**Please note – this is a first draft, so further editing and amendments are (highly!) likely before the final publication, hopefully before the end of 2018**
As night drew its dark wings in, Dax flew low over a wide expanse of scrubland, his eyes straining into the failing light for signs of the Hawkers. Although exhausted, he was slightly heartened by the thought of the Hawker he had dispatched to the Citadel, meaning there was one less pair of eyes watching out for him. Nonetheless, he kept low, using all cover when available, even though he was unable to sense either Desticia or the Jraconoid up ahead.
With the Hawker territory looming somewhere not far ahead, Dax found himself reckless in thoughts of his own safety. He knew that the scrubland he was speeding over was prime hunting ground for many creatures that would happily snap up a passing Jracon, but what else could he do? Could he assume Desticia would wait out the night herself, being so close to her homelands and potential back up? No, he had to push on and take any challenges that arose.
With the land quietening down for the night, a stillness and calm settled across the scrubland, just the occasional chatter of a nervous blackbird, or the crrrrrrrrk of a nocturnal insect looking for love.
At the furthest extent of Dax’s night vision, he spotted a shadowy line of oak trees striding up a low slope, from which he could hear the cackling and cawing of a flock of corvids, probably jackdaws by the sounds of it.
Knowing they would be settling down for the night like every other self respecting creature, Dax paid them no heed and aimed for the gap between two of the ancient trunks. It was not until he was just a few seconds away from the tree line that he realised the birds up in the canopy had gone strangely hushed.
At first he figured the quiet was due to a predator of some sort passing close by, but his senses had picked up no such life force; just the birds themselves and the multitude of bugs and beasts that lived on the oaks as well. It was then that he noticed a large clump of nettles at the base of one of the trees; its crumbling, desiccated stalks testimony to a very recent over-absorption of Vivo, probably just a little earlier that evening judging by the state of decay. Desticia!
Luckily for Dax he had been paying close attention to the Vivo around him, for it gave him a split second warning that something was amiss. As one, the jackdaws, numbering maybe two dozen, plummeted down out of the upper branches, heading straight for Dax, heedless to the branches, twigs and leaves that stood in their way, feathers torn from their bodies in the headlong dive towards him.
To get up to speed on Dax’s adventures thus far, why not download “The Jracon’s Burden” from all good online bookstores here