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Katrynne

Flashes of Life

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Flashes of Life


the History of Katrynne Simms

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They say that you see your life flash before your eyes just before you die.  What will I see as the last breath leaves me?  

More importantly, what would I see after?  Would the Light welcome me, or would I face endless darkness and torment?  

I wonder if I have done enough good to atone for the evils I have done.  At the same time, I know that’s just not possible.  It wasn’t a glass of milk spilled, that I can clean up and refill.  It wasn’t a vase I had broken, that I can glue the pieces back together.  What I have done cannot be forgiven.

And yet, I still hope.  Hope is what has kept me fighting all these years.  Hope that by doing enough good, by vanquishing enough evil, that somehow, I can tip the scales in my favor again.  But no matter how many innocents I save, no matter how many monsters I slay, those who have died by my hand will remain dead.  I cannot undo what I have done.

And yet, I still hope.  I grasp at the words of the paladin who assured me that everyone can be redeemed, if they truly wish it, and prove it, and are not just trying to be redeemed to avoid eternal punishment.  I do not fear that punishment, for I know I deserve it and more.

And yet, I still hope.  To see him again.  To hear his laughter.  To feel his touch.  To tell him how sorry I am and beg his forgiveness, for never have I forgiven myself.

 

((I made some of these posts out of order a few years ago when Kerala posted a challenge to pick a song from your playlist each day for a month and write a story.  Now I've put them all in the right order, and added more sections to fill in blanks.  I also added pictures from Kat's mood board, which was another fun exercise we did here on TNG once.))

 

Edited by Katrynne

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The Patient

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When she was fifteen years old, Katrynne worked as a volunteer in the infirmary tent that had been setup outside the healers’ office to shelter the overflow of patients.  The civil war of Gilneas took its toll as neighbors turned against each other, creating a battlefield out of a city.  Every able-bodied citizen was expected to aid in some way.  Katrynne was no exception.

How stupid it was!  A kingdom fighting itself, when there were so many other evils in the world to fight.  But we didn’t know of those other evils back then.  We were hidden away from them, kept safe from them behind the Wall.  

One day, Katrynne was rolling bandages on a four-legged stool.  One of the stool’s legs was shorter than the others, and she had to keep adjusting her balance to keep it from wobbling too much.

“’Scuse me, miss?” a hoarse whisper called from a nearby cot.  She set the bandages aside and went over to him.  He was young for a soldier, only a few years older than Kat.  He was handsome, or he would be, once the bandages could be removed from his head.  His eyes were a deep blue, and they sparkled with mirth even though he just woke up.   “Has the Light taken me already and rewarded my service with such a lovely angel?”

Katrynne felt the heat rising in her cheeks, and she turned away before he could see them turning red.  She said something about getting the healer, but the injured man stopped her with a grip on her wrist.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Katrynne,” she answered.  She turned her arm in his hand, and he let go.  

“Katrynne,” he repeated drowsily.  “I’m Alain.”

“The healer really should know you’re awake.  She’ll want to check on you,” Katrynne insisted.  She started to move away from him again, and this time, he didn’t stop her.

Over the next several days, as Alain recovered, Katrynne made excuses to spend more time at the infirmary than was required.   Her father heartily approved of her sudden eagerness to do the Light’s work.  She didn’t tell him that she went for a boy and not the Light.  Alain was always telling stories and jokes.  The other patients nearby were also entertained by his tales, and the healers often had to shush the group and remind them that this was a place for recuperation, not parties.

“Can I see you again?” Alain asked Katrynne the day before he was scheduled to be discharged to return to battle.  He had a pink rose in his hand that he offered to her.    

Katrynne hadn’t thought about him leaving.  He was a patient.  Of course, he would recover and leave.  And then what?  Should she let him go out of her life, or tell her father she’d fallen for a simple soldier instead of a more devout servant of the Light?

She smiled and turned from him, pretending to straighten the perfectly neat blankets on the empty bed next to his.  She felt him watching her, waiting, so she pasted a forced smile on her face and turned back to him.  “If you’re not careful out there, you’ll see me again in here.”  It was a lame response.  They both knew it.  

He stared at her for a long moment.  Then he nodded once.  She could see the disappointment that he tried to hide.  What must he think?  That she didn’t really care for him?  That she was just doing her job, being nice to the patients?  She didn’t offer any explanation.  She couldn’t tell him that he wasn’t good enough in the eyes of her family.

“I should go check on the laundry,” Katrynne said weakly.  She turned to leave, suddenly uncomfortable near him.   

“Kat,” he called, after she had gotten only a few steps.  She stopped but didn’t turn around.  The twinkle was back in his eye, and he was smiling again.  She didn’t see it, but she could hear it in his voice.  “I will see you again.”

 

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The Old Argument

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Katrynne was running along the riverbank with her fist clenched in her skirts to keep from tripping on them. Her breath came in gasps, and she risked a quick look over her shoulder to check for her pursuer.  As she looked at the path in front of her again, she nearly collided with a man dressed in dark leathers.  Muscular arms encircled her waist, lifting her off her feet as her momentum tried to carry her forward.  She gave a short scream, startled, and she slapped at his shoulder.  As her captor’s head nuzzled her hair, she broke down into laughter and threw her arms around his neck.

“Miss me?” Alain whispered against her cheek.  His fingers moved against her sides to tickle her ribs, just to feel her body squirm against his.  Her renewed laughter was cut short as his lips found hers, brushing softly at first and then more demanding until she gently drew back from him.  

He let her back away only an arm’s length.  His expression fell into one of resignation and prepared patience.

“What?” Katrynne asked him.

“You have that look.”

“What look?”

“That look.  The look that says you think you shouldn’t be here.”

“I shouldn’t be,” she agreed. She removed his hands from her waist and turned to watch the river.

“Ah, Kitten,” Alain whispered into her hair as he came up behind her.  His arms came around her again, over her shoulders to loosely cradle her neck.  “You can’t let him live your life for you.  You can’t let anyone do that.  It’s your life.  Do what you want with it.  What you want.”

That was easy for him to say, she thought.  He could do what he wanted.  Nobody minded.  Daily, she was torn between the life she wanted to lead and the one she was expected to have, between freedom and family.  

“He’ll disown me.  He’ll say I’ve forsaken the Light by dishonoring my family, and it will forsake me in turn,” Katrynne argued as she watched the water flow by.   

“To fel with him!”  Alain cursed.

“Shush,” Katrynne objected.  “I’d have nowhere to go.  I’d lose my whole family.  Swearing isn’t going to change any of that.”

“As long as I’m around, you always have somewhere to go.  Let me talk to him.”

“No!”  

“Come on, Kitten.”

“Don’t…  No, it wouldn’t do any good,” Katrynne explained.  “It would only make things worse for me.”

“That guy needs a sound beating,” Alain muttered quietly, sliding his arms from her and turning away in frustration.

“Hitting people doesn’t solve everything!”

“Neither does sneaking through the woods for secret rendezvous, Kat!”

“Then maybe we should stop,” she answered bitterly.  It sure would make things easier for her at home if she stopped seeing the man her father had forbid her to be with.  

“Yeah, we should stop sneaking around," Alain said, as he said every time they had this particular argument.  "We should tell him we’re going to be together, and that’s that.”   

Katrynne knew he thought it was that simple.  He would do exactly what he said if she allowed it.  He would actually go straight to her father and tell him the way things were going to be, whether he liked it or not.  He just didn’t understand how it worked in her family.  He led a simpler life, and he saw things in a simpler way, and she loved him for it.  Suddenly, she wanted to stop thinking all these troubling thoughts.

“I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” she murmured.  Without turning from the river, she reached up and pulled her hair back on one side, exposing the soft curve of her neck where it met the simple cloth of her dress.  Like a moth to a flame, Alain was drawn in.  She felt his lips softly exploring her skin.  She turned into him, her fingers moving to the laces on his vest.  They tumbled to the ground in each other’s arms, and for the next hour or so, her mind was empty of any thoughts, troubling or otherwise.

 

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Sneaking Out

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Katrynne hurried through town on her way to Zak’s.  The moonlight shimmered off the wet cobblestone streets, and her footsteps echoed softly through the sleeping town.  Morning training started at six o’clock.  

Breakfast was at five-thirty.   Zak didn’t believe in working his team on an empty stomach, and he knew most of them weren’t likely to fix a hearty breakfast for themselves that early.  So each morning, he cooked for them, and they took turns doing the washing up.

Katrynne’s father thought she was going out early to do the Light’s work.  She believed she was doing that, just not the type of work he imagined.  Protecting the people from the aggressive worgen attacking their town was just as important as feeding and praying with them.   After all, they couldn’t pray if they got eaten or became monsters themselves.   Still, she felt guilty for deceiving her family.

On the other hand, she wouldn’t give this up for anything.  Being out in the town before anyone was awake was like being in a different town altogether.  She always looked forward to the breakfasts, with the team good-naturedly all teasing and joking with each other and a father figure who never drank or preached.  Even the training brought her a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment along with the bruises and aching muscles.

She left her own house before her brother Henri each morning, although they were both in training together on Zak’s team.  She told him it was in case she got caught sneaking out.  He could play ignorant so he wouldn’t also be in trouble.   If he knew the real reason, he didn’t say anything.  

Katrynne left extra early every morning because before the training, and before breakfast, she had somewhere else to be.  Alain would be waiting for her at the picnic spot by the river, about half a mile from Zak’s house.  Another thing to feel guilty about.  Her father had forbidden her to see him.  

Every morning she felt guilty.  Every morning, she knew her father would have her hide if he found out.   And every morning she snuck out into the predawn darkness to have secret meetings with her lover and then train to kill monsters.

 

Edited by Katrynne

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Know Your Enemy

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Katrynne, with the rest of “Zak’s Pack”, minus Zak himself who had stayed outside to go for a walk, was in the Jolly Frog Pub.  They’d just finished their third successful worgen hunt in a less populated neighborhood nearby, and they were feeling good.  After a few drinks in them, they were feeling really good.

Some of the other regular patrons of the bar were feeling good too.  One of them was feeling so good that he reached out and pinched Phaedra’s backside as she walked past.  

“Hey!” she yelped, swatting at the man’s hand.  

“Hey, lovely, nice walking stick,” the drunken man slurred, gesturing at her staff.  His friends laughed.  “Wanna see mine?”   The drunken man grinned and reached out to her again after thrusting his hips, and pointing to his covered ‘walking stick’.   

Savas stepped up beside Phaedra and brought his own staff down on the man’s wrist with a resounding thud.  The drunk howled, and his friends all stopped laughing.  The man swung a fist at Savas, connecting with his jaw.  Savas swept his staff at the man’s lower legs, tripping him and causing him to fall to the floor.

The drunk’s friends moved in on Savas.  Katrynne, Alain, and the others of the team moved into position around Savas.  “I suggest you stand down if you don’t want to end up on the floor with your friend,” Alain suggested to them.

“I suggest you go runnin’ home and cry to your momma,” another of the drunks retorted around a burp.

The man who had pinched Phaedra was picking himself up off the floor.  He shouted an undecipherable curse at Savas and drove a fist into his stomach.  Then all fel broke loose.  Zak’s Pack engaged the charging drunks, and a full brawl broke out in the pub.  Chairs were broken, tankards were dented, and a window was broken, all despite the frantic yelling of the bartender to settle down.

The sound of a sharp whistle pierced the air.  Zak’s team began to extricate themselves from the fight, some of them throwing one more punch before backing off.  The man who had started it all though, was not finished.  He grabbed Phaedra’s arm and started to draw her to him, but suddenly found the point of a sword in his face.  

“Release the lady, sir,” Zak said in a calm and reasonable voice as he held the sword.  The drunk seemed to think about it for a minute before shoving Phaedra away.  She moved to Zak’s side, along with the rest of the team.  Zak tossed a pouch of jingling coins at the bartender for the damages, and the team left the pub together.   

Nobody said anything for a while on the walk back to Zak’s place.  They all sported bruises, split lips, bloody noses, or other marks from the brawl.  

“We kicked their asses!” Lonan called out of the blue.  That set the rest of off, cheering each other and bragging about their own skill.   

Zak, who was walking in front of the rest of them, stopped, causing the rest of them to stop as well.  He gave them a stern look, though in truth, he wasn’t angry with them.  They were young, and their blood was up after risking their very lives against the worgen earlier that day.  

“Always remember who you are to fight and why,” Zak said to them in his eternally calm voice.  “The ability to fight and injure and especially to kill, is not one to be used lightly.  If you ever forget that, you will be on the same level as those drunken gentlemen, or the beasts we hunt.”

The team sobered and walked the rest of the way to Zak’s in silence.

 

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Leaving Home

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“I won’t have it!” Tadeas Janson raged.  “No daughter of mine is going to dress up in armor and go off and play soldier, or hunter, or whatever it is you think you’re going to do!”

“I’ve already started training, Father,”  Katrynne said in a voice carefully level, taking equal care to keep her expression calm.  “I can’t just stand by and do nothing.  I want to help.”

“You can help by serving the Light in a respectable manner--praying and working at the church!”

“Praying won’t keep the city safe from those monster.  Captain Zak says—“

“’Captain Zak’,” Tadeas mocked.  “I served with Zakariah in the Second War.  I know what kind of man he is.  He thinks violence is the answer to everything.  If it weren’t for the healing from me and the other priests, there would be no ‘Captain Zak!’”

Kat fell silent.  As her father turned to pace a few steps across the room, she looked at her brother for help.  Henri had also signed up for the worgen hunting team.  He looked away.  He wasn’t going to stand up to their father for her.  She frowned at him, but she couldn't really blame him.

“This is about that boy, isn’t it?” Tadeas asked in a tone that suggested he already knew the answer.  “I’ve forbidden you to see him.  If I find out you’re sneaking off behind my back….”

He let the threat trail off, and Kat offered no information.  She wouldn’t lie to her father if it could be avoided, but neither would she admit to doing just as he had suspected.

“Is that boy in on this farce of a monster hunting party too?”

“Yes, but I didn’t sign up because Alain….”

“I knew it!” her father interrupted.  “I’ve told you that boy is no good for you!  He’s a soldier, nothing more!  I’ve spoken to Father Merrill, and he knows of a nice boy who lives on the other end of town—his sister’s nephew or some such.  He’s in training to be a priest.  Father Merrill has arranged for this boy to stay with him for a while so you two can spend some time together.”

“Father, I’m not interested in spending time with…”

“I’ve told the good Father that you’ll be at the church after your lessons every day to help out with whatever he needs.”  

“I won’t go,” Katrynne said quietly.  Tadeas stared at her, his face turning red.  

“How dare you?” he questioned, shocked at his daughter’s defiance.  “How dare you refuse my wishes!  Everything I’ve done for you out of love, and you think to defy me to be with some common soldier?  By the Light!”

“I’m not a child anymore,” she stated.  “I’m old enough to be on my own.”

“Father,” Henri finally spoke up, but Kat caught his gaze and gave a slight shake of her head.  Their father would not change his mind, and it would help nobody for Henri to get in trouble now too.

Tadeas didn’t even hear his son; he was so enraged at his daughter.  He grabbed her roughly by the arm and pushed her against the wall.  Katrynne didn’t fight him, but she wouldn’t be intimidated to change her mind either.  She just stood there, looking past him, waiting for the shouting to resume.  

“Get out of my sight,” he whispered, with such hostility that she nearly ran into her mother and sister in the doorway as she hurried out.  

Hours later, when everyone else was asleep, a packed bag fell from the girls’ bedroom window.  Katrynne landed on the ground after it and walked away into the darkness.

 

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Henri

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“Zak!  Savas!” Katrynne shrieked.  Over and over, she called for the team’s leader and its healer.  She was on her knees beside a fallen teammate.  Her brother, Henri, had gotten the worse end of a fight with a worgen.  The worgen was dead now.  Katrynne had helped Henri finish it off, but not in time.

Savas and Zak joined them, followed closely by Alain and Phaedra.  Savas took one look at Henri, and his hands began glowing softly with the Light.  He knelt down beside Henri and hovered his healing hands over the worst of the injuries—a piece of ripped and ragged flesh in Henri’s arm.

Zak frowned, but said nothing at first.  He stood silently over them.  He sighed, and was about to say something, but Savas spoke up just as the rest of the team joined them.

“It’s not healing,” the priest uttered, disturbed.  

“He has been bitten,” Zak said softly.  “It cannot be healed.”

Katrynne looked up at Zak quickly as he spoke, glaring at him, as if by speaking the words, he was responsible for the fate of her brother.  She felt Alain’s hand on her shoulder.  

“Keep trying,” Katrynne pleaded to Savas.

”There is no cure,” Zak told them as gently as he could. ”He will change. And we will have to put him down.”

“No!” Katrynne shouted at Zak.  Alain took her in his arms.

“You should take her away from here,” Lonan suggested quietly to Alain.  Alain looked at Zak.  The captain nodded.

“Come on, Kitten,” Alain said, trying to sound comforting.  

“I’m not leaving him,” she stated firmly.  

Alain dragged her away, still protesting and struggling.  After a few steps, she heard her brother groan in pain and fear.  She heard joints popping and bones cracking.  Alain continued to drag her away, and she caught only a glimpse of Henri’s body contorting into a new shape.

The groan turned to a growl of anger.  Katrynne heard the sounds of a very short scuffle, then a sharp yelp, then silence.  It was over.

She stopped struggling against Alain.  She stopped moving at all.  Alain gathered her up in his arms and held her.  She buried her face against his chest and cried.

 

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Don't Get Bit

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“Zak’s Pack,” as some affectionately referred to the group, were gathered in the brush at the edge of a clearing. They looked across the clearing at an abandoned mine. Abandoned by humans, that is. A handful of worgen could be seen out in front of the mine’s entrance.

There were seven worgen hunters on this particular team of volunteers. All were armed and armored. All listened as their captain briefed them on today’s mission.

“I have received word that Alpha Prime has been sighted entering the tunnels there,” Zak informed them. The team had hunted here before, outside the mine, but they’d never ventured into the tunnels. “It is probably just a rumor, but we will still check it out. It is long past time we cleaned that place out anyway.”

The report of Alpha Prime being there didn’t match other intel they had on him. If he was there though, and if they managed to bring him down, the team knew they would win a big victory over the beasts. The potential victory was tempting enough to make the hunters believe it was worth the risk of invading the mine. In any case, there were definitely worgen there that needed to be exterminated.

“Inside those tunnels will be dangerous,” their captain warned. “The worgen know the layout; we do not. Stay together, and watch your step.” Zak paused before adding quietly, “Don’t get bit.”

“Don’t get bit,” the other seven murmured back. It was their quiet way of honoring a fallen team member and reminding each other not to fall to the same fate. Katrynne blinked quickly a few times, her eyes moist. Alain squeezed her hand.

The group fought their way through the worgen at the mine’s entrance, as well as the additional beasts that came out as reinforcements after the fighting started. When no wolf man still stood, the humans paused to catch their breath. Zak assessed them for injuries. A few bruises and scratches. Nothing serious. No bites. He motioned for silence and led them into the tunnel.

A few hours later, the group was still roaming through the tunnels. They had killed every worgen they’d found. It was tricky in the dark, winding tunnels. The beasts had better night vision, and Zak didn’t let his team carry any light brighter than Phaedra’s staff, which glowed softly with some kind of magic. Each kill was an ambush. A draft traveled from deep in the tunnels towards the exit, so the humans were always downwind. The team surprised each worgen as they came across them, and made quick kills before any alarm could be raised.

“Are we heading back towards the city?” Lonan whispered. Zak shushed him. Katrynne was amazed anyone had any idea where they were. Without being able to see any references—the sun, the city, the Wall—she had no idea where they were in relation to the world above them.

Zak held up a hand to get their attention then pointed his finger first at the side of the tunnel then above him, where the roof was held up by rickety support beams. Phaedra lifted her staff, and Katrynne could see loose rocks held up by wooden beams that were half rotted. They hurried under.

Several yards later, the passage they were in ended in an elevator shaft. Pieces of the wooden elevator lay smashed and rotting on the floor. The shaft itself had collapsed and filled with rubble. The team turned around to go back the way they came and found themselves cornered.

Katrynne heard their menacing growls. She saw one white worgen before she saw the other darker shapes moving towards them. She gripped her sword and prepared for the fight. In the darkness, she couldn’t tell for sure how many there were. More than three and less than ten, she decided.

The pack of worgen lunged at them. Katrynne heard Lonan’s scream turn to a gurgle. She looked just in time to see his throat torn out before he fell to the floor. She shoved aside the horrid image and brought her sword down on a worgen that Alain was struggling with.

Together, Alain and Katrynne slayed the beast. When it fell to the ground, they looked over the rest of the team. The group was scattered by the battle. Most were near the rickety overpass. Katrynne and Alain were close to the elevator shaft. No worgen moved on the floor. They heard a howl, answered by another and another and many more. The sounds echoed through the tunnels so it was impossible to tell how far away they were.

“We need to move,” Zak said. “Ugo and Alain, get Lonan. The rest of you, watch your step.”

Katrynne stared at Lonan’s body as the two men picked it up and carried it away. There was a hole in his neck where his throat had been. It had happened so quickly. Just a cut-off scream and his life was over. It was so sudden.

“Kat, come on!” Alain called. The rest of the group was under the rickety ceiling and moving down the tunnel. The howls still sounded through the tunnels. They sounded louder now.

Katrynne started after them, but a furry hand grasped her ankle. It was the white worgen. He wasn’t dead like the others. He’d only been playing dead. His red eyes glinted and he got to his feet, flipping Katrynne off her feet as he did so. The breath was knocked from her, and she lay stunned for a moment. The worgen circled her with a hungry look in his eyes. She tightened her fingers around the hilt of her sword and leapt to her feet.

Down the tunnel, the howling had stopped, replaced by sounds of fighting. In her mind, Katrynne again saw Lonan’s throat being ripped out, his body falling limply down to the dark floor. She forced the image aside and focused on the worgen in front of her. Don’t get bit, she reminded herself.

The white worgen was huge, but then, all the worgen she’d ever seen were more than two feet taller than her, so they were all huge. He stared at her, waiting for her to make the first move. She needed to end this fast, so she could help the rest of the team with the worgen they were battling down the tunnel.

Katrynne stepped toward the worgen, stabbing her sword at his chest. The worgen sidestepped the blade and grabbed her wrist. Using her own momentum against her, he spun her so she ended up with her back against his chest and her hands held uselessly in front of her. Don’t get bit.

She tried to twist her sword to aim it at his head towering over her. She stomped on his feet. She kicked her heel at his shin. Don’t get bit.

Then she sensed his head lowering. Don’t get bit. She heard his mouth opening next to her ear. Don’t get bit. She felt his embrace tighten around her to hold her still until she could barely breathe. Don’t get bit. Finally, she felt his fangs pierce through first the leather of her armor and then into the skin on her shoulder. She screamed.

The worgen loosened his grip on her and she squirmed away, stumbling towards the rest of the team. Their fight was just over and Alain was coming towards her as the others assessed injuries. Suddenly, Alain stopped with a look of horror on his face as he stared at the trickles of blood coming from puncture wounds on her shoulder.

Katrynne stopped just before the rickety part of the tunnel. She’d been bitten. Recent memories surfaced, bringing with them a sense of dread and hopelessness that made her tremble. ”There is no cure,” Zak had told them as gently as he could. ”He will change. And we will have to put him down.”

Her free hand went to the ring on a chain around her neck. The grief on Alain’s face nearly broke her heart. She saw Zak looking at her now. He had a pained expression on his face that probably had nothing to do with the gash on his forehead. Alain took a step forward, but Katrynne shook her head. She would not make them go through that again—the horrible wait for the inevitable change and following execution of one of their own. With tears rolling down her cheeks, she raised her sword and struck with all her might at one of the half rotten support beams.

The beam gave way and the ceiling collapsed, blocking the passage with pieces of wooden beam, rocks, and dust. Beyond the sound of the falling rubble, Katrynne heard Alain’s cry of anguish. She choked back a sob as she backed away from the debris.

 

A low growl sounded through the room. Katrynne turned to face it in the total darkness. She held her sword before her and glared at the worgen she couldn’t see.  She had nothing left to lose.

“Let’s play.”

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