Eating Clouds

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Chapter 9: Run

“A human” Eddy whispered. “He ain’t a dwarf, he’s a human.” He listened to the sound of his own voice, repeated the words in his mind, concentrated on the forms his lips made with every letter, what his tongue was doing, where his voice came from. It was all he needed to prevent himself from falling back into that paralyzed state. The easy sentence somehow caused a chain reaction which brought his mind back up.

Eddy stretched his tiny fingers, wiggled his toes in his shoes. The power had returned. He whispered to himself, planning on what to do next.

His first priority was to descend, as fast as possible. Warn Ozzy, letting him now they had to get out of there immediately. The most reliable option was to hide in the shadows of the trees while running away and hopefully lose it somehow. It was only a guess, since Eddy didn’t know much about the creature. He just hoped this thing didn’t have unlimited power or something, because that would be a pain.

Another strategy would be to hide in a cave or a hollow tree or something like that. Maybe if they stayed out of sight for long enough they’d have a chance to run away without being chased, which sounded much safer.

In Gilmore the little elves started teaching the youngsters early on about this creature. At the academy they learned all about how the beast was the soul of a once great bird. An eagle who once served a human king. But he betrayed the king, and plucked out the eyes. The bird was killed and sent to hell, where he swore loyalty to the devil. In exchange for both his hearing and sense of smell he received the perfect eyes, which could spot every move, every breath and every bacteria floating in the air.

The beast was said to swarm around this forest for a long time, but he never appeared during the day. Which made Eddy wonder if this was the same bird. Everything looked exactly like how it was described in the books; red piercing eyes, black mist, feathers like ink and claws like knifes. And above that, there was also the cold. Everything was just how it was said, but there was one thing which didn’t fit well with Eddy.

Not only the fact that it was flying during the bright daylight. It was the motive. Just what was this giant bird doing here? What was it looking for? Why hasn’t it attacked yet?

It certainly wasn’t Eddy he was looking for. Maybe he’d spotted Ozzy somehow. Humans were indeed very rare in this forest, but if the bird wanted to have one so badly he could fly to the human city of Odep, which was about a mile from the border.

He was going after Ozzy in particular.

There were many stories about the speed the beast could attack with, but just like with everything else Eddy had learned on the academy, this had faded from his mind. And with shadow magic the beast was able to attack its prey in ‘groups’. As of that moment, Eddy was surrounded by shadows and black mist, which could jump onto him when ordered by the beast.

It could come at any moment, and Eddy had to think of a solution quickly. Ozzy was still down there, without knowing the danger above him. He had to warn him fast.

The only spot on the roof of leafs the shadows hadn’t covered was right underneath Eddy. His own shadow covered the space below him, so the other one could touch it. It was his only chance of escaping.

There was a huge possibility of one of the shadows grabbing him before he could disappear underneath the trees, but he didn’t have to time to think of something else. And when he would get to Ozzy, where would they go?

Eddy knew a place. It was a dangerous one, but not as dangerous as the current situation. He could take Ozzy there, but he would have to make sure no one from the village would know they went to that place.

“Dang it” the little elf mumbled, as he locked his legs together and slipped through the leafs. The beast let out a surprised cry, and Eddy felt a breeze over his head. The huge bird had almost ripped his head from his shoulders.

Eddy descended and descended, branches and thorns scraping his face and arms. He didn’t have time to avoid them. He had to get back on the ground.

“What the…” he mumbled as he arrived at a bizarre scene. Ozzy, the human boy, lay flat on his face in the grass. Seemingly stuck in sweet dreams.

“Oi, kid!” Eddy shouted, hearing the wings flapping above the trees. Ozzy didn’t respond. The little elf breathed out through his nose. Placing his thin hands on his hips he flew up. Aiming carefully, he flew downwards at a massive speed, his shoes kicking the boy on the head. A loud knock could be heard as the little feet hit the skull.

“Ow!” the boy screamed, as he sat up. His light eyes widened, and for a moment it seemed as if he didn’t remember a thing.

“Hey, kid!” the little elf said again, as he made sure he hovered in front of the boy’s face. He really needed the boy to be focused now. “Listen, we got a situation. Get on your feet, we gotta go.”

The boy blinked and rubbed in his eyes. “Go where?”

Suddenly, all the air seemed to be pushed out of the little lungs of the boy. Eddy frowned and actually felt concerned.

The boy grabbed his arm, his face showing nothing but pain. “My shoulder hurts…what happened?”

The little elf opened and closed his mouth. He didn’t know if he should be comforting the kid or forcing him to stand up. He actually had no idea what had occurred when he flew high above the trees.

“I dunno, Oz, but we gotta move. Can you stand?”

As the boy moved around, his face turned paler and paler. When he straightened his back, he was somehow able to grin. “Yeah.”

A loud crack sounded from above the two, followed by a high scream. The bird was getting impatient.

Before Ozzy could ask any questions, the little elf flew into a seemingly on particular direction, as if he chose it with his eyes closed.

“No time to explain, just follow me!”

Ozzy grinded his teeth, trying to keep that scream from emerging. Dragging his feet over the ground, he tried to keep up with the little elf, who kept making strange turns and kept changing course every few seconds. While running, Ozzy tried to glance through the roof of leafs. Something was following them, but he couldn’t see what it was.

He figured it might be something that could climb in trees. Like a giant squirrel, or a monkey. No, he could hear the sound of enormous wings and feel the breezes it caused. And the screams coming from that bird….it almost seemed the trees would burst just by the disturbance it caused in the air. At one point, Ozzy could almost see little cracks appearing in the trunk of a thick oak.

Eddy changed from air travel to foot. He breathed heavily as his thin legs tried to keep pushing his round body forward. His little foot got stuck behind a stone and he fell flat on his face.

Above them , another scream sounded, almost like a laughter.

Without hesitating, Ozzy kneeled down and picked the little elf from the ground. The little elf seemed exhausted after using so much magic and doing physical exercise. He had his eyes closed, which made Ozzy really uneasy.

Which way would he go now?

A scream like thunder made the entire forest tremble, several leafs and tiny fruits fell on the ground. Ozzy almost stumbled over his own feet as another scream made the earth around him shake.

“No fooling around, Ozzy” he mumbled to himself, remembering the voice of the old man.

Glancing over his shoulder, he could see that the enormous bird wasn’t the only one following them; there was a shadow crawling over the ground, almost like a living creature. Claws with long, sharp nails al knifes emerged from the black pool, grabbing strains of grass and pulling itself forward.

Behind the boy and the elf, a tree fell down, barely scraping the boy’s back. He cried as a branch made a cut in his skin, but he couldn’t stop running. With tears streaming down his face, he kept forcing his legs to take another step. His muscles felt sore. Behind him, the sky was slowly turning dark.

Next to him, another tree fell, and almost exploded as it hit the ground. Several splinters flew around, scratching the boy’s face and arms as he tried to protect the little elf in his hands.

The hug bird was trying to destroy the forest, with the two of them in it.

While running for his life, a million thoughts swarmed through the boy’s mind, like a groups of fish fleeing from a shark. He wondered how he’d gotten himself into this mess. How it all got so complicated. Why things would never just go according to plan.

He’d been too ptimistic.

“Hey, kid.” Relief surrounded Ozzy like a warm blanket. He turned back to look at his little friend. He wanted to tell him how happy he was that he wasn’t alone in this and how scared he was and tired and afraid. “That way.”

Ozzy didn’t argue. In the hours the boy had spent with the little elf he had often wondered about the little man’s honesty and ways of thinking, but right now he would accept any advice given to him.

But then the forest ended. In a second, the roof of leafs had disappeared. The shielding trees had disappeared and made room for a clear sky and the last traces of sunlight shining down on a field of low cut grass.

“Eddy, what did you do?!” the boy cried out, anxiously looking over his shoulder. The bird wasn’t far behind as a thick tree split in two. Ozzy could see two wings above the roof, cutting the horizon like two black knifes.

“Keep goin’!” the little elf wheezed. Ozzy looked from his friend to the danger nearing and back. He felt so cold, his body hurt and he was tired. And now he had nowhere to go.

In the field, he would be stuck in plain sight. The bird wouldn’t even have to try to find him. It would be all over.

“Trust me, kid!” the little elf grumbled. Another tree fell down, and Ozzy could feel tiny splinters piercing his back. Time’s up.

The boy turned off his brain and let his feet do all the work. He could feel how the ground underneath him softened, as if it changed from a field of thorns to a bed made of feathers. The trembling stopped, as did the cracking sound of trees breaking. Even the screams seemed to die out somehow.

At one point, Ozzy couldn’t even feel the wind through his hair as he ran.

Before the screams completely faded, the bird cried out once more. And this one was different.

It was a sound which would haunt Ozzy for the rest of his life.

It was his own name.

The sound was like fuel for his legs. His speed doubled, and adrenaline rushed through his body. The urge to get away from the danger was greater than ever. That bird knew his name. He screamed his name.

“That’s far enough” Eddy said after a while, but Ozzy couldn’t stop. He had to keep going. Away. AWAY.

“Cut it” Eddy tried again. They were in the magic circle. If they went any further, they would be leave it and then it was back to square one.

“STOP!” the little elf shouted. The little boy blinked, as if he’d finally heard his friend. He halted abruptly in his tracks. The little elf nodded satisfied. “Great, thanks.”

Eddy crawled onto his feet, seemingly feeling a lot more energetic than before. He sighed, placing his hands on his hips with pride on his face. Ozzy was panting heavily, staring at something in front of him.

The little elf frowned at that, because when he glanced over his shoulder he didn’t see a thing. “Oi, you alright?”

Then the eyes of the boy rolled back into his head and he collapsed. The little elf was able to jump off the hand before he would be crushed by the boy.

“Well..” he sighed, looking around, “this is great.”

“What is?”

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