"That's right," my mother hissed in my ear as my Sword lingered in the air. "Kill the wretch who has been lying to you since the day you met."
I shut my eyes, trying to block out the sounds of the whispers, shouts from Angel and Tiberius, and the mad giggling from the nymph. My arms shook and I inhaled deeply.
Regret and sadness tearing through me, I reached back and plunged the sword through my mother's head. She screeched and dropped me. I fell to my feet and my ankle gave out on me, shooting pain up my leg. I collapsed to my knees, shaking, and not daring to look behind me. An acrid smell filled the forest and I felt Angel fall down next to me. Finally, I turned to see the strangest sight.
Whatever it was looked like an ugly woman with pointed teeth and bat wings. She writhed and screamed, trying to get the Sword of the Thousands still lodged in her skull. Her blood wasn't like normal human's blood; it came out as thick, dark blue smoke. With one last blood curdling scream, she exploded and I shielded my face as the smoke fanned over us.
I took the Sword from where it had fallen, sheathing it.
"David?" Angel whispered, reaching for me timidly.
I grabbed her hand and pulled her to me. She cried into my chest and I held her as tight as I could. Tiberius stumbled over and gave me my cane. I was shaking as if I had come out of a bad fever. When the two of us had calmed down, Angel helped me stand. I leaned heavily on my cane.
"I-I really thought you were going to...."
I kissed her deeply. "I would never kill you, Angel," I said, my voice hoarse.
"She was lying about Sally," Tiberius said in a shaking voice. "Christina showed me a painting of the family. She's a spitting image of him."
I nodded and wiped my tears and sweat away. "Will there ever be a time those who mean the most to me won't lie?" I grumbled without thinking.
Angel pressed her lips to my cheek. "I will never, ever lie to you."
Tiberius put his hand on my shoulder and squeezed it. "I would never, either."
I smiled a little at the two of them. Then I turned to Rosebud. She was looking bored now and a little disappointed.
"What was that?" I demanded.
She sighed and put her elbow on Adam's back. She rested her head on her hand, blowing her hair out of her face.
"That, my friends, is what they call an aswang."
"I've never heard of it."
The nymph rolled her eyes. "There's a surprise. Think of a combination of a vampire and a witch. They're cannibals." She grinned wickedly. "I've seen two others in my life and I watched them feed. It is an... interesting sight."
Angel made a sound of disgust. "Come on. I want to get out of this forest."
I nodded and we moved onward. Angel was holding my arm and I was limping heavily. I sighed, knowing I'd have to wrap it when we stopped for the night.
Rosebud didn't speak again for a long time. She was staring intensely at Angel which was making me nervous. Angel didn't seem bothered, though. In fact, she was smiling back at the nymph. Rosebud's eyes narrowed.
It's time to rest for the night, my alpha," Adam said finally.
He dropped Rosebud to the ground unceremoniously, causing her to hiss. He tied her to a tree so she couldn't escape. She spat at him but he wiped it away as if it were nothing. Tiberius broke off some branches and I felt like we were being watched.
"Do not leave the path," I said and they nodded, looking around. "Angel, I need you to look at my ankle. I hurt it earlier."
"Of course," she said and I sat down carefully, stretching my left leg out.
While she wiped ointment on it and wrapped it - it had become a terrible shade of purple - Adam began our dinner.
"Is that the ointment Dr. Amelia created?" I asked and Angel nodded.
"I figured we should bring some just in case."
I kissed her. "Looks like you were right."
She beamed and leaned up against me. We were resting on a tree while we waited. Adam still hadn't spoken.
"You don't talk much, do you?" I asked him after he passed around a bowl of stew to each of us.
Rosebud refused to touch it.
"I am not to speak to my alpha unless necessary or spoken to first," Adam said.
I frowned. "Well, that's ridiculous."
"It is the mark of our respect for you."
I took a spoonful of stew. "As much as I appreciate that respect, feel free to speak openly." He nodded, staring into the fire. I cocked an eyebrow. "Tell me, Adam, when you were turned."
"I was 20," he answered after a while. "I grew up around werewolves and that was the traditional age of turning."
"You weren't given a choice?" Angel asked.
"No, they did ask me. I had given it much thought, though. Many - like William and your father - were ready to be turned on the spot. I weighed all the pros and cons much like you had. Eventually, the pros won out and I accepted the pact."
"What's it like?" Tiberius asked, leaning forward.
Adam looked surprised at his interest but answered all the same.
"It's much like being a human. We don't necessarily have to feed from humans but it's a delicacy. Much like how desserts are for you." My stomach turned unpleasantly at the thought. "Think what you will of us, but we are the reason why your lands aren't covered in the dead from your wars. There is the occasional rogue werewolf, though, who kills humans no matter what. When we find them, they are given a traitor's death and their body is burned."
"Are you immortal?"
He shook his head. "No, but we do live for many centuries. Alec was 300 before you bested him in battle."
"Wow," Angel whispered.
"Yes, this is all very interesting," Rosebud said sarcastically, "but you'll want to rest. We still have a long trip ahead of us."
Adam glared at her. "She is right, my alpha. I will keep watch."
"Don't you need to rest?" Angel asked as we lay out on the forest floor.
"Not as often as you, my mother," he answered and she blushed.
"Mother?" she repeated in a high voice.
He smiled. "My apologies. I forgot you are not familiar with our terms. It is what we call the alpha's mate."
"Oh.... Can you just call me Princess or something like that?"
"As you wish, Princess."
Using a soft patch of grass as a pillow, I closed my eyes. Angel put her head on my chest and squirmed around.
"I can't get comfortable," she sighed.
"You're the one that wanted to come," Rosebud snapped.
"Ignore her," I mumbled. "Come here."
I had her lay on top of me and she sighed again.
"Much better," she whispered and I wrapped my arms around her tightly.
"Remember," I said as my eyes closed, "no one leave the path."
"As you order, my alpha."
"Of course, my love."