Shadow of Twilight

by Stealthcat

Running down that infamous path that lead north, Stealth drifted off the dirt path, into the grass and along a fence following the road. The moist, soft grass was much nicer to tread then the compacted dirt. To the west, or his right, lay a small pasture and barn, a ways below that were the ruins of a small Suleiman fort.

He was so relived to be heading back home after making another run to that lion... but Edmund asked him to and he was happy to help his friend.

The cheetah stopped short in a huff when his ears twitched to the ruins, he darted to the right and hugged a fence post when a small rock impacted on the dirt in front of his nose. Several more stones rained down on him, he eventually reckoned them to be coming from the ruins. With a small change in the cool, afternoon wind, he could detect the sharp and unwelcome tang of lutins.

Crawling low through the grass he could see the lutins, in their stupidity, running out of the safety of the ruins, frustrated that their quarry wasn’t co operating in their little game. The feline continued to crawl through the grass but at a much faster pace, he managed to pass under the fence and into bundles of hay on the other side.

To his dismay, the lutins had jumped over the fence, while yet more ran into the field from the ruins still. How long till they began shooting arrows and pitch-forking the bundles? The thoughts ended when the courier’s nose bumped into a wooden structure. It was a barn. He could hear and smell the small band closing in. They were also taunting him by calling him, of all things, ‘doggy’. He pawed at the dirt where the wall met the ground. The dirt looked soft, also some of it had been dug up in the past, perhaps by a chook trying to get out or a fox trying to get in. Eventually he dug a barely large enough hole to squeeze in, under the wall.

“Knock, knock, doggy! Knock, knock!” The lutins taunted and laughed as they stood before the barn doors.

Some of them kicked and head butted the doors, they could enter easily but were more interested in getting their kicks and just taunting him. Two small lutins suddenly jumped and fell back on the ground when the doors buckled.

They ran back with the others and looked on when the doors buckled again, followed by what sounded like a snarl. Both the doors suddenly burst open, several wood planks falling from the buckling doors as a cheetah morph on horse back burst out of the barn.

Stealth had donned his clothes and equipped his weapons, notably his spear and bow and arrows as he jostled about on the bareback horse, his only form of support and guidance was a thick rope hastily tied to the halter.

Lutins ran all about, screaming as they tried to nock their arrows and unsheathe their rusted, bronze blades. With a snarl of rage, Stealth guided the horse towards the closest lutin in front of him. With a kick from his heels he urged the horse into a fast gallop. The crunch of crushed flesh and bones sounded briefly, ending the lutin’s screams.

Gently, mindful of the lack of a stirrup, Stealth eased the equine back in the direction they came, ignoring the poor aim of the archers he lined up several more green beasts, sending them to their demise under the four thundering hooves.

When he could see the rest running towards the tree line in fright, the cheetah removed the bow from his back and nocked an arrow. He took out the furthest with an arrow to the back, another stopped and turned around to look earning him an arrow through the eye. As he came even with two more, they shot their arrows at him. The cat ducked low but the projectiles well overshot him regardless.

He was now thankful for all the gruelling training that mad fox had put him through. As he came about, and the lutins came to a halt with their escape route cut, Stealth loosed two arrows, one into the screaming mouth of the first lutin, another through the ear of the second.

It took a moment to realise the field was now quiet, save his own steed’s steady trot. The sun’s bright orange glow faded, he could still see it shine on the mountains of the Barrier Range but otherwise the valley was bathed in twilight. Stealth came about again, stopping not far from the Suleiman ruins, sniffing and listening for anyone hiding in the rubble. It was then that he could see an animal leaving the barn where his horse so forcibly parted the doors.

He decided to go back and try to herd the animal back in and then shut the barn door but as he approached, something looked off. The animal was a bull, nothing out of the ordinary, if not for the fact it had a passenger.

“You should have run.” The feline said in a soft voice.

He felt around on his back; he had his pack, also the bow and quiver but his spear was missing. Blast, he dropped it in the rush, but he could make it out in the tall grass, the blade glistening in the moon light.

“Yah, Yah!” He cried out and the horse began to gallop towards the bull-back-lutin. The feline tried to wrap his legs around the animal’s flanks and griped the rope firmly, easing himself on to an angle, his arm brushing the ground and with a tremendous amount of luck, snatched up the spear.

“YAH!” He yelled and kicked the horse’s flanks, it took off with a whinny at full speed toward the lutin who by this time was also, somehow, coaxing his bull at a considerable pace toward the cheetah.

The lutin menacingly held up a wicked looking curved blade with a red cloth tied to the hilt. Stealth held his spear firm and aimed it at his adversary. The lutin made a feral sound, unlike any person or animal and swung the weapon with the intent of removing the keeper’s head but within seconds of impact, Stealth pulled his horse to the left and imbedded his spear into the lutin’s chest. Before so much as a second passed, the feline was reeling on the hay, his horse running off into the distance.

There were some things, it seemed, that did require a saddle. Stealth ached all over and his bearings would not be of any help any time soon. With a soft groan he allowed himself to sink into the scattered hay and rest.

His heart skipped a beat when he could hear movement in the grass. Was it the bull? He must have felled the lutin with that blow... but the breathing, the tang, it was all too familiar. Stealth braved a peek through the hay pile and could see him, alive and with the spear still imbedded in the armour of his chest...

He was frightened to witness the lutin, who was very close by, pull the spear from his chest and wield it as he prodded at the bundled and the spilled hay. The keeper was being hunted. Stealth lay flat on his chest and crawled as slowly and silently as possible while the sound of his movement were thankfully masked by the very irate lutin’s prodding with the spear.

Eventually he found himself to the lutin’s back. Catching his breath, the feline saw the faintest opening and lunged up from the hay. He grappled both his opponent’s arms and bore his fangs deep into his green neck.

The creature flailed and cried out in silent pain and terror, before his movements slowed, stiffened and eventually stopped. Stealth let go, allowing the body to fall forwards into the foot-deep spilled hay. He rolled the small marauder onto his back and then retrieved his spear.

Stealth took a deep breath. He took a good long look at the lutin, then at the hole in his armour... and pressed his spear point back in the original opening.

Was he dead? There was only one way to be sure, as he’d always been told. And after a moment’s hesitation he thrust the spear all the way through, until it stuck out the other side, coating the hay and grass with a growing pool of blood. He wasn’t sure if it had been his imagination or not, but a moment before he did it, he could have sworn he saw the lutin shiver... and then nothing.

Stealth cursed quietly and pulled the spear out with a grunt. The cheetah walked a bit in the field, he found the lutin’s dropped weapon – the curved blade with the red cloth – and took it. He continued on for a bit, with the corpses to his back he sat down in the grass, the old Suleiman ruin and the moon before him. He opened his backpack and looked at the contents. It was a bottle of apple cider, unbroken at that. Reading the small letter that came with it, he mused his luck that the bottle hadn’t been directly under when he fell from his horse.

A small smile crossed his muzzle when he read the hand writing in the moonlight,

‘Dear Edmund, please tell Stealth you have something important to show him, and then hand over this bottle as a gift from me.

-Nestorius’

The feline chuckled, “You learn something new about a person every day.” He said and popped the cork with his razor sharp thumb-claw, taking a swig of the magically-chilled liquid.

Stealth lingered in the small field for a few minutes, as the adrenalin in his blood began to thin. He eventually stood up, ignoring the splayed corpses of his own doing, he continued on his journey home, to Metamor Keep.

"Shadow of Twilight", copyright Stealthcat