It seemed that someone had quite terribly fucked up today, as there was an unregulated tear between the planes spawned by hands quite unqualified. It reached about halfway up the brick walls within the alley, hidden from the orange, afternoon light by the wide expanse of buildings, leaving the interplanear tear out of the view of most common folk. It certainly wouldn't be a new kind of revelation to the people, however it wouldn't exactly be a revelation they'd take too kindly. The blood would make it most distasteful. The bodies, too.
Samuel sighed. "Ripped to shreds. It's like someone let a lion tear through here."
"Might as well have." The beast sniffed the air beside him, the large canine that neared Samuel's chest height, in its dark orange, heavy, long-haired coat, surveyed the results of the immense onslaught. "Hmm," it spoke, though its jaw hardly shifted. He was well aware of the English language, though his mouth certainly wasn't made to speak it. A being like him, though, he found a way to speak without moving a tongue. "I smell fae."
Sam flicked his lighter open, snapping a flame into the air and taking a cigarette from his jacket's pocket. "How recent was this?"
"Blood's still fresh," the beast, Orthrus he called himself, said. He growled slowly, lowering his head to the ground and sniffing the floor even further. "Couldn't have been longer than an hour ago. Probably less than that."
Sam sighed. "And no cops heard of this? You don't smell anything like that? How the hell did this go unnoticed?"
Orthrus grunted, glancing his way with the closest thing he could give to a smirk. "You have sudden faith in your human law enforcement that's quite uncharacteristic of you. Why would you believe they'd find this so soon?"
"Because we found it first. Usually they're supposed to get in the way." He shook his head, raising his eyes and staring into the tear in reality while he took a long drag from his cigarette. "Guess we'll need to clean the tear up."
"It's recent," Orthrus said. "It should require very little effort."
Sam raised a hand, clutching the many dozen fetishes and religious charms around his neck. "I noticed."
It kept up its smirk. "Also uncharacteristic. You're not usually so perceptive."
Sam grunted, flicking the barely-used cigarette at the beast's face. It chuckled to itself, the cigarette bursting into a small explosion of flame upon even touching his fur, before crumbling into ash on the ground. That ash quite swiftly seemed to just… disappear, too.
For a beast born from human thought and ideas, taking form as a mythological beast, it had too much attitude. You'd expect something like him to be as by the book to their interpretation, however it seemed that regardless of mythology or lore, figments like him still developed their own quirks. Or perhaps that was just Sam wearing off on him.
Sam dove a hand into his jacket pocket - deep and cluttered with junk as it was, the exact items he wanted came to his hand with a single thought. He dragged out a needle and thread, wrapping the thread casually around his hand, before stepping forward with the needle at the ready.
With a quick slash of his hand, he dragged the needle through the air, letting the thread suddenly unwind, piercing into the tear within reality. He repeated the motion a few more times, stitching the tear tight, bringing each side close enough to touch. With a quick click of his fingers, the thread tightened further, compressing the very tear in reality further and further, binding it tight.
The compression made it shrink, slowly but surely. Eventually, there was nothing but air in front of him.
He stuffed the needle and thread back in his pocket, turning his attention to the mess in front of him, hand falling to his holstered revolver absently, typically hidden beneath his heavy jacket. With a look over his shoulder, he regarded Orthrus with a raised brow. "I know you're missing a head, but you're a little slow on the uptake."
The beast growled. "Watch your tone."
Sam shrugged. "We've done this a hundred times, bud, I don't need to remind you what's next."
"Then don't," Orthrus spat, digging his claws into the ground as he took slow steps ahead. He brought his snout low to the ground, taking swift yet deep sniffs, stepping beside the blood and gore, trying as best he could to avoid messing with the scene of the crime. For a figment his size, he was surprisingly delicate in where he placed his paws.
Eventually, he raised his head, grunting. "I've caught their scent."
"Good. Keep it that way." Sam stepped ahead, lowering to one of the many bodies that had been shredded to pieces. The mix of organs and blood made the entire mess incredibly difficult to distinguish anything within. Intestines had poured out onto the ground, along with a liver or a heart or something, however Sam struggled to find the head among the blood.
However, he did find a torso among the mess, with a variety of different scars and scratches that had marked the skin. It belonged to a male, he assumed, but it was difficult to tell what someone's sex was when all you had to go off of was a bloody half a torso.
"You said you smelt fae, hm?" Sam said, without raising his head.
"Reeks of it."
Sam stood. He could certainly investigate the scene for a little longer, but it was still a matter of time before the police were tipped off and found this place. Besides, he had enough to go off of from here.
"Might be dealing with a horde of pixies or something. Cuts on the body didn't look like claw marks, more like… slices. Like a knife or somethin'." Sam shrugged, delving his hand into his pocket, the other left on his gun again. "Can't think of anything off the top of my head that might line up with that, though I'm sure there are plenty of urban legends that might form a figment possible of this."
"Does that mean we're leaving?" Orthrus growled.
"Then, that means you'll need to keep me out to find these fae."
Orthrus turned. "Don't think you get to ride on my back again."
Sam furrowed his brow, sighing quietly. He stepped alongside Orthrus as he lifted his nose, stepping into a gradual trot, pushing out the alley and into the sidewalk. Considering the street was already a ghost town, none drew their eyes to Orthrus' form, and while the supernatural wasn't exactly unknown, a giant wolf-thing like him wasn't mundane, either.
However… the eerie emptiness of these city streets were still odd. Something about it all rubbed Sam the wrong way.
Was there always that much grass in the sidewalk? Sam mused.
It seemed that the longer the two continued down the trail, following the scent as it went, the streets never repopulated. They kept moving at the same pace, and Sam's eyes wandered, looking for any sign of life, and yet none came. He could hear it elsewhere in the city, the cars and traffic in their usual chaos, the honking horns, the sound of traffic lights… yet it was all distant.
"I really do not like this atmosphere," Sam whispered. "It's like we walked into the rapture."
Orthrus grunted, barely lifting his head. He didn't answer with any words, purely focused on his work.
"Considering that we're dealing with some kind of fae, it's not unlikely that we might be dealing with some glamour, perhaps." Sam set a hand on his chin, brushing over a thick, brown beard. "Is it possible for that to maybe be used widespread? I've only ever seen glamour used on one thing at a time, like on me, or you, or the other figments we work with. It wouldn't be too big a stretch. How much power, exactly, would you need to produce an effect that widespread?"
Sam glanced down to Orthrus. He kept sniffing the ground, guiding the trail.
"What do you think? You know anything that could produce that?"
Orthrus lifted his gaze to Sam, cocking his head like a puppy. "Hm? I was only partly listening."
Sam's expression fell, as did his shoulders. "What could produce an effect that makes this ghost town thing around us? There aren't any people here, not a fuckin' soul. What could do that, do you think? 'Specially considering the mages on the force that should be looking out for this kind of thing. Don't you think that much glamour in one place would raise eyebrows?"
The beast did his best to shrug with his canine shoulders, returning to his work. "You're the expert."
Sam sighed, digging his hand into his jacket pocket for a cigarette, lighting it quickly. He took a long drag of it, letting the strange silence linger for a time. It was so incredibly quiet that Sam felt unsettled. He found himself lingering on the cigarette for much longer just to distract himself from the environment, and yet he constantly wanted to flick his eyes over his shoulder.
"We're getting close," Orthrus muttered, breaking up his words with heavy, heavy sniffs, "the smell is strong. It's among… trees. Plant life."
"That's probably the park. What is that, a block away?"
His beastly ally shrugged his canine shoulders. "If that is a place with plants and trees, then most likely."
Sam cocked a brow. "You don't even know what a park is? "
Orthrus raised his head, baring his teeth to his partner. "I don't know how old I am, let alone many other human concepts. I might sound like I'm speaking perfect English to you, but that doesn't mean I know everything."
Sam shrugged, letting a small breath of laughter fall out his mouth, hiding his smirk with one hand as he pulled his cigarette out his mouth. "Don't need to tell me how little you know, puppy."
The beast growled. "You may have summoned me, but that doesn't make you my master." He snapped his jaws, just an inch away from Sam's hand. The summoner didn't flinch. "Watch your tone."
Sam hardly gave him a glance, finding the taste of his cigarette more pleasant than listening to a word out his mouth. He didn't hate the beast, he had his own charms, but he couldn't help but poke him in the ribs from time to time. There wasn't much reason to be scared of him, Sam had accepted the fact that working with a figment like him would mean losing a finger or five, it was just a matter of time.
He was far from the worst within his… selection? Repertoire? He still wasn't sure what the right terminology was for holding beasts and figures born from imagination within consensual captivity. Consensual, because most figments were usually not within the plane of reality where humans roam because they wanted to be, and usually don't mind being kept within one of a summoner's many pocket dimensions if it meant they had somewhere to eat and sleep without being taken by some mage school for research, or something.
Most figments couldn't go back to where they belong, being the very reality that spawns when the collective amalgamation of human souls starts to imagine and wonder. Most wouldn't survive long, or would cause too much chaos if they weren't inevitably controlled. So long as they have somewhere comfortable to live, they can be quite negotiable.
The park was just as absent of human life as the rest of the city they'd walked by, but… it was quite incredibly clear that something was wrong.
"This… park," Orthrus said, his head raised to stare at the large, gated entrance, "is it supposed to be this… chaotic?"
The gate had been presumably thrown open, sending each half off their hinges and fallen… somewhere. Where they landed was impossible to tell, as the inside of the park itself was a complete abyss of darkness. The trees were well above Sam's head, trying to pierce the sky, and just the number of trees didn't seem normal at all. Grass, weed, moss, and fungus had consumed the pathway, swallowing it whole. The sound of humanity was incredibly absent, but the sound of wildlife was overwhelming. Just the amount of birds chirping alone matched the volume of shattering windows
Sam thought he caught sight of movement among the darkness. A glimmer of a red or yellow eye, shifting feathers on a small body…
Sam sighed, pulling out his cigarette with a long blow of smoke. "Here I thought this would be quick."
Orthrus looked up to him with a cocked head. "I assume it isn't supposed to look like this, then?"
"No. This looks like some kind of… nature deity did something like this." He jammed his cigarette back in his mouth, chewing on the filter as he grit his teeth. "Fuck me. That would explain the ghost town. I really dont want to fucking fight a deity."
"Can I ask why?"
Sam glanced down to Orthrus, struggling to keep his expression from showing his frustration. "You said you smelled fae on them, right? That means this is outright just a fae deity from the faerie planes, or they're a figment. The former, means that we'd be dealing with… well, we'd be dealing with the closest thing to a demigod we've ever seen before, but most of those fuckers stay on their side. If it's a figment, it could be easier to deal with, but…"
Sam folded his arms, one hand moving to clutch the many charms, fetishes, and religious items hanging around his neck. "But human imagination is quite… variable. There's so little we know about figments and their potential that for all we know, a figment could match the strength of a deity. Or be even more powerful." The cigarette had just about met its end. He flicked it to the ground, stomping it out on the pavement. "For all we know, we could be running headlong into a figment who could wipe us off the face of reality, as if we never existed."
Orthrus was silent.
Sam shrugged. "Then again, I doubt that's this thing's gimmick. Just… giant carnivorous plants, or something like that."
Sam lowered his hand, resting it on his revolver, before taking the first step into the overgrown park. There was a squish to the step, a wetness thick enough to make Sam wince from just one step, and he swore he felt his foot sink within the depth of the pathway. There had to be a couple of inches worth of pure greenery over the cobblestone.
He drew his hand into his pocket again, continuing as he flicked it open, letting the small flicker of flame bring some light to the darkness. With a mutter under his breath, the flame drew up, growing suddenly larger, and providing much more light to the surroundings.
Orthrus kept in step, slower than usual. His nose remained close to the ground, keeping an eye on the scents, tracing the smell.
It seemed that, while only little light pierced past the roof of the park-turned-forest, the pathways were still in one piece. Only the trees and nature that surrounded the pathways had truly expanded and grown. Sam imagined that most of the excessive trees were new, just fallen seeds on the ground beside old ones, suddenly exploding into new growth.
He assumed it would be mostly temporary. Most nature magic was, unless it was under some very particular circumstances. Should the source be removed, everything here would either go back to normal, or just die off. Probably the former, assuming that these plants and the animals hadn't been around long enough to grow dependent on said magic for whatever reason.
Not to mention, that magic must have been affecting the streets somehow, dissuading people from being in the area. He had to wonder why, exactly, he and Orthrus weren't affected. He chalked it up to being one of the many hundreds of charms and religious artifacts he had stashed in pockets and around his neck, while Orthrus was perhaps not affected due to his figment nature.
The greenery seemed to thin the further they pushed in, and not because there was a lack of plants, but because many were still growing. The trees still tried to reach the sky, their numbers blocking much of the light, however there were barely visible rays ahead that alluded to daylight breaching past a wall of nature. There were points on their trek forward where the trees were so thick, and the growth so excessive, that Orthrus was forced to claw his way through much of the shrubbery and wood to make a path.
Sam kept his hand tight on his revolver every step of the way, as if some bullets were supposed to do anything against what could be a demi-god. As if they wouldn't just reflect every shot, regardless of how enchanted he made them. As if they wouldn't demolish him in a second, regardless of how much he prepared. He could be the best summoner there ever was, with all the magic knowledge in the world, he still wouldn't be prepared to deal with a deity or a figment with enough power.
Why would a deity even stray from the faelands? They were usually quite adamant about keeping to themselves that Sam struggled to understand why they'd take their time to actually leave the plains. Boredom was the usual answer as to why there were fae in this reality, never wanting to stay in that realm for however many years fae lived, and usually the result of that were the halfbreeds in the world. Though, Sam supposed halfbreed was likely the last word they'd want to hear from your mouth.
They continued through darkness, the flame of Sam's lighter pushing the watching eyes of animals away. It seemed the very faint streaks of light within the distance never seemed to grow brighter, remaining a tiny beacon. Inevitably, the pathway continued curving and changing, until it finally reached the very centre.
It was an open clearing, or at least comparatively so. The stone was still masked in moss, however there were no trees that formed a path, instead forming a large circle around the main fountain. It seemed that the little light penetrating through the forest that was this park was originally sourced from the several lamp posts that surrounded the fountain, covered in a crawling moss and for whatever reason, had been turned on at this time of day. Perhaps an odd reaction to the magic?
The fountain was tall, perhaps taller than Sam was. Water flowed like normal, as if nothing had changed, though the rest of it was still smothered in moss. If anything, Sam assumed the flow of water was even more than usual, almost reaching the very top and slowly filling even more.
However, what was most interesting was what was resting on top of the fountain. Sitting atop the fountain's crown, a humanoid form of a faintly glowing green rested with their legs crossed, and their chin on their fist. They looked vaguely androgynous, easy to be mistaken as either man or woman, especially when they showed their back to the pair of figment and summoner. Their skin… from what Sam could tell, there was no skin. It was little more than bark or tree branches in the guise of human flesh and bone, while leaves, moss, and grass escaped from the crevices of joints, each exaggerated by the glowing light of nature magic from within.
It cocked its head upon the pair's entrance, slowly shifting its body around to face Sam and Orthrus. Even when revealing its face and body, Sam still couldn't decipher a gender, and its face was much less telling. Its eyes were nothing more than great green orbs of light, its nose simply a bump on a wooden face, with vague lips formed from a carved line on a dark, wooden face.
"Ah," it spoke, and with a tone that seemed to echo itself, having no source. It sounded like it came from the trees, from the sky, from the very ground. It was difficult to tell. "Invaders in my domain."
Sam's hand left his revolver, slowly moving it to not seem so agitated but still close enough to reach the weapon. "I imagine you're the one responsible for this… growth?"
They cocked their head, leaning towards the pair much closer. They kept their head resting on their fist, seeming to inspect the two supposed intruders. "A human and their domesticated beast, I see. Once again seducing simple fiends to live within your sinful realm."
Orthrus dug his claws into the mossy stone, letting loose a fierce growl. Sam set a hand on his back, loosely holding him back before he could jump the thing and get himself killed. He didn't stand down, digging his snout lower as his growl fell to a low, deep rumble.
"We didn't come here to try to hurt you." Sam especially nudged Orthrus as he spoke, yet the beast didn't relax. "We're here for a discussion. As it stands, you've caused a considerable ruckus within this city and we want to know why."
"City?" They said, leaning back again, finally removing their head from their fist. "Ah. I suppose that's what you call this explosive world of grey. It's as if you tried to replicate the very forests you tried so desperately to dismantle."
"Yeah." Sam's lips curled to a frown. "Sure. However, people live in that city. We're no protectors of humanity, but we at least like to keep these things quiet. However, it seems that you're causing problems and we can't ignore what you're doing."
It seemed to chuckle, pushing itself up from the fountain's crown and… slowly rising to float in the air. "Problems? What problems? Is this realm not one of conservation and nature? I've simply expanded upon it. What it was once before was trivial in comparison to this. For what little attempts humanity makes to conserve the world and its many forms of life, you seem quite lazy. Even with access to magic, you're complacent with helping the world survive. I've done you a favour, human and beast. Don't mistake it for anything less."
"A favour?" Orthrus growled.
"Yes, beast. A favour." They slowly floated down lower, growing much closer to meet the pair where they stood. They were incredibly tall, too, much taller than Orthrus and Sam, towering over both like a cat over mice. "Does this realm not suit you more? Even with the gift of magic, these humans refused to do what's best for their own survival. I couldn't stand watching you continue to misuse the gifts you've graciously been offered any longer. No longer can they create, they simply take and consume without thought, and all magic has done is allow for greater consumption. Greater destruction. I would have thought something like you would appreciate this…"
They trailed off, staring at Orthrus. Its eyes, the colour in them seemed to grow much deeper, much darker into green.
"You… you have their scent. That… human scent."
"Likely as he's spawned from human imagination," Sam said. "A figment, we call them. You must be aware of their existence, correct?"
They backed away in sheer revulsion, the aura surrounding the figure before them suddenly growing much more vicious than just a moment before. "Then you're both alike. Both nothing more than disgraceful filth."
Sam eased his hand back, closer to his weapon. "I'm sure we are, buddy. However, even if we're filth, it's quite counter-productive to continue this conversation without at least knowing your name."
The figure's agitated posture didn't change, though their attention shifted to glare squarely on Sam. He was eager to hear their response. Names, while in reality were never quite so important, tended to carry a great deal of weight within the magical realms, for both fae and figment. Not so much power from knowing a name, not unless you were dealing with a demon, however for most fae and figments, names had meaning.
"A name?" They scoffed. "My name is Spriggan."
Sam pricked a brow. "Just Spriggan?"
"Don't make me repeat myself."
Sam nodded, his frown relaxing somewhat. "Of course not."
Orthrus relaxed as well, letting his shoulders lift.
Both deities and figments, at the end of the day, were simply different types of fae. Though perhaps figments emerged from a separate realm, the barrier between fae and figment realms were paper thin, and the scent they carried practically the same. They weren't too different, at the end of the day. They still required the very presence of humanity to exist, though the reasons differ. However what fueled them and their form was still the same.
The major difference between them were names. Fae had names, as did figments. However, how they came to have them changed quite drastically.
"May I ask how you came to have that name, Spriggan?"
Spriggan stabbed their finger at the summoner. "You don't deserve the right to know, filth."
"If you say so." Sam said, raising his hands in surrender. "However, I can't help but notice that it is quite a strange name to choose. You must understand, I've personally run into many who call themselves spriggan, or should I say call themselves Spriggans. They're a race of fae beings within the fae realm. Spirits of the forest who sometimes slip through the barrier into our forests and nature. Cause mischief, heal the forests, whatever fae usually do when left to their own devices."
Spriggan clenched their fist, pulling their arms back to their side. "What is your point?"
"Let me phrase this with another question then, Spriggan. Where, exactly, are you from?"
"Where am I from?" Spriggan said, their voice falling quiet all around them. They seemed to grow more agitated, bending their knees, preparing themselves. They picked up their voice, rising in tone. "Why would I ever answer you?"
"It's a harmless question," Orthrus spoke, shifting their snout to a less aggressive pose. "There's little to lose from answering. Even if there was a weakness to gain from knowing your origin, you could still overpower us. We're not nearly as strong as we may initially appear."
The spriggan shifted, suddenly hesitant. "I fail to see a reason to reveal anything to you. Why would I, after all? You only came here to fit me in one of your little pocket dimensions, as your trained little beast. That's all you want from me, I'd bet. Humans are all so predictable."
Sam chuckled. "I won't deny that the idea is quite attractive. However my relationship with figments is built upon negotiation and trust. Orthrus wouldn't have joined my side unless I won him over."
"Fair warning, Spriggan, his personality is not worth the comfort the pocket dimensions bring," Orthrus said. Sam let the snide comment slide with a slight laugh of his own.
"My point being, Spriggan, I don't capture and lock figments away. I'm giving them somewhere to stay and with purpose. It's a symbiotic relationship we both benefit from." Sam glanced around to his surroundings, waving a hand to the environment around him. "This, however, I struggle to see is symbiotic to anyone or anything."
Spriggan didn't respond. Their head was low.
"You don't know where you're from, do you?" Sam asked. He gave them no time to answer. "Just born with hatred for humanity, and somehow slipped their way into this realm on accident. Or perhaps you did come here on purpose. The walls between the realms are rather fragile nowadays."
Spriggan's form fell even further. Its expressionless eyes seemed to stare at the ground, utterly distraught.
"You came here hating our ways, hating our destruction of the environment. I'm not here to disagree with you, or parade about some anti-environmentalist message. Perhaps you are right. Personally, I'm not a politics kind of guy." Sam eased to a more relaxed position, keeping his distance and keeping his hands well where Spriggan could see them. "But your hatred inevitably spawns from humanity. Judging from your hesitance to even tell me where you come from, I can only assume that you're a figment. Most figments struggle to realise where they come from, or what they are. Most simply have memories and emotions dependent on the very ideas they're spawned from."
"I'm no different," Orthrus said. "I believe I fell in much the same situation as you, Spriggan. Born from myth, imagination, ideas, and ideology, however without a past and no knowledge of where and what I was." He looked to Sam. "I caused chaos during my was the first I spoke to, however. He simply gave me somewhere to stay, and something to eat. Kept me from making everything worse, and getting myself killed."
"This is helping nobody," Sam said. "I know you don't care about me or anyone else in this world, but this achieves nothing for you either. Nature magic is only temporary. This won't last forever. You're only causing unnecessary disruption for temporary relief on anger that isn't even yours." He raised his hands higher. "If you continue this, someone much less negotiable than me will show up, and they will do something much more drastic than the worst I could do. I don't want that to happen to either of us. It's messy when the police get involved."
Spriggan shot their head up to Sam, staring into his eyes. Sam couldn't even decipher the emotion on their face.
"Please, Spriggan," Sam said. "Stop this. You're not helping anyone, you're just putting yourself in danger."
Sam stopped, keeping his hands well within the eyes of spriggan. Orthrus kept ready to pounce, waiting for any movement from spriggan at all. They moved their eyes between the pair, glancing at both as they maintained their slow flow, casually defying gravity as they considered their options.
They clenched their fist, while raising their other hand. "Your words reek of greed."
Spriggan's body glowed, their hands exploding with light as the very atmosphere seemed to grow suddenly grimmer. Orthrus pounced, leaping far from his position as Sam did as best he could to roll out the way. Vines lashed out from the dark mess of trees outside, slashing for the pair, eliciting a heavy, heavy crack.
Sam dug his hand into his pocket as the other reached for his gun. He gripped his weapon tight, his life depending on it, keeping his feet moving as more vines revealed themselves from within the depths of the forest.
It was a wonder what the hell it was doing to make vines in a city park.
He whipped his other hand from out his pocket, revealing the packet of cigarettes within, flicking it open with his thumb and dragging one out with his teeth. He pulled it out with his gun hand, throwing it ahead of him.
"Come to me, Icarus!"
The cigarette exploded into a cloud of ash within the air, as it quickly took the form of a large, orange bird. Its wings bursted with flame as it emerged, releasing a long and heavy cry from its beak. It rapidly flapped its wings to keep itself in the air, flying rapidly upwards as another vine lashed out for the summoner and the new figment within the battlefield.
The two barely escaped the vine's grasp, leaving little breathing room for anyone. With what little seconds he had, he shoved his cigarette pack back in his pocket, keeping a tight hold on his revolver.
"I can smell the sin on you," Spriggan spat, their attention torn on Orthrus' attempt to close the distance between him and them. "Say what you really want from me! You want my power! My strength!"
Orthrus pounced, slashing his claws for the wooden figment, their paws exploding with fire and extinguishing as soon as he'd whiffed. Spriggan's dodge was swift, and yet their attention was still set on the wolfen beast.
Icarus dove, ramming head-first for the figment. With hardly a thought, Spriggan avoided the explosion of flame from the burning phoenix's wings.
Distracted again, their form was left open. With a mutter of a charm under his breath, Sam let loose two bullets, each striking right into Spriggan's chest and exploding with fire. Quickly, it spread, coating their chest and climbing slowly across their body.
Spriggan screamed, writhing in pain as their body erupted in flame.
The others didn't take the opportunity lightly. Icarus went in for another strike, swiping their flaming wings into their back and dragging deeply into the figment's back, catching more flame, exploding into fire. Knocked back, it could hardly control its own flight anymore.
Orthrus pounced again, slamming his jaws into Spriggan's leg and dragging them down with their crushing weight. It hit the ground back-first, letting loose another screech. It pounded from every corner of the forested park, practically bursting Sam's eardrums at just the sound.
Sam dug into his pocket, collecting bullets and sliding them into the revolver's cylinder as the figments did their work. He watched the outside of the fountain area turned arena, watching the vines and the trees…
The vines seemed to writhe just as much as Spriggan did, mirroring their attitude...
Sam's eyes widened. "Get back!"
The vines slashed out suddenly as Orthrus tried to follow the order given. Just a second too slow, the beast was grasped by a thick vine of green, gripping the beast's paw. A yelp like an injured pup fell from the wolf's maw.
Sam rushed ahead, watching as Icarus grew cornered, a murder of crows escaping from the several branches and diving for the phoenix. It flew back away from Spriggan, fast enough to avoid the large mass now tailing him.
Orthrus howled, his paws exploding in flame and setting the vines aflame in the process, burning the vines and forcing the vines to release the beast.
However, Spriggan already pulled away, getting back to a gradual float, and much of their body had been extinguished. They looked charred and burned, hunching over with the pain as smoke lifted from their body. They were still moving, though. Still a problem.
"Just leave me alone!" Spriggan screamed, the very trees rustling and reacting to the tension in their voice. "I'm helping this 're… you're filth. Sinful filth."
Spriggan raised a hand, and more vines crawled from the forest, more than even supernaturally there should be.
Sam picked up the pace, rolling to desperately a pair of vines reaching his legs, his body hitting the wall of the fountain as he climbed to his feet again. From out of his vision, he was slammed in the side, throwing him straight into the stone and right into the fountain's water, sending his head deep beneath the water.
His gun fell out of his hand, his head and back erupted in pain, and the vines continued their onslaught. As he desperately crawled and climbed to get back on his feet, the vines slammed into his chest, pushing desperately down, keeping his head beneath the water.
Alarmed, Sam's fight to climb up became a fight against the vines, grasping at the thick ropes of vegetation slowly wrapping around his body and pushing harder and harder against his body. He could feel it slowly crawling up to his neck, slipping around his neck…
The vines were thorned. Every attempt to claw and grasp at the vines around him was an attempt resulting in bloodshed. It pierced into his hands, digging within and making struggling even more difficult. His lungs begged for air as the seconds went by, and despite the blood and pain, he kept tearing and tearing at the vines pushing him down.
He yelled as best he could with his mouth closed, but the response wasn't much more than bubbles rising to the surface. His hands grew weaker and weaker as the pain exploded.
What a shitty way to die…
He kept his mouth tightly shut, though his mouth begged to be open. The murkiness of the fountain water made seeing anything above impossible, and he was given little more than a blurry view that brought pain to his eyes.
He tried to tear the vines away one last time, blood running through his fingers-
Something clawed into his chest, scraping his skin. He felt himself being dragged, suddenly fighting against the weight of the vines. His body emerged from the fountain, soaked in murky green water, his mouth opening wide to gasp in breaths of beautiful, wonderful air. He fell flat to the floor as whatever dragged him out let go, falling on his arms as his hands were too pained to hold his weight.
He glanced up, noting the great phoenix's large beak pointed his way.
"You owe me," Icarus said, his voice reminiscent of a young boy, rather than the squawking bird that you'd expect. "I like my steaks medium rare, mister."
Sam spoke between gasps. "Of… course…"
The battlefield hadn't changed much in his time beneath the water, Orthrus still trading blows with Spriggan as vines lashed and slashed for the wolfen beast's body. Agile and swift, he kept well in arm's reach of nature's grasp.
As Icarus flew off to fight back against Spriggan, Sam climbed to his feet, delving his hand into the fountain to retrieve his weapon again, before pushing onward to join the fight. He shook it, spraying the murky water out of the barrel before keeping it tight in his hands. He could hardly keep it straight, grimacing as the pain rocketed through his palms.
"I'm saving this world!" Spriggan screamed, their voice so shaken with emotion that he could barely understand the words. "You all want this, don't you!? I wouldn't be here if you didn't!"
Sam trudged forward, still huffing for breath and soaking his gun in blood. Spriggan struggled to keep in place, and it seemed much of their allies were struggling to do much at all; the crows had seemingly been dealt with by icarus, while the vines had slowed their constant whipping and attempts to grasp the attacking figments.
Spriggan's movements were sluggish, and a single bite from Orthrus had the figment pinned. Dragging them down to the ground, Orthrus slammed the wooden body until timber cracked. He shook them like a chew toy, the mighty maw of the beast releasing flame from its very gums and throat, setting the already burning timber aflame once again.
The park reeked of smoke and burning timber. It seemed the flame was spreading onto the mossy cobblestone, and slowly finding its way to the rest of the overgrown vegetation.
"Calm down the flames!" Sam called out, still making his gradual approach. The words took a lot of air out his lungs, needing to recharge with heavier gulps of breath as he continued. He was surprised that he'd managed to keep water out his lungs, though the taste of fountain water wasn't leaving his mouth for a long, long time.
Orthrus didn't stop his biting, keeping a firm hold over the wooden figment. When Spriggan tried to slip their legs free, it was Icarus who swooped down to pin their shoulders flat to the ground, the phoenix's form deceptively heavy and more than enough to keep the wooden body down.
It all gave Sam more than enough time to make his approach, still bleeding and bruised, and allowed him to aim his weapon as shaky and heavy as it was within his pan-filled hands.
"We'll give you one more chance, Spriggan," Sam said, raising his voice as best he could. He wiped dirty, wet hair out of his eyes. "You forced our hand here. Get rid of these plants and go back home. If you can't get yourself there, I'll take you. I know people who can get you there."
Spriggan writhed, the vines and plants as well, shaking and rustling with overpowering force. Still, the vines and birds Spriggan controlled struggled to even touch them. Random, uncalculated, and hardly within reach.
No words. Just writhing screams, desperately trying to escape.
Orthrus raised their head as best he could with a leg in his mouth. "Samuel-"
"I know." Quietly, he sighed. He lifted his revolver, aiming it to Spriggan's head.
The first shot didn't put them down, nor the second. The writhing grew worse, and worse, and worse. It didn't stop until Sam uttered a charm under his breath, before the rest of his shots slammed into Spriggan's skull.
The writhing took a long time to stop. It slowed and slowed, becoming weaker and weaker. The light in Spriggan's eyes took its time to fade, yet each second that dying took was one riddled with screeching and screaming. If the glamour wasn't working its magic and pushing anyone without the charms and protections required away, Sam imagined everyone in the whole city would've heard their screams.
But it did end, eventually. Orthrus and Icarus pulled themselves off the body of the figment as it lost what life and light was left within. The green of nature magic dissipated, and with it, so too did the progress created by Spriggan's meddling with the surrounding nature.
Sam set his empty weapon within its holster, watching Spriggan's body. "Fucking hell," he murmured, the soft frown settling over his lips. "I'm sorry, bud."
"And it called me a beast," Orthrus grunted, pulling his head away from the body. "Good riddance."
Sam turned his head when staring at the bullet holes started to sicken him. Around him, it seemed that the nature magic was starting to dissipate quite suddenly. It was like watching time slowly rewind, many of the trees shrunk in mere seconds, the moss slithering away between the cracks of cobblestone… it seemed that many of the trees themselves weren't even growths of previous plants, but entire life forms created from nature magic. With the source gone, they had nowhere else to go.
Some of the trees were slower to retract, but they were far from the majority. The fountain's waters remained murky, the leaves and grass across the ground remained a complete mess. Not to mention, the flame still left scorches of black across the cobblestone. Equally removing the mess created, while still leaving evidence of there being a mess.
Same went for Spriggan's body. The light was gone from their form, leaving them just a hollow mess of burned, shot, and broken bark.
"Well," Sam started, shoving his hand back into his pocket, "I guess that's it." He found his packet of cigarettes, setting the first he found between his lips.
As he dug his hand back into his pocket for his lighter, it was Icarus who stopped him, offering out a long, feathery wing, with a single flame on the end. With a soft chuckle, he set his smoke before the flame and let the phoenix light it.
"Medium rare," Icarus said, sheathing his wing with a soft, childish giggle.
Orthrus stepped by his side while Sam took a long drag of his cigarette. "Police may come here soon. We should leave sooner, rather than later. It would be best if we aren't caught near the body of another figment."
Sam slipped a trail of smoke from his mouth, briefly glancing to the body of Spriggan now behind them. Still unmoving, just a lifeless mess of wood and bark. Thoughtless, yet motivated. Directed but confused. Sam turned his eyes away, tapping his cigarette softly and letting a trail of ash fall to the floor.
The trio left, leaving the mess behind them for someone less fortunate to clean. Sam, despite the taste of fountain water still heavy in his mouth, hoped those unfortunate people would do something nice with the body they'd left behind.