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Highlands of Scotland
The icy fingers of winter had nature firmly in her grasp. The cold slammed into Val's body as soon as he stepped through the time portal.
The Highlands, Aimery had told him.
Val blew out a breath and watched it cloud around him though the light of the full moon. He gritted his teeth against the bitter temperatures and gripped his halberd tightly in his hand.
His gaze scanned the darkness, noting the eerie quiet that had descended upon the area. He drew in a deep breath and frowned.
Val quickly crouched down in the thick snow. He was out in the open, and the nearest grove of trees was several strides away. He would have to make a dash for it, but the heavy blanket of snow could slow him down.
Just as he was about to bolt to the trees, he heard it-the steady flap of wings through the night air. Val raised his head and saw the great beast silhouetted against the dark sky.
"By the gods," he whispered. He hesitated only a heartbeat before he stood and ran to the trees.
The small grove offered little protection. With the shadows hiding him, Val took his time to scout the area. The castle stood high atop one of the smaller mountains with the village below it in the valley. Massive mountains surrounded the area, making it near impossible to reach the town or castle without being seen many leagues away.
His gaze searched the skies again, and it didn't take him long to find the creature. With no word from Gabriel, the other Shield, Val would have to do this alone.
He missed having Roderick and Elle with him, but with the great evil closing in quickly,Roderick had to take Elle and watch over her and the other Chosen.
Only one more needed to be found to end the great evil. One more woman who bore the mark of the Chosen, and then all this could end.
From the brief conversation he had with Aimery, the Fae Commander had told him that Cole, another Shield, had not only found his mate, but had also found the third Chosen one. It was cause for celebration, but the celebrating would have to wait. Evil still had a tight hold on Earth.
He was about to make his way to the village when he heard the snow crunch. Val tensed and gripped his halberd with both hands, ready to strike at a moment's notice.
Val molded his back to a tree and waited. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the shadow against the snow. He stepped out and aimed the point of his halberd at the throat of the man.
"Who are you?"
A soft chuckle devoid of humor reached him. Val tried to peer into the hood of the cloaked form but saw only shadows. The man did not smell of evil, but that didn't mean the man wasn't evil.
"And here I thought I might receive a warm welcome," the man said and swept aside the hood of his cloak.
Val instantly lowered his weapon as he recognized Gabriel. He shook his head and clasped Gabriel's forearm. "I was beginning to wonder where you were."
"I've been scouting the area," Gabriel replied. "I knew Aimery would have you arrive outside the village."
"Did you see it?" Val asked.
Gabriel's silver gaze met his. "I did. I was on my way to the village when you stopped me."
"Then let us go," Val said.
Without another word the two men started toward the village. They had gone only a few steps when they heard the shrill cry.
The men exchanged a look before lengthening their strides to race down the mountain. They saw the flames before they reached the village.
"The creature will be after the Chosen one," Gabriel yelled over the screams of the villagers.
Val nodded. "Let's hope we find her in time."
Neither spoke as they reached the village and took in the devastation. Chaos reigned as people ran about, their cries echoing in the night. Some held the wounded, some held the dead.
Yet not all of the village had been touched.
"He left us a trail," Val said and pointed to the line of destruction.
Gabriel smiled. "Let's not keep him waiting."