The dark, twisted shadows of the night, combined with the inhuman speed at which the two creatures were moving, made it impossible to decipher what was happening. All I knew was that I was smack in the middle of a very dangerous fight, and I could not move my legs.
Get away, run, take cover! My mind screamed at my body, but it’s only response was to shake uncontrollably. My eyes were open wide, and tears were streaming down my face as they refused to blink.
I heard a loud thud and then saw the enormous wolf fly through the air and slam against a tree. The tree groaned and cracked at the considerable impact and I thought it might fall over.
The three other Chaimara were still standing in the same place, their bodies like stone statues. The woman was frozen in the act of backing away, her legs bent and palms out, facing forward.
The tallest male stood with his arms outstretched, like they had been when he tried to pull Kale away. His face was suspended in an expression of horror, his mouth forming a round O shape.
The other male had turned his back, and looked like he was sculpted into the act of running. One leg touched the ground while the other was lifted behind him, with his arms bent at his sides.
I could see their eyes, still darting around, wide and terrified at what was happening to them as well as their comrade, Kale.
“Brenya!” I thought I heard Dristan call out. “Run!”
But I couldn’t. My eyes ripped away from the wolf, who was now rising back to his feet, and tried to find the source of the voice. My eyes locked with Dristan’s, about twenty feet away from me.
He must’ve realized the immobilizing shock and fear that was surly painted across my face, because he lifted his clawed hand and flicked his wrist toward me. I gasped as I was suddenly lifted into the air by an unseen force and then carried backward through the trees at an alarming rate.
I landed on my back, the air knocked out of my lungs, and lay gasping for air as I gaped up at the trees and sky towering above me.
Loud booms and snapping sounds echoed throughout the forest. I tried to decide weather those snapping noises were of wood... or of bones. I couldn’t decide on an answer.
Roars and snarls filled the once silent woods, overcoming my senses with what I could only describe as the most disturbing and petrifying feeling I had ever known.
I sat up, my body groaning in pain, and my eyes darted around the scene before me. I was about fifty feet away from them now, but I wasn’t any less frightened.
I watched, huddled beneath a large bush, as Dristan and the wolf creature continued to preform their intricate dance of death.
The wolf seemed to be injured and was limping on its left leg. It held a giant paw over its abdomen, and I could hear its snarling, snapping teeth as clearly as if they were right in front of me.
Dristan was circling the beast, his sword outstretched and at the ready. To my relief, he did not seem to be injured, like the wolf was. He flipped the sword expertly in his hand as he continued circling, and I could swear he was smiling, though it was impossible to know for sure through the thick blanket of night.
“Something wrong, pup?” Dristan taunted. The wolf whined and cowered away from him, retreating a few steps. “I thought you said a few scratches from my sword wouldn’t phase you?”
He grunted as he lunged forward and sliced across the wolf’s right shoulder. The wolf howled in pain and surprise at the swift attack, and stumbled backward into a tree. He bared his glistening teeth and swiped at Dristan’s head. But in his injured state, the blow was clumsy and slow. Dristan easily evaded the attack, ducking just in time. He laughed at the wolf’s sorry attempt to strike him.
“It was quite arrogant and stupid of you, not taking the time to study my weapon more closely. You didn’t even smell the iron in my blade.”
I held a hand over my mouth as a small gasp escaped from between my lips. Iron... His sword was iron! The conversation we’d had days ago, over breakfast, came pouring back into my thoughts. I struggled to remember why iron was important.
The foggy memory of Dristan’s words played in my mind as I thought back. “Iron weakens the bodies of magical beings when it pierces our skin. And silver, if introduced into our blood steam, kills us.”
Hope blossomed inside of my frigid chest. Dristan was significantly weakening the beast by cutting his body with the iron sword. But did that mean he could kill him? No, he needed silver to do that!
The ember of hope within me was snuffed out, and I sighed in frustration. How were we going to get out of this?
Dristan struck once more, this time slicing the wolf across his broad, furry chest. The beast roared in fury and pain, and this time, fell backward onto the ground. He lay on his back, and struggled to stand, but he didn’t seem able to muster up enough strength. The sound of the sword cutting into him was slick and wet. I could smell the metallic tang of blood in the air. My nose wrinkled at the scent and I gagged. I covered my face with my hands, and tried breathing in and out of my mouth.
“But most importantly of all, had you been paying better attention, you would’ve smelled the flecks of silver and liquid nightbane at the core of my very unique blade.”
Dristan lifted the sword and gazed at it fondly. He flipped the hilt lithely in the palm of his hand before gripping it firmly again. He moved to stand directly over the wolf, and lifted his sword, pointing the sharp end toward the beast’s chest.
The wolf whined and growled beneath him, blood still pouring out of the wound in his chest.
“But you didn’t notice. You were too busy pretending to be as tough as stone... But you are a man made of paper. And paper men buckle beneath the slightest bit of pressure.” He plunged his sword down with mighty force, straight through the heart of the wolf.
A cry of anguish erupted from the beasts mouth. It coughed and sputtered as blood splashed out, creating a disgusting gurgling sound. It struggled on the ground for a few more moments and then shifted back into Kale’s humanoid form. He seemed so small and fragile compared to his giant wolf and I almost felt sorry for him as I watched Dristan plant his foot on his chest and yank his sword free.
Hesitantly, I crawled out from beneath the bush and began to stumble towards them, tripping over the upturned brush every few steps. I stopped a few feet away, and stared down at the dying man’s face.
As much as it pleased me to see him dying, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of guilt. I furrowed my brows at the unexpected feeling. Why should I feel sorry for this monster?
Kale gasped on the ground, the gurgling noise from his lips intensifying. “I’ll... See you... In hell...” He rasped to Dristan. His eyes dragged away from the Dragon Lord and landed on mine. I stared, wide eyed, back at him. I felt my stomach roil as he gave me one last, cruel smile.
He released a final exhale and his body went still. The kind of still only possible through death. His eyes remained open, staring into mine, and I let out a strangled sob as I stared into his vacant gaze.
A hand on my shoulder pulled me away from the dead wolf, and I slowly turned my body. I looked up into Dristan’s slitted eyes, still flashing with violence and bloodshed. I couldn’t hold his gaze...
I looked down at his blood stained sword, and for the first time, saw it for what it was. A weapon, not only crafted to kill mortals, but magical beings as well. I studied the thick iron sword.
The middle of the blade had a thin, vertical, glass-like column down its center. And as I looked closer, I could see a strange, blue liquid inside of it. Nightbane... Tiny flecks of glitter floated inside of the nightbane concoction, and I realized they were actually flecks of silver, just as Dristan had said.
“Are you alright?” He asked cautiously.
I tore my eyes from the weapon and stared up at him as silent tears streamed down my cheeks. No. I wasn’t...
This man had done a vile thing by violating me, but... did he deserve to die? He was like me. His family had been stolen from him. Murdered. His life had been ripped away from beneath his feet in a bloody, unexpected turn of events, much like my own had been.
Guilt cascaded over me in a powerful, suffocating wave and I broke down, sobbing. Even though Dristan had been the one to deliver the fatal blow, I felt like it was me who was responsible for this wolf’s death. It was my fault.
Dristan lifted his hand and wiped his thumb across one of my cheeks, drying the tears that stained it.
“Stay here.” He said softly.
Before I could gather my thoughts, he turned around and stalked toward the group of immobile Chaimara. I watched in horror as he pulled his sword back, and then plunged it into the back of the black haired wolf. Straight through his heart.
He instantly became unfrozen and slumped to the ground, dead. He didn’t make a single sound. It happened so quickly, I hadn’t had time to even realize what Dristan was doing until it was too late.
He moved to the next male and lifted his sword, his deadly intent clear as day. He was going to kill them all. And it was my fault.
I’d chosen to leave the treehouse village. I’d chosen to venture into the forest alone, risking my life. If I had just listened, stayed with Dristan, this wouldn’t be happening. They would have lived.
This was wrong. It was all just so wrong! How was this any different from what the human king was doing? How did this separate us from him? The king was destroying us. And we were destroying each other. And on and on it would go, a vicious cycle of blood and hate and gore, until there was nothing left.
Sure, Dristan had managed to help some of the Fae and formed an alliance with them... But what about the other magical beings still left across the land? What about these Wolf Chaimara? Why did they have to die? How many other races were out here, angry and desperate to get back at the king?
This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. Someone had to stop this madness! This wasn’t the way!
A sensation I’d never felt before suddenly came over me. My mind, which had been a scattered mess of fear and mixed emotions, was suddenly as still and clear as a glistening stream.
Stern determination settled into my bones... my soul... as I suddenly saw the truth for what it was. For what it had been my whole life, even if I hadn’t known it.
My name was Brenya Avery Alemaund of the Elemental and Rune bloodlines. Princess of the Fae, and heir to the throne.
And I would not allow this.
My voice rang out, echoing amongst the forest with a startling tone of unmistakable, newfound authority.
And even the wind, dancing through the leaves of the trees above, seemed to obey me as I called out...