Chapter XVIII

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After awhile, I gave up. Pandora was soundly asleep. I couldn't blame her, she had been reading and witching more than ever those days; I knew she would get tired at some point. However, there was something in my dream that wouldn'd let me keep calm, something about it that was telling me that it was what I needed to know where Gail was, the exact place.

Being as silent as I could, I took my daggers from the night table, went to the living room downstairs and looked right to the shelves next to the old wooden table. The last day I had seen a book that seemed to be a kind of encyclopedia. After looking at the different titles, between a book about the moon and a recipe books, I found the green letter I was looking for.

"After the Stone Forest," I read for myself when I took the volume. It wasn't as thick and heavy as the grimoire Pandora had found, but it certainly had some content in what I thought were almost a thousand pages.

Even though the place looked cozy with its few lights and how spacious it appeared to be, I needed more light to read comfortably, so I went to the kitchen, took a couple of candles from the drawer and light them circling my fingers around their wicks. The flames were tiny, but after opening the windows on my right, my eyes could perfectly see the letters.

I didn't want to go outside. I was sick of so many plants, trees and shadows. Mostly of the shadows. It felt right, better, to be inside some place, it made me feel, somewhere in my mind, that I was home. I let out a tired sigh before opening the book the brown cover, finding a yellowed first page with a highly decorated title.

The silence in the whole house let me read in peace, page by page, getting to know better the zone we were traveling. I noticed that the Stone Forest began a few meters from where we were, a place where trees were as hard as rocks, just as the land, a place that came before the Black Sea.

As soon as I read that name, I heard a distant noise. Let it be the wind, let it be the wind, let it be the wind, I repeated in my head over and over, as doing so would make it real. The illusion fell down when the same noise, as of something heavy falling, came again to my ears. Please, let it be the wind, I said one last time.

I looked at the window and saw how a man, a warlock, was fighting a cat-like shadow twice his height and weight. What made it a hard situation for him was that the creature was really fast, more than the ones we had met.

Just as Pandora, the man's hand drew symbols and circles in the air, causing thunders and lightnings while the other handled what I thought to be a wooden staff. When I looked with more attention, I realized that something was coming out of the end with the floor. Black ink. Then another humanoid creature, made of dark liquid and as tall and corpulent as the shadow, came out from between the trees.

I already had what I wanted, the certainty that I knew where we would find Gail, and Pandora would help me to discover more about that place. I closed the book, left it in the table and ran to the outside.

The day was clear, with a cool wind around and little natural light, hardly enough for me to see, but I could pefectly observe that the second creature was on the side of the warlock, or at least against the shadow, which would be okay for me for a while.

"To the floor!"  I shouted when I was nearer to the three of them before throwing one of the daggers. The man and the creature did as they were told and so the weapon was nailed to the chest of the shadow, giving me the right amount of time to jump and push it deeper with my feet and kick its head.

I took my distance before the thing could hit me, jumping back between the warlock and the creature, which didn't attack me. Maybe it is on his side, after all, I thought. Still, I was not going to lower my guard. When I was in there, the man drew a symbol on the floor with what seemed to be black ink, an horizontal arrow with arrowheads on both ends, said two words I couldn't identify and looked right to the creature, which ran right to the shadow.

"On our side?" I asked.

"Yes, it is my creation, actually." He said with a smile. When I looked back, the creature had taked my dagger and fought the shadow with an almost equal speed. "Think of me as a summoner."

"You prefer to keep your hands clean, then."

"Something like that." The warlock made a gesture with his hand and the arrow became vertical. His creature entered a frenzy instantly, attacking the shadow at full speed, making it go back more and more.

I took my second dagger and made sure he knew I would go as soon as I had a door to the fight. He understood and drew another symbol on the ground, a clockwise spiral. The creature took the left, leaving the right side for me to go, and so I went.

With a single movement, I cut the neck of the shadow and kicked the inner side of its knees. The creature understood as well, or the warlock made it do it, and took the shadow's head, fluently breaking the bleeding neck in a second.

The warlock snapped his fingers, making the black creature go back to him in a defensive position. I looked at them, specially at the man while I recovered my breath. Fighting those things first thing in the day wasn't my idea of a pleasant morning, at all. However, being trapped in that placed wasn't my choice, either.

"I helped you kill the shadow, why would I be against you?"

"And for that I thank you, but I don't even know your name, anything about you, and won't risk myself. However," he said looking right to my eyes, "your face seems to be familiar."

"Alynne Briar-Rose, nice to meet you," I said as relaxed as I could.

"I knew you were not a stranger," said the man with surprised eyes. "Good morning, Princess. Draxen Dramuni, a summoner of the East Lands."

Well, the day looked promising.

Well, the day looked promising

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