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.