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.

Unobtainable Hope

This one shot was inspired by a dream. It was beautiful and macabre with meaning. I just loved it. When dreams like this happen, I can’t wait to share them and write out the despair for everyone else to feel. It’s not a suspenseful thriller like I usually have, or a mild horror for once. However, to me, it feels like it’s the out-of-reach happiness and uncomfortable. My kind of story.

-Turan


It was dark and cool while the wind blew gently across the enclosed town. Felix sat on the hillside to watch the kites lull about the sky. The dance between wind currents was entrancing. How the string-less kites frolicked about, weaving up, down, around, and through each other. How such free-spirited creatures played whimsically above the bland and boring town was perplexing to her.

Yet, here they were day in and day out. Some came and went, never to return while the others stayed above the town for years in the clouds above. It was a kind of magic Felix admired. Although, it was not a typically shared feeling for the rest of the residents in town.

The town was a cold and sheltered place filled with narrow-minded elders. Their mindset was battered into their minds as young children until they became just as narrow. Felix fought the pressure, wishing for something different. If only she could be as free as the kites.

Despite her wish, she also knew the dangers of being a kite. Glancing down across the town’s roof-tops, Felix spotted the few captured kites. Sadly they pulled at the strings attached to their backs, unable to escape. The wind was less joyful to them, almost painfully so. The captured kites bobbed pitifully with their restraints, lowering close to the ground ever so slowly.

Felix despised the folks for this barbaric practice. Each time a kite was caught and bound to a rope, it would slow them down to a dull float. All the life was sucked out of them and eventually they would collapse to the ground. It was sad to witness.

Standing up with a heavy sigh, Felix brushed at the back of her pants. The night had deepened into a dark gloomy haze, blocking the sight of the playful kites in the sky. Without the sweet visions of freedom, sitting on a cold, mundane hillside no longer had a point.

Making the trek back towards her home, she took one lingering look at the horizon past the fence line. What kind of life lived beyond the barricade?

The sound of a cloth tearing sharply caught her attention nearby. Felix gasped, startled by the sound. Over at the nearby fence line was a faltering kite. Its wing had caught the sharp edge of the fence as it plummeted to the base of the hill.

Without hesitation, Felix ran towards it. It took all her leg power to keep from tumbling down the hill from the slightest stumble. She needed to get to the kite post haste. If someone had seen the kite descend, it would be captured with no remorse. Felix mustn’t allow it to happen.

Breaking past a small line of bushes, Felix scanned the ground for the poor creature. It had landed somewhere in the small park, but with the gloomy haze rolling in, it was hard to see the earthy-toned kite.  Taking a few steps forward, a small voice called out to her.

“Looking for the kite?”

Felix yelped, grabbing at her chest with a shake. Standing not far from her was a girl her age. She wore a small, dark dress with white puffs on the shoulder. Her pale hair was held back with a plain black band, framing her pale face with dark circled eyes. The girl wore a hollow expression, one Felix knew very well. All the townspeople shared the same expression. Felix knew this girl just like she knew every person in town.

She appeared out of nowhere one day much like several others in town. With no way in or out of the fence, it was always a mystery. Felix licked her dried lips, catching her breath and settling her fast-beating heart.

“W-what kite? I didn’t see any. You must be mistaken.”

Felix stammered, turning back to the park to look around desperately. She needed to protect the kite now that Kindrei showed up.  Others would be short to follow. A small flutter of cloth caught Felix’s eye as she started speed walking.

“I know you saw it. You watch the clouds each night on that hillside. The moment it fell, you bolted down here.”

Felix looked over her shoulder nervously with no pause. “You were watching me?”

Kindrei fluttered her eyes with surprise. “W-well, not really. I was walking home when I spotted you.”

Felix chuckled wearily, picking up her pace towards the kite. “So watching me.”

The kite flittered on the ground, trying to take flight. This time it was in clear view to both her and Kindrei. Felix bolted, racing against unknown predators.

“Are you going to string it?!” Kindrei cried out after Felix. Something in her voice made her stop. Panting, she watched the poor creature on the ground attempt to launch off with no success. Determination filled her heart. Someone needs to protect it.

Felix turned, facing Kindrei with a bold puffed chest. “No. I’m going to save it.”

The small glint of emotion behind Kindrei’s eyes was replaced by shock. She stood unmoving, almost frozen from the surprise. Felix took advantage of the moment, finishing the gap between them and the kite. Kneeling beside the creature, Felix hovered her hands over the top of the kite’s body. This was the first time she had seen it up close like this.

The kite’s body was smooth with microfiber scales. From a distance it looked rough like cotton, giving a shirt-like appeal. Upon closer inspection, the shape of the kite mimicked a long koi fish. The fins were long and flowing leaving a trail of long slender strands of cloth. To Felix’s surprise, it had a glossy shine to it. The body was hollow and see-through to allow air to pass easily within. Lowering her hands gingerly towards the kite’s body, she offered a soft hush to the creature

“Shhh, little one. It’s ok. I want to help you.”

Despite her attempt to relax the wounded kite, it panicked worse than before.  It flailed wildly below her hands, trying to escape. With fast reflexes, Felix snatched at its body. Although it was a hallow creature, the structure of the kite was a strong shell. It would not bend no matter how much pressure she applied. Was it made from some kind of magical bone or thin wood paper? It rattled in her hands, unable to fight its way out of Felix’s grasp.

Standing up slowly with her arms at full distance, Felix waited for the creature to settle down. Its fins and tail flicked a few times more before settling into a peaceful flow with the wind. It was incredible how beautiful this creation was. Felix now understood the reason people strove to catch and string the creatures. Holding it close to her body, Felix offered it a small comforting hug.

“It’s ok little fella. You’ll be back into the sky in no time.”

Timid footsteps behind her pulled her attention back to the girl nearby. Felix turned defensively towards Kindrei. With Narrow eyes, she waited apprehensively for an attack. It never came. Instead, she stood still and stared back at her with unreadable eyes.

“Are you going to fight me for it?”

“No.”

Felix relaxed, still keeping her guard. She didn’t trust Kindrei. Yet. Looking down at the koi kite, Kindrei pointed at the body.

“It has a cut in the fabric.”

Felix leaned over the kite to look. The gash was long and jagged. No blood was present since there were no insides. How was she going to fix it? Felix shot her eyes up at Kindrei.

“You wouldn’t happen to know how to fix it would you?”

With equal suspicion, Kindrei tilted her head. “Are you actually going to release it back to the sky?”

“Yes. I think it’s cruel otherwise to keep such a free creature. Why would I want to trap it here?”

“Why would you care so much for it? No one else does.”

Felix got quite mad at her words. “Just because everyone in this town is heartless, doesn’t mean I want to be.”

Stomping past Kindrei, Felix headed home. The small doll-like girl gapped at her a moment before falling in behind her to follow. Felix glanced at her, keeping a steady pace. Just because she held the kite, didn’t mean someone wouldn’t fight her for it. Felix wanted to make it home quickly to hide the poor thing.

“When are you going to release it?”

Felix bit at her lip. She had not thought that far ahead. “In a few days is the wind festival, I’ll release it then. Most people usually show off their stringed kites so no one will question me if I try to throw it to the sky from the hill.”

Kindrei light up. It was strange to see her smile since she had never done so in the past. No one ever did.

“Can I join you too?”

Felix smirked. “Only if you aren’t going to stop me.”

“I can bring a kite, too.”

The more they spoke on their way home, the better Felix felt about the estranged girl. Maybe they could become closer friends. It would be nice to share a secret with someone whom she could trust. Felix could hardly wait for the festival.

The day arrived, blowing fierce winds throughout the town. Dressed and ready, Felix held the repaired kite tightly against her chest. It was a challenge to allow the poor thing to fly about freely in her room without having to bind it down. There was a hook on its back that Felix could have done so, but fear that the string would never come off again dissuaded her.

The hillside came into view alongside Kindrei. She stood in her dress with the white puffy arms. Her hair was in pig-tails this time with a black beret sitting in the middle. Felix frowned. She looked even more like a doll than before.

Running up to her side, they smiled at each other before heading up the hill together. Felix noticed a small kite under Kindrei’s arm. It had several misshapen cube blocks stacked on top of each other in different sizes. Felix had never seen something like it before. Though, there were always strange wild kites of different kinds. You would rarely ever see the same style twice.

At the top of the hill, the wind blew consistently. It was a perfect day to release the koi kite. With one last look at the fish, Felix kissed its cheek.

“Farewell. Fly strong and don’t get caught again.”

The kite only flicked its tail anxiously in response. It wanted to fly free, not stay for goodbyes. Chuckling, Felix gripped its belly tight. With a small run and powerful throw, Felix flung the kite hard into the gust of wind. It took off in a frenzy, swishing hard into the air like water. Without looking back, it floated off into the distance.

Felix shed a small tear, feeling silly at the parting. Turning to Kindrei, she looked at the small kite.

“Your turn. Did you save this one too?”

Kindrei didn’t respond. With a  solemn stare, Kindrei pulled forward the kite. Her distance eyes almost seemed to stare past the kite’s presence. With a weak grip, she tossed the lifeless shell into the wind. It fluttered in the wind a moment before hurtling to the ground off the hillside. Felix gasped.

“Don’t worry, let me help!”

Taking off before Kindrei could reply, she chased the kite to pick it up. It felt strange holding the empty shell. Felix could tell immediately something was off. Refusing to acknowledge it, Felix tried with all her might to throw the kite into the wind. It fell back to the ground with a heavy thud a few feet away.

Felix cried out in frustration. She wasn’t going to give up. Kindrei called out, her voice carrying in the wind after her.

“Stop. It’s not going to fly.”

Felix grabbed the kite once more, this time running hard down the hill.

“Felix! Stop! It’s a flightless kite!”

“Never! I’ll help you get it to fly! It can be free!”

Felix jumped, holding the kite high up in the air above her. It refused to take off, hardly leaving her hand like a rock. Kindrei chased after her, this time yelling angrily.

“It’s not going to work! It’s flightless now!”

Not accepting the truth, Felix ran the full length of the hill down. With one last final leap, Felix cried out with a hard throw. Her tears streamed down her face as she watched the kite land with a thud on the ground before tumbling. Flipping and rolling over herself, Felix fought to flatten herself out on the flat part of the hill.

Cut and bruised, Felix hissed in pain. Kindrei held her skirt up while she ran, stopping short close by. With fists full of her dress, she threw it down in front of her with a huff.

“I told you! It’s Flightless! Once a kite is bound, it will never fly again! Why didn’t you listen to me!”

Felix pushed herself up, wiping the tears from her eyes. Why was Kindrei so angry?

“I thought I could give its freedom back…”

“Stupid! Once someone takes their freedom, they can never return to the sky! They are bound to the ground like humans are!”

Felix stood up, stepping closer to Kindrei. “Listen, I just-“

“No! You are just as blind as the rest of them! You saved one, but you can’t save them all.”

With a turn Kindrei began to stomp off, leaving Felix behind at the hill. With a sudden realization, Felix grabbed at Kindrei’s arm. With a hard tug, she pulled her back.

“W-what are you-” Kindrei’s voice was filled with fear at the sharp tug.

Felix forced Kindrei to turn around and reached out to the middle of her back. Before Kindrei could escape her touch, Felix felt a hard round hoop. Kindrei froze. It all made sense now.

“You… are a flightless kite…”

The howling wind was all that spoke for a long time. Felix dropped her arm to her side and waited patiently. She did not think anything differently of Kindrei. Instead, she adored her more. Finally, Kindrei spoke the silence.

“Stringed kites don’t die when they are bound. They lose their freedom here instead.”

Felix finally understood. They were forever trapped because they could never leave. No one ever could.

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.”

Strike for Power

Writing prompt from the book 5000 writing prompts:  Any person who kills her will inherit her power.

This originally was a writing prompt that turned into a longer story. I have no regrats.

– Turan

________________

Running through the woods, Alex tripped over a stump and rolled across the leaf-covered ground. Dirt and rocks cut and bruised her skin as she tumbled. With a hard groan, Alex pushed herself up. She couldn’t waste a single moment. They were hunting her. 

Wiping the tears off her face, Alex stifled her pain. There was no room for error in her escape. Who knows what power they possessed in return. She pushed herself to her feet, not even bothering to brush herself off. Picking up the pace, Alex forced into a light jog. Her body ached and screamed at her. How long had she been running? Internally she cursed. If only she never killed that stupid boy, she could be free.

It was two weeks ago when she took the shortcut home. It was a small path through the forest beside a small flowing stream. Alex had taken this path every day since starting school, taking it to and from home. It was a beautiful, forgotten, beaten path: overgrown from years of neglect. She had stumbled upon it one day when she was running from her dad. 

He was drunk, yelling at her for something her mother did or didn’t do. Alex couldn’t remember the reason anymore from how often it happened. Since then, she’d explored each pathway and where they led. It was a convenient secret, leading her across town to just about any place she needed to go. It wasn’t long until Alex had each path and section of the forest memorized. 

Even more surprising was how no one ever knew about the connected ways, nor did she bother to tell them. Her biggest fear was that more people would find them, ruining her only solace away from the forsaken town.

Only today, it was the first time she had ever come across something on the path. Alex froze, feeling the adrenaline kick in, chilling her to the core. Should she run back to the school and wait? She never needed a backup plan for this type of situation. 

She shuffled awkwardly. Looking forward and then back down the path to the school, she debated her options. A small yowl caught her off guard. She jumped at the sound. Was it a wounded animal? 

Alex waited a moment longer before clenching her fist tightly with determination. Taking a small breath in, she decided to step forward. Timidly approaching the body, Alex spotted reddish fur, glowing from the flashing sunlight that broke through the tree coverage. It was a fox, a large one to boot.

With more confidence, she rushed to the beast’s side, checking to see if it was still breathing. The fox whimpered at her touch, shivering in fear weakly. It broke Alex’s heart. 

The fox must have been afraid she was a predator. With a soft voice, she stroked its fur gently. “Shh. Don’t be afraid. I won’t hurt you.”

The creature pulled itself up weakly and tried to run away. Right then, Alex spotted the blood-soaked fur on its leg and shoulder. She gasped with concern. Who could have done this to the poor animal? 

Tenderly, Alex slid her arm under the fox’s body and lifted it. The poor creature yipped, struggling against her hold.

“Please, be still. Your hurt, little one. I just want to help you.”

Placing it down again, she touched her fingers to the frightened fox’s cheek, stroking it softly to ease them. The fox’s eyes widened, almost human-like. It panted heavily and stared back at her, scanning her eyes for a moment. Alex continued to rub her finger along the fox’s jaw line. Again Alex reassured the poor mammal. 

“It’s ok. You’ll be safe in my care.”

Her words were enough for the beast to relax. Letting go of its resistance, the fox slumped into her arms. Alex waited a moment before slowly moving her hands towards the fox’s paws. She checked to make sure no bones were protruding or any missing chunks. The fur was matted and dirty, some of it with dried blood. 

Poor thing, Alex thought. Without hesitation, she swooped the fox into her arms tightly and ran. If she could get to her tree house quick enough, she could get provisions for the little one before getting caught. 

Alex prayed that her dad was still out so she could sneak about without being questioned. Time was of the essence. Weaving through and down the path, Alex made quick haste. 

Before she knew it, the view of her backyard was in sight. She slowed down, kneeling behind a bush to quickly scan the house windows. The lights were all off, and there was no movement that she could see. Perfect, she thought with a smirk.

Alex bolted out of the forest to the base of the tree house. There was a small ladder that led to the top. It took a bit of manoeuvring to keep the fox tightly to her chest and ascend the shaking ladder. 

Thankfully the little creature was light that it posed no real difficulty. Reaching the top, however, was the real struggle. Balancing as much as possible, Alex grabbed the latch above to open the trap door. It was a little tricky, but after years of sneaking full arms of food, clothing, and toys from her room, Alex had become a bit of a pro. 

Once she flipped the trap door, she climbed the last few rungs enough to pull herself up, sliding to her bottom first, then brought her feet in before closing the latch. It was a small room; with a small bed in the corner, a battery-operated lamp, a travel-sized oven attracted to a solar panel battery, and a table with books, papers, and pens. From the roof hung a hammock full of clothes, bags of snacks and a few other blankets in case of cold nights. 

Alex placed the poor animal beside her bed and reached for a towel. Grabbing an old shirt, she ripped it into shreds for bandages.

There wasn’t much she had to offer the fox, and there was no fresh water to clean the wounds. Alex reached for a small cushion and placed it under its head. It was all she could offer for comfort until she returned from inside the house. Petting the foxes face, she reassured it. 

“I have to leave you for a moment. You’ll be safe in here. I will come back in a moment with fresh water and supplies to take care of your wounds.”

She knew the animal couldn’t understand her, but it gave her comfort. If she could help it feel at home, it was worthwhile. Grabbing her backpack from a hook on the wall, she swung it on her back and kicked open the trap door. 

With a small jump, Alex skipped a few ladder rungs and descended quickly. Running towards the house on high alert, Alex opened the door silently. 

Without turning on a light, she crouched low and tipped-toe to her bedroom. First, she needed a small blanket and towel. She rolled them up quickly and shoved them into her bag.

Next, she reached the bathroom, pulling out her cellphone to turn on the light. Quickly opening the drawer, she grabbed band-aids, gauze, and soap. There also was a white trash bag roll inside that she ripped off a few bags. It was just for precaution and to throw away what may have been too soiled by the fox’s blood.

Lastly, she headed back to the kitchen. Spotting the clock, she watched the hand strike 7 o’clock. The chime rang as a flash of light crossed the wall. Ducking further, Alex sped to the kitchen pantry. A diesel truck pulled into the driveway, music blaring. It clunked hard, the gears grinding into park to stop. She was running out of time. 

Grabbing several water bottles, Alex shoved them into her bag until full to the brim. With a tight pull on her bag strings, she lifted the bag and booked it to the back door. 

The front door opened when she closed the back, hiding the noise. Ducking behind the door, she could hear the staggering steps of her father. 

Just by the uneven pattern, she could tell he had been drinking. Figures. Alex waited a moment longer as the steps took down the hall towards the bedrooms. She pushed off and ran back to the ladder, climbing it gracefully. Lifting the trapdoor carefully, Alex slid inside the house and closed the door silently. She waited before sitting up with a heavy sigh.

Turning her attention back to the fox, it had drifted into a deep sleep. Hopefully, she was not too late to help the little creature. Setting up the supplies she gathered, she began to work. Pouring water on the small towels, Alex cleaned the blood and dirt away. 

It took time to clear all the wounds and the discolour from the blood. Taking the gauze, Alex pressed them into the open wounds, then wrapped the shreds of t-shirt around the fox’s body to hold them in place. She covered the rest of the injuries on the fox’s legs and neck. 

It looked like whatever was trying to attack the poor animal intended to kill it. What would have happened if Alex decided to pass it by and do nothing? She shuttered at the thought. It was better not to think about it.

Finish dressing the wounds, Alex slumped back, stretching out her legs. She watched the fox sleep peacefully in a deep slumber. She discovered his gender while cleaning his legs and thought now about what to name the little guy. Would it be ok to keep him until he recovered enough to leave on his own? 

Tapping the bottom of her chin, Alex thought for a moment. The fox slept peacefully, curling up into the blanket she wrapped around him after she finished washing his fur. Despite the bandages, he didn’t look to be suffering much. It made her happy. 

Alex had never owned a pet before, and the thought of keeping a secret pet fox from her dad made her giggle mischievously. She would be like the character in a comic she read once, where a girl found a magic rabbit. They got into all sorts of trouble on their adventures. It was one of Alex’s favourite books.

“I know,” Alex rolled to her stomach, crawling in closer to lay beside the sleeping fox, “I will call you Flax. It’s the name of the rabbit in the stories I used to read.”

Giving the small fox a head scratch, Alex smiled. Flax stretched sleepily, flicking his bandaged paw before lazily leaning his head into her hand. Alex giggled. Her head close to his, she whispered in a low voice. 

“I wish I had magic powers, you know? At least then, I could leave here and take care of myself. Leave this terrible house. Leave this awful town. I hate it here.”

Her smile faded. If only she could leave. With a small sigh, Alex closed her eyes. “Will you be my magical sidekick, Flax?”

With that, she drifted off to sleep.

In the morning, she woke up with Flax still sleeping in her hand. He was awake, staring at her, waiting for her to wake up. Never did he complain or cry. Thankfully, Alex had some snacks stored away to feed them both breakfast. She sat on the floor, breaking off small chunks of her granola bar to feed Flax. 

He was feeling much chipper, gleefully taking the small bites to chop down.  After eating, Alex unwrapped the bandages to clean the wounds with fresh gauze. Only, when she pulled them away, there was no sight of any cuts. 

In a bit of confusion, Alex chuckled. “Well, I don’t know if I made the whole thing up or if foxes just heal fast, but you’re all better now.”

Petting the fox behind the ears, she frowned. “Does… this mean I need to let you go free?”

Flax sneezed in response. He looked upset and almost disagreed with her. Alex put her hands on her hip. “What, does that mean you want to stay?”

With a yip, Flax replied. He sat straight, flicking his bushy tail.

“Alright, if you insist. Welcome to Castle El’forte. It’s my home away from home. Cause the real one sucks.”

The alarm on Alex’s phone began to ring, pulling her attention away. “Oh, shoot! I need to get ready for school! Come, let me take you in. Dad’s gone early in the day for work and always comes home late. If I time it right, I never have to see him. He doesn’t bother to seek me out either.”

With that, she offered her shoulder, and Flax hopped on. It was a start of a beautiful relationship. 

Each day Flax would follow her to school, wait on the path until she returned and then they would play until it was time to sneak back up into the tree house. Alex finally found hope, living her days happy alongside Flax. But with everything in Alex’s life, it never lasted.  Two weeks had gone by, and this time when she came out of school towards the path, Flax wasn’t there. Odd, Alex thought, calling out for him a few times.

“Flax? Flax! Where are you hiding?”

Maybe it was a game? Alex scanned about more before taking a few steps into the forest. Could it be a new game he was playing with her? Smiling weakly, she decided to play along. 

“Alright, I guess I am just going to keep heading home! Don’t try to sneak up on me!”

Alex continued, walking for a while, waiting. Nothing came after several minutes, which caused her to worry. Where did he go? 

She stopped to look back towards the school with a frown. Did Flax maybe stay at home today? Facing homeward bound, Alex broke into a hurried jog. There was only one way to find out. 

The forest was a blur when the tree house popped into view. Not wasting time looking for her dad, she dropped her bag to the ground and called out for Flax. Her voice laced with concern and fear. Looking up to the tree house, she climbed the ladder in a rush.  The trap door was unlocked, making it easy for her to pop open.

“Flax, are you-“

All the blood drained from her face. Her body shook with rage as she dropped down the ladder in a frenzy. Racing the back door, she ripped it open and stomped inside. She didn’t have to go far. Sitting on a chair in the kitchen was her dad. His back to her as she stormed in.

“What did you do?”

He was lighting another cigarette, taking his time to reply. He deliberately took a deep breath of the smoke and exhaled, meeting Alex with an indifferent attitude.

“What the hell did you do to all my stuff?!”

Finally, he glanced at Alex. “I cleaned it out.”

Flabbergasted, Alex shook her head. “Cleaned it out?! That was all my stuff! You had no right!”

Her dad slammed his fist against the table. “Don’t tell me what I have a right to do in my own house! With my property! You’ve been wasting your time up there when you are supposed to be living here! Your lucky I haven’t taken a chain saw to the tree to cut it down! You are too old to be playing games! Time to wake up!”

Alex shook with anger. How dare he tell her she needed to wake up. 

“I need to stop playing games? Who’s getting pissed drunk every night and wasting all the money on alcohol? Every day I need to fend for myself because my useless dad-“

Alex felt the dread trickle down her spine at how fast her dad shot out of the chair. His face was menacing. Puffing his chest out, he towered over her. 

“What did you call me? After all, I have done for you? I’ve given a roof over your head.  Even allowed you to spend night after night in that tree house: and for what? This disrespect? I know you think you are so clever. I saw the bags of bloody rags in the trash and the tiffs of fur all over the yard. You are hiding a damn mutt from me! You know the rules around here: no pets allowed! So, from now on, you are no longer allowed up in that tree house, and you’re getting a job to start paying for things around here!”

Alex took several steps back towards the wall as her dad yelled at her. His face was blistering red as spittle flung out at her. Her body did the one thing it could. It turned towards the door and fled. Her dad reached out, grabbing her shirt to pull her back before she could make it. It tore just enough for her to escape his reach. He may have been stronger than her, but she was nimble. 

Opening the door with great force, she managed to slam it into his face. He collided hard with it, falling back to the floor with a roar. Alex didn’t bother looking back, running full force towards the forest. Before she hit the tree line, she heard a yip from Flax. 

Alex whipped her head towards him, spotting him jumping near a different pathway. She pivoted on the spot and bolted in his direction.

“Flax!”

The second she caught up, he turned and led her down the pathway. It was the pathway that took them out of town. Alex’s heart was pounding, her legs weightless. Leaves, twigs and branches flew past her in a blur. All she could see was Flax sprinting like a golden light guiding her. 

Ahead of them was a clearance leading them just outside of the town. Once on the other side, Alex would be clear from the town’s borders and into the wilds. Her spirit soured. Finally, she was leaving this horrible place. 

Reaching the edge of the treeline, Alex almost tripped over Flax. Stopping stiff in his tracks, he paused with focused eyes. Alex collapsed to her knees while panting. “What… what is it… boy?”

She wiped the sweat streaming down her forehead before looking into the clearing. Covering her mouth quickly to mute the startled scream, Alex spotted dark figures out in the opening. They were younger kids calling out, all taunting some being. 

“Here, little weasel! We know you are trying to escape here! No use hiding! Come out and face your fate!”

Alex’s eyes widened. Were they talking about her? How did they know she was trying to escape. A tug on her sleeve made Alex jump. Flax was trying to get her attention, pulling her off the path to the right. His eyes were wide with fear as well. Was Flax scared of the teens as well? 

She had no choice but to follow. Alex did her best to sneak through the thicket. They slowly made their way downwind of the kids before Flax looked back at her. With a nod, Alex understood. They were going to try and run to the other side. It was the only way to freedom. 

Reaching out to Flax, she gave him a soft pat. “We can do it. We are almost free of this place! We’ll start our own adventure.”

It wasn’t a reassuring speech, but it was enough to gear her into the ready. Alex looked across the field, listening carefully for the sounds of the kids in the distance. With a deep breath, she readied herself. “Alright, on the count of three. One, two…, Three!”

Both Alex and Flax bolted from the tree line. The open breeze greeted Alex, cooling her down from the sweat and heat of running. The field was longer than she thought. Just passing the halfway mark, she finally heard the cries of the teenagers. “Look! Over there! There it is! And there is another person with it!”

Alex looked over her shoulder to spot several kids running in their direction. Panic erupted over her, pushing her to run for her life. The last words she heard echoing in her mind rang clear as day.

“What do we do with the other one?”

“Kill them, too.”

Alex glanced down at Flax running ahead of her. He looked at her with terror, sprinting in front of her to lead the way. 

What was going on? Why did they want to kill them?! 

A sharp whistle glanced by her ear suddenly. The noise made her veer off a little from Flax’s path as she tried to dodge whatever it was. A second one flew past as she looked over her shoulder. The kids had enormous slingshots that harnessed to their forearms. One of the kids loaded it up again while running and shot it towards her. Unable to avoid the rock in time, it hit her square in the shoulder. “Ow!”

Stumbling a little, Alex now realized what had caused the wounds to Flax’s body. It wasn’t her they were after; it was him. Flax slowed down, meeting up to her side once more. He couldn’t help her with the pain, only encouraging her to run faster. Alex choked back her tears and focused on the tree line. 

They just needed to outrun them all and hide. On the other side of the wilds, there was a river. If they could get to it, they might have a chance to escape them. “Flax, if we can get to the river, they won’t follow us!”

The fox was more intelligent than he should have been. With a nod, he ran in front again and sped up. They were nearing the wilds quickly when the kids began to slow down. Alex laughed excitedly. “Flax! They slowed down! We might lose them before-“

SNAP. 

The loud crack of a metal machine shot out of the ground ahead of her. Alex slowed down, realizing they ran straight into danger. Traps laid all over. Thankfully Flax was not caught, but he too crocheted low. 

Leaves covered the ground heavily, covering any sights of metal that could glint in the low sunrise. It was the twilight hour, making it nearly impossible to scan for danger. 

Laughter carried from the kids as they walked the rest of the way towards them. They needed to keep moving! Slowly Alex hopped about, avoiding large bundles of potential traps. A few times, Alex saw the teeth of the traps peeking out, but not often enough. Bumping her foot against the edge of one, it slapped, catching the edge of her pant light. Alex cried out, afraid that it would trip her to fall into another one. 

Ripping her pants quickly, she needed to make her way faster. A rock smacked her head with a hard thud. A burst of laughter was short to follow as they all cheered. “Good shot!”

Several loud cracks began to follow closely behind them. Alex looked to catch the kids triggering several traps with sticks, catching ground behind them. What was wrong with these guys? Alex fought from sobbing. 

Looking ahead, she spotted Flax yipping at her. He made it past all the traps and was waiting for her. He moved left to right, attempting to give her directions to weave through the traps. Her eyes were blurry with tears as she stumbled through the landmine field. 

Again a rock hit her hard, this time in the leg, successfully tripping her. As she landed, the rock triggered a trap beside her. The snapping teeth caught her arm, cutting her. 

Thankfully it only caught the outside of her arm and didn’t catch the entire thing. The power of the snap could have broken her bone. There was no way Alex would get out of the field in time to avoid the hunting kids. The taunt of an older boy confirmed her feeling.

“I got you now, you bitch. What kind of powers are you going to give me?”

“Powers? What are-” 

Before she could finish, the boy raised his arm high, holding a knife tightly. It plummeted towards her in slow motion, her body frozen with fear. Is this how I’m going to die? A flash of red flung in front of her, colliding with the boy as it pushed him back. Flax sacrificed himself to save her, biting at the boy’s face and arms. 

The teen cried out, grabbing Flax and throwing him off towards the side. Alex watched in fear, everything slowing down as Flax landed into a trap. The teeth jumped up, snapping into his side. With a horrifying crunch, Alex could hear the deep grunt from her friend.

 Blinding rage took over. Alex grabbed at the ground, picking up a trap by the chain. With a painful roar, she turned towards the offender, flinging the chain towards him with all her might. 

The trap flew in an arch, colliding with the teen’s head, triggering the trap to snap shut. Alex stood stunned, watching the boy gurgled blood from his mouth. His eyes stared at her in disbelief.

It was the first time Alex experienced death firsthand. The body slumped to the grass, lifeless. Alex felt bile in her throat but swallowed it down. 

Running to Flax’s side, she pried the trap open and picked up his weakened body. Holding him close, she glared back at the other kids; they stood speechless. Without a word, she slowly trumped through the rest of the traps and ran into the wilds. 

She didn’t stop for a while until she saw the river. Stumbling over the rocks, she placed Flax’s body down to look at him. He was still alive, barely holding on. Alex sobbed, petting his face. 

“No… Nononono! Don’t die on me, ok? Let me get some water, and I can clean this up for you…”

Pulling off her button-up shirt, she prepared to rip it into strips when a voice stopped her.

“Alex. Don’t.”

Looking down at Flax, Alex blinked in shock. He looked her dead in the eyes, speaking once more.

“Listen. Please. Kill me. Those kids, they won’t stop until they take my powers. I want you to have it instead. If you don’t and I die, it will be devastating to the town. You need to contain it.”

Alex dropped her arms, shaking her head. “Flax? Kill you? No! I didn’t mean to kill the other boy, but kill you? I can’t!”

Flax lifted his head weakly. “You must. Please. Take the rock, and bash it against my head. Do it. Just think, you get to have your wish. You get to have magical powers and leave this place. Like you said you wanted, remember.”

Tears streamed down her cheek as she stroked the top of Flax’s head. Voices in the distance rang as the kids continued to chase them down, accompanied by several adults. One of which Alex recognized instantly. 

Clutching at her heart, Alex closed her eyes tightly. The pain swelled her chest. She didn’t have much choice. She killed someone, and now if caught, she’d be in much worse trouble. Running her hand slowly against the ground, Alex fumbled to grab a rock. Opening her eyes once more, she looked into Flax’s fading eyes. “I love you, Flax.”

“I love you too, Alex.”

Clenching her eyes shut a final time, Alex raised her arm high and struck down against the ground. She did it several times, over and over, until the sickening sound became thuds against other stones. Or at least that’s what she made herself believe. 

Tossing the rock aside, Alex rolled herself to the side, turning her back to the corpse of her friend. The cries of people searching for her echoed close by while she sat. All the things Alex experienced in a short period; losing her closest friend, running away from home, killing the boy? None of this was like her adventure book. All she wanted was a friend, but now she had to do it alone.

“Good bye Flax.”

Pushing herself up, she walked towards the river. Where should she go now? Alex was a wanted person for murdering the boy no matter where she went. All she could do now was run deeper into the wilds. Looking at the ground near the fox’s body, she pondered his words. “Magic powers, huh? Guess I’ll have to find out what they are on my own.”

Stepping into the water, she began her new life.

End.

Whispering Death (part 21)

(Hey Ragarootlings! Apologies for the late post, I’ve been dealing with a lot of personal issues which are getting sorted now. I should resume my regular Wednesday postings again. Without further delay, please enjoy!

-Turan)



Stirring back into the world of consciousness, Drina groaned. Her body was stiff and sore, not to mention overheated. It prickled uncomfortably with pain. Why was she boiling up? The sounds of birds chirping outside the window reminded her of the hostel she was staying at. Quickly Drina established that the source of the heat was coming from someone beside her. With a groggy roll to the side, she grumbled.

Jeta, you are too close again. Move over and give me space.”

Her body ached at the movement which caused her to take a sharp breath in. With a light touch against her arm, Drina felt several bandages wrapped around her shoulder. A vague memory of the night before began to swarm her at once. The attack from the ghosts, her newly awakened power, Wiggles gulping the spirits down with ease. There was so much she needed to process from all the events that transpired. Deep within her thoughts, a sudden hand slid across her chest to pull her close.

“I am starting to pity your sister for having to deal with you as a bedmate. You are a total bed hog, not to mention you yell at her all night.” Hestar’s body connected to her and embraced her tightly. “Is Jeta her real name?”

Drina frowned, furrowing her brow with her eyes still closed. “I am not a bed ho-”

    It took a moment before it dawned on her, the person sharing her bed was not Ocan. It was Hestar. Stiffening, she shot her eyes open and turned to make sure she wasn’t dreaming. Sure enough, Hestar was staring back at her with a smirk. The sun had brightened the room and bounced off the strands of blonde flowing hair that splayed across the pillow they had been sharing. Her soft violet eyes locked with hers threatening to lure her into their depths. Drina felt the heat radiating from her face. Too close! 

In a panic to push herself up, pain erupted all over her body. Drina winced and grabbed at her shoulder with a growl. The soft linen sheets and blanket covering Drina slipped off her chest, exposing her unclothed body. Hestar sat up with a concern, brushing hair out of Drina’s face. 

    “Are you ok? Don’t move so fast. You took a lot of damage fighting yesterday. Some of the burns haven’t healed fully.”

Drina grabbed handfuls of the sheet in front and covered herself. Her voice cracked while she spoke in a harsh whisper, “W-why am I naked?” 

Drina turned to Hestar for answers and got an eye full of her body. Hestar was also unclothed and unhindered by the covers. It was clear her concern was more important than modesty. Drina felt her jaw drop in a stupor. It was the first time seeing a woman she felt attracted to this close and naked.

    “I had to remove your clothes to look at your wounds. You don’t expect me to put you to sleep with dirty cuts and burns so they can get infected, do you?

    Before Drina could break from the spell she was under and reply, a giggle came from the entrance of the room. Standing there was Ocen and Lulu. The timing they both couldn’t have been any worse. Lulu had several clean towels in her arms and dropped them on the bed nearby. Having just entered the room to check on Drina’s wellbeing, she gave a shake of her head. Ocen couldn’t hide her excitement, giggling uncontrollably. Lulu rushed back to the door and shoved her around the corner quickly. Looking back once more, she narrowed her brows. “Honestly girls!”

    Drina felt all the blood drain from her face. Stammering a bit, she finally yelled out after them. “It’s not what it looks like! We didn’t do anything!”

    Hestar broke out into a hearty laugh, unable to help herself. There was nothing Drina could do now to convince her sister that she was not intimate with Hestar, especially after seeing her like this. Hopeless, Drina flopped back against the bed and covered her face with embarrassment. Hestar fought to speak through the last remains of her laughter.

    “Drina, relax. You are right, nothing happened. Last night you were so cold after I removed your clothes and cleaned your wonders. I was worried you were going to die, so I joined you to help warm you up.”

Hestar crawled partially over top of her and grabbed at her hands. With a light pull, she peeled them away from Drina’s face to uncover her lips. Kissing them tenderly before pulling away with a more serious tone. Her voice was barely a whisper.

“In all seriousness, I thought I was going to lose you.” Hestar reached up to Drina’s hair and brushed it away from her face once more. The memory of the night’s events was fresh in her mind. Drina removed the rest of her hands, looking up at Hestar. Because of her power, it was normal for Drina to be as cold as the dead. How easily she had forgotten that no one else would be used to it. It was one of the reasons Ocen slept so close to her while they were out on the road traveling. She too would often worry that Drina would drift off in her sleep and never wake up in the morning. Reaching up to touch Hestar’s face, Drina offered a tender smile.

“Don’t worry, I am here now. We are lucky to still be alive.”

Drina caught the scarring on her arm. With curiosity, she let go of Hestar’s face to inspect it. “What did you do to heal it so quickly?”

“Healing salve. Lulu usually keeps it for things like this. Not that it happens often, but anytime someone shows up at her doors with injuries or wounds, she would tend to them. No questions asked. Now knowing that she is a traveler, it’s really no surprise.”

Drina reached around Hestar to rub her arm, nodding. Everything had made more sense since she learned the truth about Lulu’s past. Ever since the first day they arrived, Drina suspected that Lulu knew more than she let on. Yet at the same time, it wasn’t much of a concern. With a heavy sigh, Drina remembered the fight she had with Ocan in Lulu’s office. She must have known what she was saying in their dialect too. Dropping one hand on Hestar’s back, she used the other one to pinch the bridge of her nose. Drina was ashamed of her behaviour. How could she have been so childish? There was much she needed to correct. The blood-bind contract, saving Hestar, breaking the bind with a vengeful spirit, and apologizing to Ocen. All the wave of embarrassment slammed into her gut, twisting it into a knot. How was she going to apologize to Ocan now after she had seen her naked in bed with Hestar? Too many emotions flooded Drina at once that she couldn’t focus on just one. Instead, she peeked through her fingers towards Hestar. 

There on her side was Hestar shamelessly laying beside her exposed. It took everything in Drina to keep her eyes from drifting from her soft violet eyes peering back. Not that it was any better. The look of adoration shifted quickly into a look of lust. The blood that had drained her face earlier had raced back into her cheeks from the sight. This had become a very dangerous position.

“Well, since you are feeling much better and no one will be disturbing us for some time,” Hestar raise an eyebrow as she adjusted her position closer to Drina’s face. In a small voice that sent a shiver throughout Drina’s spine, she continued. 

“How about we finish what we started in the alley?”

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 16)

Hey Raga-rootlings! I know it’s been a while since the last story update! My computer died and I was struggling to get back up again. Don’t worry though! I was able to get a new computer so I can keep writing and teaching! I can’t promise a constant weekly post just yet, but I will be posting different kinds of stories alongside this one.

To be the first to know about any new changes or updates, come join my discord! The link is posted on my website for more information. I look forward to continuing to post again! See you all around and enjoy the story. 🙂

-Turan

Even though it was Drina’s second time coming to the market, there had been a night and day difference. From silently walking amongst the people to suddenly becoming a celebrity, Drina could hardly get to each stall without being bombarded with fans from the crowd. Some praised her for her work finding the boy, others asked if she could do a reading or reach out to someone from the other side. Hestar did her best to defer many of the requests as politely as possible, her frustration becoming clear as lines began to form behind them as they walked.

    Reaching into her bag, Drina pulled out a hood to wrap around her head. Not that it did her much good since the market had already spotted her. How on earth were they going to search for the killer if they had a mass mob following them. Once word got out there would be no chance of them continuing to investigate if they happened to be part of the crowd and learned of their intentions. Drina needed to come up with something quick, they did not have time to waste so flippantly. Spotting a stack of barrels nearby, an idea came to her. Drina was a performer and the crowd sought a performance. Breaking from Hestars side, she climbed ungracefully on top, nearly losing her balance while raising her arms to address the crowd.

    “May I have your attention. Your attention, please!” 

It was strange to see the street filled with hustle and bustle calm to a dead stop, the people of the town eager for her every word. Whispers even floated around like a wave, the same phrase echoing across the sea of people.

    “Is she going to predict another missing person?”

    It was strangely uncomfortable how the slow creep of words swarmed to and fro amongst the crowd. Drina swallowed hard, unsure how to deter the mass to leave them be. Taking a deep breath, she offered a warm smile, at least as calming as she could muster. With the crowd’s hyperactive attentiveness, it made her feel on edge. 

    “I know you all are hoping for news of those from the other side. Many had been left unanswered and disheartened by the performance last night. I would love nothing more to help and answer your call.” 

    There was a brief pause in Drina’s speech, allowing the townsfolk to brighten up. “But alas, I am unable to meet your demands, for the ghosts rest during the daylight. It would drain my energy much faster to try and drag them from their slumber to communicate.” 

    With a collective cry of disappointment, Drina offered a look of equal emotion of sympathy. One man from the crowd angrily yelled back at her, unaccepting her excuse. “If you can still do it, why not bring a few for now?”

    The irritation Drina felt broke across her face as she turned to face the man. The sympathetic melodic voice was now hardened to match her outward frustration. 

    “How would you like it if I woke you in the dead of night to answer a question? Would you be pleased to answer ‘How are you doing?’ while groggy with sleep?”

    The man felt abashed, hiding his face with shame as the crowd turned to scoff at him. It was funny how the once wanting gang of consumers had turned on the man, siding with her as if they had done so the entire time. Without any further comments, they began to disperse. The flow of the market had returned to its natural state as buying and selling commenced. Meanwhile, Hestar stood silently waiting with her arms crossed and a grin from ear to ear. Drina felt the heat on her ears while climbing down from atop of the barrels. Returning to her side, Drina averted her gaze. “What?”

    “Nothing.” Hestar dropped her arms behind her back, turning to walk at an even pace with Drina. 

    “Nothing my foot. You have that look.” Drina knew there was meaning behind that smirk. Was Hestar making fun of her? Had Drina embarrassed herself while addressing the crowd? Hestar slipped her fingers in along Drina’s hand, clasping them gently together. It made Drina’s heart pound while she glanced over. 

    “Which? The ‘I think you are incredibly clever’ look?”

    The combination of her compliment and holding hands created a roadblock in her mind. Her thoughts and mouth had stopped working as Drina argued with herself. Hestar giggled. 

    “At least your plan worked and we can move around freely. We might need to be a little more careful going forward. You seem to be pretty popular now, it makes a girl like me feel a little threatened.”

    Just knowing that Hestar could feel a little jealous made Drina smile. There was no reason for her to feel that way since Drina had no interest in anyone else. If she had felt otherwise, there would have been no reason for her to continue to fight for her life. 

    “Good thing there are no other girls like you.”

    A sudden idea distracted Drina from seeing Hestars reaction, one that gave her confidence. She was the only one who was currently a target, so that would mean if any spirits were after her, then Drina would be able to spot them right away. A small yip beside her made her jump. Completely forgetting about Wiggles, Drina remembered that he would be able to add extra protection. With Hestar close by and a hellhound as her sidekick, they stood a winning chance. For the first time ever, Drina took a deep breath in and released all her guards. With a small breeze, Drina felt the full rush of all the ghosts floating past her unhindered. The entire market was flooded not only with living beings, but ethereal ones too. 

    Hestar shivered for a moment, breaking Drina’s thoughts with a question. “So… was it true about the ghosts sleeping during the day?”

    It was possible that Hestar felt the presence of the spirits through Drina. She had not realized that by holding her hand, it would have seeped into her as well. It was something she would now have to make sure to avoid doing in the future while making contact with someone. Who knows what dangers would befall someone who was not trained to protect themselves with this kind of power, even if it was borrowed. 

    Offering a mischievous smile, Drina chuckled. “Who needs sleep when they’re dead?”

With a small whisper, Drina spoke in her native tongue. “Keep a lookout for any spirits that linger around a specific person.” 

    The air around the market cooled considerably as they walked among the crowd. Drina glanced over at Hestar a few times to check if she was cold. It seemed something so trivial couldn’t dampen Hestar’s mood as she scanned around for a food cart. 

    “Ah, this way. I know a good place to ask.”

Taking a sharp turn, Hestar led them off the beaten path and down a small street. “Some of the shops park on the outskirts of town. This one is a truly hidden gem even for long-term residence folk.”  

    The crowd thinned quickly as they made their way, exposing a small building with a few seats and tables set up. Drina frowned, how could a small business survive so far away from the main strip? Letting go of their hands, Hestar stepped in front of Drina to wave at the owner. 

    “Hey Alps, got room to spare for two?” 

Drina glanced at the two free tables and open chairs that sat at the bar. Only one person was occupying a seat at the bar. Looks like they have plenty of space, she thought to herself. Alps laughed with a great grin upon seeing Hestar. Lifting his arms, he welcomed her while walking around the counter. 

“Ah! My favorite customer! And who have you brought along this time?” His eyes widened at the sight of Drina. Face dropping he paused as Hestar patted his shoulder.

“I brought a guest staying at the hostel. Thought I would show her around and introduce the finest food you can taste in the country.”

Nervously Alps chuckled at the compliment. It seemed he was very well aware of who Drina was. No surprise there since word spread like a wild grass fire in this town. Drina crossed her arms, standing a bit behind Hestar with a small smile. “Good to meet you, sir. I am very excited to try your menu.”

Alps nodded, looking between the two of them. “Yes, yes… Come come! It would be my pleasure! Having you eat here will boost our clientele once word gets out!”

He quickly brought them to a table close to the bar, eagerly holding out a chair for Drina to sit. Hestar waited for Drina to be seated before taking the seat beside her. It was a strange experience being treated like such a celebrity. Several spirits began to crowd the other side of the table as Alps stood beside them unknowingly. It was hard to pay attention with all of them blobing around in faint see-through lines and balls of light. Some began to swirl around Alps body and head playfully as he began to list off the dishes available. The choices all sounded delicious, although Drina was only half paying attention. She turned to Hestar who was watching her intently with a smile. “I have no problem eating whatever Hestar decides to choose for us.”

With a spark of joy twinkling in her eyes, Hestar ordered promptly. “We’ll take two orders of the usual then with tea.”

Alps nodded, turning to rush behind the bar where his staff stood eavesdropping as close as they could. He whispered harshly at them to get back to work, bringing the small kitchen within the shop to life. With quick work, the food was prepared in no time and served by a younger woman. With a gentle smile, she placed the food in front of them. It was a rice dish topped with a large quantity of sauce with thinly sliced chicken swimming in it. Along with the dish was a plate of large lettuce leaves. Drina was a little confused by the leaves when Hestar grabbed one with a wink. She held the leaf in her hand and used a spoon to scoop a small portion into the leaf. Wrapping it gently, she used it as a shell to eat it. Drina looked at her own plate, following her example. Mixing the rice and sauce, she scooped a small portion and placed it into her lettuce. It seemed everyone was waiting on bated breath as she took her first bite into it. 

Flavors of spices hit her at once and she moaned with delight at the taste. It had been ages since she had eaten something so incredible aside from Lulu’s meals. The workers at the shop were overjoyed as she munched away happily, even Hestar watched her in content, picking at her plate slowly. 

“You still eat as if you have never had a meal in your life.” She teased Drina with a smirk.

Licking at her lips, Drina raised a brow towards her. “You live off of dried lizards for months and see how it feels to eat a dish sent from the heavens. This meal is the best I have ever tasted.” 

A happy cheer came from the staff as they congratulated each other on such a compliment, allowing them to finish the meal in peace. Only after when Drina leaned back with a sigh did Alps return to the table to speak with them. 

“Is there anything else we can help you with today?”

Hestar shook her head. “No, this was amazing as always, Alps. How much do I owe you?”

“Oh, no! Don’t worry about it. On the house.”

Drina frowned at the idea of a free meal. What did she do to earn it? It didn’t sit well with her. “No, please. Let us pay for this meal.”

Alps smiled politely. “It’s alright, I insist!”

Hestar tried to hush Drina as she persisted. “I mean no offence, but I can’t accept a free meal. I have done nothing to earn it. If you won’t accept a coin, may I pay it with reading instead?”
    Dropping his jaw at the offer, Drina reached into her satchel for her fan. Hestar grabbed at her arm, briefly stopping her as she whispered. “Are you sure? Won’t this attract attention?”

Drina grinned. “It’s just a reading, not a seance,” facing Alps, she held the fan in front of her, “Which would you like? A reading of your present and future or an answer to a specific question?”

….to be continued.

Like what you are reading? Check out the other chapters and let the Turnip patch what you think!

Whispering Death (part 13)

“Where is she!” 

    The loud booming voice startled Drina awake from the voidless sleep. Several muffled words were exchanged before another roar of the angry male’s voice could be heard. 

    “I don’t care! I demand to speak with her!”

    A small chill ran along Drina’s spine. Sitting up, she looked beside her to Ocan still lightly snoring away. It must have still been early enough in the day, meaning Drina only got a few hours of sleep. Brushing her hair out of Ocan’s face she listened intently to the commotion. With the rest of the exchange muffled, she could only ascertain the person outside was looking for her. The tone of the male was disgruntled, and Drina assumed it could only be one person. Quietly standing up to keep Ocan asleep, she rushed towards the door and snuck outside. Closing the door behind her, Drina’s suspicions were confirmed as Mr. Gafrald growled. 

“My dealings will only be through Madam Drina and I will not leave until I have spoken to her. Stand aside and let me pass!”

“Well, I am afraid she is unavailable until later. Come back when my doors are open. I do not take kindly to this intrusion and will call for the guards.”

Lulu’s voice was pleasant yet stern, not budging from the persistence received from Mr. Gafrald. The room Drina and Ocan had slept in was just around the wall from the reception desk, hiding her presence from the front foyer. Pressing close to the wall, Drina attempted to sneak forwards to eavesdrop. Only she was not aware the mutt had been just underfoot, stepping on his paw and causing him to yelp. Glaring at the mutt, her cover had been blown. Stepping out and around the corner, Drina came to face the group. Mr. Gafrald was accompanied by two of his henchmen. His face was red from fury and once they made eye contact, he had pierced his lips. Lulu stood off to the side, clasping her hands in front patiently to allow them to speak. Before she could greet her with good mornings, Mr. Gafrald stepped forward.

“What have you done? Here you promise a show like nonother and instead you cause me hundreds of dollars and bring authorities to bombard the festival sight!”

    Drina sighed, crossing her arms lazily in front of her. It was too early for confrontations. 

    “I promised a Seance, you got one. How was I suppose to know there was a kidnapping? I do what my powers ask of me. You know this is the risk from a gypsy. We found the boy and the townsfolk are happy.”

    Gasping from her backtalk, he ground his teeth. Looking to the hound at her feet he pointed accusatory, raising his voice once more. “What about the mutt? You stole property from me!” 

    Unfazed, she waved her hand at him. “Then take him back. I do not want him anyways. It joined me on the stage from its own will. By all means, come claim him for yourself.” 

    Mr. Gafrald hesitated, lowering his hand as he looked to his henchmen. With a furious head tilt towards the animal, he slapped the arm of the closest man with a harsh whisper. 

“Well?! Go grab it!”

Both the henchmen shuffled, unwilling to be the first one to step forward. Drina knew that even though Mr. Gafrald’s threat was real, it was not his choice if the mutt wanted to stay or leave. Clearly by the defensive position the hound took once the man to his left stepped forward, it was clear it did not want to leave just yet. Slowly and timidly he approached the dog, reaching out to grab it by the scruff. With a snap, the hound barked an unearthly sound, snipping at the hand. The henchmen jumped back in fear, almost tripping into Mr. Gafrald at the sudden lurch backward. It was comical to watch the men argue amongst themselves while the mutt sat only a few feet from her. 

“That’s unfortunate. Eventually, it will make its way back once done it’s purpose, I am sure.” Tilting her head smugly, she couldn’t help but gloat. “If there isn’t anything else, I would like to collect my payment later. I will come to your tent at an appropriate time.”

Turning her back to Mr. Gafrald she expected the conversation to end, leaving him defeated to leave with his tail between his legs. Instead, she was greeted with a sinister chuckle before even taking a full step. 

“Oh Madam, your not getting your payment just yet.”

Fear paralyzed her from moving. Was he grasping at straws at the loss of his mutt? No way he could deduct the payment from her since he needed to fulfill his end of the deal. Turning to face him, she felt the blood drain from her face at the sight of the contract paper.  The flattened paper still held the seal unbroken and fully intact. 

“Impossible,” Drina whispered as dread filled her. Indeed he was not lying, the proof in his hands. Pivoting on her heel, she rushed towards him to grab the paper from his hand. Checking the seal first just to make sure, she glared up at Mr. Gafrald. 

“Afraid not, Madam. You failed to uphold your end of the bargain. Go ahead, check it. The seal broken by your hand will not erase the name.”

Unable to hide the terror on her face, Drina looked back to the paper. To her side, she heard Lulu’s words under her breath. “Drina… You didn’t…”

From behind her, Hestar joined in beside Lulu. “What’s going on. Why are these people here?”

Everything was falling apart before Drina. Breaking the seal open, she unraveled the paper. There was no mistake that it was the original the moment she saw her name on the bottom line. Staring at the page, her hands trembled while she tried to make sense of everything. How could she not have completed the contract? She did everything she was supposed to. They agreed to a seance and nothing more, yet how was the paper still here? Once a blood bind was completed, the paper would turn to ash leaving nothing behind. It was a way to know true fulfillment was complete. Until then, she was bound to him. Mr. Gafrald allowed it to sink in before leaning forward, whispering into her ear.

“Whatever ghost you provoked, it is now bound to you. The seance is not complete until you untie the spirit from this plain.” Pulling back, he touched the side of her face, tracing his finger lightly down towards her chin. Gripping it lightly, he tugged Drina to look at him. “Didn’t your mother teach you this?”

His words were venomous, sinking deep into Drina’s skin. Lifting her hand to strike him, a sudden jolt of pain stopped her. Mr. Gafrald took a step back, looking at her hand with confidence. 

“I guess not. With an oath unfulfilled, you are now my property. This is very fortuitous for me. I get two mutts for the price of one.”

Dropping her hand, Drina stared helplessly at the floor. What has she done? How was she going to free herself from his enslavement? Closing her eyes, she accepted her fate. Drina needed to pay the price for her mistake, there was no fighting this. 

“I… I have no choice.”

Hestar broke from Lulu’s side, looking about everyone with teary eyes. “No. You can’t take her!” 

Lulu grabbed firmly at her arm, pulling her back to her side. “They can and will. She made a deal. There is nothing we can do.” 

Unable to understand, Hestar frantically looked from Lulu to Drina, seeing her defeat.

“Drina… No! What about Ocan?!”

Pulling Hestar’s arm hard, Lulu dragged her towards the common room. “Ocan isn’t going. She isn’t bound by the contract. She can stay here until Drina serves her contract out.” 

Drina felt the cold icy stab of Lulu’s words hit her heart. All she wanted to do was protect Ocan and instead, she let herself become a slave. The pain hurt worse at the small meek sound of her sister’s voice calling out from behind her.

“Why are they taking her? Lana where are you going!?” Lulu ran to stop Ocan from running to Drina’s side, grabbing her around the waist while still holding strong to Hestar. 

“Hush girl! Don’t make this worse for her!”

Mr. Gafrald laughed humorlessly. “Lana is it? Such a display. Let’s be off, the money lost isn’t going to recover itself.”

He turned towards the door as a sharp tug pulled like an invisible string on her chest, pain crushing at her heart. It was a tether that locked her to him, making it impossible to fight unless she chose death. Opening her eyes, she could only follow. The sounds of sobbing behind her from Ocan and Hestar caused a separate kind of pain to swallow her chest. There had to be a way to finish the contract without being taken slave until the spirit’s bound was broken. An idea slammed her hard, causing her to gasp out loud. Stopping in her tracks she felt the crushing of her heart tighten from the short distance placed between her and Mr. Gafrald

“Wait.” 

It was enough for him to stop and slowly turn to glance back at her with irritation. 

“Let’s make a deal.”

Mr. Gafrald stroked at his chin. “Why would I make another deal with you when you currently already have one broken?”

Drina swallowed hard, knowing it was not going to be an easy persuasion. “Call it a contract amendment.”

With a cold stare, he considered for a moment. “Alright, I will listen.”

“After the full moon, the full effects of the vail weakening still lasts for the next few days. Give me three days to break the bond with the spirit and fulfill the contract.”

Mr. Gafrald scoffed. “And what do I gain out of this?”

“You keep the money I made and take credit for helping dispatch a plaguing specter. Saying it was all your idea and that you take responsibility for assisting in abolishing such a hindering force will repair your reputation and gain you more respect. Think of the fame it will bring your band for being so honorable. Not to mention removing all suspicion that you may have caused it just for profit.”

Looking to his henchmen, he squinted out of the corner of his eyes at her, still unconvinced. “And if you don’t manage to finish in three days?”

Drina sighed heavily. “Then I serve out my term for 5 years as your slave willingly. It will be more than enough to pay back the dues lost and tenfold. My power is for you to use and profit. And at the end of the service, I leave empty-handed. Nothing gained and nothing lost.” 

“Lana, don’t!” Ocan screamed out before her mouth was covered by Lulu’s hand.

Mr. Gafrald weighed the options carefully, taking calculated steps forward until he was inches from her face. Extending his hand in front of her, he held her gaze. 

“Deal.”

Rolling the contract up once more, she placed it into his hand. The moment the paper touched his hand, the pressure around her heart released. With an unhindered breath, Drina inhaled deeply. Leaving the contract in her hands, Mr. Gafrald stormed out of the building, his henchmen heavy on his trail. Safely knowing he was not coming back, Drina’s legs gave out as she crumpled to the floor.