Blackwing Witch (Chapter 11: Desperate)

Blackwing Witch is a work-in-progress but I wanted to share it while I work on the first draft. Please bear in mind that this is an unedited work, but hopefully you will still enjoy it! Image is a commission from ShadowDragon22.

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Chapter Eleven: Desperate

Wy guided Spite from shelter to shelter, taking hidden paths through heavily wooded areas and getting her to crawl through muddy underbrush, apologising for the sting of nettles and the scratch of brambles. Her sodden robes ripped and tore, but she held in her gasps and cries of pain and focused only on Spite, on keeping her calm.

Spite, for her part, didn’t hiss or growl or snap at Wy when she got to close. She pressed in at Wy’s back, keeping up a low, croaky whine, and balking whenever Wy got too far. It was clear that she was out of her depth; as a winged creature, her natural response to a threat would always have been flight, but for whatever reason, that wasn’t an option for her right now. Wy worried that she’d missed wounds on her wings — she hadn’t been able to check her very thoroughly — or that there were fractures or invisible broken bones.

Valour passed often overhead with the heavy thump of her wings against the air and her trumpeting cry of worry and betrayal. Whenever she drew near, Wy and Spite would hide, even if only to bury themselves in the mud, but the tree cover protected them; Valour was much too large a dragon to slip between the tightly packed trees.

When she landed a ways ahead, Wy laid a hand against Spire’s ruff. ‘This way, beastie,’ she said, trying to hide the cold panic she felt at that flash of blue so nearby. ‘We’ll go this way.’

But then Valour would take off again and block their other path, and Wy’s teeth chattered from the cold and Spite trembled with exhaustion, and Wy couldn’t think where they were going, where she could possibly hide a blackwing from their flying pursuers.

She started to get the feel of being herded. Valour was forcing them on toward the mountain, where they would have little cover from her and she might even be able to unleash her starfire.

If Wy were alone, there were a myriad of ways she could disappear in the swamp. But Spite was too large and too conspicuous to hide like that. Her mind kept returning to Mirran’s advice: that Spite’s only chance was to fly away. But the dragon wasn’t flying and there seemed to be nothing Wy could do to convince her to.

Finally, when Valour landed and snapped at them from the edge of the tree line, they were forced into the mountainside. Wy guided a panicked Spite from shelter to shelter while Valour gathered sparkling multi-coloured fire between her jaws and blasted the mountainside with a sound like cracking ice. The fire quickly extinguished each time, finding little sustenance on the rock and mud, but there was an almost chemical smell of burning and the air was hot and angry.

Wy didn’t know where she was leading Spite, or what she was hoping for on their mountain climb. A cave, maybe. A way down and in, where Valour couldn’t follow. But their path only took them up and up, chased by flames and predatory screeching.

They came to a cliff’s edge, with an overhang over their heads and a dizzying drop bneath their feet, the trees of the swamp nothing but fuzzy dots below them. Spite leaned over her shoulder, cawing so loudly she flinched away from her. She shuffled her feet, panicking.

‘We need to go back,’ she said, turning and pushing at Spite’s chest, heedless of the danger of the blackwing’s cruel beak. She didn’t have the strength to budge Spite, but the blackwing still shuffled back, still cawing, wings shuffling.

Valour appeared above them with a burst of wind, the beat of her wings almost blowing Wy from the mountainside.

‘It’s over!’ Lady Arielle stood up on the noble dragon’s shoulders, her hair a gleaming golden pennant streaming behind her, her armour sparkling against the molten sunset sky. Valour screeched, claws grasping at the air.

Mirran slid down her back; Valour dipped her long tail, letting the squire safely drop the last ten feet to the ground. It was a practiced motion, intimidating to behold, but nothing so much as the grim expression on Mirran’s face.

Mirran drew the sword at her belt with the swish and ring of sliding steel.

Spite hissed at her from behind Wy’s shoulder. There was a sound like gas bubbling to the surface of the swamp and she opened her mouth, green gathering there with the horrible stench of poison.

‘No!’ Wy grabbed Spite around the neck, but it was too late. Spite coughed, and a crystalline green rock flew from her mouth in a cloud of green gas. Mirran dove aside; the rock splintered on the ground where she’d stood, exploding into smaller chunks and flying in all directions.

Mirran coughed, covering her mouth, and staggered away from the impact site.

Wy looked up at Spite, who still watched Mirran with her green eyes narrowed.

‘This is it,’ said Mirran, striding away from the poison cloud. ‘There’s nowhere else to run.’

There was a strange emphasis on that word.

Above, Lady Arielle cried, ‘Step away from the blackwing, Wydis of Amys Mor. I have no desire for you to share its fate.’

Wy looked at Spite, still panting with panic, green still dribbling from her fearsome beak. Her eyes were fixed on the dragon trading air above them; her feathers were rumpled, her back arched.

Nowhere else to run.

She turned to the blackwing, starting shoving her toward the edge. ‘You have to go, Spite.’ She pushed her hard, throwing all her strength into the movement. ‘You have to fly, Spite! It’s your only chance.’

Spite croaked and shuffled away from Wy’s blows, which were having almost no effect.

‘This is your last warning!’ Lady Arielle called. Multi-coloured light gathered between Valour’s open jaws.

‘Go!’ Wy tried to shove Spite again.

‘Wydis! You need to move!’ Mirran hissed, rushing forward.

Valour blasted the edge of the cliff. Stone crumbled; fire pushed. And then Wy was falling.

‘WYDIS!’ Mirran screamed.

Wind whipped at her at a horrifying speed. Her entire body was ice and the world was a sickening blur. In a matter of seconds, she would be splattered and broken across the swamp ground.

Then a shadow with green eyes spread above her, and her flesh ripped as black claws grasped her around her middle, and she was carried in a darting, screaming flight away from the mountain, with Valour’s cries fading into the distance.

 

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