1482 - A Stronghold
1482 Greenway Village, Netherlands (Two years with the fallen)
Later that year, Deragan discovered Radix’s cimmerii had effectually built damns throughout the surrounding rivers which sent floodwaters rushing into Greenway Village nearby. Destroying the crops of both Deragan and the Marcelle family and cutting them off from the essential supplies of Greenway Village. We have no choice but to go. He thought. Pacing the edge of the rushing waters, as the black and gray wolf.
But Lacey didn’t want to.
She doesn’t want to leave her family. So, Deragan had wasted precious time scowering the border of the floodwaters, trying to find a way to the village.
None. If it even stands…
It’s impossible to surpass.
The water was only rising, drawing closer to flooding their homes. And sweeping them away in its torrents.
I’m going to have to get her and her family over the mountain. He looked into the distance and saw Meadow Mountain towering above Grier and Nightway. They’ll be safe from the waters on the other side. Deragan made plans for the move. Gathering what supplies he could.
We have to go. Today.
Winter is coming soon. Deragan knew. We’re running out of time…And food. Deragan had stopped eating seven nights ago but Lacey was getting weak from hunger anyway. She’d worn thin her only cloak not destroyed in the flooding and her few remaining blankets.
They readied horses, knowing a carriage would not make it over the rough terrain. When they arrived at the Marcelle Manse to collect her family, they found a devastating sight.
They’re all dead!
The Marcelle family had been slaughtered by cimmerii animals. Radix’s minions. Demons.
Blood was splashed up the walls and along the ceiling, still dripping from the candelabras.
Lacey screamed in pain and terror.
How did this happen?
When did they come? Catching her in his arms, Deragan cradled her head into his shoulder, trying to shield her from the sight of the eviscerated bodies. Her sister and parents. He followed her to her knees and held her while she was racked with sobs.
“We have to get out of here.” He told her. Pained it had to be now.
I don’t have time to let you grieve, Sweetheart.
She was nearly hyperventilating from crying. His cloak soaked from her tears.
“You’re too weak for us to fly.” He worried. “We’ll have to ride.” His heart broke at the sight of her eyes streaming tears, staring trustingly at him.
Deragan’s sharp ears suddenly caught the faint cries of the horses. Pushing from Lacey, he lunged into the air. Body twisting into the furred form of the black and white wolf marked with glinting blue eyes. He shoved through the doors and launched himself at the cimmerii creatures attacking their horses. Recognizing the short fur coating their muscled backs.
Two targue. The large dog-like creatures with gaping jaws.
But worst of all, there was one Sarabi. Voracious creatures, closer in size to a rearing horse, trudging awkwardly on back legs. Elongated front arms generally drug along the ground before the creatures. But they were armed with a mouth of sharp teeth and jaws that could open so far, the thing’s head nearly split in half.
A far more dangerous creature.
Deragan made quick work of the targue but was struggling with the Sarabi which he’d kicked free of twice. Already it returned, lunging forward to toss its weakened front arms. Raking Deragan’s middle.
He dodged the talons this time, sliding to face the Sarabi as it rushed him again. This time lowering its flat head to slam into his side with the energy of a battering ram. He heard the crunch of one of his ribs and fell briefly. Panting for air and beset with pain.
Climbing to his feet despite his wheezing, when he heard Lacey fleeing the Manse. She shrieked at the sight of the scattered bodies on the ground. Bodies that had now reverted back to the nude forms of humans.
She climbed atop the only uninjured horse. A red mare. But all the movement drew the Sarabi’s attention from Deragan. Lacey spurred the horse, screaming again at the sight of the awful creature pursuing her.
It’s sharp wails cutting the chaos as it dropped to all fours to lumber after her.
Knowing Deragan could catch up, she led the Sarabi from him.
Trying to protect me.
The creature pursued with snapping jaws, its bowed back jutting up.
Deragan watched in horror, as it cut the distance behind the mare.
Get up! Closing his eyes to calm himself he willed his body human. Forcing the ribs painfully back into place, cracking as the bones naturally moved to where they belonged as he changed. Stitching the pieces in-between back together.
Heal, dammit! He willed his body.
Finally, able to draw air, he took one deep breath before he leapt into the sky. Black scales climbing the back of his legs and ripping his pants. Sharp black wings burst from his back. Several long flaps lifted him high as his body continued changing. Shredding bits of fabric to rain over the forest floor. He descended between the trees, missing the Sarabi by a hairsbreadth.
The animal wasted no time leaping forward on disjointed legs to clasp teeth on the mare’s upper leg. Snapping out a chunk of bone and muscle between the horse’s knee and hip.
With a terrified whinny it instantly crumpled. Wounded limb spurting.
Deragan watched in horror as its weight landed on Lacey crushingly.
This time Deragan snagged the Sarabi in his taloned feet. Yanking it apart and tossing the pieces to the trees as they returned to pink skin. Returning to the human he’d been before Radix twisted its soul.
Deragan pulled his wings to his sides and dropped in a straight-legged fall. Touching ground on bare human feet, the rest of his body shifting back. He couldn’t think of clothes as he lifted the horse aside with incredible strength. Catching it’s upper and lower head in his arms he snapped its neck. Ceasing its suffering.
“Where are you hurt?” He panted as he slid on his knees next to Lacey. Choked with emotion.
She gestured with her head, to an arm twisted beneath her at an unbearable angle. She huffed in pain. “And my leg.”
Twisting, he saw her leg on the same side was shattered so badly bone protruded from the skin.
“I cannot heal this.” His eyes roved over her wounds. “It’s too much. But I’ll do what I can.” He grimaced. “It’s going to hurt.” He felt the blood seep from his face in fear and dread.
Though he was outwardly calm he was shrieking and praying for help in his mind. Unaware he’d subconsciously sent out a telepathic call to another knight.
Lacey nodded fearfully. She screeched when he ran his hands over her. Hovering a few inches above her body. Blue flakes seeped from his pores, traveling to her skin then melding in. Mending some of the bruises and broken veins inside her and helping the torn muscle in her leg ease enough he could settle the bone back into place. Eliciting another pain wrenched scream from her.
To Deragan’s shock booted feet materialized at her side. Coming from nowhere. A quick glance verified who it was.
Already in his armor, he was ready for battle. Features hard as he assessed the grim situation. “What do you need me to do?”
“Get me that bag of furs from the carriage.”
Bast returned with it and dropped it next to them. Awaiting further instructions.
Deragan’s voice shook. “Get help on the other side of the mountain. Build a shelter there. Something Radix can’t trace. Hide it in the valley and have someone there when we get there tomorrow. Someone who can help her.” Deragan was already lifting her gingerly in his arms.
“You can’t get there tomorrow. You can’t fly with her.” Bast objected. “She can’t hang onto you and you could not hold her without harming her.”
“I know that!” Deragan snapped.
Do what I’ve said!
Bast shifted, realizing the best he could do was obey his Commander’s direction.
“I’ll have everything ready.” Bast swore. “But two-day’s time if you aren’t there, I will come for you both.” He warned.
Deragan gave him a quick look of acknowledgement as he tossed the bag of furs over his shoulder and gingerly lifted Lacey in his arms. Cringing as she whimpered in pain at the movement. He looked up the mountain.
I’ll carry you over it on foot.
Sebastian shook his head, knowing it was a nearly impossible feat.
There’s no alternative.
They both knew it.
With a feral roar, Bast turned and transformed into a sleek black feline. Bigger than a hound he wove into the woods. Aiming for a clearing big enough. When he found one, he ruptured the treetops as the glistening gold katash bird. Heading into the sky in blinding light.
Deragan’s eyes fell to the woman in his arms. Her breaths ragged in pain. And the moment was so similar to the day he held her in Billar Canyon, that his stomach dropped.
Not this time.
I’ll find a way for this to be different. And his relentless determination pushed him up the mountain beyond the ridge where the snow began.
“I will carry you.” Deragan whispered soothingly against her sweating brow. “He’ll have everything ready. He’ll build a stronghold to keep you safe. And I will get you there.”
I know you tried to save me, Deragan. I remember all you did. How you carried me up that mountain in your arms. Fighting the cold as the storm came in.
I remember the fate of that cabin you built with your bare hands. A place to keep me through the night. I remember how you had no choice but to leave me.
I remember everything…I blame you, for nothing…
-The Fallen, ‘The Book of Immortals’