I glanced over my shoulder a few times as we went further in. The nausea was starting to dissipate just as I was wishing we had gotten some tonic from Dr. Amelia before departing. She packed us some ointment she made when Uncle David broke his ankle. She said it will help heal bruises and minor scratches. She also gave us vile smelling clear liquid and a cream. She had written a bunch of instructions on a piece of parchment. She was very nervous about it and I knew why.
Uncle David's best friend died of an infection that she couldn't heal. Apparently, his fiancee had driven a rusted sword through his chest and they found him too late. He was the first, and last, patient she lost. She was determined to make sure that never happened again. All the money that the man had left was given to her so she could invest in more instruments and medicine.
"How long will it take to get through here?" Bryan asked.
"It took them two days last time," I answered. "I hope that's the whole time it will take us."
"We'll be in the elven realm for a while, then," he said and I nodded.
"I'm very interested in it," I said. "I want to see where a part of me is originated."
"Corstelis," he sighed, "you know it doesn't matter-"
"Did you hear that?" I whispered, putting my arm out to stop him.
He froze and we listened. At first there was silence then, to my right, I heard a twig snap and leaves rustle.
"There," I breathed.
"I didn't hear anything, Cori," he whispered.
I docked an arrow and pointed in the area I heard the noise.
"There's something there," I insisted, taking a few steps closer. "I can't tell if it's benign or not, though."
I reached the edge of the forest path. Uncle David had been very adamant about not leaving the path. There were dark creatures in here, including an aswang. I squinted, trying to see as much as I could. Nothing happened, though. All that moved were the trees with the wind. Then the sensation passed.
I slowly lowered my bow and arrow. "I think it's gone," I announced.
"What was it?"
I shook my head, putting the arrow back in the quiver.
"I don't know," I said. "I think it was the same thing I sensed when I went down to the clan with Uncle David, Mother, and Father."
"Let's move on," Bryan said.
I lowered my bow and arrow. She had been pointing right at my heart. I don't know how she had heard me. She looked like an ordinary human. As soon as she put her weapons away, though, I did the same.
"Why didn't you shoot?" Ryllae hissed.
"Because she didn't," I whispered. "If she had, I would be dead."
"Lucky guess," she mumbled.
"No," I said slowly as we jumped into a tree. "No, she knew exactly where she was pointing."
We followed them for a short distance. They didn't speak much. When they did, it was about family. I assumed they were brother and sister though their features were drastically different. He had brown hair and brown eyes. She, on the other hand....
She was beautiful. Long blond hair, fair skin, and white and black eyes; I had never seen such a being. I pointed it out to Ryllae.
"Probably a demon," she muttered, jumping to the next tree's branch. "It wouldn't surprise me."
I smirked. "Why? Because she was able to hear your twig snap?"
She glared at me. "Because you were so much better with jumping out of the tree."
I shrugged. "Come on. We need to get back to the Queen Mother and tell her strangers are headed toward the realm."
"I don't know," she said. "I heard she's expecting guests. What if these two humans are them?"
I stared at her. "If that were true, they'd have an escort, don't you think?"
"Humans are weird. Perhaps they think they can make it through on their own."
"There's something odd about that female, Ryllae," I said seriously and she sighed, stopping to take a closer look.
Her face went from bored to sharp. She took in her full appearance and aura.
"You sound so surprised. If these are the Queen Mother's guests, she needs to know they are armed with just a bow, arrows, and a strange sword."
"You're right," she said again and I chuckled.
"Twice in one day. That's a record."
"So what's her name?" I asked when conversation ran thin.
"Who?" he asked, seemingly too distracted by keeping an eye on the forest around us.
I rolled my eyes. "The young woman in the village."
"Oh." He turned pink and cleared his throat. "Her name is Laura."
"How'd you meet?"
"I was taking lessons down in the village about armor," he explained. "She works for the blacksmith. We kind of... connected and I've been visiting her as often as I can."
"That's sweet," I said with a sad smile.
"You won't be alone forever," he said quietly.
"It feels like it. There's no one else like me, Bryan. There are nymphs, there are elves, and there are werewolves. There aren't any that are all three at once."
"Maybe there are," he said. "I'm still looking."
"I saw a globe in Uncle David's study," I said. "The world is very large."
"You could always be a priestess," he teased and I laughed.
"Me? A priestess? Oh goodness, no. I would be excommunicated a day into my training!"
We both laughed and he looked up at the sky. The trees were getting thicker so it was getting hard to see the grey sky.
"We might want to get the torch out," I said. "It'll get dark soon. Uncle David said that they didn't get far in before-"
I heard a howling noise and froze. Bryan hadn't heard it. He was digging through the bag for one of the torches we had been given.
"Bryan," I breathed and he looked up curiously. "Did you hear that?"
"No..." he said slowly. "Cori, are you sure you're not just-?"
His face went pale and he dropped his bag. He was staring at something over my shoulder. Before I could turn to see, two grey arms wrapped around my chest.
"Bryan!" I gasped as whatever it was started dragging me into the forest. I kicked at it. "Bryan, help me! What is it!?"
I dug my heels into the forest floor while Bryan shook himself out of his fear. He pulled the Sword of the Thousands out of its sheath. The creature kept dragging me and didn't seem fazed at all by the Sword. He ran forward but a long, grey and purple tail whipped out and hit him across the gut. He fell on his back with a grunt.
I saw a trunk out of the corner of my eye and grabbed it. Somehow, my nails began to grow and dig into the bark. The creature stopped for a second then gave an almighty tug. I cried out in pain as I was yanked back, my nails leaving deep gouges in the trunk.
"Duck!" a voice cried.
I didn't even question it. I lowered my head. I heard a whizzing noise and felt blood splatter on the back of my head. The creature released me and I fell on my knees. I scrambled away from the trees, panting. I got on my feet and docked an arrow in one swift movement. I pointed it at the two people behind Bryan.
They were elves but I didn't drop my guard. Bryan ran to me.
"Are you hurt?" he asked.
"Who are you?" I demanded.
They were obviously twins and had black hair down to their shoulders and green eyes.
"I am Ryllae," the sister said. "This is my brother, Wren. We just saved your life so you can lower the weapons there."
"Not until your brother lowers his," I said and Ryllae turned.
She rolled her eyes. "Wren, put it away. You're the one that wanted to help them in the first place."
"What are you?" Wren asked me.
"Put it down," Bryan said, holding the Sword at the ready.
Wren slowly lowered his bow and I did the same. He was staring in fascination at the Sword in Bryan's hand.
"You hold the Sword of the Thousands," he breathed. Then his eyes shot back to me. "I repeat my question: What are you?"
Bryan was wringing my hair out, wincing at the creature's blood.
"Leave it," I said. "We'll clean it when we get there." I turned to Wren. "My name is Corstelis and this is my cousin, Bryan."
"I didn't ask your name," he said. "I asked what you are."
I stared at him. How did he know I wasn't a human?"
"Come on," Ryllae said. "It's not safe. Let's go. You can tell us on the way."
I looked at Bryan. It wouldn't hurt to have others with us. He looked unsure but nodded.