The Oasis of Broken Bones
Part Eleven – An Impressive Beast
Trees groaned and snapped, their remains toppling over as the terrible beast crashed through them in its furious charge, intent on getting a hold of Peregrine. Each charge was met by her dodging aside, weaving her way back further through the trees about the oasis.
Time and again her strikes danced towards the beast, only to glance from it’s iron hide, leaving nary a scratch behind. It guarded its eyes warily from her razor sharp spear so that no attacks upon them came near to striking home. Snaps of the beast’s terrible maw had come close to grasping her on a number of occasions. She knew that unless the current situation changed soon then it would not be long before those jaws closed upon her and she was brought down, fighting and scrapping the whole time. For her surrender was not an option, nor even a consideration, even if she faced off against one who would accept it.
The last of the trees behind her gave out as she stepped back, emerging once more out into the moonlit lands of the deserts. As she did so, she caught the sound of the thunder of hooves echoing, of horsemen growing near. She could not turn to face them and see who they were, as that would mean turning away from the beast and allowing it to grasp her in its jaws.
Given vent to a sudden shout, she charged at the beast, making as if to drive her spear home towards its head. The crocodilian beast reacted as she expected, its maw opening wide to snap at her spear and sunder it. At the last moment, instead of thrusting it home, she leapt high, using the snout of the beast to give her added lift. Landing upon its back, she ran on down its considerable length, using her spear to balance herself against unsteady footing.
The beast thrashed about upon the feel of foreign foot on its back and Peregrine was forced to jump clear. She landed lightly and span about, facing off once more against the beast. Beyond, she could see the horsemen approach.
They were hard to make out in the dust that they kicked up and in the pale moonlight, though they bore all the appearances of Hashalite riders, their scimitars and spear tips glinting with cold, silvery light.
The beast lurched around to get at its prey once more as the riders spread outwards in an arc. As they came in closer, arrows began to sleet through the air from the flanks, slamming into the side of the beast. To Peregrine’s surprise, they struck home, punching through the hide. The beast growled in irritation, the sound of it reverberating out across the sands.
Then one horseman came thundering out of the pack, a spear in hand, levelled towards the beast. With the full momentum of his charging mount behind him, he drove the spear home, just behind the beast’s head. The shaft shattered on impact, leaving the head lodged in the wound. The horse leapt up and over the beast and continued on the other side before the rider reined it in, scrambling for his scimitar even as he did.
Blade must have been successful in his endeavours in the old ruins, Peregrine concluded, for the beast now to be vulnerable to the strike of weapons when before it had been impervious. With another loud cry, she charged the beast once more, her spear aimed for the beast. It rose up to meet her and, with all the strength that her hardened thews could muster, she drove it into the gaping maw of the beast. The tip struck deep, up through the open mouth and driving on into the brain. For a moment the beast remained standing, thrashing about in pain, before death finally took it and it collapsed to the ground.
As Peregrine ripped the spear free, the Hashalite rider approached. Halakir’s teeth gleamed in the moonlight.
“An impressive beast,” he stated, looking down at the monstrous crocodile, “Yet one too easily slain to match the legends around it.” He turned to watch the rest of his riders close in. “Where is your friend?”
“He is at the old temple, alongside the oasis,” Peregrine told him. “He was checking out another matter, one I feel is linked to the slaying of the beast. We should see what he has discovered.” She gave him an intent, questioning stare. “What brings you out here at this time of night?”
“Just out for a ride,” Halakir replied innocently, though his broad smile spoke otherwise.
Peregrine laughed as she started out for the temple.
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