IS, V2, Chapter 2: Unsealed

Nightmares are just dreams that you don’t understand. Bad memories of things that happened to you, at a point in some lifetime you probably can’t remember.

However, for me it was a bit different, because I was a powerful telepath and didn’t even know it. Shortly after I lost my memories, my mind was completely empty and unable to perform even the simplest telepathic spell.

My contact with Amber and my attempts to understand her or the others better, was enough to flip that switch in my brain once again. It was extremely helpful when trying to understand a difficult word or sound, but there were side effects that I couldn’t have possibly predicted.

Around the time I began to use touch telepathy while teaching Scarlet how to speak Dark Elven Lorthon, the dreams began. I was sleeping in a very cramped tree, with the tigress and the four wolves, when suddenly I was pulled away into the night sky.

Floating weightlessly, nothing but an apparition being yanked around helplessly. My instincts were urging me towards the south, but there were thousands of heavy, brightly glowing chains, weighing my ghastly body down.

When I touched them with my translucent fingers, a riptide of emotions and images would pass through my mind. Some of them were vibrantly luminous, while others were growing dimmer by the second.

It was a technique that I never actually used in that world before, because my brain wasn’t quite developed enough until then. That golden eye probably had something to do with it as well, I was finally able to use astral projection.

The only problem was that I had no idea what was happening… I felt one of the chains that wasn’t glowing anymore. It was connected to a small object, far into the grey wolf tribe’s territory.

A familiar sensation washed over me as I screamed out in a pained voice that sounded much more like a howl. It felt like my body was on fire, but I knew exactly what was happening as I looked around at their shining red eyes and bestial faces.

I woke up the moment I realized the suffering my negligence was causing, it was time to evict our neighbors. The entire red wolf tribe wasn’t wiped out, they were keeping a few of them alive… if you consider being a sex slave alive.

It wasn’t even for breeding purposes, they were simply raping them for entertainment. The older ones were already a lost cause, but there were plenty of children who would be torn apart the instant they grew large enough to become the grey wolf tribe’s toys.

Amber was already about to start her guard duty in the middle of the night, so she was standing in front of our recently lit campfire. The third ring had a tropical climate, so even during the night, it was still pretty warm and the blaze was more for illumination than heat.

Not so that she could see, but so that enemies would be less likely to approach. It was better not to fight so close to our sleeping companions, otherwise she would have gladly welcomed the challenge.

I walked up behind her and wrapped my arms around her waist, then rested my face against her back and growled “It’s time for me to deal with the grey wolf tribe… I probably won’t see you for a while, but take care of the camp. If things go well, I should be returning with more refugees like Scarlet.” in a solemn voice. It was difficult repressing my telepathy while communicating with her, but the emotions I was feeling at that moment were not something anyone should have to experience.

She quickly turned around while I was still latched onto her and grabbed my horns, then licked my face a few times. It was definitely strange at first, but eventually I had gotten used to her extremely rough tongue and it wasn’t painful anymore.

After that, she quietly purred “I promise that our pride will still be here when you return.” in a reassuring voice. Our little community did have slightly more women than men, but technically Lachon and Nenor were the only ones who were ‘breeding’ so we were probably more like a pack.

However, my goal was something that didn’t exist in the third ring anymore. The dark elves had a large area, filled with hundreds of thousands of people, they called it a city. Although, we weren’t even large enough to be considered a small village at that point in time.

As I was leaving our territory while carrying my poisonous long-sword, I heard a loud grunt from behind me and quickly turned around. It was Coffee, carrying the battle ax that Amber made for him shortly after he caught that giant river creature for us.

It was basically a large and incredibly strong piece of bamboo, with a blade that was taken off of a giant cockroaches mandibles. There were no magical effects, but it was incredibly sharp and heavy, the weapon might have been closer to a halberd when compared to his height, yet he was still able to swing it efficiently.

In the month since he received the gift, he still hadn’t used it for anything but cutting down trees around our borders. His mother was extremely overprotective and he was tired of being considered a child.

I immediately growled “This isn’t about revenge… it’s about honor.” in a serious voice, while gazing into his light blue eyes. The look on his face was completely composed, he was definitely a teenager and able to gain bulky muscles that made me look much smaller, regardless of our similar heights.

He roared “That’s what this has always been about for me! My mother couldn’t understand that my anger was towards myself, not them! They’re just mindless beasts, hating them would be pointless! While my parents were fighting valiantly against impossible odds, I was cowering in fear… I need to prove to myself that my father didn’t sacrifice himself in vain!” in an irritated voice, while on the verge of tears.

After waiting for him to cool down, I smiled and said “Good, I’m going to need your help with this mission. My goal isn’t extermination, but rescue and recovery of any and all captives who are still within our ability to save. Not just red wolf tribe… I know you can see and smell mana, so you should be able to tell friendlies from enemy combatants.” in a serious voice, while continuing to walk towards the north.

In that den, before I lost the connection, I was able to see at least 15 puppies, who were still unharmed and unable to process their situation. They were my first priority, perhaps my judgment was being clouded by that mothers last lingering regrets, but at least I knew where to find them.

Coffee grunted in agreement and continued to follow my lead as we crossed the threshold of our scent filled barrier. Within moments, we were completely surrounded by at least 30 large male grey wolves.

Their eyes shone bright red, similar to mine, but without the cat-like pupils. The one directly in front of me growled at us “You’re that tiger bitch’s brats, you must be lost, don’t worry, we won’t eat you… not until we’ve had our fun.” in an excited voice, then the rest of them began laughing in a similar manner to hyenas.

I howled in a voice so loud that everyone within a few miles could probably hear me “Death to the Grey Wolf Tribe!” accompanied by several lightning strikes directly in front of me. Since they were focused on trying to kill me, our camp wasn’t targeted and the captives had a greater chance for survival.

During that first battle, Coffee actually managed to decapitate a 2 meter tall wolf tribe man. He was looking towards me for recognition or praise, but then realized that I obliterated everyone else while he struggled to defeat one of them.

We only made it a few dozen meters before we were surrounded by even more, but there was something that I noticed immediately. There were no females, or at least not that I could initially distinguish, but if I had some knowledge from a past life or two, I would have understood the reason.

They may have looked like wolves at first glance, but some of their behaviors and traits were similar to spotted hyenas. Taunting their prey, the laughs, giggles and other vocalizations, but one of the stranger concepts was their androgynous genitalia.

Each of them did seem to be male, yet there were a few who had very slightly swollen pectoral muscles and occasionally I would notice a slightly different aura. Coffee could tell them apart by their scent, but my olfactory senses weren’t quite that refined.

He pointed to one of the bodies he bisected and grunted “This one’s probably female, but it does look a little strange.” in an exhausted voice. There was definitely a slight difference in genitalia, which seemed a bit odd, yet ultimately it didn’t affect my plan and was just a mild distraction.

After nearly a whole day of combat, with only a few moments of rest in between, they finally stopped attacking us. Their numbers must have been depleted by at least a thousand and even though my partner was able to get a few hours of sleep, I wasn’t allowed such a luxury.

When we finally arrived at the den, it was nearly empty and only held a dozen or so red wolf toddlers. There were a few partially devoured red wolf tribe corpses in the center of the room, but no enemies to fight.

The children were mostly females, but there were at least a handful of males. Then I noticed something squirming around inside the carcasses, large worms.

Parasites, they were inside all the grey wolves we came across and probably the red ones as well. The creatures weren’t able to survive inside my body, but when I examined Coffee’s aura more closely than usual, I could tell that he was infected.

We needed to return to base immediately, luckily the puppies could run on all fours like actual dogs and keep up with the two of us. After I affirmed my position as their father, through a series of barks and growls, they quickly began to follow my lead.

The most powerful and dangerous enemies are the ones you can’t see, hear or feel, while they slowly but steadily kill you. Pathogens of all shapes and sizes were the alpha predators that hunted even the fiercest demons or dragons from within their own bodies.

It was strange, but we didn’t encounter any more grey wolves after that and we could no longer hear them howling throughout the forest. Somehow it reminded me of what happened a few months before, but at least that time there were still plenty of sounds in the distance… it was eerily quiet.

When we arrived at camp with our new friends after being away for a day and a half, Hazel was the first one to approach us. She roared “How dare you drag my precious cub into such a dangerous place!?” in an angry voice, while lifting my entire body into the air with one hand and squeezing my throat tightly.

Her body was much more effeminate than Amber’s, but she was still incredibly strong. However, that strength was meaningless if I could release her grip with a tiny shock of electricity.

It didn’t actually hurt her, but since she was surprised, I was able to free myself pretty easily. Then I rushed over to the three dark elves, who were still sleeping inside their tree.

Just as I suspected, their auras were starting to deteriorate again, but it was almost unnoticeable. If I didn’t see the worm’s mana in a much more advanced form, I would have never realized that they were even sick.

It was something I had wondered about from the moment I met Amber. Why would someone with such a potent mana pool be unable to use magic?

The grey and red wolf tribes, even the Kodiaks had incredibly powerful auras, but all of them were magically impotent. Parasites were draining their excess mana that could normally be used to cast spells.

If they didn’t die so young, eventually they would have been overwhelmed by the worms or some other pathogen that I wasn’t even able to notice. It wasn’t an immediate threat, but if I was gone for a month or so, Lachon definitely wouldn’t have survived.

His weakened body was more susceptible to the parasites than the others. Before he would have gotten into a critical condition, Nenor wouldn’t even have been able to heal him or anyone else.

When I was struggling to think of a more permanent solution to the problem, I unconsciously unlocked a small portion of my sixth seal. There was a mild burning sensation on the back of my right hand and a strange black tattoo began to appear.

It was an ankh, a symbol which literally translated to life. The loop was around my middle knuckle and the long portion of the cross followed the bone, all the way to my wrist.

After a few seconds, it started to glow a bright golden color and I began to subconsciously cast a spell. Deep lacerations opened up all down my wrists and blood was spewing out at an incredible speed.

It all began gathering together in a large sphere between my hands and I started speaking in a language I couldn’t recognize. Then the blood changed from red to bright blue as it swirled around and condensed into the shape of a slightly smaller cube.

My wrists had already healed by that point and the block of gelatin had hardened enough that I could actually hold it up with my palms. It was in a strange state between solid and liquid, but I instinctively knew what it was used for.

A few seconds after I finished casting the spell, the three of them had woken up and were startled by the sound of my mana. Daeris yelled “Ah! Oh, it’s just Michael… wait, the hell is that thing?” in a surprised voice as she jumped up and started pointing at the cubic foot of blue gelatin that was wriggling around in my hands.

I smiled at her and said “Medicine, but the three of you should only take small pieces. This is for everyone… and we have 15 new members of our family now.” in a happy voice, while feeling extremely lightheaded.

Then I used water magic to remove three small cubes from the large block, which each of them obediently grabbed and started to eat. They had faces expressing how truly terrible it must have tasted, but they didn’t complain or ask any unnecessary questions.

Lachon was already laying down, since he couldn’t exactly stand, but the other two quickly fell to the ground and started clutching their stomachs while screaming in pain. It was poison, but that was the most effective way to deal with parasites.

It was designed to not only kill the infection, but also to permanently alter their bodies. Eventually, they would suffer from the same problem again, unless their immune system was capable of reproducing a similar effect as the poison, when fighting various types of the mana parasites which seemed to be everywhere.

After hearing the screams, Amber rushed into the already cramped room and almost tripped over me. She looked at the squirming elves with a curious expression and then stared at my mysterious blue cube.

I purred “They’re just overreacting, it probably tastes terrible and might not feel that great, but I need everyone to eat some of this. You’re all very sick, but this will make you much stronger than you’ve ever been.” in a reassuring voice, while looking into her eyes and making a serious expression.

She unhesitatingly shoved her fingers into the interesting substance and tore out a rather large chunk of blue gelatin. Then she swallowed it before I had a chance to tell her to stop, at first she was perfectly fine and made a perplexed face.

However, even the mighty tigress was unable to withstand such a massive shock wave of agony and simply passed out on top of me. I was able to use water magic to keep the blue cube from being smashed between us, but she was far too heavy for me to escape with only one hand free.

After I barked, roared and yelled a few times, the arguing bears and the completely out of the loop red wolf were called over to help. Obviously, Scarlet wasn’t very useful in that type of situation, but Hazel was able to easily pick the nearly 600 lb tiger off of me and carry her out of the room.

When I went outside I could see 18 small dogs yelping and playing with each other, while their mother quickly rushed over to keep them from becoming too unruly. The rest of the group wasn’t as easy to convince as Amber or the dark elves, but after a brief explanation of their situation and how taking the medicine would make them stronger, Coffee happily volunteered.

His mother roared at him and decided that she would test it, before letting her child eat something that could be potentially dangerous. When she passed out from the pain, her son swiftly seized the opportunity before she could wake up and keep him from taking the chew-able blue cube.

He was able to take a proper dose that I carved out for him, so there was only the normal amount of suffering and he didn’t lose consciousness. I was a little concerned about the puppies, they wouldn’t need very much of the poison to have the same effect… but their bodies were so small and fragile.

There was a much larger risk of overdose if I wasn’t extremely careful and they would probably be fine even if I didn’t treat them until they were older. However, there were a few worries that floated through my mind, mainly regarding what I heard from Scarlet, Hazel, and Amber.

In a pride, most of the children typically died before reaching adulthood, but I assumed that it was because of their violent natures and hazardous environments. The red wolf puppies were different, they were sheltered by their parents until they became adults and almost never accidentally killed each other while playing.

Even the Kodiak tribe, which had very few offspring in comparison, had a high mortality rate until adolescence. It was purely conjecture, but my instincts were very rarely wrong.

After seeing how the others reacted to my medicine, Scarlet vehemently refused to allow her newly acquired puppies or her real children, to be my test subjects. However, If I waited until they started becoming sick from the worms, it probably would have been too late.

I hesitated for a moment, because I knew that at least some of them would probably die if I followed through with my original plan. Then I thought of a much safer and less painful method, involving incredibly small doses, taken periodically with food or water over the course of a month.

Even if there were complications, either Nenor or myself would have been able to use healing magic to prevent the worst from happening. The problem was that I didn’t know how much would be enough, or a proper method of saving the medicine that long.

While I was wondering about such things, I failed to notice the mark on my hand glowing brightly again or the fact that I was casting another spell. The remaining blue gelatin was rapidly dehydrating into a solid grey block in my right hand.

There was also a pair of adorable silver eyes glaring at me, while a relatively small snout was biting down into my left forearm. Scarlet’s teeth weren’t sharp enough and her jaw strength was lacking the proper force to actually do any damage, her tongue did tickle slightly though.

I sighed and growled “I have a much less dangerous method now, so calm down.” in an irritated voice, while glaring back at her. After she finally let go, I pinched off a few hundred milligrams of the concentrated poisonous powder and shoved it into her mouth, then forced her to swallow it with a bit of water magic.

It wasn’t enough for her to pass out, but she was still suffering from incredible abdominal pains. Given their relative size and weight, plus the fact that I would be making doses for at least a month, I decided that 50 mcg per tablet would be best.

However, I wanted to be completely rested before making my final decision, so I waited until Amber regained consciousness and then went to sleep. She completely forgot the fact that she passed out and taunted the three dark elves, Coffee and Scarlet, who were each still making agonized faces.

It was the middle of the day, so when I was pulled up into the sky, I was able to actually see deep inside the lake from my vantage point high above the jungle canopy. Below the treeline was still mostly obscured, but I could see smoke rising in the distance, all along the shoreline.

Although, that was relatively normal and none of the fires were close enough to our territory for me to be concerned. Something else caught my attention, I could clearly see a very familiar object sitting in the center of the island.

A large triangular pyramid was radiating a powerful and interesting aura, similar in appearance to the one which allowed me to escape that underground prison where I spent the first few months of my existence. I wanted to get a closer look, so I quickly hovered in that direction for a couple seconds, my movement was practically instantaneous, since I technically wasn’t even there.

The gigantic monstrous aquatic creatures looked so small from my perspective, but there was one massive serpentine shadow that was lurking close to the surface and circling around the island. It had a thin black wire connecting from my chest, to its massive, constantly moving body.

Unlike the other chains that were glowing brightly or dimly, that one was complete darkness and impossible to peek into. There were several similar wires that connected down farther under the water, but they were all glowing various colors and I could actually glance into their minds.

My ability didn’t work on magical beasts, it was something I knew from looking down at the other shadows within the lake. I thought that only humanoids were connected to the chains, but when I tried a little harder to peek into that giant creatures mind, it retaliated.

Illusion magic is a more weaponized form of telepathy and since my comprehension of it was still sealed, there was no way that I could consciously resist such a powerful spell. Luckily, it wasn’t hostile towards me, just a little curious.

A gigantic silver scaled maw immediately appeared in front of my eyes and the bright skies around me were transformed into a dark and empty ocean. It felt like I was actually underwater and my body seemed to gain substance, but the sensations were a little off.

There was a massive face of an aquatic dragon which had a similar appearance to a snake with bright orange eyes and catfish-like whiskers around its mouth and nostrils. It was impossible to see all of its body from my perspective, but for the most part it appeared to be some sort of eel, with sharp, bladed fins down its back.

I was first to break the silence when I said “My name is Michael, it’s nice to meet you.” in a surprisingly enthusiastic voice, it was my first time seeing a real dragon and I wasn’t quite jaded enough to be completely unaffected by speaking with a creature that had a face which was larger than a blue whale’s. Not that I could actually make a comparison like that, but it was huge and seemed pretty impressive from only 30 meters away.

There was an awkward silence for nearly a minute, then it began laughing hysterically. Eventually, it calmed down and relaxed its strangely happy expression into a curious one.

The voice was definitely female, but I was amazed that I could understand what it was saying so clearly. She said “It has been several millennia since the last time I was able to meet such an interesting creature. When I enter the minds of humanoids, I usually appear as a goddess of beauty based around their race’s body structure. The ancient elves who lived here long ago used to refer to me as Maeleth, the spirit of lust.” in an excited voice, while grinning and exposing her gigantic fang like teeth.

We were speaking in a language that was similar to the one the dark elves taught me, it was slightly different but not by much. After thinking about what she just told me for a few moments, I sighed and said “Well, you are a very attractive eel snake dragon… maybe if I was a little older and a couple hundred times larger, but I’m not really looking for that sort of relationship right now.” in a completely serious voice, for some reason I actually felt a little guilty for rejecting her feelings.

Maeleth started laughing obnoxiously again, then finally said “You’re so hilarious! Ah, so yea… they just called me that, I’m not some slutty succubus! Sure, I have enticed a few cute little elves over the years, but when you live as long as I have… it’s hard to hold a steady relationship with mortals.

Maybe if I wasn’t stuck in this damn lake, I could have gone out and found another one of my kind, had some kids… if I wasn’t such a fat-ass, I would just swim the hell outta here! Oh well, it’s probably a couple dozen millennia too late for such whimsical delusions.” in a sarcastic voice, while trying to hide the sadness in her eyes.

After a short pause, she sighed and said “Anyway, enough about me, you already told me your name, but what are you?” in a curious voice, while trying to examine my body.

I said “Well, either a demon or a spirit depending on who you ask, but I really can’t say for certain.” in a serious voice while wearing a slightly forced smile.

She started laughing again, which lasted for a few seconds, but then she said “I’ve heard about humanoid demons from the stories that have been around since… well, forever. Supposedly, one or two of them pops up every 300,000 years, but who the hell’s been alive long enough to remember that shit?

The one constant in any legend about those bastards was their monstrous nature. Although, there was another thing… they had wings that came out of their backs. Well, you might not have grown yours in quite yet, or maybe you’re just an aberration, you don’t really seem all that crazy or evil to me.” in a serious voice while grinning.

After a few seconds I finally asked “Do you know what that pyramid does? The one on the island you’re circling around.” in a curious voice.

She sighed for an obnoxiously long amount of time, then said “The elves used to use it to protect them from the 10 year storm. Well, it’s not like they could actually control it, the mana barrier activates and deactivates automatically. Most of the fish in this pond cower inside of the barrier that extends to about where I normally swim, but I prefer to have a nice 3 month demon buffet.” in a disinterested voice.

I had a feeling that the island was special the first time I saw it, but I didn’t expect the answer to my biggest problem to be so simple. Most of the conflict around the lake happened because their territories couldn’t be maintained for over a decade, but that island would be the perfect place to build my city.

Nothing is free, but everything has a price. One way or another, anything can be bought or sold with the proper currency, but money isn’t always involved.

I smiled at her and said “We each have something that we can’t accomplish on our own, so we should make a deal.” in a happy voice.

Maeleth glared at me through eyes filled with suspicion and then said “First you reject me and then you start asking for sexual favors a few minutes later… you’re so shameless. Well, I can’t say that I’m not slightly interested, but I’ll need to switch the illusion up a little bit first…” in an irritated voice, then she suddenly transformed into a relatively small, beautiful elven mermaid.

Her eyes still looked about the same and her skin was covered in silver scales, her hair was black and her facial features seemed slightly familiar. She quickly closed the distance between us, but before she could tackle me, I somehow managed to press my palms against her shoulders and hold her at bay long enough for me to explain the nature of our nonsexual favors.

I yelled “Wait! OK, calm down! It’s not about sex… gah! Put your tongue away!” in a frantic voice, while trying to avoid her extremely long, snake-like tongue that was long enough to reach my face even while I was vehemently pushing her away from my body.

After a few minutes of that nonsense, she finally gave up and started pouting with her arms crossed. Eventually, she asked “Fine, what is this boring deal anyway?” in a dejected voice, then sighed obnoxiously.

I said “You want to escape this lake, right?” it was a rhetorical question, but she still nodded to it. Then I continued with “If you’re too big to fit through the river, isn’t the simplest solution to make the river wider and deeper?” in a serious voice, but she looked at me like I was an idiot.

She said “Don’t you think I would have tried something so obvious before? It’s just too damn far, it wouldn’t be hard for me to climb up the waterfalls, but the main problem is that there isn’t just one thick river. It branches out into really small rivers that spread out like tree branches to the east and west. Some of them go underground, others just stop randomly, it’s not like we can just dig a big ass channel straight through the continent!” in an angry voice, while scowling.

I made a sinister grin and said “That’s exactly what we should do, but it will take a decent amount of time and effort. However, it is possible if you help me first, I need an escort… not the sexual kind. I’m going to build a city on that uninhabited island and if you help me, it will go a lot smoother and quicker.” in an excited voice.

Maeleth’s attitude didn’t change as she said “This sounds like a scam and I refuse to be a prostitute… unless the guys are really cute and innocent, will there be naive elven boys in this plan?” in a completely serious voice. It was very easy to understand how she received that name, but I was starting to become annoyed by her vexing behavior.

I sighed and then said “Earth and water magic, not really that complicated, I’m sure you haven’t been around for over 20,000 years without even learning a little of each. If everything works out properly, then you won’t even have to help build the channel. All I need you to do is to protect me and my family while we cross over from the shore, to the island. We will probably be making a lot of trips though, but just imagine all the cute and innocent elves who will eventually live in our city.” in an unenthusiastic voice.

She yelled “OK I’m in! As long as you sacrifice… I mean, introduce, some nice gentleman to me! It’s not like I’m physically doing anything with them, so it’s fine! I’m not a succubus though! You don’t understand because you’re still young, but once you go a couple thousand years without sex or anyone to talk to… actually, I’m still a virgin! Lot’s of people have those kinds of dreams right? Anyway, when do we start?!” in an overly excited voice while making far too much scaly physical contact.

I smiled and said “Give me three days to prepare the raft, then come meet us at the western river-mouth. If I was alone, then I would just fly or swim there, but we have a lot of small children coming with us.” in a happy voice, as soon as she nodded in agreement, I woke up.

It was difficult to breathe and my body felt like it was being crushed by something large, warm, and incredibly heavy. The scent was something I had gotten used to and that fur was unmistakably Amber’s, but I had no idea why she was sleeping on top of me.

After a few minutes, I was able to safely shimmy out from underneath her, but I nearly suffocated in the process. Then I realized the problem, all around us were adorable puppies, with Scarlet up against the back of the room, cuddling with her three children.

It was fairly early in the morning, so when I exited the tree, the two Kodiaks were sitting around the still burning campfire. They typically performed guard duty during the day, while Amber patrolled at night when it was most dangerous.

However, Coffee was just the bear I needed to help me, again. Although, when I asked him for help, his mother immediately objected.

However, after I explained that we were just cutting down some trees near the river and her son begged for 20 minutes, he finally received her reluctant permission. When we finally arrived, he asked me what we were actually doing, so I told him the truth.

We were cutting down trees, to build a raft, that would be large enough for all of us to ride. When he asked me where we were going, I pointed towards the island that was at least 40 miles away from the river-mouth.

He started laughing and didn’t believe me, which wasn’t a particularly surprising reaction. It would have normally been impossible, but the circumstances were definitely going to be incredibly unusual.

His interpretation of our little expedition was as a training exercise. He assumed that I was going to teach him how to become stronger, through rigorous manual labor, and he wholeheartedly devoted himself to it.

After he cut a few relatively small trees down, he began chopping them up into usable logs. My job was to gather vines and then use nature magic to grow them around the logs, in place of ropes.

Although, it was all a lot more difficult than I expected it to be, since we had to fight off the giant insects that were angry at us for destroying their homes. A few giant birds would swoop down and try to grab us, I had seen several of our tiger tribe neighbors become food for those monstrous creatures.

When one of the adults was captured, I didn’t even give it a second thought. However, on our second day of raft building, it was a girl, even younger than Amber, who was taken.

What surprised me more than my own over-sympathetic reaction, as I shot the bird out of the sky with a hastily made firebolt, was Coffee. He threw his ax onto the ground and then jumped into the giant magical beast filled rapids and started quickly swimming towards the drowning tigress.

It was a major mana drain, but I didn’t really have any other choice than to reel them in using a decent amount of water magic. On the other side, the tiger tribe who were watching the spectacle had completely given up on her, their lack of emotional attachment seemed rather unreasonable.

They weren’t incapable of feeling love, it was just part of their culture and common sense to be overly logical and bury any unnecessary feelings of compassion or empathy. On an individual level, they had the potential to become extremely affectionate and endearing, like Amber was towards me.

Apparently, Coffee considered my orders during our little rescue mission to be some sort of honorable code of justice. Which he assumed was meant to be followed at all times, regardless of the dangers involved.

He was a good kid, but I could definitely understand why his mother was always so overprotective. However, he was old enough to make his own life threatening decisions and all I could do was help him survive them.

When they were finally pulled ashore, he was extremely happy to have been able to save such a cute damsel in distress. On the other hand, the dark furred adolescent tiger girl, who was about the same height as the two of us, was considerably hostile.

We basically kidnapped her, but if she didn’t fall so close to our side, we probably wouldn’t have even been able to save the ungrateful brat. Well, it would be difficult for anyone, even a tiger tribe, to accept that some random strangers risked their lives to protect hers, while the people she knew all her life had simply given up on her without even a second thought.

That was actually a good thing though, it meant that she wasn’t completely indoctrinated by her pride yet. Otherwise, she would have easily accepted that she would never see her family or friends again and simply conformed to our society without even looking back across that river.

Unfortunately, we were on a deadline and didn’t have time to deal with her drama. Although, it would have been annoying if she drowned trying to get back to the others, so I decided it was better if she took a little nap.

Electricity is such a convenient weapon, I couldn’t use wind magic since her aura was too strong, but a quick zap at low power and I didn’t have a whining kitty to deal with anymore. Coffee seemed to disagree with my methods, but I sternly reminded him that we were in the middle of building a raft and he unhesitatingly returned to work.

At the end of the day, the tiger girl woke up while we were halfway back home. She violently struggled to escape from him, but apparently he was a lot stronger than the immature tigress.

After threatening her a few times, she finally relented and accepted her fate. When we returned home and Amber saw that we brought another tiger girl with us, she had a strange expression on her face.

It was pretty easy to guess that she was jealous, but when I explained that the relatively small tigress would be sleeping in the tree with the Kodiaks, she seemed to change her attitude completely. Actually, she was happy that she wasn’t the only tiger tribe anymore, it was like she gained a younger sister… luckily, that didn’t mean that she was planning to beat her to death.

I learned two valuable lessons that night, it’s impossible to save everyone and there’s never enough time to carry out the safest plans. When I was watching over the forest, I realized that there were no chains connected to the grey wolf territory anymore.

They were either gone or dead, the plan to save all of the children had failed spectacularly and even if I had never started building that raft, I still wouldn’t have succeeded. Three days wasn’t enough time to locate a large group of puppies, reach them and return before whatever was happening below that canopy would have begun.

However, it only took those few days of hesitation for one of Scarlet’s two sons to die from the parasites that I was waiting to treat. I woke up in the middle of the night to her mournful howls, when I investigated the source of her sadness, there was a heavily decomposed puppy carcass laying in front of her.

Large mana worms were squirming around and tearing it apart at a rapid pace. I just saw him the day before and there was no indication that he was even sick.

I should have trusted my instincts from the beginning, but the others were still alive. Without even consulting the mother who was still in shock, I began breaking off small cubes of the poisonous medicine.

We were leaving in a few hours and I didn’t want to stick around long enough to meet our new neighbors. None of them could sleep over the sound of Scarlet’s howling and crying, so I didn’t need to wake them up.

I started with the largest puppies and moved my way down to her two remaining children, with full doses for their individual sizes. There simply wasn’t enough time for safety, they could die from the parasites before anyone would even notice they were sick.

At least with the poison, I was able to monitor them carefully and apply healing when it was needed. By that time, Nenor was awake and able to help me heal them, there were no casualties from the medicine… it was the first time I had ever experienced regret in that world.

However, there was no time for self-pity, we didn’t even have time to get a decent rest that night. Aside from a few weapons, the crippled Lachon and one of the puppies who was still unconscious, we didn’t need to carry anything to the raft.

It was a little surprising to me that the tigress didn’t attempt to escape during the chaos of that night. She simply watched us frantically taking care of the sick children from the corner of the room, with a look of awe on her face… she couldn’t understand why we were so concerned that just one of the puppies had died.

Amber was like that when we first met as well, but she was extremely attached to Scarlet’s three babies. We had helped her take care of them for three months, it was normal to feel upset that one of of them died and none of us could even do anything to save him.

He never even had a name… anyway, when we finally arrived at the river-mouth, there was a beautiful mermaid with shining silver scales covering her entire body, sunbathing on the rather large raft.

Maeleth was showing us all a very elaborate illusion, rather than actually speak to us directly, which probably would have been impossible. Her bored expression, quickly turned into an excited and happy one when she noticed us standing next to the raft.

She said “I was starting to think that you forgot about me… that’s so mean Michael. Well, I do see one cute elf, but why is he so gimpy? Anyway, lets get going! I’m tired of waiting around in this boring place, did you want me to carry you guys?” in an enthusiastic voice, while grinning confidently.

I sighed and said “Don’t worry about carrying us, we can use water magic to move the raft. We need to hurry though, I’ve been sensing an unusually powerful presence stalking us for a while now.” in a worried voice, while looking back at the jungle treeline.

Then Coffee grunted “Wait, you were serious about building a raft to take us to that island?” in a surprised voice, while wearing a dumbfounded expression.

The tiny tigress roared “If you’re going to go that far anyway, why don’t you take me back to my pride?!” in an angry voice.

I pointed across the river and their fishing spot was infested with gigantic ants, some of which had wings. It wasn’t difficult to understand the situation with just one glance, she was only gone for one night and that her pride had already been forced to leave.

While I was distracted, the three elves were already sitting on top of the raft and having an enthusiastic conversation with Maeleth. It was their first time actually meeting a mermaid, or at least that’s what she claimed to be.

After Scarlet, the depressed tigress, and the 17 puppies boarded, it was up to the four of us who were left, to push the extraordinarily heavy and large rectangular collection of logs, into the lake. Then we all had to jump aboard before it was carried away by the relatively strong currents.

Between Nenor and myself, it was fairly easy to control the raft with a bit of water manipulation. Whenever anyone asked what the gigantic shimmering object directly below us was, Maeleth would nervously change the topic to something completely inappropriate for small children.

At our extremely slow pace, it took us two days to make it to the island’s shore. The sands were pure white and combined with the morning sun’s glare, it was blinding.

The trip was relatively unremarkable, Amber, Hazel and a handful of the puppies were seasick the entire time. We were all relieved when we finally reached land, if the trees weren’t so ridiculously tall, it wouldn’t even be possible to see the mainland from so far away.

Maeleth decided to name the melancholic tiger girl, Demil, which meant sad or gloomy in the ancient elven language. Scarlet was still heartbroken, but she wore a fake smile so that the rest of her puppies wouldn’t become upset.

I decided that we would spend the day on the beach, eat some delicious magical fish, and camp there for the night. Everyone needed a bit of recuperation before the 10 mile hike, to the center of the island.

Just because it was uninhabited by humanoids, didn’t mean that it would be a safe trip. While everyone else was enjoying themselves on the beach, I was scouting ahead and eliminating any powerful magical beasts that I came across.

With my speed, it was easy to clear the distance to the pyramid in a little under an hour. However, I began to notice a change in scenery as I approached the ruins of the ancient city which once housed hundreds of thousands of elves.

The buildings were literally made from the trees, which had all become much larger over the millennia. Rather than crumbled rubble, the entire city structure was constructed from various vines and branches, which were far below the canopy, but still dozens of meters above the ground.

All around the gigantic pyramid, there were three very oddly shaped but massive trees which seemed to be in the shape of various animals. One was a tiger, the other was a wolf and the third was a bear and each one seemed to be guarding one of the entrances to the golden building.

When I cautiously walked closer to the one that reminded me of Amber, it suddenly opened its huge, glowing blue eyes, then roared at me “Who dares approach Rawon!?” in an incredibly deep and loud voice, but he was definitely speaking in the native language of Lorthon Forest.

I smiled at him and yelled “My name is Michael!” in a happy voice, it was always interesting to meet a giant cat-shaped talking tree. Obviously, I had never even heard of treants before, so it was a pretty exciting concept to me at the time.

The massive creature leaned his face down closer to me and then roared “You… look very familiar, you remind me of the progenitors… but you are definitely different from the ones who created us eons ago! Why have you come to this abandoned city?!” in an angry voice while scowling.

I sighed and then yelled “Isn’t that obvious?! I’m here to claim it as my territory! Maeleth told me this place was uninhabited and I definitely didn’t notice the three of you when I observed this city from the sky!” in an irritated voice.

The moment I mentioned her name, two gigantic faces began peeking over the sides of the pyramid. Then the wolf howled and barked “You know Mae?! How is she?! I haven’t heard from her in forever!” in an excited voice while smiling and drooling like a waterfall with his tongue hanging out of his mouth.

Then Rawon turned towards him and roared “Silence! Can’t you see that I’m having a conversation here?! Besides, we all vowed never to speak of that vulgar harlot again!” in an enraged voice.

The bear growled “You’re just jealous Rah! Don’t speak so cruelly about our adorable spirit of beauty!” in an irritated voice, with his paws resting on the side of the pyramid.

Rawon turned his entire body around and then pounced on top of the massive green bear, while roaring “That slutty succubus is pure evil! How can the two of you forgive her so easily!?” in a furious voice.

The wolf completely ignored their childish fighting and walked around the side of the pyramid, then laid down so he could see and hear me more clearly. He said “Hi, my name’s Garavon, but you can just call me Garah. It’s nice to finally have someone to talk to after all these years, don’t worry about those two, they bicker like that every time we wake up.” in a clear voice that sounded similar to Lachon’s.

I laughed for a few seconds, then said “Well, it’s nice to meet you Garah, so the three of you were dumped by that water dragon?” in a casual voice, while smiling at him.

He sighed, then said “Well, kinda, it’s complicated… at first she was with Rah exclusively for a couple thousand years. Then she got bored and started secretly spending time with all three of us for a while… after the elves moved in, she lost interest and started preying upon the younger guys. I pretty much did the same thing with cute elven girls, but those two never got over her… I guess she forgot all about us though.” in a dejected voice, while frowning.

I smiled and said “Well, pretty soon this city won’t be empty anymore. It might take a few years, but I guarantee that this place will become a thriving metropolis once again!” in an enthusiastic voice.

The two who were brawling suddenly stopped and then rushed over to me. They each were wearing surprisingly excited expressions, then Garah asked “Are you serious?” in a hopeful voice.

I laughed and said “Of course! That fake mermaid will probably be moving in too… well, not physically, since she’s basically a gigantic eel, but she will most likely be sticking around in one way or another.” in a happy voice, then the bear and tiger began fighting with each other again.

After talking with Garah for a while longer, I decided to retrieve my family and escort them to our new home. The relatively short trek took about a whole day, since we had to carry Lachon and the puppies became exhausted easily.

As we finally reached the center of the ancient elven city, the three massive treants were lined up to greet us. The wolf, who was in the middle, yelled “Welcome to Ael Tol!” in a loud and clear voice, that each of us could understand.

At the incredibly strange spectacle before them, everyone but Amber seemed to be extremely surprised. After a few seconds of awkward silence, Maeleth, who was being carried in Coffee’s arms, yelled “Oh yea! I forgot that I had something really important to do today! Bye!” in a frantic voice as she completely vanished in a flash of light.

The three dark elves were happily speaking with the treants, Scarlet was trying to keep track of all her puppies and prevent them from wandering off, the bears and tiny tigress were looking around at the different tree houses, which were more like apartment buildings. Meanwhile, Amber and I were discussing our future plans, she insisted that we needed to mark our territory… but I managed to convince her that it wouldn’t be necessary.

It was going to take everyone a decent amount of time to get settled into our new environment, and the rescue missions into the mainland to find more citizens were going to take a while. However, I was about to learn just how powerful the beast races could become once their magic was unsealed, unleashed and uncontrollable.

What I was worried about more than anything else, was that strange presence emanating from our previous residence. I started feeling it the moment that tattoo appeared on my right hand, or perhaps that was when she finally noticed me… an old friend that I couldn’t quite remember.

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