Chapter 3: That One Tree
The three dragons slowly descended into the forest, along with an army of Iron Clefts, Dark Koopas, Magikoopas, and Winged Craws following behind.
The eldest of the three dragons, whom the people had named "Bonetail" because he chilled their bones, paused. He observed the forest, his murky-green scales made even darker in the shadows of the trees.
His siblings stepped forward, looking for the Great Tree they had heard about. The youngest of the three, whom the people had named "Hooktail", growled, her fiery-red scales seeming to grow brighter with her disgust.
"Why 'Hooktail'?" she muttered. "Why something so unintimidating?"
Bonetail scoffed. "What does it matter? We'll soon have them under our feet anyway."
Gloomtail, a younger version of Bonetail with wicked black scales and claws like scythes, nodded. "Agreed, although I still don't see why we don't just burn the forest down."
Bonetail turned to him. "Because the Shadow Queen wants to take this place and make a stronghold here. It is a perfect strategic area that is easily defendable, not to mention it is an ideal spot from which to launch other attacks against nearby cities. Burning it down would make it useless to us."
Gloomtail nodded, relenting, and gazed about the forest. Hooktail did not look so pleased, but moved forward to the assembly. A Magikoopa appeared in front of her, looking pale as a new pallet. "My lords! Grave news! The invasion of Petalberg has failed!"
At this, Bonetail turned and fixed his icy gaze on the Magikoopa. "Failed? Why? How?"
The Magikoopa was petrified for a moment
by Bonetail's gaze, but recovered in time. "Some young Toad--Beldam said
his name was
Aaron--came out of nowhere and defeated her entire army!"
"Impossible! Who is this boy?"
With that, it all became clear to Bonetail what had happened. "So... this boy seeks to oppose us? Interesting. But there is no time for that now. Have you found the great tree?"
"W-Well, sir, I was going to report--"
"Your incompetence?" Bonetail interrupted.
"W-Well, I wouldn't say--"
"Your failure, then?"
Seeing no way out of his bind, the Magikoopa gave up. Bonetail merely returned his gaze to the encampment. "Begone. Continue the search."
Since he valued his life, the Magikoopa teleported away. Gloomtail turned to General Onyx, the Siege Captain of the attack force. General Onyx was a powerful Hyper Iron Cleft, easily larger and more menacing than an ordinary Iron Cleft, with dark-blue eyes and metallic orange armor.
"What's your report, General?" asked Gloomtail in a tone that suggested that a bad report was not an option.
"Our scouts have found the enemy, sir."
"How do you know? They aren't here!"
"Precisely. They have all been defeated."
"Apparently, the enemy is taking full advantage of the cover of the forest, using hit-and-run tactics and striking whenever they get the chance. One of the scouts who survived said that the enemies were tiny creatures called 'Punies'."
At this, Hooktail let out a roar that nearly shook the forest. "Punies?! Your men were beaten by Punies?! Those small and insignificant creatures should pose no threat to us, you pathetic fool!"
Gloomtail merely shook his head. "Never
underestimate the Punies. Alone, yes, they are pathetic, but en masse and
under the cover of
the woods, they may pose a serious problem. Fortunately, they are no match for the might of dragons. Come, my siblings. We have a resistance to crush."
Running for their lives, a group of about a hundred Punies ducked under another tree to avoid being seen. Their last attack had been a success, and they had beaten the raiding party searching for the Great Tree, but that victory had alerted the dragons to their position. There must have been at least ten of them! Every time a dragon swooped down, a few Punies would disappear.
Among that group, Alyss, a young Puni of about fourteen, was also trying to find cover. She had been told by the elder to stay at home where it was safe, but her curiosity had gotten the better of her and she had snuck into the group that was sent to combat the raiding parties. And, boy, did she regret that. She thought the dragons would be cool! She imagined what the elder would say.
"You snuck out to see the fight?! Are you crazy?! You could have been killed! If you're going to lead us one day, you're going to have to start cleaning up your act, whelp!"
She snickered at the thought. Of course, what the elder wouldn't know was that Alyss had actually done her share of fighting, and had even helped take out a Cleft or two. Sure, she may have been curious, but she mostly just wanted to help, and if that meant getting chewed out by the elder, then so be it.
Of course, she would actually have to make it back to the Great Tree in one piece for that, and the odds of that happening were rapidly diminishing.
The black dragon, Gloomtail, swooped
down for another attack, his
razor-like fangs swallowing up as many Punies as they could find, flying inches above Alyss' head. She was completely paralyzed with fear
for a moment, then shook it off and continued running for the tree, followed by what few Punies survived.
Energy bolts and spears were flying at them from all directions, but the Punies' small size and speed made it harder for them to hit, giving them more room to maneuver.
Alyss saw Hooktail, the red dragon,
preparing to come in for another pass. She pictured the Punies being swallowed
up by that monstrosity,
and Alyss decided she had seen more than enough of her people killed for one day. She stepped out of the group, looked Hooktail right in the eye--which felt like staring down death itself-- took in her breath and shouted in the loudest voice she had,
"Hey, fish breath! Why don't you slither over here and fight me?!"
Hooktail, shocked beyond belief that
this tiny thing would have the gall to address her that way, was furious.
"You filthy little slug... I'll pick my teeth with you!" she roared, diving
at Alyss like a fiery-red missile flying at a speck of dust. Alyss, however,
had a plan. Being apprentice to the Puni elder meant she had been taught
certain things not well known to the rest of the tribe, including a secret
entrance to the Great Tree nearby. Just as Hooktail was about to strike,
she darted through a knothole and into a tunnel, hearing Hooktail smashing
down the tree above her. Alyss, having distracted
Hooktail long enough for the others to find their way back to the tree, felt her way through the pitch-black tunnel and into the Great Tree.
"You snuck out to see the fight?!" the Puni elder screamed at Alyss after she told her story. "Are you crazy?! You could have been killed! If you're going to lead us one day, you're going to have to start cleaning up your act, whelp!"
Alyss sighed. She was tempted to tell the elder how much she had helped, but she knew she wouldn't believe her. "Well, aren't you the one who's always telling me to trust my instincts?" she retorted. "Besides, I wasn't there just for sightseeing, you know."
The elder snapped around. "How dare you talk back to me?! I am your mentor, not to mention leader of this tribe!"
Alyss knew that if she didn't relent, the elder would go on another one of her world-class scoldings, and she may be there for hours. "All right... I'm sorry. I won't sneak out again," she said, contemplating when she would do exactly that.
"That's what I like to hear! Now, stop your jabbering and get into the conference room. The meeting is starting already!"
With that, the two walked through a
well-hollowed wooden doorway, Alyss
Hoping she would never grow up to be like the elder. Soon, she sat down among a group of worried faces. Well, most of them were worried, except
the wise Goomba, Mistral, who had taken a sort of leadership role in the tribe for her immense knowledge and wisdom. She had been the one who had hollowed out the Great Tree for the Punies to hide out in, and had been helping them defend their land and fight the Shadow Queen whenever possible. Alyss really wanted to be like her when she grew up.
"How are the attacks going in the northeastern sector?" asked the elder, coughing a little.
"Not too well," replied Mistral, her tone emotionless and calm. "We thought we had them, but the Commander reports that the dragons we saw entered the fray and began tearing through our ranks. We thought it couldn't get any worse."
"But it did?"
"Hopefully, the Jabbies can aid us with reinforcements soon."
The Commander cut in. "There must have been hundreds of those dragons!"
Mistral looked at him, something resembling
humor on her face. "Hundreds? Commander, dragons are a very rare species,
extinct, and the only one who commands any is the Shadow Queen. The chances that there are hundreds are below zero. How many did you see?"
The Commander suddenly looked embarrassed. "Well... we saw three."
The group would have laughed, but even ‘just’ three dragons was still more than terrifying. There was silence in the room for a few moments, until Mistral spoke up. "What else did you see?"
The Commander straightened up. "We saw an army of Iron Clefts, Winged Craws, Magikoopas, and other such monsters."
"Who is the Siege Captain leading the raids?"
"General Onyx, ma'am."
The room hushed again. Suddenly, a Puni with light-green skin rushed into the room. "Commander! We've got trouble!"
Everyone jumped. "What trouble?!"
"Another raiding party is coming! They may have found the secret entrance, sir!"
"This could be the perfect opportunity for us," said Mistral, gazing out at the battlefield. "If we can beat them, we may be able to find the enemy camp by following them. Send out another squadron."
Alyss had always been told to keep quiet during conferences and listen, never speak. But she had to tell them. She gathered her courage, then spoke. "I think we should aim for the Magikoopas first."
Mistral turned. "Hmm?"
"I think that if we take out the Magikoopas first, we can use our own magic without fear of being countered by them, and it will also leave the Winged Craws without cover."
The Jabbi leader, Selethan, who had been silent until now, growled. "How dare you?! Keep quiet, you little--"
"Actually," Mistral interrupted, "her idea is quite sound. Set up the traps and prepare the men."
Everyone else turned to their various tasks. Mistral was impressed; for her age, Alyss was quite intelligent, and very headstrong. She would make a fine leader of the tribe one day. She went into her room to prepare the plans for the next attack.
"Why, may I ask, are we doing this again, sir?" asked Chief Lieutenant Danes to his captain. "What good can painting the front of these trees do?"
The captain turned. "Because the Great Tree is actually no bigger than any other tree. If we make all these other trees look like the Great Tree, the enemy won't know where to attack."
Understanding dawned on the Lieutenant's face. "Right, sir. Good plan."
The Punies continued painting the front of the trees to look like an entrance. The morning sun finally peaked out over the horizon, the shroud of darkness caused by the presence of the monsters blackening the sky and becoming a grim twilight. This was good, however; the defenders of an area always have the advantage over the attackers. The defenders had the high ground, they knew the area better, and in a fight like this, poor visibility would actually help matters.
Eventually, nearly all the trees in the area had been made to look like the Great Tree, and soon, Lieutenant Danes had his attack force prepared to ambush the enemy.
Soon, a squadron of Jabbies, a tribe of insect-like creatures led by the great Selethan, arrived in the camp. Danes stepped forward to meet them.
"Greetings," he said. "You're not a moment too soon."
A brown Jabbi, obviously the leader, addressed Danes cooly. "Selethan sent us to help you when he heard you were preparing a strike force. My name is General Barquite."
Danes nodded. "Your men can join the attack force now. We are ready---"
"I will decide when and where my men go," interrupted Barquite. "We don't need you telling us what to do."
Danes, shocked, bit back his anger. He didn't like Barquite's attitude or his smug demeanor. He’d never liked Jabbies or the way they ran things, but he curbed his temper. The last thing he needed now was a fight with them.
"Very well, General. Do as you like." And with that, Danes turned back to his squad, not wanting to be around Barquite or his men a moment longer.
Danes and his men ducked behind a large oak tree just as one of the Magikoopa patrols passed by, scouting the area for any ambushers. Danes cursed; the monsters saw perfectly well in the dark. One less advantage in this battle.
Danes signaled his men to move forward into combat range, just outside the enemy camp, trying to avoid being seen, which was extremely difficult thanks to the monsters' enhanced vision. He knew they were going to have to strike hard and fast if they were going to have any chance at winning.
On the opposite side of the camp, Barquite and his squad were preparing to strike, the strategy being to sandwich the enemy with a clamp of soldiers.
Hopefully, this would give the enemy a bit of a kick in the teeth and force them to back off. The only problem was that if they didn't defeat them quickly and get out of there, the dragons would find and kill them. Seeing Barquite's signal, the two groups charged the camp and attacked, the Punies aiming for the Magikoopas first to stop their magic effects.
Two Magikoopa sentries fell instantly,
their cries alerting the rest of the camp to battle. Winged Craws, Magikoopas,
and Dark Koopas tok on into battle positions a moment before being struck
by a furious onslaught of attacks, the enemy forces being pushed back into
Jabbi wall behind them. The battle was going well for the defenders. At least, it was, until they saw reinforcements arriving, having been alerted by the noise.
Danes gazed at the reinforcements, then froze. Fear grasped his heart as he saw the leader: the mighty General Onyx the Siege Captain, followed by a squadron of Iron Clefts: a fitting force for a Hyper Iron Cleft like Onyx. Danes realized they had lost this skirmish, and would have to back off before the Iron Cleft brigade reached them.
"Retreat!" he called. "Fall back!" His men followed him obediently, but Danes looked back and saw Barquite abandoning his troops without calling a retreat. It took a moment for Danes to register this incredible act of cowardice in his mind, and when he did, he wanted to hunt down Barquite himself, but he knew this would endanger his own men. Barquite should have known his men wouldn't back down without his orders, and would fight on, even in the face of defeat. He had no choice.
"Jabbies! Hear me! Your commander has abandoned you! You must retreat!" But the Jabbies did not listen. Their tribe loved to battle. They would fight on even if their commander had fled.
Danes looked back once more in despair at what was about to happen, then turned back. His first priority was to get his own men out of this hopeless situation.
Deep inside the great tree, near the
very roots at the bottom, Selethan, the leader of the Jabbi tribe, paced
the damp and cool floor,
contemplating his situation.
General Barquite had reported that none of his men had survived the battle because of General Onyx's surprise appearance, and that he had fought bravely to the end and had just barely escaped.
The only thing Selethan believed in less than their chances was Barquite's story. In fact, the only part of the story Selethan believed is that none of his other men had survived. Selethan was no fool; if Barquite had fought to the end, then where were his wounds?
Though he was disgusted by Barquite's
lies, he had more important things to worry about. If Onyx was the Siege
Captain here, along with
the three dragons and the demonic army of darkness, their chances of winning was rapidly decreasing. Selethan had no idea whether he could count on the Punies to stand by the Jabbies and fight, and the Jabbies alone could not win this battle.
Selethan stopped pacing. He was quite
large and burly for a Jabbi, his wings like those of a raptor, a scar running
down the side of his face.
He paused, trying to think of a solution, then resumed his pacing. He could think of no other alternative. His people were on the edge of annihilation. He made his decision. He and his men would have to approach the dragons.
Of course, he couldn't go with nothing. He would give them the location of the Great Tree, along with the Punies' battle plan, in exchange for the Jabbi tribe's safety. He’d never liked the Punies anyway. He found them to be a weak and arrogant tribe, and he was sick of living with them. At least they could rule alongside the Shadow Queen, and maybe then there would finally be some order.
"Barquite!" he called in a low, almost menacing tone.
Barquite immediately entered. "Yes, my lord?"
Selethan made no attempt to hide his disgust with Barquite. "Tell the men that we may be meeting with an unexpected group. Tell them to be prepared."
What Selethan didn't know was just what he was getting himself into.
Mistral and the Puni elder sat alone in the conference room, their faces a grim mask. Both of them knew this was a time of crisis for the tribe, and the whole world, should they fail (and perhaps even if they didn't).
"Are you sure it would work?" asked the elder.
"Only as a last resort," replied Mistral. "My magic couldn't make it last long. I'm not exactly an adept; I was never trained in that art, and you have to start at as young as four years old to master it. The illusion would be nothing more than a diversion."
The elder nodded slowly. "I understand."
Mistral looked her right in the eye. "Do you? I want you to understand that it would mean the sacrifice of one of the Punies. I can't make it work on myself."
The elder nodded again, knowing full well who would be the one to sacrifice should that situation arise. "I am an old woman. My time is almost up anyway. I would gladly give my life for the tribe."
Mistral nodded. "I thought you might say that. But one problem remains. Who would lead the people afterward, should that happen?"
"My apprentice Alyss is a fine young girl, very intelligent, bold, cunning, and fearless. She may be young, but she cares for her people like no other. She will lead the tribe."
Something resembling shock appeared on Mistral's face. "But earlier, you were just saying she was too reckless and foolhardy!"
"What an old fogey like me says isn't worth a hill of beans. When I look at her, I see myself when I was younger. Take it from me, she'll do great things."
"But, didn't you just say that what you said didn't matter?" Mistral said jokingly.
The elder mock scowled at her for a moment, then they both burst out laughing. Ever since they had known each other they’d had a deep respect for one another, and they both accepted what might happen with complete trust that the other would do what was right.
"That felt pretty good," chuckled Mistral. "I haven't laughed like that in a while. But, hey, it probably won't come to that. We still have the advantage, and with the help of the Jabbies, I think we can pull together and win this thing."
Mistral was lying, and the elder knew it. Neither of them trusted the Jabbies in the least.
"I appreciate your efforts to raise my spirits, but I assure you, I'm quite content either way. I'll have fulfilled my duty as elder and helped our people survive."
The elder turned and left the room, and Mistral prayed for the safety of the people.
Alyss had overheard Lieutenant Danes discussing the plans for the next attack on the raiding parties, and had watched them move out to battle.
She wished she could help more. She thought about sneaking out, but she probably couldn't do much if she did, and it would just get her into more trouble.
She went over the situation in her mind. Danes was tough, his men fearless. He could probably handle it. Of course, she was still worried. What if they ran into Onyx or one of the dragons? They couldn't beat them in open combat. She looked out one of the "windows" in the tree and saw the distant silhouette of one of the dragons flying through the darkness. Alyss always had had good eyesight.
With the constant danger that the dragons posed, she knew that the Punies couldn't move out into the open, and most of the woods was covered by the enemy anyway.
Then, suddenly, Alyss remembered some of the secret pathways through the woods that were taught to her by the elder, as well as good tricks for moving through them without being seen in case of emergency. Maybe she could be of help after all!
She had to tell Danes. He couldn't have gotten too far yet. If she hurried, she might be able to catch up with them. She snuck out of her room and ran down the tree. One thing that the elder had always taught her was to walk like she had authority. That way, most people would assume she knew what she was doing and wouldn't question her as much.
She walked up to the entranceway. A guard stopped her. "Hold it. The elder has ordered that no one be allowed to leave the tree without permission. Especially you."
Alyss smiled. Xavier was always very serious about his job. "Yes, but have the elder's orders to remain here ever included her apprentices?"
"Uhh... Well, no... But if you're going out, I should at least accompany you."
Alyss smiled again, then nodded. She was grateful to have Xavier along. She felt safer that way. The two then exited the tree, Xavier knowing full well that he was probably going to be in big trouble when they returned. Well, if they returned.
Outside, Alyss stepped onto the cool green grass, feeling a pleasant breeze move by. It was a nice change of atmosphere. She hadn't realized how nice it was to get outside for a change. Xavier stepped up beside her, his eyes alert, looking for the smallest sign of danger. Alyss began searching for Danes and his men. Xavier had no idea where they were going, but he followed all the same.
Just as Alyss was about to move further into the woods, she saw some strange figures leaving the Great Tree out the back entrance. Xavier saw it too; he now looked very suspicious. "Those are Jabbies. That's Selethan in the middle. What are they doing?"
The two saw Selethan and the Jabbies move deeper into the woods until they were out of sight. "Maybe they just got tired of staying indoors?" Alyss suggested.
Xavier shook his head. "No, Selethan is too cautious to just go outside on a whim. He's probably going to join the front lines. He would do anything to protect the Jabbies."
Of course, both of them knew that even if there was something going on, they had no way of knowing what it was, and if they were seen following Selethan, they could get into big trouble. Well, bigger trouble, at least. Besides, Alyss knew it was much more important to tell Danes the secret information. So, with that, the two continued their search.
In the deepest corner of the now-pitch-black forest, Selethan and his vanguard awaited Bonetail's arrival. Soon, a large green dragon the size of a castle slowly descended into the clearing, crushing a few nearby trees. His deep black eyes glared down at Selethan.
"Ahh, Bonetail, you have arrived," said Selethan, suppressing his near-petrifying fear of Bonetail. "We are ready to negotiate."
Bonetail gazed at the leader of the Jabbies, a pathetic sight in his eyes. "Do you have the information?" he asked, betraying no sign of emotion.
"Yes. I have it drawn on this map."
He produced a small map, showing the location of the Great Tree and mapping
out the Punies'
Bonetail gazed at it. "Excellent. Have your men already acknowledged us as their allies?"
"Yes. They will now follow your orders as well as mine."
Bonetail smirked. "Well, now, we shall have to do something about that, won't we?"
Selethan shuddered, not liking where this conversation was going. "What do you mean? We are here to negotiate!"
"And I am not. I don't like traitors; they can't be trusted. Besides, we can't have the Jabbies following two leaders, can we?"
Before Selethan could react, Bonetail's scythe-like fangs bore down on them, Selethan and his vanguard vanishing instantly.
Alyss saw Lieutenant Danes and his men moving southward through the thicket of the woods, and she and Xavier hurried over to them. Xavier had asked several times why Alyss was so intent on going out, and now he began to see why.
"You have something to tell Lieutenant Danes?" he asked, panting a little.
"Yes. I need to tell him about the secret paths and techniques of the forest."
"That's pretty admirable, considering the danger we're in. Won't the elder be mad that you gave away the secrets?"
"I really think this is more important than some tribal customs, don't you?"
Xavier nodded, chuckling a little. That was so like Alyss. Soon they reached Danes's squad and were greeted with confused looks and mutterings. Ignoring them, the two approached Danes, Xavier saluting him. Danes looked at Alyss, less shocked than expected.
"What are you doing out here?" he asked. "The elder ordered no one to leave the tree."
Alyss nodded. "I understand that, but I have some important information for you, something that could turn the tide of the battle."
Some of the soldiers laughed at her. Danes merely paused for a moment, then spoke. "All right, let's hear it."
Alyss began explaining all the hidden passageways and tricks of the forest, along with all the techniques to use them to sneak up on or escape from the enemy. She thought she was telling the short version, but in reality, by the time she was finished, she had been talking for half an hour. All of the soldiers, including Xavier, Danes, and all the men who had laughed at her, had been stunned into silence. Finally, Danes spoke.
"Hmm... Impressive. This is going to help out a lot. We'll chart out the routs on a map. You have been a great help to us."
Alyss nodded, trying to hide her excitement about getting to help out. "Great! Is there anything else you want to know?"
"No, I think you've covered everything."
"So... am I going to have to go back to the tree now?"
"What do you think?"
With that, Alyss turned back to go home.
Everyone gathered into the conference room for what may be their last meeting. Mistral hadn't told anyone about the dire discussion between herself and the elder. She knew they would protest, but Mistral and the elder knew it would have to be done if things escalated that high, and she knew they probably would.
Reports were coming in from all over
the forest about the dragons and
General Onyx destroying their armies, with the situation was moving toward the peak of desperation. They had no way of fighting the dragons, and Onyx and his Iron Clefts were doing more than their share of damage.
"Dear friends," Mistral began. "As you know, the tribe is facing its greatest crisis, and things are becoming bleaker by the moment. I'm afraid it may be time to face facts."
The Puni Commander looked at her worriedly. "What do you mean?"
"I mean that if things continue to progress like this... we may have to leave the Great Tree."
Everyone gasped at this, murmuring and shouting filling the conference room.
The commander spoke up first. "Abandon the tree?! Are you crazy?!"
Mistral glared at him. "Would you rather have the forest drenched in shadow? If we can't push the enemy back, everyone will die here. We have to consider escaping."
The elder sighed. "That isn't an option."
Mistral looked at her, shocked. "Listen, I know the tree is important, it is our home; but how can you---"
"No," the elder interrupted. "I mean it isn't an option. We've just received word that Bonetail, the dragon leader, has realized he's won; he's posted guards to block off every exit from the forest. He's completely surrounded the woods. No one can escape, not even through the secret paths."
Everyone sat there in absolute shock, unable to speak. Their worst fears had been realized.
"So," Mistral muttered finally. "It's come to this. Then our only option is to fight. We still have a lot of fight in us, and even if we lose, we can still fight back enough to make Boggly Woods useless to them."
That was one point they could all agree on. One thing that all Punies had was their readiness to give their lives for a noble cause. They would fight, and they would probably lose, but they would go down swinging like mad. Mistral pulled out a chart.
"Well, then, our only course of action is an all-out attack," she said grimly. "Bonetail is expecting us to fight one small battle at a time, but if we send all our men to attack at once in a final confrontation, we may be able to catch them off-guard and do some real damage. As the tribe is at stake here, I will go as well. My magic will assist us."
She glanced at the elder. ‘In more ways
than one,’ she thought to herself. Suddenly Alyss burst into the room.
Everyone jumped up, the
elder turning to Alyss, at first looking cross, but then saw her eyes and looked worried.
"What has happened, Alyss? What's wrong?"
"We were chased by that dragon Hooktail," Alyss said. "We managed to lose her."
"What were you doing outside the tree?! I told you to stay here!"
"Never mind that, what were Selethan and his men doing?"
The elder looked confused. "What do you mean?"
"Did you ask him to go out?"
"No, he was supposed to stay here and help map out our strategy."
"But, I saw Selethan going outside into the woods!"
Murmurings began again, and Mistral walked over to Alyss. "Are you sure it was him?"
"Yes. I saw him very clearly. I saw the scar on his face. Xavier was with me, but he's gone to help Danes."
Suddenly General Barquite entered the room almost as abruptly as Alyss, along with about five hundred Jabbies. Mistral, unfazed by the intrusion, now realized what was going on. She calmly walked up to Barquite.
"Can you explain why Selethan left the tree with no announcement?" asked Mistral, though she already knew the answer.
Barquite fixed his gaze on her. "I would, but right now, I have some important orders to carry out."
The Jabbies all moved into combat positions, fireballs appearing above them.
"You see," continued Barquite, "the Jabbies no longer believe an alliance with you is in their best interests. In fact, I've been ordered to kill you all."
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