The nightmarish jaws snapped shut and one of the monster’s chains closed around my ankle, painfully yanking me upwards. I was jerkily laid down, and the chains let go. Confused, I looked up to see if the beast was toying with me, but it had turned its head to focus on Avalynn, who was standing not a foot away from his face. A look of pure contempt was on his face and it looked like he would like nothing more than to paw her head off. But his entire body was trembling.

Avalynn, muttering in that strange and lilting language that vibrated in my ears, motioned downwards, and the Hound made a halting, convulsive bow. His chains hovered indecisively in the air above him, swaying back and forth as he growled angrily.

“And so the legendary Hound bows to a lowly necromancer.” She said, smiling thinly. Despite her smile, I noticed she was sickly pale and her hands were trembling. Orthrus said nothing, but his snarling face said it all. Analynn flicked her wrist to the left, towards the trees at the side of the path. She uttered a single word, again in that strange language. I felt the power of the command as it hung reverberating in the air after she spoke it.

Orthrus tensed, digging his paws into the ground in a stubborn effort to resist. His legs wrenched madly beneath him and took on a life of their own. I knew the feeling. His three remaining legs, running jerkily under him, moved him off the path and into the forest. In seconds he disappeared from sight. A low growl rumbled from the forest.

“Nobody escapes the Hound for long.” And then silence.

I remembered something Avalynn had warned me about the forest, when I was still full of questions and she was still reluctantly responding. No one who strayed from the path ever found their way back.

Avalynn breathed out and slumped against a nearby tree, relief clear on her face. She looked drained and exhausted, her face deathly pale. That didn’t stop her from glaring at my concerned expression.

“The vial.” She said, holding out her hand. I looked around for the vial of ambrosia I had dropped in the confusion. After a few minutes of searching I found it and she snatched it from my hands, peering hopefully inside.

“Not a single drop left.” She said bitterly. She stood up, her face no longer pale and sickly but flushed with anger. She hurled the bottle against a tree where it shattered into hundreds of glittering shards. She turned to me and jabbed a furious finger in my face.

“Do you have any idea what you just drank?”

It was probably a rhetorical question, but I decided to answer anyways.

“Um… Ridwan’s Ambrosia?”

“The only known serum for true, ageless immortality, the rarest substance in either world, who knows how it managed to find its way here, and it was consumed by a clueless, insignificant member of the Dead in one gulp.” She said, laughing bitterly.

“I should send you walking to the darkest, most painful realm of eternal punishment in the Underworld for this…” she fumed, her lavender cloak billowing behind her as she paced back and forth. I had never seen her this angry before. Actually, I had never really seen her angry at all until now. It was terrifying. The effects of the ambrosia had long since warn off, and after seeing what she did to the Hound, I had no doubt she could send me walking back to where I'd came from and worse. I think I liked her better when she was cold and emotionless.

“ A bottle of pure ambrosia will sell for a fortune in the living world, many times what I’m being paid to fetch you. More importantly, it would make me immortal. Such a waste.”

“You told me to drink it!” I exclaimed angrily. I was hurt. It reminded me that all Avalynn thought of me as was a sum of money waiting to be cashed in.

“I was about to get eaten by the Hound. I needed a distraction and I was desperate. I didn’t think you’d drink all of it.” she said, glowering at me. I wondered worriedly if she would refuse to guide me any further, and leave me here to erode away in the forest alone.

The End

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