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The Children of the Pride - A book excerpt - Chapter Nineteen
In my progress of editing my book which had been lost in a crashed laptop for a while I finished this chapter and liked it so much I wanted to share. Granted its far into the novel and long past character descriptions but its simply a funny and exciting short read I thought would be cool to share with my peeps. Thanks for reading! Its from my upcoming novel, The Cup of Insinuation.
The Righteous Pack on the field of battle
CHILDREN OF THE PRIDE
by J.M Barnes
Bassonix stopped in his tracks, feline nose testing the air. He looked over to Rook who was doing the same. Both of them had superior senses and had caught scent of something, Talumyr only wished they would tell him what it was.
“What is it? More goblins?” The Bloodchill giant asked.
Rook shook his head simultaneously with Bass.
“No, Definitely not. I smell something feline but nothing like our friend here.” Rook replied.
Bassonix held up a hand then, asking for silence. Everyone crouched down, everyone except for Isaac, that is. His armor was heavy and stiff, crouching down he could manage but not quietly. Instead he leaned unmoving against a thick tree trunk.
In the distance even Talumyr could hear the echoes of shouting. There were harsh voices in an ugly language.
“Sounds like goblins to me.” He whispered to his companions.
“Something is odd. Perhaps they have some beast ready to unleash upon us. Their scent, which usually is strong, vile and unmistakable, has been smothered by this unexplainably feline musk.” Rook explained.
As one the Righteous Pack looked to Bassonix as if he should be able to provide an immediate explanation. He looked back at them confusedly, his whiskers twitching.
“Friends, I should remind you that I was raised by the elves of En’Tolasa. They taught me how to weave spells into fabric, rather than using spellbooks like the Tinorians. They taught me a unique repertoire unseen by the pale men from the south, but alas, they taught me nothing about my lineage. I have never met another of my kind so I cannot explain this any more than Rook could explain the mating habits of a coyote.” Bassonix replied.
As one they looked back to Rook in obvious askance.
“What?” The monk asked over-defensively.
From the back of the troupe a humorless voice asked, “Do you know anything about the mating habits of a coyote?” Dhok was not known for his sense of humor but occasionally he surprised them all.
“Of course not, do I look like a damned coyote?” Rook replied with annoyance.
It was Aurik who answered him then. “No, but there are questions concerning your lineage.”
“Gods know there aren’t any other folk walking around looking like muscled, warrior dog men.” Isaac followed the line with one of his own and now everyone but Rook was snickering, struggling to keep quiet.
“I fail to see what is funny here. You lot would do well to be concerned with this coming conflict rather than my lineage!” Rook’s voice rose to a near shout and all semblance of quiet disappeared as a round of laughter shook the party all around.
Bassonix seemed to be enjoying it the most since he had successfully turned the issue from his lineage to Rook’s.
“Now, Rook, watch your temper,” He warned. “Your god cast you out for just those sort of outbursts. If your mother was a coyote then you should embrace that truth, not refute it with such venom.”
Talumyr guffawed and the rest of the Pack joined him. Now Rook was standing, fists clenched at his sides, “I protest! Suddenly I am the butt of your ridiculous jokes? I have stood at the side of Xolotl himself during the battle against the domain of the Spirit Lands millennia ago! Long before any of you were even considered to join this god world’s contest I was fighting for the lives of the Itzamnans! How dare you…” But his words were drowned out by laughter and he finally realized he’d been expertly baited. Promptly he returned to his crouched position and fixed his eyes past his friends and toward the waiting foe. “Xolotl preserve me from these fools!” He spat with hardly concealed ire.
The time for laughter was over in an instant though as a loud roar echoed through the rainforest.
Rook was glad for the sudden silence and he shook his head, “Now see what your idle foolishness has done? The mother of all coyotes is bearing down upon us as we speak!”
Again all heads turned his way but this time his friend’s faces held no small amount of surprise.
The monk’s head tilted as he asked with harsh seriousness, “What?”
Another round of laughter followed and as one the Pack stood and began marching towards what they knew would be another life or death battle. Feeling light and full of the good feelings that came with laughter and good companionship they held no fear of the unknown. After all, what was so frightening about a thrice cursed coyote anyway?
^ ^ ^
“That is no coyote!” Bassonix said.
“No, I believe it is more akin to a mountain cat than anything else.” Rook replied coolly.
The friends looked at the onrushing foe with no small amount of concern. This was nothing like what any of them had faced before.
Racing ahead of a large mob of screaming goblins two large humanoids that resembled lions were bounding forward eagerly. Their eyes gave off a familiar green light.
“They are the pawns of Thought Nomads!” Dhok said before holding one hand out before him and closing his eyes in concentration.
A bright beam of energy lanced out of his hand a second later, the air nearby crackling with electricity, the effect of his mental powers interfering with the natural balance of the surrounding forest.
The leonines both dodged the beam while continuing forward. Their speed and agility was amazing to witness. They bounded over fallen trees and grottos, slashed aside thorny vines and branches that would have impeded anyone else. The unmistakable drool of a hungry beast hung from their roaring maws.
As one the warriors of the Righteous Pack stepped ahead of Dhok and Bassonix, while Aurik took his place between the two. The priest was a potent spellcaster but his deity demanded martial prowess as well, he would be the last to physically defend the two in the rear if it came to that. It very rarely did.
Talumyr moved to the right, keeping well away from his fellows as he began his two sword dance of death. Isaac moved to the left and held his holy weapon in the air, awaiting the foe. Rook stood in the center in the fighting stance of the celestial monastery of Xolotl.
The leonines didn’t hesitate. As one they crashed into the enemy. The first answered Talumyr’s challenge and leapt toward him. The giant slashed forward waist high, missing with his Tinorian blade and then with his father’s heavier sword as well.
The leonine held its body horizontally just long enough to allow the blades to pass then twisted and landed, all four appendages latching onto the breastplate of the Bloodchill giant. Immediately he knew it was nearly his match in size and every bit his equal in strength. The giant bellowed in pain as a single claw left its bloody mark across his face.
The second battle mad beast leapt toward Isaac and as the paladin’s sword began to fall it switched targets. Rook was fast enough to dodge the first leaping pair of claws but he was on his heels instantly. The leonine’s feet touched the ground and another flurry reached out for Rook’s throat and eyes.
The monk was just as swift and just as strong though the beast had the advantage in size. He blocked every swipe of its arms with a forearm or he dodged aside before a blow could land.
An explosion distracted all combatants for a moment as a wave of fire washed over the onrushing goblins. Bassonix shouted in celebration as a score of the creatures were obliterated by the wash of magical flame. Five times that number still came on while Isaac and Aurik stepped forward to meet them. Both men hefted heavy Tinorian blades and shouted out challenges to their foe. Their duty was to take on as many of the smaller creatures as possible while their embattled companions fought the stronger leonines.
More beams of energy lanced out from Dhok, slicing through the unprotected goblins and leaving the nearby Bassonix’s fur standing on end. The goblins charged over and through their fallen kin, heedless of the blood and gore that rained down upon them.
Talumyr found himself being pushed further away from his companions as the relentless creature dodged and retaliated too swiftly for him to recover his position. He’d hammered both sword pommels onto the creature’s skull and removed it from his breastplate but its head must have been harder than stone. It took the blows and hardly seemed to notice. Back and forth they fought with neither finding advantage but while the leonine swung only its claws the giant was swinging a heavy sword in each hand. If it came down to it there was little doubt who would tire first.
Rook found himself admiring his foe’s speed and tenacity. Each time he hammered his fist into its torso it came right back and answered in kind. The neat slices across both his flanks and upper arms were testament to its ability while the blood flowing swiftly was testament to the length of the creature’s claws. Even a glancing swipe of its claw was enough to eviscerate an unprepared combatant. Thankfully the servant of the god of lightning was anything but unprepared.
A swarm of snarling, savage goblins was among them an instant later and there was no more time for reflection. Isaac and Aurik met the mob, hewing waist high with their glowing blades and severing goblin necks. There were too many to slow and all around them the savage but diminutive beasts continued toward the rest of the pack. With prayers to their respective deities and oaths of doom for their wretched foe they ignored the ineffective strikes against their heavily protected bodies and answered with only death.
Bassonix summoned forth a towering ring of flames, surrounding himself and Dhok completely. The first line of goblins tried to charge through it only to fall to their knees on the other side. Dhok sent out a short pulse of violent thought and sent those standing around the wall sailing backwards through the air. The concussion sent some into unconsciousness while others began to stumble groggily with blood trickling from their ears.
Talumyr found he was surrounded. The leonine was relentless and when the goblins arrived it pressed its attack even harder. It was as if the beast wanted to finish him before a goblin could do it first. There was little chance of that. One tried to spear his knee as he turned in circles and spun his blades. The weapon was cut in half and then the arm that held it was falling to the ground as the second sword followed the same line of attack. There was another goblin next to it. Strength and momentum were against it as the second blade continued directly into its side. Neatly chopped in half it went down heavily.
Talumyr felt the extra weight and tried to compensate but that was the second the leonine needed to take advantage. It leapt over his first blade, both clawed hands coming down like lightning strikes. The giant craned his neck up and met the eyes of his attacker and his blood boiled as he connected with the Thought Nomad on the other side of the beast’s consciousness. Foes such as these his clan had trained specifically for. The Nomads had been wreaking havoc for millennia but his and Dhok’s race lived the closest to them in the Bloodchill range. No race hated them more and none had been preyed upon more often.
Summoning that training Talumyr unleashed a wave of thought that was tinged with unforgiving denial and unbridled contempt towards the descending beast. A visible wave of dark energy swept over it in an instant as he struggled to raise his unhindered sword in time.
He would have been too slow. His throat could very well have been torn out then and his quest would be no more, but his mental attack took immediate effect. It was a gamble but it was one he knew he had to take. At the last second the beast twisted to the side and retracted its claws. It landed on its feet and reached out to eviscerate a goblin simultaneously. It roared in seeming confusion and Talumyr took the moment to free his second blade and slash two more goblins down with the other.
The green light had faded from the leonine’s eyes. The Thought Nomad must have felt the full effect of the psychic backlash. The Bloodchill giant smiled and called out a loud, “Hurrah!” as he turned his full attention to the cluster of goblins that were shoving at each other trying to stab at him with their puny spears.
The leonine roared in reply and joined him, its hatred of goblins clear and undeniable.
The second leonine was covered in bruises. Rook had taken his toll. For every claw landed, three punches from the monk found ribs, chest or flailing appendage. The beast was finding it hard to draw breath and it felt blood welling in its throat, sure sign of internal bleeding. Though the monk was covered in his own blood his stamina was unequaled and to any single foe he simply would not fall.
Knowing the best course of action, reluctant to kill anything that was not acting on its own instincts, Rook called out, “Talumyr, this one is ready!”
The giant heard him and charged toward his position. Behind him the unwounded leonine tore into the goblins with savage abandon. Rook was falling back toward his oncoming ally and the leonine chased after him. It was struck by the thought wave and fell forward onto its knees. Without the influence of the Nomad controlling it suddenly it could feel the pain of its injuries. Its body answered in shock and collapsed. It was out of the fight completely and the Righteous Pack entire turned their attention toward the goblins milling wildly around them.
For all their advantage in numbers the goblin’s weapons were just too primitive to be effective against all but Rook and the spellcasters. Rook was too swift for any goblin spear and the ring of flames had not abated. Two beams of energy took out another row of the creatures and suddenly the rout was on. Isaac and Aurik took many lives then as the goblins tried to retreat. Blood splattered every inch of their armored bodies and they tightened their grasps on their blades for fear of losing their grip.
When the last goblin managed to distance itself the trees into which they fled began to thrash about at the behest of Bassonix. As if a hurricane was battering them they whipped from side to side, impaling goblins upon every limb. The creature’s gurgling screams rang throughout the forest. From somewhere in the distance the hoots and hollers of a tribe of monkeys answered the cries in kind.
The Righteous Pack watched the spell to completion before turning to the newcomers in their midst. The first leonine Talumyr freed from the Thought Nomad’s control crouched low to the ground in what he deemed to be the nearest facsimile of a bow. Its voice was deep and guttural but it spoke in the native Itzamnan tongue, though not without accent.
“You have my thanks, and that of my brother, if he lives.” He said.
Aurik looked then to the fallen leonine and replied, “If the sun god looks favorably upon your plight then your brother shall live.” He then trotted over to the fallen creature and raised his blood drenched sword toward the sun. Under the forest canopy it was only a suggestion of light but the sword began to steam in reply. In four breaths the blood was gone from its shimmering blade and a yellow light was reflected from it to the priest’s free hand.
Aurik placed that healing hand upon the leonine and spoke a prayer to his ever attentive deity.
“By your blessed light and untold wisdom let this hapless creature live so that it may right the wrongs committed against it. Let it know the healing power of Ipalnemohuani so it may know that death and destruction are mere shadows of the power of life and light.”
A groan answered his prayer and the leonine struggled to turn over. His brother was there beside him as he looked up at the canopy above.
“I…live.” It said plainly.
“Yes, brother, you live and we are free. No more do I hear the voice of the hated master!”
The other seemed to ponder this and then shook its head in agreement.
“How is this possible?” It asked.
“We have been saved by those we were sent to slay! I fought beside them and we destroyed the goblin filth that has been infesting our territory.” The first replied.
Together they then stood with their claws retracted and complete respect reflected in their posture. Both had small holes in their temple and when their heads tilted a flood of greenish slime came slurping out.
Bassonix pointed at them and said, “We must bandage their heads or their brains will be exposed to the open air. If anything, when the tiniest insect or cloud of dust enters those wounds they will become infected and soon after die.”
Isaac nodded. None of those who had grown up south of the Bloodchill Mountains knew how to deal with these wounds but they were aware of the simple truths of infections.
Talumyr nodded sagely as Dhok came to stand at his side.
“Bass is correct, but simple bandages will not reverse the damage done. My people know a way to heal the damage done to a mind by a Thought Nomad.” Dhok explained. “Using my mind I can cleanse all remnants of the Nomads and start the natural healing process that will close the wounds in as little as a month.”
Both leonine’s seemed encouraged by this and they stood before Dhok and asked, “Whatever you ask in return we shall give it, unless you ask us to give up our freedom.” He snarled quietly.
The second nodded furiously. “We would rather die than bow to another. It is bad enough our entire pride is in the hands of the Thought Nomads.”
Isaac had wiped his sword clean on goblin corpses. Sheathing it he replied, “We are the Righteous Pack. We ask little in return for our mercy, only that you not stand against us as we slay these vile monsters to the last.”
The leonines showed their fangs in agreement. “Help us and we will tell you where to find them, but we ask for mercy not just for ourselves. Our kin stay close to the lair. As one they will attack you and we fear you will slay them all.”
“It is not our way to take the lives of innocents. We will strive to save those we can and those we cannot will be cleansed even in death of the Thought Nomad filth.” Aurik replied.
The leonines appeared to consider this a moment and then fell to their knees before Dhok and Talumyr. “Then we swear to aid you however we can, we will trust in your word.”
Talumyr smiled grimly then and nodded once. “Then you will find that no word is as good as that of the Righteous Pack. Vengeance shall be yours and your people will once again know freedom, by my father’s blade, it will be so or my body will lay broken beside yours on the field of battle.”
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