"This way!" Nathan yelled, leaping over a fallen tree. He turned around and saw Azra standing at the turn, peering anxiously into the trail behind them. "Azra what are you doing?"
"Shouldn't we help him?" She called back, the worry in her voice plain. Her claws were out and she looked tense.
"No! You're the Chosen One, you need to see the prophecy before Lance does! Come on, Calvin won't be able to hold them off forever!" Nathan was relieved when Azra shook out of her trance. Using her enhanced speed, she easily overtook him, and nimbly dodged obstacles.
Once they covered enough ground, Nathan had to stop, the adrenaline that had flooded him dying out. Azra watched him, her cheeks barely even flushed, and glanced back.
"Anything?" Nathan panted, watching her frown as she strained her ears.
Azra growled, eyes flashing amber. "It's like the forest is stopping me from hearing! I can't hear anything, apart from these stupid humming trees!"
Nathan felt deeply uneasy, imagining his cousin standing alone against whatever forces Lance had sent to retrieve the prophecy. How the hell were they going to do this without him? From the beginning, this whole thing had seemed off. Somebody tipped off Lance about the prophecy, the forest dampened Calvin and Azra's senses, and now there was this strange, ominous mist distorting everything.
Unexpectedly, Azra held out her hand. "Let's go," She said tensely, turning her focus to the path ahead. Nathan knew it was her anxiety, she had been acting more panicked as the alignment and her destiny inched closer. The stress made her panic, act frantic, cry, fight more violently in training. Her reactions were on hair triggers and she couldn't control her shifts to wolf anymore.
Nathan's father, Edgar, the leader of their side, dismissed the nerves and did nothing to help her, growing pleased with her more aggressive style of fighting. But Nathan knew she was losing control, and he avoided getting cut by her claws.
He wished sunny Stella was here, to help, but they left her in Canada to help with battle preparations. He followed Azra's hurried steps deeper and deeper into this eerily empty forest.
The mist had thickened into fog by the time they reached the Caves of Perception, and Nathan finally decided to say something comforting.
"Hey, you need to relax, you've trained for this." He started, but Azra didn't turn around, looking into the depths of the caves. "We'll get the prophecy, no matter what tricks they play. We just need to work together. You'll beat Lance, don't worry."
She looked at him, saying nothing, pulling out the torch from her bag. She clicked it on and stepped into the caves.
That's when it all went wrong.
Far from calming her, it disturbed her how quiet this forest was. Like everything was holding its breath, refusing to tell her anything.
When all this Chosen One stuff started, it had seemed magical. A purpose, some reason she existed. She was the Chosen One and had the power to change the world.
Now she had fought Lance three times, and he was only getting harder and harder to beat. And those weren't even the final battle. Now she was beginning to lose her mind. It was too much, the expectation, too many people, literally billions at stake.
"Hey, it's not training anymore, we need this prophecy. They're gonna start playing mind games so you need to focus. We have to beat Lance, remember?" Nathan decided to say, now of all times.
Azra almost didn't say anything, so unused to the throbbing anxiety she felt, she couldn't even speak. She turned around and replied as confidently as she could. "I know, don't worry, I'm focused." Then she clicked on the torch and entered.
The waves of fog enveloped her instantly. It was thick and endless, and she jumped when Nathan grabbed her arm. "We need to stick together! If we get separated we won't get the prophecy! It's located at the deepest part of the cave, where the fog is coming from. There's a Seer there, and she'll tell you what we need to know."
"I thought it was- nevermind, deepest part got it!" Azra told him, her ears filled with the incessant humming of the trees. "I'm going!" She started moving where her senses told her the fog was thickest, trying to part it with her arm.
Nathan let go of her, and she grabbed his wrist again. "What are you doing? We have to stay together!" She reminded him, pulling him along with her.
The fog was messing with them. Nathan realized because it began luring Azra into a trap almost instantly. She began heading the wrong way, where a massive serpent lay in wait to strangle those who came for prophecies. She also let go of him, and he had to take her wrist again and tried to steer her to where they were supposed to go.
"Azra, you're going the wrong way!" Nathan yelled at her, struggling to pull her with him. The stupid fog was making it hard to see her. He was losing his mind too, his fear of tight places acting up now, even though the fog wasn't solid.
Somehow, they separated, and Nathan frantically searched for her, brushing aside the fog. He found nothing but yelped when he felt a hand quickly remove the compass from his front pocket. Nathan punched out wildly and made contact.
He heard a snarl and saw Azra get up, clawing at him.
"Shit, Azra, no! It's messing with us!" He snapped, keeping his sentences simple. Her amber eyes and fangs told him that she didn't understand.
Azra suspected that something sinister was going on. Which honestly scared her more than what was happening. Nathan was behaving bizarrely because of the fog. He forcefully separated from her, determined to ignore what he had told her. Go to the centre of the caves, she decided, electing to follow the directions they had decided on before entering the caves.
Something pressed a compass into her hand, and surprised, she dropped it, and only moments later felt a blow to her jaw.
"Ow!" She cried out, falling down and anxiously running her hands over it. Not broken or dislocated. The fog parted just enough for her to see Nathan, standing there with wide, crazy eyes.
She jumped up, unable to stop her eyes from turning amber. "Nathan, you need to calm down. It's the caves, they're messing with you," To her horror, he pulled out a knife, and Azra got into a fighting stance. "Okay, so you're scaring me. Listen, I don't want to hurt you, just calm down." Azra said soothingly, raising her hands.
He lunged at her, and she ran, knowing that the fog was only manipulating Nathan because they were together.
"Azra, please, you know I'm not trying to hurt you. We're family! Don't fall for this! This is why I get so mad when you don't listen, God, why are all the werewolves incapable of keeping it together?" Nathan wiped the sweat off his face and got the knife out of its sheath.
While he loved his friend and didn't want to hurt her, it was getting obvious she didn't share the same values. She got into a fighting stance and raised her wickedly sharp claws. He lunged, just to scare her.
She ran, heading deep into the fog and he ran after her a second later.
"Jesus, have you lost your mind?!" Nathan shouted, carefully pointing his knife down, blindly racing through a fog.
"I'm done listening to you! You're crazy!" Azra yelled uncharacteristically, vanished deep within the fog.
"Oh, my-agh!" Nathan yelled out as he ran straight into something hard. "Oh God!" He cradled his wrist, rolling on the floor. Pain sparked through him and he almost cut the person who tapped him on the shoulder.
A young girl, resembling Stella, was kneeling next to him. "Follow me." She whispered, and the fog curled around her.
Nathan knew the lore of the cave, she was clearly one of the Oracle's servants. He slowly got up and took her icy hand, allowing her to lead him away. He glanced back into the swirling fog to look for Azra, but she was nowhere to be seen.
"Nate, it's the fog!"
Not only did he pull a knife on her, he decided to chase her like some psychopath? Azra didn't look back after that, she just ran. Hopefully, the broken logic of the cave would take her where she needed to go.
She skid to a halt when she heard Nathan scream. "Nathan?" She yelled back, stepping towards him. "Wait, I'm coming-"
Something heavy slammed into her, knocking her onto the ground and out of breath.
"What the hell?!" She groaned, still trapped under the heavy weight of it...something that felt like leather and moved off her slowly. Her breath stuttered, realizing what it was.
The moment she could, she rolled and got to her feet, transforming instantly. As a wolf she snarled without sight, readying herself for its next attack.
She heard an echoing laugh and ran in a panicked circle, unsure of its source.
Silly puppy, you won't stand a chance, a silken voice cooed, making her charge at nothing.
Suddenly it loomed through the fog, a massive snake, armed with fangs longer than her forearm, and with large, dripping red eyes with arrows embedded within them.
Azra had never felt so terrified in her life, but she charged, biting into the scales closest to her. She sank her teeth in, but then felt stuck, and felt a tight coil wrap around her.
She transformed back into a human and slipped past the coils, rolling into a wolf again, and ripping into the outside of the coils.
She was careful this time and instantly dodged the sharp fangs that shot towards her, growling and crouching away.
She let the wolf take over and fight.
The prophecy wasn't a prophecy after all. It was a vision, and suddenly he understood why his father had sent him. In his sketchbook, he drew the scenes with charcoal, praying he could leave with it.
The alignment played out in his vision, all the planets of the solar system moved into place. Quickly, Nathan took down the date, noting the symbols he saw. Then the vision switched to the In-Between dimension, a purple and blue world, where Lance stood alone in a lilac desert. Then suddenly everything distorted until a scarred version of Azra and a considerably different looking Lance were battling. With a jolt, Nathan saw the Trymidian Artefact in Lance's hand. There was another distortion and it entered Azra's hand before the vision distorted again and it fell into Lance's hand again.
Azra was a completely different fighter, and she bit into Lance's wrist in wolf form, wresting away the artefact. She had mastered all the aspects of wolf and human, and her eyes remained amber as human, and brown as a wolf. Like a demon, she allowed the blood to drip down her face, expertly holding the artefact.
Lance screamed and clutched his wrist, and the vision distorted as another player entered the fray.
Nathan gasped as a dead version of Calvin growled at Azra, and she engaged with him immediately, transforming the artefact into a sword and blocking his attacks.
On Azra's wrist was the smudged tattoo of Calvin, Nathan, and Edgar's pack, and whirled like a demon in her cuts against Calvin's corpse, taking a blow and then pushing the sword through his neck. Nathan forced himself to keep his eyes open as Clavin reeled back with the artefact lodged in his throat.
Behind her, Lance kicked her knee, pushing her down and wrapping his arm around his throat.
Immediately, the vision ended. And Nathan wasn't sure why. There had to be more. "What's happening?" He demanded of the ghostly girl standing at a crystal ball beside him.
The Seers were sitting in a circle around them, their hands clutched around sceptres, each lost in a different vision of the future.
"No sacrifice, no vision." The girl murmured.
"Sacrifice?" Nathan thought fast, okay, so no sacrifice, but they had to stop Lance's men from getting here. Obviously, they had captured Calvin and would use him as an offering. "How do I get rid of this, how do I stop anybody else from seeing this?" Nathan demanded, but nobody answered him. He wiped his face, panicking. Should he kill the Oracles? Break the crystal balls? Would that break the future? Oh my god, oh my god,
"You could break the seal on the floor. But I warn you, young man, you will never be able to return. You will not be able to consult the future again."
"Whatever!" Nathan immediately stomped on it, shattering the seal. "As long as they don't get it, it's fine!" He sprinted, carefully placing his precious cargo in his bag.
Azra clutched her arm, biting her lip to stop from screaming. A jagged cut ran down her arm, and the pain was making her dizzy.
She had gotten it in the process of pulling one of the arrows out of the snake's eye. The serpent was making inhuman screeching noises, and Azra took a shaky breath, rising to her feet.
Carefully, she lunged and stabbed the snake through the base of its head. It writhed and predictably circled crushingly around her and she almost passed out then.
Gritting her teeth, she pushed the arrow through, screaming when the pain started to become unbearable.
The arrow cut through flesh, the snake gradually loosened, and she fell down, gasping.
The snake's head twitched, and it hissed, no sacrifice, no vision.
Azra didn't really care, and instead brought her converses down multiple times onto the snake's head, until she was spattered with the foulest smell blood in the world.
She gagged, instantly turning into a wolf and running, holding one leg up.
She raced past the fog, caring about nothing except getting out. Honestly, if she didn't find Nathan on the way out, the bastard could stay here. He had been acting crazy the whole time anyway. She heard voices, and slowed, wary this time.
She scented Lance's men, and Calvin's blood, and hid from them, positioning herself to hear what was going on.
They were getting similarly bamboozled due to the fog, and she seized her opportunity, lurking with the fog to bite into both of them. Not fatally, because she wasn't a monster, but painfully.
One of them almost managed to get her due to the injured leg, but Nathan suddenly appeared, whacking the guy in the head with a crystal ball.
Calvin coughed and stared at both of them, grinning before he slid down the wall. "You know, I think we should go deeper into the cave, 'cause why not?"
Azra and Nathan exchanged a look, fully aware that it was more cave nonsense. "I hope they have Uber helicopters." Azra declared, not particularly caring if Calvin or Nathan understood. "Because otherwise, we are dying on this mountain."
"Okay," Nathan raised a hand. "I'm going to take a wild guess, and assume you didn't actually just threaten to kill both of us with an Uber Helicopter, so you probably said something else. I want to slowly feed you to a giant snake so that I can get a prophecy regarding the future of my relationship with Sammi."
Azra laughed, certain that the last part was some shoddy mind-bending by the fog. "Okay, well, I don't care, I'm leaving."
"Don't say that, you've got a lot to live for!" Calvin said, sounding a little drunk. Azra sighed and used her uninjured arm to hoist him up and barely tolerated his leaning. It hurt like hell, and she raised an eyebrow when Nathan stared at it with horror. He scribbled something in his sketchbook and showed it to her: 'Saw that in future'.
Azra pointed for the cave opening, which was miraculously open and visible and allowed Nathan to help support Calvin's weight as they left.
The moment they left, Nathan said, "Girl, you are one crazy idiot. What is wrong with you? Growling and running, and all other kinds of craziness!"
Azra cackled, ready to one-up him. "Oh no you don't sir, you punched me in the face! You acted like a manic and tried to kill me! You tried to sacrifice me?!"
"Somebody, please call for help, we aren't going to make it down-" Calvin started, but Azra placed him down, gingerly crossing her arms.
"Oh, okay, okay, what do you call ignoring things we decided on the way here? Did I even suggest entering the deepest parts of the cave? But where do you end up?" Nathan asked, also setting Calvin down.
"Guys, please-" Calvin dragged a hand down his face.
"I was heading the right way, there was just a little matter, of a magic, freaking fog! Astagfirullah, I knew it, we should've sacrificed you!" Azra shot back, throwing her hands up despite the pain.
Nathan sputtered. "Excuse me, would you have-"
"Shut up!" Calvin roared. "Both of you, I get it, you can understand each other now, can you focus on getting us the hell out of here?" He glared at both of them, eyes a solid amber.
"Sorry, that was really-"
"I don't care, please call for help, one of you."
"You feeling okay, concussion? You want me to-"
"Nathan shut up and make the call!"
"You shut up!"
"Would the two of you like to go back into the magic cave for some alone time?!"