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The creature ran a tongue along pointed teeth, then flicked her tongue out to touch my cheek. “Mmm. Do you know, your kind tastes the best. Sweet from your power, soft from your special treatment, rich from your borrowed magic. We could glut ourselves upon your flesh, your blood, until we wiped you from the world.”
Her tongue left a trail of warm, sticky something that made my skin tingle slightly. I did not shudder away from her, did not cringe away from the mouth full of teeth that looked more like needles, did not imagine them digging into my flesh. The tendril around my leg squeezed, but did not cut deeper into my skin.
It still hurt like a bitch.
“I offer you a choice, Caleyna of the Summoners. Come with me now. Promise me your aid, and no one will die this night. Come with me, and I hold my daughters still. Aid me, and never again will we taste upon your blood, upon your flesh. Or,” and a dozen sharp, sucking needles punctured my calf, digging in to the bone, drawing my blood into the body of the plant, “refuse me. Refuse me, and we will eat our fill of your siblings. We will devour you, every last drop, and profane this sacred isle.”
The needles in my skin did not retract fully, though they eased off the bone. Eagerness thrummed through the creature, and I couldn’t tell which answer she desired the most. Perhaps she couldn’t, either.
She couldn’t be here, yet she was. I couldn’t destroy the swarm on my own, not when it was this big, this strong, this close. Not at night. Not with its teeth already in me. I didn’t dare reach out for my shadow, didn’t dare attempt to cross the barrier between us. She couldn’t be here.
The creature knew my name. Curious.
The plant spirit offered me her hand, her twig-thin fingers curling open in front of my face.
I didn’t have any choice, really. Even if I died drying to do . . . Whatever it was she would ask of me. It was my only option, the only fight I had to give.
I placed my palm in hers. The twiggy fingers surged around my hand as they closed, expanding in size, winding around one another, rushing up my arm, around my back, pulling me closer. The tendril released its bite on my leg to slither around both my feet, then around my captor. The gleam in her eyes was pure malice. “Hold on, Summoner. This will hurt.”
And then she shoved me into her body.