Chapter 1: Lyzaria
My lungs burn as they try to take in oxygen while I sprint as fast as I can across the rocky slope of the mountain. My body aches with fatigue and I feel faint but I keep pushing myself as the voices behind me grow louder. I stumble a bit over the rocks but immediately get up and continue clambering over the boulders. My boot is suddenly tangled in a twisted shrub and I yelp as I fall forward. I catch myself before my head is smashed open but the skin on my arms is scraped and bloodied. I rip the gnarled branch off my foot and stand up.
My eyes lock onto a large group of men with bows and swords and I start running once again. I hear them shout and scream profanities, but I ignore them and keep running as fast as my legs will carry me.
The rocks give way to grass and I growl in frustration and pause when I see the edge of the forest. The men are still following me so I take a deep breath before forcing my body into the darkness between the trees.
It was like plunging into the ocean. Everything is suddenly darker, colder; I can hear voices in the rustling of the trees and smell blood in the wind. Fear blooms inside my chest, making my heart beat erratic and my skin grow clammy with a cold sweat. I shouldn’t be here.
This is claimed territory, and it belongs to someone powerful, I can feel it. My mind is cloudy and I feel my thoughts becoming muddled. “What the hell is happening?” I mutter, slowing down. The forest floor seems to sway beneath my feet.
A sharp pain in my skull has me crying out and dropping to the ground in seconds. I clutch at the sides of my head and scream as it feels about to split open.
Through my screams and sobs of pain I feel my thumb touch something on my neck and realize that it is some kind of dart. I move to yank it out of my neck but another wave of pain slams through my skull. I scream even louder and fall onto the grass. Tears blur my vision and violent sobs shake my body.
My gaze locks onto a pair of yellow eyes before everything goes black.
“Lyza! What did I tell you about the forest?” My father scolds me sharply.
I flinch at the anger in his voice and quickly retract my hand, inches from the trunk of the tree. “Sorry father, I couldn’t help it. The trees are just so beautiful,” I sigh turning towards him.
His face softens and he scoops me up into his arms. I wrap my arms around his neck and bury my face into his shoulder. He hugs me tightly and carries me away from the forest.
“Why can’t we go into the forest?” I ask, looking over his shoulder to see the red and gold leaves slowly disappear from view as we climb the hill.
“The forest is a dangerous place,” he sighs.
“How can something so beautiful be so dangerous?” I mutter in confusion.
“The danger is in its beauty.”
My eyes snap open to an orange light that makes me squint. I let my eyes adjust for a moment before observing my surroundings.
The green of the forest is gone, replaced by the cold metal and stone of a prison cell. There is a metal table beneath me, and leather restraints as well. My wrists and ankles are bound to the table, and I resist the urge to roll my eyes. With a small yank they snap like rubber bands and I sit up.
I immediately grab my head that still hurts from when I got shot with the dart. My mouth is dry and my stomach is growling. How long have I been in here? I had food and water just hours before I ran into the forest.
“Hey they’re coming!” I hear a voice call suddenly and realize that I am not alone. There are other cells surrounding mine, filled with people that are covered in dirt and blood. Their faces are gaunt and their bones are peeking out from beneath their skin. My eyes widen in fear when I see the massive amount of bruises and cuts that cover their bodies. Some have just small scrapes but others have clawed gashes across their back and stomach.
I slowly stand, using the wall to support my shaking legs, and crane my head to see why they are all staring at. Three men are walking down the space between the cells and the prisoners reach through the bars to grab them as they pass. Some shout insults, but most of them are screaming and begging for forgiveness. Fear spreads through my body once more, and chills run down my spine as the pleading in their voices is cut off.
One man is dressed rather nicely while the other two look like guards in their silver armor. The guards hit the prisoners with wooden clubs to keep their hands inside the cells and I wince when a young man’s face is bashed in.
I involuntarily back up when the three men stop in front my cell. They smell like wolves. The first man looks at me curiously while the guards seem to completely ignore my presence.
“How did you manage to get out of those restraints?” The man asks.
“These things are a little flimsy don’t you think?” I reply, raising my eyebrow.
He narrows his eyes and looks at me for a moment before muttering something to the guards. They unlock the door to my cell and walk towards me, heavy chain dangling from their hands. I back away from the two men until my back hits the stone wall.
One reaches out to grab me and I smash my knee into his stomach. He doubles over and the other guard grabs my wrist. I shove his body to the side and a sickening crack echoes through the cells as his head hits the stone. His grip slacks and I turn to see the first guard standing up with a groan. The heel of my boot connects with his head and he slumps back down onto the floor.
I turn back towards the man at the cell’s door and run towards him. I punch him hard in the face, watching with amusement as he falls onto his butt, his eyes wide with surprise. Evidently he wasn’t expecting me to fight back, I think with a snort.
I run past him and through the hall between the cells. I follow the path with ease until it abruptly turns into a maze of tunnels. The only light comes from torches on the stone walls, the eerie glow only adding to my fear.
I take a few guesses on turns only to find myself back where I started. I growl in frustration and kick the wall. My toes instantly scream in pain and I growl again at my own
Mitalonys, I need help! I ask my dragon.
Lyza, you need to go straight then take a right, then another right, and a left, you should be able to figure it out after that. He tells me and I quickly follow the instructions.
When I reach the last turn I can hear noise echoing from above. I sigh in relief and follow it until I reach a set of stairs.
I start running up them but it is not long before my legs begin to ache in protest. I grit my teeth against the pain and continue jogging up the steps.
I am panting by the time I reach the doors at the top. I shove them open and a white light blinds me for several seconds.
I quickly blink a few times until I can just make out green trees. A voice shouting from the bottom of the stairs sends me running into the forest again.
I feel a new energy seep into my muscles as the sun hits my skin. The cold stone tunnels drained my body and messed with my senses.
Everything comes into focus, sharper and I can hear the yelling man, moving farther into the distance as my legs move faster.
I dart between the trees and jump over fallen logs with ease. I am running for what feels like hours but couldn’t have been more than a few minutes before I finally see the end of the forest.
I grin happily and just as I am about to burst out of the trees, something hits my side. My feet leave the ground and my back hits a tree trunk.
I gasp when the wind is knocked out of me and collapse onto the grass. A terrible snarling sounds behind me and I shiver at the coldness of it.
I look and see a beautiful russet colored wolf with yellow eyes. He towers over me, easily the size of a horse.
His teeth are bared and his fur is bristling with anger. I slowly push myself up to a standing position and face the wolf, my hands held out in front of me.
The wolf waves his muzzle back towards the prison and I hesitate. He notices this and snaps his jaws at me, nearly catching my hand.
I jump back and quickly start walking towards the prison. I take a deep breath before whipping around.
The wolf snarls again and moves to bite me but a circle of flames suddenly erupts around him.
The wolf yelps and the smell of burning flesh fills the air. I see that his fur is singed on one of his paws and he starts growling at me.
I start running away but I am tackled once again. This time when I stand up, I am surrounded by massive wolves.
I can see the rippling muscles beneath their fur and the scars that cover their bodies prove their experience in fighting.
My hands come up above my head and a massive circle of flames bursts around me. The wolves jump back in fright for a moment before a few start running towards me again.
I gasp when a wolf suddenly leaps over the wall of fire and lands just a foot from me. The wolf is black, the color of liquid ink and has eyes that must be made of melted gold.
This wolf is even bigger than the others, and the power radiating off of him has me wanting to cower in fear.
It is the Werewolf King.