Read Alpha Asher by Jane Doe Chapter 184
The air around us exploded in a bright flash of light and heat that seemed to come from nowhere. Dina was ripped from Tristan’s arms and flung against the base of a tree, crumpling the second her body made impact. Her clothes were smoldering, letting off thin tendrils of smoke that dissipated in the air. Splotches of light danced in my vision, but I noticed Tristan was smoking as well. The blast had clipped his shoulder, burning a hole in his blood-soaked shirt.
Before either of us could act, a second blast followed. This time I was able to track it before leaping to the side, and saw that it wasn’t an explosion, but a plume of red-hot flame.
Tristan was at my side in an instant, crouched into a defensive position that would do little to nothing against the magic of a highly trained elemental. There were a reason Rowena’s books warned against angering one. Controlling nature had no limits. All that could determine an elementals range of power was their own personal strength.
As if to prove my point, a dozen or so vines shot out from the ground, sending mud and soil splattering in all directions. They curved over our heads, crossing over one another like the fibers of an old quilt. I grabbed Tristan and stumbled back, running into a wall of writhing vines.
“She’s caging us in-” I began but stopped when the sound of clapping filled the air.
“So observant.” A scathingly familiar voice cooed.
Ember and the witch she called Tessa appeared from around the base of a great oak tree. The fire elementals eyes were still glowing like hot coals, shimmering with tangible excitement. She looked far too eager to spit flame. There was a nagging sensation in my gut that told me she wanted nothing more than to burn this forest and everything surrounding it to the ground.
‘Like a rogue wolf gone feral…” Maya couldn’t help but point out.
Tessa made a small gesture with her hand and the vines parted, forming a doorway for the two of them to pass through. There was about fifteen feet between us, enough to count the freckles on Ember’s face and to see the earthy tones in Tessa’s eyes.
Ember looked me up and down slowly, making a show of it. About halfway through, she let out a snort of amusement and flashed us a tight-lipped smirk. She didn’t give a reason for her reaction, and instead spread her hands out at her sides and said, “You’re already exhausted, Lola. You don’t have the energy to fight us both, even with your shadow friends.”
She was right, but I’d sooner die before admitting that. There was this horrible exhaustion still weighing me down, slowing my reflexes until it felt like I was trudging through feet of mud.
I’d never been this tired from using magic before.
“Surrender to us and I’ll kill him quickly.” Ember said, her voice soft but still laced with cruelty. “Fight us and I’ll burn him alive.”
There was something off about the two of them, and I quickly realized what it was when Tessa glanced nervously at Ember. Even drained and exhausted, they were worried I’d fight back. It was my magic they feared.
Not the shadows, but the magic I’d inherited from the Renaldi witches. Magic I had no clue how to fully access. Fear-true unbridled fear unfurled in my chest.
We were backed into a corner and had no way of getting ourselves out.
Tristan craned his head my way, just enough to meet my gaze without leaving himself defenseless to the witches. For the first time since meeting the abrasive Vampire, I was able to read the light shimmering in his eyes clearly.
‘Get out of here while you can.’ They seemed to say.
When they flickered to the cage that surrounded us, lingering on the gaps in the vines for but a fraction of a second, I knew I’d been right.
I was going to refuse-to muster up that tone of voice again to obliterate the insane idea from his head, but I knew it would never work. The look on his face was one of peace and utter selflessness. Tristan’s voice overshadowed the word I was murmuring under my breath, chanting it like it were the solution I desperately needed. It even overshadowed Maya’s voice, which grew louder and louder in my head, screaming at me to shift and get out of here while I still could.
“No, no, no, no.”
His lips curled up in the smallest of smiles.
“It’s been an honor, my Queen.”
Then, without looking back, he lunged for Ember’s throat.
Somewhere in the back of my head, I conjured up the conversation between Holly and me. I could hear her delicate voice like she was right next to me, telling me to not be afraid of asking for help. I didn’t know how to ask for help, or why she had given me that advice above all else, but the time to sit and contemplate had long passed.
Ember shot a column of flame at Tristan, who rolled to the side and narrowly missed being charred a second time. He sprung to his feet without a moment of pause, snarling into the night as he lunged a second time.
As I forced every ounce of energy into my desperate scream for help, all I could think about was Tristan and how this couldn’t be it-this couldn’t be how I lost his infuriating mark.
I couldn’t tell if I were screaming out loud or solely in my head, but the words were as clear as the moon still illuminating the sky.
“Someone-anyone, help me!”
The shadows around us began to writhe, melting into one another to form a solid mass of darkness. I could hear their voices and knew that something was wrong. They were whispering, their voices so frantic and crazed that I couldn’t even begin to pick them apart. All at once they stilled, going completely silent.
Without warning, without a single sound, a wolf exploded from the shadows.
Coasting through the air, it tore through the cage of vines, all but demolishing them. When it’s four massive paws hit the ground, making it tremble in the process, I realized I’d been wrong. The thing hadn’t exploded from the shadows.
It was the shadows.
Its monstrous body was made from the same unearthly force that hid within the forest, which whispered and plotted and thirsted for blood. The tendrils of its fur writhed like wisps of smoke, vanishing and reappearing at will. There was a translucent quality to it that made me wonder if it could do any actual damage.
The beast answered my question when it latched onto Ember’s shoulder, sinking its milky white teeth into her flesh.
Ember let out a scream that was vicious and enraged rather than one of pain. As though the wolf noticed it too, it whipped its head to the side and flung the witch into the air. She went soaring, flying past trees and into the darkness where it swallowed her whole. There were two heavy thuds when she finally landed, and judging from sound alone, it was at least fifty feet away from where we stood.
Terra froze where she stood, her eyes wide and her face unnaturally pale.
The wolf turned its head slowly, stopping when its snout was parallel to her. It huffed once, and the witch flinched.
Nodding, she lifted her hand slowly and made a subtle gesture. What vines hadn’t been destroyed collapsed to the ground, slinking back into earth, and leaving smooth dirt behind as though they’d never existed. I held my breath and waited for her to go running after her companion, but she didn’t.
Tessa’s eyes slid to my face. Burning deep within them was knowledge.
“This creature you created; it is unnatural.” She said firmly, then quickly began to back away until she too vanished within the forest.
Neither Tristan nor I spoke, not that there were words that could explain what the hell just happened. If anything, we looked to the creature that had saved us-the one Tessa insisted I had created. I wanted to snort and deny her claim, telling her she’s just as crazy as her arsonist friend, but as I stared at the profile of the wolf, I felt this odd sort of connection between the two of us.
It must’ve felt it too, because it turned its massive head my way, cocking it to the side when my jaw plummeted to the ground.
I knew those eyes. I’d looked into them hundreds-thousands of times. “Breyona?!” I gasped.