Ghostflame washed towards Tythel’s targets like a cresting wave. She didn’t sustain the burst, having learned from her past attempts how badly that would damage her throat. It came out in an arc of flame that rushed towards her adversaries.
Their reaction was immediate. Catheon’s wings flicked to life and pulled him into the air, away from the fire. Leora dove into the shadow of a bush and vanished. Daetor threw up his hands and set a half crescent of light between himself and the flame.
Ghostflame could penetrate any physical matter, leaving it unharmed, to sear the very soul of the creatures it struck. In the past, when dragons had attacked human settlements, they’d sometimes fly low and let loose a long running wave of ghostflame as their opening barrage, leaving dozens of seemingly unharmed corpses in its wake.
Tythel had hoped it would pass through Light with the same ease, but instead the wave broke when it hit Daetor’s barrier. It wasn’t completely stopped again. Instead, Daetor’s lumwoven construct caught aflame, as if it was thick wood.
Exactly what happened after that, Tythel didn’t see. She was already moving, leaping from the branch of her tree and onto the next. She’d given away her position with that trick, but that had been an expected consequence.
Her movement was proven to be the correct choice mere moments later. An unlight beam came down from above, and the tree she’d just vacated detonated like it had been struck by an entire storm’s worth of lighting. Splinters of wood bounce off Tythel’s scales.
All right, now he’s going to have to come back into the illusion to see and…The droning of Catheon’s wings betrayed his approach. He was alert this time, ready for her to shoot another blast of flame his way. Tythel tensed, waiting for him to draw closer. “Oh won’t you please come out,” Catheon said in a mocking voice. “I want to end your life, and if you do, I’ll make it painless.”
His path drew him close to her tree. The moment she thought he was distracted enough, she propelled herself out of the tree with all of her might.
Catheon didn’t try to dodge this time, instead shooting a beam of unlight the moment she started to move. If she’d tried another burst of flame, the beam would have cut her in half. Since she’d leapt, it passed under her. Catheon swore in surprise and Tythel brought up her feet. She hit his chest and sunk all four sets of talons into the black carapace that surrounded him.
The scream that Catheon made had no trace of human pain in it. It was just that strange buzzing that overlaid his speech. His flight began to falter, and they started to fall towards the ground.
The moment Catheon was between Tythel and the dirt, she kicked off, pushing herself upwards and propelling Catheon even faster down. His wings began to flitter furiously, and he stopped himself a mere span before he would have slammed into the ground. His wings kicked up a storm of dust as he righted himself. Black fluid leaked from where Tythel’s talons had torn the carapace.
Tythel turned her leap into a flip and landed in a crouch, letting loose a torrent of ordinary dragonflame the moment she touched the ground. Her blast met Catheon’s unlight beam midair. Just as Karjon’s flame had once meat the unlight cannon of an Alohym ship, and as Tythel’s flame had met Rephylon’s.
Catheon wasn’t interested in a protracted trade of fire, however. He dove to the side, breaking off his beam as the flame passed through the space he’d just vacated. He turned his dive into a roll and came up on his feet, shooting another beam at Tythel with the movement.
Tythel was already moving, dashing to the side. Their fight turned into a mutual circling, Tythel sending quick bursts of flame in his direction, Catheon lashing out with unlight beams. Both of them were avoiding the shadows that surrounded their battle.
There was another war happening there. Tythel could catch glimpses of a fight in the shade of the trees, Leora and Eupheme appearing for brief flickers to slash at each other before both vanished. Leora struck in one flash, and the coppery taste of blood reached Tythel’s nose. Eupheme!
The distraction nearly cost her the battle. Catheon shifted one of his arms into a wicked, scythe-like blade and dashed in. Tythel barely managed to duck under the blow and lash out with a slash of her own, forcing the half-Alohym back. Catheon took to the air, merging his arms into a single unlight cannon.
It was a reflex he’d likely developed over dozens of battles, and it would have served him well in most fights. In this case, however, the instinct played in Tythel’s favor. He cursed as he passed through the illusion, and Tythel dove under the trees while he’d lost track of her.
Then she slashed wildly with her talons, two quick arcs that cleaved the air. On her left side, she felt something give under the slash. Leora let out a surprised yelp and vanished again. Strips of cloth hung from Tythel’s claws. I didn’t hit her. She’s going to be re-appearing any moment, and knows I can’t cover my back with that trick, so-
Tythel leapt into the air and kicked backwards. She felt the impact all the way up her back as her heel hit Leora’s face and sent her stumbling away. Tythel landed awkwardly on the ground.
Eupheme appeared then, driving her dagger towards Leora’s heart. Leora vanished before the blade could end her life. Tythel stood back up and gave Eupheme a shaky grin. “Looks like we-”
She didn’t get to finish the sentence. Her left arm exploded in pain before Eupheme could even shout warning. Catheon gave Tythel a sick grin as he withdrew his arm-blade from Tythel’s shoulder. He hadn’t been flapping his wings to hide his approach and had used the cover provided by her missing eye to his advantage.
Tythel drew her warhammer and swung for him, but Catheon was still inhumanly fast. Her blows struck only empty air as the half-Alohym drew away, and his mocking laughter made Tythel’s blood boil.
The first engagement had left Tythel and Eupheme injured, and only knocked Leora senseless for a moment while scratching Catheon’s armor. There was no sign of either Tellias or Daetor.
Fear gripped Tythel’s heart. If this was how the fight went…don’t give up. Not yet.
This time, when Catheon approached, Tythel was ready.