Chapter Two - The Daemon in the Woods

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FREED FROM THE MAGIC THE CREATURE drew itself up on its hind legs. Using its muscular, spiked tail for balance, it sprang towards the Elves. It screamed as it did so. A long drawn out cry that bit deep into their skulls. Thrax and the others fell back, reeling from the noise that was invading their minds. They instantly threw their hand up to their ears trying to shut out the sound. Then it was among them, its razored claws slicing into wiry Elven bodies. Disorientated, a number fell before they could react to the attack. Then as suddenly as it had begun the scream cut off. The Elves gathered themselves, fighting back against the lizard-like beast, trying to force it away. Altard threw up a barrier of magic between Elf and the creature that was trying to slaughter them. It threw itself against the invisible obstacle. Claws scratched and sparked on the unseen surface as it tried forcing its way through. The Spellcaster felt the barrier tremble under the assault and knew he would be incapable of holding it back for much longer.

'Ready yourselves my friends I fear my magic is about to abandon us,' he gasped through the strain of keeping the shield up.

The demon thing backed away a little, lowered its horned head and charged again.

Swiftly recovering from the monster's screams, George brought up Frostblade and summoned the magic. He felt the coldness building up inside him. Concentrating, he channelled the power into the sword. The hours of practice he had put in now allowed him a greater control over the freezing spell. He held it there. Allowing it to grow stronger. Then he released it, sending the white fire crashing into the creature's side. Fingers of ice started to form, creeping across the armoured carapace that protected its body. It howled in rage swinging about to confront this unfamiliar attacker. Eyes as red as blood fixed George with a terrible stare. Even as its eyes fell upon him, the waves of stinging pain struck. George fell to his knees, red-hot needles of agony stabbing into his brain. It felt as if his head was about to explode. He tried raising the sword again, send another blast at the creature, but found he could not lift his arms.

Through a haze of torment, George watched as the demon advanced on him. One clawed limb raised, meaning to extinguish his life.

It stopped, leaning closer.

So close he felt its hot breath fan his skin, saw the poison dripping from the jagged teeth that filled its maw.

The creature regarded him.

George felt the creature burrowing into his mind. Understood its thoughts. There was something about this new adversary that intrigued it. It breathed deeply, tongue flicking, tasting the varied aromas that floated in the air. It was not Elf, not one of the races they had encountered long ago. This was something new. It sensed a spark of magic deep within, a magic that was spawned of its own kindred. A magic that had drawn it here. A tether that connected this world with the one he had journeyed from.

It probed deeper.

Around him, George felt the world slow and fade away. Pain lanced through him as the creature dragged forth a kaleidoscope of images from his short life. Memories of when he was a baby, visions even he could not recall. It continued to flick through his mind, digging deeper finding more recent memories. Behind them, he saw other scenes, scenes that had plagued his nightmares. Of dark secret places full of flame and shadow, where creatures like the one before him crept and writhed. Whispering to him.

Come, join us Dark Child.

It halted its probing, lingering on the image of a great red gem, George recognised it immediately. It had belonged to the witch, Caranaxus. The same one he had smashed in the dark tower months ago.

What do you know of the gemstone? It whispered.

Nothing. He cried out with his mind. It belonged to the witch. It was destroyed.

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