Raven II

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16. Another Friendly Beast


I looked up from the letter, folding it and stuffing it in my pocket. With a reluctant clear of my throat, my eyes met Keena's, "She made her choice, then." I whispered.

Keena nodded, sighed and sat on the couch next to the one I had been laying in for who knows how long.

"I still have my choice to make." I whispered, more to myself than anyone else.

She frowned, trying to read me, "You aren't seriously thinking of after her?" Her face fell, as if she finally realized that I would never let Aria go.

To be honest, I was never sure how far I would go for her. If I was my friend, I would be telling myself what a fool I am for going after someone who clearly does not want to be with me.

"I at least have to make sure she makes it safely to the portal." I move around the room, gathering my things and trying to form a plan in my head. I had no idea what direction she was traveling in let alone where the portal was.

"But you will stay here?"

I frowned, looking down at my hands as I thought through her question before finally shaking my head, "My kingdom needs me. I'll leave her with Dastan and- and never see her again." I stretched out my shoulders, turning away from her and heading out toward the doorway.

I throw my head back as soon as I step onto the ground, inhaling the sharp and sour smells of the forest floor and green plants. With a quick study of the ground below me, I figured she had continued to ride the beast.

A shudder traveled down my spine when the memories of my attack came to the forefront of my mind. The pain of being torn apart was not one I would want to feel again. I had not seen them when they had approached, their fur was perfectly matched to the surroundings.

It seemed as if I learned nothing from that experience, though, for another now stood just a few feet in front of me. A low rumble from his chest made me look up to catch his fiery yellow eyes. My body tensed, ready to run, fight back, or even crawl into the fetal position.

He made no movement, and just stared at me, probably confused as to how I was still alive. My body was a tensed mess of nerves until he took a few steps toward me, his cold and wet nose sliding up and down my chest and face. His ears flickered, his nose catching my scent before he purred heavily.

He laid down on his stomach, his paw scratching the back of his ear. I chuckled to myself, not knowing if I should thank Keena, Aria, or the heavens for their protection. My survival of his attack seemed enough to persuade him of my importance.

With my arm shaking, out of my control, I climbed onto his back, leading him toward the path left behind by the much larger beast. It took him a few seconds to catch the scent, but he took off in a quick run, leaving the underground home behind me.

My eyes could hardly stay open from he wind that smacked my eyelids closed. My heart played against my chest at a quick pace as I tried to determine what attitude would seep through me when I faced Aria once again. Anger was not enough to describe what I felt. Hurt wasn't a fair thing to accuse her of, and I feared to see the guilt on her face if I described to her my disappointment.

I wouldn't know how I would react until I saw her again.

Hours had passed and my back ached from being hunched over. My face was dry, my skin hurting from the dirt that teasingly smacked me the entire time. The sun had set long ago and we now traveled in the darkness, I had a, very naive, sense that he could see in the dark and I held onto his fur with my unproven theory.

He began to uncomfortably growl, his ears perking in all directions. I lifted my head, squinting my eyes as I tried to see anything the pitch black night. Sure enough, there was a small burst of light that flickered between the trees.
It had to be them, it was a sign that something other than animals were in the forest with is. In a hurry, I climbed down his back, only to have the bottom of my pants caught on his claw.
In quite a comical way, I fell forward, falling right on my face. I groaned and turned to look at the beast who only tilted his head. There was a loud sound, almost sounded like laughter, that caught his attention and he took off into a run. I was dragged behind him, my body bouncing off the floor, and I couldn't help but grunt in pain every time I made impact with the uneven ground.
He came to sudden stop after crossing a thick barrier of leaves. I looked up to see the even bigger creature that Aria had shown up in when she rescued me. He was in a defensive position, his claws out and hackles raised.
He suddenly un-tensed, looking almost bored, licking his lips and turned away. I suddenly saw the treasure he was protecting. Aria stood there with her mouth open wide and her eyes stuck on mine. She was frozen in her spot, not able to believe what was right in front of her.
I was still angry at her, making no move toward her. I was not the one that would break the silence, I was here to offer her protection, not conversation.
"Jakko!" Thijs ran toward me, breaking the staring war Aria and I had going on. He quickly helped me untangle the end of my pants form the beast's claw, though he flinched endlessly. Sarn wouldn't move closer to us, and just begged Thijs to come away from the large tiger.
"He's not gonna hurt you." I grunted and I stood up and dusted off the rocks and sticks form my clothes. The tiger beside me was comfortably licking his paws and I smiled, thanking him with a small caress of his fur.
I turned back to Aria, who was staring at our contact with a frown on her face.
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