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Chapter Fifteen

Faster. Faster. I needed to run faster. Panic and confusion urged me forward, but it was not enough to evade them. They were on our trail. Their movements were most likely agile and sure-footed compared to our desperate and clumsy thrashing through the twisting trees. How could we make it to Lorcan when they were surely going to kill us? Did they not want me to kill Fendrick for them? I wanted to scream out my frustrations, but then they would know exactly where I was and then Lorc would kill me...

Tripping over a root, I fell forward into empty air before tumbling down the jagged slope of a hill to its rocky bottom. Gasping, I lay on my back watching as figures stopped at the top. A scream shortly followed, a large silhouette rolling down towards me as another calmly descended. They came to stand by my feet as the corpse stopped a little away from me. The figure moved to crouch by my side, their face hidden.

“W-who are you?” My question left my mouth before I could take it back.

“Friend,” Came a rasping reply. Lizard Folk. He leaned close, clawed finger stroking my cheek before slicing down. Pain and heat erupted under the nail as the hand moved to muffle my shout. Something sharp pierced my side before the man bit down on my shoulder, causing me to arch off the ground as he placed his weight over me. “Must look real. You do good, okay?”

“W-why?” My weakened body was giving up on consciousness, black spots forming in my vision. The hand lifted off my mouth to rest on my chest. Before I slipped into the black, I locked eyes with him. His eyes were the colour of glimmering moonstone.

Waking up, the moons shone above me. My body ached and screamed as I pushed myself into a sitting position. The thin shirt I wore stuck uncomfortably to the dried blood of my wounds. Lifting it up, I saw that the Lizard Folk’s claws had left semi-deep inflictions running the length of my ribs. Shivering, I glanced at the corpse. Lorc. Not thinking twice, I ripped off his shirt and pulled it over my head. Immediately, I could feel my body begin to warm thanks to the expensive material. Gritting my teeth, I knew the next step was to stand up and make my way into the forest again. Lorcan and its Thane could not wait any longer.

Traversing the forest was easier than before, not because no one was chasing me, but the moons and their light marked my path. Maybe Jagter was aiding me as well in his own mysterious way. Before I knew it, I was glancing over Lorcan from atop a slope. My breath misted as I gasped. Half the fires around the territory were burned to embers. Clasping my side, I descended with a plan clicking into place.

Unlike the other Wylan territories, Lorcan had tall stone walls surrounding it. During the day there would be five soldiers occupying each of the lookout posts. The night watch was another story. The lazy bastards would only have three soldiers in total walking the walls, most likely drunk and bleary-eyed to those coming and going under their noses.

Even with my staggering steps, I made it through the gates without any notice and hid in the shadows out of habit. Glancing around, I tried to recall the way to Thane’s House. Lorc had dragged me behind him with my hood pulled low and head down so no one would recognise me, most likely to prevent me from remembering any landmarks to the house as well. Closing my eyes, I took a deep breath and let memory take control of my aching body. My legs began moving, keeping me in the shadows until I stopped. Opening my eyes, I looked up at Thane’s House. Smirking, I cracked my knuckles as the first rays of sunlight stretched my shadow over the engraved door.

Getting into the house was not hard at all. The servant door was wide open as the staff began their morning chores. Inside was modestly decorated compared to the last time I was there. Gold chains had been replaced with silver, rugs of rare animal pelts were now that of common game while certain paintings and tapestries were taken down. What had caused such a massive change? Did the man know something was amiss in the week of silence? Shaking my head, I discarded Lorc’s shirt as I exaggerated my limp and began to bump into furniture, sending things crashing to the floor until an older boy called out to me. Falling to my knees, I gritted out my need to speak to Fendrick. The older boy grabbed me and shoved me into a chair before hurrying away to fetch his slumbering master.

“What do you mean by bloody-“ Fendrick was halfway through the doorway to his lounge when he saw me. Grimacing, I tried to push myself up to stand but let my weak arms fail me so I fell back into the chair. “What are you doing here?”

“Lorc and I…” Taking a deep breath, I held my injured side tighter as I tried to sit straighter. “We escaped together, but the Lizard Folk got him. T-the bastard ratted you out when the King offered freedom. You…must run.”

Fendrick’s face was emotionless, but the tick forming in his jaw spoke of anger while his whitened knuckles of his clenched fists hung rigidly at his sides. He took a step into the room, closing the door gently behind him before rushing towards me. He wrapped his hand around my throat, squeezing firmly and forcing me back into the chair. When he relaxed his grip, I coughed fitfully as I stared into his eyes. The rush of blood in my ears was loud.

“Why are you here? Your kind has no loyalties to the hand that pays,” He growled, taking out a dagger and pointing the tip at me. Something told me what came next would be the cause of his end.

“Queen Naomi, I-I know you and her are close. I want protection, the freedom that King of Wylan would not give even if he promised. He is grieving over his Queen; he would kill me for what we did. Lorc died, proof enough.” Fendrick gripped my throat in an iron hold, causing me to grasp at his wrist in an attempt to pry it off. Fight and flight kicked in, but before I could fight back, he let go completely.

“Queen Naomi will be pleased to hear that you managed to kill the rival and that her plan has worked. The King will not last long without his darling, weak Queen. Talay will be able to have a clean takeover as Lorcan will not fight for the throne any longer.” Fendrick touched an index finger to his chin, glancing at me with mild interest. “How badly are you wounded?”

“Not as bad as you.” The door banged open to reveal the Lizard Folk that had attacked me. His moonstone eyes glittered as a vicious smile showed off the serrated teeth hidden in his maw. Fendrick roared, glaring at me as I stumbled forward to get away from him. In a flash, I felt something pierce my side as a black whirlwind passed me. There was a shout behind me and a hard thump on the wooden floor.

“You did well,” The Lizard Folk rasped as my mind registered that I had been stabbed. Cold hands grabbed me as fire seared through my veins.

“P-poison.” My limbs began to weaken instantly, causing me to tumble to the floor. In my peripheral vision, I saw Fendrick, quickly wondering if he was dead and if I was next. At least I managed to do something worthwhile in my last moments.

“Don’t go, keep eyes open.” The Lizard Folk held me to his chest, face close to mine. I smiled up at him, leaning into his body. He shook his head before intense pain ignited from my shoulder. The last thing I recalled was a freezing sensation and a rasping prayer.

Faint voices woke me up. Cracking my eyes open, I grimaced at the light streaming through the slits in the curtains. Where was I now? There was a bed and furnishing, definitely not a cell. The bed itself and sheets were too comfortable and clean for me to be back at the cabin and the view out of the window was not of a training field. It was a decent room for a prisoner if I was still counted as one.

"Two days, no movement. Poison was strong but venom was stronger and instant. He will-" The door opened and the Lizard Folk with the moonstone eyes stared in at me. He looked haggard even though his clothing was clean and loose-fitting on his slender frame. "Awake... Bronte, he is awake."

Another Lizard Folk came into the room. He was the spitting image as the other, but bulkier and wore armour. Was I in trouble again? Gritting my teeth, I attempted to sit up. The room spun and nausea caused my stomach to churn. Glancing around, the only thing that ran through my mind was escape.

"Do not even think about it," The bulky brother hissed, striding to the side of the bed and grabbing my injured shoulder and pushing me down. "You have caused enough problems for my brother. Doing something risky right now will be the wrong move."

"O-okay, please let go." Shaking, I gulped as he squeezed, nails digging into the bandages. "P-please, I won't go anywhere."

"Good" The man let go instantly and strode to his brother's side. "Explain the situation to him, but keep in mind, if he dies you are free to look for a proper mate. Maybe you should have let him die."

"The Gods willed against it."
"When have you ever listened to them, Niven?"

As soon as the brother left, the one called Niven came to sit at the end of the bed. Trying to calm my breathing, I sat up properly, getting an instant wave of nausea. Closing my eyes, I felt him move closer until a cool hand rested on my forehead. I shivered as my body relaxed and nausea subsided.

"Poison is almost gone, sickness will leave soon. Ebus is with you." The hand lingered before dropping gently on my shoulder and moving the material of my torn shirt aside. Opening my eyes, I saw the bloodstained bandaged and stiffened at the memory. "Sorry I bit you, was the only way to keep other Lizard Folk away and to suck out poison. It heal fast now."

"Why help me? I was content with dying." His tail thumped the bed as he stared at the wooden floor with his hands clasped together. His breaths were laboured, was he tired?

"King asked help escort you, but helping with the poison my choice even though Gods wanted you alive." He glanced at me, pupils becoming slits as he sighed. "Tired. Please rest as well. When you wake, we speak with the King and Queen."

"N-Niven, what did your brother mean earlier?" Gulping, I didn't want the answer but needed it. I was weak at that moment and being weak was the reason I was there in the first place.

"I marked you like Lizard Folk in order to save you. We are...mates," He admitted, standing up to look down at me. "Does not mean we must act like mates, maybe friends instead. For now, please rest. Further questions must wait."

"O-okay..." Slumping back, I watched as he left the room. Looking at my hands, I questioned if I had been thrown into the fire.

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