Nayeli hummed to herself after Morgan Banebringer had slammed the door in her face, and she strolled down the rocky path leading to the town square. She walked calmly, with her arms slightly parted from her body. This made her feel her surroundings better, and it helped her avoid trippi- her foot slipped and with a surprised squeal she bounced down the rest of the path on her butt. Inside the tavern Morgan’s head turned curiously towards the sound, but as she couldn’t see anything outside of the window, she closed the curtains and went to bed.
With a low thud, Nayeli’s butt slammed into the cobblestone road, and her hat slid down over her eyes. A low giggle escaped her lips, and she checked her belongs were still in place before she straightened her hat and stood back up. She patted her sore butt a few times, and continued towards the fountain in the square.
Unlatta was a small town from what she could sense. Morgan’s tavern was placed on the top of a small hill outside of town, in the outskirts of The Cursed Woods. Around the square, only a few shops were placed close to the small and dried out fountain. No more than about twenty resident homes were scattered around, making this more of a settlement for outlaws and those who wished to die. Travelers only stopped here, to rest before they went through the woods.
Her fingers passed through something cold and wet, making her realize fog had come falling in from the forest behind her. A faint smile reached her lips, she loved nature. What a magical place this was. Everything, from what she could feel, was rotten and dead. A fitting place for a Banebringer like Morgan to seek solitude.
As she sat down at the edge of the fountain, a sigh escaped her. Everything had gone better than expected. Rumors had it be that Morgan was a wicked being because of her anger, but Nayeli did not get that impression at all. Morgan had issues, for sure, and there was no denying she had acquired the name Banebringer, but beyond it all was a heart of gold. Nayeli could feel it, but she would not push past Morgan’s defenses. They were there for a reason – a reason Morgan herself had not come to terms with.
The following afternoon, when Morgan went outside to buy baked break from the bandit that ran the bakery, she noticed a lot of commotion at the town square. About everyone who lived in the town had gathered there, around the fountain. With furrowed brows, she walked down the path to the town. The mass of people moved aside when she came close, not daring to bump into her.
One glance into the fountain and she knew what everyone was so eager about. The faerie, Nayeli, laid on her side down there, sleeping heavily. Morgan blinked a few times of confusion, then her anger started bubbling and she clenched her jaw.
“Wake up!” she roared and slammed her palms onto the edge, the rock underneath her hands cracking.
Nayeli woke so sudden her head hit the rock, and a low umpfh sounded from her as she curled together with her hands on her head.
“Morgan Banebringer,” her smile from the night before returned once she had collected herself. “Good morning, have you come to take upon my offer of passage through the woods?”
The men behind her all started murmuring, and someone even yelled they would gladly walk to the edge of the earth for the faerie. Another yelled they would gladly take her from behind right there. Silence, however, fell over them once Morgan slowly turned her head, glaring at them like the devil had possessed her. When her canines and claws started growing, the mass of people scattered fast and without argument.
“You…” her voice could freeze even the deepest oceans when she turned back to Nayeli. “… come with me. I’ll show you the right way to go through the woods, but that is all.”
Morgan stormed over the forest floor, with Nayeli stalking behind her. Anger boiled underneath her skin, making her nails dig deep into her palms. Useless faeries, useless. Useless!
“Hurry up, would you?!” she yelled backwards to the faerie. “We are nearly at the crossroad!”
The town was no longer visible behind them, and she scoffed. The green atmosphere around them pressed on from all directions, she felt suffocated by it. Bright colored flowers of all shapes bloomed everywhere, both on and surrounding all the green bushes and plants. Canopies covered every single part of the sky, but still it was bright as noon on the forest floor, causing it all to give the forest the famous green atmosphere that so often deprived wanderers of sleep.
At times it was hard to believe the name of this forest was The Cursed Woods, but everyone knew why. Even though it was such a beautiful place, wanderers who lost their way would never find the way out. Keep to the road, and you’d survive. Stray from it, and you’d be lost. Bodies would overgrow with flowers and plants, causing them to never be found again.
“Morgan,” Nayeli caught up to her with an annoying smile on her face. “I am eternally grateful for you showing me the way. Although, I am saddened you will not accompany me the entire way.”
“Sure,” she sneered, not bothering to talk more than she had to.
“I will still give you a bottle of faerie blood,” Nayeli continued and strained a bit to walk next to her.
That lessened her annoyance a little bit. After all, her supplies ran low, and it was a pleasant treat she would not mind getting some more of.
“And as for your mental state, I can help-” Nayeli began, but the rest of the words never left her lips.
Morgan slammed her onto the forest floor with brute force, gripped her thin throat so hard her claws left trail of blood, and she forced her knee into her stomach to keep her still.
“Don’t you ever talk about that,“, she hissed a hair’s breadth from Nayeli’s face. “Don’t you ever try to understand, do not dare pity me.”
A Sound, just a tiny rustle through leaves, caught her attention, and her blood froze. Unable to react fast enough, something enormous leapt from the bushes and collided painfully with her side, causing her to roll several meters away from Nayeli. Long fangs and a snarling face was violently working to rip her throat out, but her arm was in the way. A deep growling and barking deafened her from Nayeli’s protesting yells. The beast was on top of her, pinning down her torso with huge claws, tearing into her flesh. With a furious scream she pressed her underarm further into the mouth of the beast, keeping it from reaching its goal, and her eyes widened with rage. A second, just a glimpse, she saw what it was.
“Get off!” she roared and right hooked the beast directly into the eye with her free arm.
It yelped and stumbled to the side, just enough for her to get her arm free of its mouth. Claws already in place, she dragged them brutally over its muzzle, leaving deep marks of blood and flesh. Another yelp escaped it, and she saw her chance and whisked herself away from underneath it. With a manic growl it leapt after her, but she used the momentum of whisking and jump-kicked it directly on the top of its head. The beasts’ head was crushed into the ground underneath her shoe, and she panted as she readied herself to cut its throat.
“Morgan, no!” Nayeli came running over and pushed her out of the way before kneeling in front of the werewolf. “Raidon, are you okay?”
Raidon? Nayeli knew this vicious beast? Understanding suddenly dawned on her as she watched the faerie help the werewolf to its feet. This was one of the seven cursed she had mentioned last night. Her eyes locked with the beast as it too understood, and a deep and pulsing hate radiated from both. None willing to stand down, none willing to turn the back on the other, both knowing the fight was over.
“Pooch!” she scoffed aggressively.
A low grown sounded from his chest as his ears laid backwards on his head. His pupils got even smaller and Morgan widened her stance, ready for another attack in case it might come after all.
“Now, now,” Nayeli stepped between them with a calm smile. “No reason to become defensive, we are all in this together, and you both need some healing.”
“As if!” Morgan slapped her hand away when the faerie approached her. “This is not wounds, it’s nothing! Such beasts can’t harm me!”
It was not nothing, but she refused to seem weak in front a dog. The throbbing pain in her arm and torso was screaming at her. Yet, it was nowhere close to the pain she had went through when burning on a pyre. A deep and controlling breath made her able to ignore it, for now. Nayeli’s faded eyes trailed over them both, and at the same time they sighed and rolled their eyes. The werewolf began his transformation with load cracks of twisting bone. After a few minutes of painful snarls and growls it got replaced by a tall, muscular, and dark-skinned man, with full lips and hazel colored eyes. Red gashes after her claws ran down across his face, leaving the hate in his eyes to glow brighter.
“I’ve never met a witch who use physical force instead of magic,” he growled. “I take it that is your curse then.”
“Take it however you will,” she snapped back. “You still did not manage to best me, which just proves that my kind are better than dogs!”
“I am no dog!” his roar shook the ground beneath her feet, and lighting flew between them, Nayeli being the only thing keeping them for ripping each other throats out.
“Raidon,” Nayeli turned her head towards him and smiled. “I already told you we would be accompanied by a witch.”
Funny, Morgan thought. You also failed to mention you had already located one of the others.
Then again, she had not asked. The blame was hers and hers alone, and she had to admit Nayeli had played it safe. Telling her a werewolf was already located would have been a bad move. The faerie would have been kicked out of the tavern instantly, seeing werewolves and witches were natural enemies.
“You did not tell me the witch was Morgan Banebringer,” Raidon turned his anger on Nayeli, but she did not flinch. “She’s the evilest witch to have ever walked this earth!”
“At your service,” she purred. “At least I walk without smelling of wet dogs.”
His gaze snapped back to her and hateful sparks were soaring between them. A tensed pressure bled into the woods, causing bushes and flowers to wither in a perfect circle around them.
“Raidon,” Nayeli placed a hand on his chest, making him to calm down. “I wish to speak with Morgan alone for a minute. She will not hurt me, so please, do not go against my plea.”
They looked into each other’s eyes, and Morgan wondered for a split second what Raidon saw there. His features softened, the tension in his muscles disappeared, and a calm smile reached his lips. The woods around them stopped dying, and Morgan’s brows furrowed.
“As you wish, Nayeli,” he murmured and took her hands in his. “I will stay at a distance, but if I feel like you are in danger, I will rip her head off.”
Nayeli nodded slowly and stepped away from him, like a lover leaving her partners embrace. The sight made her scowl, but she stalked after Nayeli into the woods, away from his dark figure. His eyes shot daggers at her back, and she swayed her hips a bit wider, even though it made her ribs throb.
They stopped at a fair distance from him, and Morgan let Nayeli heal her wounds. Her shortened lifespan was none of her concern. This would not have happened if Nayeli had not pried into personal matters. Annoyance crawled up her spine as her wounds closed, and she closed her eyes, taking it all in. If the faerie thought she would join after this she was severely mistaken.
Did I ever consider it? She wondered. I might have…
No, she slammed a lid on the thought as the annoyance grew into more anger, and she clenched her jaw, trying to keep it under control.
“My apologies about this,” Nayeli whispered while working on her wounds. “I met Raidon a few weeks ago, and he’s traveled with me since. He’s keeping me safe.”
Had Morgan overestimated the faerie? Was she weaker than she appeared? No, she did not think so, she still felt a fair amount of independence from her, and it made her blood boil.
“He will keep us both safe,” Nayeli continued. “If you are to join us.”
“I will not help you for the price of faerie blood!” she screamed at Nayeli before she was able to reel in her emotions. “Especially not in the presence of a pooch!”
Her anger roared, making her eyesight go hazy. She swore and slammed her fist into a three, Raidon still staying at a safe distance. Even from here she could tell he strained himself not to attack, to protect Nayeli from her growing anger. It was no doubt he would still accompany the faerie regardless of her being there or not.
“Nayeli,” she took a deep breath and pressed her fingers onto the bridge of her nose to calm herself further. “No. The price is way too low. I won’t do it.”
“That is fair, it is a low price indeed,” Nayeli smiled and twinned a wavy curl around her finger. “How about, alongside the faerie blood, I can gain you access to the Faerie Library of Etherea?”
Morgen froze, her eyes going wide. Not even Raidon made a move, telling her he had also gotten this promise in exchange to guard the faerie.
“My kind are not welcome there,” she said, with skepticism in her voice. “They never have been, and never will.”
“I can grant access for whoever I’d like,” Nayeli smiled a bit brighter. “You have my word.”
Morgan’s heart beat faster, but she did not dare to hope for this to be true. For years she had tried to break in for a chance at a few minutes with the soul she missed the most, but she always failed. The library being impossible to penetrate.
“Your wish of coming inside has not gone unnoticed,” Nayeli continued. “I take it there is a person you miss dearly and would like to talk to.”
She swallowed hard. The faerie blood seemed like nothing in comparison to this, and her blood rushed, something it usually never did.
“Here, this is my proof,” Nayeli opened one of her small bags and displayed a key forged of one piece of diamond, something only the keepers of the books could carry.
This must have been how Nayeli had gotten information about the curse. She was a keeper. One among twelve carefully picked from the faerie council, an honor befallen only the wisest and purest of them all. Morgan was in awe, and she felt somewhat dizzy. This was true, she could get what she had wanted for so many years, all she had to do was protect a blind faerie, alongside a pooch. Suddenly, the task at hand did not seem so difficult.
Access to the Faerie Library of Etherea, she steadied herself and swallowed hard. I’d go through the depths of hell to get there.
“Fine,” she said after a few moments of silence. “I will accompany you.”