This is the rest of the story. Click here for the beginning
Tarrow didn’t move. Instead he closed his eyes and focused his mind, reaching out to the souls of the creatures racing towards him.
At first he met a wall of anger and hatred, pain and hurt, agony and insanity, which threw him back. He physically rocked from the recoil. But he knew that he only had seconds left. He pushed his mind out again, pushing through the surface feelings of the creatures to core of each animal.
Even as he succeeded in making the link several of the animals slammed into him, knocking him to the floor. But he stayed calm and kept concentrating on what he was doing.
There were no teeth. No searing pain. Instead he felt noses nuzzling him, tongues licking. The animals which had been ready to rip him apart seconds before were now trying to tuck themselves into his arms for comfort and protection.
Tears flowed from his eyes at what had been done to them. Worse was the fact some part of them had survived and was still suffering. He hadn’t known if that would be the case. He’d never chosen to encounter one of the animals before, not wanting to risk tipping anyone off to what he had planned.
So he’d come in blind, with no idea whether he would even be able to make a connection to the animals. Or whether they could truly be called animals any more.
He knew many of his fellow Druids felt everything natural had been driven from the creatures. They would have considered his plan to be pure insanity. He’d wondered himself whether he was making a huge mistake. Only now did he know he hadn’t… and that the rest of his plan might work.
He took a minute to simply comfort the animals, to let them know he understood their pain and to ease as much of their torment as he could in so short time.
Then he had to do something he hated himself for. He asked them to return to what they had been doing, to act as if nothing had changed.
He’d come back for them. That was a promise. But if they all disappeared from their normal roles then humans would come looking. It was too soon for that. His plan relied on stealth, not force. But it still broke his heart to send the animals on their way again.
With the dogs once more resuming their normal patrols Tarrow moved quietly towards the nearest door. It was an emergency exit, designed never to be opened from the outside, and there was little lighting in the area around it. Those who guarded the complex expected any attack or infiltration to have to come through one of the main doorways. Tarrow had no intention of playing the game their way.
Of course one problem with trying to enter through a door which couldn’t be opened from the outside was the fact it couldn’t be opened from outside. And none of his Druid tricks or abilities could help with that.
Which was why he had drawn one other person into his scheme. Not someone who’d dream of coming with him, but an old drinking friend called Cadfahj who was also an expert at thieving wizardry. A branch of magic which few openly admitted even existed, even amongst those who knew magic to be real. A branch which was a huge embarrassment to the heads of the great guilds. A type of magic which did exactly what Tarrow needed.
He took a small stick, only three inches long, out of his pocket then gently moved it around the edges of the door, starting at the top left and moving clockwise.
And it was a stick. Tarrow had made the mistake of calling it a wand once and Cadfahj had laughed at him for a full minute before pointing out it was nothing of the sort. It wasn’t a wand. This was just a stick. Though one with some rather useful spells attached.
“Most wizards can feel if a wand is nearby,” Cadfahj had said. “I might as well wear a big hat saying I’m going to come burgle you if I have a wand with me. But a stick, one with spells from my speciality? Most wizards wouldn’t notice any sign of magic at all. Even those that did would never suspect it came from the stick. They wouldn’t even glance at it.”
It might be small. It might just be a stick, from a certain point of view. But it worked. The door swung silently open, completely failing to set off the alarms which should always have sounded when it did so.
Tarrow smiled and slipped inside, closing the door behind him. He kept the stick in his hand. He had no doubt he would be needing it many more times to get where he needed to go.
Tarrow knew something of the layout of the complex, at least the areas which sometimes welcomed visitors. He’d gathered everything he could about those areas, but they weren’t where he needed to go.
What he’d learnt ruled out certain areas from his search but that still left a large area, far too large for him to keep evading detection. He needed to learn where those he sought were kept, and to do that he needed to spend some time somewhere he wouldn’t be disturbed or discovered.
He’d stepped into a corridor which ran left and right along the edge of the complex. An area which was likely to be more frequently patrolled than those deeper into the complex. He noticed a double door to the left which looked like it led to another corridor heading deeper into the complex.
He made his way to it, calmed his mind and did his best to be sure no one was waiting beyond. He thought it was clear, but he was much better at detecting animals than people. He shrugged. Either it was clear or it wasn’t.
He used the magic lock-picking stick once more, though this time he waved it over a security terminal requiring a security badge and key code. The panel turned green as the magic overwhelmed it, and the door opened.
Tarrow was pleased to find no one in the corridor beyond. While he could often sense humans he was far from infallible, especially when away from the realm of nature which he drew his powers from. And there weren’t many places further from nature than the building he was now making his way through.
The new corridor had doors leading off to each side. Tarrow glanced into them as he passed. They looked like administrative offices. The lights were dim within them, and he knew it was likely no one would be in them at this time night.
But that was also why they were useless to him. They most likely had motion sensitive lights, lights which would react to his presence. There might even be alarms triggered by movement where there shouldn’t be any at that time of night, but even without that the lights going on would be a dead giveaway. He needed something else.
He’d bypassed the security to let him into a new corridor and passed more than a dozen doors on each side before he found what he needed. A door with no window. A door with a sign which told him he’d found what he needed. Janitorial supplies!
He nodded to himself. If there was any room which was likely to be opened at any time of day or night, especially in a building patrolled by any form of dogs, it was the janitor’s supply cupboard.
Of course that also meant it was more likely somebody would go into that room than others. He would have to hide away at the back as well as he could and hope it would be enough to remain invisible if a real janitor turned up.
He pulled out the magic lock-picking stick once more, in case the door was locked or had some form of alarm. It quickly weaved its spell, allowing him to slip inside.
The lights in the supply room were controlled by a simple light switch. One he ignored. One of the benefits of being a Druid was exceptional night sight, even in a room which in theory was completely lightless.
Not that it was. A small glow entered around the door from the corridor and was more than enough for him to see by. He managed to move through the room without knocking anything over, and eased his way behind some heavily stacked shelves. Then he sighed, took a deep breath, and opened his mind.
If the waves of pain and anguish from the altered dogs he’d met outside the building had been bad, what he felt now was overwhelming. Animals in terrible pain and suffering… all with no end in sight. And animals cowering in terror, not knowing what was to come but picking up on the terrible vibes from those who’d undergone the operations already.
As he let his mind centre on the area where the main group of animals were kept tears flowed from his eyes. He would almost rather have been caught and killed than have to endure this, but endure it he would. His was the suffering of one person experiencing these things second hand. Weighed against that was the suffering of hundreds, thousands, of animals… both now and in the future.
So he endured the torment and drew the pain closer to his soul… and along with it the location of those he sought. With the direction and location fixed in his mind he closed his thoughts off. It took him several minutes to compose himself again, then he forced himself upright. Soon he was out of the janitor’s supply room and making his way through the complex, his destination now clear.
* * *
Maybe it was pure luck. Maybe it was because most of the guards were investigating the fallen tree which had taken out part of the fence, expecting an attack from that direction. Whatever the cause, he made it several minutes deeper into the complex before being discovered.
The first warning he had was a wave of hate rushing toward him from behind. He sensed it at the last moment and threw himself to the side of the corridor, slamming into the wall as a massive creature flew through the space he’d occupied, snarling as it leapt.
It was so big he was sure it must once have been a full wolf rather than a dog, but there was nothing left of the natural creature. Only a small part of its mind was still intact and its body had been viciously altered, from its bones to its jaws to its intestines.
Tarrow briefly tried to reach out to it, to bring it to his side, but there was only a small core of the original animal remaining and that part had been driven completely insane.
The creature skidded to a halt, turned, then charged back toward him. Sadness filled his heart as he reached out with his mind, finding the animal’s life thread and severing it with a sharp mental thrust.
This was the darkest of the Druids powers, one that many refused to admit to themselves even existed. Of those who accepted it was possible most could have learnt the skill, but very few did.
Those few who did, Tarrow being one of them, understood that sometimes there were creatures for whom death was the only solace and that providing it as quickly and cleanly as possible was a Druid’s duty.
Quickly and cleanly in theory, at least. Not this time. Even as Tarrow felt the creature’s spirit depart, its body leapt forward, catching him by surprise.
Despite being in his nineties he was still supple and fast, the benefit of living in harmony with nature. Most people would have been cut in half by the creature’s jaws. Tarrow managed to avoid them. Mostly. One tooth cut deeply into his left arm, but he managed to drag it out of the way before the jaws slammed shut.
The creature flew past him, hit the ground and tumbled. Despite its spirit having departed it tried to get up several times before collapsing into a heap. Whatever unnatural forces had kept it going beyond the death of its organic soul were now expended. It shuddered once more, then fell still.
Tarrow moved his arm and cursed at the pain. He checked his arm and cursed again as he saw blood flowing from it. He closed his eyes and forced the pain from his mind, then he cast a healing spell. One he normally used on animals but which should work just as well in humans.
The effects were limited. He was far from the natural world now, penned in by concrete walls. That affected how much power he could draw for his use. The bleeding slowed and almost stopped but he was still unable to move his arm very far.
He pulled a bandage from his belt, one he’d expected to use on animals he rescued, and bound his arm well enough he at least wouldn’t leave a trail of blood wherever he went.
Then he looked at the creature on the floor. It was no longer a threat, but leaving it laying in the hallway would be a sure sign that all was not well.
Tarrow sighed. He’d have struggled to move it even before one of his arms was injured, but he couldn’t risk leaving it in sight. He grabbed it and dragged it across the floor as quickly as he could manage. He was reluctant to stash it in one of the offices lining the corridor, but he had no choice.
He opened the door, trying to avoid moving far into the room himself, and dragged the creature far enough in that the door could close again. Then he slipped back out.
The lights hadn’t come on and he could only hope he hadn’t set off any alarms. Hope and keep moving as quickly as he could manage.
* * *
Tarrow continued to push deeper into the complex, expecting alarms to ring out at any moment. None came, and he was grateful not to encounter more of the deformed creatures as minute followed minute.
But as he drew close to his destination that luck ran out. He was about to round a corner in the corridor when a sudden feeling from ahead stopped him. Animals. And close.
He reached out with his mind and sensed dogs, or at least animals which had been dogs before being converted. They didn’t have the utter wildness of the wolf creature he’d had to kill, which was a blessing. But when he concentrated he dimly made out that they had two humans with them.
Tarrow quickly reviewed where he was and the route he’d taken, trying to work out whether there was a way around the humans and animals ahead. There wasn’t. He’d reached the entrance to the section he needed to enter. He should have expected it to be guarded.
Two guards. Two guards with guns, he was sure. Two guards who’d be happy to use those guns before even thinking of asking any questions.
What to do? If he’d been a battle mage he could have killed them without even stepping into their sight. If his magic was the same as his friend the thief maybe he could have slid down the corridor undetected. An illusionist could have sent the guards chasing a mirage.
But he was none of those. He was a Druid, his powers lay with creatures and plants. He had to work with what he had before him, much as it sickened him to have to do so.
He reached out to the two dog-creatures, easing his way into their minds. But this time he couldn’t allow himself to give them solace, to calm the anger and pain which swirled through their souls. Not yet.
Instead he tapped into their anger and their aggression, into the training they’d been given. He stoked the powerful feelings but at the same time he suppressed the section of their training which caused them to ignore the guards.
Only then did he learn the guards protection was simply down to wearing armbands impregnated with a certain scent that the creatures had been trained not to attack.
Easy enough to nullify, but even easier to twist so it became a trigger for launching attacks. Moments later he released his control over the two creatures.
There were two muffled cries, a screech, then it was all over bar the snapping and tearing. Tarrow let at out a deep sigh and reached out to the two animals with his mind, finally calming the anger and pain within them as he walked round the corner.
They trotted up to him and he shuddered at the blood dripping from their muzzles. Not that he had any real sympathy for the guards, anyone working this deeply in the complex knew exactly what they were involved in. But he had forced the dogs to take action, and for that he felt sorrow.
There was no easy way to hide the bodies, not in the state they were now in, and the pools of blood which had formed around them would be a giveaway too. Besides, their absence from the guard post would be enough to raise an alarm as soon as it was noticed.
He considered leaving the dogs there, stoking up their anger again so they would protect him against being followed, but the thought of using them that way sickened him. Instead he signalled with his hand and they fell into step beside him.
If he faced further danger they might well choose to protect him, they already considering him part of their pack, but he vowed never to force them into such an action again.
* * *
The doors the guards had been protecting were far more secure than any of the others he’d made his way through, with iris and hand scanners as well as keycards and codes. Impossible to break through.
In theory. The lock-picking stick made quick work of all the security measures. Moments later they were open and he was striding through.
The next corridor was short, barely ten metres before a similar set of doors blocked passage forward. There were no doors or windows down this corridor. It seemed to be just another level of security. Once again magic proved far stronger than science and Tarrow pushed open the doors then strode through.
He immediately knew he’d arrived. The pain and anguish washed over him, driving him to his knees. He wasn’t even reaching out with his mind now, the intense feelings washed over him. He gritted his teeth, forced himself upright and managed to move forward. He’d known it would be bad. He’d tried to prepare himself. But in truth he’d had no idea.
The room he now found himself in was a long but fairly narrow one, with cage after cage lining each side, stacked three high. From almost every cage he could feel the presence of animals.
Some were terrified. Others were in agony. And from others he felt a boiling hatred which had been driven into their souls. Despite the near physical pain the feelings caused him he forced himself to move down the row, opening cage after cage with the magic lock-pick.
Soon he had a large group of animals around him, sitting far more quietly than was natural in such a situation. He was still exerting what control he could but it was hard to keep so many under control.
As the numbers continued to grow he focused on those animals taking leading roles in the rapidly growing pack. He hoped that the rest would match their behaviour to that of their leaders. For the moment it seemed to be working.
He continued forward, releasing more animals from their cages as he went. Not that he was able to rescue them all. Some were in too much pain to move, or too badly maimed to survive. It seemed the organisation was happy to perform experiments which were highly unlikely to be successful on the off chance a few animals might live.
And there were some animals which had been driven completely insane, those whose minds were as far gone as the wolf creature he’d had to kill. Minds which could never be brought back to any semblance of sanity. In those cases he reached out with sadness in his heart and severed their life threads, letting them finally find peace.
Then there were those too young to be saved, taken from their parents soon after birth and now dependent on the machines plugged into them. Tarrow was tempted to try and rescue just a few of them, to use a portion of his power to keep them alive, but he hardened his heart. Escaping would be hard enough without having to carry helpless pups. So he did the only thing he could for them… ending their lives, and so ending their pain and fear.
He worked his way through the long room, knowing there were a number more like it still to go. Seven he thought, based on the lives he’d been able to sense. So far he was still undetected. The lab was in near darkness, but that didn’t worry him or the dogs at all.
As he moved from cage to cage the growing pack of dogs with him grew restless. With a thought he settled the pack leaders, and he felt the tension leave the rest of the animals.
Tarrow finally opened the last cage, smiling as the dog within gave him a quick lick before jumping down. He turned to the doors leading to the next section and stopped. He was certain the doors had been closed… but now they stood open. A moment later the lab’s lights came on, blinding in their glare, and he heard the sound of one person clapping.
“I’m very impressed,” said a deep voice. “By rights you should have been ripped apart by those animals by now. I look forward to finding out quite how you’re managing to keep them from doing that. I suspect we’ll learn a great many other things from you too. In time.”
Tarrow’s eyes had adjusted enough that he could see as long as he squinted. The man talking was tall and wore an expensive business suit. He was flanked by four guards wielding machine guns, two on each side of him. All five were standing just through the open door from Tarrow, slightly into the next lab.
“So you’re involved in this monstrous endeavour?” asked Tarrow, trying to stall for time to think.
“Involved? I run it! This is my company. It grew from my vision, my ability to see opportunity where others didn’t. That’s why when I heard what you were doing I had to come and see for myself.”
“Fine. I’ll give you one chance then. Let me and all the animals in this facility leave, then destroy everything here and never restart the research. If you do that, I’ll let you live. Not that you deserve such leniency.”
The man stared at Tarrow for a few seconds then started to laugh heartily, shaking his head. It took him close on a minute to be able to speak again.
“Oh you are funny! Let you all go? Destroy the facility? And you’ll let me live? No. I don’t think so. But don’t worry, everything you know will be put to good use. As will that little gizmo you used to bypass all of our security. I’m very interested in that.”
Tarrow slowly lifted the magic lock-pick from his pocket, holding it out in front of him and smiling.
“You mean this?” he asked.
He was already holding the magical stick by the base. He grabbed its tip with his other hand and snapped it in half.
Anger flashed across the man’s face, but it vanished again quickly enough and he shook his head.
“It doesn’t matter. You’re going to tell us where you got it and how it works, sooner or later. Looking at you I think it may well be later, but you will tell us everything we want to know in the end.”
“I guess you’ve made your choice,” said Tarrow sombrely.
“Is that supposed to scare me? I’m afraid it takes a lot more than that! Seriously though, did you really think you could rescue all of these animals? Set them free then lead them out of here like some pied-piper?”
“Rescue?” Tarrow chuckled for a few seconds, shaking his head. “This was never about rescuing them. It was about giving them vengeance!”
As he spoke he eased his control over the animals, allowing their anger and pain to well up once more. At the same time he fed his knowledge about just who was responsible for what had been done to them, that the man standing so close had been the cause of all their suffering. The pack started to shift angrily, growling and preparing to launch forward.
“And yet you are the one who’s stuck in here with them!” said the man. He gestured and the doors between Tarrow and him slammed shut. Tarrow could still see him through the glass upper section of the doors, and heard the man’s voice over an intercom.
“You see,” said the man. “If they attack anyone it will be you!”
“You only shut these poor creatures in with me. What about all the others?”
Tarrow moved toward the doors, the pack trailing him.
“You hadn’t freed any of the others!” said the man. “We’ve been watching you closely!”
“And yet this door between us… it’s not locked like you expect it to be, is it?”
“Of course it’s locked, it’s… what the hell?”
“Every lock within several hundred metres is now open. What, you thought I broke my lock-picking tool to spite you? No! I just released all of its energy in one go. But if I was you I wouldn’t be worrying about these doors. I’d be worrying about the doors to all the cages in the room with you!”
* * *
Tarrow watched through the glass as each of the five men slowly turned to look over their shoulders, moving as if they really didn’t want to see what they knew would be there.
Two of the guards yelled and backed up quickly, slamming back against the doors between them and Tarrow. The other two and the man responsible for everything stayed frozen where they stood, staring at several dozen dogs in various states of conversion into the final killer product. They might not be fully converted, but every one looked ready to spring into violent action.
The two terrified guards who’d lurched away had forgotten the doors were now unlocked. The doors flew open and the men fell through, sprawling on their backs.
That was all it took. The pack behind Tarrow surged past him, and the group in the other room lunged forward at the same moment.
Shots were fired, but the two guards on the floor disappeared under a snarling, tearing wave of fur and teeth almost immediately. The remaining two guards snapped into action, firing rapidly. Tarrow felt some of the dogs being wounded, one being killed, but that didn’t slow the tide at all.
He wanted to turn his head, to look away, to avoid seeing the poor animals suffering further… but he wouldn’t. After everything the animals had been put through, the least he could do was bear witness to their revenge.
A huge hound with more metal than skin raced at one guard. The man held his nerve, firing repeatedly at the hound. Most of the bullets ricocheted off, but with the crazed animal about to pounce a round went through its eye and the dog dropped in a heap.
The guard barely had a moment to register his success. Another dog was already leaping from a different angle. This one had no obvious physical adaptations, but it was bulked up far beyond anything which could ever be natural. It slammed into the guard, flooring him… and the pack swept in.
The last guard was firing desperately now, but with no support he couldn’t possibly cover all the angles of attack. This time the pack swept in from every direction, knocking his legs out from under him. As he fell he was still firing… but only for a second more. Then he too was gone.
Which just left the suit, standing alone as the dogs circled him. The man who’d admitted to being responsible for all of this. The man who ultimately had to pay. The dogs were circling him now, snarling and growling, but not closing. Then the man did something which startled Tarrow. He started to chuckle.
“Nice try,” he said. “But I’m not that stupid. One of the first things we do to the dogs is implement conditioning preventing them from ever attacking me. And we reinforce it continually. Not that I’d ever imagined a situation like this. I was planning against someone getting inventive and trying to use one of the animals against me. One. Not all of them!”
He bent down and picked one of the guard’s rifles off the floor.
“Now while we might have lots to learn from you, I think you’re far too dangerous to be left alive. And besides, now I know what you did is possible I’ll know to go looking for it in others. I have to thank you for that. But… well… goodbye.”
“It’s nothing to do with your conditioning,” Tarrow said calmly.
The man hesitated, then frowned.
“Them not attacking. It’s nothing to do with your conditioning. They just wanted to save you for last.”
“Nice try! But that’s not even slightly…”
The sentence was cut off as one of the larger dogs leapt at the man, jaws clamping on his throat before tearing it out in one swift motion. The rifle tumbled to the floor, as did the man’s body.
The rest of the animals surged forward, and now Tarrow did turn away. Not for the sake of the man, but because the savage release of the animals was something he felt they should have in private. This was their moment now.
In some ways the death had been too fast, but the result was what mattered. And despite what Tarrow had said he was less interested in giving the animals revenge and much more focused on putting an end to the whole complex.
Tarrow knew that at that moment throughout the complex there were animals roaming free. Those dedicated to guarding the building, animals the guards believed could never turn on them, and those who’d been released from their cages. Few if any of the workers in the building would survive to get out, and the man who’d been the driving force behind the abominations was gone too.
But Tarrow knew that wouldn’t be enough. The secrets of the complex were buried deep. There were secure servers holding huge volumes of research notes, all relating to what went on in the complex, but he also knew none of the information was ever allowed to leave. That had been planned as a strength, a way to keep control. Now Tarrow was going to exploit it as a weakness.
While the animals roamed freely around the complex, exacting their revenge, Tarrow pulled a small canister from a padded bag on his belt. He handled the canister with extreme care as he eased it out, barely daring to breathe.
This came from another friend. Not one who dealt with thievery and locks. One who dealt in destruction on a scale most humans could never comprehend. Even the destructive power of an atom bomb was as nothing compared with what this device could do, though he planned to use it at a level well below its maximum.
Tarrow placed the canister gently on the floor, then slowly eased his hand back and waited for a full minute. When nothing happened he let his senses range throughout the complex, once more building a connection with the lead animals, those the others would follow.
He quickly confirmed there were no surviving guards, no people at all other than himself. That stage of his mission was complete so he sent the pack leaders instructions to get clear of the building and head for the break in the fence caused by the mighty fallen tree.
With that done he passed his hands over the canister on the floor and muttered the incantation to initiate the device. It started to glow a deep red. That was the sign the device was activating… and that it was time to go.
Tarrow turned and sprinted away… running with every ounce of energy he had… and hoping it would be enough. If not he was about to have a really, really bad day.
* * *
The surviving pack of animals milled around Tarrow as he ran down the concrete road. At least a third of the animals hadn’t made it, but even those would at least be spared any further pain.
He and the surviving pack had made it over the broken section of fence, dodging around the dead bodies of the guards, and were now a few hundred feet further away as the hairs on the back of Tarrow’s neck prickled.
The dogs around him stopped and turned to look back toward the complex. Many of them started to howl. Tarrow was forced to stop if he didn’t want to stamp on the dogs ahead. He too turned to look.
For a moment there was nothing different than before… then a spinning storm of blackness shot with indigo lightning crackled into existence. It towered in a pillar three times the height of the complex, then quickly spread out into a dome which touched the ground less than fifty feet from where he stood.
He breathed a deep sigh of relief that he’d managed to get clear of the destructive power, then watched as the dark storm clouds within the dome spun faster and faster. The lightning within those clouds grew stronger and stronger and the ground under his feet shook.
And then, from one moment to the next, the storm-filled dome was gone. And so was the complex. All that remained was a deep, smooth bowl shaped hole in the ground. In the centre it went to a depth easily six times the height of the complex.
Tarrow cast his eyes over it anxiously, relying on his night-sight as he searched for any hint of lower floors or tunnels which had escaped the destruction. There were none. The complex had been totally destroyed, and with it all knowledge of what had been done to the poor creatures which passed through its doors.
Only half the job was done. If humans were to see the destruction it would immediately be obvious something far beyond their knowledge had taken place. They might not immediately jump to the idea that magic had been used, but some of them might stumble on a world they currently knew nothing of.
That couldn’t be allowed. Now it was time for Tarrow’s own brand of magic. He detached one last cannister from his belt, and opened it without trepidation. The previous cylinder had been something dangerous and far outside his experience. This… this was everything he lived for!
He opened the cylinder and pulled out a mixture of dirt and seeds. He weighed them in his hand for a few seconds, then flung them into the air and toward the massive indentation in the land, chanting an incantation as he did so.
A sudden wind swept through the area, swirling the dirt and seeds towards the devastated area… but doing more than that. The dirt and the seeds seemed to be splitting endlessly, rapidly increasing in volume. When the wind disappeared and the seeds and soil fell they covered every part of the gaping wound in the mountainside.
After a few moments the bottom of the area looked as if it was boiling. Soil churned, swirling in unpredictable patterns… and all the time filling more and more of the space.
In under a minute not only was the gash in the ground filled, the soil had risen to match the contours of the surrounding land. Now only the fresh nature of the soil, and the lack of any life, made it stand out.
The process wasn’t finished. Now the trees and plants started to grow, rapidly spreading and maturing before Tarrow’s eyes. Within another five minutes there was a mighty forest standing where the complex had been, some of the trees well over one-hundred years old… despite having been growing for barely five minutes.
The rapid growth hadn’t been without cost. Tarrow could feel the energy, the life, pulled from the surrounding forest. He could sense the mighty trees which would now die ten or twenty years earlier than they might otherwise have. But he also felt how willingly they sacrificed that life force to spur the growth of what now appeared to be ancient trees.
Birds and animals moved in from the surrounding forests. Within a few hours it would be almost impossible to tell there had ever been a complex there. Within a few weeks even a Druid would struggle to tell any difference between the new growth and the area surrounding it.
The magic slowed, tapering off, and once it had finished there was no sign the complex had ever existed. Even the roads leading to it had been covered out to a distance of several hundred metres and now appeared to taper off into woodland instead of leading to a high-tech complex.
Tarrow knew it would cause confusion. Satellite images from before that night would seem to show the complex, those after would show nothing but nature. Humanity wasn’t ready to accept the existence of magic so those investigating would visit the site, confirm there could never have been a complex there, and would then rule it out as computer error, human error, malicious hacking, or simply some huge practical joke.
Tarrow tried to take a step and staggered, leaning against a tree for support. The night had taken its toll on him and he slid to sit on the ground, taking a few minutes to rest. As he sat there energy flowed into him from his surroundings, quickly strengthening his body.
As soon as he felt strong enough he stood up and started moving again. His mission wasn’t over yet. Now he had to lead the many surviving animals to their new lives. To their new home.
He knew the perfect place. Somewhere the Druids watched over and no human ever visited. A place the animals could live out their lives in peace. It wasn’t truly a part of this world, but there were gateways to it and the closest was just a few miles away. He would lead the animals there… and then he could truly rest.
Tarrow took a deep breath as he walked with the animals swirling around him, and a smile settled onto his face. All in all it hadn’t been a bad night’s work. Especially for a man in his nineties!