Something burst up out of the pool. It might once have been a tree. It was the gray of old, weathered wood. It tottered on the edge of the pool for a moment, clawing and slapping at itself. Its body was a broad, seamed trunk, gashed here and there as if struck by lightning, bent by unimaginable eons of life. It screamed, a terrible, lost sound that shook Netra to her core. Then it seemed to notice her for the first time and turned towards her. Its eyes were deep holes that burned red, its mouth a long, vertical slit.
“You!” it howled. “Deceiver! She lied! She lied and now He takes his revenge on us. Now we pay for her crime!”
It screamed again and clawed at itself, scoring its body with long gouges. Netra felt a jolt and then she was beyond, just for a moment, shoved there by the waves of strange Song that roiled from the creature. And from that otherworldly place she saw what was driving it mad. She could see the black things swarming over it, chewing at its akirma, trying to force their way in.
Then it came at her. Netra tried to run but it was too fast. A limb snapped out and wrapped around her throat and she was lifted into the air. Futilely she clawed at it, her vision fast going black.
All at once there was a roar and from the corner of her vision she saw a copper blur. There was an impact, and then she was falling. She landed hard on her side and rolled free. Choking, she crawled to her knees in time to see a huge, copper-skinned creature deliver a mighty, two-handed blow to the thing. It was a blow that could have cracked rock, and it staggered the thing so that it fell backwards a couple of steps. Instantly, the creature launched himself at it again, grunting with exertion as he landed each blow.
Her savior was huge, shaped like a man, but head and shoulders taller than the tallest man, and twice as wide. He wore a brown cloak over tanned leather clothing, and under the cloak she saw flashes of weapons, probably swords, though they looked small next to him. For some reason he had chosen to attack the thing with his fists rather than a weapon.
The thing howled its rage and frustration and swung at its tormentor. But he was fast and he ducked the first, then dodged the second blow. But the thing had too many limbs and he couldn’t avoid the third and it struck him in the ribcage, hard enough that he was thrown through the air and slammed into the pile of boulders.
Almost instantly her savior was back on his feet, flinging himself at the monster with savage determination, landing a new flurry of blows. But, though the blows rocked the creature and even made it cry out, Netra could see that it was not harmed. No wounds appeared on its weathered hide and its movements did not slow.
Once again it caught her savior with a wild strike and he was thrown down on his back, the air coming from him in a grunt. Now there was blood running down his face and Netra felt his pain and knew he had been wounded internally. Before he could come to his feet the thing lurched over to him and bent to pick him up.
As the thing bent over him, he suddenly moved. One foot shot out, catching the monster low on one warped leg. There was a loud cracking noise, like old dead wood shattering, and the thing fell heavily on top of him. Before it hit, he was already moving, rolling to the side.
Screaming in some strange tongue, he leapt on the thing and began to pummel it in the face was, striking it over and over between the deep-set eyes. The thing shivered and cried out in a strange tongue and for a moment Netra thought she had been wrong. Perhaps he could kill this thing after all.
Then it rolled and one huge hand like a dead tree limb closed around her savior’s torso. Unsteadily, because of the shattered limb, it came to its feet, while he fought to get free, to strike at the thing’s face again. But its grip was as implacable as a mountain. It raised him over its head, then began to pound him on the ground.