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Legend Number One:

The Renth

Tholomere, there are reasons why Dream Warriors adhere so fast to the Three Immutable Laws of Movement in this incredible realm—sane reasons—insane reasons.

No one knows how it got here. I have theories based upon the accidental (at first) shifting or phasing of Kelly Davenport from our known Plane of Existence to an entirely different one. Even if she could only see through the subject’s dreams, somehow she managed to get through. She was very special, unique.

In the end, the how’s and why’s were meaningless.

This is the True Legend of the Renth, taken from the Warrior Divine Spirit, Tranquility, the living Serenity’s field notes and her extant testimony to me last winter, recalling one of the most bizarre events in the History of Man.

Less than one season before the Tarosians came, the Golden Warrior was operating with Team 4, a very colorful bunch, dedicated to Serenity and her ideals of justice—righteousness. A thousand seasons ago, Terra was a politically eruptive world in the throes of constant war. Team 4 became known across the lands for tracking down serial killers, outlaws and rogue Warlords. This was Halo Stone’s second Team, giving him seniority as Serenity’s Number One…

 

East Tumblewood, three hundred leagues north-northwest of Annamore Keep

 

“WOMBAT THERE!” SERENITY pointed between slashes of the Golden Scimitar and the little man rushed in behind the Giant. Blood gushed down the tree-trunk leg, yet the ten-foot behemoth continued to swing his Greatsword with abandon.

“Let him do it Tolk,” the beautiful Captain admonished, downing her opponent and moving in to assume the Giant’s adversaries. He backed away from the vanguard, allowing the tiny Field Medic a quick moment to stuff a full roll of gauze into the hole in his thigh and slap a palm of sticky resin over the spear-wound—burning the vessels closed.

“YA! Little man!” Tolk flinched to the sting of the resin, flashing a quick nod and muscling his return into the melee with another deep bass shout.

Now Serenity backed away, holding her arms out, letting Wombat examine her torso—more of the stinging tree sap over the cut that was nothing. She took a moment to survey her team in action:

Tolk the Giant was incredible as always. Ten feet of muscle and mania, the beast of a man was fiercely loyal to the ideals and philosophies of the Golden Warrior. His weapon was a specially forged Greatsword—much larger than a Claymore, it was a monster of a weapon—thick, double edged and unstoppable when it gathered momentum in the arc. She snorted a laugh when Tolk grabbed a soldier by the throat and threw the man as a flailing kitten into the enemy’s arms.

To Tolk’s left, fought Wilhelm Whetstone, rogue First Knight from Toramore, Whetstone simply abandoned his post at the call of the Golden Warrior. An old friend from the desert wars of Toramore, the former enemy turned fast friend, Wilhelm matched Serenity on the desert sands until the horns blew and both sides retreated—the only adversary ever having done such. She sought him out that night, sneaking behind enemy lines and befriending the worthy First Knight. She smiled as he commanded over two men with that Toramorean Longsword, swinging the weapon smoothly, alternating hands…

Aside Wilhelm was Badger Dale—Physician, Biologist and Master Swordsman. Badge was tall, favoring an Annamorean Longsword. Though he was recruited to Team 4 as a Doctor, his prowess with the sword kept him on the front line often; leaving the majority of the medical duties to little Wombat.

Serenity looked down to her tiny friend and comrade. Wombat was from the Greystone Caverns. His area of expertise was field triage, arresting critical wounds in seconds. A medical student, he worked for Disruption Control in the deep catacombs, bandaging up search parties and exploration teams, becoming an expert in assessing injuries accurately—saving countless lives. He was asked to join Team 4 following a cave in rescue mission where the cunning Little saved more than fifty lives and single-handedly killed five Nightmare Cats while defending his patients, waiting for back-up teams to arrive.

On the opposing side of the Giant, Takoya Skye fought fiercely, using her hands and feet as much as her black steel Katana to down her adversaries. She was a tall raven-haired woman from the Shalimar Islands—a Tai-Shon Master, Serenity was introduced to the Martial Artist by her bonded Spirit Tranquility and the three quickly became fast friends.

Next to Takoya was Gnoth, the Waer of the Weeping Wold. Despite the strange title given to him by the Divine Spirit Tranquility, Gnoth was a dedicated team member. A Waerloga from east of the White River, Gnoth met Serenity in a stand of Giant Willows, (the Weeping Wold), where he had taken residence as a wilderness Monk. Gnoth wielded a hardened wooden Staff wrapped in tight coils of copper and steel filament. He used the Staff to release accumulated salvos of lifeforce and electromagnetic energy into his victims. He was trusted amongst the team members, having proven himself in battle countless times.

And then there was Halo Stone. Serenity watched the muscleman barbarian with the brain of a scientist. Halo held dual Masters in Applied Physics and Engineering yet spun his twin Khukuri Longswords as if he were born for nothing more than killing. She felt a twinge of admiration for the handsome warrior.

It was only a twinge…

Wombat was watching the line. A mercenary somehow broke through and the cunning Little slung a dagger into the eye socket at ten paces.

“Say Cappy,” he asked his boss nonchalantly, breaking her frozen stare at Halo.

“Go,” she replied, already looking for a place to jump back into the fight.

“Remember, Gaston knows our target’s location—the blond in the back watching all of this.”

Serenity refocused through the mess of flailing arms and weapons. Sure enough, a man with long soft blond hair was not fighting—he was watching intently. The Golden Warrior whistled shrill three times and Tolk the Giant regressed from the fray.

“Captain?” he asked.

“Other side please,” Serenity asked, giving the hand signal for trebuchet.

“Hang on,” Tolk grabbed her free arm, hoisting his boss into the air. He snatched her left thigh and whipped about three times, releasing his Captain with a grunt…

Gaston looked up too late—the Light of Solaris blotted out by the flying body of Serenity. She tackled the surprised Warlord, rolled and came to a crouch with the Golden Scimitar firmly on his pulsing throat.

“Call for the stand down,” Serenity whispered.

“Sod off Serenity I aint afraid of ya—fight ya way out of here,” Gaston was brave—give him that.

The Golden Warrior smiled her respect to the man and then shouted at a scream over the battle.

“THIS MAN WAS YOUR ONLY PAYDAY!” she brought the Scimitar across the neck, taking the head clean…

All fighting stopped.

“None of you shall be paid for your services,” Serenity said the words and swords fell limp. “Yeah that’s what I thought.”

Wombat walked fearlessly through the frontline up to the beautiful Captain with long brown curly hair and deep brown glassy eyes.

“Boss?”

“Go,” she pointed a scarred finger and winked.

“That was our payday too—the Princess?”

“I am glad you asked Wombat. LISTEN UP! Where is this asshole hiding Princess Adessa?” Serenity asked the crowd and the lot pointed, murmuring…

“Farmhouse three clicks up the road—tool shed out back,” one of the soldiers answered loudly, hoping now to get out of there with a beating heart.

Several hours later on the road to Annamore, Serenity rode her White Majestic, August aside the Princess of Cytheria. Adessa was just a kid—truly Tempest’s likeness, the girl resembled her Mother almost perfectly. Poor thing had been beaten senseless, cut, and probably much worse. Poor thing breathed the crisp air in deep with a smile of gratitude to the freedom of such a simple thing.

The Golden Warrior shared no love for the Royals in Cytheria, but Adessa was different—she was tough, a survivor and good with a sword, Serenity knew she was training at the Castle on the Leaf and excelling.

“Did they take your weapon my Liege?” she asked as they clip-clopped casually down the rarely used wooded path.

“Yes,” Adessa answered.

“What is your favor?”

Adessa looked to her rescuer and blushed.

“I favor the Eastman Scimitar.”

Serenity nodded sagely. The Eastman was a longer, straighter version of the Golden Scimitar, possessing a long curved pommel, rubberized grips and a finger ring meeting the ventral quillon.

“Wilhelm?” Serenity called.

“Aye Captain,” the deposed Toramorean moved forward on his Black Beauty stallion.

“Search the wagon bed for an Eastman Scimitar,” Serenity looked back to Adessa, this time with a smile. “That’s a rare sword. If he took it he kept it, which means we should have it now.”

“Got it!” they heard Wilhelm pilfering though the gear, nearly falling from the saddle as he leaned. He held the sheathed weapon aloft and galloped back to the girls up front. Serenity motioned and the First Knight gingerly gave the Sword back to its owner.

“My cousin David works in the Eastman Foundry—they make fine steel my Good Lady,” he smiled, met eyes with the boss and receded into position. Adessa hugged her Scimitar, smiling with her eyes closed. That was when Serenity realized the Princess had the heart of a warrior.

“Ascend any?” Serenity asked coyly, curious.

Adessa pulled the pommel away from the scabbard, revealing the dried blood on the metal.

“Good girl,” the Golden Warrior nodded. “Stay with us for a while—train with us,” Serenity moved her cunning browns to the fading skyline, closing them, realizing a novice would be a liability, but accepting that responsibility.

“I would be honored, Lord Captain.”

“Keep close to me until they get to know you. Don’t talk to Badger Dale, he will only want to mount you. Tolk is a big baby, Wombat’s a little baby, Wilhelm is a kind ol’ chap, but he’s wanted in Toramore so you do not see him. Don’t talk to Takoya or the Waer of the Weeping Wold.”

“Waer…who?” Adessa panned her eyes behind them to the team.

“The Monk in the robes,” Serenity clarified. “Be aware at all times—these men and women are primary alpha warriors—not to be trifled with.”

“And who is the handsome one with the muscles?” Adessa blushed again when she met eyes with Halo and he smiled back.

Serenity paused—maybe too long. Adessa shot her blues to the Captain, momentarily speechless, staring back at the warrior with a baby face and the physique of a wild animal.

“He’s…he’s…my Number One. Don’t talk to him either, you’ll only want to mount him,” the Golden Warrior replied, snorting a laugh, immediately slapping her thoughts into check.

Adessa sighed, returning her mind to the woodland trail.

 

Northern Green Riding Academy, twelve leagues due north of Toramore.

 

Just north of the Shining Towers, a vast grove of cherry trees rested comfortably upon a bright green blanket of thin wispy rye grass. Two equestrian students galloped past a small sapling, rustling the leaves.

The atmosphere shimmied, blurring then refocusing, revealing a mass of black, dark-dark purple and brown.

It opened its sets of bright red eyes, surveying the grove, watching the two White Majestics and their novice riders disappear among the cherry tree folds. It raised its head high, taking in the oxygen-rich atmosphere, pausing and hefting the air in and out like a bull, seconds away from the charge.

Accretion; the unexplainable force compelling atoms to gravitate towards one another—perhaps this was the agent. An astral path of connection? Again, it will never be known for certain. Regardless, the creature felt a compulsion and it followed, striding, then leaping and bounding, discovering great strength from a light gravity. It struck the grass and jumped high above the tree line…

White clouds, blue sky, yellow Sun above a mountainous, forested terrain.

It hit the deck softly and ran like lightning towards the pull—Team 4.

 

“Lord Captain, let me do that please,” Adessa respectfully held a hand out for the brush and Serenity complied, impressed. “He is beautiful,” she said of August, pulling the soft groom through the bright white hair. After a moment, the Princess stopped to meet eyes with her new boss.

“Have you seen Aurora?”

“I have, not two months past. She was in the Middle Greys with Olipho,” the humble reply.

“Does she know she has a Sister?” Adessa asked meekly, eyes already watering.

“Yes she does Adessa. She would love to meet you but you rarely leave Cytheria.”

“Yeah, Mom and Dad keep me under tight lock and key. They are still devastated over Aurora leaving and hooking up with that guy,” Adessa spit to the side. “Momma says he’s one of the Waerloga Kin,” Adessa shot her eyes across the dale, landing nervously on Gnoth—he was gazing coldly back—damn right he heard.

Serenity moved between them. “Don’t stare at him either,” she admonished, smiling. “Olipho is actually a good guy. He keeps Aurora happy, he challenges her and she needs that.”

“Sorry,” the teenage Princess returned her attentions to the White Majestic, the smile immediately returning when August bristled and nudged her softly with his nose.

“He likes you. Finish up and eat. We spar tonight beneath Luna,” Serenity walked away and Adessa’s blue eyes shot wide with disbelief.

Sparring with the Golden Warrior? My blade will actually touch the Golden Scimitar! Her thoughts raced like a wild pony before a clowder of Furys, until broken by a whistle followed by a waive from Wombat’s chubby little hand.

“Get over here and eat, you’re gonna need it,” the Little laughed, joined by the others.

“Yeah she will,” Takoya grinned evilly facing Serenity. “Is she a Scrub now?”

“After a fashion, yes!” the Captain replied.

“Come and eat Scrub…you will need it,” Gnoth said the words and Team 4 went eerily silent, each member lost in reflective thought. A long uncomfortable moment passed.

“Did I do some…?”

“SHH!” Takoya shot back, rising to a stand, tilting her head, looking intently at the leaves on deck.

Then Adessa heard it—somewhere far away a Fury was fighting. Everyone suddenly stood. Another tense moment and Serenity spoke at barely a whisper.

“That’s not right,” she said as the Big Cat’s growls became shrill squeaks.

“It’s…it’s losing!” Badger Dale quietly added.

“Great Bear?” Tolk offered, bears being the only creatures on the planet capable of defeating the Fury one-on-one.

“South of Greywall?” Serenity.

“Just no way,” Badge.

“Gotta be a bear,”

Then they heard a screech, a chaotic scream, a horrifying wail unlike anything any of them had heard before. The sonic vibrations of insanity flew throughout the wood like a thunderhead shockwave, ceasing abruptly, leaving the forest in utter silence. Even the birds in the trees were frozen in place, petrified, unable to flee on the wing.

“What was that?” Badger Dale asked anyone.

“You’re the Biologist,” said Takoya, rubbing the upraised hairs on her forearm.

“Yeeeeah that wasn’t on the finals,” Badge again, eyes panning the treetops in wonder.

“Was that Biology?” Tolk asked. “Sounded more like a metal being torn apart or scratched to me.”

Serenity chirped twice, each warrior grabbed a handful of venison, jumping for their gear, breaking camp fast.

“What’s going on?”

“Welcome to the whirlwind kid—Team 4 is back on the clock,” Wombat handed Adessa her Eastman with his brows furrowed. “This should be on your body at all times, don’t set it down again Scrub.”

“MOVE!” Serenity barked from atop August.

Two clicks east of the abandoned camp, Serenity signaled a halt as the Divine Spirit Tranquility manifested in their path.

Lord Captain, something is wrong.

“Ya think?” Wombat.

“Stay close my friend, we heard something strange,” Serenity.

I have just felt something very unusual; the Realms of Chaos are disturbed. There has been some sort of wave…a vibration. It was potent but now completely absent. Has the Waer of the Weeping Wold noticed anything odd?

Tranquility once referred to the Spiritual and Dream Realms as the ‘Chaos’. Back then, she was little more than a fledgling explorer in the Dream Ethos, limiting her adventures to visiting Serenity in her sleep. Together they shared a babbling brook with a mossy bank behind a tall wooden door but that was all—to date.

“No Madam, I have not been meditating either,” Gnoth answered with a deep respectful bow at the hip.

“Something evil has come through, ha!” the Little stepped forward grinning wicked, “like one of those things we dream about—rather nightmare over, with dripping fangs and bloody claws…we are all going to die!” Wombat whispered a mock cry. ”Noooo! Hep me, hep me.”

Everyone stared incredulously at Wombat. The Spirit broke the silence.

Why are you on this team little man?

Serenity held a hand aloft for peace.

“He keeps our boys and girls alive—sorry. Tranquility, will you scout a perimeter my friend?” the Golden Warrior shook her long brown curls at the impetuous Little.

Aye Lord Captain.

Tranquility rose in the air, pointing an incorporeal finger at Wombat as she flew slowly past.

I am watching you, Mister smarty-mouth.

 “She can’t take her eyes off me and says I’m really smart all the time. What does that tell you Scrub?” Wombat asked Adessa as he leaped on the wagon and flicked the reins, clicking tongue to teeth.

“She thinks you’re a dick,” answered with a grin as the wagon shrugged forward.

“Wait—what?”

 

Serenity slowly walked August off-trail in front of Wombat and Adessa on the wagon, her team fanned out behind them. Tranquility quickly returned—they were clear for a league in all directions. She rose Twenty feet above the hunting party, hovering behind the Golden Warrior, watching, listening…the silence of the forest was stifling, dangling the fear before each rider’s nose like irresistible meat—all of them declining to taste of it, keeping rational mindsets.

Suddenly, the birds bean chirping, and the fauna of east Tumblewood sparked back to life as though nothing happened.

“Okay, this is really weird,” said Badger Dale to no one.

They soon found the carcass of the Fury—spread apart on the forest floor, dissected. Badger examined the remains carefully, Takoya, Wilhelm and Tolk set a perimeter. Gnoth assisted Badge as Wombat, Adessa and Serenity observed.

“It didn’t eat anything…nothing is missing,” Badge began.

“What else?” Serenity asked her Physician/Biologist.

“No blood,” Tolk answered for him. “There’s not a drop of blood anywhere.”

“Which means this occurred post mortem,” Serenity finalized.

“Correct Cappy.”

“So it sucked an animal that big dry before pulling it apart?” Wombat asked.

“Well, that’s another thing,” Badger replied. “This body was not ripped apart—it was cut, very cleanly and precisely. Captain, it would take a crew of lab workers most of a day to do this surgically to an animal this size. Look here,” he held the heart with both hands. “Every vessel and artery is intact as though this were being prepped for preservation or anatomical display.”

Tranquility floated above the carcass.

The organs and viscera are displayed in their proper anatomical positions. As well, it seems the pine needles were spread flat and smoothed before the…dissection.

“She’s right,” Tolk commented from a full stand, seeing the carnage with a clearer eye.

“This happened less than an hour ago,” Wilhelm commented, snatching the reins on his nervous Black Beauty—all of the Equines were noticeably agitated.

“Cause of death Doc?” Serenity kept her browns on the wood.

“No sign of trauma whatsoever.”

“Ahem,” Wombat piped up. “I see a shitload of trauma Doc.”

“No you don’t,” Badger Dale shot back. The Little was already nodding, expert eyes searching for ligatures, bruising, wounds—not a damn thing.

“He’s right. Captain, I do not believe an animal could have done this.” Wombat met eyes with Serenity.

“That was my line, but he’s got it Cappy,” Badge jumped back atop his Black Beauty Racer, bringing the stallion about. “Question is—where is he, she…them?”

And as if the forest was waiting for its turn to speak, the answer came with the baying and howling of a distant pack of Great Wolves…they were harrowing something.

“Tranquility?” Serenity whispered and the Spirit flew silently towards the sounds as Team 4 keened their hearing, concentrating…

Wolves are a vocal lot. Social critters and hunters, the barks, whines, howls and growls vary greatly. Canines can actually make more distinct vocalizations than humans and specific actions always accompany specific sounds—like the bays and chirps of a pack surrounding a large Great Elk bull, bringing the massive-antlered, highly aggressive creature down as a team.

Badger narrated the action and Adessa listened, seeing the positions of the wolves in her mind.

“Eight of them—a young Alpha with two competitors—five girls,” the Doctor leaned in, tilting the head. “They got him surrounded, he’s big, and they’re scared — hear it?” he shot eyes to a nodding Serenity.

They heard a yelp, unmistakable.

“He got a female,” Tolk.

Another yelp, followed by a scream, like twisting a puppy’s ear—then nothing.

Suddenly, the fight became a cacophony of the growls and screams of the attacking wolf pack—blood curdling in its own right. Badger smiled wide, staring at the pine straw on deck.

They’re giving it to him now, he thought, when it happened again.

One by one the canines were brutally silenced with piercing screams from each. It was over in seconds. Tranquility was coming in like lightning through the trees, shouting.

Lord Captain! You must see this, RIDE!

Forget the mental images through sound—they bolted behind the benevolent Spirit as fast as the horses could manage, the Giant and the wagon rapidly falling behind, when the sound returned as before…

Metal screeching, torn apart, a rabbit pup in the maw of a snake—screaming like a human child, the death throes of a thunderhead: this is but some of the insanity pounding through the eardrums of Team 4, tearing through the auditory nerves and spreading through the cerebrums of each—thrusting the raw, tactile fear down every throat like a murderer shoving the dagger in tight to the quillon...

Wilhelm’s Black Beauty threw him on deck with its own ear-piercing wail of terror as the remainder of the horses stopped in place, frozen like mice in the grass.

“WILL—CALM HIM,” Serenity hissed through clenched teeth, knowing the stallion would reveal their position, nervously panning the trees as the First Knight finally quieted the beast and it froze as the others. She slowly drew the Golden Scimitar, sliding from August’s wide back. A terrified horse is useless on the hunt, she signaled a dismount with a finger to lip.

They distanced themselves from the equines, forming a circle-out in a green nearby meadow. The kind Spirit flew around the nine nervously. She did not have the words for what she just saw performing necromancy on a mutilated pile of Great Wolves, chirping like an inquisitive bird, throat ticking away like a woodpecker on a hollow, and six eyes blinking rapidly — darting over the canine intestines…

Tranquility had long since grown fearless of physical objects, knowing matter simply passed through her ethereal form. Still, something was screaming in the recesses of her consciousness that this thing could indeed touch her—hurt her. She was truly frightened for the first time in fifty seasons as a Spirit.

It is a creature—not from this world Serenity.

She faintly whispered to her friend as the rays of Solaris turned the green canopy orange…night was unfolding its downs over the frightened wood.

Wombat and Adessa were behind Serenity and Halo, the Eastman Scimitar and two daggers shining in the fading light. Wilhelm, Gnoth and Takoya to the right, Badger Dale and Tolk to the left—they waited in utter silence.

Badger Dale was an authority on animal life, but Takoya Skye was that team’s Hunter. The tall Shalimarian with raven-blue hair desperately scanned the dark.

Luna rose as a crescent, barely illuminating the forest, turning the trunks and limbs of the Great Oaks of Tumblewood into the twisted arms and fingers of monsters. As the composure of light changed, Takoya brought two fingers to her eyes and then pointed to a position across from her. She darted her black orbs to Serenity, giving another hand signal. ‘half click, watching us.’

The Golden Warrior nodded sagely, then boldly stepped forward, speaking with the voice of confidence.

“Right here buddy—take your shot,” she stepped into a faint patch of moonlight, sheathed the Golden Scimitar on her slender back and crossed arms beneath breast-plates.

At one hundred feet, the thing emerged from behind an Oak, gracefully stepping into the soft Light of Luna. Serenity lost her breath, her rational business brain shutting down the terror tugging at her heart.

“Badge?” she whispered.

“Human…oid?” the bewildered scientist turned Swordsman replied.

“Get on task, Takoya?”

“Head looks like a Spider,” the tall Shalimarian offered the obvious.

“Bilateral symmetry, bipedal with a prehensile…is that a tail?” Badger’s analytical brain kicked in. “It’s a mammalian organism—aside from the multiple arms and…is that a head? Otherwise it’s human in design.”

The creature opened three mouths, baring insanely sharp fangs and incisors resting in rows of needles and tines. Three pairs of bright red eyes blinked in succession.

Well poke me running,” Wombat whispered and for once, everyone agreed.

Serenity raised a palm high—gesture of peace.

It bounded forward ten feet, using the tail as a third leg. Then it took in air like a blacksmith’s bellows and emitted the sonic insanity that was its scream.

This close, Team 4 clasped ears desperately, dropping weapons involuntarily.

When it was over, the Golden Warrior removed her palms to see blood on the left. Gnoth bravely came astride his Captain, head low in concentration. He spoke quietly.

“Lord Captain, this thing possesses ethereal qualities...I believe it comes from the Dream Ethos.” Gnoth was on the side of Serenity’s newly-ruptured eardrum. She didn’t hear a word.

“Good to know,” she faked it, smiled, and charged…

“Crap! Stay here Scrub, run if it goes bad, you hear me?” Wombat leaped from the wagon behind his comrades, themselves hot on Serenity’s heels—already fifty feet ahead. “Damn we need some Archers,” he added to himself.

Adessa looked down to the wagon-bed: two Longbows, one already strung and tight—she saw the titanium arrows.

At twenty paces, Serenity slid to a stop as the thing struck the forest floor, bounding fifty-feet over the team to land between them and the Princess of Cytheria.

No! Serenity thought as she caught her footing and changed direction, sprinting as fast as she could back to the wagon. The creature was already pilfering through the contents of the payload—no sign of Adessa. Takoya passed her Captain in the foot race, bouncing to a stop not ten paces from the thing.

It raised its eyes to the warriors now surrounding him and began cooing like a Dove, then squawking like a Crow; imitating other birds perfectly. One of four arms reached down, hefting a Broadsword, holding it to the three pairs of eyes as though it was alone…studying the intricacies of the metal in the wide blade.

“Easy there big boy,” Tolk spoke and the creature shot three eyes his way, returning them slowly to the Sword, chirping like a Songbird. Another arm reached down, lifting a canvas bag containing…

“Okay boss, I was gonna tell you about those,” Wombat began.

“Define those?” Serenity asked as the creature removed several tightly wrapped packages.

“Those are the Greystone mining charges we recovered. Enough to level a quarter-click square—kill all of us in the blast and set this Forest on fire Captain.”

The thing examined the rolls of enriched explosives and then dropped them, returning its attentions to the fine metal of the Broadsword.

Up close, Serenity could see the beast was covered head to toe in coarse black hair. Two muscular arms ended in three fingers, the other two ended with four talons the length of daggers. Two strong legs, bending backward at the knee like a bovine, and the tail as thick as the legs…

Something told Serenity the creature was highly intelligent—maybe there by accident. When she formed the thought, the Daemon turned to face her. One of the fingered arms pointed at her, and the thing spoke in three freakish voices from three gaping mouths.

“You come to RENTH.”

“You—come GET me,” Serenity threw the words right back, freeing the Golden Scimitar with a resounding ‘shiing!’

The abomination roared again but Serenity held fast.

It tried to leap, crushing the wagon beneath, just as an arrow lodged tight in its side. It yelped as a wolf might, rolling and striking the forest floor—leaping clear of the moonlit meadow in a magnificent bound.

“Tolk! Wombat! Grab the Scrub!” the Captain ordered, dashing for August. “The rest with me,” she leaped on the White Majestic like a cat, whipping him about to address the Little and the Giant. “Follow at a distance, YAH!”

“Aye Cappy,” Wombat said to the tufts of sod flying free behind them. Adessa came from behind a tree and approached the three and ten footers, still holding the bow and quiver.

“That was foolish Scrub. What if that thing had targeted you?” Tolk placed his massive hands to hip.

“He’s right lassie, you’d be dead for sure right now,” Wombat smiled in the dark as he pilfered through what was left of the gear. “Good shot though.”

“Thanks—sorry.”

“No time, come,” Tolk hoisted his tiny friend to his shoulders and ran, Adessa keeping pace, racing after her newfound comrades in the dark.

 

Giant, Dwarf and Princess were coming in fast, all three desperately attempting to rationalize what they were seeing. Serenity, Halo, Wilhelm, Takoya Badge and Gnoth had it surrounded; each warrior taking swings, fantastically deflected by the Broadsword and talons.

The Daemon held the Sword with one of the fingered hands, repeating the forms of each fighter—emulating the unique styles of each. With the other fingered hand clasped to its chest, its two fighting arms were meeting the fine steel weapons, clacking the dagger-talons on the blades. It made no attempts at offense—didn’t have to, fending off the weapons coming at it from all directions was more than enough.

Serenity tried every tactic she could to get through but the Golden Scimitar struck the claws only—never breaking in…this thing was toying with them.

“Learning how we…STOP!” she shouted.

STOOOOP!” the creature boomed with three distinct human voices, reaching out to strike Badge in the face and Takoya in the chest. Then it leaped again, this time landing before Tolk the Giant, pushing the huge man in the chest with two fists—sending him flying, back-first into the trunk of the nearest tree.

The thing squared off with Wombat and Adessa—pointing a talon at the bowman who hurt him, reaching around to pull that same arrow away from its torso and letting it fall to the deck.

It snarled at the Princess…and then screamed again, turning about, revealing the Golden Warrior clinging to the massive shoulders—sinking the curved Scimitar deep into the beast’s side.

The Renth spun about wildly, flinging Serenity thirty paces away. She scrambled to her feet but the creature leaped again, pounding the leafy ground and clearing the melee; then running insanely fast through the thick Oak-Magnolia stand in the distance. Serenity saw Takoya and Badger Dale, on deck, Tolk as well with Wombat canvassing his massive body for fractures…

She let it go…

 

“Hold steady man,” Wombat poured alcohol over the three lacerations shining across Badge’s once handsome face. He squeezed the pommel of his Longsword—knuckles white from the stinging pain. Badger caught the worst, nothing broken on Takoya or Tolk. “We got lucky,” Wombat added, turning to face Serenity.

“He could have killed us, I’m certain,” his Captain said the words for him.

“Aye, no doubt,” the Little moved to Takoya.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

JA Stone lives in Florida with his wife (a clever factotum), his daughter (a true polymath), and a cat named Nibbler (just a cat).

Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
A.
I am super proud to have four titles on Amazon/kindle: the Ascensions of Serenity trilogy and Eye of the Equifade, book one of Warfell and Fey. More to come soon!
Q. What books have influenced your life the most?
A.
Watership Down, Sword of Shanara, and of course, the Lord of the Rings.
Q. Tell us about the cover and the inspiration for it.
A.
I did the cover myself on MS Paint...I know, right?

Next in:
Science Fiction & Fantasy
Rebirth
The God of Evil searches for who she is
Moonrise
How far will she go to protect her people?
The Torchbearer
In the brightest of places, darkness lurks.