Chapter Twenty-One

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          Siobhan stuck to the alleys. Though the streets were mostly empty, she didn't want to risk drawing attention to herself. She slowed Wyx when others were in the alley but otherwise, she kept the horse at a full gallop, winding through the maze toward the western gates. They were so close yet so far. Poor Wyx grunted under her but kept a steady pace. Siobhan wouldn't slow until she reached the hunters cabin, only then would she think she'd be safe. Fact was, there might not be any place safe in the lowlands. Not with Garrith still alive.

She slowed when she came to the end of the alley that fed into the city square before the gates. Wyx cantered under her and backed up. Siobhan leaned down to pet the horse's neck.

"I know boy. I want to be out of here as fast as possible too."

Wyx shifted and stomped a hoof against the wet stone ground. Snowdrifts melted to the side of the alley, streaming into the gaps in the stone. Birds squawked overhead as they flew into the alley, forming a wall of black and brown in the sky. Siobhan frowned. Once winter in the lowlands started, the birds typically migrated to Ardorn or even up to the highlands, so few remained within the lowlands, to see even one was a surprise. There was still at least one month left before spring.

She sniffed the air and gagged. The scent was acidic, heavy, fowl. Death drifted on the winds.

"Tell us where he is!" The voice carried from the square.

"I already told you, I don't know who you're talking about!"

Siobhan frowned at the familiar voice. "Ivan?"

She slid out of the saddle and tied Wyx to a rain pipe. Her boots swished in the slush as she crept toward the square. Stone was cold against her hands when she pressed her back to the wall and peered around the alley. Six Crimson-cloaks stood in the square opposite two large posts that hadn't been there when Siobhan entered Wyvernton. At least if they had, she hadn't noticed. Ropes tied to the top of the posts hung down toward the center, wrapped around a man's wrists. His head hung against his chest, unmoving, knees bent to the point only the ropes kept him upright.

One of the Crimson-cloaks stepped forward, lifting the man's head by his hair. Siobhan covered her mouth. It was Ivan she heard. The Crimson-cloak slapped a hand against Ivan's cheek and released his grip. Ivan didn't try to keep his head up, it dropped against his chest again.

"Even if I did know," Ivan said, his voice hoarse, "I wouldn't tell you."

"Then you'll pay with your life." The Crimson-cloak drew his sword. Ivan didn't scream when the tip sliced open his thigh.

Siobhan pulled her staff parts free, growling. One finger pushed the button to unfold the blades. Her other hand gripped the corner of the alley. She crouched, still growling, and examined her opening. There were six of them; even with her fighting skills she was outnumbered. If she acted fast enough, she knew she could take the two closest to her out with a couple swipes of her staff. Both stood close enough it would be two swings, maybe three, and down they'd go. That still left four against her. If she sacrificed her sip of Changeling potion, her magic would take out at least one of the others. Ivan didn't look to be in any condition to run himself, so she'd have to act fast to get him on Wyx and out of Wyvernton. The commotion wouldn't take long to draw attention. Siobhan shifted her stance, ready to pounce at the closest Crimson-cloaks with their backs to her.

"Don't do it, Ice Fang."

A lioness prowled out of the shadows of the alley. Whiskers twitched, her golden eyes focused on Siobhan. Bones cracked as the lioness rose on her hind legs. Both front paws spread wide, shaping into fingers. Her elbows snapped with the shrinking of her arms, matching the sound made by her back. It was as if her entire body broke in front of Siobhan. In many ways, that's what was happening. Every piece of the lioness shifted and twisted into that of Ayla. Fur dissolved into flesh as her loincloth and chest wrapping appeared from nowhere.

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