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Authors: K.D. Faerydae

An Army of Good (18 page)

BOOK: An Army of Good
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Nicor dragged himself through the swamp before collapsing into its boggy darkness at the foot of his master.

“Dnats erofeb ruoy gnik!”
Balam spat.

Nicor slowly and pitifully rose out of the mud. The journey back to the swamp had taken a toll on his sloughing skin. Strips of his flesh had torn away, exposing many of his muscles and tendons. The light had faded from his piercing blue eyes, which were dry and stinging from the irritation of the salt. He struggled to see clearly and he looked upon his king through a murky haze of fear.

“M'I yrros retsam ev'I deliaf uoy,”
he whimpered.

Balam cricked his left neck and sneered.

“M'I yrros retsam ev'I deliaf uoy,”
he repeated, perfectly imitating Nicor's voice.
“Evah uoy tsol ruoy daeh rociN? Uoy erad ot nruter ytpme dednah?”

Balam's right head twisted toward Nicor, its mind possessing the tattered Nomed's body. Nicor involuntarily lifted out of the swamp, hovering a good six feet above the sludge. His arms and legs spread wide, pulled further and further apart by the invisible force of Balam's mind. Then the king's central head stared aggressively into Nicor's eyes, sending daggers of intense pain searing through his skull. Nicor writhed and screeched in agony. Balam continued the torture, looked around the swamp, and addressed the rest of his servants.

“Tel siht eb a nossel ot uoy lla. Liaf em dna uoy lliw eid!”
he raged, holding his right hand out in front of his body. He clawed and grasped at the air, twisting his hand in a snapping motion and as he did so, Nicor's head broke free of its neck and fell into the swamp. Balam released his hold on Nicor's headless corpse, dropping it into the dark mud below, where snakes slithered and hungry infants were awaiting their next meal.

* * *

When Zavier returned from the meadow, he went into the stable, transformed into his human form, and donned his robe. Most of the creatures at the house were sleeping; even those with nocturnal habits were taking the opportunity to rest. Aurora was curled up in the hay on the stable floor, purring like a kitten. Poppy Paul and Aaron were slumped on the couch, their arms folded across their rising and falling stomachs and their legs outstretched, their feet rested upon the furry backs of the wolf pack. Zavier could feel the vibrations rumbling through the air, as the large men snored loudly. He went into the kitchen to get himself a drink of water before heading to bed. Tomorrow was going to be a very busy day.

Francis and Chester were perched upon the kitchen table talking.

“What are you two doing awake? You should be sleeping,” Zavier said.

“Like we're going to get any sleep with that racket going on,” Francis hooted, wide-eyed in disgust at the loud snorting noises coming from the other room.

“Fair point,” Zavier said, pulling up a chair.

“So, what happened? Pelagia said you'd gone to speak with the Great Prophet,” Chester chirped.

Zavier placed his forearms on the table, clasped his hands together and began rubbing his thumbs against one another in a serious fashion. “Yes, Chester, I did. I wanted confirmation that the decision I have made is the right one, and it is.”

“What decision?”

Zavier bit his top lip, took in a sharp breath and replied, “To go to Shabriri Swamp.”

“Have you completely lost your head?” Francis squawked, with his eyes bulging and his feathers puffed out. “Why would you even consider such madness?”

“It was something that Mateo said to me, it got me thinking. I realised that in order to defeat our enemy, we must confront it head-on. That means going to the swamp to face Balam. And seeing as Grace is key to winning this war, she will be coming with us!”


“Okay, so this is it, then? We're really doing this?” said an astonished Chester, grasping Zavier's mane with his tiny toes.

“Yes, this is it, Chester. Are you ready?”

“I'm not sure I'll ever be ready, but I'm willing to give it my best effort and that's got to count for something,” he chirped.

“How about you, Grace, are you okay?” Zavier asked. “Are you sure that you can do this?”

Grace draped herself forward, her leafy camo-wear rustling as she rested her body against the back of Zavier's thick, muscular neck. She tipped her head and a loose blonde curl tumbled over her face. She tucked the hair back into the woodland wreath that was placed upon her head, looked Zavier in the eye, smiled and said, “I'm sure, Zavier. I trust you. I know that you will protect me.”

Zavier blinked his long, silvery lashes across his blue-grey eyes and replied, “I'll certainly do my best, child,” then he started a slow and steady walk down the beach.

Grace sat herself upright and leaned back, gazing up at her mum who was sitting behind her. “It's going to be okay, Mum, don't worry,” she said, seeing the concern in her mother's eyes. “Zavier will look after me.”

“And so will I, darling, so will I,” Mary said.

Zavier led the group toward the rocky path at the south of the beach. Many of Liberty's good creatures were accompanying him to the swamp. Even Abigail had joined with them. The sea turtle was nestled in a camouflage sling that Lizzy had made for her and she was being lifted into the air by a squawking canopy of seabirds.

“Mama! Mama!” Button cried from the shoreline, as she watched her mother being lifted up and away.

Abigail looked down on Button “I's-a be back as soon as I can now, ya hear. Y'all be good, and take care of your brothers and sisters for your mama,” she hollered, before merging into the bird-filled sky.

The beach below Abigail, and the birds, slowly rippled and moved as if it were a living being. The sand was covered in a pulsing mass of creatures that were all following Zavier to war.

Aaron carried Arthur and Lizzy. Francis was perched comfortably within Lizzy's nest-like hair. Jazmine and Lettitia walked beside Aaron, their bodies laden with starfish lanterns and Fire Fairy pods.

“I wish you'd stayed at the house,” Aaron said with a sigh, nuzzling Jazmine.

“You heard what Zavier said. And it's true, we'll be safer together. What if the Nomeds attack the house while everyone's away and I'm there alone?”

“I suppose, but I still don't like it. You shouldn't be going to war in your condition.”

“I'm pregnant, Aaron, not crippled. And anyway, this pregnancy has made me stronger, more protective, more determined. God help anything or anyone that tries to harm our unborn child,” she said, with a new fierceness in her eyes.

Evan rode upon Ezekiel. The bay cob was following orders from Zavier to keep the husband and father close to Mary and Grace at all times. Ezekiel was joined by Hazel, who in turn wanted to stay as close to her friend as possible.

Ezekiel turned to Hazel and smiled. “Ahh, the white warriors!” he said.

Hazel's pure white coat was blindingly bright as it glowed in the new day's sun. Her eyes were as warm and rich as honey. She really was a sight to see, for she carried upon her back a laughing lady, old and wise, who cradled a harp seal smooth as velvet. Above her flew a snowy owl, beautiful and graceful, fluttering like snow in the crisp blue sky. The white warriors, Hazel, Elsie, Angelo and Ice, appeared as a merging of white hair, fur and feathers and together they created a dazzling spectacle to behold.

April and Tobias hadn't been given the title of warriors, but they felt the name befitted them. They looked the part, as they were loaded with spears, bows, arrows, swords and shields; true war horses ready to avenge the deaths of their friends and loved ones.

Harry marched proudly alongside Pelagia and his Warriors. Mateo was being carried within the body of the commander of the Water Warriors. This time, he wasn't going to stay in the ocean feeling useless. He was going with them. His mind-reading ability had already proven useful, and he was to play an important role in the final battle.

Christian's heroics at the beach house had earned him a respected position within the pack. Takoda, Rian, Remus and Romulus couldn't help but be impressed by the young boy's bravery. When they found out that Christian had successfully paralysed and then released a juvenile Nomed, they accepted him into the pack as one of their own.

Christian's knuckles were white as he gripped a spear tightly in his right hand and grasped Takoda's scruff securely in his left. He was no longer the same child who had arrived in Liberty. He was not the nervous little boy who thought he had lost his powers, only to find out that he had never had any to start with. He was no longer the boy who feared the monsters of the swamp, to then witness one such monster tear his mother away from him before his very eyes. That boy had gone now; he had left the night that he had faced his fears, the night that he had saved his father.

Christian straddled the coarse grey fur of Takoda's back, holding his spear high and proud. He still had the physical appearance of the small boy that had first arrived in Liberty, but inside he had grown; he was stronger and wiser than many a man could ever be, a true warrior riding to battle on a fierce wolf, a wolf with which he shared a special power.

Mad Mrs Potty Potts and Henrietta walked together near the back, within a throng of furred and feathered creatures. Badgers, squirrels, rabbits, hares, mice and hedgehogs, to name just a few, scurried around their feet, while birds, Fire Fairies and dragonflies darted above their heads.

“Well then, young lady, this it,” Mrs Potts said, grinning wide-eyed and shaking her head with a strangely excitable bounce to her curls. Henri tutted loudly and rolled her eyes, fearing that the nutty school teacher might burst into a merry conga at any moment.

Lastly, at the very back of the horde of good creatures, stood Aurora, Dan and Shannon. They looked ahead at the slow-moving crowd. Shannon scanned the beach, checking that everyone was where and as they should be. Dan anxiously bit the skin away from the edge of his nails as he watched the animals in front of him slowly begin to shuffle forward, signalling the start of their journey to the swamp. The tip of Aurora's tail brushed against his elbow as she calmly and elegantly prowled past him, disturbing his anxious trance.

“Come on, Dan, what are you waiting for?” she purred.

“Nothing. I'm good, I'm good,” Dan said, widening his shoulders and clenching his fists in a show of confidence. Then he, too, began to follow the crowd.

Meanwhile, at the head of the group, Zavier had begun the climb up the rocky path. With his head and neck outstretched and his hooves clattering against the stone, he pulled himself upwards. Air blew from his silky nostrils and he shook his head, tousling his mane, as if freeing himself of nerves and readying himself for battle.

Then, at the top of the path, he turned back and looked upon his crowd of followers with pride. Grace gave him a firm and encouraging pat on the neck. He whinnied, then, holding his head high, he took his first furtive steps into the shaded woodland and headed in the direction of the swamp.

BOOK: An Army of Good
4.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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