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chapter thirteen | where i make sure no one actually dies

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Johnn tried hauled the furry beast off his little girl, emitting a groan as he struggled to move the heavy animal.

His hands were buried in the slick fur, little flecks of colour shedding, he was fueled by desperation and adrenaline as he struggled to lift the animal. His eyes caught on three arrows sticking out of its dark fur, the scratched silver reflecting the light of the suns.

Then there was nothing.

The beast had dissolved into a million little fragments, coating the cabin floor with a fine, grey dust that sparkled in the light of the suns, taking the unknown arrows with it.

There was a hole in the cabin roof. The door was hanging on one hinge, broken open, and glass littered the floor beneath each window. The fire had gone out and the cold was potent.

"Julienne?" muttered Johnn as he kneeled next to her. He pushed away her hair and started checking her for injuries, relieved when he'd felt a strong pulse at her neck. "Wake up, sweet. We need to go."

Her eyes fluttered open when he reached her left foot. "Ow."

"There you are," he sat back and smiled down at her, pushing aside the fear and concern and shock. "Are you hurting?"

She tried to sit up, her eyebrows in a sharp frown and her brown eyes squinting against the light. "My head and foot. Mostly my foot. That stupid--"

"Sh," Johnn shushed her as her gently prodded her foot, looking for any breaks. "Not broken, just sprained. Let's go find your mother."

He picked her up, her arms winding around his neck as she mumbled in his chest, "What happened?"

"I don't know," Johnn replied after a moment's consideration. He knew he'd leapt at the beast, his sword burying into its thick fur. The ceiling had opened up, something had clawed at it. Something shattered and John was knocked away.

When he got to his feet, there were three unknown arrows and Julienne half-buried beneath the attacking predator.

"Johnn?" Michele called from outside the destroyed cabin. From outside, one could see how part of the roof had caved in and the missing windows.

Her boots crunched through the snow to thud on wood as she hurried up the patio stairs and into Pops' house.

Johnn was standing in the middle of the room with Julienne in his arms, and she rushed over to grip them both in a tight embrace.

"Where's Pops?" asked Johnn when she reluctantly pulled away to survey the damage.

Michele shook her head. "I honestly don't know what happened. I was here one second, sprawled outside the next." She softly treaded to the Pops' room, which was a mess.

Weapons were tossed onto the bed and haphazardly thrown on the floor. Paper and parchment on the walls and furniture and folded beneath the metal. A notebook was open on the bed, an ink pot tipped over and bleeding dark brown on the bed.

Michele reached down to pick it up, not bothering to fix the ink bottle. Her eyes skimmed over the page before she let her arm drop. "He sacrificed himself."

"What?" asked Johnn, leaning against the doorframe. "How does that create this amount of damage?"

"I don't know," she whispered, reaching down for a long, slender knife. She tucked it into her boot. "He was Pops and just wrote, 'Find Mark and ask him for the map. Sorry I have to leave so soon.'"

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