C20 Khol - Don't listen to him
The side of Kohl's face pulsed with each heartbeat. His vision blurred as the Tryn stepped closer with the thick branch in his hand. Why did the beast want Isabelle? Or was this a trick to torment him? And shit, had the creature heard his comment about the silver mountain range? His breath lodged in his throat. All of his family, what was left of them, would be there. Taken unaware and slaughtered. Panic wedged underneath his breastbone and nothing except eliminating the enemy would dislodge it.
“You know nothing, Tryn. Take your minions…your foot soldiers who have plagued our land and be gone before I rip you to shreds.”
The Tryn bellowed a laugh that rang through the valley. “This is why we haven't crushed your planet. Spunk. Humans have it too. But until recently, we didn't know their worth in bringing our species into a new age. Procreation and gaining dragon abilities of fight and shifting. We’ll be unstoppable.”
Procreate? Did that mean the demons couldn't reproduce on their own? And would Isabelle become a baby machine for them? Rage snapped through Kohl's veins. No one…no Tryn would touch her. Even if it cost him his life. “As I said, Tryn, leave while you still can.”
Kohl shook his head and glanced over at Isabelle who leaned against a tree for balance with her left foot lifted off the ground. No way would she get far with her injury or outrun a Tryn. Especially not one bigger than Kohl in his human form. The monster must be nine or ten feet tall and swung a massive stick. Kohl's jaw still ached despite his quick healing ability.
Kohl's glanced to Isabelle and he hoped she got the message. She couldn't save him, but he could buy her some time…if she would take the opportunity and not refuse again. Kohl wouldn’t be able to transform without risking blacking out. Already his legs threatened to buckle. Don’t let the enemy know how wiped out he was. If it did, it would take Isabelle now and leave Kohl for the smaller Tryns to munch on his bones.
“I will leave…with your woman…and stroll right into the middle of your family’s hideout and destroy them all.” The huge Tryn straightened.
“My family will rip you apart.” Kohl had to warn them. If the demon took his blood again, it could alter its appearance and become Kohl. His family wouldn't expect the illusion, not until it was too late.
It chuckled. “Doubtful.” He waved to the smaller Tryns who swarmed forward. Their black bodies and teeth rushing at Kohl.
He kicked aside one, then flung another. But there were too many. Soon, Kohl was covered up to his neck in the swarming beasts. Their heaviness and vile fur irritating him and making his gut churn.
“Let him go.” Isabelle raised her fists.
The giant Tryn squeezed Kohl's cheeks, then leaned down and licked blood from his forehead. Kohl jerked to move away, but the fiend already transformed into a mirror image of him.
“Shall we go?” It turned to Isabelle and held out a hand.
“Stop this,” Isabelle backed away. “Surely we can negotiate…forge a peace treaty. Everyone can work together for the benefit of all.”
“After I wipe this planet of the Renjerian scum, I'll take you home, human.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Really?”
“Don't believe him!” Kohl tried to wiggle free of the dozens of Tryns attached to him. Several bit into his limbs, the poison shooting through him and his knees buckled. Dizziness slammed into him. His eyes growing heavy.
It laid a hand on its chest and said, “I will take you back to Earth once the rivers overflow with their blood.”
No! Kohl shifted to dislodge the vermin squirming on him. Would Isabelle trust the Tryn? She had no real reason to believe anything Kohl said after he hadn't told her the truth about himself. Still, he had to do something to save her…save his family. The damn Tryns knew his family’s hideout was in the silver mountains. It would only take them a short time to discover the underground caves.
Darkness pressed along the edges of his vision. He fought to keep his eyes open. Fought to remain conscious. Using the fragments of his reserves, he poured everything he had into his dragon breath. He had no idea of this would work in his human form, but he had to do something. He pulled the image of the beasts going after Isabelle…of her being hurt or worse…and the fire shot out his mouth. It scalded a path up his throat and singed his mouth. The flames exploded the Tryns covering him. Without their weight holding him in place, Kohl fell. His gaze tunneling to Isabelle. She smacked a rock against the back of the Tryn's head. The giant's disguise vanished as its eyes rolled up and it sank to the ground.
Kohl grinned as his eyelids closed and he sank into the abyss. He never expected anything less of the girl who stole his heart. He just wished he could tell her how he missed her and how she was in his thoughts daily before he died.
* * *
Isabelle’s entire arm vibrated with pain like her bone would shatter. She dropped the rock covered in black blood that she had smashed into the demon’s head. Fire churned around Kohl, but all the remaining little monsters had backed off that weren’t burned away. She dashed forward to Kohl, the flames heating her. Had to get him out of there. She grabbed ahold of Kohl's shoulders and dragged him less than a foot away. The giant demon lay motionless near them, but how long before he woke up?
Fear clogged her throat along with the smoke. She ignored the terror festering in her gut and tugged Kohl another two feet. Her arms screamed as she sat back, panting. At this rate, either the demon would rouse or the flames would burn them. Or the lesser demons bobbing up and down behind the flames would come after them once the fire dwindled. She had to get help, but she didn't want to leave Kohl behind. Bite marks marred his flesh and his breathing was shallow. He had told her the demons’ had venom. When she was little, she thought the cowboy movies of sucking and spitting out the poison was real and true. Later, she discovered it didn't work during one of her school's pet shows. And even if it did, she doubted she could get all the toxin out.
She just needed a way to carry him so they could cover ground quickly. Wait, Native Americans used a travois when someone was injured or ill, she could do the same here. Long sticks, vines, and cloth to stretch over it. The trees here were too high for her to reach the branches. She picked up the stick that the demon had hit Kohl with. It was about four feet long and thicker than her arm. Now she needed more. She scanned the area and found two more sticks. Vines hung on a nearby date looking tree and they were stretchy. Quickly, she aligned the sticks then tied them together beside Kohl.
Kneeling and using her weight, she rolled Kohl over twice until his body was on the travois, her ankle shooting searing pain when she pushed. She wiped her forehead and picked up the top of the carrier. It was slow going and her legs threatened to give out every step, but she plowed ahead. A river careened through the forest and its current led away from the direction Kohl had told her to take. But she could wade in and push Kohl easier with most of his body floating. The pull of the water wasn’t too strong that she wouldn’t be able to walk upstream.
Barking growls echoed in the woods behind them. She had to move faster or those creatures would be here soon. Holding onto the travois, she slid down the riverbank, dragging the travois behind her. The water hit her chest, but she could reach the bottom. She dragged carrier with Kohl on top of it into the water. The contraption floated past her and she grasped it. Her steps trudging against the flow of the river toward the silver mountains in the distance capped with white snow.
Her arms and legs were cold and tiring. Since her ankle was sprained, she had to hop along. But the cool water eased some of her pain.
Several times, she slipped under the water, but kept going. The sun above them dipped low in the horizon. How much farther to the mountains? Seemed like she’d wandered for hours yet they didn’t get any closer. Ahead, the river snaked up the path losing more and more of the yellow redwood-style trees and the land growing hillier with less vegetation. All this time, Kohl hadn’t stirred once. She checked on his breathing again and let out a sigh that his chest still rose and fell, but it was shallower breaths and his skin was pale and grey.
A rustle sounded in the bushes ahead and Isabelle froze in the river. Had the demons caught up with them? She’d hoped the water would also cloak hers and Kohl’s scents though she didn’t know if that’s how demons hunted or not. A shiver raced down her back as she strained in the dim light to make out what creature made the noise.
Then a whoosh blew her hair into her face, and she gasped. The travois and Kohl broke free of her hold and she swam toward them. No, she couldn’t lose him. Not now. Not when it was growing late and she didn’t know where she was or what horrible beasts would come out at night.
She nearly grasped the wood beam, when another blast of air sent her tumbling under the water. Her hands flailing for purchase and to break free of the churning water stirred from the gust of wind. She hit the surface and gasped, pulling in as much air as she could. Her heart straining against her chest as she spun in a circle. Where was Kohl?