WHEN COMES THE FIRETIDE | PART TWO: EMERGENTS
Chapter Twelve: Tears of Quirifen
Estuary Valley, Natan’s Pass water gap, Southern Dagger Fells Cord, Southeast Tybraes
2nd Som Humility, month of Foundations 8178
“They are going to hurt themselves.” Lily scowled over at Zakeriel and Khes as they sparred in the meadow. “Worse. They are already in rough shape after all they were put through.”
Aafon chuckled as he popped a pine nut into his mouth. “I rather believe that is the point, dear.” Reaching down he stoked the fire and turned the rabbits. “They have far more energy now, though. Have moved past simple form exercises. Look.”
In a sharp stacatto, Khes’ voice barked across the field, “HIT ME, DAMNIT!”
Aafon let out a rich laugh. “Oh, I do like her.” Although no weapons were being used, the two were embroiled in full hand to hand combat. The knight was clearly holding back, even from Aafon’s distance this was clear. He sat forward with interest as the woman leapt onto him more than once. Wrapping about him as a gynast about a pole, she tackled and toppled him to the ground several times, only to yell at him again.
An alarmed gasp from Lily drew his gaze to her. Hands to her mouth, she sat staring in wide eyed shock. “I thought it was because they lived in trees… never made sense to me everyone calling the Haesh that too. Makes so much more sense now.” Slowly, she turned and looked at him in realization she had said that aloud. Her nose and ears turned red at the amusement on his face. He could see she found the metaphor at last; the movement, like squirrels fighting and running about trees.
“Fights like a rabid little squirrel, that one.” He winked at her. “She’s better than most. This is her with holes in her. Imagine when she is on her feet and whole.”
“Seems wrong to desparage something so… amazing.”
“Very wrong.” Aafon nodded and poked at the coals. “History is full of very wrong things done out of jealousy.”
“What was that?!” Lily bolted to her feet. Turning her head, she listened and as Aafon stood, opening his mouth to ask what she heard, the woman threw up a hand to silence him. Then he heard it.
“SPIDER CRAB!” He bellowed at the other two, but his timing was too slow. The monsterous creature must have been among the rocky hills overlooking them. It leapt down into the meadow, not seeing Aafon and Lily beneath the canopy of trees. Looking down he cursed again, both warrior’s weapons were beside their packs at his feet. “Geheshta!” Reaching for them, he was thrown back as Zakeriel appeared, wavering into sight.
Grabbing their weapons, he gasped, “Khes is pinned down. Soil the flame and get out of sight. She’s too weak. We can’t outrun it, and I can’t waver with her.”
As the youth disappeared again, glimmering away, Aafon and Lily gaped for a moment, then he turned and pointed for her to do as Zakeriel said. “Kick it out. Grab your gear, don’t worry about the food. We can hunt more game.”
“But we can run! The woods! Surely it can’t follow into the woods!”
With that assertion, the beast slammed one leg, a twelve foot length, down into the ground. It narrowly missed Khes but splintered a fallen log and sent the pieces spraying into the sky. While planted down, the Erahs took the opportunity to ‘squirrel’ her way up the semi-straightened leg, three-foot in diameter at its thickest digit like the broadest trees Lily had ever seen. Khes kicked and rebounded off its other limbs to bounce her way upward until she reached the carapace of the massive six foot long body. It swept its foreleg out, the pointed end split in two– a claw. It snapped out and about. Snatching up a tree, it crushed it at the base then weilded it, flung it toward Zakeriel, who wavered away. The tree landed with a loud crack and rumble.
“Trees don’t stop it, luv.” Aafon took Lily’s hand and pulled her toward an outcrop of rock along the large tor. “Nestle on in there. Stay low.” He handed her his dagger.
“What the tello is this going to do?!” she balked at him.
The man shrugged, “slip it between the joints. Sensitive as our softests bits in there. It’ll reel in pain long enough to run.”
His heart ached as he watched her burrow down into the rootbed and hide her face, unable to bear watching more people she knew die horrible deaths. He knew her well enough to know the tear at her eye was shame that she was no warrior to give any aid. Why the tello are they not just running away? Her voice yelled in his mind, perhaps his own voice of reason. Surely they were clever enough to outrun a clumsy beast with such poor eyesight.
“I’ll come back for you Lily. I’ll get that hard-headed girl and I’ll come back,” he assured her. Two pink eyes blinked up at him, then squeezed shut and ducked behind her arms.
Taking off at a run toward the other two with his sword, the Ganroth called to Zakeriel, “I’ll distract it at the fore! Take out its back legs!” Battle rage was all that propelled the youth forward. That wavering trick he pulled exhausted him as much as it had the day they met. Lily was not wrong that the two were still too injured to do real combat. The Erahs seemed conscious of it and had not attempted to summon her Blade Spirit, although, should panic set in, instinct would take over.
Sword in hand, Aafon used his right to hurl rocks at the exposed and unprotected eyes, keeping the Majoidea’s attention as Zakeriel dodged the back legs and worked at finding a reachable seam in the exoskeletal armor. Upon the crab’s back, Khes held on, but the slick back and its swift, jerking movements threatened to throw her off.
“HOW DO I KILL IT?!” She screamed at him.
“JUST CUT OFF THE EYES! IT’LL RUN…or…trample us…”
Raising her Alces blade, the woman hacked down. It looked like she was trying to chop a tree with a butterknife. Her teeth bared, she screamed in frustrated rage as each blow did little but cause it to buck and try to toss her free.
“NO! KHES DON’T!! YOU AREN’T STRONG ENOUGH YET!”
Zakeriel’s scream alarmed Aafon, then he felt the faint kilter of vertigo the youth must have felt first. She was bending time. As the wave passed and the woman’s flurry of spiraling white wind passed, one of the beast’s eyes fell at his feet, but Khes slid off the crab’s back in an unconscious slump. As it reared up with an ear-piercing scream, Zakeriel ran for her. Aafon dodged and rolled back out of range of the stomping front legs, the frantic claws snapping out at him.
“GET BACK!” A voice barked at him. “GET THEM CLEAR!”
Not questioning, Aafon rose and shielded Zakeriel, as the knight carried Khes across the meadow, breaking for the treeline. Once the Shae was a distance, Aafon stopped and turned. A Ganroth girl wavered into place upon the bucking Majoidea’s back, a blade planted into its back and another raised high.
“Oh, clever girl…” he mused as he watched with fascination.
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