In the Shadows of Dryden

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CHAPTER 42 - First task

Cedrick and Claire walked in the forest around the camp for a little bit until they got to the river. Claire approached the river bank and closed her eyes, taking in the sunlight that caressed her face. She took a deep breath. Yes! It was nice there. Many birds sang along while others flew back and forth from the trees to the river or from the grass and rocks hunting for food for their babies. A warm smile formed on Cedrick’s lips as he went to sit on the soft green grass without directly staring at her.

She took a deep breath before looking around. When she saw Cedrick sitting on the grass, she walked over to him.

“We should probably not stay here for too long. It would be nice to talk with our friends and see where they were placed. Don’t you think?” She asked, looking around for a cleaner place to sit.

“Nahh! We won’t stay here too long. Just enough to rest a bit before heading back. I promise!” He winked, leaning back on his arms to get some sun.

Claire finally found a clean enough patch where she could sit.

“So… how did you… meet with the Forest Ghost? You said it happened the first day you arrived in town.”

“Hmm…” Claire’s cheeks became a darker shade of red while she looked away to the river, fidgeting. Truth was, just looking at the river made her remember that day and she found herself blushing even more. “Well, I didn’t talk with him. I was out on a hike with my sister when we…”

Cedrick sat up, frowning slightly as he noticed her turning even redder. Her hesitation and shyness piqued his curiosity. He had thought that they had talked the first day she moved into town but now he discovered that she didn’t talk with him but… what? What was that she was so hesitant to say?

“My sister and I… we kind of… stumbled on him bathing in the lake.”

Cedrick’s eyes widened for a second before his expression became a bit sour.

“Bathing??? You saw him bathing and that made you fall for him?” He roared without thinking. Claire glared at him, totally losing all her shyness.

“You’re out of line, Cedrick!” She retorted with an edge to her voice.

Cedrick opened his mouth to speak but closed it soon after, looking sideways.

“Sorry! It definitely came out the wrong way.”

“You don’t say?!”

“I’m sorry, Claire! You know I love you. I just… got upset that he got to you before I even had the chance.”

“Love me? Cedrick, don’t werewolves have soulmates? I’m pretty sure I’m not yours.”

Cedrick’s shoulders drooped in defeat.

“Yeahh, we do. Werewolves can recognize their mates when they turn 18 and I just turned 18 around the time you moved in town.”

“Then you should know if I am your soulmate! So? Am I?”

“No!” He shook his head in pain. “You’re not, but that doesn’t stop me from loving you.” He looked up at her with pleading eyes. Claire let out a sigh.

“We’ve talked about that before. I love Caio. I’m sorry.”

“No! No, no, no. It came out all wrong! I’m not asking you to reconsider, I’m just trying to explain that…” He squeezed his eyebrows for a sec, looking away before looking back at her. “... that I’m jealous of him.”

Claire didn’t reply, just stared at him a bit in surprise.

“You know what? I’m sorry I even asked. It’s none of my business.” He stood, patting his hands over his pants to get any debris out, then he extended a hand to Claire. “Forget everything I said, will you?!”

Her head tilted a little but she still accepted his hand. They stayed in silence for a couple of minutes, just walking the path back to the cabins.

“Whoever your soulmate is, she will be very happy when you find her.”

It came out of nowhere, catching Cedrick’s attention and making him take a peek at her.

“Thank you, Claire. I just hope she’s someone as brilliant and entrailing as you are.”

His answer put a smile on her face.

“She will be that and much more for you! I’m sure!”

Cedrick chuckled, nodding slightly.

The walk back to the cabins took about 30 minutes, which they spent talking about their plans for the future. Claire found out that Cedrick was as undecided as she was. He wanted to become an Air Force pilot but he also wanted to be a veterinarian. She wanted to be a detective like her father but she could also see herself as a pediatrician. It really didn’t matter much, they still had the rest of this year to decide. They were sure that all would solve itself when the time came.

As soon as they came through the threes and were able to see the cabins, Cedrick pointed to their friends. They were all gathered around a wooden table between cabins two and three. Soon after, he was dragging Claire along towards the said table.

“There they are!” Exclaimed Maya. “Where were you guys? We looked everywhere for you!”

“Oh, they were probably having some much-needed privacy in the woods.” Blurted Jayne with a knowing look on her face that was everything but “knowing” to Claire. She sighed in contempt while Cedrick ignored the comment, going to talk with his friends.

“Uh… No! We were exploring a bit around camp. Nothing of the dirty things you’ve been thinking.” She retorted, annoyed.

“Jayne! What they do with their free time is of their concern. Stop voicing those things out loud!” Said Tahice, also a bit annoyed by their friend’s comment. Jayne shrugged and kept blowing bubble gum out, making small popping sounds every once in a while.

“So… what group did you all get?” Asked Claire.

“Seth, Killian and Tahice got in group 7. Me, Jayne and that guy…”

“His name is Sunny!” Jayne cut Maya, a light blush on her face.

They all took a few seconds staring at Jayne with a smirk on their faces.

“What?” Asked Jayne, stepping back.

“Oh, nothing!” Said Claire, edging the word “nothing” with a slightly raised eyebrow and a smirk.

“Yeahh, Jayne. When it’s any of us, you’re so quick to blunt out those things but when it’s you…”

“I have absolutely no idea what are you girls talking about! Sunny and I are just friends!”

Maya, Tahice and Claire exchange a glance before addressing Jayne again.

“Oh, Sunny! My Sunny! You’re so strong!” Dramatized Maya, placing a hand over her head and acting like she was in need of the guy.

“Stop it! He might hear you!” Shooshed Jayne, starting to panic.

“Oh, but did you see how handsome and muscular he is? Oh, my God! What a man!” Dramatized Tahice by fanning herself with a paper fan as if she was sweating bullets.

“Girls, please, stop!” Jayne looked around nervously, trying to shoosh them over and over again.

“Imagine how it would be to kiss that hunk of a blond! Oh! His eyes…” Claire joined in the dramatization, also making funny poses as if Jayne couldn’t stop dreaming about that guy.

“Not you too, Claire! Please, girls, stop! He might hear or see you guys!” Jayne was in full-out panic mode now, looking around and waving her hands, trying to no avail to cover her friend’s mouth.

Killian, Cedrick and Seth have long stopped talking to see the girls acting. They didn’t know if they wanted to console Jayne, laugh, or be scared of them.

“Man, remind me never to get to their bad side!” Said Seth, getting an agreeing nod from both his friends.

“Alright!” Said Claire, pulling Jayne for a hug when she noticed that her friend was about to start crying. “I’m sorry about that but you kind of deserved it!” She patted Jayne’s back.

Both Maya and Tahice joined in the hug, murmuring their sorry’s.

Jayne pulled away after a little bit and took a deep breath.

“No, it’s fine. Claire is right. I deserve it for always picking on you girls. It’s just…”

“Too funny to let it slide?” Asked Tahice with a big smirk. All girls chuckled.

“Yeahh…” Breathed Jayne out in defeat.

“Hey! There you are!”

Jayne froze in place while all her friends looked past her to the tall blond jogging toward them, waving his hand.

“Is that…” Jayne whispered

“Yes, Jayne! It’s Sunny.” Answered Maya with gritted teeth, trying to smile at the same time.

Slowly, Jayne turned around but Sunny got there faster and rotated the rest of her body to get her to face him. Their eyes met and her cheeks instantly became red again.

“Hey, you!” He said.

“Hey!” Her voice came out as a half-whisper half murmur but Sunny didn’t seem to have missed it. He gave her a big smile before addressing the rest of the group.

“Hey, sorry! I’m Sunny Lightweaver from class C. Sorry to bother you guys but the scouts are calling everybody to gather inside the dining hall. Think they will be giving some instructions of what we will be doing next.”

They all nodded, some exchanging a glance, before jogging towards a big brick cabin that stood a bit farther away from the dormitory cabins they were staying in.

The dining hall was extremely big. It was to be expected of a building that was meant to house all the people in the camp for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Once inside the big doors, the group of friends saw the huge kitchen where many scouts were busy working. They followed the crowd to a set of stairs going to the second floor. The second floor was ample and wide, with several wooden tables placed with benches alongside them. Some lamps hung from the ceiling giving a white glow over the tables. Since they were on the second floor, all the walls there were made of glass crisscrossed with triangular wooden frames, allowing for as much light as possible inside of the room. Against the opposite wall to the stairs, was a really long table with a variety of food. Standing behind the table were some scouts serving the students. The group entered in line to get their food and then went to sit at a table together to listen to the new instructions.

No sooner than the last person of their little group joined them, they all winced with the tap that Philip made on his microphone. Both he and his sister stood about in the middle of another set of stairs going to the third floor. Everybody suddenly had their entire attention on the siblings.

“Welcome back everybody!” Greeted Philip.

“Welcome back!” Echoed his sister, Lilian.

“For today, we decided to take pity on you all and only give one assignment.” The crowd cheered as soon as Philip finished his sentence. Two taps of the microphone were enough to bring everybody to silence, feeling the pain in their ears.

“We will make it easy on you today, so groups 2, 5 and 8 will be going out into the forest to gatherer firewood. The remaining groups will help each other with the construction of the pyre so we can make a small BBQ before curfew. That will also be our dinner so nobody is caught outside during curfew. A reminder that it is absolutely forbidden to leave your dormitory during the night.” Continued Philip.

“Alright! Groups 1, 2 and 7 will be sorting through the firewood brought back to camp and separating them into different thicknesses. You will understand why we’re doing that later!” Added Lillian.

“Groups 3, 6 and 9 will be in charge of actually building the pyre! That includes the use of some stones that we have already separated for the occasion.” Explained Philip.

“Be ready to start working in one hour! Enjoy your lunch!” Said Lilian, and the siblings turned off their microphones as they stepped out of the stairs to go eat as well.

“Well, that leaves me and Claire to go grab firewood.”

“Man, that’s easy work! Think the only thing that we could possibly consider a bit harder is building the pyre. All too easy!” Said Seth, picking some food to eat.

“They did say they would go easy on us today.” Retorted Maya.

The group started to eat without anybody adding anything else to the conversation. Instead, Jayne kept on sending sideway glances over to Sunny, who kept on smiling at her every time he caught her looking. Seth was whispering something to Tahice, making her giggle and blush. Maya and Killian were quiet eating but they had their hands entwined the entire time. Claire and Cedrick were the only ones on the table feeling awkward about this situation, hence eating as fast as they could to leave the table.

About ten minutes later, both Cedrick and Claire simultaneously stood with their plates in hand. Their friends all looked up at them with a question mark in their expressions. The two awkward friends forced a smile and nodded.

“We’re done eating. Right Claire?”

“Yes! It was so good I couldn’t stop eating.” She giggled nervously. “We… ah… we’re gonna go start working.”

“Exactly! I must have been hungrier than I thought and ate too fast. Anyways, Claire is right, we should go start working.”

“But the scouts said in one hour. It’s only been ten minutes…” Said Tahice, tilting her head, oblivious of her two friend’s situation.

“That’s ok. I ate so much that I need the walk anyways.” Replied Claire, walking away and waving a hand.

“I better not leave her alone in the forest. Besides, we’re in the same group so I will go help her gather firewood.” Cedrick pulled away in the same direction as Claire.

The two left their empty plates on the dish holder standing near the stairs, walked down to the first floor and out of the door in no time. In all truth, they were glad to leave their friends. They felt like a pair of candleholders in a romantic setting. Once outside, they rushed to their cabin to grab a few items before they left together.

Stepping out of the cabin, Claire gave a half pause, checking inside her backpack if she had gotten everything she needed.

“Ready?” Asked Cedrick.

“Think so. Where to, mister?” She answered while closing her backpack and smiling back at him.

“I noticed quite a lot of firewood to gather on our way to the river. Shall we go back there?”

“Sure! Why not? It’s not too far either so we can probably spend some time getting some sun before gathering the wood.

They nodded in agreement and took off hiking back to the river bank they were some time ago. Once they got back to the same spot they were before, Claire dropped her backpack near a rock and sat next to it, over the long flat rock stretching her arms up and yawning.

“Tired?”

“Nahh. Just stretching.” She began leaning back on the rock when Cedrick grabbed her wrist and yanked her up to him so fast that Claire was left speechless. “What the hell was that for?” She looked angry but upon seeing him pointing down to the stone she was about to lay on, her anger gave way to fear. She grabbed his clothes as if it was a life bay. “Shit!”

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