Alice paced her small home as she thought over Avice’s report.
Avice, now in her cat form, sat on the bed, licking her wounds. She was healing fine, but her feral instincts took over and forced her to clean herself.
The constant sound of the licking was starting to drive Alice mad.
She stopped and tilted her head towards the cat. “Do you mind?”
Avice stopped for a moment, then began licking again.
Frustrated, Alice walked over to Avice. Reading her aura, Alice clicked her tongue in annoyance.
“You are already mostly healed! You do not need to clean the wounds anymore!”
Avice stopped her licking and peered at Alice through her lashes. “Meow.” She said before hacking and throwing up on the bed.
Alice winced in disgust. “You better clean that.” She murmured before going back to her pacing.
“So,” Alice began, “this being knew what you were even though you were in cat form?”
Avice stretch on the bed before bringing herself to sit. ‘Yes.’ She mind-linked.
Alice considered this. “That means he’s met a familiar like you before. He knows the type of powers familiars have, and who they work for. He has the upper hand.”
Sighing, Alice undid her braid, letting her hair become unruly.
“Do you recall –“Alice was cut off by a jolt in her body.
‘What is it?’ Avice asked.
Alice turned her head towards the door. “Someone broke through my barrier.”
Phoebe was holding Grayson from behind while riding on horseback. She sighed softly, enjoying the feeling of Grayson’s muscles under her fingertips. Squeezing him again, she let out a giggle. “A girl could get used to this.”
Grayson glanced behind him, “If you weren’t Ellie’s friend, I would have pushed you off this horse a while ago. In fact, you would not even be accompanying me to Alice’s home.”
“Well then,” Phoebe whispered as her hand moved lower to his neither region, “I will have to thank Ellie for being friends with me.” She breathed out near his ear.
Grayson grabbed her wandering hand and was about to follow through, whether she was Eleanor’s friend or not, when Phoebe laughed out loud.
“Relax! I’m just teasing you.” She rested her head against his upper back, squeezing him to get closer.
They rode on in silence. After a while, they were at the tree line that leads to Alice’s home.
“We will have to walk from here. Grace will follow us.” Phoebe said as Grayson pulled the horse to a stop.
Without saying anything, he got off the horse first, then grabbed Phoebe by the waist and lifted her off. She wiggled and laughed, “Stop! I’m ticklish!” She cried as Grayson just rolled his eyes and gently set her down.
Phoebe snorted before composing herself. “Thanks,” she said as she walked into the dense forest. Grayson grabbed the reigns for Grace and slowly started entering.
With his longer legs and being a soldier, Grayson caught up to Phoebe fast. She started breathing heavily as the forest started closing in on them.
“Wait…” Phoebe rested her hands on her knees, trying to catch her breath. “I need a break.” She grabbed Grayson’s sleeve before he could continue.
Grayson stopped. Only the sound of the night animals was heard while they rested. Noticing that Phoebe still had a grip on his sleeve, he silently raised an eyebrow at her.
Phoebe noticed his stare. She hesitated before asking with tears in her eyes, “Do you think Ellie is in danger?”
Grayson looked away from her before looking up at the half-moon filled sky. “I really hope not.”
At that, Phoebe blew out a breath, released his shirt and straightened up. “Alright! Let’s go!” she yelled before marching off.
Grayson didn’t say anything, instead he just followed.
After several steps, Grayson stopped again. Looking around, he squinted his eyes trying to pinpoint what he just felt.
Phoebe took notice that he stopped, but still continued on while shouting over her shoulder, “Everything alright? Need to pee?”
Grayson lifted a finger to his lips, trying to silence Phoebe.
He had just felt like he walked through a strong, invisible barrier. He felt his hearing dull and his sight blur for a second, giving him the feeling of being submerged in water. Then it disappeared as quickly as it came when he shifted his weight to take the next step.
His hand started to migrate towards the hilt of his sword, his soldier instincts telling him something was coming.
Phoebe had noticed his changed demeanor and froze in her spot.
Grayson’s hand gripped the pummel of his sword, the other was out for balance. He slowly crept towards Phoebe until he was right beside her. Using his free hand, he pointed to Grace, silently telling Phoebe to keep an eye her. Phoebe nodded in understanding.
He moved forward, the only sound that could be heard was the sound of his sword being drawn from its sheath. A sound Grayson greatly enjoyed.
He could tell he was coming up to a clearing, the trees were giving way to more light from the half-moon in the sky.
Finally stepping through the final row of trees, Grayson paused. An old, blind woman with long silver hair flowing every which way with the wind stood a few feet from him.
Before Grayson could say anything, the woman spoke. “Hello.” She said with a friendly smile.
Grayson lowered his sword; a rookie mistake he would realize later. He opened his mouth to speak when he felt a tug at the center of his chest. He looked down but did not see anything.
He looked back at the woman and noticed her hand was out. The smile she wore turned into knowing smirk as her hand closed into a fist.
The tug turned into a jerk, making Grayson take a step forward so he would not fall on his face.
“Wha-“The old woman whipped her arm to the side, interrupting his question.
A second later, Grayson followed the woman’s arm. He flew around her and crashed into the brick chimney on the side of the house.
“Gah!” Blood spurted out of Grayson’s mouth as he fell onto the wood pile.
Grayson laid in the wood pile, trying to comprehend what happened. Lifting his head, he saw the woman chant, then the wood around him lit on fire.
“Fuck!” Grayson shouted as he jumped out of the flames.
Blood dripped down his face as he tried getting his footing back. Without a thought, his tongue jutted out and licked the blood.
His pupils dilated and his breath hitched. He lowered himself to the ground in a squat position before running then leaping at the old woman who did not move from her spot.
Grayson lifted his sword above his head and brought it down onto the old woman. She lifted her forearm up to block the sword, but instead of skin and sword connecting, an invisible barrier stopped the sword a few inches above her skin.
She looked surreal. The shadows from the fire danced on her skin and gave it an orange glow. Her silver hair seemed to try to grab at him. Even her milky eyes almost seemed to disappear to reveal forest green eyes. But it all lasted a few seconds, the blood still pouring out of his head wound tickled his face, reminding him of the current fight happening.
Grayson grunted in anger. “What are you?” He demanded.
The old woman did not say anything. Instead, she swiped her free arm in front of his body, sending him fly toward the tree line.
CRACK! Grayson felt and heard his ribs crack. He grabbed his side while trying to breath. His sight was dancing with black dots, but he did not falter. He staggered as he stood up, putting his back against a tree. His right hand still gripped his sword tightly, the thought of letting it go never crossing his mind.
The old woman took a step towards him. Even though Grayson could barely see past the black dots, he noticed a silver cat run up to the old woman. It climbed up until it perched on the woman’s shoulder.
‘I recognize that cat…’ Thought Grayson as his consciousness finally slipped away.