46 The Man On Fire
Chief Orn stood outside the entrance to his village, patiently waiting for the sentry to bring his daughter. Rubbing his bearded chin in thought, he couldn't help but think about the strange warning from Selmor.
What did he mean by 'keep an open mind?' Was this special guest someone from another village? Would he demand some substantial payment in return for helping them?
The more he thought about it, the more Orn worried. He was more inclined to believe that he would be extorted by this stranger. As he stood there, spear in hand, Hein was off to the side playing with fire... literally.
As a technique taught to him by his father, Hein was practicing controlling the flow of energy through his body. To do this, he would create a ball of fire in his hand and have it slide around his entire form.
The key was to make sure the size and intensity remained constant, forcing him to control his output from every inch of his body.
Hein cursed under his breath each time he lost control, causing the ball to either grow massively in size or shrink into a small flicker. Controlling output was easy from his hands, but when it came from his shoulder or his legs, it became much harder.
Just as he was about to ask his father for more advice on the matter, Hein noticed him gazing off into the trees, a smile on his face. Following his gaze, he saw Anya and the town oddball, Maorn, coming around a bend in the path.
Having not seen his sister in so long, Hein donned a bright smile and began running towards her, waving his arms frantically.
"Hey Anya! Long time no se-!" Hein's enthusiastic greeting was immediately cut short when he noticed another, much larger figure appear behind his sister.
Huge frame, long tail, razor sharp claws, pure white scales. Hein felt the blood rush to his head, having not forgotten the type of creature that had razed their old home to the ground. It was a drake!
At the same time Hein noticed, so did Chief Orn. A vein bulged on his head while his grip on his spear tightened, but before he did anything, he immediately took a deep breath and calmed down. Clearly, something was not right.
For one, his daughter was currently smiling and waiving in their direction, and Orn knew there was no way she wouldn't have noticed a massive drake walking right behind her.
Secondly, Orn's senses told him that the beast following his daughter was only at rank three, meaning it wasn't strong enough to pose a big threat to himself or to his daughter.
Thirdly, there was one obvious feature about the beast that gave him pause.
White scales? Orn had read about and heard stories about magical beasts with white skin, fur and scales, although he had yet to encounter one in person.
Could it be...? Orn made some connections, but it really seemed too strange to be true. Shaking his head, he decided he would have to wait for his daughter to explain everything.
However, before Chief Orn could do anything, he felt a surge of power from his son.
"GET AWAY FROM HER YOU BEAST!"
Finn had long ago realized that there were two powerful presences nearby, and they were getting closer. From the energy he could sense, they were definitely at rank four or what Anya had called the elemental stage.
Oddly enough, he could feel major differences between the two based on the energy they emmited. One felt restrained, emmitting an oppressive air while the other screamed intensity and vibrance.
Like tasting different flavors of ice cream, each had their own unique characteristics.
Naturally, his instincts told him to avoid moving towards these bastions of power, but Finn was going to see this through. Besides, he felt that as long as Anya explained, everything would be fine...
Oh how Finn immediately regretted ever feeling optimistic.
After Finn came in view and saw the two powerful humans, the one with the vibrant and intense energy radiating off him immediately screamed, burst into flames, and charged him.
Finn had to admit that seeing a person spontaneously combust and run straight at him screaming bloody murder was quite terrifying. Couple that with the instinctual fear he felt from their difference in power, Finn couldn't be blamed for his own reaction.
Acting purely out of instinct, Finn roared and fired a fast sunspike right at the charging human.
Raising his arms up, flames poured of of the man's forearms, creating a blazing inferno. Finn watched as his sunspike entered the flames. Instead of exploding like he thought it would, the sunspike fizzled out and dispersed.
It was as if the man's flames had burned away the energy in the very attack itself.
Growling lowly, Finn realized that this must be the suppression of higher power that Anya had mentioned in their talks. Because of his higher level of power, the man's fire energy is more potent and stronger than his own.
Any light energy based attack will be countered and burned away by the man's elemental flames.
Just because I can't match his flames doesn't mean I'm defenseless... Finn focused as the man controlled his flames. Instead of dispersing, the flames traveled to the man's hand forming what appeared to be a sword made entirely of fire.
Uh oh... Finn crouched lower, growling incessantly as the man approached once more. Finn could hear someone screaming in the background, but he was too focused to pay any attention the the noise. Shifting his back legs, Finn's entire being glowed golden yellow.
Just before the man reached him and swung his sword, Finn turned his lower body and whipped his tail around at incredibly high speeds. This was his signature surprise attack! A tail whip!
Unable to dodge in time, the man, enshrouded in an inferno, abandoned his swing and barely braced his body for the impact.
The flaming man was hit square in the arm that he brought down to cover his ribcage, the place Finn had been aiming for. The force of the hit knocked the man off his feet, sending him tumbling where his back crashed into a tree.
Roaring in pain, Finn fliched back. The flames from the man's body had set his own tail on fire. Instead of going out, the flames continued to burn his scales and flesh.
The flames, they're feeding off my energy! Finn realized in horror as the pain continued to spread. Finn, seeing no other options, was forced to draw his energy inward. Only when the golden glow on his scales receded, did the flames finally die.
Looking at his tail, Finn felt a shiver go down his spine. It was completely scorched black. Sending healing energy to start repairing the damage, Finn considered his next move.
His flames are able to burn through my energy as fuel? How am I supposed to fight him if I can't touch him? Finn didn't see an immediate solution to this problem. He keenly felt the major disadvantage he had when facing this man.
The man, still covered in flames, removed himself from the tree he had crashed into, leaving behind a black silhouette charred into the bark and wood.
With a loud battle cry, he again charged at Finn. Finn roared back in response, ready to fight or flee as necessary. However, before the flaming man could reach him, another powerful and oppressive aura descended upon the immediate area.
At some point in time, the other powerful human had moved, and Finn wad surprised to find him standing between him and the flaming man.
Finn's first impression of the man was that he was built like a bear. Tall and muscular with bronze skin and brown hair. Rugged was the word Finn was looking for.
Even more eye catching than his appearance was the green glow that was pouring off his form. Finn watched this man with wary eyes.
Despite the older man appearing calm and composed, Finn could tell that he was far more dangerous.
As the older man stood by with his spear in hand, he reached out, suddenly grabbing the flaming man by the chest, stopping his full charge with one arm. The flames that were able to severely hurt Finn did not seem to affect this older man at all.
Both Finn and the Hein were completely surprised by this sudden move, and Hein yet out a loud cry of defiance before Orn lifted him up with one arm and slammed him into the ground, creating a small shockwave throughout the earth.
Hein had the wind knocked out him, and he struggled to breath as he felt his father let go of him. Rolling out of the human shaped crater, Hein struggled to catch his breath.
Leaning on one arm, he struggled to ask as he coughed out dust, "Why... why did you stop me dad?"
Orn shook his head, looking over to his daughter who had her hands over her mouth in shock.
"You're too impulsive boy! How many times do I have to explain that you must think before you act? One of these days that recklessness will be your end..."
Orn sighed, feeling that his son was truly hopeless in this regard. It didn't help that his advancement came too swiftly, but he expected his own son to at least have more self control.
Finally able to catch his breath, Hein stood up and brushed the remaining dirt from his clothes, which were remarkably unscathed.
Sending a glower towards the drake that was glaring at him, Hein couldn't help but speak in anger. "Why is that THING here?"
Chief Orn could understand his son's wrath. A drake had robbed them of their home, so it only natural they would not be the most well recieved type of magical beast in this village.
That being said, there was definitely something strange about this one, more then just having white scales. The beast was not fleeing from their presence, instead sticking close to his daughter. Normal magical beasts would flee before stronger beings. It was the natural response.
Even now, although it was growling at his son, it made no moves to attack his daughter or Maorn, who had been standing by watching.
His earlier guess that he ignored came back to nag at him, but it seemed too surreal to be true. Maybe it was the work of the goddesses again?
Chief Orn let out a sigh, grabbing the attention of all in the area. Looking towards his daughter, he carefully asked, "Anya, what is the meaning of this?"
Seeing as she now had an opportunity to explain herself, Anya walked over to Finn's side, Hein bristling when she did so.
Patting the side of his neck, Anya introduced Finn. "His name is Finngradus, but he prefers to be called Finn."
He? Both father and son thought at the same time.
Giving her father a meaningful look, she explained, "Father, this beast was the one who saved my life, and the lives of many in the village who were harmed by the fire drake. If not for him, I'd be dead."
Hein donned a look of disbelief while Orn frowned seriously. His guess had been right, Selmor had been referring to this beast, but why would a magical beast help humans?
There were still so many questions left unanswered, but this was not the appropriate place to discuss. They had only just returned, and he wanted to hear more from his daughter.
Waving his arm, Orn gestured for his daughter to follow him. "Come, we will talk more inside the village."