Short Story: Sticky Fingers

Takes place in the Defenders of the Wall verse. Features characters from Mission Gone Wrong. Could be helpful to read that for context.

Whumptober 2022 fill: Adverse Effects | Unconventional Restraints | “This wasn’t supposed to happen”

CW: contains fighting and serious injury

~Sticky Fingers~

“You just need to think less and do more.”

That was Captain Alan’s advice to Theo two months ago, after a disastrous mission outside the city wall that made Theo wonder if he was fit to be a Fighter. But his squad mates believed in him, so he would work hard to think less. New mission, new Theo. He would fight any monster in front of him…

“Theo, your task is to stay behind with Ezra.”

… or not?

Were they really going to leave him, the newbie, to protect Ezra on his own? What if he messed up again? What if he hurt his mentor again…

“You just need to think less and do more.”

Theo squashed his worries down. “Understood.”

The nerves remained as they left the city into the wastelands, had him jumping at shadows until they reached a scraggily bush within a stone’s throw away from the opening of the monster nest they were supposed to exterminate. The bush was terrible cover, but it was better than nothing in the empty wilderness.

Ezra settled cross-legged on the hard earth and drew a breath. As his mentor exhaled, he used his power to create copies of himself and sent them into the underground nest to scout ahead. The rest of them waited, body crouched in preparation for battle.

Finally, Ezra nodded. The squad moved out, leaving only Theo and a shell of Ezra’s self alone outside.

Without the rest of the team, the vast wasteland felt even bigger. Theo settled his growing anxiety with his training, bracing his thorn gauntlets for battle, scanning the horizon for threats with his eyes while he tried to listen for any unexpected sounds above his loud heartbeats.

Absolutely nothing happened for the first fifteen minutes, and Theo was just about to squash down his panicking thoughts for the tenth time when the earth trembled.

To his right, something burst through the ground, showing him and Ezra in dirt. Three pairs of red eyes, curved fangs like scimitars, and more limbs than he had hairs standing on the back of his neck. It was one of their mission targets.

Theo jumped before Ezra and intercepted the hairy limb before it sliced his mentor into two. He dug his heels into the ground and braced for a heavy hit, but the monster’s leg just snapped off like burnt sugar.

What was that?

The monster quickly followed up with a second swing that Theo easily blocked. Again, the limb snapped like a dry twig. As did the third, and the fourth.

It took him way too long to figure out what the real problem was.

The broken legs clung to him like sticky chains, each one an additional anchor tying him to the ground, until he couldn’t move. More monsters burst out of the whole created by the first one. They circled around to get to the easier target, Ezra.

Ezra had no doubt already alerted the rest of the squad to their situation above ground. Theo just needed to keep both of them alive until everyone else made it back.

At this point, he could no longer see his gauntlet under the carpet of broken limbs. He yanked his arms free of the now useless weapons and reached for Ezra.

Theo’s legs were stuck too, but he pulled his mentor under the cover provided by the sheets of sticky legs and curled over the older man. With his extra physical sturdiness, he would be able to withstand the monster’s attacks better than Ezra could.

Didn’t mean it didn’t hurt.

Now that he was trapped, the monsters swapped to their much sturdier fangs. The tips dug into his armour, tearing the layers away until it was his own back being flayed. Sweat rolled down his face as he screamed.

A hand grabbed his arm, and Theo focussed on the one contact that didn’t hurt.

“Hang in there. They’re almost here,” Ezra said.

Theo nodded, his mouth unable to make any sounds other than pained cries. Ezra continued to speak, but Theo couldn’t focus on the words. Pain blurred the edges of his mind until all he had left was his duty to protect.

A voice floated over, like someone calling from the other end of a tunnel. “It’s over. You can let go now.”

Let go of what?

~Continued in: Dangerous Daze~

Genre: fantasy

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