Jen didn't know how long they had been fighting, but she figured she should be getting tired. Instead, she was as energetic as ever. The adrenaline and stamina of her wolf were aw- inspiring. Just as they finished off a large bear, they froze. The downpour had suddenly ceased.
Jen and Jacque both looked up to the hill where Peri, Rachel, and Sally stood. A soft glow appeared around them and began to get brighter. Whatever they were doing, it was working.
Suddenly, a howl went up and Jen knew instinctively that it was her Alpha, Vasile. The compulsion to join in the victory howl rose in her throat. With the rest of her pack she lifted her head toward the moon and let out an ear-splitting howl.
As the howl died down she looked out into the battle field and saw that not a single animal was left standing aside from the packs. They had done it. That thought lasted all of two seconds before the ground began to shake under her paws. She shifted nervously and Jacque came and stood closer to her. They watched in horror as it appeared as though the very land was coming alive beyond the treeline. But it wasn't the land, it was what moved swiftly across the land. The Serbian pack had come. They swarmed over a hill, charging down into the valley, straight at them. And so the battle continued.
Decebel growled low as he watched the Serbian pack running for them. He waited, let his enemy run and wear themselves down, if only a little. He looked to Vasile, who stood tall and proud, Fane on his other side in the same stance. Their fur was covered in the evil blood of their enemies, their bodies tense from the fight. Decebel lowered himself to the ground, ready to lunge. He waited, held still for the perfect moment and as the first wolf lunged himself into the air, Decebel struck, going just under him, running his sharp canines along the tender, vulnerable underside of the wolf's stomach. Decebel tasted the wolf's blood as he tore through fur, flesh, and muscle. He didn't stop to see if his rival fell.
Wolf after wolf he tore through, looking for the one he wanted, the one who had tried to kill his mate. The one who had poisoned his Alphas and defied pack law for centuries, employing a witch. Finally, across the field, he saw Thad circling as Fane and Costin did the same. Decebel took off at a run – the Alpha was his kill. He broke into their circle, snarling at Fane and Costin, making it clear he intended to take on Thad. Alone.
As soon Fane and Costin had backed off, Decebel focused his attention on Thad. He didn't notice the strong wind picking up or the snow beginning to swirl around them. He didn't give head to the bright orange that flashed in the forest as fire began to crackle in the air. His purpose, his utter intent was all on the wolf before him. He lifted his lip in a snarl and began to move in a slow circle, his wolf sizing up the competition. Thad made a lunge that was intended to intimidate, but Decebel didn't flinch.
Thad must have seen the intent in Decebel's eyes just before he made his own lunge and they clashed in the air, muzzles snapping, paws slamming into skulls and ribs. They came apart and circled again, blood dripping from a gash on Decebel's head where Thad's canines had grazed him. He'd had enough of this – he wanted to end this now.
He went in low and lunged quickly, grabbing Thad's left front paw. He crushed his jaws together, breaking the bone, and let go. He lunged over and over, making quick snaps here and there, breaking a back leg, crushing a rib. Slowly, he weakened the Alpha. Thad got in a few good swipes and Decebel dripped from gashes on his side. Decebel was briefly distracted as he observed Jennifer's wolf form from the corner of his eye. Thad took the momentary lapse in his attention to lunge. He managed to crash into Decebel's side, taking him down.
Decebel heard a piercing snarl and saw Jennifer jump over him onto Thad's back. She latched onto one of his ears and pulled with all her might, ripping the ear off. Thad snarled and swung his body, flinging Jennifer violently from his back. Decebel jumped to his feet and turned, quickly grabbing Thad's back leg before he could go after his mate. Thad turned and snapped at Decebel and Decebel let go, only to lunge low under Thad and latch onto his throat from underneath. Decebel pushed his teeth deeper through the wolf's fur, seeking the flesh and bone. He made a huge swing with his head and snapped his jaws together at the same time, effectively snapping the Alpha's neck. Decebel gave another shake for good measure, then dropped the lifeless body from his mouth. He rolled the dead Alpha onto his back and, with a mighty snarl, ripped into his abdomen, disemboweling him.
Decebel let out a victory howl and the battle field grew still as the effect of the Serbian Alpha's death reverberated through the Serbian pack.
One by one the wolves fell to their stomachs, necks bared.
Jen came to stand next to Decebel. He leaned his head down and licked her bloody muzzle.
"Is it done?" Jen asked tentatively, just as a blood curling scream rent the air.
"Not quite," Decebel murmured as they looked to the hilltop. There Desdemona stood with raised arms.
Sally's body began to tremble as she held the stone in her hands, the force of Desdemona's will crushing over her. She heard a voice in her mind whispering to drop the stone, give in, come to her. Sally squeezed her eyes shut as she fought the compulsion. She felt her knees begin to weaken, but before she could collapse, strong arms wrapped around her. She didn't have to open her eyes to know who it was.
She continued to fight, to push back. "You will not win," she responded to the whispers, to the evil that tried to flow over her skin like slick oil.
"Sally, healer from another land. You will be mine, your blood will sustain my power. I will watch the life fade from your eyes as I cut your beating heart from your chest."
The voice scraped against her mind as Sally struggled with the images the witch projected. She felt wetness on her face – tears were running from her eyes. It wasn't supposed to end like this, evil wasn't supposed to escape. She felt a gut-wrenching pull inside her and let out a scream as she pushed back. A flash of light pierced the night and then all was still. The wind stopped, the snow ceased to fall, and the silent night wrapped itself around the quieted battle field.
Sally opened her eyes slowly and tried to gain her bearings. She looked over her shoulder into deep hazel eyes.
"I've got you, Sally mine," Costin whispered into her ear. Sally didn't fight him, but turned into his embrace and let his warmth comfort her.
"It wasn't supposed to end like this Costin. She got away. She won."