CHAPTER V: CHILLS OF ANOTHER KIND

A SANTHARIAN NOVEL

 
Darkling Abroad   
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Introduction. The dream of the dark forest happens again to Viresse - though with a twist. But her fears of the dreamworld seem to breach over into the waking when an unexpected reaction causes Viresse to fall into a snare of confusion...

 

he woods gently howled as bristling winds whipped through the trees, and the fog crept around her ankles. It was familiar. And yet not. She slowly turned in the dark night. There was no moon, and the only illumination came from the stars high above the evergreens. The wind batted at the high tops of the trees, their pinacles seemed to shake in fury at the stars they'd never reach.

The same figure from the earlier dream crept out of the darkness of the trees. Viresse attemped to move away from him, but could not. As she looked at the approaching elf-beast, stuck in place, she became transfixed at his appearance. It was the same race; Eophyrhim, but it was a different figure altogether.

Pitch black eyes that flickered red from a source Viresse could not identify. A quote long known became aware to her at that moment - eyes are the windows to the soul... Pale skin that still glimmered without assistance of the moon, as if his skin was luminescent. His hair was slick, his bangs matted together into one long strand that dropped from the forward point of his hairline and down the center of his face, as if the surrounding darkness itself cleaved his pallid facade in two.

He emitted a sound that could only be interpreted as a growl.

Viresse stood deathly still, though it was against her will.
 

He paused mere nailsbreadths before her face, she could feel his breath as it steamed across her cheeks, their noses almost touching. His almost lustful glare dug voraciously past her fear and deep within her. She could feel something stir deep inside her - something primal. After what seemed like an eternity for her but were only truly seconds, he snuffled as a dog would as it smelled something of interest. He slowly let his head tilt on his neck as he sniffed at her face, as a wary dog would as it decided what to do next about the situation at hand.

Viresse let out a frightened, quivering breath of air that which quickly turned into a plume before her face and dissapated into the cold night air. The elf paused in his scenting excursion of her face and returned to the center, where his furrowed brows and red-black eyes conveyed confusion. He had not said a single word, and neither had she.

Viresse watched him; transfixed by what, she was not sure. It could have been fear, but the more she got lost in those dark eyes, the more she reasoned that it was more than just fear - there was an underlying emotion she could not pinpoint...

He quickly snapped his head to one side of Viresse, and looked eagerly over her shoulder. She was confused by this reaction, and slowly turned to see what he looked at.

Deep in the forest, barely visible in the darkness, was an animal of sorts. It had a pelt of the purest white - it seemed to also glow as if it contained the brightness of a lightning bolt. Never had she seen something natural burn so bright, save for flames of a magical nature. But those pyromantic tricks had no holding over the glowing beast within the forest. It walked on four legs, and had a long neck that held its head high. It paused and turned to them, and Viresse recognized it for what it was - a white stag. It was very large, however- she had not seen a deer so large in over two centuries of her life time.

Before she knew it, the inquisitive Eophyrhim sprang into action and tore off into the forest, his bare back almost a beacon as she watched him depart. Viresse found herself finally able to move, but rather than run away, she simply watched.

The pale elf paused only about ten peds away from his departure point near Viresse. He looked over his shoulder at her, a flicker of red passing through the murky depths of his eyes. His face broke into a nearly-friendly smile and he raised his arm to beckon her to follow. She said nothing and did not react.

He glanced between her and the stag, which had not moved. He seemed almost worried. But quickly he made up his mind and ran into the forest, following the Stag that seemed to almost wait for him as they tore off into the darkness beyond her field of vision.

Viresse closed her eyes and wished the dream to be over.

She slowly stirred awake, her left arm numb from having slept on it. She also had a sore spot in her neck- apparently sleeping without a head rest of sorts was not the way to go. Viresse sat up slowly, her hand on her neck rubbing the knot out as tenaciously as she could while not trying to pain herself. She turned and looked to where Rube lay, to find that he had risen and his blanket was gone. He could not have left, however, for she was still in the tent and as she recalled, he did prize it.

She heard the clatter of tack and the slap of leather outside the tent, and she moved herself closer to the door without getting up. She turned the flap aside, and saw Rube, who seemed rested, if not excited to greet the day. He was backing the horses into their pulling posts on the wagon, and buckling them in. The horses looked a mess - they were coated in rich mud from the knees down, as if they had lain in the mud during the night. Somehow, one had gotten mud in its mane, and the other had it all over his muzzle and forehead.

Rube finished putting the horses into position and looked over at the tent. Viresse waved and he nodded.

"A great night watch you are," he snapped, a playful tone in his voice. Rube smirked at her and walked toward the tent.

"I don't think any thieving attacker would want to have spent his night in the rain looking for a deal. How many wagonmen have tents? Most would have ran to the nearest town as fast as their horses could pull!" Viresse cocked a brow, making her point as he stopped at the flap to the tent. She looked up at him and smiled kindly. "It looks like we're ready to go."

"Almost. I need to pack up the tent, and a black sack of trash." Rube chuckled at her expense. He paused a moment and looked at her face intently. "Did...- did you scratch yourself?" he asked. He crouched down and looked directly at her face, and instinctively reached out a hand to touch the spot he was looking at - across her cheekbone.

Viresse raised a hand to touch her own face, using his curious eyes as a guide to what he was talking about. Their hands collided, his had successfully reached her face, while hers laid on top of his. They both paused for a moment; unsure of what exactly to do. Each one did not break gaze, however - they waited for a reaction from the other. Several uncomfortable moments of silence ensued.

Rube pulled his hand away from her face and broke eye contact, and Viresse let his hand slip away, and touched her own face - remembering last night when she smeared the man's blood across her face with her sleeve. She roughly rubbed it, in the hopes of making both the mark of Blood and Rube's gentle, caring touch fade from her skin.

"Sorry." Rube mumbled as he began to rise.

"It's not a real cut - it's from yesterday. I mean...- I smeared blood on my face, but not in a bad way.. I ... "She allowed herself to trail off, and watched him stand to his feet.

"So... go ahead and... uh- do whatever you need to do, and I'll pack up the tent when you're done. Rube raised his hand and rubbed the back of his neck, then turned and wandered off toward the wagon.

"Okay." Viresse agreed, and went back into the tent to pack her satchel.

The Ride to Tyr Thromgolin was relatively quiet. From time to time they commented on things they saw or things they were thinking, but the conversations were quite short in word count and duration, and never seemed to bring up the past day they had spent together. An unease seemed to rise between them, and it became more edgy and stifling as the day wore on. The only constant note besides the silence during the ride was their drifting glances at one another, which were quickly broken when one only even remotely seemed to turn in the other's direction.

Viresse caught Rube looking at her a fair amount more than she thought he knew. It made her uncomfortable, partially because she didn't know why he did so, but the more important part of her uncomfortability was that she felt that maybe she did know why he kept looking at her. Hopefully he would not say anything of it for most of the rest of the trip. It would have been a fruitless endeavor anyway, if he did.
 


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