Novel Excerpt – The Demigod’s Daughter by Constance Brewer
Dzaro, mounted on the big tan llarmal, galloped out of the passage. Kadi’s sigh of relief turned to a cry. A writhing black monster made of smoke and vapor rode perched behind Dzaro’s saddle and clawed at him with half-formed hands. As soon as Dzaro cleared the passage, he tumbled from the llarmal and fell to the ground, taking the monster with him. They rolled over and over. The tan llarmal ran to Kadi and his kin, eyes ringed white.
A hideous sound rose, a combination of hissing fire and the scrape of metal on metal. Dzaro struggled to break free, succeeded and leaped to his feet. The hissing intensified. Kadi gave in to the urge to slap her hands over her ears. The smoke monster began to solidify and this time a backhanded blow sent Dzaro sprawling. Red blood splattered across the snowy ground with the magha. Kadi screamed and the thing turned her way. Orange eyes glowed. Horns curled tightly alongside its head. A primeval trembling gnawed her soul. Demon. It was a demon, a ghul from the otherworld.
Dzaro pushed to his feet and before the demon could turn on him, stepped sideways and disappeared. Kadi hurt her throat as she screamed in disbelief Dzaro left her to face this monster alone. Raahi let out a mighty snort, wheeled and began to run. Kadi glanced over her shoulder. The demon ran after them awkwardly on its half-formed legs, gaining speed as it solidified. The glowing eyes intensified.
Raahi slid to a stop, almost unseating Kadi and bugled a loud call to the other llarmals. They stopped as if on command, spun and advanced on the demon. Raahi trembled and took a step forward, then stopped and made loud, angry chirrups. The llarmals began to attack the demon from three sides. It paused in confusion, taking swipes with clawed hands. The llarmals were quick with feet and teeth, but the demon grew in solidity and speed. One crooked finger raked the flank of a llarmal and the animal screamed in pain.
The demon, sensing an advantage, plunged forward. The llarmals scattered. From behind Kadi, a large object passed her and tackled the demon, knocked it to the ground. The white tiger rolled over, sprang to its feet, and ran to the passage where smoke poured outward.
The tiger leaped, landed on the doorway, legs outstretched, and straddled it. With a clawing movement, it attacked the door as if it were a large prey animal, biting, and clawing. Snarls filled the crisp air. The door shrank. The tiger did it again until the door was the size of its head. He reached out and swallowed what was left of the passage before it turned and attacked the demon with a thunderous roar.
Beast and ghul collided. The two tumbled end over end as the white tiger snarled, clawed, and ripped large strips from the demon. The demon hissed and flailed at the tiger, claws catching it in the face. Blood welled.
The demon caught the tiger in the shoulder and one honey brown stripe turned red. The tiger redoubled its efforts and slashed in earnest. The torn strips floated in the air and tried to rejoin with the demon. The white tiger reared on his hind legs, stretched out and slashed repeatedly until the demon shredded to fine pieces.
As the pieces settled to the ground the tiger bellowed a roar, blew on them. They burst into flame to become ash. The tiger did it to every scrap of demon it could find until his roar was hoarse and he tottered in exhaustion. With a last soft roar at the llarmals, he rounded them up and sent them running through the valley, away from the meadow. After a long gallop, the llarmals slowed to a walk. The tiger limped alongside, stopped, executed a clumsy leap, and disappeared in a sparkle of light.
“Dzaro! Don’t leave me!” Her stomach heaved. Twice deserted in the course of a mark was too much. “Dzaro!” He did not reappear. She was alone, in the wilds of Nhor, with nothing but llarmals to protect her.
© 2024 Constance Brewer