Red Ryder - Chapter 9 by Rtesian ()
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Author's Note - Xiloi (hee loh EE)
"Who are you? By what right have you entered these lands?"
Before Red could respond a howl pierced the night. Not mournful not lonely but the fierce howl of a predator that stalked the night and hunted its prey.
"I intend no harm and have traveled from far to the east. You must free me. You are in mortal danger. My companion rushes to my side."
"I am Maila Dragonrider. I fear nothing."
"Listen to me, Maila. The danger is grave. My companion is a Lycanthrope."
"A Lycanthrope? What is that?"
Another howl, closer, darker, chilled the air. Something huge crashed through the dense foliage and limbs. Red became frantic. "Free me, Maila, before it is too late." Maila turned and sniffed then sniffed again. She turned to look back at Red then looked back to again sniff. A sharp gasp escaped her. "Xiloi!"
Maila twisted back to stare at Red. Fire burned in her eyes. "Gods of Drane. It has come to pass."
"Free me now, Maila!"
Deaf to her cries, Maila turned toward the woods. Lukas burst from the treeline and braked to a stop. His chest heaved and swelled, moonlight glistened off razor-sharp claws, drool dripped from its maw snapping four-inch fangs open and shut. A deep, frightful growl rumbled within his chest. Maila took two steps forward to bend on one knee and bow her head. Lukas quieted and tilted his head. A look of wonder spread across his face. Maila stood, continuing to stare at the beast before her.
Eyes wide with fear, Red held her breath lest the sound break the moment. As it lengthened, Lukas grew ever quieter but no less astounded. Maila turned and as she walked back to Red, waved a hand that pointed three fingers. With a groan, the tree began to rise and extract its roots before crawling backward. Red did not wait to scramble away from the mobile plant to stand face-to-face with Maila.
"Are you a witch?"
"Long ago, a wizard grateful to the Xiloi for their aid at a critical moment in a battle of succession, made my family emissaries to the Xiloi and granted solely to us the gift of Xiloi speech that we might speak as their voice and eliminate misunderstanding and fear.
"The one you call Lycanthrope tells me his mother's dying moments was to try and secure refuge for her offspring. Is this true?" Red's eyes widened. She nodded in response. Maila knelt on one knee, took her hand and kissed it. "Our legends speak of an orphaned Xiloi, coming from the east and guided by a human female. He will be sovereign over his people and bring them to refuge." Again Maila kissed her hand. "The prophecy is true and now fulfilled." She again kissed Red's hand. "I kiss the hand of the Maiden that I too may regain my rightful place among the Xiloi."
Red gently grasped her shoulder to pull her up. "Stand, Maila. I am Red Ryder. I know nothing of your legends. I have come to secure Lukas' safety and perhaps my own. Xiloi have killed my mother and grandmother. Our legends say one will kill me and if I have a daughter, she will inherit this curse. I wish only to be free of a terror I do not understand."
"Then let us ally ourselves to reach our goals. I am exiled to this barren wasteland by one who in the absence of a rightful heir has enthroned and enriched herself and not served the Xiloi." Red grew wary.
"I bear no ill will to anyone."
"Then return whence you came. Even the air this woman exhales is wicked. Because the Xiloi can speak only through her, she has beguiled them against all humans. She sends Xiloi into the surrounding provinces then reaps a ransom in return for ridding them of the horror in their midst. If she learns that the Maiden and the rightful heir have entered the Forest of Myth, you will not leave the forest."
"What do you propose?" Maila's shoulders fell.
"It will not be easy. I have dominion over plants. She has dominion over stone. Within the forest, I am strong but she rarely steps foot outside the Stone Throne from which she draws power. We will have to lure her out."
Maila drew herself up, exhaled a long breath, and fixed Red with a look. "If we do, you will have to kill her." Red stared back hard.
"Why not you?" Maila's voice broke.
"Because she is my sister."
to be continued...