My lungs burn in my chest as my legs pump, carrying me deeper and deeper through the thick forest in the human realm. Racing through a thicket, I feel a stinging on my left leg; I can't stop. I hear them crashing through the brush behind me, they are close. Too close.
I slide down an embankment and run through a dry creek bed. My heart thunders, my legs feel like they can't move another step; I have to hide. Ahead, a small opening in the rock face. I squeeze in, something slimy brushes against the cut on my leg, making it sting. I hold my breath until they're out of sight.
“Damnit” He sent trackers. Of course, he sent trackers, I wouldn't expect anything less.
The sound of their footsteps fades as I squeezed out from my hiding place and pick my way quietly along the rock face, stepping easily over downed logs. I make my way in the opposite direction of the trackers and catch my breath. Everything smells weird in Lysandros; I hope that will dissuade the trackers as well.
I reach a secluded area and sit down to tend to my wound. There is a three-inch cut across my calf, it doesnt look very deep. I hesitantly touch the red liquid dripping from the cut. I guess my powers don't work as fast in the human realm and Dӕmons don't bleed in Encantadia. I concentrate and watch the cut across my calf close. Once my wound is healed I stretch my leg out gingery, expecting discomfort but none comes. I get back to my feet and reach my hand into my satchel feeling around for...
“Oh Fuck! Where is it? Where…. oh, thank merciful hell,” I sigh relieved as my hand wraps around the trinket. I pull it out to examine it, I haven’t had a chance to admire it since I grabbed it from the chest next to the throne and ran for my life.
The object is a key, bone white, with elegant engravings along both sides. At the hilt is a detailed engraving of a girl with a flower. Such intricate detail carved into such a small object. I’m engrossed in my exploration of the finite detail when I hear a rustle to my left. I don’t have time to hide as a human emerges.
"Heel Cerberus." The large black pit-bull sits as I gaze through the bush at the creature in the small clearing. It looks like a woman but couldn't be, humans are not that pale. I rub my eyes and squint to see better. She definitely looks like a woman. She is too tall to be a Dwarf, Elves all have white hair and she’s much too feminine to be an Orc. She is looking at something in her hand. I watch her stare intently at the object, her long black hair shifts slightly despite the lack of wind, her lips relax, and the frown line between her brows disappears. The item in her hand is shockingly white. It seems to draw the light in instead of reflecting it, making it appear stark, even against her pale hand. I tear my eyes from the object she’s holding and size her up.
I would guess she’s slightly taller than me, putting her around 6’0. She has a sturdy athletic body, long legs leading up to thick thighs and rounded hips. Her thighs and hips are covered by a dark cloth that hugs her. Her hips taper into her waist, partially exposed by her torn shirt. My eyes follow her collar bone back to her face, I can't help but admire the sharp angle of her jaw, the delicate round of her nose. Her lips are full and deep red, the same shade as blood. I wonder if she used blood for lipstick…
"Thwing" I hear the arrow before I see it landing in a stump less than 3 inches from the woman's leg. She doesn't notice, she’s too entranced by the object she’s holding.
"Stay!" I bark the command at Cerberus and leap from behind my bush as another arrow flies toward her.
I feel the sting of the arrow grazing my right thigh, I wasn't fast enough. The human is running toward me, stupid human. I pocket the key and leap toward the human, he’s saying something but all I can hear is my heart beating in my ears.
I push him back toward the tree’s that he emerged from. “Run” I shout. He looks puzzled and I groan, grabbing his hand pulling him with me. I release his arm as he falls into step behind me. More running. I hate running. He has a large black beast with him, he whistled to it and it came running with us. The human is saying something, no shouting something. I look at him and he gestures wildly to the right, he wants to go in that direction.
“No, this way” I point ahead, but he has already changed direction. He has my scent on his hand, damnit, they'll be able to find him. I follow him to the right, running hard hoping I can find a way to get my scent off him and loose these assholes.
Once a comfortable distance is placed between us and the trackers, and I can't pick up their scent, I get the humans attention by yelling.
He stops running panting hard. He’s saying something again. I close my eyes and focus, willing the words to translate before they hit my ears. “Are you okay? Are you hurt? What… What are you?” He asks, still breathing deeply. Sweat shining across his face.
“I’m a Dӕmon.” I answer his last question first. I realize he is staring at my thigh, and follow his gaze down. An angry red and black tear across my thigh is visible through my torn pants. “Fuck! Fuck fuck!!” Placing my hand over the wound I urge it to heal. My magick doesn’t work. I try again muttering “Fuck you! Heal!” forcing my energy through my hands into my throbbing wound. It's not healing.
“Why can I understand you now?” The human asks so many stupid question.
“Magick” I reply, as if it’s the most obvious answer in the world.
How can she look so calm and annoyed at the same time, “What are you doing here? Who were those guys?"
“Shut. Up.” She looks daggers at me. “Stop asking me questions. Just shut up and let me think.”
Her violet eyes bore into mine, what the hell is going on?
“DANTE!!!” my vision is clouded by a mass of feathery blonde hair. Chloe wraps herself around me and lets out a half sob half laugh. “I’m so glad you’re okay.”
“Dante, who…. is that?” Marcus is pointedly staring at the dӕmon.
“I’m called XOTӔL” She responds to his question. " 'Zo-TalI’ " she enunciates slowly.
“Cerberus lead me to her just in time to see something attempt to shish kabob her.” I answer Marcus.
“You go for a walk and return with all this,” at least Marcus looks amused.
Marcus is my oldest friend, more like my brother. He is head strong, confident and built like a barn. At 6’2 and 275 lbs. of muscle, he is a force to be reckoned with. His mocha skin is glistening from the sun and his curly hair is cut short, he wears a light blue, pink and white striped pendant around his neck. I’m one of the only people besides Chloe who know Marcus was assigned female at birth. We’ve been friends since we were 5 years old.
We've known Chloe almost as long, we her when we were in middle school around 20 years ago. She’s always had a bit of a crush on me but we’re more like siblings. I’ve never been attracted to her petite frame. She comes in the shortest at 5’3 with crazy blond curls all over her head, and startling blue eyes. She’s protective of her boys, as she lovingly refers to Marcus and myself.
I’m an average 5’9 with straight black hair, almond shaped eyes and tan coloring.
“We need to move” XOTӔL says suddenly, her violet eyes narrowing as her body tenses. “I can smell them.”
“This way” I lead us east, into the heart of the woods. “We’ll have more hiding options deeper in.”
I walk with the humans and the beast. The large one is walking next to me, a sword fastened to his back. A few paces ahead the smallest one is clinging to the medium one’s arm as if she will float away if she lets go, I wonder how accurate she is with the crossbow strapped to her back. The smells here are unusual. I’m not sure if I like it, but it makes it easier to hone in on the trackers scent, they seem to be moving away from us. Their scent is getting harder to pick up. My thigh is throbbing with every step and I’m becoming increasingly irritated at the whole situation. I need to find the garden. I need to reach the gate, I don’t want to babysit humans, but as long as I can smell myself on the medium human I need to keep him close.
“You doing okay?” The large human asks me. He’s a few inches taller than myself, tall for a human but standard height for dӕmon.
“I’ll be fine” I reply. “It’s just a scratch.”
“I’ve never met a dӕmon in person before, but I’ve heard stories, from my aunties and maw-maw.”
“What is a Maw-Maw?” I ask.
“A grandmother, uhm... Mother of my mother” He explains when I stare at him, unblinking.
“Yeah...” He chuckles and rubs a hand over the back of his neck. “You don’t usually come to Lysandros do you?”
“This is my second time here. I’m not impressed.”
“Understandable, I would probably feel the same if I went to Encantadia.”
I laugh at his statement, “you wouldn’t survive ten minutes in Encantadia”.
He smiles at me as we continue walking through the wood.
I can feel her presence behind me, I hear her talking to Marcus, he makes her laugh. Chloe clings to my arm, almost too tightly, but It reminds me I’m loved so I don’t pry her off.
“Up ahead is a mine shaft, we can take cover and plan our next move from there. I have some provisions left in my pack.”
We approach the mine, long abandoned and slowly make our way inside. I hear XOTӔL whisper something and swear I can feel the air change a degree or two. There are a couple lanterns with some oil left in them in a cart in the mine. I’ve explored here before, it’s not unusual for explorers to fill the lanterns back up after use, for the next person. I fish my lighter out of my pocket just as i hear a whoosh, XOTӔL is holding a flame in her hand.
I put my lighter back and offer the lantern to her “Will you light this too?”
She complies but doesn’t extinguish her flame. We find a place where the tracks have been removed and sit on the ground, Cerberus taking his place next to me.
“Will your fire attract the trackers?” Marcus asks hesitantly.
“No, I created a visual barrier at the entrance to match the rockface. No one can find us unless they know it’s already there.” XOTӔL answers.
I offer XOTӔL a granola bar and a stick of jerky, hesitently she selects the dried meat.
We sit in silence for a while chewing on jerky and granola bars. Chloe Yawns and curls up against Marcus, he wraps his arm around her and leans back against the cool wall, her head resting on his chest, her blue eyes flickering in the lantern light. I watch as Marcus sighs contently and closes his eyes. Soon Chloe’s eyes close too, and I’m suddenly overwhelmed with exhaustion. I turn the lantern to low and lay my head down on my pack, Cerberus moves and lays at my feet, resting his head on my calf. XOTӔL continues sitting upright. Staring into the lantern but not seeing the flame, her hand held at her side, swirl of flame flickering in her palm. Slowly she closes her hand, extinguishing the flame.
“I didn’t mean to drag you into this.” She says quietly.
I'm not sure how to respond.
“You should sleep. I’m going to rest, its quiet in here and the smells are muted.” She slowly untangles her legs, wincing when her injured thigh touches the earth, she decides to lay on her left side instead.
The humans and beast are sleeping. I should use this opportunity to scout ahead, but my thigh is throbbing. Maybe some rest will do me good. I attach a mental link to my barrier and breathe easier when I feel its strength. Time to sleep.