Dancing fingers

Kahasai

United States

I'm 17
I like to dream

Homeschooled
Maybe a fool

Trampolinist
and classical guitarist

Archer
Let us barter

Mountain girl
I like burl

River otter
Viking daughter

Wolfdog owner
Forest roamer

I'm no fighter
But I am a writer

Message to Readers

Skin of scales, eyes of blue. Tell me, who are you?

Wraiths of the Moon: Chapter 4

September 2, 2018

FREE WRITING

6
[Author's note: If interested in reading the first chapter, here you go: Wraiths of the Moon: Chapter 1] [If interested in the summary of the story, here you go: Wraiths of the Moon: summary and other things]

In the end, Vanessa agreed to go through Kistal's "shortcut". She kept the knife in her bag close at hand, in case Kistal changed her mind and decided to set off with the moonlight. Hopefully, the demon wouldn't call her bluff and agree to be peaceful.

Just remember what Soren taught you and you'll be fine, Vanessa thought, watching Kistal flit ahead. But a few short, gentle fighting sessions wouldn't be enough to help her in a serious situation.

"You humans are so slow," Kistal noted from the top of a branch.

Vanessa sucked in a breath. She holds the moonlight. Be polite. "We are limited by our legs."

"Yes, I noticed. Some of you could do with more exercise as well."

Vanessa bristled. "I'm healthy." She came to a halt as her satchel caught on a branch. She tugged on it, watching the branch bend to the satchel's pull.

"Chubby," Kistal said, her tone patronizing. "You have more fat than you can use in a given day. Used to lounging on a cushion eating cakes, are we? Do you need a break, Lunara?"

Calm. Calm was the last thing she wanted to be. "I'm fine, thank you," she said stiffly. She bristled again at Kistal's chuckle. "At least I'm not hated by everyone," she added. She yanked on the satchel and the branch snapped, freeing her.

"Ooh, a hypocrite. My favorite." Kistal glided from the log to continue up the trail, leaving Vanessa behind.

"I'm not hated!" she shouted after Kistal's wings.

"Tell that to the townfolk. Aren't they plotting your demise?"

Vanessa lengthened her stride, trying to catch up. "You're a demon. I can hardly trust your word."

Kistal paused, hands on hips. Her hood was over her head again, hiding her expression in the uncanny shadow. "Do you have a brain, Lunara?" She asked it as if it were a genuine question. "Do you not know what pain your family has caused, not just for us demons, but for their own people?"

Of course I know. "We've done everything in our power to--"

Kistal laughed. "If that were true, than why wait until now to do the one thing everyone wants? Other than their wish to exact vengeance on you."

Vanessa's expression hardened. "I have motivation." She waved a hand, shoving down the squirming feeling of doubt. "Let's go. The faster we get this done the better."

Kistal didn't move for a moment. Then she turned and continued leading the way through the quiet forest.

For the next few hours, not a word was traded between them. The sun steadily rose over the treetops, angling the shadows until they nearly disappeared.

Vanessa's stomach rumbled, louder than the tiny growls it'd been emanating for the past hour. She sighed and opened the satchel rubbing her hip and dug around until she found the snacks she'd brought: dried meat, bread, and cheese. She took a chunk of the bread and bit in, jaw working to tear through the crust. 

"Not as soft as you're used to, Lunara?" Kistal said, without looking back. Vanessa nearly choked and glowered at Kistal's back.

"At least they're willing to give me food, demon."

Kistal's laugh came again, a sound Vanessa was quickly coming to dislike. "Lunara, you assume I don't have friends of my own. You think I care to make myself accepted among humans? That's a human, childish desire. I am neither. When I'm accepted among demons, why would I even want to care about your kind?" She lifted her wings and flew over a log that had fallen over the path. With as much dignity she could manage, Vanessa followed, tripping over a branch stub and nearly fell face-first into the dirt. Kistal laughed. Vanessa straightened and roughly swept dirt from her trousers.

"I hear this friend you're taking me to is a human," she said. She wouldn't show Kistal that she was ruffled, that she was a soft princess. "How do you get along with him?"

"Better than you and I." The smile was clear in her voice. "When I first met him he was making a mud castle and trying to convince one of my owls to stand watch, while he went to capture some baby fire lizards."

"So, he was a child?"

"No, he was a pig in disguise." One of her wings ruffled as an owl swooped past her. "Unlike you, when he saw me he didn't scream--"

"I didn't scream."

"Please don't interrupt. As I was saying, he just looked me up and down and told me that my owl wasn't behaving. He wasn't the least bit scared, unlike you. He was quite polite, unlike you. After that, he grew on me, unlike you. He--"

"Unlike me, I get it," Vanessa said, resisting the urge to allow the words to snap out of her mouth.

"You're catching on." Kistal settled to her feet and slowed to a walk, allowing Vanessa to catch up. For a moment, there was silence. Then Kistal said: "A demon and a Lunara walk into the Mistwood bar. The demon says, 'I need food.' The bartender says, 'Only if you share.' The Lunara is brought to the back, and to the delight of the drunk audience, is killed and dragged into the kitchen to feed the bloodthirsty demons. Everyone lives happily ever after, the end."

"What does this have to do with anything?" Vanessa asked, stepping over a branch. "There's no bar in Mistwood," she added.

Kistal shook her head. "Just stop talking, lest you infect me with your ignorance. The moral of my story is that you need to stop being a Lunara."

Vanessa lifted her chin. "I'm a Lunara, I can't simply stop one. Why would I?"

"And you're a proud Lunara, aren't you?" Kistal flicked a wing out at Vanessa, making her stop and scowl. "You'd stop being a Lunara because we're going to the Mistwood bar, and unless you feel like being someone's dinner, you'd do well to do as I suggest. Or you can be eaten. Whichever you prefer. Would you like to hear them?"

"Why are we going to a demon bar in the first place?" Vanessa said. "That seems like the best way to get me killed."

"I can think of better ways. Besides, I need to eat if we're going on an arduous journey."

"I'm not risking myself over your hunger."

Kistal puffed out a short, amused breath. "Lunara, you don't have any choice in the matter. I have the moonlight, and the way through Mistwood."

Vanessa twisted her mouth, shoulders tightening. She's right. She can easily take the moonlight and just leave me to wander in here. Not that she was lost ... yet.

"What are your suggestions?" Might as well resign myself to whatever fate she deigns best for our journey, even if it is selfish and stupid in so many ways.

Kistal hopped over a log. Vanessa stumbled over it. "I suggest you walk as if you've seen a branch before. Second, look more comfortable in your clothes. Lastly, don't talk, especially about the moonlight."

The trees were growing farther apart. Light fell through the branches and lit the mist in a golden glow. Through the trees, Vanessa could see a rickety house with a large, glowing clock face on the door. Lights bobbed from the grimy windows. She stared at it until it was out of sight. She cast her gaze around, picking out more houses and things that seemed to be houses. Mounds of dirt with tiny doors and windows. More treehouses. A house that was a tree.

Kistal led them to a squat, hodgepodge building made of stone. Metal lattice wove around the edges of the stones. Vines sealed the cracks and swarmed up the side of the building. Kistal went to the wooden door and opened it, allowing it to shut behind her, forcing Vanessa to scamper forward and push the door open herself.

Inside was a patchwork of lit tables, a fireplace that glowed dully, and a bar not too different than the one she'd taken refuge in the previous night. The creatures sitting at the tables were a wide range of shapes and sizes. Some looked human, others distinctly not so. One man had hair that seemed to be made of falling fire, his every scar glowing the same color as his hair. Underneath a window was a woman with flowers growing from her skin, rose petals extending from her scalp. Across from her was a creature that looked a lot like Travin.

I'm surrounded by demons, Vanessa thought. She took in a few calming breaths. Don't be a Lunara. This is normal. She followed Kistal to the bar, where Kistal ordered the "fire spiced eggs." Then Kistal walked to a table, blessedly far from the other demons. Vanessa stiffly sat in a chair, fixing her gaze into a steady pattern of moving around the room.

"So," she said, trying to keep her tone calm, "tell me more about your friend."

Kistal tapped a finger on the table. "He's male, human, about 5 foot 8, is considered strong by human standards."

Vanessa waited. "I was hoping for insight into his personality," she said when Kistal didn't continue.

"You'll have to find that out for yourself."

She pressed her lips together. "Will tell me something about who he is?"

"Well, he has a knack for killing people." Kistal straightened as a steaming plate floated over to the table. Vanessa stared as the plate slowly lowered itself down.

"Thank you, sweetie," Kistal said. She pulled out a pouch and placed a few coins into the air, where it hovered before disappearing. "Have you heard from Ren lately?"

There a moment of silence. Then there was a sound, sweet and gentle. Like a baby burbling. Kistal tilted her head, then nodded. "Thank you." She took out another coin and put it into the air. It too disappeared. "Buy yourself something nice." She grabbed a fork and began to eat, carefully taking each bite. The meal was brown, like rice with a sauce thrown over it.

"What is that?" Vanessa asked.

"Eggs of a fire lizard."

Vanessa frowned. "It's illegal to take eggs from fire lizards."

Kistal shook her head. "We don't live by humans rules because, as you've so astutely noted, we aren't humans."

Vanessa leaned back into her chair, unable to respond to that. Different people live by different rules. That was something Soren had said. She shook her head. You cut ties with him long ago. He can't--won't--help you, no matter how much you think of him. Focus on something useful. How can I get the moonlight away from Kistal?

Vanessa was jerked out of her thoughts as she spotted a man walking over to her table. He seemed normal, with a hard face, suspicous narrow eyes, and messy dark hair. His clothing was plain, durable, much like Vanessa's, and slung over his shoulder was a long staff that was bladed at one end. He slid into the chair next to Kistal.

"Hello, Kistal," he said, gaze moving from Kistal to Vanessa. "Haven't seen you around in a while. You brought a friend."

"Hello, Jek," Kistal said with a faint nod of her head. "This is Essa, a towngirl off to Iryna."

Vanessa forced herself to nod politely at Jek, carefully placing her hands in her lap to hide their nervous twitching.

"Iryna? What is a human doing with you? And here?" He gave Vanessa a hard look. "Do you want to kill her?"

Vanessa stiffened. She opened her mouth to speak, but Kistal quickly cut in. "No. No, I'm off to see Ren, and figured that having a lost human would merely annoy everyone."

Ren. Was he Kistal's friend?

"You like humans too much," Jek said. A blue spark lit in his eyes. From underneath his shirt, a blue light grew. Vanessa thought she could see scales, just visible through the brown cloth.

"Humans are useful," Kistal said, her wings stretching behind her. "This one owes me a favor."

Jek ignored Kistal and leaned forward. He grabbed Vanessa's shirt collar and pulled her forward, so that they were nearly nose-to-nose. He sucked a breath. Vanessa thrashed, arms trembling. "Let me go!" She could make out stubble on his face, the blue spark in his eyes that grew.

He slammed her onto the table. She let out a small scream. Her cheek was smashed into the table. All she could see were brown grains of wood.

"Humans don't belong in Mistwood," he growled. He twisted her collar, so that it choked up around her neck. She gasped. His breath was hot on her ear. She could feel the words pressed into her skull. "And Lunaras are promised for Death." A blade; she could see it at the edge of her vision. It reflected the light, made it bright and firy. Kistal was saying something. The whole room was saying something.

"I just want to return the moonlight," she gasped out. His knuckles were in her neck, pushing, caving her throat. The pressure disappeared. The room blurred as Jek spun her around so that she was face up. His face was a mass of scowling lines above her face. The ceiling behind him was orange, well lit. Shadows swarmed the wall, something with wings and a large, pointed head.

Jek leaned in close, knife at her throat, its edge pricking her skin. "What did you say?" he asked.

"I want to return the moonlight."

He brought his fist up to her chin, flipping the knife so the point was directed to her stomach. "Is it with you?" There was another emotion accompanying that look of hate, hard and worn into round edges. Was it hunger?

There was a sharp whistle. There was the sound of glass cracking, tinkling against the ground. Feathers filled the air and then the hand at her throat was gone. Someone grabbed her arm and dragged her through the room. All Vanessa could see was Kistal's wings. Then they were out in the sunlight.

Kistal slowed and pushed Vanessa in front of her. "Hold tight," was the only warning Vanessa received before they were in the air. The ground dropped away, Vanessa's stomach with it. Before the chaos faded out of sight, she could see Jek's hardened face, watching them escape.
 
Wraiths of the Moon: Chapter 3
Wraiths of the Moon: Chapter 2
Wraiths of the Moon: Chapter 1

As always, I'd love to hear what you thought of this chapter. Any surprises? Any theories? (I probably won't respond to the theories, right or wrong.) Were you properly engaged? I thought the pace in the beginning was a bit staccato (or maybe the dialogue vs. action tags were staccato).

Reminder: Updates on Sundays.

Coming up in the next chapter:
  • ​We meet the Friend
  • Help is wanted and not given
  • We learn more about Soren
  • There is sass

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2 Comments
  • Kahasai

    Thank you!!!! I. Am. So. HAPPY!!! :)))))


    11 months ago
  • Luna Lemon

    BEST CHAPTER YET!!!! THIS WAS SOOO GOOD! I love the dynamic between Vanessa and Kistal, their dialogue is amazing! Kistal is the QUEEEEENNN of sass btw. When she kept saying, "unlike you" I couldn't stop laughing:) And the new character you introduced was very interesting. And OOOOOH next week sounds so good!!! I'm excited to meet this friend as well. NEXT SUNDAY CAN'T COME SOON ENOUGH!!!!
    INCREDIBLE job as always:)


    11 months ago