In the Shadows

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Chapter 14

Asmodeus stared at amazement at the woman who had entered the stables. Her movements were graceful and smooth, an aura of authority radiating from her. Her brilliant red hair was perfectly styled to accentuate her facial features. Her outfit fit her measurements as if it were painted on her skin, highlighting the curve of her waist and the thickness of her thighs. The gained weight she had taken on since arriving transformed her figure to look more like a woman’s than a starving child. Asmodeus instintfully went to her side, bringing her hand to his shaking lips. Heat rushed to Iselora’s cheeks at the intimateness of the action. They stared into each other’s eyes, not wanting to leave. The indulgence was broken by a nervous cough from behind Asmodeus. Doc was averting his eyes, but the sound unmistakable came from him. Asmodeus smiled at his betrothed before escorting her to her horse. The stallion was a magnificent beast. His coat and mane were black as coal, shoulders as tall as Cerberus. The horse eyed Iselora scrupulously before looking towards Asmodeus. Iselora reached her hand for the horse to sniff. “His name is Titan. You could consider him my war horse.” Asmodeus smiled at the horse investigating Iselora’s hand, clearly wondering where his apple was. Iselora looked at Asmodeus with wide eyes. “Why am I riding him?” Asmodeus met Iselora’s eyes with a smile still on his face. “You are riding him because he is best suited for your protection.”

The horses were saddled and loaded with provisions that the journey may call for. Iselora looked at the stallion before her, wondering how she was supposed to mount him. She barely came to the bottom of his shoulder. Before Iselora could attempt to climb the beast, Titan laid on the ground. The action shocked Iselora but she hurriedly settled into the saddle. The leather was soft from years of wear, but it had formed to hold Asmodeus’ frame. As soon as Iselora took hold of Titan’s reigns, she was lifted from the ground. A deep sigh from Titan indicated that he was ready. Iselora could feel the power the horse held; knowing it could withstand any obstacle. Asmodeus gave the signal to move forward. His horse was just as impressive as Titan but slightly smaller. Even though he was not riding his horse, Asmodeus still looked magnificently regal. Iselora looked at the group that would be riding with us. Most were fully suited in armor, Doc rode a work horse. The only breed large enough to carry his weight comfortably. Iselora did not see Cerberus. Asmodeus pulled his horse by Iselora.

“Where is Cerberus?”

“He will be along. It has been awhile since he transitioned. He is probably doing a few laps before joining us.” Asmodeus chuckled as if he understood the feeling.

“Do you mean transitioned into his dog form?”

“He is a wolf my dear. Dogs wag their tails at strangers, expecting treats. Cerberus wags his tail at strangers excited for the chance to kill them.”

Iselora’s mouth formed the shape of an ‘o’ as he told her this. It was hard to imagine Cerberus in any other form than that of his human form.

The journey lasted a day and a half. Iselora’s thighs and back were sore from the amount of riding that they had to do. They only paused for Iselora to use the bathroom and to camp at night. They even ate while riding. Iselora was concerned at first but Titan proved to be a steady and trustworthy ride. The food was simple but delicious. They reached the entrance of the cave a few hours before sunset. Iselora had still not seen any sign of Cerberus. He must be keeping to the shadows so not to spook the horses. The horses were visibly becoming more agitated as they neared the cave, all except the ones Iselora and Asmodeus rode. The group waited for Asmodeus to dismount before they followed suit.

Iselora stayed mounted on Titan as she stared at the entrance of the cave. Something was pulling her towards it, something strong, familiar. She had not realized she was edging Titan forward until Asmodeus grabbed the reins. “We will go down soon, but we need to prepare first.” Asmodeus stared darkly into the cave. Asmodeus led Iselora back to the beginnings of a camp. Titan was given an armful of apples that he began chomping down on as soon as they hit the ground. Iselora hovered on the edge of the camp nearest the cave. The pull her soul felt growing stronger the longer she stood there. Iselora was brought from her thoughts by a rustling in the leaves above her. Iselora realized that she was alone, everyone else in the group were busy setting camp. A thud sounded behind her, Iselora turned quickly, screaming.

The woman took a shocked step back from Iselora’s reaction. A deep growl erupted behind the woman. A black shadow with red irises posed to strike them. Iselora’s body was frozen in place. “Cerberus!” the woman called gleefully. The growling was replaced by a thumping sound. The woman ran towards the black wolf, threw off her helmet, and buried her face into his fur. Cerberus purred at the contact. Iselora realized that something was familiar about the woman before her. She was tall and lean, but the definition of muscle still stood out. The woman was fully covered in silver plated armor accented by silver chainmail. Her silvery hair flowed down to her waist. She was a stark contrast against Cerberus’ wolf form. Asmodeus approached the scene, scanning Iselora’s decreasingly frightened face. “You scream like that again, the dragon is sure to wake before we even get started.” Iselora took Asmodeus’ hand and explained what had happened.

Asmodeus sighed before addressing the pair of lovers. “You two can really make an entrance. Svila, I believe you owe Iselora an apology for frightening her.” The woman stood, kissing Cerberus’ nose before turning. Svila walked out from the shadows, rays of light bouncing off of her armor. Iselora could not believe her eyes. This woman standing before her could not be the angelic girl that she first met. The woman before her was at least the height of Cerberus’ shoulder. Her hair was almost as reflective as her armor. She no longer resembled an angel, instead she looked more like a goddess. The only thing that remained the same were her eyes. Still the same shade of purple. The warrior quickly kneeled at Iselora’s feet. Svila began rambling out her apology and only stopped when she was met by arms being wrapped around her neck. Iselora was so happy that her friend was back that she could not contain herself. Tears of joy spilled from her eyes. Svila sat stunned, hesitantly returning the hug.

Iselora released Svila, pulling her face back to examine the new face of her friend. It was only then that Iselora noticed the stares. Svila’s eyes were flashing emotions so fast that they could not be read. Iselora scanned the area, meeting every gaze, the group mirroring Svila’s expression of fear and concern. Asmodeus bent down cupping Iselora’s face. Iselora could not understand what was happening. “What is everyone staring at?” Iselora was beginning to feel the pressure of the situation. Something was wrong. Asmodeus used his thumb to wipe away Iselora’s fallen tears. Iselora understood when he pulled his hand away. Fresh, gleaming blood collected on his thumb. Iselora took a sharp inhale, realizing that she had never told anyone about her ability to cry blood. Iselora looked from Asmodeus to Svila, that was when she saw the red color smeared by Svila’s ear. The blood she had cried marked her friend’s face and hair.

The silence was suffocating. No one moved for several minutes. Iselora’s nervousness was at its breaking point when asmodeus stood abruptly. “Doc.” It was barely audible but Doctor Farkett must have still heard the summons, as he hurriedly pushed his way to Asmodeus. Doc took in the situation and followed suit in following the series of emotions playing havoc in his mind. Asmodeus put a hand on Doc’s shoulder and pulled him to the side. Iselora could not hear their conversation, so she turned her attention to Svila. She had not moved since seeing the tears, confusion was the main emotion that was displayed. Iselora took Svila’s hand trying to break the trance that Svila seemed to be in. “Svila? Are you alright? I hope that I did not frighten you. I was just so happy to see you that my emotions overcame me.” Svila seemed to come back to her senses but stayed silent, not knowing the proper response in a situation like this. Murmurs began to spread through the audience, raising Iselora’s anxiety even more. Iselora began measuring her chances of escaping. She had two choices; run for the horses or run for the cave. Iselora chose the cave.

Without hesitation, Iselora rose from her squatted position and sprinted towards the cave. She might as well get this over with. Iselora had just entered the cave before hands grabbed onto her arms, jerking her to a complete stop. She whipped around to confront the one who stopped her. Asmodeus was fuming with anger. His body shielded her from the eyes of the audience just outside. “What are you doing?” Iselora whispered. The anger in Asmodeus’ face seemed to lessen at her question. After a moment of silence Iselora asked again, her emotions threatening to take control again. Iselora dropped her head in an attempt to fight the tears. Anger, frustration, confusion, and fear flooding her system, ready to drown her at any moment. Asmodeus watched Iselora, unsure of how to proceed. Relying on instinct, Asmodeus brought the trembling figure to his chest. “I was scared I was losing you. Doc told me that it was normal for blood elves to cry blood when presented with built up emotion. I just had never seen it in person, even Doc had only read about it.” Asmodeus admitted in a whisper. He could not get the image of her face out of his head. The frightening sight had frozen his heart. Iselora looked up to meet Asmodeus’ eyes. His eyes shone with genuine fear and truth.

Iselora reached her hands to cup Asmodeus cheeks. Asmodeus wrapped his arms around Iselora’s. A moment of hesitation hung between them before Iselora attempted to close the gap between them. Unfortunately Asmodeus was standing a little too tall. With a grin he bent down and kissed her. Their world seemed to freeze. The kiss was slow, comforting, and the most natural thing they have experienced. Asmodeus raised a hand to rest just below Iselora’s ear, his thumb caressing her cheek. Their breath began mingling as Iselora gripped Asmodeus’ shirt so tight that it threatened to rip. Her desire for him pushing her even closer. Expelling any space that could have been between them.

The couple broke the kiss gasping for air. Iselora stared at Asmodeus’ eyes, still feeling the tingling his lips had left on hers and her heart pounding in her ears. Iselora wanted to restart the kiss but more pressing matters required her attention. The dragon’s presence began pulling at her soul once again.

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