Arga halted next to him. Without looking at him, Kren knew the edges of his friend’s pointed ears grew more cuplike as his had, seeking to capture any sound. In a whisper so low it might have been an errant breeze, Arga asked, “Something?”
His voice just as low, Kren said, “Listen. The nightflyers are silent. Something has spooked them. Whatever is out there, it’s nearby.”
His skin automatically armored, answering the instinct for protection. Malleable flesh was now as rock hard as a hiser’s hide, protecting all vulnerable organs from harm. Laser shot or projectile bursts could penetrate armored Risnarish skin, but blunt trauma and even puncture wounds were deflected. If Kren was about to encounter a wild animal, he was well protected.
Arga’s striped skin rippled as he too armored. He took a deep breath and his eyes widened. “I smell something. Not overwhelmingly awful, but not pleasant either.”
Kren caught a whiff of it as well. The smell was sour, a little like tog milk that had been left out in the sun. He exchanged at look with his partner. The recent rash of Tysu sightings often included reports of smelling something strange. This certainly qualified.
He nodded to Arga. They went off the path, following the scent through less densely packed foliage. Certainly something could have moved through the area with little problem. He could still make out patches of underbrush here and there in the remaining light from the huge planet hanging in the night sky. As Kren noted broken twigs and disturbed needles from the surrounding trees, he felt sure something had passed through.
Yes, the sour odor was strengthening, growing bright in Kren’s nostrils. His mane stoodup straight on his neck and spine. His hand sprouted a couple of extra fingers as he grabbed the stunner wand on his belt. Had it been the telltale oily scent of a drone or the dry husk smell of a Monsudan, he would have armed himself with his spray shooter. This was no known enemy however. Probably some animal, sick or infected.
Arga had his wand out too, firmly gripping the telescoping rod with six fingers and a thumb. “That stink—” he started to whisper.
He was interrupted by a high-pitched cry, something that sounded similar to a small child’s wail. A shrub a few steps away shivered – and a bipedal creature burst out from behind it.
Kren had the impression of pale flesh and long, whipping hair. Absurdly slender arms and legs flailed as the creature ran deeper into the woods, crashing through the underbrush as it went. The abrupt appearance of so bizarre an animal stopped him and Arga in their tracks.
Arga yelled in his shock. “Shit! Did you see that?”
Kren didn’t answer. His momentary shock flew from him and he plunged into the woods after the Tysu. He heard Arga’s thunderous tread behind him and the creature’s wild flight in front. The two men raced after the off-putting smell and noise of the being crashing through the underbrush.
Release date not set.