The Journey To The Middle Stone

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Denail, Chapter 4: Closer

A cold chill went down Ciara’s spine.

“Huh, what was that…” Ciara said to herself, and Loki woke up as he was sleeping on Ciara’s shoulder. Peppermint neighed, and it felt like she was sensing something too.

“Nothing to worry, Peppermint. It’s probably just nothing.” Ciara hoped that that would be the case, but she still had this weird gut feeling. Even with that she kept riding on, because they still had a long way to go.

----

“WATCH OUT!” Moire yelled as another tree came flying across the river.

“The fuck is going on??” Sheela yelled in panic, and Odette tried to shield her. Now they heard a high pitched shriek, that only could belong to a mountain dragon. To be more specific, to a baby mountain dragon.

“Was that-?”

“Yes, a mountain dragon. What the hell is it doing here?” Elion wondered, and a new shriek came across the air, and Odette tried to scream over it: “Aren’t they pretty much extinct? Or at least rare?”

“No, not extinct…, yet,” a new wave of shrieks of pain came through the air like sharp needles, but Moire continued, “we should go look at it though! It would be a crime to just leave the poor thing out there!”

“Are you crazy??” Elion screamed in panic, but Moire just ignored it.

“Follow me!” Moire ordered and started to go towards the way where trees were moving like crazy.

“But what about the horses! Polle is nowhere to be found!” Sheela yelled.

“You two look for the horses, I’m going with Moire!” Elion shouted, and Odette and Sheela nodded.

“Why do you think it has come here?” Elion asked Moire as they had walked a moment in silence.

“Who knows, but it sounds hurt.” Moire answered without breaking her focused look aimed towards. Suddenly Moire stopped and Elion almost walked on her.

“There it is! And someone else is also there!” Moire whispered. Elion saw the woman too. The woman had long ash blonde hair, grey butterfly wings on her back. Black boots, a flowy skirt made of transparent fabric in grey and black and a black top.

“It’s mountain fairy!” Elion said and pointed out to Moire the tattoo that was seen on the woman’s left arm. The mountain fairy was was flying around the mountain dragon which was clearly in distress, it had a big arrow stuck in its flesh, just few inches above from its heart.

“I know it hurts, but you need to calm down little one!” The fairy cried out, as the baby dragon let out another shriek in pain, and swung its tail around.

“I know, I know, I can feel your pain!” The fairy cried as a light started to form between her hands. It caught the attention of the baby dragon and seemed to calm it down, making it lay on the ground. Then the fair turned her head towards Moire and Elion.

“You two! Come here! I need you two to pull out the arrow as I’m controlling Saga, but hurry! I can’t hold her for long!” The fairy shouted between her cries. Elion gave Moire a quick look, and she nodded. So the two sprinted towards the dragon and the fairy. The fairy had her full focus on the dragon.

“Focus on me, focus on the light, give me your pain, and I’ll give you my strength…” The fairy spoke out in a soft tone, and the dragon stared at her so focused that it didn’t notice the two others.

“Shit, it has almost hit its heart!” Moire said as she looked at the arrow that was stuck deep in its flesh.

“Luckily it didn’t. Now let’s grab it and pull it out!” Elion said and grabbed the arrow, and so did Moire.

“Hurry!” The fairy shouted again, and so the others started to pull. The dragon winched in pain.

“Don’t stop, keep pulling!” Elion shouted to Moire, who was trying her best, because it was easier said than done to remove the arrow. It was really deep and Moire didn’t want to injure the creature any further.

“I am!” Moire shouted back.

“Hurry!” The fairy was panicking now, because the dragon was slipping from her grip.

Soon, Moire thought and for few more minutes they struggled with it until they got it pulled out. They fell on the ground from the force, the dragon snapped out from the fairy’s grip and rose onto its back feet.

“Shit! I didn’t want to use this but here we go...” The fairy muttered and took out a small bag. She opened it and flew up to the dragon’s face. She then blew some purple powder to its’ face and immediately the dragon fell down on the ground with a thud.

“Finally…” The fairy came down and went to look at the bleeding wound.

“Thanks to the goddess, no poison arrow.” The fairy seemed to be out of breath. She then fell down on her knees, put her hands over the wound and closed her eyes. A golden light started to form from her hands and small balls of light started to cover the wound. For few seconds the lights did what they were needed to, and then the wound was closed.

Moire helped Elion up from the ground, and they walked over towards the fairy.

“Why didn’t you use that in the first place?” Elion asked and the fairy shot him a cold glare.

“Are you mad?! Do you even know what this is?” The fairy screamed and got up on to her feet. But the struggle had almost left her powerless and so she instead of standing fell down into Elion’s arms.

“It’s the strongest kind of the sleeping powder from the Nox flower, killing easily if overdosed and as well if it is mixed with the targets adrenaline that rushes through their blood. Also it is very dangerous to any younger kind.” Moire explained and the fairy wiggled her way out of Elions’ arms: “Thanks, I can stand for myself now.”

“I’m not blind, I can see it now.” Elion shot back, and Moire looked amused at the two of them.

“Good.” The fairy said and dusted herself off before she returned to the dragon; “Oh and by the way, my name is Hilja. And this is Saga as you probably heard earlier. And a part of being a mountain fairy I’m also a dragon enchantress if you were wondering it.”

“Nice to meet you. I’m Moire and this is Elion.” Moire introduced themselves to Hilja and now Saga was waking up.

“You don’t look like you’re from here. Where do you come from?”

“Why would you want to know that?” Elion asked, and Hilja first stared daggers at Elion, until a sly smile took a place on her face.

“Ey, I see you’re the kind that doesn’t trust others so easily?” Saga lifted her head up and let out a small roar and Moire just shook her head and decided to step in before Elion would piss off Hilja even more, or vice versa. But she still was very amused by it.

“We’re from the village Tapio, and we’re currently going over to the Neighbour village, since we believe that one friend of ours is heading that way. “

“You believe, so you have no certainty over it?”

Moire sighed and looked down before she answered: “No, but it’s our best shot.” Hilja was silent for a moment and seemed to be thinking of something. Her look went from Saga to Moire, then to Elion and back to Moire.

“You know, I could help you with this. I was on my way to the Neighbour Village, but had to change plans since someone shot this arrow at Saga. So first I’d go with her to see that she gets home and then I could catch up with you. How are you travelling?”

“By horse, and there are two more of us.” Elion answered and Hilja nodded.

“Right, see you soon then. And let’s get you home.” Hilja turned towards Saga and helped her up with some magic. Moire and Elion watched as they flew away, and Moire opened her mouth once they were gone of their sight: “She seemed nice.”

“Sure, but let’s now get back to the others. “ Elion answered quickly and started to walk back there where they had come from. For few minutes they walked in silence until Elion broke it with a question: “Why is it called the nox flower?”

“Because it grows in the dark. The flower itself isn’t deadly on the surface and it stores the poison in its petals. But when the petals are broken, then the poisin comes out. You don’t die of it if it touches your skin and you quickly was it out, but leave it to sit there for too long or if it gets into your system, I could say that then you’re pretty fucked.”

“But how could then Hilja use it to on the baby dragon if according to your words it would have been dead of it?”

“Only if it’s 100% pure Nox flower. In that sleeping powder that Hilja used had other ingredients in it, but used too much it can be deadly as stated before.”

“Got that. Hopefully the library in the Neighbour village is still up, I could look up more information of it.”

“Let’s hope for that. “

Odette and Sheela were waiting on them with their horses.

“There you are, what took so long?” Odette asked and so Moire started to tell about how they had helped Hilja to get an arrow off Saga’s chest and that she would be joining the group later on.

“Wait, so you invited a new random person to this group without knowing her? And then there’s the fact that neither I or Sheela have met this person. Or you two. Well yes you did meet but how do you know that she isn’t going to take advantage of us?”

“Hilja is a mountain fairy, they are known for their goodness.” Moire explained but Odette facial expression became sour, like she would have eaten a whole lemon.

“People can be deceiving, you all from us should know that.”

“I know that, Odette. But she offered to look after Ciara. Besides she was on her way to the Neighbour village anyway before someone or something shot an arrow at Saga.” Odette was quiet for a while before she responded: “Fine, but if she does anything that’ll hurt any of us, it’s all on you. Got that?”

“I understand that.” Moire answered and then Sheela stepped in: “But should we get going now? And can you tell me everything about the mountain baby dragon? I have never seen one myself!”

Moire chuckled and started to tell about their encounter with Saga. As Moire told about it she could see the excitement in Sheela’s eyes. Moire quickly glanced at Odette who was watching at Sheela with a warm smile. Maybe soon they’d tie the knot, but who knows? They got on their horses and continued their journey. There was a bit left, and if they kept up now and would make no stops they would reach the Neighbour Village in the morning.

---

“You still holding up, Peppermint?” Ciara asked and Peppermint neighed as she continued going forwards.

“I take that as an yes.” Ciara muttered and now Loki flew from her shoulder to sit between Peppermint’s ears.

The sun was starting to go down, and it got a bit colder. But Ciara didn’t worry about it, because she was sure that they would soon reach the village. And then Ciara would find a warm stall for Peppermint and a place to sleep for herself. Few hours later they reached to the Neighbour Village, and only few sunshines could be seen behind the trees, before it went away completely.

“In good time you came, lass. We were just shutting the gate and then it would have been really hard to get in.” On of the guards told cheerfully to Ciara.

“Why is that?” Ciara asked as she had gotten down from Peppermint’s back.

“Wolves, bird, or should I say…, men who can turn into wolves.” The guard told Ciara with a hint of crazy in his eyes.

“You mean werewolves?”

“Yes, yes, those…, pesky beasts. But don’t worry, don’t worry, you’re inside now. Inside is safe.”

“I hope so…” Ciara muttered as she walked with Peppermint and Loki, who had once again landed on her shoulder. Ciara hadn’t look for long before she found a stall for Peppermint.

“Good night Peppermint. I’ll see you in the morning.” So Ciara walked out from the stall Loki on her head, just

It was quiet and only few people could be seen rushing from cabin to cabin. Damn, they must be really sacred, thought Ciara as she looked around for a tavern. Soon enough she found one and its name?

The Friendly Neighbour. What else?

Ciara stepped inside and walked over to the counter. Loki has made a nest in her bag, and Ciara could hear Loki’s faint snoring. She smiled.

“What you smiling for?” The tall man with red hair asked from behind the counter.

“Oh, nothing. Just a funny thought…” Ciara’s thoughts trailed off to many other things but the man seemed to accept it.

“Alright, I’ll take that”, he laughed before he continued, “but what will it be for the lady tonight?”

“Um…, any drink with ginger if you have any?”

“We have hot ginger tea, then ale and then some beer. Which one will it be?”

“Isn’t ale and beer the same thing?”

“Nope. Around here ale is stronger and beer lighter.”

“Oh. Then I’ll take the ale. The ginger ale, I mean.”

“Alright, one ginger ale coming up. So tell me, where are you from? I haven’t seen you before.”

“Well, I’m from the next village and this is my first time here so no wonder.” Ciara answered and looked around for a free table. She didn’t see one but spotted one where a girl, probably younger than herself, sat alone. The girl was drinking tea and wore a blue long sleeved shirt. Her brown hair was little messy but Ciara could spot small beads of metal in the girl’s hair.

“That explains it. Here you go”, the man handed the ale to Ciara, “is there anything else you need?”

Then Ciara remembered.

“Ah, yes! Is here any rooms available at the moment?” Ciara asked and paid for her drink. She took the first sip and was shocked of how strong it were.

“There are, in fact. So…” The man asked for details and Ciara answered. After that was done she got a key for room and the man behind the counter told Ciara that his name was Tapio. Ciara thanked Tapio, then she took her drink and key and made her way over to the girl.

“Hi.” Ciara greeted and the girl looked at her with her orange glowing eyes.

“Can I sit here?” Ciara asked and the girl seemed to be little hesitant, but then she just shrugged her shoulder :”Why not? I guess company can do some good.”

“Glad to hear that.” Ciara sat down and started talking to the girl. As she talked to the girl in blue she didn’t notice that a figure in grey was watching her from the distance. Closely the figure had her eyes on her, but didn’t make single move towards Ciara. For now, she let Ciara be.

The girl and Ciara talked for some time, and Ciara learned that the girl’s name was Loreley. Ciara liked her company and they even laughed together. Loreley warmed up fast to Ciara and she enjoyed talking to Ciara. They talked a bit of their lives and Ciara learned a thing or two. For example, Lorely was the same age as Ciara even if she seemed younger. Ciara also learned that Lorely loved the ocean.

“I wish I could see the ocean myself.” Ciara sighed and Loreley’s eyes lit up.

“You should!” Loreley exclaimed and then she started eagerly to tell everything she knew about the ocean to Ciara. Ciara loved to listen to the melody of Loreley’s voice, there was something hypnotic about it. As the excitement grew in Loreley she started to move her hands even more. As Loreley lifted her hands up, her sleeves fell down exposing her wrists and arms.

Only then Ciara noticed that Loreley had bandages covering her wrists. They were little stained.

As she saw it, her mind tried to bring up something, perhaps a memory, but whatever it was Ciara shook it away. No, she didn’t want to think, only focus on the moment she was living in now.

But Loreley noticed that Ciara saw her wrists and quickly she pulled her sleeves down to cover them.

“Sorry.” Loreley quickly muttered and looked away, almost as in shame.

“No, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t-” But Ciara’s sentence was cut because now the village’s bells were ringing.

“Oh no.” Loreley whispered, and her eyes were struck with fear. She seemed to be panicking and Ciara got worried for her.

“Loreley, is everything okay? Why are panicking?” Ciara asked and tried to touch Loreley’s hand but she pulled it away. Now Loreley looked scared.

“I’m sorry, I need to go.” Loreley said her voice trembling as got up and sprinted towards the door.

“Wait!” Ciara yelled after her as she tried to get through the people. Tapio tried to yell after Ciara but it was no use since his callings for her fell on deaf ears. Everybody had gotten up and were moving either upstairs to the rooms or outside with torches or with some kind of weapon. Ciara made it outside and sprinted after Loreley.

“Loreley!” She screamed. Ciara was quicker than Loreley, and she quickly caught up with her. Ciara grabbed Loreley’s arm and they both landed on the ground.

“Stupid! Do you wanna get killed? Let go of me!” Loreley shouted and got her hand freed from Ciara’s grip.

“Why are you acting like this? I thought-, I don’t understand this sudden change in you.”

“Please stay-” Loreley whimpered and now the bell rang louder as few gunshots echoed through the air. The clouds moved away, leaving a full moon to the sky to be seen by everyone.

“Run, it’s your only option now if you want to survive.”

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