Redemption – Excerpt

The ground beneath them trembled as a sliver of blue light split the growing darkness. Tendrils of light spread, like strips of silk in the breeze. Realization slammed into Demetria as she stumbled, her attention split between her assailants and the opening gateway. She stepped back, sliding her weapon into its sheath as she turned toward her children.

"What is the meaning of this?" Low, rough, the distinctly masculine voice drew Demetria's attention.

She whirled, an unfamiliar figure blocking her view of the other men. His body seemed to shimmer, the brush of flesh on flesh reaching Demetria. The wind carried a faint scent she didn't recognize, along with the sound of a powerful heart beating. Uncertain if he was ally or foe, she grabbed the hilt of her weapon.

"Get out of our way, you fool. It is of no concern to you."

"What is of concern for me is for me to decide. Now, you will answer my question, else I will rip the truth from your minds."

"You are a stranger in this land. As such, do you believe you have the right to judge or make demands?"

Demetria gasped, the clench of tiny hands on her clothes pulling her back as the male shifted, growing, until he loomed over the men. Coils rasped together, and Demetria wondered what sort of being had come into Dreken. Blinking, she glanced upward, gasping at the flared hood of a snake weaving back and forth. She shook her head, tucking her weapons away, and grabbed the child at her back as she darted back toward the other children.

"Come," Demetria whispered to the hovering children, the rotten smell of their fear pushing at her. A cry of pain had her glancing over her shoulder, and she shivered. "It is best we do not remain here." She sucked in a sharp breath at the wash of pain ripping through her torso at Feronia's touch.

"You bear a wound." Feronia held up her hand, showing blood on her fingers. "I can tend the wound if it's not too deep."

"Later. Right now we need to run. The battle may spill over to the children." Demetria inhaled sharply, bending at the waist as she pressed her hand against the wound. Warm blood flowed over her fingers to tease her nose. Her eyes widened as she met Feronia's horrified eyes. Darkness pulled at the edges of her vision.

Gods be damned, my babies, she thought as she sank into oblivion.