Photo via Visual hunt
“By the Twelve,” one of the men shouted, a lamp held high in one hand and a sword in the other. “You never said he was that huge.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Sieglinde said. Her golden hair was plastered to her head from the rain Lilavati could see falling outside. “Kill him, and find the Great Lady.”
The servants and soldiers that once served Manas started forward. Manas launched forward, landing on the first man. The lantern fell to the ground. The flame went out, but Lilavati saw Manas’ jaws close over the frightened man’s head. He tore the head off and sent it flying out into the night.
Manas let out a snarl mixed with an inhuman cry as a sword slashed against his side. Blood oozed down the fur, crimson mixing with orange. “He can be killed,” the second man said.
“Then do it,” Sieglinde repeated.
“I see the Great Lady,” the third man said. He pointed with his sword. “There, behind the pile of supplies.”
Sieglinde slipped around the fighting. Lilavati watched her approach, rage growing deep inside her. “Great Lady, you need to come with me,” Sieglinde said. She glanced down. “Goodness, you’re not even clothed. We should remedy that and then I’ll help you out of here.”
“You act as if I am not here of my own free will,” Lilavati said, her anger giving her voice more strength. Sieglinde stepped back, eyes wide. “I chose to enter the circle, to learn of my beloved’s curse. I am the one who can stand beside him with no fear. I will not go with you, and I will see you dead for your betrayal.”
Sieglinde scowled. “If you aren’t under a spell you’re as cursed as he is. You must die.” She raised the kitchen knife she carried as a makeshift dagger.
Lilavati moved to the side, letting the strange feline inside her control her movements. She twisted so she could keep her eyes on Sieglinde as the young woman stumbled. “You will never be able to slay me, or my beloved. We will see you sent to your Twelve, and let them judge you for your crimes.”
“We are the chosen of the Twelve,” Sieglinde said, lunging at her again.
Lilavati moved again, gasping as the knife grazed her leg. She fell, rolling to the side to avoid the blade once more. Blood trickled down her leg. The scent reminded her of something, a memory from long ago.
She looked around for a weapon even as she continued to dodge Sieglinde’s attacks. This false strength wasn’t going to last much longer. She spotted Manas’ dagger and dove forward. She got her hand around the hilt and pulled it from the sheath. She dodged Sieglinde again before spinning to face her.
“Do you think you are the only chosen?” Lilavati hissed, her voice sounding almost like a cat’s snarl. “I was granted a gift, one I thought a curse. But I see now I was touched by the Twelve. I was simply forced to wait for my beloved to find me to learn this truth.”
“You think you, an outsider, was chosen by our gods?” Sieglinde asked. She laughed hysterically. “You’re a liar as well as cursed. Die, gods curse you.”
“If you are to be believed, they have,” Lilavati said. She lunged forward, blade in hand.
Lilavati knew nothing of hand to hand combat. Sieglinde seemed to know some, but Lilavati’s swift and brutal flurry of attacks threw her off balance. The natural grace Lilavati was known for in her own land allowed her to move efficiently through a series of maneuvers until she forced Sieglinde back. The traitorous servant reached Lilavati’s barricade and fell over it, the blade dropping out of her hand.
Lilavati ran around to the other side and kicked it out of her reach. “Do you think the Great Lord will kill me? He’ll have your word against mine. I doubt he’ll remember any of this when he shifts back in the morning and I can tell him you attacked us,” Sieglinde said. “We’ve served him for years. He’ll listen to us over you.”
“His memory is clear whether he is in tiikeri form or human,” Lilavati said. She put the knife to Sieglinde’s neck. “And as I am soon to be his wife, as well as being the love of his heart, I think he will forgive me for this.” She slashed the treacherous woman’s throat, cutting as deeply as she could. Sieglinde twitched twice as blood poured from the wound, but fell still.
Lilavati screamed as another blade cut across her back. “Witch,” someone snarled. “Murderess. Vile demon.”
She twisted, ignoring the agony, to look into the mad eyes of Sieglinde’s brother Ansgar. He must have slipped in during the fighting. Lilavati could hear the snarls and screams, which meant Manas was still fighting his own battle.
“It is you who are the vile ones,” Lilavati said, her voice weakening. The strength she’d had fighting Sieglinde was leaving her. She tried to call it back but it drained out of her like water through a sieve. “You who betray your lord and seek to murder him. He has no choice but to answer to this curse, as the demon of his past returned to strike him down.”
Ansgar raised his sword. “He should have killed himself rather than inflict his cursed blood on us. Then we’d be free to seek other masters and prevent our children from being tainted by this dark magic. May the Twelve devour your soul and leave nothing but pain behind.” The blade plunged towards Lilavati’s unprotected body. She couldn’t even raise the dagger to defend herself.
A blast of freezing air slammed into Ansgar, knocking him across the tent. The young man dropped his sword, howling in pain. The rest of the assassins met the same fate.
to be continued…