A Werewolf for the Witch
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Princess Avalea, a Venusian Witch and the heir to the throne of the magical kingdom of Altair, finds herself on the run after witnessing the assassination of her father, the King. Helpless and hurt, she is forced to seek refuge with Aldrich, a Werewolf, a Cursed One. While Venusian Witches are the highest, the purest amongst all magical beings in Altair, the Werewolves, also known as the Cursed Ones are the lowliest, the crassest, the crudest. They're savages who have gained entry into Altair by deceitful means. Or at least, that's what Princess Avalea has been led to believe. With assassins after her own life and a traitor to weed out, the only person Princess Avalea can trust, ironically, is Aldrich the Werewolf. As he nurses her back to health, her prejudices begin to dissolve, and a bond develops between the savagely handsome werewolf and the pure, ethereally beautiful witch princess. But Aldrich has secrets. Deep, dark secrets that can shatter Avalea's heart and leave it broken beyond repair.
Ann got away. She is safe.
Ann got away. She is safe.
I repeat the litany in my head, hoping that chanting it over and over again in my mind will make it true. My feet carry me away in a direction they’ve deemed safe. My silk bedroom slippers are no match for the rough forest floor. Sharp pebbles and thorns tear at my feet, just as the low-lying branches are making short work of my nightgown. I’m covered in scrapes and bruises, and my tired legs stumble on a gnarly root that I failed to notice in the darkness.
Neither of the two moons have made an appearance tonight. The canopy overhead is so thick that only the barest hint of the brilliant starlight is able to make its way through the gaps. How long I have been running I do not know, but I can still smell the acrid stench of smoke as the fire destroys everything in its path. Or am I smelling the residual smoke clinging to my now torn-beyond-repair nightgown? I’m not certain. One glance behind me will tell me if I have come far enough. But I cannot look back, nor can I stop my feet from moving. Bound by the magic of the Promise I made to my sister, I’m doomed to keep moving until I’m beyond the reach of imminent danger. I wish I could stop now, though. I know they did not pursue me. Ann diverted the savages away from me, letting me escape.
As my pace slows, tears that have threatened to spill ever since I watched my father being stabbed to death rain down my face. I try to stem the flow, but the dam has burst and there’s no stopping it now. My vision is further hampered with the tears blurring it, and my feet finally stop moving. I take shallow, gasping breaths, my chest heaving up and down as sobs wrack my body. In the quiet stillness of the night, they sound too loud. Fearful of attracting unwanted attention, I bite my lips until I draw blood, silencing my sobs.
The sheer rush of adrenaline that had provided the necessary burst of speed to make my escape from the blazing palace, has now abated. The magic of the Promise Ann had extracted from me has now worn off.
I lean against the trunk of a tree, allowing myself a moment of rest before moving ahead.
With everything I possess, I want to make my way back to the place where Ann gave herself away to our pursuers. But what good will it do? For now, I have to be content knowing that she escaped. Or at least, I hope she did.
Cold fingers grip my heart, squeezing it until I find it difficult to breathe as doubts assail my mind. What if she hasn’t escaped? What if they’ve killed her, just as they killed our father?
No. That can’t be. To bolster my belief, I force myself to recall everything that transpired after we emerged from the secret passageway connecting Father’s bedchamber to a spot just beyond the rear wall of our palace. I close my eyes and press my fingers to them as I go over every detail in my head…
We have just made our way out of the secret underground passage and have taken only a few steps in the direction of the forest when we realize we have company. Our pursuers have somehow already found us. How? Do they know about the secret passageway? It can’t be. Nobody knows about it, except the immediate family and the Council. It has to be purely by chance that they have found us. The alternative is too terrible to contemplate.
We run, but they are too close. We aren’t allowed to harm anybody with our magic, but we can surely defend ourselves. Both Ann and I mutter the incantation under our breath that will construct an impregnable defensive wall between us and our three pursuers– the same wall that is erected around the palace. We don’t pause to think that our pursuers have managed to breach it. The wall forms behind us, transparent, solid, and yet not solid.
We don’t stop running, and that probably saves our lives.
They tear through the wall as if it doesn’t exist. We try several other defensive spells, but nothing is working. It is worrisome, but we don’t have the time to solve that puzzle.
Having no other option, Ann and I draw on the Dark Magic we are only allowed to use under dire circumstances. Ann particularly has a natural affinity for it. She is more skilled than me in every other form of magic as well. By rights, by seniority of birth, by her superior skills, she should have been the rightful heir. But Altairian succession rules are… unique.
We hold hands, and I press whatever little Dark Magic I have outwards, merging with that of Ann’s, allowing the night to cloak us, rendering us invisible to our pursuers.
The Cloak won’t shroud us forever. We have a quarter of an hour at the most, but they probably don’t know that. They come to a sudden halt inches away from us, looking around them, their poisoned silver daggers held at the ready.
‘Show yourselves!’ the guttural shout from one of them tears through the night.
Making as little sound as possible, we slide away from them, inch by inch, eyes wide with terror, until we are out of their striking distance. We can't remain here forever. With each passing minute, the Cloak will fade little by little. There has to be a way out of this mess.
‘If we move in the direction of the forest while still Cloaked, we stand a chance to outrun them,’ I whisper.
The sound of my voice instantly alerts the assassins even though my words are barely audible to my own ears.
Ann shakes her head.
‘They’re the Cursed Ones. We’ll never outrun them.’
Yes, they’re the Cursed Ones. Their eyes, glowing in the darkness like that of a beast, gives away at least that much about them. My eyes close and my shoulders sag. Is this how it’s going to end? They will kill us, their silver daggers plunging into our hearts over and over again, just as they killed Father. The Cursed Ones are gifted hunters, especially at night, but we can’t give up without a fight.
‘We must at least try to escape. Let’s head for the cover of the trees.’
I see the three assassins turn their heads in our direction.
‘It will never work.’
Our pursuers take another couple of steps towards us, randomly brandishing their daggers in front of them. The very tip of one grazes my thigh, and I bite back a whimper. We shift away, putting more distance between them and us. Ann is edging us towards the forest behind the rear wall, despite her earlier comments. She has that determined look on her face she gets every time she is told she can’t do something.
‘Do you trust me?’ she asks.
‘You know I do.’
‘Will you make a Promise if you trust me with your life?’
I hesitate only briefly.
‘Yes,’ I whisper.
‘We need a diversion. I’m going to draw them away. But I need you to Promise me you’ll not turn back; Promise me you’ll find y
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