The sun had just begun to set when the clan hounds began to howl.
“Well, my daughter. I’m thinking that MacGoulan has finally arrived to take you away.” Donnchadh took Annag by the shoulders. “I wish only the best in life for you, child.” He blinked back the tears that threatened to escape. “I will sorely miss that sunset hair.” He gave her a great hug then turned quickly away.
Taog came forward to take her hand. They would greet his clansmen together.
The hounds had continued baying, louder and more excited. The laughter and chatter in the house matched their enthusiasm.
Until one of the hounds screamed in pain. And the tone of the baying changed from greeting to terror. Then fell silent.
As Donnchadh reached for his great broadsword, the heavy wooden door burst open. A dozen bodies poured through the opening.
Annag didn’t want to believes what she was seeing. This was not the MacGoulan. This was the stories told late at night to frighten children. These were nightmares come to visit.
“Wulver!” she heard someone cry.
The beasts were upon the gathering in an instant. Taog pushed her behind him as the monsters came. She heard he screams of women and cries of men realizing they were too far from their weapons.
Her father’s blade swung hard at the first wave, one beast yelped in pain and turned away. Then targeted another man with only a heavy chair for defense. The pain maddened attacker ripped it from him, and his arm that had wielded it.
Other men had reached knives or swords, but they were no match for fangs and the claws that grew from hand-like paws.
Taog had no weapon, he made no sound when his throat was torn by gnashing teeth.
Her mother, Mara had joined Donnchadh, an iron fire poker her weapon. Six of the beasts closed on them. Annag heard her father roar his rage just before the hand that held his blade was severed by knife like teeth.
She watched his heavy broadsword fall to the ground. His body followed, pulled down by three of the creatures. She didn’t see her mother being torn apart next to him.
Annag’s eyes were still fixed on the blade. She’d made no sound. Her terror had stolen her screams. But her body lunged for the fallen weapon. Once it was in her hands, she felt her fear turn to anger. With strength she didn’t recognize, she swung the blade.
One beast fell, the wound in its neck pouring blood. She swung again. A second beast snarled in pain. As it backed away, one of her clansmen stuck a knife between its ribs.
She spun around hearing her young sister’s scream. She swung again, but was far too late. A moan fled from her chest as she saw her sweet sister’s head fall from her shoulders. Her grief fuelled fury made certain the beast that was responsible was headless a moment later.
She felt fire skate across her back. She turned, blade singing through the small space. The beast that struck her was already down. The man that slew it lay dying from too many wounds, a small smile gracing his face in that final act.
Annag didn’t know how much time had passed since the attack had begun. She only knew that it was suddenly silent. No more beasts came at her. No more screams of her clan. No more growls of the unnatural beasts.
As she became aware of her rasping breath, her racing heart, her eyes took in the horror before them. Her family, her people, dismembered, mutilated, all dead. The silence was broken by one last scream. She fell to the ground as it escaped her exhausted body.