‘CODY!’ Sheela jolted herself awake and propped herself up as Saphira’s howl echoed in her head and made her ears ring. Vienna yelped and woke up to see Saphira gone and Cody’s restraints were coiled up in the corner, Cody gone.
‘Oh dear,’ Vienna murmured and poked her head out of the cave. Saphira was in her tame wolf form, marching up and down the path with her nose glued to the ground, sniffing out for any scents that Cody might have left behind. Vienna heard the low tones of snarling under Saphira’s breath and swallowed nervously before crawling out.
‘He’s here somewhere, the stupid idiot,’ she heard Saphira grumbling ‘I know he’s here, he can’t have gone far…’
‘What?!’ Saphira snapped at her, baring her yellow teeth. Vienna winced and stepped back warily when she smelt bad breath.
‘How long have you been awake exactly?’ she asked and Saphira snarled in frustration and resumed her pacing.
‘I don’t know, a minute, an hour?’ she mumbled and eventually turned human, pounding her fists into the ground when she couldn’t pick up a scent. Vienna stepped back, not sure how to handle her tantrum while Sarah yawned, finally waking up.
‘What’s the matter?’ she asked bluntly.
‘It was you, wasn’t it?!’ Saphira suddenly accused, pointing a bloody finger at Sarah ‘You let Cody go, didn’t you?!’ Sarah yelped as Saphira advanced towards her, bloodied fist up and ready to smash into Sarah’s face.
‘Saphira!’ Sheela held Saphira back as the blue werewolf snarled viciously, thrashing about like a feral animal ‘Saphira, calm down!’
‘And you!’ Saphira snapped at the elder girl ‘You didn’t bind him tight enough!’
‘Saphira, come to your senses at once!’ Sheela shouted ‘Look at me, I’m skinnier than Sarah when she went through anorexia!’
‘Sheela!’ Sarah whined ‘You weren’t supposed to tell anyone about that!’
‘Shut up, Sarah!’ Sheela snarled and turned her attention back to Saphira ‘Try my bonds! My magic isn’t that strong, they’ll break easily.’
‘You’re weak,’ Saphira snarled ‘You’re weak like everyone else! Like my mum, like my dad, like my sisters, like my uncle…’
‘And look at Cody, he’s working for the Queen so he has benefited from that by becoming stronger and healthier than the rest of us,’ Sheela tried to continue.
‘Shut up, I don’t want to hear your pathetic excuses!’
‘You promised that you wouldn’t mention it to anyone!’ Sarah continued whining.
‘Oh do stay out of this, Sarah!’
‘It was you who let Cody go, wasn’t it? You two got close too easily, you’re working for the Queen too, aren’t you?!’ Vienna whined as she sat beside Amber, watching helplessly as the other girls argued viciously at the top of their voices.
‘I hate the lot of you! It’s because of you that I can’t get to Cody!’
‘Hey, hey, I thought we were friends!’
‘Sarah, shut up!’ Tears built up in Vienna’s eyes as she watched them, their voices growing higher and louder. They shut up immediately when she let out a howl in despair and began crying.
‘Stop shouting!’ she wailed and covered her face ‘You’re just like mum and dad when dad is drunk! And Amber’s dying, but you guys don’t care, why are you being so mean to each other?!’ She continued wailing like a pathetic little child, holding Amber’s limp hand for some comfort. Saphira calmed down eventually and Sheela let her go, bending down to Vienna to wipe her tears away.
‘Ssh,’ she hushed the young werewolf ‘We’re sorry, Vienna. Don’t cry.’ Vienna sniffed helplessly, trying to stop crying as Sarah’s bottom lip wobbled. Sheela hugged Vienna comfortingly. Saphira whined and nuzzled Vienna in apology when Sheela let her go.
‘I’m sorry, it’s just that I love Cody and…’
‘I know your story,’ Vienna snuffled pathetically ‘Just…don’t take it out on other people, we don’t deserve it.’ Sheela grimaced softly, picking up Amber and standing up.
‘Come on, we need to sneak past the Narwhine to get down to the village,’ she announced ‘Amber looks like she’s in a worse condition now.’
‘Narwhine?’ Saphira tilted her head with a confused frown ‘There’s no Narwhine out there…’
‘Then what do you call that?’ Sheela asked as she nodded to the massive ice tail swing by the cave entrance. Saphira and Sarah yelped in surprise, falling over at the same time and landing harshly on their rumps.
‘It’s back!’ Sarah exclaimed.
‘It wasn’t there when I was out there,’ Saphira said and looked up to Sheela ‘Do you think something’s happened to Xeann?’ Sheela bit her lip thoughtfully.
‘Well, I would say that she probably went out of the Narwhine’s territory,’ she concluded ‘And she’s right, there are signs that this Narwhine is pregnant.’
‘Woah, hold up,’ Saphira perked at the news ‘If that thing gives birth…’
‘It would take a matter of years for the whole planet to ice all over because of oversized Narwhines,’ Sheela nodded ‘We’re going to have to kill it.’
‘Aw,’ Sarah pouted.
‘Sarah, the Nightmare Blanket made it like this so we need to get rid of it,’ Sheela raised an eyebrow.
‘But it’s so pretty,’ Sarah complained.
‘Sarah, it tried to squash us like ants yesterday!’
‘Yeah but I’m sure it meant no…’ Sarah was cut off by the vicious glare from her sister and swallowed. ‘OK, we need to kill it.’
‘How do we accomplish that?’ Saphira asked with a raised eyebrow ‘Fire spells won’t do unless someone is willing to commit suicide.’
‘Look, we’ll discuss this in the village,’ Sheela said ‘Just follow my lead.’ With those words, she ran out and slid down the slope. The girls stared in horror as their leader disappeared into the valley and looked at one another. Sarah shrugged.
‘Geronimo!’ she cried as she shot out and followed her sister. Saphira and Vienna winced as she tripped up and ended up rolling down the slope, hearing a loud crash when she reached the bottom. ‘I’m OK!’ her voiced echoed up the blue mountain. Saphira sighed.
‘I wonder if she’ll try to say that if she breaks her jaw,’ she commented and Vienna nodded in agreement, sniffing and rubbing her eyes slightly that were still tinged a bit red from crying. The werewolves stared at each other and shrugged.
‘Let’s just go,’ Vienna said before the two of them linked hands and jumped at the same time. Vienna tightly squeezed Saphira’s hand fearfully as her feet slipped and slid on the gravel. Saphira gently pulled her to try to balance them.
‘We might need to jump,’ she said.
‘Now!’ Vienna didn’t know how but she managed to spring off the soles of her feet on short notice when Saphira took off. She yelped as she landed unsteadily, feet apart when she spotted Sarah lying on the ground. With shaky legs, she let go of Saphira’s hand and landed softly on top of her back. Sarah looked up and grinned painfully.
‘Still OK,’ she grunted. Vienna ignored her and pressed her hand against her heart, feeling it beating rapidly against her ribcage.
‘I-I think I-I’m g-g-going to be s-sick…’ she muttered as she placed her hand over her mouth and retched.
‘Not on me!’ Sarah suddenly sprang into action and leapt up, yelping as she fell over while Vienna fell off her. Saphira noticed the limp she had and winced when blood began soaking through her trousers.
‘You’re injured,’ she observed and Sarah just shrugged.
‘I’m OK,’ she smiled.
‘Where’s Sheela?’ Saphira asked as Vienna threw up behind her.
‘I think she headed over into that building,’ Sarah pointed to one of the snow covered houses a few feet away from them. Saphira glanced over then looked at Vienna before turning her sights back to Sarah.
‘Well let’s go and investigate,’ she said as she grabbed Vienna’s hand and held up Sarah to drag them over to the house that Sarah had pointed to. She let go of the woozy Vienna to knock on the frozen door.
‘Who are you and what do you want from here?’ a calm and dangerous sounding voice asked. Sarah swallowed and whimpered as Saphira cleared her throat.
‘My friend has injured herself, we would like to know where to find some medical attention.’ The door slowly creaked open and Sarah yelped when two glowing green snake eyes bore their gaze on them. An older man stepped out warily, his long white hair tied up in a tight braid, flickering out his black snake tongue curiously while staring at each girl hungrily. He suddenly grabbed Sarah by the face and took a close look at her.
‘Sssssame featuresssss,’ he commented and turned around ‘Isssssss thissssss your sssssissssster?’ Sheela looked up after changing Amber’s bandages and spotted the girls.
‘Yes, they are,’ she nodded and the man flickered his tongue out once before stepping aside to let the girls come in. Sarah had to be dragged into the small house quickly after the brief hesitation. Saphira looked around in wonder at how warm the house felt. Different scents of herbs, potions and medicines wafted into her nose, making her step back slightly with a wrinkled nose.
‘Wow, I didn’t expect such a house to be so warm in the middle of an apocalypse,’ she commented and the man smirked triumphantly.
‘Thesssssse houssssssessss were built with my own two handssssss,’ he said proudly ‘Built for thosssssse who want to ssssssurvive the wintersssssss here.’
‘Why is he talking so creepy like that?’ Sarah asked loudly and Saphira rolled her eyes before pushing Sarah onto the other bed. The man smirked creepily before pulling out some material that weren’t bandages.
‘I’m a sssssnake hybrid,’ he explained and sat down beside Sarah ‘My name isssssss Sssssssiegfried.’ Sarah screamed as he began rolling up her trouser leg.
‘Get off me!’ she shrieked and Sheela sighed tiredly.
‘Sorry, Siegfried but Sarah’s terrified of snakes,’ she said and stood up to take the makeshift bandages away from Siegfried ‘I’ll look after her, whatever she’s done to herself, you look after Amber.’ Siegfried flickered his tongue out at Sarah to entice another scream and smirked.
‘Of coursssssse,’ he said as he moved to settle himself next to Amber to feel her forehead. His eyes moved over to Vienna who was still shaking on her feet. ‘Isssssss ssssshe ill too?’ he asked while pointing to her.
‘Oh no, we’ve just slid down the slope,’ Saphira said as she sat Vienna down carefully on the floor ‘I don’t think Vienna here is used to those kinds of things.’ Vienna looked considerably pale and Siegfried got onto his hands and knees to crawl to her and look at her closely. Vienna stared at him warily and he smirked.
‘You jussssst need water then,’ he said as he got up, handing Saphira a small box ‘Ssssstart masssssshing thissssss up for Amber. I’m jussssst going outssssside to gather sssssome ssssssnow to melt for the young girl.’ Saphira blinked as he stalked outside with an empty bucket and opened the box carefully. She groaned and shut it when a repugnant smell wafted out of the box.
‘What is that?!’ she exclaimed. Sheela looked up as she bandaged up the cut on Sarah’s leg and held out a hand so Saphira could give her the box. Sheela opened it carefully when Saphira handed it over and took a quick waft of the smell before slamming it closed.
‘Poorly preserved dried snake’s liver,’ she said while placing it down and covering her nose and mouth ‘One of the ingredients to make a pretty potent medicine which cures a fair amount of plagues.’
‘From my mother after ssssshe died,’ Siegfried said as he slipped back into the house silently with a bucket of snow, scaring Sarah out of her mind. Sheela stood up at the mention of a mother and gave Siegfried a stern look.
‘You would dare turn your mother into ingredients for your medicines?’ she said in a low tone.
‘Ssssshe would have done the sssssame if I had passsssssssed on,’ Siegfried shrugged nonchalantly ‘And consssssidering our current ssssituation, I don’t think I could afford to wasssste ssssssuch valuable ressssssourcessss.’
‘You killed your mother!’ Sarah accused.
‘I would do no ssssssuch thing!’ Siegfried snapped and leered over Sarah, making her cower under his shadow ‘Ssssshe died becaussssssse of the Narwhine that hasssss been keeping Ssssssssstiraia Village in itssssssss sssshadow!’ Sarah was reduced to pitiful whimpers and soft apologetic whimpers as Siegfried glowered at her with his piercing emerald eyes. Sheela swallowed as she stood up warily and placed a hand on Siegfried’s shoulder.
‘We’re sorry for you loss,’ she said as she picked up the box with Siegfried’s mother’s liver in ‘I’ll just go ahead and mash this up.’ Siegfried just stuck his tongue out at her before pouring the already melting snow into a small rusted cauldron above the barely lit fireplace. Sheela went over to where Siegfried had his tools laid out while Saphira sat down next to Vienna, rubbing her hands unconsciously. Amber heavily breathed in her coma, turning her head from side to side.
‘Xeann,’ she groaned ‘Xeann…’