A panther launched from the brush and crossed the meadow at a huffing pace. Breathing like a machine, as his legs carried him over the grass. I’ve got the child. He whispered into their minds as he reached the door of the shack. Already changing into a man as he eased it open and crossed the threshold. Taking the stairs to the girl’s chamber.
She turned terrified eyes to him, seeing only a glowing yellow gaze hovering in the dark. “My Wolf?” She breathed. “There’s so many? What are they?” Her eyes widened as he drew closer. She rubbed them with her fists. “Who are you?”
Her hands fluttered nervously around her face. As she realized he wasn’t Tev.
His eyes are blue. Nothing like mine. He stepped into the weak light of a meager candle.
She stared up at his face and hers relaxed. Eyes glazing. “You-you’re so…”
Mesmerizing. Yes, I know.
“Yes.” He knelt before the child. “I need you to listen to me.” He cupped her chin to keep her looking into his glowing gold eyes. “You’re so tired. So very tired.”
Listen to my voice.
The Voice of Persuasion.
“I am tired.” She murmured. Eyes shifting sleepily toward her cot.
“Yes. You should get some rest for your tired little eyes. All your bad dreams will go while you sleep.” He flicked a hand for emphasis.
“Just bad dreams…”
That’s all you’ll remember them as now, Little One.
He backed from her. Letting her tuck back into her bed and pull the coverlet numbly over her. Nestling a hand under her cheek, she sighed. Relaxing back into slumber.
Bast waved a hand over the room and gold flakes covered the window and the door. Silencing this room to the chaos outside. Protecting her chamber from evil coming in here.
And Bast knew. The same as he knew of the little girl Acharius’ looked after. Like her, this lovely child generated a white glow that was nearly blinding to Bast’s eyes.
A light only I see…
This was what Tev wished to protect. His eyes assessed the small frame burrowed under the coverlet, breathing steadily.
Teverius was right to call us here.
He eased the door closed behind him. Took the stairs and closed the front door. Rejoining the fray in the meadow.
He’s stayed here for a reason…This…
He opened the front door and took note of the scene unfolding in the meadow before the shack.
The Captain commanded attention in his extreme violence. Every strike was lethal. He didn’t need weapons. His strength allowed him to rip creatures in half with his bare hands. He cut through them like an animal.
More beast then they. Bast thought. Proud to watch him.
Between them, the knights whittled down the cimmerii numbers. When Tev broke from the group he scraped the ash around the porch with his boot. Destroying the summoning the Dread had created.
“Was there a woman in the house?” Tev called to Bast.
“Only the girl.”
“A girl?” Acharius head whipped. “Is that what we’re here for?” He flushed red in fury.
“Not now.” Bast said. Not wanting him to chastise Teverius for what he’d done. “Leave Little Brother alone.”
Acharius grunted and resumed firing arrows. Obeying Bast, thankfully.
“What is this?” Alazareth’s voice cut the meadow as he emerged dragging a red-haired woman with him. Ringlets poured around her face. Her eyes luminesced orange. Revealing her as a cimmerii servant.
“No idea.” Tev murmured. “Where’s the black-haired Dark Dread?”
“Haven’t seen her.” Acharius said.
“This,” Alazareth shook his fistful of hair. “Was standing here, calling to the cimmerii. She won’t again soon.” He caught her forehead and chin, preparing to snap her neck.
But she shrieked and ripped away with stunning strength. White bat like wings jutted from her back. Unfolding to carry her from Alazareth’s grip. He leapt to catch her but grazed only her toes as she flew from his reach.
“You’re letting her get away!” Mardichi roared.
“What is she?” Acharius demanded. Nocking arrows he fired three at her, but she sent a surge of magic that tossed them away from her. Showering them down on the men who had to duck them.
No more of those!
“She’s strong!” Alazareth shouted back. Infuriated as he watched the creature escape him. “I’ve never seen a cimmerii wench so strong.” He murmured. Confused about her uncommon strength. The feel of her magic had been…Familiar.
By the time all was said and done the knights had overpowered the targue. Smashing and crushing them until they were whimpering and crawling. Or had returned to the crumpled bodies of humans.
“We have to clean this up.” Tev murmured.
“Not I!” Mardichi complained. “Me ale willna drink itself back at the Driter’s Den.” He waved behind him as he began the trek back. His back bled badly and both arms were a mass of bite marks.
“Leave him.” Deragan said, shaking his head. “I’ll help you.”
“I must return.” Acharius said.
“Go.” Deragan agreed. Nodding.
Once they’d gone, Tev turned and lowered to sit on the bloodied grass. Staring mournfully between two naked bodies.
Deragan put a hand on his shoulder. “Which ones?”
“Gray and Pitch.”
“Sorry, Brother.” He consoled. Understanding this was two of Teverius’ Demon Dogs.
Tev mourned them in silence awhile.
Deragan and Sebastian let him.
After a time, he rose.
Together, Bast, Deragan and Teverius drug the bodies off and called Mardichi back just before daylight to light them afire.
When Serdephe awoke it was to only a large burn patch in the meadow and the weariness from an evening of strange nightmares. And eventually, to the sad realization there were now only four dogs obeying her commands. Two had vanished.
She called for them many nights and Tev thought to go tell her but decided against it.
She can’t see me. It’s too dangerous for her. It was even more important she not be around him now.
The crone did come back that night. But she seemed different. Hapless. Tev wasn’t sure.
So, he lurked. Wondering if she was the evil black haired, purple eyed Dread that had tried to kill the child and summoned cimmerii to feed her to them…Twice.
Chavias had sent him the dream the Dread had killed the real potionmaker. And he was very sure it was true.
But night after night. The crone made potions and butter from milk, the cow in the pen provided. Eventually taking it to the village to sell. She sat on the stoop beyond the front door and brushed out Serdephe’s long purple hair. Seeming almost loving.
But Tev watched and he warned the dogs.
And they observed. Waiting. Prowling the Netherwood around the shack. Staying just inside the shadow of the trees as they stood sentry night after night. Listening…
Ready with their orders to take action. Should the girl be threatened.
They’ll keep her safe.