Krade wakes up in the ashes of his village, confused and disoriented. He should be dead; the flames should have killed him too. But they didn’t, and he doesn’t know why. Desperate to escape the guilt haunting him like a ghost, he joins the Hunters, a band that captures outlaws; human and other. But as Krade gets to know the Hunters and their prisoners, he starts to question who he should trust. One thing is certain, if the Hunters find out what he can do, he’ll be the one in the cage.
Irelle’s convinced she’s cursed. Why else would everyone she’s ever loved have died or disappeared? A weaver living alone in a fishing village, she’s built a wall around herself, shielded from anymore pain. Her only escape is the ocean, where her tail doesn’t have to be a secret, and her voice can sing with no limits, moving water into anything she can imagine. She never imagined anyone would ever see her. Torn from her peaceful existence and locked in a cage she can’t escape, she finds the walls that protected her for so long slowly crumbling away. And the person that she hates the most might be her only chance of escape.
All Fenn wants is to avenge his mother, killed in the fire that destroyed his entire village. The only people he can blame are the king and his lords. He takes from them what they love most, their riches. He’s famous, he’s the thief who can’t be caught, a myth, a legend. Then he’s captured by the Hunters and his temporary fame disappears. But Fenn isn’t just a thief, he has another secret, the secret to his seeming invincibility.
Mahna’s been a prisoner her whole life, locked in a tower by her uncle. She thinks it’s because she’s a threat to his throne, but that doesn’t explain why the walls of her tower room are wooden or why nothing she has is metal. When given the chance to escape her tower and her new betrothed, Mahna takes it, only to fall into the hands of the Hunters. There, secrets about herself unravel to reveal so much more than just a pretty bird.
As secrets and hidden pasts come to the surface, their stories become tangled, a web with connections they can’t even imagine. As mysterious darkness threatens everything they’ve ever known, they might just be the only hope their world has. But how do you save people that want you caged? And how do you fight beside someone who is supposed to be your enemy?
He is a murderer, and he should be dead; the fire should have killed him too. Krade lies exhausted in the wasteland of ash and burnt wood. Smoke still clings to the air, lying over the once living place like hot, dark fingers. He can still breathe clearly, smoke passing through his lungs as easily as fresh air. Smoke curls off him like the whispers of the raging flames that had engulfed his vision only moments before. Yet not a dark hair on his head is scorched, and he feels only as warm as if he had been sitting by a hearth fire for a little too long.
Krade lies still, wishing to dissolve into nothing and be blown away like the ashes. His eyelids threaten to close, to bring welcome darkness, when a glimmer of light catches his vision. He rolls over and crawls to the only sight of light he has seen since the fire. His knee hits something hard and he stumbles. A cracked, gray object pokes out of the still warm embers. Krade feels revulsion twist in his gut as he looks at it more closely. It is a bone, grayed and cracked from the heat, speckled black and red with burnt flesh. The rest of the body lies in the ashes, surrounded by liquor bottles and the remains of barrels that had once been filled with a substance the Krade despises over everything else. The smoke-stained heads of farm tools lay scattered around. A flurry of images collide in his mind, and he falls forward onto his hands, the screams of the terrified people who had died engulfing his ears. He is in the ruins of his father’s blacksmith shop, his old home reduced to smoldering cinders and smoke-stained stones.
He covers his ears until the screams recede to a dull roar. He continues crawling towards the light, which is too bright to be a flame and sharp like light reflected off metal, yet the sun’s rays are snuffed out by the heavy smoke. It feels like he’s struggling forward for hours, but it must be for only a few minutes. Krade digs the pointed object out of the cinders, determined to keep from remembering the fire. The source of the light is a sword, bright steel that seems to glow from within. It is unblemished by the fire, even the leather hilt is unscorched. He holds the blade up, his face reflected on the shining surface. His ash gray eyes flecked with orange sparks are only a reminder of what he has done. His black hair is cut uneven at his jaw, flecks of ash speckling it like gray, dead snow. The thin scar on his cheek is white against darker skin.
He watches, mesmerized, as the scene changes, fire engulfing his image in a wave of glowing orange. The wave rolls on, revealing houses being engulfed in hot orange, reducing them to cinders and ash. People with their screams ended suddenly as they are wiped away by the flood of fire. A black hooded figure steps out of the hot flames, swathed in mystery and darkness. The figure reaches out with a gloved hand, and the screams of pain rise to a crescendo. Krade drops the sword, the shining blade falling silently into the ash, the noise suddenly cut off. He sits, panting, his heart racing, before curiosity draws him back to the strange blade. Its light seems to have gone out, like a candle snuffed out between wet fingers. The once shining surface is now black and smoke-stained. The mysterious images have disappeared like a butterfly flying on the wind, stunning for a moment, then gone.
Krade digs around for the sheath, a metal creation with strange engravings decorating it, smoke-stained like the sword. He sheathes the sword and carries it out of the village, leaving behind the remains of his past even though he knows the memories will never leave him. He walks away from the skeleton of his former home, whispers filling his mind like the whispers of the dead, repeating the same words; a murderer, you’re a murderer. A murderer. He tries to shut them out but one word still echoes in his mind.
He stumbles out of the dead village in a daze, the sword in its sheath cutting a dull line in the ash behind him. It feels too heavy to carry, an unnecessary burden. Yet, he still drags it along, as if it is the last piece between him and his past, his lifeline. The sun starts to set in the sky; the purple, red, and orange slowly disappearing into black, stars littering the sky. The moon is crescent, showing only a glimpse of its brilliance. Krade lies down on the rough ground, to exhausted to do anything but sleep. He doesn’t dare light a fire, the memory of the recent events still haunting him. He still holds a small spark of life the he isn’t ready to let go of, that he isn’t ready to let the burning fire inside him consume. Then he falls asleep, into a world of darkness and empty of death and fire.
He awakens to the sun shining high in the sky. He looks away, the brightness of the sun a reminder of the past. Something seems to awaken in him, stretching and begging to be used. It feels hot and angry, hungry, desperate to feed, to turn dead things into living, to burn. Krade quickly squashes the desire, terrified of what he is becoming or of what he already is. He doesn’t dare look at the sun, the thing is barely restrained inside him. He fears it will only take one reminder and it will burst to life again. He feels a hot hollow in his chest and a presence in his back, like a weed taking root. He doesn’t understand what it is or why it is there. All he knows is that he can’t let it take control.
His stomach growls with hunger. He wanders the field until he finds a patch of dandelions, which he rips up and gathers the roots. He tries eating them raw, but they are too bitter and hard. He is too exhausted to find anything else and he doesn’t think he will remember his lessons on foraging from his childhood. More than likely, he will end up eating something poisonous and die, which he probably deserves. But something keeps him moving, from lying down and giving up on life, from letting his guilt take his will. He clears a patch of grass down to the earth and digs a shallow hole. He has no flint, so he risks lighting it with his gift. Or is it a curse? He isn’t sure. It feels like a curse, a thing of death, but maybe he can find a reason for it, a good thing in it.
He roasts the roots over the fire. They are still bitter, but he eats them anyway, like they are roasted goose or honey cakes. He has only had a honey cake once, at the harvest festival, when the people of the village crowded in the streets to celebrate a successful, new harvest.
He sits on the sidelines, hiding in the shadows of the alley. He watches the people celebrating. He knows better than to join in and that anyone selling or giving anything away won’t dare give anything to him. He’s content just to watch.
“Hey, you!” He turns to look at the source of the voice, a boy named Garit from the village. A group of boys stand behind him. “You, the drunkard’s son, what makes you think you’re welcome here?” Garit sneers.
Krade doesn’t answer, just watches him warily as he walks towards him. They circle him like wolves circle prey. He doesn’t want to hurt anybody; he just wanted to get away from his father. He stumbles back as the wind is knocked out of him. Garit attacks him with a flurry of punches. His nose starts bleeding, all he can hear is their jeers, and he can’t seem to escape. He’s knocked to the ground, and Garit leans over him, arm ready to strike.
“Why don’t you fight back?” He snarls as Krade tries to protect his face. He waits for the blow, eyes shut tight, but it never comes. He hears the sound of running feet, but doesn’t lower his arms or open his eyes.
“They’re gone. You can open your eyes now.” A gentle voice says. He opens his eyes and lowers his arms cautiously. An angelic face leans over him, with bright green eyes and framed by wisps of blonde hair. She gives him her hands and pulls him up, helping him walk behind the houses to a small cottage set apart from the others. The scent of herbs clings to the air around it. He recognizes it as the healer’s cottage; the woman must be the village healer. She leads him inside, where she cleans the blood off his face and gives him medicine for the bruises. Her nine-year-old son runs around, eager to do her bidding.
The herbs seem to make the wounds disappear before his eyes. In her search for other injuries, she uncovers scars that did not come from the boys’ cruelty. She tells him to come to her whenever he is hurt and to feel free to tell her anything. He nods, but his ten-year-old mind knows he won’t. She gives him a honey cake, fresh from her oven and wrapped in a piece of brown paper she uses to store her herbs.
He leaves and sneaks into his house through the back door, double checking that the forge is locked. He passes his father, unconscious on the floor, a half-filled bottle in his hand, dripping liquid onto the floor. Krade sits on his straw cot, eating the honey cake as slowly as possible. He falls asleep, content for the first time in a long while.
Krade lies down by the fire as stars appear in the sky. He sleeps fitfully, wakened by dreams of burning people and mysterious figures shrouded in black cloaks.
The next morning he wakes and walks on into the wood that had been behind the kind healer’s cottage. The leaves are a jumble of yellows, oranges, reds, and browns, as if the trees know about the fire, and autumn is only here to remind him of his mistakes. He finds a berry bush and faintly remembers that they are safe to eat. He eats a few before moving on, trying to put as much space as possible between him and the burnt out skeleton of his old life. He finds a slow-moving stream and washes in it, removing any traces of soot and ash left on him. He keeps moving, eating whenever he finds food and drinking whenever possible. He has no idea where he is going, or what he is going to do next, but he keeps moving on.
After a few days of wandering and getting stronger, he comes across a well-worn road, most likely the road that leads to what is left of the village and to what is beyond. He follows it in the cover of the trees, cautious of anything that moves.
One day, as he follows the road, he hears the sound of feet walking and wheels turning. Quickly, he lays down on the higher ground overlooking the road and watches the procession pass. It is a caravan of heavily armed men, wagons, and a cage made of a dark metal set on top of a wagon pulled by cart horses. The cage has three walls of solid metal and a latticed door and roof, letting light in and allowing the thing held inside to be seen. Krade can’t name the thing inside. It has the face and body of a man. At the ends of its fingers long reptilian claws grow, and patches of scales cover its arms. It looks male, and a pair of large, red wings erupt from its back. Its eyes look made of fire, and it hurls curses in another language that Krade doesn’t recognize but somehow understands at the men guarding it, and every time it opens its mouth, it looks as if fire boils within. The men either mock or ignore it.
He leans closer to see, trying to put a name to the beast, when the ground beneath him gives out, and he tumbles into the road. He scrambles up, ready to run, but he is already surrounded. He doesn’t even have time to draw his sword, not that it would have been much use against the numerous strong, well-equipped men, before his arms are pulled behind his back in steely grips. The creature in the cage has gone quiet. Krade can see out of the corner of his eye that it is eyeing him strangely, and that its eyes have changed to a fire-flecked gray. The men around him don’t even look surprised that a bedraggled boy has just rolled into their midst. The largest one, a deadly-looking battle axe strapped to his back, steps forward, smiling with tight lips and narrowed eyes.
“Look what the wolf dragged in!” He says, spreading his arms wide. “What are you doing out here, far away from any sign of life? And not even following the road.”
Another man chuckles, “Maybe he was chasing birds and strayed far from home.” A few others join in with his laughter. Krade ignores them, he’s used to others’ jeers.
“Let the boy talk. Unless you want to be the next on feeding duty?” The big one growls, glaring each of them down as they quickly become quiet. In the blink of an eye, his face becomes friendly, though his ice blue eyes stay cold and deadly. Turning back to Krade, he says. “Now you can answer my question.” The way he says it gives Krade the impression that he doesn’t have much choice.
“I’m from the village Kregis,” He gestures to the west with his head, since he can’t move his arms, “It burned down in a fire.”
The man nods. “We saw the smoke. We went to see what happened, and if the culprit was still hanging around. There was nothing left, just ashes. Couldn’t even see the sun once we were inside, the smoke was so thick. But you probably already knew that, right?” Krade nods, the picture of the remains still fresh in his mind. “Probably happened nearly two weeks ago, right?” Krade nods again. “How come you survived? Unless you had something to do with it?” He leers close, and Krade has to swallow hard to keep from coughing. The man’s teeth are crooked and rotten, his breath reeking like rotting meat.
“I wasn’t in the village at the time. I was out hunting. When I came back, there was nothing left. I’ve been moving away ever since, looking for another village.” He quickly lies, trying not to gag.
“Then why weren’t you on the road?” His interrogator asks, looking unconvinced.
“I just found it. I came out of the village from the north side where my father’s shop was, and it took me a while to find it. I thought it was safer to just follow the road at a distance, under the cover of trees, since whoever started the fire might still be...out there.” He trails off, afraid he’s said too much.
“Sounds believable.” Krade relaxes a little. “What kind of shop did your father have?”
Strange question. Krade thinks but complies. “Blacksmith.”
“Did you work with him?”
Another strange question. “Yes.”
“So, you have experience with weapons?”
Again, strange question. “Yes.”
“Then why were you hunting with a sword?” The man, clearly the leader, gestures to the sword on his back. Even stranger question. Then his heart sinks in realization.
Trying not to tense, he quickly answers. “I...I wasn’t, my father made this sword for me, and I took it with me, along with his bow. It broke while I was out, and that’s why I came back without...anything.” Talking to much! He is acutely aware of the strong hands on his arms. The man they are attached to could probably snap them like twigs. “I left it behind when I left. No use bringing along a broken bow when I can easily make a new one.” I don’t know how to make a bow! I’ve never hunted in my life! He’s screaming at himself inside but tries to appear calm and honest.
“Alright, since you have experience hunting and mending weapons, we might have some use for you besides dragon’s lunch. Would you be willing to join the Hunters?” The leader asks.
Willing? More like do it or die. He thinks but asks instead, “What exactly do you do?” So the thing in the cage is a dragon, though every story Krade has ever heard about the creatures is that they are giant, fire-breathing, reptilian beasts, not human-like.
“We catch beasts like this one.” The leader gestures at the dragon, who growls. “And outlaws to bring to the king and his lords to punish.”
Why have I never heard of you? He wants to ask but bites his tongue. Pretty sure you would feed me to the dragon if you knew the truth. He will have to guard his secret carefully. I’ll travel with them, do what they say, until we reach whatever prison they’re bringing this dragon too. Then I’ll disappear and go somewhere where I can never hurt anyone again, maybe hide in a cave in the Henama Mountains. “I’ll join you,” he says.
“Good.” The leader nods behind him. The grip on his arms release, and he tumbles to the ground. He stands up and dusts himself off. “I don’t care what your given name is, you will be called Omega as long as you are with us or unless you work your way up. I’m Alpha and you will address your betters with their proper titles.” He leans in close. “Understood?”
Krade tries not to gag. “Yes, Alpha.”
“You catch on quick! Now, you will take over Psi’s place as the dragon’s personal guard and feeder. Make sure you don’t let it get out. You will also do anything else we tell you.” Addressing the Hunters, he bellows, “Everybody! Back to work!”
Krade walks over to the dragon’s cart, watching it, him, Alpha called it a him, carefully. He sits in the middle of the cage, watching Krade through slitted eyes. He looks around, then moves forward. Krade notices he stays far away from the metal bars of the cage. The dragon grins at him, revealing sharp teeth. Then he opens his mouth and asks, “How do you feel about being bottom wolf?”
“What?” Krade whispers, surprised, after making sure nobody is watching.
“Didn’t you notice? This pack of dogs is set up like a wolf hierarchy. Watch your back, you’re the bottom.” The dragon quickly stops talking and feigns ignorance as one of the Hunters walks over. Krade nearly loses the little food he has in him upon smelling the man’s breath.
The Hunter eyes the beast, “Handsome specimen, ain’t he? We were lucky we caught him unawares otherwise we’d have lot worse than Sigma being burned and the last Psi ending up dead. That’s why Psi now is no longer Omega. He’s probably glad to have someone under him for once. Alpha’s been looking for a recruit for a while yet, lucky for you. You’d be dragon meat by now if he wasn’t so desperate for more hands around.” He laughs and pats Krade on the back, causing him to stumble.
Not noticing, or caring, he continues. Krade tries to follow his rant. “Normally we don’t catch dragons, they’re usually too smart to wander over the border. If this one had gone into war-form we would have all been toast. Their war-form is the reptilian one in all the tales. Impenetrable skin, fire-wielding, long claws, strong enough to carry a grown man into the air; terrifying, and all true. These monsters aren’t just in legends. Lucky for us this one was wounded, see, his arm’s bandaged, so he couldn’t change form. Mostly we catch draci, nymphs, a few elves, maybe a fairy, a few dwarves dumb enough to go above ground, and rarely dragons. Never caught a mer. They stay in the water, attack from there. The few that are powerful enough to change from their tails into legs are very hard to catch and sly. That’s where we’re heading next, heard rumor of a fishing village where a mer is living, supposed to be very powerful. So, this will be fun to tackle.” He rubs his hands together with anticipation.
Krade hardly notices him, his heart sinking. He had hoped they would be heading directly to deliver the dragon to the king. Besides, this sounds dangerous, and unless they have another cage, he doesn’t know where they’re going to keep this mer. There have been wars between dragons and mer for centuries, and he doesn’t think they will be agreeable now. The dragon, who had obviously been listening, looks angry and a little terrified. The Hunter, oblivious, continues, “I’m Upsilon, by the way. If you have any questions you can ask me. Now, I better get back to work before Alpha notices.” He walks away, and Krade and the dragon both breathe a sigh of relief.
The dragon’s face is pure hate. “I hate that one almost as much as I hate Alpha and Psi. Never stops talking, and he was the one who clipped my wing.” He lifts one of his red wings, where the tip is clipped and healing, blood crusting the edge. “So, what’s your business here? You obviously were lying.” Krade looks at him, startled. “Don’t look so surprised, you’ve got scars that definitely didn’t come from smith work, and your sword is firesteel, a metal only dragons or draci can wield; it burns anyone else. You can’t be a dragon unless you lost your wings, so you’re most likely a draci.”
Krade glares, hiding the fear clawing at his belly. “I got my scars from my father. And why do you care if I’m lying or not?”
“I don’t, but you know you shouldn’t be here and that you’re different. You’ll just have to figure it out yourself.” The dragon turns away, and Krade continues to walk, the fire inside him burning hotter, and the dark presence in his back growing stronger.
He feeds the dragon as instructed and then sets up the bedroll he was given when they stopped. He stares at the stars, unable to sleep, the wheels in his brain turning. Just over two weeks ago he was working in his father’s forge, dreaming about the world outside, where he isn’t just a motherless drunkard’s son, but now he’s out in the world, and he’s not sure he wants to be here. He doesn’t dare unsheath the sword, fearing what he will see and the cold blue eyes watching him. Memories of the past come unbidden, and he stays up late into the night, remembering.
embers one night when he was about thirteen years his father actually left a scar on him for the first time. Before, Krade had been smart enough to stay in his room or hide whenever his father took to drinking. And his father had never left anything worse than bruises. But this time had been different. His father had hunted him down ruthlessly and struck him over and over. He had tried to run but there was no where to go. He had taken it steadily, knowing the less he fought the sooner it would be over, his father discouraged by no reaction. Instead of giving up and leaving Krade to lick his wounds and pretend his life wasn’t what it was, his father had grabbed a kitchen knife off the table and swiped. He had only cut his cheek, just deep enough for a scar to be left behind, before Krade had ducked away and bolted out the side door. He had stayed away for a day before he came back, hungry and frozen from the heavy snows.
He had never left anything sharp out or forgotten to lock up the forge since then. That was the night he had realized how much he hated his mother, huddled at the foot of a tree, hiding from the wind. He’s always hiding, even now. Why had his mother left? Was it because of his father? Then why leave a baby behind? Why had his mother left him with his father to be beaten by him and ridiculed by the villages? Where is she now? Probably safe and warm, the little boy she had abandoned forgotten in the blur of life.
All the times the healer had healed him makes her feel more like a mother to him than anybody else. He wishes he could have thanked her and regrets not doing it until it was too late. He wishes he knew what started the fire and why he had survived. He wishes he could remember. Maybe the dragon is right, he is draci, another monster to fear, to be caged.
They rise before the sun, and it rises before them as they travel. Alpha says they need to get to the mer as soon as possible as they have other criminals to catch. After the mer they are to go after a thief who has robbed nearly every lord’s castle in a few weeks and that nobody has been able to catch. Krade’s gut twists every time he hears of the thief’s cleverness or the mer’s power. So fun to tackle.
The land begins changing from trees and underbrush to grass and rocks. Krade is on one of Psi’s many orders, fetching him slinging stones, which Krade finds pointless, as Psi doesn’t even carry a sling, much less know how to use one. He grabs a few anyway, anxious to get back and guard the dragon, who has gotten more restless as they’ve traveled.
He’s heading back to the wagons, which have stopped for the night, the sky gray twilight, when he hears shouts and a loud, ear-splitting roar. Krade breaks into a run and stops with a start; the dragon is free! He’s throwing flames at the Hunters, struggling to spread his wings enough to fly. Alpha spots Krade and runs over angrily, “What were you doing? Get in there and fight that thing and make sure it doesn’t get away!” Krade jumps to action, knowing if he doesn’t listen quickly it will hurt; he’s seen what Alpha does to the those who don’t listen quickly enough. And he needs to get his anger somewhere before he bursts; he feels the flames burning hot within. Right. Blame the little guy.
He runs forward, taking the dragon by surprise and tackling him to the ground. They roll together, the Hunters silently watching. The dragon buries his claws into Krade’s shoulders, and Krade can’t help screaming at the white hot pain. The dragon starts his fists on fire, and they roll together until the dragon stands over him, his flaming fists burning away Krade’s shirt and red blood staining the ground. The dragon leans over him, sneering, his wings blocking out the sky.
“You’re an idiot. You should have listened to me. Why do you stay here with them?” Krade looks over at Alpha, who is watching with an amused expression. Just watching. Anger burns in him at the sight. Why doesn’t he help? He’s the one that wants this dragon so badly. “They are in for the show. They love to watch suffering. They kill each other to higher their status. I watched them play with a helpless boy; they left his body in the woods for the birds. They want to watch you die. You aren’t one of them, so they are willing to give you up. They aren’t human, and frankly, neither are you. You want to stay with them, fine. I could have taken you with me, but you choose to side with these dogs. I won’t kill you, just to spite them.” He digs his claws deeper, and Krade roars and struggles. “But I won’t leave you unscarred.” Krade grits his teeth and pushes up, hard, the dragon flying off, his claws ripping out of Krade’s flesh. Krade jumps up as the dragon rushes forward, tackling him to the ground again. He digs in his claws again. He leans forward and whispers. “Burn, I know you want too. Show them who you really are, let the beast out.”
Krade catches a glimpse of the dragon’s bandaged arm and punches it, hoping to cripple him, if just for a moment. He bites back a yelp as his fist makes contact with hard muscle. “I see your arm’s better.” He says, wincing as he unclenches his fist.
“I heal fast.” He shrugs, nonchalant. “The only way you’re going to get out of my claws is if you fight back, fire with fire.”
Krade tries to shrug back, but the claws in his shoulders stop him. “You asked for it.” He pushes his hands against the dragon’s chest and lets all the heat go from him into the dragon. The dragon’s face changes from mocking to startled and confused. Krade grabs his shirt in his unharmed fist and pulls him closer as he whispers, “Not so fireproof on the inside, are you?”
“How are you doing this?” The dragon gasps, clawing at his chest with one hand, the other planted on Krade’s chest.
“I have no idea. Are you ready to go back in your cage?” He really doesn’t have any idea, he just knows how, like this is something as natural as thinking or breathing.
The dragon sneers, “No!” He leaps into the air, tugging his shirt and the heat out of Krade’s grasp and beating the air with his wings. He flies away towards the West where Drac and the Henama Mountains are waiting as Krade watches him go in shock, his hands slightly smoking and red. What did I just do? He’s terrified, not because it hurt, but because the power had felt good.
Alpha leans over him, “Nice show, Omega. To bad he got away. I think you’ve been punished enough. Get up. Get bandaged and then I want to see you back to work or you will get worse.” He walks away, leaving Krade alone on the ground wet with blood, gasping for air that he can’t seem to find and bleeding the color of the dragon’s wings.
He struggles up and stumbles to a supply wagon. He cleans the blood off and messily bandages himself. He picks out a new shirt that is a little too big. He gets out of the wagon and hides behind it as he burns the ruined shirt, the material dissolving into ash and blowing away on the autumn wind. He walks away, dusting off his hands and runs directly into Psi.
“Nice job letting the dragon out, Omega.” The bigger man growls at him. He’s the smallest of the Hunters, but he still towers over Krade like a mountain.
“I would have been guarding him, but I was collecting sling stones. You told me you would guard him.” He definitely has a tiny brain for such a big head.
Psi glares, and shoves Krade as he walks away. He winces as the burly man makes contact with his newly and badly bandaged shoulder. “Psi, here’s you stones.” He calls after him, holding the small bag in his hand as an offering and trying to hide his smirk. Psi turns back and grabs them with a growl before he stomps off again. Krade returns to his position behind the cage, which is now empty. Questions swirl around in his mind as he prepares his bedroll. How did the dragon get out? What had he meant that the Hunters “weren’t human?” Why had they watched the fight with a wolfish hunger in their eyes and refused to help?
The next day they leave early. If the other Hunters had noticed anything strange about the fight yesterday, they don’t show it. They crest a hill and below is the fishing village, people milling about their daily business, unaware of the posse watching them from above. Krade notices a small, light blonde-haired girl walk out of the village, towards the ocean, a flash of light amongst the dark.
Alpha gives his orders. The Hunters will round up the villagers into the town center, baiting the mer. Krade will take care of the mer. Krade wonders why Alpha chose him. Does he suspect anything? “Make sure we don’t have another incident.” Alpha warns.