MoboReader> Horror > The Woodlands

   Chapter 18

The Woodlands By EJBowman Characters: 29727

Updated: 2017-12-22 12:02


It was quite a long time before Rekou became fully conscious and aware of her surroundings. Sanity did not come easily after her mind had been in the oblivion for however long. All she had was a vampire’s most basic of instincts: feed.

At first, she was afraid of herself when she realised she was biting into the wrist of a humanoid. If death had not made her mad, the taste of such rich blood was certainly doing so. Even though much of her mind had returned, she was unable to bring her fangs away from the already-scarred arm. The blood was rich to the point of being an intoxicating addiction.

As all her focus was on the arm of the creature, she was not fully aware of her surroundings. She was completely oblivious to the fact that she was inside, on a stone floor.

Whose arm is this? she finally asked herself. She managed to remove her mouth from the flesh in order to take a much-needed breath.

The vampiress looked down at herself first: tattered and front coated in a fresh layer of red blood—how long had she been feeding?

I’ve killed Dacen.

With that thought, she quickly crawled away. Her vision was still fragmented. All she could take into proper recognition was her blue arms as she crawled across the stone floor.

Who’s Dacen?

Dacen… Dacen is the friend of…. Neem. Neem! Dacen is Neem’s friend and I am… I am Rekou. I am looking for Neem’s friend, Dacen. Is that Dacen? she thought while looking back at her previous meal.

The arm closest to her had its sleeve messily pushed up and smeared with blood. With her poor vision—and memory—she was greatly confused by the black objects attached to each side of the man’s head.

Horns, she concluded while crawling closer. Dacen has horns. Dacen is a faun and a friend of Neem… Yes.

But is he asleep or dead?

“Unconscious,” a voice answered behind her.

Taonhi Chay looked down at the pitiful, blood-drenched face of the creature. It clearly tried to let out a surprised scream, but its previously unused vocal chords emitted more of a gargled gasp.

If this is necromancy in all its glory, then perhaps it’s a power fauns don’t want, she thought begrudgingly. The blue creature tried to back away, but was blocked by Dacen’s body.

“Fear not,” she said in an insincere manner. “I’m not here to harm you. Whatever the mongrel has planned for you is none of my business.”

The mongrel? Who is the mongrel? Who is she?

“He is the mongrel,” she replied while gesturing to the unconscious hybrid. “Who I am does not concern you.”

A clear return to basic emotions, the old doe noted as she clopped towards the vampiress. The blue creature went rigid as soon as she started moving.

“Move,” she demanded as she knelt down to inspect Dacen’s arm.

The vampiress quickly complied. She tried to stand and run, but her legs we weak, and she hit the stone floor. Instead, she was forced to crawl again.

Taonhi Chay ran her hand over Dacen’s arm once. The blood remained, but the bite marks were gone. The much older—self-inflicted—scars remained, however.

“He will be unconscious for some time,” she explained while standing up again. “Hopefully you will still be alive by then. It’s hard to tell how long you have.”

How long I have? I’m going to die?

Then Rekou remembered: I already died.

“Now it’s coming back to you,” the doe chuckled, yet her tone suggested she thought none of this was actually funny.

It took a moment for the vampiress to realise what the female faun was implying when she held out her hand. Taonhi Chay then realised her hand was still bloodied and pulled it back. She blew on the hand with the supernatural force of a hurricane, and the blood particles vanished. Again, she put her hand out for the vampiress to take.

Rekou complied hesitantly. The doe could very well be leading her to her doom, but was she even in a state to resist?

Perhaps I am still dead and this is all an eternal nightmare, she considered as she shakily stood herself up.

“Unlikely,” Taonhi Chay replied. “Unless I am also dead, I’m afraid this is very real.”

“I am so terribly confused,” Rekou whispered. Her vocal chords were still adjusting to being revived.

“Understandable.”

The female faun led her into a small office and pulled her out a seat on one side of the desk. She then clopped to the other side and took a seat herself.

“Tea?” the female faun while gesturing to the green, ceramic teapot and cups at the far end of the desk.

Rekou shook her head slowly. She was suddenly feeling very tired. Perhaps the mere walk from Dacen to this office had worn her out.

Despite her decline, Taonhi Chay poured two cups. The vampiress was about to decline again, but then the doe ran a finger across her wrist. In her path she left an open wound. After a few drops of blood fell into the cup below, she retraced the wound with her finger, sealing it back up again.

“How about now?”

Rekou quickly took the cup. On instinct, she wanted to gulp the whole thing down in one go, but she restrained herself. After one sip, she set it back down.

“I have many questions,” she whispered. Speaking any louder would cause her voice to crack.

“As do I,” the doe said.

“How am I alive?” the vampiress began with. “I know I died.”

“And how do you know that?”

Rekou sat there, looking confused, as sorceress took a sip of tea.

“I never said you died, so how do you know you died?” she continued after setting the cup back down.

“I… What? I was killed… I think.”

“And do you recall anything after your said death?”

“I, um, I don’t know.” She gestured to her head. “My memory is very shrouded.”

“Rekou, you may be the only mortal who knows if there is an afterlife. Think harder.”

The vampiress again opened her mouth to object. Her expression changed, however.

“I don’t recall telling you my name.”

The old doe chuckled.

“I think I’ve proven that your mind is open to me. I know almost all there is to know about the Fire Queen.”

Rekou stopped breathing for a few moments. She had not worn that title for years. Its mere utterance brought back many painful memories.

“If that is the case,” she began after swallowing back her emotions, “then why don’t you tell me whether or not I experienced anything in death?”

Taonhi Chay shrugged, indifferent to the sudden surge of pain she had caused the other woman.

“The memories, if there are any, appear to be suppressed. Perhaps you have already forgotten. It may very well be as difficult as recalling a dream.”

“I remember nothing,” Rekou stated firmly. “It is not my place to understand the afterlife.”

“That may be the case,” the female faun agreed before taking another sip of tea. “Tell me, do you recall anything of your resurrection process? That is the information I have much more desire for.”

“Resurrection process?”

“Dacen, the half-breed. He is the reason you’re sitting here. Do you recall your very first moments of consciousness?”

The vampiress took another sip of her own tea, savouring the essence of blood. She then reflexively ran her hand through her hair—an anxious tick she had.

“I… I don’t know. I was not myself when I returned to the living,” she admitted. “Dacen… I had been sent to find him to help,” Neem is still in trouble, “my friend, but I found myself drinking his blood as he lay unconscious. As rich as his blood is—when I’m my proper self—I would never attack anybody I was trying to ally with, let alone somebody who had just saved my life.”

“The liminal phase,” Taonhi Chay pondered aloud. “Halfway between death and life.” She then gave the blue woman a very serious stare. “I’m afraid you’ll soon find yourself there again… between life and death.”

Rekou inhaled deeply. Usually her imminent death would strike fear in her heart, but the situation was already so surreal that returning to death seemed like a very logical outcome.

“How long would you predict I have? I must speak with Dacen.”

“I’m aware of your quest. Dacen should be awake in a matter of hours, and you will probably be alive then.” Rekou was confused when the doe scanned her body up and down, looking past the flesh. “You’re already gradually deteriorating again. I know nothing about life expectancy after resurrection, but if I had to guess: two days. Probably less. A shame, further inspection would possibly give me the opportunity to understand the effects of returning from death.”

The vampiress let out a solemn laugh. She then took another sip of tea. Yes, she had already had her fix of blood—enough to last her weeks—but she was going to consume as much as possible in the little time she had.

Both women looked back when the door opened. In the archway stood a younger doe. Draped over her arm was a grey dress.

“I suppose it’s time to leave. I have seen enough,” Taonhi Chay concluded while standing up. “My apprentic

ead from side to side as he turned around and put the chest down in front of her.

“You talk big.”

Rekou scoffed.

“Open the chest. I can sense some very strong magical properties… probably gryphon.”

“You’ve tasted them too I assume?”

“Oddly enough: no.”

Dacen passed her the many different feathers, one at a time. She seemed close to finding a Valkyrie feather a few times, but they were just false alarms. He began to worry there were no Valkyrie feathers in Daefortis’ possession. If that were the case, he would have to try one of the other disguising concoctions—and heavens knew how long that would take.

“Do you really know what you’re looking for?” he asked in an agitated manner while passing her a brown and yellow speckled feather.

Are you even a condition to be searching?

Rekou scowled and put the feather up to her nose.

“I know your sense of smell is not as attuned, but I know what I’m looking for. You can sense power to some extent, I assume.” Dacen nodded. “Well, with more heightened sense you find out that magical properties are unique by species. Blood wolves are much better at this than I am, but if you focus your senses…” her words faded away as the hybrid handed her a white feather with a golden tip. Her sudden arousal in curiosity gave him hope.

“Is it a Valkyrie feather?”

“It certainly looks like one,” she replied while holding the stem between her index finger and thumb. A smile formed on her face once she put it below her nose. “Oh yes. It is.”

Dacen let out a small sigh of relief. It had been quite a stab in the dark to assume Daefortis would have one lying around. It appeared to be the only one given the fact there were only a few other feathers left—he could not mess up his liar’s dust concoction because there would not be a second chance.

“Oh, and Dacen?” Rekou asked as he helped her stand.

“Yes?”

“Don’t tell Neem any of what I told you. He likes to think I’m not on the low level other vampires are, and I’d like that to remain his image of me.”

Dacen laughed.

“Not to worry. He thinks the same about me… Such a sweet little being. I don’t think he knows what I really am. I don’t think he has the ability to understand.”

“And what are you?”

“A monster.”

The vampiress patted his shoulder sympathetically as they walked out of the room.

“Me too. Me too.”

* * *

Dacen could not help but laugh when he looked at his reflection in the mirror. He barely recognised himself with blue skin and red eyes. The bags under his eyes showed it had taken a day and a night to successfully make liar’s dust—hopefully he had done it in time to save Neem.

Must show Rekou, he remembered.

Collecting the dust into a brown pouch, he headed for his former room. It was strange returning there and remembering that it was no longer his room. He had to keep reminding himself that Daefortis was dead and he was once again a nomad.

The vampiress was barely conscious when he entered. By that point, she was no more than a skeleton trapped in a thin layer of blue flesh. In a week, she would be dust.

“Rekou,” he whispered.

Her eyes fluttered before opening. The look she gave him at first suggested she failed to recognise him or understand the situation whatsoever.

“It’s Dacen,” he reminded her while kneeling down next to the stone bed.

The coughing suggested she was trying to laugh.

“You’re blue.”

He nodded while taking her cold hand. She was so delicate that he felt her hand would fall right off if he was too rough.

“I must thank you for making the journey for Neem’s sake. I will save Neem. And… I’m sorry I couldn’t save you as well.”

As severance, Dacen pulled up the sleeve of his non-scarred arm and offered it to her. Rekou let out a small cough while shaking her head. Instead, her once red eyes, not a putrid brown colour, locked with his.

“Never harm him.”

He said nothing as the vampiress gave her last breath. Her eyes remained open but unseeing. He had to take a deep breath to calm himself before wiping away a stray tear. He was sure the little bit of water had smeared his disguise, and he would need to put more liar’s dust on.

Despite trying to remain outwardly stoic, he found himself feeling more grief for this vampiress than he did when he stared at the corpse of his own mother. Then again, the many other things bearing on his mind at this time were likely a contributing factor to that.

I would never harm Neem, he thought while gathering his things together. He considered taking a few more of the spellbooks or potions, but his satchel could only hold so much.

Looking at the map and the distance to the kingdom, he realised he probably needed to rest at some point. He would pass out if he tried to ride the golem blood wolf all the way to Primye Dinastoro after depriving himself of sleep the night before.

Neem doesn’t have time for me to rest, was his first instinctive thought. But I’m no use to him if I show up and fail to save him based on sleep deprivation. Sleep now.

Daefortis’ room was rather suave. The oak bed frame and feather-stuffed mattress certainly looked inviting. Quite a step up from the stone slab he had called his bed. He had never been into his former master’s chambers beforehand, but with the dead vampiress in his own he did not have many other options.

After removing all of his clothing, Dacen wrapped himself up in the blankets and buried his face in the pillow, in turn rubbing off more of the liar’s dust. Despite all the chaos that burdened his thought, he managed to drift off quickly. He had not slept in such a comfortable bed for a very long time.

He was actually too comfortable in his slumber that night. He did not realise it, but no external emotions were penetrating his mind. If he had realised it, he would have woken up more terrified than he had been the other night when he had felt too much emotion.

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