by Jane Doe
I didn’t hesitate to bound into the forest, chasing the sound of Breyona’s voice, the taste of her fear ripe on my tongue.
There was something wrong, something so very wrong with the way her voice coiled around my thoughts and squeezed the life out of them. It wasn’t through mind-link that I was hearing her, I was sure of it. No matter how hard I tried to dig past her wailing, to the connection that spanned between us, I just couldn’t.
Thoughts refused to form, each and every one shattering under the grip of her pleas.
‘It hurts, Lola! It hurts so bad—so bad.’ She sobbed and screamed.
I couldn’t think, not even to figure out where the h**l I was going or whether or not I should slow down.
The forest cracked and trembled beneath my feet. Limbs like outstretched arms reached to grab me, tearing away bits of my fur and drawing blood. Even the pain was dull, like it too was smothered by Breyona’s voice.
Suddenly, she went silent.
It should’ve occurred to me that the wrongness in the air went further than Breyona begging for her life, for her best friend to come and save her, but I was too slow at recognizing it.
Beams of moonlight speared through the treetops, hitting the ground in slender rays that gave off just enough light to keep from tripping over my own two feet. Shadows writhed and danced in the spaces in between, where the moonlight could not reach. The glint of silver blended in perfectly with both shadow and light, making it far too late for me to react in time.
I felt the sudden burst of pain before I scented the blood.
There was no stopping. Not with Breyona’s life on the line, not with that deafening silence so close to sg me whole.
At first, I thought I’d been hit by a dagger thrown through the air, but the force behind it was hard enough to slice through flesh and muscle, all the way down to bone.
A second one hit, then a third, and a fourth.
I twisted my head to the side to catch a glimpse of an arrow protruding from my back. It was accompanied by three others, each one jutting from various places around my spine like the b****y barbs of a porcupine.
When a fifth hit, this one spearing me in between my ribs, Maya and I went down.
We bounced and skidded along the forest floor, kicking up rocks and dirt as we disrupted those silvery beams of moonlight. My fur was receding, sinking back into my body as my bones shrunk and contorted, bringing on another wave of fear. There was too much silver in my body to keep up my wolf form. It took one last desperate thought to make my clothing reappear as I landed in a broken, b****y heap of torn flesh and exposed bone.
With every breath my lungs rattled like they were full of liquid. I tasted blood, thick and dark, and instantly knew that this was not good. Every square inch of my flesh felt raw, like it had been through a paper shredder before being crudely put back together.
I reached out with my mind and felt nothing.
Maya was deep asleep, taking with her my connection to Asher and the rest of the pack. I was alone, without any way of contacting the others for help. Even my odd attachment to Breyona felt just out of reach, so close that I could graze it with blood coated fingertips, but not close enough.
There was no way I could stay here. Bleeding, with arrows still lodged in my body that scalded my flesh and sapped my strength, I forced myself onto my hands. My arms trembled painfully, wobbling so much that I had to grind my teeth together to keep from collapsing.
In and out, I breathed. Each time picturing Asher, using his face as an anchor to keep me from blacking out. I had to get out of here before the witch that shot me caught up.
The world went blurry when I made it to my knees. A dull bite of pain gnawed at them when stone and earth dug into my flesh, but it was nothing compared to the feel of hot blood trickling down my spine.
One moment I’d been blinking away sweat and tears, and the next I was surrounded.
There were seven of them, perhaps more but it was hard to tell considering everything began to double and triple. Tree’s multiplied, then died off, vanishing so quickly it made my head spin.
One witch stepped forward. Her upturned nose and confident stance struck me as being someone in charge. Wisps of dark hair peeked out beneath the hooded cloak she wore, but it did nothing to hide her face. Every single one of her features was hard, sharpened as though cruelty was the only expression she was ever destined to use.
The witch tossed something to the dirt in front of me and said nothing as I squinted and waited for my vision to stop swirling.
It was a crossbow, loaded with an arrow tipped in silver.
Faster than the realization that spawned on my face, the witch sneered. She curled her thin lips back and b***d her teeth, lowering herself to the dirt floor like she was greeting a wild animal.
“You got the upper hand on my pupils twice now, and twice they’ve been punished for their failure. Tessa and Ember are talented for their ages, but we cannot allow failure this far along. Can we, Lola?”
I could barely understand what the hl she was saying. Something about training and those two witches, the ones that had chased us through the forest and nearly k**d Dina.
Blood drizzled from my mouth, seeping into my clothes, and running down my chest. Splotches of darkness, far colder than the shadows, began to fill my vision. They grew and multiplied, each one draining what little strength I had left.
It was a miracle I managed to stay upright, still knelt in the dirt like a prisoner of war—which I had a feeling I’d soon become. Even on the verge of passing out, fear struck far swifter than the arrows that pierced my flesh.
If I passed out—blacked out for even a second, these witches would take me. I’d be gone, lost a second time and Asher would be the one to suffer the blow.
Hazy and speckled with shadows, his face came to mind. He’d storm this entire forest, uproot every single tree, and leave no stone unturned as he searched and searched like a madman on a mission destined for failure.
He’d bellow and snarl, losing his grip on his wolf as the people we loved surrounded him and tried to reign him back in. It wouldn’t work, though. I knew this because it hadn’t worked the first time.
That left one option.
I could not let them take me.
It would’ve been easier to sink into the darkness, to let my limbs grow numb as I fell to the cool earth. There would be no pain, no worries, or fears. Everything would fade away like the last rays of moonlight through the treetops.
I opened my mouth to call out to the shadows that thrashed and writhed in the darkness, watching all of this unfold with heady interest, whispering in voices so fast I couldn’t make out what they were saying. Only a croak left my lips, a wet one that was chased by a splatter of blood bubbling up my throat.
The ground darkened with my blood as I coughed and spat, unable to call the shadows for help.
“Get her tied up so we can head out. The sooner we get back, the faster we can get this done with.” The witch snapped. “And someone get a healer. If she dies before we get there, we’re all d**d.”
It was at this point that reason left my head, replaced by the animalistic urge to live, to survive and evade capture. I was a wolf, a beast, and huntress in my own right, but now—now I was no better than prey.
Again and again, I heard Asher’s roar in my mind, the ragged sound he’d make when he found all the blood and realized I’d been taken.
You said you wouldn’t leave, Lola. You promised me.
I could hear him as though he were standing right here, hovering over my shoulder as he watched me bleed and bleed and bleed. I could feel his fractured heart like it were my own, and the feeling of hopelessness that followed, it made me angry.
How dare they destroy my hard work, k**l my people, and ruin my life? The families they’ve shattered were wounds that went even deeper than the ones on my body. They’d never stop, not until I was bound and shacked, my free will shredded and blowing in a blood-soaked breeze.
The well of electrifying magic bubbled, rising in my veins as it reached out to meet me halfway.
There was no pulling from it, no slow draw of magic as I took my time crafting what outcome I wanted. No, I plunged into its depths and let the pain and euphoria lk my skin, drawing from that dark, savage part of me that wanted these witches to pay for every life lost, for every building b**d and family destroyed.
I want them d**d.
I want all of them d**d.
A rush of utter darkness, of putrid decadence like melted chocolate and rotted flesh, filled my body from head-to-toe. It wrapped around my soul like a shroud, whispering sweet words of vengeance. It chased away the fog cluttering my brain, devouring the spots that speckled my vision, and injecting me with what I could only describe as absolute f*g power.
Whatever this was, it felt good.
One of the witches hovered behind me, a chain of silver clanking in her hands, burning as it was wound around my wrists. I barely felt the sting. It couldn’t touch this strange, newfound strength.
Through my tangled, blood-soaked hair I craned my head up at the witch who had first spoke, the one leading this attack.
I smiled at her; my teeth tainted red with blood.
“You’re all going to d*e.”
A fat droplet of scarlet blossomed from her eye, dangling off her lower lid like a tear. It drizzled down her cheek, a streak of metallic she reached out to wipe away. She inspected her fingers, her smug expression melting away to confusion, and then finally, terror.
Screams and gasps rang out around me as the other witches too found blood leaking from their eyes, leaving tracks down their cheeks.
“You—” The witch sputtered, releasing a wet hack as blood began to flow from her mouth and ears. “You have no idea…what you have done.”
She, like all the others, clutched at her face as though it would stop the flow of blood from their bodies. Faster and stronger it grew, egged on by my rage and the command I’d given. A single thud sounded and was the start of many. Where the others died screaming, their last wails cut off as a final wet gurgle took over, the witch leading this coup, she died quietly.
What did she mean when she said I had no idea what I’d done?
I realized it too late.
The witches that had surrounded me were d**d, but the power that flowed through my veins, it didn’t fade. If anything, it seemed to latch onto me, digging invisible claws far past flesh and bone. I could feel it, this foulness I’d mistaken for absolute power.
I looked down at my hands, shuddering as my entire body went cold.
“What have I done?” I gasped.
My fingertips were black, with veins the same sickening shade crawling up them. It was like I’d dipped them into something no one should ever touch, something poisonous and vile. Something that didn’t want to leave.
Alpha Asher by Jane Doe
Author: Jane Doe
Native Language: English