“So be it,” Ruin snapped, he took a deep breath, “It is good to see you brother,” He said, as he scrambled back up his saddle, he sat there looking down at us, “I will come back to this spot tomorrow morning, you have until then to make a decision.” Ruin stated, he reached behind him into the saddle bags, “A gift from his Lord Mejo,” he tossed a large bundle onto the ground in front of his brother, the large bag hit the sand with a thud and cratered the ground sending a large cloud of dust into the air. “A gift, from my Lord, an example of the rewards you will be given, if you decide to align with the Protector of the Berry.” He kicked the Trike into a trot and turned back down the beach. When he was out of earshot, Cradix turned, his blue eyes had gone gray.
Skull scuttled backward a few steps but Cradix was on the taller man in a split second. He grabbed Skull by his collarbone, he dug his fingers into the soft skin in the shoulder until he fell to his knees whimpering. Cradix grabbed Skull’s left arm, he exposed his beacon to the sky. “If I wanted to, I could rip you beacon from your arm and hang it around my neck like a Tamer and you would not be respawned until a new Ark is made if that even happens.” Cradix growled, he looked over at me, I would not defend Skull, even if Cradix was in the wrong I would never defend Skull. In this case Cradix had every right to punish him. “I do not know how many times I have to remind you to keep your mouth shut if you are present during a council meeting.”
“Oh, I am sorry was this a council meeting?” Skull growled defiantly, “To me it looked like you were just talking to your brother.”
I flinched, when I heard the crack it had happened so fast, Skull was on the ground, he spit up blood, he coughed and choked. He crawled a few feet away, before getting to his feet and sulking into the trees. Cradix was still shaking, he was clenching and relaxing his fists. I stepped up to him and placed a hand gently on his shoulder, he looked up at me, his gray eyes softened back to his normal steel blue.
“I’m sorry, I should not have reacted like that,” He whispered, I smiled down at him.
“You had every right to punish him, you have every right to do much worse to him then punch him,” I said, I squeezed his shoulder affectionately and went back to Kabr. I glanced back at Cradix, he was digging through the bundle on the ground, he was pulling out multiple sets of leather armor, a handful of crossbows, axes and picks. I turned back to Kabr, he was panting, sweat was pouring from him. I peeled back the wrap on his shoulder the skin red and swollen, the bite mark was black and oozing green fluid, I swore under my breath and peeled off the entire wrap, the veins leading down his arm were bright red, Kabr’s breath came in pained hisses.
“Cradix,” I cried, I lay a hide down on the thatch floor of our camp and gently lay Kabr down, he cried out and his head rolled to the side, his eyes rolled in his head.
“Fang? What is going on?” Cradix asked as he hurtled the log, he saw Kabr and rushed back to the bag. “I guess we have to meet with Mejo now,” He said coming back, he had a medical pack, he took the needle from the bag and injected it into Kabr’s shoulder.
Kabr’s breathing slowed and his gray skin turned pink again. These medical kits were hard to find, and healed our bodies quickly, the wound on Kabr’s shoulder was already changing in color and shrinking.
“Fang,” Cradix was standing over me, he touched my shoulder and nodded his head over his shoulder, I made sure that Kabr would be okay, covered him up with a spare hide and followed Cradix to the other side of our small camp. He sat on a piece of driftwood, I sat beside him, staring into the fire.
“We almost lost him,” I whispered, he looked from me to Kabr, and nodded.
“Without that medicine he would have died, we owe Mejo now, the armor and weapons could have been given back in the morning but that, we cannot give back saving a man’s life.” I hung my head and looked at him through my gray hair.
“He is not the only one whose life was saved today,” I said sitting up next to him. I placed a hand on his knee, “Without your brother showing up when he did we would have lost you,” He covered my hand with his own, and squeezed it.
“I know that, we owe him more now.” He stood and went to find Skull, we had not seen him since he had disappeared into the trees.
“We need to deal with that Rex carcass,” Kabr said pushing himself into a sitting position. I glanced across the fire at him.
“Are you kidding you almost just died, and without a respawn point setup, you would have come back who knows where, and not been able to get back to us any time soon.” I shook my head at him. “Cradix and I will take care of it when he gets back,” I stated climbing to my feet and looking him over. He looked horrible but with the med kit he at least would not die from the bite mark.
“Where is Skull?” Kabr asked.
“Well after Cradix hit him, he disappeared into the trees,” I said, I looked passed our little camp across the beach to the tree line, to the brush Cradix had disappeared into.
“Cradix hit him?”
“Did you miss that part?” I asked, he nodded pushing himself to the top of his log to sit more comfortable.
“Yeah for undermining him in front of Ruin,” I said, Kabr nodded. “How are you feeling?” I asked, Kabr touched his good hand to his shoulder.
“It hurts but I suppose, thanks to you and Cradix I will be okay?” I shook my head.
“It was thanks to Ruin and Mejo, they left us supplies and arms, and apparently a med kit, without that injection you would not have made it.” I said. I went to the pile of supplies Cradix had left on the ground, six full sets of hide armor, six axes, picks and crossbows each with their own quiver of fifty bolts. The med kit would have one or two more uses before running out. There was a bundle of salted meat and berries. I shook my head and carried a set of armor over to Kabr, I helped him get dressed, he left the tunic open to aerate the wound on his shoulder, he sat on his log watching me as I pulled on my own armor, I ignored him, I was used to much worse from Skull.
Cradix returned a little while later alone, Skull had not returned and Cradix had not found him. “What now?” He asked as he pulled on his own clothing and divided up the rest of the supplies.
“We could take back Oasis?” Kabr ventured.
Cradix fingered the tip of one of his crossbow bolts, and looked at the armor both of us were wearing. He nodded, we each grabbed a spare quiver from the pile and headed back up the crevasse leading to the Hidden Valley.
Just as before we slid silently through the trees, I was on his left, Kabr on his right, Cradix led us with all the determination of a man out to prove something. I knew it was not to us, but to himself, he had been willing to sacrifice his life to protect his tribe mates, his family, the ones he cared about. He needed to prove to himself that he did not need to be saved by anyone. He loaded his crossbow as did Kabr and I. We held our bows to our shoulders, if that Carno was still here we would work together to take it down.
“We will sleep in the valley tonight,” Cradix whispered, I do not know if he was talking to us or himself but we moved forward through the gorge until we reached the opening, the Carno was in the valley alone, his back to us. Cradix waved for me to move around the creature to flank him on the left where a rock ledge lead up away from the water, Kabr moved of to the right to climb up a large tree that grew out of the cliff wall, he lay on his chest the bow aimed for the Carno. I watched nervously as Cradix made his way around the man killer to flank it on the right.
He was in position, he looked at both of us, looked back at the creature, raised his left arm and held up one finger, that was my que. I shot hitting the Carno in the left temple, it roared defiantly and turned its beady black eyes on me, I flinched away at first, the mouth lined with a hundred fangs, opened and snapped a few times as the animal sized me up, he began towards me in his zig zag walk, a smack rang out, a second arrow was buried in the Carno’s eye, he roared again thrashing his horned head from side to side, his ludicrously short rear facing arms flapping against his sides like a dying fish. He turned to try to find Kabr, when Cradix released his arrow into the animal’s mouth as he roared at him. The Carno made a noise like metal scraping against metal. blood poured from its mouth, it coughed and sputtered, I had reloaded my bow and released another arrow, it hit its neck, the animal spun in circles trying to find us, half blind, choking on its own blood, Kabr got off a second shot, this one buried to the fletching in the soft hide of the belly. Cradix’s shot the Carno in the throat again, the animal gasped a few times then dropped to the ground.
It was only then that we moved, we scouted the rest of the valley for any sign of other threats, when none were found we set up camp for the night, sitting beneath a roof made of Carno and Rex hide, clothed, and well fed. I smiled across the fire at Cradix, we had done it, we had taken back the valley.
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