Kiyonari woke with a start but an instant flash of relief flooded her face when she looked up and saw Lillee looking down at her in her lap. It had been so long since she had seen an adult that she had forgotten just how safe they made her feel. Lillee wrapped her blanket a little tighter around the pair and kicked dapple once more into a fast trot.
Lillee had foreseen the dragon but didn’t know when they would encounter it; little did she know the witch had already summoned Grom to her aid and he was in-bound. The witch needed the trio to be in the right place at the right time for her plan to work and so she summoned her wraiths to steer them towards the clearing she called home; the only place in the forest the dragon could land safely.
The wraith, mere souls of the witch’s victim’s past, hated the witch but had little choice to do her bidding; their souls bound to her whim by the spell she cast to resurrect them. They still had some control, some spark of their former selves left behind when the witch devoured them for it was the wraith that had been hiding the children all these years.
As the wraith were bound to the witch, the witch was also bound to them, an ethereal connection that bound the souls of the two together. The witch maintained her control by being the strongest, but this strength has faded over the years and the balance had tipped, just a little, against her with each new victim she had added. Her own ephemeral strength becoming her undoing over time.
The wraith new of the witch’s plan. They knew the dragon was coming. They knew the consequences of Lillees failure this night; a world ruled by the witch, one of devastation and destruction and death. They knew they couldn’t let this happen but there was no way they could shield all three, that was just not an option.
Suddenly Dapple stopped and Lillees light orb dimmed perceptibly. As Lillee looked around her she noticed the air shimmer and thicken, swirling like clouds as they began to form into human shapes. Lillee recognised a face, then another, then another. These were the villagers; her own people, lost to the forest over the years. What kind of sorcery was this?
Lillee was convinced it was one of the witch’s tricks to delay her from her journey but Dapple sensed different. He couldn’t quite understand why but he knew they were in no danger and he went back to chewing the grass. This struck Lillee as odd, Dapple had been so afraid before, now he didn’t seem to care, and it was this that piqued her interest and prevented her from fleeing immediately.
The wraith, having formed a ring around the group now parted and began to line a path away from the direction they were travelling in. Lillee, confused by the reaction of her horse, wasn’t sure what to make of this. She could see the faces of her own people and she wanted to believe that they were who they looked like, but she had no proof. She hadn’t foreseen any of this, so she feared no threat to life at this moment, but she trusted little, non the less.
The decision was taken out of her hands in a terrifying whoosh of wing flap; the dragon had arrived, and the only route open was the way the wraiths had cleared. Kiyonari screamed as a gust blew her off her feet; Grom hovering mere feet above the trees, blowing gales with each wing beat.
Dapple threw Kiyonari onto his back as Lillee mounted deftly behind her, kicking Dapple into a gallop they shot out of the wraith circle and down the lined path faster than Dapple had ever ran before. They had to get out of there, and fast.
The witch didn’t understand! Why hadn’t her plan worked? How were they going in the wrong direction? She knew her power over the wraith was waning but surely, they couldn’t have betrayed her, could they? Had her power grown so weak?
The dragon wouldn’t fail her, she had no hold over his mind, only his stomach. He would find a way to herd them to her lair, he had no choice, it was the only place he could land. Grom knew this and flew on ahead of the party. In one huge breath of fire he engulfed a swathe of forest before them in a fireball the likes Lillee had ever seen.
Steering them straight back down the path the witch had intended.
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