Perceval’s green shield melted away, and the fox collapsed next to Zane.
Pieces of Bull Fists lay haphazard in a messy five foot radius. A few chunks of flesh still burned from the aftermath of the explosion. Brown blood congealed around the dead Bull Fists, releasing a sour stench of foreign blood and excrement.
“I think I might throw up,” Lila said. She covered her nose with the sleeve of her tunic. “Yuck.”
As Glue Pot and Lila inspected their friends and concluded that they had merely exhausted themselves, one Bull Fist still clung onto life. It coughed up bile and salvia and cringed when the viscous liquids touched its burns. There was only one thought left in the beast’s mind—to kill as many of the intruders it could to its dying breath. The burnt Bull Fist shakily positioned its fists into the mucky mixture of mud and blood, lifting its shriveled body into the air.
Lila was the first to notice the Bull Fist move. She didn’t have time to think. The beast thundered over with incredible speed despite its injuries. Lila briefly thought of her magic shoes. No. What use could flying do at this precise moment? And then she remembered the stiletto. She removed the weapon from her belt and held the sharpened point up in defense as the Bull Fist charged right into her attack. The stiletto stuck right into the Bull Fist’s tiny eye, sinking deep into its black pupil up to the hilt. Lila was thrown back, hitting the ground with enough force to knock the air from her lungs.
“Mo,” Lila heard the Bull Fist gurgle, “Mother!” The beast flailed. It could not remove the blade from its eye, and eventually, it too crumpled into a heap. It was dead.
“Mother?” Lila wheezed. “Who’s that?”
“Lila, you’re not hurt too bad, right?” Glue Pot asked. He had trot over to his companion.
“I’ll live.” Lila inhaled and got up. Pain surged through her left hand. “But I think I broke my wrist.”
Glue Pot spent the next five minutes gathering Zane and Perceval onto his back. Lila did the best she could around her broken wrist as she collected Zane’s spilled backpack items. She took special care with his sketchbook. The page that Mr. Terklo walked out of was blank. Lila would have to tell Zane this whenever he woke back up. I the back of Lila’s mind, she heard the Bull Fist’s last words. Mother. Was there another Bull Fist prowling around? We’re these Bull Fists they encountered just the babies? Lila gulped. She hoped not.
Lila and Glue Pot walked back to where they assumed the clearing of trees may be. They thought that if they returned and stayed for a while, the others may be able to do the same. They eventually did find their destination. It took a half an hour or so. Lila did not realize that they had run that far and that furiously from the Bull Fists. Her legs began to ache as if thinking back to that mad dash had reminded them to hurt.
“So, we’ll just wait here?”
“It’s the best we can do. If the others are alive, they’ll either come back here or move straight on to Crat. Those are the only two meeting places,” Glue Pot.
“If they’re still alive…” Yes, Glue Pot was right. Those were the only two meeting places. But that was if their companions still lived. Lila thought of her brother dead. Eaten by one of those beasts. She saw Gabbie and Ginger falling and breaking something worse than a wrist. Tipper, Silverskin, and Digitalis? They were strong, but how much? Could they defeat the Bull Fists? Lila and the others were lucky. If it weren’t for Zane’s sudden magical powers and the Fire Gem, they would have been goners.
“Oh. Oh, Lila,” Glue Pot said. “Oh, d-don’t cry. I mean, you can cry if you want. I-you…” He bit his lip, chewed it, and started again. “I can bind your wrists for you. I’m an expert, you know. When my brothers and I were colts, we would twist our ankles like nobody’s business.”
“Yeah. Yeah, I’d like that. Thanks, GP.”
The Bull Fists were closing in.
Gabbie could feel their rancid breath on the back of neck—hot and rotten. Why had this become the new routine? If it wasn’t Batals or a Lake God, it had to be deranged beasts from Hades.
“We’re getting nowhere!” Silverskin yelled. “Take my hands, both of you!” The elf boy grabbed Gabbie’s and Digitalis’s outstretched hands. “Keep as close to me as possible. There are a lot of trees and hitting one would mean it’s all over, okay?”
“Yessir!” Digitalis said.
“Go for it!”
Silverskin conjured the air, and just like the time where he flew down the hallways to the deer he pen, he took both Gabbie and Digitalis across the forest floor at top speed. Gabbie worried that holding up three people would be too much for the air elf.
“Get them! Take them to mother!” The Bull Fists howled.
“Did you hear them? Do you think they want to just catch us or eat u?” Gabbie asked.
“Gabbie, all I heard were sounds from my nightmare,” Digitalis said.
“They said they wanted to take us to someone called mother.”
“All the better to get away!” Silverskin said through gritted teeth.
Gabbie and Digitalis squeezed closer to Silverskin when two clumps of trees appeared as if they just sprouted from the ground. A story branch clipped Gabbie on the shoulder, and their momentum spiraled out of control for a few terrifying seconds. Silverskin hurriedly regained his magical footing and got them through the thickest part of the forest. Soon, the trees began to disappear, revealing an opening ahead. They could hear the rush of fast whitewater from far away