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Protected (Book 1 in the Soul Binders trilogy)

By Megan Walsh All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Fantasy

Chapter 1

The night was dark when a shadowed figure stepped out from the trees and onto the grass. With one hand on the knife at his belt and the other wrapped around a bundle of blue he skittered across the landscape in an almost nervous fashion, terrified of what might happen if he was seen. Beside him crouched a large cat-like creature; its fur was concealed in the darkness, brightly lit green eyes the only blatantly obvious feature to alert others of its presence.

The houses ahead were small and clustered together closely. There were several lights emanating from various windows, so dim that their rays did not even cross paths with the moonlight’s on the land; in any case, the man with the bundle was safe from spying eyes for the time being. As the figure stepped over a muggy brown puddle, the bundle in his arms shifted and he immediately halted so as to look down on it.

Inside the blue blankets lay a child, barely an hour old, eyes swollen shut and skin still bathed in the fluid it was grown in; tiny fingers grasped the air by its cheek and it let out a sleepy cry.

“Quiet little one,” The man soothed; his voice was smooth and calm, immediately hushing the baby, and he gripped the bundle tighter in his arms. He was young, no older than twenty or so, and his face was as innocent and care-free as that of a young lad – except for this night, where that look was quashed into one of worry and pain.

A few yards from where the first house was built lay a stream; it was gentle enough to not be a cause of harm to those who bathed there, but plentiful enough for water and fishing. Though it ran for miles it lacked width, and it was easy enough to cross the stream if one could find the right stone to step on.

Once across the man pulled the bundle away from his chest and gazed down at the child; asleep once again, she was peaceful and almost heartbreakingly adorable to look at. The very thought of leaving her here was abhorrent to him – he could not do it so willingly, so easily…

The cat next to him nudged at his leg with her head. “It’s time.”

His eyes barely flickered to her. “Just a few more minutes…surely I am allowed a few more minutes.”

“We don’t have a few more minutes,” She insisted, a threat of a growl in her voice. “We have to go now, or they’ll find her.” When he did not move, she rubbed herself along his calf with a sigh. “It will be alright, As; she’ll be safe, and we shall see her again soon.”

Astar closed his eyes so that he did not have to look at the child. “Yes.” He agreed quietly, and as he opened his eyes he bent to place the bundle on the ground with shaking hands. “May the Great Lords watch over you, daughter. Ashkima.

As he stood, the cat pushed her face through the many folds of blankets and let out a deep purr. “Ashkima, child. You shall need it.”

From the trees from which they had emerged, a light was beginning to burn – someone else was following on after them.

“We must go now,” The giant cat urged.

Astar nodded; he cast one last look to his sleeping daughter and then motioned to his companion to follow him. “Come, this way. We must lead them away from this place.”

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