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Between the Worlds 
Son of Stump

The long shadows of the Boreiella night stretched creeping penumbra listlessly over her warm, dripping blood It’s smothering her trail to any eyes that cared to look, Abraya thought to herself. There was no comfort. The deformed heaps loping down sharp granite causeways knew only a world of aromas. Only excess distance would save her.  


A bolt from an Imperial tracker's crossbow twisted and tore into the meat of Abraya's left thigh. Her terrific pain was numbed through a quick mix of herbs from her satchel. Staggering over forest vegetation she tried to wrestle her focus into a rhythm of pace while feeling out a path in the darkness.  What she wouldn’t give for the sliver of moonlight. 


That would defeat the purpose, she chastised herself. Failure walks alongside any raid.  It breathes truth and lies into your ears while pressing paranoia between your ribs on a knifes edge.  Abraya's rhythm broke as her mind raced over the possibilities of what had gone wrong. 


A bleak winter night with heavy cloud cover. The vassal of 40 berserkers crawling like lizards across the open grasslands to the fort. Her sisters, a legion of 80 Daughters of the Bow nestled under the pine boughs with a clear arc to the fort's ramparts. Only eyes privy to the deception of Abo Borellian camouflage would have noticed the inconsistent faltering of the grass coated periapices their men donned to make the crawl. The berserkers had to have gotten in. Enough time had passed for the first unit to reach the walls and find the break in stone. Enough time to begin the attack. Enough time to cripple the fort's mortars.  


But the mortars weren’t crippled Abraya. They were in great working order and trained on your sisters the whole time.  


A shot of pain writhed through Abraya as her right leg gave way on a loose rock. The alien discomfort of the imbedded steel bolt restricting the flow of her war trained body nauseated her. Hints of despair lightly creeped behind her eyes; she practically bit through her lip to beat it down.  


A guttural bark resonated from behind her. It bounced off the canyon walls like a stone down a well. Less than a mile behind her. One of the three mutant deformities that was tracking her. How close were the other two? 


A wet snap from a heathy root to her left and she knew. A massive paw came crashing down with the weight of a falling boulder, narrowly missing her. The bolt wound screamed though her nervous system as she tried to regain a modicum of balance. A lumbering mass of flesh and hair adjusted itself for another crushing hit.  


The mutants' intense breathing flooded her ears. Smells sifted through a forest of nostril hairs that picked out the nighttime world like a grain merchant sifting mealworm. The heavy iron of her blood that wafted through the air anew painting a target on her more obvious than a bullseye on a chieftain's tents. 


Killed by an army mutant, Abraya thought to herself. A very low death for the afterlife caste. Her hand grabbed where the obscene bolt jutted though her leg. Through gritted teeth she began to pull on bloody shaft. “Not me... and not by you!” 


The mutant reached out of the darkness and grabbed at her. Its great strength squeezing the air from her lungs. She felt her chest pop from the things' grip. Struggling, she forced herself to keep her hands on the bloody bolt poking through her leg.  


The mutant leaned close and inhaled her scent deeply. Her hair tussled as saucer sized nostrils took her in. Mutants kill on sight unless ordered otherwise her den mother had said. A bile of hate formed in her throat. 


 “Not me!” Her hands found new strength and the bolt started to slide. “Not by you!” Excruciating pain and release. The scent of blood permeated the air. Pungent and oppressive, the mutants' nostrils flared. The hulking mass jolted upright, loosening its grip. Abraya's reflexes kicked and she dropped all her weight down like a sack of potatoes breaking his awful grip.  


Her brain caught up just as her legs began their lunge. 


Abraya sprang up, pushing the planet away from her with a force she had only heard of in legends. The liberated bolt in her hands, like a great sword aimed directly at heaven. An entire life of strength and focus erupted in one split second as she stabbed the sharpened metal rod into the night sky, directly behind the head of the mutant.  


The thing fell backwards, the bolt lodged through its underdeveloped brain. Abraya collapsed to her knees, the world spinning from loss of blood and fading adrenaline. She numbly fumbled for the satchel looped around her chest. Pulling free the bag's leather cord, she tied a tourniquet around her upper left thigh.  


She felt sick and disoriented. A lack of blood pressure kept her fingers from completing the knots she rehearsed repeatedly since childhood. Despair returned, aided by frustration. But even her lower emotions couldn’t compete with the corporeal damage wasting her life away with every passing minute.  


She finally secured a meager knot. Maybe she would not bleed out. 


There were two mutants left in this canyon. They would be on her any minute now. Her victory was short lived. Abraya lay half upright against what her back told her was a rotting log. Her numb fingers slowly prodded into the satchel feeling for cake of animal fats she would use to seal the wounds. An alien voice in her head asked her why?  


“Because I am Abraya of the Bow.” She recited the mantra and the voice fell silent.  


A crash erupted from the darkness no more than thirty feet away. They were here. Abraya’s hands listlessly grazed the earth for any rocks or sticks that might tear skin. To die with the enemies' blood in your eyes is better than with the darkness. Her hands found nothing. 

The heavy footsteps of the two mutants thudded nearby. They knew exactly where she was. 


Serenity filled her. Never in all the stories of battle and war had she heard of this, but she found an experience of calm washing over her damaged body.  


A warm emanating glow lit up the world around her. The trees that shielded her from the sky glowed with an unearthly green vibrance that transcended all her dreams of the world beyond. Dim stars began to flash in an out of existence as smokey tendrils of light floated down on her like silk from a spider.  So, this is what it was to die. 


The world around her grew brighter with the unnatural green. The entire forest was awash in a vermillion glow that heated the air. The erupting stars grew brighter and bigger, hurting her eyes. Abraya was suddenly aware of a growing hum overlain with a staccato of crackling like that of dry kindling on an open flame.  She craned to look in the direction of the oncoming mutants.  


They stood only a few feet from her, still as statues, staring up at the cacophony of green swirls and exploding light. Staring! Mutants had terrible eyesight. They lived by smell alone but even these two deteriorated things could see something... unnatural was occurring.  


The world around them began to vibrate and a shape congealed from the green light above them. An intangible mass of light that began to take form in the sky above them. 


Abraya watched as a cylinder formed and gained hard edges, stretching the rounded surface towards the earth. It looked like an upturned tent from the villages her tribe erected in the spring. It grew to the length of a felled tree. The green light that danced around its surface drew out geometric details of the object on its slow descent through the canopy towards them. Was it made of... wood?  


Pine boughs snapped and fell around her as the craft came lower. A wooden pole jutted out of the left side of the object holding a glowing yellow sphere emitting the tendrils of green smoke. Abraya followed the light back to the bulk of the craft and saw something looking down at her. A man! 


His brightly lit features made it undeniable. There was a man on this celestial object.  Abraya's mind was racing. Her pain and concerns of death where miles away as she gazed at the traveler above her.  


He was no man like she had grown up with in the tribe, nor like the officers and soldiers she had seen at Imperial Forts.  Tall and thin, with hair that erupted from his head like a rock formation the man was both familiar but strange.  


His craft was closer to the ground, and he saw her. Pointing in her direction she heard a high-pitched call in a language unfamiliar to her. He gestured to her and called out frantically. His hands waved, his face lit up in expressions that appeared to her overwrought and strange in the yellow light of the orb.  


What was he doing?  


A rock slammed into the side of the craft and Abraya's attention snapped back to the two mutants. Their initial bewilderment had subsided, and they returned to the natural response of violence. The craft shifted from the impact and the stars that appeared and disappeared grew more violent and numerous. The stranger began to yell and disappeared out of sight.  


Abraya watched as one of the mutants lifted a sizable boulder from the ground and hurled it at the yellow orb. The boulder connected and the orb exploded. The green whisps ignited spreading flames throughout the forest. The blinking stars grew into orange bursts of heat and sparks. An explosion adjacent the mutant who had thrown the rock and a headless smoldering corpse tottered over.  


The remaining mutant clumsily tried to run the mass of the stranger's craft came crushing down. The mutant disappeared under the wooden frame as shrapnel and debris rained down over Abraya.  


The flashing lights and strange colors ceased. The canyon was once again shrouded in the black cloud covered winter's night.  



Abraya pulled herself out from under a blanket of splintered wood and pine needles. It was morning, no, it was afternoon. She had been out cold for hours. Pulling herself upright with splintered wood she surveyed the scene.  


The craft the stranger arrived on was a wreck on the forest floor. Abraya had narrowly missed being crushed like the mutant. She looked for the man she had seen onboard the previous night. What she found was a charred skeleton in the rubble. It disturbed her that none of the wood of the craft was burned. It seemed the man had burned from the inside out when his transportation touched the ground.  


But it was what she found on the ground just beyond the wreckage that excited her. A smaller yellow orb. Just like the one that had exploded the night before. Just like the one that had crushed her enemies and allowed her to live after a failed raid and the loss of her brothers and sisters. The tribe would mourn when she returned with the news. But they would rejoice when she returned with this.  


Abraya carefully wrapped the warm small orb into her leather satchel and began the limp home. I’ll die one day, she thought to herself. But my death will be one of the grandest the great beyond shall ever know. The orb felt warm against her injured thigh and her spirits lifted. 

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