Rising, Part 4

Fiction By Jackie West // 8/22/2011

"What is it?" Shuthral asked.
Tala and Chathel glanced at each other again before Chathel began,
"We will stand directly on each side of the door. you will stand directly in front of it and draw the creature in. We will then proceed to kill the animal."
"And if it doesn't work?" Shuthral asked pessimistically.
Tala's eyebrows went down. "We will make it work," she stated firmly.
"Face the facts, please, Tala," Chathel said gently. "It might not work."
"Well, if it doesn't, then I will see you later-somewhere else."
"Let's do it," Chathel said.
She and Tala took their positions at each side of the door.
Shuthral reached out and opened the tent door flap, then standing back, he took a deep breath and said, "This had better work."
He saw a shadow move stealthily behind where he had once been sitting and move toward the door of the tent.
As one, the trio drew their swords.
The shadow paused, then continued to move. Soon, it was standing before the tent.
Shuthral took a deep breath.
With a roar that shook the tent and hurt their ears, the creature leaped into the air, ripped through the tent wall and soared in.
Shuthral tried to back off, but the creature landed half on and half off him and knocked him to the ground, digging its claws into his chest.
"Now!" Chathel said.
She and Tala raced forward.
With just a few quick moves, the creature lay slain on the floor of the tent.
Chathel knelt quickly beside her brother. "Shuthral?" she asked in the calmest voice she could muster. "Shuthral, can you hear me?"
His breath came in short, gasping breaths, and he did not answer.
"What if he dies?" Chathel asked Tala anxiously. "It's all my fault! We should have all gone outside and killed it together!"
"It's my fault too," Tala said, sinking to her knees. "What will Master Mace say?"
"I don't know if I want to find out." Chathel shook her head. "Get the medical kit. We have to do what we can."
The two girls set to work, tightlipped and in fear of the friend's and brother's imminent death.
"How long are the claws?" Chathel asked.
Tala checked and made a quick mental measurement. "Two inches long, each."
Closely examining the wounds and judging the distance that the creature had jumped, Chathel regretfully figured out that the claws had gone all the way in. "They most likely pierced one or both of the lungs and maybe his heart. If so, we can't handle it. Only the Jett healers can."
"But how can we communicate to the base through a blizzard? Even my telepathy skills aren't that up to par!" Tala exclaimed.
"But your direction skills are, right?" Chathel pointed out.
"I didn't want to go far from the tent because the skills of the two of you aren't too good, not because mine aren't. And do you realize the danger in that?"
"Yes." Chathel nodded. "But we need to risk it. Shuthral's life is on the line, and if I died right after bringing him back, I would be happy knowing I had helped."
"What if you died going there? Would that help?"
Chathel didn't answer.
Tala sighed. "We'll bandage him up and care for him as best we can. When the blizzard is over, we'll bring him back."
Two long nights passed, with Chathel and/or Tala constantly at Shuthral's side, putting fresh ointment on his wounds and changing his bandages.

Tala's eyes blinked open. Something was different. Something had changed.
She sat up and glanced over at Shuthral.
No, he was still breathing and lying in the exact same position that she had left him in.
Then what was it?
"Oh!" she said out loud. "The blizzard stopped." She turned to Chathel, who was just starting to wake up. "Chathel! We need to go now! The blizzard's over!"
Chathel got to her feet quickly. "Let's get started!"
They packed everything up quickly and looked out of the tent.
The sun was glistening off the snow, which was piled in heaps and drifts many feet tall, in some places.
Tala turned to Chathel and then glanced at the tent. "We need a stretcher for Shuthral," she said.
They got to work. Wrapping Shuthral in some extra layers of clothes, they resourcefully built a stretcher out of the tent and laid him on it.
Then the long trudge began.
As the day wore on, even the strength that Tala pulled from simply being a Jett was running low. Near the brink of collapse, they pushed on bravely, knowing that Shuthral's life depended on their speed.
Suddenly Chathel looked up, and a smile grew on her weary face. "Look!"
Tala looked where her friend was looking. "It's Traxton!" she said joyfully.
As Traxton the phoenix slid to a graceful stop in the snow, Ksarkash Athana leapt off his back. "Are you guys okay? What's going on?"
"We got stuck in a blizzard and he was injured when we killed a dangerous animal. Can you take him in?" Chathel said.
Athana nodded. "I'll take your brother back. Traxton's sister Zephyr will be along shortly to pick you up."
Chathel smiled as Athana loaded Shuthral onto Traxton and they took off. "Well, now, that wasn't too bad, was it?"
Tala shook her head. "No."
But a feeling was growing on her. A feeling that said something wasn't right-
Tala threw herself to the ground. "Down, Chathel!"
A shape zipped over head where they had been just a second before.
It landed and a black shape got off and came toward them.
Tala's chest tightened.


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