The Forgotten Village

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Chapter 26

We rode all day long and even through part of a storm. It was still raining by the end of the day when we had to look for a relatively dry place to set up camp for the night. Everyone was drenched and weary from the day’s hardships. We were shaking and cold from the constant heavy rainfall.

Avin was looking especially worn out, and I was worried that he might before we found a place to stay for the night. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to carry him until we found a spot because I was kind of run down myself.

The horses plodded along slowly, their hooves sinking into the sticky mud. I had almost lost hope of finding some shelter when a streak of lightning lit up the sky and illuminated a cave not too far from us. Hope swelled in my chest, and I pressed Mirage onward with a barely conscious Avin and Elijah at my side.

The cave was dark and, from my quick inspection, seemed to be uninhabited. I dismounted just outside the cave and walked Mirage in first with Elijah taking up the rear. Avin was practically hanging off of Elijah. I was pretty sure that he was unconscious by now.

The cave was dry and cozy but with us being drenched from the rain we were all chilled to the bone. Even Mirage and Elijah were shaking as they entered the cave. The only form of lighting we had, to help us find our way around, was the lightning that flashed across the sky outside.

I maneuvered around Mirage to get to Elijah so that I could check on Avin. I moved Avin’s hair out of his face to see if he was still conscious. His eyes were barely open, and he had a fever. I looked him over more closely, as best as I could in the dark anyway. He was soaked and shivering but other than that he looked fine.

Now how was I supposed to get him off of Elijah? Just as I was contemplating ideas about how to get him down, Avin started to slip off of Elijah. It wasn’t really so much that I caught him, it was more like he fell on top of me.

“Oh jeez,” I muttered as I half dragged, half carried Avin to the far side of the cave. Avin wasn’t all that heavy he was just rather awkward to carry.

I tried to be as gentle as I could when laying Avin down on the ground, but it wasn’t easy. Before I did anything else I needed to get, some firewood or we would all freeze to death before morning. I knelt down next to Avin. He was panting, and he looked like he was in a bit of distress.

“Hang on, okay? I’ll be back in a couple minutes,” I told him. Not giving him a chance to respond, I hopped up and darted towards the entrance of the cave. Mirage walked up behind me and gave me a light nudge. She had the saddle bag in her mouth and dropped it into my hands.

“Be careful,” Mirage whispered into my mind, she sounded a bit worried.

“I will,” I told her as I rubbed her face, and glanced back at Avin. “Watch over him for me please.”

“With my life, milady,” Mirage replied with a slight bow. Her response kind of freaked me out a little bit, but I really didn’t have the time to consider it properly. I nodded to her, turned and ran out of the cave.

I ran into the forest searching for some dead, dry wood and maybe some herbs if I could find any. I slowed my pace as I got further into the forest and looked around. There had to be something out here that I could use.

I threw some bark, twigs, leaves and whatever else I thought might work to start the fire into the saddle bag. I managed to find a small handful of healing herbs at the base of a large pine tree while I was still searching around for more wood.

The rain never let up, though, it just kept coming down. It was coming down so hard that it made it difficult to see where I was going half of the time. It wasn’t the warm kind of rain either. This stuff was freezing cold.

Once I had gathered what I thought was enough materials I started to head back to the cave. Although truthfully I was just so bloody cold that my hands wouldn’t stop shaking. I grabbed a couple more herbs and then turned around to head back towards the cave.

As I jogged back, I heard something rather odd. I could hear an echo of what sounded like someone was running through the mud next to me. I looked around as I sped up my jog a little bit. But I couldn’t see anyone through the rain and the darkness. I was actually very proud of myself for not tripping over a tree root or something. My feet just seemed to know where they were going.

I could still hear the footsteps, but they sounded louder now. The person was closer. Where were these footsteps coming from? I sped up my pace even more so that I was practically sprinting.

How far away from the cave did I go? Shouldn’t it be just up…ah, there it is. I spotted the vague outline of Mirage. Who, I just realized, glows slightly in the dark. I’m almost there.

I started to feel relieved until a figure popped out from behind a tree and into the path in front of me. I couldn’t help it, I screamed. The figure was wearing a hooded mask that covered virtually all of his face except for his eyes. I was pretty sure that he was wearing black pants and a black sleeveless top.

An assassin or a thief perhaps? Either way, I could take the chance of him finding Avin. I jumped back a step and stood ready, in case I had to fight. My sword pressed against my left wrist, waiting. But the guy just stared at me curiously.

He kept going from looking me in the eyes to looking at my left arm. While he was staring at me, I got a better chance to look at him. He had a tattoo going down his left arm just like mine, except his, was more swirly than mine. His eyes though were very odd and almost predator like, and they were gold in color.

My head started pounding. He seemed sort of familiar. Why do so many people and things seem so familiar? What was this place doing with my head? The stranger cocked his head to one side and then disappeared just as quickly as he had appeared.

What the hell?! Where’d he go? I looked around and listened, but I couldn’t see or hear him. The only thing that I could hear was Mirage whinnying loudly and ferociously. Oh crap, I think that I made her worry. I ran out of the forest and over to her. I gently stroked her muzzle so that I could calm her down a little bit.

“Sorry, sorry,” I murmured to her trying my best to calm her down.

“Are you okay?” Mirage asked into my head. Her voice was still full of worry as she sniffed me up and down.

“Yeah, just got a little spooked,” I said and then explained to her what had happened out in the forest with the mysterious guy. Mirage looked at me curiously but didn’t say any more on the subject.

We walked into the cave, and Mirage explained what had happened while I was gone. Elijah has been trying to keep Avin warm, but his condition has worsened.

I quickly took out all of the fire building materials and built a fire teepee. I concentrated on my pointer finger on my left hand, and then touched the top of the pile of wood. It quickly caught fire. I added a few more twigs to the pile before going to the back of the cave to go check on Avin.

The small fire allowed for some light and a little more warmth in the cave. I could see just fine in the light that it gave off. Mirage was right Avin really wasn’t doing too well.

The fever had gotten worse, and Avin was struggling to breathe. It must be rather painful for him to have to endure this. I reached out and gently placed a hand on his chest. He was still freezing and shuddering almost uncontrollably. This wasn’t looking too good.

What could I do that would help him to warm up? Elijah couldn’t warm him up, and the fire was too small to warm anyone up. I looked from the fire to my left hand. I could feel the creature flutter around slightly before settling down.

I was pretty warm, actually probably unnaturally warm. I scooted closer so that my knees touched Avin’s side. He opened his eyes weakly and stared up at me

“Just take it easy, okay?” I told him and moved my left hand to the side of his face that was the most scarred. “I’ll take care of you.”

Avin leaned into my hand and sighed. He seemed to be so content, as he smiled sleepily. It was probably just because my hand was warm so he was trying to get close to the warmth. But then, why did my heart speed up and bang against my ribs? And why did my face feel so hot? Damn, I was actually falling for this idiot.

I shook my head, disappointed in myself. I removed my hand from his face and shuffled over to Avin’s head. I gently and slowly lifted up his head and sat down where his head had been with my legs outstretched. I lowered his head back down onto my lap. Avin groaned and then sighed, hopefully with contentment.

“Is that better?” I asked quietly looking down at Avin. He groaned an affirmative and tilted his head back towards me. I pulled out one of the herbs from the saddle bag, put it into my own mouth first to make it a little easier for Avin to swallow. I bent down and pried open his mouth a bit so that I could pass him the herb. I tried not to think too much about what I was doing, but it did happen to come into my train of thoughts.

Elijah was still a bit anxious, but Mirage had managed to get him to settle down. They were both settled near the front of the cave around the fire. They both seemed to be sound asleep.

I looked down to Avin when his breathing changed, but he’d just fallen asleep. I sighed, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of Avin’s face. I had an odd urge to play with his hair and trace my fingers along the scars on his face.

I clasped my hands together to try to ward off the urge, but I knew deep down that it was a fruitless effort. I was much too curious about him, and what it would be like to touch him like this. Would it be okay if I did?

I hesitated with my hand just above his head. It would be a bit inappropriate though because he was pretty defenseless at the moment. But there wasn’t any harm in just resting my hand on his head, was there?

I hesitantly placed my hand on the top of Avin’s head. He didn’t stir or flinch away from my hand. Absently I began toying and running my fingers through his hair. It felt like I was running my fingers through silk, his hair was so soft.

Avin groaned and shifted on my lap. I immediately pulled my hand away. I feared that I had been caught doing something that I wasn’t supposed to be doing.

“Don’t stop,” Avin murmured as he looked up from my lap, sleepily. “Please, I…I like it.”

Avin sounded sheepish and almost embarrassed that he had said it. Stunned, I resumed playing with his hair. Avin sighed, contented, and fell back to sleep. He was so cute when he wasn’t hiding. I mind as well just give up the fight now because there was no way that I was going to avoid falling any deeper in love with him.

I looked up and saw that Mirage was watching me. She nickered softly almost like she was chuckling at me. I chuckled a bit myself, but I was pretty sure that we were both thinking different things.

It was more of a sad humor for me. I mean seriously, how could an amazing guy like Avin ever fall for an outcast like me? It’s sad because I know that it won’t happen, but I still want it to.

I’m not really all that flashy or spontaneous, and I don’t have the most amazing figure in the world. But could there still be a possibility for me to be with Avin like this again? Hopefully not under these same circumstances, though. I leaned back against the cave wall as I thought this over. That would be the best thing I could ever want.

My eyes started to feel heavy, and the black began to creep into my vision. I closed my eyes and rested my head against the wall. We still have tomorrow. I smiled to myself, half asleep. It wasn’t too much longer until I faded into the dark abyss of sleep.

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