…One last Time.
Li Sun knew he was on his last legs. Losing consciousness during the fight with Xurgelmek was the latest sign, but even during the battle at the entrance to Icehome he knew he was burning his inner resources at a furious rate.
As an ardent, he had been taught that a body can only heal so much.
And he knew that his had little left.
But the new fighter — a giant insect of some kind, who called himself “Klaxi” — was going to need some healing if he was to fight the behir. And everybody else seemed to be out it, except Valna.
Hardly a healer.
And, if they didn’t go fight the behir, the giant six-legged magickal lizard was going to come to them. It was already trying to widen the stairway down to where they resting.
When Klaxi charged the creature, Li Sun hoisted his weary bones off the icy floor and circled around to the other side. The behir was able to breathe lightning periodically so it wouldn’t help to stand back. “Might as well trap him between us,” Li Sun thought. “A little flanking never hurt.”
It turned out that getting up close and personal with the creature had its own problems. Not only did it have teeth and claws, but it was able to stomp so hard it could knock everyone around (for a considerable distance) to the ice. And then it devoured Klaxi.
“Well, that’s gonna make it hard to heal him.”
Li Sun could tell the fighter was trying to force his way back out. But even the ardent’s mental powers could not heal someone — or some insect — he could not see.
Fortunately, Li Sun had planted Treachery’s Seed in the behir’s weak little mind at the beginning of the battle. So every time it clawed him, it took a little bit out of itself.
The High Lady reguarded Lyrindel carefully. “You have served the Feywilde well. Mapping the Feydarke was a harrowing mission, but an important one. Now a new threat has arisen, one that cannot be charted. The Winter Court has taken an interest, and the Summer Court as well. The Moonshaes cannot afford to be ignorant of this new threat, an artifact known as The Seed of Winter. It may not even be safe for us to capture it, for it might corrupt us. We may even need it to be in the hands of the Unselie Court themselves.”
Klaxi had never been devoured before. But that did not mean he had to stop fighting.
On Athas, he often fought for his life. Not like this. He could still fight the creature from inside its maw, but getting out was his highest priority. Occasionally he got in an extra blow with one of his arms when the behir tried to attack the ardent.
But he still tried to pry his way out using his athletic skills.
Still having trouble getting free. “At least it cannot swallow anyone else while I’m stuck in its craw.”
When he finally forced his way out, he was close to dying. (“Or being digested,” he thought as the lightning breath flashed around him. “Who would have thought you could be digested by lightning?”)
Li Sun was able to heal him heroically before the behir turned on the healer.
And devoured him as easily as it had devoured Klaxi.
The Thri-Kreen warrior redoubled his attacks on the behir, which was still doing a lot of damage to itself. But Li Sun was having a much harder time escaping the creature’s jaws than Klaxi had. The ardent was trying a different approach — apparently impressed with how difficult his own brute-force methods had proved. He was trying to finesse his way out, twisting and turning as he trying make his way past the creature’s lashing tongue.
But Li Sun was no better as a acrobat than he was as an athlete. Klaxi could tell he had little chance of avoiding digestion. So he attacked the creature with everything he had.
It was not enough.
The behir was still unbloodied when the Thri-Kreen warrior admitted he had to retreat. “Maybe some of the others I saw in the entrance to the strange place will be able to help me pry the ardent clear,” he thought, even while he admitted to himself he was just rationalizing his failure.
He was able to convince one of the elven archers — the one who had come across with him in the mechanical lobster — to race back upstairs and help him rescue Li Sun.
He stood at the top of the stairs in shocked disbelief: Li Sun had somehow extricated himself from the behir. But the ardent lay unconscious at the creature’s feet. Klaxi could see he was still breathing, but he seemed to lack the inner resources to rouse himself.
Even as the behir devoured him again.
Lyrindel looked up at the librarian. The Great Temple of Nefelus was not a place where researchers were often disturbed. “Why have you been so interested in this Seed you seek? Our ritualists have need of the book you are reading.” When she explained that The Seed of Winter was an important artifact and might even be sentient, she was met with a cold stare. Then the ritual casters behind the matron explained that they believed that The Seed of Winter was part of an assault on their island nation. She told them they had to act fast. But the ritualists were dead set on maintaining their protections, not on journeying to the iceberg. So Lyrindel decided to help the brave adventurers they had sent to break the blockade.
Valna of the Moonstair came up the other stair just in time to see the behir devour the ardent healer.
That left him glad he had circled around while the Thri-Kreen charged up the most direct route. Valna found a room with a clear shot at the creature, along with plenty of ice pillars — stalagtites of a sort — behind which he could hide.
Once the blue lizard swallowed Li Sun, it became more lethargic and Valna was happy to reward its digestive torpor with a rain of arrows. Meanwhile, Klaxi was maintaining a steady attack on the creature himself.
All the while swearing to cut open the creature when it died.
They were able to bloody it quickly and then finish it off before it did too much damage to Klaxi. Indeed it hardly even injured Valna himself.
“That the advantage of being a ranger: range.”
When it was all over, they were able to cut Li Sun free of the behir stomach. But he was beyond all healing, partially digested and barely recognizable.
Valna pointed out the obvious to Klaxi. “The creature was only able to devour one of us at a time, with a stomach his size. It appears Li Sun has saved our lives one last time.”
The Thri-Kreen turned to him and said, “‘Even in death, the hero can save others.’ The words of my people always rung true to me. But I never dreamed they would apply to a healer.”
Nearby they found some bodies of the sailors who came with Uarion. The blue frog people were apparently feeding the remains to the behir.
Among the bones they found a set of finely made hide armor. Klaxi recognized the hide as coming from a beast from his home world. Kanks are large hive insects that can sometimes be trained and domesticated. When they cannot, they are hunted for their hides.
Their hides are not as highly valued as those of the Athasian roc or the nightmare beast. But on a world where metal is rare, any hide which can be enchanted is highly valued.
Also found among the bones:
- a small wooden box containing an elixir of some kind;
- 2 pieces of amber carved to look like stars;
- a strange pair of studded leather boots; and
- some bracers which appear to be nothing more than white linen arm guards.