Excerpt Larik spun around and cracked the reins, ramming Tufex's horns into… nothing. Every attack he launched missed. The Kipzians didn't even try to attack him, that he'd noticed. They only ran, engaged no one. Taking out the limbs first.
General Zart's division filled the gaps in Larik's, thickening the wall against the Kipzians. They still managed to break through, sliding below attacks and jumping above, two rivers of bright red converging on a single point. Tufex stung out repeatedly, but every strike missed by less than an inch. These men rode closer to death than any enemy Larik had gone against, even closer thanhe would have ridden to the sting of a manticore.
The Kipzians avoided them all, but never struck. Not really. They scratched with horns and whipped out, striking with the sides of their tails, but did nothing to kill. Larik didn't understand until they'd pushed through half of the army. They'd opened a path to Bincha.. Why, he couldn't say, but they did. Amid the red of the Kipzians, his mount looked solid, steely gray. The long-haired rider Larik had locked eyes with rushed straight for Bincha, his mount throwing waves of sand back with every strike of paw to ground.
A sudden movement pulled Larik's attention away. On the smaller hill, the mage corps dropped their invisibility. He saw them raise something, some sort of gray stone, and start maneuvering it, but he didn't risk a real look. Instead, he forced Tufex forward, rushing in to help Bincha even though he knew he wouldn't arrive in time. Damn fool.
The rider he'd seen before locked his manticore's horns with Bincha's, lodged them together in an unbreakable hold. The two beasts warred, both pulling back, but the Kipzian won out. His manticore stood a bit shorter than Bincha's, but he swung and tossed his beast's head, keeping Bincha off balance. They inched ever-closer to the mouth of the tunnel.
"Move!" Larik hit Tufex's sides, harder than he needed to, probably. The roar, like the trumpets of the Gods, forced all the other manticores away, clearing a straight shot. He pushed as much speed as he could from Tufex. Wind slapped against his face.
General Zart chased after him, screaming, "Stop, Lieutenant! That's an order!"
"That's one of my men!" Horns first, he crashed into the two locked manticores, breaking the hold. The three of them tumbled into the cave. Larik wheeled around. "Bincha, go back!" He led Tufex lower to the ground, tightened his fingers over the reins. Bincha darted away, leaving Larik to face off with the Kipzian. The spines on Larik's boots brushed through Tufex's fur, ready to launch the beast into an attack.
Something up at the mage corps' hill caught his eye. Up there, a pillar of gray stone shined, casting multicolored rays of light from the top. Six of the mages moved the pillar, pointing the top straight at the cave. The rest of them stood behind it, the same light that came from the pillar emanating from their bodies, joinining it in one massive aura.
"Lieutenant Larik, get out of there now!" Zart waved a red flag at him. "They're going to blow the cave! It's the last one!"
The skin on the back of Larik's neck tightened. The hair on his arms prickled. "The last what?"
Zart spat out an obscenity. "Just get out of there!"
Get out. Larik rushed closer to the exit, but the Kipzian nobleman blocked his way, the body of his manticore a wall of red. Tufex rammed his horns forward, but the Kipzian jumped, lashing out with his manticore's tail. The side hit Tufex and knocked them both back.
Larik pushed Tufex forward again and shouted, "Stall them!" over his shoulder. The end of his sentence cut off in a rumble, and not one from a manticore. The cave shook. "Damn it!" The hardest kick he'd ever given Tufex. They rammed into the Kipzian's flank, but red sandstone already showered down. "Damn the Gods!" The rest of the cavalry disappeared as rock piled into the mouth of the cave. General Zart's words echoed in his mind. It's the last one!
He never got his question answered: what was this the last of?