9 Lives – Final Chapter
We arrived at the small Tahn-dar village by dusk. The closer we walked to the center of the small camp the more I had this growing feeling that something wasn’t right. The campfire was still burning, but no one was near, tending it. Come to think of it, the whole camp seemed deserted, as if everyone just vanished.
We stopped and looked around. The three nomads from Hen-Rox split off to inspect the adobe huts. Quistis circled the campfire, examining the scene. Even Elder Thom, who was normally calm and collected, allowed his nervousness show behind his eyes as he scanned the scene.
I quickly dropped Trixis’ toys from the bag to the ground. As quickly as the toys squeaked and toppled into a pile, she dropped the slobbery WK Wind Up Rat she had been gnawing on the whole trip and pounced her WK Boo Bear. The sight of her showing her playful nature did little to ease my growing restlessness.
The ground beneath my feet suddenly started shaking. The wind picked up, swirling around the village. What light was left by the orange sunset, shining through the ghostly tree trunks in the forest, vanished. A dark cloud surrounded the settlement. The confusion behind my eyes was met and matched by the pandemonium in the faces of everyone else as we gathered around the campfire for safety. It was almost like my worst nightmares were forming in front of my eyes.
Suddenly, at the edge of the camp, a WK Field of Bats flew up from the weeds. As quickly as the bats scattered, the weeds parted and another wolf, leopard, and cheetah rushed toward the the center of the village. Not knowing whether they were feral or linked to a companion, my anxiety caused a girlish shriek to escape my lips before I could react.
The three new animals circled the campfire like they were calculating how to separate prey from the herd. Each animal also had strange eye reflections. The wolf had a yellowish house scene in its eyes as it paced back and forth. The cheetah had a strange scene with a house on a hill and jack-o-lanterns lining a path towards it. A sunset scene with a scarecrow on a hill and a house in the distance completed the set, reflected in the leopard’s eyes.
A bright flash of lightning struck a hut next to the campfire causing the pacing animals to stop abruptly. The instant crack of thunder that followed seemed to snap each animal out of their rabid confusion. Taking the moment’s distraction, everyone rushed to a near-by hut, and slammed the door behind them.
All six of our companions seemed unaffected by what was happening around them. Fenris sat next to Trixis and started playing with a WK Monster Pal from the stack of toys. Even the three new animals seemed to stop by the toys and play while the ground shook and wind gusted.
I looked on with fright as the campfire grew brighter and burned hotter with each passing second. It quickly became a towering inferno of fire and wind. The ground next to the fire split open, and dark smoke bellowed from its depths. Forming from the smoke, a ghastly swirl of spikes and claws started to shape. With feet firmly planted on the ground, it stepped from the smoke. The demon that emerged screeched such a horrifying tone that it rattled me to the core, as if announcing its presence for the world to hear.
After the beast emerged from the smoke, all nine of the animal companions dropped the toys they were playing with and growled at the ghastly demon. Fenris’ bulky mass lunged toward the beast first, quickly followed by Trixis. In a melee of smoke, fire, and fur each of the animal companions lurched at the demon. When one animal was knocked out of the fray, another jump into it. The sounds of snarling, growling, and howling pierced through the windy tempest that surrounded the village.
Suddenly, everything was silent. Each animal withdrew its attack and circled the demon. Standing on opposite sides of the monster, they faced it, like they were preparing a final attack. As quickly as they had taken their position, each animal snarled and howled in unison. The noise irritated the monster causing it to swat the air. What happened next seemed too incredible for me to comprehend.
Each animal’s body started glowing a light blue aura. Stepping out from the side of each animal, the soul of another animal formed. Each soul that stood next to our companions took with it the strange reflection from our animal’s eyes. Once freed from the strange souls within, our companions quickly darted into the woods surrounding the camp.
Once our companions were clear from the scene, each animal soul darted and circled the monster, as if attacking it with spiritual energy. One soul darted toward the beast, disappearing as it passed through, and reappeared behind it. Another circled the monster’s feet, binding it, making it immobile. Each ball of bright blue energy drained energy from the demon as it circled or passed through it.
Wailing it’s arms chaotically in every direction, it didn’t take long for the smoky beast to become sluggish. It howled and thrashed, but everything it did, didn’t seem to stop its attackers. When it finally collapsed, the animal souls stopped their onslaught. Forming a united front, the bright blue balls of energy attacked the demon one final time. The shrieks and screams of the demon flooded my ears as I watched. Then, there was silence.
A burst of bright blue and orange light filled the camp and illuminated the forest. As quickly as it had begun, the entire ordeal was over. With fiery embers floating to the ground, everyone emerged from the hut they took shelter in. We were in awe with what we witnessed. It wasn’t until our companions returned to our side, when we felt safe.
The happy squeaks of Trixis’ WK Boo Bear and the other toys being played with filled the air as the animals resumed playing with each other. All I could think of was, “That’s an amazing sound.”