Damaged World

The light was just coming up while Abby Red crept along the side of the river. The cries of the werewolf echoed in the distance. Glaring out of narrowed eyes, she hid behind a tree as the werewolf slunk past her. Abby breathed out.

“Abby, are we ‘afe?” her little brother Theo whispered, his front toddler teeth still somewhat nonexistent. She was about 15, her little brother about five. He looked up at her with wide brown eyes, his dark curls bouncing in the soft breeze. Abby’s eyes widened as she noticed the movement, grabbing Theo’s hand and pulling him along the path to town. She stopped after a while, licking her finger and holding it up to the breeze. Theo watched her intently.

“It’s going… east. Okay.” Abby glanced down at Theo. “Our scents will be blown to the werewolf, and then where will we be?” Abby looked up and screamed, shoving Theo out of the way. He tumbled to the ground, looking ahead just in time to see Abby get snatched up by the werewolf.

“ABBY!” he yelled.

“Run!” she shouted to him, kicking the werewolf so it would drop her. “Liam, this isn’t you!” she yelled at the werewolf, breathing quickly. “Let me go!” Theo couldn’t look away as the werewolf bit Abby, tearing her up and throwing her to the ground. Theo got up and ran, yelling for help from the other warrior patrols that were stationed out in Foxtail Forest. At last, he got to the Thundersong’s base, unable to get out any words but “dead.” Patrols went out to look, but they didn’t see anything besides a large amount of fur and a huge claw stuck to a tree.


Chapter One

I live in a damaged world. My old town, which I can’t remember anymore because I was barely one year old, burned to the ground when a group of pyromaniac elves got hold of Yoli County’s flint and steel supply. My old city’s inhabitants left when the famous Foxtail Forest werewolf, formerly known as Liam Towers, attacked Abby Red and we had to evacuate. Now I live with the Thundersong, a group of amazing people who are all dedicated to defeating evil. My dream in life is to be a warrior of the highest order. To be honored and respected. For people to know my name all over the world.

“Alexa! Are you up?” I look up sharply from my careful writing, accidentally smudging the last word in the paragraph.

“Yes, whoever you are, I am up. I was just finishing the summary of my entire goddamn life.” My little sister Katherine struts into my room, wearing a brand new, stretchy fighting suit. She’s about 11. My mother died just after she was born, so the only memory I really have of my mother is her brown, curly hair. I inherited it. Kathy twirls around, grinning at me, and I raise an eyebrow.

“What do you think?” she asks eagerly.

“Sweet,” I say, shutting the door to my tiny room in the Thundersong base. “Who got that for you?”

“Jacob. He’ll make one for you, too, if you want.” I shake my head, leaning back on my chair and putting my legs up on the desk. My room is one of the bigger ones, with oak paneling and a rug made from wool. I actually have windows to the outside. My bed probably has the best sheets, except for the hospital room. My desk is one of my prized possessions, except for my leather gripped daggers. One of them, which I never use, has a real ruby on its pommel. I’m a skilled knife fighter. It’s my calling card.

To the fighting suit I say, “Nah, that’s fine. Purple isn’t really my color.” Kathy moves my head up a little and ties my dark brown curls up in a ponytail. Most people at the Thundersong northern base have dark hair and dark eyes, skin of all colors, but I’ve never seen somebody with blonde hair and blue eyes up here. I myself have hazel eyes, a healthy mix of brown and green. Different people see different colors, usually — I like to ask.

“Okay, then. He could make one in blue or something,” Kathy says about the suit. She knows better than to press me, on anything, letting the subject drop after the last sentence. “Alexa, did you know that Theodore Red is going to join the Northern Thundersong base? I’ve heard he’s hella dreamy.”

“Theo Red?” I repeat, incredulous. “But… doesn’t he… he has post-traumatic stress disorder. Right? I mean, he saw his sister get bitten by a werewolf only miles from here.”

“I would think he has PTSD, it makes sense. But rumor has it — and this time the rumor is correct — that yes, Theodore Red is coming up North.”

“Wow,” I breathe, exchanging a look with my sister. “That’s actually pretty cool. He’ll have the best room in the base. Ya know, his sister was an honored warrior. And when she got bitten, Theo started training right away, so now he’s a really important person. At least he was, until he moved down to the South base and had to start all over again.”

Kathy finishes with my hair, handing me a mirror she got from one of our friends in the South.

“So, you’ve been working on your writing assignment?” Kathy asks me, peering over my shoulder to see what I’m doing. I nod, handing it to her.

“Yeah. I accidentally smudged the bottom word, but I’ll turn it in anyway. See how I do.”

“It’s a competition, right?”

I roll my eyes.

“Obviously. So apparently I win a training lesson with some really skilled dude. He’s only really skilled if his — ”

Somebody screams from down the hall. I’m on my feet in an instant, grabbing my shotgun and racing down the hall. My sister stops in her room to grab her katana. Adrien Young from the downstairs boys dorms comes sprinting up the stairs as we’re going down, causing a slight collision.

“What’s going on?” I yell, struggling to regain my balance without shooting anyone.

“I don’t know,” Adrien says, breathing heavily. “I just ran out of there. I think it’s a mutant or something.”

“Mutant what?” I demand, grabbing Adrien before he can run out.

“I don’t know!” he wails. I shove him and Kathy, and I run down, out into the main hallway. It’s a mutant, all right. Two huge wolves, no doubt from Foxtail Forest, are circling two of the youngest recruits of Thundersong.

“Eloise and Brianna,” Kathy tells me, looking pretty heroic in her new fighting suit. Her katana has a new handle cover, and it’s pretty awesome. “Hang on guys, we’ll be right with you!” she yells to the other girls. Brynn, Lee, and Josh are already there, trying to figure out a way to distract the wolves. Brynn tosses her black braid, pacing just like the wolves when she sees me. As I mentioned before, I’m a very skilled warrior, if I do say so myself, and I am respected. I worked hard to be where I am today. I started from basically nothing, joining the Thundersong just a little after the Abby Red scandal when I was seven.

“Okay, Alexa, what’s the plan?” Ross asks me, coming beside Kathy and me.

“I’m not sure,” I reply. “I want to try get someone on top of the wolves, and then we can try to stab them. Once one is down, the other one will either run — ”

“And we pursue it and kill it.”

“ — Or we trap it and find out how it got so… big and ugly.” Kathy laughs. Ross nods pensively.

“I think Kathy’s pretty nimble.”

“No, she’s not getting up there,” I say protectively, flinching when I imagine Kathy getting either thrown off the giant wolf or maimed by it.

“Got it. Katherine, run across the room and tell Brynn, Lee, and Josh what the plan is.” Kathy nods, zipping across the room and talking quickly to Brynn.

“Stay!” I yell. “I’ll go up!” I hand my shotgun to Ross. “Throw this to me once I’m up there.” Closing my eyes, I bend my legs and run. I leap on top of one of the wolves, just barely getting onto its back and getting a good grip. Ross hurls the shotgun up, but I miss it, just barely. The wolf howls, bucking wildly, and I yell in spite of myself. “Oh, God,” I mutter. I grab one of its ears, hanging on with my left arm while I try to reach my dagger at my belt. People are yelling, but I can’t focus on what they’re saying. Cursing softly, I grab my dagger and struggle to cut its neck deep enough. It yowls with fury as I score its neck, cutting the skin just barely. Desperately, I sink my knife into the wolf’s neck and surrender to gravity. I land on the floor nimbly, glancing up and feeling almost like I’m in an action movie. People clap, and I smile slyly to myself as I get to my feet. My ankle cries out in protest as I put weight on it, but I ignore it.

“Alexa, what was that?” my sister demands, running over to me furiously. “We all thought you’d fall off. Or die!”

“But I didn’t,” I say easily, brushing off my legs. “Nope, on the contrary, I killed one of the wolves.” Kathy rolls her eyes. “Let’s just focus on the last wolf.” We look up at the other giant wolf. It’s starting to fidget nervously, ticked off by the death of its friend. Brynn and Lee are taking turns slashing its legs and tail. By now, more warriors have arrived, including the heads of the North Thundersong unit, Jack Miller and Liana Beacon. Their son, Matthew, is my age and one of my closest friends.

“Dean, what’s going on?” Jack demands. We’re actually friends outside of battle, but right now he has to call me by my last name. I quickly salute the pair of superiors, explaining the situation with tense terms. The other warriors have caught the wolf and have it tied up in a corner. Matthew, who must have joined the fight, runs up to his parents and me.

“Should we kill it, Miller?” he asks formally, running a hand through his dark brown hair.

“Don’t kill it. We’ll do some experiments on it. But we do have to have it hidden somewhere before Mr. Red comes. I don’t think he would appreciate the sight of a mutant wolf,” Liana interrupts.

“Do we maybe have a spare building we can put it in?”

“We can put it in the empty basement,” I suggest. Liana nods, calling a couple warriors over and giving them orders to drag the wolf away.

“Are we going to try to shrink it down again?” Matthew asks.

“I guess? We’ll figure it out.” Liana and Jack walk away, leaving Matthew and I alone in the middle of the battlefield.

“Hey,” he says, as I start to walk away. “Did you start working on that writing assignment?”

I nod, turning around. “Yeah. What did you write for it?”

“Eh, just some crap about how I’ve lived with the Thundersong all my life. Honestly, I don’t know what they expect from me, that I came from three different villages and six different cities and that I want to be a blacksmith?”

I laugh. “What about you?” I’m about to answer when Matthew answers himself. “Actually, let’s head up to my room.”

“Okay, let me just grab my dagger from that wolf.” I quickly run and grab the dagger from the wolf’s neck, cleaning it off with my sleeve and sticking it in my belt. We walk together up the spiral stone staircase. “So, basically I wrote about how I came to the Thundersong. It’s not that interesting.” We turn left, scouting our way through the boys dorms and coming up to the biggest one. I love Matthew’s room. It has the most amazing bed, with giant windows that open to the forest. He has a dark brown rug with the Thundersong logo on it, a golden eagle with a silver lightning bolt going across it and a silver circle around the whole thing. I have one too, but it’s just a tapestry. I flop onto Matthew’s bed, staring up at the ceiling.

“I’d love to read it sometime,” he says, grabbing my ankle and pulling me off the bed. I flinch as my foot twinges again. He tries to discreetly pull his sword out, testing my reflexes, but my dagger flies out and blocks the sword. Matthew sighs playfully, tossing the sword casually to the side. Its rubber cover makes it bounce harmlessly off the floor.

“En garde,” he says, smirking. I smile, holding my ankle close to my chest.

“I need to go to the hospital room. I banged my ankle when I fell off the wolf.”

Matthew grins.

“Say no more.” He leans over, scoops me up in his arms, and we head down to the medic center. I laugh, hanging out of his embrace. He laughs too, grabbing my dangling arms. Our relationship is so easy because we’re nothing but friends, and probably won’t be anything more.


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