Ch. VI, p.4

. . .

Dom couldn’t sleep, but he couldn’t go on, either. It wasn’t that he was tired, or needed the rest physically. But mentally, it had been a difficult day. He looked over at Sherrad, sleeping peacefully beneath the light of the moon. We couldn’t have seen that coming.

He reached into his gear and pulled out a small notebook, its pages ruffled with use. Unclipping a pen, he flipped it open near the back. He was beginning to run out of pages.

“There is a garden in my soul,” he wrote. “Tending to it has become difficult; Powdered black. Fed with blood. Beneath it all the seeds are the same. Only the world has changed.” Inky lines danced across the pages, only slightly muddled by his unsteady hand. He flexed his fingers, stiff from stress.

Life has this way, he thought, gazing deep into the night, imperturbable, unalterable, unyielding... And it comes with a softness, a guiding hand. Our problem is that we don’t know how to listen, and we like to fight. He groaned and fell backwards into the dirt, arms spread out. I need to listen better… He smiled at the thought and closed his eyes. Aside from a few things, it had really been a pretty good day.

. . .

Branches cracked and leaves rustled beneath skittering paws, deafeningly loud in the otherwise silent forest. The creatures merely watched, ducking below the bright beams of flashlights and perking up at the sound of talk.

“We’re completely exposed,” said one of the humans, his voice crying with doubt.

“I know,” the other replied. “Not much farther now.” She sounded sick of her charge. So much responsibility, keeping him alive. It shouldn’t have been hers to bear.

The words didn’t mean much to the creatures, but they listened anyways, remembering every inflection. They cackled beneath their breath, jaws mucky with saliva, ‘I know, I know… Exposed… Not much farther now… Completely exposed.’ The sounds were so new and so fun, whispered with hushed reverence for their mysterious origin.

“How do you know?” Asked the one with the deep voice.

The female replied, “I don’t, alright? But we better hope I’m right.”

“What are we looking for?” He was perturbed. They could feel him, could feel his disappointment. And they could feel his darkness; something he didn’t know was there; only suspected.

“A clearing. Where I can prop an energy tent.”

A heavy pall of despair hung over the male. He tried not to show it. But they could smell it. He reeked of it. “I don’t know…” he said, “I think we should just go on.”

‘Just go on,’ they cackled at each other, tongues lolling from their mouths, ‘Heheheheh, just go on.’

The male turned every which way, startled. “Did you hear that?”

They cackled again, darting limberly through the brush and overgrowth. These humans were slow. Slow and dumb. Dead on the spot if HE wanted.

She replied, “Keep going for now… we’ll find a place to stop soon. We can’t make much progress, stumbling around in this pitch.”

The pair came to a tract of bushes, falling and flailing, the man’s cape snagging on jutting twigs and thorns. He complains but she says it’s the right way. She seems to know what she’s doing.

The creatures climb swiftly into the obsidian canopy of dark tree branches swaying overhead. The humans’ spirit has been crushed; they are tired and weary. If only HE would signal them, if only HE would let them know… they would coo and purr and thank him, their hearts swelling; they would give him their love, and then they would drop from the branches, sweeping flashes of darkness, and they would tear the limbs from the humans’ bodies and suck the flesh from their bones. Oh pure joy! Oh rapture gifted from the Gods! Oh that sweet mortal ambrosia, unrivaled but in paradise on high! How had they ever lived without it…

They salivated as one being, their haunches twitching with anticipation. All it took was a push, and the thrill of the chase was theirs… but he was so quiet. Just waiting. Just watching. And so they followed his lead; They were his eyes and ears. If only they were his mouth, too, they just knew HE couldn’t have resisted…

The humans crashed through the bushes, nearly piling on top of each other in a grassy clearing. Clumsy. They gibbered excitedly to each other, pointing to a nearby cave, bored into a darkly decorated hill, overrun with gnarled trees. The woman knelt in the middle of the field and pressed a small rod into the soft earth.

“It’s ready,” she said, pushing down.

An invisible force knocked the creatures back, their skin crying with pain. They dropped to the ground and scattered, watching angrily from the bushes, their teeth bared and their fur raised. They wanted death for those humans, now that they had lost the chance… But they would wait. They were ever patient.

But not for this. The humans talked some more and then the most horrifying thing happened—they walked into the cave. That was the end of it. HE would have to do his own work now.

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