The first full on action scene in BirthRight The Arrival, I hope you enjoy : ) I apologise for the length, please don’t let it turn you off, give it a shot! To set the scene, the lead characters Catherine (Cat), Laura (Loi), Kassandra (Kassie) and Sian along with Cat’s dog Audrey (Audi) and Kassie’s cat Lucky are camping out in a forest on the Planet Sytas which they unintentionally landed themselves on (be careful what you wish for!).
I scrunched the leaves into a better shape and placing the hood of my cloak on top, lay down. It didn’t make too bad a pillow, I guess.
Laura was watching me with an amused expression. “Can’t manage without a pillow?”
“Not yet anyway”. I grinned at her, “but with leaves crunching in my ears all night I might learn to”.
“Why don’t you use Audi as your pillow”, teased Sian. Audi looked up at hearing her name then snuggled back down with Lucky.
“Shuuuussh”, mumbled Kassie, who was curled up like Lucky and Audi, snuggled down in her cloak. I sighed. Not going to work. Scooping the leaves up I crawled to the entrance and dumped them out. I could learn to manage like Kassie.
Crawling back to my cloak I stuck my tongue out at Loi who was still giving me that amused look. Wrapping the cloak around me I pulled my knees up and tucked myself into a foetal position. Only till we reach the castle, then I’m getting a pillow.
Sleep came to me quickly and it must have been around midnight when Audi’s soft growl woke me.
What? What’s she growling about?
Blinking I peered around in the semi darkness, it was a full moon at the moment so I could see quite well. I whispered her name and Audi crept to my side then gave another low growl. Placing my hand on her back I was shocked to feel her fur, erect, like when we’d been chased by the Elgrids.
Oh god, what now? It couldn’t be anything little, considering Audi hadn’t raced out the shelter to scare it off. Audrey isn’t a chicken, but she is sensible. With trembling hands I knelt and strapped my sword and daggers on. I could hear shuffling outside and what sounded like breathing. It was getting closer.
My stomach seemed to have sunk to my feet and I felt a wave of dizziness as fear swept through me. Not again. The village is half a day’s walk away. There’s no way we’ll be able to make it back. I crawled over to Kassie and shook her, placing my hand over her mouth. She mumbled then her eyes flashed open in shock.
“Shhh, something’s outside and Audi thinks it’s bad, strap your sword on and get ready”. Kassie nodded and I turned quickly repeating the process with Loi and Sian. We packed the loose gear into our bags and Loi placed them at the very back of the shelter into the tree’s roots. “When we jump out we’ll pull the shelter down quickly so the bags are covered, we can dig them out later”. We nodded in agreement. Kassie scooped Lucky up and wrapped her round her shoulders, wincing as the cat clung tight. Lucky knew what was out there was nasty and she wasn’t going to be left behind.
Sian crouched at one side of the shelter’s opening and Laura at the other, with Cat and Kassie right behind them. Audi, pressed to Cat’s side, growled again. Sian nodded to Loi and they both ducked low, stepping out of the shelter, the others following.
Loi turned back and kicked the main support branches in the shelter down, the roof collapsed covering the bags as she’d intended and she turned back to the others. “Right, back to back till we sort out what we’re facing, have your swords ready and if you go to strike, step forwards so you don’t clip the person next to you”.
We stared white faced at one another for a moment then turned out, peering into the forest. The rustling in the undergrowth stopped and odd noises could be heard. Soft snarls, whines and a strange husky grunting. I shifted into my fighting stance, aware the others were doing the same and pulled my sword out.
The rustling and strange noises started again, moving closer. I felt my eyes widen in shock at the number of creatures that stepped onto the path in front of us. Fuck.
This was not the few uglies we’d been warned could possibly be in the area.
This was a heap of them. I counted at least ten on my side and from the hiss of surprise from Loi, I knew there were likely that many behind me too. Fumbling with the straps I wrenched off one of my daggers and reached blindly towards Sian.
“Sian” I hissed “take this”, I felt her grab it. “Thanks Cat”.
Kassie’s pulse was hammering in her ears as she stared at them. Holy fucking hell, they’re so close! They had to be the freakiest things she’d ever seen. Just under five foot, with broad shoulders and long arms that came close to touching the ground. Large pointy ears that stuck out and an almost flat head with tufts of fur or hair. Wrinkled faces with slanted eyes that appeared black in the moonlight and short muzzles with pointy teeth, visible when they snarled.
All of them were armed. Maces, evil looking cudgels, pretty much anything heavy with spikes, blades or stakes. Somehow I didn’t think this was the welcome wagon. The creatures seemed to be all arms with heavy strong shoulders. I had a horrible moment of clarity. Surviving this is going to be a mission. ‘Well then start planning!’ Snapped the sensible voice in my mind. Right. I mentally slapped the silly voice that was shrieking in circles and shut it off, far away in my brain. Only sane sensible thoughts allowed. Frantic ideas for survival pinged about in my head and I jumped on the closest one. “Loi”. I hissed, “we should be using Sian as a sniper, is it possible for you to get her to a safe spot?”
Loi groaned inwardly at the thought. “Technically I think I can, but that’ll start this”.
“It’s not like they have good intentions” Kassie called softly “and someone has to start it”. Steeling her stomach against the sudden urge to vomit Loi tensed her shoulders and turned to look at Sian. Sian stared back, her expression stern. “Lets do this. The boulder behind us can be my starting point”, she gave a brief grin. “I’ll shoot, you slash”.
Loi nodded. “Right then lets go”. Feeling her stomach plummet to her feet at the realisation of what was going to happen; Loi turned and strode forwards clenching her muscles.
Kassie shifted closer to my back as we prepared to cover each other as well as Sian and Loi. I pulled my other dagger out and crouched, ready. The creatures in front of us seemed to take that as their signal and surged forwards.
A huge sword, possibly a claymore, swung towards her. Loi jerked backwards out of its arc and before the owner could swing it again, lunged forwards thrusting her sword through them. She shuddered in disgust at the sensation of the sword penetrating live flesh and the blood that spurted over her arm when she wrenched it out. Adrenaline flooded through her, blacking her vision for a moment and she fought hard against the urge to run screaming from it all. Kill or be killed, that’s the way it works. Keeping that grim thought at the forefront of her mind, Loi swung her sword hard at the creatures, focusing on the boulder. Got to reach it!
Sian released an arrow and felt rather than heard the thud as it struck one of the creature’s foreheads. A wave of nausea hit, at the sudden realisation she had just killed a living being. ‘Snap out of it,’ her sensible voice roared at her, ‘this is survival of the fittest. Kill the mongrels!’ Thoughts on track, she ripped another arrow from her quiver and shot a creature advancing on Loi. The boulder was close enough now. Sian glanced around then sprinted the final distance, scrambling up on it. Just in the knick of time, she thought, as she released a volley of arrows at the creatures surrounding Loi. Loi looked astonished at the sudden collapse of her foe and peered through the semi light at Sian. “Thanks!”
Kassie and I continued fighting back to back with Audi ducking around us, snapping at legs and thankfully darting away swiftly. I wished she’d stay out the way but knew she wouldn’t. Kassie hissed in pain, alarmed I twisted to check on her. “Kass! You right?!”
“I’m okay”, she grunted as she slashed out with her sword, removing a creature’s arm. “Lucky just took off up a tree and used my shoulder as her launch pad”. I barked a laugh in relief and noticed Audi bound away to the base of the tree where Lucky was. Thank god.
Laura was suddenly at my side, slashing and lunging. “Glad to see you two are okay” she yelled over the din of the battle.
“We’re good, so far. And Sian?” I hollered back.
Loi started to reply when a flash of lightening lit the forest. Oh crap, she groaned inwardly, as the rain started to pelt down. “Sian’s good” she bellowed and at that moment two more creatures dropped dead, the arrows in their heads still quivering.
So I see. Huh, looks so oddly comical.
I’m glad she’s watching over us. The temperature started to drop, the wind picking up. All in all this night was getting darker, longer and nastier. My torso was wet with blood, none of it mine and my arms seemed almost numb from the weight of the sword. If we survive this my arms are going to be black and blue. ‘If we survive this’, my sensible voice thought, ‘it’ll be a bloody miracle’. Glancing at the others I saw the same drawn, determined expressions as they fought.
The thunder boomed overhead and I ducked without thinking. Whoa. Loud! Lightening lit the sky and the landscape, illuminating the creatures around us. Where the hell are they coming from? For every one I brought down another was in its place.
“Duck!” Loi yelled as she swung her sword over me removing the head of a creature. I dove into a roll and slammed my dagger into the shank of a creature before me. The creature shrieked and swung an arm out striking me across the head.
Cat yelped in pain and Kassie jerked around to see her stagger up from the ground then rip her sword up the torso of a creature. As Cat turned to retrieve her dagger from the body Kassie saw blood running down her chin.
“Cat!” She shrieked in alarm.
“I’m bokay” Cat yelled back, her voice oddly thick. “It bade be bite by friggen thongue”, she spat a mouthful of blood out.
Sian yanked another arrow from her quiver, setting it to her bow. Drawing, she quickly sighted and released, hitting a creature behind Kassie’s back. Seeing the feathers sprout from its forehead gave her a quick sense of satisfaction. It wouldn’t get up again.
A hard slam to her back sent her sprawling off the boulder. She jerked to the side just in time as a mace smashed into the ground where she’d landed. Grunting, she heaved herself to her feet, whipping out the dagger Cat had given her and thrust it into the throat of the mace wielder. Blood spurted from its mouth and over her arm. It slumped to the ground, dead.
Grimacing in disgust she pulled the dagger out and spun around. Nope, nothing on her tail yet. Looking over to the others she saw a creature draw its sword back to skewer Cat, whose attention was apparently elsewhere. Cursing under her breath Sian seized an arrow and had it off before she could blink. The creature slowly toppled to the ground revealing a surprised looking Cat. Seeing Sian with her bow drawn Cat grinned and nodded to her then moved back into the fight beside Loi.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Kassie feint a high jab then drop low with a slash, the innards of the creature she’d attacked spilled out. It uttered a horrific snarl. I felt Loi close to me.
“This isn’t going particularly well” she hissed at me.
No really, I hadn’t noticed.
“Any better ideas?” I snapped.
We looked at each other for a brief moment and saw the answer we already knew. Unless something drastic happened shortly we wouldn’t be here any longer.