Her own enemy rammed its body harder into her, crushing her with its weight until she couldn’t breathe. If the beast couldn’t tear her to pieces, its weight bearing down on her lungs would suffocate her. Her head swam, panic rushing through her as she kicked and jerked her legs in an effort to throw it off, or at least shift its position so should could draw proper breath.
Its weight was crushing her and she couldn’t breathe. Turning her head into her shoulder, she gasped and wheezed, but it was no use. She could barely even hear the sounds of battle outside the din of its angry claws pounding and pummeling the only thing standing between her and death. Her whole world in that moment consisted of thumping metal, gnashing, snarling, growling, rattling bones and the blood in her mouth. The taste mingled with the scent of brutal cold and wind and the copper-tinge of bloodshed in the air. It roused something feral inside her, waking a feverish brutality and lust for vengeance that tightened like a fist in her gut. She could feel it growing, teeming inside her until it reached her racing heart.
No! She wasn’t ready, she didn’t want to.
A ragged scream of rage erupted, and she shoved hard against the shield atop her, pushing the beast off long enough for her to notice how silent the world seemed even amid the fighting. Clarity, crisp and new, her sharp mind refused to battle with the fear in her heart because she was not going to die. Her friends were not going to die. And then just as quickly as the clarity came, the roaring snarls of battle resumed all around her.
There were more than three wolves out there fighting with Finn and Vilnjar; it sounded like there were dozens. No sooner had she thrown off her attacker, then it was back again, barreling down upon her with a vengeance and pummeling at the flimsy shield protecting her. She could feel her ribs bruising, her lungs caving beneath the wolf’s weight until every gasping breath felt like a nightmare.
Squeezing her eyes closed tight, she whispered a silent prayer. To Llorveth, Foreln, the Ladies, the goddess Alvariin that Pahjah had always prayed to when Lorelei was just a little girl, Heidr, Creator of all things, whoever would listen. Someone, anyone, please.
If it was one of them who answered, she would never know which, for just beyond the rim of her own shield she saw a dark flash of purple light cloak the sky until it was as dark as night. The blaring of war horns followed, bellowing through the mountains until the fighting silenced, the last snarling gnash of teeth disappearing within the sound of that blast.
A deafening quiet followed, only to be disturbed by the low keen of wind rushing against her shield and fluttering through the loose fabric of her cloak on the ground beside her. The wolf perched atop her dropped off the shield, hitting the frozen ground beside her with a heavy thud. She waited for it to reach for her, could see the curl of its claws just inches from her face, but they were rigid and unmoving as snow. Only the tangles of its soft, silver fur fluttered in the wind, but for a long time Lorelei was too scared to move.
Edging the shield away from her face, the world beyond its protection still glowed in that eerie, soft purple hue, as if someone dropped a magical layer over everything around her. Tumbling onto her side, her shield toppled onto the wolf and slid off its rigid body into the snow. She scanned her surroundings and gasped when she realized everything and everyone around her was frozen, the only disturbance coming from the flurries adrift on the air. Her eyes found Finn, rigid and unmoving, suspended in mid-lunge as if the particles in the air around him were all that held him aloft.
Panic seized her, and she crawled through the blood-spattered snow on her hands and knees to reach him. She didn’t feel the frozen crystals scrape across her bare palms until she reached him. Hand sweeping outward, she gripped his soft black fur in her bloodied hands and pulled herself up to stand against him. Teeth bared in attack, he was a fearsome sight to behold, his maw dripping red, brilliant white teeth stained with blood.
“Finn.” She shook him, staring through tear-blurred eyes at the monster frozen before her. “Finn, I don’t know what’s happening.”
EDGELANDERS is now available in audio, paperback and ebook formats.