AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a tale of a world young and wild, where demons lurk, magics hold power, and old gods touch the earth. Whether it's our world long, long ago in a lost age, or some other world removed in time and space, I honestly do not know. Perhaps I'll figure it out by the end of the story :)
This is also a story about power... about the power of the mind, the spirit, and body. It's a story about having power, and using power, and abusing power. Because I have a particular love of big, muscled, athletic guys, and combat sports like wrestling, often throughout this tale contests of power will take place in this arena, because I can write it with some notion of what I'm about. When battles are fought in the arenas of magic, demons, and gods, well, obviously then I'm entirely without any reference in reality, and apologies if those portions of the story suck :) However, I like a universe with some rules, so the magic you see here won't be the Arthurian legend Merlin kind, it will be governed by some physical laws, though those laws may not be immediately apparent.
This is also the story of two young men who face something that all young men must face; the realization that the world does not work the way they thought it did, and it's much larger, and more dangerous, than they could have imagined.
Lastly, this being an erotic story archive, I feel this is somewhat unnecessary, but here it is anyway: There's sex in these paragraphs... loving sex, rough sex, forced sex, gay sex, straight sex. Mostly gay, loving, rough sex, but hey, not *every* character in this story can be a guy who likes cock. :) If sex in all its various forms and temperments is offensive or unappealing to you, click the lefty-pointing arrow on your browser toolbar, now.
Just a quick mention, as some friends to whom I've shown this story have been confused on the subject. "Zyr" is pronounced ZIGH-er, as in the sound of the word "eye" with a "z" at the beginning, followed by an "er" sound. "Kor" is pronounced CORE. Also, "Uridi" is pronounced oo-REE-dee, and "Kuur", as in "The Empire of Kuur", is pronounced COOR, as in "Coors Light Beer". "Valtoth" is pronounced just like it's spelled, though his last name, Quen, is pronounced KEN, as in "Barbie and Ken". As I make up other weird names, and find that my proof readers have trouble saying them, I'll add further pronunciation guides.
I hope everyone digs this story, please let me know what you think... email@example.com
Prologue: The Hunter and the Hunted
The hot sun beat mercilessly down on the Plains of Charnock, shimmering waves of heat billowing off of the arid veldt. Across the two hundred league expanse of scrub and grassland, life huddled near the cool relief of the several springs and lakes which sparsely dotted the landscape. Near one such, the eastern-most, which lay hard by the trees and brush which another few leagues to the east grew into the forbidding Green Tangle, a small pride of greth gathered to water themselves. The rest of the animals gathered there gave them wide berth... no creature would have gotten even this close to such a fierce hunter as a greth, but the brutal heat of the day had forced a truce between all predators and prey. Almost all, that is. Who would have guessed the greth were being stalked?
On a ridge overlooking the clear blue pool, crouched behind a dense bush, Zyr of the Uridi waited patiently, never taking his eyes from his prey. As he balanced himself, ready to spring, he slowly flexed and relaxed the muscles of his body, to prevent cramping. Zyr was a Hunter, was one of the greatest of his people, and he knew the patience of waiting out prey.
Zyr's sun-tanned skin glowed with the sweat which ran freely down his back, dripped from his nose, trickled down between the thick plates of his chest, to dampen the ground beneath him and soak his soft hide breechcloth and braided leather belt, at which hung his long hunting knife. His hair, burned clear of almost all color from the sun, bleached to a gold so pale it was almost white, was cut ragged and short; when it became a nuisence, Zyr simply hacked it off with his hunting knife. Around his neck, he wore a thin, braided leather cord from which hung the totem of his people, the Eye of the Uridi, the icon of their ancestors. Aside from his breechcloth, belt, and the sacred totem, he was naked save for his thick leather sandals. Charnock and the Tangle were hot places, and Zyr had no need of more clothing.
As he watched below the greth which was his target, a strong young male, stood and stretched lazily, its stone-hard and powerful muscles bunching and knotting as it moved, flowing beneath its hide, which was mottled black and yellow by the beast's short hair. The young bull cat yawned, revealing the sharp black teeth, long and sharp enough to punch through the hide of anything on the veldt. The claws on a greth were not so dangerous; they were thick, short, and blunt, meant to grip the dry grassland soil when sprinting after prey. But the teeth, the teeth were fearsome weapons. The male stood a moment, as though considering his surroundings, and then began to wander away from the pool and away from the rest of his pride. This was the moment Zyr had waited for; the young, powerful males, newly come to their status in the pride, would often try to flaunt their might by napping away from the saftey of the others. As Zyr watched, he felt anticipation swell in his blood; this male must be vey mighty, indeed. It chose to settle itself far away from the oasis, and clearly the luck of the Great Father was with him, as the beast was still upwind.
Zyr studied the spot for a moment, then backed carefully down the ridge, still in his crouch until out of sight of the pool, then he came to his feet and loped the rest of the way to the foot of the slope. Though only in his seventeenth summer, and nearing his eighteenth year of life, Zyr was already a big, powerful man. Despite his boyish, unlined face, smooth skin, and clear blue eyes, he was the tallest in his village by half a head. But his great height didn't make Zyr look lanky or thin, the way height does to a man. He looked thick and powerful, in the way the Hunters three or four heads shorter than he looked. His shoulders were broad, thick and meaty, the size of some smaller men's head. His thick, corded neck bulged down to meet the heavy, ropy planes of his mighty back. His arms, far larger than any other man's he'd seen, were massive, and his forearms matched them, bunching with strength and three times the size of most men's, which gave his large, meaty hands their tremendous power. Zyr could crush nuts, and wood, and some types of stone in his bare hands. Zyr's chest muscles were massive and powerful, standing out clearly defined, each one the width of a smaller man's whole chest, and bulging thickly, standing out over two hands breadth from his ribs. Below this fortress of muscle, the ridged, rock-hard mucsles of his torso gleamed, brutally tough; Zyr trained the strength of his belly by smashing stones against it. All his muscle was hard as stone. At his side, below his arms, the thick, broad muscles of his back shone out again, wide as the wings of a bird. His great frame narrowed at the waist, looking very small on him (when in fact, round his waist, he was thicker than all the healthy men of his home), then his frame swelled outward again, to the huge muscles of his haunches and thighs, the great ridged swells of meaty power narrowing at his knees, then swelling again at his great calves. His feet, like his hands, were large, thick, and as strong as the rest of him. Zyr could run for hours, and still wrestle or take a beast; unlike the other men of his village who tended to might of muscle rather than speed and agility, Zyr did not wind easily. His stamina was legendary... he had both great might and lightness of foot, despite weighing more than the sum weight of almost any other two men in the village.
Reaching the bottom of the ridge, Zyr crept round to the western edge, seaching the tall grass for the spot where he was sure the young bull greth lay. Finding his mark, Zyr began to move forward lightly, soundlessly, crouching slightly to hide himself in the tall grasses, and the better to spring when the time came. After a short time, he paused, his hunter's senses telling him something was amiss; he was still short of the greth's position, but he should be close enough to hear it snoring gently. He peered ahead... he was still downwind of the beast, it should not have smelled him; even though he was soaked in the sweat and musky sweet odor of his own body, the strong scent should have been blown away from the greth by the stiff breeze... catching a a gleam of reflected light through the grasses, he heard the throaty chuckling sound of the greth's growl.
Zyr threw himself to his right with all his might, tucking his shoulder under him to land, and rolled back to his feet. As he turned feet-over-head, he felt the rush of air from the greth's lunge. Zyr came around, facing the greth, his long Hunter's knife gripped in his hand. He barely had time to set his feet before the greth lept again. This time, Zyr was ready.
He dropped to his left, stretching out his right leg, and tucking his left foot under himself. The muscles of his left leg flexed and bulged hugely as his leg bent double. He swept the knife towards the beast, in a lightning-quick and powerful blow, intending to strike in the neck, into the vein there which would spill the beast's life and blood to the ground without damage to the precious hide. The greth had other ideas.
Turning its head as it lept, and twisting in mid-air, the beast snapped its teeth shut around the blade of the knife. Zyr felt the greth's mouth close, saw in the slowed-down time of the heat of battle how the greth's neck muscles bunched and flexed with power, then felt the pressure wrenching against his mighty arm. He might have been strong enough to hold onto the knife, but he was taken by surprise, and the blade was yanked from his grasp. The beast landed, and spat the knife out, then turned to face Zyr, who had recovered his feet. A small trickle of blood ran from one side of its mouth, but its eyes shone with a killing rage. Zyr knew he had only a heartbeat to decide what to do, and there was no chance of reaching his knife.
He saw the greth's legs flex, saw it gather its might for another lunge. Zyr crouched down, into a wrestler's stance... the beast lept! Jaws wide and fangs dripping with saliva, the cat shot at Zyr like an arrow. Zyr grabbed the ruffs of skin at the sides of its head, keeping the beast's maw away, and fell backward, wrapping his mighty legs around the greth, just above its hind legs and with his great thighs surrounding its midsection. Zyr yanked the head close then, but to one side, over his right shoulder, and wrapped his arms around the beast's neck, holding tightly so the deadly teeth could not reach him. Zyr flexed, sending power surging through his muscles, as the beast began to thrash.
The greth twisted from side to side, hissing and roaring, trying to free itself from Zyr's grasp. The Hunter felt the hot muscles of the beast flex and swell against his skin, and he strained to contain and overcome the might of an animal almost half again his own weight. The greth placed its huge front paws against Zyr's big shoulders, the stubby claws pressing against his smooth skin, and began to flex its neck, torso and front legs, trying to pull away from his choking embrace. Zyr roared to match the beast, squeezing down with all his might, the muscles of his back and arms standing out in perfect definition, flexing huge with power, as he began a litany in his head... I will not be overcome, I will not be overcome, I will not be overcome! As the beast continued to thrash, pouring more and more of its power into the battle to free itself, Zyr flexed harder, and harder, digging deeply to overcome the might of the animal... I'm stronger! I'm the stronger! he thought to himself, and felt his manhood grow hot and rigid, swelling with the lust he felt every time he did battle with worthy prey, or when the heat took him and he pursued the pleasures of the flesh.
With the beast battling to free its head, and Zyr's great might containing its power, Zyr focused on the kill. This was an even better opportunity than the knife strike, for now he would need not damage the hide at all. He hitched his legs up around the beast slightly higher, and locked his ankles together. Zyr lay on his back in the grass, sweat and dirt highlighting the monstrous size and power of his body, and his legs surrounded the beast, his feet pointing skyward and his great thighs wrapped around the ribs and belly of the bull cat. Grinning, roaring with the Hunter's bloodlust, Zyr tightened his grip and began to squeeze. He heard the creature yelp slightly, and renew its frenzied efforts to escape him. He bore down harder, feeling the hard slabs of his thighs press into the iron-hard muscles of the greth. Zyr's manhood swelled even more, pressed against the belly of the animal. Zyr bore down harder, harder, roared and grunted with power, pouring more and more might into his sweaty, burning hot muscle...
Zyr could feel the greth struggling to breathe, choking for air as his mighty legs closed inexorably down on its ribs, tighter, tighter... Zyr heard the snapping of bone and knew he'd broken several of its ribs. Finally, as the great cat's thrashing slowed, he felt more than heard it take a final, gulping, choking attempt at a breath, then felt the stilling of its throbbing heart against his chest.
Zyr held the beast for a ten-count, to make sure, then heaved the great animal off of him. Zyr studied it for a moment, then spoke the ritual prayers to the Great Father, thanking him for the bounty of the greth, and wishing the worthy beast's spirit a quick and safe journey to the Great Hunt. Retrieving his knife, Zyr felt the lust of the hunt quell in his roaring blood and throbbing member, feeling as he always did when it drained away that the world was now somehow less clear; smells were not as sharp, sounds were not as loud, the eyes did not see as far or as clearly.
Zyr returned to the carcass, deciding to take it back to camp with him rather than strip it here. Gripping both front paws in his big right hand, both rear paws in his left, he thrust his body upward, lifting the bull cat and heaving it across his wide, strong shoulders. He turned, and began a slow jog away from the oasis, the sweat breaking all over his magnificient body once again, but the weight of the beast borne readily by his powerful frame. He would reach the camp by sundown, at this pace.
Zyr saw the campfire as he approached the clearing in the Green Tangle, crackling with warmth and inviting, and a broad smile came to his youthful, square-jawed face. It seemed that Kor had returned from the hunt ahead of him. As he stepped into the clearing, he caught sight of his childhood friend, his best friend in the world, carving the meat from a great buck, the hide already hung to dry.
"What took so long, Zyr? I began to wonder if you'd come back empty-handed. If you like, I can take you as apprentice, teach you my skills, and perhaps make a Hunter of you, finally," Kor said, without looking up from his task. Though his face was a study in sincerity, Zyr had known the other young man long enough to hear the teasing laughter waiting at the edge of his voice.
"Hunting worthy prey takes longer, Young One," Zyr replied, slinging the greth carcass down. Kor was a few days younger than Zyr, and age being an important enough factor in their people's social standing to keep him just above Kor despite the younger man's skill in the hunt, Zyr took great pleasure in reminding him of it. "One day, perhaps you'll learn patience, and you'll return to camp with a kill such as this."
Kor laughed aloud, then, and stood up, coming around the fire to better view Zyr's trophy. "By the sky, Zyr, that is a fine kill. The hide will be a great prize. It's almost as fine as the greth I took last season." Kor grinned up at his friend, then. Both of them knew that Kor was the greatest hunter among the young men of their people, though only edging Zyr by a little. The competition of the Hunt between them was fierce and friendly. There was no man Zyr preferred to stalk the Tangle and Charnock with more than Kor.
"Just wait until I tell you how I felled the beast," laughed Zyr. He threw an arm around the broad shoulders of his friend, feeling the waiting power that lay in the hot muscle beneath. Kor was the next largest man in their village, after Zyr, and only half a head shorter. Kor was built like Zyr, huge and muscled and powerful, being only slightly smaller in proportion to his somewhat slighter stature. While his skin was as bronzed by the sun as his friend's, Kor was dark of hair and eye where Zyr was light. Despite this opposite of appearance, the people of their village had commented all their lives on how they should have been brothers, born of the same litter. They had known each other all their young lives, growing close as cubs and remaining close all this time. When they'd reached their sixteenth summer, and were free to perform the bonding ritual, choosing their mate for life, no one was surprised when they chose one another.
Zyr and Kor's people were primitive, having no knowledge of the relationship between sexual contact and childbirth. They regarded childbirth as a divine gift of the Great Father, and a pregnant woman as holy and touched by him. The shrines of his people were kept by the priestesses, women who had been made holy by carrying and birthing a child. So, among their people, love and marriage, what was called "bonding", was a different thing altogether. Any person was free to bond with the one who had their heart, if the two wished to build a life together. Men bonded with women, but nearly as often men bonded with men, and women with women. No one noticed that women bonded to men became pregnant, and women bonded to women never did, because once a woman was gravid she became a priestess, she took part in the harvest fertility rites, and many of the men and women of the village, bonded and not, lay with her as part of the rites. The priestesses of the shrine were almost always with child. Also, there weren't as many priestesses as you might think there would be, because like all primitive peoples, there was a high rate of stillbirth, infant death, and death-in-childbirth. While nothing personal was ever held against a woman who failed to yield a healthy baby, and she was consoled in her grief, it was thought that she had fallen from the favor of the Great Father, and was then sent away from the priesthood.
Zyr and Kor both had been a product of such a temple birth, and as such had been raised first at the shrine, then by their adoptive families, Zyr by two men, Kor by two women. The terms "father" and "mother", had a very loose meaning for them... in their culture, any man who was part of the family, who took responsibiliy upon themselves for a child, was a "father". The same for mothers. Only the women of the shrine who actually birthed babies were set apart, they were the "Sacred Mothers".
Zyr told Kor of his battle with the beast, and Kor listened, genuinely impressed. When Zyr had finished, Kor said, "Well, then that hide is doubly a prize... you should make a new breechcloth from it. Of course, I could have felled the greth faster, but still, it is a great feat." He smiled his most innocent smile at his friend.
"Oh, could you?" asked Zyr, coming to his feet, his threatening manner belied by the sparkle of humor and anticipation in his eyes. "Why don't I show you just how fast I can fell prey?"
"Oh, don't make that mistake," growled Kor, his suddenly dangerous manner also betrayed by the laughter in his eyes. "I am no greth cub, thou toothless hunter. I can show you what it means to be prey."
"Then let us see!" roared Zyr, and with that he lunged at his friend, throwing his shoulder into Kor, to tackle him to the ground. Zyr's shoulder met Kor's stomach like granite slamming into marble, and Kor didn't even lose his breath. However, the momentum of his mighty friend bowled him over. He rolled back, throwing Zyr over his head, and came back to his feet slightly faster than Zyr. With Zyr's back still turned to him, Kor threw himself upon his friend, lacing his arms under the armpits of Zyr, and locking his hands together behind his head. The hold secured, he began to bear down, feeling the raw power of Zyr's back against his big chest, feeling his manhood swell against Zyr's firm bottom. Kor loved wrestling with Zyr; it kept them in shape for hunting, and was great fun. Besides, there wasn't another man in their village, or any other village Kor knew of, who could even come close to being able to handle him. The same was true of Zyr; no one could ever take him down except Kor, and then only sometimes.
"Oh no, you don't!" grunted Zyr, and he began to flex against the power of his friend, trying to bring his big arms down, raise his thick neck up. He felt the might of Kor against him, straining to contain him, and he too felt a growing heat in his manhood.
"Feel that, Zyr?" growled Kor. "That's real might, boy. You'll yield to me tonight." He dug deeper, flexed harder, halting the downward progress of Zyr's arms, and once again forcing Zyr's chin to his big chest.
"Not... yielding... to... you... youngling!", panted Zyr, feeling Kor's power. Zyr clenched his fists, and once again began flexing against the might of his mate. The battle of muscle lasted minutes, but slowly, slowly, Zyr's arms came down, his corded and straining neck came up.
"Arrgh!", cried Kor, struggling to hold back the advance of Zyr's flex, feeling the sweat and heat of Zyr's muscles, seeing the straining power under flushed skin. "Can't... hold..."
With a great cry, Zyr broke Kor's devastating hold, then thrust his elbow behind him, striking Kor in the ribs. Kor stumbled back, and Zyr turned to face him. Both fell to one knee, panting, briefly overcome by the extertion it had taken to pit their muscles in battle against the might of the other man.
"Is that all you have?" gasped Zyr, grinning as he taunted his opponent. "Come, mighty Hunter, show me your skills."
"If you insist," called Kor. He came fully to his feet, and stepped forward confidently, raising his right hand, offering a contest of strength. Zyr smiled widely, and approached him, bouncing his big chest at Kor. Equally confident, he reached up to meet Kor's hand, and gripped it tightly.
"Now we'll see who yields!" said Zyr, and bore down on his friend. Kor met him, might for might, and the two of them began to flex against each other, the strain of holding the other man at bay showing on their faces, first on Kor's, and then on Zyr's. Meeting his mate's gaze, Zyr raised his left hand, and Kor instantly reached up to grasp it. Grunting, growling breaths escaped the two men as the battled the other's power, muscles surging with strength. Their mighty chests slammed together, their hard bellies pressed tight, their hot cocks pressing and pulsing against each other. Their sweat mingled, pouring off their smooth skin, and the sweet, musky, manly odor of their bodies filled their nostrils, sending their passion roaring through their blood. The two young men poured all they had into staving off the other man's flex.
"Won't... yield... to you!" panted Kor. But despite the force of his will, he was slowly, slowly being forced back by Zyr's greater strength. Muscles flexing iron-hard, Zyr forced their arms to their sides, and slowly muscled in on Kor, beginning to force him to one knee.
Suddenly, Kor stopped resisting, and instead pulled back. Zyr was caught off guard, and was thrown clear over his mate's head, to land with a resounding thump behind him. Zyr sprang to his feet to find Kor facing him. "You'll have to do better than that, Kor," he panted, gasping for breath. In truth, Kor was nearly as mighty as he, and as always, he had only barely overcome his best friend's power. Even then, his muscles felt as though he'd been carrying heavy stones back and forth across the Plains for days. Still, he boasted his strength, for he knew it would drive Kor to attack recklessly. "You know you can't best me with strength alone. It's time to bring it all out."
"As you wish!" roared Kor, and lept at Zyr. Zyr was ready for it, and lunged forward, catching Kor around his waist as the younger man came at him. Zyr was rocked back by the impact of his friend's weight, only somewhat less than his own, but he managed to keep his feet. With his arms wrapped around Kor's hard body, he began to squeeze.
"Urrgh..." Kor gasped, placing his big hands on Zyr's wide shoulders and pushing, trying to free himself. To no avail; Zyr's grip was solid. He felt Zyr's huge, powerful arms crushing against him, felt the huge muscles of his larger friend's chest against his belly. Abandoning escape, Kor flexed his torso as hard as he could, trying to stave off Zyr's breath-stealing bearhug, and lifted his big, thick legs around Zyr's own waist, locking him into the very hold which Zyr had used to fell his prey earlier. "This... is how it's done, boy!" he gasped, and his thighs grew even more huge as he bore down on Zyr.
It became a battle of will, endurance, and might, Zyr's bearhug against Kor's leg-crush. Zyr felt the might of his mate, pressing in on him, trying to steal his breath. He redoubled his efforts to squeeze the fight out of Kor, and Kor leaned back in his arms, grunting and gasping for breath. by the flickering firelight, Zyr saw the big muscle of his friend's chest, only slightly smaller than his own, and the large, dark nipple which jutted out from the great muscle covered in tanned skin. Feeling Kor's throbbing manhood against his belly and chest, Zyr was overcome with desire, and pressed his mouth against Kor's nipple, sucking and slurping on the tender nub.
"OH... not... fair," gasped Kor, feeling a thrill run through him, his muscles trembling, at the sensation of Zyr's hot mouth against his chest. Kor grabbed the back of Zyr's head, pressing the blonde against his chest, encouraging Zyr to work his nipple harder. Kor involuntarily flexed his mighty pecs, they bulged outward, hardening like iron. Desperate, he poured all the power he could into his legs, crushing down on Zyr's hard waist. He heard Zyr gasp, then felt his friend fall to one knee.
The battle of muscle lasted for what seemed like eternity, each man sweating, gasping, digging deep to endure the might of his mate's breathtaking crush, and to pour all of his strength into victory. Finally, as Kor began to see stars, and could no longer endure, he gasped, "I yield! I yield!" It took him a heartbeat to realize that Zyr had spoken the same words as he, at the same moment. Each man relaxed his hold, and Kor fell backward into the soft leaves and grasses of the clearing, Zyr falling forward, his hot muscles stretched out across Kor's strong body.
They lay there, panting, sweat mingling, then after a time their eyes met by the light of the fire. "How can you be so mighty, Kor?" whispered Zyr, sliding his arms forward to grasp the calloused hands of his mate. "You are the toughest man I've ever known."
"And you're the strongest man I've ever known, Zyr. Stronger than I, in truth." Kor replied, shifting his legs so that their huge, pulsing manhoods were pressed together, separated only by the soft hide of their breechcloths. Kor could feel the heat of his friend's member through the material. "I was sure you were going to overcome me first. I don't know how I win the bouts I win, when we wrestle. You're the mightiest man on earth."
"Maybe I have the greatest strength, by a little, over you... but I'm not the mightiest man. You win some of our bouts for the same reason I do... luck is with us then. Bouts like tonight show the true balance of our prowess. I, too, was sure you were going to overcome me first." Zyr brougt his mouth to Kor's, their kiss as rough and passionate as their battle, their tongues writhing together, first in Zyr's mouth, then Kor's. Zyr reached down, and undid the laces of Kor's breechcloth, just as Kor undid his own.
Pulling the hide cloths and leather belts away, they pressed together again, chest to chest, belly to belly, their long, thick manhoods thrust into each other. The heat of their loins was a great, searing passion. Kor wrapped his big arms around Zyr's wide, muscled back. "I love you, Zyr. You are my joy, you are heart." He began thrusting in a steady rhythm against his mate, their big, fist-sized balls rolling against each other's sacks as their hot members ground together.
"As you are mine," growled Zyr, and then all that could be heard was the grunting, panting sounds of their lovemaking, thrusting their great cocks together, hands roaming over hard muscles, squeezing, kissing, flexing. Their paced quickened, their ragged breaths coming faster and faster, until with a roaring howl, they came together, stream after thick, steaming, ropy stream of cum firing up between them, running into the canyons in their muscled bellies, running up in the cleft between their great pecs. They lay there, then, sweat steaming off of them, feeling the cool night air as the gooey juices of their manhood cooled and grew sticky between them. They lay there, together, for a long time.
"We should probably see to our kills, Zyr," mumbled Kor, some time later. Zyr drowsily roused himself, grunting assent, and pushed himself off of Kor's body. He felt their skin sticking together, felt the thrill of pleasure in his breast at the sensation.
As the two came to their feet, ready to finish the night's work, Zyr heard the snapping of a twig. His instincts gripped him, and he dropped to an alert crouch, searching the woods around them with part of his attention, seeking where he'd dropped his hunting knife with the rest. Dimly, in his peripheral vision, he saw that Kor's reaction mirrored his own.
Locating their knives, the two men gripped them, scanning the woods around them for the source of the sound. It was out of the ordinary for an animal to come close enough to a fire that a man could hear it walking, and anything out of the ordinary, here in the wilds, could mean danger. Kor crept close to Zyr, whispered so softly that even right next to him Zyr had to strain to hear him, "What was that?"
Zyr was about to whisper back, "I don't know," when a roaring crash sounded from the jungle, and light a hundred times as bright as the noonday sun flared, stunning them both. As Zyr tried to make it to his feet, his senses overcome, his hands groping for Kor, He must be alright, he must be, he heard the sounds of men entering the clearing. Zyr tried to leap up, but his limbs failed him, and he was unable to offer any resistance as he heard a cold voice say, "Bind them!"