Presently, Aveyna held out her arm, and the others stopped. Aveyna then cocked her head, listening for a sound she thought she had heard. She stepped forward carefully, her ears seeming to move of their own accord as they picked up new sounds.
A bush began to rustle to the east.
Luan was no longer the oversized pet he had appeared to be; he was now in hunting position, his rear legs hunched as though he would spring forward at any moment, his dark eyes stared into the bush and even his mane stilled as he listened.
The rustle in the bushes caught on the wind once more, calling them to renewed attention, when suddenly, a figure emerged from the trees, sword in hand, clothed in the raiment of Darkness. Alyxandra immediately raised her bow, loaded it quickly and fired, aiming straight for the Stygian’s chest, suddenly afraid as his sharper reactions with his sword rendered the arrow useless - he altered its flight path with a swing of his blade. Luan broke into a beautiful, powerful run, before his strong rear legs bent and tensed. He sprang forward, a loud roar escaping his throat as his mouth widened, his huge teeth now ready to cause damage. The Stygian screamed as Luan’s teeth sunk into his arm, and he fell backwards, as Telthar’rion sent forth a bolt of great power hurtling towards him, draining him of life, until eventually, the threat had passed.
Aranaytha pursed her lips, her blade clean, and she put it away in disappointment. Aveyna smiled as she found her sword had tasted no blood. Yvellen and Alyxandra dragged the body into the woodland, not wishing to trouble those who passed by or to cause any more shame for the man who had threatened them.
As they walked on, they felt suddenly renewed as Telthar’rion cast his benign magic over all of them. In this refreshed state, conversation began to flow once more. Aveyna said that she no longer wished to lead, and exchanged places with Aranaytha. Yvellen and Luan walked behind Aranaytha and Alyxandra walked behind them. Telthar’rion and Aveyna walked side by side, saying nothing, while Alyxandra called to Aranaytha at random intervals to check their progress.
After a long while walking in silence, Alyxandra marked the sudden darkness; the light that broke through the trees was now limited, paling as time wore on. Presently, the five elves, six altogether including Luan, took a path to the west of the road, and reached a clearing, the stars now appearing to adorn the sky with jewels, the moon crowning her with her temporal victory.
They came to the centre of the clearing and, sending Yvellen and Luan to scan the area for any danger, and to collect firewood, and began to prepare themselves for a night beneath the stars. All of them had worn a cloak that day, and now they took them off, laying them upon the soft grass. They cast off their weaponry, as well as any armour they were wearing, and placed it next to their makeshift mats. It was then that Yvellen arrived, holding a provisional torch, with a bundle of wood under his other arm; Luan held one in his jaws. Yvellen threw down his bundle, and Luan gently added his to the top of the pile.
All of them began work in building the fire, and as Aveyna went to light it, Telthar’rion pointed at it nonchalantly - it burst into flame. The others smiled, glad to have this warmth as they sat around the fire on their cloaks. Alyxandra reached into her bag and took out some rolls of bread that she had saved from that morning’s breakfast, while Yvellen found yet more fish in his. He tried to hold it over the fire, an action that caused the others to laugh, for he indeed look very strange as he tried to cook the fish while keeping his fingers unburnt, and at the same time, struggling to prevent Luan from swiping it from him.
“Bring it here,” Aranaytha said, and Yvellen did so, whereupon it was speared unceremoniously on her sword, which she then held over the fire, turning it as was necessary to cook the meat all the way through. Telthar’rion disappeared a moment, as Alyxandra broke the bread into equally sized chunks (as equally as she could manage) and handed a piece to each of them as Aranaytha sliced the fish.
Presently, Telthar’rion returned, using some strange power to keep the water still above his head. He asked the others to stand and cup their hands, a few metres from the fire. He released his invisible, magical grasp upon the water and caught some in his hands; they all drank of the marvelous liquid before turning to their meal, however small it was, grateful, and determined to enjoy it.
Once the meal was finished and laughter had ceased, the fire began to die with their willingness to stay awake. Telthar’rion strengthened the flame a little with his magic and, with a new wave of fatigue sweeping over them with the heat, lay down upon their cloaks and fell asleep.
Except one. Alyxandra lay wide awake.
It was not the fire that kept her awake, with its gentle crackle and constant reminder of her loneliness. It was not the silence of the night, save the low hooting of the owls and the occasional howl of the wolves that lived in those woods. It was not even the fact that Yvellen’s breathing was heavy, and very audible, or that Telthar’rion seemed dead when he slept, his complete stillness unnerving. With a smile etched into her face, she withdrew the amulet from its position at her breast, and held it tightly, her thoughts wandering to memories of the previous week, and those she had met. But as the fire finally began to wane once more, so did her zest, and she too fell asleep, the amulet still safely clutched in her pale, sleeping hands.