Before today's episode of the series hardly anyone seems to be reading (cough, cough), here's another BIG ANNOUNCEMENT: Go and sign up today to be a part of Briane Pagel's big XMas Blogfest! You get to give away a copy of your book on the day you sign up for and all the other days you can win FREE books! You give a little, you get a little, right? So go now! Do it!!! On November 30, not only will I have the last episode of this series, but you can also win an ebook! Whether it's A Hero's Journey or We Are Now I haven't decided yet. The latter should be available by then, but you never know.
Now on with the show...
The two girls battle in the snow. Hise, the older of the two, moves with supernatural grace to duck under the swing of the other girl’s staff. Syva, the youngest of all the girls, curses in her native tongue. She groans when Hise’s stick hits her in the back and sends her tumbling to the ground.
Hise looks down on Syva and bows slightly. “You fight well,” she says, “but you lack patience.”
Syva jumps to her feet. “Let’s do it again.”
“That’s enough,” G’lyna says from up in a tree. She drops to the ground, between the combatants. “Let’s go inside and get some dinner.”
“I don’t need to eat,” Syva insists. “I can beat her.”
“I’m sure you can, but I’m hungry. Let’s go.”
Syva looks ready to argue, but then drops her staff. She follows after G’lyna and Hise into the main hut, where the others await them. It’s a tight squeeze for fifty girls, but they’ve learned to manage over the past six moons.
As if reading her thoughts, Anybl touches G’lyna’s arm. “We need to talk.”
They go outside, back into the cold. Anybl asks, “How are they doing?”
“I’m sure Hise could beat any man and Syva isn’t far behind.”
“Good. We’ll need them soon.”
“A few days. The Black Demon is almost here.”
“We won’t be ready in a couple of days for something like that.”
“I know, but we don’t have a choice.”
Agga, who has the best foresight of any of the girls, keeps track of the Demon’s movements. As Anybl said, he’s coming straight for them, marching through the mountains without pause to rest. He walks even through the night.
“If we can lure him into the pass then we can trap him,” says Sofe, the most intelligent of them. She lays out their strategy. Hise and Syva will draw the Demon into the pass, where the others will fire down upon him. G’lyna doesn’t like it, but she can’t argue with the logic either.
“Just one thing,” G’lyna says. “I’m going with Hise and Syva.”
“It’s my decision.”
Anybl looks into her eyes for a moment and then nods. “How soon should he be in the area?”
“By dawn, I think,” Agga says.
“Good. Then let us prepare.”
G’lyna huddles with Hise, Syva, and Agga behind an outcropping of rock. Agga has her eyes closed to watch the Demon’s movements. As she foresaw, the Demon will be near the pass in less than an hour, as the sun rises.
Beside G’lyna, Syva sharpens a dagger. “I can’t wait to slit his throat.”
“We’re not to fight him,” G’lyna says.
“We won’t fight him except as a last resort. Understand?”
Like a scolded child, Syva looks down at the snow and nods. “I understand.”
The sun is beginning to rise when G’lyna sees the Demon for herself. Despite the cold he’s bare-chested and his legs are mostly bare as well. He wears a black headdress shaped like a dog and a pair of bear paws on his hands. The claws on his hands look much sharper than those of a normal bear.
Before G’lyna can say anything, Syva charges out from hiding. She screams the war cry of her village as she lunges at the Demon. He lets her plunge the dagger into his chest. The dagger shatters in Syva’s hand. Without a word, the Demon backhands Syva with one clawed hand. She slams into a rock and goes limp.
The Demon starts towards her. G’lyna stands up and puts up a hand. The snow around the Demon begins to swirl. “Agga, get Syva back to camp. Hise and I will deal with the Demon.”
Agga nods. She vanishes herself across the gap to where Syva lays; with a flash of light, both are gone. Meanwhile, Hise trots towards the Demon with far more caution than Syva. G’lyna continues to swirl the snow around the Demon, not that it seems to faze him.
Hise is the best warrior G’lyna has seen, but even she is no match for the Demon. She ducks under his claws a few times. Unlike Syva, she tries her dagger on the Demon’s left hamstring. Again the dagger shatters. Then he plunges a clawed hand into her right leg. With a scream, Hise collapses.
G’lyna vanishes herself across the gap to scoop Hise up. G’lyna vanishes her and Hise back a few feet. “Come and get us.”
Then she runs.
The Demon follows them into the pass without a care. G’lyna plants herself in the middle of the pass with Hise still in her arms. She stares back at the Demon. “It’s time to end this,” she says.
At that moment Anybl and the others reveal themselves on either side of the pass. G’lyna vanishes herself and Hise up to meet them as they begin to rain down ice, static energy, and fireballs at the Demon. He stands in the middle of the pass, absorbing the punishment without flinching.
“It’s not working!” G’lyna says.
Anybl nods. “Then we have to go to the backup plan.”
G’lyna is going to ask what this is, but then she feels the ground tremble. Snow and rock at the end of the pass begin to collapse. Before long, an avalanche descends upon the Demon. Several feet of snow and stone entomb the monster.
G’lyna lets out a sigh of relief, until she sees the snowy tomb shake. A clawed hand appears through the snow, followed by another. Then the dog-shaped headdress bursts through. The Demon glares up at them. “I am not here to trifle with children. Return to your homes and you will be spared.”
“What do we do now?” Sofe asks.
“We retreat,” Anybl says. “I hope Merlin has better luck.”
TO BE CONTINUED...