In the Shadows of Dryden

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Chapter 25 - Figuring it out

Chapter 25 - Figuring it out

His big paws trotted through the forest floor. The meeting with his Goddess and her message kept replaying in his head. Closing his eyes, the wolf came to a full stop, reminiscing about her words.

>>>>>>> “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!” <<<<<<<

‘Succeed in protecting the balance of life… What did she mean with that?’

‘It sure sounded more than just a warning.’ Answered Vrejh.

Slowly, the wolf opened his eyes, taking in the fresh air of the lush green forest around him with a deep breath.

‘We need to think more about this message.’

Laggardly, he started to wander back to the spot where he had left his clothes.

‘I wonder how those flowers showed right in front of us when the talk with the Goddess happened in our mind... or… another place altogether. We weren’t in the forest, but on top of a grassy plateau that overlooked a waterfall of a valley when we talked with her.’

‘I believe she left them on purpose to help us.’ Said Vrejh.

‘Yes, that is my thought too. Either way, we need to be quiet about those flowers and keep them hidden inside the pouch she gave us until we know exactly what she intended for us to do with them.’

The wolf walked the rest of the way thinking of the different possibilities for the Goddess’s message. Both Richard and Vrejh knew they had to fulfill the task.

It took a few hours of both walking and running to get back to where his car was parked. Approaching the front tire of the car, he quickly crouched and pulled on a sports bag that was hidden under the car and behind the front tire and ran back into the forest with the bag. When Vrejh deemed that they were far enough away for no one to see them, he dropped the bag on the ground and transformed back into his human form, giving the control back to Rick. It wasn’t long before Rick was back by his car, fully dressed. He immediately placed his sports bag in the backseat of the car and as he was opening the driver’s door, he heard someone walking nearby.

“Rick? Is that you?”

Surprised, Rick turned around, coming face to face with Clarisse. They stared at each other for what felt like hours but in reality, it was just a couple of seconds.

Clarisse couldn’t help but notice the way her boyfriend was dressed. He was still wearing one of his working suites but his white shirt was out of the pants and totally unbuttoned. He wasn’t wearing his suit jacket either and his hair was quite disheveled.

“Clarisse! What are you doing around here during this time of the day?”

“I went shopping after work and was coming back to my car.” She pointed to her car parked a bit away. “How strange that I didn’t notice your car here before.” Tilting her head to one side, she lifted a hand up to her face, holding it against her lips.

“That’s probably because I parked here after you. Anyways, I will walk you to your car then.” Rick closed the open door of his car and stepped closer to Clarisse. Grabbing her waist with a hand, he pulled her to him, and with his remaining hand, he caressed her face.

Clarisse felt herself melt like butter under his touch, embracing him back as she pulled on his shirt’s collar to bring his face closer to hers. Their lips touched, but their passionate kiss was full of love, calmness, and caresses. They didn’t want to hurry anything just enjoy the moment with each other, taste each other, and let their tongues dance. After kissing for a while, they pulled away, both trying to catch their breaths.

“I love you, Issa.”

Clarisse looked up at him, the corner of her lips pulling up in a big smile.

“I love you too, Rick.” Her cheeks had a pink-reddish rue to them.

The couple interlaced their fingers and began walking toward Clarisse’s car. When they arrived next to it, Richard gently pulled Clarisse to face him, taking her other hand as well.

“I wanted to ask you something.”

Clarisse lifted her eyebrows. It was probably too early to ask her to marry him plus, it was hardly the right place or time for him to do that. So, why was she feeling so nervous and anxious?

“My parents are back from their trip. I was wondering…” Richard took a long breath, gathering his courage. She was his destined mate and it was time to introduce her to his family. He was aware that she was just a human but he didn’t care. She was everything he ever dreamed and more. She was perfect in every way. “...would you have dinner with us on Sunday?”

Clarisse felt slightly relaxed that he wasn’t proposing to her yet but on the other hand, she was getting even more nervous to meet his parents. It was a big step for her.

“Oh… I… yeahh! Of course!”

Richard squeezed her hands a bit, trying to give her some reassurance that everything would go well.

“What are you afraid of?”

“I’m not! It’s just…” Her face dropped, unable to keep looking at him but Richard was determined to cheer her up. He let go of one of her hands and lifted her chin up, forcing her to look back at him. Clarisse let out a sigh when she noticed his puppy dog eyes pleading with her to say yes. How could she say no?

“Ok. I will come to have dinner with your family but you need to do the same with my family! I will talk with my parents and see when we can do that. Deal?”

Richard chuckled, nodding back at her.

“Absolutely! Whenever you want me to come to meet them over dinner!”

Clarisse couldn’t help but smile at his answer, hugging him tightly against her. She loved feeling his warm body next to hers, smell the mixture of his pine tree cologne with his masculine smell. Richard felt his heart filled with happiness as he embraced her back, running a hand over her long dark wavy brown hair. They stayed like that for some minutes, just enjoying each other’s warmth.

“I should start heading back home before it gets too late. I know I’m an adult but my parents still get worried.” She slowly pulled away from him, digging into her jacket’s pocket for her car keys. Richard nodded but as she pulled her car door open, he hugged her from behind, letting his chin rest over her shoulder while he kissed her cheek.

“I miss you already.”

Clarissa placed a hand over his cheek and turned her head so she could give him a quick kiss.

“I miss you too, you know?! What time are you coming to pick me up on Sunday?” She asked in a low whisper, giving him another peck on his lips.

“How about... around four in the afternoon? Would that be alright for you?”

“Yes. I will be waiting for you but… please, don’t leave me alone with your parents. I’m nervous.” Clarissa looked away for a second, embarrassed but Rick just chuckled.

“I promise you that I will not leave you alone with them. At least, not for a long time. But, what are you so worried about? They won’t eat you alive!”

“I… I just am, alright?!” Clarissa turned and sat inside her car, quickly closing the door. She started the car and rolled down her window. “Will send you a message when I get home.”

“Please do. Will do the same when I get home. I’ll call you tomorrow.”

Clarissa gave him one last smile before driving off from the parking lot, leaving him to watch her drive away.

***

The room was quite vast with several bookshelves covering the left wall. Directly in front of the door was a huge wooden table where some herbs, pots, and jars with strange-looking creatures were kept at one side. In the middle of the table, was a big cauldron bubbling with some unknown substance, and beside it, was a laptop and some open books. The wall behind the table had two windows separated by four shelves filled with herbs, empty bottles, jars with eyes, bat wings, chicken feet, and some other weird things. To the right of the table, was a big recliner chair with a small round table next to it, a black gladstone bag, and a huge triangular window. Behind the recliner was a table-looking bar where several hard alcohol beverages and cups were neatly arranged. Two bookshelves stood beside it in the corner while some pictures hung by the other side of the window. Between the pictures and the door, was a big blackboard with several equations written on it.

“I imagined you would come. Why did you attack that boy? Do you have feelings for that girl? Claire.”

Caio’s eyebrows knitted together, his eyes squinting in a dangerous way. Stepping forward, he pushed the door to close without taking his gaze off the man in front of him.

“Careful Erik, I’m not in a good mood.”

Erik ignored him, going back to his alchemy tubes and cauldron, adding a bright green liquid into the bubbling mixture. Immediately, some sparks flew out, and purple smoke began forming over it.

Caio watched it with an uninterested expression as he went to stand by the long triangular window.

Erik followed his friend’s movement, placing some empty potion bottles on top of the table. Turning to the shelf behind him, he searched through it until he found a golden vial.

“She seemed very agitated by what happened between Cedric and you.”

“I don’t care!”

The doctor paused, glancing over his shoulders to look at Caio. With a low sigh, he turned and placed the golden vial on the table before striding toward the recliner.

“You’re as stubborn as always! What do you want from me?”

Caio was staring out of the window, a cold expression plastered on his face.

“How is the castle’s security? Is the barrier still up? Was there any breach?”

“Yeahh, all’s fine! Nothing happened. Why?” Asked Erik, pouring a scotch on the rocks for himself.

“I met with the alpha dog on my way back. He told me that he found the gemstones from a murder scene inside my castle and that he had fought someone.

“By ‘I met’ you mean that you fought him, right?” He lifted an eyebrow, making a mention with his cup towards Caio. The latter looked at him, nodding.

“If you already know, why do you ask?”

“To annoy you!” Erik smiled calmly at his friend.

“Tsk! Are you sure the security wasn’t breached?”

“Yes, Caio. I don’t believe Richard meant your castle. He doesn’t know where your castle is, nobody knows!”

Caio nodded, staring back outside of the window, thinking.

“I believe he went to Kodoku’s castle. Although, it’s beyond me why he would find those gemstones there.”

“You mean the gemstones found in the women’s corpses around a pentagram?”

“Exactly!”

Erik approached Caio by the window, slowly moving his scotch glass so the ice would swirl around inside it like a small hurricane.

“We do not know yet if those gemstones are the same ones as in the castle.” Said Erik. “Don’t you think that we need to assert that first before worrying about things?”

“I have already mind-linked someone to get samples from them and bring it here for testing. I’m hoping that they aren’t an exact match to ours. Otherwise, I would very much like to know how they were taken away from under our noses without us noticing it.”

The doctor looked into his drink for a second before taking a sip out of it.

“About that pentagram, what do you know about it?” Asked Caio, turning to lean on the side of the window, crossing his arms.

“By what I found out, it suggests the work of a powerful witch.”

“Just ‘A’ witch? Not a coven?”

“I don’t believe so, no. At least, I haven’t felt any magical disturbances in years. I would know if a coven was nearby by now. Although...”

“Although?” Asked Caio glancing sideways.

“I did feel some kind of magical disturbance some months ago. It was so weak that I didn’t think anything about it.” He said, drinking the rest of his scotch.

“Where exactly did you felt it at?”

“The lake house.”

“I see. It shouldn’t be anything then.”

“Caio…”

Caio turned his head to regard the doctor.

“I know you’re not in the mood for questions but we should keep an eye on Claire.”

“And why is that? She has her pup boyfriend to watch over her.”

“Com’on Caio! Yes, she went on a date with him but I don’t think she’s his girlfriend.”

Caio chuckled sarcastically, moving away from the window and heading to the door.

“You think she’s mine? You must be getting crazy in your old age! I don’t do dates!”

“Of course not! You’re just too damn stubborn to admit that you love her when everybody else can see it!”

“Love? That doesn’t exist for me! I wasn’t meant to love!” His hand grabbed the doorknob, aggressively pulling it open, ready to step out.

“Have you ever thought of why you felt so damn jealous to see them kissing that you attacked that boy? He had several ribs broken and dangerous internal bleeding!”

Caio stopped midway through the door, glaring daggers back at the doctor.

“Such a pity that he didn’t die!” He spat back.

“You don’t mean that! You, of all people, would know if he had died!”

His fangs had protruded back and his eyes were like rubies glaring back at the doctor right before Caio rushed toward him at high speed. Erik’s eyes had also turned bright purple as he raised a force field around himself. Caio stopped right before the force field, his eyes glaring dangerously at the doctor.

“Don’t be so stubborn! You LOVE her! For the first time in your hermit life, you love someone!”

*BASK BASK BASK!!*

His fists banged against the force field, magic sparks flying off with each contact.

“Erik! I swear I’m gonna skin you myself if you don’t shut your mouth right now!”

“You wouldn’t dare to do that to your best friend!”

“Do you wanna try me?”

“Would anybody but me, dare to try you? That’s the very reason why I’m talking with you because I’m one of the few people that can afford to do so.”

“Off with this force field before you force me to break it open myself.” Caio stepped back, having slightly calmed down but still glaring at his friend. Erik did as he asked, he had known Caio for centuries, and he would not seriously attack him.

With the force field down, Erik slumped down on his recliner, letting a sigh escape his mouth.

“I don’t know why everybody around me seems dead set to get me to date that girl. She isn’t interested in me otherwise, she wouldn’t have gone out with that pup. She wouldn’t have kissed and hugged him. She wouldn’t have…” He closed his eyes, images of Claire and Cedric kissing projecting in his head like a broken disc. “She will be better off without me.” He turned on his heels and ran out of the room at high speed.

“Caio, wait!” Erik stood quickly trying to stop his friend but he was long gone. “Haaaaa… why do you have to be so stubborn?” He asked out loud.

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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