Zandor stomped with a very heavy hoof, his pace steady and mundane.
Loxley breathed in the fresh forest air, it's warmth hitting the back of his nostrils and letting out a low, cool breath. He swayed in motion with Zandor, feeling every step he took, moving with the forest and its muddy trail.
Galloway Forest was a beauty in spring, trees rising almost touching the sky, flowers as tall as a person and wildlife roamed freely, no fear of man hunting them instead letting nature take its course.
Loxley needed a break from the kingdom, especially the castle. The rumours were spreading thick around the staff, the abuse, the sex, the demands and politically the new King was vile. His punishments were brutal, his clan unruly and he knew Nyx could do nothing to stop him, nor could Loxley stop him.
Zandors pace and solemness matched Loxleys emotions. He felt powerless, useless and weak.
Zandor shook his head and whinnied at him as if hearing his thoughts.
"Yeah I know boy." he said patting his neck. "I would gladly take him out, but what good would that do for the kingdom or Nyx." he said to himself.
"I have a different plan, risky, but better." he comforted the horse.
The latest whisper was of magic within the kingdom, no one knew of Loxleys bloodline, except for one, but he knew only time would take its course before Tristan would question Nyx and her lack of an heir.
He shook his head to himself, acknowledging he was foolish to think Great Myriads rose petals would aid Nyx long term.
Zandor stopped at the two paths that lay ahead, one seemed like morning, bright, colourful and welcoming. The other was dark, cold and uninviting.
Loxley pulled the reins heading towards what seemed instant doom.
The path turned slippery, icy, grey snow laid on the ground. No flowers, no tall trees, instead the branches hung low and twisting, crooked and within inches of Loxleys face as he rode. The trees seemed to want to reach out and grab him.
Zandors nostrils flared and the icy air was seen with every grunt and huff he made.
"you have to stay with me boy, we are protected - trust me." Loxley whispered into his ear.
In the distance the forest turned into rocks, mini mountains protruding from the earth outward, like demons had pushed their way out from hell upwards.
The caves were empty, or so Loxley hoped, except for one, far at the end on the edge of the world it seemed, before a drop to the ocean below.
Loxley saw the dim light lit outside, a single candle un moved by the blistering, windy, cold air.
"Witchcraft" Loxley muttered to himself with a chuckle. He attached Zandor to the post outside, the horse protested but Loxley assured him he would be safe and they were both going to leave unharmed.
Loxley turned out looking to the ocean, listening quickly to the wolves howling. They were far, but he knew he didn't have long.
He heaved open the stone door, pulling towards him with all his strength. Pitch black surrounded and clouded his eye sight, he stepped in unsteadily and pulled the boulder, shutting himself in.
Loxley didn't move for what felt like an eternity while the darkness engulfed him.
He took a few shuffles forward, his arms reaching out into the black when all of a sudden a light flashed across his eyes.
He dropped to his knees covering his eyes with his face, trying to peak through his fingers.
"You are so dramatic everytime you come here." an old, crackly voice said from the burning light.
"why do you always have to make it so dramatic when I come?" Loxley said, still covering his face.
"Intruders!" echoed the voice. "and sometimes the bastard badgers."
The lights dimmed and Loxleys eyes adjusted to the now candle light brightness.
The cave was a magical spectacle, inside was a warm, inviting, woodland cottage. Wooden beans hung low from the ceiling, trinkets and books filled every crooked wall. Loxley moved forward into it, to the left was an iron stove tucked away in the corner with a kettle pot that hummed rather than whistled. He continued to venture forwards and the view always took his breath away.
Leather chairs placed in the middle of a gigantic room, the stone walls high, a fire place to the right, rugs of sheep fur lay on the ground and an open view, floor to ceiling of the ocean.
It looked like the side of the cliff was missing, but Myriads magic had sealed off the outside world. Loxley stood on the edge of the cave floor resting his hand slightly on the ocean, his hand rippled with the magic wall Myriad had created.
"don't touch it." she huffed from behind him. "that took days of preperations to get it to set like so." she said in her thick accent.
Great Myriad was a short, frail woman, her bones seemed to crack with every moment, her hair was violet and placed in a loose bun atop of her head. She walked with a wooden stick, taller than her and thicker towards one end with a symbol carved into it. Her dress hung loose on her skeletal body, layers of mink and fox hung over her shoulders and her hands engulfed in the finest, richest jewelery Loxley ever sees.
Her face, sunken in around her eyes and cheeks, yet still warm and with a slight pinkish glow to her.
"Your aura shines well today Great Aunt Myri." Loxley said while embracing the tiny creature of a woman.
"Get,..."she said with a slight smile and a soft slap of his arm.
She lowered herself slowly into the arm chair, it's height and arms surrounded her almost moving with her into a comfortable position before resting around her.
"Now, tell me dear boy.... Is all well?"
She said motioning for Loxley to sit beside her in other looming chair.
He sat on the edge, cautiously as the chair rippled its leather and the arms circled around him pulling him into it.
"GET" she hacked from the back of her throat at the chair waving her arm at it. The chair slowly moved back into its original structure, leaving Loxley on the edge. "damn things forget in this cave that I made them, they shouldn't do what they want, but what I want."
Loxley ran his fingers through his blonde hair, taking a deep breath in.
"Oh Hades, no." she said quietly. Loxley looked up at her with sad eyes "you asked, this is what's happening." he pointed towards his head.
The Great Myriad was a Teregathon Witch. She could read and see into all minds and souls, animals, humans, plants and furniture. Her powers were of the highest Galloway Dark Order, granting her the title Great Myriad of the Haunted, back when magic was accepted freely within the lands - this hadn't been the case for quiet some time now.
"Can you see which path I need to take Myriad? I have to save her, but I can't do so as a mortal. He may be human, but he is a beast and she will never survive."
"You know I cannot prevent nor encourage only one path, only you can choose...... But I can help narrow them down." she said.
The Great Myriad looked down at her boney fingers, and closed her eyes, muttering words of magic beneath her breath. One ring rippled with a faint light.
" Oh Hades... " she muttered again, then peered into the black sapphire that sat along her knuckle, engulfing her entire finger with its enormity.
"You and Hades really aren't seeing eye to eye at the moment." Loxley laughed quietly.
"Boy this is no time to joke, this is Hades' ring." she said holding it upwards towards him. "he gifted it me as a token for a favour once, it is alive with light when a path includes death and I see no others wishing to make themselves known." she looked down at the rest of her jewels, the opals, rubies, emeralds, none shone or twitched.
"Hades never likes to miss out on a soul, but he knew giving this to me... Sometimes they wouldn't always quite arrive at his feet."
Loxley remained silent, his eyes scanning the other rings and his fingers now wrapped tightly around the arms of the chair.
" Either this is going to be the path you want or this could be the end.... Of everything. "
She said quietly, her eyes beginning to turn as black as the sapphire. Her skin sinking slightly into her cheeks and her aura turning grey.
"He is a beast..." Loxley snarled through gritted teeth.
"Did you mean it boy when you said you couldn't save her as a mortal?"
Her eyes suddenly shining a green and her aura brightening to match.
"I've done this once before... To save a life, you can have a new one."
She lowered her staff across to Loxley.
Two twigs grew from its end, turning, twisting and forming into silver necklaces. They each grew a pendant symbol on their ends, he held them in his palm gently.
" what are these Myriad? " Loxley asked.
"They're the symbol of the wolf." she replied with a small smile forming in the corner.
"Now run boy, run fast." she cackled with an echoing, maniacal laughter ringing around Loxleys head. The arm chair sucked him in to a pit of darkness and spat him outside violently of the entrance of the cave.
Loxley rolled into the grey, cold snow instantly shivering from the quick transition of heat.
"Fuck" he stuttered, rubbing his arms instantly with his teeth chattering.
He put the pendants in his pocket and climbed Zandor.
"We've got to get to Nyx Zandor- NOW" he shouted pulling the horses reins quickly and it's legs buckling into action.