FOREVER KNIGHTS: #14 Broken Birds

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LUCIEN - Bast Arrives

Whitwood, Isle of Wight

LUCIEN

Mera was unaware of any impending danger when she burst through the trees onto a meager dirt road. Continuing her gallop until men burst from the underbrush to spill onto the road before her.

The stallion tipped, pawing the air in surprise.

Tossing Meralee. Glowering at the animal.

The beast lowered its head, turning it sideways to approach her, as if in apology.

Rising and dusting her skirt she snagged its rein and faced the waiting attackers.

Six men closed in on her.

One smiling lasciviously. His few teeth were black, matching his eyes. His stroll confident and threatening. Obviously, the leader.

The creature travelling at breakneck speed parallel to her, stopped to peer behind the trunk of a shady tree within the grove ahead of her. Body taut with concern. Gold hair fell over his shoulders in disarray. A billowing blue tunic moved fluidly around his torso in the breeze. Pinned in the back by his wool cloak.

Sebastian.

Something heavy landed behind him. Its wings snapping like sails.

He commented without giving it a glance. “It appears, Lucien, your lady is at odds with these bandits.” His eyes flashed to beastly gold.

Lucien took a couple gentle steps, trying to keep the ground from quaking underfoot.

Branches at the top of the trees snapped off as he rubbed against them. The branches tumbled silently toward the forest floor. The brief sound, though far away, was enough to attract Mera’s attention and that of her attackers.

They stared at the grove waiting for movement.

Birds had ceased singing.

Smaller animals skittered to shelter to avoid being trampled by the lurking predator.

As the charcoal giant stepped it shrank, growing smaller by the second as it lowered to move in the trees. Until reduced into the form of Lucien Sabias. Immaculately dressed in cravat and expensive overcoat. Walking to join Sebastian.

“Who are they, Bast?”

“I don’t know. But they seem to have plans for your lady.”

Good luck to them.

“She isn’t mine.”

“Then why do I sense your rage running hot just now?”

Damn him. Lucien was silent.

“You cannot turn back into a dragon and storm in there. You’ll lose her forever. She’ll be too afraid to hear you out.” Bast cautioned.

The ripple of magic depleted as Lucien became fully human. His sorrow obvious.

“It takes time Lucien. Patience, Friend.”

“You’re cautioning me about patience?” Lucien blurted. “The man who shouts at his lover for giving cats more attention then him.”

Bast gave him a dirty look over his shoulder. Unclasping his cloak, he tossed it over a nearby branch. Unbuttoning his shirt, he shook it from his shoulders and shoved it at the darker man.

Ruffles and all. Lucien took the frilled thing. Holding it between pinched fingers away from him as though it were a snake that’d bite.

“How can you wear such things?” He shook it contemptuously.

Bast spared him a glare before rolling his shoulders forward and tossing his head. Stretching his arms as though to dive, watching the interchange. The black markings bled through the skin of his chest, back and shoulders. Winding over his body in ominous designs.

Mera backed from the attackers, stallion’s rein in hand.

The leader lunged forward and caught her upper arm in a biting grip. “Where ya be goin’, fine lady?”

Lucien tensed. Let her go.

Meralee jerked free and gave him a dark look. “Touch me again and you’ll all regret it.”

But Lucien heard her heart hammering. He surged forward, but Bast’s strong arm across his chest stayed him. Lucien’s brow furrowed.

“Hurry, Bast.” He gestured in agitation.

Or I’m going in to handle this.

Leaning back, Bast unraveled a roll of magic, causing a breeze to stir leaves overhead. Lights bloomed around him, popping as they circled in flashes of color.

Lucien recognized the scene. And willed him to act faster.

Bast’s black markings blurred, then began to writhe over his chest, crawling toward his back and biceps where they slowly separated the skin to dig out. Sebastian poured sweat and his face was locked in a grimace at the unbearable pain, as they ripped through muscle and skin to free from his body.

Scaled, reptilian things.

Figurine dragons thunked wetly to the ground as they landed on clawed feet. They began digging at the dirt to catch footing. Scurrying over dry leaves and pouring into the clearing. The further they ran the faster they got. Tiny beasts in red, blue and green dumped onto the ground. Scales shimmering and chirping as they slithered through the leaves. Long tails swishing.

The bandit leader licked his lips hungrily as he perused Meralee’s body.

Lucien heard his sordid thoughts. You’ll never get close enough.

A low dragon growl ended in high notes as it rolled over the woods. My warning to them.

Hearing the strange sounds of stirring leaves, the leader’s eyes went to the clearing and caught the outpouring of color moving in an unearthen mass.

Their buzzing chirps unifying until becoming a solid sound. Making Whitwood Forest quake with life. Creatures no higher than his knee moved lightning fast, darting side to side and bounding fallen trunks.

The thief shivered.

Lucien observed Bast drop to sit in a wave of exhaustion. Crossing his legs before him and resting his palms on his thighs as he controlled his reaction to the pain. Skin rent from mid-forearm up his shoulders and to where his back peeled open in several places. Exposing bone and muscle beneath. He was covered in splashes of blood. When Bast opened his eyes, they burned molten gold. His intense expression belying the fact that he was completely in control of each beast that left his body to enter the clearing.

Seeing through them, hearing them and feeling them. Like Radix does the Nonis. Lucien hated the comparison but knew it was true.

It’s always astonishing to watch when he does this. Lucien’s eyes moved to the highwaymen fleeing into the trees.

All, save the leader. That one caught Meralee’s arm again and drug her with him as he backed from the clearing.

She struggled in his grip and the Figurine Dragons snarled as one.

Lucien dropped his overcoat as fleshen wings sprouted from his back, splitting his cloth shirt like parchment. His gray wings splayed to the highest branches of the trees, cleaving lower ones free, to clatter to the ground.

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