Saleene is a healer of her people. Sent out to find the root of the darkness, she finds more than she bargained for. Demons and ghouls at every turn, Saleene soon finds she has more than just an unknown evil to battle. Drawn to an abandoned cabin for shelter, she's met by the stare of a man who is more than he appears, and may be her only hope.
Dartian is a warrior sent out to find the cause of the death that continues to spread. With his friends lending assistance, they find that the evil is deeper than first thought. Ending up at an abandoned shack he finds more than just a place to rest. Inside its four walls is a woman that calls to every part of his being.
Fate has drawn them together--- to battle the darkness that has been released…
But first they must learn to trust their own bond…. And start to reform the circle once more.
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Raising her eyes upward, she could see a large creature flying in the night sky above. Its wingspan alone was at least three feet. From what she could tell it wasn’t like any kind of bird or creature she had seen in the past. Squinting she caught the flicker of talons along what looked to be arms. Her breathe held tight in her lungs.
“It can’t be.” She’d never seen one of these alive. Books had written about them, talked about the danger they presented, but last recorded sight had been centuries ago. “Where did you come from?”
From what she could tell, it had not noticed her yet. Looking at the damage to the body next to her she now knew how it had come to being alone in the field with no footprints leading to or from it. The poor man had ended up a meal for the monster flying above. Searching the area, she needed to find a place to hide before the creature noticed her presence. Certain it was still high off of the kill, she prayed it remained distracted enough for her to find a place to hide.
Spotting a large fallen oak at the nearest entry to the forest, Saleene began to run. Keeping her body close to the ground, she made sure her movements didn’t draw unwanted attention. Step by step she got closer to the trunk, the sounds of the beast above fading behind her. As she made it to safety, she crawled around the side of the trunk to hide. Looking back at where she’d come from, she could still see the wings flapping above the dead man. Her heart continued to beat hard in her chest.
“Why are you here,” she asked quietly. There was an answer, one she did not want to face, but she knew was true. Another creature had been released by the evil. It was the only answer that made sense and it was one she knew would mean more would die.
In the distance, she could hear the footfalls of men approaching the open field. She needed to move. There was nothing more she could do for the man. From the sounds of the group approaching, she could tell they were well armed. More than enough to deal with the creature above if it came to it. Perhaps at least one of the creatures that had been released could be sent back to the hell it came from. It was just unfortunate that it had cost the life of another person. Turning around she quietly made her way back out from under the log. Keeping low to the ground she made sure not to make any noise that might alert the beast to her whereabouts.
The moment her feet hit the interior of the forest she picked up her pace to increase her distance from the edge of the grove. Lifting her face to the wind, she breathed in the scents of the forest, looking for any telltale signs of danger. She needed information from the animals on where she could find shelter. As always the forest provided the answer she needed. Turning to the right she took off in an even paced run. Through trees and underbrush she moved, nothing slowing her down. Allowing her gaze to drift upward she took in the canopy of trees that shrouded the forest from the sky. Flickers of moonlight were able to filter through the branches, the small rays of moonbeam lighting her way.
“How beautiful, don’t you think?” Her eyes lowered to the wolf that padded next to her. “I see you didn’t take my advice from earlier.” For as far back as she could remember, she had always preferred the company and especially the wolves that roamed wild.
Everything around her felt calm. From what she could tell, the evil had left, at least for a little while. The woodland creatures had begun to sing songs into the night once more. The music helped to ease the stress of the day.
Saleene focused her attention back to the wolf, his stance not faltering. “You really must go my friend. There are evil things happening and I do not know if I can keep you safe.” As much as she enjoyed his company, she needed him to understand. “I’ll find you later. Now it’s time you went home to your family.” The wolf licked her hand before taking off into the darkness of the woods.
“Stay safe my friend.” She called out to him. He had been with her for most of her journey, but she knew this was for the best. Returning her attention back, she sprinted in the direction of shelter. Thunder had already begun to roll in the distance. It was getting closer and she wasn’t about to get stranded out in the middle of a storm. .
Around a bend and through a small dip in the path she rounded one more corner to the left. Passing a large tree, covered with moss, she found a small wooden shack hidden behind it. Looking it over she could tell that it was old and unused. Years’ worth of decay had started to rot out the boards. Vines from some of the closer trees had begun to wrap their way around the foundation, reclaiming it back to the ground. Lightning arched above her, turning the clouds into a kaleidoscope of colors.
“Guess it is better than nothing,” she whispered. Stepping over protruding roots and brush, she made her way through the door and into the shack. Once inside, she took a closer look. The room looked to be sound; no water looked to have leaked through. Although mother nature appeared to have reclaimed most of it back, she had left the interior in good condition. Outside she could hear the wind pick up in speed. If she had thought about checking elsewhere, the elements had made that choice for her. From the sounds she heard outside, the heavens would be unleashing their fury on the world below in minutes.
As she crept further into the room, Saleene allowed her senses to survey the inside. She felt nothing, not even discarded remnants of its former owner. Walking toward the middle of the room, she rested her leather satchel on a smooth rock and turned toward a circle of stones next to it. Picking up twigs, she put together kindling to start a fire before the storm arrived. After a few tries, flames sprang to life.
“Ah, warmth at last.” Outside the wind increased. In the distance a wolf howled, alerting her to strangers approaching. From the warning, she had a good feeling it was the men she had heard approaching the field. Could they be looking for her or just for shelter? If she had gauged the sounds right, there were at least three of them in the group, all well-armed. “Damn.” She muttered into the darkness.
As thunder continued to rumble outside, another flash of lightning arched through the sky. By the sounds, she heard the men would be at the door as the storm arrived, of that she had no doubt. Removing her blade, she backed up into the corner to allow the shadows to embrace her. Listening to the night, she caught the footfalls of the men as they approached. Leaves rustled under their steps, the crunch of grass and brush loud between the silence of the thunder. The closer they got, the more her heart drummed. They took their time, looking over the shack for any hidden dangers
A moment passed and two men entered through the doorway. They crept to opposite sides of the shack, never once letting down their guard. They were good; she had to give them that. She could tell they were searching for the source of the fire, to determine if the individual was friend or foe.
Who were these men, she thought to herself.
Without warning, she felt the third man’s presence close to her. The moment the information settled in her mind she spun around and touched her dagger to the throat of a very large man hidden within the shadows. Their gazes locked. Deep blue eyes stared back at her. How had he gotten so close without her knowing? Her blade remained close to his throat yet he smiled back. Nodding at her, she followed his line of vision only to see the blade of his sword pointing at her chest.
Anger coursed through her. “Who are you and what gives you the right to enter my camp?” She continued to keep her voice low. The others hadn’t noticed them yet, and she still didn’t understand their motives. Staring back at him, she refused to relinquish her blade, and held her breath until he answered her question.
“I am not your enemy. My friends and I are traveling and only need shelter for the night. ”The deepness of his voice lightly caressed her skin. His eyes never left hers, even as he spoke.
“Why are you here? You could have easily found another camp.” She knew her voice held a challenge but she didn’t care. Not when so much was at stake. They inched closer toward one another, to test the resolve and strength of the other, neither giving a hint of trust.
After a few minutes passed, Saleene watched as the man finally lowered his sword and sheathed it behind his back. In response, she lowered her dagger. She watched as he moved back over to the fire, his hands spread out over the flames.
Saleene approached the trio of men and secured her weapon before sitting at the fire. Where did they come from and why did she feel safe with them? She looked in the direction of the lone warrior, his frame filling the room. Each time her gaze moved in his direction, the stranger would glance her way. Steel blue meeting deep green locked in a battle of wits, with neither one truly backing down. It was a game she had played countless times as a child, but this was on a level she never expected, and the familiarity she felt from his stare was unnerving..
“I’m sorry, but have we met?” Saleene inquired. “You seem very familiar to me.”
At her question, the stranger’s right eyebrow furrowed. Was he surprised by her question or bemused that she could have thought they might have met in the past. Either way, it annoyed her that he played off her inquiry so easily.
“I’m sorry, but I do not believe we have. I am certain I would have remembered you if we had.” His fingers pointed toward her. “Especially since you held a blade to my throat only moments ago and by all accounts, wish to once more.”
Looking at her hand, she realized that she had withdrawn her dagger again. “Sorry, force of habit.”
Embarrassed, she put her blade back again. Her nerves were shot and this man wasn’t making the situation any better. Why had they decided to come to this shelter? Her world would have been easier if she could have remained alone. Looking up, she found him staring back. Hard emotions swirled in the depths of his eyes. What they were she had no idea.
“My name is Dartian Delaru. My companions are Raku Vasin, a huntsman from the clan Ravenclaw, and Jeremiiah Neva, from the neighboring village in Zulisa.” He rattled off the names one by one, never missing a beat. “Who are you?”