Lyanna Natura had never ridden on horseback before that afternoon and now her buttocks was sore with the jostling and her back hurt from having to sit straight for so long. The soldier holding the reins was a big muscular armour clad mute who has not so much as uttered a swear word since they left her village. She and other young girls were being taken to test for who would become the priestess of the woods this coming solstice. It was rumoured that the old priestess was dying. She already missed her home, her friends especially the man that she was supposed to marry. She wondered as her teeth rattled in her head with all the ruts in the road, if she would ever see any of them again. The priestess of the woods did not marry or play at family. She missed the sense of freedom she has always been used to. At the same time, she wondered about the forests and what it would be like to be a priestess. She had heard stories.
A loud command made her horse rider draw his rein sharply and all thoughts fled her head as she hit his broad armoured back. The others had stopped as well and they gathered together as if to speak. The horses nickered in the warm afternoon, their hoofs pawing at the earth, still eager to run on far away into the unrelenting distance. Lyanna on the other hand was happy for the break. Her laps were on fire and she saw that she was not the only one. In fact, one or two of them had tears in their eyes. This was going to be difficult. She heard a crackle and turned along with the men. From the corner of her eyes she saw the men go for their weapons.
An old woman stepped out the bushes that lined the road and she grinned at them with her puckered lips and toothless pink gums. Immediately, Lyanna took a disliking to her.
“Are these the girls? They look real pretty and sweet. We have need for sweet little things like this too.”
“Shut up hag!” one of the men said and he rode his horse forward to where the woman stood. One of the soldiers carrying the girls raised his hand and the soldier drew his rein and came to a stop.
The old woman cackled and rubbed her withered hands on her gown then she turned away from the man and started checking the girls one after the other. Any one that she pointed at was immediately forced down from her seat and moved to one side. Soon five girls were standing together on the road.
Lyanna could not understand what was going on. It seemed wrong somehow but she could not place her finger on what was wrong and she was not sure that she would have supporters if she spoke out. The old woman soon walked to where she sat and pointed at her. The soldier that she held on to made no move to drop her down as others had done before him
“Salata, drop the girl down and let's be gone from here. There are other villages on our trail and we need to get back to the camp before dark.” The man who had raised his hand before said.
The Lyanna's man made no move, not even a twitch. His helmet covered his face to his nose and no one could make out the expression on his face. The leader seem to notice that something was wrong and soon swords slid out of sheaths with the whine that sharp things make. Lyanna shuddered and the old woman cackled. It was obvious that there would be blood. Lyanna could not make any sense of what was going on. Why would a member of this team of soldiers refuse a direct order from his superior? Was she in danger? She turned to look at the other girls but they were all staring at the scene with slack lips and wide eyes. She noticed that their eyes were glazed as if they had been given herbs that poison the mind. She was the only girl that was still alert. She turned back and saw that the old woman was staring at her with sharp eyes then the woman pointed at her
“She is the one. We must have her. You can take the rest with you.”
The horse rider seem to rouse himself from a deep sleep. His huge frame shuddered and he grabbed the reins tighter with his gauntleted hand
“You have broken your oath as soldiers and you have placed a curse on this place and the actions that you seek to take here will bring nothing but pain. You have let this witch into our midst and she has bewitched you with fickle promises but I tell you, this child you shall not have.” Lyanna's man said.
As soon as the Lyanna's rider spoke, the old woman smiled and raised her hands to the sky. The soldiers began to tremble and fall to the ground and then began to writhe one after the other. The girls began to scream as a sudden smog filled the road and cloaked everything in darkness. The writhing men began to change forms and soon their human faces disappeared and they became goblins. The goblins scrambled about as soon as their change was complete and grabbed their swords. As one they attacked the Luanna's man.
Lyanna grabbed his waist as he drew out his sword. It was a black blade. As soon as the sword came out, the rider bent and he too began to morph into a lion-like creature with black claws and wings of a dragon then he jumped into the midst of the goblins. Lyanna watched as the creature tore into the goblins and pulled their entrails from their stomach, ripped heads from bodies and within minutes all the goblins laid dead or so she thought.
Even as the goblins fell, they began to rise to their feet and attack the creature again. The girls screamed and ran about in terror until the old hag who stood to the side watching the fight, uttered a word and all the girls fell to the ground as if dead. Lyanna didn’t know who to fear; the creature that she had held on to for hours, the old hag or the goblins who used to be men who would not die. She watched as the goblins rose again and again to attack the creature and she saw that the creature was weakening. She didn’t know what to do.
Something hit the creature and the creature leaped back to stand in front of her. For the first time, it turned to look at her
“Why are you not doing anything? Don’t you see that she is giving them life with her magic?” the creature said.
She? Lyanna turned to look at the old hag and she saw that the woman had something in her hand that she held like a staff and a soft green light pulsed from it each time a goblin fell dead and then the dead goblin got up again. She had thought the goblins were impossible to kill. It seemed that she had made a mistake. She looked at the creature.
“what do I do? I don’t have any magic.” she replied.
"This fool! You are wanted by the life splinter for a reason. They will make a mage of you, force magic out of you and turn you into a monster. You have to find the power already inside of you and allow it manifest. That old woman has stolen the power she uses from people like you. You can do what she does and more.” the creature said.
Me? Lyanna turned to look at the woman again even as the goblins attack the creature again and again. Slowly she got down from the horse and fell on her rump. It hurt but there are worse things than smarting buttocks. She got up and started looking around for a weapon. She saw a sword and picked it burt it burnt her hand and she threw it away with a scream. Her scream drew the attention of one of the goblins and it turned on her. She stumbled backwards in fear and screaming, picked anything she could find to toss at it. The goblin batted away her missiles with its sword and got really close. As it raised its sword to cut Lyanna down, her hand touched a stick and she swung it at the goblin. A flash of fire filled the space and Lyanna closed her eyes instinctively. When she opened it, the goblin had disappeared and all that remained was ashes falling down like snow. She felt dizzy and she stumbled.
Someone shouted and someone screamed then she saw two more goblins coming at her. She swung the stick again but nothing happened. She began to panic. The creature was trying to get to her but some goblins would not let him through. It roared its rage and dove into their midst. Lyanna saw his wounds and the blood his movement was leaving behind. The creature was dying, she knew and she felt so tired. She stumbled, a hand caught and the grip tightened, then another hand held her and she was made prisoner. The creature raged some more but it was weak and the goblins were as fresh as if they just started the fight, thanks to the old woman’s powers. One goblin rushed the creature and as it turned, another stabbed it from behind and another stabbed it and it was done. The creature stumbled and fell to the ground dead. Lyanna began to weep.
“There, there. It is just a Manticore. You will find other stronger monsters to protect you. These Manticores refuse to take sides and can be used by anybone splinter. Your power has manifested. We need to get you back to camp before it runs out of control.” the old woman said.
Lyanna suddenly felt anger enter her body. She had never felt that angry in her life. The anger felt like a physical thing. She studied the body of the Manticore and she poured all of the pain within her into it in a scream. The world seems to tremble and warp and a green light poured from her into the creature. The old woman jumped at Lyanna even as some goblins rose their swords once more but there was no time to speak, to fight, to defend as Lyanna let loose all that was within her and the world burned.
She woke up on the ground with a rough cloth covering her. It was night and a fire blazed merrily near her. She could hear movement around her. She rose and saw the creature was back in armour. Several monsters stood around talking. The other girls were cooking and mending clothes as if nothing had happened. The creature saw her eyes open and walked to her.
“I had a dream that I wielded fire and brought you back to life.” she said.
The Manticore nodded.
“You summoned monsters from the void as well. You are the priestess of the wood now, a summoner. We just have to make sure you arrive your temple in one piece.” it said.
“What?” Lyanna asked, surprised.
“I am a monster not a soldier. I answer to no one except the summoner that summoned me. I was summoned by someone else and my work is done. These monsters are from the earth splinter. They will take you home but a battalion of life splinter monsters are on their way." the Manticore replied.
" I am tired. I just want to go home." Lyanna said.
"Home? Home is here. Welcome to the war.”
NB: this is my second steem monsters story. It is not as satisfactory as I would have wanted it to be. I have not done fight scenes before so this may not give the imagistic satisfaction you my reader may desire. Please bear with me. It gets better down the road. Good evening.