Summer, 498 C.E.
The explosion made the earth around her tremble. When her dark eyes followed the wolves, it was clear that several of them had been swallowed by the opened ground under their paws. Still, she had to lead the rest of them back to the settlement before nightfall. Guinevere knew that she could mourn them then.
Fireballs and lightning bolts rushed close to her ears. She turned sharply the moment she recognized the familiar scent of their home blowing from the east. It’d been years, but Merlin had cast a spell to protect the settlement, making it vanish from everyone’s eyes, so the casual observer couldn’t ever find it. However, the pack could see the settlement once they crossed the border.
She let her paws sink in the dirt after she drifted left. Her body shook with a low howl leaving her body. This was a warning to the witches that followed them across the forest. If they continued, the pack would not hesitate to tear them apart.
Her heart sped up when she noticed one of the younger witches flying overhead. If she touched down on their territory, it would be fair game for Guinevere to kill her. After all, she’d broken the treaty, and followed them home.
“Evie! Evie get back!” her sister Ari called in their tongue, as soon as she shifted to human form. As she rushed toward Guinevere, her flaming red hair loose behind her, waving in the wind.
A wary smile settled on Guinevere’s lips at the sight of her. Ari was wearing a brown dirty dress on her belt, a spoil of war. It was probably from one of the witches she’d killed on their way back to their territory after they’d gone out to help the local dragons. Unfortunately, the witches had tricked everyone, making them believe they were slave girls being sold to the Roman soldiers. When the dragons decided to act, the witches struck with a force that they’d never seen before. Guinevere knew that her pack was alive, because of the magical protections that Merlin had cast on them a long time ago, and over the blue azurite pendants that we all wore.
“Evie, get back!” Ari called once more before Guinevere growled at her.
Her eyes suddenly searched for the witch ignoring her sister’s request. The girl with the dark hair that had flown so high following them was no longer airborne. Guinevere knew that she must have been close then. With renewed strength she pushed forward, nudging the younger cubs with her nose as they ran past her, making sure that everyone went across the border. She was afraid that the witch would pounce on them and strike the cubs.
Suddenly, the late afternoon sky filled with fire and smoke. Gone was the cloudless and blue sky, and while the last of the cubs traversed the border, Guinevere stood still as the roaring winds picked up speed around her.
Her long dark curly hair slashed around her face, while she lifted her arms and placed her hands over her face, to protect herself. Dirt and debris from the forest lifted up in the air signaling the arrival of something powerful. Dragons, she thought darkly before she took another step inside the perimeter.
After shifting back to human form, in the safety of her territory, she grabbed her bow and arrow which she had left in the hollow of a tree. Her eyes scanned the area directly in front of her, it was then that the body of the witch, that had been following them closely, fell from the sky. It landed with a loud thud at Guinevere’s feet. Not too far from her, the witch’s head rolled off toward one of the oak trees, leaving a trail of blood behind.
“Who did that?” Ari shrieked standing beside Guinevere, her neck elongating as much as it could, before Guinevere hit her with the bow.
“You’re going to hurt yourself,” she chided her sister, when the wind stopped for a moment then changed directions. “Cover your eyes,” she instructed Ari and a few of the other wolves who were now joining them, while the ground shook again when the dragons landed.
The first thing Guinevere noticed was that these dragons weren’t like the local gray ones. For starters, they were twice their size, muscly. Their skin was different colors, a palette of blues, greens, black and silver. Their scales had wild patterns, some of them glinted in the afternoon sun.
The biggest of the dragons stood a few feet away from her. His olive skin was covered in fresh blood and there were several wounds on his front legs. Blood dripped from his mouth, and she was sure that it was this dragon who had killed the witch. There were spots on his chest and side that were presumably hit by fireballs as his skin looked singed. His dark brooding eyes settled on her and for the first time in a long time, Guinevere wanted to run and hide. She wasn’t sure how she was staying put as the dragon studied her. Her heart raced faster, as a memory from long ago shook the corridors of her mind.
“Is that—” Ari began but Guinevere gave her a stern look which made her stop talking.
“Your Majesty,” a familiar voice called from the other side of the border in the dirty Roman tongue. She didn’t need to look in his direction to know who was speaking. It was the voice that haunted her dreams.
“Merlin,” the olive skinned dragon said after shifting. “I thought you said you’d warned them that we were coming to help,” he was tall with wild dark locks that fell to his shoulder like a cascade of infinite darkness; as black as his eyes. His body was muscular, scars covering most of it, and fresh blood. “Please excuse our … impertinence,” he said looking directly at Guinevere before quickly tilting his head to the side.
“It’s the king,” the voices behind her said with irreverence. No one knelt.
“He can totally suck my—” Cadeyrn began when Guinevere shot him a warning look. Immediately her third in command looked at the floor, rather than continue the banter.
Guinevere hid a smile when her eyes met Arthur’s who looked visibly confused. It was clear to her that he didn’t understand their language.
“Merlin did send word,” she began in Latin. It wasn’t hard for her, her mother had taught her, hoping that it would be beneficial to her; after escaping the family home when Guinevere was only two years old. “We just thought you weren’t interested in saving our pack. After all, we’ve sent word of the vampire attacks for months and you offered none,” Guinevere took a step forward, fearless, but her sister’s hand held on to her wrist so she couldn’t go much further.
“Really?” he asked arching an eyebrow. There was a quiet fury in his eyes, and if Guinevere could venture a guess, she would say that no one had ever talked to him like she was doing right now. She didn’t care. He wasn’t her king, and she wasn’t going to bend her knee before him. “Well, I apologize for the lack of word. On our way here, we were actually ambushed by the vampire coalition. They seem to have allied themselves with the witches,” the king replied before pointing needlessly at the body. “They’re all dead, just like her, if you’re wondering.”
“Vermin never dies,” Guinevere replied nodding to the wolves so they could burn the body.
“I’m hoping you’re not including me in that vermin list,” Merlin stated with an easy smile that made her heart flutter. He’d not changed at all, much less aged since the last time he’d been in her presence. His auburn hair was still a mess of curls, and his intense blue eyes still brought her some sort of unspoken comfort in the midst of the battle.
“Why are you here?” Guinevere asked cuttingly, not wanting to dwell in those feelings. She knew the reasons behind this sudden need to help them. Merlin had of course sent word to her about how her life was going to change. Her pack.
Her eyes returned to the dragons. One by one they all shifted, and like her wolves, it seemed that Merlin’s enchantments extended to helping them be clothed once they shifted back into human bodies, to spare them the embarrassment of running naked.
The king stepped closer locking eyes with her. “You know why I’m here, Guinevere,” his tone was stern but casual.
“What if I say no? Will you then kill us all and burn my settlement down?” she asked, her voice filled with anger before she lifted her head and tilted it to the left over her shoulder, pointing at the wolf territory that the dragons couldn’t see.
“Of course not, I’m not a complete monster. I could keep a few of you as slaves. We always need dogs.” the king replied in a tone that chilled her to the bones.