The way seemed clear as far as Xaine could see. He hoped that those demons, or whatever they were, would stay in the forest. He did not dare slow down Saber, just in case. He noticed his father did not slow down either and seemed to be focussed on the lights still lit in the town. Minutes passed and they galloped on, trying to distance themselves as much as they could from the forest.
They were halfway back to the town when the sound hit their ears again. The terrible screams those creatures made echoed out across the still night. More lights lit back in the town. Xaine looked back apprehensively at the dark treeline. It was getting hard to see clearly in the night, but he could still see the dark creatures moving out from the trees.
"Dad, they"re coming after us!" Xaine bellowed.
"I don"t think it"s us they want, Xaine. We have to get back and warn everyone!" His father yelled back to him. Xaine realized he was talking about the town. Again the situation had changed with the simple realization. They were no longer fleeing for their lives from the creatures that nearly killed them, they were now racing the darkgons for the lives of the town.
Barrek and Xaine urged their horses forward. The horses, sensing the predators in pursuit again, seemed to redouble their efforts. Even with their horses in full gallop the darkgons kept pace behind them and seemed to even be gaining on them.
Xaine and Barrek were on their last stretch before entering the town. The darkgons were already more than halfway there. Xaine was looking over his shoulder at their pursuers when his father began to yell over the noise of the horses.
"Xaine, we need to be ready when we enter the town. I"m going to need you to go through and gather as many people as possible to the town hall. Protecting all the houses with the limited number of men we have would be impossible. We need them in one place we can then protect."
"What about you?"
"I am heading to sound the alarm and gather the guard. We will try and hold them off until everyone gets to town hall and then protect them there. If any of them break through it"s your job to protect those people."
As he spoke the last few words they crossed into the town. The two split up, Xaine heading to the houses nearest and his father going towards the alarm.
"Good luck!" Barrek called out as they parted ways. Xain knew he would need a lot more than luck to get through this. But he hoped to have as much as he could nonetheless. Xaine began to shout and hit any doors he could from his saddle as he passed trying to rouse as many people at a time as possible. Some were already outside looking unnerved. They had most likely heard the screams from the approaching predators.
Others began to emerge from their households looking disgruntled at being disturbed, but curious at what could be the problem. The loud bell began to ring out across the night which signified trouble. Once a sufficient number of people had emerged Xaine bellowed instructions.
"The town is under attack we need everyone to town center immediately. Help your friends and neighbors and get your children and loved ones. We need to move now!"
"Who are you?" One man shouted through the clatter of people trying to rouse their friends and family.
"I am Xaine from Kreila, I"m here to help- but we haven"t got time for a full explanation, we need to get everyone to safety now!"
Many people listened and helped to raise the alarm to others nearby and form groups up to the town hall. Some still lingered not wanting to listen to a strange youth, but still looked worried at what was happening. They were seemingly undecided on what to do.
Xaine was about to lead the ones willing up to the town hall before he realized nobody had gone to the Inn. Even if there weren"t any travelers, the innkeepers usually lived there and Xaine didn"t want to leave anyone behind.
Xaine moved to the door and rapped on it loudly, hoping to rouse the innkeepers without having to venture inside. The door opened a crack a moment later. Through the small space Xaine could see a man peering through at him then looking behind him at the milling crowd. He then opened the door wider a sudden look of worry on his face.
"The town"s in danger! We are getting everyone to the town hall for safety. I need you to wake your guests and get them out here as quickly as possible. This is an emergency."
The man turned to and spoke to a woman standing behind him. Xaine assumed this to be his wife.
"Best wake the girl," innkeeper spoke.
The innkeeper looked up at Xaine clearly suspicious.
"Who are you?"
"My name is Xaine, I"m here to help. We were hired by your town."
The innkeeper didn"t seem fully satisfied but at least slightly relieved. Xaine waited with him while his wife woke those in the inn. She returned a moment later with a young woman that looked to be around Xaine"s age. If not for her red hair and fair skin Xaine would have thought she was their daughter.
As they came out of the inn the young woman looked a bit agitated as if she had been woken from a good sleep. However her mood changed when she saw the large crowd outside seemingly worried.
"What"s happened?" She asked looking up at Xaine.
He opened his mouth to answer but was cut off before he could. The same torturous screams he had heard in the forest echoed across the night once again. The young womans face changed from concern to fear and what looked to Xaine like anger.
"They"ve reached the town! Everyone to the town hall!" Xaine shouted the order over the crowd then summoned his sword once again.
"Have you warned the other side yet?!" The young woman shouted to Xaine. He knew she meant the other part of the town with homesteads.
"No I wanted the people closest to the danger first," he shouted back over the noise.
"You get these people to the town hall I"ll warn the others!"
"I can defend myself," She was already running to the back of the inn, leaving Xaine at a loss for words.
Xaine hurried on, urging the people forward. Using his advantage on horseback, he kept watch around the crowd for any signs of the creatures. He looked back over his shoulder and saw a brief glimpse of the redheaded young woman galloping away one a mostly white stocky little horse.
Xaine pressed forward and had made it to the town hall. The large group of people were now getting themselves into the hall in huge line. Xaine didn"t know how many warriors this town had or what they were doing but it seemed to be working so far. He had not seen a darkgon the whole time. This both comforted and terrified him. These creatures were incredibly stealthy so the fact he hadn"t seen one meant either none were able to get through the line or he just wasn"t experienced enough to notice what was about to pounce.
Every scream that came from the direction of the battle, whether human or not, seemed to terrify the townspeople who still hadn"t gotten inside. Now dismounted, Xaine had finished tying Saber in front of the building. Two thirds of the group were safely inside when the horse began to get jittery. Saber flicked his ears back and forth and began to tug on his ropes.
"Everyone in now! We need to hurry!" Xaine shouted to make himself heard. He gripped the hilt of his sword tight and began to scan the area for any sign of movement. Once again he had the eerie feeling that he was being watched. Xaine moved to a better vantage point behind the group so he could watch both sides. He kept his back to them taking steps back as the rest of the group entered.
The last person made it inside and beckoned for him to join. Not willing to leave his horse or the young woman who might be coming with more townspeople, he stayed outside. The door closed behind him with a thud. It was now quieter than it had been since he returned to the town, only adding to the atmosphere.
Xaine"s heart was pounding in his chest. He could hear the dull thuds in his ears. He took deep breaths in an attempt to steady himself. He knew he had little chance by himself if one of those things was indeed out there. But he also knew he couldn"t leave these people without defense. He peered into the night his sword held up in a defensive position.
His eyes began to play tricks on him, seeing a small amount of movement in place, then nothing. Then in another spot movement, then nothing. Then again movement in the shadows between two nearby buildings. He was about to turn his attention elsewhere when the large creature burst out at him.
Xaine stepped back toward his horse as the creature ran at him. He griped his hilt tight preparing to swing at the right moment. The instant before he pulled back a muscled, hooved leg, shout past him and caught the creature in it"s side knocking it back several feet and to the ground.
He felt a deep fondness for his horse though deep down knew it was probably just trying to protect itself. Xaine lunged forward taking advantage of the stunned beast and swung with all his strength. His sword merely glanced off it"s thick hide. He dodged a swipe from a massive clawed appendage as he retreated several paces back.
The creature was now back on its feet, emitting a low guttural noise. It crouched low and began to slowly step to the side. Giving Xaine the impression that it was looking for an opening much like he was. How smart were these things he wondered. Xaine had little time to wonder however, as a loud crash and resulting cloud of dust and debris shot from one of the buildings to his right.
Another darkgon was shaking the dust from it"s black scales. Xaine realized only too late that he had turned to look. It felt like he was hit by a boulder. He slammed to the ground losing grip of his sword, which vanished. Stars swam before his eyes for a brief second as his head slammed into the ground. His vision cleared to see a mouth full of razor sharp teeth wide open above his head.
He heard a slight whistling sound and suddenly the enormous creature atop him was violently flung to the side. It sounded and felt as if an vicious gust of wind had suddenly come and gone. Xaine saw the creature several feet to his right sprawled on the ground. He noticed for the first time the enormous, leathery, torn wings it had. They were stretched out as if caught by the wind unbalancing the creature.
Xaine turned his head to the left to see what had happened. The young woman sat atop her stout little horse, a bow in her hand. A bow she was now shaking and shouting at. Xaine could just make out "not now!" and "trying to help!" Then her attention turned back to him and she shouted more clearly.
Xaine turned back to see the other darkgon that had come through the wall moving toward him. He quickly rolled on to his feet held out his hand and felt the cool metal meet his palm. The creature halted its advance, seeming to react to his newly less than helpless state. The darkgon that had been knocked over was getting back to his feet. Xaine had no idea what to do.
He had no idea how to use his powers or what they were yet and these beasts skin was like dragonhide. No simple blade could penetrate it. He knew he now had another warrior to back him up, but she was clearly having some sort of problem. If he was going to fight these things effectively he had to aim for a vulnerable spot. Unfortunately he did not yet know where they were vulnerable.
The moment Xaine took to think was apparently too much for the creature as it launched itself forward again, jaw open. At that point Xaine found a spot he thought had to be vulnerable, terrifying, but vulnerable. He moved to the side and swung his sword into the darkgons mouth. He turned the sword to the side pointing to blades at the roof of it"s mouth it"s tongue. It began to clamp down and as soon as it made contact with the sword Xaine yanked it back out.
The creature let out their bone chilling scream, Xaine hoped because of pain. From his new position he could see that the young woman had come closer and was still fiddling with her bow clearly frustrated. She gave a heavy sigh then closed her eyes, took a deep breath and pulled the bow string back.
She opened her eyes and a shaft of fire erupted between her fingers and expanded to the end of the bow. She released and the fire shot between Xaine and the creature he was fighting and hit the one that had tackled him. It was now back to it"s feet and dodged the fire arrow. Just as it passed the arrow exploded causing a loud noise and tripping up the creature yet again. However the explosion occurred farther to the back of the creature and didn"t fully knock it over.
The creature in front of Xaine quickly edged forward and swiped with its forefoot. Xaine dodged back and swung his sword at it to little effect. The creature kept advancing using its claws now instead of its mouth which Xaine took as an affirmative note that he had cause some sort of damage.
Another wind arrow soared passed Xaine but missed the other creature again. Xaine had only his peripheral to know how far the other beast was as he had to stay focused on the one actively attacking him. It made two more quick swipes at him resulting in Xaine taking another step back. He could see more fire in the corner of his eye but something added up strangely. He glanced to his right and saw that he was now directly in the line of fire.
He unintentionally turned his head to the left and saw the other creature now hiding in the space the girl could not see on the other side of him. His momentary distraction was not missed as the creature in front of him clamped its jaws around his sword and pulled it from his hand. In one movement the creature jerked its head sideways and released. The sword flew through the air.
Xaine, acting on instinct, summoned the weapon again and it vanished in thin air then reappeared in his palm. The creature turned back to him. It paused and stood taller than its pouncing stance for a moment, and cocked its head sideways. It then snarled and let out a bone chilling scream.
"Get down!" The girl shouted.
Xaine looked in her direction in time to see her fingers release the bowstring. For the second time that day, the world seemed to move in slow motion. Xaine turned his back on the darkgon he was facing, seeing the fire streaking toward him. He took a step then leapt as hard as he could. The loud explosion that came from where he just was thrust him farther than he had meant to go.
Xaine landed on his feet but stumbled a few steps before turning around. Once he was turned back around, he could see the two creatures dazed on the ground. Xaine realized she must have shot so close to him because the other darkgon took the opportunity to attack him while, at the same time, using him as cover. Though, as he barely made it out of the way, he still wasn"t sure it was such a good idea. The creatures stood back up stumbling back and forth, shaking their heads.
"Shoot again!" Xaine shouted this time. When no more arrows came he looked back at the girl to see her with the bowstring pulled back but no arrow appearing as it did before. She seemed so focused for a moment, then shouted in frustration moving the bowstring back to starting position.
"We"re in danger for crying out loud! Aren"t you supposed to help!" She shouted more frustrated than ever.
If she wasn"t staring at the bow, Xaine would have thought she was talking to him. The two creatures were already regaining their composure and Xaine took a step forward meaning to run for a strike. However, he was stopped by the sound of the torturous screams from the main battle line. The two creatures looked in that direction and screamed back. Then turned once again upon their prey.
They began to move on Xaine and the girl when the scream happened again. The darkgons halted and emitted a low growl. They sounded, if possible, aggravated. Suddenly more darkgons burst from the dark, one or two bursting through a wall as the other had. The two creatures closest to Xaine and their party turned to follow the others.
Several warriors on horseback then burst from the same direction. Some bloodied and injured. The creatures and warriors all disappeared into the night. Without wasting a moment, Xaine and the girl got the rest of her group into the town hall for protection. As they entered Xaine felt a stinging in his side. He looked down to see a line of blood on his side seeping from a cut between the belts that fastened his leather armor. This was looking to be a long night.