The climbing Necros froze at the sight of me. I shifted my gaze to them, and they began to scatter back into the building in terror. “Burn,” I tried to tell them, but my in-between mouth would not form human words. I breathed fire down on them in a tidal wave, and they burned.
Within minutes all that remained of the building was a great gaping hole in the ground. I drifted gently down to the earth, kneeling slowly to touch the ground. That touch was all I needed to ground myself. I shifted slowly back to human form, my clothes now singed and tattered. Well, that was new, and I wasn’t even winded. There was definitely something very wrong with my powers. I had never lost control like that before.
It was a moment before I noticed the crowd of fighters that stood frozen around me, mouths agape. I cringed as I realized the revealing show I’d just given them. It was then that I noticed Christian standing only a few feet away, Dragonsbane unsheathed into a double blade in his trembling hands. He was shaking his head back and forth as dawning terror lit his face.
“Jillian.” Christian’s voice sounded panicked. “Tell me I’m wrong.” Dragonsbane had unfurled into a bigger blade than I’d ever seen in his hands. Every fighter watching backed far away from him to stay out of it’s reach.
“You’re wrong,” I told him calmly. I had been lying for so very many years that I was more than good at it. I didn’t just know how to lie, I knew the perfect timing of a lie, knew how to inflect my voice with just the right conviction. I was still hopeful I could talk my way out of this one. Apparently I had an unexpected optimistic streak. Who’d of thunk it?
“How come I don’t believe you?” His voice broke.
“Nothing’s changed, Christian. You’re still a brother to me. What I am has nothing to do with-”
“Don’t you get it?” He was shouting now. “It doesn’t matter how I feel about you! My instinct is far stronger than my will. How could you? How could you be this abomination for all this time and I not see it?” Tears ran down his face, but he raised Dragonsbane to me threateningly.
I shook my head at him. He was my brother. He was one of a small handful of people I had ever allowed myself to get close to over the course of my wretched life. My strongest instinct had always been one of survival, but I didn’t think I could bring myself to fight the brother that my heart had chosen, not even for my life. “I won’t fight you. I love you, Christian. Nature won’t dictate my actions. It doesn’t have to dictate yours.”
“My line was created to destroy yours, when your kind descended into madness. It is my sole purpose for being.”
“I haven’t gone mad. You know that. Lynn is perfectly sane, as well. I agree that many of the dragons have gone mad. Most of them have, in fact. Those ones do need to be put down. But not me, Christian. Nothing about me has changed.”
His eyes were wild. “I was always taught that enchantment was your strongest power over the slayers. My father told me not to engage your kind in conversation. ‘They will try to deceive you, Son, into thinking they are benign creatures. In this way, they can take your soul before they take your head.’ But I couldn’t have dreamed…I never imagined….”
I just kept shaking my head at him, despair beginning to sink in. “I don’t want your soul. Or your head. Just your friendship. I’m sorry for all the secrets and lies, but you have to see that they were necessary. Put down the sword, Christian.” I began removing my own weapons, throwing them at his feet. Was I feeling suicidal? A little bit, apparently. “Would you attack me when I’m unarmed?” I blinked away the tears in my eyes as I waited for his answer.
He stared at me unblinkingly. His body was shaking, but his hands were steady. Finally, he nodded. A great roar sobbed out of his throat as he lunged at me. Dragonsbane was swinging straight at my neck. I braced myself to roll out of the way when he suddenly froze. A large fist in his hair had stopped him. I followed the hand up to the great figure looming behind him.
Dom brought his other hand to Christian’s throat. It was still a great bear claw, dripping blood from the battle, and Christian swallowed hard just looking at it.
“Take his arms and pin him down,” Dom spoke through a mouthful of bloody fangs. I didn’t recognize the animal they came from, but I knew it wasn’t bear. Wolf, like his eye, I realized, as I studied him, trying to focus on anything other than the fact that my best friend had just tried to kill me.
Druids swarmed the slayer, pinning Christian against his will. Sweat broke out on his forehead, but he was silent.
Dom arched his back into the night, letting out an earth shattering howl. It was a victory roar, and it was met by countless other animal calls. Despite heavy casualties, the druids were clearly victorious.
As he straightened, I noticed the dark blood seeping out of his torn vest and down his body. He was badly wounded and ignoring it.
“Dom, you’re hurt. You need to call on your healers-” I started.
“Silence!” he roared. Now was not the time to be giving him orders, I saw. He turned back to the slayer. “Cam,” he barked at his 2nd lieutenant. Cam stepped forward, completely nude and obviously newly changed from some beast form. He handed Dom a fist-sized object I couldn’t make out. He gave me a hard look before stepping back.
Dom knelt beside Christian’s struggling figure. “You will not seek to harm Jillian or Lynn. You cannot. On pain of death.” It wasn’t until he was snapping the bracelet of bones onto Christian’s wrist that I realized he had been placing a Geas. The most powerful one I’d seen. The eleven druids touching Christian all lent their power to it. Dom had clearly planned ahead for this. Christian finally stopped struggling. He shut his eyes wearily, tears slipping down his cheeks. He said something to Dom, too softly for me to make out. It could have been, “thank you,” but I wasn’t sure.
“Take him away,” he ordered. Several druids obeyed, carrying Christian away. I watched silently.
Dom stood, and a team of healers descended on him. He let them, staring straight ahead. They stripped off his body armor, and I could see clearly the damage he’d taken. His body was covered in countless, deeply gushing wounds.
His neck was the worst. I gasped when they revealed it. It looked like someone had literally taken an axe to it. It had several huge gashes, as though they’d wailed on it like a tree trunk. The joke was on them. Dom’s neck was made of sterner stuff. Dom stood stoically while the healers worked away, mending it back to normal. It would be perfect again by morning.