The tremors beneath my feet were becoming more violent. My back was beginning to burn from the intense heat behind me. It was as if I was running away from lava rushing down the mountain side. Sweat was beading up on my body and making me gasp for air.
“Keep running, we are almost there,” Jamie yelled, glancing at Gia and me.
“We should shift.” Gia panted out.
“We can’t… we don’t have even a second to spare.” Jamie glanced behind us, and I could see the white around his eyes. “Gods… run faster, you two.” I noticed how tense his face looked. I could see his l!ps pursed together from his side profile. I understood this look. He planned to confront what was coming after us. I was about to say something when Gia’s voice growled angrily.
“Damnit, Jamie, if you plan to fight, I am fighting with you.”
“Gia..” Jamie huffed out.
“Quit yapping and run. There shouldn’t be any air in your lungs to talk. If there is, you aren’t running fast enough.” Stilts said, popping up on top of my head.
“Stilts!” I exclaimed, relieved to know the little man was okay.
“Run. just run…” Stilts poked his cane into my head slightly as I felt his body turn to look behind us. “l’m only going to get one shot at this… let’s hope you guys are fast enough to get out of the way I wanted to ask him what he was talking about, but he was right. I couldn’t afford to use up my precious Oxygen. The ground under my feet was beginning to burn now as whatever it was beginning to close in on us. I could smell a strong sulfur smell as it bellowed loudly. Its breath singed my back. I noticed Gia visibly wince as her shirt began to burn slightly. Small holes were forming. and blisters were popping up under her shirt. This creature was cooking us with its heat.
Faster. I had to run faster. I felt like I couldn’t feel my legs anymore. Was it from exhaustion? The scorching heat? I think I was moving from pure adrenaline. The air was hot and thick. It offered little oxygen, which I desperately needed. Yet, in the distance l could see a small speck of light that grew as we approached it. Finally.. the way out but then what? I couldn’t think of that. I just had to run. Just a bit farther.
A guttural roar behind us made the ground shake. It felt like the blood on my back was boiling as the pain raced through my veins. I wonder if I could command whatever this was to stop? I’ve done it before. I just didn’t have the confidence in myself to do it on demand. I wouldn’t have a choice soon. I would have to try.
“Whatever you do… none of you stop. Just keep running” Stilts yelled out as he began to chant under his breath. I didn’t understand the words.
They were words of an ancient language. As he spoke, I could see a light beginning to glow around me.
“Push yourself, Gia!” Jamie growled, and I could see she didn’t have much left. Blood was dripping down her back and I’m certain mine looked the same. Some of her skin was charred and her shirt was being held by thin fabric strings.
Rubble started falling from the ceiling above us. It started to get dusty. The opening was just in front of us. The creature right behind. Then rocks were falling. Hot breath hissed behind me. Dust hid us all.
“JUMP!” Stilts yelled.
l jumped forward, rolling as I hit the ground.
The crashing sounds of rocks and an angry screech filled the air. Gray powder covered my view as I lied on the cool grass. Grass?! I had made it out of the cave. The air began to clear and I could see the entrance to the mine was covered in stone.
“Can it get out?!” Jamie asked hastily as he knelt at Gia’s side.
“Yes.. but that should hold him for a while.” stilts said, making his way to me. I watched as his eyes softened as he sucked air in through his teeth.
“Why aren’t they healing? What was that?” I heard Jamie’s voice as I closed my eyes. The pain was excruciating and radiating over my back.
“That was a salador, a demon lizard and it was hunting…” l opened my eyes to look at Stilts. “It was searching the mines for you.” I watched him purse his l!ps together.
“If demons are after her, should we get her to Elysium?” Jamie asked as I watched Stilts shake his head.
“Without her, the Chance pack is lost. It seems like they are getting desperate, though. Too bad we don’t have an extra guardian around.” Stilts let out an airy laugh as I tried to make sense of what he was saying. A guardian? I have heard rumors about guardians. They were protectors of the royal fairies.
They were said to be beasts with an unheard-of power.
“Right now, all guardians are at their posts.
Especially with the recent loss in the kingdom.
There is none to spare.” I listened as Jamie sighed.
“So, what about these wounds?”
“It’s a salador, boy. They are lucky to be alive.
These are burns from hellfire itself. They won’t be healing right away. I’ve heard the burns are incredibly painful.”
“Why aren’t we burned?” Jamie asked.
“I can move in and out, avoiding the heat. The girls blocked it from hitting you. You were faster than them and they ran slightly behind you. This is why it pays to be quicker.” Stilts tried to crack a joke, but II couldn’t find it funny.
I was hurting and I needed to push myself back On my feet. I needed to find Sion. Painfully, I lifted to my knees. A strangled cry left my throat as I panted through the pain.
“Stay still” Stilts yelled.
“We can’t stay here.” I looked at him. “If that thing gets out.. Can I stop it?” I watched as he looked down at the ground.
“You can’t stop a salador. Maybe, and I mean maybe if you were an expert in your powers. As you are? No,” I watched as he nodded his head and he looked over at Gia and Jamie. “You are right, we can’t stay here. However, you ladies are in no condition to move”
“I can carry them both. I can put one over each shoulder. Or… I can shift and carry them both.”
“I need to find Sion.” I protested. I wasn’t going anywhere without him.
“Let’s just concentrate on getting away from here. Then we will worry about finding the others “
I could see the worried look on Stilts’ face. If we encountered any opposition right now, we would be sitting ducks. Jamie lifted Gia and walked next to me.
“Are you okay, Gia?” I asked and she gave me a weak smile.
“What this? I don’t even feel it. Talk about making a mountain out of a mole-hill” She said, wincing as Jamie sat her next to me.
Sion? I tried to link to him but didn’t get a response. He was either still fighting, or the fight led him farther away.
“I’m going to shift. Can you two climb on without help?” Jamie asked, looking between us with concern.
“We aren’t lame.” Gia spat out, clicking her tongue. I had to hand it to her. I know she was in agony right now, but she held her aces close to her chest. It was refreshing meeting her. There was a fierceness in her eyes that was unmistakable.
Jamie’s eyes were now on me. He was assessing my wounds and determining if I would be alight. “You heard her. There is nothing wrong with our legs.” They were maybe a bit tender, but our backs received the brunt of it. Our legs were moving, and I am guessing that is why they didn’t get burned up.
“You two are some tough ladies.. ‘I’m sorry.
I glanced up at Jamie, confused, as his eye began to water.
“This shouldn’t have happened. I should have been behind you two. I’m”
“Jamie, you were leading us out. Hard to do that from behind us. This isn’t your fault. Don’t you dare put the blame on yourself, or I’ll punch you.”
“Yeah, what she said.” I smiled, nodding over at Gia. “Besides, it is probably better it happened to us. Men are such babies with pain.” I grinned as Gia laughed quietly.
“Gosh, don’t make me laugh, it hurts.” I watched as Gia looked at Jamie. “We are okay… I’m okay. So don’t.” Just then, there was a loud thud against the rocks that were blocking the mine entrance. “Let’s get out of here,” Jamie said with a sigh before he shifted into an enormous gray wolf. I have heard that the officers under the Alpha King were larger.
Well, larger wouldn’t be how I would describe it. As a gamma wolf, he shouldn’t be anywhere near the size of an alpha. Well, he wasn’t. he was even larger. His large gray bows spread in front of him as he bowed down lower. He was still helping us get access to his back. However, now that I see his size, it would have been a heck of a jump to climb on.
“l still don’t see why we can’t walk,” Gia said, clicking her tongue as she slid her leg over the gray wolf.
“I think you already know why you can’t walk.
The strain will make it harder to heal. You can already feel the effects of hellfire in your body. Your legs may even give out on you.” Stilts said effortlessly, hopping on the back of the wolf.
I knew my legs felt weird. They was a strange numb, tingling sensation that was like stabbing needles over my calf. My legs even felt shaky as I swung it over the wolf. I sifted my fingers in his thick gray fur as he rose to a stand.
“I have to say… Nice work there, Gandolf.” Gia said, turning her head so a sly smile was seen on her face. “That was almost as cool as the you shall not pass moment.”
“I’m much cooler than that make-believe wizard.” Stilts snorted out insulted, as he clicked his heels into the side of Jamie. “Let’s move it, pup!
Jamie gurgled slightly but slowly walked away.
His ears tilted backwards so he could listen to us.
He was being very attentive as he took each careful step. It was obvious he was still worried and afraid to hurt us. Though, looking carefully at Gia’s back now, it looked horrible. If my back looked anything like this, it was no wonder it hurt so badly.
I watched how Jamie’s ears suddenly perked up and moved forward. I also could faintly hear the sounds of fighting in the distance. i wondered if it was my traveling companions. I hope they were alright.
Gia tried to initiate some small talk while we rode on the gray wolf. It was nice to get some distance away from the mine. And I think we were all feeling a bit more relieved being farther away from that creature. We had maybe traveled a few miles when the sound of a twig snapping made the wolf freeze below us. I felt his claws dig into the earth as he shifted his shoulder blades. A low warning growl reverberated from Jamie’s throat as a musty scent rose in the air.
“Shit…” Gia muttered. “Voidless.”
I stared into the woods as pale clay-like creatures emerged. They were just like the ones I had seen before. We didn’t have a choice. We would have to fight.
You ready to stretch your legs?
It’s going to hurt. I can ‘t heal these wounds on our back. It’s taking a long time.
Eh, it hurts now anyways. I replied with a smirk on my face. I was not going to climb on a tree and watch a battle unfold. If there was going to be a fight, I was going to join in.
I pushed myself off Jamie and when I landed, it was with my four silver paws.
“Right, let’s do this,” Gia said as Jamie growled.
“You can’t fight them all, Jamie.” Gia scoffed as she pushed herself off him. Her wolf landed and stood proudly, defiantly facing the voidless.
I shifted my paws into the dirt as I eyed the approaching danger. We wouldn’t focus on the pain. We would focus on the fight.
“Careful.. they aren’t alone out here,” Stilts said from up in a tree branch. He was staring into the distance as he lifted his cane in front of him. Of course, there would be others. I mean, this was my life, after all. It seemed like it was the new normal to face perilous dangers.
Okay then. Bring it on.