21 Whirlwind Eagle
Finn moved carefully, avoiding any leaves or branches that lay in his path. He didn't want to make any excess noise. Bryn lay low on Finn's back, decreasing their total profile in an effort to increase stealth.
"How much further?" Bryn whispered as he adjusted his grip on the weapon. Finn had explained in writing that he smelled blood, and Bryn made the immediate suggestion to head towards it.
A classic horror movie victim's response... Finn seriously worried for the boy's future. He seemed like the kind of child who would poke a bear just to see its reaction.
In response to his question, Finn just shook his head. This wasn't the time to stop and chat. The initial whiff of blood he detected earlier was now assaulting his sense of smell in waves, which could only mean one thing.
We are getting closer... Finn grimaced internally. He knew what they were here for, but there was so much that could go wrong.
Despite reassuring himself over and over that everything would be ok, he couldn't shake this bad feeling.
Finn noticed another detail. The surroundings had lost the natural ambience of a forest. The area was devoid of the familiar tweeting of birds or scurrying of small animals.
Finn looked around, the sudden quiet creating an eerie atmosphere. Subconsciously, he began to walk slower, quieter. Even Bryn was somber, leaning close to Finn and looking around warily.
Finn froze and strained his sense of hearing. There was a... chewing sound coming from their front left. It was only a few trees away.
That must be it where it is... Finn swallowed. Bryn, however, was practically vibrating with anticipation. He could tell Finn was honing in on the source.
Finn went low to the ground and crept forward. Without even realizing it, he went into a stalking mode. His movements became more agile and smooth, making almost zero sound. Clearly, there were some instincts ingrained into him that he wasn't aware of.
He crawled up to a large bush, somewhere behind which was the origin of the smell, judging from its intensity. Peering through the branches, Finn saw an amazing sight.
A massive bird type creature was feasting upon the corpse of what looked to be a deer-ish looking creature. Although, it was hard to recognize from being torn apart. The four inch long claws that the bird was sporting on its legs were the likely culprit.
The bird had enourmous wings curled into its side, adorned with feathers that were colored various shades of blue. They overlapped in such a way to create a mesmerizing wavy pattern.
If its white beak wasn't covered in the blood and guts of its victim, Finn would have considered it a majestic creature.
"It's a whirlwind eagle," Bryn whispered in awe. He had only read about such a creature, and according to the bestiary, they were not common in this portion of the Border Woods.
As a flying type magical beast, they preferred mountainous regions where they could nest safely and gather elemental wind energy, which was more abundant at higher altitudes.
They grew naturally up to rank four, where they evolved to become gargantuan birds of prey, virtually unkillable death gods of the sky to common beasts and men.
To find one here like this was very unlikely, and judging from its current size, it was only in its adolescence, rank two at most.
Bryn tapped Finn on the neck. "It's only rank two, we can take it..."
Finn nodded in agreement. Although he could sense that the bird in front of him was dangerous, it wasn't like the oppressive feeling he had gotten from the guild master.
The feeling I had from him was completely hopeless, as if no matter what I did I couldn't possibly survive fighting him... Finn compared the danger he felt back then to the one he felt now. It was like comparing a bonfire to a ranging inferno.
However, a bonfire is still plenty dangerous if handled wrong... Finn tensed up, unsure of his next move.
It was at times like this when Bryn's decisiveness shined through.
"Finn, attack its wings. If it can't fly away, we may have a chance at killing it. Bryn whispered heatedly.
Finn nodded and relaxed slightly. Judging the distance, he opened his mouth and started gathering energy from his core. A warm current started flowing into his throat.
If the eagle had been facing them, it would have seen a bright expanding orb growing larger in the bushes. Unfortunately, it had been too engrossed in its meal to notice anything out of the ordinary.
Finn silently gathered his energy, illuminating the wild grin on Bryn's face. He was excited to witness Finn's true power first hand.
The energy expanded in his throat, the ball of light growing brighter and brighter. Finally noticing something was wrong, the bird paused its feasting to look at where the excess light was coming from.
Too late... Finn thought as he released the pent up energy, which had built up to quite a formidable degree. A devastating beam of white light was unleashed.
This was Finn's strongest attack, one he could only fire three times before needing to rest. A continuous beam of superheated light slammed into the bird's left wing, destroying the beautiful patterns on its feathers.
It burned a hole clean through the bird's appendage, causing it to let out a strangled cry. That, however, wasn't the end of it. The unstoppable column of light continued on and burned a hole through the next tree, and the next, and set the last one on fire.
There was a brief moment of silence, the bird reeling from its shock and the duo admiring Finn's handiwork.
Bryn was stunned. He had grossly underestimated how tyrannical Finn's attack would be. If he had known earlier, he would have just told him to aim at the main body of the eagle.
Without prior preparation, no one could survive a direct hit from that. If he had aimed for the body, the bird would likely already be dead... Bryn made a rough guess.
Well, maybe those of higher ranks could... Bryn shrugged in happiness as a smile bloomed on his face. As far as he was concerned, Finn being more powerful could only be seen as a blessing.
The trees that had been pierced by the attack had perfect circles burned through their trunks, the edges still smoldering. One by one, they began to collapse, unable to support their own weight anymore.
Meanwhile the whirlwind eagle regained its composure and tried to fly, only to crash to the ground in agony, letting out a horrible, ear shredding squak.
Wincing, Bryn patted Finn on the neck once again. "Let's get it bud!" Every fiber of the boy's being was brimming with vigor.
This was it! With Finn being as powerful as he is, we can actually save our farm! Bryn's hope gave him newfound strength which he started to use to focus energy into his weapon.
Finn, who was also in shock at the ridiculous collateral damage his attack caused, started advancing on the grounded magical beast.
When he had been practicing, he never had any viable targets to shoot at living in a forest-less plain. This was the first time he was seeing the aftermath when used in actual combat.
However, the bird might have been crippled, but it wasn't down for the count yet. Seeing its attackers approach, it raised its good wing.
Finn, seeing a glint of fury in the bird's eyes, stopped his advance and jumped to the side. This action saved both their lives.
The bird had swung it's good wing, letting loose a blue blade of wind energy that flew directly past where they had just been, slicing clean through the tree behind them.
That would've cut us both in two... Finn was horrified. He had only reacted on what his instincts were telling him, but Finn was not accustomed to using such things. He was more a fan of reason. This was far too risky!
The bird continued to swing it's good wing around in a dance like fashion, releasing strike after strike of those wind blades. Finn did all he could to avoid each and every one. From a distance, it probably looked like an elaborate dance with how they were moving.
Finn saw no opportunity to charge up another attack, the eagle firing wind blades off left and right. Meanwhile, Bryn was simply hanging on for dear life.
The eagle narrowed its eyes, and swung once again. Finn jumped, predicting where the attack would go.
Only, the attack never came...
It was a feint!
Finn had never expected the beast to be clever enough to do such a thing. This cost him dearly.
He could almost feel the ridicule in the eagle's eyes when it swung and launched an extra large wind blade at where he was going to land.
"Ack!" Finn let out a strangled cry. He had been too slow to dodge completely, being taken by surprise. His right leg sported a long and deep gash where he had failed to avoid the attack. Blood started pouring out of the wound.
Unable to support the weight on that leg, Finn partially collapsed. Seizing the opportunity, the eagle started gathering energy on it's good wing...
"Finn!" Bryn jumped off of Finn's back and stepped in between him and the eagle. Finn looked up to see the boy's small back. A look of gleeful vengeance adorned the eagle's visage as it swung its arm once again.
A massive blue, crescent shaped blade flew from the tip of its wing. From the size, Finn could tell it was the eagle's most powerful strike yet.
Even though Finn's mind was working a million miles per hour, there was no way he could move in time to shove the boy out of the way.
As certain doom approached, Bryn raised his poleaxe without fear, a strained look on his face as he shoved his energy into it, giving it a bluish glow. With all his might, he swung down just before the attack reached him.
The massive wind blade was split in two.
The two halves of the eagle's attack flew harmlessly past them, the boy standing there having heroically saved them both.
Finn just looked on in awe. The boy just kept surprising him. How was that even possible? How did he do that? How did he know that would work? A list of questions fired off in Finn's mind.
"I can't believe that worked..." Bryn whispered in pleasant surprise as he knelt down onto the ground in exhaustion, the amazing feat taking its toll. He leaned agaisnt his poleaxe for support.
Finn felt like smacking his head into the ground repeatedly. We almost died and he bet his life on a guess? We clearly aren't prepared for this... He shook his head. It was too late for regrets.
The fight wasn't over yet. The eagle had a clearly disappointed look on its face, but it made no move to attack again. It likely couldn't use such a powerful attack in quick succession.
Just like me... Finn thought as he directed his own energy to his leg, which was healing at a speed visible to the naked eye. Although Bryn had saved them, he was in no condition to continue.
Being only rank one meant that he did not have a large amount of elemental essence stored in his body. That one act of his basically used it all up.
However, it did give Finn an idea. I wonder if...
The eagle, having sufficiently recovered, fired another wind blade at the duo. Clearly, it wasn't just going to give them time to rest.
Focusing a small amount of energy into his throat very quickly, Finn fired a mini blast of light straight at the oncoming attack. The eagle's attacks were fast, but Finn's were much faster.
The small beam of light collided with the wind blade, causing an explosion of wind and light that rippled throughout the area.
Finn was thrilled, so he could actually do something like this. Filled with confidence, he stood up, now fully healed.
The whirlwind eagle was disheartened seeing both its attack fail and its enemy walking towards it seemingly unscathed. However, it wouldn't just sit and wait for death.
It continued to fire wind blades at the approaching Finn, who accurately hit them with his own shots each time. Small explosions of light and wind created a dazzling display as Finn got closer.
The cauterized hole in its wing finally taking its toll, the eagle began to run out of steam. Seeing his own opportunity, Finn began charging up his own powerful attack.
Unable to fire any more wind blades for the time being, the wind eagle tried to run away on its legs. Regrettably for it, it couldn't run fast enough.
Finn's second full power strike struck the whirlwind eagle square in the back, a large gaping hole forming right through its body where the beam pierced. It was unable to even let out a cry as it died.
That was it, they had won, barely. Finn collapsed to the ground exhausted, more mentally than physically. This was his first true fight.
Why was this so much harder than killing that earth wolf? Why was this damned bird so much stronger? They are both rank two right? Finn realized that there was still a lot he needed to learn about magical beasts.
That was a poor performance... In hindsight, he felt that this fight should have gone differently. There were many aspects he needed to improve on.
Ignoring his tiredness, Finn got back up and walked over to Bryn, who was still panting in exhaustion. Finn tapped his head to the boy's, who patted his.
"You got em bud..." Bryn gave him a thumbs up and Finn responded with a lick to his face. Bryn laughed hard.
"Easy Finn, we still have to collect its core first. We were lucky that we got its wing early on. Whirlwind eagles are known to be able to create whirlwinds when they can use both their wings."
Why was he describing this after the fact... Finn made a mental note to inform Bryn that he should tell him details like this before they fight in the future.
Picking him up, Finn headed over to the corpse. A smoking hole and ruined feathers was all that was left of this once beautiful beast. A sudden unwelcomed thought crossed his mind.
Could this have been me? Although he still kind of thought of himself as human, he physically was a magical beast. This was an internal dilemma he currently had no answer too.
Bryn wasted no time, smashing open the skull of the eagle and pulling out a blue, diamond shaped crystal that was pulsing with energy.
Finn examined it closely, intrigued. All this effort for such a small object. He wondered about all those adventures that went hunting just to collect crystals like these.
Is it truly worth it? I guess only they would know.
"Alright Finn, we got this one, ready to find another?" Bryn smiled cheekily as he asked the question.
Finn felt a figurative vein bulge on his head.
This boy will drive me insane one day... Finn did the only natural thing to do when faced with such an impetuous youngster.
Sweeping his tail under the boy's legs, he knocked Bryn to the ground and sat on him.