Kai's lungs burned as she strained toward the sound of her father's battle horn. It was him. She was sure of it but why? Why now, after all these years, why did he call for aid? Her mind raced and her body ached as she pushed herself harder. She crashed thru the underbrush of the great woods heedless of what danger she was charging toward. Her only thought was that her father needed her.
A branch whipped across her face and she pushed onward. The others were not far behind her, she could hear the battle line in the near distance. She heard Col Ti urging the warriors onward, demanding they hold the line. The success of the warriors of The Good Land was their rigid discipline. Everyone fought together. They stood together. They held the line. Together they could withstand any foe, any terror. But she was alone, ahead of the line and the protection it afforded her. She had even outpaced her own men at arms as she sped thru the night. Again the horn blew, weaker this time and much closer. She was zeroing in on its position. She ran faster.
Kai burst thru the low brush and into the clearing. She skidded to a stop and her blood ran cold when she realized what she was seeing. A fallen man, an enormous horse straddling the body on the ground, stomping and striking its fearsome hooves as a giant hog screamed in rage. The hog was circling and charging. A single arrow stuck out of the hog's great side and the wound was coursing with blood. The hog swung its great head from side to side and charged again. The battle stallion reared up and stomped and screamed. The horse was keeping the hog from savaging its master but it would not last much longer.
Blood poured from the horrible hog's mouth as its frustration and pain grew. Every motion drove the ill placed arrow deeper and deeper into its hide. But death would not come. The hog screamed its anger and determination to kill the big man who wounded it. The horse's eyes rolled with terror and lather covered its chest. It danced between protecting his master and not killing him in the process. Huge hooves pounded the ground frustrating the hog and making it more determined to kill.
Kai took this all in and she decided in a split second to cast off all of her warrior's training and the first rule of battle, never engage a hog alone. The battle line was behind her she knew they would be there soon. Without another second of hesitation she threw herself full force into the side of hog.
Blinding pain. The crunch of bone. Air forced from her lungs. The tumble of bodies. A great heave as she struck the earth. Than silence.
Kai's vision swam but she forced her eyes to focus. The enormous black horse was still standing guard over her father. It was stomping and tossing its head. The horse was terrified and Kai could smell its fear. She could hear her father breathing, he was still alive.
At the edge of the clearing she could see the crumbled body of the big man's mysterious companion, Gato Diablo. Between them her father's magnificent bow, renown thru the Lands, lay broken on the ground. Kai tried to get up but she was trapped under the weight of the huge hog. The vile smell of blood and battle enveloped her.
Pain shot thru her body when she tried, uselessly, to move. She could not clear her head and there was a ringing in her ears. Everything seemed slower. Kai blinked hard and tried to turn but she was pinned hard against the ground. A chill wind blew thru her coat and she saw it move her fur slowly. Too slowly. A small trickle of blood from one of the many wounds on the hog was making its way down its body, a drop suspended just above her. She closed her eyes.
All at once the hog writhed and screamed. It scrambled to its feet heedless of Kai beneath it. Enraged by pain and fear it found a new foe. Forgetting about the big man and the horse it turned its full wrath on the helpless princess. Thrashing and snorting and bucking and turning – it was a whirling mass of evil and anger. Blood foamed from its nose as the hog used its huge head as a battering ram blindly crashing against the ground seeking to punish its prey.
Kai screamed and twisted away from the hog's fierce tusks. Alone and injured she was no match for such a beast. This was why they never hunted alone. The hog screamed and reared back taking careful aim... the horrible beast would avenge the wild pain driving it to madness.
The last thing Princess Kai saw was Commander Zander breaking thru the underbrush and into the clearing. Her massive warrior brother was mid leap, an enormous dark shadow against the starless night. His jaw was a fierce snarl, determination and vengeance blazed in his eyes. The Black Death had come.
Then everything went dark. And Kai was falling.