Opening by @brisby
Midnight barbs hooked Sedra’s duster as she sped through the bramble underbrush atop Nox. Errant envy for her psi-meleon’s iridescent scales fluttered within her mind. Perfect. I'm going to look like a bedraggled porcupine.
Beneath her legs, Nox’s sides twitched in time to the clicks his tongue made. His right eye rolled back to meet her gray gaze, mirth shining within the amber orb.
“Har-Har, my impudent beastie.” Sedra flushed, blonde brows furrowing with disdain while kicking a thrasher vine from her boot.
“I couldn’t give a trotter’s tail if Blayne has a thing for quills. He better have a damned good reason for trespassing into our Catacombs.” It didn’t take a psionic bond to interpret Nox’s responding chortle of clicks. She snapped back with a huff, “Who taught you about that? See if I rustle up eels for you anytime soon.”
Rumbling deep within his throat, Nox tensed and sprang to the left. Claws dug into the thick ochra bark of the tree before scrambling up to the outspread branches. His tail waved, readying for a leap before easing down to lie along its length. The frustration radiating from his rider ignored to admire the back of his eyelids.
Sedra clung to her mount, her excitement to be taking the treeline route thwarted by the lizard’s love for his favorite treat. “Nox! This is NOT the time for a tantrum!” Snaking out, the psi-meleon’s tongue hung limp from its mouth, letting her know that he could do this all day.
Bristling, she channeled a fine line of energy to the tuned topaz on her wrist. A bit of rezzing would get his stubborn ass up. Threading the loop with her mind, the aquamarine gem began to spark. Before she could release the resonation to zap Nox’s toe, he slid from his perch to hang upside down from the branch. His smug clicking dared her to go ahead and try it while they were dangling a hundred feet above the forest floor.
The soft light dimmed within her topaz. Like hers, his was an empty bluff. Keeping her grip tight, her thumb rubbed Nox’s hide in capitulation. “Alright!" she growled. "Three eels before bed if you can get us to The Well and back before they notice we’re missing.”
Triumphant pride purred within the air. Nox swung around to the branch’s top, tensed and leaped the expanse to the neighboring tree. Thrilling from the feel of the wind in their faces, the two raced towards the forest's edge. Both girl and beast let the rush of the journey override their unspoken dread.
Beyond the green was a showdown with a man who had been their friend. Within moments, they'd be facing their betrayer. One who had abandoned them to fend for themselves so that he could take possession of The Well.
Nox lurched to a stop, Sedra slid a palm down his scaled neck, feeling the beasts pulse, fueled by adrenaline - and promised eels.
They might push and pull like a flock of psi-falkons over a cante corpse but the same wind took them both high, brought them both low, and when it came to it they’d fight harder for the other than they could alone.
A small, speckled psi-galeon with a topaz toe stud darted into the foliage. The measured way one eye flicked up, holding her gaze before it vanished - Joaquin was here.
Sedra froze. This was it.
Nox’s clicks were soft, urgent, the rumble of his chest low, lilting in reply.
Glancing up, tiny beaded eyes shone from the shadows.
“Joaquin, coward! Come out and face me.”
Sound erupted from every direction. The shrill cry of psi-galeons.
Squinting, horrified, Sedra could make out the faint glow of the topaz bolt rezzing each one into action.
Joaquin's been misusing The Well.
Nox stiffened beneath her. That many could tear us to shreds in seconds. Waves of protective anger looped through her bracelet.
Psi-galeon swarmed, clacking their jaws in a fever pitch.
There was an undercurrent to the threatening psi emanating from the pack.
Aquamarine light shot through every rez bolt, filling the shadows with a split second haze. Psi-galeon’s screamed in pain, leaping at Joaquin’s command.
Nox dropped. Not fast enough.
Needle teeth tore into them. Hot, excruciating pain, gnawing to the core.
Nox reared up, flinging the tiny lizards off his bloodied back.
Blasts of light exploded through the woodland; fleeing creatures being rezzed back into action, bullied to Joaquin’s will.
Realization hit Sedra as it hit Nox. He did that to us. The psi-galeons here were no different to Sedra, worn down, manipulated into showing him the The Well's topaz binding runes.
Girl and beast changed instantly, refusing to fight back, radiating psionic empathy.
The assault slowed in response, psi-galeons contorting in pain, struggling against Joaquin’s compulsion.
“You couldn’t possess me, you can’t possess them.”
Defiance emanating from Sedra, her topaz vibrant as she channeled her strength to the psi-galeon, psionic ripples flooding the forest.
Three teks south, Blayne felt it. His whole flock did, rising into formation cross the midnight sky.
Psi-galeon shrieks subsided in the crunch of hooked psi-falkon beaks, carefully pulling the topaz tipped bolts free.
The freed lizards, normally solitary, didn’t head for cover. Instead, each raised a threatening crest, turning back towards The Well.
Joaquin better run.
The joyous freedom sparking between Sedra and Nox snagged on Nox’s topaz toe bolt. A sudden guilt, snowballed by welling affection, surged through Sedra.
Slowly stroking his foot, Sedra gritted her teeth, pulling his shackle free.
“You’re your own now Nox.”
She couldn’t watch him leave.
Exhaustion conspired with blood loss; crawling towards the foot of the nearest tree, she collapsed, only half aware of Blayne collecting the quills from her coat.
The first rays of sun filtered through the foliage, guiding the search party to the sleeping girl, curled up with the psi-meleon, who chose to stay.
Well this still isn't my main idea, but what can I say, I couldn't resist. I did get my main idea down on the word count, but its fair to say some ideas can't fit in 500 words, and at some point cutting becomes mutilation haha, and this was fun to write. This was the least prompt pushing idea I had, and I have edited around so much I don't know if this actually makes sense any more, but something about the connectivity of creatures in this world caught me. I am really loving being able to enter twice, it makes you think about the different ways a story could go and very much fuels the creativity machine!
This prompt comes from @bananafish's #finishthestory contest which is out every week! Our fantastical @brisby is running the show this week! Check out the latest round for all the details on how to join in and to see all the spectacular entries we have had in! This round have a Special Edition, where two entries are allowed, so not one to miss!