Using Twila’s magic, the group flew up to the cavern’s entrance. Once more, Axra felt the exhilaration of flight.
“That’s a creepy looking snake,” Lysara muttered.
“You think so?” Lilly asked. “I think it’s quite cute.”
The human was less readily spotted. He emerged from the serpent’s shadow clad only in a thin strip of cloth.
“Doesn’t look prepared for a fight,” Axra noted. “Or the weather.”
“Be nice,” Twila said. “We don’t want to pick a fight with the guy.”
“I doubt he can hear me from there,” Axra stated.
“I’ll make contact,” Bonnie stated. She floated ahead of the rest. “Well met,” she called. “We’re travelers making our way into Deflum. If you and your serpent friend could kindly stand aside, we would appreciate it.”
He looked up at them and loudly whistled for several seconds.
“Was that a yes or a no?” Bonnie wondered.
“Maybe he communicates by song,” Lysara suggested. She got her lyre and strummed along, mimicking his tune.
His face went from a calm grin to a rather panicked look and he took a step back. Muttering something.
“Hey, speak up if you can talk!” Axra demanded. “Not even my ears are that good.”
He apparently calmed himself and stepped forward, whistling again.
“Should I play the tune back?” Lysara asked, uncertainly. “He didn’t seem to like it the first time.”
“There’s a subtle magic to his whistling,” Twila observed. “But I can’t tell what it’s supposed to be doing.”
“Whatever it is he sucks at it,” Axra stated. She flew forward next to Bonnie. “Hey, my friends and I are going to go inside the mountain now. So don’t get in our way, okay? We don’t want to fight you but we will if we have to.”
“Wh… what about Fang and the dogs and horses?” Lilly asked.
“We’ll go back for them if he lets us pass peacefully,” Axra whispered.
“He’s muttering again,” Lysara noted.
“Why?” the man screamed. “Why won’t it work?” He pointed up at them. “You’re supposed to be entranced, charmed, how are you still floating calmly up there?”
“Entranced?” Axra asked.
“I’ll say I feel that way if it gets us out of a fight,” Velvet volunteered. “Yay! You’re the best at whistling! Encore!” He spoke loudly, but without a trace of emotion.
“You suck at cheering,” Lysara said.
“Fine, the hard way it is!” the man cried. He jumped back, his body transforming. It was quickly covered with scales, coarse fur covering his back.
“He’s a Selkie!” Twila cried.
“The creatures that use their song to seduce people of the opposite sex?” Bonnie asked. “I thought they lived near the ocean.”
“So, if they can do that, why isn’t it working on us?” Lysara wondered.
“Who cares!” Axra declared. “Let’s take him out!”
She drew her sword and swooped down at the Selkie. He took a deep breath and screeched at her. The sound waves pushed her roughly back, her hands covering her ears. Lilly and Twila moved forward to catch her.
“They can also do that,” Twila said. “We’re going to have to be careful how we approach him.”
“Warn me sooner next time,” Axra said. “My poor ears don’t feel like they’ll ever stop ringing.”
“It’s a stalemate,” Bonnie said. “The snake aside, we can’t get too close while he can do that but he can’t reach us up here.”
“No,” Twila said. “It’s not a stalemate. The magic will wear off eventually. We have to find a way past him before that happens.”
She extended an arm and fired a bolt of energy at the Selkie. His serpent flew in its path, the bolt fizzling out against its hide.
“Magic won’t work,” Twila said. “Although, Lilly might be able to pierce its hide with Zerstörelicht.”
“I… I’ll give it a try,” Lilly said. She drew back on the bow’s invisible string and fired. The bolt fizzled against the serpent’s hide.
“You’ll have to do a stronger one than that,” Twila stated. “Come on, I know you can.”
“Bu… But it’s so cute,” Lilly muttered. “And it can’t even fight back.”
“So that’s what it is,” Twila muttered. “All right, I won’t ask you to hurt the snake. Here’s what we’re going to do…” She whispered a quick set of instructions into Lilly’s ear.
Lilly nodded. She fired another arrow. Simultaneously, Twila snapped her fingers and vanish. The serpent moved to block the bolt from hitting the Selkie.
On the other side, Twila hurled a fireball. It slammed right into the Selkie, the serpent being unable to block both attacks.
“Those are my Loves!” Axra cried. “Now to deal with the snake.” She started to fly forward but Lilly stopped her.
“Pl… please wait,” she said. “Let me try.” She handed Axra Zerstörelicht and floated down towards the serpent, slowly. “It’s okay,” she said, her voice soothing. “You don’t have to fight anymore. He can’t control you now.” She floated just outside of the serpents striking distance. “Why don’t you go back home to your family, Little Guy?”
“Little?” Axra whispered.
The serpent reared up and spit a stream of liquid at Lilly. She hurriedly backed away, but immediately started flailing, her hands rubbing her eyes.
Axra, Bonnie and Velvet swooped down. Axra caught Lilly and flew backwards, quickly. Bonnie and Velvet slammed into the serpent. Velvet’s fist hitting the top of its head and Bonnie’s axe slicing into its mouth.
Twila hurried over. “How’s Lilly?” she asked.
“Not good,” Axra said. “She’s lost consciousness and her breathing is really ragged.”
“What should we do?” Lysara asked.
“The important thing is not to panic,” Twila said. “Bonnie, slice open the snake a bit more and try to get its poison gland. It should run under its eye, connected to its fangs. Velvet, you and I will get our supplies and I’ll try to concoct an antidote. In the meantime, Axra, wash her eyes out with water from your canteen. Be careful that none of the water gets into her mouth.”
Twila hurriedly flew down with Velvet. She knew that she’d have to hurry to save Lilly’s vision, assuming the hit hadn’t been direct enough to make the effort futile.