Excerpt from Requiems Reach
Malachite stopped running when Thenaria pulled on his arm. She stood, mouth agape, staring at the heavens from beneath the cloistered walkway. Holding Lilian in his arms, he moved closer to see what had captured her attention. The ever present shield that encompassed the city, with its shimmering silver dome of light, was falling away. Enormous cracks raced along its circumference like frozen bolts of lightning caught in the act of splitting the night.
Klaxons sounded, drowning out the panicked cries of the populace.
“This way.” Malachite tugged Thenaria away from her vantage. “We have to get you to the tunnels.”
“What about the expedition?” She allowed him to lead her along. “What about Raqui?”
“No time! I have to get you both out of the city.”
They turned into a spiral stone staircase that led downward, and he hurried along at the fastest pace Thenaria was able to maintain. Back out into the night, they ran across one of the elevated walkway that gave Sa’Doran such an immense sense of grandeur. Lilian held tight to his neck, and Thenaria matched his pace stride for stride. He had to give it to the girls; they did not complain once.
A cough sounded in the night, a deep and guttural croup that brought Malachite up short. Two more calls broke the silence, echoing from the stone entrance.
“Come child,” he whispered to Lilian. He passed her over. “Go to momma now.”
A muffled cry escaped her, and she struggled to hold on. Thenaria pulled her away, breaking her grip.
Malachite’s sin’del thickened and condensed around him. With a pinging sound it snapped into place just above his flesh, and he was encased in a silver glow similar to that of the failed shield. The energy that surrounded him stretched out from his fists, forming two swords, one a half foot longer than the other.
“Stay behind me,” he ordered. “Do not run.”
From the entrance stepped a beast, its jaws snapping at the air before it. It was longer than it was tall, with a thick tail giving it balance. Short feathers adorned it, the blue, green, and black colors making it difficult to see in the dark. It stood on two legs, its short forearms pulled in tight against its chest. As it walked, a claw clicked out of its sheath in the middle of each foot, tapping against the stone. It raised its head and coughed three more times. The call was repeated from within the doorway.
Malachite strode forward, unconcerned with the display. The creature cocked its head to the side, watching him come. It growled when he did not pause. Lowering its head, it launched itself forward. Malachite stepped to the side and swung his left blade in a downward arc. It passed through the monster’s head, and the beast fell lifeless to the ground.
Its two companions charged. Malachite lunged forward. Each creature was impaled on the bars of light. With a sweep of his wrists he freed the weapons by ripping them out the other side.
Howls filled the air, and the entrance came alive with a swarm. Malachite flowed into them, each hand working different targets while he moved across the bridge. Beasts fell when he met them. His blades lashed out, ripping apart each creature he touched. He danced between them. His feet snapped bones with kicks that sent them over the sides. Spines snapped beneath the impact of his elbows. He spun to the side, slicing through the belly of one that tried to circle around him, and with his other blade, sheared the head off another coming in low.
He did not stop. He did not give ground before them. He did not pause until they all lay dead at his feet or broken on the stones below.
A terrific cry echoed from the alcove, and a monster larger than its peers smashed through the stone arch. It too was covered in coarse, dark feathers, with a shock of dark, oily hair for a mane, and the same shortened forearms. It turned its head, searching for its prey with its blind eyes. It snuffled the air, its tongue flicking out to find its quarry. Its gigantic muzzle settled in position toward Malachite. It opened its mouth and roared, the sound felt as much as heard.
Malachite thrust his arms forward, and a pair of shards flew from his sin’del, small, hardened bits of soul matter stolen from the smaller creatures. The impacts enraged the beast, but it did not penetrate its flesh He increased the volume of projectiles he launched, no longer moving his hands, but filling the air between them nevertheless. The impacts began to pierce its hide, and it wailed in pain, swinging its head from side to side as it roared its displeasure. He closed the intervening space with increasing speed. Gathering the remnants of the life force he stole, he seized the sin’del of the rock beneath the monster’s feet and pulled it to the side. The bridge disappeared beneath it, flowing away from where it stood, and it plummeted down to shatter on the streets below.
At last, he stood before the doorway. The stone of the bridge returned to its original shape. With a wave of his arm, the bodies that littered the causeway were tossed aside. There were no more enemies in sight.
Looking behind him, he saw Thenaria standing before her child. One hand protected the girl, and the other clutched a large knife before her.
He motioned them toward him.
“I’m glad you followed directions and remained where you were,” he said when they caught up. “Had you fled, the shrulks would have forgotten all about me and went straight for the pair of you.”
“What was that other thing?” Thenaria said, awe and terror vying for prominence in her voice.
“A manoc,” he said. “Shrulks are female and smaller, manocs are male and larger. They are bred special to hunt us. They are apex predators, and they live for the chase. Never run from them. They will not stop. They will keep coming.”
When she did not respond, he faced her.
“Promise me,” he said. “You must remember this.”
She pulled her gaze from the bodies littering the ground below them and looked him in the eyes.
“I will not run from them,” she said. “I will remember.”
“Good. You are formidable. Even without a weapon, your magic will give you enough of an edge to hold them off. Remember this bridge and what happened here. I was able to hold them at bay and control the way they came at me. Therefore, I was able to defeat them. You choose the terms of engagement, not them.”
Thenaria nodded, and he saw in her sin’del that she was committing the lesson to memory.
“The entrance to the tunnels is only three floors down,” he said, giving her a smile. “We’re almost there.”
The sensation started with a tingle in his finger. In the second it took for him to glance down at the appendage, the quiver encompassed his entire hand. His eyes opened wide in shock when the realization struck him. He gripped the ring and tried to tug it off.
The next moment found him hurling through the ether; Sa’Doran, Thenaria, and Lilian left far behind him.
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