Hm... I seem to have more time to work on this when I'm not feeling well... Go figure. Anyway, not a particularly long chapter; more of a filler, actually... Anyway, enjoy. And big thanks and cookies to all who have reviewed and followed and favorited! I'm so glad you've enjoyed it thus far.
Review! Wolf!Break will be sad if you don't.
"I swear, my mistress. It was he. No mistake."
A low purr rumbled its way to Breoc's ears from the shrouded throne once more. She laughed – laughed! His scruff bristled.
"This is no laughing matter, milady! He's still very much alive, and under the tutelage of one of the Light worms! If he becomes their ally-"
She laughed all the harder, her eyes emerald crescents of low light in the darkness. "He is already their ally, Commander. Are you so blind as to not see that? Ha; it matters not. Let him tie himself to those simpering fools. I care not! He is not so great a threat that I will allow his new form to trouble me; in fact, it is better now than before. Now, he is in a form much easier controlled."
Breoc's eyes widened considerably, and he snorted. "You suggest we try and turn he, a knight of the last Age, into a Dark One?" It was his turn to laugh, in ridicule of the notion. "You'd sooner force a camel through the eye of a needle."
"That is a rich man, Breoc. You can sooner fit a camel through the eye of a needle than convince a rich man to give up all he owns. A knight is much more persuadable. Their reknowned loyalty is their downfall!" The dark mistress cackled, and Breoc swore he saw the glimmer of her fangs.
But Breoc was tired of riddles and cryptic language. He growled low. "Speak plainly, cat!"
That silenced her, and he instantly regretted opening his maw. In a blink, claws flashed, and pain exploded across his face. He felt the searing heat of tearing flesh, and his body left the ground from the force of the blow. After rolling across the harsh stone floor, he finally came to a stop at the edge of a boulder on the far wall. Everything spun, and as he staggered to his feet again, he managed to catch sight of the approaching black figure.
"You dare mock me, wolf!" she spat, head held high and lips curled to reveal her rows of gleaming ivory teeth. Her eye twitched. "Attempt to order me about again, and I shall have your head mounted on the wall alongside the guardian's! You will organize a distraction on the day of the human's funeral – harass the carriage, something." Her tone grew condescending, like she was talking to a child. "Then, when the Light servants are properly occupied, launch an assault of the mansion. Kill the mother, and anyone who gets in your path! Go now, and redeem yourself!"
There it was. The wall, and the guardhouses. Two Pandora agents stood rigid just within the gates, hands at their sides, ready to reach for their pistols at a moment's notice.
Break turned his crimson gaze to the tree line; if Binde were to hide anywhere, it had to be in the shelter of the forest. Otherwise, he'd be shot. Break sought along the dry underbrush for a sign of any kind that his companion had been that way.
So far, he'd been following… Well, he couldn't rightly describe it. It was like… an essence, like the very presence of the other wolf had left a trail in the form of a deep, earthy scent. It was nearly visible, and all he'd had to do was go where it led him. He found footprints, broken limbs, even tufts of fur left on the extended fingers of branches. Blatant evidence that Binde had indeed come this way.
But at the edge of the woods, those signs came to an end, and in the open chill, the scent had been blown away in the winter wind.
So, just along the edge Break walked, scanning both the openness and the darkening woods with a critical eye. He jumped at every sound, expecting that black monstrosity to leap out at any moment. Even though he'd left it at the river, there was no reason to think it had no other way of crossing.
Jaws clamped down on his neck, and pulled him to the side by his skin. A strangled yelp burst from his throat, and he was sure he heard the guards start at the sudden rustle of brush. He was tossed onto his back, and he rolled right over to spring onto his feet again. He bristled, and drew his lips back to reveal his fangs.
Binde snorted, rolling his cobalt eyes and giving him a glare about as cold as the breeze. "Really, Xerxes."
Break had never felt outmatched, or intimidated by anyone. So, when he moved to speed past Binde with a blinding blow to send the other wolf staggering back as a return of the favor, he found that his companion didn't budge an inch, and had stopped Break's momentum like a brick wall. Break stared at Binde with a befuddled, and rather curious expression. He again threw his weight against the other dog, who barely swayed, feet planted solidly.
Next time he tried was when he, instead, got a nice big bite of humble pie that tasted an awful lot like cold snow. Binde moved out of the way to let Break's inertia carry him right past and into a drift at the base of a tree.
As he crawled his way out of the snow, Binde scoffed, giving his head a shake much like Liam-san did often. "What are you playing around for? We have a patrol to man."
Break shook himself off, and cast Binde a wry smile. "What's wrong with a little fun? I'd say I deserve it after what you left me to deal with."
"It isn't as if I could predict who he would go after. If we'd stayed together, he would have followed us wherever we went. As it is," to emphasize his point, Binde glanced about with feigned caution, "I see no Dark One."
While inwardly he cringed at the turnabout, Break maintained his aloof disposition by giving a fake pout. "But I'm too old to be racing such beasts; perhaps I cannot go another step." He even planned to feign a collapse into the snow right then.
Binde didn't even react; he didn't even glance back. He continued on, words casual as he threw them over his shoulder. "Then you may wait here for the guards to catch you, and kill you."
Break loped to his side, and continued to follow. He gave Binde a mild glare. "You're no fun, you know?"
"With a job like ours, one often has no time for 'fun'. 'Fun' has gotten sentries killed, Xerxes." Binde's expression remained solemn and facing straight ahead. "And we cannot afford to lose any more of our numbers." He finally glanced at Break. "Footsteps."
Break fell into step behind him.
The twosome walked along in silence, Binde leading him along in what Break assumed to be the patrol route. As they neared Koba's death place, Binde spoke once more.
"That Dark One we encountered… He was no ordinary evil one."
Break couldn't help but roll his eye heavenward at that. "Oh, no, so there's more than one kind, now? As if having good and evil wolves wasn't enough. What is it? Is he extra evil, then?"
Binde's lip twitched, and the other wolf looked about ready to snap at Break, which made Break grin. But, with a sigh, Binde recomposed himself before continuing.
"He is not just a Dark One, he is the Dark One. One of the Black Council, and one of the most receptive of the Dark Lord's power. He is the Commander of the Black Forces, one of the High Kings of Shadow Peak! It is no joking matter, Xerxes." Binde's eyes held a seriousness that made Break want to put laughing matters aside – which, of course, was a rare occurance.
"Breoc is out and about. That means that the Black Council has adjourned, allowing their members to roam and reap havoc once more."
They came to the clearing, where Binde stopped and looked out over the mansion. Break followed his gaze, and thought he saw three familiar figures – two dark-haired, one blonde – on the balcony in the west wing.
"Something has happened on the other end," said Binde, voice now low with foreboding. Break found himself sobered by the words. "And I don't know what… But I think we're about to find out soon."
Break caught sight of movement in the gardens below. He scanned the skeletal shrubbery for it, and found a pair of scrawny black wolves – nothing near the size of the one Binde had called Breoc – making their way toward…
A growl rose in Break's throat, causing Binde to cast him a confused glance.
"What is the Sewer Rat doing here?" Break peered closer, and this time, he felt cold air chill his teeth as they were exposed with a rumbling snarl. "And with Sharon?"
Binde followed his gaze. But the wolf seemed more concerned about the black wolves which were crouching low, drawing nearer to the pair.
"We'll have to be careful," Binde muttered, sinking down to his belly to stalk down the hill. Break followed. "With the order in place, who knows how many could be ready to shoot at a moment's notice. But we can't risk those Dark Ones getting anywhere near the heiress."
There already was a Dark One, right next to Sharon, but Break wasn't about to hash that out with Binde. Especially not now. They were nearing the wall – the very section of wall that Break had vaulted over less than twenty-four hours ago in chase of Koba. Now, they had to jump right back over, into hostile territory, facing both those they aimed to protect, and those who would be slain.
They drew in their breath.