“Stay where you are on the count of three,” Perceval shouted. His tawny fur bristled and his four beady eyes glowed a flashing emerald. “One. Two. THREE!”
Glue Pot dug his hooves into the soft ground cease his momentum. Lila held onto Glue Pot’s waist and Zane held onto hers and squeezed their eyes shut. Perceval’s fur fuzzed akin to a cat on high defense. His lips pulled back as he growled deep from the pit of his chest. A spherical shield constructed of green fire popped into existence, encasing all four of them within its safe embrace.
“Please hurry,” Perceval hissed. His shoulder blades twitched as if he were trying to push a boulder weighing a ton up a steep incline. “I can’t really keep this up for long.”
“Okay.” Lila scrambled down Glue Pot’s back.
Zane followed her. During his tumbled down, his oversized backpack fell. It hit the ground with an explosion of paper and pencils. Zane got onto his hands and knees and began to search in the cluttered rubbish.
“I have to find the Fire Gem,” Zane said to explain his actions.
“Then I’ll give you time.” Glue Pot notched an arrow. Within mere seconds the bolt hit one of the Bull Fists crowding around the shield directly into its right eye. Brown blood spurt from the beast’s wound. It let out a chilling howl of pain and anger. The creature toppled over as it attempted to yank the bolt out from its eye. Before it could raise a fist, Glue Pot had already loosed another arrow that hit the beast’s other eye. “If we can’t kill them directly, I’ll blind them.”
“I can’t find the Fire Gem,” Zane exclaimed. He frantically riffled through the scattered items. “Why?! I have to help. I have to!” The boy tore out a page from his sketchbook through his panic. The illustration on the page was a sketch of a Batal. Zane had created a perfectly proportioned portrayal of the vile creature from its ear flaps to the jagged teeth exposed at its maw.
Zane’s hand brushed the picture absently as he searched from a Fire Gem that was determined to stay hidden. By brushed his palm against the slightly rough textured sketching material, Zane was able to calm his cluttered mind. For some reason, he could see the Batal that he sketched in his mind’s eye. The ratty fur. The bulbous eyes. The way it could stretch its neck and open its jaw like a snake. He had been in that creature. Eaten whole. He thought he was going to die that day, and why wouldn’t he. He’d seen pictures of people cut out from a snake’s belly. Maybe Ginger would have been the one to take a picture with her precious phone.
“Here lies my brother, eaten by a freaky snake-bat thing. We’ll miss him.”
“Zane, what…what did you do?”
Zane opened his eyes. He didn’t recall actually closing them, but he must have. If his eyes were open, he would have seen the thing that had crawled out from the page of his sketchbook like a zombie from its grave. He would have seen that the thing was completely not for this world with its outline like that of marks from a lead pencil and its body the rough off white coloration of a page. A Batal had climbed out of Zane’s sketchbook!
The newly birth creature shook its head and blinked its bugged eyes. It moved like a flip book would as it turned to face Zane. It opened its mouth. Zane covered his face with an arm, afraid that he was going to be swallowed whole once again.
“What do you bid me to do, Master Zane?”
Zane lowered his arm. That was not what he was expecting. Neither was the voice that sounded from the Batal. Zane remembered a wheezing cackle from the Batal that wanted to eat him. This faux Batal sounded like his art teacher. The one he didn’t like. Mr. Terlo. The teacher said that Zane’s drawings didn’t follow traditional art. Zane had fun trying to push the buttons that irritated that cantankerous old man. Now, that very teacher’s low, higher-than-thou baritone radiated from a Batal.
“Hey, Zane. We can use this, right? Say something to it,” Lila urged.
Zane’s gulped and lowered his arm. The Batal was indeed staring at him with utter devotion. It would do anything for him, and somehow Zane knew that the Batal would follow Zane into death. The boy nervously rubbed his hands tighter.
“Mr. Terklo,” he began, “I need you to protect us from the Bull Fists. Umm, please.”
“It would be my pleasure, Master Zane.” The Batal bowed its head, joyous to have a command from its creator.
The illustrated come to life bounded out of the fiery green shield’s protection and immediately faced the largest Bull Fist. They stood, silent and staring at one another. The Bull Fists growled and charged. Mr. Terklo stepped aside and slide behind the massive beast. It then extended its head, longer and longer still, until it had wrapped its neck completely around the Bull Fist’s neck. The Bull Fist’s yelp was cut short as Mr. Terklo squeezed harder. Fists that had the same force as a truck smashing into a brick wall slammed into Mr. Terklo over and over again with no affect. The Batal was unharmed. Another smaller Bull Fist came to its leader’s aid but did not get far. Glue Pot shot a arrow, felling the beast.
“That was my last arrow,” Glue Pot.
“Here, you can take mine,” Zane offered. He lumbered over and held up his quiver. Something was wrong as he walked. He felt as though his energy was being siphoned off. Like something was eating his force from the inside out.
“Zane, are you okay?” Glue asked. He bent down to better inspect the child.
“I’m fine. Just deal with the Bull Fists.” Zane waved his hand, but even that was taking up so much of his strength.
“I have about a minute left!” Perceval called out from his position. He was panting as if he was rolling a boulder weighing a ton up a steep include. “I’m…” The fox creature collapsed, but the shield still held. “Please, hurry.”
“Perceval!” Lila run over to her friend and tripped over Zane’s upturned backpack. She skinned her knees and rolled off the pack. A small item tumbled out from a tiny box. “The Fire Gem!” Lila stared at the Fire Gem and then at Glue Pot’s bow. “I have an idea!”
At that moment, they heard a demeaning snap. The sound of a neck breaking.
“Good job Mr. Terklo,” Zane smiled.
The Batal released the dead Bull Fist and smiled back. The whole spectacle was disastrously terrifying. And that was when Zane passed out, taking Mr. Terlo with him. The illustrated beast disappeared as if it never existed in the first place.
“Zane,” Glue Pot said.