“So it is,” Gareth said, snapping his fingers and the tent disappeared.
Jasmine felt the energy waves as his shield collapsed around them with a shimmering wave, Gareth flinging the energy back out to the universe. She wished she could channel that kind of power, she could feel it resonating in the air. But, his magic wasn’t the only thing she felt in the air.
“Storm’s coming,” she said, shivering. It was going to be a powerful one; she could feel it in her bones. The air was pressed in around them, heavy. The sweat forming on their skin made their clothes stick uncomfortably. She could see the clouds covering the stars in the distance, and knew it wouldn’t be long before it reached them.
“Yeah, it’s going to be a strong one,” Gareth muttered, glancing at the sky and frowning. “We should get going.” He started walking at a quick pace and Jasmine followed. The forest started getting a little less dense, with fewer leaves blocking the expansive sky. She could sense the clouds racing upon them and knew it was only a matter of time before the storm caught up to them. After a bit, she started hearing thunder in the distance and seeing the sparks of lightning.
She felt a single rain drop fall upon her head just before the rain came pouring down, as though someone threw a bucket of water on her. She screeched at the feeling, and was immediately drenched. The wind blew with the force of a hurricane and she had trouble walking. Lightning struck not too far away from them and thunder constantly boomed all around.
“We should set up the tent and wait this out!” Gareth shouted to be heard as lightning struck all around them, relentless flashes lighting up their faces. “It’s dangerous out here!”
Jasmine was looking ahead of them at a steady glow of light. It was yellow, not the white of lightning. “I think there’s a cottage up there!”
Gareth narrowed his eyes to try and see through the rain barraging them and looked to the distance. He seemed to hesitate, and Jasmine could understand why. After all, they had been attacked once already, who knew if whoever was in the cottage could be trusted? She felt a little trepidation in her gut at the thought that it could be someone who wanted to harm them, but she knew Gareth could protect them. He grabbed her hand and all of a sudden they were running through the forest, the wind and rain at their backs, towards the light.
It never seemed to get closer. They ran for a long time, and finally stopped for a moment, catching their breath. Jasmine’s legs felt like jelly, threatening to give out. She felt exhausted after walking for the last few nights and the run they had just endured. Gareth was used to it, she wasn’t. She rested a hand on a tree trunk and leaned over a little, the rain pelting on her back. Her hair and her dress felt heavy with the wetness.
“Are you okay?” Gareth shouted into her ear, the thunder crackling above their heads and echoing off the trees.
Jasmine slowly shook her head, feeling sick to her stomach and dizzy from the run. She put her other arm across her stomach, as though trying to force the sick feeling away. She tried straightening up, but the world went black and she saw nothing more.
Gareth sighed as Jasmine fainted. He easily caught her and swept her up into his arms, placing her head against his chest to shield as much of the rain as possible. He started walking towards the light again, wondering why it had never gotten closer. After walking for about twenty minutes, he realized that now, the light was indeed closer. He squinted his eyes and shifted her a little in his arms, finally beginning to feel a little weary. Thankfully, the cottage didn’t seem that far away now. As he approached, he saw that it was made of stones with a straw roof, but the rain never touched the building. There was a circle around it, the rain falling on top and sliding down.
He stopped and stood just outside the shield and felt the wildness of the magic. He knew it wasn’t halfling magic, and it wasn’t like any magic he had ever felt before. The shield shimmered a dark blue, indigo color. He wasn’t sure if this unknown energy would harm them or not. As he contemplated it and assessed the danger of such unpredictable magic, the shield fell. The wild magic went back into several places and he paused before cautiously stepping over the threshold. The shield went back up and he walked towards the door, made of wooden planks. It opened as he approached. Again, he hesitated. He didn’t know who or what this was, but he could feel warmth radiating from inside and smelled fire. He prepared himself to defend the both of them if whatever lay inside were to harm.
He carefully walked through the doorway, making sure he didn’t bump Jasmine into anything. He stopped just inside and looked around, sensing no immediate danger, surprised. Instead of a traditional fae dwelling, it was much more modern inside, reminiscent of human settings.
The floor was made of oak planks and there were paintings of wildlife on the walls. There was a brown leather couch that was worn yet beautiful with its age, and two large leather chairs facing a fireplace made of brick, with a fire blazing. In front of the fireplace there was a rug with many colors. On the back of the couch a white blanket was hung, looking soft and warm. There was a bookcase along one wall, holding rows and rows of leather bound books, some more worn than others.
On the other side of the room, a staircase with no banister went upstairs to a second level, and a kitchen in front of it. There were counters on three sides, the fourth left open to walk in and out. In the center of the kitchen, an island with a large caldron sat upon the counter, a few of the more worn books lay open surrounding it. There were several jars full of various dried herbs and flowers, and fresh herbs were drying from the ceiling, hanging upside down. Some of these jars were also near the caldron. The kitchen was decorated in hues of green, mostly a mint green. There was a table on the other side of the counter was a round oak table with four chairs. In the center of the table sat a vase of salmon colored roses.
He didn’t see anyone occupying the house, but he knew someone was there. As the thought consciously came to his mind, a musical, feminine voice rang out, “I’ve been waiting for you.”
He nearly dropped Jasmine, startled.
“What took you so long?” He looked around, but didn’t see anyone. The voice seemed as though it were coming from everywhere. He looked left, then right, sweeping the room.
“You can put her on the couch.” The voice came from directly in front of him, and all of a sudden she was there. He took a step back, furrowing his eyebrows. Where had she come from? He nearly sent out a wave of energy at her, but stopped himself. After all, no harm had been threatened upon himself or Jasmine, and he was in this stranger’s home.
The woman that stood before him had waist length hair that was blonde, streaked with grey. Her eyes were bright blue, nearly electrified. They shone with magic, probably from keeping her shield up. Her skin was fair and her face a little round. Although she had grey in her hair, she appeared young, with only wrinkles at the creases of her eyes. She was a bit short, and curvy. She held her delicate hands in front of her, clasped together. She wore a maroon dress with the sleeves belling out has they reached her hands, the skirts just barely whispering upon the floor. She unclasped her hands and gestured towards the couch.
Still unsure of this woman, Gareth walked over to the couch and carefully laid Jasmine down, folding her arms at her stomach. The wetness of her dress made it seem black instead of the violet it was. He swept up her hair and laid it over the arm of the couch to dry. Making sure Jasmine looked comfortable, he turned back to the woman at the doorway, but she was gone. He looked all around him, but didn’t see her. He frowned. He didn’t like these tricks. He tensed up, preparing for defense. “Hello?”
“Over here, dear,” he heard from the other end of the room. He looked again and saw her sitting at the table. She had her arms on the table, her hands clasped in front of her. He walked to the table and sat across from her. He mirrored her position. She cocked her head and gazed at him, as though studying him.
“Who are you? What kind of creature are you?” Gareth asked, but his questions were met with silence. She said nothing, just looking at him. “What is your name?” A loud boom of thunder sounded just above the house and Gareth jumped, the strange woman staying still, speaking of his unease. An uncomfortable feeling spread throughout his body, and he again wondered if it was a good idea to be in the cottage.
He suddenly felt her intruding on his psyche. He tried forcing her out, but she was persistent and he felt like he had no power. Panicked, he nearly jumped out of the chair, but found that he couldn’t move. He sensed her feeling his magic and capabilities. He felt her reaching into his spirit and examining its contents. He suddenly knew what it was like for Jasmine to feel so intruded upon, and felt a little guilty, even though he knew it was a necessity.
The woman smiled then, and left him. He took a deep breath as power returned to him. “My name is Marianna. And I’ve brought you here.”