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The Awakening, part 15

I can hardly believe my luck when I see that Caleb’s prepared the food today as well. There is a steaming pot on the table, placed strategically on a disc of wood. I inhale, enjoying the smell of hotpot, and take a seat. My stomach is rumbling, but I hesitate. It would be impolite to eat without him, especially as I am staying at his home and he has gone through the trouble of providing food for me. And since there are two clean plates layd on the table as well, I think it’s safe to assume that he hasn’t eaten yet, either.

I bite my lip as I decide to wait for him. I feel kinda awkward at the moment. How is it going to work, me staying here? And how am I to earn my keep when he keeps doing everything himself? I can’t imagine Marissa letting me sleep in and just do nothing.

As I wait for him, my mind drifts back to what I experienced upstairs. Was it some kind of hallucination, a memory, or a premonition? I could almost feel the rough fabric of Giles’ uniform as I hugged him. No. That’s not right. It wasn’t exactly me. More like me seeing through someone else’s eyes. There were thoughts and feelings that weren’t my own. I’ve never experienced such things before.

Before I have a chance to dwell on whether there’s something extraordinary going on or I’m simply losing my last shards of sanity, Caleb enters the kitchen. His hair is somewhat tousled by the wind and he has a restlessness about him that I can’t quite discern. His expression, once again, is unreadable. I find it increasingly annoying that I can’t tell what he’s thinking at all.

“How are your feet?” he asks as he seats himself opposite me.

“Much better. I feel no pain while walking. I.. .thank you.” I feel a bit embarrassed. I’m not used to having people take care of me. So I concentrate on eating and avoid looking at Caleb for the rest of the meal. Childish, I know, but I’m apparently not very good at managing awkward situations.

“When we are done here we shall check on your wounds and change the bandages.” My eyes shot up at that and I look at him, startled.

“I, um… I think I can manage them myself now. But thanks for… everything?” I didn’t mean for that last part to sound like a question. He probably thinks I’m not quite right in the head. But then again, he most likely had that opinion the first time he saw me, housebreaking in order to sleep in a stranger’s bed. Yeah, can’t do much worse than that.

“After having seen the disregard with which you treat your health and wellbeing, that might not be the wisest course of action.” I can hear the amusement in his voice. I’m irritated, but I automatically give him one of my blandest smiles as I respond.

“As you wish.”

I’m looking down on my plate again, but when I finally raise my eyes after finishing my meal, I see no trace of humour in his face. He is studying me with an indecipherable look, just as he did yesterday.

A few minutes later, I am still sitting on my chair as Caleb unbandages my feet. Truth is, I’ve never felt so awkward before. It doesn’t sit right with me to have someone waiting on me when I’m quite capable of managing things on my own. After examining my legs, he stands up.

“It would seem you have some healing talent. The herbs I used should have only removed the possible infection and eased your pain somewhat. Good. This means we can begin training right away.” With that, he goes outside.

I get a bit confused at that. He sure says as little as possible, leaving out half of the information. Training for what? And that talk about healing talent didn’t make much sense either. Until I look down and look at my feet myself. The cuts I had are barely noticeable. The soles of my feet still feel somewhat tender when I stand and try to walk without bandages, but I can tell that the wounds have healed.

I follow Caleb. He’s waiting for me in the center of the small meadow, about fifty feet from the house. I admit that I’m somewhat surprised to see him completely unarmed. I was almost certain that we’d be clashing wooden swords or something like that. That’s how the boys begin when they are enlisted by the king’s troops. As I near Caleb, I hear him sigh.

“That chest I put in the attic is there for a reason. Go back and get yourself some footwear before you hurt yourself again. Your feet are not completely healed yet.” He sounds kind of exasperated, but it’s hard to tell since his face is as blank from emotions as ever. I rush back inside and up to my room. The glow is back, but I try to look only at the chest as I open it, in fear of other visions intruding my head. Luckily, nothing happens as I rummage the trunk. I find a couple of simple dresses that appear to be approximately my size, and pair of weathered-looking brown leather half-boots. Which also seem to fit, though not perfectly. I pull on the boots and hurry back out, immensely relieved when I escape the attic without recieving any voices or visions.

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The Awakening, part 14

It must be late morning by the time I open my eyes. I lay curled up on my bed, Moira’s diary under my outstretched hand. I feel somewhat groggy and tired. Shouldn’t have read through the night, but I just couldn’t stop myself. The content between these pages sounds incredible, and yet I can sense the truth behind the words.

I sit up on the bed and hold the diary in my hands. I get lost in thought as I examine its simple leather cover. What would it be like, to see a dragon fly over my head? Would I be terrified, startled, mesmerized? Would I tremble in fear, or rejoice to see such a magnificent sight?

I finger through the pages before I put the volume under my pillow. It is by no means thick, but Moira’s handwriting is rather small and some of the letters she uses are unfamiliar to me. So I haven’t even made it halfway through.

I briefly consider looking for the source of the strange illumination that is still present, but drop the idea almost instantly. There are no shadows to search by and besides, I decide to not question something that makes my life more comfortable. Instead, I get up from the bed and move toward the painting of a soldier that caught my eye yesterday.

Giles. The name just pops into my head. I don’t know how it can be, but it’s like I feel that it’s his name. I raise my hand and gently touch the canvas. This scene is positive. A soldier returning home. He’s obviously happy. And yet… Now that I examine the painting closely, I can sense that not everything is well. The artist didn’t want it to show. But it does, somehow. I can see it in my mind’s eye, as clearly as if I’d been there myself.

Giles was among the first battalion that made it back home after the war was over. Not won, but not lost either. I was so immensely happy when I saw him walking toward me. We had missed each other for so long. He hugged me tight and told me how happy he was to be back home with me. At that moment I was too overjoyed to listen to what my power told me. But as the days went by I could feel that I was losing him. He didn’t complain, but I saw he was in pain. And it would only get worse. When I finally realized he was suffering from a poisoned Elfin arrow, it was already too late. I could only ease his pain as I watched him waste away.

The emotion is too much for me. I step back so quickly that I stumble and fall on my ass. What was that?? I avert my eyes, half afraid to look at the painting, and make haste as I go down. As I descend via the pantry shelves and look up one last time, I see the attic is dark again.

The Awakening, part 13

As I get back to the kitchen I see the floor is smeared with red. The stains were probably caused by me, since I’m the only one who’s been fumbling about in the woods barefoot. I didn’t exactly watch my step either, and my feet suffered for it. For a second I almost panic. How on earth would I get it cleaned up before Marissa sees this mess? Then I remember I’m not home any more. Somehow I don’t think Caleb is the type to give a beating for dirtying his floors.

“Should’ve told me you were hurt.” He says it without much inflection as he moves past me and enters his room. I didn’t even hear him come down. How does he move so quietly?

“Would you have carried me all the way back, then?” I mutter under my breath. It’s my own fault my feet are hurt. There’s no point in complaining, especially when it doesn’t change the outcome. I make a move to go and sit on one of the chairs, but as I take my first step I suddenly feel lightheaded. Black spots are dancing in the edges of my vision, and I’m pretty sure that if I don’t sit down soon, I’ll fall flat on my face. I take deep breaths and try to grab something for support.

Next thing I know, I’m lying on a bed and there is a curious scent of herbs in the air. It tugs something from my memory, but I can’t remember where I’ve smelled it before. I snuggle deeper under the covers and fall asleep.

Later, when I wake again, I feel completely rested. I stretch my muscles and open my eyes. It’s dark, but there is an odd glow that sheds enough light for me to see that I’m back in the attic. I sit up and realise I’ve been sleeping on a narrow cot that didn’t even exist here earlier. There is also a chest at the foot of the bed. I look around, but I can’t make out where the source of light is. I do, however, feel some kind of vibe in the air. Almost as if something was pulsing around me.

It is magic, girl. Raw magic. The power within you responds to this place. That voice again. I touch the side of my head. Am I really crazy?

“Why do I hear you in my head? What do you want from me?” I whisper hesitantly.

I saved your life. And I want a favour in return. Saved my life? I get an uneasy feeling as I remember those red eyes I saw in the Dark Lake, right before I passed out. And Brian said something about a monster pushing me out of the water. Could it be?

I shiver, even though the air is quite warm here, and push the voice out again. I’ve learned that I can block it if I want to, at least for a while. And I really want it out of my head right now. I’m not sure what I should believe any more. The idea of having someone else in my head is somewhat preferable to actually being a schizophrenic. Then again, who wants someone poking around in their thoughts?

I sigh. Some distraction is in order. Maybe one of those books can get my mind off my problems. As I push the covers aside to get up, I notice that my legs have been bandaged. I’d forgotten they were even hurt. The pain is completely gone.

I take careful steps at first, but everything feels fine and I continue more confidently. I take my time choosing what to read. In the end I take a small volume from a pile that I almost missed. It’s behind a couple of much taller stacks. I take one of the four candles that are neatly placed near the closed trap-door, but I soon realize I don’t have anything to light it with. That’s just my luck.

I go back to the bed and take the small book with me anyway. I scan the room one more time, hoping to see what causes the glow. Maybe I could find a way to make the light a bit brighter.

I open the book from a random page and am surprised to discover that it’s written by hand. This is someone’s journal. Caleb’s? But no, the handwriting is definetly feminine. And I can actually make out the words. I raise my eyes and I think there is more light than before. So strange. I shrug and turn my attention back on the journal.

“I know it was necessary, even essential for the survival of my race. But I fear the Binding may have doomed us all… The coming generations will take the brunt of it, when They emerge once again.”

What’s all this? I better start at the beginning. I turn to the first page and… It reminds me of the stories my mother used to tell me.

“For as long as I remember, we have lived in fear. Living in forests is dangerous, living out in the open is no safer. They do not wish to kill us, but They do not care enough to spare us, either. When the Elfins battle, they are as deadly to us, mere bystanders, as they are to Dragons. And the flying serpents burn everything that lies in their way. They have little to no control over their magic. Sooner or later They will wipe us out. Our only hope is to use Their own magic against them…”

The Awakening, part 12

As I follow Caleb to the cottage I notice that everything is cleaned up. There are no traces of what happened. Even the grill is put away somewhere. Only the broken windows remain as a sign that the explosion-like thing really happened.

Caleb leads me back around the house and into the kitchen. Now that I think of it I don’t remember seeing a staircase anywhere when I was in here earlier. Nor were there any second-storey windows to be seen outside. How exactly am I to get to the attic and is it even habitable? I watch Caleb as he opens the pantry door and am quite confused. I checked the pantry for food when I was last in the kitchen. It’s very small, and only has the far wall lined with empty shelves. And my new companion is climbing them like a ladder? I get what he’s doing after he slides the ceiling panel aside. A secret passage?

“Clever.” I climb after him as soon as he disappears through the hole and enter darkness. The only bit of light is what’s coming from the way I just came, but it’s not nearly enough to see anything.Then Caleb lights a candle and the room becomes visible. The sight is…

“Wow.” I thought it might feel suffocating here due to the lack of windows, but I was wrong. The gable walls are filled with paintings that are so lifelike that I feel I could walk straight into the scenes. A big farmhouse on the nearest wall, and there are six young children playing in front of it. The next scene shows a dark haired young man in military colours. He has a lopsided grin on his face. One hand is resting on the hilt of his sword and the other is raised as if in greeting. I scan the closest illustrations and they all give off a happy vibe. I make a mental note to give them a closer look later.

There is no furniture that I can see, and the only things here beside the paintings are books. Piles and piles of books. And this is the place where I’m going to live? I can hardly believe my luck. My hands are already itching to grab a volume from the nearest pile and dig into it. I turn back to Caleb.

“Will all these remain here with me?” I wave my hand in the general direction of the books with a hopeful expression.

“Yes, they will.” Caleb sighs and rubs his forehead before speaking again. “I realize that you countryfolk have some strange notions about the written word being dangerous, but I assure you that there is nothing to fear. These pieces are simply hidden here to keep them from falling into the wrong hands.”

The Awakening, part 11

I frown. Me? But I didn’t do anything. What is he talking about? I struggle to find the right words as I speak.

“I don’t know how… I mean, I don’t have… That strange blast couldn’t have been natural. And I. I can’t make things like that happen. I’d know by now if I had any magic in me.” I turn my gaze away from Caleb, not wanting him to see my face. Speaking of supernatural, and me having magic feels uncomfortable. It brings back a lot of memories – my mother sitting by my bedside, telling me stories about dragons and Elfs and magic. She often told me that I was special, even magical. And I believed her with all my heart.

Another flashback, from after my mother’s death. She had just been buried and I wouldn’t leave her grave. I was so certain that I could somehow bring her back to life if only I tried hard enough. I stayed there for nearly three days, until I gave up and let my father take me home.

I blink to clear my vision and take a deep breath. Some things are better left forgotten.

“Is there any other way this could have happened?”

“No.” Caleb’s tone is curt and I take it as a hint that the conversation is over. I wonder how much longer it will take before we reach the meadow. I should really try not to lose my head next time I run off somewhere. Getting lost all the time is no fun.

We walk in silence for a while, and thankfully my soles have become so numb that I barely feel the pain. If only my sore muscles would do the same. Just as I begin to debate with myself about whether I should break the silence or not, Caleb opens his mouth.

What kind of family do you come from?” That was the last thing I would have thought he’d ask. Why does it matter to him, anyway? Or maybe he’s trying to make small talk.

“My mother died when I was little. My father and his wife are simple peasants.”

“Are you educated in any way?”

“I have been taught how to take care of a household. Why do you ask?”

Caleb eyes me thoughtfully before turning his gaze back on the path. I guess I won’t be getting an answer from him. I roll my eyes without much irritation. Silent treatment is nothing new to me and I can handle it with ease.

We’ve almost reached the meadow when Caleb finally breaks the silence.

“Your chamber will be in the attic.” I haven’t yet told him my decision, but I guess we both know that I have no other options but to stay here with him. At least for now.

The Awakening, part 10

My feet are radiating pain with every step I take, and the tremors are getting worse. I know I haven’t fully recovered from yesterday’s activity yet, but this kind of exhaustion has to be caused by something else as well. I stumble and fall hard on my knees. I take a couple of deep breaths and try to loosen some of the tension in my muscles, but it doesn’t help. At all. I don’t think I can get up anymore. I can’t be very far from the meadow, but I’m too beat to even care anymore. The shock I felt has worn off and now I just feel stupid for running off like a scared rabbit instead of finding out what the hell actually happened.

I lay on my back and watch the trees around me. I don’t know what kind these are, but by the sizes of their trunks I’d say they must be very old. And the huge green leaves will soon turn golden. The autumn isn’t too far off. I listen to the rustling of leaves and close my eyes. It’s so peaceful here. I could stay like this forever…

Get up, girl! This place is filled with dangerous creatures. The ancient magic draws them in. If you fall asleep you might not wake anymore. I open my eyes, startled. My inner voice is warning me again? I feel anxious as I look around , but nothing seems amiss. Still, I get up. What kind of creatures? Wolves?

Nothing as pleasant as that. Nighttime is very dangerous around here. Be thankful you still have many hours till dusk. And leave as fast as your legs can take you. 

I’m starting to panic. Which way do I go? And I have strong doubts about my limbs being able to take me anywhere. The adrenalin rush is long gone and my feet are killing me. I don’t know how I even got this far.

I hear a crack behind me and turn quickly. I relax when I see Caleb and exhale loudly.

“I… I got lost. Could you show me a way out of here?” I wince at the pleading note in my voice, but my gut tells me I should listen to what I was told. One part of me kind of loves this ancient-looking forest, but another part feels that something really is off here.

Caleb raises an eyebrow while looking at me with a serious expression. He crosses his hands in front of his chest and leans his back on a tree.

“Does that mean you’re all done with the hysterics?” I know he’s baiting me again, but I ignore it.

“Yes. Please, let’s just leave. We shouldn’t be here.”  He nods and turns around. I follow him, ignoring my aching feet as best as I can. We walk in silence for a while. It’s not long before I notice that the trees we are passing are getting smaller and more ordinary-looking. Something eases inside me. I take a fortifying breath before I ask.

“About earlier. That blast. How or why…?” I don’t know how to finish my question. I’ve never seen anything like that before. I can’t say I believe in magic, but there’s no other explanation that comes to my mind. And a couple days ago I didn’t think Elfs existed, either. So anything is possible.

He looks at me mockingly, and I feel my cheeks heating up. Did I ask something wrong?

“Now that is a rather stupid question. How could I possibly know why you do the things you do?”

The Awakening, part 9

My mouth begins to water when I see the fish cooking on a grill. If the smell is any indication then the Elf can make great food.

Maybe I should ask for his name? Referring to him as “the Elf” all the time is weird, even if I’m doing it only in my head. And probably impolite, too.

I try to ignore the fear and unease he makes me feel and sit on the ground opposite him. Some of the fish is already done and he hands me one of them. When he sees me hesitating he says “It’s not poisoned. If I wanted you dead you wouldn’t be sitting here. Eat.” I take the fish, putting the knife down, and keep an iron grip on my self-control, afraid the inner voice might want to say something again. I’m beginning to think it hates Elfs.

“Thanks.” I try to eat slowly, despite my enormous hunger.  Oh, this fish is even better than I imagined. I gather my courage and ask for his name between bites. As I look at him, our gazes meet. In the light of the day his piercing light blue eyes seem almost… magical. It’s like he can see right into my soul. And with his golden locks he might as well have stepped out of a fairytale. Then I remember that I’m probably crazy and I really don’t want anyone seeing that about me. I quickly avert my eyes.

There is a long pause before he answers. “Caleb.” I can still feel his eyes on me and my nervousness escalates. Why is he staring at me?

“So… Caleb. I apologize for coming here and staying in your house without permission. And, um, also for borrowing your clothes.” I look down on the tunic and pants that are both too big for me.

“I can see that.” His gaze is not wavering.

“I, ah, don’t have any money with me, but I will repay you before I leave. Somehow. Maybe I could help with some work or chores that need to be done?”

That finally got his attention off me. He looks around before asking “Does it look like I’m falling behind with anything?” I follow his gaze. Everything around us is nearly perfect. The house appears to be in great condition, and it even has plumbing. The grass around the house is cut short. The house was tidy from the inside as well, before I made a mess of his bedroom and kitchen. I eat another fish while I think.

“Earlier you said that if I decided to stay, I’d have to earn my keep. How exactly would I be doing it, then?” I suddenly have a very unpleasant idea. Ugh. I hope I’m wrong.

“There are things I might need your assistance with.” He smirks. “But you won’t get off as easily as you were obviously hoping to. I won’t require these kind of services from you. Who knows which diseases you might carry.” He’s clearly baiting me, but I can’t help but fall for it. I stand up, fuming. I almost hit him, but he’s too fast for me and catches my hand half-swing. His grip is so strong it hurts my hand.

“I told you, you’re no match for me. Control your temper when you are in the company of someone superior to you.” He doesn’t look upset about my attempt to hit him, but I can see he means every word he says. It makes me even more angry.

I step closer to him. All the fear and unease I felt are now forgotten in my rage. I hear roaring in my ears, but since I feel it’s not the inner voice I won’t do anything to stop it. As I look into his striking eyes, I see them widen. He lets go of my hand with an awed expression.

“Who do you think you are to imply that I am a whore? What right do you have to talk to me like that?”I push him. Hard. He takes a step backward, his eyes glued to mine.

The wind has risen and it’s blowing in circles around us. He just stands there, silent, doing nothing. But by the look on his face… I’d say he’s having a damn good time. Which in turn makes me even more upset. Is he having fun at my expense?

“I am worth just as much as the next person. I am inferior to NO ONE but my king! I am definetly. Not. Lesser Than. YOU!” I pour all my pent-up rage, disappointment, and sadness into that last word… And Caleb flies back about thirty feet, making a spin in the air and landing on his feet. Now he really is laughing, but not at me.

I look around. What the hell happened here? It’s like something exploded. The grill and fish are scattered on the grass. They are even further away from me than Caleb. And all the windows this side of the house are broken.

My anger is forgotten and I’m starting to shake. I check myself just in case, to make sure I’m not injured. I literally jump back when I notice Caleb approaching.

“Stay away from me!” I take a couple of unsteady steps backward, then turn around and run for the woods.

The Awakening, part 8

I wait, not daring to move just yet. After a few moments I hear the front door open and close. He’s gone. At least for now. I raise a shaking hand to my neck, inspecting the injury. It doesn’t feel like he cut very deep, but it’s still bleeding. I slowly stand up, keeping my hand in place. Maybe it’ll help if I keep some pressure on the wound.

I try to ignore the dizziness as best as I can while limping to the window and pull the curtains aside. The sun is so high that it must be nearly midday. I sigh sadly at the pretty sight and turn around to take a better look at the room. I’t nice and cozy. The ornamented furniture looks like it’s from another century. And there is a beautiful copper bathtub in one corner. I get a very homely vibe here.

Maybe I really should stay? I mean, where else could I go? You shall certainly have to leave. And fast! He’s an Elf. They can’t be trusted.

“Oh, shut up!” As the words leave my mouth I realise I said it out loud. Talking to my creepy inner voice is definetly not a good sign. I try to close off the part in me that gets a weird feeling every time the voice emerges. When I’m done with that I realize that the bleeding on my neck has stopped. I look at the dried blood on my hand with distaste. I’m a complete mess.

Then I remember the comment about my smell. I sniff the air around me and let’s just say that the words “you smell funny” were quite an understatement. I absolutely stink. I think I’ll take the opportunity to bathe. And after that I’ll decide what to do next.

I take a closer look at the tub and am glad (though very surprised) to discover there’s running water in this house. I’ve read about it from one of mother’s books, but I’ve never actually seen it. I turn one of the faucets and water starts coming from a pipe, straight into the bath. I explore the mechanism for a while and discover there is no hot water coming from either of the pipes.

I rummage the cupboards and drawers for a towel and also borrow some of the Elf’s clothes. If he’s friendly toward me now, he might not mind. And should he still want to kill me, he’d do it anyway, even without me taking his stuff.

As I clean myself, shivering because of the cold water, thoughts keep spinning in my head. Should I, or more importantly, can I trust my life in his hands? Because that’s exactly what staying here would mean. Was he only protecting his property when he threathened to kill me, or is he prone to using violence? I’d be a nervous wreck if I had to watch my back and fear for my life all the time. And where did he go, anyway? I wonder if he left to give me some privacy or to find a bigger weapon to kill me with.

I sigh. The day before yesterday my life was ordinary and predictable, though not entirely pleasant. I already miss it.

I still haven’t come to a conclusion by the time I’ve scrubbed myself completely clean. I briefly think about finding my aunt and asking her for help, but I discard the idea right away. She lives in the capital, Lekolla, which is about a two-week journey from my home. But I’ve only been to her place a couple of times, and I was very young then. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t find her house even if I managed to choose the right path toward the city. Plus, I’d be travelling by foot. And my feet are currently in a very sad shape.

After I get dressed in clean, but ill-fitting clothes, I sit on the bed to catch my breath and wait for the black spots to fade from the edges of my vision. I definetly need to eat something, or I’ll collapse. I raise slowly and limp to the kitchen. A thorough search proves that there isn’t even a single breadcrumb here. Don’t Elfs eat?

As I go out of the cottage, I take a knife I found from the kitchen along as a precaution. I take a couple of steps and the first thing that catches my attention is the smell of fried fish, which makes my stomach rumble. The second is a voice right behind my left shoulder.

“Should I decide to attack, your weapon would be useless. You are by no means a threat. But you may carry it along if it makes you feel better.” My heart is racing again and as he steps away from me, I force myself to calm down. He leaves my company without a single glance toward me. I look at his back as he rounds the corner and dissapears behind the house. I feel IT inside me again and mercilessly push it down. I have enough problems as it is. Dealing with my madness would currently be one too many.

I take my chances and follow the Elf, gripping the knife in my hand. It really does make me feel more confident, even if the feeling is delusional.

The Awakening, part 7

I wake with a start as I feel something cold against my neck. I make an attempt to sit up, but it only results in pain. I see a hooded figure leaning over me and holding a knife to my neck. Now I feel a bit of blood oozing from an incision. Apparently the cold thing is a pretty sharp knife.

I blink back tears of frustration. Yes, I’m terrified for my life and wellbeing, but this rotten luck is getting fairly ridiculous. First, I nearly drown, then I begin hearing voices in my head. Well, a single voice, but that still means that I’ve probably forgone my sanity. Not to mention an Elf-priest wants to exorcise, or in other words, torture me. And now this!

Plus, the stupid voice didn’t even alert me of danger this time. I was starting to depend on that. Maybe it’s gone? Don’t blame it on me. You sleep like the dead. It is not in my power to wake you. Nor is there a reason to warn you now, since you are already as good as deceased. Nope, still there. I sigh.

“Could you remove the knife please? I mean no harm.” I use a soothing voice, hoping it would have a placating effect.

“Give me a reason why I should let you live.” The voice is slightly accented and sounds like it belongs to a young man.

“Because I don’t want to die yet?” I ask hopefully.

“Not good enough.” The knife presses harder on my neck and I feel more blood flowing down the side of my neck. Well, it was worth a try, though I kind of guessed that he wouldn’t care much about my opinion on the matter.

I raise my gaze and look under the hood, trying to make eye contact, but it’s too dark. There’s a bit of light coming through the slits in the curtains, but it’s not enough. I know nothing about this man before me, but I really hope that he is the lesser of two evils.

“Please make it quick, then.” I whisper, a lump forming in my throat and tears brimming my eyes. “I ended up here because I didn’t want to be tortured.”

“Tortured by whom?” It seems I’ve somehow managed to cath his interest. The pressure on my neck lessens.

“There was an old man. A priest. I heard him tell my father I need to be exorcized and that he would deal with me himself. And…” I can’t help it and begin to sob. “And I’ve read about how they… do it. I beg you, don’t make me suffer like he would have.”

“That priest, what did he look like?” He removes the knife and sheaths it. I might have a chance of survival after all.

Should I tell him about the Elfin features I saw or just about how I originally percieved him? If I told him the truth would he think I’m crazy and kill me anyway?

“Well, he was very old and he had white hair.” As I debate with myself on what else to tell the man in front of me, he removes his hood. The room is very dimly lighted, but I can see he has somewhat handsome features, dark hair, light eyes and… pointy ears! Now that’s just great. Have I angered the Gods somehow?

I rub my forehead and say, “And his ears were just like yours.”

“Did he have a scar on his left cheek?” he asks. I squint my eyes, trying to remember, but I can’t give him a definite answer.

“He was wrinkled and it was dark when I saw him up close. To be honest, something told me to get away from him as fast and as far as possible. I didn’t stick around long enough to memorize all his features.”

“Your instincts were probably correct. I believe I am familiar with that priest of yours, though.” He looks at me as if he were assessing me. I guess he is satisfied with what he saw, since his next words were “You can stay here for a while. It is the safest place for you at the moment. Naturally, you’d have to earn your keep.” He mowes toward the door and opens it. Before leaving, he looks back at me.

“If you do decide to stay then first thing you need to do is take a bath. You smell funny. It almost reminds me of… Never mind.” He shakes his head lightly and I think I catch a glimpse of a small smile before he leaves and closes the door behind him.

The Awakening, Part 6

It feels like I’ve been going for ages, but I know I’m probably no more than ten miles from my home, if even that. I have no idea whether the strange priest is coming after me, but I’m definetly not planning to stay and find out. If only I wasn’t so tired…

I stumble on a root and nearly fall flat on my face. I sit on the ground and try to catch my breath. The day will be over soon enough and I have to find some place to sleep. The forest is so thick here that I can’t see the sky at all. What’s even worse, I’m not sure where I am. I went through the woods and avoided every path that I knew of. I even walked in a small creek that I found, hoping it would hide my trail in case I’m being followed.

My stomach aches, reminding me that I haven’t eaten anything since yesterday morning. Now that the adrenalin has worn off I just want to curl up and fall asleep. However, I force myself to stand up and go on. I wince with every step, since my soles are scratched and bleeding. I should’ve remembered to put some shoes on before I ran.

As the night grows closer and I stumble onward, I wonder if I made the right decision by leaving. The only reason I disliked and feared the priest in the first place was because of the strange voice in my head. But what if I’m crazy and the voice is only a trick of my mind? I mean, the priest could’ve hurt me when we were by the Dark Lake, but he didn’t. He even offered me food.

But if Brian was truthful, then it wasn’t him who saved me. And that talk about exorcism… I shudder. I thought the days of with-hunting and killing demons were long gone.

When I was five, my mother taught me to read, and after her death her books passed on to me, since my father can’t read and he wasn’t interested in learning it. Among those books was “A History of Faith” which described how the priests tried to eliminate anything that they considered unnatural. I only read it halfway, and had nightmares for weeks after that.

I rub my hands, trying to fend off the chills. The air is getting colder by the minute, and it won’t be long before it’s completely dark. I know I should pick up the pace, but putting one foot in front of the other is all I can manage at the moment.

Just as I begin to feel very sorry for myself, I reach a small clearing in the woods. For a second I think I’m imagining it, but no! There’s a small house on the other side of the small meadow. The Gods must still be with me. This is more than I expected to find. Way more.

I allow myself a small smile as I near the cottage. I try the door and it’s open. I sigh with happiness and enter. The place looks like it’s habited, but at the moment there’s no one here. If the owner returns, I’ll explain my presence. Now… to sleep! I search the small cottage and find a single bed in the back room. I crawl under the covers and fall into a dreamless sleep.