Elseworld (inspired by The Princess Bride and the Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom books)
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Read the previous chapter here.
Read the story from the beginning here.
From the journals of Chloe Sullivan:
Every once in a great while, one discovers that everything one knew about a person is entirely wrong. This forces one to adjust one's view of the world.
But rethinking how we see the world is not necessarily a bad thing. It is simply... unsettling. It is like discovering one is standing not on an outcropping of granite, but on quicksand.
When the earth shifts beneath us, we must shift with it, or we find ourselves drowning.
They found the train of men easily enough. She'd been right-- they hadn't gone far. Not far into the woods, Clark pulled up his stallion so sharply that Beetle almost struck him from behind. Chloe pulled on the reins, and sputtered. "What on earth--"
He held up a hand for silence. The darkness was beginning to give way to gray gloom, and she knew dawn wasn't far away. She peered around him, trying to see past his broad shoulders, and saw twenty men on the ground. In the dim light, it was hard to tell for sure, but she was fairly certain they were dead.
"My God," she whispered, horrified. "What happened?"
"I am not certain." Clark's voice was very low. "But I suspect it may have been the lizard."
"Oh, my God." She closed her eyes.
"We should have found some way to kill it, Chloe." She heard the remorse in his deep voice. "I should have found some way to kill it. I have failed far too many people tonight."
Compelled by the sorrow in his voice, she urged Beetle forward, next to his stallion, and placed a hand on his arm, seeking to comfort him. "It is not your fault, Clark."
"But it is," he said, his voice grim. "I knew this creature was a danger to travelers, and yet I was so focused on saving Lana that I did not pause to think of the danger to others. And now... all these men are dead."
"These men set the Langs' house afire," she pointed out. "Are they really worthy of our sorrow?"
He turned his head and looked at her, lifting an eyebrow.
"The loss of life is always worthy of our sorrow," he said simply.
Even though he hadn't sounded reproachful or reproving, she suddenly felt very small, and very much in the wrong. He was right, of course. The death of twenty men-- even bad men-- was nothing to be flippant about.
"What of the Langs?" she asked, her voice low. "Are they among the dead?"
"I hope not," he said with a sigh. "But it seems all too likely."
He swung off the stallion. Shocked, she hopped off Beetle's wide back and grabbed at his arm.
"What exactly are you doing?"
He looked down at her, lifting an eyebrow again. "Going to see if any of them can be helped, obviously."
"But the lizard-- if it comes back-- it makes you weak, Clark."
He shrugged a broad shoulder. "That is a risk I have to take, Chlo. If any of these men can be helped, we must help them."
Recognizing that he was right, she released his arm. If she had learned nothing else tonight, she had at least learned how much Clark meant to her. He meant far more to her than a friend ought to mean. She wanted to protect him, to keep him safe from harm, and on some level she just wanted to get him away from here, because he meant so much to her that she couldn't bear the prospect of seeing him in danger again.
But she also realized he wouldn't mean nearly as much to her if he were the sort of man to turn his back on people who needed help.
He turned and headed for the sprawled, lifeless bodies, and she trailed after him. In the gray light of almost-dawn she could easily see that the men were quite dead. Their throats had been ripped out, and in some cases their chests too. She could barely stop herself from gagging.
"I do not see the Langs," Clark said at last, relief clear in his voice.
"Nor do I."
"But this is every single man in the group. All twenty of them." He sounded puzzled. "I do not understand how the Langs escaped."
"Perhaps they were not with the men," she suggested. "We assumed they had abducted Lana and her parents, but perhaps they had simply gone to another house in the village."
"Perhaps," he agreed, and the little crease between his eyebrows eased somewhat.
"It is the only thing that makes sense," Chloe said earnestly. She was trying to keep Clark's hopes up, but she also saw no other way of interpreting the evidence. It seemed very unlikely that the Lang family could have escaped the lizard, when it had killed twenty armed men. "All the men are dead. If the Langs had been here, surely they would be dead too."
"I think you are right," he said, nodding. "Which means we need to go back to the village and look for them, to confirm..."
There was a crashing sound, not far away, and Clark lifted his head from his contemplation of the bodies and listened. "Chlo," he said. "We need to get out of here."
A shiver went down her spine. "The lizard?"
"Yes," he said, spinning around and hurrying her toward Beetle. "I believe it is coming back for more food."
Before they reached the horses, the lizard scuttled into the clearing, moving with surprising speed. It darted toward them, and Clark stumbled, and suddenly went to his knees. Chloe grabbed his arm, trying to pull him upright, but to no avail. Near the lizard, Clark was as weak as a babe, and just as helpless.
The lizard approached, its mouth gaping open, showing two rows of hideously sharp teeth.
Chloe stared at it, horrified. The only thing she knew of that the lizard feared was fire. And she had no torch, no candle, nothing she could use to protect herself and Clark.
She was helpless to save Clark.
Read Chapter 10 here.