The sun is rising, throwing off enough light to illuminate the cave before me; the thought of Alesia and Raine, my wife and daughter, burning brightly in my mind. I am a large creature, intimidating to most humans with my light green skin, and small tusks protruding from my mouth. My wife is a short plump woman with lightly tanned skin, which makes her stick out amongst the horde she has agreed to live with. There were protests when we were wed, but after our daughter was born the protests faded away to whispers. Raine, our daughter, is a bridge between our two races; her lightly tanned skin has a green tint to it. Her tusks are just small enough to stay hidden behind her lips, which makes it easy for her to blend with either of our people.
A rival who wanted to take leadership of the horde from me has brought my family to the cave of one of our most feared predators, the manticore. I look around the entrance, but I do not see any movement. So I tighten the grip on my large axe and cautiously move forward. A heavy metallic smell of blood permeates the area, the only sign that anything is wrong with the area. My eyes take a moment to adjust to the darkness as I slowly stalk through the cave, my heart racing at the thought of my family.
I don’t have to travel far before the cave opens up into a massive chamber. On the opposite wall I can barely make out Raine’s body slumped against the rock wall, her chest slowly rising and falling with every breath. My throat tightens and my eyes begin to water as I spot a section of my wife’s blood splattered dress, hanging from a small ledge above my daughter. Thoughts of the manticore fade from my mind as I stumble forward. A faint scrapping from the ledge makes me look up. Standing on the edge now I can see the beast. It resembles a large lion with leathery wings protruding from its back. Its face is disconcerting to look at with its human eyes that seem to be downcast. A small flat nose rests above its long mouth; which is open revealing two rows of sharp teeth. Its tail slowly swings back and forth, poisonous barbs covering its tip that can be flung with a whip of its tail towards its prey.
I stand there for a moment entranced by its face. It stares at me for a moment its mouth pulled back into a snarl. Before I can react it whips its tail towards me, sending barbs flying towards me. I feel a sharp pain as three of them embed themselves into my chest. I look down and try to remove them, but my free arm rises partway before falling limply to my side. My vision begins to blur slightly as the poison tries to drag my conscious mind into the darkness.
The creature jumps down from its perch, and stares at me for a moment longer before turning its attention to Raine’s unconscious form. My head begins throbbing as I watch it lazily moving towards her. I mentally scream at my arms and legs to move. My sight focuses on the two figures in front of me, until they are the only things I can see. My lips pull back baring my teeth as my body finally reacts to the thoughts of my daughter’s danger.
My free hand snaps up, yanking the bards out of my chest and flinging them to the floor. I bellow as I charge forward, my axes handle gripped tightly in both hands now. The creature turns quickly towards me; its eyes fully open now glaring at me. It whips its tail again, sending more barbs flying towards me. I move my weapon up as a shield to guard my face. Some find their marks in my arms and legs still. My movements don’t slow as the need to protect my daughter propels me forward.
It swipes at me with its claws, striking me in my left arm causing me to stumble to the side slightly. Before it can attack again, I pull my axe to my right side and swing towards the creatures head with all the rage-fueled strength I can muster. With a sickening crunch my weapon buries itself into the side of that humanoid face.
It roars as it rears back in pain, ripping the handle out of my hands. I fall to the ground and cover my daughter’s body with my own as the creatures flails in death, flinging more barbs from its tail with every spasm. More barbs embed themselves into my back before the beast finally collapses in death.
I look at my daughter’s still unconscious form as I lay with her against my chest. I smile when I see that she has not been seriously injured. Two small wounds are on her legs, showing where she was struck with the poisonous barbs before I showed up. I hold her tightly against my chest as my body slowly starts to go numb. “We’ll…head back…..home….soon….rest….a……moment.” I gasp out although I know she can’t hear me.