(Link to Part 37)
I was ready when Sheriff Creston came straight at me, the rifle up. He didn't have a clear shot at me yet, but he would soon. Maggie --
We were standing in a very dark forest, filled with shadows. It was no wonder none of us saw the black cat hiding right in the path Creston was taking. I don't know how he got there, but suddenly a black shape leapt up from the debris and wrapped around his leg. Creston shouted and flailed as he fell backwards, the rifle firing up into the air.
Before I could react, Lord Snow charged in for the attack, his lighter fur making him far more conspicuous than Edmond. Davis came at a running loop, and I thought he meant to join in the battle. Instead he kept heading for me. Not far behind him came other shapes. I knew what they were before the first stopped and howled.
"Go!" Davis shouted as he neared.
They were not the huge wolves I'd first seen when I entered Elsewhere, but they were many of them and I didn't think the group of us could hold them back. Edmond clearly thought so as well. He took one look over his shoulder and shouted, "Run!"
Lord Snow leapt on Creston who had started to sit up. He went right back down with his own howl of pain, but even the snow leopard didn't stop to do more than drive claws into the man's chest as he bounded on.
Maggie joined us a moment later, catching Davis by the arm and giving a nod. We'd slowed a little since it wasn't safe to go charging into these woods.
"This way," Edmond said. He looked over his shoulders. "We slowed him, but he'll be following soon."
"Maggie and I had a plan," I said.
"He would have killed you."
"He would have tried, but --"
"He would have killed you," Edmond repeated and with the kind of certainty that stopped anything else I was about to say. Edmond had seen what would happen. The realization of how close I came to dying made my breath catch a little.
"Thank you," I said, finally.
"We're still not out of the woods," the cat replied. I swear he smirked.
So we followed Edmond. Maggie looked worried and I couldn't decide what problems were the worst: The wolves still behind us, Creston yelling, the woods growing more dense and dark . . . or the fact we were reduced to following Edmond to survive. None of this looked good.
We paused long enough for Davis to treat my leg. He did a bit better than Maggie, but it still hurt. I hobbled on, too worried to slow down anyway.
"Here," Edmond finally said. He leapt over a branch and went through some underbrush.
I couldn't see how that was going to stop the wolves who were much closer, but I didn't ask questions since neither Lord Snow nor Maggie did. What we found on the other side did surprise me. Edmond had led us back to the glowing blue path that would, I hope lead us to the council. The way was clear and we could move faster, but I still didn't think we could outrun the wolves. Or Creston, whom I could still hear, cursing and yelling, and --
"He's ordering the wolves," I whispered.
"Yes," Lord Snow said. "This pack, at least, appears to be his to command. There is no chance we can deal with them as long as they are in his control or allied with him."
"Why would they ally with a human?"
"Because he probably really isn't. His son was a were-creature of some sort. Wolf is the most common, and finding the father running with this pack makes me think there is more of a link than we first imagined."
"Damn," Davis said. I didn't like to see the surfer dude so worried.
"Something bad going on," Maggie said. She had taken the lead now. "More than we imagined. Hurry. The wolves --"
"The wolves are going to have problems of their own," Edmond said. He had that smug little sound again which I took to be really good news. "In fact, any moment now --"
I heard the sound of branches moving and glanced back to see several of the huge trees moving up into a line. They waved their long branches and I saw wolves trying to come to a stop, some of them yipping in dismay. Branches caught a couple and tossed them in the air. I couldn't see where they landed.
I could see Creston, though. He had the rifle in hand, which caught the glimmer of light -- but then several trees stepped in front of him. We were not slow to keep going.
I wasn't sure how long the trees would hold the others back. We just had to get to safety before they caught up again. Safety? There was no safety that I could name. No one said the council would absolutely stand with me on this. For all I knew I was going from one problem to a worse one.
But better than going nowhere at all and giving up.
The trail of blue glowing stones wound through the woods, floated over a stream, and kept going. We hurried, but my leg hurt like hell now and I was getting in a far worse mood with each step. Not good, I reminded myself. Emotions and magic: I didn't have the leisure to let my emotions get out of hand. That started to annoy me. I fought the feeling aside as well, and in some ways, being forced to concentrate on my state of mind helped me keep moving.
Except at the next turn, the blue stones disappeared, and winked out behind us as well. The woods went still around us and we were lost in the darkness.
"Should I mention that I've seen no vision beyond this point?" Edmond asked.
To Be Continued. . . .
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