“No.” I fold my arms over my chest, and glare down at the solid wall of Kane’s muscular back, crouched before me.
Kane looks over his shoulder, irritation etched in the crease of his forehead. It was obvious that he was coming to the end of his short temper’s leash.
As if I care.
There is absolutely no way on Gia’s green earth, that I will mount this man’s back. Injured feet or not.
He must have detected my resolve, because without a second of hesitation. He stands to his feet, turns, and shoots me a mischievous grin.
Ignoring my squeal of protest, he lifts me up from the burning sand, with his hands under my arm pits. And effortlessly tosses me over his shoulder, grasping my upper thigh to hold me in place as he did.
“Put me down!” I smack my fists against his back. The heat of the day, although the sun had only just breached the golden horizon, is already in full force. Causing Kane’s shirt to cling in sodden defeat, to each and every detail of his back.
Those butterflies from yesterday, return with a vengeance. And I find that I don’t particularly hate this situation.
Especially not the view.
My eyes lock onto the way his pant’s shape to his form, tight and sculpted.
The aforementioned butterflies, catch their second wind, and for a moment, I fear they may escape my stomach.
What is this feeling?
“We should arrive to my home town by tomorrow evening. I’ll carry you until then, and I don’t want to hear anymore protests about it from you. With your feet in this condition, you’ll only slow us down.”
He quips, adjusting the pack on his other shoulder, that contained his belongings.
Now that I’m up here, I can’t find a single complaint. So I remain silent for a moment.
“Why are you in such a hurry? Is my father that keen on seeing me?” I finally ask, the question had been boring a hole in my mind since I’d agreed to follow Kane.
Though he had not told me much about the man who sent him for me, what little he had let slip, and the emotions warring in his eyes when he’d done it, let me know that whoever my father was,
I didn’t want to meet him.
But my mother is more important than my menial fear.
What horrors had she withstood before ultimately deciding to leave me with Haygarth.
What kind of monster would it have taken to force her to abandon me?
Fear or not, I have to go. And Kane is right, I’d just slow us down in my condition.
“The sooner I deliver you, the sooner I’ll be rid of you.” He replies.
The butterflies drop dead.
“Right.” I mumble, before relaxing into the sway of his long strides.
After a stretch of uncomfortable silence, he adds in a softer tone.
“Infection will set in quickly, especially since your body is not used to this environment. I imagine this is a far cry from the cool, and dim canopy, the sooner we get to my home, the sooner I can properly treat your wounds.”
He is right, of course.
The heat and sun are taking their toll on me, and I can’t say in full confidence, that I’d have been able to walk, even if he allowed me to.
This added concern, revives a few of the pesky interlopers in my gut.
I don’t reply.
I don’t trust myself to.
And we continue in silence, but this time, the quiet is comfortable.
I take this time to survey the world around me.
My eyes widen in wonder.
The dry breeze, bites my nose and throat, making each breath feel, too hot. But at the same time, the heat felt like a warm embrace. Heating my soul, and breaking away the darkness that had burrowed its way within.
The canopy had been beautiful, but cold and lonely.
Where, this new world, is bright, full of color, and new sights to be held.
The air smelt wild, and dusty.
And as my eyes cast upon the sky above me, my breath caught.
In my miserable attempt to keep up with Kane the day before, I’d missed the beauty of an open sky, unhindered by foliage and bark.
The truest blue I’d ever seen, washed with wisps of white, lined silver by the sun above it. Stretch above me, making me feel small.
My small world of green, solitude, and silence, only interrupted by the soft sounds of life, and occasionally spats with Haygarth.
Which had felt like a haven before.
Now seemed, a cage, by comparison.
Suddenly, another thought strikes me.
If the rest of the isle of the damned, had so much more to offer, than my hollow.
What more could the world, have hidden, just beyond the currents that trap us to our land.
Our water locked, prison.
The island, it’s residents history, and our current political stance, were explained to me by Kane, amidst my ceaseless questioning.
Upon hearing that we are all descendants from the worlds worst criminals, sent to this island, and locked within its coastal border, by a fierce and deadly whirlpool-like current. My mind had instantly filled with dreams of escape.
Of life beyond this.
Although those dreams were futile.
Not only because the current had successfully trapped us for generation after generation, but because my future is no longer my own.
My life is in Kane’s hands.
But unfortunately, he is itching to wash them of me.
A sharp pain, pinches my heart.
Because this stranger, doesn’t want what I do?
And what exactly is it that I even want?
Lost in thought, I didn’t feel the shift in the atmosphere, ‘til Kane’s grip flexes on my thigh.
“Shit.” He curses under his breath, before unceremoniously, dumping me on my feet.
My legs shake from the sudden weight, after having been unused the whole morning, and I bite back the wince that begged to be released, as pain shot through my mangled feet.
But before I can ask what the heck is going on, Kane folds me behind him, as best he can.
And drops into a defensive crouch.
I smell the ozone in the air, before I see the culprit.
But there is nothing that can be done about the wall of sand, that now speeds toward us.
“What is that!?” I gasp, gripping Kane’s shoulder.
Anywhere else, I wouldn’t feel the need to seek protection.
I’m more than capable of defending myself.
But that was in the hollow, where water and plant growth were full supply.
Here, in this barren, wasteland, beautiful as it may be, there were no plants, none viable for use within my Magic’s range, at least.
And what little water there was to be had, evaporated once hitting the scorching desert air.
I curse my inability to pull from the rivers that run underground, their strength far overreach mine, and my magic has no pull against their powerful surge.
“A sand storm, if we are lucky.” Kane replies, his eyes locked in front of him.
“And if we aren’t lucky?” I ask, afraid of his answer.
He turns to me then, a serious look in his expression.
“Scavers.” The name means nothing to me, but judging by Kane’s reaction.
It meant trouble.
As the sand storm closes in on us, we are given our answer.
A cacophony of howls began to erupt from behind the sand. Sounding as if a dog and a snake were attempting to outcry the other.
“Fuck me!” Kane spits, pulling two daggers from him waist line.
How had I not noticed those before?
“What! What is it!? What the heck is a scaver?”
Kane glances at me for a moment.
“Bounty thieves.” Is his only reply.
The wall is upon us.
The sun is blocked entirely, submerging us into darkness.
Wind and sand whip around us, deafening in their roar.
I imagine the force of it would strip our bones in seconds.
But the raging storm around us, is of magic.
And magic is nullified near Kane.
A bubble of calm in the chaos.
“Stay close to me, if you step outside my reach, you’ll be shredded alive, it won’t kill you, but it would be close. These people are not concerned about the condition of the bounty, only the pay out.” Kane grits through clenched teeth, the muscle in his jaw, ticking at full speed.
He didn’t have to tell me twice, for I’d already molded myself to his back, like a snail stuck to a leaf.
The baying grew louder, some how cutting though the raging sounds of the storm’s bellow.
“Siegons. Nasty creatures.” Kane supplies, before I can ask.
My heart thunders in my chest, matching the beat of heavy feet, heading our way.
Kane tenses, and before I can figure out what he’s waiting for, a large, scaly body, slams into us, nearly knocking me outside of Kane’s ring of safety from the sands.
My eyes widen painfully, as they settle on the sight before me.
On the ground, in a tangled mess of blades, blood, and teeth.
Kane fought with the most horrendous animal I’d ever laid eyes on.
Long and slender, with yellowish scales covering it from tail tip to muzzle, that fade into a ghastly brown, around the underside of it. A dog like reptile, snapped its rounded razor tipped maul, inches from Kane’s face.
He grappled with its smooth, earless head, and with one thumb hooked into the side of its jaw, he reached for his dagger that had been knocked from his hand after delivering a long gash down one side of the creatures, ridged flank.
And before the siegon realized what was happening, he thrust his dagger into the creatures head, slipping effortlessly into a slit, I imagine was it’s ear.
With a grunt, Kane pushes its limp body off of him, and begins to stand. But when his eyes fall on me, the full with panic.
My heart drops, as I whip around, coming face to face with another siegon.
It’s lips are peeled back into a pointed snarl, and it’s ruby eyes burn with the promise of blood.
Lead by instinct, I raise my hands in front of me, and pull what liquid I can from my own sweat and blood, and hurl the small specks at its wretched face, just as the putrid stink of its breath nears my throat.
They don’t cause much damage, but they buy me time to scramble the few feet, back to Kane’s side.
A small gash runs along his temple, but he doesn’t allow me time to inspect the damage, as he wraps his arm around my waist and spins to the left, just in time for another reptilian body to streak past where I’d been standing.
Fury rolls off of Kane in waves, causing my skin to prickle, even though I was not the recipient of his ire.
And then the storm recedes by a fraction, opening an area large enough for three men and two siegons, to step within.
I fight a smug grin, as I note one siegon, who’s face is left in tatters, shredded by my attack. His one good eye, glares at me, full of hatred and hunger.
“Would you look at what we have here, boys!” The man in front booms, with amusement.
“The great and powerful, Kane! The hunter to end all hunts, the phantom of the damned!” He raises his hands in mock appreciation.
His long greasy hair, two strands short of being bald. Sways limply, against the wind. Framing his gaunt and sun weathered skin.
Black eyes, bore out from hollow sockets, as he and his group, snicker at Kane’s expense.
The other two men, looked to be in a similar state hygienic homicide.
The sun dried and baked to a crisp, trio, stand aside their loyal dogs.
“You know of my skill, and yet you still have the cods to show your face?” Kane’s voice is low, calm, and dangerous.
“Ah, well you see. There is a bounty on that welp of a child, clinging to you so desperately. It would seem that the arena master has developed second thoughts about your... skills, as you put it.” The man sneers.
Kane growls from my side.
“Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. It matters little, because the price on her head is up for grabs as of this morning.” With that, the group begin to advance on us.
The siegon flanked them, and the sands closed at their feet as the progressed.
Which doesn’t seem very tactical from my view point, but more of a dramatic show of power.
Where in dropping the curtain of sand around them simultaneously, would have hidden them from view.
This flaunt of ability would cost them.
Kane seemed to have the same thoughts as I, because just as they come within a few yard from us. He grabs my wrist, pulling me along with him and the protection his ability provided.
And with one hand on his remaining dagger, and the other now wound within my fingers, we barrel towards them.
Taken aback by our offense, they startle, giving Kane the window he needed to dispatch them.
It is like a dance.
Like flying, feet barely touching earth.
Kane moves with grace and precision, not found in humans.
Even with me, trailing behind him, stumbling over the intricate steps of his attack, he worked seamlessly.
It was a thing of beauty and horror.
Steel against flesh, fists against bone.
The storm lost its edge, as the sickening sound of snapping bones, and cries, both human, and reptile fill my ears.
I’m swept along with the tide of battle.
Or should I say slaughter.
Because the Scavers were not given enough time to blink, let alone retaliate.
As Kane shifts in and out of visibility, his skill causing him to appear more Ghost than man.
The sands fall to the ground, their masters dead.
And silence replaces the final cries of death.
I stumbled back, retching my hand from Kane’s grip.
He’s not human.
He can’t be.
Tears prick my eyes unwillingly, drawn forth by the sheer pressure of Kane’s true presence.
The now dead scaver, had hit the nail directly in the head when he had uttered Kane’s title.
And dread fills my soul as I realize my childish and unfounded trust for this man, may have been misplaced.
He is not human.
Not in the way that I assumed.
Kane holds a different identity.
The shadow in the night.
The Phantom of the damned.