Gwen awoke. Someone was in her house; someone who should not be there.
Her chest heaved as she tried to calm her racing heart. She reached down beside her mattress and grasped her battle staff. Slipping out of bed, she positioned herself beside the door. The moon’s light piercing her window shimmered across her pale pink cotton nightgown.
Three years ago, hearing an intruder in her house would have scared her,
She would have called 911 and trusted someone else to take care of this. But three years ago, she met Sanchor. She was adopted by his band, trained by him, fought by his side, lost her heart to him, and been betrayed by him in turn. So tonight, as she heard someone prowling beyond her door, she was terrified, but she knew what she was capable of.
The door handle turned. Gwen shifted her balance and centered herself. The door opened.
A bolt chunked into her mattress. She stilled her breathing. A figure entered the room, glowing in the moon light. Its face was smooth, no indentations for eyes or mouth, no protuberances for nose or brows. No hair, no ears, clothed in nothing other than its scales. It was a ukera, a lizard-like humanoid. Its stench filled her nostrils and she fought the urge to gag.
The ukera’s head wobbled as it searched the room by sonar. Sanchor had told her that ukeras had once been good and served the Light. That was before the Darkness came. The Darkness that Sanchor said twisted man and creature to its will. The ukera’s head stopped wobbling. It turned to face her.
She swung: the sower harvests the grain, and caught the ukera on the side of its knees. It fell to the floor. Never hit an ukera in the head, Sanchor had warned her. It will explode and spray you with its musky blood. You’ll never get rid of the smell.
She planted the business end of her battle stick on the triangle joining its two rib cages. She heard a snap as its lungs burst outward, filling with air. A slow way to die, but sure.
She leapt over the ukera and sprinted down the hall to the kitchen. She squatted beside the table and peered out the window. Two hooded men were silhouetted by the faithful moon. The moonlight glinted off crossbows held ready in their arms. Ukera never used weapons. Who fired the bolt into her bed? Her ears near burst trying to listen for the other soldier -- the one who carried a crossbow and had to be inside with her. She heard nothing.
She kept low; she reached the phone beside the frig. Its dial tone blared loudly and she stabbed at 9 then 1 then 1 again. It rang three times before a woman answered, sounding bored.
“Intruders!” Gwen hissed as quietly as she could.
“I’m sorry; you’ll have to speak up. What is your emergency?”
“Is that what you call a telephone?” The robed figure stepped into the kitchen, brandishing a loaded crossbow.
She lunged upward, Salmon up the River, ramming the stick into the soldier’s belly while screaming, “He’s trying to kill me, there’s a man in my house. Help!” She hoped the operator understood and would act on it.
A bolt shattered the glass in the kitchen door and embedded itself into the microwave. Gwen rolled under the table as the door exploded inward. One soldier ran to his fallen comrade while the other blocked the exit. Moonlight shimmered across their face masks: lighteners. Lighteners were made from the skins of some luminescent sea creature on a far distant world and allowed the wearer to see in the darkness.
You know how to blind a lightener, don’t you, Gwen? she remembered Sanchor’s lesson as he smiled at her so long ago.
Gwen aimed her battle staff and threw it. It clipped the light switch and the florescent flooded the room. The soldiers screamed in agony and tried to rip the masks from their faces.
Gwen ran into the backyard, vaulted the wooden fence and tumbled into her neighbor’s back yard. A dog lunged at her, straining its chain to the limit and barking ferociously. Saliva splattered her as she sprinted past the massive pit-bull.
Lights flashed on in the houses around her as other dogs took up the alarm.
“Call the police!” Gwen shouted.
“What’s going on?” a neighbor growled.
She slammed into a trio of trashcans, screaming for help, and then silently slipped back through the alley to the fence behind her house. She had made enough noise to lead the soldiers away. And by now, the police were coming, she hoped. She snuck over the fence and crouched behind the ancient oak in the corner of her yard. She could see into her kitchen – the soldiers were gone. She drew a deep breath and pressed her forehead against the bark.
A popping acorn was her only warning. She jumped up and swung at the man, a simple Frog in the Pond move. He blocked her blow with graceful ease – Rock against the River, twisting her staff out of her hands with his own battle staff. She head-butted his chin and cartwheeled backwards to retrieve her staff. He reached over from behind her and yanked her against him with her own staff. Her bare feet dangled above the ground, unable to hurt him through his metal shin guards.
He shook her and pressed the staff more firmly against her throat. “It’s good to know you have not gone soft and forgotten your training.”
She stilled. “Sanchor?”
He pressed his lips against her ear and whispered, “Do you still love me, Gwen?”
Comes the Warrior
© Evelyn Rainey
Available for publication.