Chapter 4

"She'll wake in her own time." A muffled voice, the raspy one, drifted over to me. My body felt stiff, my eyes were still closed and I felt the haze that I couldn't pull myself away from, drained almost.

"I know that, her grandmother foretold of her losing consciousness although for what reason she was quite unsure. And this was quite... illuminating." Rao's voice louder than the stranger's, echoed through my thoughts. The brilliant sunlight that warmed my face and caused a reddish glow on the inside of my eyelids, told me that we had moved into a more open part of the woods.

Pins and needles spread along the length of my body, telling me that I was regaining control, I remembered the cut on my arm as that pain flared like a hot poker on my skin. I let out an involuntary gasp, conscious and brought into the present now that my senses had caught up with my tired and bruised body.

"Ugh, Rao? Ow what happened? Who were you fighting with?" I attempted to lift my head, but it was to heavy to manoeuvre, I turned it to the direction I'd heard the voices drifting from. Trying to identify the stranger, his face was hidden in the shadow of a large oak, silhouetted against the greens though I felt him looking at me like he was looking into my soul.

A glint caught his eye and I saw a brief flash of gold before the shadows took their place and Rao replied "Oh good your awake. I think you'll find that that gash on your arm is quite nasty and you now have a fever and a poison in your blood. I believe that is why you fainted," the strange man's head tilted slightly to listen to what Rao was saying, I could of sworn I saw a brief flash of teeth as if he were smiling at something that Rao had said. "As for our friend over there, well he's got some outstanding debts that he owes me but otherwise I shall introduce you to Rafe.

The mysterious Rafe stepped from the shadows, golden eyes glinting cunningly in the sun. He looked like a trouble maker to me but I couldn't help but admire him. His body was lean and muscular, he had a strong jaw and his hair dark as the shadows that seemed to cling to him almost as if they were hugging him back into darkness.

His skin didn't seem pale so I ruled out vampire but the way he carried himself meant he gave off an air of age and history. He carried himself proud and tall and his golden eyes appeared endless in depth. "Oh Raoul, you're quite the charmer. Great to meet you, Dahlia." His voice was deep definitely the raspy one from the fight, he bowed elaborately and held out his hand. I smiled up at him and shook his hand, though he brought it up to his lips and kissed it briefly. Blood rushed to my cheeks and I felt dizzy again. "Nice to m-meet you to." I stuttered.

Now that I was awake properly, I took in my surroundings more, we seemed to be on the outskirts of the Wintrem woods. We were at a base of a hill and the sun was at its highest point glaring down on its victims. Flowers surrounded us and it felt like I was laid on a bed that cushioned my body, I was propped up against a moss covered rock. Rao was sat staring at me and kept casting occasional glances at Rafe, as if he was about to attack or say something he shouldn't. Rafe was acting the same though his eyes were focused on the distant point at times and then he would stare at me as if I was going to disappear in a blink. "So where are we?" I ask after a prolonged silence.

Both jump startled at the sudden noise in the bliss of the moment. Seconds pass by before anyone answers and then Rafe speaks up, quietly so that he is voice is carried on the breeze "We're in the meadow of the Fae." I looked more closely around me and noticed tiny glimmers in the sun, the flecks of pixie wings. I saw faces here and there peeping out at the new strangers in the field and the occasional buzz of chatter began to float over on the soft breeze.

"We have things to do, but first we need to take you to a heeler and Rafe you need to be off on your... travels." He stood and stretched out his back, yawning and showing his glistening teeth, I was about to protest when he looked at me dead in the eyes making me falter, I gulped and smiled sheepishly.

Rafe looked like he was going to protest too, though he just nodded his head and came over to me holding out a muscular arm. I stared gormless, again, he must think I have something wrong with me, I blush then realising he wants to help me up. As I hold his hand, he decides that I'm being to slow and scoops me up in his arms. "Hey!" I shout in surprise.

He just looks at me, raising an eyebrow and starts walking forward, towards the heeler I presume. I look over his shoulder, still in shock, back at Rao. He apparently didn't expect this either, though from the sneezes and deep, throaty barks he is laughing and finding this very amusing. I scowl back at him and notice a smirk spread across Rafe's face, great not only am I the apparent damsel in distress, I'm now the jester.

Walking up the hill being carried proved to have its benefits, while he carried me I could gaze at the Fae around me and the occasional Otherkin that was visiting the meadow. I noticed how the sun seemed to shine brighter here, brighter than I'd seen back at Grams', brighter than anywhere else I'd visited. Pixies popped out along the journey trying to get a peak at what was going on and also try to sell us rare stones or potions to "Cure the paleness of your skin and hair, miss!" One shouted at me, which called for a deep, throaty laugh from both Rafe and Raoul. From then I chose to ignore the things being shouted and scowled at any that thought I might be deaf and so landed on me to get my attention.

"So your one of the Oracles prodigies?" Rafe surprised me by breaking the silence between us, I brushed my hair out of my face, feeling reminiscent of the time I dyed the pink strip in my hair. It was when I turned 16 and my Grams was away on some visit to a clave or clan.

I was being 'babysat' or more appropriately 'left to do what I want with the odd check up' from my rebellious cousin, Cynthia or, as she likes to be known as, Woodsy which derives from her surname. She was away helping some mischievous pixies who she'd had a tingling feeling, as she calls it, were about to get into some serious trouble. Woodsy is half vampire, ironically, and so she couldn't become the next Oracle but she did have the weakened down blood in her system. 

Before she'd left she decided to dye her hair a new colour from violet to bright pink and had left the bottle out. I saw this as an ample opportunity to be different and a new way to get under my grandmother's skin. Now when Grams got home and saw me she was not happy, Woodsy was still out and I had a full head of pink hair and had stained the majority of the towels and clothes. Now not even Cerberus could scare me as much as she did that day, I was locked in my room while she called for a local Otherkin creature to be specialised in cleaning, which happened to be a brownie.

She also threatened to have Woodsy eradicated from the family tree, thus removing her powers quite painfully if she didn't sort out my hair. Here I am now back to natural, pale, honey streaked blonde with a vivid pink streak in my side-sweep hair, which happened to never, ever, fade much to the disgust of my Grams and the help from some sneaky pixies that happened to owe someone a favour.

"You could say that." I say defensively, coming out of my memories suddenly. He looks at me with his head tilted to one side questioning my reaction, I sigh unwilling to explain hiding behind the vivid pink. We reach the peak of the hill and he pauses and looks back for Rao who looks to be snapping his teeth at a redcap that pulled his tail. He caught up with a bound of his strong legs. "It's just a bit further." He huffs past us, his tail puffed out with a clump missing from it. I can't help but laugh at the situation.

At first I tried to smother it but burst out the minute I was shot a raised eyebrow from Rafe, I broke and laughed for the rest of the journey. "I'm.. I'm so...sorry Rao..." Laughing so much it hurts, Rafe shares a smirk and then as I continued laughing he joined in until he couldn't walk any longer and we fell in a heap on the floor in stitches. "Now really! It’s not that funny, you're acting like children!" He sat grumbling to himself as we lay in a tangle on the floor, crying tears of laughter.

After a while the laughter faded and the drained feeling I'd had earlier over took, my arm began to throb again. Rafe stood and dusted down his battered yet classy clothing and offered a hand to me, "Think you can walk from here?" I looked at him with a dubious expression "Of course." Out of the corner of my eye I saw Rao raise his brow and turn to watch me struggle to my feet.

I clasped his hand tightly feeling warmth zing with energy between our interlocking hands, once I was on my feet I smiled in success and looked pointedly at Rao seeing him just huff and stretch before he began to trot off at a steady pace, he called over his broad shoulder blades "Well hurry girl, we wouldn't want another outbreak of inferior giggling and child's play." Noticing I still had hold of Rafe's I hand I let go hurriedly and blushed looking down at my feet, he swooped his arm round indicating ladies first. Taking my first steps was fine but as I continued black spots entered my vision and I swayed from side to side not able to place my steps effectively on the uneven , descending, hilly grounds.

By my second stumble I was spread-eagled on the floor breathing deeply trying desperately to force my body to get up and walk. I lay there noticing Rao carry on walking, my mind starting to feel how my body was acting and without uttering a word Rafe bent down and cradled me in his arms.

"You can thank me later." Was all that he whispered as the journey went on down the steep hill to the other side of the meadow. Throughout the journey I drifted in and out of consciousness seeing strange and  twisted shapes whenever I opened my eyes and hearing voices that sneered my name and told me awful things about the people I loved. The heat on my arm felt blistering, maybe Rao was right I'm getting a fever, was one of the last coherent thoughts I managed before utter and complete nightmares took over.

The End

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