Once we were a safe distance from the forest, I stopped running. I looked around, but I couldn’t see any sign of Avin, Mirage or Elijah. Where could they be? I really hope that they made it out of the forest.
I squeezed my eyes shut as both physical and emotional pain collided in my brain at the same time. I looked back at the forest one last time. I knew that we couldn’t stay here any longer. We needed to find a water source so that we could get something to drink and get ourselves cleaned up.
I resituated the boy in my arms and looked around for a possible direction that I should go. As I was looking around, though, I spotted a horse coming towards me. At least that’s what it looked like in the beginning. But as it got closer it separated into two different horses, and only one of them had a rider.
My heart skipped a beat in my chest, and I suddenly felt very relieved and happy. I waved to them as they got closer. Avin waved back and made Elijah speed up.
I knelt down towards the ground so that I could put the child on the ground, more carefully. However, when I tried to stand up my legs just gave out from underneath me, and I fell back onto my butt. I suddenly felt very sore and worn out. It must be that the adrenaline was starting to dissipate.
As Avin, Mirage and Elijah got closer I noticed that they were all covered with a light layer of ash, and even had some singe marks. I understood why they might have singe marks but why were they covered in ash? Did they come back into the forest after I had jumped off of Mirage?
Avin practically jumped off of Elijah before he had even come to a full stop, and ran the rest of the way to me. He looked worried and had more burns than I had previously thought that he had. But most of all he looked really, really mad.
“What the hell was that about?” Avin asked seething with rage as he glared at me. Then he noticed the boy that was on the ground between us. He took a step back and looked down at the kid. “Who is this?”
Avin sounded curious. However, I could still hear the anger in his voice and see it burning in his eyes. I think that this was probably one of the first times that I’ve seen him express genuine feelings so naturally. I mean like with no mask or filter, it was just his own real emotions. It both freaked me out and made me happy.
I smiled up at Avin, which got him really confused, and then looked back down at the boy in my arms. His breathing was much better now, and he didn’t seem as scared or as frantic as he did before. But he still looked pretty banged up. Well on his face anyway since he was still wrapped up in the cloak.
“This is the boy from the prisoner camp that you and Mallon had taken me to,” I told Avin as I looked up to watch his reaction. “Remember that?”
Avin nodded and knelt down a foot away from the boy, and continued to stare at him curiously. The anger had faded now, and he didn’t look that scary anymore. But it was replaced by confusion.
“But how did he escape the camp?” Avin asked. He sounded the exact same way he looked, frustrated and confused.
“I don’t think that he did,” I replied slowly turning towards the direction of the still burning forest. “I don’t believe that any of them did.”
I felt sick. What kind of sick twisted person would do such a horrific and graphic thing to a bunch of innocent people? I could feel the rage begin to boil in my stomach, and the creature started to become restless in my arm. I will kill whoever did this to these people, without mercy. The creature in my arm wanted the same thing. But who could it have been?
My anger faltered as I couldn’t actually find a target for it. Now I was just wasting energy sitting here frustrated. I think that I need to do something productive before I did something that I would regret.
I turned to look at Avin and was surprised to see a tear roll down his cheek.
“Are you okay?” I asked concerned as I shuffled closer to him, without hitting the boy.
“I’m all right,” he replied, his voice sounded strong, but another tear betrayed his real feelings. This tear came from the scarred side of his face, and it wasn’t the usual clear color. It looked like the color of diluted blood.
“You were friends with a couple of them, weren’t you?” I asked him sympathetically. Avin stared at me with a dark expression etched into his face. Whoa…scary.
“Killers like me don’t get to have friends, we don’t get happy endings, and we don’t get life mates,” Avin snapped. Where the heck was all of this coming from? I’ve never seen him so pissed or so scary.
The boy whimpered in my arms, and my instincts were screaming for me to run away from him with the little boy. But as I stared back at him I noticed a twitch. The corner of his lip on the scarred side of his face kept twitching. The twitch distracted me long enough to collect myself, and truthfully it was kind of a cute fault. I was pretty sure that he had no idea that it was happening either.
Even though I was calm now, Avin and the boy weren’t anywhere near calm. The boy had moved as far away from Avin as he could because my knees were blocking his escape. The boy was shaking like a leaf, he was so scared. Avin still seemed to be rather distraught over the deaths of all of those people.
“Come on Avin, there’s nothing more that we can do here,” I told him as I wiped the tears off of his face. “Now do you know a place where we can get cleaned up?”
Avin seemed to be completely stunned. I don’t know whether it was from me touching him or the fact that I could see that he was crying. Avin slowly nodded still staring at me. I wasn’t too sure whether he was just confused or surprised.
“Alright, well let’s get going then,” I said as I tried to get up again. I thought that the pain would be less by now because I had rested up for a little bit. But as soon as I put pressure on my right foot I started to see black spots in front of my eyes.
“Shit, shit, shit!” I muttered in pain, as quietly as I could, as I shifted my weight to my left foot. I tried to stretch out my arms too, but pain ripped down my right side. I gripped my side with my left hand to try to soothe the pain.
Great, jumping off of Mirage was coming back to haunt me. Now, what was I going to do? I couldn’t carry the boy like this, I could barely move on my own. I was definitely in no condition to carry him. Just as I thought that it was hopeless, Avin picked me up.
“What are you doing?” I asked him, freaking out a little bit on the inside. I was not used to people randomly picking me up out of nowhere like that.
Avin placed me onto Mirage’s back, directly on the saddle. He looked up at me from where he was standing on the ground, and he smiled at me. A genuine smile. It was like nothing I had ever seen before.
My heart skipped a beat in my chest, and my face began to heat up. I had to look away from him so that I wouldn’t give myself away. Holy jeez, he looked completely different when he smiled like that. Well, let’s just say that even with his scars he looked like a real heartthrob that any woman would be fawning over.
“There’s a small pond that’s not too far away from here, will that do?” Avin asked over his shoulder as he turned to the boy that was still sitting on the ground, wrapped in a half burnt cloak.
“Um, yeah that’ll do just fine,” I replied as I watched Avin confused. What was he going to do to the boy? Avin reached out to the boy slowly, but the boy still shied away from his hand. The boy looked over at me, scared. I smiled to reassure him. I was sure that Avin wasn’t going to hurt him.
“It’s okay, he won’t hurt you,” I told the boy in a soothing voice, trying to get him to relax. Avin reached for the boy again, and this time managed to pick him up.
Avin walked ahead of us to lead us to where the pond was, while Mirage, Elijah and I, on Mirage, followed close behind. The only problem with the ride to the pond was that whenever Mirage stumbled or had to jump, my ribs on my right side would get jarred and pains would shoot up my side.
I cursed under my breath so that the boy wouldn’t hear it. With all the pain that I was going through it felt like we were never going to reach that damn pond.