Even in the depth of my nightmares, Lycus IV was a formidable hell. The scenery misled one to think of mighty grandeur. Lush green trees lined the banks. Sporadic cloud cover offered broken views of a pale blue mountain range.
This prison planet’s terror was not found in its natural surroundings, but from its unwilling inhabitants.
A wide, slow-moving river flowed in front of me over a deep bed of rocks. My filthy clothing was ripped and shredded, and left bloody skin exposed. I gazed back across the clear, inviting water.
A bellow filled the air and I turned to look. A pale, naked giant rumbled through the brush, still yelling at the top of his lungs. High above his head, he gripped his makeshift mallet, a boulder strapped into a forked tree branch. I jumped to the side as the weapon crashed down.
He stared with one wide eye and the other glazed over. Saliva dribbled from his lips.
“I am King of the wooded realm! You dare invade my territory?”
This wasn’t a fight I planned to stick around for. Psychotics were the worst type of violent.
He hoisted his club and swung it at me. I stumbled back and it came so close I felt the breeze. I turned toward the opposite bank and sprinted across the riverbed.
“Your punishment is death! Vengeance is demanded!”
I high-stepped through calf-deep water while the beast screamed bloody murder behind me. I dared not look back, because there was no doubt he gained on me with every step.
My foot caught a cluster of rocks under the surface and I splashed down, drenched by the cool, clear water. I flipped over and faced my attacker as he left me in a cold, dark shadow. Milky-white foam oozed over his lower lip.
“Prepare to meet your maker!”
He raised the mallet high above his head. At least death would be quick, but I couldn’t say much for painless. I closed my eyes and waited for the crushing blow.
A whistle filled the air and the giant beast gasped and choked. My eyes flashed open and the beast dropped his weapon into the river behind him.
Only one object stood between me and oblivion, a homemade arrow buried in his neck. He couldn’t pull it from the front, so reached back. His mind gave up hope as soon as his fingers probed the stone tip. The monster’s eyes rolled up into his head, then fell backwards.
The corpse splashed down and huge waves rolled past me. I scrambled around and gazed at the opposite bank. There, a bow in his left hand and more arrows strapped to his back, stood the man who’d just saved my life.