Narrator: Adrian "Arrow" DeFlèche
The town limits are at the edge of school property. We walk towards them, after having watched Skyla catch her bus.
Luna's fingers tangle around mine.
Our hands catch Jake's eyes.
Blaze nudges him possessively.
Oliver walks in silence.
Soon, the woods loom toward us in a panoply of crisp shadows. The wind is calmer. The air seems cleaner. And I reach out for the bark of a nearby tree and run my fingers along it. The texture of it brings me into the right mood.
"Gentle forest," I speak to it, "let us grace your true quality, and know the nature that disillusions reality itself."
Luna lets out a ponderous, muted gasp in apprehension of what she knows I'm calling out. It will be her first time, as far as I reckon, with the exception of when the orb drew time to a temporary halt in the nurse's room.
The energy envelopes us. It is a sudden riptide of tranquility that wakes something inside me.
Oliver puts his hand on a willow tree on the other side of the path. He, too, speaks to the woods, "We are here to appreciate, and to seek passage into the arcane."
"No harm will come, for we travel with caution and respect," puts in Jake.
And then the feeling intensifies, washing over us. Suddenly, we are shifted into a higher plane of reality. The colours seem brighter. The plants are healthier. The path is less noticeable.
Luna, with her free hand drawn to her gaping mouth, looks over her shoulder. Seeing no school, and no cleared fields, she smiles.
The five of us begin to walk further into the forest.
A moment passes, occupied only by squirrel berrating us posessively for being in the forest.
I know that squirrel. I know these trees. This is where we usually go after school. Our weapons, my bow, are in a hollow trunk half a mile in. So is our treefort.
Oliver sniffs the air, and then stops in his tracks.
We turn to look at him.
Even the ferns seem tense.
Has the wind stopped?
"What is it?" asks Blaze.
He closes his eyes. His brow falls in concentration.
I can't smell anything out of the ordinary. A rich, moist forest. I begin to suspect that his sense of smell is far greater than normal. Oliver looks worried, as if we are in mortal danger. I begin to wonder if he even suspects how very few creatures in this forest pose a threat to Blaze, Jake, myself or the orb; let alone all of us together.
Oliver leans forward.
Luna grips my hand tighter.
The wind stirs once more, for just a moment.
"Blood," Oliver finally tells us, looking down at the scarce semblance of a trail in front of us. "Fresh human blood... and a woman's perfume."