Nanny sat in her rocking chair just outside the room containing Colvyr's crib. She often meditated and mused there as she made sure the prince was actually asleep. And just like many other nights, the old woman had dozed off.
The cold chill of the night woke her ancient bones in the early hours of the morning. She stretched, the gentle creaking of the chair sounding like a purring cat. Nanny stood. Walking sleepily toward the window, the little woman grabbed hold of the thick curtains to shut out the cold air before heading to bed.
A shout rang out from the hall before being cut eerily short. Nanny noted how the end of it had sounded choked. She moved to the door, locked it, and barred it with a large wooden plank. As soon as it was in the metal hooks, the woman called softly through the door. "Is everything alright out there?"
There was a thud against the door, but no verbal response. It was very unlike Colvyr's guards to ignore her. She was a Councilwoman and the primary caretaker of the heir to the throne. Something was wrong.
Before Nanny could call out again, scratching of something on wood rent the silence of the room. The old woman backed up behind her rocking chair and watched the door with concern.
The scratching halted as someone began to fidget with the door handle. Precious seconds passed as they picked at the lock without success.
Nanny gripped the elongated knob of the back leg of the chair. With a rough tug, she unsheathed the hidden rapier within the thick wooden post. The old woman barely had time to lift it when the heavy wooden door creaked against the strain of an intense force.
The door bowed inward before splintering in all directions. When the fragments cleared, a grey wolf entered on two legs, searching the darkness for something to destroy. Its claws were already caked with blood.
Piercing the darkness, the two yellow eyes fell quickly on the old woman who stared back defiantly at them. Blocking the next room with her body, Nanny banged on the door to Colvyr's bedchamber.
"Get the prince out!" She yelled, hoping someone within the nursery would hear. "We are under attack!" Then she growled at the monstrosity before her. "Come at me you mangy mouth-breather. I shall not let you pass."
The wolf snarled in response, accepting the challenge. Nanny brought the rapier to her shoulder and bent her creaky knees. She could almost swear the wolf looked amused. It lifted its front claws, which were nearly as big as the woman's head.
The wolf lunged forward, without care for the blade or the lady holding it. Nanny shifted her body to the left as she slashed to her right at the incoming beast. The rapier, thought thin, was razor sharp, and sliced through the skin of the wolf's abdomen. The wolf cried out in pain and grabbed its stomach. With a stab at where the creature's heart should be, Nanny drew more blood.
The creature had not expected the lady to give any resistance, but it would not make that mistake again. With the hand not holding its abdomen, the wolf batted at the sword, causing it to clatter along the ground.
Swiftly, the claws then raked along Nanny's body, making deep gashes in her chest and gut. The old woman's eyes opened in surprise as she fought against the pain.
With a violent jerk, Nanny was lifted high off the ground by the massive claws. They tightened around her neck, and the wiry woman kicked at the creature's shortened muzzle. The wolf yelped and squeezed its furry thumb against Nanny's windpipe.
Nanny gasped and struggled, but eventually went limp. With disdain, the Councilwoman was thrown to the ground like a rag doll.
Viciously, the wolf kicked the person aside, and shoved open to the door of the nursery to seek the baby prince.
Upon hearing of the news of a second wolf, the Emperor and Empress moved for the hallway. "Get as many soldiers as you can to the prince's room. If that is clear, go to Mairwen's rooms. She is not here, but the wolves may not know that."
"We need to get you somewhere secure," Devrim urged Aurora as he helped his limping wife.
"Not until I know my family is safe," the woman denied him, relying heavily on her uninjured leg.
Exiting her room, Aurora could see two of her guards laying lifeless in pools of crimson on the ground. Although she had been in a few battles, the sight never got easier. Her stomach lurched, and only willpower kept her from being sick all over the hall.
Even with her injuries, the Empress was unwilling to slow down, running on pure adrenaline as she left a trail of wetness and concern in her wake. By palace standards, Colvyr's nursery was not far from the Empress's rooms. They had moved the child's rooms to be closer to ease the new mother's nerves. Now she was very glad for the shorter distance.
Arriving before the soldiers, Aurora and Devrim could see the door had been smashed inward. Splinters littered the hall as the entrance to the rooms was wide open. Two more soldiers lay lifeless.
In an attempt to stop the Empress from putting herself in danger, Nurlan and Devrim pushed ahead of her with their swords drawn.
"Stay here," the Emperor ordered his wife.
However the mother bear instincts had taken over. "You cannot make me." After one look at her, Devrim decided not to try.
The men entered the room with Aurora on her heels. There was blood everywhere and the body of Nanny lay broken on the floor.
"No!" Aurora gasped, but Devrim reached back and clasped his hand on her mouth. He was listening for the creature.
Unwilling to wait for more backup—time was of the essence— the three pushed into the nursery prepared for the worst. The crib was empty. A nursemaid lay against the wall whimpering, her leg broken and crushed by a monstrous foot.
"Velia!" The Empress cried.
"I'm sorry, Your Majesty." Velia's eyes watered.
"Where is my son?!" Aurora knelt by the nursemaid, her knees giving way.
The servant's pale hand pointed weakly right as Nurlan called out to the royals. "Over here!"
More soldiers hurried into the nursery from the outer room. One of them was carrying a lamp. The light brought with it new horrors, including blood and a large dent on the side of Colvyr's metal crib.
However what caught Aurora's attention was a different substance, still red but made of shimmery dust that somehow resembled starlight. The trail led to the far wall where it disappeared. That is where Nurlan stood and the servant had pointed.
Hurrying to the grey marbled stone, Devrim groped for the release. Unlike the glowstone tunnels, this hidden entrance led to a small safe room that had been constructed for the prince and his caretaker should trouble ever come.
But since Velia and Nanny--the two people on duty-- were outside, it was unclear who might have utilized the safe room. The small door swung wide and everyone's eyes opened in disbelief.
Before them, Hanna leaned against the wall in the small chamber. The shimmery sand was all around her.
"Oh good. I thought it was you, but I didn't trust myself," she said in a voice even more airy than usual. Hidden beneath the folds of her white gown, the Fate produced the sleeping prince. "He is such a dear. He barely woke up through the whole ordeal."
Even now Colvyr's soft and easy breathing was tinged with a light snore. Devrim scooped him up and placed him in Aurora's uninjured arm. She sat down in a chair and cuddled him.
"Do you know what happened to the attacker?" Nurlan asked respectfully.
"I sent it over the balcony. But there is a second somewhere…" the Fate's brow furrowed.
"It has been dealt with," the Emperor assured her. "Are you sure there were only two?" The thought of more of those abominations made Devrim more worried than anything else.
"Yes, somehow I couldn't sense them until they were already inside the palace. I had to make a choice, and I was nearly too late to save the child."
Hanna smiled weakly and shifted, revealing that the back of her gown was torn. The shimmery red sand was spilling slowly from her back.
"You're hurt!" Aurora was filled with concern. She had no idea Fates could be injured.
Hanna touched her back and winced. The General brought the Fate a blanket to cover her shoulders. "Yes, I am injured. There is a first time for everything. I couldn't get the prince out fast enough so I had to shield him from the blow with my body. Thankfully, it was not enough to kill me."
"Kill you!" Aurora exclaimed. The child in her arms stirred and she shushed him. "You can die?" She added in a softer voice.
"Anything that has been created can die." The Fate answered seriously. "I will heal with time though."
On time, the doctor arrived with a number of healers and attendants to carry off the wounded and the dead. His face was particularly disturbed by the injured Fate. "Please come to the infirmary," he urged. Hanna nodded.
As she was being lifted onto a pallet, Devrim returned from peeking over the balcony. "The creature is still down there. It seems to have died in the fall. What was it?"
"That is what worries me," the Fate said, fear creeping into her voice. "I have no idea. Those creatures are unknown to me."
A quiet fell over the room as her words sunk in. Another pallet—this one for the Empress and Colvyr—came in to break the silence.
Aurora looked at her husband and motioned him toward her as she was being taken from the room. "We must alert Mairwen immediately!" In a whisper she added, "and depending on how much this enemy knows, we must warn our other son as well…"