My pointy shoes pounded on the leaf strewn ground as I ran through the woods. The wind whipped my hair and the brambles shredded my skin as I tore through them without second thought. I was in fight or flight mode, and I chose flight rather than fight. How could this happen? Aren’t I Grimalkin? No, I thought. I no longer deserve such a name. Only a coward ran away from danger, and Grimalkin never backs down from a fight. Grimalkin is undefeated… So I cannot be her. My enemy, the Kretch, had bested me. I was no longer a perfectly honed assassin. I had a weakness in my blood, and if it struck me now, I was as good as dead. The Kretch had poisoned me the first time I encountered it. One scratch of its claw had changed my destiny for the worse. This is something I never could have scryed, and now I know why: It will be the cause of my death. Thorne’s last words to me echoed in my head, “Grimalkin, why do you run?” My reply was this, “Because I must child, this is a fight I cannot win…” I had let her down. For years Thorne has looked up to me. I am her mentor, and my last lesson to her had been to run, and I was ashamed of it. Of course she wouldn’t heed my words. I trained her too well. The way she looked at me as I backed away from the oncoming danger will haunt me forever. It was a look of disappointment. I regretted my actions as soon as she was out of my sight. I abandoned her, abandoned her to a certain death. Thorne would die alone, without a friend by her side. I have let her down and I have failed everyone who still fight against the dark. The witches that follow the Kretch would take Thorne’s thumbs and destroy everything that she worked toward in this life. I would have done anything to take her place. It would be best if I were forgotten. Discarded and mocked by my clan while Thorne was celebrated for her courage and strength. But these are things of the past. There is no way to change them. I still clutched the sack in my shaky hand. The sack that contained the head of my greatest enemy: the fiend, the devil himself. I had promised to keep it safe from his servants while Gregory’s apprentice, Thomas Ward, tried to find a way to finally destroy the dark made flesh. But the fiend’s servants were countless, how could I have ever dreamed to accomplish such a feat? I had given it my all, I had done my best, and now the fate of the entire world stood on the edge of a knife. Even over the rapid beating of my heart, I could hear the Kretch gaining on me. It ripped through the saplings and bush like an arrow. It called out to me, “Grimalkin! Why do you run? Stand and face me as before.” No, no Mr Wolf! I will not stop running. You are the wolf, and I am a wounded lamb. Without my herd I cannot hope to survive! I kept running, more desperate than ever. I could hear the Kretch panting as it tried to catch up with me. “Your apprentice, the witch girl, put up more of a fight than you! Her aim was true, but it wasn’t enough to best me.” The Kretch growled. “You will die, just as she did, and my master will be restored!” With that, the Kretch gave a howl and leaped at me. I ducked into a roll and felt the Kretch soar over me. It landed on all fours and stood. It grinned at me and once again I was drawn to its eyes. They had a human intelligence that chilled me to the bone.The Kretch drew a blade from a sheath in its fur and lumbered toward me. I was rooted to the spot in terror. My legs were paralyzed with fear and wouldn’t obey me. I could not think. My mind was paralyzed like my body. I couldn’t seem to summon up any will. “So this is how you will die? Will you simply let me strike you down?” asked the Kretch. I attempt to control my emotions. Rivulets of sweat began to slide down my forehead. Slowly, I begin to move my fingers back and forth. My effort had paid off! I could not let the Kretch have the head. I regained my courage and words flowed from my mouth like water, “You may possess an advantage over me, but I will not give up without a fight!” I drew two knives from their scabbards and adopted my signature fighting stance, prepared to do the dance of death… for one last time. The Kretch bared its teeth in a horrendous smile. “For Thorne!” I shouted as I leapt into action, my blades twirling in my hands. I slash the Kretch across its belly and it gives a yelp of pain. I wounded it, but did no permanent damage. The Kretch swipes it’s paw at me and I leap back in self defense. Nevertheless, it’s claws graze my right shoulder. The poison numbs the pain, but with more of its poison within my veins, I fear I will not last much longer. I must finish the fight soon, or I will be without a doubt become overwhelmed. I circle the Kretch in a widdershins spiral and leap upon its back. I wrap my arms around it’s neck and hang on for dear life. The Kretch shakes it’s head in fury, but I manage to hang on. For the first time, I believe I can win this fight! Without warning, lights begin to flash within my vision. Each breath brings hot needles of pain to my chest and I begin to lose my grip. The poison was beginning to take its toll on me. The Kretch gives one last mighty shake, and I am flung into a tree. I lay there broken, both physically and mentally. Oh Mr Wolf, please don’t kill me! The Kretch leaps toward me, its arms outstretched and its mouth wide open, ready to rend the flesh from my bones. In one last effort to defeat the Kretch, I raise my blade and meet it’s attack. As my arm enters into the Kretch’s mouth, I feel its teeth tearing my flesh to ribbons. It’s foul breath washes over me, but I am calm. This may be the end of me, but I will take my enemy with me! I use the kinetic energy the Kretch put into it’s attack against it and jab my blade upward through the roof of it’s mouth and into it’s head. It tries to jerk away but I keep my grip. I twist the blade and work it deeper into it’s brain. Finally, the Kretch collapses and sprawls across my body. It is nearly impossible to breathe, the weight of the wolf demon pressing against my lungs. The breaths that I do manage to coax into my lungs bring no comfort. The poison is effecting me again, and the pain is tenfold. As I lay there, I smile. Oh Mr Wolf, I’ll see you out! I begin to drift away in peace. I have redeemed myself. I am Grimalkin!
Epilogue (Tom): “Tom!” a voice calls out to me. I am roused from my slumber when the owner began to shake me violently. I open my eyes and sit up. Alice was kneeling on the grass beside me. For the last few weeks, we had been sleeping under the stairs while we waited for my master’s Chipenden house to be rebuilt. Alice had a look of pure fear on her face. She took hold of my hand and began to speak. “Oh Tom! I’ve scryed something terrible.” “Alice!” I protested. “You know you aren’t supposed to use magic! My master would put you in a pit as soon as look at you if he found out!” “I’ve had a terrible feeling these past few days, and I had to find out why! Grimalkin was killed a week ago, and the head of the fiend is on it’s way back to Kenmare! They’ve already reached Ireland.” My heart lurched in fear. I wasn’t ready! I hadn’t figured out how to destroy him for good. If the head was reunited with the body, the first thing he’d do is drag my soul to the dark.He’d take Alice too, and kill everyone I love. All of my brothers would be killed, and my master would as well. I grieved for Jack, Ellie, and little Mary. They had gone through enough. I squeezed Alice’s hand to comfort her. If this was indeed the end, I had to tell her how I felt. “I love you Alice.” I whispered. Alice didn’t respond. I looked up and was shocked to see that she was frozen, a look of terror forever etched on her face. Thunder rumbled overhead. A storm was blowing in very rapidly. I had seen this before, I had seen it the night the fiend was first summoned from the dark. The stench of burning wood filled my nostrils, which further proved what I knew to be true. In my heart I knew what it was: The fiend had frozen time, and he was coming to take my soul. The prints of glowing cloven hooves began to appear on the grassy hill, wilting away the grass around them. They slowly crept closer and closer. Finally, they stopped near my feet. I could feel his rancid breath on my face and cowered in terror. The blood jar had protected me thus far, but its power had failed long ago. The fiend began to materialize before me. He took the form that all witches fear: His fearsome majesty. This was his most intimidating appearance. He was a towering figure covered in thick dark hair. His head had two long horns and his eyes were like a goats, with horizontal rectangular pupils. Tom felt his sanity begin to slip away. “Time to pay your penance Thomas Ward!” he growled “I’ve been waiting for this day since the day you were born! You cheated me once, and I will not let you best me again! I’ve already retrieved the soul of the witch assassin, and now yours will join hers!” My heart pounded in my chest as he stretched forth his hand. I’ve let you down mam… I thought. I’m sorry to disappoint you. I did my best, but the fiend will reign on earth once more… THE END