Shadow and Ghost
Chapter 13: Enemies and Allies
Long River Ghost claws tipped sinewy fingers as a large Kainde Amedha curled its hands around the edge of its perch. The eyeless face, vaguely reminiscent of its host, peeled back wisp thin lips revealing silver daggers as the creature snarled. Swinging its elongated and ridged dome from side to side, it vocalized a hiss like growl to its subordinates. Four drones leaned forward snarling and flicking their tails in anticipation for the taste of blood. The smallest creature sprang forward, throwing its rear talons towards Dto’Luar-ke.
Dto’Luar-ke roared in eager fury as she shot her wrist mounted net launcher. The net ensnared the creature pinning it to the far wall of the room. The trapped beast flailed and clawed against it confines screaming in pain as the net began to tighten, cutting into its hard shell. Mantis-like arms unfolded in an attempt to rip the net from its body, the sharp coils lacerating the skinny appendages, acidic blood pooled under its body melting the stone floor.
The leader let out a screeching roar and the remaining three Kainde Amedhas launched themselves from the shafts towards the hunters. Dto’Luar-ke pulled her Combi-staff, telescoping it to its full length to smack another in the side of its face sending it sailing into a wall against its netted companion. Bhu’ja flicked open her Shurikens deflecting the slashing claws of one attacker and the whipping tail of another. The leader screeched from its perch encouraging its subordinates to continue their attack.
Against the wall, the netted Kainde Amedha fell to the ground as its blood melted through the offending devise. Crisscrossing wounds marred its shiny dome as it joined its pack, hissing at the hunters. Bhu’ja flashed her visor at the creatures as her hunt sister growled. The creatures snarled and launched themselves at the hunters. The hunt sisters stepped in harmony with each other’s defense, spinning, ducking, and evading the onslaught of tail stabs and slashing claws.
Bhu’ja parried a swipe from one of her attackers and spun a kick against its ribs, sending the creature into its counterpart, in a tangled web of limbs they struggled to regain ground but tripped themselves to the floor. The Kainde Amedha on the bottom hissed and snapped its inner jaws at its comrade. Using the distraction to her advantage Bhu’ja threw a Shuriken severing the head of the Kainde Amedha that had swiped at her. The body fell lifeless upon its pack mate and the leader screamed calling its subordinates to it.
Dto’Luar-ke was locked in battle with the beast she had smacked with her Combi-staff that now lay on the floor off to her side. The creature hissed and struck out with its mantis like arms as she held the wrists of its larger limbs, keeping its long claws away from her. Its inner jaws kept darting out violently, the short sharp teeth scraping against her Bio mask. It screeched in frustration and used its tail like a scorpion to strike the deadly tip at her. When the leader screamed, Dto’Luar-ke used the brief hesitation of her advisory to throw herself to her back and planting both her boot heels into its chest. Shoving hard she tossed the creature off her into the wall of the small room.
The net wounded Kainde Amedha was missing an arm from its second attempt at the hunter and was now struggling to climb the wall back to its leader along with the smaller of the two that had attacked Bhu’ja. Dto’Luar-ke vaulted back to her feet and charged the beast she had thrown. It flicked its tail and like a cat leaped through the air at her. Dropping to her knees, she slid under the creature to grab her Combi-staff and thrust it upwards into the belly of the beast. As the Kainde Amedha impacted the floor, acidic entrails popped from the wound with a hissing sizzle as the stone underneath began to melt.
The leader and the two surviving subordinates scurried through the open shaft as the pyramid began to rumble signifying its next shift. Bhu’ja and her hunt sister stood and watched as the shafts closed and a door opened. The hunt sisters stood a moment before nodding at each other and let out triumphant roars. Each went to their kills and collected their trophies. Bhu’ja cut the tail from the decapitated body and coiled it over one shoulder and across her chest. Bagging the head, she turned to Dto’Luar-ke. “Let’s get moving we can clean later.”
“Wait, we have to mark.” She pulled a finger from the body of Bhu’ja’s kill and dipped it in the blood that pooled and sizzled from its neck. “I’ll stand watch, if you will honor me with the same.”
Bhu’ja nodded and unsecured her bio mask. Taking the acid dipped claw, she etched Set’rath’s mark upon the forehead of it. Taking a deep breath, she touched the tip to the skin of her forehead. The acid burned her hunter’s mark effortlessly as she traced the shape Set’rath had drilled her for hours to learn. Wiping a thin layer of numbing agent on the wound, she replaced her mask and tied the finger to her belt. Taking Dto’Luar-ke’s position by the new entrance, she waited for her hunt sister to complete her own ritual.
At the familiar sound of the bio tubes being re-attached to a bio mask, Bhu’ja nodded to her hunt sister and they took off at a brisk run down the impossibly long corridor. A strange ambient light came into view and they slowed their course as the stepped into the light. Sliding to a stop, they found themselves staring across a cavern. A stone bridge had once been there judging by the configuration of the stone path they now stood upon, but the ages had long since claimed it.
Dto’Luar-ke clicked with irritation as the grinding of the pyramid began to resonate through the cavern. “Looks like we jump.”
“Let’s do it then.” Bhu’ja rolled her shoulders and jogged a slight ways back down the corridor, turned and sprinted to the edge of the cavern and launched herself across the divide. A blinding pain exploded through her right shoulder. Her scream echoed with the roar of her hunt sister. Hitting the far edge of the cavern a couple of feet below the edge a double blade wrist blade pinned her to the unstable wall. Stabbing her left blades into the wall to support her weight off her shoulder, Bhu’ja tried to look for Dto’Luar-ke.
Her hunt sister was roaring in rage at seeing her impaled and pinned to the wall. Dto’Luar-ke was frantically searching for the offender. Bhu’ja saw the shimmer of a shift suit from an opening slightly above the corridor she had jumped from. She saw no heat signature, but when the angular eyes of the visor flashed at her, she yelled to Dto’Luar-ke. “Above you!”
The shimmering image faded into the dark and as Dto’Luar-ke turned to pursue Bhu’ja’s attacker, the tail of a Kainde Amedha burst through her back. Her fluorescent blood coated the deadly bladed tip. An apparent demi-queen, the leader of the pack they had just fought, stepped into the light suspending the hunter in the air. Its oddly shaped dome swaying in gloating fashion as it brought the hunter face-to-face, snarling. Dto’Luar-ke in her last breath of defiant bravery flashed her visor at the beast. The inner jaws punched through her mask in a spray of fluorescent blood over the creature’s muzzle. It roared in self-satisfaction as it disappeared with its kill. With a breaking heart, Bhu’ja watched her hunt sister disappear refusing to look away until the pyramid finished shifted and the corridor stood closed.
The cavern with its strange ambient light now stretched under her in eerie silence. Glancing up to the cavern where the blurry would be assassin had stood revealed no one. The corridor above her was still a mystery and pinned just below the ledge as she was, it would remain so until she could free herself. Bhu’ja tried to pull herself free from the blades but felt a barbed stop on the back of it preventing her from dislodging her shoulder. Ok this was not in the plans…now what do I do? Think! I need to get free from this wall.Taking a few heavy and rapid breaths Bhu’ja threw her shoulder with a pained roar against the barbed stop of the blade. The rocky ledge crumbled releasing the large serrated blades. Oh, fuck me. Seeing the same blades that had been shot at her during her run from the berserker on the game planet did not make her feel any more confident about her current situation hanging from her own wrist blades.
Testing her compromised arm to see how much movement and strength she still had, Bhu’ja found as long as she kept her arm cradled against her ribs she could still use it with manageable pain as she stabbed her primary wrist blades into the wall to help take some of her weight off her left wrist. Tapping her toes gently against the frail stones, she found small toeholds and pressed her boots against them to help lift her to the edge. Bhu’ja was now eye level with her wrist and she knew she would have to retract her blades to grab the edge. But if it crumbles… Looking down into the shadowed abyss Bhu’ja gulped down the tingle of fear that began to creep into her thoughts. Not today…Cetanu’s voice echoed through her head and looking up at the ledge she retracted her left wrist blades and grabbed the ledge as a toehold crumbled. Shit! Pulling herself upwards until her right blades would not allow her to go further without retracting them. The faint scrape of boots brought her attention to the shadows as D’lex-dekna stepped into the light. Bhu’ja aimed her shoulder canon at her.
“Easy…” D’lex-dekna raised her hands palm up. “I will explain what I know once we get you off this ledge.”
“And how do I know you are here to help?” Bhu’ja did not like this turn of events and was leery of letting one of two people who seemed fury bound on her destruction help her.
“It is not safe to talk here, I will explain soon.” D’lex-dekna paused a moment before adding. “Please let me help. I am not the enemy you believe me to be.” She approached Bhu’ja slowly and knelt down placing a strong hand on her wrist. “Now pull your blades so I can help you get up here.”
“How about you let go of me and I won’t make you a permanent feature of that far wall.” Bhu’ja growled and D’lex-dekna stood and backed away without argument.
Bhu’ja left her canon pointed in the huntress’s direction as she continued her pained climb over the ledge. The long blades protruding from her shoulder made the final few inches painful and difficult as they snagged on the rocky lip. Holding her breathe and the pain silent Bhu’ja hauled her feet up to solid ground. Cradling her injured arm she took note of her timer, the pyramid was due to shift in a few seconds, and as if on cue when the timer flipped to 00:00, the rumble of shifting stone began to echo through the cavern.
“The Kainde Amedhas have retreated to the lower tunnels for now.” D’lex-dekna gestured for Bhu’ja to follow her. “It is not safe to talk here, and you need to get,” She waved at Bhu’ja’s shoulder. “That doctored.”
“And why should I trust you? You and Kha’cti-pa have done nothing but threaten me and my mate.”
“I told you already Hybrid that I am not the enemy you think I am. I am here as only a distraction. The real Mar’cte is still out there stalking you.” D’lex-dekna soundedexasperated. “My dame wants you out of the way so she can make a play for control over the Arbitrators.”
“I have no control over them. What good would me being out of the way be for her?” Bhu’ja hated being confused and D’lex-dekna was making no sense.
“Come on we cannot talk here, he will come back.”
Bhu’ja paused. “Wait…You mean the asshole that shot me, you know who it is?”
“Not exactly, but I know who sent him. Now come on I will explain, but not here.” Her voice was nervous.
“And who sent him?”
“My dame on the orders of my sire.”