“Amon!” the Lalafell shouted as he threw himself, shield first, selflessly between the Bard and the giant lunging coeurl.
Metal squealed as the massive claws raked down the bulwark’s face. Mocho’s own strength wasn’t enough to meet the enemy.
As the beast bore down on him, his feet squelched and slid over the slick ground, and he fought to remain standing against the onslaught. The huge jaws clamped down on his sword arm, the metal of the armor withstanding the pressure, but only just.
The Lalafell cried out in pain. Blood began to trickle from between his gauntlet plates.
A shudder racked the coeurl as several solid thunks sounded. Amon loosened arrow after arrow into the creatures’ hide, charging forward at full speed. When the feline didn’t release Mocho, even pelted with arrows as it was, the Bard knew a less orthodox approach was needed.
Not breaking stride, the Elezen gripped his bow in both fists – one hand positioned on each end – and slammed the weapon, full-weight, into the side of the coeurl’s head. He heard Mocho’s shout as they all tipped to one side under his momentum, then saw the jaws open and release.
Free of the vice, the Lalafell staggered back, gasping from shocked pain. His sword arm was a limp mess of bent metal and blood.
Amon didn’t have time to nock his bow as the coeurl, now fully enraged, whipped around and lunged at them again. He saw the reflection of himself in the feral eyes, felt the heat of the beast’s breath and rage… and then something within him responded with an ancient, primordial energy.
He knew how to weave it.
It only took the proper flow of aether.
As Amon lifted his hands, a motion that could have been mistaken for a stance of self-preservation, the air grew frigid around him.
The moisture condensed.
Ice formed and swirled around the lunging beast.
Then in a pulse of triumphant aether, a large block of ice fully encased the creature, freezing it only a fulm away.
For a moment, the only sound was their ragged breathing as Mocho and Amon both attempted to make sense of what just happened. Then, the Elezen’s ears caught the sound of distant growls – the scent of blood and struggle must have called the rest of the clowder.
This was well enough, because Amon didn’t want Mocho to think too much on the block of ice that was already beginning to melt in the heavy heat. Instead, the Bard grabbed the Lalafell gently by one shoulder and took the chocobo’s bridle in the other hand.
“GO!” Amon commanded in a voice fit for the big stage.
Mocho blinked awake at that. Then with a shake of his head, he began to run. He held his wounded arm close to his chest, in obvious pain as he struggled to keep up with his companion’s longer strides.
The Elezen kept a sharp eye on him, and another over his shoulder. The sound of feline pursuit wasn’t far behind. The chocobo was too frantic and worn out to ride… if it was tame enough to do so. Their options were running slim.
“There!” Mocho wheezed, motioning to a small cave, half obscured by dense forest foliage.
Amon didn’t respond, but changed his direction, running towards it. He didn’t know what was inside, but whatever it may be, his bow was ready to deal with it.
Thankfully, the cave was empty as they rushed into its cool safety. It was just big enough to allow the chocobo to fit within, and proved to be defend-able. As the coeurl snarled and snapped at the entrance, the beasts learned very quickly that to stick head or hide within would win them an arrow between the eyes.
Soon, they no longer tried to find a way inside. Instead, they prowled the mouth of the cave in a waiting game. One where they knew they had the advantage.
Amon had to forcefully pry the bent remains of the gauntlet off of Mocho’s arm to tend it. It was a bruised and bleeding wreck. He was hardly the healer that Koh was, but he did the best he knew to wrap it with the supplies they’d brought.
Kneeling next to the Lalafell, he handed him a small blue bottle of healing liquids.
Mocho refused, “We’re not out of this yet. We may need this later.”
“Don’t be silly. We have more. And you’re in pain.”
“I’ll live,” the Lalafell said with a stubborn look.
Amon was of half a mind to force it down his companion’s throat, but he let it go. Instead, he went to check on the chocobo, who had surprisingly managed to get through all of this unharmed. The bird was rolling its eyes in fear again, picking up the scent of predators not too far away.
The Bard murmured to it, stroking the dirty feathers of its head and working to calm it again. It only halfway worked this time. Not that he could really blame the bird. He still felt his heartbeat thrumming is his own chest.
His magic had come to him again, in a moment of great stress. But if it hadn’t been for that…
This appeared to be what was on Mocho’s mind as well. Eventually, the Lalafell looked over at him and asked, “Do you want to tell me what just happened out there?”
Amon sat down, his back against the cool stone. He replied, “Not really.”
This would usually deter most people. But not Mocho. “I may not be a magic user, but I know that was no mere Thaumaturge spell.”
The Bard remained silent, putting on his stoic face.
Seeing this, the paladin-initiate stopped being vague, “From the time we first me, I’ve always sensed you were hiding things from us.”
“We work as a team, Amon. We’re a Free Company. We’re friends,” the Lalafell motioned with his one good hand. “All of that requires a measurement of trust.”
“And you don’t trust me.”
Mocho opened his mouth, trying to find the right words. “You conceal your face, tell us nothing about who you are or where you’re from. We don’t know what you’re after.”
“And you don’t trust me,” Amon repeated.
“It feels more like you don’t trust us.”
The Elezen was silent to that. What could he say in the face of the truth?
“Am I wrong?” Mocho lifted an eyebrow.
“I have my reasons,” the Bard finally answered. “There’s some things better left unknown.”
“I disagree! Why would you—“
Amon instinctively fell back into utilizing the voice he once used when commanding servants and the void. It was one that did not invite argument. “Is it not enough to know that the magic I cast was done so in order to protect you?”
It was Mocho’s turn to fall silent.
“I have my reasons,” the Elezen repeated, his frown indicating that he was done with this conversation. “And if you do hold any measure of trust for me, then trust that I keep my silence because I must.”