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Going Home – Chapter 39 – Hidden Monsters

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Photo credit: h.koppdelaney / Foter.com / CC BY-ND

King Veelka wasted no time diffusing the hostilities.  He sent out his populist to encourage the rebels to rejoin the pack and offer peace to the jackals for the former king’s egregious behavior, requesting audience with a constituent of their clan to further discuss their truce.  He and his new guards escorted Tomas, Jill and Layla to the holding cells to release the prisoners.

The door to the cells stood open.  The chains lay in a heap on the floor and one guard lay moaning just outside.

One of Veelka’s new guards moved forward, sword at the ready and ventured through the opening.  Soon they heard sounds of a struggle followed by the guard’s reappearance.  He stumbled out and fell hard against the floor battered and bruised.  He raised his eyes and addressed Tomas.

“Your mate is a dynamo and a very angry one.”

Tomas couldn’t help smiling.  He lay a consoling hand on the guard’s shoulder, shifted his appearance to human and ventured through.  After a short minute, he signaled the others to follow.  Jill entered first, eager to see her mother and check on Robbie.  What she encountered sent her into dry heaves.  A  guard she recognized from the hive room lay dead on the floor.   A frozen expression of agony twisted his features.  His skin looked burned and had turned a sickening shade of brownish green as if he’d been consumed by a thermonuclear blast.  Tom pulled Jill away from the gruesome discovery and shielded her from the sight.  Soon she felt her mother’s arms encircling her as well.  Jill tried to breathe but their seemed to be a deficit of oxygen in the air.

“Breathe, baby,” Rebecca said as she rubbed Jill’s back.

“Did the wasp poison do that to him?” Jill asked in a shaky voice.

“Yes, but Robbie’s ok, dear.”

“How?” Jill asked looking up.  Her mother led her to the back of the cell.  Robbie lay on a bed of hay with his mother by his side.  His complexion didn’t look as bad as the guard’s but she still saw the awful greenish hues on his skin.  Jill dropped down beside him and lay a hand on his brow but he didn’t stir.  Paloma gave her a weak smile.

“I’ve stopped the spread of the poison for now but in order to remove the rest from his body, he needs an infusion of a plant extract from our territory.  It’s a ephemeral flower that blooms late in the season.  I purged what I could but it continues to multiply and spread at an alarming rate.  I can keep him in stasis until I get him home.”

Jill continued to rub Robbie’s forehead and smooth the fur around his ears.  She thought a minute and looked up at Paloma, “You put the poison in that guard, didn’t you?”

Paloma’s face turned hard, “He deserved it!  Treating my Robbie like he was already dead, an expendable casualty of war!  He laughed at my son’s discomfort and told me to give up.”  Her face softened as she looked back at her son and tears welled in her eyes.

It didn’t take long for Saal to arrive at the castle.  He met briefly with the new King before he rushed to take Paloma and Robbie home.  He returned later for Tom, Rebecca and Jill.  He spoke as they followed him to a designated portal site.

“Robbie’s responding well to treatment.  His mother should have him back to normal in a few days.  He wants to visit when he’s well again.”

“He’s more than welcome,” Tomas said.

No one knew how Ulvarg had managed to open a portal to the human  realm.  It was an ability delegated to the Guardians.  Saal had proved himself worthy and received this rare gift.  It was a mystery that disturbed them all.

Tomas pulled his family close as they waited for the portal to appear, relieved to have them back and soon, safe in the human realm.  “We should celebrate tonight.  Our first night back home, what do you think?  Dinner out?” he asked.

“Yes!”  Jill said.  “I really want a big juicy burger!”

“I could use a Chardonnay,” Rebecca said.  “Maybe two.”

Tom laughed as Saal opened the portal to their home.

 

CCC#322

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Deadly Encounter – Chapter 36 – Hidden Monsters

“This should be interesting, young human,” Ulvarg whispered into Jill’s ear.  She could do nothing but watch the events unfold before her.

Veelka zeroed in on The Grey and Layla.  He said nothing but advanced upon them.  The Grey moved back, smiling as if reeling Veelka in like prey.  Layla continued to struggle for release.  She squirmed and kicked until she connected with a soft spot.  The Grey’s face contorted in rage.  He whirled and launched her into the wall near the throne.   She crumbled to the ground and didn’t move.

Veelka hesitated slightly, watching Layla’s still form before he turned back, shifted in an instant and dove into The Grey.  They fell together, teeth gnashing, claws scratching.  Jill pressed her palms to her ears to subdue the horrendous sounds.  She knew this would be a fight to the death.  Remembering her own attack, and The Grey’s vicious fangs piercing her skin, her heart sank as she watched.  The Grey shifted and quickly pinned Veelka against a far wall.  He bit hard into Veelka’s shoulder, ripping fur and flesh with his canines.

Veelka snapped his jaws, keeping The Grey from his neck.  Their growls and snarls echoed through the high halls of the throne room.  No one else moved as they watched the fierce battle.  The Grey threw a smug look Jill’s way, his teeth gleaming and dripping of warm blood, a look of triumph in his wicked eyes before he snarled and dipped his head for a fatal strike.

Veelka pushed off from the wall just as The Grey moved to bite.  It was just enough to send The Grey forward and off balance.  He slid over Veelka, who scrambled to gain his footing first.  Not missing a beat, Veelka sank his fangs into The Grey’s flanks, jerking his head quickly and snapping bones.  The Grey through his head up and howled in agony.  Spinning around, Veelka’s teeth found purchase in The Grey’s exposed neck.  His bite snapped hard and crushed bones, severed tendons and tore through veins.  Blood erupted from the wound coating both of them but Veelka didn’t let go.  He shook his head and ground his teeth until all life drained from The Grey’s eyes.

Jill felt the King shake with rage as his grip tighten.  He shoved her down to her knees and wrenched her head back.  His blade rose to her exposed neck.

 

CCC#319

Show Down – Chapter 35 – Hidden Monsters

It had been a simple plan designed to save lives and stop the impending war.  Jill hadn’t thought it reckless at the time but now, they were in serious trouble.

She and Layla stood before the Wolf King, his features a mixture of hatred and satisfaction. 
“We found them in the swarm room releasing the wasps,” The Grey said.
“And where is the young jackal?” Ulvarg asked.
“He received fatal injuries from the swarm.  I sent him to the cells so his mother could watch him die,” The Grey said.
“A fitting death indeed,” Ulvarg said.  “And you bring me a traitor, Grey.  One that has been hidden from me, my own daughter.”  He turned to Layla and frowned.  “This will be the last time you bring shame to your family, Laylianna.”
“My King, let me deal with her.  Once mated, I will make sure dramatic improvements are made to her loyalty.  That is, if I have your blessing.”  The Grey ran a heavy hand down the back of Layla’s neck, wrenching her head back by the hair.
“Then she is yours, Grey.  Perhaps she will show a higher regard for your authority.”
The Grey smiled and jerked Layla toward the door.  She fought him and clamped her teeth down on his hand.  The Grey howled in pain before he back handed her.  She fell to the polished stone floor, her bleeding lip making a slick spot where she fell.  The Grey snatched her up ready to inflict more blows.  He demonstrated a real passion for causing pain.
“Father!  You can’t do this to me!” Layla cried.
Jill fought also.  She needed to get free.  She needed to help her friend.  She kicked hard at the guard behind her and slammed her head back connecting with his nose.  He flinched and she broke free but Ulvarg grabbed a handful of her hair and jerked her back.  He pulled a sword from the guard’s sheath and held it to her neck.  Jill froze.  They needed a miracle and fast.
The door to the King’s throne room opened and everyone stopped.  Veelka came through, his eyes like stone and behind him stood Tomas.

Forgotten Chapter – Chapter 32.5 – Hidden Monsters

This lost chapter was written after chapter 32 but I forgot to post it.  Silly Me!

Hope you enjoy it!

Tom’s anger boiled just below the surface. He knelt on the padded floor, his head bent low as he listened. He bore ugly marks on his wrists and ankles where shackles wore at his skin from his constant struggles for freedom. Other metal cuffs encased his waist and neck making it impossible for him to shift out of his confinement. He let loose a feral growl when he heard someone enter the tent where he’d been imprisoned.

He counted two sets of footsteps entering the tent and an additional three just outside. The chains at his waist and neck rattled then released. Tom remained still and waited. He felt the chains give on his ankles and then finally the ones on his wrists fell away. Thoughts of Jill’s capture ran through his mind. Why would they free him now? The only answer his brain conjured froze him in place and cold despair snaked over him like frosty fingers. He swallowed the urge to scream but he had to know.

“Why have you released me?” Tom asked. He slowly unsheathed a blade ready to attack. “Tell me my child lives or I will spare no one from tasting my blade.”

“She lives, Tomas,” Saal said.

“I’m here, Dad,” Jill said.

Tom’s heart flipped in his chest. He whirled to see her standing just inside the tent, her eyes wide and full of tears. His own friends had kept him from pursuing her and he’d cursed them everyday. Seeing her now, he still wasn’t sure if he would forgive them. But his anger took a back seat to her standing before him. He dropped his dagger and rushed to hold her. The desolation of his heart evaporated as he held onto her as tight as he dared and kissed her temple. Remembering the bloody evidence of her capture, he pulled back and examined her closely, blood stains caked on her torn clothing, and puncture wounds still healing. Guilt stabbed at his chest, mocking his bold and arrogant declaration that he could protect her. Evidence of his grand failure stood before him.

“I’m so sorry, baby. I’ll get you out of here right now! I’ll get Vrag to take you home and keep you there until this is over. I’ll hire an army to protect you. No one will harm you again, I swear it!”

“No, Dad. I can’t leave now,” Jill said. She motioned for the others to enter the tent. Tom recognized Layla and Veelka immediately.

“My father has amassed a powerful weapon and is holding it in the east tower. We heard it when we escaped through the secret tunnels. If he unleashes it, you and your army will die with little effort on his part,” Layla said.

“What does he have?” Tom asked.

“The largest swarm I’ve ever heard,” Layla said.

###

King Ulvarg stormed into the holding cell that held his two remaining prisoners. Without warning he back handed Rebecca across the face sending her to the ground. He raised is hand next to Paloma but paused, remember her status.

“Who helped the young ones escape!” he roared at them. He saw a hint of relief in Rebecca’s eyes and moved to strike her again. Paloma blocked him and glared.

“We don’t know, Ulvarg and we certainly would not tell you. Leave us if you value what short life you have left.”

Ulvarg backed away from the women and left the cell. He turned back just as the door clanged shut.

“Your clan may fight with my enemies but they will die with them as well. If my demands aren’t meant in three days time, I will demonstrate my power on you and the human. Either way, I will have my revenge.”

Swarm – Chapter 34 – Hidden Monsters

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Jill kept the cowl of her cloak pulled low over her face. Layla and Robbie flanked her to camouflage her human scent among the young wolf servants entering the castle gates from the nearby villages. Once inside, they ducked into a secret passage.

“We won’t be able to stay hidden for long. We have to release the swarm tonight,” Layla said.

Jill and Robbie nodded and followed Layla through twist and turns that led to the east tower. The hum of the swarm grew louder as they climbed through the interworkings of the castle walls. Layla paused to listen once they reached the tower.

“Two wolves guard the door. There’s a vent to the room up there. Judging by the sound, the majority of the warps are still dormant but we only have a few hours before they wake completely.”

Jill looked up and saw the small vent about ten feet above where they stood. Robbie went first and climbed to the vent, examined the grate and pried it open. He disappeared inside for several minutes before immerging with a grin.

“It’s big enough to get through. I’ve removed the vent guard on the other side but we better hurry, they’re waking up.”

Robbie reached down and hauled Jill and Layla up one at a time. They slid along the passage until it opened up into a large room. The air rushing through the passage felt much warmer here than from the outside. Robbie dropped inside the swarm room and helped Layla down and finally Jill.

Jill turned around and sucked in a sharp breath. Robbie cupped his hand to her mouth to muffle her scream.

“Don’t scream. You’ll wake them up,” Robbie whispered in her ear.

Jill nodded, her eyes still large but she remained silent when Robbie removed his hand. The honeycomb structure reached the ceiling and spread over half the room. Moonlight shone through large windows covered with mesh. A few wasps the size crows idled around the top of the hive, their low buzzing sound like a turbine. She kept special attention on the wandering wasps while Layla and Robbie worked to remove the mesh as best they could from one of the windows. One buzzed around the vent opening before it turned to examine her.

“Robbie!” she whispered in desperation. He appeared just as the curious creature landed on Jill’s arm. Robbie slid his hand along her skin and beneath the wasp.

Hold still,” he whispered. He lifted the wasp into his hands and away from Jill. He walked it over to the window, where the center of the mesh had been cut enough for it to fit through. The wasp sniffed the air and alighted from Robbie’s hand and out the window. He removed his cloak and used it as a fan to move more of the fresh air around the room and drive the other wasps to examine the source. It worked. They backed away from the window as more of the wasp were drawn to the opening.

Robbie and Layla worked on the second window and soon wasp were leaving through that one as well.

Satisfied they rejoined Jill as she stood rooted by the vent.

The door opened. A guard, carrying supplies for the swarm looked their way and froze. He dropped his tray and rushed forward to seize them.

“What are you doing in here?” he shouted and realized his mistake too late. The hum of the swarm rose sharply as more creatures rose above the hive in irritation. The guard grabbed the kids and rushed them for the door but the attack had already begun. More guards appeared. They grabbed Layla and Jill, hauling them from the room. The first guard thrashed about the room, screaming and swatting at the swarm but soon the screams died away. Robbie reached the door and fell through just as the guards slammed it shut.

In the light of the dawning sun, Jill saw a sickening sight. Blood trickled from two bite marks on Robbie’s back. He gritted his teeth and tried to stand but had no power. Instead he writhed on the floor in obvious pain.

“Robbie!” Jill screamed as she tried to break free but the guard held tight. Soon another guard appeared. His concerned expression turned to pure evil when he saw Jill and Layla.

The Grey.

Gone Again – Chapter 33 – Hidden Monsters

 Negotiations went into high gear when Ulvarg’s ultimatum arrived in the camp. Tomas led the war council in devising a strategy to storm the castle and take control but they wouldn’t avoid heavy casualties in the process.

Jill straddled a branch high in an immense willow listening to the arguments. Layla stood on a branch a foot above her while Robbie sat closer to Jill. He no longer appeared as a human but when he took her hand and she didn’t pull away, she could tell he was smiling. Layla caught her eye and motioned them to follow. They climbed from the tree and followed Layla back the large tent they shared. Large cushions padded the floor and the top was translucent enough to see an occasional star. Jill lay on her back staring up. Layla lay opposite her, their heads almost touching. Robbie finished the triangle and laced his fingers with Jill’s.

“They’ll never survive against the swarm,” Layla said.

“You mean we won’t survive,” Robbie added. “Anyone within a 3 mile radius when those things are released are targets. It’s a rarity for them to leave anyone alive.”

“A swarm of what exactly?” Jill asked.

“Wasps, similar to the ones in your world but much bigger. They don’t sting but their bite is poisonous,” Robbie said.

“How many make up the swarm?”

“It’s hard to say but based on the sound they made, I’d guess hundreds,” Layla said.

“What can we do?” Jill asked, her voice thick with exasperation. Robbie lightly squeezed her hand. It helped a little.

“Any precautions taken against the swarm in the past have proven useless. Smoke just pisses them off,” Layla said.

Jill thought about it for a while as they continued to stare at the ceiling. She remembered a few things from science class regarding bees and wasps. Their natural enemies include spiders and birds. She shuddered to think of how large a spider would have to be to prey on the wasps here.

“So do they have any natural enemies like birds?” Jill asked. “Maybe we just need a big flock of birds to eat up the swarm.” Robbie chuckled but Layla sat up and stared down at her.

“We may not be able to find a flock of birds but the swarm will only attack if they’re agitated. If Father catapults the swarm into the camp, that would make them angry enough to attack. But if they were released gently, perhaps they will just fly away,” Layla said. Jill and Robbie sat up at this.

All three of them smiled.

###

Tomas sat by the fire a few feet from the other wolves and thought of the impending battle. Part of him felt indignant and justified to fight for his freedom. The other part cringed to think of others fighting and dying in the streets for a criminal. He didn’t feel like one but in the eyes of the king, he was. Tom left the fire and walked back toward his tent. He quietly slipped into the children’s tent to check on them. He stopped just inside and listened. No sounds of sleeping. He rushed to one of the forms and snatched back the blankets. Pillows!

Tom rushed from the tent in search of them but there were no where in the camp. He sought out Veelka next.

“The children are gone. I need you to take me to the castle now!” Tom said.

“If you show up there, Tomas, King Ulvarg will kill you on sight.”

“Whatever those kids are up to, you can be certain Ulvarg will kill them if he catches them. It’s time I face him.”

Planned Escape – Chapter 32 – Hidden Monsters

Photo credit: matley0 / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

 

Robbie lay on the ground, a stunned expression in his eyes and a small drop of blood staining his lower lip. Jill stood back and let him get to his feet. She circled him slowly as the wolf guards laughed and jeered behind her. The Gray and his three closest guards formed a loose circle around the fight. They’d each been given a staff and a dagger. Jill fingered the blade at her hip as she watched Robbie’s confused movements.

“I won’t fight you,” Robbie said.

Jill lunged for him again, her staff moving like a bullet through the air. Robbie blocked her attack as she drove him backwards. His back hit a tree and she pinned him by the throat with her staff. She whipped out her blade and held it at the ready.

“I won’t fight you, Jill,” Robbie whispered in defeat.
“Then fight them,” Jill whispered.

Robbie’s eyes showed a hint of confusion before understand replaced it.

“Don’t you dare smile!” Jill hissed as she raked her blade across his forearm, ripping the fabric of his shirt. Robbie didn’t disappoint. He shoved her back and squared off again.

“Fine! Have it your way, human,” he growled.

The fighting grew more intense as they sparred with near misses and dagger thrusts. The wolf circle moved closer as the action picked up. Robbie choked up on his staff and swung with all his might. Jill dropped under it and he connected with the closest wolf sending him to the ground in a heap. Jill drove her staff up and hit between the legs of The Gray so hard he briefly left the ground before he fell hard. He made a squeal like a small girl before his eyes rolled back in his head.

Jill and Robbie made short order of the other two wolves who were too stunned and stupid to react quick enough to stop them. Just as they turned to run, a small door opened up behind them. Jill whirled, ready for more guards when she saw Layla.

“Come on! Hurry!” she said.

Jill and Robbie followed Layla through the small door and secret passages leading through the castle.

“How did you know where to find us?” Jill asked as they ran through the close corridors full of cobwebs and dust.

“I’ve been using these tunnels for years to find out what’s going on in the castle. I saw The Gray bring you out and followed. I can get us to the stables and off the grounds before the other guards get wind of what’s happening.”

They passed by a room that hummed like a generator pump. Layla paused and listened.

“Sounds like a machine,” Jill said.

“Worse! Keep moving!” Layla said.

They came out of the tunnels into an empty stable stall. The smell was a blend of hay and animals. Layla pulled two mounts from their stalls already saddled and ready.

“Have you ridden a Caba before?” she asked.
“A what?” Jill asked.
“I have. I’ll carry Jill with me,” Robbie said.

Jill watched as her friends mounted the massive animals that had very little in common with a horse, except for the long flowing mane. Robbie hauled her up onto the caba’s back in front of him and showed her how to hold on. Layla led the remaining seven cabas from their stalls, knowing they would run wild once they left the stables. As soon as they opened the doors, the cabas bolted. Layla led the way at a hard gallop with Robbie and Jill close behind her. Shouts and alarms rang out in the distance but only after they’d cleared the castle boundaries. Several cabas followed behind them, influenced by the lead animals.

They broke through the woods and hit a grassy plain. Another caba galloped toward them at incredible speed. Layla and Robbie pushed their animals harder as the other gained on them. Then Jill noticed the guard’s blue uniform.

“Veelka!” Layla yelled. He caught up to them quickly.

“Follow me and stay close. Fostering fugitives is a deadly offense. If we’re caught, we’re all dead.”

They pushed their mounts for hours without let up and the cabas continued to run full speed. Jill could tell they enjoyed it. As the sun began to paint brilliant colors across the sky, they reached a narrow pathway. Veelka barked out a signal. They never slowed as a response sounded back immediately. They found the camp when dusk settled and stars began to blink into view. All sorts of creatures gathered around them.

As Jill dismounted from the caba, she saw two familiar faces. Vrag and Saal. She surveyed the other inhabitants as she hugged them both but she didn’t see him anywhere.

“Where’s my father?” Jill asked.