Episode 37: Burn the House Down
Tranquil Wash Outpost, Deep Ocean
The cave system of Tranquil Wash was filled with injured and broken soldiers by the time Captain Taylor and I came out of the water. For me, seeing how quickly things had gone sour only made getting rescued a higher priority.
“The balloons will take us to the surface, but what about coming back down?” I asked.
“They can be pulled back down, but the distance is longer than you’d think. It’s likely that this is a one way trip. The first individual we’re sending up will have a flare gun to signal any ships nearby and then to give us a signal. One pull means no ships; three pulls mean there are ships.”
“If there are no ships?”
“That individual stays up there and hopes to find us one. Meanwhile, the rest of us defend this outpost until we’re all dead.”
“Who’s up first?”
“A little night elf girl volunteered,” Taylor said. “She’s light and the elves can handle pressure changes better than humans can. She’ll be a great one to send up.”
“Alright,” I replied. “Then get her on her way. We’re not going to have long before the naga show up and start fighting us.”
“We’re working on it. What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to go out there and wait for them,” I replied.
If Taylor had something to say, I didn't give him the chance. I moved into the water and waited by the entrance of the cave. There were several guards already standing at their post and they grew less anxious when I joined them in standing to await the naga forces. There was no communication; this was a common thing that I had experienced in the time leading up to the confrontation like this. No one wanted to speak about it. Perhaps it was fear that they may cause bad luck or some other form of panic, but regardless, it was always the same.
Then, there was a cheerful noise in the cave behind me; a sound so loud that I could hear it reverberate through the water. I turned from the entrance and headed back inside to see everyone gathered around the balloon pulley system that Taylor’s men had put into place.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“The night elf pulled three times,” Taylor replied. “Ships are up there!”
“That’s wonderful news. How long do you think it’ll take to evacuate everyone?”
“Not long, but longer than we probably have.”
“Do what you can. Get some volunteers to stand at the cave entrance with me. If they come, we’ll stand the ground while you finish getting people out. If they don’t come for us; we’ll just be the last to leave for the surface.”
Taylor nodded. “Yes, I’ll pull some people together right away.”
I headed back outside and when I came to the line of soldiers I passed along the good news.
“Are we to report inside then?”
“Yes,” I replied. “I’m only requesting volunteers to stand guard any longer. Be prepared to fight at any given moment, but if you wish to escape, your best shot is inside.”
No one moved from their place.
“I mean it,” I added. “I’m not going to object to anyone leaving their post.”
“No one wants to leave,” a soldier replied. “Not until everyone else has escaped.”
This made me smile. I opened my mouth to respond, but then I saw something moving in the distance. It was naga; a lot of them moving right for the cave entrance.
“Do you see them all?” the soldier asked.
“I do. Let’s be ready to defend ourselves.”
I moved back inside to see how the evacuation was coming. A good number of the survivors were already absent and Taylor was hooking up another group for their ascent to the surface.
“How long do you need?” I asked.
“Ten minutes,” Taylor replied. “How are you?”
“There are a lot of them coming for us.”
“I’ve got a group of volunteers to go out and meet you.”
“No,” I said. “Keep them here. When my troops fall back we’ll rejoin with the reinforcements here and we’ll hit them as they come out of the water. I still have a plan.”
Taylor nodded and went back to work on the survivors.
I rejoined the forces outside, maybe fifteen of them in all, and we waited until the naga were dangerously close to attacking.
“Don’t attack until I say,” I announced. “Believe me on this.”
“Never been more certain,” I said as he lifted his hands. “Stay back.”
With all of my magical might, I threw my arms forward and the water a short ways in front of us began to freeze. It created a wall of ice that spread out further and further. The naga came at it head first, some of them trying to hack at the thick ice walls that spread around them. By the time they realized how fast the ice was spreading it was too late. I poured every ounce of energy in the maneuver and soon enough I lowered my arms. A giant ball of thick ice containing almost all of the attacking naga sat in front of us. It wouldn’t kill the attackers, but it would keep them contained for well over the ten minutes that Taylor needed. I noticed that a chunk of naga had avoided the prison and were still moving to attack.
“Move back inside,” I shouted. “Go now!”
The soldiers did as I said without question. I moved back into the cave and put my hands to the water’s surface, quickly forming another wall of ice; this one not thick enough to stop the naga, but enough to bottleneck their attack.
Taylor had even fewer survivors in the back of the cave, pushing them out through the balloon system that sucked them out a back opening in the cave and up toward the ocean’s surface.
“How long?” I asked.
“Another five minutes.”
“Got it. Soldiers, get ready to move to the surface.”
“Sionis?” Taylor asked.
“I can hold off the attack for five minutes. Get these people home.”
Taylor seemed like he wanted to say something, but he resisted. Instead, he worked faster, hooking up the next group of survivors to go to the surface.
The first naga came through the ice doorway I left open and before he got a single dry scale past the threshold his head was removed from his shoulders by one of the guards. I waved an arm toward the balloon lift and the guard nodded.
The next naga to push through the doorway was burned to a crisp by my fire attack. The next one came more quickly after that, but met the same fate. It felt like they had piled up outside as they started to break through in ever increasing numbers. I gave them my best shots, burning out eyes and swirling several of them in a scorching twister. All the while Taylor hooked up the last of his men and let them loose toward the surface.
“Sionis, we’re ready!” he shouted. “Come on! Let’s go!”
I didn’t move. “Get out of here. The naga can’t know about the lift or they’ll come up after us. You need to cut the line once you start floating up.”
“Sionis, this isn’t some—”
“I’m not giving you an option here,” I said, pausing to burn through another naga attacker. “Get your butt out of here.”
“You don’t have to do this, Sepher.”
I nodded. “I’m aware of that Captain. Now get out of here!”
Captain Taylor was not a man that had to be convinced. He looked at me for a few more seconds and then hooked himself to the balloon and slipped out of sight. A moment later the rope connecting the system together went slack and I knew Taylor had cut it. With that, I hit the ice wall with a fire blast and let it melt back into the ocean water.
The cave entrance was then filled with naga, all of them coming for me. I waited as long as I could and when one of them sliced at my side with a trident I knew it was time. I roared with unleashed power and felt the room around me explode with fire. Everything must have shot up over a hundred degrees and fire licked at all the walls, turning the water to steam and causing the ocean to boil just outside.
Fire; pure unleashed and uncontrolled, the substance burned the naga to the bone and boiled those still in the entry way. I heard shouts of agony and cries of horror, but I didn’t hold back. The fire grew hotter and burned brighter than I had ever let it do before. Here in this cave, I was more powerful than I had ever been before. I used up the last bit of energy and then a bright white light consumed me, seemingly unto my total annihilation…