Chapter 1

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A girl sat outside of a tent, looking up at the blue and green moon in the sky with her dark-red eyes. She seemed to be around eight years old with pointed claws in place of finger and toenails. Her pale-purple skin was tinged with green as the moon shone down on her. Her left ear twitched and she turned her head to the side. She blinked before narrowing her eyes and saw multiple figures trudging towards her through the sand. She stood up and held the hem of her dress as she walked backwards.

A thin man with his ribs sticking out of his skin pointed at her and nodded. One of the men next to him asked him another question and the thin man nodded again while hunching his back and clasping his hands together. He faced the girl. “Andrea, come here.”

Andrea bit her lip and continued to walk backwards, but at a faster pace. Her child steps couldn’t compare to the grown men walking towards her and they soon caught up. She let out a gasp when the moonlight illuminated a man’s face with a burn scar covering his right eye. Her hands trembled as she shifted her gaze to the thin man. “Dad.”

“Why didn’t you come when I asked you to?” her dad said. “You’re just like Palan when he was little. He never listened and Mom had to beat him.” His face was paler than usual and multiple cuts decorated his shirtless body. Andrea stayed silent and looked at her feet.

“This is your daughter?” the scar-faced man asked and grinned. “A coward like you isn’t completely worthless.” The two other men behind him laughed and unsheathed the bone daggers at their waists. The scar-faced man grabbed the girl’s black hair and yanked her towards him, causing her to yelp.

“Kill him.”

The thin man trembled and gulped as the two men with daggers approached him. His knees knocked together and he fell over backwards with sweat dripping off his face. He used his arms to scramble backwards while kicking his feet. “You said you would let me go if I gave her to you.”

One of the dagger-wielding men laughed. “He isn’t just a coward; he’s stupid too,” he said and circled around to the thin man’s back. “How long have you been alive? You still believe people’s words?” The thin man screamed as blood splattered. A few seconds passed with only the sound of flesh being pierced and torn.

“What’s next boss?” the dagger-wielding man said as he licked the blood off his dagger and raised his head. He froze and stared in the girl’s direction. Blood gushed out of the scar-faced man’s neck, dripping onto the girl’s face. Another man stood behind the scar-faced man. His bright-red eyes twinkled as he smiled at the dagger-wielder, revealing three rows of bloody pointed teeth.

“Palan!” Andrea shouted and hugged the new man’s leg. The two dagger-wielding men gulped as they stepped backwards.

“It was his idea! He forced us to do this!” one of the men said and pointed at the scar-faced man’s fallen body. “I swear. He forced us into this!”

“I see,” Palan said and nodded without blinking. “You can go.” He pat Andrea’s head and released himself from her hug.

The two men looked at each other before they turned around and ran. A smile flashed across Palan’s face and he dashed after the two men, quickly gaining on them. He unsheathed a bone dagger and slashed downwards, hamstringing one of the men. He ignored his cry and pounced towards the second man, sinking his teeth into his neck. He jerked his head back, causing a fountain of black blood to shoot towards the sky as half the man’s neck was removed. He spat out the chunk of meat and sighed as he faced the hamstrung man who was trying to crawl away.

Black blood covered Palan’s face, including his eyes, but it slowly slid downwards. A membrane over his eyes flickered and the remaining blood disappeared. He sauntered towards the man while tossing his dagger up and down. He smiled at the man. “You shouldn’t have targeted my sister. Why do the weak never learn?”

“I’m sorry!” the man said as sweat rolled down his neck. He clenched the sand on the ground next to him. “Let me go; I promise it won’t happen again.”

“You’re right,” Palan said and nodded as he crouched over the fallen man. “It won’t happen again.” The man didn’t even have a chance to scream before the dagger stole his last breath. Palan licked the blood off his dagger and sheathed it before turning towards Andrea.

“Welcome home,” Andrea said and tackled him with a bear hug. She raised her head to look at his face. She smiled, revealing one row of pointed teeth. “Did you bring me lots to eat?”

Palan chuckled and pat her head. “Your claws are digging into me,” he said and winced.

“Oops.” Andrea said and retracted her claws. “Sorry.” She blinked at him.

“It’s alright,” Palan said and lowered her to the ground. “I left my kill behind when I smelled blood here. I’ll go back and get it.” He turned towards his father’s corpse.

“It was Dad,” Andrea said and frowned. “Why didn’t you save him too?”

“Did you want me to?” Palan asked and snorted. “He disappears for years and he comes back to sell you off. He’s better off dead.”

Andrea grunted and her stomach growled as she stared at the corpse. “Don’t eat him,” Palan said and sighed. “It’ll bring bad luck. You can eat the other three, alright?”

“’Kay,” Andrea said and skipped towards the scar-faced man’s corpse. Palan shook his head and walked back towards the place he dropped his prey. By the time he got back, dragging a giant lizard, the only things that remained of the three men were their shattered bones. Not even their marrow remained. Andrea sat in front of the tent, picking at her teeth with her claw. She raised her head and her stomach growled when she saw the lizard.

Palan sat down and sighed as he watched his sister devour the beast in front of him. “Why couldn’t you have been something else, like a pride? Then I wouldn’t have to hunt so often.”

His sister giggled and tore a chunk of meat off the lizard’s body. “Then I couldn’t live with you,” she said. “Two prides won’t get along.”

“I knew that,” Palan said and snorted. “It was just an example of something that wasn’t a glutton.”

The sounds of tearing meat and chewing were the only response. When the lizard was half-gone, Andrea let out a burp and smiled at her brother. “You don’t want any?”

Palan shook his head. “I already ate three days ago,” he said. “Unlike you, I can go two weeks without eating.”

“I can too,” Andrea said and pouted. “I just feel sad if I don’t eat though.” She beamed at Palan. “You’re the best brother ever.”

“I know; praise me more,” Palan said and smiled. “I’m going to town tomorrow. Do you want—“

“Yes!”

Palan laughed. “Alright. The suns are going to rise soon. Get some sleep.”

Andrea yawned and nodded as she walked towards the tent and pulled the flap open. Palan followed after her and sat down in the center of the room, facing the entrance. Andrea used his leg as a pillow and pulled a blanket over herself. Palan combed her hair until her breathing turned steady. He stared at the entrance as his breathing slowed. His eyes remained focused on the entrance as he started to snore.


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