Atlas let out a cry of shock at the sight. It was him! The murderer of Benetnash's mother. The alpha of the pack that killed his kind. Benetnash was pushing her away as the tiger neared. As he did so, a pleading growl was growing in his throat, just loud enough for her to hear. Please stay back, She knew he was saying, Don't interfere, you'll get hurt... He pushed her back towards a piece of rubble stuck in the ground and pushed down on her shoulders with his tail gently, obviously getting her to stay behind it. So she did as he wanted and crouched down behind the piece of the wreckage. Really, she didn't know what else to do. She clutched the bone in her hand, watching the tiger hazily approach Benetnash, wondering if she should use it. No, that would only put more problems on Benetnash's shoulders. The bone barely did damage to the small tiger. It probably wouldn't even dent the skin of this huge one. So she just watched as Benetnash walked up to meet the tiger, worry causing a sickening feeling in her gut.
They were within ten feet of each other. It scared Atlas to see how they were both about the same size, if not, then the tiger had the upper hand. She noticed his fangs. They were so large that they protruded outside his lips that were peeling in what looked like a sneer. There was a horrible growl deep in his throat.
The malevolent look upon the tigers face was the exact opposite as expression on Benetnash's. He didn't want to do harm, Atlas knew that. If he could, he would turn and run, but that wouldn't be the right thing to do. When they squared up, Benetnash didn't immediately take a threatening posture. If anything, it was a sign of submission. But this lone tiger seemed to want to fight no matter what. It raised its proud head and let out a roar, Benetnash returned with a sharp growl which Atlas thought sounded a little like a whimper, a pleading cry. She wondered why he was acting so much like this. This creature savagely killed your kind, wouldn't you want to avenge them?
The tiger wasn't responding to Benetnash's calls for immediate surrender. Neither were going to walk away without a fight. Benetnash read this and rose to his full size, fitting a threatening snarl upon his face. The only thing Atlas feared at this point was the thought that Benetnash was going to be the one to never walk away... As Benetnash let the tiger snarl its pre-battle comments at him, she noticed something. The tips of his tail were beginning to burn red.
The two animals clashed. The Tiger had lunged first, in mid air was where Benetnash leaped to meet him. Both had very different types of attack. The tiger lashed out with his huge, clawed fore-paws while Benetnash brought forth his tail, now a lethal weapon for what Atlas knew behind the story of the red tail. He was angry, livid.
She winced as the two collided. First the tiger had dug his claws into Benetnash's shoulders, which didn't cause much more damage except scratch the skin beneath his fur coat. But this only allowed him to cling to Benetnash as he aimed for his throat with his horrible fangs. The second hung in the air when Atlas saw the fangs about to clamp down on his throat, but Benetnash swatted him away with a paw before he could sink his fangs in.
While the tiger was down in the dirt, shaking his head from the blow, Benetnash took the advantage and pounced towards him. He repeatedly slashed his tail against his body like a whip, leaving two new shallow wounds each time his tail bared down. The tiger roared in pain. Finally, the tiger escaped the lecture and stood, the freshly drawn blood slipping down his side. Though the tiger looked triumphant at the fact that he had escaped what could have very well been death if Benetnash had chosen to slash him in a vital place, Atlas knew that Benetnash had let him get up. She knew that maybe he was just trying to prove his point, perhaps scare the tiger out of the battle. But, this savage wasn't surrendering from this unexpected fight. He took a moment to fight the pain and stand back at his full posture, but within a quick moment, he was back, squared up with Benetnash with the same horrible expression upon its face. And Benetnash turned to meet him.
They collided once again, the tiger being more focused on Benetnash's tail, he forgot about the equally as lethal, claws and teeth. While the tiger was watching the tail that he hung high up above them, Benetnash swatted the tiger from the air with his paw, leaving claw marks along the side of his face. The tiger once again landed hard on his side, but this time, instead of his tail, Benetnash came forth with jaws wide, sinking his teeth around the scruff of the tigers neck as he pushed him down in the dirt with his full weight. Again, Atlas knew, Benetnash was still trying to resolve this as he held the tiger down. But this only seemed to make the tiger even more furious.
Though Benetnash had pinned the tigers shoulders down, it still bucked with its back legs which caught Benetnash's underbelly. Its claws raked through his flesh, making Benetnash back off with a howl of pain. Atlas felt her breath catch in her throat, her heart skip a beat. The sound was horrible, almost making her able to feel his pain.
Benetnash jumped away, leaving the tiger to pick himself up from the ground. Blood dripped from Benetnash's underside, and as he turned to face the tiger again, he didn't do so submissively. He had given up all desire to stop the fight but to finish it.
Before the tiger was fully recovered, Benetnash lunged, the tiger, a little shocked, jump forth to meet him. It was a flurry as the two animals stood on their back legs, seeming to use each other as balance as they clawed and bit at one another. Snarling and growling as they tried to get the upper hand, but as if on cue, both fell back down on all fours and began to circle each other, flashing evil glares.
This same process continued until one time the tiger managed to smack a paw across the side of Benetnash's face. He fell backwards, seeming slightly knocked out. The tiger was immediately on him.
"NO!" Atlas cried out as she jumped out from behind the rubble. Twenty feet away was where the two animals fought and everything seemed to stop dead as she stood out in the open awkwardly, clutching her weapon almost feebly. The tiger had stopped before Benetnash who was laying on the ground, dazed, blinking his eyes rapidly to try and wake up from his woozy state.
Bless my stars... She thought, What have I done? ... The tiger had now turned to her and was edging forward in her direction, completely abandoning Benetnash behind him. She might as well of been defenseless. The blood that was stained on the tip of her blade now only seemed like a reminder of her stupidity for once feeling triumphant about it when the only reason that tiger creature had been killed was because of Benetnash. The creature who now lay on the ground, trapped in a hazy state, was ever her only defense. And now she stood alone against a full sized monster.
In a last hope of intimidation, she clutched the bone in her good hand and pointed it at the tiger who was now ten feet away, still moving towards her. A strange cackling noise rose in his throat as he growled which Atlas knew was laughter. But still, she held the blade high in front of her face. He was now five feet away. She felt her whole body begin to tremble.
"Get away from here!" She screamed in his face, as loud as she could muster without her voice completely cracking in fear. "Get away from us, you monster!"
The tiger came to a halt near the end of her blade, holding his head down level with it as he stared at her with his ghostly white eyes. Atlas had to fight the urge to let her arm fall back down to the side, but she tried her best to show every bit of might before this animal killed her.
She stared it into its eyes with the most threatening look she could. Quite quickly, the look of amusement on the tigers face flashed to anger as it lips peeled back as he opened his mouth, revealing the fangs that he would use in just seconds to rip her to shreds. His eyes narrowed, ears folded back and his muscles contorted as he prepared to lunge at her. She knew that in a fraction of a second he would be on her.
Time seemed to go by in slow motion as the tiger flung itself at her. As he came into her range, she took her only chance to do all that she could and stabbed the blade of her bone with all her might. She let out a cry of fury as she felt the blade sink into flesh, but wherever the blade was, it was removed before Atlas could open her eyes to see. Her opponent was tackled in the middle of the air, it happened so suddenly and with such force that the blade was pulled away from wherever it was stabbed and fell from Atlas's hand, landing before her on the ground, once again, its tip covered in fresh blood.
Atlas let out a strangled breath that was trapped in her lungs as she saw her life flash before her eyes. Opening them to see why she hadn't been tackled and mulled on the ground, she saw that the tiger was no long before her, but off to the side, struggling with the massive dark figure tussling with it, Benetnash.
Awestruck at what had just happened, she picked up her blade and backed away, trembling with shock. The two beasts rolled in the dirt, snarling as they bit and clawed at one another, both with the intention to murder the other. Atlas didn't know what to do, what would help Benetnash more? To try and do as much damage to the tiger as she could? Or to remain away from the fight. Not being able to think straight enough to decide, she remained glued to the spot, forced to watch her friend being beat up. Each time one would rise above the other, attempting to pin the other down, they would appear with more wounds on their body. The sight pained Atlas when Benetnash rolled out from beneath the tiger to see that he had a huge, deep bight mark near the edge of his shoulder, inches away from the vital arteries and veins in his neck.
As if out of control of her movements, Atlas lunged forward in the direction of where the tiger had Benetnash securely pinned in the dirt. "NO!" She screamed as she raised her bone, ready to jam it into the tigers one good eye. But she was too far, and couldn't run fast enough to stop what was going to happen. There was a quick moment where the two creatures looked each other in the eyes, the black into the white. The tiger lunged his bared fangs at Benetnash's neck, and in the blink of an eye, his fangs sunk deep into flesh and his powerful jaws crushed Benetnash's windpipe.
Atlas collapsed to the ground in horror and disbelief, forced to swallow the truth that sat just a few feet before her. She was close enough to hear the raspy gasp that escaped Benetnash's mouth as he choked up his blood.
The tiger quickly rose, making a tremendous effort to make himself appear triumphant as he stood over his dying victim. But he swayed and stumbled, blood flowing from his serious wounds. He took no notice of Atlas and turned to try and walk away, but barely made it ten feet before he collapsed from blood loss.
Atlas crawled up to Benetnash carefully, not wanting to accept the truth that he was dying. He leaned over and lay on his side, feebly turning his head to look at Atlas. She came up to him and began combing the fur atop his head. No fear or foreboding existed in his big dark eyes as he looked up into hers. Not a trace of worry for what was about to come for him. When she gazed down into his glassy eyes, she saw happiness, ardor and love...
The blood from his pierced throat pooled on the ground around them. It flooded from his mouth and onto her injured arm that she cradled under his jaw. As she felt his tail wrapped round her one last time, she began to hum a soft tune that had grown so familiar to her after the time she had spent on this planet. It was the tune Benetnash had hummed to her as he carried her from the bush forest in the first rain storm. It was the tune he hummed to her when she spoke the pained memories of her past. And she was sure, if he could, he would be humming the exact same comforting tune to her now as tears spilled from her eyes.
"Thank you, Benetnash," She whispered into his ear as the life left his eyes.
In the black of night she sat, still cradling the head of the lifeless Benetnash. The fur atop his head was as badly drenched in her tears as her clothes were in his blood. She would have stayed here forever. She never wished to abandon the body of her dear friend. The body that was once kept her warm at night, the fur that had cushioned her as she slept, the eyes that once gazed at her lovingly when they still contained life. And the tail. The magical tail. The tail that defended her from enemies, carried her away from harm and wrapped her gently and protected her.
The tail was still laced around her body loosely as she sat there beneath the stars. But she longed for its gentle grip, and wished that the warm blood still pumped through its veins. But the past was beyond her control. All she could do was try to enjoy the present as she felt the last wisps of his body heat before they seeped away into the cold touch of true death.
It were hands that pulled her away. The hands of her friends from the station. They spoke to her, but their words were muffled to her ears. As they carried her away from the body of her friend, probably to the space shuttle they arrived on to clean her up, she stared up at the stars.
She stared up at the constellation of Benetnash as he twinkled extra bright tonight. She noticed a little white wisp of mist lingering around the head of the constellation. That's him, She knew. She smiled up at the mist as it faded suddenly into the light of the stars of his constellation. And that would be where his soul would stay. Watching over the humans as they inhabited the planet. Offering hope and guidance to those who are lost or in need. Just as he had done for Atlas...
~ Kayle Majic