Chapter 4: Stir (Part 5)

Eden clung tightly to the rough bark below her, trying to balance her half her focus on navigating the flying tree through the cramped hallways of the burning Oasis, and the other half on simply not falling off. Pride had stopped her from admitting to Jade that her power wouldn’t work as well on something this large, and she was beginning to regret that decision. As a result, the trio found themselves half flying, half crashing through the building, passing dangerously close to the fires that would turn their makeshift vehicle into a flaming wreck.

Fat Solomon sat at the front of the tree, huddled within his thick jacket. After a quick debate, they had decided he would be the best protection against any loose debris, although that wasn’t to say he was happy with the decision. Jade had placed herself on the opposite end of the log, attempting to fend off the wave of Black Rim Clan troops that relentlessly followed them, like a dog chasing after an impossibly large stick.

“Can’t this thing go any faster?” yelled Jade as she emptied a clip into a clawed orc that had managed to wedge one of its nails into the back of the tree.

A fiery chuck of what used to be a troll bounced off of Fat Solomon’s body and almost knocked him off his perch. “While you’re at it, try watching the road. I feel like a bumper in a pinball machine.”

Eden closed her eyes and tried to block the others out. She hated to admit it, but after spending so many years in the solitary confines of the Oasis, with only the silent Wildwood to keep her company, she was having trouble dealing with so much conversation in such a short time. She had always been a bit of a loner as it was, but dealing with the two detectives made her feel almost inhuman. Was it just that they happened to be cruder and more difficult to handle than normal people, or had something changed inside her over time, like a thick wooden shell covering her heart?

“Hate to snap you out of your reverie,” said Jade. “But we’ve got more problems on the way.”

Behind them, the monsters had evidently realized that blindly chasing after a magical careening death log wasn’t going to work in their favor. They had begun taking burning sticks and hurling them, javelin style, at the tree. A few had already landed, but so far the fire hadn’t spread.

“Eden, maybe you want to shove these so we don’t go down in flame?”

“Not unless you want to go into a free fall,” said Eden. “Can’t you shoot them out of the air?”

“Hey, I’m good, but not that good.”

More and more homemade fire arrows were raining down on them by the second as the creatures began to realize they were actually causing some damage. One of them got lucky and managed to land one in the crease of a branch, and it stuck. Fire began to spread over the edge of the tree.

“Well, someone needs to do something,” said Fat Solomon, trying to pull his already cramped legs further away from the lapping flames. “Because I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit here while-“

It wasn’t clear what happened next, but one moment Fat Solomon was on top of the log, the next he wasn’t. Something had knocked him off and he had fallen into the writhing mass of Black Rim Clan monsters below. The resulting weight shift on the tree was too much for Eden to balance in such a short time, and the tree flipped end over end in midair, tossing Eden and Jade off like a bucking bronco.

By luck, Eden managed to land on an upper balcony near the celling, but Jade fell directly towards a pool of magma that had seeped its way further into the building. Without thinking, Eden called the nearby vines out to catch her, realizing too late that the closest ones were bathed in embers.

The vines managed to ensnare Jade before she landed in the lava below, but her screams echoed throughout the Oasis as the vines wrapped around her arms and legs, burning through her clothes and searing the skin beneath.

Eden quickly pulled her up to the balcony, dropping her a bit too roughly onto the ground in her haste. Luckily, the rest of her clothes hadn’t caught fire, but that was only a small consolation in the scheme of things. Jade was unconscious, passed out from the pain, and Fat Solomon was nowhere to be seen, lost in the chaos below.

“Shit…shit!” mumbled Eden, kneeling to try and check how damaged Jade’s body was. Before she could get a good look, she felt something cold and sharp against the back of her neck.

A figure in a pitch-black shroud crouched behind her, holding a sword just as dark.

“Leave her,” the figure said. “We have business to attend to.”

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