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CURDLED & CAUGHT

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The Occultist’s Athame glitters as it slashes down, slicing the air before it and catching the first of the snarling dogs off-guard. ‘When I tell you to run, run.’ He whispers urgently over his shoulder. The mother and her children scramble to their feet, backing slowly towards the looming clocktower whose massive spire and dimly lit clock still manage to impress their presence on the village.

The Occultist sheaths his Athame and makes a swift sign with his hands and flings his might toward a wooden fence marking the boundary of the clocktower. Smoke briefly curls but fire refuses to catch in the dampened wood. The dogs seem to understand his spell has failed and as their confidence grows, the Occultist’s falters. With foam covered lips quivering with rage, the pack advance and another bounds forward, this time landing heavily on the Occultist. ‘Run!’

The mother flings herself through the night, dragging her children by her side. Their cries and fear permeating the darkness. The dog atop the Occultist bites down and shakes its head violently, tossing his cloak about like a rag and the remainder of the pack howls in unison before taking off after the retreating woman. Their claws scratch on cobbles stone as the thrill of the hunt urges them forward.

The woman reaches the clocktower doors but hears the harsh panting of rabid dogs at her heels and turns to face them. Her children cling to her skirts, too afraid to cry any longer. The Occultist has extricated themselves from their cloak and holds their Athame once more. Rolling aside as the dog attacking his cloak realises it is now empty, the tattered rags fall to the ground. The Occultist slices upward eliciting a terrible groan as the creature falls dead at his feet.

Whirling to face the rest of the pack, he focuses all his attention on the lead dog which prepares to leap at the throat of the cowering mother by the clocktower door. Rotating his right hand in the air, he conjures a bright circle of lilac and blue. Its edges distorted and flickering, he pushes it towards the dogs. It hits his intended target and with a surprised yelp, the rabid creature is swallowed by the vibrating hole with a “crack”.

The rest of the pack halt, the suddenness of the noise startling them into inaction. As the Occultist sprints toward them, the mother and her children fall backward as the clocktower door opens. A woman in cloak and cowl stands in the doorway, taking in the chaos through the light spilling onto the cobbles from behind her. ‘Zinnia.’ The woman beckons the stunned mother and her children inside.

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