The sharp rib bones of the hunter’s gate crashed down into the sand and sealed Kilna tribe into the arena.
Duarth’s band wasted no time in arranging themselves into their familiar diamond pattern: Kevna up front with his thick red beard and his axe and shield, Duarth with his black braids and greatsword, bald Sedrit with his dual axes, and blonde Seerna behind with her folding long spear. Filna the brunette hung back with her bow and arrow ready to take shots of opportunity and turn the tide, as she’d done before.
The crowd seated in the stands rumbled in anticipation of the battle. Burning logs had been swept back into their arranged patterns and built up to light the arena.
Chains crunched and ground as the beast gate raised and exposed the dark tunnel mouth.
As soon as the gate lifted, three dark shapes hurtled out into the arena. They swept around their half of the arena, sniffing and growling. Charcoal gray fur covered rippling muscles. Hulking bodies wove back and forth between flaming campfires. Bony spikes and protrusions erupted from every inch of the deadly predators.
Three blade wolves were hunting Kilna tribe in the darkness of the arena.
The crowd hushed in mingled fear and excitement.
Duarth called out orders, but their meaning was lost in the weak echoes which reached the top of the pit. The blade wolves heard his voice and narrowed in on the location of their prey. The jagged monsters hurtled across the sand toward the band.
The three wolves reached the hunter’s starting area and began to circle the five hunters.
The humans drew in tightly with their backs to one another, with Filna in the center of the diamond.
Duarth called out an order and lunged toward the largest of the blade wolves. His hunter’s tattoo glowed red and he launched forward with inhuman speed. The leader’s greatsword swept out in an arc in front of him, but the blade wolf saw the attack coming and reared up on its hind legs. The beast darted forward and snapped at Duarth, who rolled to one side. Bone charms in his black braids clacked together as Duarth came up with his sword already slicing the air.
The huge wolf jerked its head to one side to avoid contact with the heated blade.
As the beast was distracted, Seerna swept up beside it and gouged the predator in the ribs with her long spear. Blood poured from the wound, soaked the shaggy fur, and splattered across the sand.
The wolf yelped and leaped backward through the air to escape the huntress’ reach. The beast dodged her next attack and charged Duarth, who swung his sword backhanded. The wolf had to dodge again. The huge wolf snarled and pawed the sand of the arena, circling between campfires. Duarth squinted to keep the beast in view as it passed between shadows and blinding light.
A second wolf lunged from the shadows and nearly bit Seerna’s arm off. The blonde huntress leaped into the air and backflipped, landed against the side wall, pushed off, and landed next to Duarth. Both hunters stood back-to-back with their weapons raised.
The two wolves charged from the darkness at the hunter pair. Seerna managed to dodge the biting attack from one wolf. The bony spines of its shoulder scraped the leather armor across her stomach as the huntress rolled out of the way.
However, the other wolf had had enough of trying to bite Duarth. The blade wolf turned at the last second and hurled its shoulder and side into the young man.
Duarth did his best to parry with his enormous blade, and he scored a nasty gash on the side of the wolf. But several bony protrusions pierced the hunter’s arms and legs. One bony blade bit deep into his olive-skinned sword arm at the shoulder, and the limb flopped uselessly at his side.
Duarth screamed as his blood splattered across the sand.
Seerna lashed out at her wolf with her spear and tried to get back to Duarth. Her wolf opponent circled and prevented her from approaching the duel between Duarth and the largest blade wolf.
The crowd was on their feet, screaming and stomping. The Siki judges in the government stands shook their heads and made notations on their slate boards.
Across the arena, Sedrit of the axes and Kevna the shield-bearer dueled with the third blade wolf. Sedrit swung his axes in a cloud of blades. The third wolf dodged and danced around him nimbly, never able to return a strike but content to wait for an opening.
Filna shot her arrows at the wolf, but it was too fast for her to track.
The wolf circled and drew Sedrit forward. The hunter lunged in with both axes whirling. Suddenly, the wolf also lunged forward, then stopped abruptly. Sand sprayed into the hunter’s face, and his strikes became frantic. Air whistled on sharpened bone as his blind swings went wide.
The wolf pressed forward, snapping and snarling. Sedrit fell back as he tried to wipe sand from his eyes and mouth. The wolf advanced again. Sedrit leaped back and landed in a campfire. His clothing caught fire, and the hunter screamed.
The wolf darted in and bit Sedrit around the torso. Strong jaws clamped down. His dense hide armor prevented the fangs from sinking in, but Sedrit screamed from the crushing pressure.
Sedrit’s burning clothes finally forced the wolf to let go, and the beast dropped Sedrit in the sand. The hunter rolled back and forth to smother the flames as the wolf opened its jaws and aimed a bite at Sedrit’s bald head.
Kevna charged in and bashed the wolf in the side of the head.
The predator tumbled away and came up snarling on all fours. It charged forward and body-slammed Kevna, who hadn’t had time to brace himself. The blow hurled the redhead thirty feet backward. With a loud thump, the Guardian crashed down in the sand but maintained his hold on his shield.
Free from threats, the wolf leaped atop Sedrit. The flames had been extinguished, so the wolf seized the hunter by his armor and began savaging him by flailing its head back and forth, yanking the man around like a rag doll. Both axes lay useless nearby.
Filna finally had her shot, and she made full use of it. Her arrow took the wolf deep in the eye.
Blood spurted from the wound, and the beast howled in agony. The wolf dropped Sedrit and stood atop him, pawing at the projectile embedded in its eye.
Kevna had recovered and used his shield to bash the wolf in one of its hind legs. The shattering bones were audible even to the audience.
The wolf howled again and reared back just enough for Sedrit to stretch out his arm and reach his axe. With one stroke, the burned and bleeding hunter cut the wolf’s throat. Hot blood sprayed across his face as he lay under the dying monster. The blade wolf gave a hideous, gurgling howl and tried to lunge away, but collapsed on top of Sedrit. The air whooshed out of the bald hunter’s lungs, his eyes bulged, and he struggled to scoot out from under the shaggy dead mass.
Filna and Kevna started to help Sedrit, but they heard Duarth scream. Filna left Kevna and Sedrit to bolt toward Duarth.
Duarth stood facing the massive blade wolf. The wolf dripped blood from nasty wounds on each side of its hulking body. Crimson blood flowed down Duarth’s right arm and soaked into the sand at his feet. He clutched his greatsword in his left hand. His hunter’s mark burned red from the energy required to wield his huge sword with his weaker hand after losing so much blood.
The enormous wolf darted in and snapped at Duarth.
Wind whistled across sharpened bone as Duarth swung his greatsword with his offhand. The blade crashed against the bony protrusions of the blade wolf’s shoulder and gouged the flesh beneath.
The wolf leaped away and went back to circling through the shadows.
Seerna was a storm of activity. Her Trickster’s mark burned purple as the blonde huntress flashed around the blade wolf she dueled. The beast snapped and flailed and slammed its body every which way, but Seerna was always just ahead of the creature. She slashed and pierced and taunted the beast into a rage. With her folding spear, she snipped away at the beast’s long tail and long ears. The monster snarled and hurled its body against her, but she continued to dodge while scoring dozens of wounds.
Filna arrived at Duarth’s side and placed her hand on his wounded shoulder. Blue light poured from the brunette’s hunter’s mark, and the blood began to slow.
But the largest wolf darted in again. Massive paws tore up the earth as the monster charged.
Duarth put the hand of his partly-healed arm against Filna’s stomach and shoved her away, then rolled in the opposite direction.
The wolf charged between the two of hunters and turned to chase Duarth. The beast flopped its body down into the sand where the hunter lay. Duarth was forced to roll along the ground to escape. The two of them continued this flop-roll chase, neither giving the other the chance to line up an attack or rise from the ground.
Duarth began to tire, and he struggled to roll as far as needed. Sharp bony protrusions pierced one leg which didn’t move fast enough, and Duarth screamed.
The blade wolf held Duarth pinned through the leg and reached forward to bite the young man.
Kevna arrived and bashed the large wolf in the side of its head. Bones crunched, and the wolf howled in agony. The monster jumped away from the two men as Kevna reached down and helped Duarth rise from the sand.
The massive wolf charged again, but Filna had had enough. Three arrows streaked out from the darkness, glowing an icy blue. The projectiles slammed into the side of the hulking wolf and knocked the charge off course. Another glowing arrow lanced out and hit the wolf in the knee, severing the limb.
Kevna lunged forward and cracked the huge wolf in the face again, stunning the beast.
Duarth limped forward and raised his sword. The Kilna leader drove the point of his bone blade into the throat of the Blade Wolf, then jerked the sword to tear the wound open.
The massive beast flailed its remaining paws and collapsed into the sand, unmoving.
Across the arena, Seerna had enraged her wolf to the point that foam spattered from its mouth with each bite. The wolf’s huge sides heaved as it gasped for breath, but the beast refused to stop trying to butcher the young huntress.
Seerna froze beside the wolf’s head. The startled monster lashed out with a furious bite.
Seerna dodged at the last second, and the wolf bit into a pile of burning logs just behind the huntress. Foamy saliva sizzled in the heat of the logs. The wolf screamed, lashing its head back and forth to get rid of the burning splinters lodged in its lips and tongue.
The blonde huntress leaped into the air and landed atop the distracted wolf’s back. Her spear plunged into the beast’s spine again and again, shattering bone and causing blood to rain down into the sand. With a final thrust, she drove her spear into the back of the creature’s skull.
The dead monster collapsed to the sand with the huntress standing atop it.
Seerna leaned against the shaft of her spear, the tip still embedded in the beast. Her chest rose and fell with heaving breaths as the purple glow of her tattoo dimmed, then winked out. After a few breaths, the huntress raised her head and lifted one fist into the air.
The crowd roared in approval.
“Kilna tribe is victorious!” Ahken announced over the screams and cheers of the audience.
“That was everything I hoped it would be,” Moxi said breathlessly.
“That was hard to watch! I thought half their team was going to die. There was blood everywhere!” Ahken protested.
Moxi sighed in contentment. “I know. Up next, Sacram tribe!”
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Author, ghostwriter, author coach, retired psychotherapist, husband, and father. I've written 25 books, both fiction and non-fiction, and scored a couple #1 Amazon bestsellers in my various categories.
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