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~ Previous Chapter ~
RHIDDYL PANICKED. A spark of unfamiliar heat burned through her body and she ran.
She wasn’t the only one. Reglian pounded alongside her, head down, feet slamming the ground. The silence was broken and no one seemed to care about being quiet anymore.
Shrieks and screams echoed all through the halls and she cast a frantic glance back over her shoulder, even as Reglian and Estenarix threw out pulses of light. Gold and pewter combined to reveal the horrors swarming after them. Kaz-naghkt.
Mouth gaping, Rhiddyl twisted and jinked around corners, scrambling over the broken ground as the way became increasingly rocky and broken. She had no idea where she was going, she just had to get away, get away now!
A rock wall rose up directly in front of her and she skidded, claws scraping as she bunched her hindquarters beneath her and leapt. She would never think disparaging things about this lynx body again, she promised as she jumped from ledge to ledge, making her way up the wall almost as quickly as she could have flown. Curses and growls made her glance down; Reglian and Estenarix were climbing as quickly as possible after her.
Pausing at the top to catch her breath, she looked back. Kaz-naghkt filled the hall, driven on by their master’s golden magic. She had no idea where the siblings had gone, nor Goryal. Golden light pulsed, warning her that Yullik was coming.
A heavy hand slammed on top of her paw and she leapt straight up, before realising it was just Estenarix finishing her climb.
“Go!” she snarled, eyes wide as the panic continued to grip her.
It seized hold of Rhiddyl again and she bounced off the top of the wall, plunging into the dark beyond. She landed firmly on four paws and ran.
Twin thumps announced that Reglian and Estenarix were right behind her. Screams swiftly followed. The kaz-naghkt were coming, they were coming, they were —
A shadow dropped directly in front of her. There was no time to stop, no time to think, she ploughed right into the creature, scrabbling with her claws more like a rabbit than a lynx.
Sharp talons grabbed her shoulders and she yowled, digging harder into the kaz-naghkt’s chest. Instinct took over and she dropped her head, tearing with her teeth until she gripped the heart. With a strong tug, she ripped it from the monster’s chest.
Staring down at herself in horror, she took in the blood and the mess, and hastily dropped the heart. By the Family, what had become of her? She’d never killed anything before, not with her claws and teeth, only ever with her magic.
Shaking, she stumbled away from the kaz-naghkt and was instantly bowled over by another.
Reglian and Estenarix fought around her. They’d dropped into a cavern and the horde had overtaken them using their wings. The time for fleeing was over. They could only fight.
Claws out, Rhiddyl slashed and snarled, trying to keep the attackers at bay. Instinct swamped her again, her wild dragon ancestry making the most of her lynx form to pounce, immobilise and kill without thought or remorse. There was only survival.
Magic pulsed and blazed, thunder boomed, and a great boulder rolled out of nowhere to flatten a knot of the most ferocious fighters. Estenarix emerged from the mess, her clothes in tatters, her skin granite grey, eyes blazing. Still in human shape, she threw back her head and roared.
The kaz-naghkt shrieked and attacked. Estenarix went down beneath the tide, still roaring, rocks tumbling from the ceiling, crashing to her aid.
Rhiddyl whirled to confront her own enemies and saw Reglian wielding a golden sword, shining with his power. Every kaz-naghkt he hit exploded with a boom of thunder. He sliced and slashed his way through the horde, aiming for Estenarix.
Rhiddyl turned again, roaring her own squashed-sounding lynx snarl, leaping onto the shoulders of her largest foe and slamming it into a knot of enemies. They slashed and screamed in defiance, sharp claws scoring through her feather-fur in search of flesh.
Blood filled the air. Scent and taste and sight; Rhiddyl couldn’t escape it. She could only fight and fight, battling her way towards Reglian’s thunder and Estenarix’s rocks.
The ground shuddered, throwing the kaz-naghkt to their knees. Rhiddyl flattened to the floor, waiting for the tremor to pass, wondering what Estenarix was up to now.
A sharp crack silenced the kaz-naghkt shrieks and Rhiddyl stumbled as the stone beneath her shifted, the ground under her left front paw crumbling into nothing.
Scrabbling backwards, she found solid ground and leapt clear as a chasm opened in the centre of the fight. Kaz-naghkt fell into it with wails of distress, but Rhiddyl was running, racing the spreading crack as it snaked across the cavern, swallowing enemies, heading for her friends.
Parting the knot of fury around Estenarix with great swipes of his blazing sword, Reglian didn’t see disaster creeping towards his heels.
Rhiddyl opened her mouth to shout his name, but all that came out was a squeaky snarl. He heard her and turned.
The ground crumbled beneath his feet and Reglian stumbled. The burning sword fell from his hand, vanishing as he spread his arms. He leapt, reaching for the edge of the chasm.
No! Rhiddyl screamed as a massive kaz-naghkt hit Reglian in the chest, tumbling them both over and down into the widening crack.
No, no, no, she chanted inwardly as the shattered floor collapsed inwards, swallowing the knot around Estenarix, throwing them wailing and snarling to join Reglian in the abyss. The dragon followed, roaring defiance.
Rhiddyl whirled, yowling and terrified. The crack was still spreading, swallowing more and more kaz-naghkt, and it was all she could do to scramble clear herself.
Then, finally, the shaking stopped, the dust settled, and Rhiddyl found herself panting and alone in the darkness.
Goryal! she screamed inside her mind. Goryal!
There was no answer. She was alone.
~ Next Chapter ~
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