RIFT (RISE OF THE REALMS BOOK THREE)
EPIC FANTASY, URBAN FANTASY, DARK FANTASY
It’s the scent of death that rolls my stomach, twisting my intestines in tangled knots. I’ve smelled this aroma before, but not to this magnitude. It’s overpowering and practically impossible to ignore for a creature like me; a wolf shifter. It’s an aroma I can easily pick out, even from inside my wolf’s mind. This odor of death will forever etch the memory of this battle, of this arena and the dead bodies decorating it, forever.
I sit in my mind’s back seat, my wolf fighting in a way I’ve never seen him. He’s always been calm-natured before, but today, he fights for freedom in more ways than one.
Our mate is behind us, kicking up dust with her dragon talons. Katriane DuPont, wrapped in scales and towering over the Colosseum’s arena, fights alongside us. On the outside, she appears to have everything under control. But my wolf can feel the darkness which swallows her. She’s absorbed by the death she’s creating – bloodthirsty – addicted to the point of no return. And I have no idea how to stop it, except to win. But how can we win when we’re outnumbered?
If we can get out of this, if we can make a break for it, I can save her from the darkness, I tell myself. But another part of my mind is a container of endless fear, squandering my hopeful thoughts. I fear I may be too late to help her, to pull her back to humanity when this is over… if we live through it.
“Even if we win the battle, we’ll never leave here alive,” is what Sandy had said, what he had predicted, and it vibrates in my skull louder than the clash of sword, in the ripping of flesh.
The chances are high we will die, and we knew this before marching up the ramp and taking the first step onto the sand. Upon observation, it had already been soaked with a deep crimson from the other’s failing in the fight for their life, and yet, we still marched forward to greet our fate.
Sandy’s words hush as my wolf leaps forward, his front paws shoving against the chest of the demon challenging us. A fierce growl rumbles between his ribs. I’m not sure if the growl was for me and my invading thoughts, or to warn the demon snarling in front of us. In any way, I allow my wolf to take on the defense with animalistic instincts while I watch on in a pocket of my mind, silently praying we’ll live another day, another hour, another minute.
The demon’s horns are crooked, like he’s wearing a hat that was accidentally tipped in the process of being glued to his skull. The rest of his body is constructed the same way – each limb out of place, unfortunately unparalleled. Small bumps ooze pus along the flesh of his crater skin, like each pore is a tiny volcano.
I cringe inside as my wolf clamps his jaws around the creature’s thick neck, and then gasp when he’s a moment too late. The demon is quick and shoves my wolf in the chest, throwing him midair with the amount of strength that should be impossible for this creature’s unfortunate form.
My wolf scrambles against the sand after the abrupt, jaw-clenching impact. Blood from the soggy sand transfers to his coat. He scrambles on his side and tries to gather his paws underneath him. The demon jumps and pins my wolf to the spot, digging his muzzle into the ground.
I wheeze inside my wolf’s head. This is it. This is the end.
The demon raises a large, clawed fist, preparing to strike a deadly blow. I fight the urge to close my eyes, to not witness my second death. The world slows around me as he swings, lowering to strike the side of my wolf’s face.
I’ve failed. I’ll never know love – nor will I ever get a chance greater than the one I have now to be with Kat – to touch her the way I want, to even tell her I’m destined to be with her. This is going to hurt, I know it will.
The fist never thumps, and I gaze back at the demon, watching through my wolf’s eyes. A tiny tendril of misty fog swirls around the demon’s horns.
I hold my breath, too afraid to sigh in relief.
Reaper’s Breath distracts him momentarily, a nuisance buzzing around his head, and enters the demon’s body through his shrewd mouth. His slotted eyes widen, and a second later, his chest explodes. Like a bomb, flesh and bone scatter in every direction, coating my wolf’s fur in goop.
My wolf retches and I echo the action, gagging inside. His exhales and inhales are heavy and he’s slow to rise. Once on all fours, he turns and surveys the arena and all those bloodied, bruised, and dead.