"Eli, I will kill you once this is through," threatens Li, tapping her finger nervously. Beside her, a man chews on a piece of black grass.
"Oh, no! Please don't hurt me," He says and smiles, turning his head in time to avoid Li's hand.
Sticking her face to the glass boulder in front of them, Li counts the sheep below; their distorted images mill through the black grass and around a shallow pond. A giant black valley stretches off on both sides of the pair. Burning above them, the sun smiles cruelly and keeps even a single benevolent cloud from struggling through the brilliant blue sky. A weak breeze pulls along particles of dust and a stench of…something. After a minute of staring, Li and Eli silently descend into black abyss. The siblings' ninja-like black clothes disappear in the grass. Eli passes his sister, slapping the back of her head before dodging back out of her reach.
"Stop worrying, Li, this will work. The plan is perfect and at the end we'll be up to our noses in – "
"In iron chains! Or six feet under, for Heaven's sake! We were hiding behind a glass boulder! A blind man with his back turned could see us. If Jason and his great crew couldn't grab one of those sheep, do you think we can? NO!" Eli only laughs at her worries and she is forced to direct her threats and professions of dooms at his back.
"Hiding in the open can be better than hiding in the dark, anyways," he says wisely.
"Gahh! I don't want to hear anymore of your stupid proverbs." Eli continues to poke and prod his sister with proverbs and her complaints rise to a shout. One of the sheep below barks and stills their squabbles. Eli stops his descent before entering a ring of fruit trees.
"Watch your back little brother," she mutters. He smiles and stands up straighter.
"Yes, my dearest big sister." With a mock bow, he slips between the low branches of an apple tree. Li looks warily up at the golden apples in their boughs. Her mind echoes with thoughts of pain as she remembers last apple that had connected with her skull. It had been a normal, Granny Smith breed. A golden apple was sure to be much harder.
Ducking under the same branch, she watches he brother slip between the tightly packed trees and disappear into their shadows. Li's mind panics when he disappears and imagines him being attacked by some wild creature. Smiling, Li remembers the frown on Delilah's face and the protest's from Samson when Li had beaten him at arm wrestling. The pleasant image echoes through her mind as she snakes through the trees.
Three minutes pass before Li sees light through the leaves. She peers carefully through the branches before leaving their safety. Exhausted, she almost trips over her brother's carefully placed foot.
"Ha. Very – gasp – funny," Li pants. She clutches her aching side and prays for relief. "Why – gasp – fast?" Eli smiles down at her and comments on her addiction to chocolate. If not for the stitch in my side, she thinks (speaking still is too hard at this point), he would be lying on the ground in tears.
"Go to your precious sheep, Oh Great One. I'll cover," Li manages after an infinite number of gasping breathes.
"Hmm, I seem to recall your threat on my life. Should I now, so soon after, trust you with it?" Eli pushes Li back into the trees. "Now watch a pro," he says, entering the field. Instead of crouching, he walks as if he owns everything in his sight.
"Get down, you idiot!" Li's because of his over-sized pride, he has no caution, and her warnings are un-headed. The grass parts before him like the Red Sea before Moses, making him a giant target to her eyes.
Eli reaches the nearest cat-sized sheep without incident and triumphantly seizes the golden animal. It sits placidly in his arms, chewing the black grass surrounding them both.
Turning back to Li, he shows his trophy. "We came to the sheep, we saw the sheep, we conquered the sheep."
Li starts to stand, building up a list of insults and names. A trail of grass shakes behind him. With her brother's back turned, Li is the only one that sees, and she crouches back down. Staring at the line of movement stalking her brother, she tries to discern its owner.
"Run Eli!" she shrieks. Li jumps up from her place of watching to sprint toward her brother. A wolf man rises from the grass and Eli turns to see his attacker. It towers over him, covered in fur, and looks down with yellow eyes. Rows of sharp teeth appear as it smiles. Howling, it pulls a curved knife from the folds of his clothes and leaps onto her brother.
"No! Get away from him!" Tears stream down Li's face and she pulls her short bow and an arrow from her back. The wolf leaves her brother to bleed and turns his attention to her. Eli groans and watches helplessly as it hurdles to his sister. Taking careful aim, she waits until it reaches its last stride before taking her down and lets ivory-tipped arrow loose as he glides through the air. The soft hum of the silk string makes the world slow. The arrow coasts towards the beast's chest. Li sees his eyes frost over with some emotion as it punctures the left side of his chest. He falls to the ground and her precious calm shatters like a piece of expensive glass.
Just as Li reaches Eli's body, he takes his last, shuttering breath.