Reaver’s Return: Chapter Two


We dropped down the slope of the mountains, the Sen’ki wings beating a deep drum sound. It was freezing! I should’ve grabbed some furs.

Eventually, we dropped past the snow line, heading for a sketchy jungle on the horizon. Many of the trees were bare with the season. But the foliage was still dense.

Vandath landed in an area with few trees, gazing at the wall of the jungle ahead. “We shouldn’t need to venture into Ken’ki territory.”

“Hope not,” Maisie said, hopping out of his arms.

Evrik set me down clumsily. I managed to keep my dignity by not falling on my ass.

“Thanks, Evrik,” I said.


“C’mon, Ray-Ray,” Maisie jerked her head toward a bank of low brush.

We hunted the cold ground for her weeds. She quickly found one.

“Pull it out of the ground,” she said. “Smell the roots. If it smells like cow manure and Old Spice, keep it. If not, toss it.”

I found one, and yanked it out. Yep. Stinky. “Kyla actually drinks this stuff?”

“We don’t have medical tech like she needs, but what we figured out is some kind of nerve ailment. The baby is attached to her in the same way as the Reavers attach to mates.”

“Really? It’s a bio-chemical thing? I thought you guys hooked up by going on harrowing adventures. You know, being so close to death really gets the juices going.”

Maisie pulled up another. “Maybe both? Don’t ask me. I never even had a boyfriend before.”

I had to wonder again about her life back on Earth. Still, I was the one not getting laid.

We quickly filled a carry pouch with stink roots.

“Let’s get this done and get out of here,” Maisie said. “There have been lots of Grelzok reports in this area. There must be a cave that surfaces nearby. Maybe in the woods.”

As happy as I was to get out of the claustrophobic Aerie, I scanned the area for threats.

This planet was worse than Australia for things that wanted to kill you.

There was a strange feeling in the air. A vibration. No clouds hung on the horizon, only a misty winter fog.

“They wouldn’t come out in the daylight, would they?” I asked.

“We don’t know. Up until recently, even the Reavers had never heard of the subterraneans.” She snatched another weed, sniffed, and tossed it. “Maybe just a few more.”

Evrik called from a distance. “Are you nearly done?”

It seemed my case of the jitters was contagious.

“Couple more minutes—”


Vandath suddenly took to the air. When he freed his bladed spear, my heart froze.

“Tirac! Yehan! What are you doing here?”

A moment later, I saw two big men racing from the trees. They had green skin with turquoise stripes. They were running their tails off. Literal tails.

“Preika!” Tirac shouted breathlessly.

“Stampede!” his partner yelled.

Then, I realized the heavy, rolling feeling in the air wasn’t thunder. The ground shook.

I knew what neika were. My boots were made from the golden hide of the gentle, deer-like critters.

But preika?

They burst from the trees, antlers spread broadly, hooves kicking up mud as they charged. Even from here, I could see the gnashing of sharp fangs. Not at all like neika.

“Get us out of here!” I ran toward Evrik.

But he took to the sky!


The striped guys turned, firing arrows at the wave of rushing deer flesh. Two fell. The others just trampled over their bodies.

“Shit,” Maisie said. In a split second, her sling whistled through the air. A loosed stone felled another preika. Arrows took down a few more.

Above, the Sen’ki swooped in, trying to drive the herd off.

My sling was out. This was pretty asinine, trying to kill a whole herd of the things.

Maisie had taught me well. I knocked one off its feet.

But they weren’t diverting, despite the fallen frontrunners.

We needed to get airborne!

Vandath dove in front of us. His nakav killed a deer that nearly trampled us. One behind fell atop the dying one.

“Up!” Maisie cried.


She dragged me, climbing up the fallen deer. More joined the collision. We leaped on the back of one that tried to turn.

Would we really be safer on top?

“Maisie! Raelyn!”

Vandath swooped in, Evrik on his tail. But their maneuver caused our mount to bolt to the side.

I gripped dark fur, holding on for dear life. Maisie gripped the spread of spiky antlers.

“Maze, turn around!” I said.

In an awkward but amazing move, she faced me on the running preika’s back. “Why?”

“Get up, get a foot on my shoulder. If I boost you, Vandath can grab you!”

“What about you?”

The sea of dark brown deer surged around us, still on the rampage. A moment later, I understood why.

Arrows jutted from the animal next to us. They weren’t the fletched weapons of the Ken’ki.

Distantly, I saw pale figures among the trees, firing, hoarse voices urging the stampede.


“Vandath!” Masie and I shouted together.

She got up on her knees. I took one of her hands. Her foot landed on my shoulder.

Maisie stepped up—instantly, her weight left me.

Looking up, I saw Vandath holding her by one hand as he flew.

Evrik swooped toward me.

I tried to move upward, the churning muscles of the animal beneath me making it a challenge.

Getting on my knees, I reached my hand toward the oncoming angel.

He screamed, practically falling from the sky.

Blood rained down.

An arrow had pierced his arm.

I lost sight of him as I had to grip fur to stay atop the running preika.

How long before it turned its head, snapping at me with its fangs?

More Grelzok arrows hissed through the air. More deer dropped.

For an instant, I saw Tirac fire at the enemy, then at the deer.

Then, a glimpse of Yehan sprinting for his life.

Wait. The sling was wrapped around my fist.

I whipped one end though the air. It wrapped around the preika’s neck. I caught it as it came around. Instant reins.

Like I knew what to do with reins.

The efforts of Tirac, joined by Vandath from above, turned the stampede.

Back toward the trees.

Where the Grelzoks waited, firing their bows.

“Son of a…”

The deer next to me collided with my makeshift mount. Which made the preika beneath me ram another.

My makeshift leash kept me on board.

The wall of trees moved closer. I could see the glow of the Grelzok’s eyes in the deep shadows of tattered hoods. Hunched backs made their long arms nearly touch the ground. Those not aiming bows.

“No! No! Turn!”

Maybe I had a handle, but not a steering wheel.

“This is bad. This is so bad.”

The animal in front of me reared, an arrow jutting from its neck. My mount tried to run over it.

No good. I felt it stumble beneath me.

I was going down.

Desperately, I turned to look back.

Vandath swooped toward me.

Arrows drove him away.


I fell to my hands and knees. Rolled through cold mud. Got up.

Chaos ensued, animals rushing at me. One stopped, hooves slashing just over my head.

I tried to run, but the fanged deer were everywhere. Running. Falling. Dying.

In my freaking way!

“Git!” I waved my arms, my sling. “Git, deer!”

They pushed me back into the trees.

Wrong way!

But at least I could avoid a trampling.

Something I couldn’t avoid was the pale hand that grabbed my arm.

I looked on in horror. Translucent white skin that had never seen the sun covered a claw.

It yanked me around.

Half a dozen faced me, several with bows drawn.

Eyes were pinpricks of light. Their pale hair grew from just above the ugly, huge ridge of their brows. No foreheads. Cheekbones jutted. No chins.

“She!” it sounded like my captor said.

“She! She!” Others repeated it.

I tried to yank from its grip.

All I got for my effort was a slap that sent me spinning to the forest floor.

Blood flooded my mouth.

I got to my knees. My head swam. This was not the kind of male attention I’d craved.

“She!” the creature said again.

I didn’t even see the blow coming.

Cold hands gripped me everywhere.

I was lifted. Carried.

And then I lost track of everything.

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