Chapter 2: Hissing Cuts Deep
I tensed as a shadow covered the light from the entrance of the cave. My heart started to pound and I glanced over at Grant, who was beginning to look pale. What exactly were therians again? I wondered as I looked up to see someone walking into the cave.
"Hello?" A male voice asked. As the figure got closer I could see a tangle of blond hair across his head and bright hazel eyes. He was quite muscular, and reminded me of Valentina by the way he also squared his shoulders and held his chin high. He was also a lot younger than Grant. I trembled slightly as I tried to force my tongue to form words.
"Who are you?" I asked, my voice coming out a lot stronger than I had intended it to. He glanced at me sharply, and I instantly regretted saying anything at all. He's kinda cute! But he looks like he's going to eat me...
"I'm the beta," he said with a disgusted tone, his voice slightly musky and with a demanding air to it. "Who are you?" I blushed and looked over at Grant. Only I couldn't see him anymore, and I froze with fear. My blood turned cold and my heart beat through my chest as I turned back to the man.
"My name is Amey," my voice wavered slightly and I wanted to vanish into thin air. The man tilted his head slightly and a sly smile crossed his face. He walked towards me and gently placed his hand on my chin. I flinched and slapped his hand, crawling backwards against the cave wall. I could feel the wet rock through my torn shirt and I began to tremble. "What are you?" I asked, my teeth were nearly chattering. The man ran a hand through his shaggy blond hair and shrugged.
"I'm a wolf therian," he replied casually, looking over the cave. "What are you?" His voice snapped, a snarl curling into it. I glanced at him and my eyes widened.
"I-I'm a hum-man," I stuttered, drawing my knees up to my chest and wrapping my arm over my thighs. The man froze and looked down at me. His nose curled like Valentina's did when she was smelling the air, and I could have sworn it looked like his eyes blackened.
"You're Amethyst aren't you?" He asked with an undetectable-edge to his voice as he backed away. My heart froze at the sound of my name. How could he have known me? I slowly stood up, my sneakers crunching against the rocks.
"Yes, but you can call me Amey," I said cautiously, looking him over. "Are you a part of Valentina's pack?" I asked nervously. The man chuckled, walking towards me.
"So you met Valentina then," his voice was musky and filled with amusement. "Yes, I'm in her pack. Is that not why I said I was the beta?" He asked, reaching out a hand to pull me away from the slimy wall. I paused and gently placed my hand in his, letting him pull me away. Blushing, I looked down at the ground and then back up at him.
"I don't know what beta means," I explained shyly, and he laughed gently. I could see a glowing shine in his hazel eyes and I quickly averted my eyes. I heard footsteps and looked past his shoulder to see Grant walking up to me, his side clean and missing a deep gash that had been there moments before. My eyes widened and I squeaked with surprise as the man began to talk.
"I'm Alek, and beta means I'm second in charge," he smiled welcomingly. His eyebrows furrowed once he saw me looking past him and spun nearly on top of Grant. "Grant! Oh!" Alek cried, his musky voice full of surprise. Grant bowed in respect, muscle rippling across his back. I grit my jaw with confusion to why Grant was giving him such deep respect.
"Hello Alek. I assume all is well within the pack?" Grant asked, his deep voice different from what I had gotten used to hearing. Alek nodded, crossing his arms.
"Yes. I bet it is your job to take care of the girl, isn't it?" He asked, his musky voice playing with almost a teasing tone. Grant eyed Alek nervously and nodded, stepping past him to walk up to me. He tried making it look casual as he looked me over. I could see by the curious look in Alek's eyes that he noticed it wasn't casual.
"What's going on here?" Alek asked, his musky voice playing a dangerous tone. Grant stiffened and spun to Alek, shaking his head.
"What do you mean?" Grant's gruff voice was stiffer than usual and he looked tense. Alek's eyes narrowed and he stepped forward, placing his hands on Grant's bulging biceps. His hazel eyes had started to look a bright orange and his lips curled up in a snarl.
"Get away from her," Alek growled, and my eyes widened at the perfection of the rippling wolf snarl. Grant's chest puffed out but he stepped backwards. Grant's eyes glowed angrily and he walked along side the wall and then out of the cave. Alek turned to me, his eyes soft. "Are you okay?" He asked softly, reaching to touch my shoulder. A strange rumbling sound emanated from my chest and I stepped back. I noticed I could feel cold air on my teeth. I was snarling! Alek's eyes narrowed and he returned his arm to his side.
"Where is Valentina?" I asked defiantly, surprised that my voice wasn't shaking anymore. Alek grit his jaw and jerked his head towards the entrance. So that is how he's going to act now? A hit and run? I glared at him and stomped up to the cave entrance. Nothing could have prepared me for the sight I was about to see.
The first thing I noticed was the crumpled brown bodies strewn all across the forest. All of them were gnarled and covered with spikes as had the monster in the cave. Blood was splattered across trees and creating little trails through the grass. Then I noticed a band of warriors fighting with long swords extending from their hands as they twirled and stabbed at monsters. I could hear their battle cries and I watched a sword to straight into a monster's side and out the back. I winced and covered my eyes, trying to not retch as the smell of blood wafted around me.
Suddenly a loud roar filled the air, and I opened my eyes to see a lion leaping off of a rock into the air before me. His mane billowed around his face, and the lion's golden coat glistened in the sunlight. I could see muscle rippling across his side and chest. He was so close I could have touched him! Then he opened his jaw and snapped his teeth around a monster's neck, and instantly they both crumpled to the ground. I watched with fear as they twisted on the ground, and finally the lion climbed to the top, digging his claws into the monster's chest. He snapped forward and his canines bit straight through the monster's jaw, instantly killing him. Then the lion lifted his head and looked at me with crystal orange eyes. I looked him over, his wild appearance with blood splattered across him, deep gashes on his hips and flesh hanging from his teeth. He stood up and pulled back his lips at me, hissing.
I screamed, a blood-curdling scream that made others want to cover their ears. I scrambled to my feet as the lion pounded forward. Why the hell was a lion in the forest?! My feet clumsily pulled me across the forest ground as I bolted in fear. I could hear the lion's thunderous pounds of his feet and I knew he was closing in. I glanced back to see the lion crouch down and pounce. Then, I did something that would never have been expected of me to do. I dropped to the ground and curled up in a ball. The lion pounced straight over me, the bushy end of his tail trailing over my face. I flinched and drew my hands up to protect my face.
The lion landed gracefully and spun to face me. Then he did something not like a lion and sat down, looking at me with wide orange eyes. He was studying me. I sat there, tears in my eyes and I began to tremble again. No matter what happened, I would always be scared of everything. The lion tilted his head and momentarily dug his claws into the ground. I felt nervous under the gaze of something whose teeth were so strong that they could snap through my skull.
The lion flicked one of his ears back at something I didn't hear and flicked his tail. He glanced at me with wild orange eyes before getting up and bounding into the heat of the battle again. As I watched him go, I realized there were dozens of animals fighting against monsters. Wolves, horses, wild cats, bears and even an alligator. My eyes widened with shock as one of the warriors nearly stepped on one of the wolves, but the wolf only snorted at them and dove at another enemy.
I kept watching with a pounding heart and that's when I realized something. The warriors and the animals were working together to help drive the monsters back. As the brown beasts swarmed in, they would split up and work to drive the monsters together and then kill them. All of them had the same fierce light in their eyes, whether they were a wild animal or a human wielding a long sword at which they swung violently. I felt a tight clench in my stomach and I had an odd urge to go join them. Why would I want to fight? Why was I not scared of them anymore? I pushed myself to a stand, and bit down a tremble. Okay, maybe I was scared.
"Amey!" I heard a familiar shout and my head jerked up. I knew that voice... I did. I saw an arm waving towards me, attached to a young-faced teenager my age. She grinned, an ear-to-ear grin and continued looking at me as her arm slashed through the air with a silvery sword, slicing a monster in half across his stomach. Once her opponent was down, she slid her sword into a case hanging from her side and ran over to me. Before I could move, the girl engulfed me in a big hug. She smelled so familiar, like home. The joyful look glowing in her soft green eyes made my stomach curl with old memories.
"Lavender," I barely managed to choke out as I looked her over. Her bright, perfect face glowed with joy. She looked like she was out of a magazine. Her skin was fairly tan and still as smooth as usual. Brown and black curls fell in ringlets around her face, and her eyelashes were still laced with mascara as usual. Where had she gotten it from? She was short, which she had been her whole life. Lavender had always been a little on the chubby side, but now she was thin and muscular with a tough edge to her. My best friend was standing before me with blood splattered across her dark green uniform and she grinned cheekily.
"How have you been?" She asked with her deep country accent as she tilted her head and smiled warmly at me. I paused and rubbed at my eyes to make sure this really was her. I held out my arm to her and clenched my teeth.
"Pinch me," I demanded and Lavender burst into her loud laughter. Her face was rosy with a good-natured blush. She tilted her head and held up her hand.
"If you insist," she said between bursts of laughter and she pinched me. Not too hard, but enough to inflict pain. Which meant that I wasn't dreaming, and that this whole day had been real. That I had been found by an alpha of a therian pack and taken into the woods where we were ambushed by monsters. Then the rest of the pack had showed up and helped fight the spike-covered beasts back. Oh and of course, that my best friend whom I had not seen in months was a therian. Whatever the heck that was. I guess I must have looked really pale because worry flickered across Lavender's face.
"Are you okay?" She asked and stepped forwards towards me. I shook my head and Lavender wrapped her arms around me as I collapsed. Only, they didn't feel like her arms. They felt too muscular, too tough. They were missing her entire soft touch and warm glow.
"What is going on, Lavvie? What happened to us?" I whined, and Lavender stiffened at the use of my old nickname for her. But she didn't complain, only tightened her grip around me.
"I don't honestly know Amey," she replied softly. "But we need to get you out of here," she glanced up at the others fighting, and then back towards the cave. That's when both of us noticed that Alek was walking out of the cave, a sheepish looking Grant behind him. Grant must have went back in the cave. Alek lifted his head and his blond hair glistened in the light. He looked like a prince with a deep expression written across his face and the determined look in his hazel eyes. Lavender dropped her head respectfully, but I held mine high as he walked by. Alek glared at me, but with a choking sound from Grant, he ignored me and kept walking. Grant acted like he was going to follow, but then spun and ran to me.
"Lav, Amey," he greeted with his gruff voice. Lavender's eyes filled with confusion and she looked at Grant curiously.
"How do you know my nickname?" She asked sweetly, her brown curls bouncing around her golden face. Grant chuckled, but his eyes were glued on me intently. I felt edgy under his hard gaze and Lavender let go of her grip on me.
"Who doesn't know of the Guide?" He asked with a complimentary tone to his voice, and Lavender erupted into giggles as if it was something good. What is a Guide? What are they talking about? Lavender glanced at me as if she just remembered I was alive and then at the bloodbath around me.
"We need to get her out of here," she said with the tone that meant she was thinking out loud as she looked for someone who could take me. Grant nodded and crossed his arms. I was beginning to see a habit with him crossing his arms.
"I've been told that countless times today," Grant muttered crossly, his brown eyes holding anything but anger. Lavender giggled and suddenly jumped when an idea popped in her head. I had forgotten how much she giggled and how over-dramatic she was. I smiled with the pleasure of being with her again as she turned to me.
"We need to take you to the pack!" She cried, excitement filling her voice. I stared at her blankly. A pack? The supposed pack I keep hearing of? She ignored my hostile looks and pushed me towards Grant, who happily caught me. I couldn't help but feel used. "Okay Grant, you find someone and take her to the pack!" She cried cheerfully, pulling out her sword to begin fighting again. Grant's eyes darkened, and I had an idea that Lavender wasn't much of one to be giving orders. But he nodded and stepped back, wrapping his gruff hand around my arm and pulling me with him. I shot eye-daggers at her and she laughed, flitting away to join back in battle. I looked ahead grimly, wondering just how far away the pack was and if they could help me in case Grant tried to pull some dirty moves.
"I don't see any zetas," Grant muttered once he had pulled me under the protection of a tree, staring out into the war scene. I leaned against the bark, my hands wrapped around my stomach. It was beginning to hurt and I blamed all of the blood I was smelling. What was a zeta? Grant stepped in front of me as he saw a few monsters run by, but they completely ignored us. I felt like a princess for how he was treating me.
"What is a zeta?" I asked him, watching him turn to look at me. I could have sworn that Grant almost blushed with embarrassment, since he must have forgotten I knew nothing about the pack. The muscular, older man, walked over and leaned against the tree beside me.
"In a pack, there are ranks," he began to explain. "Ranks show what you are capable of, it's like your amount of power over the rest of the pack. We have about sixty members, so we have a lot of ranks. The most powerful is the alpha, the leader, who is Valentina in our case. Then we have the betas, the ones who are second in charge. That's first male beta- Alek, and first female beta- Julie. Then we have second betas, menders, which are like doctors, who the leader of that is Pearl," he kept rambling on about ranks. I got lost after he started talking about shamans. After a few minutes, he stared at me. "I just said I was going to cut your head off and burn your fingers." I blushed and laughed awkwardly.
"Sorry, I got kinda lost," I replied sheepishly. Grant smiled and nodded, and that's when I noticed his brown eyes looked very tired. I tensed and stepped forward to look at him better. Was he okay? What if he faints and I am stranded here alone? Grant almost shied away from me, and I froze.
"Are you okay?" I asked, crossing my arms behind myself politely. Grant forced a smile at me.
"I'm okay, thank you. I just have a little headache," his gruff voice nearly made me wince. How could someone's voice even be like that? I blushed at how rude I was being, when I suddenly remembered that Valentina could read my thoughts. Could he too?! My whole chest felt heavy and I suddenly felt like throwing up with embarrassment. This had to stop now. Shaking my head at myself, I stepped backwards into shadows again. I looked ahead and noticed a short girl walking towards us, blood smeared across her cheek. Grant hadn't noticed her yet.
"What are y'all doing standin' there in the shadows?" the girl called out with a heavy southern accent. Grant spun to her and grinned, his brown eyes glowing. The girl grinned at once, and Grant ran out to hug her. Honestly, does he do this to every girl he knows? She wrapped her arms around his neck and giggled, and they both turned to me.
"Amey, this is my sister Olly," Grant said with a wide smile. I froze and blushed. Oh good, it's his sister. I smiled a little forcefully and held out my hand. She grabbed it firmly and shook my hand, the widest grin on her face. I didn't know someone could even have a smile that big. I tried not to stare at the blood on her cheek.
"Nice to meet yah, Amey! What are yah?" She asked, brushing her blond curls back from her face. She was asking what type of therian I was, wasn't she? I laughed awkwardly and glanced at Grant. How could he have such a deep voice, and her such a country one? I smiled politely.
"I'm not a therian, if that's what you are asking," I replied nervously, stepping backwards. Olly's face fell and her brown eyes filled with confusion. That's when I noticed both of them had the same, dark brown eyes. She lit back up with excitement again, stepping towards me. Gee, that didn't last long.
"Are yah the human? Are yah Amethyst?" Olly cried, trembling slightly. I bit my lip and nodded, looking past her. Wasn't this supposed to be some war scene, not a meet-and-greet? Olly's eyes widened and she slipped away from Grant. "We need to get yah out of 'ere," suddenly her voice was serious, and she glanced at Grant. I could have sworn that Grant was about to explode.
"Three people too late," he growled, turning away. He looked over the field and stepped out of the tree's shadow, crossing his arms over his chest. He glared back at the both of us, then kept walking. Olly looked at me with the most confused face possible.
"What in skies is he talkin' about?" She asked with the sweetest, most innocent voice. I laughed softly, shaking my head.
"You're the third person who said to get me out of here," I explained softly, looking out again. What was he doing? That's when I noticed a big shape moving towards Grant. I squinted my eyes, and I realized what it was. A horse came thundering to Grant, slowing to a stop to look at him. The horse was large, a bay color and muscular. He had a long, wavy mane that was a midnight black. He was covered in scratches, and Grant patted the horse's nose before it galloped off. Grant watched it go, before trudging up towards the group of warriors fighting.
Olly noticed I was looking past her, and let out a squeak of protest. She spun to see what I was looking at and spotted Grant. She laughed. "Oh, he's probably goin' to find Valentina and see if he can take yah to the pack or not," she said cheerfully. I glanced at the bubbly girl and shrugged.
"I have already seen most of the pack members anyway," I muttered, and Olly laughed.
"All of the nice ones, anyway," Olly teased in a low voice. My eyebrow rose as I stared at her curiously, before dismissing her. I didn't know what I thought of Olly, but so far she was alright. I decided to get a good look at her again.
She was short, extremely short compared to her brother. I was beginning to wonder if one of them was adopted. Olly had blond curls that fell back across her head, and one that sprung up and fell down her cheek. Her eyes were a dark brown that were filled with a happy glow. She had tan skin, a pointed chin and small nose. A splash of freckles covered her nose, and she had ruby red lips to go along with it. Olly had a small frame, with chubby legs and a curved figure. She was wearing a pair of jeans and a purple t-shirt, actual normal clothes along with black leather boots. Olly smiled at me, noticing that I was staring. I blushed and glanced away. She really wasn't the worst looking person here, if you could get past her accent, her hearty laugh and her short size.
"I'm sure Grant will be down 'ere in a jiffy," she confirmed with a nod of her head. I smiled again and looked at the ground sheepishly. Boy, in one day someone's world really could change.
"Amethyst," Olly said sharply, and I quickly looked up at her. By the urgency in Olly's eyes, I looked to where she was staring. Right behind me, stood a shadowed figure dressed in a black cloak. It was about seven feet tall, with long arms that dragged the ground. The top of the cloak bent down, almost reaching its chest and completely covering the face of the beast. My heart began to pound, and I shrieked. The beast spun to me, lifting one of his arms.
Screaming, I turned and ran. My sneakers slipped on the leaves, and I nearly stumbled. I heard Olly whimper behind me, and I glanced over my shoulder to see a twist of sparkles burst across her body. When they faded out, a shimmery-skinned fae was left. The fae turned to me, her wide brown eyes glowing.
"Go!" The fae who-had-been-Olly screamed at me, her voice oddly sweet and like the jingling of bells. But I didn't wait any longer to see if she was coming, I spun around and kept running. My feet dashed across the forest ground, leaping over vines. I could hear hissing behind me, and I felt a terrible fear wrack me. He was following me! Thorns snagged at my clothes, and sticks stung my face as I ran through the forest. The ground was uneven, and I had to keep my eyes glued to the ground as it dipped and rose. I skittered on rocks and cried out with fear as I stumbled. Using my arms to balance myself, I stood back up and kept running.
"Amethyssst," a deep, scratchy voice hissed behind me. I felt its voice ringing in my ears, and my chest grew heavy as the words affected me. I had an overwhelming urge to reply, and I tried to bite my tongue from crying out. I stumbled, and just barely caught myself. My lips tried to form words, but the demon spoke before I could. "Amethysssst, ssstop!" It hissed.
My eyes widened as my heart thudded, and I found my feet slowing to a walk. I tried to keep my feet moving, but it was if I had no control over my body. What was happening? How was he controlling my body? Slowly, I drew to a stop and stood there, shaking. I could hear the demon walking up to me, a hiss escaping from his lips. I looked up into his cloaked face and grimaced. The demon reached up to touch my cheek, the cloak falling down to reveal fingers of just black, rotten bone. I screamed and tried to turn away, using my arms to shove him backwards. My hands only touched the ribs of a skeleton, and I could hear cracking as I shoved him away. Even through the cloak it felt slimy and rotten.
Although I had shoved him away, I still had no control over my feet. I grit my teeth with exertion as I tried to lift my leg and step forward. I could feel the muscles trembling, but otherwise I couldn't move. The demon spun back to me, letting out a screech of anger. My heart was pounding, and the wave of rotten flesh rolled over me as the demon walked in front of me. I thought I might throw up, and I glued my lips shut. Although throwing up on him would be satisfactory, I had little food as it was.
The demon turned his head, looking me over. I would have imagined he was looking me in the eyes if he had a visible face. I trembled with fear and licked my lips. I could have sworn he was chuckling, although it sounded more like a screeching cough. The demon backed away and walked around me with the odd, slinking gait he had. Suddenly he turned to me sharply and yanked a long sword out. My eyes caught sight of it as the sun hit the long, dark blade. A black glow seemed to waver around the sword, and all I could think of was pure darkness.
My eyes widened with horror, and I tried stepping back but my legs still would not allow me to move. He twirled the blade in his bony hand, and I tried to ignore the sound of metal scraping against bone. Light caught the dark sword as he suddenly swung it at me. I could hear it hissing through the air, and I clenched my eyes shut as I dropped into a crouch. It whizzed over me, and I stood up to the side as the demon bounced back.
He hissed furiously and drove forward with a slash to my stomach. I bent backwards and twisted, while still keeping my legs in the same place. This time the sword met its mark, and slashed a slit across my ribcage. I yelped with pain, my vision flashing red. The demon twirled around me to my left side, the sword hissing in the air. He lifted the sword with both hands above his head to drive it down on me. I stumbled forward, somehow finding control of my legs.
With one hand wrapped around the affliction, I used the other to pick up a stick from the ground. The demon chuckled again, only making my ears buzz at the intensity of the sound. He must have had some type of power in his voice. Whatever the hell he was.
I spun around, trying to find the demon, only to find that he was gone from sight. The hair on the back of my neck stood up, and I spun around one last time. It caused a sickening jerk to my stomach, and I winced with pain. I heard a hiss, and I leaped forward just as a blade sliced the air behind me. The demon spun around, slashing at my waist. It ripped through my shirt, just barely grazing my skin.
I cried out with pain, stumbling forward and dropping the stick. The demon laughed again, and my whole head was buzzing. My heart was thudding but my whole chest felt tight and compressed. I was going to be sick. I barely heard the sword this time as it slashed through the air and sliced straight across my arm. I howled with pain, for it was the arm holding the cut across my ribcage. Warm, salty blood poured over my clothes, burning through the fabric and stinging my skin. The demon hissed happily, twirling the long blade in his bony fingers. I clenched my eyes shut, shaking uncontrollably. I knew this was going to be my doom.
The demon dove forward again, making a move to slice my neck. I could hear the blade hiss as it neared me, when a loud scream filled the air. Only, it wasn't a human scream. It was the scream of a mountain lion, and it was filled with furry. My eyes opened and I turned to see a massive cat leaping towards me. The demon hissed, slashing at the lion. The cat was thrown off to the ground, where it dug its claws in the leaves and leaped at the demon's legs. The muscular animal dug their claws into the cloak, using its weight to rip down. The demon shrieked, stumbling backwards. My head thudded at the intensity of the demon's voice and my vision flickered. My hands fell from my stomach as the world seemed to spin around me. I could dimly seeing the mountain lion leaping up to slash at the head of the demon. It's shrieks filled the air as I crumpled to the ground. My ears were still buzzing as everything faded to black.