Attack of the Snerks …
The prince immediately selected some of his archers and hurried them to the opening. They moved with hesitation and as the first of them stepped out onto the bough, there was a sudden roar issued from the side, out of sight. The archer swung around and cried out in alarm. The wedge-shaped head of a snerk shot out of the gloom, striking the branch with a sharp blow. The he-faug lost his balance and fell over backwards. His bow slipped from his hands; his wings flapping up vainly, propelling him down into the waiting jaws of another snerk positioned beneath him. The faug’s squeal was cut short with a terrible crunch of bone. There was a quick retreat as the archers rushed for shelter. The topmost snerk curled its neck around and hissed at them through the opening.
‘Shut the gateway!’ shouted the prince.
The door-faugs fumbled at the timber in their haste to push it shut. The snerk roared its defiance, its glassy eyes searching out the erfin, its tongue lapping at the timber of the doors. The door-faugs pushed the doors towards each other, closing the gap. The snerk charged the entrance, ramming into the doors with its huge head. The faugs were thrust back and scuttled with the impact. Mirrortac stared up at the snerk’s nostrils and the fork of its leathery tongue as it flipped through the opening.
Chen motioned to more of his he-faugs to assist. ‘Quick! Help them. Shut the gateway!’
More faugs stepped up to the doors and pushed them back into the looming head of the snerk. The serpent forced the gap. More faugs joined in the effort but the snerk was too powerful. The Yu-wood buckled under the pressure and faugs slid across the floor as the monster pushed its way in. The snerk’s cold gaze rested upon Mirrortac and it issued a long slow hiss. The prince looked at the erfin with agitation, waiting for him to act.
‘Why do you wait, Mirrortac? Speak the words. We are in peril!’ he pleaded.
Mirrortac spoke without shifting his eyes from the snerk. ‘I do not know the words any longer. You must all leave. It is me they want.’
The prince was horrified. ‘You could not have forgotten the words. You must say them, Now!’ he urged.
Mirrortac swivelled around, snatched a bow and arrow from one of the archers and lifted it to his eye. He asked for a second arrow and nocked it alongside the first. The prince shook his head. ‘You are possessed!’ He made a movement towards the erfin to snatch him away to safety but stopped in his tracks, distracted by a flash of light that seemed to come from the erfin’s side. He caught sight of the feather tucked into his belt and stared at it with disbelief. He did not know whether it was a trick of the light but he could have sworn that it was glowing softly. The snerk pushed open the doors fully, rattling with menace; its eyes fixed on the erfin.