In the Shadows of Dryden

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CHAPTER 43 - The pyre

“Hey, it’s alright! It’s alright! I’m here.” He cooed, pointing back to where the snake was. “It’s already gone, see? It went down the stone and it’s slithering through the leaves to get away.”

“You say that but it wasn’t you that almost got bitten by that snake!” She shouted angrily, letting go of his clothes and stepping as far away as she could from the snake. Cedrick chuckled a little.

“Why are you laughing?”

Cedrick lifted an eyebrow in amusement. She had both hands closed in fists, arms outstretched down, almost glued to her body and her face was of one angry Claire.

“It was just a common viper. They are totally non-aggressive!”

“Right! Except, you just confirmed it to be a VIPER! It’s venomous! I could have died from its bite and you’re laughing?!”

“Claire, calm down! Yes, it’s venomous but it only bites when provoked or stepped on. Besides, a bite from that snake would rarely kill someone.

“Rarely but it can still kill someone! It’s a freaking VIPER!”

Cedrick strode up to her until they were standing face to face and grabbed her shoulders. She kept on glaring at him without moving.

“That viper was more afraid of you than you are of it.” He paused, noticing her flinch under his hands. “Claire… are you afraid of snakes?”

“N-no! Where did you get that idea from?” She pulled away, turning her back to him.

“I see. Sorry that I laughed at you. You don’t have to be afraid now. That snake is gone and I’m here.” Cedrick gave a step forward, about to hug her from behind but restrained himself when she stepped away.

“Just… gimme some time, please. Go gather the wood. I will come soon.”

He nodded, hesitantly turning halfway before glancing back at her one more time, then he went to grab the wood by himself.

After a good two minutes of breathing the fresh air and calming herself, she cast an eye around to locate where her friend was. As soon as she located him a little bit away from her, she looked down to the ground and got to work, also picking up some wood sticks but also being extra careful of where she put her hand. She saw that he was gathering the wood they collected right next to their backpacks and noticed that he had placed his own backpack with hers.

They took a while to pick up all the wood, going to sit together over a big dry tree trunk when they deemed that it was enough wood. Cedrick was the first one to sit down, watching her move about, making sure that it was free from snakes. He couldn’t help but chuckle a little internally. She was just too cute for him. Finally, after going over the place twice, she sat down next to him. Checking her hands for dirt, she shook her hands in the air, sometimes clapping them so the dirt and the moss would come out of her hands.

“Man! I’m beat!” She arched her back, stretching it while trying to press on her lower back.

“Yeahh, all the crouching can get a bit painful after a while.” He turned toward her, lifting one foot to the other side of the trunk. Turn around and sit like I am.”

“What for?” She lifted an eyebrow, questioningly.

“Just do it. You will see why.” Cedrick saw her eyeing him and moved his finger in the air to indicate for her to rotate and sit with her back to him. “Come on! I promise not to do anything weird.”

With a sigh, she lifted her foot over to the other side of the trunk as he indicated her.

“Right! Now, I will put some pressure on your lower back. Please, don’t take it the wrong way.” Claire took a peek at him, a bit unsure but nodded.

His hands grabbed her waist and soon she felt him feeling her spinal cord and his fingers grabbed a bit away from her spine, slightly pressing until she flinched a little in pain.

“Found it. Those are your pressure points. I need to press them for about a minute. It will help alleviate the pain.”

He saw her turn her face to him, pinching her brows together for a second before nodding.

“I want you to take deep breaths while I press down, ok?!” She nodded again.

Gently, he pressed down on both points simultaneously, maintaining the pressure but slowly increasing it as she exhaled. Claire was able to withstand the pain really well, and Cedrick repeated the process several times. When he was done, he moved his hands on the air, clenching and stretching them repeatedly to relax his hands.

“So, how does it feel now?”

Claire rotated her body to each side and then bent it forward, feeling it.

“Amazing! The pain is mostly gone!” She lifted her foot back with her other one and looked at him. “You’re amazing at massage! You should open a massage parlor!”

“Nahh, thank you! That’s just something I picked up from watching Dr. Erik working on the other werewolves. It does work pretty well.” He smiled.

“Nice!” She smiled back. “What now though? Shall we head back with the wood?” She asked. Cedrick checked his phone and nodded.

“We should probably start going back soon but for now, we can do some “photosynthesis”.”

“I don’t know about werewolves but humans don’t do photosynthesis! It’s kind of a plant thing, you know?!” She chuckled.

Cedrick put a tongue out to her playfully but didn’t answer. Instead, they took in the beauty of nature in silence, basking on the sun’s warmth. Claire watched the small waterfalls in the river. They weren’t too high but there were enough of them to ensure its fast current. She couldn’t help but think how hard it was gonna be to use the canoe there. It must have passed a good ten minutes when Cedrick suddenly stood, making her lift her head up in alert, but finding that he had a hand outstretched in front of her.

“It’s nice to sit listening and watching mother nature at its best but we might need to go back before anybody finds us slacking.” He chuckled.

Claire nodded, taking his hand to stand.

“How are we gonna take all this wood back? We might have gathered a bit too much.” She thought out loud.

“That won’t be a problem!” Cedrick crouched near his backpack and removed four bungee cords.

“That’s genius! Where did you get those? Nobody said nor offered anything like that!”

“I packed them from home. Those things can really come in handy!” He winked and stretched the bungee cords on the ground in front of him.

Claire crouched near the piled wood, gathering it in a nice big bundle for him to tighten the bungee cords around. They repeated the process until they each had 2 big bundles of wood to carry.

By the time they arrived back, there were already many students working in the middle of the three cabins. There were a couple of scouts instructing the other students on how to build the big pyre.

They placed their huge bundles of wood down next to the place where the pyre would be. Cedrick crouched to remove the bungee cord while Claire piled them up so the other students could start separating.

“Nice job, you two!” Praised a masculine voice.

Cedrick and Claire turned their heads. Both the scout siblings were walking toward them with a smile on their faces.

“That’s quite a bit of wood you two managed to gather on your first go. The others are all coming back with one small pile at a time.” Said Lilian. Philip crouched next to Cedrick and grabbed a bungee cord.

“I like the way you two thought about taking the bungee cord to help in your task. Have you gone camping before?” He returned the cord to Cedrick and stood.

“Yes. My family has been taking me out to camp since I was an infant.”

He nodded and turned to his sister, exchanging a few whispers with his sister. Claire saw a little smirk form on the corner of Cedrick’s lips, confirming her guess that he had heard the siblings talk. “Say… since you two got so much in one go, how about we call your task complete?”

Claire and Cedrick exchanged a glance. Cedrick was actually a bit surprised.

“Are you sure? We could go out again?” Offered, Claire.

“What’s the catch?” Chuckled Cedrick, eyeing Philip suspiciously.

“Ah! It’s not much. Just stay and help with cutting those pieces of logs in half.” He pointed to a pile of thick logs a couple of steps from them. “Claire, you can help with placing the stones in a circle around where the pyre will stand.”

“Actually, my I cut the logs? I’m used to doing that back at home and I’d love to avoid bending over for the moment.” She placed her hands on her back, stretching and subsequently making popping sounds. Both siblings nodded.

“Sure! If you would rather split them, be our guest!” Said Lilian, handing her an ax and pointing to a stump that she could use to place the logs to be splinted in half.

“Are you sure you’re ok with cutting it?” Asked Cedrick, worry sipping in his voice.

“Oh, come on! I’m not so fragile that I would break for doing some heavy work. Go! I will be fine!” Claire shooshed him, swinging the ax over to rest over her shoulder and turned to the tree stump to start working.

Cedrick couldn’t help but watch her walk away and begin working like it was a daily chore. The scout siblings chuckled and soon Cedrick felt a hand on his shoulder.

“You shouldn’t underestimate her. We women can do just as much as you guys can.”

Cedrick glanced at Lilian as she gave him a wink before walking away with her brother. He turned back to Claire. She didn’t seem to have any problem with her new work so he turned and went to grab the rocks to be placed around the pyre.

An hour later, the students that were gonna build the pyre gathered around it. There was a scout instructing them how to build it properly.

“The first step in building a pyre, or any campfire for that matter, is done. That is, placing stones tightly together around the area where you plan to build it.” Explained the scout, pointing to the newly formed circle of stones. Another scout appeared caring some thick logs that Claire had helped split in half in the center of the stone circle.

“You’re going to build it in a pyramid shape. Always make sure that each roll is placed perpendicular to the next and with as little space as possible in between them. Start with the thickest logs on the bottom, like my friend is showing. Decrease in size as you build it up. Let’s do it!”

The assigned students immediately went to grab the logs, carrying and placing them as instructed. Sometimes, one of the other scout would move a log here and there a bit closer to the adjacent one.

“Remember that there should be as little space as possible between those logs otherwise, it becomes harder for the fire to spread.”

Some students brought arms full of tinder and were promptly sent back.

“Also, save the tinder for the very top! They will be the first ones to catch on fire and should only be placed on the top since they burn way faster than the rest. “

Cedrick and Claire got to sit and rest while they watched it being done. They had both experiences in building a campfire and they had done way more than what was expected of them.

Around four in the afternoon, when the pyre was almost done, some scouts came over with trays of skewered sausages with vegetables and a variety of other meat ready to be placed on the pyre.

Philip and Lillian walked around the pyre placing four sturdy metal rods inside premade holes located on the ground around the pyre. There were three scouts carrying a huge grill, that they helped place over the metal rods that the siblings had just placed.

The other students all went to sit on the ground around the pyre. Two other scouts came and placed two coolers a bit away from the pyre.

“There are some drinks here for whoever is thirsty.” Said one of them before walking off.

Everybody watched as the scouts arranged the meat over the huge grill. Some students went to grab something to drink.

Their friends soon came and joined them on the bench where they were resting and Cedrick left with his friends to grab drinks for everybody. They talked about what they did that day and the ups and downs of their respective assignment.

About an hour later, the scouts responsible for checking the barbecue called the dinner and people began gathering in a line to get their food.

After the group of friends had gotten their food on paper plates, they all went to sit somewhere by the pyre. They couldn’t stay too close because they would be in the way to the scouts attending the barbecue but the pyre was big enough so that they could still feel its warmth from a bit away. Again, the friends sat with the person they had a crush on, even if they were all together in a group. Cedrick got to sit beside Claire again. He wasn’t complaining but it did get awkward to keep receiving glances from their friends.

As the friends finished their dinner, they started to talk about what they had heard that would be done the next day. Cedrick listened to it attentively but after a while, he realized that Claire was too quiet and looked over at her.

She was sitting with her eyes transfixed on the fire, completely still. Cedrick felt a chill running through his spine.

“Claire?” He whispered at first. She didn’t answer. It was almost as if she wasn’t breathing. It felt weird to him so he tried to snap his fingers in front of her eyes. Nothing!

“Hej, guys. I think there is something wrong with Claire.” He stated, without turning to them. Tahice, Maya and Jaine instantly moved over to sit by her, trying to get her attention.

Suddenly, a loud pop was heard. The friends all looked at the pyre. The abnormally loud crackling and popping of the fire intensified. Whoever was nearby the pyre, began to distance itself from it, eyes riveted on it.

The friends tried to lift her but she was as heavy as a bolder and just wouldn’t budge.

A piece of wood suddenly flew from inside the pyre, getting the friends to quickly spread away in an attempt to dodge it. Cedrick was the only one that threw himself on Claire, trying to shield her. He looked up at her and gasped. Her beautiful sky blue eyes were the color of amber.

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