‘He who is hideous by heart will be hideous by aspect until he finds love and love finds him. The full moon will control him. The bloodlust will drive him. He will be a beast unable to find rest until he is set free by his love.’
The chains rattle against the pavestone as the prisoner moves almost dragging his feet. Several months trapped in different dungeons across Europe have not been kind to Alex Ivanov. His black hair is greasy and covered in dry blood from himself and his victims. His muscled and prominent figure is weighed down by the number of chains on his shoulders, hands, and feet. The silver spiked collar around his neck bites and stings his flesh with every step he takes toward the carriage that will transport him to his new dungeon.
The prize of being the most persecuted man, he thinks to himself with a small smirk on his lips as one of the Guardians pokes him to move faster. Alex growls deep in his throat, and the Guardians lined up on either side of him, tensed up and bracing themselves for a fight. But Alex doesn’t want to fight. Why would he? He’s looking forward to his new jail in Istanbul. He is finally getting to where he wants to be. Istanbul is the whole reason he allowed himself to be captured in Moscow six months ago.
The carriage sways and the horses huff as the heavy six foot seven beast climbs on followed by two Guardians. Do they really think two Guardians can hold me? Alex chuckles inwardly. Of course, he could easily kill all of the Guardians as soon as they step out of the walls of the Semenov’s domain in Bulgaria and away from reinforcements. Then again, Alex has slaughtered entire villages single-handedly. But once again, resisting would defeat the purpose of his captivity. All those nagging attempts at killing him would have been for nothing. Breathe, he coaches himself. Istanbul awaits.
“Do not let him escape.” Lord Semenov growls menacingly at the Guardians. “Or else.”
The Guardians nod immediately tensing up at the unmentioned threat in Lord Semenov’s words. Honestly, Alex is amazed at the fear Semenov inflicts upon his vassals. They should not fear a mere human when they are in the presence of a monster, a beast like Alex.
“Liam!” Lord Semenov barks calling on his only son a young man of eighteen years with dark hair and bright blue eyes. “I trust you can lead the Guardians without any mishap to Istanbul.”
Liam steps away from his family after one last kiss to his mother’s hand. “I will, Father.” Liam bows to his father before climbing onto his white stallion.
“Send my regards and luck to Lord Romanove. We will all pray that he be the one to free us of the beast.” Lord Semenov spits and glares at the carriage holding Alex before stepping back to join his family on the steps of his opulent manor.
Liam nods and gives a small wave and smile in the direction of his older sisters, Jane, and Avery, his mother, and father. “Forward!” He commands his company as he digs his heels gently on the horse’s sides.
The carriage begins to move once Liam takes the lead followed by six Guardians, and bringing up the rear, behind the carriage, are eight more Guardians on horseback. The company travels at a steady and fast pace. Liam knows the horses will tire faster, but he must reach Lord Romanove’s land before nightfall. Soon the werewolves will be coming out, and the last thing Liam wants is to give them a late dinner. Of course being a hunter himself and surrounded by Guardians should make him feel as safe as anyone can be during these dark times. They could take on the beasts, but they cannot take on a werewolf that cannot be killed. Liam briefly looks back at the carriage holding Alex as a frown forms on Liam’s face. He’s puzzled that no matter how many times he and other hunters sliced the beast with silver swords or set him on fire, Alex does not die. He heals incredibly and shockingly fast even for his nature. Looking up at the gloomy sky and the sinking sun, Liam orders to pick up the pace even more.
By nightfall, they are all nervous. They still have a long way to go after all Sofia, Bulgaria is not around the corner from Istanbul. Liam and his company look everywhere as every once in a while they hear the shuffling of leaves but see nothing among the trees. Pushing the horses to their limits, they all pick up their pace. Liam, still on the lead, is the first to see the fast approaching figure up ahead.
“Prepare to engage in battle!” Liam shouts to the Guardians as they all slow down to wait for the coming threat.
The Guardians and Liam pull out their swords watching as the figure ahead moves closer still. This figure is wearing a silver armor and riding a black stallion. Liam does not know if this rider is a friend or foe, female or male. In any case, he will rather take on a human opponent than a werewolf. A werewolf is far more dangerous for obvious reasons as they are ferocious beasts, but the beasts also have the power to doom you to a cursed life with a single scratch or bite. After several tense moments, Liam relaxes and begins to lower his sword when he realizes the mysterious rider is a Guardian from Romanove as he wears the Romanove emblem, a golden snake, on the chest of his armor.
“I would not do that if I were you, Liam,” the Guardian says behind the silver helmet covering her features. Liam rolls his eyes at the new arrival and lowers his sword anyway.
“Still breaking orders and escaping are we Elena?” Liam smirks as he arches his eyebrows to his good old friend, Elena Romanove. She is the daughter of Lord Ibrahim Romanove, and the best damn huntress Liam has ever seen. Of course she is also the only huntress.
“Not this time,” Elena lifts up her helmet revealing a young woman of eighteen years with black eyes, fair skin, and perfect full lips; lips that are turned upwards in a satisfied smirk of her own. “I have permission to lead the welcoming party. My Guardians have been trailing you for miles.”
“And you have decided to grace us with your presence instead of remaining in the shadows?” Liam sighs feigning disgust. “Thank you.”
“Only for you dear.” Elena winks and lowers her helmet once again.
“Why all the protection?” Liam questions as he takes in Elena’s full-length silver armor.
Elena shrugs or at least tries to do so with all the heavy armour. “The condition of my father to allow me to join the quest of freeing the world of the beast.” The last word comes out of her mouth in an angry growl aimed at the hated beasts.
The biggest reason behind Elena’s decision to be a huntress despite the strong opposition from her father and the other lords is revenge. Elena wants nothing more than to eliminate the werewolves once and for all as they took someone she loved. Elena glances at the carriage where she knows Alex is being held. He is the biggest threat as he seems to be the leader of all werewolves. The beasts respond to him; he leads them to the villages and slaughters children, women, and men alike. Elena, knowing she is the best at hunting werewolves, is confident she will be able to kill this monster. However, her father didn’t seem to think about it. He resisted her request to join the quest of killing Alex Ivanov for so long, but in the end, he conceded with the condition that she arms herself with much protection and at least twenty Guardians.
“I see,” Liam laughing lightly pulls Elena out of her thoughts. “Elena Romanove is losing her bravado.”
“Careful Liam Semenov. I might just cut your tongue for the disrespect. I am a lady.” She teases shoving Liam lightly.
“Lady,” he snorts. “You are far from a lady. If I remember well the last time I saw you, you had blood under your nails and your dress was torn. I doubt it was from fooling around with your fiance.”
“Hold your tongue,” Elena rolls her eyes but the motion is hidden behind her helmet. “Do not speak of my private matters with Lord Edmond. Must I remind you of that night I saved Budapest from being wiped out?” That thought brings a concern to Elena’s mind. Putting the teasing aside, she turns her head to Liam. “Have you had many attacks?”
Liam’s face loses his amused glint. “We had several when we got him,” he jerks his head in the direction of Alex. “They seemed desperate to free their leader. After a while, they gave up. How about you?”
Elena shakes her head. “Oddly enough, none.”
“None?” Liam repeats wondering if he heard Elena correctly through the helmet.
“None.” Elena’s lips set in a hard line. “For six months we have enjoyed a rather stressful peace.”
Liam and Elena turn silent both pondering why the wolves have not attacked the Romanove household in six months. Even though Alex has been captured, the werewolves still attack the villages. Granted, the attacks are further apart since the beasts no longer have their leader, but it is odd that no attack has befallen upon the Romanove. Elena doesn’t know if that should be a relief or not. She wonders if the wolves are laying in wait for the right moment to attack especially now that Ivanov is coming to Istanbul. The whole situation unsettles not only Elena, but everyone living in her father’s land, and now Liam who had no idea of the situation. Communication among the lords is not as frequent as no one wants to venture to deliver messages. Even during the crusades, the soldiers made sure to always be near a village they could take protection in.
The rest of Elena’s sentence is cut off by a scream. The horses stop, the Guardians tense up, and Elena pulls out her sword soon followed by the others. The silence that settles around them is deafening. Everything stills after that scream. Glancing up at the sky, Elena sees the full moon high up. We could not have picked a better night for this, Elena grimaces. Inside the carriage, Alex is struggling to keep himself under control. This is not going according to his plan. He is supposed to reach his destination without trouble but this... Several howls rip the silence apart making the horses whine and bounce anxiously and fearfully.
“Brace yourselves,” Elena mutters as the sound of furious pounding paws against the ground draw closer to them. “We have company.”
Elena knows that if she and the Guardians push the horses to their limits, they can reach Istanbul where reinforcements await. However, Elena is never one to run. She has at least forty Guardians at her disposal: twenty from Semenov and twenty her father insisted accompanied her. Of course, she is not so sure the twenty remain as the scream reveals her Guardians have been attacked in the darkness of the forest. The werewolves are getting nearer and nearer and by the sound of their paws against the ground, there are at least fifty. She must make a decision and quickly.
Before she makes her decision, the werewolves arrive. They howl as they surround Elena and the Guardians. The beasts seem to wait for some sort of command, but after a while, they realize there won’t be one, so the first werewolf goes after Elena. It jumps from her right, aiming to knock her off the horse and tear her armor off. However, Elena, in huntress mode, expects the attack. The beasts smell her hormones and think she is only a weak human female. Oh, how wrong they always are. Elena maneuvers Oscar, her horse, so she faces the werewolf as it leaps from the darkness. Without hesitation, she swings her sword and cuts the werewolf’s head off before it has a chance to even touch a hair on her. The beast falls headless and limp at Oscar’s feet.
Elena smiles as she glares at the darkness. There is a momentary silence then all hell breaks loose as the werewolves, outraged at the death of their brother, launch themselves at the humans. Screams and battle cries fill the night as the Semenov Guardians soon joined by half of the Romanove Guardians fight off the beasts. It seems that for every fallen werewolf five more come out with their mouths covered in drool and sharp claws ready to rip through the flesh. The beasts jump from above the trees landing gracefully in front of the Guardians or sneaking upon them tearing off the legs or arms. The beasts’ massive hairy bodies seem to seep out from the darkness.
“Liam!” Elena shrieks out of nowhere.
He turns his head everywhere searching for his friend. The shriek sounded desperate and pleading. Panic settles in the pit of his stomach when he doesn’t locate her silver armor among the fighting Guardians because, despite her five seven stature, Elena can be spotted miles away when she fights. She is a force to be reckoned with, so Liam can’t grasp the possibility that the wolves have gotten her. Liam quickly finishes off his werewolf by striking through its skull with his sword. He moves through the pile of bodies and kills any beast that gets in his way as he searches for Elena.
“Elena!” Liam grunts as a werewolf jumps on his back and digs its claws into Liam’s armor.
The hunter wriggles under the beast trying to maneuver his sword and strike the monster, but the beast is pressing harder on his back despite the silver burning its skin. But the purpose is clear, the beast wants to crack Liam’s armor to dig into his soft flesh. Impatient to sink its teeth into Liam’s flesh, the wolf lowers his drooling mouth on Liam’s neck. Just when Liam can feel the beast’s sharp teeth inches away from his neck, a silver arrow goes through the beast’s head killing it instantly. Rolling over and getting to his feet, Liam faces his savior and nods his thanks.
“Where is Elena?” Liam asks as Eddie gets closer reloading his crossbow.
“She is protecting the prisoner,” Eddie points to the carriage surrounded by beasts. “They are trying to set him free.”
Liam picks up his sword and, along with Eddie, rushes to Elena’s side. They soon join her as she fights off the beasts trying to break into the carriage and free Alex. Inside, the two near Guardians shift uncomfortably as they grip their swords tightly and sweat breaks out across their foreheads. The carriage sways violently as the beasts keep attempting to break in making Alex more furious by the second. Did he not give specific orders? Must they go through this every time he is transported from village to village?
“Elena!” Liam shouts desperately making Alex wonder what is going on. “Eddie! Help her!”
Alex can’t take it anymore. He must do something before his beasts foil his plans and something happens to her. In one single movement, Alex breaks the chains around his hands than his feet. The Guardians become more nervous and shout warnings at him, but Alex is not listening. The beast in him is taking over as hair begins to sprout covering his skin. His bones crack and elongate as they shift to resemble those of a wolf. The collar around Alex’s neck pierces him and makes him hiss as the silver stings, but he’s used to all the pain. He is used to the pain of his bones shifting so violently that they pierce his skin. While Alex transforms, his two Guardians stare open-mouthed as the man changes from a tall Russian to a massive black werewolf.
Once his transformation is complete, Alex shakes off the collar, raises his head, as much as he can in the small compartment, and stares at his Guardians with a pair of human eyes. The sound of the Guardians’ hearts drives Alex wild making him howl before ripping them apart. They didn’t even defend themselves, not that they could when Alex with a single swipe of his paw tore open their throats and ripped apart their limbs. Guardians and hunters outside still battle the beasts, who upon hearing the howling of their leader have begun to fight more fervently.
Covered in blood, Alex tears open the carriage and jumps out into the night. Fighting ceases immediately as everyone takes in the sight of the ancient, undefeated, and powerful beast. Alex takes a moment to stretch his stiff muscles and assess the situation. As he takes in the view around him, he can feel everyone breathing rapidly and nervously, but he ignores them as he sees bodies sprawled everywhere. Some fifteen Guardians lay mangled beyond recognition and saving while others, Alex can smell, are beginning to turn.
“We have to take him down,” Alex hears the only female whisper.
“Do not risk your life, Elena,” Christian whispers angrily back.
“You forget I am the best damn huntress,” Elena snaps back as she sets her foot forward slowly and carefully as to not alert the beast of her intentions, but the beast knows.
Alex turns his massive head around and bares his teeth at the female who suddenly becomes frozen in place with her sword high in the air ready to strike the beast. Turning his body completely to face Elena, Alex stalks menacingly towards her as saliva forms in his mouth. The sound of her healthy and young heart is driving Alex insane; he wants to rip it out of her chest and drink her warm blood. He can feel it. He can feel her blood running down his throat. He can feel her soft flesh falling apart under his powerful claws. If werewolves could grin, Alex would be grinning at the huntress who is clearly afraid as her eyes are wide and she licks her lips nervously. Her hands tighten around the hilt of the sword and her muscles ache in anticipation. Elena is afraid all right, but she is not about to show it. She is not about to let it dominate her. She jumps a little startled when Alex throws his head back and howls once more. This howl is longer and more forceful as if he is giving a command. The werewolves retreat slowly into the darkness, and the Guardians are relieved to cease the fighting and focus on the big threat in front of them.
Alex once again resumes the stalking of his prey. His blue eyes never leave hers as he stops millimeters away from her. His snout is on her forehead breathing in her scent heavily. His mouth parts open showing teeth, and Elena gulps.