*She couldn’t have gotten very far, especially if she’s too busy crying* mused Cirrus as Kindle shot out of the front door of the cabin.
“That’s enough, Cirrus, I’ve been doing my fair share of crying lately,” scolded Kindle.
*And what good did it do you?* Deltia grumbled .
Kindle could almost feel the dragon flicking its tail in frustration.
Kindle smirked. “Every girl needs a good cry sometimes.”
Her face grew grim as she flew in ever wider circles around the outside of the cabin, deftly avoiding trees, bushes, and the sharp hilly landscape despite the fact that it was fully dark outside. The thin sliver of the moon in the sky seemed to smile at her mockingly .
“Julia! Where are you?” Kindled called out to the darkness.
*Crying or not, we need to find her quickly. There’s no telling what’s skulking about in these woods.* Cirrus warned. Kindle nodded and flew on.
Julia ran headlong into the thickening forest. Tree branches and low bushes scraped her arms and legs and tore at her plain dress.
*That Remnant made a terrible mistake! It must have thought I was someone else! * Her thoughts fled in her mind as she stumbled along tearfully .
*I can’t do this! I’m no Mage! I’m just an herbalist with a touch of magic!*
Her words rang false, even to her . She heard Kindle calling to her in the distance. The last thing she wanted to do right now was face them. How could she? She was a failure.
*If I’m so powerful, why couldn’t I save Trixie?* she thought bitterly.
She found herself in a small clearing. The air was filled with night animal sounds, crickets, owls hooting, she even thought she heard some frogs in a river nearby. Julia fell to her knees. She was exhausted, scared, and full of despair.
The sights and sounds of the night forest filled her senses. Ever since she was a little girl she loved walking in the forest at night, much to the consternation of her parents. But she always felt at peace near the trees, and the smell of the air at night always comforted her somehow .
Without thinking, she reached out with her senses and felt the trees around her, she could almost see each leaf, feel the small night animals moving about. A rabbit here, mouse there, and the night owl hooting as it searched for prey.
*What am I going to do?* she thought sadly.
Suddenly, she was overwhelmed with nausea . She doubled over and emptied the contents of her stomach. The amber gem of her necklace grew rapidly warm against he chest.
“What?” She gasped between heaves.
Something was WRONG. Terribly wrong. The sounds of the forest suddenly stopped. The silence terrified Julia more than her sudden sickness.
Julia turned her head to look across the small clearing. She struggled to regain her feet and staggered backwards. The source of her feeling, the source of the wrongness was approaching her quickly.
Darkened shapes emerged from the forest. Julia could barely distinguish them from the background darkness, but she could FEEL the wrongness on them.
*Knife Respers!* she thought desperately.
Then another shape emerged.
He was tall, with long white hair streaming down his shoulders. His face was pale, and Julia shivered when she saw that his eyes were twin pits of black. He was wearing a cape of some sort, that seemed almost alive itself, with pulsing, moving black veins all over it. She was paralysed with terror. He walked towards her casually and made a grand gesture towards the Knife Respers surrounding him.
“Hello, Julia. I am surprised you’ve made it so easy for us to find you. I’m actually somewhat disappointed. I do so love a good chase.” His voice sounded smooth and sickly - like a small child speaking up from a deep well.
Then, he smiled.
His terrible mouth split much longer than any human, almost from ear to ear, revealing glistening sharp teeth.
“My name is Varun, and I am your death.”
At that moment, Julia finally found her voice and she screamed, a high piercing cry that split the silence of the night.