Chapter 4: the rising fog


Atherin Gallows

In the firelight, she leafed through the worn pages of her journal.  She’d already looked through it four times, and she hadn’t been able to find the incantation.  If she didn’t find it, the plan was ruined – she would have to start all over.  She had his file, of course; it was how she knew which spell she would need.  If she got too close without the spell…  She tried to ignore the potential outcome.  She needed the spell.  She closed her eyes, fighting the swelling frustration, and took a steadying breath. It had to be in there, she thought, it simply had to be.

And then, at last, she found it.  A wave of relief crashed over her and she felt the possibilities of the night swimming in the air around her.  Once again, things were as they should be.

She would have what she needed before dawn.  Darkstar would not be a problem, she told herself.

Give me shelter, a quiet place to think; the static of silence as my shroud. Give me shelter, a quiet place to think; the static of silence as my shroud. Give me shelter, a quiet place to think; the static of silence as my shroud.

Atherin pulled the long tendrils of her hair up and pinned them back.  Still, they fell over her shoulders in smooth onyx waves.  She tied her cloak around her neck and shrugged the cowl up to hide her face.  Even in the bright, albeit flickering, light of her rented room, all that could be seen beneath the hood were the unsmiling lines of her mauve lips.

Beyond the window, she saw a shadow move toward the forest.  He was on the move; it was time.

She made her way out of the small inn, adjacent to a pub – the inside of which she had never seen, and down the uneven cobblestone street.  Cosilla was a beautiful place, if one could distance oneself from it’s politics long enough to see it.

She followed her target silently, expertly moving into the darkened corners and taking cover when necessary.  Together, they entered the blackened wood; no moonlight or glint of stars broke through the thick canopy – but it was not just the darkness that gave the forest its dangerous edge.

Very few ever returned from a midnight trip through the woodlands of Cosilla.  Too rampant were the wild things that lurked in the hollows and caves.

She followed him, until the night had gobbled the both of them up.

She drew in a long breath, centering her focus and imagining that the cool mist was crawling up her legs.  When she opened her eyes, she was shrouded in a dense fog that was rising from the ground before her very eyes.  It rose swiftly and soundlessly; she fixed her eyes on her target and moved closer than she had previously dared.

She could not afford to lose him in the fog; he should lose her, she thought.  It had become increasingly clear that he knew he was being tailed.

She bit her lip as she crept ever-closer, each inching step bringing her goal into reality.  After a few stutteringly long and short moments, he was within touching distance.  She removed a small pair of scissors from the pocket of her dress.

Quickly, with the deft motions of practice, she snipped off a lock of his hair.  He heard the slide of metal on metal instantly, but she was faster – she circled around him as he turned around to search for the sound.  She pocketed the hair and the pair of scissors; in the same motion, her left hand slid her hunting knife from its sheath at the small of her back.

This was the moment she had dreaded.  He loomed above her, his broad chest like a wall separating her from escape.  She reminded herself that he could not see her, could not hear her.

That, if she was quick, she could be done and gone in a single moment.

Swiftly, with all the courage inside of her bones, she sliced a clean slit in his forearm.  Her free hand reached out in reaction, gripping the wound for the briefest of moments; only long enough to soak up a coating of his blood.

She let go and took off running into the fog as thunderclouds rolled in above the canopy of the woodlands.  Lightning cracked, lighting the sky with every pulse of her heart.  It was the only light that made it through the thick branches and leaves to reveal the misty ground.

The End

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