(Link to Part 36)
"Get to cover!" I shouted and shoved Davis off to the side. I spun to Maggie but she was already darting for cover and the War Cows were taking flight up into the trees. I hard several branches snap, but the cows didn't fall down, which I took for a good thing as I ran under them.
I stopped at the first tree and looked back. Lord Snow and Edmond had taken cover as well, but we still had a problem. A new problem; Creston had a rifle. He must have gone out of Elsewhere and come back again with a better weapon. He also carried a pack and I didn't doubt he'd loaded up as much ammo as he could carry.
Damn. I started to back away, but something else caught my attention. I could see that Sheriff Creston had changed. He wasn't quite the same as he had been the last time we faced and I began to see why others were worried about his presence. At first I thought I only saw him differently because of my newly awakened magic, but then I realized it was more obvious. Darkness clung to him like a robe, and swirled when he stopped, like a dark fog. I thought his eyes glittered with red and gold, and his fingers had claws --
"Oh that's not good," Maggie whispered and caught tight hold of my arm. We squirmed our way through leaves and pine needles, snaking away until we were behind a stout tree. I was sure the tree wasn't going to like having us there and would move out of range of the rifle, but for the moment it stayed reassuringly still.
"What's going on now?" I asked, because something had clearly upset her. She held her hands tightly clinched and her wings fluttered slightly. There was no room for her to fly away here, though.
"He's let the dark emotions take him," she said. "That happens sometimes to fae. They rarely come back. I don't think a human can. And it makes him more dangerous."
"Of course it does."
That did win a slight snort of amusement and a tiny smile, though she almost flinched at the sound of Creston moving closer. Then she took a deep breath and patted my arm a little, cast one look around the tree, and clearly prepared to move again. So did I, but I thought I ought to be moving away from her. I knew better than to try, though. She'd just follow me which would be worse for her. Better to keep her in front of me and hope that Creston didn't get around us.
We moved quickly, dodging left and right around trees for several yards and settled by another tree. I didn't know where anyone else had gone. I didn't call out to them, hoping they stayed out of range of Creston's weapon and Creston's rage.
On cue, the loud retort of the rifle sounded through the woods and the trunk beside my head splintered.
"Ow!" the tree protested and shook.
"Sorry," I said and patted the trunk. "We better move."
We did, moving from one tree to the next. Creston stalked us and I hoped Maggie had a plan, especially after one of the bullets creased my leg, leaving a fiery path of agony behind. I could barely keep to my feet now, and Maggie did what she could, but the magic didn't help much this time.
"You have power of your own now," she whispered. "Sorry. It's not as easy to help you."
I nodded like I understood and just kept moving. We'd gone far into the woods, and away from that path the council had laid down for us, so I couldn't say Maggie knew where we were heading.
And then the wolves howled.
There wasn't a pond anywhere nearby that I could see. Climb the trees might be a better idea, if they would cooperate. The shadowy woods all around us seemed dire and unhappy with our presence. I could see little in the shadows, but I had the feel for a presence that was part of the ground itself. Not an evil dark, just an essence of the place that didn't want to be disturbed.
I worried about the others. We hadn't see Lord Snow, Edmond or Davis since this began. In fact, it was as if everything had cleared out of the area. I expected the trees to take off soon, too. All that moved around us was a fog that seemed as alive as everything else.
My leg gave out again and I crashed into a tree, apologized, and then stayed here when Maggie put a hand to my chest.
"Rest a moment."
The wolves howled again. She frowned looking more angry than worried. I tried to take courage from her and stood up straighter. I could hear the steady steps of someone coming closer, too. I knew it was Creston.
"Trap him," Maggie whispered. "Our best chance. Stay here, but let him know? I'll be close by."
I nodded agreement.
"Be careful," she whispered, a hand brushing against my arm.
"And you," I said.
She nodded and moved away, quick, light steps. I did my best to cover the noise by moving to the side of the tree. The wolves howled again, but not any more loudly. They hadn't found us yet. If we could stop Creston, could we escape from them as well? I had to believe it. Otherwise, there was no hope at all.
Creston was coming closer. He paused and I dared a look around the side of the tree, just to make certain he knew I was there. Then I took a couple steps out from the tree, though not so far that he had a clear shot at me.
He was coming closer.
And this was where things didn't go quite as we planned.
We really should have kept track of Edmond.
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