13: Possen Valley

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It was just after midday when we arrived at Possen Valley. I'm not sure what I expected, but it wasn't this.

The valley was narrow and sloped downward—more like a cleft than a valley. The ground was mostly covered in rocks and pebbles instead of the lush green grass we had traveled on earlier in the morning. On either side of us was barren mountain with jagged rocks jutting out of the sides.

Possen Valley was undeniably eerie, particularly with its lack of sunlight, but that wasn't the worst of it. Worst of all was the smell. The air was dead and smelled as if rain water had been trapped under the rocks for a long time. The humidity only served to magnify the dreadful odor.

"It's a good thing we're here in the daytime," Elossai said in her usual cheerful tone.

"Why's that?" I asked. Martin glared at me.

"Well, there are a number of reasons. The terrain isn't ideal for horses, and creatures tend to roam in the night."

Creatures?

For all I knew, creatures could mean friendly raccoons, or it could mean wolves. I can cope with raccoons. Wolves, not so much.

"Stay close," Keiran said under his breath, just loud enough for us all to hear.

I rotated my stiff shoulders, trying to relax the tension from my muscles as I listened to our horse's hooves trot against the rocks. Some of the rocks seemed so loose that I winced every time I saw rocks rolling out from underneath Keiran and Ilta's horses, and when my horse stumbled. What would be worse—tumbling down the valley, or having a landslide make your muddy grave? I couldn't decide.

"Elossai..." I said with a shaky voice.

"It's alright. After we pass through the valley, we'll be clear of the mountain range," Elossai encouraged.

I wanted to relax, but my nerves simply refused. Everything I watched seemed to only make me more anxious, so I decided to shut my eyes.

After a while, the clomping hooves became a steady rhythm and I felt a lot calmer. I tried opening my eyes, but my vision was blurry. The calm feeling I'd just experience disappeared.

My heart throbbed and my skin felt like it was burning up. It was the same feeling when the blond Ra approached me—an overwhelming sense that something dreadful was about to take place.

I tried to shake off the panic.

"Ellis Ann are you alright?" Elossai looked over her shoulder. "I sense your anxiety."

"I don't know." I stalled. "How can you tell when I'm sitting behind you?"

"I'm an empath—I can sense your emotions." Elossai shifted in the saddle as if trying to work away discomfort. "Your emotions are quite loud at the moment."

"I think I might be having a panic attack."

"Why? Is something wrong?"

"Hey, Elossai." Martin rode up next to us from behind. "How much longer 'till we're out of this valley?"

"Duration should be under two hours," replied Elossai.

"Good, 'cause I think Bertha needs to rest."

"Bertha?"

I shook my head, doing my best to hide my smile. "You named your horse Bertha?"

"I am sure he is fine to be called Bertha," said Elossai.

"He? I guess I'll call him Bert, then," Martin said, giving Bert an affectionate pat on the neck. Bert was starting to slow his pace, so Elossai held the reins back for us to remain at the same pace with him. "Ell, you should take over for Elossai—you've been sleeping for most of the trip."

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