Raven II

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12. Please Stay Alive

ARIA-

I closed my eyes, and stood perfectly still in between the trees. The amount of knowledge that filled my heart and my mind was overwhelming to say the least. But there was some comfort in knowing exactly what it was that I had to do to get back home.

There was no decision for me to make anymore. I had decided. I would go back home, get Dastan, and come back. I understood now, just how important I was to the balance of this realm. Without me, without the knowledge and powers of my ancestors, it would fall apart.

Jakko was right, however. It wasn't fair for an entire realm to depend on me. I should have the right to choose. But the choice was taken from me, I could not leave an entire race to kill itself because I was too selfish.

So, I gave myself one choice. The choice to leave, with the promise to come back. The cool air played against my skin and I smiled to myself, smelling the water that flew in the humidity.

There was one regret I would have for the rest of my life. Jakko. I wish I would have met him first, been his friend first. It was him I wanted now, but him I would never have. There was nothing more important to me than to remain loyal to Dastan, to Zumir and to Emi. I had to go back. The love for them will return and eventually overcome whatever it was I felt for Jakko.

A pain pulsed in my chest. I stood there for a few hours before I finally decided to head back to them and tell them what I had decided. I turned around, only to be met with the sickening sound of twigs snapping under a heavy weight.

A low growl reached my ears and I turned back around to be faced with what I could only describe as a tiger. Although, it was huge, his head a few feet above mine. There was no fear that travelled my body and instead I inhaled slowly, lowering my body down until I sat on the damp floor.

His fur was a dark green with white vertical stripes lining his sides. He matched the forest perfectly and I was surprised I could even see him. I closed my eyes, raising my hands palms up toward him and waited.

I felt his warm breath on my face a few minutes later, and then his warm tongue on my hands. My eyes flew open and I laughed at the sound of his deathly purrs. He ran his head under my hands, lowering himself so I could scratch him behind the ears.

For once, I had forgotten about all of my problems, admiring the creature before me. Until I heard screams that pierced the dark night. I stood up quickly, trying to find the direction of the screams only to realize that they were accompanied by growls and screeches.

The creature beside me stood up, his ears flicking from side to side. He looked straight at me before lowering himself once again. I frowned, confused by his actions until he rolled his head, pointing at his back. My heart jumped in my chest and I hesitantly wrapped my fingers around his fur before swinging onto his back. Just like that, he took off toward the sounds.

I had no idea what it was that I thought I was going to find, but the tears I had tried so hard to hold back finally fell freely. I jumped off his back to be met with three more creatures just like him, though they were smaller, their heads right at the same level as mine.

They stood over whatever it was that they had caught with defensive postures. They growled at me, lifting their head to sniff my scent. One growl and stiff stance from the creature behind me and they took off into the trees.

Jakko.

I fell to my knees, sobbing when the bloody mess of meat in front of me slowly became recognizable. His chest was a bloody hole, the claw marks no longer distinguishable. I was gagging from the smell of his blood and from the almost excessive sobs that threw my stub of a tongue back into my throat.

No no no no no.

What an idiot, not just him, but both of us. I should have known he would have never let me go into the forest on my own, especially at night. And he should have known of the danger he put himself in as well. I couldn't even tell if he was alive, and the pain in my chest erupted into fire.

I can't live without him. I can't live knowing I killed him.

I leaned toward him, my ear inches from his nose. His breaths were shallow, and I knew I only had a few minutes to get him help before life would leave him completely. I turned to face the giant tiger behind me, sobbing at him uncontrollably. I pushed Jakko, trying to lift him and place him on the giant's back. But, fuck, he must weigh a ton with all of his muscle.

I fell back, shaking my head trying to force myself to hold on to the hope that I was losing my grasp on. My hands shook and no focused or discernible thought passed through my mind. There was nothing, nothing made sense, it was all a fucking blurry mess. I needed my focus, my thoughts more than ever now, but I was nothing. Just a blubbering mess. There was shuffling behind me and a wet nose nudged my side. He was laying in his stomach, motioning with his head for me to climb back on his back.

I breathed heavily, weighing my options before deciding that I must go as quickly as possible to get some help. With a nod to the animal, I jumped on his back. I was all ready for him to throw himself into a fast run, going back for help, but instead he reached down, softly placing Jakko between his teeth.

Jakko groaned softly and I tightened my hold on the animal's fur, hoping he knew I was begging him to be as gentle as possible with him. A sob racked through my chest, passed my tongue, and my teeth, escaping my lips with a pain I wanted to express to anyone who would hear. He stood up to his full height and we began the trek back to Keena, Thijs and Sarn.

Please stay alive.

I whispered to myself the entire way back to the hidden home.

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