An Maru part two
Henry hovered above me, worry contorting his angelic face. “A significant presence is forming inside the high clouds. Start low. They won’t risk becoming overpowered by the wolf army. It will wait for you to climb before striking—for now.” His eyes were panic, and patience tempered with experience.
“Okay, where are the wolves?” Several scenarios rolled in my brain. I thought of the eagles in my new father’s study and the black dragon painted on my chest.
“Twenty percent across and stalled. There are losses.”
Malou walked toward me. “Drag the fallen into the Grove and leave them bleeding on the old trees. It will give them a chance at life.”
“Thank you, Malou. Is there anything else I can do for them?”
“Kill every last demon. Each wolf fighter belongs to somebody.”
Henry put his hand over my head and recited an ancient-sounding prayer. Malou dropped to her knees. The other witches followed her lead. When Henry finished. I pounded my fist on his breastplate hard.
“See you on the other side. Give ’em hell.” Henry stomped into the Yolk with a devious smile.
I took a moment to kiss both Leo and Dagen. “Malou, save my wolves. Let me go.”
Malou smiled. Her witches looked confused. “They both asked the same for you. We serve MacTernan.” Malou was stoic in her answer.
“I understand. All of hell, it is then.” Her eyes widened. “I’m going disperse into a murder of crows. Maybe tiny dragons. Keep up.” Malou put her palm out to me. My hand touched hers, revealing my dark, jumbled thoughts. All at once, her robe and the clothes of her witches turned deep red.
“Challenge accepted.” Malou’s light blue eyes turned black. I felt a surge of electric shock fill my core. My wolf was ready.
I took a few deep breaths and laid back next to Leo. I blinked and stood looking over our three bodies resting behind a wall of red witches.
Taking a few steps back, I ran full speed through the veil.
The shiny white edge of the golden Yolk was filled with wolves. I let my dragons fly out like bullets in all directions. They took the entirety of my ethereal body and my blood-curdling scream with them into the Yolk.
I thought only of demon blood. Finding it, killing it, and repeating. The ground was a sea of fur and guttural growls. The bottleneck of demons entrenched a quarter of the way down the field. Their screaming and wailing sounded like cars mangling in a freeway pile up.
Two furry bodies lay bloodied and motionless behind the chaos. I needed to get those wolves to the Grove.
I perched on the back of a running pure black wolf. I knew the energy of this clansmen, but my animal brain couldn’t speak his name.
“Dragons,” I screeched. Two by two, my black-feathered beasts merged, becoming small black dragons. Flying low, they skimmed the ground around the bottleneck of lowly demons.
“Flames,” I thought the word and concentrated on the image of the demon line turning to ash.
The wolves came to a halt at the white line of fire, searching for a way around. I pictured the black dragon with red armor like Dagen’s crest and Pax’s indestructible skin. Combining the two forms collected my smaller dragons in a vacuum of shrieking darkness.
My new body congealed into a large-scale dragon. I flew low over the line of white flames, brushing a pathway with my thick red tail collecting the lifeless wolves in my talons.
My vision was blue and white—no other colors registered in my brain.
The sound of metal clashing turned my gaze to the clouds. The angels were keeping the greater demons occupied. Their feathery human-sized bodies dwarfed by the bulbous demons hovering above the clouds.
Trees were coming into view. One of the bodies I carried twitched in my grasp. The ground below the trees moved with giant wolves dressed in leather gear, ready to fight. I only needed to let them loose.
The flight to the edge was short. My dragon was too big to navigate under the canopy of trees. I needed my fairytale monster’s strength and size to carry the massive dead wolves.
As I touched down, the forest floor set free, it’s wolves. The horde ran past me, snarling and grunting, kicking up a storm of dirt determined to sink their teeth into demon flesh.
The wolves I transported were lifeless.
Looking around, I selected the thickest tree and dragged the first wolf to the base. Placing the bleeding wolf’s body directly on the bark of the tree. I ran back and repeated the process with the second. Nothing happened.
“I bring two fallen!” The wind began to whine, and the trees crackled to life.
Human-sized sheets of bark tore away from the tree trunks. The inner bark was shaped like a woman, complete with a face, breasts, and legs married to the golden inner bark.
The creatures dropped to the ground, wrapping themselves around the dead wolves. I stepped back from the trees to the edge of the Grove and watched.
Whispering for my swords, I felt the heavy metal appear in my hands. My monster’s black fur looked brown from the dirt, but I could feel the soothing strength in my limbs. I held one sword in each hand and waited.
Human figures crept from behind each large tree to watch the progress of the log wrapped wolves. The logs shook and rolled on the ground before cracking open.
One wolf appeared with its bloody wounds caked shut with bark. The wolf howled and ran back into battle. Leaving behind a bloodied tree bark shell.
The second log rolled and twitched. A long thin arm punched through the bark, stabilizing the erratic movements. The human shapes clinging to the trees cheered with excitement. I wasn’t sure what I was watching unfold.
One violent roll of the log produced an angry wolf with a human woman’s bloodied torso in its mouth. The humans in the trees let loose a wail of mourning as they disappeared behind the trunks.
The wolf tossed the flesh out of its mouth and roared with triumph. The wolves on the battlefield answered back.
I large bullet of white fell from the sky, creating a human-sized divot on the Yolk floor. The angelic figure shot back into the clouds.
The field was clearing. I ran into the Yolk thinking of my dark wings and the dragon painted on my body lounging in the White. I lept into the air with a sword in each articulated claw and flew low over the field. The unfurling of my oil slick wings was music to my ears.
As a human, I dream of the power and freedom my wings can conjure. The smell of the air rushing past the sheets of skin is an intoxicating musk of ash and charred flesh. The only moment of pure delight this place holds for me.
Bodies of the charred demon hoard littered the Yolk ground. My long tail swept them to the right side. I looked for fallen wolves on my first pass but thankfully found none.
My wolf screamed into the air through the mouth of my patchwork dragon and lit the pile of demon bodies on fire, creating a barrier on the right of the field. From the left, hundreds of shapes emerged far off in the distance.
I flew low in a circle surveying the field and found Dagen wounded in human form. I rushed toward him at full speed knocking him back into the protected edge of the Yolk.
It took me a moment to regain my ability to speak. I could see my monster shrink in Dagen’s wide brown eyes. He looked terrified.
I forced the words from my lungs. “Your body is safe next to mine in the White. Stop bleeding!” I licked my talon and pressed it to his chest wound as my body slowly returned to human shape.
“Is that my crest?” Dagen panted.
“Yes. I was too distracted to get the red wolf heads on the wings.” I lifted my hand from his chest. The gash was gone. “It’s time you fulfill your oath to me, Bissett. Push for the Grove. Let me burn the field one more time. The angels can’t hold off the greater demons above much longer.” I looked into the clouds.” My next run is up with them.”
“Go into the White. Let me take out the next wave.”
I reassembled my monster and stretched out my massive black paws. “That’s not how this works. Keep your oath.”
Dagen dropped into wolf form and shot back into the Yolk. I stood at the shimmery edge between the White and the Yolk and envisioned my run. One long pass of fire and the wolves would gain a clear path to the Grove. Then up into the clouds.
“Malou, this is where we kill very bad things!” My arms flattened into wings as I punched into the Yolk. Fire rolled under my thick red skin. Malou’s face fixed in fevered incantation filled my mind.
The demon hoard entered the main field from the left. My form was huge. Thick red scales like Pax’s tightly chinked armor covered my body. My wings were larger than comfortable for skimming the ground, but my wolf adapted. A roar of fire barbecued the column of lesser demons as they raced toward Dagen’s wolves.
I made a quick run around the edge of the valley, charring the sides. I let the wolves assembled at the edge of the Grove see the full glory of my creation in the low sky before darting off toward Henry and his angels. I didn’t see Leo. I told myself he was mixed in the crowd and safe.
A stab into the clouds brought into view three greater demons surrounding the angels. I moved closer to the smallest one and tipped my wings with blades.
“Swords,” I growled into the sky as I pictured the blades on a blender. “Eviscerate.” Dark blue flesh poured from the clouds to the ground below. I darted down toward the ground and let out a massive breath of white-hot flame, turning the pile of sludge to ash.
I shot back in the sky toward Henry.
I found myself in human form, sitting on a solid wooden bench on the top floor of a lighthouse looking out over the never-ending ocean. The rhythmic whir of the beacon counted off the seconds. Footsteps on the winding metal staircase made the non-existent hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.
I was wearing jeans and a thick beige sweater, and my old Ugg boots from high school.
“It is a pleasure to finally meet you.” A grandfatherly looking man approached me with a steaming mug of hot chocolate.
“You dug deep for this memory. I love cocoa.”
“Not deep enough.” The image of Leo’s mangled seventeen-year-old body lay at my feet. His hand grabbed my calf.
“What is our word today, my friend?”
The pitiful looking apparition gazed up at me with pleading eyes. “Save me, Alerie, please.”
I knelt down and brushed the matted blood-soaked hair from its face. “Wrong answer. Dagger.” I ran the blade across the throat of the creature at my feet. My host added the feel of neck bones to his theater.
My grandfatherly host grabbed his throat and looked at the blood on his hands. “You murdered your good friend so easily.”
“My friend is safe on the ground.”
“Safe? Hmm, that can easily change,” It growled.
“You must be ancient, but are you strong enough to kill me?”