The smell of burning wood woke Olivia from her dreamless slumber. She groaned with a throb in her back; the fall she endured would’ve caused serious bruising. The girl blinked the tiredness from her eyes and found herself on the ground. Exhausted as she was, Olivia couldn’t move her arms when she tried. She discovered that they were tied behind her back with rope as she laid in Grimfore village. Puzzled, the girl looked around and ignored the lifeless statues scattered around her. The gates were ahead of her, but she was further in the village than when the Fantasy Hunters knocked her out. Behind her was a bell tower covered with frost, the entrance lit with hanging torches.
“Abraham? Abraham!” Olivia called out.
She received an echo of her own voice. A frown creased her forehead as Olivia struggled to stand, her injured leg made it near impossible. She didn’t try to walk as she knew it would lead to her crashing into the snow again and have the repeated struggle of trying to stand.
It remained eerie quiet. Olivia frowned. Something was wrong. The Fantasy Hunters, the real ones, were dangerous. From what she knew, they were out to kill every mythical creature there was, from the quiet and deadly to the harmless and loud; and Rykal was at the top of their list, her list. Olivia scanned the area, she was looking for any signs that could indicate what they were planning. They wouldn’t give up the opportunity to take down a dragon shifter, especially someone connected to one.
A roar so powerful and deep sliced through the silence, raising the hairs on the back Olivia’s neck. Underneath the dark sky, Olivia could feel his presence drawing closer and closer. She could feel his wrath rolling in giant waves ready to devour her and drag her into the pits of raging flames. It was inevitable. All the courage depleted from Olivia as she saw a large shadow caught in the moonlight peeking around the clouds. His wings flapped heavily enough she could hear how fast he was flying. A shiver crawled up her spine, coldly whispering to her that Rykal was beyond furious. Olivia swallowed the hard lump in her throat. No matter how hard she focused on calming herself there was no hiding the anxiety churning her stomach.
The dragon shifter flew closer and Olivia knew it meant the beginning of the huntress’s plan. She had to find a clue to give away what it might be, in doing so she searched all around her. Looking above her, behind her, all sides around her. Why couldn’t she find anything? No matter how good of a hunter a person may be, they always left behind a trail, no matter how small it was. Her father always told her that. Look at the area from a different angle, see how a hunter would work with the environment provided. Olivia looked at her surroundings again, looking at the Townsquare of Grimfore from a different perspective, a hunter’s perspective. There were many places a hunter could hide, behind a market counter, underneath a wagon, on top of the cottages and stalls. It was then Olivia noticed that all the torches had been snuffed out, all except the ones around Olivia and the bell tower.
The bell tower,
Olivia turned and looked at the bell tower. There were lit torches flickering from inside the tower windows, snaking up to the very top. Olivia could see the bell and three of the four small brick pillars holding up the small pointed roof. A shadow moved. Olivia saw it before came a booming thud so powerful it caught the girl off guard. Her muscles tensed instantly and with a shaky exhale of fogged breath, Olivia slowly turned around and was met with the most enraged looking eyes she had ever seen; the eyes that were swirling with a dangerous flame, a fatal blue flame that would melt the flesh off her bones in seconds. The terror sinking inside her hitched her breath as she watched his fists ball tightly. His snarl was one of the most ferocious things she witnessed and his growl was as terrifying as his quivering appearance.
“Olivia,” his tongue burned her name.
Olivia visibly shuddered. The fear squeezing her heart made her want to vomit as she wobbled back. Immediately his eyes snapped to her injured leg that remained lifted from the ground, her toes barely touched it.
“Had you not foolishly run away, you wouldn’t be harmed,” his eyes were on hers again. He spoke in a voice so cold and distant the snow seemed to appeal to her a lot more.
Before she could reply, a tingling sense buzzed faintly in the back of her shoulder. Olivia looked over her shoulder, barely able to pull her eyes away from the blue that wanted to kill, and remembered about the shadow. Quickly, she looked up as the tingling progressed to the front of her shoulder. The girl squinted her eyes at the top of the bell tower, looking for a hint of the shadow. A crossbow was resting on the ledge. Olivia gasped as she glanced back at Rykal who was walking furiously toward her. Olivia snapped her gaze back to the crossbow and a cry trembled her lips. It was aimed straight at Rykal.
Olivia quickly wobbled toward Rykal but her injured leg couldn’t bear the weight and gave way beneath her. She fell into the cold snow with a muffled cry. Though, determined, the girl clenched her jaw and pulled her body up onto her knees. She met Rykal’s alarmed gaze as tears formed under the brim of her eyes.
Rykal’s gaze narrowed as Olivia looked back at the bell tower. Pierce stood there, revealing himself as he shot an arrow. The arrow whistled in the air, soaring faster than Olivia could keep up. She didn’t have time to react as Rykal screamed. It broke her heart. It didn’t sound beastly and frightening, it sounded raw and human. He continued to scream in agony and Olivia snapped her head around, a tear falling as her heart crumbled. Rykal fell to his knees, his wings falling and draping over his back. Fresh red blood dripped from his shoulder as Rykal cried out once more.
Olivia’s lip trembled as Rykal grasped the arrow embedded in his shoulder, shouting in distress. A split second went passed and the arrow was thrown far away from him. He clenched his jaw and held his bleeding shoulder. Olivia staggered to her feet but kept her injured leg barely touching the snow. She hopelessly looked at him as his gaze burned through her. Another tear rolled steadily down her cheek as her heart clenched. For an odd reason, something inside her felt lost without him. It was like without him she would have trouble breathing, without him she wouldn’t know how to live or have a reason to. She felt so conflicted about him. She was so terrified of him but she felt so relaxed in his presence. The girl didn’t understand why. She didn’t create the feelings, they just rose instantly when they first met. But seeing him in a state of pain caused by her made her heart feel heavy with shame and guilt.
A tingling sense buzzed through the right side of her neck. Olivia turned to the buzzing. The sense then buzzed to her left. Olivia frowned and looked the other way. The sense then buzzed all around her. She didn’t understand why the tingling buzz was happening to her but she had noticed whenever she got the feeling, someone would be closing in on her, like finding Pierce up in the bell tower. Olivia’s frown deepened, the tingling came from all directions. Realization widened her eyes, the hunters were hiding and waiting for Pierce to give the sign. She shook her head at Rykal as he remained in the same spot, Pierce had given the sign.
The tingling buzzed right through her as she screamed. “Rykal, fly! Get out of here! It’s a trap!”
Rykal looked at her with a snarling mouth but she knew something was wrong with him. He was panting heavily, his eyes were hooded and dull and he looked like he was about to collapse. She clenched her jaw and began wobbling over to him, ignoring the blistering pain traveling through her trembling leg. Rykal moved his wings above him in a flight stance but as soon as he did they quivered violently and dropped to his sides again.
He was a mere few feet from her when the tingling buzzed so rapidly through her body the air escape her lungs. The hunters emerged all at once, running out from behind counters and dropping from the roofs. They all surrounded Rykal with crossbows and swords aimed directly at him. Olivia gasped in horror and quickly learned that the tingling was focused on him, not her. Rykal growled savagely at the hunters as they circled him. Olivia remained as calm as she could and prayed Rykal listened to her despite everything. The tingling came from behind her.
“Rykal, duck!” she shouted.
The dragon shifter obeyed with hesitation as Olivia heard the crossbow fire an arrow. There was a short strained wheeze as the hunter blocking her view of Rykal collapsed into the snow. The arrow was lodged in the hunter’s chest as he was motionless. Olivia met Rykal’s startled gaze and nodded at him. Tingling buzzed through to her right as a hunter yelled, throwing back her sword over her head. Rykal snapped his head at her. Using his tail, he smacked her into a brick wall. She groaned and fell into the snow, still. He turned his gaze back at Olivia as she breathed out foggy air. The tingling buzzed through her left.
“To your left!”
Rykal turned his head as another hunter angrily took off his mask and charged at the dragon shifter, his sword raised above him in both hands. Rykal stepped and leaned back as the hunter swung his sword in the empty space. Rykal flapped his wings as he jumped up and kicked the recovering hunter hard in the abdomen. The hunter was sent through the wooden wall as the stall collapsed atop of him. Olivia felt a soft breeze as relief and hope began to rise inside her. Rykal took down three and three remained. Tingling buzzed through her chest as another hunter aimed his crossbow at him.
Rykal trained his eyes on the preparing hunter and didn’t move. Olivia frowned, Did he not hear me?
“Rykal, duck!” she yelled louder.
The dragon shifter didn’t glance her way as his eyes narrowed at the hunter. Olivia heard the crossbow fire its arrow and she cried out. Rykal caught the arrow, inches from his paling face. His hooded eyes darkened as he scoffed and stepped toward the hunter who yelled at him.
“Die, you bastard demon!” he rushed out in a panic.
Rykal growled ferally at the hunter as the hunter aimed his crossbow shakily and fired another arrow. Rykal swiftly moved his head to the side and Olivia flinched when hearing the hunter behind Rykal cry out in pain as the arrow impaled her shoulder. Suddenly, Rykal was in front of the hunter. The hunter gasped in shock as Rykal grabbed his crossbow and slapped it across the hunter’s face. The hunter’s head whipped to the side and he fell to the ground. He groaned in pain, crawling away from the approaching dragon shifter. Rykal grabbed the hunter’s ankle and yanked it toward him. The hunter yelped as Rykal towered over him. His dark, tired eyes stared into the hunter’s as Olivia watched. His sickly pale skin and dull blue glow made him more horrific and demonic.
“Playtimes over,” Rykal seethed and with one hand, snapped the crossbow in half.
Before Olivia could react, the tingling buzzed wildly in her back. Another hunter slowly crept up on Rykal with a sword in hand. Rykal no attention as he grabbed the hunter below him by the collar, yanked him up and slammed his head into the hunter’s. The hunter’s head fell back and Rykal scoffed and dropped his limp body.
Rykal stepped back, swiftly twisted his body and raised his fist. It connected to the other hunter’s cheek and a sickening crack was heard. Olivia cringed. Rykal growled as the hunter fell to the ground yelling and cursing. Her tingling sense surged through her neck and Olivia called out to Rykal, warning him, and Rykal momentarily glanced at her. The look was so deadly it sent an eerie chill sinking into her bones as his bangs fell over his forehead. The last hunter still unharmed cursed and aimed his crossbow at Rykal.
“She’s your eyes. Let’s make you blind,” he sneered.
Olivia tensed as the hunter quickly aimed the crossbow at her. Her sense buzzed frantically in her chest as she staggered back. Rykal growled and lunged at the hunter. He only casually chuckled and fired his crossbow. Olivia screamed in fright. Rykal roared out her name as the arrow soared straight for her chest. She braced for the sharp impact. Only it never made contact with her body. The arrow stopped in front of her chest, held by a woman with orange hair. She twirled the lethal arrow in her fingers and held it.
“That won’t be necessary, Rible,” she said, her voice sounding dangerously familiar as she dropped the arrow.
Rykal quickly elongated his claws and slashed them into the soft flesh of the hunter. The hunter wheezed out with a strain. Blood pouring from his chest as he sank to the ground. Rykal shifted his cold gaze at the woman and growled. The woman only chuckled and stepped closer to the dragon shifter.
“How I’ve waited for this day to finally come,” she breathed out. “The day where I can finally take down a dragon shifter,”
Her tingling sense buzzed through her back and Olivia turned around. She saw Pierce standing behind her for a split second before he backhanded her cheek. The force of the impact brought her whole body to twist around before falling harshly against the snow. Her cheek stung horribly, burning as the snow provided with a cold pleasure. Groaning, Olivia rolled onto her back, careful of her bruise and restrained hands.
“One wrong move and I’ll put an arrow through your throat,”
Olivia glanced up and saw a crossbow aimed at her. She muttered in hate, “Pierce,”
Pierce fired an arrow and landed an inch away from Olivia’s neck. Olivia glared at him as his eyes remain cold and stoic. Rykal growled venomously and Olivia turned her attention toward the dragon shifter. The woman laughed and Olivia caught a glimpse of the scar going from her cheek to her brow. It was the huntress. Olivia narrowed her eyes and Pierce fired another arrow. It grazed against the skin on Olivia’s neck and she winced.
“Next time it’ll be through your throat,” warned the hunter.
Olivia spat at his feet and glared at him. “Go to hell,”
Pierce narrowed her eyes. “Shut your mouth little girl,”
Olivia’s eyes widened as Pierce stepped forward and threw his boot hard against her stomach. Olivia choked and gagged as pain throbbed throughout her torso. Tears blurred her vision and Olivia didn’t have time to recover as Pierce kicked her in the stomach again, harder than the first. Throbbing pain rippled through her entire body and Olivia couldn’t fight back the sob ripping past her throat. A demonic roar rang down Olivia’s ear, so powerful and dominating it stopped Pierce from kicking her again. The hunter looked at Rykal as Olivia did. Her eyes went wide as Rykal stood there, his body steaming faintly and rolling with sweat. Both his hands were limp in front of him as his head was low. The blue glow around him shifted to an eerily red so dark and gruesome Olivia could’ve mistaken it for blood. His body shook with rage, his skin so pale it almost matched her colour.
Olivia felt terror seizing her body and encasing tightly around her. The girl whimpered under her breath. She felt so afraid as if the air was poisoned with fear that struck her heart. Her breath was lodged in her throat and she couldn’t do anything about it. A cold bead of sweat rolled around her temple and girl visibly trembled. She couldn’t properly apprehend how afraid she suddenly was, how unimaginable it felt. It was like being injected with tiny needles over and over again, draining the colour from her skin and leaving her cold and empty.
Slowly, Rykal lifted his head, dark scales etching into his cheeks and temples. His expression was cold and emotionless. His eyes sent a cold chill down her spine; a river of red swirled in place of the blue flames. No one could read his stoic smirk as he zeroed in on Pierce. It was so fast Olivia didn’t blink fast enough to see him move. Seconds later, Pierce yelled as a sickening crack flooded the air, followed by another as a thunderous boom overtook the air.
A growl so dark and deadly echoed around the girl as she brought herself to her knees before struggling to stand. When she did, she found a large gaping hole was left in the side of the bell tower, no doubt Pierce was in the center. The huntress was gone though it wasn’t her main focus. Her brown eyes connected with a dangerous pair of red and Olivia breathed so shallowly her heart pounded aggressively.