His stomach twisted inside out, he wanted to launch it to the nearest star.
Pushing the mare to her limit with every kick, her pitch-black main ripping through the cold night air. She was used to running extended distances but never at such a demanding pace, galloping with this unknown being on her back she had no choice but to keep on, bucking him off just hadn’t worked.
When he touched her, she felt instantly electrified, stunned at how powerful he was. No other had given her such a thrilling feeling well, not the ones she had been around.
The sudden thrust of his heels in her side abruptly stopped her thought process.
She snorted, tossing her head at his savage behavior. Not even her normal rider was allowed to ruin her black velvet coat. She glided to the left as a sharp light blinded her briefly, it was a sword held close to him reflecting the moon’s dramatic light off its ancient surface; the same sword she knew only the queen used in battle.
They were being pursued by an immense predator, ashen was its recognizable color (said by those who lived to explain it) with fangs of a wild wolf, two extra-large ones on either side like a saber tooth tiger sharp and vicious. Its strength couldn’t be compared and its claws were that of a giant cave bear or so the legend said.
This was the nightmare diving for him, slashing through the air.
The creature’s tails were used as whips layered with razor-sharp horns and deformed bone, at least three meters in length.
* * * * *
Galaxy was the mares name, one of the queen’s finest, black as the ace of spades and her coat was constantly kept neat and brushed until shimmering in the afternoon sun.
Her mane was long and usually plaited by her keeper, but on this particular night, she had not had her normal luxuries. Drathis had been the cause of that, he had been on top of her barn roof clashing steel on steel with the queen’s soldiers, those of course who could catch up. The thatched roofs were slippery from the frost and gave away under their feet, but Drathis was lucky for his balance was superb, he lashed at them with the sword making the soldiers fall off one by one to their deaths.
The queen had underestimated him again and he knew she was going to be livid.
I guess that’s what made it all the more pleasing, his lips thinned into a grin at the thought slicing the last soldier’s throat, ah revenge, sometimes small little bites of it help.
Drathis had grown up on the outskirts of the queen’s empire for as long as he could remember. Living on a farm in a village named Saaria with his older brother Gareth; his past with his parents was fuzzy yet selected memories were kept alive by Gareth; their homeland was destroyed during a war and their clan was destroyed, Gareth had grabbed a horse and after being forced by their mother, fled with Drathis south until they arrived in Saaria, he knew not why then that their kind had to stay hidden, Gareth had tried for years to teach him to use natural skills and not magic.
"Magic needs to be your last resort" That had become their everyday motto
Every afternoon since, Gareth feared they weren’t protected enough and after working on the farm they would spend their evening wrestling, sparing, and anything else they could do to beat the other, just never magic.
They developed their muscles and mind well for if ever the need came to defend themselves.
Tragically Gareth had been killed at age fifteen in human years one night out at the market, he and his brother had been roaming stall to stall looking for something to tickle their fancy when he had heard a woman screaming. He had run to try stop two drunken men fighting over a few fair maidens, Drathis to occupied by a few shinning daggers the gypsies were showing him had gone to look for his brother too late and had ended up being haunted with the sight of his brother being stabbed persistently by the two men, falling to never rise again.
Too frightened to stop them he ran back to the farm, to pack their things, his brother had said where to go if ever they ran into trouble, he would listen.
Soldiers had heard the commotion and spotted Drathis running from the scene. Followed and captured him based on him being the only one hasty enough to flee the scene.
He remembered it as if it was yesterday, the way they demanded to know why he killed his brother dragging him back to the scene of the crime, but his brother's body had already been removed.
He had kept shouting back at them that it wasn’t him, the villagers just looked at them, none owned up especially those who knew the truth.
Even after having pointed out the two men, they just looked down at him as if he was a joke.
I mean who would you believe? An eight-year-old boy or two grown men?
Without further a due he was dragged to the Black Maser’s dungeon.
But that had been twenty years ago.
He was wiser now.
* * * * *
Drathis slid down the chimney landing on fodder grabbing the only horse he found after throwing a lantern to set fire to the barn, jumped on it, kicking his heels in its side hoping it would obey.
It did and with one solid kick burst through the barn doors. Drathis clung to Galaxy’s mane firmly eyeing over his shoulder to see if anyone was following.
The barn was already up in flames with stunning colors of crimson and the sunset gold; it lit up the whole night sky.
Stating exactly where he was.
He cursed at the thought, how could he have been so foolish.
He kicked the mare to go faster.
Sudden screams caught his attention, he snuck a peek behind to spot a few girls on the floor covering their heads. He automatically looked up, to find bird-like creatures abnormally big in size advancing.
Exactly what he had been hoping to avoid. He was no fool, he knew the queen had sent them; a shiver ran down his spine.
They were everything the represented evil.
Hunters of the human race!
Thousands had tried their best to study them, but none had never found their weaknesses, which is what he was frantic to have at that moment.
He spun to sit properly on the mares bareback with a thud wincing as it hurt his manhood, held on to her hair digging his heels deep in her soft side.
She reared back and galloped ahead much faster than before, through what seemed to be the outer part of the city. There were trees coming up all around and a cliff seemed to be close by the sudden dark downfall on his right side.
Good he thought, they were shielded from the creatures… For now.
Ducking and dodging the trees and branches he looked ahead and saw the dark shadows of trees in front of him disappearing to a lighter patch, an opening was the last thing he needed.
Once in it he looked up everywhere but could not see them.
Anxiety settled inside him and he began to sweat despite the fact that the wind was rushing past him at flying speed. He knew they were close; he could sense it.
Despite his every instinct to keep his head low and push forward he braved himself to look behind him one last time... Mistake.
A tale came for him cracking against his face, ice-cold pain clicked his jaw out of place dazed, he grabbed Galaxy’s mane tightly roaring in agony throwing his weapon arm up as the tale let go of his jaw clicking in back in agonizingly place releasing the hooks. He felt warm liquid rush down his chin and off into the wind.
Well, that’s the first one. He thought numbly kicking her again harder tightening his grip around the sword. Claws gripped at his shoulder through his shirt, jerking him from his neck to a stop throwing him right off the mares back. Not a moment to spare he rolled onto his feet, sword ready, he circled looking for the mass, but monster’s always seemed to know exactly where to hide to catch you off guard.
A claw swung sending him against a rock clicking his whole back, he grunted collapsing.
Too scared to move, too fearful to open his eyes, what could he do.
* * * * *
Galaxy ran off into the forest for cover heading straight back to her master as a pained roar stopped her. She stood still wondering whether to help him or go back home.
Stopping in her tracks, stomping the grass beneath her, there were pros and cons here.
She never had an adventure with the queen, adventure to that particular royal was a trot in the cemetery, she snorted shaking the tangled main.
This to her was more exciting, she turned and headed back to the unknown.
* * * * *
Drathis staggered to his feet, keeping his gaze fixed to the ground.
There, just out of reach he spotted his sword glowing in the moonlight, circled by the shadow of his winged enemy.
They grumbled to one another and Drathis got a whiff of its horrendous breath, the smell of death, decaying meat.
Think, think! He shouted to himself. Think dammit!! But he couldn’t he was frozen with fear, and to make matters worse four more landed. This was it, he had no chance of escaping, none in five hundred and twenty-six years had lived against these monsters and even then the poor soul was killed later by the queen.
He could jump off the cliff behind him into the never-ending pit, or face his fears, and be taken to their queen again or, inferior, eaten. But he knew they wouldn’t devour him, he was too valuable to the queen yet, it still bugged him having his limbs ripped off one by one.
The wind was icy and spiked the pain of his wounds as he howled past, his hair was long, black, and damp from sweat, blood, and dirt, it reached just past his shoulders, shaggy and wild covering his ears. His jaw pained as his hair brushed against it, it felt as if he had no more use of his arm.
He hadn’t paid much attention to it all until then as he tried to make a fist, his arm disobeyed the command and hung dead weight.
He cursed looking down at it, the blood ran down his arms following the patterns of his veins dripping off his fingertips.
The thought of the items he had in his pockets unexpectedly came to mind. Pieces of parchment? No. A sharp rock he had used to carve wood with? No. wooden bits from his cell? He remembered all the pieces of wood he had carved over years to try make a key to escape. No. No. No! Damnit none of these could help! His mind raced through every possible escape as he stared at the shadows of monstrous soldiers of hers slouching forward, ready to leap on their prey, he shivered stepping back slowly, hitting the rock he had landed against.
He lifted his head up to the dark heavens in silent pleading help, desperate, as if begging with his eyes for a way out, for a sign, any sign...
Screeching brought his focus back to two creatures fighting over his sword, a third gave a warning rumble from the bottom of its throat that could easily have shaken the ground had it have been a tad louder. He rubbed his dead arm hoping the circulation would help it get feeling.
They dropped the sword and it slid towards Drathis, out of his reach still, it slid at a steady speed down towards the cliff's edge, past him, off into the aybis.
This was it! He thought and pushed onto the rock doing a backflip off the cliff diving for the sword, catching ahold of it he straightened in-flight sinking it deep into the cliff as it was passing up above him.
He came slamming into the rock to a dead stop, he cursed out loud with pain as his shoulder hit it first, nonetheless, he held on for life to the hilt.
It was big and decorative with a huge ruby sunk in the middle and other small emeralds around it in the shape of a symbol he had seen somewhere before.
As if from a distant dream he somehow knew it, it felt like home in his hands.
His dead arm begun to tingle with pins and needles, he focused hard on his hand as his thumb finally twitched, with a smile he put all his will into throwing his arm up onto the above rock until it responded, then pulled himself up to the sword praying the hilt wouldn’t snap and grabbed a piece of juddered out rock slightly lit with an almost red tinge to it.
Dawn was coming; he didn’t want it to, he feared these creatures and wanted to remain only knowing what their shadows projected.
It was going to be one hell of a mission to climb as he looked up, he started grabbing what he could to pull himself up, despite his still throbbing arm he managed to take a hold of the sword to place it in his belt.
The sun was rising up fast behind the forest trees, he had to quicken his pace, which was working well till the cliff became smooth with nothing left to grab onto. He tried to pull the sword out and use it by stabbing the rock face on his way up, reaching for it he retracted his hand. It had begun to shake, he released the hilt looking at it in confusion, hearing thunder in a far-off background growing louder every second.
What was it? The sword?
He looked at it confused. No, it was a piece of beautiful metal with jewels he could sell and be set for life once he was safe.
The rumble grew louder still, he looked up shaking the hair out of his emerald eyes.
There above him only a few meters up were five creatures, an unsated hunger was all he could feel rolling off them. Frozen in place his heart skipped a beat, but before Drathis could react the middle two dived off towards him, he threw himself as close as he could against the rocks ripping the sword out swinging it at a wing passing by, he just scraped it, then threw his arm and sword in all directions tiring himself out, hoping it would hold them back.
He’d been successful in cutting a leg off but they were just too fast for him.
The sun was up, despite his efforts it was time to see what they looked like, he scanned his surroundings; he cast his eyes down between his feet and saw nothing but unnerving blackness, he couldn’t see the bottom floor. Opposite him about a mile away was the other cliff edge.
He had never been afraid of heights but now not knowing what was below him in the pitch-black darkness, fighting for his life not to fall off into it, scared the living daylights out of him.
One came diving for him again and he hacked its wing off sending it screaming to its death below. He scanned the sky for more than looked below counting the seconds till it hit the bottom.
One, two, three, another dived just missing him scraping off a layer of stone above his head as it tried to land. Drathis roared at it shaking the dust off his forehead as it slowly turned around hissing at him.
Seven, eight, nine, he shut his eyes as it faced him listening to its movements. Despite his situation, he refused to see what they looked like, he would delay that greeting as long as he could. The monster launched at him dislodging another chunk of rock just above it, knocking the creature sending it falling into blackness with the rock weighing him down.
Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen...
He didn’t hear it hit the ground, only the fading of its scream
He shook the fear before it settled.
This was his gap, quickly he started climbing, faster and faster. Digging his fingers into the cliff face, he pushed through the pain, he needed flat ground beneath him now.
His stomach turned as he heard a thud, he froze in position… Recalling there being five… Why did he kill one, hurt one then see no more? He glanced around in every direction to see where they were but none were above, neither to his right or left nor behind him… His stomach sank. “Thud, thud, thud.” Each beat shook him with fear, he felt like a white mouse blind, trapped in a den of dark snakes.
Drathis turned his head sharply down and saw what no man in his whole entire life would ever want to come across between his legs, reality or nightmare.
He shuddered and sped up the rocks faster than ever, one flew past shredding his shirt off his back, another tearing his skin, each ripping his back with their claws, cursing out loud in pain he could do nothing except climb until, without warning, he was yanked off the cliff with such a force.
He looked down to see the tail wrapped around him, stunned he tried to breathe in but the tail was firmly wrapped leaving no room.
Drathis gasped for air pulling at the tail till his sight became fogged, darkened.
* * * * *
Galaxy just made it out the trees to the cliff edge, she tilted her head slightly confused, she was sure this is where she heard it all happening. Just then the three creatures flew vertically to the cliff straight up, galaxy snorted retreating with fright, she caught a glimpse of a limp body, changing her mind she was determined to follow them.
After a while Drathis moved his arms in discomfort, he winced and opened his eyes.
Nothing except the tops of trees were below him and a loud sound of powerful wings above him, he jerked in alarm as everything came back to him, the hooks only sunk deeper into his skin as if threatening to make him bleed if he did not stay still.
He hung under the creature for what seemed forever wrapped in its tale, he couldn’t bear to look at it, its features were terrifying, he shifted a bit to avoid a wing that seemed dangerously close and heard a clinging sound in his pocket. Great! The wooden key he had carved had a very sharp end, he knew if he forced his arm down to his pants the tail would rip his flesh some more this time leaving more than just scratches, the smell of fresh blood might make the creatures hungry and he wasn’t in the mood to be ripped apart to satisfy their stomachs, he sighed.
Worth the risk.
He got hold of the timber and pulled it out, it was hardwood and the length of his hand thin and sharp, he pulled his arms back to where they were wincing in discomfort again as these yellowish-gray hocks pulled at his skin a bit more.
Flicking the un-carved part back he focused all his power left into his left hand then, finally, sunk it deep into the tail cutting it right to the bone, the creature flung its tail open with irritation letting him fall.
Not one of his most gracious falls, branches still hurt like hell.
He rolled onto his back with a grunt staring up as leaves came drifting down around him. With a sigh stumbled to his feet, he couldn’t allow his body to rest, he had to keep the adrenaline pumping and starting to run without a moment more to spare, this time keeping his eyes open to all imaginable directions.
If he had learned one thing from them it was that they always came from the most unexpected places.
Dodging low branches leaping over roots, he kept running, hoping to outsmart them.
Luck was not on his side today, he couldn’t see his shadow anymore, only ones with wings.
They were gliding up above him waiting patiently for him to tire.
He stopped dead in his tracks.
"This is impossible!" He couldn’t outrun them, especially not in the daylight.
“Bloody hell!” He snapped catching his breath frustrated, tired, and aching he didn’t know how much more he could withstand.
He felt dizzy with the amount of blood he’d lost. It was now or never he repeated to himself over and over. Any normal human with brains would have given up ages ago, no human would have jumped off a cliff after a sword, that could be remade identical, for a human couldn’t be, but Drathis was special and so was this sword.
“Thud.” The one landed,
“Thud.” Yip that was the other, he waited for one more but it didn’t land, he didn’t hear any wings flapping. It must have returned to report to her, dam her! He wanted to place his fingers around the queen’s neck and squeeze so hard his fingers would dig into her snow skin, making her suffer an excruciating blood gargling death.
He pulled out the sword and stood strong, angrier than ever fueled by adrenaline he was ready to take on ten of them if he had to.
The forest was dark and musky with a few rays of light spilling through the gaps illuminating the orange frosty floor, yup winter was around the corner.
They started to circle him slowly closing in, he had done this before with Gareth but this time there were two and they had worse things than swords.
Still, he had to think about how he could use it to his advantage.
A horned tail came from nowhere; he spun to the side slicing the tail tip-off watching it flop around.
His focus was back, the second creature came for him and he sliced its wing, the other threw him to the ground, he jumped up, face to face with the other jerking back fearfully as if trying to rub off spiders only to be thrown off balance by another tail.
Drathis fell headfirst against a tree's root, grabbing his throbbing skull trying to jump back up but teeth came crashing down on him, luckily he had his sword meet them and stopping the almost decapitation. It reared back screeching, perfect timing for him to throw his sword at it.
It sunk deep into its stomach.
Drathis blocked his ears hastily as the creature died, its sound was deadly up close and his ears were ringing. Claws dug deep into his right hip, Drathis gasped for air and roared at the creature who threw him next to what now was ash, fur, and maggots of the previous creature, he slid away disgusted then back after spotting his sword.
Trying to stand and breathe evenly searching for the remaining one, his legs wouldn’t let him, he fell back down to his knees looking all around but didn’t see it, he started to lose all hope as well as sight.
No, it can't end like this.
The thing was above him up in the air circling, mocking him as he kneeled, knowing his limit was reached.
Without further delay, it came straight for him.
This was it, this was the end, no more Drathis, he had tried his hardest and failed, he collapsed from his knees to his back and lay there sick inside watching it grow in size.
Without warning it changed direction as if something had caught its attention, it hovered in mid-air looking out in the distance.
It was being called back, could only be, but it ignored the call and its eyes penetrated deep into his, the creature came down for him again this time giving Drathis just enough time to grab his sword, and hold it up above him, pointing it at the creature, by the time it realized what was happening it was too late, trying to pull back up it failed falling full weight on to the sword.
One point five tons on Drathis, he gasped for air but found none. clenching his teeth he fell unconscious.