I sat astride my new horse. A “gift” from Aiden and the Kingdom. At eighteen hands high, with an eerie grey coat, and pale blue eyes, Phantom was the type of beast that lived up to his name. Though he was large he moved swiftly and silently through the surrounding countryside. Hue had done his best to keep us abreast of the situation but I could feel his longing to be out on the hunt with us.
Aiden and Tallyn headed towards the nearest town with a small contingent of men while Vallen and I headed back to where I had fallen through the portal that brought me here. The sun was sinking in the sky and I knew our best hope was to get there before nightfall so we could lay in wait for the the Ghost we hoped would appear. As we drew closer a sharp pain cramped my stomach, knocking the wind out of me. Sucking in air and leaning over the neck of Phantom I urged the beast on at a breakneck speed. As twilight came we crested the hill that looked down into the woods.
Vallen stopped beside me, carefully looking over me. “Lady Alizeyah, are you unwell?”
“I’m fine,” I answered sucking in another deep breath and pushing through the pain. In a less-than-graceful motion I swung off my horse and landed firmly on the ground. I watched as the men with us followed my lead. As they stared at me expectantly I realized for the first time that they were under my orders. I pushed down the momentary panic, then relaxed slightly when a familiar hand rested on my shoulder. I felt Ian’s presence even before his physical touch.
I pointed to Vallen and the two Elves closest to him. “Vallen and you two take a wide berth through the woods and flank the area wherethe King first found me.” I turned to the next three. “Stay to the trees and quietly move in upstream.” With nods from the six I watched as they fanned out with their given orders.
“What would you have me do, Lady Commander?” Ian asked with a smart-ass grin.
Quirking a brow at him I reached up and mocked scratching behind his ear. “Be a good wolfy and go find me some Dwarves,” I directed in my best condescending tone.
“And what of you?” he asked.
“I’m going to play bait,” I explained as Ian shifted. He growled low at me, venting his disapproval. “Don’t look at me like that. I’m in charge, right?” The wolf nodded then headed off into the woods. I turned one last time to make sure Phantom was secured then headed into the forest.
Darkness had set in and the trees seemed to take on a life of their own. The looked like monsters bursting up from the ground reaching for me as I wandered through. I heard a ghostly giggle drift through the trees and another sharp pain in my stomach brought me to my knee. Gasping for air I pushed back up to my feet. “I know you’re here. Come out, come out, wherever you are.” Behind me I heard the crack of breaking branches. I whirled on my heel to see a single Dwarf with a loaded crossbow aimed at me.
“Why can’t I jump into your body?” A disembodied female voice came from his lips as his eyes looked through me.
“Jump into my body?” I asked as I slowly started to back up.
“Yes. Over the years I have waited for a Pixie who was powerful enough to give me refuge and free me from my curse. I knew things were looking up when you arrived.”
I stared at the Dwarf in front of me. “Dani wouldn’t free you,” I argued.
The Dwarf bit out a bitter laugh. “Not while she was awake. While she slumbered I used her blood to call her to me. When I couldn’t hop to your body, the one place I couldn’t be detected, I figured I could entrap those who committed crimes against me. I realized too late that her love for you would not allow the curse to harm you.”
“So you left Dani there to take the fall?” Rage boiled under my skin.
The Dwarf released the first bolt from the crossbow. I ducked and rolled out of the way. I stayed crouched, ready to move quickly again. “I thought this Kringle would know where the rift in the realm was but I was wrong. It would seem I made a poor choice.” The Dwarf reloaded the crossbow.
“What happened to the others?” I asked and started to raise my voice in hopes someone would hear. Another bolt whizzed past me as I dove to safety.
“Asleep like the others.” The Dwarf motioned to the surrounding woods. “MAKE AS MUCH NOISE AS YOU LIKE,” she yelled. “You’ll find all your friends are asleep and there is nobody left to help you.”
Hue… if you can hear me I could really use some info on how to stop a mad Ghost Pixie? I pleaded.
Of course I can hear you. What’s wrong?
Help, now please?! I jumped in shock as a bolt was deflected by my armor.
This time the Pixie let out an angry battle cry and the Dwarf barreled towards me, tossing aside the crossbow and pulling free a large, wicked-looking axe. Without hesitation I called out to the elements and drew my sword, swinging it up to meet the deadly weapon. Hue’s voice cut back in. You need to call on the elements and trap the Ghost in a circle. From there we can withdraw her from whatever unfortunate host she has taken using some sort of grounding stone.
Our weapons connected again and again. Where do I get the stone, Hue?
I’m on my way now. Just stay alive and get the circle up. His words rang in my ears like he was standing next to me.
Not entirely sure what to do, I sent up a silent prayer and began kiting the the Dwarf around in a circle. As I hit each directional axis, I called forth the Element that resided there and pleaded for their help. With no offerings and no ash or salt to bind the circle I wasn’t sure how stable it would be. I swore loudly when I underestimated a swing and the axe cut through my armor and bit into my leg. I looked down to see the slow flow of blood, thankful it wasn’t gushing or spurting. The injury did slow me down though.
As I rounded to the West my foot caught a stump and I went down hard, swinging my sword up to deflect a blow. As I hit the ground I lost hold of my sword. I reached frantically for it, but a Dwarven boot crunched down on my outstretched arm. I felt the bones cracking under the pressure as the Dwarf raised his axe high, preparing to bring it down on me. “Good night, sweet Princess,” said the vile Pixie voice. I pulled on the Fire within me to pull forth my shield, but as the axe fell there was a golden flash and suddenly Hue was above me in his Dragon form. I heard myself scream as the axe connected with his back. There was a stomach-wrenching sound of cracking bones and a wing fell to the ground beside me.
He phased into his Human form, his eyes wide with pain. I ripped my hand through the air, hurling the Pixie-possessed Dwarf back into the circle. I watched as my hands shifted to claws. “Elements of the land, I COMMAND you to hold this circle!” To my surprise the circle sizzled to life. Carefully I turned Hue over in my arms, noticing I was covered in his blood. His skin was already a pasty white and his breathing was labored. “Hue, Hue stay with me.”
He reached for my hand and pushed a small jade stone into it. “Seal her away forever.”
“I will,” I promised. “Hue stay with me. Don’t close your eyes.” I pleaded with him not to leave me. I felt my heart pound against my ribs.
“I love you, mo chroí. Promise to go on without me.” He reached up, touching my cheek.
“No, you can’t talk like that. You’re my Soul Mate, what about forever?” Tears blurred my vision and sobs shook me so hard they were painful.
I clutched him tightly, willing him to live. “Please Fates, God, or whoever is listening, don’t take him from me.” In that moment I felt my heart turn icy cold. I felt arms wrap around me from behind but at my core I felt numb.