“We can’t stop moving,” he told them as he looked left and started off into the trees. He saw large boulders up ahead, stacked on top each other. One of them stuck out, creating a covered area that would protect them from the falling branches. He ran full speed ahead, looking back once to make sure that everyone in their group was moving in the same direction.
Jacque screamed as a branch landed next to her, and had Fane not pushed her out of the way, it would have landed right on top of her.
After what seemed like the longest run of their lives, they poured into the covered area. Vasile and the other males pushed the ladies behind them against the rock wall and covered them from the opening as branches continued to snap and fall all around them.
Jacque looked at the other females, ensuring that they were all okay, and then let out a laugh laced with sarcasm.
“What happened to, ‘the pixies aren’t evil, the pixies won’t hurt us, the pixies blah, blah, blah?’” She let out a frustrated growl. “Because I hate to break it to you, but they just tried to crush us like bugs with tree branches. Anyone think that maybe means they aren’t into negotiations?”
When no one answered her, she slumped back against the wall in frustration and fear.
Vasile, Fane, Adam, and Gavril did not turn around until the commotion outside had stopped and a branch-free twenty minutes had passed. Finally, when they did turn around, the males checked their mates over with a near-embarrassing thoroughness.
“Jacquelyn, I am going to overlook your insolence because of the stress and fear we are all experiencing. In the future, however, it would be wise of you to remember that though I am your father-in-law, I am also your Alpha.”
Jacque lowered her head, her wolf wanting to submit, though Jacque wanted to tell him to shove it because she was so upset about her mate and her friends being in danger.
Vasile turned away. “What do you think this means?” he asked, directing his question to Gavril.
Gavril pulled Rachel closer to him, needing to reassure himself that she had made it through the treachery unscathed.
“It could mean that Desdemona has already secured the pixies' loyalty,” he answered as he looked out into the now-destroyed forest.
“That is my thought as well,” Vasile agreed.
“Do we really need to talk with them?” Alina asked, speaking up for the first time in a while.
Vasile, like the other males, looked out into the forest, eyes scanning, watching for any potential danger. “Mischievous beings tend to know things that honest ones do not.”
“So, in other words, yes, we need to talk to the little demons,” Jacque quipped.
Vasile took a tentative step out from underneath the cover of the rock. He looked around and above them into the forest, attempting to scent anything that might give away the enemies' next move.
“Be vigilant,” he told them as he took Alina’s hand and began to move back into the forest. Their progress was much slower as they maneuvered around and over branches.
The day quickly turned into night as the sun sank into the horizon, taking the last of the light with it. They set up camp in an area with few surrounding trees so as to keep from being under potentially deadly branches. The males once again got a fire started. They ate some of the Fae food that Adam had brought with him, which was more satisfying than the bread and other items they had each packed for themselves. They all gathered around the fire, seeking its warmth against the night chill.
“Vasile,” Jacque looked at her father-in-law from across the fire, “can you explain a little about why the supernatural races are so divided? Why was the In Between even brought into existence?”
Vasile took a deep breath as he pulled Alina closer as she sat in front of him, between his bent legs.
“Come now, Alpha.” Alina patted his leg. “We can still be diligent and listen to you speak.”
Alina, obviously knowing her mate better than the others, knew that he was debating the wisdom of distracting everyone with a story.
“Alright,” he said with a slight smile as he looked down at his mate. He looked back up at Jacque and began.
“There was a time when the supernaturals were united. Not necessarily best friends, but comrades in arms, if you will. Had there ever been a need for us to join together, then we would not have hesitated to do so. There was a balance between good and evil in the world. Over time, however, the balance began to shift. As you know, the witches began to grow in number and their magic began to corrupt those who once stood for good. The witches wanted power, always more power. It was never enough. They learned ways to take that power from other supernaturals, and that was the beginning of the disintegration of the cooperation among us.
“Everyone became suspicious of each other, not trusting whether the witches had corrupted them or not. It got so bad that, not only were different races at odds with each other, but each race began to fight amongst itself. The Canis lupis became divided, the warlocks, the trolls, pixies, even the witches began to fight within their own ranks. From there everything just fell apart. No one trusted, no one believed in the good of another being.
“The supernatural races began to slip into seclusion from one another and the magic that came with their unity is fading still. The Fae’s exit from this realm caused the biggest decline in magical power. Desdemona might not realize it, but even though what she is doing is horrible and could quite possibly kill us all, she is also uniting us.”
“The enemy of my enemy,” Jacque murmured.
“Exactly,” Vasile confirmed. “The Great Luna and her decision to join two races has pushed it one step further. We might just have a chance if we can get the Fae to come out from behind their veil.”
The fire crackled in the silence, the orange light dancing across their faces, giving off an eerie glow. The night was quiet. No animals scurried, the wind didn’t howl through the trees. All was still in the Carpathian Mountains.
Then the silence was broken – there was a soft humming, followed by words:
“As i went down to the river to pray
Studyin about that good ol' way and who shall wear the starry crown?
Good Lord show me the way!
O sisters let's go down
Lets go down, Come on down
O sisters lets go down
Down in the river to pray
As I went down in the river to pray
Studyin about that good ol way
And who shall wear the robe & crown