We came upon a town that was and was not Cross. There were subtle differences. The materials used to build some of the homes. The mixture of English and Austrian on the road signs.
As we entered the town, the one-eyed raven took flight and vanished down a side street. I continued to the center of town, impressed with the similarities and the differences, and disturbed by the silence.
There were no people to see. None to hear.
Something was wrong with this version of Cross, and I loosened my Colts in their holsters.
A heartbeat later, I heard it, the thunder of feet on the cobblestones. Ahead of me, pouring out of the alleys, the creatures appeared. They charged towards me, mouths open and tongues lolling, their eyes rolling back to show the whites as they howled. Their cries rang off the buildings and rattled the glass in the windows.
My Colts were in my hands, and in a moment, I was shooting.
The sharp crack of a rifle and the pounding of hooves joined the cacophony, and the one-eyed raven soared past me, diving on the nearest creature. A horse went barreling on my left, its rider a young woman with a rifle, whose shots were deadly in their accuracy.
Minutes passed, and then the creatures broke off the attack, scattering.
Neither I nor the woman gave chase. Instead, she reined in her horse and brought it at a trot back to where I stood as the raven landed on my shoulder. She came to a stop a short distance away, reloading her rifle as I did the same to my Colts.
“Who are you?” she asked in Austrian.
The woman raised an eyebrow, finished loading the weapon and laid it across her thighs. “This Cross is dead, Duncan Blood. Are you hunting these things?”
As she turned to leave, I asked, “What is your name?”
Glancing over her shoulder, she gave me a bitter grin. “Annise Blood. Our mother is still alive in this now. I’m off to kill her if I can.”
Before I could wish her luck, she put her heels to the horse, and they left at a gallop.
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