Theodore held on as Oboe ran through archways and down glowing stone tunnels. He thought he recognized some land marks, torture devices and cell blocks, but the way they connected didn’t stay consistent. Out in the Whirlwood, folds in space had patterns and rules. If he could just get a handle on how the paths changed, he could map it out in his head.
Oboe cantered to a halt and growled in frustration. Another dead-end wall blocked her path. “I hate this place! Nothing makes sense!”
“Quiet,” Theodore said. Footsteps echoed behind them. “Do you hear that?”
She peeked around the corner to look the way they came. “Spriggan,” she said. “A fury, a nymph, and a leshy. What do we do?! They’re coming this way!!”
There was nowhere to go. “Act natural,” Theodore said. “Pretend you’re looking for me.”
Nodding, Oboe stepped out into the wide center chamber. The three spriggan charged towards her.
“You!” The leshy said. “Stay where you are!”
“The scent is strong,” the fury said. “She has the human.”
The nymph held out his hand and conjured a sword of jagged glass. “Hand him over, or else!”
“No!” Oboe said, hiding Theo behind her back. “You can’t take him!”
Well, that didn’t take long. As the spriggan closed in with their weapons, Theodore scuttled up Oboe’s arm and into her mane.
“Run!” he said.
Oboe tried to make a break down the hallway, only for the fury to cut her off with twin daggers in hand. “I don’t think so!”
The leshy came from behind and pounded Oboe in the side with a mace. Theodore clung to her hair as she fell to the floor. The leshy leaned over her, tapping his weapon into an open palm. Theodore climbed down to her ear.
“His feet! Kick his feet!” he said.
Without hesitation, Oboe bucked the leshy in the ankles and sent him tumbling across the room. His mace clattered to the floor beside Oboe.
Oboe lunged for the weapon while the other two were startled. Theodore held on as she jumped to her feet. The remaining guards crept closer from the front and the back.
“What do you think you’re doing?” The nymph said. “The Lady will have you killed for this!”
Theodore studied their opponents. Their stances and grip were terrible. He remembered his father’s training. How he battered Theodore’s hands and legs with a practice sword to show him how much form mattered. Oboe could win this. She just needed to know how.
“Bait the nymph to attack. Stay clear. Aim for the wrists. You can disarm her!”
She gaped. “When did you learn how to fight?!”
With a nod, Oboe feinted. She jumped back as the nymph swiped with her longsword. The mace came down hard on the nymph’s sword grip. She howled in pain. Oboe followed with a blow to the gut, and sent her opponent crashing down.
“Behind you!” Theodore shouted.
The fury lunged, daggers out. Oboe heard Theodore. She bolted forward and spun around to see the fury chasing after.
“What do I do?!” Oboe was shaking.
“Keep your distance! She’s fast, but her range is short.”
The fury swiped and stabbed, but Oboe put everything into dodging. There was no chance to counter attack, she was too quick. Theodore wracked his brain for a strategy. Oboe did not have the experience to parry or riposte.
“Tell me what to do!!” Oboe said.
“The sword!” Theodore said. She needed a longer weapon. “Get the sword!”
The leshy jumped out of the shadows and grabbed Oboe. He had recovered from the kick.
“Got you, traitor!”
The fury barreled towards them with a hungry smile. Oboe pulled the leshy off his feet and used his body as a shield. The daggers sank into his flesh. He screamed, and his arms fell limp. Oboe pulled herself free and ran past the fury before she yanked her blades free.
“Fig!!” The fury said, as her cohort fell in her arms. “You idiot! You damned stupid idiot! Why did you let that happen!!”
Oboe grabbed the sword off the floor, but the nymph’s hands were still tight around it.
“I’m not through with you yet…!” The nymph let out a moan. Oboe bashed her in the back with the mace. She croaked with pain, and Oboe took her weapon. Theodore cringed, wishing it wasn’t necessary.
The leshy collapsed to the floor. The fury stood over the body and turned. Eyes like fire.
“I’m going to kill you!” She said.
Theodore’s head was swimming. The fury should not have pulled her daggers free. The leshy was going to bleed out of control. He was going to die.
“Theo!!” Oboe said, backing away. “Help me!!”
Theodore flicked his antennae and forced himself to focus. “Okay,” he said, whispering. “Do not let her get close. You have a range advantage! Attack only when she can’t attack back! Lunge from as far as you can!”
This was easier said than done. The fury came screaming at Oboe, talons scraping against the stone. She swiped just to keep the fury at bay, but she was relentless. Her daggers whistled through the air and Oboe was getting backed into a corner. Theodore saw their chance when the fury’s breathing grew labored.
“The wings!” Theodore said. “There’s no armor on the wings!”
Oboe cleaved a clean cut straight through the fury’s arm, scattering feathers in the air. She shrieked, and kept coming with her good arm. Oboe struck true again, and knocked the remaining blade free of the spriggan’s hand. The fury clutched her bloodied arms to her chest, wings wrapped around her like a blanket. Oboe stood over her, weapon ready.
“N-no! Please!” The fury’s voice faltered. She looked at her fallen comrade, eyes full of fear. “I yield! Let me go!”
Feather fragments cascaded through the air like snow. Blood pooled on the floor. Theodore remembered the light fading from Ella’s eyes. Oboe pulled the sword over her head to bring it down on the last spriggan in their way.
“Oboe! Stop!!” He said. “Don’t hurt her!”
She did not lower the sword. “She’ll warn the others!”
“I don’t care!” Theodore said. “No one else has to die! We’re done here!”
Hesitating, Oboe lowered the blade. She took a deep breath. “Okay.” She grimaced at the fury, and searched the bodies. It was just their luck, none of them had a fold whistle. Oboe stood up. “Go get some help for your friends, and leave us alone.”
The fury said nothing. Oboe marched past the three soldiers, her hooves clicking on the stone floor.