C15 Khol - Captured
Kohl ducked under a low-hanging branch and raced deeper into the forest. The Tryn trampled the ground behind him. Hundreds...maybe more. Their black bodies covering the ground like hairy locust.
His breath lodged in his chest. At least the rest of my family is safe.
A crash boomed to his left and he glanced behind him. The weight of all the Tryn brought a dead tree to the ground. Even that didn't slow the creatures. Their fur covered black hides and puny leather wings blurred together among their masses.
The urge to change into his dragon form gripped him. But the forest was too dense to change here especially with the Tryn so close. He had to run faster. Get further ahead of them and into a clearing. Then he could shift and escape.
His side heaved, but he pressed on while the tall grass sliced at his bare legs and low branches and vines scratched his arms.
A few more yards ahead, looked like the trees thinned. Perfect for him to transform. He pounded the ground harder while rocks and tree bark dug into his feet.
Almost there. Then he could have his wings and take off, escaping this onslaught.
He brought out his arms, focusing his will on transforming into his dragon form. All his years as a shifter, he had never tried this out of breath and running for his life. Usually, he just stayed in his dragon form.
His muscles contorted and he stumbled forward. He strained to keep his legs pumping as he entered the clearing.
Sweat trickled down his face as his human flesh quivered and hardened into scales. His muscles cramped and he fell to the dirt. A hard smack hit him in the back making him stumble, then another. What the—he reached behind him. His fingers grasped a Tryn with its hairy hide. He brought the creature around in front of him and avoided its rows of snapping teeth. Another enemy crashed into him. Then two more.
“Get off me, bastards!” He shook his body which was half-morphed into his full Renjer form.
He knocked all but three of the Tryns off. Those beasts bit into his flesh and he bellowed. Their poisoned venom from their mouths careened into his bloodstream. More Tryn piled onto him, biting him. He rolled side-to-side, but only dislodged a few that time. Weakness settled into his gut. His legs buckled and his knees rammed into the ground. Fur-covered bodies stuck to him. He couldn’t breathe. His lungs burned for air and with the poison raving through his bloodstream, he couldn’t shift either. His body convulsed and returned to his human form.
Darkness buffered the edges of his mind and he had one image flicker before him before he passed out. Isabelle.
* * *
Something wet splashed Kohl in the face. He coughed, clearing water out of his lungs. He opened his eyes and found himself chained to a wall in his father's palace. Five Tryn crouched nearby in the shadows watching him. Did they think because he was in human form that he couldn't see them? Why were they here and not attacking me?
He yanked on the chains and they rattled, but didn't yield. And why would the Tryn bring him here? Then again, the Tryn were vermin, not logical. They couldn’t be negotiated with. Taking a deep breath, Kohl focused on shifting, on moving into his dragon body and how he would rip the shackles from the stone wall and whip these Tryn with the links. Instead, nothing changed. His back ached from being in one position too long. Both his arms and legs stretched out.
The door creaked open and the largest Tryn he had ever seen ambled in. This Tryn was at least seven feet tall and bulky muscles strained against his fur-covered hide. In the corner, the remaining five smaller Tryn shrank back.
Taking a clawed black hand, the massive creature traced a line down Kohl’s cheek and grinned showing his rows of razor teeth. He let out garbled, clicking sounds. Then licked the wound on Kohl’s shoulder. He jerked to move away from the beast, but it snapped a hand to his throat, holding him in place.
“What the fuck? Get off me!” Kohl twisted away and the contact was broken. Dizziness spread through him. Had he lost too much blood or was the Tryn’s poison overtaking him? How long did he have? He would fight until there was nothing left.
“Thank you,” the large Tryn said in Kohl’s language.
“Wha—?” Had the beasts been able to communicate all this time and decided to keep it a secret? Had they had spies learn of Renjer’s secrets and what better way to make the enemy think they couldn’t understand. Worry over his family pressed against him.
The beast inhaled deeply and folded his arms across his chest. “You are King’s son.”
How did the beast know that? Kohl felt the blood drain from his face, but he kept his expression and stance unmoving. “The King is dead. You killed him in the winter battle, remember?” Actually it was Kohl’s eldest brother Brunard they’d captured. He was in line for the throne and had already begun ruling under their father’s guidance. Monarchy used the ancestor this way to ensure the new ruler understood how to rule. Dena had told him once that countries that had kings waited until the current king died before the new one took over. How stupid was that? How did the new ruler know what to do and he would have no one to mentor him. What did the creatures want with him? Whatever it was, it couldn’t be good. And the thought of harm coming to his family or friends sent terror freezing in his veins.
“Ah, but the amber Renjer told us there was another king. A silver and white one who has eluded us all this time.” He frowned, making the double rows of teeth jut out his mouth. “We almost had him yesterday when you distracted my men.”
“I’d say I’m sorry, but I don’t lie unless I have to.”
The creature laughed and the sound grated on Kohl’s nerve like a broken saw with an unnatural rhythm. “Exaggerating the truth then.”
He had to change the subject off his dad. “How is it you speak our language?”
“Through your blood.” The creature shrugged. “We haven’t needed to keep anyone alive, except your eldest brother, until now. And he told us all about his father and family. Which is the reason you all had to flee during that storm that wiped out a few of you.”
Rage burned through Kohl. It wasn’t true. It couldn’t be. His brother Brunard would have died rather than reveal any of their secrets. Yet, doubt tickled the back of Kohl’s mind. He had lost two sisters and cousin during that time. His dad had insisted they leave their shelter in the middle of the night during the worst part of the storm. Flash flooding and tornadoes had ripped through the land. Many of their people, also hiding from the Tryns had died that day.
“So why do you need me? Kill me and get it over with.” Kohl narrowed his eyes. “But no matter what you do, I will never betray my family.”
“Of course not.” The giant Tryn seemed unconcerned as he lowered his arms. “They will come running when they see me.”
“We aren’t afraid of you.” Kohl leaned forward as far as the chains would allow him. Inches from the Tryn leader. “And none of my household will turn tail when you fight us in the open.” And stopped their guerilla warfare tactics. Kohl and his kind would’ve wiped out these invaders if it hadn’t been for the Tryn’s sheer numbers and them eliminating their weapons. Even their shields had been damaged and no longer offered the protection against their poison. If his dad had listened to him about the crystals, they could be defeating the Tryns right now. It could’ve swayed the war in their favor and returned their world to the peace and prosperity of before.
“No, you misunderstand me.” He cracked his clawed hands. “They will run to me…even embrace me.”
Kohl scoffed. “You’re delusional. Maybe you’ve been breathing our sacred hot springs too long.”
“We have the greatest weapon now to defeat your people.” He stepped closer and his putrid breath washed over Kohl making him gag. “Then we will take our next world, then the next.”
“Never gonna happen.” Sympathy for whatever planet was next on the Tryns list to conquer. They had no idea what was coming or the carnage.
“I really must thank you, though.” The Tryn patted Kohl’s cheek hard. “In the past, we’ve tried to annihilate the creatures of this unsophisticated world only to fail again and again, but you have given us the key to both your kingdoms.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” Yup, the Tryn must have inhaled the hot spring mist too deeply.
“Renjer and Earth.”
A boulder sunk into Kohl’s gut. “What are you talking about?” Isabelle, Dena, all those innocent humans. They’d have no way to defend themselves against the onslaught.
“Earth. The place of your mother’s birth.” He stepped back.
No one knew about his shifting ability except his family. Bile churned in Kohl’s stomach and burned a path up his throat.
“And we thank you for your technology.” The Tryn gestured to the group in the corner and one crawled forward with a Renjer shield bracelet in his hand. He strapped it to his wrists and fiddled with the controls. “We improved it and just needed one more ingredient, which we have now thanks to you.”
Before his eyes, the Tryn’s body shivered behind a gray reflection. Then a mirror image of Kohl stood before him. His twin. The Tryn looked exactly like him in his human form.
“So, do you understand now?” The leader waved to the group of five watching them. “Take only enough to do as I commanded. Tonight we destroy his family and tomorrow, we land on Earth and start killing those who this Renjer holds dear.”
No! This couldn’t be happening. His father, brothers, sisters…entire clans wiped out. And what of Earth? The Tryns couldn’t know who he’d been in contact with.
“You think Renjers’ sense of smell is superior to ours?” He clapped his hands. “I’ll bring the woman you slept with here. Yes, I can still smell her on you as can all of us. It will be only a matter of time before we locate her or any others you’ve had contact with on Earth and bring them here for you to watch their slaughter.”
“Why?” Kohl clenched his teeth. Somehow he had to stop them. He snapped the chains with all his might, but couldn’t budge them. His breathing grew into pants from the strain. He had to get out. Had to destroy them before they killed more.
“Because.” His twin stalked to the open door and looked over his shoulder. “The Tryns always win. All of this could’ve been avoided if your father had just given us what we wanted.”
“Which was?” Kohl was tired of games. He had to warn Isabelle and Dena. Convince his father to fight and gather as many crystals from Earth as they could.
“We’d been blocked from entering Earth’s atmosphere since the Dark Ages. Their invisible shields burn up our ships and teleportation. Human scientist blame the explosions on meteors, but we used to be able to come and go as we pleased. Terrorizing the humans.” He sighed with a smile. “It was the best times. And now, with your blood, we can once again enjoy feasting on their horror.”
“Why torture me then with puny humans?” Perhaps they were bluffing. Trying to get him to admit he cared.
“Because your father refused to give us you. We needed your half-blood to enter Earth and trick the barrier into thinking we’re human. Why do you think we didn’t leave once your race had dwindled down to such meager numbers?” He nodded to the five remaining Tryns. “Your devastation will bring us the best revenge. Don’t worry, I’ll leave your father alive and allow him to join you in seeing your special humans die in front of your eyes. Now, I must get back to the forest, your family is searching for you.” The Tryn giant left and closed the door behind him.
The group of five Tryns emerged out of the shadows. Their teeth gnashing. Kohl flinched, but kept his body still. No way would he give them the pleasure of hearing his screams.