The child woke to the sound of drums.

She immediately rolled into a silent crouch on her hands and knees, tense. Her eyes saw nothing in the darkness of her tent but her ears heard movement just outside. Hushed voices whispered softly, the clarity of their words stolen by the night wind.

She couldn’t make out their words, but she knew who they were. She knew why they were here.

The drums that had woken her were silent now. The sound hadn’t come from the creatures that stalked beside her tent. It had come from within her, the result of an enchantment she cast every time she went to sleep. The drums heralded only one thing — danger.

The little girl reached for the ball of woolen twine she kept in the pouch around her waist, pushing aside the thin four-inch metal rods and soft lentral resin inside in favor of a more defensive weapon. She avoided severely hurting people, even those born of the Aegis, if she could.

The voices had stopped talking.

She knew they were about to pounce. But she had no intention of letting them make the first move.

In just a split second, she instinctively harnessed the magyck in her veins and she pushed — hard. An unseen force blew out the tent, ripping it in half and sending the dark canvas flapping chaotically in the wind, the long thick poles lashing out into the night.

She heard dull thuds and low grunts as the poles hit two Aegean creatures. Her eyes took only a moment to adjust to her surroundings. The sky, alive with stars, gave her more than enough light to see by.

Two Aegean were sprawled on the ground, slow to rise again. The dark purple of their figures was a stark contrast to the grassy plains that spread out around them. Their bodies, though still somehow recognizable as once being human, were covered in an assortment of scales and feathers. Large patches of human flesh could still be seen between the unlikely plumage. What was left of this was largely discolored and wrinkled, covered in scabs and leaving little to be desired.

A third creature of the Aegis stood to one side, its red beady eyes staring at her with a great deal of interest. When it spoke, its voice was gravelly and dark, dripping with the poison of a dark moon.

“You cannot run from usssss,” it hissed. “The Aegisssss shows the way, yesssss. No one can essssscape itssssss eye.”

The child’s voice rose up in defiance, laced with a golden glow that shined brightly, even in the night. “Sondra will never have me.”

“But it isssss inevitable, little one,” said the creature. “Your blood — the white blood of the Hassssst — will run through the Aegisssss once again. We will be freed.”

The girl noticed the other two Aegean had managed to stumble back on their feet again. They were shuffling cautiously towards her now, expecting a trick but not knowing which one.

The child smiled and replied, “Not on my blood, you’re not.”

She immediately threw the ball of twine into the air, snapping her wrists towards the three Aegean. Magyck flowed and the twine unravelled faster than the eye could follow, spreading and weaving out in a confusing web over the three Aegean.

The girl snatched one end of the twine with magyck and shot it at the face of the Aegean that had spoken to her. The end of twine shot up its nose, moving through the Aegean’s nasal cavities and down its throat before finally exiting through its mouth.

The moment the twine came out of its mouth, she shot it towards the other two, ignoring the gags of the first Aegean. The web overhead came down as she did so, wrapping itself loosely around the three creatures before snapping tight and pulling them harshly together.

The twine end she had been controlling moved through the noses and mouths of the other two Aegean, pulling hard and scratching the insides of their throats as it began finishing its efforts to tie them together in the most uncomfortable manner possible.

The creatures were coughing and gagging as the twine bit into their throats. They hardly seemed to notice it was also digging into their skin, prying at their scales and drawing blood darker than a moonless night.

“The– ugh-argh– Aegisssss will find you a– grr-eugh –gain,” one of the creatures warned, amidst coughs.

The girl watched them for a moment with hard eyes. The Aegean were wriggling, but the twine wouldn’t break. Her magyck was too strong for that.

“Let it try,” she growled fiercely.

The creatures hissed at her but she paid them no mind. She needed to find a safe place, far from here.

She didn’t know where to go, but she began to walk anyway.


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