Chapter 23: "You'll kill us both!"

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Water burst overhead as the hydrogen in Old Moss's flatulence combusted in a jet of fire. The skarns were caught in its blast, a hundred metre jet of orange flame that torched their wings and sent them falling to the ocean far below.

Ella was aware of this as she dived at a near vertical angle, although she saw none of it. Her perception had shifted. She knew Tayre was following her on a more conservative trajectory, she could feel Old Moss above her and his anger at the attacking skarns, and she was aware of the swarm itself.

With one smooth, unhurried motion of her right hand, she guided the stick on the speeder and corkscrewed the bike in its swift descent, before slowly pulling up.

The skarn were before her in disarray. She knew they were afraid. She could smell their fear, their anger.

Without conscious thought she loosened off several shots from the herd cannon. Each one found its mark, crippling the large insectoids, driving a passage through their number.

She ducked as a yellow stinger flashed toward her face, only to miss. She leaned left as a talon tried to seize her shoulder, only to miss. And then her blaster was in her hand, seemingly without her reaching for it. She put a single stun shot into an empty space that a split second later was filled with a skarn's face, sending it spinning silently into the waves.

She felt the swarm's anger focus on her, and smiled.

Ella cast a look over her shoulder. She stared blankly through the faces of her enemies and saw the steady bulk of Old Moss, angling his huge tail to fend off the swarm.

She knew what she had to do.

***

"Ella! Ella don't do it!"

Tayre yelled into the rushing wind as Ella flew into the swarm of skarn. The princess pulled her speeder to one side, not daring to follow her friend into such a cloud of deadly creatures. She saw the herd cannon blaze away and saw an impossible number of skarn fall under the onslaught. She got a vague impression of Ella ducking and dodging on her bike and avoiding by the scantiest margins the razor sharp claws and piercing poisonous stingers of the skarn.

No one should be able to make it through such a swarm!

But Ella was already coming about, and the skarn seemed to follow her now. Ella flew upward, leading them toward Old Moss.

She flew under the hydrobloat, yet the first dozen of skarn were sent tumbling by a single slap of Old Moss's huge tail. Those that came behind were buffeted by the conflicting currents of air as he raised it once again, and their attack was broken as they each fought for control, beating their four wings hard into the winds.

"You always were so lucky Ella," Tayre murmured, slowing her speeder to wave Ella down as her friend emerged from beneath Old Moss.

But as soon as she stood in the saddle to wave, she knew she had made a fatal error. A shadow dropped over her from Old Moss's flank and landed on the front of the speeder. A skarn - its face burned and its wings broken, stared into her eyes a half metre away. Its weight unbalanced the speeder and Tayre's hand shot out to steady herself, seizing the nearest control she could. The bike dipped, near vertically. Tayre panicked. Her right hand grabbed at the controls and the speeder lurched forward at sudden speed.

Straight down.

The skarn made a sound like pebbles rolling in an empty pot. Its stinger shot forward from behind its shoulder, missing Tayre's face by a finger's width. It tried to grab at her with its talon, but as it did so it lost its balance and grabbed the only thing it could.

It seized Tayre's wrist and pinned it to the control stick, adding its strength to hers.

The speeder gained velocity.

"You'll kill us both!" she screamed. She tried to pull the stick back, but her efforts barely made a difference.

And the only sound that came from the skarn with its burned face was the sound of pebbles in an empty pot.

It sounded suspiciously like laughter.

The stinger came forward again, over its right shoulder and then its left, twice, in quick succession, forcing Tayre to squirm and duck as the curved needle sought her face.

She knew that if the crash didn't kill her, the skarn soon would, and she dearly wished that she had holstered her blaster on the left side of her belt rather than her right, now beyond her reach.

"Ella!"

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(Before I continue, let me assure my readers of one thing: the flammable flatulence idea is not inspired by real life events as far as I am aware - but curry night can provoke strange events). This chapter shows Ella in action as she flies into the skarn swarm single-handedly, lost in the thrill of a dangerous challenge. It shows us more about her character than a frustrated teacher saying "You are too hot-headed" or something similar. Show don't Tell is what I see and hear most from writing websites and editors these days, as it usually combines character revelation with some form of action as they demonstrating a certain trait. Whilst it is a superior tool to 'telling' I am always wary when I find that everyone starts to say the same thing: that is a sign of group think, and that is a symptom of stagnation and dull imagination. What do you think?

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