Named

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Robin grasped the rough bark beneath his gloves, his eyes roving over the mangled faces that were now clustering at the base of their tree. Soon, there would be enough of them to climb on top of each other, reaching their prey in the branches. Hopefully the group that’s more easily reached will distract them.

He glanced briefly toward the girl. Her blue eyes were wide, set in a face that would have been pretty were it not for the streak of blood spattered across one side of it. Wonder where the blood came from. It didn’t matter. He quickly shifted his attention to the problem at hand: getting her out of danger and into Mr. King’s hands.

“Follow where I lead, understand?”

The girl smirked at him, “Well you’d better hope I do.”

Robin resisted the urge to throttle her. Apparently trying to survive is a joke to her. Instead, he stood on the branch he was on, sizing up the next tree. He perched for a moment before running and leaping, stretching out his arms. For a moment he was flying. Some of the creatures below looked upward, their milky, bloodshot eyes tracking his movement through the air. Then he was falling, but only for an instant. His arms grasped the branch on the opposite tree and he pulled himself upward into safety.

He glanced back at the girl, waiting for her to jump. She stared back, “You’re kidding, right?”

Obviously not. He returned her stare with his own and she sighed, “I guess you never kid. You’d better catch me if I fall.”

The girl stood up, holding out her arms for balance before she leapt and grasped the same branch, pulling herself upward in the same way that Robin had. She might complain, but at least she’s capable. She arched one eyebrow at him, “So, what’s next?”

Robin didn’t respond. Instead, he turned and glanced around, examining the possibilities. The trick was plotting a path that wouldn’t get you stuck at a dead end, so to speak. The trees had to be close enough together in order to offer a viable escape route. Unfortunately, the only route I see leads past the other group. Hopefully, the girl would be able to move fast enough. He’d seen instances when people hadn’t and had been overwhelmed. Not a pretty sight. Without any further word, he jumped to the next tree.

They continued for a while in silence. Robin would jump and then wait for the girl to do the same, shifting to another branch to give her enough space to follow. Every so often, a terrified scream filled the air. They quickly drew closer to the other group. About a tree away, Robin paused; it was better safe than sorry. He scanned the area below. A few of the creatures had noted their presence, but most were focused on a prone body on the ground. At some point, one of them had been overwhelmed. The sickening sounds of tearing flesh and cracking bones filled the air, but the terrified screams were gone. Several of the creatures had fresh blood slicked down their chins, their hands full of unknown meaty parts. Where are the others?

He spotted the girl of the group in the same location. The creatures hadn’t noticed her yet, but they would once they were finished with her companion. The other two seemed to have moved further away in their bid to escape. Those are the smart ones. The girl’s black eyes were wide as she stared at the carcass. Probably in shock. At least it would make travelling past them that much easier.

Robin had turned his attention back to the trees when a whisper near his ear interrupted him, “We need to help her.”

He jerked around, staring at his target. Her eyes fixed on his, pleading, “We can’t leave her like this.”

Oh yes we can. Robin kept his face expressionless as he responded, “She tried to kill us with the others. It’s no worse than she deserves.”

The girl bit her lower lip, widening her eyes further, an expression that Robin quickly assessed she used to get her way. Before she could say anything, he spoke again, “We’re not helping her. I need to get you to safety.”

The expression faded from the girl’s face as quickly as it had come. Instead, she gave him a keen look, her eyes narrowing, “To safety, you say? And what if I refuse to move?”

“I could always carry you.”

“And move through the trees like we are? Unlikely. I could also always jump to the ground. Why don’t you make this easier on yourself and be the hero?”

“You’re serious.”

“Deadly.”

Robin heaved a sigh as he glanced downward, resisting the urge to strangle the girl…again. This job isn’t worth it. Without further word he unsheathed his sword, judging the best angle before jumping. I’d better get paid extra for this.

He landed perfectly: on top of one of the creatures. The monster crumpled to the ground as he stabbed it through the head. He turned as one of the other monsters noticed him, slicing cleanly through its neck. He ducked as another lashed out at him with sharpened nails, dancing backward. Blood sprayed his dark clothing as he chopped his sword downward through the creature’s head.

Robin turned to the girl on the ground. She was staring at him now, her mouth slightly agape. He didn’t have time for this; there was only a small window. He stuck his sword in the ground, lacing his fingers together for her to step on, “Move now! Or we’re leaving you!”

Fortunately, that seemed to snap her out of it. She leapt toward him, putting one small foot on his hands. She was light, very light. He jerked his arms upward and launched her into the trees, grabbing his sword without waiting to see if she’d made it. He jerked backward as rotten teeth snapped at his throat, spun as another monster appeared next to him, boxing him in. It reached out, its nails raking across his chest. Sharp pain flared, but he didn’t pause. He kicked out with one foot, hitting one in the chest with his boot and causing it to fall backward. Almost instantly afterward, he swung his blade to the side, impaling the other creature’s head. He jerked his sword back with two hands. There was a sickening crack. The monster fell to the ground.

Robin didn’t wait for the rest to abandon their feast. He sheathed his blade and ran at the nearest tree, pushing off of its trunk with one foot to give himself more height to reach the branches of the next tree. He stretched his arms and grabbed the bark, scrambling to pull himself upward.

Something grabbed his leg. He glanced downward at the creature that was struggling to pull him back. Black blood coated its mouth and spread in a waterfall down its chest. One eye was missing, shrinking the dry socket to almost nonexistence. The other was milky white, rolling around, not quite focusing on him. Its jaw was hanging slightly askew; tendrils of rotting flesh were the only thing still holding it on.

Arms suddenly grabbed his, pulling him upward. Robin gave a massive kick and the creature fell back to the ground with a howl. He found himself back in the treetops, the two girls panting as they leaned back on their respective branches.

His target looked at him intently, “I don’t think I ever caught your real name.”

He looked back at her, “It’s Robin.” Without further word he reached over, hitting her hard in the back of the head. She slumped toward him and he grabbed her before she could slide out of the tree. The other girl watched him impassively.

Robin glanced toward her, shifting his target’s weight on his shoulders, “If you want to stay here, you can. Otherwise, follow where I lead.”

The girl’s black eyes watched him impassively before she nodded. Her small lips formed a faint smile, “You saved my life. I go where you go.”

Great. Another liability. He shrugged and stood on his branch, moving cautiously now that he had the extra weight. With a leap, he moved forward to the next tree; the girl followed behind.

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