A little more revealed of Dragon Slayer:
‘Damn it, Rae. Will you quit with the sighing?’ said George, turning round. ‘It’s loud enough to…’
‘George!’ interrupted Rae. She gestured to her left. A bush about 30 metres away was moving, but there was little wind. Suspicion rose noisily in Rae’s stomach. Fear flowed through her throat. Terror sucked the saliva from her mouth.
A grinning face appeared.
‘Run!’ cried George, his arms swinging wildly.
Rae was rooted to the stop. Panic had set in. Her heart pounded, nausea now rose in her throat.
Aware of her absence, George came to a stop and looked back.
The hunters had left the bush behind and were heading straight for her.
Her bulging eyes were fixed ahead, non-blinking. Her mouth had dropped open, fighting against the gagging sensation rearing its head.
‘Freakin’ hell! Move now, Raelyer… or die!’ shouted George, gesturing towards the trees.
The word ‘die’ swung it. She flew to catch him, following his impeccable sense of direction. Her feet barely touched the ground as she leapt over roots and pushed through the undergrowth. Her breath quickened as the fight for more oxygen began. A banging in her chest resounded loudly in her head, reminding her of what was at stake.
George stormed ahead, pushing through the greenery. His heavy feet crushed branches and twigs noisily making a ready made pathway for Rae to follow. The trees scratched spitefully at his arms and face, blood oozing as he ploughed through. He stole a glance behind, making sure she was keeping up. He tried a reassuring smile, but was met with a face filled with stark terror and fear.
‘Keep going,’ he called softly, pushing further in front. ‘I know where we are.’
Rae couldn’t manage any kind of response. It was all she could do to move let alone talk. She scrambled through after George, painfully aware that he was pulling further and further ahead with each step. Her breath quickened. Sweat dripped down her back. She couldn’t go on much more.
‘George,’ she gasped. ‘Stop! I can’t…’
George stopped, turning around in disbelief. ‘You can, Rae! Come on.’ He rushed off again, holding out his hand before disappearing into yet another band of trees.
Seeing the back of him vanish, Rae came to an abrupt halt, bending over to catch her breath. As her rapid panting slowed, she suddenly became aware of other noises not far behind. Crashing sounds of broken branches startled her back into action. The chase was back on again. She had to move, and fast!
Ploughing through the undergrowth, Rae found a new burst of energy and pushed the pain behind her. She sprinted as never before, her feet pressing hard against the ground with each step. Before long, she had caught up to George, tugging at his shirt as she passed.
‘Wait! Listen!’ he call-whispered. He stopped still. ‘I think we’ve lost them.’
Rae slid to a halt, grabbing a high up branch to slow her down.
‘You sure?’ she whispered, her hands curled tightly round the bark.
George looked around for a moment taking in the lack of noise and movement. The trees were almost still, just a light breeze blew through the leaves making them shimmer in the afternoon light. He tilted his head, listening cautiously, his eyes darting around wildly. Then he nodded.
Collapsing onto her knees, Rae gasped, catching her breath. Her hands fell to the ground as she bent forward and took in a large lungful of air. She wiped an arm across her forehead, mopping the sweat which was dripping into her eyes.
‘You okay?’ said George, placing a hand across her back. He knelt slightly, watching her closely.
‘I think I’m going to…’ She retched as the meagre contents of her stomach spilled out before her. ‘Sorry,’ she said, wiping some drool from her mouth.
‘Hey, no need for sorry,’ said George, patting her reassuringly on the back. ‘Feel a bit like that myself.’
Rae retched again though little more than bile spewed out now. Shakily, she reached up to George, taking his arm for balance.
‘I hate to say it, but we really need to keep moving,’ he said, steadying her. ‘Take my hand, Rae.’
Clinging onto George, she let herself be pulled through the trees, her other hand clutching at her stomach. After a while she began to feel a little better, colour returning to her cheeks and enough to walk on her own.
They clambered deeper into the mass of trees. All around them, branches hung low, sweeping out like fingers, waiting to trip them up. Vines trawled in front like string curtains, blocking out the view of what lay ahead. They never saw the rope on the ground as they strode through a small clearing.
The net swallowed them up instantly, leaving them hanging far above the ground helpless.
‘What the hell?’ whispered Rae, her right leg stuck right through a gap up to her thigh. She held on to the net, looking like a prisoner through rope bars. ‘I thought you knew where you were going!’
George was squashed in behind her, his face pressed up so close to the net that his cheeks were pushed out like marshmallows. One of his arms was trapped at his side.
‘I do, I mean, I did. I just didn’t expect to find a rope trap there, did I?’ snapped George. ‘And stop jiggling about! You’re giving me cramp in my arm.’
Rae looked down. The ground seemed a long way beneath them.
‘The hunters!’ she said. ‘They’ll be here any minute. We have to get out.’ She thrashed about around, catching George’s arm in the process.
‘Arrggh! Just stay still,’ said George. ‘There’s nothing we can do...’
‘Hey! How’s it hanging?’ said a voice from below.
So this is the cover I've been playing with. Not set in stone, but I like the font of the title and the colour. Going with the steampunk theme, I've brought in some cogs and wheels with a metal dragon overlay. Just a draft, but I do really like it. What do you think?