Being a real faerie princess is not what every little girl actually dreams of, Ever Rose thought as the crimson Kaai demon attempted to suck the marrow from her right forearm. Little girls thought of big gorgeous ball gowns, tiaras, glittering wings to fly on and handsome prince charmings to whisk them away. Certainly there were no massive and blood-thirsty underworld spawn in those visions. Ever would laugh to herself about this if she wasn't holding back a scream of pain. She raised her plasma 6-shooter and blasted the demon right between two of its four glowing lime eyes, covering her even more in the stench of something somehow worse than decaying human bodies left to ripen in the sun. Kaai demon blood wreaked the most of all the forest creatures. "Ugh!" Ever used her free hand to wipe some of the black blood out of one of her lavender edged gold eyes.
Immediately she had to duck the pouncing attack of another Kaai demon. That one got a blast to the back of its elongated oval head as soon as the demon landed. The tail whipped back at her in a last death throe and the jagged scales cut across her cheek. "Fuck, even dead you all suck."
The two shots had echoed out in the clearing of the forest lit with summer sun. A gathering of Kipple birds took flight-- from dark olive Quaalox trees with star-like leaves-- their tangerine and violet wings picking up a cool breeze.
Ever glanced at the birds for a second, wishing she could escape with them.
A third Kaai demon hissed from her right and she turned to aim her gun at its forehead.
The demon crouched on all fours for a moment with its razor-like knees and elbows tightening to launch. Even crouched, it towered over her 5'2 frame. Long pointed ears twitched as it listened.
"I don't think so!" She clicked the trigger and nothing happened. "Shit!"
A reptilian grin gaped across its face exposing glistening fangs. Its tail spasmed with excitement as the demon leapt toward her.
She reloaded faster than she ever had before and managed to get a shot off right as the Kaai demon was upon her.
The demon exploded in a disgusting mess of blood, bone and tissues all over her.
She tried to sit up but the weight and caustic odor held her down. "Mother fucker!" She pushed off the bigger chunks and stood up, dripping, and began scanning the wide clearing she had entered too hunt for any other demons. Kaai demons loved to travel in packs. Her once-grey dress, with long tight sleeves and laced up the back, stuck to her skin in too many places as she moved slowly around with her gun ready to fire at anything that so much as looked wrong. The heat was making the smell worse, but the scent fell to the back of her mind. Ever panted from the fight and her heart still pounded a crazy jungle beat full of adrenaline.
The area was silent, but nothing seemed eerie or ominous about it. Not much space in this clearing of The Darjaanx Forest at the bottom of the same-named mountain. Quaalox trees were tightly packed together at the edges of this area and little bushes dotted here and there.
She twirled around when she heard a rustling but it was nothing more a stale breeze blowing over a poisonous red Goozaa berry bush.
After perhaps 15 minutes, her injured arm started to shake from holding up her gun. Nothing else seemed to be coming for her. She holstered her weapon and looked down at her forearm. She tore off what was left of her wrist guard—which apparently is no use to prevent Kaai demon fangs from ripping up your flesh—and beneath the drying black blood she could see the shredded skin and muscle. "Akiya is going to have a field day figuring out how to fix that one," Ever muttered to herself. Just add it to my list of other angry scars. Thank Goddess the Kaai demon loves to suck your insides out instead of swallowing you whole. It is large enough.
Ever tore the bottom of her tunic in a spot that had remained mostly black death free and wrapped her injury with it and then her hand-woven leather belt to prevent bleeding out on the walk. She didn't want people chuckling over her death because she'd been stupid. Ever thought that might be something crazy to think about. Maybe it's shock? The adrenaline finished seeping away though and brought sharp agony in its place.
Fantastic. She huffed, flicked her bloody white braid over her left shoulder, and picked up her black and silver bow that had gone flying in the attack. She dusted it off, slung it back into its proper place and walked back through the trees towards the fence as her thigh-high leather boots snapped twigs beneath her feet. She didn't care at the moment if she was making too much noise. She was pissed. Her quiver bounced on her back in a comforting rhythm, jostling the hand crafted arrows inside, and she finally slowed her pace. "Just out to hunt up some dinner, but noooo, I can't go Goddess damned anywhere," she snarled.
Sunlight sparkled down from the mint green skies through the Quaalux trees which were so tall they looked like they kissed the sky and lit the path in cheer. Some of their star-like dark olive leaves tumbled down in a whirling breeze past their intricately lined trunks.
Small Kipple birds called symphonies to each other from their long pointed beaks while fat Mikkels with big bushy tails, and large tufted ears raced to-and-fro across tree branches in little brown blurs.
Summer blooms in a wide range of vibrant colors and shapes ran hazily past Ever and she slowed down and tried to avoid stomping. All the splendor of the forest's flora would never allow you to be annoyed so long.
She turned her face to the sun and basked a bit in the warmth that touched the cleaner parts of her skin. I need a bath, she caught a whiff of herself as a cool breeze tickled her pointed ears, or maybe three. This sun wouldn't last too much longer she knew. In Ethovaa there was only two months of summer and that meant only two months of respite from the bitter mistress that was the winters. Temperatures went from about 60 degrees and plummeted down to at least negative thirty. A small shiver passed through Ever just thinking about it.
A large branch breaking to her left caught her attention. She unholstered her plasma 6-shooter from her left hip and turned to look.
A Taalik—a brown and white deer-like creature with velvety antlers-- stood on four spindly legs with tiny hooves and stared at her with its impossibly large blue eyes. Its short snout wiggled as the rest of it stayed so still.
Ever sighed with relief and changed out her gun for her bow and arrow. The bow felt solid and like second nature in her calloused hands. She took aim and as she went to release the arrow, she heard a piercing screech and suddenly a Kaai demon dove on the Taalik. Ever gasped and quickly put her bow back as the Kaai demon occupied itself with tearing the Taalik's throat out. Blue blood splashed out onto the moss covered forest floor as Ever stood still for a moment and sent a prayer to any Goddess listening. Then she sprinted the rest of the way through trees, not stopping until she reached the reinforced steel electric fence. Kaai demon eating my arm? It' gotta die. Trying to launch a marrow-sucking pounce? Still gotta die. Ignoring me for a succulent Taalik meat? I'm the fuck outta here! The Quaalux trees streamed past her and a few skinny branches snapped at her face and snagged at her tunic, but she kept up the pace.
When she reached the gate, Ever typed Akiya's code in the keypad with haste, slipped through and closed the gate behind her. The Darjaanx Forest was not a part of her Uncle Hastingas the Tortious's land, but she didn't want to take the chance of him tracking their entry codes. Ever never used her own, but cycled through her groups, and some of the guards' codes she memorized. The Taalik were kept in gated off sanctuaries like this one, and were hard to come by, so the King sometimes monitored the comings and goings of people in other forests. Ever didn't dare use one of the King's sanctuaries as those gates required hand print and eye scans. Killing someone and using their hands and eyeballs just didn't seem appealing in the least.
She let out a breath she hadn't noticed she held as she put her forehead to the cool steel. Shudders ran through her whole body as Ever breathed deep and slow, trying to calm her heart.
As soon as her heart returned to normal, a thunderous wave of nausea hit her. She stooped over with her hands on her knees and retched until nothing was left.
Her forearm started to throb. "Yeah, yeah, I know you're there." She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand as she turned away from the gate and made it to her horse, Thaak.
Horses here in Ehtovaa were like most in the human world except they had fur instead of hair and came in many more exotic colors.
Thaak had golden zebra striped fur. He stood tied to a wrought iron light post in the open, but actually had been bespelled to be invisible to everyone but her.
Ever put her hand on his flank and whispered, "Vaalmya". He was now visible to all. Luckily one didn't need a kibaan stone to break the spell. Goddess only knew where that had ended up.
She mounted Thaak's broad back and took the reins in her good hand. Ever shouted, "Yah, Thaak!" and he jumped into a break neck gallop.