The Dragon Tongue War Part VIII

by Paul Davis

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII

Tua was there when the attack happened. Fishermen were being pulled into the river, one by one, by some creature which quickly broke the water’s surface and retreated before the spray of water had diminished. Most though the fishermen were drunk. Some thought there were ornery fish. The laughter continued until the fishermen didn’t resurface. Others out on the river looked down, their eyes wide, as something swam about the boats.

Several boats tipped. As soon as the men hit the river, something thrashed around them. The white splashes turned red, the violence of the attacks so harsh some onlookers were sprayed with a blood and water mixture. Then dozens of forms jumped out from the river and onto the docks, many of them wrapping large jaws around the people watching. Tua wasn’t sure what he was seeing. The reptilian creatures were nothing he had seen before. The instinct took over and he charged into the mass of writhing, feeding, snake creatures.

As he swung with his spear, their skin was difficult to cut. When he thrust, he could feel rubbery resistance to every stab, but he pierced the hides all the same. The creatures weren’t ready for a fight, and Tua was able to cut down many before finding resistance. Numerous snake-men had four arms, each holding bone weapons which broke pitifully against Tua’s spear. Still, it was tiring to need to parry so often and it made attacking difficult. The hero started to retreat as the snake-men devoured more and more people.

One eyed Tua, then hissed, “Look tasty. Food taste good when fight it.”

“What are you?” The warrior whispered, jaw slack.

“Naga. You take food. We find food.”

As the naga swarmed around Tua, the end was clear. The only question was how many could he kill before they devoured him. In a short period of time four had lunged at him, and four had fallen. Then the fifth bit Tua, and Tua collapsed, the masses closing in on him.

Then there was a bright light, an explosion. Tua moved a bit, feeling weightless for a few moments, or so he thought. Most the feeling in his body had been numbed. Rai ran to Tua and uncorked a vial. The youth said something, but a ringing in Tua’s ear kept him from making out the words. The vial was put to the man’s lips and drained down his throat. There was no taste, and he wasn’t even sure if he was swallowing it or about to choke on it. In a few moments his body tingled. Tua stood and slowly regained feeling throughout his body.

“We need to get out of here.” Rai was shouting, though the words were still muffled. Tua could only nod and follow away from the docks. The naga were on the ground, trying to recover. Another vial was thrown, exploding, and when the ooze from inside touched flesh, it caused naga to writhe and cry out, their skin melting. “That should keep them. We need to find the tavern.”

Once away from the docks, Rai stopped, still helping Tua. The young alchemist shouted, “I don’t know where we’re going. I was heading to the tavern, but got lost.” It was almost enough to make Tua laugh. His life was saved because the scholar couldn’t figure out street signs. It was good enough.

People started to crowd the streets. First there were whispers and people heading to the docks. The smart ones, the ones who would survive the ordeal, started leaving the city. Either way, the crowds made it difficult to move. When halfway to the tavern, when the screaming began, it made it even harder. Tua was finally able to walk on his own, though not well. People trampled, knocking him and Rai out of the way and to the ground. When Tua and Rai found each other and were capable of propping themselves up against a wall, they could see the naga coming down the streets, picking off the new food source. Some people weren’t consumed, but sedated by the poison and dragged off. Tua shook his head, trying not to think of their fate. Snacks for later. He shook his head harder.

When they reached the tavern, there were several men barring up the door and preparing for a fight. Rai shouted, “No. We need to leave. There are too many. Have to get away from the river.”

“Not going anywhere, boy,” the bartender said. His voice was slow. “Built this up. Going to die with her.”

Captain Tai Shi and Jung were beside Rai and Tua shortly. Tai Shi nodded, “We need to get out of here. Those who want to die can stay. The rest, follow us. We’ll head north.”

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