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   Chapter 17

The Woodlands By EJBowman Characters: 16825

Updated: 2017-12-22 12:02


Dacen woke in a fright. Sweat dampened most of his body. He quickly patted himself down before wrapping his arms around his chest protectively.

He could not help but to break down sobbing while holding himself tightly. The feelings of violation, vulnerability, and fear were far too much for him to handle. He was already in such a fragile state after killing his former master and fleeing.

I’m not being touched. I’m not being attacked, he assured himself while looking around the valley anxiously. His dream had felt all too real.

Looking to the horizon, a faint light was starting to spread across the sky. He certainly was not going to get any more sleep, so he figured he might as well get moving. Perhaps travelling would allow him to take his mind off that horrid nightmare.

Unfortunately, even as he rode his golem mount, his mind was heavy with other thoughts. He had no plans for his future now that he had rejected his opportunity to be accepted.

I’ll do what I always do, he thought solemnly. Travel the lands without a home or purpose.

Perfect.

He pulled the golem horse to a stop when he noticed a path spiralling up a mountain. For some reason, every inkling in his being wanted to traverse that path.

If not manmade, it was probably made by vampires. I would be walking right into a trap.

But I must go that way.

Why?

Because I must.

Think rationally!

I must go with my gut feeling.

He now had two options: either venture to the end of the valley—which was only about another hour’s ride away—and turn the opposite direction, or take the mountain path or risk being caught by vampires.

Taking his eyes off the mountain, he gave the golem horse a light kick on the side as a gesture for it to continue forward. It did so at a moderate pace.

Within a matter of moments, he reverted his decision and spun the horse around, towards the base of the mountain path.

I might as well follow my instincts, he assured himself. What have I got to lose? Nothing.

Nothing at all.

Rekou ensured the young blood wolf maintained a fast pace, despite its repeated attempts to slow down. It was clearly tiring out and wanted to eat, but she could not risk any hunters gaining ground on her.

Since escaping, she had done very little thinking about the fate of Neem. She chose to work under the assumption that he had made it back to his chambers unnoticed and was, therefore, safe. Any other alternative outcome was too painful to think about.

“I know!” she hissed as the blood wolf let out another whine.

Without her control, the blood wolf came to a halt and started sniffing the air. It turned around and continued sniffing before letting out another whimper.

It smells its friends, she realised. They’re already catching up.

“Not now. Right now we continued forward,” she commanded while steering it back in the proper direction.

The beast stuck its nose up again while facing in the proper direction. Clearly it was torn as smells from both directions piqued its interest.

“Follow that smell,” she commanded while pointing forward. “Your pack will meet you there.”

The blood wolf made a whimpering sound, suggesting it did not believe her. Nevertheless, it continued forward at a good pace.

What has caught its attention in this direction? was Rekou’s first thought as they continued their charge.

On instinct, she was to assume it was danger up ahead if it was powerful enough for the blood wolf to catch its scent, but she feared what was behind her rather than in front.

If I’m lucky, it’s this so-called Dacen. If I’m unlucky, it’s my certain doom. Both are better alternatives to returning to Primye Dinastoro.

“Do you know what you smell?” she queried. “Is it a powerful creature?”

The beast let out one sharp bark.

“Then speed up.”

After another hour, the mountains walling off the valley came into view. Rekou sat atop a slope and perused the large area below. The young blood wolf was acting particularly agitated, which meant they had to be nearing whatever creature was emitting such power. She did not need to read her blood wolf’s gestures to understand that fact: her own senses were alert to the powerful being.

It must be Neem’s friend. It has to be.

Although she could sense the source of the power, no being could be seen. The area itself was rather barren with a few scattered trees and the rest being tall grass. There were not many hiding places.

Little did she know that the young hybrid had seen her blood wolf emerge at the top of the hill. Quickly, he dissolved his golem horse and kept low to the ground as he got to the nearest tree. Despite his attempt at hiding, he knew he would be found very quickly once the blood wolf came down to properly examine the area.

This is what you get for following your instinct and taking the route guaranteed to be dangerous, he thought scornfully. Next time—if there is one—be sensible!

Again, the young blood wolf seemed conflicted between two directions. Its head

nted to create was unavailable, but he assumed the process was similar enough to making his golem horse.

Every so often, he would glance down at the vampiress’ face. He still could not figure out where to place her in his memories. They could not have ever met, and he had never had any favourable interactions with vampires.

It was strange she had known his name.

It was strange that she seemed happy to see him.

It seemed strange that the hunters instantly killed her.

It was strange she had the shell he had given Neem.

I’m going to need some good explanations when you get resurrected, he thought begrudgingly as he continued to shape the new, little bust.

The day was almost gone by the time he finished. Luckily, now all he had to do was add the final touch: he pressed the whittling knife into his thumb. He then ran his thumb over the little wooden piece, smearing it with blood.

Dacen stood up and licked his injured thumb once. Holding the wooden bust high, he then swiftly threw it down. He could not help but be a little proud of himself as black dust spat out of the bust and began to form the shape of a large beast.

Surely it can’t be that different from riding a horse, he convinced himself once the beast was fully formed.

At first, he thought his mount would kill him. Despite it being conjured by his own magic, he was unable to bring himself to fully trust the golem blood wolf.

The dark creature slowly turned its head to look at him, then turned it away again and stared passively at the mountains. It was only a blood wolf in shape, thankfully not in instincts.

Dacen quickly gathered his possessions back into his satchel and threw it over his shoulder before turning his attention to the vampiress. His legs wobbled as he picked up the corpse. In order to avoid throwing up, he chose to focus on not falling backwards rather than the fact that he was carrying a dead body.

The blood wolf shifted slightly as he draped the vampiress over the back of it before straddling the beast himself. The coarse, grainy fur felt strange in Dacen’s hands as he ran them down the back of the beast’s neck. Although he did not like to admit it: he had been envious of the vampires ever since his first encounter with them years ago. The right to ride such a grand predator was something he desired. Blood wolves meant power.

“Show me how fast you can go,” he murmured to the lifeless imitation. He could only imagine what it felt like to ride the real, living thing.

His joints stiffened as the mount suddenly broke into a high speed. A horse’s gallop was nothing in comparison to a blood wolf’s dash.

The faun put one hand on the vampiress’ corpse behind him while the other firmly grasped the fur on the back of the beast’s neck. Riding the blood wolf, in the first place, would be for nothing if he lost the corpse along the way.

What a way this would be to die, he thought, terrified, as the beast continued at the same pace up the mountain trail. The narrow path meant he was constantly looking down the mountainside—the fall would certainly kill him.

It was night, and he was travelling at a high speeds around a mountain. Dacen let out a laugh of exhilaration. Regardless of whatever terrible news the vampiress had in store for him, he would enjoy this moment and worry about the future later.

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