The suns were high, devouring the shadows. The hot air melted the horizon, turning its clear line at night into a crazy dance of spirits on a hot frying pan of the earth.
One slow step. Another one. The sand crunched under the tread of the huge, scaled creature. Any inhabitant of the Kush empire would have recognized in it the outlines of a crocodile, although the size and abundance of thorns of the creature made one think about its relationship with dragons. As well as silvery-white scales. The two girls shared an island of shade under a canopy, on his back. The monster, slowly swaying, took one leisurely step after another. Riding this crocodile it was quite possible to fall asleep soundly, as if in a strange cradle surrounded by spikes. But there will be time for sleep at night. Now it was time for them to hunt.
The girl with the spear leaned towards her companion’s ear.
– Have you finally chosen, Aekke?
– Yes. – Dry answer of warrioress followed by. – Grey. Behind the herd.
The rider, whose name was Vara, nodded and pulled on the reins. The dragon-like monster slowly turned its head and took another leisurely step towards the grazing antelope.
– Why exactly this one?
– She is the oldest and weakest.
– But it won’t be difficult for us to catch any of them. – Vara looked at her companion in bewilderment. – Or do you like old, tough meat?
– If we kill all the young, the herd will die.
– But can you at least eat something decent sometimes?
– The inhabitants of half of the border villages allow themselves meat once a season.
– But they don’t ride on the back of a spirit.
– The spirit must be treated with respect. – Aekke looked sternly at Vara. The rider grunted and leaned towards the crocodile’s face.
– We won’t listen to her, will we? You, for sure, also want juicy meat?
The crocodile made a snatchy hissing sound, reminiscent of laughter. Vara stroked his thick neck.
– Hold on tight! – the rider shouted and the monster started running.
His agility was astounding. A heavy, spiked tail whipped from side to side like a whip, fountains of dry earth flew up from under its paws, but the herd that rushed away at the sight of the threat turned out to be faster. Even the antelope chosen by the warrior, although lagging behind the rest, was far ahead.
– Aekke, are you ready?
Vara again bent down to the muzzle of the white crocodile and whispered in his ear a few words not intended for the ears of any mortal. The monster made another laughing sound, and the air around them trembled like a desert mirage. With a rustle of dry leaves, the crocodile and his riders suddenly disappeared to appear in the midst of the fleeing herd. The warrioress raised her spear at exactly the right moment to impale the antelope that had dispersed on it. The animal did not have time to dodge, or even to realize that the hopelessly lagging predator suddenly appeared in front.
– I thought we had a deal. – In Vara’s words, resentment sounded like a shadow. Aekke pulled the spear out of the carcass.
The crocodile turned its huge head and swallowed their prey whole in one motion.
– The fact that you speak with the spirits, Vara, does not make you equal to them. So show more respect. – Almost laughing said Aekke. – Lets go. While I was looking at the herd, I noticed a growing kivano. Before the coming battle, any source of strength will be useful.
The warrioress jumped off the back of the spirit crocodile and wandered towards the greenery in the distance. The magician looked in the opposite direction. Where the sand dunes stepped on the savannah, the lands began, into which their spirit led. Lands of the Cursed – Styx. There was no time for a second hunt, even the unhurried step of a huge spirit would carry them to the border in less than two days. Vara followed her friend. They really will need strength.