When the World Falls to Darkness

A kingdom at war, a web of truth and lies, a vicious game of friendship and betrayal, and a world that will kill you, whatever path you take.
When the World Falls to Darkness, nobody is safe.
Beautiful cover by River_Summers! <3


17. Mourning

Vixen Saan still desired the blood of the assassin, and whatever cowardly scum had hired them. 

For now, she'd been given a temporary place in the council her brother used to be a part of, had been entrusted with his Guardian, had been promoted to his old position, but Amaguk was gone and none of it mattered. He was gone. Gone.

Vixen rolled that word around her mouth for a few minutes, as the tears seared her cheeks.

"Gone," she whispered again, the sound emerging hoarse and lost. "Gone. Gone."

She repeated it until the tears were choking her too much, and she was forced to bury her head into the pillow she'd taken from Amaguk's tent, inhaling his scent. It was warm. Comforting.

And so painfully, agonisingly distant. She didn't want it to be distant, but it was. So far away, so very, very far away that it tore her into shreds of anguish. The only one left.


"Ma'am, there have been reports of a giant wolf terrorising the nearby villages."

Her assistant's quiet voice drifted faintly through the fabric of her tent.

"Send somebody to kill it."

She was tired of their voices, gentle, sympathising, soft. She didn't want gentle, she wanted loud, enthusiastic, laughing. She wanted Amaguk. Even a few moments, even a tiny shard of time. Just a word, anything!

She didn't know what to do; where to go; when she should drag herself from the pit of melancholy the assassin had cast her into. There was just one thing she knew: the assassin would die.

Vixen pushed herself from the bed, swaying slightly as her feet planted themselves unsteadily on the ground. Her fingers drifted to her pocket, drawing out a small, almost weightless object of crimson and white.

A feather. Left by the angel, splattered with Amaguk's blood, with only a few white strands left visible through the crimson. It was enough. An assassin with white wings; and angel hired by one who would have quarrel with Amaguk. She would find the assassin, and she would find the man who'd hired him.

And then, they both would perish.

She reached for Amaguk's blade, her fingers closing around the worn leather of the scabbard. With trembling hands, she strapped it to her belt. For a moment, she simply stood, trying to acquaint herself with the unfamiliar feel of the sword at her hip. She'd always preferred axes and maces to blades, but it would only be fitting to slaughter the assassin and his master with Amaguk's own weapon.

Emerging from her part of the tent, Vixen paused under the main canopy, observing the strange collection of other high-ranked dwarves. She'd never particularly liked any of them, but then she'd never got along well with others.

Just Amaguk. And he was gone.

"Skye." Amaguk's Guardian turned to face her, the lilac hue of her flesh familiarly strange. The other dwarves had always insulted Skye for her size, but she was fast, and lithe. Besides, in her legendary form, she was swifter than any other skycat. There was no doubt.

The girl bowed politely, lowering her gaze. "We're going hunting," Vixen informed her. "Let's go."

"Are you still running after revenge?" one of the other dwarves scoffed, glancing over to her from where he was eating.

"No," Vixen replied coldly. "The only ones running will be the ones I'm hunting. And possibly you, if you continue to mock my brother's death."

She stalked from the tent, ignoring their cruel, heartless sniggering, and somehow resisted the urge to run the man through with Amaguk's blade. She was better than that, though - she refused to rise to their callous jesting.

Skye followed, a silent shadow. Amaguk had always made a point of treating her with respect. Not as a perfect equal, he'd told her, but as a comrade all the same. If he was going to fight beside a lethal monster such as Skye, he wanted at least a touch of loyalty. Besides, Amaguk had told her, Skye was still a youngling, skycat or not.

"We're going to find one of the elves' tracking hounds, and get them to take us there. You don't have a problem with dogs, do you?" Vixen asked Skye. The girl shook her head.

"No, Vixen."

There was always formality in her words - she'd been forced into servitude, after all - but she and Amaguk had long since dispelled Skye's use of titles such as Master.


They entered one of the saddling tents, and Vixen instructed Skye to transform. The Guardian nodded, beginning to shift. Vixen left her to select the saddle Amaguk had always used - one crafted of the same worn leather as the sword's scabbard. Pushing it onto her shoulder, Vixen carried it back to Skye.

In the girl's place was a winged tiger of exotic fur. Skye's pale lilac pelt was striped by slashes of indigo - the very colour of the feathers that lined her powerful wings. Skycats were usually unlike their earthbound relatives in colouring of fur, but this particular difference was a rarity. It made the Guardian particularly sought after.

Slinging the saddle over Skye's back, Vixen moved quickly to secure it in place. Her fingers, by now, had stopped trembling, and the familiar actions of saddling Amaguk's Guardian were strangely reassuring. She swung herself into the saddle, clicking her tongue and urging Skye forwards. Racing from the tent, the skycat launched them into the air, and suddenly, the ground was fading away.

Vixen tapped the skycat's shoulder, urging her left, and looked into the distance. She could just about make out the small village of elves. First, the tracking hound. And then, vengeance.



The elves looked surprised when Skye landed in their village, but Vixen supposed that couldn't be helped. Ignoring the astonishment, she leapt from Skye's saddle, landing heavily and starting towards the nearest elf. They towered above her, but Vixen made a point not to look up at them with the same wonder some of the other dwarves would gaze at them in.

"Where might I find a tracking hound?"

In less than five minutes, she was speaking with the very man who bred them.

"You will not endanger this animal in any way, will you?" he asked cautiously. "Ensure that you do not bring it into battle."

"I will not," Vixen informed him. "I will merely use it to find the person I am looking for, and then will return it to you. How much will that be?"

The elf named his price, and Vixen nodded. Handing over the coins, she accepted his thanks, waiting patiently as he left the room to find her a tracking hound. Skye stood at her side, completely silent and still. Like a statue that had been gifted with lilac flesh and gleaming eyes.

The elf emerged with the hound in his arms, setting the animal gently on the table that separated the two of them. Its obsidian fur was ruffled; its snout long and delicate. Vixen decided instantly that she liked the creature.

"What's his name?"

The elf smiled. "I see I am entrusting my hound to a good person. His name is Jin."

She nodded, carefully scooping him into her arms. Jin looked up at her with wide eyes, then barked happily and licked her face.

"Is it true they can even track while flying?" she asked him. The elf's lips twitched into another smile.

"Yes, so long as you fly low enough. If he can't pick up a scent, try slowing down."

Vixen nodded gratefully. "I shall return Jin to you soon," she promised. It was a vow she intended to keep.

The elf nodded her farewell, wishing her luck as she pushed through the wooden door.

"Skye?" she asked. The girl nodded in understanding, and Vixen stepped back. Furs pushed through her skin, and Skye doubled over, her limbs extending, bones snapping, joints clicking into place. As she shifted into her legendary form, Vixen drew the feather from her pocket. The sight of her brother's blood was enough to render her nauseated, but she somehow forced herself to stand, allowing Jin to pick up the scent. He turned his snout northeast, and Vixen's brows folded into a grim line of determination.

The assassin was going to die.

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