Chapter Eight

3.7K 432 47
                                    

          Wren wasn't waiting on the other side of the chasm when Siobhan arrived. At first, she thought nothing of it. It had taken her a day and a half, riding with little rest, to go around the northern tip of the chasm. With how certain he was that his path was the right one it made sense for him not to wait. Still, she dismounted Nyka and carefully stepped to the edge in search of his body in case he didn't make it. Already the magic inside her burned to be set free, but she ignored it. Hopefully she wouldn't be there long enough for it to explode again.

The dirt underneath her feet was still soft from the rain. It slid over the side and down into the depths of the fog covered rip in the earth. She leaned over as far as she safely dared and tried to find the narrow ridge climbing the edge. Though the mist made it hard to see much, she saw signs of someone recently climbing over the side and no signs of Wren's body.

A handprint gouged into the earth, another might have caused the soil to give way in a large chunk. Siobhan narrowed her eyes when she knelt by the handprint and examined the moist ground. Multiple paw prints sunk in the mud, some with water pooling at their center suggesting they were old. Several turned to human prints, all gathered around the single handprint in the soil.

"Shifters," Siobhan said. She stood up and sniffed the air. The scent of rain still mixed with the aroma of damp grass, but there was something else in the air. Something sharp enough to make her nose sting and force her hand to cover her mouth to protect against the stench. "Worse than shifters. Lionesses."

Shifters in general had an almost acidic aroma that wafted from their skins when they shifted. Lioness shifters took that to another level. When they shifted the sour stench of mutilating body parts mixed with the rusty smell of dried blood from the meals they regularly consumed in their animal form.

She pulled her staff parts free and joined them together before turning to look back the way she'd come. There was no way they'd went straight north, she would've passed by them even with their head start. Her eyes turned to the south and the Lind River bubbling it's way east toward Firnlan. Lionesses hated water so they wouldn't dare cross the river without a bridge to go south. At the same time, east wouldn't be ideal because of Firnlan. Lionesses stayed away from cities unless they were hungry and unable to hunt.

Siobhan walked around the chasms edge biting her lip. Her eyes scanned for more signs of the paw prints that might tell her where they'd gone. There was another set of prints, these definitely human, being chased by multiple prints of animal and bare feet. Her guess was the one they chased was Wren. He'd made it as far as the river's edge before he fell. Siobhan knelt by a stone stained with blood. The center of one drop was still moist, though hardening under the frigid air. She touched a finger to the blood and licked it off.

"Not that fresh," she said, taking another lick of the blood. "Three hours, maybe four. He was alive when he bled. Question is, is he still alive now?"

When she stood up, she followed the tracks until they settled into the customary single file line of the lionesses march. There were two sets of human prints, deeper than the multiple paw prints surrounding them. Siobhan suspected those human prints were the ones carrying Wren on a post. Lionesses enjoyed tying their prey up to a single post and carrying them like a boar on a spit.

"Northeast it is then." She sighed and mounted Nyka. The horse whined when Siobhan dug her heels into her side and sent the horse into a gallop. It was pushing the old mare too hard to ride that fast while pulling two horses with her, but Siobhan had no choice. If she didn't reach Wren by nightfall he was as good as dead. Though at the hands of a lioness, he'd at least go happy.

***

The grassy plains gave way to the rising slopes of the foothills at the base of the northern mountain range. Siobhan slowed Nyka and tightened her grip on her staff. She hadn't bothered putting it away while she rode, she didn't know how long before she met up with the lionesses and she wanted to be ready. When she reached the downward slope of one hill, she stopped.

Draygon Frost | Book 1  | ✔️Where stories live. Discover now