Chapter 32

By the time Saber caught up to Riley, who had slowed due to being out of breath, both of them were covered in the dark goo that was the creatures’ innards. Riley was tired and still fighting, but Saber looked like she could run forever. She guessed that was one of the benefits of Saber’s suit. Riley, on the other hand, had to worry about getting hurt, being out of breath, and the stench. She was pretty sure Saber didn’t have to worry about that. Which was good for her because it made Riley want to gag.

Riley had never smelled anything in a dream before, and she wished she couldn’t now. She couldn’t stop and think about it, though, as she kept swinging her large axe, her muscles starting to grow weary.

Saber must have noticed her getting tired. “Let me take the lead.”

Riley looked back at her, nodded, then shifted so Saber could slip past her. An ambitious goblin tried to jump at Riley when her head was turned. She didn’t see what happened, but felt it hit her shield. The creature, screaming, was thrown somewhere deep into the darkness.

A couple of them had gotten close to her as she ran, each thrown back when they hit her impenetrable shield. She tried to keep up the concentration that held it around her, but with the creatures always attacking, trying to find her weak spots, it was difficult. There were just so many of them, and they kept coming.

You’re almost there. You just have to keep going a little farther. You can do this.

The only problem was that she wasn’t sure she could. Would she ever admit she was glad Saber had caught up to her?

Dang it, the girl had no right to assume she must always be there to protect Riley. She didn’t need her protection. She didn’t need anyone. Not really. She could have done this alone. What did Saber think? That Riley was some stupid little girl who needed saving? She had taken care of herself most of her life, even more so after her mother left. So Saber could just stuff whatever made her think Riley needed saving.

The two girls stood back to back, watching for any of the creatures trying to sneak up on them. When she glanced over her shoulder to see how Saber was doing, three of the things jumped out of the darkness at her. Riley’s shield had slipped while her thoughts drifted.

One of their claws grazed her right arm. A flash of pain ran along it, then she felt warmth running down her skin.

“Ah!” Riley cried out, dropping her axe.

The next of the three went low, its large mouth open wide to bite down on her ankle. She kicked out and caught the thing in its mouth. She was able to knock it back, but not before it bit down and ripped off a large chunk of her shoe, along with part of her foot.

She howled in pain as the third one came at her head. Riley fell back, and it landed on her chest. She could see those orange eyes as it kept coming at her, snapping its jaws.

Then the goblin stopped, the orange light fading from those eyes as it fell away.

Riley looked up to see Saber standing over her. Her electric blade was a blur of light and motion as it cut through the air. After taking out the one that had been on top of Riley, she kept moving, taking out five more. Saber moved toward the ones in the darkness, then suddenly turned back toward Riley.

“Don’t-” Riley started, thinking Saber was going to help her up. Instead, she rushed past her. There was more motion, and Riley guessed more of the things had been killed.

“Can you do one of those shield things?” Saber yelled, the strain in her voice obvious as she ran past Riley again and took out a fresh wave of the little beasts.

Riley tried to fight through the pain. Her arm was numb, her foot on fire. That made it really hard to concentrate on something like a shield when all she wanted to do was cry.

It was hard, but she clamped down on the pain. Feeling moisture at the edge of her eyes, she clenched her teeth with determination. Saber ran past her again.

“I’ll try,” Riley hissed.

“Okay. Try making it bigger this time. See if you can make it go around the both of us,” Saber said, grunting as she continued to fight.

Riley couldn’t see how many of the things swarmed around them, but the sound of their claws on rock increased. It definitely sounded like there were a lot more of them now. There could even be thousands out there, getting closer.

Riley winced in pain as she tried to move. She had to do it, though. There was no choice. She heard them getting closer. If she didn’t do something soon, she would be dead, and Saber would be overwhelmed.

What had the thing called it? Saber could get mind-trapped if these things kept up for long enough.

Riley took short, quick breaths and closed her eyes. There was so much pain. Every little movement was like lightning flashing through her body. She had to ignore it. Just push it from her mind.

If we make it out of here, will I be missing part of my foot? I’ve already broken the other leg. I’ll have to be in a wheelchair. If I’m crippled, how will I take care of myself?

Riley wasn’t about to start relying on others. She had never been able to rely on them before, so how could she start now?

No, she didn’t need anyone. She was going to defeat them all.

“Woah!”

Riley opened her eyes to see that she had pushed the shield out. The problem was that Saber was being pushed away with it. The goblins had noticed and were moving toward Saber.

“Crap,” Riley hissed, and the shield fell away. Saber quickly rushed back to her side. As soon as she was close, Riley pulled her into a hug. Caught off guard, Saber swung her blade toward Riley. It was by pure skill that Saber was able to twist it away at the last second and force the blade into the rocks next to them.

Once Riley had pulled her close, she pushed out again. It was easier this time. She shoved the shield farther out, and both girls could hear the things being thrown back as they rushed against it.

It took a few seconds before Riley finally felt like she had the shield out at a reasonable distance. She just needed to make sure to hold it there. It wasn’t easy. Riley imagined it as a dome, trying to hold that image in her mind. Still, she could never be completely sure the shield was still there. She would only know once the goblins rushed them again.

But something seemed wrong. She felt stiff, the pain becoming a numbing sensation. She started to feel separated from her body, like it was detached from her.

“You did it,” Saber said. Riley wasn’t confident as she looked up.

There were goblins scrambling on the ceiling above them. One would occasionally drop down and hit the barrier. Once it did, it was thrown back with such ferocity, it would slam against one of the stalactites hanging from the ceiling and get impaled. There were already about ten of the creatures that had accepted this fate.

Saber looked back at Riley and gasped. Riley’s face flushed as she struggled with the strain of the shield and fighting through the pain.

“Holy crap. Are you okay?”

Published by JasonRDavis

Author of the #zombie apocalypse trilogy Invisible Spiders and the Edge of Darkness series.

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