Chapter 5: Fevered Dreams
As they slept with full bellies it was running its gauntlet within his body, everything it touched whithered and shrunk away from it. The seeds of infection dancing through his blood and body gaining steam and savage strength. His eyes fluttered and he whispered incoherently in his sleep.
Layla muttered and rolled to her side, facing him. Mr. Grey whimpered as she opened her eyes, brushing the dog away from his attempt to lick her face. Layla rose to her elbows, watching Chokan intently. He was tossing his head from side to side as he let off a pain-stricken moan. Her eyes followed the line of his body to his abdomen where it roiled and squirmed violently.
Layla rolled from her elbow on her side to her hands and knees quickly, she crawled toward him pausing briefly to shoo Mr. Grey away from him. As Layla lay a hand on his face his back arched and he let out a primal scream. One that sounded full of pain and agony.
“Chokan…” Layla whispered softly, “Chokan..open your eyes, wake up”
“Na-e-thatch, Nie Taile Hitha” Chokan growled loudly.
Layla startled backward not expecting this guttural language that slipped past his lips. It must be his own language, one she didn’t understand. She leaned closer to him and touched his arm trying to rouse him from his fevered sleep but it was no use. He was deep in a feverish dream that gripped his mind and body in suspended time. She would either have to wait it out or risk being harmed while he thrashed about.
Layla’s mind raced through different scenarios, what if he died and she was left alone to fend for herself with the Gatherers out there, what if they ended up holed up here for weeks on end, she didn’t know the first thing about hunting. They would starve to death. Layla touched him again, his body was hot and sweaty and it poured out of him like mini rivers. Janka was still roiling and squirming violently as if she too were in pain.
Layla sighed, she would have to wait it out it seemed. Mr. Grey whined at her as she patted his head and sat by Chokan’s side, both of them watching the Ravanian closely for any tale-tell signs of distress or the first beginnings of death at the door.
Chokan groaned as his eyes fluttered again, body wracked with pain. Janka rolled violently to the left of his abdomen as his back arched while his body spasmed, contorting itself into a painful twist of the upper torso and lower legs. Grinding his feet against the fine sand of the cavern floor with a sickening crunch.
His dreams ran wildly from one scene to another, dark and darker still in content. Going from one battle scene to another. His life playing out like a film strip on a projector. The thrill of hunting in one scene and the devastation of the invasion in another. He moaned as his dreams replayed the painful losses of his loved ones and the finality of his homeworld blown to pieces while the Masters howled with triumph from their thrones above it. Just as quickly his fevered mind jumped from one scene to another until it stumbled upon an even darker memory.
He had been hunting with his two sons that faithful day. They had been out hunting Gracken, a rather large and cumbersome species of reptile that could feed their growing family for quite some time. Chokan’s older son, Brailen had already bagged a smaller Gracken, a female. Sotcha was itching to outdo his big brother to prove his worthiness and garner his father’s approval. Chokan had been laughing wildly at the joy of the hunt with his offspring when the piercing screams had reached them, running their blood to cold flow.
Both boys stared at their father surprise struck, awaiting his instructions. Chokan growled and turned on his heels, motioning to the boys to make haste for home. The scream had come from the direction of their small village Paravan. With a speed matched by no other, the three of them made for the village in record time only to have the siege befall their eyes in a grotesque mockery of battle.
The carnage was unspeakable. Limbs smoldering with no source of fire and strewn all about. Fellow villagers dying in the gutters, torn from head to toe. The villagers growling with agony as some unseen enemy ripped threw their bodies with its acidic touch, melting away whole limbs and stripping flesh in bloody chunks to dissolve at their feet before their eyes.
Rivers of blood flowed through the streets of the village, smoking as they touched buildings briefly and diverted around and through them in some instances. Chokan’s eyes followed the flow of his fellow villager’s blood, his eyes falling for the first time on the enemy who was responsible for this gutless attack.
Its hulking frame stood before him, multi-colored insect-like creatures fluttering about its skin like dismal little points of light. Shimmering and dancing forebodingly about in Chokan’s field of vision as little fairies would flit across the sun-filled forests.
Chokan eyed the dark beast, it was larger than even a full-grown male Gracken if that was even possible. Its skin darker than the darkest night he had ever seen. The proboscis hung low and lazy near its wide clawed feet. Knees double-jointed, almost looking like they were disjointed and backward. The thing before him hummed with a metallic sound, it gritted on his mind and ears loudly. The claw-like shortened arms of this creature pumped back and forth with enthusiasm. Ripping at something in its claws that Chokan could not at first identify.
The flesh-like cord that hung from this beasts victim was pale and fleshy, blood flowed from the open ragged end of the cord, spilling fresh blood across the creature’s flat and bug-like feet in spatters. Realization dawned sickly on Chokans mind as he could now identify the fetal remains of an unborn Ravanian child within the grasp of this hulking creature.
He gagged and turned away for a brief moment not sure if his gagging would turn to vomit. It rose in his throat, threatening to release its acidic spray onto his own feet. His mind racing with the scenes of the fetus gasping with lungs that were not yet made for natural air outside the womb, its eyes begging for release from its agonizing death.
The dangling cord scraping loudly on the ground as the child squeaked its last breath behind him at the hands of the enemy launched Chokan in a fit of rage at the beast. His claws digging deep into the black stinking flesh of the creature, ripping furiously at it. Chokan screamed profanities at it, raging blindly and ripping where his hands met flesh.
In his blind rage, he missed the blow from behind that he suffered from another of the enemy. The proboscis ripped through his right shoulder throwing him from the other dying beast and into the ditch filled with dead or dying brethren. He rolled to his left and was met with the familiar eyes of his mate, belly ripped open and unborn child gone from her womb.
The realization of the moment tore Chokans mind from its safety of sanity as he howled incoherently while cradling his mate in his arms, the sounds of battle winding down as the last of his tribe succumbed to the enemy.
He didn’t remember passing out when he awoke in the smoldering remains of his village Paravan. The only thing he remembered was the agony of loss and defeat as he gathered the bodies of his loved ones one by one. His sons Brailen and Sotcha had died together while bringing down one of the beasts in a field near their home. His mate and the unborn child he had witnessed their death. Chokans three daughters where nowhere to be found, another stab at his already broken heart as he began to shovel away dirt in the makeshift burial of his family.
His shoulder screamed with each thrust of the shovel but Chokan forced himself to continue on, if they were not buried they would not meet on the other side in Falkour. They must be buried in order to pass the fields of Falkour and meet again.
“Falkour, Na-e-thatch, Nie Taile Hitha” He moaned as he laid each member of his family to rest and poured the earth upon them. Repeating it as each shovel full of dirt fell upon them.