Cursed By Destiny Page 80

Emme and Danny stood back to back, cowering and trembling as about twenty weresnakes slithered around them with flicking tongues. The snakes were at least twelve feet in length and twelve inches in diameter. The closest ones struck over and over, their speed unearthly and eerily mesmerizing. Emme kept them back with her force, but she couldn’t keep their fangs from meeting their flesh for long.

My deep growl announced my arrival and so did Tye’s roar. The snakes hissed and spat venom from their full dripping mouths before parting, allowing a dark figure swathed in a red cape and hood to glide through their wall of sliding bodies. Dark magic swirled around her as she levitated above the soil and drifted toward us.

She licked her thin lips as if ravenous. “Celia Wird,” she whispered in a thick foreign accent.

Great, another fan. The whole “let’s get Celia” campaign had pounced on my last nerve.

Drool trickled from her mouth to sizzle against the crackling dirt. “You don’t want to anger my friends. They’re hungry and you’re keeping them from their feast.”

Our growls grew deadlier as Tye and I prowled forward. Celia, the green ones are boomslangs and the others are black mambas—both poisonous, but there’s no cure for the boomslangs’ venom.

Although Tye’s voice jarred me when it echoed in my head, I didn’t dare avert my eyes from the snakes. We separated to circle them just as Bren arrived with Ying-Ying hovering in lotus pose on his back. She slid off his fur almost silently and rushed to my side.

One of the snakes lunged toward Tye. I didn’t see what happened—the movement was too fast. But in the next moment Tye spat the large reptilian head at their mistress’s feet. The hissing grew louder, but the snakes failed to attack. The cloaked figure raised her arms and chanted as a red mist enclosed the field. One by one the snakes disappeared.

Our heads jerked, searching and sniffing for any trace of our enemy. Bren’s snarl twitched his nose. Their scent remained. They were here. But where? Ying-Ying left my side and calmly stepped toward where the witch had stood. She kicked a few pebbles away before falling once more into lotus pose.

I didn’t bother exchanging “look at crazy Ying-Ying go” glances with everyone. Our enemies remained somewhere near, angry and ready to puncture our flesh.

The ground beneath me barely trembled before the first one attacked. It launched itself straight at me in 3-D. Others followed, springing from beneath the soil like demented jack-in-the boxes. They were fast, but so was I. I dodged out of the way and bit one’s head off before it struck again.

Pandemonium erupted. I crouched, sprung, and clawed, evading strikes. The snake-charming witch started to chant something else, but then stopped abruptly with an ear-piercing scream.

Bren and a blur of white passed in front of me with blinding speed while I faced off with another weresnake. This one was bigger. It danced around me with hypnotic grace and flicked his tongue in a disgustingly sexual way. My claws sliced through his eye when he struck. I pounced and went for his throat when another knocked me to my side and coiled its body around me.

My right claws punched through its jaw and snapped them shut as we wrestled and barreled into anything that stepped in our way. My back arched and twisted, trying to keep the other snakes from lunging at me. The snake holding me squeezed tighter, robbing me of oxygen and weakening my screaming muscles.

The pressure in my head built to a dull throb. I was losing consciousness when Shayna arrived. Her small thin frame leapt in the air wielding two spinning swords. One severed my attacker’s head. The other jabbed through another’s open maw. With a flick of her wrist and a grunt, two heads landed in the dirt one after the other. I wriggled free and kicked the dead snake off me. She jetted after the black mamba chasing Danny with a boomslang at her heels. I snapped her pursuer in half as it leapt onto her back and reached for her throat.

Our group repelled the enemy with vicious grace. Blood darkened the soil while chunks of flesh splattered and stuck to large boulders. Roaring, hissing, and slithering sounds drowned my snarls as my fangs pierced through smooth reptilian skin to crunch on bones.

Shayna’s strikes whistled in the night like high-pitched fireworks. She grunted as her spiraling blades cut through the thick, tough hides of the black mambas and the points stabbed and gouged the boomslangs.

Chang fought three massive snakes like an extra from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. He spun and leapt in the air as if on invisible wires. Perhaps that was next week’s lesson. The snakes worked together to kill him, but failed to match his ghostlike speed. He evaded them, landing a rapid array of blows and kicks before flipping backward to descend on the back of another. Sparks flew with each blow until he beat the serpents unconscious. He held no weapons, and yet he chopped the heads from their motionless bodies with thrusts from his bare hands.

Danny’s and Bren’s wolves teamed up to play tug-of-war with the serpents, ripping the snakes in half. Blood pumped out of the lifeless remains, riling Bren’s wolf and making him howl.

I’d finished clawing through a black mamba when the white blur slowed in front of me. Behold, Tye the white lion. His fur sparkled like fresh-fallen snow in the moonlight. He paused from continuing his carnage just to flash me a lion’s grin and flick his tail teasingly in my face.

I batted his tail away and raced to find Emme. He chased me and just about ran me over when I skidded to a halt. My bashful and kindhearted little sister had battled the witch and won. She’d manipulated vines with her force and entwined them around the powerful enchantress, wrapping them around her mouth and preventing her from casting another spell. Tye did a double take, stunned that Emme was restraining her while holding two more snakes for Bren and Danny to kill. Ying-Ying, on the other hand, remained in lotus pose as the anarchy continued around her.

I fought my way to Ying-Ying to protect her, tearing off the heads of two boomslangs along my path. We continued our onslaught until only one snake remained, a boomslang. Tye fought it, slashing and pouncing with lion’s speed, but the snake surpassed his strength and power. It flung Tye against a large boulder. His ribs snapped with a hair-raising crunch. Emme held tight to the witch while I left Ying-Ying to help Tye.

My whiskers tingled with the rise of dark power. The boomslang’s leathery skin thickened and elongated with every brush of magic against my fur. It dropped open its mouth, spilling venom as the witch’s dreadful voice echoed from deep within its throat. Despite Emme’s hold, the witch had managed to transfer her essence into the weresnake. “Make no mistake, Celia Wird,” she spat. “We will kill you and your destiny.”

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