It’s the next morning, with a strange mist coating the camp and filtering in through to our tent. It looks like a thin smoke, but doesn’t smell like it. I’m left hanging in the middle of the velvet red tent, dirty after being used all night by Zar.
I had watched my Warlord wash with a bucket of fresh water, before getting dressed and taking off without a word to me. He was smug though, and happy to have feasted between my legs for so many hours, that much I knew.
I may have enjoyed myself a little too much, as well.
The camp at this moment is now at an early morning meet up to discuss their plans. I note I can’t see anyone packing through my slit in the tent, which meant we were steady in this spot for now. I was still determined to run, once I got the chance, I just had to wait for my tongue, my magic and Draconess shifting ability to work once again. I wonder how long the ash of black swan feathers will weaken me, but I hope it’s a short hold spell, no longer than 24 hours.
I strain my ears to hear what the camp is discussing. I pick up a word here and there from Zarcar commanding his small battalion. Be vigilant. Careful. It’s important to be fearless. Something about scouting. A few murmured, quieter instructions.
Soldiers yell or murmur agreement with my Warlord’s commands.
And then, towards the end of the speech, everything changes.
A strange seeping silence runs over the camp. From every soldier and Zarcar, I hear absolutely nothing. Including the absence of any smart words from Lixar. It’s like the world has gone dead. I can imagine everyone is forgetting to breathe.
I wait for Andoll, maybe even a hiss from that strange creature?
Still, nothing is uttered.
I look down then and I see steam rising from the earth, the soles of my feet were heating up from it. The hazy film around the camp was not smoke, but steam this whole time? How?
It’s starting to thicken, making the air dense and hard to breathe in.
I hear faint whistles, zipping and zinging… simultaneously I hear a loud furious roar from Zarcar to his small camp, “Grab your weapons!” It’s unreal, the ferocity and truth of that command. But I knew now, demons were coming and it wasn’t practice.
I hear many thuds, a man yelps and another arrows zips its way into the material above my head. One more arrives, a huge spear, smashing into the pillar and breaking apart my chains.
I fall as a thunderous stampede is steadily getting louder and louder, heading for the camp. The ground shakes.
The tent starts to sag and flutter open with the steam filtering in and I try to open my mouth, to seek out a spell from the moon for protection – but I am still mute.
Damn you, Zar!
I want to shift, but I can’t shift. I stand up, iron chains tangled on my wrists, the chains long enough and unattached, but they are heavy and will make a lot of noise if I make a dash for the forest.
I look through the flaps and I see the violence of both sides colliding just as I hear a warning.
“Chyronex!” Lixar screams my name from somewhere far away, “Run!”
I duck out of the slit of the tent as I watch hordes of demons thrashing about as they’ve already leapt on dead bodies. They’re mauling the flesh out of pure blood lust.
The rest of the tents are going up in flames as I skid through the fights, hoping to get past in one piece, the trees weren’t too far away. I could make it!
On my way, I collide with another woman stumbling around and she turns to face me. Andoll.
She grins up at me, grabbing my elbows momentarily.
“With me,” Andoll hisses protectively, now clutching my hand and dragging me with her.
She’s smart, ducking through the fallen tents, using the smoke of the flames mixed with the steam to hide us. We’re nearing the edge of the fighting when we halt, because there is a procession of three slow walking members from the demons.
One… the Warlord… or King of these demons.
It looks to be an older version of Rey, he wears a crown of mangled gold, while he wears a red and white uniform.
“Keep the ones in high colour!” This King yells the command, “High Colours Alive! All alive! The rest…” he laughs to himself, and I look over my shoulder after hearing a masculine grunt.
I see Lixar eyeing me after clearly running to my aid, trying to usher me towards him while he’s fighting one huge troll looking demon. Past him, I see Zarcar in the distance, swinging his sword over at least six opponents while muttering and throwing about curses to help him fight. The wind helps him knock most of his opponents off balance.
However, as I start to pull back towards Lixar’s urgent gaze and outstretched hand, Andoll suddenly pulls to drag me forward.
Her small grip is fiercely strong and I’m forced into the open with her. I look forward to realise she’s taking the small chance while the leader of this attack has his back facing us for a split second.
I already know it’s a huge mistake from Lixar’s obvious need to save us from this attempt at direction.
Even as Andoll pulls me as quick as she can, scuttling along fast and low – the enemy simply spins to face us with his two large protective soldiers flanking him, turning to follow his gaze.
The King strikes out a hand and I wrench back at the last moment, falling in the mud of blood mixing into soil.
I open my mouth, no sound comes out.
I look at the enemy as Andoll’s caught in his main focus. She’s fallen to her side, her spine bending and her arms and legs starting to warp in the wrong directions.
“Look,” the older Rey walks forward and he murmurs an explanation to his flankers, “It’s really a young and budding member of a Venatores, isn’t it? This one is barely a demoness…”
Andoll is screeching in pain as her bones crack and I’m frozen to the spot because there is literally nothing I can do. Not with the hold spell.
What happens next, I can already sense it coming.
One curl of the King’s fingers and a red burst of Hellfire surges forth, encasing Andoll until her screams cease completely.
She… she’s air.
She’s nothing but air.
I can barely breathe.
“Watch them scramble,” the cruel King from hell, stands back and I hear the roar of Zarcar coming towards him. I witness Lixar coming forth also. He baited them. Shit!
I scramble to my feet and I crawl to the enemy as fast as I can, literally falling to his feet, I grab his ankles before I can bare the sight of Zarcar and Lixar running to their deaths.
“…silentium…” the enemy murmurs after he feels me holding onto his feet, and that screaming, violent silence rips through the camp twice.
He’s ordered his side to stop immediately with that one word.
I look over my shoulder and I see Zarcar and Lixar, stopped half way, being apprehended by tall, stronger demons. They grab their shoulders while I hold onto the heels of this man.
“Perfect. I seem to have what I need,” The King concludes, but I see his eyes are watching the way Zarcar and Lixar watch me.
They’re crying, I’m crying, we’re all fucking crying.
Andoll was dead.
I couldn’t shift.
We were a useless, pointless, failed Venatores.
“Commander Reyn?” one of the flanking demons, speaks to their leader.
Reyn? So, this was Rey’s father! I didn’t realise at first, I just though the demon look alike was a random horrible coincidence.
This was bad.
“Put those ones in iron,” Reyn nods to Zarcar and Lixar, “…they already know they have their lives with this one at my feet…” I feel spit fall into my hair and I know this hellspawn has just spit on me after murdering my best friend, I acknowledge it now, she was my best friend in all this, “Whoever this slut is, she’ll be important to Rey. Even if she’s just a prized whore. Put her on a horse.”
I’m confused by the accusations, until I realise I’m naked, covered in ash, clasped with chains, totally silent and submissive… I look like nobody.
The last thing I look like is a Draconess.
Oh, um, okay, good?
But, I was an important hostage.
The flanking soldiers hoist me up, but I can barely see properly as I look over my shoulder to the foot prints left by Andoll in the mud.
The Split Soul was dead. Because of me. Trying to protect me.
And now, the rest of us were all prisoners of war.
The camp is a silent bloody mess, besides a few gasping breaths and moans of last despair.
I hear one last command from Reyn before I’m hauled too far away.
“Keep the injured, all my Vampyres are hungry after all this waiting.”
I realise with that, this is all a wrong place, wrong time scenario.
Rey was preparing to fight this. With us. His father, Reyn, got here first. The Surge was ahead of time.
Why was Rey on our side and not on his fathers?
I wanted to know! Unless…
…unless Rey was on his side this whole time.
Unless this whole thing was planned from the start.