But there were loa here. The ancient spirits of those who had transcended death could grant wondrous boons or inflict terrible punishments. Loa could give a troll second sight—or drive him mad so that he would pull out his own eyes. Their judgment was vicious, swift, and unpredictable.
Vol’jin and Zalazane ran for a time, and both began to wonder if the legends of First Home had been exaggerated. There did not seem to be any great threat. Two huge fronds blocked the path ahead. With a twitch, they slid to either side, exposing a large carnivorous plant: a nambu. Furry lips parted wide, waiting for them. Fibrous teeth writhed eagerly in the gaping maw, and Vol’jin could not stop in time. He threw himself to the left, grazing the side of the nambu.
Twisting, flailing, he skidded into something hard and scaly. He staggered back, dazed, shaking his head. That something turned, revealing that it was a very angry, very large raptor—by far the biggest Vol’jin had ever seen. He fell back farther, aware that the nambu was somewhere behind him. He could hear Zalazane making strange, muffled sounds, but Vol’jin had lost track of his friend.
The raptor darted its head down at Vol’jin, and he tumbled to his left. Immense jaws snapped shut where he’d just been standing. Ribbons of saliva flew from the creature’s mouth. The nambu reacted to the motion with lightning speed, locking its teeth onto the raptor, funneling poison into the beast’s torn flesh. Vol’jin had only a few heartbeats to take advantage of the distraction: he drew his glaive and stalked around the nambu, assessing. Zalazane was on the far side of the plant, thrashing in a nest of alchu bugs that had swarmed over him, biting and stinging. He would be no help for a time.
The raptor ripped the nambu from the ground, tearing roots and flinging the plant far away. The beast’s tiny, enraged eyes settled on Zalazane, attracted to the troll’s frantic motions.
There was no time. Vol’jin let out a war cry, thrusting wildly with his glaive. Flesh parted: Vol’jin had given the raptor a trail of blood down its back. Shrieking in rage, it swung around, head-butting Vol’jin into the shrubbery. Vol’jin could not see, his face crowded with dewy, sticky leaves. He felt the ground shake as the beast charged. Vol’jin staggered back and to the right, feeling the raptor’s jaws once again inches from him. He cleared his face of vegetation in time to see the raptor rear back and come for him again.