Desh woke with a start. His mate Nala was shaking him frantically.
Desh shook his head a few times, trying to clear the cobwebs of slumber from his mind so that he could focus. The dull roar of his tribe's voices mixed with clanging armor and weapons filled their room. He stood slowly and pulled Nala into him. "We knew this day would come."
The young couple held their embrace for a few moments and then walked over to where their younglings slept. Desh was amazed that they could still sleep despite the raucous activity outside.
For the briefest of moments he entertained the thought that perhaps Nala should stay behind and watch over their children.
This was a ridiculous notion of course. Nala was a skilled warrior and a master of the spear. He squeezed her hand. "It's time to go."
With that, the mated pair walked out into The Sanctum and to their assigned armory where they collected their spears and armor. After donning the gear and ensuring that it was adjusted properly so it wouldn't hinder their wings, Desh and Nala returned to The Sanctum.
There they were greeted by Desh's father, Wem.
"May Great Mother watch over you," they said in unison, bowing deeply.
Wem looked around at his bustling tribe:
"Every thousand years the Kraal come with their blade machines and their fire. They hack away at Great Mother, gouging her and making her bleed. Every thousand years our people fight. We send those wretched beasts back to the rotting abyss from which they crawled."
"Why do they attack Great Mother?" Nala asked, clutching her spear tightly.
"Because they are mindless animals," Desh replied with disgust. "They seek to destroy us. They want to kill Great Mother."
"That's right," Wem added, the dark blue feathers on his head bristling. "And we will make them regret it."
"They're lining up," Nala said, motioning toward The Sanctum's massive arched entrance. "Time to fight."
Wem led Desh and Nala to the third closest line where they met up with Desh's mother, Aisha. They'd barely had time to greet one another as the line of warriors shuffled rapidly forward and out into the open air. A few heartbeats later, it was Desh and Nala's turn.
They leapt without hesitation, diving straight down, their wings folded back. Desh was amazed at how far below his enemy was. From this height, the Kraal appeared to be little more than specks of black goo.
It wasn't long before Desh found himself plummeting through thick acrid smoke that belched forth from the Kraal's roaring machines. A breath later, a barrage of large streaking balefire orbs rocketed up toward them. He weaved and dodged as best he could, narrowly avoiding a few of the deadly projectiles.
He stole a quick glance over at Nala. She was looking at him as well. A loving smile spread across her beautiful face. Before Desh could return the smile, his mate burst into roaring flames, her small body quickly turning to ash as it tumbled down to earth.
A loud moan of anguish and rage bellowed from deep within Desh's chest. Without a moment's hesitation or slightest inkling of regret, the Kraal animals had taken away the love of his life. He swore to The Great Mother that he would kill them all.
Diving and weaving through the hail of balefire and flaming arrows, Desh spotted a Kraal Overseer. From all his years of training, he knew that if he killed one of them, an entire legion of Kraal beasts would stop fighting.
Desh banked and rolled until the razor-sharp tip of his spear was lined up with the Overseer's face. The moment he locked in on his target, the young warrior dove, roaring his family's battlecry the entire way.
As he neared the Kraal leader, his mind went to his younglings. They were newborn and still a few moon passes away from their naming ritual. Of all the joys Desh had in his life, the thought that he'll never get to know his children's names made him...
Desh slammed into the Kraal Overseer, jamming his spear into the beast's face and out the back of its head. The troll-like creature gurgled noisily and crumbled to the ground in a quivering heap.
Desh hissed as his body was pierced by a half dozen arrows and several jagged blades.
Time seemed to pass slowly after Desh fell to the hard, blackened earth. His vision blurred and his breathing steadily grew labored. It seemed an eternity before his vision started to dim. That's when he saw her.