Scarlet closed her eyes, forcing them to close as much as possible. “It hurts, I know.” She nodded, focusing on her breathing in an attempt to take her mind away from the bone crushing pain she felt in her arm. “The bastard got you pretty good, deep into the muscle.” Opening her eyes, Scarlet glanced to the cut on her upper left arm. In the weird brown antibacterial liquid, her cur remained open and angry. When the doctor grabbed the rather large needle from the metal tray to his side, she looked away again. The pinch of the needle was nothing compared to the pain in her arm, but Scarlet had never been a fan of sharp objects piercing into her body. Soon after the needle was pulled back, her whole upper arm begun to go numb. The doctor pinched her in a few places, none of which she felt. He deemed her ready for stitches, and a nurse brought over another metal tray.
“At least you’re better off than me.” Scarlet glanced to Renee. She laid on a bed a few down from Scarlet. Another doctor worked on a rather nasty cut on her ribcage, as a nurse wrapped her cut shoulders. Scarlet rolled her eyes, and motioned that she was crazy. “Crazy? I’m not crazy!” The soldiers in the beds between them watched the two as if they were both crazy.
‘You. Fought. Cuts. Death.’
“Yeah I fought, it’s what was right. And yeah, I got hurt. It’s a risk worth taking, and am I not here right now?”
“Why? Why have you been training? Why are either of us in this infirmary? Because we are meant to fight.” Renee cringed in pain, but made no noise.
‘I only helped Pals. All I wanted.’
“Well, I wasn’t there to help Pals. I was fighting. For the first time in my life, I was actually doing something that could change the world! When I was in the middle of it all, hectic and unknowing my next move, I felt… alive.” Scarlet frowned at her.
‘Who are you?’
“Who am I? Who are you? You said it yourself, we’re changing. You know your path and now I’ve finally found mine. That’s something I’m never going to give up.” Scarlet looked away from Renee, just as the doctor finished the last stitch. He wrapped her arm in gaze, taping it off. Grabbing a cloth, he tied it around her neck; slinging her arm into it. “There, Private Hancock will take you to the King.” The low ranking officer offered Scarlet a hand. She willingly took it with her good hand, and hopped from the bed. Releasing her, Scarlet followed after the man. He led her to a single door, opening it without knocking. “Your highness, General Rey. Special Force’s Flower is delivered to you sirs.” Stepping in behind the man as he saluted his commanding officers, Scarlet left the door open. “At ease, good job. Now return to your commanded post.”
“Sir, yes sir!” Doing an about face, the man left. “I trust my men took care of you?” Scarlet looked to the General, who sat at the head of a table. His hat was removed, revealing his bald head. She nodded to him, meeting eyes with the King for a moment. They showed relief, and annoyance. “Wonderful, please have a seat.” Scarlet took the seat that the General motioned to. “You’re just in time for our update. For you.” A solider from behind offered her a note pad, along with a stylus and ink. She took it, and nodded a thanks to the girl. Flipping to a random page, she tossed the lid to the ink a side.
Is Pals okay? Her pups? She slid it to the middle of the table, for everyone to read. Her eyes, though, looked directly at Theo. Sighing, Theo glanced away. “She gave birth to four heathy puppies; three boys and a girl. They ended up having to cut into her, because her cervix hadn’t stretched but her water broke. But all four came out okay.” Scarlet took the notepad back. And Pals? “She lost a lot of blood, but with rest and time she’s expected to make a full recovery.” Relief flooded Scarlet, and she lowered her head into arms. She cried, for the fact that Pals was okay, and that she had four perfect puppies. Scarlet had been so scared for Pals. So scared for herself, for Renee.
After knocking the trees to block the road, Scarlet and Renee took on a total of twelve soldiers from the enemy line. It had been a battle worth seeing, considering it was her first real battle. Everything Claudia and Pals had taught her had been tested and put to use. It was towards the end of the battle, when only three men remained, that they both got injured. Two came after Scarlet, and the third aimed for Renee. For a majority, Scarlet had the upper hand against the two- taking one out with a solid punch to his nose. The satisfaction was short lived, because behind her Renee cried out. Scarlet turned just in time to see her friend land on the ground, bleeding. Realizing her attacker was advancing, Scarlet used her powers to grab the man and fling roughly into a tree. His body impacted the truck like a rag doll. Knowing Renee was safe, Scarlet turned her attention back to her own final attacker. Once more, she turned just at the right time. The man aimed for her heart with the blade in his hands but Scarlet was able to move fast enough to avoid a hit to her heart. Instead the blade sliced the soft, exposed skin of her upper arm. Letting out a silent cry, she stumbled away. Holding her upper arm, she moved her left hand up. The man, who had turned to attack once more, was frozen in the air. Like a child with ball, she forced his body high into the air before slamming it into the ground. Seeing him neither move nor breathe, she fell to her knees. The pain was over coming. Suddenly she remembered Renee. Looking to her fallen body, Scarlet stumbled over to her. Scarlet moved Renee to her back. She was still breathing, but bleeding greatly from the wound in her side. Though Scarlet had voiced a hatred for Renee, in that moment she could only feel fear. They had been anything but on equal eye level the past few months, but Renee was the only family Scarlet had left in the world. Her father was unknown. Her mother was dead. Renee was all she had left. So with all her strength, and mostly her good arm, Scarlet picked up her friend right under her armpits. She dragged her back up the road, the military base visible as a shadow in the first few rays of day light. Making it to the first gate, Scarlet stumbled in. As she did, Scarlet lost her grip on Renee and fell to the ground. Looking to her friend, she cried, and held her hand. Left to hope that someone would find them before it was too late. Reaching out, she held onto Renee’s limp hand, her eyes closing as she did.
Scarlet only had small snips of what happened after she blacked out. She remembered hearing voices, at one point she was in someone’s arms and the next she was lying in a moving truck. There were more voices. She went from being outside, to in; the titled ceiling racing above her head. When she finally regained consciousness, she was in the infirmary surrounded by other wounded men and woman.
“What’s the official number?” Scarlet was brought back from her inner thoughts to the room by the King’s voice. “Roughly 600.” General Rey slid a paper towards the King. “Just us? What are their numbers?” The General shook his head, “We don’t know exactly.” The King looked at the paper. “Well we have quite a few of their bodies. That’s something.” Theo rolled her eyes, standing. “Not that I care about the numbers, I really don’t, so I’m going to go. My metal bird needs a few repairs before this afternoon’s flight.”
“Theo, are you honestly leaving? Now of all times? Can’t your invention wait?” Theo gripped the back of her chair in her hands, looking down to the King. “No, sire it can’t. We got attacked last night, were unprepared, and good soldiers died. In order to keep their deaths from being in vain, I’m getting my ass back to my bird so I can get it to the other side of the mountains. To the real battle.” Pushing her chair in, Theo left the room without another word. Scarlet watched her until the door shut, and then looked back to the King.
‘When do we leave?’
“Within the next two hours. Is Renee almost ready?” Scarlet hesitated, but nodded her head yes. Renee had attempted to control her life, Scarlet was not about to do the same thing. She may not have liked that her best friend wanted to go into the heart of the battle, but Scarlet could not stop her either. “Very good, how are you. How’s your arm?” Scarlet could hear it in his voice. Though barely there, she could hear the pain. She wished he could comfort her, to wrap his arms around her and kiss her until she forgot the pain. But he couldn’t.
‘Sewn up, and in pain.’
‘It was worth it.’
She gave him a smile, thinking about Pals and her heathy pups. The General cleared his throat. “If we may get back onto the more dire matters at hand?” The King nodded. “Of course Rey, go on.” The General tugged at his top, his chest puffed out slightly. “Yes, as we speak a small elite group of my men are preparing our transportation through the mountains. In order to more protect you all, rather than keep an element of surprise, we shall be traveling through a series of old mines. It’s not the cleanest but it’s quick and secluded.” The King nodded, both agreeing and telling them that that was the plan they were to follow.
Scarlet’s arm throbbed, despite being bound by the sling. She rubbed it slightly, the pain easing for those few moments. Standing to the side, Scarlet watched as their small bags were loaded into one of the further mine carts. It had taken them roughly twenty minutes through twisting tunnels to finally come to their send off point. Though their numbers were small. Besides the King’s party, there was the General and four of his men. The last bags had been packed away when the General suggested that they all climbed in. Scarlet, Renee, and the King got into the most center cart. Both humans needed the help of others to get over the sides, but were able to do so none the less. Claudia and Klaus took the cart in front of them, along with the General. Their two carts had been outfitted with wooden benches on each side. The four soldiers took spots on each end cart, both of which were handcars. Clearly they were to be the main power of their journey. Scarlet wasn’t quite sure how, General Rey said it would be a few hours to get through the mountain. There was no way four men- three of whom were werewolves and the other a vampire- could pump the three heavy carts. “Onward men, onward.”
Following General Rey’s order, the men made no noise as they begun to pump. And after a few moments, and some jolting, the carts begun to move. Besides the lamp in each cart, and hanging from each end of the handcars, the tunnels were absorbed in black. What lied a head and what they left behind was unseen. The men pumping the hand cars stopped as the small train entered into a large cavern. They each took to their knees as the train dipped, and gained speed. That was all the train needed to move on it’s own inertia. Looking up and around, whenever they entered into a cavern, Scarlet saw faint tracks surrounding them. Higher, lower and sometimes even parallel to their own. When the carts would slow, typically during a span in a flat tunnel, the men on the ends rose and carried them through. Having lost count of how many caverns and turns they had taken, Scarlet’s eyes fell heavy. Glancing at the King, who was across from her, her eyes closed.
A jolt shook her body, and she felt her head hit something rather hard. Opening her eyes, Scarlet looked to see where she was at. A quick glance up at Renee, who was holding back a curse through her clenched teeth, told Scarlet her head had been in her lap. Looking to the cart wall, which her head should have hit, it was blocked by the King’s hand. “Would it have killed if you made the stop a bit smoother?” Rising, Scarlet noticed Renee holding her bad side. General Rey looked to her hand. “I warned you that the stop would be rather rough. That last dip always increases our speeds greatly.” Scarlet sat up, rubbing her eyes with her good arm. The small cavern they were in was near identical to the one they had started in, dark and empty. “Never the less, what done is done. We must be going, our contact ride is waiting for us.” General Rey and the two vampires in his cart stood. Beside her, Renee grumbled as she stood and hopped out of the cart. Scarlet copied her, using both her good arm and the bench as an aid. The King was last, but was handed a lantern by one of the guards. Going up to General Rey, the two men fell into an equal step and led the group. Once more they were led through a series of darken tunnels, yet the General and guards all knew their way. The group remained silent, their shuffling feet echoing almost too loudly.
Rounding yet another corner, the group was met with guards and the entrance of the mine. Upon seeing them the guards snapped to attention, and the General dismissed them. Nodding, they clearly had pregiven orders as they begun to move about. One took a bag or two from our men, another updated the General. The last two gathered and handed out cloaks, dried meat pieces and water canteens. A guard unfolded the cloak, wrapping it around Scarlet’s shoulders. There was a single metal clasp at her left shoulder that held the fabric together. Scarlet stuck her hands out of the two small slits in the fabric and graciously took the canteen and meet. “You all will want to put your hoods on, it’s quite cold and rainy out today.” The head guard clasped his hands, putting on his own brown cloak. Turning to leave, and lead them, he pulled his hood over his head. Scarlet stuffed the dried meat into her mouth, forcefully chewing the stringy, tough and desperately under seasoned meat. Pulling the hood onto her head, she took a swing of water. In the hopes that the liquid would help the poor excuse for food down to her empty belly. If she never had to eat that again, she would not be upset by the fact at all.
The guard hadn’t been lying to them. Though the entrance of the mine was at the base of a mountain, the wispy gray haze of fog hung in the air. The sky matched in color, and a faint mist fell from it. Scarlet still blinked, her eyes adjusting. Gravel crunched under their feet as they walked up the path to yet another truck. Scarlet wondered to herself why the military seemed so set to only drive around trucks. Unlike the pervious trucks, this one had a metal frame over it’s cab. A canvas had been stretched across it, and tied down. The flaps over the back of the truck had been pulled back to allow them access. Claudia and Klaus climbed in first, followed by Scarlet and Renee- who let out a string of curses from the pain put on her side. General Rey followed after her, clearly not impressed with her language. The King was the last one to climb in, and as he took a seat next to Scarlet the group was covered by darkness. The flaps had been closed, and tied. The group left to sit in the dark. Scarlet, for the first time, didn’t mind the dark. Because as the truck hummed to life below them, she felt a hand tracing up her leg. As they begun to move, cool fingers found her own. Trying to hide it, Scarlet smiled and tightened her grip on the hand.
Though Scarlet stomped through the mud, the edge of her cloak still got dirty as they were lead through the camp. Unlike the base, the camp was literally a city of tents. Line in perfect formations, all the tents centered on a group of three tents that were larger than the rest. The group was led to the second largest of the round tents. Inside, surrounding a simple rectangle table was a group of high ranking officers. The one in the center glanced up, and took a second look. Standing, the other men stopped their talking and glanced up. Upon seeing both the King and the General, they copied the center woman. “Your highness, General Rey.” They all saluted him. General Rey nodded. “At ease men.” They all went into a more relaxed, but just as stiff looking pose. “Your highness, may I introduce Lieutenant General Shannon Evans. To her right is Major General Aron Louise and Brigadier General Edwards Hop. Brigadier General Barrel and Major General Nimitz are each at their own camps with orders from General Evans.” The King nodded, and General Rey went on. “To General Evans left is Colonel Green and Pritle.” Upon hearing Klaus and Claudia’s last name, Scarlet took a second look at Colonel Pritle. He indeed share similarities to the other two vampires, mostly in body and face shapes. His physical features differed from them. The King nodded once more. “It is good to see you all in fair health. Now General Evans, I must request that you, Rey and I have a private meeting at once.” General Evans nodded her head. “Of course, men you’re dismissed.” The men around the table nodded and left the tent. The three then looked to the two humans and remaining vampires. “The guards outside will lead you all to your tents. Dinner will be soon.” General Evans smiled. She wasn’t a vampire, nor was she a werewolf yet there was something off about her. Scarlet couldn’t name it in that moment. Claudia and Klaus left without a word or bow. Renee bowed her head, and Scarlet copied her. Exiting the tent, Scarlet joined the remaining members of the group.
Their tents were all next to each other, lined perfectly like the others. And like the others their fabric was the shade of a muddy brown, blending in with the ground. Though they were meant to sleep six men or woman at a time, Scarlets only held four. Claudia, Renee, herself and once she arrived, Theo. The King had a private tent and Klaus was sharing with a few high ranking males. The way the men greeted him told Scarlet that they all knew each other prior and were fine sharing such small quarters. Entering into their tent, their backs were already waiting for them. Each was placed at the end of a perfectly made sleeping mat. Looking at the padding on the ground, Scarlet grew home sick for her bed back in the King’s home. With a sigh she removed her cloak, though her body ached for the warmth it brought. Scarlet was just about to lay down, when a distant, but great, roar filled the air. Hoping up, she struggled to get her coat and cloak back on. Running from her tent, her fingers fumbling with the metal anchor on the cloak as she did. Not realizing it at the time, but others joined her as she looked up into the far sky. There was no way for them to see what approached with the fog in the air. Scarlet wasn’t scared though. A few soldiers around Scarlet wondered what it was, some voiced fear of an attack. All went silent as one scream, “I got ’em on the radio! Listen!” The crowd hushed, in an attempt to hear the crackling voice.
“Tent City this is T-Bird coming in from your south, requesting permission to land.” Scarlet glanced towards the group of huddle soldiers. Their radio was clearly not for communications but hooked up with those along the camp. An efficient, and smart way to get news out to a makeshift base. “T-Bird this is Tent City, permission granted. Wind is low as is ground visibility. Please use the ground light indicators to land East of the base.” Scarlet waited, her heart pounding to hear Theo’s voice once more. “Roger that Tent City, warnings noted and are being taken into account. Landing time t-minus three.” Scarlet jumped up from where she had hunched over the radio. As she did, Scarlet looked up just in time to see the faint outline of Theo’s metal bird. Scarlet jumped up and down, running to Claudia who caught her from falling. She quickly apologized to the vampire, who only smiled. “It’s fine, I’m excited to see her too. Let’s go.” Wrapping her arm around Scarlet’s, Claudia then pulled her off towards what Scarlet assumed was the landing strip.
They reached the strip just as Theo was hopping from her Bird. “Theo!” Claudia screamed out, while Scarlet waved. Theo popped her goggles from her face, and met the two. “Guys!” They hugged. “Glad to see you make it over the mountains.”
“Same to you, the mines weren’t too rough were they?” Groups of soldiers begun to crowd along the outskirts of the landing strip. Most having never seen a Metal Bird in their lives. A few dared to step forward, but they were clearly there to help the werewolf. “The only thing rough about it was being stuck in the same cart as my brother and General Rey. We argued the whole way.” Theo laughed, clasping them both on the back. “Well I’m going to unload the Bird and put it somewhere safe.” They nodded, each understanding. “Oh Scarlet, before you go.” Theo jogged over to them. She pulled an envelope from the inside of her vest. “Got this right before I left, it’s from Pals.” Scarlet took it, thanking her as she did. Licking her lips, she held the envelope close to her chest. Falling in step behind Claudia, she carefully opened it. There was a folded letter, and a picture.
We couldn’t have made it without you.
Pals, Rony, Ford, Eli, Shiloh and Lettie Loth.
Scarlet looked at the beaming group in the photo. The two parents looked exhausted but the new born pups in their arms rested peacefully. Flipping the photo over, Pals’ graceful cursive covered it. In bed: Palsea. In arms, left to right: Ronford David the fourth, Elias Matthan and Shiloh Nahor Loth. Standing: Ronford (the third). In arms: Scarlet Elizabeth Grace Loth. Scarlet flipped the photo back over, leaning in to look at the pup in Rony’s arms. She had an upsloping nose, and cheeks that were plump and full. Peeking out from under cap were dark, wispy curls. Scarlet couldn’t believe it. Pals had named her daughter, her only daughter, after her. She had never felt more honored, or lucky in her life than she did walking through the cold and mud that day. Holding both items to her chest, she quickly returned them to the envelope and hid her hands back under her cloak.
She stopped, looking around. Scarlet realized, having been distracted by the letter; that she had lost Claudia. Now alone, and surrounded by endless tents, Scarlet had no idea where her own was. Finding the large center tents, Scarlet made her way back to them. As she came into the clearing, she nearly ran into General Evans. Though the General had been turned away, she was able to move out of the way in time. Scarlet begun to fall forward, but before she could release her powers out, hands caught her waist. “Careful.” General Evans let her go, and Scarlet resisted the urge to rub her hips. The spots that the General had just been holding her were tingling in a way that Scarlet didn’t like. Nodding a thanks, Scarlet looked away from the General’s stare. To just even feel the General’s dark orbs on her made Scarlet’s skin crawl. “You seemed a bit preoccupied, have you lost your way through the camp?” Scarlet looked up, meeting the General’s eyes. The world around her blurred out, as she felt herself glued to the woman. Unable to look away. Scarlet stared into the General’s eyes; her pupil expanding until there was no white left. Scarlet’s mouth opened, as if she could actually say something. She wanted to, the urge bubbled under her skin. “Scarlet!” The trance broke, Scarlet blinking her eyes hard. Looking up to the General, her eyes hard returned back to normal. Both women turned to the jogging Claudia. “There you are! Thought I lost you.” Claudia wrapped her arms around one of Scarlet’s. “If you’ll excuse us General, we’ve been invited to a camp fire side meal.” The General’s lips curled slightly. “Of course, enjoy yourselves. I will see you both later.” Claudia pulled Scarlet off, not saying anything for a few moments. Once they were clear of the General’s earshot, Claudia glanced to Scarlet. “You okay?” Scarlet nodded. “Okay, cause it’s okay if you’re not. Even I get risen skin around witches.” Scarlet wanted to stop walking right then, but Claudia kept her moving. General Evans was a witch! No wonder she gave Scarlet such uneasy feelings. Glancing back, Scarlet bit her lip. The General had remained where they had left her, and her eyes were focused solely on Scarlet.
That night, after the wonderful meal and the chatting with the soldiers; Scarlet laid on her mat. Her side hurt her greatly, and she was still focused on the fact that General Evans was a witch. Scarlet had never met a witch before. They were a rare breed, almost fully died out. Like the elves of times before, the witches were hunted down. For either the manipulation of their powers or their deaths. Unlike the elves, who had been a peaceful race, and both vampires and werewolves, who had the ability to easily overcome an opponent; witches were not scarred to fight but lacked the ability to overcome the greater beings. Their powers were great, but short lived.
Yet there was one in this camp. Sleeping just a bit over. Alive. Fighting for them.
Scarlet slowly sat up, looking to her companions. They were all peacefully sleeping, Theo snoring lightly. Licking her lips, she slid from her covers. Remaining on the ground, she crawled to the tent’s closed flap. Opening the corner she peeked out, the fire they had once sat around was nothing but black soot now. There was barely any moon, and she saw no patrolling men. Leaving the tent, she stood as the flap gently closed. Her bare feet sunk slightly into the still damp ground, and she silently slipped into the tent next to her own. Though it was nearly impossible to see, her eyes made out the soul sleeping mat. And the one body on it. She went to it, slowly lowering herself next to the sleeping figure. As she rested her head, he stirred. “Scarlet?” The King’s voice was heavy in sleep, rough. Scarlet had never heard it as such before. “What?” He sounded more awake now. Turning to her side, her heart threatened to jump through her skin. She scooted back, molding her body into his. The King said nothing, he did nothing. His body did not stiffen and he didn’t push her away. Instead he wrapped an arm around her waist and dug his face into the top of her head. She could feel his deep intakes and it intoxicated her. Though her heart still race and her body buzzed; she found herself relaxing. Enough so that she was finally able to find sleep.