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Hunted by Man

Sebastian reached Deragan’s side.

Together, the two fought their way through the mass.

A shrieking cry crossed the distance. A massive winged beast thudded to the ground, making it quake as he restlessly shifted giant clawed feet. Pale shimmering scales luminescing in the dark.

“What beast from hell?” A man ducked backward. Others stumbled and crawled to retreat from the horned creature.

“Is that a dragon? I thought they didn’t exist!”

The creature lowered, opening his mouth to spear them with biting teeth.

“No flames!” Deragan’s order made him pause consideringly.

Don’t kill anyone. It’ll just make the others join the hunt for us.

“Chavias, no!” He commanded. “Get back.”

The beast stilled. Lowering its neck to let Bast and Deragan climb up behind the sail encircling his head. Once they were astride it, the dragon crouched and shot into the air.

Below, men shouted for carriages or chariots. Pouring into the drive and leaping into their vehicles or atop horses to pursue. Following the glimmering beast cutting the black sky.

“We have to get out of here. Radix is closing in.” Deragan murmured. “Find us somewhere.” He told Sebastian.

Somewhere we can retreat. Somewhere safe.

Sebastian gathered energy behind Deragan wrapping it into the crystal bubbles he sifted through.

Hurry! He willed Sebastian.

Chavias flew to the docks where the rest of the Forever Knights waited. Milling edgily as they awaited him.

Deragan captured his pendant and focused his energy. Knowing his call would summon Rhyers back from his tracking mission as well as any other loiterers.

They clustered on the docks. A crowd of lumbering giants. All moving restlessly.

Teverius with his six large black dogs at his legs.

Chavias landed as close as he could.

By then Bast had a floating bubble carefully balanced above his scooped fingers as he dismounted. “I found a place. A lower land.”

A lower land?

“What?” Deragan asked.

“A different plane. Below I think.” Sebastian pointed to the ground. His gaze riveted on green hills and dense trees contained in the bubble. “It’s really quite beautiful.”

I didn’t know there was any such thing. Can we even get to it?

“Raese.” Deragan called, shaking his head bemusedly.

The green eyed wizard pushed from the group.

“Staff?” Deragan asked him.

Raese reached out an empty hand and spun his wrist. A long wooden staff topped with a green globe folded around the back of his hand to land in his fist. He thunked its base to the ground and the green orb lit in blinding emerald light.

He’s powerful. But enough to do this?

“Can you get us there?”

“We’ll find out.” Raese waved them over.

He believes there’s a chance.

We have no other choice. Deragan moved to stand behind Raese. The knights parting for him to walk through. Lowering their heads in deference as he walked between them.

Sebastian approached. Carefully balancing the vision in his orb. Reaching Raese, he raised the bubble and sunk it over the green orb, letting it seep like clear oil into the staff’s globe. The images of trees, hills and mountains sliding into it.

Rhyers emerged from the dirt trail to join them.

There you are. Deragan gave him a look and he shook his head. Radix traveled too far to track. Deragan gritted his teeth in frustration.

Raese closed his eyes and drew a slow breath. Lifting the stick high before slamming it down. Making the ground rumble, then split, revealing dark water under the gaps. A mere few feet above the splintered bits, a sparkling flicker bloomed into green lights. Spiraling before vanishing only to return in a flare of light.

Chavias groaned. “I suppose we’re supposed to go in that?” He eyed Raese askance.

“Yes.” Tev called. “You should!”

Chavias shot the white-haired man a quelling look.

“I suppose when it appears?” Chavias gave Raese a nervous study.

Raese shrugged. Face impassive and eyes glowing like green fire. Shimmering gold lights moved around his head and shoulders. Circling the green orb topping his staff.

“Fantastic.” Chavias grumbled. Drawing a long breath and setting wide shoulders as he jumped through when it appeared.

“It’s good. Come on!” He called back.

“Mardichi.” Tev called.

“What?” The redheaded barbarian spun to eye the slimmer man.

“You next.” Tev suggested. His pack of dogs sitting in a line next to him.

“Get your pasty arse through lad, or I’ll throw ye through!”

Teverius glared at the huge man, but when Mardichi headed for him, he took a quick step toward the strange image. Dogs moving with him as he leapt when it appeared.

“Get through!” Mardichi ordered the rest. The men milling all over the dock rushed to obey his roaring command.

Deragan heard the rattle of carriages approaching. He turned at the far end of the dock to await them. Feet spread and head lowering as he readied for battle. I’ll slow them down.

“He’s right. Lucien get them through.”

Lucien Sabias shouted orders. Coaching them on when to move. One by one they hopped through. The whole mass traversing into the strange glowing portal. Until only Deragan, Mardichi, Lucien and Raese were left.

The carriages are nearly on us.

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