Everything was bathed in red in the ominous red light of the eclipse. From the sky to the castle walls all the way down to the planks of the drawbridge that Thorn\'s feet drummed on as he sprinted across. The portcullis stood wide open; the guard had been taken by surprise by the wisps before they could lower it. Valiant didn\'t even have to duck to follow his riders quickly into under the archway and into the main courtyard. The scene that met them was straight out of a nightmare. Kali had survived the fall but lay bleeding heavily from a head wound, her legs were trapped firmly under the lifeless Geiger. The giant gryph was limp, blood oozed from a deep wound in his sholder but he was still breathing. It was like the whole world had been painted with that blood and if the wrath had her way it soon would be.
The attack came suddenly and with lightning speed. Kali\'s scream of \'LOOK OUT!\' gave Thorn just enough warning to turn in time to see the giant rhakos leaping from the ramparts, her talons and murderous gaze aimed for valiant. The brown and white tyto screeched in alarm and threw himself sideways to avoid the razor-sharp talons aimed at his head. Both tyto and rhakos meet the ground hard and fast. Valiant sprawling on his side across the cobbles. The wrath on her feet, ready for the next attack. The impact of her landing and the following ear-splitting roar seemed to shake castle walls themselves. Bathed in red light the wrath was twice the size of any of the rhakos that had already been caught, she made Valiant look like a hatchling by comparison. Her dark mottled coat was thick and ragged. Here and there the red light of corruption glowed through the heavy fur-like feathers. The elaborate tangle of horns protruding from her head and piercing red eyes only heightened her demonic look. She surely was a creature from the dark afterworld! Red dripped from her open maw as she turned her attention to the humans.
Thorn couldn’t help but look at her frozen in horror. This wasn’t like all the other rhakos. They had been terrifying and hard enough to catch but none of them had been this big or been able to brush off a direct hit from Geiger’s fire breath. It seemed the odds were stacked up against them this time. Still Valiant wasn’t about to give up. As soon as he saw the monstrous rhakos stalking towards the human’s, the tough tyto sprang to his feet and launched his own attack. A loud battle cry ripped from his open beak as he sprang forward. Wings open wide and his talons up ready to slash and stab. The wrath was taken off balance by the speedy attack and went crashing down to the cobbles tangled up with the smaller stryx. For a moment it was impossible to tell which stryx had the upper hand. Feathers flew and cries of pain could be heard from both dragons. Blood splattered across the cobblestones looking more like ink in the crimson light. Thorn drew his sword but before he could go to his noble steads aid another cry from Kali drew his attention away from the wrestling stryx.
Still half trapped under her fallen stryx the general was trying to do battle with two red wisps. One had already latched onto her shoulder with a strangely deformed wolf head while the other a withered looking raven wisp darted in and out trying to find a feeding spot of its own. Kali\'s face was drawn in pain as she tried to rip the first wolf wisp from her shoulder with her bare hands. For a split second Thorn was torn between his stryx and his general. It was with a clenched jaw he made his decision. Valiant was holding his own, white and brown fathers might have been littering the ground around the two struggling stryx but even with the size difference between him and the rhakos Valiant was a skilled fighter. Kali was injured and unarmed, she needed his help more. Staggering forward Thorn drew his sword and made for Kali. He swept his weapon at the raven wisp with a snarl that echoed Valiant’s behind him. The creature seemed to burst at the touch of steel; its shape collapsed into a fine red mist. The wolf let go of Kali and came darting at him its little blood-stained mouth open in a silent howl. It was more luck than skill that Thorn managed to bring his sword up in time to burst the second wisp before it reached his face. Sword still in hand Thorn quickly put his shoulder to Geiger and pushed but it was no use. The gryph wasn’t moving and both he and Kali knew it.
“Give me your belt knife and help your stryx!!” Kali\'s voice was strained with pain but the tone made it clear it was an order, not a suggestion. A grim expression plastered on his face Thorn followed the orders and quickly handed over his belt knife before turning to the fighting stryx.
The wrath was on her back with Valiant on top but it didn’t look good. Valiant\'s neck was clamped firmly in the larger stryx’s jaws, one of his wings was limp while the other beat furiously trying to break away from his opponent. Both stryx had scored great ragged cuts along each other undersides with their sharp talons. The crimson light from the eclipse made it hard to tell if the blood smeared across Valiant was from other wounded or the ones on his chest. What was clear was Valiant was losing. The tytos struggle was getting weaker and less coordinated. The wrath’s hold around his neck was so tight he was running out of air. With a desperate cry, Thorn ran towards the pair. He wasn’t sure what he could do. He was just one small human, if Valiant couldn’t subdue the beast he had no chance. But he had to try. He couldn’t leave Valiant and Kali to die; he had to do something no matter how foolish it seemed. So aiming for one of the wraith’s red eyes he lunged with a wordless cry.
The scream of pain that ripped from the rhakos throat was so loud it made Thorn feel as though his head would be split open by the sound. His sword was violently wrenched out of his hand, still buried in the monstrous rhakos eye. He was weaponless but he had done what he wanted to. Screaming its pain the wrath had released her grip on valiant and the pied tyto had wasted no time in stumbling away from the bigger stryx, his limp wing almost tripping him over. Thorn wasn’t quite as fast in his retreat. Shaking her head desperately to dislodge the sword the wraiths horns caught him and sent him flying through the caught yard archway to land heavily on the drawbridge with a solid thud. The air was driven out of his lungs by the impact and more than a few ribs had succumbed to the hard landing. All Thorn could do was gasp for air as The wrath turned her single eye on him and roared her furry before lurching forward ready to claim the life of the human that had just caused her so much pain. All thorn could do was look at his death coming for him. He couldn’t move, he didn’t have a weapon and even if he had he wouldn’t have stood a chance. He knew this was the end.
But even as the rhakos advanced on him he saw a movement behind her. A blur of white and brown feathers. Tears welled in his eyes. He didn’t have the breath to shout out to his dragon-bird but he willed the brave tyto to hear his desperate thought ‘No! Run! Save yourself! You’re already hurt! You can’t win!’ but it wasn’t the wrath Valiant’s claws were aimed at. But the housing of the portcullis chain just before the archway. Valiants claws ripped through the housing like it was nothing, gears and pulleys gave way. Bending, breaking and wrenching free of their possessions. The rhakos turned, alarmed by the sound but it was too late. The heavy portcullis came crashing down with a mighty rattle of chains. She tried to dogged it but only succeeded in aligning herself with the slits at the bottom of the oak and steel grid. Instead of spearing the wrath through the neck, the massive wood and metal grid door dragged her to the ground with its weight. Trapped, the wrath screamed. Her horns clattered against the oak and steel as she struggled but it was no use. She was strong but not strong enough to lift the portcullis single-handedly. Even if she had been the thing had been enchanted long ago. The only way that gate was comeing up was if Maja wanted it to. Tears streamed down Thorns face as he looked past the tapped monster to Valiant. Somehow they had survived. Not untouched but survived. It was over, at last.