(Link to Part 17)
I threw myself backwards out of the reach of claws and teeth; the thing that had been Davis a moment ago was now tall, lean and furred.
Did I mention the teeth and claws?
I knew better than to try and fight without a weapon. The creature launched from the cycle, which wobbled slightly and then rolled away in haste. Maggie shouted from above, and I barely had enough sense not to take my eyes off the latest enemy. I dropped below his leap and he went over the top of me. I kicked when I turned since he wasn't fully recovered yet.
No, I didn't harbor any belief that I could win this battle. The thing was huge and mostly muscle. I had started moving sideways, hoping I could get to the cottage and inside, though I had a sudden vision of being one of the three little piggies with a wolf at the door.
The thing howled and leapt. If I dropped this time, it would land straight on top of me and I would have no chance to defend myself. I had to stand my ground, though I thought my heart would stop when I saw the mouth open wide and two sets of clawed hands come at me.
There was no way I could survive the attack --
Except I wasn't alone.
Maggie swept in and hit the thing across the head with her staff. The blow was hard enough to stagger him, and the thing let out a yip that would have put a dog to shame. It didn't go down but the attack had stunned the creature and this was the best chance I would have. I made a quick look around -- I couldn't get back to the cottage, but I did see a broken branch where it hadn't been cleaned up from the flowerbed.
I leapt aside and bent over to grab the branch. Maggie flapped overhead, her shadow passing over us as I swung the branch. I hit him in the shoulder and he leapt back with a quieter growl, dark brown eyes narrowed in anger.
I still wasn't going to be able to take the thing. It had both brute force and intelligence. It was staying out of reach of the branch, obviously knowing I wouldn't have the strength to hold it up for long.
Maggie swept in again, but this time the creature ducked and she skimmed over the top with a curse. I could see how she couldn't maneuver in too tight a turn and had to pull up to avoid the cottage.
The creature, which didn't really look like any animal in particular, though I kept thinking werewolf, bent his knees, preparing to leap. I put the branch up, ready to swing, trying to force myself to be calm and steady. I met his eyes and he blinked. I think he expected me to be terrified, and I would have been if I had a moment to long to stop and think.
It moved and I started to swing -- and realized the creature had faked me out. I couldn't stop the motion and put myself off balance trying to pull back. I went down to one knee and the creature launched himself with a scream of pleasure. He had me.
Before I could react, claws dug into my upraised arm and I dropped the branch I was holding with the other. I tried to shove at the creature --
Maggie screamed, probably unsettling me more than my enemy, though he did turn his head with a snarl that showed far too many sharp teeth. Maggie's shadow passed overhead again and the staff swung and missed.
Edmond did not. He'd launched himself from Maggie's shoulder and landed, with all claws out, across the top of the thing's head. Claws dug furrows across the forehead and nose, perhaps even catching an eye. Edmond was moving too fast to stop and he tumbled on across to the ground while the thing howled in pain and rage. Blood flowed down the face and blinded him --
I grabbed the limb and swung. My own arm ached and my body trembled with the pain, but I had my chance. I hit him across the side of the head and he staggered back, shaking his head and eyes narrowing. I moved in and hit him again because I wasn't going to get much better of a chance --
The motorcycle engine roared.
"Out of the way, Mark!" Maggie shouted.
I wasn't sure where the cycle was, but I moved anyway. It turned out to be behind the creature and with a screech of tires, it leapt forward and ran into him, sending the thing into the air.
The cycle didn't have a rider, but I did see Davis -- I hoped the real Davis -- stepping out of he cottage. He had a hand to the back of his head and a look of grim pleasure as the creature landed on it's back and had an obviously hard time getting back up. I had moved in again and was ready to swing, but the thing made one small growl, spun and ran with a looping, limping step in the opposite direction.
I went back to my knees. I stayed there, stunned and thinking maybe if I didn't move nothing else would come after me. Just stay very small and very still.
Edmond reached me first. He was limping, too, but he had the look of a very satisfied cat.
"Thank you, Edmond," I said and ran a shaky hand down his back. He gave a slight purr.
Maggie landed a couple steps away and by then Davis and the cycle had both reached us.
"Let me see your arm," Davis said. He had gotten his supplies and knelt down to take care of the claw marks. "Not too bad. Let's get you bandaged and we can go."
Before anything else happened. I didn't argue.
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