This is a flash fiction introduction to a new fantasy world novel I'm working on... it's evolved and changed a lot since I originally began the project, but I hope you'll enjoy this peek into the world of the Guardians of Destiny...
Night was encroaching too quickly, the blazing streamers of fire reaching through the overhead foliage to light the path were fading, and she was still at least a mile from the safety of her small village. Destino was home, and it had always been home, but hidden in the ageless Valley of Temples, few people know if its existence.
Recently, those who strayed too far often did not return. Those that did were never the same, and refused to speak of what had happened to make them afraid to leave again. A shadow moved to her left and she bit back a cry, literally covering her mouth to silence the mewl of fright. She quickened her pace, stumbling a little bit as more of the blazing glory of the sun dimmed above her. Panic was beginning to wake, her own heartbeat becoming a rapid timpani that deafened her.
So many stories about this area between the open valley and the town. The forests were as legendary as the tales about the I guardiani del destino eterno, and most knew there was truth in the myths of their Guardians. It made her wonder how much truth there was in the stories of the forest. Lupo mannaro or licantropos… the words haunted her, the fear grew with each step.
A flash of silver caught her attention again, made her trip and sent her sprawling. As the air left her lungs she cried out, dazed and in pain. For a few seconds, she was certain she saw silver streak past her, then blackness drifted over her as though a warm blanket had enveloped her.
When awareness returned, it was totally dark.
“What do they call you?”
The voice was like a caress, making her think of the thick, silken fur of a young wolf pup.
She peered in the direction the voice had come from and saw a pale shadow, seated. His back was to a tree and his eyes never left their vigilant watch.
“Capricia,” she told him, and carefully sat up, feeling pain in various parts of her body, but nothing so bad that it would mean broken bones.
“Who are you?”
“Saviour,” she murmured, aware of the irony in her tone.
“More than you know,” he assured her.
“Humans aren’t meant to stray this far from Destino, especially at night. The Guardians are not as powerful as once they were.”
“Why are you watching over me? I have the Hermit.”
Laughter met the observation, and something in the cold disdain made her shiver.
“She’d destroy the old one if he did dare to attempt to find you here.”
Salvatorio’s head tilted to one side and in the waking moonlight, something glimmered in the amber depths, pity, or perhaps just sadness.
“Have you heard the legend of the Benandanti?”
She was sitting up now, facing him. She nodded.
“Myth has it the Benandanti were werewolves that left their physical bodies behind to become wolves, at which point they would go to the underworld to fight witches.” She smiled and shrugged. “It’s a myth. Like the ones about Destino.”
He tilted his head to one side. “But myth is truth in Destino. Why not this?”
Ice kissed the nape of her neck, then slithered down her back, pooling in the hollow at the base of her spine. She sensed truth in what he spoke.
“Salvatorio… Benandanti…” She said his name with reverence and awe. “You are hunting tonight, aren’t you? And I have interrupted you.”
“I am hunting, beautiful Capricia,” he agreed. “But you are my reason for being here.”
The single syllable had barely sputtered from her lips when the night exploded around them with a shriek of rage and hatred that reverberated and made the forest appear to cringe.
The ground inches from her erupted like great Vesuvius, and flung her back. She was still gaping in shock when Salvatorio launched from his deceptively casual slouch against the tree trunk. He leapt, quite literally flying toward the wretched winged creature who was turning her wrath toward Capricia. Glittery magic tingled in the air, sparkled like a million stars shaping and coalescing into a perfect form, bones shifted and reshaped, naked skin became a gleaming coat of purest white and silver, and the open maw filled with lethal teeth went straight for the witch’s throat.
Capricia screamed, then covered her mouth with her hands and she scrambled back, fascinated, unable to not watch the battle that was being raged in front of her. Blood spurted from the wounds Salvatorio inflicted without mercy, and the witch’s arms flailed as she tried vainly to cast him off…. Her words, garbled and without proper enunciation, did little more than create harmless mini-globes of fire that died as quickly as they were born. He had all but torn out her throat on his first lunge.
It was over in minutes that felt like an eternity. And when he fell back onto the mossy floor of the forest, panting heavily, Capricia crawled to his side.
“What was that?”
He closed his eyes and she could feel the power gathering around him again, the mystical energies drawn from the earth itself to make the elemental change from wolf to man. Once the Change had completed he opened his eyes again, and his voice was still rough with the rasp of a growl.
“One of the underworld witches.” He sighed, tired. “Those who have disappeared. They have died at the hands of her kind. She was the oldest, called Ssenya. She wanted you, because you have a special destiny you have yet to know.”
In the distance there was the sound of wings.
“The Guardian arrives at last.”
Salvatorio’s voice wasn’t quite bitter, but it was angry.
“Go with him, bella mia,” he ordered. “I will be here when you have need of me again. Now is not our time.”
She bent forward to kiss him and then backed away quickly when he thrust her away from him.
“Do not always be so eager to live your life in danger!”
Salvatorio stared into the greyed eyes of the gargoyle, and the Hermit nodded his understanding.
**A new Guardian will soon arrive, licantropos**
“Guard her well until then. She is my mate, though she doesn’t realize what the Fates have chosen for her.”
**She will be safe**
© 2010 Denysé Bridger