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.
Blayne stood in the catacombs. He checked his watch again: she was late. The wall lamp behind him extinguished itself in a puff of smoke. He involuntarily shivered. From his position he could see the Well in the middle of the clearing. The catacombs being magically concealed for centuries, they were the perfect vantage point to watch.
Technically he was trespassing. The catacombs were only for the bonding ceremony.
Nox landed on the clearing next to The Well. His wings quickly folded up and Sedra slid from his back. Her sword was out before her boots hit the ground. Her eyesight impaired due to the moon’s waning glow.
She stalked towards the stone folly. She pulled the thread of their psionic bond to commanded Nox to launch. He would provide a strong defence from the air. A twig snapped behind her, she spun to face the threat. Out of the shadows, The Betrayer revealed himself.
She held out her sword poised to strike. The showdown was about to begin.
“You’re late!” He shouted at her across the open distance, a laugh playing on his lips.
The pair flourished their wrists and moved to face each other, closing the gap.
She huffed. “I’m never late.” She lunged, her blade crashing against his.
Blayne flinched as the sound of steel against steel filled his ears. He tasted blood as he chewed too far into his cheek. He turned away. Every noise turning his stomach. He reminded himself it was a test she needed to pass. He had done it himself not so long ago. The memories rippled across his mind, his psi-meleon falling through the trees, every sharp stab a pain for the both of them.
He forced his eyes back to the fight as Sedra went down unmoving; definitely not a bluff.
She lay on the floor gasping. Nox sensing her danger roared and dived. Sedra called him off with her mind as she jumped to her feet and continued to fight. He’d have as many eels as he wanted after this.
Secra screamed as blood poured from a fresh wound across her arm. She stumbled back landing against the Well. She needed to end this now.
Blayne turned away again. He fought with every inch of his instinct telling him to run towards her and help. He knew she would lose everything if he interfered. He could only be thankful she had been too young to witness his test.
The screech of a whistle filled the space between the trees. Blayne sighed with relief. The opponents stopped fighting instantly, dropping their weapons.
Sedra stepped forwards offering her hand now slick with blood. “Nice game.” They shook hands, signalling the end of their showdown.
“You lost points for trying to show off and you should have trusted your psi-meleon to protect you.”
Nox landed and nuzzled close to Sedra. She touched the topaz on her wrist and used the bond to heal her wounds.
“I do trust him!”