The forest became completely alive with small flying life of every form. Birds, bats and insects were all competing to harass me and blind me as I struggled through the woods. I figured if I just kept running, I would get somewhere that wasn’t her territory eventually.
It was a foolish and naive idea, as it turned out. After several minutes of continuous running, I was still being harassed, bombarded, and blinded. There couldn’t be this much flying life in the forest. Either all these birds, bats and bugs were a really amazing illusion, or they were some other form of magic creation.
For one person to control all of this certainly seemed impossible.
Did she have allies? Was she a noble with lesser fairies or even true fairy commoners serving her? She had given me what seemed to be an ordinary fairy name, without a noble clan or any other indication of status, but of course, her implied status didn’t have to be the truth.
The wildlife attempting to pelt me and the branches that kept trying to obstruct me weren’t successfully striking me. That was thanks to a holy sword.
Durandal seemed to also possess an internal mana store of some kind, with which he was able to make a shield. But, just like me, he was not able to draw new mana, so he was using it for low-powered shields alone.
I wouldn’t see her, but Möemnen’s voice filled the air occasionally, taunting me.
“Princess, won’t you be a dear and give up? It’s true that you’re terribly strong, but I own this place, and I can make sure you never find your way.”
“Your Highness, aren’t you getting tired yet? I’m not even breaking a sweat though. I’m sure you would enjoy letting me play with you far more than doing all this boring running around.”
“Silly little girl, you mustn’t think this isn’t going to cause you any difficulty later. Naughty little girls really must be *punished* you know~!”
Don’t listen to that woman, My Lady! Exerting power at these levels is too much! She’s having to expend far more than you! As long as you can keep going, she can only wear herself out!
He made sense, so I continued my run. But the deluge of small creatures didn’t slack off, and although they weren’t hitting me, they were obscuring my vision. Sooner or later I was going to run into something, and sure enough, eventually I did.
One especially large tree limb dropped into my path, and before I could react, I plowed into it with my midriff. Another swept in from behind me. The two limbs neatly captured me with a vise-like grip, and I was lifted into the air as the pair of trees coordinated their movements.
Once I had sorted out what was happening, I prepared to draw Fire again… but then realized she was using a different magic to move these trees than what had moved the vines. It wasn’t powered by Water this time, but by Earth. I couldn’t neutralize it with a blast of Fire, and worse, maybe I would start the limbs burning.
Yeah, setting the limbs on fire didn’t seem like such a bright idea, as long as I was wedged between them.
I tried to think of ways to use Wind to counter the Earth, the way that Fire had countered Water, but I came up empty. The manas were opposite, but unlike Earth, Water and Fire, Wind has no affinity for wood, so I couldn’t penetrate the limb with it. But thinking about Wind gave me an idea. My arms and my sword were still free, and while I couldn’t get a particularly strong swing at the tree limbs holding me, I could at least chop roughly at it.
That was good enough for what I wanted to do. Twisting at the waist, I selected a spot between myself and the tree trunk on the limb pressing against my tummy. I filled the sword with Wind mana, then yelled, “[Holy Rend!]”, and swung Durandal at it.
The simultaneous passage of Durandal’s gigantified wind scythe and my sharpness enhancement from the Wind coating his blade cleaved the tree limb, and the limb pressing against my back as well. I dropped together with the severed bough, but kicked off the ground and took to the air again. As I flew upward, the air filled with butterflies, moths and other flying insects once more, but this time, I had a plan.
Holding my sword horizontally in front of me, I declared, “[Holy Strike!]”, ripping a giant hole in the englobement, which I dashed through. Behind me, the cloud regrouped and tried hard to catch up with me.
Setting my eye on a spot on the horizon, I stretched for speed, but weirdly found myself veering away from it despite flying straight. I tried to veer back and found myself flying effectively in the opposite direction instead, facing that steep hill close to where we had eaten lunch.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I had hardly gone anywhere! As long as I had run, I should have been miles away from this place!
Möemnen’s dark laughter rose up from the trees below me. “Surprise, little birdie! Until the owner of this grove allows you to leave, you won’t get away!”
As I stretched for altitude to evade the cloud of flying life, I asked, “Durandal, are you able to draw mana?”
Very slowly, My Lady. It requires great effort. I have not yet recovered even the mana of one Holy Strike.
“Do you have any idea how she’s doing it?”
I have encountered it before. Fairies call it the power of domain. If a powerful enough fairy lives in a place long enough, they can monopolize the mana and control some things within it. The longer they live there or the more powerful they are, the more control they wield.
“Control such as how the wildlife and plants are behaving?”
The specific powers depends on what type of fairy they are, and on how long they have lived there. This one must have lived in this spot an extremely long time, and must have an affinity for plants and wildlife.
I flipped over and power dived into the cloud. This mass of life seemed to travel no faster than the creatures comprising it, so speed was one advantage I had over it.
“Can you do another attack?”
I can manage something if you lend me mana.
“I don’t have a lot left, myself,” I admitted as I plowed straight through the mass of life and emerged below it, above the treetops. “Just concentrate on defense, then.”
I was going to have to attack this woman directly. I had yet to figure out exactly what she was, but the way the forest wildlife was obedient to her, I suspected she was a dryad. The butterflies and moths and birds all suggested a nymph instead, but that manipulation of plant life… Tiana had never encountered such a magic, but Robert had plenty of fantasy fiction knowledge to draw additional clues from. Plant manipulation suggested ‘dryad’ or ‘druid’ in his mind.
Druids just aren’t a thing on Huade, but dryads are one of the more numerous forms of true fairy. I didn’t know very much about them though, so I didn’t have any clue how to fight her. And dealing with her while she had this ‘power of domain’ was a serious problem.
As I flew out from below the cloud that was still descending to try to catch me, I searched the forest with fairy sight. Her mana was nowhere to be seen, but I stretched my fairy sense out to catch any hint I could… and realized I could just barely feel something! In the air, to my right. I couldn’t tell the mana type, but there was a slightly denser spot with no natural cause.
I turned that direction, but did not fly directly at it. If I aimed a bit to the right and a bit above, it would look like I was just coincidentally flying that way. As I got closer, the mass lazily moved to the left, just showing a bit of caution in case I stumbled her direction.
The mass of fliers continued to hasten in my direction, but it was going to take them time to reach me, and I would be at my chosen destination first. I just prayed she wasn’t somehow messing with my perception of her location as well.
Just before I reached my turning point, I cloaked, then turned and dashed straight at her, swinging Durandal overhand while filling him with Earth.
The surprise move worked. She let out a loud shriek as my blade struck. To help conceal herself, she had not been doing any fortification or shielding, so as her stealth magic collapsed, she dropped toward the forest below, with blood streaming from the arm that she had flung up instinctively to protect herself.
Fairy bodies are tough. After my hard work cleaning, sharpening and oiling him, Durandal being swung by fairy vampire strength could have taken a mortal arm right off, but Möemnen’s was still attached. Even so, she was seriously wounded now.
I considered diving after her, but if she recovered, she would still be a threat despite the wound, and I would still be running out of mana. This might be my only opportunity to escape her territory. I dashed away instead, straining for every bit of airspeed I could manage.