Ryan ran as fast as his legs would take him, trying desperately to overtake the three men. If one of them was going to get caught and mauled he preferred that it be one of the others. Even if they were his only friends left in the world, having only two of them was better than being dead. With that selfish thought pushing him to run as hard and as fast as he could Ryan knew that he would survive.
He saw the three ahead of him sliding to a stop while spraying clouds of dust and rocks up in front of them. Ryan closed the ten metre gap between them in a flash and yelled, “Why are you stopping?”
“Ravine,” Leon yelled, barely spinning out of Ryan’s way, their leather cloaks slapping against each other.
Ryan couldn’t see where the ground ended before him because of the dust cloud so took one last step and threw himself into the air. He had no idea how wide the gap was but had had no option. Unable to prepare for when the ground would appear he tried to keep his legs bent ready for when he came out of the other side of the dust cloud. His feet hit the ground before the dust ended catching him unprepared. His legs had no flex and the force of the landing sent a shockwave through his body. He pitched forwards at incredible speed and face planted into the dirt. A whimper of pain escaped his lips as he rolled over and sat up facing back towards the ravine.
The dust cloud that had been stirred still blocked the far side of the ravine so he couldn’t see if his companions were being mauled to death. What he saw instead was two tusks appear and then the beast, an ellion, flying through the air in a fully outstretched leap. His friends definitely weren’t getting eaten but if he didn’t move quickly he would be.
Scrambling backwards like a crab he stared at the ellion instead of turning and running. It was larger than any mountain lion he had ever heard of and if that wasn’t enough, the metre long tusks curving out of the front of its head made it looked even more ferocious.
It let out a powerful roar while still in mid air and Ryan froze when he noticed the ellion’s trajectory. Its body was angled down to land but its front paws didn’t even make the edge of the ravine. It had obviously misjudged its jump because of the dust cloud. As it disappeared below the level of the ground with the scurried sounds of trying to stop its descent Ryan burst into laughter.
Flipping over he ran towards the ravine as the shocked looks of his three companions appeared through the dust. As he got closer to the edge he approached more cautiously and then peered down into the void. The dust was settling into the gap so he couldn’t see further down than a metre but he could hear the ellion scrabbling for grip. Taking two steps backwards just in case the ellion managed to lunge up and swipe at him, he looked over at his companions and threw his arms in the air. “Why in God’s name did you idiots stop?”
“Didn’t think I would make it,” Ari laughed.
“Yeah, right,” Ryan said sarcastically. “You probably just wanted to…Woah shit!”
The ellion flew out of the ravine, easily clearing Ryan’s head in a single bound. It flew over Ryan’s head and landed behind him. Baring its teeth and producing a low grumble it slowly stalked towards him.
Ryan shuffled his feet backwards until he felt the ground drop away behind him and heard a handful of rocks tumble into the ravine.
“Talk to it,” Ari joked. “Call it a good boy.”
“Shut the void up,” Ryan cried nervously as the ellion’s tusks came frighteningly close to him.
“Oh come on. Don’t be like that,” Ari said faking offense. “It can only kill you the once. Nothing to be afraid of.”
“How about you take my spot and we see if you still think that way,” Ryan offered as the ellion’s head dropped and the tips of the tusks rested on the ground even though its eyes were firmly locked on Ryan’s. Each word he spoke caused the ellion to growl louder and he wished he had for once been able to resist Ari’s argumentative nature and keep his mouth shut.
“No thanks I’m happy watching from over here,” Ari quavered as the ellion roared, its maw wide open to reveal razor sharp teeth.
Ryan decided at that moment as fear coursed through his veins that he had to do something radical to survive. As soon as the tusks touched to the ground he stepped onto them with both feet.
The ellion flicked its head upwards to clear him and Ryan was positioned well enough that he was pushed straight up into the air. Looking down from the height of his flight he saw the tusks angled straight up into the air ready to impale him or if he missed that the mouth was wide open. In the split second he had to react he spun upside down, grabbed a tusk with each hand and pushed off as hard as he could towards the ellion’s back. It barely gave him enough momentum to clear the length of the ellion and he landed facing away with his feet either side of the tail.
The ellion had turned its head and reached up a paw to swipe at Ryan as he had flown over it, missing completely, which had left it out of position to strike. As it lowered itself to turn and pounce in one motion Ryan slammed the heel of his boot directly on the tip of the tail. The ellion cried out in a roar of shock and pain as it launched itself into the air. It had taken off towards the ravine in order to give itself some distance from where it had been attacked.
Ryan spun as quickly as he could and used the momentum of his twisting body to unsheath his sword and slash in one movement. The strike caught the ellion across the front legs which were about to land causing them to flinch backwards and a spray of blood misted through the air.
For the second time the ellion missed its landing and disappeared into the ravine, this time tumbling with far less grace.
Sheathing his sword Ryan looked over to see his companions looking on in shock. “Stop standing around like stunned mullets and let’s go,” he yelled.
“But how did you do that?” Aston stumbled.
Ryan ignored his companions’ dumbfounded response, turned and ran as fast as he could, knowing the ellion wouldn’t stay down for long.
His companions immediately backed away from the ravine to a distance they thought would be enough to gather the speed to jump safely across. Leon, the tallest and fittest of the three, took off first and effortlessly bounded over the ravine sliding to a smooth stop. He positioned himself beside the ravine, close enough to help Ari if he needed, but far enough back that he could avoid attack as Ryan had done.
Ari cleared the gap unassisted and instantly started running as soon as he landed.
Aston followed and launched himself at the gap. Instead of pushing off his front leg collapsed when he tried to jump and he tumbled forwards. Leon leaned over the ravine and wrapped his arms around Aston’s outstretched hand. He fell backwards before he was dragged down and pulled Aston towards him with all of his might. They collapsed hanging halfway into the ravine. Aston quickly climbed over Leon, thanking him on the way and then the two of them got to their feet and started running.
Leon pulled away from Aston seemingly with no effort at all and then within a minute had passed Ari and caught up to Ryan. “Why are you still running?” he asked between steady breaths.
Ryan looked over his shoulder almost a kilometre back to the ravine. “That,” he blurted through short, quick breaths.
Leon looked back and saw the ellion once again charging towards them, this time faster than ever. “I see,” he said and continued to jog beside Ryan who was running as fast as he could. “Why don’t we wait for the others to catch up?”
“Fat chance… you didn’t… wait… for me,” Ryan stammered.
Leon looked over his shoulder again and saw that Ari had slowed down for Aston and they were both steadily catching while the ellion was coming even quicker. “We need to do something to stop this thing,” Leon said as Ryan grabbed at his side and slowed down rapidly. “Are you alright?”
“Burning… in my… side… argh,” Ryan complained and stopped, grabbing at his side with a severely pained look on his face.
“This will give us a chance to fight instead of run,” Leon said bravely.
Ryan looked at him with a grimace and shook his head, unable to bring himself to do anything but wince. Aston and Ari quickly closed the gap and slowed to a stop.
“What are you doing?” Aston yelled and pointed behind them. “That thing is right there!”
The ellion was only fifty metres away and charging with a full head of steam.
Leon pushed Ari and Aston out of his way and stepped into the path of the ellion. He barely had time to steady himself before it flew through the air and hit him square in the chest with its paws. The hit sent them both flying several metres through the air and Leon landed on his back with the ellion on top of him. It looked down at him and with a tremendous roar blasted him with hot air and saliva. Leon stared into the ellion’s eyes. They were dark, animalistic and full of rage. But Leon’s eyes were also filled with rage and at that moment he felt fearless.
Out of nowhere Ari leapt onto the ellion’s back and grabbed the thick mane of black hair with both hands. The ellion bucked and Ari barely kept his grip.
Leon scrambled out from beneath the ellion while being trampled by the paws and taking several scratches from the sharp tusks. He climbed to his feet several metres away where Ryan and Aston were standing.
“What are you doing?” Leon asked bewildered by Ari’s antics. “I had the situation under control.”
“Under control,” Ari screamed from the back of the ellion as it tried desperately to remove its rider. “It was about to bite your head off.’”
Leon lifted his right hand in the air and waved the dagger that was dripping from the tip. “I was about to poison it.”
“Oh,” Ari mouthed leaning to the side to avoid a swiping paw from beneath. “You can still poison it. I think its pretty distracted.”
“I need to get it in the right spot or the poison won’t spread,” Leon explained as he lowered the dagger. “I can’t exactly do that while its thrashing around.”
Ari let go of the mane and was thrown through the air so high that he grabbed hold of a branch that was overhanging the road. The ellion took a minute to realise that its passenger was gone and when it did it turned to its closest target: Aston.
“Why did you get off?” Aston yelled terrified.
“Leon needs it to calm down,” Ari replied as he pulled his leg over the branch and straddled it. “I thought getting off might do that.”
The ellion took two quick bounds towards Aston and the three companions scattered into the trees seconds before they were impaled. The ellion stayed on the side of the road and roared towards the forest. The dense shrubbery that the men had jumped through in order to hide kept the ellion at bay at least for the immediate future.
“You could have given us a warning,” Aston yelled from behind a tree in a quivering voice.
The ellion gave up on the three targets that had disappeared and instead turned to what it could still see. Ari’s legs dangling down from the branch. It jumped up with a swiping paw.
Ari pulled his legs up out of the way and the paw missed by inches even though he was over three metres from the ground. The ellion didn’t try the same attack twice. It ran at the trunk of the tree and dug its claws into the thick bark. It pulled its way up the tree while Ari watched on nervously. It clawed halfway up the tree and then jumped and turned landing on the branch at the same moment Ari swung his legs over the branch and dropped. He landed softly on the balls of his feet and sprung forward.
“Run!” He screamed and the three men burst out of the bushes and joined him in sprinting down the road.
Aston glanced back over his shoulder at the ellion perched precariously on the tree branch and it roared. “Why did we get back on the road instead of running through the forest?” he asked. “It didn’t look like it was going to follow us in there.”
“Because we can’t keep running forever,” Leon said. “We need to get that thing into a position where I can poison it.”
The ellion launched out of the tree and stood in the middle of the road letting out a blood curdling roar louder than any before.
“It sounds angry,” Ari said stating the obvious. “I don’t think you’re going to get it into that position again.”
“We need to overpower it,” Ryan said, stopping and turning to face the ellion that stood almost a hundred metres away baring its teeth. “There’s something I’ve been holding out on.”
“Whatever you think you can do, you can’t stop that thing on your own, no matter what you managed before. We need to do this together,” Leon said as the others stopped several metres behind Ryan and turned to face him.
Ryan ignored them and concentrated on the ellion with a steely gaze. He stared intently at the ellion as it slowly stalked towards him. His mind throbbed against the inside of his skull as he willed the ellion to be hit by his secret. The ellion started running and he cried, “Come on.”
Leon grabbed Ryan’s shoulder and spun him around. “I don’t know what you’re trying to do but now isn’t the time to mess around.”
Ryan pushed Leon away and turned back to the ellion. “No, I can do this.”
He concentrated, forcing his mind to obey.
The ellion closed to eighty metres.
He had done it before when he was alone, but why wouldn’t it work with the others around.
He tried to clear his mind and concentrate solely on what he wanted; no, needed to happen.
His mind was blank other than the image of the ellion running in slow motion towards him.
With his last effort he put all of his concentration on one point.
He knew that he had failed and his death was coming as the ellion launched itself at him. He recoiled in shock and his arms came up in front of his face defensively even though that would do nothing to stop the approaching tusks from goring him. Instead of feeling a stabbing pain however he was simply bowled over by the ellion as it landed atop of him. Clenching his entire body waiting for the moment he was torn to pieces Ryan realised that the ellion was motionless atop of him. He opened his eyes with surprise wondering if his plan had worked after all with the added desperation making it work. The ellion wasn’t on fire, it wasn’t even burnt at all.
Leon was draped over the ellion with his hand wrapped around the handle of his dagger that was buried up to the hilt in the ellion’s neck. Blood was pouring out of the wound. Somehow Leon had charged the ellion from the side while it was in mid air and plunged his dagger deep enough to kill the ellion with a single blow.
Leon climbed down to the ground and retrieved his dagger as Ari and Aston grabbed Ryan by the arms and pulled until he slid free and then helped him stand.
“Who needs poison,” Ryan laughed relieved to have somehow come out alive. “You just needed a distraction.”
“Is that what you were doing?” Leon asked horrified. “Creating a distraction. I thought you were trying to use telekinesis.”
“Telekinesis?” Ryan said dismissively. “Do you think I’m crazy?”
“After what you just did? Yes,’ Leon said kicking the ellion to make sure it was dead. “If I hadn’t jumped across to save you I would be kicking your dead body instead.”
“Very funny. Seriously though, I wasn’t just making a distraction I thought I could set that thing on fire.”
“You mean like magic?” Ari asked condescendingly.
“Don’t use that tone with me like I’m mad,” Ryan snapped and took swipe at Ari but he jumped out of the way. “Yes I mean magic.”
“You really are crazy,” Ari said. “Magic is a thing of legend. There’s no proof that humans could ever wield it.”
Ryan stared intently at Ari and wiggled his eyebrows.
“What are you doing?” Aston laughed at the odd movement of Ryan’s face.
“You don’t have to believe me but I’m going to prove to you that magic does exist. Not only that, but I can wield it.”
“From what I’ve just seen I think you might have better luck trying telekinesis,” Ari joked. “Magic does not exist. Even f it does, if you couldn’t use it to protect you against imminent death I don’t ever see you using it.”
Ryan opened his mouth to respond but bit back the argument. He would show them just what he could do. He would show them all.