Tooth and Claw

Fires of change

The claws raked across her back and Julia gave a roar of pain as she turned, swinging her blade and cleaving the creature in two. She could feel the huge Crinos form of Cal nearby, moving towards her a little too late to prevent the blow. But there was no time to really think about it. The sept was under attack.

It had been so calm these last few months – or at least, comparatively. They had all been busy, wrapped up in their own worlds as they learned to adjust and tried to prepare for the impending ‘end of days’. She had been trying to be queen, and the others had been living their own lives. There had been plenty of challenges to overcome, but it had seemed like things were getting better. Somehow the world was improving, somehow the Wyld seemed to be pushing back and the tribes were uniting. It hadn’t been perfect, but it had given her hope that this apocalypse they kept talking about had been avoided.

Shit. This is a mess.

Where was Annie? She could see Nahuel out of one eye, his lithe wolf form lunging and returning as he stayed by her side. Cal was obvious among the crowd, the huge red Crinos towering even amid the madness as he shrugged off every attack that came against him like he was untouchable. But there were too many people in this place, the stench of blood and rage permeating the air. Annie was small normally, never mind in a clusterfuck of a battle where you had no idea which werewolves were on your side and which ones wanted to rip your face off. Hopefully being small would be an advantage, would protect her.

She raised her sword and parried an incoming strike, shoving her assailant back with her foot and staggering slightly as she threw off her own balance. Dammit, how could she be so out of practice? Or perhaps she wasn’t, she just didn’t know how to fight with the added weight of an increasingly obvious baby bump changing her centre of gravity. She withdrew a little, back towards the gate of the caern.

Their home had been invaded. In the end, no matter how well she alarmed the property, it always seemed to be for nothing. Every enemy circumvented the protections she had in place, even daring to attack when they were inside. It had all happened so fast. A man that exploded into a spray of thorns upon death, a growth that would have trapped them and consumed their home if Cal hadn’t dragged him away into the fields beyond. The guards who had been watching her home dead. The sept under attack and, as the sky had split open and unleashed a wave of assailants upon them all, the tingle of the alarm that told her the pack’s territory was invaded once again.

Julia stepped back, flaming sword raised and coated in a sheen of fiery crimson as she pushed open the gates of the caern and stepped inside. Instantly it was as if the sounds of the battle dulled. Her back was covered in blood that she knew was her own, the claws having sunk deep. She didn’t have the time or skill to heal them. Had the enemy got through to the tree? It was no use protecting the gate if others were already inside.

The caern grove was dark, unnaturally so. Shade hung like cloth from the branches of the tree, too dark even for her night-trained eyes to clearly penetrate. But it wasn’t dark enough for her not to be able to see that there were shapes beside the tree, shapes that shouldn’t be there.

She reached within and activated the light, a blinding radius of silver white emanating from her and filling the area. Hopefully it would act as a beacon, draw attention to those outside the glade that something was wrong. The figures became clearer – still sheathed in darkness, but it was now more a dull grey than a true covering of unnatural night. There were half a dozen, gathered around the base of the caern and chanting in a language she didn’t understand. This couldn’t be good.

Julia moved as fast as she could, calling out for her pack through their link as she did so. The flames of the sword bit into the back of one of them and she heard a grunt of pain as the chanting briefly stopped. She was still moving, pulling it out and swinging in a wide arc across at another one – but the robed figure was too far across, out of her reach as once again the shift in her centre of gravity threw off her arm. A stab of pain from her back caused her to stagger a little, and then the first figure that she had attacked turned, mumbling something new. Fire erupted from its fingers, engulfing her as she instinctively raised an arm to parry. It sank into the open wounds in her back, filling her mind with pain as she fell.

The last thing she saw before things went dark was the gate to the caern opening and Nahuel slipping through.

Please, save the caern.

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Marlene

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