Sanctuary – Snippet 07
He was at the rim of the nest, now. On the other side of the mound of stones, the noise being made by the hatchlings was almost deafening. Glancing to his left, he saw that Nabliz was ready also.
Sebetwe couldn’t see Herere — he could have barely heard her if she were shouting, in the midst of the hatchling racket — but he would just have to assume that she was in position as well.
It would be no great matter if she weren’t. He was now sure there were only two hatchlings in the nest, which he and Nabliz could handle. Long enough for Herere to arrive and lend her assistance, anyway.
There was no point in waiting.
No point in issuing a war cry, either. Trying to shout over the screeching of the hatchlings would be an exercise in futility.
So, he just came upright and leaned over the stone rim, bringing his snare into play.
Two hatchlings, as he’d guessed. It was almost comical the way the creatures became instantly silent the moment they spotted Sebetwe. They stared up at him with their jaws agape, their eyes large and as round as such eyes could be.
His cast was perfect. The noose came down over one of the hatchling’s head, down its sinewy neck and over the slender predator’s shoulders. With a powerful wrench to his right, he brought the rope tight, pinning the young gantrak’s forelimbs to its body.
Now a wrench to the left brought the creature down. As he clambered into the nest, he saw that Nabliz’s cast had been much poorer than his. Nabliz had failed to get the noose over the shoulders of the other one. Now, he could only lift the small gantrak into the air, choking it with the rope around the neck. Unless someone came to his aid — and soon — he would kill the hatchling instead of capturing it.
Nabliz had no choice in the matter, though. Even a hatchling gantrak was dangerous if left to run wild.
But Sebetwe could spare no more than a glance at Nabliz. His own hatchling was still not subdued. He slammed the pole down and stepped on it with his foot, keeping the hatchling pinned. Then, squatting to bring himself close to the little monster — not too close; a swipe from one of those thrashing and well-taloned rear limbs could easily tear out an eye — he compressed the thing’s mind under his gudh. Within two seconds, the hatchling was completely still, paralyzed.
Being gudru had its uses, but Sebetwe was already readying his bradda. The mental exercises needed for that took some time, though, which was the reason he’d started with a crude but straightforward use of his gudh.
The exercises were mostly a matter of rote for him now, so he took a bit of time to see how Nabliz was faring.
Much better. Herere had arrived and immobilized that hatchling’s rear limbs with his own snare. Between them, she and Nabliz brought the creature down to earth. By now, the hatchling was half-suffocated and dazed. Moving deftly and quickly, Nabliz loosened his noose and slid it over the young gantrak’s shoulders.
That one was now completely immobilized also. Herere, showing the good sense she usually exhibited in combat, switched snares with Nabliz. She would now hold the creature still while Nabliz readied his own bradda.
Everything was shaping up well.
Until the pile of debris in a far corner of the nest suddenly erupted.
The screech that now came from the slope above made the ones issued earlier seem like the peepings of small birds. Achia Pazik froze, her eyes ranging up and scouring the mountainside, looking for the source.
A gantrak — fully grown, with a red-and-blue male crest — came up from the pile of debris. It must have been sleeping there.
The scream it issued paralyzed Sebetwe for a moment. But not Herere. She flung her snarepole at Nabliz, shouting something that couldn’t really be heard above the monster’s scream. Sebetwe thought it might be Here! Hold the hatchling!
Then she rose, drawing her knife, to face the gantrak.
It was an act of courage bordering on sheer madness. There was no way Herere, armed only with a knife, could overcome an adult gantrak. Even the male ones, although smaller than the females, outweighed any Liskash — and if their fangs and talons were any smaller than a female’s, Sebetwe couldn’t tell the difference.
And so it proved. The gantrak’s charge drove Herere off her feet entirely. But not before she grasped the monster’s crest and drove her knife into his chest.
Or tried to. The armor there deflected the blade — she’d have done better to try for the throat or belly — and all her knife did was gash a nasty-looking but shallow cut in the creature hide.
It was enough to unbalance the gantrak, though. Between that and Herere’s tight grip on the crest, the monster stumbled and knocked both of them over the rim of the nest.
The gantrak screamed again. A moment later, he and Herere had fallen out of sight somewhere down the mountain’s slope.
Two intertwined bodies came rolling down the mountain. One of them was a Liskash, that much was obvious. The other —
What was it? She had no idea.
But whatever it was, it was big and clearly dangerous. And it was coming straight for the section of the ledge where she thought Chefer Kolkin had reached.
Achia Pazik’s assumption was mostly correct — that was the portion of the ledge Chefer Kolkin had reached, moving ahead of the other warriors. But it was no longer a ledge. That section of the trail had broadened out into a small terrace. Almost a meadow, except the only things growing on it were lichens and a few scrubby little bushes.
Chefer Kolkin heard the bodies tumbling down the slope before he could see them. And when he did see them, it was at the last moment — in what seemed like a mere instant, he was knocked to the ground by the collision.
A moment later, three bodies separated themselves out from the jumbled pile.
Chefer Kolkin himself, a bit bruised but otherwise unharmed.
An unusually large Liskash, who seemed to be covered with gashes and wounds but was still alive and conscious — barely.
Some sort of hideous monster. It reminded Chefer Kolkin vaguely of a flat-bodied crested lizard he’d once seen in the desert, except its limbs weren’t splayed out — and it was easily thirty or forty times as big as any lizard he’d ever seen.