Angela knew she had no right being with the men. She was certain they were going to find trouble when they got to the end of the trail of blood they were following. Someone else was tracking the injured people, and although they were moving quickly, they could only travel so fast under the conditions. She knew what was happening ahead of them even though she wasn’t a tracker. Even she could distinguish the difference between the size of the footprints of men, women, and children. She could tell the tracks of those hunting them had destroyed part of their trail as they rode and ran over them. She wouldn’t be surprised to find those being chased were dead before they reached them, hoping to be able prevent that.
What bothered Angela the most were the obvious signs of children amongst them. It wasn’t right that the innocent were being killed, and she could only wonder why these were being singled out. The tracker pointed at more signs of blood, telling him it was a couple of hours old, if that. He wasn’t entirely sure because most of those hunting them had been obliterated. Each time the man spoke Angela’s heart grew heavier. She knew what was happening was wrong.
“I never should have allowed you to come along,” Angela’s husband complained when he noticed her tears. He could tell the information was causing her pain because of the smaller prints indicating children were involved. The one thing she had wanted in her life were children. It was a gift they had never been granted. Now, they all feared whatever they found when they caught up to those ahead of them would be a scene from hell. It would be something she might never recover from. It made him wonder what these people had done to merit such treatment.
Angela’s thoughts mirrored her husband’s in many ways. If it came to a fight, she would be more of a hindrance than help. She had never learned how to use a weapon. If, however, anyone needed healing, she would be able to help. Like her husband, she worried about what they might find when they caught up with the others. She could tell their footsteps were lagging and the trail of blood was thickening as if someone had sustained more injuries.
“I am getting scared,” Angela admitted. “What if they killed everyone? What if they attack us when we get there? Paul, what will we do if this happens? There are only a few of us.”
“We will do what we must, as we always have done,” Paul answered. He then placed an arm around Angela’s shoulders to offer her comfort.
There were five in their party, and Paul could tell they were all scared. They were following men with no conscience. As such, they felt they could expect nothing better from them than they would from feral wolves.
The worst of their fears were realized when their group came upon the mauled and bloody remains of the hunted group. Those who had pursued them had finally caught up, and although it looked like the single adult male had tried to defend his family, they could tell he never had a chance. The attackers had used clubs, swords, and knives to kill him and the four boys he was trying to protect. From what they could tell, he had been the only male there above the age of nine. The fine cloth and the cut of their clothing gave the impression of great wealth.
Angela looked at the pummeled and cut-up bodies of the children and cried out in painful disbelief. She turned from the sight of the massacre and emptied the contents of her stomach. This was more than she could accept. It was one thing to kill a man capable of defending himself, but these were young boys. What was the sense of this?
As Angela moved away from the scene of the bloodbath, she noticed another figure further away, close to a massive spruce tree. Angela took off running towards it. When she got to the body, she could tell it was a woman. She didn’t look like she had been beaten and mauled like the others, although she lay face down in the snow and didn’t move. That alone should have warned her what she was about to discover wouldn’t be pretty.
As Angela carefully turned the woman over to see how much damage had been done to her, she noted a great amount of blood on the ground staining the snow into a deep crimson. The woman had been stabbed in the chest repeatedly, then left for dead. However, she still held onto a spark of life. She could tell this person wouldn’t last for long. She looked from the lady’s pale face to her chest, then lower to where she showed signs of being heavily pregnant. The child would never be born, although there were signs of blood to indicate she was in labor. She glanced up to see the look of hope in this lady’s eyes and wept. She could do nothing to help, the woman was already too close to dying.
The stabbed woman gave a weak cry of pain at that moment, then opened her eyes wide as she gasped. When she could speak, she asked, “My husband? My children?”
More tears rushed down Angela’s cheeks creating muddy rivets down her cheeks while she answered, “I am so sorry. We arrived too late to help.”
The woman gave a pained cry that sounded more like a wounded animal than a human. She was too weak from the loss of blood and her wounds to do much more than move her head in the direction of her slaughtered family and whimper. A few moments later, she gave another cry, this time of renewed pain, as her body contracted under a new assault from within. This time the cause came from her abdomen, where her unborn child was showing how alive it was with its movement from within.
“My baby,” the woman moaned, “Save my child. Take it from my body and keep her safe. Please.”
“How?” Angela couldn’t believe she was being asked to do something like this. She knew very little about the birth of a child, although she did know how to care for one after the fact. To get to that point, she needed to be able to deliver the child safely. She couldn’t imagine being able to do this when the woman was so close to dying.
“You must cut it out of me,” the woman whispered, as another contraction rippled through her. This time, there was no movement from her, nor were there any cries of pain. She was too weak to do much more than gasp by now. “Care for my child, my Kaina. Promise me my baby will live.”
Angela doubted if there would be a baby to care for. Nor could she imagine herself being able to mutilate this woman’s body when the time came for her to do as she was asked. There could be no harm in saying she would do so under the circumstances, if for no other reason than to allow the woman to go to her rest in peace. If Angela could figure a way, however, she would. If a child was born it would be Angela’s child, the one she couldn’t have from her own body.
“We hid our gold a mile back at the base of an old oak tree,” the woman forced the words out while she still could. “It will see you and yours in comfort while our child lives.”
“I know the one,” Angela told the woman. She could have remained silent for all the good it did, for the lady was dead. She had used her last breath to tell the savior of her child where her fortune lay, and how it would provide for her child. Even at the end her last thought had been for her baby.
The child dwelling within the now deceased woman refused to give up as easily. Instead, it seemed to be fighting to break free from its confinement. The bulge of the child in its mother’s abdomen rippled and made the material covering it move. It wanted to live, and Angela was gripped by a need to see this happen so badly that she couldn’t help but react in kind.
“Paul, I need your hunting knife, now,” Angela called out, even as she tore at the gown covering the cooling corpse before her.
By the time Paul reached Angela, she had bared the woman’s rounded belly. He gaped as his wife took his knife and cut the swollen stomach open. He couldn’t believe she could do anything like this, not for any reason. “What do you think you are doing, woman?”
“The only thing I can do to save the child,” Angela replied. “I am fulfilling my promise to her mother and cutting the baby free from her mother. I only hope I am not too late.”
It only took a few moments and Angela was holding a fully formed baby in her arms. The child immediately began to scream in discontent at the world around her. It was cold, hungry, and tired from fighting to be out of her cage. Angela moved quickly, wrapping her into what was left of the material from the mother’s skirt as she announced, “We have a beautiful, healthy daughter.”
Paul looked at his wife as she held the baby close and gazed down at it with all the love she would have shared with her own. He then gave a sigh of resignation. Angela had always wanted a child, and now it seemed they had one, but how would they ever be able to care for it? They lived in what was no more than a hovel. They had no food to give it or money to provide it with clothing. What would they do with a child at this time of their lives? They were too old for this. He supposed they would find a way, as they would have if this had been their own. He then went to help the other men bury what they could find of the dead while Angela fussed over the baby. As far as he was concerned, he felt it would be lucky if they managed to get it home alive. The babe seemed weak, and they had nothing to feed her when they got there.
As Angela hummed a soft melody, the baby settled and fell asleep. When she noticed this, she set it down, but only long enough to retrieve the long warm cape that had covered the woman earlier. It was covered in mud, but it would come clean with proper care. She put it on, then lifted the child into her arms to keep it close and warm within the confines of the cloak. She still wasn’t certain how she was going to keep the tyke alive, but somehow she would find a way. They would collect the gold that the child’s mother had told her about, and things wouldn’t be so bleak. Where there was gold to be had, people were never fearful of helping. Yes, she thought, they could make this work.
With renewed determination, Angela looked at the sleeping child, and it seemed out of nowhere came a name for it. Norene Valoria.
When Paul heard the name, he frowned. It wasn’t something he would have chosen for a child, but who was he to voice an opinion? He frowned, and Angela smiled in understanding.
Angela said, “We will call her Nora when we are with her, but she will always be Norene Valoria. It is her name.”
“Why such secrecy?” Paul wondered. “Why not name her Kaina, as her mother did?”
Angela shrugged a shoulder, as she answered. “There is power in a name. None should know it but we as her parents and her as she grows old enough to know to keep it to herself. When she is fully grown, we will tell her what she needs to know about her parentage, the name they gave her, and how we came to raise her. In the meantime, our Nora will be the most beautiful child in the village. You will see I am right about this.”
The men in the group grumbled as they looked at Angela but didn’t voice their thoughts loud enough for anyone else to hear. There was something different about Angela now that she had a child. It was only a slight change, but it seemed to make her more than what she had been. She stood amongst them, and it was like she didn’t belong anymore. They no longer knew this woman. Where she had once been meek and willing to do anything that Paul asked, she now took the lead in their relationship. Now, she had young to guard and care for, and she made it clear that she would do everything in her power to keep the child safe. She would fight anyone who tried to touch her baby.
VENGEANCE HAS A DAUGHTER
She was born to right a wrong and to serve justice. Torn from her deceased mother’s womb she knows what is expected of her even before she takes her first breath. Her quest for vengeance starts as a child and determined to see her task to the end, she acts as opportunities present themselves. She is Naranda, daughter of Mysteria and Trance, last of the Royal line of Dragon.
Strafe is the strongest of the Drakes, the bravest and the one everyone looks towards to rebuild their empire. To do this he brings Ranish to his side to advise him, for he was closest to the throne before the Royal line was decimated. With Ranish comes news of a hidden daughter of the House of Dragon, and Drakaina hiding from both man and beast to stay safe. In helping Ranish to find his niece, Strafe becomes guardian to hundreds of orphaned Drakaina that only reluctantly pay him homage. To them, Naranda is their beloved Queen, for she alone is of Royal blood.
In a bid to strengthen the power of the throne and, to do the right thing, Ranish hopes to bring these two powerful Dragon shifters together to create a lasting dynasty. Can he do it? Will they take one look at each other and see only an enemy? Or, will they find a love that has been missing in their lives since the days when Mysteria and Trance lit up the skies with theirs?