Chapter 16

The cold metal of the dagger against Callum's neck came as no surprise as his entire body tensed in reflex. The bow now rested at his side, arrow now facing the ground. He could kill the girl easily... but for three reasons he had no intention of doing so. For one, it would mean the death of him from the other dozen or so ambushers surrounding him. Two, his life was under no threat for if the girl had intended to kill him, she would have straight away without the need to try and seduce him. And three, he didn't... really want to. He could feel the girl's warm breath on his neck as she pushed her body against his, delicate fingers running up his side.

" ...What... do you want?" Callum asked with incredible discomfort, voice betraying his frustration.

The girl's face was now only inches from his, and her lips formed a pout as she stared into his eyes. She then smirked again, "Well... don't you look just adorable with your sexy hair and that fringe... And your eyes are soooo cute! Aww, you're just so adorable." Callum was rather confused by the change from... evil slut to excitable teenage girl. She pecked him on the lips surprisingly, patting his cheek and withdrawing. The sinister smirk was back as she returned the dagger to his throat, "Sorry, I'm still a teenage girl. I can be rather excitable... I'm Rita, one of the four leaders of Mortalitas. Now why don't you tell me your name, and our relationship can begin?"

There was a brief hesitation, before Callum sighed and shook his head, "You are good... And believe me, if I was anyone but myself... I'd be yours. But if you really think that you can seduce me of all people..." He gave another sigh of fake despair, before suddenly the pendant on his neck grew brighter and Serpictus lunged, fangs bared, for Rita's throat. All of Rita's fake act dropped in a second, as her eyes grew wide with terror. She screamed, before Serpictus instantly wrapped itself tightly around her neck, immediately cutting off her source of air. She paled, chest now rising and falling rapidly as she collapsed under the weight of the large serpent. Callum's bow and arrow was now back and moving between the ambushers who were now approaching him, snapping loudly, "Step back, and your leader will breathe again. All I need to do is command Serpictus to squeeze just a little tighter, and she's gone."

They instantly stopped, and he turned away to glare down at Rita in disgust. He clicked his fingers and Serpictus loosened slightly, and the girl took a gasp for breath, now red in the face. Callum crouched down, grabbing her shoulders and pulling her up to her feet, before forcing her against a tree, "What do you want from me? How did you get here?!"

Rita winced as her head slammed into the rough bark behind her, and she was momentarily dazed. After a few seconds though, she shook her head clear and smirked again, giggling childishly. "Ooh, well aren't you forceful...? You know I won't hurt you... You've won, okay? So why not just forget all this... silly arguing, and go and spend some alone time together, hm?" She grabbed hold of one of the hands gripping her shoulder, moving it down towards her breast, which caused Callum to quickly withdraw. She pouted, "You think I'm sexy... And I definitely think you are. Have me arrested later, okay? I'll make your day memora- agh!" Callum, momentarily captivated by her voice, snapped himself back to reality and slammed her against the tree again.

"Shut up." Callum hissed, causing her to wince as his nails dug into the soft flesh of her shoulder. He again found himself looking at her, and cursed to himself, "How did you get here?! How many of you are here...? Are you planning an attack?"

Rita said nothing, glaring at him hatefully, luscious red hair now in disarray. She almost looked deranged, now that the whole 'sexy' act was dropped. Again, Callum found himself being sucked in by her mere presence. Suddenly, a different kind of smirk crossed Rita's lips, as they focussed on something behind him. Callum realised his mistake too late, and turned his head. A large fist connected with his face, sending him flying into the dirt. Stars spun above him as he tried forcing himself to recover. He forced himself back along the ground, the people in front of him currently only blurs to his confused mind. He eventually found himself backed into a tree, and he used it to support himself as he stumbled to his feet.

The attacker was taking his time in approaching him, and Callum could make them out to be a tall, large man. As he came closer, his eyes focussed. The man was probably in his fifties, bald and supporting a large stomach. His face was cruel, and at his side was the most disgusting creature he had ever laid eyes on. Most of the Praestia in Otellus were ordinary creatures just with special powers, and most of them were animals that would be found back on Earth. But some were unique to this world, and some were simply... different sized, such as this one. The creature was three foot tall, and about six foot long. Eight empty-looking eyes stared at him from a hairy face, and just as many crooked legs extended from the monster's bloated, pulsing body.

"Scared of spiders, kid?" The man rasped in a deep, croaky voice as he folded his arms over his gross belly. Callum said nothing in reply, forcing himself to keep his eyes fixed on the man, pushing the fear and disgust away. "She's a real beauty, isn't she? Presented to me when I joined Lord Xagraver... she was a lot smaller then. But now, here she is... and it is only her will to obey me that is stopping her from devouring you this second. I keep her well fed, don't worry... but she has a real appetite. I constantly have to keep my mind focussed on telling her to stay... she's a handful. If my mind should stray from telling her not to... for just a bit..." With little warning, the spider suddenly pounced, springing through the air. Callum couldn't help but let out a scream of fear, before the spider continued past him to the ground behind him. Callum closed his eyes, regaining control of his breathing, as the arachnid scuttled back to her master. "So easily scared... Petranea has no intention of eating you, fool."

"What do you want from me?" Callum forced himself to stay, determined to stop his body from trembling from the shock, "You have me outnumbered... And at your mercy. Now get on with your demands."

"The name's Carlson." The large man bowed politely, and Petranea made what could be seen as an amusing attempt at the gesture too, "You've already met my colleague, Rita... We are two of Mortalitas' four leaders. Rita is the persuasion, another is the brains and stealth, another the fear, and I... I am the muscle. We work for Lord Xagraver, and do our utmost to ensure that he takes his rightful place as king of Otellus. What do we want? Kid, we want you to join us. This can work in three ways... Option one... You come willingly and peacefully, and you will quickly work your way up the ladder and make success of your life. It pays well, we respect each other, we are like one family trying to unite the nation under one ruling. Otellus has no need for separate regions and separate Praedux masters. We wish to unite as one, a more fair world. Two... You resist, and we drag you back to Xagraver and you work as labour for the rest of your life, losing all your dignity... Three... perhaps a more merciful option than number two... You die here and now. There is no escape from Mortalitas, so take your pick... A good life, a horrible life, or no life at all? Oh, and also... Tell your snake to release Rita, or she will cut it up herself and you will witness the pain of losing your Praestia before you lose your own life too."

Callum looked back to the girl, who was still smirking, and although she could barely breathe and was moments away from falling unconscious, she was stroking the snake... with the edge of her dagger. All he needed to do was send the command for her to bite, for the snake's fangs were right by her throat. It would be instant. Serpictus was fast... Maybe she would be able to lunge at Carlson before he could react and threaten his life too. Maybe he could use him to get out of here... The only problem was the spider. The last thing Callum wanted was to face that thing. Maybe Callum could just kill them both, but then he would have the threat of a dozen others, most probably Praedux, to deal with. He was a quick runner, but that was nothing against flying and quick running Praestia.

There was no escape for him right now. He needed a better chance. He sighed, looking to Serpictus, and Rita's grinning lips. Then to Carlson, who remained stony-faced and glaring at him, and finally to the monster at his side. "Well?" Carlson asked impatiently. Callum looked around again, for any sign of an escape route, but found none. He sighed a second time, before opening his mouth to give the command for Serpictus to release...

BANG!

Out of nowhere came an incredible explosion and an intense wave of heat as Callum flew to the ground. Fierce orange light filled his vision as a large fireball impacted the clearing. An agonising screech of pain came from the spider, who Callum could now see was actually on fire. Carlson roared in pain himself, writhing around as he shared Petranea's pain. There was a hiss at his feet as Serpictus wrapped herself around his legs in fear, and Callum could feel that she was burnt. He stared at her in confusion, before she faded. He looked back up at the scene, watching as what had moments ago been a thick cluster of trees, was now a burning inferno. Bodies littered the ground, some of them moving and some still. People were moving everywhere, and Callum wasn't able to focus his mind enough to realise that there were far more members of Mortalitas here than the ones that had surrounded him.

But then he looked up, completely forgetting about his own safety. A huge dragon hung suspended in the air, before dropping to the ground with a loud thump. It turned its fierce eyes to the human closest, and Callum realised it was Rita. He had a sudden urge to come to the girl's rescue, but he remained rooted to the spot. "Ah... Ah... Ahhhh!" Rita screamed in fear as she fell back on her behind when the dragon snapped at her. She scurried backwards, "C-Carlson... help!" The bald man was in no condition to do such, for he lay on the ground both coughing horribly and writing in pain. The spider was no longer on fire, but lay trembling in a tangle of legs and hair. Callum was about to run forward to help the teenage girl, before a strong grip latched onto his arm.

He immediately turned to face his presumed attacker, before frowning to see a silver-haired boy in a cloak of his own. It was different to that of Mortalitas, and Callum could sense just from looking at this mysterious boy, that he had no intention of hurting him... The boy was rescuing him. Without any prompt, Callum took off running through the forest, now in a race against the fire. He looked back once, but no longer saw any sign of the dragon or the boy.


"This boat stinks of fish."

The engine of the fishing boat hummed gently as it moved at a steady pace across the ocean. The mainland of Otellus was reasonably far in the distance now, and Ryan, who was at the wheel, was determined to keep it that way. The rest of the group were generally relaxing in the back, while Tom remained with Ryan inside the small cabin to help control the boat. The one to complain was Aoibhin, who was lying down at a rather odd angle, legs pointing upwards and rested against the side of the boat.

"That's funny, considering it's a fishing boat." Molly commented with a hint of boredom, hugging her knees close to her at the opposite side of the boat.

Before Aoibhin could come up with a retort, the door to the small cabin creaked open and Tom made his way out, commenting to the group, "We should arrive by noon, according to the captain..."

"He's not a captain, he has no hat!" Nobody even bothered looking at Anna as she blurted out this unhelpful comment. "Though I must say he'd look quite awesome with a hat... ooh! And a blue suit, oh wow... Totally just imagining this right now and maybe he can have a pet parrot who copies everything you say... Is anyone else finding this image really sexy? Is it just me? Ryan'd be a sexy captain. He can be a pirate! Ryan the pirate. Let's just keep this ship and terrorize the sea! We'd be awesome. Does anyone else think it'd be awesome?"

An awkward silence followed, to be interrupted by Aoibhin with: "Can I punch her yet? I really want to punch her. In fact, I think we should all take turns punching her."

"Okay, seriously..." Tom sighed, pushing his glasses further up his nose, "You are the most annoying character I have ever had to spend time in a fictional world with. Why would Josh even make someone like you?! Honestly, I'd be tearing my copy of the book up by now. She's so freaking annoying; she has absolutely no likeability whatsoever!" Another awkward silence followed, except for an 'Oooooooh snap!' from Anna which was ignored by everyone. Aoibhin remained still, staring up at the sky for a few seconds, before lowering her legs and pushing herself to her feet. A wary look crossed Tom's face momentarily, before returning to the neutral expression it had been previously.

"Anyone who doesn't like the sight of blood, I strongly advise you look away... Now!" Aoibhin suddenly pounced across the boat, slamming into Tom and sending him flying into the side. The boy cursed in pain as his back slammed into the wood, and the entire vehicle tipped suddenly to the left, causing Molly to scream in surprise. The boat continued to tilt, and Josh and Lolly were forced to cling to their own edge to stop themselves falling. Tom immediately tried shoving the girl off him, but she was now literally trying to scratch and bite him.

"Get off me!" Tom snapped, before finally shoving her off and sending her crashing into the opposite side of the boat. Tom leapt after her, and the boat fell the other side, tilting. Someone's rucksack bounced into the water, vanishing beneath the surface. The two continued fighting, the boat now tilting at a dangerous angle and showing no sign of re-settling. Josh released his grip on the edge, grabbing hold of Tom and trying to pull him away from the girl. A stray fist from one of the two connected with his jaw, before he stumbled back and soon fell over the side into the water.

"Joshua!" Molly cried as Aoibhin finally managed to push Tom away. The boat fell back to level with a splash, shaking violently. Tom and Aoibhin lay breathless on the floor of the boat, both rather bruised, while Lolly and Molly both searched anxiously for a rope. Ryan stumbled out of the cabin, looking rather seasick as he looked around at the chaos. Lolly eventually found a coil of rope beneath one of the benches, and handed the end to Molly, who threw it towards where Josh had now resurfaced, gasping for air. "Quickly, grab it!" Josh took a moment to get over the confusion, before spotting the end of the rope bobbing nearby. He swam towards it, reaching out with his hand...

SPLASH!

The sound of crunching wood filled the ocean air as a huge creature emerged from the water, ramming inside the boat. The disturbance sent a wave of salty water crashing into Josh, forcing him underwater and away from the lifeline. The six teenagers still in the boat all fell to the floor, Ryan nearly falling off to join Josh in the water. He grabbed hold of the open door to steady himself though, and then forced himself down to maintain his balance. Josh was first to reappear, and his eyes widened in horror as he watched the biggest shark he'd ever seen shaking itself free from the substantial hole in the side of the fishing boat.

"That's one damn huge fish." Aoibhin groaned, rubbing her head as she peered down at the predator, "...Eaten by a shark. Eh, quite a cool way to go. My name'll go down in history! Though I guess I'd rather not die today. So... Terrakat, pig... Forgot your name already damn it... go do your thing. I wanna sleep..." She slid back down to the ground, barely enough energy escaping her to summon Terrakat and Terriale, before closing her eyes. Tom, Ryan, Molly and Lolly, however, were straight into action and released their Praestia. Anna stood, mouth wide open, staring at the shark in awe.

However, as the group's Praestia began attacking the shark, nobody noticed the group of several other water creatures rising out of the water behind the boat.