The trail had gone cold on him for weeks, but Caspian had picked it up again, found his lead on the border and traced it here.
Here. This place was listed on one of his Queen's maps, but it was an old map, and old place, and they assumed the ashanevaei didn't use it anymore. That might have been a foolhardy assumption - everyone knew the monkey-fuckers were creatures of habit, bound to tradition.
Somebody was using it now. He doubted his little puppy could have found this place alone, which meant somebody had tampered with his property.
And if the Queen ever found out he'd lost her, she'd have his head on a platter and his claws around her neck. So he needed to get the little bitch back, and kill everyone who'd touched her.
Now to find the entrance. He was pretty sure his Queen had notes on that, but he couldn't very well go and ask her, so he'd need to sniff his way in. Luckily, the ashanevaei were pretty stupid…
"Looking for something?"
He knew that voice. The fucker who'd killed his sister and companions. The monster who'd taken his puppy. Caspian turned slowly, giving himself time to begin shifting. "I'm looking for my Kept. My puppy."
"Your prisoner, your pet, you mean. I know how you people treat your Kept." There was a snarl in Aelfgar's voice, but then again, the bastard was always snarling. "Only one way to free her."
"I could release her, if I had a mind to." He threw it off lazily, to put his opponent off-guard. "I liked the pretty little black-haired mutts; give those back to me and I'll give you Ylva."
"They're not mine to give." He was getting quite angry, deliciously so. "Release the girl now and I won't kill you."
"Liar!" Caspian spun, now, lashing out with his claws. Aelfgar danced back, out of range, his stupid spear batting Caspian's arm away. "You kill everything you touch!"
"Only the evil! Only you bastard monsters!" The old warrior jabbed with his second spear, grazing Caspian's side.
"You call us monsters." Caspian took to the air, his not-fully-shifted wings laboring to gain altitude. "But I know what your precious Council does. We are all what the Gods made us." He hissed the last out, and turned the last syllable into the beginning of a Working. He could rend the flesh from the bastard's bones.
Aelfgar was quicker than he looked, already spitting out workings, already clambering up to higher ground. He couldn't win, not against a dragon, but he could block the entrance to Caspian's Ylva. "And I know what your whore-Queen is doing."
"Blasphemer!" Not that she wasn't a whore, but you never knew who was listening. He spat out another Working as he dove into an attack. "Monster, baby-killer, kin-killer!"
"Who are you calling a kin-slayer, Oath-breaker?" Aelfgar roared up at him, his spear going wild. "How dare you? How dare you!"
Caspian crowed down at him as he threw fire in lazy, loping handfuls. He had the bastard riled up now. "You know what you are, Aelfgar. You know what you'll always be, reject mutt the Council wouldn't touch." He dodged a wild throw from the old warrior, laughing at the rage he was making. This was easy! How had the monster killed his sister? "You're a washed-up has-been, Gods-Spear. How did you ever…"
Something hit him hard, in the back, and Caspian faltered, scooped for air, and found his wings failing him. He started to plummet as he felt his scales burning, twisted and muttered healing Words, trying to fix himself, trying to pull himself level.
The Mara above him flapped her wings lazily as she dripped green liquid down onto his throat. Acid? Piss? Ow. Acid. "He has friends. He's always had friends. Something you ought to learn."
The acid burned. He hissed, trying to reshape his throat. "All this for a girl?" he choked out.
"All this for a girl," Aelfgar agreed. The Mara was diving, and Caspian couldn't seem to stop his fall. What had they done to him? What had they done to his wings?
"I release her," he coughed out quickly. "The dog, Ylva, I release her." The queen could kill him later, if he survived them.
"You can learn." Something crossed past his line of site; Aelfgar's spear, being caught in the Mara woman's hand. "But too late."
Two shafts of hawthorn pierced Caspian's shrinking body, one from each side. He hit the earth with a thump, and the light went dim.
"Too late," he gasped, and his voice was gone.
Copyright © 2009-2012 Lyn Thorne-Alder. All rights reserved.
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