C1 Khol - Escape
Before the slayers came, Kohlxchijr was prince along with his brothers. They had the freedom of their wings and the skies, hunting the fat beasts to fill their bellies.
Now they were half-starved and refugees in their own land. His nights were filled with all the battles they’d lost and his fallen family. He stretched his wings and groaned as one of the dragon spikes adorning his head hit the roof of the cave.
A rumble echoed from the other side of the dirt-packed catacombs. His brother Taurian must have felt the vibration. That was the hassle with sleeping chambers in a labyrinth of caves instead of his father’s castle.
Once, his family lacked for nothing. Now they were forced to hide during daylight and scavenge at night. As princes, Kohlxchijr and his remaining seven brothers shouldn’t be cowering deep in Renjer’s caverns, but be free. For now, staying alive took precedence.
“Keep it down, Kohl,” Taurian grumbled from another cave. “Your fidgeting is sending rocks raining down on my tail.”
“Stop whining. At least you have room in your cave to move around.” Kohlxchijr snorted, a puff of smoke wafting out from his nostrils. Never fire, like his brothers, but why did he always hope flames would magically appear?
Yet he had the ability to shift into a human form while they couldn’t change. They’d been born from a shell, while he’d had a human mother who died giving birth to him.
His heart rose into his throat. He didn’t even remember her, and his father refused to discuss her or humans or Earth. As far as he could tell, being human was a weakness. They couldn’t fly or tear into the flesh of their prey or their enemy. They had no scales to protect themselves. Kohlxchijr still couldn’t stop thinking about them. What they were like, what his mother had been like. So once he figured out how to teleport there using his winged form and lightning, he visited earth as often as he could to learn everything about them. Just when he thought his curiosity would be sated, it came roaring back.
There was no response from his brother on their argument, but Kohlxchijr imagined him rolling his eyes and settling back down to sleep.
Kohlxchijr hunched his shoulders and cringed as his tail scratched along the side wall. It was shorter than his brothers and sisters and didn’t have any spikes.
“Don’t make me muzzle and chain you,” Taurian warned.
The rusty chains hung on Kohlxchijr’s back wall as a constant reminder of his father’s overprotectiveness. He had locked him down here when Kohlxchijr refused to hide from the aliens that now reigned his homeworld.
They devastated every place they touched on Renjer, moving on like insects to the next place. In the battles, when the Tryn had first come, dozens of minor families had been slaughtered. Three of Kohlxchijr’s brothers, a sister, and five cousins had been killed. Their hides used as cloaks and skulls bleached white in the sun on poles outside of what had been their family’s castles.
Kohlxchijr had visited Earth a dozen times before the slayers came and wrecked their lives. Then his father forbade all off-planet travel, especially Earth. Twice he had spoken with his father about how their devices worked better on Earth than on their homeworld after the invasion. His father had refused to listen to his speculation that some power crystals embedded on Earth could help them turn the war around and chained him to his cave wall for days.
It wasn’t until Kohlxchijr had agreed to forget the matter and never bring it up again that he was released. Still, Kohlxchijr had slunk away to Earth a few times searching for the crystals. Of course, the local human women had sidetracked him a few times. They were complex and pretty and he wanted to learn about his mother’s people. At first, the trips were merely a curiosity.
Then a brown bear—isn’t that what his Earth friend Dena had said it was when he described it—had come after him. In a last effort to get the Earth beast away from him, he turned his device on it and was shocked when it worked.
Around him, his brothers’ rumbling breaths echoed in their sleep. Instead of being comforted that his family was safe and sleeping, the walls closed in on him. His chest constricted. He had to get out of there because, like most days, the pressure built until he couldn’t stand the claustrophobic sensation a second longer. If the Earth had the means to save his people and planet, he had to try.
Sunset was at least an hour away, but he needed to get out of there now. Fill his lungs with fresh air rather than the stale dirt and his brothers’ scents and take another trip to his mom’s world. As half-Renjer, when he reached puberty, he had the ability to shift into human form, something only his father knew.
He had forbidden Kohlxchijr to do this in front of his brothers as if being half-human was some great depravity. Inhaling and holding his breath, he let his dragon form shrink down. Within a few seconds, he was in his human form. He hiked up the path to the surface, carefully dodging Nimra’s tail with its spiked end. A cluster of rocks fell beside the twins Symon and Lyku’s cave, and Kohlxchijr waited, holding his breath until their snores resumed.
Near the opening, Kohlxchijr transformed back into his dragon form to gain ground away from the caves in case any of the enemy lurked nearby, his wings bursting through his back and his body growing.
Bones cracked and moved into place, muscles and flesh stretched. His skin morphed into hardened dragon scales. He panted, waiting to catch his breath for a moment.
For some reason, it was always more physically demanding to change into the dragon, the form he remained in most of his almost twenty-one years, than it was to shrink down into a man.
Outside, the sun hung low in the sky. Any Tryn about would spot him and give chase so he needed to move quickly. If he could breathe fire, he’d welcome their fight, but with only puffs of smoke, he didn’t stand a chance against their dragon-flesh cutting weapons.
Somehow the enemy had jammed his father’s laser and cannon weapons and moved them back to the ancient times. Now only handmade weapons of metal and stone worked. And firepower.
He flapped his wings and soared to a cluster of clouds, freedom singing in his lungs. Lightning flashed in the distance. A thunderstorm! Perfect. Renjers could travel on lightning to other planets.
Lightning fueled the gateway and could be used to travel to other worlds. All of his kind had nanites embedded into their DNA that opened a portal, but without power from the crystals, it didn’t work.
The nanites were a mix of synthetic and biological components that gathered energy from the electromagnets the crystals gave off when empowering their weapons.
In the last few years, Kohlxchijr had visited Earth five times hoping to learn more about his mother’s people. He had clothes and cash in an old cemetery, hidden under a tombstone.
Tomorrow night was his birthday, but like all the ones in the past, he could rely on his father and brothers not to acknowledge it as only millennial birthdays were celebrated after puberty. What better way to celebrate his than with his mother’s people? He would find the crystals and return a hero to all.
A spear whizzed past his left wing. Freck! A Tryn zoomed underneath him, a filthy black beast with red eyes, sharp teeth, and a nasty attitude. Some had horns and all had pointy tails and leather wings that never allowed their bulky bodies to get far off the ground.
This one had a broken horn and another that was twisted slightly giving the Tryn an almost comical appearance. Kohlxchijr dove straight for the creature.
It shrieked, turning and racing away first on two legs than four. The useless wings fluttering behind it.
No, you don't get away that easily. It was too close to his family’s shelter to let it live. Kohlxchijr broke his descent, spreading his wings wide, and lashed out with his talons grabbing up the Tryn. He flapped his wings to lift away from the ground before crashing. The creature tore into Kohlxchijr with its claws and teeth, fortunately, unable to break through Kohlxchijr’s scaled skin without effort.
The Tryn screamed, its forked tail slapping against the underside of Kohlxchijr’s thigh. Even though Tryn’s had leather wings like Kohlxchijr and his kind, they were smaller.
“Time to die!” Kohlxchijr yelled.
This was for his family and friends who perished. The creature squealed again. Dozens of poisoned-tipped spears shot up from the ground. Warts!
An ambush waited below, a few miles from his cave. Kohlxchijr couldn't fight all of them.
The air whipped around him as he banked right.
More barbed spears shot up and one tore into his side. Blood gushed down his flank and dripped off his leg making the squirming Tryn in his talons slippery. Not worth the trouble.
Kohlxchijr dropped the beast. It fell then rolled onto a tree, breaking its fall. No wonder his dad kept Kohlxchijr locked up when they went to battle, he couldn't even kill one of the bastards. But he couldn't go back to the caves wounded. Tryns could scent blood miles away. He would lead them right to his family.
His body shook from the blood loss and he had to get the spearhead out before the poison took hold and put him to sleep. Where could he hide that wouldn't bring the Tryn scrambling after him? He needed somewhere to recover and heal where he wouldn't have to worry about his family or Tryns. Earth!
It had been months since he'd visited and his friend Dena was an animal doctor, so she could patch him up.
His vision grew fuzzy, but he shook his head and turned his wing to the thunderstorm brewing in the distance. He just had to make it to the lightning. Hopefully, this time the storm would put him close to Dena.
Never knew where on Earth he'd land. First time had been near what humans called the North Pole and he nearly froze before flying out of there.
Second time he landed on a building in Tokyo. The third time he landed in a swamp near Dena’s raft as she was letting loose an alligator who had surgery at her clinic.
He blinked, long and hard. Just make it to Dena.
A bolt flashed yards away and the burning ions hit his nostrils. Kohlxchijr pictured the small vet clinic near the New Orleans swamp, he smelled of the quagmire, hearing the drawl of Dena’s speech.
His body quivered and he lost altitude. No! He couldn't stay on Renjer. The Tryn would find him and kill him. His father would be devastated. Have to hold on...have to get to…
Lightning coursed through his body and he convulsed. Pain lashed through him, jolting him. His mind was a jumble of thoughts. Blackness zapped him and he fell, plummeting, claws and teeth slashing into him. Instead of reaching Earth, he had fallen into a Tryn lair.