In case you haven't been following along with this very October-y blogvella, you can catch up with Chapter 1 - The Elixir, Chapter 2 - The Elixir Part II, and Chapter 3 - Salvation. The final, fifth chapter will be written and posted by Nuggets next week.
In the mean time, I present my attempts at Chapter 4. Enjoy!
Mortimer darted through the woods, eyes scanning rapidly for the path he sought. As he ran, flashes of his past lives flickered in and out. Most of the images featured Samuel, for it had been Samuel he initially chose. It was Samuel’s heart that was linked to his own. Choosing Constance this last time was an act of necessity, part of a greater plan developed in quiet whispers on the brightest days, when agents of evil and darkness stayed close to their dens and were less likely to overhear.
Just as he was beginning to question if he’d missed his turn, Mortimer spied the game trail and ducked under a tangle of branches, slowing marginally as he had to pick his way over roots and poisonous leaves. The vegetation thinned rapidly as he neared the edges of the forested area and the meadow beyond came into view. Staying just inside the shadow of the trees, Mortimer stopped and searched the sky. Circling lazily was an enormous falcon with no visible jesses hanging from its talons. He pounced on a lizard making its way quietly up a nearby tree trunk and sent it skittering out into the meadow. The falcon circled lower at the movement but made no move to hunt. Hoping that was enough verification, Mortimer padded into the middle of the meadow and sat, eyes following the raptor as it dove, talons extended.
Mortimer gathered himself and prepared to flee. The rush of wind and sharp bite of talons never came, replaced instead with a silvery tinkle of laughter as the bird shimmered and morphed into a startlingly plain young woman in a simple tunic and fitted trousers. She reached down and rubbed his ears, “Mortimer, old friend, it is time.”
Eilana quickly rattled off the list of ingredients that she would need and sent Mortimer off to find them as fast as he could. While she waited, she cleared a patch of meadow grass and created a small circle of stones in its center. As Mortimer returned with each ingredient, Eilana began concocting her potion directly on the earth in the stone circle. When the last was added, she nodded once and wiggled her fingers.
“Darling,” she squatted and rubbed the cat’s ears again, “thank you. You’d best stand back. This will either work or we’ll both die.” Eilana stood and raised her arms to the sky. Mortimer scrabbled back several feet, unwilling to have yet another death this close to his last. Eilana moved her hands as if gathering the air into a ball and with a quiet chant, threw her handiwork into the center of the stone circle. Dirt exploded, leaving an impact crater. Then it was silent.
Eilana stepped back slowly and frowned, glancing at the cat, “Or I guess it won’t work but we won’t die?”
Mortimer meowed curiously, then stood, his back arched and hissed.
Eilana’s gaze snapped back to the crater where a tendril of smoke was beginning to curl. There was a flash of pure, white light, and a shimmering oval appeared. With a grin, Eilana reached into the oval, her arm disappearing to the shoulder for several seconds before she stepped back. With a covert glance to be sure her arm was ok she bent and scooped Mortimer into her arms, absently scratching his ears.
In the distance, thunder rumbled. Rather than looking to the sky, however, Eilana’s eyes remained fixed on the shimmering oval. The sound intensified as the first of six chestnut horses galloped through the portal. When the last equine tail had cleared, the portal snapped shut.
Eilana deposited Mortimer on the pommel of the only empty saddle and mounted the horse, nodding to the five other riders, “Onward, Samuel is in need. The time of the Seven has come.”
Claude stared at the heap of an old woman for several minutes before bending to grab and toss her over his shoulder. His mind darted back to the implied payment and his heart quickened. Such a reward for so simple a deed. Forcing his mind back to the task at hand, he began picking his way through the woods.
Eventually he found the place he was looking for. He paused at the edge of the black pool and stared into its depths. He pictured his cell, forcing himself to reconstruct the image exactly. The metal bunks bolted to the wall, the chipped toilet that cut your leg if you sat on it, the rust-stained sink. And the smell. Claude fought back a gag as the smell of prison flooded back.
In his mind’s eye, the cell door slid open and the guard pushed a new cellmate into the room, “Got yerself a roomie now, Claude. Don’t worry though, I didn’t tell him you were a pedophile.” The guard laughed, “Oops, guess I jest did, huh.” The cell door clanged shut, “Be good now, y’all.”
Claude’s fists tightened as he remembered what happened after that, though eventually he and his roommate had come to…terms. He forced his hands to relax and recalled the conversation, taking care to execute the steps word for word.
He laid Constance’s unconscious form gently on the pool’s muddy bank, taking care to straighten her legs and fold her arms across her chest as if she were clutching a bouquet. Bending his head so that his cheek nearly touched her mouth he waited until he was sure he felt the exhalation of air. His roommate had been adamant that she must be alive. Claude touched the scar, a reminder that death was not the worst thing that could happen to a person.
Claude glanced up, hoping for a glimpse of sky that would let him gauge how far off the storm responsible for the now practically continuous thunder was; all he saw was tree branches. With a shrug, he picked up the dagger, fumbling the chant slightly as the thunder grew louder and the ground beneath him began to quiver.