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“Evaline! Are you alright?”
She shook her head and groaned, pushing herself up onto her paws. ‘Since when do Rippers carry torches?’ she thought. Her fur was singed and all she could smell was burnt hair. She barked at Stephano; her muzzle didn’t allow for easy vocal communication.
“Behind you!” he yelled.
Evaline fell to her belly. The Stabber that had been charging her trilled and fell forward. His knees stayed under him and he ended up with his naked rear in her nose. She snorted in disgust and leapt onto his back, biting hard into his neck. He went limp beneath her and Evaline circled around to help Stephano.
She positioned herself behind the Bro and waited. Stephano flicked a glance her way and she nodded. His golden sword gleamed in his hand and the Bro rushed forward, his mouth gaping wide. Stephano caught him across the knees and Evaline was upon him before he hit the floor. Her teeth met together in his neck with a click and she leapt off quickly, for Bro blood was poison.
Stephano finished him off with one swift stab through the neck. Evaline looked up at him as she tried not to sink to her belly. Stephano was a healthy seven feet tall and stood only a few inches over Evaline’s head. He looked down at her and smiled.
“You look beat.”
Evaline growled. “Let’s go back. We’ll never make it to the Duck Room now.”
With a nod, he sheathed his sword and led the way back to the Green Room. Evaline padded at his heel, carefully listening for opponents. Stephano stepped into the Green Room and Evaline paused. She heard something moving behind her and she turned, searching the darkness. Something fell from above her head and landed on her back and she yelped, screaming loudly in the silence. She whirled on her forepaw and bit hard into the thing on her back, squeezing her eyes closed to protect them.
Hearing Stephano chuckle, she opened her eyes and released the thing. She snarled, realizing what it was.
“Stupid Popper!” she roared, hitting it with her paw and knocking it across the hall.
Ears laid back in anger and embarrassment, she padded past Stephano and into the Green Room. When he tried to run his hand down her back, she snarled at him, still feeling the sting of his laugh, and jumped up onto the balcony where they made their bed. He followed her, like she knew he would, and when she flopped down onto her half of the pile of straw, he knelt beside herm his sword behind him on the flagstones.
“Evaline. Eva, look at me. Please.”
She lifted her head slightly and Stephano did the rest, lifting her muzzle with his strong killer’s hands.
“I’m sorry I laughed.” He murmured. “I didn’t mean to upset you.” He kissed the top of her muzzle, on that soft, silky spot just behind her nose: his favorite spot to kiss.
She whined softly and licked his chin. Smiling, he rubbed her ears and curled up in his part of the bed. Evaline laid her head in the straw and quickly fell asleep.
*****A FEW HOURS LATER*****
She awoke to screaming. Lifting her head, she peered over the edge of the balcony. A scrawny-looking blond man raced, screaming hysterically, into the Green Room. Two Stabbers stumbled in after him, infuriating Evaline with their boldness. She snarled, waking Stephano, and dove from the balcony, landing heavily behind the Stabbers. She barked loudly, causing them to turn, and Evaline rushed forward, lading on one and ripping out its throat. The other began to rush for the exit.
“Go!” she howled. “And keep out! Remember, this room is ours!”
She turned back as Stephano spoke. “You didn’t have to kill it, Evaline. It wasn’t after us.” He said, poking the dead Stabber with his sword.
“No.” she barked. “It was after him.” She snarled, prowling over to the scrawny blond man.
He screamed and covered his face with his hands.
She padded closer and sniffed him, bending her head deeply just to sniff at his belly. She was nearly seven feet tall and her head was a full foot closer to the ceiling than his was. Her lip curled and Stephano spoke up.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
The thin blond peeked between his fingers. “I think my name’s PewDiePie.” He mumbled. “I can’t remember anything else.” He lowered his hands and touched a note that poked from his pocket. “This note says I should find the way out, and everything would come back to me.” He looked up at them, his big blue eyes shining. “Will you help me?”
Evaline growled at him and Stephano touched her shoulder. “Eva, come speak with me.”
She walked a short distance away with him. “What?”
“You were confused when I first found you. Took you days to remember your name. We should at least lend him a hand.”
“He’s a human.” She snarled. “He’s so tiny!”
“All the more reason to help him. Please, Eva. I feel sorry for him.” He murmured, gently scratching behind her ear.
“Fine.” She growled. “But if he treats me like a dog, I’ll lock him in a closet with the Bro, I swear.” Her tail waved behind her, happy with the ear scratch.
“Thank you.” He whispered. Then, he turned from her and walked back over to the other man. As they spoke, Evaline padded over to the door.
She glanced back. Stephano was completely engrossed in the scrawny man. She curled her lip and padded out into the chilly, darkened hall.
‘You’re jealous.’ She thought viciously to herself.
She snarled at the thought, racing swiftly down the hall, shadows leaping out at her from every side. She snarled at a passing Ripper and he cowered in fear of her burning aura.
She charged up the stairs and stopped before a heavy door. Gently opening it with her paw, she stepped inside.
“The Duck Room.” She rumbled softly. She padded over to the cabinet in the corner and nosed it open. Behind a jug of oil on the top shelf sat a yellow duck. And Eva picked it up gently, carrying it toward the door. She ran easily back to the green room, keeping an eye out for the Ripper.
Padding through the doorway into the Green Room, she saw that Stephano was still talking to PewDiePie and she jumped up onto the balcony, softly squeaking the duck. Normally, she and Stephano would play with the duck, but he was too busy. Sighing, she spat the duck out and curled up, tucking her nose under her tail.
After a few minutes, PewDiePie, with Stephano’s help, climbed up onto the balcony. Evaline stiffened as Pewdie walked closer to her. He crouched down by her face and she fought the urge to growl. When he lifted her head and Evaline found that she couldn’t fight against him, she began to panic.
Pewdie rested his forehead against hers. As soon as his skin touched her fur, heat sprang between them and lightning flashed into her brain. Her eyes snapped shut and she heard Stephano gasp, asking worriedly about her welfare.
She began to shake violently, her body ricocheting back and forth between burning fever and intense cold. Stars exploded behind her eyes and she whimpered softly, the sound lost between PewDiePie’s deep, throaty scream. And when she thought that she couldn’t take it anymore, when she knew that she’d die if it kept on, the connection broke, snapping with a resounding crack and sending both of them tumbling backwards to land in a confused heap near the wall.
Evaline’s eyelids felt heavier than river stones and she tried her hardest to pry them open; failing miserably until Stephano ran over and she felt the desperate need to see his face. She forced her eyes open and saw his shocked expression.
“Eva.” He breathed, “Look.”
He lifted something near her face. A hand. He ran his ringers over the smooth palm to trail softly down the long, delicate fingers.
“I can feel that.” She whispered. “A-am I…?”
With tears in his eyes, Stephano nodded. “Evaline, you’re a human.” He smiled at her and leaned in close, softly kissing her cheek. “You’re a human.”
Completely forgetting about PewDiePie, who was waking up a few feet away, Evaline wrapped her arms around Stephano’s neck and dragged him down on top of her, her mouth frantically seeking his. When their lips met, tentatively softly at first, she sighed in the pure joy of finally being able to kiss him. He carefully settled himself on top of her, trying to keep most of his weight on his arm and off her slight figure. As their lips met with increasing urgency, he ran his rough-skinned right hand across her hip repeatedly, sending thrilled shivers running up and down her spine.
They broke apart when Pewdie spoke up. “It’s alright, guys. I’m okay, over here by myself.”
With a chuckle, Stephano stood and walked over to help him up. Evaline pulled herself up onto her feet, hands burying themselves in her pockets. When Stephano turned back to her, she was peering down over the edge of the balcony. Both men walked over to stand next to her.
“This… Feels right.” She murmured. “And… And I need to find my way out of this damned castle.”
*****A FEW HOURS AND SOME SEARCHING AROUND LATER*****
The trio jogged down the hallway, heading for the one room they weren’t allowed to be in.
“The Purple Room. That’s where the Rippers and Stabbers make their home. We aren’t allowed in,” Stephano explained, “So we’ll have a fight on our hands.”
Evaline stopped outside the Purple Room, a great broadsword in her hands. She was breathing heavily, heart hammering in her chest, excited for her first battle on two legs. Stephano motioned to the door at the back of the room.
“We charge in, hack up some people, and charge out.” He whispered.
“Wait.” PewDiePie whispered back. “If we sneak, we can get in, hide in those cabinets if we need to, and sneak out. I can pick the lock on that door if you can protect my back.”
Evaline nodded at the boys. “Okay.”
Pewdie led the way, sneaking through the room, Eva and Stephano on his heels. When Pewdie dove silently into the cabinet, Eva followed, Stephano mashing her against the back wall. Pewdie kept watch as a Bro passed them by, and Stephano kissed Evaline hungrily, careful not to hurt her awkwardly turned neck. When Pewdie tapped his shoulder, he released Evaline’s mouth and stepped from the cabinet.
Pewdie crept to the door. Stephano stood at his right flank, Evaline at his left, with their backs to the big green door that Pewdie was picking at. Their swords were drawn and they stood ready. Evaline looked down as something touched her foot; she nearly screamed.
“Samantha!” she cried, slashing the half-dead body with the great sword. She glanced over at a pale-faced and shocked Stephano. “S-sorry.”
He looked back into the room sharply as two Rippers and a Stabber charged toward him, rotten joints creaking from lack of cartilage. He took the Stabber easily, and one Ripper and relief flooded his heart when he heard Evaline’s huge sword hack the other Ripper in half down the middle.
The second wave rushed forward from the darkness, dozens of Rippers and Stabbers surrounding three huge Bros.
Evaline hacked through a dozen Rippers before the firs Bro was upon her. She ran her blade through his neck, impaling a Stabber on the end. The Bro slashed his long claws, tearing deep into her shoulder. She screamed and kicked him in the chest, sliding him off her blade. A Stabber that was lunging for PewDiePie's exposed back felt the sting of her sword as she swung it in a wide arc. It sang as it sped through the air and buried itself deep within the neck of the last remaining Bro.
Evaline felt faint, and still the horde came, never slowing, never wavering. The sword dipped in her hands.
“I got it!” Pewdie screamed. Evaline nearly collapsed with relief. When Stephano sheathed his blade and lifted her in his arms, she didn’t complain, just sighed softly as he dove through the door and into the bright sunshine.
Evaline opened her eyes. Stephano gazed down at her. His hat was no longer gold, and his face was pale in the morning light. The only gold left in Stephano was the tiny flecks deep in his forest-green eyes. He smiled at her, lightly caressing her cheek.
“Evaline. You’re awake. Guess what. I remember now. I remember everything.” He took her hand and helped her into a sitting position.
“Stephano, I don’t-”
“My name’s actually not Stephano. I remember. Stephano’s my dog. My name is Alden, really. And I live-used to-in a small two bedroom house with my dog on the edge of the woods.” He beamed at her, happy to remember.
“Alden.” She said, tasting the name on her tongue. “What about you?” she asked PewDiePie.
“My name’s Felix. I live in a nice little place with my girlfriend. Her name isn't relevant, but her nickname’s CutiePie.”
“Felix fits you much better than PewDiePie does.” She winced as she shrugged her shoulder. Lifting her hand, she felt the blood there and winced again.
“A Bro got you, apparently.” Alden said, lightly touching her wounded shoulder. “But we can fix that.”
Evaline sighed softly, looking around the big, open meadow. Woods lined the edges; the field itself was empty. She took Alden’s hand in hers.
“So.” She whispered. “What now?”