The Arotas Trilogy
“We'll only have one chance to get the girl, so make every shot count.”
Heads bobbed in the shadows, faces grim with fierce determination. Each man knew the risks. The consequences of failing their mission went beyond death. Humanity’s survival depended on their success.
“The last one just left, sir.”
Hawk like eyes narrowed in on the shadow emerging from the tunnel. Already they’d watched the monster escape, fleeing across the hills to the security of his castle. Another fled towards the road, his blood staining the snow crimson. Then two more emerged, a young girl leaning heavily on a boy as they headed up to the house.
Finally the last appeared. His head hung with a sorrow that Silas understood. Death was never easy.
“Let’s move,” Silas whispered, emerging from the darkened trees.
They moved stealthily across the snow, unconcerned with covering their tracks in the storm. Icy winds pierced through their cloaks, but they did not slow. The snow did not matter. The frost nipping at their toes did not matter. Only the boy.
As they approached the tunnel entrance, Silas held up his hand. The small group halted. “Ready your darts. She will be fast. Do not underestimate her.”
Their feet whispered against the dirt floor, shuffling forward single file. Silas prayed that Roseline would not hear their beating hearts over the howling winds funneling through the passage. Perhaps luck would be on their side this night.
A dim light appeared at the end of the tunnel. The group huddled closer, alert and cautious. No one knew what they were walking into. Obviously there had been a battle. The blood stained snow and labored limping of the girl had been testimony to that.
The tunnel widened out at the end. Flickering candle light illuminated the war torn room. Blood splattered the walls and floor, staining the ancient stones. A body lay nearby, it’s head cut cleanly away. Another body lay slain on the floor near the center of the room.
Congealing blood oozed slowly from the man’s fatal wound. Silas averted his eyes. He did not fear death, but he was not fool enough to think himself unaffected by its presence.
As one the group moved forward, eyes scanning for a surprise attack that never came. The room was eerily quiet. Silas glanced back at his men, seeing his own doubt mirrored on their faces. Something was very wrong.
And then it happened. Screaming, blood curdling howls erupted through the room, echoed off the vaulted ceiling, curling their way up the winding staircase.
Silas held up his hand in warning. Something was moving in the small cell up ahead. His eyes struggled to adjust to the dim light. He crouched low and moved forward, as lithe as a lion.
He paused, cocking his head to the side. A new sound approached his ear. Crying.
Hurrying forward, Silas’ eye widened with horror. What he saw before him made his blood run cold. They were too late!
“Now!” he shouted, leaping into the cell, his dart already spiraling through the air.
Roseline turned, her surprise shifting to rage. She threw herself sideways, dodging the dart at the last second. It embedded in the wall’s mortar.
Shouts rose around the room as Silas’ brothers spilled through the open cell door. Roseline snarled, her fingers clawing at her sides as she weaved in an out of the rain of darts.
“Got her!” a robed figure crowed. His hood fell away, revealing a face that still showed signs of baby fat. The boy couldn’t have been more than seventeen years old!
Roseline wavered, her hand slowly rising to the dart sticking out of her neck. Her aqua eyes glowed brightly as she gnashed her teeth at her attackers. Silas stood his ground, but noted from the corner of his eye that most of his men struggled to remain in close proximity with her.
“We don’t want to hurt you. We just want the boy.”
A feral growl erupted from Roseline’s lips as she lunged for the man closest to her. Her hands wound around his neck as she yanked him over her shoulder. She felt his spine snap in two as he passed over her head. He fell to the ground in a broken pile of bones, lifeless.
Shouts of rage spurned Silas to action. He raised his hands, roaring his command to hold the line. But Odin was too far gone to obey. The sight of his younger blood-brother’s death pushed him beyond reason.
Odin sprang up into the air, his leg poised to knock Roseline to the ground. She waited, her brain calculating his immanent attack. The instant his foot connected with her chest, Roseline’s hands wrapped around his knee and twisted, snapping his leg as she thrust him to the ground.
Silas’ eyes could barely keep up with her blurred movements. The instant he realized her intentions, Silas knew his warning would come too late. Roseline slammed Odin’s dart launcher into his neck, releasing the toxic dart into his artery. His legs jerked, foam bubbling from his lips as his eyes widened with horror. Odin knew his fate but was helpless to change it.
A single dart sailed through the air, slamming into Roseline’s heart. She stared down in disbelief as her legs waivered, her vision fading to shadow as she slumped next to Gabriel’s writhing body. Her hand reached for him, but fell limply away.
"Well done." The sour faced man nearby patted Silas on the back. The leader shook the man off as he approached Roseline cautiously. Gabriel's screams continued to pierce the air, masking Roseline's labored breathing. Her glazed eyes stared up at him, marking his approach but unable to do anything to stop him.
“I’m truly sorry for this. I never wanted to hurt you.” Roseline snarled.
Silas's lip curled with amusement. He stretched out his hand towards Gabriel but wrenched it back as Roseline dug her fingernails into the back of his hand. "Don't touch him."
“I promise he will not be harmed.”
Roseline's eyes rolled back into her head as she succumbed to the toxins attacking her body. Her lips struggled to form her final words.
Silas crouched next to Roseline, puzzling over her words. How much did she really know about the boy? Why had she been able to fight so long after the first dart hit her? And how much did she know about the part that she would play in helping Gabriel fulfilling the prophecy?
“Grab the boy,” Silas ordered as he rose to his feet. “Leave the girl. Destroy the evidence.”
“You’re just going to leave her?” The sour faced man didn't look pleased. “She killed two of our brothers.”
Silas nodded sadly. “It was unavoidable. She was just protecting the man she loves.”
The man turned a critical eye on Roseline. “Does she know?”
Silas shrugged. “Only time will tell. Let’s go. We need to get Gabriel home before he wakes.”
The teenage boy approached, staring curiously down at Gabriel. His cries faded as a tranquilizer dart pierced his neck. His muscles relaxed as he fell into a deep sleep. A strange longing crossed the young boy’s face. “I don’t understand Silas. Why did she turn Gabriel? I thought she loved him…”
Patting the boy on his shoulder, Silas led him out of the cell. “Perhaps this was her ultimate act of love.”