8 — The knight of the Sun
Arisé: The Hands of the Maker — Chapter 8
A moment later, Mist and Beltrant heard despair in many voices coming from the beach. They went out immediately, Mist following the bodyguard oblivious to or unconcerned by the possibility of being in danger. The guests were dashing as far away as they could from the inn, and something had destroyed the tent poles, making it fall over the table.
Mist was unable to muffle a scream of terror at the sight of Trant locking arms with a creature he had never seen before, just a few feet from where he stood. It was like seeing the incarnate form of a terrible nightmare. The thing was as tall as Beltrant’s father and its head was covered by a rusted iron mask, from which stemmed a vertical row of three horn-like spikes. The torso seemed human, covered in colorless skin made coarse by deep scars. The lower part of the body was metallic, two robotic legs awkwardly arched back, ending in feet shaped like claws. The creature emitted a noise that froze Mist’s guts. A human wail, mixed with the roar of a bloodthirsty beast.
Trant gripped the thing’s arms tightly, stopping it from approaching the guests who still remained nearby. The monster managed to free itself without much effort. It turned deftly and leaned forward, burying it’s pale hands in the sand. Before Trant could brace himself, the monster stretched its legs in a kick that tossed him towards the sea.
Beltrant threw herself at the beast without thinking twice. With a furious roar, she hit it with a flying kick right at the back of the neck, making it scream in suffering. The creature turned to face Beltrant with a high jump, bellowing horrifically, but she wasn’t intimidated. An incontrollable fury was exhausted by each pore of her body. She advanced towards the enemy, her hands clenched in fists, and hit it with hysterical strength. The monster fought back, attempting to impale her with the sharp horns coming out of its head.
Mist was astonished. He didn’t want to run, but he couldn’t think of anything he could do to help Beltrant either. He stood there, watching the fight. It was the first time he saw the bodyguard in action, and she definitely knew what she was doing. Beltrant quickly disabled one of the creature’s arms, which was left bent in a way only possible after some fractured bones. The monster screamed horribly, but it wouldn’t stop struggling. Its attacks got even more vicious and fast, making Beltrant assume a defensive stance to skillfully avoid the relentless tackles. She wasn’t spared of superficial cuts on her hands and arms, though.
The prince noticed Beltrant was deliberately nearing the torches around the broken tent. His head clicked, and he knew exactly was she intended. He ran over to the torches and pushed them one by one, making the flames spread over the tent fabric and take the wooden table underneath it. In a matter of seconds, a huge ball of fire was scorching the beach sand.
Beltrant felt the heat irradiated at her back. She smiled at Mist and made a gesture to keep him away. Using pyrokinesis, she extracted two flaring serpents from the fire, which got entangled in the air to form a red comet that hit the monster in an exploding strike.
“Mist, my spear, quick! Second floor, turn right, forth door, room seven!” Beltrant shouted out to the prince, without taking her eyes off the inferno that burned over the creature.
That wasn’t the end, as Mist had thought. He sprinted into the inn, climbed the stairs to the second floor, made a right at the top and practically broke open the door with a metallic number 7 on it. The prince found what he needed immediately: the spear was leaning on the opposite wall. It was some inches taller than him, and he had to use both hands to take its weight. How can Beltrant wield this in combat?
His blood flow was almost halted when he got back to the beach. Beltrant was on the floor, the monster on top of her, brutally grabbing her throat with a cadaveric hand, making her gasp for air. For a flash, Mist was at a loss while he watched the suffering in Beltrant’s face. If he didn’t do anything, she would suffocate and die. This single thought boiled in his head when he clenched his hands around the haft of the spear and charged towards the monster, ignoring what could happen to him. He closed his eyes and, suddenly, both the spear blades were stuck to the creature’s arm, a very thick black substance oozing from the wound.
As soon as the hand that choked her lost its strength, Beltrant got up with acrobatic flair and recovered her weapon from the flesh it had stabbed.
“You rock, Mist!” Beltrant said as she pushed him away from a headbutt from the monster. “Start running, freak!” she yelled furiously, wielding her spear.
Dodging yet another attack, Beltrant hit the monster’s head hard with the haft lower tip, making it stagger momentarily. She then took the chance to ready the finishing blow. With exceptional agility, she sprinted towards the inn and climbed the brick wall, getting to the roof in no time. Beltrant backed away from the edge and then dashed towards it and jumped, arching her body in the air with her spear strongly gripped by one hand, like a giant stake. She tossed it as she flew down. The weapon pierced the creature’s chest where there should beat a heart, as the bodyguard softened her fall with a roll.
The monster faltered for a moment before diving headfirst into the sand, the dark fluid gathering in a puddle under its body. Small electrical sparks burst through the robotic legs at the spots where the metal had been melted by the fire. Beltrant had won. She took her spear out of the corpse’s chest and turned to Mist, who was standing in shock a few feet from her. The prince gazed at the resourceful warrior walking to him with sheer admiration. At his eyes, Beltrant was an amazon, a war mistress parading with her mighty weapon in hand.
But something made her stop.
The sound of a small explosion was heard, like a firearm being shot. Terror and pain corrupted the amazon’s beauty, and for the hundredth time Mist felt as if his heart stopped beating, and all his body was cold. A metal horn had penetrated Beltrant’s lower abdomen. The scarlet blood dyed her skin while her legs gave in. She fell unconscious, revealing the creature that, in spite of its damaged lower limbs, charged towards Mist with one of the spikes on its head missing.
There was nothing left for the prince to do. He would never be match for a monster like that. Mist shut his eyes and waited for the blow that was most certainly coming, cruel and precise, and he prayed for it to end quickly. At that moment, the only thing in his thoughts was that he was about to fail Shine.
Nevertheless, death didn’t come. Mist heard the neigh of a horse, a strong impact noise and a suffering roar in the creature’s ghoulish voice. When he recovered control of his body, he opened his eyes carefully. His sight was taken by the dazzling white of mighty wings at the back of a robust stallion. Mounting it was a knight covered in a long cape that blended with the color of his horse’s hair. In one hand he held a kind of sword Mist had only seen in book pictures: a zweinhander. The blade was thick and wide, as long as Beltrant’s spear. It was a weapon described as slow and heavy, its devastating power only effectively employed by highly trained individuals. Mist was surprised to see the man holding it with a single hand, the same way Beltrant did her spear.
The monster had been tossed far away, but it was already rising from the sand, preparing for another offensive. The knight shouted a command, and the horse lifted its front legs, crying loudly before charging towards the enemy. In a single and continuous movement, the huge blade passed through the creature’s neck like if it were made of ethereal air. The masked head flew high, drawing an arch of black liquid in the night. The beheaded body shook with convulsive spasms and fell to the ground, finished for good.
The knight dismounted his horse and examined the remains of the monster, while mumbling something to himself. Mist went straight to Beltrant. She was breathing, but the wound on her abdomen was still bleeding heavily. Before Mist thought of screaming for help, the man in white came to him and took Beltrant in his arms, her head resting on his chest.
“Pith! Praise the Angels!”
Trant was limping, using a dried branch as a makeshift walking stick, his torn trousers showing a badly hurt left leg. His eyes were terrified when he saw his passed out daughter.
“Beltrant! By Tân, what happened ?”
“It was that thing,” Mist replied with a weak voice. His whole body still trembled.
“Let’s go inside, there’s still time,” the knight said. His voice was adamant and reassuring.
The man in white hastily climbed the stairs to the second floor, Mist following right behind while helping Trant up. The knight kicked the first door he came across and laid Beltrant on the unmade bed of a guest. He took the cape off and threw it on the floor. Kneeling beside the bed, he was still almost as tall as Mist. His blonde hair was very short, and his full beard was trimmed close to his strong jawline. His green eyes were identical to Beltrant’s and Trant’s, and the top he wore showed his broad shoulders and muscular arms.
“Can you stop the bleeding?” Trant asked, extremely worried.
“The horn didn’t hit any organ. She’ll be fine, dad,” Pith answered as he cleaned his sister’s wound with a piece of torn bed sheet.
Pith held the sharp end of the metal horn emerging from Beltrant’s skin and whispered words Mist couldn’t understand. The metal turned red, as if it were very hot, and dematerialized an instant later. Pith then opened both hands over the open wound.
“With the Maker’s permission,” he said, loud and clear this time.
Pith’s hands remained in place for a while. When he removed them from the wound, what had been a gushing hole moments before became an almost completely healed patch of skin. He pulled out a reductor and materialized two vials of transparent liquid and some large adhesive bandages. With the skill of an expert medic, he cleaned the dried blood and covered the wound.
“I think she’ll sleep for a while. We should let her rest,’ Pith said calmly, as if he hadn’t just done something extraordinary.
Some guests had already returned to the inn, looking ready to leave as soon as possible. Alma was kneeling on the floor close to the back door, trying to make Klopras regain his senses.
“Alma! Thank the Angels you’re alright,” Mist cried as he spotted her.
“I ran as far as I could, sir. Is everybody ok?” asked Alma. Her face was colorless.
“Beltrant got hurt, but she’s ok now, thanks to Pith,” Mist pointed at the knight, who was taking care of Trant’s leg nearby. “He finished that thing at the beach in seconds. What in the world was that?”
“It must be one of those sea creatures that have been appearing at the news,” Alma answered promptly, looking at Klopras. “I think he’s waking up.”
The conductor opened his big eyes slowly, and they displayed clear confusion. All of a sudden, he got up scared, turning his head in every direction.
“The monster, at the beach, run, save yourselves!” he yelled, attracting traumatized looks.
“It’s ok, Klopras, the monster is gone,” Mist said, shaking him softly to get his attention.
Klopras took some time to convince himself he was out of danger. His breath was short with fear, and he jumped at his feet at each sudden noise. Trant, with a fully functional left leg, spent hours trying to make his guests calm down, some of them barking their indignation at the inn’s lack of security. After announcing he had suspended every fee, Trant managed to make some of them stay. Pith dragged the creature’s headless corpse to a corner and, with Mist’s and the inn staff’s help, he extinguished what was left of the fire on the beach and cleaned the mess of ashes and food remains that dirtied the sand.
The breath of dawn came cold from the horizon when everyone went to their rooms. When Mist lay on his bed, a hurricane of images spun before his eyes. He didn’t know exactly what he was feeling. The shock had passed without leaving scars. The night’s events had frightened him only momentarily. A different feeling now coursed through his veins. In his own way, he had helped Beltrant fight that creature. He saved her from being choked to death and survived extreme danger. He managed to act and do the right thing under pressure. In the end of that crazy day, lying on his bed, Mist wasn’t scared.
He was proud.