The northwestern border lay before her, but the last light of the sun had faded into the west before she could find the river that would lead her back through the lycan territory. Without the river as her guide, it would be too difficult to proceed through the dense trees in the dark, and she cursed that she didn't have Varg's powerful night vision. She would have gladly foregone sleep to get home sooner. The autumn night was chilly, and she would not get much rest anyway.
With a defeated sigh she propped her spear against a tree and rummaged in her bag for her tinderbox. As soon as she got a campfire going, she would put up a barrier that would protect her as she slept alone beneath the stars.
Her fire was coming to life when she heard a strange sound in the distance. An uncomfortable but familiar feeling seized her. She quickly tossed a few more dried branches onto her fire, hoping to create as much light as possible as she grabbed her spear and looked all around her. She sensed concern from Varg, but she didn't want to alarm him. She hated to do it to him, but she had to put up a block.
There was a loud crash in the distance that sounded as if a tree had fallen and that was when she heard the snarls and growls.
She had spent too many years hunting them and observing their destructive nature to mistake their sounds for anything else, and she quickly dashed off into the thick trees. It was dangerous for her to confront demons in the dark, as they were always at their strongest, and their senses the keenest, but where there were demons; a tear could not be far.
The faint glow of the crescent moon and stars were her only light as she raced towards the sounds, and at last, she skidded to a halt when she saw the unmistakable anomaly of an eerie purple glowing dimensional rift.
She paused for a moment to consider if it was within her right to seal this tear. Lord Anshar had relieved her of her duty, but she still possessed the light of Tiamet. Was it wrong to use her gift when she was no longer a priestess? Not being a priestess had never stopped her from using her power when she had a been a young girl, and there was no way she could allow such a tear to remain unsealed; there was no one else.
She rushed forward and raised her hands and called upon the Goddess, and to her relief, her powers surged forth, and the white light of her purification began to overtake the swirling purple vortex.
She heard the sound of something rushing through the forest towards her, followed by the deafening crash of another large tree being toppled over, and she jumped back in time to avoid the branches that nearly struck her, and that was when she saw it - a demon chariot.
In the dull purple light of the tear, she could see two massive demonic beasts with horns so black they seemed to absorb the shadows around them. They walked on all fours and were harnessed by chains to a chariot that was dark and menacing, the hubs of its wheels covered in razor-sharp blades. Riding in the chariot was a humanoid demon, but its face caused her to gasp in shock; this demon had eyes.
In all her years of battling demons, they had always been earless and eyeless, yet able to see and hear, but this wraith had eyes of solid black. There weren't even any whites to its eyes, but she knew it was staring down at her. She watched as the strange wraith raised its sword high, a dark weapon from the Chaos Dimension and with its other hand it cracked the reins, and the chariot came barreling towards her.
Even the thickness of the trees could not stop the dark charioteer as his bestial demons charged forward smashing down trees with their heavy black horns. Halea ran as fast as her legs could carry her, but no matter how she turned and dodged through the forest, the beasts plowed through the trees after her.
She approached a rocky outcropping and scrambled as high as she could just as the chariot caught up with her. The wraith let out a strange inhuman shrieking sound in agitation at her escape. She took advantage of her elevation and leaped down from the rocks, her spear blazing as she landed into the chariot and clashed weapons with the humanoid demon who snarled at her, revealing silvery teeth, all as sharp as knives.
She had never battled such a demon before. Its moves were lightning fast, and she was in terrible danger by fighting in such close proximity. The beasts had taken liberty of their master's predicament to run wild through the forest, and Halea was struggling to maintain the upper hand in the battle while desperately trying not to be tossed out of the chariot. The beasts caused a wake of devastation as they mowed down trees and the Chariot jumped into the air as the vehicle's wheels were pulled over some obstacle, causing the wraith to lose its balance and topple out of the back of the chariot. Halea grabbed the reins, which were chains, in her desperate attempt to not be thrown from the chariot when she had an idea, and she forced her power to flow through the metal of the chains. Her purification powers pulsed down the chains, and the beasts let out a terrible shriek as the white light engulfed them, causing them to come to a screeching halt as they both exploded into a flame of white.
Halea leaped down from the Chariot, her knees shaking and her heart pounding, but there was no time to recover as the wraith reappeared and charged. Anger consumed her, causing her entire body to burn with the light of Tiamet. She attacked the humanoid demon with all her strength until finally she managed to send its sword flying into the trees and the moment it was at her mercy she ran the creature through with her charged spear and watched as it burst into the white light of purification and was gone.
She was shaking all over, but she had to move, she had to return to the tear as quickly as possible before more of those strange new demons appeared. She ran back through the forest, easily finding her way by following the path of destruction left by the bestial demons until at last she once again stood before the tear. She raised her hands and called upon the Dragon Mother, and to her relief, the tear snapped shut with a deafening roar, and at last, she allowed herself to collapse upon the forest floor.
She was gasping for breath, trembling, and sweating profusely, despite the freezing night air.
"You shouldn't have sealed it, Halea. This is no longer your fight."
She looked up to find a dark shadow standing before her, and she felt another wave of panic. Had the demons changed so much that they had learned how to speak? She jumped to her feet and brandished her spear before her.
"Who are you? How do you know my name?" she shouted as she glared at the dark figure.
She watched as the tall form stepped from beneath the trees and into a small patch of moonlight, and she gasped as she saw the flowing silver hair and the unmistakable face of Lord Anshar. Her hands tightened around her spear as she stood motionless in confusion and terror.
"Impossible…it can't be! It just can't!" she thought.
"Lord…Anshar?" she asked. Perhaps this was a ghost or some trick of the Chaos Dimension. "It can't be you; you're dead. How?"
The corners of his lips rose ever so slightly, resulting in an unnerving grin that instantly made her uncomfortable, and that was when she noticed his eyes. She couldn't explain what it was at first, but something was wrong, very wrong. Lord Anshar's silver eyes had always been so kind and sad before, but now they seemed…hungry.
When she finally forced herself to look away from his spellbinding gaze, she noticed it; his armor had turned black.
"You're not Lord Anshar. Who are you?"
"It is I, Halea. The one who pulled you from the fire. The one who failed to seal the convergence away, causing the death of your mother. I, who relieved you of your duty as a priestess."
Halea began trembling all over. No one but Lord Anshar could know such things.
"Lord Anshar, it is you! What happened to you? How did you survive? How is this possible?"
"Don't be afraid, Halea," he said softly, as he stepped closer towards her. He could smell her fear, and the pounding of her heart was almost deafening to him. Her beautiful hazel green eyes were wide and reflective in the moonlight. "Everything will be all right, Halea. I have survived the Chaos and returned, and now I know what must be done to set us free."
"Set us free? But how?"
"I need you to trust me, Halea. Please, tell me you trust me."
She hesitated, she couldn't help it. She knew this was Lord Anshar, but something was wrong, something inside of her was warning her to be on her guard. She couldn't help clutching her spear all the tighter as he took yet another step towards her.
"Halea, I would never hurt you. You know this. For you, I gave my life."
She couldn't help it as tears of guilt welled up in her eyes, but she gulped and choked them back. She had tried so hard to convince herself his sacrifice had been for everyone, but now she couldn't deny it anymore.
"Why? Why me?"
"Because you see me, Halea, only you have ever truly seen me. Only you have ever cared about my pain, only you could see it, and only you have ever tried to bring happiness into my life. How could I ever kill you? I defied my Goddess and shirked my duty, all to protect you. Please…can't you trust me?"
"Lord Anshar, I do trust you…it's just…I…"
She gasped in shock as he effortlessly yanked her spear from her trembling hands and tossed it to the ground beside her.
"You won't need that anymore," he explained as she looked up at him in horrified confusion.
"All my long life, I have faithfully served Tiamet, and prayed every day that an end would come to all our suffering - but an end never came. Countless lives have been lost, and for what? We are only prolonging the inevitable. The very order of the universe is being defied by not allowing Chaos to converge with our world. If the convergence could only happen, everything would be different; there wouldn't be any more tears or demons, no more suffering, no more death. We could be free. We could both be free, Halea, you and I, together."
He had clasped her upper arms and pulled her into him, causing her to wince in discomfort at being so close against his sharp armor. She couldn't tear her eyes away from his as he gazed down at her, and she was sure he could feel her trembling uncontrollably.
"Don't fight anymore, Halea," he said softly, as his face leaned down towards hers, but then she felt it. In that one moment, she had allowed her block to slip, and the flood of emotions from Varg forced her to shake off the confusion from her mind.
"Please, don't," she pleaded as she quickly turned her head before his lips could claim hers, and that was when he saw it - the mark. Her hair had moved aside revealing the prominent mating mark emblazoned upon her flesh, and anger both hot and deadly seized him as he was forced to remember.
Images flashed before his mind, scattered and confused among moments of darkness and terror, but it all came rushing back to him. The wolf. She had given her love to another. She had given her soul to another.
She watched in fear as Lord Anshar's eyes became elliptical in shape and his face twisted in what appeared to be pain and anger and even confusion, his grip becoming painfully tight as he seemed to shake with rage. She could tell something wasn't right with his mind. She could see it clearly now. The Chaos had done something horrible to him, twisted him into some dark shadow of his true self, and she could sense Varg panicking on her behalf across their bond.
"Lord Anshar…please…you're hurting me…"
"You gave yourself…to HIM!" he shouted, and she tried to pull away, but he would not allow her, and his grip only tightened.
"You were not meant for him; you were never meant for him! I will destroy him! I will erase this mark. I will…"
He stopped and gasped as a dart shot into his throat, causing him to release Halea from his grip as he staggered back and removed the projectile.
"Run, Halea!" shouted a woman's voice, and Halea looked in time to see Mama Dragon tucking away her blowgun. Without another thought, she turned, snatched her spear from the forest floor, and took off into the trees with the priestess as Lord Anshar staggered and growled in frustration. He moved to stop her but only fell to his knees as the toxins in the dart began to blur his vision and cause the world to spin.
"Halea!" he shouted into the night after her.
Halea could hear Lord Anshar calling for her, but she did not look back as she ran beside Mama Dragon as they moved deeper into the forest. "Hurry! That tranquilizer would have instantly knocked out any other therian, but for one as powerful as Lord Anshar, it will only slow him down. You must reach the safety of your mate before he can recover."
When Mama Dragon was sure they were far enough ahead, she skidded to a halt and turned to Halea. "He is killing priestesses, Halea. I have to go back to Antherose and warn the others. You must return to the lycans. We can only hope he would not dare to attack so many other therians in their stronghold just to get to you. You must stay close to Varg. I think he wants to break your bond," she explained. Mama Dragon had arrived in time to hear Lord Anshar threaten Halea's mate. The fact that he had not killed her when he had the chance only confirmed a suspicion she had long held.
"But he can't; that's not possible," Halea cried as she caught her breath.
"I have seen therians steal mates from other therians where I come from. Stay close to Varg. You two must protect each other at all costs. Lord Anshar is mad; there is no telling what he will do."
"But how will you get back? He's still out there!"
"Rufus will guide me," explained Mama Dragon, and for the first time Halea looked up to notice the falcon soaring above.
"That won't be enough, once he's recovered, he could track your scent. Here," she said as she pulled a small flask from her robe. "Drink this. It will hide your scent from any therian, but you must promise me you won't tell anyone about this. No one at all, please."
"I give you my word, Halea," she said as she accepted the small flask and Halea watched as she opened the small container, only to stop and look up at her with worried eyes. "But what about you? He'll track you."
"He won't hurt me…I'm sure of it, but if what you say is true, he'll kill you if he finds you. We passed a stream a little way back; I'm sure that's the one that will lead me home. If I hurry, I can safely make it into lycan territory. Please, take it."
Mama Dragon nodded and quickly downed the potion. "Hurry now, Halea."
"Wait!" cried Halea as Mama Dragon turned to leave. "He said he wants our dimensions to converge. He said we should stop fighting it."
"He's not the same Lord Anshar we once knew, and if he thinks we're going to give up the fight, he's got another think coming."
"Thank you," said Halea as she embraced the motherly priestess before they split apart and sped in opposite directions.
She could sense Varg was coming for her, and she had to find him.
A note from your humble author: Creepy new demons! What does it mean? Well Lord Anshar does not seem particularly happy to learn Halea's got a mate. This might be bad news. What's Varg going to do? Tune in next chapter to find out. Same bat time. Same bat channel!
Thank you to everyone who has been reading the story. If you're this far into book 2, I take it you're enjoying the story. If so, please let me know what you think. I love hearing from you guys!
Extra thanks and shout out to EsterSusanaMariaTerisaCatalyna and my Guest commentator for the feedback. Thank you guys!
8/24/20: The Convergence series is now complete. Torn Apart has been removed in its entirety for publishing. These are sample chapters only. The complete series is now only available in ebook and paperback. Please see my blog to find how you can obtain a copy of the Convergence series.