Sarah Sted had forsaken her daily work after hearing of Trey’s encounter with a monster. Instead she decided to vent her anger and fear on the homemade punching bag in the back garden. Every few minutes she would stop to see if Trey had returned from Garvel’s house. She felt as if she was trapped inside a complicated maze within her own head. She had only once been as confused and angry as she was now and that was when her husband had left her just before Trey had been born.
Without warning, her pupils suddenly dilated and her mind went blank. She couldn’t see what was around her; instead she could see an army of black clad warriors and huge war machines. The image changed to a city in flames with dead and imprisoned people all around her.
Her pupils returned to normal like a tensed elastic band being released. Sarah remained standing but swayed slightly with dizziness. She slumped down against the wall waiting for the spiralling to stop, then pushing the dizziness from her head, she stood back up.
The ground jolted suddenly, knocking her to the floor and taking her breath away. A second later a thunderous boom seemed to physically hit her. She stood up a second time and ran into the house and up the stairs. She looked out over the city and saw a great cloud of smoke covering a small section of houses. This time she saw what happened. A meteor like object hurtled into another part of the city followed by the earthquake and thunderous crash. She peered through the smoke and displaced dust just in time to see a fearsome army emerging from the dense trees just beyond the wall to the west. Visible through the trees were large wooden constructs that continued to hurl rocks at the city.
Her vision had been right. Such things ran in her family but she had never known it to predict anything more than unexpected guests or the occasional death. She braced herself for what she knew would come next. She could have given up. She knew they were after slaves not deaths, but rebellion had risen within her.
Sarah crossed the hall into Trey’s room and took his training sword then got a long knife from the kitchen and securely fastened both together. Screams could be heard now. Sarah hurried into some clothes she thought would be well suited to combat and long journeys.
She decided on a pair of thick trousers, a tank top, then a layered jacket made from leather and a fine cotton inner layer. From an old draw she got some good resistant boots from her days as a crosscountry messenger, then tied Trey’s archery bracers over her arms. As an afterthought she tied her hair into a ponytail.
She rushed out of the house to be greeted by a huge monster, just like the one Trey had described, ripping off her neighbour’s front door. Mrs Basek had made such a fuss to get the most expensive front door and now it was in chunks on the floor.
After a moment of uncontrollable fear Sarah decided what to do. Recklessness ran in her family too. She charged forwards and rammed her blade through the creature’s neck. It turned around and punched her. She hit the floor several foot from where she had been standing. The beast stalked toward her and raised its battle-axe to strike. Sarah closed her eyes as she struggled to move.
A twang sound filled the air. She looked up to see an arrow embedded into the thing’s head through the eye slots in its armour. It fell backwards to the ground with a metallic thud.
“You should look after yourself better. You’ll be no use to anyone dead.”
Sarah smiled shakily as she stood up. The arrow had come from the archery instructor, Mr Delb, Billy’s father. He was a muscular man with neat, light brown hair and a handsome face who favoured loose clothes that allowed plenty freedom of movement. His wife, Laura, was with him too. She was a petite woman, lean but well toned with shoulder length blonde hair. She too wore loose, layered clothing where she could hide several throwing knives. She had been a circus performer for a while and was a master of blade throwing.
“Nice to see that you’re still okay, Sarah. I almost didn’t recognise you in your ‘battle gear’,” Mr Delb said sarcastically. Despite his tone his eyes spoke of intense worry as they darted in all directions. There was already another arrow nocked on his bowstring.
“It’s good to see you too Brian,” she replied with relief. “And it’s very nice to see you Laura. I need intellectual conversation that your husband can’t provide,” she joked half-heartedly.
“I know. You should try living with him,” grinned Laura edgily. A knife was held at the ready in each of her hands and her eyes were as restless as her husband’s. “Have you seen Billy?”
“Not since this morning,” Sarah answered. “He and Trey were going to visit Garvel.”
“They should be safe then. Garvel won’t let any harm befall them. We should probably head towards the east wall, gathering as many people as we can then hit these beasts were it hurts,” announced Brian, instantly taking control of the situation.
“Okay,” Sarah and Laura agreed as one. Laura fidgeted nervously. “But what are they? Why are they here?”
“I don’t know,” Sarah admitted slowly. “Whatever they are though, we can’t let them win.”
They headed down the back streets toward the eastern wall. Although they couldn’t see anybody, the screams echoed throughout the city. Those that they did spot were surrounded by too many of the monsters to even try and engage. They decided to take the small alleyways to the wall rather than risking the main paths where they could easily be spotted.
Mr Delb scanned the area around them. “Come on. We should try another route. The streets are too narrow and twisty here. It’s too easy to get ambushed. Damn! Too late.”
One of the monsters stepped around the corner and blocked the way forwards. They turned to retreat only to be confronted by another beast. Mr Delb fired the arrow he had kept on his bow as both the monsters charged forwards. The arrow struck an unguarded shoulder joint but the beast barely flinched. He released two more in one shot. One ricocheted from its armour; the other penetrated its red eye.
Meanwhile Sarah sprinted to meet the second monster in a reckless frontal assault. A dagger sped past Sarah and into the creature’s wrist, making it suddenly drop its axe. Sarah dealt the finishing blow, thrusting her blade through its ugly face. Its body fell to the ground then she turned in time to see Brian running for his life from the now angry remaining monster.
“You’re meant to be the archery master yet we poor young women can take down a wild beast while you run away,” mocked Laura.
“I’m not done yet,” called Mr Delb, turning around and slamming an arrow up the beast’s noise then slitting its throat with a knife provided by Laura.
Brian grunted, motioning the women down the street. “We’ve wasted too much time here. We need to get moving.”
The words did not get a chance to be finished. Yet another of the demonic beings jumped from the roof above. It landed on top of Mr Delb and there was a sickening crunch. His legs buckled beneath him and broke in several places. A black spike was stuck deep into his spine.
“Brian!” screamed Laura frantically. She ran towards him screaming in despair. Sarah tried to grab her and pull her back but Laura was too fast and too crazed. The beast hacked her down without emotion. Her lifeless body fell onto that of her beloved husband and their blood mingled together and streamed down the slope of the path.
Sarah ran. Blind panic flooded her brain while shock numbed her entire body as she fled back to the hilltop. Tears streamed down her face and her ragged breath came in strangled sobs. She cowered in her back garden amongst the overgrown rose bushes. It wasn’t long until a group of the foul beasts found her as they tore the street apart in their search for survivors. She had no resistance left in her, managing little more than a feeble slap as one of the brutes yanked her to her feet. Roughly, they pushed her forward.
“Goodbye Trey. Stay safe. I love you,” she sobbed to herself.