❰ ❰ Heart of Darkness
It was an unnatural darkness. Thick and impenetrable. Ciri peered into it, looking for anything that may stand out; a shape, a sound, a movement. It had originally been a strange sound that had stopped the black horse in her tracks, causing not only her ears to perk up, but also the Witcher girls’. As she stared intently, hoping that something would reveal itself to her, she gripped the reins of her black mare Kelpie. The horse stamped her hooves, obviously uncomfortable at waiting for her mistress to make a decision, but Ciri had to know. She had to make absolutely certain…
There was a flash of light behind her, illuminating the darkness ahead of her for a brief moment, enough that she was able to catch a glimpse of what was coming towards her. Kelpie reacted much faster than Ciri had, turning to the right and fleeing from not only what was coming towards them from behind, but the creatures and dark figures that had been crawling on their bellies towards them.
“Go Kelpie!” Her voice rang clearly as she spurred her onward, but the mare needed no encouragement. Ciri lowered herself against her horses main, pressing herself down against the smooth neck of the black beauty.
The sounds of multiple snarls reached her ears as the creatures came after them, and it had taken Ciri a moment before she realized that the sounds of horses hoofbeats were mingled amongst them. They were being pursued not by one force, but two, and both for very different reasons.
This had become tiresome, this ever onward war she was fighting with anyone and everyone who found themselves wanting to rule the world through her ‘unborn’ child. How many worlds had Ciri escaped to? How many battles had she fought for her life? Too many. There were too many close calls and narrow escapes for her to find even one place that she could call home.
A cold fear gripped her stomach as she realized that the trees around her were bending toward her now, reaching down with their lifeless and dead branches. There was a scream somewhere behind her, but she didn’t turn around. In fact, she squeezed her legs ever slightly so her horse understood that they were fine and to keep moving. The creatures that had been pursuing them had realized that there was now other prey in the darkness, easier prey. The Aen Elle would not be swayed, however, and were determined to possess her.
The elm trees were closing in around her and Kelpie now. Branches were brushing against them as they continued to speed among them. Kelpie was faster than the horses that pursued them, but she was running out of room. Ciri braced herself, breathing in deeply and focusing on her destination.
Another scream echoed from somewhere behind her and the trees that had been reaching down for her suddenly stopped. The creatures had done her a favor by ridding her of the most dangerous elf among the group that pursued her, and she internally thanked her lucky stars for them. Not that she wouldn’t hesitate to still disembowel the little bastards if it came down to it.
Ahead, she could see shadows moving among the trees. Signs that the creatures behind her may have caught up and found a more dangerous way to chase them. The lump in Ciri’s throat became a cold hard mass that slid into her stomach. With a deep breath, she concentrated on her moor. The warmth and safety of the grassy glade she had found on her journeys through the worlds. It was the one place she could go to gather herself before moving on once again.
The creatures were moving ahead, getting further along their trail so that Ciri could barely see them in the distant darkness, black shapes were moving en masse with each other. The cold fear turned into a scream as she jerked the reins, turning Kelpie in another direction, away from the horror ahead. Out of the corner of her eye she could see the creatures changing direction and the Aen Elle turning with her, coming towards her in the hope of cutting her off.