First draft disclaimer: This narrative is a first draft, and is therefor subject to grammar errors, repetitiveness, lack of clarity, and other issues. Later drafts will smooth such things over, but for now they remain. Please be tolerant.
The Hunt Turns to Fear
Chloe held her sword at the ready, but Dool just kept walking, and so she followed suit. The Riley on the ridge walked along it’s edge to keep up, and more came out of the thick woods at the top and joined them. Some of them moved on all fours, she noticed. No, most of them. It was only a few lookouts in the back that stood upright.
One of the Rileyreached down the ridge and started scaling it.
“Ah!” Elliott yelped, but Chloe stifled his mouth, her arm swinging violently to his face.
“No, keep walking.”
Dool nodded. He knew what she was planning, and knew it would work.
“I agree, look to the north, it’s the dragon’s hole.”
Chloe glanced ahead for a second and then looked back at the mess of Riley. She had seen it, a giant hole in the ground, probably two or three times her height in diameter. Chloe was surprised to see it, but the emotion was muted by her nervousness.
Most of the Riley were on the cliff’s edge now, scaling it on all fours. It was a nearly vertical drop, but the creatures had long, sharp talons that easily found purchase.
Chloe, who hand’t yet let go of Elliott’s face did and then started running. The Lussa men followed and she let them overtake her. The Riley on the cliff realized their mistake, they were now stuck slowly climbing down while their prey ran. The three that were still on top broke out into sprints and passed Chloe’s party. A couple of them, women, began their descent right across from the hole in the ground.
Chloe, Elliott and Dool was sprinting at it, the space between the foot of a mountain on the left, and the ridge on the right. Behind the giant ground-tunnel was a dense black forest. Chloe looked back to the nearby pair of Riley. They were halfway down now. The first group was reaching the foot and getting their bearings. She looked to the one that hadn’t climbed down. He stared at her, and then a pair of giant black raven wings spiked from his back. They looked ragged and damaged. He leapt off the bluffs and sped through the air towards the mouth of the gorge, landing in only a few seconds between them and their escape route.
Chloe pointed excitedly, “I knew those knobs Riley had in their backs were vestigial limbs! I was right! Take that Jeremy!”
Dool arrived shortly and drew a sword as tall as him. It would have been a useless and ridiculous weapon, but it was, in fact, hollow. Inside were a few support rods so that it did not warp, but other than that it was filled with air. In effect, Dool wielded a weapon with a large, intimidating cutting surface, but that was still light enough to be functional.
He swung into the winged Riley, who leapt back and flapped once, covering the distance of the dragon’s hole. Chloe noticed that the wings didn’t gift him with perfect flight, just a sort of hovering glide. Th hexapod nearly fell into the hole, but grabbed the opposite edge and pulled himself up.
The other two were upon Elliott and Chloe now. Chloe brandished her weapon and sneered. The two Riley women stared at her, and she stared back. Faces unintelligible, brutish, wild. She gave a threatening cut into the air and they stepped back. And then more of them appeared at the edge the woods beyond the vertical cavern. It was a second group. Those that Chloe had tricked had caught up with them now, and were standing, considering her.
“Let’s go!” Dool shouted, and then jumped into the hole.
Elliot strode after him, but turned. Chloe had already been forced into melee with the two women, and the winged one was striding around the hole towards her.
She was making her way back, but could only move so fast whilst maintaining her defence with the sword. Elliott was worried, Chloe seemed to him an awful swordsman. She obviously knew what she was doing, but he could tell she was entirely unpracticed.
Elliott’s face tensed and he took two thick pistols from high on his hips. A pair of giant sparks went off from the tips, like fireworks. Exactly like fireworks. They were only fireworks. The two were entirely surrounded now, sixty or seventy creatures from two different tribes watching them with interest. A few of them seemed hungry. The winged beast took one of the women who was fighting Chloe away. They joined the ring and began to make out.
Elliot said, “what the hell is he doing?”
Chloe said, “it is likely that those two finished with us, and will go behind that line and begin copulation. The 100% Riley have sex whenever and with whoever. We are monogamous, they are promiscuous.”
She was nervous, and so began to speak like an encyclopædia.
“What? So, how do they know whose kids are whose?”
“I don’t know if this is the best time for it, but they don’t. Children are raised by the village. It’s kind of romantic.” Chloe said, keeping her opponent at bay
Chloe could, and was handling the remaining Riley woman. The other Riley just watched.
“Why aren’t they attacking?” Elliot shouted.
“I have no idea. If I were to guess, it seems that there are too few of us.”
“Hyaah!” She cut into the Riley’s abdomen. Superficial, but drawing blood. “They’re attacking by first come first serve, and then by rank. The most important will get a shot at the food before everyone else. I think it’s an ancient rules system that keeps them from fighting and eating each other. They are known eat each other.”
Chloe caught her breath. It seemed her victory started a fervor among the encircled watchers. They started hooting, jumping, hollering. Three or four of them had wings. One of the wings was missing it’s feathers, and it looked like he had a messed up, handless, extra pair of arms.
“Uh oh.” Elliot said.
He reloaded his pistols and shot one into the sky. This seemed to make things worse.
Then a few, five Chloe counted, broke out and ran at them on all fours, dog like.
“No no no!” Elliot backed up and started shouting.
This welcomed another ten. They sprinted at Elliott, who fell to the ground, and the nearest one leapt on him. Chloe caught her in the ribs with the King’s sword and she lost momentum, clattering on the grass and stone, taking the weapon with it. The others stopped and watched. Chloe brandished her short, claw-like nails at them and sidled, edging towards her lost weapon.
“Elliott, don’t worry.”
“Why do they have wings?”
“Riley have birdlike features. Their ancestors, the Obsidian, had an extra digit, like a claw, between the ring and middle finger. Biologically, it technically was a giant talon.”
“Wonderful!” He wavered.
“Give us another blast.”
“Right.” Elliott reloaded and dazzled the confused Riley again. They seemed very nervous about attacking, despite their numbers advantage.
“Why doesn’t this second group of attackers-”
“Ahh!” A joyous whisper cut into his words.
Elliott stopped, disgusted, and continued, “all charge us at once?”
“They can tell that I might win.”
He stopped staring at the small group that had broken off from the rest, and instead started staring at Chloe, “what?!”
Chloe’s expression tightened as one of the winged Riley recovered from the daze and jumped at her. It’s hands widened, as if pulled apart, and made a squelching noise. Then two large black talons spiked out They were nearly the length of a forearm.
“Oh, look at that, the talons!” Elliott was becoming hysterical, “Mother Nature definitely had to give them built in weapons. Of course!”
Chloe looked at the creature obstinately and her eyes drained. Pupils, juices, and irises turned to gel and streamed down her face, and then she let out two beams of plasma. Elliott gave that laugh that is usually reserved for the insane.
“Oh great, laser eyes.”
Laszor eyes are common on Absolute Earth. The Solune, Lussa, and Riley in that order have the easiest time learning how to control them.
The laszors (they were not beams of light, but rather rays of plasma) were a dull, semitransparent yellow. They hit the Riley as it plummeted to Chloe, and burned like acid. Chloe controlled the rays with mental finesse, changing their nature. They grew more transparent, and more grey than yellow. They started to push at the Riley, and burn less. Chloe shoved the creature, keeping it in place a few inches from her until it fell to the ground. Then, still firing from her eyes, she changed their nature once more, and the colour turned deep yellow. The coloured parts concentrated in the centre of the transparent plasma and formed a black core. The core cut into the Riley like a torch.
Chloe changed targets, nearly blind by her own rays, and hit a different creature. Then she stopped. At once, the enemy saw their chance. Chloe was breathing heavily. She had converted nearly six pounds of joule and fat into plasma energy, and it had exhausted her.
“Let’s go!” She graveled.
Chloe turned and then every single Riley fell upon her and Elliott. Even the naked pairing that had so recently finished with each other. Chloe realized that they truly were surrounded now. The group that had been on the other side of the hole had rounded it while she was using her laszors, and she was now trapped.
Two of Riley fell upon her first, clawing, and then three more. They started biting, and the featherless one cried out, whistling like a train. Elliott’s screams drowned all thought.
Chloe choked on her own blood and tried to breathe, smothered by these animals. She blasted laszors mercilessly out of every wound. The Riley relented only enough for her to get to her knees. Then one of them erupted in fireworks. Another blast granted Chloe time enough to stand. She stopped firing and pulled her fluids back into her eyes.
Hopelessness knocked at the door of her mind of Chloe’s mind. She opened it, saw her unwelcome visitor, and then slammed the door in it’s faceless features. There’s only one thing to do, she thought. Fly.
Chloe conjured from within her mother’s Condor ability, and the joints buried beneath her shoulder blades sprouted giant white wings in a matter of moments. No blood, just beauty.
And that was enough.
The Riley army immediately backed off, some scowled, others terrified. Chloe had not expected this. She didn’t even have to fly to escape them. She simply kept her wings outstretched and they avoided her, giving her a few bodies worth of berth.
Chloe calmly walked to Elliott and lifted him off his feet. It seemed that he had been screaming out of terror, and not out of pain. He was entirely unharmed. They only wanted Solune meat it seemed.
She threw him into the hole like a javaline. [Not a javelin. Similar but separate weapons.] Then she turned to the army and wailed at them, her voice a high clicking growl.
“They must still have fears from those months back when the Condor army passed through here. I wonder if some of them became Condor food? It’s quite likely.”
She didn’t care if they heard. In fact, she was enjoying the intimidation her wings granted. She screeched at them again. The nude couple ran.
Then one by one, four by four, the rest left. Some terrified, others indifferent. Half went around the hole to the north, the other half east up the ridge. Only the featherless man remained.
He whistled, grunted and honked. Chloe understood a bit of what he said. It was a language not unlike Elken. Chloe had learned Elken only a few years ago, and was happy for it.
She said, “Elken?”
The featherless sneered, but spoke Elken, “Chi il el il-la hammin-na orias?”
Chloe nodded, removing her sword from the ribs of the woman that had tried to attack Elliott.The Riley whimpered, whining not unlike a wounded dog, and then scampered to the feet of the featherless.
This man clearly had some wisdom, possibly even greater than Chloe’s.
He said, “Il el-la matron spili,” whistle, “inna al il?”
Chloe scowled at this. She said, “il el-la,” shriek, incorrect whistle, “il-el matron spili el nei.”
Chloe could not help but speak Elken with an accent, as her throat lacked the air pockets necessary to make the train whistle sound they used.
The Riley shook his head, “Al-al-al-il splili nei ne alous.”
Alous was not a word that she knew. She would look it later up though, as she didn’t want to talk with the Riley for too long. Others might return.
Chloe shrugged and said, “I don’t know any matron spirit, Al-al nei,” incorrect whistle, “ei.”
The Riley nodded, then lifted the injured woman with his featherless wing-arm limbs. They brought her to his arms, and he carried the wounded creature away to the east, bridal-style.
Fall into the Sky
Chloe tested her wings, and then flew into the air. She took her time, wading the thin sky for nearly four minutes. Then she allowed herself to drift into the hole.
The world sped by at high velocity and the air slowly became thinner. Chloe folded her wings up and gasped for breath. It was like being on a mountaintop, but instead she was falling through the crust of Absolute Earth.
The entire journey took ten or twenty minutes, although it felt much shorter to Chloe. Halfway through, she splashed through a thin layer of water that had become trapped in the center and gravity switched. She had just enough velocity to make it to the other side of the planet.
Chloe peeked out of the hole and saw silver desert. She grabbed the edge and lay on the ground, panting. Her well endowed chest rose and fell a couple times.
“No, I need to find the Lussa men.”
Chloe stood and looked around. No one around… She began to stalk west, towards what looked like a large city silhouetted against the night. And then her exhaustion crept up on her.
And then, the people who had hunted and caught Dool noticed her. She was their real target, and they were eager to do their job.