Tarts

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Chapter Ten

Chapter Ten


“Auggie, let me go!” I just about shouted as I saw Griffin stagger in pain but picked himself backup in time to clumsily slash an enemy’s knee, Sully throwing an inky dagger at the man’s arm as he screamed furiously.

Auggie strengthened his grip on me, determined to not let me go. He was flying farther up and Mark was heading over to help Griffin’s parents who seemed to be doing well with themselves, being they were completely surrounded by enemies.

“No, Nayleth! You can’t! You can’t fight yet! You haven’t-” But he stopped as I bit his arm and he let go of me in surprise, a startled yelp escaping his pale-pink lips.

The air rushed past me and I felt the weight on my back return and pain rippled through me but it was wanted. It didn’t hurt as much since I stayed slightly calm but I could feel blood slowly falling down from my ears.

The air pushed me up and I quickly adjusted my wings before I plummeted again. I was shaking like all hell as I watched the fire-engulf a man who screamed in a way that could make the ghosts of the Salem witch trials burn again.

I peeled my eyes away from the scorching man and zoomed on over to the three people that I was relatively comfortable with and Griffin was laughing at something, Sully was grinning and J just didn’t give a shit as she wrapped a man around in vines, choking him until he was unconscious.

I was breathing heavily as Griffin winced again but the wince was overrun by him gritting his teeth and a scrunch of his nose. Sully noticed this and looked at him softly, telling him to stay calm. Griffin only grew confused at these words but soon snapped his head at Auggie who had settled beside me as fire was growing closer.

He just looked at me, with the eyes of a foreigner and I only smiled. Auggie seemed baffled but I didn’t say anything.

“Nayleth, your form…” He started but trailed off. His wings fell a bit, tail frozen behind him.

“The other good thing from Ripper. Now,” I said, and clapped my hands together causing Griffin to laugh. “What are we gonna do because I am not leading you idiots.”

Auggie sighed, still looking me over. He said we had to help Ace and Blitz as well as Mark for one thing. Griffin took no time in running over but soon fire was everywhere and he was stuck. Well, as stuck as he could be until me and Auggie lifted him up. J and Sully just kinda, appeared on the other side? I dunno, man.

I flared my wings as a man came charging at me and I yelped, launching myself into the air but he grabbed onto my ankle. I kicked him but instead of falling he started dragging me down to the ground. His eyes were shiny beads, like a spiders and I shuddered.

Spider Eyes raked a hand of nails down my leg and I hissed at him. That’s when his eyes went wide and he whispered demon under his breath. But he didn’t let go, instead his nails turned into sharp, small talons and I kicked him hard in the head. He became dazed and let go, landing with a small crack of bones.

He winced when he tried to stand and looked around at the fire.

I just watched the man as he didn’t try to escape. He just accepted the death that was in front of him, as if that was what he was supposed to do. For Red.

I shivered and flew over to J who glared at the small amount of blood running down my leg but whipped around, shooting a women who almost sneak attacked her from behind in the head. The ash flew into the wind as J reloaded her bullets.

She winked at me and ran off, I standing there until I had to fly back up from the flames.

Looking around, there was hardly any more screaming. Most of the soldiers had either escaped into the tall grass or had died from the flames and enemies that were now flooding the area.

The man with the molten face chuckled. It was deep, ruff and confused me. Why would he be laughing? Then again, a woman near him was talking while they watched the area burn. Maybe she said something funny? But what would be funny about this?

Something about the man tugged at my gut and I watched as he moved along the areas that had already been turned to ash as fire was spreading, load and swift with heat that swelled by the second. He look around, seemingly admiring the work but rubbed his temples with a loud sigh.

I was frozen in midair, trying to keep myself as quiet as possible. He hadn’t heard my wings flapping about yet and I was trying to get myself to move but no. I wouldn’t move so thanks me. So helpful.

Twisting my ears, I could hear Mark’s heavy breathing and coughing from everyone else as smoke was beginning to billow. It was covering the sky as the grass was now a corpse of ash and the bodies were charred to the crisp.

The molten man didn’t look up. He just kept standing there, looking about. His posture seemed neutral but I could hear his breathing over the roar of the fire and crying that was muffled from how far away it was.

His breathing was off, raspy almost but it was almost as if he was panicking, if slightly that is. It was quick but not enough to worry someone. Maybe him though, whoever he is.

I could get a good look at him now though. A rather fluffier build but obvious muscle, he stood tall like a man commanding something. He had shiny metallic shoulder pads that wrapped around his arms in leather straps. He had armour along his chest as well. But what was odd was how his back was completely uncovered. You could see burn scars all along his spine and skin, stitch marks too.

His eyes were so normal but something about his demeanor…

Something grabbed my ankle and yanked me down, startling me but I held in a yelp. I didn’t want that man knowing that I had seen him, very much gotten a good look at him. That wouldn’t help me in the slightest.

As I was yanked down I was tangled into a plume of smoke and I started coughing, forgetting to try and get free but it was only Mark who had made J yank me back down with her vines.

As I hacked my lungs up and blinked rapidly from the smoke, I realized most everyone was gone. We had been caught up in the surprise that people either ran or fought. Most seemingly died though, from what I could tell.

Mark lead us through the brush, quietly. Hundreds of soldiers were following us and I could hear some crying softly, others whispering about me or the molten man. No one dared to make a louder sound, even as the fire was spreading rapidly with roaring flames that helped house our slight chatter.

My bones were aching, muscles shaking. My nerves felt shot and looking at Griffin he seemed so overwhelmed with emotions that all he could do was stare straight ahead and breathe. It pained me so, to see him like that but there wasn’t much we could do.

The soldiers around me didn’t question me. I was still in my form and I wasn’t going to change out of it anytime soon. My insides were boiling with anger and fear and those didn’t normally make a good combination.

I saw a bright pair of purple wings flash above us and smiled as I realized Auggie was taking count of everyone with us. His face was contorted in concentration, biting on his cheeks as he counted and I wonder if he grew up here. If that’s why he would leave every so often each year.

What about my father? He never outright told me what he did for a living, only that he was helping people. But how? Of course, my uncle had said he taught history but this was a little different to what I was expecting, but at least it was close to the truth. My father… there was a lot there, a locked chest sitting in cobwebs, left unsaid.

My father is a touchy subject, yeah but I can still talk him, even if it hurts. People just expect me to be wallowing in grief still but it’s been ten, eleven years. I was, what, eight at the time? I wasn’t completely oblivious to the world, muchless to what death was.

I think, when faced with grief, people with either hide or show all of themselves. There’s very little in between and when people heard the story from papers and TV, gossip and family, things got twisted and turned and no one really wants to believe me when I tell my side of the story.

But that’s just it. I don’t want to tell my side of the story. Why try to tell the truth when you know those that don’t know the truth, haven’t seen it, won’t believe you in the first place? When you know the so gullible world refuses to believe something the moment they realize it doesn’t agree with their brains twisted up knots of webs and string.

I kicked a stone in frustration, hitting the back of a woman’s thigh. She didn’t turn around, just kept walking. I could see blood crusted on her neck and in her hair, mud encasing her feet and specks of it all around her legs.

Looking up, I realized most everyone was either covered in blood, mud, dust or ashe. Some people looked so ghostly and others were coughing up ash. My stomach flipped, realizing just how difficult it must be without easy means to an end.

I perked my ears, trying to listen for an ambulance siren, something. But nothing. And that especially didn’t make sense. Why not have fire trucks or ambulances? I knew they had hospitals, as stated before but no ambulances, fire trucks? Those seems kinda important, just saying.

People began to pack together and I was getting squished in between. People didn’t care about touching me and some people were even trying to touch my horns and I felt a hand brush the side of my head and I whipped my head around, only to realize that it was an accident.

A little boy about three years old was nestled in the arms of woman dressed in soldier’s garb. Well, specialized-to-her garb. Her lips were chapped, muscles contrasting in agony as we kept walking. Her hair was thin and long, the boy looking squeaky clean while she was covered in ash.

The little boy smiled widely at me, reaching out his hands again to touch the side of my head. His eyes were bright with wonder as he chuckled silently and did the grabby hand thing that little kids do.

The mother looked over, finally, and her eyes went wide at me. People had spread out again, most rushing to the front. But the woman just stayed with me and stared. The child laughed again, no sound but he kept trying to touch my head.

“It’s…” I paused, looking at the mother who had to be in her younger twenties. Her eyes were red from crying and I could tell she was in pain like no other. I smiled softly at her. “It’s ok. He’s just curious.”

She looked at me with softer eyes as the child began to squirm about. He began to make very angry faces but didn’t talk. The mother let him down and he immediately tried to jump and cling to one of my legs.

I yelped but moved my tail around clumsily and took the kid off of my leg. He made a giggling face and smiled at me as I held him upside down. I picked him up properly with my hands and made sure he was secure. He looked at me with happy eyes and pulled at my ears.

But it felt different and hurt a whole lot more. After adjusting the silent child, I touched the side of my head and realized my ears now felt like they were similar to a deers and when I tried moving them to listen they did just that. And it freaked me out.

I was starting to lose my cool with everything. Especially after Ripper. I just wanted to take some of the classes and try to forget what had happened. Because I didn’t need more trauma in my life.

The kid giggled again which pulled me from my thoughts as he tugged on my horns and I almost dropped him from being startled. I quickly wrapped my tail around his waist in case he tried to surprise me again but he only smiled as he tapped my horns and followed the grooves in them.

The mother just watched as her child became enthralled with me, her trying to wipe off some of the ash and blood on her face. The whites of her eyes popped against the dark colour and I wondered if she going to get sick as she was coughing a lot now that her child wasn’t in her grasp.

The kid seemed rather unharmed from it all as he pulled on my horns again but I pulled back up in protest. He giggle silently again and smiled, turning his head around as I saw Sully walking toward us.

His face became confused at the little boy in my arms but soon was smiling widely at the child in greeting. The kid’s face lit up as Sully made a little dragon appear in ink, flying about and breathing fire.

The little boy looked at the dragon and pointed to me, signing something with his fingers.

“He can’t speak. But he says the dragons like you, the pretty girl. I taught him some sign language but there’s a few other mute soldiers that have been the most help.” The mother piped up. Her voice was sweet but gave off a protective feeling.

She smiled at Sully who whisked away the dragon and made a girl appear, long hair and a pair of wings that flared when she bowed. The inky woman twirled about and the boy used the sign for clapping in quick succession.

He wriggled out of my arms as his mother watched him with eagle eyes, trotting over to Sully and grabbed after his hand. Sully gladly took the child’s hand in return and told the mother he was going to check in with Diana to make sure the child was ok and then bring her over. The mother hesitantly agreed as Sully morphed the ink into a wolf that helped to clear the way for the two of them.

The mother walked up closer to me, side by side now. I tucked my wings in in nervousness. It felt awkward, what with other people behind us and in front. I could here Mark a ways up, gently comforting a man who had lost his husband.

The woman looked at me with sad eyes but her smile said otherwise.

“I haven’t seen him that happy in a while. So thank you. He seemed to like you which doesn’t surprise me. He always like things that others would find scary.” She told me a matter of factly and I felt a sting of pain at the word scary directed toward me. I didn’t want to be that.

I ran a had through my hair, realizing it was rather greasy but figuring no one would care at the moment. So much had just happened that it was difficult to worry about anything like hair.

“Oh… thank you?” I told her questioningly as Sully came running back with the child on his shoulders. The kid giggled, clapping happily. Behind them was Diana, who, by the looks of things was rushed here in a hurry.

Her hair was disheveled, eyes sunken and tired. She just seemed worn-out in general. But she smiled at the mother with slight concern, comforting her with the fact that the child was in tip-top shape.

She sighed thankfully but was baffled when Diana insisted that she should take care of herself at the moment, considering she was covered in ash and blood. The woman refused and began to walk faster but Diana was unfaltered by this. The little boy watched from Sully’s shoulders and pulled on his hair, which caused it to become more blue and being enthralled the child stared in wonder.

I chuckled and walked with Sully who gave the child back to the mother, who was currently arguing with Diana on the ash crusted in her hair and the blood that was turning sticky and dry on the side of her temple.

The clouds were out. The sky was as blue as ever. It really was a peaceful day. But it also wasn’t. My insides were turning and twisting, thinking of the screams of those that had burned alive. That man who gave up…

I sighed, rubbing the sides of my temples and angled my ears to try and hear Mark a little better. He was saying something about heading toward a small clearing hidden by screaming willows (whatever those were), and that the soldiers could set up camp there.

I wrinkled my nose and decided it would be best to not snoop on Mark. Somethings were just best left unsaid. Or unheard.

Sully’s hair was back to the small hints of blue and, in the sunlight, his eyes were beautiful. Bright and wonder-filled.

I looked away and fingered around with my necklace, the cool metal smooth against my skin but felt like nothing against my small patches of scales. The chain glinted in the sunlight and I tucked it under my shirt.

“Know where we’re going?” I asked Sully who looked at me, seemingly surprised that I would ask him.

“Um, no, I-I don’t. Sorry…” He said and the sentence drifted away as his hands rippled the pages of that damned book of his.

“It’s ok, just curious, Sully! Maybe heading back to the school would be a good idea. I mean, my mental state is fried and such so, I mean, why not just go back to where it’s safe. But what is Mark doing here, exactly?” I questioned no one in particular.

Sully shrugged his shoulders, wiping a small streak of ash off of his arm. “I don’t know, Nat. He used to be what’s known as an Ace but for magic, not those things called airplanes. We have spells and such here, it’s the basis of our forms but he was born with too much of it, overbearingly so from what most people say.

“I guess he just either misses parts of being in the military or just misses helping people like this. No one really gets Mark, muchless understands him. But going back to the school, after all that’s happened? Are you sure?” Sully told me and I was rather shocked by what he had revealed.

So everyone could do baseline spells? That was good to know but now I needed to learn some, thank you very damn much. And Mark? Why not question him in the first place, after all, that’s kinda one of the first things a lot of people do. Then again, if he was a so-called Ace, maybe people didn’t want to question him for good reason.

“Of course I’m sure, there’s no where safer. Look, all I want is to figure this world out, maybe visit the other regions and figure out if my dad really is alive. I needed to understand everything if-” But I cut myself off, realising what I had said. I pursed my lips, biting my tongue.

Sully looked at me, his eyes rather surprised but said nothing. He didn’t question me but I could tell he was curious. Very curious.

I smiled weakly and tucked in my wings to give him some more room to walk. My tail swished around behind me and I wondered just how strong my wings or tail could get. Or if it was like a set strength or something.

Auggie came flying by, his pale purple scales shimmering in the sunlight. He hollered at me that Mark was gonna take us back to the school and he would help Diana relocate. I gave him a thumbs-up and he grinned at me, giving me a curious look with Sully beside me.

“Guess we go to the school. Ha!” I jabbed at Sully and he just chuckled lightly, lightly punching the side of my arm in an awkward response.

Soon, we all branched off and Mark hoarded the four of us toward the school which was still a ways off yet. Mark was messing around with a card that had a glittering mirror on it. It was a pretty tarot card and he kept flicking it around, trying to get it to do something.

Griffin was chatting with J but I could hear all of their heartbeats and they seemed really stressed, in the least, filled with anxiety. Griffin was obviously feeling more than the rest of us but all of us were out of it. And I wondered just how quickly news traveled here. Fast, I was willing to guess even though I had seen no phones.

I had left mine on the counter in the kitchen. Which was fine, not like people texted me or anything of the sort, you know.

I stretched out my wings, now that I had some room to do so. It felt wonderful, the sun on my skin and scales. A pleasant warmth. Not an oh-dear-I’m-might-die kinda warmth.

We walked for a while and Sully trotted on up to Griffin, making J move back to me. She grinned at me, giggling.

“You’d think those two could be a little bit smoother! How are you holding up?” She asked me, holding a tiny handful of petals in front of me. My leg with the scratches ached right on cue and I took the petals, munching on them. They had no taste, which was helpful. I guess.

“I’m… lonely. I guess. Scared. You?”

J paused, thinking. She still had a few roses milling about as if they were the snakes on Medusa’s head. It was a silly yet mesmerizing sight to see. “I think I’m rather unfazed. Well, not as shell-shocked as you. I help my mom, you know. With injuries.

“But I am curious as to how the fire started. That everyone would love to know.” She told me as birds flew over head, long tails on the end of their wings and foggy eyes. J kicked a rock, huffing.

My stomach flipped through. Was I the only one that had seen that weird man? I really hoped I wasn’t, because then I would be in heaps of trouble that I most definitely did not want to be in.

J happily walked along beside me, her eyes flickering everywhere. We had reached the edge of the forest by now and I could hear crickets starting there tunes as the sun was starting to set. Mark was getting impatient about something but kept his cool, Sully still talking to Griffin about drawings.

I smiled at myself but soon was overwhelmed by loneliness. I bit my lip, chewing on it. I felt so out of things at the moment that I couldn’t even concentrate on the fear building in my chest, the stress.

The man at the camp, he had to of started the fire but who was he? He didn’t seem like someone that could be too out of place but then again, he seemed really out of place as well. I wonder if I was the only one that had seen him or if it was just my mind being… buggy.

I yawned and stretched my wings. I could’ve flown but my muscles needed a break and I wasn’t really feeling it. And I wanted to walk while I could. I knew my wings might need some work but flying most likely wasn’t the best idea, even though we were sorta far from the camp at this point.

I heard Mark exclaim in joy and the card was alight but I couldn’t see anything. Yeah, I could walk around but I wasn’t feeling like it. Sorry, my guys. Just not really wanting to be productive.

My ears twitched and I heard the sound of a door opening and closing but was confused. There didn’t seem to be any buildings around and yet…

“You came! Wonderful, we need to get these four back to the school and I need to start class tomorrow as there was a fire and-” Mark exclaimed but Gram, after smiling at me, interrupted him.

“I heard. I know people, you know. Now, let’s get you four back to your room and clean before anything else. Then we can discuss schedules.” And she shoved us through a white painted door with little gold designs cornering the frame, leaving me frazzled.

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