Wow. There is no excuse for why this is so late. I guess I could blame it on school, or my computer, or the fact that I started another random story (Remember the Rain?) or even the holidays, but I'm still almost 4 months late. I'm so sorry. Hope you enjoy this chapter anyway!
Ryles proved to be a very good companion. Since he had some magic ability, they never had to worry about food or shelter, and they didn't have to carry as much provisions on their backs, because his horse now carried it all. The whole group got along really well with him, except Evalyn. She felt he was hiding something. Patrick especially liked him. They both found they had a common love for riddles and were constantly testing one another's skill, trying to prove they were better than the other.
"The more you take, the more you leave behind. What are they?" Ryles asked.
Patrick mulled over it for a moment, while listening to the taunting cries of his friends.
"Oh, come on, Patrick! Even I know this one!" Alysa teased. Patrick stuck his tongue out at her.
Something must have clicked in his brain, because a few minutes later, he declared the answer, "Footsteps."
They were traveling at a leisurely pace, but the menacing shadow of the Ghazi Forest loomed ever nearer.
Alysa fell into step beside Alexander. "Is that what we're going through?" she asked with a skeptical look on her face.
"Yes, but only because we have no other choice. We must stay off the main road. The Forest is full of foul things, be on your guard."
The sun began to go down behind the hills, splashing colors of purple, pink and orange over the heavens. The sky became steadily darker and stars began to appear. The waning moon cast ghostly shadows around the group.
Alexander halted and the others stopped in his wake.
"I think we should rest here tonight. I don't want to enter the forest by night," he said.
They dropped their bags on the ground and collapsed onto the grass. They assigned watch duty; they each had two hours to watch, and six off. Those that did not have to watch yet wrapped themselves up in their blankets and slept fitfully.
When they woke up, the morning was crisp and cool. The dew on the grass had soaked through their blankets, giving the travels a dose of chill air. The weary group wrapped up their damp blankets and packed up their remaining belongings. They ate a light breakfast of bread and cheese, and started on their way.
They were quite as Alexander led them into the ominous shadow of the Ghazi Forest. As soon as they stepped through the thicket of trees, all sunlight was blocked from view, and they strained their eyes to see. A bird was singing a haunting song, but other than that, it was deathly silent.
It was hard work traveling through the mass of trees and bushes. Branches stretched out their limbs, wanting to see who dared to invade their space. Shadows flickered beneath the canopy of leaves, leaving the travelers feeling nervous. The soft ground underfoot was occasionally interrupted by cool patches of moss.
They had no concept of time. They knew not whether it was day or night, but stopped when they were tired and pressed on when they still had strength.
The first night, the group was all depressed form lack of sunlight and cheeriness. Alysa was put on first watch. She was wide-awake, alert, and slightly nervous, as the others slept restlessly. She flinched at the slightest sound and nearly died of fear when Patrick snorted and rolled over in his sleep. Her watch was nearly over and she was just about to wake up Alexander, when she saw it. She heard a slight rustle to her right and instantly jerked her head to see what had caused the disturbance. She caught a flicker of an ugly face, before it disappeared into the night. She eyes widened and she stared at the spot for a while longer, but it never returned.
The next morning, Alysa had forgotten about the face because Ryles had discovered a wonderful thing: fresh, cold water. He had stumbled upon it last night, and everyone was excited to be able to fill up their water bags and to wash off the dusty grit and mud from their bodies.
The guys walked downstream before getting in the stream, allowing the girls a little much needed privacy. They had not been alone together since back at "headquarters" and needed time to be sincere. Evalyn immediately launched into a tirade about her suspicions of Ryles. Alysa knew that Evalyn had been dieing to say all of this so she quietly waited for the storm to pass over.
"I don't like him. There's just something wrong about him," she accused.
"What don't you like about him. Personally, I think he's a great guy and am glad he joined us," Alysa retorted.
Evalyn grunted and muttered something about not being trustworthy. Alysa gave up because she knew that no matter what she said, Evalyn would never change her mind.
Everybody was packing up, getting ready to start another long day of walking after his or her refreshing stop at the stream.
Alysa picked up her sword and suddenly was aware of the uncanny feeling that you are being watched. She glanced around and stopped when she saw the same ugly face that had appeared the night before. It had mottled green skin and a long, hairy beard. His head was covered in curly, black hair with bits of twigs and leaves entangled in it. He had a fierce face, but could be no taller than 4 feet 5. Nut what frightened Alysa most was not the ugly face, but the crude weapons it held high about its head. The creature gave a shrill cry and more cries were heard in answer, chilling Alysa's heart. The rest of the group had frozen and were trying to locate the source of the sound, but they never had to, because at that moment, the creatures had started to stream down the hill toward them. There were about fifty total. Most of them were carrying odd handcrafted spears and knives, while some had a bow and arrows.
The company gathered their weapons and braced themselves for attack. Ryles tried to focus his energy on the creatures, but he lacked the strength. Instead he drew his sword and met in combat with one of the beings. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Alexander slice off the head of one, and progress on to another. Evalyn was fighting two at one time and Patrick was firing arrows swiftly and killing many.
After driving his sword through the creature's heart, Ryles once again tried to focus his energy and power at one of them. This time, just as the creature was running towards Alysa, it burst into flame and started squealing in anguish. Alysa looked startled for a moment before seeing Ryles' grin and smiled back at him before starting to fight again.
He didn't want to use up all his strength, so he picked up his sword again. Two or three came running at him and he raised his sword and chopped off two of their heads in one stroke, he turned to the other, but already found it dead at Alexander's feet. They exchanged fleeting smirks.
Suddenly a scream pierced the air. Ryles turned swiftly around and saw Evalyn surrounded by eight of the creatures. She was struggling to keep from being killed, but was extremely beleaguered. She collapsed on the ground, shielding her head with her arms. Ryles and Patrick rushed over. Ryles tried focusing his energy once more, using all of his strength and power. Four burst into flame and Patrick shot down the rest.
The fighting was starting to slow down. The dead creatures lay in scattered piles around the clearing in the trees. The few that were left were either fleeing into the forest or being dealt with by Alexander and Alysa.
Patrick made sure Evalyn was okay before going off to find more arrows, seeing as he had nearly run out. Evalyn picked herself off the ground and dusted off her clothes impatiently. "I didn't need your help," she said curtly to Ryles, turning flashing blue eyes on him.
"And I assume you just screamed out of pure joy then?" he asked with an amused look.
Evalyn faltered, "Well…I…I was overwhelmed for a bit," she said lamely.
Ryles nodded, "Perfectly understandable."
Evalyn glared at him.