Chapter Twenty-Six: The Creature in the Bush

The Tundra, Arctica

To say that life that had been easy since he had met Ajatar and had been forced to join her side was a bit of an understatement. Mikko fell to the ground. He had been trying to get the beast out of himself for months and now it looked like he had managed to do so. He was covered in mud and blood; still unable to recall what had happened. He closed his eyes as he put his hand on his stomach, but nothing could even start to make the pain go away. He stared at the distance to his house, fighting off a groan. Sure, he could try to get a little bit closer to his house, but it had taken all of his strength to make it just this far.

Above his head, the lightning flashed and the thunder roared. Groaning, he slowly made his way toward the house where his wife and three daughters were waiting.

Oh! He looked down at the blood rushing out of his stomach. There was just simply no way that he could his children see him like this.

His vision threatened to cloud over again and he found himself gripping a nearby tree in attempt to hold himself upright. He reached up and wiped the rainwater away from his face, groaning in pain. He had to do something. To stay out here would also mean his certain death, but to go in there would kill them.

He took a small step forward, only to find his vision clouded even further by black dots. The pain was too just much. He could feel the vile building up in the back of his throat as he made even the slightest of movements forward.

Mikko slowly forced himself to removed his hands from his stomach. The blood was still pouring out of him just as thick as ever, causing the material of his shirt to stick to his skin. Groaning he pulled both his robe and shirt away from the skin.

He was ever grateful for the claps of thunder to hide his screams. He stared up at the silver moonlight as the world of darkness overtook him.


Tarja knew there was something watching them. She did actually believe Floor, even though she couldn't see the creatures for herself. She kept looking back at the trees. Ah, there! Yes, there was actual movement in the trees. She narrowed her. No, she couldn't quite make out what it was, but there was for sure something there.

She kept on going, slowly her pace down just a bit. The wolves surely must had noticed there was something off by now. If they could not Change, then that meant that their senses were back with full force. Maybe they were just afraid to say anything.

The snow kept getting more and more difficult to walk in. It felt as if they weren't making any progress at all. Every time Tarja would look back at the trees, she could had sworn she saw little eyes staring back at them, unblinking, unmoving. The whole thing was kind of disturbing actually.

The eyes weren't the red eyes that she had grown used to seeing staring back at her. These eyes were tiny and yellow with little black down in the middle. They kind of reminded her of cat eyes staring out from underneath a bush. Every time one of the group moved, the eyes seemed to become trained right on them as if they were daring them to come closer.

"I see them," Tarja breathed.

Floor nodded. "I don't know how long they've been there."

"I wonder what they are," Tarja mused.

Floor simply shrugged. "I don't know."

Tarja's gaze shifted back up toward the bush, then back to the others. "I wonder if they see." She paused. "We have to tell them. They have every right to know."

Floor nodded. "Stop!"

The entire group stopped and turned as one to look at them.

"What?" Eelis asked, his voice hard.

Floor pointed toward the trees. "Don't you see them?"

Eelis looked at where Floor was pointing. "See what?"

"The eyes."

Eelis shook his head. "There's nothing there."

Tarja looked back over at the tree. How could Eelis not see it? There was a set of eyes looking right at them. In fact, there was more than one. "You don't see the eyes?" she asked.

Eelis shook his head. "No, should I?"

Tarja sighed. "Floor's not losing it. There really are eyes there."

Eelis shook his head. "No, there's not."

Tarja just rolled her eyes.

The objects hung from the trees. It looked as if they were nooses. Tarja looked closer. No, they weren't nooses; they were snakes. She took a step back, pausing. The trees were littered with snakes. They stared back at her with their unblinking eyes. To make matters worse, their eyes seemed to shift into human ones. The eyes looked dead, inhuman-this was far worse than the unblinking, always staring ones. It was like looking into the open eyes of a newly dead person. They were solemn.

Tarja lowered herself down onto the ground. "Why can't you see them?" She felt so weak for lowering herself down onto the ground, but there wasn't any other options.

The others all turned looking at her.

Aleksander approached her and knelt down next to her. A little bit farther ahead, Anneke and Kaidan stood looking back; maybe they were relieved to see her finally breaking or maybe they were relieved that they hadn't broken first. She struggled to get back up, but couldn't make herself. She couldn't regain control of herself. She was weak and broken. The snakes were going to win; they were going to get inside her head.

"Tarja," Aleksander whispered. She wondered how long he had been saying her name. He leaned in closer to her; he was so close now that she could feel his heart beating against her back. "Breathe, just breathe. You're stronger than this. You are so much better than this. Don't let this little thing beat you."
Tarja looked him in the eye. "Are you saying that you see them?" She nodded up at Floor, who seemed just as haunted. "Floor sees them. Why can't the rest of you see them?"

Aleksander just held her closer. "I don't know. Sometimes these things just happen without any reason. Maybe they were trying to point you in the direction. It could be your destiny." He leaned in closer to her. "Things happen for a reason."

Kendra walked over to her, offering a hand. Tarja took it, letting the other Hunter pull her to her feet. Beside her, Vuokko nodded. "We are going to get through this," Kendra said. "I can feel it too." She looked back at the others. "I'm pretty sure we all can feel something. It just happens differently for all of us."

Tarja nodded as she brushed the snow off her clothes. "Okay." She was actually shaking. She hadn't really noticed it until now. How long had this been going on? She looked around at the others. "Let's go." Her eyes shifted over to the snakes. They were still there watching her.

Aleksander gave her a small smile, but didn't say anything as they fell in step next to each other. She also hadn't noticed until now just how right it felt to be walking next to him. It just felt so normal.

They stopped in the middle of the field. The moon shone brightly above them, creating a light pattern over the snow. It seemed to align itself right over the edge of the filed.. Tarja stared up at it with a frown. No, it didn't seem to align itself over the edge of the field: it was over the edge of the field. Was this were they were supposed to go? Was this were their final battle would take place?

Raakel was the first to break the silence. "Shall we?"

They started forward, still keeping to their perfectly straight line. No one said anything. Tarja thought that everyone was afraid to say something, afraid that it would break the spell and leave them in complete and utter darkness.

She kept looking back up at the moon. It wasn't moving; it just seemed to hover over the horizon. The green mist remained the sky, moving back and forth like grass on a windy day. It almost seemed to come to a fold once it reached the moon, making the moon its centrefold.

The power seemed to intensify. Tarja looked over at the trees. The snakes were still there, looking at her, but they didn't seem to be moving as much. Maybe power was reaching them. She gasped as the power reached the centre of her core, sending little electric pluses racing through her body. She looked up at the others. They all seem to be bent over, gasping in some form or another.

This place was getting them closer and closer to her lair. She could even being to comprehend what it would be like once they actually reached the main section. What was going to happen? Would they even be able to stand up at all? Would they even still be alive?
Tarja looked out. The snakes were starting to come toward them. She looked over at the others, who were also staring wide eyes. At least now she knew they could see them. Only a few of them were bigger than snakes...She frowned, looking closer at them.

"What is that?" Kaiden asked.

Tarja looked closer as the words left his mouth. The shadows came right out of the forest, moving quicker than lightening toward them. It made sharp, almost clicking noise with its body. She took a step back in horror. It was a snake, a giant snake, but it was unlike any snake that she had ever seen before. It had no eyes at all, only two empty dead looking sockets that might had once housed eyes. In its mouth, there were two fangs that came together at a point and were so sharp looking that Tarja knew they could cut right through her skin. It slithered across the snow, leaving marks on it. However, the snow wasn't white behind it, but a faint green, very similar to that of the mist. She looked backwards. There were more and more coming.

"I think we should be running about now," Aleksander said.

Tarja turned and took off after the others. The creatures were getting closer and closer to them; she could almost feel their deadly teeth on the back of her leg. She wanted to look over her shoulder to make sure it was all in her head, but couldn't bring herself to. It would only slow her down and cost her precious time that she didn't have to spare.

Aleksander grabbed onto her arm. "Come on!" His wolf speed lunged them forward, faster than Tarja had ever gone in her human life. She couldn't even see what was going on around her. She just knew that she had no other choice, but to trust him.

"Almost there," Aleksander kept repeating under his breath.

Tarja didn't know where almost there was, but she just hoped it was some place safe. Wherever that might be.