A Prince Among Killers - By J. B. Redmond Page 0,1

but Aron was convinced it was hopeless. The reality of impending death crackled through his muscles and bones, chilling him. Each step he took felt heavier and slower than the last. The day should have been bright, but no light fought its way through the dense mists.

“I won’t save you,” Galvin called from ahead of Aron. “If I live and you don’t, so much the better for Stone.”

Aron cursed the fog obscuring his view. Galvin seemed to float forward, then disappear into the unrelenting gray.

The silver dagger Stormbreaker had given Aron weighed in Aron’s palm, and he wished he could throw it with accuracy—in the direction where Galvin had vanished. As his training masters had taught him, he checked ahead and beside him in both directions for threats, once behind, then moved forward to catch up to the older boy.

The path to the Ruined Keep revealed itself in pieces, mostly dirt and rock and bleached branches scattered like bones reaching into the mists. Aron noticed each unusual pattern of sticks and memorized it, in case he needed markers for his return journey.

Rocks crunched behind him.

His heart lurched as he whirled around, dagger and short sword raised.

A large black snake launched toward his legs, mouth open for the strike.

Aron shouted and sliced down with his short sword. The blade tore across the snake’s too-broad head, leaving a bloody rent in its slick scales. The creature hissed and jerked away from the blow—and started to change.

“Mocker!” Aron yelled to warn Galvin, in case the monster got past him.

He tried to breathe and coughed at the wet-grave stench of the air. His eyes teared, but he slashed at the scaly abomination before it could assume its humanlike form. This time, he caught the creature directly across its now-childish face. Fat cheeks and lips ruptured as the thing hissed and bawled and tried to spit at him. Wings crackled outward from its shoulders as blood and liquid trickled from its damaged mouth.

Aron swallowed before he could retch and raised his sword again.

The mocker moved faster.

Claws sharper than straight razors ripped toward Aron’s belly. He leaped backward and dropped to his backside just in time to avoid a stream of blood-flecked spittle. The poisonous liquid spattered on the ground near his foot, sizzling holes into the rocks and dirt.

Aron rolled away from the stinking discharge and scrambled to his feet, dagger and short sword extended. A quick glance around told him that Galvin was nowhere near.

The mocker let out a screech that made Aron’s breath stick in his throat. It looked like a deformed infant, human from waist up, snake from waist down, flapping oily, thick wings against the encroaching fog. It was tall, almost as tall as Aron, but with a snake’s thin, twisty build.

Aron’s vision narrowed as hours upon hours of sparring and battle training took hold of his habits. He flexed his knees and checked his balance, circling the mocker-snake as it turned in the air to keep pace with him. His pulse surged each time his feet struck the barren ground.

The mocker-snake gave a cry that was mingled hiss and screech. The sound raked Aron’s nerves, but he didn’t react. The reality of his situation left him, along with the fog, the cries of other creatures in the distance, and most of his fear. His dagger and short sword took on a different weight, comforting instead of challenging, and he moved them fluidly, keeping the metal as a shield between himself and the monster.

Scales rattled as the mocker-snake spun to keep Aron in front of it. It pulled back its malformed lips and spit again, but Aron turned like a dancer, letting the poison scar the ground again. If only he could throw his dagger well—this battle would be ended!

The mocker-snake arced toward him, human mouth wide to show rows of dripping fangs.

Aron pivoted on his lead foot and brought his short sword down hard as he raised his dagger. He felt the jolt of contact up to his elbows, but didn’t drop his blades. For a bleak, horrible second, the mocker’s childlike head kept flying toward him. Aron’s heart stuttered and his concentration broke.

He jerked sideways, and the mocker-snake’s head crashed into the rocks at his feet.

The snake’s partly human body landed a sword’s length away, spilling dark red blood onto the path. It had an unnatural acrid stench, making Aron’s eyes water all the more.

He stood for a few moments, breathing in and out so hard his chest ached

readonlinefreenovel.com Copyright 2016 - 2022