Born a pyro destined to die in her own flames, but raised a human, Scarlet is unwittingly thrust into the world of the Eternals, where she hurtles toward her ultimate fate.
A vision of a woman dying in flame has haunted Archer from his childhood, so when he learns about the rare pyro, he appoints himself her protector. How do you protect someone when everyone is out to kill or capture her, and how do you protect her when the greatest chance of dying runs in her own veins?
Archer ran through the trees as if he was insubstantial, having no effect on his surroundings. He placed each step with perfection, so he never made a sound. He let his beast have enough control to lead him though the circling deluge of Scarlet’s older scent to the fresh trail.
It wasn’t long before her unique fragrance became stronger, and Archer added his other powerful senses to make finding her easier. His sharp hearing picked up on the snap of a twig to his left and Archer turned mid-step, running in that direction. He slowed when he got closer to her. It was obvious she was running from Luke and he didn’t want to add himself to her list of reasons for flight.
Then, Archer saw her hunched over between two large trees, her hands on her knees as she dragged breaths into her oxygen-starved lungs.
He slowed his own breathing, then spoke in a low voice so that he didn’t spook her. “Scarlet…”
Her head snapped up, and she looked like she was ready to bolt.
“No—don’t run, I’m here to help you.” He held out his empty hand in a non-threatening gesture, but her wide eyes focused on the hand that carried the sawed off pump action.
“This is loaded with rock salt—all it would do is sting you.” He took another step towards to her.
“Answer…me a question?” she asked through ragged breaths.
He nodded and fought to control his beast, whose response to Scarlet was starting the transformation again.
“You are here to rescue me?” She kept a wary eye as he inched closer to her.
“Your very own knight in shining…” He looked down at himself. “New-Rock boots.”
“Ah huh, yeah.”
He almost laughed when she rolled her eyes at him.
“If you are here to rescue me, what good will rock salt do?”
He didn’t say anything as he turned to his right, lifted the shot gun, pumped it with one hand, and aimed at Luke. The ghost was speeding towards Scarlet with his hands raised up in claws, a look of diabolical evil etched into his features. Archer almost didn’t pull the trigger in time because Scarlet screamed and his beast tried to burst from his skin.
Gritting his teeth, he fought his beast as he pulled the trigger. The rock-salt-filled cartridge hit Luke and the spirit vanished in a puff of vapor.
“That won’t hold him off long.” Archer offered his hand to Scarlet. “Come with me if you want to live,” he said in a fake Austrian accent as he grinned.
Scarlet looked over at where Luke had been, shrugged as if she had decided on the lesser of the two evils, then she took Archer’s hand. “Hasta la vista, baby.”
Archer approved. At least she had a sense of humor. They started running, and he slowed his pace, keeping her hand in his, so he wouldn’t lose her in the forest.
He stopped without warning and held a finger to his lips, telling her to be quiet, as he showed her to stay put. He moved through some trees, letting the blade in his wrist sheath fall into his hand.
He’d spotted Geo through a gap in the trees and knew he had to incapacitate the Enforcer before they could move on.
Archer slid through the trees with no sound as he snuck up behind Geo. If he had any hope of taking the Enforcer out, Archer had to have the element of surprise. He didn’t look back to see if Scarlet had followed him despite his instructions not to.
Archer got behind Geo without the Enforcer being aware and used his left hand to grab Geo’s forehead. Pulling his head back, Archer used the blade in his right hand to slit the Enforcer’s throat.
Geo fell down clutching his throat, gurgling on his own blood.
Scarlet gasped. “Oh, my God. How could you do that? Are you a monster?”
It was Archer’s turn to roll his eyes. He turned to Scarlet and asked, “Would you have preferred me to leave him capable of catching us, and right on our tails?”
She gaped at him.
“It’s too dangerous—the Enforcers are too dangerous for me to display mercy. Besides…” He grabbed her hand again. “That didn’t kill Geo. All it did was slow him down until he can heal—as if I would take a friend out permanently.” He shook his head as if the thought was a no-brainer.
She gasped again. “These monsters are your friends?”
“They aren’t monsters, belan.” He used the Lycan word for fire. “They are just doing their jobs.” He pulled her again, setting off at a faster pace. Geo wouldn’t be down long and then he would be after them. Luke wouldn’t be down much longer either. He must have almost rebuilt his essence.
“Your friends were trying to kill me,” Scarlet huffed as they ran.
“You threatened the security of the Eternal,” he pointed out.
“What the hell is the Eternal?”
“Questions later—run now.”