NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
The first scene in this tale may have triggering factors for some. Please read with caution.
It is an isolated incident in the story to represent how light can emerge from the worst darkness. ot intended to offend.
Outside River City, Igonox
Something watched her.
Tonight was so dark even fields of wheat seemed black. Alisa stood at her window. Breath tight in her chest. She wore her lip thin as she squinted into the dark. The starless night refused to allow even moonlight to illuminate the meadow separating her cottage from the woods. Scents were carried to her on the same wind tossing black tresses from her face. Crushed alfalfa, wild clover and wet grass. Same as any other night.
But this night is different. Dangerous. Alisa saw visions of spilled blood tarnishing trees and grass. A portent of what came for her.
Eyes followed her every move. All over her like a repugnant touch. Feeling the same as it had all day. Making her skin crawl.
Sensing she was followed from the market she’d rushed straight home. Looking over her shoulder several times yielded only the barren dirt path.
But something was there. Lurking on huge paws. Padding quietly over her footprints. And crushing her tracks in the earth. Now it closed in. Step by step, it stayed just beyond the light. Shielded by the cover of descending night. Each hour brought it closer to her front door.
Swallowing hard she fought the terrible fear clawing through her. Sensitive to such things she felt this creature’s energy. It’s hungry. Starved for violence and excited for the darkest part of night. Vibrations rose off it. Too fast to be human.
Behind her the fireplace spit slightly. The crackling of the thick log making her jump. The fire’s glow illuminated her silhouette at the window.
Beautiful and slender, Alisa descended from a long line of Dreads, witches. Her delicate shoulders traced into a slim waist. Vibrant yellow and blue skirts framed her hips in gentle waves. A leather bodice made her breasts strain against the rough fabric of her chemise. Black hair was a shining curtain down her back. Nervously reaching around she fisted it and tugged it over her shoulder where it draped to her thighs. She worriedly rang it in her fists. Her gaze riveted on the dark creeping over the meadow.
Though she’d never harmed a soul, the people of Igonox still believed her a Dark Dread. Years ago, they’d driven her from the kingdom’s protective walls. Offering her no choice but to seek sanctuary in the fields beyond the moat.
Well aware no one would house her, shelter her, she’d faced that she was alone. I’ve nowhere to run.
I’ll not hide in the dark.
So, she’d gathered her strength, forced herself to rise from where she cowered, and shove open the shutters. Deciding to face what hunted her. Refusing to return to quaking like a child. Waiting for it to come for me. Hands gripping the coarse shutters clenched so tightly they shook. Her silver gaze studying the sloping field. Watching the outline of trees. Carefully searching for movement. Branches danced against the lazy backdrop of clouds crossing the sky. It’s too dark. Impossible to separate what’s alive from what’s shadow.
Magic coursed through her, thicker than her own blood. Her abilities to move wind and wield energy were things grown through decades of strengthening her aura like a muscle to be flexed. Power inherited from my ancestors.
But it won’t be enough. She already knew she’d be no match for what waited.
Its intruding magic bombarded her. Unnatural and so powerful it stole her breath. Fine hairs on her neck went erect, those on her head tingling with awareness.
Sending her aura in smoky tendrils, she made a last effort to see if she could find what was out there and somehow prepare, protect, herself. A projection of her spirit emerged in a burst of energy. An image of herself floating on light, feet running beneath a willowy skirt across a moonlit field as she followed the remnants of the intruder’s energy like footprints. Trailing it, she entered the foggy forest.
And found the beast hunkered behind shrubs, a huge black feline with silver stripes. Following its gaze, she found it was in direct line with the cottage. Staring at her body posed between the shutters.
Moving its paws restlessly, made sleek muscles ripple. Yellow eyes flicked to her. Staring at the puff of energy standing next to it, the tiger gave a snarl and leapt toward her hazy projection.
She lunged back in terror. How’d it see me?
Energy dissipating, she rushed back to her flesh in an attempt to protect it from what stampeded across the meadow now. Her spirit lodged back inside her. Blinking rapidly, she attempted to focus. Seeing the reflective yellow gaze floating over the field, despite all her thoughts of courage, she was unable to resist her instinctive response. Slamming the shutters closed, she slapped the bolt in place. Fleeing to hide next to her bed. Crouching as close to the frame as she could she hunkered down to hide.
A wave of her hands built a protective barrier around her bed and fireplace. Magic shimmering in waves. Survival behind these walls will be possible for a few days perhaps...As long as I can hold it. But once I weaken, it’ll weaken. Tightening her fingers around an imaginary ball made the fireplace react. Spitting steam as it bloomed to full life.
Let it fear the fire. She prayed fervently.