Bel smelled death and blood well before they hit Shepherd’s Hook shield. He kept his slow pace. The roads around the village were hard on any vehicle. Bel didn’t want them stuck here.
Kaige swore under his breath. He didn’t stop. He never used that language in front of Nee. The older male stared out the window with an annoyed frown. He and Bel were under contract with Shepherd’s Hook but the village was Kaige’s. The house they shared belonged to Kaige. The village’s people were its wealth. They knew how to build cabins that lasted.
Kaige lost that resource.
Bel was tired of death. For the first time in years, he lost people in Isla due to the freezing temperature. Humans refused his Lifeblood fire. Some ran out of firewood mid-winter and didn’t tell anyone who could help them. They froze to death.
A strange illness crept through the town. It killed three people then disappeared. He hated winter.
Now, something was wrong with Shepherd’s Hook. Hopefully, everyone wasn’t dead.
“Kaige please stop, my ears are bleeding,” Aliceanna said.
Kaige turned in his seat and glared at her. He faced forward and continued swearing.
Bel didn’t feel the barrier around the town. The village was in sight and still he couldn’t sense it.
“The shield’s been destroyed,” Kaige grumbled.
He went quiet.
Bel stopped at the edge. He didn’t see anyone. He would rather drive on. Kaige opened the door and got out.
Bel turned off the convy and followed. Everyone else got out.
“Stay near the car and make sure nothing come at us from the road,” Aliceanna said to Tanri.
The little wolf wouldn’t become as viscous looking as Wraith. He only reached Bel’s knees. His smooth fir wasn’t as noticeably red. Most of his body was midnight blue. Thick deep red fur lived around his neck and the end of his tail near his bottom. Those eyes weren’t as adorable- small glowing orbs of dark blue jewels. That thing didn’t have pupils. Tanri was fast, faster than most Del’Praeli, was about as attached to Divine as Aliceanna was, as vindictive as Blae and more volatile than Nee. On top of that, I spit poison when it was angry or bored. It was like the seven of them got together and had a child.
Tanri sat by the convy without a whine.
Blood and negative emotions seeped into the ground, suffocating Shepherd’s Hook. The air was thick, too thick. Bel couldn’t breathe. His chest hurt.
He couldn’t sense anything but polluted Darkness, a stew of negative emotions. He didn’t even see footprints in the mud.
Aliceanna, Blae and Mauve wandered towards the cabins.
“Stay close,” Bel snapped.
They were skilled with their powers. Bel doubted even he was skilled enough to deal with whatever destroyed Shepherd’s Hook.
They shrugged and kept their wandering nearby.
The filth in the land was going to destroy anything that came close, just like the Alderic Abyss.
“Can you clean this?” he asked Kaige.
Bel knew how to create small purification shields. He never needed to make anything this large.
Kaige nodded. He led the way to the center of town. Stopping, he held his hand.
The core rose. Sickening green lines strangled the corrupted orb. A hole, like a shattered glass, opened the top.
Kaige stepped back. His pinched annoyed expression turned unsure. Nee stood at his side. He pushed her back.
“Don’t come near it,” he ordered.
“What’s wrong?” Nee asked.
“That core is evil,” Divine answered instead. “He touches that he might die.”
Kaige stared at him. He didn’t appear annoyed with Divine.
“I’m surprised you picked up on that.”
Bel wasn’t. He couldn’t sense what Kaige and Divine could but Divine was closer to the Darkness than any of them.
“Can you sense it?” Bel asked Aliceanna.
She held her hand over her nose and nodded.
“Maybe we should leave it,” she said.
“It’ll spread,” Kaige said.
All the blood ran from Bel’s head. A knife lived in his chest.
“No more discussion,” Bel grumbled out. “Fix it so we can leave.”
Mauve wandered further from the group. Why did he sometimes feel like their parent?
“Mauve where are you going?”
She didn’t answer. Bel didn’t have the patience for this. He dropped a shield over her. Her fist bounced off it. Dealing with her was the easiest. Mauve was the only one who hadn’t figured out how to get through his shields. Unfortunately, she was more hard-headed than Blae and mouthier than Aliceanna.
“Release me or I’ll cut off your little tool and shove it down your throat,” she said, without turning around.
How would she do that when she couldn’t get him? He’d humor her.
“Try it and I’ll hang you with your hair.”
She wouldn’t take away his most valuable source of pleasure. Bel spent most of the winter with a human female, releasing some stress. He still wasn’t interested in a long-term partner. Who would he bond with? Humans wouldn’t admit to being with him. Other Miners hated him for being related to Sciell.
“Let me go, please. I smell Brielle,” Mauve said.
He lifted the shield. Bel modified his barriers over winter. He first created one large shield to cover everyone. Then, using that as an anchor, his power surrounded everyone since his Lifeblood knew them. His power hid their scents and bodies. A Brielle or Miner could walk by them without knowing it.
“If you’re attacked, no one’s saving you,” Bel said.
Mauve walked deeper into town without looking back. Aliceanna went after her.
“She shouldn’t be alone. This place is…” she shook her head.
Kaige lifted his hand over the shield and closed his eyes.
“Don’t touch me or talk to me,” he said.
Kaige was easier to read these days. A blood red line cut through his aura. No matter what anyone did, that line never went away. Kaige was in pain, emotionally. His parents were probably part of the source. Kaige, though he’d never admit it, wanted a long-term relationship. He spent the winter getting to know a human female and her little boy. Their relationship wasn’t physical. Islaians weren’t kind to her for associating with Kaige. The female dealt with it, fighting insults in a dignified manner. Kaige couldn’t handle what humans did to her and her child. He distanced himself from her.
She called him harsh sounding names even Bel had trouble working out what they meant. Their relationship ended.
Bel often caught Kaige and Mauve together talking seriously, which Bel didn’t understand. Mauve was a child.
Kaige grunted and jerked as though electrocuted. He kept his hands over the glowing core. The green disease left the core to live in Kaige’s aura and skin. The sicker Kaige looked the clearer the core became.
Breathing was easier. The sharp pain in his chest lessened. The core was a clear blue. The air smell crisp. Kaige hit the ground.
Nee raced to his side. Divine dragged her back.
Kaige pushed himself up.
“Don’t come near me yet,” he said.
A heaviness dropped on the area, worse than before. It felt bloated, slimy like hundreds of worms possessed it. The foul air went inside Bel. It absorbed his energy and his will to do anything. The air raged through his mind and memories. The forest and the town disappeared.
Bel was alone in the forest outside Sovereign’s shield. He’d taken Ian out there to show him the real Bel. This human would accepted Bel the way he was. Ian was easy to talk to and didn’t care what anyone thought of him. Bel knew if he showed Ian his scales and eyes he’d laugh it off. Bel showed him and Ian stared at him like everyone else, as if he was a monster. Ian shook his head and walked away.
The jealously, anger and hurt exploded through Bel. It assaulted him inside and out. It became him. Stinging pain lived across his skin. His bones weighed him down. Slime grew under his skin.
The fetid air left that door opened and moved on.
Bel was in Silhouette standing opposite Divine in their underground cavern. He was supposed to be helping Divine with his powers. Bel never really trained him. He used the sessions as an excuse to beat Divine. The child’s body contain more power than it deserved. Divine knew he was powerful and never showed much interest in his abilities outside of helping Aliceanna, Bel and sometimes Nee. His core and connections were wasted on him. Bel beat him with his weak Miner powers. He made Divine, who towered over everyone, kneel. Then he stopped using his Lifeblood and beat Divine with his fists and feet. He wanted to feel the bones break. If only he could swallow Divine core, steal his connections and power.
The air kept opening memories Bel buried. It found the emotions inside the painful moments and bloated them until Bel felt only Darkness. He was falling. He wanted to.
Nee’s vo ice.
Nee’s voice was soothing when she wasn’t screaming.
Bel couldn’t fall. His family needed him. Bel willed himself out of the Darkness. He opened his eyes. Blood dripped from paper-thin open wounds across his body. His clothes weren’t ruined. How did he get cut?
He was on his knees.
Bel couldn’t breathe, again. The air felt loaded with invisible mud. Too bloated to offer any relief.
“Stop or I’ll make you,” Nee said.
An angry coldness stole through Bel. It destroyed whatever light was left inside him. Darkness became his ground. It wanted to swallow him whole. Bel didn’t see why that was bad.
Divine stood slightly bent over Nee. She held his face. Divine’s arms hung like two empty bags. His power dropped out of him like pools of ink. It seeped into the ground, feeding the negative emotions still living in this village.
Each time Divine’s Lifeblood hit the ground, Bel got colder inside and out. Bel’s vision darkened. He climbed out of that senses killing pit. He saw the village as though looking through a dark screen. Wounds opened and closed. Dark memories and emotions assaulted him, made potent but Divine’s vicious power. Hopeless tried to drown him.
The pillars of Darkness grew out of the ground. They became people, Brielle. Damn.
They stared at the area around Divine and Nee. Their eyes didn’t focus on them. Bel’s shield still worked. They sensed Divine’s power but didn’t know where he was.
“We found one,” the taller Brielle said.
They headed towards Nee and Divine’s direction
“The Darkness will take care of you now,” another said.
Nee dropped one hand at her side. Her scythe appeared. The Brielle stopped. She opened her hand. The scythe’s blade went underground. The pole stayed beside her. Nee lifted her hand. Red Lifeblood rose around the Brielle.
They didn’t burn. Mauve said Brielle matched their opponent’s power level. Nee’s Lifeblood couldn’t hurt them. Her red Lifeblood descended.
A pale red light burst in their chests. It grew to cover the three Brielle .The light shrank. Only one Brielle remained. Mauve held a red dagger in her hand. The blade looked like Nee’s power. When did she learn to make that? The dagger vanished.
Nee lifted her hand. Her power climb out of the ground. She pointed her palm forward. Red Darkness raged through the town, devouring every structure.
She stepped back from Divine, keeping her hand lifted.
Bel could breathe again. The bad memories stopped assaulting him. His body healed.
She raised her other hand. Her Lifeblood surrounded Divine. It commanded the black inky Lifeblood pouring out of him.
Divine straightened. His power joined Nee’s. It stopped assaulting everyone. Nee’s dropped her hands. Her Lifeblood vanished. Her power removed every trace of Shepherd’s Hook. It devoured every building except Kaige’s house.
Divine stepped forward and rested his forehead on top of Nee’s.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish