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Dark Horse

By Jay Swanson All Rights Reserved ©

Thriller / Fantasy

Dark Horse

Chakra circled with the monster, his sword so heavy now he feared he would drop it. The wounds along his arms throbbed, distracting him from the necessary focus that would keep him alive through this night. And he must stay alive, for if he failed, Melina would die.

The monster itself was the size of a bear, though in the darkness it looked and sounded much more like a wolf.Like everything else he’d encountered in this place, it didn’t fit his knowledge of the beasts of the world. Its eyes glowed yellow in the moonlight, as did the slobber [CG1] dripping from its jowls. It circled with a hunger not driven by food, and kept its distance not from fear but for caution. No one had made it this far, Chakra knew now. The monster was not going to take him lightly.

The still pool in the center of the clearing glistened, the water maintaining a natural barrier between the predator and the prey.

Chakra adjusted his grip. The notched blade barely reflected the moonlight any longer, its lower half dull beyond sharpening. The only thing that gave him any solace against the black stench of the place was the light blue glow emanating from the topaz in his armband.

The ancient piece of armor seemed to whisper to him, to warn him of tree roots and broken stone. It hadn't been so clear to him before, but its voice had grown more real the longer he had worn it, its presence a constant comfort. The greatest comfort it brought was the simple hope that he could save Melina.

Melina... Her name gave him hope. Her plight gave him focus. I’m coming. I won’t let you die.

The monster roared and lunged over the pool, clearing the twenty feet between them in a single bound. Chakra rolled to his left, stabbing back the way he had come as the monster landed with a snarl. Its claws batted his blade away, forcing him to spin as it snapped at him with long jaws.

He whipped the blade back around. The monster recoiled to avoid the whistling steel. Chakra kicked out. He caught the monster's next strike with his foot to its nose and saved himself the bite, but was thrown by the impact onto his back. He scrambled as he slid, bracing his shoulders with his arms out and using his momentum to kick back up and over. He was on his knees and ready before the monster had left the ground.

It came at him from above, eyes glowing bright. He rolled forward this time, thrusting up with the blade to catch its belly on the descent. He caught enough flesh to draw blood, but its claws flailed to block and knocked his blade to the side. The tail struck him on the side of the head as it came down, sending Chakra spinning back towards the pool.

He got to his feet and staggered into the water. At its deepest it barely rose above his waist. For that he was grateful as the monstrous bear-wolf followed him in. What are you? How do I kill you?

Chakra grit his teeth against the chill of the water and continued to back slowly towards the other side. The bear-wolf entered tentatively, its long tail skimming the surface as its bear chest barely entered the water.

I’ve been in worse situations over the last day, Chakra thought, but this isn’t going well. Melina. Her name came to him, lending him strength. Lending him urgency.

The bear-wolf howled and leaped straight up out of the water. A thousand strings of glistening pearls flew out behind it in the moonlight. Chakra howled his own cry and rose his blade to meet the beast head on.

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