Whispering Death (part 19)

It was here. Finally, Drina could identify the culprit. She saw the dark void engulf the other side of the alleyway. The outline of a man stood behind the entity, masking their true identity. This made it hard to even spot distinctive features. Crossing her arms in front of her, Drina focused all her power to branch out into them in an attempt to create a shield. A blast launched towards her faster than she anticipated. The small shield she created shattered on impact. A second blast lanched seconds after, leaving no time for her to recover. Unable to avoid the bolt, the impact flung her back a few inches. It took everything in her to keep her balance, her feet sliding several inches out closer to the main street. Hestar screamed out to her, frozen against the wall in fear while she watched. The force of the bolt knocked the wind out of Drinay leaving her unable to warn Hestar a second time to run.  

    There was no way Hestar could see the spirit, never mind the man standing at the other end due to the lighting. With how hard the spirit could attack a living being, Hestar was in danger. The spirit slowly made its way down the small corridor towards them. Its hands raised gathering more energy, this time Drina could see it spiralling into form. Gasping hard for air, Drina crossed her arms once more to prepare for another blast. With a small burst of her soul-well, she created an ethereal shield to protect her. It wasn’t large enough to surround her but at least a direct hit would deflect any damage the entity threw at her. Sure enough, the spirit swiped its arm out in front and hurled another blast towards her. Drina was ready this time.

Pushing to her knees, she braced her fragile shield with all her might. The slam was stronger than the last, negative emotion wove deep into the bolt. Drina’s shield dissolved around from the residual fierce emotion. Holes burned through her protection as it ate outwards. Small cinders flaked from the shield floating off like ash. Anger, Drina realized. The master of this spirit was furious and the entity fed off it. Flakes of the burning rage hit her skin, burning her skin like a hot iron poker fresh from the fire. Drina cried out at the sudden pain, dropping her arms to the ground. The small burns flared into small blisters within seconds. It was enough to make Drina shake in fear.

Hestar saw the burns and leap from the wall towards her. Unsure how to help or what to do, she grabbed at Drina’s shoulder to pull her up from the ground.

“Get up. Please, Drina get up!”

Drina grimaced, grabbing at Hestar to accept the help. The spectral ghost closed in towards them as she wobbled to her feet. There was no way Drina would be able to conjure a shield in time to protect them both. Especially since the blasts were lethal with passionate anger embedded. Whoever controlled this being was pissed and had a death wish for Drina’s interference. Frantically looking about, she looked for Wiggles. Where was the mutt? Did he leave while they were making out? Cursing out loud, she called out to the beast.

Leg’halim! Mutt, where the hell are you?!”

 Turning around, Drina pulled Hestar out into the street and ran. Not letting go of her hand, Drina knew they would be safe at the hostel. If they could get past the door’s threshold, there was nothing the mystery man could do to them. Hestar struggled to keep up while Drina kept pulling her in tow. Unable to keep the pace, Hestar tripped. Stumbling to the ground, she almost took Drina down with her. Drina let go of her hand to avoid falling. Quickly kneeling beside her, Drina checked her legs and feet for injuries. They needed to keep moving.

“Are you ok?”

“Yeah, I’m alright.”

Drina grabbed her arm, pulling her up as she stood. “Come, let’s go. We are almost at the…”

Drina froze. The air suddenly stilled around them, sending chills up her spine. Dread prickled across her skin and deep into her core. It was already nearby. The sharp tingle to her left side warned her of an attack, but it was too late. Spotting the spectator’s blast, it was already on its way and burning brighter than before. Time slowed down while Drina watched it head directly for her. Without thinking she flung Hestar with all her might towards the hostel’s direction. In the momentum, she jumped backwards to avoid the attack, dodging most of the blast. The bolt swirled with fire and smoke, radiating intense heat as it passed by. Unable to pull her arm away in time, it made contact with her skin. The bolt charred it instantly as the pain erupted through Drina. A blue light shot out around Drina as she let out a silent scream. Hestar watched in horror as she hit the ground once more.

“Drina!”

Only the sound of Hestar’s cry echoed the walls while Drina stumbled backwards in the silent bubble. Drina held her arm to her chest in anguish. The spirit had made its way to the middle of the street between them. Hestar was unable to see it, and as Drina yelled to warn her, her voice was unheard. Hestar could only see the mouthed words. Run.

Shaking her head, Hestar refused. Not without Drina! Pushing into a stand, she took a step forward. Wiggles to leap out in front of her, cutting her off from pursing forward. He barked viciously, growling in a deep unearthly tone. Hestar had heard this sound before.

Hope sparked into Drina’s eyes at the sight of the mutt. He finally decided to show up and could now protect Hestar. Holding out her unharmed arm, Drina focused all her power into the palm of her hand. A small blue ball formed and released into a small blast of her own. It wasn’t enough to do any damage, but it shot right through the malicious ghost’s torso. Angry sparks of flame sprung from its body as it turned to face Drina with hollow eyes. With one last look at Hestar, Drina pierced her eyes with determination. Filling her hand with as much power as she could, she shot at the spirit once more before turning to run. The small bubble around her dissipated once she took a step out into a puff of smoke. With all her might, Drina ran.

Drina could hear Hestar’s cry even after she turned down the first road. All Drina wanted was to drive the spirit further away from Hestar. She continued to make a series of twists and turns down roads and alleyways. Once she could shake it off her trail, Drina could make her way back to the hostel. Or at least that was her plan. The farther she ran, the more lost she became. The area was unfamiliar and new. Now she remembered why being with Hestar was a good idea; to keep her from getting lost. Unable to distinguish her location anymore, Drina slowed down to catch her breath. Her breaths were hard and labored, not to mention her energy was running low. Pressing hard against the closest building, she peered around the corners.

Her ethereal vision helped her see in the dark, turning the world into a lighter shade of blue. It was eerie, although helpful in this case. It dawned on her as she looked about that not a single regular ghost was in sight. Drina held her breath, scanning up into the sky around her and even around the ground. How odd that there was no one in sight at all. Drina released a slow even breath, taking a moment longer to calm down as she rubbed her hand along her burning arm. The pain was excruciating. Examining the damage, she was grateful it only grazed along the top from her elbow to her wrist. The amount of damage the spirit managed to cause was worrisome. The ties of the spirit to the living person were much more than a regular spiritual summon.

Reaching into her pockets, she pulled out everything she had. The dragon’s bloodstone Lulu gave her, the moon crescent necklace she bought Ocen, and her fan. None of these items were useful to her. Even if she had her dagger, she doubted it would damage a spirit. Drina slammed her head against the wall in frustration and slid to the ground to sit. She had no idea what she was doing. Looking down at the necklace, Drina traced her finger along the moon-shaped trinket. All she wanted was to live a peaceful life with her sister. Ever since coming to this town, it had been everything but peaceful. With a heavy sigh, Drina glanced at her fan. With a disappointed frown, she glared at the fan.

“You have been nothing but a curse to my family. I should have buried you in the dirt alongside mother…”

Drina squeezed the fan within her hand tightly. Her fist shook with anger at the item before she released the tension. There was no point getting mad at an inanimate object. Drina pocketed the stone and necklace then traced the roses embedded into the wood of her fan. She traced down the spine to the hilt and spotted the chain attached. Grabbing the dangling chain, she inspected the intricately carved roses. Drina began to roll them in her fingers out of habit. The row of gems and beads always brought comfort to her. Memories of the chain jogged an idea. Holding the fan up in front of her, Drina remembered the use of it.

“I can pendulum directions back to the hostel,” Drina whispered to herself before scoffing in disbelief.

How could she forget the one common trick up her sleeve? Many times when she had gotten lost with Ocen and this method had saved them. Pushing herself up, she dusted her pants off and began to enclose her power. The less she leaked around her, the harder it would be to find her trail and follow her. Her soul-well still had much left, ample enough to help her until dawn. Hopefully, she wouldn’t have to wait until then. Sunlight would weaken the attacks of the spirits and she would be safe. Sharing a small bit of her power into the fan, the pendulum began to move. Starting with a small circle, then growing into a larger one, she waited for it to spin at a constant equal pace.

“Take me to Ocen.”

The pendulum spun a few more times before it change its course to swing northeast to southwest. Drina smirked as it pointed her in the right direction. If she had strayed off course, it would adjust itself naturally. Same if she had turned in the wrong direction it would spin into a circle until she faced the right path. It was a simple technique, one she rarely needed to use. Facing the northeast, she waited for confirmation before slowly making her way back.

“I’ll see you soon, Hestar..”

Whispering Death (part 15)

Drina was all ears to Lulu’s plans. All of her plans had only caused more issues, making it difficult for everyone. Crossing her arms, she leaned back into her chair. “Alright. I will listen.”

Lulu smiled with a nod. “It is nothing fancy, but it is better than nothing. Since I can protect us in the hostel, no one will be able to attack here. You can leave freely without protection as long as you have the mutt.”

Hestar laughed. “How is a dog going to help?”

It was easy to see how it would be humorous putting all the faith in a canine beast. The outside appearance of the mutt was that of any regular crossbreed of a dog. Drina knew better, especially after seeing its demon form. Speaking up for Lulu, Drina explained.

“This mutt isn’t any regular beast. You may have noticed when it joined me on the stage how sudden everything calmed down. This breed is actually called “Eth’skial’. Hellhound in the common tongue. They are an old being that is a bridge between the plains. They protect the living realm from spiritual attacks, be that from stray ghosts or from another human. For a price though.”

Before Hestar could ask what the price was, Lulu continued on. “And since it has chosen you, this may be beneficial. Not often does one get the honor to be picked freely. It may seem that you either are in great need or in grave danger. With this, it will be a tool you will need in order to succeed. Especially if it is one that Mr.Gafrald has owned.”

Drina glanced down at the mutt curled up at her feet. It perked his head up towards her with a tilt. Raising a brow, she spoke to it. “Guess we are going to be pals the next few days.”

Ocan broke from Hestar’s arm, jumping up from the table to kneel beside the mutt. “Oh! What should we name him?”

With disgust, Drina could barely keep the dismay in her tone. “Name it?! Why on earth would you want to? It will think we want to keep it!”

Ocan whined, wrapping her arms around the mutt to hug it close to her.

Hestar teased Drina with a chuckle. “Didn’t take you to be a dog hater.”

Blushing, she whipped her head towards Hestar. “Did you hear what I said? This isn’t a regular dog!”

The mutt sprung up, lapping at Ocan’s face as she giggled. Drina felt queasy just from the thought. If they knew what true form it beheld, she had a feeling they wouldn’t take as kindly to it either. Sneaking a peek towards Lulu, she hoped at least she would agree with her. Instead, Lulu only smiled, raising her finger to her lips.

“Look Drina! It’s a boy. What if we called him Wiggles?” Ocan plopped the mutt into her lap, scratching at his belly. The hound lazily dropped his tongue out the side of his mouth, panting with a grin. Drina smacked her palm against her face.

“There is no way in hell I will call him Wiggles.”

Hestar leaned in, grinning. “Oh yeah? What would you call him instead?”

Removing her hand from her face, she stood from her chair to squad down to the mutt. He lifted his snout, waiting to see what she would say. He was scarily aware of the conversation more than he should have been. Thinking back to his burnt-looking appeal, she grinned mischievously at the beast.

“Blaze.”

The mutt sneezed at her, bearing his teeth at her while Ocan frowned.

“I like Wiggles better.” Wiggles yipped with approval, making Ocan smoosh his face with attention. “I think he likes it!”

Shrugging, Drina stood up. “I thought mine was pretty good.”

She walked around the two on the floor towards the door. The appetite she had before the conversation was long gone, most of it attributed to Ocan touching the mutt. Just thinking of touching him threatened Drina’s empty stomach to expel.

Almost to the door, Hestar called out to her. “Where are you going?”

Drina paused to turn around, fear and curiosity clear across Hestar’s face.

“I’m going to start my investigation. I’ve wasted enough time here and need to solve this as soon as possible.”

Hestar leaped from the chair. “Not without me.”

“What? No. You’re staying here with Lulu and Ocan. You heard Lulu, it will be enough to protect you.”

Scoffing with a determined smile, Hestar sped across the room to stand in front of her. “Not a fat chance. I am not going to be holed up here while you put yourself in any further danger. Besides, you will need help navigating the town. I know every road, back alley, and shop in this town. You’ll need me.”

Dropping her jaw, Drina crossed her arms definitely. “I don’t need-”

“No. She’s right, Drina. You can’t afford to waste time wandering around the town getting lost.”

Dropping her arms, Drina growled with irritation. “How is it a good idea to take the person whose fate is death, might I remind you, to tag along with me finding where the malicious Spector is from?!”

Hestar’s eyes widened as a thought clicked. “Maybe… if you look for the murderer, you will find the ghost. These events might actually be connected.”

Hit with realization, Drina had to agree. The boy had been kidnapped and the spirit seemed to be tied to it for some reason. Was the killer working alongside it? Facing Hestar, Drina sighed.

“You are onto something. Although, I am no detective. This is well above me. How do we even start to look for a killer?”

Lulu stood up from the table, making her way around the table towards them. “If you are looking for a killer, start with the boy. I don’t know who Marcus is, but I can bet a good place to ask around in the market.”

Hestar smugly huffed with a smile. “And no one knows that market better than me. Come on, we should get started. I know you need something to eat and people speak more freely when coins flow in.”

She walked past Drina, heading down the hall to the front. Biting her tongue, Drina placed her hands on her hips. Looking down at the mutt who sat by her side, she glared with a frown. “You better keep her safe. Not just for my sake.”

Wiggles yipped with a happy tail wag, trotting off after Hestar. It was worrisome just how much the hound could understand, making it both intriguing and terrifying to Drina. Glancing back once more to Ocan, Drina offered a weak smile.

“We will be back as soon as we can. Please don’t cause trouble for Lulu.”

Lulu chuckled, reaching into her pocket to hand her a stone. “I would say she is the least of my worries. Here. This is to help keep you calm.”

It was a dragon’s blood gem, one Drina had owned several of at one time or another. With a smirk, she took it from Lulu and held it tightly in her hand.

“Thank you again.” With that, she turned towards the hall. Ocan called out behind her with a giggle.

“Be safe and have fun on your date!”

Stopping with a sharp pivot, Drina barked back at her sister while crimson red in the cheeks. “This is not a date!”

Drina watched Lulu smack Ocan upside the head before hastily walking the rest of the hallway. Stopping quickly in the room they spent the night in, Drina grabbed her satchel and double-checked all her things. Grabbing out her fan, Drina paused. She was still a little flustered from being teased, yet holding the fan helped somber her. If only she had never owned the heirloom. Holding it to her lips, she closed her eyes with a small prayer. “You got me into this, now get me out.”

It wasn’t much of a prayer, but she wasn’t a pious woman. The sound at the door startled her as she shot her eyes wide and turned. At the door was Hestar calmly watching her with a smile. “Are you ready?”

Her eyes caught the sight of the fan while Drina nodded. Placing the fan back inside her satchel, she turned it on her hip and walked towards the door. Stopping short, Drina fidgeted with her fingers.

“I uh… to say before we go. I am sorry about the premonition. If I never got involved you-”

Hestar placed her finger on Drina’s lips to silence her. Stepping closer, she removed her finger to kiss her lightly. “Would it have mattered one way or the other? I don’t believe in fate or destiny. We forge our own paths, do we not? How I live my life won’t change knowing or not knowing if I am going to die today or years from now.”

Grabbing Drina’s hands into her own, Hestar pulled her out of the room while stepping slowly backward.

“I only care about saving you and spending what time I can with you.”

Mesmerized by her, Drina followed willingly. “W-why me?”

“Well for one, you are extremely beautiful. Second, I love your stubbornness. It’s cute.”

“Stubborn?! I don’t think I have ever heard that being a quality someone would fall for.”

Hestar broke into a giggle, letting go of one of her hands to lead her. “Things may surprise you for what people could fall in love with.”

The word ‘love’ made Drina gasp while her heart skipped a beat. With a hard yank, she pulled Hestar back towards her. It caught her off guard causing her to trip. She lost balance and fell towards Drina’s body. Catching her, Drina wrapped her arm around her and pushed her against the wall, her body in full contact with hers. The sound of Drina’s beating heart was all she could hear while looking deep into Hestar’s startled eyes. The violet pools drew her in, unwilling to let her escape. The question lingering in her mind needed answering, one Drina would not let go of until she asked. In a whisper, Drina got the courage to ask.

“You could have anyone. Anyone from the town or passing by. What makes you say you could fall in love with me?”

Hestar’s breath was quick and warm against her face. “Because since the first day we locked eyes, my heart hasn’t stopped pounding. Not a moment passes when I am not thinking about you. Call it strange or whatever you like, but in the short amount of time we’ve known each other I can’t help but feel I’ve been waiting for you.”

The image of the swan from her fan flashed across Drina’s memory. Biting at her bottom lip, she couldn’t deny Hestar’s feelings. Skeptical at first, yes. Yet everything Hestar felt had been mutual. This no longer was just because of her prediction and wanting to save some person’s life. Drina wanted to save her because she loved her in return. With renewed faith, Drina had something to fight for. Still holding her hand, Drina pulled them away from the wall and released her arm around her waist. Instead, she cupped her face with a determined smile.

“We are going to solve this mystery then, saving you and breaking my blood-bind. Then after, maybe I can stay in this town a little while longer. I have yet to see more of the town and what it has to offer. I hear you are an expert in such an area.”

Hestar smiled, clasping her hand to Drina’s along her face. “It’s a date.”

Wiggles barked loudly at the two before anything further could occur. Both of them jumped at the sound, breaking into a laugh at the sight. Baring his teeth at the two, he looked irritated at the delay. Drina could take a hint when she saw one, they had wasted enough time as it was.

“Alright, Alright. Time to move it. Let’s go.”

Drina stepped forward, this time leading Hestar out towards the door, their hands interlocked.

Whispering Death (part 14)

Lulu slammed her hand against the table, furious with Drina. “Talk to us! Stop keeping everything in the dark! You’ve dug yourself deep and if you only just open up, we can help you!”

Refusing to speak to anyone further after Mr. Gafrald left, Drina pushed past Lulu, Hestar, and Ocan to grab something to eat from the common room. Hardly having any sleep, Drina thought it was pointless to bother getting any further rest since now her time was limited. Drina had no one to blame but herself for everything transpiring, dragging anyone else down with her would only jeopardize them. Grabbing a glass from the cupboard, she poured herself water from the jug.  Taking a sip, she tried to block out the ghostly wails and the stinging eyes digging into the back of her head. For once, Drina actually wished for a stiff drink instead as she chugged the glass. Placing the glass down on the counter, she closed her eyes to try and focus. All the while, Lulu continued to berate her.

“Drina, you can’t keep this up. I can feel you losing control of yourself. How much longer do you think you can deal with this on your own? Those gypsies… you have no idea what you are getting yourself into! It’s not just festivals and shows they travel around for!”

Pinching the bridge of her nose, she pushed the spirits aside. Speaking in a low soft tone, it took everything in Drina to keep it together.

“You don’t think I am aware? I know what will happen.”

Lulu stepped forward, keeping Ocan behind her. “Then why? Why did you agree to a blood binding!? If it was coin you needed so badly, I could have provided you work here instead.”

Drina was losing her patience. All she wanted was to be left alone to deal with the mess she created. Finding the spirit that was now bound to her was her main goal, even though Hestar was still in danger. Digging her fingers into the cup, she took a deep breath to calm her emotions even though it was proving to be useless. The ghosts had even begun to mock her. 

“It wasn’t about the coin. I am fine and I can deal with this. Once I clear the contract and  lay low, Ocan and I be on our way.”

This time, Ocan spoke up. Pushing around Lulu she tried to plea with her. “Lana, please stop trying to protect me alone. They just want to help us. Why did you do this after all the times you told me never to sign a blood bind?” 

All at once, Drina felt herself crash. There was no fighting it any longer as the walls caved in all around her. Spinning around in a whirl, she snarled at Ocan.

“Because Hestar is going to die!”

The words slipped out faster than she could stop herself. That was not what she intended to say, but it was too late. The looks across each of their faces made her panic. Grabbing at her hair, she cried out in frustration. 

“The first night we came, I read her fortune. The prediction was one caused by unnatural death, which can only lead to one thing: Murder. I didn’t share the reading with her and thought maybe I could do this without causing a panic. Instead, I’ve just made things worse and possibly put us all in danger because of it. If I do this alone, at least then I won’t put anyone else’s life on the line.”

Drina crossed her arms, hugging herself tightly while turning away in shame. She could not bear to see their reactions to her poor choices. Tears streamed down her face, ones she didn’t even realize she had been shedding. The sound of a chair pulled out as Hestar slowly sank down at the table. 

“It’s just a reading so it could be wrong, right?” Hestar’s voice was weak with disbelief. Ocan walked over to sit beside her, placing her hand on her shoulder. 

“Lana’s predictions are never wrong. I’ve seen them time and time again. But if she thinks she can stop it, then there is hope.” Looking towards her sister, Ocan confidence faltered as her voice wavered. “Right? You can do that?”

Drina lowered her head. How was she supposed to answer that? This was something she never learned or dealt with in the past. Even while her mother taught her how to use her power, the only warning she received was to never tamper with fate. Biting at her bottom lip, she closed her eyes in a frown. With a loud sigh, Lulu threw her hands up in the air. 

“You girls. What am I going to do with you all? In all my years running this place, I have never come across such troublemakers!”

Lulu approached Drina, taking her into her arms for a hug. It was unexpected as Drina stiffened at the contact, only to slowly melt into her embrace. It was comforting.

“We will figure something out. If you saw this, then I believe it.” She released Drina and tapped her finger on the bottom of her chin. “Don’t despair, everything happens for a reason. As a traveler myself, I understand the threads of fate, how they intertwine with each person to weave patterns we can’t comprehend.”

Shock plastered across all the girl’s faces as Lulu left Drina’s side to sit at the table with the others. Drina turned to face them as well, interested in learning more at a distance. She looked at the mutt sitting across the room and offered her hand towards it. Maybe sharing some of her power would calm her emotions to tame the ghosts around her. While the Mutt rushed to her side, Lulu continued. 

“I left my band to settle here. No one knew me and it gave me a chance to start life anew. I know it must be tough, wandering alone without guidance or knowing where you belong. I built this place for people like you and Hestar. For those without purpose or are lost. You being called to this place was no mistake.”

Ocan removed her hand from Hestar’s shoulder, resting her head against her instead. To comfort her, Hestar wrapped her arm around her while she glanced towards Drina. Still feeling ashamed, Drina avoided her gaze, allowing the mutt to lap at her hands until it was satisfied. With a few circles, it flopped down at her feet to rest. If Drina had not known the truth of the beast, it would have passed off as a regular puppy. At least the whispers of the beyond had calmed, giving her a chance to think clearly.

“What power or spell have you placed on this place?”

Lulu smiled with a huff. “Right to the point as always. Protection and peace. Those are my specialties. When I lived with my band, it was my duty to set it up. It kept us safe numerous times, again and again.”

Ocan spoke up, curiosity twinkling in her eyes at the story. “Why did you leave?”

“Simple: I longed to travel. To see the world and meet people. I was granted my pilgrimage, welcome to return any time. Yet shortly after I left, they were decimated. I had learned of it only years later when I returned. If I had not left that night, they would have been saved. I do not regret my choice in life, though. It helped me decide what I wanted to do with my life rather than regretting what I’ve done or could have. With that knowledge, I decided to set this place up here with the same power. Anyone who walks through the door is under the spell. It allows them to feel at ease and safe.”

Drina sighed heavily. “It’s no wonder why we have let our guard down here then.”

Bursting out with a hearty laugh, Lulu turned to face Drina. “You, my dear, have been the hardest shell to crack! You are strong against the influence and have much distrust to let go.”

The direct comment made Drina’s face heat up, her embarrassment causing the other girls to laugh. Sure she was not one to just give in and trust those around her, but it was what kept her and Ocan safe after all these years of running. 

“Yeah, well…I have my reasons!” In a pout, she crossed her arms.

“And there is nothing wrong with that. You’ve done a good job watching over both you and your sister alone. None shall fault you for it. I know you struggle to let go of your past and so I promise that while you are under my care, no harm will come to either of you. You are not alone in this, we can help each other figure this out.”

Lulu extended her hand to the chair beside her, offering Drina to join them. It was an offering to include her instead of her keeping her distance from them all. Shuffling against the counter, she debated if she wanted to finally accept her help. Really, what choices did she really have? Doing it alone with no idea where to start? Drina had already done so much damage alone that maybe she needed to accept that there would be progress with others. What else did she have to lose? Ocan, she thought. If she didn’t stop making more mistakes she could lose her if she was not careful. Admitting defeat, she pushed away from the counter and slid into the chair. With Lulu being a traveler and having power, there was hope. Resting her fingers on her lap, she fidgeted waiting for what was next.

Offering a smile, Lulu patiently crossed her fingers on her lap. “Good. Now could you please tell us, what’s going on?”

Drina took a deep inhale, slowly releasing it as she recalled the memories of the previous night. There was no point in hiding anything anymore. She needed to be open and honest if she was to get anything accomplished. 

“During the seance, I was attacked by a dark spectral. I don’t know what it is, or its the purpose, but I do know that by summoning it I was able to see Marcus even though he was alive. My power isn’t strong enough to communicate with anyone from this plane so I shouldn’t have been able to. And now if Mr. Gafrald is right, I am bound to it all because it was attached to the boy. Saving the boy means I took his place. Unless I can find where it is coming from, the seance is not complete and it will have a tether to the living plane. Being taken by Mr. Gafrald is the least of my worries if I have a tag along.” 

Lulu propped her arms up, resting her face against her crossed hands in thought. “What about Marcus? What happened when you returned to town with him?”

Drina shrugged. “The usual I suppose. Guards questioned me to no end, asked me where I’ve come from and been since in town, asked me to show on a map with the men that assisted me where we found him before letting me go. Marcus went home with his parents and thanked me for saving him. I didn’t get a chance to really speak to him since it all happened so quickly and probably won’t get another opportunity to. They sent protection to guard the house in case the kidnapper might attempt a second try, not that I believe they would.”

Hestar frowned. “What makes you think that?”

For the first time that day, Drina locked eyes with her. Concern was plastered across her face while she continued to comfort Ocan. It was endearing, tugging at Drina’s heart. How could she be destined to such a fate while being such a gentle and kind being? It made Drina want to save her all the more. 

“Because they will be targeting me. I’ve impeded them from completing their task and have put everyone, including the guards on high alert. Being that I am from out of town and a traveler, no one would think twice if I were to go missing so quickly.” 

Drina paused with a sigh, rubbing her fingers at her temple. “I was planning that once I got the money from Mr.Gafrald that Ocan and I would lay low for a while before leaving town. That way the attention of the town would hopefully drift away from us and we could draw the culprit out. If he tried to attack us, we would be waiting for him.”

Lulu scoffed at the plan. “And what would you be able to do against him?”

“A hell of a lot more than most people. I am no stranger to a predator.” Drina withdrew a dagger from her side, flipping it in a flashy show that she faced Lulu. “Plus I have my powers to aid me.”

Ocan looked over to Drina with a deeply saddened face. “But now you’re going with Mr. Gafrald. We can’t leave together if you have the contract.”

Drina chewed on her lip, looking to Ocan. “I know. I am sorry Ocan.”

Lulu tapped her finger on the table. “Don’t give up yet. I think I may yet have a plan to help get you out of this mess.”

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.

Whispering Death (part 12)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whispering Death (part 11)

Running through the field with a lantern, Drina led the way for three of men from the seance to follow behind her. She was no fighter and who knew what they would face once they got to the building. The small flickering light grew the closer they got to the distillery. Over her shoulder, she yelled back to the men.

    “How long ago was this distillery abandoned?”

     A gruff voice spoke up “Not more than 3 to 4 years ago.”

    “Why was it abandoned?”

    Another man answered her from the side. “A fire. ” 

His voice was weak from the running, signaling to Drina to slow down to allow them to catch their breath. Still keeping her eye on the light of Marcus’s life, she asked another question.

    “What happened to the owners?” 

    There was a silent exchange between the men before the third man spoke. “They died in the fire.”

Drina’s attention turned to the poor men, the anguish on their faces sad it all. For the boy to be held in a place that was a source of pain made it all the harder for them. How long have they been dealing with these kinds of deaths? The urgency in the spirit voice now all made sense. She had long been ignoring them while they tried to get her attention. Was this why so many ghosts had been around? With a hardened look of determination, Drina was sure they were going to stop the cycle. There will be no murder tonight. Nodding to the men, they prepared to run once more. Drina pushed forward harder than before, straining her eye on the single clue she had.  

In the distance, a large shadow appeared, growing as they grew closer. It must have been the building Drina had thought as the light from Marcus dimmed. She slowed down to lift her lantern. Light bounced off the building several feet in front of her, confirming the distillery’s existence. With a holler, she called out to the building.

“Marcus? Answer me! Let us know if you are here!”

Holding her breath, she looked about desperately. The sounds of the men’s breath stopped as they too clenched the air tightly in their lungs to hear for anything. Looking back at the men, she waved for one to follow.

“Go around the building, in case someone runs out the back. You come with me.” No waiting for anyone, she rushed towards the building looking for an entrance. Half the building had collapsed, making it hard to peer inside. How was she going to find him in this heap? Spotting a broken window high on the wall, she dropped the lantern to the ground. 

“Quick, give me a boost.”

The man didn’t hesitate to grab unto her foot, lifting her with ease while she reached for the window sill. Practically launched up into the hole, Drina barely held steady balance from face planting on the ground within. Landing with a tumble, she made it into the darkness. Crouching low to the ground, she caught her breath, desperately trying to see anything. It was hard to hear anything outside as to where the men had gone, leaving her alone to search for Marcus. If there was another entrance, they would find it. For now all she could do was focus her ether back into her eyes. Maybe if she brought forth more of the spirit realm, it would help her see. Already weakened from the hellhound’s help, she struggled to connect it properly. The saliva must have hindered her from doing a proper job. The small bit still lingering in her left eye was all she had to work with, deciding to focus all her strength into that side. 

It took everything she had to finally see the grey colorless world. It brightened the room just enough for her to get a better picture of what was in store. The place had been scorched heavily, broken logs, crates, and barrels all toppled over each other. It made for a jungle gym to traverse. Avoiding sharp glass and edges, Drina called out to the empty building. Her voice was less confident from the dampened volume. 

“Marcus? Please, answer me. I know you’re alive. We are here to save you.” 

Nothing could be heard, not even the men if they had been still outside of the building. It was terrifyingly tranquil. Circling to look around, Drina couldn’t see anything but destruction. Her Spirit sight showed her flicking images of how the building had looked before the fire, the haunting glow of working machinery, and a clean beautiful building. The loss of such a place must have been heart-wrecking as the age of wear and tear showed how often the place had been trampled, the scuffs and marks of years along the floor and against the frames of the barrels full of brew. She took in the scale of how wide the building had been, losing focus of why she had been brought here in the first place. Later she would need to figure out how she was able to see the past, for now, Marcus was still missing. 

Drina exhaled slowly, turning back towards the path onwards. The shapes of two spirits stood in front of her, startling her as she jumped with a yelp. Covering her mouth with wide eyes, the spirits grimly stood in front of her waiting. It had been the two owners of the building that died in the fire, the charred burns across their faces and bodies overlaying their regular form. It took everything in Drina to hold back the tears in her eyes at the sight of their painful expressions. With no sign of aggression from them, Drina dropped her hands from her mouth. Did they mean to help? Swallowing hard she commanded them weakly.

“Show me where Marcus is.” 

They stood unresponsive before turning around unhurried. Pointing, they aimed both towards the wall, then to the floor. The wall had several toppled pillars from the second floor and roof leaning against it. Drina decided to take apprehensive steps towards it, looking to the floor with careful steps. Even with her spirit eye, she could see nothing along the floor. The doubt ate at her until the solid thumbs of the wooden floor alerted her. Dropping to her knees quickly, she felt at the ground, the wooden board covering the floor under the dirt. Brushing the loose soil away, she began to dig out the edges of the false door. Releasing the board, she cried out with a successful cheer. Several shouts could finally be heard just outside of the building as she pulled the wood away from the hole in the ground. 

Turning to call to the men, her voice hardly left her mouth then a cold dead hand grabbed her around the mouth. Her body was dragged back around the pillar and pressed hard against the wall. The spirits of the ghosts stood in front of her protectively, keeping her from speaking. The sound of gravel crunching froze her entire body. Afraid to breathe, Drina listened as the slow evenly paced steps walked forward to where she had just been standing. They stopped, standing in place for several seconds before the clear sound of a slam shuttered the entire building. It sounded like a wall had been broken just on the other side of the room, the voices of the men calling out for her following shortly. 

“Madam! Marcus? Where are you!” 

    The ghosts held her still, warning her not to speak with a shake of their head as they waited. Finally, the footprints bolted towards the window Drina had come from, a small glint of the light from the moon outlining the person fleeing before they hopped out the window. The cold clammy clasp around her mouth disappeared with the ghosts, leaving her free to breathe on her own as the room began to fade to black. The last of her soul well had run dry, leaving her void of any further power. It didn’t take long for the room to light up from the source of the lantern, the voice of the men callings out clearing from around the corner. 

“Madam! Shit.. did she..”

“H-here. I am here.” 

Pushing out from the wall, she stood on shaky legs to reveal her hiding place. The men waited for her to come out, allowing her to point at the floor to the exposed hole. 

“I think he’s down there, but we need to be careful. The killer is still about.”

Whispering Death (part 10)

**Authors notes: Hello readers! I wasn’t expecting this story to go on as long as it has. Originally it was going to be a short story with several parts, yet as I keep writing it has slowly been evolving to a greater story. I hope you have been enjoying it so far and that it hasn’t been too much of a wait in between chapters. I am planning to release a weekly update of this until the end of December, where I believe it may come finally to an end. Thank you all for the comments, follows, and likes! It means so much to me and gives me more confidence to continue to write. Enjoy part 10 and we will see you again next week!**

Several messages were passed and a few questions were asked, Drina was beginning to handle the flow much better than at the start. It had taken a bit longer at the beginning, and once the people present gained confidence in her ability, they began to participate quickly. It was much harder for Drina to focus on the living, making her assistance with the staff easier to handle. All she had to do was relay between the dead and the living like a telegram. Only once did someone ask for a specific ghost was she left unanswered, leaving the guest disheartened. Drina could not please everyone, and no matter her power, there was no forcing a spirit to come forth. There was, however, a small miscalculation in performance. The more she was able to relay the messages from the other world, the more spirits began to crowd around her. 

Expanding more energy to silence them only seemed to anger them more. Unsure of how much longer she could keep up the unrest from the realm of the dead, she released the image of the ghost whom she had relayed the message to the crowd. Closing her eyes she had to catch her breath, taking a moment to collect her ether and take an assessment. Gauging her soul well, she could still go for a few more hours before she would run out of energy to continue. On the other hand, the intensity of the ghosts on the other side of the wall had become worrisome. Something was wrong. Opening her eyes once more she scanned the spirits as they slammed and bashed against the barrier. There was no way she could decipher them without wasting more energy than it was worth. 

With a nod, she decided. Addressing her audience, she cleared her throat. “The thinning of the veil is drawing near to its closure. The spirits are weary, and so I will only take one last request from the living.”

With a wave of vocal disappointment, the people seemed to understand as some began to sit down. A tall gypsy man from the festival began to make his way to the last person when a woman stood up angrily and yelled. 

“What about Marcus Vis’tacer!!”

Drina focused on the women as best as she could, irritated at the demand. Had she done something personally to upset this person, or was it just a general displacement of her emotions? The crowd stilled in silence, staring at the women. The name seemed to have meant something to the locals, as a man on the other side of the room stood up. He was not as angry as the woman, yet his stance was one in unity. He looked about his fellow townsfolk, then up towards Drina. 

“Marcus Vis’tacer!”

The simple act of him yelling the name triggered a chain reaction as several people began to stand and yell, chanting the name of this person. Drina saw as the staff trying to calm them to no avail, the rising energy soon to turn violent. Raising a hand towards the people, she waited until they quieted down. With a curious tone in her voice, she addressed them. “You all wish for me to call this person? I have no issue in honoring this request, all I ask is why?”

The woman who had first called spoke stepped forward towards the stage, the crowd around her parting to help her. Drina narrowed her eyes as she cupped her hands towards her in a plea. 

“Ma’dam, my boy. He was taken. Missing. Please, ask my boy where he is.” 

Drina gasped lightly, her jaw slack as she scanned the crowd of both the living and the dead around her. Even at the mention of the boy’s name, the ghosts stood glaring with hollow eyes. Was this the reason for their discord? Sighing heavily, she nodded. Drina was a vessel and her duty was to do as the people asked. This was enough for everyone to return to their seats, including the woman as she sat along with several others in the front. Sudden nerves got the best of Drina now that she could not disappoint. Looking through the crowd, she spotted her Ocan. What if she failed and could not reach him? Would they be safe if the crowd became restless? Catching Lulu’s arm around Ocan, she pulled her in closer to her as Drina shifted eye contact with her. She held her with a stern knowing look, nodding as if answering her doubt. Ocan would be safe with her, no matter what. Even Hestar reached out and pulled close into the two of them. 

There was nothing to be done, Drina must honor the women’s request. Looking at the sigils on her hand, she flooded them with power to check their potency. Still glowing with a dim aura, she took a steady even inhale. Determined, she focused back on the wall of waiting undead. 

“Marcus Vis’tacer, I call you. Come.” 

An unearthly chorus joined her as she made her command. The spirits stood unmoving. Again, she tried to call him, the eerie chorus of voices stronger. 

“I call you, Marcus Vis’tacer. Show yourself!”

The air stilled around Drina while the ghosts dissipated one by one before her. It was startling to see the last image of their wicked smiles before the light began to dim. The gray colorless world through her eyes became smokey with black creeping clouds that began to seep through the walls of the room. It filled the room quickly, leaving her alone in the protective sphere she had created. Drina’s heart raced with fear while she looked about. Unable to see the crowd, she worried that it had happened outside of the spirit world and into the living. Pushing to her feet, she pierced her eyes through the wall, reaching out to touch it. A sudden slam of a monstrous black fist hit the wall just before her, causing her to jump. Afraid to move outside her protection circle, she sprawled her hands to activate her sigils. Whatever this beast was, it was no longer safe. 

Preparing to dispel the entire ritual in order to break the connection completely, a small cry stopped her. Whipping her head with bewilderment, she dropped her hands. Again the beast’s hand slammed into the wall, causing Drina to shutter in pain. The force of the hit zapped the inside of her body, yet the small cry grew stronger as it called out again. At first, the beast had thrown her off, making her think Marcus had become a tainted spirit that grew corrupt with discontent. The small cry shattered that thought as it cut through the realms of both the living and the dead. How was it possible that someone who was dead could reach out in the real world as well? It dawned on her all at once as she called out towards the boy. He was still alive. 

“Marcus?!” 

Her voice was strained with surprise and concern, no longer shrouded with the ghostly presence. Calling to him had brought a small bead of light off in the distance, directing her to where he was still being held. Under her breath, Drina stood stunned. “Oh god, He’s still alive. That must be where he is.”

There wasn’t much time to react as the beast roared loudly at her. The sounds of the cry sent tendrils of pain throughout her ear and deep within her mind. Covering her ears, she yelped at the sudden attack. The beast furiously began to pound against the barrier with both its claws. The electric shock pulsed several times, dropping her to her knees. With a cough, she spat out blood onto the stage. The sight of her own blood terrified Drina. If she didn’t stop this beast, it would break from the veil and into the real world. Glancing up towards the wall, she saw the glinting eyes of the beast as it crushed down on the protection shield she set up. Rolling from her knees to her bottom, she quickly dipped her finger in her blood and began to mark her arm, drawing symbols to connect to the sigils. 

In a last-ditch attempt to strengthen her barrier, she focused all her energy on her hands. The red paint and blood began to glow brightly, sending her ether flow in a rush to the sphere around her. The cracks began to meld, fixing the damage that had now been dealt. Without hesitation, she then began to break the connection of her energy from her eyes and ears. It should have been simple enough to disconnect, yet as she tried there was no change. Whatever presence involved had her forcibly connected, unable to break sever her flowing ether. Confirming her suspicions, the beast began to chuckle. Drina’s eyes widened, her body trembling with fear. This spirit was bound to Marcus’s soul, and by calling him she had leeched herself to it. Unless she found Marcus, there was no breaking the bond. 

The beast lifted it’s paws, slamming it against the barrier once more. Amping up the shield in anticipation, Drina’s powers weren’t enough to stop it from shattering several cracks throughout the sphere. Keeping as much focus as she could, she cried out from the pain while still holding her hands out towards the walls. Tears fell from her eyes, as she glared with hatred towards the beast. She would rather die than let him break free from the plane of the dead. The beast lifted its paws for another attack, and as Drina released more energy into the wall, a small black shadow howled with a leap into the circle unhindered. With a startled cry out, Drina pulled her feet away from the hellhound that stood in front of her. Laughing with overwhelming joy, she held her energy into the wall as the mutt growled at the beast. 

This had been the first time she had ever seen one outside of its physical form. Black charred skin covered its entire body, bulging layers of charred skin protruded over its eye sockets. The hound’s teeth came out from the sides of the jaw, oversized and jagged. Saliva dripped constantly from its teeth, tearing holes in the realm as it sucked the energy from whatever it touched. This was how it ate from the soul well of its owners, and the fact that it stood protecting her meant that it was a stray from its master. Drina was grateful nonetheless as the mutt began to bark back at the beast. Smirking, Drina tilted her head cockily at the beast. The task it was trying to accomplish was hindered, meaning this battle was over. Slowly it withdrew from the wall fading into the black shadowy smoke. With a sigh of relief, Drina dropped her arms to her lap to rest. The hound then turned around to sit in front of her. 

The spiritual form of the dog was horrifying, even more so as it stuck its face closer to hers to check on her. With its slimy snake-like tongue, it slithered along its teeth hungrily. Right, Drina thought, it wanted payment. Raising a brow at the mutt, she reached out to pet it on the head, a way of her agreeing to its terms. Hastily it began to lick her face. Drina hated the feeling as it lapped its chilling tongue against her cheek and eyelids. The more it ate, the clearer the room had become as the haze depleted and the audience had fully returned to her sight. Everyone had stood up at this point, watching with confusion and fear as the staff stood in a line across the stage to block anyone from approaching. Drina looked about the stage to see the candles had blown out and the puddle of her blood had been real. Pushing the furry mutt away, she quickly stood up to use the last of her sight. The small shimmer of light where Marcus could be seen in her remaining spiritual eye. Turning back to the crowd she shouted over them.

“What lies in the southeast from here? Forest? Farmland?

A young lad spoke up here as everyone silenced in shock. 

“There is an old distillery a ways away from here.”

Locking eyes with the lad, she needed to act quickly. whatever she woke up was now on its way to finish the boy. “Take me. Marcus is still alive.”

Whispering Death (part 9)

Standing behind the doorway, Drina took a few deep breaths. This was it, it was the moment she had been dreading since agreeing to the terms of her contract. When was the last time she willingly let her power flow without restriction? Other than her loss of control of her emotions, this had been different. To be able to let it truly loose and to stand like a horse trainer in the center of the ring while directing the flow with a whip, making it turn and twist as she pleased was a concept she had never dreamed of. And to top it off, to do it while others watched in awe as she showed them her unpracticed skill in hopes to give them a show of a lifetime. Maybe Drina had bitten off more than she could chew. Alas, it didn’t matter much now. There was no turning back. Opening her eyes, she swallowed hard. Time for the show. 

Releasing her control, it was like a flow of water letting go from a clogged creek. It was refreshing as the air began to suddenly cool around her, causing an unnatural fog to form along the floor. Spreading it further, she held fast to the presence of the ghosts, waiting until she was ready before calling them forth. Their whispers gnawed at the back of her mind with eagerness, knowing that soon they would be allowed to pass through the barrier of the plains. Wait, she mentally pressed, wait a little longer. The ghosts had no sense of a dramatic flare. Waiting a few moments to listen as the crowd began to make comments at the sudden chill in the air, she smirked. Grabbing unto the flow of the energy, she placed her voice into the ether. With it now detached, it spread throughout the air in a distortion, breaking it up to hide her true presence as she spoke. Spirits unable to wait, joined in adding an eerie undertow of whispers. Some spoke different words, others mimicking Drina’s own. 

“So, you have come to speak with the dead? Loved ones long past, waiting on the other side to reunite by your side? A daughter, brother, cousin perhaps?” 

Drina paused a moment, taking a moment to revel in the sound of her voice bouncing around the room before her. With a melodic chuckle, she continued to build the tension. 

“Very well. But be warned, the spirits are restless tonight.” 

Pulling her voice back from the flow, she reached into her small pouch at her hip, pulling out a white powder. Gently she pulled back the curtain at the entrance and blew on the powder. It connected with the breeze, catching the drift into the room and spiraling wildly about, filling the room as they grew into tiny sparkling stars that hovered about the room. Inside the tent now looked like the night sky, the only piece missing was the moon. Drina didn’t have the parlor trick to create something that big so this would have to do. Now ready to walk inside, she released the spirits from the wall. Whispers began to fill the air as the chill grew ever more around her. Shadows began to creep along the corners of the walls and floor, darkening the light of the candles and torches. Holding the curtain sides, she took one more deep breath in before pulling them apart to step in. 

No one had noticed her at first as they looked about to see what was to come next. Only a few that had been looking behind had spotted her with a gasp. Like a spark, it set a flow of heads turning to face her while she slowly began to walk to the front of the stage. In her peripherals, she spotted Ocan sitting beside Hestar and Lulu, her eyes lit with wonder. Don’t look, Don’t look, Don’t look! It took everything in her to not make eye contact and to look past everyone as if she was not on the same plan as them. The crowd began to whisper amongst themselves with curiosity as she stopped midway. Pressing her finger to her lips, she shhed them softly. It was hard not to laugh as they stopped suddenly, all listening in as hard as they could to hear what she could. Releasing her control, she looked about the room to spot the now visible spirits floating about. 

With a smile, she lifted her hands at her sides as if she was feeling the rain against her skin. Using her sigils on her hands, she tapped her ether into them as they gave a dim red glow. With a wave of gasps, the ghosts were now visible out of nowhere for everyone to see.  They danced, flew, and even interacted with the crowd as she waited for them to make their way around her. It was as if they were puppets with a mind of their own, her string tethering them to keep a safe distance from touching anyone. A few people reached out in hopes to feel them, which caused them fad out by her will to avoid contact, only to reappear out of their grasp. Softy cries and wails could be heard from the dead while they drifted towards Drina, which she had been accustomed to. They didn’t like it when she policed them from reaching out to the living, yet she needed to make sure she kept everyone safe. Who knows what would happen if they had. 

Once the ghosts had made their way above Drina, they began to orbit around her while swimming about in the air. Continuing her way to the stage, Drina allowed them to fade from the view of the audience, where only orbs or shades could be seen. Finishing the steps she turned around to face the crowd and took a small bow. Time for her introduction, she thought. 

“Good evening, thank you all for coming on such a special night. It is my honor and pleasure to hold such a seance for you at the Steaua lunii festival. I am Ma’dam Drina Forest.”

There was a small pause as several people began to clap. With a playful frown, she jested with them. “Save your applause, I haven’t done anything impressive yet!”

With a small burst of laughter from the audience, she held her hands out in front, palms upward while she waited to continue. 

“Tonight is the fading of the veils, where the spirit world and the earthly plans are closely connected. You may hear things that will spook and frighten you. You may also see things that may be gruesome and terrifying. I cannot control the ghosts as they appear and they may not listen. All I ask is for you to stay calm. They are as scared of you as you are of them.” 

The last joke only got a few chuckles. She expected it as much since they wouldn’t be able to tell if she was being serious or not. With a devilish smile, she looked at someone in the front of the crowd. It was a younger child clinging to her mother with bewilderment and wonder. It was a change of pace she was not used to seeing. Leaning in her direction, she raises her eyebrow.

“Or at least we hope.” 

Dropping her hands, she slowly turned to face away from the crowd. It gave her a moment to take a small breather before moving to sit on the small cushion provided for her. It was surrounded by candles by her request, giving her a small welcoming aura. Drina walked past the wall of candles, standing in front of her seat before wiggling her fingers. Closing her eyes, she made a small prayer. 

“Please let this work.”

Spinning around, she sat quickly without wasting more time. Crossing her legs and posing in a meditative state, she closed her eyes. 

“There will be a brief moment of silence as I conjure the spirits to listen. If there is a person you wish to speak to, stand up and call out their name. The staff will keep you in order to speak.”

Pacing her breath, Drina began to shift her energy flow. Instead of spreading it across the room, she pulled it into a sphere around her. It flowed swiftly like a current as spirits swam in and around it. The onslaught of voices began to call out to her at once as she built a wall from the outside world, keeping them close to her. Next, after she had set the perimeter of which they were allowed to summon, she moved a small steam of her ether to flow towards her eyes. It worked the same way as throwing her voice, yet this allowed her to see the spirits better. Instead of their decayed and withered appearance, she would see them for who they were. It was easier to project that image for the viewer’s sake, causing less panic and distress. Almost ready, she had several spirits who wanted to speak waiting in front of her. The onslaught of their wails raising while she tried to focus. With a bit of frustration, she spoke to them. 

“Can you be a little quieter? It’s almost your turn.”

There was laughter under the cries of the spirits that reminded her that she was not alone. Chuckling at herself she addressed the living. “Sorry, I forgot you were all here with me.”

This time, the laughter boomed as Drina took a few deep breaths to finish directing the flow of her energy. Making the connection to her eyes, she felt the cool refreshing flow rushing past them. Opening her eyes, she blinked a few times to adjust to the sudden change in the room. From the audience’s point of view, she knew her eyes were glowing a greyish blue as the spiritual film had developed within her iris. Within her view, the darkroom had become lighter and all the color dimmed. Standing around her were several ghosts all waiting for her to begin. Looking to the first one in front of her, the ghost brightened up as he stepped forward. His mouth began to move, yet the words only came out in unearthly wails and cries. 

With a bit of a hum, she furrowed her brows to focus on splitting the flow in two directions. Keeping her eyes connected, she tried to also attach her ears as well. If in order to see them with her ether she had the flow directed to her eyes, she wondered if adding her ears would do the same. It was either going to work or have the worst outcome. Thankfully none of the adjustments were permanent and she would just eventually run out of her soul well, undoing all the tiring work to make this happen. It was a fear that had already crossed her mind. Thankfully the cooling flow sprung forth from her ears, and the words of the man began to ring True. 

“Ma’dam Drina? Ma’dam? I want to tell my wife, I miss her.” 

It was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time that for the first time ever, Drina could actually hear what the ghosts had been saying to her. 

“What’s your name, Sir?”

“Patrick Stumbles.” 

Drina nodded gearing to begin the hard work she had been setting up for. Pushing aside all the other voices of the ghosts eagerly yelling at her, she concentrated on her sigils to focus on him. It flickered for a moment, reminding Drina that she had forgotten to say his name. 

“Patrick Stumbles, show yourself.”

With a shimmering silver flicker, he finally appeared before the crowd. With a cry of awe and a single woman crying out with shock, Drina knew she had done it. 

“What’s your wife’s name?”

“Magenta.” 

“Magenta, your husband wants to tell you that he loves you. Do you have anything else to say Patrick Stumbles?”

Whispering Death (part 8)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Drina! Hey!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Honestly, you two.”

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

“Are you sure you want to be here?”

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

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

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

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

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

Please be careful.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whispering Death (part 7)

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

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

“Ma’am, are you going to buy it?” 

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

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

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

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

“Fancy novels?” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hestar… about last night.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’ll see you at the festival.”

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