Chapter 7

The Guide

When Asira woke it was early morning and the sun was just beginning to rise. She sat up rubbing her eyes and looked at the others who were already packing everything up for another long day of traveling.

"Morning." She said standing up and stretching. She picked up her bag which she had used as a pillow and slung it over her shoulder.

"Well, then," David said slinging his bag over his shoulder, "we better get going now."

Everyone agreed and they continued on their way following the river and staying well away from the woods.

It wasn't very far that they walked when Asira noticed something on the rivers edge. Under different circumstances she would pay no mind to this kind of thing. Caught on a stick in the water was a piece of torn fabric that looked like a piece of the shirt Mattie was wearing before she was taken. Asira knelt down and picked it up. There were drops of dry blood on a few of the rocks around it.

"I hope she's okay." she whispered to herself.

Eric knelt beside her staring at the cloth in her hand, "What is it? What's wrong?"

She held up the piece of fabric so he could see it better and heard Max say, "So what? It's a piece of cloth? What good's that gonna do us?"

Asira rolled her eyes and put one of her hands on her hip while still holding up the cloth with the other. "It was Mattie's!" She snapped impatiently at him, "This means that we are on the right path." She looked back down at the dry blood on the rocks, "But they are hurt, so we better move a little faster."

They set out in a jog. The mountains loomed over them now growing larger and looking more ominous as they made their way toward them.

Occasionally Asira would catch a glimpse of more small spots of dried blood on the ground.

They stopped hours later and ate lunch by the river. Asira and Eric spent their time after their meal looking for more blood trails in case they decided to head away from the river.

Max got up and joined Asira, "So," he said, "you seem to be good at tracking."

Asira glanced up at him then continued looking for more tracks, "So?"

"Where did you learn all this stuff? I mean in class you knew every monster by name an appearance without having to look in your book once. Now I see that you're able to track them down pretty well too. Where did you learn all this stuff?"

Asira stood up straight and said, "It doesn't matter where I learned it. Why should it? Why do you care?"

They stared at each other for a long time. "I was just curious." Max said holding his hands up in surrender. "So, where did you get this necklace?" He grabbed the chain of Asira's necklace and pulled the jewel into view. It glowed bright blue indicating that there were monsters close by. "You steal it?"

"No, I didn't!" She snapped stuffing the jewel back inside her shirt, "I'm not like you! Just leave me alone."

"People like you don't just get things like that. Where did you get it?"

Asira balled her fists at her sides, "None of your business."

He grabbed her wrist as she tried to walk away, "Are you-"

Asira turned around and punched him in the face before he could finish. He fell to the ground with a bloody nose.

"What happened?" David came running over. When he saw Max on the ground he looked at Asira.

"Nothing." She said calmly walking back to the river bank as if everything was fine.

Asira grabbed her bag and started walking. "Lets go."

Max's nose was spewing blood as he, David and Eric grabbed their bags keeping a good distance away from Asira.

By the end of the day they were almost at the foot of the mountains. Asira was in a considerably better mood and was in a quiet conversation with David.

"So, why did you punch him?" David asked glancing behind them at Max, whose nose had stopped bleeding.

Asira sighed, "He was bugging me and," she paused, "I think he may know who I really am."

David laughed, "So you punched him?"

"You would have too." She mumbled, "Besides, if he had said who I was at that moment Eric would have heard." She nodded and crossed her arms.

David laughed, "Alright then. Know when we get back we can tell everyone he got beat up by a girl."

Asira joined him in laughing. There was a loud cracking noise at her feet and she tripped and landed face down on the ground.

"Asira!" David helped her up.

She looked down at her feet and saw that she had stepped on a small, thin bone, then realized she had tripped over a bigger one that looked like somebodies leg bone.

They all looked around them. There were skeletons everywhere. They ranged from people, to dragons, to whatever other creatures lived in the woods.

"It's like a graveyard." Max said stunned.

Asira picked up a dragons skull that had curly ram horns on its head and little spikes sticking out of its cheeks, chin and above its eye sockets. The skull was huge, at least two feet from the tip of the nose to the back of its head.

"I wonder what killed that?" Eric stated uncomfortably shifting his weight.

"It could have died from natural causes, like old age or an illness of some sort." Said Max hopefully.

Asira dropped the skull and saw that on a bone next to it was a drop of blood.

"Guys! It continues this way." Asira pointed at the blood drop.

They walked onward carefully stepping over the bones spewed all around them at their feet. The trail of blood began to curve away from the river and they stopped when they got to the trees.

"They went in there?" Max complained.

"Is it just me or do the woods here seem more dark and ominous than they did before?" David asked nervously.

Asira felt the same way, although she tried not to show it. They were definitely darker. Almost no sunlight was entering through the trees whatsoever.

Asira turned around and looked at the sun. It was already beginning to go down. "Well," she said enthusiastically, "we might as well stop to sleep now and continue on tomorrow when it gets lighter."

No one argued with her. In fact, everyone dropped their things at once and started making camp. Asira let out a sigh of relief.

The sun finally set and they all agreed that it would be safest if someone kept watch. Asira volunteered and so did Max. It was no time at all before David and Eric started snoring.

Asira looked at them and whispered, "How can they sleep in a place like this?"

"I don't know." Max said in partial amazement, "It'll be a miracle if I can fall asleep tonight."

Asira nodded. They sat back to back staring into the darkness for any sudden movements, but nothing stirred.

Just as Asira was beginning to drift off Max said, "So, which is it? Fringhawk or Martins?"

Asira jumped and looked over at Eric who was still passed out cold, "What are you talking about?"

Max laughed, "I'm not as dumb as you claim I am. It wasn't that hard to figure out. So? Which is it and why are you lying to your friends over there?"

There was a long pause. Asira thought she saw something move in the bushes in front of her, but she relaxed after awhile. "It's Fringhawk and I'm not lying to David, he already knew. We've been friends for a long time now. It is my own business why I choose to hide my name."

Max said, "Well, I'm sorry for being such a jerk to you."

I bet that's the first time he's ever apologized to someone, Asira thought. "Well, you owe my friend, Eric, an apology to. And twenty bucks."

"Yeah."

There was another long uncomfortable pause. Asira stared at the stars and listened to the wind blow through the leaves in the trees.

"Hey," Max asked, "after we find them and save them do you think we could try to get along better?"

"Are you only saying that because you found out what my real name is or because you actually want to be friends?"

"I want to be friends."

"Maybe."

Asira woke up David and Eric an hour later and told them it was their watch. Then she laid down and fell asleep.

As soon as the sun rose everyone was packed and ready to move on. No one was looking forward to trekking the ominous woods, but they all knew that they had to. David found the blood trail again and they continued to follow it. They moved much slower now. It was harder to find the stains in the dirt and leaves on the ground. Asira tripped multiple times on large branches that fell to the ground. They all had cuts on their faces, arms and legs.

The blood trail started getting harder to follow until it disappeared completely.

"Now what do we do?" Max said angrily.

Asira looked at everyone. They were all tired and Eric looked as if he was going to pass out. "We," she said panting, "we should probably stop to rest."

Eric threw down his bag and fell over, Max dumped water on his face and David and Asira cleaned their cuts.

"What are we supposed to do now?" David asked.

"We're out in the middle of nowhere and the trail is gone." Max groaned, "We've been trudging through the woods all day and have no clue where we are."

Eric chimed in, "Maybe we should just go home. We might end up getting killed ourselves out here."

"Absolutely not!" Asira snapped at him, "I will not go home until I fond them!"

Asira jumped up and walked around looking for some kind of clue as to which way they may have gone, "There has to be something." She mumbled, "They couldn't have just disappeared." She let out a sigh, "Well, we might as well just stay here for now. It'll be getting dark soon. We'll move on tomorrow and anyone who wants to go home," she gave a dirty look to Eric, "can leave."

They all sat leaning their backs against the trees as the sun set ending the day. David had drifted off to sleep and Asira was about to do the same when she saw the leaves in the tree above her move. She stood up and squinted trying to see what it was.

"What's wrong?" Max said getting up and walking toward her.

"I don't know I just think I keep seeing something in the trees." She replied pointing at its leaves.

Just at that moment there was a flashing red light and something came zipping threw the air in front of Asira, grabbed Max by the hair and knocked him to the ground.

"Gah!" Max said getting up and rubbing his head, "What was that?" he pulled out a knife.

Asira giggled, "I think it may have been a fairy."

There was another flash of red light in the leaves of the tree and Asira heard a woman's voice, "What are you doing here?"

Asira stepped forward looking for the person speaking but could not see her and said, "We are tracking down a monster that has kidnapped our friends. Have you seen them by any chance?"

There was another flash of red light and again the fairy came zipping down out of the tree. She stopped and hovered in front of Asira and said, "I did see a group of four hideous beasts carrying two young girls and a young man away." She paused, "Is this who you are speaking of?"

Asira nodded, "Yes ma'am, that is."

Another flash of red and the fairy was a normal sized human being again. Asira stared at the creature. She looked nothing like the fairies Asira had seen. This women had light brown skin and instead of butterfly wings her wings were made of bone. They looked like the bones of a dragons wings with a spike at one joint and at the tip of each long finger-like bones was another claw. She wore a skull mask that looked like a humans only it had long sharp fangs at the each corner of her mouth. She had black lips and wore a black choker necklace with two red beaded necklaces and a longer black one. She wore a skirt made of bones and the shirt was as well. On her upper arms and just above her ankles were bracelets with long dark brown feathers and above the bracelets on her arms were black tattoos. In her hand she held what looked like a long sharp dragons claw with a small skull on the tip of the handle and a small bracelet of shorter dark brown feathers at the base of the skull. She had long black hair with bangs and was barefoot.

Asira did her best to smile. The woman was beautiful but scary at the same time.

"I think I can help you my dear." The woman said.

"Thank you ma'am." Asira woke up David and Eric and turned to her again, "I'm sorry but, what are you exactly?"

The woman laughed, "I am a fairy of course."

"I've never seen a fairy that looks like you." Eric yawned and scratched his head.

The woman looked at him as though she was ripping him to shreds with her eyes, "That, little pig, is because we like to stay hidden."

Asira laughed at hearing the fairy call Eric a little pig. "So, can you tell us where they went with our friends?"

"Of course," she said, "they took a passage through the mountains that you can only get to by cutting through the woods. I will take you there if you pay me well."

There was a long pause and David, Max, Eric and Asira looked at each other.

Eric said, "I have ten bucks."

"No." the fairy said, "I do not have any use for your human money. She looked at each of them and finally said to Max, "That ring."

Max held up his hand where there was a silver ring with old writing carved into it and a ruby, "This?"

The fairy nodded. Max looked reluctant to hand over his precious ring but in the end he did, "For my sister." He said sadly handing the fairy his ring.

She took it and there was a red flash of light and she zipped up into her tree and came back down just as fast. In another red flash she was normal sized again, "Now then, let us move along now. Wouldn't want to be late for the feast now would we? Only a few more days you know."

"Feast?" Asira asked, "What feast?"

"Why my dear," she looked at Asira sadly, "that is why they took away your friends. They are having a feast for their kings. Your friends are the main course."