I prepared to surrender my life to this unknown force of nature. I quickly prayed to our Creator to accept me into the next world when the creature lifted me in his hand as tenderly as a mother holding a new born babe. I felt as small and helpless as a newly-hatched bird in its nest. The black eyes began to shine with an intensity I had only seen when the sun shone it’s brightest. My desperation turned to hope for a split-second before his hand began to close. I realized there was a glimmer of light offering escape. I slithered toward the light and escaped certain doom a split-second before the hand crushed together. I tumbled to the earth bouncing off the creature’s land and landing at the base of a small shrub.
“Nimajneb! Are you okay? We must escape,” I shouted.
“Why must you escape?” the creature asked. “I am not here to harm you, but to offer protection.”
I stood still and gazed upward. My fear was receding and my curiosity taking over. “From what do I need protection other than you?” I asked.
The man-creature pointed to the half-lion, half-reptile carcass. “You have slain the offspring of a Noil-Rotag, and she will come to take out her vengeance on the person responsible.”
I looked at Nimajneb for a second then back the the man-creature. “Are you telling me the thing I killed was…”
“A newly hatched infant only hours out of the boulder from which it grew.”
“How big is the… mother… or whatever?”
Nimajneb started growling from deep in his throat and the hair on his tail sang with static.
“I believe it will be safer for us if I explain the details from a safer distance.”
He scooped Nimajneb and me up in his hand, turned and bounded through the grass until we reached a forest of trees reaching nearly to the midday red moon. He didn’t stop until we were deep into the dense forest and though it was daytime, I couldn’t see more than a few feet in any direction.
“We will be safe here. Noil-Rotags never ventures this deep in the forest.”
He set us gently onto the top of what appeared to be a table covered in flowers of the most striking colors. They appeared to be transparent but radiated a hum as the colors shifted from deep and vibrant to pale and opaque.
“Who are you and what should I call you?”
“I am called Apdnarg by my people. We are known as the tribe of Stnerapdnarg.”
“My name is Eniarrol Nosilla, and I come from the village of Amlaopolis in the valley of Minkundy. Nimajneb and I are on our journey into manhood. It is a tradition among my people, but I am the first to travel so far from home.”
“Welcome to the forest of Eromitlab. You are welcome to stay with me for as long as you wish.”
“Thank you, Apdnarg. Do you live here alone?”
“No, Amdnarg lives with me. She is my companion, but do not fear. She is known through the forest for her courage.”
We turned as another man-creature approached. I could see thick, reddish-blue blood dripping from a wound in the creature’s leg.
“Amdnarg! How were you injured?” Apdnarg asked.
“I was fishing in the river when one of the Noil-Rotags attacked. Four of them are waiting to enter the forest with the help of Nibor the Elgae.”
“Who or what is an Elgae and who is Nibor?” I asked.
“A fearsome creature who flies through the air and can lift ten times its weight and carry it off never to be seen again.” Amdnarg answered as Apdnarg bound her wounds with a leaf from one of the magical flowers.
I gulped and asked, “Should we be afraid?”
Amdnarg’s eyes began to glow with the same strange intensity I had seen on Apdnarg’s face earlier. “You must be very afraid,” she said slowly.