The Caligo (part 2)
The Caligo’s teeth snapped shut around Ice’s body, but several feet away, Ice was on one knee, panting as he tried to regain some of his strength. Kemper stood next to him, hiding him from the Caligo. The ice around the beast’s wingtips and feet continued to melt rapidly as the mad Grutang shrieked and cackled from his spot against the cave’s rocky walls.
“Are you okay?” Kemper asked the wolf.
“No,” panted Ice. “Whatever that witless imp did made my ice ineffective against the Caligo. I won’t be able to seal it again!”
Kemper helped Ice to his footpaws. “We’re in trouble,” he said, brushing a little dirt from the wolf’s white trench coat. “That thing is like mist; no weapons will work against it!”
“We’ll have to find another way,” he said, looking down at his paws. “I’ve got ice and water. You’ll have to take the driver’s seat; I’ll help you as much as I can.”
“Can you still fight?” he asked, concerned for Ice’s safety. Ice, however, simply stared up at the Caligo, a half-smirk on his face. “I’ve been through worse than a little fatigue,” he says. “Don’t worry about me. Worry about the enemy.”
The Caligo’s wings were free. It beat them furiously in the air, fighting against the ice that still bound its feet to the cold stone floor, much to the delight of Grutang.
“YESYESYESYESYES! FLEE, MASTER CALIGO! BE FREE! REMEMBER GRUTANG THAT GAVE YOU YOUR POWER, YES!”
The great beast turned its head toward Grutang. The delight in his face quickly disappeared under the consideration of the creature of the Valley of the Mists.
Ice and Kemper vanished toward the entrance of the cave as Grutang’s brief cry of terror echoed throughout the cavern’s tunnels, and then he was forever silenced.
Ice and Kemper went to work on the entrance of the cave. Ice froze a great wall in front of its entrance, and Kemper’s illusions made the entrance appear to be at an angle. The creature would fly headlong into the rock wall, thinking it to be the way to freedom. It wouldn’t stop the Caligo, but at least it might daze the beast for awhile. Any advantage would be useful.
Sure enough, within a few more minutes, the Caligo was completely free of its bonds. With its savior dispatched, it launched itself through the rocky cavern wall, a mighty cry ripping through the air, and a stream of bright blue flame erupting from its mouth, eviscerating a row of dead trees and all their inhabitants.
Kemper’s heart was pounding in his ears. Last time, between himself and Ice, this fight had been easy. This time, the enemy was even more powerful and terrible than before, full of vengeance for its involuntary sleep, and Ice’s effectiveness impaired. Assuming his own powers would even work against the beast now, he was going to have to take control with only support from the white and blue wolf.
The Caligo turned suddenly, and its blue eyes burned like fire as they locked onto the wolf-lion. Kemper’s eyes burned right back. If he failed, not only would he and Ice die, but so would Celeduin, and beyond that, Duremark, and any other region that took the Caligo’s fancy. Most importantly, Lukos and Willow would not stand a chance.
He understood. Some battles need to be fought at home, but other battles, crucial battles that would decide the fates of loved ones and strangers alike….
He would not fail.
Those red and green eyes shimmered through the gloom and darkness of the Valley of the Mists as the Caligo screamed, its voice needles to the ears, and unleashed another stream of searing blue flame, straight for Kemper. He could feel the heat of the flames bearing down on him. They wrapped around him, engulfing him, scorching his fur, searing his flesh….
Kemper cringed slightly as he watched his illusion’s terrible demise from the shadows of the cliffs surrounding the cave’s entrance. This was indeed a dangerous battle.
Without warning, a geyser erupted directly beneath the Caligo’s body, the scalding water engulfing the beast. Below stood Ice, his paws raised, directing the flow. Unaffected, the beast spotted him. Ice ran nimbly to one side of the fire that took aim for him.
Ice had given Kemper a perfect distraction. The hybrid put the heels of his paws together, that dark blue glow emanating from them once again as the shadows of the ground leapt forth to do his bidding. He concentrated his efforts into a dark, pulsating ball inside his paws, then all at once, released it.
The shadows dashed forth from him like dark fingers in the night, coiling around the great body of the beast. They squeezed around it as if they were solid objects, and since they were not truly solid, the Caligo could not pass through them. Kemper concentrated hard. The Caligo was pulling, straining at its bonds, unused and unwilling to be confined again. Ice launched another geyser, this time attempting to freeze the eruption around the Caligo’s body. It screamed, it strained, it roared as it struggled against its bonds.
“Hang in there, Kemper!” shouted Ice.
Kemper was trying, but it was not easy. The shadows threatened to scatter into the night at any moment under the pressure of the Caligo’s struggles. He tried to force them together, to squeeze harder around the creature, but in vain.
“I’m losing it!” he yelled at Ice.
The hydropath cursed softly down on the ground. Kemper could imagine his feeling of uselessness to be frustrating, but there was nothing he could do. He panted with effort as the shadows scattered and the Caligo was again freed. Kemper dove into nothingness once again, reappearing next to Ice.
“Restraining it won’t work anymore,” Kemper said. “It’s far too strong now! We need a way to end this for good, or this may be over already!”
“We’ve been through this!” yelled Ice over the beast’s feral roars. “Your shadow is the first thing that has ever had an effect on it!”
“Look out!” He put two fingers to his temples, and immediately he and Ice fell into the shadows, landing behind the Caligo just in time to see it spit more of its fire at the spot where they had just been standing.
Kemper had never transported someone or something that he had not been touching before. He really had grown. He could do this.
“You’ll have to name that ability,” said Ice as the Caligo finished its attack.
“I have,” he replied proudly, glancing at the wolf over his shoulder. “It’s the Shadow Walk.” With that, he Shadow Walked back in the direction of the Caligo.
“Yeah,” said Ice to himself after he left. “Because that definitely does not sound like a move from Guild Wars 2.”
Again, Kemper called the shadows forth, launching them this time not as bonds, but as daggers of energy. With a mighty sweep of its massive wing, the attack was deflected. Kemper, never a one-trick pony, decided to try the other side of his power. Light gathered in his paw, brilliant and intense, its colors separating in the air into their prismatic forms. This, he launched at the beast. It tried to deflect it again, but on contact, it exploded into a brilliant blast of purest light.
When the sparks cleared, something remarkable was revealed that made the eyes of Ice, Kemper, and even the Caligo widen with surprise.
Part of the creature’s wing was gone, seemingly evaporated as if it were truly made of mist.
Somehow, this did not deter the beast’s ability to fly. It rose into the night sky, roaring and screeching its displeasure in a voice that surely the entire world could hear.
“That’s it!” cried Kemper, Shadow Walking back to Ice. “Ice, I need you to be a distraction,” he said. “I can do this!”
Ice sighed. He was never one to complain about his duty, but he had not been looking forward to having the Caligo’s sole attention, especially when it was enraged. Still, if Kemper’s abilities could eliminate the threat of the Caligo for good, the risk was worth it.
With a curt nod, the wolf quickly formed a pillar of ice beneath him that launched him high into the night sky. As a geyser erupted nearby, he directed the water to flow beneath him, and he rode its warm wave upward into the night sky, directly toward the enraged beast.
Kemper got to work. It would take a lot of his power to destroy something this big, this strong. He widened his stance, his fingertips together in a circle. A spark formed in the middle of that circle, slowly intensifying, slowly growing as it collected light.
Ice flitted about the Caligo’s head, trying to avoid its swipes and its blasts of fire. Whenever he could, he fired ice and water at it, but to no avail. Jets of water would daze it a little, but other than that, his power against the Caligo was utterly and truly nullified.
He growled softly. He knew what Kemper had to be doing. No matter the cost, he had to keep the dragon off of him. Kemper’s light was their best chance of getting rid of the Caligo threat for good. He raised his paws into the air, summoning more and more water from the earth to the steadily growing ball beneath him.
Kemper could see Ice’s plight. He knew he had to act quickly, but he had to be careful. If he gathered this energy too quickly, it could consume and destroy him. He could not be hasty.
“Hang in there, Ice,” he said softly. His paws were spread wide now, the ball of light barely able to fit between them, shining brilliantly like a star in his grasp.
Suddenly, the Caligo turned its head away from Ice. It sensed the power increasing nearby, and it did not wish to be struck by the same power again. It took off, heading straight for Kemper.
“No!” shouted Ice. He followed in pursuit, his ever-growing ball of water in front of him, soaring toward the beast. He had to do this now, before it reached Kemper. His paws came together, reaching back, taking control of the great sphere of water. He let out a yell of effort as he pushed it forward, sending it straight for the Caligo.
Kemper could see the Caligo coming. His attack wasn’t yet ready. Ice must have been unable to hold the creature off. The ball was now far larger, dwarfing the dead trees. Kemper’s knees were bent under its apparent weight as he held it over his head. Still, it needed to be just a bit bigger. He could not risk the possibility of leaving any part of the Caligo in existence.
The beast was upon him. It screeched its displeasure, the sound causing Kemper’s leonid ears to lay back against his head. He growled right back.
“Back off, Caligo!” he grunted under the effort of carrying all this energy. “I’ll deal with you... shortly!”
The collection of light into this concentrated ball was making the area grow darker and darker, and yet it was still illuminated enough by Kemper’s activities for him to see the Caligo suddenly engulfed within a giant bubble of water. Atop it stood Ice, his ears perked in concentration. Droplets of water rose from the earth, joining the large sphere that the Caligo was currently struggling to leave.
Keeping the Caligo still was not at all proving to be an easy task for Ice. As emaciated as Grutang had looked, his power had been quite strong, and Ice was having much trouble defeating it in his weakened state. However, this was too important for him not to give it his all.
With all the strength he could muster, he held the Caligo inside its watery prison. If he froze it, the power would be nullified, and he couldn’t spare any energy fighting that off. He had to keep the bubble from breaking. He had to keep the Caligo at bay until Kemper was ready.
His eyes shone blue with power, every muscle in his body tense and straining against the power of the beast. The Caligo wasn’t built for swimming, yet it struggled to force its way out of Ice’s grasp. Kemper needed to hurry.
“Any time now, Kemper!” shouted Ice, his voice strained with effort.
The bright ball of brilliant light was nearing the Caligo’s size now. “Just... a little... longer!” cried Kemper. He almost had it....
Ice was fading fast. His vision was becoming tunneled, his grasp on the sphere slipping. “I... can’t hang on!” He gritted his teeth, willing himself to push as hard as he could.
His stomach clenched as the Caligo suddenly stopped struggling and turned to face him.
“Got it!” shout Kemper. Finally, the light was big enough, shining brilliantly under his control. He looked up, right in time to gasp in horror at the scene in front of him. The Caligo had turned its focus onto Ice. There was nothing he could do but yell Ice’s name as a stream of blue fire cut through Ice’s water, engulfing the wolf in its searing heat.
“ICE! NOOOO!” The next moments were a blur for Kemper. He reared back with all his strength, hurling the ball of purest light straight at Ice’s collapsing sphere of water. It collided with it and broke through it, completely engulfing the Caligo in its brilliance. There was a loud sound, a pained screech from the beast as it took the full force of the attack. There was a brilliant flash and the light became a pillar, reaching for the sky, visible for miles. The ground was scorched, fallen and dead trees obliterated, water from the geysers evaporated... and when the blast was over and the smoke cleared, the Caligo was gone... and so was Ice.
Kemper had Shadow Walked far away from the blast. He felt tears spring to his eyes. The Caligo threat was over. Celeduin, Duremark, and the rest of the world was eternally safe from its terror. But Ice... Ice was gone. The white wolf, one of the strongest of the supers and Kemper’s friend, had paid the price for the safety of all. To protect Duremark. To protect Lukos and Willow. To protect him.
Kemper sat down on the desolate ground and wept.
It was morning when he awoke to the sight of a raccoon investigating his face. Kemper hadn’t been aware that raccoons still existed in the Valley of the Mists. Maybe life would return to the place now that the Caligo was gone....
The Caligo. Ice. Ice was gone. The memories came flooding back to him.... He had failed Ice. He sighed as he Shadow Walked, heavyhearted, back to the scene of the Caligo’s demise.
Who should he find standing there, staring at the cave’s wrecked entrance, but Ice.
“’Bout time you showed up,” the wolf grumbled. He looked unharmed. He must have seen the stunned look on Kemper’s face, because he spread his paws wide, shrugging at him. “What?”
“You... I thought... you were... I mean, the Caligo, it....”
Ice crossed his arms. “I usually understand sentences better when they’re actually... you know... sentences.”
“You were... dead,” said Kemper, his ears laid back, as if by saying this it would suddenly come true.
“Almost,” he says. “You Shadow Walked me somehow. I would have been fried if you hadn’t.”
“Well... where were you?!” he cried. His tail was flicking about in relief and excitement. Ice didn’t look all too happy.
“Can’t a guy pass out after busting his butt to keep a giant angry Caligo from killing you? HEY!”
To Ice’s dismay, Kemper pounced on him, embracing him in a big hug.
A few months later, Kemper found himself standing in front of Ice’s squad. He was no longer in Celeduin, nor in Duremark at all. Lukos’ power had matured enough for him to accept training from the Council of Supers, and Willow found herself acting with the council in other capacities. His friends safe, Kemper no longer had cause to stay solely in Duremark.
Kemper was welcomed with open arms. His unique power would be very beneficial in the protection of others. With his new team, he would be able to make a difference not only in the lives of his friends, but in those of everyone who needed a helping paw.