Cody didn’t really mind hiking up mountains, in fact he loved it. Hiking had been a very much loved hobby with his family since he was a little boy. But when he was carrying something that slowed him down, it really irritated him. Hiking was one of the ways that got him to bond slightly with his twin brother who really didn’t like him. Cody would never know why but knowing that his twin brother hated him really upset him. The rocky path would have normally cut off a few toes by now if he was an average citizen of this world. But luckily due to his job as one of the Queen’s subjects, he could afford to buy some footwear that would last him for a long time. His muddy sandals were two months old and they weren’t even showing any signs of wearing down. Cody panted in the heat and swabbed his brow while adjusting his grip on Amber. He felt her move in her forced slumber and sighed, wondering why the Queen would want to recruit a young, injured girl like her. Cody had heard several rumours of her when the Queen ordered to round up anybody that could fight for her, particularly those in the Enhanced or Sorcery category. Cody’s ears pricked up in alert when he heard some gravel roll down the slope. He stopped suddenly and looked up, seeing that he had nearly reached the peak of the mountain. His nose twitched as a familiar smell passed and he sighed.
‘Come on out, I know you’re there,’ he called out tiredly ‘There’s no use in hiding, you know. I could smell you a mile away if I tried hard enough.’ There was a tired sigh and a young thin girl in her early teens came out from behind the rugged rocks on the top of the mountain, staring at him with her bright blue eyes. Her hair was as blue as the day sky, tied up messily in a high ponytail. She had sky blue bangs framing her young pale face which was marred with nasty scars, old and fresh. Cody sighed as he approached her and looked down at her with a raised eyebrow. There was roughly about a foot’s difference between the two of them in height. ‘You’re a long way from home, you know that?’ The girl’s eyes hardened.
‘So are you, you idiot,’ she countered sharply with a snarl ‘Come on, please come back home, Cody, I really miss you. We all miss you. And we all want you to come back home, where you belong.’ She went up to him and stared up at his face with a determined look. When she got no response, she pouted adorably and widened her bright blue eyes to look like she was about to cry if he refused to come back home with her. Cody turned away slightly to try and avoid eye contact before looking at her face. Their eyes eventually connected with one another and Cody sighed, lying Amber down beside him.
‘We’ve been through this so many times, Saphira,’ he said resignedly while cracking his neck and knuckles effortlessly ‘How many times do I have to tell you? I can’t come home. You should know the consequences of me leaving the Queen’s forces. I’m sorry, but your safety is more important than me.’ Saphira mirrored his actions, her cracks not as loud as his.
‘Oh, I know alright, but I’m persistent,’ she said determinedly as she shook her hands out ‘It really upsets me when I see Aunt Zephyr grow upset when she realises that you’re gone. There’s nothing you can do to stop me from bringing you home. I will bring you home today, Cody, even if I have to drag you back unconscious.’
‘You’re so annoyingly stubborn, do you know that?’ Cody sighed wearily while rolling his eyes and began to bounce on the balls of his feet ‘And very foolish to ignore my warnings. I am much healthier and stronger than you, I can easily defeat you in battle. I’ve told you enough times already, Saph. I can’t come home. There’s nothing you can do to make me come back home with you.’
‘How can you say that, you useless idiot?!’ Saphira shouted at him, her voice cracking and real tears forming in her eyes this time ‘I’ve just heard from my sisters and they’ve told me that Mikhail’s run away too because life is too hard! Even he misses you, Cody!’
‘You’re lying!’ Cody roared glaring at Saphira and letting electricity crackle over his body ‘Mikhail doesn’t care about me at all! He never has and if he did, I’m sure I’d know by now! He doesn’t care that I’m working for the Queen and he won’t care if I was told to kill him or something!’
‘You don’t have the will to kill anything unless you’re hungry!’ Saphira argued with a snarl ‘Of course Mikhail won’t be swayed if you’re told to kill him! You rarely passed the hunting tests at school because you were hardly ever hungry enough to murder a small mouse!’
‘You, you little…’ Cody’s voice suddenly dropped down a few tones when he muttered a curse word and anger flashed in his dark golden eyes ‘You will regret those words, Saphira. Mark my words.’
Thunder rumbled over them as black clouds engulfed his side of the mountain. His eyes flashed as he smirked confidently, standing tall to show off his dominance and strength because he was working for the Queen and therefore healthier than the younger girl in front of him. Saphira’s eyes flashed brilliantly as dark grey and black clouds engulfed her side, an icy wind blowing past them. They both snapped their heads up to the rapidly blackening sky, howling their individual howls. After Cody’s deeper and blood-curdling howl, his figure grew bulkier and hairier, bright golden fur coating his skin. After Saphira’s higher and ear-splitting howl, her figure grew out of her brown shirt and white shorts, leaving enough material to cover her chest and below her hips, growing into a bulky figure but didn’t grow as much as Cody. Bright blue fur encased her body as her icy blue eyes locked with Cody’s golden ones. The young werewolves began to circle each other warily, their maws open and tongues lolled out. Cody was the first to lunge for his opponent and yelped as ice spread across his path and he slipped, landing face first. Saphira sighed and shook her head as she iced Cody down to the ground.
‘You’re such an idiot,’ she said as she walked over him and bent down to examine Amber curiously.
Behind her unnoticed, her ice began to crack as Cody puffed and huffed in his icy jail to make it warm, while steadily building up his strength and swelling up. The ice began to weaken from his steamed breath and began melting, making it easier to crack. Cody suddenly arched his back sharply and howled at full volume in triumph as he broke out of the chilling prison, sharp shards of melting ice flying everywhere. Saphira jumped back to her feet with a surprised yelp and lunged for him once she saw that he was free from the ice, her jaws wide open and sinking deep into Cody’s neck.
Cody snarled viciously in outrage, ripping out of her grip violently once she had a hold of him and they began attacking each other violently and aggressively, their claws digging into each other’s skin while their teeth sunk deep into each other’s limbs. Saphira’s high pitched yelps filled the air accompanied by his deep pained growls. They rolled around in the dirt, gravel and mud violently as lightning and hail began to strike them mercilessly from the darkened sky. Blood splattered around them as hail hit Cody’s bleeding wounds whilst lightning hit Saphira’s body, making her sky blue fur go up in static electricity and painfully numbing her old and fresh wounds. Saphira’s jaws immediately clamped down tightly on Cody’s arm and Cody howled deafeningly, wrenching away from her, pulling out a tooth from her mouth. The pristine white tooth was deep in his skin and he snarled, turning his back and running down the mountain and through the dead forest that awaited him.
Saphira watched him go with laboured breath and slowly shrunk back into her human form, rubbing her bloody jaw tenderly. She hissed in pain and spat out the blood that began pooling in her mouth. She began wiping away the blood on her face and licked her wounds clean. Her torn clothes covered her decency and allowed the cold mountain air to slip through and rip her precious body warmth away from her. Worming a finger into her mouth gingerly, she felt the gummy gap in her lower jaw where a tooth had once been a few minutes ago. She snarled softly, cursing her idiot of a cousin and continued cleaning her wounds sorely while licking away the rest of the blood on her face. She melted a few hailstones in her hand for water and briefly quenched her thirst. She turned to Amber wearily and crawled over once the rain, hail and lightning stopped hitting her to get a good look at her. She slumped next to her groggily and yawned deeply with a loud sigh. Spotting the blanket around Amber, she immediately untied it from her and spotted the bandages which only covered her undeveloped body. Blinking, she threw the blanket over the both of them, snuggled up to Amber and closed her eyes, falling fast asleep.
When Amber groggily woke up, she immediately grabbed the person who was snuggled against her and rolled over them, her hands at their neck. Light blue eyes flew open immediately and met with her amber ones. Amber’s eyes scanned the light and dark scars across the girl’s face steadily and carefully and came to the conclusion that she had been through a rough time lately and was very less likely to be an enemy of hers. Some scars and wounds were fairly fresh with dried blood coating them while others were steadily but surely healing. Amber also saw signs that some of the cuts were infected.
‘Who are you and why are you here?’ Amber demanded harshly, eyeing the younger girl below her untrustworthily with narrowed amber eyes. The young girl held her breath as she looked up at her and sighed.
‘Saphira,’ she replied simply ‘Who are you?’
‘Amber,’ Amber replied and looked around ‘What happened to the other guy?’
‘Cody’s gone, I chased him away earlier.’ Amber gave Saphira a disbelieving look.
‘You did?’ she said whilst raising an eyebrow.
‘Yup,’ Saphira smiled somewhat ‘Cody would never hurt me.’
‘Why not?’ Amber asked in a low tone with a growl as her hands pressed down a bit more firmly through impulse on Saphira’s neck. Saphira choked slightly and grabbed Amber’s wrists to relieve some of the pressure.
‘Because he’s my cousin,’ she replied and when Amber’s eyes flashed she quickly spoke ‘I’m trying to get him to stop working for the Queen and come back home!’ Amber froze and narrowed her eyes.
‘What happened?’ she asked doubtfully ‘Why is he working for the Queen and why are you trying to stop him?’ Saphira sighed as tears shone in her eyes.
‘Because he was press-ganged into the whole thing,’ she replied softly ‘He ran away from home one week before the Queen rose to power with her Nightmare Blanket and then he came back to try and recruit us into her work…’ She sniffed shakily and shook her head to shake away her tears. ‘I know he’s been forced into it because there are scars on his back…’
‘Scars?’ Amber pressed on and leaned into Saphira warily ‘What scars?’
‘I know when a cat-o-nine tails is used,’ Saphira sobbed and raised a hand to wipe her tears away ‘I saw them before he ran away. Cody would never do anything like this of his own free will, never I swear! Sure, he’s eager to meet new friends but he’s way too scared to try anything new and admittedly, he’s a bit of a wimp.’ Amber remained still and sighed, leaning back and letting her go.
‘Why do you care about him so much?’ she asked with a frown ‘If he ran away from home then he must have a good reason, surely.’
‘I love him, he’s the best cousin I could ever have,’ Saphira glowered at Amber with a snarl ‘Yes, he’s a bit of a dumb blonde idiot but I like him for who he is.’ Amber rolled her eyes and folded her arms, unimpressed.
‘Well when I saw him before he knocked me out, he didn’t seem like the dumb idiot kind,’ she commented with a distasteful sneer ‘In fact, he looked like someone who could murder an innocent man on the spot.’
‘He isn’t like that,’ Saphira snarled at her ‘He’s just pretty good at acting like he’s tough when he’s really a soft lovable wimp with the IQ of a recently born Abnormal creature.’ Amber snorted in amusement.
‘I guess he had that kind of trait about him,’ she sighed ‘He certainly liked to flirt with the nurses too.’
‘Acting,’ Saphira sighed tiredly ‘He’s terrified of girls.’ Amber laughed and sighed, shaking her head. She then put on her poker face and levelled Saphira’s gaze suspiciously.
‘So, you’ve been chasing him all this time?’ she asked warily with a disbelieving raised eyebrow ‘Since before the Queen with her Nightmare Blanket even came and took over the world?’ Saphira nodded solemnly with a sigh and a pout as she rubbed away the remnants of her tears while massaging her stiff neck. ‘Then you’ve been to the Queen’s tower before?’ Saphira tilted her head to the side.
‘I’ve been close to it but the defence system nearly fried me like bacon every time I tried to cross the wasteland to get to it…’
‘Where is it?’ Amber demanded harshly. Saphira giggled and smiled.
‘You haven’t noticed it yet?’ she said as she turned her head to the side ‘It sure is quite the view from all the way up here. You really can’t miss it.’ Amber followed her gaze slowly and stood up, her jaw slack in awe. A large black tower stood in the middle of a stretch of wasteland. It was blacker than the dawning sky and its shadow was cast over the small village by the dead forest at the foot of the mountain. It was just as big as the mountain and Amber spotted the built-in guns and cannons along two sides of the tower. They moved at a hundred and eighty degree horizontal movement so anyone who tried to cross would always be seen by them, no matter what position they were in. They were stacked on top of each other so no matter what distance, anyone on the dry wasteland could be shot at. She stood up and stared at it.
‘That’s the Queen’s Tower?’ she said as Saphira got up, brushing herself down.
‘One of them,’ Saphira corrected as she stood beside Amber while staring at it ‘She has plenty of towers around the world. This is the one she’s currently residing in.’ Amber stared at it before turning to her.
‘And you’ve failed to get to it,’ she said. Saphira sighed and nodded. Amber frowned and turned to her. ‘What’s the problem?’
‘You see,’ Saphira said as she gestured to the guns and cannons on the sides of the towers ‘Every time I’ve tried to cross, they would swivel around towards me instantly and try to shoot me down to stop me from reaching the tower.’ Amber winced as she stepped back.
‘I hate guns, it’s cheating if you use one in battle,’ she murmured ‘Your opponent won’t be able to stand a chance if you can attack from afar.’ Saphira chuckled.
‘My younger sister uses one for fighting,’ she said wistfully with a thoughtful smile ‘She prefers to fight in her human form instead of her wolf form because she doesn’t like being feral. She says it makes her look vulgar. She’s always been vain about her appearance, no matter what the situation is.’ Amber shivered softly with a quick chatter of her teeth when a chilly wind passed and Saphira picked up the used thin blanket to drape over her nearly nude body. Amber hugged it around her tightly to make herself warm then turned to glance at Saphira’s torn clothing. She frowned in disapproval as Saphira pulled her torn shirt up more to cover more of her skin.
‘You have it,’ she said as she began to take it off.
‘No, you’re in nothing but bandages,’ Saphira waved her away.
‘You’re in nothing but rags,’ Amber tried to push the blanket into Saphira’s hands.
‘You got injured by my idiotic cousin.’
‘You’re younger,’ Amber remarked smugly with a smirk.
‘Hey!’ Saphira pouted and sighed ‘My twelfth birthday is just next week…’
‘Then have it!’ Amber insisted and tied her up in the blanket ‘I’m in the Enhanced Category, I can survive as long as we get down this mountain.’ Saphira rolled her eyes as she untied the blanket and threw it over Amber.
‘Don’t worry, I’m a werewolf, I can go into tame mode with a sort of healthy coat of warm fuzzy fur.’ Amber pulled the blanket away from her face and saw as Saphira curled up and shrunk in size. Her nose stretched into a snout and petite wolf ears popped out of her head. Her skin was replaced with brilliant blue fur and she stood up as blue wolf with bright blue eyes. She sat down and lolled her bright pink tongue out happily, her tail wagging playfully as she stared up at Amber adoringly with her bright blue eyes. Amber blinked and sighed in defeat, draping the blanket around her body.
‘Come on,’ she said as they began to descend the mountain ‘We might as well get a move on before we both die from the cold.’ Saphira barked happily, her tail wagging as she padded alongside Amber.