I Will Stand with You

Amaril’s voice was like fruit that the tree refused to bring down to her. She couldn’t shout. She couldn’t warn. She could only watch.

No. That was her husband. She needed to stand with him.

The dark, feline forms stalked down the sandy dune behind Westing. He knelt next to the child’s form. She heard his voice, but the heartbeat in her ears kept her from understanding his words.

The sword. She had his sword. A gladius. Would it be any good against those beasts? It didn’t matter. It would be something. She hefted the stout metal blade. Throw it across? She couldn’t jump across and make it if Westing thought he couldn’t. Fine then. She slipped the metal out of the stout leather scabbard and ran the few paces toward the edge of the chasm. She spun and flung it as hard as she could, aiming just to Westing’s left.

The hilt slid from her grasp and she skidded to a stop on the sand. She fell backward into the grit. Her feet slipped off the edge, but the rest of her stayed on the solid ground.

She heard an exclamation from Westing. The blade – she heard its impact on the sand. And then a hiss. The things – they’d made themselves known. Westing shouted. The child screamed.

Amaril scrabbled to her feet, peering across the cleft in the ground. Could she make the jump? She should be able to. She just needed to back up, take a running start. And then she would stand beside Westing, no matter what came. The sand sucked at her sandals as she backed up. Oh. She needed to get the pack off. It was too heavy. She dropped it in the sand.

“Amaril! Stay over there!” Westing’s words cut through her haze.

He knew her too well.

Too bad. She would not honor her husband when it meant forsaking her vows to him.

She sprinted, arms pumping.  Time the jump. Got to leap off as close to the edge as possible. She heard her own feet on the sand. Westing shouted more. He grunted. Like his morning workout again, but harder. More desperate. The child was screaming again. Did the child do anything else?

She heard the huff of her own breath as she pushed off. The air over the chasm seemed colder. And then she landed and crumbled onto the dirt on the other side.

Why was it so hard to breath? Oh. She should take in more air. Yeah. Good idea.

“Amaril! Take the child! Go!” Westing lunged at one of the shadows and spun to the other, keeping them back.

The things growled, low in their throats. She could feel their weight just by looking at them. Long fur cloaked how big they actually were, but they came up to at least her shoulder. Golden eyes reflected the half-moon that hung in the sky. They moved back and forth, long tails lashing.

Westing roared at them as he swung his blade. He made himself big, trying to scare them away.

And then something tackled Amaril. Oh, it was the child. A girl, maybe? Perhaps eight years old? Amaril stood, holding the child close. “I’ll stand with you!”

“Not now! Run – jump to the other side! I’ll run after you once you’re both safe. I think I can hold them off!” Westing roared again.

His voice rose in pitch. He was scared.

All right. Get the child to safety. Get herself to safety. Westing will follow.

And then both shadows charged him at the same time.

This is the twelfth chapter of Summers’ End.

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