Episode 12: Warrior Within

Above the canopy a familiar warrior joined the swirling Genaians.

“Legionnaire Tosai.” One of them hovered and tapped his knuckles on Tosai’s thick chest.

“Have you found him?” Tosai asked without returning the gesture.

“Not yet. His scent seems to head south from here.” The other two warriors decided to hover. Air from flapping wings blew their long hair back.

Tosai's strong jaw angled south. He sniffed, probably picked up linen bandages scattered southeast toward the Death Swamps. "He's going to hide his sent in the swamp's stench."

The Legionnaire pointed to two of the warriors. “Fly south close to Sajen’s Cliffs.” He pointed at the last one and said, “We’ll fly southeast. Then converge in the middle and trap him.”

All three Genaian warriors placed their right fists on their chests. The four dispersed.

Noshee let out a deep breath. He leaned out from under a plume of leaves. A sudden gust blew in. He was alone.

What was he going to do? He still needed to prove he didn’t neglect his fellow researchers when they were killed, make peace with Genaian warriors, and prove he didn’t kill Haiwee and the soldier in the catacombs. He wasn’t sure if Warlord Rorkai would vouch for him. Or if his testimony would hold up since the Eldens seemed to abhor his warlordship.

The dead bodies would be given to the forest floor at sundown. By then the evidence proving his innocence in the catacombs would be destroyed. He needed to get back to the infirmary.

“Very sly, Noshee,” Tosai said.

Noshee whipped around, tripped over a branch, and fell. He crashed through several levels of foliage before a large branch sieved his wings. Noshee screamed. Several sharp branches poked through the membranes.

Tosai glided down, spread wings blocked the sun. “You must remember to keep upwind.” The corners of Tosai's mouth curled up.

“What are you doing in Genai?” Noshee said.

“Our Warlord commanded me to fly as Chusee’s guardian. Why he wastes my skill and effort, I do not know. But when I heard we were to bring you home to Destiny, I became intrigued.” Tosai licked his lips, bared his fangs.

“What am I to you? Just a researcher.” Noshee gingerly tried to free his wings.

“Come now,” Tosai said, perching at a nearby branch. “Your father is a famous master.”

“Remember. He threw me out of the cage. And you’re supposed to bring me back to Destiny.”

“Supposed.” Tosai chuckled. “Then you fled for no reason. No reason at all.” He stood and slid his hands into a set of talons holstered on his hips. Worn like a glove, talons had long sharp blades extending from steel fingers. A steel claw covered the thumb. Armored palms creaked as he squeezed his hands. Cords of muscle running down Tosai's forearms twisted and pulled. Sharp spurs stemmed off the back of the talons like jagged thorns, able to mince flesh with any strike.

Noshee freed his wings and scrambled to stand up. He broke a branch off, about the length of his leg, stripped the leaves, and swung it out like a sword. His wings retracted. Too many days had gone by. His swordsmanship felt blunt, muddy.

Tosai laughed. Steel talons clinked in the convulsion. “Oh—this is going to be so much fun.”

Choose your poison: Tosai's challenge is unwavering. Should Noshee fight or flee?

83% of the readers chose to fight.