In The Shadow Of Death (Chapter THREE Preview)
Together, Vana and Salem clawed their way out of the pit. Walking along the forest floor, the bonded pair searched for the last of Eli’s traps in hopes of finding different prey. The trees were thick as they blocked their way, making each turn more easily able to get turned around. Although the two were giddy over finding one another, they were still tired and hungry from a long day.
A low lying branch caught Vana by surprise and she found herself falling fast as she stumbled over a moss covered root, rolling directly into the last area they need to check and almost going straight over the ledge there. Fear ran like ice through the small girls’ veins, leaving her frozen once she realized that death has not claimed her yet. Dread ran abundant within her head, wondering how she always manages to find the perfect moment to fail.
Gathering herself after a quick outward breath, readying to stand, Vana hoisted her weight and leaned heavily on an old oak tree clinging to the side of the ledge. On the last strong limb, Vana saw that there hung a beautiful buck with a coat of honey brown fur and antlers that any adversary would be apprehensive of.
The large animal kicked about wildly, trying to be free of the wire cutting into the skin at his ankles. Upside down, full of fear, the creature let out shrieks of pain and panic that curdled Salem’s stomach and sent Vana tripping back again in a fright. These shrieks would surely bring the more unsavory beasts that Lyst has to offer, Salem knew, yet a reminder lurked to the surface of his nerve rattled brain.
As Salems’ mother used to recite, “a sacrifice must be made and never yielded, for bowing to fear will sow the seeds of doubt and darkness will scourge your very soul. Be wary of the company you keep, my son, they present the kind of man you wish to become.”
Transforming amid a sad smile, Salem trudged slowly towards the buck ready to do what must be done as it thrashed around. Even from his unhelpful position, it was easy for Salem to see Vana’s cringe and fear for the creature; when he could not stand it any longer, Salem found his muzzle wet with blood and pain in his heart. I am not a murderer, he told himself, and I am not a monster.
But Vana’s outcry did no justice to Salem’s soothing thoughts, especially as she wailed into her hands “Why did you have to be cruel to him? He was already in pain and afraid.” The cries of the buck still sounded in Vana’s head, repeating the guttural sound that is death.
Trying to speak mind to mind as to not attract any more beasts of Old, Salem thought about his words hard and sent them to his Pair. Like an echo in Vana’s mind, she could hear Salem’s voice as plain as if he was speaking out loud. “Because, Vana, it is the way of the Woods. One must die for every one that enters, if the trees do not believe I am worthy then it will send much more dangerous things to collect us. I do not relish the taste of an unearned kill, but I must abide by the laws here.”
Of course, though, Salems’ heart sped up with the half truth. Just an inkling, he knew, was not true; he was afraid of being the beast the world sees him as, and worse yet, he was a coward for not wanting his new Amorah to see all of his instincts in fear that she may indeed come to fear him. Because, instead of a mostly quick kill, his entire body yearned for the hunt and the incredible sensation of running after a free target.
Vana knew that Salem had more to tell and yet choses not to, and fear did indeed fill her heart. It is because she knew that she is as deadly as any beast. It was why she grew her claws instead of carrying an arrow or dagger. But sadness still clung inside her chest with a mighty wail, each thud of the heart more painful than the last as if to remind her that blood still flows within her veins. Vana did not answer, but knew Salem was right to keep his secrets to himself.
Neither knew that their fears were mirrored in one another… just that it is present and likely to grow, for who could learn to love a creature as vile as they?