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Growing Mists

Copyright Notice- This story is the product of my mind. Please do not reproduce it anywhere else without my permission. If you wish to archive this elsewhere, please contact me and remember to credit me as the author. I have had problems with plagiarism in the past and would be greatful if you would respect my wishes and my work. Thank you.

Believe me. My revenge is not pretty.

Those eyes. Those horrible, blood-red, eyes. Eyes that burn into your mind and pierce your heart. Pupils black as coal; an endless pit that holds you for eternity. A reflection that weakens and an evil that grows slowly by influence. The memory may fade, but the fear won't...

     Jade awoke with a start. Her head cleared and she slowly sat up looking through the complete darkness of her small room. She puzzled for a moment on what could've woken her, then threw away the thought to ones of peaceful sleep. She realized her heart was pounding and knew that she wouldn't be able to fall asleep again easily. She threw off her heavy quilt and swung her legs over the side of her platform bed. Icy air instantly stabbed at her legs and arms causing her to shiver.
     Rubbing her arms Jade approached a large window where a heavy hide that partly covered the gap swayed in the cool breeze. She unhitched the hide at the top and pulled it to the side. Hazy, silver moonlight fell onto her cloaking her body and playing with her senses. Jade closed her eyes and breathed in the cool, fall air. Her body went numb with pleasure as the moonlight engulfed her. She opened her eyes and watched her icy breath disappear out the window.
     It had been a little less than a year since her experience with the two dark creatures in the forest. Two days after her escape there wasn't anymore sightings of them. Her father's hunting party had searched for three more months, but it seemed as if they had disappeared. Her village called them Ayoras, a word to them that meant evil and insanity.
     A lonely howl called far in the distance; rising and falling in the wind. The wolf changed pitches and spilled its emotions into the night. Jade turned away from the window and swept the room with her eyes.
     "Dova?" She whispered, "Dova?"
     She heard a pitiful whimper from under her quilt. Jade lifted the quilt to reveal a pair of dark brown eyes looking back at her. "Dova? What are you doing under there?" Jade asked quietly.
     A large black nose followed by a shaggy dark head came slowly out from under the quilt. Dova jumped up at Jade and licked her face. She was a fairly large black, shaggy wolf hybrid. She had oversized paws and long legs that allowed her to run swiftly and smoothly. Her narrow chest made it easier to plow through deep snows while hunting. She was given to Jade for her sixteenth birthday when she was allowed to join her father's hunting parties.
     Another howl rose and fell from the mountains. Jade hugged Dova and sighed. Dova pricked her ears and whined. Jade straightened up and turned towards the window.
     That is not from a wolf, she thought carefully listening.
     The song was something Jade had never heard before. It swelled like a wolf's, yet ended sharply on a high note letting it echo into the sky before beginning again. She leaned against the wooden wall and closed her eyes. It washed a sense of peacefulness over her and cascaded through her mind. The song was simple, yet beautiful and full of wonder.
     The song suddenly stopped; making the forest eerily quiet.
     Jade realized that Dova had dove under her cot again.
     "It scares you that much?" Jade asked.
     She walked over to a small table on the other side of her room and slipped a necklace over her head. The necklace was a puppy wolf's tooth she had found near an old den. She valued it greatly and never went out without it. She put on her tan breeches and white shirt and slipped a small knife into her boot. She fastened her black cloak stitched with a golden thread over her shoulders.
     Jade carefully climbed out of the window and dropped silently to the ground. A dark shape flew out over her head and landed in front of her. She commanded Dova to her side and crept along the side of the house, careful not to wake her family. Silently, she made her way to the barn with Dova plastered beside her sniffing the ground and taking cautious steps.
     The brown barn loomed in front of her, balanced neatly on the edge of a large hill on which her village was built on. Jade and Dova slipped through a side door into an envelope of arid darkness. Horses shifted restlessly in their stalls, catching quick naps and then waking to keep watch for the invisible and unforeseen dangers of the night. Jade felt her way through the darkness to a table and picked up a lantern. She searched for the provided tools and fumbled with the rocks until she finally managed light the wick submerged in fat.
     A globe of misty-yellow light sprouted from the wick and glowed around her dancing on the walls. She looked through the wooden bars of a stall. A full-grown black stallion lay stretched out on his side. The horse lay in a deep sleep exhausted from a long and strenuous ride with Jade's father. Standing he was 17.2 hands with a broad girth an wide chest. He was a powerful horse with long legs and feathering with four long socks running up each leg.
     Jade passed her father's horse's stall and noticed that her mother's mare was awake. Willow-strama was a dark bay with a delicate head and muscular hindquarters. She slowly chewed a mouthful of hay. Her ears were turned forward and swiveled at the smallest sound. Her black nostrils quivered and her soft eyes were worrisome.
     "Wolves getting to you?" Jade asked.
     Willow-strama snorted a reply and bent her crested neck to grab additional hay. Jade turned to the stall across from Willow-strama's and unlatched the top door.
     "Eleni," Jade whispered.
     A flea-bitten gray mare snorted in annoyance from being woken. She lifted her head and nickered when she saw Jade. Jade rubbed Eleni's velvet muzzle. She placed a small, light, leather saddle on Eleni's withers and bridled her.
     Jade, Dova, and Eleni stepped out into the chilly night. Following a dirt path, they entered the forest. The deep emerald moss glowed from the gray trees. The night was still and silent. When Jade estimated they were about a half a mile away from the village she mounted Eleni. They cantered down the path following the moon. Dova ran swiftly behind them, keeping a steady pace. They floated over the ground as if in a dream. Eleni's short mane whipped in the wind tickling Jade's neck as she crouched over the mare's withers. Eleni's tail was held proudly, high and arched. The stars glittered through the trees like a thousand diamonds in the night. The sky was so close she could almost reach out and touch it.
     Jade slowed Eleni to a trot, then halted her. She swung off and led Eleni through the trees. Dova stayed behind resting on the path. An icy mist hovered in the trees as she walked through the dark and quiet realm. They came upon a large silver-colored wolf, laying patiently as if he knew they would come.
     Eleni gave a blood-curling scream and tried to tear away from Jade. Jade allowed her to pull her away little from the wolf. Blocking Eleni from the sight from the wolf, she took a piece of cloth from the breast pocket of her shirt and, comforting her, she fitted it into the bridle so it covered Eleni's eyes. She then led her slowly toward the wolf again. Eleni's nostrils quivered at the wolf's smell and she shifted nervously. Jade called Dova over to hold Eleni's reins which she had done may times before.
     Jade sat in front of the silver wolf and bent down to gently kiss him between his pale blue eyes, "Hello, Rinara."
     She looked deep into his eyes and found herself drowning in the two dewdrops. They looked back with intensity and showed bright with the knowledge and wisdom of his eternal life. She stayed for a half hour, whispering prayers to him and singing old tunes of her village. Trust wrapped a cloak around them, glimmering blue in the chilly mist between them. The wolf's voiceless eyes spoke to her.
     For the past year, the silver wolf had visited her. Often in the night and sometimes in the daytime. He would sing songs to her out window. Songs of triumph and faith, but sometimes haunting songs of loneliness and despair. The gentle rocking of his voice would wrap her in a blanket of sleep, grazing her skin. She had named him Rinara. A word used for strength in her village.
     Jade put her hand under his muzzle for a moment with respect then took Eleni's reins from the rested Dova. She took the cloth from Eleni's bridle once they were on the path and rode on. A pair of wolves trotted beside them off the path. Their soft pads barely made a sound on the autumn leaves blanketing the earth. Their eyes glittered green between the trees with intensity. They followed them with such curiosity that gave them a bad reputation. Eleni trotted stiffly, tossing her head to show her discomfort. Jade reached down and patted her neck telling her that it was okay.
     The strange song rose again building in the wind guiding Jade to the edge of the mountains. The two wolves veered away and disappeared into the darkness. She looked up the rising hill then urged Eleni to ascend the slope. Eleni's powerful legs pounded on the crisp frozen ground climbing up the gradual slope, Dova bounded ahead of them panting heavily. The dead, frosty air taunted her like millions of laughing faces. The song stopped, but Jade knew where to go. She looked back behind her. There was a small dent in the trees where her village lay. She smiled to herself and dismounted.
     She led Eleni into a thick wooded area with Dova following closely behind. There was something strange with the woods. Jade couldn't tell exactly what it was, but it seemed as if the forest was dead. Their was no sound; no stirring of nocturnal animals. Yet the woods also seemed alive. Blue mist leaped in the corners of her eyes and disappeared when she turned to look. A tingling feeling grazed her neck and disturbed Dova.
     Deeper into the woods it became darker. The trees became so thick that they blocked most of the moonlight. The blue mist thickened, dancing between the trees, swirling in the air and playing on the damp earth. A hot pressure pressed on all three of them. Jade loosened her cloak, sweating. Her head pounded and inside she was screaming. Each of Eleni's steps was a resistance to entering even deeper into the strange forest. Dova walked slowly, the hairs on her body were raised, quivering like leaves in the wind.
     The woods began to thin and revealed a smooth mountain face. The pressure suddenly lifted and the cool air took over. Jade let out her breath in relief and Eleni and Dova seemed less uneasy. Jade walked along the rock wall, running her hand along the surface. It began to break into cold, jagged rocks further on. Dropping Eleni's reins, Jade pulled herself onto a large gray rock protruding from the wall.
     "Stay," she said sternly to Dova.
     Wagging her tail, Dova picked up Eleni's reins and sat down patiently. Hand over hand, Jade slowly scaled the rocky mountain face careful were she put her feet. It wasn't too far to the top, but the jagged, misgiving rocks made her climb difficult. The wind picked up and rustled the dead trees behind her. Almost to the top, she placed her foot on a seemingly sturdy rock, but it suddenly gave way and fell crashing and spinning to the ground below. A sharp rock slashed her thigh vertically cutting through her breeches.
     Suddenly the wind began to howl, tearing at her dangling body trying to take her away with the flying leaves. Jade clung desperately to the sturdy ledge, her feet wildly trying to grip the rock wall. She clenched her teeth and pulled herself up and over the ledge. At that moment the wind stopped leaving the air dead and haunting again.
     Jade pulled her hair away from her face and rubbed the deep long cut on her leg. She looked up and found herself facing a small valley. A creek ran through it to the side and meandered in front of another rock face opposite to the ledge. She crossed the dark carpet of grass and looked up at the towering mountain. Two large bushes leaned close to each other and the rock face. Jade could see an outline of an enormous cave behind the bushes. She tried to pushes the branches aside, but saw that they were covered with small thorns; pinpricks of blood dotted her hand.
     Jade paused and studied the scene before her. She didn't know why, but she wanted to go inside. She felt drawn to as if an unseen force was pulling her to that cave. The force wasn't stronger than her own free will, but it was strong enough to get the best of her curiosity.
     Jade hugged the cloak around her body, covering her arms and face and slid between the bushes. She walked straight into complete nothingness. She felt as if she was suspended in midair; hanging in a black hole. The air was heavy and damp and seemed to push her down further into the darkness. Jade's senses took over again and she realized she could walk in the darkness. She tried to look around, but she couldn't see anything except for the few feet of the stone floor in front of her.
     Her eyes finally adjusted slowly to the complete darkness and she could see that the cave was quite large. Shadows of stalactites hung delicately on the massive ceiling. Thin columns of joined stalactites and stalagmites seemed to hold the mountain up over her head.
     Jade was suddenly aware of an immense animal inside the cave with her. It was drawn up against the wall, breathing heavily. It scraped it's claws on the ground and growl rose from deep inside it's throat. Her heart leaped and she tried to calmly turn around. The floor suddenly disappeared from beneath her feet as a powerful object hit her. She slid and rolled violently on the damp rock ground and slammed into the wall. The creature reared and slammed back down snapping it's jaws in front of her.
     Jade grabbed the knife from her boot and held it point down in front of her. She threw it out and down and then huddled against the wall. The knife clattered at the monster's feet. It looked down at the knife curiously and snorted at it. To Jade's surprise and moment of relief it drew back and vanished into the rear of the cave. She climbed to her knees shaking.
     The cave was suddenly alight with a misty glow. The creature returned carrying a small golden globe in it's claws which seemed to be the source of the light. It set the globe onto a ridge of the rock wall. In the luminescence of the globe Jade recognized the monster to be a dragon. A creature her village knew very little about and seen by few.
     Dragons had no natural enemy, except for humans. They were hunted by some villages for the belief magical powers and luck. Their meat was a delicacy and was used in certain ceremonies. It's claws were taken by the hunters and hung over their doors for luck and the teeth were for the entire village families for charms. Though the villages that hunted them were few, a dragon was a rare sighting. They live in caves inactive during the day. They mostly flew by night to hunt, and most of their life was spent trying to stay unseen by humans.
     The dragon lowered his head and moved his face a foot away from hers. He breathed in her scent; familiarizing it. The dragon was huge, much larger than the cave entrance. Jade figured that their was another entrance further in the back of the cave that was large enough for him to leave through. His wing span was about ninety feet in length and from nostril to his split tail he was about twenty feet longer. He had claws half as long as Jade that gripped the rock floor balancing over her. His eyes were two golden stars set in the sky with cat-like pupils. He had scales were an emerald green that built across his back.
     Finally he drew his head back and spoke, "I'm sorry about that attack. I have to be careful of hunters. When I saw that you had thrown your only weapon I knew you weren't one of them." His eyes held care and understanding, "Aren't you afraid?"
     She stood stunned by the sound of his voice. It was a thin gossamer sound that took over her mind. She blinked and looked down at the ground. She was afraid to speak to the unfamiliar creature that seemed to hold knowledge past human understanding.
     "Afraid?" she stammered, "I did fear you at first, but not anymore."
     "No, I mean afraid of the black creatures; the Ayoras," he said, "I've been watching your village ever since they started attacking about a year and a half ago. Your people seem quite afraid of them."
     "Yes, we have lost many young ones because of them, but they are gone and I have no reason to fear them," Jade said looking into his eyes directly. She scowled and whispered, "Evil things."
     "Human," the dragon said, "how do you know they're gone?"
     "They haven't been seen for a year. My village assumes that they are dead," Jade answered.
     The dragon scraped his claws on the ground slightly irritated, "Your village is sure that they're gone for good?"
     Unsure, Jade answer quietly, "Yes, there have been no more attacks." She paused thinking over her next words, "what you do know about them?"
     The dragon's eyes softened, "I know that they are not gone for good, but I'm not certain what has happened to them. I do know that you humans have to remember that you hunt, kill, and eat just like any other animal. Just because the Ayoras are something you haven't seen before doesn't mean they are any different. Remember this and it will help you make the right decision."
     "What do you mean? What decision?" Jade asked not fully understanding his words.
     "In time you will find out. You also have to remember that evil grows by influence," he said.
     Jade looked at him curiously, "I have heard those last words somewhere." She looked down knotting her eyebrows in concentration, "I just can't remember where."
     The dragon looked worriedly at the entrance, "The sun will be up soon. It is time for you to leave."
     Jade picked up her knife where it had fallen and slipped it into her boot. She looked up at the dragon directly in the eyes, "I promise to never tell anyone where you are."
     The dragon pushed the thorny bushes back with a claw allowing her to leave. Jade looked back at the swaying bushes, slightly awed by the experience. She walked back through the small valley and to the cliff edge and looked at it with tiresome eyes. After a short descent of scaling down the small cliff, Jade crumpled into a heap at Eleni's hooves. Eleni looked down at her slightly surprised and nudged her. Dova slowly stood up and shook her shaggy coat. She excitedly licked Jade's face as Jade pulled herself up from the ground.
     During the ride back, Jade's mind raced about the Ayoras. Her head swum with the new thoughts and opinions. When she reached the ghostly village, she quickly and quietly cooled Eleni and led her to her stall. Jade and Dova crept back out into the inky darkness and headed through the haughtily streets to her hut. An illuminated figure out of the corner of her eye caught her attention. She held her breath and tried to sneak by the man.
     "Jade," the voice was so quiet it seemed to flow in the wind; not a question, just a statement.
     Jade stopped and cringed, "Good morning, Ecca."
     The man turned to face her. Ecca was a strange man; very thoughtful and enjoyed being alone. He had a square shaped head and small olive- shaped eyes. He bore an image of a black spider on his left upper arm; the tattoo of the weaver's family.
     He nodded to Jade and Dova and turned around to look at the moon again, "Jade, have you ever looked at the moon?"
     Confused that he didn't ask about her being out at night, she answered quickly, "yes."
     Ecca shook his head, "I mean really looked at the moon?"
     "I'm sorry Ecca. I'm not sure what you mean," She had great respect for him, everyone did, but most of the time he spoke in a more poetic way that she didn't understand.
     Ecca's dark skin wrinkled into a smile. His green eyes flashed in the moonlight, "I guess you don't have enough experience yet." He walked so slowly towards her that he seemed to glide. He carefully took something out of his pocket and held it in his palm, "Do you know what this is, Jade?" Ecca asked whispering.
     "No, Ecca. It's too dark."
     He lifted his hand slightly so that the moonlight reflected off of it. The object was a black claw so familiar to Jade, "This is a claw of one of the black creatures. The only thing that I had managed to cut off when it took my daughter."
     Jade bowed her head speechless. She remembered that day.
     He moved the claw to the side of her head and traced her face under her chin and up to her ear. She watched it holding her breath until he drew it back.
     "But I do not blame them," he whispered in a trance. "I do not blame anyone."
     Jade nodded to him and turned to walk away. He grabbed her shoulder and spun her around, "Do not try to change the instincts of nature. It will only find a way."
     Jade backed away, "Don't worry, Ecca. I have already been warned." She turned on her heels and ran to her hut. She climbed through the window with Dova following. Before laying down in her cot, she watched the sun slowly peek over the horizon splashing vivid colors of red and orange onto the clouds. She reflected on all that had happened that night.
     What did the dragon say? She thought. Evil grows by influence? What does that sound so familiar? I'm not sure what exactly it means. And why would say that to me? Her village was made up of simple people, making logic as best as they could understand. They didn't experience many things that were wrong and what was wrong was thought to be infested with pure evil. These creature, the Ayoras, were considered pure evil to her people because of their taste for humans.
     What the dragon said made some sense, though, thought Jade. She tenderly touched the form of a wolf on her arm. I am a hunter, I hunt to live...and so do the Ayoras. She grimaced and looked angrily at the brilliant display of the sunrise. She hated the thought of being similar to the black creatures.

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Copyright 1999-2000, by Alix.