Whispering Death (part 24)

The room was silent while Drina kicked the last pouch from the set corner. All eyes set on her, waiting for her to speak, though Drina didn’t know what to say. The purpose of the summon was to find the spirit attacking her, but she’d discovered something far worse. 

“Your hurt!”

Hestar broke the silence, rushing to touch her shoulder. Drina spun around and stepped back to avoid her touch. The wounded look in Hestar’s eyes didn’t help her already fading hope.

“What happened? What did you see?”

How did she even start? Searching for words, Drina could only stare at her blankly. Lulu spun around with a frustrated huff, stomping off to her office. It left Ocan confused, looking between Drina and Lulu with uncertainty. Slams and bangs came from the room before Lulu stomped in a rush back out. She was on a war path, holding gauze, ointment, and a hell-bound look. 

Drina retreated, stubbornly holding her unwounded arm up. “No, it’s fine. It’s not that bad, honest-” 

Lulu swished her hand, whispering a faint word. Without warning, the chair behind Drina slammed into the back of her legs, knocking her back. She fell with a hard thump, grunting at the pain in her legs. Golden ropes then leap out from the chair and swirled tightly against her. With a gasp, Drina tried to escape to no avail; she was tightly trapped.

With a final stomp of her foot in front of her, Lulu glared with pure rage. It was the first time anyone had seen her this upset.

“You stupid girl!” Lulu ripped a long strand of gauze off the bundle and shoved it painfully into Drina’s wound. Her voice was harsh as she lashed out at her, “Do you know how stupid you really are? Summoning the unknown, bringing it in here with stupid intentions!”

Drina cried out from the forceful jab at the puncture. “I didn’t think it was going to be-” 

Another glow of gold sliced at her clothes, cutting them from her neck to the sleeve. With a careless tug at the cloth, Lulu ripped it down to expose the rest of the wound. Drina painfully grunted the rest of her sentence.

“-a dead god! Can you please use a little less force?!” 

Lulu froze, allowing Drina to shuffle the chair just out of her reach. The burning sensation of the air and gauze caused a small tear to tremble down Drina’s cheek. Ocan and Hestar stood in shock, watching while she growled from the pain. 

With a softer touch, Lulu stepped forward to open the ointment and apply it. The sizzle of her skin made Drina cry out in an unexpected yowl. Black smoke rose out from the wound, dissipating quickly after. Drina could only grit her teeth, unable to move. 

“Dead god or not. You are lucky. The poison didn’t get too far.” Lulu scoped more ointment onto her fingers, holding it up in front of Drina, “Ready?”

Drina dropped her jaw at the amount dripping from her fingers. Closing her eyes in despair, she knew what was coming. Lulu removed the cloth from the hole, letting it fall to the floor before shoving her finger inside. It took everything in Drina not to pass out from the blinding pain.

A few hours passed when Lulu finished bandaging her shoulder up. The golden ropes around Drina had already faded, allowing her to move freely. Instead, she could do nothing but stare off into the distance. Hestar sat on the couch holding Ocan, both eager to continue speaking to Drina. 

Pushing back the chair, Lulu stood up to stretch her back out, walking to the counter to pull the boiling water from the kettle. She poured two cups and dropped tea leaves into them before returning to Drina’s side. Extending the cup out, Lulu waited for Drina to accept it. 

Drina stared at the cup. The smell was from a herb she’d known from a very young age. Lifting her patched arm, she tested to see how well the healing salve worked. Accepting the cup, she held it for a moment to assess the pain. To her surprise, there was none. Lowering the cup, she took a deep sip of the tea.

Lulu sighed, taking the seat in front of her again, clasping the cup while she waited. There was a long silence again, allowing Drina to look up at the windows to see where the sun was. She was at a loss. How was she going to solve her problem now? The soft, tender voice of Lulu broke her thoughts.

“Was it sincerely a god? I knew the moment something broke through the barrier; it wasn’t just a haunting spirit, but a god?”

The image of the red piercing eyes burning within the enormous skull of a beast flashed in Drina’s mind. There was no doubt about it. “I think there is more at play than we are aware. This situation is no longer just a bound spirit; it’s a contract.”

It was a little worrisome how Drina’s voice sounded, even to her. It sounded distant, more assertive than she felt. After all the screaming and crying she’d done, it was a surprise she still had a voice. Lulu sharpened her gaze.

“A contract?! I’m sure we would have noticed signs of a contract made.”

Although Lulu was right, Drina was certain. The display of power the culprit exhibited had no other explanation. Drina rubbed at her chin, looking down at her cup of tea. For a contract to be made with such power, it would take at least a dozen people. It was typically common within gypsy tribes, needing fewer people to accomplish it due to their bloodline. 

The god that her mother followed was passed down from her grandma, as it was from hers. Despite the many generations from the original contract, it still left a mark on each child born within the family. In her case, the ability to see and speak with the dead.

Drina looked up from her cup to the table, her deck of cards still splayed out untouched. Standing up, she took a look at the display once more. Each card had a specific meaning: Five men with wands, the skeleton queen holding a ring, and the burning tower. Tilting her head, Drina spoke without looking away. “Hestar, how many men have you dated in this town?”

Hestar blinked, pulling her arms away from her embrace around Ocan. 

“Dated?! I… didn’t date anyone as much as I…” she paused to clear her throat, feeling awkward by the sudden question. “I didn’t date anyone.”

Drina felt her ears burn. She suddenly didn’t want to know the answer to the question that followed. Lulu stood up, moving to the other side of the table to look at the cards. Drina was thankful for her graceful tact. 

“No need to fret, my dear. I’m sure Drina is just trying to ascertain the meaning of the cards. What are they implying? Can you share what they generally mean?

Drina heard the girls joining them around the table while taking her time to decipher the cards. It was different than reading her fan, even though the intent was the same. Because she was reading through a shared bond, how much of it was sheer distortion? Reaching her hand out over the card, it proved otherwise. Dark power flowed out and around each card, confirming that it was attached to the targeted being. She tapped the card while speaking aloud for the others.

“This card represents the person in question. The five men represent several opposing forces, the wands showing that they were in battle. Not a physical one, but a shared ideal. Assuming it’s a male, it could mean they are all fighting for the same goal: that goal being Hestar.”

Hestar slowly turned red, catching Drina’s attention. Seeing her embarrassment at the idea that men were fighting for her attention made Drina feel unease. Was she just another player part of the battle? Drina’s voice broke with a crackle, moving quickly to the next card.

“The qu-queen usually stands for a woman; someone mature, grounded, loyal. However,” Drina picked up the card to examine it closely, feeling its energy. “When upside-down, it’s the opposite. Shallow, possessive, chaotic… Jealousy.”

Ocan gasped, reaching for the card to touch the side. “It’s a double meaning. The woman wasn’t looking his way, and he got angry. So he decided to take things into his own hands.” 

Drina nodded, handing the card to Ocan. She took it absently, studying the card intently. Drina watched cautiously, waiting to see what would happen. It wasn’t the first time Drina had let her feel the cards during an active reading. One day Ocan would eventually awaken and learn the craft. Better to get used to the feeling to understand it. 

Ocan broke her concentration to look up at her sister, handing the card back. Drina offered a meek smile, placing it back down on the table. Moving her hand to the last card, she hardly touched it when a shock jolted her entire body. She stiffened, unable to move while the world distorted around her. With all her strength, she pulled her hand away to break free. 

Sweat poured down Drina’s temples from the sudden surge, panting from the energy it admitted. Reaching her hand over to Ocan, she stopped her from wanting to touch it too. 

“For this last card, I think we can safely assume the meaning. He’s become violent and based on the failed attempt at murder, he isn’t planning on stopping soon.”

Drina felt exhausted, plopping down into the chair behind her. Pinching at the bridge of her nose, she sighed exasperatedly.  Ocan reached out to hug her, resting her head on her good shoulder. Hestar leaned over the table, staring at the cards dumbfoundedly. Laughing, she spoke with heavy sarcasm. 

“Simple. We just have to find a man who is madly in love with me. Shouldn’t be too hard since half the town already has a crush on me.” 

Lulu scoffed, placing her teacup down to rest her hands on her hip. “Honestly, girl! How much of the town have you seduced?” 

Hestar crossed her arms defensively. “I haven’t seduced the town at all! It doesn’t hurt to go out and show a little kindness for business. How else do you think we keep busy during the summer? It’s not my fault they can’t tell the difference between being in love or being polite.” 

Drina dropped her hand to Ocan’s arm, watching Hestar. The pain in Hestar’s eyes was palpable. It was equally painful to witness. Biting sharply at her lip, Drina forced herself not to think about it. Yet Drina couldn’t stop her sharp words from hurling like daggers. Just thinking of Hestar with another man was something she couldn’t handle. 

“Seduction or not; there’s an obsessed lover who wants all of your attention.” 

For the first time, Drina saw real anger in Hestar. Dropping her arms, she shot a disproving glare at her. 

“I’m aware that I’m a notorious flirt. I’m also aware the entire town gossips about my past flings or possible lovers. I’d even been accused of adultery by others.” Hestar took a few steps back from the table, fighting the tears welling up in the corner of her eyes. “But the truth is: I’ve only ever had one lover in this town.”

A hard punch suckered Drina in the gut. Confusion rolled across her face. What? Who? Hestar’s stare lingered a moment longer. Her expression looked as if waiting for Drina to figure the answer out herself. The tears won, rolling down Hestar’s cheek. With a loud tsk, she turned to leave the room. 

Drina pushed out of the chair, breaking through Ocan’s arms. She wanted to reach out to her, say something, or hug her. Instead, she stood there and watched Hestar take off down the hall. Drina frowned. What? Again, she replayed the words in her head. Who was her lover? As far as she knew, the only person Hestar wanted to be with was her.

Lulu growled in frustration. “She means you! Go!”

Whispering Death (part 23)

Ocan and Hestar rushed to Lulu’s side, huffing to catch their breath. Unsure of what was happening, Hestar held Ocan close. 

    “On a scale of one to dangerous, how bad is the thing Drina’s about to do?” Hestar whispered in a hush towards Lulu. 

    Lulu held her hands up in front of her and sighed. “10.”

    Drina stared hard at her cards on the table, then down towards the mutt. Reaching out, she patted him on the head. Although his fur was soft and lush, Drina shuttered at the memory of his form with instant regret. Why on earth did she do that? Was it for comfort? Quickly she turned her attention to the cards and proceeded to flip them.

    The card showed five men facing each other, each holding long sticks. All of them weren’t fighting, but each had an aggressive stance. 

    “Spirit that’s bound to me. I call you forward.”
    With a quick release of her soul-well, Drina’s vision slowly filled with the blue glow from the afterlife. Around her, several ghosts stood outside of the squared-off grid. Each face wore the same horrified expression. They knew what was coming. 

    Flipping the second card quickly, she heard the shrieking call of the beast she had summoned. The second card held a skeleton with long withered hair. On top of its head was a tarnished crown; held high in her hand was a solid ring. Drina felt a shiver of dread. 

A thunderous slam against the ground, shaking the table and chair she sat on. The wall in front of her began to bubble. Black tar slopped unto the floor and crept across the surface, flooding the room around her. The spirits around her transformed into dark shades with wicked smiles that seared with a burning hatred. 

    The beast was close. Drina picked up the fan and flicked it open. Leaving her hand on top of the last card, she didn’t need to guess hard what awaited her. From the center of the tar sprouted a long jagged claw. The light from the sun was bright enough to show its form, if only for a short amount of time. The tar crept quickly to block out the rest. 

    The long, boney arm reached out of the tar and placed its claw against the wall. Long slender horns began to peek through as the second claw emerged.  The horns glinted off the light from its smooth polished surface until the sticky reddish fur covered the base. Slowly the head of the beast pushed out, exposing a giant head. Its black fur was matted with sticky goo, covering any details of the skull, making it difficult to distinguish what thing she was facing. 

    A sudden putrid smell slammed Drina hard, making her gag. Whatever this creature was, it was sickening. Without any more hesitation, she flipped the card over to reveal a long tower on a hill. Several limbs, weapons, and flames reached out of many windows. Along the side of the tower ran a deep jagged crack that lined from the base to the top. It was all she needed to know the monstrosity’s true face. Whoever the beholder was, they were beyond saving. 

    With fierce eyes, Drina stood to face the beast. Her power was not enough to cut ties alone. He was simply the decoy.

    “Where is your master?”

With a swift flick of her fan, Drina poured as much energy into the attack as she could. It flung hard towards the beast and slammed its head backward. Its head snapped with several grotesque pops and crackles. Slivers of bone flew like shrapnel in every direction. Its sticky fur began to tear, the sound echoing in the room as it slid down in tatters. Several pieces hit the floor with a stomach-turning thud. 

Without the coverage of the fur was an exposed horse skull. Its teeth gnarled in every direction, each tooth crowding with different lengths within its mouth. The jaw barely hung on, attached by a few fresh tendons dripping with blood. A wound Drina was convinced had not been caused by her attack.

    Wiping its head with an unnatural speed, it fixed onto Drina with the void-less eye sockets. Deep within its wells ignited a small red bead. The red lights beamed brightly, almost blinding compared to the shadow and darkness filling the room. 

    Drina froze with fear. She had made a grave mistake. She came looking for the form of the spirit who attacked last night only to discover something far worse. Suddenly, something flew out from behind the skulled spirit’s portal. Unexpected pain erupted in Drina’s shoulder, nearly dropping her to her knees. Behind the beast extended a long needle-thin vine. It twisted and slowly slithered out of her shoulder, sending a burning sear throughout her body. Drina cried out as it pulled sharply out with a quick flick the rest of the way. 

Stumbling backward, Drina grabbed at the wound. The blood trickled down over her fingers, triggering a distorted scream. Looking up towards the sound, Drina had nearly forgotten that Hestar and Ocan were watching. Through a thin veil, the black fog around her clouded their shapes. Lulu stood close to the barrier she had created; her face wrote with concern and fear. 

A soft, golden-yellow glow shimmered around her hands that Drina didn’t notice before. Lulu’s small shimmering power extended out towards the white spiraling sphere around her. Drina widened her eyes at the realization; the fog was trapping her in the realm.

Drina shot a glance at Wiggles. He sat there in his burnt form, unmoving as he casually looked at her. Confused, Drina yelled at him.

“Why aren’t you stopping it?”

Wiggles didn’t reply. Instead, he simply walked out of the sphere and sat beside Lulu. The crossover changed his form into a regular mutt, his appearance disappearing along with the others. Drina was dumbfounded. How could he just leave her right at a crucial point?

Slowly it came to her. There isn’t anything they can do.  Looking towards the being, it jarred its head to the side, bone cracking as it did. With wide eyes, Drina dropped her hand to her side. If a demon dog didn’t dare to mess with this sentient, this fared far worse than she realized.  

Closing her eyes, she understood what Wiggles was trying to tell her. Walking towards Lulu, Drina reached her hand out to touch the protective barrier. Her hand passed through unencumbered, allowing her to return to the living realm. Cutting off her soul-well allowed her to break the connection and shatter the spell. 

With a bit of defeat, Drina walked to the corner pouches and kicked each of them away. Everything used in the summoning needed to be severed. Anything to keep the summoned god from entering the living realm.

Whispering Death (part 22)

There was a slight bounce in Drina’s step when she entered the common room. The colorful folds of her wraps swayed with each strut she made towards the counter. Behind her cheerful smirk was a low hum of an upbeat song once sung back home. Ocan could tell she was in good spirits just from the abundant glow on her face. 

    Leaping to her feet, Ocan rushed to her side. Speaking in their mother tongue, she eagerly wanted to know what transpired that morning.
    “Did something good happen?” 

    The playful tone gave away her subtly, one Drina caught right away. Raising her eyebrow, she reached casually for the pot of hot water sitting over a small flame. 

    “Yes. In fact, something absolutely wonderful happened.” 

Ocan gasped with wonder, hooked on Drina’s every word as she poured the water into a cup. After putting in a tea bag and grabbing the handle, she turned to narrow her eyes. “I didn’t die. You still have your sister to take care of you. How lucky.” 

    The look on Ocan’s face made Drina cackle. Her face flatted with absolute disappointment.

“Come on, Lana! We saw you this morning! What happened!?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Nothing happened. We fought demonic spirits that tried to murder us and barely escaped with our lives.”

Drina leaned against the counter and stirred her cup with her pinky. It took everything in her to force the smile away from her cheeks. It was a serious topic that should be met with a serious tone, yet she was unable to. Especially after Hestar walked into the room fresh from a shower. 

Ocan crossed her arms, tired of her sister’s game. “Lie all you want, I know something happened. Besides, I already knew you were in a fight. We helped drag you into the room last night after all the noise.”

The smirk on Drina’s face dropped from the news. “Wait, you saw me last night?”

Ocan softened her face, looking at her sister’s scars on her arms. It was quickly brushed away with a mischievous grin, one she knew very well. “Of course! Lulu helped Hestar clean your wounds. Lulu also took your clothes to repair them. You used too much of your power and were frozen. So it was my idea that Hestar stayed to keep you warm.”

Drina stopped stirring her tea and pierced her lips. Turning her head, she glanced in Lulu’s direction. She caught the sly woman innocently smirking and pretending not to listen while mending her garments. Drina clicked her tongue with irritation. If Ocan and Lulu already knew she was in that condition, why did it feel like she was set up? Lulu may have given them trouble but she was just as evil as Hestar.

“Is that so? Good thing you already knew that I would have been fine either way.”

Ocan giggled at her success. She managed to get under Drina’s skin so flawlessly. Drina could only retort with a scoff, turning back to the counter to place her cup down for a moment. Picking up a small cube of sugar, Drina turned it about in her fingers. Despite what she said, Drina was grateful for the warmth. This was the first time she had ever drained her soul well that much. If she was usually cold, to begin with, how cold was she after nearly depleting her power? The thought that death was closer than anyone realized sobered her. Still looking at the cube, Drina whispered enough that only Ocan could hear.

“Jeta, thank you. I haven’t been a good sister to you, but you’ve been a good one to me.”
    Ocan tsked at her, sneaking under Drina’s arm to hug her. 

“To be honest, I was scared when I saw you.”

Drina bit at her lip in shame. Pulling her sister in close, she kissed her on the top of her head. Drina wanted more than anything to ask for forgiveness and to say she was sorry. She opened her mouth but the words got stuck in her throat. How could she promise not to do it again when she knew that she would break it? After all the mess was cleared away, she would come clean and apologize properly. 

Pushing Ocan away from her side, Drina took the opportunity to flick her on the forehead. It was hard enough to shock Ocan and cause her enough pain to respond with an “ouch”.

“That’s for teasing me.” Drina chuckled softly, picking her cup of tea up to walk away. Ocan dropped her jaw in shock before following behind with a pout. 

Hestar shook her head while watching from the table as it rested on her propped fist. “How is it that no matter what is happening, your language sounds so enthralling.”

Drina tilted her head as she approached the table while Ocan walked around Lulu to sit next to her.

“Have you heard it before?”

“No. Like I’ve said before, it’s not easy to approach travelers. It also didn’t help that Lulu discouraged it.”

The sisters flung their heads toward Lulu with surprise. Drina decided to test her theory. “That’s like calling the kettle black, is it not?”

Lulu dropped her hands with a sigh, placing the stitching aside. Unable to ignore the conversation any longer, she folded her hands neatly in her lap with a motherly stern look. 

“Can you blame me? You of all people, know what our kind is capable of. With your power, is it that surprising?”

Her accent was thick and light, indicating that she had been from the eastern side of the continent. It was a pleasant reminder to Drina of the old country. The melody was smooth like warm honeyed milk. Drina felt homesick from her dialect while at the same time, she completely understood what she meant. It was a harsh truth about her people and their customs. Drina looked down at the table for a moment to reflect on her words. If Hestar was this entranced by Drina, imagine if it was with the wrong type of traveler. Not all of them were gentle, kind souls.

Hestar flipped between Lulu and Drina with curiosity before looking to Ocan. “What did they say?”

Drina shot a warning towards Ocan, hoping she would catch it. Instead, the child leaned in and whispered loudly in her ear.
“Drina asked Lulu permission to date you. Lulu said, ‘what do you have to offer our family’. It’s a custom thing.”

With a scowl, Lulu gruffed at Ocan, sending her into a howl. Drina pinched the bridge of her nose with a shake of her head. Out of the corner of her eye, Drina caught Hestar staring at her with a sigh. Their eyes connected while Lulu continued to reprimand Ocan. 

The kindling fire within Drina sparked once more as the corner of Hestars lips curled into a devilish smile. She bit the front part of her bottom lip, sending the memories of only moments ago to flood her mind. Memories she would never forget. 

A cold wet nose tapped her on the elbow, breaking her from the trance Hestar locked her into. It spooked Drina for a moment until she realized who it came from. Glancing down at the hellhound sitting at her heel, it struck a frightening cord. 

The mutt gave a stern glance, one that served as a warning. It didn’t take much for her to understand what kind. Whipping her head towards the window, Drina inspected the position of the sun. It was nearly past noon and they were running out of time. 

It steeled her emotions like a rock. This needed to come to an end and last night’s events gave Drina a clue where to look. Hestar pushed from her chair and stood close to her side, following her gaze.

“What’s the plan now?”

Drina took a long sip of her tea, placing it down half-finished. It was bitter despite the sugar. Raising her hand in front of her, she stared at her hand. Concentrating on her power, she managed to summon a small swirl of power in her hands. The light blue tendrils licked at her skin with a smokey flicker. Testing her soul well, Drina had recovered fully. 

    Ocan gasped, breaking Drina’s concentration. The smoke dissipated from her hand as she dropped her hand. She hardly noticed when Lulu had stopped punishing her for them to observe her. Could they see it too?

    “When did you learn that?” Ocan spoke with wonder.

    “Last night, while she was protecting me. I saw it too.” Hester replied, staring hard at her hand.

Drina’s eyes widened. How were they able to see the power she could summon? Shaking her head, she dropped the question. Now was not the time to get into it. “As curious as we all are about it, now is not the time to get distracted.” 

    Reaching into the small satchel at her side, Drina pulled out a few items and walked around Hestar to sit in her chair. On the table, she placed a small candle, her deck of cards, and her fan. Opening a pocket deeper within, she pulled out the small bottle of red paint she used during her performance. 

    “Lulu, how safe would you say the protection around the hostel is?”

    The color on Lulu’s face drained with only a small hint of fear in her eyes. Her mouth dropped open while she contemplated Drina’s words. Not waiting for her response, Drina opened the bottle and dipped her finger into it. She began to draw sigils on the back of her hands and wrists. 

    “What are you planning to summon?” Lulu’s usually calm voice cracked, unsure of Drina’s intentions.

    “Is it strong enough?”

    Drina locked eyes with her, brushing the line from her mid-forehead down to the tip of her nose. Lulu’s breath had quickened, understanding what she was asking. Looking between the two girls at her side, Lulu pushed from her chair and dropped her stitching. 

    “Come girls. Help me remove gems from each corner of the house. Ocan, you know the spell, correct?”

    Ocan nodded her head, panic spread across her face from the urgency in Lulu’s voice. She looked to Drina for reassurance before rushing to the common room’s corner. Lulu pulled at Hestar’s arm roughly and began to explain the words she needed to repeat. “You need to say these words exactly as I say them. Say them with me, ‘I’shieal Th’iramal kovi’stur’ …” 

    Lulu’s words were cut off as they left the room. This gave Drina enough time to finish preparing her own spell. Lighting the candle in front, Drina paused to take a deep breath. Releasing her breath, she spoke to Wiggles sitting beside her. “Hope you’re still hungry.”

    Starting her chant, Drina had to do her best to ignore Ocan, who was chanting at the same time. Strengthening her focus, the candle’s flame began to swirl. 

Ocan finished her chant and grabbed a small little satchel tied together with a small twine. Running past Drina towards the door, she slowed down to a stop to watch the candle’s flame spiral and change color. The moment the flame touched the base and snuffed out, she continued down the hall with loud footsteps. 

    Drina blinked her eyes several times while the smoke enveloped her face before glancing at the door. It was the first time Ocan had witnessed the spell. There was a reason she held it hidden from her, but at some point she would need to teach her. Without a doubt, Ocan would remember the chant. Drina sighed heavily with a sinking heart. Once a gypsy held the knowledge of a spell, they would never forget it. 

    Standing up, Drina dipped her finger into the paint once more and drew a sigil on her stomach. This time, it was different. During the seance, she used one for calming. Today, she invoked an old god her mother used to call upon. It was one Drina avoided, knowing there was always a cost. It was also a shame it was the strongest sigil she knew. 

    With one last look at the sigils on her hands and wrists, Drina sat back down. Taking the tarot deck on the table, she shuffled it quickly three times and cut it twice in front of her. The sounds of rushing footsteps down the hall signaled that the barrier was removed completely. 

Glancing towards the door, Drina pulled a card from the left pile and placed it down. Lulu was the first one to walk into the common room out of breath. The other two followed, carrying two satchels each. Lulu stood a few feet from Drina, pointing at the floor around the table as Drina pulled the second card. 

    “Quick, place the pouches in the same corners they were moved from. Try to keep it even.” 

    Drina held her hand over the pile and waited while the girls placed the bags in each corner. Watching Lulu, she saw her lips move subtly to chant the spell around her. A small waiver of energy floated past Drina with a disorienting shock. The two spells had mixed with a disturbing collision of powers. Drina grabbed the edge of the table for support at the sudden lurch in her stomach. 

    “Serves you right. Should have waited.” Lulu’s tone was harsh and her eyes stern with motherly disapproval. 

    Drina frowned, grabbing the last card sharply to place it down with a heavy thud. 

    “How much time do I have?”

    Lulu’s eyes were cold. “Not enough for this.”

    “I’ll never have enough, it seems.”

Whispering Death (part 20)

Hey Raga-rootlings. I just wanted to say thank you so much for reading and supporting me this far. Originally this story was supposed to be short, maybe even like 10 chapters. But here we are! Part 20! It has been a journey for sure! I hope you are all enjoying it as much as I am because we’ve made it past the halfway point and now are nearing the downfall of the series. Hold your buckles and tighten your shoelaces, because it’s going to get dark from here out. Well, sort of. See you all for the next update!

-Turan

_______

Drina was lost. It was not easy to trek across an unknown town, especially at night. Not only was it much bigger than Drina had realized, but filled with several surprises. There were roads to dead-ends and alleyways that back-tracked in the wrong direction. Whoever had built this city needed to get their head checked. Although Drina thought the worst, she could tell by the change in designs of houses that there had been several large expansions from the quick growth. Good for the population of the town, not good for her to navigate back to the hostel. Drina not only had to stop and turn around multiple times, she would need to duck and hide from the spirit as well. Quickly it floated about the streets, passing through walls and buildings with ease. This added an extra challenge of keeping hidden, knowing that at any time, it could pop out and attack her. It had been a while since she had last seen it, giving her a little more confidence. The pendulum spun faster, indicating she was getting close. Tired and weary, Drina took a deep calming breath. Soon she would put an end to the night and make sure Hestar was safe. Then she could rest.

Drina pressed her back against a wall, preparing to walk out from the shadows. Just when she thought she was in the clear, she spotted the spectre floating into view. Biting her lip, she tsked. How was it following her so closely? Once it passed by, she ran across to the adjacent alleyway. Skidding to a stop, she caught her breath as another one on the other side floated into view. Glancing behind her, she knew there was no way it couldn’t have jumped from the other road to get here. Had it broken off into several ghosts or may be called in more? Now she had more to worry about. She could hardly defend herself against one spirit, who knows how she would fair against several.

Kneeling behind a trash bin, Drina closed her eyes and held her fan still until she felt the presence pass. How long could she keep this up? Sooner or later, they would catch wind of her trace and follow it straight to her. And now with several more of them floating about, she was running out of time. Taking a deep breath, she prepared to run. With a quick check to her fan for directions, Drina peeked over the bin to make sure the passing spectral was out of sight before bursting into a full run. No sense in trying to be stealthy anymore.

Running close to the sides, Drina didn’t pause to check around the corners before running down the street. The air in her lungs burned hot, pain erupted all over her chest and legs. Finally, she recognized a building and smiled. At least she was close to somewhere she’d recently been. Hope fueled her, pushing harder through the pain. Her legs were weak and sore already from walking all day in the market. Drina knew if she stopped now, she wouldn’t be able to push on.

Ahead of her Drina spotted Alp’s restaurant, causing her to yell out with relief. She knew where she was now! Running past the building she continued on into the market. Freedom was so close yet still a few blocks away. A fresh wave of renewed energy hit her with a jolt. Homestretch, she thought victoriously. With a sharp turn, she burst into the middle of the street and spotted two spectral ahead. How careless, Drina thought while sliding to a stop. The two beings turned, locking their hollow eyes on her. There was no way to avoid them now. Turning to run the opposite way, she spotted a third coming out from behind a building. They all were aware of her presence now. Drina was going to be surrounded if she wasn’t careful. Stepping backwards she pivoted back down the street she came from, making a sharp right on the first street she could. She didn’t need to look back to feel the beings hot on her trail. They had the upper hand since she was already exhausted. That and they were dead.

Tingles on her spine warned her as she weaved to the left, taking an alleyway to avoid the several blasts that whizzed by her. Drina yelped, coming face to face with another one. The spectral was already prepared, firing a bolt right at her. She ducked in time to avoid it, the heat blasting her from above. Rolling beneath the entity, she sprang back to her feet and bolted. All Drina could do was run. Several more blasts flung past her from behind, hitting the buildings around her in a puff of black smoke and fire. Holding her breath, Drina jumped through it, landing out into the open street market. Pushing herself up, she dodged to the side to avoid another attack. Each bolt was hotter than the other. One mistake or one direct hit and she was done for. Hope filled her while she ran. Not far ahead was the opening of the market intersection. The side of the hostel was in view, meaning she was not too far away. Drina was almost there. The sudden lightness around her made her grin. The spectrals disappeared, leaving her be as she ran. Almost crying out in a chear, it felt like she had won this round. At least until she heard a cry from behind her.

“DRINA!”

Coming to a halt, she turned around in horror to see Hestar running behind her. The spectral didn’t stop their attack on her because she was close to the hostel. They stopped because they found a new target.

“Hestar! Stop!”

Drina cursed, pivoting to rush to her side. The spectres gathered, building their attacks to fire on the unsuspecting girl. Drina wasn’t going to make it. In a fit of fear, she unflipped her fan and threw all her power into it. With a prayer, she closed her eyes. Please, let me save her.

Opening her eyes, she swished it hard in front of her. Blue light sparked, conjure in a flash of swirling light and released as she flicked her wrist. To her surprise, the fan created a powerful current, dispersing the blasts with a blue smoky blade. All the ghosts flew back, clearing from above Hestar. The wind was strong enough to stop Hestar in mid-run. She covered her face to protect against the kicked-up sand from the current.

Drina watched in shock, renewed by the ability she never knew she had. Holding her fan in front of her she laughed.

“I take back calling you a curse!”

Quickly she rushed to Hestar’s side. Concentrating this time, she poured her energy into the fan with a quick burst. Aiming the attack, she swished it directly at two spectators side by side nearest to her. The blast hit them with surprise and flung them into the walls behind them. With a hard impact, it turned them into puffs of black smoke. It dissipated quickly, leaving no trace behind. Drina didn’t know if it was enough to destroy them for good, but it was enough for her. The tingle against her skin warned her once more of an incoming attack. She turned to bat off a bolt coming from the side. Flowing her energy became second nature to her as she connected to her fan. With a backhand swipe, she knocked it to the ground. Even though she had a way to fight the entities, there was no telling for how long.

Grabbing Hestar’s hand, she yanked hard toward the hostal. It was difficult to dodge all the while trying to defend them from bolts at the same time. At least Hestar didn’t fight her from being pulled, pushed and guided through the streets. It must have been a strange sight to behold. Drina powered her fan preemptively, waiting for the next attack when Hestar whispered harshly.

“W-when did you learn to do that?”

It was a bit of a surprise at first Hestar. Could she see the flashes of blue currents releasing from her fan? Drina pulled them out of the way from a blast before releasing her attack on the spirit. It cut the being in half with an otherworldly wail before bursting into a puff of smoke. Drina shot a grin toward Hestar before replying to her. She couldn’t help slather her words with a bit of cockyness in her tone.

“Just now. Seems there are a lot of things I can do on a whim.”

Her heroic moment was cut short when a bolt flew at them. Using less energy, her light blade only deflected a small portion of the attack, allowing the rest through. The small chunk hit her right in the shoulder, causing her to drop her fan with a shriek. Drina dropped to her knee, reaching up to put out the fire around her clothes. A large chunk of her skin was blistering and charred. Unable to move her arm, they were defenceless. Hestar dropped down to see the wound, tears streaming down her face. Looking about she couldn’t see where any of the attacks were coming from. She was terrified.

“Drina! What do we do now?”

Before Drina could respond, several of the entities gathered in front of them slowly. They built a small circle around them, preparing to attack. Thankfully the trusty bark of Wiggles shattered a few of them as he leaped in to save the day. The charred black demon dog leaped out in front of them, his slimy tongue slithering about. He crouched low to the ground and waited for them to attack. There were four beings remaining and gathering energy to attack at once. Hestar held Drina tightly, cheering at Wiggles.

“Good boy, Wiggles!”

Drina watched dumbfoundedly. What was the mutt planning to do? Taking all the attacks at once? Apprehensive, Drina watched the several bolts launch towards them. She thought for sure they were done for, bracing against Hestar. With a crackle, a small ethereal swirl opened in front of Wiggles. His jaw unhinged, opening with a powerful vacuum. It sucked everything in the air in front of him, pulling the flaming balls of fire into the void. Happily, the mutt ate all the attacks, snapping his jaw shut. With a loud gulp, he licked delightfully at his chops.

Drina watched with wide eyes. This beast was horrifying in so many ways. She didn’t know what to think of him anymore after all she had witnessed. With a turn of his head, the mutt nodded at Drina. Without any words, she understood what he meant. It was time to leave.

“Let’s go. Wiggles can take care of this.”

Drina pushed herself up with the help of Hestar, grabbing her fan with her other injured arm.

Hestar smiled, wrapping her arm around Drina for support while they hobbled towards the hostel. “Wiggles, huh? I thought you didn’t like the name.”

“Right now isn’t the time to talk about this. Besides, if you knew what I did, you’d be afraid to upset that dog too.”

Several more spectators began to form around them with dark swirls. This pushed Drina to urge them fast.

“Right now, we need to run.”

Letting go of Drina, Hestar followed her pace. They dodged a few blasts, the doors of the hostel insight. Almost there, Drina chanted in her mind. The distance to the hostal door was within her grasp when the prickles on her skin intensified. Hestar screamed, startling Drina to whip her head back at her.

One of the blasts struck her leg directly, tripping her to the ground. Before Drina could step forward, another blast hit the ground between them. She stumbled backwards to avoid it, wedging distance between. Drina looked over her shoulder towards the door. It was so close, yet she knew they weren’t going to make it at this rate. With several spectators in the sky, Drina looked up with rage. With a cry of agony, she released the last of her soul well at once. Leaping to Hestars side, she picked her up with unearthly strength. Several blasts came at them in a hurry. Drina knew they were panicking. Using her power, she gathered it all in her legs and ran. The sheer force in her push-off crushed the earth beneath her, leaving a small crater behind.

Drina bolted towards the doors. Several attacks launched at them in a flurry, missing Drina as her body glowed with power. With all of her weight, Drina launched her body into the door. The doors busted open with a shower of splinters from the impact. It did nothing to soften the blow from the speed. Hitting the floor with a slide, Drina let out a loud grunt. The wind was knocked out of her making it hard to breathe, but she needed to know they were safe. She turned to the entranceway, holding her breath at the horde of spirits flung themselves after them. The beings’ attacks bounce off an invisible barrier, stunning and deflecting them off. A few even shot at it to no avail. The darkened entranceway lit up, revealing the full moon in the sky beyond. Each of the spectres had flown off into the night.

They made it, they were safe. With that knowledge, Drina collapsed. Her head smacked the floor hard and her world went black.

Whispering Death (part 18)

Daylight was burning away quickly and Drina was losing hope. They spent what little time they had visiting different vendors asking about Marcus, the boy who was saved. Very little information could be said that both Drina and Hestar didn’t already know. Marcus went missing not very long ago before the festival started. Everyone had different theories as to how it could have happened. Some said it was the king’s spies who crept in on their territory while others blamed the gypsies. Few were even bold enough to say Drina was part of the conspiracy. It took a bit of time to calm Hestar down from such comments, her ruffled feathers making Drina smile. Her passion to defend her was admirable, yet they didn’t have time to deal with this. Any arguments caused were only delaying them further. 

The market had slowed down by the time they made their way to the last vendor. It was a younger teen whom Hestar knew. “Hey Kent, where is your dad today?” 

The young lad stiffened at the sight of Hestar walking towards the stand. Kent nearly dropped the food he was serving as the customer reached for it before it could fall. They scoffed at his aloofness, complaining as they walked away. Kent had forgotten all about them at this point.

“H-hestar! It’s good to see you!” Kent checked his outfit in a rush, wiping his hands on his apron. Clearing his throat to lower his tone, he tried to appear more manly. Drina frowned. His obvious attraction for Hestar was clear as day. The thought of this boy pinning for Hestars attention posed a minor threat to Drina. Her mind knew he was too young and that he held little to no chance, yet she felt the cold nip of jealousy. Glancing towards Hestar, she already seemed aware of his crush. She smiled warmly, waiting for him to finish talking while they reached the counter.

“Oh, uh… Hey there. He’s busy today and left me in charge today. I manned the entire shop alone. Looks like I gained his confidence to be a manager.”

Hestar nodded enthusiastically while she tilted her head. “Oh, that’s impressive. Maybe one day you will take over the business too! Seems like you grew up into a reliable man!”

Kent puffed out his chest at Hester’s compliment, almost making Drina scoff aloud. Was he that gullible? Hestar gave him a wink, then promptly introduced Drina. 

“You may have heard of my friend here already, right? She was the one who did the seance at the festival and saved Marcus.”

The boy’s face faltered a bit while Hestar continued, “Drina and I were wondering if you knew anything about him at all.”

“Uh.. sure. I know Marcus. He’s my friend. I wouldn’t say he was a close friend, but we talked often.”

Any previous feelings Drina had against this kid dispersed. Right away she was on the attack, eager to learn more about their relationship. “What did you two often talk about?” 

Kent suddenly crossed his arms bashful. “Nothing important, just like… you know … girl stuff. He mostly was bragging about a girl we like, saying he was going to date her first because he was older than me.” His face burned brightly as he avoided looking at Hestar. 

Drina frowned even deeper. “Do you know anything about his disappearance?”

Kent widened his eyes at the question. “N-No, I don’t. He just sorta went missing one day. At first, I thought he might have asked H-.. the girl we like out first, but when I saw her walking alone, I thought he stopped coming by because he got rejected or something.”

Drina leaned in over the counter, peering at him with intensity. “Why would you think that?”

Kent took a step back into the wall of his stall, intimidated by Drina’s aggressive questions. Hestar reached her hand out and touched Drina’s arm, frowning at her. “Don’t mind my friend here Kent. She’s a little overly concerned; we all are.”

Lightening her smile towards Kent, she asked him the question. Gentler than Drina had. “Why would you think the reason was the girl?”

Drina took a step back from the counter, allowing Hestar to take over. Kent relaxed and took a moment before he sighed. 

“Marcus came here to brag again the day before he went missing. Told me he was going to ask her out and that he was going to prove how big of a man he was. He wasn’t quiet about it either. I told him he was just full of it and he got angry with me. He left and then a few days went by where he didn’t come around. I… I didn’t think much of it. The reason dad isn’t here today is that he’s with Marcus’ family. They are really good friends and so he went to help them out as much as he could.”

Hestar lightened up, this time eager for his answer. “What did they find out? Did your dad tell you?”

Kent shook his head. “All he told me was that Marcus doesn’t remember anything. He doesn’t remember anyone at all. Claims he has amnesia.”

Drina’s heart sank. Turning her attention to Hestar, she could tell she felt the same. 

“Thank you, for letting us know kent.” Hestar reached into her pocket and pulled out a pouch of coins, “Here, in case you didn’t make much in tips. Treat yourself to something tasty, ok? And don’t forget to close up proper or your dad won’t let you run the shop again.” 

Kent took the coins with a little shock, nodding his head feverishly at her request. Hestar blew him a kiss before turning to walk away. Drina couldn’t help but shake her head at her with astonishment. With one last look towards Kent, his hand still hung in the air unmoving, Drina turned to follow Hestar. 

Falling in close to her side, Drina nudged her. “How can you be so shameless? Poor kid.”

Hestar stuck her tongue out a little. “What? I can’t have a little fun once in a while?” 

“With a lovesick boy? I would say you are being mean.” Drina sighed with disappointment. “What I don’t understand is how any of that relates to Marcus going missing. Bragging about being in love with you and asking you out? Should I worry about the competition?”

Hestar burst out into a laugh, peeking to make sure they were out of view from Kent before linking her arm with Drina’s. “Competition? Naw, no one stands a chance with me in this town while you’re around.”

Drina fought a smile that won the corners of her mouth as Hestar continued to tease her. “Also, I couldn’t help notice how much you grilled Kent. Was someone a little jealous?”

“Jealous?” Drina feigned ignorance, “I have no idea what you are talking about. How could I be jealous of a kid who’s in love with you? Who even said I was in love with you. I’m a poor traveler in the hands of a gentlewoman who’s showing me around town.”

Hestar giggled. “Oh, so I guess it was my imagination. Pity. I adored you too.”

With a hearty laugh, the girls walked down the street towards the hostel. With nothing else to do, Drina hoped that after a good night’s rest, they could get an early start in the morning. Although something bothered her deeply about the news Kent shared with them. Why would someone kidnap a young kid like that? There was no way it could have been a coincidence. Drina rolled the thought around her tongue before clicking her tongue. 

“Hestar, do you know anything about anyone disappearing in the past?”

With a frown, she shook her head. “To be fair, we have a lot of traffic and transient people. Anyone who stayed at the hostel didn’t usually stay for long. I also never got close to anyone in town aside from those at the market. Even then, I’m a regular customer to them, nothing more. I don’t go out to the pubs much either.”

“But you’re adored by so many people here. Every vendor and shopkeeper brighten up when they see you.”

Hestar psshed, “All because they know I bring coin and business to their doors. Nothing more than that. The only person I have close to me is Lulu. She is like a mother to me. Gave me purpose in this town. I just do what I can to help the hostel and put all my time into that.”

They walked a moment in silence when finally Hestar stared back deeply into Drina’s eyes. “Do you think once we solve this mystery, that you may stay here at the hostel? With me?”

Drina’s heart skipped a beat. Could she possibly see a future with her here in this town? Drina broke into a grand smile, unable to hide her excitement at the possibility. 

“You’ll have to convince Ocen. She’s keen on leaving as soon as we can to catch a ship at the eastern sea out of Castromnia.” Drina bit at her lip, unable to finish her sentence without being giddy. “You know she’s damn near impossible to reason with.” 

Drina felt a sudden pull on her arm, stopping her in her tracks to face Hestar full-on. They stopped in the middle of the empty street as Hestar wrapped her arms around her hips, pulling her in close. 

“Do you think she’ll say yes?” Brushing her nose against Drina’s made it hard to think. Sliding her hand up along Hestar’s neck, Drina chuckled. 

“It’s a high probability. The odds even look good in your favor.”

Drina closed her eyes to lean in for a kiss when a dangerous tingle trickled up her spine. Shooting her eyes wide, Drina paused. Where was that feeling coming from? It felt the same as before as if someone was watching them and they weren’t happy about it either. This triggered an idea. Drina broke from Hestar’s embrace and grabbed her hand tightly. Pulling her down the street Drina scanned the sides of the road looking to find the alley they shared a kiss in before. 

“ Drina… What are you…”

Drina remembered that feeling from before. She stopped short in front of the alleyway entrance, recognizing the surroundings. With a quick glance around, the coast was clear from any followers. Drina pulled Hestar into the darkness. Hestar raised an eyebrow with a knowing smile. “Wow, can’t wait to get your lips all over me, huh?” 

Drina pushed Hestar against the wall, her confidence based only on her suspicion. This might be the best way to draw out the spectator watching. “More than you know.”

Pressing against her body, Drina dove in for a steamy kiss unhindered. Releasing the grip on her energy, she tried to keep her attention on any malicious presence. All the while trying to keep up with Hestar’s tension. It was much harder in practice than she thought. Hestar’s tongue explored her mouth thoroughly, her hands taking part in the excursion. The feeling of her hand against Drina’s exposed skin sent shivers throughout her core. 

On second thought, this was a bad idea. Drina groaned into Hestar’s mouth, unsure how to slow the spiraling train of pleasure she started. All she needed was to replicate the same response they got last time and she could follow it. Wherever the spirit lingered, the owner wasn’t going to be far behind. The only issue other than the one at hand was that Drina didn’t know any spells to attack, only to protect herself. The best thing she could do was activate her powers, and quick at this rate. Hestar’s hands weren’t going to wait, and Drina’s will was breaking. Taking a steady breath, Drina began to channel her power towards her eyes while she moved her hands along Hestar’s body. 

It was a challenge to focus, especially since Drina had never had to control her power alongside a second task. She thought she had it balanced when Hestar proved her wrong. Breaking from their kiss Hestar nibbled along her neck. Growling, Drina braced herself by planting both her hands against the wall behind her. Opening her eyes, Drina could see her breath in the air. The way her energy chilled the air was drastic. Hestar paused at the base of her neck, feeling the sudden change in the air.

“Are you ok?”

She pulled Drina’s face to hers, spotting the change in her eyes. It must have been working. Drina clasped her hand over the top of hers, whispering weakly. 

“Don’t stop.”

As much as Drina was struggling, they needed to keep going. It was taking much longer than she expected for a reaction and it almost made her doubt there was even a stalker. Hestar smiled wickedly, unaware of her hidden agenda: use them both as bait. 

“Need me to take the lead then?” Her voice was laced with allure, although Drina didn’t quite understand what she meant. Drina spoke with an absent nod. 

“Yes.”

Hestar grinned, pushing Drina off her and flipping them around. The sudden change surprised her, and even more so when Hestar grabbed her leg. With a firm grip, she held Drina’s leg against her hip. It took Drina a moment to realize what she had agreed to. Oh! She meant ‘take the lead’ as in… sexual lead…

Drina swallowed hard while Hestar traced her hand along her side. From the side, she then brushed her fingertips along the inside of her beltline. Chanting internally, Drina kept eye contact with Hestar while focusing her power. The world shifted to the hazy film, giving shape back to the ghosts that floated about them. Hestar pressed in close to give her a tender kiss, all the while her hand snuck down into her clothes. For the first time in Drina’s life, she was praying for the ghost to show up. What was taking so long? This wasn’t how she wanted to spend her first night with Hestar! 

Prepared for Hestars sweet slender fingers to invade, Drina finally felt the small prickle against her skin. In an instant, it flared from a small trickle to a bursting loud blast as the stalker had finally spotted them. 

With a heavy sigh of relief and fear, Drina shoved Hestar hard into the other side of the alleyway wall. Within the confusion, Drina turned towards the dark alley and whispered darkly. 

“Run.”

Whispering Death (part 17)

Holding the fan out towards the restaurant owner Alps, Drina watched as he sank into the seat across from her. The spirits puffed out from under him like dandelion seeds scattering from wind, then began to dance around in the sky around them. The air grew a little colder as She began to concentrate her energy into her heirloom. Alps crossed his arms and tapped his chin unsure. 

“If you don’t mind, I need a moment to think.”

“Of course,” Drina smiled, “We are in no rush.”

It was a lie, considering Drina was running out of time, but payment was due and she would not take a free meal without offering something in return. Hestar respected her choice, also eager to watch her work with curious eyes. It was not common for Drina to have people watch her, making her a little nervous. However, this was her craft and she knew there would be no mistakes. As they waited, the young women who served them earlier stepped up to the table.

“While he is thinking, do you mind if I ask a question?”

Drina smiled brightly. “Of course, you helped in making this a divine experience so I will offer this as a tip. What is your name?”

“Fiona.”

“Alright, Fiona. What is your question?”

“Will I find true love? I recently broke up with a man I thought I was going to marry.”

    It wasn’t an unusual question and Drina was thankful it was an easy one to answer. “I’m sorry to hear that. Here, please run your finger across and stop when you feel it is right.”

Fiona reached over, following her orders. With a flick of her wrist, Drina popped open the flap she stopped at. It was a good omen, one Drina had seen many times. With a smile she watched the stars of her fan reveal Fiona’s fate. 

    “On the eve of the next full moon, wear your blue dress and sit at the park you favor. There you will meet your future husband. It will be a long road ahead but remember to be patient. Love will wilt if not cherished.”

    Drina closed the fan at the end of her sentence, looking at Fiona. “I hope this will help you.”

    A small crowd from the staff had formed around them to hear her fortune. With smiles they all cheered for Fiona, wishing her luck. It was warming to watch the support they all shared for their friend. Even the customer joined them to listen as he congratulated her. A few others asked if they could also get a reading which Drina was more than willing. It took more time she couldn’t afford, yet it felt right to equally treat them to a question. Finishing the last employee’s question, Drina once again turned back to Alps with her fan at the ready. He sat with his arms crossed for a moment, impressed by her skill.

    “Are you ready for your choice?”

    “Yes. If you could, please read my present and future.”

Drina nodded, holding the fan for him to follow suit as the others, running his fingers along the folds. He ran them hesitantly, unsure where to stop. Alps did three more passes before picking two. Drina popped them out with a reassuring smile. It was not uncommon for folk to be nervous or scared when getting their fortune read. Some don’t like to hear the news if it was anything but good. Taking a look at the fan, Drina felt a sudden lurch. Pulling it away for a moment, she felt her gut drop. Something didn’t feel right. Clearing her throat, she readjusted in her seat and rolled her shoulders to prepare herself. Closing her eyes for a moment she took a deep breath before looking at the fan once more. 

    The moment her eyes met the fan, the lurch was overwhelming. It pulled her into the fan with a swirling tumble. Drina fell into the fan as stars and constellations spiraled around her. The free fall made her sick, nearly causing her to puke. Fighting with all of her might, she stabilized her free fall. Sticking her arms and legs out as far as she could, Drina was able to glide in the air. Beneath her was nothing but void, yet as she continued to fall a cloud began to form. The cloud became a moving picture of blurry figures, disoriented voices and words echoed off into the space around her. There were two people, a man and a woman grieving with heavy sorrow. Drina squinted, trying to focus the vision. Yet, the harder she pushed into the image, the darker the image became. From a dull white light, the background shaded into a heavy gray. 

    It was tainted. Something was blocking her ability to see. Drina closed her arms and legs, driving faster towards the cloud. She needed to see what else it beheld. The vision of the two people swirled into a different image. This time showing only one man who stood at a grave. The face began to sharpen into the shop owner’s face. Alp stood empty in front of the grave, holding flowers. Drina reached out her hand towards the grave. What was the person’s name? The image sharpened yet the name had been crossed out, making it unreadable. She was so close to finding out who had died, yet the vision darkened drastically. All she could see was the grave, the first name blurry as the lines began to break. 

Just a little further, she thought.

Her hand was close to touching the stone. Inches away as the darkness began to surround her. A deep chill sunk into her body, one that she had never experienced before. It clung to her arms and legs, pulling her away from the stone. 

“No!” Drina cried out, fighting to reach the stone for the name. Each inch she fought to gain, the more intense the crushing cold pressed against her. She was unable to breath, tears filling the corners of her eyes. Before she was able to touch the stone, a loud yip deafened her. With a blink, Drina was sitting before her fan. With a gasp for air, she looked around quickly to the people waiting on bated breath. A small wet touch spooked her as she jumped. Looking at the source, the mutt sat patiently at her feet. A small shimmer of his ethereal self shimmered around his physical body, the long tongue slithering around her elbow. 

“What did you see?”

Alps’ voice pulled her back to reality. Taking a breath in, she turned back to him with wide eyes. His concern was plastered across his face. Drina looked towards Hestar to see it mimicking the same expression. Glancing back towards her fan, her hand shook with adrenaline. 

“Uh.. Oh. I-I see…” How was she going to explain the vision she just had? Even she had no idea what it all meant and the news was still very grave. With a heavy sigh. She closed her eyes. She would need to break it to him as best she could. Solemnly, she addressed him. 

“I am sorry. You will face a painful loss of someone you love. It will take you some time to recover and your business will suffer.”

Drina quickly checked the future reading, spotting some good news. 

“But, your suffering will be rewarded. Your business will expand and grow and your family will flourish. You will be blessed with love and a large family.” 

Drina felt as if it wasn’t enough to comfort him. Touching her fan, she touched the image. Infusing a little of her power, the flap next to it opened on its own. A small motion no one else would have noticed. Running her finger down the newly exposed portion of the fan, she gave a warm smile before meeting his eyes. “You will live a full life. Seeing many generations before you pass peacefully in the end.”

Alp sat in silence. His thoughts masked while Drina closed the fan entirely. It was all she could offer him for the bad reading. At least he would only suffer terribly once. The staff all waited for Alp to respond, unsure of how to react to such a reading as well. Drina nodded, standing to her feet. She would leave him to contemplate the meaning himself. With a slight bow, she turned from the table and took her leave. Hestar stood, awkward by the silent departure. With a small wave, she turned to follow. They walked a while back to the market, mutt at their side for a while. It was Drina who finally spoke first. 

“What stalls shall we visit next?” 

Hestar perked up quickly, linking her arm within hers. “How about we look at a supplier’s stall. They are bound to know some town gossip there.”

 Drina smirked. She knew Hestar wanted to ask so many questions. It was best they waited until it was less crowded before she would tell her about the vision and what it meant. Glancing down at Wiggles, Drina had a feeling he was protecting her from the same spirit that was trying to kill her. What it had to do with Alp was still a mystery.

Whispering Death (part 12)

Drina let out a long and exhausted sigh, pressing her head against the door to the entrance of the hostel. She couldn’t take any more of this night and just wanted to sleep. Although, the moment she stepped inside the building there was no way Lulu nor Ocan would allow it without answers. It will only be a little longer, she promised herself. If she just ripped the bandaid off quickly seeing them tonight, she could get a few hours of sleep before morning. After all that had happened, she highly doubted they would be able to leave town so easily now. Having to lie low for a while because of the events of the night, Drina planned that once the uprising had washed over, they could leave in peace. All of it was speculation, however, since she needed to speak with everyone inside before a plan could be formulated. No longer did she have full control to just do what they needed to. Ocan had a say and it was time Drina respected it. 

    Holding the handle tightly on the door, she pushed it inwards and prepared herself for the worst. The foyer was empty leaving Drina to suspect that everyone had gathered into the office instead while they waited. Before she could finish turning the corner to the hall, she was ambushed with a wind-knocking hug. Drina grunted at the blow, her body almost giving out as Ocan took the full weight. Her grip was tight and relentless around her hips, tears staining her clothes as Drina wrapped her arms around Ocan. 

    “Lana! I was so scared! I thought you were going to die on stage and I couldn’t do anything to help you!”

    Although Drina was upset that her sister using her real name, it was not the time or place to chastise her. “Ocan. I’m sorry, I am alright. I am glad to see you here safe.”

    Down the hall in the common room entrance stood both Lulu and Hestar. They watched with solemn eyes, waiting until Ocan had calmed down enough to release her death grip around Drina. Even though she was too old to be carried, Drina lifted her sister into her arms. Ocan wrapped her arms around Drina neck, hugging her gently while she held her sister close. Carrying her, she met the other two in the room. Together they head toward the couches, taking one in the far corner. 

    “Are all the guests asleep already?” Drina asked Lulu, adjusting Ocan on her lap.

    Lulu sighed, rubbing at her temple. “There are no guests tonight. In fear of what had happened, most knew you were staying here and left elsewhere. For the better, I think anyway.”

    Drina felt terrible at the news. “I am sorry to scare business away. I didn’t expect…Well I mean, I didn’t know this would happen.”

    Everything was a nightmare. The show ended poorly, the town was buzzing at the news of the missing boy being found, and to top it off, she was losing Lulu business. Closing her eyes, she rested her head against Ocan’s. How could it possibly get any worse? 

    “Lulu, I know that you refuse to take my coin, but is there a way I can repay you for everything you have done for me and Ocan?”

    There was a grumble from the women, her words leaking her frustration yet they were kind. “No, it is fine. How could I possibly take your coin after all the help Ocan has been to me? I will ask that you do something about this mutt though. He is spreading mud all over the place and I generally don’t allow animals to stay inside.”

    Drina shot her eyes open. Did she say mutt? No, there was no way. “What are you ta- AAAHHH!” 

    The feeling of a wet nose nudged at her hand, starling her. Her yell spooked Ocan causing her to jump, hitting her head against Drina’s face. The chain reaction caused both of the girls to grab at the collided parts of their body while the mutt jumped up in an attempt to sit on both their laps. Lulu sat back unamused at the sudden chaos unfurling before her while Hestar desperately tried to hold her laughter in. Dealing with both Ocan and the mutt on her lap, Drina lost her temper. She was far too tired to deal with all that was going on and shoved both of them off her lap. The dog landed on the floor while Ocan slid off to the side of her on the couch with a giggle. Standing up, she growled at the mutt. 

    “What are you doing here?! Go home!”

    Waving her hand towards the door, the mutt sat down instead, tilting its head. Ocan grumbled loudly in discontent. “Awwwweee. Can’t we keep him?”

    Drina pivoted around to face the group. “No! We can’t keep him! He is not ours! Besides, do you even know what this beast is?!” 

    Hestar spoke up, crossing her arms in defense. “Hey now, that is cruel! This dog followed us after you left the stage and never left Ocan’s side.” 

    The news was not any more comforting to Drina since she knew what it truly was. Glancing between Hestar and Ocan, they both wore puppy eyes that were hard to argue against.  “Wha….”
    She looked to Lulu for support instead. Maybe she would help her rid of the hellhound. Instead, all she did was uncross her arms to stand. “He did stay to protect Ocan. If it wants to stay, then you need to deal with it.”

Drina’s jaw dropped at the reply while Ocan cheered alongside Hestar. Palming her face with her hand, it was no use to fight it. “Fine. I will deal with it in the morning. We can talk then too. For now, I desperately need sleep.” 

Throwing her hands into the air, Drina stomped off towards the sleeping area. Hestar called out behind her to stop her. “Maybe stay in the office tonight. Since no one is here, we are going to close the room up. No need for it with so few people around.” 

Drina stopped, turning back towards her. “Wait, where are you going to sleep then?”

A small brief smirk crawled across Hestars face, one that screamed mischief. Intense heat swarmed Drina’s face. Was she going to sleep in the same room with her? It meant that they would be in close proximity without the distance the bunks offered. Once Ocan had fallen asleep, the possibilities were endless to what could happen. The idea of sleeping next to each other, feeling her warmth made her feel faint as her imagination began to wander. It was quickly squashed by Lulu, who knew the trouble Hestar was starting. 

“With me in the back room. You and Ocan will have privacy together. Alone.” 

Ocan broke out into laughter at the sudden disappointment on Drinas face, her dreams crushed in a single second. Flustered that she was caught by her sister, Drina scoffed and flew down the hall. Maybe a good cold shower would calm her, not to mention the smudged makeup, mud, and soot covering her body. She was in need of a good scrub. Heading to the bunk to remove their things, she brought them with her inside the washroom. It was strange to see the place completely empty, the intense calm in such a building made it uncomfortable. It was a good idea to spend the night in a smaller room instead of the larger one, Drina would find it harder to sleep otherwise. She didn’t mind sleeping out in the open when they had been traveling and there were no places to stay, however, it was easier to find secluded spots to shelter from on comers. Staying in such a room without other people made them an easier target to find and attack. 

Shaking off the heebe jeebes, Drina bolted the rest of the way into the washroom. The small room held several stalls, each with curtains to give privacy. A table sat just inside the stalls, far enough to keep from getting wet yet protected from passer byers from thieving while the person was rinsing. Given that no one else was with them, it gave Drina some comfort that she needn’t bring all the things into the cramped stall. Instead, she plunked it on a bench provided in the middle while she began to dig for her things. It was as good a time as any to wash her clothes since they could be hung to dry. Pulling out two bars of soap, a clean change of clothes, and her toothbrush, she set them into a small pile from the rest. 

Placing her hands on her hips in compilation, she glanced at the door while biting at her tongue. For once, there was no reason she needed to rush in and out of the shower. With a smirk, she felt confident to strip out in the open. Removing her wraps, she took time to inspect them as well for wear or tears, dropping them to the floor until she was bare. Before picking the clothes up, she inspected her arms. The red paint had smudged off and the blood was already flaking in chunks. Rubbing at her muscle in her forearm, she thought back to how it must have looked to the crowd at her using her blood to draw the markings. Letting go of her arm, she reached to look at her stomach as well, the sigil distorted with both mud and soot. Climbing through the window of the building also had scratched along her skin, leaving a jagged cut. It was small and would heal quickly leaving her unconcerned. 

Turning to face the wall where a line of mirrors hung, she caught a glimpse of the makeup on her face. The red was worn off, mostly from the use of her protection spell which ate at the color. The fact it had gone clear meant it served its purpose, which was more disturbing than relieving. Her eyeshadow had streaked down her cheeks from tears and sweat, giving her a worn and wrecked look. Scoffing at how terrible she looked, Drina grabbed her clothes and soaps with haste, turning to the stall closest to her. Tossing the bundle to the table, she turned the water on to run, letting it warm up a little first. Feeling the water with her hands, she allowed the water to soak into them, watching as the red began to trickle off and hit the floor. It mixed with the water, leaving a line as it streaked towards the drain.

It was a good thing the pigment was strong, even better it didn’t dye any surface it touched. With all the magical properties it held, it made for the best kind of paint to use for spells and rituals. Not that she knew many in the first place since her specialty was not on the same line as those skills. She only knew those that would protect her or Ocan, if she ever needed to use them. Brushing her hand against her skin, the paint washed off easily. All Drina wanted now was to remove the memory of the day’s events. Making quick work of the soap to her clothes and body, Drina felt refreshed once the water was turned off. Stepping out of the stall, she hung her wet clothes first then began to wrap the clean, dry set around her. They were not colorful like her other pair, made with blacks and shades of brown instead. Drina didn’t like wearing them as much since it reminded her of constantly being surrounded by death. The colors gave her a sense of living, brightening up her day just a little. 

Finishing the first cloth around her torso, she considered the second piece, debating if she should layer more. Looking down at her loose flowing pants and exposed stomach, she bit her lip. Was it worth wearing more clothes since she already had shown so much of her body during the seance? It wasn’t something she commonly practiced, though, with only the women left in the building, she didn’t feel the overwhelming need to be modest. Plus, the way Hestar stared did make her feel attractive. Feeling the fabric between her fingers, she decided to wrap it up again, placing it back into her bag. Maybe she could embrace her physic a little since there was no rush to leave. They would need to keep it low for a while now with all the uprising she had caused. Packing up her things, she left. In the morning she would deal with the hanging clothes so for now, she just wanted to sleep.

Whispering Death (part 8)

The night had dragged out so slowly for Drina, her hands amply dealing out her tarot cards into a simple splay. It was another typical reading, making it harder for her to act neutral. Glancing towards the tent entrance, she hoped that someone would come to release her from her prison in hopes that she could head to the main event soon. Although she was anxious to perform in front of hundreds of people, she also felt insecure and timid. Never in her past had she done anything to the likes of what she was about to do tonight in front of another living being. Any time she had played with her powers in the past was when she had been alone and hidden from eyes to pry. Most of it was spent in the wild forest near her little village. Deep within the thicket, she had made a little hut where no one could find her. Stealing candles and incense, she would then commune with the spirits in hopes to appease them into leaving her be. 

Only after years did she learn to tame her ability, and shortly after her parents had passed that she suppressed it entirely. To boldly state the way she had in front of Mr. Gafrald was only because she grew cocky while putting up a front. Now she needed to put her money where her mouth was. While she read off the fortune to the older lady in front of her, the flap behind her opened and a young boy held his hands up to flash 10 at her. In ten minutes she was to make her way to the main tent in the center of the festival. Giving a small nod in reply, she returned her focus to finish reading quickly. 

“And you will find the man of your dreams. Look in the fall after the last leaf has fallen. I am sure you will know by then. Now I usually take questions, however, my time is up. I am needed on the stage. Will you be attending the performance?”

The women looked offended by her abrupt reading, changing quickly to excitement at the mere mention of the seance. “Oh yes! I have never been to one before. We haven’t had something like this in over 30 years.”

Drina had suspected that the last time someone had been here would have been from her family. They used to travel around before she and Ocan were born. It had stopped after Drina’s ability had become apparent. Still, she offered a smile while standing up to help escort the women out of the tent. “Then I am sure it will be the talk of the town, and you can say you were there.”

They both laughed, although Drina’s had been a well-practiced and rehearsed laugh. After saying it to each and every client of hers, it had become a habit and skit. The moment she stepped past the fabric’s edge, Drina dropped it and quickly turned to gather her things. She had no time to waste and needed to start preparing herself mentally. Pulling out a small mirror within her satchel, she placed it on the table after cleaning up her cards. Next, taking out a small bottle of red paint, she dipped her pinky into the liquid and brushed it on her face. From her mid-forehead to the tip of her nose, the color stood out drastically. Taking a candle from around her, she placed it in front of the mirror. It had been a while since she had practiced the spell of protection and while she stared at the flame she took a shaky breath in. 

Lightly chanting, she watched the flickering of the candle flatten out into a straight point. Unblinking, she continued to stare off into the light, looking past it and through the window of the flame. The color of the flame shifted, the middle of it beginning to darken while the orange circle around it. In a slow counterclockwise motion, it began to spiral, quickening as she began to speed the chant up. Drina’s eyes burned and sweat began to trickle down her temples, yet she persisted. It was nearly complete while the spiral squished into a flat spiral, slowing down as it moved. The moment it had touched the base of where the wick had started, the flame snuffed into a puff of white smoke. 

Blinking several times, Drina stopped chanting and sighed with relief. The smoke had floated slowly towards her, smudging the paint along her nose. Like a white powder, it softened the drastic paint on her nose and gave a soft red taint to her skin. Drina watched the mirror’s reflection of the process, completing her spell once the smoke dissipated. Taking out her eyeliner, she fixed her makeup to give a smokey appearance around her eyes. Although the spell was necessary for not only herself but for everyone else around her, the makeup was mostly for dramatic flare. With another dab of the red paint, she drew sigils on the back of her hands and on her stomach. 

Using the small mirror as she took a few steps back, she adjusted her clothing. Her pants had been loosened to flow more as she stepped, but her top had to be altered more. Taking her wrapping, she removed the portion covering her torso, and instead fastened it to drape down along her back. The sigil needed to be exposed, meaning a whole lot of skin she was not used to uncovering was now available for all to see. Placing her hands on her hips, she groaned in discontent. “Well, at least if it doesn’t work out, I can look good while doing it.”

Kneeling back at the table, she placed everything back into her bag and wrapped it around her to leave. Stepping out from the front of her tent, she took a moment to take in the fresh air and look at the moon as it brightly shone above. She only had a little amount of time left to meet backstage. Thankfully the pathways were barren. Everyone had made their way to the event of the night. Smirking, she walked off with an even pace, not quite in a hurry to arrive on time. Passing by several of the other gypsies and travelers alike, she noticed several of them gaping in awe. Greeting them in a partial bow, they returned the acknowledgement with a smile. It must have been a while since they had seen an outsider from their bands, especially one who was well acquainted with their customs walking amongst them. It gave her a bit of courage to strut with pride. 

A call from behind her shattered that just as quickly as it came, causing her to turn with surprise.

“Drina! Hey!”

Running ahead of Lulu and Hestar towards her was Ocan wearing a bright smile. Mixed emotions flooded her at the sight of them all, especially with the way she was dressed. Anger that Ocan was not in the hostel being protected, fear after the fight they had earlier, worry that her powers would overwhelm her sister all crashed into her as Ocan threw herself into Drina for a hug.

What are you doing here?! You’re supposed to stay out of sight!”

Ocan scoffed in a dismissive way. “I am not going to stay inside while you get to perform! Besides, I miss being able to watch you work.”

The way she sported a pout almost made Drina laugh if she had not been struggling with complex feelings. Looking up at Lulu with an icy glare, she was reprimanded in reply.

“How could you be so cruel? She just wants to support you, as do we all. Don’t be so hard on her. When do you start?”

Drina puffed her cheeks, moping in her defeat. “In just a few. I had to take some time preparing.”

Looking behind Lulu, Drina spotted Hestar ogling her, biting at her lip while she did. The look set Drina’s face on fire, something she had completely forgotten about in the presence of her sister. Suddenly feeling discomfort, she pulled Ocan to stand in front of her to break Hestar’s line of sight. “I, uh, don’t think you should all sit too close. I will warn you now, it will get very chilly quickly.”

Ocan leaned into Drina grinning ear to ear with excitement. “Does that mean I get to watch?”

Huffing angrily, Drina wrapped her arm around Ocan’s neck to pull her along her side, heading back towards the main stage. “It looks like I don’t have much of a choice. But so help me, if you cause Lulu any trouble, it will be you next I will be contacting from the spirit world.”

Ocan laughed, not taking her sister’s threat seriously. They all continued to walk together and in the short window of time Ocan had with her, she spouted all of the things she had done with Lulu back at the hostel. It was as if they had never fought at all, giving Drina comfort knowing that they were ok. Still, she knew she would have to apologize sooner or later, but the contact and conversation calmed her nerves. Maybe this was what she needed all along, was just knowing her sister was nearby. It didn’t completely fix her fimble confidence, however. With the persistent tingling sensation of being watched from behind, Drina had become highly aware of her every move. Casting a glance over her shoulder, she caught Hestar absently checking her out as they walked. Lulu intercepted the look with a motherly warning look, making Drina’s gut drop. Keeping her attention forward like a child who just got caught, Drina could hear Lulu vocally giving Hestar shit.

“Honestly, you two.”

Finally arriving at the tent, Drina paused to kneel in front of Ocan. In a low enough voice where only Ocan could hear, she whispered to her.

“Are you sure you want to be here?”

“Yes. I have never seen you use your power like this. I want to be here for it.”

Drina took a long deliberate exhale while looking at her sister’s face. Reaching into her satchel, she dug around for a crystal and placed it within her hand.

“Listen carefully. If it gets too overwhelming, hold this in your left hand and channel it into the crystal. I can deal with it later for you. If this is not enough..”

Ocan flicked Drina on the forehead, breaking the frown on her face. “Lana, I will be fine. Don’t worry so much about me.”

Drina looked over at Lulu, considering her sister’s words. Hestar watched with confusion yet something in Lulu’s eyes made her wonder. It added further suspicion that Luly nodded with understanding in reply. Puzzled, Drina didn’t get a chance to question Lulu when Ocan pulled her face back to her.

Please be careful.”

Smiling, Drina held her hand, rubbing her thumb against it. “I always am. I love you.”

    “I love you too.” Flipping back to the common tongue, Ocan shouted in a cheer. “Go show these folk what you are capable of!”

    Drina stood up with a laugh, standing back from her sister. Lifting her arms, she motioned at how she looked, slightly turning side to side for Ocan’s approval. “What do you think? Too much?”

    Ocan scanned her, reaching around her to remove the fabric around her that hung down around her back. Grabbing her satchel as well, Ocan slung it around her shoulder, stuffing the extra clothing within it as well. Stepping back she took a second look at Drina’s further exposed midriff. It took everything in her not to catch Hestar or Lulu’s expressions as her sister nodded with a smile. “There. That’s better. You can see the sigil clearly that way.”

    Drina’s face fell as she looked down at her stomach, touching at the bottom of the shirt wrapping. It was separate from the secondary wrap Ocan had just removed. “What are you talking about? It didn’t cover it in the first place.” 

Instead of replying to her, Ocan gave her a wink instead, rushing to stand beside Lulu quickly before Drina could stop her. Clicking her tongue, she leered at Ocan for her slyness while catching her glancing Hestar’s way with a grin. She just wanted to get her to expose more for Hestar’s sake, but there was no more time to argue with her.

Drina turned to Lulu with a sigh. “I’ll meet up with you at the hostel after. I will be a little late collecting my pay for the work tonight.”

Lulu nodded and before Drina could walk off, she spoke up. “Won’t you be cold?”

Drina smirked confidently over her shoulder. “Don’t worry, I won’t feel a thing.”

If there was one thing she knew she could deal with unhindered, was the effects of her own powers. The cold was the least of her worries.

Whispering Death (part 7)

Light traffic flowed along both sides of the stalls within the market. It was a straight street in the middle of town with all sorts of vendors. Despite her hunger growling at her, Drina took her time to peruse the selection. She was not one for impulsive buying and wanted to make sure she was getting the best deal. However, the more she saw, the harder the choice to settle on meals had become. The smell and selections displayed were mouth-watering, several of the stalls displaying juicy meats and steaming vegetables with rice. She had almost made it to the end of the street where she would have to loop back through once more when she spotted Hestar. 

Her heart dropped causing her to turn to the closest stall, attempting to blend alongside a couple while she cast a glance past them. Hestar was sharing a laugh with one of the vendors, picking up fruit as she inspected it. Drina was out of range to hear the conversation they had yet she didn’t need to. Every action Hestar made was clear that she was an extraordinary conversationalist. The way she held herself, the sly smile she offered while making a witty remark. It was all mesmerizing for Drina to watch. A voice broke through her thoughts, drawing her attention back to the stall. 

“Ma’am, are you going to buy it?” 

It had taken Drina several moments to realize she had been holding an item from the table while oogling Hestar. Blushing, she looked back at the table of jewelry, placing the brooch within her hand back onto the table. It was a gaudy flower bejeweled with several glinting gems, one that Drina would never wear in a lifetime. Taking a second look, she spotted a small necklace with a crescent moon. Her thoughts briefly brushed over Ocan’s face as she reached for her coin purse. Taking the necklace, she placed the money on the table in front of the vendor. Overpaying them, she didn’t wait for the change while in pursuit of Hestar who was now moving along to the next table. 

Curiosity ate at her as she watched through the crowd while Hestar moved between each vendor with ease, joking and buying things here and there. It was amazing to see her skills in person even with the random passer byers. How she easily spoke to anyone and everyone with grace inspired Drina. Hiding behind her fortune-telling skills, Drina was at a loss when starting a conversation with a stranger. Why was Hestar interested in her when she could have anyone around her? It hurt just thinking about it, yet Drina had only just met her and shared one kiss. Why would a complete stranger like her think twice about her existence? Drina stopped in the middle of the street at the thought. Was it only because of the fortune that she even considered staying to help save her? Ocan was right, she had been selfish. None of this would have happened if it wasn’t for her whim. 

An ache in her chest made her swallow hard. Right now, all Drina needed to do was focus and complete her contract with the festival. Finding the killer was important so Hestar could live and then they could move on. About to give up on her attraction to Hestar, Drina had completely forgotten to take cover when she turned around to make her way back towards the hostel. Their eyes made contact and Hestar’s face brightened, her smile bigger than any other she had during all the previous exchanges. Drina panicked, turning to her side towards another vendor. This one was a bookstall, holding several racks of leather-bound assorted books. Grabbing the first one she saw, she turned it open to a random page, burying her burning face from Hestar’s eyes. It was already too late since she took her time to approach her. 

Standing beside her, Hestar leaned in close to her ear with a whisper.

“Fancy novels?” 

Running her hand along Drina’s arm, she pressed her body in close against hers while reaching for the book within Drina’s hand. Having the warmth of her body so close, Drina held her breath while shivers ran along her body. There was no resistance as Hestar turned the book to read the cover, causing the blush on Drina’s face to deepen.

“Didn’t take you as a fan of boat structures and history.”

Drina was at her limit of how much more embarrassment she could take. Not having a retort, she closed the book and placed it back on the shelf. Between the connection and her behavior the previous night, she didn’t know what to say. If she could dig her head in the ground, she would take that option. Turning, she broke through Hestars tender touch and made her way through the crowd. It was a mistake to follow her, Drina thought. It was no surprise that Hestar was hot on her heel, catching up to her to wrap her arm around hers. The natural way she did it was almost as if they had done it many times before, or at least she had. 

“Why are you trying to run away? Here you are, stumbling across me at the market where we can spend the day together. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought this was fate.”

It caught her off guard. How would this be considered fate? Pausing their walk Drina turned to face Hestar. It was hard to hold any ounce of confidence with how direct she was. “Meeting you in the market when your job is to drive in business hardly seems like fate. Finding you where there are people seems natural.” 

Hestar slid her arm down to hold her hand as they continued a slow pace through the market. The sound of the crowd was as loud while ghostly spirits began to float around. Drina’s heart was pounding fiercely making it difficult to maintain her composure. Glancing about she worried that people would stare at them, judging them in secret. This had no effect on Hestar, who spoke confidently, unhindered by appearance.

“And you don’t seem like the kind of person to walk through a crowd like this. Was there another reason you were looking for me then?”

Scoffing, Drina stopped them turning towards her. “I wasn’t looking for you. I was… taking a walk and happened to spot you.”

Hestar smirked devilishly, her teasing taking root causing Drina to sigh in mild frustration. This woman, Drina thought as she pinched the bridge of her nose. Calming herself down, Drina pulled them to stand off to the side of the oncoming traffic. Searching for the words, she needed to properly apologize to Hestar for her attitude the previous night. The fact that Hestar still wanted to spend time with her, be alongside her, and even holding her hand made Drina feel even more guilty for her rudeness. 

“Hestar… about last night.”

With a shake of her head and a finger to Drina’s lips, Hestar interrupted her. “No need to apologize. I can be a little pushy sometimes and you have your reasons to be closed off.”

She leaned in towards Drina with honest eyes. “Truth be told, I can’t stop being infatuated with you. When I see something I want, I will do whatever it takes to get it. Lulu told me I needed to give you space, so if I haven’t given you enough distance please let me know.”

Drina dropped her jaw with shock. Had she left to go to the market so early because of her? Although her gut begged to keep her at arm’s length, her heart spoke differently. Drina would be lying to herself and everyone else if she denied her desire to seek out Hestar’s affection. Touching the side of Hestar’s cheek, Drina offered a grin. 

“I guess there is no point in battling it.”

As if on cue, Drina’s stomach rumbled loudly, reminding her of the skipped meal that morning. The surprise on Hestar’s face confirmed that she was able to hear it as well as she broke out into a giggle. Drina joined in, rubbing the back of her head from her awkwardness. 

“Since you know your way around here. How about maybe joining me for a meal?”

Biting her lip, Hestar nodded. “I would love to. Come, I know this amazing little kiosk off the beaten path that is to die for!”

Being led through the crowd, Drina smiled while looking at their interlocked fingers. It brought her a small amount of joy knowing that since they started holding eachothers hands, they had not let go. After grabbing a small meal at the hidden kiosk just behind a few stands, they both took their time walking around to peer at shops. Although Drina had been full from the food, Hestar had taken her to several other vendors with treats and delights, buying her small samples for her to taste. She found it hard to say no, especially since Hestar’s excitement had won the day. Finishing their round, Drina looked to the sun knowing that soon it would be time to head to the tent. Without having to say a word, Hestar seemed to have picked it up as well. They began to walk the path leading both towards the Hostel and the festival grounds. 

Walking in silence, they resumed holding hands while the streets began to pick up in pace. Despite having talked the entire time together, Drina felt at a loss for words. She didn’t want to leave her side just to have to go and sit in a small dim-lit tent. With a heavy sigh, Hestar gave her a sideways glance. With a sudden tug, she dragged Drina into the entrance of a nearby alley. It had happened so quickly that Drina had no time to react and as soon as her back touched the wall, her mouth was invaded. A small sweet tongue had slipped in as they kissed passionately. It was intense while voices exploded around them. Drina quickly wrapped her arms tightly around Hestar, wishing their exchange didn’t have to end. Sadly she knew she needed to let her go, pulling away from their last lingering kiss.

In the darkness of the alley and the piercing volume of the spirits, Drina barely caught the inaudible whisper for her. Watching her lips move, Drina barely caught her words.

“I’ll see you at the festival.”

Drina pushed off the wall to watch as Hestar skipped out of the alleyway. Looking about, she touched her fingers to her lips. It made Drina gitty, licking at her own, the flavor of the kiss still savored in her memory. Taking her time stepping out of the alley, her gaze followed Hestar until she turned the corner out of her view. The spirits surrounded Drina while she dreamily stood in a daze. Some out of the orb-like state they tried to draw her attention towards them. She had hardly been paying attention, batted one out of the way like a hindering fly. There was no way they were going to trample on her parade, yet one managed to yell directly from behind her. The sudden break of the boundary and urgency in their warning pierced the air. Whipping her head back towards the alley, the voice stopped entirely while she scanned around and the empty space. She could have sworn that she felt the presence of someone physical, not including the ghosts. With a small chill up her spine, Drina took off towards her little tent.

Whispering Death (part 6)

A scream surfaced through Drina’s mind. It called out to her causing a spike of anxiety. Reach out into the darkness of her dream, she tried to grab for the invisible hand she knew. Voicelessly she cried out back to the void, panic running a cold chill throughout her body. No matter how far she reached, the voice was locked behind the shroud of endless space. The scream increased in volume the more Drina pushed to reach out, almost to the point of deafening when a jab to her side startled her awake. With a gasp, Drina grabbed the dagger she had under the pillow and wiped it out towards the assailant who had poked her. Stopping the tip inches from her sister’s face, Ocan waited unflinching and unamused. 

Drina dropped the dagger with surprise, the disorientation now fading. It took her a moment to take in the surroundings of the hostel where she remembered that they were staying in. Half rolling over, she wiped at her face realizing she had been panting and sweating in her sleep. Calming herself down, she suppressed her emotions as the subtle whispers quieted down. Did she have a nightmare? Was Ocan here to help calm her down? Taking one final deep breath in, she sat up to look back at her sister. Ocan’s arms were crossed while she waited, her glare just as sharp as the dagger she held to her face. 

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to threaten you in my half state.”

With a deeper frown, Ocan replied only in their native tongue. It was low and quite, meaning only one thing. She was upset at her.

That is not what I’m mad about.”

Staring dumbfoundedly, Drina waited for her to continue. When she didn’t push further, she sighed heavily, pressing the topic. 

If it’s not that, then what?”

Ocan pulled out a small pouch of money and threw it at her sister. It hit Drina hard in the shoulder causing her to grunt at the pain. It took a few seconds to realize it was the money she had used to pay for the meal last night.

How could you be so rude! Lulu has been kind to us and you are being so cold.”

With a controlled breath, Drina closed her eyes to keep from getting angry. “That’s the problem, Jeta! We are getting too comfortable. We can’t get too close to these people.”

“She is a good person! Lulu has fed us and is taking care of me while you are working at the festival. She only wants to help us.” 

Drina dropped the coin pouch at her side, reaching for the dagger to place back under her pillow. It was true that Lulu had done her a huge favor while she was doing the fortune tellings during the evenings. Ever since they had arrived into this town, Drina had been too lenient. “And that is why I paid her. Service given is a service paid. Once I finish the contract tonight, we are leaving here. It’s not safe to stay-” 

Before she could finish her sentence, Ocan cut her off. “No. You may not trust her, but I do. I’m staying here.”

Without waiting for a reply, Ocan turned and began to walk away. Drina’s pit dropped. What did she just say? Grabbing the coin purse, she leaped off the bunk and rushed to follow.
    “Jeta. Jeta!”

Ocan refused to face her, turning the corner to the front entrance. A small shiver of fear trickled throughout Drina’s body. Breaking into a light jog, she caught up to her sister in the middle of the hall, grabbing her wrist tightly to stop her. Turning Ocan to face her she continued in a hushed whisper, containing her fear in her voice. 

What do you mean you’re staying? We are leaving to head towards the Eastern Sea once we are done here. If we stay too long we’ll-”

Ocan broke the grip she had on her wrist. “We’ll what? Actually be happy? Meet people we like? I see how you look at Hestar and you have been losing control of your powers. We can’t keep running away. You can’t keep running away.”

Drina felt the whispers once more as her blood began to boil. “Running away? I am not running away. We are in danger from those who killed our parents. I am trying to save us!”

Ocan scoffed. “You are just paranoid.”

Drina watched as Ocan turned to continue towards the common room. Flabbergasted by her back talk, she clenched her fist as her body shook from rage. Paranoid? When did she think this? All she wanted was to keep her alive and safe. She did what she had to. Unable to control her powers, she watched as several figures floated about, calling to her as they pleaded for help. Drina couldn’t focus enough to hear their words as she stomped off towards Ocan. Unsure how many people were around them, Drina grabbed painfully at the back of Ocan’s neck to drag her to the back office where Lulu sat. Throwing Ocan against a small chair, Drina slammed the door shut behind them. With all the swirling ghosts and overwhelming wails of their cries, Drina could hardly hear herself think yet she needed to get things set straight. They were not staying another night in the hostel.

Tonight, you are to pack up our things and meet me at the tent on the fairgrounds. We are leaving and that is my final say. You may think I am being paranoid, but you are naive.”

Ocan rubbed at the back of her neck, staring at her with terror. Drina knew she had never been this aggressive with her before, but she needed to be firm. Ocan stammered as she tried to gain the confidence to argue. “What’s the point in leaving tonight. We are in no rush. If you wanted to leave that badly, why not just go now?”

Drina gritted her teeth. “I have to fulfill my end of the bargain. After the seance, we leave.”

Ocan’s eyes teared up as she pushed out of the chair to stand in Drina’s face. 

When you want to selfishly do something, I always have to listen, but when I want to stay you tell me no. You want to leave so badly, then go. I am staying.”

Drina growled, her voice growing stranger with each word she spoke. The volume of her voice was no longer hushed in the thralls of her temper. Out of all the times, Ocan decided to defy her now? “Selfish? You think I wanted this? I am trying to stop fate and you think I am being selfish? Death is on the line!” 

The whispers around her began to echo her words as the otherworldly voices chimed in. The swirls of spirits darkened the room as Ocan coward from Drina. Her eyes began to dart around the room, surprised at the sudden change in Drina’s appearance. Drina had no idea what she was seeing when a sudden hand touched her shoulder. Between being startled and calmed, the room shifted to sudden silence. If not for Lulu’s hand to stabilize her, she would have almost puked at the instant shift of energy. 

“Ok, I think that’s enough out of both of you. You need to calm down and take some time to ground yourself. I understand this is a sibling matter, however, I fear any longer and things will be said and regret will ensue.”

Drina opened her mouth to retort when Lulu placed a firm hand on her hip.

“This can wait until tomorrow. For now, I think you should cool your head before you work tonight. Ocan will stay here and help me around the hostel until then. Besides, the poor girl is shaking.”

It had not occurred to Drina how upset she had caused her sister to be until she looked over to see her sobbing in silence. Closing her mouth, she was sobered by her actions. Releasing her power in full with no control, letting her anger control her emotions, and yelling at her sister all had taken a toll on her. If it was not for the strange power that had calmed her down, who knows what damage she would have wreaked. They still had unsettled matters to discuss, yet before she could continue, Lulu turned her around and shoved her out of the room. With the quick close of the door and the click of the lock behind her, Drina stood in a stupor in the common room. Did she just get shoved out away from her sister? The nerve of her! She stood at the door, clenching her firsts to pound at the door when Drina caught several people in the common room staring with concern. 

Maybe the walk Lulu had suggested was a good idea. Dropping her hands to her side, she awkwardly rocked a moment on her feet before turning to slowly make her way back into the shared bedroom. Picking up her pace to her stuff, she freshened up, changed a few garments then made her way out of the hostel. When she had finally made it a few blocks away from the building, she had slowed down to smack her forehead. What was she thinking! She had nearly endangered Ocan and herself by that stupid argument. Already exhausted, she leaned against the side of the closest building and crossed her arms. This had been the first time they had ever fought. Was it really that important to Ocan that she wanted to stay? Although it wasn’t 100% true that she was being selfless, Drina did want to spend more time with Hestar. 

If only she had not decided to read her fortune, they would have already been on their way out of town and looking for small jobs here and there to save for the trip. At least now, Drina would end up walking out of town with enough coin to pay for a boat ride out of Castromnia and still live comfortably. With a huff, Drina knew there was no turning back now. With her name on the line and Lulu protecting Ocan from herself, they were going to have to stay another night. Looking around her, the roads were quiet with only a few people heading off towards the market. With the entire morning to herself, Drina clicked her tongue. Maybe she could do a little shopping for necessities, and perhaps a trinket to give as an apology to Ocan. Her stomach gave a hungry ripple, reminding her that she still had to eat. Pushing off the wall, she felt the coin purse on her hip and followed the shoppers.