Lord of the Wolves Chapter Twenty-Nine

April 1st, 2018  |  Published in Haventon Chronicles

Start | LoTW Chapter Twenty-Eight | Index | LoTW Chapter Thirty 

A/N: Happy Easter, peeps! Sorry this is late. I kinda lost track of the days.

What Cheryl had referred to as the Winter Garden turned out to be just that. A large courtyard filled with all kinds of winter flowering plants in spite of the fact that the walls were made of shining blue ice and it was cold enough to freeze the fountain at the heart of the frost rimed lawn in full spate. The entire garden, it seemed, was a tribute to the beauty that could be found in winter.


Cheryl led them down a winding path between beautiful pink Daphne and twisted witch hazel to a small arbour formed of gorgeous winter flowering cherry and sweet winter honeysuckle, and seated within it, accompanied by a woman with elfin features and a hair white as snow was a man who looked enough like Maelin and Sabren that he had to be Maddan even if the shining ice circlet on his brow had not identified him as the winter king. He was wrapped in a cloak and hunched as if in pain. As they approached David realised that he was bleeding severely from several open wounds, blood soaking through the cloak and where it did not cover on his hands he could see the blackened, necrotic flesh around one of the wounds. His stomach turned as he realised he could see maggots in them. If he had had any doubt about what he had been told about Maddan’s life being extended unnaturally this mere sight would have put rest to that. There was no way even a mistwalker should have long survived such wounds. And the agonised pain in his eyes as he looked up from his contemplation of a bed of snowdrops and winter pansies made it clear it was not something he had chosen. Yet when he saw Maelin a sudden smile lit his features almost wiping out the pain that was written there. Almost but not quite.

“Maelin!” Maddan tried to stand but his knees buckled and only the swift intervention of his attendent stopped him falling. He sank back to the bench with a sob as Maelin closed the distance between them in few quick strides and knelt before him, taking his brother’s hands in his.

“Do not strain yourself, brother,” Maelin said softly. “We’re here. This is almost over.”

“Thank the gods for that,” Maddan said. He turned to look at David. “My warrior, finally.” He bowed his head. “There have been times these past centuries when I have despaired that this day would ever come. Before we do it I would like to see the Glasshouse in the sunlit world as more than just a glimpse from the mists just once before I die, brother.”

“Gwen will sense it if you leave the palace, my king,” Cheryl warned.

“Aye, I know,” he said. “But if we’re quick enough that shouldn’t matter and if it distracts her from the battle for the summer palace all the better for our allies.”

“This is not wise,” Maelin said. “But you’ve suffered so long that I cannot deny you such a small request.” He looked over at David. “Do you object, Winter Warrior?”

David shook his head mutely and Maelin gently gathered his brother into his arms.

“We can’t just step out of the mists. Not wth so many. So we’ll have to go back to the door,” he said. “Make sure no one gets near us,” he said. “I’ll see to hiding us from human eyes once we get out. Aaron take point.”

The wolf Maelin had gestured to took up position at the front and they started back towards the door they had used to enter the Winter Palace. A few guards tried to stop them but they did not last long against the fangs and claws of Maelin’s pack and the rest fled allowing them to return to the glasshouse with relative ease. Maelin carried his brother down the stairs and sat him on a bench by the lily strewn pond.

Maddan’s eyes lit up as he took in the lush growth all around him and the pain seemed to fade from his eyes. “Ah!” he said. “It’s as beautiful as I expected. Thank you!”

* * *

After flowing out of the window and on to the battlefield Laurel checked where Gwen was and set off in the opposite direction, heading for the besieging lines. She held her mistform for as long as she could. Unfortunately with three passangers that was not very long and by the time they had travelled only a hundred yards she could feel bits of her mist fizzling off. If she did not return to physical form soon she would lose cohesion and be unable to, or she might be unable to distinguish herself from her passangers and jumble herself up with them which would not be good. So she scouted around and found a dip in the ground where she could hide while she returned o physical form. Then while Jana checked on her daughters she peeked over the edge and saw that Gwen had left her position and was riding direcctly for them.

“Damn! How did she know?”

“I did try to warn you,” Jana said bitterly. “Now all four of us are going to die.”

“No,” Laurel said. “No, we’re not.” Her eyes fixed on a nearby corpse and the weapon he had weilded in life – a wooden stake somehow bonded with iron and gold. She snatched it from his still warm hand, ignoring the itching in skin, from the rowan wood, then turned and pushed the summer crown into Jana’s hands. “Take this to the Summer Herald quickly. I’ll distract her.”

“You can’t mean to fight her,” Jana said.

“No!” Laurel shook her head. “That wouldn’t delay her long enough. I have something else in mind. Now go!”

“Yes, my Lady.” Jana took the crown and fled along with with her daughters.

Laurel didn’t wait to watch her go, instead she turned toward Gwen who had already directed her mount to chase Jana. Vampires didn’t need to breathe much but Laurel need extra air to shout loud enough to be heard so she sucked in a deep breath then she leapt away from Gwen’s path and turned the point of the stake in hand towards her own heart.

“Stop!” She yelled. She didn’t need to say anything else. The threat that she would stake herself and deprive Gwen’s ritual of its target was obvious enough. The Summer Warrior turned her horse and raced towards her.

Laurel waited until she was almost on top of her then misted away from her grasp, a hard task while holding on to a rowan stake. It weighed her down like a lump of lead but she managed and reformed herself several hundred yards away.

“Over here!”

Gwen turned towards again her and Laurel repeated the performance – though it was even harder this time. She glanced towards the path Jana had taken and saw that she had nearly reached the besieging lines. Good, perhaps one more time would do it.

* * *

“Is… is Laurel actually baiting the Summer Warrior?” Michael asked. He was standing with Liam, Kate and Lillian on a hill just behind the front lines. He was fairly sure no such hill existed in the sunlit world but he couldn’t puzzle at that with his child risking her life so blatantly.

“She is,” Lillian confirmed. “To give the Rose faerie time to make it to safety. She’s a remarkable girl it seems.”

“I already knew that,” Michael said. “Do you think she would actually do it?”

“You know her better than I,” Lillian said. “She’s your child and this is the first time I have even seen the girl. What do you think? Would she?”

Michael hummed to himself. “If she knows what’s at stake – which she’d have to in order to know this ploy would work – then yes she probably would.”

“Interesting.” Lillian said. “It sounds like she will make a good queen if she accepts the crown.” She looked towards where Jana had stumbled up the the front lines with her daughters. “And it looks like she won this one.” She gestured to the two brownies she had run up to and they led her and her daughters over to them.

“Lady Lillian.” Jana knelt. “I am Jana. I have been asked to bring this to you.” She held out the summer crown.

Lillian gasped, clearly caught by surprise. “She already brought it out? That’s why she was distracting Gwen while you ran. The cup didn’t tell me that.” She took the crown from Jana’s hands. “Thank you, Jana of the Roses.”

“She also released many of your fellows in the dungeons,” Jana said. “They are creating mayhem inside the palace.”

Lillian’s lips twitched. “Clever girl.” She turned to the two brownies. “Please take Jana and her daughters to Morna’s bar. Such little ones should not be in the line of battle. She smiled as Morna gestured to two of her guard to accompany them. “Thank you,” she said. “Gwen is distracted but I wouldn’t put it past her to try and send someone after them.” She stared at the crown in her hands. “Or this.”

“You should probably take that somewhere safe as well, Lady Lillian,” Morna said. “The vampire girl is tiring and Gwen will come after it once she’s recaptured her.”

“I should,” she agreed. “But I suspect she would try to attack your bar – curse or no curse – if both this and the Summer Blade were there.”

“We should move the sword as well,” Kate said. “The Day Palace could hold off an attack for quite some time if needed even against an enemy of Gwen’s power. If David succeeds it won’t be needed.”

“Yes, that would be wise, your majesty,” Lillian said. “But you cannot afford to leave the field right now and I would not trust the Summer Hallows to a being of lesser power. I- I am not sure what the solution is.” She turned her attention back to the confrontation between Gwen and Laurel. “Come on, girl, we have the crown. Make a break for it so we can retreat.”

* * *

Laurel was getting tired, though she was far from as hungry as she ought to be since it was daylight. Every time she misted the stake seemed to get heavier and She barely managed to reform her physical body this time and she was far closer to Gwen than she liked. She staggered slightly, dots in front of her eyes and tried to spot Jana and her daughters to see if she could run for it yet, but she was too sluggish and the stake was gone from her grasp before she knew it. An explosion of pain in her right hand made her look down to find t had been returned by stabbing her with it.

“Try and turn to mist now!” Gwen snarled.

She couldn’t of course. Rowan poisoning prevented that quite handily. The burning pain made her sob and bloody years obscured her vision, but she knew when she was pulled from the ground by her hair and thrown across Gwen’s mount.

“You think you’re so clever, girl. I’ll make you regret cross–” She broke off and her eyes went wide. “No! They can’t! Not after all I’ve sacrificed to stop them. I won’t let them!”

She turned her mount, with Laurel still in front of her and galloped away from the battle.

Laurel squirmed and fought against her but she could not turn to mist with rowan in her blood and she didn’t have the strength to fight the woman off. Perhaps she could take a lesson from Gwen and steal it. She shifted slightly and sank her fangs into Gwen’s leg. The faerie woman’s blood hit her like a truck, far stronger than either Jana or Kay’s had been. She only had chance to gulp a few mouthfuls before Gwen tore her loose but it burned in her stomach like pure fire and yet somehow it wasn’t painful. The surge of strength it give allowed her to pull the stake from her hand but before she could turn to mist and escape the fire raced out from her stomach until it seemed to engulf her whole body, then it reached her head and the world turned gold.

* * *

“Damn it!” Michael swore when he saw Gwen break away. Partly because she had recaptured Laurel but mostly because she was heading straight towards Haventon Park and thus straight towards the Ice Palace. “She knows!”

Lillian by contrast didn’t waste any time on cursing she just leapt astride her own mount and urged it after Gwen. After a moment Michael joined her followed closely by Morna, Kate and Liam. Morna’s guard made to follow but she gestured to them to remain with the battle. Michael was so intent on the chase that he sensed rather than saw Philip’s pack also leave the battle and lope after them in their wolf forms.

Gwen however had a good lead on them and even as they gave chase it was clear they were not making headway. Michael cursed again as he realised that it would be down to Maelin and his pack to protect David and Laurel. He really did not want to trust the Lord of the Wolves with this – especially not when he had wanted Laurel dead in order to stop his mother – and he suspected that Philip’s pack would hate it even more. There wasn’t much to be done, however, except keep going and hope they got there in time.

 

Start | LoTW Chapter Twenty-Eight | Index | LoTW Chapter Thirty

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