"And I was beginning to think that this whole planet was a forest," Raven said dryly as the edge of the woods came into view. The trees began to thin, letting more and more of the afternoon sun through their branches. Truth be told, he'd glad to be in the sun once more. The dim light of the forest seemed to hold too many shadows and unseen sprits for his taste. Each shadow took on a life of its own, dancing on the corner of his vision. He'd always felt as though he was being watched..and perhaps he had been.
It was a short time later that the three reached the forest's edge. Raven and Emmelyne dismounted from Eldin. As Raven checked his gear again, his female companion said her goodbyes to her father. The young man watched as she embraced the woodland creature and kissed him softly on the nose.
Raven couldn't help but smile at the display. Perhaps the animal really was her father; as odd as it sounded. He could tell that they were talking psychically, though Raven could only guess what they were speaking of. And though he knew that elks couldn't cry, that didn't seem to stop this one. Tears moistened the fur on Eldin's face, reminding Raven once more that this animal had a human..or at least sentient heart.
Emmelyne finally nodded to her father. The elk reluctantly turned, and bounded back into the forest. When she turned back to Raven, Emmelyne kept her eyes averted from him, trying to hide her own tears.
"So, uh," Raven began, not exactly sure if he should attempt to comfort her or not. At least he'd give her something else to think about, "Where should we go then?"
Emmelyne considered this for a moment, and then began digging through her backpack.
After consulting the map that the Elvin Council provided, the two set off toward the nearest town, a place named Tran. It was only about twenty miles southwest of their current position.
"Father told me once that most of the people that try to enter the Forest of Illusions come from Tran," Emmelyne told him as they began their journey.
"Why is that?"
His pointy-eared companion shrugged, "I've been told it's an industrial town. Things are made there, and merchants try to make use of the forest's portals to get to the Continent of Vellion." Raven nodded thoughtfully, and Emmelyne continued, "It's too dangerous though. The portals are unmapped by all but the forest creatures and the Seelie Court."
Portals? Thought Raven, No wonder she wanted me out so bad. Though I guess I couldn't have gotten any more lost than I was.
"Are you listening?" Emmelyne tore through his thoughts like a knife.
"Huh? I'm sorry," he apologized, "What were you saying?"
She put her hands on her hips, "I was saying that we probably won't make it before dark."
"Oh," he replied simply. Raven scanned the terrain before them. It appeared to be relatively flat and barren, save the grass and an occasional shrub, "Do you suppose the whole stretch will be like this?" he questioned.
Emmelyne shrugged again, but kept quiet.
I guess she wouldn't know, he concluded. "We'll need to build a fire come night time. If it's like this the whole way, we'll have problems making one."
More problems than you could guess.
Raven looked Emmelyne. He could have sworn he'd just heard her speak, but he wasn't sure. The voice didn't sound quite real. Almost as if it had been spoken in his head.
"Did you just say something?"
She shook her head, but kept the same pace.
"Okay," he said, awkwardly. Though he still couldn't shake the feeling. Raven finally decided to just ignore it and go on. After all, there was too much to do to worry about that.
The last golden rays of the sun finally fell bellow the horizon, and the two were forced to stop for the night.
It wasn't until another hour that they had collected enough firewood and plant life to make a suitable fire, and even then, they would not have gotten it lit if Emmelyne hadn't had her flint.
"Remind me to prepare next time I get sucked into another dimension, ok?" Raven joked dryly. The fire quickly rose in intensity; it's warmth touching Raven's hand, causing him to recoil involuntarily.
Emmelyne looked at him, but said nothing. She didn't seem to understand his joke, or else she didn't think it was funny. Raven decided not to pursue the matter any further. Again he turned his attention to tending the fire.
Raven couldn't help but wonder. He was lost in this world with a girl he hardly knew. Dragons Breath, he'd seen from Emmelyne's map, looked very much like Earth. There were many differences though. Some small, many not. Earth..would he ever see his home again? His mother and father. Everyone! Everything he held dear was there; right down to his little cat, an Angora kitten that he had named Ruffles.
Even with Emmelyne there, he couldn't help but let his mind wander. Raven let his eyes wander over to her for a brief second. He wasn't sure what he thought of her. Her mannerisms, her speech, everything about the girl reminder him of..her. He gritted his teeth, blocking out the memories.
There was a considerable span where neither of them spoke. Not that Raven minded all that much. As long as someone was with him, Raven could stand a lack of conversation. It was when he was alone that he talked a lot..mostly to the open air. Not exactly his favorite thing to do.
Perhaps he could get Emmelyne to tell him a little about herself.
Well, that had been a total failure. After about ten minutes of idle chat, Emmelyne announced that she was tired and laid down by the fire. She seemed very reluctant to tell him anything, especially about her father. He had asked her how he became an elk, but all she said was, "That was how it was decided," and avoided anything he asked after that.
Raven, however, wasn't in the least bit tired. Again he pulled the Thunderbolt Pendant from his pocket. Looking at it in the darkness, he noticed for the first time that it glowed softly.
He could practically feel the power that it radiated and was sure that Emmelyne had felt it too. The way she shied away from it back in the forest was enough to prove that to him. Raven wondered what it could do. The lightning bolt seemed to signify an electrical element to it, but still, he wasn't sure.
The blond man looked over to his escort, who was pretending to be asleep, "Hey, Em. What exactly is Thunderbolt?"
She didn't say anything for a moment. Then, Emmelyne opened one eye, as if to see if he was looking at her. When she was sure that he was, she sat up, "How did you know that I was awake?" she asked curiously, her blue, braided bangs swinging around as she turned to face Raven.
"Just one of those things I know," he stated cryptically. Truthfully, it had been fairly obvious that she had been awake. That, and she had only laid down about fifteen minutes prior.
Emmelyne eyed Raven cautiously, "Well, Thunderbolt is one of the elements: thunder. There are several of them including fire, water, wind and Dimonod, the planet elemental. Thunderbolt is probably the hardest to use though."
"I've been told that a powerful thunder spell is twice as hot as a dragon's fire-breath."
Raven looked at her in surprise, "You have dragons here?"
Emmelyne nodded, "As the name implies." She smiled slightly.
Oh, right. Dragons Breath. Duh! Raven silently scolded himself.
"Interesting," he said out loud. Raven continued, "One more thing. If there are so many portals in the Forest of Illusions, why are we traveling out in the open?" he asked. It had been bothering him for hours now, but he hadn't expressed his thoughts until now.
"I don't know," Emmelyne admitted, "Father said that the Elvin Council ordered it. They said that we needed to be out of the forest."
"That's odd," Raven said, "I wonder why."
She shrugged, "They likely know what's best for us." She never questioned the Elvin Elders. During her five years of training within the walls of the Seelie Court, respect and unquestioning obedience had been drilled into her.
Raven stared forward, "I guess so."
The two sat in silence for some time. Neither of them noticed as dark clouds covered the night sky, obscuring the stars from view and further dimming the heavens above. It seemed like an eternity before either of them made a noise.
Finally, though, Raven decided to try to talk to Emmelyne again.
However, this time he'd speak in terms that she could relate to more easily.
"Have you ever just listen so silently that you could hear the voices of the wind?" Raven asked abruptly. He had caught even himself off guard. Raven looked to his companion. Emmelyne seemed surprised as well, "They seem louder here" he finished.
Emmelyne hesitated for a moment. She appeared to be at a loss as to what he meant. The 'Princess of the forest', as he had called her earlier, gave him an odd look, "I suppose so. What do you hear?" Emmelyne asked with genuine interest.
Raven shook his head, "I...don't know. Never mind," he never understood what he heard himself. How could he explain it to anyone else? Especially to a girl he hardly knew, "Sorry I brought it up," he said sullenly.
"You hear things when no one is around?"
"I'm not crazy," Raven blindly defended.
The Elvin girl shook her head, "I never said that you were. I'm just curious."
Raven paused, "Well..I hear voices sometimes. Back on Earth, they were soft and muddled. Here, though, they sound like..an angel crying."
"An angel?" Emmelyne smiled at him, "Never expect to here something like that out of you."
Raven turned away from her, his brow furrowed, "What do you mean by that?" he asked defensively.
She shrugged, "I'm just saying, 'maybe I was wrong about you,'"
"Well.." Raven cut himself off. He could have sworn he heard a creaking sound. Like someone had just carelessly stomped on some dried leaves. Raven scanned the landscape, but even with the light of the fire, he couldn't find the source of the sound.
"Did you hear something?" Raven questioned.
His companion's pointed ears perked up, "Yeah," she whispered back.
They both listened attentively, searching the land for whatever had made the noise. That's when Raven noticed a faint outline about ten feet away. Whatever it was, it was shrouded in perpetual shadow, and seemed translucent at best. The figure appeared to be humanoid, but incomplete.
Raven motioned for Emmelyne's attention, and pointed to the form. As she looked at it, her eyes widened in fear. She absently reached for her staff, and Raven took hold of his discarded blade.
Odors of rotting flesh filled the air. As the two nervously stood, their silent adversary came into the light.