A Shattered Fantasy

Chapter Two: Initial Attack

In the single second it would take for the beast to exact it's revenge for her putting out it's fires, Hikari was able to release a single breath of air. The weight on her chest was too much to keep her lungs full. Sunlight glinted off the yellowish fangs, though with her eyes closed, she could not see it. Hikari's last thought was of her mother, who she had seen only moments after setting the rain on the fire, before the meaty thud took the weight from her body.

Wait. Meaty thud? Weight off of me? Where's the searing pain and bloody, messy death? These thoughts rolled through her mind at a incredibly fast speed. As a pair of strong hands gripped her under her arms and pulled her to her feet gently, she noticed that the air was filled with the sound of feral snarls. Opening her eyes, she was rewarded with a rather frightening scene.

In an area now completely free of villagers, the creature responsible for the fires stood on it's hind legs, grappling with Fienne. The Hikyuu had one large hand keeping it's mouth shut as much as possible, while the other was attempting to gouge out the monster's eyes, her claws extended. The creature, on the other hand, was trying to tear her back open as it's front legs wrapped around her in a bear-hug. However, the thick steel breastplate Fienne wore, along with the angle that the creature's claws were striking, made it impossible to get a good grip on her back, causing the claws to just scrape off of it in a shower of sparks.

The creature Fienne was fighting with was terrible to look at. It seemed a strange mix between a wolf, and a dragon, like the ones children were told about in bedtime stories. Purplish scales covered it's quadruped body, while a smattering of rusty orangey-red fur appeared at random places, but mainly covered the monster's overly large head and jaws. It's eyes, black and emotionless, were set on it's opponent. The thick fur-covered reptilian tail was lashing back and forth to allow the creature more balance on it's hind legs.

"A fell-hound," Locke muttered, as if he should have known it from the beginning. He had been the one to help up Hikari, and now supported her by wrapping his left arm around her. In this position, he knew he couldn't help Fienne fight the fell-hound. Where are you, Yasen? He asked himself, sparing swift glances around. The other fighter was no where to be found. Locke's attention was drawn back to the fight when Fienne issued a bellow of pain.

***

Running through her entire list of curses in the Hikyuu tongue through clenched teeth, Fienne pushed the burning feeling in her thigh away from the front of her mind. As the fell-hound had finally lost it's balance, it had fallen back to all fours, but it's front legs had still been scrabbling for purchase on her back. Its legs had fallen earthward, causing the claws of it's right front paw to rake across Fienne's left thigh, cutting through her black shorts and deep into the flesh. In retaliation, she gave it a swift kick across the chops, her own foot claws tearing three shallow slashes across it's face. Fienne hopped back, still nimble despite the wound, bringing a few feet of space between herself and the fell-hound.

The fell-hound, shaking it's head to get the stars out of it's vision, dug it's claws deep into the ground. A growl, starting as a low rumble deep in it's chest, escalated to a deafening roar. Fienne's brow furrowed at the noise. Her leg was really starting to burn, and she didn't know if she would be able to evade the next attack. As the creature launched at her, jaws open and claws out, a glimmer of sun on moving metal was caught in Fienne's peripheral vision.

With a sudden, high-pitched yelp, the fell-hound's head snapped back mid-jump, causing it to sprawl uncomfortably on it's back. It squirmed there for a second, legs kicking in the air, before it managed to right itself. Fienne raised from her crouch, head cocked to the side, slightly confused. The fell-hound, although standing, was still whimpering in pain. It raised its head and moved it a little to the side, revealing to the Hikyuu the source of it's discomfort.

A long chain was wrapped around it's neck, digging into the fur and scaly hide. A blade on the tip of the chain, about seven inches long and slightly curved, was jammed into the fell-hound's back, anchoring it. Following up the chain, which was being pulled taut, was Yasen, grinning like a court jester. He had his feet set apart, and was holding his weapon of choice in a firm grip, to keep the fell-hound from jumping at Fienne again, if it chose to do so.

"Fienne, I though you might need some he-" Yasen broke off into a slightly girlish shriek as the fell-hound changed it's direction and picked him as its newest victim. He could keep the beast away from the others with his chain acting as a leash, but there was nothing stopping it from attacking him instead. He leaped up onto a cart, but the fell-hound could make it up there without even a hint of effort, and he knew it.

Rolling her eyes, Fienne made a mad dash towards the fell-hound, executing a flying tackle that brought it to the ground before it could make the space between itself and Yasen any smaller. Wrapping her arms around it's neck while straddling it's back like a horse rider, she and Yasen were able to wrestle the creature to a fixed position on the ground. But with all the squirming the fell-hound was doing, both the Hikyuu and the warrior noticed the blade that was holding the chain in place was coming loose in the creature's flesh.

"Locke!" Yasen shouted, his usually calm voice edged with steadily increasing panic. The taller of the two men looked quickly to Hikari, who all but pushed him in their direction. "Go," she murmured. With her other friends in such close proximity to the beast, whatever energy she would have been able to muster would most likely have struck them too.

***

Just as Locke raised his sword up over the fell-hound's head, the blade lodged in it's back finally came loose. The chain went slack, and the fell-hound came a roar of triumph, before pushing bodily off the ground. Fienne and Locke were tossed off of the beast like rag-dolls, while Yasen, his chain still looped once around the creature's neck like a scarf, was knocked off balance, and sent tumbling from his cart.

The fell-hound, while obviously feeling victorious, was still injured and outnumbered. It decided to take off while it still had a chance, to recuperate and return at full strength to finish off the villagers. Swinging it's massive head around to get it's bearings, it caught sight of the way out, and started off at a staggering walk towards it.

There's no doubt that if that thing gets away, it will come back. And more houses will burn, and more people will die. Quickly regaining his senses from striking the ground hard, flat on his back, Locke watched the fell-hound. His eyes narrowed, and his brow furrowed, a clear testament to his resolve.

"No," he murmured, remembering how he had looked back once during the fire, and had witnessed the stricken look on Hikari's face when she realized her friend's mother was dead. And the group of crying, terrified children Fienne whisked away to safety, no doubt at least one of which had just become an orphan. No one else would go through that. He wouldn't allow it.

"No," he said again, through tightly clenched teeth. Taking a deep breath and filling his lungs with smoky oxygen, Locke rolled onto his side, and dug his elbow into the slick, rain soaked surface. Pushing himself up, he made it to his knees, and then to his feet. A brief look showed Hikari still tired, leaning against the nearest charred building. Fienne lay on the ground, her head next to an unmistakably red-streaked tree stump; the kind used for cutting wood. To his right, he could hear Yasen coughing and spitting out water from where he had fallen face first into a puddle.

Immediately Locke knew that his chain-wielding partner wouldn't be able to help him, as he was already crawling through the mud to check on the unconscious Hikyuu. Looking back at the fell-hound, he realized it was almost already at the outer edge of the village.

"Damn," came the mutter as he set off without another word to his colleagues. His boots made sick squelching sounds in the mud as he ran. His right boot, which was sucked deep into the mud under a puddle, caught and caused him to stumble. However, his momentum pulled his foot right out of the boot, and retaining his balance meant putting his left hand on the ground for support. The gloved fingers sunk into the water of the puddle, hitting something long, solid, and remarkably familiar.

A grin, filled with pearly, almost fanged teeth, slowly made it's way across Locke's face. Closing his fingers around the object, he lifted it as he kept running, his eyes not even leaving the form of the fell-hound. He knew exactly what it was he held. Sunlight caused the grungy liquid running off the long blade to sparkle. Unfazed and unhindered by the fact that he was only wearing one boot, Locke straightened himself out as he came closer to the retreating monster.

Seeing a two-wheeled cart, it's horse long since forgotten, Locke took the opportunity to get the advantage over the large creature. He picked up the speed, running up the cart like a ramp, and launched himself powerfully off the end. He sailed through the air, bringing up his sword over his head, point facing out. He shouted, a vent for his rage and to gain the fell-hound's attention.

***

At the single, angry syllable, the fell-hound paused mid-step, and turned its large head to see what was going on. A flash of steel, then the intense burning of a blade ripping through its scaly hide, and sliding easily through the meat and muscle of it's back. There was a very brief moment of resistance by bones, before the steel broke through two thick ribs, allowing it access to the fell-hound's inner organs. Piercing an unknown number of them, Locke put all his weight into the sword, using the force of landing on the creature to bring it down on it's stomach, the sword only stopping when the hilt struck it's back.

Locke thought his ears were bleeding. Surely the high-pitched scream that issued from the quickly dying fell-hound had ruptured his sensitive eardrums, along with those of anyone within a thirty foot perimeter. Gritting his teeth, he clung to the protruding handle of the broadsword like a saddle horn, as the fell-hound was writhing in it's death throes, and should he fall off and get caught under the massive body, the fighter would most likely end up coughing up his own intestines.

After what felt like hours of pain and pressure in his head, the wailing cut off abruptly with a wet gurgle, and the monster fell still, except for the occasional twitch in its tail or leg. Cracking one eye open, Locke found himself staring down at the back of the fell-hound's head, which was resting in a pool of blackish brown blood. It's head had rolled to the side, revealing the clean slice that near completely bisected it's throat.

Raising his head to look straight before him, he managed a weak smile of gratitude to the one who had stopped the beast's screams and convulsions. Apparently, Yasen had been able to help him, after all. His friend stood little more than ten feet away, his normally wavy curls of dark brown hair plastered to his forehead in a mix of sweat and puddle water. Mud streaked his face and his once spotless navy and black uniform, though he paid it no mind. The chain was out and held loosely in his hands, the blade hanging midway between his right hand and the ground. Blood still ran off it freely, splashing little droplets onto his boots, but he didn't seem to notice.

"Hey man," he murmured, giving the all-clear to Locke, alerting the corpse-mounted warrior that the fell-hound was indeed dead. Relief washed over Locke's features as he nodded, and shifted so that he could pull his sword from the beast's body. When it didn't budge, he tried again, putting more energy into it. Cursing the corpse beneath him, he pulled his legs up, and steadied himself in a crouch, resorting to the use of the muscles in his legs to lift the sword free. He started making a strained sort of sound from deep in his throat, a vein beginning to show in his neck.

Yasen, done amusing himself with the spectacle, walked over and casually kicked the side of the fell-hound. It seemed to dislodge the blade, as Locke went hurtling backwards off the monster, landing with a smack on his rear. Too tired to get back up or even send a crude remark Yasen's way, he sprawled out on his back, broadsword held in his limp right hand.

"Hey, the doctors are coming from the main city, so just go to sleep until they get here, 'Kay?" Yasen's face filled Locke's view of the sky, now completely clear of Hikari's summoned clouds. Locke noticed now the weariness that etched lines into his best friend's face, and the edge in his voice. He was just as fatigued as Locke. The blonde man felt the ground beside him shudder ever so slightly as the other young man dropped to the ground to join him in gaining some rest.

A fell-hound. Taken down by us! Four people not even graduated from the Academies. That'll be a tale to tell the grandkids. It was the last thing he thought about before he drifted away, and the mists of unconsciousness clouded his mind and vision, though leaving the satisfied smile on his lips.

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Oh my…that took WAY longer than I suspected it would! I was so dissatisfied by this chapter that I re-wrote it 3 times. And to be truthful, I'm still not all that happy with it. So, as the reader, I leave it to you to review this chapter, and tell me exactly how you think I should improve! Thanks!

Oh, and to those who may want a little conversation with your action and adventure, don't worry; the next chapter is the rest, recover, and get to know the characters chapter! I already have their descriptions and personalities typed up on another document, so I don't stray from the characters any, unless it's plot-important character development. Any-who, stay tuned!!!