Fury crouched beside the rock face, the familiar heat beating down on her. She couldn’t help the sigh which escaped. She stood in an area that was completely shaded and it was still almost unbearable. For two sun cycles a day, Crais experienced an eclipse. This was the only time the tribes could leave the caves.
Fury was weaker than they were for some reason, and could only be above ground for one cycle. This rendered her almost useless during the search for food, but still she persisted, hoping the forced exposure would increase her ability to withstand the heat. Plus she went insane being stuck underground all the time.
As she scanned the ground, her eyes squinting against the red glow reflecting off the dead surfaces, she couldn’t see any animals close by. She shifted her stance so her back was against the black rock, but she misjudged the sunlight and her arm grazed the edge.
Ouch. The sizzle was her first indication of a burn, followed by a sharp sting. The pain started quickly, but faded away as she healed. She’d always been a fast healer – luckily – since she burnt at first touch of the scorching Crais suns’ light, even during the eclipse. She took a deep breath, though she didn’t know why she bothered – there was about five percent oxygen above ground – most of the air was carbon monoxide vapors. The inhabitants had adapted to survive, but it wasn’t pleasant. Fury thought it tasted a lot like ash.
Following the shaded rock face, Fury ducked from one overhanging crevice to the next. The land surrounding her was barren. Red cracked rock spanned as far as the eye could see. On the surface Crais was a dead planet. Its two suns beat down with an intense heat that very few could survive. Except for two cycles a day when the larger, but weaker sun, Draini, would eclipse the smaller, Jarune. These cycles allowed her people to walk on the surface to hunt larger game. Otherwise they existed only on the animals and vegetation that survived in their underground cavern of tunnels and chambers.
A loud screech echoed directly above her. Fury dropped as adrenalin flooded her system. Oh, hell! She was in big trouble now; that sounded like a dragoona. The large scaled creatures were the rulers of this land and, unlike the tribes, had evolved to withstand the heat. Their food was directly linked to the suns’ rays, so the lack of water and green nourishment did not weaken them. It took a large group of Crais hunters to kill a dragoona and on these rare occasions the tribes ate well for months.
But Fury didn’t have a hope.
They not only had the strength of a hundred men, but were well armored with large spiny-tipped scales. They could breathe fire and fly. She, on the other hand, could do none of those things, and could not even step out from her shady prison. If the dragoona noticed her, her best hope was that it left her alone and didn’t decide she was worth pursuing for trespassing on its territory.
She shifted again, dispelling the small stones that were littered around her feet. Today was one of those days she should have just stayed underground with the other females.
Another screech sounded. It was closer than before and Fury knew her luck was about to run out. The first indication that she’d been spotted was the large gusts of hot, dry wind blowing her white hair off her face. There was no breeze on Crais, so that could only be from the thrusts of powerful wings.
The dragoona dropped over the cliff face and, with its four taloned legs extended, it descended toward Fury. She hit the scorching dirt, her arm and bare shoulder brushing the sunlight again with another painful hiss, but she had no time to worry about that right now. Dragging herself backwards, she headed for the tiny fissure that was about ten feet from her current position.
She’d moved just in time.
The dragoona’s heavy body thumped into the spot she’d just vacated, ripping out large chunks of the solid rock in its attempt to grab her. Regrouping, it was now circling around to come in for another attack. Fury continued her scurry along the scorching cliff edge before finally reaching the crevice.
She dived inside.
The dragoona would still know she was there, but it was too large to fit its talons inside. She hoped it didn’t think to use fire power, because then she was a goner.
It descended again, fast and missile-like, its screech almost deafening. Powerful legs tipped with large talons clawed at the rocks around her. This dragoona had an almost iridescent green sheen to its scales and she was mesmerized by the unusual color, forgetting for a moment that the beauty she beheld was trying to kill her.
But colors were so rare.
On Crais’ surface everything was the shade of burning and death: red and black. The other main shade was the white hair of the nomad tribes, from where Fury’s mother was born.