Night Beasts

Little writing exercise/warmup. Not much context but would happen before Hickory met Lunan, probably when he was about 16. Will probably be expanded on.

It had been many hours of dreaming before Lunan heard the tapping at his window. At first, he believed it to be part of his dream. And then the unmistakable hiccup of his best friend jolted him awake, like a puppet finally pulled up by its master. He blinked in the darkness, waiting for his vision to adjust. It had not been this dark in his sleep. His curtains blew inwards due to a gust of wind. It looked like the gown of a wavering ghost.
He looked to the window, where the silhouette of a grim face rose into sight. He shuddered at the thought that it could literally be anything but Claus.
“Claus?”
“You have to help me.”
Lunan’s muscles relaxed at the familiar voice. He tossed his sheets aside and stood by the window. “What’s happening?”
“Idon’tknowbutshe’srunaway!”
“Who ran away?”
“Rebecca and and there’s been tales of gargoyles and night beasts LUNAN they’re going to eat her alive!”
Lunan glanced at the boy who was currently climbing in through his window. “How did you even get up here? My room is on the fourth floor!”
“I climbed- we have to find her now. Get dressed.”
Lunan blinked at him, still confused about what was going on. He found a sweater, some pants, before Claus rushed him towards the window. Lunan grabbed his shoulder and spun him around. “Hey. You need to stand still for a second and calm down.”
Claus’s shoulders heaved up and down with his spastic breaths. Lunan released his shoulder, but held his gaze. Claus huffed and puffed, until the tension of his chest released and Lunan was able to talk to him reasonably.
“What happened to Rebecca? Tell me again this time so I can actually tell what you are saying.”
He sighed. It seemed to ripple through his torso. “She’s gone. And it’s my fault.”
“Why did she run away? And do you know exactly where she went?”
He was quiet. “I can’t tell you why.”
Lunan felt stung. “Why?”
“It’s personal.”
“To you or to her?”
“…Her.”
Lunan let out a loud breath. “You really aren’t giving me much information-”
Claus grabbed his wrist. Eyes brimmed red and eyelids drooping heavily. “Please. Please. Just trust me and help me find her.”
“You really believe she’s in danger?”
Claus nodded.
“Alright then.”
The two of them slipped out from the palace through the secret catacombs below the dungeons. They ran through dripping tunnels, listening to the empty echo of their boots beating against stone. They didn’t speak, just ran. When they came to a staircase, they climbed to the top and felt above them. There was heavy metal door sealing the exit. Lunan pressed his hands to the ceiling and pushed. He grunted and let his hands fall away as he realized how immense the weight was. “Help me here,” he motioned to the door. Claus reached up and they both strained to push it off. Claus was much stronger than him, though it didn’t show much in his lanky figure.
A creak of moonlight streamed in from the surface. A few stray moonbeams drifted down into the tunnel. The door was slowly being pried open, the rectangle of light becoming larger with each shove of their hands. Finally they managed to fling it to the side. They crawled up out into the teeming darkness of the wood. Greyish blue trunks towered above them against the velvet night. Claus darted around frantically. He glanced down at the endless layers and layers of tree, eyes conveying his fear for the lost girl. Lunan only looked at the stars. Rebecca was a soft heart. She only erupted once in a blue moon. She never complained about her circumstance. For her to run away…Lunan swallowed hard. The situation must have been absolutely dire.
His eyes trailed away from the milky stars and fell on his best friend. His body was tense, his fists clenching and unclenching slowly. It was the most threatening stance Lunan had ever seen him in.
“Where do we start?” He asked softly.
Claus didn’t turn around. “We search until we find signs of her.”
“What if-”
He turned around, thick black eyebrows tightening. “I don’t want to think about ‘what if’.”
Lunan didn’t say anything, but he was terrified to be here at this hour. His mother told him the most deviant of beasts awakened when the sky was this black and the moon this full. Rebecca was in just as much danger as they were. He made sure to stick close behind Claus. Tree by tree they passed, the forest got denser, sparser, and then denser again. Lunan shivered and hugged himself as a crisp breeze breathed through his clothes. He could see Claus’s angry breath materialize in front of him. They saw no one, and they ran into nothing. That is, that’s what he thought until Claus stopped abruptly. Before he could grunt or object, Claus pressed his fingers to his lips in a violent shushing motion. He pointed in front of him to an odd lump of shapes looming beyond the trees. As Lunan squinted, he began to make out figures. Small, sleek figures with long pointed ears that hung behind their heads. They were huddled up in a circle, beating veiny, bat-like wings. Lunan’s heart nearly stopped. Instead of stopping, it let out one enormous palpitation and then hundreds of smaller, quicker pulses. He stayed with Claus behind the tree, his fragile hand gripping the biting bark. The creatures backed away from their kin, spreading wings and screeching like owls. Lunan stepped back, tugged on Claus’s sleeve. He wanted to run. They had to get away before-
Sharp, fur covered heads tossed and looked in their general direction. Before he could even move they had lunged forward about ten feet, and then fifteen, and then they were close enough to jump forward once more and bite his ankles. The boys ran, screaming into the chilly glade. Lunan could feel the beasts on his heels, he could hear their wings whipping behind his head. They couldn’t hide in a tree, for the creatures could fly. There was little cover besides the branches. There was no use in wasting his breath, in burning his lungs this way. They were going to die. He prepared himself for the pain of teeth chewing into his back. He slowed down as he heard Claus scream. “Rebecca!”
Would all three of them die together?
She stood in front of them, stretching out twig-like wrists. Suddenly the beasts left them and swarmed around her. Her arms fell and the creatures sat down like eager kindergarteners. She smiled apologetically. “Forgive me, boys. I thought you were someone else.”

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