I counted seventeen panthers as they closed in on me, their eyes red and their essence gone. What was I supposed to do? They were innocent beings, caught up in this fight through no fault of their own. One of them was probably little Mika’s mother. I couldn’t kill them.
Panther God. Give me strength to spare these innocent lives and if they cannot be spared, please give them safe passage into the afterlife. I am sorry.
I winced as my back hit the cave wall behind me. I had nowhere else to go. The panthers hissed and growled, ready to make their move. Suddenly I sensed a wave of power from the amulet, I looked down. The turquoise and moonstone were pulsing, every pulse bringing with it a rush of energy to my body. My gaze immediately shifted up and I locked eyes with the closest panther.
The words erupted from my mouth; I didn’t recognise the voice even though it spilled from between my lips. Every single panther stopped in their tracks, their heads snapping up. I shielded my face as a blinding blue light blasted from their eyes, illuminating the cave for a split second before disappearing again. I lowered my arm and gasped. The red from the panther’s eyes was completely gone, they were no longer possessed.
Before I had a chance to even think about celebrating I heard Magdalene roar. The panthers all turned towards her in a daze and my stomach turned when I saw what she was doing. A giant black orb rotated in the air above her head, I could feel the death dripping off it as it bubbled and hissed. Purple veins covered the witch’s face and hands, her once vibrant red hair now a glistening shade of white. Whatever this ball of energy was, it was draining all of her power. She meant this as the final attack, the fatal blow.
I glanced around at all the innocent panthers, their eyes wide with fear. Some huddled together, seeking comfort in their final moments, turning their faces away from their inevitable destruction.
Suddenly Magdalene threw her arms forward and the orb of death, as if an extension of her body, careered towards us.
“NO!” I screamed.
The panthers moved out of the way as I pushed my body through the middle of them. I lifted my arms and planted my feet firmly on the ground.
Stay behind me!
They all did as I ordered and piled in behind me as the sphere tore through the air.
I pinned a brown wolf to the ground by his throat, normally a wolf would submit, realise they’d challenged the wrong Alpha and admit defeat; apparently possessed wolves didn’t submit. I’d killed three panthers and two wolves so far. Every death was a stab to my heart, an innocent life lost, a family that would never be reunited with their loved one.
My eyes shot up, the wolf still firmly secure in my jaws. More closed in on me and I knew I would have to tear this wolf’s throat out if I was going to be able to fight the rest.
The fur covered body underneath me stopped resisting and I loosened my grip on his neck. Suddenly a blinding blue light erupted from the wolf’s eyes and the eyes of all of the other possessed wolves around me. The flash of light was almost blinding but lasted only a second.
Well I’ll be damned!
I released my grip completely on the wolf at my feet and took a step back, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The wolf blinked, the red completely gone from its eyes; Then it lifted it’s head, offering me his neck in submission. I grunted under my breath, acknowledging the wolf’s gesture and allowed him to rise to his feet.
I couldn’t believe it. Quinn had exorcised all of the shifters with a simple command. I pushed between the wolves and looked around, my eyes were drawn straight away to Magdalene.
What the fuck is that?!
I stood staring, mouth agape. Above the witch’s head was a giant black sphere, I’d never seen anything like it before. Then I noticed that Magdalene looked completely different. She’d aged about forty years, her red hair now as white as snow and her flawless skin covered in wrinkles and large purple veins. Everything that she had was going into making this terrifying looking ball and I knew that couldn’t be good.
“That’s a death sphere”
I jumped at the voice next to me and turned my head. Most of the wolves had shifted back to their human forms and stood like me, staring at the witch. I followed suit and shifted from my wolf, drawing several gasps from the other shifters. It wasn’t hard to tell in my wolf form that I was an Alpha, the dominance and superiority dripped from me; but now they could see that I was the Alpha - the undefeated leader of Fern Creek.
The young female next to me nodded. I didn’t recognise her at all. She was about Quinn’s age and had short brown hair with some interesting designs shaved into the side of her head.
“The witch has absorbed pure negative, dark energy and concentrated it all into that ball. Whatever it touches will instantly die, it will suck the life straight from them”
“How do you stop it?” I asked.
“By killing it’s creator. That’s the only way. It will keep growing and feeding off life until it’s killed everything in its path”
This was how Magdalene planned to destroy humanity. I clenched my fists and turned my attention to Quinn but as I did, the witch launched the sphere and it hurtled through the air, straight towards my mate.
Everything seemed to play out in slow motion. Quinn screamed, pushing herself out from behind the panthers and placing her body in front of them. They all piled in behind their Tribrid shield and she planted her feet firmly on the ground and extended her arms out in front.
I couldn’t move. The only thing I could do was watch in horror as the death sphere closed the distance to Quinn. I was about to yell out at her to move when suddenly her amulet started to glow. The gems pulsated, waves of energy rippling in the air around her and surrounding her body. Then I could feel it, my own energy, my essence, seeping from my body and into the earth beneath my feet. This was it! This was what the amulet had been designed to do. It was drawing energy from all the shifters and their gods and siphoning them straight into Quinn.
Quinn’s body vibrated and she opened her mouth, a godly roar tearing from her chest that shook the entire cave around us. The sphere was only a mere metre from hitting its target.
The young wolf next to me grabbed my arm in shock and we all stared. The death sphere halted in the air. Quinn’s arms were extended out towards it and sweat dripped from her head as she used her borrowed power to hold the orb at bay.
The power that surged through my body was intoxicating. It hummed and vibrated, bouncing off my insides as I struggled to keep it all contained. I bit down on my bottom lip, blood filling my mouth. My arms shook uncontrollably and my feet dug into the solid rock as I struggled to hold the sphere back. I cried out, feeling my body slide backwards, even with this power I wasn’t strong enough.
Then suddenly I stopped sliding. I felt something warm and soft up against my back, pushing against me to prevent me from slipping any further
Panther after panther formed a wall behind me, using their strength to keep me stable, to keep me grounded. I focused on the sphere and used everything I had to keep it from hitting us. Magdalene hissed and continued urging it forward. It was like a reverse ‘tug-of-war’, both of us pushing this incredibly dangerous power, waiting to see who tired first.
I could feel my animals straining against the force and I honestly didn’t know how much longer I’d be able to hold it.
We need to shift.
I listened to Rogue and struggled to shake my head. If I shifted then that would be it, my strength would be gone within seconds. It would burn up everything I had.
We only need seconds. Trust us. We can’t defeat her like this. You are fatiguing!
I watched my arms shaking uncontrollably in front of my body and blinked as sweat stung my eyes. Rogue was right. I had no choice. Suddenly out of the corner of my eye I caught some movement and even under this intense pressure I could feel his presence, his warmth.
Quinn. I believe in you! You are stronger than you think. I love you. Destroy that bitch.
Jayce’s words of belief and support gave me the push I needed. I knew it was this or we all died. I gave my animals a subconscious nod, letting them know my body was their’s.
My power was draining, absolutely everything I had was going into the death sphere; but I could tell that I still had the upper hand. I felt the sphere closing in on the tribrid, millimetre by millimetre.
It would take me months to recover from this kind of of power expenditure but once Quinn was dead, I didn’t care; there was no one else that could defeat me.
I heard the tribrid scream out. It was an animalistic scream, something primal and almost unhinged. My eyes narrowed and I tried to focus my vision.
If I could have rubbed my eyes in disbelief I would have. The panthers all stepped away from their Queen and her body shook violently. Blood seemed to pour from her nose and eyes and the sounds of bones breaking could be heard over the hissing and bubbling of the Death Sphere. I couldn’t look away as the tribrid’s body appeared to triple in height, silver fur replacing her dirt and blood covered skin. My eyes widened and it was obvious to me now why Hades had wanted such a creature in his army; she was breathtaking. Her body was that of a bear but a long panther tail gave her balance against the force of the sphere. Her head was most definitely wolf and I swallowed as her ice blue eyes bore a hole straight through my soul.
My feet began to slip and it wasn’t until then that I realised I was no longer levitating in the air. I tried to give the sphere another burst of power but I was tapped out. It was clear to me now that the tribrid monster had the upper hand as the sphere started to inch back in my direction.
Quinn roared, causing shards of rock to crumble from above us. The panthers and wolves all ran for safer ground as the cave cracked and shifted, threatening to come down around us.
I glanced at my shaking hands, they were the hands of an old lady; wrinkled and weathered, disfigured and deformed. I no longer had the power to keep up the stunning facade that I had been holding all these years, my true form surfacing for the first time in centuries.
The sphere was now hovering in the air, halfway between us but quickly drawing closer to me. I had no strength left to push it back, only enough to prolong the inevitable. I looked back to the tribrid’s face. Blood coated the fur under her eyes and nose and dripped down her body from her open, panting mouth. I drew satisfaction in knowing that this surge of power was going to kill her. Her organs were shutting down, her blood thinning; the internal bleeding was epic. I could smell the death in the air. My destruction was certain but I would sleep well in Hell knowing that I had taken the Shifter Queen out with me.
The pain had gone, a chilling numbness replacing it and enveloping my body. I coughed, choking back the blood as it pooled up from my insides, finding anyway possible to escape me. The sphere was now only a metre from Magdalene, the frail old lady, almost cowering under the deathly glow of her own creation. I needed one more push, one more push and it would all be over. I reached into my mind, my animals silent but nodding weakly to let me know we had just enough left in the tank to finish it.
I turned my head slightly to Jayce. He stood there, staring at me. Love and pride written all over his tear stained face. I didn’t have the strength to mind link him, to tell him I loved him, to tell him I’d wait for him in the afterlife, to tell him to live his life fully and not to be scared to love again. I wanted him to have babies, to have an heir, to be the amazing daddy I knew he could be.
But instead I just looked at him, committing every inch of his perfect face and body to memory as I felt my heart beat slow in my chest.
I internalised every last ounce of power and life I had left in my body, projecting them through my arms and hands and into the invisible force that held the sphere at bay. The amulet exploded off my wrist, a wave of pure energy blasting through the atmosphere.
I smiled weakly and watched the witch lower her arms, giving into to her fate as the black orb careered into her. The darkness absorbed her body, her gown dropping to the ground in a cascading pool of burgundy silk.
Then the sphere vanished.
I dropped to my hands and knees as my body shifted back into my human form. Rogue was gone, nothing left in my subconscious that would even suggest she had made it through the ordeal. I slid myself down on to my stomach, the coldness of the rock warming with my blood.
I could faintly hear Jayce’s frantic voice and footsteps as he ran towards me.
My heart slowed further.
My eyes closed and I exhaled calmly.
I saw the outline of a face in my mind.
A hand reached out towards me and our fingers intertwined, their warmth wrapping itself around my soul.
I smiled as my mother’s face came into view, a warm golden glow surrounding her body.
“Come on baby girl. It’s time to go home”