Chapter 2 Blood War

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Earth magic users are gathered quickly and to Meah’s dismay, hoks are readied for flight. There are enough for all to ride two together. Most of the magic users have already climbed on and taken off. Meah stands back, staring at the three birds left for her, Jaxon, Daniil, Kylii, and Tanith.

Jaxon holds her hands. “Hokiocs will allow us to reach the jordra much faster than on foot. You don’t have to come if you aren’t comfortable with flying.”

Daniil and Kylii stand behind him. “If you want you can fly with one of us.”

Meah closes her eyes and takes a slow, calming breath. “I’m going.” She stares at Jaxon. “I’ll fly with you.”

Jaxon is caught off guard, but nods. “We should go then.”

They hurry to their hoks and Jaxon helps Meah climb onto the back of the large bird. He easily hops on behind her and grabs the reins. He leans close to her. “Are you ready?”

The last of the magic users take off around them and Meah watches with wide eyes as the large birds disappear over the edge. She nods and holds on tightly to the saddle. Jaxon snaps the reins and the hok opens its large wings. It runs to the edge of the cliff and leaps off. Meah screams as they dive downwards.

Jaxon wraps one arm around her and tugs up gently on the reins. The hok pulls out of its dive and flaps its wings, aiming almost straight up. Meah feels Jaxon pressing against her back, thankful for the feeling of something behind her instead of open space.

The canyon disappears below them as they fly over the top of the surrounding cliffs. As Jaxon levels the hok out over the quickly moving earth below, Meah’s eyes watch, amazed, the hundreds of hoks flying in a group. Kylii is directing his hok in zigzagging patterns, laughing excitedly. Daniil keeps his flying straight. Tanith sits behind him, easily keeping her balance on the back of the large bird.

Wind blows Meah’s hair around her and she sits up, tentatively raising a hand to keep her hair from her face. She can feel the movement of the hok’s wings and it lets out an excited cry, echoed by others ahead. The sound vibrates through the hok’s body and up Meah’s legs.

Her eyes peer out across the surrounding land. She can see far greater distances than she ever has from the ground. Mountains appear as equals and rivers snake through the earth.

“Not so terrifying, is it?” Jaxon asks, having to yell over the wind. He pulls his arm from around her waist and grabs the reins with both hands.

Meah nods. “How long can they fly with us riding them?”

“Don’t worry. Hoks are built to fly for longs periods of time without stopping.”

“There it is!” Deven yells, pointing ahead.

The group jumps at his words. They couldn’t possibly be close enough to see the beast yet. They hadn’t even been flying for an hour let alone half a day’s worth. But when all eyes stare forward a large mass is seen. At first it appears to only be a small mountain, but Meah realizes it’s moving towards them. A low roar reaches them and the mountain raises two long trunks into the air.

The jordra is huge, larger than anything Meah has ever seen. And it only continues to grow in size as they approach it. It takes a few hours before they’re close enough to fully take in the behemoth’s immense might.

Its long legs are as thick as the large trees from the Forest of Spirits. The two long trunks they’d seen from a distance hang down from the jordra’s face, swinging back and forth in front of it, almost trailing the ground. Its eyes are larger than a dozen grown men standing on each other’s shoulders and long hairs hang from the jordra’s neck.

Hard growths on the beast’s back, sides, and stomach have actual plant life growing on it, trees creating a mini forest on its back. The length of the jordra is greater than even Bloodfall’s great Arena.

Its eyes are milky white, and crusted around the edges. Liquid rolls freely down its wide cheeks and odd spots appear beneath cracked skin. For such an immense beast, though, its skin hangs loosely as though it hadn’t eaten in many days, or months based on its size.

“Wow,” Jaxon laughs nervously. “Didn’t expect it to be that big.”

Deven flies closer to Jaxon and Meah, keeping his hok at the same level. “Jordras tend to stay in the parts of the plains with the Gunja trees, the only food source large enough to feed them. If they do venture further out it’s usually because they’re giving birth or sick.”

“Judging from the white eyes, bony appearance, and unusual behavior, I’m guessing this jordra is the latter?”

“Yes, and since it’s blind it won’t stop moving until it dies or something stops it.”

“Like a sudden drop,” Meah says.

Orders immediately go out to the earth magic users and they split into two groups. Half go to the front of the jordra and the other half head for the back legs. At once they all raise multiple walls and create large holes below. The jordra barrels through the walls, which the highest only manage to reach halfway up the animal’s shins, and the holes cause it to falter only for a moment before it regains its balance.

The magic users regroup and try to make a giant wall together, but even with all of them working they don’t have enough power to raise it above the jordra’s knees or make it thick enough to ensure it will stop it. The jordra easily knocks the wall down and the magic users move on to attempt to create a hole large and deep enough to catch the jordra. Again the jordra stumbles, but catches its balance.

With defensive not working, the magic users change tactics to offensive. They throw pieces of earth at the jordra, attempting to change its path. It roars, angrily and starts swinging its trunks through the air at its unseen attackers. It quickens its pace, sending more frequent quakes through the earth.

The hoks dodge and dive around the trunks, some taking refuge beneath the jordra’s immense body. But one hok can’t get out of the way of the large trunks fast enough. The magic users riding fall off and scream as they plummet to the ground. No one is close enough to attempt a rescue and feel helpless as they watch. Even if the two miraculously survive the fall, they’ll only be crushed beneath the jordra’s feet.

A large gust of wind encircles the two magic users and slows their fall. A large piece of earth flies through the air and meets the two, midair. Once they’re safely on the earth, they’re flown away from the danger of the jordra and onto a raised thick pillar.

Standing the two men search for their savior, but one can’t be found. None of the other magic users are close enough to have used their magic so effectively and none present were able to use air magic.

A shrill roar from the jordra grabs everyone’s attention. The entire ground beneath the jordra shifts turning into quicksand. Its roars become panicked as it tries to step out of the quicksand on to firm ground. But wherever its foot lands the earth quickly turns into more quicksand. The jordra loses its balance and falls onto its side, its white eyes rolling around in its head in panic. When half its gigantic body is beneath the earth, it hardens trapping the jordra. Lifting its head, its roar changes from anger and panic to sorrow and pain.

Everyone in the air stare at the helpless beast, circling their hoks over the amazing and heartbreaking sight. The magic users try to figure out who stopped the jordra, but it’s the two men who fell from their hok whose yells catch the group’s attention. They’re pointing away from the jordra to two small specks moving slowly towards the downed behemoth.

Meah squints her eyes to get a better look, but it isn’t until Jaxon lowers their hok closer to the earth she realizes who the specks are. Her heart flutters and a relieved smile breaks across her face. “Ime!”

The magic users lower to see for themselves and cheers ring out. They call out Ime’s name and circle the trapped jordra in celebration.

Ime and Kiphy continue walking closer to the jordra until it towers high over them. It cries out and continues trying to escape its earthen cell. The ground surrounding it cracks as it moves, but Ime continuously hardens the earth to keep the jordra trapped.

“There is only one thing you can do for this beast,” Kiphy tells Ime, placing a hand on his shoulder.

Ime nods and raises his hand at the jordra.

“End its suffering.”

Jaxon yells to the other hoks flying nearby and suddenly pulls up on the reins of the hok and sends him and Meah high into the air. Meah is about to ask him why when a wave of heat surges over her.

Fire erupts from Ime’s hand and swallows the jordra’s immense body. Those in the sky have to calm the hoks as they see the flames below them. Meah and Jaxon stare down at the flames from a safe height with wide eyes. Daniil and Kylii fly their hoks closer and whistle.

“Looks like he got his fire back,” Daniil says.

“Can see why Klaeon was scared of it,” Kylii adds.

Jaxon remains silent, his knuckles turning white with how tightly he’s gripping the reins. Meah squeezes her grip on the saddle as her eyes take in the enormous fireball that was once a mighty beast.

A heavy silence weighs the air down as the magic users stare in awe at the power. None of them, even when bound together, could even slow the jordra. But one man stopped it and even killed it. This was the man they were to put their lives on the line for and now they knew they would follow him to the ends of the earth if he needed them to.

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