Avice panicked. A General Demon in Grayson’s blood was the last thing she expected. She thought more along the lines of a dim-witted warlock buried deep in his ancestor’s bloodline, but a demon? This shook her to the core.
“Why are you shaking? Are you scared of me?” Grayson asked, watching her.
The intensity of his stare made Avice tremble a little more.
Clearing her throat, she answered, “No, I am not scared. I am more intrigued at how this happened.”
Grayson looked down at his blood covered hand and brought it to his lips. His tongue slipped out and licked the mixture of their blood, making his eyes dance with various colors. “How what happened?”
Avice released a breath, thinking of a way to put it delicately. “You have General demon blood in you. Meaning, somehow, a pureblood General Demon was able to cross the veil of the realms and have sex with your human parent. Thus, creating a half blood demon. You.” Her eyebrows furrow in thought, “What’s most shocking is you survived in utero. All the half breeds I’ve heard of died before birth, taking their mothers with them.”
Grayson did not respond. Instead, he had a distant look in his eyes as he thought it through.
As Avice patiently waited for Grayson to process the information, she saw it. It was brief, and she could just brush it off as being tired, but she saw him. It was an apparition that looked exactly like Grayson, but this version had black eyes and six sharp teeth. Avice could only see half of its face, but it was enough to see the wicked grin it wore. But once she blinked, it was gone.
Avice tried appearing nonchalant about the concise encounter, but inside she was a whimpering mess.
At that moment, Phoebe appeared behind Grayson. She looked to be half asleep still as she yawned loudly and draped her arms around Grayson’s shoulders. She rubbed her head on his cheek like a cat marking their scent on their most important toy.
“Mmmmm! So serious in the morning!” She yelled, making Avice narrow her eyes at Phoebe in annoyance.
“Grayson, I’m so sleepy! Come back to bed and cuddle with me,” Phoebe continued to whine as she hugged Grayson closer to her.
Grayson took his pointer finger and gently put it on her forehead. Phoebe looked at him with innocent eyes, twinkling with glee at him paying attention to her.
The twinkle did not last long as Grayson pushed on her forehead with his one finger, the force enough to have her fall on her back. Her skirt flipped up as her legs went up from the impact, revealing a little too much to Grayson and Avice.
She whined loudly at the false attention.
Grayson moved to help her up, not showing a hint of emotion in his face. After lifting Phoebe up off the cold ground, he looked back at Avice.
“Dawn has just broke, let’s get going.” And with that, he started towards one of the horses.
Avice pursed her lips but did not protest.
Instead, she peeled off the thin white nightgown, relieved that she can go into animal form where their feathers or fur warm them.
Avice handed the gown over to Phoebe who stood by to watch her shift. Avice did not mind, it was her eyes and mind that would have to deal with the unpleasant images of watching someone shift.
Cracking her neck and taking deep breaths of the crisp morning air, Avice focused her mind of the animal she wanted to become.
Her knees were the first to break. They bent backwards and her human skin was replaced with rough, black skin. Her toes went from five to two on each foot while her heels extended out into sharp talons.
The rest of her body’s skin was replaced with black, ebony feathers that shined greens and blues in the sunlight. Her arms bent backwards, breaking her shoulders, and folded within her body to form her wings.
Avice’s face was last to form. Her nose and lips extended out to form the black beak and her forest green eyes turned black and beady while moving to the side of her head. Her silver hair turned into black feathers while her whole body shrunk to match a normal raven.
Warmth covered her like a blanket once her transformation was complete.
Avice croaked while Phoebe giggled. She fell on her knees while reaching to Avice, extending two fingers for her to perch on.
Shaking out her feathers, Avice glared up at Phoebe. She croaked and jumped from side to side, trying to avoid Phoebe’s fingers.
Phoebe pouted, eyes glistening with tears from the rejection.
Avice rolled her raven eyes the best she could. She hopped onto the fingers, teetering until she found her balance.
The small act put a shining smile on Phoebe’s face, making Avice a little glad she did it.
“Make haste!” Grayson yelled impatiently.
Avice used Phoebe’s fingers to launch herself into the air and fly over to Grayson. He was seated on one of the new horses, mindlessly fingering the flask that was in his pocket.
She flew around his head a few times, not wanting to end the feeling of the wind under her wings just yet.
‘Stop messing around. We need to continue our conversation.’ A familiar voice filled Avice’s head after the fourth circle.
She croaked with displeasure loudly but sat on Grayson’s shoulder anyways.
‘So, you figured out the mind-link? And here I was hoping to have a few quiet hours to myself.’ Avice spoke in a teasing tone.
Grayson looked at her from the corner of his eye.
’It was not hard.’
Phoebe trotted up beside them. “How far are we going today?” She asked, shivering slightly at the wind. Winter was around the corner, and the farther they go, the worse the cold will get.
Grayson watched as she wrapped her arms around herself. “We will ride until we see the next town. We will stop there and gather winter supplies. I have a feeling we will be traveling long into the cold.”
With that, Grayson kicked the sides of his horse and trotted down the slightly worn path.
‘We have a long ride, tell me about this veil you and Alice were on about.’
Avice watched the world pass by through her bird eyes. The sun was trying to peek through the dense forest they were in, but it barely gave them light, leaving Avice to wonder if the horses will be able to keep their footing.
‘There are two realms that exist. One is the realm you know, this dismal place, while the other is the mystical realm. The veil we spoke of is a barrier of sorts, protecting the minds of those too simple, too closeminded, too boorish to accept and understand the mystical realm.’ If Avice could smirk she would as she said, ’Can you tell which one you are?’
Grayson hitched his shoulder, making Avice fall off. She caught herself before hitting the ground and flew back to Grayson’s shoulder.
‘Cannot take a jest can you?’
Sighing on the inside at Grayson’s lack of response, Avice continued, ’There are those who are born inside the mystical realm, always surrounded by the creatures that inhabit it. Then there are those that are not born there but are abnormal enough that the veil starts to lift for them.’
‘I am abnormal enough?’ Grayson asked, interrupting her.
Avice shook her head. ‘You’re a half-blooded demon. You were born into the mystical realm. But something is off about you, like you were able to shut off that abnormal part of you and pull the veil down so you could not see the mystical side.’
“I’m starting to think there was a good reason for that.” Grayson murmured with an ominous voice.
’Well, your back now. After seeing Alice use her magic and fighting against that Ghoul, there is no denying that you’re in the mystical realm.’
’Not by choice,’ Grayson looked behind him, making sure Phoebe was following him. ’What about Phoebe? Won’t she be affected by this?’
Avice turned her head slightly so one of her eyes rested on Phoebe. She was leaning over, cooing at her new horse and petting its mane with a large smile on her face.
‘She is practically a child; the realm will not matter to her. So, unlike normal people who have their wits about them, she will not be affected by the strangeness.’
‘Yet, she will see them because of me,’ Grayson pointed out.
‘Yes, but her mind will not break, not again.’ Avice turned her head around, watching Grayson for a reaction.
His jaw clenched, but said nothing.
Grayson straightened himself out in the saddle, ‘According to you, I was born in the mystical realm. How would my mind break if I was already part of this world?’
Avice shook out her feathers as the wind picked up. ’Do you remember anything from your youth?’
Grayson thought for a while. Avice could tell she hit a sensitive subject. His hand clutching the reigns squeezed sparingly while his free hand grasped the pummel of his sword.
’I remember little of my childhood,’ was his only response.
Feeling that childhood talk was at an end for now, Avice was about to change the subject when he asked, ’What creatures are in this realm?’
Avice hopped off his shoulder and flew slightly in front him. ’Angels, demons, lamias, lycans, ghouls, goblins, witches, warlocks… Things like that. If we were closer to the sea, you would have to deal with mermaids and kelpies, among other sea creatures.’
‘Lamia… That’s what has Eleanor right?’
Avice could practically hear the disdain dripping off his words. ‘Yes. During my encounter he was gentleman enough to introduce himself to me before tossing me to the lovely wolf. His name is Eilif.’
While speaking, Avice had swooped around Grayson’s head. When she had said the lamia’s name, his eyes darkened to a deep green. If she was not so close to his head, she would have thought his eyes were black. The hatred and anger that poured out of them were enough to make her want to escape from this broken man. But alas, she was tied to him until one of them was a feast for the worms.
Just as Avice was about to speak again, she was cut off by Phoebe singing.
“The moon ascends as the night falls
The bleary eyes want rest alone
But the time is nigh
And spirits not high
No rest for those with pride,”
Grayson’s horse had slowed to a canter when Phoebe kicked her horse into a gallop, her mesmerizing voice growing boisterous with each verse.
“The river flows as the rains take plunge
The sodden skin wants heat and love
But the time is nigh
And spirits not high
No love for those with pride,”
Phoebe glanced back at Grayson and smiled. She tossed her hair over her shoulders and let the wind carry it.
“Growls take heed and swords unsheathed
The blood shed will come
The power of greed is one step from preen
The death screams will hum
Beware of the soldier with pride,”
Avice had landed on Grayson’s shoulder and watched Phoebe as she slowed her horse to be next to them.
“The fields are no longer bare
The dead want peace to help their need
But the time is nigh
And spirits not high
No peace for those with pride.”
Phoebe smiled sheepishly at them. “Sorry, it was too quiet for too long.”
Silence surrounded them. All that could be heard was the sounds of the cold winds and the horses’ feet trotting on the forest ground.
Grayson shook his head. “That was quite the song Phoebe, where have you heard it?”
Phoebe shrugged a shoulder innocently, “I heard some soldiers sing it when they came to the brothel. I found it pretty and had one of them teach me.” The smile turned into a devilish grin, “of course, in exchange for performing pleasures of the naked flesh.”
Grayson fell into silence again after her response.
Avice took this as a sign to let him stew. So, she jumped up and flew ahead of them, allowing herself to push through the wind.
The trees were bending and swaying with each gust, but many of them seemed to reach over towards the path without the push. They reminded Avice of Alice’s trees in her forest. So ominous and dark. They practically reached for them, like they were trying to grab them and rid the filth of their exquisite forest.
She could see there was a clearing up ahead. Avice flapped her wings harder, flying faster to scope out the area before the other two broke the tree line.
It was a church in the middle of a small field. The church was painted white and gray, but the paint was chipping, revealing the old wood underneath. It stood tall, the steeple reaching to the clouds above it like it was reaching for the heavens. A white cross sat on top of the steeple. The rest of it looked similar to an old house, it stretched far behind the steeple hinting that it was a popular church, or it used to be by the condition of it.
Avice could hear faint piano music drifting from inside it. It was a soothing melody.
There was a nun outside tending to the flowers that was surrounding the church. The flowers were surprisingly alive and vibrant for the time of year. And the nun hummed to herself and watered them like winter was not around the corner.
Avice croaked loudly at the nun while flying closer to her and the flowers. The nun looked up with a scowl on her face. When she saw the raven, she dropped her watering pan in shock. The nun started to mutter what Avice assumed was a prayer and touched her shoulders and head and stomach, making an invisible cross.
Avice chuckled inside her head. She nearly forgot that a sign of a raven is considered a bad omen according to certain types of people.
Croaking loudly again, Avice landed on one of the statues that were standing in the garden. It was a statue of the Virgin Mary. It was made of white and light gray marble. Avice shook her feathers to hide her shiver when her feet touched the cold marble.
The nun watched with wide eyes filled with fear, her hands clasped together in front of her chest. When Avice hopped onto the statue’s head, the nun rushed inside the church, the piano music suddenly louder when she opened the door and slammed it with a THUD.
Smoothing out her feathers and chuckling in her head again, Avice took flight. She decided to inform Grayson of the little church before he came upon it himself. She had a feeling he likes to be informed of anything and everything, leaving no surprises if it can be helped.
As she flapped her wings away from the church, Avice took note that the music had abruptly stopped.