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Part 1

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Rain sat at the table eating her supper while her parents and Uncle Damien were talking about something that sounded serious, but she didn’t really understand why.

“The Fiends have been drawing closer for a while,” her mother said. Her voice sounded like it did whenever Rain was caught doing something that wasn’t safe. “We need to kill them before…” she glanced at Rain and her sister, “before anything happens.”

“We’ll go out tomorrow and see how bad it is,” their father told her, tapping his fork against his plate. “Then we can take it to the Council and get a team together for an eradication mission.”

“They don’t like Fiends too close to the villages, so it won’t take much,” Uncle Damien added. “Hell, maybe we’ll take a group of students out with us, let them get some experience.”

“But won’t the Guardians keep them away?” Storm wanted to know. Their dad was a Guardian, mostly. Sometimes he was a Hunter, like their mom or Uncle Damien. They went out to fight the monsters while the Guardians protected villages, towns, and cities. It didn’t matter if those places belonged to humans either. They were still protected, even though humans didn’t like her people.

“They’ll do their best,” their mother said, “and us Hunters will do what we can to make sure they don’t have to work too hard,” she added with a wink as she looked at her husband. More than anything Rain wanted to be a Hunter, even if there were some times when Hunters were sad when they came back home, or when they were scared even if there were no Fiends around. She wasn’t allowed to try to scare Hunters or sneak up on them because of it. Everyone knew that.

“How much longer until I can go to the Academy?” She asked. When she was fourteen she could start at the Guardian Academy where Keepers, Guardians, and Hunters trained for four years. At the end, she would be able to fight the Fiends, just like her parents and her uncle. She could fight the monsters and go on adventures with her friends, just like they did.

“Nine years, sweetheart,” her father told her. Rain pouted, it seemed like she would be waiting forever.

“I only have to wait seven years,” Storm said, earning a glare from her younger sister.

“But you hate fighting!” Rain protested. “It’s not fair!” Storm didn’t want to be a Hunter, not really, not like Rain did. Storm didn’t even like to fight when they were playing pretend.

“You can always be a Keeper,” their mother suggested.

“Wouldn’t that be boring?” Storm asked, frowning. Keepers studied spells and history.

“It’s still important. Without them we wouldn’t get very far,” their father explained. “They also find new ways to help us fight and stay safe.” Rain considered that for a moment while the adults went back to their conversation, talking about things like strategy and tactics. She tried to pay attention but too much didn’t make sense to her. Not yet, anyway.

“So, what are you two little monsters going to get up to today?” Uncle Damien asked the sisters, breaking off from the conversation with their parents.

“I’m gonna fight monsters!” Rain exclaimed, thrusting her fork like a sword. “Me ’n Kestrel are gonna save the village!” Kestrel was her best friend. They were going to go to the Academy together and save everyone when they grew up.

“Oh really?” He said, eyebrows raised, humour in his mercury coloured eyes.

Rain nodded. “Yeah!”

“Okay kiddo,” he said with a chuckle, “I believe you.” He turned to Storm, “what about you? Are you going to fight monsters too?” She just shrugged.

“You can save the village with me ‘n Kestrel!” Rain offered. Sometimes Storm would play with them, sometimes not.

“Fine, but I’m not going to be a damsel in distress this time!” She insisted with a glare.

“Okay,” the younger girl acquiesced. “But I can’t promise you won’t get eaten.”

The glare deepened. “You better not!”

“Girls,” their mother warned, and they quieted. “Maybe later we can practice some real Fiend fighting moves, that way no one will have to get eaten.” The girls cheered. Rain hoped they wouldn’t get called out to work at all, because then she might be able to talk her mother and uncle into sparring after. It was so cool to watch, their weapons moving almost too fast for her to follow. She wanted to be able to do that someday; to be brave and strong like they were. Then the monsters would be the ones running scared.

“Will you practice with us?” Storm asked their father and uncle. The two men exchanged a look, shrugged, and nodded.

“Are you gonna stay here a while?” Rain asked Damien. He usually travelled with her mother, but he went out on his own a lot too, or with her father when he decided to go hunting.

“Dunno,” he replied, taking a long drink from the silver and leather flask he always carried. She knew it was liquor –something only adults were allowed to drink- but whenever she asked he would give her a different answer. “Maybe a few days,” he said, exchanging looks with her parents. She guessed that it had something to do with the Fiends they had been talking about. She wished she’d been able to understand more of that conversation. “Maybe a little longer; there might be some work around here for me to do.” She clapped her hands together and he smiled slightly.

“Can I go with you?” Rain asked. She’d always wanted to go on a hunt, but no one ever let her, always telling her that they would when she was older, when she was a Hunter, never mind that that was forever away.

“Not yet, kiddo. Maybe in a few more years,” he said, laughing as he reached over to ruffle her dark blue hair. “What about you, Storm?”

She frowned. “I can wait.” She’d probably read instead. Storm loved to read. Rain did too, but she wanted to fight Fiends a little bit more.

“Well, neither of you will grow much if you don’t finish your dinners,” their father said gently. Rain quickly resumed eating, and Storm did as well, though much more elegantly, for all she was only two years older.

Then the screams started.

Both girls jumped as a vicious roar tore through the air, making Rain scream in fear. The adults looked at one another before jumping to their feet, hastily pulling on armour and activating the protection spells they always wore. Rain broke free of the terror that was keeping her frozen to the spot and ran for her mother, who’d just finished strapping her sword on and was already heading for the door, Uncle Damien a step behind.

“Mommy, stay!” Rain pleaded, afraid as she clung to her mother’s leg. Her mother picked her up and kissed her cheek, wiping away her tears. Her leather gloves where soft against Rain’s skin.

“I can’t sweetie, I have to save the village with Uncle Damien,” she said with a smile. “But don’t worry, we’ll be back before you know it and Daddy will be here and keep you and Storm out of trouble.”

“Promise?”

Her mother nodded. “I promise.”

She looked to her uncle. “Promise?” She wanted to make sure that he came back safe too. She knew that sometimes Hunters left and never came back.

“I promise,” he vowed, ruffling her hair again. Rain allowed herself to be handed over to her father as Storm hugged her mother and uncle as they ran outside. Rain could hear their battle cries not long after, rising with the voices of a hundred other Hunters and Guardians who lived in the village.

“Everything will be okay,” her father said, grinning. “We’ve just got to remind the Fiends why they don’t want to be around our village.” They nodded. The sounds of fighting grew louder, and Rain couldn’t help it, she started crying again. Her father picked her up and held her close while she clung to him, weeping into his armour, ignoring the bumpiness of the chainmail against her face

Then the door came crashing in. Rain found herself on the ground beside her sister in an instant as their father rushed at the monster that broke in. It was bigger than he was, with rough green skin and horns that stuck out from everywhere. Both girls shrieked as it roared and lunged at them. But their father was faster. It had barely taken two steps when its head came crashing down onto the floor, blue blood spraying over the room and their father. The body started to shrivel up, like everything inside was being sucked out, and he kicked it back outside, his sword held at the ready. He turned back to them, and went pale. Rain felt sharp claws dig into her side and twisted to see that a Fiend had come in through the kitchen door and grabbed both her and Storm, who was screaming and kicking to try to get away. Their father lunged and managed to cut off the arm holding Rain, but the Fiend ran with Storm still in its grasp.

Her father took one look at the door, then back at her. He grabbed her and took her into her parents’ room and pushed her into the closet where their weapons were normally. “Don’t come out, don’t make a sound until one of us comes for you,” he ordered tightly, ripping her shoulders for a moment. She nodded and he closed the door. She felt a ripple as the spells on the closet activated and listened as his footsteps faded away. She curled up in a corner as far away from the doors as she could get, hands over her mouth to keep herself from screaming and sobbing as the sounds of battle raged around her, though she couldn’t stop herself from crying. Please come back Daddy, she begged silently. Mommy, Daddy, Storm, Uncle Damien, don’t leave me alone, come back! She wanted to leave, to run and find one of them. But Daddy had told her to stay, so she stayed, hoping the monsters didn’t come in and find her, trusting that her father had put her somewhere the monsters couldn’t reach her.

She stayed even when the sounds of the fighting and the screaming faded and there was only silence.

 

Rain had no idea how long she’d been in the closet. She was cold, tired, hungry, and her side hurt where the monster had grabbed her. And she could smell smoke. At least she didn’t have to go to the bathroom yet. It had been a while since she’d been able to see light though the crack between the doors. No one had come near her hiding place, and although she’d heard footsteps in the house they had left quickly, barely getting farther than the living room. She didn’t like this, not at all. When she became a Hunter she was never hiding again, and she wouldn’t let any Fiends come close to her village. She would kill them all, and keep killing them until they all ran away, so far away they couldn’t ever come back. She wouldn’t be scared of them, they would be scared of her!

She waved her hand through the air, making a thin rope of water appear. At least she wouldn’t go thirsty. Most of her people had some kind of magic; hers had to do with water, like her mother’s and her sister’s magics. Her father’s magic had to do with plants, while her Uncle Damien’s magic was in metals. She curled up tighter, wishing someone would come for her. The closet wasn’t very big and most of it was taken up by weapon racks and hooks, and it felt like it was getting smaller and smaller with every passing moment, the darkness a heavy weight on her small body.

She jumped when she heard noises outside, but it was just rain falling, her namesake. Normally that would have made her feel better, but not today. Today it was a reminder that she was alone. She wrapped her arms around herself, tears falling again. Where was everyone? Where was her sister so they could go out and play in the rain, jumping through puddles and trying to spray each other using their magics. She could imagine it now: Storm and Daddy would come back in and get her, and then she and her sister would run outside. Then Daddy would follow them after he put his armour and big sword away. While they were looking for the biggest puddle to jump in Uncle Damien would sneak up behind them and jump in another, splashing them both while their mother shook her head, laughing and then drenching him with her own magic while the girls laughed and he pretended to fall down dead in defeat. Later, when they were all soaking wet Daddy would make a fire in the fireplace and they would sit by it, warm, dry, safe and together while her parents told funny stories about when they were younger, and ordering Uncle Damien to shut up a lot when he started to tell a story that Rain and Storm weren’t supposed to hear until they were older. They would let her and Storm stay up past their bedtime, and then Mommy and Daddy would tuck them into their beds and there wouldn’t be any nightmares.

That’s what would happen. That’s what had to happen, she decided as she wiped away her tears. Any moment now, Storm and Daddy would come through those doors. She just had to wait, just had to be quiet and be patient. Any moment now…

“Rain!” She bolted upright at the rough shout, but it wasn’t her father. Uneven footsteps staggered across the wooden floors. “Rain! Fuck!” Something crashed into the wall. She covered her mouth with her hands to keep from making any kind of sound. “Fuck… Rain!” Her parents wouldn’t swear like that, though her uncle would. But shouldn’t he have been helping her father look for Storm if they weren’t back yet? Her mother should have been the one to get her while they searched, or her father, since her mother was more powerful. The footsteps drew closer, into her parents’ room. She whimpered. The closet doors were wrenched open and she screamed as torchlight showed a tall figure covered in torn cloth, metal, leather, and blood. She lunged to her feet and tried to run, but she only made it a few steps before she was caught. “Hey, kiddo, it’s me, I’ve got you,” Uncle Damien’s voice was a rough rumble as he held her tightly, careful to hold his torch away from her with an arm that shook. She stopped fighting and clung to him instead. “That’s right, I’ve got you.” He stepped away from the closet, but swayed and fell against the wall with a gasp, swearing again. He paused for a moment before righting himself, though he still leaned against the wall, taking deep breaths.

“I want Daddy!” She cried, shaking. It was still dark, she could still smell smoke, and the front door was still broken apart, rain falling into the living room, and Daddy and Storm still weren’t back. Everything was wrong. Damien froze, then slowly sank down the wall to the floor, his head dropping until his forehead was on her shoulder and he started shaking. That wasn’t right. Something was wrong, this wasn’t how Uncle Damien acted ever. “Where’s Daddy and Storm?” She asked. They should have come right back. “Where’s Mommy?” If Uncle Damien was there, then her mother should have been back as well. Whenever they left on a hunt together they always returned together. He flinched and held her tighter, lifting his head to cover his face with one blood-splattered hand. “Uncle Damien, where are they?” He just kept shaking. “Uncle Damien!” She tugged his hand away and froze. Her uncle, her strong, dangerous, fearless, laughing uncle was crying. “Uncle Damien!” That scared her more than the monsters ever could.

“I’m sorry,” he said, his voice cracking. “I’m sorry.” She shoved at his shoulder and froze when he gasped in pain. The torchlight showed her hands were covered in red. She started shaking and sobbing again, afraid. This was all wrong. This wasn’t what was supposed to happen. She should have been playing in the rain with Storm. Damien gently shifted her so her head was on his other shoulder.

“I want Mommy!” She said again. She didn’t understand why he was apologising. “I want Daddy and I want Storm!” She wanted her family back together, all of them. Right now. “Where are they?”

Mercury eyes met sapphire, tears falling freely as he took a ragged breath. “Your mother is dead.”

“But Mommy promised she would come back…” Dead people didn’t come back, she knew that, like her grandparents, and Uncle Damien’s parents, and Raven. “She promised!”

“I know she did, she wanted to, I swear she wanted to, but Rain, sometimes no matter how much someone wants to keep their promise… they can’t.”

“She promised!” Rain insisted again. Mommy always kept her promises. Always. “She promised me she would come back!”

Damien closed his eyes for a moment and seemed to come to a decision when he opened them again, holding her gaze with his as he spoke in a low, serious tone she’d never heard him use before. “The Fiends killed your mother. She wanted to come back to you, she fought so damn hard, but there were too many of them.” She stared at him for a few moments.

“You couldn’t save her?” She knew he had in the past, just like Mommy had saved him. He flinched like she’d hit him.

“I couldn’t,” he said, looking away. “I couldn’t do anything.” She didn’t like this. He wasn’t talking to her like he normally did. He was talking to her like he would talk to Mommy or Daddy or another grown up now.

“But you’re the best!” She’d heard so many times that her uncle and her mother where the best Hunters in the village and among the best Hunters alive. Elite was what everyone called it. They were elite Hunters

“Yeah, Rain, but sometimes that’s just not enough.” She put her head back against his shoulder, exhausted and confused. There was too much she didn’t understand, and too much that she did. She wanted to ask if she could go home, where it was safe. But she was home, and it wasn’t safe. Not anymore.

 

After a while Uncle Damien stood, keeping her in his strong arms, though he staggered.

“Where are we going?” She asked, no longer crying. She was tired, her head ached and her eyes burned. She didn’t really know what was going on. Nothing made sense anymore.

“We’re going to find your dad and Storm,” he replied, stumbling and almost falling again, only catching himself by grabbing onto the wall. “Godsdamnit!”

“I can walk,” she said, and he put her down, though she kept a tight grip on his hand. The leather of the fingerless gloves he wore were soft and his rings digging into her hand, but she didn’t care about that. She couldn’t help but stare at the red puddle in the kitchen where Storm had been taken but her uncle gently pulled her away, leading her out of the house and past more blood. Outside it was dark and raining, and there were people all around, carrying others, holding them up, or shouting names while they ran around. Most of the wooden houses had broken pieces, a lot of them doors or windows. One or two were on fire, but mostly the fire came from where the bodies of the Fiends were being burned or from the torches people carried.

“This way,” Uncle Damien said, gently directing her to where a group of people were gathering. She could tell that many were Hunters from the way they dressed, while others wore the uniform of the Guardians who served the Academy. Sometimes her father wore that uniform, but mostly he stayed in their village, especially if her mother and uncle were gone. Damien caught the attention of one of the Guardians and soon his wounds were being bandaged. Rain looked down at her clothes and saw a lot of red marks on them. “Don’t worry,” he said before she could start to panic. She knew she didn’t have any cuts where the Fiend had grabbed her, only bruises.

“Can you ride?” The Guardian asked, tying a final bandage around his leg.

“Yeah,” he replied, though he was almost grey under his light gold skin. “I’ll take the kid with me.” The Guardian didn’t protest, just found a horse and helped them both on, getting Rain settled in front of her uncle and finding a waterproof cloak to wrap around both of them. When she was older and learned how to use her magic she would be able to make the rain move where she wanted it, just like her mother could.

“When are we going to see Daddy and Storm?” Rain wondered when he didn’t move, for all he looked as impatient as she felt.

“We have to wait for a few other people and we’re all going to go together.”

“But I want to go now,” she protested.

“I know, so do I, but we need to wait.” His voice was calm but she could tell there was something more, something he was hiding from her. “Why don’t you close your eyes for a little while and try to get some sleep?” She nodded reluctantly and closed her eyes.

 

Next thing Rain knew, she was waking up and they were moving. The sky was just starting to grow lighter and the rain had stopped. Uncle Damien still held her, his eyes red like hers were whenever she’d been crying.

“Hey kiddo,” he said softly when he saw that she was awake, his voice hoarse. She looked around. There were other people on horseback too, and more being pulled in wagons. Most were battered and bandaged, some were crying or moaning. She shifted so she could hide against her uncle. He wrapped the edges of the cloak around her so she wouldn’t have to see.

“Where are we going?” She asked, disoriented. For a moment she was going to ask if they were going to see her mother, but then she remembered that her mother was dead. She wiped at her eyes as tears started falling again. Damien shifted so he could hold the reins in one hand and hold her with the other.

“We’re going to the hospital,” he reminded her. “We’re going to see Storm and your dad.”

“Are they okay?” She needed to know, had to know they wouldn’t die. He hesitated a moment too long and she started to panic.

“Woah, kiddo, Rain,” he said, gently rubbing her back. “Your dad’ll be fine, he’s a tough old bastard,” Damien pointedly ignored the disapproving looks from other adults, “it’ll take a little while, but he’ll be fine. Your sister… she was hurt pretty bad. It’s going to take a long time before she gets better, and she won’t be the same as before.”

“I don’t get it.” She felt tired still and all dried out like she didn’t have room inside to feel anything more.

He took a breath. “The Fiend messed her up pretty bad. She lost a leg, and even when she’s better she’s not going to be able to move around like she used to.”

“Can she still be a Hunter?” Damien shook his head. “She never really wanted to fight monsters,” Rain told him. “I guess now she won’t have to.”

“Don’t worry kiddo, there’s plenty of stuff your sister is good at. She’ll figure things out. It’ll take a long time, but she’ll make it work.” Not ‘it’ll be all better’. She knew enough to know that there was a difference.

“What about Mommy? What’ll happen to Mommy?”

“Once your sister wakes up we’ll have her funeral,” Damien said, swallowing hard.

“The Fiends didn’t eat her?” That’s what happened in a lot of the stories she’d heard. Not from her parents, but others, other kids who had Hunters in their lives.

He closed his eyes for a long moment again. “No, they didn’t. I couldn’t save her, but I wouldn’t let them eat her.”

“Thank you,” she said, then curled up against him and closed her eyes once more.

 

Damien woke her up when they got to the hospital. Their village only had a few healers because it was small and close to the city. The hospital was part of the Guardian Academy, the large stone building beside a big castle with many towers. She’d been there a few times, but never inside the castle, no matter how much she’d begged. She looked up at the imposing building where Hunters were trained, where she’d always wanted to go. Normally she would have been excited, but now she just felt sad. The group they were with stopped and Damien dismounted without his usual grace, wincing as his feet hit the flagstones, then held an arm up for her.

“Here, let me help,” a young man wearing a healer’s robes said, reaching for Rain. She moved away, trying to get to Damien. “Come now, I won’t hurt you.”

“No!” She protested loudly, kicking at him. “No!”

“The poor child’s been traumatised, Roderick,” all three turned to see the healer from Rain’s village approach. He looked tired as well, his tunic and pants stained with blood. “You can’t expect her to react well to an unfamiliar face.”

The younger man hesitated. “Ah, yes.” He turned to Rain as the other healer left to attend to someone else. “I’m sorry my dear. Your…” He looked from her to Damien, taking in the lack of family resemblance.

“Uncle,” Damien supplied.

“Yes, your uncle is hurt and it would hurt him more if he lifted you off the horse. Will you let me help you down so he doesn’t get hurt more?” Rain looked from him to Uncle Damien. Her uncle was standing weird, his hand pressed against the thick bandages at his side and she could see that some of his other bandages had started to turn pink. Plus, he hadn’t been able to carry her earlier, either. She nodded reluctantly and let the healer lift her down, though she immediately reached over and clung to Damien’s good leg the second her feet were on the ground, watching the healer, who held up his hands in a gesture of surrender. Damien ruffled her hair, making a noise that was something between a laugh and a sigh.

“Didn’t your parents teach you manners?” He asked her.

“Thank you,” she said quickly.

“Now, we’re here to find two people, Storm Undine and Ash Glade,” he said. “Do you know where they are?”

Roderick frowned. “Perhaps you should look to your own wounds first?”

“I’ll be fine, we just need to see them first,” Damien said shortly, glancing down at Rain. Roderick gave in with a sigh and turned towards the hospital. The moment his back was turned Damien took a long drink from his flask, grimaced, then took Rain’s hand and they followed the healer.

Inside the hospital was very clean, the air scented with blood and medicinal herbs, with healers in white and grey robes moving quickly from person to person and room to room. Even the hallways were crowded with people who were hurt. Roderick stopped to ask for directions and then took them to one of the upper floors. He knocked on one of the doors and another healer came out, red on his robes. Rain edged closer to Damien, who gently squeezed her hand. Questions were asked and answered, and then they were allowed in. Her father stood and staggered over, falling to his knees as Rain ran to his arms, sobbing again.

“I’m sorry I left you there for so long,” he said. Rain didn’t care about that. She just cared about the familiar scent of evergreen trees and her father’s embrace.

“Daddy!” She cried. “Daddy, Mommy is dead. The Fiends killed her.” He looked up at Damien for a moment then back to her.

“I know sweetie,” he said quietly and she was alarmed to see tears in his bright green eyes. “I know.”

“Why didn’t you and Storm come back?” She asked, trying to see her sister over her father’s broad shoulders but even kneeling he was too tall.

He swallowed hard. “Honey, Storm was hurt, and so was I. The healers wouldn’t let me leave.”

“Oh.”

“That’s why you were stuck with me. Your dad wanted to make sure someone you knew would find you. Besides, we all know I’m your favorite uncle,” he added, winking as he moved to sit in one of the chairs with a grimace. “I wasn’t hurt too badly, so I could sneak away from the healers.”

“But Mommy always said to listen to the healers,” Rain said.

“Yeah, but sometimes even the healers can be wrong.” He didn’t look at the healers who were still in the room as he spoke.

Just then the door opened and a man in an Academy guard uniform came in. “You!” He shouted when he saw Damien. Rain noticed that his face was badly bruised. “Why haven’t you been arrested?”

“Maybe I didn’t ‘sneak’ away, per se,” Damien amended.

The older healer in the room spoke up. “Shut up or get out.” The guard turned to glare at him but the healer didn’t back down. “I don’t care, I really don’t. There’s a badly injured girl who doesn’t need your shouting, plus two injured warriors and a girl who’s been through more than enough today.”

“You’d better listen to the healer,” Damien said with a smirk. The guard turned an odd shade of red, but stomped out all the same.

“Are you in trouble?” She whispered when the door closed.

“Nah,” he said. “Still, I should get it straightened out. Why don’t you stay here for a bit? I’m sure your sister would like it if you did.”

“After you get it straightened out are you coming straight back?” Her father asked, and there was something in his tone she didn’t understand.

“You don’t have to worry about me tonight, Ash,” Damien said. “I’m going to the morgue to get things sorted out for Tempest, then I’m coming right back.” He rose with a grunt and limped towards the door, still holding his side.

“Don’t go!” Rain protested. If he went, there was a chance he might not come back, just like her mother wasn’t coming back. She wanted everyone to stay together. If they were together, they were safe.

He stopped and looked back. “There aren’t any Fiends here, Rain. I’ll be back before you know it. I promise.”

“But you said sometimes promises can’t be kept,” she reminded him.

“Yeah, I did say that.” He sighed, rubbing a hand over his face.

“Rain, Damien has to go just for a moment,” her father said. “He’s not leaving the hospital.” She looked at Damien, who nodded. She held his gaze for a long moment before she nodded. When he left she pushed past her father to get to her sister. Storm was asleep in a large bed, and she was almost covered in bandages. Rain frowned. Something didn’t look right.

“Where’s her other leg?” She asked, looking at the flat space that shouldn’t have been just below Storm’s knee.

Her father sighed and managed to get back into the chair, his face twisted with pain. “She lost it,” he told her.

“Shouldn’t we go look for it?” Rain asked, confused.

He shook his head. “No, sweetie, it doesn’t work like that. She’ll get a new leg.”

“Uncle Damien said that she’d still have trouble moving for a long time.”

He nodded. “Yes, she will, even after she gets the leg.”

“I’ll help her,” Rain decided.

“I’m sure she’ll appreciate that.”

Rain looked back at her sister. “When will she wake up?”

“I don’t know.” She looked up at her father, who looked at the healers.

“Tomorrow we’ll wake her up,” he said. “For now she needs to rest so we can get to work on mending the worst of the damage.” He looked like there was something more he wanted to say, but when he looked at Rain he stopped himself.

As promised, Damien came back a while later. He was wearing different clothes and wasn’t covered in blood any more. Roderick trailed behind him, Rain hadn’t noticed him leaving. “Hey kiddo,” he said when she ran to him before returning to her father, climbing into his lap and curling up again, careful of the bandages. Damien’s eyes were red again, and she noticed his shirtsleeve was a bit damp. He went back to leaning against the wall by the door.

“When’s the funeral going to be?” Her father asked, voice cracking.

“Sunset.” Damien looked at the healer. “Can you wake Storm up then? It’s her mother’s funeral.”

The older healer paused for a moment, looking at Storm. “For a short time might be fine, but I need to clear it with the Head Healer,” he said, walking out.

“He’s stressed,” the younger healer said. “We don’t normally see Fiends attacking our villages like this, not so close to the city, anyway. We just got word that two others were hit as well, so we’re going to be seeing even more patients flooding in before dawn.” He looked at the Hunter and the Guardian. “Will they come after the Academy, the city?” Rain could tell he was scared.

Damien sighed. “No, they won’t. They’re not exactly mindless beasts, they seem to be able to learn, since they only rarely attack villages in the territories where you have tons of people able to fight them. Besides, the human territories are far more populated and easier targets.”

“Something like this happens every twenty years or so,” her father added.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Stacey Oakley lives in Newfoundland enjoying the weather that most people hate. She has a BA in Art History & Visual Studies from the University of Victoria and is working on finishing a post-grad diploma in Cultural Resource Management. When not explaining what those mean or trying to teach preschoolers French, she can usually be found either reading a book or writing one. Other hobbies include swimming, knitting, fencing, and playing the clarinet.

Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
A.
Readers can find me in a few places, including: my blog, https://writershaunt.wordpress.com/ Twitter: @SOakley_13 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SOakley13/ Wattpad: SOakley13
Q. What was the hardest part of writing this book?
A.
The hardest part of writing this book was that it took me out of my comfort zone. I was working with characters and relationship dynamics that I had never really written before and there were a number of moments when I wasn't sure how it was going or if it was even a good story.
Q. What books have influenced your life the most?
A.
There are many, but if I had to pick the top two, it would be Black Beauty by Anna Sewell because that's the book that turned me into a bookworm and The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien because that's what really got me into fantasy as a child.

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