Ashera Chapter 18
For a day or two of hiking, no one even spoke to Ashera. Neither Fox nor Ryan respected her decision of protecting Shadow, and she wasn’t willing to give him up. She couldn’t throw a harmless, defenseless creature out on its own, no matter how evil her companions suspected it to be.
There was another reason, too, that Ashera did not yet want to admit. Shadow was her tie to Bear. If this creature who was supposed to be evil beyond redemption could be a part of their team than maybe...no, she wasn’t going to think about that just yet.
Shadow and Ashera spent the first night huddled close together; Ryan and Fox were asleep in a different tent. Shadow looked up at her with those big, sad, smart red eyes.
“I know, boy,” Ashera said, ruffling the fur on his head. “They’ll come to their senses eventually.” She frowned, trying to convince herself of the words she was saying.
Shadow whined and licked the back of Ashera’s hand. She laughed and kissed his snout. She wouldn’t throw him out; no matter what Fox and Ryan said.
The next morning, while they continued their trek towards Rickshaw Mountains, Fox fell into step next to Ashera and Shadow, being cautious to keep her distance from the latter. Shadow gave a low warning growl as she approached.
“I see your bodyguard is doing his job,” Fox said bitterly.
“Do you want something?”
Fox eyed the wolf wearily. “I just want to talk.”
“If it’s about Shadow I don’t want to hear it.”
“Oh yeah? Tell me, then, why isn’t Ryan here too?” Ashera said, giving her a pointed look.
Fox rolled her eyes, dropping the act. “It’s not smart to keep it here.”
“I told you both, he’s not dangerous. He’s staying with us until he proves that he can’t be trusted. He won’t hurt any of us. I won’t throw him out; he’s helpless and injured. I won’t do it.”
“That’s not the only reason and you know it,” Fox warned.
Ashera turned to her. “What?”
“You’re not just keeping that...thing...around because you feel bad for it, and don’t pretend that you are. There’s other reasons, too.”
Ashera rolled her eyes. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You see Bear in it,” Fox said bluntly. Ashera stopped in her tracks, stiffening as the words left Fox’s mouth. “Don’t you?”
“Of course I don’t.”
“You’re lying, Ashera. I know you you’re my best friend.”
“Keeping this thing around will just get your hopes up about Bear. It’s cruel what you’re doing. You’re using Ryan and that’s bad enough, but you’re also putting all of us in danger. Any ties that you have to Bear will make us weaker when we have to face him.”
“Shut up!” Ashera yelled. “First of all, I’m not keeping Shadow because he reminds me of Bear, we’re fighting the Alpha. Whatever this magic has done...it’s not Bear. I’ve accepted that and so should you.”
“You’re the one that has some accepting to do, Ashera. We’re never going to get Bear back, and the sooner that you realize that the better.” Fox gave Ashera one last long look over her shoulder before walking away.
Ashera wanted to follow her. To yell about how she was wrong. That they would get Bear back someday. That they had to; that she would not stop until she either died or she saved him. But it was beside the point, Ashera couldn’t say anything to convince Fox without proving her point.
That left Ashera with some time to contemplate Fox’s points.
She started with the first, which was that Shadow was dangerous. That was easy enough to debunk, as she was right. Shadow could be dangerous, sure, but Ashera was confident that he was on their side. After all, if Shadow wanted to attack the, all, he would’ve already done it. He had had many days where he could’ve-at any time-turned on Ashera and attacked Fox and Ryan while their backs were turned. He hadn’t yet, which meant that he most likely didn’t plan to.
The next tripped her up a bit. Was Ashera keeping Shadow to have a connection to Bear? Not solely, of course, but could it be a reason? After a bit of thinking, Ashera came up with the argument that she couldn’t be because the Calidi were solely under the Alpha’s magic. As she had told Fox, Bear had nothing to do with the Alpha, except for the fact that the dark magic was using his body as a host. So, Shadow had no real connection to Bear, which made Fox’s argument invalid. Sure, it was a feeble response, but it’d satisfy her for now.
Lastly, the point that stumped Ashera the most, which was that she was using Ryan. Now, of course, she wasn’t using him purposefully. She’d never do something like that, especially to someone that she loved as much as him. But did she have feelings for him? And did she still have feelings for Bear?
Well, she at least felt something romantic towards Ryan. She recalled the passion in his eyes, the strength in his stance, and felt a shiver down her spine. There was definitely something there.
As for Bear, well, it gave her too much of a headache to focus on right now. She’d focus on rescuing him from the Alpha’s clutches and after that, there’d be proper time to consider her feelings.
For now, though, she had come to the conclusion that it was perfectly fine for Shadow to stay with the group.
“Come on, Shadow,” Ashera said to the wolf after these many hours of thinking. “Let’s go give them a piece of our minds.”
Ashera marched up to where Fox and Ryan walked, side by side. They talked and laughed quietly, but they immediately stopped when they noticed Ashera and Shadow. “Ashera,” Ryan nodded.
“We need to talk,” Ashera told Fox.
“Are you making the Calidi leave?”
“Of course not.”
“Then we’re not talking,” Fox said, turning her head away from her.
“Yes we are.”
“Ashera-” Ryan warned.
“First of all, I’m not keeping Shadow to be close to Bear. The calidi have no connection to Bear because-”
“Oh my gosh shut up,” Fox said.
“Shut up! All you talk about nowadays is Bear. Bear this, Bear that. Do you even remember why we started this mission? Do you even remember Saria?”
Saria. The name sent Ashera stumbling forward. She hadn’t thought of her in months, and she was her own sister. Ashera had been so focused on saving Bear…
“That’s what I thought,” Fox said. “Now if you’ll-”
“No, you know what? Saria is doing fine. Thinking about Bear isn’t a crime, is it?”
“It’s putting us in danger.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry. It’s not like we’re in danger normally!”
A crash sent Ashera flying forward onto her face in the snow. Ryan and Fox stood still, looking up at something behind her. “Don’t move,” Ryan said softly.
Slowly, Ashera turned her head. She saw legs the size of rowboats, covered in an array of hides. She looked up, a torso the size of a cottage and, further still, a huge, ugly face.
“Giant,” she whispered.
The giant’s eyes flicked down and met hers, and he roared.
‘ Ryan and Fox pulled her to her feet. “RUN!”
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