Thunder resonated through the house as flashes of light snapped across the night sky. Iohanna watched from the balcony from her room as the hail pelted the ground turning it white. Sticking out her hand she caught a few small balls of ice and rubbed them between her fingers until they melted. Iohanna could hear the frantic voices below her rushing through the garden. The workers were sticking rods in the ground surrounding the baby sprouts, when they were done a blanket was flung over them. They kept at it until all the sections were covered and protected. The hail turned into a heavy rain, within minutes puddles formed in the small craters and crevasses made by constant foot traffic. The rain laid waste to any other tracks or imprints in the dirt.
Another loud crash followed the flicker of lights above her head. The storm was on top of her house vibrating the trinkets on her vanity, the ones that Niccolo bought her, she watched as some of them shattered against the floor. Iohanna thought the sky was trying to tell her something, something only she would understand since she was trapped in the house. The lightning yearned to touch the ground as she yearned to touch the sky and fly away. It has been six years since she stepped foot in this prison of a home. She trained every spare minute of the day until she could unlock her gift, but it didn't end there. Once she gained control, he would take her out to hunt. Showing her how easy it was to transition from killing animals to killing humans and other intelligent races. Whenever a slave would act up, she would have to use different methods to end their lives, and when that wasn’t enough, she had to start training with the soldiers in physical combat.
Glowing eyes pierced at her through the dark night sky snapping her out of her thoughts. These eyes made her feel exposed as they creeped into her soul. With another flicker of lightning a winged beast was outlined in the clouds. Iohanna stood there locking eyes with the beast as she imagined herself flying freely as it did. She showed no fear or distaste for the being but admiration for its freedom. As it moved closer to her in the clouds, she could feel her blood flow through her body bringing life back to what she thought was gone. Iohanna stood up on the rail and stretched out her arms, she swiftly moved them drawing coverage around them so that others couldn't see the beast. Her eyes turned green and she as she whispered encouraging words for it to flee, afraid of the others seeing it. The beast ignored her warning and came closer to her allowing Iohanna to see its full beauty.
"Ah, a dragon." she reached out inches away from its face. When it moved into her hand a bolt of electricity ran through her and she felt the wave of trust between the two. "Go now, you are worth more to these people dead. You must go now, quickly!”
The dragon nodded showing her that it understood her and flew back into the clouds. It turned around once more to look at her one last time and quickly disappeared into the storm. Iohanna still weak from her young age went to her bed to take a rest from the use of magic.
Marcellus arrived at the entrance of his cave and laughed hysterically at the events that just transpired. His parents warned him before their death that this would happen and he blew them off thinking that there would never be anyone for him, not in this treacherous world, but the second he touched her hand it was as if someone just set him ablaze. He would have to find a way to get closer to her. Shedding the dragon skin Marcellus built a fire and got dressed in his human clothes. Tomorrow he would walk into town and get a job.
It's been four years since she saw the dragon outside her balcony, she stood there yearning to see it once more. Today she would be leaving this house and no more would she be able to wait for the beast to return to her. She channeled all her ability to learn her power as quickly as she could to be able to fly away one day, but her uncle would only have her strain more in other ways. There was always something he wanted from her and now he is sending her out with some guide to carry out her first assignment. She was 20 years old today and still a prisoner to her uncle's hunger for power.
"Iohanna are you ready?" Niccolo stood at her door frame.
"Yeah, are you going to tell me what I am doing?" Iohanna crossed her arms over her chest as she left the balcony.
"There is a den full of black wolves to the east they have been causing issues with the farmers. They have paid us handsomely so make sure we complete the job, no half ass animal loving shit." That had been Iohanna biggest fault she loved the animals more than she did the people around her. When he asked her why she said that animals live for themselves and only take what they need to live, they weren't capable of humanities greed.
"Is this you punishing me?" Iohanna felt anger rising inside her.
"No, this is your last trial. you cannot successfully be who you need to be until you deal with this part of you." Niccolo tossed her a bag of coins.
"You mean who you need me to be." She picked the bag up from her bed and counted them. "20?"
"That's only the beginning complete the job and I will give you twice that amount." Niccolo rubbed the back of his neck. "There is also a contingency plan, I have hired a second hand to go with you upon your inability he will complete the job." Niccolo waved someone over.
"You don't trust me?" Iohanna clutched the coin bag tighter.
"Ioh' don't take it personal I'm just investing in a job well done. This is Marc' he has been informed of the task and your downfalls. He is there to make sure you complete the task not complete it for you, but he will if need be." Niccolo spoke quietly to the man next to him and they both left her room for her to gather her things.
Iohanna grumbled as she packed a small pack of necessities. Heading down the stairs she took a long look at the man next to her uncle. One of the powers she had kept a secret from everyone was her ability to read people inside out, but he was a blank slate. There was nothing for her to see, and she could feel the fear rise inside her. "Uncle I don't need him; I can do this without any help." She saw the smile form on Marc's mouth, so she tossed him a glare.
"This isn't a debate Ioh' do as you are told." Niccolo handed her a sack of dried meat and wine for the mission.
Iohanna pulled out a small dagger and threw it at Marc's head only to watch him catch it instantly and politely handed it back to her. Iohanna snatched it away from him and placed it back up her sleeve.
"Ioh" Niccolo started to laugh at her attempt. "You think I would send you with someone who is less than you?" He patted her shoulder. "My dear niece, you have much to learn from him. He is far more advanced than you are. Play nice and you might learn a thing or two."
"Whatever." Iohanna picked up the rest of the gear and headed for the door. Marc' saying his goodbyes quickly followed after her. They walked in silence for most of the day, she read the map and tried redirection on him many times in attempts to lose him, but he stuck to her like the sap of a pine tree. She even slowed down to get behind him to try to quietly control him with her magic, but every attempt was like hitting a wall protecting him. Cursing under her breath he turned around and looked at her stopping them both in their tracks.
"Look if you are going to spend the entire time trying to kill me you won't have any energy for the wolves when we get there. I suggest you conserve your energy; you won't get anywhere the way you are going." Marc' turned back around and followed the path. Leaving Iohanna fuming in place.
Iohanna quietly followed him until the sun began to set. "we should probably find some shelter for the night." She began looking for any cover around them, but all she could see were the trees.
"I know a place." Marc' smiled to himself. He began to lead her to a cave nearby. When they got inside, he lit an old fire pit. It had been years since he had been in this cave.
"Woah," Iohanna saw the lights flickering on the wall revealing drawings of a dragon and a wolf. She placed her hand over the dragon remembering her old friend.
"Cave drawings." Marc' looked up at the picture with sadness in his eyes.
"They are not just drawings." Iohanna sighed. "of course, you wouldn't understand." She looked at the story unfold on the walls.
"Oh? And what is it that I wouldn't understand?" Marc' leaned back on the log next to the fire waiting for her tell him his own story.
"This is a story about love and death. You wouldn't understand, men are all cold inside and out." A tear fell down her cheek as she brushed the picture where the dragon was pierced with a spear and had its heart cut out.
Marc felt his chest get heavier as he saw her sympathy. He leaned forward and took a deep breath. "A long time ago there was a therianthropy what you know as a skin walker, by day he was a man like any other man, but by will he turned into a giant black wolf. He was being hunted by a village of men who feared those who possessed magic. The man ran far into the woods where he came across a beautiful woman bathing in a river. Cautiously the wolf approached the stream injured by an arrow sticking out of hind leg. The woman saw the wolf and watched as it collapsed on the shore. She ran to help it and took it back to her home to nurse it better. In the middle of the night the wolf turned back into a man and the woman saw that this man was like her. This woman was also a therianthropy, only she could turn into a dragon." Marc' poked the fire with a stick as Iohanna sat at the other side looking at him intently.
"And?" Iohanna looked impatient at him.
"And maybe another time." Marc' wasn't ready to tell her the whole story right now. "Get some sleep we will head out before sunrise."
Iohanna blew him off and tucked herself in next to the fire and quickly drifted off to sleep. Marc' then shed off his human clothes and took the body of a giant black wolf. He rushed out of the cave and headed east.
Iohanna woke up to strange noises when she opened her eyes, she saw Marc' sitting with his back towards her, he was putting on his shirt. She saw a tribal tattoo stretch down his spine, but his shirt covered it up before she could get a good look at it. She knew she would need a better look at it to help figure something out about this man.
"Did you like the view?" Marc' didn't need to turn around to know she was looking at him. Every time she looked at him, he could feel electricity flow threw him. Iohanna quickly close her eyes and pretended to be asleep. "It does you no good to pretend now. We leave in five, be ready." Iohanna rolled her eyes and got up.
"Where did you go off to?" Iohanna asked as if it didn't matter to her but her curiosity about the stranger was growing with his secrecy.
"To bathe, why? Should I have invited you?" Marc' saw the innocence flash on her face from teasing her. She quickly grabbed her stuff and turned in his direction.
"You know, there isn't anything about you that interests me. You might as well go about your own way. Here, for your troubles." She handed her coin pouch to him, which he took and examined.
"Thanks, now let's go." He tied the purse to his belt and headed for the cave’s entrance.
"Hey, if you are not going give them back." Iohanna rushed in front of him trying to take them back.
"You never said that. You said, 'here for your troubles' I took that as a since I tried to kill you and all here's my apology." He stepped around her and started off east.
"You knew what I meant. Now give them back." Iohanna rushed after him.
"Nah, I think I will hold on to them for now. It might just keep you from trying to run off since we are supposed to be doing this together and all." Marc' gave her a teasing glace and started to run knowing she would have no choice but to run after him for her precious coins.
They ran for a mile through the woods Marc' enjoyed himself laughing while swerving between trees. Iohanna yelled after him cursing him and on the occasion tried to throw what was at hand at him. He dodged it all and would encourage her to try again. They were approaching closer to the sighting of the wolves and slowed down so they wouldn't alert them. Marc' turned towards her and put his finger to his mouth singling her to be quiet.
"Look over there." he pointed to a den in the side of a hill.
They separated to secure both sides of the den and approached slowly. When they were both on the side of its entrance Iohanna's eyes turned into emeralds and Marc' ended up staring at her with admiration. She stepped into the middle of the entrance and lifted her hands up only to see an empty den. Lowering her hands, she signaled Marc' to come over.
"Looks like they left recently." She pointed to the fresh tracks leading into the woods. "They are heading south. Nothing is out south I don't think there is any need to follow them." She paused for a moment. "Look, there is a set of tracks heading west."