A light as bright as the sun shone out from behind me. Something burned my back and I fell forward into the water while the surrounding foxes screamed. Their raspy voices cried out in surprise and pain. Sierra spun away screaming and ran up the bank. Within seconds the group had vanished, and the only thing left was the light.
I sat up and spun around, trying to get an eye on this new threat. The elf was the only thing in the creek with me. She was sitting on the ground, one hand still holding the gun tightly against her body. Her other arm was extended, her sword held up to the night sky and face turned away. The silver blade had caught the moonlight and was lighting up the creek with burning silver light.
I stared at it, not sure why my skin felt like it was on fire. It had to be the sword and the light. But how? The elf blinked twice, looked around and quickly sheathed it again, putting the light out. She was breathing hard and her face was flush. She tried to smile at me as if nothing had happened, but there was no way I was buying an innocent smile.
“Aha,” I said, walking up to her and pointing. “No. No smiles! What the hell was that?”
“What was what?”
With an annoyed growl, I grabbed the dull metal handle and pulled, the light almost blinding at the short draw. She sputtered and clamped her hands around it, struggling to pull it out of my hands with all she had. I waited a moment before letting it go, the sword sliding back into place. “You could have used this at any time. Why didn’t you ever draw it!?” I waited a moment as she pouted in the riverbed, soaked the bone and somehow more frightened than sullen. She refused to look at me, huddling away but not running.
Right, I forgot earlier. Emotional. And maybe a hint of trauma, from the shaking and hammering heartbeat. I took a deeply annoyed breath, grumbling a growl deep in my chest before breathing it out and kneeling to her level without touching her.
“Who are you?” I asked with a forced soft voice. “Why is everyone after you?”
“Nothing,” she answered. “I’m nothing.”
I snorted. “That’s not what it looks like. Keepers and cults don’t hunt nothing with this much gusto.”
“They – they think…” She swallowed. Finally looked at me. “The Keepers told me I broke some law about not interacting with humans.”
“Not interacting how?”
“I… They must have meant…. I went to the humans for help. A few tried, but they spotted my ears–”
“Well that’s a lie.”
She stopped and stared, wide-eyed.
“Keepers don’t send a creature like Omar to deal with exposure. You’re lying, and it’s not helping.”
“Why should I help you, anyway?!” she snapped, turning to face me. “You’re the reason I’m out here instead of with Darius!!”
“Because Darius told me to take care of you,” I said as even-keel as I could. “And because I didn’t just hand you over to Sierra and her crew.”
“One of you is more of the same.”
I smiled wide then, exposing a row of very, very sharp teeth. “Not true. Sierra would take you to someone who would hurt you until you thanked him for your eventual survival. I’ll just knock you out for being uncooperative and drag your ass back to Darius.” If I could ever find him again.
She flinched but something seemed to snap inside and her jaw clenched as she turned to me with a jutted chin and haughty eyes. “I’m a halfblood!” she snapped. “There, are you happy!? I’m one of you, but even then I’m a freak! I can’t transform, I can’t control myself, I can’t do anything but hurt and maim and be feral!! Those humans that tried to help me? I woke up with the sun in my face and their blood on my hands. I’ve been rejected by everyone, on the run from my own family because my dad was killed for being the exact same thing and none of them would help me find out who did it!” Tears were streaming down her face despite the defiant, aggressive stare that dared me to pass judgment. “Darius was the only one who was willing to help me, and now even he’s gone! I’m a curse to everyone! A walking plague with teeth and claws and–”
I cut her off by turning and walking away.
“What-?!” She stood up and charged after me. “Where the hell are you going!?”
I kept walking for another few steps, listening to her stomp after me. She never made an effort to get ahead of me, but clearly she didn’t want to be left behind. Some part of her wanted – needed – to talk to someone about it all. I just wasn’t convinced it needed to be me.
I knew this, to be honest. The contempt of others but fearing the darkness of forced isolation. There wasn’t anything to argue against; she had made up her mind on what she was and who I was. Telling her she was wrong while she was ranting would only lead to more anger, contempt, and fighting. I didn’t have time for it all with the sun on the rise, and she had given me enough for my next plan of action.
We climbed out of the riverbed. Walked into a field, and were halfway across it before she finally stopped. I turned, arms crossed with eyebrows up. “What’s wrong?” I called out. “Didn’t you want to keep going?”
“You walked away!!” She shouted.
“Because I got my answer,” I said, taking a step or two towards her. She sidled back a step and I stopped. “I’m sorry you’ve had…Well, I’m sorry. About all of it. But I’m not here to judge you or your quest. I’m here to get you to Darius. And the sun on the rise marks a dangerous time for us.”
“Dangerous?” she glanced around, pink and orange and new yellow cracking the dark of the sky.
“Sunlight locks us into form,” I explained. “Also takes away immunity to everything but various metals. I can get around the shape-shifting lock with my mask but not the disabling of my strength and senses. I’m a sitting duck when the sun is out, and I’d prefer to hide and plot until I can take flight again. So…” I gestured behind me and she hesitated before taking a step forward. I nodded and turned, starting to walk again and listened for her step to fall in with mine. It did. We walked on in silence for a while.
Half-bloods. There was a significance here I wasn’t seeing. I ran through everything I could remember; There was a long, tired history between my race and a few others, some cross-breeding that didn’t end so well. A prophecy or story or legend repeated in hushed whispers or screamed excuses. On earth any kind of half-bloods were rare, but not unheard of. She mentioned her father, another half-blood, which was something. Rumors were half-bloods were unable to reproduce. Then again, rumors in some circles is that I was dead, so. Can’t trust everything you hear.
Family. Glowing sword. Half-bloods. Darius. Puzzled bits, and I’d need help assembling them.
“Where are we going?”
“To find someone who’ll help us,” I answered, inspecting the surrounding air for suspicious smells. “He can point us in the direction of Darius. Maybe even get the Keepers off your back for a while.”
And maybe he’ll be able to tell me specifically why the Keepers were after her. And why the Foxes were after her. And why her sword glows. And why it hurts when it does.