303 The Devils in the Dunes II
Aegin sighed, kicking up the dust beside him from where he paced back and forth, his ears listening for changes. He knew so little about the Sand Devils, but it they were the work of a Djinn has he suspected, he had no idea of their abilities, nor how he should handle them.
What he did know was that most animals in wolf form had good hearing and a sense of smell that far outmatched humans, so being with Sevis, Tigin and Rima, if they could sense what he was, may deter them.
Of course, that was relying on the assumption that he could fight them and beat them. Aegin had yet to actually encounter them, so he himself was unsure on this point.
'Then we either wait for Aegin to kill it, that's assuming he can, or we just have to live with whatever the Djinn throws our way?'
Tigin's voice carried through the air, weighing on Aegin's mind. Rima was right, this plan was stupid. He should have gone alone to hunt those things.
'The Hava Rastellan is not a place where life can be lived in ease, there are endings and beginnings, cruelty and kindness, such is the life of those who live here. If you are to treat this as your new home, I suggest you get used to that'.
Sevis this time, his confidence in his way of life and his faith as strongly held as always, even if he was only half as affective as a warrior in his current state. Aegin had tried to make him stay back, but the look Sevis gave him in response made even Aegin stop protesting. Admittedly, Aegin had only seen the young warrior spar, but he was damn good at it.
'I thought your Tribesman didn't like us Half-Bloods, even if our Tribesman Half is from a Tribe like the Blue Suns'.
Rima had a point. Though Tribesman of the Red-Eyed Snake Tribe had seemed to take the lost souls easily. Was it because they were not a threat and seemed sincere? Or because they had been accompanied by Aegin? It was hard to say for certain.
Sevis replied, and Aegin could imagine him leaning back on his hands in a relaxed manner, 'What can I say, you've grown on us'.
A howl punctured the silence, and Aegin immediately stopped his pacing, turning towards the sound as he felt his hunting instinct kick in. No…it was more than that. It felt like those instincts he'd held as a Ridge Man. As a Warrior in the Arena. The instinct of preparing for a fight that may actually mean death.
All at once, Aegin felt a sense of dread for those he'd sent out into the dunes. He stepped forward in a rush.
Sevis spoke, his voice like a whisper as Aegin cut through air to get to his companions in time, "Get up, they're close".
He could smell them, they were close, so close. He hit the dunes, and felt his path instantly slowed by the sand. He dared not look down at his feet, pushing himself harder as he peeked over the first dune and descended once more. He peeked at the second one.
There, he saw them, just another eight dunes away. But just two dunes from them, staring with a hunger that Aegin felt in his bones, were six beasts that seemed to be ever shifting from the wind and sand. Forming and reforming, the only constant their shining, star-like blue eyes that he could see even from this distance. The lunged forward as Aegin dipped down the second dune.
He peeked the third, but couldn't see them. Had they passed that second dune already or were they were he couldn't see them. He didn't have the time to stop and wait to see.
He dipped down again, then peeked up at the fourth. Nothing. No, wait. Just as he dipped down he saw them begin to peek that second dune. The next dune they crossed, they would meet the tense and terrified Sevis, Rima and Tigin.
Aegin wasn't going to make it.
Eyes wide with terror in what he had condemned them to, Aegin pushed himself faster, drawing his short swords as he moved.
Fifth peak…sixth peak…seventh peak.
The closer Aegin got, the more terrified he became, he knew instinctually that his swords would do little good. Those bodies, they did not look in the least bit solid.
Still, Aegin roared as his arm reared back. The creatures leapt towards their targets. Rima and Tigin shrunk back, Sevis holding his weapon before him.
Aegin barrelled through them, slashing his sword as he did. The sand, for an instant, dispersed, like it was somewhat shocked at his arrival.
"It's not done!" Sevis cried out as he grabbed Rima's hand and pulled her behind him, making a run for it. The horses had long bolted, leaving them to their fate. Not that the horses could be blamed, surely they were the smart ones here. Indeed, as Aegin turned back and took in the six, beastly, wolf-like creatures that seemed to form from the wind aligning the sand, he could not help but shudder as those starry blue eyes turned on him.
It felt like a face-off between two apex predators. Aegin could not help the instincts that made his eyes shine red and his fangs extended in a threatening display. His growled deeply.
The Sand Devils growled back, their growls half taken by the wind that kept their bodies somewhat whole. They snapped their jaws at him, then three of them leaped for him, while the other three went after Sevis, Tigin and Rima.
Aegin shifted to intercept them, "Your fight is with me!"
He slashed his sword, though it was as Sevis' reports, the blade when right through them. As he began to chase them he felt the undeniable pain of claws scraping at the back of his legs. He hissed at the pain. But as his wound closed over, he suddenly understood.
He could not fight these creatures, not as they were. Nobody could unless they had power matching the Master. Because these Sand Devils, they were puppets on strings. They could not be destroyed by physical force, only by a natural or magical one. As he was now, Aegin had neither of these things.
Still, that did not stop him. He could heal quickly, the others could not. He needed to buy them time to get back to the Red-Eyed Snakes Territory.
He decided using brute force would be his best bet.
He discarded his swords, choosing to punch, kick, barrel and pummel his way through the mini-roaring sandstorms continuously. He could not destroy them, but he could slow them down. His movements were reckless, and he earned far more injuries than he ever had in a fight. Though this was perhaps one of the most unfair fights he had ever experienced. He had absolutely no way to fight back effectively.
Eventually, the frustration of his inner self being so disadvantages roared out.
"These puppets are a coward's tools! Only a coward fights without showing his face! Show your face Djinn! Show your face to this Vampire if you dare!"
Incredibly, the creatures stopped. Aegin hesitated, staring at them with an expression somewhere between his earlier frustration, and his shock at the stupid provocation having worked.
Seriously? Plenty of brave men fought without showing their faces all the time. In fact, there wasn't a brave man out there that wasn't a coward on the inside. Cowardice was what kept them alive. Blind bravery was for the stupid. It was one of the first lessons he'd ever learned as a Ridge Man.
The Sand Devils stared at him with their blue eyes, more dead and eerie now that Aegin had become accustomed to their star-like quality. Then, without a word or further movement, they simply vanished.
Aegin breathed heavily for a moment, waiting for them to mount a surprise attack, then, when his fighting instincts began to ebb, he gave a heavy sigh and sat down on the sand dune. His wounds itched near painfully as they closed. He was hungry now. Hungry, tired, sore, and had sand in places it had no business to be.
This had been a stupid plan. But at least he knew that the Sand Devils had a master somewhere pulling their strings.