Authors: H.D Gordon
God, how I hated it when
my Monster was right. But it was, and I did as it suggested.
What I got from Nelly in response
was just the barest inclination of her head. The movement was so small that I
doubted anyone else had noticed, but I got Nelly’s message through it clear
enough. She was telling me that she had this, and that I needed to keep my
mouth shut and trust her. Knowing Nelly, I added a “please” at the end of this
And then Nelly did something I
never knew she could do, but in hindsight I should have
do. In hindsight, I should have known that the possibilities of my sister’s
power was endless, but it was so hard for me to erase my image of her as
someone who needed to be guarded. protected.
She let me into the silent conversation
that was happening between her and the Lamia, and the addition of the voices in
my head made for three too many.
Nelly: Carianna, why have you
Carianna: To find you, my
Queen, why else? Have you forgotten that your soul calls out to us? I had only
to look to the skies for your beacon. I’d feared your capture. I see that I
need not have worried. Seems you are in good company.
Nelly: You have to go.
Carianna: What a hurtful thing
to say, my Queen.
Nelly: I am not your Queen.
Please, you have to go.
Carianna: If you are not our
Master then I have to do nothing. If this is the side you choose then you are
the enemy. I would advise you to make your choice wisely.
Now it was Kayden who caught hold
of me before I could leap across the invisible barrier and relieve this monster
of her head. Nelly shot me another look. Another growl ripped up my throat, but
I stayed put.
Nelly: I would advise
not to make threats. Or perhaps you need a reminder of why you named me Master
in the first place.
Carianna: I think it is you
who needs to be reminded, my dear Queen, reminded of what blood flows through
your veins, of the beast that lurks in the depths of your soul. You are not one
of them. All you need do is take a look behind you to see that. You know it,
and now, they know it too. They will never accept you. Come with us.
Nelly didn’t take her eyes off
the Lamia, but I did. I turned my head and looked over my shoulder to see that
the scene had changed. The Fae were no longer staring slack-jawed and immobile,
but instead had taken to their wings and held swords and bows and arrows at the
ready. The Trolls had returned with small hammers and axes in their stubby
hands. Magic users, the names of their races unknown to me, were sending sparks
out of their fingertips that looked like they could erupt into deadly shards
given command. The Wolves had shifted in their animal forms, ears flattened
against their enormous heads and the fur on their huge backs standing at
attention. Searchers stood behind Brocken Vampires, who held Warrior’s swords
deceptively still at their sides.
And the worst part of it all, I
didn’t know who they were arming up against; the Lamia, or my sister.
If Nelly doesn’t end this
soon, Warrior, our blade will get to sing its song plenty. It may be too late
I threw a thought out to my
sister that I hoped she would catch:
Nelly, send them away. Now!
How selfish of you to keep all of this fine wine to yourself. Send a few of
them out as a show of good will, and we will leave you for now, my Queen. One
of each race will do. Maybe two of the Fae. It has been so long since I’ve had
their exquisite blood. And the Sun Warrior, of course. I’ve never had the
The next thing that was said was
spoken aloud, just one word, but the tone in which it was spoken was one I had
never heard my sister use before; one that I hadn’t even known she was
of using. That one word was so full of anger and rage that it made the
ramblings of my own Monster sound like the whimper of a piddling puppy.
Nelly said simply, “Fine.”
Then her arms flew out at her
sides with such swiftness that I could not even detect their movement from her
sides to the air. Her head tilted back and her throat issued a shriek that was
so much like that of the Accursed standing before us, but so much more powerful
still. It was the cry not of the Beast, but of the Mother of Beasts, and I
didn’t have to glance behind me this time to know that the entire Outlands had
fallen fearfully frozen under its force. My hands twitched at my sides as I
resisted the urge to reach up and cover my ears. So loud it was, deafening, and
it seemed to drown out every other sound in the universe. I could only watch in
helpless horror as next bridge on this crazy path burned behind me and Nelly’s
If they hadn’t figured it out
already, they knew it now. Nelly’s secret was a secret no more. Everyone here
knew that she was one of the Accursed.
No matter what happens now,
Warrior, this won’t end well.
“Does it ever?”
A humorless chuckle.
When my sister finally ceased
shrieking, a preternatural silence seemed to fall over the world around me, and
for a moment, it was as if I was standing smack in the middle of a void. In
that silent moment I was able to watch the unthinkable happen before me. As I
look back now, I can only recall the event in a series of images. And this is
what I saw:
Nelly’s hands, as white as fresh
snow–raised high above her honey head–clenched into fists so tight that no
blood could enter them. The field beyond, with its pack of huntresses, fangs
bared and eyes black and heads cocked in a way that reminded me of ravens.
Grinning ravens. From my vantage point some of them were no more than figures
out in a field, so white and deviously immobile. All of the world seeming
immobile, save for my little sister.
And when the Lamia’s cries of
anguish cut through the silence, this time I did cover my ears. They were the
cries of burning demons. Then some of the Lamia started to disappear, quite
literally. Because Nelly was still holding me in the circle of her mind, I knew
happening. I knew what she was
Nelly was ripping the Lamia’s
souls clean out of their bodies.
It was a dreadfully beautiful
thing. So much so that I wanted to weep and laugh simultaneously. All I could
do was stand there, mouth agape, as I counted them off in my head, as Lamia
after Lamia was abruptly cut off from their tether to this world, as they
before my eyes, at the hands of my sister.
At thirteen the remaining Lamia
wised up and took their departure, exiting the field and slipping away into the
night as silent as demons in the shadows. But the one my sister had referred to
as Carianna sent a parting thought out to Nelly. Her voice was soft and
unwelcome in my head, like a whisper from some faraway spoiled land.
Eventually, you will seek us
out. For now, my Queen.
And then the Lamia were gone.
It was pure reflex that I was
able to catch my sister before she collapsed to the ground. At first, I thought
that she had passed out, but as I clutched her arms Nelly stared up at me with
hazel eyes as wide as a terrified kitten’s, and I saw that it was only her
knees that had given way, the energy it had taken her to de-soul the Lamia
having wiped out her physical strength. She found her feet quicker than I would
have thought possible, though, and as I wheeled around to check out the scene
behind me, it was not hard to see why.
My left arm wrapped around my
sister to support some of her weight. My right hand held my Gladius deadly
I took a deep breath and faced
the mob of very pissed-off supernaturals all around me.
One step forward. Two. Three.
No one seemed to be breathing.
The only sound was that of my heart pounding like war drums in my chest. None
of their weapons were held up at direct aim, but I knew by the way they held
them that they were ready to shoot an arrow or launch an axe in half of a
heartbeat. My eyes ran over them slowly, accessing the danger each posed. If
they should choose to attack as a unit, I would not only be unable to protect
Nelly, but I would most certainly be unable to protect myself.
Maybe we should have taken our
chances with the Lamia.
I paid my Monster no mind. I had
to treat this situation carefully. Such a delicate thing this was, this peace
that these races agreed to live by. The tension in the air was so thick that my
feet seemed to be dragging through it, making each step forward without
occurrence a victory. I could see the murder in some of their eyes, especially
those that were Vampire or Wolf, and I couldn’t really say that I blamed them.
But that didn’t mean that I would let them hurt Nelly.
More steps. Slow. Too slow.
I sent out a thought to Nell,
hoping she had enough mental strength left to hear me.
We have to move
quicker, Nell. We’re standing on a cliff that’s set to crumble any second now.
What I got back was weak but
For some reason this made anger
well in me, and I was kind of surprised to realize that my anger was with my
sister. Don’t worry? Could she even be serious? If not for the setting, I may
have screamed these questions in her face, but that could only serve to worsen
this bad situation, so I kept my mouth shut and my guard up. Way up.
A look over my shoulder told me
that Kayden was walking behind me, his golden eyes scanning the crowd like a
lion stalking antelope. I breathed a small sigh of relief, knowing that I was
protected from behind. Tommy, crazy smitten fool that he was, had taken up
stride behind Nelly, and he watched the scene the same way that Kayden did. At
least we weren’t alone, but we were still pretty damn near.
Then someone in the crowd
shouted, and the fragile peace shattered like thin glass on a hard floor. A
faceless voice yelled, “Accursed!” and without me having given permission, my
Monster stepped forward and seized the reins, and saved Nelly’s life.
The world slowed, as it always
did when I looked through the eyes of my beast, and the arrow that came
whizzing through the air aimed for my sister’s heart was cut down just inches
from home plate by my Gladius, the silver blade snapping through the wood with
More people shouted now, and I felt my left eye twitch
and a crooked grin spread over my face as my body took up battle stance.
I’m going to kill them all for
that, Warrior. I’m going to kill them all.
And they began to move in. Fae,
Trolls, Magic Users, Vampires, Wolves. I watched and waited. And then something
silver landed right in front of me. I was barely able to stop my sword from
sliding into his midsection as I realized who it was.
“Wait!” he shouted, and his
usually soft and silky voice was loud and commanding. His dragonfly wings
twitched at his back, the only sign of that he could feel the tension as surely
as I could. His glorious face was set, though, and when his silver eyes flashed
to me for the briefest of moments, I saw that there was something gentle there.
So, despite the blood boiling inside of me, I waited to see if whatever Arrol
had in mind could play out.
He spoke quickly. “We can’t kill
them, you fools. Think about what you are doing.”
A Brocken Vampire as big as a
house, with a long burly beard and tree trunks for arms yelled back. “Like hell
we can’t! You saw what happened
! The girl is one of them! The
Accursed called her
Arrol’s shoulders tensed a
fraction, and his fingers tightened around the bow and arrow that he held at
his side, and I knew by the way the Brocken had said it that “fairy” must be a
derogatory name for a Fae. But Arrol’s face remained impassive, and his voice
was calm and steady when he spoke. “The Law here forbids harm. If the girl was
any danger to you, she would not have been allowed to enter.” He glanced around
now, addressing the crowd. “You all know what will happen if we let this become
a battle. The magic that keeps the danger out of the Outlands will dissipate,
and this territory will become as open and unprotected as a buffet line. Do you
want the Accursed to come back when that happens?”
My heart was still racing in my
chest, but a little hope was spiraling in there now, too. Looking around I saw
that the people were thinking about what he was saying. They still looked like
they meant business, but some of them were thinking, and that had to be a good
Another voice, this one lost in
the crowd. “Then throw her out!”
More shouts. Agreements. My hope
fading. Arrol’s words had been news to me. I hadn’t known that the peace not
only depended on the magic of this land, but that the magic depended on the
peace. Maybe they couldn’t harm us, but they could sure as hell make us leave.
And we had nowhere else to go that was safe.
The burly Brocken again. Looking
at Nelly. “Yes! Leave, demon! Leave this land and take your black soul with
Before anyone could shout their
concurrence, I stepped forward and pointed the tip of my Gladius at the Brocken
Vampire who had spoken. My smile was as cold as the blade in my hand. “Just try
us, big man.”
The Brocken spat at the ground by
his feet and sneered. “Awfully little girl you are to say such big words.”
I laughed now, the cackle of my
Monster, and beckoned him forward with a tip of my blade. “Come and see that I