844 Desperation Part 4
The Grendelings started to bite at the surrounding treehouses, feeding off the Sapling's essence that coursed through them while tendrils coming out of their feet dug deep enough in the ground to reach the Sapling's roots.
Between the corruption spreading throughout its body and the Grendelings' mayhem, the Sapling was suffering as it had never happened in millennia.
'My terms are simple.' Gremlik's voice invaded the mind link between Leannan and the ancient tree. 'Kill all the humans, surrender yourself to me, and imprison all the plant folk of Laruel.
'If you do that, I'll let you live and I will uphold the same deal you had with Erlik. My tissues can prolong your life just as well as his. Once Laruel is under my rule, we'll Awaken together. Refuse and I will kill you.'
'Why would I trust you?' The Sapling's mind was filled with pain and outrage. 'Awakened or not, I would still be under your thumb. You don't want a partner, you want a slave!'
'Please.' Gremlik said with a sneer. 'How could I possibly trust you? First you betrayed your own kin, then Erlik. I just want to make sure that the third time is the charm. Besides, I could say the same thing about you.
'Without my contingency measure, what would stop you from killing me once I've outlived my usefulness?'
'The same reason why I needed Erlik.' The Sapling replied. 'As you said, I've betrayed my kin. Once I Awaken, I'll become an outcast and the undead will be my only possible family!'
Those words shook Leannan to the root, making her understand how deep was the madness twisting the Sapling's mind.
'I'm not Erlik! I don't care about family or the undead, only about myself. It's been too long since I had a proper feast and I can't wait to eat some plant folk. Now bend the knee or die!' Gremlik said.
'You insolent whelp. If I interrupt my slumber, I'd have all the power I need to kill you.' The Sapling rebuked him.
'With your roots rotting and my Grendelings I'm sure that I will manage to escape, whereas you'd be left with just a few years left to live. Unlike you, I've got nothing to lose.'
The rage and desperation in the Grendel's thoughts struck at the Sapling like a slap. The two of them were like the two sides of the same coin. Gremlik had eternal life but nothing to live for, whereas the Sapling had little time left and too much to lose.
Yet the thought didn't garner the Grendel any pity, only more spite.
The World Sapling tried to kill the insolent undead with its arrays, only to discover that the plague not only affected its body, but also its mind as well. For the first time in millennia, the ancient plant folk was helpless.
The moment the Sapling had bestowed upon Erlik the communion runes, Gremlik had used the anomaly that having two Sovereigns at the same time created to mess up with the Sapling's mind without it noticing.
While the Grendel's mind delivered the ultimatum, his body exploited the chaos on the battlefield to slip away from Lith's group and run toward Leannan. With her dead, the ancient plant folk would lose its last means of defense and be forced to surrender.
'There's no other way, my chosen Sovereign. You must kill the undead and free me from his grasp.' The Sapling's commanding tone, as if nothing had changed between them, flabbergasted Leannan.
Meanwhile, on the outside, the Grendelings were proving to be more formidable enemies than a Draugr ever could. They couldn't fly nor Warp, but nothing the defenders of the city had attempted left a scratch on them.
Their size made physical attacks pointless and the amount of elemental energy empowering them nullified even tier five spells with ease.
"It's a pointless struggle." Kalla-Trouble said. "As long as they can feed upon treehouses, even if we manage to damage them, they can easily recover."
"Yet we have to stop them." Marth said. "Such creatures cannot be left alive. They are a walking disaster. Once they finish destroying Laruel, they'll consume everything in their path."
"I wonder why Erlik didn't activate them sooner." Quylla pondered. The answer was that they had only been meant as a last resort to escape in the case that the Sapling didn't agree with Erlik or Leannan managed to find him before they closed the deal.
Such monstrosities were a breach of the pact between the undead and the Sapling. They were living proof of Erlik's ability to infect not only plant folk, but the Sapling as well.
To make matters worse, they would never fit into the castle, so Erlik couldn't even use them during the final battle.
"Our only hope is that they are not full Grendels and they have only recently mutated." Kalla said. "They are a living-undead hybrid, and undead are at their weakest during infancy. We must strike them down before their condition stabilize."
The black eye of the undead Balor turned into a black sun, blotting the night sky with its black light. It emitted a pillar of energy the size of a freight train that stuck a Grendeling right in its chest.
The creature collapsed to the ground while the transformation came partially undone, reverting its upper body into a tree. A volley of ice and darkness spells rained upon the fallen Grendeling.
The massive onslaught of tier five spells managed to keep the creature from turning back into a Grendel and killed it on the spot.
"That was amazing! Why didn't you do that earlier?" Quylla asked.
"Because it took me everything I have to project so much energy. Any more and this body will revert into a corpse. I'm too far away to raise it again if it falls." Kalla replied. The Balor's wings flapped clumsily now that the darkness element animating it was almost depleted.
"The good news is that Grendelings aren't immune to magic like they would like us to believe, the bad news is that to break through their defenses with conventional spells it takes too much energy."
"Are you suggesting we should just give up?" Marth asked.
"Do you have a better idea?"
Before they could continue, one of the mages from the ground called them down.
"Look at that." A middle-aged woman pointed at the Sapling's roots that were now visible under the road pavement. They were blackened and full of blisters that popped as if something was burning them from the inside.
Along the dead creature's path, there were several holes in the ground, corresponding to each one of its steps. To give life to such a humongous creature, Gremlik's symbiote required a lot of energy.
Feeding off the treehouses wasn't enough, so the Grendelings used the Sapling's roots as their power line. All the healers immediately came to the same realization.
"They are not invincible. If we get them away from the ground or cut their feet, they will not last long." Marth said.
"Indeed. The question is: how?" Kalla sneered.
"Well, we can either cause a quake strong enough to make them fall, or we can kill that damn Sapling." Marth's reply left everyone dumbfounded, but it made sense. If not for the Sapling's betrayal, none of that would have happened.
"I don't think we can kill such a powerful creature with our small numbers, but I think we can do the best next thing." Quylla explained her idea to them, obtaining their unanimous approval.