Chapter Eight: Left Behind
The whole cave shook around him, damn near knocking him to the ground along with his breakfast, one that comprised a small fish he found down the ravine earlier.
The warlock didn’t need to think twice about the cause; it was blatantly obvious to him. It was the four miscreants he’d foolishly granted shelter to.
They’d been running from something. Something big. He’d heard it moving around at night, but the monstrous footsteps had ceased long ago. Until now.
He’d promised himself that he wouldn’t get involved in this mess once more. But he knew how crucial they were to ending this madness. At least for another century or two. If he liked it or not, he couldn’t just leave them to die.
He grabbed his staff and set out down the tunnel he’d sent them down before reluctantly. He just hoped he could catch up to them before the beast did.
The warlock would have to hurry if he were to beat the beast, the monster was gaining ground and fast despite the fours head start.
The four had split into pairs, Otis and Jamal and then V and June, a kind of buddy system to avoid one of them running off course and getting lost again.
V and June worked surprisingly well together, tugging each other into directions to avoid any hazards that would slow them down and lead them closer to the beast’s razor-like teeth.
Otis and Jamal, however, were working with a far more one-sided dynamic.
Jamal had raced ahead far from Otis. Showing that fear was Jamal’s greatest motivator as none of them had ever seen him move so fast.
Otis would never catch up. He knew that. And with the beast getting closer to him by the second. He was the first one on the menu.
The shade swiped at Otis with one of its claws, narrowly missing him as it grazed his robe.
Otis looked over his shoulder, to see how much time he had, but little did he know that it had already run out. He was met by a second swipe, one that sent him flying down a hill with a heavy amount of force, as well as a few cuts and bruises for good measure.
The other three were too preoccupied to notice. The beating drums in their chest deafened them to Otis’ struggle, and they continued to run north toward the treeline.
Otis landed within a small pond, one that sadly wasn’t deep enough to be of any use in softening the landing. Winded, and now sopping wet for a second time, he looked out at the monster. Despite his circumstance, he got up and raised his wand at it, an unexpected aura of confidence taking a hold of him as he watched it approach.
The beast stalked around him, keeping its vision directly on him as it did so. It was toying with him, or observing maybe? Either way, its intentions were apparent.
Otis knew he would not get out of this alive. The writing had been on the wall since it set eyes on him.
As the beast began its slow approach, Otis’ mind took him back. To the academy, Matthius, and the mistakes he’d made up to that point. The ones that had cost people their lives. Perhaps this was karma, finally rearing its ugly head to punish him for his prior mistakes.
The shade was his executioner. It raised its monstrous claw, ready to enact justice. Otis closed his eyes, dropping his wand as he accepted his fate.
The three had made it to the edge of the woods, and as they ran between the last few trees that lined the outskirts. They arrived on a nicely kept path, gasping for air as they flew onto it, scaring a nearby traveller who was loading a wagon full of delicious fruit and vegetables.
“Holy shit! We made it!” exclaimed V, throwing her arms into the air.
“Language!” shouted June, whose words got quickly swatted away by V.
“Are you lot alright, you came out of those woods so fast I thought for a second I was about to get ambushed by wolves,” said the man who’d been loading the wagon, looking kindly toward the three who were currently sitting on the path trying to catch their breath.
V was the first to reply, like always.
“Yeah, we’re fine. You going to Glasshall?” she said, answering the man’s question before asking one of her own.
The man nodded and V took this as an answer for what would be her next question, being if they could have a lift or not. She jumped into the back of the wagon and the farmer did little to stop her, simply looking back at the other two to see if they’d be joining her.
V questioned if they were actually coming or not. Both Jamal and June showed no indication of getting up off the path, let alone hopping into the wagon. They seemed confused by something.
“Well, come on, what’re you waiting for?” she asked, leaning over the side. That’s when she caught on. They were missing a member.
“Otis. Shit! He’s still in there,” said Jamal, staring back at the woods.
“We need to go back for him,” June added, trying her best not to comment on Jamal’s word choice.
V sat for a moment and contemplated their options. Not that they had many.
“You don’t seriously want to head back? Listen, we barely got out of there ourselves. Going back now would be suicide. I know it sucks, but we need to keep moving,” she said, falling back into her coping mechanism.
Her coldness shocked the two, and to an extent, herself. Even when she knew it was necessary. She jumped off the wagon and walked up to the two, crouching down next to them.
“Listen, if we just sit here, things will only get worse. If we don’t get to Glasshall in time, we’ll all be dead.”
“How can you just leave him? The least we can do is wait,” said Jamal, not buying into V’s sincerity.
“We already did leave him. I’m just facing what we’ve done. We could’ve looked out for him, you could’ve slowed down to help him, but you didn’t. So, I’m getting onto that wagon and I’m heading to Glasshall,” she said, her tone now colder than ice as she turned back to the wagon.
“I suppose it’s easy for you then? Running away?” mumbled Jamal, probably hoping that V wouldn’t hear him. Which she did.
“You know nothing about me, you don’t even know my name!” she replied, facing up to Jamal.
“So, you hide your name, you hide your face, and I suppose you stole from others to save up for that boat ride? Or perhaps even for a new life once you got to your destination? Tell me, what is it you’re running from exactly?” June chimed in, speaking on Jamal’s behalf and doing a much braver job of it.
At that moment, V was speechless. She didn’t say another thing to the two and nodded at the farmer who took this as a sign he could finally start driving and get this awkward situation behind him.
He climbed at the front and readied the horses as V jumped into the back. With a crack of the whips, the wagon headed off down the path, leaving both June and Jamal behind as they stayed by the edge of the woods, watching as the wagon, along with V, disappeared over the hill.