Avice watched Eleanor from afar, resting in a tree. The leaves on the branches were a beautiful orange, red, and yellow, signifying winter is on its way.
Sitting on a well-covered branch, Avice did a cat stretch and laid down, letting her tail flick back and forth in annoyance and boredom. The past several days, all she did was watch Eleanor tend to her garden. It was terribly boring, the only time something interesting happened was when Grayson snuck out in the mornings and snuck back in at night. The man was eerily good at being silent for just a human.
She liked to watch him through the windows, creeping through the house so that Eleanor would not wake, then silently shut the door when he left. This was the slightly boring part.
The most interesting part was when he came home. The man would survey his surroundings before opening the door, almost like he knew someone was watching him. At one point, each night, he would look up at the tree. The first time this happened, Avice nearly jumped out of her skin. The focus he had in his eyes was enough for her to want to turn into mist and float back to Alice. But, he seemed to be satisfied by whatever he saw and went inside.
Being completely speechless about what happened, Avice climbed down and watched him from the window. He would wander around the house in a daze, grab the bottle of whiskey, take a swig of it, and then go to bed.
Her cat hair swayed with the light breeze. Despite the extra hair, she shivered. There was something off about Grayson. She wanted to bring this information to Alice, but Avice knew she needed to be knowledgeable about this or a terrible mistake could be made.
So, she watched.
Avice glanced over at Eleanor. She was wrist deep in dirt and completely covered in it.
She chuckled lightly, amazed that a girl like Eleanor would get filthy. Out in public, she played the perfect submissive woman, pretending she needed a man to take care of her. But when she was alone, she did almost all the chores without Grayson.
‘Perhaps that is why Grayson married her. She can hold her own without him.’
Avice sighed and lowered her head onto her paws. Closing her eyes, she allowed her other senses to take over.
The smell of dirt and cold air filled her nostrils as she breathed in. The sounds of the trees swaying back and forth filled the air. At that moment, she felt at peace.
It was not too long before she heard the sound of heavy horse hooves and the wheels of a carriage slowly take over the silence.
Avice slowly opened one eye to see what the disruption was.
‘Most likely someone just passing by.’ She thought, not feeling the need to worry.
She watched as the odd looking carriage came into view. The large, black horse snorted and stomped heavily as they continued to pull their masters. The ugly looking coachman with a snaggled tooth lightly pulled on the reigns. The horses slowed their pace until they stopped in front of Eleanor’s house.
Avice lifted her head to get a better view.
A footman rushed out of the carriage and kneeled before an unconscious Eleanor.
‘Whoops,’ she thought as she internally cringed at the idea that she did not hear Eleanor faint.
Her tail flicked hard at the annoyance, watching as he woke Eleanor up. Digging her claws into the tree, she flipped her ears forward and strained to listen.
The footman was making sure she was ok until he remembered his place. Then he turned professional and slightly cold.
Avice sniffed the air and realized the air smelled like the man Eleanor has been smelling like. To her dissatisfaction, the mystery man smelled of blood and a hint of patchouli. The smell was faint but gave Avice enough evidence that the footman was around the man enough to smell like him.
“Master Eilif?” asked Eleanor.
Avice’s ears and head perked up at the name. ‘His name is Eilif…Interesting,’ She thought. Her tail flicked again.
She watched as Eleanor declined the footman’s invitation and silently purred with pride as she also walked into the house, shutting the door on a stunned footman.
The footman’s eyebrows furrowed as he let out a disgruntled sound and quickly walked back to the carriage. The report he was going to have to give to his master was not going to be pleasant.
Shaking out her fur, Avice decided her next plan of action.
Follow the carriage.
She elegantly leaped from tree limb to tree limb before gracefully landing on the ground. The wind picked up slightly, making her sprint to the carriage harder. Cursing and praising her cat form, she jumped onto the splashguard.
Avice sat down and watched as Eleanor’s home became smaller with distance.
As she rode, an uneasy feeling began to settle into her stomach. She could not tell if it was the ride or something more, like maybe somebody was watching her.
Trying to shake off the feeling, Avice watch the scenery go by. The sun was starting to set, causing the whole sky to turn orange. She sighed lightly, enjoying the calmer wind.
The hair along her spinal column suddenly stood up. Her cat eyes turned into slits as she began assessing the cause of her unease. She looked around her but all she could see were passing trees and the occasional wild animal.
‘Oh no,’ Avice thought as she watched the animals. Each predator they passed; the animal flashed their teeth in warning. Each prey they passed, turned, and ran.
The uneasy feeling in her stomach full blown turned into a fire that crept up to her heart, making it race wildly.
“Well well well, what a pretty little kitten,” a sly voice sounded from above her.
Her animal instincts took over as she turned and hissed at the voice. With the window propped up, a man with shaved sides and blond braided hair flashed a fanged smile at her. She was about to hiss at him again when she froze. Her blood turned to ice as her eyes stared right back into his. They were blood red.
She was in greater danger than she previously thought, but before she came to her senses and try to jump off the carriage, he grabbed her by the scruff. Avice yowled loudly, but her body tucked within itself just like a baby kitten being carried by the scruff by its mother. Her tail was the only part of her moving, angrily flicking back and forth.
“Hello little one,” he cooed at her. “As you probably already know, I am Eilif.” He put his other hand on his chest and slightly bowed his head to her.
Avice’s eyes turned into slights as she growled at him. This only caused him to chuckle.
Bringing her closer to his face, he whispered, “I know what you are, familiar. I could smell your stench before my carriage stopped in front of Lenore’s house.”
‘Lenore?’ Avice furrowed her kitty eyebrows in confusion before two realizations hit her. He knew what she was, and he was talking about Eleanor.
Avice could not move due to the scruff hold, so she meowed as loud as she could.
Eilif growled and flashed his fangs at her in warning, making her flinch. “I do not like you. I think I will get rid of you right…” he paused, with an evil glint shining in eyes, “now.” With precise aim, he flung her to a wolf that was just at the edge of the forest.
Avice kicked the air and rolled her body around, trying her hardest to avoid the wolf’s snapping jaws.
Unfortunately, luck was not on her side.
The wolf jumped up and met her in the air. As soon as he clamped onto her hind legs and felt his feet meet the dirt, he took off running.
Avice yowled in pain. Her body flung around like a rag doll in the wolf’s mouth, but as she was being brutally taken away, she heard Eilif laugh. It caused an involuntary shiver to run up her spine.
But that laugh cause her to finally get her wits about her. She latched her front claws onto the wolf’s head and bit his eye so hard she could taste the blood.
The wolf yipped and dropped her. Taking that split second of freedom, Avice transformed into her black raven.
The wolf continued to yip and whine while trying to paw at his eye. She did not pay attention to the animal anymore.
Avice’s raven form hopped in the direction of the carriage. It was gone. There was no use in trying to catch up, especially when she needed to heal and update Alice.
With that, Avice flapped her wings and started the flight back to Alice’s home.