Kelstrin took Anabel by the arm and led her back to the house, his motions fluid and swift as bare feet pattered back up the old wooden staircase to the top of the bluffs.

Frederick had been asleep before the roar of thunder jerked him awake, his eyes wide. He could feel his skin crawl, his stomach knotting as he leapt from his bed and bolted down the stairs. He stopped dead in his tracks, his eyes wide at the sight of Kelstrin holding Anabel’s arm on the landing.

“What the-!?”

“Freddie, what’s going on?” Anabel asked, Elsanor growling from the kitchen as the wind began to pick up.

“{Frederico, they’re coming.}”

“What’s he saying?”

“{Who’s coming?!}”

Anabel’s eyes widened.

“You can speak…But that’s illegal-!”

“Anabel, hush!”

“{They do not stop, Frederico. They will come for you, your family, everyone.}”

Frederick’s Adam’s apple quivered, his eyes glancing to the nearest window to see the sky black and plum purple.

“Anabel, get mother and father and get out of here.”

“Freddie, what’s going on?!"

“No time! Go!” He shoved Anabel up the stairs, running into the foyer and retrieving his satchel and backpack.

Kelstrin followed, his anklets clinking against his skin as the wind howled and groaned through the trees.

“{Can you tell me anything about these Shadowbroods?!}” Frederick growled, the copper in his eyes flaring dangerously.

“{They came soon after your kind stormed into Que’Vallah.}” Kelstrin replied bitterly, “{They seem to want Elbanian flesh.}”

“{My family is part of that society!}” Frederick rounded on Kelstrin, gripping a fistful of Kelstrin’s chiton, “{Or do you condone the deaths of innocents?!}”

“{Seems your kind does.}” Kelstrin sneered.

Frederick shoved him into the wall, the boards whining with the strain of the impending gales.

“{Get out of here.}”

“{Not a chance.}”

“{Why do you persist?!}” Frederick hollered, his voice cracking as he clamped his hands to his head.

Before Kelstrin could answer, the clumping sound of Isaac’s feet caught their ears. Both froze, staring at each other.

“Where’s Rufus?!”

“Father, take the back door!” Frederick shouted, rushing past Kelstrin to deflect his father’s attention.

“Are you crazy!? We’d be blown off the bluffs! We need to-“ Isaac called back over the roaring storm, stopping short at the sight of Kelstrin.

In Isaac’s hand was his shotgun and Lore Stone. An eerie silence fell around them as the winds continued to rattle the house. In an instant, Isaac had Kelstrin up against the wall shotgun barrel practically buried into Kelstrin’s throat.

“You filthy Mystic! You brought this unto my house!”

“Sir, we…glk!…can’t-“ Kelstrin struggled to speak, his hands gripping the barrel.

“How dare you fool my son and infiltrate my house!!” He pulled back the hammer on the firearm, fuming as Anabel and Meredith stared in horror.

“Father, don’t!” Frederick yelled, “I knew he was a Mystic.”

The look of disbelief and shock could not compound the shame Frederick felt in that moment.


Frederick opened his mouth in an attempt to explain, but a low bellow reverberated through the night air. Kelstrin’s eyes widened.

“{They’re here!}”

The roof was torn open like paper, glowing white eyes peering into the contents to see five petrified faces looking up at it. Black rainwater sloshed over every surface, blinding Isaac.

Kelstrin took the chance. He pulled his knees in and kicked Isaac back, ducking down behind Frederick. Isaac tottered, losing his balance as a joint in his fake leg bent and snapped.

“Isaac!” Meredith dove to catch him.

The Shadowbrood dipped its dark hand into the house, its winding tendrils reaching out towards Isaac.

“Father!” Frederick grabbed a splinter of the roof and dug it into his hand, gritting his teeth from the pain as blood surfaced.

He flung the crimson beads at the monster’s hand, turning bright blue as it cut through the dark flesh. The Shadowbrood roared, wrenching back its hand as Frederick hauled his father onto his good leg.

“Father, can you move?” Frederick shouted over the rain, “Mother, take his other side!”

Meredith scooped up Isaac’s other arm, keeping her eyes to the ground and holding tightly to Isaac’s sleeve. The Shadowbrood slammed its injured fist into the house, smashing the floor foundations and causing splinters to dig into its velvet-like arm.

A scream caught their attention, Frederick wheeling around to see Anabel trapped on the other side of the chasm, hanging onto Elsanor’s neck.

“Freddie, help!”

Kelstrin reacted, instinctively leaping over the hole and narrowly missing a swipe from the Shadowbrood. Elsanor barked and growled, snapping her teeth at Kelstrin. Kelstrin snarled back, causing her to back down as the Shadowbrood focused on them.

“Get behind me, Anabel!” Kelstrin tucked her back, free hand resting on his dagger, “{Leave! Return to the source!}”

“{NO. NOT WITHOUT WARMTH.}” It bellowed, bringing its fist down.

Kelstrin wiped his thumb across the blade at the end of the pommel, drawing his blood out.

“{Don’t! You don’t have enough strength!}” Frederick shouted, trying to figure out how to get to the other side.

Kelstrin’s eyes narrowed, and in a flash of green light, he burst into his feline form, scooping up Anabel onto his back and grabbing Elsanor by the ruff of her neck. He wobbled, his shoulder aching as he dove across the destroyed floor and tumbled. He slid across into the foyer, letting Anabel down and releasing Elsanor.

The Shadowbrood knocked into the furnace, spilling hot coals across the kitchen as the heat made it shriek and writhe.

“{We need to get to the docks!}”  Frederick yelled, getting his father and mother out the front door.

“{It will not stop following!}” Kelstrin howled back, his fur tousled by the wind and rain.

“{Well, what CAN we do then?!}”

The side section of the farmstead was ablaze, billowing clouds of smoke obscuring the dark beast trapped in the ruins of the house. The Shadowbrood smashed through the rest of it, Meredith covering her mouth as tears slid down her cheeks. Livestock shrieked within the barn, the fire bleeding out towards it.

“Frederick, the barn!” Meredith shouted, holding Anabel closed.

Kelstrin was ahead of him, charging into the barn doors and smashing them open as equine and bovine creatures fled into the woods. He hobbled out, trying to catch his breath before the sound of twisting wood caught his ear. He looked up to see the Shadowbrood descending upon the barn, flame and smoke wrapped around its body as it smashed through the loft.

Kelstrin tried to dodge but was knocked over by a shattered beam.

“I have to help him!” Frederick started to leave Isaac’s side.

“Leave him!” Isaac shouted, “He’s done enough to us!”

“But I have to!”

“Why!? This creature destroyed our home!”

Frederick stopped, his tongue stuck to the floor of his mouth. Kelstrin roared out, the beast following the hideous sounds. Frederick turned and ran back, ignoring his father’s cries as he dove into the wreckage. He dodged falling lumber, finding Kelstrin and digging him out before the Shadowbrood tore through the rest of the barn.

Shünah!” Kelstrin shook off splinters, knocking the Shadowbrood in the knee to provide an escape for both of them.

They charged out of the burning skeleton of the barn, the Shadowbrood disoriented and howling into the night.

They made it to the front gates of the farmstead, frozen in place as they watched the town of Queensbury burn. More of these dark creatures roamed through the houses, knocking down stone and wood as people screamed and tried to escape.

“{We can’t help them, Frederico.}” Kelstrin replied somberly.

Frederick’s fists curled, his brows lowering before he turned and took up his father’s side, his blood soaking into the side of Isaac’s shirt.

“Come on, we need to get to safety.”

“Not with him!” Isaac wheeled around, taking aim at Kelstrin.

“Isaac, no!” Meredith tried to pull his gun down, “Not here!”

Kelstrin snarled and bowed his head down, ears folded back as he was ready to pounce.  Frederick ran inbetween the two, his arms spread out.

“Get out of the way, Frederick!’

“No, father!” Frederick’s eyes glowed in the night, the fire dancing across the copper rims, “I can’t…”

“Why not!?”

“Because this is the Mystic who saved my life!”

Isaac stopped, lowering his gun slightly.

“You told me you escaped…”

Kelstrin’s brows rose, looking equally shocked.

“I…It’s partially true.”

The bellow of the Shadowbrood triggered them back into alert, the sound of trees heralding the approach of the one that attacked their home.

“{Frederico, we must move!}” Kelstrin bounded past them, waiting for them to follow.

Frederick returned to his family, trying to help his father up the road as the monster rolled out onto the dirt path.

“Frederico!” Kelstrin shouted, diving over them and clamping his fangs into the creature,"{Go, I will hold it off!}”

Kelstrin grappled its back, clawing into its shadowy skin. It reared back, arms flailing as he attempted to fling Kelstrin off.

The End

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