was going to die anyway, so I eased myself down onto the ground and closed my eyes again.
"I'm Camellia, by the way. Thanks. Thank you for saving me, I mean."
The war between Dicathen and Alacrya is over and Arthur Leywin has vanished. In the uncertain aftermath of this decisive loss, a few familiar faces navigate peril both political and moral as they are now forced to make a difficult choice: accept life under Vritra rule or keep fighting despite impossible odds? As Dicathen falls, Mica Earthborn, Lilia Helstea, Emily Watsken, and Jasmine Flamesworth must each answer this question for themselves.
NOTE ABOUT READING ORDER: to get the best reading experience, Amongst the Fallen should be read after volume 8 of The Beginning After the End (make sure you've read up to episode 868).