Bonded to the Rakian Berserker

 Chapter One

There was something wrong in the air. 

Something, very, very wrong.

Gavin circled, catching the breeze that danced through the high plains which his wandering patrol had led him to.

He crouched down, senses stretched to feel the vibrations of the earth under his paws.

It wasn’t here, whatever the problem was. 

But something made the fur of his ruff stand up, his hackles raised, ready for a fight.

Nothing was hidden in this tall grass, burnt orange and purple fronds waving, except for small animals as they scurried about their daily tasks.

The danger wasn’t here,

Find it.

Kill it.

Destroy it.

The familiar words beat their drum as Gavin ran towards the source of the wrongness, cutting through the landscape at full speed, rather than the meandering path he’d taken for the last few days.

There was no losing this track, no risk of taking a wrong turning through the grasslands.

The stink of smoke and blood, fear and death soaked the air by the time he found what was left of the camp.

The wreckage of the caravans was so complete it was hard to tell how many there had originally been. Eight, maybe ten, had been drawn up into a circle around a central fire pit.

He’d seen covered wooden wagons like these before on patrol, brightly painted and decorated, no two the same.

The men and women who sat on the front seats, guiding the horses down the hard packed roads of Crucible had been friendly enough, even if the older children walking behind had been wary, the sounds of young ones playing inside silencing as he passed.

A quick glance of the bodies scattered around the camp made it clear these people wouldn’t be traveling anywhere.

He shifted, relishing the feel of his body reshaping, turning from a giant cat into a human male.

More or less.

“Hail the camp!” he called out, despite knowing in his bones it was a futile attempt.

Starting from the smouldering fire, he started a slow spiral, examining the debris.  A small black-clad form was the first he found. Gently he straightened the clothing of the gray-haired women, her face lined with age, her eyes staring out into the sky.

Her back had been sliced open, and something had made an ugly hole in her chest.

Either of them would have snipped her life short.

Then the rage, his constant companion, unfurled at the back of his mind when he saw the long black dart embedded in her neck.

He reached towards it, nostrils flared.

And that was odd. 

There was no smell of the Haleru here. The flesh around the dart didn’t look inflamed, nothing like Jormoi’s arm had.

Laying the old woman down tenderly, he went to check the rest of the bodies.

All had darts.

But he would’ve sworn that they had all died from other injuries.

He should know.

He’d seen a lot of bodies in his time.

“Kennet and Adena will want to see this,” he mumbled, gently pulling each of the darts away from their victims, carefully bundling them in a scrap of cloth and enclosing it in a battered tin he’d found in the wreckage.

Probably the damn things were poisoned, even if he couldn’t smell anything on them. 

No point in being stupid.

“There you are.” 

A soft voice sent him whirling, eyes searching the camp.

He dashed forward towards the sound, tossing aside scorched pieces of caravan frame until he found her.

A woman, but a young one this time, her tanned face framed by loops of black braids. The navy vest she wore over a short dark green dress was slashed open savagely, soaked with blood.

Under the gore, the white glint of her ribs was clear to see.

“Dammit!” Gavin swore and went searching for something clean enough to use as a bandage.

She didn’t speak as he bandaged her ribs, didn’t react to his snarl as he discovered the second wound lower across her belly, a more complicated injury. 

He tapped his cuff. 

“About time you reported in,” Nic said. “When are you coming home?”

“As soon as you send a sled out to get me with Adena on it,” Gavin growled. “There’s wounded.”

“What happened?” Nic snapped. “I’m not sending her into combat.”

“Whoever did this is long gone,” Gavin roared. “Now quit wasting time and get here!”

The woman’s eyes opened and he froze, words lost, mind unable to even form the next sentence, trapped in the dark blue gaze.

“I knew you’d come,” she said, then was silent, unconscious once more.

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