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Chapter 17 : Restless
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She huffed before throwing on her jumper. Her eyelids were heavy and her head felt foggy, which meant she was, in fact, tired enough to sleep. But sleep came and went like the ebb and flow of the ocean to the shore. It never stayed long.
A deep inhale filled Anaxandra’s lungs with the cool night air, sending chills through her body. Every goose bump that rose from her skin felt like a memory. Stargazing with her mother. Late night hunts with her father. Midnight strolls after a long day. The memories flooded her mind as the cold air flooded her body, but this time they didn’t cripple her to tears. They were a welcome surprise that Anaxandra found herself enjoying. She accepted that it was all she had left of them and there was nothing that would bring them back.
“Synder?” Draco croaked, stumbling out of his tent and ruffling his hair. “Everything alright?”
“Yeah. I’m fine,” she replied. The sound of Anders and Agnatha snoring softly was music to her ears. She wouldn’t want them to know of her restlessness. “I was just going to go for a quick walk.”
“I’ll go with you,” he offered. “I can’t really sleep either, and I don’t think you should be out there by yourself.”
“How chivalrous,” Anaxandra cooed, rolling her eyes. “Don’t think I’m capable of handling myself, do you? First Anders, and now you.”
Turning on her heel, she began to make her way outside of the camp, slowing when she heard a pair of footsteps pull beside her and a rustle of leaves in the midnight air. A flash of light sparked at the tip of Draco’s wand, illuminating their pathway.
“Well, you are…” He trailed off, grinning at her.
“I’m what?” she spat back, hoping that the next words he spoke would give her permission to give him a black eye.
“A bit tiny,” Draco pointed out. He stepped up to her to take note that he was almost a head taller.
“I could say the same for you,” Anaxandra countered, pushing him away.
Draco furrowed his eyebrows. “I beg your pardon?”
“Your arms are like limp noodles, and you have the legs of a chicken. You’re practically a walking stick.” She laughed.
“You think you’re so witty, don’t you?” Draco replied, using his free hand to grasp his bicep.
Anaxandra snorted, stepping over a fallen tree branch and holding in laughter as Draco tripped over it.
“So, I have a question…” He began as nonchalantly as he could, while struggling to stand back up.
“Don’t you always?” Anaxandra raised her eyebrow at him.
“Tobin said something about Anders that stuck in my mind.” Draco paused a moment, thinking about what he wanted to say next. “He said that Anders had a code, and that he wasn’t afraid of him. What does that mean?”
Anaxandra began to feel tense. He was bound to find out, right? But it felt so weird to actually be discussing it. At least she wouldn’t sound as much of a nutter as she did at the Ministry. “The Hunter’s code. It restricts us from killing innocents or putting them in a position where they are left to die… among other things.”
“What exactly makes Tobin innocent?” Draco asked. “He didn’t run away from you screaming because he was picking flowers in Knockturn Alley.”
“He’s just the messenger. The bloke has never even killed a spider, let alone a person,” she answered. “Practically untouchable.”
“Anders doesn’t seem to think so. He was a bit…irate. You should have seen how hard he hit Tobin.”
“Probably not as bad as when he found out he couldn’t have another brother. My dad told me he did nothing but punch trees for three days when he found out my mum was pregnant with me.” She laughed, thinking about a five year old Anders, little knuckles bleeding and face puffy.
“I’m pretty sure that’s not the way it works, Synder. You know, genetics and all.” Draco looked at Anaxandra with concern.
She shook her head. “It’s just that each Hunter only bears one son. The rest are daughters, if he chooses to have more children. One son to pass his talents onto.”
“But aren’t you—”
“Special? Kind of. Not really. More of an anomaly.” Just as she was about to let out a sigh—because Merlin knows Draco would ask her questions until he lost his voice—the tree branches above rustled again.
She stopped. The sigh she wanted to let out was trapped in her chest. “Put that light out.”
“What—“ Draco began, but Anaxandra’s hand flew up to his mouth instantly, silencing him. The light from the tip of his wand died out, and there was complete silence.
With her other hand she grabbed his shoulder, pressing her body tightly against his. Neither of them moved or made a sound. She brought her mouth dangerously close to his ear, letting it brush against her lips a few times as his whole body tensed beneath her own.
A branch from above snapped, and she prayed that a breeze would blow through the forest and misdirect the creatures. Then they would be safe. Seconds passed, and Anaxandra’s prayers went unanswered as two distinct thuds could be heard behind her. Draco undoubtedly heard them too, as the tip of his wand lit up again and his eyes widened in horror.
Anaxandra was immediately hit to the ground with such force that her eyes couldn’t focus for a moment. Flashes of red and white illuminated her surroundings in brief intervals, and she could tell that, without a doubt, these were two of the same creatures that had attacked her before. Draco was shooting off hexes as fast as he could, but he kept missing the beasts by mere inches. The only thing that saved him from being mauled was the close proximity of the trees that he was able to weave in and out of. Fortunately, the beasts were having some trouble navigating them as smoothly, but that was no cause for ease.
Anaxandra winced. Whenever she tried to move, a pain shot through her side and she was crippled again. A broken rib, probably.
Another flash of white cast the area in light for a brief moment, but long enough for Anaxandra to see the third creature leap from the tree tops and tackle Draco to the ground. The sound of his wand hitting the floor seemed like the most helpless sound in the world. The cries of Draco’s suffering reverberated against the tree trunks as his screams mixed with the shrieks of the creatures.
“Ana…” she heard him weakly call to her after his yelling had subsided. There was hissing and screeching, coupled with more of Draco’s cries of pain. The creatures were laughing at him.
That was all it took. His voice, crying, yearning for her, is what made her snap. She felt the tears roll down her face. Her heart pumped at an alarmingly high rate. The force was so great that she could feel it course through every blood vessel in her body, energizing every muscle fiber and stimulating every neuron. A tingling sensation engulfed her, and soon she was covered in goose bumps. She burned, the heat radiating from her core to the ends of her fingers, making her gasp for air, but the gasps soon became whimpers. The burning subsided and before she knew it, Anaxandra was digging her claws into the earth, letting a howl escape her lips.
Her new eyes focused. She could see them clearly now. One hazy gray figure was hunched over Draco, its claws digging deep into his shoulder. The other was hunched low to the ground, the curve of its spine accentuating the visible bumps of vertebrae. Sniffing the air, they both hissed in her direction. Another cry left Draco’s mouth as the claws were ripped out of his shoulder, and the creatures readied to strike.
This time Anaxandra was ready. The beasts lunged, claws outstretched and teeth bared. Her reflexes did not fail her. In one swift motion, she side-stepped the creatures, her own sharp teeth showing, biting one of them in the leg and yanking it down hard as it passed. The taste in Anaxandra’s mouth was comparable to tar, causing her to gag. Shrieks of pain emanated from the wounded beast as it tried to stand, but it’s broken leg fiercely protested.
The partner of the wounded remained, furious at the state of its comrade. It hissed and gurgled, circling Anaxandra as it inhaled the night air. It was no doubt identifying the pheromones that hung in the air, but it would find no fear. She wasn’t scared—she was ready.
Clinging to the tree beside it, it leapt from one tree trunk to the other, trying to confuse her. Swinging from branch to branch, it quickly landed on the ground in front of Anaxandra and flung dirt in her eyes.
Snarling, she backed up and began to panic. Her hearing was not as acute as the beast’s, even in wolf form, and she never heard it jump to the branch above her and land on her back. The force was crippling, and Anaxandra fell to her knees as the creature sunk its long, black claws into the meat of her leg. A pained howl pierced the night air as the creature leapt off her, making sure to slash her other leg as well before licking its claws.
Her eyes were now free of dirt as she lay on her side, waiting for death. It never came. The creature screeched and backed away from her, as if completely terrified, and ran away so quickly that Anaxandra couldn’t even see which direction it went.
She whimpered, feeling the warm blood trickling out of her wounds as she tried to stand up. Slowly she made her way back to where they were attacked. The other beast was gone—most likely carried away by its partner. Draco was on the floor, breaths shallow and eyes closed. He was losing a lot of blood. Carefully and as best she could, Anaxandra hoisted Draco onto her back, making sure that he wouldn’t fall. The extra weight made her back legs buckle, but she had to keep moving. She had to get him back to Anders.
The road back seemed long, although they weren’t more than half a mile away from camp. Various metallic aromas harassed Anaxandra’s sense of smell, and her legs were aching terribly. She knew if she stopped now, she would never get back up. Draco was much heavier than he looked and was hard to balance, but as long as he was still alive she would do anything to get him back to camp. He was not dying today.
The sun was beginning to peek over the horizon, which meant that Anders was more than likely already preparing for their trip to Knockturn Alley. A savory smell greeted Anaxandra as she finally made it of the outskirts of their camp, her legs giving out. She whimpered loudly, hoping that Anders would hear. No response. Her next whimper was so loud, that it was almost a bark. The sound of metal crashing to the ground gave her hope as Anders called out, “Ana?”
Her legs could no longer bear the weight of him. She fell to the ground, her vision blurry and her head spinning. Draco wasn’t the only one bleeding profusely. Her heartbeat was slowly calming down, and her body temperature was growing cooler. The weight of Draco became greater as she grew weaker, her whimpers becoming cries of agony. She hated how weak her human form was.
“Merlin, Ana! What happened to you?” Anders rushed to her and Draco, checking their pulses and wounds.
“We were attacked,” she whispered, gasping for air. “Get Draco, I’ll be fine.”
“You know I’ll heal much quicker than he will! You help him before he bleeds out or I will strangle you,” she threatened him darkly, crawling her way from under Draco and into her tent. She heard Anders sigh, but no smart comment followed. She knew that he had to help him regardless of what she said. It was his duty as a Hunter to help those in need.
Lying on her back, she took no notice that the pain in her legs was growing worse. All Anaxandra cared about was getting Draco better, and her only regret was not being in a better condition to help him. Her healing knowledge was much better than Anders’s, but his abilities would suffice. His wound was bleeding at an alarming rate, and she prayed that no major blood vessels had been severed. The wounds were deep, and it had taken her a long time to get them back to camp… She questioned if he would even survive the morning.
But now all Anaxandra could do was wait.
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