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"Not all those who wander are lost."
~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Axel ran a finger over the engravings of the stone

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Axel ran a finger over the engravings of the stone.  Digging up the final runestone had taken longer than he thought it would with a portion showing up through the packed earth. Careful not to chip the fragile rune, he and Emerens had slowly dug around it only to find out the portion they could see was the top edge, the rest of the large stone buried deep into the ground. And with only the wavering light in Sloane's shaking hand to see by, it had taken twice as long as he wished it had. By the time they'd lifted it out and wrapped it in an old cloth, securing it in his backpack, it was late into the evening.

If it had been just he and Rens, he'd insisted on remaining in the woods, Devourers or not. They'd handled the swarm from the previous evening despite it being a much larger party than was usually sent through. They could do it a second night, and had in the past, but something about the way Sloane had wandered away sent a chill over him.

He'd felt the same tug, so similar to the Vindkast but not. Something had called her away. Something not from this realm. The faster they got her safely back home and returned to Skievheim, the safer she'd be. She could return to her life. The thought caused his lips to tug into an even deeper frown as he double checked the stone before placing his pack in the back seat.

He slammed the front door waiting for Emerens to finish throwing his gear in the bed of the pickup. The clock flashed two am. They'd hiked hours through the dark forest taking a more direct route back since they weren't relying on the map to guide them. Sloane's head lay against the glass as she rest in the back seat, the rumble of the engine starting not disturbing her as they began driving out of the preserve. She was tired, exhausted, and frightened. And she'd have to deal with everything she'd seen by herself because come morning, he and Emerens would be gone.

Two hours later Axel pulled into the small driveway. The tiny house greeting him with darkened windows and wide porch hidden in the moon's shadows. Emerens was already helping Sloane from the truck, grabbing her bag for her as she stretched. She'd slept the entire ride home, making up for lack of rest the previous evening. He could use a good sleep as well, but there was little time to waste.

Emerens jogged inside with an armload of gear as Sloane walked towards her Jeep parked beside the large truck. Throwing his pack over one shoulder, Axel walked towards the fair-haired girl as she dug for her keys from the bag slung over her shoulder.

"You can stay if you want. It's late." Why had he said that? He and Emerens needed to pack up and ready for the trip back as soon as they could. He'd obviously taken her by surprise as well, her hand hovering just above the bag where keys dangled on her fingertips.

"I really shouldn't. I need to get back," Sloane replied, tucking her lips in and then out as if biting back what she really wanted to say. Axel watched as the moon peeked from behind the clouds casting its otherworldly glow over her. She stared back, neither moving closer but not stepping away either.

Bloodlines: Deceived ~Book 2~Where stories live. Discover now