Natir Whitebridge: A Grain of Respect

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Chapter 40

All Out Fight

The beast slowly dissolved into the dark.

Dead beat, Natir prepared herself for the sneak attack.

She called aloud, “If it’s fire you are after, Gull’s fire is bigger. And if it’s fire you avoid, Teyrnon and Viri had none.”

She turned towards a noise. “If it’s because I’m weak, I saw Teyrnon lose his axe. And if it’s blood you are after, Viri is injured. But none of that matters to you. Your biggest concern right now is that I am here, isn’t it?”

Her body was overtaken by sudden weakness. She felt a terrible dizziness and leaned against a tree for support, holding her injured side.

She reached under her shirt. The bleeding wasn’t stopping and she felt a hole next to her waist that hurt so bad, the pain made her clench her teeth at the mere touch of it.

The beast sensed her weakness.

It needed to sneak up on her no more.

It emerged from behind the trees and came forth to finish her off.

Natir pushed off the tree and pointed her spear at it, panting for air, feeling her blood stream down the full length of her leg, and yet she still summoned all the force she had left to face it.

Her chances of surviving another attack were next to nothing, and they both knew it. She bit her lip and tried not to think about it as the monstrous jaws crept closer.

Out of nowhere, a torchlight shined upon them, causing the beast to stop.

Her face brightened, and her chest was filled with joy, so much so that Natir was lost for words. Help had arrived.

“You run fast, woman. But the world is not without end.”

Her heart sank. It was Milos.

“And you,” he motioned at the beast, “you don’t look like a bear.”

He attached his torch to a tree and dropped his cloak, as calm as a man preparing to work. “Kids these days, they have poor eyesight.”

It was almost shocking. Milos wasn’t shaken by the beast’s appearance, not in the slightest. The ruckus of the fight must have already told him what was going on and he came prepared. It didn’t matter to him what he was up against.

Natir looked at the creature and saw that it seemed confused.

She was much closer to it, and she was sure that the beast must have realized it only needed to jump her one more time to win her head. But Milos was closer to the direction it protects and that worried it a lot.

Natir used what she had uncovered to her advantage. She kept her spear at the beast while she slowly retreated backwards, distancing herself further from whatever it was that the beast was protecting.

It noticed her and grunted, causing Natir to stop.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Milos said.

She turned her face to him. “Help me.”

“Sure,” he said. “Come here. Take cover behind my back.”

A chill ran down her spine as she realized by the tone of his voice alone that he still intended to kill her.

Her situation had only worsened. If anything, she was faced by two killers now, and she could barely put up a fight as she was.

“What’s the matter? Come. I’ll keep you safe.”

She swallowed. “No.”

The beast grunted at Milos when he pulled two axes from his belt.

Milos got serious. “Well, I didn’t think it would be that easy.”

The three of them faced one another in a dead-locked triangle, waiting to see who would make the first move…

* * *

Natir was on the defense, unable to anticipate what would happen next, and the few trees they had in between were not going to aid her evade either one of them.

She was shocked to see Milos targeting her first; he ran towards her, echoing a hideous cry, and she quickly turned her spear at him.

The beast jumped Milos’s side as swift as a bolt of lightning, but like a humanoid-bear, Milos countered the attack at the last moment and hammered its chest with one of his axes, knocking it off himself, and they each fell into the shadows, out of her sight.

Natir immediately made a run for it, but the beast raced to intercept her and appeared straight in her way, causing her to leap backwards a couple of steps, on her good foot, as it growled and closed in on her.

When she saw it picking up speed fast, like a creature from her nightmares, she quickly hurled rocks at it from the ground, hoping to keep it at bay, when Milos’s shout alerted her to his approach from behind.

She spun and sent the last rock she had at Milos instead, hitting him in the chest, and ran in between her attackers towards the worst direction possible: the place the beast was protecting.

A shriek escaped her and she ducked her head as she ran when a rock flew by her side and hit a tree, missing the back of her head by mere inches.

The beast leapt on the body of a tree ahead and sprang down her way, and she raised her spear to fend off the attack when Milos suddenly appeared, running in between her and the beast.

He struck the creature in midair with both axes at once, knocking it among the bushes, and just as fast he turned to Natir and swung his axes at her one after the another, hoping to split her skull open, as she retreated on her heels and waved her spear in the air with panic.

With much difficulty, she managed to keep her distance by repeatedly thrusting her spear at him. One of her thrusts struck the man, wounding him to the upper-arm.

In his rage, Milos waved his axe upwards. It hit her spear and sent it flying from her hands, and he threw his other axe at her.

Natir quickly spun around a tree at her back for cover when suddenly the air was blasted out of her chest and she fell sideways as the beast jumped her when she had least expected.

Its claws punctured her right shoulder with immense pain that made her howl in snow. She scrambled up to her feet as fast as she could and saw in the flash of her motion that the beast had stopped attacking her to raise its arm in the air, protecting itself as Milos delivered it with a crushing hit of his axe.

It roared and leapt at Milos, clinging to his waist by its legs and hurling its claws at his head, painting his face with cuts.

Natir quickly pressed her foot against the tree as she reached for the nearest weapon she had, Milos’s axe, and pulled on it until she freed it from the wood.

All the while, Milos echoed a frightening cry and got a hold of the beast.

As it twisted and struggled in his hands like a boar, he raised it over his head and threw it straight down over a large rock with such force it would have shattered a man’s spine to pieces.

The beast rolled away, but Natir was already there, meeting it with Milos’s axe. She sent the weapon atop the beast’s head, knocking it back onto the ground, and she suddenly received a punch from Milos to the head as soon as she had landed her strike; it sent her spinning on her heel and she crashed in snow, hands on her blooded nose.

Milos grabbed a large rock with both hands that otherwise would have taken two normal men just to raise off the ground. He raised it high over his head, as if it were as light as a woman, and attempted to crush the beast’s head with it, but the beast sprang past him, slashing Milos’s leg as it went.

Milos’s blood splattered into the air as he spun out of balance and onto the ground.

He attempted to get up right away, scrambling for his axe, but before he could get up, his face was met with a rock which Natir had shot at him, and he fell sideways to his elbow.

Natir used his moment of confusion to run past him, aiming to retrieve her spear, but he caught her ankle in the nick of time and she fell face-down, yelping.

Her spear was within arm’s reach. She threw her hand at it when her body was suddenly levitated off the ground as Milos hurled her body, weightless, into the air by her ankle and threw her thirty feet away against a tree.

He picked up his axe and raced after her, but two steps later the beast jumped his back and sent its jaws into his shoulder, causing Milos to struggle with panic, trying to get the beast off him.

He peeled the beast’s head off his shoulder and the two of them howled in each other’s faces like true monsters before Milos smashed his forehead against the beast’s and swiftly wrestled it onto the ground.

Her hand to the tree, Natir got up on her knee, breathless and spitting blood on the ground.

She saw Milos racing her way and she panicked.

Natir futilely tried to escape but her legs betray her and she fell face-down onto the ground. When she looked over her shoulder again, she saw Milos and the beast on each other again, with the beast succeeding in biting Milos’s upper arm.

Natir forced her body to move and crawled over the snow on her hands and knees as fast as she could, going around them as she aimed for the torch.

Milos howled in pain and couldn’t get the beast to let go of him. Then, like a monster, he raised the beast in the air with one hand and smashed its back to a tree, and then to another, before he grabbed the beast’s arm and broke it at the joint.

Natir got the torch and when she turned, she saw Milos, stumbling and coated with blood, racing her way. Natir brandished the torch at him as she retreated backwards.

“Stay back! Stay back!” Words and blood alike shot out of her mouth, and she hurled one rock after another in his direction before turning around and running in an attempt to retrieve her spear as he chased after her, howling with rage.

She snatched the spear with one hand and spun around, raising it in Milos’s face.

The trees obscured her view and she could not see the beast coming. It got a hold of her from behind with its one good arm, and its claws penetrated her clothes and into the flesh of her back as it hurled her up and down against the ground.

It lifted her body again, attempting to smash her once more. Natir cried aloud and barely managed to twist hard enough to stab the torch straight into its face, the motion causing the wound to her side to send shocks of pain through her body that made her scream her soul out.

The beast screamed with fire engulfing its face and threw Natir over snow-capped bushes, where she crashed and rolled down an unforeseen slope.

The beast then turned its attention to Milos, who had reached them, and attempted to jump him.

Milos treated the beast’s attack with a punch, and then another, and the beast escaped into the dark.

Milos spun around himself, unable to see either of his foes. He shouted and hammered his fist to his bloodied chest.

“RUN, YOU COWARDS. RUN! YOU THINK YOU CAN TAKE ME? MEEE? I AM MILOS. I AM THE SERVANT OF DEATH. FORTY MEN I KILLED WITH THESE HANDS. WHO IS LIKE MILOS? WHO IS BRAVER THAN MILOS? YOUR HEADS ARE MINE!”

The beast circled around him, climbed a tree and came down at him from above with its broken arm tangling behind its body.

The sneak attack didn’t escape the experienced man, who turned on his heel and caught the beast in his massive arms, crushing its back.

Both howled in rage, the beast’s arms trapped at its sides, unable to free itself, while Milos squeezed the beast against himself with all his might, shouting like a bear.

The beast tried to bite into Milos’s neck, and Milos quickly let go and grabbed the beast’s neck, holding it back with the frightening jaws biting the air right before his face.

Hand-to-claw and hand-to-neck, the two foes were locked in an exertion of strength, neither one giving ground to the other.

It lasted for but a few moments before the beast suddenly overpowered Milos and its jaws closed in on his neck, ripping his throat open.

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