Celeste searched the thick coat of snow on the edge of the woods with her pursed lips. She squinted her eyes to see better into the ghostly white snow.
“I know you’re hiding somewhere there, Pax,” She declared. She scanned the snow again but she found no trace of the giant and fluffy snow leopard that was also her second shadow.
“Come on, Pax. We’re getting late. I’ll play with you tomorrow,” she frowned, unable to spot that leopard anywhere. The sun had already disappeared behind the thick grey clouds, taking the light with it.
They’d played enough and it was now time to head home but the snow leopard seemed to have other plans.
She gruffed when Pax didn’t come out of hiding.
“Fine!” She snapped and ventured deeper into the woods, looking for the snow leopard. “I wonder where you’re hiding,” she muttered, following the small trail in the woods.
It had started to snow as she moved deeper into the trees. The night had slowly started to descend, making the place darker and colder. She wanted to get out of there sooner. Celeste searched for any paw marks on the snow but there were none. This hanged a frown on her face.
“Where’re you, Pax?” She called out for her leopard very sweetly but he didn’t answer her back. This deepened the frown on her face.
“We’re getting late, Pax,” she spoke out loud into the woods for him to hear but still, she got nothing in response. She was quite deep into the woods now. The sight of the palace had been eaten by the naked, frosty trees.
Those trees stood very still and silent and there was not a single noise there, except for the hushed songs of the night gale. It gently ruffled her hair but it didn’t please her as the summer wind would’ve.
Instead, it agitated her.
Her wolf stirred inside her too, both of them got this same feeling in their gut that had their alarms ringing. Something was wrong.
She grew very silent and listened to the hushes of the chilly air. She was very tempted to ask the air where her beloved leopard was but she refrained from doing so. She could only use these skills in a rare, life-threatening situation.
Suddenly, a noise pierced through the hissing gale, sending a chill down her spine. Her eyes widened, heartbeats quickened and senses heightened.
She knew what that sound was. She’d heard the familiar sound of the arrows leaving the bows of the hunters. Although the thing she didn’t like about it was the last shriek of the animal it’d hit.
Someone was out there, hunting.
This pushed her in panic. What if Pax was hit? The thought fed her panic even more.
“PAX!” She shouted in the woods instantly but still, there was no response, not even from the hunter. She didn’t waste a second and phased into her grey wolf and darted in the direction of the sound.
The thick snow was the only thing that slowed her down but she was determined to find her beloved snow leopard. She wouldn’t let anyone take him away from her.
Another sound of blow pierced through the woods as she ran. This made her pump her legs faster. Her heart was thundering in her chest and adrenaline rushed through her veins.
The rest of the world faded away for her while she ran towards the source of the sound. The wind whooshed by her and the trees parted to make way for her. She heard noises as the snow started to thin out.
She was near one of the main roads, lined with naked and frosty trees on both sides, which lead to the heart of Zaeris.
The coaster of hooves and the grunts of the horses declared that a visitor was walking on the road, headed deeper into the kingdom.
She was afraid to think that the visitor had stained her snow leopard’s beautiful white coat with his majestic red blood. The thought terrified her.
Pax was a beautiful creature and it wasn’t the first time when’d have fallen under the malicious interests of the hunters, especially the ones that’d come from outside.
Although she wondered who was visiting Zaeris at that odd hour? There wasn’t any celebration going on either. She’d have known if there ought to be any visitors beforehand.
As the trees thinned out, she was finally able to spot her snow leopard. It relieved her for a moment but the fact that Pax was standing in the middle of the road, shivering with a carriage pulled in front of him made her hurry even more.
Her eyes widened when she saw the driver of the carrier with an arrow pointed at Pax. She didn’t waste a moment and instantly jumped between the leopard and the arrow.
Although the arrow had already left the bow. It pierced the wind and headed straight at the she-wolf but she didn’t move. She stood tall and proudly between the arrow and her beloved.
She didn’t flinch as the arrow slightly cut through her cheek before being deflected away. She heard Pax squeal behind her while she growled at the coach driver aggressively, flashing her scissor sharp canines.
The coach driver still had the bow pointed at her, his other hand reaching behind him to retrieve another arrow from his quiver.
The she-wolf prepared to prance at him. She didn’t care about the arrow. The coach driver was about to fire another shot when the coach door flew open very unexpectedly.
Celeste still kept her aggressive stance but it was for the first time when she noticed the huge golden symbol pressed in the coach, just over the coach master’s head.
The light from the lantern fell adequately on the symbol, defining every single detail in it. In the middle of the symbol was the side profile of a Lycan’s face. Olive leaves circled the symbol and there were several runes carved above the Lycan’s head.
She instantly knew that it was a carriage from Thestonia but she was aghast when a very tall figure stepped out of the coach. The door of the carriage shut with a loud thud, echoing in the woods.
Now that the door was out of the way, her grey eyes locked with a pair of black ones whose owner stood tall and regal. Her heartbeats quickened all of a sudden and something strange stirred inside her.
He was the Lycan King.
She hesitated for a moment but didn’t take a step back. She still stood between the arrow and her leopard. His black eyes lingered grimly over her before they looked past her, at the leopard.
“Give the leopard to me,” He commanded, using all his powers but Celeste didn’t bow down or even budged like normal would have.
A strange silver light rose from her followed by the crashing of bones.
The silver light transformed into a thick black cloak that fell over the now phased she-wolf standing in front of the Lycan king with her chin lifted up with determination. He’d never seen anything like that before, something like her.
“You can have him after you kill me,” she told the King grimly, looking him straight into the eyes, challenging him.
The King cocked an eyebrow and extended his hand towards the coachman who handed him the bow and the arrow.
The whole frozen forest stood still and silent, watching everything unfold. Even the air had stopped blowing, it seemed like everyone was holding their breaths.
The King glared at her for a second longer to warn her she still didn’t budge.
It ticked him off and the arrow left the bow again. She stood tall and still like a statue as the arrow missed her by a few inches. The King clenched his jaw, the strong determination of the she-wolf in front of him was feeding his anger and stirring his Lycan inside him.
“Pathetic,” she commented and turned to her leopard. “Let’s go home, Pax,” she told her leopard. It jumped towards her and followed her very closely into the woods.
Meanwhile, the King stood there watching the duo, feeling utterly humiliated. No one had ever insulted him like this she-wolf did.
“Coward,” Celeste spoke over her shoulder when the King pointed the arrow at her back.
She heard something break, presumably the bow and the arrow while she disappeared into the shadows of the trees. She didn’t realize that she was shaking with fear until she was deep enough into the woods with her leopard.
She let out a shaky breath, dropping down to hug her leopard. The leopard gave her a rough lick while she squeezed her eyes shut and thought about the Lycan King.
“It can’t be,” she whispered, her voice quivered.
Being paired with the Lycan King was the last thing she’d ever imagined.
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