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Going Home – Chapter 39 – Hidden Monsters

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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.

Planned Escape – Chapter 32 – Hidden Monsters

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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.

A Plan – Chapter 31 – Hidden Monsters

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After a few days of constant care from her mother and Paloma, Jill felt surprised at how well she’d healed. She bore many scares but they grew lighter each day. 

She sat away from the others, who slept peacefully in the silence. She’d spend several days sleeping and now spent the early waking hours thinking of an escape plan. Robbie had tried numerous times to regain her affections but she wouldn’t speak to him. She wasn’t overtly hostile except for the time she’d slapped him on their initial reunion. He’d deserved more but their mothers had pulled them apart. She wanted to stay detached and aloof but spending their time together in such tight quarters was maddening.

Jill heard him stir and kept her eyes focused on the bars of their prison. 

“We need to talk,” Robbie whispered from behind her. 

She ignored him but he pulled her from the ground and held fast to her shoulders. 

Stop it!” he hissed. “What was I supposed to do? I’m sorry!” He pulled her closer and crushed his lips to hers. Jill’s body stiffened in surprise before she relaxed as his kiss grew more tender. The defenses around her emotional wall began to crack but she wouldn’t let it happen again, not this soon. She placed her hands on his chest and pushed him away. She stood back, unable to look him in the eye. 

“Don’t,” she said. Jill went back to her bedding and lay down close to her mother. “Don’t distract me this time,” she thought. 

The rattle of chains and scrape of metal signaled their morning rations. Jill sat on her bedding next to her mother and Paloma while Robbie stood by to retrieve the tray. Jill’s heart jumped when she saw The Gray enter. He gave them all a nasty smile and handed the tray to Robbie. He looked hesitant but took the food. 

The Gray grabbed him and held him hard against the metal bars a foot off the ground. Robbie dropped the tray and gripped the hands crushing his throat. 

“Let me rid you of this traitor, young human. As wolves, the pack would have killed him on sight for what he did to you,” The Gray said. 

“No!” Paloma screamed. She rushed forward begging and pleading for Robbie’s life. 

“No,” The Gray said. He looked past Paloma and pointed at Jill. “I want her to beg for his life.” 

Jill almost smiled but she kept it inside. She rose and walked toward him. Robbie’s lips had turned a sickly color. Jill tried to ignore him and glared at The Gray through uncaring eyes and when she spoke, her words were slow and deliberate. 

“I beg you not to kill him,” she said before she turned a heated gaze to Robbie. “He betrayed me and it’s my job to do it.”

Reunion – Chapter 30 – Hidden Monsters

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“Release her at once!” A voice boomed as another guard entered the room. He wore a uniform of deep blues unlike the gray uniforms the others wore. A royal insignia decorated his chest. He stormed toward The Gray, his movements reminding Jill of a stalking, enraged monster, ready to destroy any in his path.

Layla ran to the guard as The Gray released her.

“She needs punishment, not protection, Veekla!” The Gray hissed.

“She is my brother’s child and I am bound by duty and honor to protect her, especially from you,” Veelka sneered. “I will decide what is best for her.”

“Then you are a fool. Once I am King, the first blood I will spill will be yours.” The Gray turned and faced Jill. She saw anger rising in his eyes like a toxic cloud of insanity and knew he would take it out on her. The other guards released her and stood back, also sensing his mood. In one swift motion he struck her across the face sending her to the floor before he kicked her over with his foot.

“Stop it!” Layla cried. She turned her pleading eyes to her uncle. Veelka was already moving. He hauled The Gray away from his victim and pushed him toward the door. The Gray gave a mock bow before he and the other guards left.

Veelka checked Jill’s wounds before he wrapped her in the wool blanket. He picked her up and carried her from the room with Layla following behind. They weaved their way through the corridors of the complex until they reached a crossway.

“Layliana, go to your rooms and stay there until I visit you”

“Yes Uncle.”

Jill felt her consciousness waning. “Mr. Veelka, Sir?” Jill asked as she watched her friend leaving.

“Yes, child?”

“Don’t let him hurt her,” she said as her eyes closed and sleep finally came.

“I will protect her, and you,” he said.

###

Jill slowing woke from a long sleep. She almost felt ordinary. She moved slightly and realized two things; she had no pain and someone still held her in their arms. A familiar hand swept across her brow and rocked her gently. She opened her eyes and smiled. The ones staring back at her, red and puffy from crying, held a mixture of joy and sorrow. She saw in them a story of the pain and hope they shared.

“Hi, Mom.”

A New Friend – Chapter 29 – Hidden Monsters

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The empty throne room held nothing but cold and darkness.  Jill curled into a ball on the hard stone floor but she could find no warmth or sleep.  She drew in short breaths hoping they’d hurt less.  They didn’t.  The pack had dumped her unceremoniously on the floor at the Wolf King’s feet.   He offered nothing to ease her pain, seeming pleased at her discomfort and commanded she spend her first night of captivity in agony and solitude before being put with the other prisoners, a lesson of sorts she couldn’t comprehend.  She remembered her father’s woe filled howls echoing through the night but he hadn’t come, to her relief.  The guards had been doubled at the King’s insistence hoping for a chance to catch him in his distraught state.  Lastly she remembered Robbie cradling her in his arms, fighting against the guards as they took her from him and calling her name as he was taken away. Now, alone in the dark, Jill let the tears flow.   

A door creaked open before a soft click sounded.  Soft footsteps padded toward her.  Jill froze  and shut her eyes, afraid of more impending tortures to come.  Soon a thick woolen blanket covered her.  A gentle hand wiped the hair and tears from her eyes.    

“I’m not going to hurt you,” a young voice whispered.  Jill opened her eyes to face a young she wolf crouched beside her.  She set a small bowl on the floor and squeezed the juice of two small white berries into it.  Next she carefully lifted Jill’s head so she could drink.  The cool, slightly sweet liquid quenched the burning of her dry throat.  She hadn’t realized how thirsty she was until she tasted it on her tongue.   

“Thank you,” Jill whispered, “But you better leave before they find you here.  Your King will be angry.  I don’t want you to get hurt.”

“He can’t hurt me any more than he already has,” the she wolf said.  “I am Layliana but you may call me Layla.  “The drink I gave you will help with the pain.  I’m sorry he’s being so cruel to you.”   

“It’s not your fault, Layla,” Jill said.  Her constant shivering finally fell away and the warmth started to sink in.   

“Yes, it is,” Layla said.  “It’s all my fault.  The King is my father.  He’s become cruel and evil.  He hunts your father because of me.”  Layla pulled her cloak tighter and lay on the floor next to Jill.  Her face bore a grief she couldn’t mask.    

“I am his only child.  I’m sure he wished for a son but he tolerates me until he can mate me with a worthy successor to his throne.  He chose The Gray, who is just as cruel and power hungry as he is.  But I fell for someone else, a much younger wolf.  He had long gangly legs and a dark coat that shimmered almost blue in the moonlight.  Loupe was kind and compassionate and strong.  He would have been a good leader but my father saw him as weak and forbid me from seeing him.”   

“But you were in love with him,” Jill said.   

“Yes, we were in love.  But father wouldn’t listen.  The second I mentioned Loupe, he would get angry. I would sneak out early to see Loupe on a daily basis. We were careful and very selective of our meeting places. One day it came to us, a way to make father accept us. A way that told him and the world that we were meant to be together.” 

“Oh,” Jill said, catching her meaning. She could tell it didn’t end well for the modern day Romeo and Juliet. 

“Father send his best guard after Loupe and told him I had been attacked, the punishment, instant death. Tomas found Loupe after tracking him for several days but Loupe pleaded his case. Your father ordered Loupe not to run, or else he would kill him. Tomas sought me out and I told him the truth. He confronted my father on the matter but father accused Tomas of being a traitor and sentenced him to a horrible death. The Gray found Loupe.” Layla stopped and sniffed back the tears. “I’ll help you escape but you must do something for me,” Layla said. 

“I will try, Layla.” 

“Take me away from here.” 

Without prior warning the door crashed open and guards rushed in. Jill reached for her new friend as hands like meat hooks hauled her from the floor. The Gray pulled Layla from the ground and held her by her throat. 

“When you are my mate, I will not tolerate your defiance,” he said to her. 

“Take the human prisoner away and put her with the others. I’ll deal with this one,” he said.