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Part 4

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The Druid's eyes opened to the full glare of the desert sun. He was moving, being moved. Déjà vu? But where, when? A lifetime ago? It felt that way. His mind was dull. Perhaps this was a dream. Perhaps his life force was spent and was returning to the Gaia. His body pressed up against another. It was warm...no, hot. He was being carried, strapped tightly to someone's back. How? What was the shadow that filled his eyes, then vanished then returned then vanished as a wave lapping the shore? The flicks of hair, chestnut but with the harsh sunlight behind, almost the colour of a deep sunset. If he could just see to whom it belonged. He tried, unsuccessfully, to move. His body was lead. The sun forced its way into his retinae. He squinted at the yellow ball, ever fixated on his position. He was a helpless child, drifting along the endless dunes. He opened his mouth to ask who he was but his voice was lost. He closed his tired eyes against the relentless burning sun. He saw her...not her, it. An emonon. Its bright devil eyes gleaming ominously in the gloom. A voice through the thick miasma of his memory. Surameti. It moved so fast, faster than any emonon he ever encountered. He reached for but it was gone, like fantma. He floundered and then he perceived it behind him, staff in hand. His staff. It used his magic against him. But how? An emonon could not wield the powers of the druids. Unless...

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Kaya, strength of the emonon still running thick through her veins, had secured the helpless oriandus to her back, in the same way she would have carried her wares on her travels. The Druid was by far the heaviest load she had ever borne yet felt as though he were nothing more than a light breeze pressing against the hard muscles of her back and shoulders.

The storm had passed over them but, with her mind's eye, Kaya could see it, not too far away, as if waiting for her to move and now, as she trudged through the wilds of the desert, it seemingly followed her, at a distance. She knew Shaer was their only option. The oasis would be able to offer them some shelter - and perhaps a healer.

As she walked, she thought of the battle in the cave. Her fury at The Druid's arrogance was not fully abated but had been superseded by her surging rage toward the emonon. It was as if she were trapped in a nightmare, a locked room for her mind, unable to find the key. Surameti overwhelmed her so easily. She knew the stories of the emonon occupying bodies, turning people mad. Sheer willpower and the thought of one of her own blood taking the life of another, more specifically the life of an oriandus, allowed her to retake her body. She glanced over her shoulder to the incapacitated Druid, his head slumped against the small space between her shoulder blades. Surameti inflicted much damage and Kaya was uncertain how much of his life force the Druid lost. It concerned her. She wanted to meet Surameti but after this, she knew she was no match for him should he turn on her. The strength of an oriandus on her side was a necessity. Slowly, slowly, the strength of the emonon blood abated. As the weight of The Druid became more apparent, Kaya felt every muscle in her body ache and strain. Her pace had slowed, her baggage cumbersome. She used The Druid's staff to steady herself as she lumbered on under the full weight of the man.

The Druid's eyes opened. Stars danced in an inky sky. A cool, fresh breeze rustled his hair. He filled his lungs with the clean air as if for the first time. A nearby fire sparked and crackled, the licks of red, yellow and orange were hypnotic. A sudden crunch, something thumped down beside him. He looked at what was the fresh carcasses of two rock rabbits. He gagged. Eyes bored into the top of his skull. Kaya stood over him, one hand on her hip. The look on her face nothing less than terrifying. "So you lived," she scoffed, after a moment of quiet assessment. "I'm quite surprised you made it this far."

The Druid coughed; loud, hacking. It took Kaya aback, her angry face momentarily replaced by concern but when he was finally able to speak, her mask returned. "If it wasn't for you..."

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