Warrior of the Damned

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5

I slipped chunks of ham to Marek, who sat cavalier on the stone floor beside me.

"Must that animal be present everywhere you are?" My father hissed.

I shot him a look of anger, "Always," I wasnt about to explain myself. Marek was my confidant. The only being in the world that felt like actual family to me. His presence was nonegotiable.

My mother patted her husbands thigh and he regained his composure instantly, ignoring me, like always. I glanced down at Marek. If a dog could laugh, this was the closest thing to it... it sounded as if he actually chuckled. I bent down and kissed the top of his head, "You will always belong by my side," I whispered in his ear. He licked my face. All was right in the world.

My father stood up, which was a cue for my mother and I to do the same. A trumpet sounded, indicating that the King was about to speak and all should silence themselves immediately.

I took in the beauty of my mother's hard work. Blue irises lined the walls, golden bows attached throughout, evenly spaced. I now understood why I was dressed in the outfit I was, obviously hand picked by my mother.

Thousands of candle sticks burned brightly, dimly lighting the elegance of the great space. The full moon providing its rays through the high windows, completing the ambiance of the room.

Each long table was placed strategically, separating the noblemen from the commoners. Candles grouped every so many feet in the center of the tables, surrounded by little blue bonnet petals.

The musicians were in the corner of the room, a large space between them and the diners, indicating a dance floor.

"Welcome my King Estes, noblemen and villagers! We hope that you are enjoying our food with much merriment. Myself, Queen Isadora and Princess Adaleen thank you for your company tonight," my father, always needing to be the center of attention, did not surprise me with his well rehearsed greeting, "we thought it best to make our joyous announcement in light of such a wonderful evening!" Announcement? What announcement? I hadnt been aware of anything going on in the kingdom that was important enough to make known to all.

My father continued, voice booming, echoing throughout the great hall, "With age comes duty and responsibility," he indicated to me with a swift wave of the hand, "and with that, marriage."

I felt my face drain of all color. He wasnt! He wouldn't! I stared at him, dumbfounded, knowing exactly what was coming next.

"We have chosen an eligible, upstanding bachelor for our daughter. We have been assured she will be in hands strong enough to build a future for her that we deem worthy. Aiden! Please join us!"

My heart dropped. No. No way. This was a bad dream. I pinched myself, wake up wake up wake up!

Aiden approached with his big toothy grin. I wanted to punch those teeth through the back of his throat... make him feel the pain I was feeling, deep in the pit of my stomach. Oh, God, my stomach. I'm going to vomit!

Applause erupted from our guests, loudest being Dermont. Weasel. How did he manage to trick my father into this?

I was suddenly acutely aware of the tight bodice hugging my waist and I fought back against it for air. I cant breathe!

My father shook Aiden's hand, wrapping an arm around his shoulder, "Welcome to our dynasty, Aiden of the North."

Marek leaped onto the table infront of me, growling and snarling, hackles raised, head low and stare intent on Aiden.

Everything unfolded in slow motion, I couldn't process what was happening. I was not able to get enough wind into my frame. Tears started to fill my eyes as I realized my life was over.

My dreams were vanishing. My soul would soon be crushed into nothing by this coniving, deceitful man. The screams of terror from Marek's visciousness lost upon my ears.

"Control your beast, Addy!" My fathers voice seemed muffled... far away... I saw fear in his eyes. Aiden seemed unaffected.

He would murder my only friend the first chance he got. My dog would not make it past the courtyard during our departure. Aiden would slay him. That, I was sure of.

My eyes fell back on Marek. If he wanted to rip something, or someone, apart, I wasnt going to stop him. Atleast, not in the state of mind I was currently being subjected to.

I mindlessly reached my hand out to quell Marek while scanning the room for Beval, praying he had not been witness to this incident. Marek suddenly snapped his head toward the windows, all ferociousness ceased.

Every guest in the hall was still in a loud panic over my friend's beastial reaction. No one noticed the change in his posture but me. His ears flattened against his head, he cowered and whined. I had only seen this response from him once, the day he was discovered in my room. I was troubled.

"Marek?" His blue eyes turned to me, fearful and sad. And then, the glass shattered.

Every window busting in, glass showering everyone as if a storm ravaged it's way into our hall. Guests shrieked in surprise and covered their faces, shielding themselves from the sharp blades being hurled at them.

Then, everything was still.

Everything was quiet.

No one spoke, no one breathed. All were trying to figure out what just happened. I felt Marek tugging at my dress, trying to pull me away from the room. But curiosity had my feet planted firmly in my spot at the table.

Outside, a chilling howl pierced the night.

Marek pulling frantically on me, forcing me to stumble in the direction he was trying to herd me to. I turned away from him, back to the mess in front of me.

I cannot give justice to the description of what I saw next.

Huge beasts flung themselves through the now open windows. Glass panes no longer a barricade.

Standing on two feet, covered in fur, breathing heavily. They were gigantic. 9 feet? 10 feet tall? Lean. Very lean. Their muscles rippled through their bodies, spasming with anticipation. With voraciousness.

The silence was deafening, people forcing their minds to catch up with their eyes.

The rise and fall of their monstrous chests indicated they were not here just to be gawked at. Saliva started dripping down their jaws, creating puddles on the floor. A deep growl emanated from the white one. He was bigger than the others. Red eyes and one lone black patch on his ear.

Pack leader.

I was taken aback by the male voice inside my head, not sure where the thought came from. Did I imagine it? If I was hearing things, am I now seeing things? Maybe this was a bad dream... why cant I wake up?

Not asleep, the voice responded. I didnt have time to look to Marek for comfort.

With a quick snap of the white one's jaws, they charged. More of them falling in through the windows. Their numbers were overwhelming.

We were under attack.

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