Shadowed Moon Chapter 9
Faylin led me further into the shade of the forest, his heavy paws padding so lightly that they did not stir the leaves and debris underneath nor make any sound. We reached the small brook which we would be leaving by and after drinking from its cool, refreshing water sat down beneath a small oak.
“First, you must learn manners. When inside a building your sword must stay inside its sheath unless in combat, when out doors it is usually the same; but for practice or if need be as a minor intimidation. Your blade must always be kept sharpened and cleaned or it will rust and break.” He cocked his head at me. “Need a pen and paper?”
I shook my head. “No, I’m fine thank you.”
He rolled his muscular, dark grey shoulders in a shrug. “Suit yourself. You also need to keep your sheath in good condition so that it protects your sword.” He sighed and dug a paw into the soft earth before continuing.
“In a battle both your shield and sword may be used as the other, as you block with your blade and hit with the shield.”
“But I don’t have a shield.” I interrupted.
“You will soon enough.” He responded, casting me an odd look. “And once you do then we can work on that in your training.”
“Training?” I groaned.
He grinned toothily. “Of course my dear, you did not expect to become a famous warrior over night now did you? Back to the point.” He cleared his throat. “Once you are actually in combat with an enemy what do you do?”
I cleared my own throat. “Well, you…First you put your block up.” I said hesitantly. The wolf nodded for me to continue. “Then you watch him, how he moves…Try to find his weaknesses and strengths and then test him with small attacks.” I added, trying hard to remember our lessons. “When you’re in the middle of the fight you use that knowledge to attack and defend more efficiently and then you…win. Hopefully.”
“Very good, although you missed the plays of our fellow enemy. It’s not as if he is a thoughtless being, going through the motions. He will be cunning, strong and ruthless.” A dangerous glint came to Faylin’s eyes. “He will take every opportunity to kill you and his mind will not be clouded with fear. You must know every weakness that you might have in a battle, no matter how small the chance of it is and then plan in advance how you are to overcome it. If not, your first battle will very likely be your last.”
The glint faded and he looked up at me. “But with the knowledge of how to use your weapons comes the knowledge of how to do without them. Are you ready?”
I nodded uncertainly, with Faylin I was constantly afraid of messing up. Something in me longed to make him proud, to make him understand that all his work had not been in vain. And as I grew to know him I also grew to know how and why his mind worked. In my own mind I retraced to the current conversation and applied my thoughts of Faylin to thoughts of battle.
“You are backed up against a building, there is no door and your opponent is far larger and more agile than you. You are losing the battle, how do you escape?” He quizzed.
“I don’t know.” I muttered after several minutes of silence.
“How about I make it easier. Here are your options: You can place everything on the line for a final attack and escape during his surprise, or look afraid of something coming up behind you, or call for help.”
None of the ideas had much appeal to me. “Call for help?”
“It’s actually a trick question. What have I so recently told you?”
It suddenly dawned on me what he was getting at. “Study your enemy. So it depends on him?”
“Correct. If he is prone to distraction then act on it, if you have friends nearby then call, if you think a show of brute force would momentarily put him off balance then do it. And depending on the situation there are other options as well.” He flipped some moist dirt up into the air with his paw. “Now for hand-to-hand combat.” He said with a grin.
“Come on human. Up and going, let’s move.” He ordered. I muttered but rose and faced him.
“An enemy comes onto you unexpectedly and steals your sword. He does not plan to kill you but takes you prisoner. What do you do?”
I pushed my unruly black hair out of my face and thought. “Since he has you prisoner than wait. Find something sharp to free yourself when he is not looking and run.”
“What about your weapon?”
“Hey if I escape with my life I’ll be happy.”
“But without it you are open to even more danger and your next foe might not be so lenient.” Faylin pointed out. “You have to think long run, not short term. In chess you don’t go on saving a piece but sacrifice it for a greater accomplishment later. If you are going on a trip then you prepare for a certain length of time, not just the first day.” I saw what he was talking about.
“Well then you try to get it but if worse comes to worse then go without,” I smiled as a new thought occurred to me. “And then you can find a sturdy branch and sharpen it with a rock to make a spear.”
He laughed roughly. “Very good, Lara.” Then he sobered. “But what if you are in a dessert and no branches are to be found?”
I didn’t need to think about that one. “Then I stay a prisoner until we reach more inviting terrain.”
The wolf nodded, his bright yellow eyes watching me intently. “I say you passed that lesson. Why don’t we see what Ditri and the others are up to?”
Before we could move an unearthly scream pierced the muggy summer air. I jumped up in fear and the hair on Faylin’s back rose as a low growl rumbled in his throat.
“Catalee.” He whispered and then darted into the forest. “Now, Lara!”
I ran after him, crashing clumsily through the trees and underbrush as near panic set in. Was Catalee in trouble, was she hurt? What about the others? My pulse thundered in my head as I scampered hurriedly back towards Ditri’s cave.
When I could no longer breathe I stopped, clutching my side and bent over. Very slowly I straightened; the hairs on my back raising as a shiver ran down my spine. Again Catalee screamed.
“Faylin?” Fear lumped in my throat as I watched the dark shadow like a wave of black water rush across the ground towards me. “Help!” I yelped and began running the other way as Faylin reentered, a very injured Catalee strung over his neck.
“Go Lara, Go!” He yelled rushing passed me.
Overhead I saw Ditri through the trees, fire spewing from his throat along with a roar as he attacked the unknown wave of madness.
We weren’t going to make it. I realized. The wave was coming to fast. Daring to look over my shoulder I saw that the wave was individual creatures, like black and grey furred snakes leaping toward us.
“Driffod’s!” Faylin shouted. “Climb a tree Lara!”
“I can’t!” I screamed back, my chest and throat aching from the strain as I ran deeper into the woods.
Ditri soared past above, screeching out a battle cry as he blasted the creatures again and again with intense fire. His blue green wings slapped the ground, crushing and sending the driffod’s flying.
I scrambled over to a tree and tried desperately to scramble up its rough sides. The first few snake-like animals hurtled past me, seeming to think I was part of the forest; then one bit my leg. I cried out in pain, swinging my leg against the trunk to get rid of the black thing but it only clamped its needle teeth deeper.
Suddenly a grey blur swooped down in the midst of the attack. Somehow Faylin had managed to climb a tree and then had jumped down from it as soon as he saw that Catalee was safe. He was coming back for me, I realized.
The driffod’s swarmed over him, yelping and screeching loudly as they covered the wolf. Faylin struggled up and waded towards me, a blanket of black fur clinging to him. His yellow eyes burned into mine, wide with pain and intense with resolve.
“Faylin!” I screamed, attempting to shake off my own lot of reeking black fur. The driffod’s smelled of death and decay. Their yellow teeth snappped at my arms and legs. I clawed at the tree in an attempt to scale it, causing my hands to scrape as I tried to escape.
Faylin took two more steps haltingly, but then disappeared in a terrifying mass of black-eyed snakes as the driffod’s swarmed over him.