In the Shadows of Dryden

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Chapter 23 - Finding a Ghost

Left alone in a room with the doctor and a passed out Cedric, Claire turned and went to grab her bag. She approached the chair where she sat before and reached for her purse at the same time that she heard the door closing and locking. She paused what she was doing, slowly turning her head in the direction of the door.

‘These people are crazy!’

Dr. Erik stood right on its path, staring at her.

“Now that the big bad wolf is gone and the lil pup is asleep, tell me why they fought.”

“I already said. I. Do. Not. Know!” She pouted.

“By what you said earlier, he found you two dating. What did you mean by that? Were you two making out, kissing…” Dr. Erik cleared his throat before completing his sentence. “... or something spicier.”

“NO! We were only kissing!”

Immediately, her face flushed a reddish rue while closing her hands into fists beside her body.

‘Why was he asking her such private questions? Better yet, why was she even answering him?’

Erik tilted his head, studying her movements and expressions as he held his chin with a hand.

“I see. So, you believe he was jealous of you two kissing?”

“He… I… I don’t know!” Claire turned her face to look at Cedric, hearing a few steps nearing her.

“If you’re worried about him listening, I can assure you that he will be passed out for another two to three hours.” He had stopped right behind her.

Claire glanced sideways at the doctor.

“Why are you asking me that?”

“Because Caio is my best friend and I do not believe he would have attacked this kid without a good motive.” The doctor’s revelation and his honesty took her by surprise for a moment, making her turn around to face him.

“Your… friend?” She asked dumbfounded.

“Yes, why not?!”

“I didn’t know he had friends.”

“That’s a silly thing to presume, don’t you think?”

“I’m not presuming anything! It’s just hard to picture him with friends when he isolates himself from the world.”

Dr. Erik nodded, slightly tilting his head.

“I do agree that he’s a bit of a hermit but he does have friends, and not only me.”

They stared at each other for a moment.

“Right… since you’re his friend, I have a question for you.”

The doctor lifted an eyebrow as a small smile formed over his face.

“Why is he always saying that he’s not made for love?”

“Ah! The one hundred dollars question!” Erik shook his head sideways, chuckling.

“What? You’re his friend and you don’t know?” Claire crossed her arms, waiting for an answer.

“Actually, I do know.” Her eyes glimmered in anticipation as her mouth twitched and her arms loosened up. “But that’s something for him to answer you, not me. That’s a private matter. I do hope you understand.”

Claire’s shoulders sunk for a couple of seconds before she glared at him, rushing towards the door.

“Claire!” Her hand went right over the doorknob. “If you open that door now, you will have to answer Vann’s questions.”

She stopped in her tracks, letting go of the handle before turning her glare back to him.

“And what am I supposed to do? I want to go home!”

“Well, for starters. Did you come over here by car or were you planning on walking all the way home?”

Erik watched her as her glaring turned into a wide-eyed look.

“Curse it!”

“By your answer, I assume that Cedric picked you up.”

Claire bit her thumbnail, answering him with a nod. He chuckled, grabbing her purse from the chair and handing it over to her.

“Come on, I will drive you home.”

Claire’s head snapped up to look at him.

“Are… are you sure? How about Vann?”

Erik waved that off, walking past her to open the door.

***

The trees went by in a microsecond as the forest ghost sprinted his way by then at top speed. Fang ran far behind, unable to follow him at the same speed. It was rare for the vampire to run this fast knowing that Fang was with him. His mind was working overtime, a jumble of thoughts mixed together. Distracting him enough to forget about his companion. His anger too didn’t make things easier.

He wasn’t sure why he felt so angered, betrayed. He had nothing with that girl. Sure, they’ve kissed once but so what? It didn’t mean anything, right?!

His shining crimson eyes had a murderous intent in them, his long protruded fangs were eager to pierce and rip through flesh, whatever enemy dumb enough to attack him now. When he finally got about halfway into Dryden’s wood, he came to a full stop. Hitting one of the many elder cypress trees while he let out screams of anger. The tree took several heavy hits before small cracks began showing on its surface.

After a few minutes, Fang finally caught up with him, breathing heavily. Soon, he found a nice cool stone a little away to go lay down and rest while waiting for his vampire friend to blow up some steam.

***

“This is not the time to rest my son. You must wake up and continue on your quest.”

A sweet, melodious voice of a woman sounded near him. He turned, meeting the owner of the voice crouched in front of his wolf. They were just a couple of meters away from him.

‘His wolf…’ He thought. ‘How could he see Vrejh beside him? How were they even separated?’

When the woman stood, his eyes went back to her, wandering. Her hourglass body was underlined with a light mesh dress of light blue color. A long white satin band floated behind her back, folding inward and wrapping around her arms like they were clouds floating around her. Silky long pitch-black hair flew with the wind, bringing his eyes to a single silver crown sitting over her delicate head.

He squinted his eyes, trying to get them accustomed to the silvery light emanating from her. When his eyes finally adjusted to the light, he saw a pair of snow-white wolf ears poking through her hair, while the crown sat right in between them. With wide-open eyes and mouth, his gaze dropped south, where he saw silver ankle bracelets adorning her ankles. There was one last thing that Rick saw, two beautiful tails colored just like her ears, seem to flick in opposite yet synchronized directions.

‘A silver crown and bracelets… ears, and tail from a wolf...’

Silver was deadly poisonous to werewolves so for one to use the deadly metal over the head was considered the utmost demonstration of power.

A gasp escaped his mouth at the same time that he heard a whimper, prompting him to glance sideways. Vrejh was still there but in a more submissive stance, laying down, eyes anchored on the lady in front of them.

Immediately after realizing who the lady, he kneed over the grass in submission.

“Moon Goddess!”

She approached him with a small smile over her pale face. While leaving no actual footprints as she walked, there grew a trail of silvery moon tears where she passed.Leaning forward, she placed a gentle hand on his cheek while planting a soft kiss over his forehead.

Warmth enveloped him as he felt his body suddenly surge with energy. The few superficial wounds left began knitting together in accelerated healing speed.

“You must succeed... You need to help protect the balance of life! If you fail, chaos will take reign over the world. Nobody will be safe!”

“My Goddess, what do you mean ‘the balance of life’? You mean I should protect the nature around us?”

The Goddess smiled calmly but he still noticed how her eyebrows knitted together in a worried expression for a fraction of a second.

“You will know when the time comes.”

Before Richard could ask anything else, everything faded into complete darkness. It felt like he was left inside a pitch black room without any source of light.

He continued walking, trying to probe his surroundings for anything concrete. Then, out of the blue, he found himself standing in the middle of the darkness, his eyes moving around, trying to open. Finally, a slit of light penetrated his eyelids, making him sluggishly open his eyes so they could adjust to its surroundings.

When he managed to completely open his eyelids, he realized that he was back in the forest and not over the grass like before. No, there were trees, small and big bushes everywhere he looked.

‘Vrejh?’

‘I’m here.’

‘Did you see…’

‘Yes! The Lady of the Moon! We did indeed talk with our goddess.’

Where was he? He couldn’t remember.

‘Where are we, Vrejh?’

‘I’m guessing, back in Kodoku’s forest.’

‘Kodoku’s forest… yes, I remember now.’

Slowly, he stretched his arms and legs, scrutinizing if he could place any weight on them while taking care not to stand too fast but his body didn’t show any sign of fatigue or injury.

“Silvery moon tears…” He said out loud, staring at the few patches of delicate pendulous, bell-shaped flowers in front of him while standing on his four paws. A solitary silvery-white flower hanging from each of the slender stalks that formed the patches of flowers.

‘Yes. We have to take those flowers with us, Rick. We cannot leave them here and risk them falling in the wrong hands.’

‘I know…’ Rick looked around, trying to find a way to hide them so he could come to collect them later or something to hold them so he could take them with him.

‘Can you tell me why you’re taking so long? Harvest those flowers already!’

‘Sure, as soon as I can find a place to put them in. If you haven’t noticed, we have no clothes right now.’

‘Oh, sorry. I forgot to tell you. Look at our left arm.’ Rick glanced over his left arm as instructed, and to his surprise, a small pouch was firmly attached over his left leg. ‘Our Goddess placed it on me while you were unconscious. She said it was to help us in our mission. I didn’t quite understand what she meant then but now…’

‘Now, it comes in handy, yes.’ Without thinking twice, Rick turned back into his human form before he began to harvest all the flowers from the small patches on the ground and placed them inside the pouch. It didn’t seem to get full, instead, the delicate flowers seemed to disappear in a black hole once placed inside. He also noticed that no matter how much of the flower he placed into the pouch, it didn’t get heavier either.

‘I like this pouch already! We just need to figure out how to bring the things back from inside.’

‘Oh, the Goddess said that anything placed inside could be retrieved just by thinking of the item while we placed our hand inside.’

‘Right! She just gave us a freaking artifact but I’m not complaining. Thank you, Moon Goddess!’

After plucking the remaining flowers and stocking them inside the pouch, Rick went back to his wolf form, continuing down his path to find the elusive ghost.

***

Fang watched Caio berserk state for a while. His vampire friend seemed to want to devastate the ancient cypress forest called Dryden’s Wood. His fury had already managed to pulverize seven trees and he didn’t seem to want to stop any time soon.

The winter-wolf let out a sigh as he stood, calmly trotting over to his friend. When he gauged that he was close enough, he sat down and lifted a paw up to gently scratch the vampire while he let out small whimpers to get his attention.

The scratches Caio felt and the soft whimpers from his friend made him stop his fist mid-air, as he was about to hit the tree again. He grunted, letting his arms fall down before turning to meet his companion’s gaze.

They stared at each other. One could think that they were having a one to one conversation but they didn’t say anything. They didn’t have to. They understood one another without the need for words. In the end, they nodded, turned towards the direction of Kodoku’s forest, and began running again. This time, the Ghost kept in mind the presence of his companion.

An hour had passed since they had started their run but Caio was still seething with anger. Truth be told, he was unable to stop the scene of Claire together with the pup from replaying over and over in his mind.

A rustle coming from ahead of him brought him to a halt. He waited, hoping it was one of those werebears he more often than not, had to deal with. It might just be the right target for him to unload his anger. Fang had positioned himself a bit away, in case the vampire needed some backup. He knew that his vampire companion needed this. A proper fight would be the perfect outlet for Caio’s anger.

Vrejh kept on running, letting Rick sit on the back of his mind thinking. He couldn’t deny that he was also thinking about what the Goddess told them. There were also the patches of silvery moon tears left behind to take into consideration. They were legendary flowers, near impossible to obtain because of their rarity. They only grew where the Goddess herself had walked, just like her own footprints. The other time was during the Purple Moon event, which only happened once every a thousand years and even then, they only grew around the border of the Moonpool. That made things even harder since it only existed one Moonpool in the entire world.

A sudden well-known smell of sandalwood mixed with blood hit Vrehj’s nostrils, bringing him to go on alert.

‘Rick! He’s nearby!’

‘About time! Let’s find him!’

Vrejh pushed his legs harder, accelerating his speed. He immediately turned his direction slightly left, following a straight line between a corridor of oak trees. Further ahead, he saw a line of thick bushes on his path. He smelled the air again, it was coming from just ahead of him. After all the time they spent searching for this elusive Ghost, they couldn’t afford to let him escape. The wolf increased his traction, digging his claws into the ground with every contact they made, propulsioning him forward fast and strongly enough so he could jump over the tall bushes. When he came to the other side of the bushes, he saw him. The Forest Ghost stood in a small clearing staring at him. As his big paws entered in contact with the ground, Vrejh immediately jumped towards the nearest oak tree and somersaulted backward, landing a few meters away from his target.

‘You can feel his murdering aura, right?’

‘Yeah, how could I miss that?! Let’s shift our vocal cords enough so we can speak, it would be suicide to fully shift while he’s in that state.’ Answered Rick.

There wasn’t really any popping sound while shifting their vocal cords due to their similar structures between human and wolf but still, the vampire in front of them seem to have heard the small adjusting sound and guessed what it was from.

“I must say, I was expecting something else but you will do just fine!” The vampire’s lips stretched into an evil smirk, his stilet eyes shining blood red before he pounced over the wolf in front of him.

AUTHOR’S NOTE:

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Sorry for the delay in updating. Been really busy with my thesis. The added sickness didn’t help me with the updates either. I’m gonna try my best to update at least once a week.

Thanks for your understanding!

Happy reading! :)

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