Chapter 7: The Demon Emperor's Guardian
“Wake up, sleepy head!” came a voice. Jack opened his eyes slowly, feeling the sun’s warmth on his face.
“You must have slept well!” said Jasyra, scrambling down the tree.
Jack looked down and saw Evooku was frying some food in a small pan over a fire. He was suddenly starving. He untied himself and climbed down to join his new friends. He stretched his arms and legs which were stiff and sore. He took off his boots to check out some impressive blisters while airing out his socks, wondering how far he had walked and run the day before.
Evooku cooked some dried meat, which they ate with fruits and more bread. Jack was quiet, still thinking about the strange dream he’d had.
“I had the weirdest nightmare,” he said. ”I think I saw Lycanthor.”
Jasyra looked to Evooku, who raised a fuzzy green eyebrow.
“This is a strange forest, with ancient magic,” she said. ”Do you remember anything about the dream?”
"Well, it was night, but the moon was full. I was alone, running beside a stream when a giant werewolf came out of the trees. He was as big as three men.”
Jasyra nodded. “That sounds like Lycanthor. Full moon you say? It’s to be a full moon tonight. We should be ready.”
Jack sat thinking, staring out to the trees. Tall pines surrounded them, thick with dark green branches. But one tree stood differently, perfectly straight and with white bark and trembling leaves. Suddenly he remembered the staff.
“There was something else,” he said. “I had a staff. I mean, I was carrying a staff and it had a gemstone at the top.”
Jasyra finished the last of her breakfast. “Hmm, I’m not sure what that could be. Dreams can mean many things. We better get going.”
The three companions spent the morning walking along the mountain ridge. They didn’t see any more wolves, or creatures other than the eagles soaring above.
At lunch, Evooku showed Jack some basic sword moves. He learnt about parrying to stop an attack, and how to swing widely or jab up close. Evooku seemed impressed at how quickly Jack picked up the skills, although the boy still felt pretty sure he wouldn’t be much good in a real battle with a werewolf!
As the afternoon approached, Jack felt uneasy. His dream had spooked him, and he could tell Jasyra was worried, too. Would they be ready to face Lycanthor?
The ridge dropped down to another valley and the trio came to an incredible waterfall. The crystal-clear waters tumbled down more than fifty feet and a cloud of mist arose from the rocky bottom.
They stopped to refill their water flasks and take a break. Jack looked at the falls in wonder, watching the afternoon sunlight cast rainbows in the mist. The colors danced and swirled, moving as the breeze shifted the mist.
Jack found himself walking closer, amazed at the colors. They move, merging in and out of themselves like a magical dance. When he got to the edge, he saw there was a rock ledge behind the water. After checking to see Jasyra and Evooku were still resting, he stepped in and found himself behind the roaring water.
Mist filled his eyes and the roaring sound echoed all around him. Suddenly, his foot slipped on the wet rock. If he fell, he’d be smashed on those rocks below! Jack grabbed at the wall but his hand felt only soft moss. He slipped further, landing with a thud on his backside.
“Really smart, Jack,” he chided himself, looking down to where the water crashed below amongst jagged rocks “If I had fallen forward, I’d be fish food.”
He stood up carefully and walked along the edge, step by step, until he came out the other side of the waterfall.
When he emerged, he gasped.
The day had turned to night and his companions were gone. What had happened? Had he smacked his head when he fell, and been out cold for a while? Surely Jasyra and Evooku wouldn’t have left him there.
Jack stepped out carefully and reached for the sword at his side. Drawing it, he moved back to the soft ground by the water.
What strange world have I come to?
Ahead of him, the mist swirled in the silvery moonlight. He felt his skin tingle, but not from fear. He approached the mists, watching in surprise as the waters swirled together to form the outline of a person.
Jack held his sword out, pointing the blade at the tall, ghostly figure in front of him. A pair of glowing purple eyes snapped open.