The wet and dripping cave walls sped by her as she pushed her legs as hard as they could go, and she Called the Broken to her will. Small particles seemed to drift in like dust from a summer sunbeam. They trailed behind her at first, like wisps from a desperate comet, but she calmed her thoughts and tried to remember the words of Ravven, her teacher.
“The Broken are unlimited in what they can do, what they can become for you, Tyria.” He had said to her, that first day she had come as an official apprentice. “But you must have discipline, and peace. Or your chaotic thoughts will turn on you, and the Broken will quickly kill you.”
That thought alone brought Tyria’s frantic thoughts to a cold standstill, and she Cast. It was not enough to Call the Broken, if you did not Cast your will into something for them to form or Dismiss them, they would quickly enshroud you in a metallic cloud of death.
Shuddering, even as she ran full out, her Casting touched the cloud behind her and the particles streamed to her feet and hands. Her bare feet were quickly covered and tough leathery shoes formed, with small spikes in the bottom that bit into the slippery stone beneath her. Her pace quickened. Gloves formed over her cut and bleeding hands, also with tiny spikes that she used to keep herself from falling as she rounded a particularly sharp turn in the cave passage.
Behind her, in the distance she heard the terrible scream of the Oryx as it caught her scent once again. She cursed her carelessness at trying to steal an Oryx egg before making sure that the mother was fully away hunting, but she was desperate. She had not had a decent meal in days, and this job had been the only one available at the Den. At least the only one she could afford to take, given her recent failures at the forest and castle.
Cursing her continued bad luck, Tyria leaped over a small stalagmite and hazarded a glance down at the pouch bound tightly to her chest by a strong leather strap over her shoulder. Oryx eggs were tough, but if she was not careful, she would flub up this job as well. The Den would not pay for a broken egg, and she doubted they tasted very good, given the nature of an adult Oryx.
Suddenly, the wet and narrow tunnel opened up to a large cavern. The dim light that had been given off by the fluorescent mold that grew along the walls filled the cavern with an eerie green. Tyria’s heart pounded in her chest and she gasped for breath.
Falling painfully to her knees, Tyria felt the cold fear that had been building up since she had clutched the Oryx egg and first heard that horrible scream of the mother Oryx. It had dropped the twisted corpse of the deer it had just slaughtered from its massive jaws and tore toward her with a ferocity that sent her into a panic of flight that now ended here, with her exhausted and starving in some cave that might very well be her tomb.
“No!” She called out to herself, and her voice sent echoes throughout the cavern and back down the corridor behind her. The Oryx screamed in response. It was growing rapidly closer.
Desperate, she Called once again. The emotion and terror behind the Call brought the Broken in almost instantly, forming a deadly cloud around her in seconds. Gasping, she Cast.
The Oryx appeared behind her and was running full out. It tore past her before even realizing she was there at the entrance to the cavern and skid to a stop. The Oryx was built like a huge boar, with greasy spikes for hair that could break off into wounds and kill in hours. It had wicked, hawk-like claws at the ends of its feet, and a huge head that was the home of a tremendous fang filled mouth. As it skid to a stop, its claws dug into the stone and filled the air with sparks and dust.
Tyria gasped at the sight of the creature. She knew the Oryx was a fast and deadly predator, but she never imagined such a powerful and terrifying beast could exist. It sniffed the air, looking for the scent of Oryx egg. It’s small black eyes oriented on her quickly and a deep growl filled the air, echoing off the cavern walls.
Tyria was now holding a medium sized sword. Her Casting was desperate and the sword looked somewhat unformed and lacking in detail, but the blade was impossibly sharp, as only a Broken formed weapon could be. Her gloves held the sword tightly but her whole body quivered with fatigue and fear.
The Oryx did not hesitate. It let out an ear piercing screech and tore toward her with a speed that astounded her. Before two frantic heartbeats it was on her. She swung her sword desperately and the blade bit into the Oryx’s neck. Blood burst from the gash and splashed across Tyria’s face. She screamed and ran along the cavern wall as she left the Oryx writhing in pain on the floor.
All sense of caution left her and she ran blindly along the wall.
“No egg is worth this! Not my life!” She said to herself and ducked into another small side passage. The scream of the Oryx filled the cavern once again, and Tyria bit her lip. She prayed that the Oryx would lose her scent. Especially now that it was wounded.
Tyria felt the hard bulge of her pouch and it seemed like the egg was still intact. For a moment she considered abandoning it there and running for her life, but another voice filled her thoughts. The voice of her mentor Ravven echoed in her head - cutting through her fear.
“Tyria, do not let fear consume you. Keep your thoughts calm and your mind at peace. Fear will rob you of your discipline and creativity. Those are your two most essential allies. Some say the Broken are alive, and that they can sense fear. Many a Caster has died because they let fear, and subsequently the Broken, consume them. Do not let fear in! Be fearless, and you will be unstoppable.” Ravven had held her tightly while he said these things, as Tyria had almost died when a Casting had gone wrong and left her with a large gash across her cheek.
In the darkness, as the Oryx stalked her, Tyria felt the scar on her cheek and remembered. Calm flowed into her and her shaking stopped. She took two deep breaths and Called.
The Oryx was mad with pain, anger, and hunger. The creature that had taken her precious egg would die tonight, and she would feast. She had tasted Human before, and quivered in anticipation. She could smell the terror from the human like a wave, and stalked toward the source of the smell. In an instant she was on the little human, who screamed pitifully. The Oryx slashed forward with her claws. But the black talons only tasted air.
Confused, the Oryx thrashed about, but suddenly found itself lifted high into the air. There was a metallic taste in her mouth and nose. The Oryx screeched in frustration.
Tyria let the fear wash over her, and projected it toward the Oryx. This was a deadly gamble, but she had nothing left. In a few seconds she was going to pass out, she felt it like an assurance of death, if she did not do something desperate. She Called once again and the Broken responded once more. A second metallic cloud formed, and drifted to the Oryx, which was now suspended in midair by the un-Cast Broken. Tyria prayed that it would not realize it was Tyria that was the source of the fear and pain, or she was about to die right now, and not from the Oryx.
“Come on. Come on!” She said through gritted teeth as she willed her fear into the thrashing beast. She felt herself slipping away.
One more minute.
A sickening crunch filled the cavern with sound. Tyria looked up to see the now dead Oryx suspended in air, but pierced by millions of tiny metallic spears. The deadly sign of a Caster who had Called, but not Cast. Tyria’s eyes rolled into the back of her head and she passed out. The last sound she heard was the metallic shattering as the Oryx fell to the cavern floor.