Everywhere people shoved and pushed to try and make it on the last remaining ship. The haul was full of the tribes’ people trying to make room. Talia shoved her way through the crowd to reach her brother.
“There won’t be enough room,” Talia caught his arm as he finished helping an elder woman up the step of the ramp.
“Have you seen the horizon?” Tobias glanced out over to the wall of dark clouds rolling towards the island. The first ship headed straight for it. Its large frame bucked and swayed dangerously against the wind and sudden roughness of the waves. They were almost past the large rocks where the other ship had been crushed up against its sharp edges. The sky further darkened making it hard to make out the splashing in the water around the splintered ship. People screamed and flailed in the water, some swimming back to shore, others making a path toward the other ship.
“What happened?” Talia asked unsure that she wanted the answer. The plan to get everyone safely off this island was looking more impossible by the moment. And before Tobias could answer another unnatural scream ripped through the air behind them. A cry, a howl that Talia had heard once before. As if also recognizing the noise, Tobias met Talia’s gaze. His brow furrowed.
“No, it can’t be.”
Talia’s stomach dropped. Theo’s shadows. That was the same shriek that had hunted them out of Orthlen, the same ones that had taken Amara’s mother. Talia froze, panic rising up in her throat. They would never get off this forsaken island. Ryker grabbed her arm hard shaking her out of her daze.
“Get your dagger ready, we need to buy time.” Talia nodded numbly and pulled the dagger out of her belt.
“Get these people out of here,” Ryker said and Tobias nodded picking up a toddler clinging to her stuffed bear; her cheeks wet with tears as she was handed off to a man onboard who lifted her up and over the railing.
“Delay them, then get to the boat,” Tobias said as Talia followed his gaze. She spotted a small boat tilted on the beach near the rock prison. Talia nodded and moved away from the last of the panicked people trying to board the ship.
Talia searched the faces for her cousin. Amara stood away from the thinning crowd, facing the cave opening to the beach. Her face ashen as tumbling shadows clicked and cackled. Claws gripped the edge of the rock coming in and out of focus. The creature seemed even larger than Talia remembered it being.
A ringing in her ears drowned out the noise around her. Her fear consumed her as she stepped next to Amara and Ryker joined them. The three of them against this thing. But all they needed was to buy time. They just needed to distract it long enough to get out of here. Her jaw set as she remembered it consuming Shelley.
Lightening split overhead illuminating the scene before them. The shadows recoiled at the light, then just as quickly oozed back out over the sand. The mass of tumbling creatures grew denser and larger with every second. Thunder sounded and the creature’s howl made the airs on Talia’s neck stand. A handful of men and women came out onto the beach heading towards the three of them. Their eyes were the same black pits as before, some of them dressed in tribal armor.
“No,” Ryker breathed next to her. His shock matched her own. They were his people, ones that had fallen protecting these same villagers only moments before.
The dagger gripped tight in Talia’s hand, began to glow. A pulsing red that matched the warmth of her power waiting to be set free, a pressure building that begged to be released. Talia closed her eyes for a brief moment and saw the door to her power in her mind’s eye. A pulsing, glowing red light shone bright, illuminating its lovely edges. She had been afraid to look at it too closely since the rite. Afraid of what might happen if she surrendered to the power within her again, afraid that she may like it. But now she would have no choice but to bring it into the fight and pray that it wouldn’t consume her.
So, Talia readied her hand on the ornate handle. She felt the warmth course through her and her nerves steady, her fear ebbed away with every breath, like the crashing waves meeting the shore.
When she opened her eyes, she saw the world around her in a brilliance of color. The vibrancy of the hundreds of shades of color greeted her and she sucked in a breath. The darkness no longer hindered her view of the scene before her, she saw every part of the beach, every grain of sand. The shapes jumping within the shadow creature and at its core stood a dark silhouette that she could not make out.
Talia could taste the air around them. The rain suspended in the clouds pressing in on them, the salt in the bead of sweat that ran down Amara’s forehead. She was acutely aware of everything around her. Her senses amplified a hundred-fold. The scent of death lingered with the bodies ahead, the burnt and foul taste of the creature.
“How?” Amara breathed, the voice loud next to her as if Amara had yelled in her ear, “They aren’t human.”
Talia glanced toward her cousin and sensed her chest catch at the sight of her eyes that were no doubt the same red as before.
“Neither are we,” Talia said as she stepped forward pulling the door to her power open, releasing the energy built up. It poured out of her and wrapped itself around her, encapsulating her in a pulsing red orb. Talia embraced the warmth and gave in to the adrenaline that shot through her. She felt their eyes on her in surprise, heard Ryker’s soft curse, but she kept her gaze ahead as she ran forward, Amara and Ryker at her heels.
They clashed with the first soldiers. Talia ran at a man, his ax high over his left shoulder ready to strike her down. She got within reach and he swung at the last second, she dropped to her knees barely missing the blade, her momentum carried her forward and she sunk her dagger up into his gut. He stilled, losing his grip on his weapon and she stood dragging the knife upward with her. The red glow of her power seeped into him and he screamed. The smell of burnt flesh met her nose and she pulled her knife out as he crumpled to the ground before her, his eyes turning a crystal blue, seconds later he was ash in the wind. She felt her heart race and a wave of warmth washed over her. As if the kills were feeding her magic.
“Foolish girl” A whisper on the wind reached her. She whirled and caught another blade with her dagger inches from her face. A magicked arrow found the woman’s shoulder and as she lurched from the hit, her black eyes widened Talia sliced her blade down across her neck, as burnt flesh reached her nose. Floating ash was the only thing that remained. Talia picked up an abandoned ax, feeling another wave of warmth. Her power reached out around her.
“Silly child” The hiss echoed around her. Talia turned, searching the crowd for the source of the voice. Ryker and Amara cut down shadow soldiers before her. Their fight next to each other like a dance. But they didn’t seem to hear the voice. The shadow creature hovered overhead as if watching the show, waiting for the right moment. They were missing something.
Talia’s skin pricked with the feel of the storm pressing against their backs, she could feel the slight shift of the wind around them seconds before the rain fell in sheets. She heard the screams of the villagers as the ship pushed off the shore into the storm. Tobias joined the fray; a dagger flew from behind her finding its mark in a man‘s chest before he could cut Amara down from behind. Talia ran into the crowd alongside her brother.
“Get back!” She yelled, they only needed to make it to their own vessel. Her ax in her hand caught another shadow soldier and she stepped further into the crowd. Closed her eyes and pushed out against her power. She saw it cover a circle around her of about ten men and women and within seconds they turned to ash.
“Run,” The gap she had created left space for them to get away and they ran to the shoreline. Talia glanced back as they made it to the small boat and stopped short. Theo stood clearly visible underneath the shadow creature now. His face contoured in rage.
“Kill them!” His whisper reached her and the creature above him shrieked, a sound that ran a chill down Talia’s spine, as it tumbled over itself towards them.
- : YA - fantasy -adventure