Scourage of the Terrablossom
Chapter 11: Attack of the Mantara
Edge looked at the shapes again. Shapes wasn’t the word. The only things that distinguished them from the forest, or indeed the sky, were the leaves that flew around them in a maelstrom. Edge thought he could a small glimpse of an unholy looking eye, but the wind was so cold he couldn’t keep his own open.
Gash took one look at the extraordinary sight. That was enough.
“Edge, if Spirit can fly any faster, get him to fly away from here right now.”
Edge nodded. He tapped Spirit’s neck the way he usually did in an emergency, and Spirit opened his wings into gliding form. There was a whoosh, and then Spirit was off, racing as fast as he could over the trees.
But the leaves kept up.
“Gash, what are those things? I hope you know, because we don’t have the book to help us this time!”
“I know what they are alright, Edge. It’s just that…”
“Zoah lost lots of people to them…. good people. Even hunters.”
“When we first started getting Zoah back on it’s feet, the forest seemed the easiest source of food. Everytime someone went for food though, those…. THINGS…attacked. That’s why we turned to imports.”
“But what are they?”
“They were named as being ‘Mantara’. We think they look like Lazara, but they attack using leaves and other natural stuff instead of lasers.”
“Two things didn’t make sense there, Gash. One is that ‘you think’ they look Lazara? And how could you attack with leaves?”
“You’ve never had a paper cut?”
“I have had one, and it was bloody sore!”
“Compare a cut to having your entire leg chopped off by a leaf.”
“They’re that sharp?”
“Yep, and the worst part is we could never fight the things. We couldn’t see them! They have some sort of…cloaking trick which hides them against ANY background. But the one person who did see them, my wife, said that one of them had a long, sharp horn, just like a Lazara.”
“Why do you call them ‘Mantara’?”
Gash now had to shout to get himself heard, the wind was so strong and in their face. “Telescope word Edge! Mantis, and Lazara! Mant-ara!”
“Fair enough! How do we kill them?!”
“We don’t! We run!”
“That’s a positive attitude!”
“Last time someone tried to kill one of those things, we found his body in his house!”
“It was also in the church, the bar, by the front door, in the Herb House…”
“Ok! I get the picture!”
Running isn’t the answer! Screamed Edge’s mind. You’ve got a dragon! Dragons can take down anything! They took down the Empire’s mothership; they can take down these things.
“Can they really?”
“What?” shouted Gash.
Edge tapped Spirit’s head again, and Gash realised they were going backwards, towards the Mantara.
“Edge! ARE YOU INSANE!!!???”
“No, Gash, I’m not insane! Your hunters only had guns! I have a dragon!……. And a gun.” Edge added in as more of an afterthought than a cocky statement.
“Edge, they’ve cut people, and Coolia, into pieces!”
“Yeah, but I bet they can’t get you if you’re too far away!”
Edge pulled the trigger on his gun. Boy, that felt good. The shot flew through the air straight into one of the cyclones, and the leaves fell away. There was no noise of a creature roaring in pain though.
“Gash, do these things make any noise?”
“Does a tree make a noise when it falls down? Especially if there is no-one alive within hearing range?”
Edge was too busy to think of his reply. He was fixated with one of the localised cyclones, the way it moved the leaves. Such grace. Such elegance. So peaceful. So many leaves… Racing towards me.
Edge pulled out his gun again, slapped a Triburst attachment on it and fired like his life depended on it, which it did. 6 seconds later, and Edge had fired 6 shots. He got 18 hits. The leaves all fell towards the forest undergrowth.
Gash just stared, open mouthed. “Your shooting has improved.” was all he could say.
“Thanks.” said Edge, “but we still have more to get.”
The fifth cyclone had started up again. There were more leaves this time, flying in a double helix (DNA) shape around the Mantara. As Edge watched, the other cyclones matched this pattern over the course of a few seconds.
“Its like…they’re trying to hypnotise me…. it’s so bizarre…”
Edge turned around just in time to see the horrific eye of a Mantara. Edge was the first to ever get that close to one and live. The Mantara was stationary above Edge, and no wonder. Its comrade’s showing’s off were just a ploy. All that time, the supposedly dead Mantara had flown around and was about to take a bit out of Edge’s neck, when Gash had stuck a very, very large knife into it’s one, unarmored body part.
The Mantara itself was a nasty piece of work, and no mistake. Gash was right. The creature did look like a Lazara, but the color was different. Instead of a navy blue, or a wooden brown, the Mantara was a spring green. It’s body was slightly less…. bumpy?…. too, with a smooth, streamlined look. From the large horn that was actually only a couple of inches above Edge’s head, he could tell that this was the leader of the pack. Finally, the Mantara’s wings had jagged edges, meaning that if there weren’t any leaves nearby the Mantara could still attack. It was, without a doubt, the scariest thing Edge had ever seen. There was a second’s silence, and then a terrible war cry erupted throughout the forest. The Mantara’s eyes flared with anger, but soon closed as the Mantara fell, dead, into the trees below.
“Holy…Gash. You just saved my life. I didn’t think you were so quick with a knife! How can I ever repay you?”
“Easy. Give me your gun and throw that sniper thing on it.”
Edge gave Gash his gun, which had been modified with a sniper attachment. Gash smiled, more of a grimace the truth be known, and held the gun up.
The leaves stopped, almost as if to say: “Uh-oh.”
What Gash yelled next is unprintable. Let’s say it involved lots of the same swear word, with the suffixes “ing” and “er” on the end. He took the gun and fired countless rounds at the leaves as the remained stationary in the air. There was a single war cry, the same one as before, and then all the Mantara became visible again. They didn’t hang around to let Gash see them though. They used their Lazara evasion skills and flew away as fast as they could.
“HA!! NOT SO BRAVE NOW, ARE YOU!? NOT WHEN YOUR BOSS HAS BEEN KILLED! BASTARDS! UTTER BASTARDS! I’LL HAVE YOUR PARTNER FRIED TOMORROW, FIRST THING!”
“I GOT YOU! I BLOODY WELL GOT YOU AND THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT! HA!”
“Gash, I’m all one for celebrations, but we have to catch Tyrune!”
“STUPID BLOODY…Oh, sorry Edge. I got a bit overexcited there.”
Edge pondered for a second. “Gash?”
“Where did you get that knife?”
“Same place I got all of these.”
Edge looked at Gash’s belt. Imagine a machine gun clip. For every bullet in a machine gun clip, replace that with a knife. That is kinda what Gash’s belt looked like.
“Gash, why have you got…forget counting!…..Why have you got all those knives with you?” Gash held up one particular knife. This one was very ornamental. It had gold leaves on it. The blade looked like it had been folded about a thousand times, but it was still a large knife. It was serrated, and it had something written on it. ‘Liana’.
“This is the knife Liana gave me on the day we got married.”
“What kind of couple gives each other weapons on their wedding day?”
“It’s a Seeker tradition, Edge. It symbolises the fact that you trust the person you are betrothing yourself to. See, it’s like this. If I gave a gun to someone who didn’t like me, they’d shoot me, right? Giving your wife a knife, and trusting her not to stab you, that’s a symbol of trust.”
“You never told me Liana was a Seeker.”
“She wasn’t. We had a Seeker wedding though. Nothing fancy, just practical. The “I do’s” and the Knife ceremony were the only parts worth mentioning….”
“She meant a lot to you, didn’t she?”
Gash sighed. “She was the only symbol of the part of my life where I wasn’t at war with anyone. She was the only woman I ever cared for. She meant the world to me.”
“What about the other knives?”
“One for each victim of the Terrablossom. I planned to ram each one of them into the Terrablossom’s heart, but I’ll have to do with the ones I have left. That knife I used on the Mantara, it belonged to the best man at the wedding. Avar, his name was. He was Liana’s brother, although we knew each other so well, I wish he was mine too. It’s ironic that after all the friends he lost to those Mantara, that his essence would finally get revenge….”
Tyrune’s ears flickered.
“What the…Terrablossom! Stop!”
The Terrablossom stopped in mid air, then began slowly gliding down into the trees.
“So, he can beat off 6 Mantara, eh? This is interesting…. Terrablossom, get those blossoms to their strongest! I’ve got a feeling we’re going to have a little company any time soon….”
“Gash, where exactly are we going?”
“Well…you said that Tyrune took out Tadcaster earlier, right?”
“So, it is likely he’ll go back there to finish the job.”
“Damned if I know. Best idea we have, really.”
“You have a point.”
Spirit flew swiftly over the trees. The wind had died down now, making it clear sailing…. or flying, anyway.
“Look. Over there. In the distance.”
Gash’s one good eye squinted, then a grimace appeared on his face.
Edge bit his lip. This was going to be a hard fight.
“Let’s go, Spirit.”
(Authors note: If you want to make this scene more dramatic, start the “Atolm Dragon” track playing while you imagine it.)
“Well, well, well. Look who it is!” Tyrune jeered.
Edge made Spirit fly right over the Terrablossom’s head.
“I thought you’d learned since last time, Divine Visitor. You’ll never best me. Never!” “We’ll just see about that, won’t we Spirit?”
“Humph. Not against this monster you won’t. This thing is one of the most powerful monsters ever Edge! Do you STILL think you can win?”
“I don’t know Tyrune! But I intend to find out!”
Spirit went into a deep dive, and then began blasting lasers at the Terrablossom. Each laser hit, but didn’t make much of an impact.
“Ha!” roared Tyrune. “You’re not NEARLY powerful enough!” Then, he lowered his voice and started talking to himself. “Although Arc’engal was right. I won’t repeat Pandra’s mistake!” Tyrune’s heads all threw themselves to a straight vertical.
“Edge! Look out!”
Tyrune’s heads all roared at the same time. Then came the barrage. Countless lasers flew from Tyrune’s mouths, aimed straight at Edge and Spirit. One head stopped firing after a few shots, and assumed it’s normal pose. It’s ears flapped in the new winds.
“Still confident?!” it screeched.
“No!” screamed Edge, “But I’m not going to stop! I’m not going to stop until I’ve righted all of your wrongs!” He put Spirit in a long, sweeping dive. This one narrowly missed the Terrablossom’s branches. Edge took a few shots at Tyrune, but all his shots got blasted by lasers as they flew through the air.
“Edge! Forget Tyrune!”
“Easy for you to say! You’re not having to dodge all these lasers!”
“No! That’s not what I mean! Look!”
Edge looked, and then wished he hadn’t.
Whilst he and Tyrune were having their little skirmish, the Terrablossom had taken up root in the rich, forest soil. Slowly, but surely, it was changing color. It’s branches were growing longer. But that wasn’t important. What was important was that the branches were being covered, slowly, in pink blossom.
He had just looked over the Terrablossom’s head, and saw what lay on the horizon.
With the winds back, and the Terrablossom in bloom….
“There’s no stopping it. No stopping it……”