Episode 13: The Duel
A gust rustled the canopy’s branches of Genai province. Far off in the Core of Genai—its capital—the buzz of thousands of Hartons flying in and out competed with the pandemonium of life in Nashoba Forest. None dampened Tosai’s narcissistic laugh. None.
The sun was about to touch noon.
“Wait!” Noshee said. “What do you mean by no reason?”
They stood at wing’s length from one another. Noshee’s branch trembled.
Tosai’s didn’t waver one bit. Steel talons creaked. The Legionnaire’s feet spread, knees bent slightly, wings unfurled, talons drawn back. Tosai’s irises turned blood red, a sign of pure aggression. Fangs were bared. The smell of rot spewed from Tosai’s mouth. He wanted Noshee to know his intention.
Sun rose to its peak—noon.
“Tosai,” Noshee called, one hand held out, the other brandishing a thin branch. “Just wait.”
The Legionnaire's roar ripped through Noshee’s being like a streak of cold water splashing his back.
Tosai lunged off the branch and swung his right talon. Noshee flew off and thwacked Tosai across the cheek. Tosai roared, chased Noshee and swung. With one powerful beat, Noshee dodged, let Tosai fly underneath, and thwacked him behind the head. The Legionnaire screamed, looped behind Noshee. Noshee flapped hard and crashed back first into Tosai. Tosai's talons stuck between the two. Sharp spurs stuck into Noshee's back. Tosai pushed him off. Mistake. Noshee yanked his wings and spun. He thwacked Tosai’s wing. The sound cracked against the canopy.
Tosai grabbed his wing and plunged, hitting massive branches like a bouncing ball. A web of branches finally saved him. Screams of anger and pain almost made Noshee smirk.
Noshee glided down and perched nearby. “You said no reason. You meant to take me back home. Without condemning me here.”
Tosai’s eyes still burned red.
Noshee threw his thin branch away, raised his hands and collapsed his wings. “I surrender. Take me home.”
Tosai stood, letting go his wing. A bright red blemish marked his face. “All right,” Tosai said. Blood drained from his irises. “Come.”
Noshee eyed the talons still worn.
“What would people think? With these?” The Legionnaire indicated the blemishes.
“Right.” Noshee sighed. “You lead.”
Tosai smiled. “Of course.”
Leaves billowed out of their way as they flapped. Both rose into the blue sky.
“Our Warlord commanded me to bring you back,” Tosai said. “Your Legionnaire wife must have some influence over our Warlord.”
“His days of debauchery are over.”
Tosai chuckled. “Is your wife’s?”
Noshee ignored the comment.
“My apologies.” Tosai gazed back. “Chusee wanted to condemn you to the families of the murdered researchers.”
“Why?” Noshee said. He rubbed his nose. “Why—?”
Tosai's four front toes and hallux latched onto Noshee’s neck. Noshee beat his wings, tried to free himself, but the grip was strong like a steel vice. Tosai swung his talon. Noshee clawed Tosai’s meaty lower leg and broke the grip. But the talon sliced through Noshee’s wing.
Noshee plummeted. The canopy surged upward. Noshee folded his wings tight to reduce further damage. He crashed through branches, which slowed his descent. Then a broken stub knocked his wind out, breaking his fall.
Tosai clambered down the thick foliage, irises flared red.
Noshee forced himself up, saw what he was looking for. He stumbled over, broke off a spear-length branch as thick as a man’s arm. The branch he stood on shook.
“Let’s finish this, shall we?” Tosai said. His talons cocked, wings folded.
Noshee jabbed his branch. Pain burned in his limp right wing. He could barely breath from the fall.
Tosai swung talon after talon, quickly eating away at the branch.
When Noshee was close enough he rushed in.
With both talons, Tosai grabbed the branch. Damp wood fibers splintered through bark under Tosai’s grip.
Noshee pushed as hard as he could muster, gaining some ground.
Tosai dug his taloned feet in and turned the tide.
The researcher took sudden steps back.
The Legionnaire faltered.
Noshee cranked the branch over, tangling Tosai’s talons. He pulled it and elbowed Tosai in the head. As Tosai lay unconscious, Noshee had one thought. Why did Chusee, the head researcher, want to condemn him? Then he looked down at the fallen warrior.
Choose your poison: Tosai is helpless. Should Noshee finish him?
57% of the readers said No.