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His species guarded this part of the canyon, deterring any intruders from the small town on the high ledge further down the path. The humans there, mainly scholars had been his familyās friends for countless generations. The two species had lived in harmony for as far back as anyone could remember. In return for their protection the grateful people had provided food and shelter in times of hardship, and taught his race the study of the planet.
Red, exhausted from his game of tag bounded to the cool shade of the steep cliff-face and lay down, body outstretched on the cold stone and head resting on his crossed paws. The blood-red sun cast its last rays into the canyon, igniting the far wall into a spectacular orange ochre colour, like his fur. He drowsily watched as a young cousin tried enthusiastically to leap the stream, throwing up water droplets that sparkled in the evening sun. Millions of dust particles engaged in their spectral dance, highlighted by a shaft of warm sunlight mesmerised Nanaki, slowly lulling him to sleep with their swaying movement. Father had gone out earlier with his uncles to hunt, hopefully bringing back something nice to eat before nightfall.
His eyelids fluttered and he got up groggily, staring in confusion at the chaos. Everyone ran around barking, the mothers were leaving their caves with their children in a rush. His own mother bounded up to him, gesturing for him to follow.
'Whatās happening?ā he gasped as he sprinted after her.
ĪThe Gi Tribe is attacking in full force. The men are up forward defending, but they will soon be swarmed. Most of the women are going to help, and the rest will move the elderly and children back down the path to the town. Come, this battle is too dangerous for you.ā
ĪI can fight, mother! I will help father drive them back!ā
ĪNo, son. Your claws and teeth are just developing, you will not be of much use. Better that you stay back with the rest of the children.ā
Red reluctantly nodded, never disobeying his mother. They came to stop on the steps leading up to the town, where a group of his younger relations huddled frightened in a group. He climbed up, joining them and waited in nervous anticipation. The lowest steps were occupied with around two hundred able-bodied females, who would defend their people behind them to the death. Next were some fifty humans from the town, holding sticks and pitchforks, not about to stand around watching their friends die. Just below Nanaki fifty battle-trained veterans stood their ground, much weaker in their old age but still able to lend a hand. Nanakiās group, extending to the entrance of the town held the older children, none of them having witnessed, much less taken part in a battle. All the cubs had been transferred to the relatively safe homes of the humans.
ĪDo you think weāll get to see a Gi?ā a younger male asked, eyes peering excitedly into the passage.
ĪI hope not,ā Nanaki admonished, praying that his family and the rest of his people further up did not get hurt. He remembered his fatherās tales of the Gi, stoic humanoid creatures with spears and cloaks; they comprised most of the border clashes in the canyon. A small female next to him started whimpering, no doubt missing her mother and unfamiliar in the situation. Nanaki rubbed against her, trying to calm her down.
ĪDo not worry, little sister. It will be fine.ā He wished he could believe his own words. The wait continued, the oppressive silence making everyone squirm and shift. Then, faintly they heard the sound of fighting, roars of anger, the harsh battle cries of the Gi ringing out over the mountain tops. Gradually the sound came closer, tensing the females taking the front. With nervous anticipation he tried to penetrate the darkness with his eyes. After a few minutes the sound abruptly stopped, the silence returning more heavily than before. Just as he was about to wonder whether the defenders further up had won, the hoarse screams of the Gi attacking cut through the night. The ground trembled as the feet of hundreds of Gi stomped towards them. Out of the gloom the enemy came, brandishing spears and howling with battle-lust. They wore thick hide as armour, brightly-lacquered helms of bone, their cloaks trailing after them as the moonlight glinted off brightly burnished steel spear tips.
The females rushed forward to intercept them, the humans gritting their teeth and following. The two sides clashed, the sound of wood upon steel, claws upon bone. They were outnumbered at least three to one, with fifty Gi still joining the battle every minute. The mothers fought desperately, for the sake of their children. The old males cursed and rushed towards the fray to tip the balance. Snarls and screams rent the night air as the canines tore the sensitive necks of the Gi with claws and fangs. The occasional howl marked a wounded comrade, overwhelmed by steel-tipped spears. The Gi were still pouring in, now over a thousand of the enemy pushing back Nanakiās people. He knew the adults were fierce and skilled fighters, but he doubted they could hold back the sheer number of the Gi.
He bounded down the steps, unable to keep his promise to his mother, and rushed towards the furious onslaught. Marking out an individual, Nanaki leapt into the air and bit his throat, the salty taste of blood making his stomach lurch. Turning, he clawed at a foot, toppling a random enemy. His mother saw him through the chaos, shocked. ĪGo back!ā she shouted, and turned her attention back to her attacker. Red shook his head and bounded at a bunch of Gi attacking a solitary mother. He bit and clawed, desperation and fear making up for inexperience. A spear-tip punctured his side, making him gasp at the unfamiliar pain as another slashed at his face. He howled as a gash running from his forehead to his cheek appeared, tearing out his right eye. He fell down, rolling onto his side, the poison on the tip beginning to work.
Red watched helplessly from his prone position as his mother bounded up to him. She licked his face and told him everything was going to be alright. His eyes slowly closed in exhaustion. A bunch of Gi attacked, shouting hoarsely in their barbaric language. His mother bit into the neck of the first and downed another with a blow from her claws before they could react. She dodged a spear tip and delivered a vicious bite, only managing to scrape the skin of her attacker through the tough hide. The butt of a spear knocked the wind out of her lungs, followed by the other end tearing a deep gash into her side. Ignoring the wound, she lunged at a new target and managed to smash his helm, killing him instantly. She ducked a jab and ravaged the neck of the injured one, his last bubbling screams throwing up fountains of blood. Several more Gi approached, and it was obvious that this feisty animal was weakening.
Retreating to her sonās limp form she prepared to make a last stand, her muscles crying out to her in burning agony. As eight spears drove at her she slid and dodged, her fiery tail whiplashing at faces, claws tearing into random flesh and sinew, teeth sinking into soft skin and hard leather. She needed to protect her son, no matter the cost. The remaining five watched cautiously as the beast bared her fangs, although her trembling legs slipping on the wet ground indicated she could not last much longer from the fatigue. As a spear drove through her, she snarled and immersed herself into a berserk rage, her vision turning everything grey tinged with red. Pain was dulled where other senses extended, and she turned into a killing machine. The enemy leapt back from her ferocious assault, but more Gi quickly replaced those lost.
They surrounded her and the son she was defending, closing in slowly. She whirled and bit, her claws and teeth dealing death blindly as countless gashes crisscrossed her soaked fur. Torrents of blood showered the fight, the metallic taste banishing all thought as the basic, primal urges of her ancestors took hold of her. Adrenaline stormed through her veins, making her shake with the power of madness. The terrible howl of a mind gone over the brink shattered the chaotic clamour of the plenary battle. An intense fury raged and manifested itself, her eyes blasting hotter than any furnace. Flesh was too easy for her. She needed something harder. Tough hide ripped like paper, colourful bone shattered like porcelain and stout wood snapped like twigs as her claws and teeth tore the enemy to shreds with satisfying screams. The last of the Gi died as she ripped his head off, the blood jetting out in a hot stream from the ragged stump of his neck. She tried to breath, but choked and shuddered violently, collapsing next to her son.
When he awoke as if surfacing from the bottom of a stream, Nanaki was greeted by a desolate sight. The early morning fog hung in the air, the silence broken by only a few birds. The pallid yellow sun managed to penetrate the mist enough for him to see clearly. Bodies littered the rocky ground, those of the Gi, the humans and his kind. He rose on unsteady legs, the broken-off tip in his side only a dull throb. Last nightās horror flooded back to him, chilling his body. The oily, evil taste of blood upon his lips, the chaotic frenzy in the heat of the battle, clawing and biting blindly, the sharp agony as the cruel tip twisted in his side. An overwhelming sorrow from the depths of his being engulfed him. His foot touched something soft, and he looked down, fearing the worst. The body of his mother, twisted with five spears embedded in her, her face amazingly serene and at peace gazed back at him with dull eyes still filled with love. He drew a deep, shuddering breath and closed his eyes, feeling the moisture of tears upon his cheeks. The peaceful morning was torn by a long, soul-shaking howl of sorrow, speaking of irretrievable loss and unbearable pain.
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