Chapter 16: Daerius
“They said ‘the dragon is back’,” Lyza tells me, a smile on her lips.
“Wait they know you?” I ask and she nods.
“I kind of forgot to tell you that I lived with them for over a year, that’s how I know so much about them,” she mutters. My eyes widen in surprise.
“Yeah. Now they will want us to come with them, which will add a few days onto our trip but if we refuse, they might kill us.”
“I think we can go with them,” I shrug. She turns to the shadows and says something in a foreign tongue.
The shadows make strange hissing noises then turn back towards the mountain.
“Just follow them,” Lyza says. We start walking up the mountain and I glance back at Angel whose eyes are wide with confusion.
“I told you to keep your mouth shut, next time you disobey me, you will be severely punished,” I growl at her.
Mykael suddenly appears at my side, worry written across his face.
“Why are we following these creatures? What if they mean to kill us?” He asks quietly.
“Lyza seems to trust them, and I trust her,” I shrug. He still looks unconvinced.
“I don’t trust her,” he says and I growl a little.
“You don’t have to trust her, you just have to trust me,” I tell him. He bows his head slightly.
“I apologize Alpha, I meant no disrespect,” he mutters, casting his gaze to the rocky ground.
He slows until he falls in line with Angel and my guards. I walk beside Lyza and glance at the shadows moving quickly and stealthily up the rocky terrain.
“How did you live with them? I thought you said they kill whoever passes through these mountains,” I ask.
“My fire fascinated them. I made a deal with their leader that I would give them fire in exchange for shelter and protection. They didn’t like cutting down the forest in order to have a fire, so they tried dozens of different things, but then when I showed them I could make fire without burning anything, they practically worshipped me,” She shrugs.
“What exactly are they? I’ve heard stories, but they simply described them as shadows,” I whisper, snatching a glimpse of the black things.
“My father called them praestrigiae, it means false in Latin. They are both living and dead, nearly impossible to get rid of, and have no flesh or blood. They are called shadows because they can move through anything, including us. To have one pass through you is nightmarish, like a cold mist that seems to bring all your fears to life,” she mutters, shivering.
“You sound as if you’ve experienced it.”
“I have, and it was one of the worst experiences of my life.”
We stay quiet for the rest of the hike up the mountain. It is completely dark and I can barely see the praestrigiae, as Lyza called them.
They look like a man-shaped cloud of smoke, with no definition in their limbs or face, and they set my wolf and I on edge.
We come into a large clearing with little huts made of wood and covered in some kind of plaster that probably make them waterproof.
There are lit torches around the clearing that provide enough light to see the shadows but not much more. One suddenly appears from a hut, and I instantly can tell it’s the leader.
The leader is not black like the others, but instead, a dark red. Lyza walks up to the leader with her head held high, and then speaks in a strange tongue.
“Ut maneat nocte nos? Volo amicos aestimando,” she says, her voice sounding slightly deeper and with a slight growl.
“Sed si nos ignis,” the leader replies in the same language. Lyza then nods and in seconds she has a fire burning in the center of the clearing.
The shadows make strange whistling noises and dance around the flames. Lyza says a few more things to the leader before walking over to stand beside me.
“They are strange creatures. They fight like warriors but still have the fascination of children,” she says, watching them celebrate the fire.
“Are we allowed to head down the mountain now?” I ask and she shakes her head.
“They said we can stay the night here. I will show you to your huts, they also said they will put a guard outside Angel’s hut so that we all may rest,” she tells me.
“What language was that?” I ask as she shows my guards and Mykael to their huts.
“Latin, isn’t that the ancient language of wolves?” She asks, giving me a funny look.
“Its ancient, no one speaks it anymore,” I mutter with a frown. She chuckles and comes to a large hut with a thick wooden door.
This one is different from the others, it is bigger for starters. All of the others would be too small to stand in while this one has plenty of space. Also, it has a different color plaster, white instead of brown.
“This was my hut,” Lyza says, her face solemn.
“Where am I staying?” I ask, clearing my throat.
“Well they don’t have enough for us all to have our own, and mine is the biggest so you will have to stay in this one with me,” she says and my wolf howls.
Yes! Finally something good happens! He says.
This is not good! She doesn’t even know she is my mate! This is not good at all! I growl at him.
Well it’s good for me, he says before ending our conversation.
I pull open the door and walk inside the hut. Everything is dark until a sudden flame in the corner lights it up. The fire burns in a small pit, opposite to what I assume is the bed.
“They haven’t touched anything,” Lyza mutters, looking around. The bed is a pile of furs laid over a strange version of a mattress.
“They tied a moose skin into a giant pillow shape and stuffed it with feathers and fur, it is actually very comfortable,” Lyza tells me, pointing towards the bed.
“Is that a bear skin?” I ask, peering closer at the black fur blanket. She nods.
“Yeah, Myrka had given it to me as a gift. Actually, everything in here was a gift from someone, this is from the leader.” She walks over to the wall where a wooden shelf hangs, covered in ancient-looking items.
She pulls off an odd-looking spiked necklace. I look closer and realize they are teeth.
“Each one came from a different creature the leader killed. Wolves, dragons, lions, and a dozen others,” she mutters absentmindedly. She is squinting at the necklace, her eyebrows furrowed deep in thought.
She looks so cute when she’s thinking, Madox says making me growl at him.
Will you shut up? I snap.
“We should leave first thing in the morning, the less time we spend here the better,” she suddenly says with a sigh.
She puts the necklace back onto the shelf and sets her backpack down onto the ground. I follow her lead and take off my own backpack.
“I’ll stay on my side if you stay on your side,” she says, jerking her head towards the bed.
“Sure,” I say and ignore my wolf’s mischievous chuckle. I lay down on it and my eyes widen in surprise.
“Wow, this is comfortable,” I mutter as Lyza climbs in as well.
“Yeah, well goodnight,” she says and the flames dim slightly.
“Goodnight,” I sigh. I stare into the flames for what feels like hours before I finally fall asleep.
I jerk awake to Lyza’s foot jabbing my ribcage.
“Ow! Hey I’m awake!” I grumble, sitting up. I blink a few times to clear the sleep from my eyes, then swing backpack onto my shoulder and follow Lyza out of the hut.
I notice that the rest of our party is already outside and I frown.
“Why didn’t you wake me earlier?” I ask Lyza. Her eyebrow shoots up.
“You don’t think I tried?” She scoffs, earning chuckles from my guards. I glare, immediately silencing them.
“Whatever, let’s go,” I mutter. Lyza leads us forward but then stops as shadows appear in a circle around us.
“Ubi is?” The leader asks, walking in front of Lyza.
“Iterum relinquo circulum ignis,” Lyza says. Suddenly angry whispering surrounds us and Lyza turns pale.
“What are they saying?” I ask. She turns to me with wide eyes, her face ashen.
“They’re not going to let me leave again.”