That night I was haunted by the worst nightmares I’ve ever had.
There were bodies all over the ground. Houses were burning everywhere I looked, and I could hear the screams of the wounded and the dying ringing in my ears. The smell of smoke and burning flesh choked me as I stood in the center of it all, unable to move. What could’ve done this?
“The enemy,” a voice answered from beside me. I whipped my head to the side to see the lady who had said that she was me standing next to me. She turned to look at me, her eyes were full of rage and great sadness that could’ve only come from being betrayed by someone very close to her. “The real enemy.”
Then she turned her head forward, but I couldn’t. I didn’t want to see the bodies anymore. It was just too horrible to watch all of these people die. Why wasn’t she doing anything to help them? Why was she just standing here?
“Just remember that sometimes the people who appear to be the most friendly are really the ones who are planning how to take you down,” the lady who was me commented before she jumped into the fray and tried to help as many people as she could. I heard someone approach from behind me, and I turned to see who it was. It was a warrior. But before I could see who it was a flash of light blinded me.
I gasped and opened my eyes as quickly as I could. I flitted my eyes around the cave, terrified that it wasn’t just a dream. I coughed and gagged, the smell of smoke and burnt flesh was still in my nose and lungs.
Avin surprisingly didn’t even stir while I was coughing. His head was still resting on my lap. Bits of his hair had drifted onto his face. He just really didn’t look like the kind of person who would hurt someone, let alone kill a whole bunch of people.
Looking down at Avin’s face helped me to calm down and push the horrible feelings aside for the time being. I looked around the cave when I had calmed down enough to breathe normally.
The fire had gone out, who knows how long ago, and the rain had stopped sometime during the night. Mirage and Elijah were both still asleep near the cave entrance, but they seemed to be closer than they were last night.
I looked back down to Avin and gently moved some of the strands of hair from his face. I wasn’t going to get another chance like this, was I? I fought back the tears and the knots in my stomach. I wasn’t going to see him again after this…it can’t be helped, though. I mean this was the whole plan to begin with, right? This was probably the worst time to have a change of heart.
I chuckled to myself as I fought off more tears. I never did have good timing when it came to stuff like this. Damn it, and I was really starting to like him too. No use wasting any more time than, I suppose. But I wanted to do something first.
Just the thought of it, though, was making my heart pound in my chest. What if he woke up? Oh man, I would be in so much trouble if he saw me. If I acted quickly, he probably wouldn’t even notice.
I bent my head so that I was just above his face. I lowered my head just a little bit more and kissed his forehead tenderly. I was really going to miss him. Okay, fantasizing needs to end now. We have bigger fish to fry today.
“Avin, wake up we’re going to need to get moving soon,” I called to him as I started to remove myself from underneath his head.
Avin groaned and sat up, groggy with sleep. He managed to glare at me through his foggy state and half-masted eyes. He leaned his head back against the wall in an attempt to go back to sleep.
“Oh no, no, come on,” I told him as I got up and went over to the cave entrance to wake the horses up. I heard Avin groan and stumble to his feet behind me.
Mirage and Elijah looked up as I approached them. Were they already awake? Wait, if they were already awake did they know about what I just did? If either did, they didn’t say anything to me.
We ate whatever food was left in the saddle bags. I gave Avin a couple of healing herb leaves to chew on to help get rid of any lingering poison and pain. Avin looked at the leaves in his hands in disgust, probably remembering how bad they had tasted last night.
I opened my mouth to argue with him, but he took the leaves and popped them into his mouth before I could say a word. I clamped my mouth shut, but then Avin made a weird face as he bit into the leaves, and I couldn’t stop myself laughing.
Avin blushed and tried to swallow the leaves. He gagged but managed to swallow them. After he had taken a big swig of water, he seemed to be a bit better, and much more awake then he was a second ago. Well with something that potent I suppose it would wake up just about anyone in a hurry.
Then the mask came back on. Now would be the best time to leave than if he was going to be like that. I saddled up Mirage without saying another word to Avin and then walked with Mirage out of the cave. I mounted on to Mirage and waited for Avin to catch up. He came out a couple minutes later with Elijah in tow.
Avin mounted on to Elijah and then started off into the forest. I followed a few feet behind him so that I would be less tempted to talk to him. Whenever he puts the “mask” back on it just really, I don’t know, I guess turned me off. I sighed and looked around at where we were going.
The trees were starting to thin out but not in the natural way that they should be. The trees were all bent over, and some looked like they had been cut down. As we kept going, though, I noticed an odd smell of smoke.
I looked more closely at some of the trees up ahead. The forest looked like it was coming to an abrupt end, but why? I was sure that the woods was supposed to be longer than this.
As we got closer to the exit, the smell of smoke got stronger and stronger until I was nearly choking on it. Mirage didn’t seem to like the smell too much either. She kept snoring and breathing heavily. Elijah was having difficulty breathing too, and the only one who appeared to be the least affected by the smell. Although he did appear to be worried about Elijah.
What on Earth could be causing such a horrible smell? I felt something warm land on my cheek and slowly drip down my face. I stopped Mirage and touched my face where the liquid had fallen on me. It was dark red. What the hell?
I wanted to look up into the trees to see what had caused this red liquid on my face. But before I looked up I smelled something else. It was a much more putrid odor than that of the smoke. Now that I was thinking about it the smoke was probably just a cover smell. A cover for rotting corpses. I tried not to look up as I looked around for the source of the smell.
“It should be all around us,” I murmured to Mirage as I squinted at our surroundings. I could feel the heat coming from all around us now. I just couldn’t see where any of these things were coming from. Avin trotted over to us on Elijah, both looked rather concerned.
“Why are you stopping?” Avin asked confused as he looked around for a source of danger. Something suddenly changed in his stance and now he was on high alert. I wonder if he could feel the same things that I could. Something was keeping us from seeing what was really going on at the edge of the forest.
I just wasn’t sure what to do, but Mirage seemed to know. She raised herself up onto her hind legs, with me still on her back, and whinnied loudly while her horn shone brightly. Suddenly the forest was gone and was replaced by an anger fire that raged everywhere we looked.
For a split second, no one moved. Everyone was too stunned to move or even utter a word. The thing that seemed to finally knock some sense into everyone was when Mirage’s hooves hit the ground with a loud thud. We looked at each other and then booked it towards the exit of the forest.
I saw the one other thing that I had not wanted to see all day, and I didn’t even have to look up. There were bodies everywhere. The bodies were hanging off of the trees as they slowly burned to ash, and they were lying all over then ground at the bases of the trees and at the edges of the path.
I tried not to look at the bodies as we rushed past them but one caught my eye. Mostly because he moved. It looked like the little boy from the prisoner camp. But we whipped by him so fast that I wasn’t really sure. Either way, though he was alive and in need of being rescued.
I tried to stop Mirage but she would have none of it and actually sped up. Excellent looks like I was going to have to jump. I took my feet out of the stirrups, dropped the reins and threw myself off of Mirage.
I rolled with the impact as I landed on my right side, hard. Shit! Well, that was definitely going to hurt much more, later. I grabbed my right side with my left arm and ran away from the exit and back towards the boy.
I heard Mirage whinny and the skidding of hooves over the ground. I couldn’t turn around, though, I needed to find that kid. If this was the child from the prisoner camp than I had had my first vision while I was around him. It made me think that maybe there was a connection between us.
But of course, that wasn’t the only reason. I would do almost anything to save a life, especially the life of a child. They were the most precious lives and the most easily affected by people and experiences in their lives.
I forced myself to look down at the bodies as I searched for the boy. Did we really go that much further after seeing him, or maybe had I already passed him? Oh man, I really hope that I hadn’t passed him already.
I kept looking to the sides of the path thinking two things. 1) Where could that boy be? And 2) why was there a path between the piles of bodies? Both questioned stumped me until I saw a little arm move around underneath what used to be probably a male and a female.
I stopped in my tracks and pivoted on the ball of my foot so that I was facing the boy. I ran over to him and dropped to my knees. I had to remove the burning corpses without hurting him or myself.
The male’s corpse was on top and was the easiest to move, but the bandages that were on my right arm started to burn off. I quickly patted out the flames and turned my attention to removing the female corpse. She was a bit harder to maneuver off of the boy. I had to actually get underneath and push her up and off of him.
He was the same boy from the prisoner camp. He was staring at me, terrified. The boy wrapped his arms around himself tightly and murmured something. But he was too quiet so I couldn’t tell what he had said. The boy suddenly started coughing and gasping for air.
I turned the boy onto his back so that I could get a better look at him. He was covered in blood, ash and dirt and his clothes were virtually torn to shreds. But the most demoralizing thing was that the boy was missing his pants. This was just getting worse and worse the more that I thought about it.
First, I had to get him away from the fire then I could better assess his wounds. But I needed to get something to cover him up with. I looked around coughing as the smoke got thicker. My eyes watered and stung as the ash got into my eyes, I could barely tell what I was looking at.
I noticed a cloak dangling from a branch a couple feet away. It looked relatively intact. Perfect that’s just what I needed. I ran at it and jumped. I grabbed the cloak and yanked it down with me.
I ran back to the boy just as he was beginning to panic. I quickly and carefully maneuvered the cloak underneath the kid. The boy squeaked and groaned as I moved him. The boy must be more wounded than I first thought. Then I wrapped the cloak the rest of the way around him and picked him up.
The boy began to struggle against my hold the moment my arms went around him. It was a somewhat feeble attempt, which worried me. I looked down at the boy and smiled sympathetically. Then I tightened my grip and took off down the path.
The boy gripped my shirt and closed his eyes. He was surprisingly light as I ran through the woods with him against my chest. The smoke and fire made it difficult to see and breathe.
I focused on the path as I tried to navigate towards the exit of the forest, or at least where I thought the exit was. The only other problem now though was that two trees had fallen into the path and were still burning. There was no way around, and I couldn’t climb it or land on it because I was fairly sure that they were going to collapse. So what now?
I stopped in my tracks and took a couple steps back to get a better look at exactly how big those fallen trees really were. But as I glanced behind me I knew that I was out of time. There was only one other option that I could do.
My arms began to itch, and I tried my best to ignore it. The creature was both excited and agitated by the circumstances.
I took a few more steps back and then ran as fast as I could at the downed trees. A couple feet from the trees I used my earth powers to bring up a section of the ground and propel myself up as I jumped. I didn’t even use my hands this time. I just thought about it, and it happened. So cool!
I flipped over the trees with the boy still in my arms and bent my knees to try to soften the impact. But pain radiated up my legs as soon as I hit the ground. There was no way that I could’ve softened that kind of landing.
I rolled once with the force of the impact, making sure to protect the kid in my arms, and then I took off again. Ignoring the pain and protests of my unwilling body, I ran the rest of the way out of the blazing forest.