Howl of the Carrion King – Chapter Thirty-three

Chapter Thirty-three
Change

Bree, Santon and Fudin sat in a circle around Nes.

Two days had passed. The moon would be full tonight. The time had come. Nes would change.

Nes sat calmly, bound by his hands and feet at Santon’s suggestion. He prayed fervently to Sarenrae, Goddess of redemption and the sun. He believed he could hold the transformation at bay. Santon, as evidenced by the ropes, did not.

Fudin had argued with his brother since he awoke, to allow him to look for wolfsbane. Nes refused his request and Fudin accepted his choice, sitting by his side these past two days, while his brother prayed.

Bree was certain Nes would succeed. She had been worried at first, of course, but she had faith. Not so much in Nes, as in Cayden Cailean. Why would her Lord allow her to save Nes’ life only to have him taken away by savagery?

No. He wouldn’t. Nes would pull through. He had to.

Slowly, the sun dipped below the horizon. Sarenrae’s final rays cast them in reds and oranges. The sky darkened.

Santon stood up and drew his broadsword. Bree stood beside him, her sword sheathed.

Fudin sat beside Nes. “I love you, my brother,” he said.

Nes smiled serenely. “There is no need to say your farewells, Fudin.”

Fudin shook his head. “I should have been by your side. I should have protected you.”

“All is as it should have been, my brother.”

Fudin frowned and wrapped Nes in an embrace.

“We will endure,” Nes assured him.

Fudin nodded and stood, waiting for the moon to rise.

The sky darkened, turning to black. Finally, the moon’s silver gaze peeked over the horizon.

“We will endure,” Nes said again with certainty.

Santon held his broadsword in sweating hands. Bree felt a flutter in her stomach, but ignored it. Nes would succeed.

Nes’ brow creased in pain. He frowned and bit his lip shut. Sweat beaded up on his forehead, dripping down his cheeks in thin droplets. His body shuddered, twitching in the darkness. Golden fur burst forth from his skin, with round, black spots. A tail sprung forth beneath him and his manicured fingernails became long, black claws. He screamed. His teeth sharpened into fangs and his cries quickly became roars. He grew over four paces taller, and his body became thick and muscular.

Nes was no longer meek. He was no longer dependent upon his brother for protection. He was no longer human. Nes roared and Santon raised his sword high.

“No!” Bree yelled. “He’ll control it!”

Santon did not lower his blade.

Nes’ eyes changed colour, becoming golden, and then slitted, like a cats. He stood before them, still.

“Brother?”

Nes roared, flexed his muscles and burst forth from the ropes containing him. He swung at Fudin with large, clawed paws.

Fudin stepped back and batted his brother’s paw out of the way.

“No,” Bree muttered. “It can’t be.”

Santon roared and drove his broadsword into Nes’ back.

Nes roared, a bestial cry of pain, and twisted away from the blow.

“No!” Bree shouted at Santon as she drew Tempest. “Subdue him!”

Fudin nodded. He ducked underneath another of Nes’ clawed paws. “It is me, my brother!”

Bree swung at Nes with her blade, slicing him in the leg to slow him down. Fudin punched him solidly in the chest.

“You are stronger than this!” Fudin shouted. “Remember!”

Nes swatted Fudin away, sending him to the hard earth with ease. Fudin struggled to his feet, shaking his head as if to clear his vision.

Bree slashed at Nes in the leg again, but he did not slow. Instead he roared and pounced upon Fudin with his jaws open wide.

Santon yelled and plunged his broadsword straight through Nes’ spine. Nes howled in pain as blood poured from the wound and he fell atop Fudin. Santon withdrew his sword and raised it high over his head.

“No.” Bree mouthed.

Santon swung his sword down, slicing Nes’ head from his shoulders. It fell atop Fudin with a wet thump.

“No!” Bree screamed. She ran to Nes’ side. His body twitched and shuddered. It shed its fur and shrunk until it was no longer a monster, but Nes himself.

Santon backed away and dropped his blade. “I’m sorry.”

Bree stood overtop of Nes’ body with a healing potion in her hand. She knew it was useless. What could she heal without a head? Still, she splashed the potion atop him. Nothing happened. Tears streamed down her face.

How could He? How could He let her save him, only to have him die like this? At the hands of friends.

Fudin reached up and hugged his brother’s bleeding body. He was still for a moment, and then shook with great heaving sobs. His tears mingled with his brother’s blood in the dirt.

“I’m sorry,” Santon said again. “I’m sorry.”

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