In The Shadow Of Death (Chapter TWO Preview)

Green eyes focused on the girl at his paws. The beast stood utterly still, ready to maim the child at any movement she made; but she did not move or breathe a single breath.

Sniffing, he moved closer to Vana and caused the pulse in her neck to quicken, yet she remained mesmerized at the intelligence and wisdom he seemed to bear. Turning his head slightly to the side, the creature looked like he was trying to get a look at her eyes. The beast’s muzzle got closer and brushed the hair in front of her face away, his nose moist and unnerving, her immediate flinch coaxing a harsh yowl from the predator. But now she could see the flecks of gold in his irises and it felt like an eternity.

Before she had realized the body around the eyes had shifted forms, she saw legs moving towards her in the place of paws. This beast is an Amorah, a shape shifting creature blessed with an animals’ form, for the panther before her shifted into a lithe, sturdy boy with the same emerald eyes and silky, onyx hair that was more beautiful than she had ever dreamed the sky could ever be.

“Your stare is blistering; I have gifted you, you shouldn’t be so rude.” The boy reached out his hand to help Vana rise, and as she touched him, she felt an electric wave pulse through her that sent her sprawling back onto the dirt. The feeling was both exhilarating and terrifying, deafening and devastatingly beautiful, even several moments later Vana still felt the permanent sting it left her.

The girl shook her head, refusing to take the boys’ hand again, and staggered to her feet on her own. “What kind of gift feels like a bolt of lightning? You should have just killed me instead, I would have preferred it.” She said the words harshly, biting the inside of her cheeks against the now icy wind. “By Rite, one of us must die, so come on. Shift back, get it over with.”

“I am not going to murder my Neshka, especially on the eve of our pairing. How dare you suggest such a thing?” Shaking his head, confused, the boy started pacing about the hole he suddenly remembered they were in. “Did you not feel the bond take root?”

The soft, worried tone he used eased Vana’s tensions slightly. As she thought of the feeling she had and the warmth she still carries only in her chest, Vana managed to stutter “I...don’t know...what to feel.”

And she didn’t; Vana has felt fear, she has been in more pain than anyone should be able to fathom, but this bond feels… different. More than that, as the reality set in that she is bound to yet another person - a stranger no less - that could hurt her even more than Vana already has been, any feeling that could have outweighed the fear disappeared.

Returning with this boy, Vana knew, could very well result in his death. The father she knew would be furious that his possessions has been ‘tampered’ with or stolen, he would see this beautiful boy as a threat to his dominance over her, and destroy what is left of her of her sanity when he was finished. Vana’s body carries enough scarring from broken bones and tearing to know that no mercy would be shown.

“Listen, Neshka. Quiet your thoughts. Hold on to the tether that is our bond.”

And she listened. At first Vana only heard her beating heart rumbling within her chest, then she heard a fainter, more stable heartbeat starting to mimic her own. Louder and louder it became the more she concentrated until the sound became deafening. “You have a name? Salem?”

“Yes, Helvana, and now we are mirrored in one another. I feel your fear, your doubt, your pain. But if you try, you could choose the love I now have for you instead. Choose love, and allow yourself to be happy.”

Vana winced first at her full name and winced again at his intimate knowledge of her. At only nineteen, even she carried secrets and burdens that should not be shared. Hope blossomed, though, despite the rational counter arguments she made.

Silky smooth, softer than melted butter, a voice sang within her head. It was a purr, “You are my Neshka, truly. You retracted your claws despite the law, you preferred death to my own suffering. I will not forsake you, not in a thousand rolling tides nor the rebirth of our glorious sun, I will give my life in your honor. Accept me, girl with the sapphire eyes. Let me be yours.”

Vana choked, and whispered hesitantly, “And if i do not accept you?”

Disappointment cried out in his irises, the gold dissolving slowly into the original emerald. “Then I will perish as sure as the eternal darkness that reigns over us.”

An entire lifetime alone terrifies Vana, but the idea of letting her hope die now was unbearable. Letting this boy die… is not a path Vana can let herself go down. “I accept you.”

The boy smiled, emotion overcoming his face and quickly fading once more. Her voice was so soft and hesitant that doubt began to take root in Salem; questioning whether or not this girl with a broken soul can truly learn to love him.

Marianne BanksComment