MoboReader> Horror > The Woodlands

   Chapter 12

The Woodlands By EJBowman Characters: 14262

Updated: 2017-12-22 12:02


Neem did not react as Rekou entered his room. He remained curled up on the mattress, which was how he spent most of his days now.

He was ill. The vampiress had done her best to keep him well-fed and physically healthy, but this was a different kind of illness. It seemed that this illness was slowly causing the deterioration of his physical form. No matter how much she fed him, he still got thinner.

He is not going to survive very long, she thought solemnly while taking a seat next to the mattress. Glancing down at the tray, she had given him in the morning, she realised that he had eaten very little. Only a few bites out of the bread and the cup of water partially drunk—his appetite had faltered. His appetite had slowly been waning over the past few days. He was not looking like a bag of bones yet, but the vampiress knew she had to get him in a better mental state if she wanted him to starting eating more.

“Would you like to go for a walk through the garden?” she suggested.

The little nymph turned to look back at her. His leaf-green eyes had become dark and discoloured.

“I’m not allowed to wander around,” his whispered miserably before looking away.

“It is likely, in a few months, you will be able to walk around unsupervised,” she assured him. “However, you may walk around if accompanied by me.”

It took a fair amount of coaxing, but eventually, the pair was on their way to the garden. Neem did despise the stale, walled-in environment of his room and knew it was best to get into nature. Even as he walked through the corridors, his mood started to lighten—being trapped in a small place had done nothing but heighten his already miserable experience.

He was happily surprised by the expansiveness of the garden. It could not replace the Woodlands, however the experience of nature was soothing.

Although he wanted to walk in the grass, Rekou ensured that they remained on the cobblestone path through the cave of trees.

Something was off. The walk was nice, and the trees—although clearly pampered and very foreign—

were also quite nice, but the sound of the garden forest was all wrong. These trees did not sing hymns in the wind. They felt soulless.

“Why is there no singing?” he asked the vampiress.

Rekou looked equally as confused as him.

“Singing? I… I don’t understand.”

“The trees, the animals, all of it. It’s all silent!”

“I don’t know about the lack of singing trees, but there are no animals in this garden.”

The realities of this garden not being a ‘true forest’ was further emphasised when, through the trees, he could see the dark stone walls that surrounded the entire castle.

This enclosure is nothing but lies, he thought bitterly.

“The gardens in my old kingdom had animals,” Rekou reminisced while staring at the branches over their heads. “Many deer, rabbits, birds… but there was one special bird.”

“What bird?” the nymph asked in the manner of a curious child.

“A firebird. A creature of such power that it could destroy an entire kingdom if in a foul mood. She chose one of my kingdom’s gardens to build her nest in—a true honour… I named her Hranha. Yes, there was a sense of danger while in her presence, but also great thrill. I mean, a bird of flame the size of a blood wolf! Can you imagine?”

Neem shook his head—he really could not. All the birds in the Woodlands were small, the largest being only the height of a pixie.

“Did the firebird try to help when your kingdom was attacked?” he asked, not realising how insensitive his question was.

“No,” the vampiress replied in a cold manner. “It flew away.”

“Why wouldn’t it defend its home?”

“I suppose it didn’t see the kingdom as worthy of defending. Or perhaps it wanted to remain indifferent to vampire conflicts. Tell me, if you see iron ants attacking another anthill, do you try to intervene?”

Neem had to think. He had no idea what ‘iron ants’ were, but he could infer that she was talking about tiny insects.

“No,” he said after thinking. “It is not my place to resolve their conflicts when I don’t understand them.”

“Then we must assume the firebird thought the same. Such a grand creature has no time for the futile wars of lesser beings.”

The nymph processed her words for a

s looking at. To him, it was just a bunch of oddly shaped blobs with some writing scattered here and there.

“What’s a map?” he finally asked.

Rekou laughed.

“It is how vampires plot the landscape so they can navigate it.” She pointed to three triangles bunched together below a larger one. “And this map shows the Ivy Mountains. They’re not exactly a simple walk away… but it’s possible that we could make it there on a blood wolf.”

At first, Neem was quite excited by this revelation, but the mention of blood wolves dampened his glee.

“A blood wolf can’t fit through the hole… and I doubt one would want to help us.”

“One without a master would. Younger blood wolves in training have made no alignments. And they’re kept beyond the walls.”

The vampiress was quite surprised when the little nymph wrapped his arms around her. Hugging was not a vampire custom.

“Thank you, Rekou, thank you!”

Uncomfortable, she gently pushed him away but still retained a smile.

“Don’t thank me yet. I only have the skeleton of a plan so far. It could take a while before I can assure you that we’re ready to do this… and even then, there’s a chance that we’ll fail.”

He watched as she opened the chest and stuffed the piece of paper deep inside. If it were found in either of their possession, then they would be doomed for sure.

“We won’t fail,” he assured her once she was done.

We can’t.

“Perhaps not,” Rekou agreed even if she hardly believed the words herself. “The reward outweighs the risk… that is for sure. I just hope your faun friend is who you say he is.”

“He is. I promise.”

“I must get back to work,” she informed him while ruffling his hair. “Act natural. Don’t give anything away… But be ready. As soon as there’s the opportune moment, we must act.”

He nodded frantically and watched her with hope-filled eyes as she strolled towards the door.

“Have a good day,” she said while winking before closing the door.

Neem flopped back on his mattress. His little heart was racing.

He had the chance to be free.

He had the chance to return to the Woodlands.

He had the chance to see Dacen again.

A dark thought struck his mind: what if Dacen didn’t want to see him again?

What if he’s changed, and the warlock has made him evil?

Horrified, he quickly shook his head in an attempt to remove the terrible thought.

Dacen wouldn’t become evil. He is good. Of course he will want to help me and Rekou. We are friends… We were friends?

His personal pep talk had failed, but he refused to think that far into the future for the time being. Right then, the main focus was on escaping as that would most certainly be the most difficult part. Once they successfully escaped, he would allow such fears to come back to the forefront of his mind.

Dacen and I are friends. He will help us.

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