Shadow Marked

"There's a monster sweeping the land. An immortal being, bathed in blood, leaving nothing but fire and blood in it's wake. A nightmare not seen since the Age of the Gods. And the worst part? It looks just like the dead princess."

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2. Part 2

Jak pushed himself up from the ground, wincing as each subtle movement sent an echo of burning pain shooting down his limbs. His entire body ached, and he leant against his sister for support, breathing as though he had been running for hours.
Lyra was slow to accept his body weight, a frown creasing her features at the sight of her pale skin against the pitch black of his.

“You used the Book, didn’t you?” There was quiet rage in her voice. “Even after I told you not to, you just had to do it anyway?”
“I was going to save us, Lyra.” He felt the sudden, desperate need to justify what he had done. “Just think what having it on our side would have done. The war would have been over; our enemies wouldn’t have stood a chance against it.”
“Don’t be so noble, Jak. You just did this for the glory of taming the untameable.” She shook her head sadly and her fingers grazed the darkness coating him. “Instead look what you’ve done. What are our parents going to say? What are our people going to say?”
He opened his mouth to answer, when suddenly his voice failed him. The temperature in the room seemed to plummet, and Lyra’s eyes widened as she met his own panicked gaze. Yes, she’d noticed it too.
Something had shifted in the shadows behind them.

They both froze, neither one of them willing to be the first to turn and gaze upon it. Lyra’s grip on him tightened, and Jak could see goosebumps trailing up her skin in response to the fear flooding through her.
He swallowed. Surely it hadn’t worked? The pain … his arms … he thought they had equalled failure? A punishment, and reminder to not play with forces beyond his strength?
The inhumane growl resonated throughout the chamber.
“Jak...?”
His head swung to the side, and there it was.

 

***

 

It was exactly as the Book had depicted it. A towering mass of charcoal skin, pulled taunt against muscular, animalistic limbs. Crimson eyes set deep within a misshapen skull eerily illuminated the creature’s face. And bone-white canines the length of Jak’s forearm protruded from its mouth, bloody saliva swinging from its serpentine tongue with each guttural breath it took.
It was entirely monstrous. And it was smiling at him.

“What…” Lyra’s hands dropped from him, fear saturating her voice. “What the hell is that thing?”
Jak shook his head in horrified wonder. Seeing it really before him… it was so different to what he had expected. He had wanted to summon a saviour.
Instead he had summoned a nightmare.
“You need to get out of here.” He tried to push her behind him, nearly tripping as his weakened muscles screamed in protest. She merely stumbled back slightly, her mouth open wide as she gazed upon the beast. “Lyra? You need to go!”
“That’s what you summoned?” Her voice was a hoarse whisper, her fear choking her.
The beast cocked its head to the side in one jerky movement when she spoke again, its unearthly eyes meeting hers in a curious exchange, before swiftly sliding back to Jak.
“It recognises me.” His throat felt as dry as a desert. “It recognises that I brought it here.”
“Is it tethered to you?”
The monster released a series of snarls that sounded chillingly akin to laughter.
“I didn’t finish the ritual.” Jak swallowed. “I have no control over it.”

The scream of a child suddenly burst from behind them, and Jak and Lyra’s heads whipped around to see their younger sibling standing barefoot in the chamber’s archway, frozen at the sight of the monster.
“Kalli?” Lyra’s voice captured the unadulterated panic Jak felt. The situation was deteriorating with every second, and there was nothing he could do about it.
“Get her out of here!” Jak shoved Lyra in the direction of their sister, when suddenly, a spine-chilling sensation lanced through him.  An overwhelming sensation of dread.
With his heart thudding in his chest, he turned back to the beast.

But it no longer stared at him.
No. Now the beast’s deathly gaze was fixed on the youngest Stormthorn royal.
And faster than his eyes could track, it charged straight towards her.

 

***

 

Kalli had died screaming. Her beautiful hair stained crimson, and her chest torn to bloody shreds.

 

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