The fire crackled and popped as the trio sat around the heat, each lost in their own thoughts.
They had their horses at a full gallop for the rest of the day and some of the night, trying to put as much distance between them and the militia. They passed their home town and a neighboring town before coming to a dense forest with a well-worn path between the trees.
Once they heard water running in a nearby creek, they stopped. The horses were near exhaustion at that point, panting heavily with foam dripping at the corner of their mouths and trying to chew through their bits.
Now they were grazing the forest and sipping at the creek with their riding gear off.
Grayson squeezed his flask before taking a swig, enjoying the burn he still got from the harsh liquid. His eyes focused on Avice, waiting patiently for her to tell the story of Alice’s death.
Avice shivered at the cold night air. She had shifted back into her human form, but the only clothes that Phoebe managed to grab from Grace was a thin nightgown. Nothing was left to imagination.
Crossing her arms over her chest, trying her best to hide her erect nipples, Avice took a deep breath and turned to Grayson.
He tilted his head, indicating he was listening.
“She was murdered.” Avice blurted out.
“I gathered that.” Grayson said, unimpressed.
Avice’s eyebrows furrowed together but she continued nonetheless. “While we were packing, a man came to the door. We were caught off guard, so Alice ordered me to hide under the bed. She tried her best to convince the man that she was just a fragile old lady. He was not fooled. Instead, he pulled out a small contraption and aimed it at Alice’s head. The contraption exploded and sent something flying into Alice’s head. She went down instantly. After the man checked on her, he left.”
“A contraption?” Grayson questioned.
“Yes. It was like what the militia had, but much smaller. It fit perfectly in his hand.” Avice lifted her hand and extended her pointer finger and thumb out to imitate the contraption.
Grayson stared at her hand. Even with his battle knowledge, he had never heard of such a contraption. Fitting in a hand? It can be hidden on the body easily then. He was impressed, the contraption was brilliant from a soldier standpoint. Assassination would become the ultimate way to kill if the contraption came to public.
Shaking his head of the promising possibilities, Grayson pointed out, “Alice was a witch, why did she not stop him? She was powerful enough to swing me around her forest with just my aura. What the hell was stopping her from destroying this threat?”
Avice glared at Grayson. “She was still drained from fighting you and the ghoul.”
Grayson leaned forward. “That does not excuse her getting killed. She was weak. She relied only on her magic to protect her, never considering the possibility that she may not have enough energy to fight off a threat. Pathetic.” Grayson leaned back, watching Avice’s face get red with anger. “And she thought she would be able to help me get Eleanor back and help me with staying sane as I enter this new world. Just pathetic.”
Avice stood up and growled. “Normally she recovers fast from a fight, but for some reason you drained her so much she could barely recover! Not to mention she was several hundred years old! And even though she was a witch, she was still mortal!”
Grayson’s finger tapped his flask as he slowly shook his head. “Not my problem. Not anymore.”
Avice ran her hands through her hair, frustrated at the man’s lack of empathy. “Do you not understand what I am saying? You, a mere human, drained her so badly that she could not restore her power fast enough. That does not make sense!” She paused her eyes narrowing in suspicion. “Did you somehow poison her?”
Grayson scoffed. “I find poisons, although can be quite useful, to be the coward’s way to kill. I prefer my enemies see who sent them to hell.”
Shaking her head in disbelief, Avice sat back down. Her faced showed defeat and fatigue, making Grayson take pity on her.
He sighed and flipped open his flask. “Listen. I am not sure what I am. Honestly, I am trying to figure that out. All I know is I am not one hundred percent human.”
Phoebe perked up at this news. “Not human? Could have fooled me.” She said with a small smirk on her face and a wink.
Grayson lifted a brow but did not respond. Instead, he turned his free hand over to look at the wound from the sword. It was nearly healed. It had stopped bleeding during their long ride and now the skin was nearly fused together. Even his knuckles sported pink skin, indicating they were healed.
‘They are not wrong. How long do you tend to hide yourself from them? The harder you fight, the harder I will push back.’ The demon warned.
Ignoring the demon, Grayson turned his attention back to Avice. “So… you are what stands between me and my insanity now.”
“Alice was going to teach you about the mystical realm, so it was not such a shock to your simple mind.” Avice muffled through her hands that was holding her head up.
“And now it’s up to you.”
Avice looked at Grayson. “There is one more thing I need to tell you.”
Grayson sipped his flask then nodded for her to continue.
Her face became expressionless as she spoke her next words. “Alice commanded me to be your familiar before she died.”
The demon snarled. ‘Her? Your familiar? No.’
Grayson agreed with the demon. “No. I will not be dragged down by some pesky pet. You will help me with this new world and that is it.” At this Grayson got up and moved to the other side of the tree.
“I am not real happy about it either, Grayson. Being a familiar to a human or whatever you are. But I cannot disobey an order from my former master. If I do, that could result in me going back home. And that is the last thing I want right now.”
Grayson paused. “Again. Not my problem.”
He undid his belt which held his sword and sat down, leaning against the trunk. He placed his sword against his shoulder and between his legs, making him feel slightly safe with the weapon so close to him.
“Get some rest, the both of you. We have a long day of riding tomorrow.” Grayson mumbled while closing his eyes.
He heard the two females try their best at getting comfortable on the forest ground before soon hearing their steady breathing.
Inhaling the cold night air, Grayson slowly drifted into a dream.
Grayson was laying in his bed like he was back at home. He looked around at the familiar room, even with the dim light he could tell everything was the same.
The door creaked opened and a slender figure stood in the doorway. He could not see the face, but he knew who it was.
He smiled. “Ellie,” he whispered.
The figure moved slowly; her nightgown flowing around her. When she reached the bed, she brought her hand up and cupped Grayson’s cheek. “Grayson,” she whispered back, her voice filled with love and adoration.
Leaning into her touch, Grayson gently pulled her onto the bed. The little light they had from their bedside candle finally showed half of her face, making Grayson inhale sharply at her beauty.
Eleanor gracefully climbed onto his lap and straddled him.
Grunting in approval, Grayson’s hand went to the back of her head so he could pull her down to his lips. Eleanor sighed into the kiss, making Grayson grip her hair gently.
Their kiss changed from delicate to needy, their arousal began to saturate the air around them. Grayson’s hands traveled down her body lightly, only his fingertips touching. Her body shivered under the tender contact. When his fingers touched her hips, he aggressively grabbed her and grinded his erection into her core.
Eleanor broke their kiss and tilted her head back with a satisfied moan at the sudden contact. Grayson continued to kiss down her jaw and neck before burying his face into her hair.
He inhaled deeply and nearly moaned at the smell of dirt and flowers that usually clung to her. Grayson inhaled slower a second time, savoring the scent he missed so much.
“Grayson,” Eleanor whispered again as her hand tangled in his hair. Grayson dipped his head down, leaving open wet kisses along her chest.
Eleanor tugged on his hair, making Grayson think she wanted another kiss. When he lifted his head, her face turned to worry. Her eyebrows furrowed as she looked down at her waist.
She touched her stomach, then looked at Grayson with confusion and fear mixed on her face.
Suddenly, she was torn away from Grayson. Her body folded like someone had grabbed her by the waist.
“GRAYSON!!!” She screamed as she tried reaching out for him as she disappeared into the darkness. Somehow, during their make out session, their four walls was replaced by pure darkness.
“ELLIE!!!” Grayson screamed as he tried reaching for her.
Jumping off the bed, he followed her into the darkness, running as fast as he could. He could not see her anymore, but he could hear her screaming.
“Ellie! Ellie, where are you!” Grayson yelled into the darkness.
He felt like he had been running for hours, but knew it was more likely a few minutes. Eleanor’s screaming had gradually disappeared, indicating she was getting taken further and further away.
Grayson stopped his running, getting confused and lost with no marks to help him find Eleanor again.
“Ellie,” he whispered.
“You are too late, soldier. Know when to give up,” A voice spoke through the black.
Grayson clenched his hands in anger. “Who the hell are you?” He did not recognize the voice. This one was smooth and cocky, not a trait Grayson cares for.
“I am the one who is going to give Eleanor a chance to have a better life. One without a drunk, decaying soldier weighing her down.”
Grayson did not answer, instead he tried to pinpoint the location of the voice, but it seemed to be surrounding him completely.
The voice laughed, echoing off the darkness. “You will not find me, soldier. I do have one question before leaving you.”
Grayson stopped his search and stood still, intrigued by what this voice wanted to ask.
“Is pride and possession really worth losing your mind?” The voice asked laughing maniacally.
Just beyond the laugh, Grayson heard a buzzing sound. Before he knew it, the sound was deafening him, and he could no longer hear the taunting laugh of the new voice. The source of the buzzing was locusts. He could not see them, but he heard and felt them. They covered him like a blanket, loudly landing and buzzing around him.
Before Grayson could even make a move to push the bugs off, the locusts started to eat him. They tore into his flesh, biting, chewing, nibbling, and devouring him.
He panicked. He tried swiping the locusts off his body, but no such luck. The ones that came off where instantly replaced by more. Blood was flowing off him, he could not keep up.
With nothing left to do, Grayson opened his mouth to scream.
Unfortunately, no sound came out. The locusts went straight to the open mouth and went inside. No longer able to breath, Grayson clawed at his neck as he could feel them flying and walking down his throat into his lungs.
‘No breath for the soldier with pride,’ was Grayson’s last thought as his eyelids closed.
Grayson’s eyes were barely open before he moved into an attack position. His sword unsheathed and his stance firm.
After the last remnants of the dream dissipated, Grayson realized he was holding his breath. Putting his free hand on his throat he gasped loudly, gulping as much air as he could.
Once his breathing evened out, Grayson fell to his knees in exhaustion. He was more tired now than before he went to sleep.
Wiping the sweat off his forehead, Grayson sheathed his sword and stood up. It was still dark, but the half moon was nearly out of the sky, signaling dawn was approaching.
With a heavy mind and heart, he gathered the horses and saddled them up. He tried not to think too much about what the voice in his dream said, but it only frustrated him more that he could not understand what it meant.
‘Pride? Possession? I have pride, but what about possession? Why would those two combined cause me to go crazy?’ Thought Grayson as he ran his hands through his hair.
‘The pride I feel is from being a soldier, a single man that led a battalion into war. Defeating my enemies with little effort. Never loosing myself in the battle like so many of my men. Although, I do enjoy seeing the red vital fluid flow out of my enemies. I love how it reminds me of expensive wine that I enjoy on the extremely rare occasion. I love hearing their wails of agony when my sword pierces through their flesh, the squelching sounds of the inside being shifted as I pull my sword back. The taste of their blood on my tongue making my taste buds burst with flavor and refilling my body with renewed energy- ’
Grayson snapped out of his trance. He did not notice that he was gripping the pummel of his sword or that the horses had moved away, uncomfortable with the dark aura that was radiating off him.
“Grayson, what are you doing?”
Turning around, Grayson stood nearly toe to toe with Avice. Her hair was a tangled mess, and her eyes were half lidded, still showing signs of being half asleep. She yawned loudly, reminding Grayson of a cat, while she waited for him to answer.
Instead of answering, Grayson gestured for Avice to follow him. He led her back to the fire they had the night before and sat down. Avice sighed and reluctantly did the same, making sure to keep a little distance between them.
Putting her head in her hand, she gestured Grayson to speak.
“I accept you being my familiar.” Grayson spoke nonchalantly.
Avice sighed louder. “What made you change your mind?”
Deciding to ignore the question, Grayson asked, “Are you tied to me now?”
Avice pinched the bridge of her nose, frustration evident in her features. “No, but it does not take much.” Releasing her face, she held out a hand. “Cut my hand and you cut yours.”
Grayson did as he was told, doing a quick slice on both of their palms with his sword.
“Now, grab my hand,” Avice stifled a yawn as Grayson grasped her hand. “Our blood mingling with each other will establish an invisible connection between us. When I am in animal form, I will be able to mind-link you and vice versa.”
They clasped hands and stared at each other.
“I am your familiar. I am here to follow your orders and protect you. You are my master from now till the day you or I die.” Avice said in a deep, foreboding tone.
Grayson stared at their hands and the dripping blood as he suddenly felt the connection start to take form. It was like they each had a string and now the end of their strings are tied to each other. It became taut, but not so taut it could easily break. Just taut enough for them to feel it.
Huffing in amazement, Grayson looked at Avice to see if she felt it too.
Her expression was far from astonishment. Her eyes were wide with fear, mouth open, and face so pale Grayson was sure she was going to pass out.
At the sound of her name, Avice pulled back her hand as if it were burned. She scurried herself away from Grayson while keeping her terrified eyes on him.
“You… you have demon blood in you.” Her breathing increased as the realization dawned on her. “A General Demon with pride tainting you to the core. Oh, Angel of Darkness have mercy.”