Chapter 7

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“Interesting,” Palan said as he spun a silver orb in his palm. A bloody skeleton lay on the ground beside him next to a torn white dress. He glanced at a half-eaten wolf skeleton next to him. “It’s no wonder why this fellow didn’t run away.” A single line of lightning snaked up Palan’s arm from the metal orb. He tucked the orb away in the leather sack by his waist and stood up. Bloody metal armor jangled as his body moved.

Palan flexed his bicep while opening and closing his hand. He raised his leg and rotated his foot around his ankle before stomping down on the road. The stones split and fractured in a web-like manner. “I feel stronger, but only the female angel improved my strength; I wonder why.”

Palan sighed and glanced up at the yellow moon. “So the rumors were true after all,” he said. “That’s where Andrea is.” He shook his head and glanced around the field.

Palan stepped over corpses—wolf and angel alike—as he headed towards the forest. His forehead tingled and he narrowed his eyes. He walked next to a young wolf’s body and kicked it, causing it to let out a yelp. It scratched at the ground, uprooting clumps of grass as it scrambled to its feet. It lowered its head and rolled its eyes upwards to glance at Palan while tucking its tail between its legs before it started to whimper.

Palan raised an eyebrow and squatted in front of the slightly charred wolf. He held his palm out in front of its mouth. The wolf licked his palm and rolled over, revealing its belly and throat. Palan rubbed his chin. He scratched its belly, causing it to tense, and said, “There’s no need for me to kill you since you can’t talk and I don’t have any gluttons to feed.”

Palan frowned as Andrea’s image came to mind. He continued to rub the wolf’s belly and mumbled, “Why hasn’t the plague affected me? Is it not contagious?” The wolf tilted its head and relaxed its body as its tongue popped out of its mouth. Palan shook his head and stared into the wolf’s eyes. “You wouldn’t happen to know who Sariel is, right?”

The wolf blinked at him and pawed at his hand.

“I wasn’t expecting you to anyway,” Palan said and headed towards the forest, turning his back on the wolf. The wolf rolled back onto its feet and glanced around at its fallen companions. It let out a whimper before following after Palan who disappeared into the sea of trees.

***

A carriage ground to a halt on the road and five armored men stepped out. “What happened here?”

The men stepped forward in a triangular formation, approaching a mass of dead wolves and five skeletons near a golden carriage. The head guard’s eyes widened. “This is Lady Menyel’s carriage!”

“Is this her dress?” another guard asked and pointed at the discarded cloth with his spear.

“Clear the corpses,” the head guard said. “I will report back.” He turned around and walked back towards the carriage he came from. A teenaged girl with light-red skin and blue eyes stood at the entrance with tears in her eyes. Her white hair stopped mid-neck and she wore silver metal armor that left only her head exposed.

“How could this happen?” the girl asked, her voice quivering. “So many lives, gone.”

The head guard sighed. “The men are investigating while unblocking the road. The carriage belonged to Lady Menyel and most likely contains supplies that were meant for the border.”

The four other guards finished moving the bodies to the side of the road and placed the angel corpses inside of the abandoned carriage. They left the carriage in the middle of the road and headed back to regroup with the head guard.

“Do you know what happened?” the girl asked, turning her head towards one of the men. He was shivering and his face was white.

“Hey!” the head guard shouted and thumped the back of his hand against the man’s chest, causing a clunking noise to ring out. “Lady Raea is addressing you.”

The shivering man raised his head. “They were eaten,” he said and clenched his spear. “Lady Menyel was eaten. Her guards were eaten. Not even their organs remain.”

Another guard spoke up, “One of the wolves was half-eaten. Lady Menyel must have fought with the wolves and then a third party intervened at the end, killing and eating everyone.”

“A third party?” the head guard asked and frowned. “I suspect the king of the forest is behind this. We must make haste to the border and inform Captain Ishim. Lady Raea, none of us are able to drive Lady Menyel’s carriage except for you.”

“I understand,” Raea said and wiped her eyes before handing the head guard a silver orb. “You will drive mine.” She stepped off her carriage and headed towards Lady Menyel’s.

“You three,” the head guard said and singled out three men, “accompany her.”

“No need,” Raea said and raised her right hand, signaling for them to stop.

“But—”

“I said there was no need,” Raea said and raised her voice while whirling around. Her eyes were tinged with red. The three men stopped in their tracks and turned to face the head guard who sighed. The head guard nodded and entered Raea’s carriage with the four other men in tow.

Raea boarded Menyel’s carriage and smiled. The surface was golden and shone brighter than Raea’s silver carriage. She touched the carriage walls, ignoring the six bloody skeletons loaded inside. After a moment she slapped both her hands against her face. She muttered to herself, “Stop thinking thoughts like that. This is why Dad sent you to the border.” She turned towards the corpses and lowered her head. “Sorry for your loss. We will give you a proper burial soon.”

Raea sat in the driver’s seat of the carriage and spread her palms on top of a rectangular plaque which had a semi-sphere groove in the center. She closed her eyes and a rush of blue light flowed through her hands and pooled into the groove. The carriage’s wheels shrieked and started to roll forward.


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