By the time I rode back to Starfall, Fiona was getting anxious.
She and Tessa were looking a bit concerned when they saw me climb from my horses’ back, but when I held up the linen sack, Fionia smiled wide and gave me a hug.
“I’m glad you found them,” she said excitedly. “Rather quickly too.”
“They found me,” I replied.
“What does that mean?”
“A story for another time,” I answered. “Is this what you need?”
Fiona was about to answer, but a thundering boom shook the entire garrison. I pulled my staff, ready to fight, but Fiona reached out to calm my nerves.
“It’s just Iliera,” she said. “She’s had us firing artillery for practice.”
“For the assault on the enemy citadel?” I asked.
“For those of us that are remaining here to protect her home and family while she leads the charge,” Fiona corrected. “She’s gravely concerned about leaving for our efforts in the jungle.”
“At least she’s keeping busy,” I said, looking in the direction of the blast.
“Just as you are,” Fionia said. “Come on, we need to end this.”
The herb garden in the Starfall garrison was in shambles.
The elemental, nicknamed Carrotus Maximus by Tessa, was now tearing up the last of the magical herbs that had been planted only a few weeks ago. All of the plants within the garden were grown with magical enchantments that allowed them to grow faster. They weren’t great for eating, but they worked great for use in battle potions and healing tonics.
Iliera was preparing the garrison for an assault on an enemy stronghold known as the Citadel, the last of the strongholds, as far as we could tell, and we would need all the help we could get.
I just had to deal with this carrot first.
As I took my first step into the garden, Tessa grabbed by arm, pulling me back. “Don’t go strolling in there,” she grumbled. “My assistant got too close and that carrot nearly took his arm clean off!”
“Well, how else do I get the frog in there?” I asked. “Do you want me to throw it?”
“It’s a little more complicated than that,” Fionia explaining stepping close. “You’re going to have to weaken the elemental. If you can keep it distracted long enough for the frog to make contact, we’ll have our chance.”
“You want me to fight a carrot?”
“Distract it,” Fiona corrected.
“What happens if the elemental attacks me?”
“Don’t let it touch you,” Tessa said. “Last guy had his life energy drained. Went from a middle-aged soldier to a crippled old man in seconds!”
I gasped. “WHAT!?”
“He’s fine. He got to retire early,” Fiona said.
“I’m not sure about this,” I replied. “Maybe we can just make it a garrison mascot or something?”
“Be serious, Commander!” Tessa whimpered. “We’ve got to stop that thing!”
“Fine,” I said, grumbling. “I’ll go risk my life against an evil vegetable. Can you at least handle the frog part of the equation?”
Fiona nodded. “With pleasure.”
While Fiona moved to a better position for frog deployment, I flanked the elemental creature in the garden with a level of openness that would draw its full attention. To be honest, it was rather strange to be looking at an enormous carrot monster. It stood only to about my chest, but it did so propped up on the thin portion of the stalk. It sported two black eyes, one of many signs it wasn’t actually a carrot, and those deep black voids seemed to be peering right into my soul.
So far it hadn’t ventured out of the garden. From what I knew of elemental creatures, they were sometimes bound to objects that already existed, so it was possible that the creature had claimed a normal carrot as an anchor, mutating it with elemental energy. If I were to cut through the physical body, the elemental would not be killed, only the carrot would be damaged. It was because of this that killing an elemental was considered so difficult.
Still, I was up for the challenge.
I stepped closer to our intruder, and it seemed to focus on me. It stopped pilfering one of the nearby herb bushes and turned to face me head on. Fiona, now directly behind the creature, started toying with the bag of frogs I had brought to her.
I decided to test the situation. I tossed a simple frost bolt at the creature, which froze part of its carrot body, securing it in place. The carrot made a noise, but to describe it with words would be difficult. It was… unique… and unnerving.
Green vine-like appendages burst from the carrot’s sides, creating leafy arms. One of the vines snapped forward, just missing me and slicing clean through a wooden water troughs. A second attack came flying at my face, and instinct alone saved me, as a burst of fire erupted from my body, causing the vines to recoil and retreat.
It recuperated in seconds, and two more vines came lashing at me. I used frost magic to catch and freeze them both to the ground, leaving the carrot exposed. I glanced toward Fiona and saw she had released the frogs, and they were slowly hopping toward my foe.
That was going to take too long.
I lifted my arms in the air and conjured a large ice lance overhead. I hurled it forward with all my magical might, and the attack skewered the carrot, knocking it off the ground and tumbling backward.
It landed directly on a magical frog.
In an instant, the magical carrot was transformed. It sat on the ground for a moment, then let out a loud croak.
“Get it,” Fiona shouted. “Not much time until the elemental regains control!”
I conjured an ice cube container and carefully scooped up the frog before sealing it inside the ice. The frog became immobile almost immediately.
“I think we’ve got it contained,” I said.
“Thank the Lumionous One,” Fiona said, coming out of hiding.
“So what do we do now?” I asked. “Drop it in a Yunai camp?’
“Or, you could keep it here,” I suggested. “We can put it in a cage and you can study it like you do all those other weird animals?”
“Well, now that’s actually a solid idea,” Fiona replied. “Maybe I can figure out how its life draining magic works. I dare say that could help us fight against the Yunai!”
As Fiona scurried off with her new frozen pet, I turned to Tessa. She was already at work trying to save whatever herbs the magical carrot had failed to demolish during its time in the garden.
“Do you think you can get things up and running soon?” I asked.
“Of course,” she replied. “I can have things back to normal in no time at all. If we work hard we can still have the attack force stocked up with medicine and potions for the assault against the Citadel.”
“That’s wonderful news,” I replied. “I can’t thank you enough, Tessa. Your hard work here is greatly appreciated.”
“I’m just glad I can help. If you hadn’t saved me back in the world above, I wouldn’t be alive now.”
I smiled. “If it wasn’t for me, you wouldn’t be stuck here, either.”
“I’ll take struck here over being dead,” she replied. “Now buck up. We’ve got a World Ship to protect!”
I nodded. “For Xernia!”