An angry storm was coming. She could feel it in her bones; she could feel the tingle of electricity on her skin. She would need to find cover soon.
She trudged on. Her dog, Erna, sniffed the ground, following a scent. They had gone weeks without a clear direction. Erna had only recently picked up on Agrona’s scent and now it seemed they were about to lose it again.
They walked into a grove of dead trees, the brown grass crunching beneath their feet. Everything was dead. In the center of the grove was a crumbling church. Part of the roof was missing, and the cross that used to stand tall upon the steeple was hanging upside down from an old piece of wire.
They moved further in, Erna nosing at the ground. Suddenly, she stopped and sniffed the air. A low growl escaped her teeth, and it rumbled through Marcella.
“What is it, Erna?” she asked, the wind catching her red hair and flinging it in her face.
Erna didn’t move.
Marcella looked at the crumbling building doubtfully. It could hardly be called a hiding spot. Quietly, she pulled out the gun on her hip. It may have been an old weapon, but it was trustworthy.
Together, they moved towards the old doors and Marcella carefully pushed one open. “Check around,” Marcella ordered and Erna trotted out of sight around the building. Marcella, with her gun raised, peeked inside.
It was utter ruin inside the church. The floor and the weathered pews were caked in dust, and the windows were cracked and clouded with grime. On the walls was ancient graffiti and mold. There was no God here any longer.
She quietly stepped inside while taking everything in, her eyes sweeping toward the back of the room. In the dust were footprints that led up to the alcove. Chained between the two walls, kneeling in a circle of chalk was her sister. Her head hung down between her shoulders. Her hair hung in dirty ringlets, covering her face and scraping the floor. At the sound of the door opening, she lifted her head.
“Agrona!” Marcella charged down the aisle, dust rising behind her in clouds. She reached her sister and fell before her, throwing protective arms around her.
“Marcella?” Agrona’s voice was chalky, like she hadn’t used it in a long time.
“I’m so glad I found you. The twins have been insufferable.”
“They’ve been causing mayhem. They won’t listen to me.” Marcella reached for the chains and tried to pry them apart but they wouldn’t budge, “I can’t wait to have you home.” She tried the chains again grunting with the effort only managing to bend a link. “We need to get these chains off you.”
“Marcella, I’m not going back.”
Marcella froze, “What?”
“I’m tired, sister,” She tilted her head, her black curls falling around her wildly. “I can’t do this anymore.”
“Agrona, you don’t have a choice.”
“So many lives have ended in this world, Marcella.” Her voice cracked, and tears sprang to her eyes, “So many have died. They call to me, Marcella. They scream in my head, begging me to let it end.”
“Agrona,” Marcella said placing her hands on her sister’s face, “the world still needs you. We need you. No one can take your place.”
“I’m done, Marcella.” She dropped her head, “It needs to end.”
There was a whine and then the padded sound of light feet as Erna trotted up to them. Her whining grew urgent as she shuffled around Marcella’s feet, her head looking toward the door.
“I’m not going back.”
A loud creak made everyone turn to the door. Erna let out a growl that echoed off the walls. Like lightning, Marcella had her gun up, ready to fire. In the doorway, clad in a black robe, was a woman. The hood covered her head, shielding her eyes. The robe itself was artfully made with layered ripples all the way down to her feet.
The red lips curled into a smile. “Welcome,” she said, her voice eerie and cold.
A growl erupted in Marcella’s throat. The woman made her uneasy. Beside her, Erna’s hackles rose.
With a rustle of robes the hooded woman moved closer until she was just inches away. A snarl ripped through Erna. Ivory teeth flashed as she nipped at the flowing robe as a warning for the woman to keep her distance.
A finger flicked and a muzzle appeared over the dog’s mouth. Erna pawed at the mouth trap. A cool ivory finger touched Marcella’s cheek, moving along her jaw and down to her throat. Another hand flicked the gun to the ground.
Marcella felt the thick point of the nail against her skin, “A matched set.” The woman purred. Beneath her pretty skin, Marcella could feel the power the woman held. She wasn’t human but something older, angrier. “It will be a pleasure to kill you.”
Agrona’s head shot up.
Marcella smiled. “You can try.”
Without warning, the end of the robed woman’s fingers became long, curved talons. Marcella evaded, drawing her ancient blade from thin air. It’s battle song hummed through her bones.
The woman hissed and flung off her robe, revealing horns that curled from her skull. Her eye were black pits, and a split tongue slithered between her needle teeth.
“Tired of pretending?” Marcella mocked.
The horned woman swung at her. Marcella dodged the talons, but wasn’t prepared for the quick spin of her opponent’s head as the horns rammed her into the wall and pinned her to it.
Marcella wrenched the sword up between them and shoved the horned beast back. The sword flashed through the air, aiming for the other woman’s neck. The Beast flipped, catching her feet on Marcella’s blade. With a powerful kick, she forced Marcella to lose her grip.
But Marcella caught her blade in her other hand. The thrumming of the weapon grew angry as it had yet to cut into its opponent. Marcella’s power leaked into the ancient blade, and it responded with a surge of energy.
“Your sister looked for me,” continued the Beast, “She wants to die; she deserves it…but you,” the woman growled, “you have created wars. What does she think of you?”
The Beast moved closer, “Don’t you wish to die?” she whispered.
“Those who died fought for something they believed in.” A growl echoed in Marcella’s throat, “And I’ll be damned if they aren’t remembered the way they should.”
The Beast unleashed her talons once again and swiped at Marcella with a shriek, grazing her face. But Marcella was quick and danced out of range, hacking and slashing. The Beast let out a cry of pain. Marcella didn’t slow. With a final slice the horned head fell with a graceful arc from the woman’s shoulders.
Marcella’s sword pulsed and its anger evaporated. Silently, she checked the body and found a ring of iron keys. She walked over to her sister and tried them until, finally, she found the right one and the lock opened.
Marcella helped Agrona up, and her sister immediately collapsed into her arms. “Are you hurt?”
“I’m fine, just weak. Are you alright?” Agrona asked.
“I will be as long as you tell me that you will never do this again. If you let yourself die, people will know that we can die, and they will come after us.” Erna stood on her hind legs so Marcella could remove the muzzle, which she did. Erna let out a whine and licked her mistress’s hand. Marcella rubbed between her ears.
“My feelings haven’t changed,” insisted Agrona.
“Your family hasn’t either. Death,” Marcella chanted, “War, Pestilence, and Famine. We are nothing without each other. Don’t let your feelings doom us all.”
Standing up, Agrona squared her shoulders, “Well, I guess we have work to do.” With a drag of her wrist she wiped away the drying tears. Marcella draped an arm over her sister’s shoulders and together they strode out of the ruined church.