Asterin pushed the broom harder, a western wind battering her face. She had yet to find a single Crochan and with still a hundred miles to go before the next village, her blood boiled at the thought. Iron-tipped nails sunk into the broom’s hardened hide, splintering strips of wood.
Blood, she needed blood. She wanted her hands painted with the scarlet innards of some Crochan bitch. She would revel in it, dance barefoot to a tune that was only hers.
Asterin Blackbeak – Crochan Slayer.
She sailed up a rugged side, tipping over a white-crested peak. A valley lay below, a carpet of green formed by the billowing canopy of forest trees.
And ahead –
Asterin sucked in a breath. Ahead, black clouds loomed, rolling over distant peaks. Sheets of lightning flashed, illuminating the bulbous curves of the threatening clouds. She glanced back down to the floor; she didn’t want to land. Not now.
She looked back to the storm, it slithered towards her like a snake on its belly. But it was not the most terrifying thing in the sky.
And she would not succumb.
Angling the head of the broom upwards, Asterin put in all she had. She gave out a roaring cry as she hurtled higher, wild blonde hair rushing backwards.
She could outrace it.
She could beat the storm.
Asterin flew until the dark clouds rumbled beneath her. Lightning crackled and the air tasted tangy on her tongue.
Then something struck and pain bolted through her body. She didn’t know if it was the lightning or the wind, but she was falling.
Asterin tumbled through the air. Somehow, she managed to cling on to her broom. Above the trees, she gained some control, steadying herself. She fell for what seemed like an age, before crashing through the tree canopy. The broom left her hand. Her arm snapped against a solid branch. With her body growing limp, the last thing Asterin remembered was searing pain and thudding to the ground.
The cracking of branches brought her round. Her heavy lids slid half-open, the scent of dirt and rotting leaves in her nose. Before her, swam a hazy blur of green and brown. More branches snapped, the sound growing louder, becoming more like an erratic heartbeat in the throes of terror.
Someone was here.
They were coming for her.
Asterin’s entire body went into high-alert, defence modes setting in. But her physical body didn’t respond. Pain arrowed up and down her arm. Trying to move it was enough to tell her it was broken in two places. She gritted her teeth as she tried to move her left leg where a dull throbbing encased her ankle bone. Those minimal movements had wracked her body with aches and sweat bubbled on her brow. The pain became too much, and just as the shadow of a figure stood over her, Asterin was lost to the darkness.
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