As many of you who follow me know, I have been attempting to write a short story over the last few month and today I finally finished it! Yay!
If you would like to read the story in full, rather than hunt out all ten posts, then this is the post for you.
Lillee could see daylight breaking through the trees and she had never been more grateful for dawn in her life. The events of the previous night had shaken her to the core, and she had a dire need to re-join the daylight world.
Lillee had never liked the darkness and this forest held a level of dark so deep even the brightest lamp only lit a few feet around you. The mist sucked all life and light from the air, leaving a dank, cloying and foreboding journey for anyone unfortunate enough to travel through.
It had never been Lillees intent to traverse the forest at such an hour but being the only healer in a land as large as hers often meant long journeys at unwholesome hours, but never before had she had the need to travel this particular path alone, and at such an hour; but she never shied away from her duty and today the old king would pass. An event that her status dictated she must attend.
Lillee had set out on the journey upon receiving word on the winds of the old king’s plight. Her gifts allowed her the foresight to already know the hour the king would pass, and it was her duty to be there to perform his ascension when the time came. It was an honour every generation of her matriarchal line had held for as far back as knowledge allowed. A history she was immensely proud of and one she had no intention of allowing to fail due to her own fear.
The locals of the land knew to avoid the forest after dark, they knew it was a mistake. Many who entered never came out the same if they came out at all and rumours were rife about the horrors the forest held. men had returned mauled and bitten, some lost limbs or eyes but none would ever tell what it was that attacked them, all rendered mute by the sheer terror of the event. Lillee knew this could be a huge mistake but she had no choice if she hoped to make it to the king’s chamber in time to perform the rites.
The forest knew she was coming. It was waiting, plotting. So rarely did anyone dare venture into her playground that the loneliness built up until it became a burning rage. Tonight, would be her night to show the world how much she hated them. Tonight, would be her chance to enact revenge for the old king’s ancestral curse that bound the witch in the ethereal form to the forest she once called home; a forest now bereft of life and dying.
Lillee knew little of the witch, none did. She was a mere bedtime story told to children as a way of keeping them out of the forest. No-one thought the tales were real, so long ago was the curse enacted. Even the king, who’s own ancestor had cast the spell, had little belief in the tales. But everyone knew they should fear the place, and everyone knew if they went in, they would be lucky to manage to escape.
Lillee packed her things as fast as she could. Her kit always lay ready, but she still had to gather her wards and amulets; sure, she was that she would need them this night, such where the stories told about the forest.
She knew the distance was short, easily coverable under normal circumstances within three or four hours but Lillee doubted that these would be normal circumstances in the slightest. Her gifts not only allowing her to see the hour of a person passing but also see events that could lead to death, and she had seen many for herself that she now believed would happen this very night. This didn’t dampen her drive however; she was as determined as ever to complete her duty.
Lillee knew she needed speed and the only way to accomplish this was to take Dapple. She had owned him all his life and she hated the thought of making him go through the abject fear the forest would throw at them but she had little choice. As she saddled him up, she cast the best protection spell she could on her trusty steed; such was her love for him.
Dapple could sense what was coming and was jittery, he really didn’t want to go but he knew if Lillee said it was important then it was. He had gotten used to jaunts at all hours when Lillee needed to do her work and had complete faith in her, but still, couldn’t shake the feeling something very bad would happen tonight.
Lillee mounted Dapple and set off at full speed, knowing she had just twelve hours to get to the king’s side before he drew his last breath. If she wasn’t there, then the Kings Line would end and so would safe rule over Ernabeth. If this happened the lands would be plunged into a war that would last a thousand years as each race and clan attempt to take the throne for themselves.
The Forest knew she was coming. She too had powers, left over from her days as a witch; she could sense Lillee’s approach. The horse made her mouth water, so long had it been since she had tasted flesh; no animal daring to enter the woodland either. The horse would be an easy kill and would feed her strength before going after the grand prize… Lillee herself.
The trees towered over Lillee and Dapple as they entered the forests edge. The temperature plummeted and the air grew stale. Dapple shied back, his instincts screaming at him to run but Lillee held him fast and stroked his mane until he calmed. The old horse knew his days were numbered and fear was setting in but like Lillee dapple was just as determined to fulfil his role in the coming events.
The forest knew they had arrived. She seethed and plotted as she waited for them to draw nearer to her lair. Tonight, would be the last night she would have to suffer this cursed forest, tomorrow she would claim the throne to Ernabeth for herself. For now, she would be content to allow her wraiths to have their fun, safe in the knowledge they could do no real harm, leaving the prize of the girl for her alone.
Dapple saw them first; a dancing of light and shade in the trees. Ephemeral, not quite there but not quite not there either and he was confused. He shook his main and whinnied, trying to clear his head. Lillee saw them soon after and kicked the horse into a fast trot, whilst ducking to avoid the low branches. Stories of shadows that move at the woods edge were commonplace to her but seeing it in the flesh was something else.
More and more appeared as the light from the outside world swiftly left them. Lillee hauled on the reighns bringing dapple to a grinding halt. She chanted as fast as she could the only spell her racing mind would latch on to in the moment and deftly cast a light orb spell. A dim ball of light grew in her hands as she raised them aloft and let it go; it hovers mere feet above her head. The light from it grew until you could no longer look at it, but it barely penetrated the gloom for more than a few horse lengths; the ground at Dapples hooves barely more than a haze.
A twig snapped behind them and Dapple ran. He ran like he had never ran before and Lillee feared for her life for the first time since she had broken him. He ran so fast that Lillee could do nothing more than lay flat, holding tightly to his neck and mane and hope to not fall off. Her mind flashed back to his earlier days of the saddle and she remembered how afraid he was then too and knew he would only stop once he was exhausted.
Little did either of them know that this was pure design by the Forest, she was herding them right towards her den. Right into her trap.
Lillee chanted and chanted, as fast and softly as her panicked mind would allow her to. Dapple was foaming at the bit now and she knew that he couldn’t keep this up for long before he fell; his heart would give out. She knew she had to stop him and fast but couldn’t find the right chant to bring his mind back out of the fear he was feeling.
It was then that she remembered. When Lillee had been breaking Dapple, the only time he would come out of a gallop was if she fell off. This sparked an idea in Lillee and without a second thought she pitched to the left and threw herself from Dapples back; hitting the ground with a thump as the world went black.
Lillee hurt. Perhaps throwing herself from a moving horse wasn’t such a brilliant idea after all, she thought as she lay in a heap with her eyes closed. She could sense Dapple, hear his hooves crunching twigs and leaves but a few feet away and she was glad her plan had worked. It was then she sensed another presence. A small, timid and frightened mind was hiding in the shadows just out of Lillees minds reach but she knew it was there.
She could hear it now, moving closer and she wondered why dapple wasn’t nervous; wondered why he wasn’t bothered by it. Slowly Lillee opened her eyes and gingerly sat up. About halfway between her and Dapple stood a tiny little girl, battered and bruised and covered in blood. Lillee recognised her right away as she had delivered her into her mother’s arms not five winters past.
Kiyonari had been one of the unfortunate youngsters to have not headed their parents’ warnings and wandered into the forest last summer; never to be seen again. Everyone assumed that all who entered had perished and Lillee felt a pang of guilt at the time the girl had been allowed to fend for herself.
Immediately Lillee jumped to her feet and ran to the girl’s side. As she reached the girl Dapple trotted over and dragged his saddle blanket off his back and dropped in on top of the girl so she could be wrapped up warm. Kiyonari looked at Lillee and collapsed in her arms, such was her sheer exhaustion.
This presented a quandary for Lillee, should she take the girl back to her family or continue along the path to her goal, taking the girl with her. She knew she had a long way to go to reach the end of the forest; no light from the moon shone through the trees and without her light orb they would be in total blackness, she could not leave the girl alone any longer and so she mounted Dapple with Kiyonari on her lap and jigged the horse into a quick trot once more.
The witch seethed. How was it that she had missed the child? How could she have not noticed another human in her lair? How many more of them had she missed? She was livid at the thought her powers were waning, livid at the thought Lillee had rescued one of her prizes. The witch decided upon her revenge.
Lillee, Dapple and Kiyonari were making good ground again and Lillee was confident that she could make it through before dawn. Little did she know that the witch had an ally of her own; a dragon called Grom. The witch summoned Grom to retrieve the trio. His prize was the child and the horse, so long as he delivered Lillee to the witch alive.
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 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.
The fireball could be seen for miles around, the local villages knowing instantly that the dragon was back; causing fear and panic across the land. All knew of the dangers the dragon held and tonight of all nights, on the eve of the king’s ascension, this omen could only bare ill will.
Each village evacuated its women and children to the relative safety of the castle whilst the men formed teams to beat the flames that edged ever nearer to their crops and homes. None knowing the sight that would befall them at the forests edge.
The wraith, knowing their powers would be needed in the final fight, knew they had to get the children to safety; no longer could they simply hide them from the witch. Each wraith had the power to transfer their own life force into the child, allowing them to pass through the flames unharmed and onto the safety the waiting villagers held but they would lose a number of their group in the process; so total was the transfer of life. It was a sacrifice all were willing to make.
Jocken saw him first. A simple farmer, not known to be too bright, stood and watched as the form appeared before him not ten feet from the forests edge. He rubbed his eyes in disbelief and looked around to see if anyone else could see it. When he heard Alice, his wife, cry out in shock he knew he wasn’t daydreaming and turned back to the figure; a man in his late sixties, made completely of smoke.
Words formed on the lips of the man, but no sound could be heard. With a flurry of wind, the smoke disappeared and, in its place, stood a boy, less than six years old; the baker’s son, lost to the forest two summers past. Kelleb shouted as he ran to the boy, feeling him to be sure he was real. Soon the whole forests edge was alive with the sounds of people shouting and mothers crying as child after child appeared in a wisp of smoke.
The wraith had kept their charge and paid the ultimate price for their safety, but none would know of their deeds if the witch wasn’t stopped. They knew they had to do all they could to aid Lillee and with the added power they had now they were not protecting the children; they could focus on the trio themselves. The witch would never know they were coming.
Kiyonari screamed as the forest erupted before them. Dapple reared and Lillee did all she could not to fall from his back, taking Kiyonari with her as she went. The trio managed to survive the horse’s manoeuvre and Dapple, fearing for his life, set off in full gallop once more; unaware he was heading right towards his own capture. Lillee and Kiyonari clung on with all their might, hoping that the horse would calm and slow before they all fell to their deaths.
Lillee realised they were being herded back towards the centre of the forest. She sensed the witch’s malevolence, her infatuation perceptible to her across the ether and growing stronger the closer to her she got. She knew they were headed for a trap but saw little option than to play out the events to their conclusion. Lillee reigned Dapple to the left and headed straight for the witch’s lair; determined to fight on her own terms.
The king’s son and head of the castle guard knew that the dragon’s arrival this very night was too well timed to be coincidental. He knew that Grom would never leave his lair unless the prize was worthy and all feared that with the kings imminent passing, peace between the dragon and Ernabeth would soon be over; and so the castle was put on full alert, ready for an attack from their long forgotten enemy.
One party alone, headed out from the castle.
Kelleb, The Kings son kissed his wife and child goodbye and set out with his knights. None knowing the fate that awaited them but sworn to their master’s sides through all things; to abandon their post would be blasphemy in the eyes of any there and so they too kissed their families goodbye and dutifully followed their master on what was surely a suicide mission.
The knights reached the forests edge and could hear the distant flap of wings. All feared for their lives, but none faltered as they waited for their leader to determine the best course of action.
The witch exploded with rage when the children passed through her reach and left the forest. She reeled at the thought her powers were waning to such a degree and she needed a meal fast.
Knowing that this was the only thing that would give her the strength she needed to complete her plan, the witch determined that she would have to leave her lair and feed. She had sensed the arrival of the Kings men within her borders and determined that this was the best course of action. It would be easy to take a man in the trees and drain his life before he is missed and so she set off to eat.
Kalleb knew of the tales of the forest. He had made it his life’s work to study and investigate the forest and its legends, but this was the first time he had ever dared set foot within its borders. He, like all his men, was terrified. The dank, foreboding seeped into the knight’s armour and sapped their will power with each step they took, and then the mists came. Slowly at first, no man noticing the ground at his feet thickening into a soup.
It wasn’t until they walked into a thick bank of fog that the men knew they were in trouble, none being able to see three feet in front of them. Men called out to one another in a desperate attempt to not get lost but as fast as the mist had appeared it went again; leaving an empty horse where a squire once sat and Kelleb feared for his life for the first time that night.
Grom could no longer see them and he was confused. The wraiths newfound strength was working well and Lillee, Kiyonari and Dapple vanished from the forests view. Grom was furious and belched a ball of flames into the night sky, lighting all for miles around. It was then that he noticed the knights. A tiny glint of light from the forests edge, the kind of glint only armour under firelight makes and Groms stomach growled. He had been promised a feast and he was sure he was going to get one, one way or another and Grom turned from chasing Lillee and headed towards the glint.
The knights could hear the wing flap growing louder by the second and knew that they were headed for a fight. Each man armed himself and headed back to the tree line to wait the beast’s arrival. They didn’t wait long before a torrent of wind blew the trees and Grom landed before them in the pasture.
Kalleb was dumbfounded for a moment, stunned at the magnificence of the animal. He had spent his whole life studying these creatures and for a split second all he could do was stare in awe. Grom didn’t give him any more than a second to marvel however as he released another belch of flames and lit the grasslands around his feet, sending knights running for cover behind the trees.
In a flurry of steel and battle cries knights attacked the dragon, running at his underside and aiming for his wings. Grom took care of the first knight in a single bite; taking his head clean off in a shower of blood. The remainder of the knights, buoyed by the vengeance they now felt combined an attack on Groms left side, successfully severing the lower portion of the dragon’s wing.
Grom roared in pain, spewing fire and taking out a group of four knights in one go; leaving nothing but a pile of molten steel where they once stood, evening the fight once more. Four knights and the Kings son remained. Grom was determined to finish them off before he came to any more harm and went after Kalleb himself, sure that if he took out the leader the rest would run away in fear.
With a sweep of his tail Grom took out two more knights, leaving them crumpled and battered in his wake as he rounded on Kalleb; spewing flames as he went and lighting the whole forests edge on fire. The remaining two knights rallied to their master’s side as the trio ran in for a final attack.
Grom played right into their trap and as he reared in defence of the attack on his underside, a pair of archers, secreted within the trees, unleashed a volley of mithril arrows, directly at the dragon’s heart. Only one found its mark, but only one needed too as the dragon fell, defeated. No match for the king’s finest warriors.
The witch sat on her throne, pleased her plan had worked. She could feel the squire’s life energy galvanising her strength and she felt more confident than ever that this night would be Lillee’s last and her own last night trapped in this cursed forest. The witch was very pleased indeed until she sensed the dragons passing. A dark foreboding feeling as she realised her last ally was no more and she now stood alone against Lillee and the entire kingdom of Ernabeth.
Lillee slowed Dapple to a halt and dismounted, helping Kiyonari down after her. She walked the horse off the path and into the thicket taking the girl by the hand and leading her the same way. Lillee knew they were closing in on the witch and she had decided a long time back that this was a battle she could not ask the pair to follow her into. Lillee’s intent was to leave the horse and the girl hidden until she could return for them.
Lillee felt a tug on her tunic and turned to see Kiyonari stirring out onto the forest path, pale. The wraith had returned in many numbers, the mist quickly thickening into an opaque fog; swirling with the faces of villagers lost. Lillee pulled Kiyonari back between her and Dapple and stood to face the now forming shape of a woman in her later years.
Words again formed on the lips of the wraith, but no sound could be heard. Lillee strained to understand what was being said until she remembered a spell that could help. She began to chant as she removed a small amount of dust from a pouch at her waist. She blew this dust with the last word of the chant, right into the face of the wraith and as the last mote settled Lillee could hear a voice appear on the winds.
The wraith told Lillee of their plight, trapped by the witch’s power and bound to her for all eternity unless they give their lifeforce to another as they had to the children. They told Lillee of the shield they now had over the trio and how they were protected from view by the very bond with which the witch held them captive.
Lillee reeled with the enormity of the situation, she had not foreseen any involvement from anyone but Dapple in her visions and doubt was setting in as to the validity of what she had seen. Were her powers capable of defeating the witch as she had foreseen or was it a trap planted in her mind to lure her to her demise. Without Lillee the old king could not be interred, and the new king could not be installed; the land would fall into chaos.
Lillee was pulled from her panicked revere by Kiyonari’s cold little hand sliding into her own. She realised then that she had a duty to perform, not just to the king but to this little girl too and no amount of self-doubt was going to help. She had to come up with a plan.
She now knew the powers of the wraith and the protection that they had on Lillee’s group but all that meant was that they could get to the witch unseen. They still had the dragon to deal with as well as the witch herself and Lillee was no fighter.
Dapple jumped as a hand came through the bush and grabbed his reigns. Kiyonari screamed as the kings Son and his last two knights stepped out of the trees; knight in full armour, battered and blood covered. Lillee quickly stifled Kiyonari so to not give their position away as Kalleb stepped forward and bowed low. He regaled them with the tale of the dragon’s demise and the wraith guiding them to her and offered his services to the completion of the mission.
Lillee was blown away. Their trio had suddenly doubled in number with three able-bodied, fighting men at her disposal. This deepened her doubts as to why she hadn’t foreseen any of this but she could do nothing except play out what would be.
It was decided that only Lillee, Kalleb and one knight would go after the witch however, the remaining knight would stay with the girl and the horses. Dapple whinnied and tugged on his reigns, he had foreseen this night and he was sure he would be needed when the time came; he was less than happy about being left behind and made his protest known as Lillee and the new trio set off without him.
The wraith had told them where the witch would be, and it was only a short distance before they would be within her grasp; on foot no more than a half-hour walk.
Kalleb walked beside Lillee in order to instigate conversation, asking questions of the priestess’s duty and her lineage. Kalleb had studied not only his own line but that of the seers and their high priestess too; the two so intrinsically linked by the role her line played in the ascension of the new king. Kalleb knew that it was only a matter of days before she would perform his own ascension and so felt it was his duty to protect her and ensure the completion of the mission. He knew that if the witch prevailed this night then the lands of Ernabeth would be plunged into a war the likes of which had never been seen before.
Lillee sensed her long before they arrived at her lair, the air hummed with seething energy and Lillee’s skin prickled. She sensed the witches rage and Lillee was afraid for the first time that the plan would not work. She knew what her visions had told her, and they were never wrong. She had seen the king on his death bed, and she had been there but so many things had been missing from them; she had not foreseen many things this night and she doubted all of her visions as a result.
Resigned to the fact that she would just have to play it all out and have faith, Lillee turned to the men and stopped to talk through strategy; knowing this would distract Kalleb long enough for her to work her magic and in the unlikely event that it didn’t work, at least they would have a plan.
Kalleb didn’t notice Lillee remove a small vial from her pocket. He didn’t notice when Lillee drained the bottle in a small circle around the group. No one noticed when Lillee began chanting, quietly and under her breath. They all noticed when Lillee flung her arms into the air at the end of the chant and in an instant a cage formed around the men, trapping them inside.
Kalleb instantly knew what she was planning and attempted to reason with Lillee, he didn’t want her to go into the witch’s den alone; his assumption was she was walking into certain death and he tried to make his position known to no avail. Lillee calmly walked away.
Lillee could hear her inside her mind, growing louder with each step forward. She guessed she was close enough to be seen but knew the witch wouldn’t attack her right out. Lillee could feel the witch’s ego growing, she knew the witch had plans for Lillee beyond death and she feared no immediate danger as she walked towards the clearing, she knew to be the witches lair. As the trees cleared Lillee caught her first glimpse of the witch.
Long white hair framed an age marred face, but the beauty was still clear to see and Lillee gasped, drawing the witch’s attention toward her and in an instant, Lillee knew this was the final battle. This she knew was a part of her vision as she confidently strode out into the centre of the clearing fearing nothing at that moment.
Lillee couldn’t hear the witch, she could sense the words coming from the centre of her mind and for a moment the sensation was overwhelming. Lillee reeled a little as her body shook with the exertion of it but soon found her composure and managed to step forward once more.
The witch’s words formed images in Lillee’s mind as she saw the memories of the witch. They told Lillee of the curse the king’s ancestor had bound her to the forest with, and they showed how the old king’s curse had been taught to him by the then concubine, Lillee’s ancestor. She didn’t need to be told that the witch held her accountable for her ancestor’s actions, the vengeance was palpable in the air and Lillee could sense the witches plan to end her; thinking this alone would free her from the spell.
Lillee attempted to speak, to reason with the witch but words would not form in her mouth and she was rendered mute. It was then the wraith appeared. Lillee could feel the exchange of words between the witch and the wraith, the anger and fury the witch felt at her betrayal was tangible as the wraith tried in vain to explain to the witch how they had found a way to be free. They tried to explain how they had discovered that if they gave their lives in the place of another then they would finally pass on and be free from the curse. A life for a life.
The witch refused to believe this was true and became enraged once more. How could what they say be true, how could that be the only way out. She didn’t want to pass on to the greater beyond, she wanted to live, free from the so she could rule and be the queen of Ernabeth.
Lillee saw all this play out in her mind as the witch’s thoughts and words became images and sound. Trapped by the immense pressure on her head Lillee couldn’t move an inch and could only watch in horror as the witch exploded with frustration and cast a lightning bolt spell directly at the wraith she had been conversing with, shattering the form into a million pieces as the mist drifted off into the air.
As the last of the dust settled, Lillee’s mind was finally released from the witch’s visions and she could move once more. Her head ached from the pressure and it took her a moment or two to regain her senses, such was the onslaught, but when she had, she could finally move her feet again and started for the trees. The witch realised Lillee was no longer trapped and released a lightning bolt in her direction, barely missing her and landing in the trees behind. Lillee felt the searing heat and the prickle of static as the bolt went by and realised, she was in real trouble. The witch, so intent on attacking Lillee, didn’t notice Kaleeb and his man arrive as the pair exploded from the trees behind her and went in for the attack; allowing Lillee to run for cover once more.
In the trees she ran right through the first wraith without noticing before coming to a halt behind the largest tree in her path. She could hear the fight between Kaleeb and the witch and hoped she could bolster his strength by casting a ward or a spell, anything to help them fight more safely. She began rummaging through her pouch as the wraith gathered around her, unaware of their presence until the voice came into her mind again and told her what they intended to do.
One by one the wraith headed out into the clearing and waited.
It wasn’t long before the kings knight fell, and the wraith had a chance to show Lillee how they intended to help. She had forgotten their ability to transfer life energy and as the knight hit the ground and took his final breath one wraith smiled and vanished bringing him back again with a start. He was on his feet and fighting again with renewed vigour within moments.
The witch was furious and began attacking the wraith, shattering swathes of them into smoke with her lightning bolt spell only for them to reform moments later, a duplicate of the one before. The wraith stood fast. They could not attack the witch directly and she knew this, but they presented a real problem for the her. Each time she struck down the knight she was fighting, he got right back up. She had to change her attack and so she cast a bind spell on the knight instead. Roots sprung forth from the ground and wrapped around the knight and Kaleeb who attempted to cut himself free, in vain.
Lillee never expected to have garnered so much support for her cause but in a short space of time she had gone from being alone to having an entire army of wraith and knights behind her. She boggled at the enormity of the situation and felt a little useless at the same time. All these people here where trying their hardest to protect her and help in the completion of her mission; something she was not used to at all. She was brought out of her revere by the arrival of Dapple, the kings remaining knight and Kiyonari, who flung herself into Lillee’s arms as soon as she saw her.
The witch noticed the arrival of the girl too, she sensed an energy, a magic force appears within her realm and her interest piqued. How had she not sensed it before? How did she not know another magical being was in her lair, had her focus been so intent on Lillee she missed it? The witch changed her attack plan in that moment and resolved to kill the girl before she went after Lillee.
In a flurry of lightning the trees around Lillee and the trio burst into flames causing Dapple to rear and bolt once more; right into the path of the witch. He had not reached more than two feet from the tree line when a bolt hit him square in the flank and he went down. As he lay on the floor the witch saw her chance to damage Lillee’s resolve and hit him twice more; ensuring he was truly dead.
Lillee and Kiyonari screamed out but were held back by the remaining knight as the wraith began to circle the horse. Lillee could only watch in hope as the wraith she had spoken to previously smiled a gentle smile and disappeared. As the wraith parted from around Dapple Lillee gasped in shock. Instead of her horse laying there on the ground, a man in his mid-twenties lay battered and bruised on the floor.
The wraiths powers had completely reversed the curse the witch’s spell had placed upon the then little boy and had returned him to his original form. Upon seeing this the knight raced over to drag him back to the relative safety of the tree line. Kiyonari raced over to greet him and showed no sign that the transformation had phased her in the slightest. This struck Lillee as odd. Had Kiyonari always known that Dapple wasn’t really a horse?
Her revere didn’t last long as another bout of lightning fizzed and cracked in the air around them and as they ducked for cover an arc, attracted by the knight’s armour, jumped from the trees and headed right for them. Kiyonari screamed at the imminence of her death but in that instance something unexpected happened. A shield formed around the group and the lightning bounced right off. Kiyonari had found her powers and the witch was furious beyond measure.
It was in that moment that the witch knew she could not win. She had not anticipated the help and support Lillee would have at her disposal and now with a magic shield she couldn’t hope to have any effect on them. Defeated she ceased her attack and walked dejectedly back to her throne.
Lillee assumed this was some kind of ploy to lure her away from the protection of the girl and so she stayed in the tree line with the party, whilst the knight gingerly stepped forwards into the clearing. He watched as the witch, head hung low, sat in her throne and began to cry and he took the opportunity to free his prince and fellow knight from their bonds before scurrying back to the trees once more.
They were at a stand-off.
It was then that Kaleeb took matters into his own hands and tentatively walked out into the clearing alone and headed right for the witch’s side. Lillee was sure that he would be killed instantly but this wasn’t the case as the witch just sat and sobbed in her chair. Lillee could hear muttered words but nothing with clarity as she watched in horror as Kaleeb conversed with the witch.
After what seemed like an eternity Kaleeb held out a hand for the witch and she took it, raising from her seat with renewed hope in her eyes.
The pair walked out into the middle of the clearing together and Kaleeb knelt before the witch. Lillee watched, appalled as he allowed the witch to remove his own sword and in one fell swoop, plunge it into the prince’s chest before removing it again. As Kaleeb gasped and spluttered the witch threw the sword to the side and bent to catch him as he fell. She lay him down on the ground in front of her and with his final breath she smiled at Lillee and vanished; bringing Kaleeb back to life.
Lillee could see daylight breaking through the trees as the party made their way out of the forest and she had never been more grateful for dawn in her life.