In the morning, Azzen woke up alone. He wasn’t bothered. In fact, he felt great. He headed in to the manor for breakfast and spotted Fel in the corner. The catgirl glanced up at him and her ear twitched, but she made no motion of greeting. The boy took the signal to act normal and tried to hide how happy he felt as he headed over towards her.
Before he reached the table, Morty intercepted him and swung his arm around the boy’s neck. He pulled the boy down into a headlock and started giving him a knuckle sandwich.
“What’ve you been up to, Son?” he chimed playfully. “Didn’t come back in last night. You have a good time?”
Azzen wrestled the boy off of him and shoved him back with good nature. “What’re you talking about?” he asked.
“You and her,” Morty said, jerking his head towards Fel.
“She knocked me out again, if that’s what you mean,” Azzen lied.
“Oh okay,” Morty said. “I’d believe that one… Except she hasn’t been able to knock you out for a month, and she didn’t come in last night either.”
The Rat gave Azzen a big grin and shoved him off, letting him wander over to Fel.
“Hey Fel,” the boy said casually as he sat down.
“Hey Azzen,” the girl said back.
After eating for a couple minutes, Azzen leaned in and whispered, “I think Morty knows.”
Fel looked at Azzen sharply. “Knows what?”
“About us,” Azzen said, keeping his voice low.
“About last night,” Azzen clarified.
“Oh,” Fel breathed relieved. She had thought Azzen was talking about their escape plan. “Who cares?”
“Oh,” Azzen said surprised. “You don’t care if people know?”
“Know what?” Fel asked getting irritated.
Fel looked at Azzen patiently.
“You know,” Azzen said. “I mean… Last night, we-”
“Look Azzen,” Fel cut him off, “As fun as watching you stumble over your words is, I’m not going to play coy. I respect you enough to at least tell you that last night really meant nothing. I don’t know why I kissed you. I was just nervous and it felt good to lay next to someone. I’ll admit that it was comforting, but that’s all it was.”
“That’s all it was?” Azzen asked, disbelievingly.
Fel’s ear twitched. “That’s what I just said. You’re not special, so don’t get your hopes up and keep it in your pants,” she said irritated.
Azzen didn’t grumble. He put his hands behind his back and grinned unperturbed. He’d met girls like Fel before and knew that crying about it wouldn’t help break her walls down.
“Whatever you say, Fel. I sure feel special though.”
The girl didn‘t even respond, she just waved him off and ate some more food.
“You aren’t special either,” said Azzen through some mush.
Fel glanced up at him. The boy gave her a wink.
“You’re about as unspecial as they come,” the boy said.
Fel rolled her eyes, but Azzen caught a twitch of a grin flutter over her lips.
The rest of the day progressed as normal. Azzen group trained and then sparred with Fel. The two kids took it easy on each other, wordlessly acknowledging that they should save their strength for tonight. Both kids ate extra helpings at each meal, hoping to build up some extra strength.
The hours seemed to drag, but before they knew it the day was over and the sun was setting. The catgirl told Azzen to grab his normal clothes and then pulled him into the forest. She led him further into the woods than they had ever gone before. Eventually, they came to a large tree that had an “X” mark slashed into it. The boy wondered if they would run right then, but Fel began to make a fire.
“Past this tree will ring the alarm,” Fel said. It’s two hundred yards out. I’ve tested it myself.”
“How does it work?” Azzen asked.
“The wine he gave you,” Fel explained. “He gives it to everyone when they first arrive. There’s some special magic about it. You’re charmed. The charm sets off the alarm if we wander too far. That’s why the Master is always nice when you first meet him.”
“Oh,” Azzen replied.
“Rest,” she said. “Get some sleep.”
“Okay,” Azzen said obediently. He had already agreed to obey Fel’s commands. “What’s the plan?” he asked.
“We wait until the night is late. If the Master’s in his deepest sleep, it’ll buy us a few more seconds.”
“Do you think we can get away?” Azzen asked.
Fel didn‘t sugarcoat it. “If he stops for you and you hold him off long enough, I might get away.”
“Do you think he’ll let that happen?”
“Noh,” said Fel.
“Then we should stick together,” Azzen replied with a yawn. He settled down on a patch of ground to get some rest, as Fel had told him.
Fel looked over at him. “Why?”
“Well it just makes sense, right?”
“How does that make sense? You’re way slower than me,” the catgirl said indignantly.
“Yeah, but the Master will catch you anyways. He doesn’t care about me. He’ll go after you. We pretty much know that for sure. So if you run ahead of me, he’ll catch you anyways and then you’ll be alone. It won’t be any different from any other time you’ve ran.”
Fel nodded slowly, understanding his logic, but Azzen closed his eyes and didn’t see it.
“If we’re together,” he continued, “it’ll be two on one when the Master catches us. I’m not saying we can beat him. But we might be able to disable him long enough for you to get a good lead. Maybe you could slip away while I distract him. I don’t know. But at least it will be different…”
His voice trailed off into a yawn.
“Yah,” Fel muttered. “I hope it will…”
Azzen fell asleep while Fel began to absorb fire.
Four hours later the catgirl woke Azzen.
“It’s time,” she said. The catgirl carried a long thick stick like a staff.
Azzen rose and stretched. He bounced on his toes a little to get his blood flowing. He felt like he should be more anxious about this, but instead, he was just rubbing the sleep away. Fel kicked dirt onto the fire and the scene suddenly went black. There was pale light from the moon, but Azzen’s eyes were having trouble adjusting.
“I can’t see,” he said to Fel, looking at where he thought she was.
The catgirl’s eyes gleamed in the night. “I know,” she said. “That’s why I run at night. The Master can’t see either. Here…”
Azzen felt the girl’s hand wrap around his.
“Just stay with me,” she said.
The catgirl took off onto the familiar paths. She had run them a hundred times before and guided Azzen along the clearest route.
He didn’t hear any alarm go off as he raced along with Fel, trying not to stumble as she pulled him faster than he had ever ran before. They got far into the forest. Deeper than Azzen had expected. The trees blurred by and Azzen’s eyes began to adjust to the darkness, though he still couldn’t see well.
He still didn’t hear any alarm. Had the Master woken up yet? Would he even come to stop them.
Just as Azzen wondered if they would even be challenged, a wide form appeared in front of them, large enough to block out the moon.
Fel shoved Azzen to the side and dove the other way. But the Master was too quick. He swung a kick at Azzen, knocking the boy hard into a tree and reached out to snatch Fel by the tail.
Azzen rubbed his head and got up. He saw Fel hiss and twist. She squirmed and wrapped herself around the Master’s massive arm and bit viciously into his wrist. The Master snarled and flung his arm out, releasing Fel to smash into a tree. She yelped in pain and it made Azzen’s blood boil.
He charged forward and attacked the Master with everything he had. But the Master swatted away all of his attacks, using only one open hand. Fel got up and jumped back into the fray, swinging and jabbing her staff at the Master. But the large man began blocking both of their attacks with the same arm. He laughed at their pitiful attempts to strike him.
“You arrogant little Rats!” he jeered. “You’ll never be able to defeat me.
With that said, he backhanded Fel across the forest and punched Azzen hard in the chest. The boy flew back and rolled, but he scrambled up and charged back. Maybe if he could keep the Master’s attention, the girl could get away. He couldn’t see where she was and hoped she would run.
The boy launched a kick at the Master, but his leg was caught and he was hoisted into the air. Another hand clamped around his throat and he suddenly couldn’t breath.
“Don’t even think about running, pussy cat,” the Master snarled. “I’ll crush his throat right now.”
Azzen strained his eyes. His heart sank as he saw that Fel was still near. She stood a few yards away from the Master, holding her staff defensively.
“Enough playing,” the Master said wickedly. “I want you to give it up. Right here. Right now.”
Azzen gasped out with all the breath he had left. “Run…”
Fel’s ear twitched and she took a step back. Not lowering her staff.
“Quit acting like you’ll leave him,” the Master said. “You punks never see me, but I’m always watching. I’ve seen how you act with him.”
The catgirl took another step back, then another, and her ear twitched again.
“I know you better than anyone else,” said the Master. He laughed mirthfully. “I’ve know more about you than you know about yourself.”
Fel took several more steps back. And she kept on retreating with her staff. Her ear twitched once again.
“Watch this!” the Master snarled. “I can prove it! You want to know how I’m so sure you won’t run away?!”
Fel kept slowly backing up. She was several yards away now. She was at a distance that Azzen recognized. She paused. Her ear twitched one more time.
The Master yelled at her and hurled a dazing Azzen into a tree. “BECAUSE YOUR EAR TWITCHES WHEN YOU‘RE BLUFFING!”
The girl shot forward and planted her staff hard into the ground. She used it to vault high into the air.
Azzen looked up at the familiar move and could see it coming.
Fel twirled in the night sky and just before she reached the Master, she launched her staff at him. The Master easily swiped it aside.
This time Azzen was able to see how Fel dipped down while the Master’s vision was blocked by his own arm. The large man stared blankly, the same way Azzen had when Fel had pulled the move on him.
And just as he looked down, Fel came up, swinging her leg hard and fast. She plunged her shin devastatingly into the Master’s crotch.
Azzen watched as the two seemed to freeze, framed in the moment. Fel lowered her leg and the Master stood frozen like a statue. The girl backed up slowly, not sure what would come next.
The Master dropped to his knees and groaned like death. Fel smirked and smacked him hard across his face. The large man toppled over and fell to the ground.
“Azzo!” she shouted. “Run!”
The boy knew this was their moment. Fel took off, darting into the forest and Azzen followed behind. “Just run straight!” she called back to him as she outdistanced the slower boy.
Azzen realized she wasn’t waiting for him and began to run faster. Was she afraid the Master would come after them? Azzen had barely been able to walk after she had kicked him in the balls. He didn’t think they’d have much to worry about.
But the girl was gone into the night. Azzen hoped he would be able to find her whenever he got to wherever he was going. He ran through the forest and idly thought that they should have planned this part out a little better. He ran and ran. He ran for about an hour. The forest was beginning to thin and he hoped that he would be able to figure out where Fel had went.
He wondered how he would be able to find anyone in this strange land. And then someone found him. They grabbed his arm, halting his run, and flung him backwards.
“WHERE IS SHE?!” the Master shouted into Azzen’s face. “I know she wanted to take you with her! Where is she?! Where were you meeting?!”
He punched Azzen hard in the face one way and then the other. The boy was knocked side to side so hard that the world became fuzzy.
“Where is she?!”
“I don’t know…” Azzen mumbled.
“YES YOU DO!” the Master screamed. He pounded a fist into Azzen’s belly and the boy almost lost his dinner.
“I know you do! I know you two were together. I’m going to rip you apart until you tell me.”
The Master raised Azzen by his wrist and put another large hand on his shoulder. He began to slowly pull. Azzen felt intense pain. He could feel the strain on his arm. It was going to tear apart.
“I don’t know!” Azzen shouted.
“Then I’m going to turn you into a torso,“ the Master snarled, tugging harder. “And leave you here to bleed out.“
Azzen fought back with everything he had. He strained against the Master and twisted and kicked and raged. He had to get away. He had to get out of this. All that was standing in between him and the happiness he could share with Fel was this one man. He couldn’t take it. He wouldn’t let it happen like this. He wouldn’t let it end!
The boy could feel something deep inside him. It was bubbling up and filling him with rage. A rage that he had never before felt . He snarled and growled like a savage animal while battling against the Master’s grip. His fury was building up and seeping over. He felt like he was about to explode.
The Master didn’t notice any change. He was still furious at Azzen for helping Fel escape. He meant to kill him slowly and make him suffer.
“You will never see her again,” the Master sneered.
Something stopped inside Azzen’s heart, like a blockage that halted the flow. All of the rage inside him drained out and away, leaving him empty. His body went limp for one minute and was completely still. Nothing happened and nothing would work. All that was left of him was nothing.
And then his heart seemed to twitch. It twitched and fluttered and sped up, pounding in his chest. It began to race and fire like a clicking machine gun. The boy’s eyes glazed over with pure hatred. His muscles tightened and bulged. His growling mouth sputtered foam maliciously. And his mind could only understand one thing. He only had one desire. Only one thought. And it was to utterly annihilate everything in his path.
The arm that the Master held suddenly hardened like steel. That’s when the large man finally noticed the change. His eyes widened as he recognized an ancient magic.
Azzen tore his arm free of the Master’s grip with so much force that he nearly ripped the man‘s limb off. The enraged boy punched hard with a speed and power that the Master could never match. The large man was blasted backwards and smashed through a large tree, shattering its trunk. The tree toppled over and the Master staggered up. By the time he could stand, Azzen was at him again.
The boy grabbed onto one of the Master’s legs and whipped him up and down, slamming him onto the ground. Then he spun fast and the Master’s body bashed through several more trees. The treetops tumbled and Azzen hurled the Master far away.
The large man had never taken such a beating, but he was still tough as nails and rose once more.
But Azzen was just getting started. He was taking great pleasure in causing the Master as much pain as possible. His mouth drooled with eager bloodlust and his ears rang with the bells of hell.
He cracked across the land with the speed of lightening and was immediately grasping the Master’s throat in a slow, punishing clench.
The Master desperately groped into his pocket and pulled out his trump card. His trick for taking on anyone stronger than him. The one thing that he knew could stop a person in the state that the boy was in. It was a powder that he splashed across the Azzen’s snarling face.
The boy’s ragged raging breaths sucked in the powder and, instantly, his heart slowed. His eyes drooped. His world faded away. The boy was falling asleep. He loosened his grip and stumbled back a few steps, then fell to the ground. Azzen began to dream and wasn’t sure if what he was seeing was real.
The Master chuckled. Now this was a prize. He had never realized how special this boy was. This entirely made up for losing the girl. This boy would make him rich. Who could have known that he had possessed such power?
The Master looked down at him, astounded by his serendipitous discovery. No person with this sort of power had been seen in over a hundred years. The Master only knew of his kind from ancient texts. Lost in his thoughts, the large man muttered one word to himself. “Berserker…”
If employed right. This boy could be used to stop armies and topple nations. All it would take would be to muzzle him with an air filter. Other than the use of Sleeping Powder, the only thing could stop a Berserker would be death. If the Master played his cards right, he could conquer the world. If he-
“Drop him,” said a voice.
The Master looked up. Fel stood before him.
What luck! He would have the prize boy and his prize girl.
“Couldn’t resist coming back to me,” he grinned.
“Don’t talk to me like that, Rat,” he growled.
“Yousa Rat,” Fel said. “Iya Cat.”
“Rat, Cat. Either way, you’re still my little pet.”
“Not anymore,” Fel said.
The Master puffed out his chest. “Is that so?” he said with a menacing glare.
“You think you’re scary?” Fel spat. Her hair began to raise. “You don’t scare me,” she continued, narrowing her eyes. Her body was getting hot. “All you do is piss me off!” she finished. The catgirl’s fists burst into flames…
And that was all Azzen could remember.
He dazed awake once during the night. He could feel that he was being carried. Startled and remembering his encounter with the Master, he burst open his eyes. But it wasn’t the Master that was carrying him. It was Fel. He was slumped over the girl’s shoulder, like a potato sack.
The boy was still groggy and he struggled to stay awake, fighting against the magical effects of the Sleeping Powder. There was something strange about Fel.
“Fel…” he mumbled, slipping back into dreams. “You’re glowing…”
“Shhh,” she cooed. “Go to sleep.”
Azzen closed his eyes again, reassured that he and, more importantly, Fel, were safe. The sleep he drifted into was deep and relaxing.
The next time Azzen awoke was only a couple hours later. He shifted his weight about and Fel dumped him on the ground.
“Wake up,” she said. “I’m tired of carrying you.”
Azzen’s head throbbed violently at every movement. It felt like the worst migraine he had ever experienced. He forced himself to ignore it and stood up.
He glanced around and saw that they were in a wide open field of grassy hills. The forest lay behind them.
Fel kept moving, walking ahead.
“Did we make it?” Azzen asked, massaging his head.
“Yah,” Fel replied.
“We’re free? He won’t come after us?”
The catgirl looked over at the boy and grinned wide. “Jah,” she said. “He won’t come after us. We’re free.”
Azzen smiled too, despite the fact that it made his head hurt. “Hooray,” he said whimsically.
Fel giggled. It was a sound the boy had never heard before. Then she whooped into the sky and broke into a run. “Come on!” she called over her back.
“Hey! Wait up!” Azzen shouted, ignoring his headache and chasing after her.
The two kids raced into the night towards their destination. Towards their destiny. Towards anywhere but where they had been.
As though a prophecy had been fulfilled. Their whole lives had instantly changed. The light of the nearly full moon shone upon them, guiding their way.