The sharp howl of wolves, amplified by cave echoes, jerks me from sleep. The bubble of peace we’ve been living in, a bubble on borrowed time, seems to have finally burst.
My eyes scan the dark cave while I secretly pray that I am wrong. Yet the sound of flesh being ripped apart and claws scraping rock has me
tossing my legs out of bed,
As the disturbing sound of claws scraping rock and flesh being torn reverberates, I swing my legs off the rock–bed, a cold chill creeping down my spine. In the dim light, I spy my grandmother by the dying embers of our fire, her movements swift and silent as she douses the last lick of flame, a finger pressed to her lips.
These aren’t regular wolves. Ordinary wolves, I would have preferred. No, these were werewolves: part human, part animal, Beasts of man.
These savage beasts are part of the reason the human population is being so terribly decimated. They are also the reason we live in these caves, far away from the monsters that linger on the borders of the mountains and surrounding the neighboring Kingdom.
More screams ring out loudly as I jump down from my resting spot, before making my way over to her. She glances in the entrance direction, where the screams are coming from and growing louder, while ushering me to follow her.
We move quickly, making our way deeper into the cave, climbing the rocks and squeezing through tight crevices. Despite my grandmother being nearly 70, she moves fast for an old woman.
“Hurry, Zirah. We can’t let them catch you,” she whispers, and I peer over the dark. My eyesight is better than most, ‘darkness. “Them?” I ask confused.
my shoulder, suddenly fo
but this cave is blinding i
“The Lycan king’s guards,” she answers. I know better than to doubt her. My grandmother has the gift of sight. She is a witch, a seer, old yet no less powerful. However, her parlor tricks, potions, and spells would hold no ground against a Lycan. They are another beast entirely. Similar in a sense to werewolves, but vastly different. They walk on two legs and are faster, stronger, and deadlier–also a hell of a lot bigger.
“This way, hurry,” Grandma hisses, pushing me faster and further into the
“I knew it. I knew when that bastard left that he would rat us out. Now he has ruined everything. I need more time, I should have had more time, the prophecy’s isn’t for another year,” she mutters before her words cut.
“Grandma-” I try to question when her hand clamps over my mouth. We listen to the sounds of people running, and I know it is the Lycans. My grandmother’s hair swipes my face as she stares in the direction we come from.
Her hands tremble as she muffles me. “If the King finds you and figures out what you are-” she trails off, grabbing my arm and ripping me into a
“Grandma, what are you talking about?” I hiss. She sounds like a madwoman.
“Hush, my child, keep your voice down.”
“You’re making no sense,” I whisper as she stops at the narrowing incline. She glances up at the hole above, which looks like a tiny speck from the minimal light coming off the moon.
“I promised your mother. Now I have failed her. That fool led them right
to you,” she whimpers, and i clutch my head in her hands.
her arm. Only for her to spin and
“Listen to me; they can’t find out what you are. You must keep it a secret from the King. Death would be more merciful.” She stammers, her hands shaking on either side of my face.
“What are you talking about?”
“The King’s sons,” she says, letting me go, and she starts climbing. I hurry after her, wanting to know what she is talking about, but I get no
The sounds of running and men hollering make my breath halt in my throat as we climb through the narrow gap to the opening above, using our feet and hands to keep us from slipping back to the cave floor. Each step my grandmother makes has dust and small rocks hitting me behind her, yet my hands and feet refuse to lose the little traction I have on the small opening.
“Zirah, hurry!” my grandmother hisses, and no sooner had she breached the opening above did I hear a snarl below. Grandma hauls herself out, and I look down to see amber eyes reflecting back at me.
Nothing gets you moving faster, knowing the only thing that awaits you is claws and teeth below. I shriek. I can’t help it, my grandmother waving her hand above my head when the Lycan jumps into the narrow gap. He grips my ankle and nearly makes me slide back down.
My nails tear from my nails bed as I claw at the cave wall, shaking and kicking my leg. The Lycan roars below, his claws slicing through my delicate skin like a hot knife on butter.
My hand flails, trying to grab Grandma’s. When she manages to grab it, she grabs my arm with strength I didn’t know she still wielded and the Lycan claws at the inside walls of the tunnel, trying to reach me.
Kicking my foot out, it connects with the side of his head and he tumbles back out. Grandma groans and I look up to see her eyes glowing white. Her pupils then glow blue as a current of air tunnels around me, and she rips me out of the far too–narrow hole peering down, the Lycan is trying to squeeze through the narrow opening before sliding back down to the cave floor, unable to fit.
Looking at my ankle it is a bloody mess, the claws marks deep, and the cuts sting yet where he dug them in like fishhooks hurt the worst, those were almost to the bone. Groaning, I get to my feet, pushing away my grandmother’s fussing hands.
“Quick, show me,” My grandmother hisses, but I shake my head, nudging her to keep going.
“We haven’t got time. Go,” I whisper, yell at her. She nods, climbing the rocky terrain as we try to go around them, each step painful as my ankle swells.
I start pushing and dragging her around the mountain’s edge when I hear growls coming from the direction we are running to. I freeze, and so does Grandma. My eyes dart around nervously, trying to spot them while looking for another way, but I only see a small landing before the cliff edge.
Grandma starts running down, sliding and skidding on the slick surface, and I follow, thinking maybe she sees something I don’t. Just as my feet hit the smooth rock below, claws slashing down the boulders make an awful sound, which sends my gaze up.
It is the first time I have seen a Lycan up close, and they are more terrifying than I ever thought imaginable. It stalks us, and I take a step back, and Grandma clutches my arm tightly. Another feral growl comes from the side of us, and my head turns. There is another one.
My head whips from side to side, trying to watch both, when my grandmother lets go of my arm. For some odd reason, I take my eyes off
the Lycans to see her smile.
“We are out of time. Time is something I have been fighting against for eighteen years. They may be kings, but they are far from worthy,” she whispers, and I take a step toward her.
She takes one back, and my eyes widen as I reach a hand out to her, she shakes her head. My heart races in my chest, some intuitive sense of knowing what is to come makes my lips quiver, my hand grasps the air. My stomach sinks at her next words. “I must let you go, my sweet girl. Use the crafts. Remember what I taught you.”
“No.” I choke out, just as a noise behind me makes me turn my head to find the Lycans nearly at our location. We are trapped, cornered, with nowhere to run,
“I won’t go back there, Zirah. I can’t, not after the last time.” Her words. confuse me. We have never left the mountains. Her eyes move to behind me, her eyes narrowing furiously into slits.
“They found you, but they’ll regret it.” She chuckles before taking another step back.
My eyes widen in horror; it is far too high to jump from. My scream is loud and visceral as I watch, horrified, as she takes her own life.
The ocean may be below, but from these heights, it would be like hitting cement.
My feet skid on the surface, and I drop to my knees, peering over the edge into the darkness. Tears burn my vision when movement behind me makes me glare over my shoulder. She killed herself. She would rather die than go with them, which made my mind up.
Quickly jumping to my feet, I back up, building the courage before running for the edge.
The snarl that rips through the air laces my skin with goosebumps. Then
the air is suddenly knocked from my lungs, and I am crushed beneath a heavy weight.
I toss my head back. The beast on top of me groans and sniffs loudly, telling me I hit him in the nose, turning I smack him in the side of the head only for him to shove me back onto my stomach. Pinned to the ground by claws, I kick, scream, and fight, but I’m no match for the beast. Its knee drives into my back, and a brutal hit to my head has the world spinning into darkness.