As Eric faints, I fall down along with him but someone pulls my hair before I hit the ground. I scream in pain and wildly kick back at whoever it is. I should've kept them inside the shirt! What was I thinking when I decided to wear them down as a braid? I think furiously.
The person lets go immediately and I turn around to find myself face to face with Dan.
“You!?” I snicker at him. Dan hates the forest more than anything but he's crossed the opening this time to stop me from taking Eric?
“I won’t let you take this boy into the forest. His grandmother demands him!!” He moves to lift Eric up but I stop him with a kick in his side.
“Dan, I won’t let you!” I stand between him and Eric as he struggles to stand up. Wiping his lip which is bleeding, he laughs at me, “You have no idea what you're up against.”
“Actually, I think I know who is behind this.” I punch him squarely in the jaw and drag Eric towards the forest to buy myself some time. The actual entrance to the forest is the turn which is only seven feet away from me.
“DEVON!!! DEVON CAN YOU HEAR ME?” I shout out towards the forest as I struggle to drag Eric. God, he's heavy.
Dan rushes towards me and pushes me aside. I fall, tripping over Eric's body. Dan picks him up like a sack of flour and throws him over his shoulders as he weighs nothing before I can get up.
“NOO!!” I move fast and grip Eric's shirt before kicking Dan in his knees from the back. It makes him fall down face-first. Before Eric’s body hit can the ground, a hand moves as fast as lightning to pull him back. I run to grab Eric's bag he'd been holding on so tightly before he fainted as Devon throws Eric over one of his shoulders.
“She will kill you! She will kill all of you!!” Dan shouts as we run into the forest.
We make it a few feet, away from Dan’s sight when Daemon emerges from behind the invisible wall, “STOPPPP!!” He shouts furiously. I help Devon as he lays down Eric, I put his bag under his head hoping there isn’t something breakable in it.
“What is the meaning of this?” Daemon’s son asks us. For some reason, I despise the guy and need his name to curse in my head.
“He saw one of us in his grandmother’s house and it freaked him out!” I try to explain, breathlessly.
“That is no excuse. He is so damn powerful!” Daemon walks up to Eric and I come in front of him, unintentionally.
“Powerful? He's just a human!” I look at Daemon as if he has gone nuts.
“Because of him whole forest is kind of rattled. He is Headley’s grandson. I think I told you to stay away from him!!” Daemon angrily shoves me aside and Devon rushes to hold me.
“Check his bag!” Daemon instructs two other men as he bends down to look at Eric closely.
I try not to cry and look away. They're not gonna protect him just because he's Headley’s grandson. I could see that Eric was scared for his life when he ran towards me. He's not easily scared for I got to know him a little when he helped me last time. Now it's my turn to help.
Devon hugs me tenderly and pats my head, “I will protect him with you!” He whispers before stepping back.
The two other guys with Daemon and his son throw out Eric’s belongings. There is nothing other than two shirts, two pants and a sketchbook. It seems like he ran with whatever he could get his hands on. I quickly pick up the sketchbook before Daemon can reach it.
“Adria, please?” He holds out his hand for it.
“No. Let me see it first!” I open the sketchbook and leaf through it. On the first page, Eric has written his name in a beautiful font. I gasp as I turn the page, he's sketched me. Me, he met when he came to Baskervilles. Below the sketch, he's written three lines he knew about me. On the next page is another sketch of mine from when I kicked Dan because he had hit Eric who was trying to protect me. There, my hood had fallen off for a few moments before I'd pulled it back up and Eric sketched me without the hood like a professional. He has good sight and memory.
On the third page, there is another sketch of me, from when I was stuck at the café because of the storm and had no choice but to wear those fitting clothes. The way Eric gaped at me doesn’t surprise me as I see my sketch in those clothes. Below this sketch, he has scribbled few more lines he came to know about me then.
Devon looks at the sketches from over my shoulder and I let him. “Well?” Daemon asks impatiently and I quickly turn the page. The fourth sketch is of a guy I often saw at Trade D Crops and below this sketch, Eric has scribbled Albern Sebastian.
I show Daemon Albern’s sketch, “Just this.”
Daemon raises his eyebrow and reaches out for the sketchbook but I move it away from his reach, “Other sketches are of me. I'm going to keep it.”
“What about this guy dad?” Daemon’s son asks him as he nudges Eric’s leg who is still passed out cold.
“Adria, we told you no feelings for this guy and he is powerful. Can’t you feel anything?”
I shake my head and bend down to put Eric’s clothes back into his bag.
“He's right, Adria. I could feel very strong energy coming off him when I carried him into the forest!” Devon says softly.
“What are you gonna do then?” I avoid looking in any of their eyes as I put Eric’s bag under his head again.
“We can’t have him in the forest. The wards are trying to stop him already and if they break, all of this will end.” Daemon’s son speaks up instead of him which pisses me off to a great extent. I just can’t stand the guy.
“Then kick me out too!!” I snap.
“Adria, think rationally!! Don’t do what your mother did years ago!” Daemon says furiously.
“I'm not my mother and he's certainly not his grandparents!” I retort. And I have no idea why I’m fighting for him in the first place. Is it because my heart wants someone like Cyril and he is by far the best choice? I'm terrible.
Daemon throws up his hand and his son shakes his head at me. I take a deep breath. I'm acting weird that’s for sure but if I don’t help Eric, they will throw him back out and I have no idea what his grandmother will do to him?
“He said he saw someone like us, captive in his grandmother’s house and he had violet eyes with a silver hue. Give him a chance to explain himself before you charge him guilty.” I ask Daemon as he turns to gape at me.
I nod and he rubs his face, “There's no one with silver hue Adria. We all have similar eyes!”
“He had silver, trust me. I can sketch him for you.” Eric groans as he tries to sit up making others jump away from him.
“You okay?” Devon asks, helping him up.
Eric nods and looks at Daemon, “He had silver hair like you do!”
Daemon moves to Eric cautiously, “Aren’t you feeling anything by looking at us?”
Eric shrugs, “Am I supposed to?”
I try to hide my smile and turn to Daemon, “Give him a chance, there could be something there. I have a feeling. Also, early this morning there was someone in my friend Jade’s head. Some old person and she was making her fight me so that I could be kicked out here. You said the only people who possess magic are you guys. Then answer me this, was it someone from here?”
“No, Adria. We don’t do such things!” Daemon puts his hands on his hips and looks at Eric.
“Magic? Really? Well, then how does someone gets into other’s head?” Eric asks incredulously and I raise my hand to shut him up.
“None of us would do that. Adria, you can be mistaken!” Daemon seems clearly frustrated.
“I know what I heard. I could hear the voice in Jade’s head. It wasn’t hers and even if it were, then how could I hear it?”
“Like I said, you also possess magic. But still, it's not possible for even a level five to control someone. And we can’t do that kind of thing outside the wards!”
“Why not?” I fold my arms.
“Everything is a mess right now. Fine, Eric, you can come with us but I won’t promise your protection. Keep calm or you might blow up this forest and its wards!” Daemon gives Eric a hard look and signals everyone to follow him.
“Me? I can do that?” He gawks at us as we prepare to leave. Devon pats his shoulder as he passes us.
“Yes, you can. You are not ordinary Eric! Or so they say.” I avoid his eyes as I hand him his sketchbook.
“You saw this?” He asks quietly and I clear my throat.
“Follow me. If you feel anything in there, let me know.” Saying this I quickly follow others with him quietly trailing behind me.
As expected, he doesn’t feel anything, not even the shock which I'd felt when I'd laid my eyes on the forest inside the barriers. I was here at night but at day, its not so different. Despite sunlight streaming through the thick trees, lights are still everywhere and flowers glitter in the sunlight, fireflies both as they dance in the cool breeze. I spot two rabbits peeking at us from under a tree trunk.
Eric gives an impressive whistle and gawks around.
“He is not affected. At. All!” Devon whispers from over my shoulder, “I wish I’d know why? It's only possible if he'd seen something like this before! Or because he is an artist so...”
“He was supposed to be ordinary! How come he isn’t?” I whisper back as I see Eric bend over the glittering flowers. Ahead of him, Daemon’s son is glaring daggers at the three of us.
“What is the deal with that guy over there?” I ask Devon.
“Daemon’s son?” He asks innocently.
“Devon, cut it out. I know you've been into my head to know what I think of that guy.” I scowl at him. He smirks, “Jaivyn you mean?”
“That’s his name?” I ask him skeptically.
“Adria, stop trying to change the direction of your thoughts from him...” Devon smirks as he wiggles his eyebrows towards Eric who is inspecting a firefly now.
“I don’t want to think about him. He's totally not normal. At least not more than me! Uggh what am I even saying?” I groan and start walking.
“He isn’t! And he’s got a thing for you too if it helps.” Devon smirks again as he walks backward then he turns to face Eric.
“Come on, dude before Daemon gets you dragged!”
Daemon hadn’t invited me to see the forest but now he is taking us deeper. I notice different animals like squirrels and rabbits and even a baby fox around the trees as we walk in deeper. I can faintly hear the water as well and when I ask Devon about it, he says that there is a thin stream of water that flows inside this forest and river on the further left. Ahead, I see another set of golden trees at the sides of the path and beyond that, the forest is dark. I stop walking as I look at the sight in front of me. Around us, the sunlight, the glittering flowers, butterflies, and fireflies light up the forest. The golden trees are shining like a flame as sunlight falls on them but beyond them, all I can see are the shadows of the trees. As if sensing that I've stopped, Devon and Eric stop as well.
“The dark trees beyond are the illusion, Adria!” Devon calls out to me and I find myself relaxing a little. I've never been hurt in the forest but I'm still scared of it. Sacrifice and magic are hard to believe and scare the crap out of me. I don’t know how I managed my cool when I struggled to free Jade, maybe it's because I care for her and she was in danger.
Eric says something to Devon and runs towards me. For a split second, I consider running towards Devon but I need to talk to him.
“He says there is nothing to worry about.” He stops in front of me and I narrow my eyes and try to give him an irritated look.
“What?” He asks.
“You are really OK? You know people lose their sanity when they see this?” I spread my arms around and Eric turns in a circle.
“Honestly? It's freaking me out but the fear I felt in my grandmother’s house and fear of being abandoned is worst. I can’t go back no matter what, Adria. I came here to escape not for a break.”
“Escape?” I ask curiously.
“Yeah. Well its past,” He shrugs, “We should move. I don’t want to piss off that guy!” He points towards Daemon and others who are well ahead of us.
“Yeah. Okay. Whatever!” I say and start walking.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have sketched you!” Eric says nervously.
“I don’t mind. You can do whatever you want, it's your work.” I shrug in response for I don’t want to think about the sketches or even Eric.
“The guy in my grandmother’s house, I'm not making it up.”
“I know. I believe you but apparently, it's not the case for Daemon and co.” I say as I fold arms around myself as we near the forest beyond. Devon stops ahead and waits for me and Eric to catch up.
“I don’t know. I just met them yesterday and they asked for a blood sacrifice?” I force a chuckle at the memory.
“What the..?” Eric opens his mouth to say more but decides against it.
“What lies beyond is the real forest you both are about to see. We live beyond these trees and Eric you should pray that the wards don’t kill you.” Devon holds out his arm as if welcoming us and I stop under the golden trees with dark trees looming ahead. They are huge as compared to all the trees I have seen around this place. The golden trees look like small plants in front of them and the darkness beyond sends a shudder down my spine.
“Adria is it that bad?” Devon asks anxiously.
I shake my head and taking a deep breath, I move forward. Part of me feels like there will be no turning back. This is totally another world, something I never imagined, something I never thought about even in my wildest dreams but it kind of feels right to be here.