“Turns out I won’t need you after all,” she turned to Ainsel. “The King has killed himself. You need not worry about capturing him.”

Ainsel backed away, slowly allowing the forest to swallow him up. He had felt the wolves, had felt their intent and he wanted to be as far as he could be by the time the battle started.

Mona raised her hands and looked up into the sky.

“Water, earth, wind, and fire,

Hear me now, fulfill my desire.”

She called on the rain, thunder, and lightning, and the skies opened. Thunder shook the ground and lightning lit up the dark sky, shooting down into the forest.

Her hands moved wildly as she manipulated the wind, pulling and pushing the currents. The gusts were strong enough to uproot trees and send them crashing into the ground.

She watched as all nature bent to her will. It would not be enough. She called on the birds that did her bidding. The blood of the many beasts that she would summon was painted on her clothes, as the presence of blood was often required to control the minds of such creatures. She sent out her will, demanding the trolls leave their hiding places. She called upon the pixies, and though she knew Ainsel would not come, there were those among his kind with black hearts that would gladly answer her call.

Suddenly there was a blinding flash. When Mona’s vision cleared, a woman stood before her.

“You are the Fae who has betrayed her people,” Mona smiled.

“Peri and the healers will be moving in behind the warriors,” Lorrelle told her.

“Warriors?” Mona frowned. “What warriors?”

“Didn’t I mention those?” Lorrelle looked smug. “The warlocks and the elves have come to join the party.”

“Is this all the help you are providing?”

Lorelle pulled three stones from her pocket. “I have weakened my sister significantly. She doesn’t have all the stones of the Fae. If that is not enough to give you a slight advantage then you are not as powerful as you claim.”

Before Mona could answer, the Fae was gone.

“Coward,” Mona growled.

Mona felt the power of the pack surrounding her as they moved closer. She closed her eyes and held her hands out. She spoke quietly, calling on her power. She smiled when she felt the heat of the fire that blazed. It wasn’t real, but the wolves would hesitate and sometimes that was all she needed to have the upper hand.

Vasile watched as the packs broke off and moved stealthily through the trees. They fanned out and around, creating a large circle. Almost as if choreographed, every other wolf turned to face outward, taking up guard for the outward attack that was already headed in their direction. They could feel the rumbling ground beneath their paws.

Peri and the other Fae had managed to minimize the effect of Mona’s influence over the storm. They had slowed the wind when wolves had started being drug back as if the wind had hands and had latched onto their legs. The rain had been blurring their vision, Peri’s voice had risen above it, and as she'd slowed the downpour. Vasile had anticipated the attack of Mona’s minions and so he and the other Alphas had decided that every fifth wolf would continue to move towards Mona along with three of the Fae and ten elves. The rest would stay back and hold the perimeter. If the demons were released, then none of them would likely survive. Their only hope was that they could take out Mona before Cypher completed his task. If they did not, he would have to open it or suffer the consequences of the blood oath.

Costin moved forward, pulling away from the wolves that would stay back and defend the border of their pack. He made eye contact with each wolf that he could see, who moved forward with him. As he drew closer, he could feel the witch’s power pushing on him, urging him to turn and run. They picked up their pace as they fought the spell and came up short when the felt the heat of the fire and then saw the wall of flames that separated them from their prey. He paced restlessly, looking for a way through. The wolves around him let out low growls and barks, frustrated at being thwarted.

“It’s an illusion!” Costin turned to see Alston, the head of the Fae council running towards them. Dain and Gwen were right behind him. Dain ran right and Gwen went left to join in the circle of wolves that stood before the fire. The Fae stepped closer to the fire until their hands were touching it. Their lips moved, but Costin was unable to hear their words. The flames started to dissipate and just when it appeared that they would disappear altogether, the flames jumped back even higher. Then, as if a snake was moving the fire, it began to weave through the forest, wrapping around each wolf. The wolves howled and danced from paw to paw as the flames closed in on them.

“IT’S NOT REAL!” The collective voice of the Fae reached through the crackling of the flames. Costin’s wolf did not want to believe them because the flames looked too real. But, then he remembered when they had been running in the forest with their mates on their backs. Mona had tried to use the flames then as well. His mind made up, he lunged through the fire and emerged on the other side. Alston nodded to him and began moving forward again. Costin sent out a call and push of power to draw the wolves through and they soared from the fire, landing whole and angry on the inside of the flames. Rage boiled in their blood and surged them onward.

Fane watched as the trolls came rushing through the forest, some large enough that they knocked down small trees, as if they were toothpicks. His lips pulled back in a snarl as he decided the most effective way to take them down.

“Clip their heels, they won’t be able to stand,” he told Jacque.

“Got it,” she answered as she lowered herself into a crouch, ready to leap as soon as they were close enough.

Fane saw his father lunge forward and took that as his signal. He rushed forward, diving under the first troll he reached, and whipping around to tear at the troll’s heel, ripping out the tendon. The troll went down on one leg. Jacque, who had circled around behind the troll, now dove forward to rip out the tendon of the other heel. The troll hit the ground with a mighty boom. Fane ran swiftly and flew at his throat, ripping it open at the artery. Blood spurted, splashing onto Fane’s dark fur. His wolf howled at the first kill and the others answered. He turned to see Jacque battling with a smaller troll that had already put a gash across her flank. Jacque tried to jump aside, but the troll’s huge fist still caught her. She was flung backwards and smacked against a tree. Fane soared through the air, landing on the back of the troll. He dug his claws into the troll’s thick skin shredding at the flesh. Jacque jumped back to her feet and maneuvered around to the side of the troll who was focused on getting Fane of his back. She made for the heels just as Fane had told her and in two swift moves, she had torn the tendons. Fane jumped from the trolls back as it slammed to the ground. Jacque moved to take out the neck, but Fane pushed her aside and did it himself. He nudged her towards another group of wolves that were battling several trolls at one time and they joined in the fight.

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