Morgan, who regretted her decision as soon as the faerie and the pooch was standing in her tavern, couldn’t do anything but to comply after all. The promise of the Faerie Library of Etherea, and the given proof of Nayeli’s power, was a chance she had waited for ever since that night over 100 years ago. While they had waited for her, she had changed her damaged clothes into another red dress, packed necessities, put up a ‘closed’ sign on the front door, and locked it for the earth knew how long.
Now, one week later and only a few hours left before they would reach Meaha, she leaned into a tree, shivering with cold, claws tapping silently on her knee. Her entire backside was numb, and sleep deprivation had driven her angrier than usual. The pooch sat across her, nailing her to the tree with his staring, angry eyes. His mouth was shaped in a silent growl, and Nayeli laid next to him, sleeping. The faerie required more rest than them, and as neither were willing to carry her, they had to wait for her to wake up.
“What are you staring at?” she finally snapped when he showed no sign of redirecting his stare.
“A powerless, and untrustworthy witch,” he replied, followed with a hostile snarl. “Even creating flames for us was too much for you. I can’t see how you’ll be beneficial for this group.”
Enchantress, she corrected in her mind before she rolled her eyes, annoyed he believed she was there for his comfort.
Nothing, other than herself, interested her. If she wanted to have light a fire, she would have, but she knew it would draw too much attention in here.
“You-” Raidon began, but a shrill shriek tore through the air, immediately waking Nayeli.
Before the second was over, Raidon stood with his claws ready for defense, his eyes glowing red and on high alert. The faerie sat up yawning, unaffected by the sudden sound, and she rubbed her eyes.
“I guess naptime is over then,” she said, her faint smile returning to her lips. “Should we go on?”
Another scream reached them before anyone could reply, and Morgan cuddled further into her blanket, also unaffected by it. Raidon’s body had tensed so much she could count the veins in his arms and neck, and he seemed distressed.
“Calm down, pooch,” she yawned apathetic. “These woods are cursed, remember?”
His chest rose and fell heavily, his eyes still glowing, and now searching through the trees. Not even Nayeli’s calm voice seemed to make him at ease, making Morgan wonder what had happened in his past to make him react this way. Being alert was one thing, but this was nearly frantic. If he tensed up more his arteries would probably explode.
“No, that was real,” he hissed. “Way too real.”
“We are sleep deprived,” Morgan reminded him calmly. “These woods will play mind tricks until we leave and get some proper sleep.”
Raidon’s eyes fell on Nayeli, and somehow his breathing eased. The protective shine in them was obvious, making it easy for her to start piecing together why he was acting like a guard dog. Not once since she went along with them had he strayed from Nayeli’s side.
“Should we get moving?” Nayeli smiled and stood up, brushing leaves of her curvy hips.
Another scream sounded, even closer now. Morgan’s attention stirred at the slight difference in pitch. Goosebumps ran down her arms and she took a deep and steady breath. She could be mistaken, but her hearing usually never failed, so she silently decided to keep her senses on alert.
“That wouldn’t be too bad of an idea,” she replied and stood up as well. “We are only a few hours away from Meaha.”
A flicker of movement redirected her attention instantly into the woods, and her brows furrowed. She studied the forest and all the green that came with it, narrowing her eyes.
“Morgan?” Raidon had noticed her tense stare and followed her gaze into the trees.
“We have to go,” she leaned down to grab her bag, her senses telling her they had to run. “Seems like you were right after all, pooch.”
It should have been impossible for creatures to be alive in here, but apparently this one had not gotten the memo, or it simply did not care.
Before they had the time to move, a strong wind hit her straight in the face, sending her tumbling backwards a few steps. A thick and heavy fog came rolling in around them and covered everything within seconds, making it impossible to see further than her own nose.
Ironic, she thought for a second, but then she shook the thought away.
An impenetrable silence surrounded her, and even with her heightened hearing she couldn’t hear neither Raidon nor Nayeli, even though they were standing relatively close.
She could not hear the creature either, but the oppressive sensation in the air told her it was way too close. Listening intensely, she grew out her claws and canines while her body slid slowly into a fighting stance.
“Nayeli, walk towards me!” she yelled into the fog, but no reply. “Nayeli?!”
A high-pitched laughter tore through the silence, circling around her, and she swirled after it. Raidon’s angry roars followed shortly after along with a low squeak from Nayeli. No, no, no, this couldn’t be…!
“Raidon, close your eyes!” she shut her own and placed her feet firmly on the ground. “Nayeli, where are you?!”
The creature moved too fast for her to locate it, and with her eyes closed she did not dare move. All she knew what that the weakest of them would be targeted first and seeing as Nayeli was visibly blind she would not stand a chance.
“Nayeli?!” Raidon’s heavy beast form shook the ground underneath her feet as he urgently moved around to find her. “Answer me!”
“She’s gone, she’s gone, she’s gone!” the high-pitched laughter suddenly sounded from behind her, and her blood turned to ice. “I won’t give her back, ha! She’s gone, gone, gone, gone!”
“Where is she?!” her eyes snapped open just in time to see Raidon’s fur covered muzzle before he gripped her neck and slammed her body into a tree so hard it cracked. “What did you do?!”
A pulsating anger schooled his features and she gasped for air, unable to process the sudden change in the situation. She clawed desperately at his enlarged hand to ease it up while trying to talk, but nothing more than a tiny wheeze came out. Her feet dangled above the ground and the back of her head throbbed fiercely. Stars danced before her eyes, darkness pressed on from all sides.
“Why did you tell me to close my eyes?!” He roared a hairs breath from her face. “Why?!”
His hand tightened around her throat, causing her body to go lifeless in his grip.