Chapter 7

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Rockdog's ears perked up as he turned his head to identify the source of the sound he heard behind him. Seven men ran at him. Before he could lunge at the angry group bearing down on him, an arrow flew through the air hitting the lead man in the chest and sending him flying backward.

"Ceasixus!" yelled Agnez as she reached up for another arrow from her quiver. The remaining six men didn't slow as they continued their run at the trio. One of the men raised his axe to bring it down on Rockdog as the wolf sailed through the air at him. Before the axe could make contact, the wolf had the man on the ground by the throat and was jerking him back and forth like a toy doll belonging to one of the Crymith children.

Agnez let another arrow fly as Yaalon, knife in hand, ran toward the five men still bearing down on them. Her arrow took down a third man, its tip finding the small space between his eyes as he ran toward her.

A fourth fighter collided with Yaalon and the two crashed to the ground. A fifth jumped over them as they went down and continued toward Agnez. She grabbed a knife from her belt and shifted her weight to her good leg as the fighter crashed into her. Her breath was shoved from her lungs as her back slammed into the ground. The man, landing on top of her, grabbed at her wrists and smiled a wicked grin. She jerked her knife-wielding hand through his grip and sliced the palm of his hand. As he rolled to the side hollering in pain, Agnez saw Yaalon fighting a man on the ground a few feet away and two other fighters, also with knives, trying to bring down Rockdog.

The man jumped up and kicked Agnez in the side before she was able to get all the way to her feet. The impact sent her flying and she fell back, her injured leg catching on a rock and tucking behind her, putting her weight on it as she fell. She screamed out in pain and tried to focus on the Ceasixus fighter. The man, seeing that Yaalon and Rockdog were not an immediate threat, casually walked over to her and looked down, laughing.

"You're coming with me," he said as he pulled a length of rope from his belt. "Your Tulok's woman now." He threw his head back laughing and stepped forward toward Agnez. Blood from his hand was soaking into the rope, turning it a dark shade of red.

Agnez looked up at the man and saw his dirty, yellow teeth. She saw the knots in his hair and imagined the bugs that must be crawling through it. She saw the dirt under his long, jagged fingernails. She could smell the days of sweat and grime on him. Her knife was still in her hand under her injured leg. She realized he couldn't see it. He squatted down next to her.

"Make this easy on ol' Tulok, will you? Stop being such a pain in the ass. I told these boys you wouldn't be a problem and look at you," he lifted his bloodied hand, "makin' a liar outta me." He turned his head to check on his comrades and saw that they were still fighting the wolf and the monster. Turning back to Agnez, he said, "Come on, now," and reached out with the rope in both hands.

Agnez leaned to her side and brought her knife around with all the speed and strength she could manage. The knife entered Tulok's side with a pop and crunch as it splintered his rib bones and reached deep into his chest. Eyes wide, Tulok gasped and blood sputtered from his mouth. He reached out for Agnez, grabbing her hair and pulling her up to his face. He pulled his lips back from his teeth and sucked in a breath. Then he fell to his side, dead.

"No more women for Tulok," Agnez said flatly.

Agnez crawled to grab her bow, lying off to the side. She sat up and notched an arrow, ready to let it go as Yaalon rammed his knife through the throat of the Ceasixus fighter that had attacked him. Turning toward Rockdog's opponents, she let an arrow go into the chest of one of them, throwing him back from the wolf. His knife went flying upward, the sunlight hitting it and sending a brilliant slice of white light into the air. It stuck in the earth as it landed blade-down.

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