Kurga had to catch himself. Nothing louder than a murmur had ever escaped Ch’loi’s lips. Her scream sent a shock through his spine. Amisbhake’s eyes over his weapon were wide as well, his ears flat back. What could so terrify someone as unflappable as Ch’loi?
He heard it before he saw it, a thumping, thundering, chopping of air. A thrumming that grew louder and louder and as it increased, his urge to flee grew with it. His whole body pulsed with it. It drove him to his knees. It hurt to look at. He wanted to cover his ears. He got a glimpse of something like a trailing tangle of vines or hair or ropes in the sky, a ghastly kraken of myth before the blowing sand forced his eyes shut. The thing slammed into the ground and Amis’ Levin-bolt cracked.
“Forget stun!” Kurga yelled at him, “Give it a kill shot!”
“That was the kill shot!” Amis bellowed back. Kurga saw the monster stagger but keep coming. Amis fired again, the monster dodged the bolt of lightning and whip like appendages snapped the weapon in half, wrenching Amis forward at the same time. He rolled in the sand, coming up with his silver sword and Kurga turned to see where Ch’loi was. Fighting the panic, fighting to stand his ground, fighting nausea. Everything was moving too fast. He couldn’t keep up. What was that overwhelming thrumming? It was like being inside a huge machine. Where had she gone?
He spotted her dragging the unconscious monotooth as fast as she could. She was running away while Amis fought for her! “Soulless wretch!” he tried to yell. Her cowardice finally overcame his fear. He worked the action on his rifle and turned back to the battle. He managed to get one shot off into the dark writhing mass of whips and tendrils that he could see in the moonless night then it was boiling past him and to his horror he saw it was dragging Amis in much the same way as Ch’loi dragged her kin but faster, much faster. And with a blast of wind and the same chopping noise it lifted off the ground and overtook her in a powerful leap.
He ran. He knew he wouldn’t get there in time but he ran. For the first time in his life, Kurga ran toward danger. He held no illusions of his ability to save anyone. He just ran fully expecting to be the last corpse to fall.
When he was close enough to see but not so close that the thrumming overpressure caused his eyes to tremble in his skull he stumbled to a stop, his lungs burning, his body heaving, yet he brought the rifle up and put one bulging eye to its sights. There was the monster, Amis in one mass of tentacles, the monotooth Ch’loi had been dragging in another. It wasn’t speaking in any way that Kurga could hear but the gesture was obvious. Ch’loi, who was obviously hurt and on her knees before it was being offered a choice. Which one did she want, her Lord Counselor, protector and mentor or the blood sucking zombie? In horror Kurga watched, aghast as her hand rose and pointed to the monotooth.