The clouds tore open, and the road turned to mud and sodden refugees. We made little progress because we moved at a cautious walking pace.
The Sharaglin returned in force; at first sight, twenty, perhaps even thirty of them snaked through the trees on the north side of the road. Meramon and I – thankfully, he didn’t leave the duty solely on my shoulders – told the men with weapons or tools to cover the northern flank. There were enough men to fill two columns of defense. Eliana and Tim and Reyla made sure the women and children were safely on the southernmost columns.
The Sharaglin darted at the lines and reached for the most vulnerable – those who looked weak or had the shortest weapons. Every time, the men flanking the target pulled him back and drove the attackers away with weapons and curses. The Sharaglin seemed to only be toying with them, though, and danced back and forth in threatening feints.
Then there was a cry of “The other side! They’re on the other side!” A high-pitch shriek cut the air. I later learned that a little girl had been snatched, and when I heard that I sought out her mother to give her my condolences. I left Meramon, who was on his horse, not Sasha, in charge of the north defense and directed men from the second column to guard the south side. Unfortunately, few men from the secondary line had weapons. I gave my sword to a man in the middle of the line; my steel dirk from Khalam’fos had to suffice for me. The beasts charged the ends of the lines a few times, and one man lost an arm to an axe-cleave. Gasps and whimpers fanned through the children in the middle column.
The road was by then slippery with rain. Our eastward amble slowed even more.
Sasha was not idle. The trees made it difficult for her to directly attack the Sharaglin, but when the downpour eventually slowed to a drizzle, she took to the air and waited until they darted toward the road, then darted in for the kill. The Sharaglin started sending two at a time. Meramon left the northern flank in the charge of another man and ran in among the trees. His blade flashed and darted among the Sharaglin forces, then I lost sight of him. He later pushed through the columns and went into the forest to the south. Sharaglin snarled and died and broke and ran. The defending men began to cheer, and Meramon and Sasha returned, triumphant.
Without Meramon and Sasha, it may have been a slow, merciless slaughter, but they saved us. We won, but it was a small victory. Eliana has two orbs swirling around her – a sign of worse to come? The people seem afraid of her. They keep their distance and mutter and shoot her sidelong glances.
Sasha ate the fallen Sharaglin. She tore into them with ravenous vigor. I hope she doesn’t fall ill or choke and die on their bones… the beasts must make for horrible eating. I shouldn’t have been surprised, though – they are animals, and her prey; she is a predator. It just felt strange to see her eating that way after having seen her in human form.